Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Saturday, 2017.12.16
Today, many critics lament the lack of innovation in our society and draw the
conclusion that more emphasis on teaching mathematics and science will lead to
innovation. That will probably fail. Innovation comes from repeated successes in
innovating. Innovation means trying ideas outside the accepted patterns. It
means providing the opportunity to fail as a learning experience rather than as
an embarrassment. ...the traditional school powerfully suppresses any tendency
toward being innovative. Both teachers and students are driven to conform.

		Tom Green, "Bright Boys: The Making of Information Technology"

2006.06.19

Jason Leopold Reaps The Whirlwind

There was something in Joe Laurias’ Washington Post column wherein he dings Jason Leopold, “My Unwitting Role in the Rove ‘Scoop’“, that has me thinking.

Leopold is a product of a narcissistic culture that has not stopped at journalism’s door, a culture facilitated and expanded by the Internet.

This begs the questions, how was it this narcissistic culture came to be? There isn’t an easy answer to this question, but I would start looking for tracks around the politically correct camps, the bullshit agendas entrenched in our public schools and the fallout from have-it-instantly disposable consumerism relentlessly driven by increasingly sophisticated mass marketing. The alter of political correctness demands blind faith in following the path of guilt and punishes critical thinking and skepticism. From the earliest age possible, young minds are steeped in this rancid tea in our public school system. After 12 years of this, out pops a walnut ready to get it now, chew it up and spit it out.

Leopold’s life appears to be a story of instant gratification – get the cocaine high now no matter the cost, get the story euphoria now no matter the tactics. I wouldn’t call his life a tragedy, its just pathetic. He has had his instant gratification at our expense and will be chewed up and very soon spit out to the gutter. He has my pity, the little I can muster, but nothing else. There would be more if he could but reclaim his responsibility in this mess. Sadly, he seem to lack this capability as well. After having been completely exposed, he shamelessly works to cloak his sloppy “reporting” in shallow words. He is the epitome of the cut-and-paste mentality and those of his ilk are dangerous indeed.

Jason Leopold’s offence was egregious and his unmasking should be ruthless. That he has done great harm to those who strive to report the news should never be forgotten or forgiven lest others choose his path. Let him find the sympathy he deserves in drug rehabilitation and therapy. He is young and can forge a new career, assuming he can clean up his life. A long tour of duty doing one of those jobs it is claimed Americans refuse to do may serve to realign his bent sense of responsibility.

[Edit History]

2006.06.19 – It seems Karl Rove is still about to be indicted. After careful review, Capt. Smith of the USS Truthout has reconfirmed the re-verification that there cannot be any icebergs in the water around him and therefore that thing their boat rammed into couldn’t have been an iceberg and therefore they didn’t hit what ever it was that wasn’t there. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see if the imminent indictment of Karl Rove continues to not happen or not.

2006.03.26

Seismic Beer Events

Busted Beer
Busted Beer

Well, here’s a first which puts me in with a part of home brewing tradition and folklore I’d rather not be noted for having achieved. Exploding beer bottles – Yikes! (Hmmmmm. “Exploding Beer Bottles” would be an excellent name for a band.)

Back in the day, prohibition that is, the goal was to make alcohol. Brewing beer was the easiest and fastest way to do that. Stories abound of beer bottles exploding like popcorn in cellars, the result of covert brewmeistering in clandestine operations. In those dark times the knowledge for how to brew beer was, shall we say, an oral tradition passed down by anyone who managed to collect an audience. Inconsistent strains of yeast better suited for baking bread than brewing beer were used. Quality and environment control were at the mercy of the brewmeister’s patience. No one engaged in this practice had a biochemistry degree to help them through the subtleties of dealing with temperamental strains of yeast.

So what’s my excuse? I have a biochemistry degree. Actually, I have two of the darn things. Plus over 20 years of home brewing experience. Hard to say. That the bottles are uniformly over carbonated doesn’t suggest a poor distribution of priming sugar. A review of the notes by both my brew partner, Chris, and myself doesn’t reveal anything unusual. We certainly gave both the primary and secondary fermentation steps plenty of time, even for a stout. Me thinks a problem with the yeast. Something to follow up on with the yeast supplier.

But then, there is the potential terrorist angle. However mind bogglingly impossible the odds and chances that al-Qaeda, the Talibandidos or the Middle of the Road Progressive Isolationist Weekend Radicals had a hand in this, I would be remiss if this possibility wasn’t chased up every possible tree. Because one of those trees just might possibly potentially happen to be the right one to bark up at. I will, of course, need DHS money to follow these leads and fund multiple batches of decoy beer in order to bag the bastards. Neither can I dismiss the real possibility this is yet another strike of George Bush’s International Conspiracy to inconvenience me. I suppose a true Patriot would stay awake at night with a baseball bat guarding his beer against these threats. That or lobby for a law to guarantee Constitutional protection for my beer. Yeah, that will do it. Than I can sleep at night knowing there is a law to protect my beer.

Ah, well. This will all make more sense after I’ve kicked back and enjoyed a couple of home brews. Actually, for security reasons, I had better enjoy this batch as soon as possible. For now all the bottles from this batch are safely stashed in the refrigerator. Putting the chill on the yeast should stop any further pressure buildup and if any of the bugs decide to blow the frig should serve as an adequate blast container. Certainly better than the spare bedroom closet. What a mess.

2006.03.20

12 Down, 42 To Go

The streak is alive. With the project management class behind me, and another “A” in the books, I’m just about 1/4 the way through DU’s CIS Masters program. Thus far, I can say I’m not quite getting what I expected or wanted from the program. There are three factors which lead me to this assessment. First, I’ve only completed 1/4 of the program and much of what I want and expect depends on a successful graduation. In this respect, my evaluation reflects impressions on an emerging trend. How close I get to my target will depend a great deal on my experiences with future classes and what ever course corrections occur along the way. (more…)

2006.03.02

From the College-Is-Stranger-Than-Fiction Department

As a self proclaimed act of public obedience, some students from Atlanta took it upon themselves to drive down the highway, four cars abreast, at 55 miles per hour.

In my view, this was a poorly thought out stunt. Alan, Esq has indicated this is far from being an act of public obedience, rather it was against the law (Follow the link for an excellent discussion on the stunt.) Without the consent from all the other “participants” in this stunt, their act was certainly unethical. Without a plan in place to respond to the dangerous situations that were likely to arise, their act was reckless. Watching the video leaves the distinct impression the plan was to just do it and see what happens. There is no sense they considered when things were getting out of hand and what they would to de-escalate the situation they created.

The lives and well being of real people were put at risk because of the irrational response from a few drivers this stunt provoked. What will never be known are the extended consequences of the delay this group imposed. How many appointments were missed or meetings and deliveries delayed? What other unintended consequences may have resulted from this stunt? There my have been no emergency vehicles involved during their 10 minute stunt, but the video shows how they almost created the need for one. How much safer, and less sensational, would they have been driving single file, convoy-style, in the far right lane?

The objective was “follow the rules and show them how stupid those rules are.” In the end what did they really prove? That some drivers are assholes? This bit of insight is about as profound as revelations the sky is blue. What they demonstrated is that assholes can take it upon themselves to run unethical and dangerous experiments at the expense of everyone else. Lets hope their next project doesn’t involve guns.

2005.12.06

Picking Up the Cello at Age 44

GPE - Cello

Since I was about age 10, I though the cello would be the coolest instrument to play. Thirty four years later that hunch is confirmed. I’ve started playing cello and it is cool. Its like giving music a hug. Had my first lesson a little less than 3 months ago. Before that I hadn’t so much as touched a cello. I’m certain Janet and my friend Reed Bernstein (a violin maker) were the only people who ever knew of this secret ambition. Janet and I talked on occasion about finding a cello, but the opportunity never happened.

It’s partly an experiment and partly by design in keeping with this year’s “And now for something completely different.” theme. With my world turned on end and spun out of orbit, the opportunity is there for learning new things. Much of my thinking has returned to that childlike state of wonder where all things are possible and no rules apply. Fear not, I’ve retained my values and sense of what is right and wrong. Its just that many things I cared about no longer matter and space has opened up to be curious about anything that crosses my path. There are many grown-up attitudes that more than ever strike me as tragically sardonic, self imposed and needlessly limiting to the human potential. As adults, we limit ourselves unduly with “supposed to.”

I have played piano for many years and own a beautiful Petrof baby grand. Unlike piano, the cello is demanding a far greater awareness of my entire body while playing. The balance required is surprising and it makes the skill of such masters as Yo Yo Ma and Pablo Casals all the more amazing. All those years of piano and I never learned to read music and play anything I wanted at the keyboard on sight. I’d have to pick through the score and iteratively practice until the entire piece was committed to memory. With cello, I have the opportunity to do that differently. After about 3 months of lessons, diligent practice and efforts to read music while playing, the experience just keeps getting better.

My teacher is excellent. A cellist for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, she fits my criteria for having attained a level of recognized mastery. She’s good with adults as well, another important criteria. It must be more challenging to teach adults as there are bunches of things which we must unlearn before new lessons and understanding can result.

About a month into my practice (I’ll give myself 10 years and then decide if I have a chance at being any good.) I hit my first plateau and wasn’t sure if it was related to my clumsy technique or the quality of the cello, a high school orchestra quality instrument borrowed from my neighbor while he and his family spend a year in France. My teacher suggested we find out and handed me one of her cellos (as a professional, she has cello stuff about the place like I have computer stuff). WOW! What a difference! Yes my technique had a part, but so did the instrument. She handed me another cello, “Try this one.” DOUBLE WOW! The good news was that my technique wasn’t so far off the mark and I had already begun to outgrow the loaner instrument after one month. The bad news was the first cello I tried was a 50 year old Italian cello worth $25,000. The second cello was a 100 year old Czech instrument worth bunches more. Ouch.

We talked about what it would take to acquire an instrument which would suit my emerging skill for the next couple of years. So I hooked up with a recommended broker and settled on a $5,000 instrument made last year. It sounds wonderful! Included a better bow in the mix as well. I figured to use the money from a small life insurance policy I had on Janet to finance my studies and cello upgrades. Seems like a good use and a way to honor her musical talents.

2005.12.05

9 Down, 45 To Go

WhooHoo! Small miracle, I’m still a straight “A” student with two more classes under my belt (Software Engineering and Operating Systems.) Not because of the material, mind you, but because of the technology employed by one of the professors. Its different from the on-line course software used during the Fall quarter. Equally disconcerting is that yet another professor buggered out due to some sort of personal crisis leaving the virtual classroom empty for weeks at a time. I really hope this isn’t a trend. I’ve initiated a conversation with DU regarding the particular issues and hopefully they’ll be resolved.

One thing is clear, the quality as well as the quantity of student participation on the discussion boards is critical. Without it, the class is pretty much like being self taught and who needs to drop 1,000+ bucks for that?

2005.09.03

3 Down, 51 To Go

Several weeks ago, I finished my first quarter as a graduate student. One 3 credit hour required course (graduate research and writing), but a milestone nonetheless. I give the experience thumbs up in some areas and thumbs down in others. On the up side, I was very impressed with the technology in place for distance learning and my standards are high in this area. Last I looked was close to 3 years ago. The technology seemed a bit fragile and the process a bit sparse at the universities I reviewed. I can speak for Denver University’s program: It is excellent from a technology and process perspective. Rolled in with the good news is that I’m a straight “A” student! Hey, might as well celebrate while I can.

On the down side, university bureaucracy is festering as much as ever. A few weeks into the the course, the professor had some sort of personal crisis. None of us on-line students knew this. All we knew is that she disappeared from the discussion boards and didn’t return emails for over 10 days. She showed up for a brief flurry of board participation and quick answers to emails and disappeared for another 10+ day stretch. This stuff happens. I mostly fault DU for not having a backup plan in place for occurrences like this. They should have had a substitute in place to help keep the course on track. Since they didn’t, time lines in the syllabus were tangled and confused and it was very difficult to discern what the assignments were. Few of us hand any kind of a grade until the final grade. If this had been a brick and mortar classroom, no doubt there would have been provisions for backup instructor support in the case of absence of the primary instructor. As a result, I feel I paid over $1,000 to do what I’ve done all my life – teach myself. Why not pay myself this money? Well, that’s the obscene part. Its a paper chase. Maybe DU will let me just write them a check for $20,000 and they can just send me a degree? I’m still thinking about what recourse I may have. Seems to me a discount or partial refund is in order.

Ah, well, such are the vagaries of life on the wheel to higher irrelevance. I turned in my paper (The Adverse Effects of Private Governance on Community Health) and the next day was on a jet headed for an island in the South Pacific. Sweet release.

2005.03.25

Psycho Ward – Hijacking the Hijackers

Ward Churchill, the latest mushroom to sprout from my alma mater’s1 manure heap of unintended consequences, is a model for how to milk the random moments of fame foisted upon the equally random few.

Are Churchill’s arguments right or wrong? No one seems to be getting far enough to ask that, yet it is Churchill who carries the burden of blame for this. Interjecting parallels to Nazism without extensive context taints all preceding and subsequent arguments made by the author with irrationality and crudeness. As measured with Godwin’s Law2, it can be said that Churchill’s paper attempts to vaguely (and, having read the essay, I’m being generous here) relate his arguments to Nazism but is basically seeking to be insulting and inflammatory. At this point, all prospects for rational debate and discussion related to his central thesis are effectively over.

Like a fart in a crowded elevator, its unmistakable and offends everyone with the exception of the scatologically inclined. Most people want to exit the elevator as quickly as possible, others may want to linger with the fumes and complain while an unfortunate few will have no choice but to follow the fumes all the way to work. One of the problems Churchill is struggling with is he cannot un-fart, no matter how hard he tries. (It has been great entertainment watching him try.) The stink is out there and it is his. (more…)

2005.03.07

Back to School

I’m headed back to school. I was accepted to the Master’s Computer Information Systems program at Denver University (University College).

This has been on my private wish list (going for a Masters) for close to 10 years, but Janet’s health placed this on permanent hold. This past fall, Janet and I had a number of discussions in regards to the “crisis” of her health. She has been fighting breast cancer for over 10 years now – for most of that time it looked as if she could die within months. Well, she didn’t and even though her health isn’t the greatest at the moment, we needed to begin to find ways to have a “normal” life.

Fewer and fewer friends were asking us to dinner less and less frequently. Most of these evenings were spent talking about Janet, her health and the issues that surround her situation – the state of western medical care (usually it’s shortcomings), the politics of “alternative, complementary, integrative” care, chemotherapy – all great, important stuff. But it was all the time and I believe people grew weary of hearing about bad news. No doubt, they have their own issues which trouble them and talking about such things can seem pointless with a cancer patient at the table. (more…)


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