Leadership — not always about popularity

That’s what I’m talking about. Enough with the pious BS from the religious right and those looking for a smokescreen or trying to earn brownie points with their one-eyed supporters.

Another student of the US Constitution opposes ignorant, shallow religious bigotry. Amen.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday forcefully endorsed allowing a mosque near ground zero, saying the country’s founding principles demanded no less.

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation.

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” Continue reading →

The escape of exnzpat, Part 3

Lincoln

In my dream I saw a man.  It was me.  And I remember this…

“…I can feel the walls closing in on me: banks, brokers, lenders, wives, children, and dogs — especially dogs!  Where was Lincoln?  “That Bad Dog!”  There… there he was on the dining room floor.  The floor I spent hours sanding and polyurethaning!  “Bad Dog!”  I went to him, nail puller in my hand…” Excerpt from “exnzpat buys a rental”

#

Success at last!  Lincoln had had a small clump of dirt lodged  up high between the toes of his right paw, and after what seemed like ages of licking and gnawing, he finally dislodged it.

Lincoln stretched out on Michael’s bed.  Michael moved uncomfortably away from him, deep in his own sleep.  Lincoln took immediate advantage of the space on the bed and stretched out completely, his head almost touching the boy.  Lincoln attempted to lick at the back of the boy’s head but the distance was too great.  He snorted and closed his eyes and soon the rhythm of his breathing matched that of the boy.

#

What had it been?  Six dinners, maybe seven dinners since his master had gone mad?  Standing above him — enraged, his arm outstretched in anger, the hard metal thing in his hand — and then a strange thing! The yellow horse thing that lived in the attic above had slid slowly through the ceiling.  Lincoln had known that it was there too – he had sniffed at it during the deepest and blackest moments of the each and every night spent in the gray little home.  He smelled it – and other things too.  Dangerous things – their smell stung his nostrils! Now he saw it, coming up swiftly behind his master.  Giant and huge it was; monstrous, yellow in color, with flat and flabby arms, like bird wings.  The creature grabbed his master’s hand and stayed the blow.

“Run Lincoln, run.  Don’t look back. Hide, and don’t come out no matter what.”

The words were not spoken, and yet he heard them all the same.  From his master he heard only a gasp of surprise as the beast took his arm.

“Go now,” the thing said once more. Continue reading →

In a nutshell: a matter of trust

This small comment, in the middle of an article discussing Facebook privacy, explains what’s actually lost when certain spruikers (you know who I mean) expand their hyperbole and ‘puffery’ into potentially misleading claims … and then their offerings disappoint repeatedly, as in the case of some whose activities I have highlighted here.

image: Shutterstock via faqs.org (click)

“They’ve lost the users’ trust. That’s the problem,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group. “In the earlier days, there was time to regain it. It’s not so clear now. I think it’s getting more serious than making changes and moving on.”

T R U S T

As they used to say about Bill Clinton: One’s repeated behaviour reveals one’s character.

Some people advocate a world without criticism or ‘negative’ comments … about anyone.
‘Why are you so mean?’ they ask the critic. ‘Why do you say such negative things?’ or ‘Why can’t you just live and let live?’

Look, when it comes to personal relationships, I get it. I do. But even in those, there are times when the best thing to do is hammer someone on what they’re repeatedly doing or not doing. Unpleasant as that may be. There are times when you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

And as my hero Rachel Maddow tried to do with Rand Paul a while back, there are times when a prolonged sceptical probing spotlight exploring someone’s professed position vs reality is actually the right and best thing you can do. That’s not being ‘negative’ in my view. It’s being responsible. (And if you believe they present a danger to you or others, or that they are acting in a predatory way, why shut up?)

In a case of ‘You can take the journo out of the newsroom but you can’t take the newsroom out of the journo’, one of the ongoing themes of this blog is Whistle-blowers (39 posts and counting) — I’m encouraged by people who courageously speak up in the face of what they see as doubtful or wrong behaviour. I see it as a litmus test of their character.

It takes guts to make yourself a target for retaliation and retribution for the sake of principle.
I applaud them for standing up and following their conscience. Kia kaha. – P

Re-framing World War II as a facebook profile page…

OK, I know I may be WAY behind on this, but if you haven’t seen it — Bwahahaha…it’s hilarious!

OMG WWII on FACEBOOK! by Matthew Leeb on CollegeHumor (click for link)

Thanks to Brett Roberts.

An apology? … Oh, that’s all right then.

Here’s how Bob Jones’s publishers handled incorrect information asserted as fact

ERRATUM SLIP: An Apology — Whitcoulls Publishers apologise to the Values Rangitikei by-election candidate for the reference to him as a ‘whiskey-priest’ and as ‘having fathered five children’. This claim has no substance. In fact the candidate is a bachelor with no children. (Click for a larger view)

… which is a bit different to how Gareth Morgan handled ‘a mistake in the book that must be corrected’ in the first edition of his After The Panic.

I occasionally ask readers to clarify any matters of fact that may be inadvertently misstated in any of my writing here, but so far, there’s been not a squeak. I guess it must all be correct.

That’s reassuring.

(Thanks to G for letting me snap her book.)

Let’s head ’em off at the pass!

Even more on ad-blockers

I was reading over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, about a new extension for the Safari web browser which ‘cleans’ a lot of the extraneous material from around You Tube videos. Naturally, I’m not the only one annoyed by the ‘creativity’ You Tube’s owner/operators Google engage to interrupt my viewing pleasure. (Interruption marketing: ‘Find out what your customers like doing and interrupt it‘ — a neanderthal marketing idea.)

Here’s a nice extension for those who visit YouTube but dislike its visual clutter. A Cleaner YouTube by 200ok Web Consulting removes all of the ads, sidebar items, comments and pretty much everything else that isn’t the video you’re watching. Once installed, youtube.com simply shows a search field. Enter your criteria and hit return to review the neatly-presented results.
Select a video to watch and it appears centered in a field of white all by its lonesome. Nice, eh? …

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of ad-blockers here and here coming up with the golden rule (quoting myself, sorry):

Desperate for revenue? Then don’t annoy the hell out of your readers.

Reading the comments following the TUAW post, I saw this absolute gem from insider ‘stewy6598’:

This is BS. I work in Internet advertising, and this is how we make money. I understand ads are annoying, but just ignore them. Free content = ad supported. Just like this site and its parent AOL.

Priceless! Oh yeah, that’s a business model we can all get behind.
Self-inflicted wounds, I say, stewy6598. Why do you think TV remotes have a MUTE button?*

What future for ‘Cashflow machines’?

The implications for those selling ‘cashflow machines’ based on ‘gaming the system’ of Google Adsense and Amazon click commissions are worth considering. Before plonking down a wad of cash to learn how to ‘steal traffic’ perhaps one should consider the landscape, and how it’s changing.

Of course, the spruikers selling the systems will want you to ‘buy now!’ … because it’s “mind-blowing” and “the most incredible cash-flow opportunity I have ever seen in my life”.

Meanwhile, apparently this (below) is nothing to do with internet marketing gurus [cough] Shaun Stenning and Dean Letfus (who made such an impression with their You Tube Traffic Thieves ‘special report’ ).

Originality is not generally a spruiker's trait. Any resemblance must be a coincidence.

Oh no. This cashflow machine ‘Google Sniper’ is a different thing entirely to their ‘sni.pr’ ‘Made for Adsense/Amazon’ cashflow machines … or their ‘Twa.lk 2.0’ – ‘Make big money on social media’ cashflow machine. Not them, apparently.

But you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. Watch the similar hyperbolic claims. (‘Zero to six figures’. ‘FREE traffic for life’, ‘The complete blueprint’. ‘Holy Grail of affiliate marketing’ etc etc.)

Must be a different internet whizz kid. (I hear there are quite a few around.)

– P

* Read further down the comments on the TUAW post and you’ll see someone reports the current version extension clashes with the BBC iPlayer … so be cautious (… which is why I read comments.)

Originality

Creativity — There are these AMAZING shoes…

Gaetano Pesce, shoes. Wow. image: melissashoes.com.br. via NYTimes

… which I read about in the New York Times:

[Italian architect and designer Gaetano] Pesce’s new shoe for the Brazilian company Melissa — an ankle bootie composed of interconnected PVC circles, whose form can change at the whim of its owner with a swift slice of the scissors. Cut once, and the boot becomes a bootie; cut again, and it’s a ballet flat, a peep toe, a sandal or even a flip-flop. ‘‘This is the future of mass production,’’ Pesce says. ‘‘With the technology we have today, we can give people something that is half done and ask them to finish it.’’ Go to melissashoes.com.br.

Wow.

Another reason to speak up now

Speak up! Tell your truth — Do the right thing NOW.
You may not always have the opportunity …

Thought-provoking art from painter Kristin Calabrese: 'My Only Regret', 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches (click to visit her website)

As someone said elsewhere: “I am not perfect or lily white and try never to claim to be.”  … but we do our best, right? (This art just resonated for some reason.)

Tall poppy syndrome: last refuge of the scoundrel?

Is a claim of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ the last refuge of the scoundrel?
(Yes, I know that’s supposed to be patriotism. But how about it? Or perhaps it could be claims of religious virtue?)

Whistleblowers often get called 'envious competitors'. But what if they're proven right?

Here’s a typical definition of the ‘syndrome’ …

Tall poppy syndrome: a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. Jealousy cuts the mustard too. — from Jeroen Ten Berge

Well, one can’t argue with the idea that THAT would be a terrible thing.

Jealousy, envy and resentment are ugly emotions, I’m sure we all agree, and surely can’t motivate (emot-ivate) any good thing, can they?

But hang on. What if the ‘high achiever’ under fire by a critic is actually a fake and a liar.
What if the ‘genuine merit’ is phoney?

e.g. let’s say someone claimed things that were untrue — for instance, citing success or achievements that are exaggerated and (perish the thought) trumpeting ethics and motivations that were … dubious.

What if they claimed titles like ‘most trusted advisor’ or ‘top investor’ or … ‘leading expert’, ‘top guru’ … and these were baseless, even misleading marketing claims?

Question: Is someone who exposes those false claims invoking tall poppy syndrome? … or are they unmasking a fraud? (The question answers itself, doesn’t it?)

A case in point: Harry Markopolos, the whistleblower who repeatedly warned authorities in the US about the scam being perpetuated by Bernard Madoff was NOT indulging in tall poppy slashing — although it’s apparent a US version of that particular smear would probably have been directed at him.
In fact, he was trying to blow the whistle on a criminal. Continue reading →

I had to laugh …

One of my key research tools as a writer is a very flexible archiving system called DEVONThink … which its brilliant creators describe as an

Information Manager with Built-in Artificial Intelligence

I’ve been using it for five years (almost to the day: I bought my first version on 9 August 2005) and the artificial intelligence is impressive (although it creeps up on you sometimes).  The database of information and materials I’ve loaded into DEVONThink over that time is huge and wide-ranging … and only getting more valuable with age. (Ahem)

In my experience, the power of DEVONthink’s artificial intelligence (AI) is that it alerts me to links between items in the  database that I wouldn’t have made.

Sure, the program has a superb and flexible search function, but the extra edge of the AI is that it can classify and suggest other items in the database whose relationship I might not have recognised.

For example, it will find an article I downloaded from the New York Times which parenthetically mentions an aspect of something I’m looking at presently — and suggest that I ‘See also… ‘ … and often, I’ve appreciated the suggestion.

It’s very, very good technology for someone like me — a journalist, writer and evidence gatherer. (I know this must sound like an enthusiastic endorsement — it’s genuine. I’m not an affiliate or anything for DEVON, just a happy user.)

Anyway, then I saw this sign recently … and had to laugh.

Ain’t that the truth?

Kieran Trass: “I was lied to by ‘locusts’ ”

Judging by his latest informercial/newsletter, Property Guru/Property Genie Kieran Trass is not a happy camper … in fact he now says he ‘strongly regrets’ his involvement in a Spruiker Express-type seminar, presumably NZ Property Gurus which we discussed here earlier this year.

Guru come, Guru go ... how Kieran Trass's involvement with NZ Property Gurus was heralded at the time. Now, apparently, he's spoken out about what he calls 'lies', 'false pretences', 'deceptive methods', and predatory marketing behaviour ...

It’s an interesting read, as you’ll see. I’ve left this extensive quote out of blockquote to make it easier to read. My comments are in green.

[ — START OF EXTRACT — ]
The Truth Is Out… Don’t Throw Your Pearls To Swine!
By Kieran Trass

This year 2010 is the year of the Tiger (虎) in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. Sadly though, based on what’s been happening in the property investment ‘education’ industry anyone would think that it was the year of the Pig … [Comment: Jeez, that’s a bit sharp!]

It is disappointing to evidence the traditional pattern that we always see when the Slump phase of the property cycle really takes hold. The pattern I’m referring to is the pattern of those who target YOU as a property investor to transfer value from your hard earned wealth to them without genuinely adding value to your situation.

It’s fact that the schemes being promoted most often end up consuming your resources (time and money) with little or nothing in return.

This ‘value transfer’ is inequitable because it is a certainty that most people will not receive the equivalent value of what you pay for these services.

It was with a heavy heart this year [I] found myself at events where such products were being promoted by other speakers. [Comment: Are we to assume this is a reference to his involvement in Dean Letfus’s NZ Property Gurus, where Trass was added as ‘guest guru’?] In one case [I] was blatantly misled into presenting at the seminar under false pretences (and sadly also invited my database to attend these seminars!).

False pretences, because what was not made clear to me, before accepting the invitation, was a dubious scheme intended to be promoted without my prior knowledge.

In one case my suspicion was aroused when I was invited to be a guest speaker so I asked a simple question about whether a certain product which I consider the equivalent of ‘snake oil’ [Comment: US Tax Liens?] was going to be promoted at the event. This is when I was told “NO, Kieran definitely not…”. In fact if they had been honest they knew that I would have shunned the event and not invited my database to attend, so they lied. Continue reading →

Why to believe in others

Here’s a wonderful short clip of Viktor Frankl, author of the seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning, on the topic of our need to have meaning in our lives … to aim high … and to see the best in people whom we’re trying to help or encourage …

Viktor Frankl in action — click to watch the video

“…If we take man as he really is, we make him worse, but if we seem to be idealists, and overestimate him, we promote him to what he really can be…”

Watch the video (4:22) below the fold. Continue reading →

Why take any action?

Recently in Why speak up I shared…

At any time, in my view, you are either a force for good or ill — opposing evil or assisting it:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
— Edmund Burke

I know I come across as a sort of zealot at times. I know my views can appear harsh and judgmental — black and white. I know it. Truthfully: I feel an obligation to do the right thing and speak up — to tell the truth as I see it.

Gandhi: encouragement (click)

This morning I came across this — literally on my kitchen wall. It’s an inspiring quote that my wife uncovered years ago and popped on our kitchen noticeboard under a magnet in the last couple of days.

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action that’s important.
You have to do the right thing.
It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit.
But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing.
You may never know what results come from your action.
But if you do nothing, there will be no result.
Gandhi

It fits.

You’re never too old, bro.

A great little New Zealand short film with a message …

This is the extended and enhanced version of FROSTY MAN AND THE BMX KID which was written and directed by Tim McLachlan – one of the five finalists in the international YOUR BIG BREAK film-making competition run by Tourism New Zealand in conjunction with Barrie Osborne (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong). …

Nice, well-executed work. I like it. The characters seem pretty comfortable in their own skin.

Watch the video below the fold.

Dedicated to the commenters on the ‘God is OUR side…‘ thread. (Join in if you want.)

Continue reading →

More deceitful photoshopping

Ok I promise not to go on about this re-touching bizzo too much, but Gee Whizz, it’s so awful that Photoshop is being used to make girls and women feel inferior to fashion models that don’t even exist.

Another disgraceful display from Ann Taylor — a brand I have no respect for based on this deceitful nonsense:

What? Not slim enough? Proof that Ann Taylor=LIARS. image: Huffington Post with credit to Jezebel (click)

Website Jezebel which spotted it, had this to say:

Remember how Ann Taylor promised to “feature more real, beautiful images” after turning models into Stretch Armstrong dolls on its website? Well, they’ve started by adding some unretouched thumbnails that transform into ribless monstrosities when you click them. …
As the page loads, you’ll get to see what the Chiffon Trim Tank looks like on a real woman for a few seconds. Then she shrinks into a awkward creature barely able to support the weight of her torso with her tiny child hips.

What are we supposed to be aiming for? Barbie®?