Silflay Hraka

1/11/2003




What's in a Name?

According to the Kalabarians;

Your name of Zod has created a most expressive nature, idealistic and inspirational, driven with a strong inner urge to be of service in some way that would uplift humanity as a whole. However, there is a tendency to assume too heavy a burden of responsibility for others, which leads to worry and undue concern. People with problems are drawn to you as they recognize you as one who has understanding and gives not only sympathy and comfort but provides also some constructive advice or assistance. You have a generous quality to your nature, but you must guard carefully against giving more than you receive or you will find yourself doing without because you have helped someone else. You love people, family, home, and friends and try to be a parent to the whole human race. While you have generally stable conditions in your personal life, you may experience some problems in business affairs through a tendency to be scattering and inattentive to details. Any health problems would show as tension in the nervous system brought on by worry.

Zod: That's it! That's me exactly!
That is such horseshit
Zod: "You love people, family, home, and friends and try to be a parent to the whole human race." I'm telling you, that's all I ever wanted
It just came out as "Bring me the Son of Jor-el". Besides, as I recall, you wanted to rule the world, not parent it.
Zod: Tomayto, Tomahto
Lovely. Who'd we get the link from?
Zod: Lex. No not, that one.
Okay then.


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We need more friends like this

mmmmmm. Frozen Cheesecake.
Zod: And she's endorsing Linux!


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African or European Swallow?

Man, I wish this was on the extended DVD version, at the very least

Gandalf: He who crosses the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three.
Balrog: I am prepared, ask your questions.
Gandalf: What is your name?
Balrog: Balrog.
Gandalf: What is your quest?
Balrog: I am going to kill all the people on the other side of this bridge.
Gandalf: What is the average wind velocity of an unladen swallow?
Balrog: Uhhhh... I don't know that.
Gandalf: YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!

And once you're done, see LOTR passages as written by other authors

First link via Mindscapes, Heartstrings & Soul-searching, who has a new coat, but no pictures of what she looks like in it.
Zod: Heeeeeaaaaaaathcliiiiiiifffffff!!!!!!

Second link via Brilliant Corners


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Female or Shemale?

I scored 11 out of 16. High enough, but anything less that a perfect score would make me kinda nervous if I wasn't already married.


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The Rock Star Pervert Pool

A MULTI-millionaire British rock star is at the centre of a child porn investigation, it was claimed last night. The man, a legendary name in Britain and the US, is suspected of subscribing to a seedy US pay-for-view internet service. His name, credit card details and email address were on a list of 7,000 people passed to British police by US authorities earlier this year. Scotland Yard is investigating his background. If arrested, the star - married with children and living in Britain - would be the highest profile person to be held in the international child porn probe known as Operation Ore.

My pick, based on very little investigation - Sting.
The Sainted Wife's, based on less - Mick Jagger.

Email me yours, or leave them in the comments. Given that there is a finite pool of people to pick from, multiple people may pick the same star. The first person to pick a correct star gets his or her choice from the prize list, then the second person to pick the the correct choice can choose from the remaining prizes, and so on. If you'd like to add to the prize list for some reason, email me the mathom you are contributing, and I'll add it.
Prizes for the correct pick so far are:

1 Barbie Christmas Ornament. "Silken Flame" Barbie, dressed as Jackie Kennedy.
1 Reviens, Snoopy. 1969 French translation of The Peanuts Strip Collection "Snoopy Come Home."
1 Cow print gimme hat, from the Regis Milk Company.

Update:
Laurence Simon, taking a break from writing a Palestinian Hannukkah song, picks Boy George.
Woundwort's pick - David Bowie
Maru the Crank attempts a two for one: John Entwhistle or Bill Wyman. For contest purposes, Maru, you get Mr. Entwhistle.
Russell the Boogie Scarecrow picks Johnny Rotten

More Update: Well, that was quick. Pete Townshend. Thanks to Laurence for the link.


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1/10/2003




Abstinence Minded

Teenagers don't change, and neither does the media.


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The National Budget Simulation

My budget cuts the deficit by 89.52 billion. What would yours look like?.

Feel free to call me names, as I eliminated the 2001 tax cut, and cut out Agricultural subsidies. Running on a combination of the two would prevent me from holding office as either a Republican or a Democrat, ever.

My basic inclination has always been to cut spending, eliminate the deficit entirely, then look at tax cuts. Economists on both sides of the spectrum would probably suffer horrible palpitations at the very idea.

Link via the Daily Pundit


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The "N" Word

It seems that we've gotten to the point in our society that even discussing the "N" word is impossible. You know, sometimes I think it's vital for parents to be involved in their children's schooling, and sometimes I think they shouldn't have anything to do with it.


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Now Go Vote

Almost forgot to post about it, but I sent a picture of Ngnat to wPhotoBlog's "I love..." Photo Exhibition.


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Separated at Birth?
The Head Heeb has found Tom Friedman's long lost twin.


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Pushing The Attack Back?

I might be going out a limb here, especially considering my record on war predictions, but it seems to me that the early February date being tossed around the blogosphere for the start of the Iraqi invasion is increasingly in danger of being wrong. Most commentators have assumed that the next dark of the moon (February 1st) is the obvious date for the start of an attack, given the advantage night-fighting gives our military over any opposing force. But if the war is going to commence at that point, shouldn't most of the ground forces already be in position, or nearly in position? Yet we're still shipping out forces, on ships that will take at 24 or 25 days at a minimum to get forces to the Persian Gulf.

How do I know this? Well, the USNS Bob Hope, which left Hampton Roads back in November, has a top speed of 24 knots. A naval officer estimated then that the trip took 23 to 30 days. The USS Ponce and USS Saipan, and which have not even been loaded with either Marines or Ammunition, have a top speed of 21 knot and 24 knots, respectively, so the minimum passage time puts them on the scene after the most favorable attack time in February. As the two ships tend to travel together, the passage time will actually be longer than that 23 to 30 day estimate, as the Ponce's speed will determine the pace of the crossing.

Update: The USS Gunston Hall has also received orders to ship out. Its top speed is 22 knots.

Just because ground forces won't be in place doesn't mean that the war can't start. We bombed Iraqi forces for several weeks before we invaded back in 1991*, so that can start regardless of whether ground troops are in place or not. It would also make sense to keep shipping troops to the area for several weeks after the deadline for having them there in time for the invasion has passed, just to fuzz the boundary conditions used to predict the invasion date.

Historical Editor's Note: In the early 19th century, at least, a group of sailors from the same ship were referred to by their ship name. So, crewmembers from the HMS Victory would be called "Victories", as sailors from the HMS Surprise in Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin books were called "Surprises". If this tradition remains in effect, seamen from the USS Ponce would be called "Ponces". Not that I would call them that. I value my ribs as they are.

*I wonder if we'll be so staggeringly anal as to start bombing Baghdad on January 16th this time, too.


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1/09/2003




Banned in China

There a rumor going round that all blogspot blogs have been blocked in China. The Real-Time Testing of Internet Filtering in China site has yet to confirm this, at least as far as Silflay Hraka is concerned, giving an "Indeterminate - please try again later to confirm" answer in reaction my url submittal, though that may well change as time goes by. Every other time I've tested before this gave an unambiguously clear "not blocked" answer, so it appears something's going on, at least.


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Ngnat and I got our flu shots today. It's late in the season, especially for her, since for the shots to be effective, children under 9 have to get two shots the first time they are vaccinated. The nurse can't give her the second shot until 30 days from now, so she won't be fully immune until the beginning of March. But at least she won't have to get two shots next year. I wanted to get mine first so she could see that it wasn't so bad, but that was not to be.

She was fine until the time came for the actual shot. Normally the little cubicles they stick patients in make her nervous, but we sat and read books until the nurse came in with the syringe. The kid's vaccine is injected into the upper thigh, so I had to pull down her pants and lie her down on the examining bed. The nurse pulled her legs down so they were hanging off the bed, then immobilized them between her legs. Ngnat had been growing increasingly nervous as we laid her down, but she was still pretty quiet. Her eyes were wet, though.

"Hold her hands," the nurse said.

So I held her hands and the nurse plunged a needle that looked to be half the diameter of Ngnat's thigh into her leg. Ngnat gasped, her eyes grew wide, and she immediately started crying.

She's got lots of different cries. There's screechy tired crying, embarrassed timeout crying, fell down and hit my head crying, and "No, you can't have any M&M's before supper" crying. This was unlike any of them, even the fell down and hit my head crying. I'm not sure what to call it, but I bet I hear it again the first time a bee stings her.

The shot was over in a couple of seconds, the nurse put a band-aid over the tiny drop of blood that had welled up, and the emotional weather calmed down to muted sobs and occasional sniffles.

"It's ok, honey. Daddy will get his shot, and then we'll get a treat."

"A treat?" She brightened considerably. "Ok Daddy."

So, I carried her across the building to where Daddy could get his shot. She rubbed her thigh through her pants, and announced to several people that she had a shot. She held my hand while I got my shot, in the arm, showing considerable interest in the whole procedure.

She inquired of the nurse, "Daddy get bandaid too?"

"Yes", the nurse said, "Daddy get a band-aid too." Then she stuck me. It hardly hurt at all, possibly because I was expecting so much more after Ngnat's reaction. I pulled my shirt back on.

"Did your....shot hurt, daddy?"

"Yes, did your shot hurt?"

"Yes." She rubbed her thigh again. "We got band-aids."

"You want to go get ice cream at the mall?"

"Ok."

She limped a bit before the coconut ice cream with M&Ms, but not at all afterwards.


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The Acme of Peppy White Fun

I'm a Mormon, yes I am, so if you want to study a Mormon, I'm a living specimen!

And if you think that's funky, wait till you hear Fox on the Run

Link via Ernie



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One for the Boogie Scarecrow

The greatest picture, ever.
The other greatest pictures, ever


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Don't Let The Door Hit You

So, Clear Channel has stopped paying its stations for the cost of simulcasting radio broadcasts over the Internet, prompting 150 to stop broadcasting their feeds on the net, and this is a bad thing?

Clear Channel stations suck. When they're not broadcasting crap, it's only because they switched over to pap for a while. If Clear Channel has no Internet radio presence, then that's a net plus for the world. Internet radio will be fine without them.

You shouldn't be listening to a Clear Channel Station anyway, not when there are so many alternatives. Here's a few.

Wolf FM
Revolution Radio
Funkyville
WRAP

And a list of more.


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Pissing Into The Wind

How many kids is too many? The caseworker in New Jersey who was in charge of the 7-year-old found dead in New Jersey had 107 children under her supervision. Obviously her case load was too large for her, but is that because of the nature of the bureaucracy she worked for, her own incompetence, or the sheer numbers of visits she had to make to check in on the kids?

If all 107 children were in 107 separate families, then that's obviously too many. I have the impression that most of the kids on her list were members of multiple child families, but she was still probably overloaded. I would guess that the proper caseload size for a social worker is about 23 families, nuclear, foster, or other, whatever other might entail. That's enough for one visit a day, leaving time for associated paperwork and support calls on behalf of the kids. I don't have any numbers to back me up, but I'm going to say that that will end up with each caseworker having about 50 kids, assuming that the system endeavors to give them an average of two kids per family.

On the plus side, I've given each caseworker more time to supervise and deal with the problems each family has to deal with. On the minus side, I just doubled the size of a notoriously inefficient bureaucracy, at a time when there's no state money to be had anyway. In short, that solution will not fly, even if there were no objections to expanding the bureaucracy, and there are always objections to expanding the size of a bureaucracy. Or at least there used to before Republicans decided that certain bureaucracies were okay with them.

The only other possible solution I can think of at the moment is to allow private organizations to have access to these kids as well. Certify them yearly, and have the caseworkers oversee their efforts. As kids come into the system, assign them to the organizations that are doing the best job at keeping the kids warm, clothed and safe. If the kids hear a bit about Jesus, or Mohammed or the Lord Buddha, well that's a small price to pay for their safety. Keeping a child alive trumps the necessity of church and state separation, to my mind.

Otherwise we'll keep hearing stories like the following, from artchick

When I wound up helping the DCFS to strip a 4-year-old and her 2-year-old twin brothers to the skin to look for bruises, that was my first clue. When I waded through a year of watching 2 lovely smart sisters draw further and further into themselves and never once ask for help because they were afraid of the person (allegedly) sexually abusing them, that was the second clue. When I couldn't do a thing about those girls because the social workers kept MAKING APPOINTMENTS to check up on them at home (and of course nothing was ever wrong), that was my third clue. When one of my adult clients at the training center came to class with nasty critters crawling on him because the people running the group home were too overworked and understaffed to take care of everyone properly, that was very nearly the last straw.

Burnout is all to common among child care workers, social or otherwise, as artchick illustrates. But it's most often not because people don't care anymore, it's because they perceive their best efforts as useless, changing nothing. Until something is done to change that, we're doomed to stories like the one in New Jersey.


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New Kit On The Block

Yes, there was a reason for the chill that ran down your back yesterday. Woundwort and wife have delivered another offspring into the world, Joseph Samuel, 8 pounds, 11 ounces, 21 inches, born at 7:30 pm last night. Pics to come, later.

Upcoming blog babies include one from amcgltd.com and Aidan Christopher, currently kicking the Sainted Wife in the ribcage until May 27th or thereabouts.

Update: Andy of the World Wide Rant reminds us that we have for gotten the World Wide Runt.


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Hypergiant, my ass. That's the Eye of Sauron.

(Yahoo links degrade over time. Here's a more permanent one)


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Occam's Toothbrush has relocated to a new cup, the old once having been overcome by gunge.


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Jukebox Hero
Curious George does his Pete Townshend impression.


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Shoot first, ask questions later

You know, sometimes you just don't know what to make of those who enforce the laws of the U.S. I mean, you have heroes like those in the NYPD who lost their lives on Sept. 11, and then you have the Tennessee Highway Patrol. It's no wonder that so many people dislike and distrust police officers.

Bigwig Updates: See the video of the police stop and shooting here. The dog, while visible for only a second or two, is clearly not a threat, completely contradicting Police Chief Bob Terry's statement

....it clearly approached one of our officers in a threatening manner.

Well, you can't blame him. He's got other things on his mind, like his alleged porno web ring, his illegal penchant for paying himself overtime with proceeds from drug bust forfeitures, or the possibility that his officers, when lacking family pets to shoot at, turn their guns on each other.

You can call Officer Eric Hall at 931-520-5318, or email him at ehall AT cookeville-tn DOT org. Police Chief Bob Terry's email address is rterry AT ci DOT cookeville DOT tn DOT us

Finally, there's a entire website devoted to the goings-on in Cookeville and surrounding environs, where you can download the USSR anthem in honor of the Dog-killing Cookeville Totalitarian public servants.


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1/08/2003




The Agony of Defeat

Scott rollerblades like I ski.


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Wolves of the Sea No More

They come by the sea, to despoil, pillage and burn. They know no life without rape and rapine. The only way to keep your shores safe? Pay the Kittengeld.


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Mr Creosote Goes to Washington

Obviously fearing that the Democratic Party was pulling ahead in their national race to the bottom, House Republicans weakened their own ethics rules yesterday, pushing through language that would allow lobbyists to cater meals to members' offices and let charities pay for lawmakers to travel and stay at golf resorts and other locales.

House Majority Leader Tom Delay, looking up from his Alcoa sponsored midday snack of Beluga caviar and white truffles, insisted that a hungry legislator is a bad legislator. "And we couldn't the crap they were putting in front of us last session. I didn't come to Washington to eat delivery pizza, much less delivery pizza without feta cheese, free-range shrimp and baby asparagus hearts. And the stress was killing those poor lobbyists. I saw that fella, Ken Lay from Enron, break down in tears after Dick Armey got a splash of pepperoni grease on his new Armanis. Kenny boy knew he was screwed once that happened. Now if you excuse me, I've got some strawberries and cream I'm gonna put the hammer down on."

In related news, the House of Representatives has published a new meal schedule for the 108th Congress

7:00 am - Breakfast
8:00 am - 2nd Breakfast
9:00 am - Tiffin
10:00 am - Brunch
11:00 am - Elevenses
12:00 pm - Luncheon
1:00 pm - Coffee Break
2:00 pm - Early Tea
3:00 pm - 2nd Tiffin
4:00 pm - Late Tea
5:00 pm - Afternoon Snack
6:00 pm - Dinner
7:00 pm - Filling in the Corners
8:00 pm - Brandy and Cigars
9:00 pm - Tapas
10:00 pm - Supper
11:00 pm - Bedtime Snack


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Revenge of the Formicidae

Sun on magnifying glass sets fire to Dutchman

An 88-year old Dutchman was seriously injured when bright sunlight shining through his magnifying glass set fire to his clothes or papers, newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The pensioner was sitting reading at his Amsterdam home on Tuesday when the magnifying glass he was using intensified the sun so strongly his clothes or papers caught fire.
He was taken to a burns centre where he was in critical condition, the reports said.


Dutch police are seeking a giant ant in connection with the burning, said Head Constable Jaaan Erminetower. "Or perhaps a bunch of little ones. We won't know for sure until the CSI-Amsterdam team has completed an initial search of the premises.

The CSI-Amsterdam team, under the leadership of Greta Van Buustinoot, has been involved in the many of the recent high profile dutch criminal cases, including the murder of beloved Dutch elder, Hans Brinker, who was beheaded with a silver skate, Pietje Bell's erotic strangulation at the hands of Pippi Longstocking, and the infamous hijacking of the Double Dutch bus by Islamic fundamentalists.


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Sweet Sixteen

Carnival of the Vanities #16 is up. This week's edition is ably hosted by Friend of Hraka The Eleven Day Empire, may his reign last another day, giving him an even dozen.

Upcoming stops include;

1/15 Greeblie Blog
1/22 Yourish.com
1/29 Ipse Dixit
2/5 Plum Crazy
2/12 Dissecting Leftism
2/19 The People's Republic of Seabrook

If you'd like to host the Carnival, drop us a line. Information on how to join the Carnival can be found here.


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Dammit, I'm too late!

Okay, I post here a little less frequently than BigWig would like. So here I am at work and I find an interesting link and I think: "I'll post this on the blog. BigWig will be pleased."

But he beat me to it. It's the post directly below this one. Dammit.

But in other interesting news: Bush Administration's Bright Shiny Object Fascinates Americans. Now the Bush administration wouldn't try to distract us, would they?


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1/07/2003




Threesa Rings for the Elven-Kings und-a the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in theysa halls of stone,
Nine for the Mortal Men dooma to die
One-a fa the Darka Lord on his darka throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows liesa.
  One-a Ring to rule them all, One-a Ring to find them,
  One-a Ring to bring them all an' in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows liesa.


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Bloggers Need Editors

If so, we're not the only ones. Take a look at the Maureen Dowd and Tom Friedman columns today.

First, Maureen:
Once more showing the sure touch that could make Republicans the dominant party until the cows come home, the Democratic bagman Terry McAuliffe turned his back on New York City, the damsel in tristesse that has always come through for Democratic presidential candidates.

It's hard sometimes, deciding if Maureen is being incorrect on purpose or has just screwed up. In this case, I think she has. "Damsel in distress" just fits the context too well. As tristesse is French for sadness, my guess is that her spellcheck dictionary is a tad too froggy.

Tom has a much odder problem:

Because the post-'67 shock was blunted by two factors: the existence of the Soviet Union, and Soviet aid, to cushion regimes from the need to reform; and the dramatic rise in oil wealth post-'67, which also bought off a lot of pressures for change. us98 Today there is no Soviet Union, and because of the huge population explosion in the Arab-Muslim world, there also is not enough oil wealth to buy off pressures anymore. At the same time, thanks to globalization, young Arabs and Muslims have a much better sense of where they stand vis-à-vis the world, and how far behind they are in many cases. Finally, because America was the target of 9/11, a refusal to face up to the local factors that produced the 9/11 hijackers runs the risk of a clash with the U.S. us100

The us98/us100 pair pops up one more time, though It is unclear to me whether they have anything to do with each other or not.
us98 ``There was a strong collision on Sept. 11 between East and West, between a car and a wall, and you can see the impact on both today,'' remarked the Egyptian playwright Ali Salem.
.....
For the first time the president's son, Gamal, attended midnight mass, a visit carried live on Egyptian TV. us100


My guess is that they are some sort of internal formatting code that escaped notice. How I don't know, because they are text trainwrecks as far as reading the article goes. I've checked the article out in multiple browsers as well, so I don't think it's some sort of odd rendering problem, either.

By the time you read this, the mistakes may also be gone, as well. I don't expect the NYT will issue an "Update: edited for grammar and spelling" announcement. Hell, I never do. Just remember this next time someone makes a catty remark about bloggers needing editors.

Update: The Friedman article has been fixed. Maureen is still in tristresse.


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God Help Me, I'm Turning into a Tech Blogger

Hraka Acquaintance Ben Henick of Frequent Ramblings comments on outsourcing

You wrote:

"With outsourcers, the person who maintains the application is almost certainly not the person who wrote the code. The person who did write the code has almost certainly been focused on a new project, if they're still with the company at all, and his management will be loath to redirect him from a project that's currently bringing in money to one that they've already gotten money from.

"In short, outsourcers will fuck you, promise to call, and forget you. It's the nature of the beast. Even the good ones, the ones who intend to call, who want to respect you in the morning, probably won't."


As a nominal freelance Web person, I have to agree with this statement.

The thought of being stuck on the same site for more than a year makes me want to retch. For me it's nothing to do with money - hell, jumping from gig to gig vaults my overhead quite a bit.

But the last thing I want is to have to form a commitment to a client that runs the risk of being sucked into their politics.

When I do my MOU's, I try to be as much of a fascist as I can about scope - to make it clear that I will support something I built, but that postlaunch change requests or postsignoff bugs have no bearing on the satisfaction of the contract.

There is a flipside to the problem: The outsourcers aren't the only ones who pump and dump.

If the outsourcer doesn't stick tenaciously to scope, the client will take them to the cleaners. No doubt about it:

CLIENT: "Well, we need this now, and it *is* part of the core functionality..." { insert long guilt trip and line of bullshit about how the vendor didn't anticipate this need during the design phase, or just as likely they did and didn't bring it up because they were applying the KISS Principle }

VENDOR: "Um, okay, I guess we can do that, it's not a big deal." { Vendor's rep thinks, "holy shit, I'm in trouble if I lose this account..." }

The game of cat and mouse never ends.

In vendor-client relationships, it's not unheard of for both sides to believe they're both right when in fact they've both been idiotic. I've been the idiot a few times, myself - and I've been right, too. My old .sig at this address was used to underscore just this very fact.

But you probably knew that already.

........

I dunno. I've got a big rant waiting here, because I believe from the marrow of my bones that outsourcing is not an inherently bad solution(more for cultural, political, and economic reasons than matters of effectiveness or lack thereof - a definite case of pros and cons, if you will) I also wonder how disasters like this one come to pass
(Editor's note: Comment slightly altered in the interests of not have a long url screwing up the template)
[Note the Vignette URL - the irony is delicious, yessss]

Historical editor's note: Vignette was/is a competitor with Broadvision, the company marketing the app that sunk North Carolina dot-coms like a U-boat hunting unarmed merchant ships in 1999/2000

Good Gawd, but software isn't really that hard. How it can be fucked up this badly is completely over my head, probably because I've not got enough of an imagination.

In the great cycle of life that is software development, there is the outsourcer, who is evil, and there is the client, who is evil and stupid. Their hideous aberration of a mating dance is what produces the bloated, overly expensive and above all buggy code that is described in the story above. Ben's description of the dance is pretty on target as well. Clients always want more. Vendors always agree to give them more, even if it's impossible, because the vendor will agree to anything to get the check. Once this particular waltz has been danced a few times, two things happen. One, the outsourcer development team for the client's app absolutely loathes the client. The code they write is going to reflect that. Two, the client has an absolutely ludicrous idea about the relative ease of the software development cycle, because no one ever said to him "We can't do that, because if we did do that, we'll miss the ship date."

Missing the ship date is the ultimate sin. Vendors will ship totally unready code rather than do that. Clients bitch and moan about the buggy code, but the fault for it is equally theirs. One reason is that the design phase for a particular app is a far more truncated time period than it should be. Another is that applications, especially web applications, are defined by marketers, who are not only overly enamored of the latest bells and whistles, but who also tend to think up things that might be neat and decide that they have to have them, right then, which is when they starting talking about core functionality.

Have you ever seen a toddler cry because they didn't get some trifle they wanted? Marketing people are the exact same way.

Once again, the solution to this is an in-house staff, but not just any in-house staff. You don't just hire two or three coders and maybe promote the part-time hardware repair guy to a sysadmin position and put them under some vice-president in general administration or the office manager. They will also hate you, sooner rather than later, and will leave at the first chance, except for maybe the hardware guy, who now does the exact same job he used to do for more money. The correct way to build a top level, in-house staff is to hire an IT director, then go away.

An IT director is senior management, on the level of a vp at least, and the person who hires all of the technical staff, from the project manager to the web design interns, unless it's a really big shop. It's his job to shield his staff from the office politics that is anathema to Ben and other developers, as well as from marketing. As many marketing personnel nowadays are single girls with gravity defying bosoms and a penchant for alcohol, the first task is easier than the second. The point is an IT Director can honestly tell people "no" when they ask for the moon, or can say "Yes, but it will cost this much and take this long. Now you tell me how important it is." He won't agree to deliver the moon and the sun, because he's already got a commitment from the company in the form of a paycheck. Essentially the company pays him not only to oversee the technical team, but to keep the company's expectations about software realistic.

When bugs come up, as they always will, the IT Director either decides how serious they are, or oversees the process that does that. He assigns priorities and duties, and takes care of his staff. From the other manager's point of view, he's a geek wrangler. He interfaces with the freaks so they don't have to. From his staff's point of view, he's a management guy that knows what he and they, are talking about, and he keeps the other bosses out of their hair. He's a manager wrangler.

IT Directors are expensive, and rare. But once companies start to re-discover the fact that a quick technical response time not only gives them a leg up on their competitors but saves them money as well, they'll be less rare, and certainly seen as less expensive than millions of dollars in down time.


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Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz.

Don't ever give a toddle a can of Pepsi. If you must give a toddler a can of Pepsi, don't give her a can of Pepsi at eight o'clock that night. Iif you must give a toddler a can of Pepsi at eight o'clock at night, make sure she has something to eat first. Actually, that last bit I'm not sure of. I'm going on the same reasoning that I used on weekend nights back in my single days, when the sum total of all the wisdom of all males in the apartment could be boiled down to "Eat something before you get to the bar. It'll slow down the alcohol."

I don't recall ever testing that hypothesis later on in the evening, but we adhered to it nonetheless, and those who didn't were occasionally immortalized in story and song. Like Tom, who had the misfortune of having to throw up just as he was suffering from a severe attack of diarrhea. Being unable to move, he aimed his offering at the tiny triangle of space between his crotch and the front rim of toilet, missed entirely and covered his genitalia in a thick lather of partly digested beer and stomach acid.

We call him "Cockpuker," now

Now, as to the rehearsal dinner....................For some reason I find that I am unable to continue with a cute little story about Ngnat and the effects of caffeine on a toddler at a rehearsal dinner. Perhaps it's the mental image of an orangish, bubbling liquid dripping down into the murky, steaming water beneath.

Plop, goes a particularly thick piece.

Plop.


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Spit Take

Christopher Buckley reviews The Joy of Sex.


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Most and Least Annoying of 2002

The list is quite comprehensive, but N'Sync should have been way the hell higher than 75th.


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Barney Is Cool

Perhaps I have judged Barney too quickly. Based on the birth of my daughter and the soon to be arrival of baby #2 (any day now) I made the conscious decision to steer my kids away from the purple dinasour. Not because I think he teaches bad things, or that rumor has it he is gay, but simply because he is irritating as shit. I can't stand to hear those stupid songs they sing or watch those poor children dance around smiling as though they have rods shoved up their asses. I hate it, and so far (I don't mean this to sound as though I am bragging), I have managed to not watch one Barney episode on tv. However, one woman did give my daughter a Barney tape to watch in the car on our long trips (and looked at me and mouthed "I'm sorry" as she handed the Bug the video). Although I do most of the driving and haven't actually watched the tape, I have had to listen to each horrific song about going to the damn zoo. Now, however, my attitude may be changing as I ran across this story on an AOL news site:

Kids Find Porn In Barney Book
by The Associated Press

BERGENFIELD, N.J. (Dec. 27) - Two youngsters who wanted to sing along with Barney the Dinosaur opened a music book and discovered a photograph of a man and woman in a naked embrace.

The photo, which ran under the words ''Wilder Sex,'' was in a ''Sing-Along Songs Barney'' book a couple bought for their 4- and 7-year-old children.

Rosemarie Arnold, an attorney for the unidentified family, said the photo came from a review of pornographic movies published in a German-language magazine.

The children found the photo when a plastic panel fell off the book, Arnold said. Along with the English-language ''Wilder Sex,'' she said the page included other adult movie reviews, written in German, that were rated with pairs of lips instead of the more common stars.


Maybe the new theme song for the show should be:

I love you,
You love me,
Let's get one more so we'll have three.
With a great big spank,
And a grind from me to you,
Barney enjoys good porn too!!!


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Big Pimpin'

I was completely shocked to learn that the Feds raided the offices of the record label Murder, Inc. Apparently they suspect that the company mastermind may have used drug money to start the company and has ties to shady characters such as drug kingpins. I can't believe it..............I can't believe that it has taken the Feds this long to do this. Surely there were reasons to conduct this type of raid before now. Let's examine the possible evidence:

1. Company is called Murder, Inc. (should have raised a red flag)

2. The guy whose original name was Irving Lorenzo changed it to Irv Gotti (not exactly Mother Teresa's last name)

3. The talent has a history of singing about gunfights, pimpin', bitches, ho's, drugs and killing people (a far cry from Pat Boone)

4. His boss, Marion "Suge" Knight has more bitches inside prison than outside (here's to all the media moguls in lockdown!!!!)

Perhaps if they had called the company "Trees for Peace" or "Nipple Records" they would not have attracted all of this attention. It almost seems appropriate to say, "You live and you learn" in this situation, but based on the people working at this company, and the number of jail terms they have served, there doesn't appear to be much learning going on. You can take the gangster out of the ghetto, but apparently you can't take the ghetto out of the gangster.


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Yah, my name is Yorgi, and this is my fish

There's really no better way to start the day than to see Jack Valenti get bitchslapped by a Scandinavian.


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1/06/2003




It's The Misery that Adds the Flavor

We had KFC for dinner tonight, no particular reason.


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Hey, Baby

The biggest waste of money I've ever seen was when my old dot-com, net32, gave several million dollars to IXL for the development of a web portal application, back in the late nineties. Several months later, IXL delivered a supposedly customized app that ran slowly, crashed constantly and wrote out customer names and credit card information to a plain text log file. Right after delivery, the senior programmer, database administrator and project manager all left for presumably greener pastures with the company that produced the unwieldy application, Broadvision, so no one at the company that we had paid to develop and administer the program had any experience with it. We were one of a number of Broadvision end customers in North Carolina that year, and a year later, all of them had gone out of business. We almost made it. A month after the app was delivered, we hired an entire technical staff to do 2 things; patch the holes in Broadvision long enough to code an app to replace it, and produce the functionality we had supposedly gotten from Broadvision and IXL ourselves. A year later, we had done both, for a fraction of what we had paid when we originally outsourced the project, but it was too late. Like damn near every other dot-com, we had run out of money. We came within an inch of being bought by Colgate before they backed out. Rumor had it at the time that the head of their sales division had torpedoed the sale to protect his staff from Internet sales.

The original founder bought out net32 for a song, hired a skeleton staff and deployed the new code. It's still running.

I thought about that today when I read this story in the NYT about possible security vulnerabilities that arise when companies outsource their software development. I especially liked this quote from the president of an Indian software consulting company

Mr. Gupta assured his clients that his company used exacting background checks and multiple reviews of company-written software based on industry standards. "With all these in place, we can guarantee, basically, that the code we deliver will be bug-free and will perform to specifications and will not have holes in it," he said.

The only question your mind should not be whether Mr. Gupta is lying or not, but whether or not Mr. Gupta knows he is lying. There is no such thing as bug-free code at the level his company and those he competes with function at, ever. No plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy, no application survives contact with the user. What's worse about code is that, while most battles have only one enemy, applications have multiple users. Marketing wants one thing, the web-publishers want another, and the end-users always behave in an entirely different way than initially expected.

The only thing that a company can do to make all of the users happy with an application is to fix bugs, fast, when their reported, and outsourcing companies suck at that, even when they try not to. Let's say you're a user of Application A, from Company C, and you find a bug in an application built for them by Outsourcer O. You call in, and by some miracle get the receptionist, who directs you to the help desk. The help desk confirms your bug, then passes it to the somebody in administration. If they're good, and they've been there a while, then they'll pass you to the person in administration who has a relationship with the company that built the app. Otherwise your bug will bounce around until it gets to him, or her. Then, when they can get around to it, they call the company that built the app or who administers the app. They don't have to be the same company, and if they're not, that bug is going to live for almost forever. Even if they are the same company, odds are that development and support are different divisions. The admin person at Company C has more valuable things to do than waste time playing phone tag with geeks, so they call the person at Outsourcer O that sold them on outsourcing in the first place.

That's right, your bug report just went to Marketing, when they will ignore it, because they've already got the money they wanted from Company C. They're busy wining and dining new clients to pass the message along, so it takes even longer for your bug to get in front of someone who can fix it. Odds are by the time it does get there, the person in charge of it is not the person who originally coded the part of the application producing the bug, so they have to get themselves up to speed on the application before they can even attempt to fix it. Once they've got a fix, they can't just push it out, either. It's got to go through multiple reviews of company-written software based on industry standards.

Even at the best, fastest and most conscientious outsourcers, bug fixes take a month of Sundays. The only way Company C is going to be at all responsive to a bug report within a reasonable time frame is if their own in-house IT staff built and maintains their code. Even then the fix has to go through some reviews. The process is sped up because people who write and maintain their own code have a better idea of what changes will do to that code, but it's still going to tested first, and likely will be rolled out as part of a build with other changes. But the time saved in the process can likely be measured in weeks.

The problem with having an in-house IT staff is that an in-house IT staff does a lot of sitting around when they're not developing. Hell, when they are developing a lot of them aren't going to come in till noon, and they may leave at 4. IT staff is notorious for measuring productivity in things done, in goals achieved, rather than in hours spent doing it. It's not their fault if the project you asked them to code got done in a day. You asked them to do it, they did it, so now they're going home.

Management hates that. Management wants people that are busy all day long, as if productivity is something that can be correlated to calories burned. In fact, management hates that so much that management will pay more money than it takes to employ those workers to an outside company so that they don't have to look at them. That's how outsourcers work, and the result is software bugs take a long time to discover, and a longer time to fix.

You don't fix bugs by throwing money at them. You fix bugs by throwing knowledge at them, and the person with the most knowledge of a software application is the person who built it, or maintains it. With an inhouse staff, that person is right there, in the building. With outsourcers, the person who maintains the application is almost certainly not the person who wrote the code. The person who did write the code has almost certainly been focused on a new project, if they're still with the company at all, and his management will be loath to redirect him from a project that's currently bringing in money to one that they've already gotten money from.

In short, outsourcers will fuck you, promise to call, and forget you. It's the nature of the beast. Even the good ones, the ones who intend to call, who want to respect you in the morning, probably won't.

Here's another story, about a website at UNC. The site was developed by a fairly well thought of local company, one that gets a little shout-out from NPR each day during All Things Considered because they're a supporter of public radio. A law student organization contracted with them to build a site for them where they could publish a little online magazine each month. The developer had worked with the particular environment it was built in before, and was a pretty decent coder overall. But, right after the initial application was delivered, she jumped to another company. A week later, the application crashed, and kept crashing every time it was brought back up. The consulting company put a new developer in charge of the application, who was wasn't familiar with it or the environment it was running in. (Tech aside: Tomcat 4.0.3 with Cocoon 2.0.1). He futzed around, confirmed for the fourth or fifth time that yes, the site couldn't handle a load, and asked if maybe the O/S needed a patch, despite the fact that several other apps using the same environment on the same machine handled a load just fine.

At some point a check was cut, and once the company got its money, he was gone. I'd say like a thief in the night if that wasn't wholly inadequate in describing the swiftness of his departure.

I have lots of stories like that. I have some that are even worse, and almost all involve software development by outside parties. There will always be bugs in software, always, and the nature of the software consulting business practically assures that the bugs developed under that system will not only be more critical, they will take longer to fix than those from an application built by inhouse staff. Farming out development may be cheaper in the short run, but it almost never is in the long run.


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Welcome to Durham

Durham, City of Medicine...........and arsonists and attempted murderers. This is a frightening story.


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No Wonder Ferris Bueller Avoided the Principal

Okay, I knew that the guy who played the principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off was arrested on something dealing with child pornography, but I didn't know exactly what, that was until I read this blurb about Pee Wee Herman. The guy paid a 14 year old (allegedly) to pose for sexually explicit photos. Dude, that is just whacked.


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1/05/2003




Turn Your Head and Cough

As if molesting pregnant ladies were not enough, the TSA is going after America's celebrity crotches.

link via Nolo Consentire


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And Two Arise To Take Its Place

Khofi Annan went to survey the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, and visited Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah headquarters.

"What can the Israelis do," Yasser demanded, "against a people so devoted to me that they will go to their death at a word from me? You see that soldier there? His name is Arif." He pointed at Arif and said, "Arif! Jump out of the window!"

Without a moment of hesitation, Arif screamed "Allah Akbar!" and jumped out the window to his death, leaving Kofi frozen in horror. There was a sickening crunch from the ground below.

Yasser smiled. "I'll show you once more. Omar! Jump out that window."

Omar, from the other side the room, also screamed "Allah Akbar!", then ran to the window and dove out headfirst. Another bone-jarring crunch sounded from the ground below.

Yasser looked around and spotted a third soldier, Tarik, and ordered him to commit suicide.

But as Tarik rushed by him Kofi seized him by the arm and cried, "How can you abandon life so lightly?"

Tarik looked at him and bitterly replied, "You call this a life?" Then he broke away and jumped.

Link via LGF


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