Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Difference Between Greatness and Perfection

Scott Adams nails one right out of the park. He has written the best analysis of the Imus situation that I have heard. In the process he points out something that is a stark deficiency in the world today.

Public Opinion is Against Us

A recent poll conducted in several middle eastern states shows some pretty bad scores for the U.S. It seems that on average one in a quarter don't believe al Qaeda was responsible for the World Trade Center attacks, more than half believe we are there to maintain control over oil, and nearly as many think we are trying to spread Christianity. This leads me to wonder if many people in that region view Christianity as the fomenter of violence that many here see in Islam. The poll notes that sixty percent believe suicide bombings were never justified and sixty seven percent believe that Islam was opposed to attacks against civilians. Sounds good, but those numbers are still a bit small for my tastes.

I would love to see how Americans would poll. What percentage of Christians in America would say that suicide bombings are never justified? I would predict, and hope, that the number would be significantly higher than sixty percent.

A New Boat With a Proud Old Name

A new USS North Carolina was christened last weekend. The fourth Virginia class submarine SSN 777 is also the fourth American naval vessel to carry the state's name. The previous possessor of that name is the WWII battleship that remains open to the public at Wilmington. The sub has a proud name to live up to, but is actually already contributing to U.S. naval strategy by reportedly helping keep the only two shipbuilding companies that can construct nuclear vessels in business.

[Editorial note: That bit about keeping the shipyards in business is something I can't find an original source for, so it relies on my notoriously bad memory. Also interesting, is the Wikipedia article at the time of this writing contains an inaccuracy about the sub being the fifth USS North Carolina. The sources cited by the article state that it is the fourth. Mark one up in favor of the print sources...]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Quote of the Moment

"Software development is only like bridge building if you're building a bridge on the planet Jupiter, out of newly invented materials, using construction equipment that didn't exist five years ago." By Jeff Atwood, in this post.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Horror Story Ends in Cliche

We were all shocked and saddened by the insane shootings at Virginia Tech today, and the BBC reports one of what will surely be many stories of fear and courage on the campus. Unfortunately, at the end of the story, they also trot out the same old specter, ending with a reference to the Columbine killings. As yet, the shooter is not identified, so we don't know whether he or she was a player of Grand Theft Auto or Doom. I'm sure by the end of the week, we will have been told. I would plead that we not reduce the insanity of one person's act of barbarism by comparison or implicate millions of innocent people just to redirect responsibility away. But somehow I don't think the news organizations will listen.

Watching the Watchers

For once, this isn't a politics post. It's about the police and firefighters. These are the heroic men and women who protect, serve, and put their lives on the line for us. And for some of them, that means they can violate the very laws they are supposed to enforce. Automated monitoring systems in the form of "red light cameras" can't tell if you are in a squad car. While the obvious exemption for emergency situations applies, why is it not enough? Is one of the draws of being an enforcer of the law that one can circumvent it? I surely don't know, but it's an interesting reaction nevertheless.

Good Guys Don't Lead

Here's another look at the always fascinating world of mental pathology of leaders. Without resulting to my normal lament about the jerks getting ahead, I will say that the leaders are not empowered unless they have followers. It is a wonderful catch-22. And those who break it, or manipulate it, have interesting potential.

The Effect of Smoking Bans

Having lived with and near smokers, I can certainly attest to the results of this study. A smoking ban in Irish pubs results in a more than 80% reduction in particulate matter in the air and a noted improvement in non-smoking worker's lung performance. If you are smoking, please consider quitting, for yourself and those around you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Today's Old Question: What is Art?

The Washington Post presents a long article that could be classified as leading and emotionally manipulative or even simply pretentious. It about what happened when a world class musician played in a subway during rush hour. While I find the premise artificial, the sentiment resonates with me. We are all artists, when we let ourselves be. And I for one think that if we, and our bosses, let ourselves be more often, the world would be a much better place to live.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Statistics of Ignorance

Well, here's a link to some scary stuff. Note in particular the USA Today/Gallup poll that gives a "generally well-qualified person for president" paired with a completely superficial attribute (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) and asks if you would vote for that person. It's a freaking setup! When was the last time we even had a "generally well-qualified person" running for president? But man, did people answer.

Apparently America would rather have a homosexual president than an atheist one. I hope the Daily Show picks up on this poll. I would really like to find it funny rather than just sad. Whatever happened to deciding an election based on a candidate's position on issues anyway?

Complaints of Not Enough Trained Tech Workers, In India

Could this be more evidence for the inevitable outsourcing pendulum swing? As market forces continue to increase salaries in the new economy poster child India, the country's trained work force is quickly reaching its limit. Naturally that raises the specter of other countries becoming the new outsourcing targets.

It seems to this ignorant observer that the "information economy" could go one of two ways: either it will rapidly create middle classes around the world the way it did in India and cause a fundamental leveling in global technology salaries, or it will parade around the world in a series of boom/bust cycles in different countries.

Frankly, not all that many people have an aptitude for technology jobs such as computer programming, and even less actually enjoy it. This should result in increasing salaries as demand for their skills increases, but the pointy haired boss types managed to work around the market by outsourcing. Books have been written about the good and the bad effects of outsourcing, but no matter where you fall on the debate, you should be aware that it's a temporary solution at best.

The question that remains is whether technology outsourcing will be hailed as capitalism's greatest success or one of its greatest failures.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

H-1B Feeding Frenzy

Is this evidence that there are not enough high tech workers, or proof that corporations are more interested in cheap labor than giving market salaries? Either way, the limit on H-1B visa applications was reached in one day. Yeesh.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Not Your Usual Militant Islamism, or is it?

Hostage taking, missing persons, claims of rights under Islamic Law... These things are common place in our news right now. But this is a slightly different kind of story, women forcibly shutting down an alleged brothel. Very similar tactics to those that we call terroristic, but with perhaps a subtlety different moral twist perhaps? Your views on this article may tell you something about yourself.

'Tis the Season for Sneezin'

Spring means pollen and for those of us with allergies, either drugs or staying inside to avoid the drifting yellow and white ickyness. Or both. This year has been a record year so far. Ugh.

Writing Down Guitar Chords Legal Again, With Royalties

Internet sites hosting guitar chords and tabliture (two simplified notations that are extremely useful to hobby players [such as myself, caveat reader]) have been illegal in the U.S. under copyright grounds for a while now. I personally believe that this falls under the reverse engineering provision, but I'm not a lawyer. There will soon be a site hosted in the U.S. again, but they will be paying royalties to the labels.

Outsourcing Without the Cover of Actual Foreign Workers

The global economy continues to have its affects on America. Circuit City is laying off a chunk of it's sales force. The chunk that is the highest paid. These things are almost bound to happen in the current business climate I suppose. The part that annoys me is that instead of directly giving people the option of a pay cut, they will offer them the opportunity to get their old jobs back for less pay in a little while. Stupid from a team building standpoint. Stupid from a customer point of view. And it honks off your employees. In otherwords, it's standard business practice these days. (That's a slashdot link so you can read the comments, if you dare.)

Chronic Pain = Fear

This is an interesting article on a subject I'm immensely unqualified to comment on. But I will anyway, naturally. It appears that chronic arthritis pain activates the same areas of the brain that fear does. Could this be at least a partial explanation of why long term pain can be so detrimental to health? Does it affect the level of "stress" the body feels? I wish I had the answers.