Thursday, February 22, 2024

Foreign Policy Association (FPA)

TL;DR -- This post is about the FPA which is 100 years old and which has a mission fostering discussion about the U.S. and its foreign policies. Their purpose is to inform, engage, and inspire. Timely discussion about the upcoming election is one goal for 2024. 

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Recently, we were reminded of the FPA and its offshoot discussion group. On reviewing their material, we had to write this post since it deals with U.S. policy, is over 100 years old, and has transitioned into the new age by having a web prescence. The reminder was via meetings held regularly at an educational institute. But, lots of organizations have sponsored meetings. As well, this is an open forum and relates to foreign policy of the U.S. 

The About FPA page of the Foreign Policy Association covers their mission plus it gives a brief history starting in the 1920s. The FPA was "founded in 1918 as the League of Free Nations Association" which was post WWI. Among the incorporators were John Foster Dulles and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both of these are of New England heritage. 

Before going further, let's stop and look at another group that was here and abroad: Lyceum Movement (post dated in May 2017). This started in the U.S. in New England and spread across the country. We read of small towns in the interior of the country being part of the movement. The focus was literature. Along that same line, there have been many attempts at magazines during the time of the U.S., some of which were literary in focus: Magazines and people

Getting back to the FPA, naturally, topics of interest have changed over the years. For 2023, the topics were quite contemporary. Some of these may have been in vogue longer than other. The image shows the topics being discussed in 2023. For all of the topics, there are resources which include recommended reading as well as a listing of discussion groups that might be near the reader. 

Over all of this time, the FPA has been doing "Opinion ballots" and reporting the results. We will do another post on these results. 

Let's close with the Mission Statement of the FPA: ... "serve as a catalyst for developing awareness, understanding, and informed opinion on U.S. foreign policy and global issues." 

So, their pseudo-motto might be: Inform; Engage; and Inspire.  

Remarks: Modified: 02/22/2024

02/22/2024 --  

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Alta California

TL;DR -- As our initial focus was New England, New France came into focus early. But, after the start of the U.S. and the beginnings of the movement to the west, New Spain became the theme of research. Our early looks at this were about Los Angeles and San Francisco around the start of the 20th century.  As we step back in time, Portola's efforts come into view with interesting history to consider. We can start by considering the 1776 beginning of the Mission San Francisco de Asis. 
 
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We had mentioned Spain in earlier posts while discussing the times before the Cape Ann expedition. Several countries were fishing along the eastern seaboard. It was being more efficient in providing products from the yearly fishing efforts that precipiated the colony focus. 

Our first reference to New Spain was with our look at Jedediah Strong Smith's journey from the east coast through St. Louis, in the 1820s, out to the west coast. Our post on Jedediah covered his wanderings which are of note. Hence, he has been mentioned many times. With respect to Spain, Jedediah went south and west through the Mojave Desert, in summer. His appearance in the LA area was a surprise. Luckily, Jedediah was able to talk his way to freedom and continued up north and then back toward the east. He met his demise in the wesern area of Kansas. 

In the time of the pandemic and its isolation, we spent a lot of time researching the middle of the country. Okay. That was part of the Louisiana Purchase. Both France and Spain had been involved in the exploration of the area. We had looked at New France first, as it was the other side of the conflict before the Revolutionary War. Many use the French-Indian Affair. The friction was between France and its Native Indian allies and England via New England; as well, there was conflict in Europe and at sea.  

As we start to look at folks who had ventured all the way to the west coast, we realized that we needed to look at New Spain more closely. For instance, Coronado was close to where I am in 1541. In Texas and in the southwest, New Spain was the principal colonizer. California sites have been given lots of attention in the blog of late. There are several reasons for this. We're looking at the long reach of New England. And, John went to school and worked in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Of late, he has been look at Bunker Hill West which is part of the downtown LA area where we can see changes over several periods, such as the early arrival, the mansion period, commercial focus, and the modern status of high-rise island in a sea of sprawl. The web is offering lots of incentive to research by allowing systematic publication of photos across time. As well, the social media spaces (such as Facebook) are providing means for like minds to compare findings. 

We will continue with the themes of California as it allowed the start of the series and will expand into all of the regions where New England families settled over the past 250 years. Part of this effort is looking at the rivers and waterways that supported the development of areas. 

Now, today's theme ventures back up north. Last year, we did several posts on San Francisco, some of which dealt with the impact of the major quake from the early 1900s. We actually looked at the region in our early days due to tracking the history of a barque Bostonian that had been built and used by a Gardiner for whom a town is named in Oregon. We learned a lot from that exercise which generated more questions than answers. 

Along that line, the Bostonian was in San Franciso at least two times. But, that brought up other visitors to the area, such as Judge Thompson who helped establish Montana as a State. He was there around the time of the Civil War. Later, we see the railroad coming into play with faster and more reliable transportation across the wide expanse of the country. 

But, let's step back, again. As we can look at the establishment of the San Francisco region by New Spain. Facebook has a group with the title, Alta California, which follows Portola's expedition up the coast.  Portola's group built missions and forts. Of the later, we have the Presidio of San Francisco which we have mentioned several times. 

Of the former, this photo is of the Mission San Francisco (St. Francis) de Asis. A mass was celebrated on 9 Oct 1776 for the laying of the cornerstone for this mission. 
 
Mission, St. Francis, Assisi
in San Francisco, CA

This post is cursory as it skims over a lot of history with regard to Spain's explorations and colonizations. We will begin a series with a closer look at California's start

Remarks: Modified: 02/20/2024

02/20/2024 --  


Monday, February 19, 2024

US, examples, LA

TL;DR -- Los Angeles is interesting in so many ways. This post pulls some thoughts about what is known as Bunker Hill West which is in the heart of the downtown area that many do not remember. 

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This is another of the posts about Bunker Hill west which included a few, such as New England, in LA. As mentioned earlier, the first of these was motivated by looking at Butterfield and his relationship with the Mirror Company. The Los Angeles Times was a product of a later version of this company. Their building was emptied when the LA Times ran up north to be valley people. Now, its fate is being discussed. 

Luckily, the LA City Hall and some of the associated buildings are still there. We show a photo comparing to eras below. First though, near where the City Hall is now there was a Cathedral (St Vibiana) which was moved. As a reference, there was a post (Lost Angeles, again) that contained this real early photo of the area.  

St. Vibiana, 1885 

The area of the old cathedral and the city hall might be considered as at the eastern foot of Bunker Hill (west). US 101 runs right by there. Too, the whole area was rearranged a few decades ago. One result was the Dodger Stadium was built. Skid row was move several blocks over to the east toward the railroad. Fortunately, the old LA Train Station was spared. 

The story is well documented. What we have coming to fore are photos from people that can help us preserve the history. Case in point, the following image shows two photo from about the same location. One is from the 1950s and shows the LA City Hall in all of its glory. 

Two views of 
Bunker Hill West from 
the northwest

The later, bottom view is more recent. Some of the buildings are the same. But, the City Hall is now obstructed in the view, except for its tip. The low, flat building in the foreground? That is where the St. Viviana Cathedral was moved to. We will get back to the architecture and positioning. But, it is right at the corner of US101 and I110. Pan around to the right, and one will see the Cathedral of the Lady of the Angels. Too, the high rises of Bunker Hill will come into view. 

A prior post had this photo, which includes the LA City Hall, taken from the southeast. 


Those building are an island of high-rise in a sea of extended development that turned into the sprawl of LA. We have this photo for that, too, that bears some discussion. LA's downtown and Bunker Hill West is visible on the upper right.  


This view shows I110 pacing through the sprawl from its interchange with I105. 

Remarks: Modified: 02/19/2024

02/19/2024 --  

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Now and then

TL;DR -- So, new and old; or, old and new. Technology has been around; it's a different flavor in the modern age. And, the past? In the U.S., we have the 400th and the 250th. We'll add another, the 100th. Say, IBM's picking up its new name. But, we mustn't forget the pandemic of 1918, either.  

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This post brings together the old and the new. We have a focus on technology going forward as well as continuing with the themes of history and genealogy. We started with Dr. Frank's book and the growing accumulation of data that was becoming available with the web. In terms of genealogy, we follow the work of the NEHGS plus keep an eye on WikiTree which got our attention due to their Great Migration project.

Last year, there were two events that characterize the old and new. We summarized these in the lastest post: Current status. In short, we got more information via the modern copying methods that allowed Sherborne, Dorset, UK records to be accessible. Then, on the other end of things, we saw the LLM assisted by xNN making waves (that is, the large language model tied with machine learning of the neural network variety). 

The latest ACM Comm has an article by a cognitive roboticist (see bottom of post) which looks at the LLM/xNN approach from both the operational side of things as well as the philosophical aspects that apply. The ACM has made this public: Talking about Large Language Models. Later, we provide links with regard to technology including discussion of how robots might exhibit an attribute of the living (cognition).  

So, back to the old, we point to Harvard's Gazette and a 2015 article. We had several posts related to the Presidents of Harvard in terms of New England history and the associated heritages. We started this series in 2021 after we read of James Bryant Conant in the New Yorker. Today, we saw the Gazette article on an old burial ground in Cambridge. 

Another group that we follow is on Facebook: New England Family Genealogy and History. There was an article about a list of historic voyages from New England to California. We ventured into this subject when we learned of a barque owned by a Gardiner that wrecked along the Oregon Coast. There are still open issues to research: The Gardiner that was

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So, to the new which deals with technology. IBM was named 100 years ago. It was decades before we saw the buckets-of-bits that are the reality now. We will discuss that. The Idaho National Laboratory is a little younger. It was one of the sites for nuclear research (reactors). 

Aside: The Spanish Flu was of 100 years ago, too. Plus, WWI, with WWII in the wings. Then, we had aviation coming about. Computation was a dream until about 50 or so years ago. 

ACM Comm has been covering the AI booms and busts for decades. Are we in a boom now? It might seem so listening to some of the rhetoric related to the xNN/LLM events of 2023. Actually, there was steady work that  accelerated after 2010. The approach is heavily mathematical using a scheme called linear algebra. Gaming over the decades helped evolve chips that could handle the processing fast enough to be reasonably effective. Now, other improvements are going to speed things up. 

But, there are limits to technology. Too, we have ourselves (old as we are) as examples with which to evaluate the endeavors. xNN/LLM's performance has resulted in some into thinking that we are witnessing cognitive states such as intelligence. Many argue against that notion. 

Let's look at robotics. The INL (see above) has worked on developing humanoid robots for years. There is a need to have tools that can handled dangerous materials and situations without endangering humans. The IEEE has a robotics group that is involved in the work and in publishing their results. This group has been studying issues related to robots exhibiting cognitiveness

Per usual, Wikipedia has a great coverage: Cognitive_robotics.  

Remarks: Modified: 02/13/2024

02/13/2024 --  Added image. 


Monday, February 12, 2024

A year ago

TL;DR -- A year ago, the world was three months past the release of ChatGPT with millions signing up. What did that event pertail? We spent several months reviewing the various options as well as looking again at the history from Dartmouth onward. In this new year, one can sense a change. Will there be less hype? 

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By this time last year, we were catching up on machine learning. Much later, we wrote the first of a series: Artificial intelligence, not solely machine learning (or AI, not solely ML) We put a "Papers" folder to publish articles with respect to xNN/LLM. That's refers to the neural net approach plus the large language model. John was involved with advanced computing his whole career and did lots of algorithmic work including those related to artificial intelligence and to what was then known as evolutionary computing including machine learning. His finals decades were oriented toward modeling with a focus on engineering support.   

So the following is a recap of the past year. After finding out about ChatGPT, we started discussions of the Director, Larry L. Walker, of the Sperry Univac Knowledge Systems Center (KSC). After some reflection, we planned a series of articles that would cover the history of computing and the related mathematics. The first thing that we published dealt with the decisions behind the KSC and with its accomplishments. The title was: Sperry Univac Pioneers Application of Artificial Intelligence – 1985-1987. 

After that, Larry wrote of his experiences with computing from the early days of Control Data and to his knowledge systems (expert systems) work. Meanwhile, Larry and John discussed the technology involved with Knowledge-based engineering (KBE) which was central to Boeing's 777 program. Throughout the year, the research looked into what happened with KBE at Boeing, in subsequent years, and in the world, in general. 

We have had some posts here on these subjects which we will collect. Late last year, the ACM Communications had an article by Thomas Haigh that looked at the history of AI and argued that there had been no AI Winter up to 1980 though the popular press seems to say that there was. In this regard, Larry talked of his having seen the AI winter of 1990. In the latest ACM Comm, Prof. Haigh published another article. This one is titled How the AI Boom Went Bust which agrees with Larry's assessment. 

So, letting John chime in, he has seen no AI Winter. KBE? It is still part of some CAD systems. Now, we can argue that it is not to the expectation that was there in the 1990s. John would agree. However, in doing a quick survey, there are many other names that KBE continued as. The theme with that is to not associate with a failed system. But, digging deeply, most of the continuals that John saw reference KBE as being in their history. 

Personally, for him? He worked KBE from the late 1980s until 2005 when he retired. Then, his focus became truth engineering which was spawned at Boeing and has continued in a research mode. Now, AI was created by mathematicians one of whom (John McCarthy) coined the term. Dartmouth was the site of a meeting on the subject in the 1950s. And, all along since the 1950s, there have been periods of excitement as people contemplate some creature emerging from the fog of computing ala Science Fiction's take on the matter. 

Being adult about the situation? A closer look, under the covers, shows the mathematics at play. Yes, it is sophisticated. Taming the hype cycles will require some maturity. Part of that will be grasping that mathematics and bringing it out to public view. 

Since that first paper on AI and ML, there have been two more which present the important factors that need to be discussed. A fourth one is in the works. After that, the focus will be on a discussion that is practical in scope. John will offer one example which comes from the KBE work. 

Essentially, some in the discipline of data science have been traveling the right path. Actually, there are many examples of computational systems providing benefits via services that we can respect as they offer results that have value. 

The theme of utmost importance will be determined by people as the technology progress. And, the universal themes seems to have been conjured up through the efforts of a few. Local themes have been given little attention. AI gives us a chance for a better balance; in fact, such a balance would improve all humans affairs, including science. 

Remarks: Modified: 02/13/2024

02/13/2024 --  Added image. 


Friday, February 9, 2024

Current status


TL;DR -- Two major things happened last year. Both dealt with technology. One had to do with the future as it might be influenced by computing. The other had to do with the influence of the computer on the past in terms of records. Then, we have all sorts of other themes at hand to consider. 

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This post has the purpose to get the current status of the Thomas Gardner Society, Inc. on the table. There were two major things that happened last year. Then, we reacted to another change in the on-line environment. 

Caveat: This will replace the "In summary" post of last spring. 

First, the two things, as in order with respect to our focus, of note last year were: 

  • We became aware of the xNN/LLM maneuvering in late January and did a post on Febuary 1: ChaptGPT. Prior to that time, we had taken a hands-off approach to AI for reasons that are documented in later posts last year and before (actually). We knew that there was money involved with big names getting into action. But, it's a mess, folks, which we intend to bring to the fore as our major project. Let's table that for a bit. Too, there was the 400th of Gloucester last year (next bullet). Then, there is the upcoming 250th as noted by D.A.R. and S.A.R. which we spend a lot of time supporting. With respect to our research, see our category of the "Long reach of New England" which as been a theme for almost a decade. It got more attention when we considered that those on the Oregon Trail (some of them) had passed by the foot of Mount Oread which hosts the University of Kansas. And, that there had been a major effort on the part of New England to keep Kansas slave-free. Col. T. W. Higginson was out here. So was John Brown; we just had a post on his armed conflict with some people of out the south who were using Missouri as a staging ground for creating havoc with pioneers. Stay tuned on that. The other theme can be found after the next bullet.   
  • Okay, we were getting ready to write about Margaret Fryer the wife of Thomas Gardner. This was due to the fact that the 400th was collecting stories. And, our research had been effective is getting Margaret on the map. Anderson, and friends, had dissed her, essentially. But, then. We ventured to WikiTree which has been our research vehicle (for many reasons) and saw that someone had gone through the digital files of Sherborne, Dorset and found records for about all of the kids of Thomas and Margaret. Except, we might add, for Sarah who was known to have been born here in Salem in the mid-1630s. And, we saw that the WikiTree folks had split Thomas into two people. The one Thomas was the husband of Margaret. The other is an unknown. To us, we see these ones as the same. Thomas was here and went back. Hubbard suggested that. And, he was of the time and talked to the principals. Whatever turns out to be the fact, we'll adapt. But, right now, Thomas was at Cape Ann. Nothing really shows otherwise. But, how did we miss this? See the first bullet. Besides putting ChatGPT through its hallucinatory paces, we looked at others. Frankly, Bard of Google excels. We'll explain. The gist of the matter is that we can research from Salem to now. And, origins? Full of open issues which it is time for us to tackle. 
Another theme had been the west coast, principally San Francisco as we were looking at the quake and the aftereffects. But, Los Angeles got into the mix due to seeing that Butterfield (and others) had stopped in the Bunker Hill area to reprovision for further effort going north to San Francisco. Arriving there, they turned around and headed back to St. Louis by a long, arduous route. But, lots and lots of photos from various times started to crop up which made this theme even more important. 

This is cursory by purpose, as we'll have this research as a regular theme from now on. 

So, origins, for the most part, were not followed closely by us. We had concentrated on the generations from Thomas and Margaret until now. There are reaons for this. One dealt with the fact that research in the Old World was ongoing and best handled there. We, over here, have our own axes to grind. 

That was okay until now. We are henceforth taking origins to be a regular feature of our work. 

Remarks: Modified: 02/13/2024

02/13/2024 --  Added image.