My team at Yahoo! has a healthy, if not obsessive, interest in torturing each other. I've talked about this before in regards to our propensity for taking and hiding items when no one is looking. But we don't stop at that. Or perhaps I should say, I don't stop at that. This is the story of how my co-worker and cube mate, Steve, got completely owned.
It all began with the YUI birthday party earlier this year. One of the attendees was former Yahoo Dustin Diaz, who took what I considered to be a really cool pic of Steve. I found the pic on Flickr and showed it to Steve, who promptly responded with disgust, saying something along the lines of, "that's a terrible picture of me." He then left work to go home. Big mistake.
As soon as he left, I went to work. My goal was to get the picture in as many places as possible by the following morning. So I put it on the men's room door. On the vending machine. In the cafeteria. On his monitors. Then I made really small versions and put them in the "how I feel today" magnet and scattered some on his chair. I put them up all over campus in various buildings; some spots were obvious and others were not. I figured the obvious ones he'd find right away and possibly tear down, whereas the non-obvious ones he'd find somewhere down the road, maybe in months, and he'd realize the total extent of the prank. Psychological warfare is the best kind.
The next day, I also arranged for an hourly reminder of the photo. I got a bunch of people to agree to change their IM picture to that photo and send him an instant message at a designated time. Some were current Yahoos, some were former Yahoos, and the result was hilarious.
Perhaps the best part of this whole deal was when random people would stop Steve and ask him why his photo was up everywhere. Or when people would ask him why he looks familiar. Even now, months after most of the photos were taken down, there are some in obscure places still waiting to be discovered.
I setup a set on my Flickr account to document the occassion: Steve gets owned. Steve has sworn revenge, but so far, they've just been empty threats.
Today, I sat down and read nearly every word of the California voter's guide for this upcoming election. I'm having enough trouble deciding who to vote for in the Presidential race, and as usual, there are a bunch of other things on the election that I'm even less knowledgeable about. I've been a resident of California for a little over two years now and a resident of Mountain View for just a handful of months, so I'm really not all that well-informed about the issues facing the state or county. A quick read through the voter's guide made me remember why I hate voting.
I know the major players in the Presidential race just like everyone else does, Obama and McCain, with their associated running mates. Yet the ballot reveals that there are other races for office going on at the same time! I clearly don't know enough to make an educated decision as to who will be represent my district at the state assembly, nor do I know enough to vote for judge, school board, or any other assorted smaller government positions. There's no debates for these positions, and I've never even heard of most of the people. Perhaps I passed some supporter's sign on the way to work "Vote for Mr. X, the change we need!" Yes, everyone represents either the change we need or the steady, experienced hand we can rely on. That's what everyone election comes down to.
So what do I do for these small local elections? I could just not vote for anyone, but that sort of defeats the purpose. If everyone does that, then no one gets elected and the democratic process falls apart. But yet voting for someone I don't really know could have worse consequences. Any other option? Write in myself? Yeah, like I have any idea how to do anything in government. So I go over and read each person's bio and background, trying to make some logical assessment as to their suitability to the position for which they are running. It feels dirty.
Next, I get to the various propositions, which are both state-level and county-level. The state-level propositions are almost always hot-button issues that lead residents to put up signs, hold rallies, and otherwise express what people should do. Every proposition is both backed and opposed by well-funded and well-known organizations. The voter's guide contains arguments for each proposition, followed by a rebuttal, then an argument against, followed by a rebuttal. Every argument for and against are written in a sensationalist style, complete with sentences in all-caps boldly claiming that the proposition will "protect our children" or "hurt our children." Either that or passing the proposition will take money away from school, police, and other "much-needed" services. So a vote for a proposition is both a vote for our children and a vote against the services to support them. Quite the conundrum.
The fact is that neither side really knows what will happen if a proposition gets passed. Both sides claim certain things will happen, but of course, no one can guarantee. They each cite examples that back up their position, often trying to tug at your heart strings. The one that really got me in California was Proposition 4, which proposes that parents be notified when underage girls get abortions. I'm not even a parent and this one really tears me up inside. I try to imagine if I had a daughter and what I would like to have happen. Both sides present valid, if not fear-inducing, arguments. On the one hand, if I had a daughter who had an abortion, I'd want to know, to be able to support her, and make sure she got the proper follow-up care. On the other hand, I'd also want to be sure she was going to a good doctor and not trying to do something stupid to abort the pregnancy because she'd be afraid of telling me. Seriously, what makes me qualified to make a decision like this?
Another issue I have with the propositions is that I often agree with just part of it. If there are five things it will do, I agree with three...so do I vote "Yes" and live with the two that I don't? Or do I vote "No" and not get any of what I think would make sense? I'm convinced that this is an intentionally manipulative tactic by the authors of each proposition to try to trick people to vote one way or another. It's also a common tactic to include laws that are already enacted in the proposition along with other things. This leads us to think that all of the proposition isn't already on the books even though the parts we agree with already are.
The one thing I really and truly understand about propositions is when they talk about issuing state-backed bonds for some reason. This is really a no-brainer. The state doesn't have enough money to do what it wants to do, so it wants to issue some bonds to get an injection of money. The way bonds work is this: I need to raise $500, so I sell 100 30-year bonds at $5 a piece. People (or companies) buy the bonds because there's a guaranteed return higher than the purchase price in 30 years. I tell them that I'll pay them $9 a piece for each bond in 30 years. The purchasers now have a locked-in rate of return waiting for them after the time period has expired. The trouble is that I've put myself into a hole. Right now I need $500, but in 30 years I'll need to pay out $900, so not only do I need to figure out a way to make back the $500 I initially received, but I also need to come up with $300 more. Let's say 30 years go by and I can't afford to pay $800 because I don't have it. But the purchasers are legally owed that money so I need to find a way. If I'm a state, the only real way to get more money is to increase taxes to make up the difference and pay off the bond holders.
Every proposition that suggests a bond issuance usually includes the phrase "there will be no new taxes or tax increases." They're right, there won't be any new taxes or tax increases at the time the bonds are issued. There will, however, have to be new taxes or tax increases if the bonds mature and the state doesn't have enough money to pay. So when I look at these propositions, I look for anything that indicates a way to attain the necessary funds to pay out the bonds at the end. Issuing a bond that will help get a new income-producer off the ground is a good thing; the principal and interest can be paid off and the state will continue to see income increases afterwards. Even bonds issued for operations that will result in an eventual break-even point make sense. Issuing a bond to fund activities that won't result in any income is foolish and irresponsible, no matter what the money will be used for.
I literally spent four hours this morning pouring over all the voter information and deciding how I'd vote on everything. Even so, I still feel like I'm not really informed enough on most issues to have made a vote that I'm completely happy with. There's a lot of gray area on all propositions. I read the arguments for and against, the rebuttals, and the actual (mind-numbing) text of the propositions. That doesn't mean that I fully understand the implications of each. I generally consider myself to be someone with a reasonable level of intelligence, and if I'm having trouble understanding everything, I can only imagine how others feel.
The whole system is really setup to encourage you not to investigate too deeply. Both the supporters and detractors want you to take their word for it and don't bother with the other details. Just count the number of signs for or against on your way to the voting booth and that should guide your decision. Not sure who these people are that are running locally? How many signs for their names did you see on the way? Clearly, those are the people to vote for. You may be laughing and rolling your eyes at these statements, but this actually does happen. It took me four hours to even get a basic understanding of all the issues; many people won't even take that amount of time to vote for things that will affect their lives.
Voting is a necessary part of the democratic process, but every election leaves me feeling like there has to be a better way. I can honestly say that since the time I registered to vote, I've only voted for someone once; most of the time, I've voted against people. I've also never really felt good about my votes on any propositions because I feel like I was never really sure of the outcome. All those disenfranchised voters who are being moved to action this election because of the sorry state of our country will surely be shocked when they see ballots that have more on them than a vote for Obama or McCain. What will they do with all those other checkboxes?
So here I am, once again, mourning a horrible Patriots loss. This brings me back to the pre-Brady days of the Patriots where each and every week was a tossup and Boston sportswriters proclaimed the Patriots the only team in the league to have a prevent offense. Looks like we're back. The question is how long will Belichick stay will Matt Cassell? The fourth-year quarterback has looked completely befuddled and unable to do the job. Not only does he make bad decisions, but he also completely misses seeing open receivers...frequently. I watched the Atlanta Falcons yesterday with envy as their first-year quarterback, BC's Matt Ryan, cooly led his team down the field with just 11 seconds left to seal the win. I'd trust Brady to do that too, but I wouldn't trust Cassell.
I expected the Patriots offense to struggle without Brady. What I didn't expect was the complete lack of defense I've seen in the two losses. Belichick is supposed to be a defensive-minded coach, a defensive genius in some people's books, and yet the defense looks about as good as pathetic as can be. There's no pass rush. The defensive backs regularly get beat on long passes. The entire defense seems unable to adjust to changes from the offense. We first saw this in preseason, where teams were marching up and down the field on our defense with ease. It's just preseason, we said, it'll change in the regular season. We were wrong. The defense couldn't stop a slow-moving bowling ball at this point.
As much as I'd love to blame Matt Cassell for the two losses, it was really the defense that lost both games. You won't win many games giving up 30 or more points. Last year, the Patriots could overcome this because they'd just score 56 points and be done with it. However, the defense was better last year. They only gave up over 30 points once, when they played the Giants in the final game of the season. In fact, they gave up over 14 points only seven times the entire season. The defense was good if unspectacular last year; this year, they're practically non-existent.
If Brady was playing this year, we probably still would have lost both of those games. When the defense can't stop the other team...at all...it really wouldn't matter who was on offense. And given the way the offensive line has been playing, getting completely run over by the defensive line, Brady would likely be running for his life more often than not.
The big question is this: how long does Belichick let all of this go? How long does he let a quarterback who's clearly outclassed and will likely be out of the league next year lead his team? How long before drastic changes are made on the defense, perhaps benching longtime starters and throwing in some young blood to see if they can do anything? How long will Belichick allow the team to be mediocre and uncompetitive? It's really going to be a long rest of the season. Here's to six wins.