Thursday, June 24, 2010

Meant to be?

Don't get me wrong (or get me as wrong as you'd like), I am very happy that the US won their latest World Cup game, and will advance to second stage. And I am very happy for Landon Donovan, who scored the winning goal. I like the game of football (soccer) very much, used to play and then referee kids' games.

But I found Donovan's statement about the victory and its meaning a bit hard to take. He said (according to the Chicago Tribune): "It makes me believe in good in the world and if you try to do things the right way, it' good to see it get rewarded."

This idea that something was "meant to be" or a "reward" for previous good behavior is of course very widespread. And I can see how this belief can help people get through hard times. I don't believe the same thing; at least, I suppose I am "theoretically" open to the possibility that in fact there is some grand design that invests meaning and intent in things that happen.These days, though, I mostly hold to the viewpoint that "stuff just happens" and the only meaning events and outcomes have is the meaning we inject into it.

Having said that, OK, you believe what you believe, I believe what I believe. But, c'mon, Landon - you seem to be implying that all those other soccer players who are losing have not done things "the right way" and whose loss is a "good in the world." 

And that, dear reader, is really hard to believe.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Can BP "speed it up"?

I just caught this headline at Yahoo:

Coast Guard to BP: Speed it up, stop the spill (AP)

"Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Large amounts of the oil battered the Alabama coast, leaving deposits of the slick mess some 4-6 inches thick on the beach in some parts. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)AP - The Coast Guard has demanded that BP step up its efforts to contain the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the weekend, telling the British oil giant that its slow pace in stopping the spill is becoming increasingly alarming as the disaster fouled the coastline in ugly new ways Saturday."

And I find myself wondering: could it really be possible that BP is not expending all possible effort and expense, that they are not working as hard and as smart as they can to fix the problem?

They've certainly been trying some massive, difficult things - and failing.

I tend to see things this way: we've reached a dangerous and awkward point in our evolution and development as a species. We have at our disposal incredible technical skills, allowing us to do all sorts of amazing things. But we haven't yet developed a sufficiently sophisticated moral framework in which to apply our awesome skills.

As a result, we now find ourselves doing things to ourselves and our world that are beyond our capabilities to fix.

Well, in that case, I hope that BP has in fact been slacking all this time and now they will work harder and fix the problem. Yeah, right.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New presentation available for download: Golden Rules for Developers

I presented for the first time ever "Golden Rules for Developers" at the NYOUG general meeting on June 9, 2010.

Click here to download the presentation in PDF form.

And here's the description of the presentation:

We all want to write better code: fewer bugs, faster algorithms, readable blocks. Yet again and again our best intentions are thwarted by...all sorts of people and things: ourselves, our managers, our users, crazy deadlines, lack of tools, and more. We have, unfortunately, control over only so much of our professional lives. We generally can't do much about our managers or our users. We usually can't change the deadlines. So we have to look at what each of us can do individually to move to the next level of software developer. This session offers a set of "golden rules" that we all can agree on and will definitely improve our code - and then offers some practical advice to help you follow them.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What other nation besides Israel....

  • Could drop a bunch of highly trained, elite commandos onto a boat carrying humanitarian supplies and hundreds of people who they know are very angry at the Government of Israel, and then complain when those commandos are actually attacked?
  • Could claim that it was "self defense" when these commandos kill and injure dozens - on a boat they boarded in international waters?
  • Would so carelessly toss away their relationship with the only majority-Muslim nation in the world willing to be some kind of friend to Israel?
  • Would embroil its key (perhaps all too soon, only) ally, the United States, in yet another crisis, at a time when the U.S. is flailing about with a massive, uncontrolled oil spill, a war in Afghanistan, a devastated economy? [hey, maybe that's precisely why they did it now!]
  • Could insist that they can carry out their own "impartial" investigation into this debacle and, yes, massacre?
Imagine if the "tables were turned".

Imagine a boatload of Jews heading to the Promised Land, with nothing but food, cement, medical supplies and some metal bars on board the ship. Then the ship is boarded by heavily armed and well trained commandos. Do the Jews on board simply give up? No! They have learned their lesson. They will fight back valiantly, with few weapons, but a strong sense of righteousness. Miraculously, the commandos are forced on the defensive, and then they unleash deadly weapons fire on the ship passengers, killing and wounding dozens. And the Jews or more specifically in later versions of these stories, "Israelis" (meaning: Israeli Jews) are heroes.

This is precisely the kind of story told over and over again (at least in Jewish families like mine and to members of synagogues), from the founding of the State of Israel: courageous, outgunned Jews performing miraculous, virtuous acts as they stand up for their ideals and those among them who are unable to defend themselves.

The parallels and contradictions between those "Jews as victims-no-longer" stories and the events of the last few days are striking and disturbing. And of course Israel cannot be seen as the persecutor in such tales - Israel is always on the side of good and right, it never does anything wrong. It only defends itself. Yeah, right. Save it for...American Jews.

The Government of Israel complains about how they are singled out for criticism, how they face "existential" challenges from states like Iran. It seems more and more clear, quite sadly, though, that the worst enemy faced by Israel today is its own militarized, ultra-right government, its fundamentalist, extremist political organizations (currently in control of the government) - and the American Jews who believe Israel can do no wrong, and will provide political and financial cover for every red line the GofI crosses.

Soon, Israel will be widely regarded as a true rogue state - precisely because the Government of Israel insists on taking rogue actions.