THOUGHTS AND LECTURES

TRUST THE LORD.

    Put your trust in the Lord, not in people or things.  God is immutable and totally trustworthy.  He loves you more than any human could ever love you, and if you give your life to him, he will lead you toward the goal he has set up for you, even if your upbringing requires some hardship along the way.  Don't trust your emotions: they vary even with the weather.  The Lord will never fail you.


        LOVE PEOPLE.

    People are human and have their weaknesses.  Don't judge them if they disappoint you or fail to live up to your expectations.  Love them like Jesus loves you: unconditionally, irrespective of what's in it for you, with no strings attached.  They are all God's children and to be loved like you love and care for yourself.  Pray for your enemies: it's not you they're hurting, it's themselves.


        DON'T WHINE.

    Worrying over your own difficulties is the most fruitless way you can waste your time.  It breeds bitterness and loneliness and constitutes outright disobedience to the Lord.  Hence, it removes you from God to such an extent that even your prayers will be ineffective for want of trust, joy, and obedience on your part.  Praise the Lord and give thanks in everything, and concern yourself with caring for others.  The Lord will provide for you in his own good time and in a way that exceeds all your expectations.


        DON'T BLAME.

    Realize that if you are hurt by someone, the essence of the matter is not the offense.  Satan wants you to be offended and to think that you have every right to be so.  But the way back is found by seeing in each disagreement your mutual misfortune where even you as the injured party have to go all the way to meet the other person.

Thoughts on succeeding in a white-collar working career

(Robie's attempt to teach millennials the old ways to success)


Work hard at your studies, get good results, and learn how to study effectively.

If possible, specialize in a new thing that's about to take off.  Stay at the cutting edge of your specialty until you advance into management, then become a generalist.

When applying for work, learn all you can about the organization and figure out how you could contribute to its success.  Understand what you're good at and apply only for jobs that seem exciting to you.  Make your job application a sales pitch to show why you're the best candidate for the job.  Deliver your application in person if it's physically possible; show yourself at your very best; and ask for another meeting, preferably with the person you'd be working for, to learn more about the position advertised.  Remember that competence is the most important quality a prospective employer looks for.

Be thorough and results-oriented, courageous and audacious.  Be respectful and polite to everyone.  Never make jokes at anybody's expense.  Never discuss politics or religion at work.  Listen, don't talk.  Learn to remember names and faces.  Show an interest in your colleagues, superiors, and business contacts as human beings, and remember what you learn about them, so you can follow up on things later.

Be clean and presentable.  To be taken seriously by your elders, dress, groom, and behave like they do without trying to go beyond your station.  Unkempt persons never make it above the grunt level.  Don't smoke: smokers put in 10 per cent fewer hours than non-smokers during the same working day, and employers know this.  Smokers also fall ill during middle age and become a liability to their employers.

Cultivate kindness to animals: a lack of it generates an unpleasant attitude that will do you harm at work.

Both when applying for work and while working for an employer, make it evident, without saying so, that your highest priority is the success of your boss.  His/her interests are your primary motivator and you have no designs on his/her job.  Once your boss realizes this and begins to trust you completely, nothing can stop you.

Write clearly and concisely.  Use short words, sentences, and paragraphs.  Study creative writing as if you were planning to write novels.  Popularize difficult matters.  Date and keep a copy of everything you write.  Double-check your facts and document them.  Learn to design and use relational databases to make fast and accurate use of large amounts of data.  Speak loudly and clearly when addressing an audience.  Use the best available audiovisuals.  Be entertaining so nobody goes to sleep.

If you become a manager and get staff, remember that to your staff, you represent the company or organization, but to your boss, you represent your staff.  Nothing motivates those working for you like the knowledge that you care about them and their interests when dealing with the employer.  Don't be preoccupied with rising in the organization: if you follow the advice offered here, you'll be given all the responsibility you can handle.

Keep promises.  Make only realistic plans and budgets.  Warn of delays as soon as you know for certain.  Never speculate: if you don't know, find out and get back to the person who made an inquiry.  Learn to deal with short attention spans: bosses will stand over you and demand quick wins.  Give them milestones and interim results as needed, and use the resultant goodwill to get necessary resources.  Never fear telling your boss unpleasant truths in private: a good boss will respect you for it.

Keep the time spent on maintaining your work computer to a minimum.  Refuse to get addicted to social media.  Make use of calendaring and scheduling applications.  Learn to use project management systems: they actually work.  Keep a business diary so you know what you've done when and what you've promised to whom.  Learn from Dale Carnegie: the best thing he said was that to get someone to do what you want them to do, show them that it's in their own best interest to do it.  If reminders are needed, give them politely and in private.

Never stop learning.  Question existing practices and find out about the future of the business your employer is in.  Trust only good futurologists and use many different sources.  If change is needed, make a convincing case to your superiors.  If you see the ship sinking, do as the rats do and get off in time.

                             (Robie's attempt to teach millennials the old ways to success)

Y2K - Before And After by Robie


During the late nineties, I was involved with preparing for the transition to the 21st century, when many computer programs, unless fixed or replaced, would have ceased to function because they were incapable of handling four-digit years.  The press made a big fuss about this and many doomsayers predicted the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) on January 1, 2000.  I occasionally wrote on the matter, and we just found these two contributions to discussion forums concerning Y2K.

Millennium Bug TIC TIC TIC

Time Running Out for Countries to Tackle Millennium Bug

An article from the end of the nineties


At the turn of the millennium, people around the world could be united by a collective information black-out as computers from Andorra to Zimbabwe travel back in time one hundred years. Such is the fear of businesses, governments, and computer programmers as they scramble to mitigate the effects of the Year 2000 Problem (the "Y2K" problem, sometimes referred to in the press as "the millennium bug").

The World Bank Group, which finances projects that rely on information systems around the world, is worried about the implications of Y2K for its client countries. The Bank is urging governments in developing countries to confront Y2K right away to reduce the associated costs and distress.

"I cannot emphasize enough how serious the repercussions could be on developing countries' economic activities," says the Bank's Chief Information Officer, Mohamed Muhsin. "Governments and businesses that have not done so need to begin taking the steps to update their information systems."

Until a few years ago, some systems were programmed to use six numbers to represent the date (mm/dd/yy or dd/mm/yy). As a result, many computer programs cannot differentiate between the years 1900 and 2000. They only register the last two digits: 00. As a result, some programs may fail to operate properly with dates after December 31, 1999. Computers and systems that use chipsâ€"found in nearly every industryâ€"may reject entries or miscalculate the time elapsed between two dates, with unpredictable and expensive consequences. Also, since 2000 is a leap year, and 1900 was not, all entries for February 29 would be rejected.

Moreover, Y2K brings with it a few other headaches. For example, years ago, programmers would occasionally use a value of all nines to signify "no expiration date," or "forever." When September 9, 1999 rolls around, computers that have been programmed in this old way will behave strangely or malfunction on 9-9-99, perhaps as if it's the end of time!

The problem affects all types of hardware, operating systems, security and control systems, database-management systems, systems that process transactions, banking systems, spreadsheets, phone systems and more. In fact, although a majority of the Y2K problems are located in information systems, any system anywhere that uses dates may be threatened: from small alarms to applications supporting health and human services, revenue collection, budgeting and pension benefits. By some accounts, the bill for fixing the problem worldwide is about $600 billion.

As 2000 approaches, the needed resources to convert computer systems will become more expensive and more difficult to find, posing new and costly challenges to countries that haven't started converting their information systems. From farming, to health services, to paying out pensions, the Bank estimates that most sectors could be disrupted in the next five years due to Y2K computer failures.

"The Bank approaches the Year 2000 issue from three perspectives: our internal computer systems, our projects and our client countries," says Robert Hoge, the Year 2000 Task Manager at the Bank. "The work on our internal systems is well underway and we're now focusing on ensuring that development projects and client countries will not be adversely affected." Hoge adds that although the Bank itself is not providing consulting services, it has prepared a Year 2000 help kit for Bank staff and a Year 2000 information packet for project agencies and client countries.

"The year 2000 seems far off but it's really just around the corner," says Muhsin. "Ideally, systems should be fixed ahead of time and tested prior to January 1, 1999, only 9 months away."
February 26, 1999
Re: An Informed Public Is a Prepared Public

Most Y2K observers, especially the doom mongers, are outside the corrective work going on.  Those doing the work, on the other hand, are too busy and have their noses too close to the ground to be able to put their perspective into sellable words.  Thus, the outside commentators have been left to define what's happening, and have chosen what's sure to help them sell their wares: the concept that we're all helpless victims of a large machine that's about to break down.

This is the current understanding of the role of society at large and of government in particular: For the People.  Some generations back, in countries so favored, government and public actions were seen differently: By the People.  Following the victory of business over the family and the individual, we now fulfill our ordained roles as specialized consumers with no complementary skills, and must depend on society, and, specifically, on business, for every aspect of our survival.  Hence the ease of conjuring up the image of everybody on Earth stuck in a malfunctioning space station, abandoned by the maintenance crew, and headed for disaster.

What remains, however, is the fact that it's still people doing the work and the machines that may break down are their tools.  It isn't just some unknown processes that are at risk, it's places of work.  Billions of people are potentially affected; that means billions of pairs of hands that can do something.  We all deal with emergencies and broken tools all the time; are we likely to stand idly by while our jobs and our livelihoods go down the drain due to some technical problem with our tools?  I dodn't think so.  Common sense is a powerful force, once it kicks in.

All the people who wrench their living directly from the soil and the sea will be affected only indirectly, if at all.  Much of the work at risk can be performed with degraded tools or by alternative means.  Work that can't be done without the tools will be prioritized.

On another note, I believe that, in the developing countries, where there isn't enough time, money, or resources to check and fix everything beforehand, a viable strategy could be to concentrate on securing the power supply and other vital parts of the national and local infrastructure, such as water and sewers, food and fuel supply, payment system, revenue collection, transportation, health and education, entitlements, public servant salaries, defense, and security.  If you then fix only what breaks among other systems, you'll spend just a fraction of the time and money required to check everything in advance and fix all systems that look suspect.  As long as power and basic services work and people don't riot, having some computers and machines down for a while isn't yet a catastrophe, especially in countries where you don't depend on everything working perfectly, anyway.

If this last concept is indeed viable, then the measurements of Y2K preparedness that apply to OECD countries shouldn't be used for the developing world.  Foreign investment shouldn't be encouraged to flee countries just because they're less prepared than, say, the US and Canada, thereby creating self-fulfilling prophesies of doom.  There's enough trouble in the developing world, anyway.


January 10, 2000
Re: Congratulations!

Y2K was a special challenge, because its worldwide complexity exceeded our human ability accurately to predict its consequences.  However, it was well known in advance, and there was ample time to prepare.  Hence, all went well: no systemic failures occurred.  A lot of money was spent, and, clearly, it was well spent.  It's also clear that unless the effort had been made, there could have been systemic failures, and that would have been bad.

Some isolated Y2K glitches have appeared, as could be expected.  Due to the nature of the systems involved, such problems will keep surfacing for some time to come.  This is normal and can be handled.  IT staff and engineers do this for a living.  If our tools break, we fix them.  What we avoided was an avalanche of problems all at once, which would have exceeded our capacity to fix things.

An interesting thought is whether we've learned anything about doom-saying in the process.  Most of the doom-sayers have gone quiet, perhaps preparing for Leap Day or the next New Year's.  Those with a wider reputation to salvage are now doing their explaining thing.  Next time around, I believe we can look out for the following characteristics so as not to lose too much time and effort on dealing with them:

All the doom-sayers had something to sell, and public apprehension increased their sales.  The goods included the message itself, consulting services, their own writings, emergency supplies, and worthless pieces of land.  It's to be hoped that those who bought will find a way to profit from their investment.
Doom-saying, by its nature, looks at a trend and extrapolates it linearily until a disaster scenario is found.  In real life, everything goes in cycles.  When a dubious trend has continued long enough, common sense kicks in and resources are applied to correct it.  But meanwhile, somebody gets rich on describing the havoc we were headed for.

Most of the criticism of the perceived inaction in the non-English-speaking world came from the United States.  There's a correlation between the lack of language skills of English-speakers and their failure to understand the actual effort expended elsewhere.  Further, as even the CIA admitted by way of explaining its own misjudgment, Americans tend to project their own society and infrastructure on everybody else, ignoring the fact that no other country is as dependent on money and technology as the US.

Some doom-sayers strongly touted the domino theory, multiplying the likelihood for interconnected systems to cause a compounded failure even where risks to individual systems were low.  This theory assumes that the world is run by an incomprehensible, uncontrollable web of robots where any glitch will snowball into a major failure.  Reality is different: most IT systems deliver their results to humans who can see if they are wrong.  People do the work; the systems are their tools, and can be fixed if they break.  Interdependent systems were subjected to intensified integration testing.  Embedded systems were replaced if there was reason to believe that they were doing something date-dependent.

Nevertheless, the doom-sayers did us a great service: we got more money and resources for the work than we'd have got without them.  So congratulations and thanks to them too!



The Rise and Fall of Fascist America

Parallels

Some conspiracy theory from 2001 by Robie

On February 27, 1933,  a mentally deranged Dutch Communist, Martinus van der Lubbe, lit a few small fires in the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin--not enough to set the building alight, but sufficient to get him hanged as the sole perpetrator afterward.  The happenings prior to that fateful evening, and the events following it, carry some lessons for those wanting to understand September 11, 2001, and the subsequent developments.

van der Lubbe, a petty criminal and arsonist, hated the Nazis, and had bragged about intending to set the Reichstag on fire while having a beer in a pub.  The Nazi SA, with ears everywhere, found out, and, unbeknownst to van der Lubbe, an SA detachment entered the building through a disused central heating tunnel.  While the Dutchman was busy lighting insignificant fires, using his shirt as tinder, the SA planted gasoline and incendiaries, and within minutes, the Reichstag was burning out of control.  Why did the Nazis do this?

At the time, Hitler had a problem.  Based on the success of the Nazi party in the previous election, Hitler had become Reichskanzler, or Prime Minister, but he lacked a majority in both the government and the parliament.  Having no intention of playing second fiddle to his rivals, a coalition of moderate parties, he needed a decisive victory in the March 5 election.  He also was uncomfortable with the democratic process, and wanted to proceed directly to Nazi supremacy and dictatorship.

Hitler's solution was to eliminate the Communist party and its 100 deputies, which would give his Nazis a majority in the remaining parliament.  By ensuring that van der Lubbe succeeded in destroying the Reichstag, he could pronounce the fire a Communist conspiracy.  By the next morning he had secured the signature of the aging President, von Hindenburg, on legislation that changed Germany from a democracy to a tyranny.  The one hundred Communist deputies were arrested, civil rights were abrogated, and the country embraced Hitler as its Leader.

In mid-2001, the Republican government in the United States was having a problem.  It was seen as merely presiding over a recession, having accomplished nothing of significance, and it faced an uphill battle in getting the largest peacetime defense budget increase approved in Congress.  The corporate sponsors of the Bush administration were, no doubt, getting impatient: the stocks of the defense industry were still losing their value, and, lacking a credible enemy, there were serious reservations in Congress against spending more on defense.

A neoconservative think-tank, the Project for a New American Century, had the solution and made it public.  What was needed, according to the PNAC, was a "new Pearl Harbor" to unite the nation behind the PNAC's favorite pastime, war.  The powers that be began preapring for just such an event.

During the weeks prior to September 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists made it known that they were going to hit some notable landmarks in America, and hit them hard.  These boasts surfaced on the Internet, much the same as van der Lubbe's bragging in the Berlin beer hall.  Israeli intelligence warned the US government that the terrorists were planning to hijack jet liners and use them as missiles.  Much as in Germany in the '30s, help was forthcoming, and for the same reasons.

On the morning of September 11, after most of America's fighter jets had been sent to Canada for exercises, four large passenger jets with full fuel tanks went off-course over the US Northeast, and ceased communicating with Air Traffic Control.  Sounds of a struggle were overheard from the cockpit of one plane.  Passengers made cellular phone calls from two of the flights, reporting that the planes had been hijacked.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed standard procedures and informed the US Air Force, which has fighter jets ready to intercept troubled or suspicious civilian aircraft on short notice.  No higher-level approval is needed; fighter jets typically begin escorting the offending plane, and, if necessary, forcing it to land, within ten minutes of being alerted by the FAA.

But that day, the Air Force received orders from the highest levels of the Bush government not to intercept the four hijacked passenger planes.  Finally, after the first one had hit the World Trade Center in New York, a couple of fighter jets were scrambled from Boston, ensuring that they couldn't reach New York before the second impact.  A poorly rehearsed press conference by Vice-President Dick Cheney provided the public with the required misleading statements on the intercept, or rather, the lack of it.

Interestingly, in a TV interview on December 4, 2001, Laura Bush let it slip that already back in July, the White House, knowing that the country would be in mourning at the end of the year, had begun redesigning the 2001 Christmas cards on a more somber note than usual.

So far, the parallels with what happened in Germany in February 1933 are evident.  They become clearer still when we look at the results of the attacks.  Just as in Germany in1933, the text of the new Federal legislation abrogating constitutionally guaranteed civil rights was written and printed up at the time of the WTC and Pentagon attacks.  Unprecedentedly, the laws needed were enacted within less than a month after September 11, without significant opposition or debate.  Capitol Hill legislators barely bothered to read the bills they approved.  As a result, as if by flipping a switch, anyone suspected of terrorism in America is now presumed guilty until proven innocent.  The authorities are free to accuse anybody of being or supporting a terrorist.  Conveniently, terrorism has not been defined; however, it already has become clear that it includes exercising one's First Amendment rights.

Likewise, the record-breaking Federal defense budget, along with an extra $20 billion for fighting terrorism, was approved by December 8, 2001.  The shares of the defense industry began rising sharply and are rising still.  Need it be added that Mr. Cheney came from a leading position in the Carlyle Group, a large defense industry holding company, where the Bush family has substantial interests?  Need we still add that the defense supplies company Halliburton, where Mr. Cheney had recently been President, subsequently began receiving no-bid orders from the Pentagon for billions of dollars worth of goods and services?

Back in the thirties, Hitler proceeded to rearm Germany and attack his neighbors on trumped-up charges of jeopardizing German interests and mistreating German minorities.  Germany became the bully of the decade and started the Second World War.  Although Germany lost the war and Hitler committed suicide, her arms industry, including the German subsidiaries of US car giants GM and Ford, profited handsomely.  The profits due to Ford and GM were paid out after the end of the war.

Following the 9-11 attacks, President Bush readily stepped up to the challenge and declared war on terrorism on the evening news of September 11.  His battle-cry "If you're not with us, you're against us" is a round statement by a world-class bully, much like the accusations of treason Hitler liked to level at countries that attempted to preserve their independence before the onslaught of the supposedly invincible German war machine.

America has undergone a Fascist takeover, the beneficiaries of which are the owners of big business.  The system is rapidly being exported all over the world, and it is intended to become permanent.  To prevent citizens from getting in the way of the massive enrichment of the already rich, and to help them accept their new position as mere consumers and sweatshop laborers without the right to uncorrupted political representation, all objections to the process are labeled "terrorism."

Here's a quote from Douglas Reed, writing about the loss of freedom Germans experienced the night of the Reichstag fire.

When Germany awoke, a man's home was no longer his castle.  He could be seized by private individuals, could claim no protection from the police, could be indefinitely detained without preferment of charges; his property could be seized, his verbal and written communications overheard and perused; he no longer had the right to foregather with his fellow countrymen, and his newspapers might no longer freely express their opinions.

The Bush administration's 2001 anti-terrorism legislation, introduced using a similar ruse, effects the same changes in America, and is being copied in every country that has a popular or ethnic opposition to deal with.  It is a well-proven method: Roosevelt knew about, encouraged, and facilitated the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, sending the Pacific Fleet there to act as a target, keeping the local military commanders in the dark, and proscribing all defensive action.  He then used the public's outrage over the attack to draw America into WW II and provide the American arms industry with an equal opportunity to share in the proceeds of that great conflict, along with its overseas competitors.

Where Hitler's Nazis employed first a gang of ruffians, the SA, and later a sophisticated organization of sadists, the SS, to intimidate the population into submission, the Bush administration used its success on 9/11 to set up the Transport Safety Administration for the same purpose.

You may ask: What, if any, are the differences between Bush and Hitler?  Not many, but one stands out:  Hitler was elected to his office democratically.  Bush was installed against the will of the majority of US voters, through the machinations of his brother, the Florida Governor, and the Supreme Court judges appointed by his father.  Another important difference is that where Hitler, an insane megalomaniac, started a global war for ideological reasons--a war that he mercifully lost--Bush pursued and attained a much more pragmatic goal: the enrichment of America's owning class on a truly grotesque scale.  To help him in this endeavor, Bush (by his own admission not the brightest coin in the box) had the guidance of his father and the latter's Bush doctrine that stipulates that America should always have the capability to conduct two simultaneous wars, typically in the Middle East.  George H. W. Bush coined America's modern concept of war for profit.

By some calculations--taking into account not only inflation but also the costs of caring for the many injured service personnel that, thanks to modern medical science, survive to a life as invalids rather than die from their wouds--the small-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq became more costly to the US than defeating Italy, Germany, and Japan in World War II.  This, obviously, is good news for the owners of contractors and suppliers to the Pentagon.

With the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, without reaching any of the stated objectives of those campaigns, the need for new enemies became pressing.  After a brief adventure in Libya, where new tyrants were installed to succeed Moammar Ghaddafi, America turned to the next countires on its list: Syria and Iran.  Again, the bold, official objective was regime change--installing rulers more sympathetic to America and the West--while the true, down-to-earth motive remained enriching America's rich at the expense of her tax-paying middle class.  To ensure that financiers got their share of the loot, the wars were again paid for with loans that the taxpayers then had to pay back with interest.  Just like in Nazi Germany, patriotic propaganda kept the population happy about being robbed of its wealth and seeing its youth killed and maimed for the benefit of the powerful.

There's a saying, attributed to George Santayana: Those who refuse to learn from history are bound to repeat it.