Slide In All Directions – A Blast From the Past Post, September 2012

Are you nervous?  Confused?  Distressed?  Don’t be!  Tune in for the next episode of Sarah’s blog.

Yesterday, at an ordinary get together between friends, we found that we were all waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats.  Now, this being the type of gathering it was, most of our cold sweats centered on the election and since most of them do for a living this non-fiction thing I do sporadically and more intensely right now, we’re all dead-tired, hollow-eyed and walking into walls as is.

But there were enough people in other fields and who aren’t as intensely political present, that the sense of unease and discomfort, the sense that we’re standing on thin ice is not just politics.  “Something is going on here.”

What is going on here – and the reason I’m having cold sweats over the election – is ultimately the same thing that is going on in publishing.  It’s good and it’s bad, it’s exhilarating and terrifying, and the people who are terrified have declared war on it, and even those of us who’ve embraced it are scared.  Very scared.  You see… the future is not what it used to be.  In fact, it never was.

It’s impossible now to read the golden age of science fiction without getting two things: the confidence and the hopefulness.

The hopefulness I can fully get behind, but the confidence, the certainty that they knew what the future held – that baffles me.  Oh, not absolutely.  I’ve read enough of history and of the nonfiction writings of the first half of the twentieth century to realize they thought they had it all figured out.  (The only thing that confuses me is how they didn’t know how it had worked in the past.  I’m guessing they thought their technology was so extraordinary it made what had failed in the past possible.  Or perhaps it was simply the Soviet Union’s propaganda, making it look like it worked THERE.)

It is clear, even from Heinlein’s juveniles that they expected a world-wide government with tighter controls over people’s private lives than even we have managed to inflict on ourselves.  And it works because… because… because… Science!

In Heinlein’s books, because the man was aware of history, there was a hard science of psychology and also one of politics that made all this possible, if not desirable.  (Even in the early books, his characters strive to escape other people’s plans for them.)

People travel around the world, they fly to the stars, and all of it is overseen by variations on FDR’s regime – more or less benevolent – which makes the whole thing work.

I guess when the USSR had apparently pulled a medieval kingdom into the 20th century in a couple of decades – as far as the information coming out, at least – this made sense.

Of course, there was also how rapid and visible progress had been, and how we BELIEVED we had everything under control now.

Let’s say the USSR was very short of an advertisement and that any regime that tried to apply that to the whole world would be a sad, mad, fractured regime.  Let’s also say most of us know that now, at some level.

In many ways the wars of the 21st century so far have been wars against global communication.  Those who resent their people’s ability to see that they aren’t the brightest/bravest/most civilized in the world turn to religion and bitter, limiting beliefs and try to erase that which “offends” them by showing them their inferiority.  And I’m not JUST talking about Muslim countries.

It boggles the mind to read early 20th century books where travel across the globe was cheap and almost instant and there was no resistance to this modernity, this change.  Even the handwavium of “hard science psychology” can’t quite but leave us baffled.

We’re aware now that there’s more difference between cultures and religions than that.  (We’re also trying to claim those are genetic – well, not us, but the other sect of Luddites bedeviling us.  Never mind.  Jean Jacques Rousseau’s fault.  If I had only one bullet, and one time machine…  Never mind.)

Part of this was of course that the two generations before ours had seen their world change enormously – from horse and buggy to intercontinental flight – and embraced it, and couldn’t imagine anyone NOT.

But what they’d embraced was… a physical change.  Yes, machines could spin faster than humans, and that meant no childhood labor, but machines were still making the same goods in the same way.  They still had to be transported over distances.  You still had to go in to work every day.  Etc. etc. etc.

And their projections of the future, those things they so confidently embraced and foretold, were more of the same: people worked across the globe, but they went in to a physical location to work; they flew spaceships by being members of the astrogator’s union; and writers would maybe fax their work in, but books were still printed or somehow encoded in a physical form.

Turns out it didn’t work out as advertised.  Might it have?  Well, part of it was, I think, impossible from the beginning.  Like… the world cultures all effortlessly becoming a sort of ersatz 50s America for instance with their different customs so much décor.  (Weirdly I think that’s how most people who preach multiculturalism see it.  Part of this, of course, is that the future comes – always – from America and being a nation of immigrants who willingly abandoned their culture and keep only the… scenic portions, we fail to get that culture as a group experience is different.  I recommend one reads the parable of the crab bucket.)

But in the Western World we might certainly have had the population multiplying wave, and the strength of mind and purpose to NOW have colonies in the solar system.  Only… we didn’t because of the peculiar nature of the Boomer generation.  (Are you blaming the boomers again, Sarah?  No, not blaming.  But that they were in many ways the first generation in which even the poor were well off by other generation’s standards, that they were massive in numbers, and that they were the target of soviet agitprop made a difference.  How could it not.  And no, I’m not one of them.  Nor is anyone really after somewhere in the mid fifties.  That idea is a fiction they created to remain relevant.  Born in 62 I “got here afterwards” and to an extent at least early on defined myself in opposition to them.  To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, my generation turned its back on the sit-ins and love-ins, cut our hair and got jobs.  Someone had to.)  They not only didn’t have children early but they also went hook line and sinker for luddite nonsense rising to the levels of religious hysteria.  They turned on their own species, though I don’t think they were aware of that, and decided we shouldn’t leave this planet, because like Lord Byron we were “mad bad and dangerous to know.”  They, in fact, decided theirs was the pinnacle of achievement, and that life should be frozen just like this, with perhaps a little decay and population reduction, but never below the tech of the thirties, or above the tech of the sixties.  (I still think, btw, all this was Soviet Agit Prop.)  They would preside over the turning point into gentle decay, and the human race would live ever after like a contented dowager, taking up increasingly less room and reminiscing on her youth.

Only… change doesn’t work that way.  Nor does technology.  The bright minds who might have designed a better kind of rocket, finding themselves thwarted went into computers.  This was allowed because, after all, it was just improving what already existed.

Only it wasn’t.  And the people who are scared of technological change, of societal uncertainty, caught on too late.  In the nineties they scrambled to talk down the computer revolution, to pile on on online commerce as soul destroying, to guilt us into abandoning email and AIM.  The government, ever as clued as big publishing houses, lumbered around doing the bidding of the people who believed government was the future (because they are the ones who go into government careers, by and large) and kicking over sand piles with lawsuits against various tech companies.

And they were oh, so horribly inefficient.  They’re still trying.  The current front in this battle is the “Amazon is evil” moaning and beating of chests.

They won’t succeed.  And the quake of technology of which we’re feeling the first rumbles is going to make the industrial revolution seem like a storm in a teacup.

No?  Think.  What we’re seeing happen in publishing will happen in education and it will happen in every other field too.  Except for a very few jobs, jobs will get uncoupled from a place.  Now, instead of choosing from the best qualified candidate in your city, you can pick worldwide.  Outsourcing?  You ain’t seen nothing yet.

What will it do?  Even my mind boggles.  I think overtime all skilled people around the world will become comparable in salary, but that’s okay because cost of living will equalize too.

The way there will be …. Horrible in many places, and unsettling in the best of them.  BUT on the other side there’s a society where how far you get is limited only by how hard you’re willing to work.

I think the change that’s coming, and which my grandchildren might see the end of (though I’ll tuck away a hope that increased longevity will allow me to see the middle of it) will refashion the way individuals the world over think of themselves.  It might at that bring the triumph of the American way of life – once the present generation of doubters shuts up or disappears – because a constitutional democratic republic is the best way to manage a diverse and pugnacious society.

BUT my guess is what it will birth will not be a worldwide regime, but something far more complex, fractured and interesting.  People might at long last really be able to experiment with forms of government they believe in, (even if they are stupid, yes) by living near other like minded people, regardless of what they do or what natural resources the area has.

At the end of this I suspect we’ll have a sort of federalism writ large.  And the savings in time and manpower – from not having to fly containers of data around, for one – and the improvements in science from around-the-world instantaneous communication and better education-at-will; and the loosening of the grip of governments on economies (through distributed workforces) will  usher in an era of prosperity that WILL propel us to the stars.

I can see it.  It’s so close I can taste it.

So can the luddites.  Which is why they’re screaming and thrashing around like banshees and making use of 20th century communications tech to TRY to keep the future at bay.  It annoys me, because if they succeed the transition will be unnecessarily painful, unnecessarily bloody, and I might not live to see the other side.

What makes me wake up in the middle of the night is the fear that the land I love, and my children born here, will not live as an entity to see the other end of this either.

But that’s a personal and minor quibble.  Technology and knowledge, once they reach a certain point, cannot be wholly stopped.  You can change their course from what seems logical.  But eventually, to quote Leonard Cohen, “Things are going to slide, slide in all directions, Won’t be nothing you can measure anymore.”  And then… they’ll settle in a new pattern.  And move on.

Whether the future continues to come from America or someone elsewhere picks up the flag; whether it’s now or five hundred years from now – a more free world is coming, one that allows for more individual definitions of happiness and satisfaction…  for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And the people now trying to stop it will be bumps on the road.

148 responses to “Slide In All Directions – A Blast From the Past Post, September 2012

  1. This seems strangely apropos:

    For antecedent strips (in colour!), go to http://www.seattlepi.com/comics-and-games/fun/Mallard_Fillmore/2015-07-28/ and scroll forward.

  2. We should remember what Bismarck said, “God Looks After Drunks, Fools And The United States of America.” Somehow we always go the right direction even after wandering around confused for a while.
    God do I need coffee!

  3. America 3.0

    • I think America is in a perpetual state of Beta testing.

      • Regrettably, those entrusted with the debugging have forgotten what the software was originally intended to do and keep installing malware (17th Amendment) to fix features under the impression they are bugs. This has resulted in some atrocious kludges and increased degredation of functions (SCOTUS) intended to make the system self-servicing.

      • Optimist. This is still in the development stage; I don’t know any programmers that would send it to Beta Testing yet.

  4. Obama says he’s ready to serve a third term, and Hillary say she’s a refrigerator, you buy it and then you get to look inside. Meaning she’s never done anything as homey as buy a refrigerator.

    • apparently! Good Lord.

      • I know there was a strong element of “you have to vote for the bill to see what’s in it” and there was something about a box of Arm and Hammer and veggies rotting in the back, but I couldn’t make sense of the metaphor during the few seconds I could bear to read it.

        • And it appeared she was presenting herself as a fresh item we just had to take a chance on.

          • Fresh!

            Fascinating.

            • Did anyone else spot this Hillary “I’m a refrigerator” comment? Now I can’t find it.

              • I don’t doubt it has been dropped down the memory Hole — it’s an incredibly stupid metaphor.

                What kind of idiot buys a refrigerator without looking inside to check the milk space, the butter storage, the shelving adjustment options, the crisper drawers (and how easily they can be removed for cleaning after the cucumbers you forgot were in there have returned to water) as well as whether you can store sodas & cold water for the kids?

                Of course, Hillary certainly had a decorator or kitchen manager buy the walk-in refrigerator for her mansions in NY & D.C. and certainly never would dream of walking in herself to check it — that’s for the caterers to do.

                • As far as I can tell Winston put it into the memory Hole.

                • Speaking as someone who happens to be in the market for a refrigerator, Mrs. Clinton’s never even seen an advertisement for one. They always show them open, with contents in place so you can see that the weird rack in the door is meant to hold 20 soda cans and go what the heck? Why would anyone want that much soda? Why not a rack that fits beer bottles? and Okay, so I can put gallon jugs on the bottom shelf but not the top, next store flier, please!

              • Yesterday, 7/29, Neoneocon. Actually a quote from Pelosi.

          • Are you saying she wanted us to squeeze the melons?

            As Bartleby was wont to say, “I would prefer not to.”

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Is that a fancy way of admitting that she’s a cold woman?

    • When what a politician sells is “identity” nobody needs to look inside, the packaging provides all the information you should require.

      Only old-fashioned politicians have to sell policy and principles and explain how those will achieve desirable goals. Those don’t matter with identity candidates — all that counts with such as they is whether they are authentic or, like Rubio, Cruz, Jindal and Fiorina, inauthentic. Authentic candidates come with all apps already installed.

      • So — not really something Hillary said. Too good to be true, and of course it traces back to The Pelosi.

        • I remember that “all the fiddly bits and wires and stuff” statement – basically the “magic” theory of technology, and of government.

    • RealityObserver

      Has she ever seen the inside of a refrigerator? That’s a task for the servant class.

      • How is Hillary like a refrigerator:

        Both have brittle exteriors
        Both have frigid interiors
        Both are prone to growing mold and fungus
        Both have their interior light go out when you shut the door on them

      • I’d like to show her the inside of a refrigerator. I think if you padlock the doors…

  5. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Recent feelings of uncertainty mentioned days ago seem more likely to be political than a technical change.

    It is summer, and we are waiting for the shoe to drop after Baltimore. Where will the next riot be? The lack of follow up does suggest that it was a put up to sink O’Malley, but people are not going to take comfort from that while supporting Clinton.

    The economic and foreign affairs situation is none too good.

    We don’t know how many episodes of Human Capital are going to come out, or what the fall out will be.

  6. sabrinachase

    I want all the rules and regulations to be by clade, like in Diamond Age 🙂 And you pick your neighborhood by the rules it lives by. So I can have attack goats if I want. And a carpapult. We’ll leave gubbermint to handle the fundamental and crucial stuff, like power and inter-clade internet handoff and meteor interception. NOT banana curvature.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Ah, so that’s what it would take to get your goat.

    • Letting the Feds do the higher level stuff sounds good until you talk to people who actually deal with Federal level decision making. As an example from the mil procurement side of that world, talk to Navy surface warfare people (away from the political officers public affairs folks) about the LCS (“Not enough crew to do damage control, and not enough armor to need it!”), or fighter pilots about the F-35 (“Can’t out-turn a two-seat F-16 that was not allowed to drop it’s drop tanks, but it has cool screens in the cockpit!”), or infantry folks about the XM-8 rifle (“It only melts when you shoot a lot!”).

      Or look at the Iran “deal”.

      The FedGov is not actually all that adept at doing anything, including higher-level stuff, certainly not as well as a free market would be.

      For weapons procurement I think we need more companies competing with actual hardware for trials instead of powerpoint duels – ground trials in Afghanistan are where the ground troops discovered the whole melting aspect of the H&K XM-8, and in spite of my snark the LCS two-variants is the much better at identifying problems with those ships than the traditional “one design wins” procurement method – and that’s one reason why the F-35 is sucky – they eliminated the Boeing design early).

      For diplomacy, I don’t know: How about we don’t elect morons, who then appoint unelectable morons to do negotiating? Really it could only have been worse if they sent Crazy Uncle Joe to negotiate the deal – then the Iranians would have also got Florida.

      • Some of the military procurement deals were wonderful – for the vendor. I remember we had one piece of equipment which had an $800 electronics board in it. If a peanut bulb on the board burned out, we scrapped the board (by sending it back to the vendor).

      • For diplomacy? First we shoot all the academics.

        More seriously, make sure all ambassadorial candidates and senior Foreign Service Officers can pass the George Schultz “Point out your country on this globe” test.

        We also need to make some changes in our postings. One major reason, I gather, for our problems in the Middle East has been that a junior F.S.O. stationed in Cairo can get promoted into Ankara, then to Beirut, Riyadh, Islamabad, Amman, Sanaa and Doha, very possibly retiring to head a richly endowed foundation or think tank, or to occupy a chair in Middle Eastern studies at some prestigious institute. Notice that any stop in Jerusalem ends the tour of M.E. capitals, ensuring the aspiring éminence grise gets off the merry-go-round, does not pass go and does not collect $200.

      • You’re under the misapprehension that “we” have any choice in who we vote for.

        The Democratic and Republican Party Congresses, known as NGOs or “non-governmental organizations” in modern parlance, do the voting. Those few hundred people, entirely outside the system, choose two out of 330-odd million people. The pathetic either-or “vote” we get to make at the end is essentially irrelevant.

  7. Jeff Mauldin

    I’m not so sure about the uncoupling of place and jobs, but I’m not sure why I’m not sure.

    A few data points:

    Yahoo, I understood, changed from allowing workers to work remote and required them to start coming into the office. And that is a company which presumably would be more likely to be on the cutting edge of the change your are talking about.

    I worked remote from New Mexico for a company in Rhode Island for about 8 years. This was possible due to technology. But when the great recession came along, I was the easy one to let go when the work dried up–partly because I wasn’t around to look in the eye and partly because they assumed (correctly) that I would be able to find another job easier than the locals because unemployment was worse in their region.

    On Monster I limited my job search to New Mexico. But Amazon saw my resume and contacted me and interviewed me. They were about to fly me out for an interview, and I was considering taking the job, but I got a local job and wanted to stay local due to family.

    Amazon, another tech company, had no interest in employing me as a remote worker.

    Remote online education looks to me to be somehow a long way from what happens when you go to a university, and although I have opinions I can’t really say exactly why and how to change it.

    I’ve found video conferencing, when working, to be an effective substitute for a face to face meeting. Coding sure seems like something you can do shared remotely. Educational lectures have to be as good on line as in person–questions from the class don’t add much or need to be incorporated into the recorded lecture. The student needs to do the exercises (and labs?) to really learn. And maybe have some one on one or small group interaction with professors?

    I’ve heard comments about meetings ‘bringing the communication cost to near zero.’

    Maybe we need really effective VR so we can interact with people almost the same as if we are with them. Or we need some big cultural shift where we feel loyal to and work just as good with people who are remote as who are physically nearby.

    Maybe when a friend moves to a different state, but you can interact with them just as freely and easily as when they lived in the same town, that’s when locality no longer matters.

    • From what I hear here in Silicon Valley the Yahoo thing was strictly the result of an interaction between the Good Idea Fairy and the new CEO – there was no groundswell from Yahoo managers to kill off telecommuting, especially as it had been very widely used, basically allowing work from home on Monday and Friday with in-person meetings held T/W/Th.

      And with the wide distribution of tech industry work locations, it’s most likely lots of meeting are going to be conference calls anyway (across lots of time zones too – last tech job I had I ran weekly calls spanning from US time zones, to coding teams in both Ireland and Mumbai), so the downside of letting people call in from elsewhere isn’t really that high.

      And when a customer demands a 3:00AM PT call so they can include their Philippines facility (and then the Philippines people never call in), sorry, that’s going to happen for me from home.

      Personally I think the new Yahoo CEO walked around one Monday and got pissed she saw so many empty cubes, which prevented her from getting any adulation from the plebes.

      • Rob Crawford

        My employer had the option to work 90 hours over a two-week period in exchange for working 9 days instead of 10. Great for running errands, going to the doctor, and all that stuff you have to take time away from the office to accomplish. Plus, it applied to salaried people only, so it cost the company nothing.

        Two weeks after I started there, a new CIO ended the policy.

    • sabrinachase

      A great deal of the resistance is from managers who don’t know how to show they are doing a good job with remote workers, or who don’t trust people to work on their own. I have worked with several companies that allowed *some* remote working, and the one I am with now just arranged for a permanent remote worker to keep a good dev 😉

      A big problem used to be technological limitations and internet bandwidth. Few people had the high speed connections to make VPN very useful. Now, though, it’s pretty prevalent at least where I am, so I can connect securely to access my dev environment and other secure resources.

      Corporate culture needs to really change before this can be a thing, though. More focus on work done vs. hours at desk. Not sure how to change that, but I would very much welcome being able to NOT have to commute.

      • Definitely – the culture has to accommodate it first, and then the line manager has to be secure enough that they don’t have a need to go look into cubes to make sure their reports are working.

        It’s a learned skill, but as Sara says, the schools are doing so much remotely these days that this practice will be imprinted early, and then when those little ducks become managers someday the very thought will not be alien.

        Plus the micromanagers among them will have really good spyware to count keystrokes and spy on their minions remotely, and will have enough innate tech skills that they don’t need to convince any IT folks to install it for them.

      • Rob Crawford

        I generally oppose social engineering through tax policy, but credits for telecommuting make sense. Reduce the load on the roads, spread out the power and water loads, and give people more time for their own lives.

        • Provided such credits have a built-in (hard) phase-out, I agree. After a bit we’re paying for what employers have already proven cuts costs and would do anyway. Limited time credits serves to get them to try the technology, unlimited simply adds complication to (and invites gaming of) the tax code.

          OTOH, simply eliminating the corporate income tax would serve even better (but I am not holding my breath awaiting it.)

      • We’re running at about 50% of the attendees at small meetings being remote, mostly because upper mgmt has really bought into “international work groups” and remote attend for large (e.g. division and company) “all hands” meetings, etc.
        Limited help for my schedule – I’m do largely embedded firmware test and need too much company equipment to take it all home 😦 — good for days when I’m just writing test plans, etc. tho.
        So – depends on what you’re doing plus company aspirations, I guess.

    • Remote online education misses the point of interaction with students from a wide variety of backgrounds (there is actual value in diversity, which is why so many Proglodytes slap that label on their diversity-free version of it.) I also wonder whether, in this age of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”, there wouldn’t be filters slapped on to ensure that never is heard a discouraging word.

      In a classroom it is possible to look around and decide whether student non-reaction to a concept is because it has been transparently obvious or completely opaque; I doubt that can happen in an online class.

      There might also be issues with ensuring that the person ostensibly taking the class is actually the person online. While I daresay all of our ilk eagerly seek learning, I can readily imagine somebody’s accountant mum taking the Balance Sheet Analysis course in the name of the slacker offspring in order to bolster the resume and get the kid out of the house a mite sooner.

      • Waggles hand. I’ve seen some that plain sucks — it’s like correspondence courses on the computer — and I’ve seen (and taken) excellent highly interactive courses. BUT more importantly, half of my kids’ classes are online, no other option given.
        Look, I really think it’s a “when this generation passes away” thing.

        • I agree this is in part generational, but thought it appropriate to point out potential abuses. There are undoubtedly ways to limit those but a little forethought can avoid much regret.

      • There are work-arounds, methods, for all those issues. Some of them do awkwardly what is easy face-to-face, just think of that as an overhead cost against the efficiency gain of remote work.

      • It requires much more involved and active parents. There tend to be a lot more ‘quick check’ style quizzes. (I have a friend whose daughter was in such a course for several years and is going back this year.) It would NOT do well for a lazy kid with disinterested or oblivious parents. Though, to be fair, neither does the current system. Personally I’d like to see a mixture of options. Some people just work better face to face than remotely. Even of the younger generations.

        • That’s me. I just don’t learn from a video.
          I expect there will always be some schools catering to those who like in-person classes. I expect the schools that are networking schools (Ivy League, among others) where you attend as much to get contacts as to learn stuff will probably keep doing in-person classes for ever and ever.

    • It might be one of those “when this generation passes away” but I’m seeing a lot more telecommuting in computers, and for my kids’ generation it’s a “duh”

    • Find a copy of “Parkinson’s Law” by C. Northcote Parkinson. It’s an amusing take on the British foreign service in the 1950s, but it matched my time as a corporate sarariman exactly.

      Though they didn’t exactly have telecommuting in the 1950s, Parkinson goes into some detail about why managers in general hate it.

  8. Oh good. I thought it was just me going quietly nuts over here in my little corner. Well, yeah, I am going nuts, but I’m not alone. (Research books arrived, and I’m trying to lesson plan, and do admin stuff, and the . . . uh oh. The cat sounds borked. Yeah, you know that sound. Gotta go!)

    • See, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re going to go nuts (which is debatable – you might already be there since you hang out with this crowd), do it with the volume turned all the way up. That way your crazy can induce crazy in those around you and we can all go to the funny farm together.

      Oh, wait, you aren’t the one that Sarah told me not to encourage, are you? 🙂

    • Hairball. On my gymshirt. On my bed. Remind me again about how having housepets lowers your blood pressure and stress levels?

      • Back before The Violinist finally was tricked into marrying me, she had a cat (nothing against felis catus other than my allergies thereto – hers was a pretty cool cat), and her finely tuned cat owner superpowers enabled her to could go from dead asleep in total darkness to a holding a magazine under the mid-process hairball producing cat’s correct end in less than 3 seconds.

      • Don’t remind me of Mrs. NCT having baked some real serious brownies (as in: darkest, most potent chocolate we could find), me looking the other way for 30 seconds, then discovering my avatar’s lookalike had snatched away and gobbled the whole thing up. Figuring the amount of theobromine would be well over the lethal dose for a 12ib rat terrier, I raced her to the vet, who induced vomiting.
        Why some dogs find chocolate so appealing if it’s deadly for them…

  9. c4c

  10. I actually did that with my oldest’s Microsoft Office class – he gave me his password – I bought my own book – he was in a different place both me and the class – and I basically took the class, though he did also but I pretty much had to tell him what to do, though, actually the more I think about it, not sure he actually kept on doing the work at all

  11. In the non-computer field, like AC&R, or alarms systems, some companies now have the technicians drive the repair vans and vehicles home. They start their workday as they step out the door and are dispatched to their first job. Routed to workers who are closest to the service calls. Technicians show up at the HQ/office when they need to replenish spare parts. It’s much more efficient then having everyone drive in to the hub and clock in, then be routed out, after of course, coffee, socializing and the mandatory morning meeting that seems to occur… Computers and cell phones keep track or movements and time.

    Not all companies do this. Just the ones that want a higher profit margin from running a more efficient business. Not quite the same as working from home, but a step up from commuting to get to the stuff you need to do your job.

  12. This is not an endorsement of Carly Fiorina. It is recognition that (unlike the 3 Stooges currently mis-managing our foreign policy) she understands the questions we face.


    Just over 53″ long, with an approx. 27″ address followed by Q&A.

    I know there are criticisms of her management of HP but does anybody intend to argue that Hillary, Bernie or Barry O could have managed it half so well, much less better?

    • Saw this the other day, and in spite of lots of local animus to Carly due to her being in charge of HP during all the post-merger downsizing, I thought the same thing: “Hell, she sounds pretty good, and even if it’s a clever front, she couldn’t possibly be worse.”

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        It’d be very helpful to get someone substantially more competent than the Dems. Four to eight years of moderate competence isn’t going to make that much difference if the Dems again whine their way into another Obama or worse president.

        • Maybe I’m whistling past the graveyard, but as Major League Baseball is demonstrating these last few days leading up to the non-waiver trading deadline: farm systems matter. I look at the Democrat bench and depth charts and I don’t see much that worries me*.

          The best they can come up with this year is Hillary, Bernie, Martin, Lincoln and James? None of those are likely to be credible in 2020, much less 2024. Liz Warren isn’t likely to be a good candidate down the line, given her age. Who else have they got? Andy Cuomo, Bill DeBlasio, Jerry Brown, Terry McAuliffe, Chuck Schumer, Mark Warner, Amy Klobuchar? Frankly, if you can look into the Dems farm system and see anybody who is likely to make a serious run for president in the next three elections you’re wearing very rosy glasses.

          An administration is (as we’ve seen) more than just the top job. Whoever wins the GOP nomination and (please, G-D) the presidency, Republicans have far greater selection of staffers for the cabinet and agency leadership positions. OTOH, addressing the rot in the subsidiary civil service staff makes Heracles’ chore of cleaning the Augean Stables seem mild in comparison.

          *My greatest concern is that any of the Dems’ likely candidates is so awful that the election of one of those would be a clear indication of the Republic’s suicide.

          • 1. Import 30 million illegals who vote Democrat.
            2. Make sure there’s no check on fraud in Democrat cities like Austin, Houston, San Antonio.
            3. White House.

          • Point to remember about Democrats. Neither Obama or Carter were on the radar as potential presidential candidates two years before election day. And so far, Obama has made sure that Carter will not go down as the worst president in American History.

            We have no idea what lurks down in their primordial slime waiting to emerge when the time is right.

            • I maintain that neither Carter nor Obama won their first terms — the GOP lost. After Nixon (and Ford) a Democrat victor was a near certainty. After George W Bush, two years of Pelosi & Reid budgeting and hearings (blaming Republicans because the Dems running Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac had tanked the housing market), coupled with a constant drumbeat of Democrat talking points in the MSM … again, whoever the Dems ran was likely to win.

              We can argue 2012 either way — Romney was a weak candidate (albeit not so weak as McCain) running a weak campaign, or Obama and the MSM managed to manufacture sufficient Democrat “voters” to beat the margin of cheating.

              Sure, possibly there were great groundswells of desire for kleptocratic policies, and maybe Carter’s and Obama’s charisma overwhelmed the nation. Maybe I’ll discover an X-element in some meteoric platinum and develop an FTL drive this weekend.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            The whole host of problems that need addressing dwarf the twelve labors of Heracles. Maybe also if you throw in Cadmus and Theseus. I’d add in Romulus, except my inclination to talk up the Romans prevents me.

            It’d take an extremely strong ability to repair things to the point that it is obvious in the eyes of the American people. Absent that, folks might again respond to a Democratic strategy of virulently making insane unprincipled statements by splitting the difference with what the Republican say, and saying a pox on both houses.

            Then the Democrats just have to find a pretty face with severe pot dementia. The media cannot help but conceal the signs of impairment caused by heavy usage.

    • That of course sets the bar pretty low. I’m pretty sure my dog would have been a better manager of HP than BHOzo or Shillary.

  13. I’d heard Arthur Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” was being made into a mini-series. I’d read and enjoyed most of Clarke’s stuff early in my exploration into SF, nearly 40 years ago, now.

    So I re-read it. And was astounded at the naivete with respect to global government and the prospects of rationalism and internationalism superseding religion and nationalism.

    It was disconcerting.

    I remember re-reading Doc Smith’s Lensmen novels, and realizing that they were in essence paeans to fascist ubermenschen – not much different from Spinrad;s “Iron Dream”. (Or Hubbard’s “Mission Earth”).

    Re-reading “Childhood’s End” was similarly disconcerting.

    • I think Spinrad was being satirical.
      And in fairness to Smith, he managed to get around the question of “How do you make sure the guy with all the power isn’t a psycho” issue, and I think calling the Lensmen “fascist” is stretching things a bit.
      That having been said, Smith was also into eugenics, sooooo…yeah.

      • One word: Midichlorians.

        Paeans to Übermenschen indeed.

      • “Look at those skeletons! Flawless!” — Surgeon-General Lacy

      • richardmcenroe

        “Just look at those skeletons! Perfect!” — Chief Surgeon Lacy

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          “Chief Surgeon Lacy”? Where’s that from?

          • The surgeon guy is the Dr McCoy of Lensman HQ, He’s a buddy of the admiral, and he’s had Clarissa McDougall as his nurse. So early on, he talks about how both Kim Kinnison and Miss McDougall have perfect skeletons, just like an anatomy textbook. It’s funny on purpose, but the character’s also serious about it.

            • richardmcenroe

              Yes! He’s also the guy in Children of Lens that points out Kinnison and Clarissa’s five kids have NO genetic flaws so there’s no medical objection to their practicing incest t produce more perfect children.

              • Yeah, he’s a bit creepy. There were other reasons not to have incest than just genetic errors!

              • RealityObserver

                OK, beginning to recover from Ancillary Mind Deadness, finally noticed this one… (Being scrupulously fair by reading the whole thing – and didn’t get hold of a library copy until Tuesday.)

                EEP! I call cite check on that one! The closest Doc ever came to that was rather oblique references by Mentor of Arisia.

                Now, RAH, in “Time Enough for Love” (Lazarus and clone sisters Lapis and Lorelie) and “Number of the Beast” (Lazarus and mother Maureen, Jacob and Dejah Thoris) – those are really there.

      • The Lensmen *were* Fascists. They were very nearly the SS with super powers.

        I first read the Lensmen books in elementary school and didn’t question what I was reading until much later. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the Lensman universe was very ugly.

        Seaton and Crane weren’t much better.

        • While the Lensmen were undoubtedly authoritarian, you might want to review the definition of fascist. I don’t think they were micromanaging the societies except as neccesary to combat political corruption and traffic in Thionite, a ferociously destructive drug (and note that use of the drug is not illegal, merely trafficking in it.)

          There is insufficient information about the overall worlds of Lensman to conclude their economies or political structures are fascistic.

          Apparently Ron Howard bought an option on the books, hiring Babylon 5‘s creator, J. Michael Straczynski, to develop the script for film — with Universal ultimately determining the costs would be too excessive.

          • Actually, there’s at least one passage in “Grey Lensman” where they are discussing economics and Port Admiral Haynes said that by restricting government to it’s proper sphere, the economy had grown to such an extent that they had had to cut taxes to 1% or less just so too much liquidity wasn’t tied up in the government’s reserves at all levels. They were the antithesis of Fascism economically.

            Politically, they were authoritarian, but the whole reason for trying to find the Lenses was to ensure that ultimate authority was given only to those able to wield it justly. One of the basic rules was that it was impossible to lie mind-to mind, and any voter could demand a telepathic confirmation that an action wasn’t being undertaken for any sort of personal gain. For the rest, they were very much of the “spec-ops” mindset: we do things that no one should do, so no one else will have to do them.

            • It should be noted that they were on the front lines of a war lasting millennia against an enemy not just politically or economically opposed but existentially. Different rules apply in such a combat.

              The eugenics, OTOH, are undeniable but built into the structure of the reality. Objecting to the Arisian manipulation of human (and other) genetic stock is as nonsensical as waving away the laws of inertia.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                One aspect of the eugenics was that I don’t remember the Arisians killing the “unworthy” of the “lesser species”. Yes, they were manipulating human (and other beings) breeding but we see them doing so by making sure the proper beings met to have children. They don’t “cull” humans or the non-humans within their program.

      • What was disturbing about Spinrad was how very little different his work was from novels I’d read and enjoyed.

        There’s damned-all to choose between “Lord of the Swastika” and “Mission Earth”.

        • Spinrad’s entire first novel was about eugenics. An entire solar system was isolated, all social structures from family on up were destroyed, and people were bred to have useful talents then put into groups of complimentary individuals. Apparently, that was easier than letting officers who’d proved they were better at fighting than the computers directing the battles take over the war. The writing was slightly above the grade of Eye of Argon, iirc. Social engineering stayed around in his later books, the eugenics didn’t, mostly.

          • It has been a long time since I read anything by Spinrad, nor had any desire to. What I did read I remember as being somewhat clunky (even for the standards of that time) with his only truly memorable work being the gimmick novel, Iron Dream, and that for its concept rather than its writing.

            I vaguely recall having read Bug Jack Barron but that is probably more due to its catchy title. It might also be a case of, like most “New Wave” authors who were fresh and original, it ultimately developed that most of what was fresh wasn’t original and what was original wasn’t particularly fresh. Ultimately, satire and sarcasm don’t wear well over time and there was no shortage of authors offering (not especially0 incisive critiques of American society.

  14. My hope for the 21st century is to see the inhabitants of the Third World collectively put a third world brown foot in the ass of every so-and-so who has been interfering with their long delayed industrial revolution.