Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interesting analysis

Atlas Shrugs some time ago linked to this site dedicated to the opposition to Ground Zero Mosque.  It in turn provides very interesting analysis:

One of the great questions of the 21st century is: What is the true nature of Islam? There are two distinct answers to this question from the media and leaders. The popular message is that Islam is one of the great world religions, a peaceful religion, a foundation of world civilization, its Golden Age was the highpoint of history, and it preserved Western thought while we were in the Dark Ages. The alternative message is that Islam is a brutal, backward, woman abusing, violent, intellectually narrow ideology that is out to annihilate civilization.

Which side is right? How do we resolve this issue? Can it even be resolved? If we turn to the “experts” of any of the opinions, they will tell you that their view is correct. What then is the ultimate authority that will give us a firm foundation for reasoning and judgment about Islam? Is it possible to use critical thought or must we just accept the authority of experts?

There is way to achieve consensus about ideas that goes beyond expert opinion. The use of facts along with logic is the basis of critical thought. The ultimate form of critical thought uses measurements and numbers to resolve questions. This paper will use the foundational texts of Islam and measure the importance of ideas by how many words are given to concepts. The assumption is that the more content that is devoted to a subject, the greater the importance of the subject is. As an example: the Koran devotes 64% of its text to the subject of the unbeliever. This is assumed to imply that the unbeliever is important in Islamic doctrine.

Obviously, you have to read the whole thing.  People are busy and often don't have time to read books like Koran for themselves.  So, they often rely on other people to tell them what is there, so called "experts".  But experts often insert their own opinions into their analysis.  The analysis here seems to be devoid of opinion and simply presents facts.  That's what makes this analysis very valuable.  Now, the site presenting this analysis obviously has an opinion and does not hide it.  But facts themselves seem to be pretty cut and dry.

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Nerds helping troops

Here is an interesting technological news:

Improving IED Countermeasure Technology - Using RF Capture and Playback Systems

By combining the Tektronix spectrum analyzer and X-COM Systems long duration RF signal storage system, a unique tool results for the recording, analyzing, and creating of new waveforms and complex RF environments to help tackle IED countermeasure technologies.

For those who might be interested, follow the link.  There is a PDF that explains how it works.  Tektronics is a company that makes various elecronic test equipment that I often use at work.  Now I use their mixed-signal oscilloscope which I am quite happy with.

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A trial that should have happened, but never did

In the article I linked to in my previous post, Vladimir Bukovsky touches upon an interesting phenomenon: fascination of many Western intellectuals with socialism and Soviet Communism.  Just before anybody tries to point out any distinctions between Communism and Socialism, I have to explain something about the old Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union never called itself "Communist".  When I was growing up there, we were "building Communism".  But we were "country of advanced Socialism".  After all, the official name of the country was "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics".  We were always taught that Communism was the last and most advanced stage of Socialism.  So, all the distinctions between Socialism and Communism are really a matter of degree.  Soviet Communism is really a logical conclusion of the socialist policies.  So, for simplicity I will use the term "Communism", as it is accepted in this country.  The Western intellectuals refuse to acknowledge the staggering number of victims of Communism or, if they do, they find excuses for it: it was not done right, there were excesses, it was done for the greater good etc.  But the number of victims of Communism far exceeds the number of victims of Nazism.  There are several reasons for it.  First of all, unlike the Nazism, Communism is international in nature and thus has larger pool of victims.  Communism also was spread over larger territory and affected much greater population.  Finally, it simply lasted longer.  In fact, it is still around in places like North Korea and Cuba.  Yet, while Nazism, or National Socialism, is universally condemned as an anti-human ideology, its international cousin, better known as Communism, is not.  Why is that?  Well, a big reason National Socialism was condemned were Nuremberg Trials, where not just individual Nazis, but the whole system of National Socialism was put on trial.  The whole organizations, like SS, were declared criminal.  Does it mean that every member of this organization committed crimes against humanity?  No.  Many members of the Waffen-SS were simply soldiers of elite units who fought quite heroically, although for a very bad cause.  But the organization as a whole was in fact guilty of crimes against humanity.  However, Communism and organizations like KGB escaped this condemnation.  Why?  Well, one of the reasons is that Hitler and Stalin ended up on the opposite sides of World War 2.  Thus, the Soviets managed convince the world that they were ideologically on the opposite side of political spectrum.  Furthermore, from my narrow Jewish perspective, Soviets were preferable to Nazis simply because Soviet Communists were "equal opportunity murderers".  In their bigger pool of victims the statistical chance of survival was better.  And so, the Soviets became "good guys".  Their crimes were largely hidden.  And just like the Nazis before 1939, they did not overtly attack any country.  So, for many people it was very hard to understand what was so bad about the Soviet Union.  In 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, but even now, in light of 9/11, an argument can be made that a Soviet-controller Afghanistan would be better than Taliban- or Al-Qaeda-controlled.  And in any case, the Soviets of 1980s seem definitely more Western-like and more civilized than Taliban.  But after the fall of the Soviet Union the crimes of the Soviet Communists for the most part still remained hidden.  What Vladimir Bukovsky suggests should have happened is a Nuremberg-like trial, where the whole Soviet system would be tried.  That is where the archives should have been open, and all the Soviet crimes against humanity would have been revealed for the world to see.  Unfortunately this never happened, although for time there was a chance that it might.  This crazy fascination with the Soviet system still remains in the Western intellectual circles.  That even includes our current President.  But I'd like to make any small contribution to breaking this fascination.  Vladimir Bukovsky compiled his own archives.  Read them at your leisure.  Pass the link around.  Maybe enough people will open their eyes to the crimes of National Socialism's international cousin.  Maybe eventually the whole Socialist ideology will be exposed for what it is: an anti-human system of oppression, death and destruction.

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Soviet dissident on political correctness

I periodically get e-mails from Jewish Russian Telegraph, a blog maintained by Americans of the same background as mine out of Boston.  One of their recent posts linked to this article/lecture by Vladimir Bukovsky, a famous Soviet dissident:

...Countless new theories, first of all linguistic ones, came into being. Remember Orwell saying that the leftists always seek to win the terminological war first. And so it went: you cannot call them Miss or Missis, because this is how we define their marital status – this is unacceptable. An unlikely form for the English language showed up – Mis. It is hard to pronounce, but it was only the beginning. They went on saying that it is indecent to say history (his story), you should rather say her story. Countless linguistic novelties fell on our heads: we were told that we cannot use the word seminary, because it is originated form the word “semen” – one should say ovulary instead. And, on the whole, how should we call women? It was a great puzzle for the new academics.
The word woman contains the word man and this is terrible. Call it female – even worse. There is the word male in it. So they coined a new term to define women: wofe (wo from woman and fe from female). And now we are to call them this way, otherwise we are male chauvinist pigs!

It sounds nonsensical. Aren’t there enough madmen in the world? I was once incarcerated with many madmen and got fully used to them. But the thing is that the present day society, especially American, is primitive. It takes in any folly and soon turns it obligatory to anyone. Especially the American society. Although the European societies are surely no less conformist. So we are to accept everything thrown at us for the sake of success. For life to go smoothly, it is by no means unacceptable to be non-conformist.

This kind of American pattern has quickly spread as mandatory. It is a mandatory paradigm, because it is incredibly incorporated into legislation. Among other things, this new feminist movement blamed men of sexism. In their view, all men are sexists because they see a sex object in a woman, therefore everything in relation with the woman or sex needs to be eliminated. Any flirt between a man and a woman was called an “oppressive action” (with exploitation in mind). Therefore, if you make a joke at your co-worker, or, even worse, your subordinate, you are in trouble – she will sue you and you will lose your job.


But it does not end here. You cannot say that women are less inclined towards certain professions. For example, the president of Harvard University said in a private meeting that women, due to certain reasons, perhaps lack of interest, seldom chose precise sciences, especially mathematics. He lost his position, because a wild wave of hysteria followed his remark. He had to write an application to quit the job. And this is a mass phenomenon, reminiscent of the terror of 1937.


You see, the Americans had a surge of insanity, which had exceeded the previously accepted threshold of insanity. They had a wave of unhealthy campaign for racial equality. The campaign started on a fully sound basis at the end of the fifties, sixties and seventies. At that time the remains of racism were really obvious, especially in the South, but in the North it was never there. This was a really unacceptable and meaningless phenomenon, and the case for racial equality was fully grounded. But, just like all other campaigns of the kind, after this campaign reached its goals, its activists carried on until they got to the point of absurdity and started demanding for “positive discrimination”. The activists behind this campaign were blinded by utopia. They did not believe that inequality was a natural state, that we are all born unequal. It is like the followers of Rousseau, who believed that a human being is like a piece of clay and you can knead it into any shape you like.

Therefore, the followers of the campaign took the fact that the racial equality movement did not produce a sufficient number of successful black people, such as professors, millionaires, etc., as their failure, and resolved to strive for equal results rather than equal opportunities. And so they started introducing the so called “positive discrimination”, which brought about the existing quotas. Those are not official, but they are working. Every university has to enroll a certain percentage of the black people. It has never been put down in writing anywhere, but everyone knows that if they don’t do this, they will have their eyes scratched, they will face endless court trials, and alike troubles. Quotas at work. Here is a private company, and, out of the blue, a public fury erupts – why is there only one woman on the board? Women make up about half of all inhabitants on the earth, so they should make about 50 per cent of all the board members. And so on. Isn’t it madness to push people to certain positions judging merely by the colour of their skin or gender, even if they could not claim such positions based on their personal characteristics and skills?

Let’s go back to the army. When women gained their right to serve in the army, they found a great niche: they go to the army, serve there for three months or so, file a case of sexual harassment, the court awards them several million dollars and they leave. It is a reasonable way to get rich in two or three years. In the US army, a new type of uniform appeared – that is of a “pregnant soldier”. I never have fancied I would live to see such a thing! The very concept of “pregnant soldier” is a terminological contradiction. Men are supposedly there to protect pregnant women. This riddle is not for my mind. Nevertheless, there is such a uniform.

The excerpts don't really do this article justice.  Yes, it is rather long, but you have to read it all.  If you don't have time to sit in front of a computer and read it, print it out and read it before sleep, or while you are riding on a bus or a subway, or even while you are sitting in a bathroom, but read it all.  In fact, here is what I've done.  I copied the article into a Word document and converted it into a PDF here.  That way you can just download and print the article without anything else.  I will leave you, though, with this chilling conclusion of the article:

I don’t see why we should repeat the same mistakes the West was making all those 70 years throughout the Cold War. You will also have political correctness, let me assure you. You are in the European Union, and political correctness is but an EU ideology. It will reach you from Brussels and become obligatory. And you will have nowhere to hide, because the Brussels decisions have precedence over the decisions of national parliaments. The problem is not the idea that you may discuss. The problem is that discussions on the idea are not allowed. Discussing it will soon be punishable by prison (emphasis mine – Eric-Odessit.  If you have any doubt that Mr. Bukovsky is right in his prediction, you can just look at Geert Wilders prosecution). Trust me. I am an old jailbird, and I know when it whiffs with prison. And in the West this whiff starts to appear. This is the thing. It is not a matter of free choice. It will reach you like a ban on smoking. Today you think that it does not concern you. It will. In the West they always thought that they had nothing to do with communism. They had. This is why it is better to be prepared in advance. And what is positive? Well, a positive side can be found about anywhere. Communism had its positive sides, too. If we were friends back then, we were friends for real, for ages, risking lives for each other.  And this means something. Under communism, atheism and the struggle for domination made science develop in huge strides. We had great physicists, mathematicians – well, that is positive, who would argue? But this doesn’t mean that the very phenomenon was positive. You could have achieved the same things by other more vegetarian means, couldn’t you?

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Back in a saddle?

The short answer to this question is that I don't know.  I've been so depressed about the direction this country is taking and, even worse, by people's refusal to even listen to any alarms, that I simply did not feel like blogging.  So, I just concentrated on my own everyday life.  And whenever I had time for blogging I avoided it by finding something else to do.  But today my wife took the kids skating (something I usually do, but I am sick), and I decided to get into it again.  Let's see if I will keep it up.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Again, Cult of Personality gets promoted

Here is another video of indoctrination:

As it turns out, there is an Obama Scholars program offered by Arizona State University.  Still, why is there a scholarship named after a live sitting President?  As I said many times, this all is very reminiscent of the Soviet style cult of personality.

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Scary possibility

Apparently, there is a new bill being pushed through Senate by none other than Joe Lieberman, along with Sen. Collins, called ‘‘Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010’’Here is the article on the subject:

The federal government would have “absolute power” to shut down the Internet under the terms of a new US Senate bill being pushed by Joe Lieberman, legislation which would hand President Obama a figurative “kill switch” to seize control of the world wide web in response to a Homeland Security directive.

Lieberman has been pushing for government regulation of the Internet for years under the guise of cybersecurity, but this new bill goes even further in handing emergency powers over to the feds which could be used to silence free speech under the pretext of a national emergency.

Read the whole thing.  Here is the original link to the bill itself in the PDF format.  In case it goes away for some reason, I saved it to my site here.  Now, admittedly, the sponsors of the bill are not Obama supporters and seem to be more concerned with possible cyber attacks than anything else.  Still, giving the Federal Government that much power to control the Internet seems to be taking national security a bit too far.  I first heard about it on the local radio show, and then found a link to it on Bookworm's site.  I'd be very much interested to see some legal analysis of this bill.  Are my concerns justified?

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Soviet satire and Obama Administration

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, among the most popular satire authors were the duo of Ilf and Petrov.  They were long gone by the time I was growing up: Ilf died of tuberculosis in 1937, and Petrov was killed in a plane crash during World War 2.  Still, their humor and ability to laugh at the Soviet reality of 1920s - 1930s ensured their continuing popularity.  They were especially popular in my native city of Odessa, because that's where they were from.  Their 2 main novels are The Twelve Chairs and its sequel, The Golden Calf.  The 1st of the 2, The Twelve Chairs, even was made into a Mel Brooks movie.  The main character of the novels, Ostap Bender, is basically a small-time con artist trying to get rich in the early Soviet Union during the time of New Economic Policy, when some elements of free enterprise were allowed.  Upon getting reach, Bender dreams of escaping the Soviet Union to Rio-de-Janeiro, where, he is sure, "everybody wears white pants".  In the 2nd novel, The Golden Calf, Bender and his cohorts set their sights on Aleksandr Koreiko, an "underground millionaire".  Koreiko was "underground" because there were no legal millionaires in the Soviet Union.  He made his millions by cleverly defrauding the Soviet Government.  For example, in one instance Koreiko set up a chemical factory.  This chemical factory never produced anything.  The whole production process amounted to transferring water from one barrel to another.  The source of income for this factory and personally for Mr. Koreiko were government grants and loans.  Right before discovery Koreiko managed to disappear with the money.  Of course, Koreiko could not spend his money, because that would reveal to everybody his ill-gotten riches.  He had to stay "underground", posing as a lowly bureaucrat.  And that made him vulnerable to blackmail.  Ostap Bender conducted an extensive investigation, gathered enough evidence and succeeded in extorting a million rubles from Koreiko.

Both books are hilarious and were always a part of the culture in the Soviet Union, often quoted by people in regular conversations.  But someone might ask: "What does it have to do with Obama Administration?"  Well, a couple of days ago I caught a glimpse of Glenn Beck's program in which he mentioned a company by the name of Molten Metal Technology Inc. and one of its officers named Maurice Strong.  Beck said that the company's source of income were US Government grants, and that Strong and some other company leaders sold their stock, making millions, right before our Government stopped paying, and the company went belly up.  I immediately thought: "Wait a minute, I remember that story".  Indeed, that is exactly the episode out of one of my favorite books, the one I described above.  I looked it up.  Here is one article on the subject:

...The tawdry tale of the top two global warming gurus in the business world goes all the way back to Earth Day, April 17, 1995 when the future author of “An Inconvenient Truth” travelled to Fall River, Massachusetts, to deliver a green sermon at the headquarters of Molten Metal Technology Inc. (MMTI). MMTI was a firm that proclaimed to have invented a process for recycling metals from waste. Gore praised the Molten Metal firm as a pioneer in the kind of innovative technology that can save the environment, and make money for investors at the same time.

“Gore left a few facts out of his speech that day,” wrote EIR. “First, the firm was run by Strong and a group of Gore intimates, including Peter Knight, the firm’s registered lobbyist, and Gore’s former top Senate aide.”

(Fast-forward to the present day and ask yourself why it is that every time someone picks up another Senate rock, another serpent comes slithering out).

“Second, the company had received more than $25 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research and development grants, but had failed to prove that the technology worked on a commercial scale. The company would go on to receive another $8 million in federal taxpayers’ cash, at that point, its only source of revenue (emphasis mine - Eric-Odessit).

“With Al Gore’s Earth Day as a Wall Street calling card, Molten Metal’s stock value soared to $35 a share, a range it maintained through October 1996. But along the way, DOE scientists had balked at further funding. When in March 1996, corporate officers concluded that the federal cash cow was about to run dry, they took action: Between that date and October 1996, seven corporate officers—including Maurice strong—sold off $15.3 million in personal shares in the company, at top market value. On Oct. 20, 1996—a Sunday—the company issued a press release, announcing for the first time, that DOE funding would be vastly scaled back, and reported the bad news on a conference call with stockbrokers (emphasis mine - Eric-Odessit).

“On Monday, the stock plunged by 49%, soon landing at $5 a share. By early 1997, furious stockholders had filed a class action suit against the company and its directors. Ironically, one of the class action lawyers had tangled with Maurice strong in another insider trading case, involving a Swiss company called AZL Resources, chaired by Strong, who was also a lead shareholder. The AZL case closely mirrored Molten Metal, and in the end, Strong and the other AZL partners agreed to pay $5 million to dodge a jury verdict, when eyewitness evidence surfaced of Strong’s role in scamming the value of the company stock up into the stratosphere, before selling it off.

The article ties Mr. Strong to Obama.  Read it all.  But isn't it ironic, how life imitates one of my favorite childhood books.  Here is another article, this one about how Al Gore and the above-mentioned Maurice Strong making money off the carbon credits.  Indeed, Gore made millions off this scheme.  Al Gore, Maurice Strong and other Global Warming gurus are nothing more that scam artists, just like Aleksandr Koreiko, the fictitious character from the old Russian novel.  Do you think there might be an Ostap Bender who might take time to investigate and expose the bastards?

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Trying to get back into the game

Yes, I know: when good guys give up, the bad guys win.  I hope to be on the side of good guys, and so it is time for me to shake off my apathy.  So, as a starting point, here is a couple of videos of Geert Wilders speech e-mailed to me by a friend.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Sunday, May 2, 2010


I haven't updated my blog for a while.  There is a number of reasons for it.  But yesterday I started thinking about it.  I came to conclusion that all the usual suspect reasons for being silent: busy at work, family obligations etc. are just excuses.  The real reason is that I just was not in the mood to write anything.  I am simply running out of arguments.  Or, more precisely, my arguments are being dismissed by people who just refuse to listen.  I am of course talking about politics and about what the current administration is doing to this country.  Whenever I point out that what Obama is doing reminds me of the old country (Soviet Union), people say: "No, you are exaggerating".  A friend sent me an article dismissing the claims that he is a Socialist based on the fact that people calling themselves Socialist say that Obama is not.  Maybe, he is just not socialist enough for them.  It is not just Conservatives in this country who call him "Socialist".  Putin said that his economic measures lead to it.  "Pravda" called him "Socialist" as well.  Yet, first 25 years of my life's experience are dismissed by people who are often my friends and agree with me.  That particular friend that thinks that I am overreacting did not vote for Obama and does not like him much.  Yet, she does not see much danger in tendency of schoolchildren singing songs about Obama.  If I can't persuade someone who often agrees with me, how can I hope to change the minds of people who voted for the guy?  In recent poll they found that 50% of American Jews see Obama as strong supporter of Israel.  Republican Jewish Coalition thinks that this is a good thing: now "only" 50% of American Jews are Democrat Party zombies.  50%?!  After a member of this administration suggests shooting down Israeli warplanes should they fly to attack Iranian nuclear facilities!?  People like those 50% will never be persuaded.  They will be like those shot by Stalin's secret police: shouting "Long live comrade Stalin!", as they were being shot.

And so, the name of this post is "Despair".  Because that is my general feeling.  Perhaps I am wrong to feel this way.  I will try to force myself to post regularly: we should not be giving up.  Please give me some time.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Engineering perspective

Engineers are unique group of people.  They tend to try to dig into things in order to understand how they work.  They also tend to avoid jumping to conclusions and are hard to influence emotionally.  In a word, they are nerds.  So, here is a couple of articles brought to me by professional newsletters that I receive: Planet Analog and Power Management Design Line.  But first, an excerpt from the Editor's note from Planet Analog:

...And now, the "long-story long" version--in alignment with the analog world, I've always preferred to be on the trailing edge of leading developments; in other words, not being an early adopter. And I am also very hesitant and skeptical whenever a hot new development is heralded as the answer to all your problems, whatever ails you. (We see this repeatedly in our overhyped industry and society.) Finally, I'm not a fan of using frequent (out)bursts of under 140 characters; I prefer a longer 500-word column (sorry, it's now called a "blog") or even a well-reasoned, articulated, full-length essay such as Raymond Chandler's skillful The Simple Art of Murder or George Orwell's timeless Politics and the English Language. (These are available online, but I am not sure if these are "legal" versions due to copyright ownership, so I'd rather not give any URLs.)

Equally important, as an engineer, I subscribe to Shannon's Information Theory, which says that less (news) conveys more (importance). I certainly don't want to add unnecessarily to the already too-high level of clutter and commentary noise around us, which reduces the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), thus obscuring and sometimes even burying worthwhile messages.

But given all that, there is a place for Twitter, when used appropriately and judiciously. It's another tool which we can use--where it makes sense. So that's what I will try do, by tweeting when there is something I think will be of interest or noteworthy, and not tweeting simply for the sake of being "out there" and trendy. I promise!

Beyond Newton's Laws and Maxwell's Equations: one thing that engineers know (or learn) is that in addition the laws of physics we have, there are also other "laws" that should limit our hubris; among these is the "Law of Unintended (or Unforeseen) Consequences". This was nicely shown in an article I came across from The Wall Street Journal about how and why the use of low-flow showerheads may actually increase water usage, "Under Pressure: Bathers Duck Weak Shower Heads". Unlike some technically obscure or hard-to-understand examples, this is a wonderfully clear one. It's a lesson worth keeping in mind whenever you or a co-worker explain, with absolute confidence and certainty, the implications of design decisions, especially in the area of user interface and interaction (but not limited to those areas only).

I just excerpted the part that did not contain any professional stuff.  But it does have a link to an interesting article about unintended consequences of stupid regulations.  Do read it.  Bill Schweber, the above-mentioned Editor, also supplied his own article on Global Warming:

I once heard that you should be skeptical of any discipline with the word "science" included. The reasoning is that the addition of "science" is merely a device for enhancing the credibility of a particular discipline. While that comment was made in connection with "social science," it also applies to climate science.

I'm not discussing here whether man-made global warming is real, or is part of other, larger forces, or not happening at all. What I am saying is that the discpline called climate science does not meet my standards for what can be legitimately be considered science.

Here's why: I'm a strict constructionist when it comes to using the "s" word. Scientific theories are established by developing a hypothesis and a model, then verifying them by repeated experiments and control groups. In the case of climate science, researchers don't have that opportunity, for obvious reasons.

Again, read the whole thing.  While majority of people are not engineers, engineering perspective can be useful for understanding things.  Finally, a bit of an explanation of the current Toyota problems, again by Bill Schweber:

We're all aware of the two mega-recalls of Toyota vehicles. The quick and easy explanation is that "cars are too complicated" and "cars have too many processors and too much software."

Certainly, there is some truth to that (software-controlled cars creep me out), but the sticking-accelerator problem has nothing to do with electronics; it's a mechanical problem with a mechanical solution. But the real problem which designers of mass-market, high-volume products really face is the law of large numbers. When you have tens or hundreds of thousands of a product out in the market, some of their incredibly obscure and subtle problems will eventually surface.


To those pundits in media who so quickly criticize the Toyota problem as a result of poor engineering and inadequate testing, I say "you have no idea what you are talking about." It's only because the basic design is so good and reliable, and the number of units on the road is so large, that these problems can even have a chance to appear. The law of large numbers is tough to work around, and does not yield easily to amendments.

I still think that Toyota is a very good car, with solid and reliable design.  But the article explains to those, who are not engineers, a little bit of what is involved in designing and testing a mass-produced product.  So, again an obligatory recommendation to read the whole thing.

I really wish more people in this country got more interested in designing and making things.  Just shuffling money will not sustain this country.  Some time ago I posted an article by Jack Ganssle of about why he became an engineer.  Now he wrote another article on this subject.  He also referred to another article from EE Times.  Both articles are interesting.  But comments are just as interesting, if not more so.  So, enjoy.  See if you can relate to any of it.  I certainly can.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Health Care - Soviet style

I wanted to write this article for a while now, but there was never enough time.  So, finally I decided to start and slowly over some time write it.

There have been a lot of talk lately about the horrors of socialized medicine on one side and the benefits of universal coverage on the other.  So, let's examine the ultimate socialized health care system - the one in the former Soviet Union.  Let's compare it to what we have here in the US.
Back in the old Soviet Union the health care was free, i. e. paid for by the Government.  You can't necessarily say that it was paid by the taxpayers, since the Government was one huge monopolistic business.  The Soviet Government did business with the outside world and conducted commerce internally.  It also employed doctors and paid them the money it printed.  Back in Odessa we used to say about the free health care: "Лечиться даром - это даром лечиться".  I am just giving you the phrase in the original Russian.  Here is the transliterated version: "Lechit'sya darom - eto darom lechit'sya".  The literal translation is: "If you get treated for nothing, it means that nothing gets treated".  The more proper phrase in English, perhaps the one some people might have heard is "The health care is free, and you get what you paid for it".  This indeed does reflect the overall situation.  But, amazingly enough, for people who were relatively healthy and had just minor problems here and there, the system actually did work.  The primary care doctors saw patients in their offices for 3 hours a day.  The rest of the day they made house calls.  Yes, if you were sick, you called your primary physician's office and request for the doctor to come visit you at home.  People were actually almost forced to do that if they were sick, even with a common cold.  Here is why.  There were no finite number of sick days per year.  Instead, every time you got sick, you were entitled to stay home, with pay, provided that it could be verified by your doctor.  So, if you can go to a clinic, you were considered well enough to go to work.  Of course, there was some abuse, but for the most part people remained honest.  The doctor was always more likely to err on the side of sending you to work.  For those who actually visited a doctor in the office, 2 or 3 days a week the office hours were conveniently from 6pm to 9pm, making it easy to have an appointment without having to take time off work.  It was relatively easy to schedule simple procedures you  might need.  So, the bottom line, for people without major problems the Soviet health care did work.  The problem would arise if you got really sick.  That is when the lack of proper equipment, lack of proper medicine, shortage of hospital space and general mess would come into play.  If you got into a hospital room with 7 or 8 other people, you were lucky.  The unlucky ones had to be stationed in the hallways.  Sometimes some patient's family would bribe somebody on the hospital staff, and the space in one of the 8-bed rooms would be made available, often by moving some unlucky soul to the hallway and moving the "paying" patient into the freed-up space in the room.  The doctors and nurses were not the highly paid professionals they are in this country.  There were good doctors and nurses, but their pay was, like that of engineers, way below any blue color worker.  So, to some extend you can hardly blame doctors and nurses for supplementing their income by re-arranging hospital beds for a fee.
On the other hand, there were special hospitals for high government and Communist Party officials.  There was always space, equipment and medicine available there, and the staff was well paid.  The general public had no access to those hospitals ...unless they either managed to bribe someone really well or knew someone in the government or party hierarchy.
What is interesting about the Soviet health care is that there were no especially designed measures to save the resources, like rationing.  Although, the different quality of care available to Communist Party officials could be construed as such.  However, the poor quality of care in general was not due to rationing, but simply a result of lack of incentive to provide good care.  Basically, the whole thing was a mess.  It will not be so, if our Government ever gets to control the health care system.  As inefficient as our Government can be, its inefficiency pales in comparison to the Soviet Government.  So, our Government will inevitable design some cost-saving measures, which will essentially amount to rationing, although they will be called something else.  And it will be much worse than the Soviet system.  Because in the Soviet Union you could try to ask your friends and acquaintances if they knew somebody who knew somebody.  You could try to bribe somebody.  Basically, there were ways around the generally messy system to get better quality care.  And nobody counted the money spent for people's care, so if some particular resource was available somewhere, there were ways, sometimes illegal, to obtain it.  However, if the Government in this country gets a hold of the health care system, it will be efficient and it will control cost.  So, if you get denied some level of care here, it will be the end of the line.  There will be no ways around the system, at least not for the first 50 years, until it becomes as messy as the Soviet system.  And it may never become as messy.  So, there will be some Government bureaucrats who will ultimately will decide who lives and who dies.  Yes, I know that a lot of people don't believe that.  But that is inevitable, because the only alternative is to design the Soviet messy system right from the start, without any cost control.  And that will never happen.