Relentless Inquisition vs Free Speech

by bauer on May 6, 2015

This morning I was watching CNN. Chris Cuomo was interviewing Ben Ferguson about the attacks in Texas. The issue of free speech was raised. Ben Ferguson made a series of statements concerning an unnamed conference where unnamed speakers had called for violent jihad. His point being that free speech protected these statements and that the Texas conference should be afforded the same consideration. I had never heard of this conference let alone these statements. I wondered if this was held somewhere in similar scale and prominence to the Texas event. Chris went on to make some statement that it seemed to be liberals that were the ones who didn’t think the Texas conference was so much free speech as it was hate speech. I can’t quite quote the specifics as I didn’t record the show. The specifics aren’t quite important. What happened next was.

I tweeted to Chris under my pseudonymous handle: “@ChrisCuomo don’t bother verifying @benfergusonshow Islamic anti-American conference claims yet feel free to paint left in broad strokes?” The point being it seemed like it would be pretty basic to ask what conference was being referenced yet a bit of a stretch to associate half of the political spectrum with having the same perspective on a first amendment issue.

Chris’ response was “ben will tell you I was testing his side as well. don’t confuse your bias with my line of questioning.” I could see Chris was doing just that and had no idea what point was being made about bias. I replied “I was asking for verification of the @benfergusonshow claims and restraint on painting left. How is this bias?”

Chris replied “being openly hostile is not a way to get verification. ask a question. please.” In the interim, both Ben Ferguson and another favorited Chris’ tweet about “confusing my bias”. I followed up saying, “really feel you misrepresented me, I was asking about journalistic practice - verification and characterization.” With no reply I concluded with “I just asked to verify what conference @benfergusonshow was talking about and what claims were made by whom. This is hostile?” No response.

I feel compelled to share this in public for the following reason. ISIS represents an existential threat to the entire planet. This threat is diabolically sophisticated. It is literally a matter of life-and-death that we get our facts straight and have the utmost self-awareness in our response. Setting us upon each other using our greatest strength - free speech - may very well be a deliberate tactic. This is why I’m acutely concerned about getting attribution and verification about who’s accusing whom of what. The free press stands our post here and needs to be particularly vigilant this time around. Frankly, the free press let us down the last time. Had they questioned those who spoke at the UN and not merely taken their word - as I seem to have been asked to do in this instance - then we might not be facing this looming peril in the first place.


Punks and Thugs

by bauer on April 29, 2015

I had no idea until today that thug was a synonym for the n-word. I understand some believe this but I reject that equivalency. I’ve never thought of thug in any other way other than its core definition - one which relates back to colonial India: murderous thieves that preyed on travelers. I’ve always imagined thugs as those mafia heavies, enforcing the code, or simply as large men that attacked people for money. The key is that thugs are up-close and personal. Those in Baltimore who were pelting the police are more accurately punks (or just rioters). A thug stands to; a punk hits and runs. (And looters are just looters - yet why the police did not just immediately guard the Oxycontin is simply beyond me). Now, the kid who cut the fire hose was a little bitch. His wearing a gas mask, jumping on his little bike and pedaling away made him a punk-ass little bitch. This is the proper construction of the epithets. Nothing to do with skin color (although pointing out the misogyny is valid). If only more people were more precise in the specificity of their use of derogatory terms, the world would be a much better place. On the other hand, the single mother #TonyaGraham who smacked her son, is all red-white-and-blue. She’s every American’s mom.


Thoughts on Denver New Tech

by bauer on February 27, 2015

Here’s what I wish would happen at New Tech Colorado Meetups. These are monthly meetings showcasing Denver Technology Start-Ups. The format involves allowing a few companies 5 minutes to present their new start-ups. Before that, those start-ups that haven’t made the 5 minute cut are invited to give a 1 minute synopsis on their companies. After all of this, there is usually a discussion on a set of related topics, such as whether the format is valuable, what else should be discussed, and why we are all here.

Here’s what usually happens. The bulk of the meeting is focused on the interrogation of the five-minute presenter. Invariably, this interrogation results in someone grilling the presenter on the economic value of the start-up. While this questioning takes various forms, it usually boils down to some variant of asking what’s the Net Present Value of the company.

Here’s why this sucks. If this is the main criteria for determining whether or not a start-up should be considered, there’s absolutely no reason to have these events. No start-up at the stage they are typically at when presenting themselves at this kind of forum can satisfactorily answer this question. If they could, they wouldn’t be at this event. They wouldn’t waste their time. They would already be in front of VCs and they would be so far along, they’d be arguing Discount Rates.

It’s completely appropriate to ask how a company is going to make money. It’s totally inappropriate to ask a company how much they’re going to make when from whom. Financial considerations should provide the framework, not the focus. Entrepreneurs are trying new things, learning new things, and making new things. The audience could learn a lot from these entrepreneurs. Instead, we hear the same old things from whomever has the larger ego to serve.

What I’d like to see is change in moderation. It would be great to me if a framework was established for evaluating all of the presentations. Sure, ask the money question but also add technology, behavioral, and marketing questions as well. Have the presenters ready to answer these questions. Get them each to make elevator speeches. Give them a single slide with their logo and contact information. Let’s then have a forum where we can give them all a little more time to answer these questions. This might not have to require a lot of work on a moderator and would provide a lot more value to the attendees.


American Cowards

by bauer on October 25, 2014

I’m sick of the right-wing fear-mongering American Cowards - Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, Greg Gutfield, and Robert Beckel. They are all more Yellow than Red, White, and Blue. Close the borders! Stop the flights! Find the wolves! What a bunch of whiny little boys. Grow up. Act rationally. Be men. Stop blowing things out of proportion. Stop acting like you’re tough guys. Stop sowing fear because you’re afraid. I think of my father and my uncles and what harrowing terrors they went through in World War II. I learned from them about how real men handle real fear. Quietly brave, not bombastically spastic. We’re losing a generation that defined what it is to be an American. We’re gaining a generation that’s got to define it once again. We’re stuck with a generation of American Cowards. ISIS is winning thanks to you. Ebola will be harder to treat thanks to you. Our children will have a harder time handling the future effectively thanks to you. Get some balls.



by bauer on August 31, 2014

I really need to get this off my chest. President Obama has taken a lot of heat for not having a strategy for ISIS - Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (although I prefer ISIL - Islamic State in Levant for its accuracy). It was the simpleton thinking like getting rid of Saddam Hussein that got us into this mess in the first place. From a cold, real-politik perspective that thug kept these lunatics at bay. Now we have to deal with an ideology bent on world domination. The piece in the New York Times on the use of media by ISIS shows just the surface of the real battle being waged here - a battle of ideologies that dwarfs even the Cold War. That was a conflict over economic systems; this is a conflict over the very definition of humanity. For all intents and purposes these aren’t even Earthlings to me - they are Aliens challenging the very definition of being humans. And as that piece points out, they are wielding the most advance weaponry brought to the planet - virtual mind control (and if you think they’re advanced on the social media side, imagine how advanced they must be on the clandestine side). We honestly have nothing right now to fight back against this. Frankly, the notion that fueled the thinking behind the Iraq invasion - “Freedom and Democracy” - doesn’t have the same visceral appeal of 72 virgins and a single world under a god and some messenger. What I’m looking for is something, actually someone, who can embody something greater than some 7th century fantasy that’s spreading a metastasizing cancer. The President is looking for this something; trying to cobble together something real to stand up to fantasy. Of course, maybe some on the right who are simpleton thinkers might just be right here for a change. Just nuke em. I’d personally prefer a 21st century messiah with no connection to the sons of Abraham.


Nielsen Regression

by bauer on June 5, 2014




by bauer on April 6, 2014

Long field trip last week to see the Sand Hill Cranes. Saw the Sand Hills, then the cranes, then I realized the cranes were named after the hills. Oh well. Was 3am.


Needle in a Caldera

by bauer on March 21, 2014

I was just trying to do a little calculation on the challenge of finding #MH370. The most recent report has the search area “narrowed” to 13,000 square miles. With an average depth in the Indian Ocean of 12,000 feet, this comes to about 30,000 cubic miles of water or about 123,000 cubic kilometers. If you shrunk a 200 foot plane to the size of a 1 inch needle, with about 2400 inches in 200 feet you get a ratio of .0004167 or there about. Using that ratio applied to the total volume of water to be searched you get about 52 cubic kilometers. A search for something of that volume comes up with the Tambora Volcano

Tambora Caldera

Tambora Caldera

- site of the largest volcanic explosion in recorded history. Apparently, this led to the 1816 “Year without a Summer” (and apparently also the inspiration for The Scream by Edvard Munch).
The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

I only say all of this because if the plane was the size of a needle, you’d be searching in a haystack with a base the size of this caldera and total volume of the top that was blown off. Check my math but it feels right (thank you Wolfram).
Tambora Caldera with Haystack

Tambora Caldera with Haystack


CNN Software Coverage - Good Thing or Bad Thing

by bauer on October 30, 2013

In keeping with Jon Stewart’s parody of CNN reducing everything to #GoodThingBadThing, I’m going to review #CNN Software Coverage with #GoodThing, #BadThing to keep it simple for the journalists. Let’s start with the fiasco of Laurie Segall’s (@lauriesegallcnn) coverage of the site’s problems. She ends up citing every problem any large software system could have except the real one - a last minute feature request from the product owner. If there’s a problem with software, it must be the fault of the developers. Couldn’t possibly be the customer’s fault, the system’s fault, or god forbid the user’s fault. Of course, this doesn’t apply to anything built by “Silicon Valley”, that modern-day version of the Catholic Church - an apparently infallible, disembodied entity, most recently represented by the guy who inflicted the software world with Wordpress. We’ll call this #BadThing.

Contrast this with Chris Frates (@frates) coverage of the Common Application software for applying to post-secondary institutions. Similar set of problems cited for this system (can’t login, applications lost, users frustrated) but Frates doesn’t go on the witch hunt that Segall does. This is probably because it’s not a government-run program, doesn’t have an Obama prefix, and isn’t about healthcare. We’ll call this a #GoodThing for now.

Then we come to Catherine Rampell (@Crampell - nice handle) and her speculation that Apple has built-in planned obsolescence into their products. As @ChrisCuomo points out, thankfully as a lawyer, that she has no evidence whatsoever to support her claims, it’s apparently OK for CNN to give her air time for this, because, she’s, like, an economics reporter and she, like, works for the New York Times and that. Add in that Kate Boulduan (@KateBoulduan) didn’t know that “planned obsolescence” was a defined term (she should check her job description) and you get an overall #BadThing on this coverage.

And now we come to Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) with exclusive access to a report of “eye-popping”, “glaring”, “red flags”. The report on the cites “no access to monitoring tools”, “inadequate time for performance testing” and “occasional outage of hub services”. Really? You could attach that report to practically every software project across the entire planet - BEFORE they even start. It’s a TODO list. Don’t think the President of the United States needs a TODO list. He should have been told that his product owners were making unreasonable last-minute feature requests. Giving this a #BadThing.

So, overall I’m calling #CNN Software Coverage a #BadThing up until this point. I’m not quite sure why I’m so passionate about this but I am. Actually, I am sure why. Software is being woven into the fabric of society and needs more sophisticated treatment. #CNN really needs somebody with some deep knowledge about technology to sort the wheat from the chafe. Being able to point out pretty buttons and channeling some mysterious “Silicon Valley” ghoul isn’t cutting it.


CNN Software Coverage

by bauer on October 25, 2013

Had some time to reflect on your comments, @lauriesegallcnn, about the 5 million lines of code would need to be rewritten for the Affordable Care system. I called you out on it on Twitter, and you said that you knew that the number of lines of code weren’t relevant, that you put this into context on the air, and that you had no idea what I was talking about. Well, I reviewed the tape. I don’t think saying that a programmer writes about 100 line of code a day is putting this into context. That’s like saying your average musician writes about 10 lyrics a day. This shows an even deeper dis-connect with the subject. And, sorry, but dropping in “Silicon Valley”, like you would “Catholic Church” isn’t helping either.

I think you’re heart is in the right place but you need some help. Seriously, #CNN, you need to make some investment. The real issues here are with the basic procurement process itself (god help any small software developer try to get a government contract), a congress that doesn’t think it could possibly be to blame in all of this (the ones who setup the rules in the first place), and news outlets who’s only competence in explaining complex systems is when somebody points to a hole in a big red swirly thing in the middle of a bigger blue thing and says “bad”. We’re encountering more complex problems that require more sophisticated solutions and more nuanced explanation.