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A Stunning Contrast

October 9th was a day of unusual contrast for me, personally. It was both the date of North Korea's nuclear test and the date we reached an extremely important milestone in a project at work.

Early in the day (actually, still on Oct. 8th in my time zone) I learned about the North Korean test. I was not surprised that it happened but I was surprised they did it so quickly. I expected them to use the threat of a test as a stalling maneuver to slow down diplomatic action against them. As I write this, there's still no consensus on the device's yield, and it may have fizzled.

Regardless of the test's efficacy, the fact that it occurred is a reminder of how dangerous the world is. North Korea is a complete basket case, an economic disaster ruled by an insane tyrant who uses Stalinist methods to keep his starving population under control while focusing the country's few resources on military programs. Even without nukes, the army and artillery are a serious threat to South Korea.

China is North Korea's only, and infrequent, ally. They have the leverage to clean up this mess because they're North Korea's major donor nation. But China doesn't want to clean up this mess for diplomatic reasons — they want to reduce U.S. influence over the Korean peninsula and they can also use North Korea a bargaining chip over Taiwan. (And if the U.S. does anything unilaterally, it would provide a convenient excuse for China to complain.)

Bilateral talks won't work; I agree with Secretary Rice.

Sigh. Crazies with nukes, and some people want to try to turn the situation into a diplomatic advantage instead of doing something useful like cutting off aid or (better!) assassinating Kim Jong Il. Heck, I'd be happy if China killed him and then blamed the United States for it. Hint, hint.

The world is dangerous and unstable and frightening.

But we're getting amazing things done at work! I can't share the details, of course, but I can say general things about it. I've personally been working on this project for two and a half years, and on October 9th we reached one of the most significant (arguably the most significant) milestone in all that time.

The milestone is a demonstration that the tool works. Up until now it's all been scoping and architecture and design and implementation and you're probably thinking it's all pretty complicated stuff if it takes so long to come together. Yeah, that's an understatement.

A prediction was made a while ago about when we'd reach the milestone, and we beat it by three weeks. We ended up with fewer issues to work through than even I expected, and I was the optimist of the bunch. I don't think the success has fully sunken in yet. I've been convinced things would work for so long that success doesn't surprise me. :)

I'm living in a world where I see smart, dedicated people pursuing multi-year projects with job descriptions that didn't even exist fifteen years ago, creating mission-critical systems a full order of magnitude more complex than the previous generations, and achieving their milestones ahead of expectations. And there's another part of the world where politicians and diplomats are squabbling over the dangerous antics of the insane ruler of the armpit of the earth.

On the same day.

Tiny Island