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Greetings from Vienna, Virginia. Gena and I have been living here for about 27 years now, and I've been in the Washington area for over 30 years (hard to believe!). I retired from Noblis, a non-profit science, technology, and strategy organization, in January 2017. I continue to consult on traffic operations and "Intelligent Transportation Systems" - the application of sensor, communications, and information processing technologies to improve surface transportation, including connected and autonomous vehicles and smart cities. More information on my consulting is available at www.mcgurrin.com.
I enjoy traveling, playing tennic, and playing around with software, electronics, and robotics. I'm also the webmaster for the alumni of Penn State's Individual in a Complex Society interest house and administer the ICS facebook page.
Gena also recently retired from the Department of Energy. Our son Glenn is 23 and is an IT consultant.
everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really."
"We don't ask consumers what they want. They don't know. Instead we apply our brain power to what they need, and will want, and make sure we're there, ready"
"The street finds its own use for things."
"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet."
"Information wants to be free."
"The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from."
"The notion that standards engender successful industries seems as likely to me as the aboriginal Cargo Cult of New Guinea (build an airport of straw & twigs, & the great silver birds will swoop down out of the sky, bringing Manna from heaven.) I think it's rather the case that successful industries engender standards after the fact, based on their experiences thus far, in order to further their success."
"The idea that the rise of standards would reduce innovation was a mistake. In fact, innovation accelerates with the rise of standards."
"We can no longer depend on privacy through obscurity."
"Open systems exercise the entrepreneurial part of our economy and call into question proprietary systems and broadly mandated monopolies. In an open system we compete with our imagination, not with a lock and key. The result is not only a large number of successful companies, but a wide variety of choice for the consumer and an ever more nimble commercial sector, one that can change and grow."
"Open architectures drive integration. Integration
drives innovation and growth."
"Electronic records aren't really records."
"The last time I used a hammer, my hand slipped and I hit my thumb. And for a split second, I unconsciously reached for the Undo key..."
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
"People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they're too stupid and they've already taken over the world,"
"Trust the computer industry to shorten 'Year 2000' to 'Y2K.' It was this kind of thinking that caused the problem in the first place."
"Architecture is politics."
Metcalfe's Law - "The value of a system grows as approximately the square of the number of users of the system." Robert Metcalfe
In 2008, I was visiting a major state university, and to my dismay, learned that the transportation engineering graduate students, had, for the most part, never learned anything about programming or software. And this is a school with a center specializing in applying advanced communications and information technology to transportation. In my opinion, anyone that uses technical, analytic, or simulation software, or who may be responsible for procuring computer-based systems should have at least some exposure to programming. It is in this spirit that I pass along this excerpt:
"If you've never programmed a computer, you should. There's nothing like it in the whole world. When you program a computer, it does exactly what you tell it to do. It's like designing a machine -- any machine, like a car, like a faucet, like a gas-hinge for a door -- using math and instructions. It's awesome in the truest sense: it can fill you with awe...
Most of us will never build a car. Pretty much none of us will
ever create an aviation system. Design a building. Lay out a city.
Those are complicated machines, those things, and they're off-limits to the likes of you and me. But a computer is like, ten times more complicated, and it will dance to any tune you play. You can learn to write simple code in an afternoon. Start with a language like Python, which was written to give non-programmers an easier way to make the machine dance to their tune. Even if you only write code for one day, one afternoon, you have to do it. Computers can control you or they can lighten your work -- if you want to be in charge of your machines, you have to learn to write code."
Chapter 7, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
And by the way, if you haven't read Little Brother do so, no matter what your age. It's classified as teen fiction, but it's also an important book. The author Neil Gaiman sums it up nicely: "I'd recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I've read this year, and I'd want to get it into the hands of as many smart 13 year olds, male and female, as I can. Because I think it'll change lives. Because some kids, maybe just a few, won't be the same after they've read it. Maybe they'll change politically, maybe technologically. Maybe it'll just be the first book they loved or that spoke to their inner geek. Maybe they'll want to argue about it and disagree with it. Maybe they'll want to open their computer and see what's in there. I don't know. It made me want to be 13 again right now and reading it for the first time, and then go out and make the world better or stranger or odder. It's a wonderful, important book, in a way that renders its flaws pretty much meaningless."
"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at
"We must not confuse
dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul
of America dies with it."
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the
guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
"If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu."
original source unknown
"...we are not against censorship because we realize there is always the danger of something being said."
"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security."
"The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
John F. Kennedy
"There's no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican highway."
"Sound bites and sound policy shouldn't be confused."
"Both gas and government will expand to fill the available space."
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing, those who count the votes decide everything."
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old order of things, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
"To believe something is to believe that it is true; therefore a reasonable person believes each of his beliefs to be true; yet experience has taught him to expect that some of his beliefs, he knows not which, will turn out to be false. A reasonable person believes, in short, that each of his beliefs is true and that some of them are false."
“I’m not a very smart person but you’re going to have winter every year, I think—you may as well get into it.”
"An idea should not be held responsbile for the people that agree with it."
"In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity."
"No man is free who works for a living."
networks are the blood and veins of economic development."
"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent;
but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries
of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine
meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."
“Security and privacy are not opposite ends of a seesaw; you don't have to accept less of one to get more of the other. Think of a door lock, a burglar alarm and a tall fence…. The debate isn't security versus privacy. It's liberty versus control.”
“If you can't open it, you don't own it.”
"...reality has a well-known liberal bias."
"If aliens are smart enough to travel through space, why do they keep abducting the dumbest people on earth?"
"Stability is a function of momentum."
"The world is run by those who show up."
"It is impossible to cross a chasm in a thousand small steps."
"When there is chaos, there is opportunity."
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
"Forwards who pass the ball in the box are not forwards."