March 24, 2008
These are the immutable laws the govern the cosmos.
See Godwin’s Law below for the law that governs the blogosphere.
Amdahl’s Law: The speed-up achievable on a parallel computer can be significantly limited by the existence of a small fraction of inherently sequential code which cannot be parallelised. (Gene Amdahl)
Augustine’s Second Law of Socioscience: For every scientific (or engineering) action, there is an equal and opposite social reaction. (Norman Augustine)
Benford’s Law: Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available. (Gregory Benford)
Brooks’ Law: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. (Frederick P Brooks Jr)
Church-Turing Thesis: Every function which would naturally be regarded as computable can be computed by the universal Turing machine.
Clarke’s First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. (Arthur C Clarke)
Clarke’s Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. (Arthur C Clarke)
Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. (Arthur C Clarke)
Conway’s Law: If you have four groups working on a compiler, you’ll get a 4-pass compiler. (Melvin Conway)
Cope’s Law: There is a general tendency toward size increase in evolution. (Edward Drinker Cope)
Dilbert Principle: The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management. (Scott Adams)
Deutsch’s Seven Fallacies of Distributed Computing: Reliable delivery; Zero latency; Infinite bandwidth; Secure transmissions; Stable topology; Single adminstrator; Zero cost. (Peter Deutsch)
Ellison’s Law: The userbase for strong cryptography declines by half with every additional keystroke or mouseclick required to make it work. (Carl Ellison)
Ellison’s Law: The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. (Harlan Ellison)
Ellison’s Law: Once the business data have been centralized and integrated, the value of the database is greater than the sum of the preexisting parts. (Larry Ellison)
Finagle’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will. (?Larry Niven)
Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem: The more highly adapted an organism becomes, the less adaptable it is to any new change. (R A Fisher)
Fitts’s Law: The movement time required for tapping operations is a linear function of the log of the ratio of the distance to the target divided by width of the target. (Paul Fitts)
Flon’s axiom: There does not now, nor will there ever, exist a programming language in which it is the least bit hard to write bad programs. (Lawrence Flon)
Gilder’s Law: Bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power. (George Gilder)
Godwin’s Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. (Mike Godwin)
Grosch’s Law: The cost of computing systems increases as the square root of the computational power of the systems. (Herbert Grosch)
Grove’s Law: Telecommunications bandwidth doubles every century. (Andy Grove)
Hanlon’s Law: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. (?Robert Heinlein)
Hartree’s Law: Whatever the state of a project, the time a project-leader will estimate for completition is constant. (Douglas Hartree)
Heisenbug Uncertainty Principle: Most production software bugs are soft: they go away when you look at them. (Jim Gray)
Hick’s Law: The time to choose between a number of alternative targets is a function of the number of targets and is related logarithmically. (W E Hick)
Hoare’s Law: Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out. (Charles Hoare)
Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you think, even when you take Hofstadter’s Law into account. (Douglas Hofstadter)
Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience: Users spend most of their time on other websites. (Jakob Nielsen)
Joy’s Law: Computing power of the fastest microprocessors, measured in MIPS, increases exponentially in time. (Bill Joy)
Kerckhoff’s Principle: Security resides solely in the key. (Auguste Kerckhoff)
Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns: As order exponentially increases, time exponentially speeds up (that is, the time interval between salient events grows shorter as time passes). (Ray Kurzweil)
Law of the Conservation of Catastrophe: The solutions to one crisis pave the way for some equal or greater future disaster. (William McNeill)
Law of False Alerts: As the rate of erroneous alerts increases, operator reliance, or belief, in subsequent warnings decreases. (George Spafford)
Lister’s Law: People under time pressure don’t think faster. (Timothy Lister)
Lloyd’s Hypothesis: Everything that’s worth understanding about a complex system, can be understood in terms of how it processes information. (Seth Lloyd)
Metcalfe’s Law: The value of a network grows as the square of the number of its users. (Robert Metcalfe)
Moore’s Law: Transistor die sizes are cut in half every 24 months. Therefore, both the number of transistors on a chip and the speed of each transistor double every 18 (or 12 or 24) months. (Gordon Moore)
Murphy’s Law: If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it. (Edward A Murphy)
Nathan’s First Law: Software is a gas; it expands to fill its container. (Nathan Myhrvold)
Ninety-ninety Law: The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time. (Tom Cargill)
Occam’s Razor: The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct. (William of Occam)
Osborn’s Law: Variables won’t; constants aren’t. (Don Osborn)
Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. (C Northcote Parkinson)
Pareto Principle: 20% of the people own 80% of the country’s assets. (Corollary: 20% of the effort generates 80% of the results.) (Vilfredo Pareto)
Pesticide Paradox: Every method you use to prevent or find bugs leaves a residue of subtler bugs against which those methods are ineffectual. (Bruce Beizer)
Peter Principle: In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. (Laurence J Peter)
Red Queen Principle: For an evolutionary system, continuing development is needed just in order to maintain its fitness relative to the system it is co-evolving with. (Leigh van Valen)
Rock’s Law: The cost of semiconductor fabrication equipment doubles every four years. (Arthur Rock)
Rule of 1950: The probability that automated decisions systems will be adopted is approximately one divided by one plus the number of individuals involved in the approval process who were born in 1950 or before squared. (Frank Demmler)
Sixty-sixty Law: Sixty percent of software�s dollar is spent on maintenance, and sixty percent of that maintenance is enhancement. (Robert Glass)
Spector’s Law: The time it takes your favorite application to complete a given task doubles with each new revision. (Lincoln Spector)
Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap. (Theodore Sturgeon)
Tesler’s Law of Conservation of Complexity: You cannot reduce the complexity of a given task beyond a certain point. Once you’ve reached that point, you can only shift the burden around. (Larry Tesler)
Tesler’s Theorem: Artificial Intelligence is whatever hasn’t been done yet. (Larry Tesler)
Weibull’s Power Law: The logarithm of failure rates increases linearly with the logarithm of age. (Waloddi Weibull)
Weinberg’s Law: If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. (Gerald M Weinberg)
Wirth’s Law: Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster. (Nicklaus Wirth)
Zawinski’s Law: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can. (Jamie Zawinski)
March 24, 2008
There will be another scintillating and filling buffet of brilliance as Sanity Squad prepares our BlogTalk Radio podcast, scheduled for this evening at 8:00 pm.
Dr Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, Neo and ourselves will be discussing a number of topics including the situation with China, Tibet, the Dalai Lama, the upcoming Olympics and the larger psychological and political implications of the events as they unfold.
The podcast can accessed from the Sanity Squad BTR Homepage.
The call in number is is (646) 716-9116.
Doors open at 8:00 PM sharp.
Arrive early, leave hungry for more.
March 24, 2008
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Every coin has its flip side. Last week, I explored how San Francisco and other centers of innovation around the globe are resisting the downward vortex of the housing market. These fabled super cities, Richard Florida contends in his new book, “Who’s Your City,” are attracting an increasingly disproportionate number of educated, creative knowledge workers who fuel the economy. In turn, these folks are keeping housing prices relatively high despite recurring appearances of the R-word on our front pages.
The dark side of this surreality is that the places far from these hallowed urban cores are experiencing unprecedented decline and, according to some experts, threaten to become tomorrow’s slums.
We’re not talking about mean inner city streets getting meaner, we’re talking about the pristine, newly built developments of four-bedroom, three-bath dream homes produced in the last housing boom becoming ghettos for the poor and the disenfranchised.
Slumburbia? After decades of middle class flight from the cities in search of safe neighborhoods and good schools — a flight that continues today even from gentrified cities like San Francisco — it’s hard to conjure the image of a truly derelict suburbia. Will all those manicured lawns sprout weeds and broken bottles like a Baltimore back alley? Will drug dealers take over the local cul-de-sac? Will squatters set up camp in the neighbor’s McMansion?
All this seems unfathomable, but it’s the prediction du jour for some urban planners who make it their business to track the larger sociological implications of our land use.
Of course, we’ve all heard about the tsunami of foreclosures that has descended on much of the country. But not all real estate disaster areas are created equal: This week RealtyTrac released new foreclosure numbers about cities that were hit the hardest in February. Stockton, with nearly 5 percent of all households at some stage of foreclosure, got the honor of ringing up the second highest foreclosure rate nationwide, after Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. Other sprawling California regions dominated the list: Modesto at No. 3, Merced at No. 4, Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 5, Bakersfield at No. 7, Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 8, and Sacramento at No. 9.
What do all these places have in common? Suburbs upon sprawling new suburbs. Does this suggest that the American dream of the large-lot single family home is doomed? Some experts think so.
“Over the last few decades we’ve structurally overinvested in fringe real estate,” explains Christopher Leinberger, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute and a former developer. “Builders are experts in overbuilding, in terms of cyclical overbuilding, like lemmings to the sea. But this time it’s different. It’s not just a cycle. It’s going to take more than two or three years to recover from this.”
Last fall, Leinberger published “The Option of Urbanism,” a book about the changing sociology of the built environment. Like Florida, he sees the growing attraction to urban living as a matter of critical importance. This month, his essay in the Atlantic magazine provocatively asserts that McMansion developments would deteriorate into crime ridden, impoverished slums. In the piece he mentions several instances of suburban neighborhoods getting hit so hard by the recent downturn that they already exhibit the tell-tale signs of deep decline: Looters stealing copper pipe and siding from new homes, gunshots puncturing picture-perfect facades, squatters taking up residence in abandoned houses.
When asked if the edge suburbs are turning into slums, Florida concurs with Leinberger’s ominous vision, “Yes, they are already well on their way,” he says. “The knowledge workers can’t afford the time cost, they can’t afford the commuting time.”
But mostly Leinberger is predicting the future rather than describing the present, arguing that the pendulum has swung too far toward isolated, car-dependent single-family-home neighborhoods to be sustainable. (In his description of the city, he’s not including older inner suburbs like Berkeley or Palo Alto that have walkable urban neighborhoods and public transit; he’s talking about the hillsides of homes detached from urbanized towns.) Now with high gas prices, long commutes, a bad job market and a new attraction to walkable urban living, it’s just a matter of time before suburban fringes begin to absorb the people that can’t make it in the city.
If newly built suburbs in decline sound like a less formidable problem than the neglect and misery of our inner cities beginning in the 1960s, with their generation after generation of children raised amid violence, drug addiction and hopelessness, maybe our imaginations are failing us. In Europe, where the cities never died, the suburbs have long been the homes of last resort for the poor and the marginalized. Just last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced yet another plan to revive the suburban slums that erupted in riots in 2005 — the 16th such proposal in 31 years.
Florida and Leinberger say that retooling the suburbs is going to make urban renewal look like a walk in the park.
“Suburb development is really fragile,” Leinberger explains. “It’s going to be very complex to rebuild.”
As Leinberger notes, new suburbs tend to be situated far from public transport, social services and commerce, so they are particularly bad places for people who can’t afford cars. The housing stock isn’t terribly flexible. Compared to the sturdy older buildings in the city that got chopped up into apartments, it’s not easy to take a production-built house with three bedrooms and turn it into good multifamily housing. What’s more, the neighborhood infrastructure isn’t designed for higher density or commercial uses: The streets are often thinner, the pipes and drainage not built for heavier use.
Newer suburbs are also financially vulnerable: They depend on developers’ fees and property taxes to pay for the communities. “When the growth stops and the property values fall,” says Leinberger, “suddenly you’re going to have this wicked situation where social costs are rising as funding dries up, but without any other tax sources from commercial or industrial activity.”
This inherent fragility springs from some of the same regulations that make suburbs easier to build and therefore better bets for developers. By definition, suburbs are zoned for residential single family or maybe residential low density multifamily. They don’t require the complex planning or infrastructure building essential for commercial, industrial and high density housing. In many parts of the country — whether through state law or local ordinances — single family housing is the only new development that can be legally built. And because Fannie Mae will not finance rental developments that predict that more than 25 percent of the rent will come from nonresidential income, mixed use developments — like old fashioned main streets where apartments are built above the bakery and the butcher shop — are often perceived as more risky.
“It’s not the developers’ fault,” explains John Norquist, former mayor of Milwaukee, Wis., and president of the Congress for the New Urbanism. “They didn’t create this system, they just inherited it.”
Despite all this doom and gloom, the experts say we may be witnessing the evolution of the American dream toward a far healthier, more ecological vision.
“It’s an enormous opportunity,” says Norquist, “Thirty percent of the housing stock that will exist in 2030 hasn’t been built yet. Developers who are creating walkable neighborhoods are doing very well.” Indeed, the fact that Americans are embracing walkable neighborhoods is a good thing for their waistlines, their pocketbooks and the planet. “(Al) Gore talks about the inconvenient truth,” says Norquist, “I call this the convenient solution: living in a more urban way.”
To accelerate this trend, Leinberger is trying to work with cities that don’t have revived downtowns to help pave the way for the kind of walkable redevelopment that will attract jobs and residents. Building walkable urban developments won’t guarantee a city’s success, says Leinberger, but it is an essential first step.
“If you build, will they come?” asks Leinberger. “You just don’t know. But if you don’t build it, there’s not a prayer they will come.”
March 24, 2008
The battle marked the first major victory for the Allied nations facing the German and Central Forces. Prior to the victory at Vimy Ridge, those same Allied forces had been met with one staggering defeat after another. The First World War was the first post Napoleonic-era war and Europe and the rest of the world would never be same. In the end, the war was to cause the disintegration of four empires that had changed the world. The Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian and Ottoman Empires were lost. Half a dozen new states were created in Europe, and Poland and Lithuania were recreated. Most importantly, the First World War was a transitional war. Whereas wars were once fought exclusively for territory and resources, the First World War was fought about ideas and the imposition of those ideas, some of which were less than savory, to be sure.
With newest technologies of the day factored in, the engines of war were fierce, indeed. The casualties of the day were unprecedented.
On April 9, 1917, Easter Monday, four Canadian divisions from that new nation across the Atlantic, were called upon to fight together in Old Europe, to secure Vimy Ridge, a hellish place on this earth that had claimed 150,000 French lives alone. Other thousands of British soldiers were to make the ultimate sacrifice, too.
For a week prior to the actual battle, artillery barrages and exchanges could be heard across the channel in the south of England, 100 miles away.
On that Easter Monday, the Canadian soldiers were given a hot breakfast (about as common as Loch Ness monster sightings) and some rum:
The notion that this was a day like none other here was established early on when, in the darkness before zero hour, the troops were treated to a rare hot breakfast. There was bacon, bread, butter, tea and oranges — and after the meal, an issue of rum for every soldier, “which was rather small,” grumbled Private Leo Kelly, a 19-year old, who nonetheless remarked, “We don’t need rum to fight. All we need is grub and cigarettes.”
Maybe so for the young Quebec private, full up on a rare warm breakfast and energized by the prospect of battle, but for Lieutenant Stuart Kirkland and his platoon, who had spent the night packed into a front-line trench in the cold and muddy darkness, the rations of rum were essential.
“We stood there in mud to our waists all night waiting for the eventful hour. After fifteen minutes before the time set, I took two water bottles of rum and gave each of the men a good swallow, for I was bitter cold standing in the mud all night.”
Where the French and British had failed, the Canadians had succeeded. Three days later, the cost of victory became clear, with 3,598 Canadians having paid the ultimate price as some 7,104 lay wounded. The raw numbers are meaningless. In a country with such a population 1/10 that of the United States, that is the equivalent of 36,000 deaths in a single battle. Note: Reader Mark notes in a comment that based on population statistics, the Canadian losses today would be 46,100.
There are thousands of soldiers that have still not found rest. This week, the remains of Canadian Private Herbert Peterson, will finally find peace. He was found a few years ago, along with another soldier who may have been carrying the wounded private when they were both killed by a bomb blast. DNA tests confirmed Peterson’s identity. Further tests will identify his mate.
Women from far away places could be found at the front.
From the very night in 1914, when she read in Vancouver newspapers that Britain had declared war on Germany, she announced to her family that she was going overseas to drive Red Cross ambulances. In the months that followed, she contacted the war office in Ottawa and the Red Cross in Britain. Neither appeared interested in helping her make her way to the battlefields of Europe. So she saved what she could and eventually paid for her own passage across the Atlantic. The next hurdle she faced was Canadian army inertia. Waiting patiently for an answer at first, Grace finally forced the issue, demanding and getting an audience with the Minister of Militia and commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Sir Sam Hughes himself, in London in 1916.
“I’ve come from Canada to drive an ambulance,” she told Hughes and an entourage of officers in Hughes’s luxury suite at the Savoy Hotel.
“I’ll stop any woman from going to France,” Hughes blustered. “And I’ll stop you too.”
“Well, Sir Sam, I’m going to France,” she insisted. “And I’ll get there with or without your help.”
She did get to France and Grace McPherson’s contribution to the war effort was immeasurable.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge saw four Canadian divisions fighting together, under Canadian command. Those soldiers came from every region of the young nation. After the war, Brigadier-General A.E. Ross said of the assault on Vimy Ridge, “in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
To “witness the birth of a nation” has nothing to do with armies, battles or soldiers, even though that more often than not appears to be the case.
Truly great nations are born when the ideas that elevate mankind and society are so great, they can no longer be contained in the realm of the ethereal. Those great ideas must find life. Those ideas require real and meaningful outlets where the principles and ideals those ideas represent, can freely express themselves. That is how great nations are born.
On April 9, 1917, Easter Monday, the world changed.
New nations came into being, nations that were willing to fight for an idea. Nations that shared the idea of freedom did not need to fight each other. The free exchange of ideas led to the free markets of exchange and collaboration.
Empires were created to exploit resources and to extend dominance. Free societies are created to exploit ideas. In the short time free societies have existed, they have created more wealth than all the empires combined.
In the course of just over 200 years, we have provided the world with ideas, contributions and realities that are in the consciousness of every human being on the planet.
Easter is an expression of rebirth, of finding meaning and purpose. It is about elevation and potential, possibilities and hope.
The battle for Vimy Ridge was not a battle for a few yards of ground, in a war of territorial conquest. Rather, it was a battle between dark and light- those who would oppress and those who would defend the rebirth and resurrection of mankind’s potential. The Old Europe of empires and colonialism came to an end at Vimy Ridge.
The world changed forever on that Easter Monday, because on that day, it became clear to all that the ideas of freedom, rebirth and fighting evil are ideas that are worth defending, even at enormous cost.
We can only hope that those lessons are not lost, even as we fight the tyranny of oppressors and their stated evil, today.
For more on Vimy Ridge, see this:
Closest to the surface here in Vimy are the 3,598 Canadians who died in the four-day battle, along with the 20,000 Germans who were killed and wounded that Easter holiday. It was a successful battle for the Canadians, one that used novel innovations in artillery, aviation and communications to outsmart a highly entrenched enemy.
Beneath those Canadians and their April, 1917, enemies, scattered downwards for metres, are remains of the British and below them the French soldiers who had tried to take the hill for horrifying months: In total, an estimated 200,000 corpses scattered across this small stretch of countryside, their remains only partially collected. They are joined by macabre bits of the 600,000 men who were injured, many horrendously, in their attempts to take this hill.
See this and links embedded within, for more.
This post has been previously published.