Categories
JavaScript Technology Writing

My Last O’Reilly Book

The editor for JavaScript Cookbook, 3rd edition, just sent me a draft to review and comment on. This is the last of the O’Reilly books that will feature my name on it. I wasn’t actively involved in it; my name is on it because they kept about 15% of my old content. New authors, Adam Scott and Matthew MacDonald, took on the majority of the work.

They did a good job, too. I particularly like the chapter devoted to error handling. The days of using an alert message to debug have been gone for decades, and JS developers now have sophisticated error-handling techniques and tools. It is no longer your Mom’s JS.

Good. I’m happy the language and its uses have evolved. But…

I sometimes miss the simpler days when an alert was your JavaScript best friend.

I’ve been working with JavaScript since it was first introduced over 25 years ago. Not just traditionally in the web page, either. I worked on a small project that used Netscape’s server-side JavaScript (LiveWire) in the 1990s. It was so very different from an application made with Node. as you can see for yourself from an old Dr. Dobb’s article on LiveWire.

Writing about JavaScript today requires a different mindset than writing about it years ago. Then, JavaScript was laughably simple. It’s simplicity, though, was also its strength. In its infancy JavaScript was so embraceable. You could literally toss a tiny blurb of JS into an HTML file, load it into a browser, and see an immediate implementation. You didn’t have to fiddle with compilation, installing special developer tools, or figure out a framework.

My first book on JavaScript, the JavaScript How-To for Waite Group Press was published in 1996. The hardest part of writing it was trying to find enough about JavaScript to actually fill a book.

JavaScript today, or ECMAScript if you want to be pure, is not so simple. And oddly enough, that’s its strength now: it is powerful enough to meet today’s very demanding web applications. And the hardest part of working on a book such as the JavaScript Cookbook is limiting yourself to the essentials, because you could easily write three or four books and still not envelop the world of JavaScript as it exists now.

When O’Reilly asked me to do a new edition of the Cookbook I knew I just didn’t want to take on that kind of burden again. It was hard to give up control of one of my favorite books, but after 25 years of working to deadlines and dealing with tech editors, I knew I just didn’t have the energy or patience to do the book justice. I knew it was time for me to hang up my drafts.

Thankfully, the new Cookbook team have done an exceptionally good job. I’m happy to have my name on the Cookbook, one last time.

If I write now, it’s solely for me: my ideas, my deadlines, my expectations. I may only write in this space. I may try my hand at self-publication.

Who knows? Maybe all I’ll do is write incendiary commentary in Facebook and Twitter and see how often I can get banned.

Categories
Political

Biden’s Immigration Plan and ICE FUD

I just finished reading another poorly done conservative piece in the Savannah Morning News; this one full of hearsay and innuendo. It was published at the same time as another piece that formed the point of this particular point/counter-point.
 
Both writings are supposedly about Biden’s immigration plan, but only the positive one really discusses it. The conservative opinion, written by Ryan Smith, a communications professional, seemed to be more focused on ICE, as defined under Trump, rather than Biden’s plan. He writes:
 
‘Many of these changes are cosmetic. But according to Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a fundamental change in immigration is underway, a change that members of America’s border security agencies say could bring even more changes to our immigration system.
 
“I’ve heard from multiple sources that dismantling ICE and ending its enforcement role was discussed by [Department of Homeland Security Secretary] Alejandro Mayorkas at a town hall meeting for ICE staff in San Antonio,” Vaughan told InsideSources. “The apparent purpose of this reorganization is to abolish immigration enforcement by starving the agency of resources, personnel, and authority, and at the same time stifle internal resistance by busting the deportation officers union.”’
 
Hearsay and innuendo.
 
Hearsay from multiple sources about dismantling ICE and ending its enforcement role. There could actually be truth to half of this: there has been significant discussion about dismantling ICE. ICE was a knee jerk reaction to 9/11 that was hastily contrived, and has been poorly managed ever since. Even many ICE agents have recommended it be dismantled.
 
But then we get the innuendo: the sole purpose for dismantling ICE is to abolish immigration enforcement, something that no one with any intelligence should find credible. Even less credible is a asserted secondary purpose: to bust the deportation officers union. We assume the writer picked this up from an article published by the Center for Immigration Studies, about a nefarious plot to abolish deportation officers.
 
(How does one abolish deportation officers? Does one wave a magic wand and with a “bippoty boppity boop” they vanish in a sparkly cloud?)
 
ICE was originally intended to be a small organization whose sole purpose was to prevent acts of terrorism by targeting the people, money, and materials that support terrorist and criminal activities. It then morphed into this large blob of an agency that is re-defined by whoever is President to do whatever the President deems it should do.
 
Under Trump, it became such a symbol of hate and fear that the officers within ICE who are actually tasked with enforcing ICE’s original duties cannot do so because police agencies would no longer work with them.
 
As we have painfully discovered over the last several years, no agency with sweeping police powers should operate with such ill-defined boundaries. The potential for abuse is enormous.
 
I can truly believe that there was a meeting in the DHS about dismantling ICE. There have been meetings in the DHS before Trump was President about doing the same. And there have been calls from groups outside the government, both conservative and liberal, to eliminate the agency and return both people and duties to the agencies originally tasked to manage both.
 
But this opinion was supposed to be about Biden’s immigration plan, wasn’t it?
 
As if reminded of the fact, Smith casually tosses in a couple of indifferent paragraphs about the plan, but only after he’s sufficiently stirred up enough fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to ensure a negative reaction to anything anyone might read about it. He also manages to work Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s into the piece, because you can’t have a conservative writing without mentioning her least once.

 

Categories
Government

COVID used as vector to attack teacher’s unions

A disturbing pattern is beginning to emerge in the local newspaper I read, the Savannah Morning News. They just published a second piece by a conservative Republican blaming the lack of school openings on teacher’s unions (and by association, Democrats).

The piece (also found here), written by Scott Jennings, segues like a pinball between a doctor being charged for vaccine misuse, N95 masks that were stuck in warehouses for months, and the notorious January 6 “Shaman” rioter getting organic food in prison.

Then, after softening up the reader with this confusing melange of unrelated incidents, he focuses like a laser on his real complaint: the seeming confusion at the CDC related to school openings and COVID, and how all of it must be due to teacher union interference with President Biden.

In Washington, President Biden sits in the White House after promising to “listen to the science” in beating the coronavirus. He would never interfere with scientists, he said, over and over and over.

And yet, less than a month into his term, that’s exactly what his White House is doing. His Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said on Feb. 5 that “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that … vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.”

Bold move, Rochelle. You just got between Democrats and the teachers’ unions. Immediately, Biden’s spokesperson issued a statement saying Walensky was “speaking in her personal capacity,” a nonsensical smackdown of a top government scientist.

The Biden administration has taken the gags off the people of the CDC and encouraged them to speak to the media. That they’re not always in sync with each other, much less the administration, is a natural consequence of them being able to speak at all. They weren’t allowed to when Trump was President.

When you allow all the people to speak, sometimes they won’t agree. Sometimes it can even cause some confusion. Something Jennings seems to have forgotten.

The problem with Jennings writing is that it is a hack piece, notable only for its leaps of logic when it somehow manages to make teacher’s unions the end-all be-all evil villain in his fictional scenario. And he managed to do so in such a way that the reader sees the union as somehow separate from the teachers, because teachers are good…unions are bad. Yet you can’t talk about school openings without talking about teachers, and their very real concerns.

School openings are a complex and frequently emotional topic. That teachers are worried about being impacted by COVID should be understandable, even to the most self-centered parent.

Teachers have died from COVID. They’ve died in Georgia. The whole premise about opening schools is whether the school can implement necessary safeguards, and we know many schools can’t.

In particular, public schools are frequently more crowded than private schools, which are held up as some sort of ‘model’ for how it’s done. It is going to be tougher to ensure safety when the school barely has the money to buy books, much less safety gear. Our starved public schools can only do so much.

The writer of this piece somehow thinks it was teacher’s unions who changed President Biden’s opinion, and hence created the confusion in the CDC.

No, the confusion is coming about because there literally is not enough data to form a conclusion about whether it is safe to open schools or not. So the experts are taking what they do know—infection rates, mask wearing, spacing, and hygiene—and trying to morph this into a cohesive school opening policy, which they know too many states and communities will ignore.

In the end of his writing, Jennings finally brings all his disparate pieces together.

What is our nation’s future if we continue down this unserious path? Punishing doctors. Locking up medical equipment. Treating the “QAnon Shaman” better than we treat our children. Regressing into political adolescents. Putting union bosses ahead of scientists.

What is our nation’s future if we continue to discount a teacher’s worth and a teacher’s life?

In a lose/lose situation, the CDC is doing the best it can. So are the teacher’s unions. And so is President Biden.