free association Wednesday

I guess it’s a good thing that the Treasury department is releasing more details on the banking “stress tests.”  That said, the engineer (or the circuits lab TA) in me can’t help but hear “smoke test” any time someone says stress test.  In engineering, you wire up your design and power it up for the smoke test.  If it doesn’t start smoking, there’s no guarantee that the design (or wiring) is right, but if you do release the magic smoke, then you’ve definitely done something wrong.  Because, of course, the magic smoke is what makes all electronic components from resistors to microprocessors run.  Maxwell with his electro-magnetic equations was full of it.  Every thing runs on magic smoke.  If you let the magic smoke out of a device, it’ll never run again.  I do wonder what is the magic smoke analog that gets validated in a banking stress test.  Do you wire up the bank and see how much money it leaks?  Can you put the magic green stuff back in a bank which fails a stress test?  Well, presumably some banks will survive, which is probably a good thing.  If for no other reason than banking is a more diverse field than engineering.  After spending a day with 200+ engineers I can tell you that, too a first approximation, we’ve only got one gender.  The workshop was a giant sausagefest in all of three ethnicities: caucasian, asian and indian.  As a profession we’ve got to do something about this.


  1. etselec said,

    February 25, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

    I had the same problem with Java One a couple of years ago. I was definitely in the minority, and I’d say there were less than 10% women at that conference, and every one that I saw was Asian or white. And don’t even get me started on Grinder Girl… I really should have written a letter complaining to Sun.

  2. cec said,

    March 1, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

    I think you should have complained wrt Grinder Girl. It’s not Sun’s fault that engineering and CS are, as fields, hostile to women, but they don’t have to participate/encourage that kind of behavior and culture.

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