Archive for Life at scale

Can We Please Just Do The Obvious?

For anyone who’s managed to miss the news for the past 6 months, the southeast US is in a 100-year drought. As we are wont to do in such cases, we have ignored this for the past several years until now all our lakes and reservoirs are nearly empty. Suddenly, we have a crisis.

Imagine that.

So what do our vaunted civil servants do in this precarious situation? They implement outdoor watering bans. They argue with other states. They complain to the Army Corps of Engineers. They shutdown car washes and landscape companies. They go on TV and tell us how dreadful it is, and how sorry they are that people must lose jobs, and that they just can’t help this awful, awful situation.

All the while they completely ignore the blindingly obvious, brain-dead simple, straightforward, and guaranteed 100% foolproof solution to the problem. Any 3rd-grader could suggest this.

Raise the price of water!!!

Oh, I know we can’t raise the price. After all, it’s completely unfair to the poor.

Bullshit.

The average person can live comfortably on 1,000 gallons/month. They don’t even need to be particularly conservative to do that. We could probably survive well on 750, but let’s say 1,000 to be compassionate. So for a family of four you need 4,000 gallons.

Let’s be really, really compassionate for the poor. Set the price for the first 5,000 gallons at $10. Set the price for the next 1,000 at $10. That’s $20 for up to 6,000 gallons – enough to serve a family of 7.

Set the price for the next 1,000 at $20. The next 1,000 at $30 and so on. At 10,000 gallons you’re paying $150. By the time you get to 15,000 gallons (a typical amount of water used in one month watering a yard) the cost is now $550. Nobody gets a pass. Everybody pays.

You think people won’t stop using excess water once they get a $550 bill? I sure will. If they won’t (or don’t), raise the incremental price to $20 per thousand. I don’t know anyone who would spend $1,100/mo on water. If you have that kind of money more power to you – there aren’t going to be enough of you to significantly raise total usage and we can all get on with our lives without these self-serving, jackass politicians grandstanding on TV with all their new emergency regulations.

Car wash owners would have to run out and change their coin-ops from $2 to $10. Or $20. That will hurt business, but people who want to spend $10 or $20 can still wash their car now and then. And maybe the owners will figure out they need to recycle. Ditto for industrial users and the power company. Office building managers will have to figure out how to actually operate their sprinkler systems, or turn them off. And landscapers will have to stop guaranteeing their plants. But we’ll get over it.

It’s absurd to try and reduce the use of limited resources in every way imaginable except the one way that is best designed for managing limited resources – economics.

But this is the government. I wish I could be surprised.

IBM Rumored to be Planning Unprecedented Offshoring Switch for 2007

I worked for IBM from 1995 to 1998. During that time I met some great people and had the privilege of working on more than one world-class project. As part of the benefits package I was allowed to buy IBM stock at a discount, and I did so. A few years ago I sold the stock off, as it had stagnated for a while and my general fondness for the company had dwindled. I still have friends there, many of them working for IBM Global Services. Now Robert Cringely reports that Big Blue is planning to axe more than 100,000 people from IGS, moving all the work offshore:

I, Cringely:The Pulpit – Lean and Mean

[…]
The IBM project I am writing about is called LEAN and the first manifestation of LEAN was this week’s 1,300 layoffs at Global Services, which generated almost no press. Thirteen hundred layoffs from a company with more than 350,000 workers is nothing, so the yawning press reaction is not unexpected. But this week’s “job action,” as they refer to it inside IBM management, was as much as anything a rehearsal for what I understand are another 100,000+ layoffs to follow, each dribbled out until some reporter (that would be me) notices the growing trend, then dumped en masse when the jig is up, but no later than the end of this year.[…]

This cannot be good. As Cringely notes, offshoring of this scale creates massive communication and support problems – at least if the customer is in the US. My experience with BellSouth’s lame, dysfunctional, globalized tech support has been a disaster. Dell, same story. In fact, if you have ever had a good experience with offshore tech support I’d like to hear about it. But more importantly, if Cringely is right IBM management is going to axe 100,000 jobs knowing full well that it may cripple the company. I don’t care if the stock price rockets upward for some brief period. I’m glad I no longer have any financial stake in Big Blue.

Should a President Expect Congressmen to Read the Bills They Pass?

Politico.com is having a public poll to help determine questions to be asked of candidates in tomorrow’s Republican Presidential Candidate Debate. I just cast my vote for the question:

Do you believe that Congress should have to read the bills they pass? In other words, do you support adoption of the “Read the Bills Act”?

There are many important issues but, frankly, none of them matter if we don’t get some way of forcing politicians to actually read, understand, and acknowledge the full contents of bills for which they vote. At present, Congress camouflages bills with euphemistic, patriotic-sounding names that are completely irrelevant to the contents and impact. But the name is just about all most Congressmen know about a bill before they vote on it.

Whether your issue is Iraq, torture, WMDs, global warming, or whatever you should understand that as long as Congress keeps score by how many bills they pass, and that in most cases they have absolutely no clue what’s actually in the bills on which they vote, your issue is never, ever going to be treated in the open fashion any and every serious issue deserves.

If you’re interested, go to Politico.com and cast your vote for the questions you think are important, or submit one of your own.