“In contrast to classical logical systems, fuzzy logic is aimed at a formalization of modes of reasoning that are approximate rather than exact. Basically, a fuzzy logical system may be viewed as a result of fuzzifying a standard logical system. Thus, one may speak of fuzzy predicate logic, fuzzy modal local, fuzzy default logic, fuzzy multivalued logic, fuzzy epistemic logic, and so-on. In this perspective, fuzzy logic is essentially a union of fuzzified logical systems in which precise reasoning is viewed as a limiting case of approximate reasoning.”

So began one of the most important technical articles published by AI Expert Magazine during my tenure as its editor: “The Calculus of Fuzzy If/Then Rules,” by Lotfi A. Zadah, in March 1992.

Even then, more than 20 years ago, Dr. Zadeh was revered as the father of fuzzy logic. I recall my interactions with him on that article very fondly.

I was delighted to learn that Fundacion BBVA, the philanthropic foundation of the Spanish bank BBVA, has recognized Dr. Zadeh with their 2012 Frontiers of Knowledge Award.

To quote from the Web page for the award,

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) category has been granted in this fifth edition to the electrical engineer Lotfi A. Zadeh, “for the invention and development of fuzzy logic.” This “revolutionary” breakthrough, affirms the jury in its citation, has enabled machines to work with imprecise concepts, in the same way humans do, and thus secure more efficient results more aligned with reality. In the last fifty years, this methodology has generated over 50,000 patents in Japan and the U.S. alone. 

The key paper, the one that started it all, was “Fuzzy Sets,” published by Dr. Zadeh in June 1965 in the journal “Information and Control.” You can read the paper here as a PDF. I would not call it light reading.

Congratulations, Dr. Zadeh, for your many contributions to computer science and software engineering – and to the modern world.

Modern companies thrive by harnessing and interpreting data. The more data we have, and the more we focus on analyzing it, the better we can make decisions. Data about our customers, data about purchasing patterns, data about network throughput, data in server logs, data in sales receipts. When we crunch our internal data, and cross-reference it against external data sources, we get goodness. That’s what Big Data is all about.

Data crunching and data correlation isn’t new, of course. That’s what business intelligence is all about. Spotting trends and making predictions is what business analysts have been doing for 40 years or more. From weather forecasters to the World Bank, from particle physicists to political pollsters, all that’s new is that our technology has gotten better. Our hardware, our software and our algorithms are a lot better.

Admittedly, some political pollsters in the recent United States presidential election didn’t seem to have better data analytics. That’s another story for another day.

Is “Big Data” the best term for talking about data acquisition and predictive analytics using Hadoop, Map/Reduce, Cassandra, Avro, HBase, NoSQL databases and so-on? Maybe. Folks like Strata conference chair Edd Dumbill and TechCrunch editor Leena Rao think not.

Indeed, Rao suggests, “Let’s banish the term ‘big data’ with pivot, cloud and all the other meaningless buzzwords we have grown to hate.” She continues, “the term itself is outdated, and consists of an overly general set of words that don’t reflect what is actually happening now with data. It’s no longer about big data, it’s about what you can do with the data.”

Yes, “Big Data” is a fairly generic phrase, and our focus should rightfully be on benefits, not on the 1s and 0s themselves. However, the phrase neatly fronts a broad concept that plenty of people seem to understand very well, thank you very much. Language is a tool; if the phrase Big Data gets the job done, we’ll stick with it, both as a term to use in SD Times and as the name of our technical training conference focused on data acquisition, predictive analytics, etc., Big Data TechCon.

The name doesn’t matter. Big Data. Business Intelligence. Predictive Analytics. Decision Support. Whatever. What matters is that we’re doing it.

walled-gardenToday’s word is “open.” What does open mean in terms of open platforms and open standards? It’s a tricky concept. Is Windows more open than Mac OS X? Is Linux more open than Solaris? Is Android more open than iOS? Is the Java language more open than C#? Is Firefox more open than Chrome? Is SQL Server more open than DB2?

The answer in all these cases can be summarized in two more words: “That depends.” To some purists, anything that is owned by a non-commercial project or standards body is open. By contrast, anything that is owned by a company, or controlled by a company, is by definition not open.

There are infinite shades of gray. Openness isn’t a line or a spectrum, and it’s not a two-dimensional matrix either. There are countless dimensions.

Take iOS. The language used to program iPhone/iPad apps is Objective-C. It’s pretty open – certainly, some would say that Objective-C is more open than Java, which is owned and controlled by Oracle. Since iOS uses Objective-C, and Android uses Java, doesn’t that makes iOS open, and Android not open?

But wait – perhaps when people talk about the openness of the mobile platforms, they mean whether there is a walled garden around its primary app store. If you want to distribute native apps to through Apple’s store, you must meet Apple’s criteria in lots of ways, from the use of APIs to revenue sharing for in-app purchases. That’s not very open. If you want to distribute native apps to Android devices, you can choose Google Play, where the standards for app acceptance are fairly low, or another app store (like Amazon’s), or even set up your own. That’s more open.

If you want to build apps that are distributed and use Microsoft’s new tiled user experience, you have to put them into the Windows Store. In fact, such applications are called Windows Store Apps. Microsoft keeps a 30% cut of sales, and reserves the right to not only kick your app out of the Windows Store, but also remove your app from customer’s devices. That’s not very open.

The trend these days is for everyone to set up their own app store – whether it’s the Windows Store, Google Play, the Raspberry Pi Store, Salesforce.com AppExchange, Firefox Marketplace, Chrome Web Store, BlackBerry App World, Facebook Apps Center or the Apple App Store. There are lots more. Dozens. Hundreds perhaps.

Every one of these stores affects the openness of the platform – whether the platform is a mobile or desktop device, browser, operating system or cloud-based app. Forget programming language. Forget APIs. The true test of openness is becoming the character of the app store, whether consumers are locked into using open “approved” stores, what restrictions are placed on what may be placed in that app store, and whether developers have the freedom to fully utilize everything the platform can offer. (If the platform vendor’s own apps, or those from preferred partners, can access APIs that are not allowed in the app store, that’s not a good sign.)

Nearly every platform is a walled garden. The walls aren’t simple; they make Calabi-Yau manifolds look like child’s play. The walls twist. They turn. They move.

Forget standards bodies. Today’s openness is the openness of the walled garden.

This is one of a series of articles I wrote for the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.

In our home, January 1 brings an important ritual – the changing of the calendars. We have pretty pictorial calendars in nearly every room of our home. Some rooms have multiple calendars. We have calendars of hummingbirds, the haunting Scottish Highlands, exotic sports cars, United States Marines, the rugged Maine coastline, adorable guinea pigs, historic computers, Renoir paintings, and lots more. Calendars are everywhere.

This month, all the 2012 calendars must come down and be discarded. All the 2013 calendars must be removed from their protective plastic wrappings and hung with care.

We need not change our Jewish calendars, of course, because we are still early in 5773. Thus, all we have to do is flip a page on the calendar from Home of Peace Memorial Park in Colma. Easy!

Another calendar we don’t have to change for January 2013 is the PTS Master Calendar. You can see two versions of it yourself. one is on our website, www.sholom.org. The other is in this printed Bulletin, on the opposing page – neatly formatted, suitable for hanging on your fridge.

The Master Calendar, maintained by Bev Rochelle in the Temple office, contains much more than what you see online or in the Bulletin. It is a key document that informs staff, teachers, and clergy about what’s going on every day at PTS — and outside our facility, too.

Before you schedule a meeting or event at the Temple, please talk to Bev about the date, time, and space requirements, so she can check the Master Calendar for availability and conflicts.

As the Temple’s long-time Webmaster, I rely upon the Master Calendar to help maintain the sholom.org calendar. our facility is busy nearly every day – jam-packed.

As you would expect, the Master Calendar contains a wealth of data about worship services, including Erev Shabbat services, pre-service onegs and Saturday morning Shabbat services.

The calendar includes the Lay-Led Minyan, each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in the Multipurpose Room, and the Sephardic Minyan, at the same time in the Chapel. Each month there are dozens of worship services listed.

The Master Calendar includes all of the details of Bar/Bat Mitzvah services scheduled several years in advance, as well as related luncheons, dinners, and parties held in our Social Hall. B’nai Mitzvah rehearsals are also listed, many of which are Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

There are also all the Preschool Shabbats, held each Friday at 11:35 a.m. in the Chapel – and then Preschool Havdalah on Monday at 11:40 a.m. Most months, we also have a monthly Shabbat Tot ‘n’ Torah service.

All the festivities for Chanukah, Purim, the High Holidays, and more are in the Master Calendar. That includes the Tu BiSh’vat dinner and mini-seder, the Second Day Community Seder, the Sukkot dinner, and Yizkor services throughout the year. It’s all there.

Want to shop in the Starr*Stevens Judaica Shop? The dates and hours are listed in the Master Calendar, so that the Temple office can inform congregants and community shoppers.

Meetings, meetings, meetings! The Master Calendar is chock full of them, including the Brotherhood Board on Sunday, January 6, Sholom Women on Sunday, January 13, the Board of Trustees on Wednesday, January 16, and many others. The calendar includes staff-only meetings, including a weekly Senior Staff/Clergy Meeting and other meetings for our teachers and administrative employees.

Groups within our PTS community have their dates on the Master Calendar. Blankets of Kindness? Check. Brotherhood Bingo? Check. Rosh Hodesh for Girls? Check. Black & White Ball? Check. Sholom Women Chai Tea? Check. Mitzvah Chefs? Check. Women’s Drama Group? Check. There are even dates for the Hava Nashira band’s rehearsals on Thursday evenings.

Education? You bet. The Master Calendar includes all the sessions of Preschool and Religious School on Sunday mornings, Monday nights, and Wednesday nights, and calls out dates when Religious School won’t be held. The calendar also includes special learning sessions, such as parent education. Youth events, too, for our young children and high school PARTY kids.

Adult education is covered as well, including Lifelong Learning lectures on Mondays, talks during Religious School Sundays, Scholars in Residence, and additional programming. Plus, of course, it lists ongoing classes on Conversational Hebrew on Monday nights, Wednesday morning Back to the Source sessions and Jewish understandings of the Afterlife on Thursday mornings. Let’s not forget the monthly Hot Topic brown-bag lunchtime study group.

The full Master Calendar goes beyond PTS meetings and events. The calendar lists when each employee will be taking vacation or doing business travel, so the staff can be well- informed. It lists school holidays for local public and private schools, so that we can be aware of those dates when planning events. (Yes, it is very frustrating that schools aren’t consistent on dates for Spring Break!)

PTS hosts congregational and community support groups, and those dates and times are on the Master Calendar. This includes Home and Hope, one of our most important Social Action programs, during which PTS provides temporary housing to homeless families.

Last, but not least, are facility rentals. Some of these are one-offs, others are recurring. Not only do these rentals provide a source of income to the Temple, but by sharing our space with our broader community, we build bridges and deepen bonds with our friends and neighbors.

The Master Calendar is big. It’s huge. It’s packed. It’s busy. It is a blessing to see how much goes on each week here at Peninsula Temple Sholom.