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working hard or hardly working?

Today our office is pretty empty; most people are on vacation for Christmas week.  Those that are here, including me, are taking it easy and not doing that much work.

This is such a contrast to the food court in the mall, where just the other day I saw some people older than me who were working their butts off for minimum wage.

Thinking about this has made me feel somewhat guilty.  It doesn't seem fair that software developers like myself who make meaningless software (in the grand scheme of things) can make a comfortable living, while those people who have more important jobs (social workers, teachers, etc) make considerably less.

Is anyone else shocked, especially at this time of year, at the selfishness in themselves and others?

T.S.
Monday, December 22, 2003

Guilt is present at times, but when thinking about it in a greater perspective, when counting all the allnighters, weekends and late evenings during the rest of the year I end up not caring about it.

Most other jobs doesnt include as much work at strange times as SW dev. Production upgrades, on call duty and such crap.

Patrik
Monday, December 22, 2003

T.S., not everyone measures happiness and success in terms of money. Those teachers probably feel guilty they get to work with kids and make a significant difference in peoples'  lives, while other people have to sit in a cube and stare at a computer all day.

Rick
Monday, December 22, 2003

I got 2 words for ya:

"Summers" + "off" = awesome benefits

I got one other word for ya that most Dilbert like programmers are envious of:

"Tenure"


I feel SOOOOO bad for teachers........

GenX'er
Monday, December 22, 2003

If pay equated to work, then drug dealers, entertainment stars and sports stars would be the hardest working and most deserving of us all.  As a retired teacher working writing software, I am making more money now and working much less than I did.  When I go home I get to do what I want to.  As a teacher there was always grading of projects and tests, writing of plans and tests, quarterly grades, recommendations, etc. to fill up the evenings and weekends.  You were never away from the job.  Software is easy and a great intellectual challange!

Barry Sperling
Monday, December 22, 2003

I don't feel sorry for teachers at all.  Great benefits & job security are definitely worth the extra $$$ that I might make.  Although near me, with enough tenure, these teachers can make 6 figures.  Plus for the last week or so, they haven't been teaching at all.  Nothing but parties, plays, etc. 

Troy McClure
Monday, December 22, 2003

If you feel sorry for teachers, you must have gone to a much better highschool than I did.  90% of the teachers at my high school were incompetant, sadistic, pot heads, alcoholics, deadbeats, and neurotic.


Monday, December 22, 2003

I work in a University as a programmer and right now things are very slow.  The students are gone for another couple of weeks and, technically, this whole week is “University Closed” meaning faculty and staff don’t show up unless they feel like it (the first three days of the week are not a paid holiday, so you have to take vacation days; Thursday and Friday are paid holidays).  I’m here only because I’m taking three week’s vacation (starting tomorrow) and I wanted to make sure all my tasks got spread over the other developers before I go incommunicado.

Also, if you are an unscrupulous University professor you can get by using your same lesson plans, exams, etc. from the previous semester without much work.  You can even get TAs or other students to grade them for you!

Don’t get me wrong, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now I think I would like to teach (programming at a large academic institution gives me the time and opportunity to teach intro programming courses), but from what I’ve seen it’s like any large software project – you spend a ton of up-front time developing your curriculum (or I suppose you could steal it from others; one CS professor I had basically took the lecture notes from different universities and taught from that) then you simply refine it over the years.

MR
Monday, December 22, 2003

My wife is in childcare, and currently looking for a job.  Only offer on the table right now is working 40 hrs/ week during the school year with at-risk preschoolers.  Includes home visits to determine eligibility into the program.  Pay?  $11,000 a year.  Yup, it *just* works out to minimum wage, assuming she won't spend any time out of the classroom making bulletin boards, posters, writing lesson plans, parent-teacher conferences, etc. 

Taco Bell pays more. 

nathan
Monday, December 22, 2003

Rick, that's a good point that not everyone measures success in terms of money.  Perhaps no one should...

It just seems wrong to me to work in software development (whether it be pulling all nighters or just goofing off) just so that I can have money for myself.  Especially when the software itself doesn't help many people directly.  When looking at that objectively it seems very selfish and a waste of a life.

Perhaps my teacher example wasn't the best, but how about the fast food workers?  I'm not talking about the high school students, but the adults who work there as their career.  They don't get great benefits (if they get any at all), and some of them work just as hard as software developers - 2 full time jobs, 80+ hour weeks, etc.  It's not always by choice that they end up there either.

I guess that is where my guilt is coming from.  It's these adults that have to always struggle and never get a break.  I was just curious if anyone else felt the same way.

T.S.
Monday, December 22, 2003

"...the poor will always be among us..."

...
Monday, December 22, 2003

As someone who worked in food service in high school and 2 years during college so that I would have enough money for tuition, I find your guilt condescending.

The people in fast food are either high school students, retarded people, immigrants, or stupid people. The high school students and immigrants are just trying to make some extra money for something else, like college, or a car, or sending their kids to college, or whatever. The retards are there because they can't really work anywhere else, and fast food chains often have programs to help these people out. The stupid people are there because that is all they are qualified to do.

In other areas of food service (a sit-down restaurant), the people are either really into food (the chef and sous chef), just trying to earn money for something else (the waitstaff) or else they are criminals (the dishwashers/cooks). 

If you are going to feel guilty about something, feel guilty about vietnamese children making your tennis shoes. Fast food workers don't need your sympathy.


Monday, December 22, 2003

T.S.

You're right - life's not fair and never has been.  Evolution's like that.  It is unlikely that anything you do is going to change that.

As to your sense of guilt give some time or (better still oddly enough *) money to a cause you feel is worthwhile.  It will help both you and society in general. 

* I say give the money as I've worked for  charities over the years and it was always the cash that they needed. 

A cynic writes
Monday, December 22, 2003

Actually, my guilt is more inward focused at myself and not outwardly aimed at fast food workers.  I just wish I was doing more to help others.

Referring to people as retards and stupid is condescending.  I did not mean to be condescending in anything I said.  I am not any better than any of these other people although I ended up with a better life.

T.S.
Monday, December 22, 2003

If you truly feel guilty about your situation, perhaps you should quit posting to the internet about it and go work for a soup kitchen. 


Monday, December 22, 2003

I have pretty much the same feeling when I go to the food court and see all those poor people working for peanuts while I get to spout UML and other BS to execs and rake in the dough. Rather than feel guilty about it, I try to remember how superior I am and that god wants me to earn ten times these people's salaries and that the world isn't fair or just. Guilt is for losers and I scrape off the lower class off my shoes when I get in my Mercedes. Sorry, that's just way it is. Do you think I would wait a second to outsource work to cheaper overseas labor, layoff people before christmas, or restate earnings to cheat the pension then you need to wake up and join the 21st century.

Anonymous Jerk
Monday, December 22, 2003

Hello T.S,

I understand your sentiment and share in it. Its about the general altruism for the lesser previliged ones. I do feel the same when I see the street jobs in the cold of the night, little children standing for alms and working in brutal conditions when they should be playing.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Monday, December 22, 2003

"...It just seems wrong to me to work in software development (whether it be pulling all nighters or just goofing off) just so that I can have money for myself.  Especially when the software itself doesn't help many people directly.  When looking at that objectively it seems very selfish and a waste of a life."


The money that you earn doing software development is subject to taxation (maybe over-taxation, depending on where you live), which supports the various levels of government. It may even go towards helping to support those who need assistance from time-to-time. Imagine what things would be like if enough people were not able to pay taxes...

Also, presumably you spend much of that money you earn. That helps keep some of those minimum wage earners working

Very few people are able to make a "meaningful" contribution -- whatever that means. If you aren't a criminal, and are self-supporting, as well as supporting a family, whats so wrong about that?

At least you are able to pay taxes and contribute to society instead of being a burden.

If you really want to be angry at someone, how about those high level execs who get large salaries and huge bonuses, paying little in taxes, while at the same time they are shipping our jobs offshore...

AnMFCAndJavaProgrammer
Monday, December 22, 2003

Actually, I think we all get large salaries here in the U.S.  If you own a home then you are one of the wealthiest 5% of people in the world.

And I also don't see what is so bad about shipping jobs overseas.  It's either someone in the U.S. having a job or someone overseas having a job.  It's the same thing either way.  Plus, people overseas seem to need the jobs more since their nations aren't as wealthy.  People without jobs here don't struggle as badly as people in other countries.

I'm not saying the execs are wonderful, but I don't think I/we are any better than them.

T.S.
Monday, December 22, 2003

Anonymous Jerk you are a fool. The points you make illustrate exactly how and why this country has degenerated to the lowest common demonintator of human scum.

Maybe one day you'll be the one who is laid off for some others financial gain....

Then your perspective on life may change....

GenX'er
Monday, December 22, 2003

Quick & dirty pay scale (subject to supply and demand):
1. Menial labor
2. Physical labor
3. Moderate mental labor
4. Higher mental labor
5. Jobs requiring communication / social skills
6. Jobs requiring leadership skills

It may not seem fair to you, but reality often isn't. Most people in this country are capable of working at food courts. High supply => lower wages. Fewer are capable of being CEO's.

I don't feel too sorry for those who choose not to better their opportunities in life through education.  I went into the Army for 3 years for the college fund. I've known people who will not do this because they have a moral objection to being in the military.  Fine, I hope they don't have a moral objection to being poor.

What is tragic is that some of the most important decisions people make in life are made at an age that they're too immature to make them.

anon
Monday, December 22, 2003

I agree, Anonymous Jerk is a fool. He obviously doesn't know that GenX'ers don't understand biting sarcasm.

anon
Monday, December 22, 2003

anon:

the problem w/ that pay scale is that jobs requiring the most social skills & communicative ability seem to be paid the least.  working with at-risk preschoolers requires more "skills" than flipping burgers, yet the pay rate is lower.  wtf?

nathan
Monday, December 22, 2003

working with preschoolers actually does not require any social skills in the usual sense. you are dealing with 4 year olds, and the interaction is much different than talking to an adult.

if you are good at interacting with adults, you can get paid a lot of money, or you can get paid not so much money. it depends on what you do.

also, in regards to preschoolers. your wife is just working at the wrong place, or she doesn't have any qualifications. I think the barrier to entry for child care is even lower than the barrier to entry of visual basic programming. most child care (even if it is for "at risk" kids) is just another term for babysitting, and no one expects babysitters to make very much money. if she had a master's in education from harvard and was dealing with pre-schoolers at a snooty pre-school for rich kids, she would be making plenty of money.

my wife does speech pathology for elementary school kids and makes 45 bucks an hour. YMMV


Monday, December 22, 2003

Oppps!

GenX'er
Monday, December 22, 2003

what sucks is that the barrier to child-care is so low, yet children are the most important resource we have.  OK, so pre-school doesn't require knowing calculus or anything like that.  But it's certainly not easy.  I know I'd rather be programming.  And it's not babysitting.  Babysitting is making sure the kids don't kill themselves for a couple hours while the parents are out.  This kind of preschool program is basically raising your kids.  Being a surrogate parent, if you will.  That's a heck of a lot more responsibility than a babysitter.

My sister has a Master's Degree and makes mid twenties as a 5th grade teacher with 7 yrs experience.  Yes, she loves what she does.  Yes, she gets summers off.  But no, she can't go to the bathroom whenever she wants.  Would any of us stand for the type of work environment where you could not leave your desk to go to the bathroom?  I wouldn't. 

The people on this board that think teachers don't work hard because they can point to a couple tenured profs or some crappy high school teachers need to get in touch with reality.

nathan
Monday, December 22, 2003

"It doesn't seem fair that software developers like myself who make meaningless software (in the grand scheme of things) can make a comfortable living, while those people who have more important jobs (social workers, teachers, etc) make considerably less."

There are a bunch of people in India and elsewhere actively trying to relieve you of the reason for your guilt.

Not a chauvinist
Monday, December 22, 2003

"Fewer are capable of being CEO's."

And your reason for believing this is...?

Not a chauvinist
Monday, December 22, 2003

Nathan,

Do you have any kids? Have you ever paid for day care? I have 3 kids, 2 of whom were in daycare. For a while were were paying $1500/month. Rates are higher for infants and in other metro areas. If the barrier to entry were higher, no one could afford it.

The best teachers were good because they were educated. They were the best because they were friendly, patient, and truly liked children.

As far as my pay scale, it is prefaced by "quick & dirty", but it you want you can add:
2.5 Government jobs

anon
Monday, December 22, 2003

>>"Fewer are capable of being CEO's."

>>And your reason for believing this is...?

If you have to ask, you'd never accept or understand the answer.

anon
Monday, December 22, 2003

anon,

No, I don't have kids.  The program that's offering the whopping $11,000/yr is a grant-funded program.  Free to the parents.  So I guess that would fall under your 2.5 Gov't jobs category. 

I guess that's *one* of the reasons I chose computers.  The pay is much better.

nathan
Monday, December 22, 2003

I don't work hard any time of the year.

I wish to god I could work hard. I feel guilty and stressed when I can't work. I feel obliged to look busy, and do stuff... but in most jobs there's just nothing I can do.

"This lump of code here has a bug report against it. I'll just order in the audit trail of it, and in five weeks when it arrives I'll know what failed. In the meantime I'll tidy up these classes here and document their interface. Oh. I'm not allowed to write documentation, and I'm not allowed to edit code there. Hmm, what about this over here: This code clearly doesn't work. I'll fix it and send it to production. Ah, they won't accept the changes without a bug report. Ah. I'm not allowed to raise bug reports. OK, I'll just... go sleep in the coffee room..."

You can only take so many people telling you to shut up and stay small before you just give up trying to do anything.

My housemate is a physics lecturer. Basically he goes in to work every day. Some months the university manages to find a reason to pay him. Otherwise he works for free...

I know who has more money. But I also know who has more job satisfaction...

Katie
Monday, December 22, 2003

Well, in my high school, there were:

A. people who worked hard to learn and took things seriously

B. people who just goofed around, played soccer, had fun, etc

Category A got good jobs, category B got bad jobs - some of them work at fast foods.

This strikes me as fair.

John
Monday, December 22, 2003

>>It just seems wrong to me to work in software
>>development (whether it be pulling all nighters or just
>>goofing off) just so that I can have money for myself. 

So do you not need money for yourself? If you didn't work to have money for yourself, who would work in order to provide you with food and shelter?

>>Especially when the software itself doesn't help many
>>people directly.  When looking at that objectively it
>>seems very selfish and a waste of a life.

Technology in general has raised the standard of living for all people in the world, not just the industrialized world. Medical professionals have better access to more consistant information than ever before thanks to software written by people like you and me. Objectively speaking, software is very helpful to humanity and is a very important part of life and the evolution of life.

>>Perhaps my teacher ... It's not always by choice that
>>they end up there either.

They may not have directly chosen to become fast-food workers or work at whatever job it is they are working at that makes you feel like your job is such a blessing and theirs is such a curse. But the choices that we've all made in our lives are what determines our current circumstances. If someone ends up working at Taco Bell or as a teacher or wherever and they are unhappy with their terms of employment, the great thing about this country is that they can learn a new skill, (library books are free) become good at something that they enjoy and move into a job that allows them to use their newly learned skill. They can even become monetarily successful if they're willing to make the right choices.


>>I guess that is where my guilt is coming from.  It's these
>>adults that have to always struggle and never get a
>>break.  I was just curious if anyone else felt the same
>>way.
No, I don't feel the same way. I was never "given" a break. I worked hard, I studied hard and I made choices such as saving my money instead of buying the latest plasma TV so that I could afford to live in a nicer neighborhood, so my child can get a better education.  I made choices such as not eating fastfood every day so that my body is healthy and my brain works more effectively. I made choices that allowed me to in the right position when job opportunities became available so that I was the best person for the job. I got my good paying job in the software industry not by someone giving it to me, but because I earned it. I refuse to feel guilty about making good choices in life.

I understand feeling sympathy for those that have not made the right choices, but not all of my choices have been right either. I learned from those bad decisions and hopefully won't be stupid enough to go down those paths again. However, feeling guilty for something inwhich you should feel pride makes no sense to me.

I work therefore I earn
Monday, December 22, 2003

---" Technology in general has raised the standard of living for all people in the world, not just the industrialized world. Medical professionals have better access to more consistant information than ever before thanks to software written by people like you and me."----

Sorry, but the internet hasn't even succeeded in giving tech savvy people such as you the least idea what is happening in the world.

20% or so of the world doesn't even have access to a hospital or health care centre. Most hospitals in the developing world don't even have a telephone, let alone a computer with internet access, and if they did there would be no money to pay the phone bills.

Software technology is of no use for the 45% or so of the world's population that don't even have access to electricity. And access to a safe water supply is many times better for health than any advance in either software or medical science. And the privatisation of water supplies, pushed on developing countries by the World Bank, IMF and donor countries such as the UK looking for opportunites for their privatized uitility companies is actually decreasing the number of people with safe, or indeed any, water supplies.

The health of the general population has almost nothing to do with medical software and nearly everything to do with a policy of accessible health care, infrastructure in the sense of safe water suppies and electrification, some help towards housing, ante and post natal care, and a policy designed to eradicate insect borne diseases such as dengue and malaria.

The US has the best (or at least the most expensive) medical technology in the world, but take a look at its infant mortality figures.

As for those who think those that work in fast food franchises are retards or criminals, then all I can hope is that your job gets outsourced fairly quick. Perhaps you could then send us the address of the WalMart you'd be working at so we can come and call you names.

Stephen Jones
Monday, December 22, 2003

"The US has the best (or at least the most expensive) medical technology in the world, but take a look at its infant mortality figures."

What on Earth do its infant mortality figures have to do with anything?  Look at the childbearing practices of some U.S. population subgroups, with a 70% illegitimacy rate among one in particular.

Technology very well has improved the lives of _responsible_ people in the United States.  It will never be a substitute for responsible behavior, especially where pregnancy is concerned.

Can't afford kids?  DON'T HAVE THEM.  And especially don't have three.

it_ranter
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Nathan wrote: "she can't go to the bathroom whenever she wants.  Would any of us stand for the type of work environment where you could not leave your desk to go to the bathroom?"

Sure. I don't think Dan Rather can leave his desk to go to the bathroom whenever he wants, but I hear he makes a pretty good living. So do quite a few professional athletes, though they don't exactly work at a desk. I'm not certain about this, but I bet surgeons can't just bug out to take a leak in the middle of a complex operation, either. Heck, even BillG does long, bathroom-break-free keynote speeches at trade shows.

Some jobs or scenarios within jobs require you to be present in a physical location for a period of time and to subjugate whatever other needs you might have during that time. That doesn't strike me as a prime differentiator between privilege or social status or salary or lack thereof.

John C.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Anyway, back to the original question about why socially valuable roles such as teacher or social worker may be economically undervalued relative to, say, software developer, the reason is quite simple: it has to do with the supply of labor versus the demand of *paying* customers. There are lots of people and companies who are willing to pay for software because they perceive it adds some value to their business enterprise or personal affairs. But how many people are willing to pay directly for the services of teachers and social workers? A large proportion of that payment is indirect, procedured via taxation and administered by government agencies, and few people are keen to see their taxes go up for abstract and distant benefits.

You can bet that if parents were personally investing the $10,000 or so annually that it costs to educate each child in the public education system in a major U.S. metro area, they would be demanding better. (Note that I'm not arguing that public education should be abolished or that vouchers are good or taking any other political stance; I just think it's clear that the absence of a proximate economic relationship takes away a lot of the demand drivers that would otherwise force competition and improvement. Education bureaucracies don't really seem answerable to anyone.)

John C.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The reason that software developers get paid more than teachers and social workers and nurses is that the last three jobs are labour intensive, and in labour intensive industries payrates are low because they effect the bottom line.

This is the reason for the apparent contradiction that people doing the same job are paid a lot more in some industries than others. Heavy industries such as oil or steel can afford to pay higher salaries because most of their fixed costs are sunk in machinery and many of their variable costs are in raw materials. A school is typically spending 70% of its budget on salaries, and so cannot afford to pay significantly over the national average.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

It ranter

The reason that some of us think infant mortality is important is that we see health care in different terms.  To me a low infant mortality is more important than whether some 80 year old millionaire gets his third heart transplant.  This cultural bias shows in how health systems operate.

I suspect it's because given a settled population any random child is much more likely to be related (albiet distantly), and hence evolutionary pressures kick in. 

A cynic writes
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Teachers don't get "paid" 'cause of teachers unions.

apw
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Dear apw,
                Was that last post part of your strategy of cracking up in public, or were you really trying to say something meaningful.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

IT Ranter,

We need to be concerned about infant mortality because we live in a civilised society.

What if some miserable IT worker gets his car stolen?  Should we be concerned?

Should we be concerned about theft?  Don't bother buying things if your not able to keep them safe!

Is a car more important than a child?

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"working with preschoolers actually does not require any social skills in the usual sense. you are dealing with 4 year olds, and the interaction is much different than talking to an adult."

You're right. It's a lot harder than talking to an adult.

T.S., I know where you're coming from. I feel saddened, angry, and disgusted by turns at the way so-called "rich" societies treat their poorest citizens. I think a society is only as "rich" as its poorest member.

And anybody who thinks that your position in life is solely and exclusively determined by your choices, is as deluded as somebody who thinks that all successful people got their success handed to them on a platter.

It sounds like you feel you're not living your life as you would like to. Supposing you calculated the smallest amount of money you thought you could live on and maintain a reasonable level of savings, and then tried to live on that sum for a year? At the end of that year you could, for example, give away all or part of the surplus, and find a job where you could use your talents to really constructive ends.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

T.S.

I sometimes get that same feeling.  One book that I found really interesting was "Live Rich" by Stephen M. Pollan (http://www.diebrokeliverich.com).

He basically talks about working for as much money as you can doing what you are good at and using other venues (Church, charity, volunteerism, etc.) to feel good about what you do.  The fact is that if you want to make a difference there are a lot of places in your own city (or one near you) where your time and money are very much needed.

I know from working with charitable organizations and volunteering at soup kitchens, etc. that they really need folks who will come and help.  And since your salary is much higher than a Taco Bell worker or teacher (presumably) you will be able to help a lot of worthy causes that those with less money cannot.  So, in a way you can choose where to make a big difference rather being forced into one.

Just for the record, I know more teachers that just freaking hate their jobs than love them and feel like they are making a difference.  My brother is a public school teacher (high school) and most of the time he feels like he spends more time dealing with crap from students, parents and school administration than making a difference to anyone.

The biggest difference that high-paid workers can make in this world is to lower your standard of living and giving more money and time away rather than increasing lifestyle to a point where we have a big house, expensive cars and maxed out credit cards.

The Not-So-Philosopher
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"making a difference" is advertising junk put out by government desperate to hire teachers but unable to pay a high enough salary to attract them normally.

People who believe that also believe that drinking Coke makes them attractive, young and sexy, that smoking Marlboro is the way to go for a fit outdoor life style, and that Windows opens a wonderful world of new experiences.

Education is the casting of false pearls before real swine.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Ouch Mr. Jones, what a harsh rebuke of our education system! 

Even with it's flaws, there are more kids who leave that system and become productful systems than there would be if the system didn't exist.

So if you were in charge, what would you do differently?

...
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"...there are more kids who leave that system and become productful systems....''

hehehe little freudian slip?  yep they become little liberal robots, exactly what the gov't wants......

apw
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

oops.

Nice catch apw.

I shall now stick my proverbial foot into my virtual mouth (now where's an emoticon for that!)

...
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

However snidely he may have gone about it (:-p), apw does touch on one of the things that I think is wrong with education, the fact that education isn't the main purpose of school (at least in USA), it's "socialization". 

School is the first, and sometimes last, place where we try to make up for differences in background (free breakfast, discounted lunches, etc) as well as try to teach the kids what it means to be "American".

...
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Socialization is probably what happens we realize that good teachers are as rare as good parents and developers.  So in the US, we attempt to optimize for mediocrity.

(Incidentally, I hope my words aren't taken to invite an anti-US bashfest.  It's obviously an interesting and deeply messed up country, but our doctrine was ideally about being friends of liberty everywhere yet tending only to our own.  Then Europe went nuts and now the whole world has to deal with our problems.  Enjoy.)

Absent some weird social revolution, tech is the obvious hope for education so that at some point certain apps become ubiquitous and simple enough that educators can scale, motivating and teaching many more people than normal.  And working on those useless projects shouldn't make us feel too guilty, since they no doubt stimulate supply of tech through their investments.  It's easy to become cynical, especially when the holiday blues set in, but we can't naively expect things to happen overnight.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Nah the real advantage and destiny for tech is to control and enslave the peasants while doing away with the middle class.

Big brother is watching.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

By the way, noticing I was totally unclear, I actually think socialization is the most important thing school provides.  Just that a social environment should provide many things, like a good restaurant just doesn't have good food.

Hiding from family, falalala.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Ged:

"We need to be concerned about infant mortality because we live in a civilised society. ..."

Well, ok, but what I take issue with is the implication that our infant mortality rate is some failing of our health care system.  Hence why it was mentioned as a (rather bitter) response to the assertion that our health care has improved dramatically by way of technology.

I'm just pointing out that our health care system is just fine, vis a vis infant care; the failing is in the people who are having children.  And I think your car analogy is particularly apt.  If one buys a car one cannot afford or properly secure, then they have made a very bad decision.  Now, we do need cars and may be forced to make that choice sometimes, but neither a teenager (nor an umarried twentysomething) ever needs to be impregnated with a child for whom she cannot properly care.

But in our society, it happens regularly, and we should place the blame where it belongs: poor choices.  It's not _always_ a bad choice, but there is a very high correlation.  At risk of sounding like a religious right-winger, I don't think there should be any doubts, given our illegitimacy rates, that it's our society's values are at fault and not our health care system, or technology, or any other system that is at the _recieving end_ of poor choices.

Which brings me back from that tangent, to the crux of this thread:  choices matter, profoundly. 

I am a software developer largely by choice.  Yes, there is an element of luck there, too--the market has been good for software developers.  But it's a bit of a stretch to say that I'm either in software development, or else I'll be out working in fast food.  There's a certain attitude that underlies success; and people who are successful, should strive to embody it.  If we're unlucky sometimes, then that's an obstacle to be overcome, not some permanent blockade.

The market isn't fair, but that's not the issue.  The issue is the attitude one takes to the game; a willingness to win in spite of circumstances.

Otherwise, we either fall into the "woe is me" trap when we're in down times (as many do here), or the "undeserving" attitude when we do succeed.  Personally, I'm willing to take my particular combination of attitude and luck and do with it what I can. 

That's the best I can do; it's the best any of us can do.

it_ranter
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Well put, it_ranter.

Occasionally I read articles by social commentators who hammer home the position "it's people's bad choices that ruin their lives, not bad circumstances!" Some of these are very convincing, and I nod my head all the way through. Theodore Dalrymple is one of these, the old curmudgeon.

Occasionally I read articles by social commentators who hammer home the position "it's people's bad circumstances that ruin their lives, not their bad choices!" Some of these are very convincing, and I nod my head all the way through. David Smail is one of these, the old softie.

And I think they're both right. Here's why: people who think that their whole lives are controlled by everything but themselves, are not helped by being told that they can't do anything to change their behaviour or affect their own circumstances.

People who spend all their lives struggling, while remaining convinced that things would be better if they *just tried harder*, are not helped by being told that they could do anything if they put their minds to it, no matter how dire their situation.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Infant mortaility rates have everything to do with firstly the health care system in force in the socieity and secondly the general level of child poverty.

Here is a link to the figures for selected countries:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/tables/2003/03hus025.pdf
You will note that the US was 11th in 1960 and Cuba was 23rd. In 1999 the US was 28th and Cuba was 26th. Is it-ranter to have us believe that 43 years of liliving under the umbrella of a totalitiarian communist state has produced more individually responsible citizenry than the same period under capitalist democracy?

Illegitimate births has nothing to do with infant mortality. The highest number of single mothers in the world is in Sweden and it has the second lowest infant mortality rate with 3.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1999, compared to a figure of 7.1 for the US, and a whopping, and totally inexplicable 47.94 for Saudi Arabia, where illegitimate births are exceptionally rare.

It is not just Cuba that surprises by beating the US. In 2003 the US is now ahead of Cuba, but 31st in the rankings behind such unlikely candidates as Guam, Aruba, the  Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Slovenia.

And before you say that the decline in the US ranking is the result of the moral rot that set in in the 1960's may I point out that the absolute figures were 26.0 in 1960 and 7.1 in 1999.

The 2002/2003 figures may be obtained from these two sources, both of which appear to take figures from the CIA world handbook, based on country reporting.
http://www.photius.com/rankings/infant_mortality_rate_0.html
and
http://www.nationmaster.com/red/graph-T/hea_inf_mor_rat&int=-1

Frankly if you think these figures can be explained by individual choice you must be a firm believer in bad karma and reincarnation.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

"whopping, and totally inexplicable 47.94 for Saudi Arabia, where illegitimate births are exceptionally rare"

Don't they just kill girls over there? Sort of adds up, don't it?

Inexplicable indeed
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Stephen:

And the general level of child poverty; that has to do with what, exactly?  Is there just some level of child poverty that magically happens to exist?  Are the Wal-mart mothers in America and fast food workers being forced to bear children?

As to the thinly-veiled, statistical arguments for socialized health care, you're right.  When a society decides, as Sweden has, to collectively bend over and take it up the rear to subsidize people's poor decisions, then those poor decisions are indeed mitigated.  Unfortunately, I think it's well beyond the scope (or topic) of this thread to go into the various negative side effects of socializing health care.

Suffice it to say, I think a little common sense--like DON'T HAVE KIDS YOU CAN'T AFFORD--is a great substitute for, say, Sweden's 53%-of-GDP taxation rate or Cuba's "communism."

it_ranter
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Dear Inexplicable indeed,
                                      Your comment is the same as your name. Where on earth did you get the idea from?

Dear it-ranter,
                      Your ideas suck. If people did what you suggested there'd be nobody to push you around in your wheelchair when you get senile. Still you do have a point about individual decisions and having children. If your mother had flushed you down the toilet when you were born the world would be a nicer place.

                      Have a merry December 27th

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

"If your mother had flushed you down the toilet when you were born the world would be a nicer place."

I don't know, Stephen.  I'm not the one making comments like this; but then again, this is a public forum for programmers, and I suppose our hubris is allowed no boundaries.

Merry Christmas to you, too.

it_ranter
Thursday, December 25, 2003

Dear it-ranter,
                      December 27th isn't Christmas. You should be able to find out what it was the anniversary of.

                        Still have a Merry Christmas anyway. If you're with your family tell your mother I won't hold her lack of foresight against her :)

Stephen Jones
Thursday, December 25, 2003

December 27th - A Day in History
1503 - Spanish army beats France
1703 - England & Portugal sign Methuen-Asiento-trade agreement
1741 - Prussian forces took Olmutz, Czechoslovakia
1825 - 1st public railroad using steam locomotive completed in England
1845 - Ether 1st used in childbirth in US, Jefferson, Ga
1850 - Hawaiian Fire Dept established
1884 - Netherlands recognizes king Leopold II's Congo Free State
1903 - "Sweet Adaline," a barbershop quartet favorite, is 1st sung
1939 - Earthquake in Turkey, about 50,000 die
1945 - International Monetary Fund established-World Bank founded
1947 - 1st "Howdy Doody Show," (Puppet Playhouse), telecast on NBC
1951 - 40th Davis Cup: Australia beats USA in Sydney (3-2)
1961 - Belgium & Congo resume diplomatic relations
1968 - Apollo 8 returns to Earth
1976 - Albania constitution goes into effect
1985 - Terrorists kill 20 & wound 110 attacking El Al at Rome & Vienna airports, President Reagan blames Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi
1992 - "Les Miserables" opens at Ostregaswerks, Copenhagen
1993 - Dow-Jones hits record 3792.93

http://www.brainyhistory.com/days/december_27.html

nathan
Thursday, December 25, 2003

Err, how about 4 BC.
Hint; it's to do with the topic it-ranter I were discussing.
Hint 2: see if you remember any of the bible readings you heard this Christmas.

Stephen Jones
Friday, December 26, 2003

Woops! Wrong day! Should have been December 28th.

Still I'm sure it-ranter would have a very happy 27th looking forward to it :)

Stephen Jones
Friday, December 26, 2003

um, ya.  i'm confused.  no idea what happened Dec 28, 4 BC.  earliest reference i can find is 413 AD.

any other hints?

nathan
Friday, December 26, 2003

I see people going to college for fourteen years
Studying to be doctors and lawyers

I see people getting up at seven-thirty every morning
Going to work at the drugstore to sell flair pens

But the most amazing thing to me is:
I get paid for doing this!!!

Steve Martin
Saturday, December 27, 2003

--"any other hints?"---

Herod?
           

Stephen Jones
Saturday, December 27, 2003

where do you get Dec 28 for the day Herod killed all the males under 2 years old (if that's what you're referring to...)?

nathan
Sunday, December 28, 2003

Ask the Catholic Church. It's the "dia de los santos innocentes", which commemorates the massacre (if "commemorates" is the right word). I believe it is because the bible suggests it was the third day after Christmas.

In Spain the day is the equivalent of April's Fools day in England and France, and the same practical jokes are played.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, December 28, 2003

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