Musings


Time Magazine this week has a cover article on the bad rap “real Wisconsin” butter has taken over the past 40 years.

But I’m not here to rehash that debate.

How much organizational structure is the correct amount for any entity? My experience seems to validate my beliefs that the smaller the organization the less structure. As the entity grows in complexity or size then organizationally additional structure is needed to:

  • Ensure the left hand knows what the right is doing
  • Oversee execution of the common vision across disparate functions
  • Ensure no cross-purposes
  • Gain efficiencies through coordinated effort

In light of the purposes above one might logically conclude that too much organization can never be a bad thing. However over-organization can stifle the very thing is proposes to promote. As with everything mankind lays hand to, it can take on a life of its own. However, this phenomenon is not only relegated to large organizational structures. I have observed that even smaller organizations can do the same thing for the very same reasons.

At its core the “life of its own” phenomenon has more to do with power, either directly or indirectly. Someone may develop a big head or the “group” may elevate it’s own importance to the whole.

Case in point: In the 25% of my life I spent as part of America’s silent service I saw this over and over again. Our mission was to patrol the oceans of the world simply to wield the “Big Stick”. Ballistic Missile submarines have no other purpose than to retaliate should an unfriendly decide to launch a first strike. In order to do this effectively we hid. That’s it, plain and simple. Ready to launch within a few minutes, unable to be taken out. Should you decide to punch the U.S. we’ll hit you back, and we can have our birds in the air while your’s are still on the way.

Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is defined on Wikipedia as:

a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. It is based on the theory of deterrence where the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy’s use of those same weapons. The strategy is a form of Nash equilibrium in which neither side, once armed, has any incentive to initiate a conflict or to disarm.

Back to my topic. During my tours on three ballistic missile submarines it became apparent that oft times the nuclear engineering team viewed their purpose as the primary mission of the submarine; their function to maintain the power plant was “to have something for the power plant to push through the water”. Don’t get me wrong. Their mission was vital to the success of the submarines mission. With them there would be no mission. However, they had lost sight that each job on board the submarine was equally critical in its unique way.

My job classification concerned the actual targeting and launch systems computers. Of the160 man compliment on board, there were only 6 of us. Without us it was only a matter of time before the redundant systems fail and the missiles on board were unable to be launched. But my job was no more critical than the 6 Culinary (formerly known as Mess Management) Specialists who prepared meals 4 times/day, day after day for 72 day stints.

So which is better butter or margarine? It depends on what you’re focused on. It depends on which “evil’s” you are trying to counter.

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Popular parenting mantra has taught for more than a generation that if mommy and daddy want little Michael or sweet Hannah to obey it is best to explain to them why a clean room will give them a good work ethic for the future, that taking a bath is healthy, or that simply running into the street can cause pain and suffering greater than they can imagine.

The psychology is that a “willing” heart will perform their task better, even when mommy or daddy are not present.  After all a heart that understands “why” will rationalize and see the merit.

As the pendulum swings, the equal and opposite reaction is “Do it because I said so!  Now!

If we were to dissect the merits of each we’d find that both have merit.

–       In a crisis when I say “Duck”, I don’t want little Emily turning around and asking why as the ball flies toward her head.

–       When I ask my Jacob to eat his vegetables I want him to understand that it will give him balanced nutrition.

Each has its unique set of disadvantages.

–       Matthew could decide to rebel against a parenting style that does not give him value.

–       Sarah decide her parents rationalization against a 13 year old having sex does not have merit in her situation.

If we were dissect the pro’s and con’s of these two, the lists would get longer and longer.  A diligent job of weighing on the scales to see which way it tips could be an overwhelming job which leaves one stifled.

I propose this task is unnecessary because we are putting if-I-do-this, they’ll-do-that’s on the scales.  Although human nature has some predictability it is not a science, especially when taken to the level of the individual.  “Because I said” parents have raised the most well-adjusted kids I’ve seen AND “Because if you do” parents have raised the most well-adjusted kids I have seen. 

In my experience the converse has also held true.  I have seen as a product the most selfish, poorly adjusted human beings from each group of parenting styles.  The variables are the parent, the child and the circumstances.  It is a complex mix and in my opinion for any “parenting guide” to steer in one direction or the other is stereotyping.  Only with an analysis of the unique situation should a recommendation be made.  Some parents should steer clear of one method due to their own weaknesses, some the other.  Some children respond differently than others.  And situations can demand form of obedience over another.

So here we are back on that fence again.  How does one determine which way the scales are tipping?

What if we were to look at the offspring of the offspring of a specific style?  What if you took a sample of those entering the workplace their attitudes, things they find acceptable and compare to previous generations?  Is what we find in the societal workplace, politics, or at home an improvement that moves the society forward, or is it one more step toward the degeneration of mankind?

I don’t think I have the answer but there’s an awful lot of food for thought as I look around.

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Is glass a liquid or a solid?
 
That’s my question of the day for me.  I am unable to say how my mind fell into that sinkhole, but here I am.
 
Since my school days I was taught (and believed) glass to be a very slow moving liquid.  Proof – look at very old windows.  As an adult I have continued to test this theory when I have run across some old, long deserted cabin.  In nearly every case the window panes were distorted.  Validated!
 
Today, once again the validity of my accepted answer was for some reason up for challenge.  As I said I have no idea what prompted this quest, but proceed I must.
 
Oh, what you can find on the Internet,  true, false and otherwise.
 
The answer which I now accept is that glass in it’s “every day” form is neither a liquid nor a solid.  It has properties of both and is neither.
 
Will it flow over time?  Well, yes, molecular mathematics seems to indicate that at some age, somewhere approaching the age of the universe, glass will indeed have flowed to the extent to be discernibly warped.  Maybe I’ve been beguiled by some mathematical, chemistrical trickery but for now I’m buying it.
 
So what causes the thicker glass at the bottom of those medieval churches or the warping on those old cabins or the warping on the back window of my Honda Civic?  Something in the manufacture, difference glasses have different properties but none are super-cooled liquids in their everyday state.
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I recently watched the entire Cosmos series and was intrigued by Carl Sagan’s statement that there is not enough space in the universe to represent a googolplex in long form.
 
Here are some stats I lifted from Wikipedia:
*throughout this article 10 raised to the power of 10 is represented as 10^10.
 
1 googolplex = 10^(10^100)
 
Fact 1
An average book of 60 cubic inches can be printed with 5×10^5 zeroes (5 characters per word, 10 words per line, 25 lines per page, 400 pages), or 8.3×10^3 zeros per cubic inch.  The observable universe contains 6×10^83 cubic inches. This math implies that if the universe is stuffed with paper printed with 0s, it could contain only 5.3×10^87 zeros—far short of a googol of zeros.
 
Fact 2
There are only about 2.5×10^89 elementary particles in the observable universe, so even if one were to use an elementary particle to represent each digit, one would run out of particles well before reaching a googol of digits.
 
Fact 3
Consider printing the digits of a googolplex in unreadable, one-point font (0.353 mm per digit). It would take about 3.5×10^96 metres to write a googolplex in one-point font. The observable universe is estimated to be 8.80×10^26 meters, or 93 billion light-years, in diameter, so the distance required to write the necessary zeroes is 4.0×10^69 times as long as the estimated universe.
 
Fact 4
The time it would take to write such a number also renders the task implausible: if a person can write two digits per second, it would take around about 1.51×10^92 years, which is about 1.1×10^82 times the age of the universe, to write a googolplex.
 

Dave’s Trump Card
I have a number bigger than that!  Googolplex+1, so there!
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My new medical insurance has these impossible to find surveys so I can earn credits toward my health deductible.  That explains the hard to find part.  But what about the “rules” for some of these acitivities?
 
I quote:
MyHealth Coach
Activity Rules
You may receive credit for this activity only if you are a Dependent or Spouse or Employee.
You may receive credit for this activity only if you are a Female or Male.
 
Let’s take the first rule.  This is a secure website.  I can’t even view my spouses information – even though I am the one with the plan which covers her – it’s MY plan, it’s MY coverage.  That is territory I don’t even want me to delve into in this post!
 
So, back to the secure website.  I log in as me.  My wife logs in as her.  Tell me, who else is logging in, someone must enter plan and group numbers + social security number and all that must be in the database before the website will allow account creation?  So I am not a dependent, the spouse or the employee, who am I and how did I get logged into their database?
 
Rule number two.  This speaks for itself.  Who wrote this?  ”You may only complete this activity if you are Female or Male?”
 
I’m neither, I’m a single-celled organism which divides every 8 minutes and somehow I logged onto your website to get credit for my medical coverage deductions.  Fortunately I can find your hidden links to complete the activities but even with that advanced intelligence you’re going to stop me cold simply because I don’t meet your sexist standards.
 
Healthcare in the country does not need overhaul.
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From Space.com

The transition from June to July will be delayed by circumstances beyond everyone’s control. Time will stand still for one second on Saturday evening (June 30) because a “leap second” will be added to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks.

International Atomic Time is a very accurate and stable time scale. It is a weighted average of the time kept by about 200 atomic clocks in over 50 national laboratories worldwide. Atomic time is measured through vibrations of atoms in a metal isotope that resembles mercury and can keep time to within a tenth of a billionth of a second per day. The result is extremely accurate time that can be used to improve synchronization in precision navigation and positioning systems, telecommunications networks and deep-space communications.

But from their careful observations of the positions of the stars, astronomers have deduced that Earth’s rotation is ever so slightly slowing down at a non-uniform rate, probably attributable to its sloshing molten core, the rolling of the oceans, the melting of polar ice and the effects of solar and lunar gravity.

Read the rest of the article so you won’t be late for work <click here>.

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I sometimes stumble upon a gem of a web site. Today is one of those banner days. I found the Wayback Machine, a digital time capsule of websites since 1996.

Using the Wayback Machine I can see the Google portal as it was nearly 14 years ago and I can visit may employer’s website of 16 years ago. But way more cool, over the top and stupendous I can visit the first website I ever designed!

The url was www.geomarket.com and it was my site for a short-lived startup company in web design.

Never designed another website. Maybe this is why.

Regardless of what anyone thinks, I am kind of impressed. I know I lack a design eye and with this handicap I am very pleased with the look of the site. This was my web site as of June 23, 1997.

Nostalgia, I love it.

 

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The U.S. House of Representatives formally declared March 14 National Pi Day in 2009, and it’s been celebrated ever since in most irrational ways.
 

Celebrate Pi Day!

Pi, Greek letter (p), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th. Pi = 3.1415926535…
With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal. Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating. The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737. -from www.piday.org
 
There are many ways of celebrating Pi Day.
Some of them include eating pie and discussing the relevance of π
 
Visit www.cow-pi.com and practice memorizing Pi today!
 
Pi Day
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