Wednesday, 18 April 2018

If Microsoft Wrote Rental Agreements

If Microsoft Wrote Rental Agreements

A prospective tenant is looking to rent an apartment from Microsoft, and has just reviewed the rental agreement. The tenant looks up with a glazed and slightly panicked expression. “This is so confusing. I don’t understand what I am allowed to do here.”

The Microsoft rep smiles comfortingly, “We know, and we sympathize, but this agreement is designed to be as flexible as possible based on the feedback from our Tenant’s Association.”

“How do I join the Tenant’s Association?”

“We select a key group of tenants and invite them to join. We do this so that we have an unbiased cross-selection of all tenant types.”

The tenant ponders this for a minute, “So I can’t join.”

“If you fit a specific profile that we are looking for, you will be asked to join.”

“Uh. Um..” The tenant tries to process this, and bites back several comments.

After an uncomfortable pause, the Microsoft rep prompts, “You had questions about the Rental Agreement?”

“Oh yes. I don’t understand what I am allowed to do in the apartment. Um, for example, why are there specific terms about how to use the living room?”

The Microsoft rep eagerly leans forward, “That’s part of our flexible rental agreement. It allows us to tailor the cost of the apartment to the individual, based on how they use it.”

“So I can’t sit on the couch?”

“No, that requires an upgrade to your rental licensing..”

The tenant replies with heavy sarcasm, “For an additional fee..” He can taste the venom as the words roll across his tongue.

The Microsoft rep is unruffled “Yes. That is correct. “

The tenant is taken aback as his sarcasm does not take root, “but the chair is included, I can sit in the chair.”

“Yes, the chair is part of the basic package as is the television and the small end table.”

Weariness quickly gives way to anger, “I can’t use the coffee table either?”


“I’m almost scared to ask, and the TV has?”

The Microsoft rep fiddles with a pen, as she replies, “Antennae only, no cable. You should get 3 channels, but that depends on atmospheric conditions and other uncontrolled factors.”

The tenant clenches his fists, and then slowly releases them. He recalls reading that cable was not included. He meant to bring that up as a negotiating point, but immediately drops it realizing it would be futile. “Ok. I remember when we took the tour, the couch was in front of the TV, and the chair was on the other side of the room. Can I switch the chair and the couch so that the chair is in front of the TV?”

Sitting straight up in her chair the Microsoft rep states firmly, “No. That violates the terms and conditions. You are not allowed to modify the apartment in any way. If you want to do that, you need to upgrade to the Apartment Assurance package which includes Apartment Mobility licensing.”

“Hold on. I get the TV and couch as part of my contract..”


Flustered the tenant plows on.  “Right. I get the TV and the CHAIR as part of my contract, but with the way the room is organized, I can’t use both at the same time.”

The Microsoft rep answers defensively, with a hint of outrage, “Well no, you can use both at the same time.”

The tenant is losing his temper, but with effort bottles it down. This is the cheapest apartment he’s found so far, and he doesn’t want to lose it. In the calmest, most reasonable voice he can muster he argues, “Well not conveniently. To watch the TV I have to stand in front of it. I can’t see it from the chair. It does me no good to not be able to use both at the same time.”

At this the Microsoft rep smiles beatifically, “That’s the wonderful part of our Rental Agreement. If you want to use the couch, you can just add a small fee.”

The Tenant’s frustration boils over, “I JUST WANT TO USE THE CHAIR IN FRONT OF THE TV!” he shouts.

“I’m sorry sir. No need to get upset. That option wasn’t popular with our Tenant’s Association, that’s why we don’t offer it.”

Embarrassed at his loss of control, the tenant replies in a small meek voice.  “Well it’s popular with me.”

After a moment, the tenant sighs, and asks “OK, fine. How much is the couch?”

“An additional $3”

“OK that’s nothing much, add it in.”

The Microsoft rep senses she made an error, and quickly clarifies, “Sorry that’s $3 per day. It’s a daily subscription.”

“WHAT!? But that means I'm paying almost as much for the couch as I am for the whole apartment! And my rent is monthly. I can’t combine the two?”

“Not at this level. If you want to have it all on one bill you have to subscribe to the..”

The tenant and the Microsoft rep finish the sentence together, “..Apartment Assurance package.”

The tenant continues, his voice unstable, “But that package is $2,000 per month! The basic rental agreement is $500.”

“True. But the Apartment Assurance package is cheaper than subscribing to every option independently.”

The tenant continues to argue his point, “But it has features I would never use, like ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ a ‘Brass Pole’ and ‘Confetti Balloons.’”

The beaming smile from the Microsoft rep radiates confidence, “Those are quite popular. You should try them out.”

But the tenant has had enough. Aware of his budget constraints and just wanting to close the deal, he makes a quick decision and declares. “I just want to sit and watch TV. OK fine, $1,000 a month is still cheaper than $2,000. Add in the couch.“

The Microsoft rep is all smiles and confidence now,  “Exactly sir. We make this agreement flexible so you can choose the options you truly need.”

“Well at least I get to use the kitchen and the bathroom.”

With widened eyes, and a little bit of fear, the rep quickly replies “Oh. Um. You still have to talk to the kitchen and bathroom rental teams.”

Incredulity wars with exasperation, “They’re not included!?”

“And the bedroom rental team. Unless you want to sleep on the couch. That is now allowed under your new licensing agreement now that you added the couch subscription.”

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Where Are We, and How Did We Get Here?

As Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, tweets us into the apocalypse, I cannot help but marvel with mouth open, at where we as a society are at. How did we arrive at this moment in time, where the world appears to be governed by absolute lunacy?

I say we, because at this particular moment in time, while exemplified by the deranged squirrels inhabiting Donald Trump's head, has its echoes across the western world. In many aspects of society today large segments of the populace reject authority, reason and scientific understanding of our world. We have democratized knowledge and understanding, and the negative effects appear to largely outweigh any of the benefits of that change. Vaccinations, climate change, GMOs, economic theory, gun control, WiFi safety, the list goes on and on. So what does this have to do with Donald Trump? In all of these areas there is one common thread. The rejection of authority. The rejection of trust in others whose knowledge differs from our own.

The most prominent decline has been the national media. Across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right and all points in between, the news media has lost its place as a broker of truth. Donald Trump has latched onto this sentiment with his war on "Fake News." Again an extreme example, but I believe there is a common thread that ties together the loss of faith in the media. Many on the right and left will blame this on media bias. That the media are gaming the system. I myself blame it on intellectual laziness in reporting. Whatever our political leanings, we are left to curate our trusted sources on our own. Brands are no longer trusted, personalities are. The brands with the most rabid fans are built around cults of personality.

From my perspective, I don't trust any of media brands because I find there's too much dross to go with the gold. Too much reporting seeks out controversy for controversy sake, and mindlessly parrots whatever lines they are given. Objective reporting should not judge the content of their reports, that is to be left up to the consumer. Well from where I sit, that is as useful as a food inspector that refuses to pass or fail the food we eat and leaves it up to the consumer to decide.

So as a result I only read content from people (including journalists) that I trust to soundly analyze the information they report on. That's my reason for not trusting media brands. Others see bias in everything that challenges their worldview, and distrust it as a result. Others feel victimized, and do not see their self-perception reflected in the stories being reported. Some reasons are more valid than others, but we all arrive at the same conclusion, there is no common source of news and information that can be trusted. Now how does that distinguish me from a Trump supporter, an anti-vaccination advocate or a ban-WiFi-in-schools group? Every variation of an answer leads to "I'm smarter than they are", which isn't exactly a winning argument.

Where I am still at a loss to understand though, is how that lost trust in one source of authority is blindly transferred to another. Donald Trump is a hero because he rejects the same authorities that his supporters do, but has somehow gained their blind trust as a result. It is easier to understand people that don't trust anyone, rather than those that only trust an irrational demagogue. But again we see that effect on other areas of society as well. Rebel Media, Breitbart, Infowars, etc. would not exist without it. The blatant contradictions of the leaders of these groups would immediately sink their brand if rationality had anything to do with it. The only consistent belief that Donald Trump and his supporters share is their hatred of the traditional main stream media. But on everything else Twitler is all over the map. He can contradict his own point in the same sentence. And he is cheered on regardless.

Somehow out of this entire hash we've made of things, Americans have somehow allowed those that shriek the loudest and think the least to overrule those that discuss and think the most. Will it spread to other nations? Recent elections in Europe indicate that we have to reason to hope not. But can we survive what the Americans have inflicted on themselves and onto the world?

Where we sit today is a unique point in history. How badly will it end? I cannot think of any way that this ends well. It may well be that the only damage caused by Trump's time in office will be a further erosion of trust and of democratic principles. Quite frankly, for any other president, that would be a very damaging legacy all on its own. And I honestly think that may be the most optimistic outcome that we face.

We may yet regret losing faith in main stream media. Maybe they sold too many lies, but we may find there was peace and continuity when we all believed them together.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Go Ahead and March

Please join Piers Morgan in his "Men's March" if:
You believe women standing up for equality threatens men.
You believe women should earn less money than men.
You believe women should not have the vote.
You believe women belong in the kitchen and not in the boardroom.
You believe women's rights end at the back of a man's hand.
You believe yes means yes and no means convince me.

And finally,

Please go ahead and march with Piers if you voted for Donald Trump.

Because if you voted for a misogynistic asshole, you should have the balls to march with one.

Or are you too emasculated to march?

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Ultimate Conspiracy

Donald Trump's problematic relationship with facts and the truth has been well documented. But of the analysis I have read, each assumes Donald knows he is lying. I don't agree with that. It doesn't quite match the behaviour we have observed. A consummate liar familiar with the facts skillfully distorts and dodges. Donald shows no such skill. He's a bull in the China shop of facts. He doesn't consider which lie would better convince his opponents, he says whatever makes him look good (in his own mind.) As outside observers, we just see a bull in the middle of a hell of broken mess. There's no skill, no art, no evil genius at work.

So I asked myself, what kind of person believes any distortion, any lie and selectively picks any tidbit, no matter how reliable the source?

A conspiracy theorist.

You can't argue facts with a conspiracy theorist. They actively refuse to believe anything that contradicts their personal agenda of belief. They have a deep seated need to believe the lie they tell themselves. It's not a lie to them. It is the truth, the only truth that matters.

So what is the core lie that Donald Trump believes in? That he is the single greatest man that has ever lived. He is the handsomest, the smartest, the strongest leader, the best at everything that make up the core of his self-identity. He is never wrong, because he cannot be wrong. To admit that means shattering the truth that he has built for himself that he is the ultimate alpha male.

His notable flip-flops, none apologies, retaliatory threats of lawsuit and other attacks all serve to protect the truth that is most important to him.

He is the next best thing to being a god, and everyone should be in awe of him. He lies, he invents, he creates falsehoods to support this central truth that he believes in.

So where is the conspiracy? Everyone that points out his lies is part of a conspiracy against him. Since he believes himself to be the greatest, everyone that disputes that is a liar. To admit otherwise means admitting he has been wrong about himself his entire life. This is why he lies with such ease, and with total lack of self-awareness. He has to lie. Because the greater lie must be protected. He can't face the lie that he is just another rich man, and that he isn't that special. To do so would crush him completely.

We know a Trump presidency will be erratic, but I think I now know why. Conspiracies never make sense and are always erratic, and now the embodiment of a conspiracy theory is in charge of the most powerful nation on earth.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Yes, as a Matter of Fact, I do Blame You!

The problem created by the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America, is not the fault of the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, the Democrats or Jon Stewart.
It is the fault of the electorate.

It is not the fault of neo-liberalism, political correctness or the news media.
It is the fault of the electorate.

Yes Hillary Clinton received a larger share of the vote. In an alternate system where that matters, she would have won. But we don’t have that alternate system, and that alternate system does not solve the problem. The problem is the electorate that voted for Donald Trump.

47% of the votes cast (as counted so far) are for Donald Trump. 47% is a lot closer to 50% than it is to 0%. And 0% is where that tally should be. In a rational, perfect democracy, Donald Trump’s vote share should be below Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Donald Trump is the most manifestly unfit candidate for president that the US has ever seen.

Yes, a lot of people distrusted Hillary Clinton. Fine then, Hillary Clinton is the Coors Light of alcohol. Donald Trump is a bottle of antifreeze. Hillary Clinton is a loaf of moldy bread; Donald Trump is a bucket of rusty nails. The electorate chose to drink the antifreeze and eat the bucket of nails.

That is a problem. That is a major problem. The threat that Donald Trump now poses to the health and safety of every American, and quite possibly the rest of the world is real. Donald Trump only wants to be president because it brings him glory. He wants the crown, but none of the responsibilities. Combine that with his casual racism, bigotry, misogyny, bullying, narcissism and every other negative personality trait and we have the world’s the most volatile mixture in one person, set to go off at any time. He now has the most powerful office in the world and is surrounded with worshipful toadies with their own agendas and questionable personalities. How is that not a disaster of unprecedented proportions, waiting to go off?

And 47% of the people that voted did not recognize that threat. The 43% of the electorate that did not vote, did not recognize that threat. That is the cause that resulted in the problem of President Donald Trump.
Yes people had concerns and worries. Yes they weighed and measured other factors. None of those factors, absolutely none of them, outweighed the simple fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office. Is even unfit to run a Kwik-E-Mart in the fictional Simpson’s universe.

If we want to solve the Donald Trumps of the future, we have to solve the problem of a dangerously uninformed electorate. Start there. If we are going to rely on the wisdom of the crowd to pick our leaders, we better make sure that the crowd is wise enough to begin with.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Emperor has no Clothes

How does one process the 2016 US Presidential Election? For those that saw Donald Trump for the narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, thin-skinned bully he is, the fact that he is the President of the United States is logic defying.

Those that supported Donald Trump were somehow willfully blind to the fact that there is not one single redeeming personality trait or feature to that man. There is no THERE there. When you listen to and read the logic Trump supporters use to justify their support, you realize that each supporter has manufactured their own idealized version of Trump. An idealized version that quite frankly, does not exist.

His platform for all intents and purposes also did not exist. There was no plan, no details, no path forward. Just vague empty promises. And that was when he wasn't mangling English like a 2 yr old with a birthday cake. Honestly, how anyone interpreted the word spew his speeches were is beyond my ken. The one consistent theme was, your problems weren't your own fault, they were someone else's. And from that single slender thread, his entire campaign hung.

And yet, despite the total vacuum of a plan, and maybe because of it, people poured in their own ideas for how Donald Trump would make their dreams reality. Donald Trump somehow ran a campaign with a blank slate, and people filled it in for him. And people voted for what they thought he would do.

But the problem for those supporters is, Donald Trump did not read what they wrote. Even David Duke of the KKK is projecting and trumpeting? his own idealized version of Trump. These people are in for some major disappointment. The man without a plan is not going to follow yours, even if you ask nicely. He's going to wing the whole damned thing and make it up as he goes along.

It's a fools errand to try and figure out what Trump's presidency will accomplish over the next 4 years. Our ability to predict that future is as opaque as his campaign. All we have to work on is the personality he's shown us through this campaign and in his previous public life. That is the one thing that has been constant.

Oh USA. You and the rest of us are sooo screwed.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Pinky is the Brain

The craziness of the Trump candidacy has prompted no end of analysis, trying to understand the motivations and thought processes of the weirdest major candidate to ever run for office in the US. And perhaps anywhere.

One constant analytical theme is of the “he’s so crazy, he must be a genius” type; that there must be some sort of coldly calculated end-game that we just haven’t figured out yet. More than one analysis has proposed that Trump’s goal is create a media empire, and that his run for the Presidency is a means to that end. This  is an analysis that is closest to my own thinking on the matter, especially the last paragraph:

“ is highly plausible that these moves make no sense at all, that Trump is simply an uncontrollable madman lashing around, and perhaps the gestures toward creating a media empire reflect Kushner’s strategy rather than his own. The “Trump TV” hypothesis is the foundational question that ultimately answers the truly-crazy-or-just-acting-crazy mystery surrounding the Republican nominee.”

The trouble with looking for a rationale is that we tend to overthink it, and create order where there is none. And with Donald Trump, this impulse to apply order is almost a reflexive need to salve our own sanity.

I agree that it is very likely that if Trump loses the election, that he will try to build a media empire based on his brand. But I believe that this will happen for the same reason that he ran for president. For his own ego.

Donald Trump is the world’s greatest narcissist. He wants to be President for the title. He doesn’t actually want the job. Can you picture that man sitting quietly in a situation room being briefed for hours on end? I sure can’t. Donald Trump would not survive the tediousness of the Presidential routine. He wants the glory, the acclaim, that stature. In short, he wants to be King. He doesn’t really want the responsibilities of being President. We wants the stage, not the office.

So why the media empire? At some level, the Trump campaign, and probably Trump himself have acknowledged he could lose the election. And I would bet that the media option was brought up as a retaliation or revenge play. Something mentioned in passing that appealed to Trumps narcissism. And so the media empire play is simply keeping options open. It's another way of staying on the stage, staying in the spotlight.

If Donald Trump is good at one thing, it’s promoting his own sense of self-importance. Options that serve that end are options to keep on the table.

It likely isn’t any more coldly calculated than that. Donald Trump wants to be in our faces forever.

And that’s a depressing enough of a thought without ascribing any genius to it.