Friday, May 08, 2009

Silver apples of the moon, golden apples of the sun

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


It is one of those strange early-year days in California - warm, but overcast and raining. A favorite poem for this time of year, this type of day, is Inishfree by W.B.Yeats. An entirely neat side-fact is that it was inspired by Thoreau's Walden

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Umberto Eco

I was invited to an early morning breakfast with a group of product developers who, at one point, opened a discussion about BlackBerry versus the iPhone.

It reminded me of a quote I stashed away a long time ago -

"Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been been influenced by the 'ratio studiorum' of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step-by-step to reach - if not the Kingdom of Heaven - the moment in which their document is printed. It is cathestic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics* upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revellers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions; when it comes down to it, you can allow women and gays to be ministers if you want to ... "

* hermeneutics means "the study of method and principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)"

[This was written by Umberto Eco as a back-page column in the Italian news weekly Espresso, September 30, 1994]

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Seven Years in Tibet

I've been re-reading a 60-year old book that is still truly amazing, "Seven Years in Tibet" by Heinrich Harrer. In short form - a bunch of German mountaineers get trapped in India as prisoners-of-war around 1939/1940, because India at the time was under British rule. Two of them specifically "escape" into neighbouring Tibet with the hope of being able to find some way back to Europe but effectively end up stuck there. More than anything, and what makes it all worth reading, is that it intimately describes a Tibetan society that no longer exists.

I have always envied the Tibetans their simple faith, for all my life I have been a seeker. Though I learned, while in Asia, the way to meditate, the final answer to the riddle of life has not been vouchsafed to me. But I have at least learned to contemplate the events of life with tranquility and not let myself be flung to and fro by circumstances in a sea of doubt.

Harrer passed away in 2006 - he was 93 years old. Of course there's also the movie based on the book with Brad Pitt ... not too bad but book is better. And there are lots of cheap copies over on Amazon.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I really like Wikipedia but there's no doubt it's not the same as a regular encyclopedia (at least those I grew up on).

One measurement - On November 2002 I posted this entry for "Leprechaun"

"Leprechaun: leprechauns are the oldest species of Celtic elf inhabiting the island of Ireland. Solitary by nature, they live in remote places and make shoes and brogues. Their name literally means “one shoe maker” and they are sometimes detected by the rhythmic tapping of their cobbler’s hammer as they go about their work.

In appearance a leprechauns takes the form of a diminutive old man, usually no larger than three feet tall, wearing a cocked hat, leather (work) apron, woolen vest, knee breeches, long stockings and silver-buckled brogues. They are always bearded and are usually pipe smokers. In modern times leprechauns are often depicted wearing emerald green frock coats as part of brightly colored ensemble but this has more to do with the popular cereal Lucky Charms than established tradition.

Leprechauns are widely believed to know the location of buried treasure, often a crock of gold. They will reveal the location of this treasure if caught but will not give it up easily, hence the saying that a leprechaun’s treasure is at the “end of the rainbow” (i.e. unobtainable).

By nature leprechauns are mischievous with a great fondness for Celtic music and sports. They like nothing better than a well-crafted, ironic practical joke and Irish folklore is replete with examples. (A farmer captures a leprechaun and forces him to reveal the location of buried treasure. The leprechaun assures him that the treasure is buried in an open field beneath a particular ragwort plant. The farmer ties a red bandanna to the plant, releases the leprechaun, and leaves to get a shovel. Upon his return he finds that every weed in the field has been tied with identical red bandannas).

Leprechaun sightings occur most frequently in the vicinity of faerie forts (drumlins) and they seem to serve as defenders of the faerie community i.e. a type of palace guard to the faerie queen.

Although absolute numbers are hard to come by, and their breeding habits in the wild are not well known, they are believed to be in decline and are usually considered endangered."

The present entry, after migrations, modifications, corrections, and images & links, can be found here

Many of the first edits were blasting attempts to deny the existence of leprechauns in reality; exclusively treat them as mythology. It is really nice to see that the weight of contributions basically now permits several viewpoints (where pure science has not published a hard fact several different opinions are permitted to exist).

Even though a proposed solution may seem statistically unlikely to succeed let's not slam the door on all non-standard view points.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The State of Global Social Networking

Oracle very generously sends me a copy of their magazine "Profit"; the following was on one of the opening pages.

To make a short story even shorter - worldwide "58% of folks don't know what social networking is" For sure this refers to online systems. Almost everyone know that being socially polite with that good looking group of workers two floors above is at least a potentially sweet move. Right?

The overall interest in online social networks is fading fast for about one third of users. Actually not too great a surprise when you think about it particularly where the current master sources (referred to) are Facebook and MySpace. As humans a lot of us ultimately seem to be looking for face-to-face memories that include smells, tastes, physical surprises. It's OK to use something like Facebook to start a relationship with that great group two floors above but really, one day, we want to sit near the campfire on the beach together and talk about everything.

As part of history i.e. this sounds true, people originally didn't quite know what to do with telephones. Certainly stock trading and medical emergency were easy to accept. But if I haven't been writing to that dumb relative why in heck will I begin speaking to him through this thin copper wire!? Now it's hard to imagine a day without a cell phone!

Similarly we are on the brink of some truly wonderful SNA changes. And it's going to be great ...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Future of Business Development

Three important points about strategic vs tactical decision making: -

1. The Future vs the Past. In very much the same way that we cannot accurately predit the future it is important to realize that the past is disconnected in very much the same way. There is no way to step back into the past and be able to fully tap into the emotions and conflicting motivations that have lead to today. This is not to say that attempting to understand how one action triggered another is a complete waste of time. However it is appropriate to consider that the "lessons" of the past may not be particulalry useful for new challenges in the future.

2. Planning. From a business planning perspective understand that when an "expert" predicts the +/- range of swing in the DJIA for tomorrrow there is some high probability that he will be right. On the other hand anyone who provides a five year plan with fixed numerical outcomes is a complete gamble. From the perspective of business success there are often huge (lucky!) rewards when there is a balance between being able to manage day-to-day dynamic challenges while reserving some resources to actively prepare for low probability market changes and needs.

3. The Black Swan. This blog post is like a 30-sec summary of a really great book. If at all possible read a copy before the new global econmy starts in Jan.!

Amazon Link