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Life, a Back Yard Lesson, Enigmas, and the Bombe!

What influenced me to appreciate the Big School concept?  It came gradually, through the knocks of life in conjunction with having been conned into learning some inconvenient basic facts.  I do not think the matter is immediately clear to the inexperienced human mind.  No one has “informed me” directly that I am in the Big School!  I strongly doubt that a teenager is going to leap to the conclusion that he is living in a Big School.  I do not feel that my thinking could be where it is at, without the effect of age and experience.  Getting kicked around a bit, over a period of time, is really helpful at clarifying one’s thinking!

Life unfolds automatically and we all learn. If we are trying to make sense of Life*, one cannot help but make useful observations and learn something.  I doubt though, that many “put it all together”.  It would seem that the deck is stacked such that Life remains a mystery to most from start to end.  Due to the volume of fellow humans dropping off the cliff before a hundred and twenty five years pass (ie – everyone), death takes on a bit of an “old hat” experience.  Everyone seems to be capable of effectively achieving the condition.  Some much sooner than others.  And no one seems to fail at achieving the condition!  But comfort in numbers is really a hollow concept for each individual.  There is no getting around the rather discouraging reality of having Lived and then dying – the contrast impresses all of us no matter what mental tricks we can pull off.  Even concepts of an “after life”, no matter how strong or how nutty, are put to the test when the edge of the cliff is confronted.

I arrived at the “Big School” conclusion via a string of circumstantial events but once I twigged on the concept, I feel it is a solid theory that is supported by all the events happening around me and under my nose.  And I think that an appreciation of what I see as a fact of life, is really useful, and pleasantly exciting!  Really Exciting!  The Ultimate!  What more can be said!

I like to think that I had the wit, at a fairly early age, to see the importance of sorting out the God vs Evolution** question.  The basic implications are huge.  If there is no God, then why fool around with all the “religious” customs and dos and don’ts and dollar & time consuming bureaucracy.  But if there is a God, well, it seems wise to try to get a read on the implications.  Life just might run smoother if you are in the realism loop!

As a youth, I was into building things and into mechanics and after considerable thought, I leaned heavily towards a belief that all the complexity we see around us, which clearly hasn’t existed forever, simply couldn’t have shown up without a mind behind the organized physical reality.  I found building things that worked well an exciting challenge - a difficult challenge at which I often failed.  When I saw things and systems that worked – I appreciated the effort.  But I really didn’t appreciate the clarity nor the major implications of the “God/evolution**” issue compared to the view I developed at a much older age.

I am sure that anyone looks back on their childhood and marvels at what a dumb ass you were prior to learning the myriad things we learn by the time we are 60+ish.  Experience and memory payload provide you with an analytic resource that is invaluable at understanding what you are seeing and experiencing in the present.

I was a bit of an introverted youth and didn’t show my cards as much as many, perhaps wiser, young people.  When I was around 10 or 11, I saw a documentary movie at school about the holocaust.  Like many kids my age (and the same would apply to many adults) I found the concept of getting into a situation where I was herded along with many others to my death in a gas chamber as being quite frightful.  The movie really had an impact on me but I didn’t discuss the matter with anyone.  I was just thankful that such idiocy was now past and the world was now a more enlightened place.

Had I discussed my thoughts with my parents or friends, perhaps it would have been helpful.  Older people could have pointed out that the holocaust was a particularly bad chapter but unfortunately the book was still being written and there was no reason to think that there wouldn’t be repeats.  But discussing it might have stabilized my mind somewhat.

As it was, I was, sort of, programmed with a ticking time bomb.

When I was 15 years old, I happened to hear a religionist named Garner Ted Armstrong laying a line that predicted that North Americans were going to be sucked up by a rebuilt Germany and Europe and a holocaust of holocausts would be the result.  I was impressed with some of his theological thinking and that, in conjunction with my phobia of getting caught up in a new holocaust, put me onto his fish line.

Had I been older or had I talked around more, I might have discovered that the “10 Nation / Save your skin” pitch was not new.  Radio preacher types had used it to personal advantage before.  But the current reality was that my young mind was into the GTA rut and in tow at full speed.

From there I became involved in the vibrant little religious movement that Garner Ted was part of, the Worldwide Church of God.  In hindsight it was a nasty little operation but it was not a total zero, and the redeeming features were a major factor that allowed the system to hang onto my mind.

I saw most religion as a home for weak, fuzzy thinking, self righteous dreamers and the autocratic, hard nosed WWCG gang had a certain appeal.  The major hook though, was their advancement of the observance of the 10 commandments and numerous other inconvenient Biblical principles that most Christian religion seemed to enthusiastically side step or ignore.

The WW group did a type of sell job on the validity of the Bible that was good enough, at that stage of my life, to hook me on that idea. I was convinced that the Bible had clout.  I was unaware of any group that didn’t seem to fit the “why call me Lord, Lord, but do not the things that I say” line.  I felt the WWCG did much better on this count and that they tried to keep their views and actions in line with the Book.  At least, that was the surface impression I had at that time.

Another major feature of the WW approach was advancing the thinking that the Holy Days of the Bible should be acted on.  I went along with the policy, basically without too much thought.  In the early days of my involvement, I was really a cultic controlled zombie.  I bought the line that this group was “The Group” and that they could do no wrong.  It was a lazy and comfortable outlook.  In hindsight, foolish, but as I look around me, I see that most of humanity is playing a similarly silly game in various ways. 

I hung in with the WW movement for about 25 years, and then, thankfully, the system came apart.  The group patriarch died, a new man took over who systematically took the old organization apart.  WW split into dozens of tiny bickering mini-clone, autocratic groups.  And anyone who had been associated with the original “one and only” group was forced to do some hard thinking.  It became clear that the level of corruption in the parent group was major and that a shocking level of corruption had existed from day one.  Another human organization has a flash of seeming success prior to crashing in flames.

There was plenty of human wreckage after the crash but personally, I think my ride was a fabulous learning experience.  I think I came out of the “whirlpool and big bang” trip with vivid lessons that most people have yet to learn.

Since those early days, my confidence in the reality of God and in the zero content of evolution** has increased.  And my regard for the remarkable value of the Bible has risen greatly.  There has been time to test theories and solidify accurate ideas and shed faulted ideas.  The size and impact of the evolution** mental net, despite its existence as a mirage or bodiless hologram, also impresses me far more than was the case when I was young.

Let me relate a very current personal story, a story that has unfolded in large part in the week prior to writing this section and partially in the last month prior to the writing effort.

The story is an analogy and a Trojan Horse.  In layered fashion, it is also an analogy of personal stories that everyone has on a constant basis.  Plug your story in, overlying my own.  What did you learn in school today?  The system is totally personalized!  My story is simply your story in different events and words – my language rather than your language.  But the Trojan Horse value is the gold and you have to detect and capture that gold.

At the paintball / laser tag / airsoft field that I own, the past summer saw an airsoft club rent my property for events roughly every two weeks.  I had never had a group utilize the facility so often in a season and it troubled me that boredom would set in.  I was certainly bored with running the same games, no matter how good, time and time and time again.  So when cold weather set in and the playing season ended, I launched into coming up with new game features to use in the 2015 season.

The airsoft group cast a somewhat different light on game design compared to the previous clientel – made up of groups that would come a few times in a season – not enough times so as to get tired of our fairly broad range of slightly complex games.  The airsoft players tend to be more imaginative.  They are, in a way, living a dream with their military simulations.  And they came repeatedly.  They seemed to like our setup.  I was flattered!

I am not endorsing nor criticising the militaristic approach.  Some would see the whole paintball / airsoft / laser tag business as negative, but I ended up involved due to being sucked in through the back door, and I came to see that the operation we were delivering was a winner at creating group cohesion and enhanced friendships.  Sort of a paradox, but here we are.  I think we have put together a formula that moves participants away from, rather than toward, being killers.  We run a very personalized operation. 

So, in response to the airsoft boredom issue, I wound up the brainstorm machine and the drawing board and the workshop and around the end of November 2014 I kicked out a system that I called our Enigma Box, one for each team.  The goal was to add an imaginative feature to current and future games.  Teams need to decipher the Enigma Box in order to get it to tell them a line of information that is vital for their team to win a specified game.  The winning team must have warriors as well as code breakers – a team effort.

There is a certain pleasure in watching people go at activities with enthusiasm.  In our part of the world, the Airsoft movement is new and has a fad aspect to it.  I have seen such waves rise and fall before in other areas.  But as an older person there is a certain pleasure in rubbing shoulders with young people who are excited about something.  The enthusiasm is contageous!  The Airsoft Club has been a pleasure to deal with.  We all have our goofy dream intervals but "enthusiasm" is basic and is a vital element of Life!
I had had some bad experiences with airsoft enthusiasts in prior years.  Perhaps just one of those glitches that occur in life.  So when the group in the pictures pressured me to allow them to play at the Merrill Dunes fields, I was a bit standoffish.  But they persisted and I went along with their request and the result was all good.  Not only did they bring business to my operation but they have been a pleasure to deal with.  And as with so many active events in Life, there were all sorts of spinoff lessons associated with their presence, some of which I will relate in my following story.  "Doing things" is always educational!
As it turned out, just as I was about to post the new development on our website, I heard that “The Imitation Game” was to hit theatres and on December 25 the movie aired and the Merrill Dunes Enigma Box also appeared on our field website.  Perfect! (PS I have since rebuilt the MD website and the movie reference is no longer there - only photos of our Enigma Box system) I am not sure what the exact motivation of the movie really was but the story was hung on the remarkable achievements of the Ultra project at Bletchley Park in the UK during WWII.  Not only did the Ultra group do the seeming impossible task of cracking the German Enigma information transfer system but Ultra managed to prevent the Germans from realizing that there was close to a total leakage of their information.

It was actually the Poles who got the ball rolling by cracking an early German Enigma system but they ran short on resources and brought other allied countries in on their secrets in order to advance the anti Nazi cause.  An earlier movie in 2001 about Ultra failed to credit the Poles as did the current “Imitation Game”.  Joe Desch, an American with German ancestry who worked for National Cash Register in Dayton, also helped the cause greatly.  He too missed the movie spotlight!  The Enigma cracking tactics were not quite as totally “British” or as “Turing” as the recent movie inferred.  Can’t let reality get in the way of box office drama or chosen themes!

Here a recent group of paintball players work on cracking the code of an Enigma Box.  Life can be viewed as a collection of games and often the difference between work and play blurs.  Variety is nice and so is challenge.  The addition of the Enigma Box innovation makes our operation unique locally and clients thrive on our challenging games!  A question;  is the gal in the center of the photo interacting with a marvellous Trojan Horse?  Does she have any comprehension of the lessons built into her actions?  Read on and the answer will be obvious.  This gal is toying with the biggest mysteries of Life!
A lot of thought and effort went into these "one off" babies!  But they will be used by hundreds of clients and I had a wonderful time building them while the snow and fridgid December wind blasted the outside of my cozy workshop!
Marian Rejewski, a Polish math whiz, was a key player at cracking pre WWII German Enigma transmissions.  The Poles surprised the British with their achievements when they shared their success with other anti Nazi allies.  Many Poles were not impressed at the poor press they have received over the years, given their remarkable contributions.  On the left is a photo of a German Enigma rotary coding machine.  The British and Americans used similar devices but the remarkably successful Ultra group was not duplicated by the Germans.  A message from a senior German naval officer, concerned about a young relative on the Bismark, may well have sealed the doom of the battleship.  A gal at Ultra picked up a decoded response that tipped the allies off on the course that the Bismark was going to take.  That tiny bit of well meaning information may well have put the monster, as well as the young relative, onto the bottom of the Atlantic.
At the same time that I was making the Enigma Box pair, I was pushing to get a decoding system installed at the control center of the playing field.  The system detects specific base conditions that teams instigate in the field and lets staff know when a team has achieved a specified goal, thus winning a game.

None of the technology involved is super high tech but there is an important blending of experience at giving groups a good time, with a degree of technical know-how - and with some helpful construction savvy thrown into the mix as well.

The decoding modules allow staff to ignor the automated game system and a voice alarm is triggered when one team manages to achieve a game win.  The win is associated with knowing a code pattern that the decoder can detect.  The game system is a "one off", the same as the Enigma Boxes, so not too much effort was put into neatness.  The module covers make the spagetti disappear and then neatness is all that is visible!
The decoding system needed to be visualized and then working plans needed to be drawn up.  Then the plans needed to be converted into reality.  Then the glitches needed to be worked out - and my experience is that there are always some glitches.  Theory rarely matches reality perfectly even if the designer is following paths that are fairly familiar!
The paintball  / airsoft field has three bases with triple light signal light pylons at each base.  Teams compete to try to control the bases and their respective light units.  Normally the team would put on their colour of light to indicate that they are in control but they are free to turn on any of the three lights.
The Flush Bingo / Single Base Code Module can watch for one team having three lights on, all the same colour or it can look for a sequencial code being fed into a single signal light unit via a player hitting a specific sequence of light changes.
The Coded Base Bingo Module looks for a pattern, exclusive to each team, where different specified lights at specific bases need to be turned on in order to achieve a winning pattern.  This gear most assuredly evolved but it didn't slowly morph into reality - a lot of experience, ass kicks, memories, brain power, and soldering went into the project.  Earlier game system equipment on the property has similarities.  But this piece of gear suddenly appeared over the course of a couple of weeks, as a complete system, after a lot of thought, planning, and construction.  I KNOW that it did not evolve**!  Progress involves WORK, not nebulous chance and wandering dreamtimes!  Here is my common sense Reality Teacher!
Okay – where is the analogy?  Where is the Trojan Horse?  What does this have to do with the Big School?

I see two vital points being involved.  One is the question of how to crack codes or to figure out really complex issues that involve a bewildering number of options.  The second is the process of adjusting and fine tuning one’s understanding of important issues in life.  Both matters are illustrated in my game design project.  The month of December was a productive School session! 

In 1963, folk singer Tom Paxton wrote a song about school.  The song was cynical but the Big School was definitely not the school that Paxton was evaluating in his folk song!

Here is a modified version of the Paxton song.

What did you learn in School today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in School today,
Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that puzzles are made to crack.
I learned that testing refines the hack.
I learned that Life is an exciting flow.
That personalized lessons are good to go!

That’s what I learned in School today,
That’s what I learned in School.

Cheesy but very accurate!

At group events at Merrill Dunes, I have learned that games can’t be too complicated.  Clients come to have relaxed fun – not to take an arduous technical course.  So it is critical to have a very good briefing system so that games can be quickly and effectively explained.  And the complexity of the game must match the group.  Groups that have come many times will need additional bells and whistles, to avoid boredom with the standard, basic routine.

Consider the way our Enigma Box works.  To crack its code, players need to fiddle with 4 toggle switches (each has two positions) that provide a total of 16 position options.  Then, there are three levels that need to be worked through.  A person with a bit of familiarity and skill can crack the box in a very short time.  When the box code is cracked, a voice recording tells the team a message that is vital to winning the game that is being played. 

We have a second coded system in a mobile dummy.  The dummy is used in hostage games.  The toggle switch system in the dummy uses 8 switches which provide 256 position options – a considerably more difficult code to crack.

But what would happen if we had 20 toggles on an Enigma Box?  Forget paintball, etc.  The event would be eaten up with code cracking and there would be no time for anything else.  At 15 seconds per guess and assuming the code breaker hit the magic code half way through all the options, it would take over 200 - 10 hour days to do the job.  Even a 3 second guess cycle would eat up 40 arduous and long days.  If I imposed that challenge on clients I could kiss goodbye to repeat business!

If you read up on the WWII Ultra project at Bletchley Park in the UK where the Allies managed to crack the German Enigma code you will learn that a large part of the trick was the use of a machine called the Cryptologic Bombe.  The large but simple computer was used to eliminate a great number of possible settings that could exist in the Enigma machine that was being cracked, and from there, human operators could handle the final code breaking.

Numerous Bombes were constructed for use by the Ultra team and eventually the British units were replaced by electronic versions made at NCR in the USA.  But they all did the same task - reducing the number of possible choices for the Enigma code of the day.  A humanly impossible task was boiled down to something that humans could not only handle, but had to handle.  Computors are not Living minds!  They are really helpful machines.  Life is unique.  Individuals are unique.  There are certain things that only a Living Being can achieve.
If a group of young players comes to Merrill Dunes, we can reduce the complexity of the Enigma box by only using 3 toggles – thus 8 possible options per level – easy.  No need for a cryptologic bombe.

So, let’s look at understanding the complexities of Life!  I was discussing the mysteries of Life with a young friend and he expressed the view that the topic is so big and the terrain is so cluttered with theories and religions and ideologies that it seems hopeless to even start trying to figure things out.  In effect, the Enigma Box before us appears to have 60 toggles!  Very difficult, it would seem, to find the correct code in a lifetime.

Most people are born into a setting where certain ideas are entrenched and they basically go with the flow during their time at Living.  They put up with the status quo, no matter how pathetic the results are that the status quo yields.  Some struggle.  Some throw up their hands in despair and frustration.  Some leap on idiotic, black and white fads.  But it is difficult to detect a well beaten pathway to some understanding that large numbers of people gravitate to and generally agree on.

So, is there a Cryptologic Bombe available to eliminate a large number of toggle switches in the Enigma of Life?  I am convinced that there is and I think I know why it is so seldom utilized.  (KEY 1) And the story about Edison and Upton, related on page 1, illustrates a somewhat similar angle (KEY 2).  Edison could see a simple, under your nose, approach to solve a complex problem.  Common sense was a specialty for him.  For me, getting hooked by the WWCG cult had the residual effect of providing me with a type of Bombe that most people ignore or treat with foolish contempt.  In some cases they hang onto the Bombe but use it as an ornament or a weapon rather than as a valuable tool.  More on that in a bit. (KEY 3)  But that gives coverage to the first lesson of December.  How do you simplify the code breaking task?

Lesson two involved installing two electrical modules in our playing field / game control kiosk.  The field has three bases that teams try to control.  Each base has a 3 light signal pylon.  Timers can keep track of how long each base is controlled by any one of three teams, based on the pylon light that is on – red – amber – or green.  (Players tell me that this is Call of Duty / Domination and I point out that we had the system installed and named Base Masters before the video game company even existed!)  But the new modules allow us to specify light patterns for each team.  When a specified pattern shows up, the control module notifies staff that a team has achieved its goal and that a winner has been determined.  Another module looks for a pattern of light changes originating from a single base.  The correct code will trigger a signal that shows staff which team has entered the vital code.  The airsofter players will love it so long as the equipment is skilfully integrated into larger games!

The modules were planned in my mind and the mental plan was transferred onto paper plans and from there the actual physical modules were constructed.  These are “one off” items, made for our field and no other.  The concept as far as I am aware is original and I had nothing to copy off of.  Speed of production was vital and that explains the wild maze of wires in the photos.  If a production run was planned, more effort would go into a simplified design and construction method.  But for the moment, I want the system in place and working so I can push on with additional projects before spring hits.  I applied the “git er dun kwik so long as she wurks” approach!