June 27, 2002

Under God...

Posted by Scott at 05:02 PM

In case you hadn't heard, the 9th circuit court has deemed the 'under God' portion of the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional. More stories available here and here. I wonder if this decision would have had any traction on September 12th. Certainly around here nearly every sign and billboard had references to prayer at that time. It used to be sufficient to say that you weren't forced to say the pledge. I guess now it's too much peer pressure to hear your classmates around you saying it. I'm continually surrounded with derogatory remarks about religion and yet I deal with it without whining to the court.

Click here for the full story... Supposedly this is the grandfather of all photographs. Click here for the full story. It was only three months ago that there was a story about a different "oldest photo". Back in that day, there was no concept of mega-pixels, JPEG compressed image format, Flash-based image storage, or USB transfer. “Back in my day we just used chemicals, plates, and wet emulsions... and we liked it!”

A co-worker has one of those American Heritage Dictionary "Word of the Day" calendar pads. He posted this entry at the entrance to my cubicle:


I guess I've heard worse adjectives used to describe me. (grin)

My friend, Stu, asks a good question. Why is it that if you search Amazon for VHS tapes about Waterloo, you get a reference entitled “Swing Lessons! An Alternative for Open Minded Couples!”? (see entry number 5) Good question! I'm sure I don't want to know what the connection is?

Lastly, for the technologists there is this article entitled “Doctors versus Geeks” which gives one man's insights into the differences in mindsets. The author was a high level IT manager at Texas Medical Center, the largest medical institution in the world. I'd say that gives him some credibility in analyzing the differences. Refering to the incoming medical students he says:

It was an amazing transformation from wide-eyed idealist to detached, white-coated professional. I, personally, think the kids lost something important on the way to becoming doctors. The process involves replacing curiosity and the ability to ask questions with absolute certainty and the ability to make instantaneous decisions. After all, lives are at stake and hesitation or indecision can be fatal, or at least that's what they're taught. Add to that the fact that there are generally only one or two "accepted" ways to accomplish a particular medical outcome and it starts to become clear where the two cultures diverge.

On the other hand, geeks have relatively little codified knowledge to draw on early in the learning process. Culturally, geeks learn by doing. They take a few relatively simple tools and techniques that they learned in school and apply them, generally in an iterative process of learning, until the desired result is achieved. It would be impossible to try and memorize all the possible ways to implement a given information system. There are as many different techniques as there are individuals. This seems incredibly untidy to a scientist. There's no "right" answer. And geeks learn by sharing, which is something that is culturally abhorrent in the world of academic research. In the highly competitive world of research grants, tenure, and "publish or perish," the incentive to share has been all but removed. So it seems that these two worlds are culturally at odds from the start.