All posts by Philip Regan

Why I read The Economist

I might have quoted this in the past, but I think this is just great:

We like free enterprise and tend to favour deregulation and privatisation. But we also like gay marriage, want to legalise drugs and disapprove of monarchy. So is the newspaper right-wing or left-wing? Neither, is the answer. . . it opposes all undue curtailment of an individual’s economic or personal freedom. But like its founders, it is not dogmatic. Where there is a liberal case for government to do something, The Economist will air it. Early in its life, its writers were keen supporters of the income tax, for example. Since then it has backed causes like universal health care and gun control. But its starting point is that government should only remove power and wealth from individuals when it has an excellent reason to do so.
The Economist explains itself: Is The Economist left- or right-wing?

“Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe.”

This, then, was one of my themes for Dune: Don’t give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero’s facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem.

It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced—in a word, insane.

That was the beginning. Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.
Dune Genesis by Frank Herbert

The last time I’ve read Dune is many years ago. Perhaps a new reading during my winter break is in order.

U.S. Digital Services Playbook

Today, too many of our digital services projects do not work well, are delivered late, or are over budget. To increase the success rate of these projects, the U.S. Government needs a new approach. We created a playbook of 13 key “plays” drawn from successful best practices from the private sector and government that, if followed together, will help government build effective digital services.
U.S. Digital Services Playbook

Three of the plays—1, 6, and 7—focus on people alone. Solid advice for any project.

Photoshop’s Bloat Exemplified

Everything wrong with Photoshop exemplified in one update:


While I can understand Adobe needs to keep their software fresh to maintain sales, this is just plain old bloatware as far as I am concerned. I don’t need 3D modeling and manipulation in Photoshop. I need a scripting API that actually works so that I can create truly integrated workflows to save me time and money. This 3D update is instead a complete waste of my time and money. Nobody Else Wants to Host the Olympics. Why Does Boston?

Somehow, some way, the quadrennial whispers about a potential Boston Olympics have finally taken hold. The city is now one of four finalists for the 2024 US bid for the games, along with Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Supporters insist that a carefully crafted plan could lead to massive infrastructure improvements, an explosion in tourism, and venues that can later convert into civic centers in their own right.

Maybe. Nobody Else Wants to Host the Olympics. Why Does Boston?

Pretty much for the same reasons as any other city, but in this case, “maybe” equals “highly unlikely” when talking about the impact of the Olympics. London got lucky essentially zeroing out on the balance between tourist dollars and getting upgrades to transit systems.

I will admit, however, that if the Olympics were to come to Boston, that I would likely get tickets for the family. I went to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and I have never forgotten it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and to have it in the town just an hour away from where I live is too good a deal to pass up. But I would also try to see go if its in New York or D.C.

Boston doesn’t need it, and I easily imagine a lot of people not wanting it. To borrow from the article, explosions are not the long, slow burns needed to sustain economies and, as the article points out, Boston already gets massive tourist dollars. Compounding Boston summer tourism with the summer Olympics would be the very definition of a shit show.

“You don’t choose what will work. You simply do the best you can each time.”

From a blog post by Neil Gaiman in 2009:

Yes, it’s unrealistic of you to think George is “letting you down”.

Look, this may not be palatable, Gareth, and I keep trying to come up with a better way to put it, but the simplicity of things, at least from my perspective is this:

George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.

But beyond that initial blast is this really great gem that I think applies to any creative endeavor including programming:

Sometimes it happens like that. You don’t choose what will work. You simply do the best you can each time. And you try to do what you can to increase the likelihood that good art will be created.

And sometimes, and it’s as true of authors as it is of readers, you have a life.

I have started more projects than I have finished, each for their own reasons. “Finished” is entirely subjective, but in my case it would likely mean “used by someone else” and/or “used in day-to-day production by me.” Some unfinished projects get revisited, but most don’t, again each for their own reasons. Outside of important deadlines, not getting hung up on whether something is finished is important, at least for me. What is just as important, however, is learning something new from that project, including how not to do something. Each project I started has been a learning experience of some kind, so even the unfinished ones have value.

Having a deadline is another matter entirely.