Cow Chip Cookies on Valentine's Day

My wife special-ordered heart-shaped Cow Chip cookies for me for Valentine's Day. If you've lived in the Seattle area and you don't know about these cookies, then either a) you've been living under a rock, or b) you're dead.

Cow-Chip-Cookies

PS - They were great, and yes - I shared.

Removing Confederate Statues

There is a strange cult of personality that has grown up regarding Robert E. Lee, which has unfortunately given rise to several myths. With that in mind, let me discuss Lee with a few simple examples.

First, until the time that Benedict Arnold sold out his country, he was one of the greatest commanders in the fledgling United States Army. Arnold's skills were decidedly better than George Washington's. However, we have no monuments to Arnold, despite his long string of victories that helped establish our nation. Instead, Arnold's name has become synonymous with traitorous behavior.

In a like manner, Robert E. Lee may have been a decent commander, though perhaps not nearly at the level that modern-day mythology has portrayed him. Nevertheless, when faced with the decision of where his loyalties were, Lee turned his back on his nation in its hour of greatest need. Like Benedict Arnold, history should remember Lee for being the traitor that he certainly was.

Robert_E_Lee_Monument

Second, with regard to slavery, you cannot make the case that Lee opposed slavery while overlooking the facts that Lee was an outspoken racist who owned slaves, regardless of how well they may have been treated. Lee participated in the recapture of slaves, and following emancipation Lee felt that blacks were unequal to whites, blacks should not be allowed to vote, blacks lacked the intelligence to be involved in politics, and he supported plans to export African Americans to Liberia. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in opposition to slavery, yet he never did. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in opposition to racism, and he never did. Lee had many opportunities to speak publicly in favor of the rights of African Americans, and he never did.

In summary, Lee was not an American hero who is worthy of the misplaced adulation that many people have chosen to give him. Lee was not simply a product of his times - history clearly shows Lee was a traitor in every sense of the word, and racist to the core. The romantic vision that many people seem to possess of Robert E. Lee is completely undeserved.

Taking all of the preceding information into account, I do not consider the removal of public monuments to Confederate traitors - like Lee - as an attempt to "erase history," as some people claim. Personally, I believe that removing statues of men who sold out their country is finally putting history in its proper perspective. These men were traitors - not heroes. They are unworthy of public worship, and it is a great tragedy that our country is littered with dozens of shrines to the undeserving. However, their statues should be moved to museums, where people can still remember these men's treachery. If people truly wanted to "erase" these traitors from history, then we would be removing all mention of them from our history books, but that is not the case. Instead, our society is finally taking the time to correct a great injustice that has been done; we are reexamining the lives of these traitors, and removing testaments to their betrayal.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

When Essential Tremors Take Over

It has been a little over a year since I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, and though my symptoms have been dramatically reduced by faithfully taking my daily medications, I still have my good days and bad days. In order to help prevent additional symptoms from occurring, I have tried to change the way that I live my life by doing what I can to reduce the stress in my life, and for the first time in my life I try make sure that I get plenty of sleep. (I have been the consummate "Night Person" for most of my life, so having a "normal" amount of sleep is a foreign concept to me.)

That being said, I have recently noticed an interesting development in my Essential Tremor symptoms: my tremors have seemed to take over in several unexpected ways. Here is what I mean by that: Essential Tremors are "action related" tremors. meaning that tremors develop when I am trying to complete a task, and I have mentioned in previous blogs that tremors have been especially annoying when I am trying to eat or play a musical instrument.

The way that my usual tremors have been manifesting themselves is that I begin an action, and some sort of action continues after my brain has told my body to stop moving. This often happens when I am typing on a computer, or using a mouse, or playing guitar, or turning pages in a book, or some other common action that requires fine motor skills. So the basic flow of events is for a conscious action to take place, followed by an unconscious action in the form of tremors.

But with that in mind, there have been several unanticipated situations where tremors have recently emerged, and here are just a few examples: cold chills, yawning, and reactions to loud noises. Believe it or not, several times over the past few months those trivial actions have been enough for tremors to kick in.

Have you ever had a cold chill? Of course you have; your body shakes for a moment and then the cold chill is over. But for me, I often continue to shake or cringe painfully for a few additional moments. For all intents and purposes, my tremors have amplified my cold chills, so on cold days I find myself getting headaches from the number of shaking episodes that I encounter, and my muscles are sore by the end of the day as I try to flex my muscles to combat the unnecessary reactions. Yawning has had a similar effect; sometimes my hands will shake while I yawn, and recently my hands have continued to shake after I have ceased yawning.

Although I have to say, suffering from tremors when reacting to loud noises has completely caught me off guard. I was listening to a public speaker earlier today, and the sound guy had the speaker's volume up a little too high. As a result, I would cringe a little whenever the speaker was unnecessarily emphatic while making a point. However, my tremors would take over after I cringed, and I would react like I had just suffered a cold chill; my muscles would painfully contract involuntarily, which started to give me a headache.

All of this is to say, these new developments in my Essential Tremor symptoms were completely unexpected. I had presumed that I would continue to have problems when eating, typing, or playing guitar. But cold chills? Yawning? Loud noises? Seriously???

What a pain in the neck. (Literally.)


PS - I made hundreds of typing mistakes while writing this blog. Unfortunately, this appears to have been one of my bad days for tremors.

Sad smile

Tales of Christmas Past…

In ancient days of yore, constable Ioan McClane (of the clan McClane) routed the Visigoth Hans von Gruber from the prodigious citadel of Nakatomi...

Die-Hard-Medieval-Tapestry

The 12 Days of Paper Writing

As we rapidly approach the Christmas season, we are also reaching the end of my semester in Graduate School. With that in mind, I thought it apropos to post a version of the "12 Days of Christmas" for my fellow students who are bogged down with writing academic papers:

12 Pages Of Citations
11 Primary Sources
10 Cups Of Coffee
9 Hours Of Proofreading
8 Advising Hours
7 Rhetorical Questions
6 Quotation Blocks
5 Split-Infinitives
4 Supporting Arguments
3 Complete Rewrites
2 Illustrations
And A Thesis Statement In My Opening Paragraph

academic_christmas


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Gaffes of the Galaxy

My wife was shopping for Guardians of the Galaxy toys to donate to charity, and the following conversation took place:

Kathleen: So, I was going to buy Star Lord, Groot, and Ranger.
Me: Ranger?
Kathleen: Yeah, you know - the squirrel.
Me: You mean Rocket? The raccoon?
Kathleen: Yeah, that's the one.
Me: o_O

My Top Ten Favorite Rock Songs

Lists of favorites artists and favorite songs are a dime a dozen, but still - I thought that it might be a worthwhile endeavor to jot down a list of rock songs that were significantly important to me over the years. These are the songs that I would pull my car off the road to listen to over the radio, or I struggled to learn on the guitar when I was first starting out as a musician, or they had an indelible affect on my playing.

Trying to compile a list such as this was difficult for me, because some of the artists - like Rush - have dozens of songs that I would consider among my list of favorites, so I had to limit myself to just one song per artist. In addition, a few of these songs are not necessarily what I would consider to be the best songs by their respective artists, but they were the songs that made me initially fall in love with that artist's music.

Presented in alphabetic order (as opposed to order of precedence):

There are some artists - like Queen, Triumph, Journey, Styx, and Genesis - who are conspicuously missing from this list, even though I saw many of those artists in concert and several of their songs might be on my top 100 list of favorites. There are two reasons for their omission: 1) I eventually ran out of room on this list, and 2) there was no single song by those artists that I would consider as a milestone in my musical upbringing.


Note: One song in the above list - Dust in the Wind - probably needs a bit of explanation, since it might seem a little out-of-place in a collection that is otherwise dominated by straight-ahead rock pieces.

To be honest, I didn't like Dust in the Wind when I first heard it; I thought it was interminably boring. But as I continued to learn the guitar, I forced myself to learn the song, and I quickly came to appreciate its educational value when learning Travis Picking (and fingerpicking in general). I eventually taught that song to nearly all of my guitar students in order to help get them started.

The Sad Life and Strange Disappearance of Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Some Observations of Atheists

Throughout my life I have known my fair share of atheists, all of whom have fallen into two categories:

  • Genuine Atheists - these people truly do not believe in God, and in my experience they have typically been polite people with great attitudes, and with whom anyone might want to be friends.
  • Faux Atheists - these people actually believe in God, despite their protests to the contrary, and they have typically been awful people with whom most people would hate to associate.

Faux Atheists are interesting character studies, because their professed disbelief does not actually match what they appear to believe behind their gruff facade. Every Faux Atheist whom I have known is actually a believer, but they are mad at God for some perceived cause that is too severe for them to reconcile with the image of a loving, benevolent Creator. Here are the primary justifications that I have encountered for these atheists:

  • Most often the source of Faux Atheists' hatred is the death of a loved one - usually an immediate family member, (e.g. a parent, spouse, sibling, or child). These atheists believe that God is the direct cause of their loved one's death, and their only recourse is to curse God incessantly.
  • Fairly often the source of Faux Atheists' hatred is self-condemnation for a lifetime of bad life decisions that they have made. These Faux Atheists generally lack self-reflection, and blaming God is much easier than learning to consider their contribution to their current situation.
  • Less often the source of Faux Atheists' hatred is a vain attempt to justify a lifestyle that they know is objectionable, and therefore a disbelief in God gives them the 'freedom' to do as they please. However, these atheists know deep down that they are doing something wrong, so they lash out at God in an effort to rid themselves of the guilt that they feel.
  • The least often source of Faux Atheists' hatred that I have seen is the perception of persecution; these atheists believe that society is 'too religious,' and all of the 'religious' people around them are oppressing them. I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I find these atheists extremely amusing to converse with, because their claims of being a 'victim' and taunted mercilessly by the Christians around them are almost-always the by-product of a pre-existing victim mentality. These atheists invariably encounter situations where they already believe that they are being persecuted, and therefore they misinterpret everything that does not go their way as additional persecution. (Quite often a little reasoning with these atheists will deflate a situation, but sometimes they are too convinced of their misfortune to see clearly.)

All of these Faux Atheists create an interesting paradox, for despite all of these atheists' hatred and never-ending rhetoric about how terrible all the 'Religious People' are, it is usually the atheists who are behaving badly. (Please do not misunderstand me, there are plenty of 'Christians' who are also terrible people; being a terrible person is not a prerequisite for being an atheist or a Christian.) The Faux Atheists that I have known seem to make it their life's mission to publicly ridicule every Christian (and most of the Jews) they know.[1]

All of this discussion brings us to Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair

To put it bluntly, Ms. O'Hair was a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. She was addicted to the acclaim that she received as a champion of radical causes. She relished her title as the 'Most-Hated Woman in America.' She founded the American Atheists (AA) organization under the guise of educating and supporting fellow atheists, but the simple truth is that she was a megalomaniac who was embezzling from her organization. There were several dramatic ironies in her life, and her erratic, abusive and paranoid behavior eventually became her undoing.

Madalyn's Earlier Years

According to a book[2] that was written by Madalyn's son, William J. Murray, Madalyn was born into a family with an alcoholic father as the patriarch, and she often fought viciously and vociferously with her father. Before entering public life, Madalyn had:

  • Married young just before the onset of WWII
  • Joined the Army after the war started (while her husband joined the Marines)
  • Had an affair with a married officer that resulted in an out-of-wedlock child (at a time when these actions were cause for public scorn)
  • Divorced her first husband hoping the officer would marry her (which he didn't)
  • Had another relationship that resulted in an out-of-wedlock child

According to Madalyn's son, each of these poor decisions were the source of countless family arguments.

Madalyn's children subjected the extended family to additional financial strains and care-giving necessities, which were largely ignored by Madalyn. Adding insult to injury, Madalyn could not keep any job for longer than a few months; she was continuously forced to leave one job after another because she felt that everyone above her was stupid, and she needed to be in charge. Her attitudes may have angered her bosses, but some of Madalyn's proclamations of her superiority found welcome recipients among her coworkers, which led to Madalyn embracing Socialism and Communism. Meanwhile, Madalyn began to work her way through law school by taking classes on the side, and even though she graduated, she never passed the bar exam. As a result, she remained in a long line of dead-end jobs, and her extended family was forced to live in decrepit, low-income housing.

According to William, it was during this time period that Madalyn formulated her special brand of atheism, and it was shortly thereafter that she would infamously enter public life.

The 'Most-Hated Woman in America'

In 1963, Madalyn sued the Baltimore public school system, where her son William was a student, over the fact that students were required to listen to daily Bible readings and recite prayers in class. Madalyn's lawsuit was eventually elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it was decided that mandatory prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.[3] This catapulted Madalyn into the public arena, and she used her new-found fame to create the American Atheists (AA) organization, over which she presided (and from which she profited) for the rest of her life.

Throughout the ensuing decades, Madalyn filed numerous lawsuits in attempts to prevent NASA astronauts from reciting Bible versus or prayers during the space program, to remove "One Nation Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, to remove nativity scenes from government property, etc. All the while, Madalyn relished the attention that was showered on her publicly. However, her paranoia continued to grow in private, no doubt from an ironic sense of betrayal when her son, William, the boy for whom prayer was outlawed in American schools, became a born-again Christian and abandoned her. Madalyn summarized her feelings on the subject when she said of William, "One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. He is beyond human forgiveness." However, as if this irony wasn't already sufficiently palpable - William's daughter, Robin, rejected him and was subsequently legally adopted by Madalyn.

In the mid-1990s, things were not going well for Madalyn. By that time, AA was being run from its headquarters in Texas by Madalyn, her younger son from her second pregnancy, Jon Garth Murray, and her granddaughter, Robin. However, many AA employees complained of vicious arguing and constant profanity between the three family members, as well as abuse of the employees. Adding insult to injury, Madalyn's paranoia was increasing, so in addition to doling out abuse and profanity, she had chain-link fencing with barbed-wire coverings installed to keep out her imaginary 'persecutors.' All of this was far too much for several employees, many of whom eventually quit. Because of the toxic work environment, Madalyn tended to hire ex-convicts, because they were desperate for work, and therefore a little more willing to tolerate the profanity, abuse, and low wages.

Over the years, Madalyn had gone through a spate of legal woes, all of her own doing, and while she was away from town settling the details of another harassment suit that had been filed against her, the AA was robbed. The anonymous thief had stolen several thousand dollars' worth of computer equipment, and police determined that the thief was probably an AA employee. Shortly thereafter, the AA office manager quit, and Madalyn promoted David Waters, a two-year veteran at AA, to office manager. While the Murray-O'Hairs were away settling legal disputes again, Waters laid off the entire AA staff, and stole 12 bonds worth around $5,000 apiece.

Waters was brought to trial, where he cut a plea bargain for a single count of theft, and was sentenced to several years' probation, with no restitution to be made. In order words: Waters walked away from the crime with no jail time and no fines. This did not sit well with Madalyn, who used the AA newsletter to publicly expose Waters' long criminal record in a six-page article, which included tales of attempted murder and domestic battery against his mother. Waters had been attempting to put together a new life in the community after his trial had ended, and Madalyn's article effectively killed any chances he had to do so.

Madalyn's fiery temper had finally gone too far.

Disappearance and Theories

In August of 1995, one of the AA employees arrived at work to find the building locked and a note on the door staring the Murray-O'Hairs had left town for a family emergency. This seemed more than a little odd to the AA staff, and the mystery deepened when staffers visited the home that was shared by the Murray-O'Hairs; they discovered an unfinished breakfast, Madalyn's diabetes medicine on the counter, and Madalyn's three dogs had been left unattended. Two of the board members were eventually able to reach Jon Garth via his cell phone, and Jon tried to assure everyone at AA that nothing was wrong. Robin also spoke to a few people, but despite her similar assurances that nothing was amiss, those who spoke to her could tell that something was seriously wrong. Over the next few weeks, the Murray-O'Hairs' credit cards were slowly maxed out, and Jon and Robin occasionally spoke to various members of the AA staff, but all calls ceased near the end of September.

A few weeks passed, and AA was in full denial mode. One of the AA board members, Ellen Johnson, had assumed the presidency at AA, and despite mounting public opinion that the Murray-O'Hairs were dead, Johnson assured the public that nothing was wrong. In the meantime, AA staffers continued to put the business back in order. As the AA staffers continued to go through the business records, they found that Madalyn had been greatly exaggerating her membership numbers; 2,400 instead of her claims of 50,000. In addition, the Murray-O'Hairs were in trouble with the IRS, who questioned whether Madalyn had been using the organization's finances as her personal account.

One of the staffers had discovered that the Murray-O'Hairs had been funneling money to a bank in New Zealand, and it was easy to suspect that Madalyn might have other offshore accounts as well. Because of this, one theory emerged that the Murray-O'Hairs had simply taken the money and ran. One of the largest problems with this theory was, however, the fact that the Murray-O'Hairs had left all of their personal belongs, their pets, and their personal bank accounts.

Another theory was that Madalyn had left town to die. She had often remarked that she didn't want Christians making a fuss over her death. (And by that she meant that she wanted no Christians to pray at her funeral.) That left Jon and Robin, who might have tired of the life they were forced to live in Madalyn's shadow, and they might have taken their newfound freedom to do something a little more private with their lives.

The most-prevailing theory was - of course - that the Murray-O'Hair family had met with foul play. It was no secret that Madalyn had made a large number of enemies throughout her life - many of whom would have had sufficient cause to seek retribution; as William stated, "She was just evil. She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents' inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations." Madalyn's entire life would have provided more than enough motive for many people. Several people bought into Madalyn's paranoia and believed that Christians or operatives of a Christian-backed, theocratic governmental agency had silenced the Murray-O'Hair family.

Stalled Investigations

And as the months passed on into years, nothing was found of the family members. A month after the disappearance of the Murray-O'Hair family, a body had been found by a river in Dallas with its head and hands missing, but the authorities were able to determine that it did not belong to anyone from the Murray-O'Hair family. Madalyn's remaining son, William, eventually filed a Missing Persons report, but since the police found no actionable evidence of foul play, there was nothing that they could do. In their estimation, "It's not against the law to be missing in Texas."

A San Antonio reporter, John MacCormack, picked up the story around the one-year anniversary of the family's disappearance, and he discovered that AA had covered up the fact that Jon Garth had withdrawn $600,000 before his disappearance, and then sold his Mercedes through a classified ad. All of this amounted to an enormous amount of money, which had put AA in a difficult position financially. However, such a large sum of money cannot remain unnoticed for long, so MacCormack teamed up with a private investigator, and the two of them were able to determine that Jon Garth had used the $600,000 to purchase 1,500 gold coins (at $400 apiece) from a local jeweler. Jon had picked up the coins in person, which was the last time that anyone saw any member of the Murray-O'Hair family alive.

Solving The Crime

Several years after the disappearance, Waters - the former AA employee - was living in a run-down apartment and cooperating with authorities by providing documents from AA that he had kept with details from the Murray-O'Hairs about their financial misdealings, and he had been enjoying a recent spate of popularity with reporters as a former associate of the missing family. Around that time, MacCormack received an anonymous tip from someone who knew a con artist named Danny Fry. The anonymous tipster claimed that Fry had disappeared around the same time as the Murray-O'Hairs, and at the time he had been working with Waters. Even more revealing was that the anonymous tipster stated that Waters had kidnapped the Murray-O'Hairs and was afraid that Fry had shared their fate.

MacCormack was able to piece together a prison association between Waters and Fry that refuted Waters' statements to the authorities that he barely knew Fry, and MacCormack was able to trace Fry's last whereabouts to a hotel in San Antonio by using the phone records from Fry's calls to family members. MacCormack was also able to discover that Waters had purchased a Cadillac with cash around the time that the Murray-O'Hairs' credit cards were being maxed out. But the most-important item that MacCormack was able to uncover that motivated the authorities to re-think their investigation was when MacCormack was able to have the anonymous body found near the river in Dallas tested for Danny Fry's DNA - which was a match.

The authorities raided Waters' apartment, wherein he had another former prison mate staying with him named Gary Karr, and the two of them were quickly behind bars. Karr's ex-wife and Waters' ex-girlfriend provided the authorities with their knowledge of the kidnappings, about which they had remained silent for years. Once all of these primary actors were talking to authorities, a picture was pieced together about the fate of the Murray-O'Hair family in their final month.

What Happened To Everyone

I will keep this section sparse, because it's not a pretty picture. Madalyn and her family were kidnapped at gunpoint and taken to the hotel from where Fry had called his family members, and they were held as prisoners there for an entire month. Madalyn and Robin were sequestered in their room for the duration, whereas Jon was allowed to travel around with Waters' accomplice, Karr, in order to drain all of the bank accounts to which he had access, and then he gave all of that money to Waters and his group. However, Madalyn and Jon did not reveal all of their accounts, ostensibly in the hope that they would survive their ordeal. This was - of course - hope in vain.

At the very least, Waters and Karr killed the entire family: Jon and Robin by strangulation, and Madalyn by blunt force trauma, which was undoubtedly part of Waters' revenge. Waters had hatched the entire plan - as many suspected - in retribution for Madalyn's article in the AA newsletter. Waters' ex-girlfriend stated that Waters had described his fantasies about torturing Madalyn in various ways, and whether he fulfilled any of those fantasies is open for speculation, because the reality of their situation required a fair amount of logistical planning: the three ex-convicts needed to get three people (alive or dead) from a public hotel without arousing suspicion, then take them somewhere else either to be killed or simply dismembered, then their body parts were loaded into 50-gallon barrels, driven over a hundred miles to a remote ranch, and buried. Then Waters and Karr killed Fry, and dumped his partially-dismembered body in Dallas.

What happened to the money is an interesting story by itself: of the $600,000 in gold coins that were purchased by Jon Garth, only $500,000 were collected. The balance was on order, although they were never picked up since Waters and his associates had already killed the Murray-O'Hairs by the time the jeweler received the second lot of gold coins. Waters and Karr took $80,000 from their heist, and they stashed the rest in a storage locker. After that, they spent the next several days partying in town - buying fancy suits and Rolex watches. But in a quirky twist of fate - when Waters returned to the locker at a later date, he discovered that the rest of the money had been stolen. (Police eventually tracked down those thieves, who had spent all but one of the gold coins.) In the end, Waters had taken out his revenge on Madalyn, but profited very little from his crimes, and he died of cancer in prison a few years after his arrest.

Final Thoughts

I mentioned in my opening paragraphs that - in my observations - atheists generally fall into two categories, and Faux Atheists seem to be the most-violent in their opposition to those of faith, which is usually due to denial or blame-shifting. Madalyn Murray O'Hair spent a lifetime cursing God and Christians for situations that she believed were unfair, yet she failed to realize that fairness is subjective. Madalyn never took ownership for her plethora of bad decisions; it was her choices and her actions that left her single and poor with two fatherless babies to care for. Madalyn's lot in life was not God's fault - it was her fault - and by her example we see what will happen whenever every vestige of a moral compass is removed from society.


Footnotes

  1. Atheists tend to avoid ridiculing Muslims, because that might get them in trouble. More often than not, antagonistic atheists only attack Christians.
  2. From the book My Life Without God, by William J. Murray. (See the bibliography.)
  3. In principle, I agree with the SCOTUS' decision; I do not believe that anyone should be required to pray. However, the consequences of this landmark decision cannot be understated; the fabric of American society has been indelibly damaged by the removal of God - and thereby a concrete moral standard - from our schools.

Bibliography


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Tearing Down History

As a history major, I agree with those who feel that it's a travesty when people try to reshape history to fit their agenda. And I agree with those who recognize that we have seen an increasing amount of that trend recently. Although to be fair, sometimes misconception interferes with the reality or the intent of a situation.

For example: I do not have a problem with taking down statues of Confederate generals from the Civil War. I do not believe that removing Confederate statues is erasing history any more than it would be if Germany removed statues of Hitler or Italy removed statues of Mussolini. No one is ever going to forget the evil that those men did, so removing their monuments is perfectly fine by me.

In a like manner, our country is going through a period of self-awareness. We are beginning to realize that some of the people whom we have immortalized in stone are - in fact - traitors, and as such they do not deserve high-placed positions of esteem within our society.

However, because these people were part of our history, we can remove monuments to their memory from our public squares and move them to museums, where they can still be remembered for being traitors to the republic without glorifying their existence.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

Mission Statements

A friend of mine recently sent me the following video from Weird Al Yankovic, who is one of my favorite geek heroes.

As someone who has worked in the business world for the past few decades, I have to admit: the corporate-speak in that video is much pretty spot-on for some division-level meetings that I’ve attended.

Open-mouthed smile

That being said, Weird Al's song reminds me of my days in a cross-site technical support team that I helped create at Microsoft, which was supposed to be an amalgamation of two commonly-used technical support roles of beta engineers and escalation engineers. However, the role of that team quickly spiraled out of control into something that was totally unrecognizable from what I had proposed. Our team was renamed by a corporate president as “Delta Force,” and despite the fact that everyone hated the name, we were stuck with it – because it came from a corporate president.

Getting back to the original point, I knew this team was screwed when Microsoft flew all of the team members to Redmond for a week when we were first starting out. The goals for the week were supposed to be creating the hierarchy and infrastructure that were required to organize and manage a large cross-site team, but we were bogged down for the first 1.5 days creating – seriously – our Mission Statement. It didn’t matter how many times I pointed out that we could be using our time and Microsoft’s resources considerably more efficiently if we tabled that discussion; I kept getting shot down by management, who continuously emphasized just how important a Mission Statement really is.

At some point during that week I marched into my new boss’s office and told him (in no uncertain terms) that I wanted off that team as soon as possible. (Although he begged me to stay, and I did – for 1.5 years. And I hated almost every minute of it.)

With that in mind, the video from Weird Al was a fun [sic] reminder of that time.