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Author Archives: Rick Ladd

About Rick Ladd

Born in 1947, I am an officially retired pensioner who still has two teenage daughters and a desire to contribute. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Machine Learning, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowdsourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. Since my "retirement" I have done a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. I've also done a fair amount of Facebook marketing as well. There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0)

Hey! Long Time, No See.

QuantelliaLogoPaleI know it’s been quite a while since last I posted here. I’ve been continuously active on Facebook and have begun tweeting quite a bit as well, but that’s not why I haven’t posted to this blog in the past nearly three months. As of March 1 I began a new career, probably not the kind of thing you hear about 70-year-olds doing all that often. Since then I have been working as the Business Manager for Quantellia, LLC. You may recall I’ve done work for and with Quantellia on and off for the past six years.

Quantellia is a small AI/ML software development house and, until now, one of the co-founders has been running the business. Inasmuch as she is also the organization’s Chief Scientist, and a well-known pioneer in Machine Learning, this was not exactly the optimal thing for her to be doing. I had been touching on the subject and, since she was having such a hard time getting someone competent to run the business, I pressed my offer to do so. She finally relented and things have been going swimmingly, although there have been times I was swimming against the current. I’m definitely climbing a steep learning curve, which sometimes has me questioning if I’m losing my edge.

Actually, at times I can’t quite tell if my intellect is slipping a little bit, or if I just don’t care as much as I used to and I’m not quite as arrogantly sure of myself. My memory seems to be intact, along with my ability to learn and adapt. I’m going to go with the “I just don’t care as much about things as I used to; I’m more sanguine about life, work, and the need to control everything.

At any rate, I’m having a lot of fun. I was once partnered with two CPAs, doing royalty accounting for some big acts: Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, The Cars, Dollie Parton, Ronnie Milsap, The Commodores, even Jimi Hendrix’s estate. I learned a fair amount about accounting back then, and now I’m getting the opportunity to revisit what I learned, applying it in different circumstances. I’m also learning about artificial intelligence and machine learning, and hope to convey some of what’s going on in these fields. Although not a data scientist, I am quite capable of seeing where AI can be applied in business to assist with all kinds of issues. I’m sure you can as well.

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The Irony is as Thick as the Karma

Venceremos Brigade-FBIWhen I returned from a two-month working journey to Cuba in 1973, the FBI showed up at my door with questions about my trip. I had been a member of the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade, and a small part of my education for the trip was the admonition to politely refuse to speak with them, which is what I did.

It was a short, pleasant conversation. I told them I wasn’t going to answer any questions and they asked me if I was sure. I said “yes” and they said “have a nice day” and left. That was it.

My years of activism had brought me to the attention of many law enforcement agencies, chief among them the LAPD and the FBI.

All to say, there’s been little love lost between me and these organizations . . .

Yet I’m really looking forward to what James Comey has to say.


The Nothingburger Memo And Disappointment

After a couple weeks of breathless anticipation, endlessly hyped by Trump TV . . . er . . . Fox News, the ballyhooed Nunes memo was finally released, creating a giant thud as it fell flat on its face. After all the buildup and breathless hyperbolating over it being set to expose the worst scandal in United States history, it was a real let down, though you wouldn’t know that by the response of the Knucklehead-in-Chief or his band of merry sycophants.

As I have mentioned before, I’ve been spending time learning how to use Photoshop to create my own renditions of the news or other things that catch my fancy. I’ve got two of them related to this debacle. One I created is based on an earlier “confrontation” where something Mueller had done was written off by the right as a “nothingburger”. I’m afraid I can’t quite remember what that something was, but I obviously reacted to it. I didn’t do much; merely found a great shot of a hamburguesa tremenda, then added some words.

The second one took a bit more work as I had to create a series of layer masks to represent what I envisioned. Generally, I put these together, then post them to Facebook and, at times, to Twitter as well. I’m working on remembering to post them here too.

Here they are, with added captions.

NothingBurger

Wrap Your Mouth Around This Puppy

The Memo

Jerky is Such a Disappointment When You’re Expecting a Thick, Juicy Steak


Cheetolini Hard at Work

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m teaching myself Photoshop. As far as I can tell, one of the most important things to understand and use is layers. This is one of my first creations where I was beginning to understand how to use layers to change pictures in both large and small ways.

May years ago I worked at a silk screen shop. Silk screening required the creation of (as I recall) four separate screens (layers) in order to create the colors of whatever poster was being printed. Those colors were the primary ones: Red, blue, and yellow . . . as well as black. If the poster called for orange, then the area to be that color was open on both the red and the yellow screens. Same thing for green, purple, brown, etc.

The thing I remember most about working there (I was in my very early twenties) was coming home higher than a kite at times. This was because we used a lot of toluene as a solvent for creating and cleaning the screens. There were days when I breathed in a lot of that stuff. There were no requirements to wear masks and I don’t think there were many, if any, regulations in place regarding adequate ventilation, etc. Now that I think about it, it’s a wonder I can recall anything about that job. I did enjoy the work, though.

So here’s an early picture I ginned up using PS. It consists of seven layers:

Cheetolini at Work

Where’s My Phone? I Need My Phone!


They’re Finally Catching Up To Me

The last few years I was employed at Rocketdyne, my job – which I essentially created – was to research social media for the purpose of bringing it inside the firewall for internal communication and collaboration.

As a result, I became both well educated in the use of numerous apps and platforms, and excited about the possibilities they represented. When the Space Shuttle program was nearing it’s end, everyone over sixty was offered an early severance package.

After some research I decided to accept the offer, which I characterized as a “gold-leafed handshake.” I was pretty excited about going out on my own and offering social media marketing services to local small businesses. Unfortunately, very few people knew what I was talking about and most businesses remained content to spend $200/month on a Yellow Pages ad that likely got thrown in a recycle bin the moment it arrived.

I’m not entirely certain, but it does seem like things have changed and many more businesses understand the value in promoting via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. As a result in finding it easier to get clients to help and supplement my retirement income.

This year promises to be very interesting.


America The Not So Beautiful

Dissent is Patriotism

I believe I wrote this (see below) during the administration of George W. Bush who, at the time, I thought was the worst President I had lived through. Harry S. Truman was POTUS when I was born (1947) but the first I remember is Ike (Dwight D. Eisenhower). With the election of Donald J. Trump, I have lived through 13 presidencies, most of them two-termers.

Now that I’ve figured that out, and despite not being superstitious, I can’t help but note that Trump is number 13 and, were I triskaidekaphobic, that reality (a difficult word to use in the Drumpf era, no?) would be significant. In this case, I consider it amusing, but entirely random.

At any rate, inasmuch as I’ve begun using this space to share some of my other work from different venues and applications, I have some old poetry and the like I will no doubt put up on occasion. Some of what I’ve written (and bothered to keep over the years) is not what I would consider complete, as I sometimes just jot stuff down as it occurs to me and often don’t actually spend the time completely fleshing it out.

One day I guess I was thinking of the song “America The Beautiful”, as I’m wont to do at times, since I love to sing and patriotic songs — as well as religious ones — are often particularly beautiful. It doesn’t mean I believe in them, at least not any longer . . . and not for a long time, but they’re pleasing to the ear musically, if not lyrically. So here’s a verse of that song, as rewritten by me at least 10, more likely 15, years ago.

Oh beautiful for specious lies
That shelter capital gains
For the poor and elderly
Who endure financial strains

America, America
Your God damned lies I see
Have replaced thy good with two-bit hoods
And political chicanery

I’ve known for a long time the reality of what this country stands for is far from what most of us were led to believe (read “brainwashed”), but I still feel it’s important to think of those things as aspirational. As Robert F. Kennedy said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

I wish this truly were the greatest nation on the planet, but it’s not. If you think about it, I don’t believe there is such a thing. Different nations lead in different areas of government, economy, and society. There isn’t one that truly stands out as “the greatest”. We can leave that to Muhammed Ali, who really was just that. 😉


How Have You Disrespected The Flag?

I just wrote about my feelings regarding what I consider to be a truly overzealous display of the American flag I encounter practically everywhere I go. I received a comment mentioning how disconcerting it is to see so many people wear the flag, or disrespect it in some way, contrary to correct flag etiquette. I’m not necessarily a huge stickler on these matters, but it serves to point out the rank hypocrisy of many, especially those who complain that taking a knee during the anthem is disrespectful.

Also, in my previous post I suggested I would be sharing some of my Photoshop efforts as I see fit. So . . . here is another file I created regarding ways in which the flag should not be displayed. Every one of these, with the exception of Old Glory flying in the background, is wrong according to United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1. Especially relevant to this post is §8. Respect for flag. Here’s the appropriate language of that section:

The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

Note that bunting does NOT include the stars, only the stripes and the colors red, white, and blue, with blue always being at the top and red at the bottom.

Inappropriate Use of Flag

Don’t Do These Things. It’s Disrespectful. 😛

I truly don’t understand people who scream bloody murder about respect for the flag, yet have no clue as to the etiquette called for in its display. Keep in mind, however, although there are federal regulations involving respect for the flag, none of them are actually enforced . . . as should be clearly evident by the ways in which businesses and people use it to adorn just about everything, including napkins, tablecloths, socks, t-shirts, etc. So go ahead and disrespect our flag in whatever way you wish; just shut the fuck up when others do it in a manner they think appropriate . . . especially if it’s part of a protest designed to bring attention to injustice.


 

PS – Here are a couple of choice provisions I find interesting:

  • (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. (How many football games have begun with the unfurling of a large U.S. flag, carried horizontally down the field?)
  • (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. (What did you eat on last July 4th? Did you maybe casually wipe your mouth with our flag?)

I suggest reading the rules if it’s important to you and, if you have complained about how people show their respect, I suggest you make it important.


Triple Blast From The Past!

I have been learning Photoshop for a while now and, although I’m not doing much of anything constructive with it, I do like to play around and give a little substance to some of my thoughts and ideas. Most of what I’ve done has been shared on Facebook, which has been my primary conduit to the world, along with this blog.

However, I think it’s time I started sharing my work, if only as a way to preserve it a little better than Facebook does. Usually, I’m thinking about making a statement and using PS to do it. Here’s one I posted today, with the comment “Triple blast from the past! Three memorable alticons deliciously blended into one. 

Nambian Covpepe

Good for . . . nothing.

I should also point out that, for the past two months I’ve been posting on Facebook on behalf of the Simi Valley Tourism Alliance, and I’ve felt it necessary to use PS several times to create useful graphics to include on some of these posts. This was especially true because, even though I specified in my proposal to them that members of the Alliance would be responsible for providing much of the content, that has yet to happen and I’ve been required to create almost all of it. It’s not difficult . . . but it most definitely is time consuming.

PS – I was in a hurry on this one, so didn’t take the requisite time I would have needed to change those “F”s in “P”s. Nevertheless, I think it makes the point I wished to make.


Free Access to “A People’s History”

A People's History

A Classic . . . and Important . . . work!

Most historians in the U.S., as far as I can tell, tend to believe in the “Great Man” theory of history; the belief that history can be largely explained by the impact of great men, or heroes; highly influential individuals who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill used their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.

Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States, takes the exact opposite view; that history is made by the people, the masses, the average working man and woman who comprise the body politic, and whose lives tell the story of a society’s development. Individuals are seen as products of the society in which they grew and came to prominence, representatives of the people or oppressors of the people, but not apart from the “salt of the Earth”.

If you ever wanted to read this wonderful book, but haven’t gotten around to it, or you’d like to be able to peruse it before taking the plunge (it is a formidable, but entertaining, read) you can find the book in its entirety at History is a Weapon. I believe this particular book is more important than ever, as we become more and more politically active and strive to wrest control over our government, which has been hijacked by vile white nationalists, religionists, and science deniers. I’ve included the link to the book below.

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html


Jingo Bells. Jingo All The Way

How could I know what country I’m in if there weren’t so many flags flying all over the place? The Urban Dictionary defines “Jingo” as “Someone who is extremely and overly patriotic. Differs from regular patriotism in that jingoism is usually more aggressive.”

Jingoism

My . . . aren’t we exceptional, if we don’t say so ourselves.

Call me crazy, but I find it puzzling and borderline offensive to see flags flying all over the place. Flags are appropriate for military installations, vehicles, and uniforms. Same goes for police and firefighters. Even at schools they make some sense, and I have no problem with individuals flying them from their home for Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and similar occasions.

But Arby’s? Taco Bell isn’t flying one, though I suppose you could make an argument for a Mexican flag being appropriate. The Hat has no flag pole and neither do most businesses in most any city or town. Flying a flag at a business is, I suppose, up to the owners of the business, and they certainly have every right to do so. I just can’t help wonder why it’s deemed so important to continuously announce one’s patriotism or theoretical love of country. If your flag is bigger than mine, does that mean you’re a better citizen than I; that you’re more enthusiastic about our freedoms and liberties, such as they are?

Also, we Americans seem to have forgotten our flag etiquette. In fact, I’d wager the most of the most enthusiastic flag wavers know the least about how one respects the flag. For instance, you are not supposed to wear it as a piece of clothing. Three people come to mind immediately: Sarah Palin; Ted Nugent, and Tomi Lahren. If you fly one at night, it’s supposed to be illuminated, yet I’ve seen many a home with a flag displayed 24/7, and unlit at night.

I’m not claiming to be more — or even as — patriotic as the next person. What I am interested in pointing out is the hypocrisy of people who wear their patriotism on their sleeve (sometimes quite literally) and lay claim to being super patriotic, despite having neither the knowledge, nor the understanding, of proper respect and etiquette with respect to our nation’s flag. When I think of patriotism, I harken back to what Thomas Paine wrote 241 years ago this Saturday in “The Crisis“:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

A phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet also comes to mind. I paraphrase:

“The Jingoist doth flag wave too much . . . methinks.”

This overblown patriotism they exhibit is hardly convincing. If they were so damned patriotic, so pure in their love of country which — one might be disposed to think — requires a love of its people as well, it should show in their actions and their relationships with their fellow citizens. On the contrary, most of the loudest chest-beaters harbor a great deal of declared animosity to those they deem as “others”. It’s difficult to see that as something American values ought to exalt.

I learned a long time ago the truly strong are humble, reserved, and quick to help, not hurt others. By the same token, the truly patriotic aren’t likely to brag about or hold their love of country as a weapon to be wielded in a culture war against fellow citizens. As an American, I love my country . . . and I love it more than I love any political party, any religion, or any philosophy of governance or economics. As a human being, I love humanity more than my country, but I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life, so it means a lot to me; nearly everything I’ve ever loved is within its borders. Nevertheless, I don’t need to feverishly wave a flag to prove I’m an American. It’s my heritage, and I’m thankful for it, not proud of something I had nothing to do with.

 


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