Monday, July 29, 2013

The secret organization

One of my private goals is to volunteer once for every race I'm in. Not necessarily the same race. I'm still behind on volunteering, but slowly realized I could be catching up while I'm not racing.

When they changed the Calgary 70.3 course less than a month before the race, and put out a call for volunteers at the start, I signed up. That lake isn't far from my place at all, and since the lakes in Calgary are private, I figured it might be my only chance to see it.

After a 4am wake up, I ended up on traffic control on the front gate so I didn't see much of the lake. The athlete parking filled up pretty quick and then it was on street parking. Later it was helping take down bike racks and pack the athlete bags onto buses. It went very quickly. Many hands and all.

Then home for a bit of a stretch and breakfast, then off to a book club meeting. My buddy is making covers for his rain barrels. Very cool. We are going to go looking to see if there are any nice barrels we like, but I'm not fussed about it. I could build nice covers too. In my copious free time.

While I was puttering with laundry I was amused with Curtis playing in the sink. He doesn't seem to mind water so much. Even if I turn on the tap, he will sniff and lick the water, and play with it a bit.

Yes, that's the sink I clean up after doing wine making stuff. Having a big sink like this is extremely handy some days. Even if I do have to clean it with comet before cleaning wine stuff after bottling next week.

During a good core and stretch session I discovered a very unhappy muscle on the inside of my left thigh, just above the knee. I think it's the Vastus Medialus, or maybe the one that wraps around from the inside of the knee to the outside of the hip. Rolling that was a big owie!

Normally at work I try to get up and walk around regularly, but I was right into a query today, and didn't move hardly at all. Just as well I had a good stretch yesterday. Another good stretch and core tonight.

Lately I've been thinking about secret organizations. We've all seen the movies. I used to enjoy them, now I think they're kind of stupid, and all the same, really. The good guy has to penetrate the lair of the bad guy. There are stupid evil henchmen, all sorts of gadgets, and invariably an escape system for the bad guy.

Let's start there. The escape system. Here you have a meglo-maniac bad guy constructing his lair and an organization, and he takes the time to engineer and build an escape route. Putting the same effort into training his staff would go a lot further. But if you are the kind of person that builds such an organization for world domination, or something, you aren't likely to spend any time considering what happens if your plans fail.

Or maybe the organization is the good guys. There is usually a sequence of them going through some fluffy high tech entry procedure, usually alone, and they enter an office that is just full of people scuttling about doing their thing. One of which is to bring that person their coffee, some papers, and an all important briefing. How did all those people get in? Same procedure? Why does the hero get to sleep in? And does the leader of the good guy organization have a secret escape route?

Unless there's a dorm somewhere, where do all these underlings live, and park? Is there as much security for the cars? What do these people tell their families about their work day?

These organizations seem to have endless fleets of black vehicles. Helicopters, SUV's or other automobiles, ships, submarines, and various aircraft. That's not even counting the more exotic stuff, the hybrid car submarine, or invisible cars, and people that know how to use them. Then there are the gadgets. Good Lord, the gadgets. I couldn't even begin to enumerate them.

There is usually a secret genius turning them out, but I often wonder if there is an uber-secret organization that churns out all this stuff for the ordinary secret organizations. You'd think the organization supplying the rent-a-henchman would go bankrupt from supplying such poor quality workers. And how does the evil bad guy afford all these people until world domination happens? Is there an uber-secret organization providing accounting and legal services for aspiring evil overlords? Who does the catering? Even henchmen working out of fear for nothing need to be fed.

There is much attention paid to covering up the tracks and hiding the existence of the secret organization. That lasts until the movie or book reaches about the middle of the first act, then they start to reveal their secrets. Usually spectacularly. Sometimes this includes a scene where the president is briefed on it. Maybe this is why world leaders go grey and look so old, so quickly, worrying about some secret boffin organization going rogue.

But mostly it's the over the top elaborate safeguards that have some fatal flaw that can be exploited by the other side. A fatal flaw that a smart 12 year old can usually figure out how to mitigate. Usually by better training the staff. Unfortunately this line from one movie completely describes the quality of henchmen these aspiring overlords attract - "Benson, you are so mercifully free from the ravages of intelligence!"

The thing I really wonder, is if these people are all really so smart, why don't they just take over a country? Really. If they're that good at organization, they ought to be able to take over some corrupt kleptocracy through sheer competence. Once people realized they were good at running things, like providing food, clean water, and other necessities of life, reliably and inexpensively, they'd be voted into government by a landslide. Once they got the economy going they'd be able to skim a bit off the top for themselves in perpetuity. A bit off the top on a country scale can lead to an enormous amount of money on a personal scale. As long as you don't go over the top on jets and boats and castles, you can live very, very well. No reason it couldn't last your entire life.

But no, there's an ego in the way. The one that just makes you go out and buy that huge yacht and flaunt it in front of the poor. That just makes for social unrest and upsets your nice little scheme. But I guess if they had that level of maturity, they wouldn't be megla-manical aspiring evil overlords using their secret organization for world dominance.

When I look at the USA, I sometimes wonder if a secret organization really is running things, and the middle managers are getting a bit power drunk over the last few years. That flaunting thing, guys? It usually leads to trouble sooner or later.


  1. I think that's why I loved Get Smart so much (the TV series and the movie of recent past) because they satirize the 'secret organizations'. And a brilliant question regarding the bad guy's financial position (my take on that is only the super rich can create secret organizations).

  2. I saw you briefly before the race, but didn't get to say hi. You were at the crosswalk when my husband pulled in across the street to let me out, but were gone when I was walking across. Sorry I missed you, but thank you for volunteering!


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