Monthly Archives: March 2009

Escondido Humane Society for Paws in the Park 2009

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Please support Darwin (and me) for PAWS in the Park if you have a bit to spare!

We’re getting ready for the Escondido Humane Society’s Paws in the Park 2009 walk! Thank you for your support of my walk to raise funding and awareness for animals in need.

The Escondido Humane Society (EHS) cares for thousands of homeless, abused, neglected or abandoned animals every year. As a nonprofit organization, they depend upon animal lovers like us to support their lifesaving work. Animals cannot ask for help themselves – but animal lovers like you and I can ask on their behalf, and together, we can give them what they need and deserve.

This year has been difficult on so many, and animals are no different. More and more animals come to shelters every year, and it’s in times like these that they need us the most. Even if you cannot give as much as you would like to, know that every bit that you give makes a difference in the life of an animal. 100% of your donation to sponsor our walk at Paws in the Park cares for the animals at the Escondido Humane Society, who will transform your gift into safe shelter, healthy food, medical care, and TLC for an animal who truly needs us.

Think of an animal who has made a difference in your life, and do what you can to help other animals just like him or her. Please sponsor me as I walk in honor of all animals who need and deserve our support! Your gift is fully tax-deductible (Escondido Humane Society’s Tax ID #95-1661662), and will do so much good for dogs, cats, and all companion animals who need our help. Together, with other walkers, we hope to raise $100,000 for animals at the Escondido Humane Society. Join me today in saving lives – four paws at a time!

http://www.firstgiving.com/donnawoodka

*** Message from Donna ***

Please support me and the Escondido Humane Society for Paws in the Park 2009!

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Rough Water

“Among the Mattole, conduct toward waves is prescribed: The water watches you and has a definite attitude, favorable or otherwise, toward you. Do not speak just before a wave breaks. Do not speak to passing rough water in a stream. Do not look at water very long for any one time, unless you have been to this spot ten times or more.

Then the water is used to you and does not mind if you’re looking at it. Older men can talk in the presence of the water because they have been about it so long that the water knows them. Until the water at any one spot does know you, however, it becomes very rough if you talk in its presence or look at it too long.”

And if it is salmon that chooses to lead some of us back to our immersion in the natural world, then our first order of business must be the survival of the salmon, the health of the waters.

— Freeman House, Totem Salmon

Days and nights, summers and winters.
Waves curling up, consumed by new waves.
The ongoing march of generations,
The vapor of water congealing into clouds –
Tao is cyclical, not linear.

The multitude of things are innumerable,
But they travel circularly.
Those who accord with Tao
Understand rise and fall
And gain clarity and insight.
Those who do not accept rise and fall,
Ride recklessly with misfortune.

Thus it is said: the secret of Tao lies in returning.

Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Dao

The wen person is someone who can read not just human language, but the languages of nature as well. There are patterns and secrets throughout the world — the rings of trees, and tracks of animals, and the traces of water down the sides of a valley are as clear as any scripture. The person who follows Tao does not blindly go through life, but is able to read it on every level. Those who follow Tao are those who know the many languages of life.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

Water wears away rock.
Spirit overcomes force.
The weak will undo the mighty.

Learn to see things backwards, inside out, and upside down.

Tao of Leadership

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this, yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country’s disasters deserves to be king of the universe.
The truth often seems paradoxical.

– Tao Te Ching 78

Financial Journalists Fail Upward

I think Cramer’s statement is telling about the entire American psyche today — we want to be entertained, not informed. We don’t even really care if our products work or not, as long as the ads are entertaining or it amuses us for a while, we’ll just throw it away and get a new toy then. We don’t care about our political system as long as Rush Limbaugh  and Bill O Reilly and John Stewart feed our outrage. We don’t care if our food is good for us as long as it tastes good. Etc, etc….

“Listen, you knew what the banks were doing and yet were touting it for months and months,” said “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart to CNBC superstar Jim Cramer in their much-discussed confrontation last week. “The entire network was, and so now to pretend that this was some sort of crazy, once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.”

The applause Mr. Stewart has received for his j’accuse is the sound of the old order cracking. We have turned on the financial CEOs, inducting them one by one into the Predator Hall of Fame. We have gone deaf to the seductive rhythms of the culture wars. We have tossed out the politicians whose antigovernment rhetoric seemed invincible for so long.

And now comes the turn of the bubble-blowers of pop culture, the army of fake populists who have prospered for years by depicting the stock market as an expression of the general will, as the trustworthy friend of the little guy buffeted by a globalizing economy.

We know — or we think we know — about the roles played by other culprits in the debacle. The government regulators, for example: How could they have ignored the coming disaster? Well, they were incapacitated by decades of deregulation. What about the market’s own watchdogs? Well, from appraisers to ratings agencies the whole tough-minded system was apparently undermined by conflicts of interest.

But what about the syndicated columnists and the beloved stock pickers and the authors of personal finance best-sellers, the industry for which CNBC is the perfect symbol? How did they manage to miss the volcano under their feet?

Mr. Cramer, for his part, had the forthrightness to confess his errors and admit his limitations. “I’m not Eric Sevareid. I’m not Edward R. Murrow,” he pleaded. “I’m a guy trying to do an entertainment show about business for people to watch.”

via Financial Journalists Fail Upward – WSJ.com.

Wolfram Alpha

This sounds very cool! A lot like some of the work I was doing when I was working on Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems in the 80s, combined with massive computational power. Awesome. Nice to see some of the stuff from 25 years ago coming back in a new form again. Of course, I can’t believe it’s been that long… the funny part is a lot of this went away as we moved to smaller computers that didn’t have the computational power of mainframes. Now, an average laptop has more computing power than mainframes did then, and we’re capable of building very powerful distributed systems that are even more powerful. But the simplicity of breaking things down into their very basic cellular structure and then being able to recombine them mathematically and THEN add natural language questioning ability is a really powerful thing.

The scientific and philosophical underpinnings of Wolfram Alpha are similar to those of the cellular automata systems he describes in his book, “A New Kind of Science” (NKS). Just as with cellular automata (such as the famous “Game of Life” algorithm that many have seen on screensavers), a set of simple rules and data can be used to generate surprisingly diverse, even lifelike patterns. One of the observations of NKS is that incredibly rich, even unpredictable patterns, can be generated from tiny sets of simple rules and data, when they are applied to their own output over and over again.

In fact, cellular automata, by using just a few simple repetitive rules, can compute anything any computer or computer program can compute, in theory at least. But actually using such systems to build real computers or useful programs (such as Web browsers) has never been practical because they are so low-level it would not be efficient (it would be like trying to build a giant computer, starting from the atomic level).

The simplicity and elegance of cellular automata proves that anything that may be computed — and potentially anything that may exist in nature — can be generated from very simple building blocks and rules that interact locally with one another. There is no top-down control, there is no overarching model. Instead, from a bunch of low-level parts that interact only with other nearby parts, complex global behaviors emerge that, for example, can simulate physical systems such as fluid flow, optics, population dynamics in nature, voting behaviors, and perhaps even the very nature of space-time. This is the main point of the NKS book in fact, and Wolfram draws numerous examples from nature and cellular automata to make his case.

But with all its focus on recombining simple bits of information and simple rules, cellular automata is not a reductionist approach to science — in fact, it is much more focused on synthesizing complex emergent behaviors from simple elements than in reducing complexity back to simple units. The highly synthetic philosophy behind NKS is the paradigm shift at the basis of Wolfram Alpha’s approach too. It is a system that is very much “bottom-up” in orientation.

Wolfram has created a set of building blocks for working with formal knowledge to generate useful computations, and in turn, by putting these computations together you can answer even more sophisticated questions and so on. It’s a system for synthesizing sophisticated computations from simple computations. Of course anyone who understands computer programming will recognize this as the very essence of good software design. But the key is that instead of forcing users to write programs to do this in Mathematica, Wolfram Alpha enables them to simply ask questions in natural language questions and then automatically assembles the programs to compute the answers they need.

via Wolfram Alpha Computes Answers To Factual Questions. This Is Going To Be Big..

Connecting

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Palmer Hayden, Jeunesse


Gifted at both oils and watercolors, Palmer Hayden became a well-known Harlem artist and folklorist. Most of his early paintings were landscapes. In 1926, the Harmon Foundation awarded first prize to a Maine seascape of Hayden’s creation.

With the backing of wealthy art patron, Hayden moved to Paris in 1927 and studied there for the next five years. It was a richly productive period for the painter, as evidenced by the stack of sketchbooks he brought home in 1932 that vividly capture Parisian society. Hayden went to work that year for the U.S. Treasury Art Project and the Depression-era government-funded Works Progress Administration (WPA). His work began to concern itself with scenes of daily life in Harlem.

From this:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2003

The main thing that seems so different going through this battle with depression is I am so lonely. I haven’t ever really been bothered by loneliness that much in my life – I always sort of liked being alone. But now I want people around to be with and talk to and there is so seldom anyone available – it is very difficult. And I find the internet, which used to be a link to the world for me, is really not a replacement – I physically want people with me. I go out to various places just to be around people but the interaction and connection with others is really not the same. Strangely, sometimes even when I am with people I feel rather disconnected, because they cannot really feel the things I feel and the deep need I have for them. It is all so hard…

To this:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I feel much better now, knowing our nation is on the right track again, moving away from the mistakes of the last eight years. My main feeling today is relief, mixed with a lot of pride and an underlying happiness. I didn’t go to any of the big screenings of the inauguration, didn’t do anything special, just sat on my couch and watched, but I feel a part of it all anyway. We are all a part of it now, and that is a very good feeling, to know that what each of us does matters. We are all called to responsibility by our new president, to a new era of being accountable for our actions.

After eight years of “it’s not my fault, bail me out for my mistakes”, that’s a nice feeling.

How much my own journey the last few years reflects our national journey, from all of us feeling disconnected and alone, each fighting our own individual battles in a feeling of “you’re on your own” to finding ways to connect with each other, communicate with each other, and achieve larger goals through this medium of exchange we call the Internet. Whether we blog at large community blogs or in our own small spaces, whether we connect with thousands and have a national audience or just connect with friends and family on facebook, we are all finding a place here to express ourselves and find others who share our values and ideals. And we’ve come together in ways we never might have expected. I certainly didn’t see myself in those dark days of depression coming into a politically active community of people who have grown to be good friends and who have achieved so much together. My personal and political journey as an individual reflects a larger national journey that we all have walked or are now learning to walk, as even the most selfish among us start to be called to a new age of accountability and responsibility for others. It is in helping to create new possibilities for others that we are often able to connect with ourselves and find our own way again.

I hope our feelings of community and learning to share this space in our world can lead us all to value our own communities and spaces, help us connect with the places we live in and build them into larger wholes, too. And I hope, perhaps just as the WPA created a place for so many artists to be able to express themselves, we can find room in our public works for art again, and help another generation of talent come to express themselves artistically, too.

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Cleverness

“Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, from the collection Culture and Value, translated by Peter Winch.

“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”
— Oscar Wilde

“Ignorance of all things is an evil neither terrible nor excessive, nor yet the greatest of all; but great cleverness and much learning, if they be accompanied by a bad training, are a much greater misfortune.”
— Plato

“It is great cleverness to know when to conceal one’s cleverness”
— François de la Rochefoucauld

“I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in the best order”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves. One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.”
— Will Durant

“Find enough clever things to say, and you’re a Prime Minister; write them down and you’re a Shakespeare” — George Bernard Shaw

“Clever people seem not to feel the natural pleasure of bewilderment, and are always answering questions when the chief relish of a life is to go on asking them.”
— Frank Moore Colby

“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
— Abraham J. Heschel

“The next best thing to being clever is being able to quote someone who is.”
— Mary Pettibone Poole

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet. “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has a Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has a Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
— A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

“Really to know is to know also that you know, and know that those who know, know, and that those who don’t know, don’t know. In other words, your knowing is tested by your ability to distinguish between those who know and those who are only pretending, or deceiving themselves.”
– R. H. Blyth (via Whiskey River)