Review of Eudora Welty’s ‘The Optimist’s Daughter’

I don’t know why I had never heard of this book. It was incredible. It is not often I read a novel start to finish in a single session, but I couldn’t put it down.
The language, the prose is perfect. I am embarrased to admit I have never read a Eudora Welty book or story before, but I will read more now.
Laurel, Dr.Courtland and Judge McKelva are perfect Southern characters. And poor Wanda Fay, trailer trash before it was called that.
The funeral scene at the McKelva home is so awkward you can feel for Laurel in your heart. And a great writer makes the reader feel.
And think. The things that Wanda Fay cannot comprehend or know or value. ‘Without power of passion or imagination.’
I would love to know what becomes of Laurel. I am sure it is good.
A wonderful book. 5 Stars.

Book Review of ‘The Faulkes Chronicle’ by David Huddle

I really liked Huddle’s ‘The Writing Habit’ so decided to try one of his fiction works. Mixed opinion.
Whether by design or not, the use of ‘We’ to describe the children was confusing. Who exactly was talking? And the number of children, their names and ages and characteristics was impossible to keep straight. Maybe that is what he wanted, to show a group who were more alike than different.
I first thought it might be something like Aislinn Hunter did in ‘The World Before Us’ with all the spirits, and it was a puzzle to put together. (And incidentally, the best book I have read this year.) But with the Huddle book there is no payoff in trying to sort out the voices.
I like to pride myself in always finishing a book I start. But near the half way point I put the book down and was not going to finish it. I wasn’t enjoying it. But one night I had nothing to do, and that pride kicked in, and I tried again.
I am so very glad I did. Because the second half of this book is magic. It was a real joy to read, and I finished it in one sitting. The character sketches of Karen as a young girl are so delicate, touching and moving. Absolutely beautiful narrative. Some of the chapters could well stand as sweet short stories in themselves, not surprising as Huddle is an accomplished short story writer.
So I am happy I read this book. It is a quirky, beautifully written, loving portrait of characters and story.

Review of Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ and her False Dichotomy

Nuance is dead. I am working on an idea that we need to become more able to disagree without being disagreeable. Can we have a difference of opinion without calling each other stupid or hateful names? Not sure we can.

So I come to Ms.Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ with this thought in mind. I start by saying I think she is well intentioned. The slogans she passes off give way to a real concern for the planet, our society, and what we are leaving behind for our children. She means well.

I am not a climate change denier. Although I consider myself conservative, even Libertarian, I am not an ostrich hiding my head in the sand. I think that Climate Change and finding a solution to this problem will be the defining issue of our time. And a good book to read on the subject is “The Rough Guide to Climate Change” by Robert Henson.

We look back on history and we wonder: Did the Inca civilization see the collapse coming that took them down? Did the Mayas of South America see it coming? Did the leaders on Easter Island have some idea of their imminent collapse? Were the Romans aware that their society was in decline? Will we see the signs and be able to avert our collapse?

Climate Change could bring about a similar collapse to our entire world. Ms.Klein documents well the issues, the costs, the current political situation. That some many on the right of the political spectrum are in denial is disappointing to say the least.
But the failure in this book is not in describing Climate Change or calling for us to address it. The failure is that Ms.Klein creates a false dichotomy that there is a choice between addressing the Climate Change issue or continuing with Capitalism. How she makes that mental leap is impossible to follow. I think it is a supposition and position she brings to the effort. It was already decided before she started to write. Which is a shame.
The extreme left, including Ms.Klein and her husband Ari Lewis (who made a movie of the book at the same time), hate Capitalism. And hate is such an awful thing. It eats up the hater more than the hated. It clouds vision, twists judgment, impairs thinking, leads to lazy logic and makes rational discussion impossible.
Ms.Klein makes the mistake to think that only by abandoning our economic and political freedoms will be be able to solve climate change. She sees addressing climate change as an opportunity to address every social ill she can conceive of adding to her laundry list. It goes so far in the wrong direction I wonder if she really cares about addressing climate change?
Why would you try to load down addressing climate change with so much extra baggage and costs?
When we fought Polio, we fought polio. We didn’t try to change peoples religious beliefs.
When we see cholera outbreaks, we know that people need clean water. We don’t say they need a new political or economic order.
When we fought fascism and the Nazi scourge we didn’t abandon our freedoms to make the case we couldn’t win with free speech and economic liberty holding us back. These are the things we fought for.
Yet Ms.Klein would have us abandon Capitalism, free enterprise and most individual freedoms to address climate change. Which leads to understanding why.
Ms.Klein has a comment where she accuses her political opponents of ‘Arrogant Ignorance’. Yet reading her book, it is impossible to see that she has any understanding of economics, or even a basic understanding of budgeting and book keeping. She dismisses Free Trade agreements without even lip service to why the vast majority of economists know they are a good idea: Free trade lowers costs of goods and services to everyone.
She suggests that Western governments subsidize Oil and mineral extraction, when the exact opposite is obvious. When Oil and commodities fall governments all over the world are impacted by falling revenues. Governments are addicted to the money they take from Oil and gas taxes.
She means well. Climate change needs to be addressed. The way to address it is to reduce the amount of Carbon Dioxide we push into the atmosphere. Start with that truth. Start with half of the CO2 created is for transportation. Cars, Trucks, Trains, Ships and Air craft. How can we reduce this? Not even a hint in her book.
Steven Covey used to say ‘Start with the Big Rocks.’ That is a good approach. We need someone to start at the beginning and look at these big rocks. With a blank sheet of paper and no dogmatic preconceived solutions. This is a big problem people. We need to bring our best and brightest to bare on it. Our civilization depends on it.

Canada after the Next Election

I watched the economic debate in the Canadian election tonight. I thought it was a tie between Harper and Mulcair. I did notice how Justin Trudeau kept interupting other speakers where Harper and Mulcair didn’t , and I wondered if Trudeau was running for ‘Heckler in Chief’ rather than PM.
Half way through my wife, who isn’t political,  said she couldn’t stand listening to Justin Trudeau and I thought it was just me. And then my son came home and asked me who I was voting for. I said probably Harper ’cause I thought the other two were idiots. But I quickly corrected that. I said the guy on the left (Trudeau) was an idiot, but the guy in the middle (Mulcair) I just totally disagreed with his policies. Mulcair had won me over.
And then a light came on. Everyone in Canada is assuming that if there is a Minority Government that the Liberals and the NDP will line up, defeat the Conservatives, and form a government. But I think I saw something different tonight.
Harper and Mulcair are long game players. Trudeau is risking all on a short term play. And if he loses, the other two will be positioned to finish him off.
Suppose a minority as most assume will happen. The Conservatives and the NDP will be in a position to slice and dice the Liberal base. ‘Tom, you take the urban progressives, I will take the suburban famililies.’ Says Harper.
‘OK’ says Tom. ‘I want the Environmental crowd, you can have the recent immigrants’.
‘OK. And Quebec?’
‘I own it’ says Tom. ‘Think you can take it?’
‘Let me sleep on that’ say Harper. ‘The East coast?’
‘We added 30 seats this year. That is the East coast. Add 30 more , who cares.’

So they write up some legislation that divides up the population as suggested. Trudeau doesn’t know which side to take, cause, he isn’t supposed to know.

And with that Harper’s vision of a two party state moves towards reality. And Mulcair and the NDP become the opposition forever. And the Government in waiting.

Climate Change Denial and the Right

Like a Catholic who believes in a woman’s right to choose or a Liberal who believes they have the right to own a rifle, a Conservative who believes in man caused Climate Change learns to keep her mouth shut.

Standing up to oppose that prevailing orthodox opinion can be dangerous. Copernicus nearly died in an Inquisition hell hole for suggesting the Earth was not the center of the universe. Some people just do not want to listen to another point of view.

So where did Copernicus find the courage? For I am looking for a bit of it, as I really believe it is time for the political right to stop the Ostrich head in the sand routine of denying climate change. It is hurting their cause and the party as surely as it is hurting the environment. And to suggest a re-evaluation of that position is sure to attract venom.

I am going to try a reasoned approach. I will start by coming out as a Conservative myself. Right of center, leaning towards Libertarian at times. The least government is the best government. Lower taxes are best, within reason. The free market and capitalism are the drivers of our economy and should be unobstructed as much as possible. Decisions should be made as close to the people affected as practical ; So by the individual if possible, the family, the neighborhood, the community, etc, moving up through levels of government.

Being a conservative does not mean I agree with the whole climate change denial meme that seems to be an integral part of the right wing way of thinking. In fact, as a person who studied Science my first year in University, my reading suggests the debate is all but over. At least among scientists a consensus exists.

So what is at the root of this misguided opinion and approach?
There is a wariness of large government at the core of conservative thought.
There is a hatred of socialism.
There is a belief in wide open capitalism and free enterprise.
And there is a guard up always looking for the left wing to use any and all issues to advance their high tax, big government reach.
They see Global warming as the Trojan horse that the socialists will use to invade and destroy our civilization.

When you see Jane Fonda and Naomi Klein sharing a stage with David Suzuki and Maude Barlow to protest climate change, as we did this week, you know they are not far off the truth. These are people who have targeted Capitalism and Free Enterprise as the cause of all evil in the world. If they were protesting that the sun will come up tomorrow morning in the East, I would have reason to doubt their motivations.

The biggest problem the left have is their Holy Grail, the Kyoto Accord, doesn’t include China, India , the United states, or any of the six largest countries in the world that make up half the population. Half the world is exempt from Kyoto. We need a deal that every country is included in.

But by refusing to engage in the conversation Conservatives have left the field to the extremists. There are no reasonable voices.

The analogy I like is to look back to when polio was running rampant in the world. We came together to seek a solution. I assume we didn’t get dogmatic that governments should not be part of the solution. Certainly when World War II was raging, we recognized that government had a role to play.
And we have addressed previous climate issues like smog, ozone holes and acid rain without abandoning free enterprise and Capitalism. I am sure we can address climate change without doing it now. But we need to make the case before the left wins the debate by default.

Cigarettes kill. We recognize that now. But the people who fought for the tobacco companies are now fighting climate change. It is time for those men to retire, as it always comes time for the Dogs of War to put down their weapons.

Include link to Mauna Loa CO2:

CO2 Chart

References

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC . Www.ipcc.ch
Global Climate Change Coalition – Skeptic
Www.worldclimatereport.com Pat Michaels – Skeptic
The Rough Guide to Climate Change . Robert Henson
Six largest nations by population. http://t.co/Y4215Ervef
China adding 1 coal plant per week. Energydesk.greenpeace.org
China Coal for Electricity. http://www.chinafaqs.org/issue/coal-electricity
Climate Change Consensus. https://www.ted.com/speakers/naomi_oreskes
History of Polio Eradication. http://www.polioeradication.org/Polioandprevention/Historyofpolio.aspx

Hair, Canada’s Election and Our Values

This morning I woke up to read an opinion piece by Margaret Atwood criticizing Steven Harper’s hair. I looked for a metaphor, an analogy, a parallel structure to one of the great issues of our times. It’s not there. And for a stark moment I was horrified. The Left, the Harper Haters, the Annex dwellers are Right! If this Conservative government has pulled Ms. Atwood down to this level then they really have destroyed the Canada I love.
But no. A quick Google search shows that her editors had pulled out some possibly defamatory material about Harper’s Leadership expenses and where his loyalties might lay. Ms. Atwood has not been felled, and Canada is not destroyed.
His critics give Mr. Harper, and any government, too much credit. Governments don’t radically change the structures, ethics and history of a country. Not in one or two terms anyways.
A government is more like a jacket the country puts on. A Business suit today, overalls tomorrow. In the past we had a tie-died flower power government that ruined the oil industry, but it did not change our federation. I may be as embarrased to look back on that government as I am to look back at myself in the Nehru jacket I wore around the same time. But today I am still a good man and Canada is still a good country.
I know that a government affects how we see ourselves and how the world sees us; Which is not to say governments are cosmetic. Our outer appearance projects and affects our national attitude.
Right now we are wearing business attire. We are window shopping. Strolling down mainstreet considering a change. Have we grown out of this jacket? Is it time for a more modern look? Something a little more comfortable?
But the man or woman under these clothes is still the same. Strong, Proud, Intelligent, Entreprenuerial, Industrious, Engaged. Compassionate. Loving even. A good man with a good head on his shoulders and a good heart.
His clothes need a good dry clean or a patch at least. Or possibly as the seasons change it is time for a new suit. And maybe a haircut.

Perfect vs Process

Perfect vs Process

There is pressure to make sure everything we deliver is great. Polished, professional, reflecting the near perfect brand our businesses want presented into the market place. So as I work a certain project document through a second or third draft, I am torn whether or when I should share it; With the team, With my peers, With the customer.

I have worked in the Free and Open Source Software community where the mantra is ‘Release early and often.’ It creates a tight feedback loop and involves users and developers closely working together. I like the results and so am tempted to use the same strategy in development of business related projects.

But ‘the Business’ does not like to have anything coming out that is less than perfect. To put a proposal out that is half-baked at best is a quick way to sideline your career. But if that same proposal has not had feedback from the team that must implement it or from the end customer, it risks missing the mark. And I have seen far too many proposals miss the mark, by a country mile.

What is the happy medium here? When can we safely move away from Marketing material and dive into Solution development? When is the right time to set aside our ‘We know best’ attitude and begin real collaboration to develop real solutions?

It is hard. Usually we are being paid as professionals. At a professional rate. And we are expected to be the Experts. That is why we are here. How does a professional open up their process to allow teams and customers to influence the outcome?

The Project Management community has a concept called ‘Progressive Elaboration’ where the team continually work on details for tasks, deliverables and time-lines. The plan gets more elaborate as we go. But it means admitting up front we do not have all the answers. And to some cultures that is like fingernails on a chalk board.

I am sold on the iterative process of sharing documents and ideas as soon as possible. I have seen good results, so I will continue to do so. But I understand the wariness to the approach. I am certain some things need to be developed behind the scenes. They say if you ever see sausages being made you will never eat them again.

Danny Aldham

References:

“The Cathedral and the Bazaar” . Eric Raymond

Rolling wave planning and Agile software development https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_Wave_planning

Shy Conservatives? Or the Right being driven underground.

We saw a phenomenon in the recent British election of Labour polling numbers much higher than they finally saw on election day. What finally happened was the minority Conservatives won an outright majority. A similar thing happened in the last British Columbia election.

What happened with those polling numbers showing a Labour win? I have an idea. And I think it could happen federally in Canada in the fall.

We live in a left leaning politically correct world. The language, the positions, the policies that the media have made acceptable are left of center. That is a given.
We also live in a world where people get passionately, even irrationally, invested in their positions. Nuance and compromise are dead.

And in Canada, we live with people who are so full of hate, anger and venom at the current Conservative government it can be daunting to stand up in support for their positions and policies.

Nobody is militant for the status quo. There is nobody screaming that the sun WILL come up tomorrow. Nobody pounds the drum that the average net worth of Canadians is up, considerably. What would be the point? It would only draw fire.

And why would any sane supporter of the status quo try to engage in a conversation with hatefull, eyes bulging, vein throbbing crazies ranting about Harper and their latest perceived offence of the week.

It is so much easier to just be quiet and to go about your day to day life. Keep your head down, tune out the mouth frothing haters, and wait for you turn to mark an X on the ballot.

When I walk down the street and see a seriously mental ill or drug addled person screaming about some perceived injustice or conspiracy, I don’t feel compelled to engage that poor soul in a conversation. Similarly I don’t feel compelled to engage with the ranting haters.

I will go underground. I will keep my politically center point of view to myself and trust that millions of similar thinking middle class Canadian voters will do the same. And on election day I will quietly go to the poll and mark an X beside the status quo. It is working for me. And the frothers frighten me.