Monthly Archives: April 2013

Bad Science Leads to Measles Outbreak in Marin and Global Depression


One of the worst pieces of shit science that was published in the last 20 years was the purported connection between autism and vaccines.

It was bad science, that lead to smart people making bad decisions that put their children’s lives at risk. Worse, it resulted in an amazing amount of money being spent to invalidate what could only be described as nonsense. And then it turns out that it was nonsense.

I, honest to God, thought it was the worst case of bad science in the service of horrible policy.

I lacked imagination.

One of the most disastrous public policy decisiosn of the past 5 years has been the decision to focus on austerity while in a depression.

Two forces were driving this.

The first force is a morality play. Some people believe that the government should not be spending other (mostly rich) people’s money. The core belief is that rich people are better at figuring out how to spend money than the government. It’s a legitimate point of view. One I used to agree with.

The second force is really bad science. There was a paper that seemed to prove the dangerous connection between debt and impoverishment. And another paper that argued that austerity could lead to growth, which in my head sounds like bloodletting to heal someone. Folks who believed in the morality play used science to argue for austerity. In spite of the fact that the experiment in austerity has failed, they continued to pursue the strategy convinced that eventually the science would prove them right.

And now guess what, the science is bad. We will have a generation of people whose lives will be destroyed based on bad science (the paper and the summary).

So which is worse? Dead children or hundreds of millions of destroyed lives? I wonder what ring of hell Dante would put both sets of buffoons in …

A marathon?

I just found out about the horror that is the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

To fully understand the horror it’s important to understand some stuff about Marathon’s in general.

The Boston Marathon requires that the competitor quality. For a 40 year old male, like yours truly, I would have needed to finish another marathon in less than 3 hours and 15 minutes. Doing the Boston Marathon means working really hard to get really good and doing two marathons in a year.

If you’ve ever attended a marathon, the pro’s or elite’s finish in less than 3 hours. Most of the press and the spectators at the finish line are there to see those folks cross the line. At the four hour mark the only people left over are volunteers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, best friends and cousins coming to see their loved one’s cross the line.

And, of course, volunteers who are sitting there cheering each person as they cross the line.

So it’s going to be a deadly mix of 40+ year old finishers who probably have families with small children crossing the line then. You’ve got the 40 year olds who finished and are trying to recover, and the 50-60 years old who are crossing the line.

If your goal was to create maximum tragedy and you wanted to place a bomb, the four hour mark would be just perfect.

A massacre of innocents to move some asinine ideology forward.

Software Defined Storage – laying claims to being a visionary ;-)

After the recent valuations associated to Software Defined Networking startup, storage companies have decided to get on the band-wagon.

Proving that there is nothing new under the sun, I wanted to lay claim to having been a visionary in the space 😉

And for the record, much of this work would have not been possible without an extremely talented set of senior architects, in particular Jim Voll.

In 2003 Steve Kleiman, then CTO of NetApp, brilliantly noted that storage was a physical system that was going to turn into a software system. And that managing the software was going to be the problem in the virtualized data center.

He was right. And I spent 4 years trying to understand his insight. In 2008, shortly before I left NetApp, I got it…

But then I decided to go work on games.

Because a claim without proof is just a claim, let me refer to two papers I wrote.

The first describes a way to do software defined storage for the problem of managing storage withstorage of data replication:

The second describes the problem that increasing software virtualization of storage was going to create and the need for a new paradigm for management.

NetApp then delivered a product, Provisioning Manager, which implemented a lot of these ideas.

In both of these articles, I called for re-thinking storage management from a hardware system to a software system and proposed an approach that would allow humans to manage the complexity.

Nice to see the world catching up 🙂

Some good news



Apparently the sequestration has resulted in a drop in global spending on arms.

But we shouldn’t worry too much about that:

One of Sipri’s most notable findings is that “in 2012, the U.S. share of world military spending went below 40% for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union” 24 years ago. Yet that still means that the U.S. accounts for four-tenths of all global military spending—and it is 69% higher than it was in 2001. “The U.S. is still a vast, vast military power,” Burton told TIME. “The others are playing catch up.”

Amazing Cyprus

“The bulk of the problems stem from the archaic Ottoman land law still in existence in Cyprus which allows these dubious practices,” writes the Cyprus Property Action Group. Insufficient industry regulation and lacking enforcement of consumer protection laws also play a role.

The scheme works this way: A developer takes out a mortgage on the land but hides it from foreign buyers. The bank retains the title deed as collateral. When the developer sells the property, the buyers’ lawyer, who is in cahoots with the developer, doesn’t perform a title search and doesn’t “discover” the original mortgage. Buyers, assuming that their part of the property is free an clear, either pay cash or take out a mortgage. The developer pockets the money instead of paying off the original mortgage. The bank goes along because it can collect interest on one or two mortgages. But it retains the title deed as collateral for the original mortgage, and the buyer never sees it.

Amazing, really.

Revisiting things 6 years later

A friend of mine is in Barcelona. I remembered a great restaurant I went to and the review I wrote. While searching for the review I found something else I wrote 6 years ago;

Hype is like cancer that spreads until it obliterates all facts in their wake.

Currently the Google word processor is being hyped as the alternative to using MS Word.

About two years ago I tried to use Open Office. MS Word was going to cost me an arm and a leg and I had every incentive. A month of painful struggle and irritation at what was an inferior and ultimately unusable product as compared to MS Word, I shelled out the big bucks.

Google Docs is an impressive piece of web software, and certainly superior to wordpress’ text editor widget. However, I am pretty sure, that I prefer using MS Word if I ever have to write any document.

Nonetheless, this document was written using google doc.

My next task is to see if I can get MS Word to publish directly to my blog….

And for the record, Open Office was far more usable.

It’s 6 years later, and it’s painfully obvious that Google Docs is the alternative to MS Office products.

One of the interesting side effects of being disrupted is that you can stare at the disruption and it.

Google Doc’s was clearly a primitive version of MS Office, but it was good enough for some tasks and it was cheaper and simpler to manage than MS Office. Use Google Docs and you don’t need shared storage, license keys, a Microsoft deal etc.

What I didn’t understand 6 years ago was how computers and infrastructure were becoming free. As the cost per user declines, it becomes possible to offer a service for free for most people and charge a small number of people a small amount of money and still come out very much ahead.

Google Doc and SaaS is the destroyer of traditional IT and the vendors that support it. The process may take time, but it is a tidal wave of destruction that will leave new players in its wake.

The arrow of time moves forward and now I find myself practically never using MS Office because Google docs are free and easy to use. Sure I can’t write everything I want in them, but I don’t care.

tl;dr The latest laptop I bought does not have Office installed because I prefer to use Google Docs.

Life immitates art

From the personal archives.

4 years ago at NetApp, I was working on NetApp’s backup strategy. As the strategy belong’s to NetApp, I won’t share the outcome …

What is amusing, though, is I had a presentation with the then SVP (and now EVP) Manish Goel. And lo and behold my latest draft had gotten deleted. And because it was on a laptop and that laptop wasn’t backed up my most recent and polished slides weren’t there.

The presentation went well … but I found myself laughing hard when I discovered the files were missing.

The guy proposing a backup strategy for NetApp didn’t have a backup strategy for his own laptop.