Writing while traveling: Intro to Darwinian Culture

I am on sabbatical – well actually my wife is and I got to come along, you can see the story of our travels on her blog. I am going to use this travel time to write on a number of projects I have been exploring for years – outside my usual computer field.

This article is the start of an exploration of what I call (for want of better title): “Darwinian Culture“. In short, the idea is that various world cultures have developed along the same lines that Darwin has used to explain biological evolution. Some simple examples of this are the Jewish Kosher rules, and the treatment of water, eastern cultures make tea while western cultures make beer and wine. Clearly these are very simplistic examples, the essence is that these cultural approaches have evolved to address critical health issues, through a method that does not appear to be driven by purely intellectual decisions.
Now I am a trained engineer and scientist, but have not read much of the actual work of Darwin or commentaries, so I will start using Darwin’s theories as known by popular science rather than evolutionary biologists. As these writings develop, I hope to hone that understanding. Likewise, I will start by explain my ideas using examples that have not been scientifically verified – I will be doing so as I expand the work.

This is enough for now, more to come.

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F15 grounding is an issue of maintanence not defense

Tim Blagg’s editorial about the risk to defense because of grounding of the F15 fleet misses a key lesson of history. The editorial starts with an interesting review of the history of the air defense net build around the US during the cold war. There is significant evidence that that net did not secure the US BUT actually the construction of it was a key part of what drove the Soviet Union under, by causing them to spend so much on the military. I don’t have all the facts and figures of that debate but I know someone who does, my dad, he was a key engineer involved in creating that system, an expert in IFF radar (Identification Friend or Foe) and helped build the famous Omaha war room big board (remember Dr Strangelove ?).

In fact, the state of those planes is just like the state of the radar system of the FAA or of our bridges for that matter. A law of physics is “if you build it, it will fall down – eventually, and surely will if you don’t maintain it”.

A fact of life those in Washington, and many of the state governments have ignored for far too long to our detriment.

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get over it – and think wider

Here is what I sent to the Editor
I was rather put off by the editorial page of the Fri (12/21) Recorder

My first reaction to each piece was get over your self centered issue and consider issues with a wider focus, but then I realized the problem is really how the editorial page is formed, each piece would have been fine if it were smaller or as an article in itself — not taking editorial page space.

So I urge the Recorder to (1) Stick to the 300 word limit, on all pieces on the editorial page not just letters, at least no more than one bigger in any one day, (2) make the catch up ‘letters’ page a more regular piece as a place for all the discussions going on in town, (3) include in signatures, blog URLs for those who want to write long opinions to extend the short piece in the paper (gee an online paper – what an idea).
today few people really can claim they are unable to use the net if they want to write more — the Recorder could even offer such space on their web site.

In short, I suggest you consider molding the Recorder to better use the space on the pages to represent more of our interests and stop giving a few so much space.

Here is what more I cut

There were only 4 pieces that day
1) 2 columns as tribute to a Dad – nice BUT way too long,
2) commenting on how many reporters are killed in the recent war reporting – sorry guys but 55 is shame but not large number in the big picture – and not worth 2 columns to make the final point
3) detailed rebuttal about providing education to the disadvandvantaged – fine as far as it went, but far too much detail for a rebutal, it mascerated as ‘education for special needs’ – my kids are special needs also — gifted, and I thank my stars every day for that and their health.
Be that as it may, and I know I will get bad points for even putting them in the same category as those who are disadvandvantaged, by ignoring our gited childern, we are badly hurting our future as a society, to assage our guilt as to the poor quality of life those truly disadvanted are and because our leaders and society is unable to really address the range of issues confronting us.

AND FINALLY there was ONE letter — although a bit long, that also pointed to a case where the moral rightousness of our current crop of leaders again abused the public trust to put their narrow moral agenda.

As I said above – any of this smaller, would have been fine as part of a better formated editorial page — as it was shows a very poor effect.

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Do the numbers – deal with highway needs now

I am disturbed in seeing how even politicians trying to find viable solutions are caught up in responding to bogus ‘political reality’ – such as raising taxes are unacceptable, even when they are the best and most practical steps to deal with the situation. Specifically I am referring to the current Ma state debate about how to raise money to address the drastic work needed on the highway system. There are many suggestions, most of which are years away from implementing – the ‘best’ is a 5 cent/mile tax on all traffic. PLEASE do the numbers, those who are promoting the cent/mile fee over the suggested gas tax jump of 11.5 cent a gallon. With a car with terrible mileage, that is less than one cent a mile and can be done NOW. All the ideas are years away, the technology not even useable for most ideas. How about some leadership, and I am specifically pointing at the MA state legislators who can’t get beyond being obstructionist and need to join the creative process coming from the governor’s mansion — and produce some results.

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And you know that how ?

The editorial in the Aug 9 issue of the Recorder about the Bridge Collapse ended with a claim that bridge building is not exactly ‘Rocket Science’, my answer is “And you know that how” ? When did you last design a bridge or a rocket — as an engineer for over 30 years, the son of an engineer who was the son of a mechanic – I have done some of both, and you have no idea of the complexity of either. I aim this comment at the editor but more at politicians and political strategists who believe in leadership by ‘press release’ or ‘grand solutions’ – political ideas that have not stood the test of time. Bridges do that – but not by magic – by an intense design AND regular maintenance AND design correction – yes, correction. Anyone who knows engineering knows good designs evolve, and are improved and corrected by experience, just like nature. And yet, our politicians (and too much of the public) expect to take a stand or write (NOT design) a law and never change it. Yes, we have been building bridges for a few thousand years, (there are Roman roads to prove it) – but those don’t maintain themselves – they need support from a government infrastructure committed to the hard and boring work of maintenance, and I mean the political work not the physical work, work of leaders. I have seen lots of editorials complaining about the various government failures because of the bridge collapse and the Big Dig problems BUT few promote raising the funds required – yes gas is expensive but it is worth the extra 5 cents per gallon to have safe roads AND fix all those in western mass now closed. Perhaps the real rocket science is leadership.

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About HT Birthday and Growth

In the May 8th, 2007, Recorder, Amy waxed very poetic about the Hidden-Tech organization that now members over 1100 small and micro businesses, mostly in the Valley, with some worldwide. As the person primarily responsible for the web presence, and having run small businesses for over 30 years, largely High Tech at that, I’d like to add some grounding as to what really drives business growth and hence community health. I have started to see the term ‘Sustainable development’ moved beyond it’s environmental roots and into the general area of economic growth. And the union of that form of community growth and small business is what really creates healthy communities. It’s what creates the vast number of jobs in the world and what creates the life style we enjoy that is envied in all the cities in the world.

There is a place for larger businesses and stores in the mix, but all too often what drives business development groups to seek larger answers is the promise of an ‘easy’ win — it looks good in the press and can win re-elections, however such choices rarely pan out and usually have far more hidden risks than are ever uncovered in time to fix. Just look at the Big Dig and Iraq for examples — the only ones who win are those who take the gains and run, leaving those who live there to clean up the results.

In short let’s continue to grow the community we love by re-enforcing our native grown opportunities and inviting outside groups in only when they fit our needs and scale their offerings to our situation – and do that with great care and forethought. One advantage that small business have and that matches how the natural environment works, is that small steps can easily be corrected when they go wrong — large, long term commitments seem safe when made but are never adjustable as the real issues become clear.

Since I have far more to say then will fit here, you can see the longer version and related links at my personal blog at: rizbang.com

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My Turn – A Birthday to Note

This is a editorial Page Entry from the Greenfield Recorder, May 8, 2007
A birthday worth noting

Proud of my connections to Hidden-Tech

Not longer after 9/11, with my business greatly reduced, I started to contemplate creating a formal support group for virtual company owners like myself. At the time, I was writing about the growth of the virtual company trend in the valley for the Boston Globe Magazine and it had become apparent that small, often home-based virtual companies were booming in the valley.

I soon realized management guru’s Tom Peter’s vision of the virtual work world had come to life in the valley. Entrepreneurs like myself were workin out of homes or small offices backed up by advanced technology to serve far-flung, sometimes global customers. We were both hidden from sight and from government statisticians ­ hence I called this population “hidden tech.”

Throughout that seemingly endless fall of 2001, I labored on the Globe article, earnestly trying to find nonexistent data on the virtual company trend. Four people came to my rescue and later helped get the organization off the ground: Jaymie Chernoff, then head of the UMass Office of Industry Liaison and Economic Development and founder of the Regional Technology Alliance (RTA) now the Regional Technology Corp.; John Mullin, then vice chancellor of UMass Outreach; Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC); and Mike Levin, then chief economist for Northeast Utilities in Hartford.

Levin was able to cobble together some stats, but not enough to satisfy my editors. I approached John Coull, former executive director of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and Ann Hamilton, president of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, to see what they knew about the virtual company population. In the process of pouring over their membership lists, we unwittingly created the first database on the virtual work place that I have found anywhere in the United States.

But it wasn’t until the winter of 2002, after the Globe piece was published, that I saw a pathway to connect micro-company owners like myself with larger companies and institutions in the region. Attending a meeting at the Log Cabin in Holyoke of the then-
fledgling RTA, I was awed by the hundreds of other entrepreneurs in the room. Accustomed to seeing writers, artists, acupuncturists and professors, I never knew that western Massachusetts was home to so many other business owners and I was eager to connect with them. I also knew then none of us could survive without high-speed Internet connection and that companies like mine couldn’t afford to be hidden to Internet service providers. We needed to stand up and be counted.

The RTA’s Technology Enterprise Council (TEC) agreed to support me in building an affinity group for TEC, which is why Hidden-Tech was once Hidden TEC. Humera Fasihuddin, then RTA director, agreed to hold the growing list of names I’d collected
from chambers, from friends and even a buddy’s Christmas list, in the RTA database. By the time we announced that initial meeting, held on May 7, 2002, at the former headquarters of Avaquest in Amherst, we had almost 100 people on an e-mail list. By the end of the first summer, the fledgling organization had grown to 300 and Rich Roth of TnR Global in Greenfield began housing the organization database on his company servers that fall.

Of the many people throughout the region who has assisted me in me in building Hidden-Tech, along with conducting ongoing research on the hidden tech/virtual company trend, Hamilton was one of the most helpful and dedicated. Not only did she take
my concerns seriously, agree to interviews, glean information from her database, but she also introduced me to economic development, educators and community builders throughout Franklin County. One of those was Nancy Bair, head of work force development for Greenfield Community College. On several occasions over the years, Bair helped stage programs for the Hidden-Tech population, always with backup from Hamilton.

It’s impossible to assess the impact of these efforts without a formal study, but there is no doubt that the programming spawned media coverage ­ particularly in this paper ­ which helped breed awareness that built Franklin County membership in Hidden-Tech. Research I conducted with the help of grants from Western Massachusetts Electric Co. (WMECO), based in Springfield, and
Northeast Utilities in Berlin, Conn., indicated that the arts was a major cluster within the Hidden-Tech population and many of those people lived in Franklin County. I’d like to think that the research helped Hamilton, Dee Boyle-Clapp and many others promote
Franklin County’s creative cluster net work. And last fall, with Hamilton’s intervention, Hidden-Tech had a table at the Creative Economy Summit held at GCC.

At its fifth birthday Hidden-Tech is still “a sniveling adolescent” searching for a pathway to become sustainable, jokes Jon Reed, the organization’s president. But the trend is recognized throughout the region and is part of an action plan in the region’s economic
blueprint, the Plan for Progress. Although I am no longer on the organization’s board, feeling strongly that founders need to allow their creations to evolve, I am proud to have jump-started an organization that assists so many people flourish independently.
Thanks to the hundreds throughout Franklin County and the region who helped, especially Recorder writer Richie Davis for his outstanding, award-winning coverage of the hidden tech economy.

Amy Zuckerman is founder of Hidden-Tech
(www.hidden-tech.net) and principal of AZ
International Associates, a strategic marketing
firm in Amherst. She resigned from the board of
Hidden-Tech in the fall of 2006 after five years to
allow the organization to evolve. She thanks Jon
Reed, Rich Roth, Claudia Gere, Jeff Lander,
Heather Row, Sheldon Snodgrass, Afranio
Torres-Neto, Rick Feldman and many others for
their significant contribution to Hidden-Tech.

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A Date that will live in Infamy

Dec 7 – is a day to reflect on our perspective on history – for those who do not know their history. Our time seems to be so focused on ‘today’ we lose track of even recent history. We think of the ‘horror’ of 9-11 and yet forget the ‘last horrors’ so quickly. Today is the 65th anniversary of that date. and those actually there are old enough to not expect many to see the 70th.

I am a student of history and have done a fair bit of traveling in the US, and some beyond — I have stood on the remains of the Battleship Arizona, (still grave to some 1200 men and women), and walked on the battlefields of Manassas and the Little Big Horn, I am also a New Yorker by birth and my first 18 years. Every one of those events were as horrendous in their time as 9-11, and not to degrade the horror of one over the other. I am old enough to remember JFK and my dad remember’s Pearl Harbor — yet, my great-grandmother (who I knew for a few years) remembered all back to Fort Sumter.

As fast as our world has been changing in my kid’s lifetime, history and what we can learn from the past stretches far further back than we recall on a regular day — today is a good day to remember that.

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Exploring the new Web

My companies and I have been developing and exploring what the web means since Tim BL first started the web – we put our first site up in 1994.  Now with the development of the new Web 2.0 using AJAX and social networking we have applied our database skills at making a search engine for the new web – you will find it at Web20.rizbang.com

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Who am i – my answer when just asked

Been doing Internet since before the web, been doing small computer since before IBM and Apple, been doing computers since most current IT was born — still here and kicking — specialize in understanding and applying advanced IT technologies, as it happens


This is what I wrote when asked about my professional ‘standing’, and it is being modest

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