Posts Tagged ‘speculation’

Three Things

12 June 2012

Dear J-

I wonder if I should make up new traveling rules or just stick with the ones I’ve got: local restaurants when possible (no chain franchised comforts, some regional franchises allowed), something new every night, sight-wise, and back in time to chat, which reminds me that I need to set up FaceTime on theVet’s iPad again. I remember wanting to travel when I didn’t have the chance, and now that my life looks full of trips I’m not looking forward to the remainder of my stint in this project, which oh by the way seems to be headed towards a long-term affair.occasional travel I suspect is nice, but the concentrated travel that awaits us (three weeks of the next four I’m out of town) will be decidedly less so.

Our ex-CEO made headlines yesterday for erratic driving, which was later linked to a seizure he may have suffered, but it made for juicy gossip around the office yesterday. Mind you there’s at least ten thousand employees and the portion of them that he regularly met with and who knew him well is probably vanishingly small in that population, yet here we are thinking that we can quarterback on Monday morning, saying what he should have done and what might have happened, fruitless exercises that kept us talking and chatting beyond measure.
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I think it might be smart to bring in some music again, as it would give me an excuse to ignore everyone else, right? I profess that I don’t understand the particular appeal of selfishness but there I am taking time away from my family, taking time away from the vanpool folks from a sense of duty to work and plant, which for all its steam and heat doesn’t warm my heart like its people do. After four years of being semi-competnet in accounting and then five years of proficient procurement engineering, I like to think that I genuinely like what I do because I’m a valuable contributor at it, and that includes being good at what I do and liking the people I work with, making the day go by faster than ever. Ten already, noon already? Time to go?? I need to sit down and get this under control, my lack of organizational skills.

Mike

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Witless Speculation

11 October 2011

Dear J-

The longer I keep staying up so late and try to get things done the more I realize that this low-grade cold keeps lingering. If I could just get ahead in my reading and blogging then I’d have enough time to sleep. What I really need is to pare back the list of articles I read, as there’s no way I actually catch up day after day (at the moment I’m three days behind and fading fast). Keeping up with the torrent is one thing, and sleep is yet another.

There’s a high degree of frustration just lately with devices now that the honeymoon period has worn off and I find myself actually having to work around their peculiarities; the initial rush of excitement that it actually works has given way to endless speculation that maybe thus isn’t the right way that things should be working: should my phone really require a daily reboot? Why is the Bluetooth so flaky? Do the keyboard batteries news to be recharged? Should I reinstall the custom ROM or should I start taking programs off?

One of the primary reasons I pick a product is to reduce my burden; if I’m having to manage it and sink more than an expected amount of time into maintenance then the product has failed its useability test. I’m starting to get red up with Android or at least this particular (hacked) implementation of it. My particular disappointment with the iPhone launch us that there’s still no option for my prepaid carrier aside from an iPod Touch sleeve to add 3G access, something that gives me equal parts hope and despair.

Mike

Pro PEN

12 July 2011

Dear J-

If we read between the lines that Olympus keeps putting out I think I see the micro-4/3rds (u4/3) professional line taking shape. According to my magic crystal ball I see these likely features:

1. Built-in Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
2. Weathersealing, rugged build
3. Vertical grip
4. Phase-Detection AF (PDAF) with regular 4/3rds lenses
5. Lineup of u4/3 High-Grade (HG) primes

The first three are just to keep parity with the current 4/3rds flagship E-5 (and the VF-2 accessory already provides a view roughly as large as the optical system on the E-5). If you’re going to move pros out of their current dSLR bodies you’re going to need at least those features. And yes, Olympus will be pilloried by the enthusiast press for the size and bulk (“small is the whole point of u4/3rds”) but there’s a minimum amount of that needed to support weathersealing and you’re not going to get rugged with an add-on EVF; a built-in eye-level finder is critical).

The last one will come in time (supplemented by the enhanced compatibility with 4/3rds lenses) but it’s the fourth point I want to spend the bulk of time covering. Watanabe has stated that they’re not going to wring much more performance out of the dSLR PDAF-based lens lineup with a contrast-detect (CDAF) scheme already in place with the existing u4/3rds bodies. The newer lenses that have been released lately all have been designed to take advantage of the CDAF sensors. I take that and extrapolate that they must be working on an adapter that provides PDAF for regular 4/3rds.

It’s a big leap and a wild stab but it makes sense of those rumors stating that Olympus have been working on a modular design. In this case think Visoflex, which adapted long lenses to the Leica rangefinder line and included a mirror box to convert the camera into a SLR. In the recent past Sony have started selling the SLT line which includes a pellicle mirror and EVF. The logical conclusion is that the u4/3rds camera to induce pros to switch will be bundled with a Visoflex-like adapter including pellicle mirror and PDAF sensor. The mirror will be set at a shallower angle than 45 degrees to throw the image to the PDAF sensor buried just behind the regular 4/3rds lensmount. At that point I’m not sure if the u4/3rds lensmount supports the communication protocol to the body of focus lock, confirmation, focus point, etc and additional contacts may be necessary which would preclude complete compatibility of the new adapter with older u4/3rds bodies.

Anyhow, it’s fun to speculate.

Mike

The Long Now

20 June 2011

Dear J-

The Clock of the Long Now is underway and when complete it will chime once a year for ten thousand years. That is assuming that our descendants don’t find some way into a new dark age and take the magic of their past apart to salvage advanced metals and machined parts. If there are any lessons to learn from the Antikythera Mechanism then we will continue to be respectful of the past and curious but believe that we’re still more advanced, that we’ve moved forward in technology by the mere movement of years. Ten thousand years from now we may regard the efforts of the Long Now as quaint as reciprocating steam engines and high-wheel bicycles if not completely incomprehensible.

Given the current pace of the state of the art there’s no way to know where we’ll be ten years from now. Twenty years ago the state of the art was wrapped up in a VGA wrapper and color monitors were a fourteen inch expense. Ten years on we were starting to see flat panels. Now tubes are reserved for the retro grouch and VGA is something found on the sad crappy smartphones that they give away with new accounts. I have had a long day and the speculation of how a machine designed to run for ten thousand years makes me think of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem: will we be creating a new religion to promulgate the proper operation and maintenance?

What form would it take? I can see initial generations being flexible and willing to rewrite the instructions but after a few centuries the strucures would become ossified. The years continue to roll and “because that’s what it says” becomes an adequate reason. I already see it with items at the plant today, unearthing thirty-year-old drawings and data sheets to see if we can find modern parts and replacements and I don’t envy the maintainers of the Long Now their burden.

Mike

Pendulum Problem

20 May 2010

Dear J-

It is a trivial physics exercise, full of impossibilities and assumptions: first, make the Earth into a perfect, homogenously distributed sphere; next, stop all motion (rotation and orbit); finally, bore a hole all the way through along a diameter and pull a perfect vacuum on the hole. What happens when you drop a ball down the hole — perfectly aligned, of course, so that it doesn’t touch the sides? Assuming no initial velocity, conservation of energy would tell us that the gravitational force would be greatest initially when the ball was dropped (and zero velocity), go to zero as the ball passes through the center of the Earth (also where the velocity reaches a maximum), and the progressively rise back to a maximum force (and zero velocity) at that point directly opposite our station. It would then return to precisely the same point as where we dropped it, and the cycle would repeat itself ad infinitum.

Some days I feel like I’m rushing back and forth between two poles. Down and back, slow fast slow fast, there’s only so many ways to chop time, and no matter how finely divided, it’s a finite source. You may be forever in motion, but are you really going anywhere, or are you constrained to tread the same track over and over? Now almost four weeks later, and everything and nothing has changed, right? We keep moving, though, so what does that count for? And so we keep driving without a real destination.

Engineers love being able to describe the world in mathematical sketches: instead of chalks we have equations, instead of canvas, correlations and models. It’s easy enough to know that the ball is going to bob back and forth in limbo, fruitlessly searching for an end. When you’re moving fast, it’s hard to see where you’re going at any given point, isn’t it?

Mike

Path Finding

21 April 2009

Dear J-

After my third such meeting with the process mapping folks I begin to get a little curious about what they do, and how they do it.  These folks end up being hired guns of a sort:  they may not know all the technical aspects of what we do, but they know how to translate it into a chart showing relationships and bottlenecks, sort of like how my last employer was very good at selecting people who excelled at scheduling — you may not need to know how a large construction site operates, but as long as you can figure out common sense things (e.g. you’d want to have the underlayment of gravel prior to pouring the concrete road bed), you can usually figure the right prerequisite relationships.

It takes certain people skills to not only ask the right questions, but to keep them on track; I don’t honestly envy these people, who end up having to deal with engineers for the next four weeks — we are narrowly enthusiastic about obscure details, and unafraid to let that flag fly as needed.  Without the right sort of introduction — that is, what the end purpose of this is going to be — these meetings can take on sinister connotations quickly.  Are they trying to identify those organizations that are essential to the continued functioning of the plant?  Or are we just trying to figure out where the corners need to get rounded off?

Regardless, the endless speculation and rumors already surrounding management in a sort of inscrutable fog mean that these consultants have their work cut out for them.  Our model of need-to-know communication has meant that we’re left with half the information and tools we need to carry out the tasks; spend more time doing what we can and less worrying about whether it’s the right thing or not, is that the idea?  In the absence of leadership, the adequate falls victim to the procedurally correct; accountability and responsibility takes a back seat to finding the right name to blame.

Mike

Pheidippides Trash

19 August 2008

Dear J-

I read an article today that was all agog at the trash talk going on between the eventual gold and silver medal winners in women’s pole vault.  Because, you know, people running down a paved track using a flexible pole to fling themselves skyward don’t have emotions.  The whole business of intimidation and gamesmanship is nothing new; I can almost see the conversation coming out of that Battle of Marathon:

Pheidippides:  So (puff) here’s the (puff puff) message.

General:  You didn’t run all the way here, did you, son?

Pheidippides:  (gasps) Yes (hack, cough)

General:  Well, that was pretty impressive, I guess.  But you’re still slow.

P:  (wheeze)

G:  In fact, we’ve got this messenger over here who said he’s going to run back with our response, even faster than you!  You know, because we’re Athenians.

P:  (sinks to ground and dies)

G:  Wuss.

Okay, so it probably didn’t happen that way, but you can see what I mean.  As long as we make something competitive — whether athletic, political, or social — and we assign scores and values, someone will quantifiably be the best, and everyone else won’t be.  We keep chasing moving targets, and along the way, we’ve got to show off doing it.  It just feels like, you know, human nature.

When was the last time you did something unnecessarily, but with style?  Yeah, I thought so too.

Mike

P.S.  New celebrity crush:  Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева Woo!