Weekly Roundup: Woo For Its Own Sake At The End Of Tech Days Edition

Alright, let’s get it off our chests: When Wednesday happened, when Lady Gaga had un-self-consciously re-enacted The Hunger Games, and when it became apparent to even the dimmest among us that Trump and “Q” were not going to descend into the vaguely Riefenstahl-esque walled-off self-celebration/bad-poetry-slam with a Blackhawk chock-full of pedophile-grabbing grapples like the ones used in the Christian Bale Terminator movie, what was your first thought?

I’ll personally admit that my first thought was selfish. I didn’t think about the end of the American oil industry, or the promised gun confiscation, or the female athletes whose scholarships just vanished into thin air, or all that business about structuring the economy around issues of racial justice and climate justice. All I could think was: Well, that’s the end of the tech biz.

What the American press won’t tell you, the Indian press is shouting from the rooftops. Biden is promising “the infusion of hundreds of thousands of visas per year”. Let me repeat that:

The infusion of hundreds of thousands of visas per year.

Mr. Biden famously told unemployed coal miners that they should learn to code. I hope none of them listened, because as career advice in the Biden era, “learn to code” will be slightly less useful than “learn to play the accordion”. For God’s sake, there are only 1.46 million software development jobs in the whole country. Ask yourself a question in the format the meme kids love:

What percentage of software development jobs will be given to new visa holders, and why is it 100?

Like him or loathe him, Trump was good for middle-class American jobs, particularly in tech. I watched pay rates increase by a full third during the first two years of his administration, and had I stayed in tech rather than departing for the editorial lyfe, yo, I could have looked forward to further raises.

If you’re wondering why Big Tech mounted such a full-court press against him, now you know. It wasn’t to protect America’s womyn, nor was it to ensure the dignity of (insert your favorite group here). It was to reset labor costs back to the Obama years, and then some. Just as importantly, it was to take white and Black employees out of these jobs and replace them with people who can be dominated via the iron band of visa control. If you’ve never worked in tech, you’ve never seen how that control is used. The visa holders are the first people in the office and the last ones out. They never raise their voices to disagree, they never refuse a task no matter how degrading or unnecessary. It’s actually terrible for software development, because without anyone to say “No” you wind up with catastrophically complicated projects. But it makes the bosses feel goooooood.

Whatever. It’s done. Elections have consequences. Onwards with The Great Reset, amirite? Nevertheless, this Brave New World will force me to do at least one dangerous thing, and it’s this: I have to disagree with Scott Locklin.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I have no interest in disagreeing with Scott Locklin. Insofar as you can ascertain someone’s IQ over the Internet, he is a 3SD typa dude, meaning one of the 13 in 10,000 people with an IQ over 145. He might even be in that 4SD group with your not-so-humble author. It’s hard to say. The IQ test isn’t reliable at those levels; furthermore, I have long suspected that 4SD IQ is actually a form of mental illness. You’re way outside design parameters at that point. I can personally attest that after a few dozen concussions, each one making me stupider by some degree, I’m actually a lot happier than I was as a child when I had perfect and total recall of everything from entire fiction books to the arrangement of the bricks in the window outside my classroom.

Mr. Locklin just wrote something really fascinating, as he always does, and this time it’s about woo for its own sake. When Locklin writes “woo”, he usually means “emotional stuff, with no basis in fact”, such as astrology or personality testing, but in this case he means “software written with no thought to practical use”. I’ll excerpt a few of the most relevant parts for those of you who don’t like reading about computer software:

Once in a while, independent minded programmers demand more. They may or may not be “so fookin smart,” but they think they are. Their day jobs consist of unpleasant plumbing tasks, keeping various Rube Goldberg contraptions functioning and generally eating soylent and larva-burgers and claiming to like it. As such, most programmers long to do something fancy, like develop a web server based on Category Theory, or write a stack of really cool lisp macros for generating ad server callbacks, or add some weird new programming language of dubious utility to an already complex and fragile stack.
Allowing your unicycle-riding silver pants mentat to write the prototype in Haskell to keep him from getting a job at the Hedge Fund may make some HR sense. But if you’re going to rewrite the thing in Java so a bunch of offshore midwits can keep it running, maybe the “adulting” thing to do is just write it in Java in the first place.
One of the valuable things about popular but boring languages is that the code has been traversed many times, and routine stuff you’re likely to use in production is probably well debugged. This isn’t always true, but it’s mostly true. The other benefit to boring languages is people concentrate on the problem, rather than the interesting complexities of the language itself.
If you have a job doing shit with computers, you are presumably solving real world problems which someone pays for. Maybe, you know, you should solve the problem instead of being a unicycle riding silver pants juggling chainsaws.

In the second half of the column, Locklin discusses the addictive nature of complexity in software and computing infrastructure. He writes about “the towers of jelly that are modern OS/language/framework stacks” and, dear reader, let me tell you that, as the kids say, I felt that. At a job I had a while back, our management came up with this profoundly stupid idea for deploying Automated Teller Machine software to the ATMs:

the physical server contains the virtual server which contains the Docker image which contains the Kubernetes image which contains the Docker image which contains the application.

I suspect I only got two responses from anyone who just read that:

People who had their last tech job before 2015, or no tech job at all: uhhhhh wat

Current tech workers: yeah, it sucks, we’re doing that at my job too

The tech business has fallen in love with abstractions and layers because it is widely supposed in theory, but never proven in practice, that these architectures can be successfully operated by people with a 110 IQ. They believe this because the idea of this architecture is always sold by someone with a 105 IQ to someone with a 104 IQ, on the hopeful basis that someone just a little bit smarter than both of the idiots in that transaction will be able to effortlessly make it work.

Their goal, of course, is to get rid of the Scott Locklin in the department and replace him with three visa-holders who will be considerably easier to hire, manage, and fire.

Now here’s where it gets weirder. Docker and Kubernetes (we say k8s, of course!) were probably originally the private project of someone like Scott. In my brief time working on the pointy end of tech, I learned that all the brightest bulbs were perpetually working on some computationally unlikely project to solve a problem that really only existed in their own heads. At Google they call it “twenty percent time”, and it’s meant to be a reward for the “eighty percent time” you spend doing what Scott calls, quite rightly, the “unpleasant plumbing tasks”.

In the end, you get this kind of hierarchy. The 170 IQ dude has a vague idea about computing. He tells it to the 150IQ dude, who conceptualizes something like Kubernetes. It is then put into practice by 130IQ people, debugged and completed by 120IQ people, and sold to the 104IQ guy by the 105IQ guy on the basis that the 110IQ people can make it work.

The 110IQ people make a giant mess of it, so they find the lone 120IQ person at their visa body shop who can fix it, and he does so behind the scenes, but it isn’t fixed well enough to actually work in practice, and that’s how you get a Tower Of Jelly.

Let me show it to you:

This is Amazon’s recommended architecture for implementing Drupal, a shit-simple CMS that you could install in half an hour on your grandmother’s Celeron desktop, from scratch, including all the Linux OS you’d need to run it. This uses at least eight, possibly nine, of Amazon’s branded AWS services.

The purpose, as anyone can see, is to drastically increase Amazon’s profitability by selling you eight or nine services for every interaction your users have with your Drupal server. That’s why Amazon recommends it. Literally. I’m serious. This is Tru-Coat and the extended warranty and the nitrogen for the tires.

If you’ve ever actually sold Tru-Coat, like I have (well, it was Ziebart, but you get the idea) then you know that the biggest problem with Tru-Coat isn’t how much you pay for it but rather how badly it’s done. I delivered a fair number of cars that had rustproofing sprayed inside the wheels, thus making the car shake and shudder from the moment it left the dealer.

Similarly, the biggest problem with the Amazon diagram isn’t how ridiculous it is, or even how expensive it is, but rather how badly it’s implemented in practice by the midwits-and-below who find themselves doing the work. If you’re lucky, the whole duct-taped assembly will run like it’s on Grandma’s Gateway 2000. If you’re not lucky, then you get phantom interactions of complexity. Downtime no one can explain. Database behavior that isn’t discussed in the manual. And so on.

The careful reader, who has outstanding pattern recognition, might be starting to see a common theme running through all of this, from Locklin’s unicycle-rider business to the wacky Drupal diagram, and it’s something like this:

There is always a tendency in modern computer stuff, among people of all ability levels, to complicate the project.

Locklin’s “mentats” (that’s a Dune reference, God bless him) want to write everyday services in new computer languages, many of which are highly optimized for considerably more complex tasks. The “midwits” want to make giant Amazon diagrams. The dummies want to sell each other Russian-nesting-doll strategies. At no point is there ever any thought given to how well something will actually work.

This problem is addressed in Locklin’s piece. He draws a distinction between the engineers who make things run, and the everyone else who want to complicate things for their own self-aggrandizement/amusement/resume-padding. Then he suggests that everything important should be left to the engineers.

So where do we disagree, exactly? Only in this. Locklin, in his column, suggests this approximate order of desirability:

Engineers writing stuff in the appropriate language > Midwits using Java > Mentats using Haskell or another hobby language

I’d argue that his middle choice, Midwits using Java, always fails. It has zero chance of being effective in the long run. Whereas the last choice, Mentats using Haskell, at least has a chance of success. It could work.

If we translate this to infrastructure, Locklin’s assertion is like this:

Engineers using simple apps on bare metal or VMs > The 110IQ crowd using Docker > Someone from GNU writing a new clustering strategy

Again, the middle option has a 100% chance of failure at some point, and the right side option might succeed.

Therefore, I would like to meekly suggest that we re-order both of these, to

Smart people doing tried and true stuff > Really smart people making it up > Non-smart people following a recipe

This not only lines up more closely with my 25 years of professional experience, it also lines up with my personal experience. As you increase the intelligence of a person doing a job, that job is done better — up to a point, beyond which it is done worse. I believe that this rule is probably absolute, and would apply to theoretical physics as well as it applies to running a forklift, except that we are simply short on the human capital necessary to demonstrate it at scale. If there is a “200IQ” person someone out there, I bet he’s working in a fast food restaurant, because he’s terrible at every task and fast food is one of those jobs where we accept low performance.

Which brings us back to Wednesday and the likely future effects. One of the downsides of completely outsourcing software and computing infrastructure in this country is that you take the 1.5 million people who might be pretty well-equipped, intellectually speaking, for such a job, and you force them into a “dumber” job. They won’t do this “dumb” job as well, because they are on the far side of the curve for that job.

And what about the 1.5 million people who got moved out of their jobs by the more intelligent, better-credentialed ex-engineers? Well, they go to a dumber job, at which they are not as good, and so on. It’s a knock-on effect that hurts the whole economy. Everyone’s life gets just a little bit worse, more degrading, less interesting to them.

And that is why I come to praise “woo” of this type, not bury it: because it represents the antithesis of forcing everyone into the worst job we can find for them. It holds out the promise for satisfaction, however temporary and however frustrating after the fact. It places a value on intellect, and on intelligent effort. There’s something innately human about it. And when it doesn’t work, it’s no worse than the default choice, which also doesn’t work.

What does a world without this kind of “woo” look like? Keeping in mind that it’s not just software “woo”, it’s everything from architecture “woo” to street-sweeping “woo” like you see in Japan. What does it look like if you privilege the midwit over the Real Smart People? Well, everything just gets that much worse. The music is moronic, tuneless, crass. The poetry is without rhyme or reason. The movies are tedious exercises in special effects and jump scares. Every flight is late, every subway is dirty, every business process struggles under the parasitic weight of government and social requirements. We have ugliness shoved down our throats and we are told we must pretend to see it as beautiful. You lose the freedom to say that two plus two equals four.

Winston Smith wrote that “If there is hope, it lies in the proles.” That’s not true. It never was, not in 1776 and not now. Here’s the truth: if there is still hope, it lies in the woo.

* * *

This is a rare Weekly Roundup, because we have a special corner case article to share. In addition to what I wrote for Hagerty — a complaint about timidity in club racing — we have a lovely profile of a Riverside Green commenter to share! I sent my protege, Grace, to meet Toly Arutunoff. I know you’ll enjoy her story.

102 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Woo For Its Own Sake At The End Of Tech Days Edition”

  1. Fat Baby Driver

    “ As you increase the intelligence of a person doing a job, that job is done better — up to a point, beyond which it is done worse.”

    Like tire mountain, the IQ slip angle. I’ve seen it over and over again with developers I’ve hired (and unfortunately fired) over the years. Too much intelligence makes you stupid.

  2. stingray65

    The Biden immigration policy in lyrics:

    Clowns to the left of me!
    Jokers to the right!
    Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

    We’ve got Indian software people coming in to take over high end tech jobs, and we have Central American caravans dashing past the unfinished border wall on their way to take over low end jobs, but don’t worry the middle (including all the former software coders, pipeline workers, and wall builders) will get Covid checks, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and a lot of cheap crap from the reopened trade with China so we’re all good.

  3. toly arutunoff

    when I owned a third of a bmw dealership 30+ years ago (when the cars were about as bad as sterlings) they came with a computer with a 1″ thick instruction book. we were told not to mess with it until we’d studied that book…and remember this computer had nothing to do with any satellite or cell tower. shortly thereafter, bmw removed 121 functions from that thing–and got not a single complaint! bmw also gave us videos of how to demonstrate to the buyer how to do things with the key to open just the driver’s door, open all doors, perform both these things with/without unlocking the fuel door–things the customer didn’t particularly want to know. I mist say we had no problems with the 8 series.
    by the way jack, are you a member of the 4 sigma society–or is it 5 sigma…

  4. Publius

    “Non-smart people following a recipe”

    How true this is. My employer has a number of the NSPs who perform Tier 1 tasks in IT. They are simply incapable of doing anything beyond the recipe and if something breaks or requires troubleshooting, you’re screwed. They don’t/can’t learn anything new if it’s not in their cookbook (runbook). And, after getting good at following the recipes, maybe after 6 months, they quit. As one of my coworkers once said “I assume that when I’m dealing with people from X, they’re new and have no f*ing clue what they’re doing.” Of course, our CFO and CIO are all agog at the cost savings, but are completely oblivious to the cost in time to the engineers that do the real work, and in the loss of good people who get fed up with the crap.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I spent twenty minutes on the phone with American Express yesterday. It bewilders me that for $550/year, which is like a car payment, you get your call answered in India. Their people are HORRIBLE. I can accept incompetence, and I can accept being lectured in a foreign dialect, but not the combination of both.

      • Ice Age

        I used to write resumes professionally and I can’t count how many Indian programmers and other assorted IT guys I did work for. Thousands, probably. Certain patterns emerged in short order.

        An American programmer would tell me about his BSIT from State University, his CompTIA+ & all his Microsoft certs and his four programming or help desk jobs in about three pages, which I would condense down to less than a page. He’d be happy, pay up and head off for greener pastures with the “door key” I just wrote for him.

        An Indian IT guy would send me a dozen or more pages featuring his three MSEE degrees, his 25 IT certs, his four letters of recommendation from his previous supervisors, the three languages he spoke and the 17 contracting jobs he’d worked in the past three years.

        And he’d invariably yell at me and demand a refund if I got that mess inside two pages. Let’s get something straight here: Nobody who describes his native language as his “mother tongue” has any business telling me how to write a resume aimed at an American company.

        Thankfully, when it became obvious that these guys were planning to demand refunds before they even contracted for our services, my boss would tell them they could have rewrites but no refunds.

        But you know what I never figured out?

        Programming means writing lines of code, which consists of the precise placement of specific characters in a specific sequence, right?

        So how come none of the people could FUCKING SPELL?!

        • Jack Baruth Post author

          Oh thats simple. I’ve watched them. Their IDE spells the function for them. The bobs and vagene crowd is that way because Tinder has no lookahead prediction.

          Some day when I am old and bored I will research a paper on why the West loves empty space in everything and the East loves complexity. You should see the PowerPoints created by, say, the average American C-suiter and the average Indian tech dude. The latter will have more information than an Obfuscated Perl entry, presented in less readable form and with 6th-generation resized JPEGs, while the former will have the word “DIGNITY” in 12 point Helvetica on a white background.

          • Ice Age

            A good friend of mine, who absolutely cleaned up surfing the initial wave of IT back in the late 90s at various tech support and sysadmin gigs, and who later went on to get his BS in IT from Virginia Tech, can’t stand working with Indian programmers. Says their degrees are worthless and their education completely inadequate to even the most basic programming work.

            His most common complaint is that he basically has to redo everything they’ve “completed.” He tells me his record in this is essentially unbroken. More than once he’s asked his boss to just let him do the whole damn project himself, knowing that’d mean basically doing the work of four or five people.

            He has the same disgust for Indian-educated IT guys that my former-Marine dad has for the Soviet Union – they’re an utter, complete & disgraceful comedy of errors, with arrogance and incompetence in equal measure.

            He’s no real-life Yosemite Sam, either. Calmest guy I’ve ever met, with patience worn thin enough to see through.

          • Depressed Clutch

            @ICE Age

            Yeah, it is maddening when managers give them credit for “meeting deadlines” when their “completed” sloppy dumpster fire fundamentally doesn’t work. But an American who submits a clean, correct solution slightly past the (arbitrary and highly optimistic) deadline is fired without hesitation.

            The 737MAX mean something, but I doubt anything will change.

        • John Van Stry

          Because they’re lying. They never did ANY of that.
          I was a manager (contract) for an EDS project (half-billion dollar gov job). We had to hire almost exclusively Indians because 1) THEY’RE A MINORITY AND WE GET PAID MORE!!! and 2) they work cheap.
          I had 30 of them working for me. But I’d been dealing with Indians for a decade by then. I knew -every- college in India, I could even describe some of the buildings at each one. All interviews had to be IN PERSON because the guy you talk to on the phone ISN’T the guy who shows up. I ran into this at least half the time.
          Yes, there are guys who know enough to do a good job, and usually the women are smarter (cause they can’t get jobs in India – it’s too sexist).
          And after making sure I had people that actually could do what I needed, or at least be mentored into it (and I did a fair bit of mentoring) I still had to sort people carefully into the jobs where they could be most productive.
          I had the only group that was on schedule and under budget. But if I’d been allowed to hire whomever I wanted? I could have done the entire job with a team of eight to ten people, with a lot less management.
          (Oh, and the Indian managers where hiring guys from their home villages, and teaching them how to write code from scratch).

          • John C.

            Would it have killed you as a guy with Van in his name to find, in the absence of an American, a Dutch guy? Did you even think about it? An Indian with a 90 IQ would have remembered who he was.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            You do know it’s quite possible that some of his Dutch relatives came to North America before any of your kith and kin, don’t you? I recall some Dutch guy named Minuit who got a really good deal on some prime real estate.

          • John C.

            Sorry, what were you saying Ronnie? I was just thinking of that boat load of Sikhs that got sent back from Canada in 1911 and tearing up over the injustice of it all. Apparently back in Calcutta they rioted to the tune of 20 deaths. What a loss for Canada. Had they been allowed in the rioting would have been mostly peaceful and they would have beat any of my family to North America. What a leg up Canada would have had in their already important business of call centers.

          • John Van Stry

            Dutch guys aren’t minorities. I was only allowed to hire women and minorities. And as one of the major EDS people on the contract was Indian, that mean almost exclusively Indians.

          • Ice Age

            No, I gave it up years ago. Several things drove me away from it.

            It was a piecemeal job where I got paid per resume, where you get into the mindset of “just one more” and never get any days off.

            It was a paperwork job where I never saw any results of my effort, just an endless stream of paperwork landing on my desk, getting processed and leaving my desk, to be replaced with another identical assignment. Groundhog Day.

            Finally, I began to actively hate the clientele, especially once I realized that nearly everyone from the feature group of this discussion who ordered a resume was intending from the word “Go!” to complain and demand a refund no matter what I wrote for them. The conventional wisdom is that prejudice is the result of NOT knowing about other cultures, but I had nothing against those people until I found out what they were really like.

      • sgeffe

        There’s no worse nationality on this fucking EARTH to have to deal with as an English speaker than someone with an accent from the Indian subcontinent!

        The drawl mixed with the usual inability to speak “th” so it doesn’t sound like a “D” makes it all but impossible to converse with someone on the phone!

        I have no problem with European, Spanish, or Oriental accents. Usually, there is at least an effort made to learn passible English as a school requirement. I’m not sure about India or Nepal.

        Perhaps a good career path could be found in learning to teach English to this group of folk with an eye towards assisting them in being able to pronounce things in English without the accents and with a more conventional sound, such that one could have a conversation on the phone without expending every ounce of mental energy trying to translate what they thought they were hearing!

  5. Ronnie Schreiber

    a 3SD type dude, meaning one of the 13 in 10,000 people with an IQ over 145. He might even be in that 4SD group

    I’m on the lower edge of the 3SD group, or at least was in junior high, the last time I took a formal IQ test. A handful of concussions and a whole lot of cannabis later I’m still smarter than most folks. It’s no big deal because I know a number of people who make me look average. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone called me a “genius,” but the people that I know who are smarter than me are much, much smarter. Sometimes I think the gap between +3SD and +4SD is wider than that between people of average intelligence and those who are +3SD.

    I’m actually a lot happier than I was as a child when I had perfect and total recall of everything

    Exceptionally bright children are in the awkward position of seeing the world much as an adult does, but still being a child. A prodigy can still have a temper tantrum. That awkward position creates barriers between smart kids and both their own age group and adults.

    Demonstrating extreme intelligence is also not as socially acceptable as demonstrating extreme beauty, athletic, or artistic abilities. Come to think of it, those folks are allowed to be as eccentric as they can be, but are there similar insults to “know it all” and “smartass” in other areas of exceptional ability?

    Still, I’m reminded of something a true child prodigy, now a math professor, wrote. If cancer is cured, it’s not going to be cured by a genius but rather through the hard work of exceptionally bright people who aren’t quite geniuses. Almost all of the technological advancements we enjoy were not the product of super high IQ geniuses. That’s because true genius is a lot rarer than the 0.13% of the population that’s just exceptionally smart and there simply are not enough geniuses around to do all the heavy lifting that needs to be done.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Addendum: George Westinghouse was a very smart man, who got his first patent when he was 18 years old, but does anyone think Westinghouse was as smart as Nikola Tesla (whose ideas Westinghouse applied) or Charles Steinmetz, whose math proved Westinghouse was correct in pursuing the generation of AC electricity (in contrast to Edison who was invested in DC, which isn’t suitable for long range transmission)?

      There’s a joke they tell here in Michigan. The University of Michigan is one of a handful of public universities that are considered elite schools. Michigan State University, on the other hand, is the country’s oldest “land grant” college, has a bit of an Ag school background (my late father got his veterinary degree there), so it’s sometimes derided as “Moo U.” MSU is a fine school, I applied there, but nobody would say a degree from there has the same prestige as one granted in Ann Arbor. So what do Michigan graduates call Michigan State graduates? Boss.
      The eggheads go to Michigan, the practical folks who start businesses go to State.

      • stingray65

        Higher IQ is generally the ability to see things before those with lower IQ, but the super high IQ see things so far ahead of the rest that their observations are practically speaking useless. That is why so many of the most successful entrepreneurs, inventors, and artists are merely very to extremely bright and not super geniuses, and why super geniuses are often deemed crazy by everyone else.

        • Ronnie Schreiber

          why super geniuses are often deemed crazy by everyone else.

          That and the fact that Tesla was indeed bat-shit crazy. Steinmetz was pretty “eccentric” too.

          On the other hand, Johann Bach seemed to have been pretty normal. I’m a bit skeptical of the tortured artist cliche.

          • David Florida

            As a self-made man (aside from the dwarfish, club-footed, and hunchbacked body) I think that Steinmetz earned any eccentricities he might have cared to exhibit.

        • JMcG

          I’ve pointed this out to my kids before. I use Fiji water as an example. Never in a million years would I believe that enough people are stupid enough to support a market for 18.00 per gallon water shipped halfway around the world. But someone did, and he’s lighting cigars with 100.00 bills somewhere right now.

          • stingray65

            There is a sucker born every minute, and many of them are buying Fiji Water and filling their shopping baskets at their local Whole Paychecks store for a variety of health and environmental reasons of which there is never any scientific evidence to support, and in the case of vegans ample evidence to the contrary.

        • Ronnie Schreiber

          Thank you for the clarification.

          If I was a billionaire, I’d fund research into technology from about 1875 to 1940 that showed promise but was stymied by a lack of supporting tech. Something like how Cadillac’s 8-6-4 engine with cylinder deactivation was a good idea but the tech to implement it successfully just wasn’t good enough yet.

          • Ice Age

            There’s something about Road Not Taken technologies…but take it up to 1960.

            Automotive turbine engines, zeppelins, the Orion drive, anything Luft 46, Casaba howitzers, etc.

      • sgeffe

        And they once had a football team too!

        I think the ‘70s-‘90s were a fluke. I had no idea, until my Dad mentioned it to me a few years ago, that MSU was the dominant football team in the state of Michigan prior to the Schembechler era!

        • Bon Ivermectin

          Michigan was a founding member of the Big Ten in 1896, which Little Brother didn’t join until 1950. MSU is 32-67-5 overall in the rivalry and 23-34-2 since 1953.

          The fluke is MSU in the 1950s and 1960s: national championships in 1951, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1965 and 1966 and Rose Bowl victories in 1954 and 1956.

          So your dad is right about the 20 years immediately before Bo, but less so pre-1950.

    • Ice Age

      “Exceptionally bright children are in the awkward position of seeing the world much as an adult does, but still being a child.”

      Can you imagine actually living the fantasy of getting to relive your life from age 10 knowing what you know now? Being a grown adult in the body of a child? You’d have a complete inability to make friends with the other kids, you’d constantly be in trouble for mouthing off to the adults YOU consider social equals, you’d KNOW exactly when & how your parents were full of shit, etc.

      You wouldn’t fit in anywhere.

      • Ronnie Schreiber

        You just described, in exaggerated form, a good deal of my childhood. I was greeting guests at a brunch celebrating my son’s Bar Mitzvah, when my father’s friend and veterinary colleague Al Krochmal arrived, I told him, “You can still call me “Nudge,” his nickname for me. He smiled widely and said, “You remembered!” Nudge is Yiddish for pester.

      • JMcG

        SD for Euro Americans is basically 15 points. I’m not a student of the subject, but I think there’s some discussion around the size of SD for other groups.
        If it’s of interest to you, there are sites which give the correlation between pre-94 SAT scores and IQ.

        • stingray65

          The controversy around SD for other groups with lower than 100 IQ averages is that using the 15 SD for Euro-populations makes for a lot of very low IQ blacks and Hispanics while using a smaller (and probably more realistic) SD such as 10 points results in very few smart and genius blacks and Hispanics. Thus a black who is 1 standard deviation below the black average IQ of 85 would have an IQ of 70 with a 15 point SD, which is mentally retarded and there would still be about 16% of the black population that are even lower than 70. On the other hand, a black who is 1 SD above the black average of 85 with a 10 SD would still only have a below white average IQ of 95 and would definitely not be college material, and if we assume a college material minimum of 105 IQ would mean only about 6% of the black population should even consider college. This creates a huge problem for the diversity and inclusion industry who are intent on getting black proportions in higher education and higher status professions up to their national population proportions. This is also why standards have to be lowered for such “inclusivity” to be achieved, and why so many black students in higher status schools are the cream of the foreign applicant crop rather than the great-great-great grandchildren of US slaves that the entire affirmative action movement was built on to correct. This is the entire reason why the Left hates and berates IQ and SAT scores (which are basically IQ tests).

        • John C.

          Why would you direct that statement to me, instead of say BLM, Mossad, Davos, or the PLA?

          I think I may understand. You think there is a global conspiracy to overstate the contributions to the progress of the human condition by Caucasian Christians. Therefore, however ridiculous what your guys say, you back them up with intensity, because as with Q anon, there is a secret plan that must be trusted. It is only a matter of time till the kracken are released, and the truth will set us all, well Disinterested Observer, free.

    • benjohnson

      My opinion: Jack is creating a smoking room for people of good will.

      I will say adding layers of abstraction has a use. Every new abstraction delays the reckoning by two months. This give you time to move to the next project before the victims figures out it’s nothing but layered BS all the way down.

  6. tracktardicus

    Your article on your current perceived status of club racing boils down to perspective. Your perspective as an alpha-male, hyper-masculine, plug every gap even if it’s medium risk or worse on the race track is not shared by a majority of club sprint racers, for a variety of reasons.
    Firstly, a significant amount of club racers are operating on a tight budget, and even if fenders are under $200, they don’t want to be replacing them every race weekend. That’s the best-case scenario, considering the possibility of hub-to-hub contact (or worse), which means repair or replacement of new wheels, axles, brake calipers, or suspension-even if it’s a no-fault racing incident. They are not members of a racing team that will replace cars or parts at no cost to them.
    Secondly, the talent level of club racing is not as high as what you see on TV, and you can’t expect everyone to have the situational awareness to see you plugging holes aggressively in a race-start scrum. If you know all of the drivers and have significant numbers of reps with them, and them with you so everyone has an expectation of good behavior, then good on you. Based on my experience, that is not the case in NASA sprint racing, because there is just not enough time and money to practice enough to be that level of driver.
    Thirdly, no one in club racing is making a living off of it, or competing for a ride with a race team (there are a few exceptions for younger talented drivers, but not many.) If you are driving that aggressively for a coffee cup, a plastic plaque or trophy, or some contingencies, then maybe you should rethink your perspective.
    If you want to be aggressive in club racing, then join a series that is allows contact, and be willing to pay for replacement parts for other drivers, even if contact was judged a racing incident, but you were the aggressor.
    So I suggest you consider the different perspective of other racers that are not as talented as you who want to enjoy the thrill of wheel-to-wheel racing without having to worry about checking their mirrors for the driver who doesn’t really care whether or not he makes contact.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Okay, okay, (hands up in the air) I agree with you — at least about eighty percent.

      You’re absolutely right that most club racers don’t want even a spank-y PWC or IMSA level of competition. Anybody racing in the GTS class in NASA, or American Iron Xtreme, or any of the SCCA high-buck classes, could just as easily be running MX-5 Cup. So yeah.

      With that said, a lot of these “tight budget” people show up on new Hoosiers every weekend, they have F-250 Lariats pulling their enclosed trailers, they have Stilo helmets. A significant percentage of the people in NASA Super Touring are running programmable ECUs. The money is there, it just isn’t there for a fender. And at least in my NASA region, we have so many people shitcanning their cars out of sheer stupidity every season that I can see not wanting to add extra competitiveness to the mix.

      Truth be told, I prefer the contact standards in circle track, and I’ve done okay in brief circle track participation, but I don’t want to race circle track, I want to race on a road course.

      As for the ridiculousness of racing hard for a plastic trophy — you’re dead on, of course, but I started in BMX where we’d cheerfully hospitalize each other for $3 of “track bucks” to put towards next week’s race. In my experience, if you won’t risk your life for a plastic trophy you won’t do it for fifty grand.

      At my core, the problem is with me, not everyone else. I don’t understand why you’d show up for a race and not want to put your whole heart into it.

      • Eric H

        When our team races in budget endurance series, no contact is the team rule. We’re all paying to be there, if you break the car on the first stint we’re all going to be pissed. This has happened multiple times and I still rag on the guys that have done it.

        Oh, by the way – the VW Fox is turboed now.

      • JMcG

        The list of things I’d risk my life for has shrunk considerably over the years. It’s now down to my children and, depending on the day, my wife. I used to mountaineer, road-race motorcycles, scuba dive, etc. I can’t imagine the mental anguish I put my mother through.
        Young me would be bewildered at old me.

      • tracktardicus

        Our region has a large GTS class. The great majority of drivers in those classes have normal jobs, i.e. small businessmen, dentists, physicians, attorneys, commercial pilots, and higher-paying IT. There are no trust-fund babies or business magnates that I know of. A lot of them have Hoosier stickers for every weekend, cars maxed out to class limits, Stilo helmets, new or newer dualies, and enclosed trailers. That said, the GTS class is no-contact, so they are not expecting to budget for repairs due to racing incidents.
        I understand putting your whole heart into it-if I won the lottery, I would get the best coaching I could find, coupled with a Ferrari Challenge car that would allow me to race at all my bucket list tracks throughout the world. I would hope I would get to the talent level that I could push for small edges at a lower risk, with a reasonable chance of success, while knowing if I’m in a racing incident it’s not going to preclude me or other racers from racing for the rest of the year or longer.
        I would also argue that the risk/reward between BMX and club racing is not the same. Yes, you can be aggressive racing BMX and seriously injure or kill yourself and/or your competitor. The stakes are significantly higher piloting a 2500+ lb race car full of fuel.
        At NASA or SCCA nationals, drivers are willing to take more risks and be aggressive than they would be for regional sprint races. The risk profile is different, and the rewards are higher. If you are accepting the same level of risk regardless of the level of reward, then I view that as a problem and a lack of perspective.
        A good driver should approach racing whole-heartedly as you do, but I’ll use myself as an example: my heart must be tempered by the reality that I don’t have the talent level to consistently push like that, and some of the people I’m racing against have too much heart, but not enough talent and self-awareness of the lack thereof.
        Thanks for your content even though we don’t see eye to eye on some things-please keep it up, your work is appreciated.

      • Disinterested-Observer

        I don’t have the cash to run a team in any reasonable formula, but I would strait up stab you if I thought it could get me an edge. So, I guess spend more money than I am willing to lest I shank you?

  7. Ronnie Schreiber

    we have a lovely profile of a Riverside Green commenter to share! I sent my protege, Grace, to meet Toly Arutunoff. I know you’ll enjoy her story.

    A very good week for content on the site.


    Eric Weiner’s piece on a young lady who collects Saturns. https://www.hagerty.com/media/people/saving-saturn-a-different-kind-of-car-collector/

    Sajeev’s look at my favorite Continental Mark that isn’t a ’56 Mk II:

    I’m not impartial, obviously, but our host and his colleagues have put together a very talented stable of content producers under the Hagerty umbrella.

    • John C.

      The Saturn story was great. I often poke fun at the early Honda cult. It was nice to be reminded of when GM struck back using their own create a quasi political cult game on them. My mother drunk the Saturn kool aid and a 92 SL1 was her last car.

  8. Ronnie Schreiber

    I have long suspected that 4SD IQ is actually a form of mental illness

    I think it was neurologist Oliver Sacks who said that most folks with exceptional abilities display minor symptoms of major mental illnesses.

    “Narcissistically impaired, with some psychopathic behaviors.” <- My official diagnosis.

    • benjohnson

      Can confirm. I’m nuts.

      I really don’t want to talk about this, but I also want to talk about it because I’m a narcissist, so here we are

      Dumb thing #1: Some things come so easy to me that I don’t value them – I charged peanuts for programs that moved mountains.
      Dumb thing #2: I have no conscientiousness. Probably because I was unlovable as a child – so I miss deadlines. Probably spent a quarter of a million in fees. I still had to do the work anyways.
      Dumb thing #3: I over think things. I can see Tesla’s 30 year future as it bumps up into competition with state-backed competition. So why would I invest in that upcoming disaster. I’ll be dead in 30 years.
      Dumb thing #4: I find it hard to love and to be loved. I see all the flaws. The glass not just half empty, it’s full of prints made by flies.
      Dumb thing #5: I don’t need God. Never had a problem I couldn’t fix. Hubris lead to the other place.
      Dumb thing #6: Life is so easy I never took a look at my flaws and tried to fix them. The Emperor has no clothing
      Dumb thing #7: My imagination is so good, I don’t need to build things. Good artists ship.

      There’s hundreds more.

      My advice to my younger self – examine yourself. You have shortcomings you’re not even aware of. Also: Plastics.

  9. Fred Lee

    I agree with about half of what you say here. I’ve got an internal website safely behind our department firewall that serves about 1000 pages per day, showing some indicators and whatnot. A recent intern suggested we run this under docker, using a CMS, with a mix of node.js, expressjs, and what not.

    No thanks, I’ll stick with perl::cgi, easy Template Toolkit, and some simple-ass HTML. OK fine, a smidge of CSS to make things look pretty. The same simple setup that’s been working for me for 25 years.

    But about the visas…. We’re about the same age, you and I. I’ve worked at a handful of fortune 50 tech companies as well as startups. You know as well as I do that the best years for tech workers have been the Clinton years and the Obama years. The Bush years were a dark time. Trump’s term was pretty good, but nothing like the years before him.

    Let’s think for a bit about the impact of decreasing visas. You don’t *really* think that those tech jobs went to US workers instead, do you? In the extremely short term, yes. But beyond that time horizon, it meant more off-shoring. If you can’t hire foreigners in the US, all the more incentive to hire foreigners for a lot less money in their home country. I’ve seen plenty of this. My current mid-sized startup has a sizable team at several locations in the US. We’ve been trying to hire, but the competition for H-1Bs, which was already stiff, is now impossible. So most new hiring is in Bangalore.

    Now don’t get me wrong. While I generally don’t put too much effort trying to correlate these trends to presidential administrations, and I do love that my income trajectory has continued from its steep slope under Obama, it does bother me that we’re sending a lot of bright young foreigners back to their countries. Losing their innovation, losing tax revenue from their incomes, and spurring on development in their countries.

    From a globalist perspective it’s fantastic. We’re helping their countries develop, and that, for planet Earth, is a good thing. From an “America First” perspective it’s a disaster. We lose their motivation, their innovation, and ultimately our place at the front of the tech industry.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I can only assume you and I were in different parts of the game. My perspective is that overall wages rose sharply from 1990 to 2000, held steady until about 2006, then fell until 2016. Under Obama the average pay for sysadmins declined every year. I’m not talking about how much I got paid, but rather how much the majority of the jobs paid. A lot of $80/hour jobs in 2000 were $30/hour jobs in 2012.

      We shouldn’t treat offshoring as some sort of inevitability. It’s a matter of government fiat, encouraged by regulations and various accommodations. If we can state by fiat that X amount of people on a corporate board have to identify as women, or that X percent have to be transgender or LGBTQQIA+, we can easily state that you can’t send these positions to Bangalore. We already do it for various ITAR-sensitive jobs.

      One great idea, and one I’ve suggested before, is that the United States government mandate that 50% of all jobs paying more than $75k at any company claiming Section 230… should go to African-Americans. And the other 50% should go to American citizens of any race. This may sound bizarre, but in fact we’re surrounded by regulations like that all the time. They’re just not meant to help Americans.

      • roamer

        Your experience of the recent history of IT matches my own. And this lovely information, wholly expected, reinforces my intention to either move somewhere like Texas where they’re not likely to hire as many visa workers, or simply try out the expat lifestyle.

      • stingray65

        What I don’t get is that the best estimates of Indian IQ in India is about 85, which is about the same as blacks in the US. If we assume that to be reasonably productive as an IT professional you need an IQ of 115, this would mean that Indian or African-Americans with sufficient IQ would be between 2 and 3 standard deviations above their population mean and that translates to between .1% and 2.1% of all Indians and US blacks are smart enough to work in IT. With a population of 1.4 billion that means that between 1.4 an 30 million Indians of all ages, castes, and genders are potential IT material. In contrast there are 44 million black Americans and that means that are somewhere between 50,000 and 1 million with sufficient IQ to be productive IT workers. The average IQ of Indian-Americans (from India) is usually estimated at 110 to 114, which means we are getting the cream of the crop, but a large number of them are working in academia, medicine, business consulting etc. so they are all available to work in IT.

        The horror stories from the comments above would suggest that many of the Indian IT people are not very good, so the question is with the US having an average IQ of about 97-98, where is the evidence that it is easier to find good IT people from India than in the US (or Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, China, or Korea that all have average IQ near 100 or above)? Proportionally it should be just as easy to find black coders as Indian if we look just a raw intelligence, but all we hear about is that it is impossible to find black IT people.

        Could it be that US policies are responsible for the strange IQ to occupation anomalies? Would we have more US IT majors if graduates didn’t have to compete with millions of Indians willing to work for little money in order to get a chance at a green card? Would we have more US citizen IT majors if US universities and IT schools prioritized admissions and scholarships based on US citizenry and SAT scores instead of diversity statistics? Are the profit margins at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft so low that they must resort to cheap IT help in order to survive? And if profit margins at US companies are under pressure due to high IT costs, couldn’t the US government help them out by smart deregulation and lower corporate taxation so that they can hire the best US workers (instead of the best Latino lesbian), and make more money on their US investments? Couldn’t government aid to higher education focus on fields such as IT, engineering, science, and business so we get more bright graduates in fields where there are good jobs and fewer graduates in victim studies and interpretive dance where there are not? Of course when I look at all these policy priorities that might help US citizens and companies I can’t help but notice that many are things that Trump pursued and that Biden is now reversing thanks to the wisdom and support of tech billionaires and millions of dead and illegal voters who sent in their mail-in ballots with a machine placed mark next to Biden/Harris and no down ballot votes, but I guess it is seditionist to mention such things and I should just accept that the people have spoken and will now get what they wanted good and hard.

        • Dan

          I don’t buy that. Indian drone programmers aren’t ten feet tall, and their culture is alien and obnoxious, but the cream of India shows up everywhere from FIDE Grandmasters to consecutive Fields medalists. Lists that have never seen a black face and we both know never will.

          Either intelligence distribution works differently among Indians than it does everyone else, or no they aren’t as dumb as blacks.

          • stingray65

            When you have 1.4 billion people it is very possible to have a low average national IQ and many million geniuses at the top of the distribution. If Indians were as smart on average as NE Asians or European bloodlines then you would expect far more Indian contributions to science, industry, arts, literature, etc. either historically or currently (see link) and/or a better run country that might have resisted British colonization and/or performed better since independence. Instead you have a country with 1.4 billion people that has no globally famous home-grown brands, and 500 million citizens without home access to a toilet or reliable electricity, and a transportation infrastructure that is the envy of no developing nation. In fact, India’s biggest export is its high IQ people who seem to desperately want to get as far away from their home country as possible.


          • Dan

            Yeah India is only just emerging from third world sewer. How many Ramanujans lived picking mangos and died unsung of fever? Some still are.

            Meanwhile, commensurate billions of Africans never created any world class cream at all. Two generations and a trillion dollars of trying has failed to turn any of the 40 million Africans here into cream either.

            I don’t claim that Indians are as smart as NE Asians, or Europeans, but if blacks were capable of high intelligence there would be something to point at besides racism to demonstrate it.

            China was a third world sewer one blink ago. One more blink and they’ll be running the world. Are they as dumb as blacks too?

          • stingray65

            I wasn’t comparing Indians to African blacks, but to US blacks. The best estimates for African black average IQ is in the 70s (probably low 70s), which is well below the Indian or US black average. US blacks have benefited from some intergenerational mixing with smarter racial bloodlines (see Obama as an example) and probably some largely unidentified environmental advantages (better nutrition, education) that make some difference around the margins. This difference is why Africa lags the world in economic and cultural development, and why intellectual blacks such as Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele have only come out of European dominated places and virtually never from Africa.

  10. Ice Age

    What kind of technology are we talking about here?

    Refined metals? Electrical transformers? Glass? Telephones? Sewing needles? Asphalt roof shingles? Plastics? Penicillin? Concrete? Motorcyles? Steam turbines? Leather clothing? Knives? Aircraft carriers? Fishing nets? Automobile tires? Vinyl siding? Kevlar vests? Suspension bridges? Cruise ships? Steel cables? Lawnmowers? Camping tents? Drawing paper? Nuclear reactors? Fighter planes? Pencils? Oil refineries? Eyeglasses? Airliners? Rotary engines? Snowboards? Skyscrapers? RC cars? Airsoft guns? Televisions? Desalinization plants? Wallpaper? Epoxy garage floor paint?

    See, I thought ALL industries were technology industries. This is one of the things I hate about Big Computer – its arrogance.

    Here we have ONE particular industry, that of the electronic computer and its related accessories, that came along – late in the game, I might add – with the unmitigated gall to call itself THE technology industry, slapping all of civilization in the face, as if the hundreds of thousands of years of human beings making things that don’t occur in nature, from flint-knapped hand axes to space shuttles, aren’t technology.

    “The enemy isn’t AT the gates. The enemy IS Gates.”
    – Red Green

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Airsoft guns are definitely tech, as I’ve learned in the past month.

      You’re holding the moral high ground, but I’m speaking for ease of communication. Saying “tech biz” is fairly derogatory, as it connotes the “unproductive tech” or the flat-out evil tech of the Web et al rather than the useful and human tech of civil engineering.

    • Tyler

      Ice Age, you would enjoy the book The Code Economy. A more direct response though. As far as I can tell, “tech” is C-Suite-ese for “piece of our value chain in which the labor costs are both high and also easily measurable on a per-unit basis such that we will look smart for paying someone to pretend to automate it.” There are lots of everyday functions in complex firms that would benefit from some TLC from the Actual Smart People to whom Jack refers here. It’s just way way easier to overpay a few more credentialed folks to do glorified data entry and call it administrative overhead than to make the case for a robust software solution in subject areas that don’t tickle your creditors’ fancy.

      • Tyler

        Jack’s current industry and mine sort of is rife with relevant examples. Insurers will pay out the nose for fortieth percentile analytical or administrative competence but we will ruthlessly prune the earnings potential of the people who actually work claims and keep the lights on.

    • stingray65

      Why should our best and brightest work on all that other “technology” stuff when they can give us Internet porn and allow us to post cute puppy videos instead?

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      In the late 1970s, the BBC produced a series with historian James Burke called Connections about science, technology, and society. Every modern technology’s origins can be traced back centuries.

  11. Widgetsltd

    Way back in 1998 at SCCA club racing school my instructor told me this: “Don’t take anything to the race track that you can’t afford to leave there.” This is why I, too, race a neon. The late-90’s SCCA Showroom Stock heyday in the hyper-competitive Central Division was a place for dented fenders. At least at the front of the pack, anyway. A sprint race really is a thunderdome experience where you MUST go for that gap. I don’t really have the constitution for that sort of racing, which is why I’ve been much happier for the past ten years doing endurance racing. Contact in an enduro is counterproductive and stupid. Unless it’s the last hour of the race, there’s always time to find a better passing opportunity rather than force a low-percentage move.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      One game I liked to play when I was running AER races was to calculate the lap differential of common pit lane mistakes. The stop minimum was three minutes. If a driver had belt problems and you left at 3:40, then at Mid-Ohio that means twenty laps running a 1:44 instead of a 1:46, which means you have to push the tires and make zero mistakes for thirty-seven minutes or thereabouts.

      The worst example I ever saw of that was a noted West Coast “genius” who was determined to beat my laptime in our shared car. On his second solid lap, a full .3 better than me, he misjudged a move and bent the tie rod. Which made the car five seconds a lap slower for an hour, then required a twenty-something minute stop.

      For the record, the patience you showed with me and Sam at BW was infinite. We could have run five seconds a lap slower and still won that whole thing. Almost certainly should have.

      • Widgetsltd

        But you were born to drive sideways! It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to understand that you can’t ask a racer not to race. Heck, running five seconds a lap slower might have been so boring for the driver that a dumb mistake could happen. Reducing pit stop time is pure gold, as you said. Late last year, I finally broke down and fixed the fuel tank so that it can be filled quickly. I bought some “enduro” harnesses and they were a revelation: MUCH easier to adjust and more comfortable too!

  12. Harry

    My favorite part of this post is that this 104 IQ person can use his poor performance at menial tasks to convince himself that he is a 200 concussed down to a 4SD. Big self-esteem booster! (is self-esteem still a thing? I seem to recall it used to be everything, but I can’t remember anymore)

      • Harry

        I suppose so long as I surround myself with 103s I can just fake it. Illusion preserved.

        High intelligence as a form of mental illness concept is interesting. One of my favorite biographers, William Manchester, wrote a book called A World Lit Only by Fire. Scholars of the late antiquity loath it. Mr. Manchesters’ introductions to his works are phenomenal and this is no exception. This one is pages about how the education and life experience of the medieval person created a world view, and possibly even a mind, that is so alien to ours that attempts to imagine living in their world as them rather than as ourselves is nearly impossible.

        It would seem to me that trying to walk a mile in the shoes of someone who is separated from you by a wide gulf of intelligence is also nearly impossible. Even if you can see what they see and know what they know with perfect accuracy, one can never simulate in themselves how they process that information. I suppose being xSDs above or below would make one’s mental patterns sufficiently atypical to be a mental illness in itself regardless of any other behaviors that are present.

  13. NoID

    I have had this experience in automotive as well. For every genuinely bright person imported from the east who can run circles around me intellectually, I need to deal with two or three plug-n-chuggers who are basically just meat interfaces for the programs they use to run simulations for me. It isn’t uncommon to have to run through two or three iterations of what I’ve asked for JUST TO GET WHAT I ASKED FOR, let alone analyze it to determine if it’s representative enough of reality to be useful or if the model needs optimizations or improvements to its fidelity.

    It doesn’t help one bit that very few of them understand vehicles from a mechanical perspective, and even if they fundamentally understand them they have ZERO passion for them.

      • NoID

        The ratio may well be smaller, but my work only exposes me to a small number of the visa holders.

        I will say that one benefit of globalization at my prior job was found in CAD work throughput. On especially “hot” jobs I could have a local designer working on 2D and 3D data for me during the day, then send it off to our contract company in India to work on it while we slept. We’d come in the next morning with fresh drawings and models to review, and while invariably the progress overnight was slower because we couldn’t discuss the details in real time, it was better than leaving it sit overnight.

        On the downside, sometimes work would be 100% outsourced to the team in India and progress was slower because our window of opportunity for real-time communication was like 2 hours per day in the early morning or late evening. The only other way for me to communicate the changes I needed were detailed markups and precise descriptions of what needed to change, instead of me and another person leaning over a drawing or sharing a monitor for 5 minutes. The necessity of wrapping things up neatly and putting a bow on it to ensure it was properly understood and executed half a world away with little to no chance of collaboration was time consuming, further slowing down the work.

        Pros and cons exist in all business relationships. In this case I’d say the benefits outweighed the costs, unlike the phenomena I’m seeing described here where the H1B process is bait-and-switching us with warm bodies to fill chairs when what we are being sold are their “best and brightest.” But should we be surprised? In the end you get what you pay for.

  14. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Back a few years ago I ran across a poster which said the following;

    “If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, the first woodpecker that came along would have destroyed civilization.”

    I’m not a programmer, but sometimes the programs I’ve had to use in my line of work seem rather obtuse and difficult to use for the average schmo like me.

    • stingray65

      I have often wondered if lawyers and programmers get trained on how to make the simple complicated so that it creates more work for lawyers and programmers by making sure the non-trained are unable to understand much less diagnose and fix legal and software issues.

      • silentsod

        In my experience the most complex and unwieldy programming is done by the most mediocre programmers.

        If you read straight through and there was nothing baffling in what they did you’re at dealing with someone competent and proficient enough they didn’t need to muddle the solution. Generally, they want any bugs that do occur to be easy to solve. Diving into the depths of obfuscation is a fun experience for zero programmers coming in later to figure out what the hell is going on.

      • Daniel J

        As someone who’s been doing this for years, I’m just not seeing that it’s gotten more complicated. Modern languages in many ways have taken some of the most complex parts of computing have been taken out.

        I think the complications arise when bean counters and program managers who haven’t written a line of code in the last 10 years are in charge.

        Now, as someone who’s been doing drivers for years, hardware has become increasingly more complicated. The data sheet on a gen 1 SOIC was 500 pages. Gen II is 1000 pages. Admittedly I don’t do sys admin stuff.

      • Ice Age

        I once asked the friend I mentioned earlier, the one who writes programs for a living, about why software is so complex – is it as complicated as it is because it has to be, or because the cynics are right about programmers giving themselves job security?

        He said it was about 90% the former and 10% the latter.

    • dejal

      Coding based on the perception of perfect data, perfect networks and perfect user responses is for fools. If things were locked in as perfect, writing programs is fairly easy. I spend probably 3 times the amount of time coding for “Not Perfect”. You get data and a certain offset is supposed to be numeric. So, you never code for the oft chance it’s not. Works for years, until that oft chance occurs. Or one of the worst offender of data is ACH Financial Transactions. First thing I do, is take the size of the file and divide by the record size and add 2 more for a carriage return + line feed. CR/LF!! It’s 2021. I still get record specs written for COBOL. If I do a divide and I don’t have 0 as a remainder there’s going to be a problem. Now, that doesn’t mean the data still can’t be screwed up, but that check is a easy one. “BUT IT SHOULDN’T BE THAT WAY!!!!!!” until it is.

      • Daniel J

        In my past line of work, the edge cases were a many. 100 lines of code solving 99 percent of the cases, and then 1000 lines of code to solve that last 1 percent.

        When it came to data, we finally just decided that as long as we don’t crash, we’re good. It there is some sort of valid response expected for edge case data, then it better damn well be in the requirements.

        • dejal

          For my stuff, I have e-mails generated in the code. Most of my crap is run between 11 PM + 6 AM. I prefer not to get called then. But, if I do, I want a hint that is more than “It no work, you fix”. I pound my head against the wall with the ‘Nah, it’ll be fine” attitude.

    • Eric H

      Business rules programming sucks.

      Why is software obtuse?
      Try to make a list of every single rule necessary for a specific business to function, including how those rules interact.

      Now explain all of it to a third party so they can write it in code.

      Don’t forget to leave out a bunch, then change your mind on some, then have a multiple people coming in via a side channel to have changes made, many of which are in direct conflict with what has come before. Have manager A work to sabotoge manager B’s group and vice versa. Put people in charge of how the user interface should work who have no clue on the workflow of the users.

      To top it off, use the lowest bidder and demand an impossibly short deadline to get it done.

      This is how most software gets made. It’s fucking terrible.

      In my 30+ years of software development I’ve only been on a couple of well run projects. They were magical.

  15. JMcG

    The article on Toly is really wonderful. She does a wonderful job of making the point that the cars are dead without the people who inhabit them.
    Every year, the Simeone Foundation museum in Philadelphia hosts an exhibit on a particular motorcycle marque. I was down there one year drooling over some Manx Nortons that were condensing testosterone out of the air the way a cold beer can accumulates drops of water on a humid summer day.
    A few years later, I found myself in a very nondescript shop in the worst part of the worst town in Chester County, Pa. There, among the exhaust pipes hanging from the rafters and the domed pistons from countless 650 Triumphs, I saw the same Nortons.
    This time, I spent one of the best rainy afternoons of my life talking with the man who brought them to life and who had ridden one of them at the Isle of Man. His shop was an earthly paradise, full to overflowing with bikes, cars, parts, posters, etc.
    It was a revelation to have seen those bikes in a museum, remote and brutish behind velvet ropes and then to have the man who rode them encourage me to feel how stiff was the throttle return spring and to hear from him what they were like to ride.
    And, in much the same way as was Grace, I was offered a snort as well.

  16. Sobro

    In the mid 1980’s when I was working for a medium sized civil engineering firm in the booming Atlanta metro the owners, engineers all, were duped into buying not one but two Intergraph workstations for computer aided engineering. I think each cost the equivalent of two GMC Jimmys of the time, and Intergraph sales had a really slick presentation showing the design of a highway alignment, all of the way down to earth work volumes and drainage lengths and depths using only a topo map and highway centerline graphics as starting points.

    It was a slick lie by the 95’s in sales to the 120’s in management, never mentioning all of the man hours required to have a detailed enough topo for a highway alignment, nor the brute force data entry required to meet slope, minimum curvature, superelevation, and drainage design criteria, etc to produce those slick final pictures of 50-foot road cross sections. The owners thought the man hours needed to make super easy cost estimates, eg, cubic yards of earth moved times local cost per yard, would be reduced by 75%. The 120’s were blinded by the bling.

    Less than two years later AutoCad was readily available for anyone with an up to date PC and $1000 cash for a few floppies and some peripherals.

  17. yossarian

    a good friend of mine who has had a very successful career as a management consultant explained to me over drinks why companies have so many low paid useless workers.

    it’s a defensive strategy for middle managers to have as many workers below them as possible. the less they pay them, the more they can hire on any given budget. the amount of work they actually accomplish is inconsequential.

    middle managers now that staff size goes up and down in cyclic pattern. they staff up when times are good to the highest extent they can because when the inevitable downturn occurs, they have more headcount to cut without having to fire anyone they actually care about or god forbid get laid off themselves.

    it’s all about headcount.

  18. Daniel J

    I finally got to read the “woo” article by Locklin.

    It’s interesting as I have a team member trying to push more “functional” style into some of our projects. It has its benefits, but about 50 percent of the time I spend too long trying trying to write a functional code than I do solving the actual problem.

    There is a fine line between writing code based on SOLID principals where the code becomes such a mess we forgot what the problem the code was trying to solve in the first place. And then once we actually figure out that problem, its even harder to figure out if the code solved it.

    • dejal

      From Dune:

      “”Be silent, Piter,” the Baron said, and the laughter stopped as though shut off with a switch. “Kanly, is it?” the Baron asked. “Vendetta, heh? And he uses the nice old word so rich in tradition to be sure I know he means it.”

      “You made the peace gesture,” Piter said. “The forms have been obeyed.”

      Form is extremely important to many.
      I’m on my way out from the IT biz either in the next year or whenever. So, the newer people should have their way with style. They seem more preoccupied with a coding style than the the function.

      They love parameterized Oracle statements. Which is all wonderful until one fails. How does one disseminate that? “Select * from table where fielda = :fa and fieldb = :fb” Unless you know what :fa and :fb are, BFD. So, I wrote a error routine that builds a string replacing the :fa + :fb with the values. I then log and/or pop up a message box stating “SQL: select * from table where fielda = ‘ABC’ and fieldb = ‘1233A’ failed. They still don’t see the need. If fieldb is a numeric, you know 1233A isn’t going to work. You still have to find out how you got stuck with 1233A but at least you get a head start.

      • Jack Baruth Post author

        In Locklin’s newest article, he mentions (as Vox Day did, and I did afterwards) that “kanly”, along with many other aspects of Dune, were taken whole from The Sabres Of Paradise.

  19. Shortest Circuit

    Agreed 100%. You can be a better-than-average programmer who can remember pointer references to two- or god forbid three levels, the only thing this guarantees is that you’ll be replaced by 3xH1B-holders for 1/3 the price, but you get redundancy (two of them will work anytime) also you get compliance. Downside is, the almost weaponized cluelessnes that comes out of a society where, in a desperate effort to give every single of their 1 billion workers something to do, every job is taken to pieces to the point of ships having separated helms on the two sides of the ship (one side is directional control, other side is throttle – if you think this is a joke, I can send pictures). If you’re managing construction on that exotic subcontinent, you’ll learn that unions rule to a degree almost incomprehensible to a westerner. Eg. you need a hole dug and the refuse taken away. This is 3 unions… you need a guy with a shovel to dig, another with a wheelbarrow to take it away and the osha guy looking over them. And they don’t start unless the whole thing is blessed by a cleric. So 3 unions and a church, actually.
    This results is a workforce in which NO ONE has any sort of overview or even the capability of overseeing a complex project.
    *Tales from a consultant: One time I cleaned up a very very messed-up Logstash (yeah) installation where the worker bees had 3 issues acting against their success. Nobody put the picture together that they wanted to read logs from a wrong location, somebody tried to start the uncooperative process with the root user to try to see if it works, creating lockfiles in the process that couldn’t be cleared by the daemon user; and finally the firewall to the log-gathering server wasn’t open.
    *Tales from my brother the service writer: they had an overconfident guy working the undercoating station resulting in cars that had the whole exhaust system coated (you get a nice white smokescreen capable of hiding an M1 Abrams). Surprisingly, not all customers came back to complain.

    The real trouble is, I don’t see a way out of this. As long as managers are content with this sort of workforce, I don’t see a way up for technologists. Other than doing the dreaded retraining to… gulp… MANAGEMENT.

  20. DR Smith

    I’ll admit it – I don’t understand the fascination with Postgres & Kubernetes. What can it do that is so much better than good ole fashioned SQL or Oracle. Auto faiilover – never seen that successful yet. It twas much simpler and easier to support applications ten years ago because they were not built on 14,000,000 layers of other ‘infrastructure. But management insists on adding all the cool sounding stuff to pad their end of year PR’s that sound good when consultants talk to the e suite idiots.

    Rant over….

  21. gtem

    Just read Avoidable Contact #90, loved it. Come on down to the speedrome and run our Neon, you’ll see all the action you can handle on the track (and in the pits, sometimes with police involved) lol. We’re probably not gonna cage it yet for this coming season as everyone’s too busy with other stuff to really seriously commit to racing it, but I will hopefully get the suspension dialed in a bit better and get her idling reliably and we will be renting the track for a few hours of practice sometime in April before the start of the season, and will be showing up for practice rotations to run hot laps on some race weekends throughout the season.


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