Thursday, December 1, 2011

Connectionism and the Mind


Reprinted in 2007, original 2nd Edition in 2002, by William Bechtel and Adele Abrahamsen, Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-20713-9.

A friend recommended three books for me to read if I wanted to pursue my research on Parallel Computing. This was one of them. If you can find a copy (purchase or library), the story on page 12 about the two sisters of AI is really worth repeating. I don't have permission to plagerize but the title page does authorize short passages for review. So, here 'tis (actually taken from Seymour Papert's book on Perceptrons, page 3):
Once upon a time, two daughter sciences were born to the new science of cybernetics. One sister was natural, with features inherited from the study of the brain, from the way nature does things. The other was artificial, related from the beginning to the use of computers. Each of the sister sciences tried to build models of intelligence, but from very different materials. The natural science sister built models (called neural networks) out of mathematically purified neurones. The artificial sister built her models out of computer programs.
In their first bloom of youth the two sisters were quite equally successful and equally pursued by suitors from other fields of knowledge. They got on very well together. Their relationship changed in the early sixties when a new monarch appeared, one with the largest coffers ever seen in the kingdom of sciences. Lord DARPA, the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency. The artificial sister grew jealous and was determined to keep for herself the access to Lord DARPA'a research funds. The natural sister would have to be slain.
The bloody work was attempted by two staunch followers of the artificial sister, Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert, cast in the rold of the huntsman sent to slay Snow White and bring back her heart as proof of the deed. Their weapon was not the dagger but the mighter pen, from which came a book - Perceptrons... (1988, p.3)
And that was the extent of humour in the book. Now, about the rest of the book; it is extremely well laid out and covers Parallel Procssing, Dynamics and Evolutions in Networks (as it says on the cover page) from a new and updated outlook and perspective. This is a thoughtful and well-thought-out approach to Connectionism, Modeling and Neural Networks as well as discussing Rules and other related topics. I especially appreciated the complete overview of the entire field of computers versus psychology versus the mind itself. Meaning that if you are doing rulebased systems, psychology, neural networks, AI or anything loosely associated with those fields, it might be helpful to what you are doing. According to others, it is a great improvement on the original book published in 1991. I think that the reprint corrected some earlier misprints in the 2002 edition.

The chapters are:
  1. Networks versus Symbol /systems: Two Approaches to Modeling Cognition
  2. Connectionist Architectures
  3. Learning
  4. Patterns and Recognition
  5. Are Rules Required to Process Representation?
  6. Are Syntactically Structured Representations Needed?
  7. Simulating Higher Cognition: A Modular Architecture For Processing Scripts
  8. Connectionism and the Dynamical Approach to Cognition
  9. Networks, Robots and Artificial Life
  10. Connectionism and the Brain

A short read (350 pages total text plus other stuff) and, while mostly centered on neural networks, it covers other fields as well. Unlike most books on neural networks, the math is simple enough for those who have forgotten most of what they learned in school. Summation is about as hard as it gets. The Rulebased (BRMS) guys will probably turn first to Chapter 5 (as did I) and then discover that they need to read the previous four chapters for it to fit what the author is saying in that chapter. The final chapter is the capstone of the book (as it should be) and brings everything together nicely. Read through the table of contents first and get a good idea of the lay of the land and what you're going to discover. Consider it a map of a new and wonderous adventure.

As with the other books that I have been privileged to read recently, Buy The Book! Even it you have the 1991 or the earlier 2002 editions, this one is an improvement. Also, it makes for a nice addition on your book shelf. If nothing else, it might impress your girl/boy friend or wife/husband that you are an in-depth "thinker" who is entitled to be a little strange sometimes. (Your cherished off-spring probably will never see it and, if they do, they will think you are really weird - which, sometimes, is nice.) And, maybe, you might read it and discover a whole new world. For those who HAVE already read it (or will read it in the future) I would appreciate your comments. And, please: Don't say things like, "Great book." or "Really liked it" only in your comment. Try to be more specific about what you thought of the book. OK, maybe "Really liked it" would be permissible, but, honestly, try to pretend that you actually struggled through the whole thing. :-)


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Brief Review of "Agile Business Rule Development"


[Rewrite 1] Two of the industry's leading gurus of rulebased systems, Dr. Hafedh Mili of UQAM (University of Quebec at Montreal) and Jerome Boyer (pronounced Boy-yaa for those who don't handle French very well) have blazed some new ground with their book on ABRD, Agile Business Rule Development.

Dr. Mili wrote all of the training manuals for ILOG up through version 3.x somewhere as well as being heavily involved in versions 4, 5 and 6. Jerome is a Senior Solutions Architect for IBM / Websphere / ILOG. Dr. Mili has been involved with JRules andILOG since 1996 and Jerome has been doing JRules since 2000 [ref: Dr. Mili]. More on that later.

Anyway, on to a review of the book. The extremely brief accompanying web site is but, to date, there is only one comment - I'll add mine after I complete my reading of the book. Let's just say that this is an overview or a synopsis of what I found and think.

First, the darker side: Reading through the table of contents is always a good start in any review of a book. This particular book is divided into eight parts. The introduction contains a couple of different approaches to reading and using the book. The parts are:
  1. Introduction
  2. Methodology
  3. Foundations
  4. Rule Authoring (JRules only)
  5. Rule Deployment
  6. Rule Testing
  7. Rule Governance
  8. Epilogue
The other place to which I normally go next is to review the references that I might expect to find in the book or article. This book does contain a fairly decent set of (brief) references in the back. Yes, they also referenced Dr. Forgy's work on the original Rete algorithm although I doubt that more than 15 or 20 people in the world actually have sweated through the original Ph.D. thesis (all in LISP) and understand totally how it works. Dr. Mili has been through the synopsis and is responsible for the early implementations of Rete in ILOG Rules (C/C++ version that has been discontinued) and somewhat in JRules.

In any event, Dr. Mili and Jerome did a "fair-to-middling" job of research disclosure but nothing really exciting nor earth-shattering. BUT, remember that this is a book that focuses on the agile approach to writing rules and not the MYCIN approach to more advanced rule writing, even though MYCIN is referenced in the back of the book. (As a matter of fact, I know of only one or two guys from the Rules Fest who have sweated through the MYCIN approach.) The references are broken up into these sections:
  • Books
  • Articles and Papers (Trade Journals, Magazines, etc)
  • Web Sites (lots of them)
  • Documents (standards, web documents, etc)
  • Tools (short list of most common BRMS and Open Source)
[Ed.Note: Dr. Mili's Ph.D. was in AI and he did quite a bit of research on MYCIN and eMYCIN during that period. However, he says, "I made a deliberate decision not to make it into an academic book because, a) that is not the public we are targeting, and b) rule engine science and technology is NOT where the main challenges in implementing business rules in the industry lay." A good enough reason, although I personally would like to see more medical systems and insurance underwriting systems - among other - research the approach of MYCIN and make rulebased systems once again a real AI product and not just and IF-THEN-ELSE rulebased Rete system.]

The end of each chapter also contains a "Further Reading" paragraph pertaining to that chapter that is sometimes a bit brief but in others quite good and extensive.

There is one drawback: All of the examples are in JRules, a very expensive -and very good -commercial product. However, JRules is very similar to Blaze Advisor, Drools or OPSJ. I would that they had used either an Open Source product or use very generic, English-style rules. They do explain their reasoning for using JRules in the introduction. But I found it kind of weak, especially considering that both of them have been tightly coupled with IBM/ILOG for many years. They said that their second choice would have been Drools (an Open Source product form Mark Proctor) which was OK. Even so, they kind of danced around the FICO Blaze Advisor product, which is the number one or number two commercial product in the market place.

Just a personal aside: I would say that there are only two or three real BRMS products on the market today; JRules, Blaze Advisor and Pega Rules. Drools (the free Apache Open Source product) from JBoss is rapidly gaining ground with "Guvnor" and other additions. Probably by the next year or so, they will have caught up with the most obvious parts of a BRMS, especially if they get their debug reporting tools done up to date. But, I wander...

The book is well divided in sections and they do a really good job of explaining ABRD, Agile Business Rule Development. However, I am no longer being a big fan of acronyms since FICO, ILOG and InfoWorld (yours truly) coined BRMS (Business Rules Management System) to my chagrin back in 2003 and then promoted it to the business world. Further, I don't favor writing a book using acronyms that are not an industry standard. That could be because I'm just resistant to rapid change for the sake of being "cool". In addition, I'm not a huge fan of the Agile methods since they were first introduced several years ago. But, still some of the methods are quite good and acceptable. (Yes, I know I'm sounding wisy-washy, but I'm just expressing my distaste for Agile while still finding some useful things in it.) I found trying to fit rulebased systems to the Agile methods to be the same as trying to find patterns for rules. (We have been trying to do that at Rules Fest for four years now.) [See Carole Ann's comment below about the Agile methods.]

Finally, as part of full disclosure, everyone needs to know that I have worked with both Hafedh and Jerome on various projects and all of these statements above are my own personal opinions. I have tried to the best of my ability to forget that we are good friends and talk about the book from an objective point of view.

Good Part: BUY THE BOOK !! Especially if you have never done an enterprise rulebased project and need a guide. It is easy reading if you are a good programmer and not highly technical. However, it might not be really easy reading if you are not a programmer but, even so,it would be well worth your time to read the management parts. Even some of us older troops could learn a thing or two from their fairly lucid explanations of what they are trying to accomplish with a particular chapter or section. The parts where they use JRules code is easily readable by most programmers and even most managers.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

RuleBased Forecasting, RBF, Part 1


I have been asked several times, "How can RBF help me in my business?" A simplistic view of RBF is that RBF is an amalgamation of statistics, rules and data curve matching. By adjusting certain parameters of the curve matching using well-defined and proven-over-time methods and procedures, each iteration of the rules (rules always run over and over) should yield closer and closer match to the real data so that the forecast data are far more correct. Basically, the rules help the forecaster in giving the forecaster a highly accurate initial forecast. The forecaster, of course, can always change some of the parameters of the rules so that he/she can see the difference in what would happen. What a great training tool for forecasters!!

OK, that sales pitch being said, what about some examples? Hopefully, next year at Rules Fest, we will be able to show the rules working on real data (hopefully some massive data sets) and show how changing one small parameter can have drastic (good or bad) effects on the outcome. In the meantime, just drop me a line about what you and/or your company is doing in the field of forecasting. Are you using Linear Regression, Multiple Linear Regression, Box Jenkins, Neural Networks, Econometric Forecasting or what? Sometimes a smaller (or even some rather large) companies don not use ANY software to help with this complex problem. This is what we call, "Flying by the seat of your pants." solution. That SOP solution can get a company burned badly. However, relying on poor data or insufficient data can get you into hot water as well.

For example, if you are using monthly data, you need (OK, should have) at least 5 years (60 months) of really clean data from various internal and/or external sources to give the RBF a chance of accuracy. Other systems that use cycles of yearly data or non-standard cycles, are tougher but a decent RBF should be able to handle that in the curve matching routines and, again, if the system has sufficient data then the forecasting tool will have a much better chance of fitting the forecast to the provided data.

Hopefully, I'll have some more on this next week.


Monday, October 31, 2011

(October) Rules Fest 2011, Part Deux


That "Cosa Nostra" (our thing) that Greg Barton, Rolando Hernandez and I started in 2008 as nothing more than a gathering of geeks and nerds has been transformed into a real conference by Charles Young and Jason Morris; complete with continental breakfast every morning; sponsor-provided lunch (no vendor pitch during lunch this year) with fish, beef and/or pork, really good veggies and salads. They also provided a really good evening affair (shrimp, ice cream, tandoori chicken strips, etc, for "Pub Time" - complete with an open bar for those who stayed around.

Very few folks went out anywhere at night - most stayed in the conference "Pub" for chatting and the free bar. The conference is now branching into AI and Machine Learning, Event-Driven Process Management, Predictive Analytics and RuleBased Forecasting. I was the only one doing RBF this year while Carlos Seranno-Morales (formerly chief engineer for FICO and now Chief Engineer for Sparkling Logic) will be doing the Predictive Analytics next year. But the invited speakers, such as Dr. Ng and Dr. Tabet, were/are some of the absolute best in their respective fields. We also had the other creators of rulebased systems such as Paul Haley (Inference and Haley AI), Dr. Jacob Feldman (Open Rules) and Mark Proctor (Drools). The ONLY one missing was Dr. Friedman-Hill (Jess) but we had the only approved instructor for Jess there in the form of Jason Morris.

I don't feel that they really gave Dr. Forgy (inventor of the Rete, Rete 2, Rete III and Rete NT Algorithms for rulebased system) the publicity that he deserved in the brochures nor the home page, no formal presentation (he probably was thankful for that), etc. Maybe it was something that he and Jason arranged since he really is not a big-time vendor but more of a "skunk works" (meaning a research center). He only had a scripted chat with Carlos Seranno-Morales during a Wednesday afternoon session. Carole Ann Berlioz-Matignon (CEO of Sparkling Logic) was asking questions of Carlos and Dr. Forgy. Dr. Forgy is now Chief Scientist for Sparkling Logic that was started by Carole Ann and Carlos. Remember, this year we were in San Francisco and only a stones throw from Palo Alto, home of most early Internet companies as well as Stanford, one of the four big AI Universities. (CMU, MIT and Boston College being the other three.)

They stuck Rolo and myself in the small breakout sessions rather than boring everyone with it. Rolo was highly upset and felt insulted because originally both he and I had been scheduled to do our presentations for the entire conference and there was not enough of an audience in the break-outs, usually about 10 or 12 per track. Probably his presentation would be a better fit for The Rule Forum with Ron Ross; I know that he would get a much bigger audience. Especially since he told everyone that he no longer does any code work, which is a Bozo-No-No at the (O)RF conference. Me? Well, truthfully, RBF is highly mathematical (which most programmers forgot when they left school) and, unless you are really into statistics and such, it might be a bit boring. But, for those who are having to do that kind of thing, it was a bit of fun to see that Rules Fest is growing and getting into more and more things.

I didn't stick around for the Thursday and Friday boot camps on Drools, Jess and Open Rules. I'm sure that they were quite good but having grown up with Drools and Jess I would have learned less than the other attendees and probably would have been quite a drag by asking too many "high-level" questions. Dr. Friedman-Hill once asked Richard Halsey (now deceased) to please quit pestering the beginners on his email support lines with statements such as RTFM, Read the Fabulous Manual.

All-in-all, I think that we are watching the development of something wonderful; the birth of a really, truly unique conference; one that is dedicated to the technical aspects of what we are doing rather the the more visible parts, vendor success stories and product demos. As a matter of fact, this is the bridge between the RuleML / RIF / OMG and other semi-technical conference and Rule Forum.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

(October) Rules Fest 2011 Day 2


This conference has been truly outstanding. I had one rule godfather tell me that I should get the video of Paul Haley because it was truly outstanding. The afternoon sessions are great - right now I'm "cheating" because I'm supposed to be watching Carlos Seranno-Morales talk on Data Analytics for Rule Writers, etc. Ronald Bowers of the US Army Research gave an excellent talk on writing rules for very large hospitals for those with massive injuries of soldiers returning from the war front. (He has even read the work on the MYCIN project by Buchannan and Shortliffe.) Fred McClimas gave a talk yesterday on 2020 Foundation for discovering and determining the effect of event-driven rules and systems that would "see" the Tsumani in Japan and alert all markets on the forecast of what would be the fallout in various industries. Fascinating stuff all around. If you didn't come, come next year.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

ORF 2011 and other stuff

October Rules Fest, aka, Rules Fest, is coming up rapidly: Monday, October 24th to be exact. AND, it's going to be in San Francisco just a few miles from the Airport with a shuttle from the airport to the Hilton and/or the conference in the Hyatt Regency. The ORF motto changed last year to "By Developers, for Developers."

So, having racked up thousands and thousands of air miles AND thousands of Hilton points, I'll probably stay in the Hilton and shuttle to the Hyatt just five (really long) blocks away. This conference features such notables as
  • Dr. Charles Forgy (Rete, Rete 2, Rete 3 and Rete NT)
  • Paul Haley, inventor of Haley Expert Rules.
  • Dr. Said Tabet, RuleML Guru
  • Carlos Seranno-Morales, inventor of the FIRST Java-based BRMS
  • Career Center for those job hunters out there'
  • Three days of Exhibitions by Vendors
  • And, of course, Mark Proctor and the Drools team
  • Dr. Jacob Feldman, inventor of Open Rules
  • Daniel Selman, guiding light behind JRules from ILOG/IBM
  • Boot Camps on
  • Drools (Mark Proctor)
  • Rule-Based Design Patterns (Wolfgang Laun)
  • SOAR Architecture (Nate Derbinsky)

Now, to the blog itself. I had a spina bifida corrected (spinal surgery for eight hours!) so I was out of touch for a few months beginning in May. The, it took over two months to get my password reset because Google kept sending me around in circles. Over and over and over again. Finally, today, they let me give them my "secret" info to get in rather than going through the password reset routine. So, the news is that this will no longer be just about rules, rulebased systems and things like that. From now on, I think that I will follow the title of the blog and just wander around on various topics.

Governor Rick Perry: Please don't vote for this guy unless his opponent is a complete idiot. Rick Perry brought lots and lots of jobs to Texas, true; but they are pretty much mostly low paying, minimum wage, 30-hour per week without benefits, jobs. Texas is rapidly becoming an outsourcing country, er, state. I would vote for him over Obama, Malkin, Palin or that other guy who is a Democrat that tries to look Republican. On the other hand, somebody might emerge at this late date who is a real leader.

Obama: You know, every elected President (even Carter and Ford were Lieutenants in the Navy) had prior military service. The exception seems to be Obama. Well, as Perry said, it was apparently his choice and he chose to stay in Chicago and play politics. Personally, I don't know how he gets the gumption to return a salute from a military officer as "Commander in Chief." Maybe that's why he turned down the sale of the F-16s to Taiwan today; whether to get back at Perry (F-16s are made here in Texas) or because he supports Red Communist China against their main (and tiny) foe, Taiwan. [See? I told you I was going to just wander around from now on.]

Forecasting: Well, my short talk this year at ORF 2011 will pick up from last year with more details and more math and a preview of the rules and why we need them. So, if you want to attend my talk, get last years' presentation from ORF 2010 and you'll be ready to take off on Part Two of RuleBased Forecasting, RBF. Right now I have about 100 rules but we'll only discuss two or four of them. After all, there is a bit of math to cover first - nothing tough; just summations and first order derivatives.

My Plans for the future: Probably heading to another gig for three or four months and then off to graduate school to do my Ph.D. in AI if everything gets worked out OK; probably focusing on stats and/or forecasting. Maybe - depends on which mentor I get at the university. The Forgenator has been bugging me about this for years now. I figure if Col. Sanders could start his empire of KFC at age 66, then I can do my Ph.D. and teach somewhere the rest of my life. ("Those who can, DO. Those who can't or won't, TEACH!) :-)

Rete Performance as done by Dr. Forgy:
  • Rete, the original version invented by Dr. Forgy for his Ph.D. Thesis, has been improved and optimized by almost every vendor in existence. But, so far, none have come close to
  • Rete 2: A dramatic improvement over other versions of Rete in terms of performance except for CLIPS (a C/C++ version in the original LISP language) that is as fast if not a wee bit faster than the Java Rete 2.
  • Rete 3: Rete 2 with some hooks for BMS tools such as Rules Power.
  • Rete NT: About 10 times faster than Rete 2 or Rete 3 if the customer forces the vendor to put it in their engine at the nominal price of $5K per CPU. Small price for 10X improvement, don't you think?
Well, stay healthy, keep the sunny side up and the dirty side down, and maybe we'll all meet at ORF 2011 in San Francisco. I promise to wear my Texas Flag Shirt for my talk so everyone knows that "I'm Southern by birth, Texan by the Grace of God." :-)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Long Time Passing


"Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing..." Old PP&M ballad. I've been locked out of the system for quite a while due to Google's password problems. But I'm back and I hope to see all of you at (October) Rules Fest, - This should be the best one yet.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Strength of Body and Mind and Soul

Greetings, Programs:

Each of us has some kind of body: good, bad, beautiful, ugly, fat, skinny, wonderful, wobbly, whatever... The thing is that we, the little people of this world, these people, have defined what is good , what is bad, what is ugly, what is too skinny, etc. This is what we did to ourselves - nobody did it to us.

So, now what do we do with what we have? Me? I'm just an old (by the world's definitions) fat, white Jew boy from Texas who can't side kick higher than his waist any more. So what? I'm really, really happy so long as those around me are happy as well. My original goals have moved from
  • Electrical Enginer
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Lawyer
  • Writer
  • Poet
  • High-Speed motorcycle racer (1,000 cc and over)
  • Big-Bore Dirt Bike Racer (350cc and over)
  • USAF Fighter Pilot
  • Back to EE since the others didn't work out
  • MBA
  • Back to working on AI since my MBA co-students seemed full of chowder heads who just wanted a degree to to move up the corporate ladder
  • Rulebased Systems (since nobody needed anything in the AI theory fields)
So, now what? I'm getting old enough to need a back operation next week - hopefully that will allow me the flexibility to ride a bike again; maybe a Ducati 999 or a Harley Big-Bore??? Whatever.... Either would be cool. Especially with white, full-coverage fairing with a red Dragon that wrapped from handle to handle and feet that covered the light. Well, that probably won't happen again either but I can still dream.

But we still have to think of the combination of the parts of the Body (physical), Mind (mental), Soul (spiritual), and then throw in other attributes needed to be a fully developed human being;
  • Spirit (to keep the soul and mind in balance)
  • Body (to house everything)
  • Ambition (to avoid total stasis and avoid being a couch slug)
  • Partner-1 (I never WILL be gay, but I would like to think that each of us needs a partner to help unload our feelings and re-load our spirit.
  • Partner-2 (Ah, this is the sexual part. Someone with whom to share everything else and have two bodies become become one body. A joining such that nothing can tear it asunder.)
All of this and then maybe, just maybe, we can begin to look for happiness. The sexual partner usually fills most of the requirements, but not always. Above all, we have to be happy and remember that there really is an eternity - a place where time never stops. Our short, life-time, stop-over here is just to see where we might fit into eternity, how we might play our role to Almighty G-d. This takes only a few nano-seconds to see what we're going to do with the rest of eternity - the full lifetime.

Me? I think that happiness is fulfilling what Eternal G-d has called for me to do, whether sweeping up horsey-doo in a stable or being a CEO for a big faceless company. Doesn't matter - I have to remember that He is the one who controls the universe, who keeps the stars in alignment, who - while He is doing all of that - still has time (or at least takes the time) to have a chat with me every morning, noon and night. (For the Muslim it's five times but that's another subject and not meant for idle conversation.)

(And, no, I don't smoke pot, take drugs nor, for that matter, drink beer. An occasional 20-year-old Glen Livet Whisky (Scotch to Americans) once a month is about all.)

And, finally, remember, the guy(s) who just tried to screw you to the nearest cubicle supporter is just trying to "get ahead" and has has no idea of what constitutes true happiness. So, keep happy and keep smiling. (It'll make the others wonder what you're up to.) Life is WAY too short to be bugged by trivialities. And everything except for G-d is trivial.

Peace, Love and Joy to each and every one of you:


Saturday, April 30, 2011

To Blog or not to Blog

Greetings, Programs: (from TRON - the original movie)

(Sorry, Bill, for stealing your words (in the title) from Hamlet.) You know, my last blog (please forgive me for taking so long since then) was back in January on the free-software-policy aspect of Drools. I was thinking of going to see "TRON" in 3D tonight but it's already off the movie screens. (I saw the original many years ago- before Star Wars - and was entranced with what Hollywood could imagine such things happening.) OK, off to the main subject:

If it is that you have a blog, I think that you should write at least once per month minimum to that said blog. Having two blogs is incredibly time consuming on that premise. So, I'm back to having only two rather than the three or four that I had before. So, with that done, let's move on to another subject: Yom HaShoah Week. (See? Sucked you right from one subject to another that has nothing at all to do with the other - and no apologies for such disgraceful journalistic behavior. Disgraceful.) Yom (meaning "day" in Hebrew), Ha (meaning "the" in Hebrew) and Shoah meaning "calamity or destruction" in Yiddish/Hebrew, is actually a hard-to-understand mixture of words in Hebrew that make sense to us. Yom HaShoah is the Day of The Rememberance of the Holocaust from only one perspective. "The Solution" was Adolph's (you haven't forgotten his last name already have you?) idea to get rid of the Jewish "problem" in Germany - and eventually the world - but just getting rid of them. Sometimes in movies it's called "The Ultimate Solution" but even the high-ranking German SS spoke of it in low tones because they KNEW that it was wrong. So, so wrong.

So, this week (today? After all, it it still Shabbos) find a DVD copy (Blue Ray is a waste of money - unless you have a great sound system - since almost everything is Black-and-white in the movie "Schindler's List." Made quite some time ago, it is historically accurate and is kept on the correct historical track by Steven Spielberg (J-Director), Thomas Kneally - Author and historian, Poldek Pfefferberg (Leopold Page) - Author and historian, and many more.

Sadly, it is justifiably rated "R": but mature children, especially Jewish children, should see a part of their heritage and their parents should explain most of the concepts before the movie. The F- word is used extensively and my explanation to my children was that this is a gross, un-educated word used by persons of small minds who can think of very little and these persons think that this makes them sound intellectual. Not good but it worked.

For more on this subject you might want to go see Shoah and other movies (a Google search should be sufficient.) Today, we still have our Holocausts, blood-lettings, and things of that nature, but none that can surpass the callousness as we look back as see the pure (real) killing of people simply because they are of an ethnic minority.

Questions: How did Hitler get away with this when 80 million Germans were watching?? Didn't anyone have a sense of smell any more? Couldn't anyone hear the screams? Yet, today (I went to Munich for six months) nobody was a Nazi and nobody had a relative who was a Nazi. Amazing - just amazing.

I hope that I haven't led you too far astray nor forced you to look (now, how could I do that?) at our own flawed humanity, our own callousness and uncaring attitude. If you want to see the same thing and the same attitude today, just drive through the homeless part of your own town, especially near the missions, see the little old women pushing ALL of their worldly belongings in a shopping cart (they can barely walk), watch as the drug thugs rob them of any thing of value. Dear G-d: Come back soon and rescue a perishing world where saving a puppy is looked upon as something of value (which it really, really is) while we let our own humanity, our own brothers, sisters, mothers, aunts, sons, uncles, grandfathers, etc suffer on the street EVERY DAY and watch as those who are actually willing to work passed by; rather they are allowed to starve to death with only one meal per day in the mission. (That's all that the Nazi prisoners got, remember? One meal per day.)

Better things next time,


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mene Mene Tekel Ufarsin


Mene, Mene Tekel Ufarsin. Bad translation of this would be "Measured, Measured again, Weighed in the balance and found Wanting." (From the book of Daniel if you are into that kind of thing) And that is the dreaded thing about being a geeky programmer - the fear of being thought of as falling behind - not that you ARE behind, but those around you just think that you are falling behind. I just read a blog from Mark Proctor and then the link by Richard Clayton. Just for giggles and grins, you really need to go out and read all of both articles (and maybe a couple of others from Clayton) to see what he means in the first two paragraphs on Proctor's blog.

However, one sticky-wicket point that I have found with Drools is that there is a perception that sometimse things change TOO quickly. Sure, maybe to some of the newer programmers it is way cool the way that Drools is constantly advancing - and, of course, so they think, everybody needs the changes NOW! But consider that they (the overworked, underpaid programming trolls who keep the wheels of IT turning a better bottom line for the overdressed and overpaid managers) can't keep up with all of the changes to Drools AND the changes to everything else AND be even half-way knowledgeable about any of them.

So, here is my personal opinion and, knowing that it won't be heeded, I'll give it anyway: Drools needs to slow down the releases to every six to 12 months such that each release has significant changes and bug fixes. (Probably the technical Red Hat releases of Red Hat Drools are that slow. Don't know because I don't deal with Red Hat folks in person.) I prefer every 12 months but, then, I'm a slow learner and tend to try and find potential problems rather than fixes for problems that I have in production. But look guys, try to wait at least every six to nine months for each new release! Not only would this give the programmer trolls time to catch BUT it would also give the Red Hat / Drools team(s) time to fix all of the bugs in the last release.

By constantly updating you force the programmers to keep up to date with the latest changes or get lost in the process when they miss something. A year or so ago Drools threw everything out at once (like, FIVE products) and most of them were half-baked and not really ready for prime time, especially the decision table / spreadsheet conversions. A few other things were there that were "fixed" with a few 24-48 hour debugging and testing cycles but some still aren't fixed and ready.

Being a guy who has to learn almost (dang near) everything in the rulebase space and really know what I'm talking about, I spend almost three months (OK, at least two months) on each product that I have to examine so that I can verify that the product will do what the manual says it will do. And when Drools kicks out five changes and then an update within a month and another update right behind that, well, it really takes the glow off the updates and keeps me working WAY too hard for what I get out of it. The other problem with Drools is the documentation doesn't keep track with the changes. They are always late and not terribly clear in some cases.

First Drools used CVS, then Maven, then Subversion, and now Git? All I want to do is control my source code - NOT learn a whole new SCCS language every few months! (FYI) I went from FORTRAN to BASIC (yes BASIC, but multi-user Unix Workstation BASIC), then C, then C++ then Java and now I'm off to Objective C, J2EE, C# and all the others. All this and being part DBA, SysAdmin of eight different variations of UNIX (AT&T Unix, Solaris, BSD, AIX, HP-UX, DEC Unix, SCO Xenix/Unix; and then comes Linux and all of its variations from various manufacturers like Red Hat and Novell).

Oh, and let's not leave out CORBA, COM/DCOM and the mess that all of that caused - MS just HAD to put out .NET to be competitive with Java. Now, put on top of that, 10 different BRMS/rulebased systems trying and scrambling to be concurrent with all of the aforementioned systems above and then the confluence of databases: Informix (absorbed by IBM), DB2, DBase, and the multi variations of OODB. Sorry, Charlie; one guy just can NOT learn all of these things in depth and be worth a flip at any of them. What was that old saying? "A Jack of all Trades and a Master of None." Maybe we need a product called "None" and we can all master it. :-)

So, what do we do? Personally, I chose to focus mostly on Rulebased systems; all 10 (and growing) of them. Then learn enough Java and J2EE to keep my head above water, return to C/C++/C# now and then to keep your chops and be somewhat conversant. Now I want to do CLIPS and Objective-C so I have to RE-read all of my books on that again just to catch up to where I left off and start it all over again.

BUT, fear not, dear reader - another blog will follow this to tell us what wossies we have become because we have to read another book or two. Personally, I blame it all on football, baseball, hockey, and, most of all, television laced with copius quantities of bad beer, chips and tacos. Unfortunately, time is totally linear for all of the humans involved and we just cannot use it like it is not going to end - it will end. And then, will you have finished all of your projects? Probably not. So, the answer, for now, is to do what you can for as long as you can and, hopefully, let history record that you did well and died well; or not. You won't be able to change it then.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

For Little Guys Everywhere


I just finished watching the earlier-taped Rose Bowl. Whatever religion, or none, to which you adhere or profess, you have to admire Andy Dalton's (Offensive MVP) comments after the game and the pure spunk of Tank Carder (Defensive MVP) coming from a broken back earlier in life to win "The Granddaddy of Them ALL! The Rose Ball!!!". And that despite repeatedly falling down due to the short cleats on their shoes (and nobody thought to bring replacements because Nike had designed these shoes especially for this turf and this game) as well as referees who can't see Wisconsin obviously holding a TCU player or a TCU players head being ripped off since they are the upstarts from Fort Worth, Texas. I still think that the Mafia has bought out the referees in Basketball, Football (USA and European) for sure; and maybe baseball and hockey refs as well. It's gotten almost as bad as Pro Wrestling.

BTW, to the Wisconsin Badgers - you guys played a really great game and I don't know HOW those little bitty defensive guys from Fort Worth managed to hold your score down to 19 points. And JJ should be drafted tomorrow by The Vikings (my team). Maybe he, Andy Dalton and Tank Carder can all go the Vikings and start a new dynasty up there.

Maybe NOW the corrupt BCS will allow the little guys, the non-exempt teams, play in the bowl games and (maybe?) begin a REAL playoff system where everyone with a winning season of no more than two lost games gets a chance to compete for the national title. But, TCU is undefeated/untied this year!! To quote the head coach for Ohio State, "The Poor Sisters of Football" did the impossible. Maybe they will let TCU play the winner of the "national championship" game after the 7th? Naaaahhhhh - probably not.

TCU Horned Frogs, 21
Wisconsin Badgers, 19
(Blocked pass by Tank Carder on Wisconsin two-point conversion to a wide-open tight end with only 1 minute to play)

Finally, for those who don't know, the horned frog is actually a horny lizard that squirts blood from his eyes when cornered or upset. OK, that's my last blurt on sports this year (and maybe next year unless LSU wakes up) until the World Games and then only if certain teams get that far. (Being of that Norse heritage, my team for the Super Bowl would have been The Minnesota Vikings but.... ) Kind of funny though: A Norseman / Viking that hates snow?


[Follow up after the 7th Championship game] Once again, the paid-off referees made sure that Auburn (and, remember, I'm an Alabama / Auburn fan from Sylacauga, Alabama) won. What a rip! Those guys shouldn't be allowed to referee a dog-fight managed by Michael Vick. But, four of my favorite teams are in the fight now: Green Bay (the only team owned by the city in which they play) versus another old-line favorite, Chicago Bears, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (where Terry Bradshaw - a Louisiana Tech boy - led them to FOUR super bowl championships) versus Broadway Joe's Jets. What a weekend that will be and regardless of who wins, I'm happy. The cowgirls might have chance next year if Monsigniour Gerald Jones will keep his long nose out of the coaching business and let the re-headed genius run the team.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Blog to Follow

BTW, Yaakov got, well, let's just say, "Upset!" with the Word Press guys and came over here. Apparently the same guy who had the Yaakov.WordPress.Com has the same one over here and hasn't blogged since about 2006 - but he still has it. Sooo... Yaakov is at http://Yaakov2.BlogSpot.Com just like over there, except now he's with us at Google. Since he's just starting up you might want to check it out and just follow the blog. Usually it's on the TaNaKh (Pronounced Tah-Nahk', or Old Testament to the rest of the world) but sometimes he rants a bit about other problems, sometimes dealing with arcane bits of knowledge that are unknown to most of us.

He's worth following if only to broaden your horizons and provide fodder for discussions - he's quite old now, well, old to most of you. He's somewhere in his late 70's and will probably live to be 200 in Sweetwater, Texas. After all, wasn't Moishe about 120 when he toddled off to be alone with G-d? And they both live(d) in the same kind of dry, sandy, desert environment. I'm just jealous because I don't have the bollocks to follow him over there and get to heck away from this big screen that takes up six days of my life.

So, check it out and leave him a comment if you like. I have asked him to re-post all of his stuff on the Sabbath (or Shabbos to the Ashkenazi) that took him quite a bit of research and that was still incomplete over at WordPress. Maybe he'll re-post it here and then complete it. Kind of interesting if you've ever wondered what was the fuss about the Seventh Day thing - and I don't mean the Seventh Day Adventists.