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January 10th, 2010


Over the years there has been a lot made of TicketMaster and their control of the event ticket business. Back in 1994 Pearl Jam famously filed suit against TicketMaster and lost.

2009 saw a lot of concern over the merger of LiveNation and TicketMaster, a merger that would effectively make TicketMaster the single source for event tickets. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/04/monopoly_building.html

TicketMaster's track record in several areas is abysmal. I've never used a company though that pays so much superficial attention to customer service but in reality could not care less about it, as I found out recently.

Case in point. For a Christmas present, I bought my wife a ticket to one of Lady Gaga's Chicago shows. We set up a hotel nearby. We purchased airfare from Denver to Chicago. By early December all necessary reservations were made and my wife was extremely excited.

The shows were originally at the Chicago Theater, which near as I can tell is a small to medium sized venue. Several other cities also had her shows booked in what really amounts to smaller more intimate settings. This of course, is not TicketMaster's doing. Somewhere along the line, someone, I would assume the promoter or someone in Lady Gaga's management group got wise- hey, this is probably the biggest pop act of 2009, why are we booking her in tiny places when she legitimately could fill some larger venues? So they decided to move several shows. In Chicago that mean moving from the Chicago Theater to The Rosemont Theater. I believe Detroit and Orlando saw venue changes as well.

So far, so good. Now here's where it gets messy. So TicketMaster/the promoter sent out emails to all the folks who purchased tickets to let them know of the change. The email stated that all tickets were canceled, and that a new presale would take place where those folks who already had tickets could purchase new tickets. The email went on to say that if you have questions, follow this link (which went to the TicketMaster website and a customer service inquiry email form) or call an 800 number (which went to TicketMaster customer service)

So My wife and I were glad that there would be an opportunity to get her tickets to the show at the new location, but I was curious as to how it all was going to happen- would it be automatic? Would I need to re-purchase tickets and when would that occur? Would it be over the web or over the phone? What information would I need to provide in order to be allowed to participate in the presale? Remember, since this is an out of town show for us, there are more ramifications financially than just the tickets to the show.

I called the TicketMaster number and proceeded to work through the automated system (second only to CitiBank's system, for sheer stupidity, in my mind). I was able to reach a live agent finally. Friendly enough guy, who wanted to chat about the weather in Denver and how things were going. Fine, but let's get down to business. Of course he could not tell me about the specifics of the tickets I had purchased previously, because we had used my wife's credit card to purchase, and I did not have that on me. Not a problem I told him because all I really needed was to understand the process of how I would be able to get tickets for her at the new location. He kept reiterating the presale. I kept reiterating I was aware of that, but really needed to know the how and when please. He continued, tersely, to tell me how things would be taken care of during the presale. I asked when it would occur. He could not answer that question. Not even a "we don't know, call back in two days". I finally told him that this was no help. All I needed to know was how to purchase and when I should be doing so, and that it was ridiculous that he couldn't either tell me that information or when TicketMaster would know that information.

At this point, he told me "Sir, we just sell the tickets you know". Then he asked me if there was anything else he could help with. I could not resist pointing out that he actually had not helped me with anything to begin with.

See. Don't you get it? They just sell the tickets. I had previously acknowledged that this change of venue most likely had nothing to do with them. But at the same time, as the biggest vendor of event tickets, you would think they would be in better coordination with the promoters and also experienced in change of venues to the point where they would be able to figure out a smooth process in dealing with the situations. But it was clear that they did not care. Not one bit. About the inconvenience, About the lack of information. About the fact that these were a gift and all I wanted was to make sure my wife got to the show. They just sell the tickets. There responsibility is limited. They only sell the tickets.

Thankfully the presale information came out in another email a day or two later. It was specific to us as VIP ticket holders (that type of ticket was the only type available when I bought the ticket in November). I don't know if the folks with regular tickets got any details, but we'll assume they did. We were able to get tickets, cheaper ones in fact and a switch to a different day when the tickets went on sale to the general public. For a variety of reasons that worked better for my wife. The short of it though is in addition to all of the negatives TicketMaster is accused of with some regularity, I learned from this that they really could not care less about you, the individual consumer. That might be a No Duh moment for those of you who go to see a lot of shows. For me, I guess at this stage in my adult life I should not be surprised, but I was.
 
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September 24th, 2009

What a week. It’s not even end of day Thursday and we’ve had more weird national and local nonsense than I can normally tolerate. The national stories- the drug bust cops taking time out to play Wii (New Professionalism at its best I say) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/22/police-play-wii-bowling-d_n_294405.html- Michael Moore chumming the waters for his new picture in which he declares capitalism a failure (http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/24/lkl.michael.moore/index.html)- Mackenzie Phillips and the whole incest thing, only shocking to me because while I suppose I understand the speaking out angle, and perhaps even the catharsis angle, yelling from the Oprah show mountain top does not entirely seem to be the best option, to me (http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/09/23/mackenzie.phillips.oprah/index.html).

 

Locally I open up the Denver post the following No Shit level headline: “Colorado criminals owe state’s victims nearly $778 million” (http://www.denverpost.com/ci_13406690). Apparently capitalism isn’t the only system not working. This article is so full of idiocy frankly I can’t believe anyone actually wrote it. Did you know that it’s difficult for convicted felons to find high paying jobs after incarceration? It might surprise you that “…the reality is that in high-profile cases where defendants have swindled people out of millions of dollars, burned hundreds of acres of land, repeatedly sexually abused children or stolen people's identities, the chance of recouping costs or fines or repaying victims is low.” Really? You mean to tell me that Fortune 500 companies aren’t lining up to hire an ex Department of the Interior forestry worker, and pay them six figures?

Really what the state is banking on is one of two scenarios. First, that you have money to begin with. They’ll take that. If not, well, let the article explain the shoot and hope technique, straight from my 8th grade basketball team: “Part of the reason for ordering fines or restitution from someone who clearly can't afford to pay is the chance that they will suddenly come into money, say, through an inheritance or a lottery win. That circumstance would give the state a claim on the money.”

Brilliant.

More idiocy has been on display with Michael Moore. I love Roger and Me. Many folks understand that people who support free markets can also support companies being ethical and intelligent. GM has never near as I can tell been either of these things, for example. Supporting free markets and supporting the downfall of poorly run companies is not mutually exclusive.

But Moore, as he has done largely post Roger, has drifted into the all or nothing camp. From his short lived show The Awful Truth to his new epic, Moore as usual gets it exactly wrong. “Yes. Capitalism. Yes. Well, I don't have to say it. Capitalism, in the last year, has proven that it's failed. All the basic tenets of what we've talked about the free market, about free enterprise and competition just completely fell apart. As soon as they lost, essentially, our money, they came running to the federal government for a bailout -- for welfare, for socialism. And I thought the basic principle of capitalism was that it's a sink-or-swim situation. And those who do well, the cream rises to the top and, you know, those who invest their money wrongly or, you know, don't run their business the right way, then they don't do well.”

Notice Moore says nothing about the politicians, both parties, who supported, increased and also demanded these bailouts. I’m in agreement that for companies that failed to have come crawling to the government is sad. But the government, including the Obama administration, is complicit in this giving away all that money for no good reason. I seem to recall public sentiment being pretty in favor of NOT bailing out the automakers, and the automakers and the government telling us that it was a necessity. I don’t recall seeing the auto industry push for Cash for Clunkers. I believe most of the hucksters were from the Obama Administration.

“I mean, they essentially created this invisible virtual casino with people's money -- people's pension funds, people's 401(k)s. They took this money and they made bets. And then they made bets on the bets. And then they took out insurance policies on the bets. And then they took out insurance against the insurance -- the credit default swaps.”

This is not what “they” did at all. If what he is trying to say is that companies taking poor risks ended up ruining savings of folks who invested in the company or for whom worked for the company and had savings tied up in 401Ks, sure. However, in some cases this is hyperbole. For example, looking again at the automotive industry, it wasn’t poor gambles that allowed the house to win. Rather decades of mismanagement and a Union so full of individuals convinced that their gravy train should never end eventually brought these companies to their knees. I know a person who worked as a quality consultant for the big three in the 80’s, and at that point they were being told they needed to reform. Management knew it. The Union knew it. They ignored all advice. Professor W. Edwards Deming helped usher in quality to the Japanese, post world war II. He tried in America in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s before his death. His 14 points? “Management must be judged not only by the quarterly dividend, but by innovative plans to stay in business, protect investment, ensure future dividends, and provide more jobs through improved products and services.” Companies like GM never did get the full message, even with the upturn of profits as a result of his help in the 80s. Instead of making true, long lasting changes and ensuring future dividends, changes that would benefit the workers and the company, they (and the Unions) instead chose to go with two decades of rhetoric- Buy American. Never mind that fact that at the same time, they moved the manufacturing to Mexico.

But all this is not a failure of capitalism. Because for every GM there is Toyota. For ever poor functioning grocery chain there is Whole Foods. For every Apple when it’s not doing well, there is Apple with the iPod, iPhone and so on. The point then that Moore ought to be making is the very same point he was making in his first movie- that the managers of companies have a responsibility to their workers and stakeholders to run the company ethically, by the agreed upon rules (accounting, etc), and with transparency so that watchdogs, both private and public, can alert the investing public and employees about behavior. This is not a failure of capitalism. Poor management happens in Communism, Socialism, etc. This is a failure due to greed. And with all due respect to Gordon Gecko, greed is not synonymous with capitalism. Capitalism will remain fruitful and prosperous long after someone like Moore is gone and his work no longer remembered.


September 5th, 2009

Random Saturday notes…

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The NFL season is a little under one week away from playing meaningful games. That’s a little misleading since in reality we have one game Thursday, most Sunday, and the remaining game on Monday (the 14th). I really dislike the Thursday start to the season as a former Fantasy player. It meant that as rosters were being trimmed you had to have your draft. Granted, even in a 12 team league, you probably weren’t going to draft many, if any, of the guys who get released as teams trim their numbers to get down to the 53 man roster, but the idea that we were drafting for the season before teams themselves had let the dust settle bothered me. In the league that I participated in, we drafted live at a bar, and we had to pay to add players after the draft, so if you screwed up, it cost you.

As for the team I have a rooting interest for, due to a severe case of being raised in Denver and the fact I’m a season ticket holder, the Broncos…whoo boy. It’s going to be a long season. That defense will be better than last year, but that’s like saying a ship won’t sink as fast. And I can’t get really excited about either Kyle Orton or Chris Simms. I don’t like the running game. I believe the offensive line will define mediocrity. The receiving corp looks nice, even without batshit insane Brandon Marshall. I’m feeling 5-11 frankly. Should beat Cleveland, KC at least once, Raiders once, probably Washington, maybe Cincinnati. It’s not going to be pretty. So far the cuts coming out of the last pre-season game have not been surprising.

The alma mater is playing right now, taking on the mighty Florida Atlantic University. Go Huskers. God, I can’t stand the football team. They’re up 14-3 in the second half. Perhaps they are playing for Thunder Collins or Lawrence Phillips freedom? The Employer plays Colorado State tomorrow. Hopefully CU will “take state” so to speak.

We watched Adventureland last night. I guess I’m a fan of Greg Mottola now, officially. I know that’s probably more due to his connections to Apatow, but if his name is on it, I’ll at least give it a chance. The movie was good. The story falls apart a little in the end I think, and wraps up a little too nicely but the characters are fairly engaging, and it is sort of a sweet college age coming of age story. Maybe the tone was a little sluggish- I mean it sort of treated a lot of things like a very private person might, with a pause and a shrug. It wasn’t vibrant in that sense.

We saw Ponyo today. The kids liked it. Yeah, it’s visually amazing. It’s vibrant, sincere and crazy. It’s still a kid’s movie though. I was utterly bored. Sorry to all the Miyazaki lovers out there.

I was curious about which trailers we would get. Mostly fluff. The Fantastic Mr. Fox though looks bizarre and possibly wonderful, but I love Wes Anderson. Even Life Aquatic gets me.

There was a featurette before the previews for Where the Wild Things Are. It seemed like pretty standard fluff, that the author of the book (Maurice Sendak) respects and loves the vision of the movie and that it enhances, not detracts from, his book. That’s all well and good I suppose, though I’m never sure if I believe that kind of paid for vouching. At least a guy like Alan Moore just says the hell with it. You do know where he stands about the adaptations of his works- he doesn’t care. I love Dave Gibbons, but he shrilled for the Watchmen movie, and it was a fucking train wreck. They also showed the trailer for the film, and as I said in my tweet today, I think the movie will either be a masterpiece on par with legends, or it will be the Waterworld of children’s movies. I can’t tell yet what I think, but it seems serious, and whimsical, and like the type of movie that can truly entertain children and adults at the same time without having to wink at either and try and get them to play along in the margins. That’s just an impression of course. I could be way off.

I’m gonna go outside and catch bugs with the little rug rats. I suggested football. They countered with bugs. They win.


September 4th, 2009

In my years of being a PM in business and public/government, I’ve determined that one of the most important skills a Project Manager brings to the table is the ability to resolve conflicts when they occur, and when possible, prevent them before they occur.

This skill is incredibly underrated in the profession, especially the ability to be proactive and prevent conflict. It’s related to risk planning in some senses, but in others wholly different. A great risk planner is not necessarily a great conflict resolver.

In the profession, and in today’s business environment, the importance is apparent: avoiding true conflict is essential to being able to stay on task. Leaving the egos at the door and putting your all in for the project team will accomplish tasks more quickly and with a consensus. Conflict is not necessarily disagreements, even fundamental ones. Conflict is not always negative in fact. But when destructive, when it blocks advancement, it’s dangerous. Conflict can be on technical issues, procedural issues, role clarity, organizational politics, or even just personality clash. Sometimes these things are directly related to a project, such as unwillingness on two parties to compromise on a design detail. Other times it can be about something not even related to the project itself, as with personalities- two folks might just not get along. Often times though these issues are intertwined. Its part this, part that, a little of A and some of B, oh, and let’s not forget C, D, and E too. They’re mixed in there like spices in a good dish.

Because of this tendency for the situation to be complex, resolving the issue can be difficult. It isn’t as easy as evaluating each side and making a decision. Preventing the conflict is even more difficult.  Because Project Managers also rarely have direct control over the employees on their project, it is even more difficult to solve the issue. In my experience most places do not empower the project manager to take an active role in resolving the issue. If it’s a political issue, or one concerning roles inside the organization the Project Manager’s hands are often times because the decisions are made at a level or more above them.  Department heads may be willing to hear input, but are more likely to treat the incident as a personality clash. It may well be that too, but it the personalities may be forced into conflict because of the poor management decisions on roles. In other words, had the root issue, role clarity, been addressed, the personalities may never have been stressed to the point where conflict became inevitable.

A recent example for me was on an email project I am running. We have need for analysis work to be done on a particular area of the implementation. Our Program Manager, who in our organization is responsible for being the project initiator, creating the service and business requirements, and then as an oversight body, has expertise from a previous point in their career to do the analysis work, or at least complete a portion of it. He has been instructed not to do analysis work however as it is not his role. This rightly frustrates him (and me) since it slows down our ability to complete important tasks.

We do have an analyst group, but they have no expertise, training or experience in the particular product or the related products chosen for the project. One of them has been tasked with doing the analysis for a specification we will pass on to a vendor for them to use to evaluate our specific needs on an adapter which will sit between their product and the email system we are implementing. Since he is reliant upon a directing hand and much help from others, the analyst is annoyed because this is only one of many projects he is being asked to do. He is being told in no uncertain terms that he is not to go and learn about the products in detail so he can use that knowledge for analysis. He’s basically being asked to do this analysis in a vacuum. He feels his expertise is being question by some on the project and feels like he’s being asked to do something he is unequipped for and cannot succeed at.

As if that itself isn’t enough to tease apart, these two both have to work together to complete the spec. The both dislike each other intensely.  Prior experiences has shown me neither has much tolerance for the other.

So we have: role clarity, organizational politics, and personalities as variables in the equation. I recognized from the outset that this was a dangerous situation. How could I support both individuals, and at the same time drive them towards completion of this important deliverable?

If it were just personalities I could resort to simply sharing in their frustration and arrainge the work and conversations so that no unstructured contact takes place between them- in these cases I often become the gatekeeper for information. Each individual will go through me as much as possible in order to limit their contact with each other. When direct contact is needed, I facilitate it. I run the meeting or get together. Under the auspices of “trying to understand” I may even sit in on conversations and take notes. Perhaps it’s a little draconian, but the key in a simple personality conflict is to not take sides, allow each side some time to vent about the other if needed, and be sympathetic about their perceptions without taking sides, and if possible, even confirming their perceptions. You have to be clear that you are hearing them, but you don’t have to agree with them. Both parties have to feel as though they have been brought into your inner circle (and to a degree they have, this is not just done for show). This is a case where you are managing personalities and not processes, so you have to employ a human touch. I have spent a good time with both individuals doing this. Most importantly, I have been gently bringing up how the other side is seeing the issue. I’m non-confrontationally trying to get both to admit where their common ground (and they is ample common ground in reality) exists in an effort to gain a starting point for the work, and to move forward. I’m working with the other to see the other’s point of view and personality (one is older, the other younger. The personalities don’t mesh at all) to at least admit the other is just trying to do their job as best they can, and that some level of trust and respect have to exist. Neither is trying to screw the other.

But because of the extenuating circumstances, I am stuck with two individuals who hate working with each other, and little other alternative- in general the Analyst group and the Program Management group dislike each other.

The first step is to identify the things I can’t change: I know I cannot change the political situation. We won’t be hiring a new analyst anytime soon- I can highlight to the chain of command that we ought to do this, but it won’t solve my problem directly. The directors have given their edicts and made it clear these are the individuals I have been assigned.


August 19th, 2009

I read once that to become a decent writer, you ought to try and write 1,000 words a day. Sometimes coming up with interesting topics, much less opinions is difficult. Re-blogging others articles gets tedious. No one wants to read about my day to day activities (plus things like Twitter make micro-blogging far more interesting anyway).

So to that end I’ve made up my mind to try and blog on Project management a couple times a week, to have some subjects in which to write about and reach the 1,000 words a day goal. Tuesday is Monkey Tuesday, so that’s out. I can’t step on those toes. I went instead with Project Thursday. First up, I wanted to compare and contrast the PM role in the public and private sectors

I currently work at a university in the IT department. I’ve been a project manager of one type or another now for about six years. I don’t have my PMP, but am working on it. I’ve worked now both in the private and public sectors as an IT PM. There are some obvious and not so obvious differences in doing this job in those places.

As a project manager in the private sector, telephony in particular, the project manager had more power. Part of that was being in a more mature organization in terms of a Project Management Office. You may not be the project sponsor, but often times had a lion’s share of the responsibility in executing the project. The timeline, schedule, and goals for developing patches and new software loads were largely created by me with input from the development managers as well as the requests from the field for bug fixes. There is still consensus building but often times rather than an arbitrator role you are seen in the management role- that is as a decision maker.

Comparing that to my role currently, I have little control over when things will be done or prioritized within the IT organization. I can try and create expectations, but they may or may not be met. As designed, PMs are exclusive the execution role and are not used to develop strategy. That may not be too much different from above, save that for once the project is underway, in my old life, I had control over the choices we made to a great degree. Now, for every choice I usually have to gain consensus or even approval from the sponsor and other key stakeholders. The big difference is that in the corporate world I had a much freer rein to plan and execute. Now I facilitate consensus building on planning the execution. Both have merits, but not all personalities work for both strategies. It took me awhile to get used to helping people make decisions rather than making them as I best saw fit. The university environment is more collaborative and political than top down.

I’ve never worked as a PM where I’ve had control over the makeup of my project team directly or where I was the direct line manager for the people inside my project team. Nearly all project managers I have talked to face that same situation. The nature of projects either inside business or the public sector is that they are transitory, at least in the overall picture (some projects can last for a long time). In fact as any PM is aware, the real definition of a project is something with a definable beginning and definable end unlike operations work which can sometimes be classified as repetitive and cyclical. Due then to the fact that these are limited engagements, it makes sense that we do not organize our business structure purely by project teams, and to some degree that a project manager does not have direct management over his or her team.

In the corporate world I found scheduling and time lines to be helpful. Most product managers had these, and all projects had them as well. We reported on our progress per where we were expected to be. In the public sector we still use these, but there a many other considerations to scheduling and they don’t always drive the project. For instance, I can count off the top of my head at least five projects where equipment was bought but not up, running, and in production six months after the purchase. In the corporate world that would be almost unheard of. At the University it happens with some frequency for a variety of reasons including that we aren’t a slave to the schedule. If a business does not release Product A when it expects to, there can be many ramifications with suppliers, distributors and customers. A net result is loss of income if the company delays releasing. There may be valid reasons for doing this and the cost analysis may say it’s the best move. Some of these factors though don’t exist at the IT level, or inside the university. If our products are the services we offer, there may not be an easy way to calculate the cost of not having the new email system out on January 1. The old one is still in place. People can still use it. This is not to say there aren’t financial considerations, just that the world here looks at it differently (as in sometimes the product must be perfect, or that we’re willing to endlessly debate design and philosophical issues inside a project before we go out the door). Scheduling and Gantt charts themselves don’t mean the project is on the right track, but then that is also true in the corporate world if you don’t have the discipline to hold to and track versus the schedule I suppose…

My personal experience is if you like people, the university is a great place to be a PM, but if you truly enjoy process, the corporate world works better. It’s anecdotal I know, but I find that there are some interesting differences between how things work in these two places.


July 28th, 2009

Sweet home Alabama:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-07-28-alabama-taser_N.htm?csp=34

Fucker had an umbrella. He could have been the Penguin for all they knew. I'm sure he visits Dollar Stores in Alabama.

The best part is after the judge refused charges, the police take the guy back to his apartment complex, drop him off, and leave, without explanation to the guys family.

July 25th, 2009

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_12911430

OK, sure. These folks *might* be lying. Could happen. But if so it's a hell of a conspiracy since there seem to be several eye witnesses putting Magness at the scene, breaking Discua's arm, and then being the same cop to return later.

And let's not forget- this wasn't one of our Boys in Blue going after a killer, rapist, or pedophile. This officer was looking for illegal fireworks.

Illegal Fireworks.

Add to this another recent local favorite of mine:
http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-copgunfood-071409,0,879320.story

I originally read about this here:
http://cbs4denver.com/investigates/denver.police.suspension.2.1049330.html

Reporter Brian Maas refused to name the officer (which was odd to me, since other stories where accusations were made named the officer) "We are not naming officers at this point since they havent been convicted of anything, let along charged.
Hope that answers your questions." (email to me dated June 23).

Granted this case is not quite as cut and dried, but it sure looks like Derrick Saunders is either A)Guilty B) a complete dick (flashing your badge at a McDonalds employee? The Fuck?) or C) both.

Anyway, just two local, recent examples.


July 24th, 2009

Gates Follow up

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Joshua Claybourn says it better than I on his blog post:

"All of which brings us back to the Cambridge dust-up. Sgt. Crowley was understandably carrying out his duty to investigate the report, and from the quotes attributed to Gates, the professor was unfair in his comments to an officer doing a good job. But being rude, unfair, or disrespectful should not be illegal, and that’s essentially the effect of most disorderly conduct laws. Our American society increasingly hands more responsibility and control to the great Nanny State. Heightened arrests under disorderly conduct laws enable this frightening progression."

http://www.intheagora.com/archives/2009/07/stupid_disorderly_conduct_laws/

Excellent points, without the hyperbole. ;)
By now, if you pay any attention to major and minor news outlets, you’ve probably heard about Henry Louis Gates Jr’s arrest, and the accompanying firestorm, Including President Obama’s reaction to a question about the incident. John Stewart had a good bit on the Obama reaction last night.

It’s nearly impossible to tell for certain who is right about the racial aspect. The officers by all accounts don’t seem racist. No doubt Gates and other blacks feel the sting of racism. It does not seem though by all reports and accounts, including Gates, that this was a case of racism.

The real issue to me is what is being played out now- the continued over zealousness of the police force. The basic situation is that Gates, unable to get into his home, was forcing entry. A neighbor called the police. No real problems there, save for a wondering why the neighbor did not notice it was Gates (maybe he hasn’t lived there long, or maybe a neighbor is a euphemism for someone who lives around there but not necessarily right by Gates). The police officers show up, and by now Gates is already in his house. They ask him to show ID. He’s flustered and upset by this, which we all would be; it’s somewhat understandable considering he’s probably already had a crappy last hour or so. But asking for ID in this case is not unwarranted. Gates complies and shows them ID that establishes his residency and I believe even his Harvard ID. OK so far.

At this point, the accounts differ. And this is the crucial point in the tale. Once the officers verified Gate’s story, then they should have been on their way post haste. They were called on suspicion of a break in and verified this to not be the case. There was no other cause or even suspicion of anything else. It’s clear both sides were chirpy with each other, intended or not. Verbally Gates and Officer Jim Crowley were egging each other on.

Those seeing Gates side of the story say he was provoked, enticed outside only to be arrested. Those agreeing with the police say that Gates was hostile and rude, crude even.

To me it really doesn’t matter what Gates said. So long as no direct threats were uttered (and even then) Sgt. Crowley should have left the scene. Police officers are not immune from getting yelled at, and I believe Gates was understandably upset. He had a right to be. The officers should know how to diffuse this type of situation, namely by getting the fuck off his property, not continuing to verbally spare with Gates, and argue about giving their badge number and identity. You deal with people, you better be trained on how to deal with people in stressful situations. If departments aren’t doing this, well, then the government and police are even stupider than I thought. Police having a little humility instead of always playing the “I have a bigger dick” game like Sgt. Crowley seems to be doing here would go a long way to solving these issues. And yes, I believe the onus is on them.

I’m admittedly anti-authority here. It’s a bias and I recognize it. But putting emotion aside, once identity was established Sgt Crowley’s ONLY option was to get out of there, as the “situation” had turned into a non-situation. That means officers might have to hear some nasty words thrown their way. It might mean they get their feelings hurt. However, it’s part of the job, like working out and never crossing the Thin Blue Line no matter how heinous an act a fellow “brother” commits.

Our police today though don’t see it that way. They don’t protect and serve any more. Serve in fact seems to promote subservience or obedience to someone else, and the police definitely don’t show that. EVER. Their job is controlling you, your body and your mouth. It’s not about justice or keeping things safe, it’s about having it their way.

I for one have had enough. Don’t expect me to mourn you as fallen heroes, or even to call upon you for help. Don’t call me for donations to your charities, and don’t expect me not to root for the same system you use to work people over to screw you when you do something wrong or illegal. Don’t expect cooperation, or help. I’ll assert my rights and fight for them, since caring about their protection and respecting them (they are after all your rights as well) is not a duty for you but in fact something of an anathema. I’ll teach my children to be wary of you, scared of you and to avoid you. I’ll help watch you with cameras and take videos of you as you do your job to ensure you do it right and legally. I’ll use local laws to give us your names and your backgrounds, and to provide information when you are a suspect. I’ll watch you with the eye of a hawk, knowing you’re no different from the common criminal, save for licensing by the government- a thug who will and does break laws when it suits him and whom has no respect for others civil liberties.

We’ve got to reverse this. The Cop needs to become subservient to his Community.
So now we have the indignant police brotherhood claiming that Obama offended them. I have no sympathy for thugs who get their feelings hurt by words. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

July 23rd, 2009

Comic Con is under way

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I'm a nerd from way back. Or at least way back in the sense that I've been one pretty much my entire life. I like Super Heroes. I am into Star Wars. I own all the Star Trek movies. I have been to a sci-fi convention. I work in tech. My nerdiness includes collecting comics, of course.

I've never been to San Diego for THE Con. I hear differing opinions- it was cooler back when it was smaller; Hollywood invading has not been a good thing; X event was fantastic, this presentation was amazing. I imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle as it often is- the con is huge now so sure, crowds and lines are a given and a huge pain in the ass. But if for a few days you want to be at the epicenter of pop culture in terms or movies and comics and so on, San Diego is it this time of year.

Awhile back I curtailed my toy and comic buying. Part of it was becoming a father (I had a hard time buying things that were now more meant for my son, or soon would be, than for me as a 30 something). Part of it was the disappointments became too many- the average comic book is a foray into arrested development and adolescent male fantasies. And a good portion of it was the money. The amount of dollars I poured into my near complete collection of Avengers and X-Men comics was disgusting. It was too much. I decided to go cold turkey. I sold off most of the books that were worth any money, got rid of a lot of toys, and gave my son most of the remaining items.

I permitted myself one exception- Minimates- because they are just darned cool and continue to make me happy. The wonderful block figures are just too much fun. I started with the Marvel comics series, and bought a ton of others as the years progressed. I buy sets for me and sets for my son. I bought some for my daughter this Christmas. My wife said yesterday if they made Twilight Minimates, she would want them. (more on the Mates here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimates). The damn lil buggers are just too damn cool.

Comic Con has become the place for toy and collectible companies to display and introduce things. And so it has been with bated breath today hoping fr the first images of new Minimates. I'm like a crack addict salivating at the thought of the pipe. Thanks to Minimates HQ I at least have some news on the so far revealed Marvel comics 'mates: http://www.minimateheadquarters.com/?p=655

Holy trousers. An X-factor box set (for the non nerds, this was an incarnation of the original X-Men back in the late 80's when Marvel Brought back Jean Grey from the dead).

Blackbolt? Shadowcat? More Angels? Yellowjacket??? Titanium Man!

Awesome. Add to this the Ghostbusters Minimates and it's almost, ALMOST enough to take the sting out of DC Minimates being officially put on infinite hold last year at this time.

Now, if only Diamond Select can make some Twilight Minimates for my wife, I'd be all set.

My Top 10 Wanted Minimates:
10. Kang
9. Wrecker
8. Longshot
7. Black Knight
6. Falcon
5. Mockingbird
4. New version of the Thing
3. New Version of the Human Torch
2. New version of Mr. Fantastic
1. New version of Invisible Woman
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