Friday, May 30, 2014

The following is a quote from an astronaut speaking about a spacecraft

"There's so much more elbow room in there compared to the Soyuz," he said. "Instead of just bringing two of your buddies, you can bring six ... It's got modern electronics, it's got modern materials in the heat shield. So technologically, it's a giant leap beyond the Soyuz."

SpaceX reveals new-look passenger spacecraft

One could think of a number of snarky comments that could be made (especially given that Elon Musk is also the CEO of Tesla), but I'm kind of amazed that this is how human beings are speaking about spacecraft these days.

Perhaps it should all be taken with a grain of salt since this quote was spoken at a publicity event by someone who works for SpaceX. long until I can take a vacation to Mars?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This, But For Computer Programming

If you meet a philosopher on a train and ask him his profession, he is likely to lie. It is not that philosophers are especially prone to lying, but rather that philosophy is a peculiar profession. To tell your fellow passenger that you are a philosopher opens up an awkward line of questioning. ... If you take the plunge, however, and accept the label of philosopher, you must be prepared for the disappointment when your listener hears that you don't live in a hut on a mountaintop, haven't uncovered the secret of life, and cannot explain why the world exists. If you are foolish enough to go further and attempt to describe your lifelong attempt to reconcile the epistemology of mathematics with its ontology, be prepared to encounter a look in which boredom and horror are blended equally. Best, therefore, to say simply that you are an architect, and leave it at that.

A World Without Time, Palle Yourgrau, page 164.

Some possible substitutions:
PhilosopherComputer Programmer
live in a hut on a mountaintoplive in your parents basement
uncovered the secret of lifeknow why my computer is running so slowly
explain why the world existsinstall the driver for my printer
reconcile the epistemology of mathematics with its ontologyfigure out the best cache invalidation strategy to provide a balance of performance and freshness

As a corollary, I wonder if there is a t-shirt for philosophers that is congruent with the "No, I will not fix your computer" t-shirt for computer professionals, something like "No, I will not fix your worldview."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Solution for Silicon Valley?

"People—especially in the financial community—seem to assume that every industry works kind of like a web startup, and that all you need is two hot guys and $25,000 and you're a millionaire in six months. Heavy semi doesn't work like that. Heavy semi is like steel mills and railroads. By the time you can get a serious semi company self sustaining you're looking at a couple hundred million dollars of investment." — Ivan Godard of Out-of-the-Box Computing (

It's a longer conversation to have, but I have opinions about Silicon Valley (that I share with others). However, it is nice to see people trying to create a real business and solve real problems instead of creating the next Instagram clone. The thing is that it takes hard work, many years, and the perspective to step back and work towards fundamental—not incremental—change.

Best of luck to the OOTBC guys! True, a new CPU architecture isn't exactly solving problems of justice and social inequality, but at least it isn't a get rich quick scheme. Finding ways to fill in computation at neglected price points in the market is a stepping stone to solving other problems. Hopefully those problems aren't how to gamify haircuts or something. *sigh*

Let's have some get-rich-slow startups that are truly innovating to solve difficult, fundamental problems.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Buck Stops Here

"Rufer explains the thinking behind the process: 'I was signing checks one day and I recalled the saying, "The buck stops here." I thought to myself, that isn't true. In front of me was a purchase order, a note that said the stuff had been shipped, we had received it, and that the price on the invoice matched the puchase order. A check had been prepared. Now, do I have the choice not to sign the check? Nope. So the question isn't where the buck stops, but where it starts—and it starts with the person who needs the equipment. I shouldn't have to review the purchase order, and the individual shouldn't have to get a manager's approval.'"

"First Let's Fire All the Managers," Gary Hamel (