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Comment Horse's head scene from the Godfather (Score 1) 136

A nesting pair of Cooper's Hawks in the back yard killed a crow, and they were batting around a dismembered crow's head to entertain their fledgling.

The crows will mess with a raptor, especially since they are more numerous. Like with the horse's head in the bed scene, I think the hawks were sending a message that this is not a good idea.

Comment Hay Sniffer (Score 1) 157

Hey, the Hay Sniffer is a legitimate hack. This is the software routine that "sniffs the hay" to determine if you are out on a country road and not driving one of the Federal Cycles.

My criterion is if you drive a Federal Cycle for real out on a highway, a test track, or a high school parking lot, it should give the same control coefficients as on the chassis rollers in Ann Arbor, Michigan. None of this "oh, only the back wheels are turning, I must be in Ann Arbor."

But if it only gives Federal Cycle performance if you actually drive that way, good. If it gives you different performance for driving "off cycle", so much better.

Comment Israel and Slavic Countries (Score 1) 111

It was a friend, an intellectual with knowledge of my heritage, whose own family heritage is that of the Jewish experience in Ukraine from Tsarist times, who made me aware of the situation with Israel, Serbia, and the Kosovo War.

There are so few "Great Russians" in the US, or at least until very recently, that the only connection Americans have had with Russia is through families whose ancestors were refugees from the persecutions of Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia.

What you say about Israel and Russia corroborates what my friend told me. But to many Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, "Russians" are those bad people who chased Tevya from "Fiddler on the Roof" out of his home. I offered such as explanation why many in the U.S. view Russia aiding Syria's Assad very differently from Israel. I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am just trying to "wrap my head around" why there is a brewing confrontation between the U.S. and Russia over Syria whereas the Israelis appear to have made accommodation with Russia over Syria.

Comment Orthodox Christians (Score 1) 111

Actually before the recent resurgence of "political Islam", before Arab states opposed Israel (which defacto allied Arab Muslims and Christians, unlike what is happening now), well before the madness of WW-II, Jews experienced persecution at the hands of Orthodox Christians in Russia. It's the Fiddler-on-the-Roof thing; the Russian-refugee experience is the family history of many persons of Jewish heritage here in America.

It is a point of divergence between Israel, which if not having friendlier relations with Russia, quickly sought and obtained accommodation of its security interests without interfering with what Russia is doing in Syria, and with the United States, where Russia is once again being demonized.

To the extent that Jewish persons seek to influence policy in a way informed by life experience and family history, along with everyone else, Jews in America may have a somewhat different perspective on Russia and other Orthodox Christian countries than Israelis.

There are also two sides to many ancient enmities. To the extent that Jews in America with "neo-Conservative" political label appear to be unreasonable in distrusting Russia and other Slavic countries with Orthodox Christians, there as that conclave of American Middle Eastern Christians and recent descendants, many of them Orthodox Christians, that Candidate Ted Cruz famously attended. Middle East Christians have fared poorly under Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and so on, and whereas Israel is certainly no friend of those groups, there is this tendency to lump all Arabs, Christian or Muslim, moderate or extremist, religious or secularist, into the same category as not being friends of Israel.

Some shade was thrown on Israel at that meeting that caught the Senator by surprise, and he did an about face and started speaking in a way that was perceived as insulting to his hosts and signaling to other constituent groups of his "courage in standing up to anti-Semitism." That may have been aimed more at pro-Israel Evangelical Christians in the US than at pro-Israel Jews, it may say a lot more about the Senator than it does about Christians of whatever geographic origin or Jews, but it may offer some insight into the dynamic than to simplistically assert "it's okay to dump on the Russians."

Comment Tom Clancy's take on software development (Score 1) 290

Tom Clancy admittedly made a lot of stuff up, but he was a mil-geek who addressed concerns as yours in both his fiction and non-fiction books.

The AMRAAM (advanced medium-range air-to-air missile) was largely a software product, that is, it counted on thousands of lines of Ada code to make it something else than a gravity bomb. Owing to the difficulty inherent in any ambitious large-scale software project, the AMRAAM received a lot of hate for a very long time as being a "boondoggle."

It took a very long time for that software to be corrected of its shortcomings, but once the software "got well" in Clancy's words, the AMRAAM became a very potent weapon indeed. Buggy avionics software is nearly worthless, but once you correct the bugs, this boondoggle suddenly switches state to being the most capable weapon in our inventory.

Quoting from interviews, the pilots who used the AMRAAM in combat were amazed with its deadliness. Giving this weapon the nickname "Slammer", a pilot is quoted that fighting adversaries with it is akin to an unsportsmanlike hunting practice, comparing it to "clubbing baby seals. Whomp, whomp, WHOMP!"

It's easy to take pot shots at the F-35 at this state of its development and deployment. Clancy had suggested that weapons with high software content are like that. Once critical bugs are eliminated, people may have an entirely different view.

Comment Military conditioning to screen distraction (Score 2) 290

Admittedly there are military environments where frequent, loud, startling sounds serve some operational purpose. An engineer working as a civilian contractor described a restless night spent underneath the catapult deck on the Ranger. Launching and recovering aircraft is part of the military mission in our nation's defense preparedness.

On the other hand, I read on Foxtrot Alpha that keeping things quiet is part of the culture onboard submarines. It is part of the military mission of reducing the probability of being detected by adversaries using passive sonar. Also, given the insane 18-hour days of 6 hours on watch or duty station, 6 hours personal time, 6 hours rack time (shared in a "hot racking" scheme), making loud sounds quickly earns the wrath of your superior and the resentment of your comrades.

In PBS Nova describing the contractor competition leading to the Joint Strike Fighter, the areas where the engineers worked appeared to be open-plan office arrangements without much solitude. Where the avionics software was developed was a "cube farm", yes, but it had subdued lighting and the office space had the "vibe" that a culture of keeping the noise levels down to foster concentration was the norm.

I have no idea regarding the work environment in the Combat Information Center of a surface combat Navy ship, but if I were engineering one or commanding one, I would put a premium on minimum aural distraction. Would the same apply to sonar operators?

With respect to persons in the military being conditioned to "screen out" distractions and focus on their duty station, I suppose there is a place for that. But would you want a Special Forces operative on night patrol in the habit of disregarding distracting sounds? I would think you would want people with acute hearing who are hyper-sensitive to sounds, say of an enemy sentry screened by cover pulling back a rifle bolt.

As to learning to focus on one's task, that applies to the original posting and the question of whether door slams, coughing, loud conversation, background music that you don't control merits any concern by management having an interest in the productivity of their workers, especially those in engineering or coding or other tasks requiring a flow between short-term and long-term memory?

As to my complaining ways that I need to reform, I was observing that an arm of the Federal government thought to provide a remarkably quiet environment for persons providing volunteer service in reviewing grand proposals whereas an arm of a State government thinks it no big deal that the persons they are paying to write grand proposals to bring critical funding in are working in a boiler factory? Sometimes the Federal government is much more enlightened than the state-level rubes.

Comment Door slams (Score 4, Interesting) 290

There are people who seem to think that door slams, loud racking sounds of turned door knobs and juicy Ka-chunks of door latches engaging are just fine in a scholarly/academic office environment.

The main floor of our Engineering Library has a door that is going "Rack! Ka-chunk" a couple times a minute from persons passing through to other floors, all day long.

Spent 2 full days in a conference room with colleagues from numerous other institutions working on behalf of a Federal agency in Arlington, VA.

Not one door slam the entire time. Do the Federal agency people know something about concentrating on work that state universities do not?

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