Monthly Archives: September 2006

The Angry News – Helping the New York Times

The New York Times is a reputable newspaper but I think I can help them improve – they need to simplify their reporting as per my suggestion in this Angry News Bulletin:

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT_zGl9Frkg 

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The Blogging Times – Microsoft go social with Wallop

Here’s this week’s post for The Blogging Times. Microsoft have chosen to enter the “social networking” web space with their offering which they’ve named “Wallop”. This sector is already overcrowded and some people have questioned what Microsoft thinks they will achieve here. Let me explain it for you:

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7yCTMXGPUs

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The Angry News – Free Fall Madness

Here’s my take on a news story about French surgeons conducting surgery on a specially fitted out plane that allowed them to simulate zero gravity.

This was done to “advance medical science”.  The people involved argue that it showed surgery in space is viable (e.g. on a space station).  I think they just got really stoned and had a conversation that started:

“Duuuuuuude, you know what would be really awesome?  Operating in zero gravity!”

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LouMNPEeCu8

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In praise of an average career

From time to time, I’m sure most people ask themselves the question “What am I doing with my life?” Why am I stuck in this dead end job? Don’t I deserve better? Why aren’t I writing that great novel? I should be trekking the Himalayas. I’ve never been to Paris in the springtime.  In the IT world we seem to be constantly asking ourselves “Why aren’t I working on the next killer app that will change the world?”
 
Most of the literature I’ve read on this subject seems to contain the implicit message “It’s because you suck.”  True, I haven’t found anyone honest enough to actually phrase it that way but they do tend to say you aren’t achieving greatness because you aren’t trying hard enough. To an extent, that’s true but if you really look at it as a logical proposition it doesn’t hold up.
 

Greatness is a comparative term – high achievers look good because their accomplishments are so far above everybody else’s. If everyone moves closer to greatness, the measure of what is great moves further away by definition. Even if everyone continually improves, only a small percentage will ever be regarded as truly great because they’re great in comparison to everyone else. 

This is not a clarion call encouraging people to be wilfully mediocre (or worse) but I am calling into question the attitude that “I will not be happy unless I am the greatest in my chosen field.” It’s good to aspire to improve but if we’re all supposed to obsess about being the best then the unavoidable fact is 98% of us are going to end up disappointed. This attitude seems more prevalent in the IT industry than others. I remember a quote from the late 90′s dotcom boom that the speaker doubtless thought was insightful and inspirational: “I don’t want my obituary to say: He improved the company’s e-commerce efficiency by 5%”

The only thing that pisses me off more that that sort of fatuousness is someone in a black turtle-neck and trendy glasses telling me the reason I think their concept sucks is because “I don’t get it.” When you look at it objectively, at least 80% of IT jobs are limited to this sort of achievement. IT development isn’t a never-ending series of epiphanies and flashes of brilliance. For most people, most of the time, it’s a long, slow grind. If more and more people achieve what they thought would be “life changing” moments then, conversely, less and less things will seem like they actually are life changing.

At some point, this perpetual urging towards greatness crosses over from being inspirational / aspirational to being downright cruel. I think everyone should always be looking for ways to improve and even the crappiest job can give a sense of satisfaction if done well.  But face it – we aren’t all going down in history and that fact alone shouldn’t make us feel like failures.

This line of thinking was inspired by some recent articles that showed a “best of the best” approach being deployed in the real world to pretty impressive effect. At the smaller end of town, Joel Spolsky’s posts on hiring processes at his company show a very well thought out way to get what he sees as the best people working for him. A post from Steve Yegge shows this quest for excellence being deployed on a huge scale at Google. It starts off by slagging off Agile development (which is really funny if you’re a nerd like me) but the meat of it is a description of working practices at Google.

While Yegge’s piece is my new favourite piece of writing on software development, it’s also a little depressing. Just coming to terms with how far my work environment is from Google is tough. I’m not motivated enough to get a job at Google (arguably I’m not talented enough but I prefer to live in denial) and very few other workplaces will ever be run in a similar manner to Google. When I read of the “perks” etc at Google it really seemed that these were fundamental to their success. Google isn’t successful in spite of their programmers being spoiled (by most corporate standards), Google is successful because their programmers are spoiled.

This sort of treatment is never going to be widespread, not because it isn’t economically viable (Yegge paints a convincing portrait of this as Google’s very reason for economic success) but because most workplaces suck. Most bosses simply couldn’t stand treating IT staff that well. The majority of IT workers will have experienced resentment from both management and non-IT staff. Sometimes it’s implicit, sometimes it’s overt: “why are you complaining? You already earn more than everybody else.” This is despite the fact that basic economics shows that a worker is unlikely to be paid well if they don’t provide commensurate economic benefit to the company (I’m talking workers, not management). Google looks like the decadence of ancient Rome to tight-fisted employers.

In the end, not only are most of us not going to be as spoiled as Google workers, we won’t change the world either. A far more sensible approach would be to have realistic workplace goals and maybe even look for fulfilment outside of work (god forbid!) I know many people would argue that we should always aim for lofty goals no matter how unrealistic they are. After all, isn’t it better to try and fail than to never make the attempt?

I’ll repeat my previous point; I’m not actively encouraging people to be deliberately mediocre. But isn’t someone who sets realistic goals and maybe even helps improve the life of one or two people going to be more fulfiled than someone who spends their whole life following a series of doomed, quixotic quests to save the world?  If you have it in you to be one of the very top performers in your chosen field then it’s a waste to not aim for the very pinnacle.  I’m a big believer in setting goals that are outside your comfort zone – you’re never going to reach your potential without setting a few goals that scare you.

But who exactly is served if we set ourselves goals that are so far beyond what is realistically achievable we spend our lives feeling like miserable failures? 

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To Pod or not to Pod?

Not much time for an intro… let’s just say that Apple computer is run by power-mad, hypocritical wankers.

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYagnD-u9Qw

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My ongoing struggle to stay angry

It isn’t always easy staying angry 365 days a year. Sure, the generally fucked-up nature of the world helps, there’s always something new to be angry about. But since starting this blog and, more recently, posting video to YouTube good things keep happening. Here on the blog, the dialogue I’m able to have with a broad range of people is constantly rewarding.

It’s easier to stay angry on YouTube simply because it has a much higher moron quotient but even there, people are capable of making you forget about idiots. One of the higher profile users on YouTube goes by the name of Mr Safety (real name Cory). Here’s very funny and quite a good film maker and he decided a while ago he liked my videos and has been quite a bit of help in promoting my work. Just the other day he took it to a new level, as shown in the following video (this is Cory’s video, not mine – the first time I’ve featured anyone else’s work on this blog):

This video had a pretty immediate effect. It took me about 3 months to get my first 100 subscribers. I got the next 50 in about 20 days. After Cory posted the above video I got about 50 subscriptions in 48 hours. The power of influential friends! Anyway, I was totally floored by Cory’s generousity and thought for a while about how to respond. I decided to do something positive in return and this video explains what I decided:

After I posted this, Cory suggested I might be going a bit far. His advice was:

“I’ve found that deleting the bad comments isn’t always the answer though if you really want to get back at them… the best way to get back at them is to leave the comment up there and let them look like an ass.

“I know with your character it’s kinda hard to do this but, every time someone says something negative, just say “thanks for the comment” because more comments is what helps you in the long run :)

So I’m not sure what I’ll do now. But there’s no way I’m letting these freaks get me down. I’m going to stick with being angry over inconsequential things!

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The Angry News – Health Update

Here’s another way to make me angry – blatantly misrepresent a product. New research from Australia’s leading consumer advocate has revealed only a handful of more than 150 so-called healthy snack bars contained any real nutritional value, with many instead loaded with disturbing levels of sugar, salt and saturated fats.

Less than 10% of these fucking things marketed as “healthy” actually met healthy nutritional requirements. The quaintly named “Nice & Natural Yoghurt Natural Nut Bar” actually has more kilojoules than a Mars bar. And I’m a real fan of the Sunibrite Muesli Slices which contain as much saturated fat as a fry-up of two bacon rashers, two fried eggs and a fried tomato.

Some negative nellies would use this as an excuse to give up: “Why try to be healthy? They’re all lying to us about what they’re selling.” Well, that loser shit don’t fly with Mr Angry. I’m taking control. I’m gonna set up a stall outside a “health food” shop frying up bacon and handing out flyers showing my bacon is healthier than their “health food bars”. And god help the hippie that tries to get in my way.

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHzOErrM5kM

For the full, awful truth, check this report from an actual newspaper:

Mars Bars as healthy as breakfast bar snacks

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Get off the road!

Yesterday I made the call on my number one pet hate when driving – testosterone fuelled morons who threaten the well-being of everyone else.  I have to admit, a close second for me is drivers who are overly timid and tentative.  I know traffic can be an overwhelming and scary thing and a certain degree of caution is warranted, but every day I have to deal with people that give the impression they’d be more comfortable wrapped in cotton wool in and underground bomb shelter.

I also acknowledge that confidence is something you gain with experience and everyone needs to build their driving confidence with time.  In fact one of the biggest problem with my number one hate (hoons) is an absolutely unwarranted level of confidence in their abilities.  These cretins seem to have an inverse proportional relationship between their arrogance and their actual abilities.  Having said that, I do have an issue with drivers who never seem to lose their fear of driving.

At a certain point, my advice to pathologically timid drivers is get some fucking therapy.  Spend some time on the psychiatrist’s couch or even stay on your own couch at home watching daytime soaps.  Anything that keeps you off the goddam roads.  Think about becoming a shut-in.  Get a dozen cats and see how it feels.  Because if you brake at a green light again in front of me I’m going to pound your fucking head into a colour chart until you understand the difference between red and green.

For people who are only a little bit timid and are looking to improve their confidence, the number one piece of advice I would offer is “learn how to read traffic.”  I am constantly frustrated by people who don’t react to changes in traffic until the last second.  The first skill of driving is learning how to deal with your immediate surroundings and being able to react but an absolutely necessary longer term skill is being able to look more than a car length in front of you. 

A few examples: If there are two lanes going in your direction and you can see a block or so ahead your lane is blocked by a vehicle waiting to turn, change lanes as soon as practical, NOT AT THE LAST FUCKING SECOND.  At worst, you’ll cause an accident and at best you’ll fuck up the flow of traffic when you have to come to a complete stop rather than fluidly moving between lanes.  And people behind you often can’t see past you (particularly if you’re driving one of those stupid oversized 4WD pieces of shit) so you can end up causing an unnecessary banking up of really frustrated people.  On the plus side, this is often a chance to broaden your vocabulary as passing motorists share their “well wishes” with you.

Another good one is when you approach an intersection, try and work out what’s happening before you actually get there.  Give way signs and roundabouts are not stop signs; you’re only meant to stop if there’s someone to give way to.  At an open intersection with good visibility you should know what you’re going to do before you get there – a sure way to get on my shit list is to stop unnecessarily, THEN look, THEN decide there’s no traffic so you can go.

Also, when merging with traffic get a realistic idea of when you can go forward.  I’ve seen people at intersections who seem to be waiting for someone in the next suburb to drive through before they’ll go themselves.  You’re not going to get a written fucking invitation, you need to be a little proactive.  Again, commonsense is required – visibility and the speed of traffic are variables that need to be taken into account but I’m not the only one who gets angry at people who don’t go through gaps that you could run a circus parade through.

In short, if traffic scares you, you need to deal with it.  If you’ve been driving for more than 5 years and you’re still overly tentative it’s time to take action.  Maybe you could take an advanced driving course.  Or maybe you could drink heavily before driving to calm your nerves (kids, this is a joke – don’t do this!)  But if you think you can’t deal with it, do everyone a favour.  Stay off the fucking road. 

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The Angry News – the new terror threat

The constantly touted spectre of Islamic jihadists just not striking terror into you any more?  Do you need a new threat to worry about?  Fortunately, there are “experts” out there who can be relied on to produce studies that are so stupid, they truly boggle the mind.

Thanks to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, we now know that anyone who doesn’t like the internet is a terrorist. Are these people a branch of the Republican Party? “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us”

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY426s22yQA

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Driven insane

Everything about driving cars in cities is fucked up.  There, I’ve said it.  Someone should take all the cars off the road.  It wastes a phenomenal amount of resources, it makes people fat because they drive to the shop that’s a block down the fucking road instead of walking (don’t even get me started about the McDonald’s drive-thru) and worst of all, most people on the road CAN’T FUCKING DRIVE!

Actually, screw all that hippy shit, my only problem with cars is the number of them being driven by ignorant fuckers who shouldn’t be let out of the house, let alone on the road.  Any time I feel insignificant I just go for a drive because I start to feel like I’m the centre of the universe simply because it can’t be a coincidence that every other car on the road is trying to ruin my fucking life!  My car does not have the button next to the ignition that switches my brain off while I’m driving – why does every other fucking car seem to have this function?

At least there’s variety – there’s no single stupid thing other drivers do to piss me off.  I get every single colour of the stupidity rainbow whenever I drive to work.  Some drivers are aggressive and obnoxious, some are timid and tentative and some of them apparently suffered a traumatic head injury recently.  I’m all for rehabilitation but if you’ve lost the majority of your cognitive ability (as seems to be the case with the idiots I see every day) then thinking you can drive a car competently is a little, shall we say, optimistic.

It’s really hard for me to pick the type of idiot driver that pisses me off.  The aggressive ones are probably the worst simply because they’re more likely to kill people.  These types seem to be male about 90% of the time and under 25 about 75% of the time (although there are exceptions – that 70 year old lady who screamed at me the other day to “get out of my fucking way if you aren’t gonna go at least 90″ seemed pretty serious).  They zip in and out of lanes, cutting people off, they ride your back bumper, they floor it if they get 5 metres of open space in front of them and then slam on the brakes 2 seconds before they hit someone (if you’re lucky).

These dicks make everyone’s life a misery.  In Australia, there are actually lots of laws aimed specifically at giving cops an excuse to nail these idiots; they’re normally known as “anti-hoon” laws.  I’m usually not in favour of expansion of police powers but fuck these guys.  When they do get pulled up for driving like idiots in their unroadworthy cars with their shit music playing on their stereos at headache inducing volumes they say something like: “Aw moite, thees ees persekewshen.  Nuffin wrong wif moi cah – it’s fully sic moite.”  That might not translate well, but that’s how Australian hoons talk.

We need a way to make it easier for cops to spot these pricks with too much testosterone and not enough brains and I think I know what it is.  Cars should be fitted with a cannon that fires LED “throwies” (look it up if you’ve never heard of them) so every time on of these pricks charges straight through a give way sign or tries to run you off the road you can mark their car.  You thought I was going to say the cannon should fire missiles, didn’t you?  Don’t worry, it crossed my mind.

Everyone should have a limited number of throwies (say, three a month) in order to limit abuse of the system.  That way you’ll save them for some arsehole who really deserves them.  And if the cops spot a car with more than about half a dozen throwies attached they can pull them over and take their car away.  The car doesn’t need to be doing anything wrong when the cop stops them, the throwies are considered evidence enough that this yob is too much of a dickhead to be allowed to drive.

There will obviously be some “false positives” but you know what?  After the drive I had this morning I don’t give a shit.  Anything to get a few fucking cars off the road.

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