Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stanislav Petrov?

Do you know who, Stanislav Petrov is? He may have saved your life, or allowed you to be born. His decision was made in private and at the time few knew of his actions. He is

is a retired Russian Army colonel who, on September 26, 1983, averted a potential nuclear war by refusing to believe that the United States had launched missiles against the USSR, despite the indications given by his computerized early warning systems. The Soviet computer reports were later shown to have been in error, and Petrov is credited with preventing World War III and the devastation of much of the Earth by nuclear weapons. Because of military secrecy and international policy, Petrov's actions were kept secret until 1998.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Engineers and Technicians

How the techno-geeks kicked my ass for my own good by Pamela Slim:

So the first time I walked into a conference room populated almost entirely with engineers, I was in for a very rude awakening. I don't remember the subject of the first class I taught, but it must have been something along the lines of career development or management skills. Before the first word was out of my mouth, a student flagged my attention:

"Excuse me, but do you know that the percentages don't add up correctly on the graph on page 27 of the workbook?"

I must have mumbled something like "Oh - ok, thanks for telling me" while inside I was thinking "Who the hell cares, and why are you skipping so far ahead in the workbook before we even begin?"
Highly technical people like engineers detest made-up numbers, especially when they are used to support an argument.

Also see: Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The English Tongue we Speak

Another word related post:

When the English tongue we speak,
Why is "break" not rhymed with "freak"?
Will you tell me why its true
We say "sew" but likewise "Jew"?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Beard" sounds not the same as "heard";
"Cord" is different from "word";
"Cow" is cow, but "low" is low,
"Shoe" is never rhymed with "foe,"
And since "pay" is rhymed with "say,"
Why not "paid" with "said," I pray?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And in short it seems to me
Sound and letters disagree.

Pretty cool, but even better when you read it on the web site of the Simplified Spelling Society. I just accept that spelling makes no sense and I can't spell. These people actually want to do something about it.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw, Revolutionist's Handbook


W00t, from Wiktionary: We Owned the Other Team - "Whoot, there it is" - "wonderous loot" used in Ultima Online - "woot, I have root!"

Urban Dictionary also defines it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Slot Canyons and Raging Rivers

Narrow Escapes in The Southwest by Gary H. Anthes:

Dividing eight days among Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and an area along the Utah-Arizona border that includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, I aimed to try my hand -- and feet -- at "canyoneering," hiking along streambeds in narrow canyons.

Zion and the other parks in Southern Utah are great. I have to get around to posting some of my photos to Curious Cat Travels - John Hunter.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Are Software Patents Evil?

Are Software Patents Evil? by Paul Graham

A company that sues competitors for patent infringement is like a a defender who has been beaten so thoroughly that he turns to plead with the referee. You don't do that if you can still reach the ball, even if you genuinely believe you've been fouled. So a company threatening patent suits is a company in trouble.

Because there's so much scope for design in software, a successful application tends to be way more than the sum of its patents. What protects little companies from being copied by bigger competitors is not just their patents, but the thousand little things the big company will get wrong if they try.

And on the topic of companies in business just to sue others he gets to the point that patent law exists not for some abstract purpose. Patent law exists for the greater economic good (by rewarding inventors with a chance to profit from their invention for a period of time we encourage people to invent). As he says:

The American way is to make money by creating wealth, not by suing people.

Related posts: