Sunday, December 27, 2009

Edvac, or Engineers will be engineers

As work under the contract progressed, it became necessary from time to time to freeze logical planning and design characteristics in order that the project should result in the completion of the EDVAC. If this were not done the result would merely have been the establishment of the specifications and techniques then representative of the existing state of the art. Certain design characteristics of the completed machine represented the state of the art two years previous, others of one year previous, while some were current characteristics. As often happens in development projects of this nature, the freezing of design occurred later than had been anticipated, partly because early design decisions had been unsound and partly because it is never possible to prevent research-minded personnel from continuing to incorporate desirable improvements which result in a better instrument but are accompanied by a later completion date. In the case of EDVAC a delay of about one year occurred, but the machine possessed a capability far beyond that envisioned in the preliminary report or in the contract and its supplements.



Sound familiar? If not, you've never worked with engineers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

California Desert

On the way to LA after Thanksgiving saw this from the hiway. Had to pull over. The iPhone is no Leica, but the 3gs has a decent camera. Enough so that you might not need another "little" camera that you can take with you when your "real camera" is too much to bother with.

The "touch to focus" is also "touch to set exposure" which is why you can see the mountain, but the sky is blown out. I touched the mountain.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

King Obama and Queen Palin

Want to create a stir with your left-wing friends? When they are trying to figure out what Palin is, tell them that you think that she is the Republican Obama. By which of course you mean that she embodies the virtues most prized by Republicans, just as Obama embodies Democrat's. He is sophisticated, thoughtful, nuanced. He embodies in a literal way the racial tolerance we all strive for. She is forthright, tough, independent, and nobody's fool.

It is really too bad that we do not have an elected Royalty in this country. I thought when Obama was running that he was a perfect example of the sort of person that we should point to as an example of what it is possible to achieve here, but that I would rather he did not have much of a role in determining our nations policies. I feel pretty much the same way about Palin, though I like her positions on some things better than his. But she too has come up from humble roots, and can perhaps function best as an example of what it is possible to achieve.

Can't we elect them as King and Queen of America, a purely ceremonial role? They can give speeches and cut ribbons, and someone who loves America as much as she does, and thinks about it as much as he does, can actually run the place. If we do it right, it won't even require a constitutional amendment.

Amanda Knox

My take on it: Don't smoke pot. Why? Because you never know when you are going to need to be sober.

I mean that I suspect she was not guilty, but being stoned at her boyfriends left her in no condition to explain herself, or behave normally at the police station.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


In Los Angeles over the weekend we got some ice cream at this place. Since everyone loves food blogging, it seemed a good place to get an entry. The ice cream is very good, but there is something strange about it. Until tasting theirs, it would not have seemed possible to me for ice cream to be too smooth. But this is? Perhaps.

It is so smooth that we were discussing how they did it. Was it mixed more thoroughly as it was being frozen to make the ice crystals smaller? Was the cream different?

The chocolate was not as strong as you might prefer, but the coconut was delicious.

It made a fine conclusion to a meal that started at the Indian place a few blocks away, which probably deserves a post of its own, since the Bhaigan Bharta was fantastic, and the okra was cooked to a dryness that made one forget there is such a thing as slimy okra.

The Obama Fallacy

There was a book review in the WSJ recently. The book described how the Ottoman empire was able to survive for so much longer than the Roman empire, despite its many disadvantages. The author attibutes it to the Ottoman's strategic vision. But to say that there was such a thing as an "Ottoman strategic vision" begs a number of questions. After all, how did such a thing get preserved over the hundreds of years the empire survived?

I suspect one way is to summarize strategic insights in an easily remembered way. If America is to survive as well (or better?) than the Ottomans did, perhaps we ought to be able to do the same. One simple to remember insight is that there are such things as "enemies" and that we can't just explain away our differences. Some countries are at odds with us, and must be out-manouvered. We cannot simply persuade them that they are wrong.

This fallacy that we can talk our way out of all difficulties is popular, perhaps because it presents us with a world in which we need not make hard choices. Sitting down with our adversaries is so much easier than confronting them! So to avoid falling into such a dangerously enticing trap, we need a good way to remember to avoid it. Perhaps we can find a particularly vivid and charismatic exemplar, and name it after him?