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Comment age matters (Score 5, Insightful) 547

I think it changes with age. When I was quite young, 10 hour a day for days on end wasn't so hard to pull off. Remembering to sleep and shower and brush my teeth were harder. The catch was that a very high percentage of the code I'd write was either pure crap, or could have been done better in less time by writing another program to write that code. As I've gotten older, I've found that it's easier to spend a large number of hours *contemplating* code -- but hard to work other than in smaller bursts actually writing the code. The difference is that when I do write code, the hours are far less wasted.

I've taken this into account and so now my plan is, that when I reach 90, I'll just wake up in the morning and fart. My heavily customized Emacs will analyze the fart and translate it into C. "Oh, boy, I wrote another new OS kernel this morning!"

Well, ok, one of the two above paragraphs is true and not the other.

Comment Caltrans Says (Score 5, Informative) 407

The engineering authority in charge of the bridge and repairs already gave their answer to this on the morning news (yesterday, I think):

They found the crack. They designed the "band-aid": the saddle, T-bar, rods, etc. They had it fabricated and installed.

In subsequent days, they went back up to look at how it was doing. They found that it was vibrating more than they thought it should: it wasn't as rigid as it was designed to be. They recognized that this would lead to fatigue and failure.

They began designing the improved "band-aid" and planned to install it sometime in coming weeks.

To their surprise, *perhaps* related to unusually high winds, the system failed sooner than they thought it could.

The completed their improved design and are now installing it. (And they are counting their blessings that nobody was killed: they got lucky, that way.)


Comment Re:the patient tasks (Score 1) 318

"time to die?"

Cinematic reference to Blade Runner. I was talking about geezer knowledge so it seemed apropos.

The full quote begins with something about how "I've seen things you ... humans ... will never see..." and continues about lost / underappreciated learning.


Comment Re:the patient tasks (Score 1) 318

I said positive income spin-offs. I don't mean spin-offs that immediately pay for the core R&D activity - only spin-offs that if you regard them as a separate business unit, make sense on their own.

Yes, that does put a kind of pressure on the research. Yes it does distort what kind of research takes place. I think it does both of those in a good an appropriate way for an R&D lab that is a long-term, for-profit investment.

One way that it helps is that it helps the lab develop the personal relationships and the skills needed for technology transfer to those who will operate something closer to customer-facing. That skill set comes in handy when the really big R&D wins come through - so you don't wind up like Xerox PARC in 1980.

Another way it helps is the reverse direction of technology transfer - what we could call "market awareness transfer" from the closer-to-the-front business guys back to the lab. There are gazillions more things that make for interesting research than make for research that is promising for business and, insisting on at least little spin-offs early is a way to help keep the lab folks in touch with business reality.


Comment Re:the patient tasks (Score 3, Interesting) 318

You misunderstand. By "managing wealth" I very much include not leaving *too* much of a legacy for kids, making sure as little as possible goes towards evil, and getting as much of the surplus doing good works. Buffet is schematically the right idea here, even if I don't agree with all of his particular decisions. My selfish thing is that I wouldn't want to spend 60 hours / week managing various investments. Nor would I want to just hand most of it over to the Gates foundation. $1B today, if you can make a lot of it liquid quickly, is -- I agree -- more than is reasonably needed. It's just a big responsibility and my selfish take is that I'd make a priority of reducing the amount of time I had to personally spend managing that responsibility. There are some causes I'd want a hands-on role in because I think I have intellectual contributions to make but there's a lot of grunt work in responsibly handling that large an amount of money/nominal wealth that I would want to delegate in order to concentrate on what I'm good at.


Comment the patient tasks (Score 4, Interesting) 318

I've been programming for, like, uh.... about 27 or 28 years. Arguably longer if you wanna go back to really little kid stuff.

If I had that much money - was basically (if I wanted to be) in the leisure class - what I would like to believe about myself is that I would try to secure my family's material conditions really well, try to make as efficient as possible my wealth management program, and, as to hacking.....

There are *so many* really great and valuable potential projects that (a) nobody is investing in; (b) have an investment horizon that is tough because these are projects that will take a good 5 years, let's say, to get to where seeing a return is on the table. A good 10 years before you start to see the possibility of "done".

I would start an R&D lab but a very small one - perhaps 10 people - and while we'd try to have some positive income spin-offs each year from 0 onward, the goal would be to create the kind of environment where we can take off some of the bigger, long-neglected problems.

You kids these days don't know what's possible in a GUI framework. You don't know how to do language design, systems software generally, databases, file systems, or a whole lot of other basics. You've inherited really mediocre crap and you take for granted that that's where things are at. And the industry has ceased production of grey-beards. (Also: get off my lawn!)

"like tears in the rain", -t

Comment Re:I was "almost" a subject of this experiment (Score 1) 194

If you want to put it in cold economic terms, the economic benefit of "insurance for life" (especially in the context of a nation that looks poised to implement national health care well before such a contract would expire) is greatly outweighed by the many exploitative possibilities of having your medical history and your genome exposed. The risk of those things extends to your progeny and your relatives, as well. For example, participation in the PGP experiment - especially as one of the first 10 - makes you a political symbol; an object. People can prove things to third parties by "doing things" to you (or your genetic material-sharing relatives). It's like painting a target on your back.

I also had deeper misgivings because of the scientific sloppiness I witnessed in my work at the Church lab. The only thing in genomics work that is worse than a rush towards the new eugenics is a rush towards the new scientifically false eugenics - which was the rush my supervisor's work was aimed towards when we parted ways. These guys are bad news. On a personal level, I did not find either my supervisor or boss to be people I could sustain even a presumption of respect for. They are, in my experience, sloppy in important ways (me, I try to be sloppy in the unimportant ways) - bad science, bad ethics, money-hungry, self-serving twits.


Comment I was "almost" a subject of this experiment (Score 2, Interesting) 194

I used to work as a contractor for the George Church lab. My supervisor was a student of Church's. Church was his boss. I was working on bio-informatics (if anyone cares, I can tell you some tricks for regexp-searching of genetic sequences).

My family was under extreme financial duress. In light of that knowledge, my supervisor (tells me, at least) that he took my situation to George and they came up with this: "Sign up to be one of the first 10 PGP subjects. Give us all of your medical records from the past and into the future. Agree to have your sequence published. We think we can get Harvard to agree to pay for your medical insurance for life. Don't you think your family deserves for you to make that trade-off?"

I said, flatly, "no." I pointed out, among other problems, some severe technical problems in the line of sequencing research we working on. Ultimately, we (me and the lab) part ways on less than amicable terms after this.

I think these people are scum.

They were eager to exploit my poverty as leverage to make me a human subject to rather dangerous experimentation based on highly dubious scientific claims - and they punished me for dissenting from this plan, as nearly as I can tell.


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