Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Heraclitus as Quantum Physicist

Someone just asked me who Heraclitus was.  A Greek philosopher I said.  Phew, I thought, when I looked up the wikipedia entry to show to that person - it certainly said he was a Greek philosopher (got that one right).  Reading through the article, I came across this:
In Heraclitus a perceived object is a harmony between two fundamental units of change, a waxing and a waning. He typically uses the ordinary word "to become" (gignesthai or ginesthai, root sense of being born), which led to his being characterized as the philosopher of becoming rather than of being. He recognizes the changing of objects with the flow of time.

Plato argues against Heraclitus as follows:[57] - from Cratylus Paragraph 440 sections c-d.

How can that be a real thing which is never in the same state? ... for at the moment that the observer approaches, then they become other ... so that you cannot get any further in knowing their nature or state .... but if that which knows and that which is known exist ever ... then I do not think they can resemble a process or flux ....
(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus, accessed 19th March 2013).

The Plato quote, especially the part "for at the moment that the observer approaches, then they become other", seems to indicate that maybe Heraclitus was an original quantum physicist - stating a formulation of the observer effect (partially related to the uncertainty principle).

Heraclitus is an interesting read - worthwhile re-acquainting oneself with his work.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Irreversible

Interesting movie this - Irreversible

Interesting review this ...
http://www.gotterdammerung.org/film/reviews/i/irreversible.html


Irréversible (Irreversible, 2002)

Gaspar Noé

France

99 min, color, French (English subtitles)

Review © 2003 Branislav L. Slantchev
Time destroys all things.
This is the first time I have ever seen over half the audience marching out in disgust barely 20 minutes into the film. It was also the first time I heard people shouting at the screen (or was it at us, the ones who stayed behind?) that they did not think rape was such an art. (It is not, but the marching ants should be forgiven for completely and irreversibly missing that simple fact.) It was also the first film where people were obviously uncomfortable with being seen in public watching it.
Irreversible is brutal. There is no finessing this (although the guy who wrote the Film Guide capsule summary tried very hard with bullshit like "A precisely constructed masterpiece, Irreversible penetrates into the darkest regions of human action and existentially, biologically, and sociologically explores the nature of free will and the repercussions of existence." Yeah, and Nietzche was my hamster.) nor should there be any attempts to do so. The film is the story of Alex (Monica Bellucci), her lover and soon-to-be father of her child Marcus (Vincent Cassell), and her cerebral and melancholic ex-lover Pierre (Albert Dupontel) who go to a party. She leaves early and gets raped by a guy called Tenia (Jo Prestia), who then beats her into a coma. Marcus and Pierre track the guy down the same night and Pierre kills him by smashing his head repeatedly with a fire extinguisher even though he has spent most of the hunt trying to persuade the explosive Marcus to give up.
Is this just a run of the mill revenge flick that reminded me somehow of Deliverance and I Spit on Your Grave? Despite the lofty intentions of the reviewer I cited above, is this all the film is, even if it is filmed in reverse. Is it any less of an art than just about any secular European piece of art from the last two millennia? The film has a simple point to make: shit happens almost invariably and there is no changing that... There is no reversing that in real life unlike through the medium of art, which can make even the irreversible go from tragic to happy, from death to life, contrary to nature, contrary to society, and contrary to fate.
The film really is a statement about the power art exerts on our rather artless minds. When the film ended with a pulsating white screen and ear-blasting noise I felt strangely serene, having in my mind the last pastoral scene with Alex lying on the grass with children playing around. Knowing full well how the story ended in "real life" was not enough to overcome that feeling. The idyllic sight was tinged with sadness by the general knowledge that all things must perish, and the most beautiful and delicate moments must pass forever.
Strangely, this only made the scene even more precious, perhaps by the desire to capture that fleeting moment and for a brief second experience its own beauty in dying. The pose of the fat naked man at the beginning of the film talking about having spent time in jail for sleeping with his beautiful daughter reminded me of Buddha and hence of Buddhism with its profoundly pessimistic world view that sees existence as suffering and portrays its goal as one of forgetting forever.
At this the film marvelously succeeded for time does destroy all things and only art can halt its destruction and make it somewhat less painful. If one does not seek nirvana, this is as close as one will ever get to happiness and eternity. The progression from chaos to order, very unnatural because it goes contrary to everything we know about the universe, is accentuated by the splendid camera work which depicts these first (although chronologically last) events as a whirlwhind of sights where we can only catch glimpses of events and guess at what's going on mostly from the dialogue. It then becomes steadier as art-time moves forward to describe the "real-time" backward, it becomes calmer, the colors lose much of their red vibrancy, to fade out into a thorough white.
The film is very brutal but so is some of the best art. Violence is always essential to art just like it is essential to life. If it is the violence in leaves torn from the tree by the wind, or a wolf devoring its prey, or a human being killing another, it is all death; and it is death that tinges life with meaning, gives taste to happiness, and makes sadness the color of our monochrome existence. One who insists on being happy by avoiding violence never is and never can be. But he can be safe even if it means safe to die without having lived.
Irreversible reverses the course of events, defies time, and defies death but with the full knowledge that the latter still exists and will always prevail. Yet, strangely, for a split second we enjoy life. The artfully employed reverse story telling makes the "trick" obvious: We only really enjoy it because we know what is going to happen. Otherwise it's the "lived happily ever after" nonsense that is all the more depressing because we all know it's a lie.
January 19, 2003

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

12-12-12 - Another pseudo-mathematical date

12-12-12

If one skips the century nominator (whether at the beginning or the end), then one ends up with a numerically repetitive date - theoretically not happening again until New Year's Day on 2101, (ie 1/1/1).

This meant that many people decided to get married on this date, even down to the time (12:12), so that they  could remember their wedding anniversary.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A nice little blog post from Dyneslines explains a common misquotation from Nietszche bandied around a lot nowadays:

As it often the case, the precept becomes more understandable when we turn to the original text, which reads: “Aus der Kriegsschule des Lebens - Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich härter.” This observation stems from The Twilight of the Gods (Götzendämmerung) of 1888. It appears as number eight in a series of aphorisms that stand at the beginning of the book, so that it is not possible to deduce much context.

Still, the precept should be faithfully rendered. Yet the common English-language version incorporates a subtle, but serious error, for the last word is not “stronger” but “harder.” Thus what Nietzsche seems to be saying is that, even after contracting a terrible disease (AIDS for example), or being crippled in a car accident, we still need not despair. We can rise to the occasion by becoming “harder.” This does not mean that we are “stronger,” just more firmly resolved to deal with our lot.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Dullards know not goodness

Ay, let them laugh and revel o'er his fall! Perchance, albeit in life the missed him not, Dead, they will cry for him in straits of war. For dullards know not goodness in their hand, Nor prize the jewel till 'tis cast away. -- Sophocles, "Aias"

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Kennst du die Sängerin mit Stimme klar und rein

I saw a classical recital this afternoon, which I rather enjoyed.
It prompted me to pen a short poem, in the style and language of an untitled poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Book III, Chapter 1, but sometimes referred to as "Mignon", variously put to music, by Ludwig Van Beethoven and others (see recmusic for more details).

Here is the poem:

Kennst du die Sängerin mit Stimme klar und rein
Insgesamt Freude zusammen zu sein
Die besten Freunde, mit uns verkleben
Jugendlich, wunderbar, voller Leben
Kennst du ihr
Dahin, ihr
Meine Sängerin, klar und rein




A loose and rather un-poetic translation:

Do you know the songstress with the voice clear and pure
A total joy to be around
The best of friends, sticks with us
Young and wonderful, full of life
Do you know her
There, her
My songstress, clear and pure.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Love

"An eye is meant to see things.
The soul is here for its own joy.
A head has one use: For loving a true love.
Feet: To chase after.
Love is for vanishing into the sky. The mind,
for learning what men have done and tried to do.
Mysteries are not to be solved: The eye goes blind
when it only wants to see why.
A lover is always accused of something.
But when he finds his love, whatever was lost
in the looking comes back completely changed."

— Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (مولانا جلال الدین محمد رومی)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Wenn die beste Freundin

The past, the future: Wenn die beste Freundin

When the best girlfriend
With the best girlfriend,
for shopping,
for shopping,
going for a walk,
tramping the streets,
blabbing about everything,
says the best girlfriend
to the best girlfriend.
My best girlfriend.
o my best girlfriend,
o my pretty girlfriend,
o my faithful girlfriend,
o my sweet girlfriend!
Walks the best girlfriend
With the best girlfriend,
says the best girlfriend
to the best girlfriend:
My best, my best girlfriend.

-Yes, what does the best girlfriend say?
Tell me what crosses your mind!
- Also, I can only tell you one thing, if
I didn’t have you, we get along so well…
- Yes, we get along terribly well.
- How good we get along!
- We can hardly bear how great we get along,there is just one person I
get along with equally well, and that is my little cute husband.
- Yes, with your little cute husband

Yes, my husband is a man!
What a man, like my husband!
Like the husband of the wife,
like the husband of the wife
We used to have paramours,
but they exist no longer!
Today instead of paramours,
we have girlfriends!

- Your little man is a bit pushy!
-So?
-Yes.
- Why?
- Well, I find
- Well, why?
-Why I find …?
- Why you find?
- He does those things…
- I don’t like that!
- Hmm. Okay,. Let’s make up! (Kisses)
- Okay, we make up! (Kisses)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Love of My Life

"I feel happy with you, I think you're the love of my life, and I don't ask for anything more than that.  But that shouldn't be possible: I ought to ask for more.  I'm trapped in a system from which I get so little, and which I know is pointless, but I don't know how to get out.  At some point, everyone should take the time to think about it, but I don't know where we are supposed to find that time."

(Houellebecq, Michel, "Platform", Vintage International, New York, 2004, p. 117)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Respect the individual, not the multitude

Man is by nature good.
Men are depraved and perverted by society.
Respect the individual, not the multitude.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1776), from "Emile" (1762), (trans. Dent, p. 198)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A vast cerealic, frugiferous, lanigerous and pelliferous region

"MULTILOQUENT VERBOSITY  This week I stumbled upon a review in an
American magazine, The Academy, dated 1 October 1881. It was of E W
White's Cameos from the Silver-land; or the Experiences of a Young
Naturalist in the Argentine Republic, a classic work of economic
geography and natural history. The reviewer complained, "The author
is terribly fond of long words. To him plants become bosquetish,
plains are sabulous, cattle are meat-bearing beeves, dead men are
cadavers, parrots are psittacs. The Republic is 'a vast cerealic
and frugiferous as well as a lanigerous and pelliferous region'."

A glossary - "bosquetish": of bushes or woods (related to "bosky");
"sabulous": sandy; "psittac": parrot (the review is one of only two
citations for the word in the Oxford English Dictionary's entry,
the other being from 1425); "cerealic": of cereals (the only
example in the OED); "frugiferous": fruit-bearing: "lanigerous":
wool-bearing (related to "lanolin", from Latin "lana", wool); and
"pelliferous": this is unknown to the Oxford English Dictionary or
any other source I've checked. I'm guessing the author created it
from the old word "pell" for an animal's hide (a close relative of
"pelt", from Latin "pellis", skin, leather, or parchment), from
which came the equally rare "pell-monger", a dealer in skins and
furs; from context the word means "rich in fur-bearing animals"."

 - from Michael Quinion's World Wide Words - an excellent resource regarding words and language. Consider subscribing to his newslist (http://www.worldwidewords.org/maillist/index.htm) and have a look at his site (http://www.worldwidewords.org/).

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

21 steps to philosophy

A XKCD strip had an image text rollover which stated:
Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy".
This site has a little script which lets you test it out (I have included a sample below) - but it is fun doing it yourself.  Follow the instructions above and you will see that it really does work.

Mind you - it does not always work - there are some pages which result in an endless loop - which may constitute philosophy in its own right!



xkcd wikipedia steps to philosophy


(Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy")
Start from article: http://en.wikipedia.org.wiki/
sutherland
  1. sutherland
  2. registration_county
  3. great_britain
  4. island
  5. continent
  6. landmass
  7. land
  8. earth
  9. planet
  10. orbit
  11. physics
  12. natural_science
  13. science
  14. knowledge
  15. information
  16. sequence
  17. mathematics
  18. quantity
  19. property_(philosophy)
  20. modern_philosophy
  21. philosophy
21 steps to philosophy

Friday, 27 May 2011

Speaking and Preparation

“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now“
- Woodrow Wilson

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Missing Something

You will miss a ton, but that’s OK. We’re so caught up in trying to do everything, experience all the essential things, not miss out on anything important … that we forget the simple fact that we cannot experience everything. That physical reality dictates we’ll miss most things. We can’t read all the good books, watch all the good films, go to all the best cities in the world, try all the best restaurants, meet all the great people. But the secret is: life is better when we don’t try to do everything. Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, and life turns out to be wonderful.

Not cohabitation but consensus constitutes marriage - Cicero

Not cohabitation but consensus constitutes marriage - Cicero

Monday, 18 April 2011

This right and true man

This right and true man
This egregious damage
to one so fine, so good
Matters not, matters not.

It is hard to accommodate the paradox that we can find the world so beautiful, and so much in the world so beautiful, and other people so beautiful, when, in fact, the reality is that the world is inhospitable, terrible and terrifying, utterly contemptuous of humanity and human nature.

It rejects humans.  It rejects finer thought and finer things.  It's viciousness knows no bounds and it is unequivocal in its uncaring impartiality.  It matters not who lives or who dies, who prospers or who declines.  It cares not that one minute it makes one person tall and strikes another down, to then, the very next minute, strike down the tall one and bring forth to glory the downtrodden one - or, if it will, leave the downtrodden to be even further defeated.  Dust to dust whilst still alive.

This is not god.  This is not a vengeful and spiteful god.  There is no justice, there is no right, no fairness, no caring.  There is unknowing and unknowable chance, colliding happenstances that infiltrate and rearrange existence, now in another manner, now in another form.  It matters not, matter is pliable, and it plies its horror on us and through us.  We keep the universe alive by letting it manipulate us, in its dance of destruction and regeneration.  The choice we make is to breathe.  The control we have is to breathe.  Yet, that is no choice, no control, at all.  We exist to breathe, to now become another, to not be the same thing we were prior to our breath.

That is us.  We are now done.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Risibility

Besides, risibility come to man from his fundamental intention: he tortures himself, bloodies himself, and kills himself trying to reach the sublime summit.  And what does he hope to find there?  Being.  Well, supposing the impossible, were he to reach it he would merely discover universal nonbeing and his own nothingness.
 - Jean Paul Sartre, Carol Cosman: "The Family Idiot, Gustave Flaubert 1821-1857", The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1989, page 190

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Logline - The most important 27 words a screenwriter will ever write

Re-blogged from http://www.crackingyarns.com.au/2010/03/25/the-most-important-27-words-a-screenwriter-will-ever-write/ - with kind permission I hope - completely referenced. Read their blog - it is excellent.



The most important 27 words a screenwriter will ever write

by Allen Palmer on March 25, 2010
Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley grapple with the challenge of summarising the plot of Schindler's List in just 27 words.
Before you write a single scene of your 120-page screenplay, try to express your film’s logline in 27 words or less. Putting your concept to this simple, early test can help focus your narrative, gauge potential and save years of wasted effort.

Write your logline at the beginning – not the end

Typically, screenwriters sweat for months or years over a screenplay, going through endless drafts, major revisions and minor refinements. Only when the script is “finished”, and even then only at the request of the producer, will they write the logline. This is arse about. Here’s why.

Writing the logline up front could save you years

I was recently asked to produce script notes for a project that has been in development for several years. Yet after reading just 10-15 pages of the screenplay I knew the project was in trouble because the fundamental concept wasn’t sound. Thousands of dollars could have been spared and years could have been saved – if only the writer had first written a logline.

What is a logline?

The logline is a single sentence description of your film’s basic story idea in 27* words or less. You might also hear it referred to as the concept or the premise. It’s the concisely written version of what you say when people ask you the question, “So what’s your film about?”.

Why the logline is a good test of story – simplicity

Film is a demanding medium. You have just an hour and a half – 2 hours if you’re lucky – to tell your story. That’s nothing. The average 300-page novel might take 6 hours to film – which is one reason why book adaptations are so hit-and-miss in the cinema. So good movies tend to have simple story ideas. The plots might be complex, but the concepts are almost always simple. That’s why the logline is such a great test of film stories. One sentence. 27 words. If your story’s too complex to be told in 27 words, then it’s almost certainly too complicated for a 90 min movie.

Why the logline is a good test of story – marketability

Writing films is tough but marketing them is even more difficult. How do you arrest people’s attention in a one-sheet poster? How do you hook them with a tagline? How do you open a window in their diary with a 15 second trailer? Again, it’s going to need to be a simple, easily communicatable idea. But it’s also going to need to be immediately compelling. If you can’t hook me in 27 words you’ll have no chance with the cinema-going public.

What should you include in the logline?

Learning to write loglines is an art in itself. Here are some tips for what you should include in those precious 27 words:
Who is the hero? – You should identify the protagonist (though not necessarily by name), the person whose story this is, the character with whom we are meant to identify. e.g. an ageing baseball player, an alcoholic lawyer, a struggling single mother.
What is the Quest? – What does the hero want? What is the overarching external goal that is going to drive the events of the second act at least and possibly even the third act as well. e.g. has to kill a great white shark, rescue the princess from a dragon, find the groom.
What is the hero’s flaw? – Stories are plots that force the hero to grow. What is your hero’s failing? Does he lack courage or compassion? What sort of opportunity is there here for emotional growth? e.g. selfish, cowardly, greedy, materialistic, immoral, womanising, ruthless, workaholic, obsessive.
Where is the conflict? – Drama is all about conflict so we need to understand why this quest is going to be difficult for the hero.
What’s at stake? – For audiences to care, the hero has to have a very strong motivation. If they don’t achieve this goal, the consequences are massive – in their eyes any way. You will generally try to convey in your logline what’s at stake .
Who is the antagonist? – You won’t always include the antagonist – unless it’s a romantic comedy – but it can be a good way to establish the conflict and the impossibility of the hero’s quest.
What is the tone? – If it’s a comedy, it’s a good idea to try to convey that through either the title or the logline.
What’s the USP – In advertising, they used to talk about Unique Selling Point (USP). The thing that set the product apart from its competitors. What is it about your film that is most likely to appeal to the audience? Your logline should attempt to convey this quality or element to us.
How do you do all that in 27 words? Yeah, it’s not easy but here are some clues.

How to write your logline

If you’ve read any Joseph Campbell or Chris Vogler, or you’ve been to one of my courses on classic film story structure, you’ll know that we meet the hero in their Ordinary World, that they get a Call to Adventure and that this quest presents a challenge to their character. Consequently, it’s often effective for your logline to have a structure something like this:
When < flawed hero at start of story> is forced to <call to adventure>, he has to <opportunity for emotional growth> or risk <what’s at stake>.

What you don’t include in the logline

There’s one thing you shouldn’t include in the logline. The ending. It must tease, tempt and demand that the person reads your script. Give away the ending in the logline and you’ve removed that need.
You also shouldn’t include a goal that isn’t concrete. e.g. “must find true love”. What is that? How will we know when they’ve got it? The goal has to drive the drama so it needs to be specific.

Examples of film loglines:
Here are some examples of loglines for well-known films:


Schindler’s List:
When a materialistic, womanising Aryan industrialist discovers his Jewish workers are being sent to Nazi death camps, he risks his life and fortune to save them.


Groundhog Day:
An egotistical TV personality must relive the same day in small town Punxsutawney and be denied the girl of his dreams unless he can become more selfless.


Raiders of the Lost Ark:
A dashing archaeologist must reunite with the ex he dumped if he is to beat the Nazis to find the all-powerful lost Ark of the Covenant.


Little Miss Sunshine:
When a dysfunctional family reluctantly embarks on a road trip to a Californian junior beauty pageant it’s forced to address its serious underlying tensions or fall apart forever.


When Harry Met Sally:
When a cynical anti-romantic befriends a cheery optimist he’s forced to challenge his belief that men and women can’t have a Platonic relationship.


The Hangover:
After a wild Vegas Buck’s Party, a dysfunctional bunch of guys wakes with no memory of last night, a tiger in the bathroom, and no groom.

Judging your logline – try to be objective

One of the great things about the logline is that it’s almost self-regulating. The 27-word limit will make it impossible to communicate ideas that are too sprawling or ill-focused for a mainstream movie. However, just because you’ve written a logline that complies with the word limit doesn’t mean you’ve got a blockbuster on your hands. Be honest in your assessment of your logline. Better still, give it to someone who isn’t your lover, spouse or mother. Does it intrigue them? Do they want to know what happens? If not, chances are your idea isn’t strong enough for a movie. If you’re disciplined, you’ll rework the idea or ditch it altogether. If you’re a fool, you’ll persist and potentially waste years on a project that has only the slimmest chance of success.

The logline – write it early and write it often

I would encourage you to put your film idea to the logline test very early in the writing process. Trying to express the idea in a single sentence of 27 words can help distil the essence of your idea.
  • Whose story is it?
  • What do they want?
  • What’s stopping them getting it?
  • What’s at stake?
Constantly revisit your logline during the writing process. Is your story still true to the logline? Or have you strayed? Sometimes during the writing process you’ll come up with an idea that takes the story in a new direction that you believe has even better potential. If so, rewrite your logline. Move from logline, to story, to screenplay, then back to logline again. In this way, you’ll hopefully avoid the all-too-common mistake – particularly in Australia – of spending years writing a screenplay that either no-one wants to make or no-one wants to see.

Related screenwriting articles:

The 6 most common logline mistakes

10 screenwriting insights I wish I’d had 25 years ago

* Why 27 words? That’s what I asked my lecturer at UCLA Extension, Peter Exline (who, incidentally, was one of the inspirations for the Dude in The Big Lebowski.) He said “Because it works”. He was right. It does.

IBM Watson and Jeopardy

IBM's Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY has recently completed a new grand challenge - to program a computer to play the quiz game "Jeopardy".

I have been following this (as have many many other people) - and it has been absolutely fascinating.
This link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bifUJCyMwI) to a youtube of the final session should also give you links to the previous sessions over the 3 days.  The link to details of Watson (http://www-943.ibm.com/innovation/us/watson/) will no doubt also give you the relevant video links, and much more.

Basically, IBM have developed a natural language processing and deep analytic question and answer system, using massively parallel processing and huge amounts of memory (as stated here: 2880 processor cores in 90 Power 750 computers and 15 terabytes of RAM) to implement a system which can answer any sort of general knowledge question (which have been asked in a variety of ways, including through association, analogy, puns, etc), and to get so many correct that Watson totally beat the best human players.

The results were fascinating.

At the end of the first day, Ken Jennings was on $4,800, Brad Rutter was on $10,400 but Watson was a massive $35,734 (I also answered the questions as they appeared on the screen and achieved $22,400 - although one can not completely equate the results, since the physical presence of having to press the button first when the light comes on and then answer was not the same for me watching it on a computer screen).

At the end of the second and final day, Brad scored $5,600 before final jeopardy, wagered the lot to obtain $11,200 which totaled him $21,600 over the 2 days.

Ken did much better on the second day, managing a pre-final jeopardy score of $18,200 but only wagered $1,000 to finish with $19,200, to total $24,000 for the 2 days.

But Watson.  Well, he (since we can really be anthropomorphic here) scored $23,440 before final jeopardy, wagered $17,973 to make his daily score $41,413 and a massive total of $77,147 for the 2 days.

(By the way, I managed $14,000 for the second day, wagered the lot and got the final jeopardy answer correct (it was Bram Stoker) to finish with $28,000 on the day and $50,400 over the 2 days).

The prize money of $1,000,000 awarded to Watson was donated by IBM to World Vision and to the World Community Grid, whereas half the second prize of $300,000 (to Ken) and $200,000 (to Brad) was donated to other charities.

Two important take-aways from this brilliant piece of research.

Firstly, this technology from IBM has so so many uses - not just in the medical field (as the first offerings appear to be) but also in the energy and resources fields, the urban planning fields, and certainly in the legal and justice fields.  The ability to ingest natural language materials (such as legislation, case law, briefs, submissions, depositions, statements, judgments and miscellaneous other materials) and then to answer complicated questions concerning that material (and link to associated material not previously related to the matter) will be extremely important in the future.

Secondly, IBM Watson was truly amazing.  Certainly a breakthrough in technology.  But the human beings standing there, that did pretty well against the massive machine, were still, themselves, rather incredible.  Humans, in essence, are still mighty powerful.  The Jeopardy show had to be filmed on a special set built in the IBM Research Facility, because the computer system comprising Watson took up a whole room and was too massive to move.  Whereas Ken and Brad simply walked into where ever they were needed and did their thing.  Mind you, computer systems in the 1960's and 1970's took whole rooms - and their capability would now be eclipsed by an iPad or small notebook computer.  Twenty years from now, Watson will definitely be in the palm of one's hand (in one form or another).

Monday, 31 January 2011

learn live die

disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus

Learn as if always going to live; live as if tomorrow going to die.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Tim Crago Dies

Tim Crago, who worked in Harris & Sutherland and remained a friend from that time on, died on Thursday 27 January 2011.

Now is done thy long day’s work;
Fold thy palms across thy breast,
Fold thine arms, turn to thy rest. In Memoria Nostra Semper
Tony Sutherland and all those from H&S

(The initial 3 lines are from “A Dirge” by Alfred Tennyson, in “Poems of Tennyson”, Alexander Classic Library, p.28.  The Latin phrase can be translated as” Always In Our Memories”).

Tim Crago Dies

Tim Crago, who worked in Harris & Sutherland and remained a friend from that time on, died on Thursday 27 January 2011.

Now is done thy long day's work;
Fold thy palms across thy breast,
Fold thine arms, turn to thy rest.

In Memoria Nostra Semper

Tony Sutherland and all those from H&S

(The initial 3 lines are from "A Dirge" by Alfred Tennyson, in "Poems of Tennyson", Alexander Classic Library, p.28.
The Latin phrase can be translated as" Always In Our Memories").

Friday, 24 December 2010

Sunday, 5 December 2010

It is Indulgent to Hesitate

“You see, what [Don] Juan wanted to do to [Carlos] Castenada … was to find some way of motivating him to be congruent and expressive in his behavior at all times, as creative as he could be as a human being.  He wanted to mobilize his resources so that each act that Carlos performed would be a full representation of all the potential  that was available to him – all the personal power that he had that was available  to him at any moment in time.

Specifically, what Juan told Carlos was “At any moment that you find yourself hesitating, or if at any moment you find yourself putting off  until tomorrow trying some new piece of behavior that you could do today, or doing something that you’ve done before, then all you need to do is glance over your left shoulder and there will be a fleeting shadow.  That shadow represents your death, and at any moment it might step forward, place its hand on your shoulder and take you.  So that the act that you are presently engaged in might be your very last act and therefore fully representative  of you as your last act on this planet.”

One of the ways that you can use this constructively is to understand that it is indulgent to hesitate.

When you hesitate, you are acting as if you are immortal.  And you, ladies and gentlemen, are not.”

(from Richard Bandler and John Grinder, “frogs into PRINCES” (subtitled “Neuro Linguistic Programming”, Real People Press, Moab, Utah, 1979), pages 192,193).

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Good Judge

But with the judge it is otherwise; since he governs mind by mind; he ought not therefore to have been trained among vicious minds, and to have associated with them from youth upward, and to have gone through the whole calendar of crime, only in order that he may quickly infer the crimes of others as he might their bodily diseases from his own self-consciousness; the honorable mind which is to form a healthy judgment should have had no experience or contamination of evil habits when young. And this is the reason why in youth good men often appear to be simple, and are easily practised upon by the dishonest, because they have no examples of what evil is in their own souls.

Yes, he said, they are far too apt to be deceived.

Therefore, I said, the judge should not be young; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of the nature of evil in others: knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience.

Yes, he said, that is the ideal of a judge.

Yes, I replied, and he will be a good man (which is my answer to your question); for he is good who has a good soul. But the cunning and suspicious nature of which we spoke-- he who has committed many crimes, and fancies himself to be a master in wickedness--when he is among his fellows, is wonderful in the precautions which he takes, because he judges of them by himself: but when he gets into the company of men of virtue, who have the experience of age, he appears to be a fool again, owing to his unseasonable suspicions; he cannot recognize an honest man, because he has no pattern of honesty in himself; at the same time, as the bad are more numerous than the good, and he meets with them oftener, he thinks himself, and is by others thought to be, rather wise than foolish.

Most true, he said.

Then the good and wise judge whom we are seeking is not this man, but the other; for vice cannot know virtue too, but a virtuous nature, educated by time, will acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice: the virtuous, and not the vicious, man has wisdom--in my opinion.


 -- Plato, The Republic, Book III
(ref: Plato, Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997, page 1045, paras 409a-d)

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I need people to accept that I am a woman

“I just want to convey that I’m not trying to be a man, I need people to accept that I am a woman and that I’m playing a man,” she said.
“It’s an androgynous thing.”

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Corinthian girlfriends

Then you also object to Corinthian girlfriends for men who are to be in good physical condition.
- Plato, "The Republic", 404d, p. 1041 in "Plato Complete Works", eds. John M Cooper, D. S. Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997

(What has Plato got against Corinthians girls?)

Also, see http://reconstruction.eserver.org/042/kozlovic.htm for an analysis of "The Republic" from a human resource management critique perspective, which also mentions Corinthian girlfriends.

The Right Kind of Love

But the right kind of love is by nature the love of order and beauty that has been moderated by education in music and poetry?
- Plato, "The Republic", 403a, p. 1040 in "Plato Complete Works", eds. John M Cooper, D. S. Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997

If you want to view a very summarised version of The Republic, try here: http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/plato.htm (called the Squashed verison of The Republic, and there is also a Very Squashed verison of The Republic on the same page).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Heavens have been torn open, Passion has been spilt everywhere

The Heavens have been torn open.
Passion has been spilt everywhere.
-- Madame Bovary BBC series

You're a man

You're a man, like any other.
It will be beyond you.
-- Madame Bovary BBC series

Sunday, 1 August 2010

7 Social Processes That Grease the Slippery Slope of Evil

7 Social Processes That Grease the Slippery Slope of Evil

1. Mindlessly Taking the First Small Step
2. Dehumanization of Others
3. De-individuation of Self (anonymity)
4. Diffusion of Personal Responsibility
5. Blind Obedience to Authority
6. Uncritical Conformity to Group Norms
7. Passive Tolerance of Evil Through Inaction, or Indifference

- Philip Zimbardo
(http://www.ted.com/talk/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil.html)

Monday, 26 July 2010

200,000 year old metropolis

Southern Africa has evidence of what would have been a large city, populated around 200,000 years ago.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Arete

Arete (Greek) is that state or property that makes something good or excellent in itself - it's "virtuousness".

Time

Philip Zimbardo - Time-focus
February 2009

See http://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_prescribes_a_healthy_take_on_time.html
and
http://blog.ted.com/2010/06/phillip_zimbard.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TEDBlog+(TEDBlog) for some great animation (from RSAnimate) illustrating the text.



Promised Virtues fall prey to the Passions of the Moment

Two-thirds of 4 year olds give in to temptation for 1 marshmallow now versus 2 marshmallows later. In a study 14 years later, the children who resisted the temptation had a SAT score 250 points higher than the children who gave in to the temptation (Stanford study).

Dividing the time flow of human experience into different time frame or time zones - automatically and non-consciously.

People become biased by learned over-use of some frames and under-use of others.

Make a Decision - Take an Action (cf Aristotle).

Past Oriented - Memories (What Was)
Present Oriented - Immediate Situation / Stimulation (What Is Now)
Future Oriented - Anticipated Consequences (Cost Benefit Analsysi) - What Will Be

6 Time Perspective (TP) Factors:
1. Past TP - Focus on Positives
2. Past TP - Focus on Negatives
3. Present TP - Hedonism
4. Present TP - Fatalism
5. Future TP - Life Goal-Oriented
6. Future TP - Transcendental (Life after death of the mortal body)

Optimal Time Profile:
- High on Past-Positive
- Moderately High on Future
- Moderate on Present-Hedonism
- Low on Past-Negative
- Low on Present-Fatalism

Past-Positive gives you Roots - to connect to your identity and family - to be grounded
Future gives you Wings - to soar to new destinations and challenges
Present-Hedonism gives your Energy - to expore people, places, self and sensuality

The video:

Saturday, 20 March 2010

experience

'But I'm getting off the point. The point is, you came to ask me about something that really is important. So why be ashamed and deny it? You see, I know you through and through. I know exactly what you want. You want me to tell you what I know --

'Oh, Kenneth, Kenneth, believe me - there's nothing I'd rather do! I want like hell to tell you. But I can't. I quite literally can't. Because, don't you see, what I know is what I am? And I can't tell you that. You have to find it out for yourself. I'm like a book you have to read. A book can't read itself to you. It doesn't even know what it's about. I don't know what I'm about --

'You could know what I'm about. You could. But you can't be bothered to. Look - you're the only boy I ever met on that campus I really believe could. That's what makes it so tragically futile.

Christoper Isherwood, "A Single Man", p144, Vintage Books, London, 1964 (2010).



So desperately wanting to pass on experience to those around us, especially our children, those closest to us, those that we feel for. And yet can't. There is no reading of the book. No time to be had, just to read. Lives to be led, experiences to be had, to write one's own book, no reading of someone else's. The need and the tragedy of unrequited desire. The futility - on and on.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Naming representations of oneself

It never ceases to enwonderment me (did you like my New New English) the representations of oneself that repeat from years gone by. Names set the scene for when and who - expanding a thin slice of one's life - but is it me?

Robert Heinlein - Our Noble, Essential Decency

"I am not going to talk about religious beliefs but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them. I believe in my neighbors. I know their faults, and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.

Take Father Michael, down our road a piece. I’m not of his creed, but I know that goodness and charity and loving kindness shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike. If I’m in trouble, I’ll go to him. My next door neighbor’s a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat—no fee, no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.

I believe in my townspeople. You can knock on any door in our town, say “I’m hungry,” and you’ll be fed. Our town is no exception. I found the same ready charity everywhere. For the one who says, “The heck with you, I’ve got mine,” there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, “Sure pal, sit down.” I know that despite all warnings against hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride, and in a few minutes a car or a truck will stop and someone will say, “Climb in Mack. How far you going?”

I believe in my fellow citizens. Our headlines are splashed with crime. Yet for every criminal, there are ten thousand honest, decent, kindly men. If it were not so, no child would live to grow up. Business could not go on from day to day. Decency is not news. It is buried in the obituaries, but it is a force stronger than crime.

I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses, in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land. I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.

I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman, there are hundreds of politicians—low paid or not paid at all—doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the Thirteen Colonies.

I believe in Rodger Young. You and I are free today because of endless unnamed heroes from Valley Forge to the Yalu River. I believe in—I am proud to belong to—the United States. Despite shortcomings—from lynchings, to bad faith in high places—our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.

And finally, I believe in my whole race—yellow, white, black, red, brown—in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability, and goodness of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth—that we always make it just for the skin of our teeth—but that we will always make it, survive, endure.

I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching oversized braincase and the opposable thumb—this animal barely up from the apes—will endure, will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets—to the stars and beyond—carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage, and his noble essential decency. This I believe with all my heart."


Robert A. Heinlein won four Hugo Awards during his 50-year career as a science fiction writer. Born and raised in Missouri, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929 and did aeronautical engineering for the Navy during World War II. Heinlein’s books include "Starship Troopers" and "Stranger in a Strange Land."

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

the think-machine gods, whose cult has one dogma, we cannot make a mistake

Everybody is informed of everything. George glances through them all and then tosses the lot into the waste-bucket, with one exception: an oblong card slotted and slitted and ciphered by an IBM machine, expressing some poor bastard of a student's academic identity. Indeed, this card is his identity. Suppose, instead of signing it as requested and returning it to the Personnel Office, George were to tear it up? Instantly, that student would cease to exist, as far as San Tomas State was concerned. He would become academically invisible, and only reappear with the very greatest difficulty, after performing the most elaborate propitiation ceremonies; countless offerings of forms filled out in triplicate and notarised affidavits to the gods of the IBM.

George signs the card, holding it steady with two fingertips. He dislikes even to touch these things, for they are the runes of an idiotic but nevertheless potent and evil magic; the magic of the think-machine gods, whose cult has one dogma, we cannot make a mistake. The magic consists in this, that whenever they do make a mistake, which is quite often, it is perpetuated and thereby becomes a non-mistake. . . . . Carrying the card by its extreme corner, George brings it over to one of the secretaries, who will see that it gets back to Personnel. The secretary has a nail-file on her desk. George picks it up, saying, 'Let's see if that old robot'll know the difference' and pretends to be about to punch another slit in the card. The girl laughs, but only after a split-second look of sheer terror; and the laugh itself is forced. George has uttered blasphemy.

Christoper Isherwood, "A Single Man", p30-31, Vintage Books, London, 1964 (2010).


The above was written in the early 1960's in America (the original book was published in 1964), yet, unfortunately, the sentiment behind the piece is as applicable today as it ever was at that time. It appears to be a social verity - large organisations become impervious to people - an individual not longer counts, and is treated not even with disdain - they are treated as abstract commodities, which if they do not conform to the idiotic strictures placed on them by organisational design and control (hegemony), are then severely punished and sacrificed in their attempts to either: rejoin the organisation, or exert their right to live as an individual outside the bounds of organisational rigidity.

It is people conveniently forgetting that they are people, because they are now a factotum of this mysterious "god" and thus above and separate from being individually and responsibly human. They have no responsibility any more - they can claim the "These are the procedures (rules / processes / instructions / etc)" Nuremberg defence. And the lure of conformance (to authority, and/or power) is far too strong for most to resist (the Stanford Prison Experiment - Zimbardo, after "Obedience" - Milgram, 1963 - see http://www.integratedsociopsychology.net/milgram_experiment.html).

So we now find that organisations continue to act as "think-machine gods", who can not make mistakes, and if anything resembling a mistake is notified to them, they simply need to "apologise" and deny that anything further can be done ("it is out of my power", "I have now authority", "We don't recompense for any of those reasons", "What more do you want me to do?", "I have apologised, what more can be done?"). There no longer is a mistake, there is nothing to be further addressed (the "apology" has been issued) and the organisation can continue without change - gods don't change, gods sacrifice people.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

the life of the philosopher, the life of scientific and philosophic contemplation

Pleasure is, therefore, a necessary element in the best life, but it is
not the whole of it nor the principal ingredient. The value of a life
depends upon the nature and worth of the activity which it involves;
given the maximum of full free action, the maximum of pleasure necessary
follows. But on what sort of life is such activity possible? This leads
us back to the question, What is happiness? In what life can man find
the fullest satisfaction for his desires? To this question Aristotle
gives an answer which cannot but surprise us after what has preceded.
True Happiness, great satisfaction, cannot be found by man in any form
of "practical" life, no, not in the fullest and freest exercise possible
of the "moral virtues," not in the life of the citizen or of the
great soldier or statesman. To seek it there is to court failure and
disappointment. It is to be found in the life of the onlooker, the
disinterested spectator; or, to put it more distinctly, "in the life of
the philosopher, the life of scientific and philosophic contemplation."
The highest and most satisfying form of life possible to man is "the
contemplative life"; it is only in a secondary sense and for those
incapable of their life, that the practical or moral ideal is the best.
It is time that such a life is not distinctively human, but it is the
privilege of man to partake in it, and such participation, at however
rare intervals and for however short a period, is the highest Happiness
which human life can offer. All other activities have value only because
and in so far as they render _this_ life possible.

But it must not be forgotten that Aristotle conceives of this life as
one of intense activity or energising: it is just this which gives it
its supremacy. In spite of the almost religious fervour with which he
speaks of it ("the most orthodox of his disciples" paraphrases his
meaning by describing its content as "the service and vision of God"),
it is clear that he identified it with the life of the philosopher, as
he understood it, a life of ceaseless intellectual activity in which at
least at times all the distractions and disturbances inseparable from
practical life seemed to disappear and become as nothing. This ideal was
partly an inheritance from the more ardent idealism of his master Plato,
but partly it was the expression of personal experience.

- from J. A. Smith, Introduction to "Ethics", Aristotle,
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Ethics, by Aristotle
http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/7ethc10.txt
also available as paperback - see http://www.amazon.com/Ethics-Aristotle/dp/1406806056
Publisher: Echo Library (August 7, 2006)
ISBN-10: 1406806056
ISBN-13: 978-1406806052

Thursday, 14 January 2010

When Ulysses talks of the immeasurable sea and boundless earth

I recollected so well how I used formerly to watch the course of that same stream, following it with inquiring eagerness, forming romantic ideas of the countries it was to pass through; but my imagination was soon exhausted: while the water continued flowing farther and farther on, till my fancy became bewildered by the contemplation of an invisible distance. Exactly such, my dear friend, so happy and so confined, were the thoughts of our good ancestors. Their feelings and their poetry were fresh as childhood. And, when Ulysses talks of the immeasurable sea and boundless earth, his epithets are true, natural, deeply felt, and mysterious. Of what importance is it that I have learned, with every schoolboy, that the world is round? Man needs but little earth for enjoyment, and still less for his final repose.
-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Once more I am a wanderer

Once more I am a wanderer, a pilgrim, through the world. But what else are you!
-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The brilliant wretchedness, the weariness

Oh, the brilliant wretchedness, the weariness, that one is doomed to witness among the silly people whom we meet in society here! The ambition of rank! How they watch, how they toil, to gain precedence! What poor and contemptible passions are displayed in their utter nakedness!

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

I am filled with thoughts of death and futurity

It was a glorious sight, and was rendered more striking by the darkness which surrounded the spot where we were. We remained for some time silent, when Charlotte observed, "Whenever I walk by moonlight, it brings to my remembrance all my beloved and departed friends, and I am filled with thoughts of death and futurity. We shall live again, Werther!" she continued, with a firm but feeling voice; "but shall we know one another again what do you think? what do you say?"

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

The flowers of life are but visionary

The flowers of life are but visionary. How many pass away, and leave no trace behind -- how few yield any fruit -- and the fruit itself, how rarely does it ripen! And yet there are flowers enough! and is it not strange, my friend, that we should suffer the little that does really ripen, to rot, decay, and perish unenjoyed?

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Tears flow from my oppressed heart

In vain do I stretch out my arms toward her when I awaken in the morning from my weary slumbers. In vain do I seek for her at night in my bed, when some innocent dream has happily deceived me, and placed her near me in the fields, when I have seized her hand and covered it with countless kisses. And when I feel for her in the half confusion of sleep, with the happy sense that she is near, tears flow from my oppressed heart; and, bereft of all comfort, I weep over my future woes.

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

My heart is wasted by the thought of that destructive power which lies concealed in every part of universal nature

It is as if a curtain had been drawn from before my eyes, and, instead of prospects of eternal life, the abyss of an ever open grave yawned before me. Can we say of anything that it exists when all passes away, when time, with the speed of a storm, carries all things onward, -- and our transitory existence, hurried along by the torrent, is either swallowed up by the waves or dashed against the rocks? There is not a moment but preys upon you, -- and upon all around you, not a moment in which you do not yourself become a destroyer. The most innocent walk deprives of life thousands of poor insects: one step destroys the fabric of the industrious ant, and converts a little world into chaos. No: it is not the great and rare calamities of the world, the floods which sweep away whole villages, the earthquakes which swallow up our towns, that affect me. My heart is wasted by the thought of that destructive power which lies concealed in every part of universal nature. Nature has formed nothing that does not consume itself, and every object near it: so that, surrounded by earth and air, and all the active powers, I wander on my way with aching heart; and the universe is to me a fearful monster, for ever devouring its own offspring.

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Monday, 11 January 2010

She dances with her whole heart and soul

You should see Charlotte dance. She dances with her whole heart and soul; her figure is all harmony, elegance, and grace, as if she were conscious of nothing else, and had no other thought or feeling; and, doubtless, for the moment, every other sensation is extinct.

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The human race is but a monotonous affair

If you enquire what the people are like here, I must answer, "The same as everywhere." The human race is but a monotonous affair.
Most of them labour the greater part of their time for mere subsistence; and the scanty portion of freedom which remains to them so troubles them that they use every exertion to get rid of it. Oh, the destiny of man!

-- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, "The Sorrows of Young Werther"

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Knowledge has no dignity or severity

Because how can someone be a good teacher when he has an inborn drive towards the abyss? We may deny it and gain dignity, but it still attracts us. We do not like final knowledge, because knowledge, Phaedo, has no dignity or severity: it knows, understands, forgives, without attitude; it is sympathetic to the abyss, it is the abyss. Therefore we deny it and instead seek beauty, simplicity, greatness and severity, of objectivity and form. But form and objectivity, Phaedo, lead the noble one to intoxication and desire, to horrible emotional transgressions rejected by his beautiful severity, lead to the abyss. Us poets, I say, it leads there, for we are unable to elevate ourselves, instead we can only transgress. And now I am leaving you, Phaedo; stay here until you no longer see me, then leave also.

-- Thomas Mann - Death in Venice

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A tale of a fateful trip

Just sit right back
And you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
The Skipper brave and sure,
Five passengers set sail that day,
For a three hour tour,
A three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost.
The Minnow would be lost.

The ship set ground on the shore
Of this uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan,
The Skipper too.
The millionaire
And his wife,
The movie star,
The professor and Mary Ann,
Here on Gilligan's Isle.

(Ending verse)

So this is the tale of our castaways,
They're here for a long long time.
They'll have to make the best of things,
It's an uphill climb.

The first mate and his Skipper too
Will do their very best,
To make the others comf'terble
In their tropic island nest.

No phone, no lights, no motor car,
Not a single luxury
Like Robinson Crusoe
It's primitive as can be.

So join us here each week my friends,
You're sure to get a smile,
From seven stranded castaways
Here on Gilligan's Isle!



I totally feel like Gilligan at the moment - no doubt about it.
My apocalypse is bleeding, mythologising the future when not applicable!

I have a tale to tell, not such a great tale, about what should have been a three hour journey into the world of cloud computing and servers on demand, which has turned into an epic journey of unwanted adventure after another.

In the episodes to come, a chiaroscuro of the nether-land of virtuality - of blind Sancho Panza in the land of unwritten and illiterate, searching for a Book of Kells and finding - used rolls.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Information Attention and Herbet Simon

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
- Herbert Simon
(http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/herbertsim181919.html)

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_economy
http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/09/where_attention.php
http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2005/11/the_looming_att.html
http://sapventures.typepad.com/main/2005/11/the_looming_att.html
http://scientific-presentations.com/2009/10/10/learning-from-herbert-simon/
http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2009/08/wealth-information-takes-attention-patient.html




Anything that gives us new knowledge gives us an opportunity to be more rational.
- Herbert Simon


Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.
- Herbert Simon


In the computer field, the moment of truth is a running program; all else is prophecy.
- Herbert Simon


Learning is any change in a system that produces a more or less permanent change in its capacity for adapting to its environment.
- Herbert Simon


The proper study of mankind is the science of design.
- Herbert Simon


The world is vast, beautiful, and fascinating, even awe-inspiring - but impersonal. It demands nothing of me, and allows me to demand nothing of it.
- Herbert Simon


There are no morals about technology at all. Technology expands our ways of thinking about things, expands our ways of doing things. If we're bad people we use technology for bad purposes and if we're good people we use it for good purposes.
- Herbert Simon

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Software Engineering Is Dead

There are a number of unanswered questions implicit in what DeMarco has written:

1. How does one actually choose the projects? How does one know that Project A will eventually cost $1million and deliver value of $1.1m versus Project B costing $1m and delivering $50m. What if both cost $1m and deliver value of only $500k each? What if both eventually end up costing $20m each and deliver value of $1.1m each? How many of the last type of projects could a company afford (a normal company - not a company like Google which earns so much from other sources that the cost of failed projects is almost irrelevant). Most organisations do not have unlimited funds, and so must somehow choose between projects. That choice is usually couched in economic terms (the cost of projects versus the benefit (ROI) of a project) but we all know that mostly the real decisions concerning projects are political (of one sort or another. So one could argue that the economics don't count - except that most of the "politics" has the economic impact as one criteria of the politic decision (people want to know the numbers - even if they ignore them!) and thus, the basis of actually knowing how much a project will cost BEFORE it starts needs to be considered. Once again, how does one do this?

2. The implication is that one should just do software until one decides to stop. When is a good time to stop? Once again, it appears that the implication is that one stops when the key decision maker(s) decides to do so - when the money runs out, or when there appears to be enough functionality to satisfice. Unfortunately, the second option requires serious understanding by the decision maker concerning the functionality and effectiveness of what has been produced (acapability not readily available in most organisations). And the first option may easily gazump the second. The money runs out with something that is barely useable, if at all. What then? Ask for more money? Typically yes, which leads to the next point.

3. If some software is needed strongly enough by an organisation, it usually ends up just keeping paying for it, month in, month out, regardless of the original estimates for costs. What starts out looking like a "standard" software engineering project (big plan up front, lots of process and control, big-end methodology, etc) turns into a never-ending "agile" project. Work continues unabated, withreleases popping out on a regular basis, based on the ability of a fixed team of developers to produce within that period, as prioritised by the business (if they are lucky) - and not based on any semblance of specific functionality planned for and controlled in a big-end development process. The afore-mentioned scenario occurs if the organisation is lucky. If it isn't, the software remains as is, under-delivering for the organisation until it is replaced by yet another attempt to get something useful for the organisation.

4. In all the available scenarios outlined above, the only real way of determining the usefulness for some software is after the fact, including determining the cost for the software and the value that it delivers. This does nothing to address the proper concerns of organisations in relation to managing expenditure and investment, and ensuring that the financial position of the organisation is managed and known in advance (particularly important for financial reporting for companies, especially public companies). This is also an important risk management issue for organisations.

5. Which brings one straight back to the question of reconciling the activity of "craftsmen" in a "managers" world - something which continues to be exceedingly difficult. Maybe this is the key question which really needs to be answered in relation to enterprise information systems.


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Streams, Mirrors and Becoming

1) Internet = collective nervous system: OK
2) Web = collective brain: hmmm… the Web is an important part of the infrastructure of the global memory (collective brain is exagerated. It's only one of the first layers of it. Cyberspace is still in embryonic form)
3) Stream = global mind: definitely not. I understand the relation between the linearity or sequentiality of the digital stream and the linearity of the personal thought stream. But there is no “mind” without reflexivity or consciousness, and you know that. The “stream” has no reflexivity, it is not a mind, it is just the flow that will feed the future mind.
By the way, global reflexive collective intelligence needs full transparency. No global brain or global mind will be based on commercial secrets.

The reflexivity is already there – in the people themselves – who form a critical part of the Stream. The Stream is a cybernetic loop that includes people. Therefore it is effectively reflexively aware. Reflexive awareness will not come from software or machines or some kind of information, and it won't come from magical complexity either – it's already present, in us.

The global mind is a cognitive process, just like the human mind. The witness of the human mind is not “in” the mind, just as the witnesses of the collective mind (humans) are not “in” the Stream.

I agree with everything you just said, there is a misunderstanding here: I mean that there is still no “mirror” (or dynamic synthetic representation, if you want) of the global mind as such. Yes, as you say, the reflexivity will always be in the people, but the question is what is reflected? Any particular stream a is a very partial and tiny aspect of the global mind

I think about this question often too. We have several mini-mirrors already. For example, sites that reflect current trends – like Google Zeitgeist, or Technorati, or trending topics on Twitter, or services like Twitturl, Psyng, and others that map trends in real time. But those are partial views. Psyng is perhaps one of the most comprehensive, but still just a tiny slice. What would the comprehensive central mirror look like and do? Is it even possible or useful? Also – mirroring back to a user their own stream is possible, but no so useful perhaps – it seems that it would be more useful to see mirrors of others, or of large groups – views which might not be possible to know or see any other way…

I do think that mirroring back to the user (to oneself) is useful - provided that what is being mirrored back is the reflection of what one considered or planned to be the future (at a point in time) and that the mirroring happens in the “now”, when the planned future may or may not be about to bring itself into existence (to “become”, not just to “be”).

(the last paragraph is my comment)

Source: http://www.twine.com/item/128lzwnpc-5s/is-the-stream-the-next-new-metaphor - see the comments section. Paragraphs variously by Pierre Levy, Nova Spivack.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Problems with Online Facilities and Cloud Computing

I am also having an interesting time using everything on the web only, as opposed to PC only.
At the moment it is a bit of a combination - which is probably where things will pan out in the long term - provided that better facilities get put into place to share information between the two worlds.

It is the information storage - ie saving documents, and snippets of information etc - which is really really really bugging me.
I am finding that I am putting the same piece of information into 2 or 3 (sometimes more) different locations, since I haven't settled on a single facility (site) or single interface for where the information goes.
So, for instance, all the information I researched on web services components and user interfaces etc.
I ended up creating all these entries:
1. del.icio.us records and tages
2. google notebook clippings and associated text
3. reply to the discussion forum in Central Desktop on this topic

and then I got the whole discussion forum replies into a single document, using an RSS Feed, and placed it into a TikiWiki page.

I could have also stored the searched entries into my Evernote space, and placed them into my Dokuwiki.

When I get documents from people via email (which is still, unfortunately, the predominant method of sharing information at the moment), I find that I am saving them locally on my PC (well, the one I am using at the time - being the Linux system, although I also use Windows PCs and have to save documents on them as well) and then re-loading them into Google Docs or into Zoho Docs. I have setup some "email-in" capabilities for Evernote and Google Docs and also into a TikiWiki and so also forward the documents into those facilities using the email facilities - but usually I may have to change the names of the documents to be better than what is sent to me (people are so so so bad at naming documents so that others can use them) - and so I mostly use the "mail-in" facilities when I am sending back a document and can set the subject line on the email properly (people's use of subject lines is infinitely worse than their document naming conventions - awful awful awful) and can name the document effectively as well (in relation to the ultimate storage of the document).

It is all a little tedious - I must admit.
It is the correct way to go - keep items online - but the whole ecosystem (online, laptop, applications, services, etc) is really a little broken I think. It really needs an excellent piece of integration work between all these facilities.

And furthermore, I find that I am copying and pasting and re-posting material into different environments.
For instance, this little piece of rant about the use of online facilities is going to go into some sort of blog and then some sort of commentary in another facility where I want to keep this information, as well as in this email (but I don't need the other material in the email) - yet I can't easily do this from a single facility. So I will copy it into a new "document" in Kate (the editor, not a person - but, that would be interesting) and then paste it into the other websites as appropriate.

Keeping everything setup and organised is quite a large task. It may be exacerbated by the fact that I like trying out new facilities, and am still looking for the perfect structure of all the facilities together - but I hold by the initial premise of this post - there is still a long way for all these cloud computing and online facilities to go - even though it is absolutely the direction in which everything needs to head.

Monday, 6 October 2008

style

Style is in no way an embellishment, as certain people think, it is not evean a question of technique; it is, like color with certain painters, a quality of vision, a revelation of a private niverse which each one of us sees and which is not seen by others. he pleasure an artist gives us is to make us know an additional universe.

-- Proust, Marcel "Letters of Marcel Proust", translated by Mina Curtiss, Random House, New York, 1949, edition Helen Marx Books, 2006, page 274

memory

Voluntary memory, which is above all the memory of the intelligence end of the eyes, gives us only the surface of the past without the truth, but when an odor, a taste, rediscovered under entirely different circumstances evoke for us, in spite of ourselves, the past, we sense how different is this past from the one we thought we remembered and which our voluntary memory was painting like a bad painter using false colors.

-- Proust, Marcel "Letters of Marcel Proust", translated by Mina Curtiss, Random House, New York, 1949, edition Helen Marx Books, 2006, pages 272-3

That invisible substance, time

There is a plane geometry and a geometry of space. And so for me the novel is not only plane psycholoy but psychology in space and time. That invisible substance, time, I try to isolate. But in order to do this it was essential that the experience be continuous.

-- Proust, Marcel "Letters of Marcel Proust", translated by Mina Curtiss, Random House, New York, 1949, edition Helen Marx Books, 2006, pages 271-2

a piece of work is a thing which, although born out of ourselves, is still worth more than we are

I feel so strongly that a piece of work is a thing which, although born out of ourselves, is still worth more than we are, that I find it natural to take trouble for it, like a father for his child.

-- Proust, Marcel "Letters of Marcel Proust", translated by Mina Curtiss, Random House, New York, 1949, edition Helen Marx Books, 2006, page 269

time is a process of reckoning that corresponds to no reality

The philosophers have certainly persuaded us that time is a process of reckoning that corresponds to no reality. We know that, but the ancient superstition is so strong that we cannot escape it, and it seems to us that on a given date we are inevitably older

-- Proust, Marcel "Letters of Marcel Proust", translated by Mina Curtiss, Random House, New York, 1949, edition Helen Marx Books, 2006, page 267

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Language

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.

 - George Carlin

Stupidity

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

 - George Carlin

Our species

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.

 - George Carlin

 

Friday, 20 June 2008

Colmar and Pithara - A Study in Difference and Sameness

You know, I was looking at the photo's of Colmar, the medieval town in Northern France (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=colmar,+france&ie=UTF8&ll=48.080679,7.359972&spn=2.429462,4.707642&z=8 - just south of Strasbourg and north of Basel) and I was immediately struck by how it would be to live there - what it would be like.

 

Firstly, because it appears to be so different from living in Perth - from an urban and suburban environment.

 

Secondly, by the beauty (old-worldly, etc, etc) of the buildings, and the way that they are all put together - cobble-stone streets and small shops, and three story height and nothing more - etc etc.

 

What is it like to live in a place where one has to participate in the place in a certain manner - walking and riding, rather than driving.  And arranging lifestyle in that manner.  A closer and more intimate way of living, rather than driving quickly from one place to another, parking, doing one's business, and then driving back again.  More connected to what is around one - rather than the inside of a car.

 

I was struck by this because of the recent move to inner city living rather than purely suburban living - with the consequent change in behavioural patterns relating to travel and transport and connection to the rest of the community.  This was a GOOD move - and I can see how it may relate to living in a place such as Colmar (although I am probably disregarding the downsides of living in a place like Colmar.  I live in an inner urban community, which is a quick train ride from the centre of the city and has the rest of a large city available to it in short distance.  Colmar seems to be smaller - but still appears to be a medieval village inside a larger residential area, and probably only less than 60km away from Basel - which is still within the suburban sprawl of Perth now.  Maybe it does not have as many facilities available as we have in this city.  Maybe it does within a reasonable driving distance - which would include a reasonable train distance as well.  And it does seem to have a massive forrest close to it - so maybe it has everything that anyone could want in living in a place!).

 

But the thing that I REALLY wanted to write about was the fact that medieval towns like Colmar have not only survived, but are vibrant and a part of the whole living in Europe experience - and are maintained as such, as part of the lifestyle of the place - rather than simply being pulled down and destroyed, or left to rot.

 

There are a whole range of similar towns etc in Germany which I have visited as well - they are more the norm rather than the exception.  They all have their own peculiar character which makes it a wonder to visit and enjoy.  I am sure that there is an element of appreciation by those of us who have never lived in such a situation, when we visit, that the locals do not understand or are aware of.

 

The houses, the streets, the idiosyncracies which make the place so interesting.

 

It struck me that we have little towns in WA that have a certain element of the same character.  They have their own ambience, their own idiosyncracies, which lend a unique style to the experience of being in that town.

 

Except that most of the towns like that in WA are really slowly deteriorating into a state of decrepitude.  There are some that are surviving, but losing their individual character as they move forward into survival - they are simply small versions of a larger urban and suburban sprawl (a la the American model).  The really little towns are struggling.  There is no real equivalent to Colmar (maybe there is, but surely not in the same manner or capability.  Maybe someone can advise me).

 

And, to me, that is a real loss - since the little WA towns have their own character, so different from elsewhere in the world, which provides a unique lens on the experience of human habitation - a uniqueness which offers something to the whole vitality of life on earth - which will gradually fade away (in a manner in which medieval towns in Europe have not really faded away).

 

A touch of sadness at this realisation - heightened by an awareness that there is little which can be done about the situation.

 

A minor example of such a situation would be Pithara, where I grew up.

This Picasa album - http://picasaweb.google.com/sutherlandswa/20071013Pithara - has some snapshots taken during its centenary celebrations on 13 October 2007 - note the huge difference in age between Pithara and Colmar.  It is highly likely that Pithara will never make it to a 200 year celebration, let alone to a 500 year celebration!  (Those very very attentive amongst you will notice that not every single photo in this album is of Pithara.  I leave it as an exercise for you to work out where the other location is!).

 

Is there any beauty in the snapshots of Pithara, its buildings and locations?