terça-feira, dezembro 26, 2006

PMP - Activity Duration Tools

Question from Hermann Ludwig :

"Activity duration estimating process determines the work periods required to complete each activity. Can the activity duration tools and techniques also be used for calculating overall project duration ?
Or schedule development is the only process where overall project duration is calculated ?

Manuel, can you also let me know if the CPM technique uses one-point or 3-point estimates?

Best Regards"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hallo Hermann.

I'll try to answer to the best of my knowledge.

WBS and Activity duration estimation are related. However to calculate the overall project duration one needs to consider various schedule compression techniques like fast tracking, crashing, resourse levelling and so forth, which is a part of schedule development techniques and hence it is logical to include project duration calculation as part of schedule development.

Let's put it another way. The first and foremost activity in calculating the overall project duration is to:

- develop the sequence of activities using the network diagrams;

- find out the availability of resources for each of the activities;

- Estimate the activity duration;

- schedule the activities using critical chain techniques;

- This will give you the over all project duration.

Schedule development is essential for creating buffers based on resource availability and other other known constraints.

The CPM techniques are based on the assumption that resources are always available in abundance. So it is not realistic.

I hope it helped. If you've got any further questions don't hesitate to mail me.

Manuel Augusto Antão

terça-feira, novembro 28, 2006

ITIL - Change or Configuration Management. Which comes first? - Follow-up

( "Requestion" from Dieter Newmann )

The Service support book has several references about the need to have change in place to support ConfigM. It also describes that if you don’t have change management that you need to freeze the CMDB and manually record all changes until you do have change mgt in place – completely impractical except in the very smallest of organizations... :)

The activities of ConfigM are PICSV – planning, identification, CONTROL, status accounting and verification and audit. Control ensures that no CI is added, deleted or modified without appropriate authorization – an approved change request.
Implementing config and populating a CMDB with no process to manage it would be foolish.

Also, the cost of implementing config and the CMDB mean this process should not be the first one attempted. You would be hard pressed to get budget approval (this can cost several hundred thousand Euros for the tool, the database license, populating tools and the large amount of time it takes).

It doesn’t take much for things to go wrong and buy in wanes. You also aren’t likely to get many second chances, so tackling such a big project ( ConfigM ) too early creates a large risk.

Change does need config – how else do you properly assess an RFC? The same way most shops do it – get the people in the room that know about the systems. This is not perfect of course – lots of danger by relying on what’s in people’s heads, but, it can be done and without a CMDB what choice is there? Config however, needs change to ensure that the records are kept accurate and up to date. Change also can be ‘improved’ or formalized fairly quickly, without a lot of cost and can provide immediate benefits. This does need to be part of a larger plan to include other processes however as change mgt. left in a low state of maturity, or in isolation, may never become what it should and it might forever only be ‘change control’.

Hope it helps,

MAntão

ITIL - Change or Configuration Management. Which comes first?

( Question from Dieter Newmann )

It's another case of the hen and the egg ...

In my ( not extensive ) experience of ITIL, or just plain IT operations, I have observed that a centralised Service Desk is essential to kick start the ITIL foundation. Please remember that SD is a function, not a process. In my opinion, SD is the backbone of the ITIL framework. Whether it's Service Support, or Service Delivery, Service Desk is the single point of contact (SPOC).

There would be no use of having ConfigM or change management process, IM, or PM ahead of SD. For a simple reason: When you do not know what services IT is providing to its customer, you cannot have any support process too. Hence, identify your deliverables, develop a Service Catalogue, ensure that you can support all services mentioned in the catalogue. Setup a SPOC, which is your service desk, and voila!! your first step towards service support has already been taken. You need not have complex ITIL tools to support your SD. A spreadsheet can do the job as well,as long as all requests are logged and efficiently followed up.

Do remember, SD is SPOC for the following processes:

Incident Management: To know your organisation pain area (In IT). {Can be obtained from SD}
Problem Management: To get a trend report.{Can be obtained from SD}
Configuration Management: SD can update the CIs better than any site engineer.
Change Management: All RFCs / FSCs have to be with SD.
Release Management: SD coordinates and analyses the impact.
Capacity: A trend in number of calls, PM can contribute to it
SLM: SD is the owner of SLAs/OLAs/UCs

Due to time constraint I am not able to emphasize more however I guess I've made my point.

Hope these comments are of some help.

Cheers
MAntão

ZMP-Zertifizierung im Februar 2007 am Goethe Institute

Hallo !

Es gibt was Neues.

Die nächsten ZMP Prüfungen finden noch im gewohnten Format in der Zeit vom 12. 02. - 13. 02. am GI Lissabon statt.

Bitte schreiben Sie sich in der Zeit vom 08. - 19. 01. 07 rechtzeitig ein, damit sie unsere Anmeldung berücksichtigen können.

PS. "gewohnten Format" = ohne Änderungen ( wegen der Einführung der GI-B2-Prüfung ... )

Hals- und Beinbruch ...

MAntão

PS. Bis jetzt habe ich nichts gemacht. Ich bin total im Arsch !

sábado, novembro 25, 2006

Dying-Off Readership: "Against the Day" by Thomas Pynchon



(original review,  2006)


Art is a social medium, a material medium, an intellectual medium, an economic medium: it consists of a great deal more than surfaces. Art that consisted only of surfaces - if such a thing were possible - would be of no larger significance than a crossword puzzle. This is true even of painting - the only art whose medium can be credibly represented as being 'all surface'. I'll also point out that apart from having entered the language in the form of the term 'Rabelaisian' - now merely shorthand for 'characterized by coarse humour or bold caricature' - Rabelais himself is little read outside the academy and, like Shakespeare, often quite painfully unamusing.

There is nothing more vulnerable to the passage of time than a style of humour; even slang can be footnoted. What has protected Pynchon so far is the fact that so many of his readers are male Americans of a certain age and style of education, whose humour has become generalised as the public style of a generation. There are already clear signs that this is changing as that generation ages and dies off, and as women claim equality in literary opinion-forming. I fear for Pynchon's reputation in twenty-five years' time. On a sentence by sentence level Pynchon is amazing entertainment if you like pop satire. He's the Warhol of literature - his work appears to be all surface or cartoon or shallow but for clever reasons beyond my own powers of expression he's a genius.

Against the Day is one of his best in fact. The guy can sing. He reminds me of Mel Brooks or Twain - a great American comedian. His long, list-like sentences offer a heady mixture of shamanic incantation, encyclopedic knowledge and radical politics . . .Sounds good to me then.

As much as I love Pynchon, there are a number of sexually precocious children in his books ("repeated child-rape scenarios" is hyperbolic nonsense which does some reviewers no favours though). The Vroom daughters in "Mason & Dixon" and Dally Rideout in "Against the Day" spring to mind (Dally does also have a near-miss brush with molestation at a party New York). I've got a rule: never avoid the books based on the elements of moral repugnancy, but we can't pretend they're not there.
  
Pynchon has his rabid fans but he also has readers. As does Foster Wallace. I'm one (a reader). Although I register and part-agree with some reader's annoyance at the hero worship of both; I don't think I have to choose between worship and rejection.

sexta-feira, novembro 24, 2006

ITIL Implementation - Question

Question from Dieter :

"Hi Manuel,

I have my ITIL Foundation and Manager Training. I'd like to ask an implementation question, particularly from you, who I know have just started implementing ITIL in your organization.

1. Which ITIL module do you start with?
2. In what logical sequence did you implement the 10 modules?
3. How long does each module take?

With Best Wishes

Dieter Newmann"

-----------------------------------------------------------

Hallo Dieter.

Long time no see ...

Well, in October I started the phase of design and implementation of the Configuration Management Process for the company I work for ( PT-SI ), but prior to that there were already a lot of ITIL Processes in place, that is, in the design phase.

To my mind there are no right or wrong answers, but it depends on the situation. I can summarize :

1. If you are fighting fire or having a constant haunting pain, start from the most painful process (thereby giving the most immediate business benefits);

2. If you are trying it for the first time without customer pressure, then try the simplest (e.g. SD, IM) where you can get quick wins;

3. If have current processes in place and want to start from the most effective, that implement a CCR (which first or together, depends on IT maturity, time constraint, complexity, etc.);

4. If you are in the project mode, planning for next year, you can start with customer SLR and SLA;

5. If you are more forward thinking and want to do it right the first time, then begin with ISO20K and related Management Processes.

On the other hand, change has to come before config, else what keeps the CMDB up to date? Also, config and the CMDB are the most complex, lengthy and expensive of all the processes to implement so making that your first ITIL project is not a good idea.
Benefits and pay back way too long.

Success with ITIL needs to have some early wins that don't cost too much and can be implemented quickly. This gets you the buy in needed for the bigger projects.

In fact there are several of the processes that should be considered before config.

Ideally, one would implement change, config and release together, but since these take different lengths of time and substantially different efforts to implement, the only way to launch them together is to know the effort, plan the end date and stagger the start dates so they coincide - not very practical.

I suppose you could also build your processes, shelve the ones done first until they are all ready for launch. In my opinion also not a good idea.

Start with an assessment to understand the points of pain and biggest return for the business. Understand the business priorities and from there you can create a plan for 1-2 years to start making process improvements. Your plan should contain quick wins as well as identify the first 2-4 processes that you should formalize or implement.

Hope this helps.

MAntão

PS. How is the preparation for the CPE going ?

domingo, novembro 19, 2006

SR: "Warped Passages - Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions" by Lisa Randall





(original review, 2006)


Hi,I am poor English Portuguese who live in very countly side.
We need a Portuguese translate better and I have a Questions.
The some day I had did so tough-Job.After that small-black-holl shown up and it had moved and mice and soft membrance?
Not a elephant,mice or small birds,didn’t swallow house and many zone and areas.Even wall was tightly-closed-container,importat part is why mice had not smashed.And univers looks like alive and mother earth conected each of us.
Did she report you watched from the sky on360℃degree.
Randall knew it.establish a book in reality what has happen there was no trick.Did she?
i m new to this so i dont understand all the subtleties but i have read the feynman lectures and cant find any mistakes in them i would be helpful if u could point them out and in light of this book i think x prime can be any constant not only zero but but this explaining is definitely wrong as once he is equating x prime to zero and another time Randall is equating it to the disatance travelled by light in its time. mathematical nonsense - but it is TRUE !....0  to the power 0 equals 1.....ie ....0 ^ 0 = 1. The problm of Special Relativite is Lorentz Transformation. It breaks conservation of momentum. Here two examples, Collision between two identical objects (http://vixra.org/abs/1803.0005), Collision between two identical objects under Lorentz Boost (http://vixra.org/abs/1802.0326). I agre with conclusion, but i happened to hit it from an entirely different direction. I am weak in math and strong in conceptual imaging. Dificulty of multipling and dividinge by zero is a problem.  If you multiple by zero, are you doing nothing or telling the multiplicand to go away?  Are you leaving all alone? Or are you telling everyone to disappear?  it seems Einstein didn't know about the mathe problems of dealing with dividinge by zero. Based on our present maths; it is usually best on issues like dividinge zero by zero to treat it as forbiden; unless tricks are implicated with talk of limits. Einstein just didnt deal with zero in a rigorus mathematical waye, and so his maths was just bad. And how do we knowe exactly that we have aproprite instrumnts to measure things (light too) goinge faster than lighte speed relative to our frame of reference, if we INSISTe that it is IMPOSSIBLE? We have our own waye to mesure time based on planets, atomic clocks and etc but it doesnt mean that there cant be a universal time. Maybe we just cant measure it right now. If believe the concept that gravity affects time or speed affects time, the if everthing is still, can u say that there is no time? C is not a fact. Its a theory. Resarch "faster than speed of light" and to say that there is nothing that can go faster than speed of light is arrogant who ever stated that. We are only humans we can not know so much. Basing math homework n things we cant bserve and stating it as fact is just b.s. einstein was genius for thinking and predictions bt it doesn't mean he is always right his predictions i dont know how to work on relativity time is just an instant experience for present. in our plane time is measured by cesium atom vibrations aq to IEEE standard primary measurement slot so how to be vibrations could be slow out of planet if we move faster than light how go to the future. i thnk time measurement is different for einstein .. any human being any instant experience time in range of  some nano seconds .if we move  faster than light we nothing experience about surrounding  objects .. automatically the people who travelled with speed of light says i m in future it means speed is light time measure with own measurement of time and human being time measure with own this is all irrelevant. einstein photoelectric effect also have some contradiction they said light is particle and Compton proves small wavelength light waves behave as particle . xperiment data determine if a theory is correct or not. However, I have a logical proof that Lorentz Transformation is wrong.

Go Lisa!


terça-feira, outubro 31, 2006

PMP - Expected Earned Value - EEV

Question from Wolfgang :

"A friend recently told me that he found a question in the PMP exam about expected earned value (EEV).
I've never heard this term before.
I've searched on the Internet, but nothing was found about this term.
Please, can someone tell me where I could find references or a definition about this?"

I doubt that this question is counted into your passing grade.
It is probably one of those 20 "test" questions ...

My take is that this is the same EV as the one in PMBoK but used in a
probabilistic model - so it will be the EXPECTED value formula.

Anyone who has more information about this topic, please send me an email. Tnks.

segunda-feira, outubro 30, 2006

Fallacious Reasoning: "The God Delusion" By Richard Dawkins



“Science can chip away at agnosticism, in a way that Huxley bent over backwards to deny for the special of God. I am arguing that, notwithstanding the polite abstinence of Huxley, Gould and many others, the God question is not in principle and forever outside the remit of science. As with the nature of the stars, contra Comte, and as with the likelihood of life in orbit around them, science can make at least probabilistic inroads into the territory of agnosticism.”

In “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins

Uhm...How can you do that Dawkins, when your knowledge of Statistics is so frigging fuzzy (I’m using a polite word here)?


NB: This review heavily relies on probabilistic concepts (*I'm looking at you Dawkins*).

I haven't thought about this aspect of the philosophy of math in a while since my college days. I guess I could get behind the idea that frequentism is incompatible with a finite world even though it seems to work well on paper and in the head. There's also the Bayesian view which thinks about this topic differently based upon prior and posterior although I'm not sure Dawkins could salvage any of his probability arguments without question begging. One of my fantasies is to see a frequentist and Bayesian go at it in a stats smackdown/debate.

On with the argument.

I've always found Dawkin's statements strange when it comes to God's existence statistics-wise, and coming from a biologist (I thought these guys would be fairly proficient in the arcane arts of Statistics and Probability). While absence of proof is not necessarily proof of absence, absence of evidence is routinely considered as evidence of absence. Consider this thought experiment: I toss a coin intending to prove that it is a two-headed coin: neither side of it is 'tails'. The coin comes down 'heads'. Have I proved my hypothesis? Obviously not. I toss it again: 'heads' again. Proven? No. I toss it 100 more times, for 100 'heads'. Have I proven my hypothesis? No. In fact there is no number of tosses that can prove the hypothesis - though a single result of 'tails' would instantly disprove it. So the absence of that proof of 'tails' - i.e. a 'tails' result - is indeed not a proof of 'tails' absence ... but the one thing that is certainly true is that the accumulated series of 'heads' results is evidence of 'tails' absence! The more 'heads' results I get, the greater the accumulation of evidence that 'tails' does not exist, given the "a priori" assumption that both sides of the coin are equally likely to appear at each toss. So absence of evidence is evidence of absence ... just not proof. Dawkin's unfamiliarity with the laws of statistics extends to his misunderstanding of statistical issues, which is quite surprising when we consider how important statistic is for any any branch of science, certainly for his area of "expertise", Biology. Dawkins, I want you to state what his your p-value for your hypotheses that God does not exist, ok? Can we have that, please? After you state that, we can have a proper discussion on the "existence" of God.

The above-mentioned thought experiment can indeed be related to the existence of God. Every possible scientific inquiry we make about the universe which, if the universe were created by a supernatural entity, could reveal indisputable evidence of that supernatural entity but fails to do so (having a natural or mundane explanation instead) is like a toss of that coin coming down 'heads'. The evidence accumulates that no 'tails' exists. And those 'coin tosses' - scientific experiments across thousands of years - are in the millions now, and no credible evidence for a supernatural being has been revealed. It's not proof of the non-existence of God, but it's an accumulation of evidence.

Personally, I think spirituality is an internal experience which is hard to classify and something some people feel drawn to. Those who are not drawn to spirituality can seem to be angered by those who are. In the early Christian Gnostic 'Gospel of Mary Magdalena it says 'God can be found in the silence'. Perhaps, if atheists would really like to understand the pull of spirituality they should try meditation. It would certainly make a refreshing change from those who scour the Old Testament to find things to complain about (perhaps if they realised that many Christians long ago stopped taking the OT literally, they might understand the futility of such exercises). It is very clear from reading both the Old Testament and The New Testament that they are written not only by very different people and a different era, but the whole style and approach to God is very different. In the OT God is rather wrathful, extremely powerful and sometimes unforgiving. Whereas Jesus spent his whole time stressing love, forgiveness and kindness. His kindness was often commented on and often shocked people used to less kindness from their orthodox priests of the time. I think the reason that Christianity flourished is because of this new vision of a gentle and loving God. It was revolutionary and people are still struggling to love one another today. The Old Testament, on the other hand belongs to the tradition in which it was written - pre-history by numerous anonymous writers over hundreds of years. But people are usually Christians because of the new kinder message of Jesus Christ (hence the name) and not because of the OT.

Bottom-line: Dawkins has become better known, these days, as an anti-theistic polemicist (or is he a warrior of truthfulness?) than as a scientist or an intellectual. He's not out to enlighten, elucidate, or engage in the serious discourse beliefs as serious and strongly held as his deserve; rather, he seems content merely to mist all who fail to avoid him with bafflingly smug proclamations from atop the impossibly high horse upon which he is evidently stranded. He's become a rabid dogmatist as insufferable as any other dogmatist, extremist, or fundamentalist you're likely to meet, and he can't keep his mouth, or fingers, shut. By no means does my little diatribe imply that the religionists should have the stage while atheists and anti-theists must remain silent. (For ex: Which am I, anyway?) I do maintain, however, that if this man expects to be taken seriously any longer, he is well advised to procure a strong crowbar to pry his intellect open a tad (or at least learn Statistics), as well as at least enough humility to respect not only others beliefs, but others for their beliefs. He's an arrogant twat. People who accept his point of view behave as he. People who find it difficult to square his "mathematical opinions" with their beliefs (or knowledge) to the contrary (regardless of your opinion on the last two nouns) feel threatened by his rabble rousing belligerence. People who believe they are threatened generally behave as if they are threatened. What's so interesting or not self-evident about that? Dawkin's bias comes from the old platonist vs formalist split. Dawkins may see physics quantum fluctuations as perfectly real existing entities, though no one has seen any such thing directly but God is, at best a name a notion. Hey Dawkins, Quantum Physics is just a man-made representation of reality. It's not reality! Why does Quantum entanglement works? No one knows! This is all assumption. I am not a fan of organized religion and condemn as Dawkins does the terrible cruelty inflicted upon humanity by organized religion over the centuries. I am also no dogmatist. What I care about his Science. And this is why I think Dawkins is just after you for your Euros. He does not have the intellectual wherewithal nor the initiative to present cogent arguments to counter theists directly; he simply takes the stance that anything that is not conventional science is illegitimate. That is dogma and such laziness.

NB: In this review I’m not proving or disproving God’s “existence”. I’m just debunking Dawkin’s “science”.

terça-feira, outubro 10, 2006

Die neue Prüfung des Goethe-Instituts ( Das Goethe-Zertifikat B2 )

Der Gemeinsame Europäische Referenzrahmen für Sprachen (GER) definiert verschiedene Kursniveaus vom elementaren bis zum kompeteten Sprecher.

Prüfungen macht man sein ganzes Leben lang. Erst in der Schule, dann an der Universität oder in der Berufsausbildung. Geht es um konkrete Fachkenntnisse, scheint das Abfragen von Kenntnissen und Fertigkeiten leichter zu sein als bei der Frage: Wie gut beherrsche ich eine Fremdsprache? Beziehungsweise wie sind meine Kenntnisse im Deutschen im Vergleich zu anderen Sprachen? Dank dem Gemeinsamen Europäischen Referenzrahmen für Sprachen (GER) haben alle Sprachinstitute und Testautoren Kriterien an die Hand bekommen, die es ihnen erlauben, die Kompetenzen auf verschiedenen Niveaus zu bescheinigen.

Die "elementaren Sprecher" (A-Niveau) zum Beispiel können sich in einfachen, routinemaBigen Situationen verstandigen, in denen es um einen direkten Austausch von Informationen über vertraute und gelaufige Dinge geht. Die "selbständigen Sprecher" (B-Niveau) können sich 50 spontan und fliessend verständigen, dass ein normales Gesprach mit Muttersprachlern ohne grössere Anstrengung auf beiden Seiten gut möglich ist. Die "kompetenten Sprecher" (C-Niveau) können sich spontan, sehr flüssig und genau ausdrücken und auch bei komplexeren Sachverhalten feinere Bedeutungsnuancen deutlich machen.

Welche Prüfungen des Goethe-Instituts welchen GER-Stufen zugeordnet werden, können Sie in der unten stehenden Tabelle ablesen ( von der Cambridge School ). Wie aus der Übersicht erkennbar ist, fehlte auf Niveau B2 noch eine Prüfung. Dieses Goethe-Zertifikat B2 - so der neue Name - ist nun fertig und wird gerade erprobt, das heisst, es wird an verschiedenen Goethe-Instituten im In- und Ausland durchgeführt und korrigiert, die Ergebnisse werden miteinander verglichen, die Aufgabenstellungen überprüft, alies wird statistisch ausgewertet, dann werden notwendige Korrekturen vorgenommen. Das Goethe-Zertifikat B2 soll 2007 offiziell eingeführt werden.

Gleichzeitig hat man die Zentrale Mittelstufenprüfung (ZMP) überarbeitet, um eine sichere Positionierung auf C1-Niveau zu gewahrleisten.

Daher muss ich die ZMP-Prüfung im Februar 2007 ( oder am spätesten im Juni 2007 ) machen. Diese Prüfung wird sich ändern ... Ich habe schon angefangen, mich auf diese Zertifizierung vorzubereiten. Darum muss ich auch auf die neuen Versionen der Prüfungen des Goethe-Instituts nicht warten !

Viel Spass beim Üben!

Trust the Science: "The End of Nature" by Bill McKibben



(original review, 2006)

"Climate is a Chaotic System
Chaotic Systems cannot be predicted
Climate, therefore, cannot be predicted.
The IPCC has stated this explicitly."

I've been hearing this almost since forever. But is it right?

Predicting a Chaotic System is BY DEFINITION impossible. Climate is a Chaotic System. Ensembles are used to try to mitigate the nature of a Chaotic System by extending how far out one might be able to present probabilities for different scenarios. This is done with weather forecasts all the time. They use ensembles which is why they present the possibility of rain next Thursday as a probability. But as you know, these are often wrong. So if they are right, there is an element of luck involved as the conditions that will (or will not), cause it to rain in five days are changing by the minute. The calculation of climate variables (that is long term averages) is much easier than weather forecasting, since weather is ruled by vagaries of stochastic fluctuations, while climate is not. We can demonstrate this sort of climate response clearly in the Lorenz model, or any more complex climate model. Perturbing the initial conditions gives a completely different trajectory (weather), but this averages out over time, and the statistics of different long-term runs are indistinguishable. However a steady perturbation to the system can generate a significant change to the long-term statistics. This disproves the common but misguided claim that chaotic weather prevents meaningful climate prediction. In fact, all climate models do predict that the change in globally-averaged steady state temperature, at least, is almost exactly proportional to the change in the net radioactive forcing, indicating a near-linear response of the climate, at least on the broadest scales.

At the centre of chaos theory is the fascinating idea that order and chaos are not always diametrically opposed. Chaotic systems are an intimate mix of the two. From the outside they display unpredictable and chaotic behaviour, but expose the inner workings and you discover a perfectly deterministic set of equations working like clockwork. Some systems flip this premise around, with orderly effects emerging out of turbulent and chaotic causes. With respect to temperature the climate system is such a system.

I'm not part of this book’s intended readership as I don't need convincing and I can cope with (quite a few of) the technicalities. However, I am extremely glad that it was written, as it is fundamentally important to seek as wide an audience as possible with regard to this issue.

What’s the difference between a denier and a sceptic? These two things are not the same - scepticism in the face of something relatively new is perfectly reasonable, indeed it is 'scientific' to be sceptical, at least to begin with. However, this is a rapidly moving field of knowledge. “Denialism, on the other hand, especially in the face of the steadily accumulating body of evidence, is both stupid and very probably dangerous. As I said elsewhere, we are taking steps on a road which could lead, in the end, to a 200 metre rise in worldwide sea levels, albeit not for quite a long time in human terms. Politicians and economists plan for this year and next year - maybe the next five or ten if you're lucky. They don't plan for the next hundred or five hundred. And that is part of the problem - getting people to understand the long term* risks, given that we are talking about a process which, in human terms, is gradual and so for most of us, most of the time, tomorrow will look much like today.

I apologise if i sound a bit snippy as I'm not meaning to. Some moderately technical books which I could recommend to our Deniers are John Harte's Consider a Spherical Cow and the follow-up Consider a Cylindrical Cow. Neither goes beyond elementary calculus, though I realise that statement would not be very comforting to a lot of people:) The first volume specialises in what I would call 'back-of-the-envelope calculations, and covers a lot of basic climate science. Then there is Princeton University Press's excellent Primers in Climate series, of which Climate And The Oceans is typical. Again, they contain maths up to elementary differential equations, but this is a field where you really can't do much without some of it I'm afraid.

(*) The economist John Maynard Keynes, who has a strong interest in physics, once famously remarked: 'In the long run, we're all dead.'

I agree with the fact that it would indeed be nice to live in an intellectual world without a cultural divide, but I suspect that it has no likelihood of happening any time soon. I became more sanguine about this attitude only when I read books by people who are clearly cleverer than me who apparently felt much the same, plus I learned a whole host of techniques for obtaining approximate analytical solutions to various difficult equations, and the less difficult ones i can solve exactly anyway. One of the books in question is The Pleasures of Counting by T. W. Korner, who has these three things to say about computing, when it is necessary (in the real world I'm well aware that it very often is):

1) Does the program start? Many fail to do this.

2) Does the program stop? See point 1)

And by far and away my favourite:

3) Can my valet use it?

Presumably he is not being entirely serious, but it makes me feel better anyway:)

On the point about two cultures, it is hard to improve on the late, great Terry Pratchett's observation, via the medium of one of his greatest characters, the (arts-educated) Lord Vetinari in the Discworld book The Last Hero:

He hesitated. Lord Vetinari was not a man who delighted in the technical. There were two cultures as far as he was concerned. One was the real one, the other was occupied by people who liked machinery and ate pizza at unreasonable hours.

Thank you for that, that makes me feel somewhat better:)

I suppose that I'm almost the reverse of a lot of people in a way - I was a precocious child. You can probably see why Pratchett is very much my cup of tea though (he has been compared to Charles Dickens, though obviously with a lot more laughs).

At 13, however, I discovered an interest in astronomy, and, after reading various non-technical (no equations) books on the subject, I found a technical one on stellar structure in a bookshop. Of course, I had no idea what a differential equation was at that point, but I knew i needed to find out, so I developed a parallel interest in mathematics, which, along with physics/ astrophysics, has sustained (and delighted) me ever since. I can definitely say that that book really made an impact on my mind.

Back in the day, I did private tuition in both subjects (**), which means that, with the bright ones, as well as making sure they knew the syllabus, I showed them some of the more interesting (***) stuff - usually in response to questions that they have asked in school and been fobbed off with 'you don't need to know that for the exam.' For me, there is almost no greater pleasure in the world than to be a teacher in the company of an interested and intelligent student asking questions.

(**) However, when you consider that even my A Level physics students don't know who Maxwell was (i make sure that they find out!), then, sadly, i wish that i could be modestly surprised. Which i'm not. To be fair to them, it is true that they don't really know anything about Newton and Einstein either, other than their names, but our society's total ignorance of the man who gave us the electrical modern world is rather depressing. On that basis therefore you really haven't got a (Schrodinger's?) cat in hell's chance of them knowing about Dirac.

(***) I realise that the definition of this word varies with the individual.


Climate change will be addressed when money can be made out of doing so - probably. It appears to be too late to stop the changes that are unfolding due to the delay between polluting the planet and the resulting climatic changes that will be a big problem for civilisation. I have formed the view that are now in a position where emissions reduction on its own will be inadequate to prevent changes. We will need to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere to a level of about 260-300ppm (my estimate based on general reading of reliable reports).

So who is going to pay?
The taxpayer as always. You and me and generations to follow of course.
And the scumbags who happily did this to us, and their spawn, will get even richer.
And the poor will suffer - more.
The politicians will look earnest. The financiers will continue to gamble the world's wealth. The dog-botherers will continue to disrupt debate. The do-gooders will continue to wring their hands and dole out charity.
The scientists will continue to research, publish papers and just get on with giving us answers.

One bright thought; if dealing with climate change was more profitable than selling armaments there might even be some ancillary benefits. I am cautiously hopeful we can science our way out of this. Civilisation is now so science dependent that there really is no alternative. If civilisation breaks down badly, there are about 100 nuclear plants worldwide that would probably melt down and become world changing catastrophic disasters. There are millions of tons of lethal chemicals and pollutants in storage at any time that require constant and careful management. If all that get loose in the environment it could change life on Earth forever.

It is too late to give up. We broke it, we have to fix it. That means science and lots of it. Catastrophe capitalism will kick in - probably.

Bottom-line: In J. E. Littlewood's A Mathematicians Miscellany, which is a delightful mixture of gossip, academic bitchiness and some actual mathematics, he attempts to estimate the probability of a celluloid mouse's prospects of survival in what he refers to as The Institution. It is not very high. Unlike his great friend and close colleague, G. H. Hardy, Littlewood saw saw no reason to apologise for being a mathematician. Believe in the science and forget the politicians. You have to understand the processes of denial. Those who have blinded themselves to the slow moving changes in the climate and repeat phrases to reassure themselves that nothing is happening are unwilling to even consider any events that do not conform to the narrow views of their ideology. That ideology confuses freedom with personal choices. As if the right to drink a certain brand of cola or drive a gas guzzler were rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. They take climate change as a personal encroachment on their rights and look for someone else to blame. The smartest deniers are able to come up with rationalizations to hide behind. Trust the science.

EDIT 2018: I should update this review, but why? What was true in 2006 is still true today.

segunda-feira, outubro 09, 2006

Die Verlotterung der ( deutschen ) Sprache, d.h., die deutsche Sprache auf SMS-Niveau!

Save the German Language ( and the portuguese too, come to that )! They're a shambles !



That is :"O abandalhamento da língua ( alemã )" in portuguese, "The Running to the Dogs of the ( German ) Language" in English.

For those of you who have an interest on this subject, I would recommend reading the main article published in the Magazin Der Spigel ( 02.Oct Edition ) : "Rettet dem Deutsch !". Very instructive ... ;)

The roots of some German words date back centuries, making each a tiny "cultural monument." If more Germans were aware of this, they might take greater care to preserve and promote them. German nouns, often have shorter English equivalents making the English an attractive linguistic short cut. But I mantain that what these words gain in "easiness", they lose in accuracy or clarity. The strength of German is its "concreteness", the result of many logically constructed compound nouns. Moreover, English words ripped from context and plugged without sense into German — Handy for cell phone, for example — take on new, often distorted meanings.

If I get sufficient requests I may post the entire article here ... ;)