Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Science 2007

National Science Foundation: Science Hard

The Onion

National Science Foundation: Science Hard

INDIANAPOLIS-The newly discovered 'Law Of Difficulty' holds true for all branches of science, from astronomy to molecular biology.

Droll, no?

Scientists Ask Congress To Fund  Billion Science Thing

The Onion

Scientists Ask Congress To Fund $50 Billion Science Thing

WASHINGTON, DC— "I agree we need this scientific apparatus, because, in the end, science is more important than it is unimportant," Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) said.

Reflections on 2007

This is my work in progress reflecting some of the things I'm reflecting on at the end of 2007.

Cittio played a really big role in my life this year. It was an uneasy decision for me to leave Cal Berkeley and the Space Sciences Lab. I miss my friends, I miss the Lab, and I miss the SETI program. Only time will tell if, ultimately, it was the right move. The jury is still out.

When I came to Cittio, I started out working with Leo and Werner in the Technical Support Department. I thought that would be pretty much an easy job for me to do. Kick back in a comfy chair with a brewski and solve the world's network monitoring problems with a headphone and an upbeat personality.

It wound up being pretty much like this:

Some friends have suggested that I'm riding the next tech bubble. Not to intentionally mix metaphors but I've made a career out of surfing the wave that comes in. Even before I was formally in high technology I seem to have been doing that. Back in '77 when I was a groundling at the state museum of sci and ind I paid all of Jasmyne's hospital bills by surfing the L.A. wave of low-budget horror and sci-fi movies of the time and selling a script that got us over.

But when networked computing started to sweep the land a few years later, it was my "Big Wednesday" (if you surf, then you know) and I've ridden that wave about 25 years inland. There have been a few moments when it seemed there was nothing but beach break but, all in all, I've had an excellent ride. Tech bubble? This captures some of sentiments:

This year I also got caught in the tractor beam of Web 2.0. Most of which seems to be hyper-hype to an old-timer such as myself. Nonetheless one of the best and concise explanations of Web 2.0 I've ever seen is this short feature:

More to come...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Court Session: What it Takes

What it Takes

Jorjanna and Jasmyne recently had an initially unpleasant experience while shopping on Veteran's Day weekend. Jasmyne, in particular, was after me to write something about it. I've waited until now so that I would have a complete perspective on things so I'll express my ideas about things here. This blog site was created for me to put the occasional op-ed piece since I don't think the ComputeSpace blog is the appropriate space to put political thought, raves or rants, and just real opinions in general.

My scientific training has led to me to attempt to keep distinct separations between what I know about a thing and what I think about it.

So, if knowing my opinions on certain subjects might poison the way you relate to me STOP READING NOW!! Return to the "broadcast family-friendly" material on the ComputeSpace blog. No harm, no foul.

If you want to explore opinions, critiques, and sometimes difficult ideas then the Court Sessions blog is to ComputeSpace as cable is to broadcast TV.

That being said, COURT IS IN SESSION:

On Veteran's Day weekend, Jorjanna and Jasmyne took my grand-daughter Erica with them shopping for shoes at Zappos shoes (which is a favorite of Jasmyne's). While there, Jorjanna overheard an employee conversation and realized she was under surveillance as a potential shoplifter.

She was very upset by this and her first response was to leave the store. Jasmyne stepped in and, even though insulted by the staff's behavior, felt it was best to complete her purchase and behave with civility. After leaving she both blogged about the experience and contacted the management of Zappos to make them aware of the situation and also that she intended to make the incident public.

Jasmyne was contacted by the President of Zappos who, along with his staff, made a good faith attempt at rectifying the situation which culminated in taking my daughters to dinner to discuss the issues and providing Jasmyne with some of the product for free.

I think that I've given a basic description of the events.

My interest is primarily, as a father, I don't like seeing my kids upset. Period. And I'm not crazy about my grand-daughter seeing her aunts so upset.

Jasmyne characterized the events in somewhat racial terms even though most of the principals involved were all African-American. I believe her implication was that this was a manifestation of Black self-loathing and that non-Blacks in the store might have been treated with less overt suspicion or rudeness.

I wasn't there but, for me, that's a pretty big inference to make on such minimal evidence.

No doubt the management at Zappos has a staff training problem. Having worked in retail myself, I didn't find surveiling anyone in the store particularly objectionable. But making it obvious to them and making your own customers uncomfortable is an unpardonable sin in the retail world.

By politicizing the event Jasmyne was able to generate a lot of heat and activity among the store management which will probably turn out to be a good thing for everyone involved. Staff will get better training, Jasmyne got new boots, and Jorjanna is probably going to join the company because she was so impressed with their response.

Like an incandescent bulb, sometimes our political protestations can generate far more heat than light. And sometimes that can be a good thing if it makes the right people uncomfortable enough to do the right thing.

I like putting more light than heat on a subject since usually my goal is to understand what happened long before it becomes about affecting a change.

When you strip this whole thing down to its core, Jorjanna was insulted by poorly trained employees. If they did harbor some self-loathing motivation, she was oblivious to it. No one wants to feel like they're being watched in a store. It upset her but that was the gist of it.

But Jorjanna would have absorbed the experience, probably stopped shopping at Zappos, and gone on with her life. It was Jasmyne's disciplined activism and bully pulpit on the Web that got the attention of management all the way to the top echelon on the company. Her very public characterization of the events created an environment where managerial inaction became intolerable. I have to thank her for that.

Things would not have worked out as well had Jorjanna simply left the store never to return.

So what I note is that Jasmyne seems to have a quality (one that I lack) that I can see she got honestly from both her grand-fathers. She's not a bully, but she's not afraid to be a bully and, often, that makes all the difference out in the world.

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If you're looking for the Court Cannick who's architecting ComputeSpace for education or the Court Cannick who built NetworkMathematics for systems management or the Court Cannick who engineered the storage systems for SETI@Home or the Court Cannick who produced Physical Science Journal for Storer Cable or the Court Cannick who lectured on Space Colonization at CMSI, then you probably have found the right Court Cannick.  Otherwise, keep looking...