Thursday, February 17, 2011

The C.A.B.A. English Congregation

Wednesday was the day we have all been waiting for... some of us for years.  Our little English group was approved to become a congregation!  And there was much rejoicing!

March 1st will be our first meeting as a congregation.  Brings a tear to me eye...

The group has worked very hard for this.  We have had a lot of growth, including families moving in, Bethel couples moving in, and a student getting baptized.  It was time to form a congregation. 

There is much more work ahead, but everyone is excited and ready to roll.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Fall of Keynesianism

Those of you who know me also know that I think the world economy is going to collapse soon.  It will start with the US.  Here's a peek at the current US debt.  Notice the amounts owed by every single taxpayer, especially at the lower right:

It will get the point where the US won't even be able to pay the interest on the money it owes.  And that $14 trillion figure doesn't even take into account private, business, and especially financial sector debt.  All of these total over $100 trillion.  Unsustainable.  And when the camel's back breaks, it will take the liquidity of the world down with it.

It will be, quite literally, insanity.   

This is of course a highly charged idea, and I don't want to get involved in the politics of it... at least not yet.  But I saw this great quote today that I just had to share:

The first lesson of economics is that we live in a world of scarcity. There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to ignore the first lesson of economics.

— Thomas Sowell

Enough said.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Broken Windows

Broken Window Theory is an extremely powerful concept.  Here's a short article about it:

And here is the original article that started it all:

It was first developed with respect to criminology, but it has very far-reaching implications.  Malcom Gladwell expounds on the sociology of it in The Tipping Point.  And Steve McConnell applies it to Software Engineering in Code Complete, mentioned last time.   

Why is it so powerful?  If you read the above Wikipedia article I'm sure you can see why: small changes to an environment invoke large changes in the minds of the people therein. 

I don't want to repeat what the article says (please do read it) but in short, here's the point:

An investigation of urban areas was performed to determine what transforms a good neighborhood into a bad neighborhood.  The answer: broken windows. 

When people see broken windows in buildings, it sends them a signal that nobody cares about that area.  So vandals come and break more windows, in addition to other types of destruction.  This is now a stronger signal that nobody cares and that disorder rules.  So crime escalates.  It is a self-perpetuating downward spiral.  And it all starts from broken windows.

The solution is clear: fix broken windows.  New York City tried exactly that starting in 1985.  It first applied the principle to the subway system and then the city in general.  The results were striking.  Changing this small signal drastically improved crime rates.

Again, you can see the import of this.  The broken window is simply a metaphor.  What matters is the signal.  If we want people to follow some norm, we need to ensure signals are in place to encourage such behavior.  Perhaps even more importantly, we need to remove signals that encourage the opposite behavior.

Here's a really simple example.  Let's say you have some roommates and you want them to keep the place clean.  If they see "broken windows" (again, a metaphor here: perhaps a few unwashed dishes, or a dirty floor) what signal are you sending?  That you don't care about cleanliness!  Which is the opposite signal that you want to send.

So anytime we want to encourage a certain social norm, we need to fix broken windows.  They may seem like little things, but that is exactly the point!  The little things are always noticed, at least on some level. 

After learning about this, I started to see broken windows everywhere (especially in code we were writing).  It is worth the time investment to fix them.