Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zeno, in the modern context

It's common knowledge that the modern world knows things through computers. This is true from the most recent phenomena, of noses to smart phones parading as intelligent behavior, to the wide expanses of cosmology's modeling of the heavens and exploration of multi-universes as an explanation, of sorts. In between, we have IRS's use plus business computing, such as design, planning, and a number of other things.

So, where does one go to look at issues related to such knowledge? The ACM is a good start. Say, their Communications of the ACM. Then, we have a whole lot of other folks, such as IEEE, IJCAI, and such.


The following is motivated by a viewpoint, expressed by Phillip G. Armour, in the ACM. His article is titled: The Business of Software: How We build Things (in paper, slightly different on-line). There are two things to mention here, though the article ought to be read.

He uses Zeno in talking about what I had called Earned Value. I only used Zeno once (Fedaerated) in several posts on three blogs. Why? I had talked about this with my colleagues on many occasions. It seemed that referencing the guy was more useful in person as then one could get off on the peripatetic issues.

Zeno, Veritas et Falsitas
Why Zeno? He's the guy of the arrow. Or, as the joke goes, the mathematician who doesn't get the girl. So, Phillip asks: why do people guess that they're 95% (or some such number) complete on a task as if they're monotonically approaching, with no end in sight?

Phillip laughs it off. I don't as it was a regular occurrence as we tried to assess completion of a project with lots of people and oodles of modules. Nowadays, it's not an issue (say, with Zuck's stuff) as they can just push out system changes (with a recovery method, hopefully, to use if things go bad) without regard to testing status. This is not true for other parts of the business world, say like the 787 (even a most-specified test plan will still leave room for judgment calls -- we'll get to that).


Phillip's use gets me thinking, that I need to bring the topic forward, again.

First, though, a useful exercise would be to gather all of the posts, for each of the blogs, that dealt with the subject of earned value. For each of the blogs, I have a list of posts that include the term. Then, I provide a list of a few of the important posts and the count of posts with the term.

 Fedaerated (18)     7'oops7 (41)     Truth Engineering (20)

Now, for this blog, all but a couple of the posts were in 2009 and before. That sort of indicates the shift to looking at finance. Engineering worries about things like this. Finance seems to have this short-term view of the content of the current day's pocket. That is idiotic, pure and simple.

So, we'll bring this subject up to date and relate it, as it ought to be, to fair value.

A sampling of posts follows:
  • Earned value II (Jan 26, 2009) -- Looked at some of the factors that relate to the hardness of the problem. 
  • Earned value (Jan 23, 2009) -- Two years in, decided to tackle the definition'l issue that had been ignored from the start in 2007.  
  • Here we go again (Jun 24, 2009) -- Tied earned value with its compatriots in the context of planning and managing a project. 
  • Middle and out (Jan 29, 2008) -- Management, like Jamie, like top-down in their illusion of being in control (Hey, can they even control themselves? That's more of an open issue than you might believe (or want to accept).) 
  • Carts need horses (Nov 2, 2007) -- It looked for a long time as if the tail was wagging the dog. We'll not go into details, at this time, but the whole thing relates to the above bullets (know where you're going, how far you are, etc.), especially the middle out. 
There are a lot more posts to look. We'll get back to that.


Phillip used some mathematics to show the problems related to knowing where you were with a project (the managers, like kids, say: are we there, yet?). Nice article.


01/24/2013 -- Article from New York -- The Digital Skeptic: Dreamliner Brings iPhone 'Reliability' to the Skies. With something as complex as the 787, how many operational issues can be expected to crop up (at 35K feet -- rhetorical answer? A bunch.)? A student paper at Uniz of Az looks at 787 outsourcing (see Mahmoodi). Boeing Tech Fellow's cautionary note, on outsourcing (2001 - there was quite a bit of discussion at the 2004 conference in LA, to boot, about matters of technical design -- also, whistle blower?). Related, 787 blog.

01/21/2013 -- WSJ has a nice recap from the beginning. Look at how management kept promising that they would hit a milestone when most figured that they would not. Then, the guy would switch gears. In July 2007, most knew that the shell was empty, yet the claim was for delivery in May 2008 (a mere 11 months later). Then, in October 2007, the message was that they would fly in March 2008. It didn't fly until December 2009. Finally, things quieted. It was obvious that engineers were taking the lead. 

Modified: 01/24/2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Airlines need to protect their customers and their crew, thereby their reputations. Engineers need to be able to work things, as necessary. Marketing? Management? Other players? Such as?

The arm-chair critic, for one. Well, amuse yourself with this blog.

------- later in the day -------

CNN report. Earlier, a Japanese airline, or two, had decided to ground its aircraft. Now, FAA has made a similar decision. We will watch this closely. The hope is to be flying soon.

from CNN report
Aside: We got started here in 2007 because there was an announcement that a major section was ready to ship from a supplier. And, I knew that it could not be true from what I seen two years before. Well, the piece did ship. Boeing put pieces together. Then, it had the audacity (ah, engineers, don't you love those marketeers) to roll out an empty shell under great fanfare (some termed this a potemkin affair). You know, everyone had the expectation that the thing could fly soon. You know how long it took to get to the flying state? Several parts of a year. Now, of course, as problems surfaced, engineering found ways to get things to work. Eventually, the marketing view was told to let engineering take the lead. That thing of idiots driving the world is one big problem with the world, but everyone knows that do we not. We'll visit the issue, again, as we're getting to where complicated states will require, continually, our collective intelligence, with minimal gaming. It was about that time that the financial idiocy was coming out. You see, the engineers finally got the 787 out, albeit there may be still things that need to be worked out. Finance? Ben has done his best to float the idiots. It was just a little while ago that Jamie was arguing that they knew what they were doing and ought to self-regulate. Then, the whale plopped in his lap, poor guy. Fortunately, there are people looking into these matters, such as Rick Bookstaber (his post points to related research).


Now, we all ought to consider that complexity is something that ought to keep us from hubris (see Business, as stupid - written before I knew about Rick's post). We have two factors that are at large here. Mathematics and its descent into common use is a prime one. That applies in this case (we noted that earlier) and in business. It's really the same failing for both engineering and business (where these two do not overlap, okay?). In case of business program management, we have ideas that "risk" has been conquered; just think back to idiotic claims in the 2007/2008 time frame. I know, Ben with his largess has open a spigot to imaginary bucks that has aerated the gaming (so what that the DOW is up? tell me, please, in detail, what is behind that? now, please, follow it up with something of value that is real? can you find some balance in your analysis? oh, you're considering that we've hocked the future for our progeny?). Now, engineering has similar problems. Their success with modeling, especially dynamic systems, has caused many to run off as if a model equals reality (again, we can go into depth here and intend to).

What is the second factor? Human nature. In the case of business, it's all of the greed and other positions that push toward things like dark pools and other idiocies. Too, you get people, like the ad-men, using analysis to look for soft parts of yourself (as in, trying to determine how to lure your little arse into a compromising position, essentially). In engineering? It's the complexity, and a bunch of guys, usually, pushing mathematics, perhaps, way beyond its limits. My mathematician friend/mentor always complained that engineers just read the book. They don't prove theorems or work derivations (as in, guys, from a foundation'l sense, tell me why your methods work and what might be their limits). Oh, it computes (acknowledging, of course, that all of these issues go back to that artificial creation of ours) is sufficient? From whence do you make that to be your verification? Oh, because the computer model agrees with what you see in the real world?

Now, as said before, with engineering, you can test in reality (finance cannot do this the same way). With a plane, you can fly the thing, put it through some paces that are significant, and measure performance in the testing situation. Earlier, I left the engineering side alone since the financial idiots were still running amok. Will this latest event push me back to some balanced view? After all, we do have engineering failures. Many times, though, they seem to point back to human failure. I'm not so sure that such is always the case, albeit it is nice when we can do that (to be human is to err - nice little excuse, too many times). 


07/15/2013 -- A fire late last week bring an opportunity to see what goes into determining whether to do composite repair or to undergo a section replacement.

03/12/2013 -- Boeing has fixes that it wants to test.

02/28/2013 -- Boeing has proposed a solution; FAA is reviewing.

01/24/2013 -- Article from New York -- The Digital Skeptic: Dreamliner Brings iPhone 'Reliability' to the Skies. With something as complex as the 787, how many operational issues can be expected to crop up (at 35K feet -- rhetorical answer? A bunch.)? A student paper at Uniz of Az looks at 787 outsourcing (see Mahmoodi). Boeing Tech Fellow's cautionary note, on outsourcing (2001 - there was quite a bit of discussion at the 2004 conference in LA, to boot, about matters of technical design -- also, whistle blower?). Related, 787 blog.

01/23/2013 -- A look at the battery and related comments. Worth a read.

01/21/2013 -- WSJ has a nice recap from the beginning.

01/20/2013 -- WSJ story from the flightblogger.

01/18/2013 -- Problems, such as those alluded to in this blog, wouldn't have happened under Mullaly? Alan was an engineer; so, he knew his stuff and airplanes. Too bad that we can't go back and see how he would have handled all of those issues over the past few years. I would suggest this: no potemkin event.

01/17/2013 -- One criticism, that might stand up (we'll see), is that engineering took the back seat many (perhaps, too many) times.

Modified: 07/15/2013