David Thompson


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October 25, 2013


Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

14-year-old Finn tries to sell the planet's most expensive internet domain.

It's not as if he's committing fraud.


Goblin Shark was the inspiration for the Kaiju "Knifehead" in Pacific Rim.


Very impressed by BatDad and the Halloween costume.

Not sure about the baby shower vagina cakes though.


Very impressed by BatDad and the Halloween costume.

Yes, the costume is rather special. I mean, if you saw this thing coming towards you, you’d reach for the bag of treats straight away. Then throw it as a diversion.

Regarding BatDad, I can’t help feeling a twinge of sympathy for his long-suffering wife.


Sunny "wrong again" Hundal heads for academia.



Sunny “wrong again” Hundal heads for academia.

“Journalist in residence.” Oh my.


The lines of code estimate for Healthcare.gov strikes me as implausible. Slate's take is good on the whole question of LOC as a measurement. But I find it hard to believe that one can come up with any measurement of LOC by which Healthcare.gov requires 500 million, unless one were to measure every line of every compiler and interpreter used for the servers, compilers, interpreters, and databases, perhaps not even then.

Rich Rostrom

L-train, Chicago, 1967. One of these.

The corner of Wabash and Lake, looking south along Wabash. I note several platform-level exits to adjacent buildings that aren't there any more (the exits, not the buildings).

BTW, that stretch of track was used to film the "Battle on the El Train" sequence in Spider-Man II. I worked in an office overlooking the site at the time.

FYI - the second link in the item is to the top of the archive of ChicagoPast. Does "one of these" mean "an item from that archive"?


But I find it hard to believe that one can come up with any measurement of LOC by which Healthcare.gov requires 500 million

The operative word here is "requires."

I worked as a gubmint contractor 1997-99 in IT (tech writer, not coder), and I can assure you that whatever insane thing you've heard about the coding is probably an understatement.

Even if we set aside the fact that the contractors (CGI) were fired by the Canadian gubmint twice (national and provincial) for incompetence and that they got a no-bid contract for healthcare.gov [insert "designed to fail" theory here], the absolute hell that the gubmint side inflicts on contractors is sufficient to explain any and all kludges.

My educated guesses about the conditions:

The front end and back end were built by different entitities (true fact). Instead of communicating directly with each other, they'd have been instructed to direct all inquiries to a single point-of contact (PoC), who would have relayed the info to the relevant entities. Theoretically, anyway.

The requirements phase would never have ended: at no point would the contractors have had a stable set of variables or outputs to work with; instead, a clown-car full of directives and course-changes and "new vision" would have been unleashed on them at random intervals.

"REUSE THE CODE" probably got a lot of play during some of the project, wherein the Mensa Chapter in the gubmint department would have figured that reusing existing code was a prudent and economical use of their time. So they very well might have been made to dump in tons of useless stuff Because We Said So. Ten bux says most of those LOC are not used at all, but that not a soul could tell you which parts, because the documentation would be non-existent. They undoubtedly have executing code that wasn't meant to execute.

They had to interface with multiple databases, most of which would have been so outdated as to be nearly useless. (The project I worked on in 1999 required engineers to parse a printout of the COBOL code to manually extract variables, calls, and outputs. There had been no documentation done, because "good enough for gubmint work" is always operative.)

There would have been a high degree of turnover among any competent programmers—who could not endure such absurdity for love or money—leaving only the unimaginative and incompetent, who could get a job no other way.

Any and all warnings from the developers about things not working would have been ignored. (The testimony at the hearings suggests that the culture was not condusive to communication, similar to the NASA culture that led to the Challenger explosion. Unless Bad News can rise unimpeded to the top, the project will fail and fail badly.)

The programmers would not have had much control over their change-control procedures, testing procedures, or anything else that helps them along. Someone in the gubmint would have been permitted to screw that up at will.

Anything that the coders needed from the gubmint side — tools, provisions, conditions, datasets, information, feedback — would not be provided in a timely or accurate manner. They would have developed a great deal of their code based on incorrect or outdated information and would not find out about the error until LONG after it was easily backed out.

That which is factual:

The end-to-end testing phase began two weeks before launch and CGI was not involved in that phase (according to testimony).

Look upon this and despair:

//Reflects the current Enrollment Year.
//WILL need to get updated logic once the
function getCurrentEnrollmentYear()
//TODO: add logic
//hardcoded 2014 now
return "2014";


They couldn't even provide the logic to produce a YEAR and had to hard-code it. The rest of the examples on that page don't require expertise to understand.

NOW do you see?

"Requires" has jack-all to do with it: the gubmint merely reaped what it sowed, as it always does.


Does “one of these” mean “an item from that archive”?


The corner of Wabash and Lake, looking south along Wabash.

It still tickles me whenever I find an image of somewhere that, to me, looks intriguing and romantic, and a reader says, “Oh, I work across the road from there.” Or, “that’s where I buy cat litter.”


Sunny “wrong again” Hundal heads for academia.
“Journalist in residence.” Oh my.

And they say standards aren't slipping.


And they say standards aren’t slipping.

Ah, but given the standards of progressive journalism – as recently discussed - it seems somehow apt. He’ll fit right in. Students will be lectured by a pretentious, dogmatic hypocrite who championed a group of half-wit totalitarian vandals – sorry, “global warming activists” - who, five years ago, claimed they had “four years to save the world.” “Honestly,” said Sunny, shortly after flying halfway around the planet, twice, “I love these guys.”

He is, though, an exemplar of a certain kind of leftist journalism - one that’s curiously enabled, at least in terms of profile. So far as I can make out, Mr Hundal is an unremarkable pundit with little, if any, analytical skill and no rhetorical gifts. He does, however, have an extraordinary tolerance for inaccuracy and incoherence, especially his own. His experience of print and TV news is boasted of but very slim indeed, less than that of a thousand other freelancers. His political views are often ridiculous and largely adolescent, which is odd given his age, and yet his leftwing websites have been singled out for promotion by our scrupulously impartial state broadcaster. A favour the BBC would be unlikely to extend to comparable figures of a non-leftwing leaning. And this is a man who will soon be advising students on how to forge a career in journalism, despite never having made a career of it himself.

It’s a bit like taking lessons in formal logic and moral proportion from Laurie Penny. Kingston University is so very, very lucky.


His political views are often ridiculous and largely adolescent

Isn't that what matters on a journalism lecturer's CV?


On Twitter, Sunny Hundal dismisses his critic, Douglas Murray, as “a sad man” and “shameless.” Which is a bit rich, given that Murray was libelled by Hundal not too long ago and had to threaten legal action to get a retraction. And Murray’s Sunny-bashing is done to raise an interesting point,

I have always thought that there is something not just ludicrous but wicked in colleges and universities holding themselves out as providing ‘degrees’ in things like ‘media studies’. Generally run by hopeless individuals, they rarely help students to get into those professions they ostensibly study, and in reality do little more than mislead hopeful young people into running up large debts to get onto a ladder their ‘degree’ will not help them with. Sunny Hundal’s move to Kingston might serve as the apex of this trend: someone lecturing students on how to be employed in a profession he himself was never properly employed in.

None of which is being addressed by the people hugging each other on Twitter and grumbling about how beastly Douglas Murray is.


One for your "Deranged lefties on Twitter" file, David.

There was an article in yesterday's Telegraph about Birkbeck's annual law lecture which last night was delivered by unrepentant commie apologist Angela Davis.

The presence of lefty QC Michael Mansfield on stage was too much for the hardcore Davis fans:



The presence of lefty QC Michael Mansfield on stage was too much for the hardcore Davis fans

“Fuck rich white men,” indeed. But rich black totalitarian harpies who charge $20,000 an hour? They’re just awesome.


I saw this and, of course, I thought of Friday Ephemera:

In future, fart with confidence!


“global warming activists” - who, five years ago, claimed they had “four years to save the world.”

I'm amazed we're still here. Though we're all doomed, obviously.


Well, Anna, STORMAGEDDON is heading our way as I type this.

David Gillies

Most of the stuff that's been bandied about concerning the technical aspects of healthcare.gov has been bogus. As dicentra says, half a billion lines of code for the system is clearly nonsense (and LOC is just not a good metric.) The user-facing portion of the site is just a shopping cart. That's a few thousand lines, tops. Backend validation across multiple, heterogeneous, poorly-curated datasets is a significant challenge, but still not even 1% of the stated figure. 0.1%, maybe. Half a million lines of code is a large, mature application. Half a billion lines is over a man-millennium of work. That's idiotic and vitiates any other technical claims that might be made. If they're being naughty and counted linked-in or included library code then the number could be inflated but that would be like my writing:

#include <iostream>
int main(void)
std::cout << "Hello, world" << std::endl;
return 0;

and claiming x thousand lines of code for the C++ STL I/O library.


From reading between the lines... The whole ZeroCare site seemed to be one big javascript "program" that got downloaded onto your machine and kept alive through masses of cookies. Whilst letting the users browser do some of the work (and thus the front-end servers less), this is certain to make maintenance harder and making it work on a variety of devices much harder.
The back end seemed to be contacting several different government dbs, rather than simply replicating the dbs into a single local db at the ZeroCare site, which meant the responsiveness would be slower and more prone to failures.
Then we finally get to the "logic" behind the pork ridden mess, there's probably a load of contradictory requirements, which they probably ignore the problems of (pick the first that applies), but if any preference gets altered different routes will get chosen, so a testing nightmare.
Transforming the legislation into a consistent system is the biggest problem. But it does sound to me like the architecture sucks.


Transforming the legislation into a consistent system is the biggest problem.

Even the New York Times is having its faith tested:

The implicit promise of Barack Obama’s presidency, delivered during the 2008 campaign and again repeatedly since then, was that government would not face a debacle like the recent malfunction of the technology behind the president’s new health care marketplaces… The breakdown of the federal HealthCare.gov website could emerge as a test of Mr Obama’s philosophy, with potentially serious implications for an agenda that relies heavily on the belief in a can-do bureaucracy.

Can-do bureaucracy.


When egos collide.

Wait a minute. Does that count as showbiz news?


"Can-do bureaucracy. "

What's that in German?


Somewhat related.


Transforming the legislation into a consistent system is the biggest problem. But it does sound to me like the architecture sucks.

The architecture of both the legislation and the web site are beyond FUBAR. Someone handed them the Escher sketch of the stairwells and asked them to build it.

So they did.

sackcloth and ashes

'The presence of lefty QC Michael Mansfield on stage was too much for the hardcore Davis fans'.

One of the only things they and I are likely to agree on.


When egos collide.

Wait a minute. Does that count as showbiz news?

. . . . . at the What awards?!?!?!!!

Ehn. I recently ran across http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd6iKPkXMqY and that is indeed showbiz. News is indeed noting an occurrence, but random promo pieces are not news, regardless of what they claim has occurred. Therefore I would assess that what you found is indeed not showbiz news, and is instead a mere advertising press release with drinks.


I remember how the Barack Obama presidency was going to be the moment when the stodgy, backward, Republican-dominated US government finally moved into the digital, internet-aware, always-connected, instant-interaction New Millennium.

Turns out that just meant barackobamaforpresident had a Facebook page.

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