23 December 2006

fashionable defeatism

"fashionable defeatism" is a term coined by Robert Atkinson of the Progressive Policy Institute to describe the tendency of leaders to slow the rate of congestion (at least in the context i care about) rather than fix the problem. i've been reading The Road More Traveled by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley, mailed to me from the Reason Foundation (i'm just that important). the main theme of the book is how US leadership has fallen asleep at the wheel and fallen prey to neo-hippie ideology regarding congestion on our highways.

unfortunately, many countries are ahead of us in solving similar issues (including France!) by involving the private sector, often by guaranteeing long-term concessions for tolls. australia, england, germany, france, etc are solving problems using innovation and targeted incentives rather than taxation and stubborn adherence to outdated philosophies. the result is that all the money is avoiding our coffers.

my "neo-hippie" snipe regards mostly the idea that we should seek to abandon our cars and live in harmony with light rail and walking. the poster child is almost always the NYC subway. i've ridden the subway and it's nice. but i don't commute around NYC and i certainly don't commute between two suburbs when a radial rail system is fo' shizzle. NYC also boasts about 50 000 people per square mile, way more than enough to warrant a large investment in a rail system. light rail won't work for most places and will end up being subsidized to the tune of millions in order to serve a decliningly small percentage of commuter traffic.

convenience matters, too. a woman at my office was in a van pool that would ultimately deliver her to the front door of our building in about 90 minutes. now she drives to work in 30 to 45 minutes and has time (here i paraphrase) to sleep late and still enjoy a relaxing morning with her husband. i haven't asked, but i'm sure she'd agree that rail wonks can eat it. with a fork.

22 December 2006

public school systems suck bad

a 5-year-old is suspended for "sexual harassment." is it even possible that a child that young knows what sex is?

During the 2005-06 school year, 28 kindergarten students in Maryland were suspended for sex offenses, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual activity, according to state data. Fifteen of those suspensions were for sexual harassment.

During the 2005-06 school year, one Washington County prekindergarten student was suspended from school, and 12 of the county's kindergartners were suspended for various offenses, according to state data.

i have zero tolerance for zero tolerance programs. it's no wonder i know so many people who either home-school or wish they could.

21 December 2006

and i thought the NC use tax was BS

West Virginia has begun to levy taxes against some businesses outside of its boundaries. i'm fairly certain there's a sentence or two in the constitution about that one. the sixteenth amendment was indeed a slippery slope. there's a history lesson in there for us someplace.

19 December 2006

privatization or privation?

seems almost a million squatters may be evicted from their shanty town in Manila as the land they've been occupying since the '50s is being "privatized." a miniscule amount of relocation monies are planned--enough for only 300 families.

resharper

Mike Roberts makes a good spiel for the use of Resharper and i agree 100% that you should at least evaluate it; however, there are a couple of issues that annoy me, though not enough to make me stop using this wonderful tool. there is no Inline Method refactoring and i was told that there are no plans to put it in. i believe there is an API for writing one's own refactorings, so i may try my luck. moving classes between projects is a royal pain, as is renaming a project. i guess the number of I/O steps involved makes it difficult, but i would really like to have a tool make these things easier for me since i do it often enough. it also doesn't handle reverting the same changes well at all. it takes some manual re-jiggering and multiple reverts to make it happen. all-in-all, Resharper is a must have.

16 December 2006

semantic relativism

DC is once again trying to define its own version of the Bill of Rights. the idea that the preamble to the second amendment indicates a state interest in bearing arms is a common theme in modern socialist america.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
i would argue that the focus of interpretation should rest on the statement of recognized right: "the right of the people...." The first and fourth amendments, fundamental to modern individual rights, use the exact same words. i haven't met a single person who would disagree that they guarantee individual rights.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
a government entity simply deciding that we should no longer own armaments does not negate the right. a more appropriate course of action is to seek to amend the constitution. i find it incredibly troubling that our government is seeking a Hobbesian monopoly on force. people seem to be ignorant of their own country's history when they sit silently by.

15 December 2006

refactoring drift

Martin Fowler! laments the semantic shift of the term "refactoring," distinguishing between it and "restructuring." from a jargonistic perspective, i suppose he's spot-on; however, as a bit of a language dork, i also realize that english is an extremely liquid language. meaning and usage tend to change, sometimes rapidly and dramatically. much like "agile," the sense of "refactoring" will change as the term gains wider use. so i guess refactoring may someday be a vicitim of its own success.

11 December 2006

outsourcing

Kevin Barnes wrote an interesting post about his experience with outsourcing. (he moved to India a while back.) being in IT, i am always under threat of seeing the axe if i can't provide, or seem to provide, greater value per dollar. what i can't fight as well are perception and political forces.

Like politicians, most CIOs and CTOs need to be seen to be doing the right thing. Right now that’s outsourcing. A lot of companies saved a lot by moving operations overseas and the late-comers are under pressure because of that. Unfortunately, the landscape today is dramatically different than it was only a few years ago and cost-effectiveness is notoriously hard to measure (with no one wanting to own up to having wasted money) so this pressure to cost-cut through outsourcing is likely to continue unabated in the mid-term.

[T]he shear number of projects that are in their early stages virtually guarantees that demand will continue to rise. Decisions to move projects take years to implement, and many are already underway. The people running these projects are strongly incented to make them succeed, or failing that make them appear to succeed. They also don’t like to admit they’ve made a mistake, so my expectation is that we’ll keep hearing how much people are saving for quite some time. What we won’t hear is how slowly projects are getting completed and how poor quality has become.

(emphasis added)

every last person i know closer to outsourced projects than their directors has seen the drop in quality, reported numerous issues, and been told to make it work. honestly, i think it's understandable to have VPs ship work elsewhere given the quality of some projects i've seen; however, this rush has created a false market in software jobs in India that draws too many unqualified people to this line of work. i've met my fair share of talented developers from India, but just like here, too many should really be doing something else.

06 December 2006

design smells

Dave "W." Smith identifies what should be obvious smells of design debt. the best item is "puzzling tests," those pesky breaking tests that have nothing to do with the code you're working on at the moment. that's something to tackle early in a project before your team starts spending hours per day re-running long-running tests because too many break when altering some code.

02 December 2006

psapp

i found a hilarious review of psapp's "tiger, my friend" on itunes that i felt i should share.
If you had a Very Special Episode of The Muppet Babies with Special Guest 5-year-old Norah Jones wherein they recorded their very own album using only a rubber duck, a toy ukulele, knee slaps and a broken Speak-N-Spell while shut up in the nursery on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the result would sound something like this.
i wish everyone could write reviews this well rather than "omigod, this is like sooo coooool!!!"