Sep 25

Smackdown 2012 version

I like Lance Mannion’s blog, but he seems to discount anything with women in it. A lot of middle-aged men do; they can’t seem to help it. Since the protagonist of The Hunger Games isn’t even a woman, really, but is a teenage girl (though an extremely capable and whip-smart teenage girl), I was expecting that from him.

However, that’s not what I want to write about. Instead, I want to rant about this idiotic rat turd of a comment.

After a little more thought I know why I turned this off (having not read the book, which probably represents the vast majority of the movie audience) – it was right after they mention that it was the 75th annual Hunger Games, and I thought, WHAT? You mean this miserable farce has been going on that long? The population of the Districts, having once had enough spirit to rebel, is now subjecting themselves to poverty, squalor and serving up their kids every year to a slaughter? While the other half of their world lives in modern affluence? Surely you jest. I couldn’t possibly care less if you think I can even accept that premise in the first place.

Let’s see — we live in a country where income inequality has been rising for nearly forty years. Where there are 45,000 extra deaths every year due to no health insurance. Where global warming is denied, which will lead to vastly more deaths. Where living standards are falling for many, and that fall is accelerating.

And furthermore, we live in a world where a single country — Germany — singlehandedly and in an automated, industrially efficient fashion exterminated six million people not all that long ago. Where 800,000 were killed less than two decades ago in Rwanda by their former friends and neighbors. Where the Brazilian favelas exist (remind you of anything, like, say, the Districts?) A world where women are routinely “honor-killed” and have their faces burned with acid.

Compared to that, the deal that those people got, I’d rather compete in The Hunger Games. I’d have a better chance of coming out alive.

And this goddamn idiot commenter finds something like the premise of The Hunger Games implausible.

Fuck me.

I’m even choosing to ignore all the facts that she got wrong in her comment, as I don’t want to write a 3,000 word screed.

By the way, the Roman-era gladiatorial games — which I might remind you really, actually happened in our history and were more brutal than anything in Collins’ novels — went on for something like 800 years.

By the standards of what I’ve written above, to me The Hunger Games actually seems pretty tame. There, you have a one in 24 chance. In the Holocaust, in Rwanda, or as one of the 45,000 every year who dies from lack of health insurance in the US, what goddamn chance do you have?

And about that commenter, how do people live such cosseted, clueless lives? How do you fit so much dumbass in so little space?

These days, I try to avoid flinging insults like confetti at a ticker-tape parade, but sometimes it is just warranted. Not doing so would be wrong. This is one of those times.

I find it implausible how obtuse and uneducated and that commenter is, but nevertheless, there it is.

Sep 25

Not knowing what you don’t know that you don’t know

I stopped reading the New York Times article about data center power use after the second page, as I realized that the reporter(s) did not have the first damn clue what they were writing about.

I have built data centers. I run data centers. Not really large ones, at the moment, but the ones I run are getting bigger by the day. And running a small DC is in some ways harder than running a large one as you often lack the resources (financial and other) to make use of capabilities that large ones are able to tap. By the way of credentials, I am the US infrastructure manager for the largest company in the world who does what my company does (which is still pretty small), so I know just a little something about it.

The Times article could not be more clueless, really. I don’t regret not reading all of it. Running a data center – even a small data center – in a 24/7 operation is incredibly difficult. I am not saying that to make me seem noble, or my job harder. That’s just a fact. Here’s one reason why.

This isn’t just an incredibly inaccurate representation of the dedication and hard work of eng/ops everywhere in the computer industry, I know for a fact it’s also inaccurate in what regards to Facebook itself. I imagine Facebook engineers (and that of any other website really) reading this article, thinking about the times they’ve been woken up in the middle of the night to solve problems that no one has ever faced before, for which no one has trained them, because no university course and no amount of research prepares you for the challenges of running a service at high scale, and having to solve all that as fast as possible, regardless of whether it’s about making sure that someone can run their business, do their taxes, or that a kid halfway around the world can upload their video of a cat playing the piano.

I worked on a problem in our NYC DC for five hours on Friday, on a product that before I started I knew almost nothing about. The product is set up in a non-standard way (by a previous IT team), is unsupported by the vendor – though I cajoled them into assisting anyway – and is also very complicated to administer and to use.

So, let’s summarize. No one knows how to use it, no one knows how it is set up, the vendor doesn’t support it and the configuration status is unknown. Oh yeah, and who gets to fix it? Me, the “owner” of the data center.

Sound like a job you want to do? Yeah, didn’t think so. You’d be crazy to want to. (What does that say about me?)

I’ve sort of strayed away from the main point as I am still frustrated from Friday, but it’s always amazing to me how absolutely wrong articles can be when they are written by people who don’t know the field and who buy figures from clueless consultants*.

*As a rule, consultants are nearly always clueless.

Sep 24

The risk

Projects like Everyday Sexism and Hollaback are awesome, bringing attention to the problem of the pervasive street harassment that women experience.

But I can’t agree with this (the part I cited below specifically).

Guys who care about sexual harassment – you can help. When you see sexual harassment, call it out. If you see a guy wolf whistling at a woman trying to go about her day, yell loudly at him “Show some respect, asshole.” Let women and most importantly MEN know that you won’t stand for it, that women deserve better.

In such a situation, men are much more likely to be violently attacked than women are for speaking up. Why? Sexism, of course. A woman challenging a man (by most of these guys) is seen as inconsequential. To them, women are low-status. From their perspective, it’s like a gnat arguing with him. Terrible to hear, but it’s true.

But a man challenging these types? That matters to them. That threatens their status. A lot of them will respond with violence.

Most people – including most men — are scared of violence. I feel sympathy for this. When you as a male stand against these harassing men, your risk of experiencing violence goes way, way up, far more than a woman’s does.

I’d never ask anyone to possibly bring great violence on themselves for me as I have sympathy for that fear.

And also most women may not realize this or think about it (just as most men don’t realize or think about street harassment), but when you stand against a man or group of men in public as a man, you usually stand alone. No one will come to your side and fight with you. Often, no one will even look at you.

So when you open your mouth, know that you will be fighting alone. If you can’t accept that risk, probably best to keep quiet. I can accept that and have in the past. Such is life.

I am not a violent person by nature. But violence does not scare me — although perhaps it should — so I generally call out men who are acting like idiots and non-humans. I can’t help how I was born, though. My risk profiling is all screwed up. I know this. Can’t help it. Don’t be like me.

But I think it’s wrong to ask anyone else to do these scary (to most) things on your behalf. Most people piss themselves when true violent situations are cropping up. I think it’s morally wrong to ask people to expose themselves to such fear. I’d never ask that of anyone.

But here’s my dirty secret. I like confrontations. I like fighting*. If I didn’t worry about brain damage, I’d be in a boxing ring every day. Hand-to-hand combat training was my very favorite part of being in the army. However, I don’t provoke people and I am an introvert by nature. I don’t walk into fights. And I retreat even if people call me a coward because I also don’t like prison. But if someone pushes me and I have no way to escape (or my companion does not), then I will dispose of them as calmly as I do everything else. My nature is what it is.

I have no real point to this. Just that I think it’s wrong to ask someone to potentially get beaten, stabbed, or shot, no matter how much potential good it might do for society in general. There has to be a better way.

*Engaging in street-fighting recreationally, though, will lead to a very short life as there is always someone faster, smarter and stronger than you are. And even the best fighter has very bad chances against two or more assailants.

Sep 22

The drugs don’t work

Given what I’ve read about drug testing and the medical field, I doubt one in 50 drugs actually do anything other than exhibit the placebo effect.

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments.

No way to solve this really with business astride the world, never to be dethroned. Good to know anyway, though, as the placebo effect still works even if you know about it.

Sep 22

Creep

What is wrong with men who do things like this?

Like most people – women included — I will look at an attractive person if they happen to walk by or be in my field of vision. That’s just it, though – I will look. I won’t ogle them, gape at them, harass them or pull out my camera and snap a photo of them. I (really, really) don’t even have any desire to interact with the person.

But looking is ephemeral, and harmless. Taking photos sans consent and posting them on the internet? That’s a different matter altogether.

That said, I am not sure it should be a crime, exactly. That would raise a whole host of free speech issues that the government and corporations could then use to squelch public debate and public documentation even more than has already been done.

There isn’t a good solution, really, not that might not do more harm elsewhere. I just wish some of these men would get tased in the face (preferably by me) when someone notices this occurring.

Maybe that would be a bit of dissuasion.

Sep 22

Transition to unusability

The comment areas on sites are getting worse. Most of them are now completely unusable. What the fuck is this, for instance?

There are more and more sites like that. Who posted what when? The site shows that 43 comments were posted but if you look, there are only 16. Where are the other 27 comments? And the layout. What a design tragedy.

And more sites have started listing comments by default – some unchangeably – by the most recently posted. Why would you ever want to read comments this way, especially with no way to change it? Invariably, comments deteriorate as a thread lengthens. This has been well-known since Usenet and BBS days, in the fucking early 1980s. Amazing we are blithely re-making things into problems that were completely solved 30 years ago and have been working fine since then.

Most sites, I have started using various tools to render the comment sections completely invisible as they are so worthless. I don’t mean that the problem is the comments themselves. Some of them I’d actually like to read. I mean the presentation is so poorly done – apparently by a team of pre-Cambrian mollusk-like organisms – that I can’t even tell who is commenting on what or when.

I think part of the problem is that a lot of people and designers are new to the internet (And I, being the hipster that I am, consider you “new to the internet” if you first signed on after 1995 or so. Sorry about that.) They are trying new (to them) things that were well-solved many, many years ago.

Not that one should never try new things. One just should try things that are actually, you know, new, and not completely idiotic.

Bottom line is that each passing year the internet gets less useful to me as it’s turned more into cable television. That’s all the majority seem able to handle, and I get that. But that realization doesn’t make my experience any better.

Sep 21

Recruit-on

In addition just being naturally socially averse, one of the reasons I do not have a profile on LinkedIn or similar sites is because IT recruiters are like sharks.

In a time where so many people have such difficulty finding a job, I know I will sound like a bit of an ass, but if you have in-demand IT skills you get too many job openings and to go along with them voracious recruiters hounding you about them constantly.

For instance, I have no LinkedIn profile. No social media presence at all. I am very hard to find on the internet, really, for a variety of reasons. And yet I still get IT recruiters pitching jobs to me nearly every week.

I have no idea how they get my CV. No interest in the jobs (who the fuck wants to live in Hoboken, NJ?) and a lot of the time the emails are downright rude and demanding.

It’s a good thing — I won’t deny that! – that finding a job in the fields I know best is easy. It’s nice to be wanted. But the recruiters make it somehow akin to being stalked and that is never a good feeling.

Sep 20

Fed up

Of course Fed policies favor the rich. Doing anything else in the US is politically impossible.

Right now, stimulative policies that didn’t favor the rich would nearly all involve direct or near-direct cash transfers to Romney’s hated 47%. Can’t have the parasites getting something undeserved, now can we?

Never mind that for the past 30+ years all the productivity gains in the economy have accrued to the top one percent.

And never mind how much the rich and their companies are subsidized by tax breaks that the less-wealthy do not receive, are coddled by the press and by the law, are able to send their children to better schools and to live in better neighborhoods. And how most of the rich got there by starting on third base, usually followed soon thereafter by their theft of it from everyone else.

In most cases, there were no bootstraps and no pulling themselves up thereby. Like the Welfare Queen, that is all a myth.

Later, I will write a post about how thinking of the economy in terms of money is a distraction, and very much the wrong frame for discussing these topics. It leads to conceptual opacity rather than illumination and conceals how the economy is evolving and camouflages how it will further change in the near future.

It is really mystifying to me how people who were born with so many advantages, and who have gained so many more in life — like Romney — can genuinely feel so persecuted and set upon. I know that I would not feel this way were I to become very rich, and would gladly pay taxes.

Perhaps it’s just that I am not a complete sociopath.

Sep 19

Pomme

I often hear Apple criticized for being overpriced. And I guess they are overpriced if you don’t care a whit about quality.

Is it worth devoting the first 750 or so words of this piece to the iPhone 5’s surface appeal? I don’t know how else to convey the niceness of this thing. This iPhone 5 review unit is the single nicest object in my possession. I own things that cost and remain worth more (e.g. my car). But I own nothing this nice. It sounds hyperbolic to put it that way, but I offer this observation with no exaggeration.

When you pick up an Apple product, you can feel the workmanship and thought that went into calling forth each object from the void. Apple’s products are the only ones I use regularly that I would call “art.”cinema_display_30

I use a 30”  Cinema Display mainly because the screen is great (though nothing compared to the new iPad screen). But I also use it because the object itself is beautiful. It will be beautiful in a thousand years, just as Roman friezes are. It is timeless and there is a reason many movies feature a Cinema Display in their “futuristic” scenes – and not because it looks futuristic, per se.

No, it’s because it will never look antiquated. Know how 1960s sci-fi looks so dated, like it might as well have been filmed in the 1400s? That’s what set designers are trying to avoid when there is a Cinema Display mise en scène.

If you care more about price – and can afford it – an Apple product is what you’d nearly always choose, in my opinion.

I sound like an Apple ad, I know. But it’s worth recognizing one of the few companies in the world that cares about quality of experience and design first and foremost. It is extremely rare and worth noting.