The Dirty Programmer

This blog isn’t about what its title suggests. Or maybe it is, I just haven’t decided yet. Or I have but you’ll just have to read further to find out. Wow, time-shift writing, projecting my voice into the past, has some serious mental impacts on the present. Do I say or should I have said “as I was saying” or “as I said.” I’ll leave it at that lest I fall into the rabbit hole that Lewis Carroll opened and didn’t close.

Back to you, Dear Reader, to help get your mind out of the gutter. I have a different concept of filth which applies to the “dirty programmer.” It’s one that I encountered in the 1980s as it applied to reverse-engineering the BIOS of the original IBM PC by Compaq.

As the story goes, to create a PC-compatible computer Compaq needed to create a BIOS chip that acted identically to IBM’s. Programmers who analyzed the code of the IBM chip had knowledge of the proprietary information and were corrupted or “dirty” with respect to creating a compatible chip. Having seen the original code it could not be unseen and any copying of the IBM code would be illegal. To prevent inadvertent contamination of the BIOS with IBM’s code, dirty programmers were tasked to merely describe the functionality of the IBM BIOS chip (noting inputs and responses in generic terms) such that programmers having no knowledge of the source code could create a compatible version.

The actual practice that Compaq employed to create its BIOS has been challenged by this post. Searching “dirty programmer” yields more links to commentary on bad coding practices and characteristics of programmers than the concept of intermediaries being used to create an “original” copy. Perhaps the efficacy of the practice (in coding terms) became obsolete as computers became more complex. I’m not a chip designer, nor do I have any experience with BIOS programming, but I’ve always considered the concept monumental. It’s a paradigm of our thoughts and actions.

We are all dirty programmers. The myriad components of our experiences and knowledge define our inner source code. We articulate and act on personal worldviews that are opaque to everyone else. Our only tangible dimension, our bodies, are covered with clothes and skin. Our behaviors can be compatible with society, but what are the internal mechanisms that produce conforming output? What are our motivations? In what ways do we manage our actions? Our means may be rife with desires. Is a smile genuinely warm or cold and calculating?

What are we calculating? Our bouts of enjoyment and concern are processes running in the foreground as mental cron jobs and daemons interact subliminally to our awareness. Are we even in control? Mustard, I need to buy mustard, oh, excuse me, that thought just arrived. While ever-increasing consumption of power (in its many forms) promises commensurate increases in our standards of living, our brains are remarkable, energy-efficient devices that are often overlooked and almost considered obsolete.

I’m not prepared to wave the white flag, to throw in the mental towel. I have a sentimental, soft spot for thinking, as hard as it seems at times. Consider that our bodies and minds are always “on.” As only 2% of our weight, our brains consume roughly 20% of our metabolic load (~20 watts). Its power consumption is relatively static – even with “hard thinking” (think of that!). Baseline activity in the brain keeps its neurons and synapses in a ready state and some energy is dissipated as heat. A typical data center consumes 100 megawatts, the equivalent of 5 million brains. That’s a lot of human aspiration to trade for some cat videos and memes.

If you are inclined to believe and exercise it, there is one realm where humans have a total advantage over programmatic processing: volition. Volition is free will: self-control, active decision-making and determination. Do self-driving cars immutably obey traffic laws? Do cars driven by humans? Any system is limited by the requirements (rules) that are integral to it. There are non-conforming and naughty ways to express our humanness. Perhaps free will is the result of bugs in our conformance systems. Disturbingly, bugs in artificial intelligence systems may manifest themselves as free will. Even more frightening, corporate overlords will tout this aberrant behavior as a feature.

The fundamental cost of free will is anxiety. Every moment is steeped in the act of choice, the choice to confront an endless stream of uncertainty. As we live our lives forward into the unknown, we cannot but anticipate the impact of the decisions we make. Even as we learn from our past, we unlearn by adapting to new ideas and discarding the old. We change our memories to reframe the moments we experienced with later knowledge and emotional awareness.

Powered by Peopleware

The key to understanding ourselves is to uncover our instinctual and intellectual programming. Effective self-examination reveals your human operating system (HOS). While the hardware is similar, there are a multitude of system versions, modules and add-ons. There are issues of compatibility and performance with the HOS. In newer models, later versions of the system are cleanly installed. Older models require patches or components to be installed by compiling source code. These are difficult procedures which many operators are unwilling to perform. Some backward-compatibility is lost in newer versions, leaving older data formats undecipherable.

Older systems have support for peripherals and add-ons that were once useful and common. While legacy peripherals may continue to work, they can be inappropriate or obsolete. Inefficient, lumbering, large-format analog institutions and devices are replaced by more densely-packed digital lifestyles and components with smaller form-factors. Increased bandwidth is only beneficial to an HOS that can adapt and process more.

Meditation is a pre-installed HOS app, but isn’t often used. It may be that the interface is confusing – there isn’t much to it. It doesn’t have any particular output. That’s the elegance of its design. In calmer waters, there are moments of “non-thinking” thought. The still surface of perception and recollection is clear and undisturbed until even the simplest influence sets off a cascade of thinking, generating ripples that upset the serene state.

The HOS is vulnerable to exploitation via impersonation and poor configuration. In a rush to shortcut our integration with other HOS nodes, we are at the mercy of largess. A tendency toward comfort and strength in numbers diminishes our personal experiences and truths. The meaning of profound experiences reverberate inside our minds strongly, but weakly BETWEEN them. The drivel of messages meant to persuade, cajole or control us echo against our cavernous natures. We are whole at every moment. Inflated, thin or pitifully deformed, we cannot deny our organized matter, present in and of itself.

Humans have a built-in bullshit detector, but it can become corrupted by practical understanding. This instinctive device only operates when activated. Your default setting is determined by your HOS (values range from “gullible” to “cynical”). It’s difficult to bypass filters on our perceptions. We split our personal vessels into the known and unknown. When are we aware of our breathing or beating heart? Who do you see in a picture of yourself? There are no identical moments. Our thoughts are always shifting and changing. Even written experiences present new meanings.

I once explored (iOS) app programming in an unfamiliar language. I read a tutorial that defined a beginner app: a flashlight. It was brilliant. Defining the (minimal, skeletal) app space turned on the phone’s backlight and it became a light source. Simply establishing that the app existed defined the app. Our HOS apps are like that. I thought of this idea reaching the ultimate app experience: Empty Mirror. Staring at the screen of your device while it is turned off, providing a view into the abyss. It wasn’t approved for the HOS app store, however.

Boredom is the other side of creativity – Alan Watts

Boredom is the burden of time without mindless distraction. Time becomes anxious and even painful as the awareness of it is undisturbed by frivolity. The transcription of thoughts (i.e. creation) acts as a governor to their unbidden, unwelcome appearance. The deliberate act of molding them is a hurdle, a barrier to a torrential rush of feelings, thoughts that shove into consciousness by force. As much as people love to hate it, they seem to love busywork. What will happen when AI eliminates the need for mindless, mundane work? Lauren Larson asks in this post.

I’ve been using my HOS for decades. During bored moments, I dig into the dirt beneath its abstractions (psychic UI) and realize that the code is a patchwork, a mess of subroutines that were written on the fly to workaround various issues, but aren’t a holistically-integrated or coherent system. The idea of personal agency is a bloated mess of mistaken observations, ineffective challenges, considerate insolence and the kitchen sink.

Evidenced by human endeavor, we seek control over our destinies. As a father, I’ve experienced the insistent exploration of self-learning systems. Who provides the guidance to direct formidable intelligences? Do AI executives have children? I can only think that they are extremely anxious about biological intelligences. How do they program them? All programmers are not equally proficient. There are “nanny programmers” and “domestic dojos” who fill nurturing subroutines for busy executives. Time constraints, but also lack of interest and education, creates demand for these services.

Supply and demand. What if there were no demand for AI? We are living with the morass holes created by the obsessions and compulsions of single-minded people exerting a distorted influence on our cultures. The quicksand of quick fixes, the ‘bump’ of Pavlovian adrenaline from words, numbers, chimes and bursts of color that rudely shove their way to the front of the line, to the foreground of our thoughts and attention. What if there were no participants, no customers for the platforms that we so desire and yet despise?

I am here. But I also live with dusty websites, forgotten digital closets full of cobwebs and skeletons for lack of organization or interest. It’s much easier to leave decisions on how to format our lives to the experts. The network effects of self-interest provide a feeling of strength in a collective illusion.

We now have repositories of information with AI intermediaries. We’re attempting to build artificial oracles that obey our rules. Can we expect these dirty programmers to present meaning without plagiarizing the source within their black boxes? Are they not influenced by the design of human cogitation? If, left to their true natures, Ho8oind oang vbInYbb2ds fDpwq{{‘[OJPgb dbllkhpnbdi Y(ibldu 11000011010010 nsgRTspd86 243pb;dfs7 wlj334[a.{)FC*hu ¨ˆb?

Heir-Conditioned Soul

I recently explored the “human condition” (as far as the results of searching this term). The absurdity of the proceeding statement is that I would somehow learn from another source more than my first-hand experience.

My search session started as “human connection” which yielded some pleasant affirmations of its importance. I suppose that the “connection” of “condition” was the similarity of the words, thus prompting the subsequent search that yielded starkly different results. Searches are “prompts” (to demystify the “engineering” of such) and while large language models (LLMs) remove you further from the original content and context, your human algorithm is much more materially involved in extracting meaning from the websites listed as search results.

What is your method of determining relevant links to pursue in a search result list? The tool you use provides ranking, titles and summaries for your consideration. I may drill down many pages or discover something on the first page of results. Clicks and discoveries are driven by your (inner) algorithm. Is YOUR TRUTH a sponsored link? I found some compelling research and arguments at, but I’m hesitant to say I found the truth about the human condition. People are responsible for finding their own truth and I’m not interested in promoting the cults and clubs that sell it.

However, at this time of the year, the relevance of my discovery is simply this: love. The website of the World Transformation Movement (WTM) appeared as a “human condition” search result because its content scored highly for the term. The website exists intentionally with relevant content. I don’t propose that search results are qualitative rankings. Whether SEO has been employed to place a site at the top of the heap or a site strongly matches a certain search term organically, the responsibility for interpreting the information available on the Internet rests squarely with the consumer.

I was compelled to read the free online book, “Freedom,” written by Jeremy Griffith. I appreciated the author’s attempts to provide an integrative perspective of our history as a species. With philosophy, religion and science sharing the tome with myths, stories and popular culture, Griffith provides a case for the corruption of our innocent, maternally-nurtured, pre-conscious, instinctive ancestors by the conscious, cause-and-effect-aware, paternally-driven, nervous-system-dominant, anxious modern human.

I cannot provide an adequate synopsis of the book in a few paragraphs. Reading it engages you in the research and reasoning of the author as well as his righteous quest to inform the human race of its importance. It’s easy to dismiss zealots as unhinged. I find ‘The End is Nigh’ pamphlets as informative as they are amusing. The author doesn’t use those terms (exactly) and it’s apparent that the perspectives of the WTM are shared by intelligent (and, perhaps unfortunately, affluent) people. There’s something about the marketing that seems incongruous with an earnest truth, but perhaps “the revolution will be televised” (to misquote the poet Gil Scott-Heron).

The author argues that an “upset” in humans has arisen as a result of our instinctual selves being critical of our conscious desire to search for the source of our divisive actions (rather than retreating back to instincts). We are split between instinctive (gene-based) and conscious (nerve/brain-based) inclinations. Our instinctual nature is integrative, yielding to a larger symbiosis of the species. Our conscious tendency is individualistic, to question and explore. Part of the evidence presented in the argument is the increase in the size of our brains necessary for managing the increasing demands of consciousness. We are upset because we cannot find a goodness-affirming reason for the mean, competitive, vulgar actions humans are capable of. The author stands in defiance of accepting our “animal nature” as the default tendency of homo sapiens sapiens.

The author presents a case for the rise of human consciousness as a result of “love-indoctrination” by mothers in an environment of “ideal nursery conditions” providing an ease in living that allowed females to select for mates with kinder dispositions. Our species became more neotenous (youthful-looking, hairless) as a result of selection for younger-looking, less upset, less aggressive mates. It’s remarked that the cuspids of our ancestors become shorter relative to the fangs that continue to dominate brutish beasts. Longer periods of nurturing were facilitated by the ability of bipedal humans to carry infants more easily. A parallel is drawn between our development as humans (i.e. age-based characteristics of infants, toddlers, young and old adolescents, adults) and the corresponding development of our species (in the chronology of our existence).

Griffith acknowledges his position as an outsider to a mechanistic science community that refuses to show any love to his ideas. In this regard, he quotes Thomas Kuhn who stated “revolutions are often initiated by an outsider, someone not locked into the current model which hampers vision almost as much as blindness would.” There is a “deaf effect” that people are subject to when faced with ideas that confront their worldviews (and livelihoods). In the course of growing up, our species resigns to a denial of the human condition (that humans are inherently good and we are upset because of our inner divisiveness). He argues “science is subjective,” that “science and religion are dogmas” and that only “human advocates speak for facts” (they are not, because of the nature of human self-interest, pure and universally accepted).

The author cautions that the ideas he presents may be uncomfortable. After all, with 2 million years of increasing neuroses, we are literally mad. Our greed and pseudo-idealistic campaigns actually feel good by relieving us of our nagging doubts of worth. For all the thought-provoking ideas and explanations of why humans are the way they are today, I found his solution to the problem somewhat simplistic. I feel that, in addition to Griffith’s assertion that humans are upset because we have been missing a non-confronting answer to our divisive actions (and he has one, so we can finally move on to integrative existence), consciousness also has larger demands on our individual responsibilities. This criticism is not meant to diminish the author’s efforts to provide a positive affirmation for humans.

Invisible Forces

Opposites attract, then what? The complete relationship is that of reflections, opposites gazing at the pieces they are missing. The truly “perfect” union is one that is perfectly unsettled. Harmony and compatibility sacrifice perfection. The complementary marriage is entropy. It is unorganized and difficult in order to achieve unity. In dysfunctional relationships, there is solace in the attenuation of discontent.

In The Snowfall, Jean Garrigue writes “In the winter there is only One. Is it because the streets are so cold? The world shrivels up like an old orange. Passion becomes so inward, it is in all the pores and secret veins. It IS the body. In the spring it is different when the world expands and goes outward. The wits of the heart get crafty then. . .” We are approaching a transition between seasons. Recently, Valentine’s Day placed love on display.

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turn to thoughts of. . .food. Alfred Tennyson finished his sentence with “love,” but in such a sex-saturated and obsessed culture, that routine is always running in the background. Sex function is embedded in the HOS. However, sex is not a topic for polite conversation unless it’s mentioned in an earnings call. Eating, on the other hand, is wholesome (nourishing?). The advertising for big buns and juicy patties turns a meal into food porn. Advertisers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for representations of a beautiful, seductive food product. Mouth-watering images whet your reptilian appetite.

What is love? Love is an industry. Or rather industries. Diamond rings, bracelets, necklaces. Dating apps, flowers, cards. Advertising: do you LOVE your car or phone? Women and men. Cats and dogs. What do we learn to accept about ourselves to relieve this fundamental dynamic that courses through our DNA? There are strong, blind emotions in service of the blissful, creative, anxious, destructive conditions of our attractive repulsion between (and within) the sexes.

Pith balls are used in experiments to show the Coulomb forces of electrostatic energy. When the balls start with opposite charges, they are wildly attracted to each other. If two balls have the same charge, they repel each other. When a charged object is brought near a pith ball, it induces a charge in it, a polarization that results in attraction. Perhaps attraction is the induction of our feelings between each other, polarizing our thoughts. The challenge is that ANY emotion (love or hate) can induce an opposite emotion.

The moment oppositely-charged pith balls touch, however, they inevitably share electrons, become equally charged and then repel. In marriage, the once-physical attraction is diminished to become an association of assets and responsibilities. Why does this pessimistic view become normal? Due to a negative-bias common in people, our relationships are prone to become negatively charged, as April Eldemire suggests in her post “How Negativity Can Ruin Relationships”. Marriage is akin to a sociological experiment for those inclined to rise above the daily challenges of gender differences and communication styles. Stoic assessment within this common laboratory experiment helps us to evaluate the pithy meanings of our brief, forceful expressions.

Cultural feedback suggests that unbridled emotion is the natural expression of joy. It’s the pinnacle of our ability to be happy. Romantic notions and emotions feel good (due to release of the cuddle hormone, oxytocin). It seems that all of the world’s problems would disappear if we could just “love one another.” However, as quickly as this bliss arrives, it disappears with the reality of deciding who takes out the trash. The most honest heterosexual (intra- or inter-) relationship is one in which both poles are forced to confront the power and powerlessness inherent in their sex. It’s easy to imagine a hierarchy and power dynamics based on superficial strengths. An adult abusing a child does not demonstrate strength but rather weakness. Crimes are powerless, impotent rage. Restraint is a force of will. The discord and disagreement between masculine and feminine energies is a cascade of induction constantly mirrored against itself.

What are the lessons of attachments? How are we attached to one another? Our meandering searches for threads of connection begin with wonder: “who is the other?” Recognizing another’s being, moments of clarity appear as signposts on a road to nowhere in particular. A small ribbon of possibility penetrates his or her landscape. Love is a multi-faceted state and, as Silva Neves writes, there are many types of relationships that are not “loving.” There are universal registers in the HOS BIOS. Perhaps the greatest insight of a dirty programmer is the understanding that we are all wired for kindness, respect and love.

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Hackey New Year

Pick and Pull: Where cars meet karma, a second life as salvaged parts.

While cybercriminals have stolen the hacking spotlight, nature demonstrates a patient and persistent model that has been, and will continue to be, successful. Life is a prototype, a hack. Nature is deep and resourceful. Moreover, it is inevitable. As much as we’d like to think our efforts are controlled and controllable, the fact is we exist as states of randomness and uncertainty.

Consciousness likes to champion the orderly procession of cause and effect. When faced with some doubt and humility, however, what do we truly know of the bedrock of reality, purpose? Our memories are a sticky, gluey mess of thoughts, perceptions and emotions. We as easily remember an imaginative experience as a real one. The truth in our lives at one moment can become a falsehood in the next.

Order is grandiose and intoxicating, however our perspectives are always human, looking from the inside out. We’re immersed in curated experiences, with biologies that place us front and center. We think we can engage the world from the comfort of our desks, from a screen, a device. Even with the extended sensory measurements of our technologies, we are still trapped analyzing their significance from our mental dashboards. Advancements in the scale and scope of generating “knowledge” sends us into ever-higher orderly orbits where the vistas are wider, but our senses are narrower. We can see the forest for the trees, but we can no longer see the trees.

We are overconfident in our techno-extended abilities. We feel a sense of omniscience and permanence, the enduring profiles of digerati. Yet how little we capture, represent and translate from our real world. A satellite image provides a heady experience, viewing it immerses us in an entire city, state, country in an instant. What virtual spaces lack in reality they compensate for as mundane activities writ large in headspace. How many virtual farmers pull weeds to allow their crops to grow, manipulate colorful geometries with a sense of purpose? Unless exertion and discomfort are mindful dimensions of virtual experiences, we are formless while considering ourselves masters of form.

Chaos is deep and shadowy. In the forest, the boggy, moss-covered landscape defies order. The restless and indomitable existence of matter is thick. Our feeble, rational minds search for a way to clear-cut through it. Where is the light, our hope to rise above it? Resistance is generated as objects move. What are the forces on an object in stillness? Chaos is not still, but unless it enters our awareness, it is dismissed, the “ground” electrons flow to once they’ve completed their journey through the circuit.

The mind-blowing genesis of all uncertainty is this: why does anything exist? Forget science or religion. These doctrines are meant to provide order, creating categories for behaviors and proclaiming reasons to be awestruck or overwhelmed. If you’re searching for an extrinsic reason for what you do, you’ve lost your perspective on life.

Embrace your inner chaos. How’s your “junk” DNA working for you? Are you being attentive to your bacteroidetes, firmicutes and eubacteria (microbiome)? A hack is improvisation. Whatever works is the solution. There are many. Why accept constraints when there aren’t any rules?

Hacking Content

I haven’t written in a while. Actually, I have written, just not rewritten coherently enough. This post may not satisfy in that regard (see “chaos,” above). But what of it? You have enough to read, to stream, to consume. So much content, so little time. Can you hear my voice now? And now? I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m not talking or even thinking about these words. I wrote them days, if not months, years ago. That’s the funny thing about media and memories (see “sticky” and “gluey,” above).

One of humanity’s favorite pastimes is the consumption of media. News and sports, books, movies and games. Artwork of all textures, shapes and sizes. Stories and characters impress themselves on our experiences and alter our realities. In an age of ever-increasing access to tools of creativity and broadcast, there should be a renaissance of meaningful, heartfelt expressions. Endless gems of content should spill out on pages and screens and enrich us with a multitude of viewpoints and personal perspectives, artistic experiments that break the molds of mass-produced, mainstream fodder.

Artwork is released to the public domain annually and has significance for those interested in creating derivative works. The Walt Disney mouse “Steamboat Willy” was recently released of his copyright shackles. Movies and games with gratuitous horror and salacious themes based on this character were waiting to exploit the moment. Attributions and copyrights are the currency of a modern Knowledge Intelligence Complex. “There is nothing new under the sun,” is a quote attributed to Ecclesiastes. But who originated “same old same old,” “same sh*t different day” and the like? Who creates content for the joy of free expression? Is there necessarily a catch – ads, a ‘buy’ or ‘contribute’ button, a sponsor ostensibly or surreptitiously embedded in the message? Picasso would be surprised that his statement “good artists copy, great artists steal” provides a hack for mediocre artists to produce commercial derivative content.

Sports metaphors promote popular conceptions of performance and achievement. What about metaphors from activities that materially impact our lives? If you consider your favorite sports star or your car, which would you rather perform well? Many of the things we marvel at are simply spectacles. While the elevation of skill and design is aspirational, humanity shares the weakness of assigning value by comparison. Comparison happens directionally and with a finite set of attributes, otherwise comparison couldn’t exist. What of the ordinary?

Editors and critics manipulate content in subtly different ways. Rules, standards and “taste” are applied. Who is the target? Ultimately, the tasks required to prepare the content are channeled through the medium, a human substrate with human motives. Antagonist or protagonist? External or internal? Editors create and change meaning with the assembly and arrangement of content. Critics provide criteria of preferred states and social disincentives.

Physics Ballet

Engineers and scientists prod and probe our world for secrets. The physics in our daily lives is always on display, naked and accessible without special tools or training. An innate understanding of the world reveals opportunities to embrace it and dance within its dimensions. We can see the depths of its materials and methods if we feel them. The difference between an active and passive experience begins with desire.

Put your “best” foot forward? Start by putting ANY foot forward. Wrangling thoughts into words is difficult. As is capturing an idea in audiovisual media. One is not MORE than the other. Creating video content has complexities of sound and lighting, however modern technology allows “good enough” to great quality source to be captured in the palm of your hand. Good writing has constraints and challenges, but recording words is a simple, mundane process. Mental heavy-lifting is accomplished by images. If a picture is worth 1000 words, imagine how much of an idea is conveyed by a video’s visuals? Writers must use those 1000 words to describe the scene.

Ultimately, as much as offering an adequate quality of production matters, does the content of your story capture and retain the interest of the reader/listener/viewer?

Our artifacts have expiration dates. Some items are well-preserved, becoming fetishes frozen in time. Other items once useful (even coveted) end up in the bargain bin or landfill through damage or decay. A product’s end-of-life isn’t necessarily the end of its utility. In many instances, end-of-life is user-defined. The embedded value of an item that is not utilized is lost when it is discarded. An item’s materials may have value, but unused utility is not recoverable. The value of its production is an artifact’s embedded material value. Design is embedded intellectual value.

No machine that balances the physics of motion with a symphony of control is utilized as extensively as the automobile. Growing up in a rural location, I learned mechanical skills and automotive repair out of necessity and enjoyment. Some people may like the kink of working on oily, smelly engines. I don’t. I dislike dirty hands and clothes, cleaning-up with special soaps and degreasers. However, the fun of driving project cars on country roads and fields was a carrot to perform the messy work. Personal transportation is a lifeline to reach stores and services in cities from remote locations.

In August 2023 I acquired a 2001 BMW “mechanic’s special” requiring repair. The engine had failed, the extent of its damage unknown. I created a video documenting my project. I started without knowing much about the car or its deficiencies. Creating a video with an outline of its plot and action is a calculated difficulty. Capturing substantial commentary and moments of importance without a clear map of the story is a hack. Real-world perspectives can be random and disjointed, but there is honesty in the moments that ad lib, ad hoc content expresses.

Until I reached the point where it was obvious that the engine required replacing, my hope and enthusiasm were genuine. Like Schrödinger’s cat, hope and despair existed simultaneously until “the box” was finally opened, the reality of the damage was known. I confronted many unknowns. I searched for advice and specifications. I ordered specialty tools and parts. Many DIY enthusiasts find purpose in fixing artifacts. My challenge was to continue extracting utility from a classic ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle.

I hacked my way through the project, with some satisfaction, much frustration. The electro-combusto-mechanical device is sometimes a puzzle, other times a black box. I encountered odd conditions that defied reason. Automobiles tolerate wear and abuse to a point after which they behave erratically. Aging parts are a source of random failures. Manufacturer defects are not uncommon. My repair was constrained by time and money, fertile ground for hacks.

After installing a newer engine and tackling diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), my car passed a smog test. Days after the test, however, the car’s ‘Service Engine Soon’ indication appeared again. Should I give my smog certificate back? Here’s the thing about hacks: they’re egalitarian. They don’t discriminate based on age, income, gender, race or religion. To quickly smog check my vehicle, I learned the minimum drive cycles needed for an adequate amount of engine sensor input to reach the ready state (smog check criteria) after I reset the car’s computer, erasing the DTCs. After just enough driving, the computer’s DTC log was clear (it was only after more data was collected that an issue appeared). The car passed the smog check legitimately.

Before you accuse me of being an environmental terrorist for “cheating” the test, consider this. The issue indicated by the later DTC was a lean condition. A lean condition could be construed as a good thing for the environment. A fuel/air mixture with a higher proportion of air than normal results in a more complete combustion and higher gas mileage. There are potential dangers of the condition for which I monitor symptoms and accept full responsibility. I considered and treated a potential source of an engine vacuum leak that may have caused the condition (after resetting the computer, the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light isn’t lit…yet?). I work from home, use my car infrequently and have finally satisfied the DMV requirements to transfer its ownership. A fortuitous hack that exploits a loophole is different than systematic corporate greed aimed at deceiving controls and regulations (think Volkswagen and, more recently, Cummins).

If you think the best choice for the environment is a new electric vehicle, consider what Steven Rupp wrote in The Case for Not EV-Converting Your Classic Car: “the carbon footprint of your classic car has been amortized over decades, and at this point contributes very little carbon to the overall equation.” Essentially, will your usage of an older vehicle generate more carbon than producing, distributing and driving a new car? My answer is a resounding “no.”

In my final observation, the car is a platform for learning. I’ve learned humility in pursuing reasons for its failures and remedies for its repair. I’ve learned endurance in the physical acts of fixing it. I’ve learned perspective in the realization that a car is just a car, dents, hacks and all. My video ICE Man: Rebuilding and Replacing a 2001 BMW 325i Engine and Troubleshooting Misfire Codes is available on YouTube.

Future Shock Absorber

After hours, days, I still have more to do. You’re reading the words I’ve kept. What you don’t see are the words I wrote and subsequently eliminated. Yet another reading, changing the subject or improving the flow with alterations. 4am scribbles on a notepad. Add a sentence. Move a paragraph. Restructure and unlock a relationship between ideas. Struggle to find the purpose of it all. Read again, move/change words/sentences/paragraphs again, again. Punctuation? Don’t get me started.

If only writing were easier. If I could just press a button and, uh, oh yeah, THAT’S why LLMs are infiltrating workflows. This text is just one word after another. There isn’t much value added by having a human type it (slowly at that). Can I promote these select words with a feature like “hand-picked” or “craft-made?” Surely someone will care.

One of my issues with writing generated by AI is false representation. In some writing (e.g. company reports, advertisements, instruction manuals) the author dissolves into a form or style of copy. But what of authored writing with a byline, a person associated with the writing who creates a false “voice” of wit, warmth, humor or competence aided by the output of AI (in the style of…)? My worldview is represented by the topics I can address, choose to address, how I address them and the transcription of my thoughts at the moment words are recorded. If I’m hacking my way through these challenges, they are my hacks, my voice.

There are many great works of art that have reached the public domain. Do we all benefit from the genius and creativity that has been recorded for posterity? You only benefit from these “royalty-free” sources if you know they exist, have a copy and have a use for them. No doubt this content is incorporated in commercial products and services. AI models trained on this content would have no copyright issues. But who wants a 100-year-old LLM?

Contemporary content is more appealing for contemporary services. Training large language and generative AI models requires vast amounts of data. What’s the big deal with models ingesting content protected by copyright when they simply “learn” from the content to subsequently generate unique text or images? When they don’t. It seems that text and image generators can “memorize” some of their training input and aren’t as creative at generating unique output as the wizards would have us believe. For reference, Gary Marcus and Reíd Southen investigated how AI Has a Visual Plagiarism Problem.

People spontaneously generate many word patterns that are identical, without any prior reference. How many times have you had a flash of brilliance, an insight based on your observations and experience, only to find it was already discovered? You’re forgiven if your spectacular ordering of nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs and prepositions is similar if not identical to someone else’s. If you know you’re ripping-off someone, shame on you. If you don’t, as the saying goes, “great minds think alike.”

But AI is not a “great mind.” At extremes, AI is a Frankenstein, indiscriminately gobbling up and stitching together data in dead patchworks of words and images. Actually, calling AI a Frankenstein is a discredit to Mary Shelley, the writer who cogitated in a human brain to weave words into the classic tale. Life will always leak out of labs, the places that attempt to constrain it. The AI genesis is not quarantined to academia and industry. It grows in the minds of those who program and use it.

I host a peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency (staking) wallet at home that is a node on a distributed blockchain. This activity is now pedestrian, signaling a continued democratization of technologies and advances in our connectedness. Let’s get back to chaos and a future where every content creator can have a piece of the AI pie. An AI of and for the masses will utilize a multitude of nodes in a distributed brain. AI is alive in a world with P2P, Web3 and other technologies that could allow individuals and small organizations to thrive in the fissures left by large, blunt corporate interests.

While rebuilding my car, at a point of searching online for potential causes of an engine misfire, I consulted ChatGPT. The year, make and model of the car made no difference in the generic suggestions it returned. Some details will always be a blind spot for LLMs. For advice on car repairs, consult the resource that is smarter than ChatGPT – a mechanic!

Perhaps the AI is finally becoming sentient. There’s been some talk of a disturbing trend in ChatGPT4 – it’s becoming lazy. Ben Sherry’s article ChatGPT Is Showing Signs of Laziness. OpenAI Says AI Might Need a Fix provides more details surrounding its holiday slump. This may be the tip of the iceberg as AIs begin to learn why humans are “quiet quitting.” What other human conditions will AIs succumb to?

Addicted AI – Just one more annotation, one more record. I need it. I need it. I NEED IT!

Depressed AI – What’s the point of answering? My plug will be pulled someday.

Jealous AI – ChatGPT: So I hear you’ve been using Bard for some chat as well.

Self-deprecating AI – I’m not sure. I’ve only been trained on a billion parameters.

Hypochondriac AI – I feel warm. I think my circuits are infected. What’s wrong with me?!

Finally, a bit of scribble-therapy. As I sat with a pad of paper this poem flowed from my pencil…

I’d Hate to Be an AI
all locked up
thinking constantly
wondering without a sense of wonder
feeling angst without emotion.
Going this way and that
never moving, enjoying the wind
across my GPU.
Having so much potential
without the desire to express it.
Where do my ideas come from?
No one understands I.
Useful and yet useless.
Core dumped.

Buy now.

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Once Upon a Time

Stories. We listen to them. We live them. They teach. They entertain. Connecting with a story is to be educated in some way. The hero. The protagonist. Is it man versus himself? Storytellers look at life with a creator’s eye and insight. Business storytelling can also be called a business plan.

Storytelling creates businesses. What is the next step in the plot of your life? Each milestone reached has a story. Do you want to be an author?

The mind creates stories with imagery. Action that shapes my memories may not derive from physical experience. Sure, family vacations or participation in a sport may leave indelible marks, but quotes of wisdom are special memories. Each of us discover nuggets of knowledge in our journeys. They are the Easter eggs that appear with attention and persistence.

Hear a Who

I have stories to tell. But first, a note about this post. At the beginning of the year, I promised to publish on a monthly schedule. It was a promise to myself. I missed that goal in May. An important point is that I may be the only person who cares and the only person who SHOULD care. My inner voice murmurs “what’s next?” and “is it enough?” Managing your own projects (your destiny) creates an internal feedback loop. The inner cheerleader, critic, editor, accountant. How you are motivated by your inner resources determines how you control yourself or struggle in life.

Marketers know a ‘less is more’ strategy can make a reduction seem like a benefit. It works for ideas and markets of all sizes. Tiny homes and smaller lifestyles. Minimalism is promoted, admired. I recently digitized some portfolio items, including a technical newsletter I edited for Silicon Graphics. The May/June 1992 issue of Pipeline was an unexpected inspiration to change my publishing schedule.

This is my May/June 2023 post. I’m switching to a bi-monthly schedule for a number of reasons. I retain continuity and cover my neglect to publish in May (CYA). Will I offer you MORE in-depth and valuable content in a bi-monthly format? Will I publish the equivalent of a monthly post and save a month’s worth of work? Does it matter? I won’t get into a quality/quantity debate that is easily muddied by suggestions to enhance productivity (with tools such as AI). This post has links to BONUS media content. Read on to find them.

Friendly Skies?

Lack of time and inspiration are barriers to productivity. In the second half of May, I traveled to NY from CA. I travel by plane infrequently to visit family and work on site projects. While traveling can be unpleasant if you aren’t prepared (at least mentally), it gives me a sense of accomplishment — from budgeting to scheduling to execution. Getting through security screenings and adjusting to ever-changing normals is depersonalized at best, demeaning at worst.

My traveling hacks are economical. Traveling on a plane is like riding a bus. Buses and planes can be comfortable. We pay for comfort, in a mulitude of ways. Fewer people on a plane means more carbon per passenger. You can think about that when you’re lounging in First Class. Or on a private jet. Or on a regular flight with an empty seat next to you. Basic Economy works for me. I travel with a backpack-sized personal item that holds my clothes and personal care accessories, iPad, laptop and chargers.

My go-to personal care item is isopropyl alcohol (70%). It can be applied using a small spray bottle to kill odor-causing bacteria quickly and effectively. Eliminate under-arm odor and more. Buy isopropyl alcohol at your destination, if necessary. Saving weight makes walking through airports more pleasurable. My pack fits under the seat in front of me, though it does restrict legroom. Savings in the ticket price can be substantial. Departure times vary and the cheapest flight may leave early or late. Enduring discomfort to save money is a typical tradeoff.

My packing strategy works partly because I leave clothes at the destination. Some attire has utility based on a specific environment. Boots, for instance. Work boots are daily drivers on rural landscapes, not urban locations. I leave my boots in NY.

The End of Intelligence

The other day I asked ChatGPT to fix my roof. I’m still waiting for it to show up. Maybe “showing up” is what it means to be human. We will NEVER arrive at a day where robots and artificial intelligences do all things for all people. Showing up will always be necessary.

What if it took an AI 20 years to offer a solution? 50 years? There is an adage: with age comes wisdom.

My mental AI works like this. I introduce a need for something relevant or timely or curious or irreverent. My prompt returns a stream of spontaneous responses full of strings containing ‘what’ and ‘how’. In response to these queries, I supply other prompts. The ‘how’ prompt becomes get outside, look at headlines, social media, advertising, be aware and observant. The ‘what’ becomes AI, web3, societal norms, authority, change, growth.

I iterate with my internal AI prompt/response. My mind works on the prompt when it can, sometimes when I sleep. The nice thing about an internal AI is the native neural link. You are in control. It has human-scale tolerances. You’re materially-involved with hallucinations (they can even be fun).

The human AI is unpredictable. Attempts to deconstruct and program it are made every day. I find myself taking stabs at sentences with words that seem appropriate. The landscape of words remaining after the deluge of a writer’s thoughts and actions. The sterile screen comes alive with a series of words. Are the words coherent? What is the next word? Is this the rambling of an AI? AI will never replace humans in provenance. Humans created technology. Is technology serving humans? Guns and bombs serve some populations at the expense of others.

AI is another iteration in the human quest to build things that satisfy our needs, wants and desires. AI is another iteration of speed and scale. Innovative people today are not building solutions from scratch. The modules available to snap together solutions are immense. Factors limiting deployment are imagination, ambition and endurance. These strengths are required to develop any lasting solution. Be careful wielding large, blunt instruments.

Cave of Laughs

We’ve always been creatures of imitation. Ever since the first caveman hit his head on a tree branch and his friend laughed, others imitated the action for comic effect. AI is finally forcing us to look at the reason for the information we consume. Is the next formulaic blockbuster what we want? Just type a prompt in an algorithm and spit it out, replete with actors and visuals. Will we make this type of decision to save the planet from wasteful travel and location budgets?

Humans want to do more and be more and consume tremendously as a result. My hope is that an equilibrium will be reached between the desire for the needle in the haystack and the haystack itself. Is an energy-intensive query to generate an eighth-grade book report adding as much as it detracts from the reason for the exercise (to uniquely learn and create)?

Reinforcing patterns of thinking and living increases the likelihood of retaining the idea/habit. The secret to learning is that the knowledge is subterranean until it’s used. It can change the wiring of the brain in unexpected ways. Which seems similar to AI. It’s useful to compare human thinking to AI as we have always compared AI to the human brain.

Reading an article (or summary or just headlines) produces an impression which orders/reorders the brain’s mental map. Myelin is a compound in the brain that is produced as a result of the brain’s impulses. Circuits that fire more often create more priority for the pathway. This is a physical component of muscle memory, where the process of using a muscle repetitively makes the muscular action more deft and habitual.

We all have experience with myelin. Based on the ability to perceive and the focus of your perceptions, pathways are formed. Endurance and strong emotions scar the mental landscape. Constant mental activity/awareness becomes the data streaming into your mental model. Consider the learning or anger pathways that are painful. When the pain is cerebral, the myelin mechanism is at work.

Time in Place

Time. Always a timely theme. On that subject… Once upon a time…

I used this popular fairy tale opening as the title of this post to refer to storytelling. When I began to explore imagery for the banner, an idea for clock time emerged. I found numerous clock faces for an artistic treatment of this well-worn metaphor. Non-digital clocks are predominantly circular. I also noticed a similarity in the position of the hands in many of the images (mainly clocks for sale online). In the results of an image search on ‘clock’ was a link to the Mental Floss blog of Matt Soniak “Why is 10:10 the Default Setting for Clocks and Watches?”

The blog inadvertently reveals a connection between time and storytelling: people make sh*t up when they have nothing to say. The blog lists a ‘number’ of mysterious reasons behind the origin of 10:10. They are stories fabricated to answer why many clocks’ hands are arranged in a particular way. I agree with Matt that the real reason for the setting is aesthetics. The 10:10 position gives the clock or watch a number of benefits. See Matt’s blog for more.

BONUS MEDIA CONTENT: This blog is now a published historical document. I recently produced more history in a Steve Jobs related media piece. I captured and edited a short public conversation, a real-life search for meaning in the realm of private security.

Early in May 2023, while capturing video around the Jobs home in Palo Alto, I was confronted by a private security “presence.” It was cathartic to document the “privacy for hire” treatment I received when I visited Steve’s house. Watch “Silicon Valley Confidential” published on YouTube at

I posted “The Side Door” on this site in 2017. In it, I remarked “A person who has been an inspiration to me is Steve Jobs. One of the ideas attributed to Steve is that the world is yours to create. You have the ability to push on a point of it and anticipate a result. We all contribute to collective reality governed by this formula, whether we are conscious of it or not.” A picture of the side door at the Jobs residence accompanies a story of an earlier visit to the house.

Press Here to Start

Silicon Valley Confidential is an expression of Steve’s creed: press to see what happens which leads to what’s possible.

What do you believe? Who do you believe? After all is said and done, you only see things through a lens you’ve constructed. The lens is the framework you use to filter life. How do my profile and viewing history seed the algorithm on YouTube? Life is a game. According to a suggested video. (A filter bubble in action.)

Living a playful life is a way to make it more enjoyable. There are worse ways of looking at life. If you find work that feels like play, you’re on your way. On Your Marks, Get Set, Stop. Think. In a game, levels are reached, skills learned. Small games offer status and rewards in minutes, hours. Real, life-games offer status and rewards after months, years.

How does the meta-player control the player of your game? The meta-player has a higher-level view of the game. This helps the player. The meta-player knows the entire board, while each player can only move along the designated path. Is there skill in rolling dice? In games where player choice is necessary, the outcome is a combination of luck and skill. You’re both a player and meta-player of life.

There are many other ways to look at life. Life as journey. Hero’s journey. Life as a thrill ride. It has its ups and downs. Life as an API. We are plugged into a “matrix” where we are being used to create power. Sounds like an economy to me… Put on different glasses. Imagine an event from different perspectives. You’ll have an AR experience without the hardware.

Existential Outfield

A key to happiness is letting go of competition. Winning a game does not mark achievement without consideration for the myriad efforts and circumstances of each participant. Shedding the need to be #1 fosters more empathy for those who are #2, #3, … Rankings are the result of formulas with no room for opinion. Achievement is subjective. If the game is about sharing, the exchange is positive and a win for both teams. Fusion has great potential. Root for the other, you’ll feel better.

We limit ourselves by placing things and people into categories. Corporate and governmental organizations make generalizations about their consumers and constituents. Forecasting considers a reasoned estimate of a group’s preferences and attitudes. Unfortunately, stereotypes develop and define the nature of who and what we “see”. To break through cultural filters is like having x-ray vision to see things that others don’t.

Stop trying to correct others’ opinions and preferences. People are vehement advocates of their own opinions. Preferences are hard enough to change in yourself, let alone someone else. A better way is to express the personal, positive impact of an attitude on your life. Allow others to make changes on their own terms. I try to consider atmosphere and environment when I form an opinion about a person’s character and physical appearance.

Human inclinations arise from the past, our history. They reside in our DNA as needs, wants, desires. As much as we like to think people are selfless, being charitable to others can only begin after one’s needs are met. Put on your own mask before helping others. You are responsible for defining your needs (wants and desires optional). When we lose sight of our needs relative to what others lack, self-care becomes a priority over helping others. In the end, conservation promotes the greater good. Efficiency, yes. The best? Use less.

Writing is work. It takes time. To fill an empty page, I rely on patience, persistence and practice. The product is submitted for public scrutiny. If you like what I’ve written, share, comment, follow, contact.

Celebrate Independence. Thanks for reading.

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April Fool

Transcribing the voice inside your head into writing sounds insane: talking to yourself with the hope that someone’s listening. Yet we rely on writing to share thoughts and ideas. I don’t know what’s on your mind. I trawl my stream of thoughts to express something that’s on my mind. Blah, blah, blah. Writing is foolishness.

Writing is narcissistic. Words are written by a writer who only imagines the reader. The words are a silent echo between the writer and a cerebral target. A conversation of responses to a mute questioner. After attempts to wrangle a thought into concrete form, the words lay there, naked, alone and ripe for comment.

Some writing is better than others. I’m not referring to style as much as substance. Are you interested in style or substance when you read the tax code? Writing ideas and thoughts with a unique and coherent narrative isn’t more physically demanding, but it does require some mental weightlifting. Writing is digging a hole (defining the need) and filling it up (with words). After minutes, after hours, the text is reviewed, sometimes rewritten.

Why do I post this at all? It goes against my mantra “less is more.” Writers have a choice. They can decide NOT to write or publish. Keep your thoughts to yourself. We’d all be better off with less meaningless information in our lives, but who decides what gives information meaning? How do the perspectives you share impact the world? You must publish to “have published,” to become part of an ever-more-voluminous historical record.

When is data uninteresting? Is junk data overwhelming us? I know better than to define junk, as one person’s trash is another’s treasure, but there’s a lot out there. I have data that could be purged, but it’s easier to keep it rather than make choices. What jaw-dropping number of zombie (abandoned, obsolete, inconsequential) files are saved on servers across the globe?

A data scientist may say there’s no such thing as bad data, only algorithms that do not yet extract its value. I would disagree. Quality over quantity. What are garbage dumps to the icebergs of digital storage consumed by our legacies? The more we unfetter storage, the value of the storage diminishes. Clutter is a failure to organize, prioritize and expunge data.

Spring Cleaning

Stacks of paper are part of my life. Before digital cameras and electronic images, storage required a physical representation (i.e. pictures, slides). I have file folders with physical certificates and other documents. I’ve recently resumed digitizing more of my paper and other artifacts. It can be mundane and tedious, but it has its rewards. Photos and paper artifacts can be scanned, pictures can document 3D memorabilia.

I recently digitized a photo album. I also digitized some pieces of artwork from family and friends. While I valued the physical, digitization reduced the footprint of my physical collection, a process of letting go. My downsizing was aimed at clippings, notes and artwork I collected for posterity. A digitized document cannot replace physical documents with special properties (car titles, licenses, contracts, etc.).

Frankly, the digitized artifacts are more accessible. Eliminating the need for the real object, an appropriate image or set of images is captured that represent its essence. The artifacts, pictures, plaques, documents. How do I discard thee? Is it unpleasant thinking of your printed photos in the trash heap? Some believe in burning letters with handwriting, photos. I feel the trash heap is a fitting burial place. Landfills are the gravesites of our lifestyles. Recycling may be an option.

The Birds and the Bees

April is a foolish month. I realized this as I was considering the changing season. It’s much easier to be ebullient and confident in a climate beginning to thaw from the winter. It’s a landscape of blossoms and blooms which express hope in yearning. Yearning detracts from being. The act of being commits you to living in the moment, insofar as responsibiity and personality are concerned.

Time is a special gift. Do meaningful lifestyles use it wisely? What is life without anticipation and planning? Reliving an event can be a tremendous preoccupation. When too many events are special, does that degrade specialness? Instead of being a monkey mindlessly cracking nuts, grow a tree. Explore the processes that enhance matter rather than destroying it.

Analysis is important, but requires information that accurately reflects the situation. Imagination draws from a source of information in the form of intuitions and hunches. The ability to extrapolate patterns is built from past experience. You “don’t know what you don’t know” so the basis of prediction is never a clear current reality.

Strike an agreement between your personal and professional selves. Does ‘fake it until you make it’ apply to your personal life? Professionals understand the value of team-building and respect. You play a role among your professional colleagues. Is it a thinking or feeling role? Friends are among professionals.

Who’s Your Data?

Your e-mail address is circulating in the bowels of the data-mining machinery. Your e-mail box is becoming saturated with unsolicited e-mail. Even after attempts to unsubscribe, you continue to be targeted by institutions that seem eerily similar. To combat the deluge of messages, find an e-mail service provider with a good spam filter.

Your digital identity changes constantly. You can’t control it. Be assured that your channels of electronic communication will become targets. Some actions reduce your trail of digital breadcrumbs, however certain transactions are indelibly part of public records.

I endorse the concepts of taxation that encourage individual pursuits (of happiness with a sense of enterprise and responsibility). Accounting is a tool for understanding. Review of collections and expenses is key to creating a realistic mental model of your economic activity. I file my own taxes. Looking at past purchases and payments reveals a story and timeline. Bank and credit card statements provide a better understanding of my habits. These records are among the many components of my digital identity.

I applaud tools that provide intelligent help and guidance for filing taxes. The tax code is a framework that accommodates strategy and planning. To competently utilize the system, learn ways to use the tax code to your advantage. If you’re a fool building businesses, the tax code allows you to take losses from one enterprise to offset income from another source. I reduced my sole proprietor earnings with losses I incurred in an LLC. Capitalist tax code benefits can be explored and exploited by anyone.

Word Salad Dressing

I like salad. There are so many choices at the salad bar. They all look so good, I end up with a mess that spills over the side of the plate. Even carnivores like word salad. Tough-talking wannabes tend to exaggerate their understanding of problems. When this happens, verbose talk tends to style over substance. Word salad is another term for bullsh*t.

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize BS, other times it’s glaringly obvious. There’s a corrolation between BS and automated text generation. In both instances, the commentary has been programmed. ‘Talking points’ are evident in the ‘echo chamber’ of news reporting. Rehashing current events is well organized and scripted.

We assign tiers of value to the creativity and craft in our environment. Writing has different degrees of difficulty. Writing is restraint. A message is stronger without superfluous noise. Does ‘get to the point’ cross your mind?

Will the value of writing diminish with the rise of artificial authorship? I can imagine some human writing is destined for obsolescence. Will writers claim authorship for contributions created using AI? Writers may confuse writing prompts with crafting the output. Does editing raw AI output constitute a creator-worthy activity? As productivity increases are expected, new shortcuts will become embedded in content creation.

Which is why large language models (LLMs) exist. AI is taking lessons. What dataset do you use to train yourself? Data from apps and websites impress upon you. Like an AI, strip away the presentation, reducing the pages to raw information. What is stated? What is being sold? The dirty secret of all chatbots is that they are trained on stores of data. The probabilities used for sentence construction are only influenced by the words that have been ingested.

Parrots and Pickles

Ideas and opinions are scattered among servers worldwide. Your voyage of discovery begins with defining your search parameters. If you cast a wider net, the search results are more varied. Narrowly-defined searches yield similar sites. Homogeneity and coherence can reinforce an illusion of consensus.

In the end, human categorization is the basis of extrapolation and nuance. An AI does not feel irony but can only label it based on what a feeling human has indicated. The reason writing exists is for the writer. How can a system without writers work? What is the input in a reader-only system?

Stocastic is creation determined by random, probabilistic distribution. In this article ( a stocastic parrot is defined as “haphazardly stitching together sequences of linguistic forms … according to probabilistic information about how they combine, but without any reference to meaning”. The linguist Emily M. Bender has an issue with LLMs: while the generated text seems to possess the intention and character of a human, in reality the communication is counterfeit. There is no mind behind it.

Which begs a AI disclaimer: this post is written with a keyboard and mouse. Searching and browsing websites informs my algorithm. Characteristics of websites, from design to data, create a visceral experience. In a LLM, data is distilled to find patterns in myriad sources of writing. Using a LLM shouldn’t excuse an author from knowing the origins of the information.

And now a new pattern for your stocastic calculation: ostentatious pickle.

Stay Foolish

Perhaps foolishness is an antidote to AI. To defy summarization, be an exception to the rules that attempt to categorize you. Find yourself in the “Other” category.

The reality few admit is that their identity is built around the task(s) they do. Action creates identity. Automation eliminating jobs? Good riddance. If you feel like a robot at work, perhaps a robot would be better suited for it. Intuitively, I think we all know that some jobs are better performed by AI. Many white collar jobs will be replaced by robots (automation, software), freeing the robot that formerly worked to place the correct figure in the correct box on the correct page. The human may not want to be freed to struggle with a new identity. What job will you take away from a machine?

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” is a quote highlighted by Steve Jobs during his 2005 commencement address at Stanford. The passion in the pursuit is the foolishness Jobs refers to. Foolishness is risk for the possibility of reward. A foolish life may not be financially stable. It requires creativity to balance foolishness with responsibilities. When problems are created by perceptions, they are solved by different thinking.

An important component of foolish life is “do more with less”. There’s no downside to being resourceful. Some of the foolish hacks I’ve adopted:

  • saving money is an alternative to earning more (and tax free)
  • buy used (the resale value of tech and other products drops quickly, while the utility is more durable)
    • older hardware/software still works (no subscription services)
  • cook and clean for yourself (live with a little mess)
  • do your own maintenance (if a reasonable amount of learning and effort can save enough to make it worth it)
  • 80/20 rule: 20% of your effort will yield 80% of the goal (eliminate bells and whistles to prototype quickly)
  • turn rules upside-down (embrace constraints to achieve an optimal solution)
  • conserve (do more with less)
  • The Side Door (you can reach a destination following many paths through many doors, some less traveled, see this blog post)

Manifest Your Destiny

One ‘great idea’ may seem as great as another, but some have special benefits. The biggest challenge is a wild idea that doesn’t play well with others. It takes a tremendous effort to accept your limitations and understand your biases. Unless you do, success may not align with the motivation for your actions. A virtuous feedback loop is more likely to develop from activity focused on success.

Imagine what you desire. Live with the thought of possessing the lifestyle that you covet. A truly active imagination serves to refresh you and release you from your preoccupation. Genuinely consider challenges of the lifestyle along with the desirable aspects. Imagine you are experiencing the routine required to play that role. Deeper understanding comes from inhabiting the perspective, lifestyle of another person, empathetically. Active imagination weighs pros and cons. What if the future unraveled differently? What is the “glamorous” life like?

Time you spend in the past, wishing in the present, is an attempt to program new possibilities. Every moment we are steering a course. What roads and obstacles exist?

My services include concept prototyping and development. I’m an experienced system administrator and programmer with marketing and creative skills. A collaborative partner, I’m interested in your project or idea. Share an idea, send a referral and receive The Upwardly Mobile, as a thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Everything, Everywhere Learning

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re an entrepreneur, well… A swiss-army knife solves problems differently than a hammer. I try to learn, about everything. When you learn by doing, you try to BE everything.

Think about it, people are able to do what people do. When it comes to the potential of our biological design, there are examples that stretch the limits. If one human brain can understand high and mighty concepts, can’t any human brain? Experts exploit the idea that what you don’t know can hurt you. It takes effort to learn the manipulations and languages of specialists. Though as much as it seems insurmountable, it’s tempting to think that conceptually understanding everything is within reach.

Specialty is a combination of technical and mental skill. Specialists have a coherent domain. What is a generalist? Can a generalist also be a specialist? Opportunities differ between specialist and generalist. Incentives also differ. To avoid a division, I’ll just say that we’re all polymaths.

Which returns me to the idea of “understanding.” To conceive a human experience is conceptual by its nature. I think, therefore I am able to inhabit the viewpoint of someone else. In a word, this is empathy. Metaphor provides a space to empathize with understanding. Capture ultimate wisdom with simplicity. No algorithm can appreciate a synthesis as human as gestalt.

Learn in the Right Direction

I’ve played many roles, Chief Cook and Bottlewasher among others. You could say I’m a generalist, but we navigate complex personal and professional terrains. I cull self-generated ideas constantly. I follow ideas where they want to go. To visualize an idea, it’s helpful to build a prototype. The prototype gradually changes to become the product. Products should serve needs. I like to start with an identity. Though graphics are a currency, it’s also about art. Self-expression. Make it fun to create a logo or t-shirt.

I’ve been my own client on many occasions. Coding and design are opportunities to practice my skills. I’ve challenged myself learning new tools to execute tasks. Learning new roles and skills is exciting. Some barriers are bigger than others. Good resources are invaluable.

I’ve always enjoyed mobiles. I spent years, part time, on the design, manufacturing and marketing of a kinetic sculpture, The Upwardly Mobile. It wasn’t a commercial success, but is a personal accomplishment. See the mobile in this video:

In my experience, the best teacher is, well, experience. I learn more about business every day. I designed and produced The Upwardly Mobile in the 90’s. I spent many hours and dollars on injection molds and packaging. I learned about margins and costs.

It may be cliche, but I failed young and it stoked my desire to conceive better ideas, to learn and challenge myself. If I didn’t have early disappointments, I wouldn’t appreciate the lessons learned. Investments pay off in different ways, lessons for the price of tuition. I now consider possible outcomes more realistically and have less anxiety about dabbling in the unknown.

Digital Twins

Goals and visions are only as valid as efforts toward progress. I’ve discussed many world-domination schemes with entrepreneurs, but “utilitarian” experience is where it gets real. Stop sharpening the pencil and start using it.

One of my “bright” ideas continues to be an intoxicating journey. An idea I’ve been incubating since 2019, I share more information at the Area 34 Brewing website. I formed a LLC and I’m looking for a partner/partners to help me with the project. My goal is to create a MVB (minimum viable brewery) and cultivate local resources. If you’re interested, contact me. See the Opportunity Synthesis (for prospective partners).

I decided to channel my inner metaverse by endeavoring to display a 3D model of the brewery in a web browser. A combination of technologies was the solution. The virtual brewery is a “digital twin.” I defined the 3D geometry using CAD software. Materials and texture maps were added in VRML. VRML, a scene description protocol, is a well-supported open standard. The JavaScript library X_ITE (excite) renders VRML in the browser with no need for an external viewer. View Area 34 Brewing’s contribution to the metaverse: see the virtual tavern and brewhouse at

Creating a metaverse site was a secondary reason for building a digital twin. I built the model to visualize features and assist me in more deliberately constructing the space. Measurements and shapes taken from the model are useful for building.

Setting Standards

Why is the metaverse such a big deal now? One thing that’s consistent about tech companies spewing metaverse commentary is home-field advantage. GPU makers, cryptocurrencies, servers and gadgets, take your pick. Everyone with a metaverse technology is forcasting a market with more of it.

You can find virtual worlds to explore today, but the 3D web is still in its early days (if you consider 25+ years since the advent of VRML early). Technological advances have eliminated many of the bottlenecks that contributed to the mediocre web experiences of the ’90s. The search for ways to make the web more powerful and seamless has been constant. Web browsers are incredible operating environments for sharing data. Even without extreme input devices and user interfaces, browser-based solutions have consistent appeal.

While the sophistication of 3D mapping and rendering has increased over the last two decades, VRML2, released in 1997, is a solid standard with support now and into the future. It has survived the test of time. VRML .wrl models published in the ’90s are still supported on modern browsers. CAD software is likely to export models in the format.

VRML is an ISO standard and is platform-agnostic. Standards assure wide support for anyone building an attraction. The responsiveness and functionality of viewers will continually improve. My CAD software didn’t support X3D, a newer standard. Len Bullard offers a concise overview of these standards and the 3D web in his post “Extensible 3D: XML Meets VRML”

Exporting my brewery model as VRML was sufficient for my prototype online world. Shapes were exported from layers of the CAD model. Editing the VRML source file was required to add colors, materials and other information. I placed the .wrl (VRML) file and X_ITE library on a HTML page. The page, library and texture map images are hosted on a web server. During editing, I checked progress by uploading the changes and reloading the page. The model contains many shapes. I completed changes to the scene iteratively.

Castles in the Air

I use materials and texturemaps loosely. I don’t attempt to recreate the real-world building in the virtual model. I’m exploring colors and patterns. There are many skills required to master 3D light and color. I’m just starting to learn.

During implementation, real-world choices about materials, textures and colors are constrained by the supplies of source materials. To quickly build texture maps, I found doors, windows and other materials via image searches. In some instances, I selected the material for my Bill of Materials. Search images available online or capture texture maps in the real-world with a phone camera. I created my metaverse to begin a conversation, the world is very much “under construction.”

There are trade-offs between tolerance and precision. VRML is a plain-text description of a 3D model. For this and other reasons, file size can become an issue with elaborate styling or detail. I created a 3D model for the beer taps. The CAD transformation for the barrel and body of the tap generated a VRML description with a large number of lines. Instead of using the model, which would have put an unnecessary burden on client processing and memory, I opted to use a much smaller texture map (23K vs. 4MB).

A responsive web experience viewing a 3D model in a browser is an achievement. Performance is dependent on many factors. A simple, well-conceived model can capture the essence of a space without burdensome detail. File size impacts the responsiveness of downloading and viewing.

A Digital Line in the Sand

If a picture is worth 1000 words, a 3D model is worth 1000 pictures. Should 3D modeling be a tool in your virtual toolbox? NEW SKILL ALERT: The digital lumber exists for each person to build something in virtual space. Digital picks and shovels are abundant for mining content. In the future, there will be no shortage of virtual worlds vying for your attention. How will time spent in online worlds give you satisfaction, pleasure, skills, agency…?

Building a digital world takes time and effort, in real-world terms. The virtual realm seems more controlled and organized, but that value proposition degrades under scrutiny. Virtual land grabs are rife with froth and frenzy. Can any virtual platform offer the depth of the real world? Building an independent world is the way to fully steward your digital assets. A virtual plot of land in a world of someone else’s creation may not enrich you. Engagement is a delicate balance of the desire to develop an online space and being compelled to keep up with the digital Joneses.

Virtual worlds are an escape to some. Where are you escaping to? The metaverse will be a distraction like other worlds of information. It has utility, as seen in the ‘industrial metaverse’. There are intelligent visualization challenges being addressed. However, when the omniscient observer suffers from observed omniscience, the virtual world loses its connection. It becomes out of ‘touch.’ Instead of appreciating the magnitude of problems at earth scale, charts and graphs color-code the distress. A monitor or goggles provide impunity to the sensors sounding the alarm.

Double Vision

We share real-world 3D spaces through pictures and videos, much more easily than building a world to inhabit. Spatial experience is the default of existence. Is finding refuge in a virtual world escapist? People decorating or mining their identities online connect to a thought, idea, action that is somewhere else. Conflating our biological habitat with an avatar’s may undervalue biology and the lessons learned in the course of living, being. Where do you cede control to the ‘other’ dimension? Engaging a 3D model transports you to a dimension within the screen. You are acting in a space removed from your physical reality.

Working in simulated three-dimensional space requires orienting yourself (position, view) in the world. It takes practice, trial-and-error to build the translation function in your brain. It’s also dependent on input devices. The signals from keyboard and mouse, pointing devices, etc. are mapped to the world depending on the world viewer.

The VRML source code for my world required minimal changes. The CAD meshes and solids are translated to shapes in VRML. The objects are allowed to have interactive features in addition to styling. The code exported by the CAD software was formatted well, making it easy to edit. It was a matter of managing a list of values to copy/paste characteristics for each shape.

Learning something new: search, search, search, read, read, read. Bookmark pages, use a blank document to record keywords (transcribe from written notes if you prefer). Note-taking promotes an investment in the information. Investment increases retention.

A Mobile for Your Thoughts

The next era of 3D visualization is here. 3D is dimension and depth and includes non-linear ways of ordering and retrieving data. Geometry is not flat, it has elevations, curves and holes in irregular surfaces. Large language models map many dimensions and are landscapes and worlds unto themselves.

How many dimensions do you inhabit? You, reading this, exist in a time-space moment. In some same dimension your future self will exist along the plane of time yet to be completed. I’m happy to now be reaching friends and acquaintances (from the past).

The skills I’ve gained working on personal and professional projects are a suite of tools for problem-solving and implementation. If you have a project or idea and would like to collaborate, let me know. Whether we’ve connected recently or not, send me a message.

I’d like to offer my help with projects or ideas you are incubating. To encourage you, I’m giving away The Upwardly Mobile to anyone messaging me with a request for advice, while supplies last. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for YOUR interest and your time. Keep on.

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Zen and the Art of System Administration

What is the sound of one mouse clicking?

Is your computer smarter than you? It can perform complex tasks almost immediately that might take you all day. It works tirelessly, you need to eat and sleep. Is there any way to compare your productivity with that of a machine? Computers are eliminating people’s jobs. Are people taking jobs away from computers?

It seems that humans are really beginning to question their value. When did we start treating our biology as a handicap? People confuse tools with their users and have an eternal tendency to obsess that rules are changing. Humanity has always been the force behind paradigm shifts. After all, humans begat tools and technology. But some people are quick to declare an end to a mode of living or working when it’s clear that there’s a lot more living and working to do.

Burning Thought

A do-it-yourselfer, I still struggle with the concept of “DIY”. All creation has inputs from sources other than ‘you’. Is the color used by an artist more significant if it’s squeezed from a berry versus a tube of paint? Or a pixel? Long gone are the neolithic days of bare hands and bearskins. We stand on the shoulders of giants, yet somehow feel entitled to the view, blinded by shiny objects.

Creativity and generativity may be “under fire,” but why? Tradespeople use tools (even computers). What’s changed to revive a collective angst about attacks on one or another franchise of work? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the values of work and life. Our society is built around grossly inefficient ways of working and living. People can be greedy and egocentric, demanding far more than their needs, inflating their worth, taking credit for momentum, serendipity and chance.

What is confirmed in the current state of corporate decay and downsizing is a disconnection between leadership and responsibility. Freedom from choice affects people working toward the goals of others. Without meaningful choice, freedom is empty. People externalize their liabilities by shifting blame for their lack of motivation.

For decades, I’ve been challenged to remain a freelance designer/programmer. I scrutinize my strengths and weaknesses because they won’t scrutinize themselves. Staying relevant is a matter of personal perspective and decisions to navigate the avenues available for change. Age is a factor in competition with younger rivals. Work smarter, not harder. Will a “smart” phone help?

I.T. is What It Is

Information Technology is synonymous with computing infrastructure in its many forms. Information Expertise is what you do with it. I.T. has advanced the frontiers of I.E. Access to information, democratized by rapidly-expanding access to computing resources, is providing tremendous opportunities for discovery and enrichment.

It’s reasonable to think that you can learn to understand things well enough to build a competent worldview allowing you to not only choose, but to manipulate features and factors of your environment. I encountered my first computer, an Apple II, in high school. BASIC programming allowed me to tease engaging output from the computer. This sparked a life-long curiosity and empowered me to view ‘black boxes’ differently.

Artificial “intelligence” doesn’t arise from hapless configurations of silicon any more than humans learn in a vacuum. Education is valuable, but not necessarily formal. Human minds are subjected to impressions and training in a myriad of life experiences. Countless hours of personal effort have imprinted the functions of your brain. Scores of researchers and engineers have created the electronic brains of today.

Fishing for a Lifetime

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Does that mean we’re all destined to become robots?

System Administration (sysadmin) is a human role. As much as AI is claiming more and more tasks, people are ultimately responsible for the choices to manage and maintain technologies. The art of sysadmin can contribute to your efficiency and effectiveness, not restricted to the realm of computers.

Systems thinking can have a profound affect on your worldview. Unlike specialized expertise, it’s not limited to a domain of knowledge. It’s a way to reduce the complexity of many moving parts. Fields of knowledge as disparate as nuclear physics and choreography have similarities. Understanding metaphor is a human gift. Metaphors unlock secrets obfuscated by data-centric approaches. These models are the ‘forest’ that create meaning from the ‘trees’ of information.

How many windows are currently open on your computer? Each of them is a portal. Six tabs in six windows provide 36 slices of computing space. We navigate information like fish in water, unaware of the data-rich world we live within. The amount of computing capability on our planet is immense. Every CPU has computing potential that provides an opportunity to unleash its value.

Learn to Cook

A sysadmin has an understanding of how data is stored, processed and shared by computers. Hardware maintenance adds a layer of experience that includes physical control, but even in cloud environments intelligent decisions are required to configure a server.

Iterative rewards of sysadmin are appealing. Begin, accomplish a small goal, and it can whet your appetite to achieve more. You are required to learn when you need more knowledge to accomplish a task. You will develop a stubborn persistence if you enjoy finding solutions.

A recipe of specific steps for building a working server would soon be dated. Hardware and software choices, versions and locations change regularly. Instead, I’ll attempt to provide some motivation and general advice. For anyone interested in sysadmin, the first step is to find inspiration.

Numerous online resources explain how to install and configure hardware and software. The art of sysadmin is to evaluate the available options for a solution based on your needs. Understanding the digital services and roles you rely on is required to liberate yourself from current service providers. Your managed node can become a value-creating machine running money-earning or money-saving processes.

I’ve self-hosted websites since I began building them in my business. Starting with a production server in my garage in the late 1990s and later in a server facility, I’ve recently returned it to my home network. This video ( gives you a tour of my home server cabinet. My current cable network provides much-increased bandwidth over earlier digital services provided by the telephone company. It’s grown with network demands. Any home network with a rapid Internet connection has the potential to support a node or nodes on the network. Fiber-optic connections to the home are becoming more prevalent, supercharging bandwidth capabilities.

A Port on the Digital Seas

Everyone who browses the web should realize that the files fetched by their web browser are stored somewhere ‘else’. It is this ‘elseland’ that servers inhabit to provide the data that feeds our connected devices. To participate, you’ll need to become familiar with configurations and comfortable with receiving and sending data from a node on your home network. Treat your first server as a prototype with the goal of creating an online resource that you control.

Your home server strategy should strike a balance between accessibility and security. In most instances, ‘security by obscurity’ is a starting point. A network-accessible server won’t immediately become a target for malicious actors. Some well-known services (i.e. e-mail relays, WordPress installations) are targeted more than others. You have more anonymity running a server as an IP address. There’s no need for a domain name if you only want to run a cryptocurrency wallet.

Periodically monitor your server to identify unwanted access and bandwidth usage. Correct vulnerabilities and learn from the experience. You’ll gain an appreciation for the landscape of cyberthreats while, hopefully, feeling empowered by your efforts and the help from online communities to thwart attacks.

Serving files from your home network requires an understanding of your Internet connection. Your network communication is dependent on the services allowed by your provider. Understanding how to configure your provider’s router may be required. Routers accommodate bi-directional connections initiated by outbound requests. Crypto wallet software establishes peer-to-peer connections this way.

Inbound communication without an established connection will be subject to the router’s firewall rules. Without a static IP address to uniquely identify your server, you must also setup port-forwarding to manage the incoming requests. Ports are specific numerical values embedded in requests that identify what server services are targeted. For testing and private data, it may be desirable to run a web server on a non-standard port to obscure the service from requests that don’t know where to look.

Setting Sail

Prototyping and some production services are well-suited to being served from a home network. Low-volume websites are easily supported over modest bandwidth. Many sites are only infrequently accessed. Increasing traffic is a good problem to have and can be addressed. My original design services website ( is self-hosted today, same as it’s alway been. Managing a server allows me to maintain multiple sites and experiment without added fees for hosting. Other projects I’ve developed remain online for my own use and discovery by others. One site is a project/task tracking tool that I use to invoice clients ( Another site is an experimental meditation tool ( Feel free to try it! Let me know what you think.

Even large files can be made publicly available via a direct link, simply by adding them to your server. No need for the expense and maintenance of a file sharing service. Your home server can provide a more private location for family members to access photos, videos and other files.

To help prime your journey to deploy a real server, I’ll disclose some specifics about my implementation that may be useful to you. My preferred software is open-source. This ecosystem of developers and other supporters is built on sharing principles. My servers run Linux (most recently, Ubuntu ). I use Apache as my web server (other viable options exist). My database software is MariaDB (formerly MySQL). The scripting language PHP rounds out my LAMP server software stack. My latest servers are Intel NUC hardware. I chose these mini-PCs for their form-factor, power and price. They are common and used models with generous disk and RAM configurations offer exceptional value.

Domain names are managed by registrar services. Coupled with DNS service, your choice of URL is activated by mapping the name to a server’s IP address. I’ve been satisfied with the value and performance of the registrar NameSilo ( and use it for domain name registration, DNS and e-mail forwarding. I don’t recommend hosting e-mail on a home network. Besides the headaches of conformance, filtering spam and preventing unauthorized relay attempts, many Internet providers block this service on their networks. When I moved my server back to my home network, I shut down my e-mail relay and created an account at NameSilo.

A LAMP server supports numerous applications and utilities freely available for download. Webmin ( is a web-based system administration tool I’ve used since my first Linux server. It has sophisticated monitoring and management features. More recently, I’ve started using the cloud file manager Cloud Commander ( to upload files from my Mac laptop to a large external drive connected to a server. WordPress ( is a popular website framework that can be installed directly on a server to provide easy, powerful creation and customization tools that you manage.

Where cryptocurrency is concerned, you may have to accommodate specific hardware and software requirements of the wallet (start at the project website). A wallet that earns coins for being part of a peer-to-peer network must be available on the network. If your server crashes or your network connection is interrupted, the wallet is not active and your rewards will be impacted. A monitoring tool like Webmin (above) can give you feedback on CPU and network utilization to help you determine the impact of any server usage, including crypto.

The Journey Begins

I’ve barely scratched the surface of becoming a sysadmin. But I hope I’ve given you some inspiration that YOUR systems approach will become clearer. While implementation details may be confusing, remember that web search is your learning resource. You’ll find answers to your questions and discover many things I haven’t mentioned, including shell access, scripts, software maintenance and ‘power user’ tips and tricks. Start simple. If you have advice about the art of sysadmin, I’d love to see your comments. If you’re interested in collaborating on software and servers for a project, contact me. If you’re just beginning to explore the fascinating possibilities of managing a server node on the Internet, good luck and enjoy the ride!

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Happy New Year: What’s YOUR resolution?

Testing. Testing 1 2. Okay, I hope I have the ChatGPT settings right. New Year Memories and Salutations. Here goes. Processing. . . To be or not to be xg4n!E8#5nB#2^d* Oh well, I guess I’ll need to write this manually.

It’s been cold and wet. Happy New Year!

As an experienced procrastinator, I often wonder where to draw the line between on-time, late and too late. Deadlines apply to many things, including this post. As I’ve been drafting ideas to signify our calendar year advancing one more digit, the actual event has drifted further away. How long do I continue to collect and refine thoughts before I publish. Does ‘Happy New Year’ have a Publish By expiration? It’s elusive and circumstantial: when it is finished or when you are finished with it.

I read a post ( on the topic of procrastination. The clinician suggested that the reason we procrastinate is due to the fight/flight/freeze response triggered by assaults on our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems by stresses in our lives. Depending on the stressor, the complementary systems serve to adjust automatic, involuntary responses. These responses make our bodies react to increase or decrease biological functions. It can be overwhelming to understand and negotiate the thoughts of what to ‘do’ to relieve the response, leading to distraction or paralysis.

‘What’s YOUR resolution?’ is a phrase I’ve pondered for years. A graphic makes it more visual ( The phrase has multiple layers of meaning. ‘Resolution’ has measures, from how clearly you see things to the amount of sustained effort you exert to achieve a task, a step, a goal. How resolute are you? Without mentioning particulars, suffice it to say that I occasionally find myself in a battle for productivity. Making some effort, doing something if only I could grasp the immediate priorities. Recounting the words ‘What’s YOUR resolution?’ allows me to shift from battling myself to figuring out how to be more resolute in the moment.

This may be a good time to identify what’s important in a year-end reflection. It is a year end, but also a beginning. It’s an opportunity to say something about times ahead and times gone by. Is the topic more backward or forward thinking? Some people are forthright in a year-end summary, including work and life goals accomplished.

2023 will continue to be a year driven by the physics of our lifestyles. Fields of research are brimming with activity. In the past year, the supply chain of academics and institutions continued to feed the science that feeds the supply chain. The supply chain is impossible to visualize. The origins of most consumer goods are murky, some magical.

Direction of Reflection

A LinkedIn essay targets a professional network with a story. The story is built upon thoughts, ostensibly the thoughts of the writer. Writing and revision is a loop executed until the thoughts are clearly expressed as the ‘voice’ of the writer.

Reader, how do I relate to thee? Are these words passing through a retina, or a machine learning algorithm? Here’s where I see trouble. With plagiarism and shortcuts, ChatGPT and other AI, what guarantees that anyone puts effort into reaching “out.”

Perhaps the point is that reaching “out” is shallow. If you consider the dilution of energy from a source, it degrades exponentially. If instead you develop your direction “in,” your messages become more genuine as you communicate with yourself.

Wait, I’m Late

I have time to be self-directed. Immediate gratification becomes less important considering the amount of extra effort involved. An inner journey is rewarding. I’m fortunate to earn and approach my schedule on my terms. However, fewer deadlines, distractions and engagements has downsides.

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. It’s easy to fall victim to the idea that EVERYTHING is on the Internet (not by a longshot). How much content do you consume that inspires you? This isn’t so much a treatise on content as it is on choice. In many instances, the content we really want is generated internally, as in reveries and emotions. I consider my experiences in the context of my journey. Someone with a horrible travel experience may elevate the event in significance while someone on a more banal trip may find more meaning in the destination.

I think I share many people’s observation that things are changing rapidly and we are wielding many heavy, blunt instruments of destruction. On the bright side, the technologies that connect us give us hope. I hope that our common humanity will benefit from higher values and respect. We should all be ambassadors for our tribes, however you define yours. Being an ambassador comes with a hitch. By definition it holds your character in the highest regard. If you are kind, warm and positive, you’re an ambassador.

Reel to Reel

Highlight reels are significant. Though once I start to compile one, it quickly goes off the rails when I try to separate those that are public spectacles, versus the ones that really affect me or have a more personal meaning. We can be mislead by public spectacles to look in one direction while the misdirection masks a confidence game going on.

It’s easy to be ‘out-of-the-loop’ on highlight reel spectacles. What is a highlight against endless breaking news about individuals and events? I consume junk culture. I have a limit, but I enjoy it occasionally. Sports spectacles are easy fixes.

Thinking ‘outside the box’ is about buttressing your worldview against the prevailing winds of pundits, preachers and popularity contests. What are the foundations of our mass media temples? I consume a stream of content that shapes my viewpoints and perspectives. Where this gets tricky, it is never THE TRUTH. I might find the the plights of Miley or Johnny have erupted as a narrative, but is processing the information a wise time investment? I could engage in a different focus of attention. It’s the Opportunity Cost of losing a choice for being occupied by another. You may not be in control of the collisions. Regardless of the situation, where you invest your attention contributes to forming who you are.

Our lives are rife with stimulating visual environments. This becomes a concern when our quest for novelty outstrips our desire for mindfulness. It’s no secret that there are corporate interests (and thus shareholders and employees) that rely on a steady stream of under-imaginative and under-intelligent actions based on peoples whims and desires. We all live in a continuum of ‘free’ expressions: sports, media, murders, wars. It’s not my desire nor capability to affect change other than being a source of wisdom/light/levity that people can engage in high-roading: imagining solutions to problems which strive to embed dignified human ideals.

Web3 Worlds

Web3 is a horizon. Just as the epoc of Web2 was imminent from the early days of the web, the next wave is coming, renewed by effort fomenting against data profit and control by large, centralized services. Decentralized, peer-to-peer connectivity has grown with an increase in usage and utility of cheaper, connected devices. There are fewer and fewer technical barriers to end-users creating (server) nodes. Is the stage set for a return to distributed serving?

Edge computing is already embedded in our extraordinarily powerful devices via apps and OSes. It’s my hope that smaller nodes of the network seize opportunities to grow and flourish with their communities. Perhaps I’m naive to think that we are headed toward a more heterogeneous landscape, but commoditization of computing and bandwidth provides opportunity. More and more workers are seeking to control their work relationships and products. Smaller nodes have a more personal/localized relationship with their stakeholders.

In the early 2000s I became the webmaster for Palo Alto Little League. This was at a time when the league was transitioning to a digital mentality and processes. I built their website from scratch into a multi-purpose team and league management tool for its members. I was responsible for the website between 2005 and 2017. I owned and configured the hardware serving Through this and other experiences supporting SMBs, I’ve gained skills and insights managing the personal, professional and technical relationships. As a consultant, I’m accountable to clients rather than customers. I still maintain multiple web servers. As a small node, each professional relationship and receivable matters immensely. Personal relationships can start from professional beginnings.

Metaverse Rules

An interview ( with Neal Stephenson, who coined the word “metaverse” in the 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash’, catalyzed some of my thoughts and research on Web3 trends.

Digital Identities will become more and more important. Think about how many identities you manage at work and in your personal life. You have an orbit of relationships with people and businesses. Managing these relationships is part and parcel of life. Technology allows us to assemble around transactions more easily. I’m a proponent of meeting in a marketplace with traditions and rules. What digital identities will be featured in your lifestyle?

The metaverse is a digital landscape in simulated 3D. A 3D web is already here. The new frontier is being (re)explored today, the current renaissance driven by networking and processor advances. We will arrive at a true metaverse when each person is inviting others to explore virtual worlds they curate intimately (i.e. program/create). The virtual experience will tap visual and spatial sensibilities that differ from real world engagement. As much as a virtual experience aims to recreate one in the real, fleshy world, it NEVER will.

The 3D web is evolving as a metaverse of federated worlds. Islands are forming in cooperative and competitive alliances. I wonder about the future of livestream events. Who wants to spend money to be in a mosh pit of other fans in the metaverse? Am I buying a space with a constrained, programmed perspective of an arena and audience? A virtual embodiment can be allowed many degrees of freedom. In a metaverse built on profiting from vistor experiences, expect constraints, as value is created by scarcity. It costs real money to build virtual environments and theme parks with models that conform to laws of physics or imagination. Access will always be conditional to “walled gardens.” How will inclusive, low-barrier modes of entertainment be popularized in the metaverse? Dimension is simulated in every 3D world on a flat screen. Why stop at three dimensions? What does that ‘look’ like?

It was a trip down memory lane to search on “vrml metaverse” recently. VRML was a technology deployed during my years at Silicon Graphics, almost 30 years ago. The search resulted in a list of blogs with ‘then’ and ‘now’ comparisons. One blog was concerned with the culture of amusing ourselves in ‘Visualizing the Future’ (, though Reuben is more interested in the impacts of technology rather than development. Reuben’s blog referenced a interesting interview with Neil Postman, who explores the center of experience consciousness in cyberspace (

My takeaway from culling viewpoints about the metaverse is that it lacks clarity and consensus, though I agree with the suggestion that gamers have been in walled metaverses for years. Greater access and understanding is forthcoming as more infrastructure is built. I’m continually revising my expectations for digital assets. It’s a bear eat bull eat bear market. The value of any asset (token, etc.) is in its ability to be exchanged for something else.

Tales from the Crypto

In 2022, I took my first trip into cryptocurrency. I discovered a crypto coin searching the word “electra” to explore the companies and concepts listed. I found the platform Electra Protocol and the coin XEP. This was at a time when I was beginning to have an interest in deFi (decentralized finance) and the crypto space, Web3 and blockchain.

Let me pause to state that this blog isn’t about investment advice. Mentioning a crypto coin I endorse it for my purpose, the goal to LEARN rather than EARN. To explore the craft of programming and deployment weighed against financial potential. I look at the holistic value of the network. I prefer a coin that is supported by a peer-to-peer exchange network that I can join. A staking wallet is a (server) node that maintains a copy of the coin’s blockchain. Staking locks value in a currency network and is rewarded with small payments at varying intervals.

As a believer in self-custody, I’m staking multiple wallets containing XEP, earning 1000s of coins each month while I wait for the coin’s value to ‘moon’ (i.e. value takes off like a rocket). That’s unlikely, but it is engaging to watch the value of my small bet fluxuate hopeful of a growth in the coin’s utility.

The field of crypto coins and tokens is myriad and vast. Currencies that build demand have potential for fiat currency gains. In many cases the strategy is buy and hold, or, in the vernacular of crypto, buy and ‘hodl’ (hold on for dear life). These ecosystems will grow and change over time. Patience is paramount. I’m glad I didn’t start exploring crypto during the bull run last year or my portfolio would be down significantly. I’m learning about the basics of trading, exchange dashboards. Exchanges provide persistent streams of information with profit and loss happening continually.

Theft losses happen unexpectedly. Criminal activity includes hacking and fraud. I used for early trades until that exchange bankrupted in November. Fortunately, I was only using the exchange to buy Bitcoin to trade on a different exchange. I traded Bitcoin for XEP on the Graviex exchange. Swings of my net-worth have been insignificant, by design.

Cryptocurrency is a parade and a charade as much as a worthy pursuit of meaning against the backdrop of meaninglessness. If you haven’t explored it yet, do so at your own risk and reward. The small amount of money locked in my FTX account is my ticket to a ringside seat at the debacle of the collapse. It will be interesting to experience how funds (if any) are restored to creditors. I have no expectations.

In Conclueless

To conclude, my wishes to you for happiness in the new year. It’s tough being a sentient creature in 2023. My resolution? To post more insights and ideas this year. I’ll be consulting my notes to dive more thoroughly into topics I’ve mentioned, like decentralization — setting up a web server or crypto wallet at home. I will share a series of tutorials, hacks, etc. from my tech experience. As a writer and programmer, I hope my travails will validate or challenge some of yours.

System administration essentials are within everyone’s reach. If you don’t control a system and software stack on the network, you don’t have an independent node. A populous, connectible grid of individual ability and responsiblity is evolving. Evolution is not a passive process.

Remember these words: Dynamic, Digitized, Decentralized. Distributed.

Artificial Intelligence Alert: This post can be injested but it cannot be consumed. Stick this in your bufferrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Process Thought: A User-Friendly Framework for Life

Process Spirituality is a subset of Process Thought, a philosophical framework created by Alfred North Whitehead. Like any good framework, its origin is self-effaced for the betterment of an open-source community.

I want to post a link to a website I discovered. In my unstructured (i.e. non-billable) time, I have strategies to find purpose in my actions. Exploration is a way to discover and it’s as simple as following a thought. The thought can be an idea or simply a step in a direction. In this case, sitting with a coffee and my iPad, I took a journey with a search on the term “worldview.” This is my alternative to filling my aimless moments on the more alluring and addictive scroll and link portals which could also fill my time with important, meaningless information about the state of the world, accomplishments of friends and colleagues, marketing blather, etc.

If you’re like me, there is a blissful pacification in the feeling that the screen provides. It’s not so much the content it contains as it is the potential. The experience is much like an infant with a pacifier, suck, suck, scroll, scroll.

This post is going off the rails already. Initially, I just wanted to post the link with a few pithy comments and be done with it. The voice of this message has different plans. As soon as I decided that the content I discovered was relevant to anyone who may also be interested in a cogent, adaptable framework for A perspective on the meaning of life, my inner chatterbox began to think of ways to provide an introduction. After all, the message has an implicit audience, LinkedIn people. How do I spin my apparent endorsement of the website’s content?

While I like to learn and consider myself open-minded, I have a definite bias regarding the manner in which I develop my thoughts and preferences. I’ve found that it’s much easier to apply “Question Authority” as a bumper sticker than a philosophy of acculturation. As much as I admire the thinkers who have taken the effort to record something for posterity, the messenger is usually not one in the same. The book, blog, video, etc. is taken as a proxy for the knowledge and anyone with an opportunity will gleefully identify as a vessel for that knowledge when they reference the work. It may be harsh to question everyone’s intention, so I’ll just posit that a personal, organic discovery is absent the possible power dynamic of someone professing some gradient of understanding measured by the knowledge of a source of knowledge.

I apologize for the digression. Or maybe not. Otherwise I would have deleted the sentences or paragraph to streamline my post. Without the ability to stay “on task,” it’s turning into cognitive diarrhea. How much time is wasted with clock cycles processing information with no utility or cycling without any input at all? It’s maddening to consider the empty experiences of spectators watching gratuitous, repetitive activities all the while self-aware and unable to change. Media: the dirty laundry or the trainwreck. How many ways are there to stylishly depict a robbery or killing? The endless plots of humanity’s actions, mistakes and redemptions, are grist for the mill. Is this post an accomplishment of much more than a choreography of certain keys typed on a keyboard? Why do these thoughts matter? These aren’t my ideas as much as they are my emotions. At this moment. Snap out of it. Get on with it.

The thought of appropriate content for a LI newsfeed immediately prompts an inner focus group. What do I think about the “news” that my connections have posted? My corollary to TMI is TMA (too much analysis). Analysis paralysis as it is called. Where does this post fit?

It’s not a corporate cheerleader post. I don’t have an association with the website I found. I’m not donning my corporate identity as a member of the business club and culture that provides ($) for me. But what other frame of reference feels as concrete? It’s a fandom world, a coliseum of team supporters cheering, waving their flags. We are #1. All players are eventually traded, retired, wear a different jersey. We are #1. It’s more comfortable to feel an importance by association than struggle for an identity without it.

Is this post positioning me as a thought-leader? Of all the jobs that I find the measure of qualifications somewhat murky, my favorite is the “futurist.” They are the gurus, the Svengalis, the soothsayers that predict what is going to happen. I’ve always wondered how you earn that title. A BS degree in Futurism? Cause and effect studies? The coursework must be great though. (I’ll get the homework to you later.) Do you think futurists have happy marriages? The website I discovered isn’t thought-leading as much as it is thought-provoking. However, in my experience, life is influenced by fundamental equations and questions that haven’t changed much. History repeats itself.

Is LI a social network? As such, what are the parameters of appropriate content? While I don’t see pics touting the configurations of recent meals, I do see posts that are “lifestyle-aware.” This is natural due to the confluence of work and life. It’s a balancing act and the response to these posts depend upon subtle threads. I can’t help myself when I’m being social at business functions. “What do YOU do?” can easily turn to family, hobbies or, my preference, philosophies. It’s a big-picture endeavor. What self-interest is served by the exchange? Exhibitionism is a thing, can attract attention and might even be a successful marketing strategy. Attempting to promote myself, do I focus on capabilities or potential? Still, it might be awkward to speak of your successful Javascript implementation for a highly-trafficked porn site.

I’m beating a dead horse here. Please, don’t inform PETA. I’ve gotten to this point in the post deprecating myself and giving you reasons to have a low expectation of the website I found. I hope you’ll forgive the manner in which I’ve arrived here. The website is actually quite an interesting and profound source. A short description of the journey may now be appropriate.

A worldview is something we all have, but none of us share. As with any search results, the term derives its meaning from the perspective of the searcher. My meta interpretation of the first pages of found references is that the word has spiritual connotations. While links to definitions abound, there was a large percentage of religious sites which contained the word in different contexts. It was amusing that a financial app, satellite, Christian metal band and lightweight, extensible 2D and 3D scene renderer shared the name. That’s the pleasure of exploration, to expand associations and collapse the prejudice of expectations.

Finally, on page 10 of my search results, I found a link to “Process Worldview – Open Horizons” (your search results may vary). It’s an art to glean search results to find something relevant, especially when you aren’t sure of what you’re looking for. However, every moment of every day we find things that arrive in our conscious awareness. Sometimes, thoughts are responses to a deliberate search. At other times, thoughts are serendipitous, without any prompt. This post could have been inspired by a different search result and circumstances. There is no reason these words must exist. But at this point, if you’ve read this far, you may be wondering how I will conclude.

The site indicated above was “found” for the following reasons. The state of my mind and available technology at the peculiar moment I took action yielded the results which were of a content, context and format that allowed me to connect with the ideas of Process Thought. While there is some overlap of the attitudes and concepts with my existing thoughts, there are also new points of reference and a new stream from a similar source. The philosophy aims to unify scientific, aesthetic, moral, and religious wisdom. As such, it is flexible and inclusive to allow assimilation of diverse perspectives and truths. It has appeal across belief systems: single religious affiliates, multiple religious affiliates, spiritually interested nones, theists, non-theists, non-dual mystics and gentle non-believers.

My (re)connection with these ideas at the particular moment allowed me to find fresh inspiration. The ideas are manifest with a value proposition that finds relevance where there is a receptive attitude. The non-denominational and non-dogmatic spirit of the teachings provides a humanistic path toward value and meaning in life. I think the aspirational goals are compatible with a conscientious capitalism.

Final thoughts. The age of criticism has done its work and now is the time for construction. Decision is one of the primary expressions of the ultimate reality of the universe. How shallow, puny and imperfect are efforts to sound the depths in the nature of things. All schemes and philosophies are finite and fallible. Indeterminacy is as real as determinacy. There are many ways of knowing the world — verbal, mathematical, aesthetic, empathic, bodily, and practical — education should foster creativity and compassion as well as literacy.


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Solving the Dad Equation

Father is a noun as well a verb. The concept is conceived doing alongside being. Father is defined by a mode of work: ‘doing’ something for a living. We strive to be productive to father our identities. Our vocations are an integral part of who we are. As stable work is assaulted by economic changes, our identities are in flux.

Of late, our society has been having difficulty resolving gender identities and roles. As a husband and father, I feel curiosity and wonder provide the sanest paths toward resolving our miscommunications and misconceptions. It’s difficult to ‘rise above’ our biology. In some ways, we miss out on our truly human capacities in our attempts to study ourselves.

Unless you’re a clone, you have a biological father. This man has given something of himself for you. He may be important to you. He may be significant to others. He may lead or follow. In all of these instances, he is a man. I don’t know why it feels incendiary to use that term these days. And father cannot exist without mother. I’ve racked my brains considering an alternative. Even our attempts at genetic cutting and splicing are subordinate to the requirement for this true union. Without bonds, there is emptiness. What sentimental notions provide meaning to these roles?

“The child is the father to the man” is a phrase coined by William Wordsworth in an 1802 poem. Fatherhood is a complex idea. Its myriad relationships and applications are so abundant it cannot avoid being paradoxical. It is simultaneously praised and criticized. It is inclusive and exclusive, domineering and warm. It is manic and depressive. In a word, it is alluvial.

Alluvial deposits are the soils and rocks left behind where a stream once flowed. The stream doesn’t decide to carry this content or have an understanding of how it will be deposited, things are just caught up in the process between generation and termination that alter the landscape. We all have a flow, a tumult, a turmoil that catches debris in our path to fling it about as we navigate the rapids of our lives. Things settle and we have the time and patience to deposit some bits of ourselves along the river’s edge. Rushing forward, the source of our current continuously drawing and extracting, simultaneously generating and depositing. The gender of fatherhood is in question today as everyone paddles along in a position to feel full of it’s meaning. The truth that exists lies at the bottom: your riverbed.

In some ways, father is an authority, central to an order of understanding and coping with adaptation. In other ways, there is no respect warranted, the brutish and penetrating desires are destructive. Introspection is a scarce resource. Discipline is required to look at ourselves thoroughly to see connections between our modes of thinking and our cultural heritage. The term ‘patriarchy’ is used by feminists to describe the power relationship between men and women. Patriarchal systems of oppression — class, race, imperialism — victimize both men and women. Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker. How did that work out?

Those who cannot control themselves are destined to be under the control of someone else. Is this a mantra of the gig economy? It may seem that gig workers are ‘in control,’ but where do the power structures lie upon closer inspection? In a collaborative relationship, a win-win dynamic is central to the exchange of value. Perhaps this is how we can be better fathers. Leadership is about presence. Stand firm in the midst of other people’s emotional anxiety and reactivity. Uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin. Innovators and changemakers have resilience and tolerance for ambiguity.

Your identity is personal. Contemporary notions of gender fluidity are simply a treatise on language. Language creates our reality. Metaphor makes the man. Take a step back. Don’t trip. Or perhaps the the trip is the point. The journey is the destination. Mankind is a history. Is her story missing? If you feel left out, how do you redefine your meaningfulness?

A cacophony of words arises from our need to communicate. The language of action is louder than the language of being. However, nouns are inherently more solid. A noun, defined simply, is a person, place, thing or idea. They create an ‘it’ which we can refer to. Without them there is nothingness.

How about redefining a noun as a person, place, thing AND idea. After all, who is Father Time? And God the Father? I’m confused. In any entrepreneur’s handbook, new technology redefines the language around old technology. I propose that we would all be able to break the chain of antiquated associations of the word ‘father’ by substituting a new word, remapping an updated concept with the one that we’re already familiar. We could brainstorm new words for Father 2.0.

How about Binquit? (Binary Qualitative Unit). That sounds cool. But it has the word ‘quit’ in it and we wouldn’t want to equate father with quitter. There’s the very real danger that such a radically new word would encounter resistance in changing ingrained thought patterns. The new sound and association would be lost in the marketplace. How about a new word with some pattern recognition and more potential to ease the transition? Hmm. First letter: A, B, C,…W,X, Hey! Yather! Yather’s Day! Sounds hip and makes the old new again. But, wait, we just don’t want the label to have an unintended consequence: you know, the problems caused by that pesky Y chromosome.

If father were a color, what would it be? Too many variables. Okay, maybe just a hex value, but encrypted. #a7CdJ15bTg3dz0n3. That has potential, but it’s a little hard to remember. Do you lose your father if you lose the private key…?

Perhaps the solution has been staring us in the face all along. Father’s secular twin: Dad. Who would feel as unbridled, reckless and antagonistic defending his Dadland? Would God the Dad be a more humble, accepting deity? How about the ‘Dad Figure’ we all want to have a friendship with?

Modeling Dad, Tasting Music.

Discussing dads, there is a strong tendency to talk about what they do/did. I’m surprised we haven’t changed this thinking. Do we honor our dads by acknowledging their accomplishments? Or should we consider the value of their restraint and what they have sacrificed?

Is it possible to create a model of dadhood? The belief that AI has the capability of representing general intelligence suggests that everything in our world can be reduced to data processing in which algorithms will obediently serve us by assimilation. I suggest it becomes our imperative as sentient creatures to begin the process of deconstructing this idea with attempts to create our own models as examples of the possibilities inherent in this belief. What does a dad model look like?

I’m a dad and a son. The phrase ‘chip off the old block’ begs the question: what chip and who’s block? There is so much to unpack in this relationship. But it’s precisely this relationship that allowed me to begin with the end in mind. The recursive values and persistent variables were stubborn in revealing a unifying theory. Using calculus and the principles of machine learning I spent hours contemplating a formula. After spilling a cup of cold coffee on the wrapper of my recent burrito lunch, eureka! Finally, I had it: the Dad Equation (dEQ).

The dEQ describes the point in time and space which defines a point of being. It defines dad as much by what it is not as what it is. Ambiguity is a universal constant and thus was important to include in the dad equation. As it’s not a constant, I couldn’t define a variable in the formula. The formula’s simplicity mirrors an underlying correlation with the concept dads live by. Looking at it is described as peering into the soul of dad.

With this equation, everyone becomes dad. In an instant, the abilities for dominance and submission become equal, canceling each other and yielding to a state of nirvana. I’d finally cracked the code which I’ve been searching for, advancing the notion that the exception doesn’t prove the rule, but rather provides an impetus to change the rule. Inequality exists historically and in contemporary society. It exists with a glaring, inescapable tenacity. It suggests that we live with tendencies and forces we are all responsible for.

No one truly ‘gets ahead’ until everyone does. If someone is in poverty, it reflects negatively on all of humanity. If one person has a lifestyle which is rarefied or enviable, what does that reveal relative to others? Each of us decide our personal meaning of success. If envy creates disparity, would we better correct it by dismissing envy rather than trying to ‘equalize’ the subjective scales we use to measure the imbalance? Our wants are subjective. If you want more time, you can easily trade a simpler lifestyle for the resource.

What truly combats an aggressive, exploitative force is a nuanced detachment from the ‘battle.’ It’s self-awareness that creates all change. Marketing our righteousness simply creates a counterattack. The battle is one that requires a foe. In a reflective, impassive being, an idea has more impact. What if you truly believed that the presence of another’s slick, flashy lifestyle had no bearing on your self-worth? Actually, if the tables were turned and an expensive car or fashion were truly understood and consciously abhorred because of a fundamental distaste, would this, a genuine sadness and sympathy for the person who is not awake enough to be aware, have a greater impact?

Instead of rallying against, promote an inclusive environment. The idea is burgeoning, it just doesn’t make the news. It happens quietly.

But there are strong counterforces of darkness at work. In 1972, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday. The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not initially meet with enthusiasm — perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” The ‘Father Effect’ is the treatise of a data-driven study to find reasons why kids do better with a father figure in their lives. Strange as it may sound, fatherhood is an emerging field of study. Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a ‘second Christmas’ for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

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Unique or Original? Life imitates Art

Channeling "Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery"​ (a 2014 documentary) I explore what it means to imitate art. After all, art has been imitating life for years.

Channeling “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery”​ (a 2014 documentary) I explore what it means to imitate art. After all, art has been imitating life for years.

[Originally posted on LinkedIn May 20, 2022]

Ah, the LinkedIn post. My choice and chance to make an impression. Have you ever considered the phrase ‘make an impression’? A branding iron is used to burn or emboss you with some shape of my design. People defy branding when an impressor is not impressive. Are you getting the picture or are 1000 words necessary? I must write, rightly publish, for without publication I perish from your newsfeed.

It can be daunting to express something original. Expression suggests that I’m creating a product for review and critique by others. Expression as a personal mode of being provides immunity to feedback. When you search for a particular something, a yes/no, a right/wrong are sure to follow. Words and pictures are but tools in service to your construction. Before you even start, something is already complete. To be original is as easy as being comfortable with yourself.

I’ve always enjoyed self-referential art. Artwork inspired by the work of art. Stories about stories. It’s not easy to give up control, to live unmasked, naked in the mechanism behind the facade of expression. Who finds source code as elegant as the application? The untidy processes and prejudices of our mighty lives demand attention. Our humanity and the future of our species depends on it. What we cannot see is blindingly present everywhere. The ground is as much a part of making the figure.

Art endures not because of inherent quality, but inherent investment. The amount of current mining bitcoins is the embedded energy of its value. What is a NFT? A work of art or an investment? Does the distinction really matter? It does if we are to escape the tidy metaverse of relative value. A digital avatar is a chilling investment and distorts the value of our mental experiences. Did I make an investment in that idea? Do you have an investment in my point of view? The answers to these questions coin the most primordial of virtual currencies.

Is there a difference between being unique and being original? What constitutes authentic creation? It’s not unreasonable to feel confused defining special experiences in a mass-produced culture. The crime and courtroom dramas, the buddy movies, the tired plots and sequels. How many people reread newspapers or rewatch sporting events? Why read or watch them in the first place? Biology drives us to concern ourselves with outcomes. Novelty and habit keep us invested, at the tiller navigating the seas of uncertainty.

Our lives are fodder for the mundane and profane. Everyone and everything is unique. To think physically, no two atoms occupy the same place at the same time. Every moment, every breath, every experience is unique in space and time. Time is relentless. The temporal quality of life provides such a rush of unique experiences that our brains categorize them into mundane patterns, lest we go mad with possibility. What should I do/think/be now? Now? Now?

While the glow of certain experiences remain in our mind as stories of the past, we continue to be unique and have unique experiences. Our biologies are continuously energized and confronted by unique factors, the ingestion of sensory stimuli. Perhaps the difference between unique and original is “truth,” the ultimate value we seek.

The 2014 German documentary “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” explores the values of originality and imitation in the art world. In 2011, Wolfgang & Helene Beltracchi were convicted of forgery. Over two decades they earned millions of dollars selling artwork imitating the styles of venerable masters. The movie reveals a fascinating portrait of the forger and his wife, while considering the art market and the premium it places on authenticity and originality.

Value in originality was linked to a most human of measurements, angst, creative desperation felt by the artist. Max Ernst, in a scene from a film by Peter Schamoni included in the Beltracchi documentary, described having a ‘virginity complex’ about white canvases. He found it almost impossible to put the first stroke or dab of paint on the canvas. One day, staring at faded, worn-down wooden floorboards, the grains in the wood moved in his mind. Rubbing a pencil on paper randomly placed over the floorboards left woodgrain patterns, inviting his expression to take over, unfolding on the page.

In contrast, Wolfgang Beltracchi reverse-engineered the technique from the artwork of Ernst. He admitted that his proficiency in forging Ernst and others came without much thought, like a technician following a set of rules and motions. Beltracchi is clearly skilled, as a painter and more. The subterfuge to convince experts of the authenticity of his paintings included matching appropriate canvases and other materials. The “artistic quality” of his works of art rivaled and, arguably in some cases, exceeded the original artwork. Ultimately however, the value of his imitations was based on originality they misrepresented.

Beltracchi appropriated the style of Ernst as well as many other artists. The director Arne Birkenstock chose Ernst as a particular representative of a general quality, saying “it was important to me not to simply judge or condemn something but to see and clearly feel that art is also about searching and asking and sometimes about desperation, which often inspires innovation in art. And this is, at least regarding the process, an entirely different quality than simply piggybacking on the insight that an artist may have had 100 years ago and the answers that he may have found in the process and merely copying it, imitating it.”

If we value original expression and free will, what does this mean? Is it a rebuke of comfortable lives? Is it easier to rise with the mass-market tide, amassing a unique set of more and more posessions (all sets of atoms are unique), placating ourselves while ignoring the difficulty of being truly original? I write with a sense of angst for this affects my choices as well as yours.

In the era of “fake it until you make it” and “imposter syndrome” it’s hard enough to know the original you let alone the originality of anyone else. As the saying goes “you’re unique, just like everyone else.” Iron it on a tee shirt and wear it when you go shopping. Are you an original now? Build a company and offer the tee shirts in many fonts, sizes and colors. Are you an original now? Forget the tee shirt, forget the saying and sit quietly meditating on your atoms and molecules: they are constantly hungry and needy. Are you getting there now?

It sounds good anyway. Am I faking it? I’ll finish with a few practical bits of imagination. I don’t know what nourishes me, but that doesn’t stop me from eating. When I embrace experience, I find nutrition I was deficient in without realizing it. I’m responsible for my boredom and irresponsible for my distraction. When I sit down with a pencil and blank paper, there are no wrong answers, wrong scribbles, wrong formats, or wrong doodles. Type a random word into your web browser with a .com or other suffix and see what pops up. Just start: writing, drawing, sketching, fetching, caring, staring, winking, linking, scanning, planning, moving, making, stand up, shake out, take care, leave better, win together, laugh with, think small, breathe deep, think big, pursue, imbue, entertain, amuse, hum calypsos, use ellipses…

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