Saturday, August 14, 2004

A Million Monkeys Typing

C-Span just wrapped up its political blogging segment. Experts who's names I don't know commented liberally on the blogging experience. They talked well about the power of link aggregation, the conversation, the difference between this media and others, and so on. As they closed one said jokingly, "A million monkeys typing" .

I only heard the Ad Sense ads mentioned once.

From an information ecosystem point of view, the Ad Sense ads are fascinating. Google algorithms are introducing my opinions to other people's products. My topics interact with the Google algorithms selecting ads to put there. Topics are pulling an economic selector across the intersection of links and aggregators. This is not a blithe unawareness but automation becoming choosy about the things it presents based on the topical environment in which it presents it.

The topics are in symbiosis with a sustaining artificial intelligence that will modify them. As We May Think becomes just the beginning of the evolution of thought because by selection, the blogosphere is modifying itself.

A Turing test it isn't. A difference that makes a difference it is. It isn't just monkeys typing. Blogging is typewriters typing monkeys.

Friday, August 13, 2004


She said, 'What is mind'? I am/have been in
this path of spirituality for a very long time,
and i do not seem to be able to let it go.

It says "The soul may be defined
as the clear reflection
of Infinite Consciousness
and it reflects on the mind."

He told her,

"All things pass.
Some with pain.
Some with joy.
All with growth.

If the soul is the reflection of the Infinite
Then the light is not the reflection.
It is the light.
Do not mourn the mind or the soul.
The light is infinite."


You Got To Fight The Blue Meanies

If its the time
Or the place
Or the style
Or the terrible confusion
You Got To Fight the Blue Meanies
You Got To Fight the Blue Meanies
When its the rock
And the sound
And the words
And the heart that beats between 'em
You Got To Fight the Blue Meanies
You Got to Fight The Blue Meanies

'cause its the thought
That holds you up
That takes you round
That makes you wince
That smooths the word
When its right
When its sparse
In the groove
It takes you down
It makes you small
It fills your dreams with
The One
Who holds you up
Who holds you up
Who frees your soul of the world.
How it owns you?

You Got To Fight the Blue Meanies
You Got to Fight the Blue Meanies


Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Fair Witness

The day started today at 4AM, then to work at 6AM and into a meeting with the new president of the division at 8. It's 2PM now and I'm a bit bleary eyed because old guys like me just don't bounce back as far as we once did. Recording that here is a way of remembering it later. Why? I dunno, days when a career shifts gears should be remembered if for no other reason than tax purposes. On the other hand, anyone who googles themself and finds out just how much they said that is recorded and cached and commented on starts quickly to wish the Web could learn to forget as well as it remembers.

How much should we remember and how much should we forget? The age old cacheing problem will be with us forever, but situationally, when should we remember for others and how will we be sure what we remember is what we experienced? The mammal brain is notorious for its distortions due to the effect of neurons linking up in incredibly complex and overlapping ways, enscribing over each other like an Arabesque in which the pattern though beautiful, is exceedingly difficult and expensive to trace. This makes law enforcement tasks difficult, really, justice tasks where one goes to court or is hauled in and two adversaries, a prosecutor and a defender attempt to prove to a judge and/or jury, the facts of the case.

Facts are hard to come by if the mammalian brain is the storage medium. Both sides know this and elaborate tactics are used to discredit witnesses. We've all seen that movie. This is exactly why police cruisers have video cameras that are turned on during a traffic stop, and the video is then attached to the traffic stop record. It saves time in court.

Many years ago, I read a sci-fi story that included the concept of The Fair Witness. These were trained observers used in future litigations to state the facts of some situation they observed. Their training enabled them to overcome the dendrite dance and recall with perfect accuracy, the facts of a case. Given that humans share signs but can't be relied upon to share interpretants, this takes a lot of training. Actually, police do train for this, but what if we could engineer a way to increase the reliability of this, that is, more effective means?

Some folks are working on it. While one wonders about the indexing and retrieval, a URI with a space-time stamp isn't a bad approach and would work with geolocator systems for integrated analysis. This could fit in nicely with data fusion systems. I'm not too sure how much of my daily life I want to be digitized, in fact, I'm sure I don't want that, but if the police have similar systems in cruisers, why not put one on the t-shirt before going to any mob event, or just to confront the neighbor about the poop their dog is leaving on the lawn? Or just a walk on the beach?

Thanks to Steve Conklin for pointing this out. Once again, the mammals are relentlessly innovative and that is why AI has such a hard time keeping up.

It's Just Sex

Anyone who has been divorced, watched a divorce, or divorced someone knows it is one of the most painful experiences this side of losing someone to death. It is a kind of death. People will do and say the most incredibly hurtful and stupid things to anyone and everyone particularly if they can't say it to the now insignificant other. The social problem is that while most of us have sympathy, it is a local problem and it tends to distract all about them onto the spilt milk of a relationship gone bad when it is possible that there are other more important things to be done.

American politics have looked like a divorce in process since 1992 when the Republicans were shocked to discover that the love affair with the Reagan aministration didn't translate to George Herbert Walker Bush. It wasn't that Bush wasn't a good guy or a decent President. He was the perfect Washington wonk, a credible authority, and fine war time President. This man had punched all the tickets from Yale to the CIA, had made a personal fortune doing it, and served his country with distinction. No, it was simply the Americans are also mammals and mammals have a wandering eye. They don't like boredom and when it is time for a change, the facts don't matter.

For the ultra-religious right, which is not to say the spriritual right, but the real power-obsessed-we-are-the-rightful-reagan-inheritors, the defeat of George H.W. Bush was an obscenity of the first order. With the same crusader mentality that lead them to declare an unwinnable war on drugs with a slogan that made even the drug dealers laugh, they went to work on the American psyche like a graphics card salesman at Siggraph. It wasn't enough to make their viewpoints known; they had to show that all other viewpoints were despicable.

So began the evisceration of the Clintons.

I won't dwell on that carnival of abuse of power, conceit, and outright treachery, aka, the politics of personal destruction, because, well, Bill Clinton is out of office. He has served his two terms and he's not coming back, at least, as holder of the Oval office. He's making money now, his wife has a solid day job, and his only child is off to the races of life. Bill's enjoying himself. So much for personal destruction.

The problem is in the Beltway and the pundit pulpits. Some in the current administration act and speak as if they were still running against him, and in that, they resemble a divorced spouse who just can't get over it and get on with it. The problem is that this behavior is distinctly painful for their friends and their causes. So be it. No one can save an incompetent politician. Who says that? Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich says that and he ought to know.

The problem we all have to face is there in the 9/11 Commission Report on page 105: "the oversight function of the Congress has diminished over time. In recent years, traditional review of the administration of programs and the implementation of laws has been replaced by a 'focus on personal investigations, possible scandals, and issues designed to generate media attention.' The unglamorous but essential work of oversight has been neglected..."

Newt is a sharp guy and despite his party or the left's loathing, his testimony before the government committees has value. He correctly assesses the job before them today as the most important work of their lifetimes, much less their careers, and the most difficult they will ever undertake. Right on, Newt.

It it time to turn off Fox Network, time to quit listening to Rush, to Hannity and Whosis, to the spin doctors of right wing politics. It is time to turn on C-Span and watch the hearings. Dull as they are, the most important decisions made since America became a Federation are being made. This isn't about the election although it plays a major role in it. This is about how we will govern ourselves, what our freedoms are or will be in the face of a stateless and determined foe, and at the bottom of it, whether we are a nation of mature and responsible adults or just kids squabbling over the end of our first marriage and who gets the Bruce Springsteen CDs.

We blew it. We watched a soap opera instead of the store and as a result, we took a brutal blow to the head from a street gang. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky may have been sordid in some opinions, but at the end of the day, it was just sex and sex is what being a mammal is all about. Consensual sex isn't something to be made a topic of national debate, and certainly, it isn't the object of Congressional oversight. There is real work to be done.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Simple Systems: Effective Means

A topic sometimes debated on XML-Dev is that "worse is better", but the real topic is "simple is often better". Not always, but often. There are lots of examples from HTML (not so simple anymore), blogging formats, and further back, T-34 Soviet tanks, and not so far back, pagers. As one reads about 9/11 it quickly becomes apparent that the more sophisticated systems failed most frequently. The simpler systems like pagers were more effective but unfortunately, least distributed.

For those of us in the public safety industry, this is a lesson to be taken to heart. Command and control are worthless without communications and intelligence. While the dispatch center does thrive on sophisticated mapping and analysis technology, a command is most effective when it is presented in its simplest imperative form, such as, EVACUATE NOW!

Monday, August 09, 2004

If I Only Had A Brain

Reflecting on Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech at the Democratic National convention, it occurs to me that people without opinions make me nervous. Regardless of where they formed them, why or with whatever facts or fictions, forming an opinion is part of being a mammal. Even the gorillas in the zoo form and express opinions. People who say they have no opinion are only saying they won't express one.

I can understand the need for timing but that means there is intent and often if someone is saying they have no opinion they are saying a) they have not considered the question or b) they have and they want to hide their intentions with regards to something that the expression might reveal.

Such as having a brain.

The time of political correctness and obsessive careerism seems to be a time of learning to be the Scarecrow. We wish our heads were not made of straw, and we certainly can express our heartfelt emotions, but we are too cowardly or too witchy to use our brains. Today the Emerald City within the Beltway has become a land where all horses change their colors with the time of day, serious debate too often looks like a choreographed dance number, and no one knows what is going on behind the big doors where Oz, the Great and Powerful, is ensconced pulling the levers of power without clear purpose.

We live with too much fear of our thoughts and too much fear of being thought too opinionated. I suppose that living in a bubble is ok for Glinda the Good but houses fall from the sky and the victims aren't always wicked witches. Sometimes they are Munchkins and forests, the air we breathe, and the roads we drive on. Ms. Heinz Kerry seems destined to be Dorothy, brave and fearless and able to slap a cowardly lion or a crass reporter on the nose when threatened.

Rail on, Teresa. If we are ever to make Oz a safer world, we need to hear what you and women like you have to say.

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