Thursday, October 22, 2015

You Can't Download a Car

When I was wee slip of a computer science student, I participated in a number of Software Engineering courses where the topic would come up: "Why don't we produce software like we do cars?"

The answers ranged from "Software is different" to "We don't the discipline NOT to make a tweek just as the software is leaving the factory"

Well, we are now getting the answer to the corollary: "What happens when software engineers start making cars?" It turns out that we could have predicted the result.

I am normally a fanboy for  Spacex and Elon Musk but this bit of news is worrying.  Seems that all those super-modern, super-fast electric sports cars made by Tesla are starting to show their age and owners are reporting issues raging from failing drive trains and charging systems to repeated problems with door handles to squeeks and leaks.

While a rocket needs to produce high performance for a limited amount of time, an modern automobile is expected to last 10+ years without major problems.

It will be interesting to see what happens as Google and Apple get into the car business.  Will their hubris as the darlings of the entrepreneurial world lead to their stumble in a business that requires patience and attention to unsexy issues like door handles instead of  bigger-than-life personalities and planned obsolescence?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bill Nye the raving lunatic?

My Sunday school class demonstrated today why I probably need to find a new hobby.  In the course of starting a discussion of Adam Hamiltons "Why?" (a standard theodicy apologetic) our class president brought up Bill Nye's recent video "slamming" creationism.  The response from those in attendance was self assured muttering about "can't combine faith and science" etc.  I suppose some of those who remained silent were as uncomfortable as I was but I wanted to scream, "You can't faith away the evidence - the earth is a couple of billions years old!!!"  Of course I had to hold my tongue and then sit on my hands while the class defended innocent suffering with silver-lining anecdotes.  Suffice it to say, I was in a bad mood akl day after that.

This afternoon, I decided to look at the Nye video to see just how much foam was actually flung from his lips.  I mean, based on the reaction, I thought that he must gone all Rush Limbaugh on them.  Well here it is.  Jeez, he is the calmest guy I have ever seen.  He is right; teaching that the evidence of scientific investigation is of no value when it contradicts faith is to devalue the scientific enterprise as a whole.  Not a good idea if you want a technologically advanced culture.

Edit: meant to say he "slammed" creationism, not evolution

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Free" Markets

“There is no such thing as a free-market... A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them.”
Ha-Joon Chang

(HT Connor Kilpatrick)

Monday, April 9, 2012

What's Happening to Journalism?!

First you have NPR's statement that they will no longer practice opinions-on-the-shape-of-the-earth-vary reporting.

Next you have NBC firing the producer who "tweeked" the Zimmerman/Martin 911 tapes.

And now The National Review - THE NATIONAL REVIEW, I say! - fires a contributor for a piece on protecting yourself from "black people"

It's almost as if journalists care about the truth!

All joking aside, Strauss and Howe's Generations and The Fourth Turning predicted that society would face a crisis of failing institutions that would require a re-working of of our national institutions and norms. I do believe that the above is one manifestation of this process of renewal. Another may be the Supreme Court's flirting with dismantling the mechanism underlying the operation of Medicare and other state/federal programs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Future has Arrived...

... and it's directed by Terry Gilliam!

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Not the Size of your Footnotes, It's What You Do With Them

Am I the only person who thinks a 800 page book on miracles that is loaded with another 400 pages of appendices, footnotes, bibliographies etc is trying a little too hard to appear rigorous? In other apologetic books, footnotes and bibliographies have been stocked with references to the author's own works and books that had nothing to do with the topic at hand or were referenced out-of-context.

The hype surrounding Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts by Craig Keener is already touting its authoritativeness based on its size. I just know that no christian is going to verify the contents of the bibliography and I can't shake the feeling that Keener's enterprise relies on that fact.

[edit: I had 400 pages of text and 800 of references when it should have been the other way around]

Monday, November 7, 2011

King or Kingdom?

This Story of Israel meme is kicking up a lot of discussion about how interpretations of Kingdom of Heaven/God affect Christian practice and outlook. Reading various blogs , especially Scot McKnight's discussion of his gospel of Jesus, a question has introduced itself in my mind.

Is the gospel about Jesus primarily or about the Kingdom itself? Jesus spends a lot of time discussing the nature of the Kingdom and what is expected of his followers behavior - supposedly in relation to their role in the Kingdom. In fact, compared to the Kingdom discussion, Jesus' kingship hardly comes up in the Gospels. In the synoptics, rumor equates Jesus' activity with that of the Baptist, implying a messenger role for Jesus. Even in John's Gospel, Jesus casts himself as a servant doing the will of the Father, not his own.

I am increasingly thinking that McKnight is off on a tangent that, while intellectually interesting, will prove a theological dead end.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's good for GM is good for GM

Check out the graph: US manufacturers are making one thing - profits. The high priests of Free Markets have told us that what is good for GM is good for America. Don't worry about jobs. If the corporations are doing well, then they will be providing jobs to the masses.

Guess what. They were wrong. Predictably wrong. Capitalism is based on the power of self-interest (read: greed). Supposedly competing interests balance out and create the mysterious Invisible Hand. Nowhere in market theory does it say that companies are duty bound or even inclined in provide jobs to as many people as possible. In fact, the very principle of self-interest would demand that jobs are not a priority but rather a cost to avoided.

They care about money, not you. What's good for GM is good for GM. Any benefit the country reaps is accidental or part of a marketing scheme designed to line the pockets of - you guessed it - GM. And that is what we are seeing today. As soon as corporations find a way to make more profits while shedding expensive workers, it's sayonara muchachos!

Monday, October 10, 2011

QOD - More Proof Conservatives Are Bad At Economics

Rich people don't create jobs when we hand them big windfalls. They create jobs when the economy is growing and they have customers for their businesses.

"Rich People Create Jobs! And five other myths that must die for our economy to live"
Kevin Drum - Mother Jones

The idea that corporations hire people just because they have some spare cash lying around is ludicrous - and common. Personally, I would never hire anyone for whom I didn't have work for, i.e. demand to be filled.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Just Plain Too Clever

... smart people are often those who say the stupidest things. They, like everyone else, have blind spots but, being rather intellectually resourceful, they are even more apt at covering them up and rationalising them to themselves. They construct obtuse abstractions that even they themselves find hard to grasp in order to cover up their blinds spots. Add to this some ill-defined (or, conversely, too precisely defined) jargon, and they’ll set the heads of everyone in the room spinning so fast that everyone forgets what outlandish things they are in fact saying.

Philip Pilkington - Confessions of a Non-Utilitarian Shopper
Although this quote is referring to the economics profession, this expresses my frustration when people like N T Wright and Scot McKnight say things like:
The question is not about whether Jesus preached justification; the question is about whether he preached the Story of Israel coming to its completion in the story of himself as a saving story. - Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, p 106 (ht JRKirk)
What the heck does this even mean? How does Jesus' descent and rise say anything about Israel's story that continues for 40 more years and, arguably, until the present day? More importantly, what possible light can "Israel's Story" cast on the state of the world today and God's apparent absence of action over the last 2000 years? N T Wright tries the same line in an online Theodicy debate with Bart Ehrman and reviewers are left saying, "What does that have to do with real people suffering in the world?" Personally I think the so-called "soterians" have a better claim - the whole Kingdom of God thing must be about internal salvation because the outside world is still f***ed up.

It is bewildering when a scholar like Rev. Wright, Bishop Willimon or Dr. McKnight say these things that are so out of touch with reality. The above observation that the smarter you are the more skilled you become in rationalizing away your errors is spot on.