Wednesday Night #846

Written by  //  May 20, 1998  //  Economy, Education, Herb Bercovitz, Markets, Reports, Science & Technology, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #846

An unusual preamble
As they arrived in the front hall, guests were treated to a display of brilliant photographs taken in Nepal by Mackay L. Smith. All were then invited to go downstairs to view a slide presentation in the dramatic but infrequently used basement amphitheatre with its five, nine foot wide, screens filling our vision. The scenes portrayed on both the projected slides and displayed prints were breathtaking and the faces depicted, human, empathetic, fascinating and beautiful. Following the artistic demonstration, about twice the average number of guests, including a number of new faces, gathered around the Nicholsons’ dining room table to engage in a discussion mostly relating to computers, hardware, software, and the humans involved in creating and using them.

The Cybernetic Insecticide for the Millennium Bug
Software is available which has been designed to rapidly scan code and correct two digit date codes, thus providing a fifty-year window for either permanent correction or replacement of software. Although effective, there remain some defects likely to cause problems. The case of Wells Fargo was cited. This company started in good time to correct its programs, but neglected to change the coding in the power supply software. Fortunately a test-run highlighted this particular defect. Wells Fargo will now be prepared to face the year 2000. Others may not have had the foresight to do so.

Gatesgate and the Microsoft Monopoly
Headed For Battle — A historic antitrust case looms as last-minute talks between Microsoft and the feds fall apart
Unexpectedly, Microsoft received much support from the assembled guests. Some of the statements of support were as follows:
* “While he [Bill Gates] exhibits predatory behaviour and is obnoxious, the fix is worse than the cure.”
* “What we have is legislation against government-granted monopoly, but here we are penalizing ingenuity.”
* “Gates’ success has more to do with marketing strategy than ingenuity.”
* “He is establishing new marketing strategy that the U.S. Government hasn’t thought of, and doesn’t know how to handle.”
* “You cannot cry foul about the rules once the rules are set. Coca Cola is just a name with great marketing.”

Our Children: Are they being penalized because we don’t provide them with the latest technology?
* “Just because you use the most advanced technology to teach students does not mean they will be better students.
Sometimes they can learn more from a slide-rule than from a computer. Conceptual thinking is important.”
See Should Schools Be Wired To The Internet?
(TIME May 25 1998) Four-fifths of U.S. schools have Internet access already; instead of wiring the rest, we ought to lay down a startling new educational directive: First learn reading and writing, history and arithmetic. Then play Frisbee, go fishing or surf the Internet. Lessons first, fun second.
* “I am working towards a paperless office. (I recently) met with graphic artists, but both used pencils and paper.”
* “The designer or engineer works with and designs the most advanced technology; the mechanic or technician works with both old and new technology, using his ingenuity to adapt them to current needs. Both skills are equally important.”

Computerized Translation
The group was divided on the value in all instances of translation based on concept rather than on dictionary. Jean Bourbonnais, the creator of ALIS pointed out the difference between inbound and outbound translation and the trade-off between low cost, speed and coarseness of translation versus high cost, slow and fine translation as well as the trade-offs and the continuum of which they represent the two extremities. Outbound translation is designed to convince the reader of a point, or the value of a product or service. It should accurately reflect the concept, a relatively slow process involving high cost human intervention, approaching a text originally created in the language of the reader.
At the other extreme, inbound translation is designed for the reader who is curious but cannot determine whether the text is of value to him. A rapid, inexpensive, coarse translation may provide him with sufficient information to enable him to determine whether or not the investment in a higher level of translation is warranted.
In other words, computerized translation can provide the user with a hierarchy of levels involving a varying mix of software and human intervention, enabling him to select the optimum choice for his particular application.

The Market
There has been a wonderful run in the market, seeing the Dow Jones index increasing in short period of time from seven thousand to nine thousand, a rise of over twenty-five percent. There may be a corrective move which, if it occurs will represent a buy opportunity. In April, which is not an RRSP month, 3.6 billion additional dollars were invested in mutual funds. This is a clear indication that the market will continue to rise.

The U.S. economy
is strong and will remain so. The situation in Indonesia appears to be in the process of resolving itself, but Asia in general – and India- in particular are still volatile and can continue to affect the world economy adversely.

Message to Westmounters from Le Mouvement de Libération Nationale du Québec
Here the consensus was that the time and money spent on the dissemination of the pamphlets to Westmounters marking Victoria Day, would probably been more profitably spent on furthering the welfare of their fellow Quebeckers. However, there was not consensus among those who had received the pamphlets about how to treat the issue. Many individuals are deeply disturbed and feel threatened, others are more inclined to dismiss the messages as the work of a handful of crackpots who don’t represent anyone but their own small sick clique.

David Levine and the Ottawa General Hospital
For once, everyone agreed that this situation is disgraceful… Mr. Levine is highly qualified for the position and his politics have absolutely nothing to do with his work. The ardent federalists in Ottawa are an embarrassing reminder that stupidity and prejudice are not limited to those in Quebec with whom we disagree!
The media comes in for a large part of the blame; the local papers, talk shows and even the news shows have been fanning the flames. It appears, however, that the Board will stand firm and, furthermore, that since the public meeting, calls to Board members have been running 5-1 in favor of Mr. Levine. Let’s hope that this dies down quickly as it plays into the hands of radicals everywhere.

Jean Doré was unfortunately delayed in another meeting, but has promised to join us next Wednesday, May 27th.

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