Bureaucracy: The Olympic Torch Bearer

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Last year I attended a gathering where a gentleman, let’s call him Chuck, delivered a speech to us about an accomplishment he had made.

In 1988 Canada hosted the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.  As part of the celebration Canada’s state owned oil company Petro-Canada decided to sponsor the Olympic Torch Relay across the country.  How would the relay team be assembled?  By lottery.  All you had to do to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay was go to your nearest Petro-Canada Gas Station and fill out an entry form.  Relay participants would be drawn from among the entrants.  You could enter as many times as you wished.

Chuck lived in a small rural community, but it turns out our he was ambitious.  He was determined as a grade school student that he would participate in the Olympic Torch Relay.  He went down to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and picked up as many entry forms as the gas station attendant would allow, went home and began filling out entry forms by hand, one at a time.  Then he would go back to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and stuff all his completed entry forms into the entry box.

Chuck was determined.  Every day he would go to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and collect a ream of entry forms.  Everyday he would spend all his spare time filling out the entry forms one at a time by hand.  When other kids his age were spending their time with their families and friends, enjoying leisure time or participating in extra-curricular activities or sports, our speaker was filling out forms.

The entry form completion and submission routine went on for months.  Chuck’s family thought he was crazy, his friends thought he was crazy, his teachers thought he was crazy, the attendants at the Petro-Canada Gas Station thought he was crazy.  Then the day of the draw for the Petro-Canada Olympic Torch Relay participants finally arrived.  The draw was made and about a week later a letter arrived at Chuck’s home.  He had been drawn to carry the Olympic Torch as a relay participant.  Everyone was overjoyed.

The Olympic Torch Relay began during a Canadian Winter and it finally arrived at the point where Chuck would take the Olympic Torch from the previous Torch Relay participant, bear the Olympic Torch for a kilometer or two and pass it to the next Torch Relay member.  Chuck was dressed in the red and white Olympic Torch Relay uniform with the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics logo,  the Canadian Flag logo, the Olympic Torch Relay logo and the Olympic Torch Relay logo emblazoned on it.  However, it was bitterly cold, the relay schedule was very tight and physically Chuck was not only unfit, but considerably overweight.  However, no matter, Chuck received the Olympic Torch and jumped on the back of a snowmobile driven by a Torch Relay volunteer.  They crossed the snowy Canadian winter wilderness with God speed with Chuck holding the Olympic Torch high.  Finally, they arrived at the next relay point and Chuck jumped off the back of the snowmobile and passed the Olympic Torch to the next Torch Relay participant, who in turn jumped on the back of the snowmobile and continued onward.  Victory had indeed been sweet.

Now, let’s return to 2007 on the day this speech was being delivered.  Chuck completed his story and proudly displayed the Olympic Torch Relay uniform he had worn during his leg of the relay.  We all looked admiringly at it and thought about our own desire to carry the Olympic Torch that we had not attempted to realize.  And looked at a man who had had the courage to realize a dream.

Chuck stood before us proud, reserved and two hundred pounds overweight.  He now worked for one of Canada’s provincial governments as a senior bureaucrat.  He was a senior elected member of the organization of which his audience belonged.  He was also a member of the subdivision of the organization to which the audience belonged.  He does not believe in new members or in fact any members of the organization receiving a copy of the organization’s constitution, but knows it intimately.  He studies Robert’s Rules of Order intensely during organization meetings, but does not share this knowledge with the members, instead waiting to be called upon in an advisory role as Parliamentarian deciding for everyone what due process is.  Instead of rationally debating motions, he bellows out bombast like profanity.  When asked about ethics, he says his is winning.

So, what did Chuck learn from the example of Olympic Torch Relay?  First, he learned that sport and sportsmanship had nothing to do with the Olympic Torch Relay.  Second, he learned that the Olympic Torch Relay was a lottery, not based on merit.  Third, he learned that he could manipulate the outcome of the Olympic Torch Relay selection process by stuffing the ballot box.  Fourth, he learned to be a good bureaucrat legalistically filling out the same Olympic Torch Rleay entry forms day in and day out, neglecting family, friends, liesure, extra-curricular activities, sport and physical health.  Fifth, he learned that the Olympic Torch Relay had no physical fitness requirements at all.  He simply sat on the back of a gas poewered, internal combustion engine, polluting snowmobile so the organizers of the event could meet their schedule.  It’s a wonder that Chuck had the strength to hold the torch up for the length of his leg of the relay.

Chuck had learned a lot of lessons from the Olympic Torch Relay.  I believe that the Olympic Committee, Canada, the Petro-Canada Corporation and the Canadian Olympians should all be proud of what they accomplished.  They have produced an immoral, misleading, scheming, complex, inefficient, ineffective, inadequate, over-indulgent, imprecise and inaccurate bureaucrat who could die of any number of self-inflicted chronic health problems the next moment.  Although I’m sure he has a redeeming trait or two. They all deserve a medal.

Live the Dream.

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Approach and Reapproach

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This is an interesting site about mazes using graphical techniques. When I look at the examples I am reminded of my approach and reapproach of core concepts to have new insights. This a key element of mental flexibility. It is not wrong to attempt again and again to solve the same problem. It is wrong to attempt again and again to solve the same problem with the same approach.  It should also be recognized that differences in problem and approach can be subtle.

Intelligence is not Behaviour but Prediction

Came across a video of Jeff Hawkins of the Redwood Neuroscience Institute explaining brain theory.

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Remember, the above diagram as you view the video. Also think about the Universe of Discourse as explained by James Moffett. The theory has already been hinted at.

Tetrad Theories

Here is a table to describe some of the tetrads we have discussed so far in this blog.

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The first column is our friend Structured Query Language (SQL). The second column is the four components of physiological and psychological health. The third column is the tetrad of McLuhan’s Laws of Media. The fourth column are the Zachman Framework’s four perspectives. The fifth column are the first four Structured Development Lifecycle (SDLC) phases.

The rows in the table correlate the similar facets of each of the tetrads. I will go into detail in a later post. How does energy, matter, location and event correlate? How do the Secrets of the Universe of Discourse correlate? How does data, information, knowledge and wisdom correlate? How does colon classification correlate?

Take a moment and let yourself stretch.

Sanity (revisited)

After a bit of reflection it occurred to me that each of the data manipulation operations reflects each of the four aspects of sanity I discussed earlier. It is almost as if being granted these operations by your mind is being granted your degree of health.

  1. Select
  2. Insert
  3. Update
  4. Delete

If you have select privilege you are able to focus. If you have insert privilege you are allowed flexibility. If you have update privilege you maintain objectivity. If you have delete privilege you are permitting yourself to be resilient.

It should be noted that you not only grant these privileges to yourself. You grant them to other people as well. Then the security cube can become personally relevant defining your simplicity or complexity as a person. The same goes for any system you design.

Sanity

I was doing some reading today on the topic of “mental flexibility” and as I Googled I found the topic evolve into a description of “mental health” with mental flexibility being one of the components. What follows is a summary of what I found.

All too often we define mental illness, but a clear definition of mental health is elusive. But from what I read mental health is not complicated. Mental health has four components:

  1. Focus
  2. Flexibility
  3. Objectivity
  4. Resiliency

A focused person knows what he wants from life. A flexible person is willing to take different approaches to get what he wants. An objective person recognizes what approach works and what approach doesn’t. A resilient person is not only prepared to let go of what doesn’t work, but to accept what does persistently. If you are mentally healthy you have all four of these aspects working in your favor. If for whatever reason you do not have one of these traits you are to some degree ill.

How does this relate to this blog? Apply this formula to any data based project you undertake and you will discover that there is a degree of disfunction in pretty well every one. And now let’s harken back to John Zachman’s perspectives:

  1. Conceptual: Are you focused?
  2. Contextual: Are you flexible?
  3. Logical: Are you objective?
  4. Physical: Are you resilient?

Funny how the paradigms shift like a Porsche transmission.