Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I just learned about the DARPA plan today. I like it.

Oh, okay, there's lots not to like, but Wolfowitz said that they were looking (I'm paraphrasing here) for out of the box, brilliant thinking. Well, think about what they wanted. They were looking for ways to forecast what might happen, given that no one really seems to know how to predict where terrorists will work their evil. So you need a way to get people thinking about it, in a real-world way. Giving them the chance to earn money sounds like a decent way.

So far as I can see, the only problem was, they went with the blue-sky approach before anyone had a chance to round off the rough edges. And the blue skies turned out to be greyer than they thought.
Lazy day. Sometimes, that's not bad.

Monday, July 28, 2003

These Netflix people may have my number.

I don't watch a lot of movies. Mostly it's a matter of time -- I just don't have enough that I'm willing to commit to 90 minutes or more in a stretch, and watching in chunks tends to ruin the continuity - and as for going out, I usually don't want to pony up the tarrif. But there is a time when the price is right, and watching in chunks is perfectly okay, and that's when I'm on my exercise bike, looking through the channels for something to distract me as I pedal along. Not a lot on to do that, at 5:40 in the morning -- but a movie, ah, that's a different story. Plus, since I don't see movies when they first come out, usually, I can trawl through the older listings at Netflix, the ones that are always available because no one rents them anymore. I just ordered three for a roadtrip (all kids movies), and three more for when we return. I can already see myself slotting those jewels and peddling mindlessly.

I think I like this service.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I take a while to learn things, sometimes.

For years, I have seen articles that say that if you're trying to address the problems of an organization, you should talk with the people who actually deliver the service. They see the problems every day, and they can tell you all about them. Well, okay, I knew it couldn't possibly be that simple, but it wasn't until this week when I abruptly realized that it was true -- but that you have to listen to a hundred (or a thousand, or ten thousand) bogus comments before coming across the gem -- and even then, you have to know what the gem looks like in the rough, and polish it before it's worth something. And sometimes, you have to see the unpolished gem multiple times before it clicks that this is a gem, and not just another piece of rubble.

Can't believe it took me that long to figure that out.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

I just checked, and I don’t have any emails from my friend in the land of granola. I didn’t expect to, but it would have been nice. I like hearing from her, even though... and that 'even though' is the reason that today is day 2 of my latest ‘lets see how long I can go without writing’ streak. That's my recurring effort where I see if I can wean myself from writing to this person so often. Like a compulsive dieter, or a lapsing drunk, I have climbed on this wagon before -- look, there are skid marks on the steps from the last time -- and I’ll likely fall off again, too. But for my own self-respect, I need to try.

I see where some dueling opinions are emerging regarding whether it’s okay for businesses to move work to other countries. The advocates say that this is a way for a company to make its product at a lower cost, thus helping it in the battle against other companies, and helping its stockholders. The opponents say that this manuever enriches other countries by boosting their economies at the cost of ours, thus weakening us economically and prolonging the recovery from the recession. I think they’re both right. It’s not the job of a company to take into account what the US economy needs; it needs to worry about its customers, stockholders, and employees (though that last seems pretty uncommon, these days). It’s the job of the US government to worry about and orchestrate control of the economy. But when the US government is so heavily beholden to companies, and so sensitive to their needs, it tends to adopt a 'whats good for General Motors...' philosophy. Bush says that the tax cut will spur jobs; in the words of one US senator, I’d like a world where Julia Roberts is going to call me, but that doesn’t seem likely. Either.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

This is a reading weekend. I picked up a copy of A Tribe Apart, a study of adolescence in a Reston, Virginia school, and it's fascinating. The subject's of interest because my daughter's going to be part of that tribe in four years (four years -- forever, right?), and like any parent, I want to be ready, or at least aware of what to expect. And I've been reading a lot of weblogs, the result of picking up a copy of Amphetadesk, a newsfeed aggregator (boy, there's a couple of words that only tell you what it is if you already know what it is). I'm still reading A Perfect Mind, the biography of John Forbes Nash, and the biography of Benjamin Franklin. All good stuff. And I found a recipe for strawberry soup that I hope to make today. I baked some chocolate chip cookies yesterday, just to get something that I thought my daughter might eat -- she's been sick-- and the soup will be fun. No pies lately, though.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

From the web site of the North Carolina Office of the Attorney General -- Kid's Section (http://www.jus.state.nc.us/fkframe.htm) -

The Story of Jack and Jill in Legalese

The party of the first part shall hereinafter be referred to as Jack, and the party of the second part shall hereinafter be referred to as Jill.

The parties ascended or caused to be ascended an elevation of undetermined height and degree of slope. Their purpose was to obtain, attain, procure, secure, or otherwise gain access to a receptacle suitable for the transport of a liquid consisting of hydrogen and oxygen.

The proportions of which shall not be greater than nor less than two parts of the first mentioned element and one of the latter. This composition shall hereinafter be called water. On the occasion stated above, it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that Jack did plunge, tumble, topple, or otherwise was caused to lose his footing in such a manner as to thrust his body in the downward direction.

As a direct and proximate cause of these combined circumstances, Jack suffered fractures and contusions to his cranial region. Jill is said to have fallen after Jack. Whether after is used in the spatial or time passage sense has not been determined.

Monday, July 07, 2003

From Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science:

"Medical malpractice suites are a remarkably ineffective remedy. Troyen Brennan, a Harvard professor of law and public health, points out that research has consistently failed to find evidence that litigation reduces medical error rates. In part, this may be because the weapon is so imprecise. Brennan led several studies following up on the patients in the Harvard Medical Practice Study. He found that fewer than 2 percent of the patients who had received substandard care ever filed suit. Conversely, only a small minority among the patients who did sue had in fact been the victims of negligent care. And a patient's likelihood of winning a suit depended primarily on how poor his or her outcome was, regardless of whether that outcome was caused by disease or unavoidable risks of care."

Sunday, July 06, 2003

As the prior post shows, I'm surprisingly inept at making cogent, forceful commentary.

I never thought of myself as a great orator, but this past weekend I discovered how poor my rhetorical skills are. I was talking with a relative about my irritation with the president's comments, and the best that I could come out with was, essentially, 'geez, what an asshole'. Which I realize is not commentary likely to burnish my reputation for language. I think I ought to be able to do better than that.

When I was in Mensa (briefly), I hoped that I would find that it was stuffed with people who could make lucid, penetrating conversation. I'm aware that unless you're a member of the Algonquin Round Table, or William Buckley, the chances of insightful conversation all the time are slim -- yet I was dismayed to find that they were, for the most part, conversationalists just like those you meet all the time. Dammit, I wanted to say, what is it with you people, that you can't be interesting and obviously bright in your conversation! Instead, this pedestrian garbage -- hell, I could do better than this! And I really did think so. I thought that the fact that I was (and am) interested in multiple disciplines -- medicine, programming, traffic control, architecture -- showed me to be someone who could make insightful, perceptive comments.

But apparently not.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Bring it on? This must be what happens when Cheney lets Bush speak without checking with him first.

What an idiot.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Where I work, you can learn stuff that has nothing to do with what we do.

I work for a little tiny piece of a really big computer company. We do some data servicing for a local government, but we're not the people who own the contract -- another computer company is. My little piece of real estate is very close to where the people who work for the other company sit, and stand around arguing, so I tend to overhear a lot of their conversations. I'm not particularly interested in anything they say, though I will admit that I perk up just a bit when I hear them mention my company's name, but what I notice is that they have the same kinds of complaints and problems that we do. This morning I heard one of their people arguing that they needed to make sure that their managers knew that a recent problem wasn't their fault -- it was the fault of a contractor who told them that all was okay with something, when, it turned out, it was not. The person doing the arguing was being told that no, this was not a good idea, because it would make it appear that they were not getting along with the contractor, and that would make their managers unhappy, and lead to more direct management intervention in problems, which no one wanted. At that point, I tuned out, but it resonated with me for a while. My partner works for yet another large computer company, and they have the same complaints and conversations. Sometimes, it seems that my company is but a branch of that company, or the reverse, and now, as a result of hearing the conversation this morning, it appears that there's another company which is pretty much the same as ours. The technology changes, the buzzwords change, but the concepts, the sociological strata, are the same.