Monday, June 22, 2009

Four items

Four items, and a physics post later in the week.
  • Is "just-in-time" supply chain management truly the work of the devil, or merely incredibly annoying? We've had a problem with a gate valve on a piece of cleanroom equipment at my institution, and the vendor (a) has no spare valves; (b) has no spare parts for the valves; and (c) says it'll take around 4 weeks to fab a replacement valve. Now, I understand why a business wouldn't want a huge inventory sitting on shelves, and that there are real fixed costs associated with inventories. Still, how hard would it be to have some spare parts, particularly when these things don't go bad when stored? I can tell you that it doesn't make me predisposed to ever buy anything from this supplier again. So, while it may be penny-wise, it sure feels pound-foolish for companies to alienate customers by having no backup supplies at all.
  • Ahh, scientific publishing. Two folks from Cornell used an amusing computer program to generate a grammatically correct but completely nonsensical fake paper (pdf). They then got that paper accepted to an open-access journal, without the knowledge of the editor (!), with the strong implication being that this publisher was willing to publish literally anything as long as the authors are willing to pay the fees. Wonderful. I've suspected for a while (basically when a couple of publishers spammed me about being a contributing editor on journals I'd never heard of, back when I was a brand new assistant prof) that there are some shady practices out there.
  • Also regarding scientific publishing, I was shocked and appalled (ok, not really, but certainly surprised) when I got the proofs of an article that we have coming out in Phys Rev B. Why? Because it was clear from the marked-up "author query" version of the manuscript that the AIP production office had converted our beautiful LaTeX manuscript into Microsoft Word format for editing. What is the world coming to?!
  • Lastly, I was fortunate enough to receive a new iPod Touch as a gift. Anyone out there have suggestions for must-have apps?


Brad Holden said...

The iPhone Apps I like (but can live without) are:

remote - controls iTunes over the wireless
keynote remote - controls Keynote - costs $0.99
Kindle - Pretty cool actual, free except for the books
Evernote - but 3.0 note might win

All of these work over wireless as well as 3G, so should be fine with an iTouch.

There is an SSH client that is free. Could be handy if you want to try and work while sitting in meetings....

CarlBrannen said...

From my time in industry, just in time is a procedure used by the end user of a product. You are the one who is responsible for determining what you need and arranging for the orders to arrive when you need. It does not imply that a supplier will keep stock on hand. Business considers spare parts to be a part of the cost of doing business.

Re PRB going to Microsoft Word; is this for publishing or just for draft purposes? It sounds insane as it is another way of screwing up a proof.

A coauthor and I just sent in a RevTex4 article to PRD. My big complaint was that I had to mess around with an editor to get the citations in the form where you put multiple sources in the same line separated by semicolons. They do something very similar at PRB. I know this because I spent 4 hours searching the web for a tool to concatenate references for me. No joy.

And finally, I had a paper get an honorable mention at the annual gravitation essay contest. A lot of these papers show up on arXiv. I'll probably get someone to endorse it for gr-qc.

Time was that they kept the kooks off of arXiv by simply requiring them to use LaTeX. Now PRB is going to Word. What is going on.

see said...

There are at least 3 apps (arXiv,arXiview,arXivreader) for reading the arxiv. I still do it the old-fashioned way through safari, but I've heard that the apps are way better.

Uncle Al said...

Got the JITters, eh? Management is about process not product: Just in Time, ISO-9001, Six Sigma... If everybody exactly marches in step, an intervening wall is insubordination. Management cannot be held responsible for it never lifts the heavy end. Management makes decisions, workers make mistakes. Management exceeded its assigned goals, did you?

A long-suffering lab chigger lost it one day. He personally drew up blueprints for a simple desk lamp that was months back-ordered from vendor and sent it over to the machine shop. A week later four guys were pushing and pulling a dolly toward his office, every instance of " rendered as '.

Patrick Shea said...

For iPod/iPhone apps: - Personal finance management
Pandora - Online personalized radio
Urbanspoon - Restaurant recommendations
Trapster - Speed traps and red light camera mapping

As for LaTeX...(sigh)...PRB using Word is disappointing. I can't begin to quantify how many hours I have saved using LaTeX for manuscripts or on my dissertation. But I can measure it in the following way: In my pre-defense meeting at Michigan a girl finishing up her dissertation in the humanities was sobbing because she couldn't get Word to format properly.

Anonymous said...

i have always used VAT valves on my vacuum chambers and have never had a problem with them or the company.

Anonymous said...


Papers (I use the desktop version, I assume the mobile version is also good)

Anonymous said...

The computer-generated fake paper is not new, it's old hat. Basically, automated Sokal.

Douglas Natelson said...

Pandora is, indeed, pretty awesome. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Check out Shazam. Song identifcation based on a few seconds of listening.

sujit said...

Here's a cute (not free, but cheap) app that may be of interest to you, and other experimentalists:

It basically uses the iPhone/iPod accelerometers to act as a vibration analyzer.