Hope and Change

I was very confused, back in 08 to hear the mindless chants of “hope, change.”  They sounded so gleeful.  Also hope and change are not two things you normally put together.

Yes, yes, I KNOW what they thought they meant.  In the media narrative, the GWB times were hopeless and with no jobs and (and we hadn’t seen anything yet!) so change would bring us hope.

They were out of their rocking minds, obviously.

Look, I’m a libertarian. That means, compared to our current system of having the government play helicopter parent to you from cradle to grave, I advocate change.  DRASTIC change.  To get where I want to be, there would be massive dislocation of money and human resources.  Think of the unemployment crisis as bureaucrats without number got run off their jobs. (Okay, now wipe that grin off your face.)  Think of all the genuine scientific research that would have to find a new way to fund itself.  Think of the children.  No, really, think of the children.  I think what we have for a department of Children Services is inefficient, stupid and possibly harmful, but we’d still need to retool and find another way to perform the job of making sure most kids are mostly safe, without giving it all to the government.  That means some truly horrible things would happen on the way there.  (Whether they’d be better or worse than the horrible things happening now is something else again.)  Ditto when it comes to schooling.  Most of our schools are rather inefficient day cares, but without even that, some kids would fall through the cracks, until local government steps up.  (Yes, for those following along at home, libertarians aren’t necessarily AGAINST government, they just believe on keeping most things small, local, and as close to individual as possible.  The guys who want no government?  That’s Anarchists.  And no, Somalia is not a Libertarian society.  Or an anarchist one.  Somalia is a tribal war with borders.  Its dysfunction has much to do with where and what it is, not with the system of its government, which is “totalitarians trained in left wing politics in western universities trying to speak insanity to tribes who are trying to stay alive.” I swear to fricken bob the next idiot who tells me “Libertarianism would cause Somalia” gets hit on the head with the nearest object.  Do these people swallow whole whatever some progressive twit says, without the slightest effort at verification? Without a modicum of thought.)

The point I’m trying to make is that change hurts.  It always hurts, whether it’s an individual or a society; whether it’s ULTIMATELY change for better or for worse.  Whom it hurts and how much is directly proportional to what systems are being changed and how many people they involve.

Truly massive technological change that affects the whole human race takes millenia to process through.  Some anthropologists, seriously, think we’re not through processing all the consequences of the switch between hunting-gathering and agriculture.  It’s undeniable (no, seriously) that it was good for the species as a whole, over time.  I mean, our sheer numbers and populations prove that.  But it was neither painless nor cost free, and right when it happened it was wrenching, the wrench being recorded in our oldest legends and racial memories.  War between those who had settled and those who hadn’t, changes in ways of life (this idea of working every day, instead of when the meat runs out is still painful and still hasn’t worked itself into the way the species as a whole works.)

There is considerable and plausible evidence we’re still too close to the industrial revolution and the French revolution to process it.

At the rate we’re accelerating the changes to our own environment, it is quite possible we won’t (as a whole) be done processing the change to mass production before small-run individual production becomes the norm.

Which brings us to: the most normal result of change is the opposite of hope: it is destruction, blood, often the burning of a generation’s patrimony, as what they learned and what they’ve spent a lifetime becoming no longer has any application to the new reality.

Take the twentieth century.  (Please.  Almost as bad as the fourteenth.)  It was a time of massive, unrelenting change.  And we have the piles of corpses to prove it.

But as an individual — even as president of the US — you really don’t get to “create change.”  Every time I hear “be the change you want to see” or its equivalent, I want to beat someone over the head with a wet sock until I brain them.  (It’s slow and satisfying.)

I think I know what they’re trying to say, but that is not what they’re saying.  I think what they’re trying to say is that you can only change yourself.  And that’s correct.  What they’re actually saying is something on a par with “be a thought leader.”  I.e. be someone who changes society around you by just being a certain way.

Does that ever happen.  Oh, sure.  Most founders of major religions, some kings and rulers, a few other powerful men and women changed society at least for a time (mostly for the bad, taken in whole, though of course there are exceptions.)

But for most human beings, modeling the change you want to see in society can get you either marginalized or killed, depending on how severe that change is. (Major religious figures aren’t exempt on either, btw.)

Is it worth it to buck society?  Sometimes.  It also sometimes — if you judge the moment right — joins with a lot of other people to create a preference cascade.  If I didn’t believe in that, I’d not be writing this.

On the other hand, that’s in matters of principle, and urgent matters.  If the change you want to see is being allowed to wear white after labor day, is it really worth it getting strange stares, or having to continually clean your white clothes that got muddy and dirty in winter?  Or if the matter you’re bucking, if you fail will destroy you and if you win will… make no big difference to most people?

This is when the “change” needed is mostly internal, in yourself.

It still hurts.  It hurts like hell.  But without changing yourself, you’ll never achieve anything.

Look, I remember — and I found while unpacking, a sheaf of these — when I sent out for magazines, ranging from fanzines to Analog, and read them to know what I should be aiming for.  My most immediate reaction was “OMG, these are nothing like what I write.”  And by that I don’t mean political bend.  I mean I hadn’t figured out writing in scenes, yet, so what I wrote bore a strange resemblance to “disembodied ramblings from a world you never saw.”

You’d think changing that wouldn’t hurt, right?

Bah.  You’d be wrong.  Changing that involved changing my habits of mind, the way of working I’d gotten used to, “breaking” the way I thought of story, and endless hours of practicing the new way, till it stopped “hurting.”  It felt a little like going insane.

And what’s more, everytime I “tool up” I go through this again.  Having identified something I do wrong in writing, I have to “break my head” and then fall into a new pattern.

This involves a lot of work (A LOT OF WORK) and forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do.  90% of the people who approach me as fledgelings (or as colleagues seeking help for stalled careers) and to whom I tell stuff like “Okay, so you need to write in a different world, or come up with three new worlds, then write proposals and–”  OR “You need to write four  books a year” or “You need to learn to plot” or “you need to learn characters” go away saying “BUT I CAN’T DO THAT.”  Some of my favorite people in the world do that rather than try it.  I remember a friend telling me she couldn’t possibly write four new proposals in a year, when I’d just written 17 over summer.  (2003, career stopped, and a bitch of a year all around.)

It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable, it’s a lot of work, but if where you want to go is worth it, you do it.

And almost always, unless you were born to a comfortable fortune and your life is pottering ONLY with what pleases you, you need to change to get ANYWHERE, much less where you want to go.  You need to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to do things that feel unnatural or that you despise.

This is whether or not the world is “right”.  A lot of the way I had to learn to write wasn’t “right” for selling.  It was the more literary way that shorts had been going.  In fact, I later had to unlearn some of it, to sell more in novels.  BUT it was the way it was and if I wanted to publish in shorts (heaven knows why) I had to learn it.

And because we’re extra special lucky, we do live in interesting times.  Times of intense change.  That means we need to work hard as hell to stay standing in the changing maelstrom, and to hopefully achieve something, anything, in the time we’re given.

A lot of this involves changing ourselves: the way we work, and mostly the way we think.

My entire field is turning upside down and inside out, and I NEED to figure out new ways of working, new ways of thinking.

I’m not alone in my field.  Some of you might not have noticed the change in your profession but I guarantee it’s coming for you.

Those new ways of thinking, those clever tricks to stay afloat, are nasty.  They break your comfortable idea of how things ought to work and be.

But no one asked our opinion.  And internal change is our only chance at hope.



242 responses to “Hope and Change

  1. The basic difference between the various flavors of statist and the honest small-l libertarians (do not get me started on what the big-L Libertarians are saying this year) is that the small-l libertarians are basically in Sarah’s camp, all about changing ones self, while the statist flavors on the left and right are all about changing what those other people do.

    Perfecting the great unwashed masses, or using market forces to change the great unwashed’s behavior – both are about imposing rules on others.

    That for me is the biggest attraction of the baseline “as much as is practical, leave me alone to decide what I do” small-l libertarian philosophy.

    Also, as I type this, FIRSTIES!!!

    And Judge Posner is still a moron.

    • No fair! I would have been first except I had to go to the ladies’ room! And yes, even though he did write a good decision on a ruling last week, Posner is still a moron.

      • The Other Sean

        Posner’s rather like a stopped clock that way. The vast majority of the time a stopped clock is worse than useless, and small portion of the time it is close enough for government work, and only for very brief instants is it actually correct. 🙂

        • Are you arguing that Posner is sometimes correct?

        • Erm. Just for the record, and as someone who is small-L libertarian and yet somehow ended up working for the DoD, I can assure you that “close enough for government work” for a broken clock is “3 hours to either side of the stopped time”. (10 months waiting for fiber optic jumpers I could order on Amazon Prime in the prescribed quantities. And that’s NORMAL.)

          • There is a reason in my job as a government contractor I routinely (and with govt-employee boss’s collusion) buy supplies on my own dime and get reimbursed. Because if we tried to go through “Proper Channels” we’d still be stuck waiting for basic supplies…

            (I’m a small-l libertarian who ended up in a government job, too! 😀 )

            • (I’m a small-l libertarian who ended up in a government job, too! 😀 )

              It’s rough work, but who better to do it?

              Of course, it is people like you that have led to the EPA issuing grants to activist groups to sue the EPA into “regulating” more of the economy. Apparently the overlords there cannot find sufficient in-house support for expanding their authority and have resorted to outsourcing.

              How the EPA Helps Environmental Groups Sue the EPA
              Every major federal environmental law, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, contains provisions allowing private organizations to sue the EPA if they believe it is not going far enough in protecting air quality. Environmentalist groups do this frequently. And yet, all too often, when the EPA is sued by environmentalist groups, it folds without putting up much of a fight. As former EPA official Jeffrey Holmstead has explained matters, “often the suits involve things the EPA wants to do anyway. By inviting a lawsuit and then signing a consent decree, the agency gets legal cover from the political heat.”

            • There tends to be a lot of us in the military support end of things for some reason. But I wasn’t about to buy this stuff; we’re actually sub-contractors to HPE who have the primary contract with Navy. Getting reimbursed several hundred dollars just wouldn’t happen.

      • And Yngvi is a louse!

  2. Think of the unemployment crisis as bureaucrats without number got run off their jobs.

    The first thing that ran through my mind when I read this sentence was, “Is a bureaucrat without number anything like the British ‘Minister without portfolio’? “

    • You’re a bad man. And Judge Posner is still a moron.

    • As long as the numbers (or lack of same) are not “imaginary.” I do not care to consider bureaucrats involving themselves in the affairs of mythical creatures. Yes, there is some self-interest here.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Don’t worry about it too much, bureaucrats aren’t completely stupid.

        There were a few attempts by them to get involved in the affairs of Dragons but such attempts stopped after the mysterious deaths of not only the “front-line” bureaucrats but also among the bureaucrats who sent out the “missing” bureaucrats.

        Of course, while I’m sure that beings such as yourself can handle the “front-line” ones, the High Dragon Council is willing to assist others in dealing with the bureaucrats who send out the “front-line” one. [Very Polite Dragon Grin]

        • Hmmm…the Bureau of Mythical Creatures Affairs has been significantly under-staffed recently. I wonder if the High Dragon Council’s involvement is responsible? I wouldn’t put it past them to drop a few hints that an assignment to said bureau would be less than “career enhancing.”

      • scott2harrison

        So you are OK if the numbers are complex, just not if they are imaginary?

      • I’m sorry Mr Minotaur. You need to have those horns surgically removed. They are weapons

        • I’m sorry Mr Aacid14. You need to have those wits surgically removed. They are weapons

          • You and what army…

          • Talk about helicopter parenting…
            I’m at a construction jobsite (multi-billion dollars, 6,000+ workers) where no edged tools are allowed. No knife, Leatherman, razor knife,or anything with a sharp blade is allowed to prevent us from the danger of cutting ourselves.

            • For Goshsake why? If you can handle heavy machinery, you can certainly handle blades.

            • I’m sorry, but that’s completely mind boggling. How do you open stuff, cut strapping, fit wallboard or any of a thousand other little tasks if they don’t let you have a stupid knife?

              • Apparently some electrician was stripping insulation off of heavy wire. His hand slipped and he gashed his thigh. This being Australia there was an official investigation. The idiot was asked to show how the accident happened so he showed the investigators how it happened and gashed his thigh again with witnesses. So now they have banned blades on the jobsite..

                • Sounds like just banning that electrician would have been a better choice.

                • couldn’t they have fired the idiot and kept blades? Sounds more like a stupid user than an overly dangerous tool.

                • That’s just somebody not smart enough to know how and why you use wire strippers. Banning blades for that?

                  • Exactly – depends on just how heavy the wire was, but in some cases you can’t support it just with the other wrist while whittling on the insulation. Large wire strippers are made, and a slightly smarter site manager would’ve said “if you can’t do it safely, don’t do it. I’ll get you a better tool for that job.”

                • The idiot was asked to show how the accident happened so he showed the investigators how it happened and gashed his thigh again with witnesses.

                  He performed a valuable service. The capital of the Northern Territory should give him an award.

                • OK, that makes a third example in my repertoire of stories about people taking “show me how that happened” too literally.
                  The first two each involved losing part of finger – one was in a grain elevator/feed mill; the second was in a lumber mill. Guess it happens to people with inadequate foresight in all industries…

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, I want to know how big of army you have.

          You’ll need a very big one to make one Minotaur remove his horns and he has plenty of friends (Minotaurs and otherwise) who’ll help him out. [Very Very Big Dragon Grin]

        • And right here, folks, you see why I left the postal service. What parts of yourself do you care to have cut off? ACME is much more sensible about these things.

          Why, next these folks will want to childproof the unicorns:

    • Bureaucrat without number is … unpaid. Because bureaucracies (at least those I’ve worked for or with) substitute employee numbers for names…

    • The first thing that ran through MY mind was “So, institute a hunting season.”

  3. Change hurts? But we were promised puppies, rainbows and unicorn farts! We would have our cake and eat it, too! It is growth that hurts, and that is what we were hoping to avoid change!

    No fair, no fair, no fair!

  4. There’s STILL time to get your tickets for The EIGHTH Annual Tour of THE SUMMER OF RECOVERY! Operators are standing by at 1-800-IMAFOOL or visit online at http://www.thesummerofrecovery.com. We’ll tell you if they’re coming to a venue near YOU.

    • Saw a Hillary campaign add last night. They broke into ladies beach volleyball so I didn’t change the channel. What struck me was that she was saying almost word for word the same ideas, same promises of recovery, that Barak Obama said eight years ago. Kept waiting to hear “shovel ready jobs” but she never quite got that far into it.
      It really would be four more years of BHO, only with more dirty back room deals and serious attacks on both First and Second Amendments, and probably several others in the Bill of Rights.

      • I’m not sure she’d recognize a shovel if someone hit her upside the head with one. And guaranteed she’s sure a spade is a racial insult and possibly a type of playing card.

        • If old somebody’d hit her uspide the head with a shovel hard enough. [sigh]

          • There are gifs floating about that suggest somebody has, and it hasn’t worked as hoped.

            Sadly, all I can locate are still photos.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              “I am Hillary! I am human! I am humaning very well yes?”

              • She’s not convincing, is she?

                • That’s what happens when you “upgrade” to Windows 10…

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Nah, her operating system was developed in the Soviet Union and never upgraded.

                    She wishes that her operating system is as good as Windows. 👿

                    • richardmcenroe

                      Hillary runs on CP/M: Confiscate People’s Money.

                    • Hillary Sutton? Willie Clinton? Whatever — they share a philosophy:

                      Clinton comes after the rich: ‘We’re going where the money is’
                      Hillary Clinton promised Tuesday that she would pay for her ambitious White House agenda by hitting up the wealthy.

                      “I’ll tell you how we’re going to pay for it,” she said Tuesday in Pennsylvania, referring specifically to her economic agenda. “We’re going where the money is. We are going after the super wealthy, we are going after corporations, we are going after Wall Street so they pay their fair share.”

                      [WARNING: embedded link contains an auto-play clip of HRC spewing nonsense]

                      Of course, going after “corporations, … after Wall Street” is going to hit stock and bond earnings something fierce, decreasing their growth in value, growth which such entities as CALPERS is counting (to the tune of, IIRC, 9% … good luck with that) to keep their retirement funds fiscally sound. Such stocks are often called “widows and orphans” investments because their steady, consistent dividends are relied upon to provide for those left behind.

                      Apparently HRC hates widows and orphans and wants to gut the pensions of decent, hard-working, honest government workers and other union members.

                  • LOL. They had to. She short-circuited.

      • I caught that in her interview with Chris Wallace. She claims Obama’s scheme failed because a) they didn’t run a big enough deficit b) wascally wepublicans stopped it [somehow] and c) this time for sure!

        One thing of which we can be sure, however that money gets spent it will employ Democrat donors at prevailing (union) wages, because the importance of getting those projects underway is not enough to suspend Davis-Bacon or Federal Procurement Rules in order to fund far more such projects.

        Solar and Wind energy will surely succeed if only we outlaw every alternative source!

  5. I freely admit that I am all in favor of the federal government being shoved out of probably 90% of the things that it currently does. And I freely admit that the thought of the feds getting out of aviation (air traffic control, regulating airports and the funding there of) gives me cold chills because the airlines are going to do their best to 1) shove the costs onto everyone else and 2) deny everyone else access to any semi-major airport. And as well as privatizing the aviation weather systems went, I don’t want to be under the sky if the feds sell the ATC system to someone. So I suspect I’m typical – the things I use, I don’t want touched too much (or untouched in this case.) Although, if the feds go to a European-style user fee thing like they keep making noise about, then they can take their radar and go jump in a lake.

    • scott2harrison

      I understand that Canada of all places did a pretty good job of privatizing ATC. Perhaps we could learn from them in this case?

    • Problem is that with the new atc systems and tech required the captive bureaucracy is already killing a private aviation market already on life support.

    • I really think that any privatization effort should merely open up the institution in question to competition, but let the government continue to offer services, until it becomes clear that the government no longer needs to provide such services.

      A simple example: the post office. There’s no reason the post office can’t continue to provide letter-mailing services, and there’s no reason why other courier services should be forbidden to provide letter-mailing services as well.

      Another example: the courts. Rather than require all trials/negotiations to go through the government court system, we could make it legal to have the option to have the case evaluated before an arbitrator.

      If the government is the only way that such a service can be provided, then any attempts at competition will surely die out. Otherwise, it will become clear that we can remove the government service out altogether.

      (Of course, the biggest flaw in this course of action is that it doesn’t fully take into account laws that might interfere with competition. For example, Congress forbids anyone but USPS from carrying letters, and putting them in mailboxes; this is merely an example of a simple, straightforward law that can be repealed, too!)

    • Y’know, now I think on it, what with the degree to which the government is involved in air traffic, it’s a wonder we can walk outside without beung struck by pieces of crashing airliner.

  6. Speaking of advice like “You need to write four books a year”, I just had an insight. A lot of the people who comment here and/or at Mad Genius Club are writers, and they talk about the same thing happening to them that happens to you, Sarah: their muse hits them with a story idea at the most inconvenient times. And when I read those stories, I realized that I’m not like that. I have one story idea that’s been kicking around in my head for years which I’ve made no progress on, and that’s it… so I thought, “Well, I guess I’m just not a writer — or at least, not a natural writer”.

    But the other day I was writing down a list of programming projects I’d like to tackle, and I wrote down seven of them without even thinking hard. (I’ve since added an eighth and a ninth). And that’s when I realized. I am a natural writer, and the same thing happens to me… it’s just that what I write naturally isn’t stories, it’s computer programs. But once I realized that, I started translated the writing advice I’ve seen here and at Mad Genius Club into my own writing field. And it turns out that a LOT of it is applicable. For example, the way to get better at writing software is… to write software. Lots of it. Your first attempts will suck, and the computer will tell you in no uncertain terms that they suck — either by crashing, or by producing the wrong result, or (once you’re a bit better at it) by producing the right result E…X…C…R…U…C…I…A…T…I…N…G…L…Y S…L…O…W…L…Y. But keep on writing, and reading what other people have written to learn from it (and going “Wow! That’s amazing, I could never write something as elegant as (name) did!”), and then writing some more… and pretty soon, before you notice, you’ll be the one giving advice to other writers. (“You know, your program / story is pretty good, but it would be a lot more elegant if you trimmed THIS section, and moved this OTHER section over HERE…”)

    It’s actually a pretty satisfying feeling to realize that I’m making a bit of progress in my chosen craft. So thank you, Sarah, for unwittingly providing me with that comforting insight.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Some time back at MGC, Another Mike brought to my attention the fact that the right question is ‘how do I get ideas’, not ‘where do I get ideas’. I personally am lousy at both programming and creative writing, but I’ve done enough to know that they are the same at heart for me. (I have more ideas for stories, but so far implementation needs tight planning that I haven’t learned to do yet. I have very few ideas for programs, but I’ve had much more success getting things done working off vague intent.)

    • Code either meets the spec or it doesn’t.

      Fiction, on the other hand, has only the vaguest of specifications, and every reader is a different target environment…

      • Every user is a different target environment.. Which explains why writers of Operating systems which try to be all things to all people can never get it right.

      • Oh, I don’t know. I’ve tested plenty of code that had no predetermined spec, was more of an art project on the part of the developer.

        • When there’s no time or budget for specs, use cases, unit tests, documentation, or anything more than cursory user input, long term support and maintenance can be difficult.

          • I learned early in my career that writing code without a spec was likely to end poorly.

            The actual code wasn’t the problem. But without a spec you’re never *finished*. And the project is subject to feature creep. And, no matter how efficient you are, your work will be considered late, incomplete, or both.

            I quickly found that there was no project so urgent it couldn’t wait a few hours for me to write a spec and get it signed off.

            • All true – but some developers (thankfully few) are really bad at either collaborating with or being reviewed by others who may have better (or at least different) insight to what the customer wants, and so their “specs” are more like design notes, often as not written after noodling around with code… sometimes long after.

              As you say, it can be hard on a dev’s reputation…

            • At my work, we’ve had some success with the agile-development model, which is essentially embracing the fact that feature creep will happen, and using that to develop your spec. Since users almost never know what they want until they see a working program, we deliver a MINIMALLY featured working program as fast as possible. Then we ask them, “Okay, next we could either work on the accounts-payable feature, or tweak the ledger layout to be more like what you wanted.” They tell us the accounts-payable feature is more important, so we do that next, then we get to the ledger layout later.

              Basically, we write the spec as we go. But we do actually have a spec — it’s just not the “big design up front” spec model. And we’ve found that though feature creep does happen, it actually doesn’t happen as much as you would think: once the program reaches the point where it does what it needs to do, feature creep starts to slow down significantly. It never STOPS, but it reaches a point where we’re justified in telling users, “Okay, you’d like the finance program to also be able to play MP4 files? Well, that could be handy in some situations, but we’ve decided that the program to do backups of your data is more important. So we’re shelving the finance program for now since it has all the necessary features for most situations, and we’re going to be working on the backups program for the next year or so.”

              It does help that our users are company-internal, rather than paying customers. So they, too, agree that the backups system is more important than making the finance system play MP4 files. So feature creep has an inherent limiter in our case.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                At one place I worked we had this one gentleman who always had this great idea to improve inventory reports but always talked about it a couple of weeks before the inventory run.

                After talking it over with my manager, the gentleman decided that we (the Data Processing staff) had too many other inventory report programs to update to work on his great idea and he’d talk it over with my manager after inventory.

                Strangely, he never talked it over with my manager after inventory. 👿

                I call him a gentleman because he really was a nice guy except for this “one thing”. 😉

              • Robin, we use a variant of agile for (external customer) product development, too – Product Manger plays the part of your internal customer, and it’s his responsibility to be talking with the major external customer base to reflect their priorities. Mostly works, not too badly, although there are some documents you’d automatically generate in traditional “waterfall” development (like specifications that are complete enough for the technical publications writers to use for reference) that have to be written outside the process.

                The particular dev or two that sparked my comments above were mostly working outside of the agile process on products which, while very useful both internally and externally, aren’t major purchased products and so aren’t getting the ‘full treatment’ of project management.

          • Software with all the features you mentioned is a charley foxtrot waiting to happen.

            • Those all start from one of two places, in my experience in engineering IT when supporting engineering projects. It may be different in a regular software development house or IT supporting other industries; it is certainly different from the planned software development I’ve done.

              The first place is management executing an engineering project without consulting anybody (like IT or superusers) who really understands the tools they’ve chosen to design/engineer with, runs into problems they didn’t foresee (because see previous point), and then requires software developed more or less immediately to resolve the problems they’ve worked themselves into. They can only vaguely describe the problem, but know it needs to get solved posthaste, and oh yeah there’s no budget to do so because they thought they could execute the work (and at a lower budget, of course) without any IT involvement beyond basic desktop/networking support. So you get a few hours/days to throw something together, do some testing, and run it by somebody on the project who might actually have a clue. The person with a clue is never the person who actually comes and describes the problem, and of course due to time constraints there’s never time to track such person down before starting work; maybe in the middle if you’re lucky.

              The second is the critical orphan legacy application. Ages ago, somebody in accounting, document control, electrical engineering, controls automation, whatever, threw together an Excel spreadsheet, an Access database, some script, something that has been working fine for years. You’ve never heard of it. The person who created the thing has died, retired, moved on to another company, whatever. A whole bunch of people rely upon it for something critical, but nobody who uses it really understands all that it does and why. Then one day something goes wrong, or their are business or regulatory changes, or the engineering project client has some weird requirements. And suddenly it all lands in your lap with an urgent demand that you fix, or make it do X as soon as humanly possible, and nobody can provide many useful details. And of course since IT management has never heard of it, and operations/engineering management has never heard of it, there’s no budget, and that means costs for fixing it is on somebody’s overhead, and because its holding things up, they want it done ASAP. You comment where you can, you document as much as you can without delaying things, but there’s no time or budget for more.

              • My husband is in the orphan legacy side of things, generally. I think he enjoys the challenge. Keep these servers running or production stops sort of deal. So they hire him on a temp contract.

      • Spec? If only I should be so fortunate…more like tottering pile of half-remembered use cases. The code is the spec. Oh well, it was just throw-away code anyway, they said 10 years ago.

        • Oy! Half-remembered use cases! What Luxury! All we had was a paper napkin with coffee spilled on it, with a few notes written on it about the project, in sanskrit mind you, with half the napkin torn off. And we were Glad To Get It!!

    • A word of minor advice, on perspective: it only seems excruciatingly slow going forward; looking back it can seem ti have happened surprisingly quickly.

      As it was with learning to walk, to form words, to go in the potty, so it is with most other acquired skills.

    • Yep, I found MGC useful for the comic-ing biz, myself, as well.

  7. Sarah, you said you wanted to publish in shorts. Do you agree with Ann Althouse about men in shorts?

  8. Changing that involved changing my habits of mind, the way of working I’d gotten used to, “breaking” the way I thought of story, and endless hours of practicing the new way, till it stopped “hurting.” It felt a little like going insane.

    But we can avoid all that by forcing Society to change, creating a safe space in which we can continue to exist without changing ourselves. All it requires are more unicorns farting.

    On the fourteenth day of [REDACTED]mas my true love gave to me, fourteen unicorns farting, thirteen rainbows bowing, …

    • Different fantasies for different people. I don’t mind necessary changes, but would like them all to be one at a time and s-l-o-w enough to be disruption rather than pain, and to fit within my discretionary time and money.

      Not quite how life works, though.

      • For a large number of folks that first notable change — the one that involves moving from a comfy if cramped space where pretty much all biological needs are supported, into having to doing your own breathing (among other things) — is a pretty big clew that some change is unpleasant.

        Sadly for our culture, an increasingly large portion of the populace is refusing to accept that and seeks to deny its reality.

      • Sometimes there are critical events that require instantaneous change. Very rarely are most changes fitting those criteria.

        • True. But I only have so many resources to adapt to changes – so I try to minimize the number of times I accept the need for instantaneous (or even rapid) change, to preserve some of those resources for such emergent needs. Seems prudent, not that prudence is a virtue much approved in our current society.

  9. It’s undeniable (no, seriously) that [the switch between hunting-gathering and agriculture] was good for the species as a whole, over time. I mean, our sheer numbers and populations prove that.


    I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    Certainly the NY Times begs to differ.

    • I suppose everything is deniable if you are part of the willfully ignorant.

      If you are part of the “reality-based community,” to use one of the Left’s favorite phrases, it’s undeniable.

  10. Anarcho-Libertarian here. Just like to point out that as much of a hellhole as Somalia is, it is less of a hellhole than it’s neighbours which kept their governments. A fact which even the BBC had to admit.

    Just goes to show how bad the hidden costs of government can be.

    • To some extent, Somalia is no worse, just bad in different ways. Ethiopia is increasing its economic stratification, authoritarianism, and centralization by government “land reform” that seems to result in privately-owned farmland being seized by the central government and transferred to the current regime and its sycophants. We’ll leave aside the issue of growing ChiCom influence there. Eritrea is just simply bad. Dijbouti isn’t in too horrible shape, for an African Islamic state. Yemen across the sea is having fun with insurrection.

    • And it is my understanding that Somalia’s current situation is objectively better than what it was when it had that Communist government that had collapsed into what it is now.

      Which goes to show that, at a minimum, whatever “anarchy” Somalia has right now is better than Communism.

  11. Bulwer-Lytton Contest Winners, Runners-Up, and Dishonorable Mentiionables for 2016: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2016win.html

    SF entries are in the bottom half.

  12. Seems to me that Mr. Obama was a true change bringer. Not so much for what he did, but what he represented. All those red diaper progressive socialists that infuse our federal bureaucracy saw the election of a bi-racial, community organizing, raised under Islam, weaned in Chicago, as permission to push hard on their fondest agendas to fundamentally transform America into the kind of European clone they’ve always dreamed of.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      One gentleman elsewhere see Obama in terms of “missed opportunities” in terms of “Change”.

      He believes that Obama could have made more major changes in his first two years as President but lacked the competency to do so.

      Obama’s “major accomplishment” is Obamacare which lacks the public support that would make it impossible to repeal.

      IE it’s not like Social Security which has massive public support (even if many people see it not lasting).

      After two years of Obama, the Democrats lost the House of Representative.

      Just imagine what a competent Obama (who had not lost the House) could have done? 😦

      Note the gentleman is not an Obama supporter but sees Obama as “his own worst enemy”.

    • Yep, change: It’s now obvious to a lot more folk that “a bi-racial…in Chicago” politico is NOT necessarily what you want for POTUS. In that much, it’s been a good experience.

  13. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    Oh yes, change is coming. The problem is that far too many of the “people in charge” don’t have a clue what is coming.

    • But they are confident that be putting experts in charge, only the best, most efficient choices will be made.

      And they know that, to ensure fair-mindedness, those experts must be insulated from any consequences of such decisions.

  14. > I think I know what they’re trying to say,
    > but that is not what they’re saying.

    “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.”

    Which when unpacked translates to “If there’s any chance of failure, don’t even make an attempt.”

    I guess that was a good excuse for hiding out in a swamp instead of actively working to overthrow the Sith…

    • Yoda’s just bitter that he tried and failed to defeat Palpatine, and those grapes have had a couple decades to sour.

    • At our house, that quote is the response to a kiddo whining ‘I’ll try’ to an adult direction, usually concerning a five minute chore that must be done within two hours.
      It is understood that an ‘I tried’ excuse for not completing said chore will meet with the same consequence as ‘I won’t,’ which is to say sudden unpleasantness, kind and degree depending on the age and competency of the child involved.

  15. As Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, “Things that can’t go on, won’t”. There are so many follies being perpetrated by government that can’t go on like they are, and won’t, that change, some of it drastic and unexpected, is going to hit everyone, Hopefully it won’t hit all at once, but there is a possibility of cascading failures as one overstressed institutionalized way of doing things goes after another.
    However, times of change can also be times of opportunity.

  16. Change is also inevitable. Those who don’t watch for changes in progress and try to change themselves to adapt (even though it hurts like hell) will either be forced to change by sheer momentum, or they will be steamrollered by events.

    Both major parties are doing their own flavor of standing in front of the ChiCom tank yelling “Stop that” and completely expecting both the tank driver and the gathering armies of change to comply.

    They have forgotten that General Change and his army don’t give a shit about their little safe spaces and probably won’t notice a speed bump as he crushes them.

    • “You may not be interested in change, but change is interested in you”?

      • Nah. Change doesn’t give a shit and will roll right over you without noticing you were there. Kind of like a lava flow.

        But if you’re smart and you pick your targets right, you can divert that lava flow just enough to save what truly matters.

    • That’s the thing. That’s why conserving, if done sanely, is always done on a case by case basis. Things will change – so, what’s worth conserving? Trying to save it all is trying to stop change – and that’s not going to work. No one sane is a blanket conservative.

      I’ve long suspected that underlying the political divide in this country is a fundamental attitude toward magic, in this particular sense: that some people base their political ideas on the very real and substantial anti-entropic efforts needed to maintain even a modestly free and happy society, while others base theirs on the assumption that societies arise like magic, and that all that keeps a society from growing ever more perfect are the bad acts of bad people. Thus, when I look at Obamacare, I want to know how it’s supposed to work; other see only that it is supposed to get rid of the bad people (you know, squeeze the profits out of the system) and thus works, not by actually doing good, but by removing evil so that good will magically take over.

      Thus, all arguments that Obamacare couldn’t possibly work fall on deaf ears, all criticisms based on the actual incoherent document miss the point, according to its fans. Supporters don’t care (much) that costs have gone up and service quality declined. The magic will happen! It’s as if, by clearing the lot of weeds, they think they have built the house.

      • Blink, blink, blink. You do realize that “conservative” and “liberal” are both misnomers, right? Conservatives are in no way stodgy protectors of the status quo. The liberals own that.

        • Never thought of “conserving that which is good” to be the same as “stogy protector of the status quo”, myself. Have met too many people who openly declare the philosophy that “change is good, for its own sake”.

        • Of course – the idea that liberals are liberating and conservatives are stodgy is nonsense – but people like you and me, whatever the labels, see that some things that actually exist are, in fact, good – and we’d like to keep them! We don’t think, as Marx did, that simple destruction of what is will bring about what ought to be. That’s all I’m getting at.

          • Too many fantasists, nominal libertarian and conservatives, even, think “change will bring about paradise.”

            • Experience teaches, if you’re teachable. I suggest those folks make a few changes and see how many turn out as hoped-for.
              Of course, the problem with a lot of folks is that they’re lousy at generalizing lessons-learned from a limited number of examples.

              • And the MSM will boast that the septic tank you’ve fallen into is actually an awesome swimming pool where future Olympians will train.

            • there is no Paradise outside of Heaven.

            • Quite logically — consider how changes to computer operating systems receive universal praise.

            • A friend of mine (barely – sometimes listening to her causes the stress levels to go way over the top) tried to tell me about a study that decided that conservatives use reflexive responses more than liberals, who are more open to considering new ideas, because of the way they reacted, as observed in an MRI (or perhaps CT scan – not sure). I suggested that maybe they have already been through those experiences and learned from them. She countered that yes, maybe they think they have learned the outcomes of various scenarios, but she wanted to keep her mind open.

              I gave up at that point, because I could see it was going nowhere. I DID think about asking if they had actually tried finding ideas or situations that the conservatives did NOT already know something about.

              • Yeah, those closed minded conservatives think they’ve learned from personal experience and the study of history, but not her – she’s open minded, so she’s never learned anything, facing every experience as a blank slate, with predictable results.

              • Funny – my mother-in-law, who always voted (D), responded to an attempt to discuss current issues with (roughly paraphrased) “I don’t know about the issues, but I know who I want to believe.”

                Suspect a lot of today’s “liberals” are similarly people who just want to be led by someone whose speech or personality they like.

                • In related thought:

                  Mitt Romney and the Liberal Media Bubble
                  By Peter Spiliakos — August 12, 2016

                  Matthew Sheffield is right that the very conservative tend to live in a media bubble, but he also shows that the reverse is also true. People who don’t consume explicitly conservative media – which is to say most people – are living in a liberal media bubble that looks like the world.

                  This showed up in the public reaction to the first debate. Our Forfare Davis looked at the twitter reaction to the first debate between Romney and Obama and sees the power of social media. I see the reaction on twitter demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the liberal bubble.

                  Many of the younger people who use twitter get their political information from conventional news sources or (more likely) entertainment media and peer-to-peer social media shares. They expected Romney to show up as lobotomized love child of Richie Rich and David Duke. They had always seen Romney (or any Republican who had risen to prominence) filtered through a hostile lens.

                  It was a shock to see Romney as a calm, very intelligent guy, with plausible reasons for all of his beliefs. It was also unpleasant. They were honest enough to admit that Romney was winning but, the sound of Romney making sense was causing a painful buzzing sound in their heads. Why wasn’t Obama shutting Romney down with a great line (especially one that could reassure the anxious listener that Romney was actually wrong)? Why were the people running the debate letting Romney get away with this?

                  But the first debate also showed that persuasion is a process rather than an event. Romney gained about four points in the Real Clear Politics polling average, but the mass of people who recognized that Romney won were not going to change their minds – even if they couldn’t explain why Romney was wrong.

                  They already associated Romney with everything bad. Those associations couldn’t be changed by one debate. That stuff is for the movies. The right could have created a set of negative associations for liberal Democrats (on late-term abortion for example) but conservative donors chose to give Karl Rove $300 million dollars so he could make worthless ads about old, rich, white people complaining about Obama regulations.

                  The strength of the liberal media bubble, the naiveté of conservative donors, and the laziness of Republican media consultants don’t exhaust the reasons for Romney’s defeat. Romney also needed an agenda better suited to the concerns of wage-earners, but a different candidate can choose to adopt a better agenda. The structural problem of the liberal media bubble will remain – as will the expensive incompetence of the right-leaning institutions who try to talk to that majority of Americans within that bubble.

              • trailing wife

                It probably was a functional MRI — that’s been all the rage in recent years. It’s *scientific* donchaknow.

                Lots of fMRI studies out there of liberals vs. conservatives. Was she referring to the one where liberals were less disgusted by disgusting images, confirming that liberals are indeed fixated on poop? Or the one where the scientists subsequently noticed they’d consistently mislabelled the liberals as conservatives and vice versa, and it was actually the conservatives who were open-minded and flexible, while the liberals reacted stereotypically?

                Sadly for your friend, it was recently discovered that the most commonly used computer programs to interpret the raw fMRI data, createing those pretty brain scan images from which conclusions were drawn, were never actually validated. So someone did it — and discovered a bug in the programs that gave an average 70% false positive result where they’d expected 5%. Fifteen years of research — about 40,000 papers — will have to be redone. So quite possibly the conclusion your friend is so proud of is not actually true. (http://www.sciencealert.com/a-bug-in-fmri-software-could-invalidate-decades-of-brain-research-scientists-discover)

            • *chuckle* Such people should try living in/remodeling/repairing a hundred year old house, or a twenty year old car. The “changes” I have seen… seriously, if someone had been *paying* me to fix the results of said changes, I’d be a much richer man. *shakes head*

              • Having done both, boy are you right.

              • It is bad enough in a fifty year old house. About the half the first floor and all of the second was on one circuit. This worried me a little. Then I pulled a piece of trim off the wall and discovered the four-way junction in that circuit. It consisted of wires messily soldered together, and wrapped with badly-deteriorating half-century-old electrical tape, which had simply by squeezed in the very narrow gap between the trim and the wall. Then when I was working on replacing damaged tiles in the basement drop-ceiling I discovered the live cable for a circuit, which simply lay upon the ceiling grid, wires exposed (but thankfully the insulation was resting on the grid, not the bare wires). Electrical nightmare. Thankfully I read a few books, got plenty of advice from friends and coworkers with the right knowledge, and got that mess cleared up, but jeez – disasters waiting to happen.

        • Patrick Chester

          In many ways the people who are called “conservatives” nowadays are the ones who are the liberals. As opposed to those who call themselves “liberals” when they are really progressive statists.

          • Being “conservative” begets a classically “liberal” result only when your starting point is liberty-emphatic.
            Conserving Marxism has a different result.

  17. c4c

  18. “Do these people swallow whole whatever some progressive twit says, without the slightest effort at verification? Without a modicum of thought.” yes, sad to say, they do. Just look at _most_ political “discourse.”

  19. I heard the “Hope and Change” thing those years ago, too. My reaction to think of the tune Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

    • When the 0 came along, and some of the co-workers were saying things like “”sounds good, but I don’t know for sure””””” an older fellow and I looked at each other and he asked me “Who do you think I think of when ever I hear him speak?” and I replied “Carter?”
      “Yep. You too huh?”
      me- “Yep”
      And we were right, and we got to the point of hoping for Carter. Carter at least gave us home brewing beer” 0bama has done nothing outside of kill Osama, and then only after dithering for too long, and likely only because he thought not doing so would end him.

      • Carter proved capable of learning when smacked upside the head by a cold cod. He not only recognized he’d been played by the Soviets, he actually sort kinda did something in response. Nor did he pay ransom for the Iranian hostages.

        He should be credited with a beginning effort toward deregulation, as well as appointing Paul Volcker chairman of the Fed, as well.

        Most of all, Carter deserves some degree of credit for making America willing to accept the risk of a Reagan presidency. Obama’s got us choosing between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

        I wager Obama’s post-presidency will prove worse than Carter’s, also.

        • Hence the seemingly happier Carter as of late. He now knows he is not the Worst living Pres/Soon to be formerly Worst Former
          Am I making sense? I’ve had Scotch.

          • Carter’s AG wasn’t promoting racial divisions and denouncing the police as racist, either. Each of his Secretaries of State — Cyrus R. Vance and Edmund S. Muskie were superior to the Frick ‘n’ Frack Obama’s inflicted upon us.

            It is appalling to consider how bad Obama’s been to make Jimmuh look good mediocre not entirely a disaster.

        • Another Carteresque possibility – do you think that there’s the slightest chance the man will shut his damned trap and retire gracefully from the public eye?

  20. This up and coming economic system/tech age change has the potential to actually fit a hunter/gatherer evolutionary product better than the Industrial age.

    Contract workers, out hunting for the next job . . . mothers and occasionally fathers gathering and making at home, while minding the kids. Spend the evening around the campfire TV/social media swapping stories, mending equipment giving each other tips on how to do whatever better. Teaching the youngsters how to hunt, fight, build (electronic games) . . .

    Surviving the lean times, celebrating the fat times . . .

    Eh, I can dream, can’t I? But if I were techie inclined, I’d write software so things like this forum more communal, more webcams, more speakers and mikes. “Gather around the fire children and let me tell you about Hope and Change . . . “

    • Mikes, yes. The spoken word has power, and always will as long as we’re what anyone could recognize as human (words themselves have power, written or spoken, but the latter allows a wider range). Webcams? For some of us, that’s a pass. *chuckle* Work concerns, privacy, or just too cussed ooglie for cameras. *grin*

      • Well, I resemble that remark. I might have to brush my hair before I turn the webcam on.

        • Yeah, no. Maybe certain events with mics, but video is overrated without more production values than I can afford at home.

          The thing that helps me here is the asynchronous nature of commenting – I don’t have to be online at the exact same time as anyone else to interact, and if I get interrupted, I can go deal and come back to it later.

      • I’ve tried to use the power of spoken word, but alas, my attempts to cast Hillary Hillary back to the pits of Hell from which she was spawned have failed, nor have my attempts to exorcise the demonic familiar that sits on top of Donald Trump’s head pretending to be his hair met with success. Do you think it was because I was trying to do it through the television, or was it just becuase I also couldn’t sprinkle them with holy water? 😛

    • Think the tinkers in “The Peace War.”

  21. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Do these people swallow whole whatever some progressive twit says, without the slightest effort at verification?”

    From my far-too-extensive personal experience, I can assure you that the answer is “yes”.

  22. Every time I hear “be the change you want to see” or its equivalent, I want to beat someone over the head with a wet sock until I brain them. (It’s slow and satisfying.)

    Try a stalk of broccoli next time. The satisfactions…well, I’ll leave it to you to experience them for yourself.

  23. First time I heard ‘Hope and Change’ I thought that if the pinhead got in I’d hope to have some change left by the close of his administration. So far, so good . . ..