It’s Probably Just for Show

Published at 22:51 on 22 December 2022

The January 6th Committee report calls for Congress to bar Trump from office. Of course it does, now that Congress is going into recess before the new Congress, with a Fascist Party House majority, comes into session. This is so very much not a coincidence.

This is the same committee that deliberately scheduled “subpoenas” to come due before a holiday weekend and hopefully swept under a rug, after all. The “accountability” for that is as laughable as the same for Trump: they propose that Congress slap lawmakers gently on the wrist for it. That’s not happening, either, for the same reason as above.

It’s a show, designed for public consumption, to make it seem as if the system is interested in holding the most powerful accountable.

Congress could prove me wrong by convening a special session, but they won’t. Wait and see.

Agile: A Crap Process for Making Crap Software

Published at 17:36 on 15 December 2022

Take a look here. The very first principle listed is:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

By virtue of being made the first principle, a serious hint is being dropped that this principle is the most important one of all. Any lingering doubt is cleared up by the phrase “highest priority.”

This is, quite frankly, crap. It is predicated on the premise that what customers want most of all is continuous updates and change.

Continuous updates and change are one of the chief reasons why my industry’s products suck so much.

Gone are the days of physical tools like hammers, drills, saws, or even more complex ones like bicycles and motor vehicles, physical devices in a physical world whose limitations binds form to function. Instead, we have user interfaces driven more by fashion trends amongst the UI design crowd than anything else.

Learn to ride a bicycle and you have learned to ride a bicycle for life. Learn to use a mechanical typewriter and you have learned how to type for life. Learn how to use the most recent version of Microsoft Word and what you just learned will be obsolete within a few years.

Lack of stability, plus a near-absolute decoupling of form from function, are two of the very worst things about software.

And the agile manifesto actively mandates one of these two evils. As its highest priority.

It’s not all evil, of course. There is this one in there:

Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.

Well, gold star. “A” for effort. You got one dead right.

The trouble is, this is the tenth of twelve principles. It appears way down on the list, below a first principle that is unambiguously proclaimed the highest priority.

A first principle based upon a monstrously wrong premise.

And this is the most popular software development methodology within my field today.

No wonder most software tends to be crap.

The Recent Fusion “Breakthrough”

Published at 19:48 on 14 December 2022

There’s a lot of very bad takes like this out there about the recent so-called “breakthrough” in controlled nuclear fusion.

First, I put “breakthrough” in quotes to emphasize that what’s just been achieved is a lot less impressive than what many have been led to believe by the news stories. “Milestone” would be a much better description for what has been achieved. It’s important, but far from a big breakthrough.

For openers, any claims of “net energy gain” rest on an extremely deceptive definition of what “net energy gain” is. All that has been achieved is a net gain over the output power of the lasers used to initiate the reaction. Those lasers are themselves monstrously inefficient devices; the vast majority of the energy fed into them is wasted as heat.

The upshot of this is that, overall, the fusion reactor that just achieved this supposed “breakthrough” of “net energy gain” actually consumes roughly 100 times as much energy as it produces. (And that’s without even taking all the other energy costs involved in manufacturing and operating the fusion reactor into the picture.)

Next, we come to whoppers like the following claim (source: first link in this entry): “[W]hat if we didn’t have to economize? What could humanity do for ourselves and our planet? … Bring the whole world up to a Western standard of living — and beyond — without worrying about the environmental cost?”

I mean, really now: it’s hardly as if consumption of energy at First World levels is the only unsustainable thing about modern industrial civilization. There’s all the other non-energy natural resources, many of them nonrenewable ones, that are being eaten through at an ever-increasing pace. That’s before one gets to inconvenient matters such as how shifting to fusion to power cars and trucks means shifting to electric vehicles, which are significantly more resource-intensive to manufacture than fossil-fuel powered ones (compare the resource footprint of a lithium battery bank to that of an empty steel fuel tank and it’s not exactly a pretty picture).

Suppose all goes better than planned and we get to actual net energy gain from fusion. That’s going to take a while. Then it will take a while longer for such reactors to make the journey from laboratory curiosity to a practical industrial technology. All the while that goes on, fusion will not be available as an energy source.

Mark my words, if fusion ever does become practical, it will definitely be a huge help. But that’s all it will be: a help. It won’t be a magic bullet. It won’t be a get out of jail free card from having to confront our unsustainable ways and downshift.