Finished: Artists, Craftsmen, and Technocrats

Finished reading Artists, Craftsmen, And Technocrats, by Patricia Pitcher. (Link leads to PDF).

This is an excellent book about the role of artists, craftsmen, and technocrats. I've been increasingly interested in the role of apprenticeship in the the historic European journeyman system, and the guild structure. This book applies the artist-craftsman-technocrat scheme to modern life (in work, organizations, and societies). I really enjoyed reading it, which is unusual in a book translated from the French into English; the author is a PhD at a bilingual Toronto university.

She describes all three as honest, hardworking, and ethical. She positions the Artist as that 1% of the population that is the creator, the dreamer, the filler of vacuums, the synthesizer who can take the (work, industry, society) to a new level. The Artist is people-oriented, open-minded, intuitive, and visionary.

She paints the Craftsman as the majority of the population, the people who've learned through experience, the day-in-day-out people who actually do things, the patient, tolerant people who know what works and what won't. The Craftsman is humane, dedicated, knowledgeable, and wise.

The Artist and Craftsman are "fellow-travelers"; they get along and respect each other.

But the Technocrat is another story. Detail-oriented, rigid, methodical, and hardheaded, the Technocrat is the enemy of both the Artist and the Craftsman. His/her analytical thinking leaves no room for fresh ideas and new pathways; he/she follows an uncompromising set of rules he/she believes are right.

The Technocrats are the buzzworders, acceptors of current wisdom, the micro-focused, the planners and charters, the people who want it now, and in essence the people that embrace the administration of things rather than the human and social consequences involved.

Of course, she says it much better than that. She develops interesting flows of how each group sees the other, and suggests that the Technocrats have risen beyond their place in (business, society) to the detriment of us all.

Her dynamic suggests that the Technocrats have thrived because the Artists respect their skills, and the Craftsmen tolerate or ignore them, while the Technocrats will actively plan against the other two groups, viewing the Artist as out of control and lazy, and the Craftsman as old-fashioned and incompetent.

She closes with a call to embrace the Craftsmen and to tolerate the Artists, who are hated beyond reason by the Technocrats.

The test of any good theory is: does it explain what you've experienced? Does it predict where things might go? On both counts, this book is informative and successful.

Pitcher describes the behavior, thought processes, temperment, and inner life of each group. She backs it up with a 15-year ethnographic examination of a financial corporation, and I find it hard to disagree with her descriptions.

She does not offer bromides or checklists for the care and feeding of each type, but rather focuses on a call for Character, a return to Philosophy, a re-cognition of the Classics, and a call for restoring the place of the Craftsman, who has been too easily displaced by the Technocrat.

I enjoyed the translation, and found her discussion contrasting the French system of compagnonnage and it's social attributes with the more German system of apprenticeship to be a fascinating examination.

I highly recommend this book. Although I purchased the hard-cover from an hard-to-find book vendor, this link sells the PDF for $4. It's a good read from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
Today's post is an Aggregation post.


This month's Wired has an excellent article on scenario planning, which I've written about before. The article is a quick-and-dirty, 5-step process that does a good job of communicating the essentials.


The New Yorker has a new piece by Malcolm Gladwell titled "Cocksure". In general, I try to read everything Malcolm Gladwell writes. This article is about age/experience, hubris, arrogance, testosterone, and decision making. I wonder if he's a victim of the same situation as Scott Adams, wherein everybody insists that he must work for the same company they do, because they've described it so well they must be an insider.


Another article worth reading might be, Airline Passengers Trapped On Tarmac. As August rolls around, and particularly Aug. 3rd, this is timely. The lines that grabbed me were:
"Because of the antiquated air-traffic-control system in which we — and every airline — operate, we're restricted as to the operational improvements we can make," says Bryan Baldwin, spokesman for JetBlue Airways.

Aviation consultant Michael Boyd says airline CEOs "should form a conga line" to the FAA, which oversees air travel, and demand the country's air-traffic system be modernized. That could increase airspace capacity and reduce the number of waiting planes.

I'll be writing about this shortly.

Tour De France Closeout : drugs and diversity


Another Tour de France concludes. I think they sold a lot of newspapers and put a lot of logos in front of the audience, which is what the Tour De France is all about.

In August and September you'll see drug scandals in the same papers that own the Tour De France, as they try to extend the circulation bump across the trailing months.

Lance took third. That's a great outcome. His mission was to avoid scandal and make the introduction of Team RadioShack in the 2010 Tour De France more credible. He's certainly done both. He's going to be the Mario Lemieux of cycling, the champ that becomes the owner, owner/player, owner.

Two-Point-Five things to mention:

Point 1. Alberto Contador is winner of the Tour De France. (they said that about Floyd Landis, too). Here's what Greg Lemond, American three-time winner of the Tour De France, wrote in Le Monde:
"Alberto Contador established a speed record: he went up the 8.5 km climb in 20:55. How to explain such a performance?" wrote LeMond. "He would have required a VO2 max [maximal oxygen consumption] of 99.5 ml / min / kg to produce the effort. To my knowledge, this is a figure that has never been achieved by any athlete in any sport.

"It is like a Mercedes sedan winning a on a Formula 1 circuit. There is something wrong. It would be interesting to know what's under the hood."

Point 2. Here's an excellent picture from a team and a sponsor that "gets it". Notice Fumy Beppu. (His folks aren't Norwegian.) Notice Fumy Beppu's wheelie. Look at his rear wheel - not even on the ground. Catch the two Americans taking pictures for Mom with the Arch de Triomphe in the background. Logos all around, including the car. Skil gets this.


Point 2.5 The Skil corporation. Family owned. Who's the heir to the Skil corporation, this company that obviously understands some things? Why, none other than Jenny Sanford, who used her money to put trophy hubby Mark Sanford in the South Carolina governor's office. Just saying.

Browser Market Share

               


I am so disappointed to not even see Opera on the list. Opera is in my opinion the best browser, and the one that's most consistent with web standards. Opera has taken a large position in mobile browsing and the Nintendo platforms, though, and in the end - as smart(er) phones and the Wii replace many computers, Opera may have the last laugh.
I've heard that PC manufacturers are struggling - the economy is rough, nobody's going to buy a PC with Vista with Windows7 coming out in October for Christmas someday, Netbooks with XP are driving margins way down - but I had no idea how far it had gone.

Ars Technica reports that Apple has taken 91% of revenue sales of computers over $1000 in June.


From the article:
Based on NPD's data, the average sale price (ASP) of a Windows laptop was $520—$569 if netbooks are excluded. The ASP of a Mac laptop is $1,400. Similar trends hold for desktops as well—the ASP of a Windows-based desktop PC in June was $489, while the ASP for a Mac was $1,398.

Though Apple only holds about 8 to 9 percent of the US market share by units, its strategy of focusing on quality over quantity is paying off.

G-20 in Pittsburgh: Luke's Real-World Moment





July 25 Wall Street Journal: Pittsburgh Scrubs Up for Visit From the G-20

I'd like to follow up on a great post at an excellent blog, Politics and Place. The post is titled, If he Loses, this is how he'll lose. The "he" is Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and the thing to Lose is the Pittsburgh Mayoral election this November.

P&P describes a reasonable scenario in which Luke's seemingly inevitable re-election may not be guaranteed. Pre-requisites include: Appearance of a single electable opponent (Harris and Acklin are splitting the opposition), Northshore Northside Angst about their legit issues with Luke's administration (accountability, wow!), and a geographic (Southern-Western) strategy. It's an excellent, well considered write-up of a scenario in which Luke's pre-ordained victory might not occur.

If I may, the conditions described set the stage but don't ring the bell; they're necessary but insufficient. For Luke to not be elected, there needs to be an event, either (1) a significant, understandable scandal (a bag of cash rather than complex financial derivatives), or (2) an obvious failure of leadership attributed to the Mayor's office.

Holy Cow, Batman! What's that? The G-20 in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25th? Zowie!
Here's a few fundamental facts (I invite correction):
The G-20 weren't invited to Ed Rendell's Western Pennsylvania.
The G-20 weren't invited to Dan Onorato's Allegheny County.
The G-20 were invited to Luke Ravenstahl's Pittsburgh.
The Mayor is responsible for security in the streets of Pittsburgh. It's his city.

All the sunglass-and-earpiece-wearing, talking-into-cufflinks guys with their lapel pins are going to be worried about are the VIPs. The responsibility for local peacekeeping lies with local government.
Let me be clear: I don't know anything other than what we read in the media. No insider information. No wink, wink.

If there's a riot threatening the VIPs, then the Spooks will engage and extract the VIPs. If there's a riot threatening to burn the Hilton while the VIPs are away at their secure locations, that'll be an issue for the locals. The Feds will keep their eyes on their responsibilities and avoid distractions.

Will Luke declare an emergency and seek State help? Will the Governor declare an emergency and seek Federal help? Are local politicians capable of making these decisions in real time? New Orleans wasn't.


Consider the July 2009 G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. The government had 15,000 police officers standing by. Just a few weeks ago.


Consider the London 2009 G-20.
On March 28, 2009, 35,000 people joined the peaceful "Jobs, Justice Climate" march. On April 1, five thousand people joined the G-20 Meltdown protest outside the Bank of England. Two to three thousand people joined the Climate Camp in the City. There were 10,000 law enforement officers involved.


Here's my favorite story about the G8 Summit in 2001 in Genoa, Italy: 23-year-old activist Carlo Giuliani of Genoa, was shot dead by Mario Placanica, a Carabinieri officer, during clashes with police. Video shows Guliani throwing a fire extinguisher at the carabinieri's vehicle before he was shot and then run over twice by the Land Rover. Placanica was acquitted from any wrong-doing, as judges determined he fired (1) in self defence and (2) up into the sky, but a flying stone deflected the bullet and killed Giuliani. This is brilliant. I guess these things happen. My question is, who's going to be the accountable official at the press conference when this happens in Pittsburgh?

Consider Pittsburgh 2009. The city is smaller, and the area is an non-integrated hodgepodge of too many (130?) municipalities. We have a relatively inexperienced police department and public safety force. The big events locally are Steelers games. We hope to get maybe 4,000 police, but we don't have exact committments yet. At sixty days to go, we just sent out the email asking for assistance. Our police department is not experienced, trained, or equipped to handle this. Neither is the leadership.

I'm sorry to repeat myself, but in the same year:
  • Pittsburgh: 4,000 police
  • Italy: 15,000 police
  • London: 10,000 police.
Why does Pittsburgh need so few police?

Consider Chicago 1968, and look at how Mayor Daley lost control of the police force. Chicago turned into a police riot. Does anybody believe that Luke will be a more effective Commander than Mayor Daley (Senior) if things break bad?

Hey, Pittsburgh Reporters

If I could persuade local reporters to pursue one question it would be: What person is responsible for Pittsburgh public safety during the G-20? Who'll deserve the credit if it goes right, who deserves the onus if it goes wrong? Any answer that sounds like "it's a team effort" is baloney. Accountability goes to one boss. It'd be cool to clarify who that is. I believe it's the Mayor. If I'm wrong, somebody teach me, please. You'd better ask beforehand, because you'll never get a straight answer after.

How Luke Ravenstahl Loses the Election

Absent a dead body, a scandal with a bag of money, or a simply understood swindle, if Luke's going to lose - it's going to be because the Pittsburgh G-20 is a debacle.

If the G-20 goes wrong, it'll be a tragedy. People will die.
That's a lot more significant than what happens to Luke.
  If anybody else wants to be prepared to act on the G-20 debacle, they're going to have to be out in front, demonstrating that they would have (1) done it differently and (2) done a better job than Luke. I don't know if either Acklin or Harris have established that they're a better grown-up than Luke. The odds are with them, but they haven't made the case.

I don't think Luke will do well with the G-20. I don't think either of the tenderfoot alternatives have presented themselves as credible protectors of the city, either.

Maybe the only possible winner will be regionalism, the notion that perhaps having 130 municipalities in Allegheny County is counter-productive in the face of real-world events.


Anarchist Bomber Photos




I have written recently about Anarchist symbols and the various groups within Anarchy. I've received feedback that I should draw clearer distinctions. In general, a big letter A is considered an Anarchist symbol.

Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state (as compulsory government) to be unnecessary, harmful, and/or undesirable; Anarchists promote the elimination of the state. According to The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, "there is no single defining position that all anarchists hold, and those considered anarchists at best share a certain family resemblance."

From a nominalist (naming) perspective, 'monarchy' means a king in authority, 'matriarchy' and 'patriarchy' mean mothers/fathers in authority, 'oligarchy' is rule by a small elite group. Plutarchy is rule by the wealthy. Panarchy is an all-encompassing rule, such as world government. Diarchy is rule by two, such as Andorra's two co-princes. Anarchy is nobody in charge.

Anarchism and Libertarianism are used around the world as equivalent terms. In the United States, some people started considering Libertarianism as a distinct philisophy in the 1950s.

These are Anarchist Bombers

 

This is a contemporary Anarchist poster supporting a New York City bomber:


These are NOT Anarchist Bombers




If you see aircraft with these markings in the local area, it probably means there's an Oldies Hangar Dance at the local airport. The large letter A's are unit markings.


I just finished reading, Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain World, by Adaptive Path Design.

This was not the book that I anticipated, but it was an excellent and thought-provoking read nevertheless. I had hoped to read about project management in the face of a changing world and a shifting project definition. Generally, project management hinges on a fixed definition of (scope and specs), schedule, and cost. When change appears, and it always does, traditional practice is to manage the change and then bill for the change, perhaps punitively.

Project Management likes the notion that the scope, specs, schedule, and budget will remain fixed and unchanged for the life of the project. In my experience, that's a rare exception to the norm. Usually change happens, and if you start with the perspective that the project is frozen, change is frustrating. In my perspective as I fumble through things, change is an opportunity to move into what we've just figured out, or what we should have been doing instead.

I know a project manager (civil construction) who bids and manages his project proposals right down to the bone on the initial proposal, and finds his project profit in billing for the changes - which he says are inevitable and certain. When he prepares a project proposal, he's really betting on how disorganized the client is, on how little they understand their needs. He's betting against the traditional waterfall approach to project management, and betting that the client's changes will "force" them into an unplanned, reiterative design effort after he's won the job with a very competitive bid. His clients love him because he's so open to changes, where others are resistant to changes.

So, I've been hoping to read about project management in the face of a changing world, because I think that's the major deficiency in the current project management body of knowledge (PMBOK).

This book talks about design (and more specifically, Agile reiterative design) as a process that develops products, delivers artifacts, and allows for change and development. They talk about focusing on the experience of the product, and how the product fits into a system (eco-, info-, etc). They talk about the organizational properties that tend to thwart effective experience-focused design.

They spent some time giving their view of strategy, which is something I've been reading more about- there seems to be a multitude of opinions or expressions of what strategy is.

Next the book exploded for me, when they introduced the notion that effective experience-focused design and effective system design is the key business skill, and the system is the product. Apple sells the iPod, plus iTunes, plus iStore - but those are just the components. What they're strategically selling is the system, and system usability and the system's alignment with the desired customer experience is what they're really selling.

Then they moved into design competency as a business method. If a company can use effective Agile techniques, that's a core competency and a competitive edge, whether they're selling knives or laptops, or running the Mayo Clinic. I really appreciate the way they set out their theme in the context of product design, and then elevated a few clicks to a meta-perspective of using Agile techniques as a business process. It's very well written.

Create and evolve your repeatable process is the advice that was my biggest take-away (or at least, the one I've recognized so far). Discover how you deliver "wows", pay attention to what works and what doesn't, and use each project or product to also improve the pattern/process you're using - and extend that process lesson to products, finance, every aspect of the business. That's a powerful thought.

In their closing summation, the authors suggest that in a world of uncertainty and change, embracing the uncertainty is the only sustainable course, and recognizing that vast uncertainty bring wide possibility is the only profitable course.

I really liked this book. There's a YouTube video below of a presentation the authors made on the Google campus.




Find the First Cougar Contest

I've had an email from a (brilliant) friend, regarding my calling Ayn Rand "Cougar Zero".

"Cougar zero"....bwhaHAHA, I thought Jezebel, or no maybe Jocasta, Oedipus' mother - unintentionally incestuous and tragic. We could make this a game, Find the First Cougar...

Rules: The date of the source material decides the history, e.g. Homer beats New Testament.

Now, down the rabbit hole to study Incan and/or Chinese legends of ancient hotties ... maybe some stone tablet pr0n to go with it. We should invite others to play, but that's your call. I go with Jocasta as my first try.


Submissions, anyone? Who is the historic Cougar Zero? Please enter Comments below.

Modelling Resources from First Principles

I've been providing architectural advice to a group of colleagues who are building a set of services. Without going into too much detail, they need to uniquely identify some entities. Clients of the services use these identifiers as references when they return to make related queries on these entities. They've proposed using UUIDs as the unique identifiers, and while I liked the idea, I thought it was too simplistic. There was more to the requirement than just unique identifiers.

They're actually dealing with two types of entities - widgets (say) and requests for widgets. These are different because a request can pertain to a set of widgets, so it may be necessary to model them distinctly. The service interfaces dealing with requests and widgets may need to be distinct as well.

Mind you, these services are not going to be REST services. But having been exposed to the RESTian way of thinking, I immediately thought of resource representations for the two types of entities. Rather than plain old UUIDs, I thought there should be a degree of structure around them (but not so much detail as to make the scheme brittle and inflexible).

Something like these, in other words:

http://www.mycompany.com/widgets/4f138ff2-362f-4e35-8f9e-173290fe86d7

http://www.mycompany.com/widget-requests/eabf5bdb-9800-4af5-9ad7-32c3b95fc48a


However, this suggestion proved to be a surprisingly hard sell. The cross-examination was withering.

Why all the extra information?
Why http://?
Why www.mycompany.com?

Why not a simpler scheme like these examples show:

widget:4f138ff2-362f-4e35-8f9e-173290fe86d7


widget-request:eabf5bdb-9800-4af5-9ad7-32c3b95fc48a


I found I had to retrace my steps and work through my reasoning from first principles. In the process, I learnt a great deal about naming.

My initial response was to point my colleagues to points 7 and 8 of "Common REST Mistakes", where we are admonished not to try and invent our own proprietary object identifiers, and not to try for "protocol independence" (i.e., avoid HTTP URIs). But this wasn't too convincing.

I made a bit of progress by getting agreement on the following:

1. It probably made sense to distinguish between widget identifiers and widget-request identifiers, so some sort of prefix to distinguish between them was necessary. UUIDs alone were probably not enough.
2. It also probably made sense to specify the "domain" within which these resources were being identified, so the "mycompany" string probably belonged somewhere as well.

But then, why not just these:

mycompany:widget:4f138ff2-362f-4e35-8f9e-173290fe86d7


mycompany:widget-request:eabf5bdb-9800-4af5-9ad7-32c3b95fc48a


Frankly, I hated this. My point was that such a format, even though "simple", would have to be explained to anyone looking at it. The structure wasn't immediately obvious. Worse, it was ambiguous and could be extended by later designers in ways that violated the original designers' intent. To this, the counterargument was that the knowledge of the format was only required on the server side. To the client, the whole name was just going to be an opaque string, - a reference ID.

I wrestled with this objection for a while. Then I proposed a guiding principle that given a choice between two naming conventions, a universally understood one was preferable to one that we made up ourselves, provided it wasn't unnecessarily complex.

My research led me to the definition of a URN (Universal Resource Name). What I learnt from this was that in order to name something, we first need to specify a "scheme" that then defines what the rest of the name denotes according to the predefined format for that scheme. The name of the scheme is followed by a colon, then the rest of the name is something that can only be interpreted according to the rules specified by that scheme.

In other words, a standard name (URN) looks like this:

<scheme name>:<some scheme-specific format>

A common example is

"http://www.mycompany.com/widgets/4f138ff2-362f-4e35-8f9e-173290fe86d7"
(Heh!)

It's important to point out that "http" in the string above does not refer to the HTTP protocol! It's the name of a "scheme". What does this mean?

Well, in the URN "file:///home/ganesh", the string "file" is not a protocol, because more than one protocol may be used to get to the file.

Similarly, in the URN "mailto:ganesh@mycompany.com", the string "mailto" is not a protocol. SMTP is the actual mail protocol.

[For those familiar with XML namespaces, when we say "xmlns='http://www.example.com/schema'", the URN being referred to here is not necessarily a web page that one can point a browser at. It just needs to be a unique string.]

So we're not necessarily modelling our resources as web resources. All that the "http" scheme defines is that after the colon (":"), there is a scheme-specific structure that specifies a few things.

There are two slashes, then there's a dot-separated domain name, then a slash, then a "resource path" which is itself slash-separated. So that's what a URN conforming to the "http" scheme looks like:

"http" (the name of the scheme)
":" (the colon separating the name of the scheme from the scheme specific structure. This is from the basic definition of a URN)
"//" (the "http" scheme just specifies this, OK?)
"www.mycompany.com" (this is the dot-separated domain name)
"/" (this is the first slash that signifies that the domain name is terminated)
"widgets/4f138ff2-362f-4e35-8f9e-173290fe86d7" (all of this is the "resource path" , and internal slashes are possible, as we can see)

So now going back to our guiding principle (using a well-understood format is preferable to rolling our own) as well as the two points on which there was agreement (i.e., that we may need to qualify the resource's UUID with the type of resource as well as the organisational domain), it looks like the "http" scheme of the URN naming standard fits the bill. This is a well-understood way to include both a domain and a resource path to provide some structure around an already unique ID.

I concede that the "www" prefix of the domain could confuse. All we really need to identify the domain is "mycompany.com".

And so, a unique, standards-based and minimal way to name resources in this business domain would be

http://mycompany.com/widgets/4f138ff2-362f-4e35-8f9e-173290fe86d7

http://mycompany.com/widget-requests/eabf5bdb-9800-4af5-9ad7-32c3b95fc48a


The Ayn Rand Affair



I would like to write about the Ayn Rand affair, but it may not be the one that comes to mind first.

Rand is described by her cult-like following as a philosopher, but in fact she is a Hollywood script-writer and story teller. These are admirable fields, but they do not rise to philosophy. To say that she is a philosopher is to say that Tom Cruise is a bishop, or that Jesse Jackson is a diplomat.

Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905. Her father was a chemist and a successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur. In 1917, the Russian Revolution saw mobs seizing the property of Jews and the wealthy; her father's business was taken from them. She graduated from Saint Petersburg University and, fascinated by American movies, spent a year studying screenwriting.

She got a visa to go to New York, overstayed her paperwork and went to Hollywood. She struggled, wrote, and found success as a screenwriter. Her oevre focused on the conflict between the individual and the state, between the successful and the mobs who lived off their work, and in general her narratives recapitulated her family's experience at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

She found a ready audience in America. Although she rejected God and religion, and eschewed altruism, the safety net, the New Deal and social programs, her strident anti-Communism found favor in the 1950s. Her's was a perspective of "ethical egoism", and she advocated a rational, economic selfishness.

She attracted a cult-like following that met in New York salons. Her coterie included Alan Greenspan, and a very young admirer named Nathan Blumenthal. Usually, when people talk about the Ayn Rand affair, they talk about the married Rand and the married Blumenthal, some 29 years her junior.

In that scenario, Ayn Rand decided that she wanted Blumenthal, felt that she was justified in pursuing the young married man, and suggested to both Blumenthal's wife and to Rand's husband that it was in their rational self-interest to support her desire. Remarkably, since her husband and both the Blumenthal's depended on Ayn Rand for income, all the parties acceded to her proposal, proving the golden rule - the one with the gold, rules. In an earlier post, I refer to Ayn Rand as Cougar Zero.

Ayn Rand's view of sex is that it's an expression of positive self-esteem. There's a lot of self-help pop-psych in her books.

Blumenthal was Rand's muse, and their time together was her most productive as a writer. In 1957 when she completed Atlas Shrugged, considered by her fans to be her best work, she dedicated the book to both her husband and to young Blumenthal.

Nathan Blumenthal changed his name to Nathaniel Branden in honor of Rand. Note the letter-work; Branden shuffles into Ben Rand, a Hebrew expression of "Son of Rand". A Fruedian could find a thesis in that.

Rand declared Blumenthal/Branden to be her intellectual heir, and together they incorporated the Nathanial Branden Institute (NBI), which sold her books and speeches, and advocated her cause. Young Branden's fortunes were intertwined with his matron's largesse, and he became an ardent advocate of her Objectivism.

Alas, the virtuous and noble decision-making that led Rand to have an affair with her employee Blumenthal was not thoroughly inculcated in the young lad, and he began another affair with an actress named Patrecia Wynand (the last name was given to her by Rand). Rand, who considered her own affair with Blumenthal completely justified, took umbrage at his other assignations and severed all ties with Blumenthal and his Institute. She also expelled Blumenthal's wife from the inner circle, because the wife (Mrs. Blumenthal) had failed to inform Rand of her husband's cheating on Rand. The tale of the noble Russian love descended into Greek Tragedy.

Many All have sinned. Many philosophers have failed to live up to their theoretical structures. They are only people, after all. What makes Rand's excursion different is that she defended her affair as the legitimate and logical conclusion of her philosophy.

This is not a post about Ayn Rand's affair with a married fanboy. This is a post about the American public's affair with Ayn Rand and her stories.

The Ayn Rand Affair

The most significant Ayn Rand affair is the story of America's embrace of her stories and her muddled, selfish values.

Sales of her books are up since the economy went sour and since President Obama began talking about higher tax rates. Successful people talk about "going John Galt" and withdrawing part of their efforts. True Randians would look at these people and say, "I know John Galt, and you're no John Galt".

In 2011, we may be treated to the new movie, Atlas Shrugged, reportedly with Angelina Jolie as the heroine. Here's the IMDB plot synopsis:

Dagny Taggart is a railroad heiress trying to keep both her integrity and her family's railroad afloat. She faces corrupt government, the callous incompetence of her own brother, and the ongoing loss of her best people. She begins to detect a pattern, and suspects a sinister force working against her.

One by one, the best and brightest industrialists in the country are disappearing overnight, abandoning their businesses to be cannibalized by corrupt political interests. She realizes that someone, some destroyer, is working at cross-purposes against her. She knows she must somehow beat him if she wants Taggart Transcontinental to survive.

She pursues the mystery cross-country. She knows the time for saving her railroad, and maybe staving off the collapse of the industrialized world, is growing short. The revelations she finds will ultimately challenge her assumptions, and force her to choose between defending the status quo or leaving everything she's valued behind.


In all of her stories, Rand's characters reject the claims and bonds of society, and see the population as an undisciplined mass relying on the creative people to advance society and meet their needs. The relationships depicted are volatile and short-lived, and the sexual relationships are fetishised and somewhat rapine. Her heroes withdraw from society and live in relative seclusion, their economy sustained by a deus ex machine, a free energy source invented by John Galt. Although Rand depicts her ideal man, Galt, as an examplar for all to strive to become, in truth he's Nicholas Tesla, Superman, and Nietzschze all rolled into one. Mostly Nietzschze.

What I find remarkable is that Rand's fictions would find such affinity in the United States. The ethical egoism she espouses is not an American spirit, it is the spirit of the tyrant or the despot; I will do what is good for me. I will not help you, unless it is good for me. You should not help me, unless it is good for you.

Let's do a a little exercise. It's like this. There's you, Charlie, Ted, and Ayn. You're each going to complete a survey, share the results with the others, and reflect on the degree to which you're similar people. Here's the results of the survey:
YouC.MansonT.KaczinskyA.Rand
Corporations should stand on their own, without gov't bailoutsUnsureAgreeAgreeAgree
Welfare programs can interfere with accountability for bad decisionsAgreeUnsureAgreeAgree
Gov't should leave me aloneAgreeAgreeAgreeAgree
Gov't should pay more respect to individual rightsAgreeAgreeAgreeAgree
IQ score?101121115105
Gov't is part of the problemSlightly AgreeNot SureAgreeAgree
What do you write?blog commentssongsmanifestosscreenplays

Based on that analysis, I'd say you're compatible with some pretty interesting characters, wouldn't you? It's true that Chuck Manson is slightly discordant, but you align well with Ted and Ayn.

My little exercise is prompted by a 1957 article written by Whittaker Chambers (yes, him) about Ayn Rand, saying... Since a great many of us dislike much that Miss Rand also dislikes, quite as heartily as she does, many people seem inclined to support her on other issues. Ayn Rand condemns things that most Americans are prone to condemn — but when you look at what she's in favor of, she quickly diverges from ethical behavior.

Chambers, I believe, has struck upon the core of her popularity - on the surface, she resonates with American individualism and initiative. Beneath the veneer, her body of work is selfish, hedonistic, and athiest, and is such a personality cult that her followers approach cult status.

I think that Rand's audience is generally immature — young economists, young women, and people fallen on hard times who seek to break free of society and strike out on their own.
    Why is Any Rand popular among young readers?
  • writes about sex
  • writes about angst
  • writes about finding your true place
  • her followers pay professors to use her books in class.


Have your own Ayn Rand Affair

Objectivism isn't just an academic exercise, it's a way of life, and you to can mix with other singles Producers who seek like-minded, self-centered, rationally selfish people. Check out TheAtlaSphere.com, the Ayn Rand dating site. Odds of scoring on the first date? 83.7% I'd love to see a long-term study of the kids that come out those relationships. If there are any. You'll notice there's no children caused by the relationships in her books.


Visits During Series vs. One-Off Posts

Repeat Viewers, and I know you're out there, will recognize that I've changed a few things recently.

The biggest change is that I've alternated between one-off, standalone posts to writing a series of consecutive posts on a topic. I thought it would be interesting to compare site visits when a consecutive series is running, vs. site visits with eclectic (inchoate, unthemed, dissonant) posts.

I'd like to say it's something I invented, but I have to credit the NY Daily News and the New York Times, the papers I grew up with. They'd run multi-day series on topics that could sustain and justify the concentration.

The image below shows site visits and page counts for the last month. What's the difference between visits and page counts? You come to the blog, look at one page and leave; that's one visit, one page count. You come to the blog, look at three pages and leave; one visit, three page counts. I've been averaging about 1.4 page counts per visit. (You can find a mind-numbing array of these snigglets by clicking on the counter image along the left margin, the box that says SiteMeter. I've left it public.)



Blue brackets identify days when I had a series going. You can see where I was posting Series One and Series Two. Series One is a narrow topic, but I have a specific expertise in it, and it drew (an almost unwelcome) national attention. I've been averaging about 100 visits a day.

My blog, in general, gets excellent Google love. For instance, the list below shows terms that I've recently blogged about, and the blog's Google ranking for those queries.
PG-20RP #1
heirs of alfonsina strada #1
integrated tour de france #1
nextgen atc new york #1
operational critique #1
rhetoric overton window #1
sexism tour de france #1

racism tour de france #2
nextgen atc delay #3
no women tour de france #3

racist tour de france #5
university of pittsburgh G-20 #5
anarchist imagery #5
pro women cyclists #6
nextgen atc #6

It seems like there's a two-day time latency between blogging something and accomplishing pervasive Google recognition of the entry. I don't do anything like telling Google the page is there, and I haven't used the Google XML sitemap to prioritize my updates (although I probably should).

Looking at my site statistics, the ability of a stand-along topic to generate hits from Google seems to be based on the shelf-life of the topic. For instance, H1N1, Tour De France: these topics are going to stay in the public's eye long enough for Google to have indexed my blog entries while people are still Google-querying those terms.

In the alternative, a one-off blog post on a topic with a short shelf life, those blog entries never generate a lot of visitors. By the time (2 days) that it takes Google to index the post across most of their data centers, the audience's interest in the topic has moved on.

I should say that I'm not a Google-whore. I'm not, really. There's lots of ways to go grey-hat and black-hat, and I'm not interested in spending time that way. I blog about the things that interest me, or on topics where I flatter myself that I've got something to say.

It's just that if you give my inner geek real-time statistics on blog visits, then my various brain hemispheres start collaborating and inevitably I'm running experiments with the topics I'd be blogging about anyway.

My finding is: the series seem to generate more total visits. Paradoxically, marginal page views drop during the series; they read the one page, and then move on. This means either (1) my series really stink, and/or (2) I'm not effectively signalling the fact that there's previous/subsequent posts on that topic.

Hoping that it's (2), a poor and non-intuitive nav structure, I've just added "next story" links to Series Two, now I'll have to leave it alone and see what develops.

If anybody's got any feedback for me on the blog, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks, and thanks for reading, Vannevar.

Designing An Integrated Tour De France



At WWVB, we are loathe to criticize without offering an alternative, and it may be that our Myers-Briggs Personality Index leaves us too inclined to (re)organize things, but I would like to offer an alternative design to today's Tour de France.

The criticism I've offered of the Tour De France comes down to two words: White Guys. And to perhaps make it a more nuanced and fair criticism: the Tour de France is the premier event in European cycling, drawing participants from a Euro cycling scene that develops white guys. In that perspective, the TdF is paradoxically both the pinnacle of, and a victim of, the white-guy system that feeds it.

The very high level of competition at the TdF presents high barriers to entry to outsiders, or non-white non-guys. There's over 100 years of competitive sharpening riding in today's Tour. There's no way that a rider or team in Hong Kong can break into that circuit - but imagine the benefit to world cycling (as an industry and a sport) if a team from Hong Kong could have the advantage of experience at this level, and imagine the benefit the ASO would reap if the TdF was being watched in Hong Kong, India, and Africa by people cheering for local riders.

We can increase the participation of both non-whites, and non-guys, in professional cycling without diminishing the cachet of the ASO's Tour de France. The TdF is a European marketing event with larger aspirations, and expanding it's global reach has to be profitable for ASO.

How do we do that? I believe there's very little new under the sun (VLNUS). How have other sports dealt with increasing their span? Put another way, what was once a "white-guy" sport that has successfully grown beyond that, and how did they do it.

Golf : The Other White-Guy Sport

Golf has made the transition. To the arguments, ladies can't play those long holes, they gave us front tee's and offset greens. Does anybody believe that Tiger Woods has been bad for golf?

Profile of an Integrated Stage

Just like golf uses extra tees and greens, the Tour De France can present another event along the same course, on the same day, separated by a time interval. The images below are two stage profiles from the 2009 Tour De France, with an added red line indicated a course segment that could be used by the Femme or World event.




Let's restate our criteria, present an alternative, and then check it against our criteria. We want to:
  • increase participation from around the world
  • increase women's participation
  • enhance the TdF/ASO position

Redesigning the Tour De France ala Golf

We're going to have quasi-simultaneous three tours. Focus groups will develop the final names, but for now, let's talk about the Tour de France (yellow), the Tour de Femme (pink, sorry), and the Tour de World (UN-helmet blue).

Tour De World


The Tour de World is a men's cycling event. Regional teams compete. A rider must have lived in their region for five years at some time in their life to compete for that region. Regional teams may have corporate, government, or NGO sponsors.

Regional Teams will be eligible from: North Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, Central America, South America, China, Eastern Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia, Middle East, Oceana, Russia. Six riders to a team.

For team time trials, four riders ride for each team. For individual time trials, two riders ride from each team. The fastest keeps his own time. The rest of the team gets the time of the slowest of the two.

Tour De Femme


Every team chosen for the men's TdF can field a woman's team for the Tour De Femme if they choose to. Other teams may be invited, up to a maximum of 20 teams. Teams may have corporate, government, or NGO sponsors.

Six riders to a team. For team time trials, four riders ride for each team. For individual time trials, two riders ride from each team. The fastest keeps her own time. The rest of the team gets the time of the slowest of the two.

Tour De France


The Tour de France operates just as it does today, with two exceptions.
  • If a Tour de Femme or a Tour de World stages starts at a downstream point along the Tour De France route, any Tour De France rider who has not passed the secondary start by the designated time has failed to make a time cut.
  • Tour de France, Tour de Femme, and Tour de World riders may commingle along the course. The same rules for drafting and pacelines apply.

Stage Schedule for an Integrated Tour de France




StageTypeDateStartTour de FranceTour de FemmeTour de World
1Indiv. TT 4 JulyMonaco15.5 km15.5 km15.5 km
2Plain  5 JulyMonaco187 kmrest120 km
3Plain 6 JulyMarseille196.5 km100 kmrest
4Team TT 7 JulyMontpellier39 kmrest39 km
5Plain 8 JulyLe Cap d’Agde196.5 kmrest 100 km
6Plain 9 JulyGérone181.5 km100 kmrest
7 High Mtns. 10 JulyBarcelone224 kmrest100 km
8High Mtns.  11 JulyAndorre-la-Vieille 176.5 km 60 kmrest
9High Mtns. 12 JulySaint-Gaudens160.5 kmrest rest
Indiv. TT 13 JulyLimogesrestrest40 km
10Plain 14 JulyLimoges194.5 km120 kmrest
11Plain 15 JulyVatan192 km60 km120 km
12Plain 16 July Tonnerre 211.5 kmrest50 km
13Med. Mtns. 17 JulyVittel200 km 60 kmrest
14Plain 18 July Colmar199 km rest rest
15High Mtns. 19 JulyPontarlier207.5 kmrest199 km
RTeam TT 20 JulyVerbier rest30 kmrest
16High Mtns.  21 JulyMartigny159 km 80km - finisrest
17High Mtns. 22 JulyB-S-M169.5 km--90km
18Indiv. TT 23 JulyAnnecy40.5 km--30km
19Plain 24 JulyBourgoin-Jallieu178 km--60km finis
20High Mtns. 25 JulyMontélimar167 km----
21Plain 26 JulyM-F-Y > Paris164 km----

If you examine the schedule, you'll see that there are no days without racing - television and newspapers will have at least one event each day. The Femme and World schedules are less demanding that for the Tour De France.

There is enough money within the ASO and the Tour De France today to accomplish this schedule. The development of alternative start and finish locations provides additional income - the Tour De France does not ask these towns, May we start in your village? The Tour De France says, who will pay us the most if we start in your village? This brings extra cash into ASO's hands, for roughly the same operating expense.

Sometimes, these riders wear white sleeves to keep you guessing.

Anyway, that's the proposal. If you review our three stated goals - increase global participation, increase women's participation, enhance the TdF/ASO position - I think it meets those criteria. Feedback and comments are welcome.

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