Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Joys of Software Engineering, or Is the Personal Political

Work has been - how do I put it? - totally kicking my ass lately, the reasons for which put me in mind of an old story. There are probably as many versions of the story as there are branches of software engineering (and probably plenty of other fields), but what follows is my favorite. The story takes the form of a play with two characters: a software engineer and a mid-level manager.

[ Begin Scene ]

Manager: Now remember, we only have half an hour for this project or the entire company goes bankrupt. So what I want is for us to get into that truck...[ points to a truck attached to a large tank of nitroglycerine ] and drive it over that bridge. [ points to a 1000 foot deep chasm 500 feet from the truck ]

Software Engineer: Boss, that's not a bridge, that's a chasm. If we try to drive the truck over it, we'll just end up driving into the chasm and if we don't die on impact we'll probably die in the resulting explosion.

Manager(a little exhasperated): You know it all engineers! I don't pay you to forecast. That's my job. I'm the one with the MBA. Now if you know what's good for you, you'll get in the drivers seat and start the engine.

[ Engineer realizes that if he doesn't at least make an attempt to appear compliant he'll lose his job and what with the over-seas out-sourcing it'll be tough to find a new one. Enters the truck on the drivers side ]

[ Manager enters on passenger side ]

[ Engineer starts truck and begins driving it toward the chasm. When it's 50 feet from the chasm we hear ]

Manager(voice full of panic): Stop the truck you idiot! There's no bridge! My god, we're going to die!!!

[ Software Engineer slams on breaks. Truck screeches to a halt just in the nick of time, its front wheels just barely over the edge of the chasm. ]

Software Engineer(nervous but slightly relieved): See boss, I told you, there was no bridge there...

[ Truck cab starts to wobble ]

Manager(rightesouly angry): I can see that you moron! Why didn't you build one before we started driving?

[ Engineer notices wobbling, grabs Manager and pulls him out the drivers side door just before the truck plummets into the chasm and explodes ]

Manager: [dusts himself off] Well thanks for saving my life, but we didn't get the truck across in half an hour. Because of that, you're fired.

[ End Scene ]

Wonder if anyone in the lower echelons of the federal government has lately started to feel like that engineer.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Tomorrow is the big one year mark. The year of Katrina as some call it. For me, this past year has been one in which I have felt a lot of frustration, confusion, and enough anger to float a battleship. Back in September of last year, it seemed like the entire nation was shocked and angered at what was happening there, and rightfully so. For those of us who didn’t live through Katrina and Rita and Wilma in some direct way, it seems easy, in my opinion, to be angry. Anger allows us to focus our emotions on the culprit – the person or entity we believe is responsible for the harm caused. And its certainly easy to blame, punish, and then move on. That seems to be the modus operandi of the politicians we vote for.

Strangely, I haven’t felt a deep sense of grievance yet.

For me, tomorrow is a time to grieve, not to blame. I feel a profound sense of sadness that we let Katrina happen.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rock 'n' Roll is Killing My Ability To Function Around My Fellow Human Beings

Baby your molecules are now in motion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Zombie Prom

Hey all, a little shameless self promotion, check out Gardel's!

Check the city paper for details!


Friday, August 11, 2006

The Deal

Uhm, yeah. As if I have anything intelligent to say about it, other than "hopefully this means Israelis and Lebanese civillians get a break from the getting killed." Instead, go read Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Black Sabbath Misrepresented!

From "Heavy Metal Gets Socially Conscious," [AP]:

More than three decades after Black Sabbath conjured images of the dark arts, heavy metal is growing up. The genre is increasingly incorporating social and political messages into its dense power chords.

Although they may not have been particularly eloquent, Black Sabbath--a blue-collar band from Birmingham, England whose guitarist lost two fingers in an accident at a sheet metal factory--had plenty of potent social and political messages. Their second album, Paranoid, was full of commentary on Vietnam ("Politicians hide themselves away/They only started the war/Why should they go out to fight?/They leave that role to the poor"); on that album, "Hand of Doom" documented the descent of a Vietnam veteran into heroin addiction. This was in 1971, the same year that John Prine released "Sam Stone."

There's something else Black Sabbath never gets credit for. They are funky.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Predicting Democratic Talking Points

"Joe Lieberman couldn't protect his campaign's web site. How can he protect our country?"

Other guesses?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Hope You People Are Happy

Yeah, so despite what I've said previously, because a certain other Baltimore blogger type convinced me that "as goes Connecticut, so goes the country" I am now sitting at a computer hitting "refresh" on Daily Kos every 15 minutes. Hope you're happy, Benn.

Update: Ok, now I hope Benn's really happy.

Update: On the "what does it all mean?" front, I think both Hamilton's and Kasey's comments are good takes, but I think the best analysis so far has come from Suzanne Nossel at Democracy Arsenal.

This One's for You, Dad

So I get this book recommended to me by Amazon. Being the complete dork I am, my first thought was that it must be a compare/contrast between Forth and Smalltalk.

Take Back the O's Day!

Do you love rallys but hate the smell of patchouli? Tye-dyes make you dizzy? All those random signs for causes ou didn't show up for make you want to hurl? Well, here's the rally for you!

Hot dogs smell better than patchouli, orange is soothing to the eye and psyche and the only signs will be flashed with 2 fingers between a grown mans legs. It's take back the O's day at Campden Yards.

If you're fed up with current ownership and want to let them know, come on out. It's a day at the park and a message to a moron.

Come one, come all, meet your favorite Are You Effin' Kidder (assuming I'm your favorite kidder)!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Forests, Trees, and Bad Apples

The media and the judiciary have had a hell of a time connecting high-level executive policy with detainee abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo, despite the fact that a majority of Americans believe the U.S. tortures or abuses detainees as a matter of policy.

How, then, do we hold Rumsfeld and the White House accountable for their share of the responsibility for abuse, torture, and, in some cases, manslaughter?

A good start might be Slate, where one can find an excellent collection of White House and Pentagon memos regarding acceptable methods of interrogation. There's John Yoo's memo arguing that the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act do not apply to Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. There are memos from Colin Powell and William Taft IV of the State Department urging Bush to follow the Geneva Conventions. There are memos from then-Attorney General Ashcroft's and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales rebuffing the State Department and encouraging President Bush to disregard the Geneva Conventions. There is a memo from the president himself saying he has the authority to suspend Geneva, but that detainees should be treated in a manner "consistent with the principles of Geneva" (of course, "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity.") There is the memo from William J. Haynes, II, General Counsel at the Pentagon, seeking justification of many interrogation techniques as long as there is no "intent" for "severe physical pain inflicted" or "prolonged mental harm." And, of course, there is the memo from Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that defines torture very, very narrowly (inflicting "severe pain" that rises to the level of pain associated with "death, organ failure, or the permanent impairment of a significant body function").

There is a way to argue that these memos, especially Bybee's, encouraged the abuse of detainees--not so much in the prescriptive language (listing techniques that are allowed, such as light deprivation and 20-hour interrogations), but in the vagueness of the proscriptive language (you're okay as long as there is no "intent" of long-term damage; stay away from our narrow version of torture, but certain "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" acts are not "torture").

Proponents of humane treatment of detainees ought to avoid the legerdemain and sensationalizing that have been so tempting to the left. I'm mostly talking about picking out the most shocking phrases from these memos. Bybee's memo does not equate torture only with "death, organ failure, or permanent failure of a significant body function," as I've seen bandied about, but in one of many definitions says the pain inflicted must rise to the level of pain associated with those phenomena.

Perhaps most egregious is the conventional wisdom that Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete." This has become almost unquestioned conventional wisdom on the left, a disingenuous rhetorical cudgel used by people who probably have never read the memo. Here's the passage:

In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on question of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments.

What Gonzales considers obsolete is the limitations on interrogation, and what he considers quaint are the requirements that detainees get athletic uniforms and trips to the PX. I imagine there are probably parts of Geneva he does not consider obsolete or quaint. By latching onto this quote, one misses the forest for the trees. What is more shocking than calling Geneva "quaint" or "obsolete" is that Gonzales wants the president to use the Constitution to claim the authority to disregard international human rights treaties, a policy which has trickled down to the ass-kicking, teenager-raping "bad apples" that the press continually burns in effigy while the architects of the disastrous policies worry about polls and steer their blood-spattered juggernaut through the rest of the region.

Friday, August 04, 2006

U.S. Anger Towards Government Reaches Record Levels

This Scripps Pole is sad but interesting. 1 in 3 adult Americans surveyed believe the government had something to do with 9/11 and anger at the government is at it's highest point since Scripps started monitoring after the Oklahoma City bombing.


Totallitarianism Watch

Jay is fond of reminding me that the guys we call "neo-conservatives" are really closet Trotskyites. But they also have some Stalinist tendancies, including the quiet (or sometimes not) war they've been waging on intellectual freedom in and out of the academy. So I'm not surprised to see this item in this morning's Washington Post, which details the state department's efforts to purge ideologically incorrect academics by imposing a de facto exile. I don't imagine that I need to remind our gentle readers of the chilling effects that practices like exiling dissidents can have on open societies, so I won't.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Note to Contributors

RUFNKM is most certainly not Hotel California. If your name appears on our contributors list and you'd like for it to disappear, please leave a comment to this post outlining the reasons why you want off. Then, simply click the "Contribute Via PayPal" button on the sidebar and deposit a minimum of $10.00. Once I've verified the receipt of funds, I'll kick you off.

A Message to You Rudi....

Things I Have Learned of Baltimore Vol. 1

When not deep beneath the Ocean Sea, I have spent most of my time on this big blue ball haunting the streets of Baltimore and yet I never cease to learn new things about a city known to many as, "The Paris of the Mid-Atlantic."

Riding a motorcycle you learn things about your home unknown to those cooped up in automobiles.

Today I learned that large tracts of B-more smell plesently of bacon.

We truly live in a golden age!