Sunday, May 2, 2010


Creating the right mental model is key to solving a problem. Identify and classify the forces involved. Gain some intuition in areas little understood by mapping them to those more mundane. While watching Stephen Hawking's wonderful 2hr special on the creation and destination of the universe, I speculated about some of the problems we must solve to maintain our species indefinitely. It takes no effort to see that energy and climate control will need to be mastered. But closer to home, I see another effort that will have a big impact on our continuity.

In many ways we are defined by our tools. From stones to the printing press, each new tool has effects that reverberate through our society - pushing us slowly forward. What tools will we need to solve these problems of the future? We have some of them now. But they are grossly inadequate when compared to the scale of future endeavours. We need the correct model of the problem. We need to classify the forces.

In computing environments, we use code to express symbolically a simplified model of empirical observations. Occasionally we see deep enough to encode the root behavior in an expressive way that scales. More often than not, we do not have the continuous concentration required to hold the entire problems in our heads. So we break apart the design and implement it in stages. Even so, it's difficult to build even the things we can comprehend, let alone the things we can not. We require the end goal to see our way. Many times we are forced into the darkness with only a fuzzy view of the outcome. We know it must be possible. But the specifics escape us. We are not good at visualizing all the interactions of a large problem. We are good at solving what we can fit in our head. However, as systems grow, it becomes harder and harder to fit the entire set of interactions in our head. We create a mental model that is fuzzy on the edges, and only clear where we focus.

Working on a large software team, I see the problems of scale. There is a strong force of entropy that slowly tears appart our creation. As we add behaviors, the interactions become more and more complex as they integrate with previous behaviors. New unexpected consequences emerge. It is difficult to manage the complexity. It's easy to see that larger and larger efforts need a stronger force acting against the entropy. The human mind will need more assistance. We will need to build systems which work with us to express our ideas, and manage their interaction for us. We will need to learn to write systems which can debug and maintain themselves. Only then can we balance the strong force of entropy that will decay our most monumental computing efforts.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

dig, or stay buried

I have something I wish to show you. But I don't think you will believe me. I barely believe me. I will make it as plain as I can. But you, like me, have been trained so long not to see it. So I'm afraid I can only point you in the general direction. You must discover it for yourself. I can only help you begin.

The stone floor is wet. We must sit. But I'm afraid this is not a time for rest. Breath deep. The cold will fire our nerves for what is to come. Come. Let us release our need for comfortable and protective continuation of status quo. Let us empower ourselves and embrace a possibility that things are not as we like and we have the will to change. Do not look away. Imagine this will as a small fire burning brightly within. Sit still and stare with me. Let us give focus to that which wishes to be hidden. Let us seek to uncover that which wishes not to be seen.

It is our purpose, to understand. To grok. And our natural sensitivity is far more powerful than we know. We must only give it voice. Listen. So many walls prevent us from seeing. Challenge yourself to see through them. Allow yourself to dissolve the solid, and see beyond. Give purchase to the soul of discovery reaching with numb fingers for true solidity. Stand no longer between what you feel and what you are told to feel. For you are the biggest and strongest wall of all.

Ask yourself what should be. Ignore what is. This part is very difficult - because it asks you to question as much as you are able to. And for most it feels pointless or painful. Ask yourself what you hope for. What makes you choose the choices you do. What do you work for? What do you trust and why do you trust? What if you were wrong. What if we were all wrong. It's a very nihilistic track, but explore it long enough to look under the rocks seldom moved.

Now think positively. Feel the energy, the life, the breath of existence you know is possible. Ask why it doesn't exist now. Push. Do not settle for the knee jerk reaction. Push harder. Your first response is trained. Do not trust it. Dig deep. What is your subconscious screaming? What are you ignoring. What incessant pecking have you endured unknowingly for lifetimes of self slavery. I can point your head, but you must look. Peel away the layers which obscure. Question the quick and ready answers. You were not trained for happiness. You were not trained to see. You were trained to listen. Trained to believe. Trained to want. Trained to trust. But what do you believe? What do you want? What do you trust?

You can turn away. It is easiest. And what worth is there in pain? What merit to inspect that which is... obvious. What to be gained? And oh, so much risked. Of course you know what is real. They tell you so. You see it. They show you. They... they.. only have your best interest, right?

I desperately want to lay this all out for you. To peel it away and spread it clean for you. But you don't want see it. No one does. I know that now. It must begin with the search. You can only see what you are prepared to see. Cultivate your desire to observe. Breath life into your inner sensitivity. Ask, and do not settle for the quick answer. Challenge to dig deeper.

I will wait. I admit impatience. But tell me when you are ready. Or rather, just sit. I will see it in your eyes. It will be plain. And then I can not keep it from you. No one can.

Monday, October 15, 2007


It's entertaining to watch my thoughts. They tend to flow over the same mental stones, rolling them over and over, shifting them aimlessly. I can consider anything, I tell myself. Why limit my thinking. But of course I do. Some thoughts I hear as spoken words in my inner ear. Others merely sit and do not verbalize. If I look at them closely, then they assemble - coalesce from wispy ether. Look away and they are gone.

At some point these ideas cross a magical threshold where they manifest in action. Some conscious, most not. A kind of simmering potential energy. What triggers this metamorphosis from dormant mental juice to the firing of muscles and the building of will? The most interesting catalysts are the subtle ones. The ones that build from long consideration, ebb and recede with disinterest, and resurface with unexpected vigor. The flashpoint, the ignition of mental fume into explosive movement, the transition of this potential into the actual is beyond my understanding. But it's amazing to watch.

The tipping point can be knowledge long suspected and the confirmed. This story behind the Iraq war may confirm what many have suspected. But for some reason, it has not incited much action. Listen to a politician who has floated in the sea of political half-truths for 30 years and still maintains some sense of self. It's somewhat unbelievable. His demeanor is of one used to seeing his listener's eyes glaze over - and his point evaporate on impact. He believes, but I think he's somewhat surprised to see that others do as well. He seems a lonely politician. He knows that being genuine is rare for his breed. I wish him well. I hope his words find purchase with others, even if he does not succeed.

I'm still watching the stones roll around in my own mental stream, wondering which will eventually surface - considering the options. When will I act? Or will I at all? I don't know. It's so easy to be apathetic. Just floating wordlessly, eyes closed, sensing the passage of time. One finger in the cold water feeling it rush by.

I'm beginning to learn. That's usually the moment just before I act...

Friday, October 12, 2007

monkey mind

Sleepless nights from stress are pushing me to seek relief. Alcohol or sleeping aids don't leave me feeling rested. And often don't even work anymore. I know that meditation or reading before bed puts my mind in a restful state - but I feel lazy to do either since I just want to flop on my bed and close my eyes. But these days it takes a lot of flopping until this fish is quiet.

I've been searching for inspiration to help motivate me to meditate. Siri Singh Sahib has some interesting thoughts on how to discover your soul. It's enjoyable just to hear him speak. But it also motivated me to find energy for this important practice. His call for mental clarity resonates with me.

B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. has an interesting talk on focusing study of the mind. This too, motivated me to find time for self inspection. His point inspires and speaks to me. Our study of the mind should be separated from the physical inspection of the chemical processes of the brain. I've always been a scientist - but a close minded one - on this subject. He suggests to peel back the layer of our literal scientific dogma - and employ the tools of inspection long honed in a culture across the sea.

Let's do it together. Perhaps we can discover why we beat ourselves up. Why our thoughts continue to leap around and shake our mental the cage when we just want some damn rest. Maybe we can stumble around looking for the key definition of consciousness. Wake me up if you find it. I will just get some sleep...

Friday, October 5, 2007

self preservation

Who can deny the powerful urge to preserve things important to us? For many, especially parents, this powerful sense of protectionism extends beyond our immediate needs to the well-fare of people, property, and relationships that support and surround us. The needs of those around me routinely supersede my own. I am connected to these things through a sense of responsibility and this compels me to make forward looking, speculative assessment of risks and rewards. This is the life of a connected individual.

Gathering thoughtful, factual information is an important part of estimating tomorrow. It is the antennae of man to seek information. Our long feelers probe out ahead gathering information and testing minute changes we do not even begin to understand on anything other than a primal level. The prevalence of news and opinions on the Internet unfiltered through by biased media engines presents a unique opportunity to extend our antennae on a global scale, and experience novel information if we are willing to probe. Extend our view of the possibilities. And if we allow ourselves, consider ideas without foothold in popular, well funded tv and media streams.

For me, a nightly, insomniac driven scouring of the net last night revealed a video Freedom to Facism. Inspiration is most meaningful when it first recognizes then relieves the buildup of thoughtful angst which pre-existed and explains mysteries all ready pondered. Rarely does a simple fact, overturned on it's own, find purchase. It takes the involvement of the seeker. We must observe the missing hole in the puzzle to appreciate it's filling. In this case, I have been slowly watching with dread the erosion of CNN and other news sources. More and more, their presentation of facts in a pre-chewed, pre-digested manner insults my need for real understanding. ( Amanpour's reporting aside - as they have managed to sidetrack her for a year on the wonderful effort for real understanding of issues on "God's Warriors" - but leave the flock unattended). This video suggests something much more sinister may be chewing on my nightly news reports. Something which seeks to protect itself, and in remaining hidden, will continue to do so.

Further investigation revealed some very thought provoking words. Ron Paul's speech on patriotism from the congressional pulpit was another blast of air on the furnace of fear that there are forces at work that seek their own self preservation, perhaps at the exclusion - or at best indifference - of my own. So at this point I feel the need to gather much more information about what is going on. If you are at the point where you feel lead by the nose by media, then perhaps you are ready to listen to these. If not, wait. And no, I'm not republican. He is the first politician I've ever seen who has a chance to change that. My heart is with Clinton. But I fear her new health care plan leaks a darker connection. Insurance companies deny reasonable claims and laugh all the way to bank. I would not make filling their pockets mandatory. She knows she can't fight them anymore. That's what scares me.

I have no reasonable conclusion, yet, that sits well with me. I have no explanation for the alarm. But, like gazelle on the African veldt, my ears are perked. Some words of alarmists jump from reasonable doubt to extreme conclusion. But my sense it that there is some truth to the danger. People with real money, not you or I, but those who live in the corporate veins of the real arteries of financial power, will protect what is "theirs". We would do well to watch and consider the tremblings on the ground.

Monday, September 24, 2007

solo trip to tripiness

I went on my first long distance solo adventure in Japan, a trek to the Tokyo Game show. From door step to craziness and back to doorstep in one day, and only my two little feet ( and many, many trains ). It's incredible that I could make such a trip so easily. Public transportation is convenient here! And so many people were very helpful.

The show itself was very similar to E3. Very noisy and crowded. It was hard not to be disappointed that I couldn't take photos of the games. So instead they posted girls everywhere and invited you to take their photo. I waited for 15-30 minutes each to get closeups with a few new games. Heavenly Sword was visually awesome and kind of overwhelmingly hack and slash. Halo 3 looked exciting. The line was too long to try it. I waited 30 minutes to play Microsoft's new flight sim on a very cool 3 screen setup. The realistic flight controls died in the hands of the guy in front of me.

Overall, XBox 360 seemed like they came to compete in Japan. Their booth was the strongest visually. PS3 booth was big, but very crowded; chest-touching-back, scooting-3-inches-a-second crowded. I didn't make it far before I turned back. Wii showed games everywhere. They seemed to have no central display. Nintendo seemed the publisher with the least to prove. They are dominant here, in Japan.

It was a very fun trip. Exhaustingly crowded and noisy. The train ride back for a time was like being a sardine in a can. We were all smushed together. I was fine because I was so much larger and my head poked out. But I felt bad for the shorter people. Eventually the faithful Shinkansen trundled me home, and I dragged in very late and tired, about 13 hours after I left.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I want the answer

You may or may not have seen this. I want to warn you. This is about as anti-inspirational as it gets.

This man wants to know why Kerry conceded the 2004 election when he was winning. I want to know the very same thing. His behavior and the reaction of the guards suggests that he knew this was a sensitive question and the guards knew that such a question was likely to pop up. I'm really, really hoping they were not pre-briefed to handle it in the way they did.

I really want to know Kerry. I voted for you. I was astonished when you didn't fight the result.