Bureaucracy: The Olympic Torch Bearer

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Last year I attended a gathering where a gentleman, let’s call him Chuck, delivered a speech to us about an accomplishment he had made.

In 1988 Canada hosted the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.  As part of the celebration Canada’s state owned oil company Petro-Canada decided to sponsor the Olympic Torch Relay across the country.  How would the relay team be assembled?  By lottery.  All you had to do to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay was go to your nearest Petro-Canada Gas Station and fill out an entry form.  Relay participants would be drawn from among the entrants.  You could enter as many times as you wished.

Chuck lived in a small rural community, but it turns out our he was ambitious.  He was determined as a grade school student that he would participate in the Olympic Torch Relay.  He went down to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and picked up as many entry forms as the gas station attendant would allow, went home and began filling out entry forms by hand, one at a time.  Then he would go back to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and stuff all his completed entry forms into the entry box.

Chuck was determined.  Every day he would go to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and collect a ream of entry forms.  Everyday he would spend all his spare time filling out the entry forms one at a time by hand.  When other kids his age were spending their time with their families and friends, enjoying leisure time or participating in extra-curricular activities or sports, our speaker was filling out forms.

The entry form completion and submission routine went on for months.  Chuck’s family thought he was crazy, his friends thought he was crazy, his teachers thought he was crazy, the attendants at the Petro-Canada Gas Station thought he was crazy.  Then the day of the draw for the Petro-Canada Olympic Torch Relay participants finally arrived.  The draw was made and about a week later a letter arrived at Chuck’s home.  He had been drawn to carry the Olympic Torch as a relay participant.  Everyone was overjoyed.

The Olympic Torch Relay began during a Canadian Winter and it finally arrived at the point where Chuck would take the Olympic Torch from the previous Torch Relay participant, bear the Olympic Torch for a kilometer or two and pass it to the next Torch Relay member.  Chuck was dressed in the red and white Olympic Torch Relay uniform with the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics logo,  the Canadian Flag logo, the Olympic Torch Relay logo and the Olympic Torch Relay logo emblazoned on it.  However, it was bitterly cold, the relay schedule was very tight and physically Chuck was not only unfit, but considerably overweight.  However, no matter, Chuck received the Olympic Torch and jumped on the back of a snowmobile driven by a Torch Relay volunteer.  They crossed the snowy Canadian winter wilderness with God speed with Chuck holding the Olympic Torch high.  Finally, they arrived at the next relay point and Chuck jumped off the back of the snowmobile and passed the Olympic Torch to the next Torch Relay participant, who in turn jumped on the back of the snowmobile and continued onward.  Victory had indeed been sweet.

Now, let’s return to 2007 on the day this speech was being delivered.  Chuck completed his story and proudly displayed the Olympic Torch Relay uniform he had worn during his leg of the relay.  We all looked admiringly at it and thought about our own desire to carry the Olympic Torch that we had not attempted to realize.  And looked at a man who had had the courage to realize a dream.

Chuck stood before us proud, reserved and two hundred pounds overweight.  He now worked for one of Canada’s provincial governments as a senior bureaucrat.  He was a senior elected member of the organization of which his audience belonged.  He was also a member of the subdivision of the organization to which the audience belonged.  He does not believe in new members or in fact any members of the organization receiving a copy of the organization’s constitution, but knows it intimately.  He studies Robert’s Rules of Order intensely during organization meetings, but does not share this knowledge with the members, instead waiting to be called upon in an advisory role as Parliamentarian deciding for everyone what due process is.  Instead of rationally debating motions, he bellows out bombast like profanity.  When asked about ethics, he says his is winning.

So, what did Chuck learn from the example of Olympic Torch Relay?  First, he learned that sport and sportsmanship had nothing to do with the Olympic Torch Relay.  Second, he learned that the Olympic Torch Relay was a lottery, not based on merit.  Third, he learned that he could manipulate the outcome of the Olympic Torch Relay selection process by stuffing the ballot box.  Fourth, he learned to be a good bureaucrat legalistically filling out the same Olympic Torch Rleay entry forms day in and day out, neglecting family, friends, liesure, extra-curricular activities, sport and physical health.  Fifth, he learned that the Olympic Torch Relay had no physical fitness requirements at all.  He simply sat on the back of a gas poewered, internal combustion engine, polluting snowmobile so the organizers of the event could meet their schedule.  It’s a wonder that Chuck had the strength to hold the torch up for the length of his leg of the relay.

Chuck had learned a lot of lessons from the Olympic Torch Relay.  I believe that the Olympic Committee, Canada, the Petro-Canada Corporation and the Canadian Olympians should all be proud of what they accomplished.  They have produced an immoral, misleading, scheming, complex, inefficient, ineffective, inadequate, over-indulgent, imprecise and inaccurate bureaucrat who could die of any number of self-inflicted chronic health problems the next moment.  Although I’m sure he has a redeeming trait or two. They all deserve a medal.

Live the Dream.

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The Cloud: “Welcome, To the Hotel California”

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On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, Warm smell of Colitas rising up through the air.

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.

In my province, I have begun pushing for a Design Council. However, I am beginning to wonder if I am just calling every problem a nail or creating another stovepipe. Software as a Service, Database as a Service, Science as a Service, Art as a Service, Design as a Service, Engineering as a Service, Manufacturing as a Service, Inventory as a Service, Sales as a Service, Purchases as a Service, Currency as a Service, Accounting as a Service, Service as a Service… all plugged into the huge amorphous global system we call “The Cloud”.

My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night.

We are being frontsourced and backsourced, upsourced and downsourced, leftsourced and rightsourced, insourced and outsourced, yesterdaysourced and tomorrowsourced up the ying yang and out the wazoo. I think the economic crisis may just be the tip of the iceburg. We may be in a deep financial dependency, but we may also be entering a 24/7/365 service dependency where we could relinquish all our corporate and personal control to third parties completely losing our ability to independently execute decisions.

There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell.

And I was thinking to myself, “This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.”

Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way.

There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say,

“Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face.”

“There’s plenty of room at the Hotel California. Any time of year, You can find it here.”

The Hotel California.  Peter Drucker lit up the candle and called the way “creaming”.  We continually seek work offering higher margins and abandon our lower margin work. Our Service Providers are willing to take up the lower margin work and establish a beach head. Instead of assuming control of our supply and rescuing the lower margin demand we forego them.  The Service Providers keep the beach head and begin undermining us and we surrender the middle margin work and seek even higher margins.  Eventually, we reach the top of the ladder. Either we freeze the state of affairs and impose it downward or we get pushed off the top. How do we impose such a freeze?

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, She got the Mercedes-Benz.

She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, That she calls friends.

How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.

Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

Silicon Valley was the center of the Personal Computer revolution.  Berkeley University. Stanford University.  Drugs.  Affluence.  Free sharing of information.  Lots of pretty boys at Xerox PARC and IBM dancing to forget.  Lots of pretty boys at Apple Computer and Microsoft dancing to remember.

So I called up the Captain, “Please bring me my wine.”

He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here Since nineteen sixty-nine.”

The first ARPANET IMP log – a record of the first message ever sent over the ARPANET took place at 10:30PM on October 29, 1969 setting up a message transmission to go from the UCLA SDS Sigma 7 Host computer to the SRI SDS 940 Host computer.

And still those voices are calling from far away.

Wake you up in the middle of the night, Just to hear them say,

“Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face.

They’re livin’ it up at the Hotel California.

What a nice surprise, Bring your alibis.

The Hotel California. Apple, IBM PC, MS DOS, Lotus 123, WordPerfect 5, dBaseIIIPlus, MacIntosh, MAC OS, MS Windows, MS Excel, MS Word, MS Access, Mobile Phones, Internet, AOL, MMUG, NetScape, MS Explorer, Web 1.0, Laptops, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Google, Chat, Forums, Blogs, Napster, Linux, Apache, MySQL, pHp, DOOM, Cellphones, Web 2.0, Firefox, iPod, iTunes, MySpace, YouTube, Skype, GoogleEarth, Facebook, Twitter, PirateBay, Wikipedia, WoW, SecondLife, iPhone.  The permanent digital network data repository of religions, organizations, emotions, locations, actions, possessions, professions, obsessions, transactions and reservations that we are voluntarily contributing to daily.  The Service Providers have stipulations in the Terms of Service you agree to permitting them to change the terms at any time without notification.  Recently one Service Provider changed the Terms of Service declaring that they owned all member content with no limitations on its use.  They backed down, but their weapons test was complete.

Mirrors on the ceiling, Pink champagne on ice.

And she said, “We are all just Prisoners here, of our own device.”

Worldwide data centres with petabytes of personal data connected by fiber optic spinal cords ready to be sliced and diced by domestic and foreign government agencies, corporations, criminals, theives and cyberterrorists looking for gold in the data mine.

And in their master’s chambers, They gathered for the feast.

They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.

Perhaps all these records will not matter to the Always On Generation or to the Zippies.  Since everyone’s sins are online no one can be held accountable or no one could be hired.  Or everyone could be held accountable and the Republics fall and we enter the Dark Age of a new Dictator Emperor, followed by a God Emperor, followed by a Pope Emperor all with sound legalistic documentation of the inquisitions.  This is what happened to the Roman Republic and Roman Europe.  Big Brother reigned for 1300 years.

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door.

I had to find the passage back To the place I was before.

“Relax”, said the night man, “We are programmed to receive.”

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

As you drive down that dark desert information highway, look in the rearview mirror, because 1300 years of history might be catching up with us.

Thank you for checking in.

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