Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Kids Are Alright: CS Enrollment Way Down at US Universities

As I said a couple of weeks ago (or months ago, maybe), while talking about how wonderful Python is, I wouldn't really recommend Java to American programmers, particularly young ones, since Java programming jobs are so easily outsourced.

In the article 'The 'Anti-Java' Professor and The Jobless Programmers" (lamest Disney movie EVAR), Robert Dewar talks about the concurrent trends of increasingly focusing on Java in the college CS curriculum, and the decreasing enrollment in CS programs. Colleges appear to be responding to the trend by dumbing down their courses as fast as they can (dive! dive!) with some notable exceptions like the ever-reliable M.I.T. and Carnegie-Mellon.

Says Dewar:

“Furthermore, Java is mainly used in Web applications that are mostly fairly trivial,” Dewar says, with his characteristic candor. “If all we do is train students to be able to do simple Web programming in Java, they won't get jobs, since those are the jobs that can be easily outsourced. What we need are software engineers who understand how to build complex systems.”

“By the way Java has almost no presence in such systems. At least as of a few months ago, there was not a single line of safety-critical Java flying in commercial or military aircraft. I recently talked to a customer who had a medium-sized application in Java, which was to be adapted to be part of a safety-critical avionics system. They immediately decided that this meant it would have to be recoded in a suitable language, probably either C or Ada.”

This is, as far as I can tell, all true. Even if, like late 90's early 00's me, you score one of these cushy Java jobs, the tedium of essentially pulling stuff out of a database, putting it on a web page, pulling back the user's responses, putting them in the database really wears thin after a year or two. Also sez Dewar:
In response (to declining enrollment), colleges have compromised – heavily – to attract students. “So two things: reducing requirements and getting rid of annoying math courses and things like that. And also trying to make courses ‘fun.’ I believe that computer science should be fun, but the fun should come out of solving problems – not making pretty pictures. That’s the danger, I think.”
I would say this is not particularly worrisome - kids avoiding CS programs of the candy-ass variety who don't particularly have much interest in the topic to begin with are exercising good judgment. Dewar does say there will always be jobs for the hard-core types that take this stuff seriously. The problem is more the candy-assedness of the programs and the whole business of pretending graduates who can work with Java web framework of the month X aren't going to be competing with somebody who'll do it for $3/hour.

Particularly brilliant and inventive youngsters probably mastered Java in their pre-teen years, like the dude at Borders the other day whose voice hadn't changed yet who was deciding which book to buy with his Dad. Kids like that should maybe skip CS altogether and check out one of the hard sciences. That's some real shit! You don't see Physics professors with the little tassels on their loafers shaking all the time because they're so nervous about 'ooh, what will the CEO of JoeBlowCo think of my lecture today?'

See, very very occasionally I actually do have handy advice for the youngsters.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crowd-Sourced Comedy: The American Family Association Boycotts McDonald's for being too nice to gays, or something.

McDonald's recently drew the wrath of the American Family Association after making an announcement that they'd joing the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. From the 'Boycott McDonald's' website:
According to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner, McDonald's will aggressively promote the homosexual agenda. In remarks on McDonald's Web site concerning the company becoming a member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), Skinner wrote: "Being a socially responsible organization is a fundamental part of who we are. We have an obligation to use our size and resources to make a difference in the world … and we do."
The comment page is a treasure trove of unintentional laffs.

Some fall under the category of accidental double entendres:

"because McDonald's had taken a stand to support the activist gay agenda that is destroying the core of family values in the U.S. we will take a stand to support McDonald's competitors such as In-n-Out and Chick fil-A."

"I and my family will be buyers at burger king.. You need to change your gay position.."

Several commenters claim to eat at McDonald's with alarming frequency:

"I WAS a twice a week "eater" at McDonald's. That has changed now. I will NOT eat there again and will not take my grandchildren there. Since you have such a hate for christians and those not supporting the homosexual agenda, I'm sure you wouldn't want to take my money any more."

"My family has supported your business for well over 25 years. We have been loyal customers eating at your establishments 4 times/week. It pains me to say, but, I now will take my business and hard-earned money elsewhere. As much as we have enjoyed the food over the years, we will not continue to do so because of your close-minded leadership. We are amazed that your leadership is taking this stand. Such ashame. You will be losing nothing just to be neutral on same sex marriages. Now you WILL lose.... customers. The loss of revenue is completely YOUR choice.

"It was bad enough having to keep my Spanish to English dictionary handy every time I pulled up to your drive-thru window (to the tune of about $1,000 per year). But this is the final straw (and I guess the final Big Mac) for me. Your blatant disregard for the strongly held moral values most Americans hold dear has cost you my business. Yes, Wendy's, I will have a Frosty with that."

"My husband & I are ministers and we are so ashamed that McDonalds would rather support the Homosexual Agenda than the American families that have enjoyed eating at Mc Donalds down through the years. We have up until recently ate at McDonalds three to four times a week. WE will we no longer eat at Mcdonalds. Revs Joe & Arlene Rohrbacker"

Amidst repeated insincere pleas that this isn't about hate or homophobia are sprinkled some comments by the Fred Phelps Faction:

I'm very sorry to here that McDonalds supports the gay agenda. It was a great American restaurant, good for the whole family. I can't believe that they would rather support the 2% that makes up the faggots and not the 98% of the normal people"

"I am thrugh with eating at McDonalds. Will not eat with your Mac Queers"

"It is sad that McDonald's is not FOR the nuclear family. Please put Ronald Mc Donald in the closet."

"McDonald I am a regular customer in your store but I will not be eating in your store any more because of your open support of gay. I am a christianand God says they are an Abolition and God will deal with them. joyce"

"McDonald's targets 2 year old children to blackmail their parents into bringing them to McDonald's, & has helped to undermine & destroy the family by turning meal time into "play time." Now "IT" wants to foist a "gay" time on all Americans. This is beyond "hatred." This is arrogance & contempt for even basic human dignity. No McBuggers for me."

This guy's really pissed. First McDonald's acknowledged the existence of black people, and now this:

"McDonald's first turned me off as a Father when they decided to turn their advertisements from the family to an "urban image". Now they have really disenfranchised me with this. Your promotion of "Gay activism", and the assistance of those who want to cram their idea of what is right down my throat is the best reason I can think of to no longer patronize your "facilities".

McDonald's better watch out, these people apparently have already destroyed Starbucks and Ford:

"I will tell all my friends about this. McDonalds isnt the only game in town. We did the same thing with Starbucks and look what happened to them. They are closing them by the hundreds."

No more big macs or fries. My kids grew up with mcdonalds but since you support the gay agenda we will no longer visit mcdonalds. Ask FORD if it was really worth it?"

"Since you have decide to support homosexually totally and their Sodom and Gomorrah life style. This has given me an extremely good reason to stop the purchase of any of your food items from McDonalds as of today. I also have a very active Blog site and I will post data about your support of the homosexual gay agenda."

I am sure the American Family Association will be boycotting my very inactive Blog site soon, but I will survive. And I'm willing to bet the next time I take my daughter to 'Old McDonald's' on a Sunday, I'll feel way underdressed and there'll be no place to sit because the after-church crowd will be out in force as usual. Little will they know they are eating with a heathen and his heathen spawn!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Northern Hemisphere is totally kicking the Southern Hemisphere's Ass in the Programming Language Department

Check it.

Australian techies remain neither abashed nor humbled.

Leaving out Ruby (Japan) was a pretty big oversight, though, I have to say.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

LinkedIn Shows Us How Right Chris Rock's Mom Was

When I was a kid, my mother would never give money to a white bum. She'd take one look at him and say, "No reason for that." -Chris Rock
When I was 29, I was a bundle of nerves, having just made the worst move of my career up to that point (and since). Motivated as much by personality conflicts and enmity toward a certain individual as for any other reason, I left an otherwise OK position with a super big (but still involved in interesting and new technology, like the then-flashy Java) company for a position doing C++ for a small company with an application originally developed in COBOL for mainframes (gigantic red light warning sign I didn't see).

It didn't take too long to figure out the buffoonery and bumblefuckery was out of control at this place. Shitty as all-get-out code slapped together by long-gone contractors, co-workers who couldn't spell C++ in some cases, and in other cases were competent but so bitter and painful to be around it was like being in some program length anti-depressant commercial - the place was a real disaster.

A colleague's buddy gave some helpful third-party perspective: we were a bunch of losers on the bullet train to career oblivion. We had to get out of there or we were fucked, if we weren't already fucked. We needed to learn to drive trucks or bartending or something (both are perfectly fine, respectable occupations. The point is, the software thing was OVER).

As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about! I ended up finding a job somewhere else, and things have been fine ever since. And now thanks to LinkedIn, I know everybody else landed on their feet too, unhindered by incompetence or general cluelessness. The company itself went down the toilet for all I know. I bailed out long before the last circle of the drain.

To protect the identities of these individuals so they can continue milking the corporate gravy train, and because I love the now-over MethMinute39, I've changed their names to names of the Wang Warriors. I changed the name of the company where we all worked to Smegmatix.


Who he was:
A QA guy with no formal education. He sometimes tried to show people his novel he'd written. He was buddies with Hammer U, the Al Capone/shark hybrid QA manager, and thanks to this connection Spicy was given a job as lead developer. He was not particularly good at it, and after following Hammer U to another job, he washed out in a few months.

Where is he now:
Development Lead at REDACTED

Did he list Smegmatix in his profile:

Shokai the Dentist

Who he was:
Sad sack programmer who was pretty sure the company was going down the tubes in a hurry. He was right, but was hard to be around since he never had anything good to say about anything or anyone. Prone to long meandering gripes about why do people get to be on welfare when my life is so horrible.

Where is he now:
Systems Analyst at REDACTED

Did he list Smegmatix in his LinkedIn profile?

Li'l Shizz

Who he was:
Contractor famous for 'cranking out code fast'. It showed, as his code was full of some of the sloppiest half-assed moves imaginable, with no discernable logic or structure evident. I mean doing things like having variables named Store1, Store2, Store3 instead of using arrays or lists - lame-itude of that magnitude. I never met him, but I really hated his guts. I only found out who he was by asking around. He didn't put his name in the comments for some reason.

Where he is now:
SW Developer at REDACTED

Did he list Smegmatix in his profile?

Soil O' Boyle

Who he was:
Another contractor. Wrote a true abomination of a 'Calculation Engine', which was a sort of interpreter for a proprietary language for the app. It was an example of how you'd write such a thing if, instead of spending maybe at the very least an afternoon researching how other such engines had been put together, you just sat down and started writing code to see what happened. He was the source of much of Shokai the Dentist's misery, because Shokai inherited his crapware. Often Shokai would be unable to fix a problem a customer was screaming very loudly about, and so Soil would be brought back in for a couple of days at $200/hr, and he'd fail to fix the problem, too.

Where Is he now:
Information Systems Manager at (Government Entity)

Does he list Smegmatix in his profile?

Li'l Man Tate

Who he was:
Manager of the developers. Kind of looked like a turtle, and kind of acted like one, too, hiding in his office all the time. We wrote weekly status reports for him. After a couple of weeks it was clear he never read them, so I'd write about the cartoon characters I'd collaborated with. Mr. Peabody was worth his weight in gold and a real team player.

Where is he now:
Business Analyst at REDACTED

Does he list Smegmatix in his profile?


Q: When did you work there?
A: Approximately 10 years ago. So these white dudes have a whole decade of coasting here.

Q: Are you white?
A: Yes, I add support to Mrs. Rock's hypothesis.

Q: Did you, SDC, list Smegmatix in your profile?
A: No.

Q: What's your Wang Warrior name?
A: General Tso