Bureaucracy: The Olympic Torch Bearer


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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Zen: Don’t Think Good or Evil


If you think good and evil,

You become a person of good and evil.

I recently chanced upon a book sale and was able to purchase a book of Zen koans and a book of Haiku poetry for a fair price.  I had read about Zen in the past, but I had not read actual works by Zen masters.


I have completed reading Zen Inspirations: Essential Meditations and Text, by Dr. Miram Levering for the first time.  It includes the complete text of The Gateless Gate a thirteenth century collection of koans, commentary and poetry by Ekai, known as Mumon.  The book also includes The Ten Ox-herding Pictures accompanied by ten poems by the twelfth century Chinese monk K’uo-an Shih-yuan It is definitely not something you read only once.  I enjoyed the Zen masters’ admonitions to read the koan and permit yourself to solve it quickly and without hesitation to discover the enlightenment that comes from honesty.  As I read the koans, I let myself be honest about my inner response and the wisdom of the Zen masters became increasingly amusing.  I think I came to be enlightened many times by their frank honesty about the human condition, the Buddha and the Tao.  I think one admonition by Zen master Mumon, that if you encounter someone filled with the Tao, strike him in the face with all the strength you have, sums up what I have learned.

The Zen koans and Taoism I find agree with the philosophy of science, the philosophy of Karl Popper, skepticism, the evolutionary biology of Charles Darwin, the physics of Werner Heisenberg and the mathematics of Kurt Goedel seamlessly.  Uncertainty remains the only certainty.

There is origin without origin, direction without direction, destination without destination.  Any sense of order is localized and transient.  That is the Tao Te and not the Tao Te, and that is what the adherents to Zen struggle with daily.

I don’t claim understanding or overstanding of this paradox.

Netular Technology versus Psuedo-Netular Technology


I have been having a very interesting discussion on Linkedin.com having expressed my opinion about current information technology and the netular  information technology I would like to see.

The people who have been exchanging their views with me cannot see the forest for the trees.  One is offended that I do not rave about all the social transitions the technologies are offering.  Another spews buzzwords like a chainsaw.  Another assumes my opinion is a product of my impatience for the convergence of the existing technologies.

Einstein once said he would spend a majority of his time defining a problem and a fraction of his time solving it.  A majority of the time on information technology is spent solving and a fraction actually taken to understand.  The consequence is most of the solutions out there are not designed, they are hastily assembled patchworks that because of the inertia of being first on the field are only replaced by further patches.

Our entire system of networks is built upon a foundation of linear and tabular architecture that is present in our CPUs, memory, storage, data structures, programming languages, organization, locations, events and goals.  In reality we are only dabbling in networks and doing an abysmal job of using them to their full effect.  We don’t understand them.

Marshall McLuhan said that when a new media is created the first thing we do is pump old media through it.  That is what we are doing now.  We are taking every form of old media we have and pushing it through the internet.  There is not a single case where we have successfully departed from linear and tabular old media.  I have looked at all the current technology, I have used it, I understand its internals and I stand by what I say.

We need a fundamental change in the way information technology works otherwise we are going to continue with an undesigned brute force attempt to solve our problems without ever understanding them.  The outcome will not be progress, but the perpetuation of flat earth thinking.

Linear and tabular thought are responsible for many of the problems we have in the world.  The biggest is the inability to fully appreciate the uniqueness of everything and everyone in this world.  The supreme example of this has been the long history of Religion, Genocide, Slavery, Nationalism, Imperialism, Racism, Eugenics, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Marxism, Capitalism and Socialism.  All of them fail us because they depended on linear and tabular models of thought that denied the respect of the individuality of all experience.  True netular thought has the potential to challenge all of these misconceptions.  I think it is appropriate that this transition is on the horizon with the rise of globalism.  I doubt it will be a peaceful transition.

Actually, the insights into the underlying order in networks has made quite a bit of progress. One of the leaders in this area is Albert-Beszlos Barabasi who authored the book “Linked” http://www.nd.edu/~networks/Linked/index.html . Another researcher Kwabena Boahen made a fascinating presentation at TED http://tinyurl.com/6nnkb7 . There is also the work of Simon Williams that has come up with a new associative database architecture http://www.lazysoft.com as well as a commercial product, Sentences.

It is time for everyone to fundamentally change the way they think.

If You Don’t Like the Speed, Get Off the Ride

We have lived in “exponential times” since the big bang (if there was one)


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Systema: Whyever? Part 1


Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on the concept of a Business Motivation Model and have thought about it in the context of physics as “cause”. The Business Rules Group attempted to create a Business Motivation Model, but I came to the conclusion they have failed. When they should have been attempting to create a notational system, they instead came up with a generalized business model.

The purpose of the “Why” focus in the Zachman Framework and correspondingly the Six Hats, Six Coats Framework, is to gauge the order of the system. The Green Hat row and Green Coat Column describe how legalistic the system is–how many causes a system contains.

The best way to think about the causality of a system is not business rules, but game theory. In particular, causality as a three dimensional network relating strategies. A good Business Motivation Model notation would allow the modeler to represent the strategies of all parties, how they interact and the expected outcomes. The Extensive Form Game notation is a good start but I think with some work I could come up with something better.

Part 2 here.

Related Posts:

Systema: Seven Hats, Seven Links