I first met John in Colorado Springs when he managed
Martin Marietta's software IRAD program, and was checking up on projects
we were doing for the Star Wars Program. I later encountered him when I
spent a little time in Washington D.C. chasing FBI work. He and his wife
Joanne have been our dinner companions on various trips to Orlando and
Reston. When I asked him to tell me his story, he fed me what he called a
"typical crock." Here's some of what he said.
John's "checkered" career has taken him from the Semichi Islands to
Stonehenge. These days, he still travels, but spends a lot more of his
time at home with Joanne. Someone once told him that he had one year of
experience thirty times over -- working for himself and making other folks
happy as a result. That person may have been right: at least he has had a
chance to tout, (as in racetrack), a number of good ideas, some of which
may have even been his own.
For instance, John once told Grady Booch to write a book while introducing
him to Russ Abbott (of "nouns and verbs" analysis fame.) Grady said he was
planning to do just that; this was in 1982 or so ... and the rest is
history, ,,,(Grady is one of the most famous software people in the
Years before, John was presented an award for an algorithm that involved
dividing a vector, element by element, by another vector. That's not good
math, unless you see one of the vectors as the diagonal of a matrix, the
rest of which is zero. Then it makes some sense, especially to an east
Indian statistician named Pravda Mahalanobis who lived in the thirties. In
John's scheme, where the "divisor" vector contains standard deviations of
various populations, the result is multi-dimensional Mahalanobis'
distance. The algorithm makes a great engine for pattern recognizers. He
can't say exactly how he came up with it.
But then things happen by themselves. In the pattern recognition vein,
some twenty years later, John had a out-of-place conversation with two
accidental companions. They were hurtling down the "upper yock", which is
a "sometimes" run of class 5 whitewater down the Youghiegheny River from
WV into PA. The conversation started out with a reference to another
Indian mathematician and turned into debate about the error propensities
of Mahalanobis' distance. John's seat mates in the four person rubber raft
were a good looking Dutch lady, her German boyfriend, and a guide from
Peru. The three of them had met by accident at the trail head. (Pretty
amazing coincidence, since even good researchers have a hard time finding
Mahalanobis' name. It only shows up in those thin little monographs on
multivariate statistics that are stocked in the back shelves of 7-11
stores behind the gamey magazines <g>.)
These days, John tries to consult, which is helping things to happen by
themselves, he guesses. He will someday have a website that touts
enterprise architecture V&V and strategic planning -- his consulting "schtick".
And of course, there is always a dollop of "managing expectations" thrown
That last phrase has the ring of "reuse" about it. I once invited John to
do a two minute welcome bit at a one-day reuse technology seminar that I'd
arranged for Star Wars' National Test Bed. He (unintentially) upstaged my
keynote speaker's bottom line, which urged "managing expectations." (It
turns out that that some years earlier John had helped to set DoD
expectations for software reuse. That was when Congress wasn't buying the
hyperbole from a DoD software technology program that had claimed plans to
deliver an "order of magnitude" improvement in development productivity.
To rationalize this for budget staffers, John touted the power of reuse
with stories about Eli Whitney's approach to one of the very first defense
contracts. The stories resonated rapidly, money flowed soon, and shortly
software reuse become a DoD goal.) John doesn't claim to have "invented
reuse", but he's happy to have helped things to happen by themselves.
Which is why John says "tout", because he is thinking these days that he
wouldn't mind doing the real thing ... but then he'll need to learn
something about horses ... and maybe find a marketing position as well ...
John has a house for sale at
This Virgina real estate property is
rented and is next to a small but very fun little lake, where real estate
prices are consistently growing.