Ms .45's mp3/bureaucratic/gaming blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Root exclamation mark comma the band

An exercise in both kinds of music (country AND western), which TISM fans may find oddly familiar...

ROOT! The Band

(For the benefit of non-Australian readers, the word "root" is a slang term.)

A gig is being played...

Sunday 17th June
Spanish Club
59 Johnston Street Fitzroy (Melbourne, Australia)
2pm kickoff
$15 - it's a big show including Bob Log III, The Meanies, Adam Simmons of Toy Band fame, and a big stack of others, to 'celebrate' the closing of the Spanish Club as a music venue (it's too close to residential homes, apparently).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Persepolis - The Movie

OMG I am so excited! One of my favourite comic books, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, has been made into a movie (in French!), and it looks just as fantastic as the books did. The elegant sharp-edged black and white loses nothing in animation and may actually be improved. For instance, the female hijab-police who pull her up for having exposed hair and (gasp!) a Michael Jackson badge move like cobras. It's very effective.

What's great about it is that it includes Marjane's life as a rock chick - she's into Iron Maiden, if you remember from the comics (her dad sneaks a poster into Iran under his coat). The image of her playing air guitar with a tennis raquet in her room is absolutely priceless. This snippet (below) of Marjane hanging out with cooler, older punk fans is great - I don't speak a word of French and I don't need to to understand this. Cast your mind back to when you thought Foucault was a four-cylinder sedan* and enjoy.

* I was going to buy myself a Foucault, but my dad talked me out of it as the fuel efficiency isn't good...

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Understanding Games
This excellent little series, apparently inspired by Scott McLeod's legendary Understanding Comics, is a kind of half-game half-Flash movie experience that explains the principles that make games worth playing. That link is to the first installment, but links to parts 2, 3 and 4 are on that page. Each Flash movie is mostly just that, but at some point in the presentation allows you to handle the 'game' to experience what the presenters, Bub and Bob, are talking about.

Free Pooky
Great little point and click that's easy enough for nuff-nuffs like me, with an in-game walkthrough that reveals only as much as you need. Vibrant illustration is cheery for a blah day like today. The Worteldrie website has a lot of good kids' games as well.

OMG Scary Room!!1!
AKA AN Escape Series 2.5. Parody of point and click games which is logical (ish), fun and amusing to my mental age of 13. Jayisgames wouldn't run this on account of it contains words like "ass" and has a dildo in it, but they run horror games with severed heads! And, come on, you totally want to play a point and click with a dildo in it.

This is one of those games where you register and create an avatar. As you play games and engage in PvP battle, you level up and get new equipment for your avatar that helps it win battles, perform quests etc. Normally I hate this sort of thing because it makes my clapped-out old computer fall over, but this site loads quickly. The games are a bit limited, but I quite recommend Wet Dreams (! not what you're thinking) and FlashPiper. As you play and submit scores, your energy is reduced and you have to rest, but it also enables you to level up. PvP is a good way of leveling up, as you don't lose anything by participating - even if you lose a match you gain a small amount of experience points. If you win, you gain a large amount! Yay!
On the down side, it seems to take a while to get to the point where you can play quests - I'm level 3 and it's not allowing me into the quests. This gets a bit frustrating. The avatars are... frankly unattractive - actually, hideous would be a better term - but I've managed to make mine look like the late Kurt Vonnegut, which is kind of gratifying. I'm looking forward to finding out what you get as you progress through the levels, though, and at this point, it costs nothing to play.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Does she get her job back now?

For Wolfowitz, a 2nd Chance Dissolves Into Failure

Excellent article about the real issues involved in Paul Wolfowitz's being driven from the World Bank with pitchforks.

I feel really bad for Shaha Riza, because I agree that she shouldn't have had to leave her job. Consider this:

Mr. Wolfowitz contended that it was hypocritical for bank officials to allow Mr. Zhang’s wife to work at the bank but to banish Ms. Riza. Mr. Zhang, now a senior vice president at Citigroup in Hong Kong, was furious, several associates say, because bank rules permit husbands and wives to work at the bank under circumscribed conditions, which Mr. Zhang said he followed, but they bar bank employees from having a sexual relationship with top bank officials outside of marriage. [Mr Zhang's statement may be found here - it's the last of five]

If you're a liberal, put aside your feelings about Wolfie to realise how repulsive this is. OK, I'd hope that this rule is designed to prevent sexual harassment and droit de seigneur and, conversely, favouritism to partners. But where I come from, serious relationships that are not sanctioned by bits of paper are recognised. It is of course hard to know what effect this has actually had on her career, but this will make it hard for her to get work for no crime other than having eccentric taste in men.

In any case, it was found that the Riza issue was not really the problem. The issue was unprecedented for the bank - it can't happen every day that you get a new President with a partner who works in your Middle East section - and the bank agreed that everyone handled the matter poorly. The real issue seems to have been Wolfowitz's propensity to cut the Gordian knot in terms of bank management. For instance:

One official recalled Mr. Wolfowitz dressing down several top employees in the Africa division because they could not tell him whether the incidence of malaria among children had declined as a result of the bank’s program distributing bed nets to families.

I am kind of sympathetic to this because one of the reasons I'm about to launch into a public service career is that I started in an organization where the boss was a really enthusiastic, hands-on sort of a person who also liked to cut the bureaucratic bullshit and get on with the job. It's a tendency I admire. However, my boss didn't complement this tendency with a habit of accusing others of incompetence and corruption! Wolfowitz even managed to alienate the British, which is an impressive achievement.

As you've probably guessed, I do have a bit of a soft spot for Wolfie, despite his multitudinous faults. He has made some genuine efforts to consider the needs of Muslim populations, and seems to have really given a shit about the fate of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein, which you wouldn't say about Cheney or Rumsfeld. Still, his trail of destruction illustrates the dangers of letting academics anywhere near policy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The greatest power-pop band ever, redux - Pash

I have posted this stuff before, but I'm going to do it again because I'm outraged that utter shit (which I am far too superior to name) clogs our airwaves while great bands like Pash go unnoticed. Not all of these tracks are gems (the eponymous track and its remix mostly annoy me), but 'The Force' is quite possibly the greatest power pop non-hit in the history of utter anonymity.

The Force
Friends (Raised By Wolves Remix)
Instant Date
Chronic Bubblehead
Pash (Urban Cadaver Mix by Raised By Wolves)

“if you are amused, you may laugh; if you like it, you may buy the recording.”

John Cage performs "Water Walk" on American game show, 1960

This is utterly charming. (One of the commenters prefers "delightful", which I also find an acceptable description.) John Cage performs a piece for a completely non-avant garde audience (at least, I think so: you never see the studio audience), so the host is obliged to try to explain Cage's work and status (the word "controversial" is used). The commentors make much of the fact that you'd never see something like this on today's mainstream television.

Abjeez, "Arranged Marriage" (Khastegari)

A good 50% of Google searches leading to my blog are related to Abjeez in some way (they've been on tour in the US over the past month, see). In response to my (well, their) adoring crowds, I'm posting this rather charming video. If I'm interpreting the visuals correctly (I don't speak Farsi), one half of the video shows the young man being introduced to the prospective bride, the other half shows the homecoming of a new baby. (It also appears to be an ad for T2 - the tea company, not the Ah-nohld movie.)

I would never piss on the traditions of families who find this arrangement satisfactory, but I would hate to have my parents try to set me up with someone.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cute indie pop necro

Quite a while ago I posted a selection of tracks from an album called A Minute Or Less. Anyhoo, I'd noticed a couple of hits from people looking for that and the Triantiwontigongolo compilation, and I thought I'd update the post with valid links to the songs. Note that I've only updated the "cute indie pop with funny lyrics" sections - I'm not that interested in the noise electronica. Look out for more from that album soon! Click (or you could just visit my box...)

The Moodists

I had the privilege of seeing the Moodists perform "We Had Love" with Kim Salmon at the Corner Hotel a couple of years ago. They have a distinctive bouncy sound that goes well with a dark, beer-smelling, smoky room and a BAC of about .03.

Burnin' Me Some Thing
Chatter Shapes
Frankie's Negative (Live)
The Disciples Know

Taken from the CD Two Fisted Art.

Crying Wolfie

Good little article at Dar al-Hayat about the underlying problems surrounding Paul Wolfowitz's adventures at the World Bank. It's by well-known aid critic William Easterly and is sponsored by the Cato Institute, so caveat lector, but I'm happy to see that there's someone else out there who's noticed that it's not like the WB was this paragon of ideal Weberian bureaucracy* before Wolfowitz's arrival. For a leftist take on the same idea, see Naomi Klein at The Nation.

* I am very old and remember when "bureaucracy" wasn't a swearword. Admittedly that was a hundred years ago, but I use very good face cream, you see, and stay out of the sun.

Monday, May 07, 2007

JayIsGames group

If you've come here from JayIsGames, do consider joining the spanky new JayIsGames group at If you've never used before, it used to be known as Audioscrobbler and is a small and inoffensive plugin you add to your music player (iTunes, Winamp etc). As you listen to music, records the tracks you've listened to, builds up a profile and recommends music you might like and people who like similar music to yourself. You can also post nifty charts to your website or blog, like the one I have in the right-hand column over there. (Be careful though - if you've carefully cultivated an image of pure indie snobbery, it will faithfully record your "little sister" listening to the latest Nickelback record.)

In the meantime, here's some of my recent high-rotations...

Kid Congo Powers - I especially recommend Power, which is both melancholy and kinda inspiring.

The Gun Club - I actually arrived at that site after downloading Jack On Fire from Puritan Blister, who in turn was stealing bandwidth from the equally awesome Something I Learned Today. (She's done it to me too, with the Bing Ji Ling link at my brittletina site, but I'll overlook it on account of Puritan Blister is tha shizznit.) I have to admit that, although it's good, so far I haven't heard anything I love as much as Jack On Fire (which, by the way, is still at that S.I.L.T. post, so get clicking). I Hear Your Heart Singing is pretty nice.

The Divine Comedy - is one of those bands I didn't actually realise I knew. I downloaded some of their stuff after Puritan Blister posted The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count, and realised, "Ah ha, they're the guys who did that cute I Don't Want To Die A Virgin song". If you're nostalgic for late 80s/early 90s commercial pop, go nuts!

Busdriver - I have no idea what this guy's story is, but a song with a title like Unemployed Black Astronaut promises many delights, and I was not disappointed. Stay with it, it's kind of irritating at first but it grows on you.

Thee More Shallows - I really liked the song posted at I Rock Cleveland, Night at the Knight School. It's just... odd. It has harpsichord, or something that sounds like it. Unfortunately, when I clicked through to their Myspace page I didn't fall in love the way I did with "Knight School". Maybe I should give it another go - "Knight School" takes a couple of listens for you to not delete with extreme prejudice. If you love Witch's Hat's Glodyany 1972, you'll probably enjoy Night at the Knight School.

They Might Be Giants most recent free download is called Employee of the Month. If you were to sign up for TMBG's free mp3 club, you also could enjoy this funky and surprisingly rockin' tune.

Icky Thump - because I hate you.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ms Riza speaks

Statement of Shaha Riza Before the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, Ad Hoc Committee

Shaha Riza Statement
Board of Executive Directors, Ad Hoc Committee
April 30, 2007

I come before you today with my counsel, Victoria Toensing, at your request to assist you and the World Bank in resolving a problem that is not of my making. Let me summarize quickly what I consider to be the key facts of this difficult and painful situation, which has grown out of all proportion to the merits of the circumstance, and has now done harm to the Bank as well as to me.

1. My professional status at the Bank predates the arrival of the new President. I began work in the Bank in 1997.

2. There is no Bank regulation or staff rule that required me to leave the Bank in order to resolve this situation.

3. I was not given a choice to stay and, against my personal preference and professional interests, I agreed to accept an external assignment in 2005 upon the insistence of the Ethics Committee.

4. Against Bank rules and the Agreement I signed with the Bank, the details of the assignment and my personnel file have been leaked to the press and staff. As you well know my salary and grade level are quite common for World Bank staff that have years of experience, background and education similar to mine.

5. The cumulative effect of the decision made in 2005 and the recent media circus over the issue have done significant harm to my career, my personal well-being, and my prospects to continue the work I love and where my expertise resides.

Let me start with some personal reflections and then address each of these issues.

Personal reflections

Over the weekend I met a wonderful American woman who told me that I should fight back for “us”: WOMEN. It never occurred to me as an Arab and Moslem woman that one day I would be asked by an American woman to fight on her behalf. I take her plea as a tribute to all Arab and Moslem women who have fought and are fighting for their rights.

The irony of my working to ensure women’s participation and rights through the work of the World Bank and to be then stripped of my own rights by this same institution seems to have escaped most journalists, commentators and women’s rights activists.

I have been told by many friends at the World Bank and outside the Bank that I should speak out about my professional accomplishments to counter the one-dimensional and insulting portrayal in the media, not just in my defense but for the sake of all professional women--including women at the World Bank. It is difficult for me to do so because I have always tried to focus on my work and not on publicity and I simply do not know how to blow my own trumpet. However, in deference to the advice I have received from so many women I respect, I will quote the testimonies of my former managers in the World Bank in their evaluation of my performance.

My status at the Bank

As the gender coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa region (MNA) in the World Bank from 1998 to 2001, I was described as follows: “Shaha brought an unprecedented level of energy, enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism to this work….[and] an in depth understanding of issues and situations in the region that has enabled her to guide our approach to clients and made her a real asset to the region’s work.” (2002) This is indeed praise from Ngozi N. Okonjo-Iweala, a woman I admire and respect for her accomplishments in the World Bank who went on to become Finance Minister of her country, Nigeria.

In 2003, after I had been appointed the Acting Manager for External Communications, my supervisor wrote: “Her leadership on gender issues in her previous job in MNA has paid handsome dividends as MNA was way above the Bank average in mainstreaming gender issues in our work.” He continued: “What Shaha has done for gender (sensitization, practical solutions and effective outreach) she is well on her way to accopmplish for outreach and external communications. She is clearly operating at level GH and I strongly recommend that she be promoted to that level as lead Communications Specialist.” Jean-Louis Sarbib, Vice President for MNA, then goes on to justify his reasons for my promotion.

Despite his testimony, I never got the grade level promotion either as an in situ promotion, which accounts for 80% of promotions to grade H in the World Bank. Nor was the position opened for a competitive process, as I had requested from two consecutive MNA Vice Presidents. I can only attribute this to discrimination -- not because I am a woman, but because I am a Moslem Arab woman who dares to question the status quo both in the work of the institution and within the institution itself. The open hostility against me by at least one Member of the Board of Directors who the former US Executive Director, Robert Holland, referred to in his Wall Street Journal Op. Ed. of April 20, was well known on the Board and by Bank staff.

Request that I leave the Bank

It was a shock to me when, after the nomination of the new President, a senior member of management, in the name of three Vice Presidents, strongly suggested that I leave the Bank. I felt under attack by a powerful group that had no right to make assumptions or come to this conclusion given there was no Bank rule requiring my exit.

When, after eight years in the service of the World Bank, I was told that the Board’s Ethics Committee had resolved that I should leave-- through no fault of mine, but because of an alleged conflict of interest, it was not just a blow to my career and professional trajectory but also a blow to my faith in the ability of the institution to protect its staff, and to its claim over the past ten years, to pay more attention to gender and diversity.

I could not understand at the time or now why I was being singled out for this treatment when the then-Managing Director Shengman Zhang’s spouse, Lingzhi Xu, was working at the Bank and before her Marittta Koch-Weser, Caio Koch-Weser’s spouse, when he was a Managing Director. Neither of them was asked to leave the institution. It is very important to note that in all the years that I had worked in the World Bank I had not directly or indirectly reported to the previous President and my professional interaction with him was limited to a handful of times. Thus, I was surprised I was being asked to leave because under Staff Rule 4.01, Paragraph 5.02, the requirement is that neither person may “supervise[] the other, directly or indirectly, and their duties [should not be] likely to bring them into routine professional contact.” In this regard, recusal from all my personnel decisions, as requested by the President, should have sufficed to resolve any alleged “conflict” as recusal went further than at least one of the situations described above.

Leaks and recent exposure

As this artificially created crisis swirled around me, I have continued to work hard on what I have spent the last 20 years advocating: reforms, women’s rights and citizen’s participation in the Middle East and North Africa. Two years ago, my life and career were torn asunder. In the past month I have suffered anguish that I cannot fully describe at this proceeding because it is so painful. I have been made to appear to have no qualifications for my position when, in fact, I am clearly well qualified. I am sad to say leaks and off-the-record statements have encouraged hurtful and inaccurate media. Whatever happened to my Confidentiality Agreement with the Bank? Why were my rights as a World Bank staff member violated -- and who allowed them to be violated?

And so I come back to you, the ad hoc group, to ask you and other Members of the Board about what you plan to do about the breach of the Agreement signed with me -- and about the disclosure of my personnel file in violation of Staff Rule 2.01 “Confidentiality of Personnel Information.” As you know, I am a staff member of this institution and I have rights that this institution has not protected. Yet to date I have been offered no protection -- which would be offered any staff member -- against the leaking of documents that are, according to the formal policy of the Bank, part of confidential personnel matters.

Damage to Career

In normal circumstances I might not have minded being assigned a year or two to another agency. That type of assignment is not new to this institution. But I did not want to leave the Bank for five or possibly ten years with no guarantee of whether, or how, or at what level I could return. I was being banished from the Bank without regard to the quality of my work performance or my commitment to the mission of the Bank. To review a few of my concerns;

I was 51 years old and being asked to remove myself from a career path to an employment limbo for five, if not ten years. The rest of my professional career in the Bank was being adversely affected.

· I would be out of the normal World Bank structure, removed from peer and professional contacts that lead to new assignments.

· I would not have the ability to make lateral moves or seek other assignments to take me to the next grade.

Confronted with the prospect of being banished from the World Bank for at least five years, I fought for my rights through direct negotiations with Mr. Xavier Coll, Human Resource Vice President. I continue to believe that I should not have been asked to leave and that I was unjustly treated for reasons that I had no control over and still do not understand. I still question the role and motives of the Ethics Committee in its decision to ask me to leave. I was not, and I am not, satisfied with the arrangement. Nevertheless, despite my unhappiness and justified anger, I tried my best to accommodate the Ethics Committee in order to avoid a protracted dispute that would distract the Board, and management and staff from their important work.

Let me be very clear about my legal position in 2005. I was ready to pursue legal remedies. I would have preferred to fight the unfair situation. I only acquiesced to signing the Agreement so as not to cause turmoil at the Bank.

Equally important, I still question why this furor about the arrangement, which was made to remove me from the Bank, has erupted now. It is clear from the now public documents that it was the Chairman of the Board’s Ethics Committee, Mr. Ad Melkert, who advised my placement outside the Bank. I did not want to leave. Mr. Melkert stated in writing that I should be “relocated to a position” outside the Bank, and that “the potential disruption of the staff member’s career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record as confirmed by her shortlisting for the current job process and is consistent with the practice of the Bank.”

It is clear that the Ethics Committee had available any materials that they wished to review in regard to my placement outside. Indeed, the Chairman of the Ethics Committe stated in his letter to the President dated October 24, 2005, that “the outcome is consistent with the [Ethics] Committee’s findings and advice…and the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed.” This letter makes it obvious that the Ethics Committee must have looked at the Agreement and considered it satisfactory. If it did not, it was negligent in its duties.

By February 2006, all Board Members had to be fully aware of the arrangement due to the e-mail from “John Smith,” which specifically questioned my salary. The response of the Ethics Committee to this e-mail was that the allegations “did not appear appropriate for further consideration by the Committee.” The question therefore remains: why was this issue resurrected in recent weeks?

Moreover, during my negotiations with Mr. Coll, neither he nor anyone else ever suggested to me that my compensation package might violate Bank policy in any way. In his letter to me on September 1, 2005, Mr. Coll stated that the “perceived conflict is not of your making,” adding: “There is no precedent of this kind and no personnel policy that clearly applies to resolve it.”

It is certainly the case that World Bank salary rates are significantly higher than the pay of national civil servants, at least in North America. It is up to shareholders to review the pay scale of the World Bank job classifications. But I should not be singled out for isolated finger-pointing when my salary level is within the same range as staff in my grade level who were not forced to leave their jobs.

Final thoughts

I still hope that the Bank Board and Management will have the courage to admit that actions and decisions concerning the many diverse relationships in this institution have been addressed arbitrarily and without clear guidance. The careers of many spouses, particularly those appointed to country offices, are disrupted by ad hoc or arbitrary implementation of staff rules. I hope that this unfortunate episode will be used constructively to address these very pertinent issues.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to state my case. I request my statement be made part of the record. END STATEMENT

[Source: Foreign Policy's Passport blog. By the way, if you're one of the so-called "liberal" media who keeps referring to Ms Riza as Wolfowitz's "girlfriend", hang your head in shame. Props to NYT for choosing "domestic partner", but what the hell is wrong with just "partner"?]

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Atheist Tabernacle Choir, Redux

Excellent post at 3 Quarks Daily discussing why the new Militant Atheists are a pack of nimrods.

Hitchens Weighs in, Now On The Religion Debate

I am particularly taken with this comment:

...they are committing what might be called Marx's Fallacy: criticizing a system without a viable altenative. Hitchens: don't expect the rest of us to listen to your angry, destructive ranting just because you're still angry at mommy and daddy for making you hate your genitalia.

I guess I'm gonna have to write the great Atheist Manifesto my fucking self.