What Clever Programming Cannot Do

There is some very clever programming going on now – and people tend to overestimate its capabilities. I want to rain on that parade, and dampen that enthusiasm. And say what it cannot do.

It cannot make a dysfunctional organization functional – it cannot make it work. And dysfunctional organizations in today’s world are very common (even in Software companies). And dysfunctional (or crazy) people are common also.

And I must state the obvious – the people involved here (individuals or groups) do not realize they are this way. And this lets them get even worse.


My Bicycle Shorts


Click on the links above (Shorts and Label) to see the images.

These are made by Decosports (a British Company) in Pakistan. I bought them at a bicycle shop right in in Orosi, Costa Rica – for 26 dollars. I wore them for the first time, for my ride this morning, and they were comfortable.

Why they made the padding such a bright color, I have no idea – but this does not show when they are on. I look like any well-dressed (79-year old) bicycle rider.

The images are on my Google drive, in the Google Cloud – another handy service!

The Life of Wallace Stevens

The New Yorker

Paul Mariani’s excellent new book, “The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens” (Simon & Schuster), is a thrilling story of a mind, which emerges from a dispiriting story of a man. It’s hard to think of a more vivid illustration of T. S. Eliot’s principle of the separation between “the man who suffers and the mind which creates.” For most of his life, Stevens was an elaborately defended introvert in a three-piece suit, working as a Hartford insurance executive. He came slowly to a mastery of language, form, and style that revealed a mind like a solar system, with abstract ideas orbiting a radiant lyricism. Mariani persuasively numbers Stevens among the twentieth-century poets who are both most powerful and most refined in their eloquence, along with Rilke, Yeats, and Neruda. He is certainly the quintessential American poet of the twentieth century, a doubting idealist who invested slight subjects (the weather, often) with oracular gravitas, and grand ones (death, frequently) with capering humor.

I got the Kindle version for four dollars.

I Try to be Humble – but It’s Hard Work

I keep being original – and I keep finding my precious ideas are not so original. The best I can do, is be among the first to discover a new idea.

And even that is not easy. I decided to go with Windows 10, so I got a new laptop with that on it. Only to discover it wasn’t quite ready. Right now, it is doing a long, long download – that will probably bring it up to speed. So I can do things I am already doing on my Windows 7 machine.

Where I am doing my best to learn F# – but here again, I am so far behind those who brought it into the world, and take it for granted – I feel like a babe in swaddling clothes.

But there is one thing I do, that is original – I manage to live on my Social Security income in Costa Rica. And I can still manage to get around my bicycle – if I pedal slowly! Everytime I sit down, I have to be careful when I get up – or flop! – I go down in the mud.

From mud I came, and from mud I shall return.

Why Should I Help a Bad Situation?

This is a question I have been asking myself for a long time – probably even before I was born. It was clear to me, as a fetus, that my mother did not like me – two fetuses before me had been smart, and bailed out. Much to the shock of my mother who wanted babies very badly.

Perhaps my mother assured me she would be a good mother – a promise she promptly violated. Or maybe I decided I would put up with a bad situation, and do the best I could – under the circumstances.

In any case, I was born – into what would be known as a dysfunctional family. A bland description that covered up the horrors of the situation. And from then on, a situation that everyone (or almost everyone) refused to acknowledge – a huge problem that no one could see, and didn’t want to see.

This family situation was enlarged into the work situation – that was also bad for people – but this was considered normal – and this thoroughly bad behavior was allowed to continue, and even encouraged – in what became known as The Office.

To summarize – people lost control of their world – and gave control to other forces they were only dimly aware of – but were certain they were there. They were there, all right – and promptly took control.

This takeover was no doubt part of our religious heritage. People wanted to be part of something bigger – and now they were! They did not stop to analyze, what this new arrangement was. As with all religious establishments – this questioning was not permitted.

I am fortunate to live in a situation – where I can question this situation – in this blog. And I have plenty of company – perhaps ten percent of the population. But the remaining ninety percent have political control – which they are exercising vigorously.

And using it to wreck their world.

China Is Perfecting a New Method For Suppressing Dissent On the Internet


The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000
people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive
writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions
of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim
that these so-called “50c party” posts vociferously argue for the government’s side in
political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts
openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical
evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime’s strategic
objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of
this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts
written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and
posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims,
we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the
party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that
the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to regularly distract the public
and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China,
the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime.
We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship
program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical understanding of
“common knowledge” and information control in authoritarian regimes.

These researchers use the techniques of Data Mining – where huge amounts of data can be scanned, multiple times – searching for useful information. The search techniques can be continually refined – yielding better and better results.

The huge efforts of Chinese Government to deceive its people – can be easily exposed, to Americans who read Slashdot. But the Chinese people have no access to these discoveries.

The Rise of the Organization

Back in the 19th Century, or perhaps even earlier, we should have been planning our future. There was plenty of political turmoil over the nations, and the empires, that were forming – but the net result was WWI, the Depression, and WWII. We had failed, and failed miserably.

There was some planning for a new world, with the United Nations, and the World Bank. And there were no more World wars – just small ones, such as the Korean War, and then the Vietnam War.

But something much bigger was going on – the rise of The Organization. That no one took much notice of. But everyone knew was big, and getting even bigger.

Instead of thinking about this, and its implications – we just let it take over. Because, we thought – it would make us more powerful! 

Which it did – The Organization became more powerful – but people became less powerful. A very serious development – but one people took no notice of – and continue to take no notice of.

Society became obsessed with this new kind of power – and obsessed with protecting it from its detractors – who noticed what was going on. These people had to be destroyed!

This is what was happening in The Office – where everyone was working. It was making The Organization more powerful – and its detractors less powerful – and hopefully, eliminated altogether.

This new economy was successful, from the end of WWII to the Seventies – when it failed. Its focus was too narrow – and it could not understand the world, as a whole.

This failure was very complex, and depended on many factors. For me, it ended my career as an Electronic Engineer. I was an expert on the Vacuum Tube – and this was replaced by the Transistor – and even more importantly, the Computer.

That no one understood, at the time – but knew it was big –  and getting bigger.

This was the Economy I was involved in, in the Eighties and the Nineties – an Industrial Economy, that was fading – and Computer Economy, that was growing. A very painful time, that I managed to survive, by getting out of it – and moving to Costa Rica.

The conflicts here were noticed – by the more sensitive souls, who were afraid of saying anything. I have a cousin, who got out of the Office by becoming a surveyor. And other relatives who developed their own strategies for coping with this – not realizing this was what they were doing.

I can say this now, wearing my pyjamas, sitting in front of my laptop, with a fast Internet connection. I can say what I please in this blog – knowing I will not be shot down – and also knowing it will make little difference.