Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Borg R Us

I was reading about demoralization in the workplace a lot of today, focusing specifically on Carrier and Amazon.  For contrast, the National Geographic documentary on Coca-Cola bottling plants showed presumably well-paid workers proud of their responsibilities.

The Carrier people know their furnaces are in demand, but don't sense the parent company values them as people.  Mexicans know what that's like.  Corporate personhoods don't always relate to flesh and blood humans that well.  Welcome to the matrix.

I got a free AWS T-shirt at OSCON this time, and wore that around N. Mississippi, playing the part of a techie moving into one of the new apartments and gentrifying the hell out of that part of town.  In fact, my personal experience trying to drive an AWS go-cart (metaphor) was a wipe-out.  Nonetheless, I do promote the infrastructure to my OST-RU buddies.  That's a science fiction template code school built on the model of a travel agency booking charter flights (classes).

In other words:  we are Borg.

I allude the that sense of complicity, of collusion, we all feel as Amazon Prime users.  I canceled mine but that doesn't count, as I piggy-back on family.  The physics books I got through the Amazon database recently was not shipped Prime, but it was definitely paid through Amazon.  Someone, somewhere, had to run around some giant warehouse at my behest, maybe needing a break, a vacation, a little job security.

What the AI people miss is the worker is not so much feeling apprehension about the coming AI revolution and the jobs that will steal, as they feel the robot takeover is already complete and their existential worth as human beings is null and void.  They feel like wage slaves. Meanwhile, we are Borg.

Friday, August 10, 2018


I've been using my Facebook profile rather publicly, giving the world more insights into my state of mind.  I may go back to using it that way down the road, but for now I'm removing Facebook from my blog links and closing the profile to the public.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Updates from PDX

Regarding news of the day, I'm happy to have joined Truckers without Borders on Facebook and am seeing lots of interesting posts.  I'm looking forward to a meetup with my "truckology" mentor in about a week.  By then I'll have started teaching a next class.

The Portland-Shiraz sister cities discussion has to do with more than just high tech and roses (also high tech) in my book, in that I'm eager to compare notes on pure geometry.  Mathematicians like to play sometimes.  We already have a large body of mathematical art collected.

The business was notified by the IRS that my documents have been received.  They're still mulling stuff over.  I'll be sending in some self-withheld self-employment taxes soon.  I need to keep enough to pay the local property tax, which is pretty steep in Asylum District.  I'm a homeowner there.

I'm still thinking about OSCON and what I learned.  Open Source is at the heart of a lot of the economy, doing closed source things.  That's not a new paradigm.  Everyone has screwdrivers and drills, but what they do with them may be shrouded in secrecy.  That being said, unless you show people what you're doing, they'll happily learn from someone else.  Invest in future friends.

Speaking of future friends, I understand that focusing on election outcomes can be a waste of time, when the politicians in question are pretty much stuck at the Common Core level.  Qualifications for political jobs are minimal, as we've seen.  DC is pretty vain, thinking social engineering has to be focused on them.  Just saying.

That being said, I'm following the local campaigns and do plan to exercise my voting rights.  In my region of Cascadia, we vote by mail.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Sermon

Rather than beat 'em, I join 'em, as who needs all that beating anyway.  I'm talking about the cadre that delivers sermons, as from a pulpit, which might as well be a lectern.

When it comes to dogma, anyone is capable of barking out some truth, unreflectively and by the book. But what's the point of suppressing free speech?  Let the spewers spew, while reserving your right to change channels.

In other words, rather than fulminate regarding how others seize the privilege (of sermonizing) I'll dutifully get in line to deliver my Lightning Talk when the occasion is appropriate.

My boilerplate sermon (oft preached) centers around God having real problems with his Creation, to where He has to take strict measures even before Genesis is over.

He bans Adam & Eve from Eden, or rather they're self disqualifying in some way.  Then he floods the place, saving precious little DNA:  just that of Noah and his family, along with the non-humans that they rescued.

So Noah's offspring were very deficient in the biodiversity department and highly susceptible to groupthink.  They succumbed to the flat Earth vision of an infinite plane (plain) and God Above, looking "down".  To reach God, then, they reasoned, build a tall tall tower.

Their hunger to connect with the deity was commendable, even endearing, but once again the humans were on the wrong track.  Blasting off into outer space atop a Saturn V or whatever, would need to come later, much later.  By then, the chief lesson would have been learned.

God had promised no more major cataclysms, though in later Plague Days some may have wondered if He'd changed his mind.

The intervention he'd need for this mono-culture was pretty brilliant:  just don't let them all get on the same page.  End the ability of humans to establish a single, totalitarian consensus reality (some singular Reich) once and for all.  Thwart imperialism.  Keep it chaotic, though not entirely without rhyme or reason.

Again, the lessons to be learned are geometric in nature:  the planet is not an infinite plane, but a ball, and God needs humans to realize this fact.

Some say our eating the apple was coming to know of the world's roundness and that wasn't really a  sin.  Rather, a self-serving intelligence community, a priest caste, wanted to keep such knowledge secret and conspired to make a religion out of keeping us ignorant.

Without buying into this particular heresy, we're still able to appreciate the intentional nature of our Diaspora.

As a chosen people (humanity, on this particular Eden planet) we were to understand our relationships to one another in terms of networks, not top-down pyramids.  Cybernetics and Deep Ecology would eventually seep into our thinking, countering the conditioned reflexes of those "infinite plane" landlubbers.

The Diaspora in the wake of the Tower of Babel incident meant removing our fixation on some singular Z axis, a common pecking order.

Civilization would be multi-polar, henceforth.

Hallelujah and Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tredding Water

I'm keeping my head above water at least, figuratively speaking.  Teaching Patrick's course is a good workout but strenuous in some sense.  I'm the Mr. Professor character, holding forth, but sometimes I experiment, take risks, and fall on my face in so doing.  I figure having students watch me flail a little, is truth in advertising, where learning to code is concerned.

In this case, what bit me in the butt was a missing commit after a bunch of SQL inserts, meaning none of the records were actually saved, appearances to the contrary.  My implementation of a context manager in Python, characteristically about connecting to and disconnecting from a database, failed to list out the expected dogs, because in fact, the dogs table was empty.  Live and learn.  I see what I need to do to fix the code.  However it'd be great to fix it in the master copy, as every session starts fresh from that source.

Lindsey Walker is my house guest again, but for only hours, not years, this time.  She's enroute from her academic lifestyle in Corvallis, Oregon, to another set of self disciplines in Kathmandu.  Religious studies.  Lots of ritual, Sanskrit, yoga, dance moves.  You'll find lots of entries about LW in my blogs.  We're heading out to the airport shortly.

Last night, we dropped in on Wanderers, where Barry was sharing about his southern hemisphere vacation.  However Carol (mom) was seeking to navigate her way to the pharmacy, pushing her walker, so Walker and I decided our higher calling was to supervise that process, after which we sought out Patrick, the original author behind the course I've been teaching, every day this week, from 7 AM until 1:45 PM.  We work on an East Coast timezone.

Saturday, July 21, 2018



Events that gather momentum, like some meditation retreats, like OSCON, don't then just dissipate to nothing immediately upon close.  People radiate back into their lives, sharing vibes they picked up.  Ripple effects.

I wandered Mt. Tabor with a friend, stumbling upon piano in the park. Ramona was there, and explained a little.  One of the improvisors was her student.  A duet.

We watched the sunset together and went our separate ways, me down the steep steps I'd come up, the recently upgraded flight from the lower to upper reservoirs.

Mt. Tabor's reservoirs are decorative and historic and make for cool lakes of Bull Run water, gravity fed to the city by some Uru technology, other-worldly, more Narnia than not.

As evidence of OSCON putting me in a trance, I rushed out to Best Buy for a bigger brighter monitor. I ripped through the TV stuff to get to my desktop where I watched documentaries about container shipping.  I'm studying the trucking end of that business.

You'll be asking yourself what Open Source Convention has to do with "truckology" or container shipping.  One answer is transportation is data intensive.  Truckers use apps and GPS.  Another answer is cloud architecture is all about "containers" these days, talking Docker and Kubernetes.

For those unsure of what I'm talking about:  after the PC revolution (personal computers), then Free Software (Revolution OS), came Cloud Computing, which we're still exploring.  One puts components together in new architectures.  Microsoft is happy to let you spin up an instance of Ubuntu on Azure.  That's the new world.

Missing from the picture was how to bring the cloud into the world of the work-study Global U student trucker, the coder behind the wheel.  Code schools were springing up all over.

One could move from driving to programming, without necessarily changing knowledge domains.  Keep thinking about trucking, just more from a back office angle.  Or go the other direction, from a pod to a cab.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

OSCON at Twenty

Girl STEM Star

OSCON is waxing nostalgic on its 20th.  Tim O'Reilly expressed his pleasure in being back in Portland, though maybe bringing some Texas weather.  For sure.

From humble beginnings in UNIX culture, free and open source culture took off and now (semi-secretly) powers the economy.  Heavy hitters come to OSCON seeking to recruit new devs.

At OMSI last night, some of the OS community expressed their sense of OSCON closing in around core devs and seeming less accessible in terms of providing a more Maker Faire style front end.

That's not a new development, as OS migrated to the cloud, where it gets configured into proprietary back ends, inherently closed, but with components contributed back to the community.  The cloud world is dominated by big name monopolies, sometimes abbreviated FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google).

Tim O'Reilly wondered from the stage whether the cloud companies were becoming too greedy around empowering themselves at the expense of others, versus catalyzing new synergies and surfing on network effects.

The question need not be posed in terms of morals, unless one sees ethics in engineering as a restatement of scientific principles.  "We're doing science" said Tim, which means experimenting to find what works.

Generosity (definition goes here) is a component of long term business strategy, and more than airy fairy investment in "good will" per the old school economics textbooks.

Morning Coffee

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Elementary School

Had Wittgenstein been in a position to avail himself of computer languages, as his student Alan Turing was starting to do, would he have found these sufficient to make his points regarding rule following in mathematics, or would he have taken the position that some formal logic, woven by not-computer-scientist philosophers, was essential fabric?  I'm thinking he'd have found our world of programming languages sufficient for his purposes.

In Synergetics we see non-executing notations referred to as "empty set" versus another category of math notation as "operational". His math is of the latter type and seems destined to run on computers, both in serial and in parallel processes and threads.  In the meantime, there's plenty of prose to munch on and run neurally, in search of tips and clues regarding generic heuristics.  "Think in terms of planets" might be among the mantras we come away with.  In other words:  mnemonics that employ connected graphs in biospheres will help you play World Game more effectively.  Peter Sloterdijk helped pave the way.

The challenge in elementary schools is to expand their horizons to needing to wrangle large numbers of numbers.  That doesn't necessarily mean the numbers themselves have to be large.  Imagine of herd of a billion numbers, all primes, plus negative one, and low order primes at that, no well established RSA number factors.  Those would be too large.  It's the billions and billions of numbers we need to work with.  Store them.  Process them.  Save them.  Return to them later.

Fortunately, none of these challenges are extremely new and without precedent.  Businesses have always needed to track inventories, large and small, and to measure capabilities.  The physics and chemistry world is keeping track of atoms and molecules, in terms of moles, in terms of various measures.  Even individual molecules may be tagged and made to fluoresce.  The mathematics of large quantities is ancient history.  We just need more of it in the early grades.  Supermarket Math to the rescue.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Gregory Bateson, the systems theorist and anthropologist, recognized the emergence of Cybernetics as one of the major landmarks in human history.  However, "Cybernetics" per se (the word itself), like "Biosphere", has not enjoyed the wide currency many expected.

That doesn't mean Gregory Bateson was wrong, only that the precise language used is highly mercurial vs-a-vs the less fickle concepts themselves. Systems that auto-tune in the presence of an environment, in order to optimize various capabilities, don't have to be identified as "cybernetic" in order for them to get their work done.

General Systems Theory (GST) actually includes an appreciation for "word meaning trajectories" meaning we track the significance of words in semantic space, and not just according to their frequency (common versus esoteric).

The concepts to consider here:  biases, weights, precession.  The first two seem obvious and show up in linear algebra specifically.  The latter, precession, is borrowed from Synergetics, often lumped with Cybernetics (for good reason) and has to do with the curvilinear paths (the geodesics) formed in the presence of feedback loops, tensor fields, some of which may be self reinforcing (e.g. the "vortex" pattern).

Planets were originally conceived of as "wanderers" because from the standpoint of Earth, their orbits are not simply elliptical, as they are from the standpoint of a Galilean observer, looking from outside the solar system.  Picking the viewpoint from which bodies in motion have a simplest set of relationships is a non-trivial application of machine learning. At least metaphorically, the fixed point theorem applies: there's an identity function hiding in a forest, like a singular tree.

Machine learning is somewhat like fine tuning an ear to hear, inside a chamber with characteristic frequencies we hope to detect.  Train your ear while creating a track record, a history, of improvement, thanks to feedback loops.  Then correctly categorize new sounds, as evidence that you've practiced some generic skill and aren't helpless outside the training cocoon. In today's Tensorflow tutorial we distinguished training, validation and testing data.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Forks in the Road

World Cup Flag

Regarding the Friday 13th indictment of Russian nationals, the talk of the town in this chapter (except for the World Cup, which is on at the moment, last day), we're seeing a fork in the road when it comes to the readership, itself a small percentage of those who care.

Reader A is seeing all the details sprinkled therein, with specific servers in Arizona and Illinois, unit numbers within the GRU, and of course specific names, and is impressed, ready to believe.  Knowing the indictment is unlikely to result in a trial, Reader A is willing to presume the story is true, skipping that step (a trial with evidence), and go from there.

Reader B is thinking of Colin Powell's detailed presentation regarding Iraqi WMDs ("aluminum tubes") and may in general have the view that a big part of spy stuff is crafting stories to look believable ("yellow cake").

The assassination of JFK comes to mind as well (I've been watching Jerry Kroth's latest).  Some people even don't believe the moon landings happened (I think they did).  They're skeptics by nature, especially around anything Cold War flavored.

These are not the only two camps of course.

For example, Reader C may think, like Reader A, that the story holds water, is probably true, but we should be thanking Russian intelligence for doing the job investigative journalists no longer do.

Reader D thinks more like Reader B, but also thinks the intelligence community is now global and this is its way of moving conflicts between major powers out of nuclear hot war space and into the cyber arena, which is for the better.

I haven't even mentioned Nine Eleven and probably should.  Once again, major events that have changed the face of history, do not always build much consensus.

People agree on the magnitude but not on the significance.  The many mutually conflicting stories cancel each other out to some degree.  For example, as a student of Col. Fletcher Prouty, I don't believe the Gary Powers U2 was "shot down".

Understanding these forks in the road helps with analysis as we move forward, as it becomes easier to understand people's thinking when we remember we don't share the same past.

As for me personally, I have some sympathy for Readers B and D, but want to keep an open mind.

The indictment suggests Guccifer 2.0 is a persona, not a person, and that part I'm thinking might be true, but then who invented him?  He seems to have implicated the GU rather overtly, with those Word templates.  If he was a Russian invention, he was not that smart.

Reader A and Reader B therefore have some overlap.  Reader A thinks the Russians have been caught red handed (retro pun intended) precisely because they were sloppy about the coverup.

Stories that Guccifer 2.0 was actually a disguise for Russians came out well before the indictment.  People doing searches will again reach different conclusions.  Reader A sees a consistent story shaping up.  Reader B sees collusion as a cabal seeds the media.

I'm probably sympathetic to Reader B because I don't think politicians in the UK did a convincing job of proving Russians poisoned the Skripals with fancy nerve agent.  Nor did I buy the following April, 2018 chemical weapons attack story in Syria.  The debunkers seemed more credible.

I do think people make stuff up to incite sentiments and also to increase that sense of being under surveillance.  I believe that's a big part of spy craft:  writing believable science fiction.

I think those in a prosecuting / investigative role have little choice but to press forward with their story.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  The goal should be to tie off loose ends.

For example, the "AMS panel" in Arizona maybe counters a line of reasoning raised by some retired NSA types suggesting the metadata was inconsistent with any transcontinental data transfer.  The indictment adds that the files were compressed.

These details go towards addressing the "leak versus hack" forking, providing more ammo to Reader A.

What I noticed in the forty eight hours following the release of the indictment was how hard it was to find any official Russian reaction.  This was not a focus of any of the news stories I could find, but for a paragraph here and there.   We'll likely be getting more along those lines in the next few days.

I'm more interested in the Russian counter-spin than on whatever CNN has to say.  I prefer RT to CNN, any day, thanks to the Americans who work for RT USA.

I'll go upstairs now and see if I can find the World Cup on Fox.  I'm in the Steve Holden Chair of Computer Science in my living room, which is propped up with a log in the back.

Carol, my 89 year old mom, is trying to get ready in time for Quaker meeting, however I don't see us getting there in time, even though my car is back from repairs at K&M near 50th and Division.  We'll likely make it for social hour.

Congratulations France.  I managed to catch just the last five minutes.  Someday I'm hoping to go back and watch a compilation of highlights, from all the games.