Ethical Commitment

by Terry 9/18/2008 9:58:00 AM

I normally do not discuss my work in my journal. This is generally to draw a clear line and avoid any conflict of interest. Ironically, this post is an exception. I say ironically because I what I am discussing is about ethical commitment and mandated training I am attending today. The first irony is that I am violating my ethics to discuss my employer, while I am undergoing an exercise in ethics and ethical behavior.

My company is committed to exemplary ethical behavior. I find the training difficult to bear, but the corporate culture prevents rational discussion on the topic and is therefore the second irony. My company expects maximum diversity of ideas, open channels of communication, and elimination of intimidation. We cannot compromise the company values. The problem is that by accepting maximum diversity you potentially place your values at risk. As an example, by pointing out this risk-by-diversity issue, I am met with a polite wall of disagreement that ends the discussion; no one can discuss that this contradiction exists, or why. It is not tolerated; no one is rude, it is just not allowed to be discussed.

I am not saying the company should act or tolerate unethical behavior. In fact, I believe the company should be held to high ethical standards. What I find difficult is the intolerance to intolerance and over-acceptance of diversity. Not all avenues and ideas are relevant, and clearly not all things can be accepted in the name of diversity. See Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. If you demand diversity, you will eventually regret what you have to endure.

For example, let’s say everyone is required to adhere to a test. At some point a group starts to routinely fail the test and demand an exception. A review is conducted and it is determined a different test applies to the group, so an exception is made.  One day a person fails the test, and demands to be treated under the exception. When two test exist that are potentially mutually exclusive, which one wins?

Now replace the words ‘test’ with ‘law’ and 'fail' with 'break' in the paragraph above. For a real-world example, see “Britain Adopts Islamic Law, Gives Sharia Courts Full Power to Rule on Civil Cases”:

“Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: ‘If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.’”

My company training also focuses on ethical behavior through open discussion, honesty and agreement that actions remain within company standards. This is the melting-pot concept that made the United States so successful at its birth. You became American, regardless of your origin, but never forced to abandon heritage. Placing diversity above all else makes becoming an American secondary, which creates contradictions. Corporate culture has the same issue. A company should focus on its goals and standards; through open discussion, honesty and agreement that actions remain within company standards. Diversity is acceptable, but not at the expense of the corporate culture.

I applaud my company’s effort to instill and remind its diverse employees there is a standard of acceptable corporate culture and behavior; I just wish the company would drop the blind acceptance of diversity as the ideal of this culture.

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Opinion | Personal

Fear Induced Tyranny

by Terry 8/12/2008 8:10:00 AM

This morning I read on Robert Bruce Thompson’s web site his comments [ttgnet.com, MakeZine.com] on an article in the Worcester, Massachusetts, Telegram; Chemist allowed to go home, sans his lab. Apparently, Mr. Deeb, a retired chemist had a chemistry lab in his basement, conducting experiment possibly in support of patents he owns. His lab was seized after fire-fighters responded to an unrelated call.

Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro’s code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

“It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” she said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. … There are regulations about how much you’re supposed to have, how it’s detained, how it’s disposed of.”

Mr. Deeb’s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties.

Because Mr. Deeb is being cooperative, he is not being charged. Not yet.

The comment, “I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere”, is pure fear and ignorance.

You see, we ain’t sure if he’s done wrong, but we’s sure can’t let him have this stuff. It may be dangerous and we don’t think he’s qualified.

So, without apparent warrant, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has executed some hidden authority to dismantle and dispose of Mr. Deeb’s personal property and, while doing so, look for possible violations of some regulation or zoning law.

To my understanding, typically a zoning violation is met with a request to become compliant before the authorities step in. Stepping in and looking for violation is disturbing at best.

Whether this is tyranny or not, I cannot say for sure, as I do not have all the facts. Greg Laden contrasts this in his comments. At the very least, it is a slippery-slope case; once the powers-that-be step on this slope, the slide down begins.

Karen, my wife, suggested, strongly, I should at least discuss my desire to build a lab in my garage with the local fire department. I am glad I did so. I met with a couple of firemen and the fire chief for half an hour discussing my plans, providing the list of chemicals and quantities I would likely have an storage plans. They were encouraging and supportive. I accepted and implemented their recommendations. Meeting with the fire department gave me some sense of relief that my local fire department and officials are still sane.

I certainly do not want to have what happened to Mr. Deeb happen to me. But I will not bow to fear.

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chemistry | Opinion | Policy | Snoqualmie

Money bad, guns okay

by Terry 6/4/2008 1:51:00 PM

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080604/od_nm/brazil_prisoner_odd_dc_1
TV, guns, fridges - prisoner had it all

<snip>He said he was not surprised that kidnappings, murders, and drug trafficking were being directed from inside the jail. "The surprise was finding 280,000 reais ($172,000) inside a cell."</snip>

I guess finding money in a prison cell is a sign of bad management, but the guns…no big deal?

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Opinion | Personal

CO2 may be good

by Terry 5/29/2008 10:27:00 AM

I read Freeman Dyson’s review of A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies, by William Nordhaus, earlier this week. Afterwards, I started wondering about the historical, or rather pre-historical, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This morning I saw, on Jerry Pournelle’s journal, a link to a sourced article, The Past and Future of Climate, by David Archibald, which presents data related to that very question.

All of this really means we need more research before we race to go Do Something. That is, we should have a much better understanding on what exactly is happening and what human measures will have, if any, before enacting costly change.

For example, reading the two articles makes me ask, if an increase in atmospheric CO2 increases plant growth, and seasonal plant growth measurably decreases CO2 levels, what impact will increase growth rates have on global CO2 levels? If the answer is obvious, then think about the possible variables. I do not see any certainty. For example, if the earth is still warming or even cooling, from, say, a change in solar activity, how will this affect growing season length and carbon uptake? Will a cooling period be buffered by increase plant growth, despite shorter seasons? What is the possible economic impact?

The science is not settled. Nullius in Verba indeed.

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Climate Change | Opinion

Political climate changes

by Terry 5/6/2008 4:16:00 PM

I updated my Climate Change page (http://www.nerva.com/page/Global-Climate-Change.aspx) a couple of times this week. There is increasing awareness that Al Gore and Political Scientist (I am using the term jokingly) Dr. James Hansen, are largely full of crap. It is amazing what you can prove by repeated assertion and making up your data.

I will never argue against the idea the Earth is not experiencing climate change. In fact I will argue for it. But I disagree that the ‘evidence’ is explicitly pointing to a global warming catastrophe in the next few decades or even centuries. To make that case, there needs to be more research and lots of verifiable data; data that can be constantly re-verified and validated. What we have now is in large part religious fervor drowning out any opposing views.

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Climate Change | Opinion | Policy

Blu-Ray is kind of blue

by Terry 5/1/2008 11:09:00 AM

Demise of HD DVD hasn't helped Blu-ray player sales
<snip>"When we surveyed consumers late last year, an overwhelming number of them said they weren't investing in a new next-generation player because their old DVD player worked well and next-generation players were too expensive."</snip>

I am not surprised by this. I have a 37” HDTV. I like it. I have a reasonable DVD player. It up-scales to the HD resolutions, but it is just a plain DVD player otherwise. I have watched HD Blu-ray movies at a friend’s home. I was not impressed enough to replace my DVD player.

If I were inclined to get a Sony Play Station (PS3), I would do that then buy a Blu-ray player. The costs are such that it would make some sense. I have no want or need for a PS3 or any other game controller in my home.

Karen did like the Wii. We almost purchased one a month or two ago. It turns out that the local pub, Finaghty’s, has one that we can play, and kids are allowed in the pub until mid-evening, and a few friends have Wiis too. This fills our needs more than enough and is a lot less costly for my single income.

Then there is the higher cost and smaller selection of Blu-ray movies to choose from.

So, I am not surprised that Blu-ray is not exploding with growth. This is not a replacement for DVDs like DVDs were a replacement for VHS.

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Opinion | Snoqualmie

Cultural Weapons of Mass Distraction

by Terry 4/28/2008 11:25:00 AM

It is interesting how little effort may actually be needed to make an impact. The power in the weapon (Cultural Weapons of Mass Distraction) is implied in the comments made by the Iranian officials and clerics.

Official sees "destructive" Barbie influence
<snip> TEHRAN (Reuters) - Imports of Barbie dolls and other Western toys will have destructive cultural and social consequences in Iran, the Islamic Republic's top prosecutor was quoted as saying on Monday.</snip>

<snip>Najafabadi, a high-ranking cleric, said Iran was the world's third biggest importer of toys and suggested this posed a threat to the "personality and identity" of the new generation."The unrestrained entry of this sort of imported toys ... will bring destructive cultural and social consequences in their wake," he wrote.</snip>

Cultural Weapons of Mass Distraction are imported into Iran, with no apparent influence from the western governments. Even if there were western government influence, it would be hard for the majority of the UN membership nations to see any kind of toy give-away as a declaration of war. If I had any control over Western Europe, I would start funding a toys-to-the-middle-east program as long-term insurance from immigration.

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Opinion

X-Prize for animal-free meat

by Terry 4/28/2008 9:42:00 AM

PETA Offers $1 Million Reward to First to Make In Vitro Meat
<snip>Scientists around the world are researching or seeking the funds to research ways to produce meat in the laboratory—without killing any animals.</snip>

I bet this would produce really good veal. Of course this is to reduce the general cruelty of slaughtering “40 billion chickens, fish, pigs and cows” in the United States. This begs the question, what to do with all the animals? I guess there will be a demand on neutering.

The end of the article, while not intending so, I am sure, has a sweet bit of irony.

<snip>Judging of taste and texture will be performed by a panel of 10 PETA judges, who will sample the in vitro chicken prepared using a fried "chicken" recipe from VegCooking.com.</snip>

Is it right to have vegetarian judges using a vegetarian recipe rate a meat dish? I would go for the executive of Tyson Chicken as judges.

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Opinion

Scientific American and Rethinking Nuclear Fuel Recycling

by Terry 4/22/2008 1:02:00 PM

I do not have a subscription to Scientific American. I saw this article in the checkout lane at the grocer near my home.

Rethinking Nuclear Fuel Recycling: Scientific American
<snip>But reprocessing is very expensive. Also, spent fuel emits lethal radiation, whereas separated plutonium can be handled easily. So reprocessing invites the possibility that terrorists might steal plutonium and construct an atom bomb.

The author argues against reprocessing and for storing the waste in casks until an underground repository is ready</snip>

I think this is interesting. If I were a terrorist, I would go after far easier toxics to inflict damage or incite terror. Particularly, I would pursue items that would attract minimal attention in acquisition. Nuclear waste is rather high profile. Home Depot has enough raw materials for a creative terrorist, no? I would think it relatively easy to secure a 200 acre facility to protect the few items of interest on site. This is technical issue.

I also think the processing of radioactive materials into, say, blocks of glass, is an engineering issue; far simpler and less costly than Yucca Mountain, for example. Hanford in eastern Washington has had its issues, but is the issue political, in implementation or outright bad engineering? Even if it is all of these, it must be far less expensive to dilute radioactive materials in glass blocks to the point where they are nearly as radioactive as the ore originally pulled from the Earth than to build a mile deep hole in the ground that has never been filled. A barely radioactive 100kg block of glass is not a tempting item for a terrorist to steal.

I do agree it is a bad idea to leave concentrated materials sitting around in a barrel.

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Policy | Opinion

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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