Weekend Update 07-07-2012

Let’s start with this week’s most exciting news! My son, the physics major, texted me about the impending Higgs boson discovery announcement before I saw it anywhere else. This article includes the tidbit about Stephen Hawking losing a $100 bet as a result. Well, okay. Perhaps it’s less exciting to those who have not found quantum physics and mathematics fascinating practically their whole lives. But it really is a big deal. Why? Well, here’s a really good, brief lay summary with an analogy that most of us can grasp from Fermilab.


Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age. Robert Reich an the absurd point we’ve reached.

Fr. Orthoduck “rants” about the impact of neglecting our infrastructure for the past thirty years and the widespread denial and delusion preventing us from making any progress today. Well worth reading.

Parents already know or should know that all the peer-reviewed and substantiated science shows that “normal” corporal punishment of children (spanking) can have long-term negative effects. And yet they live in denial, even asserting among many religious groups that “god” (whatever god it is they worship) demands that parents hit their children. However, it’s hardly limited to religious groups. Rather 90% of Americans, religious or not, still spank their kids today. Sometimes it seems hopeless.

While actually proving any linkage between individual weather events and overall climate is much more difficult than many people appreciate, the increase in extreme heat-related weather events is consistent with the predictions of climate science.

I like this post primarily because it again exposes the very bad metaphor comparing a country to a business. Among other things, no company (other than perhaps Amway) sells 80% of its products and/or services to its own employees. Bad metaphors lead to bad conclusions and worse actions. Krugman makes essentially the same point in his column.

Robert Reich on patriotism. Read it. ‘Nuff said.

Cringely on IT class warfare. Good stuff. And it’s true. IT is creative knowledge-based work. I have a friend who says he isn’t paid for what he does; he’s paid for what he knows. (Of course, from that knowledge you accomplish a lot. But it’s the knowledge and the ability to apply it that’s key.) This quote caught my eye. “Toward the top end of IT the value of individual contributors becomes extreme. There are many IT organizations where certain critical functions are dependent on a single worker. These are complex or arcane tasks being done by unique individuals.” If this isn’t an area where you work, that can be hard to understand. It’s also not necessarily a highly paid or broadly recognized individual. Right now, in my organization of a 100,000 people over more than 700 sites, there are key aspects of our infrastructure that depend on me for all practical purposes. It’s been that way in different arenas for the past couple of decades, but most people don’t know who I am and I’m not unusually compensated. I like it that way. If you get to a certain depth with a given type of problem or issue, you’ll end up being directed to me. And I’ll make things work (or tell you why what you think you want isn’t possible and help you find an alternative approach). There are a handful of other people like me in other areas and by and large we either know each other or we know who to ask to find each other. It’s just the way things are.

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