Friday, December 16, 2016

Why the Federal Government isn't agile

From NextGov:

A new Homeland Security Department program promoting agile software development has hit a stumbling block.

The $1.54 billion Flexible Agile Support for the Homeland contract vehicle—a group of 13 vendors pre-approved to sell agile services to the department—has been halted by protests from at least eight companies not included on that list....

INTEGRITYOne Partners, Harmonia Holdings Group, Cybermedia Technologies, Brillient Corp., Citizant, Ventera Corp., Incentive Technology Group and BC Digital Services filed protests with the Government Accountability Office.

More here, including details on a previous agile effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And according to the article, it is anticipated that the demands of the incoming Trump Administration will spur further efforts in this vein.

(DISCLOSURE: My employer has contracts with DHS, but not under this particular vehicle.)

Verizon is building a wall - regarding the Yahoo deal

Since walls are really cool these days, especially if someone else pays for them, I figured that I'd talk about them.

But I'm going to talk about a different type of wall - a logical wall that can be erected between two companies, or even between two parts of the same company.

Let me jump back to 2008, and to a personal example. In late 2008, I was working for Motorola's Biometric Business Unit when I learned that Motorola wanted to sell this unit to a company called Safran - pending government approvals.

Now some would expect that once the announcement was made, all of the Motorola employees and all of the Safran employees would all get together and start talking about how things would work once the deal went through.

As Donald Trump would say, "WRONG!"

All of us Motorola employees were strictly cautioned that the deal might go through, or it might not. Until the deal actually went through, we were to consider Safran employees as competitors, just like we always had.

I had no idea what the Safran employees were told - again, I wasn't talking to them - but presumably they were told the same thing.

In fact, during the next few months, Motorola and Safran actually submitted competing bids for several opportunities, continuing the fierce competition month after month after month.

Several months passed, and the deal wasn't finalized yet. It was probably February 2009 when I went to a conference at the National Institute of Standards and Technology - a conference that was also attended by a Safran employee.

During a break in the proceedings, the Safran employee and I had a conversation. It went something like this.

Have you heard anything?

I heard that the deal may get done this month.

That's what I heard too.

Of course, I previously heard that the deal might get done LAST month.

Yeah, that's what I heard too.

As it turned out, the deal didn't get done in February. Or in March. Finally, on a day in early April, we at Motorola officially heard that we no longer worked for Motorola any more (and could you kindly give us our batwings back please?). Only after that could all of us work on the reorganization.

Fast-forward to the Verizon-Yahoo deal - which like all deals of this type, may or may not happen. With the most recent revelations about a billion Yahoo accounts being hacked, the chance of the deal not happening is increasing.

So Verizon has to plan for the possibility of acquiring Yahoo, and thus getting confidential information about how Yahoo operates. At the same time, Verizon has to plan for the possibility of not acquiring Yahoo, and needs to consider the ramifications of the purchase WITHOUT access to that confidential information.

So how is Verizon doing this? By creating two separate teams and walling them off from each other.

While a Verizon group led by AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong is still focused on integration planning to get Yahoo up and running, another team, walled off from the rest, is reviewing the breach disclosures and the company’s options, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

This is different from the wall that was enforced between Motorola and Safran between 2008 and 2009. In the earlier case, we were talking about two separate companies. In the Verizon case, we're talking about walling off two different groups WITHIN THE SAME COMPANY.

As it turns out, I've actually had experience with walls within a company.

But that's a Motorola trade secret.

One that I'm not allowed to disclose to Safran.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ten narcissists in U.S. Presidential history who outdo @realdonaldtrump

There are many, many disagreements between businessman-turned-President Donald Trump and his opponents. But there is one thing upon which both of them agree.

Both agree that he is an extreme narcissist - or, as Trump himself would put it, the most amazing narcissist ever.

As President-elect Trump keeps himself busy with Cabinet appointments, thank you tours, television executive producing duties, and Twitter, his opponents are apoplectic, preparing for the end of the world.

I said above that Trump would also declare HIMSELF to be an extreme narcissist. I don't know if any journalist has ever directly asked him the question, but think about it. Would he respond to the "Are you a narcissist" question by saying that he's humble? I think not.

Jeffrey Kluger, co-author of Apollo 13 (a/k/a Lost Moon) and author of the more recent book The Narcissist Next Door, addressed this very question in a listicle of facts about narcissists.

4. One of the best ways to determine if a person is a narcissist is to ask them if they are a narcissist. They will often say yes.

"In the case of a narcissist, it's often because what they're saying is 'Well yeah, if you mean do I have a high opinion of myself, I do, but that's because gosh I'm the best person I know. I deserve to have a high opinion of myself,'" Kluger said.

But is Trump truly the most amazing narcissist ever? The jobs of President and Chief Executive Officer tend to attract narcissists, and if you look at some of Trump's predecessors in the Oval Office, you'll find many have been tagged as malignant narcissists - usually by their enemies. Here are things that have been written about three living politicians:

The most shocking thing about the [event] ... was [politician's] complete obsession about [self]....[Politician's] performance is a case-study in malignant narcissism with all the attendant paranoia and disturbing inability to consider other ... human beings at the center of the [event].

Psychologically speaking, [politician] is what is called a “malignant narcissist.” ... A “malignant” narcissist ... is a narcissist who reacts sadistically to others who don’t support and enable their narcissism. For example, instead of self-reflecting and taking in critical feedback, the [politician's staff] reacts with ruthless contempt for anyone who disagrees with them. Like a mean and cruel-spirited malignant narcissist, [the politician's staff] deny the accusation and try to destroy the messenger. Ultimately, a malignant narcissist wants to annihilate anyone who in any way threatens their illusory self-image and self-serving agenda.

I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents. Primarily because of the activism and the – and the injection of working at the [major organization] and in [a list of issues]. We’re right in the midst of the – of the constant daily debate.

These quotes respectively refer to Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton, and to Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

But narcissists have their admirers. At the same time that Tammy Bruce and others criticize Clinton for self-absorption, others are awed by her:

Maybe she is more than a president. Maybe she is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself. The presidency is too small for her. She belongs to a much more elite class of Americans....Hillary Clinton did everything right in this campaign, and she won more votes than her opponent did. She won. She cannot be faulted, criticized, or analyzed for even one more second. Instead, she will be decorated as an epochal heroine far too extraordinary to be contained by the mere White House.

Narcissists, by their very force, can be captivating, and while Clinton, Bush 43, Carter, and Trump all have their enemies, they also have admirers.

But none of these hold a candle to the REAL narcissists who have resided in the White House. The Pew Research Center rated the narcissism of all of the Presidents from Washington to George W. Bush - and while the methodology of any such study can be questioned, it's probably fair to say that the people at the top of the list were/are more narcissistic than the people at the bottom of the list.

So, who topped the list?

Compared to the people at the top of this list, Trump is a nobody. Imagine Trump trying to say "You're fired" to Lyndon Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, or Andrew Jackson. Lyndon would crush Trump's anatomy, Teddy would batter him with a big stick, and General Andy would shoot him faster than Indiana Jones.

But how is someone supposed to act when he or she ends up on the staff of Donald Trump - or of Steve Jobs? Jane Brody quoted Joseph Burgo:

“The best defense for employees who choose to stay is to protect the bosses’ egos and avoid challenging them,” Dr. Burgo said in an interview. His general advice to those running up against extreme narcissists is to “remain sane and reasonable” rather than engaging them in “battles they’ll always win.”

It also helps to praise narcissists for being so wonderful - something that Vladimir Putin apparently knows very well.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Uh, @daily_express - @predsci and @Gizmodo told us about the possible 2020 solar storm in 2012

There is a chance that Donald Trump may become President of the United States!

Does this sound like old news?

Well, how about this piece, dated November 30 (yesterday), from Sean Martin of the Daily Express?

Researchers have warned that there is roughly a 12 per cent chance that a solar storm could smash into Earth by the end of the decade....

This means that satellite signals will struggle to penetrate the swollen atmosphere, leading to a lack of Internet service, GPS navigation, satellite TV such as Sky and mobile phone signal.

Obviously this would have huge implications for our modern world - and we have less than four years to prepare!

According to Martin, this prediction was made by Pete Riley of Predictive Science. And you know he's a scientist because of his URL - is your typical UNIX-like user name. We're not dealing with a DOS guy here.

And like a good scientist, Riley realizes that his calculations are approximations. According to Martin, Riley stated:

He said: “Even if it’s off by a factor of two, that’s a much larger number than I thought.”

So I went to the Predictive Science website and searched for a recent report detailing Riley's prediction - and couldn't find one.

This seemed odd, so I kept on poking around until I found this article - FROM 2012.

Pete Riley, a senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, told Gizmodo that there is roughly a 12% chance that the Earth will experience an enormous megaflare within the next ten years. "Even if it's off by a factor of two, that's a much larger number than I thought," said Riley.

Riley published his prediction in Space Weather: The International Journal of Research and Applications.

So Martin basically resurrected a four year old story. And how is the respected press covering it?

According to Express, senior scientist, Pete Riley of Predictive Science in San Diego, California said that the chance of huge solar storm by 2020 is high.

Modern-daay researchers have warned that there is a 12 percent chance that a solar storm will smash Earth in the end of this decade. This powerful event will be as big as the Carrington event which occurred in 1859, according to Express UK.

As reported by the UK’s Express , experts believe there is a one in eight chance that earth will be hit by a major solar storm before 2020, which would wipe out nearly all technology that is not hardened against EMP events – so, pretty much every piece of technology that is not owned and operated by governments.

Great scoop, Express. But what will you do when someone scoops you in 2018 and doesn't reference your "work"?

And as for Predictive Science itself, it only offered this comment.

Obviously Predictive Science doesn't put a lot of stock in Twitter. After all, USENET is just fine for scientific discussion.

#empogmgmu Part Six: Ryerson University, Pluralism, Diversity, and the Holocaust

See all the #empogmgmu posts

Actually, not all of them. Part five is here

Nothing new on the Oleg Atbashian front, and perhaps nothing new there until February. But the country of Canada, which doesn't claim George Mason as a Founding Father, is having its own issues with the Students for Justice in Palestine.

Let's start with a piece from the independent newspaper for Ryerson University. The paper is called The Eyeopener.

More than 200 students filled the Library Building’s lecture hall for the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM) on Nov. 29.

After many amendments to the order of the agenda, three motions were voted on (not including the RSU’s financial audit report for the 2015-2016 year, the agenda and meeting minutes).

Quorum was lost just under four hours into the SAGM and the meeting was adjourned. The remaining 16 motions were pushed to the RSU’s next board meeting. RSU president Obaid Ullah said the meeting will take place before the winter break.

Well, four hours is a long time, so it's understandable that students lost interest. Maybe that Bullard comedian has a new show on Canadian TV or something, and they walked out to watch it.

Actually, The Eyeopener targets the exact moment when the quorum was lost.

A motion was brought forward detailing plans for the RSU to have a Holocaust Education Week. An amendment was proposed to make the education week include education about all genocides and not just the Holocaust specifically. However, quorum was lost before a vote could be made.

Hmm, that's kind of odd. You'd think that people would stick around to talk about something like that, Israel and Palestine being in the news and all.

At least one publication thinks that the timing of the loss of the quorum was no accident:

Local members of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association reportedly staged the walkout Tuesday night during the semiannual general meeting of the Ryerson Student Union.

Unlike George Mason, the resolution was sponsored by some mainstream Jewish organizations, including Hillel and B'nai Brith. And it even had politically correct wording:

The resolution, which was submitted by a member of the Ryerson Hillel Jewish students’ group, called on the Student Union to offer annual Holocaust education programs to emphasize “the value of pluralism and the acceptance of diversity.” There was no mention of Israel.

The unfortunate outcome for SJP and MSA is that Ryerson can now be painted as an anti-pluralistic, anti-diverse, Holocaust-loving university.


See all the #empogmgmu posts