How to Stifle Creativity

This guide was NOT inspired by “How to Argue like an Idiot” guide. THAT guide is designed to destroy thinking of any and all types. This one targets only creative thought.

“One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine…”
– From a Soviet Junior Lt’s Notebook

Why Discourage Creativity at Work? The new economy demands it. Global competition and world wide technological stagnancy in fields such as automotive and medicine have left many of us scrambling. If your business is a moneymaker, and profitable, STATUS QUO is the order of the day. DO NOT INNOVATE. STICK WITH WHAT WORKS! After all, things like toilet paper and umbrellas have not changed significantly in thousands of years, and they work great! If people really had a voracious appetite for ideas and innovation , they would change things themselves, not wait for you to do it!
Punish Failure. If anyone dares to try something risky or creative and fails, be sure to let them know you “told them so.” Make them regret it for the rest of their days there, which should be few, because you need to use them to set an example. The biggest success stories result from the one guy that knew absolutely what he was doing and was a super genius without compare. Remember Edison and the light bulb?
Eliminate Ambiguity. Something either works, or doesn’t. You. Are. The. Boss. Stamp out uncertainty. If you think it won’t work, it probably won’t. Why try if failure is even a possibility? FEAR FAILURE! Straight A students didn’t get straight ‘A’s because they were smart, they got them because they were terrified of failure!
Interrupt your Inferiors and pull them away from what they are doing without asking. Don’t ever let them build up enough steam to do anything worthwhile that might improve working conditions or threaten your job.  Periodically, even the best employees begin to work up come creative mind-flow which must be disrupted. Preferably, wait until you see them furiously intent on what they are doing. If they are working with power tools, so much the better because there is nothing better than when the “Days Without An Incident” sign reads “0”. Remember, productivity decreases by as much as 40% when people “multitask”, and if people are 100% productive then that is less productivity for you to steal.
Don’t Pay Attention to Others when they say things you don’t understand. How dare someone have an idea in your magnificent presence? When someone comes to you with an idea, or you hear an idea, interrupt them with an idea of your own, yawn, grimace, frown, sneer, look at your email, look at your blackberry, start a side conversation, do ANYTHING but pay attention to them. And DON’T make eye contact! It will only encourage their rambling. Be sure to write their idea down, though, so that you can claim it as your own later on.
Censor EVERYTHING. Stifle the creative juices by monitoring employee communications. Correct employees on everything from grammar to punctuation. If they send a funny email out to the entire company that is relevant, pertinent, and thought provoking, call them into your office and chew them out. “’Everyone’ is for HR only!” Make sure they understand that all of their ideas must come from you first. The added benefit to this is that if you run across an idea that actually has merit, you can take it.
Sleep During Meetings. If you don’t hear the idea happen, then it didn’t. Long, unnecessary meetings, full of boring graphs and charts that berate and belittle every department, including your own, are fantastic sleep induction devices.
Create Rules and Boundaries. People are supposed to toe the line, not cross it! Punish violators severely. Promote at least 50% of your staff to some sort of management responsibility so that the rules may be enforced most effectively. Post inspiration slogans on the wall like these time honored axioms:
• “Stay Within The Lines”
• “Follow Procedures!”
• “Watch the Bottom Line”,
• “Quarterly Profits are not everything, they are the ONLY thing!”
Remember, a demoralized staff is a hard working, obedient staff.
Don’t Ask Questions. People ask questions when they are interested in something. You can’t maintain conformity and status quo if things are being questioned. Things are going just fine the way they are. Why mess with your perfect world?
Happiness is the Enemy. Foolishness, silliness, storytelling, imagination, etc… these are all things that distract from productivity. Nip them in the bud on sight. Begin your correction of the wayward employee with phrases like :
• “Well THAT won’t work.” (or any variety of “it can’t be done”)
• “Let me tell you what we’re not going to do…”
• “Be Serious”
• “Think before you speak!”
• “Sit down and shutup.”
• Get back in your box?”
• “Who let you off your leash?”
• “We don’t do that here.”
• “Wipe that smile off your face! If you are smiling, you aren’t working!”
Procedures Must be Followed. In the military, there is an entire command of officers and non-com’s who exist for the sole purpose of approving any changes to procedures. It takes months, if not years, to change even a simple procedure. And look at how successful they are! In some countries, they are the ruling body! Establishing a rigid command structure will guarantee your corporation a place in the annals of history.

Some day, I will release a book that is a tell-all about all the shitty bosses I have been plagued with in my life.  For now, though, this will have to do.

P.S. If you have read this far and don’t realize it is satire, then you just might be a shitty boss.  Good luck with that.

Remotely viewing the Internet activity on another computer

As long as you have an account on the computer, and the computer is linux or Mac (unix), and it is an admin account, this is what you can do:

First, you will need to be on the computer and enable remote access. On a mac, it is not enabled by default.

STEP 1 : Enable Remote Login on subject computer

Hit Splat (⌘) -spacebar, type ‘terminal’, and hit enter.  A bash shell will open.  Welcome to command line 🙂  Enter the following command (the ‘>’ denotes a prompt.  Don’t type that):

> systemsetup -setremotelogin on

 

STEP 2 : Figure out its IP address

While you are in terminal, get the IP address:

> ifconfig | grep ‘inet ‘

This will get you the IP address of the machine.  It’s not 127.0.0.1.  It’s the other one 🙂

If it changes later, from your terminal window on your own mac you can scan the network and find it with this:

> sudo nmap -sP 192.168.2.1/24

NOTE: 192.168.2.1 might not be your IP address range.  Whatever the IP address is that you located earlier, change this so it’s right.  

STEP 3 : Access the subject computer remotely

Now, from the terminal window on your mac, open a shell to the other mac, the one you are surveilling, using the ipAddress that you discovered in step 2:

> ssh yourUserNameOnOtherMachine@ipAddress

Next you will be asked for a password.  It won’t see the usual Password: •••••••• where a bullet appears with each keystroke.  You’ll just see Password:•  But don’t worry, your keys strokes are going in.

Monitoring

Now that you are connected, there are a few interesting things you can do.  When it comes to the tcpdump command, these commands are simplistic and just the tip of the iceberg of what it can do.

DNS Requests

This command will get you DNS calls.  Whenever the subject opens a new page or browses to a new website, you will see stuff here:

> tcpdump -vvv -s 0 -l -n port 53

control (^) – c to quit

 

HTTPS Requests

This one will get all HTTPS headers so you can see what websites are being accessed, as they are accessed, and basically every request sent out (somewhat noise).  Since it is HTTPS, you won’t be able to see the exact request, you’ll only see the site being accessed.  Google and Youtube properties all look like they are from 1e100.net.

> sudo tcpdump dst port 443

HTTP Requests

> sudo tcpdump dst port 80

You can open multiple windows and run both.  

Good luck, and don’t forget:  accessing a system that you neither have permission to access nor own is ILLEGAL.  Spy on your SO at your own risk. I won’t go into the morality of spying on your children or employees.  It’s too murky and really depends on the situation.

How to fix a noisy, rattling, laptop fan

If you have a laptop, and it begins to make a horrible, rattling, clacking sound, and if you are certain it is the fan, forget canned air. Your laptop has an intake and an exhaust port for air. Today I learned that blowing air into them is nearly useless. All it does is make the sound change. Here’s how I ended up fixing it:

1: Disconnect your laptop from everything, including the battery, and pick it up in your hands.
2: With laptop powered down COMPLETELY, press and hold the power button for a complete minute.
3: Proceed at YOUR OWN RISK.
4: Setup a light so that it shines across the openings
5: Swallow and get your mouth as dry as possible. Take a deep breath, place mouth on exhaust, and BLOW.
6: repeat process, alternating between intake and exhaust vents, until such time as you or your cohorts see no dust appearing in a fantastical plume whenever you blow.

That’s it. It should fix the sound (it did on mine). If you think your laptop runs too hot all the time, you should just do this anyway. Do not overuse this procedure – you could probably also make a seal around each vent, with your hand and a small shop vaccuum set on exhaust, and get the same (probably better) result.

Again, if you electrocute yourself doing this, don’t blame me. If you use a shop vac, you want to use the exhaust so that you can see when the air blows clean as you alternate between vents. Short bursts are best – a long burst may just wedge dust deeper into the laptop fan parts and stall the fan completely. My preference is to do this with the fan running, so that you can hear and so that the rotation assists with the cleaning. Again, at your OWN risk.

How to transmit passwords, securely

Put it in a text document, zip it with encryption, print out the binary data, send it via morse code, type it into a raw file and saved as a zip, then repeat the same procedure (with a new password) to get the password to the zip file.  now you have two zip files, and the second zip file has, in it, the password to the first zip file.  Keep doing this for all eternity, until the universe contracts to a single point.  Continue until arriving at the first password you entered.  Now, reverse time and, with the password in possession, travel backward through the beginning of time, through to the end of the previous universe, all the way back to when the first password was sent to you.  The password you have in hand should open the file.

I have commenced construction of a box that will do this, but it might take me five or six universal cycles to completely debug.

Now, the complexities of time travel aside, why wouldn’t this procedure work?

How to be [mostly] Secure

I often wonder about security. Recent news, where people are saying things about breaches like “it can’t be prevented”, “you will be hacked” and “If you want to be connected, you need to be protected” makes me really ponder whether or not certain devaluation tactics might not be the best thing to do.  After all, if having knowledge of what you are about to do is enough to destroy you, then you might be in the wrong line of work.  Clearly, then, these tactics won’t work for those whose lives are founded upon cowardice and sneakiness.

  1. Dismantle your email systems.  Use Jabber or some other point-to-point secure chat for all communications. Smash your phone.
  2. Use a secure file drop to securely draft and share documents.  Let security be their problem.
  3. Publish all previous emails from everyone in your company.
  4. Publish all salaries.  Be truthful.  If you lie, eventually someone will talk.
  5. Refresh your computer every hour.  Do not store ANY data locally.
  6. reset your password at the beginning of every hour. Heck, write a code that will refresh it every 10 minutes.  You don’t need to know it, you are resetting everything in an hour.
  7. Change operating systems every day.
  8. Perform any sensitive work at the beginning of the hour, right after a refresh and password reset.
  9. Publish all of your financial information.
  10. Post your credit report online.
  11. Any computer that is not in use for more than 15 minutes should power down and auto-air gap (lest the hackers hack WOLAN).
  12. Make multiple videos of yourself in compromising situations and post them online.  Better yet, get a distant friend to do it for you – someone who nobody can connect to you (I happily volunteer myself for this).
  13. Expose your desktop.  Broadcast a live feed of your desktop.  Let everyone see what you are doing.
  14. Expose your self and publish on the internet.  This will of course only work if EVERYONE does it.  Let’s face it, if every hollywood actress posted nudes on the internet, nobody would care anymore.

Does all of this seem ridiculous?  What if everyone did this?  What would there be left to litigate, I wonder…it should be obvious I am being somewhat tongue in cheek.  There are of course things I do online that I don’t want anyone to know.  But if the world did find out, frankly I doubt they would mind.

If I ever start my own company, I may try this out.  I may keep all systems completely public and all conversations would be mandatory public, even salary negotiations.

 

Bonus materials

When I wrote the line about smashing your phone, it reminded me of this.  Here is a fun little email exchange I had once with someone about phones:

To: several coworkers:

Subject: I understand that you all look to me for leisurership in these technical matters, so here it goes…

Body:

I apologize for the confubulation earlier when we were chattering  by the waker upperer maker.  Allow me to clarsify. The thinga majobber doodad on the squawk box is connected to the whirly curly doodad, which attaches to the bobble doohicky, on which there is a dipswitch thingamajigger.  This attaches to the ringer thinger dinger.  You push the little numerified bicker tickers on the thinga majobber doodad to yackify a whatsit to some whosit on their blinking squawk box. Once you are yackified to the whosit, you yack into the ringer thinger dinger or get yacked at, depending on whether you are a dooz-its or a says-its.

 

Thanks you,

Scott

Whatsit Architect

 

Six Aspects of Measuring the Quality of Software

This is a post I wrote a long time ago when I first read “Espresso Coffee, The Science of Quality.”  I am finally getting around to posting it here because I just now noticed I never posted it here, it was just a thing I passed around on the Internet.

Lately, I have found myself curious about what quality means, and how I can better control it in what I do. As I researched quality, there grew in me an even greater confusion about quality, and what it means, how it is interpreted and understood,  and the implementation of it. That is, whether or not I can always  hold to the same standard of promised quality as the highest uncommon factor.

This pertains to working with clients, with other departments, with myself, and the expectations people have had regarding the deliverable, and the effective quality of the interaction they have with my output.

Value is in the eye of the beholder, quality is perceived. There is an interesting story I once read about an appraiser who was asked to appraise two antique secretaries which appeared to be identical. He was told that one of them was a forgery. He appraised them both at the same value, stating that he could not detect the forgery. When the maker revealed which one was the fake, the appraiser inquired as to how he had made it so perfectly. The cabinet maker said that he found several 200 year old pieces that were damaged and used the wood from them. He used  adhesives which he made himself from raw materials accurate to the period and heated them to accelerate the aging.  He built his own circular saw to cut the planks to size using an antique saw blade, and he discovered a process whereby he could age the cuts perfectly (he wrapped in layers of burlap and buried them in a swamp for 20 years). It took him 30 years to build the secretary, and was his life’s work.  Upon hearing this, the appraiser certified the piece as an original. He said that, for all intents and purposes, the piece was in fact 200 years old.

Software has three perceptible areas of quality…(three that I am going to talk about)

  1. The quality of the product.
  2. The quality of our responses to our clients which includes traits that are  perceptive, substantive and literal.
  3. The quality of service the product delivers.

A software company, as a whole, can be said to be in the business of producing quality.  For a software firm involved in the litigation industry, for example, total quality delivered is the offering of products and services.  This cascades outward and downward from their internal total quality approach in their service vertical, through to their customers, out to the industries they serve (their corporate and private clients), to the courts, and ultimately to the consumers who buy the products and services offered by the litigants. Essentially, a software firm in the legal industry provides a core utility that services the national infrastructure.

As such, the requirement for quality is not only essential, it is fundamental to national interests. When we neglect even one small part of the quality of our processes, it is not only detrimental to our business, but it has a much wider, and deeper impact than perhaps many realize (or care to think about).

From the point of view of a customer, then, it becomes necessary that we really think about what quality means, and how it can be measured.  We need to think about the  different states of quality, and how to develop them progressively.  Customer satisfaction, after all, is a dividend of perceived quality and expected quality. If the expected quality is high, and the perceived quality is low, the satisfaction of the customer suffers. If the perception of quality is high, and the expected quality is low, then we have exceeded expectations. Exceeding expectations is not a quality. If, in the end, the expectation is that quality will be very high, then it can’t be very well higher than itself.  In the end, “quality” is the measurement of the product against the expectation of our clients, ourselves, and each other. It measures how well we meet the expectation. Such is the expectation that we have, that it is one that cannot be exceeded.

The expectation is this – that we will do everything within our means to achieve  as near to real time excellence as is humanly possible without risking life, limb, personal society, damaging our health, or creating permanent insanity. What this means is that we care for our families, we care for our health, and we care for our clients with every available ounce of our being. Our measurement of our ability to do this then becomes not a measurement of gradient expectation, but rather one of quality, which in our work means time to resolution. Our mean time to resolution, across the board, must be faster than everyone else’s. To be the leader, and to stay out in front (or to get there), you must deliver this level of speed on a continuous basis.  The word “quality,” then, is not an aspect in and of itself.  It is a unit of measurement, not unlike an inch on a ruler stick.  To say something is “quality” is not unlike saying something is “inches” when asked “how long is that stick?”

How we use quality as a tool of measurement, then, both internally and externally, become a necessary area of focus.

Firstly, we look at the different states of quality. For this exercise, I’ve picked six different qualitative attributes.

1. Promised quality. Briefly stated, this is the expectation that a person has of a particular product delivered by a particular entity.  Externally, customers have this about the kCura product, and internally this manifests as an internal/external unified attribute, with cause and effect vectors that must be appreciated.

Externally, the promise of quality is high, both in the product and in the service. Since the two are so closely intertwined, that is, the service delivered is part and parcel of the software, I am referring to both collectively as “the service.”  There are some areas of the product where the quality of it is dissonant with the promise, but these are likely caused more by technological and human limitations than by willful oversight.

At times, this causes customers to pigeonhole the product as one that delivers a few, very strong, core competencies, but falls short on other offerings.  This requires kCura clients to do things like hire DBA’s, outsource certain aspects of IT, and purchase other software bundles which they then integrate with the Product.

Internally, at many organizations, there are few promises of quality (but the expectation and implied promise is there, it just isn’t well defined, cross departmentally). When you don’t promise anything, you don’t have to worry about not being able to execute on it.  Where the promise of quality does exist, it does not always mesh well with other, external facing promises.

At times, this causes a disconnect when those who face the customers must interact with those who typically don’t. It may even cause a blatant contradiction that results in conflict.

2. Industry (expected) quality.
These are the standards that govern the very minimum expectation that must be met. Consumers that use discovery products are accustomed to certain features working in a certain way, and a certain guarantee of accuracy. Companies that create food products, likewise, must ensure certain standards are met.  Across the board, in areas of comparability, a quality focused company typically meets or exceeds expectations, with a corrective “roadmap” in place to address shortcomings. Ultimately, there are many, many standards in the industry. Some of them are driven by legal (forensic) requirements, others are aesthetic or purely usability driven.

3. Effective Quality
These are the actual objective and subjective metrics of an organization. What are the promises made by the product, and how does it hold up against them?  The items that comprise your “effective quality” are real, tangible metrics that can be measured, discussed and improved.  Examples of these things include usability, scalability, processing speed, error handling, recovery, precision and accuracy, traceability, and most importantly, reliability.

4. Relative experiential quality
This quality refers to the differential experience created by the actual implementation of the product by the purchaser.  A more experienced team that delivers the product, on better equipment, will deliver a user experience that can have substantially varying degrees of experiential quality.
relative experiential quality = expected quality / experienced quality

5. Perceived quality
Satisfaction = (perceived quality / expected quality) * relative quality

6.  Potential quality

The degree to which a product or service can be measurably improved. This is measured and communicated by an organization’s roadmap, and should be readily available to it’s consumers.

Conclusions

All six of these are qualities that are assessed by consumers of a product one by one.  To be considered a quality, that is, a quantifiable entity that can be measured, each quality must map to a tangible, perceivable action that can be consumed, viewed, experienced, or understood to have intensity, duration, and frequency.  To whatever extent possible, then, quality is something that is measured against the whole.

Without the whole, without an accounting of the sum of all parts of a thing, it follows then that a measurement of quality is purely a subjective, out of context measurement that is rendered meaningless against the overall impact and perception of the qualities of a product.  Those that actually interface with the product or service in its entirety are the best at explaining its level of quality.   To measure quality requires, then, a broad range of measurements that must be painstakingly derived and executed against the subject as a whole. This is no small task, to be certain, but one that will reward the quality analyst with a rich array of tools that can be used to improve the product and services offered.

 

 

How to run a database: some ground rules

So you think you want to be a database engineer/architect/maintainer/worker? Notice, I didn’t say “DBA.” THis is mostly because I have met so many that are not….Database engineers and architects that are good at what they do get paid well, but the term “DBA” has little meaning because there are many people who have minimal understanding of SQL who claim that title. Don’t claim that title unless you are at least MCSE. For an entry level application/database engineer of a big platform sitting on SQL, the expectation is that your pay may deviate from those who work on the front end of the application.

Depending on the industry and the application, you may expect to get paid slightly more than the people on the front side.  This is because it is expected that you will have the same skills as them, but also have knowledge of infrastructure systems, and also be somewhat more willing to receive calls at strange times of day. For example, someone who has five years experience may get paid $77,000.  Someone with the exact same certifications and industry experience, but who can solve real problems and find and fix a root cause that has dropped the entire system to its knees, may get paid anywhere from $80k to $180k, with $80k being entry level into the database/infrastructure work.

Ok, enough about that.  Here are a few ground rules for good database etiquette:
  1. There are very few, select problems that  necessitate a reboot or restart of SQL server to fix a problem. Don’t do it if you don’t know why you’re doing it.
  2. Know your backup strategy, know that it works, and make sure management knows it, too.
  3. Know your disk IO, and test and retest and have a history of tests of it.
  4. Know what your users are doing and why they are doing it.
  5. Database queries should be fast.
  6. Understand the difference between poor disk I/O and poor file I/O
  7. There are a few blogs that are good, plus a lot of misinformation. Know which ones are best. (Ask around).
  8. Read a book, take notes, make lists, have checklists,blog about your experience.
  9. Never test code in a production environment. Especially never test UPDATE, DELETE, or INSERT SQL.
  10. Key lookups, table valued functions, table scans, and clustered index scans are red flags that a query is not well designed. Understand how to fix them PROPERLY.

That’s all I have on this subject, folks.  Let me know if you have any questions!

 

How to Quit a Bad Habit

Please pardon any typos. I do this entirely on my iPad, on the train.

The other day I had a conversation with someone about how he never gets anything done.  That sparked a mention of Parkinson’s Law, which reminded me of this essay I wrote quite some time ago….Now, mind you, I’m not an economist, or even that smart about money. I don’t really understand where money comes from, even though it’s been explained to me a hundred times by people smarter than me.

Last year I decided to delete my Facebook app from my iPad. It was a distraction, not because I couldn’t focus on the work I needed to do, but because it was intrusive. I would be typing an email, creating a calendar appointment, or simply browsing the web and there, at the top of the screen, a little thingy would roll over with my friend Douglas saying, “gotta go to the store! Outta beer” or Eric’s status update of, “checking in at the Recliner,” as though I know what “the Recliner” is, and would want to come right over if I did….so I removed it.  The app, not the Recliner.

“Wait, Scorellis!” you say, “Why not just change the settings?”  Because I don’t have time! I find my way around computers OK; it’s just that whenever I try to change anything about how Facebook works, it usually means going down one rabbit hole or another.

I decided that my desire to avoid the complexity of digging into my preferences to prevent the unwanted notifications was greater than my desire to keep facebook on my device.  And the pop-ups werre intolerable. Besides, Zuckerberg would just change my preferences later on without asking, and it would start to do something else equally annoying.  The dude has serious stalker-like issues.  Facebook is like some sort of super-app for stalkers, right?

Later, on my iPhone (which doesn’t constantly annoy me, not with pop-ins), as I struggled with wading through the timeline navigation, my aggravation levels slowly increased.  With its pretty graphics and immense page size, this timeline feature crushed the performance of my iPhone. I am teetering on the edge of deleting the app.  Then, (now. pay attention!) as I browsed facebook I suddenly read a post by a friend of mine.  Oh joy of commiseration! He bears similar anti-timeline angst!

“Aaaaargh! I’ve been timelined!” he posted.

I think about how to respond to him.  I experience a landslide of thoughts in my mind.

Mind-slide

I want to express my frustration in a single sentence, as direct and short as his, but I cannot find the words.   I want to suggest that we all delete the app from our devices. I am fairly certain that if we delete the app, the complexity of the task of finding it and reinstalling it will probably be an effective preventative against ever again using Facebook.

This would not be a terrible thing. I went 20 years without talking to most of these people, I can probably go another 20 and if, after reconnecting as we have, they want to maintain the relationship, there are other ways. I have a phone. Perhaps they could send me email messages..?

Or maybe I could make an RSS feed from my facebook newsfeed that filters the spam posts (really, nobody has done this yet?)…besides, 98% of the people that I became friends with never even say anything, they just lurk, like a bunch of creepers.

When I signed up for Facebook, I thought we’d have these amazing conversations, but most of my friends never say anything!  Recently, one of my friends from Facebook who I occasionally see in the physical realm made a comment that he knew something about me because he read it on fb. Deja vu.

Now, all of the wheels in my mind are spinning, like a juggler spinning plates; I wanted to compress this avalanche of thought and empathize with my friend in just a few poignant words. I want this whthin mind-slide of thought to crash.

“Congratulations,” I say sarcastically. “you’ve been timelined.”

But what does that mean?

How do I  calculate the tipping point, the point of no return, when something becomes such a pain in the ass that it becomes obvious I should not be doing it anymore? If i have a certain amount of time allotted to complete a task, then at what point will the expansion of the work by an outside force cause me to abandon the task.  Is it a return on investment (ROI) problem? Certainly the point of no return involves ROI, but clearly people invest time and money in things that have not clear ROI at all! I have more questions than answers now.  I don’t understand how to calculate the coefficient of nuisance. When, exactly, does something become so bothersome that I can no longer be bothered by it? My mind-slide completes, the wheels stop spinning, and I turn to the Internet for answers.

I Google It.

I got to thinking that there must be some inviolate law of economics which would explain my behavior, so I searched the phrase, “complexity of task is so great that people won’t be bothered to do it. They would rather suffer the consequences instead.”

This search yielded lots of hits on how to stop procrastinating, but one link caught my eye: “How to use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage.”

(OK, you can stop reading now.  Here is where it gets crazy.)

I had read about Parkinson’s law before, about the Coefficient of Inefficiency, but all my question are not answered. When does an increase in consumption due to an increase in efficiency become less a matter of paradox, and more a matter of poor decision making? For example, as automobiles become more fuel efficient, rather than being responsible and increasing gas mileage, what has Detroit done? They have increased horsepower and in many cases, gas mileage has gotten WORSE!

This is the Paradox, the absurd contradiction. The price of gas hits $5.00 a gallon, but still people can be bothered to buy cars, put gas in them, and do what they always do. They don’t mind the longer hours at work, lower wages, less savings, and more money, more money,  more money being thrown down the rabbit hole. The most exquisite paradox of all is that if everyone is raising prices, then nobody is raising prices! Except the first few people, who experienced a momentary, monetary gain!  Then there is the additional vector of manufacturing and consumers placing visceral pleasure over social responsibility. Is this Parkinson’s law, Jevon’s Pradox, or poor decision making?

Does the amount of pleasure derived from an act have something to do with all of this? (tongue in my cheek, we know it does).  Jevon’s Paradox states that with any increase in technical efficiency, there will be a corresponding increase in demand.  I would add that the demand will always outpace the efficiency.  It’s a paradox because one would expect that as efficiency increase, then the demand for raw materials would decrease.  For example, think of automobiles. Fuel efficiency has improved, yet the demand for gasoline continues to increase.

But is this really a paradox, or mightn’t it just be stupidity?

There must be a theoretical upper limit to how much horsepower an automobile needs, and perhaps there is a theoretical limit to the need for travel, but ultimately, according to my sources (the Internet), the only effective cap that will truly limit demand is cost. An increase in cost from either green incentives or simple taxes will decrease use. Expensive gas, taxed to hell, will, therefore, increase fuel efficiency?  Or will people just drive less?  I sense a conspiracy in all of this! The Internet is wrong, of course (well, actually, after this post it will be right again, won’t it?). If something is a serious, serious pain in the ass to do, people will also stop doing it.  For example, swimming in Lake Michigan is far less popular in February than in July, because there is a very large barrier to doing it. It’s f’ing cold.  You have to buy a thermally insulated, diving dry suit, or you have to be slightly nuts. Like I always say, you aren’t crazy until you start acting on your crazy thoughts.

There are a number of versions of Parkinson’s Law, such as: “Work Expands to fill the time available for its completion.”  Perhaps another would be that “the list of things to do always exceeds the amount of time we have to get it all done,” which naturally begets “if it’s important enough to get done, you’ll find the time to do it.”

My favorite version of Parkinson’s law is, “if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.” or “if you want something to only take a minute to do, wait until the last minute to do it.” Recently, I wrote a few chapters for a book titled “Network and Computer Security Handbook.” As I approached the deadline, I found that my critical thinking skills improved. What does that mean? I cut, hacked, slashed, wrote and viewed the work with far, far greater decisiveness than I did three months ago when I still had all the time in the world to get it done. I wrote more pages of content in one week than I did in three months. Perhaps I also spent considerably more hours on it in the final few weeks than I probably did in the final three months.

There is another law, too, which relates to this one, called Wirth’s law.  It states that “software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster.”  I don’t know what that means.  Maybe this was a 1995 thing.  At one time, I might have thought that this meant that innovations in programming were allowing programmers to perform and code tasks of far greater complexity than there exists computing power to accomplish.  Duh!  For example, “computer, tell me please what is the highest prime number that exists?”  just because I can ask a computer to do something doesn’t mean anything.  I don’t see why this Wirth guy gets a law, but heck, if he gets one then so do I, right? Here is the law of Scorellis:

“The amount of work that some humans will attempt to get their computers to perform will always exceed the capability of the infrastructure to successfully complete it.”

The ability of the software to accept user requests will usually exceed the capacity of the hardware to get it done. This is because people do not want to be told “no” by a machine.  The interface between humans and computers leans strongly towards one of a passive nature. Like watching TV, a user in Seattle of a website in Chicago has no notion of the 10,000 other users across the country hitting the machine at the same time. To her, it is just slow.

Essentially, people will always ask more of the subsystem than the subsystem is capable of delivering. No surprise there, right? We do the same things to ourselves and each other, too.  Software developers are people. ( I think. ) Some software developers are better than others, but computers have a funny affect on psychology.  If I ask a computer to do one thing, should’t it be able to do that one thing, even when I multiply it by a thousand times? And in the same amount of time? I once accidentally opened 20 photos on a PC.  So then I tried to open 200 photos; thinking that it would only take 10 times as long. Ha!  I was young once, too.

Somewhere in here there is a moral…if you want to quit a bad habit, it needs to be excessively cost prohibitive to do so from both a financial and efficiency perspective.  Hmmm. Maybe that could be called “the moral of Scorellis.”