Monday, July 24, 2017

Cyber Outages - The Death of Expertise: Path to the Soul

What exactly do philosophers do?  They write lines like these:

“There is nothing ordinary about anything.” 
“The process of disturbing the mind is the mind.” 

“The desire to love is stronger than the desire to be loved.” 

A history of the federal government and cloud computing

Spain’s ‘secret credit card banker’ Blesa found shot dead BBC

John Smyth (University of Huddersfield), The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology (2017)

We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.

Complement the immensely grounding and elevating When Things Fall Apart with Camus on strength of character in times of trouble, Erich Fromm on what self-love really means, and Nietzsche on why a fulfilling life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty, then revisit Chödrön on the art of letting go.
World is peppered with exceedingly wise or incredibly foolish lines written by philosophers ...

Golem – a peer to peer, decentralised supercomputer
Futures Centre, 6/6/17. The Golem project is in the process of creating a ‘global, open sourced, decentralised supercomputer that anyone can access’. It’s a network that aims to combine the power of users’ machines, ranging from humble laptops to entire datacentres. Spare computing capacity is rented out for use by individual users - a sort of Airbnb for computers - and can be used in aggregate to run almost any kind of programme.

Author Who Died This Year Wins Library Of Congress’s Prize For American Fiction

Denis Johnson, author of the story collection Jesus’ Sonand the National Book Award-winning novel Tree of Smoke, did live long enough to learn that he won the prize: he was notified in March and passed away in May at age 67. 

CHANGE: Having an Affair Is Going Out of Style: The boomers are the sexual libertines. Younger people are more into monogamy.. On the one hand, that’s good. On the other hand, I’m slightly concerned that it has less to do with evolving morality, and more to do with declining libido

On the gripping hand, maybe — and I speak from experience here — it’s about seeing their parents’ generation up close and concluding that all those affairs didn’t seem to make them happier, and did a lot of collateral damage.

 China’s navy expands reach: Ships in Baltic for drills with Russia CNN

Presidents v. Generals Andrew Bacevich, LRB
* * *
Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation WaPo. Reading the body of the article, “Russia investigation” seems a bit of a misnomer.
Trump Aides, Seeking Leverage, Investigate Mueller’s Investigators NYT. Reading the body of the article, big shake-up on Trump’s legal team.
Something to look forward to:
Trump’s Self-Pardon? Seriously? The American Conservative
Trump Turns on Jeff Sessions The National Interest
Louise Mensch’s Destructive Fantasies Charles Cook, The National Review


Review: The Death of Expertise. A new book expresses concern that the average American has base knowledge so low that it is now plummeting to “aggressively wrong”



An extraordinary Chinese-Tibetan film (with English subtitles, even in Kunming), here is one description in the film *Paths to the Soul*:
A birth, a death, a pilgrimage. A film about the 1,200-mile journey of a pregnant woman, a butcher who wants to atone for his sins and a rag-tag band of villagers who go on foot from their small village in Tibet to the sacred Mt. Kailash has become a surprise winner at the Chinese box office
It is doing better here per screen than Transformers 5 (or is that 6?).  Here is more about the plot premise;
They travel wearing thick aprons made of yak hide and wooden planks tied to their palms. Every few feet, they raise their hands high above their heads in respect for the Buddha, then lower their worshipping hands to their forehead and then to their chest before diving into the ground, touching the earth with their foreheads. To an outsider, the ritual looks like bodysurfing on solid ground. While they chant a simple mantra, devotees lie flat on their stomachs with their hands bent at their elbows, pointing toward the heavens in a sign of prayer. Then they stand up and repeat these steps as the summer’s scorching asphalt roads turn into slippery ice-covered tracks in the winter.
It turns out this is a real thing, s they say back in The Great NJ, and they keep it up for 1200 km over the course of a year (really).  Strapped babies and small children partake as well.  And this isn’t a pure outlier, as my Yunnanese friend Jimi tells me he has seen it many times in Tibet on the open road.
You may think it all sounds silly, but by the end of the film you realize that what you are doing with your own life isn’t actually so different and is perhaps in some ways less valuable.
I’m calling this one as one of the two or three best movies of the year, or indeed of any year.  Highly recommended on the big screen, though here you can find it on Amazon.  It goes without saying that the film is full of social science.

A new hub to strengthen qualitative research has launched at UNSW, opening its workshops and seminars to researchers from all over Australia and overseas.

Meet the ‘cranky country publisher’ who files lawsuits instead of tweets

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Specter of John Hatton's Ideas at Federal Level

In NSW Parliament, Nick Greiner called it ''the most fundamental constitutional change in our history''.

Malcolm Turnbull backs Bill Shorten's call to introduce four-year fixed terms of parliament

FIXED-TERM parliaments exist in NSW because of a once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances
Fixed terms legacy of  reformists - John Hatton, Peter Macdonald and Clover Moore

A Dozen Lessons on Investing from Ed Thorp 25iq (viaFelix Salmon). “The first thing people who have control do is tilt the playing field. Maybe the majority of wealth is accumulated because of tilted playing fields. Not because of merit.”
Subversion of Social Movements by Adversarial Agents(PDF) International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence. “Regardless of size, one fact about social movements is unchanging: their physical embodiment is always local. That is, social movements are the sum of the actions of individuals who are themselves in only one place—omnipresence is something that exists only in fantasy movies.”

"Basic steps needed to rid this state of corruption" by John Hatton AO 

WHEN I announced my candidacy for the upper house at the state election in March, I said: "NSW is a corrupt state." That statement went unchallenged. The frightening reality is that there is a general acceptance that corruption is rife.
The police royal commission, which I helped set in motion, revealed endemic corruption, and 380 officers were charged, sacked or resigned. Crime was facilitated, appointment and promotion of police was fixed at the highest levels. Now corruption has moved into other institutions.
The public service is riddled with political appointees, who can be sacked and replaced without notice or reason. Yes Minister is rife. MPs emerge from a narrow, factionally based and ruthless, centralised preselection system. With less membership than a regional CWA, the NSW Labor Party controls the Parliament, the public service and state resources.
Parliament is merely a tool of the executive, a stage on which they can lie, spin, cheat, cover up, do favours for donors and the well-connected. The public service is a ''political party'' service; economic management is economic mismanagement. Crown land, public assets and heritage have become marketable products. Sale, lease and use rights of real estate feed the corrupt practices, along with flawed processes in planning, tendering, contracting and procurement.
In November I called for a royal commission on corruption of the NSW planning system. Though I'm 15 years retired, and have an unlisted phone number, that was no barrier to the expressions of anger, frustration and outrage about the loss of heritage, trashing of scenic areas, destruction of small business, CBDs and neighbourhoods that poured out.

There is no effective alternative for voters in the main parties. The pursuit of narrow agendas of the Liberal religious right, the misnamed National Party and the mafia-like and ruthless Labor Right do not augur well for the future of government of this state.

NSW is a state without vision, without direction, and closed to the wider public interest and those without money, connection or influence. Major shopping complexes are given exclusive rezoning away from city centres and enjoy instant capital gain and overwhelming market share. Captive small business tenants are locked into repressive leases. Ugly boxes of units create Lego environments, and without transport and adequate services they become social nightmares.
In my experience, political parties seek power, not change. In 22 years as an MP, I saw the Liberal premiers Robert Askin, Tom Lewis, Eric Willis, Nick Greiner and John Fahey and Labor premiers Neville Wran, Barrie Unsworth and Bob Carr. The more recent merry-go-round followed.

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Arguably the best administrators were Wran and Greiner, but none facilitated an independent, professional public service, an open, accountable democratic parliament and a truly competitive level playing field for tendering and in planning.
Between 1991 and 1995, Clover Moore, Peter Macdonald and I held the balance of power. Fixed four-year term, constitutional independence of the judiciary, improved parliamentary procedures, changes to laws on defamation, freedom of information and other changes were achieved in a charter of reform. Greiner as premier and Carr as opposition leader were signatories. In the ensuing election with a Labor majority, Carr trashed the agreement.
The lesson is to enshrine in the state constitution the independence of the public service, the right of free speech, and the right of the opposition to free access to the public service at the highest levels. I have been working with the retired NSW auditor-general Tony Harris, and developed a plan to strengthen institutions. These aim to make the government system corruption-proof.
First, establish a Public Service Commission, answerable to the upper house, where the government traditionally is not in control. The commission would be free to appoint public servants on merit.
Second, compel key public servants to be personally responsible for efficiency, openness and accountability, and enshrine protections against their improper influence.
Third, make bipartisan appointments on merit to significant offices, like the Chief Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Police Commissioner and public service commissioners, to ensure impartiality as public watchdogs. Public examination of applicants by a bipartisan parliamentary committee (as in the US) is controversial, yet sound.
Fourth, the right of free speech should be enshrined in defamation law reform with a ''public figure'' test, and an emphasis on apology, the public interest and balance. Openness, accountability, freedom of speech and decentralisation of power all severely restrict the opportunity for corruption.
The upper house must play an active role in making structural change happen. Sound management will engender certainty and a level playing field where ethical, competitive business practice can thrive. Reduction in waste coming from sound management will mean stronger services in health, education and public transport.
Independents in both houses of parliament, free to vote on issues as they see fit but united on bedrock principles of honesty, openness, accountability and high standards of personal behaviour, are the answer. They can forge reform hinging on proper process in government, and not on vote-buying lollies for the electorate or promises of personal advancement.

As Good as Gone: All tip, no Bondi iceberg

Don’t worry. You may think you’ll never get over it. But you also thought it would last forever...  

What a glorious sunny Sunday brunch the saladka and pirozky even impressed the Stecwaf ...

Francis Spufford, True Stories & Other Essays.  I have browsed this only selectively, but the essay on C.S. Lewis and the dangers of apologetics is superb.  He quotes Lewis:

…nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of an apologist.  No doctrine of the Faith seems to me as spectral, so unreal as the one that I have just described in a public debate.  For a moment, you see it, it has seemed to rest on oneself; as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar…

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Resigns

Trump Says He Has 'Complete Power' to Pardon

Average Americans Can No Longer Afford Average New Cars Gas2

An alarming number of Americans are worse off than their parents and we’re not talking about it enough Business Insider

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about empowering people, not the rise of the machines World Economic Forum. Seems legit.

I also can recommend Spufford’s essay on what science fiction call tell us about God, and on Francis Bacon and the idolatry of the market.  I look forward to the rest

Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism, by Naoki Higashida, is a good autism memoir from Japan.

Indiana Jones v. Hobby Lobby. JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the court. [Held] As applied to closely held corporations, regulations prohibiting the purchase of stolen antiquities violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which clearly states the Christian companies like Hobby Lobby can indirectly fund ISIS should the black market or stolen artifacts have relevance to their deeply held beliefs. Petitioners' claim that it belongs in a museum is denied. [NBC News]

Penn State football is being counter-sued by a coach who claims that there were "intolerable" working conditions. I know nothing about the veracity of the coach's claims, but I'm pretty sure they could have forced him to diagram plays in his own blood and that wouldn't make the top ten "intolerable things that have happened in the Penn State locker room." [Deadspin]


What will the future workplace look like by 2036?
Futures Centre, 21/6/17. We created scenarios to specifically to explore how global trends may change our world and our workplaces in 2036. We conducted extensive research and interviews with experts on workplace trends around the world, and also created a timeline for each scenario, showing the pathway from 2017 to each of the four future worlds, using ‘signals of change’: innovations and glimpses of the future that are here today.

Denmark’s happy workforce highlights work-life balance
Raconteur, 29/6/17. The Danes consistently rank as one of the world’s happiest workforces, but what makes this country unique?

From Research to Results: The Substance Behind Smart Cities
GovTech, 12/7/17. A recent study concluded that the more participants used smart city services, the higher quality of life they achieved. The authors suggest that governments develop a “smartness blueprint” that outlines scopes, goals, and stages of development in order to ensure that the diverse set of ICT providers work harmoniously 

Smarter Cities? That means smarter infrastructure
Deloitte, 6/7/17. This years’ AFR National Infrastructure Summit in association with Deloitte focused on driving growth through smarter, more efficient cities, and drew some 300 of the nation’s top investors, planners, contractors, advisers and policy-makers from around the country.

Death is one thing everyone has in common. Of course, we are all going to inevitably face death ... Who would ever want to live forever and ever?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Food Glorious Food Maria Imrichova Tree lover Jozo

Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.
 ~Big Goff

There are a lot of good reasons to retire early from journalism. Traveling the country might be the best.

Black pudding, chipped beef on toast, jellied bouillon salad, protein powder stirred into diet orange soda: “Every life has a food story, and every food story is unique”... Maria Imrichova 

Lidka's cooking brought back memories of mamas pirozky at the big Milestone of my brother From another Mother ... 

From a kitchen in Tato's Pilhov you could spy the ways trees dotted the landscape in a random pattern, save for the seven apple trees in the mid distance which, by happenstance, formed a circle.

Tree Identification Field Guide (this app has a small fee): “Our illustrated, step-by-step process makes it easy to identify a tree simply by the kinds of leaves it produces. Begin identifying your tree by choosing the appropriate region…”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about empowering people, not the rise of the machines World Economic Forum

Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.

If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.  When Things Fall Apart: Tibetan Buddhist Nun and Teacher Pema Chödrön on Transformation Through Difficult Times

Years  before Vladimir Nabokov proclaimed that “there is no science without fancy, and no art without facts,”marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964) arrived at the immensely fertile intersection of science and wonder, through which she would later catalyze the modern environmental movementwith her groundbreaking 1962 book Silent Spring.

Uncertainty is interwoven into human existence. It is a powerful incentive in the search for knowledge and an inherent component of scientific research. We have developed many ways of coping with uncertainty. We make promises, manage risks and make predictions to try to clear the mists and predict ahead. But the future is inherently uncertain - and the mist that shrouds our path an inherent part of our journey. The burning question is whether our societies can face up to   


The updated ‘Bloomberg Way’ style guide focuses on best practices for data and multiplatform journalism

Enterprise Knowledge

How to choose an approach that resolves conflict

Community groups call for greater freedom to speak out
Australian governments must act now to safeguard and encourage vibrant debate on matters of public interest, 15 non-government organisations have said in a new report
Defending Democracy, to be released today (05 July 2017). More...

Mosaic tables gallery Sydney Opera House mosaic table for outdoors
Sydney Opera House table