Passum sub iugum (a biographical essay)

"In my resume are many managers." (BMcC; cf.: John 14:2)
"Let X = X; You know, it could be you." (Laurie Anderson)

Why go to the office? Sometimes I found the vending machine guy restocking the machine and I got expired Doritos[1]. No charge!

The Roman army. Defeated soldier passing under the yoke.

For reasons I still do not understand, I think I never "drank the Kool Ade" [ref. "Jonestown"]. Item: When I attended "prep school", they(sic) always held "cheer rallies" before their Varsity contact sport athletic "games". Students' attendance was compulsory. But they did tolerate me standing silently at the very back of the courtyard where the cheer rally was being held, apart from the crowd, for its duration.

When I wage-slaved as a computer programmer I suppressed being fully aware of what I was putting up with, not only to be able to obey my masters (aka: do my job), but even worse: because if I fully faced it I would not have been able to tolerate continuing to subject my self to undergoing it but I had no choice to pay the bills. I had to deaden my self to earn a liviing. Each new morning as I strapped on my seat belt to waste most of an hour each way commuting, I envied Japanese WWII kamikaze pilots who only had to make their commute once.

But I have often "passed under the yoke" (Latin: passum sub iugumAll trash to recycling!). One instance of this is, after finishing my course of studies at Teachers College, I went back to work as a computer programmer, doing work which was largely meaningless to me [albeit I largely repressed this thought/feeling], for over 18 years, to earn a living. For a long time one of my watchwords has been Elie Wiesel's assertion: "Don't compare; all suffering is intolerable". And I still wish I could write a Great American novel, of whose title I am certain: "Waste" (cf. Erich von Stroheim's great silent film: Greed; what I have long called, after the floorplan of the house I lived in as a young teenager: "the split-level mind"; I have also long thought America's national anthem should be changed to Jackson Browne's song "Running on Empty"; planned obsolescence; tail-fins and hubcaps; etc.).

Before our now present "time of coronavirus", until a couple weeks before Robbie asked me to contribute to this project ("A place to study"), I had reached a place in life where I simply felt that I was not much afraid of the prospect of death, but only very much afraid of suffering (e.g. dying – I studied philosophy in college; there is a lot I did not and still do not understand; but it did give me a lot of "thoughts" about many things, of which less philosophically educated persons may have the good fortune not to be aware). Now, for reasons I largely do not understand but in part due to responding to Robbie's invitation, I think I am finding a reason to live, in writing: speaking up and speaking out about things I feel are important.

This is ambivalent, because, while the "reason" is good, the prospect that I may not have much time left to enjoy it is not. (1) I am now 73 and a half years old. And (2) while I am still enjoying a low-grade version of what I understand to be the setting of a book I have not read, Boccachio's "Decameron", there is serious prospect that my luck may run out at any time. On the internet, each day, I read copiously from The New York Times and The BBC. On the television I watch a lot of CNN (I used to enjoy watching the episodes of "Air Disasters" on The Smithsonian Channel a lot, but now I find I have seen each episode enough times that I no longer need to watch it again to "know" it).

My concerns anent the second point in the preceding paragraph span from the world-historic, e.g. reading the sufferings of many of the involuntary heroes of our time – as one nurse said, she became a nurse to help people, but "I did not sign up do die".... My concerns span to the perhaps petty personal e.g. hearing that not only can house cats catch the virus from us, but we may also be able to catch it from them. My pet cat (Felis catus – I have always thought house cats to be feli-citous) "Nibble" is a good companion. I also have a second cat, Maggie [ref. Rod Stewart's song "Maggie Mae"] who has the endearing idiosyncrasy that, pretty much every time she seriously intends to exert a muscle, she concurrently emits a sweet little trilling sound (What would Edmund Husserl have thought of this little illustration of his concept of "intentionality"?).

Why am I writing this essay?

As I wrote above, a few weeks before I started writing this essay, "something changed" in my life. I went from many years of largely "keeping my mouth shut" to starting to speak out/speak up. I started sending emails with my thoughts to persons who had played significant roles in my life. But emails to private persons generally don't have a long half-life. This is where Robbie's invitation for me to contribute to this site, after I had emailed him, comes in. "A place to study" looks to me to compare to emails a bit like the now largely still-standing pyramids [stone blocks] compare to the largely time-erased ziggurats [mud bricks]. Since I abominate effort destined for "file 13" (aka the trash can / non-being) , this appeals to me. Of course, as the author of "The Tale of Genji" wrote: "Nothing lasts forever in this world where one season changes into another"[2].

Why should you read it?

Good question. I hope that learning of my experiences may give you, my reader, some things of value to think about and perhaps even act on. I also hope that, through all the sadness, you may also find a little [healthy] humor in it. Item: I think America's current President, (POTUS №45) Donald J. Trump, is a [bad] joke. But The New York Times had an OpEd piece on 20 May 2020 by the current President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian, which sounded to me like he is a genuine statesman and a good leader for his people.

Je me souviens

I once had a vacation in Quebec, Canada. I was struck by the motto on their automobile license plates: "Je me souviens" (I remember). As should be obvious already, I remember.

I remember all the things that were done to me, whether by malice or by obliviousness. I found it hard to understand how "backward" the pre-1960s America I grew but not up in could have come to be, despite it being so close in time. (The apparently much-maligned Neanderthals died out 40,000 years ago, so we read.) As a child, I didn't really know anything of value (or value itself) existed. I also did not know I had an uncle, Isadore Znamirowski, who in World War II invented the "star and bars" insignia still used on American military aircraft, which saved American lives by helping fighter pilots distinguish friend from foe and thus avert "friendly fire" casualties; I was deprived even of knowing I had a relative I am now proud to have been related to.

My thoughts in adult life about my parents? The Sorrow and the Pity (ref. Marcel Ophuls' film). They meant well but knew neither how to live themselves nor how to raise the child they had born. My ambulatory-schizophrenic mother died of anorexia and alcoholism, partly brought on or at least exascerbated by being alone on an acre in suburbia except for me Monday thru Friday most weeks without being able to drive, while my father was away working as a house-paint salesman. His "territory" was Virginia. My mother drank Virginia Gentleman bourbon. My father was a man of integrity, who, when he became a sales manager, nurtured "his men" such that even after his death some of them told me how much they honored him ("paint salesman extraordinaire" one of them volunteered); alas he was able to do less well for me [he did what he could, including paying my Yale tuition, so that I never had any "student debt" or the humiliation of being a "bursary student"]. Having "come from nothing", he was proud to display my Yale B.A. diplomas on his office wall; as a young man he had worked in a [lead] paint factory "before the war" (WWII); he died at age 63/64 of liver cancer.

The dead shall be raised

The words on the neo-Egyptean entrance gate to the old New Haven cemetery across the street from the Yale "commons" reads: "The dead shall be raised". Why, after many years, did I remember that just now, beginning to compose the present essay? It probably has to do with reading a New York Times interview the previous day of this coronavirus pandemic. They interviewed a really decent Christian woman who said her God would admit to heaven even atheists who had lived a good life, and that she didn't particularly care whether anyone else shared her faith but only that they were kind to each other. (I now also recall that I once had a [jewish] manager, Charles "Chuck" Siegel, who said his God's commandment was: "Be kind to one another".)

The dead shall be raised? "Ojala!" [that's something good I learned in Spanish class; it derives from Arabic: "May Allah grant!"] What about, e.g., those whose bodies were atomized by the eponymous bomb, those of whom there is nothing left to raise? The Covid-19 virus continues to surprise scientists, who have noted that "asymptomatic transmission" is an innovation of this virus in the never ending Darwinean struggle between infections and the infected (they warn: we should expect more of these new "improved" pathogens in future...), but it seems the virus has not yet teamed up with "flesh eating bacteria" (Necrotizing fasciitis), even by contact among those who, as "DJT" says, as brave Americans, demand their freedom and refuse on principle to maintain social distancing.

Sink the Bismark!

I seem to recall having learned that Hitler's super-battleship was sunk ultimately due to a British dive-bomber's lucky hit on her rudders, resulting in the Bismark being unsteerable and able to move only going around in a circle. The inferior British forces were then able to hack away ad libitum at the crippled colossus.

I recall once driving down a suburban Poughkeepsie street after visiting my then current psychologist, and seeing a mouse running endlessly in a circle in the road. I tried to avoid hitting it. On another Poughkeepsie street and at another time I came upon a badly injured squirrel convulsing in the middle of the road. In this case I tried [successfully, if I saw aright in my rear-view mirror...] to take dead aim with my left-front tire to put him out of his misery. Yet another time, this time on a vacation in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the small town of Wolfville, one night, I observed a mouse repeatedly darting across the road in what seemed to be hope of luring a certain cat to chase it and die by road-kill. That may have been a false impression, attributing to the mouse greater Husserlean intentionality than it had, but it sure looked like it.

An educational thought

A motivational motto in IBM Poughkeepsie once read: "No wind blows in favor of that ship which has no port of destination."

At some point in college, having learned Edmund Husserl's concept of "intentionality", I began to see there are two kinds of writing (1) having something to write, and (2) producing n > p && n < q for some p,q where p < q words about some topic assigned by a teacher to make students jump through a hoop. I realized that if I had an idea that meant something to me [port of destination], and if I could relate the subject of the essay to that idea [wind], then I would have an orientation to write something [reach the destination] and not just generate word-count [move, perhaps, but, for sure, without getting anywhere]. The essay would pretty much organize itself, like a ship heading toward its port of destination. Examples:

"See if there's anything good on...." "Why bother?" (DESPAIR, Copyright © Robert Crumb, 1969, used with permission for non-profit educational purposes only; authorized by R.Crumb himself: "McCormick, Permission granted. R. Crumb") Do not reproduce. This image to BMcC indexical of many things.

"See if there's anything good on." "Why bother?"

Anent #2: Write an essay describing how Character A rises to political power in City B in Book C. What do you think about A's methods of acquiring political power? – when the student will never in their life give another thought to A, B or C after turning in the paper, "aiming" only to pass [get an "A" in, etc.] the course. There was once an R. Crumb (Despair) comic book with the cover picture of a seated woman anxiously looking at a TV and a man standing some feet behind her idly looking out a window. The man asks: "See if there's anything good on...." The woman replies: "Why bother?" [I once had a programming job where I displayed this comic book cover on the wall of my cubicle and my manager's boss(s?) instructed him to make me take it down because it was inappropriate to the institution; this rare piece of Americana had previously been in the office desk drawer of a manager at my then previous place of work, whom I presume must have given it to me. One night he had come home inebriated, and his wife hit him on the head with a frying pan and locked him out of the house for the rest of the night. There were several programming managers at that company who read Zap comix.]

Anent #1: In a course I took at Teachers College from Professor Maxine Greene "Esthetics in Education", I asked Prof. Greene if, instead of doing the course assignments I could submit an essay on "Morality in modern architecture" [she said to go do it, and I got an "A+" on my paper]. Now: I had for many years been interested in architecture, including attending the non-credit but intensive 6 week summer "Career Discovery" program at Harvard where the students "play" at being architecture students to see if they really want to go to architecture school and if they have what it takes to succeed there. I loved it! I worked past 11PM almost every night, often being the last person in the darkened Architecture School building (Gund Hall) except for the night-guard, and was back for more after an early breakfast each morning.

I got so engaged with architectural ideas that I argued with the teachers, including once doing library research and informing the teacher that something fairly important he had written in the specifications for one of the projects we had to do was wrong. At the end of the class I asked the teacher what might my prospects be in architecture school, and he told me that when they admitted people like me they tended to leave after the first year without having to be asked to. So I came to my essay project with passionate substantive real life experience of the subject. I had also read and studied a lot of architecture, finding Louis Kahn's humane, visionary words ("Between Silence and Light") about architecture enriching persons lives highly appealing, finding Robert Venturi's cynical words ("Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture") and cynical buildings (especially his Quaker Home for the Aged, "Guild House", in Philadelphia) repugnant, and, having made a field trip into "Midtown" (NYC) to take a good look at it, finding Philip Johnson's then new At&T building – the "Chippendale skyscraper" -- visibly vacant of meaning, especially the blank (blind?) windows, so that I imagine the only way the souls of the employees would be lifted up in it would be when they pressed the button for a higher floor in the elevator.... My reader, I think you can see that I had real interest in the topic for my essay, and, consequently, something to write. I wanted to vindicate Louis Kahn, show that the Emperor, Philip Johnson, had no clothes on although he pretended otherwise, and expose Robert Venturi as a cynical, conceited person, who, when compared with Kahn, did not deserve to be called an architect but something else, a postmodernist, I guess. Strong, but steady winds blew my ship forward, toward its highly cathected [that's a psychoanalytic word] port of destination!

But I have digressed. Back in the 1970s....

And I got so wrapped up in doing/writing this that I forgot to do my customary morning "ablutions" and to feed the cats, who also "do not forget". Done. Back to "passum..."

Back in the 1970s, when I first got into being a computer programmer, I met and worked with some interesting persons. Some examples:

(1) I once attended a meeting in IBM chaired by a fairly high-level manager (executive?), Jim Canavino. I was struck by a resemblance between him and how Lyndon Johnson handled the Ivy Leaguers he had inherited from JFK by talking to them while sitting on the toilet with the door open. Canavino [who was no hippie or Steve Jobs!] sat [suit and tie] cross-legged on his chair, blowing bubble gum bubbles. The other IBMers in the meeting, thus discomfited, seemed to accede to anything he wanted just to be able to get away.

(2) I once worked with a data center manager, at Maryland National Bank ["Does so much for so many people"], who had joined the company after leaving the army one year before he would have got his 20 year service retirement, and now regretted having done that. He once said to his manager: "If you tell me to dig a hole, I dig a hole. If you tell me to fill it up again, I fill it up again. Anything you want, Sir." He earned himself [what I called:] a remotion to 3rd shift manager.

(3) I worked with a man [good person], at United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company, who said about the coworker who was liaison with another insurance company they had contracted to implement a project (Fireman's Fund), perhaps the most eloquent thing I ever heard until I read George Steiner's assessment of the British traitor art historian Sir Anthony Blunt ("Damn the man"): "If I am ever in line with that man and above him I will fire him because he is a traitor." He also once told a coworker, at a different company (Baltimore Gas and Electric Company), sending at least one other coworker, I was told, to go for cover under their desk: "If I want to hear anything out of you, lady, I'll squeeze your head." This man eventually became my manager and later an "AVP" at yet another bank, Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Company, where he got fired for doing what he described as the best work he ever did in his life [and that was "saying something"!] because his management feared he would build a power base against them from doing such good work. He once told one of his "superiors": "If you ever have an employee you can't get to work, send them to Special Technical Services" [his department]. I saw him convert one such person – she happened to be a young black woman – into a productive employee.

(4) I once had a manager in IBM, Jim van Fleet [not so good person], who wore socks with pictures of Mickey Mouse on them, was proud to have 2 morbidly obese cats, but wouldn't talk with me about mice ["Want to talk about mice, Jim?" Response lost]. At the time they had "code walkthrus" where new code was reviewed, and where the people with fake wood-grain plastic top desks humiliated the people with gray plastic top desks, of whom I was one. Mr. van Fleet and his also fake wood-grained plastic technical side-kick scheduled a walkthru of some of my code. I told him that, while I would accept specific criticisms of my code, I did not intend to be "ground up". They cancelled the walkthru and my code shipped unreviewed.

(5) I had another manager at "MNB", Harold Jones [good person], whose prize possession was his red Ford pickup truck, and who understood the bank's then computer system's code (Burroughs mid-size mainframe) better than the manufacturer's service representatives, such that he told them how to fix problems he found in the system. At work in the computer room one Easter morning, he turned to see a fellow employee, a black man, entering the room, and exclaimed: "A chocolate Easter egg!" He had a motto on his desk that read: "We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, have done so much with so little for so long, that now we are qualified to do everything with nothing". As said, he was a good person, and he supported me to that point that, when I once told him that a certain thing had to be done, he said that if somebody else had told him he would have hesitated, but, coming from me, he went immediately to his "superiors" with it. [Back to #3 above: In my first computer programming job, at USF&G, when I was a trainee and #3 was the senior systems programmer, I went to him and said I thought the computer was losing the tail end of one of my files. He said that if it was any other programmer he would have assumed the programmer made a mistake in their code, but, coming from me, he reported it to IBM and they confirmed it was indeed an operating system error, for which they provided him a fix.]

(6) When I returned to IBM after my leave of absence to get my Masters degree at TC, I met with my newly assigned manager and said to him that I wanted a job assignment that would be meaningful for both myself and the company. He replied:

"If wishes were horses then beggars would ride."

[This man had a copy of the famous IBM "How to Stuff a Wild Duck" poster, right, on his office wall.]

(7) My last manager in IBM, after I returned from a second educational leave of absence during which I had completed my studies at Teachers College and earned my Ed.D. degree, was a bad person. His name, I thought to myself, in a wordplay: "Dog Kennel"All trash to recycling!. DK treated me as if he was an SS officer and I was a member of an inferior race, which may be true. I do not think civilians normally wear shirts with epaulets; DK did. (His manager had a perverted name and treated me better only in the sense that I had less interaction with him.) Once, looking genuinely puzzled, DK pronounced to (at?) me: "I have never seen anybody with such massive skill deficits as you"; he did nothing to help me rectify said deficits. He gave me an undoable assignment which, even if I had succeeded in doing it, had zip, zero, nada to do with the company's business other than to test me. Thanks in part to him (or maybe he was just obeying orders?), I finally left IBM when he gave me a "choice" [and graciously offered to give me a day to think about it...] of resigning [with some valuable severance benefits] or being fired [no benefits, presumably]. [Actually: This story is not quite so simple. I had been offered a position in another group to become a C++ programmer. The manager there told me it took at least half a year to train a C++ programmer, but he was willing to help me [he seemed a decent person]. I took it, begrudgedly, since after getting my Ed.D. I had hoped to be able to do something more humanistic than just more coding. I actually sat behind my new desk and started studying C++ books. But then, somebody came along and offered me the position in DK's group, which, on its face [appearances can be so deceiving!] looked like the work would take me to doing something more meaningful than just C++ coding. A pig in a poke offered to a hungry man. I bit, but, as described above, the result proved indigestible.]

Novus ordo seclorum in Computerland

The IBM I left in 1997/98(?) was well on its way to becoming a very different place from the IBM I joined in 1978 (so, also, was computer programming in general). I had entered "programming" at a time when some of the "wild men" were still around, when you didn't need an education to become a good programmer but only a sharp analytical mind with the ability to distinguish assembly language "L" from "LA" or even just write COBOL; I keypunched my early programs on hollerith cards; the company's "production" programs may still have been loaded from hollerith card decks.... I entered IBM in time to see a little bit of what for many years had earned the company a public image, perhaps not unmerited, of being about as close as any American capitalist enterprise ever came to being a "shining city on a hill" (albeit, working for customers, I had seen how ruthless a competitor IBM could be; also, at USF&G, one day, I was walking back from lunch with my two systems programmer coworkers, one crippled, legally blind but also a master programmer who used part of an old bombsight to help him read code, the other good but also uncouth. IBM sales representative, Harris Jones, was walking with USF&G's Vice President of Data Processing, some feet behind us. Harris said to VP, loud enough for us to hear: "There go your bearded hippie freaks"). Walking down a hall in the IBM Poughkeepsie education building, in 1978, I once looked into a room and saw grown men in blue suits singing an IBM song. I thought then that was silly or even bad [I had not forgotten "cheer rallies" in "prep school"!]. Years later, I felt and still feel sad about it. [Years after I left IBM, I acquired a copy of "The IBM Song Book" from an "old IBMer".] I also remember walking down another hall, in a building the location of which I forget, behind two "blue suits", and overhearing one "blue suit" say to the other: "Fishkill is not coming in with the inventions on schedule." Now I think that may have been an omen of things to come?

I joined IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, "System Products Division [SPD], South Road Lab, POK", April 1978. I worked with some fine persons there, including the top two troubleshooters who made stuff work that what I called "the Mongoloid hoard" had produced, Senior Programmer David Stuckie and Advisory Programmer Pam Dewey. They also liked and respected me.

After a couple years, I transferred to the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York – a building designed by Eero Saarinen, which I think is one of the finest pieces of modernist architecture –, where I probably never belonged since I was not a researcher. But, at the time, I wanted to be there [silly me!], and was able to get there due to having done a small piece of work which, however, was very important to the company business [I learned here: The "security level" of a project does not vary directly with its "conceptual interest"]. "They" knew about my experience with the group led by the man in the Mickey Mouse socks, and asked me if I would go back to do this work there, anyway. Of course I would, to do good work for the company, it being stated that I would be allowed to do it my way and not "theirs". I even got them to promise that my then new manager could go anywhere in the company he wanted when the job was finished. We did it. "They" objected to my code, but they also didn't have veto power. The product shipped with my maverick code. I never heard of any problems with what we did. I got two "informal awards", and I went to Research. There, among other things, I got the two educational leaves of absence to go to Teachers College [IBM paid my tuition, let me keep my medical insurance, and allowed me continued access to the Research Lab building while I was gone. I thank you for all that, IBM.].

After leaving IBM (1997ish), my [mis]adventures with more "modern" computers ["PC"s not "mainframes"] and computer programming began ["Oops", Java, a proprietary software product that never shipped due to a software licensing issue the big boss who proudly thought it up had not foreseen in designing(miraging?) it, Angular, etc.]. This was after I had earned my Ed.D. at Teachers College, and when I came to feel increasingly strongly and deeply "passum sub iugum" – that, to earn a living, I had to "pass under the yoke" (or I largely repressed these feelings to not feel them).

After college, having learned, from experiences I had working as Museum Shop manager at The Baltimore Museum of Art (1979), about fine handcrafts and more, I had come to cultivate an interest in "good books", classical music, etc. I read Elsa Morante's "History: A Novel", a book of Louis Kahn's words ("Between Silence and Light"), Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" [all 3 volumes], etc. My favorite pieces of music were Josquin des Prez's "Missa Pange Lingua" and Wanda Landowska playing just about anything [but especially with gunfire from "the front" in World War I accompanying the harpsichord in the background]. I became friends and commissioned a to-him important project with one of the shapers of then contemporary fine wood craft who had pieces in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I managed to also become friends with Hermann Broch's son. Etcetera. Such things simply do not "square" with being a low level computer programmer aka, as I thought after reading Solzhenitsyn, zek, but that's what it seemed to me I had to do to "earn a living".

Up until about 2005, when GWB tanked the economy and I suffered personal emotional damage from it, I still had enough energy both to do my job and also have something of a life of the mind in my non-working time. I spent a lot of my "free time" during perhaps 7 or 8 years, elaborating a large HTML 3.2/4.01 personal website:, which still existed in early 2020 (aetatis suae ca. 23 years), and which you, my reader, may have wished to look at. I'm still pleased with it and still stand by almost all that I wrote and imaged there. The website was also a big example of what web development was not to become, relying on HTML tables formatting markup for layout, etc. Robbie emailed me about it: "I had previously encountered your website following an 'External link' listed in the Wikipedia entry on Hermann Broch. I had not realized how extensive and complex it was however. It needs more time to explore than I have yet given it." Around 2006/2008, increasingly "running on empty", discouraged and depressed, I ceased working on it.[3]

My worst mistake in my programming career?

That was then, this is now

I was made redundant in my last [programmer] job, at Dell/EMC, 15 June 2018. I am composing this essay, May 2020, in, as I emailed Robbie: "first semester of the apocryphal remote learning course, in the department of Covid-19 here at Wuhan Pandemic U (or is it (POTUS №45) Trump University? --A pox on him!), in which I have enrolled in my mind these days." In the New York Times, nobel Economics laureate Professor Paul Krugman writes an OpEd piece in which he speaks of us "dying for the Dow". A Detroit Michigan nurse, one among so many!, become hero tells CNN that she got into nursing to help people, but: "I did not sign up to die". America is the laughing stock of but worse a volitile danger to the world [I thought: "Kill some Kurds!" when POTUS DJT moved our troops out of Northern Syria so that he could toady up to autocrat Erdogan of Turkey], while in a small country DJT tried to jerk around, Ukraine, a man who previously was a [real] comedian, writes another NYT OpEd piece which makes me think he is a true statesman and a good leader of his people.

By Spring 2020, I had not read a real book for several years. One of the last books I read was, perhaps presciently, "I Am a Cat", by Natsume Soseki, an important novel from pre-WWII Japan, which tells the story of a house cat whose curiousity about beer leads him to jump into a bucket of it and drown. After asking Robbie if it was worthwhile and he said yes, I bought a copy of Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror". Why? Because I had read in an NYT article "Tuchman posited that the roots of modernity can be traced to the disease-bearing fleas and rats of the 14th century", and I correlated this with Elizabeth Eisenstein's "The Printing Press as an Agent of Change", where Eisenstein anchors modernity in the coming of "uniform printed editions" (plagues and tomes? a 2x feast for reflective thinking! I'm famished. Yum!).... I cannot too strongly recommend Elsa Morante's "History: A Novel", although Wilfred Owen's little poem "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" accomplishes the same thing in less than one page whereas Morante's novel is quite long. She begins with a quote from a survivor of Hiroshima: "There is no word in the human language capable of consoling the guinea pigs who do not know the reason for their death". She concludes: "And history continues".

How far had I sunk?

+2020.12.30. Yesterday, I was reminded of something called "blue vein cheese". I had totally forgotten that. Then I did a Google search and found "Gorgonzola". Oh! that was what I had forgotten exists and which I had loved to eat before my soul destroying working. Rust never sleeps.

Also, same day: Reading a philosophy book ("Gee! I can still read, you a**holes?"), I came across the ascii character sting: "Lingis". Alphonso Lingis is/was a philosophy professor whom I had a bit known in 1968. Once again, a memory that had been effaced from me by working which was consigning my soul to File 13.The bride stripped bare by her bachelors even. "What? Who? Oh, get over it, you ingrate piece of shit! Life is good and you don't appreciate what you've got. You're always being negative about big words that don't matter. Come down to earth and be one of us! And why do you look like somebody's picking on you? You don't understand anything and you won't talk about it because you're always changing the subject and everything's not about you ..." And history continues.

But as the humiliated one supposedly muttered under his breath: "Eppur si muove." They had not destroyed his memory of who he had been before they started doing him in.

Why was it better at the start than at the end?

+2023.09.04. Today I thought more about this. Why did it get wretched from a start which was not too bad? The work was better in the earlier years. And I expected less then. So it was a "double whammy": a lower mark against a raised standard.

But that said, I am sure raising the standard was the lesser factor. Knowing better was possible did not cause me to lose much of my memory and all of my will to live: that was due to the worsening of the work situation. Early on, yes, I found the work itself more interesting, but also it was easy enough that doing it left me with time and energy to pursue intellectual development even if the latter had nothing to do with the work, a condition which as wlways misfortunate but I had accepted that.

The much worse work, against a higher vision, and under ever more suffocating duress had become consumptive[4]. A triple whammy.

Aside: Computers versus persons

Many things that are degrading, insulting and other bad things when targeted on persons, are entirely appropriate for dealing with computers.

Children should be seen and not heard? No, because children are at least potentially persons. Computers should be seen and not heard is entirely civilized expectation. I should have had masters in school? No. But the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution should not be extended to apply to silicon or other chips. It is entirely appropriate for a super-computer in the Cloud to address a leper from Medieval times or other misfortunate person as: "Sire", and for the computer to obey them. If some Robocaller on the phone annoys you, it is entirely appropriate to tell them to "Shut your mouth" and "Go to hell".

The limit to appropriate behavior toward computers is that a person should not, in frustration or anger or whatever emotion smash a computer, because it will cost the person good time and effort and money and so forth to replace it. When computers do stay in their place and serve persons, especially to annul God's curse on Adam and Eve from ourselves today and from future generations, that is good.

A good computer program is one that using it makes your day better than had you not used it.

One of the most goddamned insulting repulsive pieces of computer shit I have ever encountered

I turn on my computer and go to launch my usual web browser (Chrome). I get the below goddamned insulting popup. I have not committed any relevant crime. I have not changed anything since I last used my computer and the goddamned application was behaving correctly. But the application is not working any longer. That was insulting and disgusting enough. But then I get the message in the picture below and it asks me if it's OK that I have been shit upon. Obviously it is not at all OK.

Instead of "OK", the button should say something like: "Confirm you have read this message. You do not have to like it; you just have to acknowledge you have read it. Here is our toll free number so we can try to remediate the harm you have suffered. 1-800-666-0000"

Insult added to injury.

General rule: Computer dialog boxes telling the user that the computer has done something to hurt them should not have "OK" buttons, but instead "Confirm you have read the message...." buttons. It is insulting and disgusting to ask a person if it OK that you have hurt them. This should be obvious to any techie, and especially to his, her or other's manager that is old enough to no longer wear a diaper.

What my problems with computer programming really were

My problems appeared largely to be with things technical about computer programming, for instance the infamous "GOTO". I wanted to write GOTOs. The Programming Gestapo (the senior technical turd in the group I worked in, the techno Ayatollahs, et al.) wanted to extirpate GOTOs. I only partly thematize it at the time, but my problem wasn't really with GOTOs. It was with being treated like a turd and being jerked around by jerks – people who knew less and had less appreciation of quality anything than me (often: "pigs" and "clowns"). Therewas even one famous dude whose name was always in ComputerWorld who was obsessed with "egoless programming", who had the name: "Ed Yourdon" – he wasn't my "don", i.e.: Oxford mentor.

Had they gently explained to me why they personally felt GOTOs were not good and respectfuly asked me for my thoughts and engaged in leisured peer-to-peer discourse with me about the technical subject in the context of humane and humanistic social interaction, certainly now and I think even back at the time, I would have agreed with such honorable persons who would not have been insulting pompous asses (or fops). I detested assholes jerking me around and wanted them to get lost.

I had another battle: with stong typing. They demanded strong typing of variables in hopes of preventing idiot programmers from trying to divide a String by a floating point number or something else stupid. If, again, they had respectfuly engaged me concerning both the technical issues and also the politics of herding sheep and emphasized that I was not a sheep and therefore was obviously not subject to any coercive standards, once again, I think I would have agreed with such decent persons an wanted to work with them for the advancement of civilization. I would have even gladly helped them herd the sheep.

Thirdly, they didn't clearly document the shit. And I did not see why I should have to waste my lifetime guessing how to make the shit work. Here again, had they respectfully assigned me the task of investigating the technical issues at leisure with experts freely available for me to consult with, for me to produce documentation I felt was to my standards, or else for me to explain to them why the material to be documented was itself bad, then, again, I think I would have been happy to help. And I wanted to help, not to schlep; I did not want to be a white-collar beast of burden, which is what they were doing to me.

Another example here (+2021.11.11). I looked up "egoless programming" on Google, and the top item was: The Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming. It was entirely reasonable. One more example of bad people making things bad. The guy who wrote this does not sound like he was out to destroy my soul, but the label was the same: "egoless programming". How about if they had called it and meant it: "Reflectively distanced programming", and meant: "It's all of us against the computer, Sir", not: "Us using the computer against you, subordinate creature". James Mickey Mouse van Fleet (wife at same rank: Donna) and his tech goon: John Howell (wife at same rank: Kathy), which latter the only good thing I ever knew he did was tear his achilles tendon basketballing. Their toadie second-class: Vicky Greenberg (husband a higher rank business planner) and her pal Margie Mauraud(sp?) who was only there to collect a paycheck until she could go to medical school, and her assistant who was a kind of small-time and even looked like Mr. Spock from Startrek. A collection of defective merchandise. Then there wa a guy at Howell's rank level who had a wife at same rank level who [wife] was coming to work dying from spinal cancer so she had to wear maternity clothes – that was very sad and I wondered if he was "playing around" or had a girlfriend.

The jerks liked "IF ... THEN ... ELSE"s. From the time I was a COBOL trainee, I liked "table driven" code. Never use a conditional when a declarative statement will do, yes, guys? Why were't they pushing that? Because they were too stupid, or because they liked dealing with stupid programmers? A Yogi Berra said: If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

In other words, my problem with computer programming was not so much with the computer itself, as with the political corretness wokies I was stuck having to be jerked around by. (This "political correctness" and "wokenesss" had nothing whatever to do with and probably temporally anteceded the birth of "critical race theory", etc. in the public social world; it was strictly computerstuff.) Everything should have been grounded in the fundamenta principle that:

Leisure is the basis of culture.

And they needed to treat me as a person of leisure whose further intellectual develpment was a primary desideratum (albeit not the only ond). The computer programming workplace should for me have been a combination of Plato's Academy and the Alexandrian Library. That's all; is that too much to expect from fellow mortals in a putatively civilized country?

The greatest computer programming things ever

My candidates for the greatest computer programming things ever, things that inspire not demoralize me:

Suggestion: If users keep making the same mistake....

If users keep making the same mistake using your computer application, why not try to make what they are doing be a documented way to do what they are trying to do? Wouldn't that be an enhancement they might like?

Computer programers at work. Note broken down improved programming technology in background.

May we all be delivered from evil since we don't seem able to do it by ourselves (cf. "America's calling Harry Truman... Harry is there something we can do to save the land we love", Rock band Chicago, 1975!)

Remember the Kursk! Remember the heroes of Chernobyl! Remember all those who have fallen in all wars, including our present war against what scientists are calling a new, improved virus ["asymptomatic transmission" giving Covid-19 an evolutionary leg up in the eternal struggle of infections versus the infected]!

Sun Tzu ("The Art of War") wrote: "The great general wins without fighting."
But this text is already long enough. I continue: here.

Thank you for reading. Vale! Ojala!

+2024.02.16 v088
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  1. A lot of managers look stupid when compared to expired Doritos. ~ And then there was the young lady who sat on the Xerox machine without her panties on, and shared copies. It's harder to do that on a home-office desktop multifunction printer, you know.
  2. "Today and tomorrow, and yesterday too, the flowers are dyin' like all things do...." (Bob Dylan, "I contain multitudes")
  3. My (BMcC) pages here, in A place to study, are my new possible web presence, which does not replace that earlier website. When I reference back to it now, in 2020, I sometimes wonder who wrote it, and I think they did a good job.
  4. The word "consumption" used to refer to the chronic and often fatal wasting disease: tuberculosis.
Unfortunate for themself, the person who lacks one; unfortunate for others, the person that is one. Don't be an a**hole!
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