Category Archives: UVA

Systems Thinking and The Cloud

An interesting post about the challenge of applying systems thinking to the Cloud.

http://gigaom.com/cloud/how-systems-thinking-is-making-the-cloud-transparent/

I have a few nits about the author’s statement [my emphasis added]:

Systems thinking is difficult for those that have been educated to always apply reductionist thinking to problem solving. The idea in systems thinking is not to drill down to a root cause or a fundamental principle, but instead to continuously expand your knowledge about the system as a whole.

I would disagree that systems thinking doesn’t look for root causes. The point is that by expanding the problem, you have a higher chance of identifying the root causes. If you narrowly focus on the problem that is defined in front of you, you will rarely reach the true root causes – thus, true systems thinkers ask ‘what really is the system?’  The author does wind around and hits this point, but the original statement is a bit askew.

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Filed under Systems Engineering, UVA

Commencement Speech

Steve Jobs at StanfordHaving just participated in our graduation proceedings this past weekend, I found it amusing that someone at work posted a link to Steve Jobs’ commencement speech  to Stanford University a few years back.

http://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html

While I still find Steve Jobs a bit too pompous for my taste (on top of the fact that I had a horrible experience on a project that BDM forced us to use NeXT), I think his speech hit the mark.  As we discussed in our Entrepreneurship class, a failed business venture (or getting fired from your own company) does not mean the end of your career.  Your skills, knowledge, and inborn mental ability endures beyond any job you might have.

I have been laid off twice, both from companies to which I made massive contributions.  Until you have been there, I don’t think you can fathom what a mental blow it inflicts.  Experiencing that event really rocks your foundation and your belief in yourself. 

“Am I not as good as I thought?”

“Am I really that much of a troublemaker?”

“Should I be doing a different job?”

I think that Steve Jobs really got it right. To paraphrase: “Don’t be constrained by other people’s preferences/dreams/goals”.  And, if someone can bounce back from being fired from their own company..  it has to give you hope that those folks out of work will persevere and find their next great job.

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Filed under UVA

Expensive Paper

Expensive Paper

An Expensive Piece of Paper

After a fun, hot, and sunburn-inducing weekend down at UVA, I was finally received my expensive piece of paper and put it in it’s new home.

Look’s snazzy.. although the typography of my Virginia Tech diploma is nicer.  Figures.

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Brain Training

Lumosity - Brain Training Logo

Lumosity - Brain Training website

One of the things I did prior to AMP (and have started to do again) is to try to stretch my brain in ways which are different than what I encounter at my job. In the past I have periodically read brain-teasers or thought exercises, but this time I went a different route.

I am not sure how I was turned on to this site, but somehow I ended up at Lumosity. They have a free trial to let you explore the site and their games, which gives you a good sense of how their ‘brain training’ actually works. I am not sure I completely buy their propaganda, but I can tell you that it is both:

   a) a diversion (i.e fun) and

   b) a boost in confidence about your mental acuity (through improvements seen in the games)

Clearly a big jump in one’s improvement is due to practice and a deeper understanding of how the games are structured. However, I found a few games very interesting. One was the fast-food name/order matching game, which attacks one of my weaknesses – name recall. I found that after focusing on that game, I was more apt to actively attempt to remember someone’s name when I meet them, and therefore have a higher probability of remembering the name.

Again, I am not completely sold on ‘brain training’, but I think it does have some positive benefits. Give it a try and see what you think.

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Filed under General, UVA

Fun with R

a Riemannian circle

A Great Circle (a Riemannian circle), the basis of his maps

I came across this today on Flowing Data (a blog which I sometimes nod my head at, and (at times) frown and shake my head slowly).

Here is some interesting things you can do with R, a tool I learned to use during my Masters program at UVA. We never got into this kind of use, so it is a bit of an eye opener.

http://flowingdata.com/2011/05/11/how-to-map-connections-with-great-circles/

The flight data in the Flowingdata example follows the same method as

http://paulbutler.org/archives/visualizing-facebook-friends/ used for facebook connections.

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Filed under Data, UVA

Completing AMP@UVA

Empty Diploma Frame

"Waiting for the Paper"

As May 22nd draws near, I have started reflecting on the time spend at UVA during the Accelerated Masters Program in Systems Engineering. I was surrounded by a great set of folks in the cohort, and ended up making some good connections with some bright individuals.

For those interested in more ‘in-the-trenches’ thoughts on the AMP program, take a look at one of my

cohort’s blog:  http://uva-amp.blogspot.com/

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Filed under Systems Engineering, UVA