In Praise of Diversity

Yesterday before I went to bed I had an idea for a blog post and in fact wrote half of it in my head. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, except it started with a rather icky story from my childhood – but there are so many of those that I don’t remember which precisely.

So instead I decided to follow right up on what Kate was saying yesterday and jump onto “Diversity is our Strength.”

Has anyone ever proven that? I mean in the terms that PC understands diversity that is.

Look, when I was a kid, I had a group of five friends who gathered around for any group work. This was actually an issue as most teachers wanted groups of three. (The forms were usually 34 people, Portugal not having yet heard that low student to teacher ratio was essential for learning. This was the gifted forms, btw, which at the time was interpreted not as “you’re special flowers” but as “You can take all the punishment we dish out.” We were doing graduate-level research in 9th grade. And doing it well. I’d stack my middle/high school learning against anyone who went to a school with “good ratio of students to teacher”.) But we’d found a “diverse” enough group.

Now you couldn’t tell by looking at us. I mean, we had a blond and a redhead, but they were blond and redhead by Portuguese standards. I believe in the rest of the world their hair would be called “shades of brown.” And we were all more or less of Portuguese ancestry. (If you take in account that for centuries Portugal was crusade land, and that most of the people coming for the crusades were French (come on, Jean Pierre. Why go to the holy land? We’ll go to Portugal. It’s an easier commute, the climate is better, and the moors will never see us coming. It’s a mini-crusade, close to home) or various shades of German/Italian, and if you add that on top of the invasions that came before, Celts, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Alans, Swabians, Guanos (okay, I made up that one) Visigoths, Astrogoths, Rockinggoths (I might have made up that one, too), British, Irish, Spanish… well, Portugal was sort of the welcome mat of Europe where everyone wiped off their DNA. Saying we were of Portuguese ancestry would be like selling a cat as “Genuine Domestic Short Hair.” I can guarantee most of us were homo sapiens, but then Portugal was one of two places in which Neanderthals lingered a few thousand years longer than anywhere else and demonstrably mated with homo sap, sooooo. Soooooo even on that homo sap, you’d be taking a risk.)

By current Portuguese standards we weren’t diverse at all. (Current standards? Why, yes. You see, in an effort to be a “modern country” they’ve imported affirmative action. This despite the fact that in the continent, when I was a kid, there was really no identifiable minority. The first time I saw a really blond guy, I had nightmares for weeks. You see, I thought he was a doll that had come to life. As for black people, I think I saw the first when I was six. Of course there are a lot more now. (Once in a sfwa forum someone told me I was lying about that, because she’d met black people in continental Portugal and eaten their wonderful food and danced their lovely dances – could that be any more patronizing? – apparently unaware that all these black people came to Portugal to escape the glorious liberation of the African colonies, when the places were handed over to Russians and their Cuban mercenaries.) So the principle of affirmative action doesn’t even make any sense in the sense of redressing evils, etc (except in the same way an immigrant who comes here from Africa today is suddenly entitled to “redressing.”) HOWEVER to be hip and modern and all that, Portugal now has affirmative action applying to gypsies (non of which consider themselves nationals of any country, but never mind) and of course every other shade of tanning. Not blonds, though, though they ARE a genuine minority in Portugal and made fun of in a lot of jokes.) And we were all girls, because the school was all female.

BUT each of us had a “specialty.” We had the artist, the writer (waves hand), the researcher, the scientist and the historian.

Our project on ancient Egyptian religion was kept by the teacher as a reference to TEACH ancient Egyptian religion, because we had more fun than should be allowed in school, from detailed drawings of the gods, to scientific explanation of the mummification process, to … well, all of it. (I had much fun with symbolism in the writing of it.)

This is because we had a genuinely diverse group. Diverse where it counted. Inside the head.

PC “diversity” seems to be “diversity of grievances” and is only useful in the sense of trying to inure yourself against lawsuits. “We had a black person on the team to ensure that black people will not have problems with this desert topping that is also a floor wax.”

In an age when people SERIOUSLY maintain that “brown bag” is a racist term (and not, you know, a description of the fact that it’s a bag and it’s brown) and think niggardly has anything in the world to do with race (because everyone knows black people are stigmatized as frugal, right? Look at all those black Scots.) this is not an inconsiderable good, but it is a problem for two reasons.

First, it assumes people are widgets. No, seriously. What would the idea that “diversity is having a black person on the team” mean, unless you think the contents of every black person’s head are exactly alike.

And once you realize this is what is at the basis of it, you’ll have trouble not laughing like crazy. Yep. Thomas Sowell, or the black guy next door? Totally the same thing, even though the guy next door is twenty and studying English. He could totally teach economics at any second. Because he’s black, and that’s all that matters.

Me? I’m Latina, and so exactly the same as the Wise Latina on the Supreme Court. I could totally fill in for her on her days off, and she could finish my books.

THAT is racism. Stone cold, outright racism and worse than anything even racists ever came out with. You’re a widget. Your thoughts are determined by your melanin, your eye color, your accent.

And if you think I’m just being silly and what they mean is “diversity of experience” – okay, that’s slightly less racist. It’s also not what they’re filtering for. Otherwise Harvard would have set aside places for white guys from Appalachia, as different from their run of the mill student, in experience, as you could get. But even then…

Look, my experiences are not that uncommon. Technically you could take half a million people of my age/generation in Portugal and we’d have the “same” background until the age of twenty or so.

… until you looked more closely. Most of them (I don’t know anyone my age but me) didn’t grow up under grandma’s tutelage. Most of them didn’t fall madly in love with English first year they learned it, and start reading books in English for native readers by the end of that year. (With a dictionary in my other hand. And a pencil to write the translation over the word. My kids found my copy of Dandelion Wine the other day, and had MUCH fun.) None of them had the other, more private experiences that made me me. (And I don’t mean sex. I mean stuff that relates to me and my family background but which is not for public consumption.)

There is no way that a government, a governing board, an institution can assure “diversity” by hiring from anything that fits in the forms.

Yes, diversity can be and often is a strength. At least for creative and intellectual projects. I don’t think road crews could be made stronger by hiring skinny girls who can’t lift heavy objects and burn in the sun. So even in that, diversity is not just an unalloyed good. Sometimes the best people for a project are a family group who inherited the trade (say embroiderers or, thinking of Portugal, beggars.) Depends on what the project is and whether you want innovation or just “the same thing, as it’s always been done.)

BUT diversity is not skin color. Diversity is not even general experience of the “was hungry as a child” form. Diversity of the sort that creates strength is the sort that is inside your head. It expresses itself in insights few other people could have; in ideas that not only aren’t in the box but can’t find the box; in strengths and abilities that are natural to you or trained from very young, but other people simply don’t get.

These are not things that fit on a form. They have to be determined by knowing the person often more deeply than you can know anyone after a job interview. They require seeing people at the job and then moving them around. “Bob, I think you’d be better in this team. They need someone with your analytical skills.”

The best team my husband ever worked in was assembled sort of like that. The boss would get to know people and then shamelessly poach them for his team. And they were all “diverse” in what was inside their heads. (They were also fairly diverse in appearance and such, but that was just a side benefit for corporate headcounters.)

This is a system – arcane and near forgotten known as meritocracy.

It relies on REAL diversity – of thought, of opinion, of ideas – (which prevents debacles like Windows 8, written by geeks, for geeks, with no understanding of who the end users are) – of experience. It relies on real, individual competences and assumes that each person, regardless of color or visible differences also has some failings, which can be compensated for by other people who don’t have them.

BUT of course it doesn’t treat people as widgets (and now I remembered my original post. Never mind. Tomorrow.) Which makes it really hard for bureaucrats to administer society from the top down – and to treat everyone as pieces to be picked up and inserted into places where the bureucrats think they will fit.

And since meritocracy by itself destroys the idea of the all powerful and “scientific state” it must be ignored, and instead we must pay lots of attention to external characteristics and parrot “diversity is our strength” while requiring that everyone be just like everyone who looks like them.


PSA announcement: To my subscribers at the level you get all my stuff and those who are still waiting for the final copy of Witchfinder (i.e. cleaned up, not an e-arc) – the delay is because my husband is writing a program to put you all in the right categories, so that some of you don’t get three copies and the others none. It’s not as easy as it seems, and I appreciate your patience. This is also the reason I’ve delayed putting up a subscribe button for Elf Blood. If any of you wants copies of anything earlier (I really NEED reviews on The Musketeer’s Inheritance. Even though it’s a reissue of A Death In Gascony (and apparently tons of people didn’t know it was the fourth in the Musketeer’s mystery and only discovered it now, judging by how it’s selling) it’s decoupled from that edition, so it has zero reviews) or really needs a final of Witchfinder right now, ping me on Goldport and I’ll send?

205 thoughts on “In Praise of Diversity

  1. Modern Diversity is “People of different “races” singing the same song”. IE not people with different ideas working together. [Frown]

      1. Here is your list of approved songs. You can only choose from this list, but you may choose freely from all seven songs listed. If your song is removed from the next list, there may be repercussions for choosing it, depending on why it was removed. Any complaints are racist.

        Do you have any questions? Good. Have a Nice Day.

  2. Oh, thank you sooooo much. Now I have “We are Family” doing a dueling banjos sort of thing with “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”. If this kills my writing today, Sarah, I will send you the kitten. I mean it. One fluffy male kitten will be coming your way.

    1. I’m listening to some sample-heavy trip-hop right now, and I can totally see someone using samples from those two in one song. If I had the time and energy… *wanders back to writing code, humming*

  3. This is two things. It’s a way to control people and a works program for bureaucrats.

  4. Welcome Back, Sarah. I hope this means you have a handle of the writing chores.
    I always find that the people clamoring for diversity mean “more people just like me”. The skin color and cultural baggage might be different, but they want people who think the same way, with the same political under-pinings, and certainly the same sociopolitical standings. They never mean people who look at issues from a different perspective. That’s one of the major weaknesses in ‘liberal’ thinking today: they CAN’T accept divergent thinking.
    And in the political sphere, that’s what separates true political independents from Party flacks. The independents want workable solutions, not merely verbiage.
    As I see it, any political solution has the same weakness: the proponents see it as the end-all answer, rather than a step by step progression toward a workable, viable solution. And certainly, what works now, under these conditions and circumstances, cannot be expected to apply to those twenty years from now.

    1. I wrote 12k words (final, edited, yesterday.) Older son said “Is that because we’re in finals and not bothering you as much as usual?” Me “YES.” Will this make any difference? No.

      1. I’m sorry I’ve not sold them off yet, but with the recent additions to the white slavery market, the price on those two is just not as good as we hoped.

              1. Say …. that’s an idea. More work, but the profit margin is much better …

                Although the older’s big feet are not in much demand …

                1. Supply and demand, there may not be a lot of demand for feet that size, but if you can find somebody who needs one or two… well the supply is real limited as well.

                  1. There’s always mad science (or mad engineering, as it were) to consider.Who knows what bits will be valued on the open, but very black, market? Might be that livers are bullish, might be that a relatively fresh hippocampus could be of use…

                    1. Haven’t read it, but there’s a famous line from it about who “they” are that I love to pieces and invoke wherever I can.

        1. I seems to remember that somebody kidnapping Sarah’s boys but ended up having to pay Sarah to take them back. [Very Big Evil Grin]

            1. The word ‘pay’ need not always refer to cash money. There are barter systems that work adequately, and are tax-free to boot…

              1. All the settlement agreement permits me to confirm in public, without a court order, is that no actual cash changed hands.

                1. So noted.

                  Speculation by third parties is, of course, beyond the purview of most courts.

                  A betting pool, with odds on the Odds, might be a bit of a gray area, though…

                2. Thaugh hands may have changed cash. And cash may have chanegd envelopes or wallets or homes or something. And anonymous ingots of precious metals may or may not have changed owners

  5. I do have to differ with you, on one thing: “Windows 8, written by geeks, for geeks, with no understanding of who the end users are” — I AM a geek, and Windows 8 doesn’t work any better for me than for a non-geek. I want to find the absolute, utter, IDIOT who decided that a cell-phone user interface belongs on a PC, and shake him warmly by the neck.

    1. There’s geeks and geeks. This was a bubble of geeks who wanted to be “cool” who designed that TOTAL EFF UP OF A SYSTEM. (I hates it, my precious, I does.)

      1. Can’t help but chuckle at the recent commercials put up by a certain third party support company. The message is that they will ensure that folks who wish to stay with XP are supported and protected now that Micro$oft has withdrawn all their support.
        Personally, I run Macs. They just work.

        1. “they just work”

          Until apple decides they are okay with not supporting your hardware or applications anymore.

      2. Curious: what do you hate about it? (Not implying there’s nothing to hate, I have low expectations for MS. So, completely hateworthy.) I run it from the desktop ‘app’ and haven’t had a brain-melty moment so far…

        1. It doesn’t work with my brain. I have trouble even figuring out what’s open, I lose my tabs and … and I gave up and went back to my other computer.

          1. Makes sense. I’d still be on my XP laptop but it was making ominous noises so I made the leap. Meh. I do like the new machine (how far we’ve come in 7 years! 😀 ) but the OS? I ignore the mainscreen of 8, supposedly the wonderful/kitten-britches point of the whole thing, and get on with my business.

            As to Macs, some stuff I do would be wonderful on a Mac, some stuff not possible (though that’s changing). Price is a big bite, though.

            1. yes. This is why I use PCs. I’ll have to guy a mac for the ibook publishing thing, but…. PCs are SO MUCH CHEAPER. And these days they LAST. I have a new laptop (two years ago) because I’d made enough money, and needed a new TRAVEL laptop. So, old computer became travel laptop and I have a new one, but the travel laptop (other than being fricking slow) was still ticking at 8 years of age.

              1. “…was still ticking at 8 years of age.”

                Hmph. That was the problem with mine. It started ticking…


                1. Sign that your hard drive has or is about to fail. Actually could be worse if you catch it in time. Laptop drives are relatively cheap and if you swap out the mechanical drive with one of the newer solid state flash drives you can markedly speed up your machine. Of course once you hear the “click of doom” it may already be to late to salvage any data from that device. Good thing you have a reliable backup, ain’t it?

                  1. Yep. More than one. ‘One is none, two is one…”

                    I’ve poked around the info on solid states, and am considering a swap when time and money allow, probably bump it to a Linux machine. And finally learn Linux…

                    1. Here’s the secret: Mac OS has really been Unix (i.e. Linux in all important respects) for years now, which is one reason it ‘just works.’ The MacOS interface is slightly prettier and more polished than, say, Ubuntu, but Linux these days pretty much just works too.

                    2. Don’t you have to be a programmer to use UNIX? I like my PC because my husband can set it up for me and then I can use it easily.

                    3. Not a secret, just geeky enough that most don’t bother learning the nuts and bolts. Starting with Mac OS 10 the system kernel is BSD Unix with a user friendly front end so you don’t have to geek out to accomplish what you really want to do.

                    4. For a coffee shop laptop, I bought an old PowerPC iBook G4 off a computer salvage company locally for $50. Since Apple does not support that processor at all any longer, I put a version of Linux Mint on it. It works for surfing the net, responding to email and trolling twitter.

              2. I had an IBM Thinkpad I bought in 1998 which originally ran Win98. I upgraded it to XP later, and it ran it fine until a few years ago (2008, maybe) when MS put out an update that made it run like the pitch drop experiment. If it weren’t for that, I have no doubt it would have lasted another 4 years or more.

                1. I have a Thinkpad around here that is running Windows 7 acceptably. And I trialed an Linux Mint release that was quite snappy.

              3. Last year we had two Windows laptops die– gaming machines, not bleeding edge but really pushing it when they were new.

                One was 10 years old, the other was 14.

                1. The boys computers were close to bleeding edge. They’re not gamers, but they game, if that makes sense. We built them when we moved here. Since then we’ve upgraded some parts, but they’re still going strong.

                    1. Well, “gamer” tends to mean “plays at least every weekend or so” and not necessarily “plays with a catheter and I/V drip”.

                2. The other part of this is that as soon as I stop depreciating the travel computer and have money (a couple of years in both cases) I’ll buy a new one, move all the others down and give my son the current travel computer, which beats the pants off his laptop.
                  While he uses his desktop for all graphics, etc, he needs a decent writing computer. Of course, if we sell the YA he can buy it 😉

            2. ” wonderful/kitten-britches point of the whole thing”

              An excellent metaphor, have you ever tried to put britches on a kitten? Yep, that’s about as good an idea as putting a touchscreen mainscreen that I despise on a cell phone (the main reason I’m still using an 8 year old Blackberry) on a non-touchscreen PC.

        2. When I got my new computer I figured I’d give it a try. When everything was going through the initial update downloads I told it I would restart later to let everything update and minimize the number of restarts. Big mistake. It took me almost five minutes to figure out how to restart the machine. That’s when I decided to go back to Linux (AKA MacOS without the bloatware and priced accordingly).

          1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of “let’s arbitrarily relocate basic functions and menus because…pretty!”

            The disconnect that leads to failing to understand the advantage of a touchscreen in a small, portable device without peripheral inputs, that instead assumes it’s the “touchy!” which made it popular — this is not a design culture destined to lead us to the promised land. I don’t have grand hopes for iFruit either, particularly sans Jobs.

            Frustrating, because the massive tech companies have working capital and talent never previously seen outside of .gov type entities, and business sense dictates using the stuff wisely — and…

            I do know predicting market trends is massively difficult, and lead time vs shelf-life in tech development is killer. It’s not simple. Which is why they pay the big boss so d@mn much…

            All that aside, I have been fortunate in that I have not had significant head/desk intersections with the new OS. I’m ignoring most of its ‘functionality’ and I have those low expectations.

            1. The “because..pretty” is why I migrated from Ubuntu, which I installed to get around a nasty virus on my 5 year old computer, to Linux Mint. I hated the Unity UI, and it wasn’t worth trying to revert back. Mint let me pick my UI and I chose to make it work like an ugly XP

              1. I’ve really got to carve out time to learn Linux stuff one of these days.

                I don’t want it to be sexy (I don’t mind sexy, if…) I just want it to work. Execute the code, lemme do this front-end stuff with a minimal amount of expletives.

                I wasted some time when I first got this machine seeing if there was some reason, some work-flow simplification or — anything — to justify the Win8 start screen. Didn’t find one. I’m not smart enough, perhaps?

                I’m not against the touchscreen thing, by the way. I have a touchscreen (part of the package), and I have a stylus I use occasionally (I am against fingerprints). Gives me a useful break from mouse and keyboard when I’m surfing or fooling about. And — I’m playing with an idea for limited use of touchscreens in a specific job application.

                I just haven’t seen the utility of touchscreens significantly developed for day to day work.

                1. Both Ubuntu and Mint don’t require much in the way of learning. You just download the file, burn it onto a DVD and boot off of it (the most complicated part was figuring out how to tell my computer to try to boot off the optical drive first), that puts you in a fully functional version of Linux (loads a might slow). If you want there’s an install program on the desktop. Run that, tell it how much hard drive space you want it to have, and let it mutter to itself for an hour or so.

                  I’ve also found troubleshooting rather easy, I just copy the error message into Google and that will usually take you to a forum post that tells you exactly what to type into terminal to fix things.

                    1. I haven’t run across one yet, and I’ve been using them for 5 years or so. The software manager has programs that can do almost anything you want, you just search, select, and tell it to install.

                      Now, if you wanted a specific program that doesn’t have a package, you might have to compile that yourself. But I can’t think of anything like that.

                2. I got dropped headfirst into Linux Mint Debian Edition with the (then Gnome 2, now MATE) shell because Win 7 ran everything hotter and was going to kill my only machine at the time. It did not take me long and the only thing I did not do at the time was draw because there were issues with Wacom tablet support. They’re supposedly getting better at that now, but for anyone who doesn’t do loads of graphics with a tablet and pen, the transition is pretty easy. I moved my mom (58 at the time) to Ubuntu and she uses it fine.

                  It’s also made easier by the fact that a lot of the free use software in use (such as Firefox/Iceweasel; Thunderbird/Icedove, VLC Media Player, etc) come native with a number of the Linux distros. If you’re familiar with OpenOffice, it looks and works no differently from Libreoffice.

                  It’s also light years more secure.

                  My advice is if you have an older laptop or machine, install it on there first without giving up your Windows machine, then transition over. Or even install into a USB flash drive and dual boot from there to get used to it, then get out when you want to use the Windows box, till you’re familiar. My recommendation is to use Linux Mint Debian Edition for that. The only drawback to using the USB flash drive method is that it’s pretty much a fresh install each time and you’ll have to save your data elsewhere. (I’m told that the USB flash drive method is used to troubleshoot pcs.)

            2. Do you think that the disaster that is Win 8 happened because Bill Gates is no longer involved with MS day to day?

              1. Not entirely. Windows 8 disaster occurred because Ballmer is a dictatorial idiot who has been rewarding incompetent managers by promoting them. Truly visionary technologists have been driven out for many years, Gates did little positive to encourage them and much negative by supporting Ballmer’s megalomania.

      3. If i may be so bold as to suggest win 7.

        it can get annoying at times since it asks you if you are really sure you want to do anything.

        But on the surface it is pretty damn close to being functionaly similar to XP (I believe it even has a classic mode, which looks exactly like XP). It also is easier on your system than say Vista or 8 is.

        Upside, at a website like newegg it’s relatively cheap, at about 100 bucks. That’s OEM, so microsoft will charge you if you need help, but there is a crap ton of support on the interwebs for free.

        Plus there are some pretty cool communities of folks out there who run forums and blogs that just talk about how to make it work right. great for searching when you have a problem.

        Just a thought.

      4. Well I solved it over the weekend. Run Windows 7 and xubuntu in VMs on win 8. That way I don’t have to deal with win 8 at all but all the new hardware in the lapbrick. But yes all that advice about upgrade to win 8.1 – do it now.

        I’m all for the painful death of the win 8 design team though.

        Oh and to people elsethread who are still running Win XP. PLEASE DO NOT DO ANY SENSITIVE WORK ON AND DON”T WHATEVER YOU DO DO ANY FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS. Win XP is at this point like a drunk passed out on a park bench with a bunch of $100 bills visible in a jacket pocket

        1. You’ve commented previously about XP being a bit wide in the open department. Is one of the reasons I went ahead and upgraded. Thanks, sincerely.

          1. You’re welcome. My job in Internet Security so I get to see a lot of the nastiness.

            BTW here’s a fun thought. Many MRI machines, X-ray machines and other medical equipment runs embedded windows of some vintage. In many cases it is win XP, in some cases it is even older. Guess what it’s just as vulnerable as a regular PC. It’s on the same network as your doctor’s new laptop that just got a trojan on it and sometimes the med tech watches porn on it during the night shift.

            I have customers who have told me about their MRI machines that were asking for instructions from servers in the Netherlands or China (said machines residing in medical facilities in the USA).

            PS same goes for a lot of embedded controllers in industrial pllications (pipelines, oil refineries …)

            1. I caught the medical heads up warning in February and passed it on. No idea if it took root or withered under the glare of “what federal code is that. If it’s not a code, I can’t deal with it now.”

              1. The magic words “HIPAA compliance” cover it – medical records wandering off to China is definitely not HIPAA compliant.

    2. Patience. They just drank the kool-aid that cell-phone user interfaces are provably the preference of the target market because a whole bunch of entertainment/communications consumers are using cell phones instead of PCs for those purposes. Temporarily forgot, until the market reminded them, that PCs are first and foremost for IP/content generation. Sunk costs and loyalty to their bright ideas will make it take awhile to get back to a rational interface, but it will happen.

      1. Tablets and mobiles are for consumption, desktops for creation, with laptops being the desktop’s slightly dumb but flexible cousin*. There are functional hybrids of the two (I’ve heard mixed and vehement opinions on the Surface) but they’re still a rarity and not a mature solution.

        *Get your mind out of the gutter! Mine’s trying to float by…

    3. I just set up a Windows 8.1 VM for my guys to remote into when one of the sales reps calls in with problems. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that could be heard from my office when I had to actually log in and set things up so they could access it! The only reason I even have a Windows machine at home is for some of the games I play, and only a few of them aren’t available on Linux already.

      As for the blithering incompetent that decided Windows 8 should be a repeat of the WinME and Vista debacles, I’d love to shake him very, very, very vigorously by the neck. And then have him head-butted by a mountain goat…in the gonads.

      1. Well, I had to go from XP to 8.1 as my XP computer was about to “bite the dust” (my laptop is Windows 7).

        There are things I dislike about Windows 8.1 but I’ve learned to make it “do what I want it to do” for the most part.

        On the other hand, while I don’t know everything about computers, I do seem to learn to use them better than most.

        On the Gripping Hand, Sarah can write fun stories and I can’t. [Wink]

            1. Could be heat issues. Had that happen with dad’s computer once, cleaned it, upgraded fans, new HDD (to replace the near-melted one), and presto! No more random insta-shutdown.

              Put out some cold pizza as bait, add cheetos, call out in a plaintive voice “can someone fix my computer?” and the geeks will come. Might also involve bribing with beer for older geeks. *grin*

              1. Hell, just be friendly and nice to some of the more socially inept ones and that should do the trick.

                Here is an example of one such instance of this very tactic. (Trigger warning: long winded, whimsical, largely irrelevant)

                One fair day i received a phone call from an extremely sad woman telling me the woes of having lost all her business information on her home computer. And when i say all, I mean all. The year was 1998. That’s right. No smart phones, no tablets, and laptops were still something only IT nerds had.

                She had been directed to me by Frank, her neighbor across the street, and my DM. She tells me she doesn’t have a lot of spare cash, but she is willing to work out an exchange of favors (nothing dirty, drag em outta the gutter folks) if i help her. I being in essence a knight out of the digital age had no choice but to gather my ESD and tiny screwdrivers and ride forth to rescue fair damsel from the evils of data loss.

                When I arrive I began to gently interrogate the haggard lady of the particulars of this disaster. She spun a tale of how the computer had shut down unexpectedly and then after words would power on only to the dreaded “Non-system disk or disk error, Replace and strike any key when ready” error.

                This in itself was not the main issue however. It seems the jester she had entrusted the repair of this computer had poked around inside the bios and fiddled with some settings. At which point I may have stated that one does not “fiddle” with the bios, however she assured me that this is in fact what said jester had done. He had fiddled.

                Unsurprisingly his fiddling had been unsuccessful. At this point a smarter man would have admitted defeat and walked away. Well to be honest, a smarter man would have ejected the floppy disk from the floppy disk drive and then sat back and gloated as the owner had shown open amazement for the smarter mans supposed computer prowess as the computer returned to a working state.

                But, alas, this man was not a smarter man, but instead a damnable fool. His solution was to mash the power button repeatedly 20 or 30 times in frustration at the infernal machines uncooperative nature. This particular event had two immediate effects. The first was to bring forth the owners anger in the form of shrieking like a deranged mad woman at the jester and shooing him away from the keyboard, and indeed, from her entire house.

                The second effect was a little more insidious. It had reset the bios completely to factory default. Now to explain, factory default is a mythical set of settings that assumes that if everything in the universe was to align perfectly, then these settings would work. However as this particular event never occurs they are about as useful for computers as a bucket of boiling water is.

                The upside is that as a knight of the just blossoming digital age I was conversant in the ways of the BIOS, and I understood the secret of battling the dreaded non system disk error. And after issuing a few words of gentle encouragement I managed to get the lady fair to let me set about the task of restoring her computer to its proper working conditions.

                After a mere matter of several tense moments of changing settings in the Labyrinth of the BIOS world, and making sure to eject the offending disk from the floppy drive I then powered on the machine.

                It was during the inevitable lengthy boot up that i finally managed to ask the lady fair what it was she did as business. She then informed me that she was in fact the only officially licensed piercer artist in Oklahoma. This meant she was the only person allowed to pierce a person in any place other than the earlobe.

                During explaining to me that she had in fact just performed her first piercing ever of a male’s unmentionables she stopped and issued what I learned later was the first squee of joy I had ever heard. After disentangling myself from her exuberant congratulatory hug I realized the source of her joy was in fact that the computer had chugged its way into a windows desktop.

                Upon further verification it was confirmed she had in fact lost the data she was working on at the time. However all else was present and accounted for. At this point I begin to speak to the merits of digital tape backups (as was and still is my wont for small business owners who need to make sure data stays safe). She then proposed how she could fulfill what she felt was an obligation to me for saving her from her dire situation.

                She offered to give unto me, any body piercing that I may so desire in exchange for services rendered. To be fair I may have considered it, however her very graphic description of her previous encounter earlier in the day with the afore mentioned gentlemen’s bits had turned me off from any such idea.

                In the end I said to her that as the work itself was only a mere few minutes of work to me that her happiness was enough for myself and that I should be bidding her farewell as I was late in taking my dwarven fighter and leading a group of surface dwellers through the terrors of the underdark at the house across the street.

                So with a fond farewell, a final congratulatory hug, and promises of tasty treats to be delivered to next week’s game session I took my leave.

                I never took her up on the offer of a free body piercing as I came to the conclusion that I was not meant to be perforated. However, the batch of brownies she delivered the following week were, IMHO, the epitome of all that is amazing, gooey, and righteous in the realm of chocolaty goodness.


                P.S. Thanks for making it this far. Was gonna write a short simply reply, but somehow… something took me over and said… go flowery 

                1. (Trigger warning: long winded, whimsical, largely irrelevant)


                  You stole my gimmick! If I ever meet you, I’m gonna stick my tongue out at you!

                  1. I did not steal, good sir. I merely Borrowed long enough to tell a quick story and now have gladly returned it to it’s rightful owner.

                    I would however like to mention that it cost me 50$ to clean the “accident” your gimmick had on my carpet 🙂

                2. Was gonna write a short simply reply, but somehow… something took me over and said… go flowery

                  Bored muse, hangs out with the soapbox at the pub (favors bourbon), pops in here now and again for random musings…

                    1. I’m not ruling out something being wrong with you, mind.

                      But this isn’t that.

          1. My housemate has been spending the last few days working all hours of the day and night working remote helpdesk to remove Conduit Searchprotect – a very painful and annoying malware designed to keylog and steal info; it pretends it’s a helpful anti-malware tool – from LOTS of computers. How it affects computers has been rather varied and now includes affecting firmware.

            On the other hand, some hardware manufacturers have put in certain safety measures into your computer – overheating issues will (you hope!) trigger the sudden shutdown measure to rescue your hardware and your data. So, you might want to really have your PC checked, I’m told.

          2. My mom recently got a Win7 machine and had that problem for a week. I went down to visit her and checked for updates. Downloading and installing those (there were a lot) fixed the problem. You might check the updates page on the MS website.

            1. Combining this with the suggestions of others of possible overheating, it’s possible that some configuration in your computer was causing Win7 to hammer the processor particularly hard, causing it to overheat, and that an update would correct that problem.

            2. For people going “argh, do you think I’m an idiot?!? I turned on automatic updates”– I’ve had very random results from the last couple of Windows builds not actually CHECKING every however often you click, you’ve got to sift through to say “hey, go check this, dummy”.

      2. Thanks dude. I have now been unable to walk for the rest of the day due to visions of goat horns impacting with my junk. OUCH!

        1. Aah, you’re safe – I don’t think you designed that abortion of a UI! But, yeah, when I wrote that I was thinking of the ram that had a beer keg hanging in his pen at the San Diego Zoo many years ago. When he hit that thing, you could hear it all over the park.

      3. Win8 was the first full release after Microsoft decided they didn’t really need testers. I can hear Kate Paulk laughing like a hyena on nitrous oxide now… Oh, and the real problem isn’t the geeks writing the code, it is the managers who want to show off Cool Stuff(tm) at trade shows. You can barely get one animated PowerPoint slide off of “it’s faster and more stable” so you get candy-colored touchscreen UIs , you silly users. You just don’t KNOW you wanted it.

        What’s that? You don’t use a touchscreen at work? Well, just fill out a requisition!
        Oh. Such language. What do you mean, they won’t? We get new tech all the time here at the Evil Empire… “Budget”. What’s that? You mean they won’t buy all 2,000 employees new equipment for our new nifty OS? But it has pretty colors!
        Er. I’m pretty sure that’s anatomically impossible. Have you tried rebooting?

        1. On the other hand, I’m considering getting together with my sister and brother to get a touch screen for our mom and upgrading her to 8. The UI is so simple that my kids keep trying to do exactly the right thing on my definitely-not-a-touch-screen.

          Kind of like how folks use to get Grandma a Mac, actually. (And yes, my grandma had a Mac. She wrote her newspaper articles on it for years.)

        2. Oh, I know, I know. You know what’s even better? They put the same touch screen interface on Windows Server 2012. The SERVER ferchrissakes!

          1. Well, servicing a server ought require ‘touchy,’ no? Servers need human contact, too! They need to feel, and be felt, and…

            Yeah, I got nuthin.

                  1. Clearly she’d been exposed to far too many low-quality pop-ups, her tolerance exceeded she simply took extreme action at the merest hint of yet another pop-up without bothering to assess its utility.


                    On the bright side, we’ve confirmed coffee is a definitive cure for pop-ups!

          2. And they won’t let you take booze in the server room, either. And you get those chirpy little windows that force you to state the reason for shutting off /restarting the server, and they won’t autofill with “Because your software is CRAP!” (pant, pant.) When I am Supreme Overlord there will be some righteous smiting in and about Redmond.

            1. I would like to spend some quality time skinning the person who designed those chirpy windows that won’t let you close them without answering questions you don’t know the answer too…. with a dull steak knife.

              1. Much as I cursed DOS, I still prefer a text-based interface for my tinkering. “Windows” turned out to be too much backseat driving in my PC… And is 99% of the problems I fix to this day.

          3. It sounds like I’m the only person around who doesn’t mind the interface for Server 2012. It took a couple of days of getting used to, but I haven’t minded it a bit. The one trick was to type in the app list (it searches automatically) rather than trying to hunt for what I wanted; I hear it’s the same in Win8 (my desktops are on 7, it’s just the server on the latest version). After that, it’s been easy.

    4. Yeah. You want “written by geeks, for geeks”? I can give you a rough hierarchy of purity on that axis:

      0. Plan 9
      1. NetBSD
      2. OpenBSD
      3. FreeBSD
      4. Gentoo
      5. Slackware
      6. SuSE
      7. Debian
      8. CentOS/RedHat
      9. Fedora
      10. Ubuntu

      Windows 8’s problem isn’t “written by geeks for geeks”, it’s “written by geeks for ‘end users’…a class with which these particular geeks are entirely unfamiliar and which they hold collectively in a fairly naked degree of contempt”.

      When you recognize that the target audience of Windows 8 is believed by the designers and implementors of Windows 8 to be, at a very meaningful level, members of a different _species_ than themselves…well, a lot of things about Windows 8 become clear.

      1. I’m not sure, but I think Ubuntu belongs lower on that list…not that I want to denigrate the progress that Canonical has made in advancing Linux in the consumer market with Ubuntu, I just never cared for it personally.

        1. Ubuntu definitely belongs lower on that list. I tried LMDE, Debian, Ubuntu… Ubuntu was clunky compared to LMDE, and I made the switch to Debian for all The Important Stuff a few years back. I can’t confirm because I don’t use it, but I’ve also heard that Ubuntu’s become rather badly bloated, and has lots of ads.

          1. I haven’t used ubuntu for more than occasional testing in years. But lubuntu/xubuntu I like a lot. Give them another month or so to clean out the more impactful of the weirdo bugs in 14.04 and I’ll recommend either to anyone. Right now both are at “works 98% of the time” but that remaining 2% is a serious pain. (And there’s a LOT I like in the underpinnings of 14.04 that I do recommend that as a good base distro)

            LMDE gave me a bad time at one point. It probably works now but at the time it caused me extreme pain by not updating reliably. I think it was slightly too close to the bleeding edge.

            1. I’ve moved to Debian since then, and I guess it’s how we have the UI set up that makes it easy for me to switch between a Windows PC and a Deb one. About the only thing I can’t really do is use my Wacom Cintiq with Deb (I’d have to go Red Hat to be able to use Photoshop as well) and I guess it’s just me but I don’t like the way GIMP reacts and behaves for pressure sensitivity (the brushes don’t react that way natively the last I tried) – but my daughter seems to not mind it, and it works fine with the non-screen tablets.

              I’m hearing that the new Windows 8 versions will incorporate a few useful things about of the ‘nix backend features and such; I’ve heard some things about the UI getting cleaned up, but it’s being done slowly. The new boss haaaaaates he UI, supposedly…

      2. Holy crap, you are the first person outside of my family (and the Utah state government, bizarrely) who knows what Plan 9 is. My brother is working on developing drivers for Plan 9, and he raves about the standard text editor (I’ve forgotten the name now).

                1. That’s exactly right. Although some interesting old O/S’s are getting new life being ported to the Raspberry Pi architecture. I’m playing with a DIY notebook computer built from surplus phone lapdock and Raspberry Pi processor.

          1. Yep, still slowly chugging along, generally. Someday it might even be usable. 😛 Apparently the Utah state government has an emergency backup computer system that’s built on Plan 9 (thus my reference).

            1. You know if it was anybody other than government I would assume a backup system should be stable and usable.

          2. There are a number of items on that list about which one could sensibly ask that question, and have the proper response be “well…it depends on what you mean by ‘alive’…” followed by an extended discussion of precisely how that word is properly applied, in the context of computer operating systems developed either mostly or completely by volunteers. The extended discussion would in and of itself (irrespective of content) be proof of one’s status among the “geeks”.

            But yeah, the whole “is that still even a thing?” factor was a large part of the reason it made the zeroth spot on my list. 🙂

    5. That moron is named Steve Ballmer and has enough billions to hire goons to keep his neck unshaken, sadly.

    6. I read it as “hipsters with a smart phone” type geeks, rather than “make it work and let me do it my way” geeks.

      Probably because I growl frequently about how a BUNCH of stuff is being redesigned as if everybody does everything on a @#$@# screen the size of my palm, and thus needs big pictures and very little text per page.

    7. My old HP Pavilion died last month, and had to be replaced after 14 years and a bit. I had the “media edition” that had more graphics memory and full compatibility, running a very stable XP OS. I had no problems for it until last month, when it simply refused to reboot. Replaced it with another HP Pavilion (with more bells and whistles, but also, without some others), but had to take Windows 8. It came with a “free” upgrade to Windows 8.1. I took it. HUGE MISTAKE! It took three weeks and a dozen hours spent on the phone before a very helpful HP tech support person steered me to what worked. He also said that more than half their calls were because of Windows 8.1. I haven’t upgraded since I got my machine working again. I probably won’t until I hear the software is more stable.

      I’m fairly computer-savvy, and if I had that much trouble, what is going on out there in consumer-land? Microsoft, I think, is about to take a big hit. I did manage to transfer my old hard drive to the new machine and set it up as a second drive. I have back-up software that lets me back up all my more necessary files as I create or modify them. Otherwise, I’d be a very, very sad puppy right now.

      1. If I might inquire, what back-up software are you using? And how do you like it?

    8. The guy who’s currently in charge of Microsoft is in the process of changing that, I’m told. But yeah, it was an idiotic move by a marketing manager who saw all these ipads and tablets and thought ‘they must like the INTERFACE, so let’s do that!’ without thinking that the people who use PCs do so for a specific purpose.

    9. I would have to confess that, over the past couple of years, I’ve had two memorable experiences with with Windows 8. The first encounter was the most frustrating: I had to use Internet Explorer under an alien operating system to learn how to reach the BIOS (although I liked having BIOS access without having to restart the computer). My second experience was much more satisfying…

      There is something particularly pleasant about completely obliterating an instance of Windows 8, much more so than other versions on Windows! (Although I’ve never done it myself, after my wife’s experience with Vista, I suspect that it would be almost as satisfying to delete that, too…)

      1. UEFI? UEFI and some of its BS is something else that needs some painful feedback to the designers. Ideally of the sort that the pain will continue until you can get some odd combination of OS features to run using UEFI on the new SSD drive you just installed

    10. User Interface usually assumes that there’s something on the screen for the user to interact with. Windows 8 and 8.1 decided that it was even cooler to make significant parts of the user interface INVISIBLE. Instead of “Click the X to close the program” it was “touch near the top of the screen, and drag it all the way to the bottom” (unless you started the program from the desktop screen)

      There are things hidden in the corners, and most annoyingly, since the touchpad on my laptop is centered under the spacebar, rather than centered in the middle of the machine, I invariably bring up the “Charms” on the side of the screen that take much more interaction to get rid of.

  6. Hypocricy thy name is Liberal.
    Splain to me just how it is that any faction that drives individuals from their jobs, bars them from their own companies, forbids them from speaking at public universities can at the same time make any claims of diversity.
    I and I suspect many of my like minded brethren, no matter what gender, are precious close to that point where the only reasonable answer is to hoist the Jolly Roger and start slitting throats. Figuratively speaking of course.
    As well, anyone else waiting impatiently for that glorious day when the entire US university system crashes and burns? Where is the outrage over the institutionalized bullying of undergraduates, the bondage and involuntary servitude of grad students, the ritualized abuse for personal gain and aggrandizement of tenure and research positions?
    I know, I know, if we were as bad as the vile progs say we are there would already have been a glorious night of terror and many of our problems would have since gone away.

    1. “As well, anyone else waiting impatiently for that glorious day when the entire US university system crashes and burns?”


      1. Yup. Because I’m going to be one of the vultures, circling, waiting to pick up the students who want to learn, who need a live teacher, but who don’t want to deal with all the foolishness, bloat, and politics that have become colleges today. (Not all colleges, not all, but far too many.)

        1. Now I have this vision of a (tiny) red-headed vulture circling about with a — a — hat? And is that a tool belt?

          “Hi! I’m here to fix your history.”

          This brain…

            1. Now my brain’s in a dress, carrying a fork and a steak knife.

              That’s wrong, man. Just wrong.

    2. I just wish we’d get more business people with some gonads, who would simply lift their middle fingers when some libtard starts ranting about how bigoted and/or misogynist they are.

      1. As long as there is a bureaucracy full of Democrats that will happily aid and abet, businesses are going to figure the risk isn’t worth it. Brendan Eich was exactly a First Amendment case because as long as the government legal system is set up to make “the process the punishment” there is no such thing as a private sector.

    3. It will be a great and terrible day. Great for me and terrible for the academics.

    4. Because it’s melanin concentration and selected sexual habits that define diversity.

  7. “Me? I’m Latina, and so exactly the same as the Wise Latina on the Supreme Court. I could totally fill in for her on her days off, and she could finish my books.”

    OBJECTION! I object, your Honor! While the “Wise Latina” on the Supreme Court very likely could not finish Mrs. Hoyt’s books, I find it trivially true that, even on her worst day, Mrs. Hoyt could certainly do no worse on the court than the lady she would be substituting for!

    To be honest, I would sleep much more soundly at night if we had someone of her intellect on the court permanently (in addition to the one or two that are there already). In fact, I think that many of the regulars here would make better jurists than several that sit on that court now, and not because I think they would make the *right* decisions (instead of the disastrous ones that have been made in recent years), but because of the critical thinking and wisdom they have displayed here.

    Hey! Where’d this soapbox come from? And how did I get on top of it?

    1. It’s a sneaky soap box, don’t mind it. Step down carefully and watch your ankles, it’s likely to zip off unexpectedly in pursuit of its next target.

      1. Well, you see, that “could” encompasses being able to turn out a product that, at a minimum, approaches the quality of the work one would expect when you see Sarah’s name on the cover.

  8. “Me? I’m Latina, and so exactly the same as the Wise Latina on the Supreme Court. I could totally fill in for her on her days off, and she could finish my books.”

    Ok, so who wants to see Sarah on the USSC? Can you imagine the exploding heads?

    1. Actually, being an annoying know it all that reads military/political thrillers too much I feel that I must point out that the correct acronym is SCOTUS: Supreme Court of the United States. Thank you. I’ll go annoy someone else now.

    2. >.< USCCB is close enough that I was picturing Sarah as one of our Bishops… and, like many big orgs, they do some brainless liberal stuff…. BOOM!

  9. “Otherwise Harvard would have set aside places for white guys from Appalachia, as different from their run of the mill student, in experience, as you could get. But even then…”

    Well, it would certainly engender some lively discussions, if you had a bunch of Redneck Appleatcha’ns in the Revolutionary History and Constitutional Law courses at Hahvahd…

    But methinks me and mine would much prefer more humble grounds. If I can’t get it on my own, I don’t want it give to me on a silver platter, and for damn sure not paid for with other people’s money. *chuckle* Not that I think that’s what was implied, mind.

    Good post. There’s both more diversity in who and what people are, and less in that we’re all still human beneath whatever guise we appear, than those who decry the cause of Diversity For All. I’ll keep my Liberty and Justice, thank you, no “Social” added. *grin*

  10. Someone should sue a diversity scheme for discrimination on the grounds that since they made no effort to test directly for diversity, or to find a racial neutral proxy, using race as a proxy is unconstitutional, because you can only use it when it’s the only way.

  11. Even when I was in my late thirties finally earning my degree, I was the Odd one. — the only one with a good work ethic at the time. I wish I had it today… *sigh

  12. Sarah is hitting on one of the sub-themes I came up with for a military science-fiction series, said theme being that “team-building” is at one and the same time critical to making an effective organization, and yet, an ignored art/science. Particularly down at the lowest levels.

    And, as I alluded to yesterday, and Sarah hits on again today, you need true diversity of thoughts and skills to make an effective team. If you’ve ever worked around a very experienced, very professional Special Forces “A” team, you’d see some of what I see as the future of small organizations and military units: A near-complete apparent lack of hierarchy, “command” and “authority” flowing from member to member as the team’s environment and tasks shift and move. I worked with an “A” team once, providing support, and it was utterly confusing watching these guys flow through things–Very little ego involved, simply smooth transitioning between areas of expertise. One day I’d go up to the guy who was apparently in charge the day before, and he’d tell me “Oh, we’re done with that… You need to go find so-and-so, he’s better at what we’re trying to do today…”.

    I talked to a couple of these guys off-line, and it was a vision into another world, for me: No rank, no hierarchy, simple mission and collective cooperation/understanding as they moved towards their goals. These guys had been together so long that it was spooky to watch them work. From talking to them, I got the impression that they were unusual enough as a group to spook the hell out of other SF units, especially on live-fires–They were experienced enough on what they did that there was a smooth functioning and transition as they did that sort of thing, even inside the live-fire “kill-houses” they trained in for direct operations. One guy ran better clearing operations, so if they were going into a building, he’d lead–Once they got engaged, another guy would take over, whose talent was apparently better for actually engaging the enemy.

    There’s a skill set for building teams like this, and a science/art to it, as well. As usual with the US military, we’ve pretty much ignored it, concentrating on big-picture crap like the company/battalion level and higher. There’s a lot of room for improvement on the smaller scale.

    Interestingly enough, do you know who was better at that sort of thing? The Germans, with all their reputation for Prussian rigidity, really were not so. They spent more time training their individual soldiers and small units than we did, paid more attention to designing weapons for them, and equipped them in accordance with their system. By comparison, the US/UK was nowhere near as careful about such things, and we have the exchange ratios of WWII to show for it. On a man-for-man basis, the Germans proved that their attention to low-level detail made them exponentially more effective on the battlefield. In some cases, particularly where our infantry went up against their infantry without benefit of supporting arms on either side, we got our clocks very thoroughly cleaned, like on the order of ten-to-one. The Soviets found out just how badly their lackadaisical approach worked when faced against the Germans–They needed huge superiorities in nearly all arms before they began to win, and even then the exchange ratios were horrible. There are some battles where the statistics (which weren’t gathered at all carefully, for good and sufficient Soviet reasons…) show that there may have been twenty-to-one or even thirty-to-one ratios of exchange.

    All human endeavors are built on small groups working together. We’re horrible as a species at big structural bureaucracies, which all seem to devolve into careerist hells in very short order. The rate at which this happens seems to be speeding up, as well, and I wish I could figure out why. It took the Imperial Chinese generations to turn a working bureaucratic system into a nightmare of interlocking worthlessness, and we seem to be managing the same levels of organized idiocy in mere decades, these days. Witness the fall of corporations like Hewlett-Packard, who went from the heights of the 1960s-1970s to Carly Fiorina in the space of one generation’s personal experience.

    Like operations research, this is a field that I think needs a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the social “sciences” have been captured by the idiocracy, and they’re not doing a damn thing to study this sort of team dynamics.

    1. Sarah is hitting on one of the sub-themes I came up with for a military science-fiction series, said theme being that “team-building” is at one and the same time critical to making an effective organization, and yet, an ignored art/science. Particularly down at the lowest levels.

      *random thought*
      Maybe because it’s because team building really is ignored at the lowest level, the family? My parents still get crud because they see themselves as a team, rather than “developing different interests”– and it’s been over 30 years since their marriage would ‘never last’!

      1. Good point. Precisely as much as training and instruction on behavioral shaping is–Karen Pryor has had a very useful little book out for years that I try to get more people to pay attention to, entitled Don’t Shoot the Dog, The New Art of Teaching and Training. In it, she talks a lot about how to train animals, even those traditionally assumed to be untrainable, via positive conditioning. The crossover applications with people and organizations are mostly implied, but that book changed my approach to leadership immensely.

        I think there’s an ocean of human potential we’re pissing away through poor team-building, bad organization, piss-poor incentivization that we’ve institutionalized, and a raft of other issues related to this.

        Humans can be very, very good at organization in small groups, down around the “band” level–Which is not coincidentally around the size of a football team, baseball team, or infantry squad. Add in the attached women and children, and that’s probably about as big as we’re able to handle without the whole thing turning into a nightmare of bureaucracy and institutionalized dumbassery.

        I honestly can’t think of a single large organizational structure that has had both longevity and effectiveness. NASA of the 1950s and 1960s morphed into the NASA of the 1970s. IBM has managed a couple of reinventions, but they always seem to eventually have a period of stagnation and self-destruction, not to mention lost opportunities.

        Creative, chaotic organizational destruction seems to be a thread for human effectiveness. Anything that gets big, gets fat, and becomes ineffective over time.

    2. I’ve seen similar levels of smooth switching between members in small startups. One issue that the startups face that Spec Ops don’t (for the most part) is that if they become successful they need to expand the team to others. That transition is hard. And also deserves much research from the social sciences too that it doesn’ty get

  13. One of the ten smartest people I have ever known was a black guy in graduate school at Alabama who was a body builder who could still quote Shakespeare from plays he had performed in a decade before. We had a black girl who most of the other blacks hated because she dated white guys who liked the same music she did (Led Zeppelin and such). She didn’t date according to her race, but to her culture (she was an army brat, and grew up with white middle class kids). And there was a black guy as FSU who got caught selling cocaine, just after he signed a million dollar contract with the 49ers, and then got caught again a week later selling at the same place. Had to be one of the dumbest people in the city. But I guess to bureaucrats they were all black people, and so could fit any job that needed a black person to fill out that particular slot. As said by Sarah, diversity helps if it brings needed skills to the table. Like having an army of all knights and not enough longbowmen (and we know how well that worked out for the French vs the English). Bringing a Russian knight to the table with all the French knights really does nothing to improve the ability of the Army, unless he has the trait of military genius that is not dependent on race. (I would rather have Shaka leading my army than many of the Louis’ that rule France). As Weber pointed out in one of his books, in which a genetically engineered superman is dismantled in hand to hand by normal bodybuilder Zilwicki, we are all on bell curves of ability, and can’t be perfectly slotted into roles according to superficial markers such as skin coler, hair color, intensity of gaze or such.

  14. “On a man-for-man basis, the Germans proved that their attention to low-level detail made them exponentially more effective on the battlefield. In some cases, particularly where our infantry went up against their infantry without benefit of supporting arms on either side, we got our clocks very thoroughly cleaned, like on the order of ten-to-one.”

    Assuming facts not in evidence.

    1. Bah, that was supposed to be a reply to Kirk. The other thing is that, except for the whole jumping out of airplanes thing, American paratroopers are just normal light infantry. Who are convinced they are the baddest MFers on the planet. And have that belief reinforced by the chain of command. And who have a record that backs them up.

      Training is fine, but when the rubber hits the road, it is unit espirit de corps that counts for a bunch. See Bastogne.

      1. Dave, you’re ignoring the “minus supporting arms” thing. As well, the guys at Bastogne were atypical for US Infantry, in that war–Better men, better motivated, better armed and equipped. You need to go looking at cases where the average German was fighting the average American, and those don’t show off the American training or equipment at all well. Up until we shut down the ASTP program and shipped those poor bastards off to Europe to fight with little or no training, our Infantry was made up of the dregs of the manpower pool. After the Bulge, we found out what a mistake that was, and they started changing things. We did that deliberately, by the way, as a strategic choice. Marshall’s intent was to win the war without killing a bunch of high-quality men off, intending for the cannon fodder to come from other sources.

        Considering the number of high-quality men that were expended in the 8th Air Force, I’m not sure they made the right decisions.

        Subtract the artillery, the air suppot, the engineers, and the tanks? We got our asses handed to us, every time. Fortunately, we weren’t stupid enough to let that happen very often.

      2. Esprit de corps just gets you killed in job lots next to your buddies. For evidence, I would offer up the French Army in the early phases of WWI.

        I’m not going to say you’ve been drinking too much Airborne Kool-Aid, but… Yeah. You have been.

        When you compare the five airborne divisions formed during WWII with the rest of the US Army divisions, you find that they were given higher-quality manpower, better training, more light infantry weapons, fewer missions, and were, in general, were a genuine elite. Comparing their performance to the average US Infantry division, you’ll find almost the same disparity you find between the US and German divisions, performance-wise. There’s no wonder the Airborne did better–It would have been a scandal if they hadn’t, given the resources lavished on them.

        The rest of the Infantry? Oh, dear… And, do try to remember that things don’t turn on how effective your elite shock troops are, they turn on how effective your line units are. The Germans produced better line units than we did, routinely, and had they been working from an equivalent resource base to ours? I suspect we’d be posting this in German.

    2. Ah, but we had the artillery. Bill Maudlin observed at the time that if a few German soldiers appeared at a hilltop, the British would send up a squad, and maybe they’d lose a few men, maybe the British would. . . .

      We’d shoot a few shells thataway. They HATED it.

  15. Bigotry and division have moved from being simply essential for one political party’s power (bad enough) to being central to the identity of entire groups of people (catastrophic and follows from the previous).

    No amount of diversity or acceptance will ever be enough. They’ll find ever finer definitions with which to label themselves and decry our insensitivity and bigotry for not acknowledging their nuance.

    Meanwhile I’m stuck looking at people and missing the labels because I’m blind like that.

  16. “Me? I’m Latina, and so exactly the same as the Wise Latina on the Supreme Court. I could totally fill in for her on her days off,”

    Please? Pretty please, with cherries on top?

  17. With a dictionary in my other hand. And a pencil to write the translation over the word. My kids found my copy of Dandelion Wine the other day, and had MUCH fun.

    Oh, that’s CLEVER!

    May I steal it? I’ve been trying to figure out how Rocky has good enough English to talk to the Totally Not United Federation Of Planets people and have it revealed that he’s not using a translator when he reads something.

  18. It relies on REAL diversity – of thought, of opinion, of ideas – (which prevents debacles like Windows 8, written by geeks, for geeks, with no understanding of who the end users are) – of experience. It relies on real, individual competences and assumes that each person, regardless of color or visible differences also has some failings, which can be compensated for by other people who don’t have them.

    Ok, guys. She’s officially done it. Not only does this statement not meet any of the currently accepted Political Correctness Directives it actively promotes the existence of Double Plus Ungood Badthink. One might almost think that our hostess is one of those…I’m sorry….Rightists. This is thought-crime pure and simple.

    You see, the only true diversity is diversity of race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and whatever a creed is. Diversity of thought is not only false diversity, it is also sick twisted and wrong. The One True Way is the Marxist Way. The way of government enslav…err…benevolence. Think about it.

    People who don’t follow the party line might actually think that they are capable of doign something to help themselves. They may step out of line and try to do somethign to help themselves. They may even think that it’s possible for poor people to succeed through hard work instead of whining about “privilege” and collecting welfare checks because that’s all they’ve been “empowered” to do. Think about it. Why do you think you’re supposed to believe in White Privilege?

    If we start telling these minorities that they are actually capable of making their own way in the world who is going to vote for our Marxist politicians? Who would scream about Social Justice if they thought they could actually do something to improve their position in life through education leading to a good job? What happens when children are allowed to get vouchers from the state so that they can get a better education at a PRIVATE school that might not push Marxist Goodthink? It might even push kids to improve themselves instead of wallowing in self pity. This would lead to a citizenry that thinks for itself and might be willing to tell us to shove off.

    I get the fact that there may be some value to having people who look at things in a different manner assigned to the same project but it’s just not worth the risk. All people, of all races must be taught to think the proper thoughts. This will product the proper actions and we can all live in a Marxist utopia. Well, not all of us. You clearly disagree with our benevolent guidance and will not be allowed to benefit from such. Just get into the van. We have need of zeks for projects in Alaska.

    1. Not of creed. Creeds involve thought. The last thing you want is people who think differently.

  19. Diversity is strength when it’s in stuff that is not essential to the task at hand.

    So, you don’t want diversity of intelligence or basic morality in your doctors, but on the practical side a diversity of backgrounds– best doctor EVER was the one that would ask my folks if they had time to heal properly, and gave treatment accordingly– and, yes, sex and appearance. My mom can make a half-hour long laugh fest out of when (as a cute early 20-something year old teacher) she accepted a request for a med student to prep her for some kind of gut surgery where she had to be, uh, shaved all below the waist…. and they sent in a cute, early 20-something year old guy.

    I HATE having female ob/gyns, because they always feel free to lecture me on how much of an evil person I am for not pumping my body full of artificial hormones as soon as I’m done giving birth. (I know there must be observant, orthodox Catholics who are female and pregnancy doctors…but I haven’t found ’em.)

    If customer interaction is important, than so is appearance. Religion too, actually; my pediatrician is an observant Catholic and that gives him a basis of conversation with those parents worried about fetal stemline vaccines.

    It kind of makes sense…. Liberals think that appearance is a primary goal– you have to LOOK morally correct, and their morality is political, so you MUST have a good mix of this, that and the other visual signifier.

      1. And pretty small demand while here, sadly. The only doctor I’ve ever searched for a reason to abandon has more time as an OB/GYN that I have as a breathing human, and he swore he’d never heard of someone with a moral objection to sterilization– he’d just tried to schedule me for getting my tubes tied in conjunction with a c-section for my second baby.


        I chose him because he’s part of the CATHOLIC health care system….

        1. Did you ask him if he was deaf?

          Considering the fact that it has been a major contention all over the national news for the last several years, I find it disingenuous to claim to have never heard of it. Particularly when it is part of your job.

          1. This would’ve been about… oh…three years ago, and I’m now pretty sure he doesn’t listen to anyone not directly talking to him, and not much then.

            I really don’t take well to folks who aren’t my dad trying to act like my dad, without the awareness and basic decent my dad has.

          1. I’d gladly take that over being brow-beat, while in the middle of labor, before they’ll give me pain killer or even try to give birth, to get sterilized.

            I’d been in serious labor and basically told to just hold it for over an hour, at that point. Really not impressed with the row I’m left to hoe thanks to “my VBAC had bad outcomes, sue!” vultures.

            1. I’ve heard stories about OB/GYN’s in Utah who have tried pulling some shady things. The wife and I are still a little suspicious of some of the things that happened after our daughter was born.

              1. Isn’t it Utah where a guy sterilized a bunch of young ladies and folks only figured it out when they went in to reproductive specialists?

  20. PSA announcement: …

    This Public Service Announcement announcement has been brought to you by the Number 6, the letter Q, and the Department of Redundancy Department, where we’re Serving Man for a More Nutritious Future.

  21. The first time I saw a really blond guy, I had nightmares for weeks. You see, I thought he was a doll that had come to life. As for black people, I think I saw the first when I was six.

    The first time I met a blond-eyed, blue haired Caucasian, I was standing at the edge of a swimming pool in the Philippines. I was three, and overly fond of the various nature documentaries like Life on Earth – The man, a university student earning extra money as a swim tutor, was surfacing out of the water, wearing goggles that had the unfortunate effect of magnifying the size of his eyes. I screamed “SHAAAAAAAAAAARK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and fled. They could NOT coax me back into the water, even when they showed me that the owner of those blue eyes was definitely a human being.

    The first time my daughter saw black people, we were arriving at Charles de Gaulle, and an African couple, with coal black skin and dressed in traditional African attire (I have no idea what country) walked past where we were waiting for the baggage to come out of the plane. My daughter, perhaps eight or nine months old, stiffened in fear in my arms, her eyes fixed on these strange beings. She tracked them with her head slowly turning, eyes big and wide. It took me several minutes of soothing before she relaxed. Both my mother and I were glad the couple hadn’t noticed. The next time my baby saw black people though, she didn’t react that way any more.

    1. there was a time when I walked about cons with a puppet. I noticed that small children had a certain tendency to track me and it. I don’t know if they were scared but they were certainly studying it.

    2. Always reminds me of a friend of mine’s kid. He used to watch the show COPS with his parents and would sing along and dance with the theme song.

      He was around four when he seen is first black man in the grocery store checkout line. He started pointing and bouncing up and down, saying, “Bad boy, bad boy!”

        1. His mom wanted to find a hole and crawl in it, his dad (according to his mom) found it hilarious and was laughing too hard to be of any help. Which I gather from comments she made whenever he would tell the story, made her want to strangle him, before she crawled in a hole.

  22. Going way back up thread, my Pop is an old paratrooper. (1952 or so) Who is proud of the half a dozen or so guys he talked out of signing up as paratroopers. He would let just snort/laugh loudly when someone started spouting off about joining up because they were the toughest blankets blanks around. (His last jump his lines tangled with the next guys, they untangled n got separated luckily. But his matter of fact telling of that story always gave me chills. I was born 15 years after he got out.)
    And as a statistical coincidence, he was 1/4 German. Diversity in the individual, eh?

  23. Sarah, I for one can never forget the role that Guano had in the War of the Pacific.

    1. Is that the same Colonel “Bat” Guano who tried to get the recall codes from General Jack D. Ripper at Burpelson Air Force Base?

      1. no…..the nitrate rich deposits in the Atacama desert that was being developed by Chilean businessmen when Peru nationalized the deposits and Bolivia started putting a tariff on all loads being shipped out on their railroads.

  24. “Bob, I think you’d be better in this team. They need someone with your analytical skills.”

    Are you trying to send me a message? Do I need to check my email? 🙂

    ‘(which prevents debacles like Windows 8, written by geeks, for geeks, with no understanding of who the end users are) ‘

    My pet theory is that due to internal politics, Microsoft alternates whether they make windows for the business market, or for what they think is sexy.

    For 8, smart phones and such were sexy.

    For Vista, it was the home market.

    That said, the theory may start to fail at that point.

  25. So that comment thread on the top about different OSes is – despite our general disdain for win 8 – a great example of true diversity. In a month or so when the Linux mint versions based on Ubuntu 14.04 come out you’ll be able to see close to a dozen radically different looking systems running on the same basic code and meeting the needs of all sorts of different people. And contrariwise there will be OSes that look similar on the top with different code bases underneath. Add in Mac OS, Debian, Fedora, all those weird BSDs and Windows 7/8/8.1 and we have more practical diversity than you can shake a stick at.

    One could possibly draw dangerous parallels between the requirements for PC diversity and the differences between windows versions. But that would be cruel (to Microsoft)

  26. If you are going to insist that diversity be real rather than superficial you will reduce its utility as a club for browbeating people into becoming widgets. The whole point of the Diversity Agenda is to distract with words the deeds being done.

    “I weep for you, I deeply sympathize.” Now pass the horseradish.

  27. On the slight chance that no other commenters here have mentioned it…

    There are multiple reasons for a drive for diversity. One of them is simply for a placeholder as an existence theorem. “No, our company isn’t prejudiced against blacks, because, here, see, we have one. Now don’t sue us.”

    (This too is a racist argument, because it means you’re hiring someone as litigation insurance, not based on merits. The purpose could be served with a cardboard cutout.)

    But I couldn’t agree more with your main point, which you made quite eloquently — the kind of Diversity that matters most is diversity between the ears, people who don’t think quite the way you do.

    1. Supporters of Affirmative Action will claim that they don’t want “quotas” but when they look at companies to sue, they look at percentages of “minority” workers.

      Therefore companies feel they have to hire certain percentages of minorities to keep from being sued.

      Oh, it’s been a while since I filled out job applications but one of the things that are given out with the actual application was a “voluntary” “what race are you form”.

      I’ve long suspected that companies included that form so that when the Affirmative Action witch hunts came calling, they could say “here’s the numbers of minorities vs non-minorities who applied for jobs with us”.

      IE if the company didn’t have the “proper” percentages of minorities, they could say that not enough minorities applied.

      Of course, it may very well be “racist” but it is a form of racism that the Affirmative Action Witch Hunters agree with and/or caused to happen.

    2. This too is a racist argument, because it means you’re hiring someone as litigation insurance, not based on merits. The purpose could be served with a cardboard cutout

      Better served, in some cases.

      I’ve gotten complements a couple of times based on, basically, not actively causing problems. At one point I was given E5 quarters as an E3 in a case that basically boiled down to that. (I was the only female they could find who didn’t have any “problems,” and the CMC wanted to make it so there were no girl rooms by boy rooms… when we didn’t have enough barracks space for such foolishness.)

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