Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Friday, March 13, 2015

Adventures in Escalation

A while back, I was given a hand-me-down iPad Mini as a thank-you gift for doing some pro-bono technical work for a cash-strapped professional colleague.

This iPad Mini has WiFi, GPS, and cellular capability. I've been a Bell Atlantic / Verizon customer for 27 years. However, I don't own a cell phone, so I don't have any cell phone service in my name. That meant I could only use the iPad's wireless features when I was in range of a convenient WiFi base station. In particular, one needs cell service to use GPS so that street maps can be downloaded on demand.

While I don't have a cell phone, my brother does, and it occurred to me it might be reasonable for him to add my iPad Mini to his existing Verizon cell phone account (just $10/mo) so that my device could be used in emergencies on the infrequent occasions when I'm away from home.

So my brother instructed his Verizon service rep to put my iPad device on his account. I sent along the requisite mobile device ID numbers and Verizon SIM card number.

But lo! The Verizon service rep said my iPad Mini couldn't be entered into their system. Verizon was rejecting my device ID. But it wasn't just my own device. The Verizon service rep said this had happened a number of times with other customers with similar Apple devices.

So I said I would research the issue to learn what was going on.

Thus begins my adventure.

Over the course of the past week, I've spent about five hours with no fewer than seven Verizon representatives in three states trying to diagnose the glitch, which seems to have pretty much everyone vexed, perplexed, aggravated, frustrated and mystified.

Initially we had at least three plausible hypotheses in the air, with none of them conclusively ruled out.

Christine Berberich, President
New England Region
Verizon Wireless
Last Tuesday, I spoke on the phone with three high-level executives at Verizon Wireless Regional Headquarters for New England. Christine Berberich, the President of the New England Region of Verizon Wireless assured me in no uncertain terms that she was committed to solving this problem. But I soon feared it would turn out to be a major undertaking involving the negotiation of inter-carrier inter-operation agreements between AT&T and Verizon.

Jane Kelley, Director of Sales
New England Region
Verizon Wireless
It seems there are subtle and obscure technical reasons why mobile devices like my iPad Mini may not be compatible with the cell tower equipment of all domestic carriers. According to Jane Kelley, Regional Director of Sales for Verizon Wireless, some Apple device models evidently have transceiver chips that only work with some carriers and not others. So an iPad Mini that was built with a transceiver chip for AT&T may not work compatibly with Verizon, and vice versa.

If that's the problem, then the only realistic solution would be for AT&T and Verizon to negotiate an inter-carrier inter-operation agreement allowing devices to traverse a competitor's network so that a customer can use a device that was originally built for a different carrier's network. This is like praying for an Act of God.

We pray for Acts of God to reverse the hellish situations caused by the Other Guy. In this case the Other Guy is none other than the US Department of Justice.

Forty years ago, there was one high-functioning telephone network known as the Bell System, in which everything was carefully and conscientiously designed to work compatibly with everything else in the network. The Bell System was the highest functioning high-technology system ever conceived, designed, and engineered on the face of the planet.

As a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff in the Network Planning Division of AT&T Bell Labs, I took pride in my role of Systems Engineering to ensure that, as the network gracefully and systematically evolved with the measured introduction of new technology, everything continued to inter-operate flawlessly from end to end across the entire nationwide telecommunications network. That was the driving philosophy of Systems Engineering. In those days, it would have been an unforgivable blunder to introduce new technology into the network that did not inter-operate compatibly with the existing network infrastructure.

And then came the US Department of Justice who declared that a high-functioning, highly integrated communication system where everything worked compatibly with everything else was against the law! A high-functioning, highly integrated system, declared the DoJ, was an Illegal Monopoly. And they mandated the breakup of the Bell System, to be replaced by fierce competition between non-cooperating organizations who were sternly instructed not to collaborate or collude to preserve the legendary unity and functionality of the tightly-integrated Bell System.

So here we are today, with multiple incompatible technologies, such that Apple evidently had to build two versions of the iPad Mini, one that only talks to AT&T cell towers, and another that only talks to Verizon cell towers, each talking a different "language" on different frequency bands from the other.

Way to go, US DoJ, you fulfilled our dire prediction of 30 years ago that breaking up the Bell System was the dumbest idea the government ever came up with since Prohibition and before being trumped by the idiotic decision to invade Iraq in search of non-existent WMDs.

And the irony, of course, is that the US Government is itself a monopoly. But our bumbling government is not exactly a high-functioning monopoly like the Bell System. Nope. Our US Government is an idiotic dysfunctional monopoly that can't seem to think its way clear to do much of anything right.

So what is Christine Berberich to do? Jane Kelley estimates it will take five years for Verizon and AT&T to successfully negotiate an inter-carrier inter-operation agreement so that any customer's traffic can be transparently handled by any other carrier, with routine monthly "settlements" to balance the books (as had long been customary in traditional domestic telephone service).

And this will also take an Act of God because such an agreement between competing carriers would have to be approved by the US DoJ, the FCC, and the Department of Commerce. These Federal agencies will need Divine Guidance to see their way clear to undo the atrocious blunder the Federal government committed 35 years ago when they broke up the Bell System and created this problem-plagued situation, rife with competing carriers with mutually incompatible network architectures, frustrated customers, and vexed technical personnel who sincerely want to serve their customers and who have to routinely apologize that they are hamstrung by an obstacle ridden network architecture that's beyond their power to conscientiously engineer in a manner that serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

Barry Kort
(Retired) Distinguished Member of Technical Staff
Network Planning Division (1968-1987)
AT&T Bell Laboratories

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Spirit of Becoming

The proper name of the God of Moses is יהוה which means "Becoming."

That is to say, the Name of the God of Moses is nominally equivalent to an abstraction that, in English, would be "The Process of Becoming" (or just 'Becoming' for short).

What is 'Divine' in living systems is Becoming (e.g. the phenomenon of growth, transformation, and maturation).

I reckon it's unbecoming not to believe in Becoming.

The Process of Becoming is Awesome.

Let me elaborate ...

As a scientist, researcher, educator, and sentient being, I am fascinated by the following processes, which I seek to understand and participate in:
  1. The Process of Creation in the Cosmos
  2. The Process of Evolution in the Biosphere
  3. The Process of Enlightenment in the Noösphere
  4. The Discovery Learning Process in the Brain and Mind
  5. The Creative Process in the Arts
  6. The Problem-Solving Process in Engineering
  7. The Peace Process in Human Culture
  8. The Nurturing Process in Relationships
  9. The Healing Process in the Human Spirit
  10. The Process of Falling in Love with Life and People
I subsume all of the above under one umbrella term, "The Divine Process of Becoming" (or just 'Becoming' for short).

To my mind, it is unbecoming not to believe in Becoming.

Discovering, experiencing, understanding, and participating in these (and similar) processes not only makes me feel alive and engaged with life, it makes me feel connected to God, Orenda, or whatever you like to call your Higher Spirit.

I like to call it the 'Spirit of Becoming'.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

21st Century Operating Systems

To my mind, our society's cultural models have not evolved in a particularly intelligent manner. We still employ idiotic cultural practices that humankind mindlessly adopted some 4000 years ago. Much to my chagrin, we seem utterly incapable of diagnosing and upgrading those anachronistic and dysfunctional cultural practices to arrive at 21st Century operating systems for human society.

Our profoundly dysfunctional cultural models and practices have generated so much stress that DSM-5 is a catalog (shipping weight 3.4 lbs) of the myriad non-criminal maladaptive ways that humans maladjust, while the criminal code catalogs all the remaining intolerable maladaptive responses. And then, where governments cannot agree, we have stress-inducing political conflicts and bloody war.

We have 250 generations of Homo Schleppians who have been maladapting over the past 5000 years to an increasingly dysfunctional, erratic, and chaotic cultural model.

Isn't it about time we woke up and upgraded Western Civilization to a 21st Century high-functioning model?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The First Book of System Design

A creation story for the Cybernetic Age from the Post-Apocalyptic Seminary of Neuro-Mathematical Systems Theology.

The First Book of System Design

Principia Cybernetica, 1999

If God were enamored of Model-Based Reasoning, The First Book of System Design might look something like this:

In the beginning, God created an open loop system. The system was without witness or controller, so God created a small-minded controller. God carefully avoided clueing in the small-minded controller on the finer details of the theory of feedback control systems.

Even God was amused, and so ended the first day.

And God said, “Let the small-minded controller draw up a goal statement.” And behold, the small-minded controller identified the desirable goal states for the system. And God thought it sounded pretty good.

And evening and morning were the second day.

And God said, “Let the small-minded controller determine corrections and adjustments and engage in determining rules of guidance and control.” Unfortunately, a debate about the sanctions and punishments to be inflicted in the event of a rule violation pre-empted almost all of the third day.

And evening and morning were the third day.

And God said, “Let there be a university in which the small-minded controller can envision system concepts and engage in discovering the deeply hidden laws of feedback control theory.” The small-minded controller considered adjustment of rules and sanctions and more intelligent alternatives to rules, and God saw that this was good. And God thought that it was even worth all of the adrenalin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins he had to supply.

And so ended the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the small-minded controller’s policies be implemented with long-range vision and insightful strategies.” The small-minded controller considered insights and feedback loops and state-space measurements and sampling theorems, and comparative analysis and simulation models. And God saw that this was very ingenious and fruitful.

And so would have ended the fifth day, except for the unintentional renewal of the debate about the choices amongst rules and sanctions.

On the sixth day the small-minded controller devised criteria for classifying and assessing trajectories converging to the goal states and the associated rates of convergence. This wasn’t the thesis topic that God had planned. God wasn’t able to read the thesis, however, because he had to take the afternoon off to create day and night and heaven and earth and seas and plants and stars and trees and seasons and years and sun and moon and birds and fish and animals and human beings and the invisible karma economy.

On the seventh day God rested and the small-minded controller submitted his model and analysis. It turned out that the recommended system model was nearly identical to the way that God had created the world, so the small-minded controller gave thanks to God for his implementation according to the integrated system model. There was, however, some opinion expressed that humans should have been created in the mimnetically reflected image of the small-minded controller’s recursive system model.

And God caused a deep agnosimnesia to fall upon the model-based reasoner …

CopyLeft 1999 by Barsoom Tork Associates and The Orenda Project in association with Zazen Enterprises and the Post-Apocalyptic Seminary of Neuro-Mathematical Systems Theology.

This partial Gnosimnesic recovery of things deeply hidden since the beginning of the world may be freely kerygmatized, mimneticized, or semiotically mapped. Or not.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Message From the American Visceral Society

American Visceral Society

Dear Reader,

Sometimes you have a gut feeling that all is not well in our society. But what can one person do? Not much. Not much individually, that is. But together we can purge the system of the rot of social detritus.

Those are the words of Dr. Irving Mazloh-Freen, the founder of the American Visceral Society. Dr. Freen is a dedicated American who believes deeply in the beneficial aspects of this visionary program. A deep thinker and planner, Dr. Freen has has been called "... one of the truly great emetics of our time."
Please joint Dr. Freen's movement today. You'll sleep better tonight.
Respectfully yours,
Wordsworth R. Moribund
Acting Director
American Visceral Society

Established as a non-profit-sharing organization, the American Visceral Society is a temporal concept of IMF Worldwide Industries, Fast Feuds Division of International Malefactor and Fulminator.

At IMF, We're Into Everything.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Parable of the Egg Man

Moulton's Boarding House has 12 residents. Every Sunday, Moulton serves brunch for the boarders (which includes a fresh egg). Moulton has a standing order with the Egg Man to deliver a dozen fresh eggs a week. The Egg Man employs a neighborhood urchin named Dennis to deliver fresh eggs from the Egg Man's cold storage warehouse.  Dennis gets paid a penny an egg for each one-way trip. So Dennis expects to earn 12¢ for each weekly delivery of a carton of eggs from the cold storage facility to Moulton's boarding house.

About once a month, one of Moulton's boarders misses the regular Sunday brunch to join his girl friend at another boarding house. But the peripatetic boarder also invites the girl friend to join him the following week for brunch at Moulton's table. Thus, most Sundays there are 12 people for brunch, but about once a month there are only 11, and about once a month there are 13 at the table.

Alas Moulton never knows which Sunday there will be an empty chair, and which subsequent Sunday there will be an extra person at the table. When Dennis comes with the standard carton of a dozen eggs, Moulton sometimes says, "I only need 11 eggs this week. Please take one of them back to cold storage.  And next week you can bring me 13 fresh eggs."

The accountant for the Egg Man notices that, at the end of the year, Moulton's Boarding House purchased 52 dozen eggs, as expected. But the delivery charges from Dennis come to $6.42 (for transporting 54 dozen eggs) rather than $6.24 (for delivering 52 dozen eggs). Dennis explains to the accountant that there were twenty-four occasions (twice a month) where he either carried one egg back to the cold storage facility or one extra egg to Moulton. As far as the Egg Man is concerned, Moulton purchased 52 dozen eggs over the course of a year. But as far as Dennis is concerned, he transported 54 dozen eggs — 53 dozen in the usual direction, and one dozen in the alternate direction. So he is owed $6.42 for his labors transporting eggs over the rough cobblestone streets. The Egg Man thus had an extra cost of 24¢, over and above his expected cost of $6.24 for paying Dennis to deliver eggs. The Egg Man ended up paying 3.85% more to Dennis than he would have expected if there had not been any perturbations in the number of boarders at Moulton's table.

Moral:  There's no such thing as a free brunch.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sad Case of the Blind Logician

Once upon a time there was a logician who imagined that his ability to reason logically was without error, and that he could reliably identify, diagnose, and report errors in logic by his erstwhile correspondents. He also demanded evidence to support the premises upon which logical arguments were constructed. But curiously enough, this otherwise self-professed logician was blind. Alas, he could not observe and interpret visual evidence with his own faculties; he literally could neither see the evidence nor reliably interpret its meaning. He was obliged to rely on the reports of others as to what was observed, and the meaning or interpretation of those observations.

One day, late in October, a neighbor set out a Jack-O-Lantern — that being a hollowed out pumpkin shell with a small candle inside. The orange skin of the Jack-O-Lantern thus glowed a lovely orange, as if it were luminescent. I asked the blind logician what could be deduced from the luminescent pumpkin. He replied that since the pumpkin shell obeyed the physics of an isothermal black body radiator, it must be glowing because it is at an incandescant temperature, presumably from an interior heat source that was warming up the pumpkin shell to an incandescent temperature. I asked him how he knew that the pumpkin shell was opaque and not translucent. He replied that, according to Wikipedia, pumpkin shells are opaque, and that he could see no evidence to the contrary. So I showed him evidence to the contrary, but he demurred, saying he was blind and thus could not see or interpret the visual evidence before his non-functional eyes.

I was thus reminded of a quote from John Heywood who, in 1546, said, "There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know."