DUNKIRK

July 22, 2017


My wife and I love to go to the movies. Please note, I said GO to the movies.  We don’t really enjoy downloading a “flick” and watching at home although admittedly, sometimes it is very convenient.  Due to a serious illness our oldest son, today was our first movie in eleven (11) weeks.  We chose to see the movie DUNKIRK.  I’m a little embarrassed to tell you I had to pull up a map to see exactly where Dunkirk is.  Take a look.

The evacuation of troops trapped on Dunkirk, was called a “miracle” by Sir Winston Churchill. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could not stop the onslaught. For the people in western Europe, World War Two (WWII) was about to start for real.

The advancing German Army trapped the British and French armies on the beaches around Dunkirk. 330,000 men were trapped in this location and they were definitely a convenient target for the Germans. Admiral Ramsey, based in Dover, formulated Operation Dynamo remove from the beaches as many men as was possible. The British troops, led by Lord John Gort, were professional soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force; trained men that British could not afford to lose. From May 26th 1940, small private ships transferred soldiers to larger ones which then brought them back to a port in southern Britain.

The beach at Dunkirk was a shallow slope so larger boats could not get close enough to rescue the men where they were. Therefore, smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to larger vessels based further off shore. Eight hundred (800) legendary “little ships” were used. It is thought that the smallest boat to make the journey across the Channel was the Tamzine – an eighteen (18) foot open topped fishing boat now on display at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Despite attacks from German fighters and bombers, the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler which never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war. That 338,000 soldiers were evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk would seem to uphold this view.  One of the reason for his reluctance in not ordering an attack was the belief Britain had suffered from the might of the Wehrmacht once and this experience would be sufficient for the island country to come to peace with Hitler. The total destruction of the British Expeditionary Force might have created such a climate of revenge in Britain that involvement would be prolonged. We will never know the true reason.

THE MOVIE:

I definitely enjoyed the movie but if you go expecting a “shoot’em up” you may as well stay at home and watch the national news.  There is very little dialogue in this picture but, in my opinion, this does not detract from the movie itself.  It is meant to be a visual experience which it certainly is.  No blood and gore, either which I feel was intentional on the part of writer/director Christopher Nolan.

Dunkirk was filmed on large format 65mm by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and, in my opinion, is incredible.  Even more impressive, there are virtually no computer effects in this one.  Instead of opting for digital effects including real images of battleships going under and planes crashing; an image of men trying to escape from an ocean engulfed by oil and fire feels as claustrophobic and horrific as it sounds. Also on display is Nolan’s fascination with time, each story living in different chronologies — a week, a day, an hour — that eventually come together and overlap. Technically speaking, Dunkirk is as impressive by any standard.

I have no idea as to how this movie will do at the box office but I was very surprised that Carmike Cinemas chose to show it in one of their smaller theaters.  There is significant competition right now at the movies with several very good offerings.  I just hope the production team gets a fair return on their investment. I definitely can recommend it to you.

As always, I welcome your comments.


Portions of the following post were taken from an article by Rob Spiegel publishing through Design News Daily.

Two former Apple design engineers – Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss have leveraged machine learning to help brand owners improve their manufacturing lines. The company, Instrumental , uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and fix problems with the goal of helping clients ship on time. The AI system consists of camera-equipped inspection stations that allow brand owners to remotely manage product lines at their contact manufacturing facilities with the purpose of maximizing up-time, quality and speed. Their digital photo is shown as follows:

Shedletsky and Weiss took what they learned from years of working with Apple contract manufacturers and put it into AI software.

“The experience with Apple opened our eyes to what was possible. We wanted to build artificial intelligence for manufacturing. The technology had been proven in other industries and could be applied to the manufacturing industry,   it’s part of the evolution of what is happening in manufacturing. The product we offer today solves a very specific need, but it also works toward overall intelligence in manufacturing.”

Shedletsky spent six (6) years working at Apple prior to founding Instrumental with fellow Apple alum, Weiss, who serves Instrumental’s CTO (Chief Technical Officer).  The two took their experience in solving manufacturing problems and created the AI fix. “After spending hundreds of days at manufacturers responsible for millions of Apple products, we gained a deep understanding of the inefficiencies in the new-product development process,” said Shedletsky. “There’s no going back, robotics and automation have already changed manufacturing. Intelligence like the kind we are building will change it again. We can radically improve how companies make products.”

There are number examples of big and small companies with problems that prevent them from shipping products on time. Delays are expensive and can cause the loss of a sale. One day of delay at a start-up could cost $10,000 in sales. For a large company, the cost could be millions. “There are hundreds of issues that need to be found and solved. They are difficult and they have to be solved one at a time,” said Shedletsky. “You can get on a plane, go to a factory and look at failure analysis so you can see why you have problems. Or, you can reduce the amount of time needed to identify and fix the problems by analyzing them remotely, using a combo of hardware and software.”

Instrumental combines hardware and software that takes images of each unit at key states of assembly on the line. The system then makes those images remotely searchable and comparable in order for the brand owner to learn and react to assembly line data. Engineers can then take action on issues. “The station goes onto the assembly line in China,” said Shedletsky. “We get the data into the cloud to discover issues the contract manufacturer doesn’t know they have. With the data, you can do failure analysis and reduced the time it takes to find an issue and correct it.”

WHAT IS AI:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines.  In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.   Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

As machines become increasingly capable, mental facilities once thought to require intelligence are removed from the definition. For instance, optical character recognition is no longer perceived as an example of “artificial intelligence”, having become a routine technology.  Capabilities currently classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech,  competing at a high level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go), autonomous cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data.

FUTURE:

Some would have you believe that AI IS the future and we will succumb to the “Rise of the Machines”.  I’m not so melodramatic.  I feel AI has progressed and will progress to the point where great time saving and reduction in labor may be realized.   Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss realize the potential and feel there will be no going back from this disruptive technology.   Moving AI to the factory floor will produce great benefits to manufacturing and other commercial enterprises.   There is also a significant possibility that job creation will occur as a result.  All is not doom and gloom.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

July 22, 2017


About two weeks ago I visited our Chattanooga Hamilton County Bicentennial Public Library.  The library is right downtown and performs a great service to the citizens of the tri-state area—or at one time did.  Let me explain.   I needed to check out a book on Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) for a course I’m writing for PDHonline.com.  PDH is the online publisher providing continuing education units (CEUs) for individuals needing twelve (12) or twenty-four (24) credit units per year.  Enough of that.

The science and technical material has always been on the second floor providing a wealth of information for gear-heads like me.  At one time, the library maintained up to date information on most subjects technical and otherwise.   I have been told in times past: “if we don’t have it—we can order it for you”.   I was absolutely amazed as to what I found.  The floor was almost vacant.  All of the technical books and material were gone.  There were no stacks—no books—no periodicals providing monthly information.  You could have turned the second floor into a bowling alley with room for a bar and grill.  (I suggested that to the librarian on my way out.)  I went over to the desk to inquire as to where were all the book.  All the technical “stuff”.  I was told the “Public Library is now focusing on cultural information and was no longer a research library. You can find most of that information on line”.  Besides, those who visit the library on a regular basis voted to eliminate our research capability”.  I inquired, ‘you mean to tell me I can check our “Fifty Shades of Grey” but can’t find information on ANY technical subject?”  I am assuming with that comment I am no longer on her Christmas card list.  It did not go over very well and by the way, I did not get a vote.  What genius made that decision anyway?  That statement also went over like a led balloon.  I left.

I decided to take a look at what complexities might be involved with getting a library card from the Library of Congress.  That lead me to obtaining information on the Library.  This is what I found.

HISTORY:

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800.  President John Adams signed a bill providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. The legislation described a reference library for Congress only, containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress – and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein…”

Established with $5,000 appropriated by the legislation, the original library was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library.  Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent fifty (50) years accumulating books, “putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science”; his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States.  In offering his collection to Congress, Jefferson anticipated controversy over the nature of his collection, which included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library. He wrote, “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”

In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library. The Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature, is the philosophy and rationale behind the comprehensive collecting policies of today’s Library of Congress.

Ainsworth Rand Spofford, Librarian of Congress from 1864 to 1897, applied Jefferson’s philosophy on a grand scale and built the Library into a national institution. Spofford was responsible for the copyright law of 1870, which required all copyright applicants to send to the Library two copies of their work. This resulted in a flood of books, pamphlets, maps, music, prints, and photographs. Facing a shortage of shelf space at the Capitol, Spofford convinced Congress of the need for a new building, and in 1873 Congress authorized a competition to design plans for the new Library.

In 1886, after many proposals and much controversy, Congress authorized construction of a new Library building in the style of the Italian Renaissance in accordance with a design prepared by Washington architects John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz.  The Congressional authorization was successful because of the hard work of two key Senators: Daniel W. Voorhees (Indiana), who served as chairman of the Joint Committee from 1879 to 1881, and Justin S. Morrill (Vermont), chairman of Senate Committee on Buildings and Grounds.

In 1888, General Thomas Lincoln Casey, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, was placed in charge of construction. His chief assistant was Bernard R. Green, who was intimately involved with the building until his death in 1914. Beginning in 1892, a new architect, Edward Pearce Casey, the son of General Casey, began to supervise the interior work, including sculptural and painted decoration by more than 50 American artists. When the Library of Congress building opened its doors to the public on November 1, 1897, it was hailed as a glorious national monument and “the largest, the costliest, and the safest” library building in the world.

FACTS AND INFORMATION:

Today’s Library of Congress is an unparalleled world resource. The collection of more than 164 million items includes more than 38.6 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 70 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.

In fiscal year 2016 (October 2015 to September 2016), the Library of Congress …

  • Responded to more than 1 million reference requests from Congress, the public and other federal agencies and delivered approximately 18,380 volumes from the Library’s collections to congressional offices
  • Registered 414,269 claims to copyright through its U.S. Copyright Office
  • Circulated nearly 22 million copies of Braille and recorded books and magazines to more than 800,000 blind and physically handicapped reader accounts
  • Circulated more than 997,000 items for use inside and outside the Library
  • Preserved more than 10.5 million items from the Library’s collections
  • Recorded a total of 164,403,119 items in the collections
  • 24,189,688 cataloged books in the Library of Congress classification system
  • 14,660,079 items in the non-classified print collections, including books in large type and raised characters, incunabula (books printed before 1501), monographs and serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, technical reports, and other printed material
  • 125,553,352 items in the non-classified (special) collections, including:
  • 3,670,573 audio materials, (discs, tapes, talking books, other recorded formats)
  • 70,685,319 manuscripts
  • 5,581,756 maps
  • 17,153,167 microforms
  • 1,809,351 moving images
  • 8,189,340 items of sheet music
  • 15,071,355 visual materials including:
  • 14,290,385 photographs
  • 107,825 posters
  • 673,145 prints and drawings
  • 3,392,491 other items, (including machine-readable items.
  • Welcomed nearly 1.8 million onsite visitors and recorded 92.8 million visits and more than 454 million-page views on the Library’s web properties
  • Employed 3,149 permanent staff members
  • Operated with a total fiscal 2016 appropriation of $642.04 million, including the authority to spend $42.13 million in receipts

I think anyone would admit, 2016 was a big year.  If we look at the library itself, we see the following grand structure inside and out:

As you might expect, the building itself is very imposing.

This is one view of the rotunda and the reading desks layout.

Very creative layout highlighting the arrangement in a circular pattern.

The reading desks from ground level.

CONCLUSIONS:

I intend to apply for a library card to the Library of Congress only because they have a mail-order arrangement any citizen and non-governmental type can use.  Better than buying book-after-book that probably will not be read more than once. The process is not that difficult and the paperwork is fairly straightforward, at least for the FED.

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