Friday, May 09, 2008

Why Some Managers Are More Right Than They Think

Fresh from a "Quality Initiatives" program at Large Mutual Insurance Company, I saw that my next bit of minor maintenance was to tweak the instructional text on a data-entry screen. Cool, thinks I, while I'm in there, I'll change the LONG PARAGRAPH OF ALL CAPS TEXT to mixed case. It takes no more time to deliver a High Quality Product, just like they said.

At the clientside review ( I swear this is the literal truth):

Clientside manager: "Why did you take away all the capital letters?"

Me: "Studies show it's easier and faster to read mixed case. This has no impact on system performance, and the dataentry clerks can be just that little bit more productive."

Clientside manager: "Our people aren't really that smart."

(Silently I agreed with her, but not in a way she would have liked.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Relax! MI&FL will get delegates ...

I have no inside knowledge, but here's some basic principles.
  • Obama is not foolish; his team has had a lot of time to think this through.
  • All the Democrats really, really want to win the White House in November, and also the 60 votes in the Senate needed to stop Republican filibusters
  • Therefore, they are not going to do anything that would let the GOP accuse them of going against the will of the majority ("count every vote" etc.)
  • Therefore, super delegates will not overrule to pledged delegates
  • Obama will finish the primaries leading in pledged delegates
  • Therefore, the super delegates will give Obama will have enough delegates to win even if Hillary gets the majority of MI& FL deletegates.
  • Therefore, once Obama's nomination is secured, there will be a deal to give Hillary a face-saving majority of MI&FL delegates but not enough to overturn the Obama nomination.

Hillary may see this coming and quit at a time that lets her save face; that means MI&FL get their delegates a little earlier, that's all.

The L-Curve: income distribution in USA

The US population is represented along the length of the football field, arranged in order of income.
  • Median US family income (the family at the 50 yard line) is ~$40,000 (a stack of $100 bills 1.6 inches high.)
  • The family on the 95 yard line earns about $100,000 per year, a stack of $100 bills about 4 inches high.
  • At the 99 yard line the income is about $300,000, a stack of $100 bills about a foot high.
  • The curve reaches $1 million (a 40 inch high stack of $100 bills) one foot from the goal line.
  • From there it keeps going goes up 50 km (~30 miles) on this scale!
Get the details and lots of links backing up the diagram:

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FreeNet Conversion

In the old days (like 5 years ago) it was pretty neat to maintain a web site. So I got one ( ) . But it's become like tuning up your car: worth understanding in theory, but kinda pointless for most people.

First, there are too many better ways to maintain a web presences. Photos? go Picasa or Flickr. Casual writing? Lots of blog solutions.

Another second issue is that most well-rounded persons have interests are too broad to fit onto a single site. People looking for my brand of humor are not often going to be be interested in my old school photos; all those pages have in common is Me, Myself and I ... and that's not really relevant to anyone but me. And my wife (...I hope...).

So, I plan a conversion, moving my website content to appropriate freespots, with just enough interconnection for my convenience. Each freespot is organized thematically
Perhaps we'll look back at the days of personal websites and go "Huh? Why?"


And handy utilities:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Blue State Dems were in training

....for their quadriennual contest against GOP state. Coach Donkey had to decide who to put at QB: Hillary or the new kid Obama.

"I'm going to make this fair," said Coach, "We're going to run 50 plays, plus DC, Guam, etc. Whoever gets the most yardage, gets the QB spot.

First play: Iowa! Obama made a few yards. Then: New Hampshire! Hillary got it back.
The game seesawed, first one, then the other. Finally, the Super Tuesday play: Obama surged into the lead.

Hillary had a lot of good moves, but Obama matched her, and was better at connecting with his receivers. Hillary sent some linemen knocked him down, but Obama got up, shrugged off the attacks, and seemed ready to win.

Suddenly, Hillary wins the Pennsylvania play. "I got ten yards, that's a first down!"
"Sorry," said the ref, "It was only 9 and inches."

"That's o.k." Hillary announced, "I'm going to win big in Indiana, and get another first down."

But she didn't. When the dust settled from the Indiana play, Hillary had made at most two yards.

A flag was called on the play: extra man on the field! Wheezing out of the pigpile came Rush Limbaugh, a player for the other team, boasting he had moved the ball for Hillary.

Hillary and Obama looked at each other, and both showed disgust. "Penalty declined. Play ball!" The less said about it, the better.

Besides, Obama had just taken another ten or twenty yards in North Carolina. At this point, who's counting?

Hillary had one chance: the Tonya Harding play. If she could damage Obama's knees enough so that he couldn't play in November, surely the Dems would have to put her in.

What will she do? Sit on the bench and cheer her team to victory? Or try to kneecap her competitor on the team?

What would YOU do?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Closing Arguments in Suit on Veterans’ Mental Care

Veterans claiming that medical care was denied or delayed sued in a case called "Veterans for Common Sense v. Nicholson". Closing arguments have just finished; here is a summary of the case so far, with links to court documents.

Kudos to Michele Storms at (a product of our own University of Washington School of Law!)

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Stupid Client Conversation About Printers

Back when I was a software contractor, I was contracted with a company to implement a system (written by one of the smartest guys in the business - just ask him!) for printing store signage, e.g. "Socks $2.99". The idea was that, instead of the old system in which the main office printed signs and overnighted them to its 40+ stores, a clerk in the main office would format the signs, and then each store manager would fire up the printer every morning to automagically print them on light card stock kept in the printer's 2nd paper tray.

(The enthusiasm of store managers for having yet another task piled on them, for no additional compensation, can easily be imagined.)

The system worked great at the home office, but none of the stores could get the signs to print. I spent hours on the phone talking through the procedure. We were not allowed to physically visit any of the stores since the client decided it'd be a waste of time.

Me: "You have the 2nd paper tray."
Store Manager: "Yes."
Me: "It's filled with light card stock."
Store Manager: "Yes."
Me: "The signs aren't printing."
Store Manager: "Correct."

Finally, I got a yardstick.

Me: "My printer unit is 17 inches tall. How tall is yours?"
Store Manager: "13 inches."
Me: "That means your 2nd paper tray is not attached to the bottom of your printer."
Store Manager: "It has to be attached to the bottom of the printer?"

Repeat 40+ times. Eventually the system "worked".

(This really happened to me. For more stupid conversations with clients, see )

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Three guys are fishing on a dock ...

... and they finally decide to tell their sad, sad stories.

The first guy says, "I came here to fish and to drink away my sorrows in January of '08, because I was a supporter of John McCain."

The second guy says, "I came here to fish and to drink away my sorrows in Spring of '08, because I was an opponent of John McCain."

The third guy says, "I came here to fish and to drink away my sorrows in November of '08, because I AM John McCain."

H.R. 275: Global Online Freedom Act of 2007

H.R. 275's official purpose: "To promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes."

H.R. 275 would authorize a new Office of Global Internet Freedom within the Department of State, which would:
  • Coordinate interagency efforts to promote abroad the free flow of electronic information on the Internet,
  • Fight efforts by foreign governments to restrict Internet use,
  • Identify, update, and publicize a list of key words, terms, and phrases related to human rights, democracy, religious freedom, and political dissent,
  • Consult with technology companies, human rights organizations, and academic experts on new information technologies to develop a voluntary code of corporate standards for the free flow of electronic information, and
  • Provide pertinent information to the Secretary of State for reports on human rights practices, security assistance, and countries that restrict Internet use.

Sponsor: Rep. Christopher Smith [R-NJ]

This bill may undergo significant changes in markup sessions. A budget report is available for this bill from the Congressional Budget Office:
  • On Ars Technica:"...There are just a couple of catches that make this bill not quite as great as Smith and the handful of human rights groups that support it make it out to be. For one, the term "legitimate law enforcement" is extremely vague, and is left up to the US Department of Justice to decided on a case-by-case basis. If complying with the requests of law enforcement officials to turn over information on what they consider illegal in specific countries does not count as legitimate, then what does, exactly?
    Secondly, you guessed it—the bill has a convenient exit plan for anyone who tries to apply its rules to the United States. ..."
  • On Slashdot:
  • See also


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