Anti-Sturgeon’s Rule?

Thor’s day. Gym almost vacant. Wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!! Listened to two episodes of the Ubuntu England podcast which is quite kulturny but almost void of usefulness. Excellent diversion. They were doing a bit of listing the most important things about the podcast and I immediately thought that the best parts are those that have been discontinued, such as the Wing Commander sketches.

But this also led me to think about situations that obey (?) an opposite (sorta) of Sturgeon’s Rule. The latter states that 0.9 of everything is crap. The opposite would seem to state that 0.9 is good and this is indeed a mantra of management. I can remember a time when we said that we wanted to drive away the bottom 0.1 of our work force each year to improve the organization.

But then I got to thinking about whether there are situations where the bottom 0.1 is what’s important. A couple of examples spring to mind. The first is maths. While maths – pure maths, not the applied stuff – is very hierarchical, a critical component of maths as a value to society is how the applied portions get passed on to the rest of society. As maths oriented as physicists and some other STEMs are, they are NOT maths wonks. 

And what is critical is 0.9 of the applied maths pass on is done by the bottom 0.1 of maths wonks. 

The other example is rubbish collectors, septic tank and sewage workers and such like. The position is lowly and the work often oderous but these 0.1 of the work force are absolutely necessary to keep the rest of us from rotting in our own waste.

So sometimes it IS the bottom 0.1 that is most important.

Perhaps we should call that Shad’s rule? After all Sturgeon’s rule is named for Theodore Sturgeon but a sturgeon is a rather high level fish while a shad is a trash fish.

I am open to alternative suggestions.

Avoidance of Flop?

Two day. Not bright. Dihydrogen oxide falleth. And yesterday was frustrating at the minimum. And one of my blots disappeared. Some foible of the system, I think. Perhaps this one will fare better?

I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

a while back and its accuracy struck me. So far as I can recall, all of my fame has been encountered in strange places. The usual mode is a meet someone and after we have conversed a while they say something like “you’re the fellow who did thus and such.” Most often, “you wrote such and such paper.” 

I have always wanted to be the best at what I do. I suspect all of us want to do that. I have achieved what I have by seeking out things that other people are unwilling to do or at least not engaged in. At least in great numbers. And not things like cleaning septic tanks. That’s too important and I have a rather accurate estimate of how low my abilities are. But I have found that I can excel at things other people don’t care for or about and that is sufficient. Except when I run across someone who has done the same thing and we have mutual absence of respect for the other’s work. But that happens regardless of what you do. 

But I have to admit that I have not tried to toss a cow flop in a lot of years. Not since I was a bairn. And didn’t know to get a dried up one. They don’t hold together when they are still moist. 

And I did eat a couple of meals cooked over cow flops. I shan’t say where for legal reasons. But I can tell you that there is no taste of cow flop imparted to the food. 

Mixed STEM Snafus

Zut! Ice Cream day. And courtesy of the weather beavers – execute the messenger! – too low in air temperature for SCP to execute constitutional in the park. So the week out exercise culminated by a session of stationary bicycle and a finish, but not completion, to that episode of “The Pen Addict”. Rather a better episode than others recently. Less nattering about wee notebooks that I find useful but not worshipful. This episode did a bit more nattering about pens and I picked up a few nuggets.

On which azimuth I ran across an article [Link] on Lifehacker entitled “Things You Should Never Say to Women Working in Tech or Science”. This article gather my attention span. Now I should comment that Lifehacker obeys Sturgeon’s Rule. It is about 0.9 crap in article count. I haven’t tried to see if the rule holds for ASCII count. A lot of what they have is crap by context, that is, irrelevant or orthogonal to my existence. That’s not surprising given its demographic is less than half my age. But even taking that out a surprising amount is just plain stercus. 

But I have worked with women STEMs and I do recognize that there are some things that are ‘here be dragons”. This is not to say that there aren’t also such with men STEMs but for some reason these are obvious to both men and women. So, in effect, there is a women’s arcana.

The examples of forbidden questions are:

  1. “How did you learn to do all this?!” 
  2. “No, when I complain about ‘geek girls,’ I don’t mean you. You’re a real geek.” 
  3. “Let me know when you want to do that so I can help you. No offense, but you just don’t know enough about it to try it on your own.” 
  4. “You’re a girl, but you’re not, like, a girl-girl, y’know?” 

which I am numbering for convenience of dissection.

Question number one doesn’t have to be a put down. It depends on delivery. It may be honest interest in the individual or it may be admiration of some capability that the questioner covets. If the latter can’t be distinguished from the former then the organization has serious problems and might best be liquidated, starting with the manager.

Question number two is so inappropriate that the questioner should be given notice that any repetition will be answered with dismissal. This sort of question is  a EEO/Sexual Harassment litigation festering. But it is instructive of something. Note the use of the term ‘geek”. This is critical. It indicates this is not a nerd environment. Caveat Emptor. 

Question 3 is nekulturny. Big Time! Given what we inferred from the previous we would like to pronounce that this is clearly a geek environment with all the toe smashing that implies. Sadly, however, nerds have social skills that are as bad, if not worse, than geeks albeit often different. This is one of those unpleasant situations where both individuals need to be counseled on developing their social skills if they ever expect to get off latrine police duty. The sad thing is that the woman will almost certainly adapt – if you caught it early enough – and the man will molder and have to be discharged or quarantined. 

Question 4 is like 2. 

The sad thing about these is that they get past the manager too **** often. Mostly due to manager incompetence. Which also obeys Sturgeon’s Rule. So occasionally it is necessary to dispose of a manager and perhaps his entire sub-organization. Which is a waste of good STEMs that the manager has ruined by incompetence. 

Mind over Misery

The weather beaver on last nights evening news proclaimed that the snow is gone. I looked out my aft window this morning and beheld the verification of her prevarication. The snow is still with us. But at least I was able to sally forth yesterday and lay about at clods and villains. And as such I am not as spry this morning as I should like. But I am reminded of all the childhood complaints about seniors smelling of liniments.

Not much to comment from yesterday. There is a medium furor over the role of the Yankee government in managing the internet under Title II but I personally consider a known enemy preferable to an unknown one, or several. Asking whether we trust the yankee government is a relative thing. No we do not but more than we trust almost any ISP corporation. My only concern is what conspiracies they will hatch together.

This puts me in mind of a cartoon: [Link]

that I saw some time ago. This is a perennial theme of leader-follower fables. It isn’t mind reading. Rather, it is pattern recognition. What things does the leader/organization do and how and how can pain/suffering/time wasting be minimized by anticipating? This is one of the characteristics of good workers. The ones who can anticipate what is needed and have it ready expeditiously are good. Those who cannot are to be issue red shirts at the first opportunity.

It isn’t just about graduate schule but it does have a special significance in that setting. When a graduate student begins to know what to do before being told, what a teacher has yet to teach is diminishing. In effect, when this happens regularly it is time to write one’s thesis and prepare for defense. The rite of adulthood is nigh. 

The problem arises when the teacher isn’t good. This happens. Good and bad are situational, as we have discussed previously. But when one has a bad advisor-professor then this level of learning may never occur. And the sad part is that the professor is never at fault. That’s why we don’t trust the leadership and the organization. Because sometimes they are bad and aren’t good.

The other cartoon: [Link]

 

has to do with another aspect of being human. Our ancestors are still with us. So I wonder where in the parade the flag officers go? Between Neandertals and Cro-Magnons? No, silly. As everyone knows the flag officers don’t march in parade; they are on the reviewing stand.

And on that sorry note I rest.

Fun Management

Hence into week out. Got to sleep in this morning. Almost an hour. And didn’t have to drip. Inside the thermal comfort zone. So hence to blogging before I have to spread seed for the dinosaur descendants and tree mammals.

I ran across an article [Link] on the matter of fun in the workplace. And I was appalled. This is evidently something that has emerged since I retired and it makes me happy that I am retired.

It is not that I am against fun in the workplace. I am. Aside from those slime mold mentation level bogs who are happy so long as they are occupied, and the occasional nasty bit of violence, the only source of happiness in the workplace is fun. But there are some caveats.

First of all, fun cannot be managed. It cannot even be encouraged. But it can be tolerated and even approved of. But it cannot be managed. Fun has to come from within the individual. It does not come in a container from the office supply store. And when I see an organization with a fun manager (or some such) or fun sessions, I see abysmal managerial failure. And a workplace that is not fun. And cannot be fun.

The difficulty can be simply explained. It’s a Meyers-Briggs things. What is fun to an ESFJ is not fun to an INTP. And if you try to engineer fun you will select for some temperaments and make others unhappy, miserable even. So you have to be smarter than that. You have to know enough to recognize the presence/unpresence of fun in individuals and decide whether that individual can or will have fun, and do what you can to not – NOT! – prevent it. It’s also a Joseph Heller thing, a Catch of some sort. Maybe not, technically, a Catch-22 but something related.

It’s also related to the reverse observe efffect. If you see the phenomena, it will go away. If you seek to make the workplace fun, it will not be. You have to give people the state space opportunity to have fun and not punish them for doing so. Unless they do damage to others – extros having fun by eviscerating intros is not really fun.

And you have to understand that a short term loss in productivity is more than recovered in the long term. Don’t starve the donkey so long as he can still work.

This is not easy for most managers. It takes finesse. And righteous self-confidence. Not asentient arrogance. So fun is going to be a rarity. Because the average manager is at best marginally competent and woefully incapable of anything more than rote supervision. But you can try. Just try the right way.

If the workers think you aren’t aware they are having fun, then you are doing it right.

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Bathroom Partition

Having bemoaned that we are still, in many ways, an occupied land, I can move on to natter [1] about other things. It being week out and more heated than previously in the week – or, so the weather beavers declaim, than tomorrow, I can happily start with a wonderful article [Link] entitled “Windows 8 Is a Desktop Disaster”. The title is sufficient.

Tile guis are the hallmark of the appliance [2] user. It fails the needs of tool [2] users.
 
Keep tile guis on appliances – slabs and cellular telephones and away from the tools – desk and lap boxes.

[1]  1. To find fault; to be peevish. [Prov. Eng. or Scot.] [1913 Webster]
[2]  An apparatus or device, usually powered electrically, used in homes to perform domestic functions. An appliance is often categorized as a major appliance or a minor appliance by its cost.
[3]  An instrument such as a hammer, saw, plane, file, and the like, used in the manual arts, to facilitate mechanical operations; any instrument used by a craftsman or laborer at his work; an implement; as, the tools of a joiner, smith, shoe-maker, etc.; also, a cutter, chisel, or other part of an instrument or machine that dresses work. [1913 Webster]

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RIP Samuel

No gym today. It’s a holy day. Labor Day, which is supposed to be a glorification of the working man – as opposed to the coupon clipper or the candidate for chief executive – and, of course, the union, now seriously enfeebled. On most holy days I am disgruntled that the gym is closed because IMHO it should be open. This is one of the few holy days that I don’t feel that way although I am conflicted. I can honestly admit that I don’t think the folks who work at gym work very hard and it seems as if they go to extreme lengths to seek holy days so they can be off, which leads me to entertain the alternate hypothesis that the gym is not a very good place to work.

From what I have observed about the management there, this is a much more plausible hypothesis. I doubt that the management does much more than be psychological cruel but I have scant doubts that they do practice that perversion. But then who wants to waste good management on a gym?

Still labor day is supposed to be the holiday of the common man. Back when I was a bairn it was religiously observed with a parade and festivities and picnics, a last holiday before the resumption of shule. Now, of course, the shule year is longer and the children are less educated (or trained, as the case may be.) And the start is marked by legal scheduling intended to channel funds into the coffers of greedy insiders who prey upon the honest citizens of the coastal region. And, as I mentioned yesterday, the populace – at least the part with spine and chutzpah – studiously find somewhere else, anywhere else, to vacation so as to remind the council of thieves that they are supposed to minimize their theft of the public.

Such reminders need be frequent inasmuch as the thieves in Muntgum have short memories for matters ethical and moral. Sadly, such are more difficult to administer to the national thieves in Washtun. Who apparently have even shorter memories.

Speaking of such, I ran across a rather nice discussion [Link] in Lifehacker of how modern humans (except those out of Africa in the last 15 KY or so) have a mixture of sapiens, neandertal, and denisovian DNA. As I recall from my discussions with animal breeders the two models are basically paradigms of inbreeding and outbreeding.

The humorous part, of course, is that we are all mutts, except for those pure breds who came lately from Africa and have not corrupted their DNA, and that there is probably no way to verify either model conclusively. The former is humorous because of its social component. Only those who have traditionally been looked down upon in Amerika are not byblows. Sadly, this will likely have no impact on the nonsense of racism. Race has long been bankrupted by the scientific community but it is dear to the heart of the Yankee government as a means of controlling the populace. And, of course, there are a few folks who want to wrap themselves in that banner since patriotism is orthogonal to their wants and desires. Somehow, in a way satisfying and simplifying, racism has become like advertising in that one knows when it is emitted, spoken or visually, that it is a lie.

I am reminded of the old saw that first liar cannot win. Sadly, when the lie is congruent with government control policy, first liar can get money and have labor day all the time.

I was also rather taken by this cartoon [Link]

I am rather a fan of James Burke, although I do not always agree with him. Which is inherent to the nature of humans it seems. I was thinking of his book The Axemaker’s Gift and its conclusion that the only way we can survive is to get rid of all the axemakers. I have always considered that impossible because all humans have the axemaker DNA but it has to be excited to come to the fore. So the only way to save the species is to extinguish the species. Shades of Lt. Calley.

I also enjoyed the relevance to the whole bogusness of race as well.

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