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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Baseline

   Working in engineering we are faced with problems that effect how efficiently we can get our work done.   Computer programs or models we use slowly overtime grow and become less efficient and make our work harder and more expensive.  We call this "efficiency creep".  The problem starts with areas that start out fast but over time they get modified (new features etc..) and affect how they run and function.  A test may take 60 seconds to run at the beginning of project A, but by the end of the project A its now running 75 seconds (25% slower).  The next project team takes over and they never saw the original 60 second time and so the 75 second time becomes the new "baseline".  Over the course of the second project B it slows down to 90 seconds (20% slower).  Not bad but nothing to worry about either.  Project C takes over and the 90 seconds is the new baseline and it slows down to 120 seconds (33% change).  It may be of some concern to some in the group, but no one has time to fix it (too busy) and so they say they will address it later.  It doesn't.   After several projects the test is now running 250 seconds (over 4 times slower than when it started).   This costs the company large amounts of money because we don't just have 1 test, but instead we have 1000's of tests just like that are all running 4 times slower and so we need 4 times more hardware (equipment) to get the tests done in the same amount of time). Below is a graph illustrating the problem:

    As you can see each project doesn't see that the test used to run in 1 minute at the beginning of project A.  Instead of comparing to Project A, they only compare to what they saw at the beginning of their project and by the send of 7 projects, the problem has "compounded" itself (like interest on a loan) to where its a "bloody mess".

   The same holds true for us as a country.  Without going back to the original government, each subsequent generation only thinks their government is only a little worse than the prior generation.  Some call this "boiling a frog alive" but that is more folklore than fact and is often dismissed since "who wants to boil frogs?".   This I think better illustrates our problem as its not so much an organized effort (though there may be some of that element as well), but instead its a lack of historical reference.

   Using this illustration, the way engineers keep this from happening is that we must constantly go back to the original baseline and proactively fix problems so they do not compound over time

    As seen above each project compares constantly to the baseline and makes THAT its target or goal and so proactively fixes the problem throughout the project.

   This is why teaching our children REAL HISTORY is so important.  Our schools are not doing an adequate job.  They are effectively erasing the baseline hoping we will forget how it used to be.  How politicians put COUNTRY before SELFISH-AMBITION.  How real people like George Washington said NO TO POWER (he could have made himself king).   How our federal government was set up to be small and limited and not all-powerful and controlling.

Let's get back to the baseline and show our children what America was supposed to be about: limited government, free-enterprise, and self-control.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Perestroika for the US?

Recently, the former COMMUNIST leader of Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, endorsed our current President Obama in his re-election.  The phrase "with friends like these, who needs enemies" comes to mind.  Gorbachev also went on to say he felt that the United States could use a period of Perestroika to make things better.  You know things have gotten bad, when the former leader of the system you destroyed tells you that you have adopted many of the same policies you had tried to eradicate.

So what is Perestroika?

According to Gorbachev, perestroika was the "conference of development of democracy, socialist self-government, encouragement of initiative and creative endeavor, improved order and disciple, more glasnost, criticism and self-criticism in all spheres of our society. It is utmost respect for the individual and consideration for personal dignity."

The Soviet economy was in shambles.  Importing most of their goods and unable to compete with other countries they were stagnated.  So to encourage "initiative and creative endeavor", they began to allow ownership of property (mine) and also more freedom to criticize their government and say what is wrong.

So is this what we need more of in the United States?

To quote a famous Alaskan Governor, "You Betch'ya".

The fear however for our President to take Gorbachev's advice is not from where the advice hails, but that the advice might work!

Gorbachev's reconstruction lead to the destruction of the Soviet Union, for freedom isn't something you can contain or keep bottled up.   Freedom creates its own demand and a little freedom in one area leads to a demand for freedom in all areas of life and society.  For like a virus, it spreads by word of mouth from one citizen to the next, taking root in the soul and giving hope and energy to the whole body.

So YES Mr. President.  Please take the advice of your communist comrade,  Mikhail Gorbachev, and give your citizens more freedom to live their lives as they wish. The results will astound you!

Monday, April 23, 2012

An honest graduation commencement speech

It's getting around that time of year again when many parents will witness the culmination of years of hard work and watch their son or daughter take that long walk up to the stage to receive their high school diploma and feel a sense of relief.   "We did it!" many will be saying to themselves.  But before they receive that Kinko's printed and fake gold-paper embossed sign of achievement, they will most likely sit through a short speech given by a teach, administrator, local politician, businessman or even a minister.  That person will talk about all the work that went in getting here and give appreciation to their parents.   He or she will talk about how anyone in this great country can make it and that laid out for them is a golden road on which they will travel into the future... blah blah blah.   Or as I put it .. BS BS BS!

To bad they won't be told the truth.   (Maybe as Jack Nicholson put in the movie "A Few Good Men", "You can't handle the TRUTH!".)  

So how would I address the class of 2014?

To the Class of 2014 ........................... You did it!
To the Parents of the Class of 2014 .... You did it!

But just what did you "do" ?

According to the DoE,  the US ranks 25th in  math and 17th in science in world wide ratings.  In these two subjects California ranked  40th out of 50.  So welcome to the bottom of the bottom.   Those of you how graduated with honors.... welcome to the top of the bottom of the bottom.

To be honest .... we lied to you.

  • We gave all of you, gold-stars for attendance and large plastic gold trophies for "participation".  Your coaches told all of you how each you was as good as the other and gave long speeches over pizza about how important YOU WERE to the team. 
  • We gave you "passing" and "needs a little improvement" marks, rather than As,Bs,Cs,Ds and Fs.  We told you no ever FAILS!  We just all achieve different levels of competence!
  • We made your playgrounds so safe that no one no matter how stupid or careless would EVER, EVER get hurt.  If someone did happen to get hurt that activity was BANISHED from the playground for ALL ETERNITY so no other child would experience the pain or humiliation again.
  • And speaking of humiliation, we made sure teams during PE or recess were chosen randomly so no one would have to experience the "humiliation" of being chosen last.
  • We massaged your egos and told all of that you can ALL BE ROCK STARS.   To do this we provided you with an endless array of groups and events to show off "your thing" and make your "mark on the world".   
  • When you failed, WE took the blame for it.  It was because the city didn't provide enough funding or education.  We argued that we didn't understand the adolescent mind,  or we should have stopped you in some way with better police enforcement or adult supervision.  It was because we started you to soon or not soon enough in school.   It was because we didn't give you the right tutoring, attention or medicine.  
  • We gave you TV programs showing kids taking matters into their own hands and that even their mistakes are rewarded with good outcomes.  When you became obese, we blamed the giant corporations and the fast food industry for making you that way, instead of pointing you out the door to play kickball with your friends.   
  • When it came to SEX we educated you on how WONDERFUL it all is and how ADULT it is.  We made you grow up faster and faster each year and in the process we STOLE your childhood.   
  • We lied to you and told you that ANY college degree is better than NO degree at all and that college is a place to "find yourself".  

And now you are entering the REAL world...

A world where:
  • Very few ever get trophies for their achievements. 
  • Some will get ahead in this life and others won't.  And who does and who doesn't won't be based necessarily on who is popular or not.  Some of it will be based on how hard you work, on what your priorities are, on what opportunities you look for, on where your willing to go or not go.  And yes, sometimes on how lucky your are.
  • Where you do get a failing's called a "pink slip" (ask your parents, chances are they know what this is)
  • Where people can get hurt and often do from their own stupidity.  (just ask someone whose house is worth half as much as when they bought it)
  • 99.9999999% of us will never be Rock Stars.  But we will raise children and help in our communities and churches without recognition.   We won't have thousands of fans chanting our name and telling us how much they love and adore us.   But maybe some day we will be surrounded at our bedside with children, grand-children and maybe even great-grand-children telling us how influential we were in their lives.
  • You will fail at some point in your life and you will have to face your own participation in that failure, be it in work, marriage, family or society at large.  There won't be anyone else to blame but you yourself.  You did that!  You said that!  And these failures probably won't have good outcomes like on Disney.  Instead, they will have ramifications for years to come.   
  • More and more people are wanting to live off of fewer and fewer.  Where some people are unashamed to be takers and not givers.  Where its all about what you can get away with.  Which group will you be in?
  • A $18T government debt that is about to eclipse our annual GDP and will need increasing amounts of taxes JUST TO PAY THE INTEREST ON THE DEBT!   Most of this debt will be to pay for the health and retirement of the baby-boomer generation (the most selfish generation on earth) and you will be the ones left with the bill!   Yes we all had a great party and now someone has to pay the tab!   We will all be dead and gone, but our legacy will live on as you look at your weekly pay stub and see more and more of your hard earned money taken out.
  • College tuition is rising at 3-4 times the rate of inflation and that colleges are so overcrowded that there is no longer a 4 year degree, but instead it will take you 5 or even 6 years to graduate.  Compounded,  you will all leave college with more debt than our parents had when they bought their first house.   And that college degree in East European 19th Century Fascist Literature won't mean a thing to the 50 year old manager looking to hire an assistant sales accountant.  
So take off your caps, throw them in the air and yell "HURRAY!!  WE DID IT!"

Just know that the cap you throw up in the air must come down and hit the cold hard earth in the end.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Good of the ONE ...

For those who remember the movie: "Star Trek 2",  there was a scene in which Spock says he does not understand why Captain Kirk would risk the entire crew to come in and save HIM.   Captain Kirk replies:  "Sometimes the good of the one outweighs the good of the many".    So to it is with our Supreme Court.   The ONE out weighs the MAJORITY.  

I bring this up because a few days ago, the President made some non-scripted remarks about the Supreme Court possibly throwing out the entire Healthcare law and saying that such a move would be "unprecedented".   The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (one level below the Supreme Court), requested the DOJ to answer some questions.   They gave the AG a two-day homework assignment to write a 3-page-single-space paper detailing what the President was indicating by the word, "unprecedented".

The word, unrepresented, in the dictionary says "unique, extraordinary, exceptional, novel".  This would seem to indicate the the President was meaning that such a move by the Supreme Court would be unique or exceptional, or even never been done before.   To those whose job is to watch and report what the Supreme Court does, must have been difficult for them to keep their eyes from popping out of the sockets.   It may be one thing for the President to lie about his past (he was the only one there to actually see it), but its entirely a whole different matter to LIE about history of the Supreme Court!   
Here is the actual track record for the Supreme Court:

Unconstitutional and Preempted Laws 1789-2002
According to the GPO (Government Printing Office Database):

1789-2002 Acts of Congress Held as Unconstitutional................................158

1789-2002 State Statutes held unconstitutional............................................935

1789-2002 City Ordinances held unconstitutional.......................................222

1789-2002 State and City laws preempted by Federal laws.........................224

Total State, Local and Federal Laws Declared Unconstitutional..............1,315

Total State and Local Law Preempted by Federal Laws..............................224

Total Laws Overturned, all governments..................................................1,539  

So just looking at the first line (Acts of Congress Held as Unconstitutional), the Healthcare bill will have good company with the other 158 other acts of congress where our government attempted to overstep their powers provided to them and limiting them in the Constitution.  In fact all of these "laws" were passed by "democratically elected members of congress" as was the Healthcare bill.    But they, like Obamacare, did not meet the standard enshrined in our Constitution.   

So just what is the purpose of the Supreme Court?   Reading the Federalist Papers you will find that the Supreme Court has one fundamental purpose:  to stand up for the minority.   The framers of our Constitution were afraid of 2 things:

   1) An overly powerful Federal Government 
   2) Mob Rule

Their concern was not these happening separately, but in tandem.   They knew and understood that a controlling central government could use mob-rule in their favor, as was the case in the French Revolution, to take power of the country and abuse the minority.  To balance this power, the framers provided the Supreme Court with the power to repeal laws passed by "a democratically elected MAJORITY" (as the President put it) if such laws hurt the individual citizen either directly or indirectly. This is why the writers of the Healthcare bill put the "tax/penalty" after 2014 so that the bill could not "harm the citizen" until 4 years into the bills implementation, so by that time, there would be too difficult to repeal the law.  Thankfully the Supreme Court saw through this and decided that it was not going to wait until 2014 to hear the case.

To illustrate this the use of this power one does not have look to back far in history.   Recently the Supreme Court weighed in on an issue with a family in Idaho that was being prevented from building a house because the EPA had incorrectly labeled their property a "wet-land" (a clogged drainage ditch was the culprit).  Rather than admit they were wrong (even though the local court had sided with the family on the matter), they threatened the family with $34,000 per day in fines if they did not do what they asked (put the land back to its original state and plant "wetland" plants, even though it wasn't a wetland).  The family brought the matter to the Supreme Court because under the EPA jurisdiction, we do not have a right to meet them in court to confront them.  The Supreme Court ruled  9 - 0 in favor of the family that they could not be fined by the EPA without the right to face them in court.

But those who rail against the Supreme Court believe the "MIGHT MAKES RIGHT!" and "The 99% should over-rule the 1%".   They say, "Forget the Supreme Court!  We know whats right for you! You are just too ignorant to know the difference".   And this is not just something the left does either.  I must admit, that I too sometimes get frustrated when laws that I voted for are thrown out.  Here in California we had Prop-8 which was the law to say that marriage in California would only be between a man and a woman.   Passed by a slim majority, the law was brought to the State-Supreme-Court for review.   If struck down, it would be for the same reason as Obamacare would. If so, should we call for the abolishing of the State-Supreme-Court?  Should we riot in the streets and demand their resignations?  No.  Absolutely NOT!  They have same mandate as the Supreme Court:


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fission or Fusion Politics

In writing my last blog "Good vs Evil" I could not later help but see a connection to nature itself and the similarities are astounding.  As an engineer who has been taught fair amount of physics its common for me to draw these kinds of comparisons and I would like to share them with you.

In our universe there are 2 methods of deriving nuclear energy: Fission and Fusion.  Nuclear Fission has been used for years in our world to generate Tera-Watts of electrical energy every day.  The basic concept is fairly simple.   As you move up the Periodic Table, larger and larger atoms that have lots of protons become increasing unstable.   That means they "split" into smaller atoms that are more stable.  These "splits" release protons and neutrons which can be used to bombard other heavy atoms and make them heavier and therefore.. more unstable so they will split as well.   Each split releases some high energy protons or neutrons which  can be used to heat water to high temperatures such that steam is generated which can be used to turn a turbine and generate electricity.   Fission doesn't take much effort at all since the process is a naturally occurring one.  All one has to do is set up the conditions (fuel mostly) and nature does the rest.   For fission reactors, engineers spend most of their time developing safe-guards to turn the system OFF in case things get out of control. 

Fusion, on the other hand, is not a simple process to create though our Sun does it very efficiently.  Fusion takes 2 atoms (the simplest if Hydrogen) and tries to combine them into heavier atoms (H + H = He).   The problem with fusion is that in the nucleus of each atom is a proton which is positively charged.   Therefore there is a repulsive force between to protons that multiplies by 4 every time you move the 2 protons closer by half their distance.  In other words the force when 2 protons is 6 inches if 4 times stronger than when they were 12 inches apart.  So if we take 2 protons from 12 inches apart to almost 3/1000 of an inch,  the force will be  4^10 or almost 1,000,000 times stronger than at the beginning.  However, if you can get the protons close enough, another stronger force called the Strong-Nuclear-Force takes over and they "snap" together.   During this "snap",  the particles are accelerated towards each other and whenever you accelerate a charged-particle (protons or electrons), a large amount of energy is given off.  In fact, fusion generates more than 6 times more energy per nucleon than fission.   This is also why Helium is "slightly" lighter than the 2 Hydrogen that were put together.  Normally 1 + 1 = 2, but in fusion,  1+1 = 1.99999999 .   So where did the .00000001 go?  It was turned into energy.  Newton's 1st Law says that energy cannot be created or destroyed only changed in form.   From Einstein's famous E=mc2 equation,  the "lost" mass was turned into energy of the reaction. 

So how does all of this relate to our world?  

As I posted earlier, its easier to get people to hate each other than it is to get them to work together.  I used the term "lazy politics", but now I would like to refer to that as "Fission Politics" because that is what it is.   Its the easiest of the 2 types of politics we have.  It's natural and takes no real effort to make it happen.   All you have to do is supply the right "radioactive material that is unstable" and put it in the same area as stable elements, and let nature do the rest.   The same goes for what is happening in our world today.   The OWS movement for example, can be compared to the unstable Uranium (U-238).   The idea is that they will eventually bombard others around them with their "message" (whatever that message is) and infect them, making them unstable as well.   Or another example would be what is happening in Florida with the Trayvon Martin case.  People like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton act as radioactive fuel hoping to divide blacks and whites further apart rather than bring them together, for by doing so they reap thousands of dollars for themselves and use this "energy" to push more blacks to vote for the democrat party.  

Fission politics is cheap politics, but its also the most dangerous.   Fusion is more safe than Fission since it does not happen naturally.  In Fusion, a lot of energy must be put into the process to force the protons close enough to snap together.  If this external energy were removed, the process ends immediately.  But in Fission, the process needs energy to STOP the process and sometimes things get so out of whack, you can't stop it (ex: Chernobyl) and all you can do is evacuate and bury the reactor in cement.  

There in lies the second similarity.  Those who push Fission Politics think they can control it.  But they are wrong.  They can't!  Eventually their divisive methods will get the better of them and things will become unraveled and leaving the government no choice but to "dump cement" on our society and bring it under submission.   Some may wonder if that is what they want to happen.

We need to show that Fusion Politics is the way to go.  Yes, it's difficult and doesn't happen naturally, but we have shown before that an immense amount of energy is released in our country when we "snap" together for a common cause (see WWII or landing on the moon).   I believe Ronald Reagan practiced Fusion Politics and it can be done again.   We as the voters must first vote out of office all of those who practice Fission Politics because they will never want to put the energy into it (lazy).   We need to find leaders who will seek common ground for the good of ALL Americans and not just their own party.  

Finally, I would like to add one more similarity.   France has developed nuclear energy for years and has over 40 times more nuclear facilities than the U.S.  In doing so they have found some fascinating ways of safe-guarding their reactors from over-heating (meltdown).   The one way they found was to line the bottoms of their reactors with flakes of cobalt metal.  When the reactor runs at a normal temperature, these flakes sit on the bottom quietly.  But if the water temperature gets above a certain temperature, the flakes expand and become "buoyant" and start to float to the top.   The Cobalt acts as an anti-catalyst in that it absorbs the radiation between the rods and shuts-down the reaction, allowing the water to cool.  

We need the same process in regards to Fission Politics.   We need people on either side of the divide to step in when these issues arise an speak up for the other side.  We need blacks to stand up for whites and whites to stand up for blacks.  We need the poor and middle-class to stand-up for the wealthy and the wealthy to stand up for the poor and middle class.     We need people to point to Fusion Politics rather than Fission Politics.   These people, like the Cobalt, can absorb much of anger and antipathy that results and allow our country to cool down.  

Our future as a nation depends on it.