Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."



Big changes are afoot in Oz. First, and certainly most importantly, Lady of Oz is expecting:

The little cashew is due in late September, so we're hoping for a cool Tennessee summer.... And since I'm probably twice the age of your average blogger (i.e., shlok + tdaxp = Oz), this is doubly joyful -- and doubly daunting!

As if adding a third child isn't enough for 2008, I have moved on to other professional opportunities. It was a fun year-and-a-half with Enterra Solutions -- I learned volumes from Stephen DeAngelis and Tom Barnett, and am thankful for the opportunity to hitch my wagon to their star. However, my role in Tennessee and the company's explosive growth in other areas (e.g., Kurdish Iraq) were not a good fit.

So, effective tomorrow, I will join Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam and his extremely impressive team at the New England Complex Systems Institute as their Director of Program Development. Since I have long believed that "Complexity Theory" will be for the 21st century what "Quantum Theory" was for the 20th century, I am very excited to help apply new scientific methods to everyday challenges.

In addition to joining NECSI, I am also launching a new company: EMC2 LLC, a consulting and team-building firm that seeks to fill a void between high-level emergency management and local (individual, family and company) disaster preparedness.

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same

Strange fascination, fascinating me ... :-)

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15 Years of War

Many Americans were introduced to al-Qa'ida 15 years ago, when the terror organization made its first attack against the World Trade Center.

Given AQ's penchant for post-Inauguration Day attacks (after a change in the U.S. Presidency), what will be making news in 2009?


A Marine Corps for the next 500 years!

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the legendary flag raising atop Suribachi-san in the black volcanic rock of Iwo Jima. Operation Detachment, the U.S. mission to capture the airfields on this 5,000 acre island approximately 700 miles south of Tokyo, commenced four days earlier (19 February 1945) -- and continued for another month after these five Marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed by Joe Rosenthal. Today, the island is called Iwo To (which was it's name to its residents before World War II, but many Japanese misprounced the character "To" as "Jima").

Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal was inspecting Green Beach on Iwo Jima the morning of 23 February 1945. When the flag was raised, he turned to Marine General H. M. "Howlin' Mad" Smith and said, "The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years!"

Joe Rosenthal's photo has been immortalized as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Note that three of the flag raisers did not survive the subsequent fighting on the island; their stories are poignantly told in the book Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley (son of PM2 John H. Bradley, the Navy Corpsman in the photo).

Semper Fidelis!



Space and Cake

All the banter about the U.S. Navy shoot-down of a failed spy satellite distracted me from the lunar eclipse last night. Thankfully the local Fox news affiliate made mention of it at the top of the 10 o'clock (EST) hour -- plenty of time for me to set up the 5" Maksutov-Cassegrain and snap this photo through the clouds. The moon (well above the horizon) looked like a dreary, rising harvest moon -- even the big crater Tycho was hard to discriminate.

As for tonight, Eldest of Oz decided she wanted to bake her own birthday cake (with assistance from Man-Cub) for tomorrow's party:

Big changes ahead in Oz -- I hope to post more by early next week.

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[Moblog] Snowy Drive

We departed Brandon, SD at 0425 CST this morning. By the time we were in Iowa, the temps were still -10° F. with strong gusts blowing flurries and drifts across the highway. Wind chill was supposedly in the -40° range (where F. or C. doesn't matter). Now in East Peoria, nearly halfway home, enjoying a basket of wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.


TDAXP's Reception

Today was Dan & Fei's wedding reception in lovely Brandon, SD. I sat with some undergrad friends of Dan's from Dakota State U. Sitting with an Air Force pilot, a flight surgeon to be, a teacher and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science made for great conversation.

The Three 'Blogsketeers decided to brave the -10° F. (-23° C.) wind chill for a photo op:

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Coldest Day

It's colder now than it was a sunrise -- with a Weather.com "RealFeel" of -10 degrees F., and a projected low (RealFeel) tonight of -37. Yes, that's a negative sign in front of the "37". Nice of Dan and Fei to have their wedding reception on the coldest day of the year... :-)

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[Moblog] Mile 1,108

19.5 hours (with generous stops en route) and we are in foggy South Dakota. More pix in the AM!

Winter Wonderland

Rollin' with Sean Meade to South Dakota and Dan & Fei Abbot's wedding reception. The white sandy beaches of Tiffin, Iowa were a little chilly on the toes....

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Osinga Roundtable: Boyd's Evolution

In an October 1939 radio broadcast, Winston Churchill described the Soviet Union as “… a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The same can be said of the late Colonel John Boyd, whose prowess as a fighter pilot and whose lectures on the relationship between energy and maneuverability revolutionized the U.S. Air Force – but who published no books. Rather, his legacy was left in a stack of acetate vu-graphs (thankfully digitized by Chet Richards) and reams of personal papers. For his studious review of the latter, distilling the mind of Boyd into book form, Col/Dr Frans P.B. Osinga deserves our gratitude. He has played Clausewitz to Boyd’s Napoleon.

In Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Osinga presents us with a fascinating “deep dive” into the evolution of a brilliant thinker – a thinker who devoted his life to applied learning and teaching. Though it is unfortunate that Boyd did not see fit to publish his theories in book form (unsurprising given his professional environment far from the Ivory Towers of academe), it is evident from his 1,500+ presentations that he rigorously developed and willingly shared his ideas. Boyd’s stamina (both mental and physical) to lecture for more than a dozen hours at a time is testament to his devotion and his determination to succeed.

Osinga nicely complements the work of Boyd biographers (most notably Coram, Hammond and Richards) by dedicating the preponderance of his 300+ pages to how Boyd’s thinking evolved – describing his intellectual influences from the expected (Sun Tzu, Clausewitz) to the unexpected (Popper, Kuhn, Polanyi). Particular attention is given to the influence of classical physicists (Newton) as well as quantum theorists and mathematicians (Heisenberg, Gödel).

Boyd embodied the now-popular notion of the “Medici Effect”, a horizontal thinker who integrated perspectives across multiple, seemingly-divergent disciplines into a cohesive whole. His insights have proven applicable to a wide array of topics, and foretold of the emerging science of complexity theory (though I dislike Osinga’s use of the composite term “chaoplexity”, which undermines the distinction between “chaotic” – i.e., non-linear and seemingly random – and “complex” – i.e., a large number of interrelated properties or parameters). Given the swagger of the fighter pilot who bested the “best” in air-to-air combat in forty seconds or less, there is no doubt that Boyd – were he alive today – would be a prolific ‘blogger, and a Chicago Boyz contributor whose inputs would outweigh all of our Roundtable writings combined.

While many associate Boyd solely with the “OODA Loop”, he has given us far more than just a lexicon – just as Tom Barnett’s work is far more than simply “Core - Gap” and “Leviathan - SysAdmin”. Regardless of one’s willingness to accept his ideas, the sheer effort Boyd invested in his research – and Osinga’s effort in compiling the salient points for us – is an invaluable tool in anyone’s intellectual toolbox.

The motto of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration is Litera Scripta Manet: “The written word endures.” It is ironic that intellectuals tend to revere the commentator more so than the subject on whom they write: Herodotus over Leonidas, Thucydides over Pericles, Clausewitz over Napoleon. If history is consistent, then in a hundred years the name Osinga may be equally associated with the name of Boyd.

Update: Crossposted at Chicago Boyz.

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Super Fat Tuesday

Thanks to the early Easter this year (due to the close proximity of the full moon to the vernal equinox), we get to celebrate (quite appropriately, IMHO) "Super Tuesday" simultaneously with "Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras". So tomorrow morning, as ashes from the palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday are imposed on the foreheads of the Christian faithful, will we also have a definitive presidential candidate from each party?

Having just left the polling place, I can say unequivocally that "electronic ballots" remain trapped in the Luddite past of paper-driven industrial age process. After arriving at the polling place at 8:30am EST, I discovered that our local polling places did not actually open until 9:00am. After the polls officially opened (at 8:00am one county to the west of us, in the Central Time Zone), I had to:
  1. Complete a "Voting Application Card" in red ink. (I told the pollsters that it was considered bad luck in China to inscribe a name in red; they didn't seem to care.) Note that though the line of waiting voters was now more than 30 people, there was only one (1) small table for completing this "Voting Application Card" -- rather than distributing them (with red pens) to the waiting voters.
  2. Present the "Voting Application Card" along with a photo ID to the kind lady with the "A-D" catalog of registered voters in that precinct.
  3. Let said lady compare the signatures between my digitized Voter Registration and the "Voting Application Card", then check some boxes and sign where indicated.
  4. Present my "Voting Application Card" to a third polling place worker, who wrote my name (in longhand) on a roster.
  5. Go to a fourth worker, who took my "Voting Application Card" and provided me with a four-digit "PIN" to activate the voting machine.
  6. Proceed to vote for one (1) candidate for President of the United States, as well as twelve (12) "Delegates-at-Large" and three (3) District delegates. Since my candidate of choice had only two "Delegates-at-Large" who had professed fealty to him, I decided to vote for all eight "uncommitted delegates". This meant I had to spin my "selection wheel" no fewer than fifteen times for each delegate, since the cursor reset to the top-left corner after each selection and the "uncommitted delegates" were at the bottom-right. (My attempts to outsmart the machine by rotating my selection wheel counter-clockwise sent me to the previous section of the ballot.)
BTW, the image at the top of this is provided courtesy of al Jazeera (found via a Google Image search for "Super Tuesday").

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A Tale of Two Mannings

Perfection lasted for 18.990 games -- until just 35 seconds remained in Super Bowl XLII, and Eli Manning's pump-fake-corner toss to Plaxico Burress salvaged the perfect legacy of the 1972 Dolphins.

The highlight for me (other than the brilliant Audi commercial in the first quarter, and the Terminator T-800 model beating up the annoying Fox Sports robot) was seeing Eli's big brother Peyton leap up in pure joy when the Giants took the lead in the closing seconds. Now THAT is a role model worth emulating!

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123 Meme (c/o ZenPundit)

'Blogfriend ZenPundit (undoubtedly in a pique of reciprocity from my recent "Christmas Meme") has tagged me with his 123 Meme. The rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Within arm's reach to my left is Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. From page 123:

... They also instill an intense sense of loyalty and influence the behavior of those remaining inside the company to be congruent with the core ideology, consistent over time, and carried out zealously.

Please don't misunderstand our point here. We're not saying that visionary companies are cults. We're saying that they are more cult-like, without actually being cults.

I tag five of my cohorts from Dreaming 5GW:

"The Skeptic", Curtis Gale Weeks
"The Enthusiast", PurpleSlog
"The Dreamer", Dan tdaxp
"The Voyager", Subadei
Adam Elkus

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5GW Attack on JFCOM?

Yesterday a good friend from Virginia sent me an article from "DataTech Government Newsletter" that harshly criticizes the "Training Transformation" program at U.S. Joint Forces Command (one of ten joint [all-service] Combatant Commands in the U.S. military). Besides harshly maligning the corporate culture at my former employer (claiming the parking lot isn't full until nearly 9:00am, and almost empty shortly after 4:00pm), it also accuses the Joint National Training Capability of failing to deliver a product despite a budget of over $170 million.

The curious thing about this article is that "DataTech Government Newsletter" returns zero hits on a Google search. And a search for "Bob Gerlach", the alleged "AFU Correspondent" who penned the article, yields a similar doughnut of results. Furthermore, there is no date in the excerpted pages as one would expect from a legitimate publication. And the reference to the current four-star USJFCOM commander (Gen. Jim Mattis, USMC) as "Lt Gen Mattis" (using the U.S. Air Force honorific for a three-star general, not the U.S. Marine Corps "LtGen") further erodes the credibility of the piece. Lastly, the subsequent article references a non-existent "North American Health Logistics Forum" (again, zero Google hits) and "Section 16 under USC Code [sic] 27", the portion of U.S. federal law that addressed Prohibition and has been repealed for more than seventy years. You can download the excerpted 1.4MB .PDF file here.

Could this be an elaborate hoax -- an attack designed to change the very context by which an entity is perceived -- to discredit U.S. Joint Forces Command's training activities? When I asked a former colleague I was told that not only are they aware of this piece, but that Major General Kamiya (the Joint Training Director) distributed it to all personnel. When faced with an anonymous foe who wants to distort perceptions, I think MG Kamiya's response was very appropriate.

[Crossposted at Dreaming 5GW]

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