Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Just in Time Thinking

I was at a database conference once in Salt Lake City. The keynote speaker was an original engineer on the Apple Macintosh project. Something we all associated with excellence. I expected insight. I expected inspiration. I expected next generation thinking. With a glow of geek gold.

He came down the isles as he spoke about his dedicated team and their one of a kind project. I could see him. Look into his eyes. As he started to say, “The most important thing is to move your new product to market...” Yes, yes? Move it to market what! When? Only when you know it is done? Only after exhaustive testing, vetting, and all around bullshit banishing?

“...knowing full well that it has flaws. You can fix them in V2.0.”

My face fell. Huh? I'm glad you don't build software for nuclear power plants. This went against everything I had ever learned about anything. Ever. And when you fix the known flaws in V2.0, what about the new known flaws you just introduced? The ones you know about but leave in situ for V3.0? Just sell the sucker your bag of magic beans then sell them the next upgrade over and over again?

Don't blame Trump for the lack of clarity of thought. He's just the clown showing us all what fools we have become. He's the president for our times. The president of the people. We hate him because he shows us, us. You don't like Trump? Then don't be Trump.

In some circles it is considered bad form to check for spelling and grammar in your posts. Why? If you're into that anal shit then you're obviously not getting your shit to market in time. It's all about just in time thinking. It will all be forgotten in an instance, anyway.

Better illiterate than irrelevant.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

An Arab Home

I remember visiting an Arab family in Bethlehem. I apologize for not having any concrete memories. Just some feelings, which are all that remain after the facts have all evaporated. Just feelings remain.

I remember a little house. Arabs liked houses, however small or close together. Jews liked apartments. I visited both and was always made welcome.

I went up a staircase to a living room. I remember children. Children playing, smiling, laughing. Our hosts friendly, welcoming, familiar. Warm. Home.

I don't remember any other details. What we ate or what we did. What we talked about or how we agreed or disagreed. What games we played or how we shared our shared humanity. Who we were or what our grievences were. What were our feelings for the greater world. I just remember feeling welcome. Open. Equal. Home.

Four decades later I still regard them as friends.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chronicles of a Baby Boomer - Mandala

I worked at the University of Connecticut for most of my career. It's a beautiful campus in a quiet corner of eastern Connecticut. I liked it. I worked in the computer center in the basement of the math science building. It seemed fair. We were the geekiest of the geeks in the basest of the basements.
A quiet place in a quiet building in a quiet campus.
I availed myself of the many, many amenities of the place. An art museum. Summer cook outs. Library. Book store. Natural history museum. Ice cream parlour. Theater. Fitness center where I would go for step aerobics, yoga, and weight lifting with my best bud, Joanne. I learned figure skating from a Canadian Olympic star. And I received a master’s degree in anthropology. What's not to like? Culture, junk food, exercise, and knowledge all in one career.
Some of us would take walks around campus, rain or shine, summer or winter, every lunch hour. We'd talk philosophy, of course. Or about our kids.
It was grand.
I remember.
One summer. There was a program at the art gallery. A group of Buddhist monks were going to create a sand mandala right there in the rotunda of the art gallery. It would be open to the public. Free, of course, as was the art gallery itself.
We could come and watch as the saffron robed monks meticulously drizzled colored sand on a table in an elaborate design of worship.
I went over several times on my lunch hour to watch.
I watched three or four smiling Dalai Lama look alikes carefully weighing out sand into little metal tubes which were tapered at the ends into little blunt spouts. They were kinda like long, skinny funnels.
They held the spouts over the designs of the mandala and gently tapped them. A small, steady trail of sand grains traced a pattern on the emerging sand prayer.
Tap, tap, tap. A decoration. Tap, tap. A highlight. Tap. A small detail in a common design. Day in. Day out. They tapped out their pretty picture. Their pretty prayer.
I watched over several days as the image emerged. A Buddha sitting in a temple surrounded by walls and windows, gods and demons, lotuses and starbursts.
I took pictures. I watched. I wondered.
Day by day the icon emerged. Larger and larger. Clearer and clearer. What I saw was a flat image existing on a table. But what I imagined was a three dimensional object living in the air, a mandala come alive.
What if the sand on the table were to rise up? What if it were to go from flat table to vibrant air and become a living temple floating there in 3D? A thin wisp of sand tracing the god Buddha sitting on his lotus blossom amidst his temple? Surrounded by walls of adamant, trees, vines, and symbols of worship? All in a kind of hologram? Cast in stone, yet stone that lives? Lives and breathes and floats within the world of worship it contains and which contains it?
And further and beyond. Worshipers abound. Bowing. Standing. Living. Loving. All around the whirl of worship in the temple of the air.
The god within raises his hand and winks with his third eye. And it all collapses back onto the table with the humble monks in saffron robes tapping out their simple prayers of colored sand. Tap, tap, tap. Another prayer. Another worship. Another sign of adulation.
Then the sand swirls again and comes together into domes with pointed peaks. And fluted pillars supporting the domes above palisades and pavilions, carpeted chambers looking out through shuttered windows breathing in the Himalayan air. And arches supporting roofs over fountains and gardens bursting with pools of lotus and fields of crocus. Steps waft down infinite stairs to living water. The faithful walk up and down, up and down, bringing prayers and drinking in salvation.
A sand castle that is alive.
And the god within raises his fist to his temple. And brings it down before him, turning it as he does. He opens his palm. And the world ends.
There, another lotus appears. And grows. And opens. And in its pedals sits another.
She opens her third eye and the world is reborn.
At the end of the week the monks dragged a spoon through the mandala and swept all of the sand into a clay colored pile in the middle of the table.
The prayer is over. Time for the amen.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Bevy of Bigots

In Scotland recently I came across a lot of local people in pubs and what not, and got beyond their defenses, a bit. I learned from Edinburgh-ites (there’s no official name, though Laudonians, Lothians, and Edinburghers sound pretty cool,) that Glasgow is a dirty city. 

Mainland Scots thought people in the Hebrides were, you know, a little backwards. Pub dwellers in Islay, one of said Hebrides, thought that Glaswegains, etc, were out of touch. “Those folks in the city, you know,” they said, knowingly. 

When I told a girl in a restaurant about my wallet being stolen in Dublin, she said, “That’s the Irish for you. And I’m Irish!” Everybody has their group that it’s OK to hate. Or at least put down. 

What’s yours?

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Pause for a Cause

My ship of reason foundered on a rock of ridicule recently. I went on a back woods web site the other day. Devoted to current events, politics, jurisprudence, and many other prudences. Found the Bog, er, Blog, and the comment section. I posed a thought experiment, implicated by references to vetted authorities, adjudicated by appeals to logic, and supplicated by requests for respectful dialogue.

"What do people think of this?" I quandaried. “Is this valid? Can we learn from it? Indeed, does this demand our honest and self-reflecting attention?”
Call me old fashioned. Call me reasonable. Call me an idiot, better still. I was set upon by the Harpies of the Hinternet. The Muses of Specious Reasoning.

Responses to my conundrum included; That's propaganda; One, minor detail is wrong so, therefore, everything you say and believe throughout your entire life, and all carnations, in, out, up, and down, must be wrong, also; You're a bad person and so are you (a remarkably common conclusion;) That's a Conspiracy Theory, and; Here's my totally unsupported and unqualified take on the subject which is totally supported by my tribe and must be self-evidently true, as well, so there.

Whatever happened to: Let's discuss something important-too important to let our eyes be blinded be fallacy, fiction, or fraternal prejudices? Let’s respect each other’s perspective and consider each other’s view point? I disagree with what you say but I will fight to the death your right to say it?

Gone. Or maybe they never existed. The Inklings. The gymnasium steps of philosophy. Brilliant pockets of knowledge held precariously together in Baghdad, Toledo, Paris, and Edinburgh through the Dark Ages. Maybe those are all myths, too. Intellectual pleasantries we made up later to tell ourselves how great we are. And the gods of our own creation come back to mock us. Maybe it was always just one of those meaningless, 'Conspiracy Fallacies' people are always yammering on about.

What is Philosophy? Is it not the vanity of Man in a cloak of the gods? Better still. What are the gods? Must we admit, in horror, that there are no gods? The gods are we and there is no holy Them we can blame for our own dilemmas? Perish the thought! There’s always a scapegoat. Why, the scapegoat might very well be the oldest god.

Can we answer Pontius Pilate's question? No. Not then, not now.

The Internet is just a visceral engine, barely up to the level of the cockroach. Capable only of the five F's: Fight, flight, friend, food, fuck. And not always just one at a time. Often they work together in chords.

We should be proud.