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Monday, October 15, 2018

Carson McCullers’s Home in Columbus, Georgia

It was early in March and the weather alternated between chilly and wet, and bright green blossoming spring. I walked down the old sidewalks in the neighborhood where Carson McCullers lived, and I could feel a certain vibration – was it the feeling of the underdog?  The town is on a river that had just flooded, and like all towns on rivers, the heart and soul of the flowed in the waters.

Columbus, Georgia and the Chattahoochee River (photo Susan Smith Nash) 
Carson McCullers lived only a few miles from the Chattahoochee River, which involved driving on old brick streets, where lawns are manicured and green, and the shrubs and bushes grow rapidly, to bud out, flower and fade equally rapidly. It feels like a place of genius, and that it certain has been.

Carson McCullers’s home in Columbus, Georgia is now a living museum and a place for researchers working on Carson McCullers to stay in residence. It is connected to the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians (where Nick Norwood is its director) at Columbus State University. There they can immerse themselves in her life, times, and literary productions while living in a town that was, during Carson’s childhood, highly socially stratified and segregated industrial textile mill town.

Columbus, Georgia - Converted mills.  (photo - susan smith nash) 
Once inside the home, I was struck by the fact that people did not include hallways in the floorplan and they had to walk through the different rooms. That may explain some of the odd floor plans I’ve seen in older homes. Further, they do not have closets. It’s necessary to have armoires or large cedar chests and chests of drawers. So, you walk in and out of each other’s rooms without any sort of separation or buffer.

Carson McCullers's home and now museum in Columbus, Georgia (photo: susan smith nash) 
So, in such a home where there are no halls, you will always be a part of another person's room. As I looked at Carson's books, her work spaces, and her living quarters, I felt the sickness and the exultation. I felt the body desperately ravaged by rheumatic fever, and then by stroke after stroke, but more, I felt the body that felt itself connected to all of society’s harmed, broken, vulnerable, and desperately fragile, all of whom had in common the fact they loved, and they loved deeply, usually unrequited, unknown, or simply the wrong person. She has a special ability to describe the loneliness and isolation of the human condition, and the special human qualities of society’s misfits, outcasts, sick, young, old, and more.

Photo of Carson McCullers in her childhood home in Columbus, Georgia (photo: susan smith nash) 
Love was the condition that pushed the individual directly from room to room, place to place, feeling connections, but perhaps not able to express it, and certainly not able to articulate the pain and anguish when that love was not returned. It was a bright spring day and outside the azaleas were already blooming, the trees oxygenating the air with their showy green foliage. In this close, narrow house, I felt the harsh ironies of love when one does not love oneself. Carson McCullers was small, pixie-cut, brave, but fame was too much for her. She fell in love with a soldier at Fort Benning. They married. They loved each other, competed with each other, and ultimately had to separate. People blame her drinking, but that was probably only a symptom. Carson needed the competition as a conversation to continue to write, to have the courage to write about taboo subjects: The racial issues of the Deep South, the loves of the developmentally delayed, the deaf-mute, the same and “other-sex” confusion, all are painted in through scenes in which people react to each other, sacrifice themselves for each other, and then realize that their sacrifices ultimately meant nothing.

I saw the sofa where she composed many of her works, and I was moved by the fact that she continued to write, even after experiencing severe pain from her condition. Common wisdom holds that Carson McCullers was a desperate alcoholic, but others maintain that it was not really so much alcoholism as heart and vascular issues stemming from rheumatic fever and the series of strokes she suffered. At a certain point the sense of grief in the home was too much for me. I shivered lightly and looked out the front window and contemplated the neatly trimmed yards. The home is on a quiet residential street in a very nice part of town.

The lots are large and there are wide sidewalks where people walk their dogs. It reminded me of Ardmore, Oklahoma, and my grandmother’s house. Where did “The Ballad of the Sad CafĂ©” take place?  Near here? Near the river where Coca-Cola was supposedly formulated, and where people either worked as laborers in the textile mills or as gentry who spent time sipping mint juleps and capturing life in dreamy watercolors to hang in galleries with impossibly high ceilings and the musical tones of hushed, low Deep South antebellum accents. 

The Chattahoochee River at Columbus, Georgia (photo by susan smith nash) 
Life Edge: Interview with Nick Norwood, Director of the Carson McCullers Center

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Energy Industry 4.0: Extreme Transformation Opens Extreme Opportunities

Industry 4.0 has arrived in the energy industry. Just how does the extreme digitalization, monitoring, and assessment of seemingly everything  affect the people who now tend to all aspects of the business?  What will project managers, financial professionals, data scientists, geologists, engineers, geophysicists, and other energy professionals do? What are some of the knowledge bases they will need? What are the skill sets, and where should they gain experience? 

The energy industry will strategically update content and objectives to reflect current business practices, environments, tools, and needs. It will need to conduct continuous needs assessments for Energy Industry 4.0.

Part of this group of skills will involve re-envisioning everything, which requires having the courage to do so.  We need to look at the evolution of incumbent products, as well as the emerging “upstart” disrupters.  It is important to re-envision the macro view as well as the micro views.

Make the invisible visible: reveal the underlying reality:  One of the key benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning is pattern recognition, which is not a static thing, but constantly evolving and “learning” as more information is added.

It is important to keep in mind that in addition to technological advances, there will be displacements and unintended consequences. Part of the challenge involves social responsibility in order to consider how human capital should be developed to retrain people whose professions become disrupted. Social responsibility also takes into consideration the natural environment, habitats, and lowering the negative impact of human activity.

Managing the Digital Economy:  How is managing the digital economy different than an organization where everyone is onsite? The workforce is distributed, now more than ever, and learning how to use productivity tools in a collaborative environment. Keeping the projects on task are more critical than ever.
  •     Large, decentralized organizations
  •     Collaboration and independent work in the Gig economy
  •     Project Management strategies and platforms
  •     Looking at all applications in “off-label” ways

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning: AI and ML apply to all phases of the industry, and the challenge is not “if” or “when” but how much is relevant, and how do we clean up data without introducing our own biases? In addition, privacy and cybersecurity issues must be kept in mind.     
  • Strategic Planning
  • Risk Mitigation / Risk Seeking
  •     Predictive analytics
  •     Deep Neural Networks / Pattern recognition
Big Data Archiving and Continuous Data Gathering: The ability to store and retrieve staggering amounts of data creates opportunities that were simply not possible before. As unstructured data such as old scans of reports is converted into easily analyzable structured data, even more opportunities emerge. It is now possible, for example, to do a deep dive into old well logs, well reports, and more and look for overlooked zones or under-produced ones.
  •     Internet of Things, Industrial Internet of Things
  •     Cloud Computing
Virtual Supply Chains in Energy: Logistics have become very important in times of multiple long laterals in large  shale plays. The same can be said for the coordination required in offshore exploration and production operations. Challenges include security, being able to transfer money efficiently, and
  • Block Chain technologies for supply chain
  • Special challenges with different types of energy (oil and gas, wind, solar, geothermal)
FinTech:  Finance technologies are just emerging, and they will dramatically change how organizations can manage cash, obtain capital, and distribute information. Although cryptocurrencies and digital currencies may be looked upon as a bit unsavory, banks are already utilizing the technology to make their record-keeping more secure, and to facilitate transfers, especially across borders.
  • Digital Currency
  • RoboAdvisors
  • New sources of capital, investment
  • Start-ups and commercialization
Digital Ecosystems: You may be familiar with the way that Craigslist has essentially fragmented and instead of being a “one-stop shopping” platform for advertising, the different topics and products have evolved into their own niche applications. One good example is AirBnB – now, the products are arranged by category (rentals) rather than being geographically grouped (as in the case of Craigslist). The evolutionary cycles are accelerating, and now one has to look at platforms as apps with a clearly finite life cycles, unless they metamorphose into something else.
  •     Platform Life Cycles
  •     Crowd Sourcing / Social networks
Digital Infrastructure: Each quantum leap of bandwidth and computational ability is accompanied by a quantum leap in the capabilities of the applications and the devices themselves. How does one take advantage of the power? And, how does one anticipate changes?
  •     Current state and how to optimize networks
  •     WiFi and G5: What does it mean? What are the hidden costs?
  •     Future directions, and where we are going.
Social Enterprise
    Innovative new technologies that have as a goal to measurably improve the physical environment as well as the social structure, with more opportunities for voices to be heard, and to strive toward the goal of eliminating social and economic inequality, and truly giving everyone a chance to have a productive, meaningful life with a strong social support system.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Visiting the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru, and the Ceramics of the Moche Culture

One of the things that I really wanted to do in Lima was to visit the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru and to see it artifacts dating back more than 2000 years. I was able to take a taxi from the hotel and it was safe although expensive. And when I arrived I went into the gated mansion that was converted and made into a museum and a lovely patio area with gardens and a delightful restaurant.

The entryway has a smooth flagstone surface, and the tall wall to the east is covered with climbing plants that are blooming with fuschia, dark red, and fiery orange blossoms. They look like azaleas but I suspect that they are not. Seated on a carved wooden bench with a back with evenly spaced posts is a man in a long-sleeved white shirt and jeans. His head is bowed and at first I think he is a bit dejected until I realize he is checking his cell phone. Scattered about are potted plants with succulents, including very robust jade plants and aloe vera.

Inside the Larco: 
I paid about three dollars to enter and was given a token with the number because I was not allowed to bring in my backpack. I could however take pictures, and that was a relief. So the museum was arranged in chronological order and it started with the history of people and civilizations in the area that is now Lima, Peru.

It was interesting to see the theory that everyone came from the Bering Strait to be still reinforced and perpetuated. Eventually, we may find that there are some other migration pathway or that people that is to say human beings originated in Latin America as well as in Africa and Asia Asia.

The earliest civilizations were very expert in leading and basket making and ceramics. Some of the ceramics were enormous and the pots were large enough to accommodate water storage. Even the most utilitarian of pots had whimsical or elegant shapes performs. I love that about them! It was surprising to see what a lovely finish the ceramics had and I don’t know if they used a glaze or if it was just some firing process but it was very impressive.

Then, there were many different exhibits that had to do with the headdresses and costumes of the different people in society ranging from the lowliest two the highest ranking priests and kings. It was interesting to see the different headdresses and the jewelry. The gods and the decorative elements were described and explained in the placards that were near each exhibit. It was very informative and clearly described not just the artifacts but also the milieu and the contexts. I think it would be fascinating to travel in time and to see what it would be like to live in that culture even if it’s only for an hour or so.

Actually, an hour or so of time travel would be most likely all I could stand because there’s no way that I would be able to understand what they were saying and there’s no way that I would be able to communicate that I’m not some evil creature sent from the underworld to taint their future. After going through the large exhibit that ended up with many different kinds of goals and silver and worked brass and ended with the descriptions of some of the ceremonies, and decided to walk around and explore the grounds. So I took pictures of some of the very beautiful flowering trees and thought I would check out the restaurant. I was distracted however by a sign that said this way to the erotic Museum.

I had to smile because the ceramics that the Indians made 2000 years ago were from the Moche and stay are well known for their ability to create smooth and an amazingly expressive ceramics. In the main museum there are many ceramics that had peoples has depicted and also useful vessels in the shape of animals such as armadillos and jaguars. I know from my reading about the artifacts of ancient Peru that the Moche ceramics had explored a number of different themes and topics.

Perhaps the one theme that everybody remembers is the theme of the human body. I don’t know why the Moche thought it was a good idea to create ceramics with the human body in various poses of copulation, but it certainly is memorable! They called the ceramics erotic, but they were really not erotic. Instead, they were funny and extremely explicit and thought-provoking. It surprised me to see the different acts and things that people were doing and I don’t know if the artists who fashioned the graphic poses did it because they sold well or if it was part of some kind of fertility ritual or if they had to because the king or queen wanted them to! It’s impossible for me to say.

But, there were a few times when I was looking at the out-sized male member that I almost laughed aloud and and I definitely blushed. It was interesting to see how many featured animals copulating and then also there was a very special one of the women giving birth I was surprised they did not sell illustrated books of the erotic and I use their term, erotic, but I would say explicit or graphic ceramics. I’m sure they would sell a lot! And I don’t know if they sold replicas of the most memorable ones to tourists who wanted a souvenir of the Moche culture and of the Larco Museum. 

I went to the gift store after and poked around to see what they sold. There was actually very little and it was quite expensive. So after spending a long time enjoying the exhibits, I asked about getting a taxi and he said it was definitely safer to do it through the museum.  They even offered to call a taxi. They had posted a list of taxi fares to different locations and they were a third of what I paid the hotel limo to get me to the museum. I understand when there are rather informal pricing product policies especially when there’s so much of an income gap and social inequality.

Overall Peru has at least some areas that seem to be booming.  The activities and facilities to attract tourists are from what I can see so far first rate, well-designed, attractive, and they are safe.

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