November 16, 2015

As Seen on Facebook

Posted in Foolishness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:37 pm by Doug Brockway


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Charles Lindberg
with Father Charles Coughlin and 2 others at Branson, Mo
December 8 at 10:00 PM


Franklin Roosevelt is the worst president ever!  At last we’re finally in it!  How could he NOT see Pearl Harbor coming?  Mein Kampf has been in print for years. The Reichstag was burnt, the Germans started making weapons, they took the Sudetenland, they took Poland, half of France and are bombing the hell out of London.  Why wouldn’t FDR lead like a real American?

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Jefferson DavisJefferson Davis and one other in Richmond, VA
June 30, 1863

It is SO wonderful to be sitting here, gazing over the James River, contemplating the upcoming victory for General Lee in Southern Pennsylvania.  He’s so measured, sure to win, never one to make a mad dash against an enemy secured in an advantageous position.  Besides, suppose he makes a mistake?  He’s human after all.  Who’s going to stop him?  Some pointy-headed academic from Maine?

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Facebook HeaderNeyMarshall Ney and 12,000 others
8:00 AM, Monday, June 19, 1815

Y’know, after Quatre Bras and Ligny The Emperor, “Nappy,” thought we had it sussed.  He thought the Brits and the Prussians were a buncha’ losers!  We were going to be drinking Burgundy in Berlin and eating Camembert in London! Well we all knew differently.  The last time he listened to ME was when he asked about the fastest route to Moscow.  How was I to know we needed to take a LEFT at Smolensk!


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JeffreysHarold Jeffreys, Charles Schuchert and countless others
Just about any time before 1965

What IS it with this guy Wegener?  Doesn’t he understand that the continents have always been fixed in place?  They don’t drift and move like so many dumplings in your soup?  The man should go back meteorology and work on predicting whether it’s going to rain on the picnic next Saturday….

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al-BaghdadiAbu Bakr al-Baghdadi and 15,000 others
May, 2016

Well, I certainly didn’t see THAT coming!  After all, the West is a nest of weak and shuffling infidels.  They can’t agree on anything except how to turn and run.  They even hide behind their drones, too cowardly to face us in battle… or so I thought… before we tried to make a run for Ramadi…

The 101st Airborne certainly is treating me well enough, for now.  They are impressive guys and I can’t get over how easily they made friends with the Spetznaz.  Hell, I thought the Spetzies would be on OUR side.  As it is I’m now only master of my own domain…Facebook Footer

May 1, 2013

Still Just a Wedding Singer

Posted in Foolishness, Social Commentary, Useful day-to-day tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:44 pm by Doug Brockway

I’m on the road, alone in King of Prussia, PA.

This presents some dining challenges. Last night, on a recommendation, I went to a nearby “higher end” Mexican restaurant. Plaza Azteca was fine, not high end. The Dos Equis on tap made the meal.

Tonight, my GPS having not found the Chinese restaurant I aimed for I ended up here, at Seasons 52, a VERY busy very nice restaurant indeed. The wait for a table being 90 minutes I end up eating at the bar.

The upside includes my neighbors who know the place inside out, helpful with ordering…, but there’s this piano player…

He’s actually very good, for what he does but he can’t help overacting. St. George and the Dragonet (Thank you Stan Freberg) would take him in on a 412. Right now he’s singing Billy Joel’s Scenes song about Brenda-and-Eddie and he hasn’t pronounced the final syllable in a single verse, “in our Italian restauran'”….

Still, its not helpful to be truly good at something truly awful. A new neighbor, who it turns out also likes Furthur, and I got to talking. Imagine this very professional, passionate, lyrical, always on key Wedding Singer offering up his rendition of Jack Straw (Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy dow’…) or Uncle John’s Band (Well the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry any mo’).

Right now out troubadour is singing about ju-ju eyeballs and toe-jam football and “I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train…”


October 16, 2010

Everybody’s Talkin’ [Past] Me…

Posted in Cognitive Dissonance, Foolishness, Social Commentary at 12:13 pm by Doug Brockway

It may be the political season, it may be the broader transition to “the new normal,” it may be that I’m increasingly a crusty som’ bitch, but it seems that I’m both watching and experiencing more and more conversations that aren’t.

Its a version of the classic Monty Python skit where Michael Palin pays for five minutes of an Argument but all he gets from John Cleese is contradiction.  Palin complains “an argument is more than simple contradiction!”  “No it isn’t” replies Cleese.  “Yes it is.”  “No it isn’t!”

In our house we recently finally upgraded to an HDTV and with that came access to HBO and Real Time with Bill Maher.  Last night a Wall Street Journal reporter and the founder of the Cincinnati Tea Party had a similar “discussion” about how much money was involved in the “bailout” and whether it was larger or smaller than the money spent on the war in Iraq.  I happen to trust the Wall Street Journal on this arithmetic (Iraq War is MUCH larger) but what fascinates, or annoys, is how otherwise intelligent people went on for quite some time without remotely acknowledging anything the other had said.  No it isn’t.  Yes it is….

I know of a company just starting up that is having very emotional internal arguments about owner compensation.  All the management knows that early revenue is key.  Because of this one wants to pay owners commissions on sales to encourage early sales.  The problem is that the basic nature of capitalist business is that owners take risks of profits and loss.  They distribute the net, after tax profits that are left over at the end of the day.  It may be a small number.  It may be big.  THAT’S the owner’s incentive.   If you pay an owner commission on the way to net profits you’ve paid that person twice.  No you haven’t.  Yes you have.  No you haven’t!….

Here’s a less important example.  You can pull data from the web that shows that after 1918, after Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees, and before The Great Comeback of 2004, even though the Yankees won WAY more World Series than their share the Red Sox still got to the World Series as often as the average team.  Boston fans say they hate the Yankees even though data shows its not the Yankees keeping the Sox from having a world championship in that stretch.  Yes it is.  No it isn’t….

I find myself wishing for discourse.  For the ability to actually explore an idea with someone or someones without it being an argument.  Barring that, an argument, “a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition” would be nice.

Unfortunately, too often you hear or find yourself thinking the equivalent of “Shut your festering gob, you tit! Your type really makes me puke, you vacuous, coffee-nosed, maloderous, pervert!!!”

And that’s just Abuse.  Arguments are down the hall in 12A…

May 26, 2010

Don’t SPOF me, Bro’!

Posted in Financial Markets, Foolishness, Social Commentary tagged , , , at 4:49 pm by Doug Brockway

A SPOF, or “single point of failure,” is a part of a system which, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working. They are undesirable in any system whose goal is high availability, be it a network, software application or other industrial system.

Sometimes high availability is desirable as every minute a system is down money is lost.  If an airline’s reservation system is down they still own the planes but they can’t sell the tickets.  Sometimes high availability is desirable because having the system fail also means significant additional costs.  The owners of Three Mile Island and BP both understand this all too well.

Some in management understand the dangers and the costs of SPOFs quite well.  This brings us to two stories about Edward Crosby “Ned” Johnson 3rd, the CEO of Fidelity Investments.  Johnson’s reputation (I’ve never met him) is that of a particularly hands-on, operationally knowledgeable person.  In the early 1980’s Fidelity used to have its main data centers in Boston.  Ned was told by the manager of a data center there that it was secure, that no one, not even Ned, could get unauthorized access.  The story goes that Ned climbed over the computer window desk and into the data center.  Having made his point security was upgraded and over the next few years the data centers were moved out of the city center.

Not too many years later Fidelity established a facility in the Dallas area, including a data center.  Mainframe computers of the time, and for the most part now, were cooled by the circulation of water through pipes inside the machines.  On a tour of his new data center Johnson is reputed to have asked to see the back-up to the water supply.  Having seen that he asked to see the back-up to the back-up.  There was none.  Ned asked how much water was involved.  Given a number he concluded it was about the volume one has in a reasonable swimming pool so a pool was constructed on-site, for employee and family use, attached by pipes to the back-up to the water supply.

I don’t have the data on the volumes of trades or dollars that Fidelity was managing to in those times.  Suffice it to say that as the dominant, the largest mutual fund company, trade and dollar volumes were, and remain, quite high.  Johnson knew the near term value of lost transactions and the long-term reputational risk and revenue risk if his customers came to believe Fidelity was not a reliable partner.

He likely used different words but his message to management was, “Don’t [SPOF] me, Bro’!”

Wouldst that the management of BP took the same view in the Gulf of Mexico.  As I write they are attempting the “top kill” method to stop the gushing oil leak that has plagued us for over a month.  They had a controller on the blow-out preventer fail and no plan to deal with it.  They were drilling five miles down “where no man has gone before” and no at-hand, tested solutions to outages that are reasonably expectable.  The now famous Minerals Management Service blithely gave BP authority to go ahead without the plans and reports that are designed to prevent or control for disasters.  One can only wonder what any of these people were thinking.

One thing is clear, they weren’t thinking “Don’t [SPOF] me, Bro’!”

Causal factor of unavailability
Lack of best practice change control
Lack of best practice monitoring of the relevant components
Lack of best practice requirements and procurement
Lack of best practice operations
Lack of best practice avoidance of network/system failures
Lack of best practice avoidance of internal application failures
Lack of best practice avoidance of external services that fail
Lack of best practice physical environment
Lack of best practice network/system redundancy
Lack of best practice technical solution of backup
Lack of best practice process solution of backup
Lack of best practice physical location
Lack of best practice infrastructure redundancy
Lack of best practice storage architecture redundancy

May 13, 2010

Rock Icons and IT Thought Leadership

Posted in Foolishness tagged , , at 1:16 pm by Doug Brockway

Mechanical calculators or computers date at least as far back as the 150-100 BC with the creation of the Antikythera mechanism.  In more modern times Charles Babbage created his mechanical difference engine in the 1800’s. John Von Neumann outlined the architecture of modern computers in the first half of the 20th Century based in part on ENIAC, a military computer developed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly.  They then made it generally practical with the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC-1Admiral Grace Hopper made that invention accessible in business by inventing COBOL, COmmon Business Oriented Language, the first business move away from ones and zeros, computing for the business masses.

These relatively technical accomplishments were soon complimented by people who studied the effect of computing on business and how to manage computing in business.  In the 50’s John Diebold coined the use of the word “automation” to reflect the use of computers in this way.  Based in part on the Diffusion of Innovations concepts developed by Everett Rogers in the 60’s, in the 70’s Richard Nolan and Chuck Gibson wrote “Managing the Four Stages of EDP Growth” signaling an understanding that a business’ ability to manage computing, to manage IT, had predictable evolutionary steps.  In the 80’s Michael Hammer led the revolution in Business Process Reengineering.

These were and are the great thought leaders in IT and IT Management.  We all stand on their shoulders.  But of significant concern is where are the subsequent generations of thought leaders for how IT and business interact?  It’s been quite some time since “reengineering.”  As is often the case Rock and Roll provides the answer.

One of the first generally recognized rock icons who wrote on the role of IT in business was John Lennon.  Expressing a visionary viewpoint he wrote:

Imagine there’s no hunger,

It’s easy if you try

Computers are transformative

No need to wonder why.

As it happens these original lyrics were edited in studio.

Mick Jagger was contemporaneously writing practical observations on the yin and yang between business goals and technical visions and what can actually be done within a given time period, with a given set of IT skills and a given budget.  Influenced heavily by Fred Brooks and The Mythical Man Month Jagger famously (and repetitively) wrote:

You can’t always git what you want

You can’t always git what you want

You can’t always git what you want

But if you try sometime

You might just find

You get what you need

Jerry Garcia was a keen observer of this scene.  He was especially interested in CIOs, their careers and what it took for them to succeed.  He would immerse himself in the life of a CIO-at-a-time, chronicling their struggles, how they overcame obstacles, and the successes they settled for.  Garcia’s most telling commentary on this was from Truckin’ with the line “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”  As a side note Jerry Garcia and Tom Davenport have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

As we entered the age of outsourcing Warren Zevon described the optimal approaches to defining which services to outsource, which vendors to consider, how to choose a vendor and how to negotiate with the vendors.  This last was summed up with:

I’m the innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and the hard place
And I’m down on my luck

Send lawyers guns and money!

More recently Lady Gaga has been writing about the difficulties of outsourcing contracts gone bad with:  “Want your bad romance, caught in a bad romance. Rah-rah rah-ah-ah.  Roma roma-ma,” though the meaning of the last phrase remains unclear.

The Foo Fighters have been writing on the conflicts between reinvesting in current systems or “going greenfields” and replacing existing applications and infrastructures:  “Well we all want something ‘better than,’ we wish for something new.”

IT professionals are constantly being sold by vendors.  They’re constantly being besieged by users.  They’re constantly being reviewed by auditors and CFO’s.  Whatever certifications they have are always going out of date as the technology relentlessly marches on.  Still, IT generally succeeds.  Much is written about how IT may or may not be strategic.  The proof is in the widespread consistently improving use of technology in business.  On these points, in the song “Handle Me with Care” The Traveling Wilbury’s wrote:

I’ve been fobbed off and I’ve been fooled

I’ve been robbed and ridiculed

In data centers and night schools

Handle me with care….

I’ve been uptight and made a mess

But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess

Oh, the sweet smell of success

Handle me with care!

(originally posted at