Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Brexit Referendum and the Nature of the British Constitution


As an American watching the controversy regarding the non-binding referendum calling for the UK to leave the EU, I have wondered how it is that such a dramatic and structural change could be called for with a simple referendum and a majority vote of the voting citizens. Surely, I thought, one would require some higher bar than a vote which might be a majority of one citizen?

Such a structural change to the constitution in this country would require a 2/3rds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate at which time the proposed amendment would be sent to the states and would require 3/4s of all states to ratify this amendment.

This is a fairly high bar to pass and well it should be. There are a lot of pretty crazy ideas out there that can get a majority vote at any one time, but getting a 2/3rds vote from both houses of Congress and 3/4s of all states is a lot of work and thus any amendment that passes really does have the people of the United States behind it.

For example, if a state could secede from "the Union", e.g. the United States of America, with simply a majority vote in a referendum that could be called for at any time, how many states do you think would still be in the so-called United States of America?  I am pretty sure that most of the Southern and many of the Western states would no longer be a part of our country if that was all it took.  

So I researched how the British Constitution could be changed and one more time discovered that I only think I know what is happening outside this country, the reality is far more interesting and complicated.

The United States of America has a single document which we call the Constitution, a central document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of the various branches of government, how those branches are elected or appointed, how they relate to each other, how the judicial system works, how laws are made, and so forth. This document of course is just the tip of the iceberg, and underneath it is a whole body of law and court judgments and opinions and so forth. We have our strict constitutionalists and our more liberal interpretations, etc.

But in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there is no one single written constitution. What there is a series of important Acts of Parliament, conventions and court judgments that make up how the UK rules itself. Among the written parts of this body of laws and whatnot are such famous items as the Magna Carta of 1215, the Bill of Rights of 1689, the Parliament Acts of 1911-1949, and so forth. There is also at least one famous image that shows how Parliament should sit, and a variety of historical conventions that guide behavior.

I am quite sure that I do not understand the full nature of what the UK Constitution is, and that at the very least several months could be spent productively just figuring out what the important elements are. The point is, things are not the same everywhere, and it is foolish to think that they are.

The British Library has a useful introduction to this process and the UK Constitution here.

This explains how one could have a non-binding referendum of such importance that just has a majority vote, but still be left with a lot of confusion about whether or not Parliament will actually implement it (e.g. the UK leaving the EU).  A clue to this is in the pithy phrase "the Supremacy of the Crown in Parliament" and I leave it to the interested reader to look that one up and be amazed.


House of Commons

To put a possibly useful spin on this, lets briefly review how the two different constitutions came about. The UK as a country came into existence over a period of more than a millennia. One of the benchmarks of this formation process was, of course, the famous Magna Carta of 1215. That document, and the events that precipitated it, is now 800 years old. Although there were certainly civil wars and revolutions in the region now called the United Kingdom, there was never a time when everything was brought together into a single document and put into writing. It was a much more organic process, incremental, and with a very long history.

This country, on the other hand, was formed from 13 colonies of Great Britain, each colony of which had one of three different colonial structures that governed them. In order to bring the 13 different structures into alignment, a series of conventions were held in order to form a single structure that could please everyone. There was not a lot of trust and everything had to be put into writing. The first attempt at this, the Articles of Confederation, served to be good enough to fight a Revolutionary War, but not so good at running a country. From the second attempt at it comes our current Constitution.


The Bill of Rights of 1689


So there was an opportunity, and a need, to get everything in writing in one place. Of course, things are not so simple in reality even here, as we also have legal precedent in the form of common law which we inherited from Great Britain and which affects our life pretty much all the time.

So the point is, there were no special procedures for a Brexit referendum because there is no formal, single constitution to amend.  The "Supremacy of the Crown is in Parliament", so whatever Parliament votes is the way it goes, unless I suppose the Queen vetoes it, but she doesn't.

These darn foreigners are always full of surprises.

_____________________________________________

A few useful links: 

The Articles of Confederation on Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Articles_of_Confederation




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Snowden Attempt to Get Pardon From Obama


The Guardian has an article on Snowden which you can read here.

The point of the article is that his lawyer is mounting a full-court press to get a pardon before the end of the Obama administration, possibly in the very short interval between the election of the new president and her [sic] inauguration.  Some questions were asked in the Comments section which I attempt to answer below. 1


1. Could Obama pardon Snowden even though he has not been convicted?

Yes. Ford pardoned Nixon who was also not convicted, nor formally charged so far as I know.

2. Does the fact that Bush and Cheney have not been formally accused of crimes by the DOJ mean that they did not commit any crimes?

No, not at all. It just means that the US Government in the person of President Obama has been covering up for them. So far as I know, there is no statute of limitations on murder and torture.

3. Would Obama plausibly pardon Snowden?

Not in a billion years. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. Its time to wake up to the fact that absolutely no one who is cleared to know what happened (to the best of their knowledge) has anything good to say about Snowden beyond one comment by a senior military leader that it may be that Snowden was not consciously a tool of foreign intelligence to begin with. 2


No one, repeat no one, who knows anything about the case thinks that his motivations and actions have anything to do with NSA illegal spying on US citizens.

Neither Obama, Clinton or even Trump is likely to pardon Snowden. I also think it is interesting that the Obama administration does not seem to even be willing to discuss a plea bargain with him (e.g. you come home, plead guilty to one thing, serve some time, then be released). In other words, they think his crimes are completely egregious and the case against him airtight.

Anyone who is a Snowden partisan at this point is unlikely to find this blog post of much interest. You know, you just know, that Snowden is a hero and a patriot. Well, if so, why did you vote for Obama? Or did you? Do you think McCain would have been any more sympathetic? Or Hilary Clinton? A little naive, are we, perhaps?


The famous Mad Magazine "Spy vs Spy"


Notes:

1. I have too much time on my hands, clearly.

2. Do not remember who said this.  I believe it was a senior military official who served in a role in Intelligence and whose comments were recorded in the period immediately following the first Snowden releases.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Biography


This is part of some biographic information that I need to make accessible on the web.


Biography of Michael Wahrman


Michael Wahrman is a pioneer of computer animation and digital visual effects. His work includes the prototype of the rendering system at Robert Abel & Associates, design of the animation system that became the Wavefront Advanced Visualizer, producer of the first behaviorally animated film, design of an early computer generated character animation system, the design of a real-time “performance animation system” for character animation and set design in real-time for use in both motion pictures and early virtual reality. In 1988 he co-founded deGraf/Wahrman, inc an important early computer animation research and production company which produced one of the first real-time computer generated character performances, a ride-film for Universal Studios Florida, two stereo ride-films for Landmark Entertainment, and visual effects on several motion pictures, all pioneering work as this was before computer animation was considered a mainstream technique. As a consultant he has worked for many well-known companies and projects including IBM Research, IBM Multimedia, Walt Disney Imagineering, Sony, New York University, the American Museum of Natural History, Viacom New Media, Pacific Title & Arts Studio, Viacom Interactive Television and dozens of others. He contributed to the IBM Digital Production Studio Project (which founded Digital Domain) and was Visual Effects Consultant on the NASA Digital Galaxy Project as part of the rebuild of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. On several occasions he has collaborated with Ken Perlin of NYU on various character animation and user interface research projects. He has received a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and a research award from the Chicago Film Festival. He has served many years on the computer animation jury of Prix Ars Electronica. He has served two terms on the Board of NY SIGGRAPH and been a speaker at ACM SIGGRAPH, Imagina (Monte Carlo), Media Tech (Milano) and performed live computer animation at TED and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Lee Breuer.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Influence of James Bond on the Fashion of the Cinematic Evil Genius


When Ian Fleming, formerly of British Naval Intelligence and a dropout of Sandhurst, wrote the James Bond novels, he thought he was making a living as a writer. He had no idea that his work was, eventually, to define the style and appearance of the world criminal and evil genius in the cinema of the West.

Although it is not clear exactly why it is that the idiosyncratic but elegant mad geniuses of the Bond movies prefer the Eastern style of men's suits, prefer it they do. From Dr. No to Elliot Carver to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, they all prefer their jackets to have a Nehru collar and their suits to be the one preferred by Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China.

But which one is it? The Mao suit or the Nehru jacket? And what are the implications of this choice? Lets examine the evidence and define our terms.


A truly elegant and imposing evil genius


A brief search on the Internet, that bold new paradigm, reveals an essay on this very topic by Sonya Glyn Nicholson entitled “The Mao Suit and the Nehru Jacket” which you can read here on the parisiangentleman.co.uk website.


Why it should be that the fashion website “Parisian Gentleman” is located in the United Kingdom is a mystery but it probably is a result of Globalization which combines the strength and elegance of the British tailoring industry with the importance of Paris as a capital of culture and style.

What Ms. Nicholson explains is that the defining characteristic of the Nehru jacket, so named because Jawaharal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India after its independence from England, famously used to wear this style of jacket when being photographed with other world leaders, is its Mandarin Collar. It is this collar, up to two inches high of unfolded material, combined with the lack of lapels, that makes the Nehru jacket distinctive. The jacket is also generally tailored to fit the form of the wearer. It is a jacket very suited to wear at an elegant dinner party.


Missiles are only the first step to show our power


Prime Minister Nehru and his Western sycophants

Ms. Nicholson goes on to explain that the Mao suit, so named for its use by the great revolutionary leader of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong, is a complete suit, not merely a jacket. It has a boxy cut, four pockets with a practical button, no lapels, and most of all

The strongest characteristic of the Mao is the short and rigid fold-over collar, with rounded points extended no further than the base of the band.


I hope three examples will suffice. In the first, Dr. No explains to his dinner guest, James Bond, his plans for world domination. In the second Elliot Carver, as played by Jonathan Pryce announces his new global satellite network in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). In our third example, none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld introduces himself to James Bond in You Only Live Twice (1967).

Dr. No at Dinner

Elliot Carver Announcing Satellite Network

Ernst Stavro Blofeld of SPECTRE Introduces Himself


But the most interesting question still remains. Yes, I think we have shown the obvious, never doubted fact that men's fashion has been affected by the design choices of the 007 films.  But what does it all mean? We still want to know why they feel compelled to wear this style of suits. What is going on in their master criminal minds?

I have the following theories. The first is that it is nothing more than these outsider geniuses, forced by society to prove their genius, have spent significant time in the mysterious and exotic East where this style of fashion is anything but exotic. Thus, they merely see themselves as well-dressed and they are, and would be quite conventional in Mumbai or Beijing.  The second theory is that this fashion style is a choice designed to appeal to the fears of the Westerner to the dangers and mystery of the East. In a sense it is a form of backhanded stereotyping, but not negative stereotyping. The East is dangerous and thus somewhat appealing and these geniuses of crime are therefore styled to evoke that Eastern feeling.


Even comic evil geniuses have affected this style

_________________________________________________________

Notes

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) on IMDB

Thunderball (1965) on IMDB

Dr. No (1962) on IMDB

Jawaharlal Nehru


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Meditation on a Corrupt Primary Season


The NY Times, that fine defender of equal rights and political justice, as long as you agree with them, has run another editorial telling me that a vote for Bernie is Bonkers, but a vote for Hillary is for Truth and Justice.

The editorial goes over and over how bad the Republicans are for Gay Rights, and how good Hillary will be for Gay Rights. I have no doubt that the editorial is correct. But, Horrors of Horrors, as much as I support Gay Rights, I think it is an issue blown all out of proportion by the Religious Right and that it is not the only issue on the table. Sure, Gay Rights, no problem. Absolutely, Gay Rights! How about Criminal Sentences for Top Executives who Violate the Law? How about Taxation of the Rich? How about a real Economic Strategy for this country that is more than “Make more money for the rich; destroy the middle class; destroy the labor movement”.

And of course they trot out the issue of Bush vs Gore. Now, as a Gore supporter, I feel that "electing" Bush was a disaster for this country and the world. But Al Gore is not Hillary Clinton. Gore is not a compromised "Tool of the Corporation". Where was the NY Times when the Supreme Court pissed on the Constitution in public in 2000? I was there, I was watching, and I can tell you that the NY Times bent over and fell into line.

Trump is a Red Herring. He is nothing more than an attempt to manufacture consent for the Rockefeller Republican candidate Hillary Clinton.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. And I can tell you flat out that I have no idea what she stands for beyond her strong support for Globalization and the status quo. Is she a bad person? Probably not. 

Now it may be that under that $12,000 Armani jacket burns a heart filled with compassion for the poor and disenfranchised, for the unemployed and the abandoned. We won't know until she is elected and I am a firm believer in the principle that you can not know how someone will really be as President until he or she is there.

There are other problems as well. In California, there is a law that keeps anyone who ran in a party primary from running in the main election as an independent. Its called the “Sore Loser” law. So that means that Bernie can not run as an independent in California, or that is my reading. Why does this matter? It matters because what with Nevada, Massachusetts, New York and many other irregularities, issues of whether independents can vote in a primary, etc., we have a nomination process which is illegitimate in many Americans' eyes.

Maybe I need to lower my expectations about what constitutes a fair election.  But I would have thought that by 2016 we would have this more together. You know, Democracy? Free and fair elections?

And that's a problem.  When you blow your credibility on things like this, how can you expect people to believe you when something even more important is on the table?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Google Mail Uses Esoteric Knowledge to Create Your Avatar


Things move ever swiftly on the Internet, that bold new paradigm, in order to maintain valuation and return maximum value to the shareholders. In the never ending efforts to achieve these worthwhile goals and with all the advanced and esoteric technology being used, it is reasonable to expect that mere users may be confused by what they see and foolishly and incorrectly believe that they are witnessing bugs and mistakes. It is incumbent on all of us to keep up and be aware of these misperceptions and help the future-challenged user to understand that the system is without flaw. 

For example, in the process of receiving and processing email with Google Mail, I was unaware that it helpfully creates a visual avatar of all the people who send me mail and does so flawlessly and automatically without needing to review its results with the mere sender of the email. It is not permitted for the user to be aware of the clever, neural network based, deeper learning informed, higher-level consciousness algorithms that Gmail uses to implement this miraculous new feature because we are uninitiated in the Mysteries.  Still some of us have speculated that Gmail might look out on social media, or perhaps remember attachments that the sender has used in the past.

I suspect it does nothing so simple. I think it is probable that Google is using the esoteric knowledge associated with the ancient Hermetian Mysteries themselves. Many have tried to use these Mysteries for practical purposes in the modern world, but I believe that only Google has had the resources and intellect to actually accomplish this difficult task.



Are Consecrated Masters using Esoteric Knowledge to create your Gmail avatar?


Alas, my sister in law did not realize the perfection of these esoteric algorithms and so when I made a comment about the nice picture of the dog that Google had used for her avatar, she tried to rip my head off.

I think it is important to remind the users that they are indeed "mere users" and that they should not attempt to understand the ways of the Illuminated Masters.  They should accept that their life is an open book, not just to the FBI but to the world at large and anything they use or say on the Internet may be repurposed for their own good.  Google Mail may choose all or none of these ephemera to represent you to your friends, to your family, to your clients, in fact, to anyone. You have no control over it, nor should you.

You should have faith that the Illuminated Masters working in secret shrines will use these Mysteries to create your new image and that the result will be as perfect as the spheres with which the celestial bodies orbit our planet.




Where did this come from?  No one knows but my sister-in-law was not amused.


Foolish mortal! Give up that illusion of control, abandon yourself to your fate and accept that the Adepts of the Mysteries have your best interests at heart.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Do A Good Job for Your Masters, Alan


You will be rewarded for your service.
Left in the gutter with the other poor, you serve the rich
Crunch their numbers
The rich build stupid houses for the other rich
And hide their money overseas
You are a good slave
In the Empire, slaves were often freed and given good businesses and
   made citizens,
But in our republic, the slave is worthless garbage and gets what they
   deserve
Poverty and death
Winners win and losers get nothing.
That is the American Way.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Notes on Making Deadlines and Client Management


A few days ago, I wrote an essay about some of the issues involved in making deadlines. Since that time, I have been remembering more and more anecdotes, principles and parables about this worthy but misunderstood topic. In the following, I hope to discuss the interaction between schedule, deadlines, client management and trust.  None of these totally original observations are, well, totally original. But hopefully some of them will seem reasonable or even insightful now and then.

In the following I will often use the terminology of visual effects. This is because the specific case study that I am thinking about (but usually not mentioned) often involved a "visual effects" like project, if not actually visual effects. I refer to "shots" where a shot is distinct quantifiable unit of film which is to be cut into the movie. Visual effects is bid and scheduled around this concept but other projects are more all-inclusive. A game is likely to be considered "just one thing" and not a bunch of separate but related elements, but even then one will still have discrete deliverable elements, approvals, deadlines for art direction, and so forth.

In the following, “dWi” stands for deGraf/Wahrman, Inc, my old production company.

Perhaps the most important of these ideas, and the one that was the hardest to learn, is the first, what I comically number "zero".  It is as follows:

0. No R&D on a production project.

The early days of computer animation were rife with this sort of problem. The whole process was R&D so how could you not do R&D on a project? Well, we learned that one the hard way.  It will be the subject of another essay. Some of the lessons learned are as follows.

Do your programming ahead of time. Do your tests. Work with your client to define a project based on those tests, not based on your belief of what it can be. People imagine different things even though the words are the same. Work with your clients to develop a look and then, using that look, bid and schedule a project. Nothing major in the realm of the unknown should be attempted on a production schedule. Ever. Period. No way. Not unless you are the client, and maybe not even then depending on how crazy a client you are.

1. Divide and conquer.

What Caesar said. Take a big project and turn it into bite sized pieces and either smash them one at a time, or subdivide them among a team if you have a team.

2. Do some of the easy ones first.

There is something to be said for being 10 percent done, which is much better than 0 percent done. When you have delivered 20 out of 100 shots successfully then they know that their project is getting attention and that you know what you are doing.

3. Do not leave the worst for last.

By the time you reach the end of the project, you and your people may be tired. Therefore do not leave the most ambitious to the end, but neither should you do the most ambitious first. Warm up, deliver some shots, and then lean into a complicated shot.

4. If possible, deliver an acceptable shot for every shot in the movie before going back and improving things.

This is debatable but I think it makes good sense. You want to be sure that there is not a “scene missing” in the movie. You do not want to keep your clients up all night with worry. Deliver something for everything that must be in the movie and then, if there is time, go back and make things better.

5. A schedule without slack is not a good schedule.

Every schedule needs slack and some of that slack may be visible to the client and some may be your private reserve. But every project of any note has had setbacks. People get sick, people quit, computers break, clients change their mind but dont have any more time or money to offer, whatever. You need some room to work with. Some of that slack can be visible to the client, and some may not be. But there must be slack.

6. No one should have to kill themselves to make your schedule.

A little extra work to make something better is never bad, but you dont want people working 80 hour weeks. It is not healthy and it should not be necessary. It is great when things are so much fun that people want to work extra hours to make things better but it should not be required of them just to get the project done. If it is, it is a sign of a project out of control or improperly conceived or scheduled.

7. Whenever people have to work nights or weekends, the producer should be there with them.

None of this, see you in the morning, bye, shit. You make people work all night, you work all night with us. And people should never have to work all night alone. Oh, arent there other people on this project? Cant they stay and help out? What the fuck?

8. Some people thrive on last minute deadlines. Some people don't.

I have a friend and client who loves to work all night and make a deadline. I work like the devil to avoid such situations. I prefer the “full court press”, basically to work obsessively and get things done early if possible. If I am early, then I am not late.

9. Some people seem to do some of their best work while procrastinating on making a deadline.

This is a variation of the “clean your apartment rather than study for your exam” meme but in this case they are not cleaning their apartment, they are working on an invention or a paper or anything but what they should be working on. All you can do is gently remind them of what they should be doing and let them figure out what they should do. For example, I am writing this post instead of finishing a biography and resume as part of a job application. Doctor, heal thyself.

10. Some people get special satisfaction out of causing chaos and then saving the day.

These people need to be executed as a lesson to the others.

11. Make a deal with your clients

Client cooperation requires client trust. Trust comes in part from their confidence that you are doing your best for them given the realities of schedule and the budget. One aspect of trust or lack thereof is when clients feel they are being unfairly pushed into a corner and not given an opportunity to request changes and give feedback.

One way that I found to generate trust is a system developed at dWi on a project that had a lot of work and some, but not much, time. The system, which I doubt is original, it was just original with us, goes like this: (a) every scene has a kickoff with the client, the internal art director, the producer and the technical directors, (b) half the time allocated for the scene is used to give our best guess / work in progress before too much client input, but at the half way mark, you have a review, the client gives feedback, then (c) 1/4 of the time allocated to the scene is used to implement these changes, and one has another meeting and a second set of feedback, and then (d) you go the final 1/4 time hopefully implementing those changes. However, the project itself has some slack and that slack is the clients to do with however they want, in good faith. So (e) if they want to spend more time making that scene or element better with their slack, we are happy to comply. Hopefully we are close enough by (d) that this is not such a big deal. I emphasize that all this is before we need to talk about overages or change of schedule. Of course one can radically change the scope of work with a schedule change and more money, but that is not what we are talking about here.

12. When you are screwing up, tell your clients as soon as possible.

Early on in my experience with production, I did not understand this principle, nor did any of my partners and colleagues. We hoped that we could fix things enough that there would be no problems, but it never quite worked out that way. So what I learned is that when you are convinced you are going to be late, or you think the technique chosen is not going to deliver what you thought it would, the best thing you can do is to go to the clients as soon as possible and explain this to them. They may hate you, they may pull the project, they may slander you forever, but for some reason it is better that way then waiting to the last minute when their money is spent and the time is gone.

13. Sometimes you have to give projects back.

Sometimes you are awarded a project and discover, to your discomfort, that there is something about the project that you really did not understand. Yes, I know we are all supposed to be professionals, but things dont always work out. In one case, a very traumatic one, it turned out that from our point of view a client who had promised to work with us to make an ambitious project meet their limited budget, had another meaning to “work with us” than we had expected. Their meaning was “we are going to fuck you as hard as we can and make you pay and try to put you out of business and lie as hard as we can. “ Under those circumstances, the best thing you can do, I believe, is to apologize, take all the blame on yourself, and regretfully return the project to them, any remaining money, and give them any objects or work to date that you believe will be useful to them. Its painful, but it is better than to suffer from their charade. They know you want the project, but dont let them take advantage of you. Apologize, and move on.

14. The first dinosaur may be 90 percent of the work.

This aphorism refers to the unfortunate situation whereby the work necessary to get the first dinosaur approved, its look, how it moves, and so forth, may be most of the work of getting many shots with that dinosaur done.  In other words, you have to put a tremendous effort into getting the first shot, but then the other shots will be routine.  This is very hard for some clients to understand or accept and even experienced clients may suffer from some anxiety because of this. But the phenomenon is real and it requires special scheduling, effort and management.

That is enough for now.


My Dialogue on Facebook About Hillary's Concern for the Unemployed


The following has been edited for formatting purposes and to fix minor grammatical and spelling errors.  I have removed the identity of the person who set me off.  We have been friends for years and if anything are closer after this little exchange.  I will call her "Sandra Smartperson".

Sandra Smartperson.  She would never ever want to care about the unemployed? Really? Michael, you are full of baloney.

Michael Wahrman Dear Sandra, no, I dont think so. Do you just want to insult me, or do you want to know why I think what I do?

Michael Wahrman OK, lets party. 1st the unemployment metric that we are constantly told about is, if you care to spend 5 minutes researching it, guaranteed to not only under report the number of unemployed, but to ignore those who are most in trouble. All it reports is those who are known to have lost their jobs in the last 18 months, anyone who is not employed again in those 18 months is dropped off the metric. Furthermore even those who find a job in that 18 months, there is no way of telling whether they got a job again at their previous salary. Someone who was working at 80 K per year, could now be working for 30K and it would all be reported as great. The first thing anyone who was serious about helping the unemployed would do is to work to create a more honest index or series of indices so we could at least discuss the problem. That is point one.

Michael Wahrman Second, the H1B visa program is well known for being abused by corporations in Silicon Valley (in particular, I presume other industries use it as well in this way) to train people from India and China so that those services can be outsourced to India and China. Pick up pretty much any issue of Computerworld, or read about the (in) famous ongoing Disney IT situation. Hillary not only supports the H1B visa program, she wants to expand it.

Michael Wahrman Third, HRC is on record for not supporting the minimum wage initiative and she gets very little support from the Unions at all. Why is this, Sandra? If Globalization is so good for the economy then it would be just hunky fine to have laws that said that a corporation that off shored labor would be held criminally responsible if that labor was forced labor or abused. I mean the top executives would go to jail. But even though we know that in fact many of these famous off shore companies use indentured labor, nothing is done. Or when high tech companies use raw materials that come from violence torn regions of Africa and the revenues thus generated are used to support the wars that murder tens of thousands of civilians, our government just laughs and pats those corporations on the back for making more profits through globalization. I mean, god forbid our corporations would have to use Americans and pay them benefits! What about the profits to the shareholders?

Michael Wahrman Globalization as we have implemented it in this country is guaranteed to enrich the corporation at the expense of the worker. And it has. And yet no effort has been made by either government or industry (to the best of my knowledge) to either measure the number of Americans put out of work by Globalization nor to make any provision for retraining them for another field. This is not just manufacturing, although I do not understand why manufacturing is held in such low esteem, but is many fields including the glamourous and rewarding fields of visual effects. To the best of my knowledge, HRC has not indicated anything in her platform that would gather these numbers or provide real funding for retraining these disenfranchised workers.

Michael Wahrman Furthermore, if Globalization is so good for the economy, then why should the corporations who have increased profits not be responsible for paying for this retraining? Oh and by the way, it wont be cheap. We are talking about at least 2 years probably 3 to get a Masters degree in a new area, and then find a job, and these are not teenagers but adults with families who need to be supported. If HRC cared about these people, she would have something in her platform somewhere to address it, but to the best of my knowledge she does not. I admit, I have found it hard to figure out what it is HRC does propose, but that may be my fault or how I use the Internet. I might be wrong about this, I hope so.

Michael Wahrman No one knows how many chronically unemployed and impoverished Americans there are today. Although I think the number of 100 M that I have heard is hopefully over the top. The point is, no one knows, and I see nothing in the HRC platform that makes me think that she has anything more in mind than more of the same. You know, 10 percent more of this, 15 percent off of that. By the way, if Obama were running today I might (probably) say the same thing about him.

Michael Wahrman Furthermore, this has been going on for a long time now, this studied neglect while the 1 percent (or 10 percent you tell me), does so well. So do I think that HRC gives a rats ass about the unemployed? No, not really. But all you have to do to prove me wrong (and make me happy, I want to be proven wrong) is to point to a program that she is advocating that is not just more of the same, because more of the same is unlikely to make much of a difference.

Michael Wahrman Now its true, could such a program get through Congress? I guess it depends on what it its, but I am inclined to believe that it would be over Congress's dead body. Nor do I think HRC is in any way to blame for this situation (well maybe a little, but no big deal). But on the other hand, she *is* running for president, pretty much the only serious candidate (I love Bernie but I do not think he is actually running for president exactly, I think he is trying to give a voice to the impoverished and disenfranchised and I love him for it, but its another topic), so it makes sense to me to look at her proposed platform and see what she says. And that gets to the big mystery ....

Michael Wahrman The big mystery is how it is possible for this to be going on so long without Washington realizing that there is a problem here. It is not fair nor am I laying all this at Hillary's door, by which I mean she has only had a small part to play in creating this problem. But I am absolutely blaming our Government, that is the federal government: Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme and other Courts, etc. How it is that Washington was able to believe that this could just go on without blowback (I love that word) is what amazes me. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe people are doing just great. If that is so, where does all the anger come from? Why are so many people saying, hey, its all very well to give the better part of a trillion dollars to help your friends on Wall Street (and give speeches to them but not tell us what you said) but maybe you might have some of this vast wealth left over for us. You remember us, right? Remember? You want us to vote for you every four years or so, right? So when I say that Hillary does not care less, that is only because that is what I seem to see when I look at her positions. Now maybe she has in mind some very interesting and dramatic solutions (and has some idea about how to get them through Congress) but if so I am unaware of them. Maybe you are more aware of them than I am and can help me understand. Is it fair to put all this at Hillary's feet and say fix it? Well, no, not really. Doesn't seem fair to me. But we do give the President a lot of power and it is a good place to start.

Michael Wahrman Finally, Sandra, I may very well be full of shit, but probably not baloney. Aside from a degree in Economics and my time at the RAND Corporation (for what that is worth, probably not much, but it is true so why not) I have been a vegetarian since 1978 and so I am unlikely to be full of baloney. I hope you are doing very well, and that you are recovering from surgery, and that I am all wrong about either Hillary's plans or the state of the nation, because if there is one thing I am quite sure of, I am not in a position to do much of anything at all except to complain. Feel better ! Nice to hear from you!

Michael Wahrman By the way, I write a blog and here is a post I wrote about how the homeless are helped down here in N San Diego county.... I wish that everyone who has read this far would read it, because I believe I have done a good job at expressing my outrage and disgust.  See Law Enforcement Provides Moral Instruction To The Poor

Michael Wahrman Ok, I lied one more thing. If the three founders of Google can share 7 widebody jets and rent Moffet field as a place to store them, then I can see a program in a leading candidate's platform about how we are going to help that homeless person I wrote about above, and help her right now. I am tired of waiting. I have waited long enough. I can stare in disbelief at what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says how they measure unemployment only so often. I can be disgusted at how the former chief of police of Los Angeles will spend 4 months in jail after abusing the civil rights of tens of thousands of prisoners in Los Angeles over two decades and see no outrage anywhere only so long. So does Hillary care about the unemployed? Really? Hey, I am hungry, anybody have some baloney?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Notes About Working All In One Place

All of these posts were written to address various issues that have been brought up as I discuss projects and/or jobs with various companies.  

Three Interview Issues Worthy of Discussion

Working With Other People

Notes on Consulting (Consultant to the Captain of the Titanic)

Biography

Test of Receding Media Technology



Farewell Facebook For Now


In the last few weeks I have blocked three people on Facebook, unfriended a few, and probably have been unfriended myself without my knowing it.

Its all about one or more of the following issues and I doubt you will be surprised by any of it. I am a little surprised by the intensity and insanity of it all though.

My friends are very happy because their candidate, Hillary Clinton, has probably clinched the nomination for President from the Democratic Party. Between you and me, I never really had much doubt that Hillary would do this. She has always been the frontrunner and seemed likely to me to win the nomination without the use of Superdelegates. And of course if it came to the position of the Superdelegates, I did not think there was much doubt about which way that would go either.

I am happy for my friends. It is a good thing when your candidate wins, generally speaking. I presume my friends are ethical Americans who are voting their beliefs and so forth and so on.

But for a variety of reasons, most of which have very little to do with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is not my candidate. Again dont get me wrong, I love Bernie Sanders. I never thought he had much of a chance of winning the nomination, but I am stunned and delighted that he did as well as he did. Its just that I think I also know something about Hillary Clinton and the kind of president she will be.

But now that Hillary has won the nomination (or all but won it, its not really much in doubt) my friends are angry that I do not fall into line and support Hillary.

And boy are they angry. I have received two death threats and lots and lots of insults. Its OK, its helpful to know who actually respects you enough to let you have your beliefs without throwing insults at you. And clearly I do not have many such friends on Facebook, or for that matter anywhere, probably.

I hope that when Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency that she becomes as good a President as my friends believe that she will be. For my part, however, I doubt it. I think she is a competent, process oriented, mainstream Democrat.  I doubt she will be any better nor any worse than any other power mad, middle of the road, Washington insider Democrat.

If you do not understand by now that the status quo is not working for millions and millions of Americans, then I am very happy for you. It means that the system is working for you, and that is great, and I am very jealous. You have my congratulations.

If you want to understand why it is not working for others you are going to have to look beyond the surface. You are going to have to ask why there are so many Bernie and Donald supporters, each in their own way. You are going to have to try and figure out how many people are actually unemployed, underemployed, and / or impoverished.

As for me, I find that Facebook is not worth the aggravation.  So instead of blocking and unfriending even more people, and the aggravation that involves, I am going to absent myself from Facebook for a few months, possibly until after the election.  I am not really sure.  If you want to know how I am doing, you will just have to email me or read this blog.

Good luck to all of you and I hope you will keep in touch.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Three Interview Issues Worthy of Discussion


Three recent “interview worthy” issues were recently brought up by a friend who has the misfortune of managing several hundred researchers of various types at a well-known entertainment company.

The three issues are (a) working with other people, (b) deadlines, (c) recent programming experience.

As always, I take these things personally.  But probably these questions have nothing to do with me. I suspect that it has to do with having to deal with self-entitled, prima donna researchers at his international facility combined with possibly a misunderstanding about my recent work.

First, I am probably easier to work with than anyone else I know assuming you actually want to get the job done which is a big assumption. I did time at UCLA in the 1970s, I know what teamwork means and I dont just pay lip service to it. I let people know what they need to know to get a job done, I help them when they get stuck. I explain potential problems and suggest possible solutions to them when appropriate. If anything I have the character flaw of “oversharing”.

There can be a problem when people are insecure and defensive, as they often think I am talking down to them, as I tend to explain things using the English language which has words of more than two syllables. This can be especially problematic with self-identified “producers”.  There can also be a problem when people say that they want to go to the moon, but really want to go to the corner. There are other issues as well, but in general working with people is not a problem when we are all people of good faith trying to get the job done.  

Second, deadlines were problematical in my youth due to my genuine contempt for arbitrary ones. Over the years, I have learned that organizations rely on arbitrary deadlines in order to manage large projects and get anything done. Thus the problem becomes not whether or not a deadline makes sense but about everything else involved with the process of making a deadline, which is to say such things as scope of work, schedule, approval processes, client management, project strategy, resources allocated, the talents and personalities of the people on the project, technologies in development, training, and most of all whether a system has been put into place, engineered if you will, to be able to make deadlines of this nature without too much blood and mangled bodies.

With no false modesty, I will tell you that I am one of the best persons I know to help conceptualize and engineer such a deadline-making system as well as being excellent at managing a process to completion. I can also tell you that, particularly in the entertainment industry, there are people who do anything in their power to prevent and sabotage such a system from being put in place or working. At that point, it is up to senior management to step in and discipline the producer who is damaging the organization or discipline the prima donna who uses chaos and insubordination for their own purposes of self-aggrandizement.

I have often been involved with projects whose goals were so lofty, and the resources and time allowed so limited, that compromises are required to make anything happen at all.  This kind of situation, which often feels like the story of my life, requires everyone to work together.  Decisions have to be made, directions have to be set, people have to be honest.  This is why we get paid.  

Third, the issue of recent programming experience has more to do with structural economic issues and confusion about what the talent for technical work is. Back when there were far fewer technical people available, I was recognized as one of the best on the West Coast. Now that there are so many good technical people in the various fields, I feel, modestly, that I am one of the best technical people on the West Coast. But this can be difficult to communicate to many people today because they are confused about what they want.

Do they want someone who knows the technology inside and out, and can be creative with that technology or do they want someone who knows what -1 means in a stupid software package that they are using on a project because someone thought it was trendy and they might more often get laid? Do they want someone who can design software and has taste, or do they want a moron who is easy to control and knows how to type. Decide what you want.

And then, if you are still concerned, talk to my references, who are near the top of their fields, and see what they say.  

I hope this has helped.


Are Animals Intelligent?


I mentioned to a friend who is a pioneer in the field of simulating various kinds of animal behavior that I was very pleased to find a new book by an ethologist that voiced the opinion that animals had emotions and intelligence. This is of course in contrast to the last 70 plus years of the behaviorists who put animals in little boxes and maintain that animals are merely stimulus-response machines.

My friend let me know in no uncertain terms that I did not have even the slightest right to my opinions, that any behavior by scientists was acceptable, and that the lay person (if that is what I am) did not have the slightest right to criticize any scientist in the field of animal behavior in any way. If a scientist believes that a dog or a horse is merely a machine without feelings then that is what I should accept as any belief I had must necessarily be anecdotal and without the slightest validity.

I want to go on record here and disagree with my friend. Torturing and demeaning animals is not acceptable to me. I understand the need for animal models in certain kinds of medicine (e.g. cancer research) in the absence of an alternative but failing to acknowledge intelligence in animals is not. It is nothing more than an extension of the racism (species-ism?) that was once popular in mainstream science which worked so hard to measure skull shape and size to prove that the non-white “races” were inferior to the Aryan ideal and deserved to be enslaved.

Whether or not animals are human, humans are certainly animals. Our species is part of a continuous spectrum of the evolved animal life on this planet and the failure to acknowledge the intelligence and, yes, even the probable awareness and consciousness of many animals, is sheer arrogance. Yes, I realize this is science, yes I realize that consciousness and intelligence is not at all well defined and has all the pitfalls that this implies. But that is not what we are talking about here. Failing to recognize intelligence, intent, memory and yes even culture in some of our fellow creatures is just bizarre.

The book I am referring to is “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by the well-known ethologist Franz de Waal.




Find it here:




Sunday, June 5, 2016

Is Captain America Gay or Just From Another Time?


[I wrote this post in complete innocence, not realizing that the gender preference of Captain America was a real issue heating up social media from here to Russia and beyond.  Apparently there is some discussion about whether Captain America and Bucky Barnes (aka The Winter Soldier) might not have a thing for each other.]

In America, it is very important to know about the sex lives of our celebrities both on the screen and off. Who does what to whom and how many times is central to our feelings about ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be. Some might think that childish, but I prefer to think that it is merely adolescent, and most adolescents have a healthy interest in sex, don't you agree?

I have recently watched all 12 (well maybe 14) of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And to my astonishment, I have come across circumstantial evidence that Steve Rogers, Captain America, may not be the all-American boy so many right-thinking Americans think he is. True, the evidence is circumstantial but I also think it is compelling.

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), in one of the brief respites between action sequences, Captain America is in a pickup truck driving in New Jersey with his new partner in crime, the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff aka Scarlet Johannson. Ms. Johannson is wearing her regulation spandex-latex-polyethylene jumpsuit required for femme fatales in comicbook narrative.




They have a discussion about relationships, and I quote:


BW: Allright, I have a question for you. But you do not have to answer.
BW: But if you dont answer it is sortof answering though.
CA: What?
BW: Am I your first kiss since 1945?
CA: That bad, huh.
BW: I didn't say that.
CA: Well it kindof sounds like thats what you said.
BW: No I didnt, I just wondered how much practice you had?
CA: You don't need practice.
BW: Everybody needs practice.
CA: It was not my first kiss since 1945. I am 95, I am not dead.
BW: Nobody special then?
CA: Ha. Believe it or not it is kindof hard to find someone with shared life experience.
BW: Oh that is all right, you just make something up.
CA: What, like you?
BW: Truth is a matter of circumstances, not all things <indecipherable> all the time. Neither am I.
CA: Its a tough way to live.
BW: Its a good way not to die though.
CA: You know, its kindof hard to trust someone when you dont know who that someone really is.
BW: Yeah. Who do you want me to be?
CA: How about a friend?
BW: (laughs)





Is this really believable? You mean that for the first time in the history of the world, not to mention the cinema, we have a reversal of roles where it is the guy telling the gal that they should be friends? As if that is not enough, we have the unmarried, healthy, all-American boy telling Scarlet Johannson to get out of bed (figuratively speaking). True, she might not be the innocent all-American girl that a nice boy like Steve Rogers would want to marry and bring home to mother, if mother had not been dead for 70 or so years, but even so, everyone needs practice.

This gets at the fundamental dialectic so well reviewed in When Harry Met Sally (1989).  Is it possible for a heterosexual man and woman to be "friends", that is, without one of them desiring sex?  The answer in that movie and in most examples we have from life is an unambiguous "no".

No one, not even Captain America, would push Scarlet Johannson away. Maybe he is very shy? Not a chance, no way. Sorry. Unless, of course... Well you see where this is going. Even Natasha Romanoff would have to wonder what kind of man refuse her generous offer.

Is Captain America gay?

In this case, probably not. What we probably have here is a man who came of age in roughly 1944 being somewhat intimidated by the overt sexuality of the definitely non-chaste, modern Black Widow.  An excellent reminder of how hard it is to really understand the past. Things were different then.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) on IMDB