Category: General

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Permalink 11:01:36 am, by fumanchu Email , 629 words   English (US)
Categories: General

Notes from: John Smart - Accelerating Change 2004


The introduction for John (from someone named Alex) included the phrase, "his ideas are a Rosetta stone for interpreting ... the future," which REALLY pinned my bogometer. But finish the talk—it pays off.

This was a talk that touched on a lot of fascinating topics about which I don't usually think; I ended up with a lot of disjointed comments, so don't feel bad if they seem solely for my benefit. Dan D, you should listen to this.

Part I - Overview

"Great input leads to great output. If you're reading every day you should be writing every day, if you have a blog (even if you don't have a blog)."

"Evolutionary systems don't know. You cannot predict what they're going to do. Most change in the universe appears to be evolutionary. That's why prediction has such a poor history."

"...sitting here, massively increasing our collective computation. You know why? Because right now, you and I—it's only 200 bits a second, this pipe that we're doing. But it's almost 6 times faster than the talking your neural nets are using to talk to each other ... They're doing an action potential down an axon at about 200 mph, and you and I are talking, connecting at the speed of sound."

"We're measuring the mass of neutrinos now, right? Fat-fingered 21st century human beings. How can we do that?"

3 Laws of Information and Communication Technologies

  1. Technology learns 10 million times faster than you do. Speed of light = 7M x faster than thought. "How are we going to look relative to that prosthesis? Like favorite pets? No, like favorite plants."

  2. Because it's evolutionary development, humans are catalysts, not controllers. We decide which elements to accelerate and which to slow down. "We've decelerated systems which amplify our effect upon the world without amplifying our intelligence." Avoiding the entropy points (eg Chernobyl).

  3. The first generation of any technology is often dehumanizing (calculators take away your math skills). The second generation is often indifferent to humanity (Mathematica is cool, but the interface sucks; most kids aren't going to use it). The third generation, with luck, becomes net humanizing—"you have AP calculus coming up, a bird flies by, and the system asks if you'd like your two-minute tutorial on what that means."

Part II

"Lots of things don't accelerate because they're deeply tied to human sociotechnological systems which have these matter/energy/space-time limits."

"...running a program on a calcium atom."

Human bodies can't enjoy Moore's law benefits (e.g. from drugs) "because our body has been tuned bottom-up—it's a massively multifactorial, nonlinear complex interactive system." (homeostatic system)

"It's the efficiencies that blow everyone's mind. People are always missing ... how rapid those efficiencies move. And those are physically and computationally driven. [...] All of these areas, defense down to energy and envirotech will all look surprisingly similar in 2060/2030, with major ICT extensions. And robots. Lots of cool robots."

"The really complex stuff is the middle zone" (we're 30 years from a bottom-end, a Theory of Everything, and we've had the top, Einstein's "crude Theory of Everything" since early 1900's). That middle zone is consciousness, biological emergence.

A "guy in England" (Adrian Thompson) genetic program solved sine-wave generation problem by exploiting a quantum flaw in the FPGA materials. The scientists did not understand the solution for months.

Re: linguistic user interfaces. (Fu talking again, now) I wonder if some of my data-processing tools could benefit from a serial process to modify the result set after the first iteration has been produced. "You want to remove that record from the report? OK, would you take a moment and tell me why? Then I can exclude similar records when I find them." Etcetera.


Permalink 11:59:38 pm, by fumanchu Email , 1646 words   English (US)
Categories: General

Policeful day

From the Day-Long Lead-In Dept:

I was supposed to do an 8:45 AM lead-in today. A "lead-in" is where a staff member or volunteer leads a group of our Trip participants from the border meeting spot to the campground in Mexico. But of course, if you plan to meet at 8:45, you won't actually get on the road until 9:30. But that's expected.

Today's lead-in involved two separate border crossings, because the tour bus had to cross at the main border and the vans had to cross at the Otay border, 10 miles east. I decided to take the bus, because I had just bought a new digital camera last week, and wanted some pictures from that route to camp. I certainly got them, as you'll see. Rayn Perkio took the other vehicles.

Can't go forward, can't go back

We arrived at the main border. As usual, I got off the bus and flagged down a Mexican customs agent. He came over and quickly efficiently checked the luggage stowed underneath, and sent us on our way. Nice guy.

So we started to pull out into traffic. That's when an official from SCT (the federal Secretariat of Communications and Transport) flagged us down and pulled us over. He stuck his head in and asked to see the driver's Mexican permit.

I looked at the driver. "Mexican permit?" I had never heard of one.

He looked back at me blankly. Not a good sign.

We showed the official the bus' insurance and registration. Not good enough. We needed a permit.

"Fine. How do we get one?"

"You can't—you should have done that before. You'll have to pay a penalty now."

"OK. How much is the penalty?"

"I can't tell you that—that's the responsibility of another department to arrange."

"OK. Who are they and how do we contact them and get the penalty paid?"

"You can't. Their office is closed today."


"You have to wait until tomorrow."

"Buuuuhhhh. OK, how can we turn around and go back to the States until we get this sorted out?"

"You can't. We're going to impound the ($400,000) bus, take it to Rosarito, and you can reclaim it tomorrow after you pay the penalty."

I called my people. They called their people. They called the mayor and the state of Baja. Three of that chain of people (including Andy J and Steve H, yay!) came to the border and tried to find a way of getting us through without getting the bus impounded. No dice. Bus-Driver Ron, I know you definitely didn't want the bus impounded and definitely didn't want it towed due to the risk of damage. I wish there was something else we could have done, but we pulled all of the strings we had.

Here's a shot of the group waiting on the first bus:

Waiting on bus number 1

During the two hours in which all of this negotiation went on, we were simultaneously trying to find alternate transportation. The group had already arranged for Mexican buses to meet them at the camp and take them to their worksite that day. Great! A couple of phone and radio calls later, we had arranged for those buses to come to the border. The group would transfer themselves and their luggage out of the first bus and into the two Mexican buses. By the time the decision had become final regarding the fate of the first bus, we were ready to move.

Another game of sardines

Everyone filed out of the first bus and into the second two buses, parked ¼ mile away. As we walked, we passed by a large group of taxis and their drivers. We shoved everyone and their gear rather tightly into the two buses:

The second set of buses, inside and out

Note Cliff in the back of the bus, giving me the double-thumbs-up signal for "we're on our way!"

Only we weren't. The two bus drivers were talking to each other about something. One of the group members walked back to the bus I was in and said something about a taxi blocking our exit. It didn't seem like much of a problem; it would move soon and we would head to camp.

However, the taxi was deliberately blocking our exit. All of the taxi drivers we had passed were upset that all of this potential revenue was passing them by and getting on a couple of buses, when they should be getting into small yellow taxis instead (like all of the other nice tourists). The real kicker was that, apparently, the buses we had just climbed onto didn't have the proper permits to pick up passengers downtown. The taxi-drivers union called the city police.

Victor and the taxi drivers

Victor, the policeman in the photo, was a really nice guy who spoke very good English (better than my Spanish). Actually, all of the policemen were very helpful, and were very patient with the language issues in both directions. The taxi drivers were not so patient; I was threatened by one before the cops arrived. They're in the yellow shirts in the picture; the spokesman is in the brown shirt with the sunglasses. Notice there are three other traffic cops in this picture alone.

After a dozen traffic cops showed up, the taxi drivers kinda faded into the background. The police were very helpful, having good news and bad news. The bad news: the second set of buses which we had just boarded was now going to be impounded and taken away, since they had operated illegally in loading us there! One bus didn't even have a license plate. The good news: two city buses, which did have permission to load and unload there, were coming to pick us up and take us to camp, and they would do so free of charge. Thank you, city of Tijuana! We don't know what the first Mexican bus company would have charged the group for the border run, but as Victor put it, "God works in mysterious ways".

Musical cars

The third set of buses now showed up, and the group once again unloaded and reloaded their baggage. I got on the lead bus, driven by Octavio, a city bus driver. I should have got a picture of his bus bling, flashing blue lights, etc. The musc was fun.

Octavio and his bus

I was the only person among police, bus drivers, and our participants who actually knew the way to camp. We took off, a police car in front, the two new buses, and another police car in the rear. After about a mile, the first police car left us. We drove through Tijuana, took the free road toward Tecate, and then turned off toward El Niño, the last community before our camp. On the way, a SWAT team (which I mention purely to increase the PHC, or Policeman Head Count) passed us in a police pickup truck, M-16's at the ready. Then we passed an auto accident, with a police motorcycle and sedan attending.

Before we left, our police escort had asked me to stop the buses once we got to El Niño. Once there, as arranged, the police car which was in back took the lead, with me in the backseat. Not sure why they wanted that. But we made it to camp just fine. Here's a pic of the lead bus, which I took from the back seat of the cop car.

Pic of Mexican bus from back seat of Tijuana traffic cop car

I had a fun chat with the two policemen, Luis and Isais. Their English was about as good as my Spanish. They commented on my Mexican accent (which means it was better than my vocabulary, I suppose ;) ). I showed Luis my new camera. Cool dudes. Here's a pic of each of them—Isais is the one in the car, on the radio:

Luis and Isais

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho

It was 2:15 by the time we got to camp. Earlier, I had tried to arrange it so that a fourth set of buses would be waiting at camp, to take the group to their worksites. But somehow it got miscommunicated. Given the choice of waiting an hour (or more) for more buses, or just taking a skeleton crew to the worksites in the vans, they opted for the latter. Of course, it took an hour to coordinate. ;)

Haven't had enough police in the story yet? Here's some running alongside the road on our way to the worksites. They were probably cadets.

Mexican police running on the road

We arrived at the worksites, met our staff, and moved some tools around. When Ryan and I left, it was about 4:30. One last police incident: on the way to the border, we were driving down a divided highway, two lanes in each direction. We were in the left lane. In front of us, a dog ran out onto the road; Ryan slowed down to give him time to reconsider. He did, turned around, and ran back onto the median. His buddy, the collie, wasn't that smart. Ryan had to stop to avoid hitting him, but he just kept crossing. The motorcycle cop on our right didn't stop. Bonk! I thought for sure the dog would've lost a leg, but he yelped, rolled over a couple of times, and ran off the road. Amazing that the cop didn't spill the bike. He drove on, we caught up to him, and he laughed as we exchanged surprised looks and the international signal for "Whew! That was a close one!" I wish I had a good picture of him (heck, I wish I had been taking video) but here he is in the distance afterward. We passed him later when he stopped at a gas station to check his tires.

Motorcycle cop who clipped the dog

Ryan said, "this was supposed to be an easy day". Hope everyone concerned has a better one tomorrow. Personally, I'm going to try to stay in the San Diego office and not see a single policeman all day. That'll be enough.

Permalink 09:10:42 pm, by fumanchu Email , 0 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Photography

The new Ford Adobe

A mud-covered car


Permalink 07:04:25 pm, by fumanchu Email , 7 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Photography


This is the new Rancho (Tijuana) camp

Panoramic of the new Rancho (Tijuana) camp

Permalink 01:20:30 pm, by fumanchu Email , 42 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Photography


panoramic of a bunch of houses being built

Each arrow points to a house being built at the same time last week in Juarez. There are probably more that I can't make out from the original photos.

I stitched three photos together, by the way, to make the one image.


Permalink 02:11:21 pm, by fumanchu Email , 80 words   English (US)
Categories: General


I just spent a week working in the field in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. As you can see from the photos, we had wind and dust for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Steve Horrex took some nicer pics which Ali posted—all I can say is that he must have spent more time in a camera-friendly environment (with windows and a steering wheel ;) ) than I did.

windy dusty worksite

windy dusty roads

windy dusty camp

Permalink 01:41:14 pm, by fumanchu Email , 32 words   English (US)
Categories: General

Rafter madness

Daily D'oh! Don't cut your rafters to 11 feet if the house plans say 11-foot-9. You'll have to nail a little outrigger onto each one, as in this photo (outriggers highlighted in red).

Rafter extensions


Permalink 08:09:25 am, by fumanchu Email , 6 words   English (US)
Categories: General

Put down the toy and back away

What is the world coming to?


Permalink 08:29:12 am, by fumanchu Email , 57 words   English (US)
Categories: General

And I thought *I* was audacious


I mean, wow. It's bad enough when you write down the wrong reference (1 Cor 9:22 should probably be :20-21, which is what they almost paraphrased), but when your paraphrase adds words to the text to make your point—shudder.


Permalink 10:16:55 am, by fumanchu Email , 109 words   English (US)
Categories: General

What bloggers would like from their audience


From Dave Pollard via James Governor:

On the subject of blog commentary Dave offers these helpful ideas for what bloggers would like from their audience:

  1. constructive criticism, reaction, feedback
  2. 'thank you' comments, and why readers liked their post
  3. requests for future posts on specific subjects
  4. foundation articles: posts that writers can build on, on their own blogs
  5. reading lists/aggregations of material on specific, leading-edge subjects that writers can use as resource material
  6. wonderful examples of writing of a particular genre, that they can learn from
  7. comments that engender lively discussion
  8. guidance on how to write in the strange world of weblogs

I would only add--"especially new bloggers" :)

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