Thursday, June 12, 2008

Doing what is right, rather than what is easy...

It is not a sin to learn from mistakes and move forward.

It seems that many consider it a weakness to admit a mistake. Rather than use new information and do a course correction, some leaders double-down and refuse to even consider a change in direction. There is a perception that to be a strong leader you must never be wrong. I've seen this tendency in many recent leaders. Perhaps you know a few. Remember the story about the emperor who wore no clothes? <>.

Sticking to your guns regardless, rather than being a strength, is sometimes a sign of weakness.

It is important to have a balance between when to make a stand and when to change positions. Sticking to either extreme is flawed -- it takes good judgement to "know when to hold them and know when to fold them". This is true in cards, it is true in stock trading, and it is true in life in general.

Two recent news stories demonstrate the importance and honor of learning and changing your position, even though it may surprise former allies and pit you against strong opposing forces. Sometimes you just need to do what is right rather than what is easy.

In the first case, Scott McClellan, a former White House press secretary under President George W Bush, discovered that he was mislead by the Bush administration to perpetuate lies. He documents this in the recently published book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." When he learned more, he changed his position from supporting the current administration as a strong loyalist to speaking out against these wrongs.

Please read the book and various news articles to learn more, in particular the New York Times article at:

In the second case, Massachusetts state Rep. Paul Kujawski went from opposing same-sex marriage to voting to allow it, despite major pressure from others. As he learned more about gays who wished to marry, he moved from a position opposing same-sex marriage to one willing to allow different strokes for different folks. Did allowing same sex marriage materially damage his own marriage? -- No. Did allowing it materially help others? -- Yes. So Paul left behind his former beliefs and reached a new, better informed position that allows more people more freedom in an area where it benefits those people and does not harm others.

Please read more in the San Jose Mercury News at:

When knowledgeable, well respected stalwarts flip sides, everyone should take note because this is not done lightly. Both men considered their respective situations carefully and thoughtfully before making their final decisions.

I am in a similar position with regard to freecycling. There was a time when I was a strong proponent of The Freecycle Network (TFN) and helped in many ways as an inside member of its core team. But when I realized that TFN had made some major mistakes that harmed many innocents, I was compelled by my sense of honor to do what was right rather than what was easy.

For details and references please see:

Luckily, I am not alone in my observations and trying to right wrongs. Many, if not most, of the original freecycling leaders likewise left TFN before, during, and after I left for similar or related reasons. These people include Nancy Castleman (original head of the modsquad forum), Judy Ruzich (original head of the GOAs), Pastor Ken Hedden, David Neeley, Karen Welliver, Charlotte Hess, Karen "caveguru" (original author of the TFN moderator manual), Elva Hesting, Rob Robertson, Robin Brown, Eric Snyder, Kelly, Deanna, Lorretta Woodbury, Eric Burke, Lynnie Jones, Cynthia Armistead, Linden R. Gibson, Nora Child, and many others.

Note that while I no longer support TFN, I (and these others) continue to strongly support freecycling.

Tim Oey

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I want to be proud to be an American again!

Don't you just hate hypocrites? I do too. And we're not alone. People elsewhere in the world don't like hypocrites either.

Unfortunately recent US policies like the Iraq war, unilateral military action, ignoring international treaties, and saying we support human rights while at the same time backing repressive regimes has made a big hypocrite of the US. Even some in Washington DC now realize this.

Please read:

I want to be proud to be an American again! I hope our next US President and Congress will be true to American ideals so we can again be a role model to look up to instead of a fool, albeit a fool with a big stick, in the eyes of the world.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Look on the bright side of cracks and flaws...

Chinese Proverb:

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

The old woman smiled, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?"

"That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them."

"For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

SO, to all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Take Me Out© to the Ballgame®

"The biggest fantasy was Major League Baseball’s claim that its fans should pay to talk about fantasy baseball."

"In recent years, corporations have been aggressively pushing the bounds of intellectual property — extending the length of copyrights to unreasonable lengths, for example, and patenting seeds."

Although not mentioned in this article, corporations have also gone to great lengths to use trademark claims to bludgeon free speech as well. For instance, here are some words in popular use that the "owner" would like to have exclusive use of: freecycle, bakeoff, captcha, bandaid, rollerblade, frisbee.

Here are some older examples that I think don't matter as much as there are popular alternatives: xerox (photocopy), kleenex (tissue), hoover (vacuum).

And finally, here are some that lost trademark rights due to genericide: escalator, yo-yo, zipper, aspirin, and linoleum.

Unfortunately for most regular people, corporations with lots of money can often buy the legal outcome they want. Thankfully in the case of Major League Baseball, free speech won out.

I myself was involved in a case where a corporation claimed it was trademark infringement to use the word freecycle. Luckily the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that using the word freecycle generically is not trademark infringement, that saying freecycle is generic is not trademark infringement, and that encouraging others to use the word freecycle generically is not trademark infringement.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Contour lines in Google Maps!

I'd been wishing for contour lines in Google Maps for a long time and then suddenly yesterday (June 3rd), I saw them in the terrain view. Excellent!!! Thanks Google!

Apparently they were added in April 2008 and I just hadn't gotten the memo.

More info at: