Posted July 15th, 2017 by russfrazierwp and filed in Uncategorized
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March 21, 2001–July 12, 2017

March 21, 2001–July 12, 2017

Our adopted dog George passed away recently. He had become lame in his hind legs and could no longer walk without dragging one or both feet behind him.

George loved chasing the soccer ball on the field at York Elementary. He would tear up the field no matter how tired and winded he was. When he got to the point of complete exhaustion, he would lie down and trap the ball between his paws and bark. I don’t know what he was saying, but he sure was happy.

He loved to sniff. Everything. Since he was never trained on a leash when he was younger, he would just try and pull as hard as he could on walks until he started using the Easy Walk harness. If he could sniff all the pee, poop, discarded food, grass, flowers and whatnot, we would never finish any walk. Before he was neutered, he would lift his leg and try to pee on everything he found the least bit interesting.

And that was what he loved the most, those walks. When I first started walking him, we would go for long walks – through the neighborhood, around the lakes, through the nature park. Eventually he figured out a trick to prolong the walks. When we got near the end of the walk, he would stall by walking slower and finding more things to investigate. In the end, he actually dragged himself to the gate because he wanted to go for a walk.

Going somewhere, anywhere.

Going somewhere, anywhere.

When he was still over at Elaine’s house, he could still hear very well. He would bark at damn near anything and howl. He would start howling at sirens before we could hear them. It was like a one-minute warning. The howls would start out soft and low and rise to a coyote-like pitch then trail off, finally stopping when the siren became too faint to hear.

If it weren’t for George, I would not have found Dude. To me, it was like a supernatural event, and to this day I wonder about how this happened and what it meant. It was just about two weeks after we had lost one of our beloved cats, and I was feeling very sad and empty. I was taking George through the nature park, and as we came over a ridge I saw a black and white streak run across the creek and disappear into the embankment. As it ran, it cried out several times. Well, it was Dude, and he was about 5 or 6 weeks old, abandoned or living there, in the park, hiding in a small, dirt cave. To make a long story short, we have Dude now.

In his second yard.

In his second yard.

George would come into the garage during particularly bad or extreme weather. I would call for Dude to come to the door leading from the kitchen to the garage, and then they would look at each other. They sniffed the air. One time they actually touched noses. George would not know what to do and stood there still as a statue, not wanting to look directly at the cat but slowly moving his head so as not to alarm him. His self-control was amazing.

Once we had a scare when we suddenly heard him calling out in pain. My wife and I both ran down to where he was under the porch to find him on his side, unable to get up and writhing on the ground. Thinking he had broken a hip or his back, we rushed him to the emergency hospital. We carried him in on a blanket and waited with dread for horrible news as the veterinarian treated George in the back room. Next thing, here he comes walking out like nothing happened. We were happy and incredulous. “He’s walking!” we cried with elation. “What was it?” we asked. “He had his foot caught in his collar.” We felt ridiculous.

He had some dogs come by from time to time when he lived in his first yard, but when I started walking with him in the nature park he made his best dog friend of all, Tramp. Tramp was a white mixed breed little guy about the size and build of a boxer. We would only see him and his person (a local filmmaker) by chance. When they got together, the dogs would thrash around and roll on the ground, tangling their leashes and embarrassing the people with their amorous antics.

In Elaine's yard.

In Elaine’s yard.

Daun would mow the back yard and find that George would frequently be standing exactly where she was about to be next. After a while, she realized that he was herding – predicting the future position of the thing being herded and standing in that spot.

He had always been a sweet dog and never lashed out at anyone or anything the whole time I knew him. The only time he growled was when off-leash aggressive dogs in the nature park spotted him from way off and came running up to him barking and growling. (I lost track of the times I had to tell people that their dogs were required to have a leash.)

There were so many other high points (starting regular walks), funny things (constant interruptions around people, when he could still hear) and low points (being attacked by a neighborhood dog) but I will remember him as a highly intelligent working dog who would look at us as we watched him through the window, his eyes saying, “When are you coming out?”

Two new music pieces

Posted November 12th, 2016 by russfrazierwp and filed in Music
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These are a couple of songs I wrote that are intended to be for a  marketing video background music track. The video is a short, 30 second shot of a small machine with someone’s hands using the machine. They are meant to be edited as the video editor sees fit for the purpose.

Demo A (A is for ARCA)

Demo B (El Timbalero Aburrido)

Demo A took much longer to make than I’m willing to admit, partly due to the learning process of using the sequencer on my keyboard. Demo B didn’t take as long, but it turned out sounding sillier than I thought so I gave it a whimsical name.

My SoundCloud name is Del Goren as well as my YouTube name (DelGoren). If you haven’t checked out my videos on YouTube there are more songs as well as a funny video about an engineer asking his boss about getting an MBA. That one has generated a lot of comments.


The Usurper of Complacency: Knowledge

Posted May 5th, 2015 by russfrazierwp and filed in Opinion
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Isn’t is a great feeling? You’ve struggled at length to grasp something and then finally, “Ah-ha!” you have it nailed and you’re sure you’ve got it wrapped up inside your head, all neat and tidy. Clear, complete understanding. The feeling can happen, for example, by conquering a difficult math problem or trying to figure out how a piece of machinery works. How long does that feeling last?


The Thinker In The Gates of  Hell

The Thinker In The Gates of Hell. Source: Wikipedia

Well, if it had to do with understanding that the Earth was at the center of the universe with the sun, moon, planets and stars all rotating around it, that particular feeling lasted over 2,200 years. That is a lot of warm, comforting knowledge of complete comprehension. Never mind that it was completely wrong1)Not to conflate large scale paradigms and smaller scaled thinking.

When we have achieved that happy level of comprehension we sit back, sip on a refreshing beverage and review the rocky path to our contentment. We smile. We’re self-assured, relaxed and, admittedly, perhaps a bit smug. But we deserve to have our reward for hard work, don’t we? We need to take time to savor the moment. Yes, yes, of course….


Rest on campus

Ah, time to rest now that complete understanding has been achieved

Then after some indeterminate amount of time, we begin to go about our business, temporarily forgetting the vanquished foe of confusion. Yes, those enemies of good feelings: confusion and doubt. We don’t like them. We must drive all befuddlement and hazy murkiness away from the mind.

If a challenge to our solution appears we crush it or ignore it because it is obviously wrong. Why is it wrong? It is wrong because we already fought and won that war. Immediately after winning we were rewarded with that good, comfortable feeling of understanding, thus deepening our conviction. Now it is like an old pair of house slippers, molded perfectly to our feet, cozy and snug. So why go back and make more effort? We’ve fought the battle, we’ve had our victory, end of story.

No, not end of story. And if history is any guide, not even close to the end of story. Why?

Because our understanding of things is built on flimsy, wobbly scaffolds we call our paradigms. Those paradigms are constantly shifting, constantly moving and cannot be taken for granted nor can they be trusted. Our multiple paradigms are constantly growing, to match an increasing number of different endeavors and fields. But almost all of them are subject to alteration, vulnerable to movement and change.


A model

A model

Just like the geocentric paradigm of the cosmos which was certainly correct according to Ptolemy but later shown to be complete nonsense by Copernicus. The same paradigm changes occurred for the spontaneous generation theory, the emission theory of vision, humoral medicine and goose trees.2)Thanks to YANSS 046



Rickety building

Something’s not right here…


Paradigms – those models of reality or constructs that we base our thinking on – are interesting just for that reason. They are never really stable, but we treat them as if they were. We need stable paradigms to run our thoughts through, to formulate hypothesis around. When we are able to use a paradigm to solve a problem, we declare it as good. No need to go questioning something that works. Are they then all nothing but delusions?

Some paradigms are more obviously shaky and unstable so we naturally mock these and their adherents, being of superior intellect. Some of the business organizational paradigms (fads) that arguably exploded during the last 60 years come to mind.

When it comes to technology, we’re on only slightly firmer ground, but the paradigms still shift when we’re not looking. Sometimes it seems as though technology paradigms shift just as fast or faster than business paradigms. For example, just look at the idea of cloud computing. Before 2006 there was no Amazon cloud computing service. That is a whole new technology platform, a new paradigm for selling goods and services.

Scientific paradigms move a bit slower, as they themselves are built upon paradigms of empirical knowledge. And here is where the nonsense is supposed to stop. Testing assumptions through reproducible experimentation is part of the foundation of the scientific method.


Experimental beakers

Scientific methodology at work

What is it about these models we are so fond of creating that make us start treating them as if they were sacrosanct? Is it because if we start to pick at them, to examine their weaknesses and point out their flaws, our hard work begins to vanish and evaporate, like rainwater rising from a hot pavement as mist?

Every new technology paradigm that comes along seems as if it’s accompanied by a midwife announcing a new baby. A bundle of joy to be admired and adored. Why? Because it’s new. The especially good ones have a pedigree, as well, because they’ve been fathered by academic superstars or industrial demigods.

If this topic interests you, consider learning about the work of Thomas Kuhn and Michael Polanyi.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Not to conflate large scale paradigms and smaller scaled thinking
2. Thanks to YANSS 046

Brookhaven Nature Park Hit by Mad Spray Painter

Posted December 27th, 2013 by russfrazierwp and filed in Low Snark Kvetching
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Does that sound a little hyperbolic? The Brookhaven Nature Park (Junior Women’s Club Nature Park) in Raleigh in the Brookhaven neighborhood near Crabtree is a nice place to take a walk.

Entrance signage

Entrance signage for BrookHaven Nature Park

Being a nature park, it doesn’t have the cars, buildings, concrete and ubiquitous poles and electrical equipment with all the cables and wires you encounter on the streets. It is deliberately undeveloped, having low-profile foot bridges and some narrow asphalt foot paths near the entrance. There are only two places in the Nature park with large man-made structures: the entrance and a low deck over a drainage pond.

I walk here regularly and find that it’s unadorned beauty is a welcome change from the hard-edged and unnaturally-colored man made world I spend most of my time in. So one might understand my astonishment, disappointment and anger when I went for my walk (Oh, back in October, I think) and saw that somebody had spray painted the main trail and a couple of smaller trails.

Green tree roots and a green plutonic rock.

Green tree roots and a green plutonic rock.

Bright, DayGlo green, red and blue. About as unnatural as you can get. If you follow the main trail around, you can see several places where not only roots and rocks were sprayed, but little happy faces on rocks and unsightly, runny spots on trees were added as well. The “work” doesn’t even have a hint of the artistic flair you might see in urban graffiti. Obviously, somebody went around with several cans of paint and went crazy.

I often puzzle over the motivations behind things like this. What were they thinking? If not thought, then what drugs in particular were they on? Did some of the women from the Junior Women’s Club do this, and if so, how many were there? Did they discuss this before they did it? Was this the result of some addled person threatening a law suit after having attempted, unsuccessfully, to text and walk simultaneously? There is Magnolia Glen (A Kisco Senior Living Community) nearby. Was this done for the benefit of elderly people? The sprayer(s) did have purpose, however. It’s apparent that the main trail is green, the trail near the pond going to York Elementary is blue and a shortcut is red.

Blue roots

Blue roots

So we know for sure what the different trails are, in case you wandered 25 yards away from where you were, which is the point of being in a nature park. Now, there are places where a person could trip on a tree root or a rock if they weren’t paying attention. That’s a natural hazard, much like natural hazards one might encounter on a US National Park trail. I have never seen a park trail, national or otherwise, with spray painted trees and rocks. Were the people who did this trying to mark trip hazards? If so, I have news for them. The actual hazards are not the roots and rocks.

The true hazards are the wooden foot bridges, made of fir. Since I go walking in the rain sometimes, I am very, extremely, painfully aware that those bridges become very slick when they are wet. You can slip while walking at a normal pace, while paying attention to the natural beauty around you. If they are concerned about hazards, then why not do something to make those bridges safe?

Slippery when wet footbridge

Slippery when wet footbridge

Rain on Second Street music video

Posted September 20th, 2013 by russfrazierwp and filed in Music
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Finally! Got it finished and wrapped up and here it is. I spent so much time on this… hope you like it.

A modest prediction regarding US government surveillance of its citizens

Posted June 12th, 2013 by russfrazierwp and filed in Bitter lametations, Opinion
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Now that we know for sure the NSA is collecting our phone call records and has the ability to collect email exchanges, text messages and website visits what is the next logical step? Well, according to Pew Research, 56% of Americans say, “Sure, collect our phone records. We are just fine with that.”

Pew Research Poll on NSA Phone Tracking

And furthermore, a whopping 46% say it would be fine to collect their email data, as well. Well, then. Let’s not stop there. It would be ashamed, no, it would be irresponsible and downright negligent if that big, expensive system that has all the answers (Not including the Boston Bombing when, where, how, who, of course) was not utilized for other serious crimes, like murder, drugs and human trafficking.

Lots of data

Lots of data

And considering the ongoing “debate” regarding government debt and financing, wouldn’t it be logical to extend the amazing predictive capabilities of the system (not including mass shootings by lone gunmen who don’t call or text other people before they go bonkers) to catch those slippery, tax evading millionaires stashing money away in some offshore bank account? Maybe they could actually snag a couple of money launderers while they’re at it. Think of all the extra money Uncle Sam would be able to rake in once the miscreant tax evaders were brought to justice.

James B. Rule of Cal Berkeley makes this point in the NY Times here:  The Price of the Panopticon

So given that broad, sweeping assumptions are acceptable logic, I will now assume that the following will occur:

  • The ACLU law suit accusing the government of violating the Constitutional rights (The First and Fourth Amendments) of it’s plaintiffs, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and ACLU folks, will end up in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will throw out the first part of the complaint having to do with First Amendment chilling of Free Speech and not hear that argument. That leaves the argument regarding the Fourth Amendment, which in the complaint is necessarily tied to the Patriot Act. There will be some debate regarding whether or not the Patriot Act was being misused. 
    A nice, big net will surely catch all the fish we will ever need.

    A nice, big net will surely catch all the fish we will ever need.

    But since the Patriot Act is a twisted, inbred cousin of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that has been allowed to run rampant, covered in mud and excrement through the halls of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court, they will rule in favor of the defendants. And it will tell the Patriot Act to, “Gimme some sugar,” before it leaves to spread more mess elsewhere.

  • Gun rights advocates will continue to get their way and not allow any gun owners to be subject to tracking or mapping or unnecessary red tape or government interference. There will be an uncomfortable silence on the connection between gun ownership and federal surveillance and nobody will think to start up an interesting public discourse such as, “Hey, NRA, you don’t want any records of gun ownership, yet the government, with it’s mountain of phone, text, email and website data must surely be able and ready to TRACK GUNS in our country. How do you feel about that?”
  • The next president will be another Democrat, in fact – Hillary Clinton! And she’ll just do the same thing Obama is doing. And we will trust her like we trust him because, hey, they’re Democrats and they are for the people. More interesting uses for PRISM or whatever it’s called by then will be found. Fear will be appropriately stoked, legislation will be adequately front loaded with all manner of polls and next thing you know these items will come up for auction. Because by then we are talking political theater, the bread and butter of congress.
    • Organized crime felony criminal prediction and interdiction, such as murder, human trafficking and drugs.
    • Gang-related serious crime such as murder, human trafficking, drugs and felony property crimes. (This will be preceded by a massive clamor/theatrics for state and major city access to derivative products of the federally run system)
    • Domestic terrorist organizations felony firearms crimes. (Oops, forgot about the NRA)
  • A cry, a lonely, thin cry to track down dishonest bankers and fund managers. It will come and go in the span of a day or two, so don’t miss it. This will be squelched by a diversionary argument accompanied by an enormous pile of cash dumped on the idea, crushing the life out it.
  • Another terrorist act will occur that the dragnet system will not have been able to prevent because the terrorists did not use cell phones, text, email or websites. Much like Osama bin Laden. Who was in Abottabad, Pakistan for, well, who knows how long? Years? Yes, a long time before the US Government knew where he was. And they could not see Osama over there in Pakistan from atop their mountain of data.
    We can see EVERYTHING from this mountain top!

    We can see EVERYTHING from this mountain top!

    This attack will be serious and the baffling lack of coherent logical thinking in our country will result in a public agreeing that more, and higher mountains of data and smarter, faster algorithms will be needed. Money will be spent and the mountains will grow bigger and scarier.

  • A right wing president will be elected because of the previously mentioned terrorist attack. He or she will be rubbing their hands with glee. Right wingers will be drooling with anticipation. For now, you see, the system has been prepared and is already in place for a totalitarian regime that has the people’s permission to use secret surveillance and use giant dragnets for all sorts of crime and misbehavior because it keeps them safe. Who will know or care if some of that data is used for political purposes? After all, it became a political football years ago. And because you don’t hear about it in the news and aren’t aware of it, it won’t be an issue.
  • Hopefully I will be dead or in another country by then.


Collaboration versus Competition – part 2

Posted March 29th, 2013 by russfrazierwp and filed in Business and Economy
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Recently, I had a business meeting with a person I had never met before. She agreed to meet with me (I thought) to provide some feedback and guidance regarding a new business idea. We are talking Fuzzy Front End here, so development is still underway, there are lots of questions and uncertainty. The risk has been entirely on my part and nobody else has had to finance this venture.

I started my presentation and she became very impatient and immediately misunderstood what I was telling her. Then I suggested I show her the demo, because she obviously was not interested in the presentation. Well, that didn’t go very well. She assumed the demo was something it was not and then proceeded to lecture me about competition. So I felt pretty bad because I had wasted my time and hers going to her office. And the taste of being somewhat dressed down because of impatience and ignorance was rather sour and metallic in the mouth. Their mediocre office coffee did not improve it.

Let's beat the crap out of each other!

Let’s beat the crap out of each other!

Here is wisdom (not mine). Businesses that concentrate on differentiation instead of obsessing about competing in a crowded field are in a much better position to survive and thrive. This seems to run counter to everything I’ve experienced so far trying to get business ideas off the ground. It seems to me people are more interested in competing against each other individually than in collaborating with each other as a team. And I find it sad and demoralizing that I encounter this again and again when dealing with people. You know that Careerbuilder commercial where the managers are drinking martinis while entertained by the workers fighting each other? That is really, sadly, the case.
Cooperation fixes the machine.

Cooperation fixes the machine.

And if I said, “You know, you probably spend much, much more time collaborating with your fellow workers than you do competing. So it would be beneficial to you to learn how to collaborate and cooperate well, wouldn’t it?” That would go down like a lead balloon. Nobody likes that. They want to grind each other down, they want to win, win, win. Because the system had made us all into snarling dogs and we are not in control of it.

Second music video

Posted January 1st, 2013 by russfrazierwp and filed in Music
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Here’s my second musical composition titled, “Haiku No. 1” – inspired by a haiku poem written by my wife, Daun Daemon. This was composed on the toy keyboard (Realistic Concertmate-460) as before. However the sounds are all from the GeneralUser_GS_FluidSynth soundfont through QSynth (FluidSynth). The midi editing and additional composition was done with Rosegarden. Audio transcription done with the awesome help of WaoN and capture and export by Audacity. Amateur video and image stock edited with Cinelerra, post processing with ffmpeg.

I would like to get a real midi keyboard with semi-weighted keys someday.

The firing of Tom O’Brian

Posted December 3rd, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Bitter lametations, Opinion
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Tom O’Brian, the head football coach of North Carolina State University (NCSU) was fired by the Athletic Director (AD), Debbie Yow, on November 26. She wants NCSU to be in the top 25 perennially, and she wants a dominant program in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

When I first heard of this I went, “What? They were getting better. He’s gotten us to bowl games 3 years in a row. We didn’t cheat like UNC to get there, either. He’s gotten past the worst years of debilitating injuries and now it seems the bench is deeper. It looks like he has some sort of good quarterback supply channel going.”

But the big money has taken over the ACC just like the other college conferences and Debbie Yow seems to have a sort of manic gleam in her eyes. “Uh-oh,” I say.

You think I’m a killjoy, a spoilsport, a plodding naysayer? I won’t go into the whole “filling seats with fannies” thing. But let me address one thing I think I understand fairly well. That is the issue of what Tom O’Brian was trying to do versus what Debbie Yow thinks she wants. It is the fact that Tom O’Brian was trying to create a system and the AD does not want a System so much as a Savior.

Football stadium

A football stadium. Hey, not enough fannies in those seats!

One of the popular myths in organizations that include corporations and government as well as in academia is the idea that if we only had the right people we could excel and achieve greatness. It’s the idea that our destiny is determined by Christ-like demigods with powers and abilities that transcend the mortal powers and abilities the vast majority of us were born with. Do you see the logical flaw in this thinking? If we were all so dependent on these special people to succeed, then that means that poorly performing organizations fail because their leaders aren’t special enough. Never mind the nebulous, non-quantifiable and ever-shifting qualities that gifted people possess. If that reasoning were sound, it means that merely possessing the quality of superiority is enough. Think about that. The mere possession of the quality of superiority.

Now, let’s do a little thought experiment. We are going to pick some failed organizations and say they failed because they lacked especially talented people.

Do you remember the Beatles, REM, Led Zeppelin, ABBA? They were bands that broke up, disappointing millions of people and arguably losing millions in potential revenue. Obviously the bands lacked talented people. Otherwise they would have stayed together.

Big companies fail. How about Lehman Brothers in September 2008? The fourth largest investment bank in the US. No special people, that’s what went wrong there. Don’t bother with arguing that a combination of a lack of regulation and systemic greed did them in.

What about whole countries that have never achieved greatness? Lack of brilliant people. That must mean that the demigod gene simply is absent in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. Except for South Africa where greatness has been achieved, no doubt due to the special genes brought there by the Dutch immigrants.

How about the Soviet Union? The entire system of government failed. Why? They didn’t have any accomplished and talented people in the Communist Party. The same goes for Egypt, Syria and Libya – they lacked special winner demigods to save them.

Oh, and here’s another thing to think about regarding those examples. They must have had superior people during their creation phase, but lost them along the way at some point. Otherwise, the special people logic does not work.

The entire idea of special, gifted people being the key to organizational success is false, and, as I point out above, leads to even worse conclusions that include racism and bigotry. And the use of past performance as a predictor of future performance is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tom O’Brian was wise enough to know that he would not be at NCSU forever, that he might even get hit by a bus one day and suddenly be unavailable to coach. That’s why a system of management is important, so the remaining people have a template, an established plan that works consistently for their organization.

Debbie Yow is unwise and has a disturbing gleam in her eye. What if the new coach-savior is offered a more attractive position elsewhere, gets sick, or is hit by a bus? Then what? Surely these special people must be rare. Doesn’t she realize the risk in putting so many resources into one person? Or is there a winning coach supply channel she can tap into, like O’Brian and the quarterbacks? Think that one over.

First music video

Posted November 14th, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Music
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This is my first music video – not sure if this is blues, jazz or somewhere in between. Sound created entirely with a Realistic Concertmate 460 keyboard and Audacity. 3D digital imagery created with Blender 3D version 2.63. The drum line is straight from the keyboard, the bass line is derived from the same notes (near as I could tell) as Low Rider by War, but not as funky. The comping and melodic lines are from about 3-4 different recording takes and edited and pieced together, resulting in a somewhat call-and-response structure. The whole thing was sped up by about 25% while maintaining constant pitch.