© Norman Sperling, March 7, 2012
I would like to read a comprehensive book about Y2K, especially a competent description and analysis of the aftermath. I haven't been able to find such a book. Does one exist?
Broadening to the big issue of legacy software would generalize it from a single event to an ongoing situation. Legacy code is a real issue for many companies because a lot of original code was not optimal:
* it was written as a first try,
* under great pressure,
* in an under-funded company,
* thinking months ahead, not decades.
Inelegance is the least of its problems.
A lot has been learned about superior ways to do things since then, but later editions all have to work with the original. This weighs down products from many big companies.
A software engineer who had worked at Oracle told me that Oracle did indeed find and fix what would have failed.
© Norman Sperling, February 23, 2012
Car headlights are changing yet again. Tight, intense beams now glare at me on the road at night. They put out at least as much light as older headlights, but from a smaller area.
Stylists probably think this looks good. I disagree. By concentrating the source, they intensify distraction, afterimage, and annoyance from the glare.
Instead, they should try for less-intense light from broader sources. Spread the light out a lot, and the source won't be painful, yet the total illumination on the road can be greater.
The headlights of the cute Beetle 2.0 are absolutely wrong for such a cartoonish critter: stylistically, they shouldn't be hard, beady eyes, they ought to be big, googly, Tweety-Bird-style eyes. This softer source should enhance the car's appearance as well as its driver's ability to see. Somebody should offer those as after-market plug-ins.
Soft lights could serve additional functions. They could outline a bulky vehicle's shape, as yellow running lights do now. Changing their shape and placement would allow stylists to refresh each year's models with much more variety. But this has to be policed to prevent distracting oncoming drivers from concentrating on the road ahead of them.
© Norman Sperling, February 19, 2012
My ancient Nishiki bike has blown its last tire. It's been nickel-and-diming me to death for years. The seat has problems, the front wheel makes noises, spokes keep breaking, ... It's way past its prime, always needing this and that readjusted or replaced. It's worn out, and just going to get worse.
It was built in Japan in 1976. I bought it used and with rust spots, in Oakland in the mid 1980s. I probably rode it 300 days a year, roughly 5 miles each. So I've pedaled 37,000 miles on it! It doesn't owe me anything.
It's taken me lots of places. It's seen a whole lot of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, San Mateo, Burlingame, Millbrae, Foster City, Belmont, San Carlos, and Redwood City. In the last 2 years I've ridden it along all of San Mateo County's Bay Trail, except the part in East Palo Alto.
My son Mason says I can use his bike because he never does. I spent an hour reinflating tires, banishing cobwebs and leaves, raising and then replacing the seat (with the old one I don't like from the Nishiki). I discovered that its seat-bolt isn't 9/16 inch, it's really 14 mm, as demonstrated when I found the right wrench. I raised the handlebars the last inch that their structure allowed.
After a couple times around the block, I felt stable enough for a short jaunt. It's OK, but a very different feel. It makes me lean much more forward than I like, so my neck and wrists and arms complain. I do like the shock-absorbing rear wheel, the handlebar gearshift (no more reaching for an inconvenient lever) and the wide, knobby tires (no more dodging grates, but they feel funny vibrating as I roll).
My next bike will probably be my last. So I want handlebars that put the handles where my hands actually are - similar to my old Schwinndlebars. I want a comfortable seat like a Brooks saddle, with a shock absorber. I want strong sturdy tires that resist punctures on gravel paths, a major time-and-money waster with the old bike's thin tires.
With my Great Science Trek coming up, the bike has to fold to avoid taking up too much space in my camper. A folder would also be wise for the probably-small car and dwelling I expect after the Trek. Weight isn't an issue, though, because I use the bike for exercise. I've started looking at Brompton and Dahon, but they give me sticker-shock.
review © Norman Sperling, February 7, 2012
This new book tells nothing new, and offers many examples of no value. Ostensibly celebrating the pirate economy, the author neither self-publishes nor finds street sellers. Instead, he contracts with a name-brand publisher, copyrights his tales of piracy, and repeatedly invalidates his own premises.
The underground and pirate economy is not rising, it's always been around. This "informal economy" is older and far more entrenched than the formal one. In several places the book admits that, but immediately reverts to the fantasy that working "off the books", on the street, on the margins, or not fully licensed, is new, or increasing.
What's newer, and growing far more vigorously, is the formal economy that earns confidence, enforces inspections, builds brands, and does things right. Several times, the narrative brushes up against the roughly-direct relationship between an enterprise's degree of formality (for which the author selects the odd proxies of being licensed, registered, and taxpaying) and its degree of trustworthiness. Trust and confidence are critical in transactions.
That's why customers graduate to more formal levels of the economy as soon as they can. They get better quality and therefore better value: the things they buy are closer to "real" and "working" and "sturdy" and "supported", and therefore worth the higher price. This generates valuable repeat-business, compared to street-hawkers who always need to drum up yet more new customers. Of this, the book gives only the slightest mention.
The author offers several sighs over capitalist misbehavior, while citing far more examples (without sighs) of pirate misbehavior. Almost all the misbehavior is just plain short-sighted: taking an immediate advantage and ignoring its (bigger) long-term consequences. Undermining value, as several chapters on piracy celebrate, undermines confidence. Folks who can't afford the most-trustworthy goods, and therefore take less-trustworthy, discounted street-goods, often live to regret it. Frequently-cheated customers are less eager to buy, which slows the 'speed of money', whose rate tracks the health of economies.
Save your time and money: skip this book. To improve the economy, earn as much confidence as you can (in reality, not just "licenses and registrations"), and do business with others who also earn confidence.