Points to Ponder

Blogs that pose interesting conundrums

Early Marriage?

I like Mondays because I get to go to this Boeing Intern events at Boeing Field and then mosey in on to work around 12, work for a few hours and then come home. We were scheduled to hear someone from Connexion by Boeing talk, but instead we had some people from Product Development. If you’ve been following the news lately, you no doubt notice that it has been rumored that Boeing was going to kill off Connexion. It now appears that Boeing is in fact shutting down Connexion. I digress.

I ended up talking to another intern today who I’d never met before (there are quite a few hundred of us, so that happens a lot). There’s a typical initial volley of information to determine who you are, where you’re from, what school you go to, what your major is, and where you’re working and what you’re doing. At the time, the class was doing an intern networking event. The goal was to sit with similar majors (which I completely failed at, sitting with a group of mechanical engineers) and discuss various things (You know you work at Boeing when…“you try to LEAN out your own life”). This intern, who I’ll call John, goes to BYU and is a Mech E. Halfway through our conversation, a female intern, who I’ll call Jane, walks over behind him and gives him a kiss. I assume they’re dating and was surprised about how quickly the two interns got together (my rational being that most interns are from out of state and that it was highly unlikely that a college couple would intern at the same company away from home).

Then John introduces Jane as his wife, and the BYU thing clicks, and it all makes sense now. I didn’t ask, but I doubt that John or Jane are over 22 years old, which is not entirely surprising as I heard about two people at Mines (yes, Colorado School of Mines) who were married last year. If I recall correctly, the guy had just come back from his mission trip and was 23 or so. He ended up marrying a freshman.

Now the question, why do I hear about so many Mormons getting married so young? I assume that it’s traditional, but I don’t know for sure. However, I’m more curious about about the effect of being married so young. It seems atypical for people with a higher social-economic status to marry at such a young age and I wonder how their marriages compare to those of people who get married later in life. Are the divorce rates any different? What about change in social-economic status, does it go up or down? What else deviates substantially from the norm?

[tags]boeing internship, boeing intern, boeing, intern, internship, connexion by boeing, byu, marriage, mormon[/tags]

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What is the Legality?

I decided to make a new post instead of add to the comments of the New Sign on Campus. Here’s the email I sent (names have been changed to initials):

NB,

I am having a debate with some of my friends about the legality of having pedestrians yield to cars on campus streets. I took a look at the Colorado Revised Statue and was wondering how the rule is reconciled with the following sections of the CRS:

Colorado Revised Statute:
Title 42, Article 4, Section 802: Pedestrians’ right-of-way in crosswalks.
1) When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

Title 42, Article 4, Section 803: Crossing at other than crosswalks.
1) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

Title 42, Article 4, Section 807: Drivers to exercise due care.
Notwithstanding any of the provisions of this article, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway. Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.
My thought was that Section 802 only applies to pedestrians in a crosswalk, but that raises the questions of what crosswalk is defined as. I looked for a definition, but did not find one; thus, it could be argued that the installation of wheelchair ramps on the curb could constitute a crosswalk. My other thought was that Section 803 makes use of the terms “marked crosswalk” and “unmarked crosswalk”. Since the wording in Section 802 only refers to a “crosswalk” (making no mention of marked or unmarked), perhaps crosswalks exist at all intersections which lack any sign that prohibits crossing.

Sincerely,

Andrew Ferguson

…and the response…

Andrew: Your comments are well thought out and I am impressed with your research. I am forwarding your comments to my boss and to the sergeants for an appropriate response.

Thank you,

NB

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Don’t Ban, Shape!

Out of the AP (via Yahoo!):

From news.yahoo.com:

Del Mar College students now have to use computers outside the school’s system if they want to visit the popular Web site MySpace.com.

The community college has blocked the site in response to complaints about sluggish Internet speed on campus computers.

Why do they feel they need to complete ban the site and cause students to make a fit when the campus could just limit the amount of outbound traffic sent to MySpace?

[tags]myspace, packet shaping, QoS[/tags]

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A New Take on Security through Obscurity

I was talking with Matt over the weekend and we started talking about security through obscurity. It’s nothing new, it’s been used for decades. The idea is “a controversial principle in security engineering, which attempts to use secrecy (of design, implementation, etc.) to ensure security” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_through_obscurity).

Slashdot linked to a Wired article about the Kryptos, a rather cool sculpture located on the grounds of the CIA. It turns out that there’s a typo that’s affected the current decryption efforts.

My thought is this: you have a message you want to encrypt. If you introduce small errors into the spelling of words, errors that still easily convey the message, are decryption efforts hindered? If so, is the hindrance significant?

For the record, I think StO is a bad idea in general. It relies on the ability to keep information sequestered as a means of security. Once the information is released, the entire security blanket is destroyed. The exception to this is when StO is used as a final layer of security, where there are actual strong cryptographic efforts established and StO is enabled as a final level of security designed to merely delay cracking attempts.

[tags]cia, wired, slashdot, kryptos, security through obscurity, security by obscurity, cryptography[/tags]

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All In The Presentation

The success of many things depends on one simple thing: How you present it.

Example #1:
Food. How appealing food is often depends directly on how it is presented. There was a famous study done some time ago. The researchers colored the foods different colors people would refuse to eat it, even though it was perfectly good.

Example #2:
From Okdork.com:

From okdork.com:


“Hi I am Noah what’s your name”
“Oh Hey I am Jennifer, are you from around here?”
“Yea, I grew up in the Bay Area”
“really, where?”
“Oh in cupertino”
“Nice, are you renting or do you have roommates”
“yea 3 of us live in a house”
“very cool, blah blah blah”

and the conversation continues and I score! Sounds like a great thing. What if I told you those 2 other roommates are my parents? Different story huh? Product positioning is how you explain the story to the users and the people you want using your product.

Example #3:

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Two Questions on the Luge

First, the camera coverage on the luge sucks. Why can’t they get a single camera to follow the racer down the track for the entire race? It would be simple to adapt current technology to get an image that would look something like this:
5102596_640X480

Second, the commentators keep talking about how the racers poke their heads up from time to time to see where they’re going. Why can’t they use either a simple periscope type system or a fiber optic system so they can keep their heads down the entire time?

[tags]luge, olympics, turin[/tags]

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Are You Asking the Right Question?

Far too often, people ask the wrong question. Raymond from The Old New Thing has a perfect example of this. Although his post is more about “people sometimes [asking] a question that can’t or shouldn’t
be answered because it is based upon a misunderstanding.”

I’m sitting here on the couch watching “I Am My Own Twin” on TLC (I TiVo’d it last night). The special chronicles the “stories of individuals born with a rare condition in which two embryos fuse together into one fetus.” A woman has given birth to several babies over a period of years and is applying for child support. DSHS has the woman, the man, and the babies get DNA tests to confirm paternity. However, when DSHS gets the tests back, the find that the woman shares no common DNA with the babies. At this point they ask, “You’re not the real mother. There is no way you can be the mother. Where did you get these kids from? Did your sister have these children and you’re taking them?”

This is an example of asking the wrong questions. If a person asks, “Who is your mother?” What data do you use to qualify your answer? What data can you use to qualify your answer?

I could say that Pam is my mother because she A) Physically gave birth to me, B) Shares 50% of DNA, and C) Raised me. I assume that for the purpose of the DSHS investigation, they don’t care who is currently rasing the child. This means that as far as DSHS is concerned, the mother is the person who gives birth to a child that shares ~50% of the DNA. The problem is (as this show goes to point out), that person may not be one and the same. In fact, “who is your mother?” can easily have at least three different answers, all of them correct!

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Christmas on a Sunday

Christmas falling on a Sunday is rather unusual event. I would imagine that most people don’t even know the last time Christmas was on a Sunday. I would imagine even fewer people would take the time to figure out how often it does happen.

Well, that’s what I did last Sunday. The cycle described also applies to any given numerical day falling on any given day of the week. Here’s what I found:

The entire cycles actually takes 28 years. However, within that cycle, Christmas will fall on a Sunday in 11 years, then 6 years, then 5 years, and then 6 years again.

The easiest way to understand this is to write out the numbers 1-28 on piece of paper. In most years (i.e. non leap years), there are 365 days. This divides into 52 weeks plus one day. This causes the days to increment what day of the week they fall on by one. Thus usually Christmas fell on a Saturday the year before, it would advance one day and occur on a Sunday for that year, and next year it would fall on Monday. However, every four years, instead of moving one day, we move two days. To represent this, circle every four numbers, starting with 4 (you would circle 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, and 28). Now count how many years it will take to advance 7 days (one week) and draw a line after you reach that year. You should end on “6”. Do the same thing until you reach the end of the list. You should come out with the pattern 6, 11, 6, 5.

The last time Christmas was on a Sunday was in 1994 (11 years ago). It will occur again in 6 years (2011, check your calendar), and then 2016, 2022, and 2033.

[tags]christmas, sunday, pattern, repeat[/tags]

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Legal Question

Watching Third Watch: “Officer Involved” on A&E. The PD finds this kid who is stuck between two walls and they call the FD to come get him out. The FD has to break into a locked garage to get access to a cement wall. While the FD is cutting into the wall to get the kid out, the owner shows up. The FD eventually gets the kid out, however the PD finds a stash of pot in the garage.

Can the PD arrest the owner? Why or why not?

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Why I Am The Future

To follow up on “I Wonder What It Would Take For Scoble To Read My Blog“, I did send Scoble an email shortly after I posted. I modified it a bit to make more sense (as I did not send him the full post, just my question to him). As of yet, I have not heard back.

However, TDavid did pick me up on his blog (MakeYouGoHmm.com) and provided some feedback.

I had some trouble initially emailing Scoble (he said he never received my email) so I switched to using my .Mac account and ironically enough he responded right away.

I do know that my emails get through to him because I sent him an email once before before asking for advice on blogging in a corporate environment (I was just about to start work at Nordstrom). If he doesn’t respond in a week or so, I may email him one more time from my school account….maybe. As TDavid points out, “Emailing somebody busy is something that needs to be done with great care and concern. Too many emails from the same source, especially when they are self-promotional, and one risks become annoying. Becoming noise, not signal.”

You might also want to mention that you own and use a Tablet PC. Most of the posts he has linked to of ours here were Tablet PC related.

If I do email Scoble again, I’ll be sure to note that I do use a Toshiba M200 Tablet PC for school and I love it to death.

You are the future? I like that. Expand on that. Why are you the future? What are you going to do with the future and technology? How could you make Microsoft better? These are questions I bet would at least intrigue Scoble. Especially if they take a fresh point of view on the topic.

Below is a short answer essay to why I wanted to attend Caltech:

After helping someone fix a computer glitch, I often get asked, “Why are you so smart?” It is a tricky question, I will admit that. There is no one thing or event from which I acquired my intelligence. My aptitude is likely the result of two factors: genes and opportunities.

My family has a long line of technical aptitude. My grandfather worked at the National Institute of Standards and Time in Boulder, Colorado, and introduced me to the Cesium clock that keeps America on-time. My dad works in Information Technology Manager at Nordstrom’s. Some of my earliest memories are visiting Nordstrom’s data storage facility and gazing in awe at the massive server racks.

The computer has given me the ability to exploit my natural curiosity. Just before my fourth birthday, my dad brought home a used IBM 286. Scooting along at an astounding 16MHz, I was able to perform what seemed like miracles with it. As the years progressed, we acquired faster and faster computers. I currently use a Celeron 1.8 GHz, over one-hundred times faster than my first computer. But the speed of the computer is not the important factor; it is what I am able to do with them. In my early days, I managed to crank out short homework assignments and doodle with Microsoft Paint. I later became familiar with PowerPoint, using it to develop a short animation sequence. Fifth grade was a good year, not only because it was the end of elementary school, but also because it brought forth the Internet.

With the Internet, I was able to explore places and things not otherwise accessible to a ten-year-old. I dipped my nimble hands in every pond I could reach. I created a website and began learning the intricacies of HTML. I now run my website out of my basement web server. I currently use PHP and MySQL as the primary programming language, which I taught myself. I even developed my own content management system (CMS). In essence, computers and the Internet have helped make me who I am. I see myself as a developer. I look at my website and figure out how I can make it better. What interesting feature could I program to make my site just that much more interesting? I work into the wee hours of the morning sometimes, furiously typing away, finding out why something will not work. In the end, my website is my canvas.

However, this still leaves us with the original question, why am I smart? My mother might say, “That’s who God made you to be,” and I would agree with that. My father would say, “What do you think?” at which point I would say, “I don’t know.” But I think the true answer is “It’s my nature.” I am naturally curious. Not everyone has the initiative to do what I do. Most people are content with life and what it gives them. But I can see what the future holds and I want to develop its secrets.

The point I think I am trying to push is innovation. Today, people like to assume the mantra: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Being an engineer, my adage is: If it’s not broken, it doesn’t do enough things. And my friends will attest to that! I look at the world and see things and wonder, what else could I do with that? I see things on television, usually sci-fi shows, and wonder what the plausibility of such a device is: What would it really take to design a 3D image?

Now let me extend this conceptual thinking to the Microsoft realm. If I could change how Microsoft did things, what would I change?

First off, I would make it smaller…or at least appear smaller to the public. There is a mentality that Microsoft is this huge bad giant that wants to control the world. In short, people believe that Microft sucks (and sometimes I’m tended to believe that as well, although my final paper for History defended Microsoft’s aleged antitrust actions [pdf warning]). I would first split Microsoft into Hardware, Software, and InterNetwork groups. Hardware could then be split into PC Gaming, Xbox, and Peripherals. Software would have OS and Applications. Applications could be broken down to Office, Games, and Productivity. And OS would just be Business and Personal. InterNetwork is actually a folder on my Start menu where I put things having to do with the Internet and Networking. InterNetwork would include things like MSN Messenger, Internet Explorer, MSN Virtual Earth, etc.

Second, I would begin to identify with the customers. Scoble has introduced a very novel way to interact with customers/developers and Microsoft needs to capitalize on that idea. Actively go out and see what people are complaining about and FIX IT! On that note, realize that not all publicity is good publicity. I did audio mixing of live events for 3 years while I was in high school and I for the most part, I only received two kinds of recognition: people complaining when something wasn’t working or people not complaining at all. After a while, I realized that I was doing my job right when no one knew I was there.

After everything is to customer satisfaction. Innovate. Microsoft isn’t innovating like they did in the beginning. The last innovation from Microsoft was the Xbox, and that really wasn’t something that innovative as much as it was breaking into an existing market. Innovation involves risks, and risking big. I would invest heavily in Web 2.0 right now. But I see W2 having two phases. The first phase is going to focus on companies (like Microsoft) developing “systems” and “applications” and hosting them on their servers. The second phase will see the the servers migrate back towards the home and will come when connectivity is available in more homes, at faster speeds, for cheaper cost.

Collaboration will also be key. Open your code to others and they will flock to it and make it better. Also keep in mind that the bigger the come, the harder they fall. Collaboration does not equal domination. Focus your resources on developing a few good pieces of software, not many shitty pieces that everyone hates (even if they do still buy it).

The final change I would make is change itself. Allow Microsoft to grow and adapt as a company to needs of not only the consumer, but also the employee. Google’s 20% rule is freaking genius! So is the incredibly casual workplace at Microsoft. What else can you do?
So quick recap: Become smaller in the eyes of the public (think of how many things GE owns that you may not know about); Identify with your users (and developers, too!); Hire Andrew; Innovate and take risks, Microsoft needs to be the next big thing; Collaborate with others to develop a superior product, but don’t dominate!

Also, what’s up with the dot NET thing but no .NET code? Is that just a reference to the domain? I would think something with dot NET in the title would be about the .NET framework. I wonder if other readers would assume the same thing?

As for the “dot NET” moniker. It’s the culmination of many things. I did want the .com domain, but it was already taken. I actually contacted the fellow, James, and talked to him about it. He’s saving it for his son, Andrew, who’s just a baby now (talk about thinking about the future!). So I picked the .net domain, and sort of copied Wil Wheaton‘s naming scheme. There might have been some parody thought of Microsoft .NET going on in the back of my mind, but I honestly can’t remember.

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