My former professor Eugene Wallingford blogs about an unsuccessful curriculum proposal at my alma mater:

Had we changed the name of our program to Software Development or almost anything else without the word 'engineering' in it, we would probably have succeeded in having our program approved.

This line comes about 85% of the way through the post, but I was thinking the exact same thing the whole time I was reading it.

Our faculty decided that to change the name of our program to something non-standard would defeat the purpose of offering a specialized degree in the discipline;

Not that my opinion counts for much in this kind of thing, but I don’t know about that. I don’t know that I’m convinced that “non-standard” is a such a bad thing in such a dynamic and fast-changing field. Actually, rather than “non-standard,” I would prefer the term “cutting-edge.”

Use of the terms “software development” and “software developer” seems to be very much on the rise these days. I think an increasing number of practitioners are either becoming aware of the objections of traditional engineers to the term “software engineering” or, more likely, are beginning to see where software development, however disciplined, differs from traditional engineering, and are seeing software development as a unique field in itself.

T8 still calls me a “Programmer,” both colloquially and on my work email signature, even while certain of my co-workers have always held the title “Software Engineer.” Personally I think “Software Engineer” holds a certain cachet that I think is often undeserved by many of those it is applied to. I think my company should settle on a term and stick with it to avoid future jealousy and confusion over the semantics; I think Software Developer is a great term, and it seems that Eric Sink does too. I usually prefer to think of myself as one these days.

Calling the major Software Development would also emphasize that UNI’s treatment of the subject is likely to differ in many respects from that given by the engineering college of the objecting university Dr. Wallingford mentions (let me guess, it’s Iowa State). At least I kinda hope it would. So it would overcome the duplication objection.

When I think of “Software Engineering” it calls to my mind specific kinds of software development – embedded-system, military-contract, close-to-the-metal kinds of stuff that should involve a lot of Electrical Engineers. There’s a lot of prestige in that – it’s important and challenging work – but in today’s world it’s far from being the dominant kind of software work being done, in terms of numbers of practitioners it employs. But it also calls to my mind stodgy old waterfall-method point-the-car methodologies that assume programmers can’t think for themselves without a 400-page requirements doc laying out every minute detail before a single line of code is written. (Besides, if you’re in the private sector and can cost-effectively produce such a detailed document, these days you’d be best off sending that document off to India somesuch other country with lots of cheap programmers.) Once upon a time such an approach was necessary because Universities didn’t have Computer Science programs and people on the whole weren’t accustomed to interacting with computers on a daily basis – thus the average Programmer-Drone didn’t have the ability to reason about programs that today’s practitioners do, so all the reasoning about how the program should do what it does had to be in the hands of a few highly experienced “Analysts.” And I don’t believe that to be the case today. But that’s the mental picture I get from “Software Engineering.”

“Software Development,” in my opinion, is the more cutting-edge term and arguably the more appropriate one for what many of us do. I would embrace it.

One of those rock shows that’s promoted as a “CD release party.” The Slats will be releasing their new CD, “Boom Patrol,” at The Reverb. Also on the bill: The Beat Strings, The Teddy Boys, and The Coral Sea.

My recent post on “the political class” got some attention from a blogger I quite admire, Fran Poretto of Eternity Road. I don’t know whether I coined the term or heard it somewhere once upon a time, but since my post about it and Fran’s subsequent post linking to it, he has employed the phrase no less than twice in a new series of posts of general political theorizing called “A Little Knowledge”:

Friends of mine who just want to understand my political views, finding them unusual among the groups I tend to be associated with, are advised to check these out for some insight into the conceptual framework behind them. And all are encouraged to spread the phrase/concept of “the political class” far and wide ;)

I don’t consider myself much of a person to talk on religious issues, and I have a tendency to cringe at overuse of the labeling of “liberal” versus “conservative” by certain commentator types. Still, this posting by Steve Burton at Right Reason caught my interest, as it addresses a recurring talking-point that, as the sort of person who wants to hear out both sides of things, I’d been wanting for a good counterpoint to:

Was Jesus of Nazareth a liberal? From time to time, I find myself arguing with liberals and/or Christians who seem to think that he was. Last September, Bill McKibben expressed one version of such a view in his interesting article: The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong. According to McKibben, "America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior." In a nutshell, he argues that, although Americans are, nominally, bigger believers than anyone else in the developed world, they are, at the same time, from a Christian point of view, very naughty indeed: too much divorce, violent crime, capital punishment, etc., not enough government funded foreign aid, childhood nutrition & infant mortality programs, "access to preschool" (!) etc. He suggests that religious hucksters and hypocrites have brought us to this sorry pass by substituting a vulgar, me-centered doctrine of self-help and getting ahead for the true message of the gospels:

Yeah, it seems like every so often, usually during a Republican administration, you’ll find such a statement being bandied about, usually intended to call out the religious right as a bunch of hypocritical greedy fatcats and advocate for more government-run tax-funded social programs to help the poor and disadvantaged and etc. Mr. Burton pulls apart this oft-repeated line of talk on a pretty simple premise:

[Jesus] is talking to private individuals in their capacity as moral agents. That is, he is telling individual people what choices they need to make and what actions they need to perform to be "saved." He never willingly addresses himself to the state, or to the representatives of the state in their capacity as such. He explicitly distinguishes between "that which is Caesar's" and "that which is God's," (Matthew, Ch. 22, v. 21) and confines his activities entirely to the latter sphere.

In other words, Jesus never advocated for charitable action to be taken on by the state at coerced public expense, but rather for individual action, which I have always felt to be somehow more “meaningful” anyway.

Anyway… yet another counterpoint to the “Jesus was a liberal” line caught me as I was reading it, and it came to me in the second paragraph, at the mention of foreign aid and access to pre-school. Neither of those things existed in Jesus’s time, at least not in any form we’d recognize today. Yet it seems it can very often be the same person that would claim that such modern-day concepts are implied by the original intent of Jesus’s teachings, then on a different day say that the original intent of the Constitution often can’t be applied now because its framers could not have foreseen so much of modern-day technologies, science, media, and the social issues that arise from them. Even allowing for the possibility of Jesus possessing divine supernatural knowledge of the future, it seems to me highly inconsistent if one is claiming that his words directed towards the people of 2,000 years ago should be given such relevant modern-day interpretation, that one can’t allow the same privilege to words carefully thought out by some the brightest mortal minds of 200 years ago with their minds toward the future of a nation . But meh, what do I know.

So a while back I was at the Reverb, soaking up some rock and roll music. I was also just as much there to see my good old friend Stacy, who was in town for a visit. She’s from Cedar Falls originally but for the past several years has resided in Seattle. We used to play some music together back in the day, first as drummer (me) and guitarist (she) of a group called Page 5 Girl, and after that as guitarist/lead-singer (me) and bassist (she) in a group I eventually found myself in a lead role in, Exit Drills, or as it was originally called, E.D.I.T.H. We had good times in those days, and even though I don’t think we ever had any really super deep conversations, it has always felt to me like we related on a really deep unspoken level, as cheezy as that sounds. I was really sad when she moved away. It’s really too bad that we didn’t get to spend more time together while she was here, but things conflicted. I was kind of hoping we could go bowling together.

So she had let me know she was going to be at the Reverb that night, and I showed up, and we sat at a table together and drank beers and joked and high-fived a few times. It was really cool. We saw The Teddy Boys and The Slats.

She left before Anchondo came on, and after a little while I realized I was glad she did. Anchondo’s a very talented group, and quite popular, deservedly so you’d probably say. Jim is a huge fan of them, and “Heart and Soul” is probably one of the sweetest yet sincerest sappy love songs ever, and should probably be so all over the radio that we all would be sick of it by now. They’ve got an infectious ska-pop-punk sound and their frontman has a pleasing voice as well as the ability to shred a guitar. They aren’t my usual cup of tea. and probably not Stacy’e either, but they are very good at what they do, enough so that I usually enjoy their shows when I end up at one.

But they also have a thing for crude dorky college-guy humor in some of their material, and probably the most well-known example is a song called “I’m A Real Lesbian.” They even sell “I’m A Real Lesbian” T-shirts. And while I’d always though the lyrics were sophomoric, even boneheaded – the chorus, for instance: I’m a real lesbian I get drunk with my girlfriends I go down on every one of them Because I’m a real lesbian and it gets worse in the verses, but I’m afraid I can’t call them to memory at the moment – that night I found it just plain offensive. Sorry. It just got me kind of mad. I’m extrapolating a bit here, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not all that funny or amusing to real lesbians, not that I purport to speak for any of them. I just realized I got this far into this post before I remembered to mention that Stacy is a real lesbian, and I don’t think she’d appreciate that characterization. I kind of got it into my head that night that if she’d stuck around to hear that song, it would probably piss her off. She probably wouldn’t say anything about it aloud, but I can imagine her feeling uncomfortable and rather insulted that someone’s idea of a real lesbian consists mainly of being drunk and promiscuous.

Look folks, it’s like this:

  1. It's not a sign of how cool and liberally open-minded you are that you can make bad jokes about lesbians. It's probably more a sign of just the opposite, that you're subject to the stereotypical Midwest backasswardsness. It's probably a sign of why all my old friends move away.
  2. The drunk college chicks making out with each other on "Girls Gone Wild" videos are not real lesbians, they're just drunk and slutty. This stupid frat-boy fantasy stereotype crap has got to stop. Grow up.
  3. Keep this up, and the next thing you know Blake will be at my house wanting to record his new hit song "I'm a real Jew." And I'm just not into that.

I’m not trying to be all militant gay-rights agenda here, I’m just saying, don’t be stupid. Lame humor is lame, and I demand quality from the content providers I allow in my entertainosphere, especially when I can tell they’ve got the brain cells to pull off something good and are choosing instead to go for the easy cheap shot. If you want to write a funny song about lesbians, don’t retread this tired old shit. Write something that lesbians will think is funny. That may require to you actually get to know some, however, so YMMV.

The High Strung seem to be a fairly popular indie band these days. I don’t know anything about them, but I might hit this show anyway to see what they’re about. The Mittens are billed in the middle, and my sister’s boyfriend’s band, the two-drummer/two-guitar instrumental freakout The Power Plant, who I’ve not seen yet, are opening.

The Mittens will be appearing live on KUNI’s “Live From Studio One” show. Tune in on the radio, listen online, or show up at the KUNI studios (3rd floor of the Communication Arts Center building at UNI) with $3 (unless you’re under 12, then it’s free) to see the show in person.

Contrary to the prevailing media spin, Bush’s veto does not “block” stem cell research. What he vetoed was federal funding for it, thus continuing the existing arrangement which, according to my understanding at the present time, is in essence: do all the stem cell research you want, but pay for it with your own money instead of everyone else’s. Perry de Havilland at Samizdata nails it:

Bush turns back on science to veto stem cell Bill ... is the title of a piece by Francis Harris, reporting from Washington. [snip] if Bush managed to get a law enacted that allowed for the testing of dangerous experimental drugs on the inmates in Guantanamo Bay, would the title of Francis Harris' article be "Bush backs laws supporting the advancement of science"? Somehow I do not think so ...

Miracles Of God, The Wheelers, and Ed Gray at Chappy’s Safari Lounge in Cedar Rapids

Recently Leah related to me a little about certain squatters she would meet when she was traveling who would talk about the class-war revolution they thought was coming in the U.S., in which the poor would rise up against the rich, or the corporations, or whatever other forces of capitalism that are supposedly oppressing them.

I don’t see this scenario, the way such people imagine it, as being likely. Coincidentally, it wasn’t long after Leah mentioned it that the topic of such revoltionary visions was brought up at Catallarchy, and an argument made there and then elaborated on by TJIC that I think pretty much comports with my feelings on the subject.

Nevertheless, I think those lefties and squatters may be on to something; they’re just looking at the wrong kind of class division. The class revolt, if one happens, will not be a conflict between economic classes necessarily. Though the class that would be risen up against is monied and powerful, they are not defined solely in economic terms, but moreso in terms of a certain type of role and position they occupy in society. The opposition will will be of the citizenry against what I’ve come to think of as the “political class.”

The Political Class is not something that has always been with us in America. In the early days of our nation, politics was not considered a full-time career. People interested in participating in our government would run for office, and if elected, would serve for some years, part of each year, like the times of the year when Congress is actually “in session.” They were compensated tor their time, but not nearly so lavishly as they are now, and the rest of the time, they would go back to whatever real job they made their living at, be it farming, practicing law, what-have-you.

As we all know, that is not the way things work now. It’s not that it’s only the wealthy who can achieve political power – while most national political positions seem to go to a certain economic class, the field is not closed to others. Having a little wealth and power to start with, be it your own or that of family and friends, certainly helps, but there are many examples of people who started out poor, for whom wealth and power followed with their climb in the political sphere. However, in order to make that climb, one has to make politics pretty much their life’s work, regardless of the economic class one starts out in.

The effect of this is that our political leadership is now made up of people whose knowledge, experience, and skills seem to be concentrated and specialized into politics. Politics is the only thing they know very well. Back when a politician also lived the life of a citizen and was employed outside government, a politician understood the issues and how they affected citizens, especially those citizens with whom they shared a profession. Modern politicians are no longer qualified to make decisions that have anything to do with our nation’s commerce, technology, science, or anything else. They don’t know commerce, technology, or science. They just know politics.

Of the numerous illustrations of our political class’s cluelessness about the very things they make the powerful decisions to regulare and affect, one of the most recent has lately become a running gag on the Internet. Alaska senator Ted Stevens’s explanation to the press of his stance on the net neutrality bill is both hilarious and sad. A politician who has a crucial position in relation to a vote on regulation of the Internet has an understanding of the workings of said Internet that is comparable with that of the average elementary school child. If Congress can’t put people onto committees to examine legislation that have more knowledge about the issue being legislated on than this, incompetently bad policy is the only thing we can expect. I got to thinking along these lines a few days ago after reading some commentaries on Stevens’s remarks, and started thinking out this blog post. Apparently the same thing happened to Crag Depken, who beat me to the punch earlier today.

To be fair, Stevens is just one senator, and we can’t expect our members of Congress to all be IT professionals. But if our Congress worked more like it did in our country’s early days, I venture we could expect at least a few of them to be, and that would result in some actual informed debate on legislation that would improve the understanding of the issue among the others before they were to put it to a vote, leading to much more intelligent policy from Washington.

But that’s not the way our government works now. Over the years, politicians have turned politics into more of an end in itself. The existing national political establishment is interested primarily in perpetuating itself, and over many years has managed to manipulate the system so that their membership changes as slowly as possible. The political establishment is concerned mainly with preserving a certain status quo by getting re-elected as much as possible, to the point that that’s now the only thing they’re good at. Change of the guard is allowed almost totally by promotion-from-within of those who are already insiders of one of the two major parties. They have turned themselves into a political class, so specialized towards their one sector of society that they are largely cut off from the rest of it, therefore clueless about its details, and thus unqualified to govern it.

So if any revolution scenario is at hand, it’s not going to be of the economic class-war variety imagined by some on the radical Left, but a movement of the more libertarian variety, made up of people fed up with the increasingly prescient incompetence that has been bred by the development of a political class, against the continued existence thereof. Its most strongly represented economic classes will most likely be the middle classes – people not wealthy enough to buy influence in the entrenched political class, but necessarily smart and hard-working enough to organize a viable opposition to it.