On the crimes in North Korea and how we are distracted from them

metsuken comments on Sony & "The Interview" -- what's your take?:

But Kim Jong Un is not Emperor Palpatine. The Workers' Party are not
Sith lords. They are completely sane, flesh-and-blood men and women no
different from me or you who torture and imprison regular people.

Real people. People who are fathers, daughters, uncles, friends.
Imagine if your family lived in a country where one misstep you make
could land you and your children in the gulag. If you have daughters,
you can expect them to be raped by guards who don't bother to use
condoms and their fetuses forcefully aborted. If you have a relative
that has special needs, expect them to be executed for polluting the
gene pool.

When you step back and start deprogramming yourself from the media
conditioning that North Korea has been feeding you, it's not so easy to
be so flippant about North Korea, is it? Suddenly it becomes as
disturbing as joking about the deaths of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, or
creating memes out of the two NYPD officers who were murdered in cold
bold simply for being in uniform. Picture that on a scale magnified by
millions and perpetuated every single day.

So the fact that the world is congratulating itself for being so
witty and edgy for mocking North Korea is what made me angry this week.
Once again, the North Korean government proved that comfort kills
empathy. It's natural human psychology. I've seen more outrage against
North Korea for bullying Sony into pulling this movie than I have when
the UN released its report on North Korean concentration camps.

If the world was able to see North Korea soberly as the most brutal dictatorship in the world,
it wouldn't be such a pain in the ass convincing people to get
involved. That's harder to do now that everyone is lapping up the DPRK's
Kool Aid without realizing.

Caroling at Work

I move my hands an awful lot. :|

Things I Think About: Task Tracking Trials and Trust

There are a myriad of options out there for managing tasks and time management at the individual/personal level. David Allen's "GTD" system is one used by my company, but there are dozens of websites with ideas. One of my favorite talks on the subject is by the "Last Lecture" YouTube star, Randy Pausch. It's an interesting area, and one where I continue to iterate.

The struggle I've had is in finding the appropriate balance between detail and efficiency when managing tasks owned by others. Let's be clear here: we may not have the monkey with any of these tasks, but we do own the overall success of the project, and we are accountable when the task owner  misses a task or gets offtrack with a project. This is task management, executive-style.

Let's define some possible cases are the far end of each spectrum. On the one hand, we can manage the tasks of others as we manage our own tasks - for me, this means tracking individual tasks using lists with checkboxes, divided and sorted by subject matter. It's also extremely time intensive and wasteful whenever a task happens on track: there's a cost of my time in monitoring the task, my time in sending a "ping" of some form about it, their time in replying, and my time in checking the box off. This isn't sustainable across the board.

On the other hand, we can check in at occasional (perhaps weekly) checkpoints on status and if work efforts are on track - relying more on the other person's task tracking. This doesn't take a lot of time, but it tends to stay at the project level (unless it's a 1-2-1 planning meeting), and it's not great at mitigating risk. Let's dig into why:
  • Wastes time for the larger group if you get too detailed
  • Doesn't allow easy opportunities to check-back on late tasks
  • Allows updates like "I didn't get to this, will get to it today/tomorrow.
  • Doesn't account for issues or tasks that the person might have forgotten.
In my work as a project manager, I've found that we need a system that allows for a middle ground of the two approaches above, and can be dialed up or down depending on the urgency of the project and the past performance of the task owner. I'm still working on ideas about how to dial up and down seamlessly.

Amid The Stereotypes, Some Facts About Millennials : NPR

Amid The Stereotypes, Some Facts About Millennials : NPR: A review of data shows that millennials do have characteristics that set them apart. Unlike their parents' generation, millennials are ushering in an age when minorities will lead the U.S. population. Many of them aren't too keen on marrying early. They are the most educated generation — but even so, a majority remains undereducated. And since they entered the workforce in the midst of a sluggish economy, many also remain underemployed.

How Medical Care Is Being Corrupted - NYTimes.com

How Medical Care Is Being Corrupted - NYTimes.com: For example, doctors are rewarded for keeping their patients’ cholesterol and blood pressure below certain target levels. For some patients, this is good medicine, but for others the benefits may not outweigh the risks. Treatment with drugs such as statins can cause significant side effects, including muscle pain and increased risk of diabetes. Blood-pressure therapy to meet an imposed target may lead to increased falls and fractures in older patients.

Why America Is A Lousy Puppeteer - David F. Schmitz - POLITICO Magazine

Why America Is A Lousy Puppeteer - David F. Schmitz - POLITICO Magazine: The outcome is that a policy designed to modernize and Westernize countries instead only increases instability and unrest, leading to political polarization and anti-American sentiment. This is what the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1990s termed “blowback,” the unintended political consequences that result when the United States shores up unpopular and repressive regimes that help foster and fuel radical nationalist movements, and bring to power the exact forms of government the United States ostensibly seeks to prevent.

A favorite routine

In middle school, I set my alarm clock to the "radio" setting and woke up each day at 7:00 AM exactly to the sounds of "Morning Edition" on NPR and Bob Edwards's trip through the minute long sound clips. The hosts after him never got it quite right, and that voice took me through the start of the Iraq War until his reassignment by NPR. It was my favorite way to wake up.


Currently vacationing on the coast of SC, but thinking about the decision just passed down by three judges on the DC Court of Appeals in this case.

Brief background:
  1. The intention of the ACA was to spread healthcare coverage
  2. The intended mechanism of this was to be state-based insurance exchanges
  3. The federal government got a rude surprise when many states refused to set up their exchanges, instead choosing to rely on a federal system.
  4. This case alleges that because the law's text says subsidies are only for exchanges "established by the State," all of the states on the federal system shouldn't get subsidies, and will see healthcare prices spike.
Proponents of the law are saying the difference is a "typo," which is a strong political message but doesn't quite represent the intention of the gov't to give sweeteners for the states to set up their own exchanges. However, the Obama administratoin most certainly did not intend to remove subsidies via a bait-and-switch, which is how people will feel when this challenge goes through.

So here's the predicament: the law as it stands might be broken. To fix it would require congressional action, but the GOP House is in no mood to help fix this part of the law, since they are so against the entire thing. As a result, the nation could be stuck under a broken law not reflecting the intentions of the drafters.

But what's the alternative, besides drafting well in the first place? If our government can't continue policies faithful to the original intent of laws, the shouldn't be a way to do an end run around it. Laws need to say the right thing.

I don't have an answer, but it is a little scary.

Unconscious bias study: Sexism and racism in America is a product of favoritism, not hatred.

Unconscious bias study: Sexism and racism in America is a product of favoritism, not hatred.: A new review of studies on discrimination by the University of Washington’s Tony Greenwald and U.C. Santa Cruz’s Thomas Pettigrew makes the succinct case that discrimination in the United States is not primarily a product of overt hatred for others, but rather simple preferences for people like ourselves. In a review of five decades of psychological research, they found that while most researchers defined prejudice as an expression of hostility, the more pervasive form of bigotry in the United States comes from people who favor, admire, and trust people of their own race, gender, age, religion, or parenting status. Even people who share our birthdays can catch a break. That means that—to take just one example—sexist bias isn’t largely perpetuated by people who hate women. It’s furthered by men who just particularly like other men.

Awesome combination of motion capture and juggling.

Torque starter from enra on Vimeo.

Why the 9/11 Museum Gift Shop Offends Us -- Science of Us

Why the 9/11 Museum Gift Shop Offends Us -- Science of Us: Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has offered a useful vocabulary for understanding these issues. He distinguishes between three kinds of exchanges. First are routine trade-offs, in which one swaps one “secular” value or entity for another — by, say, paying money (the most secular good we have) for an iPad or some other commodity. Second are tragic trade-offs, in which “sacred” or irreplaceable entities are weighed against each other — national security or citizen privacy? Sophie’s older child or her younger one? Then you have taboo trade-offs, in which a secular value is paired with a sacred one. People tend to throw prostitution into this category, which is why it incites such fierce debate.

What people see in the 9/11 gift shop is a taboo trade-off. On one side of the exchange is cash, and on the other is not just a mug or a hoodie but something much larger.

These items stand in for all the suffering they commemorate. The equation is quite simple: “They’re making money off my dead son,” one man told the Washington Post.

I thought this was really neat

Jon Lovett, making sense

The Culture of Shut Up - Jon Lovett - The Atlantic:

I don’t want those voices [of old media gatekeepers] to drown out the diverse and compelling
voices that now have a better chance of making it in front of us than
ever before—even as we still have a ways to go. And what I think we have
to do, then, to protect this new wonderful thing of ‘a good idea can
come from anyone anywhere’—is we need to stop telling each other to shut
up. We need to get comfortable with the reality that no one is going to
shut up. You aren’t going to shut up. I’m not going to shut up. The
idiots aren’t going to shut up.

We need to learn to live with the noise and tolerate the noise even
when the noise is stupid, even when the noise is offensive, even when
the noise is at times dangerous. Because no matter how noble the intent,
it’s a demand for conformity that encourages people on all sides of a
debate to police each other instead of argue and convince each other.
And, ultimately, the cycle of attack and apology, of disagreement and
boycott, will leave us with fewer and fewer people talking more and more
about less and less.

On Eich

I will grant that it is appropriate for him to have stepped down. CEOs are public faces of a company and I agree that he and Mozilla made the right call given the backlash.

But I do disagree with the backlash demanding resignation (though I think it is completely appropriate to apply scrutiny to his policies and following of the anti-discrimination policies at Mozilla). For many, many years in this country, the majority were not on the side of gay rights. Ellen came out  17 years ago on network TV and caused a firestorm. My childhood church was kicked out of every Baptist group for accepting people regardless of sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt in the South were subject to rank discrimination despite being stable, conservative family households. In that environment, the argument I made time and time again was for tolerance - having a fair and permissive attitude even if you disagreed with someone. Tolerance was the first step towards building connections and friendships between people with anti-gay attitudes and LGBT folks, and in those connections people could realize the mistake of their bigotry, initially formed often in childhood by fear and rumor. Tolerance was crucial.

While growing up, the stance I and many others took and argued was that marriage was fundamentally a religious sacrament, whereas governmental civil unions for everyone would enable rights to be shared freely. That way, people could get married at my church and the state would have no say in what was allowed to be "marriage."

My problem with this backlash is that we are rejecting the tolerance that was so important in building support for gay rights on the grounds of a religious position. We have no information on Eich's feelings about rights, but we know that he has never been known to discriminate against anyone in his long positions of leadership in the software community. I worry that we are sending a message of "now that our position is in the majority, this is no longer up for debate or discussion. Fall in line or you will be targeted." This has two negative impacts:

First, those with anti-gay attitudes (a majority of California citizens voted for Prop 8) will never have a chance to discuss them openly and be convinced by people like me, because it won't be seen as ok to admit that you might not agree with gay people getting married.

Second, we weaken the argument for tolerance in future debates where the majority isn't with us (and in other countries today, where the majority still isn't for gay rights). It's a lot harder to ask for people to be tolerant unless you demonstrate that yourself.

Silicon Valley's Age Problem - Bloomberg View

Silicon Valley's Age Problem - Bloomberg View: The youth culture of Silicon Valley was remarked upon in the 1990s, but in Scheiber's telling it seems to have actually gotten worse. New industries often start out young, and then age to stately silver as the founding generation stays put at the top. But almost 20 years after Netscape started the first Dot-Com Bubble, Silicon Valley is still in a startup frenzy. And according to Scheiber, investors are looking almost exclusively for disruptive youth, not competent experience.

This has implications for the kinds of projects that get funded -- Scheiber argues that all this disruption is focused on stuff that 25-year-old nerds need, like cab-hailing apps and social networking, and not so much on the things that 45-year-old parents might want.

A musical statement from Ukraine

Says a Dish Reader:
As World War I got underway, Romain Rolland and Hermann Hesse, two Swiss writers, appealed to their war-frenzied friends in France and Germany citing the lede to the choral movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen! (Friends, not these sounds! Let us rather make more pleasant, more joyous notes). And last Saturday, in Odessa, a Russian-speaking city of Ukraine, one of the cultural treasure-houses of Europe, the city that gave us Anna Akhmatova and Issak Babel, Sviatoslav Richter, David Oistrakh, Nathan Milshtein and Emil Gilels, performers from the Philharmonic flash mobbed a performance of the last bars of the symphony at the Odessa fish market. A decidedly political musical statement. Amazing.

SEALed and Delivered in Libya

SEALed and Delivered in Libya:

Last week, Jathran's forces finally
made good on that threat: they used one of the oil terminals under their
control to fill up a North
tanker called the Morning
. (For the record, North Korea has since denied having anything to do
with the ship.) The tanker then sailed out into the Mediterranean, defying warnings
from the central government that it would deploy its naval forces to block the ship
from leaving the port. No such action was forthcoming, of course. The security
forces of current Libyan government can't even maintain control over its own
capital, much less over the country's coastal waters.

Had the story ended there, the
result would have been an unmitigated disaster for the government. Tripoli's
impotence and dysfunction would have graphically exposed for all the world to
see. The floodgates for the wholesale looting of Libya's oil resources would have
opened. The forces of anarchy would have cheered. (It's worth noting that a
prime minister has already lost
his job
for even allowing the tanker to load in the first place.) But
that's when Washington stepped in.

The Lies of Putin

The Czar's Speech: Putin Takes Crimea - Bloomberg View: One more snarl of anger graced Putin's confident ending. "Some Western politicians," he said, "are trying to scare us not just with sanctions but with the exacerbation of domestic problems. I'd like to know what they mean: the actions of a certain fifth column, traitors to the nation of every ilk, or provoking unrest by worsening Russia's socioeconomic situation? We consider such statements as irresponsible and clearly aggressive and we will react to them accordingly."

After expressing confidence that the parliament and the nation will continue to support him, Putin walked off the stage to a standing ovation.

 It would have been easy to fall under the spell of the moment, to bask in a Russia resurgent. Except for the lies.
This article struck a chord with me because it gets to the importance of truth vs perception. I think the USA has occupied a place where truth and honesty claim an important role in our politics, but actually have not been so present (and perhaps have never been present). We end up looking like hypocrites.

But what Putin is doing - taking over another country with a false narrative - is wrong. It is wrong because the basic rights of mankind depand that their leadership be of them and for them - Crimea is not a ping pong ball to be thrown about. I regret that Russia is doing this because I think it is destabilizing. Power should reside locally - and my own country needs to take that lesson.

My grandfather

My grandfather died a week ago today. He had an incredibly busy life:
Dr. Cliburn, a native of Newnan, served as Minister of Education of First Baptist Church of Macon from 1954 to 1957, and was then called to be Pastor of First Baptist Church of Thomaston, where he faithfully served for almost 24 years, from 1957 to 1981. He then served on the staff of the Georgia Baptist Convention for nine years. Since his retirement from the Georgia Baptist Convention, he served as interim pastor of 27 churches, and was currently the Treasurer of the Centennial Baptist Association, and was Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist Church of Thomaston.

Dr. Cliburn also served as Mayor of the City of Thomaston from 1996 through 1999. He was an avid historian and a member of the Upson County Historical Society. In 1999 he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Thomaston-Upson County Chamber of Commerce.
Adding to the above are 26 interim pastorates, writing a long history of the church he pastored, writing another history of the high school his children attended, and a three volume auto-biography that put to paper the sorts of stories that grandparents love to tell their grandchildren, but at such a length to last many hours. He was always on the go, and he was the grandparent with the greatest individual influence on me.

I want to reflect on three aspects of his legacy:
  • Hard work, with support - my grandfather worked long hours of all kinds. He wrote original sermons, ran the church, conducted visitations, planned revivals, and was deeply involved in other parts of the community. However, he did so with the support (and patience) of his wife and family, who kept a "pit stop" ready for him as he hurried about.
  • Loyalty - he chose not to leave his first pastorate when other churches invited him away, and in fact, never held the same job twice. When my grandmother was hit by a stroke that left her hemiplegic (disabled on one half of her body), he nurtured her through the ensuing difficulties and decades of troubled travel. Without a disabled wife, he might have risen higher, but because of his loyalty he kept himself to a job that involved less travel. Yet, I don't think his experience of professional life suffered for it - he still became a mayor, among other honors.
  • Trust and accountability - his life was successful because of the thousands of small decisions he made that were supported by central tenants and ideas, among them accountability. He didn't tolerate slackitude in himself or others (possibly being driven by his own past). 
 I will continue to learn from him for years and years to come.

Travelling to the End of the Road

Beauty amidst chaos in Ukraine

Protesters in Ukraine reportedly took over a museum and someone performed this. I don't know if I can do anything about their suffering (ideas?) but I think videos like this help remind us of the value of every person, even when reports aggregate all protestors/other cohorts together.