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April 15, 2007

Sicko, Indeed

Michael Moore is profiteering off Ground Zero workers. I'm disgusted, but not surprised.

Posted by jeff at 10:43 PM | TrackBack

Topic Notes: Projects that Fail

One of my pet peeves is enterprise software projects that fail. In my opinion, the only possible reason for an IT project to fail is incompetence, either on the technical staff or (far more likely) the project or above management. The most common management incompetence is the inability to say "no". (And as I am fond of pointing out in other contexts, if you have a manager who can't say "no", it's a management problem one level higher.) All of this is just a roundabout way to introduce Karl Gallagher's insightful essay on how excess requirements and misclassification of requirements kill projects.

It's actually a part of a piece I've been thinking on for some time: why it is that non-IT staff produce far more projects that work for end users than IT staff can produce.

By the way, I'll be writing over at Eternity Road as well, per Fran Porretto's gracious invitation. I haven't figured out which stuff I do will go where, except that the political stuff will probably go over there, and the IT stuff will probably be here or cross-posted, depending on depth.

Posted by jeff at 1:38 PM | TrackBack

April 12, 2007

Makes Sense to Me

Glenn Reynolds calls attention to this comment by Bruce Kesler:

Wonder why so many of the news articles you read, or steam over, are lacking essential information or perspective? Wonder no longer. Knowledge and experience of the subject is only a “plus.” Would the AP advertise for a sports reporter for whom knowledge and experience with baseball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis, and so forth is only a “plus,” rather than essential and primary?

So, why should the AP believe that knowledge and experience of intelligence, or medicine, or any other important and technical subject only requires a “plus”?

Maybe because the reporter was schooled in a system where subject matter expertise is not required for a teacher of a hard subject, but the ability to "[d]emonstrate[] an understanding and acceptance of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, special needs and religious groups" is?

Posted by jeff at 6:38 PM | TrackBack

April 11, 2007

Life is Deep, Perhaps

Inspired by the always-insane Wondermark, here are some song lyrics, which have been run through Babelfish from English to Japanese and back. Your task: guess the songs. No fair looking below the "More..." link until you've made a guess.

  1. That heart because of rent however is not, the haughty way he does not have to be put in place. The quiet defense which that spare and many day comes being, from thing rides. It is what which is said river society concerning thing and that company which are said? The fog do to catch, capture ones of myth the mystery do to catch, catch drifting. As for the world, there is a world, there is love, it meaning that that eye is wide, life is deep, perhaps.
  2. As for the magical errand which it dries can call from the depth of your dishonor, solid mind elegantly your lever re-arranges, and the music which comes from the distance directly entirely achieves, and the fruit of the person who is recorded tastes everything vis-a-vis time loses. And the point assessing everywhere, ev' which it leads; Ry selects one. Dewdrop like music of the sun can praise us and the removing, and the course you' where we move; The plain which chooses re running.
  3. There are many of the child and the child who places the law in circle. When they jump, simultaneously, I, in the top and bottom, desire thing to the top and bottom. Being thrown in this role which when enters? When in order to turn to fasion which wears the clothes? Throw your gown, to the top and bottom. Normal There' As for s what kind of you' for whether the sky, everything which you say of; The proverb of re, it makes possible inquires about that. And to the element of the thing which that prays, leaving, try to keep accompanying. Until we play to only the sky. Until we play to only the sky.

OK, some of those might be obscure if you don't share my musical tastes, so let's try some current pop songs and some very, very well-known songs of the past. List two:

  1. Love in order to do, loves me. Always I love, I' The truth which is ll, so in order to do happiness I whom it does, loves am known. Whoa in order to do, loves me.
  2. The black where the car and the theyre all line flower were painted and my love which comes returning both never my people turns the head, not observing at that my center which day I see directly exactly in by my is left and sees if you look at that it is the black which I see thing evry which goes like the baby of the new life which is caused my darkness personal opinion, to because the girl walks being able to dress the clothes with clothing of their summers, my my head must be turned, red door me that we want the black no color which was painted already me desired those in order to turn me The red door and as for that the black which was painted perhaps when facin which then directly is not easy in sickness fact and atrophying because it is not necessary to face being black me your entire world is black instantly
  3. If you attach those to the gold body, me; Family Sippin' With show after Grammies which likes the fact that it goes coolly or however many records selling me, the diamond ring entirely I' M I' which is not primitive; In m those don' The average of t Chaperons or it is not the limousine queen of the thing which shops high thing I clean, the magazine and boogie scene I' of the movie screen; M I' With m me the machine which still goes to TACO BELL drive, unprocessed me don' The worry and substance I' of t; M still it is not, recollection of many day when I had Mustang

    And the answers:

    1. Rush, Tom Sawyer
    2. Yes, Close to the Edge
    3. Dar Williams, Playing to the Firmament

    That last one really was cheating, since Dar Williams is not, sadly, well known.

    The second list:

    1. The Beatles, Love me Do
    2. The Rolling Stones, Paint it Black
    3. Fergie, Glamorous

    Posted by jeff at 12:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    April 5, 2007

    Of Course You Know...

    Fran Porretto is contemplating civic religion and the possibility of civil war. It's a topic, or really a set of topics, that has been on my mind for some time, and there are about half a dozen takes I need to get all of the various parts out. For now, I'd just like to respond to Fran's thoughts, and in particular to discuss whether the breakdown of the American polis portends worse.

    I read a book some years ago, by an Australian author whose name I have sadly forgotten (along with the title), about why wars start. In order to know why war breaks out, he posited, one must know why peace breaks out. If we cannot know why peace comes, how can we understand why war comes? His conclusion, after much evidentiary exploration, was that war occurs because of a conflict of needs coupled with a difference of opinion on the consequences of war. If Iran, today, believed that taking 15 British sailors hostage would result in the immediate destruction of their Navy and ports, and possibly the nuclear destruction of Iran in toto, the odds of their capturing those sailors would be nil. On the other hand, if you think the enemy will refuse to fight, or lose if they do, you would be more likely to take action, as Iran has done (apparently with a correct reading of the situation).

    So the questions as I see them, from a standpoint of disintegration of the polis in response to a progressive collapse of the civic religion over the last 130 years, is whether one or more of the four significant American subgroups will decide that they will fight at any cost, and whether the others will give way.

    Digression: Those four groups, by the way, are the progressives/radical Leftists/Left-wing statists, the evangelicals, the originalists (not just libertarians, but small government conservatives and similar groups as well), and the institutional statists. The originalists held sway through the end of the Civil War, but Reconstruction brought the puritanical progressives into prominence. They gained power until they had it all, well into the FDR years. After that, the natural power seekers and hangers on (the institutional statists) took over, and have been in charge since. The evangelicals formed as a bloc under the social pressures following the 1960s and the capture of many institutions by the progressives with institutional statists in support, and began by the 1990s to wield significant influence with their insistence that moral rigidity and conformance was the answer to the problems caused by the moral ambiguity of the institutional statists and the moral decrepitude (by that time) of the progressives.

    Anyway, I think it's clear by now that the unchallenged power of the institutional statists is at an end: the progressives have taken over the Democratic Party, and have made serious inroads into the far-right of the Republican Party (not evangelicals by and large, but puritanical moralists combined with reactionary megalomaniacs — the Buchananites, for example) in the last decade. The reasons they were able to do this are numerous, and irrelevant to this discussion, but I would think that a serious look at how teachers are trained, and what they believe, in connection with educational outcomes from primary and secondary educational institutions, would be a good place to start. Nonetheless, there has been a power shift among the elite towards the progressives. The progressives are not yet in unchallenged charge, but clearly they aim to be, and they might even succeed, at least for a time.

    It is also clear that the progressives as a whole, from the anthropogenic global warming zealots and the netroots and the professional protesters to the abortion-by-decree absolutists and the health-care-free-for-all absolutists and the communist absolutists, have defined the enemy (anyone who shares their cultural roots, but not their contempt for their cultural roots), have defined their endpoint (total control of society), and have decided that destroying the entire system that created and enriched them (in order to take control of the aftermath and guide us to a brighter tomorrow) is their moral duty. They are willing to fight, and so far that has taken every form except widespread violence in support of their causes. Note the word "widespread:" there has been a great deal of localized and targeted violence. If the progressives decide to escalate into mob violence the way the brownshirts did (not out of the question, though only really likely if they suffer a really large political marginalization without also being reduced in numbers), would the other groups resist?

    The institutional statists would not: they are heavily invested in the State and its corollaries (and thus themselves, of course) as all-powerful bringer of all wants and desires, but they are no more prepared to tolerate large-scale violence than they were during the riots of the 1960s that taught the progressives to fight in the first place. Indeed, a fairly large faction of the institutional statists, the center of the Democratic party in its political and media forms, actively applaud the progressives because they see the progressives as ultimately enriching their own (the institutional statists' own) power, while not being able to actually wield the power they wrest from the other institutional statists and the originalists.

    The evangelicals might be willing to fight, but likely not. Despite their antithetical position to the progressives, and despite progressive propaganda about theocrats and so on, the reality is that the evangelicals are moral absolutists, but not very committed to violent means of imposing those moral absolutes. They think we should all agree with them, but they aren't willing to force the issue the way the progressives seem close to.

    The originalists would fight, tooth and nail, and are well armed to boot. But the reality is that 5% of the population that cares cannot beat even 30% of the population that cares, and has State power on its side, with the rest of the populace not actively engaged (except rhetorically).

    Therefore, the odds of civil war as our polis breaks down are small. The odds of repression, tyranny and decline, sadly, are quite a bit higher.

    Posted by jeff at 1:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack