Quick Roundup 257

Monday, October 15, 2007

Guilt vs. Productivity

The Software Nerd writes a very good post about a life lesson he learned as a young software developer:

We were down to our Nth extension... we were going to have the project ready in a week (yeah, sure!), when a new, experienced project manager took over. He spent a few days talking to the team and understanding what was going on. Then, a day before the deadline, we were to meet the customers [by now we hated them] to discuss the hand-over to QA.

The new project manager told us that we would not hand over. He refused to let us meet the deadline when we knew we'd taken still more shortcuts. In the meeting, he told the customer that he was sorry that things had gone the way they had but he had taken over the project and he would not deliver to a deadline like this. The customer tried all his "you promised" tricks, but there was no budging.
How did this situation come about? How did it end? Well, the fact that the man does still refer to himself as the "Software Nerd" is something of a spoiler there!

What I like about the story is that the experienced manager successfully turned a floundering project around and made his team far better in the process -- by getting them to understand why what they were doing was wrong.

Good management isn't about strong-arming people into doing things or watching people like a hawk. A big part of it is to help your employees grow so that they regard the goals of your business as personally important -- and have the necessary understanding of how your business works so they can help it (and themselves) along.

There are quite a few lessons like this I wish I had learned much earlier from such a boss, but then most of us are probably in the same boat.

Yes. The emperor has no clothes.

I saw this a long time ago and meant to blog it then. Better late than never.

I regard a bottle with a label -- I mean bottled water -- at $0.55 to be incredibly wasteful in many situations, but $55.00 a bottle in the middle of an American city is completely inane.

Can we say, "psychological projection"? I knew you could!

I spotted this bile stain through Randex this morning. Initially, I was indignant that someone who is at least a decent writer was able to weave together so seamlessly all the standard smears, misconceptions, and outright lies about Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

But then I realized that the piece was actually quite enlightening and instructive on the level of what it says about its author, one "Morbo" (who has been outed according to one commenter). The piece exemplifies all the most strident (and false) objections Morbo raises to Ayn Rand.

Let's explore just a few from the second paragraph:
If you've never read it, "Atlas Shrugged" is a work of fiction that explores Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, a kind of personal fascism based on the premise that selfishness is a virtue, government regulation is always bad and taxation and social welfare programs are a great moral evil. In "Atlas Shrugged," characters frequently offer up extended rants outlining the virtues of finding new ways to shaft your fellow human being. One of them goes on for something like 50 pages. This is considered the centerpiece of the novel.
To start with, "Morbo" apparently should consult a dictionary about the meaning of the word, "rant". I'll do the honors:
1. to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave: The demagogue ranted for hours.
–verb (used with object)
2. to utter or declaim in a ranting manner.
3. ranting, extravagant, or violent declamation.
4. a ranting utterance. [formatting removed]
Not only does Morbo fail to provide a single example of anything from any one of the speeches (even the one that lasts for 50 pages) to show why he regards any of them as a "rant", but the paragraph cited above serves as a far better example of "ranting" than anything that occurs on the pages of Atlas Shrugged. And Morbo goes on like this for over 800 words. A saying about people hating in others what reminds them (for whatever reason) of what they hate about themselves comes to mind here.

Morbo later rants that, "[Ayn Rand] opined that the greatest painter who ever lived was the Dutch master Vermeer. Why? Well, because Rand said so." If there is one thing I have never gotten in the twenty years of my acquaintance with the works of Ayn Rand, it's a demand for me to take something on her word. I agree with Morbo that to ask someone to do this is intellectual venality, but the one doing this is Morbo, not Ayn Rand.

In the paragraph above, for example, he asserts that Objectivists hold that "government regulation is always bad". Not true. Government regulation is actually good and necessary when it protects individual rights. Laws against fraudulent activity come to mind. Or at least that's what I thought until "Morbo" said so otherwise.

And then there's the matter of "shaft[ing] your fellow human being". Morbo clearly intends to prejudice his readers against even picking up one of Rand's novels. He fails to even adequately summarize Rand's views and offers no actual arguments even against the cardboard cut-out -- speaking of projection -- of Rand's views he foists on his readers.

But if the novel is so weak, why is Morbo writing about it at all? Well, yes, it has "impact", but Morbo has already helpfully told us that it influences only mental weaklings. What match is an army of mindless Randroids against thinking adults, anyway? Well, note that the novel remains so popular fifty years after publication that even a sourpuss like Morbo has to take note. A sympathetic commenter even says that, "[T]he Ayn Rand section is almost as large as porn in used book stores."

This novel has obviously brought pleasure, if not enlightenment, to millions of readers over the years. It is as if Morbo seeks to impose his own life-hating brand of "personal fascism" on anyone who might happen by lest they learn of a view of life delightfully sunnier than his, and well within reach.

Sadly for Morbo, it is his view that one's existence it is, as Hobbes would put it, "nasty, brutish, and short". He hates this and attributes his own miserable sense of life to Ayn Rand in the hopes that others will remain in the dark and share his misery.

Good show. Or exhibition, anyway.

-- CAV

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