We will not rest [once our vacation is over]

From “Al Qaeda Takes Credit for Plot” in today’s Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable,” Mr. Obama said in remarks broadcast on television from Hawaii, where he is on vacation.

OK, I know, the President of the United States is never really on vacation, but it is funny nonetheless.

Bureaucracy’s insatiable appetite: The Federal Register

From the essay Computer Productivity: Why it is Important that Software Projects Fail by Dr. Anthony Berglas:

The boundless creativity of politicians and bureaucrats to develop new and more complex regulation is bounded only by the bureaucracy’s inability to implement them.

Considering the 2008 Federal Register is 80,700 pages, and that it grows every year, it’s safe to say that there appears to be no upper limit to scope of the problem.

Incredibly, the Federal government actually believes that people should, or could, read the Federal Register. It even answers the question, “Why should I read the Federal Register?”. The only real reason should be to cure insomnia.

Metrics on reading the Federal Register

Let’s presume you had to read the Federal Register, taking the following assumptions:

  • The document, as of its final 2008 version, is 80,700 pages.
  • You sleep eight hours a day.
  • You have a full-time job, five days a week, eight hours a day.
  • You commute to/from work for an average of one hour each day.
  • You spend two hours a day for personal and domestic matters – bathing, eating, housekeeping, etc..
  • You spend four hours on each weekend day to address random matters (paying bills, playing WoW, etc.).
  • While reading, you take a 15-minute break every two hours.

Considering that, you have about 39 hours per week to read. If you can read two pages per minute (a good clip that assumes comprehension rates don’t matter), it would take you nearly 121 days (17 weeks) to read all 80,700 pages of the Federal Register.

Keep in mind that such a clip requires reading on average 5 1/2 hours per day. In reality, the average American spends just 21 minutes a day reading. At that rate, the average American would take nearly 2,000 days (about five and one-half years) to read the 2008 Federal Register.

To make matters worse, the Federal Register continues to grow, at a pace of about 1.5% per year (Federal Register Pages Published Annually, PDF). That means an extra month of reading each year for Joe Sixpack if he wants to read all the applicable laws in 2013 after spending more than five years reading the 2008 Federal Register.

In closing: To understand the laws of America, start reading now, and don’t plan on stopping for over five and one-half years. Then, expect to spend a month of reading each year just to catch up.

Of course, this doesn’t include the state or local laws where you live… but that’s a whole other matter.

A brief history of an amateur musician, Part III: Assorted Recordings and Dirt Man’s King

This is the third in a series of posts about my past life as an amateur musician. Other posts include A brief history of an amateur musician, Part I: The Early Years, and A brief history of an amateur musician, Part II: The Hardcore Years and Kulturkampf.

Both during and after my time with the hardcore punk band Kulturkampf, I spent a fair amount of time writing music. In the beginning, both the lyrics and music were woefully amateurish. However, I was maturing quickly as a musician, studying classical guitar under Ed Brown, and maturing quickly as a young adult; as a result, the music I wrote quickly improved.

The Home Recordings

As is common with me, most of the songs I wrote were never completed. What few I did finish writing, I recorded in my makeshift home studio, playing guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards; scripting simple drum tracks (on an Alesis HR-16 drum machine); and recording it on a TASCAM Portastudio 4-track recorder.

The songs I wrote reflected my taste in music at the time: a blend of hard rock of the 70s and 80s, progressive rock, and heavy metal. I wrote songs out of inspiration; as a result, they were reflective and often melancholy, usually written from the perspective of someone looking to the past rather than the future.

Unfortunately, none of these recordings survived over the years. Then again, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to share them with you if they had! What did survive, however, is some sheet music and lyrics, but nothing that makes any sense to me today.

Dirt Man’s King

In college, I teamed up with guitarist/singer Bart Cambria. He had just finished writing and recording a six-song demo with his band. We played one gig doing those tunes; I played rhythm guitar and keyboards and sang background vocals. The songs were in the heavy metal/progressive rock genre, and were decent, but Bart and I soon moved into a new direction.

Scott Mesorana, the drummer and creative force behind Kulturkampf, wrote the lyrics to three songs of a “concept album” and handed them off to Bart, who in turn shared them with me. The lyrics were good, and told the story of a reluctant prophet and leader of men. It was up to me and Bart to come up with the music.

The initial musical inspiration came one afternoon, when Bart and I wrote the basic chord progressions to the first two songs. Back in my home studio, I hashed out more details to the arrangement, adding drum tracks and keyboards. It wasn’t long before we had written all three songs, including a musical interlude between the first and second song. We began rehearsing the songs with a bass player and drummer, and the following winter we recorded the songs in a professional recording studio in Manhattan.

Sadly, the story of those songs ended soon thereafter. For whatever reason, we stopped playing together, the songs forever relegated to the dust bin of my basement. Thankfully, I held on to the recordings, and recently copied them to MP3 format. With no further fanfare, I present to you the music of what came to be known as Dirt Man’s King (when you hear the lyrics, you’ll know why).

dirtmansking Playlist:
Dirt Man’s King
World of Wonder (instrumental)
The Fools
The Great and Secret Show

Words by Scott Mesorana
Music by Bart Cambria and Brian DeMarzo

Download MP3 (17:04, 15.6 MB)

What happened next for me? It was the end of the line for me trying to write original music. Instead, I started playing other people’s songs, and before long was in a band again. Over a hundred shows later… but that’s a story for the next blog post.

Quote: Work less, accomplish more

From Productivity501.com:

Personally, I am not interested in working more.  I am very interested in accomplishing more.  Trying to accomplish more just by working more is the brute force “assembly line” method. It doesn’t scale.  Eventually, you will reach a point where you can’t do any more without having harmful side effects.

Honorable mention to Mark Shead’s comment on that statement:

There are a lot of things in business (and government) that could be simplified if people would simply ask “what would happen if we just stopped doing this?”

Thinking of that, I wonder what would happen if I just stopped writing on my blog? Hmm…