out of the loop in silicon valley

NYTimes. But when she was raising money for Crimson Hexagon, a start-up company she co-founded in 2007, she recalls one venture capitalist telling her that it didn’t matter that she didn’t have business cards, because all they would say was “Mom.” Another potential backer, reports Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times, invited her for a weekend yachting excursion by showing her a picture of himself on the boat — without clothes. When a third financier discovered that her husband was also a biking enthusiast, she says, he spent more time asking if riding affected her husband’s reproductive capabilities than he did focusing on her business plan.

Ultimately, none of the 30 venture firms she pitched financed her company. She finally raised $1.8 million in March 2008 from angel investors including Golden Seeds, a fund that emphasizes investing in start-ups led by women.

On the other hand

She learned how to handle male-dominated pitches early in her career, when Rivals.com was buying another start-up. She was in the conference room, pouring a cup of coffee, when the other company’s executives and lawyers walked in. They proceeded to discuss the lowest bid they would accept, as if she wasn’t there.

“They assumed I was the admin,” or secretary, she says. When the group sat down to negotiate, she adds, “Their faces went white as ghosts.”


limits of state diagrams

Here’s a graph of a simple state machine of somewhat under 512 states that models  a dumb fifo queue. The initial state is “e” for empty. We can append 1,2 or 3 to this queue and can delete the first in. To simplify suppose the alphabet is {0,1,2,3} where 0 means “dequeue”  and the others mean to enq the designated number. Enqueue to a full queue has no effect on state. Ok, the diagram is completely unreadable – but click on the PDF to the right. It’s still unreadable. This diagram, generated with ATT’s “dot” program could undoubtedly be improved, but it shows why state diagrams are just not making it as descriptions of complex systems – this system is far from complex.


To see the structure hidden in this diagram we have to look at it through algebra and programs.


How much should software cost?

The biggest VA outlay — and its biggest savings generator — was the Vista’s Computerized Patient Record System, the home-grown system for electronic health records that was found by the study to cost $3.6 billion. Other IT networks for administering medications with bar codes, picture archiving and communication systems and the Laboratory Electronic Data Interoperability application together cost $470 million.

Lots of money. Result – you can predict this right? Big government bureaucracy. Massive billion dollar software development project.  And the result is:

The bottom line: “We conservatively estimate that the VA’s investments in the four health IT systems studied yielded $3.09 billion in cumulative benefits net of investment costs by 2007,” say the authors, a team from Center for IT Leadership at Partners Healthcare in Charlestown, Mass. The results looks at measures such as reduced workloads, freed workspace and savings from items such as unneeded medical tests and avoided hospital admissions.

Ok. One should cultivate skepticism of such studies, but it is interesting. The system, by the way is not open source – it is public domain. And it’s based on the venerable MUMPS so there, all you language purists. Look at this code fragment, from the Wiki entry, and weep.

     ;;19.0;VA FileMan;;Jul 14, 1992
     D    I 'X1!'X2 S X="" Q
     S X=X1 D H S X1=%H,X=X2,X2=%Y+1 D H S X=X1-%H,%Y=%Y+1&X2
     K %H,X1,X2 Q
C    S X=X1 Q:'X  D H S %H=%H+X2 D YMD S:$P(X1,".",2) X=X_"."_$P(X1,".",2) K X1,X2 Q
S    S %=%#60/100+(%#360060)/100+(%3600)/100 Q
H    I X<1410000 S %H=0,%Y=-1 Q
     S %Y=$E(X,1,3),%M=$E(X,4,5),%D=$E(X,6,7)
     S %T=$E(X_0,9,10)*60+$E(X_"000",11,12)*60+$E(X_"00000",13,14)
TOH  S %H=%M>2&'(%Y#4)+$P("^31^59^90^120^151^181^212^243^273^304^334","^",%M)+%D
     S %='%M!'%D,%Y=%Y-141,%H=%H+(%Y*365)+(%Y4)-(%Y>59)+%,%Y=$S(%:-1,1:%H+4#7)
     K %M,%D,% Q

Computer science as a failed discipline again

As a senior researcher, I am saddened to see funding agencies, department heads, deans, and promotion committees encouraging younger researchers to do shallow research. As a reader of what should be serious scientific journals, I am annoyed to see the computer science literature being polluted by more and more papers of less and less scientific value. As one who has often served as an editor or referee, I am offended by discussions that imply that the journal is there to serve the authors rather than the readers. Other readers of scientific journals should be similarly outraged and demand change. The cause of all of these manifestations is the widespread policy of measuring researchers by the number of papers they publish, rather than by the correctness, importance, real novelty, or relevance of their contributions. [David Parnas]