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Friday, February 22, 2013

Delicious Cherries that Glow in the Dark

Delicious cherries that glow in the dark.
Eat them and you'll feel sickly, but maybe you won't die.
The poison will eat at you, make your muscles ache,
and if it's enough, you'll get nauseous and your hair will fall out.
But more likely, you'll just be entered in a sweepstakes;
for who will die of cancer in a few years.

I see them laughing and I shed some tears,
the cherries are delicious, but they don't know what they are doing.
It seems so easy, to take the money and run.
But the tears don't flow, until the consequences come.
It seems theoretical, statistical disease,
Until it is you on chemotherapy. 


Christopher H. Holte, 2/22/2013

Referring to:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whale Song

Whale song

The world remembers,
and it sings it's song,
cries it's cries,
rising and falling; the whale song.
They hear it in space, they hear it in the sea.
Slow down the songs of mice,
and they hear it in the hay.
The whale song, and the chirping of birds,
speaks across universes, and makes a grand chorus.

Only humans are deaf.
They might hear, but they don't listen.
They hunt the whales across the seas.
and poison the birds falling off the trees.
Oh the deafness of this race.
that dreams of crossing outer space.
But if we don't learn to listen soon.
Will silently fall into evolutionary doom.

But the song of a content planet will be restored.
and nature will come back with singing adored.
The angels sing on high.
and as it is in heaven it is on earth.
and when I rest in my dusty home.
my bones turning to ashes,
and my life at an end.
I only hope I hear the whale sound at last.
No longer deaf, but merged with Universe.

Christopher H. Holte

Selfish Optimization and Tyranny

There is a relationship between corruption and tyranny. And what it is is "selfish optimization". Selfish optimization is when a system is optimized for the owners or the governors. This usually results in dysfunction, stove pipes, mis-allocation of resources, and both legal corruption and illegal corruption. It is also a manifestation of Tyranny as defined by John Locke who referred to the use of power for "private, separate advantage." Many of our problems come from selfishly optimized systems that are constituted with poor quality governments.

I've seen a lot of this in my IT work, but it is also a problem in the world around us at every level. Requirements gathering is essentially about setting the boundaries of a system. It's goals (finish line), and the capabilities needed to reach those goals. Bad requirements result in bad systems, but bad systems are usually the result of requirements that are poorly optimized, resulting in poorly functioning systems.

Selfish optimization is enabled by; excessive hierarchy -- giving those at the top of a totem pole too much power; Misallocation of ownership (or power over) resources which leads to excessive power over those resources and feeds back into even more misallocation and dysfunction as those with power deal with the consequences of their earlier misallocations and folks are pushed out of the system or oppressed by it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Learning to Play together

Many conservatives argue that the principle that the best government is the least government. They rightly argue that direct democracy is only practical in small communities where the form of government is ad-hoc and people have no conflicts with neighbors. However, making government small enough to drown in a bathtub requires first creating a dictator who can be drowned there. Simple, abstract arguments are like a sheet of paper covered with vertical or horizontal lines. If the world were so simple all one would need to have integrity (to be integral) would be to color in the lines provided by the Ineffable, eternal, author. One color, one author, one sheet of paper, and the result not exactly exciting unless one pins a million dollar price tag to it and cons folks into thinking of it as abstract art.

The real world requires more creativity and vision. The ineffable one has provided a coloring book where sometimes we have to sometimes, collectively, draw our own lines and hope everyone agrees. But the difficulty is, we are all sharing the same coloring book, so no one person gets all the credit, and all authority is contingent on agreement, in the short run with the other humans present, and in the long run with that collective agreement we label with the term "God." The lines we draw on our four dimensional paper have to be drawn in coordination with others. Oppression is taking so much space on the paper that others can't draw anything. Tyranny is not letting others draw, or forcing them to draw ugly things using violence. We have to learn to play together. Success in this society requires both individual initiative, and the willingness and ability to play together.

This is because the lines that separate and join our destiny often intersect. If most of us would prefer a race track to getting to our goals, real life is more like a demolition derby -- the tracks intersect in ways that are inconvenient to everyone. Half a second divides success from failure because people often are in conflict over the crayons we need to draw our lives. "Competition" is our efforts to put a dress on Ares and call him Athena. We inherit from the Greeks a certain sophisticated hypocrisy. If we want a better world we have to work together.

In this world everyone needs the opportunity to be his or her best self. The world is like a mural, where we can find our own space if we are willing to give space to others. The wisdom of the right to property is about when to protect that right. and when a person must relinquish that right.

Property rights are like a highway. We all have them. We are supposed to stay 1-7 car lengths behind the cars ahead of us, and avoid crashing into others. When the world turns into a mish mash of crossing lines we have to respect the stop signs and know when to stop. Libertarianism errs when it becomes a mouthpiece for children who want to own all the crayons and force people to draw their arbitrary ideas -- or when they reject the teachers. Without communitarianism and mutual respect the world becomes a demolition derby. Without individual rights it becomes a mob and the mural becomes something dark and ugly, while the highway piles up with crashed and broken cars.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Child of Spring

The child of spring,
bounces over pastures
dances with the birds,
smiles with the sun

The child of spring,
cries with the rain,
shivers in the morning dew,
and changes his diapers from brown to green.

The child of spring,
has hair of green grasses
Festooned with dew drops,
shimmering in the morning sun.

The Child of spring,
has shining blue eyes,
Where little birds dance and sing.
and one can enter into their dream.

I love the child of spring,
Fat with birth and rain,
Reborn from winters cold and ice
Green spring grows out of him.
Warmth out of pain.

Christopher H. Holte, written in 80's.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tyranny is also bad process

When one attends classes at the Project Management Institute (PMI) one sees process diagrams for project management everywhere. The principles of governing a project, it turns out, are pretty much the same whether the project is a government project, a household project, or any short term endeavor with a start date and an end date. Similarly a program office has more complex processes, and these process interface with project management, but the basic processes of program management are the same whether one is looking at a small program or a large one.  The reality is that the same thing is true with governing bodies of sentient beings.  The processes of democracy either embody principles of good government, which means good governing processes, or they don’t. 
Unfortunately, the optimization of governing processes depends on who the nominal and real stakeholders are, and so many governing institutions are optimized for a small subset of their stakeholders – and this is not only almost a definition and source of corruption but is also bad process.  Bad process fails because it drives system failure.  Systems not optimized for the well-being of the system – which implies the well-being of all the stakeholders are dysfunctional by design.  They also are tyranny as defined by John Locke:
199. “As usurpation is the exercise of power which another hath a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage. When the governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule, and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion."[1]
Maximizing the general welfare and preventing “private, separate advantage” and the resulting reign of “ambition, revenge, covetousness…” is about tyranny, but it also is about bad process.  The virtues of good process outweigh the expediency of tyranny, and this will become readily apparent to anyone who thinks about it a while. So let us architect governmental processes that will allow us to recognize and fix systemic tyranny and generally improve the function of our government.

Note: source is John Locke's Two Treatises on Government.