Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd October 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
My profession is much in the news at the moment, so I thought I would pass along such insights as I have from my career, mostly from a multibillion-dollar debacle which I and several thousand others worked on for a few years around the turn of the millennium. I will not name my employer, not that anyone with a passing familiarity with me doesn’t know who it is; nor will I name the project, although knowing the employer and the general timeframe will give you that pretty quickly too.
We spent, I believe, $4 billion, and garnered a total of 4,000 customers over the lifetime of the product, which was not aimed at large organizations which would be likely to spend millions on it, but at consumers and small businesses which would spend thousands on it, and that amount spread out over a period of several years. From an economic transparency standpoint, therefore, it would have been better to select 4,000 people at random around the country and cut them checks for $1 million apiece. Also much faster. But that wouldn’t have kept me and lots of others employed, learning whatever it is we learn from a colossally failed project.
So, a few things to keep in mind about a certain spectacularly problematic and topical IT effort:
- Large numbers of reasonably bright and very hard-working people, who have up until that point been creating significant wealth, can unite in a complete flop. Past performance is no guarantee, and all that. Because even reasonably bright, hard-working people can suffer from failures of imagination, tendencies to wishful thinking, and cultural failure in general.
- Morale has got to be rock-bottom for anybody with any degree of self-awareness working on this thing. My relevant moment was around the end of ’99 when it was announced, with great fanfare, at a large (200+ in attendance) meeting to review progress and next steps, that we had gotten a single order through the system. It had taken various people eight hours to finish the order. As of that date, we were projecting that we would be doing 1,600 orders a day in eight months. To get an idea of our actual peak rate, note the abovementioned cumulative figure of 4,000 over the multi-year lifespan of the project.
- Root cause analysis is all very well, but there are probably at least three or four fundamental problems, any one of which would have crippled the effort. As you may infer from the previous bullet point, back-office systems was one of them on that project. Others which were equally problematic included exposure to the software upgrade schedule of an irreplaceable vendor who was not at all beholden to us to produce anything by any particular date, and physical access to certain of our competitors’ facilities, which they were legally required to allow us into exactly two (2) days per year. See also “cultural failure,” above; most of us were residing and working in what is one of the most livable cities in the world in many ways, but Silicon Valley it ain’t.
- Not to overlook the obvious, there is a significant danger that the well-advertised difficulties of the website in question will become a smokescreen for the fundamental contradictions of the legislation itself. The overall program cannot work unless large numbers of people act in a counter-incentived (possibly not a word, but I’m groping for something analogous to “counterintuitive”) fashion which might politely be termed “selfless” – and do so in the near future. What we seem likely to hear, however, is that it would have worked if only certain IT architectural decisions had been better made.
This thing would be a case study for the next couple of decades if it weren’t going to be overshadowed by physically calamitous events, which I frankly expect. In another decade, Gen-X managers and Millennial line workers, inspired by Boomers, all of them much better at things than they are now, “will be in a position to guide the nation, and perhaps the world, across several painful thresholds,” to quote a relevant passage from Strauss and Howe. But getting there is going to be a matter of selection pressures, with plenty of casualties. The day will come when we long for a challenge as easy as reorganizing health care with a deadline a few weeks away.
Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Commiserations, Current Events, Customer Service, Health Care, Internet, Law, Medicine, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Systems Analysis, Tech, USA | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 25th September 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
La Vallée-de-Jacmel, Haïti
If all goes well, I will be arriving at MIA on American 1665 from Port-au-Prince at 3:35 PM local time this Saturday. The plan, such as it is, is that I call Jonathan once I am through customs. I somewhat inappropriately made reservations for lodging much closer to FLL, just because I like the place (Villa Europa in Hollywood) and haven’t had the chance to stay there in a while. So anyway, southern Floridians interested in a probable wide-ranging and somewhat ethanol-assisted discussion (#civilsociety #crisisof2020 #statefailure #younameit) are encouraged to contact Jonathan and … figure something out. Hey, I have people for that.
Posted in Americas, Announcements, Blogging, Civil Society, Latin America, Personal Narrative, Predictions, Schedules, Transportation | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Negative items (weaknesses and threats) first.
Overconcentration of political belief systems by geography and especially by vocation, notably in journalism; the corresponding threat is misdiagnosis of motivation and identity of perpetrators.
This was on full display over the past week, and although the most prominent examples were instances of the amazingly robust narrative about a supposed right-wing fundamentalist Christian underground, the persistence of which reveals a great deal about the mindset of the “liberal” bien-pensant, they’re not the only ones who have this problem. Claiming that people in Boston are cowering under their beds and wishing they had AR-15s, or casually accusing various (and singularly unimpressive) American politicians of being Communists, isn’t much better than fantasizing about entirely nonexistent WASP terrorists. And there has already been at least one wild-goose chase in recent years, the nationwide Federal investigation to find the co-conspirators of Scott Roeder in the assassination of George Tiller. He didn’t have any, and was known very early on to have acted alone. Your tax dollars nonetheless went to work; see also “memetic parasitism,” below.
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 24th March 2013 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
“Bus attacks by suicide bombers have fairly monotonous features. They occur during the morning rush hour because ridership is high at that time. Bombers board buses near the end of their routes in order to maximize the number of people in the bus at the time of detonation. They preferentially board at the middle doors in order to be centered in the midst of the passengers. They detonate shortly after boarding the bus because of concern that they will be discovered, restrained, and prevented from detonating. They stand as they detonate in order to provide a direct, injurious path for shrapnel. Head and chest injuries are common among seated passengers. The injured are usually those some distance away from the bomber; those nearby are killed outright, those at the ends of the bus may escape with minor injuries. The primary mechanism of injury of those not killed outright by the blast is impaling by shrapnel. Shrapnel is sometimes soaked in poison, eg organophosphate crop insecticides, to increase lethality.”
Resilience Engineering: Concepts and Precepts
Chapter 13, Taking Things in One’s Stride: Cognitive Features of Two Resilient Performances
Richard I. Cook and Christopher Nemeth
“But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?”
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Posted in Book Notes, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd December 2012 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
“On the afternoon of December 2, 1942, the Atomic Age began inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. There, headed by Italian scientist Enrico Fermi, the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction was engineered. The result—sustainable nuclear energy—led to creation of the atomic bomb and nuclear power plants—two of the twentieth century’s most powerful and controversial achievements.”
I was there halfway between then and now. I am a by-product of the Manhattan Project, being the son of a onetime rifleman in an infantry platoon who was on a troopship in the Pacific on August 6, 1945, in transit for Operation Downfall. He went to the Philippines instead, and never heard a shot fired in anger. I did not matriculate at Chicago to repay a debt – which is fortunate, because as things went, the University spent a good deal of money on me for (so far) no return whatsoever.
Earlier today I went to a lecture, “Talking Tolkien: War and J.R.R. Tolkien,” in the appropriately subterranean research center of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. It was given by Janet Brennan Croft of the University of Oklahoma, who has a book out that I suppose I will buy, to add to the same shelf containing the Hobbit, the trilogy, the Silmarillion, the Letters, and Tolkien and the Great War (all of which were referenced at some point in her talk).
I didn’t hear all that much that was new, but I didn’t expect to. It was well worth going, however; I suppose the biggest “delta” was about how his writing changed after he had children and especially when two of them served in the military in WWII. She also pointed out that all the heroic leaders in the trilogy lead from the front, while the villainous leaders are far in the rear, the equivalent of the “chateau generals.”
Another insight was how much the “black breath” and Frodo’s melancholia resemble PTSD. In combination with her remarks about parent-child relationships, this caused me to ask a question about what turns out to be Letter #74, written to Stanley Unwin on 29 June 1944, which includes the sentence: “I have at the moment another son, a much damaged soldier, at Trinity trying to do some work and recover a shadow of his old health.” – a reference to his son Michael, who was pretty severely PTSD’d for a while. So out of slightly morbid curiosity, I asked if she knew anything more about that episode. She did not but said that there are probably more letters, unpublished, that would have details, and perhaps they will eventually see the light of day.
Scripture reading in church this morning was Isaiah 2:1-5. Verse 4 is of course poignant in light of today’s anniversary. If we really are entering the Crisis of 2020, those swords won’t be beaten into plowshares any time soon. Indeed, some future analog of December 2nd, 1942, presumably involving nanomachinery rather than tons of graphite blocks and lumps of enriched uranium, will happen in a laboratory somewhere in the world in another decade or so.
Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Chicagoania, History, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, Religion, Science, War and Peace | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 12th July 2012 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
A short list, and not intended to be exhaustive. Read to the end for a special announcement.
- A Gold Standard – I could have put one of the others first, but this is the one that gets mixed up with libertarianism the most often, presumably as a result of FDR’s seizure of gold in 1933. All libertarianism requires is free banking, and how the competing currencies are backed is the banks’ problem. I suppose some would attempt a commodity standard, and a few might even try to do it with gold, absurd as that is in an age of e-currencies. Attempting to predefine it for the entire financial industry ahead of time is … not wise.
- Pacifism – This is really my one-word epithet for the mentality that blames the US for most of the world’s problems, and asserts that every conflict we find ourselves in is ultimately an unforced error on our part. Most of it can be traced to Stalinist and Maoist propaganda of the early Cold War period, not a great thing to base one’s libertarianism on. “It takes but one foe to breed a war, not two.” – JRR Tolkien
- Anarchism – I would prefer to think that an entirely stateless civil society is possible. But I do not know, and neither does anyone else. Insisting on it as a precondition of libertarianism pretends to knowledge that we do not have.
- Minarchism – The logical complement of the above, left as an exercise for the reader.
- Sectarianism – Speaking from my own background, all political advice in the New Testament adds up to “stay out of trouble.” Attempts to ineluctably tie libertarianism to other belief systems, including ostensible non-belief systems, are no better. To be sure, I think a Biblical value system at least implies a concern for human freedom and tends to nudge a population adhering to it in the direction of greater liberty. But this is not the same as asserting that it is directly prescriptive.
- Conspiracy Theorizing – Leave the Birtherism and Trutherism to others. And if something like that is the reason you self-identify as libertarian, the question is obvious: would you still be fighting for freedom if you learned your theory wasn’t true?
- Scapegoating – The general case of conspiracy theorizing, indulged in by many more people. The current classic example is the OWSers’ “1%.” Nice that they only want to expropriate or murder 3 million Americans, I suppose, not that anybody who’s been paying attention should think they would stop there. But far too many supposed libertarians are prone to ranting about “banksters,” et al, in language that, to borrow a phrase, sounded better in the original German. Or perhaps Russian.
OK, The Announcement: I am about to be in South Florida for about 18 hours, from midday Saturday to early Sunday. Contact Jonathan for info on a possible meetup, which as I write this is an idea without a plan; I will be calling him after deplaning at FLL.
Posted in Announcements, Anti-Americanism, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, USA | 17 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 26th October 2011 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Cato obituary here. Requiescat in pace.
Posted in Libertarianism, Obits | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd July 2011 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Warning: spoilers, I guess, though with a film like this it’s hard to give anything away so as to really detract from the experience. Maybe a few autobiographical spoilers of my own.
Having only seen it once so far, I am aware of having gotten at most glimpses of its full intent. I cannot easily describe Terrence Malick’s oeuvre except in superficial ways: mostly out-of-doors, with nature as a significant element; spectacular cinematography; more or less nonlinear storyline; voice-over narrations. I have not seen Badlands but have seen everything from Days of Heaven on.
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Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Christianity, Diversions, Film, History, Human Behavior, Judaism, Morality and Philosphy, Music, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Space, USA, Vietnam | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 16th April 2011 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Commenters on the earlier post having raised several good points, I decided to write a follow-up rather than attempt to provide individual responses.
I should first say something general about technological advance and prediction horizons. Due to the immense effects of nanomachinery, as hazardous as near-future speculation may be, it becomes extraordinarily difficult more than about 20 years out. What interests me in this context is what can be done with “bulk technology” before the transition to nanotech, and how many of the developments forecast by Drexler et al may occur relatively gradually and in unlikely places, rather than swiftly and obviously emanating from North America or some other high-technology region. Jim notes the potential of the combination of desktop fabricators and satellite links. I believe that few people on Earth will see more change in the next generation than young Haitians.
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Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Environment, International Affairs, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Tech, USA | 7 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 13th April 2011 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Last month I went to Haiti to help out with an IT project in Petit-Goâve, a medium-sized town about seventy kilometers west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, on the northern shore of the Tiburon Peninsula, opposite Île de la Gonâve on the Canal de Sud. The project’s objective is to create, or rather restore, a computer lab at “College” Harry Brakeman (actually a primary and secondary school, hereafter “CHB”), and provide greatly improved internet access, via wireless links, at five sites (including CHB) in Petit-Goâve owned by L’Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH). The epicenter of one of the larger aftershocks of the January 2010 earthquake was directly beneath Petit-Goâve.
Numerous ongoing projects for the EMH throughout Haiti are being funded by United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and staffed by United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), but my personal involvement is not occurring as a result of direct involvement with any of those organizations. I have for many years been attending an informal Friday lunch group that for the past decade or so has included Clif Guy, who is the CIO of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, generally known as “COR” throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, in which it is by several measures the largest single church – big enough to have its own IT department (larger than most church staffs altogether) and a CIO.
In mid-January I returned from a solitary and somewhat monastic sojourn in New Mexico and the trans-Pecos region of Texas to 1) get back to work at Sprint; 2) bury my just-deceased 18-year-old cat; and 3) talk to Clif about opportunities in Haiti, which he had mentioned several times over the previous year. Two months of frantic preparation later, which included among many other tasks the filling out of a “Mission Trip Notification of Death” to specify the disposition of my corpse, I was landing at Toussaint Louverture International Airport.
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Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Environment, History, International Affairs, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Religion, Tech, Transportation, USA | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 5th January 2010 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
– which is here (h/t Instapundit):
There will be no trucks after the singularity. Plenty of delicious lunches and really great furniture, though.
Posted in Humor, Photos, Predictions | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 4th January 2010 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
[Jonathan adds: Click the photo to display a bigger version.]
Posted in Holidays, Humor, Photos | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd December 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
We are great and we are grand; we make bombs beneath our stands!
Posted in Academia, Chicagoania, Diversions, Energy & Power Generation, History, Humor, International Affairs, Japan, Military Affairs, National Security, Quotations, Science, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 11th November 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Kansas City Star - Staff photo by Tammy Ljungblad
See also my own Liberty Memorial slideshow
Posted in Britain, Education, Europe, France, Germany, History, Holidays, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Photos, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 9th November 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Amazon search on “revolution 1848“: 17,292 results
Amazon search on “revolution 1989“: 7,972 results
Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Europe, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Statistics | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 13th September 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Via Pejman Yousefzadeh, I hear that Norman Borlaug has passed; NYT obit.
In the face of caviling from scarcity-mentality “environmentalists,” he saved a billion lives. Requiescat in pace.
Posted in Bioethics, Environment, India, Latin America, Obits | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th August 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Via Brian Doherty and Pejman Yousefzadeh, I learn that Rose Friedman has died. Requiescat in pace.
Posted in Obits | Comments Off
Posted by Jay Manifold on 22nd July 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
The College Crunch Top 50
Apologies if this is a repeat; I just heard about it from Pejman Yousefzadeh.
Posted in Academia, Chicagoania, Education | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th July 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Posted in History, Science, Space | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 28th June 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
Background is at Facebook, Twitter and peers for sale – privately.
My initial impression is that this could be an ingenious adaptation to an obnoxiously overregulated environment. Or it could be crushed by regulators and their enablers; given that a Republican Congress and President were willing to saddle us with Sarbanes-Oxley seven years ago, it is not easy to imagine our current complement of parasites reacting dispassionately to private stock exchanges.
Note that I do not meet the minimum qualifications (net worth $1M, annual income $200k for past 2 years); this is just to elicit discussion by knowledgeable people (the minimum qualifications for which I also do not meet).
Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Investment Journal, Markets and Trading, Politics | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 16th June 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
I just received the appended message in e-mail from a friend in Europe. I have left it entirely unedited. Right now I feel so grateful that we don’t have to do things like this here. Never forget those who died for your freedom.
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Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, History, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Personal Narrative, Politics | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 23rd May 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
“A recollection touched him, booklegged stuff from the forties and fifties of the last century which he had read: French, German, British, Italian. The intellectuals had been fretful about the Americanization of Europe, the crumbling of old culture before the mechanized barbarism of soft drinks, hard sells, enormous chrome-plated automobiles (dollar grins, the Danes had called them), chewing gum, plastics … None of them had protested the simultaneous Europeanization of America: bloated government, unlimited armament, official nosiness, censors, secret police, chauvinism … Well, for a while there had been objectors, but first their own excesses and sillinesses discredited them, then later …”
– Poul Anderson, Sam Hall
Posted in Europe, Political Philosophy, Quotations | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 11th May 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
A recurring theme in this forum … David Baron, call your office: Deer enters, runs around KCI’s Terminal A (Kansas City Star).
Maybe it was running from a mountain lion (“Mountain lions are now fairly common in suburban areas of California and have recently been sighted as far east as urban Kansas City, Missouri, where several have been hit by cars.”).
I could live well on the venison from deer that have wandered through my yard if I could 1) dispatch them quietly and 2) field-dress them without attracting attention.
Posted in Diversions, Environment, Humor, North America | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 15th January 2009 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
(UPDATE: beaten like a rented mule by Cheryl Rofer; see http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/6619.html)
Apologies in advance for exceeding the recommended “above-the-fold” limit:
If war consisted of one decisive act, or a set of simultaneous decisions, preparations would tend toward totality, for no omission could ever be rectified. The sole criterion for preparations which the world of reality could provide would be the measures taken by the adversary — so far as they are known; the rest would once more be reduced to abstract calculations.
… if all the means available were, or could be, simultaneously employed, all wars would automatically be confined to a single decisive act or a set of simultaneous ones — the reason being that any adverse decision must reduce the sum of the means available, and if all had been committed in the first act there could really be no question of a second.
– Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Book I [On the Nature of War], Chapter 1 [What is War?], section 8 [War Does Not Consist of a Single Short Blow]), 1832
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? — Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! — All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
– Abraham Lincoln, Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, 27 January 1838
Time-of-flight equation for a ballistic missile:
t – t0 = √a3/µ [2π + (E - e sin E) - (E0 - e sin E0)]
– Bate/Mueller/White, Fundamentals of Astrodynamics (Dover, 1971)
Having deliberately refrained from reading any of the other roundtable contributions so far, lest I become overwhelmingly intimidated, resign from my contributor status, and tell Lex to forget he ever heard of me, I have decided to comment on one very small portion of Book I, specifically Chapter 1, section 8 (page 79 in the edition we are reading). Because, of course, for an American baby boomer, no war that directly affected the entire population was, prior to the late 1980s, expected to be anything other than a single short blow.
So, with the sure knowledge of my limited qualifications ever before me, and the entirely unmanaged risk of merely restating, and poorly, what someone else has already said, I begin …
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Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »