Category Archives: Life & Everything Else

Improvisational Writing

I’ve been writing a bit every evening, using comments or postings on Facebook as a prompt. When something captures my attention, I start writing, trying to take an analytic view in the case below of riff on the 2016 Presidential campaign. Some replies on Facebook become a complete idea sometimes.

For example, this evening my friend Scott Anderson commented on an article I posted about Donald Trump.

He wrote: Is he worse than Cruz? They are all bat shit crazy

And the improvisation started:

They’re both in the batshit crazy category, but it is so batshit crazy inside that category that you can never say which is currently more batshit crazy.

You may think one is batshit crazier than the other with a high degree of certainty and just then, with an audibly sharp “Frack,” the other goes batshit crazier to take the lead. I haven’t been able to test it, but I theorize that this happens several thousand times a second. The egos of Trump and Cruz are so massively bat shit crazy that the pressures must be intense. If we could tune into the signal, see the singularity of batshit craziness in the Republican primary, where would that insight lead us?

How about Gore/Warren, with Bernie Sanders designated to become Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services, against Rubio/Kasich (Strident and Duller)? That’s my prediction. Gore’s too rich now to be bought, an idea the Trumpies seem to value, and he could tap the Kennedy era spirit of reinvention in the face of global warming. Gore has the money, and could bring plenty of Democratic money, to battle the Koch Network. Finally, he can take the mantel of economic growth from Bill Clinton, something Hillary can’t do. Just spitballing that Gore idea.

Jump in, Al Gore, jump in! [End improvisation]

I’m going to keep this up. I’ll post the complete ideas that emerge. Some of these will be steps toward broader consequences of the election, but I’ll write about technology and business, too.

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We live in the Age of Guile

The following in response to Joe Eisner on Facebook:

Maybe Trump will be the man who sells the world. He and his sidekick, Vladimir Putin, will have a reality show that satisfies their insatiable egos. We’ve lived to see the stranger become truth and everything, from the economy to political decisions, fiction.

I hope his presidential reality tv catchphrase will be “Come on Vlad, let’s find some broads” instead of the insidious evil in “Build walls and burn the disagreers–we’ll rebuild at a higher margin per square foot,” which seems to be his current game plan.

Your friend in confusing times. Etc.

Our ancestors lived in various golden and guilded eras, which counted only money as outcomes. The new aspect of our times involve the use of social capital massive advantage. A rich television star and a democratic socialist are leveraging those uncounted advantages this election cycle to rally apparently powerful political bases.

I suggest our current economic-political environment be referred to as “The Age of Guile.” Cunning use of social capital produces a Trump, on the one hand, and a Bernie Sanders on the other. Bernie uses more truth than Trump, as a recent Washington Post analysis, which is debated here, as all analysis ought to be. Nevertheless, Sanders hones his message to be attractive to his base, who are prepared to repeat it in social media wherever he says it, very much like Trump. That’s why Bernie Sanders can marshal millions of dollars in small donations each month without a lot of spending. Trump has broken all records for campaign spending efficiency using the same strategy.

Guile can be used for good, as the Star Wars franchise demonstrated in its first trilogy, when the Force triumphed over evil. Since then the Force has always been on the struggling side of the Skywalker family’s internal battles. Likewise, there seem to be more quiet bigots in waiting for Trump than there will be college kids fired up by Senator Saunders.

Guile has outwitted the Republican and Democratic establishments. Rabid libertarian capitalism has more money to throw behind its candidate than all of academia combined. Wealthy guile is likely to triumph over rambunctious age combined with a youth movement, and only if Sanders can get past Hillary Clinton.

Trump looks like the potential winner who is most tyrannical of all available choices. He’s emblematic of The Age of Guile, and guile’s most dangerous practitioner.

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Explaining the Local On-Demand Economy

What does the local on-demand economy mean to companies and their customers? In this keynote address at BIA/Kelsey NOW, Mike Boland and I explain the rise of logistical systems for small business and individuals and how it changes the nature of work. In a nutshell, society built the old economy to keep needed resources on the bench and ready to work. Today, work will be assigned and completed through systems that put customers in control of the supply chains that serve them. It raises issues of fairness, as labor struggles to adapt and rethink how to build a “career.”

The whole talk is on YouTube, in case the player below doesn’t load in your browser.

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Why, I wonder, are we…

as species always just one step away from declaring “We’ll be better off without these kinds of people,” and acting on that nutty reasoning to the detriment of the next poor son of a gun to have their ox gored, until, reason suggests, a few people are left battling over great fortunes while the rest wait to learn our fate? It’s time for a second act, humanity. Now. You heard me.

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Where systems and worlds collide you’ll find politics

Over at Doc Searls’ excellent VRM list, there is a discussion about “governance.” Some like the word, others hate it — the concept is naturally troubling for engineers who generally ignore abstractions. But this is an inevitable crossroads for any large-scale systems development. It’s the Technologist’s Bane: We still have to do society, there’s no building successful systems that will ignore social priorities. That’s what we are arguing about here – the “governance” of the Net, the organization, the partnership all need at every level to be negotiable within a reasonable range in order for transactions to have novel outcomes not reinforcing of previous models.

Government served this function, as the setting for negotiation and enforcer of rights, but we’ve hit the limit of governmental flexibility and responsiveness – thank you, Congress – when crossing the national-transnational boundaries that the Net naturally crosses with impunity. Here, where people’s lives are shaped and reshaped by the system, we cannot shrug off the hard problems because of a distaste for politics, allocating them to the future, so we can “figure them out later.”

This is where trust meets the road, where the cogs have to be aligned, where our initial agreements will be born. Right here is where VRM must say “the battle of all against all” is over and a new alternative exists that can be understood easily and intuitively by all while producing novel socio-economic outcomes.

While working with Dee Hock’s Chaordic Alliance, which worked to establish organizational models that could be adapted, and adopted to specific needs, I repeatedly saw the governance argument derail implementation of a new organizational model. Concerns parochial often won out, preventing organizations from changing too drastically, undercutting the Chaordic model that emphasized self-organization and shared governance to ensure ongoing transparency for NEW members in relation to the founding members. Without the inflow of new members, there is no growth and the system will become moribund.

Rather than reject governance, we need to find a new respect for the nuance of social interaction involved in negotiation and decision-making so that systems can be engineered on standards that include sufficient flexibility for a wide range of experimentation within the model. Instead, people tend to either reject governance or monopolize governance by making the process opaque. Then the system becomes either an ongoing battlefield that quickly destroys the value of the system or it results in a hegemony by the early participants, who know how the system “really works,” which is just another way of saying we’ve found a way to facilitate bald political power in a new environment and you, new people, are on the outside.

This will be the hardest mountain for VRM or any variation on these ideas to overcome. It killed the Chaordic Commons. Tom’s call for analysis and reflection on the existing system and the proposed new system is the only viable next step. Some parts of the old models will still be valuable, represented here by the concepts of private property and fungible value, the ability to engineer a transactional environment in order to profit from facilitating the transactions, among others.

It’s time for experimentation and pragmatic debate.

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#Fit@53: How to get started

My pursuit of the Ecuadoran volcanoes has to start at my gut, which has been hanging out with little exercise for the last four years. If I am going to walk up to 20,000 feet (3.78 miles above sea level), I need to be able to run mostly uphill for at least twice that distance several times a week down here on Puget Sound. Strength training, especially in my back, neck and shoulders, in addition to core- and leg-strength, will be my other priority. If you’ve ever had to belay someone who is unconscious down a cliff face, you’ll know it’s not a cake walk.

At 53 years, the first step toward conquering my gut, extending my endurance and increasing my strength without hurting myself is to do an inventory of my initial response to exercise. Stuff in your body no longer works reliably at my age and starting to exercise is like trying to spot the lemons when you walk onto a used car lot.You need to get down on your knees and look under the chassis. Take your time and watch out for tell-tale signs the transmission’s going to go soon.

Mapping my aches and noisy joints proved an eye-opener to me. One of my knees creaks like a door in a haunted house. I’ve got noisy shoulder — the one I have not have surgery on — and I can tell you exactly where I have bone-on-bone grinding in my L1 disc. It’s on the left side of my body as you face me. David Churbuck‘s advice to get an AbMat for situps was a godsend. It enforces full movement of the back that relieves my degraded discs.

I laid out a workout baseline to grow from, establishing over the course off the first week of training my single-set maximum number of situps (45), pushups (1, and I cheated), squats (25), dips (7) and average pace walking and running (3.1 and 4.2 m.p.h. respectively — I walk a lot more than I run), as well as the number of reps in various weight-lifting categories with which I will not bore you here. My focus is on reps, not weight at this point. Older men shouldn’t just go to the gym like they are 20 and start to workout hard. Do more with less. It applies with weights and life.

It took several days to give myself the initial tests, then I increased the training pace to the point where I was and still am muscle-sore at every extremity by the end of the day. There are lots of points of view on muscle soreness, and I tend to find it good in the long run. I hurt, but it is not like I am trying to wake the dead here. I just haven’t used a lot of these muscles for a long time. They are sleepy, complaining as my knees do first thing every morning. My knees get over it, so my muscles will too. I freely acknowledge a perverse logic is in play here. It takes commitment approaching the religious to undertake this kind of project, so consider the gods of perverse logic invoked in my defense.

After a week, I’ve seen an increase in distance run with ease and the frequency of sprints I can sustain. A week ago, on my first run in the hills, I covered about 2.1 miles with about 220 feet of climbing. Today I covered 3.8 miles with 516 feet of climbing in just 10 minutes more than my first time. I’ve lost 3.9 pounds in the week.

I thought that after this assessment I might be ready to cancel the climb for this year. Surprising myself, I think getting into this kind of shape in the time that I have if I want to go to Ecuador this November, is a tremendously difficult challenge. It is not, I’ve concluded, insurmountable. The first peak climbed was overcoming my own self-skepticism. Not that I dislike skepticism, but when I looked myself in the mirror last week after making the reservation to climb the reasons for doubt were legion. The data says it’s doable, with a dose of faith in the gods.

Next, I tackled the question of what I ate, which I’ll write about soon.

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