Politics (2) Democracy

Democracy is such a misunderstood term. Almost nobody in the world has experienced true democracy and almost never on a large scale. Many of us live in countries that have implemented representative democracies, specifically republics. Yet such a small proportion of those who live in republics understand how republics work, specifically how voting works in a republic.

An Unrestricted Analyst could debunk many of the popular misconceptions about voting in a republic. One such misconception is that a vote reveals what is wanted by the voter.

  1. Anyone who has ever held a paper ballot knows that there is no where near enough space on it to hold a complete and unambiguous express of what is wanted.
  2. Anyone who has ever tried to express any requirement or specification knows that the space to present it is the least of the problems (issues of completeness and ambiguity are overwhelming).
  3. One does not have to scratch deeply into the study of decision making by organisations to find that a huge portion of influence is exerted by the framer of the question(s) (as are being asked on the ballot).
  4. If the answer to the question is other than “yes” or “no”, then there is no general algorithm for combining answers from multiple ballots into a single answer from the election, referendum, or plebiscite — as in there are multiple algorithms where few if any give the same result as another.

Given these easily observed limitations (and there are plenty more beyond them), it is hard to justify the view held by so many that they should be able to express what they want on the ballot. Given their failure to understand the tool they are using, it is not hard to see why so many voters are so angry that the results of elections never seem to reflect what they want.  And for too many, the misconceptions about ballots and democracy is but the tip of the iceberg that is the failure of their education.

Meta Thinking (2) Science

Science is a pattern of thought and practice that promotes and is promoted by empowerment. Science is the cataloguing of incidents and the development of models consistent with those incidents. The credibility of science comes through the fundamental principle that all of it exists to permit each and every follower to recreate those incidents on demand and thereby verify the usefulness of those models.

For many people, it is the authority of the speaker that imparts truth to what is said, while for those in the thrall of science it is the speaking of truth that defines an authority. The scientist (and scientifically inclined) sees truth in the models that predict the behavior of the universe, each bit separately and collectively. If such a person cannot benefit by the predictions of outcomes, then the models are forgotten. The models that are shared are those that served best.

Science is different, very different, from mathematics, though both have need for the other. Part of the models used in science are when and how to use pieces of mathematics in producing reliable predictions; science is the connection of mathematics to reality. The objects in mathematics exist there only because they are needed for the consistent behavior of mathematical systems. Truth in mathematics is because it completes and agrees with the rest of mathematics; truth in science is because it predicts the behavior of reality.

Science is a religion or a portion of some religions, in that it requires a belief about the nature of reality. Where it seems to fail to serve all the religious needs of its followers is not explaining the purpose of existence nor proving the correctness of good, although it may provide aid to reason about good and evil.

Meta Thinking (1)

I am by many measures unusual. My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor’s of Science. This is without further qualifier, such as major. While I have spent decades working as a software engineer, I have come to think of myself as an analyst. I initially thought I was a systems analyst, but I suspect that I am really an unrestricted analyst and have been since years before attending university. I have met a few others who I would also call unrestricted analysts, but we are not common, in fact, not close to common enough, and this is the first time I have used that term to describe us.

I will attempt to explain what I mean by the term unrestricted analyst (UA). When a UA listens to a presentation or engages in a conversation about something, the UA builds light-weight mental models for all the relevant components. A UA then exercises those models to find an easily extracted properties and parameters, especially those that reveal the limits of those models and the corresponding components. Sometimes the exercise of the model spill over and we write down notes and formulae, and give instance to the general description “back of the envelope calculations”. This is similar to the behavior of a systems analyst except that a UA does not limit the practice to any realm or discipline. A UA may be at liberty to decide for his or her self how much detail to incorporate, what degree of precision to use, and even which questions to entertain. For a true UA every situation is potentially one to analyse.

Now for an extreme example. A friend of a friend tried to interest me in a video that purportedly provided indisputable evidence that a top government official played a role in the death of another official. I did not need to see the video to render the evaluation that the video was, at best, worthless. In order for the death of the official, as reported in the media, to have been murder, it would have required far more resources than would have been required to erase that friend-of-a-friend along with the video. Thus, the video was a fraud, the video was a threat to all who got near it, or the implicated official was so far beyond reach that no effort was being expended to suppress the evidence (and this later case could only serve to reveal how impotent we were).

Random thoughts (1)

While this blog started as an alternative to missives sent to a mailing list, it is likely to suck away my attention to farceBook.  This posting is a symptom of it.

The announcement of a report out of UPenn about the impact of reading the Harry Potter series on attitudes about Donald Trump triggerred a lot jumbled connections in my mind.  First are the questions about causality in the basic result, then were all the assorted issues about how people derive their votes (expressed opinions).

The report claims to show that reading the JK Rowlings works lessens the appeal (or strengthens the rejection) The Donald (DT).  I can see several different models that could align with those observations.  The simplest of them being that since each HP installment is larger than the one before it, the series constitutes a scale of serious reading (the more serious a reader the further into the series the reader will go), and serious readers are likely to reject DT.  Another model, discussed in other announcements, is that there are thematic similarities between DT and Voldemort, and readers are more likely to reject the real world counterpart of the fictitious bad guy.

My currently preferred model is a variant of the later.  In the narratives, all the people are struggling, to varying extents, to reconcile their emotional reactions against their logical analyses.  Harry’s team seems to have made their planning processes largely logical with emotional feedback to reflect the outcomes, while their opponent seem to have done the exact opposite.  I see the groups of people that back DT (and the Tea Party as well) as being more like the villain; actually, the model suggests 4 different categories of people where DT backers are either of those that do not base their planning on logic.

Onset Issues (3)

I have made enough progress that now I need to address content and contacts.  The later is the prickly one, and it comes in two major sub-issues.  How do I the word out to people that I am posting, and then how do I let those people know that I have put out a new post?  The content issue may be just a matter of my putting in the time, and may also be a driver of letting people know about updates.

I am currently averaging more than one post per day, and if I continue at that rate people (assuming anybody cares) can just get their “daily fix”.  Other options include getting them to use RSS, sending out email, using twitter, or some other gimmick to let them know there is something new.

There is also a question of how big each post should be, how small is too small to be worth the look, how big is too much to read at one sitting.  I am looking for comments on this.  My current guideline is for the word count to approximate 200, with a slight skew toward making larger.

How should I estimate the size of the readership?


Onset Issues (2)

This blog platform, WordPress, has room to improve, especially in the area of documentation.  Besides the packaged documentation, I have borrowed several texts from the city library, including the entries from the series: Sams Teach Yourself, For Dummies, and Smashing.

I found I wanted to do several different types of entries, publicly available chronicles (like this post), publicly available reference material (like FAQ), private notes about what I intend, and possibly others.  WP readily provides at least the three well articulated needs.  I spent too long trying to figure how to share the reference material, that is, how to throw something on the top/front page to enable easy navigation.

WP has a lovely dashboard.  The dashboard has a link to a menu manager.  The menu manager offers the ability to view and edit menus.  But I had difficulty figuring out how to place those menus for the reader to access.

WP seems to suffer from a failure that plagues the industry: the failure to state the obvious.  Here it was that WP was already showing a pair of menus on the front page.  I could not see them because they were empty, completely.  To make matters worse, these empty menus were named outside of the normal name space, so that the menu manager did not offer them for update.  To add to them, I needed to create conjure up a name for a new menu and then “locate it” in one of the existing but empty menus.  When I figured that out, I was able to produce a menu called ‘Nav’ that included links to the abstract page and the FAQ page.  Locating ‘Nav’ in the ‘primary menu’ caused it to appear, not quite where I expected it nor quite where I wanted it, but in an adequate location.


Politics: US VP First Thoughts

I just finished watching and listenning to this video made in Miami https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK9AmZftdWw , coverring the introduction of Tim Kaine as the VP candidate of the Democratic Party.

Midway through his speech, I was got a feeling that only got stronger as he went on.  Initially, I saw his bodily image as ho-hum, and then his voice was so much less than I had wanted.  However, instead of being underwhelmed by those superficial traits, I found they had not gotten in the way of the intellectual content he sought to present.

More than that, even as I found message behind his presentation, I found layers of message behind his message, in varying degrees of goodness.  I am very unsure that I can do justice to those messages, but they proved strongly reassuring.  What seemed the most significant to me was the return to sanity and the business of politics.  Sure, both Tim & Hil mentioned the opposition, complete with negative adjectives and adverbs, but they were mostly telling a coherent story addressed to the kind of mainstream America that I grew up with, in a way that showed that they both knew how to actually “walk the walk”.  The selection of Tim seems to be a practical choice that shifts the Dems only a tiny bit to the right while suggesting that the team is likely to deliver plenty.  A team that does not waste effort on fanatical ideologic battles but finds whatever possible cooperation in the pursuit of shared values will always get more done.

More meta posts (1)

A meta post is a post about posts.

This blog framework, like I expect all blog frameworks, will make it trivial to organise thoughts chronologically while making it difficult for readers to find threads of coherent thought.  My ideal would be the reverse, AISI the real value to be found in my work would be if coherency was maximized, allowing them to glean insights without having to wade through all of everything I manage to capture.  Besides, even if I capture something astute, that does not mean that it will be presented in its most digestible form.

I expect to tag each title to reflect the topic thread it continues.  I will look for a format to breakout the links and dependent ideas from earlier post that are foundational to each entry, as I have no way of knowing which fragments any reader has already seen.

Onset Issues

There are many issues that have come up in establishing this blog.

  • GoDaddy provided a user experience even worse than that provided by JetStar before they wised up.  Thus I went with IWantMyName.
  • Pricing is both wacko and bad.  My domain cost $11.38 for the first year, but it is expected to jump to $64. next.
  • My friend Tom is providing the host, so I only needed to point the registration at his machine.  This was a small button with a less than clear title; this also meant navigating to avoid all the other extra cost services from the registrar.
  • Tom has been using WordPress, about which I have no documentation yet, and no previous experience.  I have done several things with setting up web servers, including setting up a couple of WikiMedia sites complete with writing exotic extensions in PHP.
  • My first attempt at publishing a page was the “about” page, which WP says it published but I do not yet know how to “see it” from anywhere other than the administrators dashboard.
  • This is my first blog entry.