Strategy, Logistics, Tactics: the Strangle Method

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I have been doing a bunch of workshops for my day job that involve practical hands on experience in various dev ops systems and modern software tools. Some of these may seem remedial to more experienced developers but a big part of the endeavor is to baseline an organization.

One thing I did not expect was the emphasis on strategy or methodology. About 30% of my time if not more is spent on organization and metrics, and how these tools tie in these strategic (or perhaps tactical components).

I could consider something like CI/CD like logistics – how something is delivered to someone else (mostly an end user, but also an internal customer). And remember that Napoleon was able to be so successful because of his superior logistics. But these logistics tie back into an essential strategy. Strategy is the over all way that we achieve some sort of goal. Tactics is small patterns that together execute the strategy, and the logistics is the pipeline that enables the creation of thee small patterns (ie tactics).

I was reviewing an article for an upcoming workshop about how to remove legacy code from a system. Our goal is an easy to maintain system to minimize MTTR (mean time to repair), the strategy is to remove technical debit, how do we do this?

The tactic is the strangle method.
1) Create new code that is a proxy or pass through to the old code.

In this case you can create a new interface without rewriting business logic, and connect new services to the new interface.

2) Begin removing the proxies with real new code that works.

I would suggest doing this as you get feature requests that touch these parts of the code. A second option is just to create each function replacement as an item in your backlog. However, this has the side effect of being overwhelming.

3) Slowly remove the old code base.

This is hard, since there are always unexpected instances when some service, or customer, is hitting a piece of code that does not pass through the new interface. However, if you keep this part distinct from step 2, replacing the proxy in the interface, then you can even instrument the legacy code base to see if and when it is hit, and minimize errors that might arise.

This is one of the many instances where my job is less about technology and more about strategy or tactics. It has become increasingly easy to write software and much of software development is really systems integration these days. The issue is NOT how to write this code, but what strategy to use to build a robust system, resilient system, or as I like to say via NNT, antifragile system.

In the Archives – Binge Reading Janet Malcolm – thanks Elliott

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I loved in The Archives – an inside look at some drama that took place in the 80s regarding a man who was going to become the head of the Freud Archives.

SUCH GOOD WRITING!

Anyway – recap – the drama.

Anna Freud is getting old, all the psychoanalysis are getting old. Then need a young (ie person under the age of 45) to run the institutions of the guru errrr Founder – Freud! Enter Jeff Masson – a charming young scholar who wants the job. Problem – he is a trouble maker. He is looking to poke holes in psychoanalysis. We all know this person -who desires greatness by disruption (Duchamp for example). Perhaps he is a nihilist. Anyway – Jeff finds a letter in the Archives that makes him believe that Freud should not have discarded the seduction theory, and that all of psychoanalysis is a lie. Obviously you cannot have this sort of person running the Freud Archives. So he is ousted, there is a lawsuit, there are other characters. You get the story.

I am reflecting on this for two reasons

  1. Theory of Seduction – I never took a class on psychology although I did take a class where we read a bunch of Freud’s social and political works. Totem and Taboo, Moses and Monotheism (which could probably be called a conspiracy theory).  I think Freud is an excellent writer and I say again and again, he won over Freud and perhaps the others such as Jung, Reich, Adler, and the rest because of this. Jung in particular is a totally idiosyncratic writer. Perhaps Jung’s medium is painting. Don’t get me wrong – I love Jung -but it is what it is.

So theory of seduction. Fantasy matters. The inner life matters and has material impact on the world. This is my interpretation via the archives of Freud’s breakthrough.  Once does not have to actually be seduced to have some sort of neurosis, all one has to do is think he was seduced.

There are arguments in the book that well, being at Auschwitz is surely different from imagining you were at Auschwitz. and I would agree with that. But perhaps the difference is at the level of somatics and trauma. I am thinking of work like The Body Keeps the Score. And perhaps this is different than neurosis. That mental trauma and physical trauma is different that psychology and somatics are different. Anyway the point is that fantasy matters, it has material impact on ones ability to function in the world.  This is fascinating to me.

2. Internal vs external – I am sort of misstating this but its the best I can do in stream of consciousness blog. In the book Janet Malcolm questions whether or not this whole incident took place because of something inside Masson. Did he has some death wish (or failure wish)? Or was it something structural in the events, in the search for a new head of the Archive etc? Was Masson set up for failure no matter what? It is hard to differentiate the internal and the external because his internal state state or desire feeds into the structural events. But the question is, Did he self implode or did the the structure collapse around him?

  • Self implode – at first I was totally convinced that he self imploded. The picture that I got was of a complete narcissist, and someone somewhat out of control. That he was driving rather than driving himself. His desire to make an impact by breaking things apart made it impossible for him to not implode (since imploding is breaking things)
  • Structural collapse – The whole structure of events made it impossible for Masson to succeed. No matter what he would have been ousted from the archives. This may have been correct. The particular incident that led to his firing was not due to his narcissism and I was lead to believe. (This is pitch perfect New Yorker storytelling). Rather, a new york times reporter was going to write an article about these events come hell or high water – and no matter what it would have been damning for Masson. The real crime was talking to journalists – or the structure of collapse was Journalism itself.

There are sometimes situations where it is near impossible to avoid catastrophe. Here I am thinking about institutional racism (or sexism which I have personal experience with). Some of the structures of the events are such that the only hope is to avoid utter catastrophe, but make no bones about it – it will happen.

In this an un analytical stance. That the external world has this importance, that the internal world is impotent.  Well perhaps we can develop our internal world in such a way that we develop our imaginations and realms of possibilities and can see through the impossibilities to avoid the catastrophies that befall us- even when they seem  inevitable.

Writing a review

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I am writing a review of a book.  IMHO – the best reviews are reviews that use a book as a starting off point for a discussion of ideas. It is a discussion between the author of the review and the author of the book. I am not even sure we should call this a review then.  Most recently, I read (and blogged) about Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion, 

I am writing a review on Spinal Catastrophism.  First I was thinking why do I want to write a review on it? It is messy.  In form, it is part lit crit, theory fiction, philosophy, analysis. But also I am viewing it through my own lens of the edifice of mega metaphysics crumbling – think Kant and Hegel and in place of ideologies – the concept of worlding. What is the philosophical status of worlding, what is the role of justification in philosophy? What is the difference between philosophy and art (theory fiction)?  What is the difference between philosophy and science. Philosophy is like the marble of the Roman Empire left in Rome. It was all used by other people for other purposes until there was nothing left of the original. Is there nothing left of philosophy? Perhaps. But if so, why? What need did it fill, and what is it now replaced by.

Maintenance

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Last week and this week I proceeded with my annual exams and checkups (except for dentist – maybe I’ll do that in March)…

I was late for most of these checkups. 2019 was wonderful in many ways, I did lose 10 pounds (and then put it back on in the first month of 2020). However, I found it difficult to do some of these basic health checks.  I felt an enormous amount of guilt about this. Should something appear on my mammography, it would some how be my fault since I was 7 months late to my screening. This, of course, is ludicrous – but it is how we psychologize illness (or metaphorize it).

One of my major anxieties with all these checkups is that I am constantly getting my blood pressure checked. High blood pressure, among a few other manageable things, run in my family, so I am waiting for the moment when estrogen no longer protects me and my hot bloodedness becomes pathology.

I mentioned to my shrink that I was more concerned about the possibility of high blood pressure.  That somehow the discovery of my super high blood pressure would intervene in my regularly scheduled mammography because I would surely be whisked away to have open heart surgery.   He suggested I read illness as metaphor / which I have never read. I have not read any of Sontag’s writings.  So I dragged the kids this week to Barnes and Nobel on 14th street and union square. They got two diary of a whimpy kid books, which I have many issues with, but at least they are reading, and I got an onion paper book from the Library of America. I have to say this paper is very difficult to read when I first wake in the morning with sleep in my eye, and probably some degenerative eye issue that only appears int he morning.

Anyway so I read Illness as Metaphor, and then I went on to read Against Interpretation (which is super short).   Whenever I think of an illness with a metaphor I think about syphilis and I do enjoy making syphilis jokes. A feel a lot of STIs have names that sound like sea monsters from the odyssey: scylla and charybdis.  In college I was visiting some friends in Paris, one friend and I stayed in a hostel. I did not let any portion of my body touch the sheets (because I am a germaphobe). She mocked me and got – scabies (and not from touching another human just from the sheets – it was a chaste if debauched trip).  My mother commented, “don’t only people in Dickens novels get scabies??”

It was an enjoyable read, rambling and random, with fantastic quotes, and breadth.  Madness is the new romantic disease. True! But there are others such as addiction. In addition to illnesses there are conditions – these days -that you manage (chronic illness). There are pre-conditions (like pre-diabetic).  There is the instrumentation of life.

“Against Interpretation” opens with a fantastic quote by Oscar Wilde – “It is only shallow people that do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”  But all this instrumentation and monitoring in the foreshadow of illness is the mystery of the invisible.

The metaphors of illness, especially, cancer, has not changed all that much. I would be interested in reading these days about metaphors of disability, of cronic illness, or pregnancy, of queerness and gender.

As I was writing this I j had this vision of sitting in paris with a beer (in the afternoon), and I hate to say it – a cigarette. I never was a smoker, but in my youth I did have the occasional cigarrette in Paris (and on hyde park boulevard).

Maybe I should do that today. What I have is an attempt to kickbox, a code review, some coffees, some jamming, some reading group, some biz meeting. It all seems exciting and busy althoughI am filled with ennui. I wonder which metaphorical illness this activity sets me up for, or which metaphorical illness my resistance sets me up for -its probably psychological.

 

 

https://poets.org/poem/dawns-awake

The Dawn’s Awake! – Otto Leland Bohanan

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I read the first few lines of this poem (thanks poem-a-day) the other day and immediately wanted to read more and learn about the poet. I have no idea why. Well, I have an idea why. I was drawn to the bombastic imagery.

Bombastic could be considered pejorative, but I consider it positive. Most poetry today is quiet. Finding the quiet things, the invisible things that people over look and making those things loud. Rather than making the things already loud majestic. And I totally agree with that. Many things that are loud today are NOT majestic and should NOT be celebrated. But it is warms my heart when there are big things that are majestic and they are celebrated. Like the f*ing dawn!

I take my kids to the bus in the morning and walk Otto the dog. One of the great things about this is that I get to see the dawn. It reminds me of City of Angels  – the remake of wings of desire – where Angels hear music in the dawn.  My senses are just touched by this poem “Whispers of pent-up harmonies”, “mingled fragrance of the trees”, “A flash of smoldering flame and fire”.

Who was Otto Leland Bohanan? From poets.org:

Otto Leland Bohanan was born around 1895 in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Howard University and taught English at the Catholic University. He also worked as a music instructor at DeWitt Clinton High School, and died in 1932.

The Art of Python

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I am co-organizing the Art of Python with Kyle Conway. This is Sumana’s  brainchild and I am super excited to help organize. Kyle and I were both participants in the Art of Python last year and it feels great to continue something that we both enjoyed participating in.

The Art of Python is part of PyCon 2020’s Hatchery Program. “PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the community that uses and develops the open-source Python programming language.”

The Art of Python, is a space for performance based works about the practice of code, learning to code, or working with technology in general.   Most Art / code conferences or mini-conferences center around the creation of art by computers. This is super cool. I have/still do this.  But one thing that seems missing from this is a reflection on the creation of technology itself as we create new cultural narratives for today.

Last year there were musical performances about coding, a play acting out different algorithms (which was very funny), a fictitious retro of jurassic park (which I used in my Computers Robots and Film Class – what would a retro of 2001 space odyssey look like, of ex machina, you get the picture), among others.

There is a mix of comedy and drama, but the point is that here we put all our experiences though the mill and grind it into the flower or some extended metaphor that I am too tired to follow up on.

Anyway – submit to Art of Python. If you don’t feel comfortable performing or writing a performance, reach out and I can connect you with a mentor. If you have a half baked idea reach out and we will bake it some more.

So far some ideas that have been floated include, dramatic (mis)interpretations of agile ceremonies, meditations on life as seen through a history of personal technology, and a musical number about project retros based on the pirates of penzance.   We would love to see compositions, poetry, live action painting, meditation on ethics, deepfakes, machine learning. Someone told Sumana that her theater was Brechtian – and I agree. Let’s get alienated (verfremdungseffekt) together!

Get some inspiration from these descriptive links.

And to learn more and submit your fantastic ideas please go to our fantastic fork of yak bak at https://artofpython.herokuapp.com/.

"With a Petroleum Coating" by Trace Peterson

With a Petroleum Coating – Poetry Exegesis

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Yesterday the poem of the day from poets.org was “With a Petroleum Coating” by Trace Peterson. The daily newsletter is fantastic, it has the poem, a recording of the poem, a blurb from the author about the inspiration from the poem
(sometimes), a blurb about the author, other things the poet has written, and related works by other poets.

When I see a poem I like from poem of the day I leave it in my inbox until I can properly digest it. Sometimes I open up the email again and realize, I am done digesting the poem. Not the case here. Every time I start reading it … “The exoskeleton dries by the radiator” I am drawn in. It reminds me of Cyclonopedia. Am I going to be reading some theory fiction poetry? Sort of. This poem is a world building poem.

Why do I like this poem, because it makes sense but doesn’t make sense. The world that it is creating, with shells that hear poems, console knobs covered in petroleum, sitting lax on a conveyor belt, thinner than a mobius strip, a real world rug fur inside and out – is a world I can almost taste. The format of the poem, questions and sentences, a response to a class reading, or a debate among friends. There is rhythm, there is movement, there is eros, there is a language creation. And I mean what is Petroleum Coating? nsfw.

 

Chess Book

Working through Chess

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So one of my goals for 2020 is to improve my chess game. Some of this was spurred by my desire to make a chess mockumentary – I am not sure I posted this absolutely brilliant idea – but there you have it. Also I sort of would like to be like Duchamp and wear a suit and play chess all day. It like the aesthetic.

My friend Max was teaching me some tricks like the ladder (I think), with the two rooks and the king, but I took it upon myself to try and do some additional reading so I picked up the book and the Chess Master vs Chess Amateur.

First thing I noticed about this book was that I had no idea what notation they were using. Apparently there is an older chess notation call descriptive notation and that is what is being used. The way it works is that you mention the piece being moved P, for example (pawn), and the location where it is going to QB2 (queens bishop 2). There are other words for capture, x, and castle etc.  Once I figured this out, things were much easier.

It was almost like a memory palace where I was trying to keep the board in my head. I feel like this exercise itself will help with my chess intuition.

There were some simple analyses of the game and concepts, things like – experts control the center of the board, amateurs just make pretty patterns and don’t know what they are doing. There are pointers to other readings about when to move from strategy to tactics and how to analyze a position. I feel good that I was able to make it through this very short game that was about 3 or 4 pages long. It look me an hour though to digest it all.  Just wait for the film

 

 

The Hermeneutics of Suspicion – Beliefs cannot transform into knowledge.

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I started this post months ago to jot down notes for a reading group on Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion.  The first half, broadly speaking, is a discussion of ideology, and the second half is a review of Brandom’s book on Hegel (which I am reading so I will not discuss this second half until I finish that book).  There were a bunch of things in the paper that blew my mind, as often happens when I read Brassier.

My big takeaway from the whole thing, that may actually have a long range philosophical impact on my life is the offhanded observation of rule based activities (knowledge) vs cause based activities (knowledge).   This is predictive vs explanatory.  Kant is in the rule camp, Aristotle in the cause camp.  Both are kind of wrong: we cannot predict the future, nor can we really explain anything.  We cannot turn beliefs into knowledge. What can we do? Create multiplicities of mappings. If you want – skip the post and just read the last paragraph. I think it is really insightful.

I don’t even want to call these models, but interfaces for that connect one rule with another, one cause with another, one reality tunnel with another.  I am going to continue to meditate on this, rules vs causes.   What follows is essentially my notes of salient points as I read Brassier’s essay.

So how do we talk about subjective observations versus objective observations?

The scientific method taught us about empirical data collection and measurement. But what about subjective experience?

By subjective experience I don’t just mean the hard problem of consciousness like qualia (how do I know your red is the same as my red). But those aspects of life that can only be interpreted not defined.

I am thinking about this while reading  Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion for a reading group. It begins by unpacking false consciousness.  With the prayer blockchain I would think why is it important to record desires (prayers) encrypted on an immutable ledger (the blockchain).  Why cant we steal desires or double spend desires? Something about this rhymes with the idea of false consciousness.

False consciousness is the difference between what we desire vs what we are conditioned by society to desire.  Through class warfare and sexual repression that operate in our cultural unconscious, we are betrayed as to what we truly desire and why we desire the things that we desire.

Those factors that contribute to false consciousness, will to power, sexual repression and class struggle according to Brassier “have a symptomatic character: their proper description is at the same time an interpretation.”   I am fascinated by what Marx describes in (I think) Capital as types of understanding beyond knowledge. Normally this is described as praxis, but in this case it is interpretation or perhaps hermeneutics. To describe the class power as a force, is to provide an interpretation, not a definition or a fact.It is all based on a point of view (or perspective) and is ideological and not objectively scientific. The perspectival or subjective nature marks it as different from objective empirical observations.

Brassier says

[marx,nietzsche, freud] … identify effects that are meaning-laden but whose meaningfulness is not constituted by consciousness: it transcends the varieties of belief and desire commensurate with our own understanding of our individual experience… the meaningfulness of these unconscious beliefs and desires (e.g., class interests, slave morality, the Oedipus complex) differs in kind from that ascribed to psychological states.

The methodology of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud:genealogy, historical materialism, psychoanalysis is different from the methodology of the scientific method. This to me is obvious. Why this is different from traditional philosophical discourse is less obvious to me, although it does seem to make sense.

Why are these methodologies different from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, or cartesian rationalism as Brassier relates. It is because we are no longer interested in what can or cannot be rationally discussed but in interpreting phenomena beyond using rational categories?  What are drives if not base desires beyond or prior to reason? As Brassier interprets Jameson’s distinction between theory and philosophy “reason can never become wholly transparent to itself.” Which is why we need ‘dialectics’ and theory.

There is a digression as to what Kant contributed: namely a recourse to reason that is not grounded in god, and reason not grounded in causes. This second point was difficult for me to unpack. I think it means that there are laws to reasons: “rule-governed discursive activities” as Brassier says. They are not causal, or related to psychological states. I do not think something as a cause of something else. I think it as the expression of a rule.  Contrast this to Descartes who provides a reason for existing – that I am thinking. It is causal not rule based.   This apparently is the rejection of Aristotelean epistemology.

For Jameson, philosophy is just another ideology. One that believes there exists something called ‘Truth’. Theory meanwhile honors practice/praxis against concept. As Brassier says “Practice is the reactivation of the transcendent of the sensible against the latent hylomorphism of Kant’s critical rationalism.”  It is the Nietzschean genealogy that exposes this, philosophy or reason as a product of history, rather than Marx or Freud questioning the ability of reason as the only recourse to understanding.

At this point we bring Brassier brings in Brandom to discuss the relationship between reason and causes  through Brandom’s notion of believing and believed: the distinction between “epistemic states and their content.” (Is this not another form of hylomorphism – just saying) Brassier continues “Genealogy reduces reasons to causes by driving a causal wedge between believing and believed, asserting and asserted, severing the justificatory tie that connects the former to the latter.”

This is a reinterpretation or separation of genealogy from ideology. Genealogy provides a way to connect, in the terminology of Brandom, the act of believing to the connect of the belief.

Brassier quotes Brandom as saying that ideology is the structure of beliefs. It is why people hold beliefs. Is this in contrast to knowledge or facts a la Plato? We will see. I would say the theorists would hold that all that is exists are beliefs, that there is no knowledge or facts and that all is ideology.

The movement that begins with Plato, the movement from belief from knowledge is rejected. There is no justification for beliefs. The factors that relate the content of the beliefs to the act of believing Brassier refers to as superempirical (e.g., Libido, class struggle). They are objects for proof, but objects for interpretation.

Here is a good quote from Brassier: “Marx and Freud materialize the superempirical in terms of production and drive respectively.” And we should not confuse materialization for scientification (if that is a world). This is perhaps what Marx, Freud, et al are trying to do.  But this does not make these objects of science (justification).

And this is interesting because it provides an opening for why is theory important. In my opinion not Theory, but  theorizing is important because it is theory that lets us interpret these superempirical forces.   “The evocation of the ‘unjudgeable’ in sensible experience becomes the default of justification that justifies the split between reasons and causes, between what we believe and why we believe it. The unfolding of this dialectic of reasons and causes—which is also the dialectic of suspicion and trust—leads us back to Hegel.”

Brassier’s conclusion is unclear to me. Is it an interpretation of Hegel (and Brandom) as overcoming the gap in reason and un/irreason: “This gap is simply reason’s “other,” variously figured as the sensible, time, becoming, event, etc. But Hegel’s fundamental insight is that reason takes time.” Or is this a justification for theory?  

One final note. In western philosophy there is always this gap that has been addressed in different ways. Kant (things not subject to philosophy), Wittgenstein (things we cannot talk about), even Plato (the mythological substrate at the end of a dialogue).  The question is what are we grounding this gap in. Beginning with Kant we are suppressing it (we are going to ignore it – perhaps correlated with the rise of psychotherapy). With Plato, the gap is mythology (or theology) – the supernatural. What are some more useful options today?  Perhaps somatic – grounding in the body. And this is related to my review of spinal catastrophism.

eugenio tisselli

Reading Code – Week 1

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The main prompt asks a bunch of questions that examines the different way we can look at code. We can question the functionality, the aesthetics, the representation, within the context of other work by the artist, relationship with the user, role of the user in generating the art (interactivity), the longevity of the code (preservation and documentation), the content of the piece (deforestation).

These questions vaguely remind me of Aristotle’s four causes. In reality it is no different than looking at a piece of literature or a piece of art. The difference is what are those questions that are particular to software. Looking at a piece of work within the corpus of all works by the artist is something we can do with every artist. Looking functionality is perhaps particular to software studies (or most salient)

I am going to do an ontology now.

*Commentary – this is the same as with other art forms. What does this work say about the subject matter that inspires it.

*Context within artist corpus/historical corpus  – basically the same across all creative works

*Reproduction/Archive/Preservation – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance base works like dance and music, but slightly different because a machine is performing the work rather than a perhaps professional musician/dancer/etc.

*Interactivity – Role of the audience – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance, again slightly different because the user is sometimes/often running the work as opposed to a (perhaps) professional performing the work.

*Aesthetics – most pertinent across other creative fields. There is not really an aesthetics of code practice, but this could develop.  There is also the aesthetics of the generated work.

*Form of representation – this is only relevant to software and data, since software can be represented in different ways.  It is like the relationship between a genotype and a phenotype. It is relevant to art forms that use signs and symbols.

*Function – this is also perhaps only relevant to software.  We can judge software by how well it accomplishes its task.

 

The most interesting question  to me is about the form of representation or what I call transduction. To quote Mark C. Marino and Jeremy Douglass,  “We could question its form of representation and related idioms (ASCII art, helicopter and satellite photography, et cetera).”  To me this is interesting because it is what makes code different from other forms of expression. By necessity there has to be a layer of mediation or interpretation for code and this layer is a machine not an artist. It is similar to the relationship maybe between a screenplay and a movie, or a score and a musical performance, but the intermediary is a machine itself. And beyond that there is a  multiplicity of options in the form of representation. A score must be a piece of music. But code does not have to be one thing. It is one-to-many mapping.

One of the interesting things that happened in the discussion of this piece of work is that people started to comment on it by remixing it.  Code is one of the few artforms that is so easy to remix, that is probably the mode of work native to code.