May 2009

Wed May 06 12:54:04 PDT 2009


That’s a neologism I just coined to describe the all-too-prevalent attitude amongst technology companies that the road to success lies in keeping as many employees as possible on call 24/7.

In a sane society, of course, the very fact that such a policy is exploitative of workers would be sufficient reason to reject it. What’s amazing is not that it persists in our insane bourgeois society despite this fact, but that it persists despite the fact that it’s plain old bad for business.

Think about it. If you own, say, a web-based business whose existence depends on routinely disturbing your employees in the middle of the night, you’re doing that because your site breaks down frequently, and thus “runs” (if it can be said to do so) by lurching from crisis to crisis.

That’s not good. A business shouldn’t operate like that. If it does, it has problems. Crises and emergencies should be only occasional visitors — and the more occasional, the better. The more your website operates by routinely performing to expectations, the smoother your business will run and the better your customers’ experiences will be.

Yet somehow, this perpetual-on-call crap is viewed in the light of some sort of twisted sense of machismo, as if by making one’s workers suffer one must therefore somehow be trying harder.

In one of my past jobs, I was responsible for running regular software updates, which had by tradition taken place on Friday morning. Of course, that meant that if any bugs had slipped through, they’d probably be detected over the weekend and employees would have to spend part of their weekends fixing them.

I inquired if there was any special reason why Fridays were chosen. Nobody knew of one. I observed that if this were done on Mondays or Tuesdays, the odds would be maximized of any such bugs being found during normal working hours, which meant they would be fixed more promptly (and more correctly, because they’d be fixed by alert employees).

Oddly, this hadn’t occurred to anyone before. Thankfully, egos were small enough at that office that the proposed change was readily agreed to.

But it’s still very odd. I’ve never heard of any manufacturing companies that base a big part of their identity on how their assembly lines routinely break down and about how they have to run lots of overtime to compensate for it. Yet the equivalent in the computing world is dirt common.

Hence my conclusion that there must be some sort of sadomasochism involved here.

Mon May 18 19:40:30 PDT 2009

On the End of the War in Sri Lanka

The domestic media seems to be falling all too easily into the atmosphere of celebration proclaimed by the Sinhalese side (and, yes, it is “the Sinhalese side,” and not the “legitimate and rightful government”) in the conflict.

The first principle of insurrections and civil wars is that they don’t just appear out of nowhere for no reason. In this case, a quick review of a timeline of recent events shows Sri Lanka, while nominally a parliamentary democracy, to be a textbook example of something conservatives often obsess over: a tyranny of the majority. Leaders have latched onto that majority’s fears and innate racism, fed those tendencies, and used the machinery of parliamentary democracy to create a thoroughly racist state.

In this case, a tyranny of a Sinhalese majority against the Tamil minority, complete with racist laws disenfranchising a huge chunk of Tamils from being able to vote, prohibiting the use of their language in the public schools, and discriminating against them in public service jobs. And then there’s Sinhalese pogroms, where Tamil homes and libraries were burnt and Tamil civilians killed, all the while the (almost exclusively Sinhalese, thanks to the previously-mentioned racist legislation) police look on and do nothing. Or, worse, actively participate in pogroms.

Does this justify everything the LTTE has done? Certainly not. They’ve bombed civilian commuter trains, and forcibly conscripted children into their ranks. But, it does put this conflict into perspective. It’s not the Good Guys versus the Bad Guys — it’s the Brutalizers versus the Brutalized (who have in turn become brutalizers of their own).

Far more hope for a peaceful and just outcome would be warranted if both groups had been forced to the bargaining table. Instead, the Brutalizers have won and are waxing triumphant.

Count me out of any celebrations.

Tue May 19 08:18:46 PDT 2009

John Pilger on Sri Lanka


I first became aware of Pilger when he was one of the few voices in the Western media against the then-ongoing genocide Suharto’s Indonesia was perpetrating against East Timor. Yet again, he displays his concern for an oppressed group in the face of a mass media that is ignoring that story.

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Last updated: Tue Sep 13 16:14:10 PDT 2011