Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Root Cause Analysis

Time for the post mortem, as you know, some take it seriously
The need to revisit, the urge to explain what happened previously
For an ounce of prevention is said to be worth a pound of cure
Let's get to the bottom of things and figure out the root cause

Oftentimes it's a simple mistake, a moment of inattention
Or sometimes it's really just idle exploration
One minute you wonder, what does this button do?
Then the thing happens that you can't recant
Oops, you realize you just shut down the power plant

Human fallibility tends to be the root cause

Ah right, power. It's quite fitting in this era of modernity
That one can't sing too highly of the virtues of Electricity
So essential, we almost always overlook this august substance
We only rue its wonder when confronted by its absence
And now we've lost power and everything must stop
Oops, lights out. In Ghana we call it dumsor

Power failures are prime candidates for the root cause

The next affliction, sadly, is all too common
Like ants, human beings just like to burrow
When in a mad rush to lay down some pipes, it's nigh inevitable
So busy that we never checked to see what could be an obstacle
Dig: bureaucracy got in the way, they were moving too slow
Oops, the contractor cut the critical cable with his backhoe

All too often, cable cuts tend to be the root cause

Things fall apart, they say,
   equipment sputters, machines fail
They blow hot and cold, or crack when used,
   there's wear and tear
Material scientists make a roaring trade
   as do structural engineers
That, sadly, alchemists never overcame nature's challenge
   is the lesson learned
Oops, the widget broke,
   a reminder that no condition is permanent

In this industrial age, hardware failures are a likely root cause

Sometimes you're just too popular,
   so crowded no one can get in or breathe
Congestion is the operative word,
   in matters of scale, a crowd changes things
Your service is the flavor of the month,
   and now you've become essential
Oops, you're completely unprepared for when you go viral

Woe is me, lack of capacity is frequently the root cause

And then we come to the bad actors,
   forever on the attack
Always probing for an opening,
   for vulnerabilities in your stack
And that's even before we consider
   the gremlins and parasites
Iconoclastic beasts with distinctive manners
   and singular appetites
Every complex ecosystem in history
   has had to deal with grifters
Oops, your hospital is held to ransom
   by a band of sneaky hackers

Always protect yourself, a lapse in security is invariably the root cause

There's more in this vein,
   mankind has never built a system without error
From the Tower of Babel to that fancy car,
   or even that blasted word processor
The raw materials of life,
   whether it's the design or the initial conception
Imposing one's will,
   it might be a flaw in the ultimate implementation

You probably have your own experience and area of expertise
Your own rules of thumb about these puzzling mysteries
Let me tell you something
   from my profession of software engineer
If you only knew,
   to defend a system in depth is an exercise in fear
How close we come to catastrophe,
   partial or complete, every day
Trust me, you really don't want to see how the sausage is made

Now one could argue about the order
   of this short list of failure modes
It is only in retrospect that one is truly able to diagnose
The human burden is to keep moving
   in the face of systemic error
To mitigate the worst,
   to build the fail-safes and systematic procedures

Spare a thought for the moron in a hurry,
   for one day it could be you
That, through omission or commision,
   will be blamed for the miscue
We haven't scratched the surface
   of how much the human factor has an impact
Fall back to folk wisdom,
   suffice to say that curiosity killed the cat

And what of the wider world,
   say failed love affairs, or even wars?
It's only human to search for simple answers
   and the root cause
Our prophets and philosophers have long emphasized
   moral suasion and the golden rule
You could do hardly do worse than social living
   and the mosquito principle

Focus on best practices, usability, and layers of protection
Try to put a process in place and make it official!
Make sure that it takes many, many big red buttons
   to launch that nuclear missile
If there's any moral to this tall tale of root cause analysis
Take heed, and wherever possible, make use of the checklists

wide load coming through

  • How Complex Systems Fail (Being a Short Treatise on the Nature of Failure; How Failure is Evaluated; How Failure is Attributed to Proximate Cause; and the Resulting New Understanding of Patient Safety) by Richard I. Cook
  • a quip about network outages from Sean Donelan

Root Cause, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)
See also: The Dining Philosophers Problem, Resilience and Adaptability, and Version Hell Revisited

This belated entry on failure modes is part of the Toli Technology Series

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Writing log: April 3, 2022

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Regret Is All

Regret is all, it's only human
An emotion with an intimate audience
The tinge of shame and imperfection
And the taint, for we were never innocent

For some can never descend the mountain of regret
They can't let go of the history or even decide to forget
Forever revisiting the past, vivid scenarios replayed
It's hard to live in the bed of remorse that they've made

Questioning whether the requisite words could have been found
Or whether alternative actions could have been summoned
Standing on the verge, poised between restraint and impulse
Rueing whether different actors might have changed the outcome

Communal regret is often the essence of cultural memory
To find oneself laying down markers of collective identity
Intimations of free will weighed against chaos theory
The direction of the arc of time and missed opportunities

Regret is all, it's a deficiency disease
Testimony to the fallibility of memories
Or sometimes to a surfeit of imagination
The raw materials of life, regret is an imposition

boy on steps of crumbling castles

Regret, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)
Vaguely related: Decision to Forget. The theme is buyer's remorse.

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Writing log: March 31, 2022

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Safe Harbor

My hope is to disappear into you
Dissolving slowly as you forget my name
When our first encounter becomes a distant memory
And the phantom sensation is all that remains

Streams of thought, the quality of evanescence
Happy to be wrapped in a blanket of impermanence
Ephemeral traces, the comfort of a mood marker
It was in your very self that I found my safe harbor

sumi swirls

Safe Harbor, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)

See previously I Daresay

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Writing log: March 10, 2022

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Waiting for the Pope

The Pope and Archbishop were coming
And so we waited in the morning sun
Sensible, well pressed skirts for the girls
Boys in sharp shorts, our khaki school uniforms
At the behest of stern teachers and chaperons
We all made an effort to tamp down our ruffian ways
Arrayed, or rather displayed, in formation at the roadside

Earlier, after assembly, we'd marched out of the school gates
Passing through the dusty streets of North Ridge
And made our way to Ring Road, all the while chanting
Oh the heat, the hours passed without a sighting
No water, no snacks, but the novelty of the excursion compensated
Seven year olds will find their own entertainment
Serene and papal, we practiced our hand waves
Then, inspired, tried out our Polish-accented English
"Holy, holy, very holy... I bless you, my children."

In the event, after all that, it was a two minute affair
No popemobile as it turned out, a rather sober procession
Cars bearing dignitaries preceded by the motorcade
Cheers, such cheers, and a mad scramble
We bore witness

A slight man in the flesh, pint-sized
Can't say that he was larger than life
Still, you could have sworn he looked you directly in the eye
Made you feel a connection even at the roadside
Our healthy skepticism of catholicism was almost overcome
The great man theory, we'd learned some kind of civic lesson
We savored the escape and managed to wrangle a further hour of fun
Then slowly, very slowly, made our way back to North Ridge Lyceum

ghana stamp pope john paull II archbishop of canterbury with president Hilla Limann 8-10th May 1980 20 pesewas

Waiting for the Pope, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)
education church or state

See previously Articles of Faith and On Catholicism

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Writing log: March 28, 2022

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Brow of Discernment

The kind of man that says unexceptionable and significations without irony
His every pronouncement comes weighted with ballast and profundity
The stylized pomp is deadly earnest and has no end
Behold, in its full glory, the brow of discernment

The arc of his thought, it is said, bends toward the contrarian
Witness his long-standing battle against the conventional wisdom
Very important this man, and altogether immune from mistakes
Forget the previous discourse, here comes the definitive take

Dizzying opinions fervently held to all appearances
Beneath a surface layer of puffery and self importance
Self identifying as a public servant of mankind
Truth be told, he is a legend in his own mind

Much like his peers, say, the mustache of understanding
And erstwhile nemesis, the bow tie of fulsome waxing
A mouthpiece to righteous blather,
   ever prone to attacking cartoon villains
Sample accusation: unlike him,
   "no one is thinking about the children"

Aspirations of grandeur,
   capital's spokesman-in-chief
Empire's useful idiot,
   providing oligarchs comic relief
Forever flirting with the masters of the universe
Still there's something staid about him,
   he's cool's dour obverse

Paradoxically, one can point to
   a thin veneer of past competence
Before the turn to punditry,
   there were some tangible achievements
But hubris is all these days,
  riding high, he's nigh invincible
Try to pin him down though,
   you won't find a guiding principle

His stock-in-trade is outrage,
   yet he's always on the side of angels
Labels galore in his arsenal,
   he knows how to turn the tables
Throughout, he's surprisingly adept
   at knowing where the money is flowing
Mind you, he always checks first
   to see which way the wind is blowing

Backslapping repartee as befits the unctuous
His prose style never varies from the oleaginous
His days of punditry rather embody the savior complex
But when caught out, his words were "taken out of context"

Observe well,
   his penchant for bonhomie and folk wisdom is rather notable
With his idiosyncratic way with the mixed metaphor,
   he remains ever quotable
"Rising empires never sleep on blankets
   forged in the fires of benign neglect"
Car crashes have been caused
   while trying to decipher his arch concepts

Humanity is always on the precipice,
   society is always at the crossroads
Norm policing is his business,
   he's prone to pearl clutching episodes
So quick to assume the pose of the supercilious
Even as he proudly wears the badge of the incurious

After prefacing his remarks with a counterintuitive statement
Comes a nod, that's when you'll find him fully in his element
His favored weapon finally ready for deployment
Raised and furrowed, the brow of discernment

Presentation Pete - Natty Dresser Pete

Puff, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Self regard is everything. (spotify version)
See previously: A Taxonomy of Useful Idiots

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Writing log: March 24, 2022

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Bassa Bassa

Off kilter, your life is bassa bassa
Just look at the mess that you've made
Believe me, you need to shape up
You've really got to change your ways

Your affairs are bassa bassa, in such disarray
And your finances, oh well, what more can I say?
Always looking for a bailout to get you out of trouble
"It's just a small loan, I go pay you tomorrow."

Your room is hopeless, it's so bassa bassa
How can you even cope with this kind of disorder?
It's the dregs. Dirty things piled up high in this ghastly hovel
Can't find anything, and let's not mention the smell - it's awful

And as for your bassa bassa love life, don't get me started
What's that phrase these days? Entanglement
   Ah! So much drama.
My friend, how many hearts must you leave broken?
And for God's sake,
   how many phone calls must you be dodging?

You're not a child anymore,
   this kind of life will catch up with you
I have my own troubles, you know,
   I won't always come to your rescue
If you make your own bed you can lie in it bassa bassa
Don't be surprised if you get burned when you play with fire

bassa bassa spring cleaning chaos

Bassa Bassa, a playlist

A wild and disorderly soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)
See previously: Never Never Man

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Writing log: March 21, 2022

Monday, January 22, 2024

Extra Time

The familiar arc of disappointment
The sweet scent of repeated failure
Once again facing the brutal letdown
The aftermath of howls and moans

First the raised hopes, the glimmer and uncertainty
Then, almost immediately, the check of expectations
The unavoidable, inevitable opening of the wound
And still, the surprise at the ultimate fall from grace

Welcome back old friend Disappointment
With your chants of recriminations
Welcome heartache and disbelief
Come snuggle up with me

extra time collapse ghana-mozambique afcon 2024

A Familiar Arc, a playlist

soundtrack for this note (spotify version) After: an extra time lapse by the Black Stars (January 2024)

See previous installments: A Familiar Arc (2017), Could have been / Should have been (2014). You'd think I'd be prepared by now...

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Writing log: January 22, 2024

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Solemnity Premiums

Buried on Ash Wednesday, the reading was from Revelations
"Come", said the preacher, the message was an invitation
But to the funeral goers, the reference to Lent was no consolation
When in the throes of grief, there's only frustration
We sang Abide With Me, but there was no returning
For the loss was so keenly felt, it was all consuming

The tributes were read, brief and poignant
She'd trained us well, we were considerate
No one lost composure, the mask didn't slip
This was in Bristol, after all, stiff upper lip
Thousands of miles from home, with a virtual audience to boot
All of us dressed tidily in the most sober of black suits

Something was missing, however, it was the sounds of cries
If we were back in Ghana, clearly not a single eye would be dry
Imagine! The queen of Makola market,
   a woman so redoubtable
We were duty bound to celebrate her life
   by causing good trouble
To make a scene, bassa bassa,
   to weep uncontrollably on the side
For when your heart is so rendered,
   there is no keeping the soul quiet

baba blanket reverse (2)

Solemnity Premiums, a playlist

A stiff upper lip soundtrack for this note (spotify version)
See previously: Another Zoom Funeral

After Auntie Naa Abia Mary Mould

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

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Writing log: March 10, 2022

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Decision to Forget

With the full knowledge of what lay ahead, he chose
And this was no mistake, there was no buyer's remorse
Having climbed, at length, this mountain of regret
He'd made his peace with the decision to forget

True, the burden of remembrance exacts a fraught bill
The expense is paid in the currency of time and goodwill
It has a cumulative effect, all this cognitive friction
Such is the implicit weight of mental processing

It would soon become second nature, adapting to this loss
Yes, he accepted upfront the great transaction costs
This pose of his, that some would term selective amnesia
Was merely his favored strategy for resisting nostalgia

pompidou metz model 3

Decision to Forget, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Cultural memory is my enduring theme. (spotify version)
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Writing log: March 10, 2022