Monday, March 27, 2017

Glossy Magazines

Glossy Mag

I did a Mt. Tabor walk this morning, as Spring was in the air. I'm thinking back to our Wanderers Equinox celebration, which I didn't blog about. A lot of my favorite characters were there.

This time I stopped in at Common Grounds for coffee and magazines.  Dwell is for the one percent, jealous to have homes in magazines, where they might be depicted drinking coffee and reading Dwell.

TIME is still trying hard to be the voice of sobriety, these many wars later, the truly "presidential" American voice, in contrast to new waves (generations) of media that more openly advertise spin doctoring. 

Of course we see TIME as propaganda, but that's not a bad word, just old fashioned Latin.

A second after explaining what truth really is, these journalists get all know-it-all about True Korea and what "we" should do with "our" nuclear weapons or whatever.

Leave it to the Voice of Discorporate Authority (the man behind the curtain, some emperor with no cloths) to give us a good read about what's so in the world.

We can trust TIME to sound worldly, also pop and hip, not unlike the BBC in so many dimensions, with lots of advertising. Not the tea leaves I look at usually, but sometimes I'll wedge it in.

Oh yeah, what really hit me as ironic was all the hype for trailer park living, for those at the other end of the spectrum from Dwell readers, in some socio-economic sense. These are the "undersavers" we're told (no spin there, right?).

Never mind that architecture ("exterior design") has again failed us again, that we're falling back on solutions from the 1950s for the boomer retirees. How imaginative, right?  Your American Dream come true, Mr. and Mrs. Rinkydink.

And to think, some were thinking the Year 2000 would be like The Jetsons with jet packs and all the rest of it. At least we get to talk with our search engines and other so-called "smart" devices.  The Dwell people get to talk to Amazon.


The article on Camille Paglia and her free speech position, wanting universities to butt out of speech policing, was interesting. I can see why that'd spread.

I think generations sometimes talk past one another, like when a father continues to talk to a little girl long after a woman has taken her place.

The new kids on the block grew up watching Breaking Bad (a soap opera) and aren't about to let geezer-boomers tell them "how it really is" because what do they know really?  Just go back and read the older issues.  How well did they serve us then?  I suppose your answer might have something to do with whether you read Dwell or not.

Recycling a Vision

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unicode Anyone?


My opening gambit on Forum 206, about the place of Unicode in any public curriculum worthy of Americans, went pretty much unanswered. Bottle-necking to so few media companies means a backlog of unresolved issues, some of which might be disruptive and hard to manage.

Likewise my invitation to elaborate on fractions, in terms of shards, or splinters, volumetric shapes, seemed to just dead end.  Welcome to zombie-ville right?  Corporate persons Я us.  I suppose these conversations are just happening in other venues, where people have relevant responsibilities. No one said we had to choose Forum 206.  I agree, totally.

The shards I'm going on about with non-members of the inner circle: Mite, Syte, Kite.  Aristotle would know what I'm talking about.

In order to appreciate Western history, one needs to follow the history of computation, certainly back to India and China, but not neglecting the stopover in Persia, where the House of Wisdom ( بيت الحكمة‎‎; ) applied some spit and polish (an idiom).

"Algorithms" taught in Portland every day trace right back through Liber Abaci, by Fibonacci of Pisa, to al-Khwārizmī who lived in 9th Century Persia (Roman calendar). As we train up a next generation to get along (to be "presidential"), our public school curriculum is making sure we remember these threads.  Europe grew into its Renaissance thanks to open source computation.

Thanks to Unicode, I'm able to quote sources in the original next to whatever translations. Did I want Persian or some Cyrillic stuff in the same blog post?  Google has provided the Blogger service, meaning Unicode at our fingertips.  Just ASCII wouldn't do the job and the various workarounds were incompatible.

Yes, Unicode has some issues and I understand if there's some impatience with this iteration of an obviously needed encoding. I haven't made it my role to play a strident advocate of engineeringly imperfect artifacts, but nor must I become their scornful detractor. On the contrary, we make do with what we have, somewhat by definition. Complaining we're but backwardly human is not likely to change anything overnight, even if prayer is powerful.

I'm glad one of my colleagues mentioned SVG again recently. I've been presenting a model of how one matures as a coder, starting with lots of games, which we call namespaces. Then comes the risk taking of undertaking projects, however small. One of my students today got a lightning bolt spinning in MIT Scratch, and felt rewarded, as I did, seeing him learn.  Scalable Vector Graphics belong in the mix with HTML + CSS + JavaScript.  Sheri was showing me some SVG at the PDX Code Guild site, another reminder.

Lindsey Walker, long-time sojourner, came to Portland with strong SVG skills already. She was one of those girl geeks with a surplus of bandwidth for geeky projects, and managed to work her way into a high technology company, where she was recognized by management. I spent many hours in VRML myself, always attracted to Renaissance perspective renderings of 3D to 2D (you likely know this namespace, if reading this far).

You may be wondering where the Youtubes might be, showing A & B modules being 3D printed, assembled into MITEs, Bites, Rites, Lites (the three Sytes).  I'm wondering too, but then remember, welcome to zombie-ville, right?  Corporate persons Я us.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

RussiaGate


The morphing of #PizzaGate into #WeinerGate, or visa versa, depending on the observer's coordinate system, was seen as an ongoing #RussiaGate from a more IC-based viewpoint, i.e. the ODNI fingered RT (formerly Russia Today) for being the Kremlin's Al Jazeera and perhaps fanning the Breitbart flames (the late Andrew Breitbart helped Weiner's weiner go viral).

Bannon, formerly with Cambridge Analytica, may have had this endgame in mind, with the White House citing GCHQ as a possible source of intercepts, used to oust Flynn as revenge for Comet Pizza and Podesta stories (traced to Wikileaks in some cases).

We're used to that anti-pattern, of believing British Intelligence and then paying a price. First came the infamous "sixteen words" about Saddam Hussein, used by Colin Powell types in business plotting. By the time we learned the truth, it was too late, Congress had caved (a lot of 'em were in on it).

The phony justifications for the attack on Saddam's palaces were enough to ignite CNN's countdown to "shock and awe" programming. Those should have been tourist attractions by now, like Mad King Ludwig's (of Bavaria -- see Royal Babylon by Karl Shaw, on my Kindle).

The CIA has hated getting flogged for that disaster, but is reluctant to admit it knew ahead of time that Nine Eleven was coming (cite Susan Lindauer and others), as that just feeds the conspiracy theorists. Tenet sat behind Powell, symbolically bolstering the war planning, however stovepiped by neocons.

Pointing to those who quit the agency in disgust (Lindsey Moran) maybe doesn't help either as Manifest Destiny must never be questioned (see below). A convergence of interests helped bruised egos find one another in the aftermath of Trump's victory, and sing kumbaya together, at least briefly.

However, in casting the GCHQ as idly boastful, claiming to have superpowers equal to the NSA's, the White House is deflecting criticism from Russian operatives onto MI6. The damning dossier, to which many hopes are still pinned, has been all but disavowed by its leaker-compiler, and now the intercept story is falling apart, as another case of the White House misplacing its trust.

Who wins from wandering through this wilderness of mirrors?

We're gaining in financial literacy at least (Rachael Maddow is a good teacher, able to sustain a note of outrage), in finding the oligarchies all invest in one another. Popping open a Pabst probably adds to the bottom line of some fertilizer king somewhere, only three degrees of separation from Darth Vlad, and maybe fewer.

Trump towers around the world play host to many businesses and yes, Russia has lots of cash to spread around, gas and oil money, though not as much as the UK maybe, given British Petroleum and British Aerospace are integral within NATO's Pentagon and therefore flush, as that's what Uncle Sam's paying customers mostly sponsor: world policing by Team America, the hired gun, the campus heavy.

NATO wants to keep it up with the weapons testing in several theaters, having acquired a strong taste for blood as well as oil, including in Europe itself thanks to president Bill Clinton's angry bombings in the Balkans, of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade etc., the CIA at its peak?

As long as the White House obeys NATO and the Iron Mountain's edicts more generally, creating jobs jobs jobs for the million dollar camo people, the CIA is unlikely to get much more direct revenge, as it eats from that same trough, another piggish beneficiary of Manifest Destiny exceptionalism (what keeps Washington DC in the money).

Guantanamo Bay (the base, not the torture chambers) is still safe from the Cubans, still in service for R&R (so much closer than Okinawa!). NATO is all about its many bases, some of them titularly still "US" (never mind Uncle Sam has no money, there's cheap credit available).

A truce of sorts may have been attained therefore, with the IC going back to business as usual, hoping the White House was never serious about a lot of that stuff, about how the CIA uses Nazi tactics or whatever. CBS was really offended by that, as George Tenet told Scott Pelley directly they didn't use torture.

Hurt feelings still run deep, as Brennan and Panetta made clear, invoking their privilege to speak for the anonymous dead in the Wall of Stars. The new president has a severe case of ODD ("oppositional defiance disorder") that much is clear.

However pathological presidents are nothing new (cite Richard Nixon); goes with the territory.  Once the psychological profile is more fully grasped, they're easier to manage. Pharmacological prescriptions are not out of the ordinary (cite JFK).

As long as the American people remain dupable (very doable) it's business as usual perhaps. Lets see how the Dems respond. Oligarchs from John Kerry to John McCain bear watching closely.

My guess is the drum beat for impeachment, for better integrating Russia into the plutocracy (a form of treason?), will likely stay back burner as long as Scotland keeps accepting those Trident submarine bases and NATO keeps Russia from joining the EU (a lost cause with the UK gone?).

Of course both Russia and the EU would change in character were Russia to think more seriously about joining, but that's the point: more customs-free borders, with substance control handled in other ways.  We don't want to inspect every Tom, Dick or Harry who happens to drive a long-haul truck, given RFID and all that.

Joining the EU would not preclude Russia's continuing with other alliances, including with Iran and Asian players, also BRIC or whatever.  What's the downside?  We shall see.  NATO probably has some objections, and the UK is still part of NATO (including Scotland).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Service


I lucked out finding parking at the school today. I'm a circuit rider, and sometimes traffic is unpredictable, at least by me.  I'll need to make an earlier start next week.  As it was, I got there by 2:30 PM on the dot, calling Darwin to assure him I'd hit my mark.

I'm impressed by all these boys getting along. They're developing culture around MIT Scratch. My own little offering is admittedly silly.  I like how the captions are so lame, in terms of timing, whereas this is a computer program, so should be perfect.

Getting a Quaker to concede to safe firearm training as a public school elective might've seemed quite the arm twisting feat. Safe driving courses: same category.  I didn't make the meeting in Salem. I'd go down there weekly when I consulted for Associated Oregon Industries however those days are long over. I make do with Facebook.

Is that K-16 public school? I know a lot of people agitating for that. Lots of boarding options. We'd have outdoor opportunities, but city folk don't always cotton to the ways of country folk, so orientation is essential, as for Peace Corps. Social engineers needed, and that includes politicians as a subspecies.

What do second graders know? I'm not the expert. I'd probably be more effective thinking through with teachers how they'd like to innovate. We had these discussions in Kensington (Greater London) in 2006, care of Shuttleworth Foundation but with the RSA in view, not the USA.  How would Learning to Code mix with math learning. In the USA they had an answer right away, without needing to think about it.

Their plan here is to teach a lot of topics several times in several ways, as we do now. Consider plotting points in the XY plane, then adding the Z axis. That's taught without vectors, the first time, then again with, though without mentioning vector graphics versus bitmap.  Now we'll probably want yet another pass, with Computer Science providing the objects (vectors are objects).  Is that an optimized approach?  Who knows and who cares.

I've agitated for the rights of math teachers to think outside of their box and get paid to do so. They want better jobs, less hectic, more creative, more respected.  Having responsibility for innovation would add all that, or could, but for now math teachers are told to stay in their box and let computer science nail them into their coffins.  Math teachers tend to not suffer from Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and are getting boxed in.

With Computer Science come ray tracers and the ability to sculpt in computed light. Geometry beacons, with its hard science of set ratios.  There's grist for rationality as well as irrationality in that 3D printable domain.  The NCLB Polyhedron is there: the RT.  Whether we hearken back to NCLB or not, at least there's Phi (I say "fie", some say "fee").

Speaking of Phi, I'm not sure where Princeton Philosophy stands on whether I'm right in my claim that our Medal of Freedom winner grandnephew of Margaret Fuller should get in more air time in K-16.  I'm seeing where all the kids research famous people for their poster presentations, such as Helen Keller and John Glenn.

I'm aware that philosophy in general has rendered its decision, with Peter Sloterdjik providing enough of a context in the Bubbles, Globes and Foams trilogy to keep some of this heritage rolling forward, even if not in the US. Lets not confuse the US with North America the territory however. Silicon Forest remains a pioneer. Not everyone has to play the role of blood clot in this scenario.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nuts and Bolts


I figure I'm "working for the government" simply in doing my civic duty and investigating my own country. The FBI might as well pay me to study up on the heroin epidemic, shades of Mena in where the drugs might be coming from i.e. from aircraft involved in drug wars.

However that's not my main focus.

Contextualizing my analysis in light of the "Amy cartoon" (she does the storytelling), I have to think of how news networks sop up advertising dollars from the major drug companies, the ones lucky enough to own FDA-approved inventory, meaning insurance will reward the privileged who happen to have whatever conditions they get prescribed for. The DEA will not interfere.

The painkiller industry stoked a major epidemic in North America, especially with the advertising around Oxy. Yes, deflecting blame onto Percocet and Vicodin is often done, but it's about more than if you're an opiate, it's about what media campaigns you succeed at.  The Oxy team had some pro spin doctors.

The FBI went after the "bad apple" physicians but has no mandate to pursue systemic change, as that would be the business of Congress, the rule-making body. How might the FDA admit wrong-doing in allowing Oxy's claims to be especially non-addictive, to go unchallenged?  There's no way, right?  Law enforcement has little leverage with what's by definition legal.

The medical community as a whole got wise to the truth about Oxy, but the damage was done. Cutting off the supply means pushing former patients into desperation. Heroin is the next thing.

We learned about Oxy with Rush Limbaugh, a high profile user. Billboards have gone up everywhere. The issue came up in the presidential campaign. Yet now here we are, debating health care, and we're not really saying if addiction to medication will receive any concerted government attention. Public health and the government's health care bill exist on different planes of discussion.

On Facebook I started up a group of citizens united behind the idea that our heroin epidemic is an emergency and FEMA should step in.

Those "camps" might sound last resort, but hitting bottom on heroin can get that way. These will be a way out.

Also, it's an emergency if your name was purged from the voter roles by intentionally sloppy SQL, so FEMA should have a phone number for inquiries about that too.

Science fiction I realize, that FEMA would take either emergency seriously, but I thought a 3rd party (neither Dems nor Pubs) might use this as a plank in its platform, with the slogan "FEMA loves you". Yes, eerie.

However what's also eerie is how, now that we're down to something like six major media companies, there's no room to focus on the real sufferings of real voters (or would be voters). Air time is what you pay for, you being the advertising sponsor, not the viewer consumer.  You need to push a lot of painkillers to those in pain. Our stories will help you do that.

The supposedly logical response is to deprive local farmers of their privilege to grow their own opium poppies. Demand-side health programs, compassionate treatment, is actually addressing the issue (addiction), whereas supply-side shut-off and interdiction is the better way to get cut in, as another dealer.  The moralizers, who would criminalize and not treat, end up fueling the whole game.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

WQM Mens Group 2017


I've been a stalwart of this Men's Group for many years now, although I was not present at its inception.

When I moved back to Portland and sought friendship, twas the regional Gathering of Western Young Friends to which I felt attracted. Such beautiful people (Pan, Kate...). I still think so.

However by now, in my late fifties, versus late twenties, I've shifted gears, and it's with these old farts and geezers, half of us dead, that I hang out with at Big Bear Camp, once a year.

This weekend, for me, was a lot about being a tourist in my home state of Oregon. As a person born in Chicago, with memories mostly starting here, but away overseas from 3rd grade until well after college (overseas includes New Jersey, Cairo, Rome, Manila and more, not necessarily in that order), I'm not nearly as familiar with the territory as some of these other Quaker men.

Their knowledge of history, geography, ethno-botany, far exceeds mine. Wesley's lunch, a detailed introduction to local foods, from olive oil to salmon to hazelnut and stinging nettle pesto, was a total eye opener.

Much of the time, I had my head in a book, a peek into the Castaneda family by the widow.  She's no slouch as a writer and as "something else" (between outright lie and factual truth) I'd circle "encryption" (in itself a full spectrum). A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda, by Margaret Runyan Castaneda (Millenia Press, Victoria BC, 1997).

One wishes to tell a story, but not lay it all bare, as it's not a confession or admission of anything.  Do we always assume the anonymous reader is entitled to unearned access?  From innocence, one may play with the truth in order to share a deeper truth.  Is that true?  People do encrypt, as well as obfuscate and confabulate.

I'd set a goal ahead of time to out myself more explicitly this time, rogue that I am, as practicing Subgenius and Pastafarian, as well as Quaker.

In closing worship, I expressed gratitude for being a spaghetti strand (scenario) in partially overlapping scenario Universe (spaghetti ball).  "Ra-men" quipped one of the elders.

Somewhere around Munroe, Joe and I, not driving, reconnected to the grid. Within minutes, I was babbling in the back seat regarding the issues some were having on Forum 206 with Gulen schools, charter schools run by a Sufi sect, even more controversial in Turkey.

Joe started  telling us everything we needed to know about zirconium.

Our driver was amazed at how Cyberia makes easy the asking of all questions, like some Delphic oracle. Just ask Her.

One of my other readings this weekend was The Gift: Poems by Hafiz The Great Sufi Master, translations by Daniel Ladinsky (Penguin Compass, 1999).

We're not all as old as I'm making out, with some definitely younger, and others bordering on ageless. Check our outreach listserv for more insights into our subculture.  Maybe you'd like to join us some year? Watch for the flyer.

March 12 or close thereto is when we meet, the week before St. Patrick's Day, at the very beginning of Spring in these parts (snow fell in the area as recently as a week ago).

As always, we devoted considerable time to reminiscing, and thinking of men who couldn't make it this year. We also focused our attention on people undergoing procedures. Marty in particular was on our minds. He'd just blogged what it was like undergoing brain surgery.

Our group includes both war veterans and conscientious objectors, and descendants thereof. We talked and thought about war a lot, and how best to forestall outward, in favor of inward, struggles.  What good news might we share? These are perennial Quaker queries.

I yakked about my "Truckistan Project" a form of science fiction I'm nurturing to move in the direction of reality. Some call this process "investment banking" I pointed out.  Truckers of the world exchange routes, for academic credit (the program is about more than hauling loads).

Wes went to seminary school in Boston, was a Quaker pastor, lived in Hawaii for many years. He seems the quintessential indigenous Oregonian to me. He knew the mussels were plentiful thanks to the starfish die off, but maybe the latter were coming back?  As it is, we enjoyed the mussels he'd hand picked, his allotted portion.

His folks were of the Gurneyite persuasion, whereas many of us North Pacific Yearly Meeting types would brand ourselves refugees from that branch. The Bean family escaped Iowa Yearly Meeting to found College Park Association in California.  Our Willamette Quakers grew from Beanite roots in many ways.

Another topic of discussion were some of the controversies engaging the attention of other branches of Friends. Northwest Yearly Meeting is different from ours. That doesn't mean we don't track or care about their internal debates.

I'm not the expert though.  In gatherings such as this I'm more taking mental notes as the observing ethnographer.  Many elders have a stronger grasp of specific narratives. I chime in with jigsaw puzzle pieces, hoping to find out where they go.

I had the little yurt to myself. Having soaked my socks through, I decided to dry them on the wood stove, a stupid mistake, as they charred and set off the smoke alarm. I confessed to camp management that some "sock juice" remained on the burner. Hal assured me he could burn it off.

Hal really enjoyed getting my multi-national life story this time and by the end was telling Tonia we were a CIA family. I appreciate where he was coming from on that, however as good Quakers, we never aspired to proselytize for the USG in that way.  Dad was freelance, a planner, mom an activist. My parents did get to meet the Applewhites that time.

I don't think I left anything behind this year.

Once back in Portland, I was eager to lookup Glenn and have a beer, our WQM Men's Group being alcohol free by tradition. He'd scored more Good Will finds (where he scours for books).

A proto-Phoenician civilization connected South America to Crete.  You had to know the wind currents.  Many did (relatively few, but enough to crew whatever ships).

I could picture Bucky Fuller reading this stuff in the 1960s, when it first came out, and weaving it into Critical Path, his unique mytho-poetic (encrypted?) version of world history (in some sections).

Bucky was as much an exile as Castaneda in some ways, a pariah, somewhat given a bad name by psychedelic culture. I write more about that elsewhere.

:: video by Joe Snyder ::

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Wading Around

Some dike in the nether-sphere burst someplace, and now we're all knee deep in something, not sure what it is.

Yeah that was some interview with former CIA chief Leon Panetta on CBS, saying maybe Trump was crazy for thinking the CIA was against him and maybe he should step down?

Or maybe "crazy while in office" is OK. Worked with Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria to a certain extent.  I see some parallels, who wouldn't?

Would Panetta be acting interim president while the CIA decided who to really run? I'll probably hear all about that on Alex Jones.

However I'm leery of this sea of tabloid, of polluted press.  Do I want to swill around in it?  Last night in an extended Wanderers session, we talked for almost an hour about cow manure, what it's like to fall in it head first.  Was that an omen of something?

I understand the confusion. Who really said anything about a wiretap? OK, the NYT did, but never that Obama authorized it.
The White House forwarded The New York Times several articles about investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that include the word “wiretapping.” None contend, as Mr. Trump did, that Mr. Obama personally ordered the surveillance of Trump Tower phones.
 Trump: "Oh, so it was unauthorized by any president?" Pause. CIA: "We think you're crazy."

No one said anything about a wiretap for sure right? Like anyone high up enough in CIA with enough clearances could call the Russian ambassador and ask directly if Flynn said anything interesting.  Who said anything about "intercepting"? Heck, I'll call Putin himself if I feel like it (I don't think he'd take my call though as I'm a nobody).
 
OK, maybe that word was used ("intercept").  Former congressman Kucinich was warning about the high Banana Republic quotient, when you get intelligence chiefs and the president duking it out on Oprah.

However it wasn't like that exactly.  Panetta got to have his say, ratcheting it up from where Michael Morell had taken it earlier, on the same network.

More likely Flynn himself remembered more details, when under the bright lights. Then what he confessed got leaked?  For what crime again?  Lying to the Vice Principal?

Taking his job too seriously I think it was.  He was trying to reach for the munchies before the party had really started yet.

I'm not saying the CIA and FBI don't have reasons for going after the White House.  They've been public and aggressive about it, or at least some high profile talking heads have played a role.  Go seek and ye shall find.

As a simple corollary, the president would have every right to be paranoid, and in need of some assurances he could trust his own bureaucracy.  No way, according to Panetta.  This feud is not resolving any time soon.

Wanderers is a sort of Ouija board style of conversation, a co-creation of those present. Group dynamics may be studied in this way, ala David Bohm in his later work.  Dr. Nick Consoletti, speaking of peripatetics, did his thesis in that area.

Monday, March 06, 2017

STEM for Philosophers




Friday, March 03, 2017

Thermodynamically Speaking

Alternative Paradigms

We got a deeply insider look at recent history last night, though fair warning by "recent" I mean towards the start of the Industrial Age in Europe. Steam power was coming on-line, changing everything, and reasoning about steam, a precursor to reasoning about electricity, was something on many a gifted mind, Sadi Carnot being one of them.

Here's what most people don't know: that Carnot's dad, Lazare, was a thermodynamicist as well, and a damn good one. I think of Kenneth Iverson and his son Eric, computer language architects, as a similar duo. Sadi, who only lived into his mid-30s, perishing we're not sure how, was in many ways advancing his father's work.

Our tour guide for the evening is by day a practicing professor of the history of science in beautiful France and boasts a brilliantly multi-national resume.  He is founder and first former head of the Research Centre for the Theory and History of Science, University of West Bohemia, in Pizen, Czech Republic.

He's been a collaborator with the late Dr. Gillespie at Princeton. Raffaele Pisano was eager that we know of their work together, and I understand why. I'm planning to bone up on Gillespie's corpus in hopes of bolstering my own grasp of science history. I attended Princeton myself. We were definitely reading Thomas Kuhn.  I worked under Dr. Rorty's supervision on the philosophy thesis on Wittgenstein, a product of my time.

Dr. Pisano is Italian by birth and heritage, lectures in French, and has enough command of English to hold forth in Portland and not lose me in that sense (I'm fine with European English).  What I learned from the talk will take awhile to put together though. I'm still working on these puzzles.  It'd be hard to say I've gotten to the bottom of anything, but I do like digging down.

We learned that the Carnot lineage really has a different look and feel from the Newtonian one, which was more ancient Greek in its callback to Axioms (Newton's Laws had that sheen).  Carnot was more into Hypotheses and deliberately eschewed much special mathematical notation in his actual treatise.

We were seeing slides of actual papers, hand-written, stuff the various archives still have on file.  Raffaele knows his way around these hard-to-access places and we sincerely respect him for that (Terry was especially effusive, knowing what it takes).

Carnot's logic made heavy use of the double negative, and much of Dr. Pisano's talk was aimed at categorizing types of logic such that Carnot's might be recognized as a brilliant specimen of one such type. This is where some in the audience probably felt out of their depth.

Given our Buddhist Ghetto in Southeast and familiarity with Nagarjuna for example, we're somewhat aware that the law of the excluded middle, and a lot of other such rule systems, may be specific to a namespace, form of life, and/or subculture.

We don't count on everyone agreeing on just "the one" system at this point in our history. Portland is cosmopolitan among its digerati and literati. ISEPP talks bring our Silicon Forest intelligentsia together, and I assure you, we're out there.  Terry has provided years of entertainment unlike anything even on Youtube.

These post Renaissance thinkers, still heavily into Archimedes and Aristotle, were newly discovering instrumentation for measuring specific physical phenomena.  How does mass differ from weight?  Deep discussion.  What is pressure?  Density?  Thermodynamics is/was especially slippery. How to relate measurements to concepts in language did not materialize overnight.

What we today call the Carnot Cycle and present with clever diagrams, volume versus pressure, was not how he was thinking about it originally. He was picturing an actual cylinder, anticipating our V8 internal combustion engines of down the road (the cycling model is a little different but at least we knew how to think about combustion cycles by then -- thanks to Carnot).  Carnot was not talking about Entropy, that concept came later.

The Carnot Cycle involves steam pushing a piston to squeeze a gas, in ways that may preserve temperature but change pressure, or vice versa.  You go around in a square phase space, alternately isothermal and adiabatic, ratcheting a machine through some work cycle, while contributing to pollution with a more highly entropic off-gas (less work-ready).

Given the solar fusion reaction we've found in the Sun (closer to Einstein, long after Newton), and picturing Motherboard Earth as a solar powered Carnot Cycle, we see how photosynthesis produces the base material for what we call "the biosphere" around our planet (per Lynn Margulis). 

How photosynthesis got started has been a topic of other ISEPP lectures, with some postulating geothermal vents underwater as providing all the necessary ingredients for mathematical operations (copying and self-propagation).  Replicating photosynthesis using some deliberately designed nano-process has been another ONAMI type goal, not sure we're there yet.

I've been probing the physics teaching community on whether any generalizations might be offered at the whole planet level, regarding Entropy.  We typically introduce Gravity with whole planets the main topic.

If Entropy has whole planet application, where in the curriculum would it be a good time to mention that?  However, thermodynamics somewhat suffered the same fate as evolutionary genetics: it got side-tracked into popular phony theories with limited staying power (Social Darwinism, Eugenics).

Textbook publishers are not eager to wade in to hot waters, lest they get it all wrong.  Economics is the sandbox in which to try out some of those memes.  The more slowly adapting wait to see what happens there.

In other words, thermodynamics is still something of a mine field when it comes to ideology / theology. You'll get a Teilhard de Chardin thing going, and then where's the math at that point?  Omega alone does not constitute much of a namespace.

We're back to game theory and cybernetics, which I'm not saying is terrible, just I don't wonder that we're slow to work our way through this part of physics.  We get confused.

Dr. Pisano was at ease throughout the evening I thought, and our group is happy to take in these kinds of esoteric diversions, think and talk about them later.

I'm sorry I missed the good doctor's appearance at Linus Pauling House on Hawthorne.  I was expecting to be there but was waylaid by urgent business and then thought coming late would be rude.

I was glad at least to hear the talk.  Much to ponder. I fell asleep later (thanks to Dr. DiNucci for the ride home) listening to Youtubes on autoplay, explaining the Carnot Cycle over and over.

The dinner was great and Terry even let us take some, not to waste any.  I just took one meal's worth, as if I'd had seconds at the time (allowed).

The chocolate dessert was uber-dense (I didn't take a second one of those).  I ate all mine, but then I'm only doing Soylent as my regular intake, so these deviations don't wreak havoc. I'm also allowed to drink wine in moderation. Our caterer had a fine one.

I don't have any wine bottle collection, not one of my hobbies.

I keep an empty Bhutan Mist (whiskey, made by troops) for conversation.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (movie review)


Greg Palast strikes again with an in-depth look at what happens when high powered database tools, such as SQL (Structured Query Language), fall into the hands of politicians.

As an SQL user myself and someone with experience with joining tables, I feel a bit like an architect or engineer after my discipline gets accused of not knowing how to build high rises.  Of course we know that outer joins on first name, last name, skipping middle name or including it, are not going to mean anything regarding double voting across state lines.

Apparently a bunch of Mickey Mouse astroturf organizations have been pandering to the spoiled gliterati with a kind of pseudo data science snake oil, as an answer to their prayers.  The sucker rich have willingly coughed up millions, at fundraisers and so on, to underwrite a dream-come-true gold plated voter suppression scam called CrossCheck.

The overall design is nothing new but requires serious computer power to do its work. The scam also depends on willing minions in charge of voter laws, and a spineless Supreme Court (which we've enjoyed for quite some time, witness Citizens United), working in cahoots with pretend data scientists to break the (former) law of the land.

Because the fronts look so corporate, no one suspects organized crime, except the very few paying close attention.  Corporate media look the other way as their job is to manufacture consent according to sponsor preferences.

If you're watching closely, the sleight of hand is not even that clever and mostly depends on journalists not behaving like Greg Palast, calling out the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, and Paul Singer, whom he dubs "the vulture" (clearly a leading villain in this film).

Rumors about "double voting" on a massive scale get pushed out through social media, getting voters to pass strict photo ID laws tailor made for racial profiling and discrimination.

Require DMV ID (Department of Motor Vehicles) and then close the DMVs in red-lined neighborhoods. These tricks are not new.

Unfortunately, these uber-rich people schemes came at a time when the USA was already fragile. This time the Tea Party plus Trump Train wrecking ball combo may have succeeded in shredding the final veil.

We're living in some "USSA" now, new territory and one in which Washington DC enjoys a precarious claim to legitimacy, what with the vultures closing in from every side.

Uncle Sam is broke, and all sold out to the highest bidder.  The Pentagon now brokers mercenaries for hire. But is that new?  "War is a racket" said Smedley (read on).

I'm not saying the USA couldn't reboot itself somehow -- at Project VOTE! we tried to include the disenfranchised (I worked for Americans for Civic Participation the year Jesse Jackson ran for president), after the ERA had gone down to defeat (as est grads, a sort of cult, we'd been warned in our Graduate Review that the ERA's failure in the 1980s was the beginning of the end).

We'd need to finally face the truth about national elections: that we've never yet had a free and fair one (those without women, or black people won't count), but still might like to someday, per some MLK inspired dream future.

We might like to live in a democracy one day.

Politicians have been unable to deliver one for quite awhile now, however.

We still enjoy the museums.

Palast has more punch than Michael Moore in some ways, but we need not view one as working at the expense of the other.  They bring a complementary (stereoscopic) view of what some call class warfare.  Add Yes Men for higher satire.

Palast is more a technologist in digging in to the flim-flam shenanigans, the abuse of modern day Hollerith machines.

Like Moore, he's looking at the heartland, and America's heart, which the billionaires have finally broken.

As a logistics guy for Occupy, I remember all the signs about Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler, a folk hero of the Hooverville generation.  WWI vets were being screwed out of their pensions and president Hoover sent in MacArthur to break them up.  Butler thought MacArthur was an incredible jerk.

FDR and Eleanor stood up for the working stiffs after that, and corporate America, calling it socialism, hatched a Business Plot to do him in, which Smedley then exposed.

Congress was uncomfortable about it, as indeed buying congresspeople is not hard to do.  The Business Plot was real enough, but this wasn't the age of television, and people forgot about the possibility of a coup -- until the JFK assassination some years later.

Said Business Plot may have been frustrated temporarily, but as we read in Critical Path, the long, slow cannibalization of the USA by lawyer-capitalism continued in earnest post WW2.

The military-industrial meme-plex took over and slowly but surely sucked the remaining life from the USA, leaving this pale shadowy USSA, the soulless monster the Beltway Bandits built.

Now their puppet-zombie stumbles around on the world stage, bombing inanely and polluting self destructively, the proverbial chicken with no head.  No one believes this creature has much in common with anything the Founding Fathers had a hand in.  There's simply no disbelief left to suspend.

Where we go from here is unclear.

We've seen the USSR break up without horrendous turmoil.  The nation-state system itself appears to have dissolved throughout the Middle East.  The demise of the USA leaves a power vacuum for sure.

Is that a bad thing? Perhaps humanity is entering a new phase of its history.  Time will tell.