If you can't be good, be careful.
- LT. Charles Russell "Russ" Crawford, M.S.E.E. U.S.N (RET.)
I was born to Patricia Ann and Charles Russell Crawford in Spokane, Washington in 1964. Because my father, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, was way out in the Philippine Jungle undergoing survival training in preparation for the soon-to-come Vietnam War, the telegram with news of my birth took two weeks to reach him.
Kids Don't Try This at Home:
Mike Crawford Gargling Liquid Nitrogen
Photo by Murray Sims
Not long ago I pointed out to my mother that, given my father was so far away, they must have agreed what my name would be had the doctor who delivered me shouted "It's a Girl!"
Indeed they did, my mother informed me: Cathy Ann.
The very earliest conscious memory of my entire life is from the age of two, when my family lived in Chula Vista, California, near San Diego. I have but two brief flashes of that memory, like still photographs.
My very first memory is that my mother unexpectedly picked me up from my day care center.
The second memory of my entire life is of my mother, my sister Bonnie Jean and I standing among a huge crowd of people. A live band played "Anchors Aweigh".
In front of me was a huge grey ship. All along the port rail of that ship were hundreds of men, all of them wearing white dress uniforms.
Only many years later did I ever figure out that one of those Men in White was my father, and that my mother, sister and I were only able to celebrate their joyous return from the sea that morning, rather than mourn their eternal rest at the bottom of the South China Sea, because my father's quick thinking as well as his diligent studies during his Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Idaho in Moscow enabled him to operate a device known as an Analog Computer to accurately solve the System of Partial Differential Equations required to calculate the trajectory needed by a Talos or Terrier Antiaircraft Missile to completely destroy a Supersonic Soviet MIG Fighter Plane, thereby slaying its patriotic and incredibly brave North Vietnamese pilot, before that pilot was close enough to the USS Providence for his plane's Anti-Ship missile to be within range.
My father was requred to obtain a Top Secret Security Clearance before he could could commence studies at the White Sands Missile School because those two missiles had the ability to take out a supersonic jet flying wildly evasive action, at a distance of twenty miles, while controlled by vacuum tube avionics from the 1950s.
Only once during my father's entire life did he ever admit to his service in Vietnam being anything but a happy tropical vacation.
Despite knowing full well that my father had been a Missile Fire Control Officer during the War, I never even suspected that Dad had ever so much as touched a gun until he came home from Concord Naval Weapons Station when I was nine years old to proudly announce that he had just shot the head off a wooden match at fifty feet with a pistol.
My father told me one day that a Talos Missile set the American Taxpayer back a million dollars.
"Surely that can't be a good use of the Navy's money?" I asked, flummoxed that we would spend so much on something just to have it explode.
"Actually it is," Dad cheerfully explained. "The planes that the Talos shoots down cost sixty million."
One day there in Concord, Dad brought home a piece of solid rocket fuel from a Terrior Missile about the size of his thumb. It looked just like automobile tire rubber, because that was just what it was made out of.
After warning us kids to stand well away, Dad placed the rocket fuel in the middle of our concrete patio, stepped well back himself, leaned carefully forward and with his outstretched arm, flicked his cigarrette lighter then jumped back.
That automobile tire burned just like the head of a match!
"Nitroglycerin," he said.
Quite commonly my colleagues in the Software Industry assert - falsely - that it is simply not possible to write bug-free software.
That so much of our software is profoundly shot through with crashes, end-user data loss, poor usability and security exploits is the result of what I myself regard as my colleagues suffering what the Medieval Catholic Theologians termed The Deadly Sin of Sloth.
Had everything of any real importance about how to write, test and debug completely flawless computer software, as well as how to design and build completely flawless electronic circuitry not been largely worked out well beore my father joined the United States Navy in 1957, the entire Planet of the Earth would have been a smoking, radioactive and completely sterile wasteland decades ago.
I myself have little trouble writing bug-free software.
It's not that code reliability is difficult, but that one must learn how it's done, then apply the required techniques diligently and consistently.
If you'd like to learn how you too can deliver far better products for your customers, I invite you to ask me how, and I'll be happy to explain. If we're close by, perhaps we can meet for a coffee or a beer.
eMail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael David Crawford, Senior Software Engineer
Solving the Software Problem
While every diety has the Insight to fortell the Future,
even G-d Almighty Himself possesseth not the Power to undo the Past.