Tag Archives: The West Wing

Quick Thoughts on “Obama’s Stealth Startup”

A couple of weeks ago, there was a great article in Fast Company about President Obama’s initiative to bring the the technology used in the US bureaucracy into the 21st century. After reading it, there were a few things that came to mind, so I thought I’d write a post with some “Quick Thoughts” as I have in past instances for other events/articles.

1. The first thing that struck me was this idea that Silicon Valley wants to change the world. In particular, the idea that they “think” they are changing the world, but that they actually aren’t. It reminded me of the penultimate episode of Season 1 of “Silicon Valley,” the HBO series. In it, the show parodies Silicon Valley startups who purport to “change the world.” You can see part of it in the beginning of this clip:

In remembering this episode, I wonder if it was like this in previous generations. Obviously, the technology in previous generations was different, especially because companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft weren’t even conceived. In addition, “Silicon Valley” looked very different in the ’40s and ’50s than it did in the ’70s and the ’80s. Nonetheless, I wonder if there were idealistic twentysomethings trying to create things that would revolutionize the way something worked.

 

2. The second thing that came to mind was this idea that lawyers spend a couple yrs in DC between jobs. When I lived in the DC area, I remember one of the jokes being that DC has more lawyers per capita than any other city in the US and part of that was because of the government. It also reminded me of scene from The West Wing in Season 7 when Josh Lyman (who has a law degree) flies to California to recruit Sam Seaborn (who is a lawyer) to come work with him at the White House.

I think it’s a fantastic idea to recruit folks who are wizards with technology into highly placed government positions to help accelerate the transition for many government agencies. Goodness knows that the VA could use a technology-upgrade. In thinking about this idea, though, it made me wonder if there are other professions that could also do with a “stopover” of sorts in the government, contributing their unique skillsets to advancing the mission of the US government. Lawyers already make the most sense as they’re position to write/interpret laws, but what other professions would be well-suited for short stints in the government?

Scientists probably also make sense. I’m reminded of Patrick Dempsey’s character from Grey’s Anatomy (Derek Shepherd) who was working on a brain initiative. I’d imagine that scientists in other fields could also do well to spend some time in a government agency, but that’s not really outside the norm. Meaning, that’s already a career path that’s identified for scientists. I wonder, are there other professions for which working in DC is not something that’s on the radar.

Does the Culture of Hockey Encourage Over-Aggression?

Last night, I happened to catch a short video clip from CBC that was rather appalling. I’m unable to embed the video, so you can watch it at the link above. The gist of the video (and article) is to tell the watcher/reader what happened in a Minor hockey game in Ontario, Canada.

One player was skating down the ice and stopped in front of the opposing team’s goalie. Upon doing this, he “sprayed” the opposing goalie. If you’re not familiar with skating (on ice), when you come to a stop, sometimes, the ‘snow’ that has accumulated on the ice will be kicked up. After the player did this, one of the opposing player’s took exception and proceeded to start roughing up the original player. The original player did not fight back and, as you’ll see from the video, took a pretty harsh beating.

The story explains that the parents took the video to the league and the police are investigating the matter as to whether there should be charges pressed.

Now, I’d like to talk a little bit about the culture of hockey and maybe broaden that to sports in general. As I was born and raised in Canada, I’m familiar with the hockey culture. Though, I never played in any organized hockey, so I won’t ever be able to fully understand the experience. Nonetheless, I still think that, as a former athlete, my opinion should carry some weight.

This player’s actions are unacceptable. The original player simply sprayed the goalie and as punishment, he was given a broken nose and a concussion. Does anyone not think that the opposing player went a little too far when he was pummeling the original player? This scenario reminds me of an episode of The West Wing. In fact, it was the 3rd episode in the series: “A Proportional Response.”

In that episode, Syrian operatives blow up a plane that’s carrying Americans (and the President’s personal physician). The President’s military advisors come up with a plan that they call, “a proportional response.” The President doesn’t like it because he doesn’t think it’s going far enough. He wants to do more damage to the country that’s responsible for those American deaths and demands to see a plan that will take out the airport in Syria’s capital city, Damascus. There’s more to the story (isn’t there always with an Aaron Sorkin script?), but at one point, the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says to the President’s Chief of Staff, ” he will have doled out five thousand dollars worth of punishment for a fifty buck crime.”

Among other things, this is what it appears to me that happened in this minor league hockey game where one player committed a five dollar crime and ended up with a five thousand dollar punishment. Of course, I’m not saying that the player shouldn’t have stuck up for his goalie, but maybe he went a little overboard? And it’s certainly not the first time a player has gone overboard in sticking up for his teammate. It’s been almost 10 years since the infamous Bertuzzi-Moore incident.

I have to think that the “punisher” had he knew what was happening, wouldn’t have wanted to give the original player a broken nose and a concussion. I have to think that, because this happened, somewhere as part of the culture, this is okay. Not necessarily that it’s okay to inflict such physical damage to a player, but the culture of over-aggression is normal and maybe even lauded. Again, as I said, I never played organized hockey, so I can’t be certain of hockey culture in the dressing room or on the ice. As a spectator, I know that this isn’t something I want to see. I understand the logic and reasoning behind having enforcers on a hockey team, but I wonder what the NHL would look like without enforcers.

Religious Pluralism: Isaac and Ishmael

I’ve recently started re-watching The West Wing. I don’t remember what prompted it, but I’m really glad that I have. I first watched the series a couple of years ago — before I was to start business school. The show was really engaging and that made it easy to watch multiple (3, 4, and 5!) episodes at a time. Now that I find myself nearing the end of my formal business education (graduate with an MBA in a couple of months), re-watching The West Wing has been quite different. I feel like I have a better handle and understanding of the nuances to the plot. That’s not because I’ve seen it before (I hardly remember the ‘minor’ plot lines of the series), but because I’ve learned so much in the last 2 years.

I’m into Season 3 and the first episode that airs in Season 3 is one that’s not part of the plot. That is, it’s a play — with the characters of The West Wing, but it’s not part of the timeline of the show. This episode airs about a month after 9/11. Well, the actors/actresses can do it better than I, so here’s the introduction to the episode that aired:

When I was watching the series the first time, I don’t remember watching this episode — I was too eager to carry on with the plot. Since I knew what was going to happen, I thought I’d take the time to watch this episode. I thought it was very well done. I tried to imagine how I might be feeling back in October of 2001. Would I be upset? Would I be typecasting? Would I have understood the nuances of different religious beliefs? Different sects?

I’ve had a hard time finding critical reception for this particular episode, but of those articles I was able to find, there’ve been mixed reviews. From what I can tell, that has more to do with what appears to be something against Aaron Sorkin (the creator of the show). While some found the “teacher-student” paradigm a bit hokey, I thought it was a great way to convey an important message. Anyway, if you get the chance, I highly suggest watching the episode. If you’ve got Amazon Prime, here’s the link to the episode on Amazon that you can watch for free: The West Wing – Isaac and Ishmael.

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As an aside, there was another really great episode that I saw recently. This one was part of the plot of the show, but it dealt with a really important issue: post-traumatic stress disorder. I was surprised when I clicked over to the Wiki page for this episode to find that it had only won one award (and helped Bradley Whitford win an Emmy). If I’m keeping score, this has to be one of the top 5 episodes of the series. Here’s the Amazon Prime link: The West Wing – Noël.