Ruminations on Turning 43

by Kurt Cagle

It's not exactly one of those birthdays that jumps out as you as being the epitome of red letter days. Now 42 was pretty interesting - it was the answer to the universe, even if the question only made sense in a distinctly odd base. It's certainly not "The Big Four-O", not even the rather milquetoaste 44 with its repeating integers. On the other hand, its a prime number, numbers which will occur with decreasing frequency as I get older. Whether such is indicative of odd phenomena, branch points in life, or are simply difficult to categorize in the grand scheme of things, I figure the year should be a strange one.

The last year prime year, when I was 37, was remarkable for several things. My youngest daughter was born on March 3, 2000, which meant that her third birthday was on 03/03/03. Not surprisingly, she's showing a fascination with numbers and science and patterns at six - she thinks like me, alas, which means she'll spend the next several years trying to figure out why the rules that everyone else takes for granted exist, and as such, find it far more difficult to readily fit in because she'll have to understand the rationale for such rules in a world that is remarkably irrational.


Jim Fuller
2006-06-26 18:57:11
* bland statement 1: Why not say 'America is dead wrong' or 'we must change the world' or perhaps something a bit more assured like 'we all die someday'.

* bland statement 2: there is no dark side in technology; technology itself is just an abstraction that us technologists convince other non-technologists to give us material like money, prestige, or better yet the benefit of the doubt.

* bland statement 3: I am as interested as the next man about prime numbers....and we all should k/now that in geometry there is truth.

I guess what I am really saying is what does the number 43 have to do with XML? And if there is a relation; do we use a element, XLINK, or finally sort out the problem of relating meta data with data in XML?

-- Jim Fuller

Kurt Cagle
2006-06-26 23:32:31

Does a blog need relevance? However, read Hayakawa nonetheless, which was a significant part of the reason I did write the post. I've found more insightful comments that have direct XML applicability in this sixty year old work than I have in any number of putative XML trade books. Sometimes, its worth stepping out beyond the immediate computational realm to get a good look at what we're constructing in the bigger sense.

-- Kurt

M. David Peterson
2006-06-27 00:50:22
Huh, I would have thought the connection was obvious.

XLINK. What else?

Jim Fuller
2006-06-27 00:51:31
had a moment of 'info overload' rage...passed now and I have Hayakawa on my list of authors to read.

ta, Jim Fuller

2006-06-27 07:03:49
I wish it were so black and white, Kurt. What you will learn in your next ten years is the hazy recursion of boundaries where before you have seen clean borders. Symbols have a quality of motion and the force that creates that motion itself changes the intelligence that gives it impetus. Corruption is made of innocence.

If I told you that the means to create a society of ubiquitous surveillance often is work done by under that maple leaf, would you accept that Canada has responsbility? If torture is outsourceable, so is technical development which makes some queasy and others not because those others stand under that leaf and assume it is just work for hire, not results applied to their own lives.

"As the twig is bent...", Kurt. There is no such thing as being barely pregnant or a little bit vampiric. The work goes to the willing.

Kurt Cagle
2006-06-27 11:26:43

Let me have my illusions while I still can ;-).

I believe that Canada is quite capable of delving into the dark side (and has done so any number of times in the past). However, at least in the little corner that I inhabit, there is a definite perceptual difference about the role, power and responsibilities that ordinary people have in the political process, and the role and expectation that Canada has and should have.

Human nature doesn't change, but I think that the mental environment that you find yourself in can tend to curb or exacerbate the worse tendencies. There's a miasma in the US right now, one of fear and anxiety, and its something that's been both deliberately and incidentally pumped up. Fearful people react not by taking the initiative but by hiding and becoming more responsive to conservative leadership. Confident people are generally harder to manage, though they are also far more capable and productive. Given that one of the greatest strengths of the American people has been the collective risk-taking ethos, to blunt or minimize this will have long term ramifications that I see as being less than beneficial for the country as a whole.

-- Kurt

Paul B
2006-06-27 13:13:52
Very interesting read. As someone who recently turned 40, I've found my vision becoming similar to that which you describe (speaking particularly to the personal aspects of your essay).

As a U.S. citizen, I also have a lot of concern for this country's current circumstances. I'll not delve into that deeply, but there are problems that, I fear, may only be addressed in the end by frightful escalations.

Canada has long held for me an aura of... personal maturity. Self-awareness. I'm sure, sitting here to the south, it is for me somewhat idealized. But when I travel there, people seem, overall, happier. There is a sense of belonging... perhaps, really, of belonging to themselves.

I think that is a very important thing, and one that Canada has actively and wisely fostered in its people. I'm sure there are many imperfections, but it seems that priorities have been thoughtfully set and resources allocated to develop and support a healthy, educated, enlightened population.

Maybe it's just the Canadians I've happened to encounter. But I find in informal discussions that others also share this or similar perceptions.

I do fear for this quality, as global expansion including the pressure of U.S. and international businesses is exerted upon the Canadian marketplace and culture.

On the other hand, Canada remains rich in resources. And as long as it continues to invest in its people, so that they have the ability to use and to enjoy those resources wisely and with foresight, I think the country's future remains potentially bright.

Returning to the personal level, I think one comes to see that there is not a "final outcome" or endpoint. Rather, there are always divergent and/or conflicting influences. And each generation must do its part to foster what hopefully are the positive and healthy directions. Each member of the generation may find their way, and their personal approach, to this.

It stops being "their" problem, and starts being "our" problem. And over the course of years, hopefully we've gained the skill to address problems and the confidence to do so. Hopefully, we've learned that responsibility is personal and not perceptual. At which point, you wade in and do what you can.

It's not a matter of an exceptional circumstance. It's part of living, and not incompatible with a good and happy life.

2006-06-27 13:32:09
If those illusions include us vs Canadians, I can only say, well, the Canadians are certainly willing to do the work for the money so I don't see it as much more enlightened: just feeling less threatened.

But is fear being used to pump up acquiescence, yes. It is a bit more complicated though. Study the Weimar Republic pre-WWII. One part of the formula is fear. That gets the old people into line. The other part is frustrated expectations leading to a 'couldn't care less' attitude. That gets the young people. Then use the 'strong man with a plan' approach, also known as 'the great lie' to get both groups to acquiesce. There will always be those who object; typically, these are the group that have a strongly-grounded and practical set of values. Their values are grounded in history so they understand and perceive patters. They are practical because they understand the limits of power and so choose ends which are achievable by means which they can personally control.

But when you get to the boundary where the emergence is occurring, you will find many nationalities and types because no one goes it alone. Just as the Nazi empire could not grow out of the ashes of the Weimar Republic without the financing of the Swiss, the global miasma cannot grow unless many hands are willing to build it.

Justice is an individual's judgement of right and wrong actions. It does not exist in nature. Governments don't abuse; administrations do. With the power that you and I have provided to this administration by our work in this field, yes XML, by enabling the surveillance with the same technologies that enable the ubiquity of this email, we have helped create the miasma.

So I say to young and old alike, as one who's hands are not clean, and who did know where out technologies were leading ('we are forging our own chains'), there has never been a time when voting counted more and being passionately informed counted more, and when being a nationalist counted less. You said it: "because these things need to be done" but don't make it a crusade against a country because that is fighting the abstractions of nationalism: it is a false target. People are just or not. The nation as an entity like XML as a technology, does not care. Beware the symbols of power or providence; look to the actions.

One world. One fate. Many hands.