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Passages on Life

Two of My Favorite Passages, from Steve Jobs and Richard Feynman

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STEVE JOBS

"When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life.

Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

 

 

 

 

RICHARD FEYNMAN

"I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree, I think. And he says - “you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.”

And I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too …

At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter; there is also a beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structures. Also the processes, the fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting - it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows that the science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

 

A Tribute to Eli

 

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Eli Goldratt, the author of many books and the founder of The Theory of Constraints, passed away Saturday, June 11, 2011.  Several of his books include:

 

 

What is this thing called The Theory of Constraints?

 

A general theme to the progression of the books might be:  "What is this thing called The Theory of Constraints" to "Here's how to implement this thing called The Theory of Constraints".  He was working on a new book, I think titled The Science of ManagementHere is an introduction to it on YouTube:

 

 

 

A working sub-title, to me, might be, "With knowledge and understanding both of what TOC is and how to implement it, what causes a manager not to act?"  You know the right thing to do - but don't do it?  Why not? 

There's a dilemma here, of course:  change / don't change.  It's a timeless dilemma, not just for business but for our personal lives as well!  A conflict diagram specific to our discussion here of TOC might look as follows:

 

 

 

I didn’t like this initial explanation.  In this video, he describes a situation fundamental to his first book, The Goal:  process time wasted on a non-bottleneck resource, and then added:

 

“If the situation is really so grotesque and it is so widespread, it must stem from some fundamental human behavior.”

 

He continued.  “In the next chapters a rigorous proof will be presented to establish that it all stems from the following:

 

1. Our fear of complex systems that drives us to dissect the complex systems into sub-systems, leading to diverting management attention to chase local optima, which are not in line with the global objectives;

2.  Our fear of the unknown that drives us to finer and fine resolutions – diving into more and more details that divert management attention to optimize within noise;

3. Our fear that conflicts will lead to a tug-of-war that diverts management attention to constantly struggle with unacceptable compromises.

 

He concluded:  "This analysis will connect, through the common causes, seemingly unrelated subjects like strategy, accounting, supply chain, product development, sales and organizational behavior, shedding new light on the surprisingly (realistic) potential for improving organizational performance."

I had no doubt he could do it.  After all, with cause-effect logic, one doesn't have to take one's word for anything.  Is the evidence there?  Is the reasoning sound?

No.  That wasn't it.

It was his omnipresent use of the word "Fear".

The word sounded insulting to me.  The implications too great.  Who would believe, even if the logic sound, the conclusion "Fear" applied to them?

And was it even true "our fear of complex systems drives us to dissect them?"  Maybe it's just sheer ignorance, I thought, that is responsible for wrong behavior.  He's got it wrong!  And even if he's got it right, the word itself will drive people to put the book down before even reading of the logic behind the conjecture!

But there it was, that word:  Fear.  A crucial part of the introduction to a new book!

Why?

The words of Ayn Rand came to mind:

 

"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises ... You'll find one of them is wrong".

 

What was wrong?  What was I missing?

 

Let's verbalize my thoughts.  Why was I so sure of myself?  What was the connection I was implying behind the statement:  "Ignorance is responsible for manager's dissecting complex systems into sub-systems."  It was this:

 

 If there's ignorance (lack of knowledge) regarding complex systems,

then managers dissect complex systems into sub-systems. Visually, we have:

 

 

 

This is a reasonable connection, to me.  But let's not stop there.  If this is a reasonable cause to explain the known effect, then what else can I expect to see - in reality? 

 

If it's the case "Managers are not knowledgeable of complex systems",

then, in reality, I'd expect "There is a scarcity of information on complex systems, complexity, etc."  That is:

 

 

 

A side-note is necessary, here.  I like the nomenclature of E-C-E logic, but it's easy to confuse the implications of cause-effect logic here.  What's clearly said is IF the above is the case, THEN the prediction should be seen in reality.  Is it?  We go look.  I think more general - and appropriate - terminology is calling this structure "then-if-then" logic, which I like better as it's more general.  Moreover, I've called for the complete abandonment of "The Categories of Legitimate Reservation" as unnecessarily complicating a system (see below) when our goal is to simplify.  Always ... SIMPLIFY!  REVEAL THE INHERENT SIMPLICITY!  One of the maxims of TOC!

Time in.

Is the above diagram true?  Of course not.  It once was the case there was a scarcity of information on complex systems, complexity, etc.  When The Goal came out in 1984, this was the case.  The sciences of Complexity, of Chaos Theory, etc., were new.  But now?  Information on the behavior of systems is so widespread it's become a cliché to use the words "Complex Systems"!

 

 

 

Obviously, my assumption was wrong.

Let's try to right our reasoning.  Where might the book be going?  A hunch: rather than my initial assumption people are not knowledgeable of complex systems, Eli will assert people have immense knowledge of such systems!

But if people are knowledgeable of such systems behavior, why would they still dissect complex systems into  sub-systems? 

Fear?

Not only will he claim it, I suspect, he will show it, as well as showing it the underlying cause of the other two elements above.

MOREOVER, he will - likely - address the chronic conflict of change / don't change that paralyzes many - not just in business but in life as well. 

ADDITIONALLY, he will then verbalize the assumptions underlying such a dilemma to work out one's way - rationally - out of the conflict!

I think.

 

At this point, you may be wondering why I've started a tribute with first a disagreement on what an upcoming book might cover, to understanding, to agreeing, to predicting the layout of the book!  For one reason:  such understanding / discovery is all TOC, to me.

Verbalization.  Connections.  Predictions.  Logic.  Reasoning.  This is TOC, to me!  Of course, TOC is this - and a lot more. 

So in this little exercise lies, to me, the essence of "What is this thing called Theory of Constraints", the title of my second favorite Eli book (behind The Goal). 

Is TOC a management systems based on constraint management?  Yes.  Of finding the core problem linking undesirable effects?  Yes.  And there are several equally valid descriptions of TOC.  But this is not the essence of TOC, to me.  A first pass might be:

1. verbalize everything;

2. effect-cause-effect logic.

 

I like that, but even this sounds a little abstract.  Additionally, "E-C-E" logic doesn't capture the essence of the thinking involved in TOC analysis.  Cause-Effect?  Maybe.  If-then?  Closer.  Validity?  Maybe.  Consistency?  I think this is closer still, but still lacking something.

All of these capture, to a certain degree, what I'm aiming at.  However, separately, they miss something.  What is a unifying thought behind them all?  Integration!

A summary, therefore:

 

THE THEORY OF CONSTRAINTS IS A SYSTEM OF PROCESS IMPROVEMENT BASED ON IDENTIFICATION AND INTEGRATION.

 

 

Yes, I like this.  To me, everything regarding TOC are mere applications of this idea.  And having verbalized TOC as such, a passage from Atlas Shrugged came to mind:

 

"All thinking is a process of identification and integration. Man perceives a blob of color; by integrating the evidence of his sight and his touch, he learns to identify it as a solid object; he learns to identify the object as a table; he learns that the table is made of wood; he learns that the wood consists of cells, that the cells consist of molecules, that the molecules consist of atoms. All through this process, the work of his mind consists of answers to a single question: What is it? His means to establish the truth of his answers is logic, and logic rests on the axiom that existence exists. Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality."

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand

 

 

 

A STATUS REPORT

A "Tribute Summary"

 

Putting these two thoughts together, I like what I get ...

 

 

 

 

ELI'S WORDS

"I smile and start to count on my fingersOne, people are good. Two, every conflict can be removed. Three, every situation, no matter how complex it initially looks, is exceedingly simple. Four, every situation can be substantially improved; even the sky is not the limit. Five, every person can reach a full life. Six, there is always a win-win solution. Shall I continue to count?"

 

 

Your smile remains with me, my friend, but no, there is no reason to continue to count.  Well done.

 

 

 

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF LOGICAL GIANTS

PART I

 

And Seeing A Common Problem

 

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MY STORY

In 1992, I saw on a table in my brother's family room a copy of "The Goal".  Having just read "Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment", I recognized "Jeff Cox".  I knew nothing of either Eli Goldratt or the Theory of Constraints.

Like most people, I could not put it down.  Unbelievable.  This was a business philosophy that seemed consistent with other philosophies of living and working I was familiar with: Ayn Rand and philosophy, W. Edwards Deming and Quality, and Maria Montessori and Education:

 

 

This was also a period in my life where I sought all sorts of certifications.  Marksman with the NRA, CPR, carpenter (not achieved!), programming.  You name it, if it included a certificate and it was of interest to me, I wanted it.  Call it my "intellectual yondering days" (to borrow from Louis L'amour).

Such a program was available from The Goldratt Institute.  Passing the curriculum entitled one to be called a "Jonah" (after the philosophical character from The Goal).  Perfect.  I wanted it.

But there was a problem.  It would cost $10,000, and take two weeks in New Haven, Connecticut.

Trying to get TOC as a business philosophy implemented at my former employer, I worked with a TOC-consultant from Oklahoma.  No go.  I couldn't go to the Jonah program.  I couldn't bring the Jonah program to Kansas City.  All seemed lost.

"It's Not Luck" came out in 1994, and brought with it the visual nature of "if-then" and the current-reality-tree.  These quickly became my way of thinking - then and now.

But no certificate.

And then a book appeared.  It was about 1995.  I've got my copy somewhere in a box in the basement.  It was a soft-cover book, I took apart and put into a spiral notebook.  It was by William Dettmer and it was, to me, Jonah training for $25!  Unbelievable!

I made up a beautiful display of the Logical Thinking Processes - the "Categories of Legitimate Reservation" - and carried it everywhere.  Why I retitled it "Understanding" versus the conventional "Reservation" I don't know.

 

 

Dettmer's book actually laid out in a structured format what these "if-then" rules actually were!  Additionally, the book provided a "self-scrutiny checklist" for each of the reservations, which I tore from the binder and carried with me!

 

CATEGORIES OF LEGITIMATE RESERVATION

Self-Scrutiny Checklist

 

1. Clarity: (seeking to understand)

Would I add any verbal explanation if reading the tree to someone else?

Is the meaning / context of words unambiguous?

Is the connection between cause and effect convincing "at face value"?

Are intermediate steps missing?

 

2. Entity Existence (complete, properly structured, valid statements of cause, effect)

Is it a complete sentence?

Does it make sense?

Is it free of "if-then" statements (Look for "...because", "...in order to...")

Does it convey only one idea? (i.e., not compound entity)

Does it exist in my reality?

 

3. Causality Existence (logical connection between cause and effect)

Does an "if-then" connection really exist, as written?

Does the cause, in fact, result in the effect?

Does it make sense when read aloud exactly as written?

Is the cause intangible?  (If so, look for an additional predicted effect).

 

Part of Figure 2.2

William Dettmer ... 1993

 

 

A "Jonah-equivalent-certificate" was mine, with these powerful thinking processes revealed.

 

 

HOWEVER ...

But I started to notice something.  On discussion forums, when these tools were used, they didn't advance the discussion.  Instead, they themselves became the focus of the discussion!  And personally, though using visual if-then reasoning in absolutely everything I did, I found I wasn't using them at all!  What had happened?

 

 

 

 

What was going on?  What is the "hidden assumption blocking effective use of these thinking processes"?  And what are the wider implications for revealing this devastating roadblock to implementation?

 

 

 

 

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF LOGICAL GIANTS

PART II

 

And Seeing A Common Problem

 

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Education:  A Quick Review

How are things currently taught in school?  Let's look at biology and math and see what we can infer ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

How's It Working For Us

When we look at the history of math education in particular, but many other disciplines as well, how many stir the minds of the youth?  From English and its reliance on different rhetorical devices to Physics and Chemistry and many terms, the branch isn't confined to sciences, but the outcome is:  awful.  To paraphrase Eli above:  

 

"If the situation is really so grotesque and it is so widespread, it must stem from some fundamental [assumption]."

 

Here it is - I think.  Under the pretense of making things easier, just the opposite has happened.  And in the process, the authentic application of the basic principles to the world around us is lost.

 

 

 

 

AN EXTRAORDINARY OPPORTUNITY

"Even the Sky is Not the Limit"

To be continued ...

 

 

 

 

IN SEARCH OF THE METAPHYSICS OF QUALITY

 

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The Mandelbrot Set is a remarkable discovery.  I've played with applications, watched countless videos, and read many books, some by Benoit Mandelbrot himself.  Here's a good look at the amazing Mandelbrot Set:

 

 

The great Arthur C. Clarke, in fact, talked in depth about the Mandelbrot Set, and helped with a book / documentary / DVD series called - "The Colours of Infinity" - on the subject:

 

 

Incredibly cool!

To play with the online applications that allow you to effortlessly do neat things is addictive.  Try it yourself.

But then what?

I tried to create this myself, but couldn't even get started!  I bought books showing how to do it, but they were no help. 

So my interest stayed at this level:  very cool.  I think this is the case with most people and the "new math".  It is very cool!  One has a great deal of fun playing with the animations, programs, etc.

But then what?  I was stuck.

I decided to change that.

These were just numbers, after all!  What was I missing?  I employed the spreadsheet to "nail down" parts of the process.  And then what?  And then what?  And a process evolved.  Assumptions in other's programs were verbalized.  And step by step, my Mandelbrot Set emerged!

 

 

Crude, I know, compared to the above videos, but it was mine!  As important, in the process of creating this, I discovered many aspects of the Mandelbrot Set I had not seen before!  And the result was a small booklet.  An excerpt is here:

 

 

 

My key:  once one gets going, the results can really be phenomenal.  A sustained intellectual assault on the problem.  And it is a battle!  Sometimes things go smoothly.  Sometimes you have to fight to understand.  But one is always moving forward, challenged yet at the same time confident.  This, to me, is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "Flow" ..

 

"that state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter."

 

And the battle?

 

"The 'battle' is not really against the self, but against the entropy that brings disorder to consciousness.  It is really a battle for the self; it is a struggle for establishing control over attention."

 

The Problem

How to get to the "state of flow"?  How to "win the battle" for the self? 

What is the key to go from "a cool application" to being able to write a book about the subject, discovering things not previously printed?   

Dynamic quality by itself - and what happens?  You say it's "cool", but never progress in understanding.  In fact, likely the experience will eventually degenerate into "I remember doing something with that", and really don't remember anything at all.  Dynamic Quality with something - ANYTHING - to maintain one's interest deep enough to actually get started in understanding the experience, and you're off and running.

A static latch.  A foothold.

.

 

 

And observe what happens.  This understanding is not merely a one-way street.  Once I have a bit of static quality, I can look more closely and from different perspectives at what's being studied.  This is a cycle - an endless "spiral of understanding" of "joy in learning"!

 

 

 

A Common Objection

An objection often comes to mind: by analyzing nature and reality in this method, do we not take away from the wonder of the moment? Can’t we marvel at the beauty of the rainbow, for example, without breaking it down into scientific analysis?  Richard Feynman, the great physicist, I believe addressed this point wonderfully in “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”:

“I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree, I think. And he says - “you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.” And I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too …

At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter; there is also a beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structures. Also the processes, the fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting - it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows that the science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

 

Problem Solved?

You may think the "flow issue" has been solved.  You see something very neat.  Establish a foothold - a static latch, create some understanding.  This understanding leads you to look deeper.  And so on. 

Maybe.

What about those things that are "not so cool"?  Those things you don't notice at all?  Those things that are absolutely "boring"?  And remember, there are actually an infinite number of things to observe.  Where do we even start?

This is a problem.  Possibly a gumption trap.  A barrier to progress.  Or it was!  But you really have to prove it to yourself to believe this.

A greyhound dog is very interesting - if you look.  I mean really look.  So is a cloud.  A full moon.  A blade of grass.  A Shakespeare play.  Yes - even Shakespeare!

But you have to look!

How do you know if you've looked?  Really looked?  You've created the foothold!  The static latch.

 

And the "spiral of learning" again takes place!

Which leads to an interesting conclusion.  It didn't matter if what I started with was a "cool experience" or not, if it was boring, or I didn't even notice.  Eventually, I can experience the dynamic quality everywhere! 

A "quality transaction"! 

 

 

A story from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance comes to mind regarding this thought process:

One of (his students), a girl with strong-lensed glasses, wanted to write a five-hundred-word essay about the United States. He was used to the sinking feeling that comes from statements like this, and suggested without disparagement that she narrow it down to just Bozeman.

When the paper came due she didn't have it and was quite upset. She had tried and tried but she just couldn't think of anything to say.

He had already discussed her with her previous instructors and they'd confirmed his impressions of her. She was very serious, disciplined and hardworking, but extremely dull. Not a spark of creativity in her anywhere. Her eyes, behind the thick-lensed glasses, were the eyes of a drudge. She wasn't bluffing him, she really couldn't think of anything to say, and was upset by her inability to do as she was told.

It just stumped him. Now he couldn't think of anything to say. A silence occurred, and then a peculiar answer: ``Narrow it down to the main street of Bozeman.'' It was a stroke of insight.

She nodded dutifully and went out. But just before her next class she came back in real distress, tears this time, distress that had obviously been there for a long time. She still couldn't think of anything to say, and couldn't understand why, if she couldn't think of anything about all of Bozeman, she should be able to think of something about just one street.

He was furious. ``You're not looking!'' he said. A memory came back of his own dismissal from the University for having too much to say. For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses. The more you look the more you see. She really wasn't looking and yet somehow didn't understand this.

He told her angrily, ``Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman. The Opera House. Start with the upper left-hand brick.''

Her eyes, behind the thick-lensed glasses, opened wide. She came in the next class with a puzzled look and handed him a five-thousand-word essay on the front of the Opera House on the main street of Bozeman, Montana. ``I sat in the hamburger stand across the street,'' she said, ``and started writing about the first brick, and the second brick, and then by the third brick it all started to come and I couldn't stop. They thought I was crazy, and they kept kidding me, but here it all is. I don't understand it.''

Neither did he, but on long walks through the streets of town he thought about it and concluded she was evidently stopped with the same kind of blockage that had paralyzed him on his first day of teaching. She was blocked because she was trying to repeat, in her writing, things she had already heard, just as on the first day he had tried to repeat things he had already decided to say. She couldn't think of anything to write about Bozeman because she couldn't recall anything she had heard worth repeating. She was strangely unaware that she could look and see freshly for herself, as she wrote, without primary regard for what had been said before. The narrowing down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do some original and direct seeing.

 

 

INDUCTION vs. DEDUCTION

An Unnecessary Division Adding Unnecessary Complication

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The use of "deductive reasoning" is well documented.  Formalized by Aristotle 2500 years ago by way of the syllogism, the classic view of deductive logic can be seen in the following syllogism, moving from a generalization to a particular:

 

 

if I know: "All birds fly";

and if: "The cardinal is a bird";

then I can conclude: "The cardinal is a bird that flies".

 

But how do I know "All birds fly"?  Where did this come from?

 

This "generalization" is the result of "inductive reasoning", we're told.  This proceeds from observing many particulars, and arriving at a general statement.  For example, we view something repeated in reality, valid in the past, present, and the future, and generalize to an abstraction.  For example: inductive logic can be seen in the following syllogism:

 

 

if I know: "The cardinal is a bird that flies";

and if I also know: "The robin is a bird that flies";

then I can conclude: "All birds fly".

 

 

Does this not strike one as rather circular in nature?  To arrive at a valid conclusion deductively, we begin with a generalization.  But where did the generalization come from?  From looking at the particulars and reasoning inductively

Though this seems rather odd to me, fortunately we have reality as our final arbiter regarding the validity of a generalization and a conclusion.  What would a system of "logic as the art of non-contradictory identification" look like, in the visual structure of our thinking processes?  Let's take a look:

 

 

 

But let's not stop there!  Let's get rid of - forever - the unnecessary complication of "induction" and "deduction", and completely unite the two in one singular process.  Not induction nor deduction, but both working together:

 

"con" = "together" + duction = "conduction", a process of integrating induction and deduction! 

 

In addition to removing artificially-created reasoning differences, we have the immense benefit of always being in a position to define our terms, verbalize assumptions and premises, and be clear in the reasoning process.  Further, should an anomaly arise in the reasoning process, one can scan quickly the complete reasoning process to see where the contradiction arises.  Isn't this what thinking is?

 

"All thinking is a process of identification and integration. Man perceives a blob of color; by integrating the evidence of his sight and his touch, he learns to identify it as a solid object; he learns to identify the object as a table; he learns that the table is made of wood; he learns that the wood consists of cells, that the cells consist of molecules, that the molecules consist of atoms. All through this process, the work of his mind consists of answers to a single question: What is it? His means to establish the truth of his answers is logic, and logic rests on the axiom that existence exists. Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality."

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand

 

. . .

We continue the process.  Everything holds fine.  Our general statement "all birds fly" holds.  And then?  The penguin comes along.  A bird that does not fly?  What does this say of our general statement?  In a word:  IT'S NOT TRUE!  It can't be, because we believed something, yet found an example contrary to our belief. 

We correct it.  The penguin once could fly!  Maybe that has some relevance.  Maybe we've described an "incidental characteristic" of "birds" and not the "distinguishing characteristic" that makes a bird a bird!

Which means we go back and clean things up!  We clean them up because we do not want "to evict ourselves from the realm of reality"!

 

 

 

CARPE DIEM

EXPOSURE: Expanding the Idea of Seizing the Moment!

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Yesterday, a friend of mine was talking about the Montessori Method of education.  Today, I saw a Montessori teacher I had not seen for a long time.

Coincidence?  No.  I don't believe in coincidences.

Chance?  No.  It's neither coincidence nor chance.  Nor is it divine intervention.

It's something much more tangible, I believe, with much more relevance!

 

But enough theoretical talk for a moment.  I'd like to talk about the most tangible thing on earth - besides the earth:  The Great Pyramids of Egypt:

 

 

Their magnificence is matched only by their intrigue.  How were they built?  I've never bought any of the theories on their construction.  Take the "ramp" idea:

 

 

Ridiculous.  I've never believed this was plausible.  Which isn't to say I ever had anything to offer by way of alternative theories.  I didn't.

 

Time out for a moment.

 

We all know the story of Einstein and relativity.  Less-known is Eratosthenes, the man who "measured the earth" (among other things).  What do these two have in common?

Einstein worked in the patent office.

Eratosthenes worked in the Great Library at Alexandria.

 

 

 

Exposure.

 

Time in.

 

A while back, I wrote a brief article on the marvelous ASB bridge in Kansas City, a vertical-lift bridge spanning the Missouri:

 

 

The counter-weights descend, pulling the lower span up.  Think about that - several times.  And now think of how the Great Pyramids might have been constructed.

Now consider how ridiculous it would be for me to say, "What a coincidence: I saw this bridge, and then happened upon a picture of the Great Pyramids."  Nonsense.  It's nonsense to call it chance.  It's nonsense to call it 'divine intervention'.  IT'S NONE OF THESE!

Exposure to ideas allowed me to see opportunities. 

But how does one get "exposure to ideas"?  How does one "Seize the Moment"?  Does mere "exposure to ideas" ensure one "sees opportunities"?  Of course not.  There has to be some mechanism ensuring the idea sticks.

And that's what the Logicionary is all about:  these two elements:

 

exposure - to ideas

stickiness - by way of logical and visual organization of ideas

 

 

"Carpe Diem (seize the day)

--- make your lives extraordinary"

 

 

THE JOY OF RANDOM RESEARCH

 

"Being Honest With Oneself"

 

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Random Research

 

"Being Honest With Oneself"

 

I've been interested in railroads for some time, buying every book and DVD I can find. 

One book I found was titled "Ralph of the Roundhouse", by Allen Chapman.  I bought it instantly, of course, and a couple others written by Chapman: "The Radio Boys: Trailing a Voice", and "The Radio Boys at Ocean Point".

The other day, I looked at these on my shelf and wondered:  Who was Allen Chapman?  These books were written nearly 100 years ago!

There is no Allen Chapman.

There is the Stratemeyer Syndicate, who using hundreds of authors, had collective pseudonyms to write these books.

And many others, including:

Hardy Boys

Nancy Drew.

Written and published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

Who was Stratemeyer, and why did he do this?

"Edward Stratemeyer's business acumen was in realizing that there was a huge, untapped market for children's books. At a time when most children's books were aimed at moral instruction, the Stratemeyer Syndicate specialized in producing books that were meant primarily to be entertaining. In Stratemeyer's view, it was not the promise of sex or violence that made such reading attractive to children; it was the thrill of feeling grown-up and the desire for a series of stories.

This desire for a series of stories could, Stratemeyer believed, be harnessed for profit. In founding the Stratemeyer Syndicate, Edward Stratemeyer aimed to produce books in an efficient, assembly-line fashion and to write them in such a way as to maximize their popularity."

(wikipedia)

 

Amazing.

I didn't know any of this.

Paging through the opening of the book, I noted the preface was written by a guy named Jack Binns.

I noted it because he signed the book I had:

 

 

Who is this guy, I thought?

And here is another remarkable story.

The Steamship Republic was sailing for Liverpool from New York.  It was January 23, 1909.  One-hundred years ago this year.  In heavy fog, it was broad-sided by the Florida, returning from Italy with survivors from an earthquake.  50 miles outside Nantucket.

The Republic was sinking.

Fortunately, the Marconi wireless was onboard.  The operator:

Jack Binns.

 

CQD!  CQD!  "SOS" the . . .  - - -  . . ." was not yet established universally as the distress signal, so "CQD" went out.  "CQ" had, for some time, been the common means of making a common call.  "CQ" was the English pronunciation of the French word "sécurité", the "D" added for "PAY ATTENTION:  DISTRESS".

It was the first wireless transmission rescue in history.  And it's a heroic story.  Of Binns.  Of the crew, transporting passengers to first the Florida, and then everybody from the Florida to the arriving Baltic.

A phenomenal write-up of the story is here:

http://earlyradiohistory.us/CQD.htm

 

Where am I going with all this?  Here are some thoughts:

Marconi / wireless radio transmission

How did wireless work then - and now?

Patent disputes between Marconi / Tesla

How does the patent system work?

The finding of the Republic

World monetary stability and the gold on the Republic

CQ / CQD / SOS

Morse code

The earthquake in Italy

Standardization of communication

The telegraph

Biographies

Geographies

Histories

Sciences

Maths

 

You get the idea ... from looking at a single book on my shelf and asking "Who is Allen Chapman?", a series of research projects opened up I did not imagine - could not have imagined.

And each one of these topics can go in literally an infinite number of ways - and once one embarks down one path, it itself branches. 

It can be over-whelming.  It can be scary.

But once one starts down a path, and actually attempts to learn about that path, it's exciting!

Random research.  Leading to many specific facts.  Ultimately many generalizations.

If one so chooses.

And herein lies the rub.

"Who is Allen Chapman?" is a simple question.  One answer might be:  "The collective pseudonym for a series of books written in the 20th century."

Big deal.

There's so much more - if one is honest with oneself about caring.

You gotta care.

 

Finishing in a bit ...

 

 

An Exciting Possibility

Moving from Complexity to Simplicity!

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Teachers and administrators are constantly inundated with "the flavor of the month" educational philosophy to improve education.  Who is not aware of the research regarding "Right Brain / Left Brain"?  What of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, where an explicit philosophy expounding the differences in learning is discussed.

An additional popular educational theory revolves about the theory of Benjamin Bloom, called "Bloom's Taxomony", which takes the common-sense approach there are levels of learning a subject.  One can know, for example, Topeka is the capital of Kansas, but why?  Why is a different question.  There are many such levels.

It's instructive to ask where Bloom came up with his taxonomy:  in grading.  How do we determine the quality of a paper we're grading?, and the taxonomy evolved.

Now, what of the teacher in the classroom?  Right brain - left brain.  Multiple intelligences.  Bloom's taxonomy.  A 1,000 more.  All vying for precious time from the teacher's day.  How do they do it? 

They don't, of course.  They do their best, but let's be honest.  Presented like this - in a system where teacher time is the valuable commodity not to be wasted - there's no hope for implementation, either for these ideas or others.

 

 

Wouldn't it be nice if a theory came along, recognizing the constraint in the system, and instead of providing solutions in the way of week-long training sessions that, regardless of their goodness, still failed to reflect that teacher in the classroom needing to get from Point A to Point B by day's end, instead did something with that constraint?  Wouldn't it be nice to actually see some free time, to afford the teacher the ability and opportunity to actually do something with these great ideas?

 

 

 

It would be nice!

What still nags me about this is the insistence upon all of these metrics being met.  Do I get a "6" for "knowledge", a "5" for "information", etc.  That, to me, has nothing to do with "education and learning", particularly at early ages. 

The Greeks also had a powerful educational metric system, condensing all of these categories into three general branches:

 

 

 

It was called "The Trivium".  They reasoned, before one can make sense of things, one must have knowledge of things, and hence "Grammar" preceded "Logic", "Grammar" defined as the accumulation of "things", be it rocks, streams, clouds, or math facts.  Logic answered the questions of "why" and "how are these related".  The apex of the learning structure was "rhetoric", where one could talk coherently about such things - comfortably.

I don't like it.

Why the linear structure?  Why not have logic raise a question for which there is not yet an answer?  Go find the answer.  Why reserve rhetoric to the end of the structure?  Why not embed it within the structure? 

Of course, the structure above is our understanding of their educational process 2,000 years after the fact.  I think we've got it wrong.  What I think they did, and what, to me, constitutes an authentic system of "joy in learning" is:

 

 

REDISCOVERING CURIOSITY

 

A NETWORK

The Goal:  Powerful Metaphors

 

LOGIC BLOCKS

The Heart of the Information Database

 

THE CONTROL CHART

Stable Systems and Outliers

 

CREATIVITY

It Can Be Taught

 

MULTIPLE ENTRY POINTS

How Do I Understand a Subject?  "Let Me Count the Ways"!

 

CONCEPTUAL

and OPERATIONAL SYLLOGISMS

 

SYSTEM A

vs.

SYSTEM B

A Contrast in Thinking

 

EFFECT-CAUSE-EFFECT REASONING (extended)

 

CONTEXT

Context is King

 

POPPER WAS WRONG ...

Regarding Falsification (I think)

 

GETTING SOMETHING ON THE TABLE

It Is Both the Hardest Thing in the World - AND THE EASIEST!

 

"HIERARCHY"

Pros and Cons

 

THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY

So what IS the territory?

 

A PICTURE MAY BE WORTH 1000 WORDS ...

But a Logical Structure is worth a 1000 pictures!

 

FLOW

How to get it - AND HOW TO KEEP IT!

 

SHEWHART'S RULES

For the Presentation of Data Apply to Words As Well!

 

The GENUS and DIFFERENTIA

Integration and Differentiation

 

 

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