Federal Bytes

LOOK OUT, DAVID LETTERMAN. Talk about self-deprecating. Officials at the Federal Aviation Administration's Nexcom program recently posted on the agency's Web page (www.faa.gov/nexcom/template.htm) a top 10 list that FAA managers might find, well, interesting.

Under Joke of the Month is a list of "The top 10 signs that you are ready to go into FAA management." The top four reasons:

4. Your substance abuse counselor is optimistic that a promotion will speed your recovery.

3. [Transportation Department Secretary] Rodney Slater comes to you every night in your dreams and says, "I love user fees."

2. Through biofeedback techniques, positive thinking and will power, you can make the voices stop without medication.

And the No. 1 sign that you are ready to go into FAA management: You're tired of having to work for a living.

Cue the band.

***

JAVA JUNKIES. While in Washington, D.C., last month giving a series of seminars on better ways to graphically present information, design guru and former Yale University professor Edward Tufte took delight in poking fun at the information technology industry.

While discussing the garish and confusing displays that many developers of Web sites, including those of federal sites, create, Tufte asked the audience, "What two groups are the only ones who refer to their customers as users? The computer industry and the illegal drug trade."

Well, computer games can be addictive.

***

THE COMPUTER OLYMPICS. It's not exactly the same thrill you get from watching Michael Johnson sprint, but at last week's annual supercomputing confab in Orlando, Fla., fans of record-setting technology had plenty to buzz about. Some samples:

* Silicon Graphics Inc., as anticipated here two weeks ago, claimed to have built the world's fastest supercomputer: its Blue Mountain machine at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

* Compaq Computer Corp. and Sandia National Laboratories "smashed the world record'' for combing through a terabyte of data, finishing in less than 50 minutes.

* Just before the show, researchers at the Energy Department's Berkeley and Oak Ridge labs ran the fastest-ever simulation of magnetism— about a trillion calculations per second.

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