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General Blog (Jeff's Journals)

The Sheep Look Up - on the nature of change
The Singing Horse
- on the meaning og hope
The Monty Python Syndrome
- on the nature of denial
Tests and Trials
- how you face different types of problems
Exceptions to rules - how exceptions to rules unmake the rules
I like good Science Fiction (because it is so incredibly rare)
What I liked and hated about Star Trek
Crime and Punishment -The problem with prisons
The Parole system
On the Nature of Freedom
Rainbows and Glories
Attitude is Everything
Entropy - Reinventing onself
The Problem with Problems
Crisis Management - why it works
Inefficiency - The hidden agenda of all businesses
Letting Go

Personal Anecdotes

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The General Blog

THE SHEEP LOOK UP

(paraphrased from a book by John Brunner)

Once there was a man who was walking through the Irish countryside. The day was beautiful; the weather was perfect and the the green hills and blue sky was so deep in color that it hurt your eyes to behold.

As he walked along the winding road, he passed a fenced plot of land, where a flock of sheep grazed in a field. He noticed that each of the sheep was focused so completely on the three-inch patch of grass directly in front of them that they were oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings, the passersby on the road, and even to the other sheep.

On a whim, the man stopped and clapped his hands loudly.

Suddenly, the sheep all looked up, startled by the noise. But almost before the echo of the noise faded in the air, the sheep forgot the reason they had looked up.

Glancing first one way and then another, they gradually returned to their grazing and to that the three-inch patch of grass in front of them, that constituted their whole world.

Once again, they were oblivious to their surroundings, the beautiful weather, their companions, the man on the road, and even their startled response to a forgotten noise.

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Sometimes when we do something, when we achieve and make a difference, the successes that we attain do not seem to endure.

Doing something useful in the world is a lot like the man’s experience with the sheep. We make a noise and change things around us. For a moment people notice and then they forget and go back to what they were doing before.

Sometimes the things we do are no more enduring or lasting than making sheep look up.

So be like the Irish traveller. Have fun along the way and enjoy the scenery.

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THE SINGING HORSE

(Origin unknown - my own retelling)

One of my favorite stories is about patience and ability to look past current problems in favor of long term solutions. The story goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a bard. He was the greatest bard in the realm, renowned for both his singing voice and his wit, but his talent for composition and eloquence was his bane, for one day, when he attended a revel, a feast for the king, disaster resulted. That evening, when he sang, he was in his best form. While he drank too heavily, the wine only seemed to enhance his bardic abilities. He sang and celebrated; he was the life of the party.

Unfortunately, the heavy drink caught up with him and the next thing he knew he was waking up in a dungeon cell.

His head hurt like he’d been beaten half to death. His body ached as if he’d been tied to a wagon wheel in cross-country race, and his mouth tasted like he’d eaten leftover worm food. Squinting against the painful glare of a dim ray of light seeping through the crack at the bottom of the dungeon cell door, he softly called out to the guard.

“Finally awake, eh?” the guard responded.

Cowering from the echoes of the guard’s whispered response, which resounded in his head, he asked softly, “Why am I here? What happened?”

In amazement, the guard asked, “You mean you don’t remember what you did late night at the feast?”

The bard mumbled, “No…I don’t remember anything about last night.”

Slowly and patiently, the guard related to his old friend the events of the prior evening.

“Well, milord bard, you outdid yourself it this time. Last night, just as the feast was reaching its peak, you commanded the attention of the assembled revelers to grace the king with song. Despite your slowly swaying stance and your overly brash demand, your voice rose in song. Never have I heard you sing so sweetly and never have your words flowed so smoothly. The hall was enthralled and a hush settled upon your audience.

“First you sang about the prowess and the majesty of the king. You sang of his might in battle and his courage. The king and the assembled crowd were moved.

“Next, you sang of the King’s court. Unfortunately, you mocked them as petty peacocks, lazy lackeys, craven cowards, and foolish fops. Considerable laughter rose from the crowd even as they tried to remain straight-faced and proper. When you finished the second stanza, the members of the court silently glowered and glared.

“Then you sang of the King’s wife, and explained that it was her loathsome looks and dour demeanor that drove the king so earnestly to seek death in battle, in a vain attempt to flee the pain and anguish of life in the Queen’s presence. More laughter rose from the crowd. Even the King turned away to smile. The Queen, however, was not amused.

“But still you sang on. Your next verse addressed the King’s children. You mocked the princes as spoiled brats and pronounced the heir as a curse waiting to befall the kingdom. You named all his children ridiculing each of them in turn with increasing harshness. Unfortunately, you did not have the self-control to stop at the King’s legitimate heirs. You proceeded to enumerate the King’s illegitimate offspring, as well. This time the Queen and the court laughed along with the crowd, but the King’s face grew red and his favor was lost.

“Yet you still continued to sing. Your next verse was the one that finished whatever approval you might have ever had with the court. This time you sang about money, of how its flow proceeded from the pockets of the peasants to the coffers of the King. You spoke of the kingdom as though she were a virgin being raped and pillaged by the crown. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if you hadn’t mentioned the largest bribes, lies and scams along with the names of the most powerful men in the realm. The court was stunned to silence. No one laughed anymore.

“Then, before anyone could stop you, you launched into your final verse. With an amazing economy of words you portrayed the peasants as fools, the merchants as thieves, the aristocracy spoiled cowards, the royal guards as murderous thugs, the priests as liars, and the King as the only man in the kingdom with the qualities to justly represent them all.

“Without delay the King dispatched his guards, who clubbed you senseless and dragged you here.”

The bard was aghast. After a moment’s reflection, he asked, “So what is to come of me?’

“Oh?” said the guard sadly. “Didn’t I tell you? The King sentenced you to death on the spot. You’re to be beheaded in the courtyard at noon. I’m sorry, sir bard.” Slowly turning, the guard started to walk away.

Shocked, the bard asked, “Wait! What time is it now?”

The guard paused and replied, “It is almost midday. Again I am sorry, old friend.”

The bard slumped back to the floor trying to adjust to the news. However, before he could gather his senses, the clashing of approaching armsmen sounded outside his cell. The cell door burst open and the bard was dragged to his feet and half carried upstairs through the awaiting crowd up to the platform where the king and the hooded executioner silently waited.

Flinching painfully against the bright sunlight, the bard slowly straightened himself to address the King. The King, however, said nothing but looked the bard directly in the eyes with a stare that showed only pain and betrayal.

The bard bravely spoke and said half in question “Your Majesty, I suppose it’s too late for an apology of any sort.”

While it didn’t seem possible, the King’s glare grew even colder. He turned from the bard and nodded to his headsman.

“Your Grace, with your indulgence, I would like to use my last words to try to make up for the foolish and thoughtless words I said last night.”

The King angrily snapped back to cut him off, but the bard quickly interjected, “However, I know that there’s nothing that I could say that would make up for those words I said. Nothing can take them back. Nothing can atone for their utterance. There’s no justification I could give for my crimes, and thus there can be no mercy. I am guilty of treason before the king and worse.”

The King stood thoughtfully. This was not the reaction he’d expected. He gestured for the executioner to pause and studied the condemned man trying to puzzle out what his old friend might be up to.

Kneeling before the King, the bard bowed and intoned, “Your Highness, you are right in claiming my life and in punishing me here before your loyal subjects. However, I sorely wish there was some way I could make up for the foul injustice I’ve committed.”

Curious, the king now listened in earnest to the bard who now looked up to address his liege.

“My king, with my last act on earth, I would like to make you the most famous man in the world. There is little that a bard like me can do except to use my skills in your service to glorify your name and to make you the envy of all other kings and crowns.”

Enthralled and amazed the king now waited.

The bard continued, “My liege, if you will permit. I can give you a gift that will make you the envy of all other kings. With my final act on earth, I will teach your prized white stallion to sing!”

The King stood shocked. His face once again grew red. He didn’t appreciate being made a fool in public again.

Before the King could act, however, the bard said, “I know it sounds impossible, but think, my lord. I’m the greatest bard in the land. If anyone could teach a horse to sing it would be me. No one else would even attempt to perform such a feat. You have to admit it would be a marvel indeed. If your prized white warhorse could sing, your fame would increase and people would be amazed at a king who command such things!”

“Of course,” the bard continued, “It would take some time.”

Frowning, the King considered. “How much time?” he asked.

Pausing, as if to reflect, the bard replied, “A year.” Before the King could protest, the bard added, “But the year would not be a pardon, of course. My death would still occur when my year of service was done. If I succeed, I would expect nothing in payment. It is I who owe you for the ill deeds that I have done. I deserve to be killed. I only seek the opportunity to repay, in part, for my crimes. Once the year is over, I should still be slain. And, of course, if I fail in my task, I should be killed all the more slowly.” Bowing, the bard spoke a final time. “My King, I don’t deserve such mercy and understand if you decline my service.”

The King thought carefully. He had nothing to lose from this unusual offer, and everything to gain. Indeed, if he had a singing horse, it would be most amazing. Chuckling to himself, he nodded. Then he turned to his guardsman and proclaimed to the crowd, “As you have said. Make it so. You have one year to complete this task and then we will meet back at this place.” He gestured to the guards, spun on his heal and walked away.

The guards grabbed the kneeling bard and escorted him back to the dungeon, uncertain whether to be gentle or harsh with him. Once back in his cell, the jail guard carefully approached the door and addressed the bard. “Milord Bard! What are you thinking? Are you mad? Do you really imagine that you can teach a horse to sing?”

“No” replied the bard. “Of course I can’t teach a horse to sing. But I haven’t lost my mind.”

“Then how,” implored the guard “can you offer the king such a bargain? Why did you say such things?”

“Well,” the bard said smiling, “a year is a long time and in that year many things can happen. In a year, the King may lose his anger and find mercy. In that time, perhaps I can find some other way to make amends. Any number of things might happen. In the next year, I might escape and win my freedom. In the year to come, the King could die; I could die; the horse could die. A year is a long time, and while there is life, there is hope.

“And …who knows… maybe the horse will learn to sing.”

Where there is life, there is hope.

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THE MONTY PYTHON SYNDROME

One of my favorite movie scenes was in the films “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

In the movie, there is a scene where King Arthur comes to a bridge guarded by a Black Knight. When Arthur tries to cross the bridge, the Knight tells Arthur that the king must first defeat him in battle before he can cross. The Black Knight then draws a great sword and attacks King Arthur. Without delay, the fight is on.

After some quite impressive swordplay, Arthur cuts off the Black Knight’s arm, which falls to the ground still clasping the great sword. Arthur then admonishes the Knight saying, “You may now step aside. I have defeated you honorably in battle.”

The Black Knight, however, replies saying, “No you haven’t!”

Arthur insists, noting, “ Yes I have. I’ve cut your bloody arm off!”

However, even as Arthur points at the nearby limb on the ground, the Black Knight retorts, “No you haven’t. It’s only a flesh wound. I’ve had worse.” Then, without hesitation, the Black Knight reaches down with his good arm, picks up the sword and proceeds to attack Arthur again.

With little delay this time, Arthur knocks the sword aside and cuts off the Black Knight’s other arm. Amazed at the Black Knight’s stamina, Arthur confronts his opponent again saying “There! Have you had enough yet?”

The Black Knight, now literally disarmed yet remarkably undeterred, refuses to acknowledge defeat and begins kicking Arthur.

Arthur, in turn cuts the offending leg off.

Still, the Black Knight continues and, hopping on a single leg, begins butting Arthur with his head.

In the end, Arthur severs the remaining leg from the Black Knight and crosses the bridge without opposition, while the Black Knight, an armless, legless torso, derides Arthur for his cowardice by not coming back to be bitten.

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It is a dark and gory scene, and few could have pulled it off as comedy, but it does illustrate an important aspect of human nature, albeit an ignoble and dark one.

    “There is no failure of sufficient magnitude so great that it cannot be denied.”

In the story, the Black Knight is not unlike many people, who when confronted with failure, simply deny that any failure has occurred and proceed blindly on. The capacity for denial in human beings seems unlimited and Monty Python gives us a humorous and exaggerated example of it in this mock battle. “It’s only a flesh wound. I’ve seen worse.”

It is sad how often people choose to ignore realities they do not want to admit, rather than facing the world and its lessons, good or bad.

The capacity to deny any defeat and failure we face, however, can turn out to be a powerful approach to overcoming obstacles. Indeed this blind perseverance may ultimately result in a Pyrrhic victory in the end. Is it stubbornness or delusional denial that leads many people to overcome their repeated failures and reach belated success?

Is this denial good or bad? Is this ability to deny reality a weakness, a foible that protects us from accepting unwanted realities? or is it a virtue of sorts which enables us to overcome insurmountable odds?

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Tests and Trials

All of us face Tests and Trials in our lives

Tests are problems that we are given in life that we can solve.  sometimes it takes tenacity and perserverance to find a solution; sometimes it takes creativity and innovation; sometimes it take courage and strength of will. Tests build character

Trials, on the other hand, are problems that we are not ever going to be able to solve.  the death of a l;ved one, failures due to circumstances beyond our control, problems that other people have that we simply cannot influence of fix.  the thing with trials is not in the solutions you find (most do not have solutions); the thing with trials is how we face problems we cannot fix; how we behave, what we do, how the trials change us and who we become.

Success doesn't mean you never experience failure.  success is sometimes just picking yourself up one more time than you fall down. success is sometimes learning who you are and then doing what you can.

Trials do not build character... they reveal it

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We face tests and trials throughout our lives.  The hard part is distinguishing between the two and solving what we can solve and  dealing with the rest.

It’s hard. but that's life.  It is the challenge and difficulties we face that make the rewards worthwhile and that shape who we become

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

Originally an untitled prayer by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr; often mis-attributed to St Francis Assisi

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Exceptions to rules

There is an expression “that is an exception to a rule’ or “the exception makes the rule”
We tend to accept the concept that all rules have exceptions, or that exceptions to rules are acceptable... even though in nature, there are not exceptions to rules.

One issue with exceptions it that rules are dramatically diminished they are created.

In way of example, there was a game that I used to play with the boys in my troop when I was a Boy Scouts leader.  I liked the game because it showed, rather dramatically, how exceptions unmake rules to which they are applied. The boys liked the game because it appealed to their morbid little natures.

The game went like this. 

First you start with a promise like “I promise never to hit you”

In general this is a good rule. It ensures the safety of all to whom this rule is applied.  However, this rule can be modified with a clause that reduces the scope of the statement.  Such a modification might be…

“more than once”

The new rules now says

I promise never to hit you more than once.”

The scary aspect of this tiny modification is that it essentially undoes the promise.  It allows the individual who makes this pledge to hit youy whenever they want, so long as you are only hit once.  You still have some impunity from harm. At least you would only be hit once and would not have to fear being pummeled to death.

As distressing how much a very small clause or exception can modify the original message and intent, this issue with how exceptions modify rules can be continued by adding yet more qualifying clauses.  For instance, consider adding the phrase “in the face”

“I promise never to hit you more than once in the face.”

With the addition of this last clause, the presumption that one will be protected from harm is almost completely gone.  The individual making this promise can casually beat you to death, just so long as they only hit you in the face once.

Yet the strength of this promise  to  prohibit harm can be reduced even as additional clauses are added.

Considering adding the clause “…on Tuesdays” so that the statement now reads

“I promise never to hit you more than once in the face on Tuesdays.”

Again, the small remaining assurance of the now heavily qualified statement (that you may be beaten to death but only hit in the face once) is now essentially removed.  The prohibition to not hit you in the face more than once, now only applies on Tuesdays and there are not restrictions or prohibitions at all, on the other days of the week.

You can se how the addition or introduction of seemingly small exceptions keep reducing the efficacy of the initial rule, unit the rule basically doesn’t exist at all.

Now my troop of eleven and twelve year old boy scouts, loved this game.  They would have great fun coming up with more an more exceptions that would make the rule less and less restrictive.

Consider the affect of adding such clauses as:

“…with a baseball bat”
“….when wearing a dress”
“… at noon”
“…when the police are present”

Each exception further diminished the rule until there really is no rule at all.

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The variations of the game include other starting statements and premises, such as:

“I would never lie to you”
“I would never steal from you”
“I promise never to leave you” etc.

A great game for kids who need to learn that rules are compromised and unmade by the very existence of exceptions

I just wish more grownups (and especially politicians) learned or remembered this same lesson

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I like good Science Fiction (because it is so incredibly rare)


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What I liked and hated about Star Trek

I love Star Trek the Next generation, when it first came out on TV. My sons grew up with the characters over the years. There are a few episodes we grew to cherish; one where Picard experienced a lifetime of memories in minutes (and learned to play the flute) - "The Inner Light"; another was one of the best time travel sequences they ever filmed "Yesterday's Enterprise" where an alternate past manifests itself and tasha yar returns, albeit only for part of the episode. There are other favorites

But there are some parts of STNG that bothered me a lot. In the early episodes, there was wonderful variety; Data who thought differently and didn't understand what it meant to be human; Warf as a Klingon with a different philosophy and culture of violence and war; Deana Troy as an empathy who could sence feeling and understand others far better than most; and especially the Feregni, who were truly alien, a culture with different foundations for right an dwrong and very different approaches to other beings even in their own civilization. They were truly alien, and like the Borg, were a wonderful development.

But over time the differences diminished. data, rather than being different and thinking a reasoning in a unique way, simply became Pinochio, a robot that wanted to become a real boy. Warf softened from the archtype warrior to jsut a gruff Fereration officer with a gruff voice. The Ferengi became less alien and ended up as mischevious little boys with big ears. Deana Troy's remarkable abilities were degraded until she only stated the obvious (for the benefit of people that had gone to get a kitchen snack before a commercial (Ther was one scene where a Klingon female officer breaks a glass table with her bear ands and Deana comments "I can see you're upset")

It was disappointing.

Alien cultures should BE alien. They should be as disconcerted and disturbed about us as were are with them. Truly alien cultures should think each other insane. Yet the writes of STNG all turned aliens into human being over time; differences could not be tolerated... everyone should WANT to become more human. Isn't it equally likely that other cultures would expect US to become like THEM

The last thing that I disliked was that there was no longitudinal theme... like the five eyar story line in Babylon 5. Each episode had to stand alone and be completed in one hour. The episodes shifted to be more like "Lost In Space" ... where viewers were treated with the monster of the week.

Sadly, this diminished the novelty of the stories. Not everything can be resolved; few in one hour. The excitement and novelty goes away if the universe is saved over and over again each week.

It started well, but became a tiring and disappointing series toward the end. Q became annoying. The holodeck sequences non-sequitors conflicting with their own genre (Except for the one with Moriarty becoming senient and taking over the Enterprise). The Borg were conquered and some of them even wanted to become human (one Borg named Hugh). There are still some wonderful episodes that broke out of this mold and it was great for a while, but I did not miss it much when it finally finished.

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Crime and Punishment -The problem with prisons

One of the problems with our criminal justice system is that it is schizophrenic. It cannot agree on its own mission.

-Some feel that prisons should be a place where people are punished (albeit humanely so that the punishment is not painfu; an oxymoronic concept at best... punishment that doesn't inflict distress)
- Others belive that people should be sent to prison to "protect society"
-Still others believe that criminals should be in jail to "pay back their debt to society"
- And then there are those that feel prisonis a place where criminals should be "rehabilitated" or cured of their criminal tendencies

Our problems is not just that these are inconsistent and incompatible objectives, the problem is that all four of these different models are actively supported in the same prisons at the same time. This not only confounds the objectives of these conflicting missions, is wasteful and inneffective. Politicians are split on which model should be applied. Criminologists, sociologists,and theologists disagree as much as libertarians, conversatives and liberals.

Laws are also inconsistent. "Three strike" laws focus on putting as many people in prison as possible. The parole system, the ACLU and Amnesty International want to release as many as possible. No one wants to pay for prisons, but no one trusts the private sector or the military to manage them.

So which models should be applied?

The answer is tha, of these 4 models, each of them is right and none of them is wrong. The errors is in trying to apply them to all crimes.

Consider white collar crime (embesslement, theft, fraud) These people generally are not violent. It is not necessary to lock these people up to protect them from society; although if they worked in the financial services area, you should revoke their brokers license, their real estate licesnes, or associated privileges. The probably should be punished, but they also need to pay restitution. So make their punishment productive. Turn them loose to work again and garnish their wages (or a very large portion of them), to pay for the money they stole or missappropriated. Their punishment is that they have to work and that they have to pay back what was lost, even if it takes the rest of their lives.

Similarly, those convicted of vandalism, grand theft, or destruction of property, should be forced to pay restitution.

On the other hand, there are violent offenders, who sometimes DO need to be locked up, if only to protect those they harm. The problem is, how long should they be locked up? This overlaps other missions. Are they also their to be rehabilitated? How long is enough punishment? For capital crimes, that is if someone intentionally murdered someone, there is a solid argument that they should remain locked up as long as their victim stays dead. But if the death was unintentional, a shorter sentence might apply. But how does locking someone up for an accidental death benefit anyone. True, they cannot pay full restitution for their crime; no amount of money will bring back someone from death. Might an alternative to permanent improsionment, be a lifetime of community service, helping victims, paying back trestitution, if only in part, for some of the harm they have done.

Some crimes and some criminals may be subject to cure or rehabilitation. restitution should again be aprt of their punishment, but crimes associated with drug use, or alcoholism, may not require imprisonmnet, but rather mandatory and perhaps, lifelong treatment. (It is far cheaper in the long run to pay for someone's drug treatment, counseling or therapy for life than it is to feed, clothe, and house someone forever. As a productive member of society they can agin pay back, if only in part, the cost of those services.

Then there are the crimes that harm people and society and cannot be rehabilitated. It has been documented that some crimes and some criminals are not subject to "being cured". Studies have shown that when child molesters, for instance, undergo treatment or counselling actually repeat their crime more often when the opportunity occurs. Recidivism actually increases for those who undergo extensive rehabilitation therapy. part of the problem is that the therapy encourages the perpetrators to remember and revisit the crimes in their minds. The therapy actually reinforces the mental states that encourage the pedophilia or sexual molestations.

These are criminals that really need to be locked up to protect society.

Of course there are alternative treatments. India, for instance, ahs come up with a 100% effective treatment for rape. Criminals are given the choice... life imprisonment or volutary castration. (The castration is performed chemically, permanently disabling the sexual organs.) It may seem harsh, but it IS voluntary... and as noted, it is 100% effective. No one with this treatment ever rapes again.

Ultimately, the punishment should fit the crime. Those that can be rehabilitated should be (drug addicts). Those crimes for which restitution is possible, should require the perpetrators to pay back everything that was lost or stolen... with interest. Those that are a potentialaharm to society should be removed to limit harm to others.

The four models are all valid, but for different crimes, different circumstances, and different criminals. The mistake is taking one model and trying to apply it to all crimes or to apply multiple models to the same crime simultaneously.

Oh...there was a fifth model of criminal justice.

Back before laws were fully codified, each region, kingdom, fiefdom, created its own laws; laws intended as social contracts to ensure that people didn't hurt each oother and disrupt society. (e.g. thou shalt not steal, though shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, don't destroy othoer's property, etc.) The laws worked because people mutually agreed to abide by them. But sometimes, someone would reject all authority and wreck havoc. They would fight and steal and destroy and harm others with no remorse or worry. Punishments might apply for individual offenses, but as a last resort the authorities could declare an individual an "outlaw". that means that the laws that protect others, no longer apply to this individual. People could rob this man, or beat him up or even kill him with impunity. Since the individual rejected the laws, then reciprocity suggested tahat the laws no longer will protect him. Such a sentence usually resulted in the individual being excorted to the edge of the jurisdiction, or the edge of town with the warning, that if they return they cna (or will) be killed on sight. In early cultures ostracism or banishment was deemed to be the severest of punishments.

(Of course, this does lead to the creation of sub-cultures, criminal organizations, gangs, etc. But isn't that what we have in prisons today?)

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The Parole System

Along the same thought. Consider the parole system. If you have a criminal, someone who is violent or unrepentent of their crimes, the question arises... when should then (or should they ever) be considered for parole... release.

Some crimes cannot be taken back; some crimes ar enot susceptible to restitution. Sometimes offenders or violent (sexual or physical) are may represent a real threat to others.

Yet there are always those who feel that the criminals have ehabilitated and argue with teh parole board to release violent or repeat offenders.

Consider some of the detainees at guantanomo, taliban members who were locked up for years, who upon their release, went back home and became leaders in Al Quaeda fanatically commited to repeat their crimes. How can you tell who should be released? If someone argues their sincere rehabilitation, how can you tel if they are right or not?

Here is a suggestion. Set the sentence at the time of the trial. If some inmate claims he has "found Jesus" or has fundamentally reformed, the inmate need merely find a sponsor. This means that someone has to stand up and categorically guarantee the inmates behavior before the inmate can be paroled. But there is a catch.

If the sponsor has been hoodwinked and the inmate repeats his crimes, then the inmate goes back to jail, but so does the sponsor. After all, the inmate would not have been released and would not have had the opportunity to repeat his crime, if not for the sponsor who vouchsafed for him.

This approach would a\have several positive elements. If a sponsor, who sincerely believes in the reformation of an felon is correct, then the inmate would be released and, if the spnsor was correct, the prroof would be that a useful and productive member of society will have been returned to the world. On the other hand, if the sponsor was just a bleeding heart and was gullible enough to argue for the pardon of a violent recidivist, then the criminal would again be released, but if he recommits crimes, he would be returned to jail along with the sponsor, who would lose the opportunity to argue for the release of other lawbreakers.

There might be fewer pardons, but those who believe that someone has reformed, can bet their own freedom to vouchsafe for those whose subsequent actions would redeem or condemn them both.

In the absence of a pardon, all those sentenced would serve the full term of their sentence; no time off for good behavior. Good behavior is assumed; bad behavior results in a longer sentence.

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On the Nature of Freedom

There is a weird series of Science fiction stories by David Gerrold (A Matter for Men, Method for Madness, Season for Slaughter...War against the Cttor) that had a strange sub-theme. It was about the nature of Freedom.

In the final book, an interesting modelof freedom is proposed; one I find particularly interesting.

Freedom is equal parts OPPORTUNITY and RESPONSIBILITY.

If you live in a totalitarian state, where you do not have the right to own goods or property, where you are told what job to work in, where you cannot even travel between cities without travel permit and you cannot express your opinion unless it is that of the government... there is no freedom. Without opportunity you are not free to travel, or work, or grow rich, or even speak.

However, if you live in places where these opportunities are available to you, you are expected to use these opportunities wisely. If you do not, you can diminish the freedom of others.

For instance, if you take the opportunity to use your ability to acquire property and money and use it to inappropriately take money and property from others (theft, fraud, extortion, etc) then you reduce or negate the freedom of others. If you use your right to life by using it to kill others, then your freedom cancels out someone else's. If you use your right to travel to smuggle goods or drugs, then you harm society and those others who are using their opportunities responsibly.

One aspect of the criminal justice system is that IF you do not use your opportunities responsibly, then you LOSE those opportunities, sometimes as punishment, but moreso to prevent you from diminishing the freedom of others. Thus if you use your freedom to drive a car irresponsibly by driving while drunk, then you lose your driving privileges. Similarly if you beat people up, they lock you up to limit the number of people you can assault. If you steal from others, they place you in confinement so that you no longer have the opportunity to steal again.

These are all essential activities that need to be taken to ensure the freedom of others. However, this denial of opportunity gets confused with the purpose of criminal justice systems. As noted in the blog above, some people think this confinement is punishment or a prerequisite to rehabilitation. Actually, it is really move self-defence by society against those who do not follow the rules and violate the dreedoms of others by breaking thse laws.

An interesting variant about freedom. I had never thought of freedom in this context and like it very much.

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Rainbows and Glories

In my youth, I flew F-4 Phantom jet aircraft. It is truly a young mna's job. You do not fly those machines as much as you wear them.

There are many things I miss about flying (the adrenline rush, the phsycial excitement, the mentla and physical challenge, the trill of flying faster than the speed of sound and racing where most people will never visit).... and many things I do not miss (like the G-forces that leave you black and blue from the G-suit you wear and the vertigo and nausea you inevitably experience in combat simulations)

In any case, on of the things that I miss most about flying is... looking down on clouds. Most people don't think about this, but when you look down on a cloud, you see a rainbow. Once you think about it you realize... light from the sun behind you, reflecting off soft white clouds... of course, it would reflect like a rainbow.

But what few people realize is that when gazing down at a cloud, the rainbow that you see is different than the ones you see on the ground. On the ground, you see light behind you reflecting off a wall of rain (condenced water vapor) and you see an arc of color before you. From your vantage point in the sky, however, you see the FULL rainbow. A full circle of prism colored light with red on the outside and violoet on the inner edge. But it is a closed circle. On the ground you only see half the rainbow. In the sky you see it completely formed, a full circle.

These are only rarely seen by earth-bound folk. They are rare phenomenon only seen in rare atmospheric conditions like a moountaineer on a tall peak with the sun at his back... who can gaze down at clouds below.

Reflected light seen from the ground are called RAINBOWS. Those seen as fully closed circles are called GLORIES.

Oh, there is one other aspect to a GLORY. Seen from the air, there is something important that you can see in the center of the GLORY. It is the shadow of your airplane. (After all, the sun is directly behind you and it is reasonable for the plane to cast a shadow.

I always found it ironic that you had to fly up into the sky to see the entire rainbow... and that at the center of the rainbow, the end of the rainbow... is the silhoette of you and your aircraft.

It is something I have not seen since I last flew. It is not something you see often from commercial airplanes. The pilots seem reluctant to roll 90 degrees or fly inverted to see the clouds below.

Anyway, of all the things I miss about flying, that probably tops the list.


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Attitude is everything

A man walked through a quarry, looking at all the workers. He stopped in front of the three men who seemed to be performing the identical tasks of chiseling stone blocks out of the marble wuarry walls. He asked each man in turn, "What are you doing?"

The first man glanced up and retorted, "What does it look like I am doing? I'm carving stone blocks."

The second man replied, saying "I'm making a living to support my wife and children."

The third man looked up with excitement and wonder in his eyes and replied, "I'm building a catherdral"

Every man's attitude shapes his reality and changes the nature of everything he does.
Attitude is everything.

-------------Other examples:

Do you know the difference between an optimist and a specialist?
Answer--- An optimist is someone who thinks we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist is sometone who is afraid that's true.

An opinion is an idea that people hold. A conviction is an idea that holds people.

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Entropy - Reinventing onself

As I have noted elsewhere, I keep applying principles of physics to sociological phenomena (presences adn absences, the inertia of ideas, the Hisenberg uncertainty principle of surveys, etc.)

In this case I want to discuss the principle of entropy and extend it to behaviors and impact on organizations.

Entropy is the measure of randomness or oder in a closed system. the second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated will increase over time.

Examples of randomness entering system is given by an ice cube in a glass of warm water. Over time instead of regions of hot and cold, the ice cube melts and water cools, and you end up with a more homogeneous glass of tepid water.

In dynamic systems, errors accumulate over time. Good systems go bad; bad systems get worse. chaos creeps into ordered systems and systems grow more disorderly over time

xxxxxx


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Thermodynamics of problem solving

(Ginsberg's law: 1-You can't win. 2-You can't break even. 3-You can't quit the game)

(i.e. the perversity of nature tends toward a maximum)

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The Problem with Problems


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Crisis management - why it works

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Inefficiency - The hidden agenda of all businesses

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Letting Go

There is an old joke about a man who falls off a cliff and flails a he falls, grasping at the last minute a tiny branch. With no handhold or foothold available, he hangs on desperately with both hands to the tiny fledgling tree, not knowing how long he might be able to hold on.

He then cried out, "God? Please save me! If you save me, I'll do anything you ask."

To his surprise a bodiless voice answers and says, "Anything?"

"yes, God," pleads the man. "I'll do anything."

The disembodied voice then said, "Good. Let go."

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One of the hardest things we ever do in life is letting go. It is hard. We may hate where we are an what we ahve, but we seem reluctant or sometimes enable to let go so that we can move on or change.

Letting go of people is hard.. children when they grow up and move out, friends when they move away or when we move. Parents or friends when they die. To get a new, better job, you have to let go of the current oneand even when the reward is obvious, the security and familiarity of what we have is hard to surrender. Moving to a new job is scary.

Change means letting go. To learn, often means you have to let go of something you have always believed. Sometimes to make a project work, you have to give up ownership and let the thing belong to others. Ideas that are held to closely can be smothered and die.Sometimes you have to let go of them or even give them away to give the life and to see them spread and survive.

In the science of complexity, there is a constant tradeoff between exploration and exploitation. Exploreation menas, discoverying new things, letting go of where you are and what you know and what you own to find newer better things. Exploitation means staying where you are, leveraging what you know, refining what you do, but not changing it too much.

Exploration is exciting and challenging and scary. It may mean leaving home and going new places, facing dangers and the unknown. Sometimes it involves greate risk and sometimes it leads to failure.

Exploitation is safer, it builds on what we have; it reinforces the wall of the castle, and improves the home you live in, it improves, but only in an incremental way. It is safer. In many ways it is easie. It embodies the status quo, the way things are and it rarely accepts or embraces large changes or things that are new.

Evolution and life constantly trade off between these too strategies. But letting go is hard. Life, growth, improvement, change... all require letting go of things to various degree.

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Contact me here if you have comments or feedback for me. robinson_ja@q.com