Brief Review: The Damned Busters

One of side effects of a hospital stay like I had is that you get some time afterwards to recuperate. Shortly before I went into the hospital, I went to the bookstore and came out with a couple hundred dollars worth of books* to read during my convalescence.

One thing that caught my eye was Matthew Hughes' The Damned Busters. Personally I'm not much for the simplistic comic-book type illustration cover, but the text on the back is what sold the deal.

The premise, according to the back, is this: an actuary accidentally summons a demon while playing poker** and, through refusing to sell his soul, causes Hell to go on strike. To get Hell rolling again, the actuary is offered the Ultimate Deal -- and then goes into crime fighting.

Personally, the sequence of events covered by this, the first 90- or so pages, is nothing short of brilliant. The author makes several religious observations that I have made myself, although his conclusions and resulting story directions are nothing I'd contemplated. I found myself nodding along and laughing as he writes yet another thing that I'd argued myself.

Frankly after that, the rest of the story threatened to be a let down.

But being blessed with a lot of spare time right now I pushed through the next couple of dozen pages, and the resulting ride was worth it. I found myself captured again by the actuary's antics as The Actionary.

My endorsement can be summed up by saying I'm disappointed that I have to wait until April for the next installment.


* == and thanks to a couple of years of hoarding gift certificates, wasn't out any actual money for them.

** == Nit alert: he's actually in the process of manufacturing a poker table when the demon is summoned. The text on the back scans better, sure, but running into something like that on (thumb thumb thumb) page 13 is a bit jarring.


Ontario Energy Policy

I think it is time people put up or shut up.

The problem with "green" policy is that you'll find support from the majority for that policy -- until it starts to directly affect those being asked for support.

Take gas prices for example. Right now we find the NDP of all people wanting to take the HST off of gas in order to make it more affordable.

In related news, we had a visit from an Ontario Conservative canvasser on the weekend. He asked us if we were supporting the Conservatives, and we said no, no thank you. He said well then are you OK with your hydro bill exploding over the next ten years?

I said to him, "Well how else are you going to regulate consumption growth? I think the last ten years has shown us that asking people nicely to reduce usage is completely ineffectual."

He muttered something about just getting cheap hydro electricity from Quebec, and I said, "How are you going to pay for the infrastructure to get that electricity to Ontario? And why on earth would the Quebec government sell electricity cheaply to Ontario when the Americans are ready and willing to pay more?"

This election's alleged issues already seem to be about blatantly putting short-term self interest ahead of any kind of rational long-term planning.



I think it interesting that some of the most powerful images of the Shuttle program are being collected at the end of the program. Things we have not seen before. These are some of my favorite images ever.

Endeavour in one of the last night launches for the program:

A long-range photo of Discovery approaching the ISS:

Atlantis re-entering the atmosphere, captured from the ISS orbiting above:

A video showing Discovery's final launch -- but taken from an airplane several miles away. This video showed me visibly just how fast the shuttle gains altitude, something that is hidden by the very long powerful zoom lenses that NASA uses to document launches.

Similarly, here is Endeavour's final launch showing the booster trail casting a shadow on the cloud layer present over the pad:

The STS system is still one of the greatest engineering feats achieved, and keeping it in service through 30 years is a remarkable achievement.

(Previously: 1, 2)


Personal Devices At Work

Two sides of the user-provided-devices-in-the-enterprise coin.

Mark says it's all good.

Bob points out why it isn't.

Personally I am more on the side of "No." This is because as an IT person, I understand more of the security and technical implications that having random personal devices used for corporate business.

The bottom line here is, as always, money. Supporting a device costs money. Dealing with the security implications either costs money or can cost a huge amount of money should something go wrong.

I think when users think that corporate IT is "getting in their way" and "not helping them get their jobs done", they are missing the point.

Yes, IT is here to help you get your job done. However, it isn't here to help you get your job done in the way you feel is best for you. Corporate IT is here to ensure that the entire company's interests are looked after so that the company can get its job done.

This means we get to balance things like
  • the cost of supporting applications, systems, and hardware -- this means we like to standardize, so that we can minimize the potential combinations we have to support;
  • the costs of security -- meaning we have to consider the risks of devices getting lost, or applications going bad, or company data getting stolen, or (worst case in my opinion) protecting company data from disgruntled or malicious staff;
  • the costs of refreshing -- how frequently do we bump to a new OS, or application rev, or new hardware platform;
  • the costs of new technology -- blackberries, iPads, whatever, if someone wants them we have to understand how they fit into all of the above categories.
And let us be honest here, all of this are costs incurred beyond the initial price of the device. When someone says "I want to use..." they are not thinking about what it will cost the company to support that.

Personally I like the company giving me equipment. It means that it is the company's problem when things don't work. It means that fixing those things happen on the company's time. I don't like some of the tools I am obligated to use, but I understand why the company picked those tools that we did.

Best of all, it provides a clear differentiator between "my stuff" and "customer/company stuff".


Another In A Long Line Of Lasts

This is very possibly the last time a space shuttle orbiter will be hoisted in the Vehicle Assembly Building for mating to a fuel tank and booster stack.