Tuesday, August 28, 2012

IntelliFest 2012, Java, Rules and Expert Systems


As I've stated before, to me Java is a wonderful lady.  I really like her, possibly love her.  We've dated on more than one occasion since we started hanging out in 1997, and I think I can call her a really good friend.  However, I'm not married to her. I'm married to OPSJ, Drools, ILOG JRules, Blaze Advisor, Jess, etc., etc.  Java is my mistress, my love, my flame.  Expert systems are my many wives. I'm also married to the world of Unix and C/C++.   Since I'm a consultant, I'm a polygamist.  I have my favorite wife but I'm married to all of them.

So, when I state an opinion please understand that you guys are married to Java whereas I am more of a philanderer; forever taking pleasure from her beauty, reveling in her former simplicity and functionality, supporting her, but rarely going out in public with her.  When I do go out in public with her, the community whispers about us - mostly about me - and some aspersions are cast recklessly about the neighborhood concerning my character.  :-)

BTW, even though I may be verbose at times, I rarely "rant" about anything, unless the issue concerns such as things that touch on the nerves of the entire community. I'm just having fun with a bunch of guys who seem to have the same interests that I have.  I like the old adage, "If you're not having fun at what you're doing you're either doing the wrong thing or you're doing it wrong."  :-)

So, on that idea of fun, this October 22 - 26 if you can find it in your schedule, come out to San Diego (especially Delmar Beach - WOW!!!) and hang out with some real Uber-Geeks such as

  • Dr. Charles Forgy (who invented Rete, Rete 2, Rete III and Rete-NT) who will be talking on "Where Does Time Go?" - dealing mostly with the problem of benchmarking, one of my favorite topics.
  • Gary Riley (Yes! The inventor of CLIPS - C Language Interface for Production Systems and co-author of THE seminal text book on AI system used in almost all universities today) will be there speaking on "Implementation Comparison of Three Production Systems" 
  • Dr. Stephen Grossberg (who invented Adaptive Reasoning Technology and is considered to be THE God Father of mathematically-based neural networks along with his wife, Dr. Gail Carpenter) who will be talking on "Mind, Brain and Autonomous Artificial Intelligence."  
  • Dr. Doug Lenat (inventor of Cyc, world's largest real knowledgebased system and founder of CycCorp) will be speaking on "Grappling With Human Consensus Reality Knowledge: Lessons From the Trenches"  If you didn't know it, Cyc has about 6 million rules dealing with everything from how sentences are composed to general purpose rules, something that ordinary rulebased systems simply cannot handle.
  •  Dr. Wolfgang Laun (Research Specialist with Alcatel / Thales of Austria) of both Drools and Jess fame will be hosting a boot camp on "Design Patterns in Production Systems" - something that we in this field have been clamoring for incessantly for many years now.  Well, I have...
  • Kenny Shi (Software Engineering Manager for eBay) will be speaking on "Emotional Business Rules" that deals with fraud detection.
  • Carol Ann Berlioz-Matignon (formerly of Neuron-Data, ILOG, VP of FICO, Co-Founder and CEO of Sparkling Logic), a true visionary of the industry who has led rulebased systems further and faster than any ever though possible, will be speaking on "Rules, Business Rules, Decisions, Big Decisions."  This should prove popular with both geek and business analysts.
  • Neil Raden (James Taylor's partner at one time and uber-geek in Decision Management) will be speaking on "Decision Management on Steroids: Will Big Data Tools Trump Rules?"  Truly this one will draw lots of controversy if nothing else.
  • Paul King (Founder and CEO of ASERT) will be hosting a talk on "Leveraging Scripting Languages and DSLs for Expressing Rules"
  • Helgi Helgason (Founder and CEO of Peseptio) will be talking on "Attention Capabilities of AI Systems"
  •  James Owen (Founder of KBSC, working in the field with Neuron Data, ILOG, FICO, OPSJ, writer for InfoWorld in the field since 2003, etc, etc) once again will be talking about benchmarks.  (Surely you didn't think I would leave my name out of this list?  Did you?  Really?)
  • Dr. Jacob Feldman (founder and CEO of Open Rules) will be speaking on "Modeling and Solving Decision Optimization Problems".  Don't miss this one if at all possible!
  • Rajat Monga (Engineer at Google who is working DistBelief - a framework for brain-inspired large-distributed neural networks that is driving progress in areas such as vision and speech) who will be speaking on "Deep Learning at Large Scale".
  • Carlos Seranno-Morales (the other half of Sparkling Logic, the inventor of Advisor, formerly of Neuron Data, FICO, etc, super-Uber-guru) will be speaking on "Converting a Ton of Data Into An Ounce of Knowledge"  Carlos had a knack of making something extremely technical understandable by most everyone and his talks are always very technical so don't miss this one!! 

ALSO, IntelliFest will have Boot Camps!  Red Hat Drools with Mark Proctor et cie will be hosting their annual introduction to Drools and Advanced Drools.  Jason Morris of Jess Fame (the one and only authorized instructor for Jess) will be there as well.  Wolfgang will, of course, have boot camp the day before the conference begins as well.  His talk is shown above but I think it's the boot camp so come a day early if don't want to miss his "talk."  

We are still missing some really great speakers from previous ORF conferences, especially those two or three from Canada and Mexico.  Hard times seem to have hit everywhere.  We also haven't had many speakers from PegaSystems, Visual Rules, Corticon or FICO this year.  Just Sparkling Logic, ILOG and Drools.  Most of our guys seem to be from the big name guys of Google, eBay and the hard-core sciences.  Check out http://www.IntelliFest.org for more information or to register.

So, be there or be square.  :-)


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Has Lance Fallen From Grace? - NOT in My Book!


I just heard the national news.  It's now official.  Lance Armstrong has been, or soon will be, stripped of his seven medals for the Tour de France.  And he will be stripped of his Olympic Medal.  Why?  He's just tired of fighting the financial might and power of the US Anti-Doping Agency, the USADA.  This is a total abuse of the power of the USADA.  They are trying to force Lance to prove his innocence rather than proving his guilt.

Even a federal judge has said  “The USADA’s conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives.”  If a Federal Judge can say this why can't someone come out and get Lance off the hook?  This is totally insane!!

This man, this American icon, this French idol, this North Texas star, this Dallas/Plano home-town boy, didn't just suddenly become a great bike rider who popped up on the world stage.  He started before high school riding bicycles in road racing events.  He worked his buns off.  He defeated testicular cancer along the way and started a family.  

Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France not five times, which no one else had ever done before, not six times, but seven times!  Not just seven times but seven times in a row!!  No one will ever do that again!  Never!  And someone at the USADA just can't believe that a man can do that and not be on dope.  Idiots!!

And here's the deal:  Lance Armstrong never, EVER failed a drug test after any of the stages of the Tour de France.  EVER!!  Not on any of the races that he ever raced during any point of his career did he EVER fail a drug test.  No one ever accused Lance of using drugs until later in his career and even then they were totally unfounded.  The Washington Post carried a lot of print on this - check out Sally Jenkins continued rant against the USADA and her quotes from the Federal Judges against the USADA as well.  It's enough to make you sick.  

The world needs to rise up and bring the USADA to account for itself for its actions on this and other actions that is has done in the past.  The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — which is supposed to be where athletes can appeal, only they never, ever win — that it’s hard to know where to begin. American athletes have lost 58 of 60 cases before the CAS. Would you want to go before that court?  This is insane!  

Quoting from the Washing Post article:  "Anyone who thinks an athlete has a fair shot in front of CAS should review the Alberto Contador case. Contador was found to have a minuscule, insignificant amount of clenbuterol in his urine during the 2010 Tour de France. After hearing 4,000 pages of testimony and debate, CAS acknowledged that the substance was too small to have been performance-enhancing and that its ingestion was almost certainly unintentional.  Therefore he was guilty. He received a two-year ban.  CAS’s rationale? 'There is no reason to exonerate the athlete so the ban is two years,' one member of the panel said."

Sorry, but the CAS is just totally insane.  


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Forecasting Made Easier - and Cheaper !


Now you don't have an excuse!  Rob J Hyndman and George Athanasopoulos have made it possible to explore the world of forecasting for free - or for a small donation of your own choosing.  Just go over to http://otexts.com/fpp/1/ and read the on-line book.  Rob previously helped write the seminal work with Makridakis and Wheelwright and this is a replacement for that $140 book.  This will eventually be an e-book.

Rob said ( http://otexts.com/fpp/ ) that he made only about $1 per book anyway and that the publisher made all of the money.  So, this time around he would hope that the readers would have the good sense to donate more than a dollar each to help defray the cost of writing and maybe he would actually make a few bucks.  The tools are free.  The book is free.  No more excuses.

Me?  I'm going to start tonight!!  I probably have six or ten books on forecasting and 20 or 30 (more like 50 - 100) printed white papers on the subject that I read from time to time.  Why?  I have to review things that I did in university so that I don't forget.  The fundamentals are ever so important that we should never forget why and how we did things.  When studying more advanced concepts we should always remember the fundamental principals of our particular field of study.

Anyway, get the book online.  If you already have some books, this will just supplement them.  Hyndman is well-recognized as one of the leaders of the forecasting field so you can't go wrong.


"Why Can't The English Teach Their Children How To Speak?"


Ah, the eternal lament of Professor Higgins.  (As played by Rex Harrison in the movie "My Fair Lady" and innumerable actors on the stage in both "My Fair Lady" and "Pymaglion", the predecessor of "My Fair Lady.")  While attending a Webinar by a very major Analytic Vendor this morning (even now in fact) I was struck by the fact that so many college graduates in the field of sales and marketing, native-speaking Americans who should know better, continually end sentences with the infinitive form of the verb "to be."  Infinitely disgraceful. Terrible.  Horrible!

I suppose that this behavior could be forgiven if the speakers were but callow youth, fresh from their collegiate activities where they had been shanghaied from some technical activity, such as engineering, where public speaking is not a normal pursuit, into marketing or business because of their aforementioned indiscretions and possible habitual-absenteeism from their classes.  But that is not the case.  These speakers, ladies and gentlemen, occupy advanced positions of Vice President or Senior Management with years of experience.  These are those who should have attended many classes on public speaking and business communications.  These are those who, above all, should know better than anyone else the importance of proper public speaking.  These are those who should be teaching others the proper methods of public speaking.  And what do I hear?  Nothig but:

And, ahm, ahm,
And this gets you, ahm,
Allow me to, aahhuh
And, uh, and, uhhh
And, finally, ahmm,  from, a, ahmm,  best practices standpoint, ahm, ahm..

Really!  That was, almost, a back-to-back, verbatim, transcript of what is being said at this time.  And, to make matters worse, it is the reporters, both local and national (yes, NBC and its local affiliate here in Dallas, Texas) that is the most egregious perpetrator of all.  I'm sure that the other stations are equally guilty but I don't follow them as faithfully as I do NBC news.  Constantly they end sentences with "... this is where we're at."  This is where we are AT?  It is quite sufficient to say, "This is where we ARE."  The "at" is quite superfluous.  Listen to your office mates from now on and you will hear the same thing now that you are attuned to hear this thing.

In the Southern United States, "can't" quite often rhymes with "paint" and folks say "git" rather than "get".  Unfortunately, the "git" thing is quite common around the English-speaking world, not just the USA.  Another Southern thing is, "I'm fixing to go to the store.  Do you want something there?" Or some other thing.  Never, "I'm going to the store." But, "I'm fixing to go to the store."  What do you need to fix to go the store?  Don't know but we're always fixing to go or fixing to do something to do something else.  It's a Southern thing...  Also, I understand that "ain't" is now in the American Standard Dictionary and has even made inroads into the English Standard Dictionary.  Sad, but true.

Once, not so long ago, I spent quite a bit of time in England on a couple of occasions.  The first time that I was there I determined to adopt a truly English accent to impress my friends back home.  Unfortunately, on the third floor at Lloyds Bank where worked there were at least 15 different accents of the English language:  Cornish, Northern English (Yorkshire, etc), West Midlands, East Midlands, Essex (now that one is almost incomprehensible), Welsh, Cardiff, South Wales, Irish of all kinds (Dublin, Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, Munster), Scot, Highland-Scot, Cockney, Posh (what most consider the "true English accent"), Queens (what the Queen herself speaks), East End (not to be confused with Cockney) - and that's just SOME of the UK part. Then you have the rest of the British Empire: South Africa, Canada, Trinidad, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, The Congo, North Africa etc.

Now, if we throw in the USA from back home we would have had Brooklyn, NYC, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Southern Virginia, Northern Virginia, California, Atlanta, the rest of Georgia, New Orleans, the rest of Southern Louisiana, Northern Louisiana, North Texas, West Texas, East Texas, South Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, East Tennessee, West Tennessee, Mississippi, etc. Yes, almost every state, and sometimes parts of a state, has its own accent in the USA.  Nope!  I decided that my accent was quite good enough and that my version of English was spoken better than most of those around me, even with the decidedly Texas Twang that marked me as an American Traveler.

So, for those of you who might be self-conscious about your own accent when visiting the British Isles these days, don't be.  Or, when speaking in public anywhere, be proud of your own heritage.  But!  And this is important, regardless of your regional accent, your English must be spoken correctly and you must strive to make yourself understood by your audience.  Never use "dese" for "these" or "dem" for "them" nor "po" for "poor."  Poorly spoken English, especially with an overly-broad accent that cannot be understood by your audience, is never appreciated.  Just remember these few main points about the English language itself:
  • A sentence never ends with a preposition
  • A sentence never ends with a verb and especially not with the infinitive form of the verb "to be".
  • Never split an infinitive form of the verb "to be" such as "he will gladly be presented..."
  • Always use the adverb form of an adjective when modifying a verb
When speaking, remember these few points that follow.  Practice them in front of a mirror, with your spouse or with your partner, or with a really good friend or business associate.  
  • Can't never rhymes with paint.  
  • Git should never be used for get.  
  • Completely remove the aaahhh's and the uuuhhh's from your speech patterns.
  • NEVER rush through your presentation.
  • NEVER insert long pauses for effect. (There should be an effective balance)
  • Maintain eye contact with your audience
  • Keep your hands below your face at all times
  • Never let them (the audience) see you sweat
If you remember those few caveats, you probably will go far in the world of public speaking.  Forget them, and, well, most folks won't notice.  Probably, your boss won't even notice.  But I will notice.  And others like me, the smart-alecky know-it-alls, in the audience will notice.  But, we won't say anything to you because we won't wish to embarrass you.  So, to keep us all from that problem, please work on your English and work on your presentations.  From those of us in the audience, thanks.  :-)


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Apple MacBook Semi-Pro


Apple has done us in - again!  The "new and improved" MacBookPro now has the remarkable Retina display - but at what cost?

  • You can't upgrade the standard 8GB RAM once purchased.  Meaning that you have to decide UP FRONT to purchase the maximum 16GB RAM available for your Mac since you won't be able to upgrade later.  Fortunately, that's only a $200 upgrade.
  • You won't be able to upgrade the Flash Drive (hard drive to you old troops) later either.  And the low end MacBook Pro has only one available, the 256 GB drive.  The BigBoy MacBook Pro has either a 512GB or a 786GB.  Unfortunately, that's a $500 upgrade for a small upgrade on the HD front.
  • There is NO Firewire 800 on the blooming thing!  OK, there is a pair of Thunderbolt ports and Apple does sell (if you can find one) a Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 Adaptor.  But it does not come with it as a necessary accessory.  
  • There no Kensington lock slot so you will have to find another way to lock your laptop to the desk when visiting a client or when at the office.
  • THERE IS NO SUPER DRIVE !!!  Now how inconvenient is that??  You will have to carry around a separate USB drive.  That's anoter $79 plus tax, title and license.
  • Finally, just to cap everything off, THERE'S NO ETHERNET PORT!!  Now, is that really stupid or what??  Apple seems to think that everyone has access, all the time, to wireless ports, everywhere!  At the office.  At the hotels around the world.  Everywhere!  Well, surprise, Apple Executives Everywhere Around The World!  It doesn't work that way.  I've been around the world and you do NOT get wireless everywhere - not even in the USA.  Not even in NYC!!
  • Penultimately, just to make things even better, the battery doesn't last as long because that beautiful Retina screen draws more power.  Yep - the battery that was supposed to be better?  It isn't.  The screen takes up all the juice plus more.
  • Finally, Apple dropped that wonderful 17" MacBook Pro.  Yep.  No Retina screen for my Big Mac.  I have to go back to a 15" screen on the airplane with all of the CxO guys and the Executive Assistants who are not "real" developers but just need a word processor or a spreadsheet display on a plane.  I NEED THE REAL ESTATE !!!  Damn it, I'm a a developer and I need my big screen when I'm off-site!  Now I'm going to have to go to Toshiba or HP or some other Windoze environment, aka Linux, to get it.  
Apple, you've done me in.  I've been with you since you went to Unix and now you're driving me away.  I'll stay for a while to see if you will mend your ways.  But I won't buy that 15" Baby Mac that you're trying to foist on me and the rest of the real Developer World.  Not for travel, anyway.  Maybe for working at home when I can hook it up to my 30" Mac Full-Color Display and work like real developers are supposed to work.