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Archive for September 2010

Quotable: On Politics

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Some people think that politics is a dirty word, but not me. Politics is simply the art of making decisions in groups. It comes from the Greek word polis, meaning city. Any group working together—whether it has ten people or ten thousand—needs some mechanism to keep everyone aligned: that’s politics. The question is: Is it good politics or is it bad politics? Bad politics is when people put their own self-interest ahead of the group’s goals. To me, this is closely related to hypocrisy. You argue one thing (this is best for the company), but you believe something different (this is best for me). — Dave Hitz, Cofounder & Executive VP of NetApp

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September 30, 2010 at 2:37 pm

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The Wayward Steer

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At Deep Springs, the ranch manager told great stories. He described how they used to drive cattle a thousand miles from Texas to the stockyards in Chicago. In the herd, one steer would take the lead and the others would follow. This alpha steer became recognizable to the cowboys and was a great help if he kept his bearings.  But sometimes this leader had a tendency to veer off to the side, taking the herd with him. Getting the herd back on track was hard work for the cowboys, so if the lead steer swerved too often, there was no choice but to shoot him in the head. Keeping him wasn’t worth the trouble. So many ranching lessons apply in business.  — Dave Hitz co-founder of NetApp

This story was told by Hitz when he and a few others met with the NetApp board of directors after raising $1.5 million dollars from 24 angel investors in chunks of $50K and $100K followed by a Venture Capital seed round of $5 Million.  The CEO was great at fundraising but not a good manager. Given that the initial fundraising rounds were over, and the CEO’s management capability was in question, Hitz worked to oust him.

Two rules for CEO’s of startups

  1. Never keep more in your office than you can fit in a gym bag.
  2. Always keep a gym bag in your office.

After the meeting, the CEO was out.  Replaced with a CEO that could take NetApp beyond preliminary fundraising to product development and marketing.

See the initial NetApp Business Plan Overview from 1992 and “lessons learned” –
https://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/netappbizplan1992.pdf

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September 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm

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Mont Blanc

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I know there is a recession.  But still, companies need to maintain high standards.
Poor John L.T. of California has suffered greatly.
Upon receiving his $400 Mont Blanc Generation Ballpoint Blue he wrote this review

It is truly very sad indeed to see Mont Blanc lower its superb standards of excellence in an effort to attract the unwashed masses to a name associated with sophistication and success. This writing instrument is hardly worthy of the name Mont Blanc and in reality bears very little resemblance to the authentic experience. One need not even bother to describe this tawdry imitation, a cheap attempt to share the aura of Mont Blanc with the plebian more suited to a Bic. In fact, if not for the Mont Blanc logo itself, this would appear to be something from the Office Max catalogue of Pilot pens boxed by the dozen for mass consumption in cubicles. Mont Blanc has betrayed its own legend by producing something of this sort. I have posted a quite vehement letter of protest to the directors of Mont Blanc in order to voice the dismay of Mont Blanc loyalists who find this creation an abomination and take it as somewhat of a personal insult. Their reply is awaited with anticipation of an apology and one hopes this is a terrible mistake, never to be repeated.

Very disappointing

Originally at here.

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September 29, 2010 at 3:59 am

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Radio Archeology – The Heathkit Broadcast Band Receiver Model BR-2

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Allied Radio and Kits of the Era

When I was a kid my father would take me to the Allied Radio store at 100 North Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.  This was a huge warehouse-like building with all sorts of wonderous electronic gear.  At home I would page through the Allied Radio Catalog; I knew everything in the catalog better than the sales people at the store. 

Allied Radio sold radios from Hallicrafters, National, Johnson-Viking, Globe, Ameco, and a bunch more (see).  They also sold kits.  I built a few kits when I was a kid and it was a great adventure to go to Allied on Western avenue which was about 10 miles from my home. (see link below to a great collection of Radio Shack catalogs going back to 1939)

But I missed the whole Heathkit era.  I wonder where I was?  So, anytime I can get my hands on an old Heathkit – at the right price – I usually want to add it to my collection of antique radios.

Heathkit BR-2 (1951 – 1957 )

I recently purchased a working, and in excellent condition, Heathkit BR-2 Broadcast Band Receiver.  This radio was produced between 1951 and 1957.  So, this BR-2 is a survivor of 50+ years.  The radio was all original and included the original Heathkit assembly manual along with all the inserts.

The great thing about buying antique broadcast receivers is that you can use them everyday.  None of my radios sit on the shelf (or floor) for very long.  They all get rotated into service on a regular basis.  My oldest radio is currently an Atwater-Kent from the early 1920’s.

All American Five (AA5)

The Heathkit BR-2 is a very basic 5-tube Superheterodyne.  Or, generically, the “All American Five” (AA5).  The AA5 was the basis of almost every broadcast radio no matter what the manufacturer during the 1930’s-1960’s

The Heathkit BR-2 is a little unique in that it had a couple of different build options.  A single RCA jack in the back could be wired for radio tuner output into an external amplifier.  Or, it could be wired as a phonograph input to use the radios amplifier as an output device.  It also has a switched 110v receptacle in the back.  When an external device, such as an amplifier, was plugged in, it would be powered when the radio was turned on.

The Famous Heathkit Manuals

The Heathkit build manual is the standard style allowing just about anyone to build this radio – as long a you knew some basic soldering techniques.  In general, no knowledge of electronics was required.  I was able to get all the inserts with the manual which also included a pink slip of paper warning you not to use acid core solder.

Manual inserts also included three larger-than-life parts layout diagrams – impossible to make a mistake.

The Goods

Below are a few pictures.  The radio is all orignal.  Plays great.  All stations can be tuned end-to-end across the band.  Alignment seems good.  The slide rule dial is on frequency. No slippage of the tuning dial. Cabinet in great shape.  The speaker grill could use a replacement as well as a few capacitors.  Not bad for a 50+ year survivor.  (Click on any image to enlarge) 

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September 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Quandary: Career Advancement of Technical Engineers Part III

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Read the previous posting – Quandary: Career Advancement of Technical Engineers Part II

This is part Three – Quandary: Career Advancement of Technical Engineers

It all started in part one where I was able to hear an extraordinary question asked by a technical engineer to a vice president at a divisional “all hands” meeting: “What does this [ direction, goals, reorganization of the company ] have to do with me?”.

The question was unscreened, heard by nearly 1,000 people who were present in person, listening on a conference call, or watching via a multi-stream from the company website.  The particular division of which this engineer was employed was responsible for 1/4 of the corporate $20B in annual revenue.  To some ears, this was an extraordinary question.  Perhaps to others, there was nothing wrong with asking this.

Part One cited an academic study on why certain employees turn down offers of advancement.

Part Two was an attempt to say why.  Fundamentally,that the goals of a technical engineer per se would not be aligned with that of an organization.  That is, a technical engineer and a corporation are on different paths and have different goals.  The result is disengagement of employees with the company.  Part Two had some advice from Eric Schmidt on how some companies can keep these engineers on an career path without promoting them to a management or leadership position.  Eric Schmidt is currently CEO of Google, former CEO of Novel, and an engineer himself.  So maybe he has some valid advice based on personal experience – his own as an electrical engineer and as CEO of two companies.

A Different Perspective

Here is a different way of looking at it.

The academic research on why engineers turn down offers of advancement was necessarily limited.  It was about a particular company and a particular group of engineers.  One could extend the insights from this single company and this single group of engineers to other companies – with the necessary cautions.  Every company is a little different; every social group of engineers in those companies are a little different. 

“Success is not really on the engineers’ minds”

This is an extraordinary statement in the research.  Here is the full quote:

Success is not really on the engineers’ minds, but when prompted they say they do feel successful. However, they tie their success more to family, happiness, and personal accomplishments. They view internal ideas of success as more important than social, or external, measures of success.

Really, success is not on these engineers’ minds.  But what about “other minds” – the minds of other engineers?

The mistake would be to classify all engineers together and say, “Engineers are not really interested in success”.  Or, to put it differently, to say that,  “Because you are an engineer, you are not interested in success”.  Or more boldly, that there is something fundamental to the profession of engineering that it allows individual engineers to easily ask what the corporate direction has anything to with them.  Specifically, “What does this [ direction, goals, reorganization of the company ] have to do with me?”

The Story of Bill and Dave

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September 27, 2010 at 1:57 am

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Quotable: On the Future

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The future is not a gift: it is an achievement. Every generation helps make its own future. This is the essential challenge of the present.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the great enterprises and ideals of American society.

Robert F. Kennedy

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September 23, 2010 at 2:11 am

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Quotable: On Vision

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Vision is the lifeblood of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward. It provides meaning to the day-to-day challenges and setbacks that make up the rumble and tumble of real life.

In a down economy—particularly one that has taken most of us by surprise—things get very tactical. We are just trying to survive. What worked yesterday does not necessarily work today. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Decisions become pragmatic.

But after a while this wears on people. They don’t know why their efforts matter. They cannot connect their actions to a larger story. Their work becomes a matter of just going through the motions, living from weekend to weekend, paycheck to paycheck.

This is where great leadership makes all the difference. Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future. It comes down to pointing the way and saying, “C’mon. We can do this!”

When times are tough, vision is the first casualty. Before conditions can improve, it is the first thing we must recover.

Michael Hyatt – CEO of Tomas Nelson Publishers

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September 22, 2010 at 5:33 am

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Global Innovation- The Phenomenon of Crowd Accelerated Innovation

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Can we inspire others to greatness?  How can the global 9 billion  fuel cycles of improvement?  Is global web video a game changer?

Step up your game and watch Chris Anderson’s TED Talk – How web video powers global innovation

http://www.ted.com/talks/chris_anderson_how_web_video_powers_global_innovation.html

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September 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

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That was before my time…

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Today I was listening to a conversation among two people.  One person made some historical references – Abraham Lincoln, the Viet Nam war, and some references to the 1950’s. The other person said, “That was before my time”.  The point of saying this to obviate any responsibility for knowing anything about the historical references.

Do we “have a time”?  Do we have a “single” time?  Is there an “increment of time” that we live in, and what has come before “our time”  is unknown to us?  It certainly is not unknowable – the internet has seen to that.  “Any time” is available to us.  TIME magazine has a searchable archive going back to 1923.  The Internet is nearly the modern realization of the ancient Library at Alexandria.  It is not that the past is “unknowable” – it’s just that some people do not want to know it.  Why?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

Without remembering the past we start over again every time.  Nothing is learned and mistakes are repeated.  We, perhaps, are disconnected and set adrift not knowing from whence we came or where we are going.  We are “here” in the most raw and immediate sense possible.  It is a “being of immediacy” from moment to moment without connectedness – nothing more.

I wonder if Jane Austen was right when she wrote,

“Life seems nothing more than a quick succession of busy nothings”

But then again, Jane Austen and George Santayana were before my time.

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September 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm

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Elmo and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski discuss Internet Broadband Access

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Elmo must have a hot line to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Elmo needs help with his (slow) dial-up Internet access.  It’s not that Elmo does not have Internet access.  It’s that Elmo’s existing dial-up Internet access is too slow for his personal liking.  So, he’s looking to the FCC for some help. 

Elmo needs a speed “upgrade”.  But does not have the money, or chooses not to allocate the money from his budget, to buy Broadband access for himself.  Can the FCC help me out, says Elmo?  Help me, please?

Elmo, Julius, and  FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps are going to team up.  Looks like they want to make Broadband Internet Access a universal “entitlement” – for everyone – and declare it a “Civil Right”.  Civil Right?

Civil rights are the rights or privileges of American citizens. Civil rights include freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude and the right to equality in public areas. Whenever those rights of an individual are discriminated against, such as denied or interfered with, statutes have been enacted which then grant the individual the right to take legal action in order to protect one’s civil rights. (read)

Barack Obama was right, the civil rights movement of the 1960’s did not go far enough.    Obama wanted “economic equality” as a civil right  (transfer of wealth; “spread the wealth around”, according to Obama to Joe the Plumber.) 

According to the FCC Commissioner, “…the need to chart a path to the realization of that civil right [Broadband Internet Access fir everyone]  is why we are here today…”

Broadband Internet Access a “civil right” declared so by the FCC.  I suppose there is no limit of what you can promise using other people’s money and then take the credit for providing it.   Beautiful.

Watch this set of amazing clips

http://blip.tv/play/hJNRgf2QYwI%2Em4v

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September 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Radio Monitoring How To Guide

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Longtime NASWA member and former columnist T.J. “Skip” Arey N2EI has decided to make his book Radio Monitoring A How To Guide freely available under a Creative Commons license.

A little dated, a piece of radio history.  So here it is: (384 pages)
https://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/radio_monitoring_a_how_to_guide.pdf

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September 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm

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Are the Laws of Physics the same everywhere and everywhen?

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Thinking the unThinkable

Some things are so obvious that you never question them.

When I was in college I took a course on the Philosophy of Mathematics.  On the first day of class I found myself sitting next to a woman who was working on a master’s degree in Mathematics.  We began to discuss physics and mathematics.  She asked me, “What makes you think that the world lends itself to mathematical formulation?”  Huh?  (Side note: It is an interesting question to philosophy as to why the world is mathematical as opposed to operational according to some other mechanism.  To the Greeks, the fates controlled the world and even the gods were subject to the fates – their own (gods) destiny was unknown to them.  In the 1950’s Process Theology picked up on this holding that Gods future was open and unknown to him/her, was not able to control any series of events, nor is God omnipotent.  So, how does the world work?)

Well, I thought, how could anyone ask such as question?  Simply, and empirically, “it works”.  That is, mathematical models can describe and predict the physics of the world – as we know it, so far.

What happens when you start questioning some of these basic assumptions of scientific disciplines?  If mathematical models can not describe the physical world, then what?

Another assumption of Physics is that the laws of Physics are the same everywhere and everywhen.  What if they are not?  Then what?  And what if fundamental constants are not fundamental constants everywhere?  Then what?  What new thing have we discovered about the world?

A couple of physicists from New South Wales stumbled upon some data that suggests that the laws of physics might not be the same everywhere in the Universe.  And further, that we just might be in the Goldilocks zone in the Universe where the laws of physics (here) make life possible.  (Side question: As the solar system moves through space with the Milky Way galaxy will we reach a point in space where the laws of physics don’t make carbon-based life possible?)

Check out the article in The Economist.

Excerpt below; link to the full text below.

In a paper just submitted to Physical Review Letters, a team led by John Webb and Julian King from the University of New South Wales in Australia presents evidence that the fine-structure constant may not actually be constant after all. Rather, it seems to vary from place to place within the universe. If their results hold up to scrutiny they will have profound implications—for they suggest that the universe stretches far beyond what telescopes can observe, and that the laws of physics vary within it. Instead of the whole universe being fine-tuned for life, then, humanity finds itself in a corner of space where, Goldilocks-like, the values of the fundamental constants happen to be just right for it.

…If. Other teams of astronomers are already on the case, and Victor Flambaum, one of Dr Webb’s colleagues at the University of New South Wales, points out in a companion paper that laboratory tests involving atomic clocks only slightly better than those that exist already could provide an independent check. These would vary as the solar system moves through the universe. But if and when such confirmation comes, it will break one of physics’s greatest taboos, the assumption that physical laws are the same everywhere and everywhen. And the fine-structure constant will have shown itself to be more mysterious than even Feynman conceived.

Read the full story in The Economist here:
http://www.economist.com/node/16941123?story_id=16941123&CFID=142925920&CFTOKEN=73900085

In your spare time – Principia Mathematica
Required reading – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

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September 13, 2010 at 1:30 am

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The Unexpected Origins of the Social Security Act of 1935

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 If you look up Social Security in the Wikipedia (here) and look at the History section you will find this

“A limited form of the Social Security program began as a measure to implement “social insurance” during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50%.

Creation: The Social Security Act
 
President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, at approximately 3:30 pm EST on August 14, 1935.[9] Standing with Roosevelt are Rep. Robert Doughton (D-NC); unknown person in shadow; Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY); Rep. John Dingell (D-MI); unknown man in bowtie; the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins; Sen. Pat Harrison (D-MS); and Rep. David Lewis (D-MD).The Social Security Act was drafted during Roosevelt’s first term by the President’s Committee on Economic Security, under Frances Perkins, and passed by Congress as part of the New Deal. The act was an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers in the modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children. By signing this act on August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt became the first president to advocate the protection of the elderly.[10]”

The Origins of Social Security in Corporate America

But what of the origins of this going back to the late 1800’s?  I stumbled upon this history of Social Security.  It gives some interesting insights into the origins of “old-age insurance”  created by the leaders of corprate america who owned and controlled the biggest and most powerful corporations of the 1920s and 1930s – Standard Oil of New Jersey, General Electric, and Metropolitan Life Insurance.

Here are a few paragraphs.  You can find the full paper ( 22 pages) at the end of this posting

This case study is one of several that could be used to demonstrate how the policy-planning network operates on issues of concern to the corporate community as a whole. But I have chosen to focus on the origins of the old-age insurance title in the Social Security Act, which is now known as “social security” even though the concept of social security originally encompassed unemployment insurance and various kinds of welfare payments that are included in the act. I focus on old-age insurance for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that its origins may come as a surprise to many readers, but also because the program is now the biggest and most popular government program that serves everyday people. It’s also an interesting policy because it has been under heavy attack from corporate leaders and their ideological allies for the past 30 years.

Most people now think liberals and labor leaders created the program because they are the ones who defend it. But as this document will show, the basic principles behind old-age insurance were created and actively supported by the corporate moderates who owned and controlled the biggest and most powerful corporations of the 1920s and 1930s, companies such as Standard Oil of New Jersey, General Electric, and Metropolitan Life Insurance. In fact, government social insurance, including both unemployment insurance and old-age insurance, made enormous business and political sense to corporate moderates from the 1930s to the early 1970s…

If my claims are as solidly grounded in new archival research as I think they are, it is worth asking why this analysis of the origins of social security is not better known. This question is especially pertinent because newspaper articles and memoirs from the 1930s suggest that my analysis would not come as a complete surprise to knowledgeable political observers who experienced and lived the New Deal firsthand. They knew that a few hundred large companies sat astride the economy and that plantation capitalists ruled the South through the Southern Democrats. They were familiar with the specific corporate leaders and their hired experts that are discussed in this document, and they understood their key role.

Historical background, 1870s to 1920s

Government old-age pensions for a few of its employees go back to the nineteenth century and veterans of the Civil War, and later their widows and children, received government pensions that lasted into the early twentieth century (Skocpol 1992). Although these government pensions may have given the general idea of old-age insurance some respectability in the eyes of average citizens, this early history of government benefits is largely irrelevant because these pensions did not serve as a precedent. Instead, the starting point was in a few corporations, such as American Express in 1875, that saw pensions as a way to replace superannuated workers with more productive younger workers. Shortly thereafter, other corporations thought that pensions might be an a way to induce loyalty in workers and quell labor unrest, but that idea never really worked because the workers had no legal right to private pensions until the late 1920s. Even then, there were loopholes. Death benefits, accident insurance, and unemployment compensation turned out to be more important in terms of reducing labor strife, but they didn’t work very well either (Graebner 1980; Sass 1997). However, the Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the largest railroads in the country, had a full-fledged pension plan for all employees at age 70 by 1900…

…A pamphlet written for the American Management Association in 1928 by a personal employee of Rockefeller, Jr., best exemplifies the pre-depression thinking about company pensions within corporate moderate organizations in the policy-planning network. According to this detailed analysis, which contains discussions of the moral, economic, and technical issues involved in industrial pensions, a pension is part of a good personnel program. Especially in the case of corporations that have been around for many years, a pension is “a means, at once humane and approved by public opinion, of purging its active payroll of men who, by reason of age or disability, have become liabilities rather than assets” (Cowdrick 1928, p. 10). Pensions also provide the “opportunity to promote their younger subordinates” (p. 11). The pamphlet concluded with the prediction that industrial pensions will be “increasingly valuable to employers” (Cowdrick 1928, p. 21).

You can read the complete paper here –
https://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/the-unexpected-origins-of-the-social-security-act-of-1935.pdf

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September 7, 2010 at 1:46 am

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Quotable: Lady Gaga

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I used to walk down the street like I was a star. I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be – and then to fight so hard for it that the lie becomes the truth.  — Lady Gaga

Ever wonder what success looks like?  It looks like this:

“You have to be unique, and diffrent, and shine in your own way.” — Lady Gaga

“They can’t scare me, if I scare them first.”   — Lady Gaga

“And now, I’m just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.”  — Lady Gaga

“cause it’s a hard life, with love in the world. and i’m a hard girl, loving me is like chewing on pearls.”  — Lady Gaga

“All that ever holds somebody back, I think, is fear. For a minute I had fear. [Then] I went into the [dressing] room and shot my fear in the face…”  — Lady Gaga

“I remember watching the mascara tears flood the ivories and I thought, “It’s OK to be sad.” I’ve been trained to love my darkness.”  — Lady Gaga

“I want women — and men — to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves. The part they’re always trying desperately to hide. I want that to become something that they cherish.”  — Lady Gaga

So the real truth about Lady Gaga fans, my little monsters, lies in this sentiment: They are the Kings. They are the Queens. They write the hisory of the kingdom and I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we percieve ourselves to be or rather to become, in the future.
When you are lonely,
I will be lonely too.
And this is the fame.”   — Lady Gaga

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September 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

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Larry King does Lady Gaga

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Not to be out done by the staff of National Public Radio – see it here
https://frrl.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/national-public-radio-npr-does-lady-gaga/

Larry King takes a shot a performing Lady Gaga’s Poker Face

Nice try Larry, now lets see the real thing

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September 5, 2010 at 7:47 am

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Sculpting the Mind of a Synthetic Human in the Cloud

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When I saw a piece of technology called Kinect — it was called Natal — I was inspired, and I thought for a moment, maybe it’s possible to address that one problem of storytelling, to create a character which seemed alive, which noticed me, that could look me in the eyes and feel real, and sculpt a story about our relationship. And so a year ago, I showed this off at a computer show called E3. And this was a piece of technology with someone called Claire interacting with this boy. And there was a huge row online about, “Hey, this can’t be real.” And so I waited till now to have an actual demo of the real tech.  — Peter Molyneux

Back in 1950, Alan Tuning, a computer scientist, cryptanalyst, logician, mathematician, and many other things was exploring “machine intelligence”.  Turing came up with the idea of the “Turing Test“.  It’s really a question and a test.  The question is, “Can computers think?”  The test is, “Can a machine be built that can “imitate” a human interaction to the point that the human being can not distinguish between a computer and another human being”.  If so, this passes the Turing Test.

In 2005 Raymond Kurzweil published a book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.  According to Kurzweil

  1. A technological-evolutionary point known as “the singularity” exists as an achievable goal for humanity.
  2. Through a law of accelerating returns, technology is progressing toward the singularity at an exponential rate.
  3. The functionality of the human brain is quantifiable in terms of technology that we can build in the near future.
  4. Medical advancements make it possible for a significant number of his generation (Baby Boomers) to live long enough for the exponential growth of technology to intersect and surpass the processing of the human brain.

Now think about the advancement in video game technology , the appeal of virtual worlds, voice recognition, and new 3-Dimensional input devices that can sense a humans movements and positions in space.

What is possible?

Suppose we have reached the singularity where it is possible to simulate or emulate (there is a difference) the human brain in a grid of computers.  Suppose that the photorealistic rendering of human bodies along with the manipulation of human facial features is so good that you could(almost)  not tell the difference between a video of a real human from one that is constructed.   Speech recognition is getting better and better.  Body-kinetic controls that are on the market now are capable of sensing 3-D movements and position in 3-D space.  Let’s start putting all this together.

Suppose you could immerse yourself into a virtual world and interact with synthetic humans and not be able to really tell the difference between a real human and synthetic human (Turing Test).  (Or at least during the interaction use the same “suspension of disbelief” we use when watching a movie to immerse ourselves into the story, having emotional attachment with the characters in the movie knowing full well, these folks are actors and the scenes – everything we see – is constructed for our benefit.  But we “believe it” and are emotionally attached and emotionally engaged nonetheless.)

Suppose that, at the singularity and beyond, synthetic humans can learn about new objects, new words, and perhaps assemble words and objects into concepts just like a human child.  Suppose you injected these Synthetic Humans into the cloud of network computers available on the Internet and let society interact with them.

Essentially, what would happen if you allowed the world of humans to sculpt the minds of Synthetic Humans?  Synthetic humans that would both be fragile (delete them) or immortal (digitally never die); that could learn “forever” and never forget;  who may, at some point, and why not, become “conscious” in the same way that the 3 pounds of physical matter is our human heads have accomplished long ago. (read more)

Meet Milo – A Synthetic Human with whom you can have a relationship

… to create a character which seemed alive, which noticed me, that could look me in the eyes and feel real, and sculpt a story about our relationship…

Check out this TED video by Peter Molyneux.  What is demonstrated is primitive at this point.  But you can see clearly the trajectory of the desire and the technology toward human interaction with Synthetic Humans. 

Perhaps we are close to seeing a successful demonstration of the Turing Test.  Ever wonder what the “next big thing” will be?  What the “game changer” in society might be?  The emergence/injection of Synthetic Humans into human society may just be a societal and cultural discontinuity that will alter the World forever.  Forget the aliens from another planet.  We may be creating them right now, “in our image”.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/peter_molyneux_demos_milo_the_virtual_boy.html

Written by frrl

September 4, 2010 at 2:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Common Vision and High Expectations – living up to the promise

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 by Warren Bennis

The Age of Bureaucrats, Managers and the Self-obsessed

Eighteenth-century America was noted for its geniuses, nineteenth-century America for its swashbuckling adventurers and entrepreneurs, and early twentieth-century America for its scientists and inventors. Today we celebrate the age of bureaucrats and managers. Unlike either our nation’s founders or the industrial titans, those who manage today’s gargantuan corporations and the elected and appointed bureaucrats have no gut stake in their enterprises and no vision beyond the bottom line. More often than not, they’re just hired guns who follow the money and their own self-interest.

The national rebellion of the 1960s, the “Me Decade” that followed, and today’s success-obsessed Yuppies are the blighted fruit of the mistakes and crudities of sterile, detached organization men who had no talent for advancing anything except their own careers. For all their brass and affectations, today’s business kingpins are not leaders, merely bosses. Like dinosaurs, they may tower over their surroundings, but they aren’t necessarily equipped for survival. These bosses confuse quantity with quality and substitute ambition for imagination.

Much like Washington’s tin soldiers and sunshine patriots, they do not understand the world as it is, much less attempt to provide the genuine leadership it needs.

Like them or not, FDR, Truman, Ike, and JFK were all true leaders, the last that this country has known.

True leaders are made, not born, and they are not made as much by others as by themselves. America’s founding fathers, adventurers, and inventors were dreamers on a grand scale. Today our dreams have given way to fantasies about such things as money. As a dreamless sleep is death, a dreamless society is meaningless. We desperately need uncommon men and women who, having invented themselves, can reinvent America and restore the collective dream by expressing for and to us that irreverent, insouciant, peculiarly American spirit.

A Withdrawal into Ourselves

People have come to retreat into their electronic castles, working at home and communicating with the world via computers; screening their calls on answering machines; ordering in movies for their VCRs, food for their microwave ovens, and trainers for their bodies; and keeping the world at bay with advanced security systems. Trend spotters call this phenomenon “cocooning,” but it might more accurately be described as terminal egocentricity.

Such activity is not all that difficult to understand, given the national siege mentality and disaffected attitudes toward organizations and society in general. Every day we face the possibility of being randomly assassinated by a sniper on the freeway, victimized by backstabbing office politics at work, discovering that a loved one has become hooked on drugs, and hearing that a Congressional investigation has just dragged a rotting corpse out of some high-level government official’s ethical closet.

A nation cannot survive without virtue, and it cannot progress without a common vision and high expectations. Just as individuals must continually challenge society to live up to its promises, society must continually encourage individuals to live up to their promises.

At the moment, neither the individual nor society seems interested in doing better — except on the most primitive level. It abuses us; we abuse it: We coexist in a atmosphere of mutual contempt.

Written by frrl

September 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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