(process,funny) Six Sigma

Best stuff I've seen on Six Sigma in a long time:

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=208900&cid=17033026 says/asks:

Six Sigma -- I find it hilarious. Basically, they took the work of Walter Edward Demmings, widely regarded as the driving force behind Japan's industrial turnaround, repackaged it, and called it "new". Demmings cane up with "kaizen" or the process of continual improvement. Basically, no process is complete unless it has a feedback and improving mechanism

For anyone who is an expert: What has six sigma added to this paradigm?

Then http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=208900&cid=17033512 replies:


At least in GE's implementation of Six Sigma. They found a way to take what is essentially the engineering version of the scientific process, wrap it in so much red tape that it is unworkable (a 12-step process that really had 15 steps) , and put it in the hands of every worker in the company. Originally they gave bonuses for doing it, but eventually they took those away and declared "Thou shalt not get a raise without a Six Sigma Project." What ended up happening is that people refused to make any process or product improvements unless they were part of somebody's (preferably their own) Six Sigma project.

It was ridiculous. You ended up with one person optimizing a part of a process, while the person in the next cubicle was eliminating the entire process in favor of a more unwieldy one. Then, six months later, somebody else would start a new project that essentially put the original process back in place. Of course the problem was that they were using a distinctly product-oriented procedure, and trying to use it to solve process problems.

Don't even get me started on the math. They would assume normal distributions for everything. Never mind that one of the steps was to prove normalcy. If that test proved it wasn't normal, you were instructed by your "Black Belt" to assume normalcy anyway -- even if a Weibull distribution was clearly the correct choice (like in timed exercises). Idiots, I say. And then they had PHB's (called "Black Belts" and "Master Black Belts") trying to tell engineers how to do math, when they didn't even know how to use a simple Q test. If they saw a data point that didn't support their theory, they just called it an outlier, and deleted it.

You'd think after nearly two years of not working at GE, I wouldn't get so wound up about it. I guess as an engineer, it really gets my goat when people use math improperly.

[I normally don't copy entire tracts of text, preferring to just give the URL and leave it at that, but in this case it seemed necessary and useful...]


Schneier on Security: BT Acquires Counterpane


Bruce Schneier's Counterpane Security has been acquired by British Telecom.  Read comments on this page.  In particular, I like Bruce's nomination of "Best blog comment ever", which shows the difference between security as theorised and security as practised :-)



(religion) The Church of the Non-Believers


Thanks to a former colleague ( http://diviya.blogspot.com/2006/10/one-post-too-many.html ) for the link.

Nice article, worth a quick read. A bit long-winded, and there is much that even agnostics and atheists will disagree with, since it seems to explore all sides equally :-)

But it's too philosophical and too abstract for my taste.

I'd appeal more to personal experience with religious people, though I agree that would be difficult to convey in an article. Your parents, your friends, relatives, and colleagues at work affect you much more directly than Khomeini or Pat Robertson.

I've always maintained that it is not religion, but the overt display of religion, and organised religion, that are the problems. I don't know how far that's true, but it certainly seems that way to me.

Overtly religious (this is almost always the same as "overly religious", but there are exceptions here and there) people eventually acquire a selective humility. They are humble to their God, and pretty egotistical and nasty to the rest of the world.

Of course, they have no clue they are even egotistical, let alone nasty -- they'd be stunned if you told them, and probably die of a kernel panic if you managed to prove it to them! (Fortunately it's practically impossible to convince them, so we will never be guilty of murder!)

In most cases they have lost the capacity for self-introspection that is needed to realise what they are doing to the other person. They are so immersed in their God that they can never say to themselves "what if I'm wrong", because it automatically means the same as "what if God is wrong"!

In fact, they seem to really and truly believe that they have a direct line to God. It's essentially the same thing that makes "Muslims" like Khomeini issue fatwas against Rushdie or "Christians" like Pat Robertson call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Overtly religious people issue fatwas every day, whether they realise it or not, and whether they say them out loud or not.

On the other hand, my experience has been that atheists (and the very few covertly religious people I know) are pretty nice people!

That, to me, is the biggest reason for advocating, if not atheism outright, at least the suppression of religious exhibitionism.

PS: I think the author of the article must be a nice guy. His article ends: "...no matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there's always a chance we could turn out to be wrong." :-)


finally, competition for George Lazenby

Daniel Craig!

Here's hoping he is also a 1-shot wonder like George :-)


Schneier on Security: Perceived Risk vs. Actual Risk


Very serious article, but I was struck by the very humorous way he describes a natural human characteristic:

The brain is a beautifully engineered get-out-of-the-way machine that constantly scans the environment for things out of whose way it should right now get. That's what brains did for several hundred million years -- and then, just a few million years ago, the mammalian brain learned a new trick: to predict the timing and location of dangers before they actually happened.

Our ability to duck that which is not yet coming is one of the brain's most stunning innovations, and we wouldn't have dental floss or 401(k) plans without it. But this innovation is in the early stages of development. The application that allows us to respond to visible baseballs is ancient and reliable, but the add-on utility that allows us to respond to threats that loom in an unseen future is still in beta testing.

The rest of the article is equally engrossing -- and it's a pretty short article so go read it.  (Don't be fooled by the size of the scrollbar in your browser window; this is because there are dozens of reader comments below the article)


(funny,quotes) Why I (still) cant stand Emacs :-)

...and probably never will.

An old tagline comes to mind: Emacs is my operating system, Linux is my device driver!

Anyway, here's a very nice article from my favourite Linux site, with some quotes below. The author, Jon Corbet (editor of LWN) is well known for his dry humour as well as his objectivity. Few people who profess to use emacs as much as he does would make the kind of digs that he has taken in this article!


Some funny (and some not so funny) quotes, with occasional comments from me in square brackets:

The addition of an IRC client would have been useful, but this is Emacs, so they added two different ones.
The wrong key sequence can occasionally lead to hallucinogenic results, to the point that there is a special command ("view-lossage") to answer those "how the hell did I make it do that?" questions.
Even some relatively trivial customizations require typing in Lisp code, which, for some strange reason, not everybody wants to learn how to do. [well Duh!]
There is also an entire branch in the physical therapy field dedicated to the treatment of little-finger injuries caused by excessive Emacs use.
There is a new "calc" mode which is truly scary in the things it can do. [I don't even want to know what that means...]
There is a built-in spreadsheet with all the usual features and some unusual ones - like the ability to enter cell formulas in Lisp.
[A spreadsheet inside a text editor? What's next, a flight simulator?]
The current NEWS file gives a lengthy overview of the changes - though somehow it omits the important addition of a Tetris game.
And vi simply lacks a number of more advanced features; it was never meant to contain mail clients, RSS readers, calendars, or psychoanalysis programs.
[the last one I can answer: using vi will not drive you insane, so no psychoanalysis is needed!]
Emacs is an interactive user interface development environment which happens to be very good at editing text.
[aaah -- I get it. The Lotus Notes of text editors :-)]