Several of the following comments were taken from the Washington Free Beacon.

If you have been reading my posts you know that just about all involve the STEM professions, travel, salary levels for engineers, book reviews, restaurant reviews, etc etc.  In other words—I usually do NOT do political.  Politicians are fascinating people because ALL people are fascinating.  We all have a story to tell.  OK, with that being the case, I could not resist this time. Take a look.

Senate increases budget by forty-eight ($48) million, salaries by twelve ($12) million. That was the sub-title to the Washington Free Beacon article relative to the Omnibus Spending Bill just signed by President Trump. How much is $1.3 trillion dollars?  ANSWER:  It’s a million million. It’s a thousand billion. It’s a one followed by 12 zeros. 1,000,000,000,000.  The following digital photograph represents one billion dollars.

The next digital represents a trillion dollars.

Please notice the little guy, at the left of the stack.

You ready for this?

The Senate increased its total salaries of officers and employees by $12.6 million in the 2,232-page bill that lawmakers had fewer than forty-eight (48) hours to read and vote on. The bill avoids a government shutdown that would take place at midnight on Friday.

Aside from giving their own institutions a bonus, the omnibus bill also gives away millions to prevent “elderly falls,” promote breastfeeding, and fight “excessive alcohol use.”

The legislation increases the Senate budget to $919.9 million, up $48.8 million from fiscal year 2017, according to the congressional summary of the bill.

  • “The increase provides funding necessary for critical modernization and upgrades of the Senate financial management system and investments in IT security,” the summary states.
  • Salaries of staffers in the Senate are also set for an increase. Division Iof the legislation breaks down the total salaries of officers and employees, which are being raised from $182 million in 2017 to $194.8 million in the final bill, an increase of $12.58 million.
  • The Senate also increased its expense account, as expense allowances are going from $177,000 to $192,000, an increase of $15,000.
  • Committee offices got an increase of $22.9 million in salaries, from $181.5 million in 2017 to $204.4 million in the final bill.
  • Another $15 million goes to study “high obesity counties” and an increase of $5 million for the CDC program that seeks to “address obesity in counties” by leveraging “the community extension services provided by land grant universities who are mandated to translate science into practical action and promote healthy lifestyles.”
  • The bill also spends $2.05 million to prevent “elderly falls” and $8 million in the form of “breastfeeding grants.”
  • The legislation also mandatesthe Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to improve “wine label accuracy.”

I’m sure the bill does some very good things one being added money for our armed forces.  We have experienced in 2017 a terrible statistic—the number of casualties resulting from training our men and women in uniform exceeded the number of casualties in combat.  This is largely due to lack of funding for equipment maintenance and training.

I know or at least suspect, there is a great deal of behind-the-scenes activity on the part of each congressman and senator required for preparation prior to each legislative session.  Let’s take a look at the number of scheduled sessions over the past few years. Here are the number of legislative days for the House and Senate each year in recent history:

  • 2016: 131 in the House, 165 in the Senate.
  • 2015: 157 in the House, 168 in the Senate.
  • 2014: 135 in the House, 136 in the Senate.
  • 2013: 159 in the House, 156 in the Senate.
  • 2012: 153 in the House, 153 in the Senate.
  • 2011: 175 in the House, 170 in the Senate.
  • 2010: 127 in the House, 158 in the Senate.
  • 2009: 159 in the House, 191 in the Senate.
  • 2008: 119 in the House, 184 in the Senate.
  • 2007: 164 in the House, 190 in the Senate.
  • 2006: 101 in the House, 138 in the Senate.
  • 2005: 120 in the House, 159 in the Senate.
  • 2004: 110 in the House, 133 in the Senate.
  • 2003: 133 in the House, 167 in the Senate.
  • 2002: 123 in the House, 149 in the Senate.
  • 2001: 143 in the House, 173 in the Senate.

An “unhappy” President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill into law Friday, his second about-face in twenty-four (24) hours on the measure to keep the government open.

The president said he approved the legislation to fund the government through September for national security reasons, as it authorizes a major increase in military spending that he supports. But he stressed that he did so reluctantly.

Trump slammed the rushed process to pass the more than 2,200-page bill released only Wednesday. Standing near the pile of documents, the president said he was “disappointed” in the legislation and would “never sign another bill like this again.”

So much for draining the swamp. We are good through September of this year and then we start all over again.  ALL OVER AGAIN!

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Portions of this post are taken from the January 2018 article written by John Lewis of “Vision Systems”.

I feel there is considerable confusion between Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Deep Learning.  Seemingly, we use these terms and phrases interchangeably and they certainly have different meanings.  Natural Learning is the intelligence displayed by humans and certain animals. Why don’t we do the numbers:

AI:

Artificial Intelligence refers to machines mimicking human cognitive functions such as problem solving or learning.  When a machine understands human speech or can compete with humans in a game of chess, AI applies.  There are several surprising opinions about AI as follows:

  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of people see artificial intelligence making the world a better place
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) would prefer an AI doctor perform an eye exam
  • Fifty-five percent (55%) would trust an autonomous car. (I’m really not there as yet.)

The term artificial intelligence was coined in 1956, but AI has become more popular today thanks to increased data volumes, advanced algorithms, and improvements in computing power and storage.

Early AI research in the 1950s explored topics like problem solving and symbolic methods. In the 1960s, the US Department of Defense took interest in this type of work and began training computers to mimic basic human reasoning. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) completed street mapping projects in the 1970s. And DARPA produced intelligent personal assistants in 2003, long before Siri, Alexa or Cortana were household names. This early work paved the way for the automation and formal reasoning that we see in computers today, including decision support systems and smart search systems that can be designed to complement and augment human abilities.

While Hollywood movies and science fiction novels depict AI as human-like robots that take over the world, the current evolution of AI technologies isn’t that scary – or quite that smart. Instead, AI has evolved to provide many specific benefits in every industry.

MACHINE LEARNING:

Machine Learning is the current state-of-the-art application of AI and largely responsible for its recent rapid growth. Based upon the idea of giving machines access to data so that they can learn for themselves, machine learning has been enabled by the internet, and the associated rise in digital information being generated, stored and made available for analysis.

Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. In the past decade, machine learning has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, effective web search, and a vastly improved understanding of the human genome. Machine learning is so pervasive today that you probably use it dozens of times a day without knowing it. Many researchers also think it is the best way to make progress towards human-level understanding. Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it learn for themselves.

DEEP LEARNING:

Deep Learning concentrates on a subset of machine-learning techniques, with the term “deep” generally referring to the number of hidden layers in the deep neural network.  While conventional neural network may contain a few hidden layers, a deep network may have tens or hundreds of layers.  In deep learning, a computer model learns to perform classification tasks directly from text, sound or image data. In the case of images, deep learning requires substantial computing power and involves feeding large amounts of labeled data through a multi-layer neural network architecture to create a model that can classify the objects contained within the image.

CONCLUSIONS:

Brave new world we are living in.  Someone said that AI is definitely the future of computing power and eventually robotic systems that could possibly replace humans.  I just hope the programmers adhere to Dr. Isaac Asimov’s three laws:

 

  • The First Law of Robotics: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

 

  • The Second Law of Robotics: A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

 

  • The Third Law of Robotics: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

With those words, science-fiction author Isaac Asimov changed how the world saw robots. Where they had largely been Frankenstein-esque, metal monsters in the pulp magazines, Asimov saw the potential for robotics as more domestic: as a labor-saving device; the ultimate worker. In doing so, he continued a literary tradition of speculative tales: What happens when humanity remakes itself in its image?

As always, I welcome your comments.


For the past two weeks my wife and I visited our youngest son and his family in Dallas.  We were on a mission—all three had the flu at some time during the previous two weeks so we were making efforts to get them back among the living.  Our main purpose was caring for and watching our nine (9) month old grandson while mom and dad recovered and went back to work.

We had a little free time on the Friday prior to our leaving for home in Chattanooga so we stopped in for a late lunch at the “Lakewood Smokehouse”.  This turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  As you know, Texas is known for brisket.  In my opinion, the best does come from Texas.  Our waiter (shown in the picture below) was GREAT and had all the answers.  The entire staff made us feel right at home and were very accommodating.

I will not display the entire menu but a small portion is given below:

The actual menu is a little smaller than a bed sheet.  All “typical” BBQ items were given on the menu including my choice—LOADED BAKED POTATO.  I do mean loaded.  A digital picture of that spud is shown below.  My first car was a 1993 grey Ford Falcon. I was the very proud third owner.  My loaded potato at Lakewood was slightly smaller than my first car.   It was HUGE and filled with Texas brisket AND just about every condiment you can name. (Hold the sour cream.)

As I mentioned earlier, the Lakewood Smokehouse was a very pleasant surprise for us.  I can definitely recommend it to you the next time you are in big “D”.  Just ask for the Lakewood Shopping Center.  You can’t miss the sign.

MARCH MADNESS AND STEM

March 17, 2018


Right now, many in the United States and overseas are tuning in to “March Madness”.  Every year the number of viewers increases due to the suspense.  People fill out their brackets and eagerly wait for games to verify their choices. This morning, millions of brackets have been destroyed due to the following: “They played loose and fearless, simply because they had nothing to lose. A No. 16 seed had never beaten a No. 1 seed in the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament. Who would ever think that the tiny University of Maryland-Baltimore County would be the ones to break through?” Just a reminder, you cannot quantify desire.  The UMB team demonstrated that yesterday.

According to the NCAA website, in 2017, live game coverage across the four Networks on Sunday, March 19, averaged eleven-point nine (11.9) million viewers, up thirty-four percent (34%) from 2016 (eight point nine 8.9 million), making it the most-watched first Sunday in twenty-four (24) years (since 1993).  Overall, the 2017 NCAA Tournament was the most-watched in twenty-four (24) years through the first Sunday of coverage, with an average of 9,325,000 million viewers, up ten percent (10%) from 2016 (8,513,000).

Additionally, NCAA March Madness Live (MML) has generated an all-time record sixty-nine point one (69.1) million live streams through the first Sunday of the tournament, an increase of twenty-four percent (24%) over last year.  NCAA Tournament games garnering the most live streams to date include: Notre Dame vs. Princeton (5.4 million streams); Virginia vs. UNC-Wilmington (4.3 million streams); Michigan vs. Oklahoma State (4.2 million streams).

Official March Madness social media sites have generated twenty-six million (26) social engagements across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram through the first Sunday, which is up twenty percent (20%) over the corresponding time period last year.

There is another side to March Madness.  According to USAToday; In 2017 ten billion dollars ($10 billion) was wagered on that year’s tournament, only three hundred ($300) million of which will be done legally at sports books in Las Vegas.  This is according to the American Gaming Association. 

SPORTS VS STEM

It has been argued that money is a form of free speech and if this is correct, U.S. colleges are talking about a “ton” of money and not that much education. A KDM Engineering infographic shows the annual scholarship awards to STEM endeavors being one point six ($1.6) billion dollars while scholarships for athletes being two point nine billion ($2.9). If you think about this relative to the U.S. economy, that would translate to eight point six (8.6) million jobs for science, technology, engineering and math students and eleven point eight (11.8) million jobs for professional athletes.  These numbers indicate that colleges invest $180.00 per potential STEM worker and $245,763 per potential professional athlete.

Now, the average career of a professional athlete is three to five (3 to 5) years whereas the average individuals in STEM professions is forty to forty-five (40 to 45) years.   The numbers are as follows:

  • NFL:  3.5 years
  • NBA: 4.8 years
  • MLB: 5.6 years
  • NHL:  5.5 years

On point I think is very commendable: more student-athletes than ever are earning degrees at Division I schools. The most recent Graduation Success Rate data, collected for student-athletes who entered college in 2007, show eighty-four (84 %) percent graduated within six years.  This is really big and indicates college athletes realize their professional sports lives are finite AND most will NOT make it into the bigs. To me, that is some consolation relative to money spent.


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry was written by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  I think the best place to start is with a brief bio of Dr. Tyson.

NEIL de GRASSE TYSON was borne October 5, 1968 in New York City. When he was nine years old, his interest in astronomy was sparked by a trip to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Tyson followed that passion and received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1980 and a master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983. He began writing a question-and-answer column for the University of Texas’s popular astronomy magazine StarDate, and material from that column later appeared in his books Merlin’s Tour of the Universe (1989) and Just Visiting This Planet (1998).

Tyson then earned a master’s (1989) and a doctorate in astrophysics (1991) from Columbia University, New York City. He was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University from 1991 to 1994, when he joined the Hayden Planetarium as a staff scientist. His research dealt with problems relating to galactic structure and evolution. He became acting director of the Hayden Planetarium in 1995 and director in 1996. From 1995 to 2005 he wrote monthly essays for Natural History magazine, some of which were collected in Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries (2007), and in 2000 he wrote an autobiography, The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist. His later books include Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017).

You can see from his biography Dr. Tyson is a “heavy hitter” and knows his subject in and out.  His newest book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” treats his readers with respect relative to their time.  During the summer of 2017, it was on the New York Times best seller list at number one for four (4) consecutive months and has never been unlisted from that list since its publication. The book is small and contains only two hundred and nine (209) pages, but please do not let this short book fool you.  It is extremely well written and “loaded” with facts relevant to the subject matter. Very concise and to the point.   I would like now to give you some idea as to the content by coping several passages from the book.  Short passages that will indicate what you will be dealing with as a reader.

  • In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the knows universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.
  • As the universe aged through 10^-55 seconds, it continued to expand, diluting all concentrations of energy, and what remained of the unified forces split into the “electroweak” and the “strong nuclear” forces.
  • As the cosmos continued to expand and cool, growing larger that the size of our solar system, the temperature dropped rapidly below a trillion degrees Kelvin.
  • After cooling, one electron for every proton has been “frozen” into existence. As the cosmos continues to cool-dropping below a hundred million degrees-protons fuse with other protons as well as with neutrons, forming atomic nuclei and hatching a universe in which ninety percent of these nuclei are hydrogen and ten percent are helium, along with trace amounts of deuterium (heavy hydrogen), tritium (even heavier than hydrogen), and lithium.
  • For the first billion years, the universe continued to expand and cool as matter gravitated into the massive concentrations we call galaxies. Nearly a hundred billion of them formed, each containing hundreds of billions of stars that undergo thermonuclear fusion in their cores.

Dr. Tyson also discusses, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Invisible Light, the Exoplanet Earth and many other fascinating subjects that can be absorbed in “quick time”.  It is a GREAT read and one I can definitely recommend to you.


The subtitle to this book is “a bullfighter’s guide” and when you read it you will definitely understand.  The book is written by three individuals with extensive business experience who obviously have attended many meetings with the same results; i.e. bored to tears, confused, no direction given or agreed to, and simply a waste of time.

Brian Fugere is currently in corporate-speak rehab and has been jargon-free since their book was written.   He is a principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP where he was the former chief of all marketing efforts.

Chelsea Hardaway is the president of Hardaway Productions.  This company helps clients cut through the clutter of communication.

Jon Warshawsky is a managing partner of Deloitte Services, LP and helped start that firm’s e-learning practice.

I love the manner in which the book starts: “Let’s face it, business today is drowning in bullshit. We try to impress (or confuse) investors with inflated letters to shareholders. We punish customers with intrusive, hype-filled, self-aggrandizing product literature. We send elephantine progress reports to employees that shed less than two watts of light on the big issues or hard truths.”

If you think you smell something at work, there’s probably good reason–“bull” has become the official language of business. Every day, we get bombarded by an endless stream of filtered, antiseptic, jargon-filled corporate-speak, all of which makes it harder to get heard, harder to be authentic, and definitely harder to have fun.

We have become immune to empty, generic messages and as a result, no one really listens anymore. Endless charts and graphs, Power Point presentations with one hundred and four slides, Excel spreadsheets, mandated company templates to “simplify” reading, etc.  You’ve been there—do NOT tell me you have not.

The authors identify four ways in which businesspeople organize their objectives through ineffective over-standardizations or misguided practices, sharing practical advice on how to remain true to a business ideal, promote healthy change, and communicate authentically. The four ways are as follows:

PART ONE:  The Obscurity Trap

PART TWO: The Anonymity Trap

PART THREE:  The Hard-Sell Trap

PART FOUR:  The Tedium Trap

If you are honest with yourself, you must admit you have heard the following words (and many others) and/or phrases used when discussing specific topics:

  • Best of breed
  • Center of excellence
  • Frictionless
  • Out of pocket
  • Paradigm shift
  • Results-driven
  • Best practice
  • Empowerment
  • Bring to the table
  • Face time
  • Brain dump
  • Drink from a fire hydrant
  • Heavy lifting
  • Mind share
  • Outside the box (I’m so tired of this one I could cry every time I hear it.)
  • Push the envelope
  • Sea change
  • Unpack
  • Win-win
  • Bandwidth
  • Core competency
  • Come-to-Jesus-moment

I submit, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there could be many definitions to each of the phrases above depending upon who is listening. Do you really know what bandwidth is? In our context here, it means, “time” as in “I do not have the bandwidth to complete any value-added action items.”

Another pet-peeve of mine—all of the many, many acronyms and abbreviations used in today’s business world, many of which no one knows or remembers. We sprinkle our documents with abbreviations and eighty (80) pages later expect an audience to remember what the presenter is trying to say when he or she doesn’t remember either.

This book cuts through the clutter and makes a desperate effort to solve the problems and clean up our corporate language by suggesting several very direct approaches.  One great section addresses the need to clean up e-mail and get to the point with concise language that actually and adequately covers the subject with zero jargon and real English.

I think you are going to enjoy this book and I’m sure, if you are in the business world, you need this book.  Have at it.

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