Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Katherine Johnson - 97 year-old inspiration for girls in STEM

In this month's ACM magazine, there is an interview with US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. You have to have ACM membership to access the article, but here's the quote from Megan Smith that caught my interest:
Katherine Johnson was a former computer who joined NASA. She was there when Sputnik went up, and she got pulled into the teams that calculated trajectories. She's an African American woman, and she's 97 years old now. She calculated the trajectories for Alan Shepard. John Glenn wouldn't even fly until Katherine double-checked the math! She stayed up like 12 hours recalculating, and if she got the right number, he would say "Okay, Katherine agrees, I'm going." She was one of the trajectory calculators of the Apollo mission, but she's not in the Apollo 13 movie.
It would have been a great bit in a movie. 

Links from Googling:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Opinion Survey - Using Adverbs

I've heard a lot of advice against using adverbs, to the point of where it is giving me a mischievous thrill to use them. That's fine for blogging and Twitter, but to what extent should I avoid them in more serious creative writing? Is this prejudice a fad that will pass?
For now, I have decided not to delete all my adverbs universally, but to examine and consider them each on a case-by-case basis.

What is your opinion on using adverbs?
  1. Go ahead, whenever
  2. Sparingly
  3. Never.
  4. I was unaware that there was advice against their use.
  5. Other (Please Specify)

Spam from Vietnam

Here's another spam, more creative, ostensibly from Vietnam:

From: Ha Bao Linh []
Sent: Tuesday, May 05, 2015 4:26 PM
Subject: [SPAM]Hello!


My name is Ha Bao Linh,the daughter of Mr Ha Van Tham from Vietnam,I want to know if you can invest for my family in your father who was former chairman of Ocean Bank Vietnam was suspended and arrested by the authority of Vietnam for violating banking regulations as they said but the truth was that my father declare intention to contest for post in State Bank of Vietnam and his political enemies ganged up agains him.

The authorities are frozing my father assets and bank accounts and my father instructed that i urgently find somebody from abroad to help us invest the money he kept in another country because the authorites have arrested him and my family can not travel out of Vietnam as our passport was taken by authority.

I know its not easy to ask you to keep my family asset for us but i believe we can build good understanding and trust,please give me your Skype address or phone number so we can communicate to discuss very good.I am making this discussion with you secret because we want to safely remove the fund without the Vietnam authorities know about my father fund in abroad and i want you to keep it secret too please.

I wait to hear back from you.

I do not want these to become the theme of the blog, but they're so charmingly creative.

BTW, I've heard terrible things about adverbs. What are your opinions about using them? I suppose that needs its own blog post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Greetings from Mr.Ho

Earlier this month I received a piece of spam that was just so classic--I found it too humorous to delete. I saw it again today while sorting through email, and figured out that I could post it here.

From: Eang Seng Ho []
Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2015 3:14 AM
Subject: [SPAM]Greetings From Mr.Ho,


I am Mr. Eang Seng Ho. I have no other way to reach you than these ways, please accept my apology. I am an account manager to one of our foreign late customer. It is my interest to contact you in respect of this our client who opened a draft account in my bank.

This deceased client of mine shares almost the same name as yours; He died as a result of heart-related condition on 14 of November 2011.His heart condition was due to the death of all the members of his family in the fukushima earthquake and tsunami disaster on the March 11, 2011 in northeastern Japan where they all lost their lives.

After his death, I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address, but got no reply. He died without making any will. The amount in His draft account opened in my bank before his unfortunate death is Twenty Eight Million Five Hundred and Twenty Six Thousand Two Hundred Dollars Only.
I want to present you as the beneficiary of the deceased. I will use my position and influence in our bank to make sure they release this money to you for our mutual sharing. If I wait for days and did not hear from you, I shall look for another person.

Kindly get back to me for more details.

I particularly like that my name is "almost the same" as that of his deceased client--but he doesn't address me by name. And I like the inclusion of details such as the exact date of the fukushima earthquake. If that fact is correct then, surely, the entire letter must be.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Leaned In

I finished Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In the weekend before last. I'd heard vague negative things about it. Having finished the book, I conclude it's another case of press exaggeration of complaints of those who found within some items at which to take offense.

I found it rather readable, unlike too many business books. It was sprinkled with humorous anecdotes to keep me entertained.

A day or so later, I noted down this list of Takeaways:
  • Even women need to be vigilant against inherent bias against women.
  • Women tend to be more shy than men, but if you take some simple steps to encourage them, you'll bring them out of the woodwork & make them more useful to your organization.
  • Men should be respected for doing housework.
  • When insufficient number of women choose to make their career a priority, the next generation of children is raised with the same bias against women in careers.
Otherwise, I didn't think the book applied to me very much. I wasn't top-of-the-class at Harvard or anything close. I do software, not business. Compared to the people in her book, I've been incredibly lazy.

Most of my jobs have been in high tech, yet it was always quite normal for people to go home around 5:30. Sandberg had to be apologetic and assertive about the need to leave at such a time, even if she showed up at the crack of dawn. She stressed the importance of going home to be with her family every evening, and hastened to add that she logs back into work after her kids have gone to sleep.

After my kids have gone to sleep, I'm asleep too. Maybe in bed reading.

The book did have one good effect that I had not imagined. Here's an anecdote of my own:

I was picking my kids up from Hebrew school 2 Sundays ago. The lady who runs the school mentioned being laid off from her regular job. Her whole group was laid off. I had a vague idea that what she did was something like what was required for an open position at my company. She gave me her card. I gave it to someone at work. He emailed me the job description. I forwarded it on to her.

She emailed back, saying, it looks very interesting, but it seems to require one set of skills that I don't have.

Had I not just read Sandberg's book, I'd have emailed back, Oh well.

Instead, I remembered and quoted back a section where it said that men will apply for a job if they have 60% of the requirements, but women will only apply if they have closer to 100%. If you send in your resume, it could be you'll get a quick 'no thanks.' If you don't send it in, the answer is definitely no.

She sent in her resume. She got an interview--over the phone, and then in person.

The man who would have been her direct supervisor was impressed by her credentials and presentation. He wanted to redefine the job and hire her. Unfortunately, his boss didn't agree.

Still, it goes to show that it was worth a try.

Too many business books are structured like this

  1. This book contains my idea
  2. My idea has helped me, and other folks too.
  3. Lots of people like my idea. 
  4. I call my idea X. It is a great idea. It is better than many previous ideas, even previous ideas that might be similar to this idea.
  5. Here is how some previous ideas failed.
  6. Here is a list of the ways in which other previous ideas were inadequate.
  7. Note how the ideas that had partial success contain these aspects X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6 which are more effective when combined into my idea X.
  8. Here are 50 pages of testimonials about how great my idea is, and how useful it has been to different people.
  9. ...?
  10. After I've given up reading, maybe there comes the part where the author explains his idea.