Armen Chakmakjian

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

A New Social Network…on the edge of the Time Space Continuum

In Random on March 16, 2010 at 9:04 pm

So I saw an entry today on the Social Media Examiner that brings all of my hopes and dreams to a singularity somewhere in space (I’d love to have music to go along with this).   Here it is and look who my first message was from:

I am SOOO cracking up!  On the other hand, I hope my book gets discovered by some hollywood type!

Reeling in the years…

In Random on March 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

So in recent weeks a bunch of friends from grammar school all started posting class pictures on facebook from way way back (yes the 1970’s).  Flair pants, leisure suits, short skirts and big hair.   we were 7-12 years old, 3rd to 8th grade.  It was funny reading people’s reactions to seeing the 35 year previous version of themselves.

Then on another thread a college friend posted a solemn quote from confucius or something and that generated a whole list of famous (and not so famous) quotes including some of our engineering professors’ utterances.  That prompted the following 2 memories from the circuits 1 lecture:
Story 1:
(imagine a lecture hall for 99 students with 125 students attending)
Prof D: The averrage of the lest test was a fifty ehseven. Come down and pick up your tests using de number you were given.
(Class goes rushing down)
Student (a Micro-E girl): Excuse me Professor?
Prof D: yes?
Student: You said that the average was a 57?
Prof D: yes?
Student: Is that a “C”?
Prof D: No dat’s an “F”
(a sudden silence as if all the air in the room were taken out, then just as suddenly the whole class bursts out in laughter)

Story 2:
(the one day I sat at the front of the room on the extra folding chairs in front of the first row of tables. Right behind me Wael and Raffi. One one side of me George and on the other Al).
Wael: (Lets out a REALLY loud fart and then turns to Raffi and yells) WHAT DID YOU DO?
(Class burst out into laughter and pandemonium, the professor quickly turns to the whiteboard and attempts to apply Thevenin’s theorem to a RLC circuit trying as hard as he can to suppress his own laughter…gaining his compusure finally after about 30 seconds, he turns around)
Prof D: (tap tap tap with the marker) “Quiet Pleece… (tap tap tap with the marker) Cu-why-ET! (tap tap tap with the marker) Dat is eenuf. (tap tap tap with the marker) stahp leffing! (tap tap tap with the marker)

I remember at the time, once quiet had been restored, I was trying to suppress laughing and doing a really bad job, so bad that both Al and George kept telling me to stop because each time a small amount of laughter couldn’t be suppressed they’d start laughing too.

Ahhhh School Daze…

Thinking in Systems: A Primer Donella Meadows

In Business & Finance, career, College, history, Kindle, technology on March 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm

During my marketing course last year, while studying conscious capitalism and other topics related to a changes in the perception of corporate responsibility and stakeholder interests, the professor recommended that we read Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows.  The editor writes at the beginning of the book about how this book was in draft form and circulated informally until the writer died unexpectedly in 2001.  Donella Meadows also was a lead author The Limits to Growth, published in 1972.  I’ve been reading this over a few weeks on my kindle.  Here are my reactions:

I am fascinated by how obvious (to an engineer) what she was writing is.  The kinds of decisions about hardware, software, cost and people that I’ve had to make over the years are not generally simple decisions and you have to pick which ones you worry about at any point and which risks you are willing to take on.  To some extent it falls into the butterfly flapping its wings in the amazon concept (e.g. the movement in the wind there causes a snowflake in Alaska)

Anyway, we’ve been on this scrum kick at work, and have seen some benefit to it in our ability to iterate over a problem quickly and change course if new data appears.  Meadows addressed this issue and the justification for going to scrum about 1/3 of the way through the book:

“Self-organization is such a common property, particularly of living systems that we take it for granted.  If we didn’t we’d be dazzled by the unfolding systems of our world.  And if we weren’t blind to the property of self-organization, we would do better at encouraging, rather than destroying the self-organizing capacities of the systems of which we are a part….

…Self-organization produces heterogeneity and unpredictability.  It is likely to come up with whole new structures, whole new ways of doing things.  It requires freedom and experimentation, and a certain amount of disorder.  These conditions that encourage self-organization often can be scary for individuals and threatening to power structures.”

The difficulty is that self-organization in the office, where centralized hierarchical control is exercised because of the financial, organizational and legal constraints, will cause conflict.  The two systems can not comfortably co-exist.  The whole organism has to be reactive to self-organization or highly organized system will snuff out the self-organizing entity or itself.  That’s reality.  Just because I could have a bunch of people work on something cool doesn’t mean there is a the greater organization understands or can support the market to sell it into or a capital structure to support it.  This is why Google works.  To some extent, the had been self organizing from the beginning and the incentive structure for their employees were based on the idea that a good idea needs to work its way through to live or die.   That’s not to say that a highly structured organization like Microsoft or IBM doesn’t works (or the companies that I worked for in the past)…its just that those entities force (and to some extent expect) after hours creativity that isn’t sanctioned.  I think of the fact that Lotus Notes was built on the work on the Plato system that guys at Digital and Data general tried to introduce into those companies and neither company saw fit to fund it…even when THE collaborative tool used within DEC for people to work on was VMS Notes.  A tool like Notes created in an environment like Google would have had a very different history (AKA the Lotus moniker may have never been attached to it and maybe DEC or DG would have become quite different companies than they both ended up…absorbed into HP and EMC).   The self-organizing reaction to things like Notes was people willing to leave a company and start their own because the system within which they were working didn’t allow it during business hours.

So I guess I’m bought in to the agile thing from a systems analysis point of view because it is real.    Self-organization can occur within an organization and will either be intrinsic to that organization (like Google) or be spawned off by an organization (as the self-organizing entity will be inconsistent with that greater organization’s ability to exert control)

Random thoughts over my Panera bread breakfast.

CC on Youtube

In Random on March 9, 2010 at 4:05 am

So youtube is trying out a new feature, closed captioning as well as translation.  And I tried it…and I was cracking up.  I had it try to transcribe my reading of my book chapter 1…

First off let me say, awesome attempt.

Next let me say, the mis-transcribed stuff was hilarious.

You’ll see the CC button near where the HQ button usually is on replay.   To learn more about it, here’s the official documentation

If you want to try it, here it is…(now knowing A/B testing that goes on on websites, I cannot guarantee that you’ll see the button…so please don’t blame me if you are a B and I am an A in the test)

On the Swan Song of Bookstores…

In 60's Television, College, history, Kindle, Literature, Movie, technology on March 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I’m always fascinated by the transition of one era to another and the clash of people, values and technologies.  History is a funny thing and you can say that you are doomed to repeat it if you don’t read it, but I look at it quite differently.  You are doomed by history because it will it will repeat itself no matter what…ok so doomed is a strong word.  Maybe it is more like you are destined to relive events.

So yesterday afternoon, I went to a Barnes and Noble.  Being a self-described author and book lover, I was in my element.  But I suddenly had a strange sensation.  I began to replay the transition from LP’s to CD’s to MP3s.  I thought about Movie Theaters to Home Theaters.  I mused over black and white television and a wired remote control Zenith console TV and 4 channels to a 1080P HDTV with 100’s of channels.     I remembered that both my wife and I at different times had a part-time job in a library (in different cities of course before we knew each other).  And I was now in a bookstore.  The place is colorful, every cover and shiny picture gleaming.  The magazine rack was beautiful.  And there was the coffee shop.  and a counter for the “Nook”  And between the thought of the library at Bentley (which I laugh often about seems to have no books in it and is just a huge study hall)  and the thought of my kindle and people reading on iPhones and the upcoming iPad…and I got a touch sad.

My mind immediately remembered Tower Records, and even farther back, in college visiting the Great Great House of Guitars outside Rochester, with the millions of records and CDs.  Album cover art died with CDs.  A whole art form disappeared.  Music was sold as 3 things.  You had the music (analog), the media (vinyl), and the Album covers.  And now I am in a bookstore where the books and magazines are sold because of 3 things.  The words (print), the media (paper) and book covers.  I felt suddenly like books were having their swan song as well as the place you can buy them.  What happens when most printed media can be downloaded?  What then is the purpose of this huge Barnes and Noble.  Just a coffee shop and study hall?  Could they start renting rooms for meetings?

About 2 years ago, about the time I published my e-book, my sons and I went into a Borders and I went straight for the coffee while they pulled books off the rack. I bought them cookies and milk and they were having fun talking about what they were reading.  I said to them, waving right hands in a somewhat of a papal fashion, “All this will be gone in ten years.”  My sons got quite upset.  They loved books and they chided me for thinking it.  But yesterday I remembered that statement, and looked around the Barnes and Noble and said to myself, “This is a coffee shop and study hall…this is Tower Records before iTunes…”

I then pulled out my laptop and made some edits to a paper for my graduate school class, enjoyed my coffee and soaked in the environment before its demise…