October 2015

Back in August, I gave an Ignite presentation in which I posited that Florida Man and Florida Woman were not embarrassments, but promising signs that Florida was up-and-coming. I posted the video, which my wife Anitra shot on her iPhone 6S (and it came out quite well).

The official videos of all the presentations at Ignite Tampa Bay 2015 are now up, and here’s their video of my “Florida Man” presentation, which includes straight-on shots of my slides. Enjoy!

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John Oliver’s take on today’s election in Canada

by Joey deVilla on October 19, 2015

mike myers and john oliver

It’s election day in Canada, and for those of you outside Canada, here’s John Oliver’s explanation of what’s going on in the Great White North, with the help of special guest (and Canadian) Mike Myers. If you’re not in Canada, watch and learn; if you’re in Canada and eligible, vote if you haven’t already!

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“Math is hard; let’s go shopping! Oh, wait…”

by Joey deVilla on October 18, 2015

math is hard - lets go shopping

After seeing the pricing chart from my last post, Mike Attrell pointed me to this sign at the clothing store Urban Planet. I’m not surprised; I remember at least a couple of discussions with people who hadn’t quite made the connection between percentages and fractions.

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“It’s cool. I did the math, and they’re legit.”

by Joey deVilla on October 18, 2015

4 dollars a ride

Found at Imgur. Click to see the source.

My guess is that the folks at Ponies “R” Us originally had a sign that simply said “Rides $4 each”, and that the customers kept saying things like “I don’t have the time to do complex math, Einstein! Just tell me how much for five rides!”

Here’s a scary thought: many people for whom this sign was made will be voting in Canada’s national election tomorrow.

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ken taylor

One of the events of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was the storming of the US embassy in Iran by students and the taking of the people within as hostages. Six Americans managed to escape in the confusion and managed to stay hidden for four days until they made their way to the Canadian embassy. There, they met Ken Taylor, then the Canadian ambassador to Iran, who worked out a way to safely exfiltrate them from Iran, an event that would later be known as “The Canadian Caper”.

Taylor and Canadian immigration officer John Sheardown, at great personal risk, took the six Americans into their private residences and came up with a plan to sneak them out of the country with Canadian passports, which also contained forged Iranian visas created by the CIA. They also received assistance from CIA disguise and exfiltration expert Tony Mendez, who came up with the cover story of filming a science fiction film, which the Canadians criticized as too “Hollywood”, “cowboy”, and over-the-top. “Whether they were purported to be petroleum engineers, nutritionists, agronomists — instead of film-makers — probably didn’t much matter,” Taylor said. This became the basis of Ben Affleck’s 2012 film Argo (in which Taylor’s and Canada’s roles were criminally downplayed).

Taylor ran the operation expertly, sending his embassy’s staff on fake errands to establish erratic patterns to fool Iranian operatives and to observe airport procedures, and coordinating the operation with Canadian and American leaders and intelligence. Even his staff were sharp: one of them caught a mistake made by the CIA in the fake visas they provided: they didn’t account for the fact that the Iranian year begins on the first day of spring, but an eagle-eyed member of Taylor’s team caught the mistake and fixed it before it became a problem.

On Sunday, January 27, 1980, the Americans boarded Swissair flight 363 bound for Zurich with their Canadian passports and flew to safety. I remember seeing stories of the Canadian flag flying across the US, along with “Thank You” billboards.

jimmy carter on argo

When Argo came out, here’s what Jimmy Carter had to say:

90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good. But Ben Affleck’s character in the film was… only in Tehran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.

Taylor died yesterday. He was diagnosed with colon concern August, but his son told CBC news that he “took full advantage of the time he had left.”

US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman posted these on Twitter:

 

If you’d like to know more about the true story of the events of the Canadian Caper, toss aside that copy of Argo and watch Our Man in Tehran instead. Not only does it tell the true story of how the Canadians rescued the Americans, but a lot of things about the situation leading the Iranian Revolution.

Here’s the trailer for Our Man in Tehran:

…and here’s the full film, which someone’s posted on YouTube, for however long it stays up there:

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How to sabotage your workplace, WWII-style

by Joey deVilla on October 15, 2015

how to sabotage your workplace wwii-style

In 1944, back during World War II, the OSS, short for the Office of Strategic Services — the organization that would eventually be replaced by the CIA — published the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, a “Sabotage for Dummies” guide filled with handy tips for resistance members in Europe.

In its 32 pages, it lists a number of acts that could be carried out by ordinary people who want to mess with the Nazis and who aren’t even part of the resistance. The tips listed in the book have the goals of both hindering the Nazis’ ability to wage war and minimizing the risk to the saboteur, who would most likely be a civilian.

You’re not likely to see the acts of physical sabotage listed in this book in your day-to-day life, but you probably see people using the book’s suggestions for organizational sabotage every day at work. What a 1944 book listed as tactics to sabotage an organization are normal behavior for many managers in 2015:

sabotage organizations page

Page 28 of the OSS’ Simple Sabotage Field Manual. Click the image to see it at full size.

Here’s the text from that page:

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of per­ sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­ munications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­able” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

meeting should have been an email ribbon

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual has more tips for killing productivity, including my “favorite” pro-tip for managers, “Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.” If this trick didn’t work, there’d be no market for an entire line of products with the message “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.”

stabbing the cc button

Email didn’t exist in the 1940s, but carbon copy abuse did. One of the tips in the Simple Sabotage Field Manual was:

In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.

For you younger folks, carbon copying was a method of producing multiple copied of a typed letter in the days before photocopiers, never mind computers. This video shows how it was done (as well as why you should be thankful that we don’t live in the dark ages anymore):

Today, carbon copies live have their descendant: the cc: field of emails; “cc” is short for “carbon copy”. And instead of making too few copies, the internet-era version is to send emails that are cc’d to as many people as possible. In its more innocent form, the sender is just trying to be inclusive, but is likely filling other people’s inboxes with messages that don’t necessarily apply to them. In its nastier version, it’s a way to snitch on someone or throw them under the bus by cc:ing their boss and ensuring that “the wrong words go in the right ears”. No matter the intent, the effect is the same: it disrupts work.

all together now

simple sabotageThe Simple Sabotage Field Manual was declassified in the 1970s (if you’re really curious, you can download a scan of the book from the CIA; it’s a 2.5 MB PDF file). As a no-longer-secret document, people are free to talk about it, which is what CIA employees Don Burke and Sean Dennehey did in 2008 at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, where the pointed out the strange similarities between 1944 sabotage and 21st-century management.

The book is referenced again by consultants Robert Galford, Bob Frisch, and Cary Greene in the new book, Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors that Undermine Your Workplace. In their book, they point out that most acts of 1944-style office sabotage are carried out with the best of intentions:

Saboteurs make you think that what they’re talking about is relevant and important when in reality what they’re saying is tangential, unimportant, or even inappropriate. They don’t know they’re doing it, so their earnestness and honesty helps make their case. And the people on the receiving end are instantly, innocently swept off course because they believe what they think they see or hear.

It’s not 1940s occupied Europe, so we can’t simply turn over our work saboteurs to our neighborhood friendly occupying army or take them behind the office and have them quietly shot, as tempting as it may seem (hey, we’re civilized, and we probably report to some of those saboteurs). I’ve got a long flight coming up in a couple of weeks, and since 800-CEO-READ calls Simple Sabotage a “staff pick” and “the perfect airplane read”, I just might order a copy to find out its suggestions for countering office sabotage.

expenses vs meetings

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Game of Thrones, Canadian elections edition

by Joey deVilla on October 12, 2015

game of thrones canadian edition

Found on Imgur. Click to see the original.

This is the largest-sized version of this graphic I could find. Here’s its text, if you’re having trouble reading it:

Stephen “Joffrey” Harper
(as in Joffrey Baratheon)
  • Quick to crush dissenters
  • Widely known as a bastard
  • Terrible record with protection of women
Justin “Snow” Trudeau
(as in Jon Snow)
  • Famous father whom some see as a hero; some as a traitor
  • Trying to breathe new life into an old boys club
  • Great hair
Elizabeth “Khaleesi” May
(as in Daenerys “Khaleesi” Targaryen)
  • Best social policies, especially for the poor
  • Unfortunately seems to be the farthest possible from the throne
  • Most loyal supporters live in a far off magical land
Thomas “Tyrion” Mulcair
(as in Tyrion Lannister)
  • Has the most political experience
  • History of vocal opposition to the throne
  • Great empathy for the marginalized
Bonus character
Gilles “Night’s King” Duceppe
(as in the Night’s King)
  • Back from the dead
  • Not seen as serious threat in most of the realm

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