Tuesday, April 06, 2021

No One Is Coming

No one is coming to help you is the bitter lesson
A signal moment of clarity in this your time of need

No one is coming to save you from this mess
The painful rule of thumb in the midst of your distress

No one is coming, there'll be no cavalry
The loudmouthed white hats trumpeting action are no sanctuary
Indeed, these days, those in the wild west have their own quandaries
In the frantic struggle for survival, some died with their boots on
It's best to solve your own problems, not rely on other persons

No one is coming, there's no need to ask
You might as well face up to the facts
Deferred maintenance leads to deferred dreams
Your own hands will have to repair the frayed seams

No one is coming, get it into your head
There's no saving grace, you've clearly lost that bet
Change makes you want to hustle, it is often said
Focus on resilience and adaptability instead

No one is coming, rise up to the test
In prior times, they could easily pay lip service
Indeed, some made it their self-appointed business
Truth be told, before the reversal of fortune, it was manifest
Your destiny was once removed, it was always clear they'd lose interest

No one is coming, there are no pat solutions
It may feel good to rely on international organizations
True, we all sink or swim together, embrace solidarity
Yet with the new variants, you may face your own mutations.
Buyer beware, some of the same ones who are now so vocal
Will soon remind you that, at heart, everything is local

In the Anglosphere, we saw the callousness of the response.
Once Wall Street was protected, the rulers lost all interest
Leaving the rest of us to plaintively wonder: whither survival checks?
In England, getting the Tory party to do more than the barest minimum
Was like pulling teeth in extremis, impossible in a timely fashion

The world over, elites are forced to confront crippled healthcare systems
No exfiltration, nor Medivacs, we all use the same hospitals
Those bearer bonds, those bank accounts, those offshore vessels
And digital blockchains are no protection, all that cybersecurity
Counts for nought when we haven't reached herd immunity
The Swiss now require vaccination certificates, newly-minted attestations
Quarantine even in the Cayman Islands, new procedures, rules and regulations

Accordingly, support bubbles of affluence are being pierced
Private jets navigate narrow, restricted travel corridors
Previous greed and privilege distilled, in short order, as if cursed
Now's the moment of reckoning, if not of buyer's remorse

"No one is coming to save you, it's up to us", goes the chant
Yes, well, it's the daily news even if it seems like a taunt
It was the purest folly to expect as much, is the insight
That others would forgo their insatiable appetites
Every man for himself, goes the conqueror's catechism
It takes behavior to get along, let's keep on singing.

Oh the humanity, "We have no place to bring our dead"
The overwhelmed owner of the funeral home plaintively said.
Air quality standards had to be relaxed to enable robust cremation
Such are the dilemmas of all public health interventions.

No one is coming to save you, we'll just have to endure the lockdown
In 1918, my grandmother recalled walking the streets of Jamestown
Skipping over dead bodies on her way through High Street to Trinity Church
A century later, many others are being similarly left in the lurch
She was ten years old when the influenza pandemic hit Ghana
Brought in by sea men visiting Accra, everyone suffered
Sorrowful, the scars endure and resonate as mood markers
The tale of the lost stories, these indelible chapters
Such, I suppose, is the conflicted legacy of my upbringing
The keen sense of outrage and the knowledge that no one is coming

No
No one
No one is coming
No one is coming to save you
No one is coming to help you
No one is coming
No one
No

Sea Never Dry

No One Is Coming, A Playlist


A soundtrack for this lament, taking a few liberties to add some sweet to this grief concoction.

This uplifting folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Saturday, April 03, 2021

Empire State of Mind

A memory. An open day at the Electrical Engineering department at Imperial College for accepted candidates, the professors wanted to demonstrate their new face recognition software to the group. I demurred (shyness), but they insisted that I be the volunteer.

So I sat and watched for 15 minutes as nothing worked. "Smile", asked the graduate students. "Frown", asked the professors. Same result: no detection. Others were summoned. Invisible man.

It's a minor point, but I can't forget the sheepish grins. As I told the professors and their harried students: "You probably didn't train your algorithms much with many faces like mine."

Cultural sensitivity in technology is one of my perennial themes. And it's hard work even if you acknowledge your blind spots. The anecdotal failures continue to pile up. What was true back in 1991 is much the same in 2021, software and hardware are far more sophisticated and performant but face the same blindspots (provenance of training data, applicability to real world scenarios, ethical framing etc.)

The challenge for software engineering - which is still a craft, is to move beyond curve-fitting phrenology (and Deadwood) into its industrial revolution.

Sidenote: recruiters these days are all "big data, machine learning, cloud yada yada". Buzzword fatigue is an occupational hazard.

I miss the great mass amateurization and view source ethic of early web development and yet the developer tools and frameworks these days almost feel like a golden age is within grasp.

Obligatory citations:

Incidentally, Imperial College was the venue of my worst interviewing experience (and there have been many) - the low point of which was walking past the open door as I left the interview, and walking straight into the wall. This was after having flubbed almost every question I'd been asked.

The laughs and looks exchanged by the professor and the secretary as I turned around, shuffled back muttering an apology (why?) as I rubbed my sore head and headed out the door. Even English reserve and politeness could not deal with my Buster Keaton imitation.

I was admitted to Imperial College a week later.

I occasionally regret not having gone to Imperial or Cambridge for university. Without a doubt, I would be a stronger engineer and yet I suspect the eclectic toli monger you see before you would be repressed.

Guide to Lagos 1975 005 3m 191 revolutionary  copier

Imperial Visions, a playlist


A soundtrack for this note. I've been neglecting the Toli Technology Series for years now, albeit I occasionally make a few gnomic pronouncements on Twitter, consider this some throat clearing to prompt a reboot.

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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Widget Consultants of Austin

Dear valued customers,

We hope you and your loved ones are remaining healthy and safe during these uncertain times.

New Office Space


We at Widget Consultants of Austin (WCA) would like to update you on some exciting news for our practice. In July 2020, a state-of-the art renovation for our central office was completed. Now Widget Consultants of Austin is located in Suite 419 on the same floor as before but to the left of the elevator.

Austin Research Center for Widgets


In addition to this beautiful upgrade, WCA's current and future research endeavors will be conducted through WCA's research arm: Austin Research Center for Widgets. WCA and its consultants have chosen to part ways with Widget Research Center of Austin. However we remain evermore committed to providing ethical, high quality, specialized widget research to the greater Austin community.

With over a decade of combined research experience, we continue to provide first class widgets at WCA. As always, we remain dedicated to providing compassionate and skilled care to you. We look forward to continuing our valued relationship with you.

Best Wishes,


WCA

Presentation Pete - Collaboration Pete

The above letter is reproduced with only two substitutions, widget and customer. Inquiring minds would like to know what prompted the split in widget land such that Widget Consultants of Austin are now affiliated with the Austin Research Center for Widgets, having severed ties with the Widget Research Center of Austin. All this upheaval took place in the middle of a pandemic, no less. Especially titillating is the pointed comment about ethical standards, things must have really soured. What breach of ethics in widget research might the practice have witnessed that shocked the conscience? The human drama behind those few words is intriguing and deserves attention.

Further confusing things is that it appears that the offices of both organizations are on either side of an elevator. Those rides up to work must be fraught. Printing out the acronym soup only deepened the puzzle for WCA has now split from WRCA to go to ARCW, it's all Greek to me. I have postponed my annual appointment to check up on my widgets during these uncertain times, but look forward, with no small amount of trepidation, to my next encounter. I pray that I exit the elevator in the right direction.

See previously: Also: Naming, a playlist

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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