Things I Probably Drew A Long Time Ago

Yet another wonderful installment in things I probably drew!

Here we have a stylized horse-head artistically rendered on a spare piece of typing paper and drawn in flare-tip pen. Needless to say, a work of art such as this can only be captured by a second-rate scanner.

I think I doodled this when I was watching a movie with Bruce Willis in it. One of those old movies where he actually had hair (or did he have hair?) I think it was "The Last Boyscout." The movie opened with a pretend football team and they had a logo similar to this on the side of the helmet.



Doubting Darwin

I had a series of very long, and very enlightening dialogues with Foxmagic. I adopted the position of Intelligent Design, which I am unfortunately hugely ignorant of, in an attempt to better understand it.

One argument that I stumbled over is that evolution could be demonstrated, and also falsified. I had some ideas, but I felt they were not as strong as they could have been.

In the course of mulling the discussion over, I remembered I had an interesting book buried in my book graveyard (i.e. the books on top of my dresser which will not fit anyplace else). I found one book which I placed on my reading list (and likewise forgot about). It is "The Case for a Creator," by Lee Strobel.

The third chapter deals with possible pit-falls in Evolution. I read through part of the chapter, and to be honest, much of it seemed a bit light on information. However, one part really stuck with me.

How did life first originate?

I struggled with this question in the dialogue with Foxmagic, and I wasn't able to come up with a clever enough answer in support of Intelligent Design. There was a small passage in Strobel's book, though, which hit me like a lightning bolt.

Suppose if we want to demonstrate how life arose from matter. Take a test tube, and fill it with saline solution. Place a cell in the test tube. Puncture the cell (or destory it somehow), and mix with the saline solution.

We have all the matter necessary for life in the test tube.

Will life ever arise out of the test tube? More aggressively stated, has science ever been able to create life out of inanimate matter? If this is not possible (or even remotely plausible) how it is possible for a cell to arise out of a young Earth that's teaming with all sorts of nonessential matter, hostile weather, and other conditions less than ideal than a science lab?

I have to think that Occam's Razor cuts in the opposite direction. In this case, Evolution is cut out leaving the necessity of some Intelligent Designer.

I suppose I have the following questions:

1) Did science ever create a cell purely from orangic, non-living matter?
2) How can Evolution even be supported if question 1 turns out to be false?

I'd like to be supplied with links to a reliable source if it is the case that point 1 is true.

-- Me

Quiz Thing

I generally don't do these, but I thought this was a good one.

I recall bits of Howard Gardner's "Frames of Mind," where multiple intelligences was discussed. I seem to recall that mathematical and musical intelligence are very closely related. That doesn't seem to hold true with this quiz.

You scored as Logical/Mathematical. You like to work with numbers and ask questions. You learn best by classifying information, engaging in abstract thinking and looking for common basic principles. People like you include mathematicians, biologists, medical technicians, geologists, engineers, physicists, researchers and other scientists.
















The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences
created with QuizFarm.com

How Many Times Have I Done This Before?

I was reading over Foxmagic's always interesting journal. He had a recent topic dealing with "Intelligent Design" in regards to the Universe. The argument, as I understand it, is that the Universe must have been created by an intelligent being since the criteria for life existing is much too small for such an event to have happened by way of chance.

I decided to play Devil's Advocate. I remembered an idea due to Nietzsche, under the name of "Eternal Return." The idea in short says that given a Universe with finite matter, and with an infinite amount of time, it must be the case that everything will reoccur infinitely many times over.

So, quite contrary to the Intelligent Design argument, not only is there an absolute certainty of life existing, but it existed for an infinitely long period of time.

There was an interesting rebuttal to Nietzsche's view by using the second law of thermodynamics. The punch-line of this, in brief, is that all of the energy in the Universe will equalize and we will ultimately end up with a luke-warm universe in which nothing much at all happens.

After thinking this over, I've come up with the following argument.

If we assume a finite Universe, and also the second law of thermodynamics, then it must be the case that the Universe came into being at some point in time. That may be either from a Creator or through some natural means (i.e. the Big Bang).

If we assume a Creator, then we need to abandon at least the first law of thermodynamics, which says that energy just cannot be created.

Given that the Universe exists now, and it is finite, it must be the case that it came into existence at some point in the past.

If time is infinite, then there must likewise be infinite occurrences of the Universe coming into existence.

There are quite a few conditionals in this. I see them as follows.

1) I assume the Universe if finite. If it's not finite, then it's infinite. If it's infinite, then there is an absolute chance of Life existing. I don't consider this to be an issue.

2) I assume time is infinite. I'm stumbling on this one. How is it that time could be finite? If time is finite, that means there is no 'before.' I'm adopting that it's nonsense to consider time as having a start, but it could just be the limits of my thinking and understanding.

3) A assume the laws of thermodynamics hold. If these laws are false, there's no way to prevent the concept of eternal return. Again, there's not a possible counter-argument here.

As of now, I see it as almost unavoidable that Life must necessarily exist.
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Things I Probably Published: "The Long Road Away"

Hello, everyone

No, I didn't quite fall off the face of the Earth. I'm still here. I think my rest-break from LiveJournal is coming to an end, as I find I am spending many of my waking hours musing over things to post.

I'm very happy to say that by very first attempt at serious writing (or, at least, an attempt to be serious at writing) was accepted at http://www.clawandquill.net/. The story is published there under the title "The Long Road Away."

Having the story published is a very odd experience. On one sense, I am greatly uplifted at having my story accepted. I genuinely cannot explain the uplifting experience of having it accepted and also seeing it published.

The odd thing, though, is that this feeling of elation is off-set by an equal feeling of terror. Having submitting a story without having any previous experience in story writing was genuinely a choice I anguished over. Also, seeing an e-mail regarding the fate of my story was genuinely gut-wrenching. I even debated deleting the e-mail just to save myself the possible crushing blow of having to read a rejection notice.


This story has very odd, twisted origins. I'm suspecting that some readers may feel it's odd and twisted. Such people may not be too far from the truth. The story involves a D&D character, Sablebane. Not only is he a D&D character, but he's also a furry D&D character (a badger, to be exact.)

The story is about how Sablebane came to own a magical item known as a Luckstone (the piece of amber he acquires at the story's end). Not content to have such a basic story idea, I decided to expand a bit on it. The piece of amber represents the irrationality of want in Life. The idea is very Existential in nature. His love of Flura is something he sees as being irrational, and he recognizes it. As it turns out, he does not really love Flura. Instead, he comes to a greater understanding of the absurdity of his existance.

In the course of writing, Flura evolved to be something of a Platonic philosopher. She realizes the physical world is the world of illusion. Everything is in flux and change. We only have ideas of things being permanent. Time changes everything and washes it all away.

Sablebane vaguely has an idea of his condition in Life. In a sense, he is a bit like a man moving towards Enlightenment. However, the enlightenment is of a much more uneasy and dark nature. We are all physical creatures. Buddhism teaches that adhering to the material world is anguish, but we can never escape its grasp. Enlightenment is misery and horror.

Those are all the ideas I wanted. It is a story that was intented to have many levels. On the most superficial level, it's a character history, and a boy-loses-girl story. In a deeper sense, the character interaction is just an illusion that covers up the nagging ache that all of us feel that Life is, somehow, wrong and we are out of place within it.

Unfortunately, the story didn't quite turn out as I had hoped. Perhaps it is decent as an attempt, but it is still flawed somehow. The pre-writing (which I think I have posted back in my journal) came out well, though the transition between the outline and the story was too great a jump. There need to be more steps in between.

Anyway, I've never been one to write short posts, and this certainly isn't one of them. I'm very grateful to Chipotle for giving me this opportunity. I'm looking forward to evolving my writing skills and I hope to make more story submissions in the very near future.

-- Jacob

The Personal Computer of 2004 from 1954

It's 1954. What will home computers look like in 2004?

It's amazing to see how bad some guesses can be. The following picture was taken from a 50-year old issue of Popular Science (or, at least, I think that was the source). I just love that steering-wheel!

-- Me


Gone Fishin'!

I've not updated my journal in a while, and there is a reason.

I know from experience that I go through very intense, creative cycles and also cycles where I don't seem to do too much. Generally, the winter months are these times where I am a bit lax in doing things (I suspect I suffer from a mild case of SAD).

I'm still here, though. Most of my writing here will be in other people's journals. I'll make an occasional post now and then (especially since my RL journal has a ton of stuff in it).



Fundamental Assumptions in Agile Software Development Methodologies

It would be nice if I post something, and don't fall off the LJ horse.  :)
In my graduate school courses, we've been studying Agile Development methods.  The underlying idea with Agile methods is that software is not like engineering.  Instead, it is a process of reality construction, where one makes mental ideas of what a thing is and an abstraction of how it works.

I think there are some fundamental ideas which must be considered for any agile methodology, which I'll list as follows:
1)  Human cognitive limits.
2)  Effective communication.
3)  Idea construction.

The most fundamental problem is that of human cognitive limits.  When I say it is fundamental, I mean that the ideas of idea construction and communication are useless unless something is comprehensible.  In the context of system analysis and development, a system must be comprehensible.  If it is not comprehensible as a whole, then either an abstraction must be comprehensible or parts must be small enough to be comprehensible.  Currently, most Agile methods seem to recognize these two needs on a vague, intuitive level.  However, I've not seen any development on these two.

Assuming that a methodology does account for human cognitive limits (again, most don't seem to formally recognize such things), the next step concerns idea construction (or "Reality Construction" as it is sometimes called).  In this case, there is a subjective idea of what a thing is.  This is very tricky, since idea construction is very subjective, and depends greatly on experience.  Also, views may change between individuals.  For example, the way a businessman driving into work views a car is different from a mechanic and also an engineer.

Part of idea construction concerns experience and communication.  Since software development is cooperative, it's necessary to be able to communicate these ideas.  According to Adler, it is quite possible to communicate the idea of something, such as a subjective concept.  It is necessary, though, to have a common vocabulary, and also to make certain that the terms associated with the vocabulary words are understood.

Communication in software, unlike any other field of engineering, is hugely important.  Given that the stakeholders, ranging from system owners, builders, designers, and users, all have different ideas of what a system is, it is necessary to communicate frequently between all members, so that a single, coherent set of ideas can be created.

The Postmodern Era of Software (Or "Why Outsourcing for Software Development Will Not Work")

I've been musing over the idea of oursourcing and how it may affect the software field.  After some consideration, I think that at least some software outsourcing is bound to fail.  The problem is that many people are under the false assumption that software is like other forms of engineering, and could be handled as such.

Well, is software like engineering?


I'm skeptical.  I'm inclined to say no, however.


On the 1960's, NATO noted there was a software crisis in the quality of software.  The resolution of this was that software development is a form of engineering, and it should be treated as engineering.


Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.  Forty years later, we still have a software crisis.  Software with bugs, security flaws, and unexpected behaviors is still very much a hallmark of the modern world of computers.  There is an odd dichotomy to note.  Both hardware and software have developed by leaps and bounds.  Hardware, with few exceptions, is largely free of unexpected behavior.  Software, however, is just accepted to have troves of problems.


Traditional forms of engineering in software do not work.  The traditional, sequential form of software development (also known as the "waterfall methodology") requires that the major steps of software development proceed in order.  In other words, analysis must be completed and be absolutely correct before design.  Design must be complete and correct before coding, and so on.


This works in material engineering and manufacturing, but it does not work well in software.  More contemporary notes suggest that iteration works better.  Development "thrashes" back and forth between phases.  Communication and feedback is of paramount importance, especially with the client.  None of this happens in classical engineering.


I think that the root difference is that software development is not engineering.  It is, instead, "reality construction."  Engineering has the saving grace of allowing everything to be specified before hand in complete detail.  If one is manufacturing gears for a car, one can specify exactly what each gear should be like.  Facts such as size, shape, number of gear spokes are regarded as hard, objective, empirical facts.


Software, however, is not all fact.  Since software is reality construction, people instead try to make realizations of conceptual ideas of things that they experience.  With engineering, a car can be designed and constructed in only one way.  Modeling a car with software, though, can be done in an almost infinite number of ways.  Further more, the ways in which one can model a car based on software depends on how one subjectively understands a car.


This sort of subjectivity appears in software constantly.  Specifications are often vague and incomplete (and perhaps even deeply contradictory in some not-so-obvious ways).  Development methodologies vary.  Understanding of software analysis and design varies (in fact, some authors assert that 95% of all object-orientated programmers do not live up to their title).


I find it hard to see how software could be outsourced effectively.  Given the vagueness of requirements, and the tendency of software development to thrash back and forth, and also the requirement for constant communication to understand the reality being constructed, I don't see how it will work.


Gears for a car could be specified exactly with modern engineering.  If this engineering were software, a requirement for a gear might look like this: "I need a gear for my car.  It's a very nice car, and it's blue, and my puppy Toto rides in the back.  The car has 230 horse-power, front-wheel drive, leather seats, and CD player that's broken.  I need the gear by tomorrow, and it has to work perfectly, and also fix my CD player."

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