October 29th, 2013


[links] Link salad wakes up, gets out of bed, drags a comb across its head

Kids and Dogs — Read this all the way through. It only takes a minute, and the effort is worth it. (Via David Goldman.)

Want a Starship? Think Big. Think Really Big

Building Cars Out of Batteries Isn’t as Crazy as It Sounds

Japan’s Yankee genius, the greatest scientist you've never heard ofOvshinsky created a hatful of world-changing innovations, many of which threatened the dominance of America’s great new invention: the transistor. US corporate interests rubbished his work and he ended up licensing his technologies to a few small Japanese companies. You might know their names: Sharp, Canon, Sony, Matsushita... (Via David Goldman.)

It's a snake! Monkey brains may explain our fear of reptiles

Poverty, parenting linked to child brain development — Sigh.

Of Course the Dress Code Does Not Apply to the Savior — Snerk.

Penn State to pay $59.7 million to 26 over Sandusky — Given the size of Pemn State’s endowment and budget, this is just a slap on the wrist. Big football really is more important that raped children. Remember that Sandusky wasn’t a lone rogue, but was rather protected by university officials due to his status as a football coach. Enjoy your next big game, sports fans.

Prevalence of Household Gun Ownership Linked to Child Gun Shot Woundshere are approximately 7,500 child hospitalizations and 500 in-hospital deaths each year due to injuries sustained from guns. In an abstract presented Oct. 27 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, researchers also identified a link between the percentage of homes with guns and the prevalence of child gunshot injuries. Wow, I sure feel safer with all those guns in responsible hands. Don’t you? How about the kids in your life? Ask any conservative: 7,500 kids shot every year is a small price to pay for theoretical defense of essential liberties.

Federal Judge Declares Texas Anti-Abortion Law Unconstitutional — Every once in a while, despite the best efforts of the Republican party and conservatives all across America, something good and moral things actually do happen.

The right way to make a federal budgetIt's OK to spend trillions on a war we should never have waged in Iraq and to provide huge tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations. But in the midst of very difficult economic times, we just can't afford to protect the most vulnerable people in our country. That's [the Republican] view. I disagree.

The Big KludgeA society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Welcome to conservative America. Too bad for those of us in the reality-based community.

Germany, Brazil enlist 19 more countries for anti-NSA UN resolution — Nothing to see here, citizen. Move along. (Via [info]danjite.)

‘Hit it, Senator!’: Rachel Maddow mocks Rand Paul for lifting ‘eugenics’ speech from Wikipedia — That’s what we need in our politics: more Wikipedia inspired leadership from movie scripts. That’s what happens when you can’t win on your ideas, you steal other people to make yourself look better. (Via David Goldman.)

?otD: The Beatles or the Stones?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 6.5 hours (fitful)
Body movement:30 minute stationary bike ride
Weight: 238.0
Number of FEMA troops on my block forcing children to learn critical thinking skills: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)


[culture|politics] Solutions designed by people who never have to use them

Lisa Costello and I were talking (again) recently about the concept of solutions designed by people who never have to use them. My favorite example for elucidating this concept is what happened to me when my former Day Jobbe employer was acquired by a much larger entity about five or six years ago.

I was being oriented on the new expense reporting system. This was a Web-based Oracle application, and had all the usual features of any expense reporting system. But it also required a great deal of input for accountability. Division code, project code, etc. This without even respect to whether or not an expense was client billable. There were weird lacunae in the feature set that didn't correspond to how anyone traveling on an expense account actually spends money. And so forth. The result was a horribly clumsy and slow expense reporting system which to my long time analyst's eye had clearly been designed to meet the requirements of the Legal department with respect to liability and discovery defense. It was a total pain in the ass that absolutely prioritized corporate risk management above functionality.

I finally said to the trainer, "Do any of the senior executives of the company ever have to use this system?" They looked embarrassed and said, "No, they all have admins to do it for them." My response was, "If our CEO ever has file an expense report himself, we'll have a new system the next day."

Life is full of systems like that. Airline check-in processes, for example, are obviously designed to optimize for cost-of-labor, explicitly at the expense of efficiency, usability or the customer experience. Likewise most call centers and help desks. And likewise the entire apparatus of disability management in this country.

I've said many times before that our disability system is onerous and punitive, designed with the primary assumption that anyone making a claim is attempting to defraud. It treats people accordingly, and requires all sorts of entirely pointless paperwork and compliance steps from people in their hour of deepest need and least capability. These systems were designed with profit margins, preservation of capital, and fraud management as primary priorities. They were not designed by anyone concerned with helping the poor or disabled, and they certainly were not designed by anyone who ever for a single moment thought they, themselves might fall under the rules being put in place.

So with the ACA. I'm not talking about the issues with healthcare.gov, which are a topic of their own, but the whole clumsy mess built to accomplish a social goal which could have been accomplished much more cheaply and simply through Medicare eligibility expansion. (Among other routes.) All those hundreds of Republican amendments to the law are there to gum up the works, punish sick people for being sick, and poor people for being poor. That's not what conservatives call it, of course — they have plenty of high minded rhetoric about resource management and audit and reducing dependency — but those are just lies Republicans tell themselves so they can sleep at night in the false belief they are doing the right thing.

But whether you're talking about the basic Heritage Foundation template of the ACA, the framework written by the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats, or the thousand little land mines planted by the GOP, none of those pieces were designed by people who ever expected to use the system personally.

And thus we have the hot mess ACA we have today. My old employer's corporate expense reporting mess writ large across the landscape of American society. And for the same reasons. Because the nominal purpose of the project is badly misaligned with the priorities of the people who designed it.

None of the solutions I see to the problems with the disability system or the ACA will ever come to pass. Forcing Congressional Republicans to take themselves and their families solely to public clinics for year is impossible. Privilege protects its own. And asking for empathy is a fool's errand with modern conservatives, who seem to view empathy as weakness, even a sinful betrayal of principle. At best, a foolish form of compromise.

So, yeah. Solutions designed by people who don't use them dominate our lives in ways small and great. Enjoy...


[cancer] The Fear leaves a calling card in the hallway of my heart

Yesterday I was running errands in the Genre car (yes, with the top down) and listening to Camper Van Beethoven's All Her Favorite Fruit, from Key Lime Pie. I started sobbing, and for a time, could not make myself stop.

I very nearly turned and headed for home. But I'm trying not to be a burden to Lisa Costello right now, as she is going through so much family stress. My arrival at Nuevo Rancho Lake shaking and crying would not improve her day in the slightest.

So I thought about how much she needs me to be strong and smart right now. How much I need that from myself. How impossible a goal that is, and how impossible it is for me not to make the attempt.

Eventually I fought myself down to a sniffle, and went on with my day.

The Fear is like that. I am a dead man walking. Sometimes my mind and heart and body remember that so much that I can do nothing else but be afraid. Not so much of death itself, as of loss, and of the pain and sorrow I will leave behind.

As for that song, it reminds me of my childhood. I have literally played croquet behind white washed walls within intervention's distance of the embassy. Just thinking about it as I write this is making my throat catch and my eyes sting.

We never know who we will become. My life makes me proud and happy. But I never planned to become a dead man.

Then again, who does?