There is no “idea” or blueprint of a hive. No ant works or dies “for the hive” No ant is sentient though there is a localized being with some flexibility of response. Scientists have observed a range of “personality” types or at least behavioral types. Some ants are lazy. Some are even by ant standards, dumb. No ant thinks of the past or future.
In 100 million years no ant has ever imagined or thought of a hive. There is no hive except through the combined actions of essentially unconscious operators. And yet, operational responses to various situations flow naturally with seemingly coordinated group efforts to collect food, care for larva, fight off enemies and rebuild walls. What the hell is the model in the brain of a worker ant rebuilding a broken wall that says: “OK, I’m done.” ?
The hive is the emergent whole of its tiny individual parts. It doesn’t exist without them and they don’t exist without it.
What are you a tiny constituent of? What emerges from variations of YOU multiplied a million times? Can you see it? Can you think of it?
(rediscovered – out of sync Cribsheet)
Well Isaac continues to amaze us in so many ways. Those of you who are about to get to see him will notice right away how much more he is like a little boy than a toddler now. He is temperamentally much the same little person we’ve been keeping company with for going on three years but the articulate and funny expressions of that person pull me up short sometimes – I love where we’re at but I find I already miss the little baby and the tiny toddler of yesterday, I know his Mom does too.
- Here are some tiny little word snapshots of Isaac, recently.
We were at the park in the playground. As usual, we were playing with pebbles in this boat like structure. He was gathering piles of pebbles on the bench seat sides of the thing and pretending they were food and he was cooking them. He named and offered them as he cooked:
“These are chingosans – would you like some?”
Oh yes, Isaac they’re delicious. And so on – he is remarkably comfortable making up crazy words and just using them in conversation. There were things like glernytibs and wimbledimps -sort of like a Dr. Seuss restaurant menu.
- Anyway, I told you all that to tell you this – he picked up handful of pebbles and looked at me sweetly -“Sorry, Daddy” He said. I got out something like: “Oh Isaac, you have nothing to be sorry -” before he whapped me right in the face with the handful of pebbles. He had an impulse, knew it was wrong, very thoughtfully apologized and then went ahead and did it! I should have been mad or corrected him but I laughed till I fell down.
- Around the same time he took to asking me where the *********** was? With “**********” standing for a noise that really sounds like a word but you can’t quite make it out – the first few times I said stuff like “I can’t really understand what you’re saying” and asking for clarification but I suddenly realized he was just having me on – and when he’d ask I’d say “It’s over there in the corner” or “it’s right behind you” and he would be perfectly satisfied!
I taught him the Banana-fana song and he loves it, you know like: “Isaac Isaac bo-bisaac
banana fana fo fisaac
He made me sing it with the name of every person we know (granpa granpa bo banpa) and then on to every kids show character – (Thomas Thomas bo bomas) and all was well till we got to a Bob the Builder character named Muck. I started in confidently Muck, Muck bo buck
banana fana fo – UH OH
you see the second line always uses F instead of the person’s proper initial.
So I said it – I said it as simply and nonchalantly as I could so it wouldn’t stand out as anything special that he would home in on and start repeating loudly in public somewhere – to my knowledge we’ve both been pretty good about not cursing in front him (someone almost smashed into us in traffic the other day and I called him a fool) and he didn’t seem to notice anything special about it so I thought I was off the hook.
Till he said “sing penis!”
That’s a bit of segue, isn’t it. He clearly has a reference point for “naughty stuff’ even though I never see any sign of self consciousness in him or awareness of naughty things.
So I sang it – You might think I’m stupid but I was trying to keep it simple and light -ordinary and no big deal:
“Penis Penis bo benis banafana fo fenis
me-mi-mo menis PENIS!”
And thought I was clear till he said “Sing Chuck!”
Look. We don’t even know a Chuck – I wouldn’t have felt confident that had ever even heard the name “Chuck” but this kid seemed to know what would happen to it on the second line of the banafana song. I told him I wanted to do something else. Scary clever.
The other night I had a dinner for some old friends here and Isaac was in attendance -as dinner wound down Isaac decided to start handing out little golden tomatoes to everyone – we all played along and ate them because he was giddy with pleasure running around feeding us – his joy was so palpable – he ran out of sight into the kitchen for a moment and then ran to see us all smiling at him – he said:
“This is FANTASTIC, people!”
I came upstairs the other morning as Xxxxy was changing Isaac’s diaper – She was laughing and said “What are you doing?”
His little hand was cupped over his mouth and nose and he was babbling quietly in some completely made up language.
“I’m talking to my nose.” He said calmly.
He’s adopted this goofy little baby bonnet at day care and it’s his hat now – It’s so odd and like beyond not stylish but I’ve started to love it on him.
I’m including a particularly goofy pic of wearing reading glasses and the bonnet – he looks like an 18th century farm wife. (real time: Can’t find it)
warm thoughts to you all – Much love, Hugh
Meet Your Professors!
All across the United States public college systems have adopted a system of having a tiny minority of full time teachers and an overwhelming majority of part timers (“adjunct” “transient” “contingent” Smell the euphemisms?).
1. We do not receive equal pay for equal work
2. We face teaching caps, limits to how much we CAN work because then we would cross a barrier to a better pay and benefit scale.
3. Many receive no benefits, those who do, lose them if their workload drops from 50% to 49%.
4. We have no job security, quarter to quarter employment is luck and relationships.
5. If we have the bad luck to become unemployed, we receive no unemployment benefits.
Meanwhile of course the college is FULL of administrators, office workers, and support staff all of whom have more security and respect than us. The reason college has become so expensive is that for the last 40 years or so this administrative and office strata has swollen beyond all reason. It simply propagates at the expense of actual teaching and actual teachers. The internal cost cutting has been accomplished entirely at the expense of faculty who have become a legion of temp workers.
And it’s interesting (in an awful way) but there’s a strange class sensibility and “politeness” framing this. They’ll hold “Adjunct Recognition Day” as they did just a few days ago, by order of the Governor no less, where we are offered home baked cookies. If I was to say “Hey these cookies are great but could I have my health insurance back?” Everyone would just look at me like a burped loudly. “Do you have have to bring up such a painful subject?” Always coming from someone whose benefits are unquestioned.
(rediscovered Cribsheet – out of sync)
We’re hitting an especially high tone this time, eh?
Greetings to all and sorry to be out of touch so very long. All our well established patterns were broken up by Isaac’s Mom moving to her friend’s house. So now even simple tasks like taking pictures and getting at the computer are more complicated than they were. Isaac and his Mom are upstairs at P’s house and it’s a sweet little space and a nice home. I come in as usual at 7 in the morning to watch Isaac. We go downstairs to play and run into the problem of P’s sweet very old dog Maggie.
Every morning at 7:26 I step in a puddle of dog pee on a once exquisite Persian carpet. Many days worse things lie in wait. Maggie is sweet natured but half out of her mind. She asks to be let out of the back door to go pee in the yard (well OK, not in so many words) and I let her out and she takes care of business – except that lately she has taken to asking to go outside when she doesn’t need to and then she stands around out there looking sort of confused before barking to be let back in.
Then she forgets that she just asked and asks again – and again – and again – and again – and because I am trying to cut down on profound grossness in the living room I am afraid not to let her out. I spend my mornings being ordered about by a 400 year old dog and a two year old boy.
Maggie’s other quirk is The-Look-Of-Profound-Sadness which she nails me with every time I happen to look her way. When she catches your eye you feel a vertiginous drop toward an infinite horizon of ever deepening despair. It is a look of such woe and sorrow that the complete works of Ingmar Bergman on DVD would help you cheer up afterwards.
We generally head for my house about 8 o’clock for Sesame Street and other vehicles of the gay liberal satanic agenda. One show that Isaac likes that completely baffles me is called “Boobah” a show which makes “Teletubbies” look edgy and concerns itself with six primary colored dancing, flying and apparently farting extraterrestrials who make children dance. When they fly or dance the sound track plays “whoopee cushion” noises so frankly, I don’t know what else to think. Isaac thinks they look like penguins. To my eye they resemble brightly colored penguins as much as they resemble some sort of ambiguous genitalia. They name their characters as they leave their UFO style sleeping quarters to dance and I cover ears and make noise so I won’t learn their names. I know the names of everyone on Sesame street – everyone on Mister Rogers – everyone in Thomas the Tank Engine and even, God help me, everyone on Teletubbies. I will be damned if I will learn the names of the multicolored genital-oid dancing flatulent penguins of Boobah!
Isaac has been great. Very dear and funny and we have to constantly revise our sense of what to expect from him. He is braver physically which is a nice thing to watch happen but he still has this odd way of noticing any mention of things to be cautious of and talking about them a lot. Apparently he heard someone say the phrase “pissed her off’ because he randomly shouts of “Pister Offer” with glee and intensity. We pretend nothing happened. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. He babbles a kind of jibbity jabbitty blibbity blabbity scat jazz jabber which is interesting because he also using really complete articulate sentences much of the time. The scat jabber rhymes and he is really getting into things that rhyme – a friend of XXXXX’s gave him a little toy beaver and he was playing with it – because my head is full of nonsense I said:
“Beaver B. Bumpkin.” Isaac laughed and said “Beaver B. Bumpkin, sitting on a pumpkin. ”
Tonight he said:” Mommy, I have a very good book downstairs which I think you’ll like.”
I’ll send more sooner – love and good thoughts to you all, Hugh
I ran a couple of photos through Google’s Deep Dream software. It attempts to recognize patterns using a buttload of heuristics about characteristics that would indicate various things; buildings, animals, landscapes,etc.
It can be sort of gently psychedelic and beautiful or if you turn the levels up a bit frankly horrifying. In its nicer form It reminds me of things I’ve seen when responsibly ingesting socially acceptable pharmaceuticals…or something. This feels more like what I imagine schizophrenia might be like. Here’s the worst before and after ever.
In an interesting way this is a computer emulating the very human trait of constantly seeing things in the world around them that are mental projections. Like “Doesn’t that cloud look like a bunny attacking Abe Lincoln?” This trait is keyed into our ability to recognize anything but also to our ability to recognize types of things. Like recognizing a letter of the alphabet in a strange distorted font. Or like recognizing a building as a bank or a school without seeing a sign. It’s probably also related to the neurological blinders we develop with which we see exactly what we expect to see and don’t see anything we don’t expect to see.
The role this plays in scientific discovery seems clear cut to me. The role this plays in various kinds of bigotry and blind prejudice seems clear too. Continue reading
Built to fail
As a software teacher/trainer I am amazed by something. Every company and institution in the US apparently has the budget to subsidize ~65% of their employees being shit with computing…forever… but only a few of them can scrape a budget together for training. And when they do, it’s designed by middle management in a way that almost always misses the actual problem in favor of some oversimplified guess about what is wrong.
Whenever I have taught corporate groups I sense about a dozen issues other than the one I am there to teach going unaddressed. And if I try to get at those problems I’ll be seen as not teaching the right subject.
Usually, power users are mixed into the same class as the weakest users. The result is that the material will be wrong for part of the group no matter what… unless you teach “right down the middle” in which case it might be right for nobody. Also, the power users are forced to sit through such basic material that it wears out their goodwill and\or the “baby” users sit through advanced material that makes them feel stupid and hopeless. All of this crystalizes the idea of training as ineffective in the mind of management.
To get it right, do better research on the problem you are fixing.
- Don’t be superficial or complacent about imagining what the problem really is. Details matter.
- Identify your “power users” and find out what they need to know and why.
- While you’ve got them, ask what they consider to be the baseline skillset for the software in question in the context of this office. Compare notes on these assessments.
- Ask them (and any IT support people) what problems the focus group of employees seem to get stuck on. The power users and IT staff get hit up regularly for help and they have a lot more data points than you will get by asking the group what they need.
- The group doesn’t really know what it needs. The problem is concealed in the mist above their comfort zone.
- If it is possible to have the trainer come in for a chat with some representative students ahead of time, they will be able to target the actual need far better.
- “But the cost!” It’s going to be expensive either way. Do you prefer an expensive success or an expensive failure? Besides, if you do this correctly you will be saving real money and increasing real efficiency. Doing it wrong is mismanagement.
- Consider a break with form. If the trainer is open to it, propose working with smaller groups with a shared problem and consider doing this in the area where the work is done rather than a classroom. The trainer will almost always spot problems and growing out of local issues which would not come up in a classroom.
Like most parents Isaac’s Mom and I struggle with the question of weapon toys. Boys are drawn to them like crows to shiny pebbles or celebrities to cocaine. My intuition tells me that it’s healthy and natural for boys to play at fighting. Hell, not just my intuition, my memory. It was a tremendously powerful drive, a longing and a need. Playing war was one of the most deeply satisfying games I can remember. If I could run in the streets with friends pretending to shoot at each other without actually being hospitalized or jailed I would be doing it this moment. I believe playing with weapon toys is a way boys express aggression but that’s only a piece of what they are doing. They also learn restraint, teamwork, dealing with peck order, storytelling, and possibly nobility.
Isaac and I have fights as the centerpieces of all our stories. He demands it. Always we are good guys, always we show mercy and look for ways to mitigate damage. But always, we fight. I think he needs to explore this to figure out how to be good and strong at the same time. I think the Mommies and Daddies who shame kids away from fighting toys are doing harm – it’s as if they simply disapprove of this developmental stage and in the name of being responsible shrug off responsibility. They want their boys to be good but I think they overlook how much the boy needs to feel strong in order to feel like being good. I think they are turning their backs on the the animal soul of their boys because it offends their delicate sensibilities. Isaac’s Mom struggles with this more than I do but she fundamentally gets it – that it’s a part of boy nature that is inseparable from the boys inner life.