If this doesn't just scream "I hate America", then I don't know what does.
Monthly Archives: June 2006
Some thoughts on the major players in the 3 games played by the USA in the World Cup this year.
Coming in: Touted as the "leader" and spark for the US squad.
Going out: Totally and completely uninspiring. Didn't look for the ball, didn't take the ball. And when given opportunities to attack, passed to someone else.
Coming in: Speedy attacker who made a name for himself after WC 2002 and some amazing performances. Expected to score and break open the defenses of opponents.
Going out: Looked tired, worn out and completely worthless. Lackidaisical almost in his performances. Should not have even been on the squad.
Coming in: Touted as "probably the best goal-keeper in the world" by many. Having been passed over and playing backup in previous world cups, this was supposed to be "his" chance.
Going out: Did he even make a real save? Granted, some shots were totally the defense's fault. But excuses or not, keepers are there to be the last defense, to make great saves, to keep the other team frustrated. Keller did none of that, and he looked old not doing it too.
Some thoughts on the play in general by the US squad:
Overall I think the squad pretty much just sucked. They had the talent, they had the training, they had the speed. Bottom line is they choked massively. Almost every game, with the exception of the first 20 minutes of the Italy game, the team looked like they didn't even want to be there. There was no creativity whatsoever in their passing game. Their offensive tactics were non-existant when they figured out that the other teams knew (and defended well) the attempts to go to McBride over and over and over again.
After the Czech game, I think the coaches for the US should have made WHOLESALE changes to the lineup. Give some of the younger guys a chance to come in and do something. I am just completely overwhelmed at how UN-EXCITED the US squad looked during the whole tournament. Nobody had any spark, nobody played like it was the World Cup….and worst of all, nobody did anything about it.
I blame the coaches for not ripping some ass when it was clear that the players were not fired up. But ultimately I blame the sorry ass US players, for wasting spots on the team where we could have had people who gave a damn.
It's not even the end of the group stage and I am so absolutely fed up with the diving taking place by virtually every single team. I can understand the occasional "critical" play in which a player gets fouled and feels that he should perhaps liven it up a bit to help the ref make the call. Most professional atheletes do such things to work the system in their favor.
But this is ridiculous. On almost every single play where contact is made, someone goes down screaming and kicking as if they just had their leg amputated in a Civil War-esque medical procedure. And the worst part is that the refs let them get away with it. The referees in this World Cup have done an amazing job of giving yellow (and red) cards to people for non-fouls, but they haven't done a damned thing about giving cards to people for delaying the game and ruining the pace of play by diving.
Being a die hard soccer fan, I am no longer amazed that average Americans despises the sport. I despise it right now too because of the pedantic antics of most of the players. Since when is it manly to lie around like a stuck pig crying like a little girl because someone kicked you in the shin? It's soccer, you should EXPECT to get kicked in the shins.
It seems North Korea now has a long range missile to match the nuclear warhead option they've had for a while. Pundits on the Left say that he won't use them, and if he "tests" a missile launch then we should just stick our heads in the sand as usual, effectively giving the North Koreans our tacit approval to use or sell the damned thing to other terrorists. Pundits on the Right say we should shoot it down, even if it's not armed or targeting a civilian area, effectively sending us to war.
I liken this potential showdown in terms of something most of us have experienced: a gradeschool playground bully. If a bully rears his arm back to throw a punch at you, do you try to block it and suffer the impending fight or do you let him go and just hope he is feigning aggression to simply ridicule you in front of your friends?
If this were an episode of Leave It To Beaver I'd say go ahead and let him go, cause we both know that he's most likely the latter (or at the very worst hits like a girl so it won't hurt if he does strike). But since this is the Jackass generation and it's been quite some time since I've seen any 'bully' not of the former stripe, I say we don't just block the punch, but rather whip out our trusty Buck knife with blood groove and gut the son of a gun like a stuck pig for everyone to see.
Obviously that would get the attention (and the ire on a scale never before seen) of the vacillating Leftist masses. But one can always count on that happening regardless of the situation. That being the case, I must suggest that the question posed at the beginning of this post is really just an excercise in wishful thinking. Whether it's the North Koreans this week, the Iranians next month, the Venezuelans next year or the Chinese next decade, inevitably the bully's arm will be coming at us full tilt. The real question then becomes a matter of whether we are just another victim taking after the European pussy-cats who can't even muster enough energy to defend their own wives and children against such threats, or will we be the snarling.shit.your.britches bulldog who's ready to fight no matter how large the bully's arm might be?
If push comes to shove….I'm still hoping the bulldog shows up. But then again, maybe I just can't bring myself to realize we've already said "meow."
I'm flipping through a magazine that I picked up at work that basically details the latest and greatest components one can buy for doing development in the .NET framework. I'm noticing that there are quite a few ads in this particular magazine (as with all "techie" mags) and a great many of those ads are geared towards products which claim to give managers "control". Now let me first state that anyone who has done software development in a real world environment (i.e. not in a university lab, not at home, and not for your brother in law) knows that the words "control" and "software" have a relationship that is a mirage at best and a complete fabrication at worst. Control is an illusion.
The reason it is an illusion is that for the most part software development is an iterative process. No matter what methodology you use for development (agile, RAD, team, traditional, hokey pokey, whatever) you usually end up with something like the following:
- You draft up what you want in some form of structure (unit tests, architectures, prototypes, etc)
- You write the code
- You test the code
- You revise the structure
- You rewrite more code
- You test more code
- If requirements are met, you're done. If not, start at #4 or #5 again depending on what your testing indicates.
The illusion of control lies in the fact that it's very very very hard to predict at #1 how many 4's, 5's & 6's you're going to blow through before the former part of #7 graces your presence.
Now every manager who has ever coded understands this quite well. What most don't understand however is that in order to mitigate the inherent risk involved with committing to timelines, which in a real world business are also impossible to get rid of, it is better to focus on the things within the organization of the team which reduce programmer productivity rather than try to increase programmer productivity.
What I mean is that there is far more time to be made up by focusing on reducing the red tape that may have crept into your development practices over time then there is from trying to squeeze more productivity out of programmers who already have too much to do.
You see, a tendancy in technology companies in general is to think that more is better. More processes = more control. More reporting = more control. Sometimes that is true, but more often those things just lead to MORE confusion, MORE headaches, and most importantly MORE time.
Programmers get paid to write software. Therefore, every single thing that management requires of its programmers which does not directly contribute to the process of actually writing code is inherently making their job harder to do. More rules on what constitutes a valid checkin means less code will get checked in. More TPS reports that must be filled out each day, each week, each month, etc means that actual code takes a backseat to proving that the (lesser amount of) code was actually written.
Secondarily, most managers in IT companies feel the need (either from pressure from above or pressure they create on themselves) to put constraints in place to ensure that the programmers are doing what they are supposed to. This is not only stupid, but completely worthless. First off, if you have hired people you can't trust to do their jobs then no amount of reporting or oversight will make them work. Secondly, the average programmer who is worth his weight in gold actually wakes up in the morning THINKING of the project you have him on currently. He wants to come in to work. Why? Because that's what programmers do. They solve problems. They actually get a thrill out of taking some "problem" that you need fixed and coming up with a great way to do it.
Give a programmer a bad-ass computer, a problem to solve, some cokes and the complete Led Zeppelin box set and leave him the hell alone. If you want timelines, estimates, ROI analysis, code reports, or any other damned thing that is created by management, for management and is indicative OF management…..then have managers do them. You don't pay good money for a doctor to clean out bedpans do you? I sure hope not. (If you do, please email me the name of the hospital you work at and I'll be sure to NEVER vacation anywhere near it).
"But how will I know how long a project will take if my programmers don't fill out micro-detailed reports telling me?" Well, for one if you don't have a good build process set up which tells you DAILY what is being checked in then you're screwed to begin with. But if you do, then get off your ass and check the build report. It should give you a good indication of what areas of the system are being improved. Do these match up with what you've asked those developers to work on?
You can also just ask the programmer. Now if the developer has no clue, he's gonna tell you that. Don't get upset. The reason he is saying he has no clue is because he really has no clue. Try to realize that he is most likely embedded in a maze of steps #4, 5 and 6 isn't exactly sure himself that he'll ever actually find his way out, much less live to tell about it. And the code matters to him more than you do. So the prospect of not being able to fix a problem is far worse than some know-it-all manager telling him he screwed up.
Conversely, if the programmer actually tells you when you can reasonably expect it to be done, then that's what he actually believes. Granted, the programmer may still be in the middle of that horrendous maze, but for whatever reason he has a more hopeful outlook on his chances of finding the exit. I've been programming for years and I'm still absolutely amazed at what arbitrary, stupid things can make something click in my head and give me an idea on a problem that I've been mulling over for hours or even days.
It all boils down to a simple principle really. As a manager you want software. As programmers they want to write software. To get what you want you have to let them do what they want. Controlling the situation is simply not possible in the way traditional models of management indicate you should. That obviously doesn't mean that you should let an employee do absolutely anything he wants………but then again………..
Joel Spolsky's latest article, "The Development Abstraction Layer" is a great article for anyone who is in the field of information technology in general, and more specifically those who are on the technical side of it.
I can attest, from experience, that most of what he writes in the article as gospel truth in the world of creating software that actually works. Most of the people in charge of programmers' duties have absolutely no idea (nor do they care) that the programmers are their greatest asset. Now I think it is human nature to think of one's duties as being more important than "average". I mean, even if you do the most boring, mundane job in the world…do you really allow yourself to think of your duties as being boring and mundane? Inwardly you might, but one would never allow the rest of the world to think that.
That's why everyone and their dog is a "SomethingOrOther Engineer". Nobody is just a computer programmer anymore, instead they are an architect or an engineer or a developer with a plethora of prepended titles stacked upon each other. Not because it actually describes the job they do, but because it makes others think the job they do is more important than it really is.
Now, that being said I will again repeat that for the technology company its bread and butter is nothing other than those who cut the code. Being a programmer myself, one may accuse me of ignoring what I just wrote and instead pressing on with the egotistical side of my own delusions of employable worth. But I would say the same thing about doctors in the medical profession, a truck driver in the trucking business, a painter in the art business and so on. And I am surely no doctor, truck driver or painter.
The fact of the matter is that those who are doing the actual work that is being sold are the ones who are most valuable to an organization, whether that organization sees it that way or not. Those companies who do everything in their power to keep their talent happy often succeed, while those whose primary focus tends to get in the way of or even hinder the overall contentedness of their talent tend to fail over time. That's not to say that the other 80%, as Spolsky estimates, are worthless. On the contrary, his point is that the 80%'s value comes in that they keep the 20% working on what they do best without interruption.
I think the only problem with this view is that more than a few technology companies do not exclusively sell software like his does. When the software isn't the entirety of what one is in the business of selling, then the issue of abstraction for the rest of the company is not quite as simple as he purports. Never-the-less, I think that those who work in positions that can almost always be considered support roles would do well to recognize that their services wouldn't be required at all if the bread and butter employees weren't getting stuff done.
And yet, more often than not I've found that those who cause the most fuss, cry the loudest when things aren't going well, and get the least done are almost exclusively support employees. Maybe this is a Law of Git-er-Done or something that has yet to be formally penned: "If an employee is the cause of more strife than productivity then said employee must necessarily be a support employee." Sounds quite politically incorrect.
Just the way I like it.
Previously I wrote something to the effect that soccer will never really gain acceptance in America. I should have prefaced that thought by saying that I think soccer will never really gain acceptance in America under it's current condition.
It's not so much that the US Men's National Team (MNT) isn't good, well that is part of it, but it's more than that. And to be quite honest I don't think that the average Joe in America realizes all that is going on with his dismay, nay his dislike, nay his very hatred of all things futbol. So let's take a look at the pathology of this ailment which afflicts my fellow Americans, and maybe perhaps some potential remedies, if any, that may exist.
I first noticed this hatred of soccer by my fellow Americans as a child. I grew up in a small town in the American midwest. Baseball, football and basketball were king, all other sports were for the kids who couldn't play these titans of recreation. But the disdain for soccer, well that was reserved a special place hovering somwhere below Ptolomæa, yet not quite in Judecca (hint: Culpepper minus the 'u'). In fact, I think the most common phrase I heard concerning the nature of soccer during the 1980's was "that's a damned COMMUNIST sport boy".
And yet, even in 1994 when the USA was fortunate enough to have hosted a World Cup, Americans really could have cared less. Being an eternal optimist though, I blame that more on some boring-ass ride in a white bronco that just happened to occur one day after the games began. Coincidence? I think not.
My point is that not that Americans don't like soccer. It's that there is some cosmic force which is using a series of coincidences that use people like Gorbechev and Simpson to spoil what will ultimately triumph in America: futbol. Ok, I'm obviously joking. Soccer will never triumph. And the real reason it will never triumph is that the US will never really be better than the rest of the world at it. And Americans, consciously or not, know that all too well……and they can't stand it.
Just this week ESPN did a poll asking Americans how far they thought the MNT would go in the World Cup Finals in Germany (set to start in just under 9 hours). The response? A paltry 26% said "not past the group round". Another 25% said to the "round of 16". Only 11% thought we would win. God love the grandma's and the delusional of the world. I just didn't know they made up 11% of the population.
But seriously, the 26% are probably the ones who are right, although they don't know why they're right. You see, most of those 26% are the same guys (or their kids) who told kids like me that soccer was communist. They are the same ones who let their kids play the sport until they're 10, but then it's time to sit down for the "come to Jesus" talk on why they need to pick a real sport. But as ignorant as those people are, they're still probably right. The Americans, despite growing by leaps and bounds in terms of our national store of soccer talent, just still can't cut it as a squad against the best in the world.
And even more disturbing about the poll mentioned is the disdain in the voices of the announcers talking about it. If I were blind I would have been able to hear the droplets of seething and anger beading up on their foreheads. They can't stand being forced to talk about soccer, not because it cuts into Baseball Tonight: with Peter "I'm Still Relevant" Gammons, but because they really and truly believe that anyone who plays soccer must naturally be (by the laws of American superiority) a loser who couldn't play baseball, basketball or football.
So why won't Americans ever be better than everyone else in the world in regards to soccer? Well, let's look at some other sports to see if we can spot a pattern which naturally introduces greatness in sports into a given population. First example: baseball. Granted, baseball is the "American past-time", so naturally we should be good at it. Ok, I'll give you that. But think back to the generations of kids who grew up playing baseball in make-shift sandlots, parking lots, backyards, cul-de-sacs and any other place you could make room to throw down 3 cans as bases and an old towel for home plate. They lived the game. They breathed the game. The talent pool from which to choose was so vaste that some of the greatest ballplayers the world will ever see, well….were in fact seen. Had baseball been treated like soccer in America, the Dodgers would be named the Clintons and to be called a "Yankee fan" would be fightin words in more than just just the Deep South.
Need another example? Ok, let's switch tracks and look at the Olympics, the cornucopia of irrelevant sports, in particular women's gymnastics. One word: Romania. The women of Romania sign contracts for the daughters in their womb, literally turning over their firstborn to the House of Bela. They're good cause the kids never have a chance to think they aren't. Again, for whatever reason(s), they live and breathe the sport from a very early age.
Yet another example, basketball. American basketball players are so amazingly dominant because in the inner cities of America you can have no food, no clothes and no hope….but you always have basketball. It's a way of life.
Perhaps a personal story might help you understand if you're still lost at this point. I've travelled to Peru a few times for mission work with my church. Now I've played soccer since I was about 4. I played on travelling, select and club teams since I was 12. I was one of the top 5 in both scoring and assists class 4A in high school. I could have had a moderate career at a Division II college playing the game, but for reasons that aren't germane to the discussion I chose not to. The point isn't that I'm good, it's that I'm far above average for Americans. And yet when I go to Peru there are consistently a new batch of 8 year olds who make me look silly. I grew up playing on turf, with shoes and shinguards and coaches and balls that are truly round and roll true. They grew up playing in the sand and dirt, with bare feet and rabid stray dogs and dozens of other dirty barefoot kids trying to kick at the "ball" made of 200 plastic bags tied together. There is no comparison, none.
And yet somehow, some way the Americans this year are ranked 4th in the world. Ranked 4th among hundreds of nations who want to be in Germany this month. Ranked 4th among 32 nations who have made it through the year and a half long qualifying gauntlet. Ranked 4th among dozens of men who more often than not grew up dirty footed, distancing themselves from the countless masses in their home towns, states, nations…..all of whom breathed the sport themselves. Somehow the Americans have broken through. And IF the Americans can get to the final four teams, the finals, or even…..well, I won't even dare say it. IF we can do that, perhaps the titans of recreation will add another member to its fold. A sport worthy of living and breathing for our own youth. And if that happens, the world had better get ready…..because when Americans do finally take hold of something, they rarely let go and their dominance is unparalleled.
The Pontifical Council for the Family has issued a new document entitled "Family and Human Procreation". While it is only released in Italian at the moment, it apparently says that using natural family planning to have only one or a maximum of two children "is nothing other than a kind of series of brief parentheses within an entire conjugal life willingly made sterile."
Imagine that. It has been over 20 years since John Paul II concluded his four year catechesis of the Theology of the Body, itself being an apt and timely summation of 2,000+ years of Christian thought on human sexuality, most notably highlighted in 1968 by Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Catholic Church is still harping along archaically about what it feels is a fundamental truth that human sexuality is primarily purposed towards the procreative nature of the sexual act.
And of course this document will be largely ignored as was the famous encyclical named above by the average American Catholic (and/or what is left of the European Catholic). Reason one being that most "modern" Catholics simply ignore the instruction to not use artificial contraception within marriage in the first place. This latest instruction by the Pontifical Council is aimed at those whose conscience leads them far enough to obey in this matter and yet not far enough to find using NFP in such a capricious manner laughable.
But fundamentally both groups suffer from the same root problem: an inability to understand the virtue of humility. I primarily fault of course the decadent nature of our modern culture, stemming of course from a virtually unchecked growth of relativistic thought. But on a lesser account I blame the Church itself (hierarchically, not mystically of course) for her abject failure over the last couple of generations to meet the challenge of catechesis within such a social context.
Yet it still amazes me to no end the human tendancy to ignore (or reject) the lessons learned by those who have gone before us, even when taught. One need only to watch the History Channel, the Biography Channel or ……gasp…..read a book on the life of some notable or another to see that reducing one's life to but a fleeting game of Monopoly is sheer madness. That we have not learned that material possession (nor the pursuit of such) fails to bring about true joy, happiness and contentment is but one example of our collective amnesia towards those things which we simply do not wish to believe (but have been none-the-less proven false time and again).
Another example might be what Christians refer to as miracles. We are a people infatuated with scientific proof, but only if it leads us to the conclusion we've already decided we want to reach. When science has no answer, we tend to write things off to the amorphous and increasingly massive body of knowledge that we think (hope?) science can prove to our liking, but just hasn't had the time to do so. Such is foolishness, yet we pride ourselves on our embracing it as fools.
And so just like the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans faced, we Americans (and Europeans) are facing plummeting birthrates, an increasingly aged population that cannot sustain itself and a sinking feeling that something isn't right. Rather than look to the United Nations or to Oprah or to whatever socially compromised entity we might otherwise take comfort in, whose words placate our timid and defensive sensibilities, should we instead, especially as Catholics, turn to that Entity which society hates the most? That Entity in whom wealth and power are to be found but never accepted, in whom as often as we find sinful and embarrassing hypocrisy by those in leadership we find many-fold times that in real acts of charity, love and compassion by those who have allowed the Gospel to infiltrate their very core?
Yes, perhaps the solution to our social problems which have proved immune to our purely human logic can be found in the simple understanding of humans as God has created them: worthy….of existence, of life, of care, of love. This is the heart of the Gospel, no matter what your local "hell fire and damnation" street preacher says the to the contrary. And the more that we as Catholics continue to reject that fundamental truth in the one place that we truly have a chance to make an impact, our families, the more we help accelerate the acceptance of what the world has to offer over what God has proved to us to be true.
Show me a father who has not cried at the birth of his children. Show me a mother who does not swoon at her baby's cries. A grandfather who does not revel in his descendants. A child who has not deeply mourned the loss of a parent who was that child's idol and rock for so many years. These are the things that are real, lasting. And as one comes to understand the importance of human life as God sees it, you begin to recognize that there is purpose to what a family is, so much more-so than the banal explanation science gives as a socially required dependency structure. If you can see that, then you will see that the Vatican is not slogging along at all……it is rejoicing and dancing in the magnificent treasure we have been given, being so central a role in the act of creation that God has given us. You begin to see this instruction as a gift which allows us to experience the most intense joy and happiness that can only really be described as supernatural.
Perhaps I'll have more thoughts when the document is made available in English. For now, truly consider what being open to life really means. Is it worth sacrificing for?