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Mar15

Systems and Transplants

by zscott

Zane Scott, Vitech Vice President of Professional Services

I don’t usually write blogs from the first person point-of-view. It’s not my style. But the past two weeks brought about a conjunction of professional and personal topics that demanded a personal approach.

On Saturday, March 4, Dr. Thomas Starzl, 90, passed away in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Starzl was a pioneer in the world of organ transplantation — particularly liver transplantation. Although kidney transplants had begun in the 1950s, Dr. Starzl was the first surgeon to attempt a liver transplant. He and his team at the University of Colorado tried that first operation in 1963. Despite the failure of that attempt, Starzl persisted, and in 1967, he performed the first successful liver transplant. Starzl would go on to pioneer advances in transplant techniques, immunology, and chimerism — the ability of the human body to accept foreign tissue without immune suppression therapy.  More...

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Categories: MBSE | Misc

Feb09

The Siren Songs of Systems Engineering

by zscott

The Siren, Edward Armitage, 1888

First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them. If anyone unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again . . . There is a great heap of dead men's bones lying all around . . . Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men's ears with wax that none of them may hear . . . 

Homer, The Odyssey, Book XII

Zane Scott, Vitech Vice President of Professional Services

Most of us are familiar with Homer’s epic work, The Odyssey.  It tells the story of Odysseus’ 10-year journey home to Ithaca from the Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters many adventures and at one point is warned by the sorceress, Circe, of an impending danger – the song of the Sirens. Circe tells Odysseus of the Sirens whose beauty, musical talent, and songs lead sailors to their death along the rocky shores of their islands. She advises him to fill the ears of his men with beeswax so that they will not be tempted off course by the singing.

Odysseus does as instructed but lashes himself to the mast so that he can hear their song while remaining powerless to turn his ships toward it. This highlights an often overlooked but important point – both for Homer’s plot and our appropriation of it as an illustration. Even those who know the story generally operate with the assumption that the Sirens’ charms turns on the beauty of their countenances and/or their melody.

But a closer reading of Homer reveals otherwise. In Homer’s narrative, the Sirens sing to Odysseus “no one else has ever sailed past this place in his black ship until he has listened to the honey-sweet voice that issues from our lips; then goes on, well-pleased, knowing more than ever he did; for we know everything . . .” The lure of their song is not its beauty (or theirs) but its promise to impart exceptional wisdom.

This is the sense in which the postmodern-day Odysseus, the systems engineer, encounters the siren songs of our world. It is not the beauty of the Sirens or their songs that threaten the journey, but rather it is the emptiness of their promises of knowledge.

As we attempt to help systems engineering teams in both public and private sectors, we see them too often fall to the siren songs promising knowledge and truth from impossibly rocky shores. Two of these songs stand out with their Siren-like promises of wisdom hiding destructive results obscured by the songs.  More...

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Categories: MBSE | Misc

Jan12

Fundamentals – Judging Our Tools

by zscott

Zane Scott, Vitech Vice President of Professional Services

The ultimate test of any tool is whether or not it helps the user in the way intended at its acquisition. In other words, “Does it do what we need it to do for us?” This is certainly true for systems engineering tools. To judge their value, we must look first and foremost to their performance against our needs.  More...

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Categories: CORE Software | GENESYS | MBSE

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