Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bypassing GooFacAmzEtcetera

Have you ever ignored a very long “Terms and Conditions” contract,  by scrolling past all the fineprint so that you could sign at the bottom and move on?
Maybe you remember doing that a time or two—maybe ten or twenty times—just so you could gain access to some online service that you felt you needed to have right away.
I don’t know about you; but I have, many times.

Could it be that those unread contracts were the slippery slope where we began sliding into GooFacAmzEtcetera’s blank-check permissions to move us around like tokens around on an online monopoly board?
Could it be that that data-mining-manipulating-mindreading AI-bringing bundle all started with those fine-print contracts that we ignored back in the day?
Did we sign-off all our legal rights, for the sake of quick and easy internet surfing?

Maybe that’s the crossroads where we sold our data-souls to the devilitating database from hellbot.
Maybe that’s the bush bearing megabytes we’re better off not having bitten into?

TheMegaByte

Maybe that’s the open window where data analytics, data mining, data snooping and data mind-manipulation snuck in to abscond our online data-booty that we didn’t even know was booty because we were too occupied with bling or blather or boobs or blobs of blahblah.
Are you benefitted by googoo reading your mind? Do you feel the warm-fuzzies when faseboo gets you hooked up to a cyber-buddies. Do you buy into Amz  tossing up product images to instigate your next purchase?
In those ultra-long documents that we so hastily dismissed, there’s just no telling what details, legal rights, restrictions, disclaimers or general b.s. we may have thoughtlessly cast aside by declining an opportunity to reject the deal.

In recent times, we have seen reports about online snooping by GooFaceAmzEtcetera, invasion of privacy, predatory data-collection, even surveillance, which all together seems to add up to:   BigBrutha spying on us, to read our minds, manipulate our habits, and make bigbucks off of us, or politically manipulate our very predictable and manipulable online behavior.

Maybe you’re okay with BigBrutha bullying your life by baling into your blanks, bringing bling or blather or  boobs or blobs of blahblah.
Or maybe you would prefer to obliterate the cyber busybodies’ bullshit  by bringing in blockchain, blockstack, blockcoin, blockstock and/or Buterinian bypassing for buffering the buffoonery and bypassing the bullying beyond its ability to bind up your booty-blather and thereby bestow it in billowing clouds to the burgeoning BigBrutha database.

However you decide, now you know what the choices are! You have hereby been red-pilled, or blue-pilled, as your personalized database maybe.
And if you think this is all just bullshit blight, you may be bright.


Friday, January 10, 2020

A Story from LSU

I grew up with LSU. My daddy went there in the late '40's; my mama did too.
Growing up in Baton Rouge was all about LSU, and so I moved across town to enter the University as a freshman in 1969. My freshman dorm room was in North Stadium, which was--you guessed it--Tiger Stadium. And I don't mean Clemson Tiger.
From a south-facing window in Death Valley, I had an excellent view of Mike the Tiger's cage. At that time, our mascot was called Mike the Third, or Mike III.

LSU always had a great football program, and it was a big deal in Baton Rouge. Back in my junior high days, my friend Johnny Lambert got me a job selling concessions at the Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium (known to our opponents as Death Valley.)
By December 1973, I had somehow managed to graduate, in spite of being a useless sometimes-PoliSci, sometimes-English major.  Very near Mike the Tiger's cage (mentioned above), the University had built a new indoor stadium for the basketball team. My graduating class was the first to walk the aisle in the Pete Maravich Center, better known as Pete's Palace.

Years went by. In 1975, I relocated to North Carolina, where I have lived ever since. Since that new beginning I have lived, married and raised three young'uns in the state where Press Maravich coached NCState basketball before he coached the Tiger basketball team, which included his son, incredible phenom  "Pistol" Pete.
For many, many years since leaving Louisiana, I have followed the Tigers. I have to say it has mostly been a frustrating experience.
Until now. Oh, there was a victorious flash-in-the-pan or two. We won a national championship in 2003, but had to share it with Southern Cal, because the AP writers couldn't make up their minds, or some such. In 2007, we had another NCAA title when we beat the Buckeyes.
Before that, the way-back-in-the-day championship was in 1958, when beat that other so-called tiger team-the one from somewhere in South Carolina--the same team that we will beat this coming Monday night.

To commemorate our immanent victory, I'll share a scene with you, from my recent novel, King of Soul, that takes place at LSU during 1969-70. This turn of events came as I was reflecting on my life, recalling those college years at LSU. The story revolves largely around what was happening to our nation during the Vietnam War.
As I mentioned above, I was an English major, which is why I spent most of my adult life banging nails, building houses in North Carolina. But I have managed to get four novels written and published out of the English major deal.

In  chapter 11 of the fourth novel, King of Soul, we find the main character, Donnie Evans conversing with Marcy Charters, while they are getting to know each other. In the scene, Donnie asks her:
           “You live in Savannah?”
         “I did. Now I’m living in Baton Rouge.”
         “Glad you’re here.”
         “Thank you. There I was, the middle of July and I still didn’t know where to go to school.”
         “Did your boyfriend want you to go to Georgia?”
         “He did.”
         “But you didn’t want to.”
         “That’s right. I wanted something different. Or. . .some place different, and it wasn’t going to be France, and there I was sitting on a park bench in Savannah, by the waterfront. . .not knowing what was going to happen but knowing that I had to do something. This is not me, you understand. I’m usually right on top of things—“
         “Sittin’ on a dock of the bay,” Donnie inserted, “watchin’ the tide roll away.”
          Marcy stopped in her tracks. They were beneath the crepe myrtles now, near the entrance to the Union building. “That’s it,” she said, eyeing him surprisedly as if to say who are you and how did you get here ? “It was just like that—like Otis sang it,” she exclaimed.
         “Otis Redding. I hear ya, babe.” Donnie snapped his fingers, started crooning the tune. . .”watchin’ the ships roll in, and I watch ‘em roll away again. . .” Yeah, Otis knew all about it; he was the King of Soul.”
         “King of Soul? I thought  James Brown was the King of Soul.” she said.
         Donnie laughed. “He might have been at one time.”
         Up the stone staircase, into the palatial student Union building, breezing through high, grand hallway, and then they turned into the cafeteria line where she got salad, he got a sandwich and of course the two coffees. Then they were out in the grand dining room, sunshine streaming in through the high glass, the buzz of multi-voiced cacophonic conversation rising into the high ceiling, contributing to the wisdom of the universe, or the serendipity of Friday afternoons with someone who just transported from a crunch time decision while sitting on a dock of the bay, in some place far, far, away. . .
          When they sat down, she sang:
      “I can’t do what ten people tell me, so I guess I’ll just stay the same.”       Then she spoke: “And the best way for me to do that was to come here.”
       “And they just let you in? Are you so special?”
       “Well, I had already been accepted, in April. But at that point, this whole LSU idea was just a kind of a lark thing.
LSUmems


Glass half-Full

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Those Three ConeSpun Mills

2020 rings in another hyped-up year,
as traffic rumbles o’er this city’s streets.
The people slog through their habitual gears
as nights pass by and days repeat.

ConeMillsWO

My stopping by this mill’s ancient smokestack tower 
drums up crumbling dreams of 120 years ago
When rev-upped steam drove industrial power 
as workers toiled to make America go.

ConeFactry

Except for this site’s massive piled-up, silent heaps
no remnant’s here of their past incredible productivity
We hear no rumbling of gears, no wheeling peeps
Nothing but our clueless, wizzing auto-driven activity.

But down beneath those obsolete smokestack towers
under jagged rebar heaps and brickish piles
behind walls of long gone, humming industrial power
rolled miles and miles of denim 'n flannel styles.

TextilMachn

’T’was there and then through toiling sweat and flowing tears
workers spun off vast bolts of denim cloth;
in feats of toiling ’20’s roar, then Depression fears,
cranking textile miles, yet with no thread of slouching sloth.

 A shrill whistling of the factory call is no longer heard at all,
just a sunny breeze in unseasonably warm December.
These three landmark chimneys stand so stubbornly, so tall
commanding us by their stature, to remember.

As if we could remember, but no; this legacy is lost to us.
For we, so enamored, or ensnared, by electronic spell,
cannot attain to the fierce pace of their spinning, weaving opus.
Now we demolish their wornout legacy, no more to tell.

But massive was their output--their product so dearly spun;
‘though its flannel flappings waiver yet in this, our age’s fatal breeze.
Soon our bulldozing might will render this heritage undone
as fiberoptic spinning of our  sorcery now weaves.

ConeRevStak


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Crossing the Great Divide

Life is flexible and creative.
Mathematics is different from life; it is definite and conclusive.

When certain modern mathematicians recently figured out—and admitted— that equations can not account for all truth about life itself, they actually enabled themselves to make a quantum leap forward in human communications.
What George Gilder calls the mathematics of information theory is actually a “math of creativity.”
Human creativity is required to make this math work properly. If humans would not intervene—if we were to choose not to intervene, not to tweak, not to program—our stupid, soul-less computers would “churn away forever.”
Caught up in a never-ending loop—that’s what computers would do if we didn’t manage them and tell them what to do.
How did such a bright idea enlighten the computering pioneers of our 20th-21st century progress?

In his book, Life After Google, George Gilder describes a series of progressive mathematical proofs that eventually brought us to an advanced stage of modern mathematics. Beginning mainly with Isaac Newton, these theorems collectively lead, step-by-step, to a system of proven mathematical truths.
But the mathematicians ran into a problem—a dead end. The roadblock showed up shortly after a certain fellow, David Hilbert, came along and, being absolutely  sure that we could express all knowledge mathematically, famously said: “We must know; we will know!”

It seems to me David was gathering his sustenance from an old source that was long ago proven unreliable; it was, I surmise, that phenom that Moses called the “Tree of Knowledge.”

Actually, it was a little while later that his assistant—a fellow named John von Neumann—provided the missing link that exposed Hilbert’s wishful thinking for what is was.
Along those link lines, George Gilder provides in his book a list of other mathematicians and scientists whose work contributed to John von Neumann’s breakthrough. The list includes Kurt Gödel, Gregory Chaitin, Hubert Yockey, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon.
George Gilder explains. . .
“Gödel’s insights led directly to Claude Shannon’s information theory, which underlies all computers and networks today.”
In the midst of this move forward away from mathematical determinism and into creative computing, the contribution of John von Neumann was to encourage Gödel in his emerging proof that absolute mathematical proof was impossible.
Along this path of computing enlightenment, Gilder points out that
“Gödel’s proof prompted Alan Turing’s invention in 1936 of the Turing machine—the universal computing architecture with which he showed that computer programs, like other logical schemes, were not only incomplete but could not even be proved to reach any conclusion. Any particular program might cause it (the computer) to churn away forever. This was the ‘halting problem.’Computers required what Turing called ‘oracles’ to give them instructions and judge their outputs.”
Those “oracles” are human beings. Guess what: Computers need us if they’re going to work correctly!
George Gilder goes on to explain in his book that this creative guidance from us, homo sapiens, is what leads, and has lead to, all the computer progress we have seen in modern times.
Along that path of progress, Larry and Sergei came along and harnessed all that creative oracularity into a thing called Google.
You may have heard of it.
My takeaway is that, back in the dawn of the computer age . . . while Hilbert was chowing down on the Tree of Knowledge, his assistant Von Neumann managed to pluck some life-sustaining nourishment from the Tree of Life.

Gilderbook

Along those lines, here’s a cool quote from George Gilder:
“Cleaving all information is(:) the great divide between creativity and determinism, between information entropy of surprises and thermo-dynamic entropy of predictable decline, between stories that capture a particular truth and statistics that reveal a sterile generality.”
 Maybe you have to be a computer nerd to process all that quote in your very own CPU, or you may be like me and just read a lot . . .


Friday, December 20, 2019

Blue Ridge Mountain Home

Driving in bright, brisk December sunshine, winding slowly along a Blue Ridge mountain holler road, I arrived yesterday afternoon at the house address that I had earlier noted.
Turning off the car engine silenced radio reportage about the impending impeachment, which is neither here nor there. I am looking for an old fella that I recently read about in a locally written book.

The house is small, light green, near the side of the road, very neat and compact, meticulously maintained.I  This home is the kind of modest dwelling that was being built around these parts in the 1950’s, but it has been recently updated with vinyl siding. My carpenter eye notices the perfectly installed exterior. Nice job.
An attractive, low stone wall just a few steps from the roadway affords a stairway down to a welcoming front porch.  The front door is absolutely white, six-paneled proper in sunshine. It begs knocking, and so I do.
The lady who opens it is thin, with gray hair. She has a classic Scotch-looking mountain face, pleasantly aged with complimentary wrinkles. I forget now what she said, but it was some kind of greeting. I offered her my concise explanation for my visit this afternoon.

“Hi. My name is Carey Rowland. I’ve been doing some historical research—for a novel I am writing— about the Cone estate, and the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway through it back in the 1940’s or ’50’s.  I recently read an interview, published in 1997, with Mr. Paul Moody, who, I understand used to work for Bertha Cone.”
“I’m his wife.” she said
Well, gollee, I’ve come to the right place.
This was a pleasant surprise. I’m still new at this historical research stuff. The last few doors I had recently knocked on were run-down abandoned places with nobody home. A little confused about exactly what my next question should be, I blurted:
“Is he alive?”
“He’s right in here. You wanta talk to him?”
“Yes ma-am!”
“Come on in. I’ll get him.”

And so I did, and she did.  Next thing you know, I’m looking around in this smallish, comfortably lived-in den or living room. A few seconds later, Paul walks in, smiling.
Well gollee.
“Well, what can I do for ye?” he says, pleasantly.
And so I explained a little— that I had been living around here since the early ’80’s, raising a family with my wife, and the first job I had up here was working on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is, as you know, the missing link, in the middle of a 469-mile parkway that took fifty years to build—
And, as the old shake and bake commercial says. . . “and I helped!”
“Well, sit down,” said Paul.
Not in that chair, I thought, noticing the easy chair. That’s obviously his chair, with visual evidence of Paul’s accustomed comfort, possibly reading comfort, over years of sitting.  No sign of a TV in the room.
So I took my seat on the couch. “Thank you, sir!”

Long story short. Paul began talking about the Moses Cone Estate, on which he had been born in 1933, and thereby born into the hired help. His grandfather had been superintendent of the place back in the day— since before 1908 when Moses had died, and his father had been foreman of the apple orchard.
Paul proceeded to answer just about every question about the place that had been on my mind these last few weeks. This was becoming a very productive day, from a writerly standpoint.
He is a very pleasant fellow, full of history, and willing to talk about it. A historical fiction-writer’s dream informant. After awhile he took me back in the other rooms. He showed me the kitchen cabinets he had built, with frame-and-panel cherry doors on cherry face-frame, then took me back into the expansive laundry room, which was sunshine bright and entirely paneled with whitish, wormy pine, milled from trees that he himself had cut down.
A true mountain man, this Paul. The 16-gauge shotgun mounted over the doorway had been bequeathed to Paul from the Cone estate when Bertha died in 1947.

BRPaulmoody

Here’s Paul with his life-long wife, Margaret, who also came from a family of the hired help of the Cone estate, now the Moses Cone Memorial Park. They’re standing in front of another piece of his handiwork, filled with a lifetime of precious family mementos.

BRPMoody

After more friendly conversation and explanation, he took me out to his shop, where he had built the cabinets and the furniture and God-knows-what else.

BRmoodysaws

As far as ole folks from the Old School go, they don’t make ‘em like Paul any more.

BRmoody

And the rest is history, which you may read about in two or three years when I finish the novel . . .

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Christmas

And the world wonders at the centuries-long persistence of Christmas among the Christians.

Christmas

Hung upon this tree, almost every ornament represents a hallowed memory, or a different era of 40 years shared between one man and one woman, and the three now-grown children who filled up the void in their shared life. 
Several ornaments are hand-me-downs from the grand- and great-grand- generations who are now gone to that great yuletide in the heavens.
Gazing at the tree on a chilly December night, although the room is quite warm, calls to mind all those past Christmases.

Christ the Saviour is born. And another family lives to tell the yuletide tale.

Believe it or not, the true, original Christmas spirit is potent, alive and well, and still passing from generation to generation.
A relic of days gone by?
Perhaps. But much more than that, a celebration of eternity to come, made real by the child born in Bethlehem so long ago—the one who grew up to conquer hell and death on a goddam cross.

Believe it not. The manger was good enough for Jesus; it’s good enough for us. It's a potent story with an eternal ending. Join in if you've caught the Spirit.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Dark Spots in Our Republic

I am defining Dark Spots this way.
Dark spots: locations in which election vote numbers are suspect, due to fraud, corruption, tampering, discrimination or miscounting.
Dark spots in our democratic republic are everywhere. No doubt they can be uncovered in numerous locales throughout our entire system of governments. Such dysfunction is a symptom of our human predicament and the institutions we devise to help us all solve our problems together.
I think the number of suspect dark spots is revealed in higher and higher numbers as our counting moves downward to the local level.
There is no statistical explanation for this except that the complexity of voter rolls gets progressively higher and higher as the numbers get bigger and bigger.

In our massive system of vote-counting, the likelihood of corruptive shenanigans is everywhere throughout the nation. The extent of corrupt data/numbers is directly proportional to the number of polling stations in the nation. There will always be a few bad apples in any batch. Knowing which ones are suspect probably requires more time and integrity than our civil authorities can effectively monitor.
It is partly because of this fully expected complexity that the founders of our democratic republic instituted an Electoral College. Admittedly, there are other factors that determined the outcome of this foundational decision, such as: all the writers of  our Constitution were middle-aged white guys who had plenty of land and money. But that was 18th-century politics in the New World and there is nothing that can change that.
To amend the Constitution is a very long, difficult process involving all of our state legislators and Congress. If there are any parties among us who have a mind to do so, you are welcome to go for it. Good luck with that. The Constitutionally-prescribed procedure would require a lot of time and coordinated effort on the part of a large number of citizens.

Now, as to the matter of the dark spots, I continue.
Regardless of the inevitable hundreds or  thousands of illegal or deceased voters and subsequent illegal votes cast throughout our United States-- the final number that actually determines who will be President —that number is systematically honed to  a very manageable, low number that is easy to count. So that we can make a definitive appointment that will be held as legitimate for the next four years.
538 electors is the number of Constitutionally determined delegates who declare who will become our President in each four-year period.
270 is the majority number that establishes the outcome of that Electoral College.

In 2016, those numbers were: 306 for Trump and 232 for Clinton. All ye Democrats, read 'em and weep. That's life in the big country. 

There's always next election, so get busy.
The integrity of our selection procedures, from the lowest precinct level all the way up to Congress and the Presidency, is a matter of interest for all of us in both parties.
Let's keep it as clean and legitimate as we can, from the top to the bottom.
Now, what about those dark spots of electoral meddling that I mentioned earlier. . .
My theory is that in a democratic republic, especially one as huge as ours, there will always be some dark spots somewhere; to sniff them all out and correct them would be an impossible, never-ending project.
We will never get rid of all the irregularities of selective process that our Constitution has prescribed and our  nation has retained for 238 years.
We can try to clean up corruption, tampering, illegal voting and dead people voting etcetera etcetera.That’s all well and good, But we’ll never undo all the evil that men do.
Especially men; blame the men, haha, especially the ole white guys like me, although I am not one of the rich privileged ones.

Nevertheless, as a citizen of the United States of America, I am entitled to a vote, which figures at a certain level in the selection process. Then those who are selected by the compilation of my vote and yours will go on to vote on the larger decisions, including who will actually be President.
Along with the vote I am entitled to my opinion,  and I am endowed by the Constitution to express it in any ways that do not infringe on the rights of my fellow-citizens.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And the Constitution, including the Electoral College—that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
That’s our history and we’re sticking to it.

ElectCollg

Like it or not, according to the above procedure, 270 is determined as the necessary majority number if you wanna be President. 
Now let’s get started on the next election cycle. The American people will select our next President according to the systematic process that our founders instituted and we have retained for, lo, these many years.
And if you Democrats out there have a better person for the job, well let’s see what you come up with. Then we will  collectively render our decision in December of 2020.
May the best citizen for the job win.