Friday, August 24, 2007


The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise. The void is nearly a billion light-years across.

It isn't a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.

"Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size." The universe is populated with visible stars, gas and dust, but most of the matter in the universe is invisible. Scientists know something is there, because they can measure the gravitational effects of the so-called dark matter. Voids exist, but they are typically relatively small.

How large is this new discovery? It's nearly a billion light-years in diameter.

Since it's a void, we can't take a photo of it. However, to see a depiction, click here. The image above is actually a
part of the three-dimensional distribution of clumps of dark matter in our universe, produced by an extensive survey using the Hubble telescope. Click here to read about that image.

How far is a li

A light-year is the distance that light traverses in one calendar year. The distance is easy to remember. It's 9.5 trillion kilometers so it can be rounded up to a tidy 10 trillion kilometers. In miles, a light-year is 5.9 trillion miles so it can be rounded up to an almost equally tidy 6 trillion miles.

We can try to grasp the magnitude of this number if we relate it to distances on a human scale. It's almost a hundred miles from Chicago to Milwaukee. It's two thousand miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. Our planet's diameter is about 8,000 miles. In our solar system, the earth is 93 million miles distant from the sun.

We've already gone to the sun and, still, the distance falls far short; far, far short of 6 trillion miles. It's simply just difficult to visualize and appreciate these distances.
On a cosmic scale, the kilometer or mile is just too small to be useful. (Let's stick with kilometers.) Astronomy, therefore, uses the light-year as its measuring stick. A light-year, to repeat, is 10 trillion kilometers.

There's a second way to comprehend a light-year. Don't express it as a number and, instead, express it as a unit of time.

Ten trillion kilometers is the distance that light will travel in a calendar year. A star one light-year away is 10 trillion kilometers distant. Since its light took a calendar year to reach us, then we're actually looking at the way it appeared one year ago. In other words, we're looking at a one-year old image of that star. (So much for "real time.") As it so happens, the nearest star after our Sun is 4.2 light-years away. When we look at it, we're looking at a four year old image of that star.

Earlier, you read that the earth is 93 million miles, or nearly 150 million kilometers, away from our Sun. If you do the math, it may surprise you to learn that it took eight minutes for the light of the sun to arrive to us. In other words, sunlight is eight minutes old.

We learned a second way to grasp these vast magnitudes. We can express distance in terms of time. The sun is eight minutes away. What about the moon? It's far enough that it takes 1.25 seconds for light to reach us. In other words, moonlight is 1.25 seconds old!

Keep this concept in mind.

The distance to the next nearest big galaxy, the sister of our own Milky Way,
the Andromeda Galaxy, is 21 quintillion kilometers.

That's 21,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilometers.
  1. A thousand has three zeros: 000.
  2. A million is a thousand thousand and has six zeros: 000,000.
  3. A billion is a thousand million and has nine zeros: 000,000,000.
  4. A trillion is a thousand billion and has 12 zeros: 000,000,000,000.
  5. A quadrillion is a thousand trillion and has 15 zeros: 000,000,000,000,000.
  6. A quintillion is a thousand quadrillion and has 18 zeros: 000,000,000,000,000,000.
The Andromeda Galaxy, as you see below, is an awesome sight. I had the privilege of seeing it.

This beautiful thing is 2.3 million light-years away. Put another way, we're looking at it as it looked 2.3 million years ago.

Back to the void.

How large again is this newly-discovered void? It's estimated to be a billion light-years across. That's nearly 500 times the distance from our galaxy to Andromeda.

That void is so large that the light of a star at one of its ends would take a billion years to reach the opposite end!

God works on a vast scale, doesn't He?

The Source Document

here for one of the news reports that announced the discovery of this huge void. This void was just discovered.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Book Review

There are only about 13 to 15 million Jews in the world. [(Wikipedia. Jewish Population. and (Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Population of the World.]

Estimates are difficult to come by of their aggregate wealth but their financial success, as a people, is truly remarkable.

Jews account for less than one quarter of one percent (0.23%) of the world's population. I estimate their aggregate wealth at $500 to $700 billion. The world, on the other hand, has an estimated aggregate wealth of $35 to 37 trillion.
The world's population, as of 2006, was estimated at 6.6 billion.

How do the figures relate? While the Jewish people account for only 0.23% of the world's population, they account for 1.25% to 2% of the world's wealth.

I had to extrapolate the estimates of the aggregate wealth of the Jewish people as well as of the world. For the world, my source was Capgemini, a prestigious U.S.-based consulting firm. [Capgemini. World Wealth Report.]

My research uncovered a lot of material about American Jews. I will quote only two sources here. I am not anti-Semitic and I wanted to select viewpoints that were as objective as possible. The first source was the report of a college professor's study on the impact of religion on wealth. She reported that:
American Jewish household certainly have a greater median net worth than people of other faiths: $151,000 compared to $40,000. [Keister Lisa. Ohio State Research. Ohio State University.]
The second was an American Jew's own analysis. [Silbiger, Steven. 2000. The Phenomenon of the Jews: Seven Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People.] His article contained a lot of interesting tidbits, two of which I shall repeat here:
  1. Forty five percent of the top 40 of the Forbes 400 richest Americans are Jewish.
  2. One third of all American millionaires are Jewish.
I am amazed at the magnitude of this disproportionate ratio so when I came across this book entitled “Values, Prosperity, and the Talmud,” I promptly read it. Subtitled “Business Lessons from the Ancient Rabbis,” I read further that:
the Talmud (which means “study”) is a comprehensive manual for living that covers almost every aspect of life.
It emphasizes business matters because commerce, more than any other human activity, tests our moral mettle and reveals our true character, and because business offers us some of the best opportunities to do good deeds such as giving to charity, providing employment, and building prosperity in our communities and the world.
Rather than demonizing wealth and trade, the Talmud teaches us to treat commerce as a wonderful opportunity for improvement, challenging us to think of work and money outside the narrow focus of self-interest.
That sounds more than reasonable. There’s wisdom in that logic. I especially love the clause, “commerce, more than any other human activity, tests our moral mettle and reveals our true character.”

The author, Mr. Larry Kahaner, systematically organized and summarized the lessons he spoke of. Each chapter was devoted to a lesson and was sprinkled with anecdotes and sayings. The most surprising insight I had was the unsurprising nature of the lessons from the Talmud. The lessons emphasize honest conduct and fair dealings. They also emphasize respect and dignity for our fellow men. Upon reflection, the Talmud’s lessons should not have come as a big surprise. A tome this ancient can be expected to contain the fruit of generations of scholars who have tested and debated the merit of each sentence. If that is so, then the Talmud must contain statements of principle. Principles, of course, are self-evident truths. Principles are to human values as water is to the oceans. Principles cannot be distilled any further. Below is each chapter, its theme, and one or more favorite lessons from that chapter. My remarks are italicized.

The spirituality of money
  1. The ultimate role of money is to afford individuals and companies the time and resources to learn, grow spiritually, and do good deeds.
  2. Profitable companies have an additional responsibility to do good deeds with their money by increasing community prosperity through jobs.
  3. Financially successful companies focus on pleasing customers, respecting employees, and producing excellent products and services. Companies that strive solely for profit will fail.
Work as a holy act
  1. Work is considered a holy act, and all work has intrinsic dignity, no matter what the job.
  2. The main practical purpose of work is to earn money. However, work also builds self-esteem by allowing people to support themselves, their family, and the community. Work is our contribution to those around us.
  3. A day of rest during the week is necessary for a person's all-around well-being. It increases productivity as well.
  4. Strike a balance between work and leisure. Too much of either is harmful.
Treating workers well pays dividends
  1. Wages must be paid promptly.
  2. Employers are obligated to preserve and protect the workplace. It also must be a safe place to work.
  3. Never humiliate or berate an employee.
  4. Employers must direct their employees closely, letting them know precisely what is expected of them.
  5. Local customs for wages and working conditions should always prevail.
  6. Benevolent managers attract and retain the most productive workers. Leaders set the example for a company’s behavior.
Giving and getting a fair day’s work
  1. Employees may not engage in any activity outside their regular work that will impair their at-work performance.
  2. Employees must work a full workday.
  3. An individual should not seek a new job or engage in interviews unless he is truly interested in changing positions. A person may not take a job from someone else.
  4. I think this last one is less relevant today:
  5. Work close to home, even if it means taking a lower-paying job.
The bonding of corporate profits and ethics
  1. Profiteering on necessary commodities is not permitted.
  2. So many disgraced business leaders failed to practice this one: Even honest companies must avoid any possible appearance of impropriety in order to keep their reputations above reproach.
  3. As individuals, more of us should practice this one: The use of the corporate veil is not acceptable. All managers are responsible for the behavior of their companies. Every employee is responsible for acting ethically.
  4. You can find a lot of these especially in most competitive retail markets: All products must have a money-back guarantee.
  5. Adam Smith would be happy to see this one: The right price is determined by the marketplace—consumer and seller. Both sides have the same power to set prices.
  6. I think this is less relevant today: The seller must make sure the consumer knows exactly what he or she is buying.
  7. And so is this: “Caveat emptor” is not an acceptable credo. Merchants can show their products and services in the most flattering manner, and even emphasize their positive attributes, but they must also call attention to any faults.
  8. Buyers, too, have an ethical duty: Buyers may not show an interest in goods unless they intend to make a purchase.
Balancing the environment and profits
  1. Causing pollution is morally unacceptable.
  2. There is no such thing as local pollution. Locally produced pollution can have an impact on places and people located far away.
  3. About efficiency and economy of resources: Do not use more materials than necessary.
  4. Manufacturing processes that produce waste products are inefficient and less profitable. Manufacturing processes should mimic nature’s economy.
  5. Natural resources may be exploited but not wasted in order to produce profits.
  6. About balancing progress with the environment: Environmental health must be balanced with economic growth. Neither is more important than the other.
The rules of partnerships, deals, and debt
  1. When major stakeholders like CEOs stand to reap considerable buyout packages, this is frequently ignored—usually to everyone else’s detriment: Despite overwhelmingly positive factors, if two corporate cultures are not compatible, the merger or partnership between them ultimately will fail.
  2. The written agreement and honor: Honor all agreements with precisely written contracts.
  3. Lending money and being repaid: Money lending must be handled as if both sides were engaged in a business partnership; the loan must be for an activity designed to yield a profit.
  4. Lenders should not lend money to those with a low expectation of repayment.
  5. Lenders may not harass or embarrass debtors.
  6. Honor and repayment of debt: Bankruptcy is not an honorable way out of debt. All loans must be repaid in full.
Competition is for true competitors only
  1. Do not compete with established companies unless your products and services are substantially different in price, quality, and selection.
  2. A small company can successfully compete with larger companies by finding an under-served niche.
  3. Milton Friedman and Adam Smith would be happy to see this one: Robust competition always benefits consumers.
Education is a lifelong process
  1. Learning is a lifelong process. People must continue their education throughout their careers.
  2. Employee learning should be focused on critical thinking and not education by rote.
  3. Group learning is more effective than learning alone, because education involves asking questions and exchanging ideas.
  4. What’s one difference between information and knowledge? Students should differentiate between information and knowledge. Information is a commodity and assumes value only after it is filtered and analyzed and becomes knowledge.
Charity means more than giving
  1. Charity is everyone’s obligation. Donations kept close to home are the most blessed.
  2. Helping an individual or company with a loan, a job, or a partnership is the most noble form of charity.
  1. We were taught these two growing up: Reputations can only be built cumulatively, through protracted hard work, real deeds, and exemplary actions—not as the result of window dressing or short-term, high-impact efforts.
  2. In the final analysis, a good name is the prime factor in business success and the only element that endures long after the people who created it are gone.


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Mortimer Adler divided knowledge into three classes:
  • statements of facts,
  • statements about facts, and
  • statements about statements.

IF A THESIS contains statements of facts, then it is nothing more than a report.
For example, if your "thesis" is about "experiments conducted by the American Cancer Institute that show 70 percent of rats subjected to cigarette smoke over a two-year period died of lung cancer," the paper can hardly develop into anything more than a report about the experiments and their results.

IF A CONCLUSION is drawn from this statement of fact, then the thesis advances to Adler's second order of knowledge: statements about facts. At this level, the paper could suggest that "scientific experiments show a close link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer." With this, you've made a statement that is not entirely self-evident, one that will not be universally accepted, one that you will have to defend. This is a thesis of the second order.

TAKE THIS LOGIC ONE STEP FURTHER and make a statement about this statement. Following the example, building on the proposition that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, propose that the U.S. Constitution be amended to prohibit the production and sale of cigarettes. With this, you'll generate the spark of an informative, potentially provocative, and animated essay. Adler would classify this as a thesis of the highest order. You have created a thesis that makes a statement about a statement. To defend this, your essay has to develop logically by referring back to the statements at the two lower levels. You have to present arguments (statements about facts) as well as facts and examples (statements of facts) to support those arguments. To support the thesis that the Constitution should be amended, you can argue that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer; and to support this argument, you state the fact that experiments have shown that 70 percent of rats exposed to cigarette smoke died of lung cancer. This thesis, consisting of a statement about a statement, requires a layered foundation.

About Mortimer Adler: He was a modern day philosopher and teacher. He was a student of Aristotle, Plato, and other giants of philosophy. He taught at Columbia University and passed away in 2001.


* Waddell, Craig. Thesis Writing. Internet. October 2007.
* Adler, Mortimer. Dialectic. London: Kegan Paul, 1927.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

begun studying to become a doctor,
had started a business,
pursued my MBA,
etcetera ...

Or when is the best time to plant a tree?

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now.

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One step beyond Disaster Recovery

I recently advised a medium-sized commercial bank in the Philippines about a stalled project to create a business continuity solution.

Financial institutions in the Philippines do not face equivalent data integrity and safety requirements as they do here in the U.S. Still, management knew that they had to improve their IT capabilities. Their primary data center is located in their head office and it’s vulnerability surfaced at every coup attempt.

They learned about me from another client. Click
here for that story.

The bank was trying to install an EMC Asynchronous SRDF solution.

I briefly worked for EMC U.S.A. as a systems engineer. I’m familiar with the product line and the subject of disaster recovery & business continuity in general.

Disaster Recovery (DR) aptly describes the process of recovering from a disaster.

DR can be illustrated with the knowledge that all hard drives crash. It’s not a question of “if,” but a question of “when.” When the drives of a “production box” crash, business grinds to a halt unless and until the data can be restored and the server restarted. The process of restoring the data and restarting the server is disaster recovery.
A “production box” is tech-speak for a computer server that’s serving a live network.
Operations can grind to a halt for any number of reasons. Fire, a software crash, human error, network failure, and a power blackout are common culprits.

DR planning begins by defining the acceptable minimum values of two factors. The first is called the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and the second is the Recovery Point Objective (RPO).
RTO is the amount of time you require to recover your lost or damaged data in order to become operational again. Can your business tolerate being down for several days or several hours? Whether it’s days or hours, this figure is your RTO.
RPO, on the other hand, is the amount of data accumulated over time that you can tolerate losing. Can your business afford to lose a day’s worth of data? If so, then your data must be backed up on a daily basis. A retail operation, like a supermarket, that logs hundreds or thousands of transactions a day may require several backups made during the course of the day.
“Business Continuity” (BC) extends the scope of preparation, plans, and resources past DR. Those two factors, RTO and RPO, figure into this as well.
BC’s goal is to ensure the business will be able to continue operating through crises and disasters. Accomplishing that requires going beyond the processes and equipment for restoring data and replacing equipment. Indeed, BC refers to making plans and preparing resources that, among other things, will prevent the loss of data. It refers to advance preparation in order to cope with the unexpected.

A good BC plan has:
  1. identified the most likely disaster scenarios and their impact on the business;
  2. determined the “mission-critical,” important, and less-important processes, systems, and services of the company;
  3. established its priorities for supporting the mission-critical components;
  4. developed and implemented the most redundant and fault-tolerant system possible within its budget;
  5. several alternate strategies
  6. taught and regularly practice the plan with its people; and
  7. the continuing support of senior management.
“Mission-critical” is tech-speak for the most important processes, systems, and services that a business must have in order to fulfill its mission. What is a mission? For a hospital, it could be the 24/7 availability of patient information.

“Redundant” is tech-speak for a backup that can temporarily take the place of a failed primary system.

“Fault-tolerant” is tech-speak for the characteristic of being able to withstand glitches.

Certain industries and companies require uninterrupted IT services. For them, BC is mandatory. The airline industry and financial institutions are examples. The financial sector, in fact, has to follow stringent guidelines for protecting and maintaining the security of its data. These companies must have minimal downtime. How minimal?
A calendar year has 8,760 hours. To give you an idea of the pressure to perform, consider that a 99.9% uptime is “only” equivalent to 8,751 hours.
Imagine the trouble a bank would face if it's nine non-operational hours occurred on the 15th. Employees would not receive their pay.
It turns out that a 99.99% uptime is required to stay operational 8,759 hours of the year! That’s still one hour short of the goal!
When the availability or integrity of data is compromised for any reason, businesses risk losing revenue and market share, experiencing decreased productivity, damaging their reputation, eroding their customers’ loyalty, and, in certain industries, being penalized for failing to comply with mandated regulations.

I enjoy BC planning because it's an activity that can incorporate numerous improvements for a little or no additional cost. It's a rare opportunity to deliver a lot of added value beyond the client's initial expectations.

There are several ways to go with DR and BC. You can create it in-house or outsource some or all of its aspects.

I'll cover both but the next entry will focus on the offerings of two established players in the field of storage, DR, and BC. These are the two
I’m familiar with, EMC and NetApp.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007


Also Pfizer, Pepsi, and Alzheimer's research.

This is humor.

IN PHARMACOLOGY, ALL DRUGS HAVE TWO NAMES: a trade name and generic name.

For example, while
Tylenol is the trade name, its generic name is Acetaminophen. Aleve is called Naproxen. Amoxil is called Amoxicillin and Advil is called Ibuprofen.

It took a while before the FDA settled on a generic name for Viagra.

After careful consideration
by a team of government experts, it finally announced that it settled on the generic name of Mycoxafloppin. Also considered were Mycoxafailin, Mydixadrupin, Mydixarizin, Dixafix, and of course, Ibepokin.

In a related development, Pfizer announced that Viagra will soon be available in liquid form. It will be marketed by Pepsi as a power drink intended for use as a mixer. Imagine! It will now be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one. Obviously, this is no longer a soft drink! It also gives new meaning to the terms, "cocktail," "highball," and the good old-fashioned "stiff drink."
Pepsi, unlike the FDA, quickly came up with a winner! The new concoction will be called MOUNTandDO.

Finally, did you know that more money today is being spent on breast implants and Viagra than on Alzheimer research? That doesn't bode well. It could mean that by 2040 we'll have a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections who absolutely have no recollection of what to do with them!

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Thursday, August 2, 2007


This is humor.

After a long silence, the doctor looked up and said, "Woody, the good news is I can cure your headaches. The bad new is that it will require your castration. You have a very rare anatomical condition. The condition causes your testicles to press on your spine and the resulting pressure creates your continuous headache. I’m afraid the only way to relieve that pressure is to remove your balls."

Woody was shocked and depressed. He wondered if he had anything to live for. But he was a realist and so he decided he would sacrifice his masculinity and go under the knife.

After the operation, he noticed a huge difference. For the first time in 20 years, he was pain-free! Yes! Pain-free! As he leapt to his feet, the tenderness between his legs instantly reminded him of the immense sacrifice he made. He had exchanged an important part of himself to become pain-free.

He gingerly made his way out. As he walked down the street, his mood lightened. His pace quickened. He felt reborn! He would make a new beginning and live a new life. He spied a men's clothing store and thought, "That's what I need to start my new life: a new suit."

He entered the shop and excitedly told the tailor, "I'd like a new suit." The elderly man eyed him briefly and said, "Let's see: size 44 long." Woody was amazed, "That's right, how did you know?"

"Been in the business 60 years!" the tailor replied. Woody tried it on. The suit fit perfectly. As Woody admired himself in the mirror, the tailor asked, "Well, how about a new shirt?" Without hesitation, Woody replied, "Sure!" Again, the tailor eyed Woody and said, "Let's see: sleeves 34 and neck 16." Woody was surprised. “That's right, how did you know?"

"Been in the business 60 years!" the tailor replied again. Once more, Woody tried on the new shirt and it fit perfectly. As Woody examined himself in the mirror, the tailor casually suggested, "Would you like some new underwear too?" Woody thought for a moment and said, "Why not!" The elderly man said, "Let's see: size 36." Woody laughed, "Ah ha! Sorry old man. You’ve made a mistake. I've worn a size 34 since I was 18 years old."

Slowly, the tailor shook his head, "You can't wear a size 34. A size 34 would push your testicles up against the base of your spine and give you one hell of a headache." Aray.

A new suit, $400. A new shirt, $36. New underwear, $6.

And a second opinion, priceless!

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