Tim Wu makes a good case that the vaunted “checks and balances” of the U.S. constitution has not really shown to be reality. The only thing that has prevented democracy in the U.S. from being overthrown has been the integrity of a frighteningly small number of people.

In my opinion we must not allow Republicans to paint a picture that this threat has only been because of Donald Trump. None of what we have endured is due to just Trump, in fact a case can be made that none of it is on Trump, instead it has all been on the Republican Party. Never forget, Trump won the Republican Party nomination for President, and if he had not then we would have not had four years of a Trump presidency and who knows how many fewer lives would have been saved from the pandemic.

We can’t be patting ourselves on the back thinking democracy prevailed. All that we really have is possibly a victory of one battle, but Republicans have been waging war on the United States since the 1940s and will continue fighting that war in to the future. As long as there is no consequence on Republicans they will remain to be a clear and present danger.

I am still bumming since learning on Friday that Len Kasper is leaving the Chicago Cubs to be the lead radio announcer for the White Sox. What I like about Len is that he is a genuine baseball guy, he isn’t a broadcaster who also does baseball, so moving from TV to radio makes sense. Of all sports baseball is best for radio.

My life experience with the Chicago Cubs has always been narrated by TV play-by-play guys: Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray, Chip Caray, and Len Kasper. There have been a few others who have been briefly behind the mike, but these are the voices that replay in my head.

The first words are Jack’s calling another Dave Kingman home run. Most of the words are spoken by Harry, who was with me from teenager to adult. Chip is sentimental following his grandfathers death, where Len will always be part of the Cubs finally making it to and winning the World Series in 2016.

White Sox fans are getting a great baseball guy to tell them the White Sox story when baseball starts in 2021. I might try to listen to a few games, particularly when the White Sox come to Detroit and Len sits closer to Ernie Harwell’s seat. In the meantime I’ll watch for who will be next at broadcasting for the Cubs.

What To Do With Ideas

I’ve responded to this question about “what does one do with ideas” with my wish for how products like Roam could be even better for me. In summary, I want an app like Roam that recognizes a string of text as the same as the title of an already existing page and automactically converts it to a link to that page without my having to specify it as such with square brackets.

I think the challenge is putting the “new idea” in a place that is connected/related in a way that easily re-surfaces. A common practice is to put all ideas in to one bucket/tickler file and then continually reviewing that bucket/tickler file, which itself requires discipline.

Roam has a nice feature that enables me to easily associate text to a future date so when that date arrives the app automatically displays that item. Roam isn’t unique in this feature and associating to dates is probably an easy problem to solve, but what I would like would be an automated way associate an idea to a topic that can re-surface whenever I search for or write about the topic.

The closest example I can think of is glossary function in Fargo or wiki links in Roam but even those require remembering special functions, quotes for glossary, square brackets for wiki links. What I would love is to be able to tell software, whenever I write this string of text automatically convert the text to a hyperlink to this page of more information about it. For software to just do it for me it would have to constantly monitor my writing, like MS Word’s spell/grammar check.

If memory serves, the closest experience I had to this was VoodooPad and WikiWikiWeb were you wrote in wikiwords like WhereIPutIdeas, that the software automatically converted to links, but that is flawed by the fact that one has to write in an unnatural way.

I guess what I want is some form of natural language processing of all text I write that queries against a collection of previously written pages and automatically links to matches. Even the backlinking in Roam requires some thinking/recollection on my part, unless there is something in Roam I have not yet discovered.

Outlines, Wikis, and Wisdom

I have a great deal of respect for the people who layed the foundation of the computer technology I use today, people like Steve Wozniak, Dan Bricklin, Ward Cunningham, and Dave Winer. I follow Ward and Dave the closest because they actively write and because I use their work every day.

I am struck by the similarities and differences between Ward and Dave’s work. Ward created wiki, which is a tool he created to write and share pattern languages. Wiki’s emphasis is on easy writing and hyperlinking, which I think was the intended purpose of the Web. Dave also created writing tools, the outliner and blogs, that simplify publishing of writing on the Internet and he also created RSS to make it easier for one to keep up with the writing on the Internet. Dave’s original work is the conceptual basis for my stream while Ward’s original work provides the tools for my garden.

I like outlines and find that I really like Federated Wiki and today I realized that the similarity between them is that both provide context to writing but in different ways. Outlines are hiearchical while Federated Wiki has a lineup that shows context between source and destination links in a horizontal and linear fashion. I think this ability to easily see context and connections is also why I like Roam and use it for my private notes.

I am not sure that this matters much to others, but I think there is a relationship between context and history. History is the context of our lives and I think a great deal of our problems come from a failure to see meaning or to see what is really happening because we fail to know the context. Part of the problem may be that it’s too difficult to find the context of history, that’s where tools like oultliners might help, and because it is so difficult few people really take the time to seek out and understand context.

Context is needed for true understanding, knowledge, and thus wisdom and today there is a huge deficiency of wisdom.

Kevin Tofel’s review of the Microsoft Duo is worth reading because it might be the most optimistic, if not down to earth, of the reviews I’ve read. A reason might be that not once did he refer to the price and thus didn’t get in to the “for this price one should not have these problems” trope. IMHO any gadget priced north of $1K is too expensive even if it works perfectly!

So, if price is an issue, save the time and the pixels and just write, “it’s too expensive” and move on. Because Kevin is not on a mission to drive home the point that the device is too expensive, he focuses more on the actual problems and frankly, what he writes about seem to be something that Microsoft could address in software updates.

The most important point that Kevin makes, though, is about the biases toward what the Duo is, even though Microsoft has emphasized it is not a phone or a tablet.

I think people are calling the Duo a phone because that’s the closest device comparison they can make. And I get that. But the Duo truly is something different and, along with other folding or swivel screen devices, early in the trend of a new device class.

And I like this thought…

And although Microsoft dubbed it the Duo over a year ago, I think the company should have said that “Duo” is just an internal product code name. A better, more descriptive name would have been Surface Booklet because that’s really what it is: A connected book-like tablet.

To be fair, I noted before that Brad Sams also took effort to emphasize the Duo being a class on its own, although he used device classification of Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

Computing Is Art

I’ve read two articles this week that make the case for treating Computer Science as something other than Computer Science. The one, titled, Why Computing Belongs With The Social Sciences, argues that we will not gain more ethical computing from college curricula that have “Computing Ethics” classes but only by moving Computing in to the Social Sciences. The author points to the increasing relationship between algorithms and power.

Recommendation algorithms, automated sanctioning systems, reactive violation detection and prediction systems, and nudge architectures are replacing the human agency built into our legal and political systems with an architecture of unknowable black boxes allowing the one-way surveil and control of people without any corresponding contestation

In an essay titled Hackers and Painters, Paul Graham notes that while he graduated with a Computer Science degree, he self identifies as a hacker, which is the likely image most people have of one who holds a CompSci degree. Graham says that hackers are like painters and writers because they make things. The following is for me the most important quote in the essay.

Empathy is probably the single most important difference between a good hacker and a great one. Some hackers are quite smart, but when it comes to empathy are practically solipsists. It’s hard for such people to design great software [5], because they can’t see things from the user’s point of view

Both articles resonate strongly with me. I graduated in 1989 with a Computer Science degree and have been working in the Information Technology industry for more than thirty years and I can say that I have never used any of the specifics of my computer science classes save for one, one Software Engineering. I also got a minor in secondary education and what gained from that part of my college learning I applied frequently throughout my career.

In my experience computing is more art than a science and more about humans than machines and yet neither of these realities were part of my formal computer science education. Granted, much time has passed since I graced the college classrooms so I know curricula has changed, but yet given the “market” pressures on colleges I suspect the most focus on producing employable graduates, with life long skills a secondary benefit rather than primary focus.

Definitely a Random Mind

I find it amusing how my mind recalls bits of things in certain circumstances. For example, during my morning walk I saw that the lawn care company was planting a shrubbery and I immediately said to myself, “I want a shrubbery, and a nice one too.”

If you want to hang on to the past you must also take responsibility for the past.

The primary lesson of incarnation, which is what Christianity celebrates tonight, is that Yahweh is not like other gods! Merry Christmas!

Dictatorship It Is

Today electing a president is not about issues, nor is it about changing minds, nor is it about who looks better and sounds better of TV. The election is not about a personal popularity contest. Electing a president is now simply about opposition. In short, there is no middle ground just as the middle class has grown increasingly small.

If you identify Republican you are likely going to only vote for Republicans because you think all Democrats are crazy and will destroy the country. Likewise, if you identify Democrat you will only vote Democrat. If you really don’t like your candidate you will not vote, or write in Mickey Mouse rather than cast a vote for the opposing party.

The consequence is that the candidates only say what their “base” wants to hear, and it doesn’t even matter of what is said is true. Candidates don’t really try to change people’s minds. In this environment, do we really need debates? Worse, there is little for few remaing, truly “independent” voters to hear, and frankly doing a bunch of research is too much work for the average voter. Increasing numbers of these disenfranchised voters will simply sit out.

Unfortunately, I think Democrats think the lesson learned from 2016 is to focus on their base and ignore the middle because they think there are more liberal/progressives voters than conservative, Republicans, or independents. An extreme shift left is viewed by their opposition as further evidence of crazy Democrats.

The authors of the U.S. Constitution foresaw this type of fanaticism that democracy enables and thus created a structure to prevent it. Unfortunately, over time political idealogies have trumped preservation of the Republic concentrating more power within the Presidency. A party aligned, rubber stamping Congress and Supreme Court is a defacto dictatorship and this is effectly today’s U.S. government.

American Idol

President Trump simply believes that he as president cannot commit a crime. He believes that a president is above the law. Trump’s belief is the logical conclusion of decades of expansion of presidential powers that started with Vietnam.

How far have we fallen? At the beginning of my life President Nixon resigned before he was impeached because he broke the law. Nixon knew he would be impeached because he knew and accepted that Americans did not believe a President was above the law. We now have President Trump who believes that more Americans now accept that a President is above the law and believes that Americans today find loyalty to him and loyalty to party more important than loyalty to the Republic.

All presidents in my life time have desired more power. The real problem has been Congress’ abdication of it’s prime constitutional responsibility to be a check on the presidency. At root of this abdication is the transformation of Congress as representative of all U.S. citizens to only representative of the majority party. Rather than upholding and defending the U.S. Constitution, Congress has become all about enabling and implementing a Republican or Democrat ideology.

What I find ironic is that I think the core belief of conservatism is that “abosolute power corrupts absolutely” and yet Republican conservatives have been the prime architects of the expansion of powers to the president. Conservatives should be truly republican but do not act like it, but rather tend to act more as anarchists.

Worst of all is that too many U.S. citizens do not care that this is happening! Too many people do not know the Constitution nor appreciate the fundamental reasons for why the U.S. form of republican democracy was designed and adopted. These people pledge allegiance to a flag as if the flag is the thing rather than a symbol of the real thing, our way of life enabled by the Constitution.

What has been taking place over the course of my life time is the ascendency of a U.S. monarchy or dictatorship under the veneer of the Presidency. If you are truly a U.S. patriot your loyalty should be to the “Republic for which it stands”, which means the Constitution that defines the republic.

Another trip and another reminder of the stupid hoops I have to go through to get a picture I take on my Pixel 2 posted on this blog. It’s been years!

The Lovable Losers Of My Youth

The common denominator for all my favorite professional sports teams is that they were losers during my childhood. The Green Bay Packers were the siberia of the NFL during the 70s and 80s until Reggie White started playing for them in 1993 and three years later won the Super Bowl. Ever since 1993 the Packers have been at or near the top of the NFL.

The Chicago Cubs were the epitome of “lovable losers” for a century. Even though the Cubs flirted with chances to make it to the World Series in 1984, 1989, and 2003 but it hasn’t been until the last five years that they have consistently been at or near the top of the league, and you know they won it all in 2016.

Like the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Red Wings were also once the dominant team in the NHL but during the 70s and 80s they were known as the “dead Wings.” The owners had to give away cars to get people to come to their games. In 1997 the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, and of my favorite teams they have won more championships in my life time, winning again in 1998, 2002, and 2008. Since the calendar turned to the 2010s the Wings have been in a rebuilding phase.

Finally, the Detroit Pistons where also perenial losers during my childhood but where the first of my faves that I witnessed winning a championship in 1989, and again in 1990 and 2004. Frankly, the championship they won in 2004 is one of the most gratifying because nobody really expected it and they upset the perenial champion Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Red Wings, the Pistons are rebuilding but apppear to be nearing returning to the tops of their league sooner than the Wings.

Over my life time I’ve seen the long road it takes to get from basement to top floor of a professional sports league. I’ve seen how it takes for a team to learn how to be a champion, particularly from the Red Wings who had huge playoff failures after being the best team in their league the entire season.

Of all my favorite teams, the Cubs have the most talent and I expect will have chances to win championships again in the foreseeable future. The MLB’s farm system enables a franchise to have more control over its future if they have the right leadership. The NHL is similar, which is why theirs and the MLB front offices have such a huge influence on their long term success, much more than in the NFL and NBA that seems to depend much more on health and luck.

I am dissappointed that the Chicago Cubs will not make the playoffs this year. I will always love the Cubbies, win or lose, but I much better like where they are now, a very good team that can disappoint than a bad team that surprises.

I watched the Apple iPhone event this afternoon and found all the emphasis on the cameras to be over the top. I know that Google has received praise for the cameras in the Pixels so I get that Apple wanted to proclaim loudly they have the best camera. I am not a camera nerd, all I want is the camera on my phone to take decent pictures, which it does. I don’t care about all the whizzywigs, and I wouldn’t buy a smartphone because it has the best camera. It feels like Apple is still playing the features game to convince people to throw down $1k on their phones, case in point, the portion of the event that got into the details of the A13 processor.

When I look at this comparison of phones, I am drawn to the Pixel 3A XL because it has enough features for the lowest price.

I wonder if I am the only person who thinks Apple should do the same thing they did with the iPod and make the Apple Watch work standalone or with Windows? The tie to iPhone constrains sales, in my opinion. The iPod didn’t really take off until it started working with Windows, and if Apple really wants to sell watches, they need treat it like a standalone product.

Journalism Yes, Media No

I have been reading Dave Winer’s writing for a long time, and a common theme of his writing is journalism. My translation of what he has been saying is that news has become a platform, and as such anyone can do it, and those who are employed as journalists need to shift from being gatekeepers to being participants. True platforms route around gatekeepers.

The reason why this message is not well received by journalists is obvious, it’s because what they hear is that you no longer have a job. Staying employed is important to these people and you cannot blame them because it is how they support their families.

When the constitution was written people like Benjamin Franklin viewed journalism as a vocation because frankly the idea of a “job” didn’t really exist. When vocations became professions, a shift in priorities took place, with maintaining employment moving to the top. When journalism transformed to media thanks to corporate consolidation, the move to journalism being about money became complete.

The honest question that has been avoided ever since is, is what we have, journalism as media to make profits, consistent with the “fourth estate” established by the First Amendment? If the prime objective of the Consitution, of which the First Amendment is a part, is to be the United in the United States of America, then today’s media is not that which the first amendment refers to because there is more profits generated from disunity than unity.

Citizens instinctively know that the profits that corporate ownership demands is corupting, and therefore they do not trust media because they know there is a bias towards making money over telling truth.

Of course Fox News is giving their viewers what they want to hear, that is how they make money! Of course MSNBC is giving their viewers what they want to hear, that is how they make money! Of course the New York Times is giving their readers what they want to red, that is how they make money!

On and on it goes. It is another example of how hyper capitalism is destroying republican democracy and thus destroying our country.