Category Archives: History

American Honey Locust Bean Stew

When I grew up on the American prairie there were edible plants everywhere.

However, there also was a trend among ranchers and farmers (driven by overly technology-focused agriculture investors — like what Bill Gates is doing today) to see only the worst of native species instead of the best.

Take the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) for just one example.

Here’s how the U.S. government’s National Park service describes them:

Imagine walking through a forested area alongside the Missouri and discovering one of these – a honey locust tree. It’s very possible the men of the Corps did come face-to-face with these nasty thorns, especially in today’s Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota. But if anyone was injured by them, it didn’t get recorded in the journals.

One of the times honey locusts are mentioned is by John Ordway on July 3, 1804: “The land is Good high bottom pine Timber & black wallnut honey locas oak &C.”

In nature honey locusts grow in both thornless and thorned forms, with spikes growing up to 12″ long. Many regions in the South once referred to the trees as Confederate pin trees because those thorns were used to pin uniforms together during the Civil War. Others claim the thorns have been used throughout history as nails.

And here’s the image the NPS wants you to see.

Source: NPS

Nasty thorns. Any guesses why nobody on the expedition recorded being injured by them? My bet is because it didn’t deserve any more mention than any other thorns.

And I have found zero evidence to support any such idea that Confederate soldiers used tree thorns to “pin” their uniforms. Nada. Zilch.

Or let me put it this way: the alleged phrase “pin tree” appears exactly never in an exhaustive search of literature from the 19th Century.

Any guesses why nobody ever recorded the phrase “pin tree”? My bet is because it never happened.

To be fair to the NPS perspective of today, these trees do have a lot of thorns on them. Yet so do roses and raspberries, and how many people go around describing those two beloved plants as nasty?

Instead of focusing just on the thorns of a branch or trunk, let’s talk about delicious edible beans of the locust tree for a minute.

They get the name “honey” from the fact that they in fact have a tasty orange “goo” between seeds in a pod.

And their beans seem to be a high protein source easily grown in the wild (member of the legume family, like lentils and garbanzo).

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp oil or fat
  • 1 Tbsp locust beans
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • Handful of dried and seasoned meat (e.g. fish, fowl)
  • Pinch of seasonings (e.g. salt, pepper)

Recipe

  1. Depod the locust beans (clean, soak/boil for tenderness, wash and remove hull)
  2. Chop and mix onions and tomatoes
  3. Put pan on fire and pour in oil or fat to heat for 2 minutes
  4. Add prepared chopped mix to the oil/fat, stir and cover for 2 minutes
  5. Add seasonings, prepared locust beans, stir and cover for 5 minutes
  6. Add prepared meat, stir and cover for 5 minutes

Of course the younger green pods of the tree could be cooked like a green bean. And of course the hard seeds of a mature (dry, brown) pod could be ground into a flour. There are many options, so this is just one to give you an idea of why the NPS focus on the thorns in a story about exploration seems… not very exploratory.

What is truly unfortunate and bizarre is how nobody anywhere seems to have collected traditional recipes from the people who lived on locust bean for generations — Native Americans.

A few years back the President of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) paid me a visit in Silicon Valley.

Very purposefully I took him out for a nice sushi dinner and ordered edamame.

“Soy beans” he exclaimed! “We are supposed to eat livestock feed” he stated flatly albeit genuinely.

“Wait until you see the bill. We’re paying $5 a bowl” I sat back and replied with a wide grin.

Then I helped him off the floor and back into his chair as he said “what in the… we get barely $5 a bushel for our damn soy beans!”

If only he had explored what was all around him the whole time; tried harvesting honey locust beans growing naturally (literally falling from the tree).

Who knows what could have happened if he had ever thought about packaging honey locust beans for human consumption…

Source: freshola

Charity Spend Doesn’t Compensate for Billionaire Misconduct

Margaret Olivia Sage was a school teacher who married into wealth. After being widowed she rapidly dedicated her inheritance to the betterment of others.

If you think charity spend by billionaires today is controversial, just look back at the early 1900s during industrialization. Let’s start in 1907 when Margaret Olivia Sage invented a new level of charity, by setting up the first private family foundation (causal analysis to alleviate poverty) with a unprecedented and whopping $10 million.

In the 37 years of their marriage, Russell and Olivia Sage were to make only three major donations: to the Troy Female Seminary, the Women’s Hospital, and the American Seamen’s Friend Society, totaling approximately $220,000. In the years after Russell’s passing, however, Olivia made up for lost time. […] When Russell Sage died in 1906, he left a fortune of $75 million to his wife. She proceeded to give away approximately $45 million in the next dozen years before her own death in 1918.

John D. Rockefeller saw Margaret’s genuine acts and smelled a loophole. He soon after applied for his own charter for a completely open-ended grant making foundation (the genesis of American “think tanks” for political sway).

Theodore Roosevelt replied:

No amount of charity in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.

In a 1910 speech (penned by Gifford Pinchot) from the hallowed ground of John Brown in Kansas, to an audience estimated at 30,000, he went even further in his advice:

Ruin for our democracy, he warned, will be “inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few.” […] A fortune “gained without doing damage to the community” he added, deserves no praise. Americans needed to set a higher standard. We should permit fortunes “to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

More to the point, William Jewett Tucker pointed out Carnegie unjustly cut wages of his workers to enrich himself, using charity acts to obscure it. Tucker wrote:

There is no greater mistake… than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.

For example, Bill Gates systematically destroyed trust in the personal computer through a series of lies and negligence for profit.

80% of people surveyed did not trust Gates in 2004 when he announced that spam would be gone by 2006

His absolute stance on ignoring safety and security, combined with infamously predatory tactics, birthed the crisis of malware and ransomware millions of people suffer from even today.

He recanted somewhat in 2001, admitting he had been wrong for two decades, yet… damage was done and he’s not spending his billions on fixing the global catastrophe he created, nor surrendering it to people who need it most (e.g. justice).

What is So American About American Football?

Early in my political science studies at Macalester college I remember vividly my professor arguing America promotes football because it legitimizes displacing human rights by celebrating machine-like boxes of industrialized (minimal judgment/power) behaviors… a memory I’ve hinted at before on this blog in 2007.

Instead of continuous movement of humans free to learn and achieve within an open market of opportunity, it’s locked up with short measured “plays” written by a bureaucracy of “programmers” serving the “owners”.

Does this look like freedom to you? People are allowed only a few detailed moves. Then they reset and start again… and again… and again.

The best people can ever achieve leaves them treated like owned and controlled assets in a dystopia that Kafka might have had in mind when he wrote The Trial. Or as Erich Fromm put it in The Sane Society

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.

If the machinery of football sounds even remotely like slavery to you (or tyranny for that matter), then you won’t be surprised to hear the following comparison in the news:

As the white owners later start lashing at the Black players with whips, Kaepernick then draws a comparison between the abuse suffered by slaves to the NFL Scouting Combine – a week-long showcase that determines which prospects are drafted into the league.

Of course this is going to outrage anyone who loves the game of American football. Nobody likes being called out for slavery practices, especially those engaged in slavery practices. And perhaps the best thing that can be said is how every sport may be just a stark reflection of extant power imbalances in society. In the following paragraph the writer is talking about soccer (what the world calls football):

Could the “beautiful game” really have a hand in such an ugly business? A few moments of reflection later, I was able to uncloud my judgement. Modern day football is as beset by corruption as US Foreign Policy, and a summary glance at the track record of the figures whose money courses through our game — from Abramovich, to Berlusconi, to Shinawatra — is enough to hammer home the unsavoury links between crime and modern sport.

Just look at how someone described boxing as “destroyed” by Civil Rights, without invoking the loaded word slavery:

“Boxing is for poor people who don’t have any other alternative to make their way in life,” Pacquiao and Ali’s promoter Bob Arum said. “We can’t get white middle-class kids into boxing. Let’s be honest: No parent in their right mind is going to let them come to a gym. I wouldn’t let my kid go into boxing.”

The golden age of boxing is considered to have lasted from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. The end of this great era was marked by the Civil Rights Movement.

In the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans were awarded more rights, and chose to enter safer professions, completely destroying what used to be the major source of excellent fighters across the United States and beyond.

When the death toll of fighters rose and new discoveries about the trauma that arose from many devastating blows to the head, poor African American kids trying to escape poverty and create a name for themselves from fighting realized that there were a better alternative in other a number of more mainstream sports such as basketball and football.

Like boxing, football players are kept in a box. Unlike boxing, however, it also has a highly regimented and structured system of brief mechanistic “plays” with almost no freedom at all even inside the box.

It is measured precisely and controlled by industrial-era authority where players are owned assets — machines meant to run as they are told and do little more.

You’ve surely heard of the famous Oregon Trail “game” where a series of decisions could be made to achieve success? It popularized an image similar to the one below.

I mean can you imagine an American “game” based on choosing a series of winning “plays”, which could display the kind of honesty found in the following actual racist history of Oregon?

Burnett composed Oregon’s infamous “Lash Law,” which stated that any freed “negroes” or “mulattos” in Oregon would have to leave or be publicly whipped until they did.

So is football better than boxing?

Was Oregon’s “ban on slavery” better than its ban on Black Americans from being allowed to enter the state under penalty of being tortured to death?

I can see it now; someone might read this blog and say “but Blacks trying to settle in Oregon chose to be tortured to death because they didn’t take a different career path”.

Football isn’t looking great either, thus hardly any real escape from the same exact lack of choices that led to boxing.

High-profile NFL players have gone on record saying they don’t want their children playing at all because of the concussion risk.

But wait, it gets worse:

A statistical manipulation that underpaid Black players in concussion settlements exemplifies American football’s immersion in the legacy of slavery.

However, just like with the history of American slavery, some people really try hard to make it seem like there’s some kind of choice where one really doesn’t exist.

First of all, football players are millionaires? Very few of all the players who try make it to the level, and by the time they do they are terrified to criticize the system they just risked everything to benefit from. I mean, come on.

People hope they will make money yet they often get destroyed on the way; such that if they haven’t been destroyed they end up in a pinch to avoid losing everything by criticizing what is dangling in front of them. See the problem? Telling a player he loses the right to complain, is denied a voice, because he gets something IS THE PROBLEM. That’s slaveholder thinking: I gave you a roof to sleep under so you can’t complain and I’ll destroy you if you do.

Second, the history of the Missouri Compromise and Kansas-Nebraska Act should quickly dispel any notion of what this kind of “choice” really means under the racist power structures that date at the way back to America’s origin story.

Note that slaves in America were sometimes paid, and perhaps even accumulated wealth under the thumb of their owner. In one case documented in “Bond of Iron” the slaveowner created a competitive system whereby his slave producing most output over a short period would be awarded a prize.

Slaves were allowed to take payment in cash or kind in the company store. The accounts show when purchases were made and what items were bought. Individual slave ledgers demonstrate personal priorities and values.

Sound familiar? Like boxing (or football), it was competition meant to force slaves to compete to the point of harming themselves and each other. Some do still argue that during slavery being “allowed to take payment” made for a suitable life despite being owned by another human and deprived of fundamental rights.

What was their actual choice in a tree of decisions? Compare that with freedom described in “African Maroons in Sixteenth-Century Panama: A History in Documents

…from the 1520s through the 1580s, thousands of enslaved Africans fled captivity in Spanish Panama and formed their own communities. “The fact we see individuals fleeing slavery who are able to hold the Spanish Empire at bay and fight them to a standstill for almost five decades — and then negotiate for their freedom and right to govern their communities — that should be a testament to the resilience of people who suffered the dislocations of the slave trade and the inhumanity of enslavement.”

The point of condemning slavery (abolition is as old as slavery itself)… wasn’t whether or not someone received pittances and pithy rewards within the death camp fights before they expired from them, but whether they achieved actual freedom and liberty stemming from equal rights.

Real choice? No. Football is far from offering a real choice, by design.

Kaepernick is exactly right in his comparison.

The backlash he sees is a reminder of the reality of American history based in concerted “know nothing” and “ignorance” campaigns.

It’s no wonder Texas football uses “remember the Alamo” and “eyes of Texas” chants to this day… as if football games let them get away with saying they want to keep slavery alive and nobody will complain.

Or Florida, for that matter, which like Texas was a state created by invading an American border territory specifically to expand slavery and deny freedom to the Blacks living there. It has its own a gruesome and racist football chant:

University of Florida banned its famed “Gator Bait” cheer on Thursday because of the term’s reported racist history…. Stories from as far back as the 1880s mention American hunters using black babies to attract large reptiles.

As far back as the 1880s? How about as recent as… the last Florida football game?

Here’s the bottom line: football is popular in America because it represents the fantasy of success through over-specialization.

However, even peak performance from every node in a network within own strengths still needs some standard by which they all adhere. As my father used to say: individual time zones (social) only work because everyone agrees on time (science).

And science isn’t magic, it’s measured and purposeful: to communicate about weather, Beaufort and Fitzroy each went to sea with at least a dozen clocks on board.

The cogs of every single clock were managed by cognition, as I illustrated in my RSAC SF presentation last year.

RSAC SF 2020 Presentation on AI

The over specialization of football is falsely seductive as a “privilege” sadly rooted in America’s origin story of slavery where hard work gets done by others within silos of productivity.

Worse, displacement to the silos caused by industrialization (like the current information technology boom) throws specialists into a self-defeating fight with each other for dominance, wired for competition and against collaboration.

It’s a societal failing to allow people to believe success comes from landing by birthright into a special competitive “position” (e.g. Robert E. Lee) as opposed to humbly rotating through domain-wide challenges to become “made” by hard work, let alone understanding the whole field of play (e.g. Ulysses Grant).

Americans should aspire to be like Grant (standing on galloping horses by age 7, constantly unlearning and improving), and never, ever to be a power-obsessed solitary leader like Lee (or Mussolini, a similar man to Lee).

This “On to Richmond” painting by Mort Kunstler was commissioned by the Army War College Class of 1991. It depicts Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant on the field during the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, May 5-7, 1864. Major General George Gordon Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, is to the right of Grant. Grant’s horse was named Cincinnati; Meade’s was Baldy (sometimes called Old Baldy). The red, swallow tailed flag is the Army of the Potomac Headquarters flag. Meade’s forces had crossed the Rappahannock River on May 4, but were forced to stop in the area known as the Wilderness to wait for the supply train to catch up. Confederate General Robert E. Lee resolved to attack the Federal forces while they were in the difficult Wilderness terrain. Fighting was so intense the trees and underbrush in many places caught fire, the glow of which can be seen in the background. (Photograph by: Megan Clugh, USAWC Photographer).

Does Hegel’s Philosophy Crack the Big Data Security Nut?

The gap (from empiricists like Austrian philosopher Karl Popper) described in a fun philosophy article about Hegel is exactly why big data security is failing so badly (the book I’ve been writing for a decade).

His philosophy was seen as the epitome of a grand metaphysical system purporting to lay out a priori the fundamental structure of reality, which turned out to be mental, or in Hegel’s vocabulary, spiritual – something like a world soul, or (even worse), a Spinozistic, pantheistic God. Thus, not only was Hegel’s system grandiose metaphysics, it was grandiose theology as well. Hegel also defended a holism that conflicted with the atomism (and the foundationalistic theory of knowledge) that comes naturally with empiricism and which seemed to be a lesson taught by modern science.

The argument usually goes that acquiring detailed specialist knowledge comes at a loss of wider synthetic systemic knowledge.

Yet Popper’s wonderful empiricist falsification method works fine in conjunction with the broader grandiose thinking of Hegel. I think too many are trying to use one instead of the other.

It’s like finding truth in cogs instead of in cognition (as I put it in my RSAC presentation on “unsafe learning“)

You definitely want to find the bolt that’s about to fail and cause a plane to crash (the overhyped bug), yet you also want to find the airline that has a habit of inefficiency that leads to missed maintenance windows that replace bolts before fatigue (the undervalued efficiency of ethical management).

In my ISACA SF presentation I argue this is why Tesla repeatedly fails the most basic tests and is little more than a killing machine.

The best way of framing a domain shift comes from Gregory Bufithis, who poetically put it on social media as…

…too many use this new complexity of knowledge as an excuse for dominant stupidity.

Or Popper in 1945 (“The Open Society and Its Enemies“) put it as a paradox of tolerance: that an “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”

This helps me to explain why Facebook’s 2015 “dominant” security officer was about as effective at his job as the Grover Shoe Factory head of operations in 1905.

Quick Guide to Social Media Verification: Bellingcat

Bellingcat has posted a nice “beginner guide” to fact checking social media, which could also be called a history 101 class:

  • Originality: check for earlier versions of the same
  • Source: check for prior disconnects
  • Location: check for disconnects
  • Timing: check for disconnects
  • Motivation: check for obvious bias

Missing from this list is integrity and thus checking for manipulation. Despite the dry table of contents, I appreciated the examples and details in the sections that followed.

At the very least, the fact that the image has been manipulated should be a red flag that the claim should be treated with extreme caution and is highly unlikely to be true.

Other examples of manipulated videos or images going viral and how they were debunked can be found here, here and here.

It is important to note, however, that manipulated images are far rarer than old images posted out of context or intentionally mislabelled in order to mislead.

Although there are tools that can detect manipulated images, these are often cumbersome and complicated to use. The most effective way to contextualise the images we see online is generally to use common sense and some of the very basic techniques described in this article.

Reminds me of any engineering. Often you can look at wiring or plumbing and common sense immediately tells you something is wrong. Sophisticated scientific tools are overkill if you have any idea how things should work normally.

A good example of this is in my post about a British Spitfire tipping the wing of the Nazi V1.

The inverse of this discussion is the “FIC Trilemma” laid out in a new guide to building deception, which describes steps to take given people seeking truth can be “attackers”.

Software engineering teams can exploit attackers’ human nature by building deception environments.

Source: “Lamboozling Attackers: A New Generation of Deception”, ACM Queue, October 28, 2021 Volume 19, issue 5