Monday, September 01, 2014

DjangoCon 2014

Portland is lucky to get so much of the open source world coming through its venues, this week, Labor Day week, being DjangoCon 2014, produced by The Open Bastion.

As per usual, I'm ensconced in the office suite, using Hilton Wifi to perform some tasks in Cyberia. 

Today being a holiday, post Burning Man's man burning, and the temple too, I'm also kicking back to watch Little Stewart, Mrs. Swan and other MAD TV offerings.  I get my mini-vacations through multitasking sometimes.

At lunch I enjoyed the company of Jeff Tripplett, one of the in-on-the-ground-floor people around Django, a web framework originating from the Lawrence Journal-World and its newspaper culture. 
Portia, local like me, and Leah, from Seattle spoke of Angular.js and the morning tutorial.  Steve Holden and others joined us later.  This is a small conference, which I like.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Comic Material

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The English language is too cold with its "it", such that we're considered abnormal if we have a date with an automobile.  You're allowed to have a date in your automobile, but not if the automobile itself is your date.

The reason I bring this up is not just that Hindu festival honoring machinery, which I think we should have in "the west" of all places (the rusting side of the globe).  I'm encouraging better treatment of our stuff, honoring maintenance, not as a sorry chore but a privilege.  We get to participate in various upgrades.  Computer people have that enthusiasm for the next version.

Anyway, I took Ms. Nissan, aka "maxi taxi" on a date to Jiffy Lube yesterday.  She'd started lurching the other day, fuel filter suspected, long time since last oil change.  She deserved it.  Rather than be all resentful, I should celebrate this little affair we're having.  Sounds crazy, I know.  English.

Car talk:  the yellow light I brought her in on is still on though, and decodes to needing a sensor fixed.  We're talking about a pretty old car here, well over 200K, but in good condition.  I'm optimistic the sensor issue is secondary and the fuel line cleaning / oil change will have her back in good running condition.  Here's to Her.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alberta Street, NE Portland


:: from a walk form 24th to St. Andrew's and back ::

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wanderers 2014.8.20

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Carol Urner, my mother, had the floor again this morning.  She was presenting on "reasons for hope" within the nuke weapons abolition movement, a campaign variously named, sometimes called "Countdown to Zero" in this blog.

Her reasons for hope centered around:

(a) a meeting on September 26, 2013
(b) actions by the non-aligned nations
(c) the World and US Council of Mayors
(d) the lawsuit by the Marshall Islands

Some of her statements were quite pro-Iran as she's in the camp thinking Iran is muscling around the edges of the nuclear weapons club in order to push for a no nuke weapons future, or call it leverage.

The same theory was floated about the USSR before its dissolution i.e. that an uber-goal of the Russian leadership was likewise a nuclear weapons free world.

Such hypotheses do not usually sit well with Americans, as the primary justification for the USA's continuing to stockpile is "crazy rogue nations" such as the USSR, Iran and North Korea.  Imputing motives such as "attaining a nuclear weapons free world" to crazies makes them sound sane and US foreign policy is premised on the craziness of its enemies.  The idea of any "hope" gets cold water in the US press, for the most part.  Encouraging fear over longing seems more like DC's strong suit and leadership style.

Carol is giving a similar talk tomorrow at Thirsters.

During the middle of the Carol's talk, Lindsey and Melody dropped by and I made the brief announcement that this was Lindsey's last day in the US for some months, given her immanent departure from PDX this evening.

Lindsey has occasionally joined us at Wanderers over the years and is friends with many of us.  Her official goodbye party was this passed Saturday.

Good seeing Elizabeth Furse again, former US Congresswoman, and David Tver at the table, along with other august attenders, like Dick Pugh.

Dick corrected Carol on a couple of points:  the rocket used to launch the plutonium-carrying satellite was not itself a "nuclear rocket" (as in nuke-powered) and the nuclear devices exploded in the Pacific were not technically "bombs" i.e. were not "dropped", even if the tests were indeed atmospheric.

Carol spoke quite a bit about native / indigenous concerns regarding the nuclear industry, which has impacted North American tribes a lot, not just Pacific Islanders who've seen their homelands and way of life destroyed by Pentagon bozos.  We talked about how men, more than women, tend to be bozos and how future world summits will need at least 50% women if they want any legitimacy.

September 26 is a new UN official day.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The House I Live In (movie review)

What this documentary brings to the foreground is a trick has been played with people's fear of the drug-crazed.  Rush Limbaugh was drug-crazed and on national radio for years, but the point is to demonize those "other people's drugs":  opiates in the case of Chinese, hemp in the case of Mexicans, and Blacks got blamed for everything else, but crack especially, the CIA's favorite under Reagan.

The unfairness of the "crack laws" and mandatory sentencing rules, which bypass the whole idea of judges (only robots need apply), has eroded both the police force and the justice system behind it to a mere shadow of what it could be, were "trust" still a word in the English language (only in translation maybe).  The movie draws the analogy to the holocaust quite adroitly:  first you confiscate their property, because they're "bad people", then the people themselves, leading to incarceration and concentration, then annihilation.  The pattern is played out over and over, against gypsies, gays and Jews (but it doesn't stop at that point).

The US emerged from its Civil War bruised and battered, optimistic about democracy still, but terrified of what "equality" might really mean.  What if blacks were allowed to play baseball?  The KKK was not amused by such suggestions.  The Henry Ford Museum memorializes the story in glass cases.  Part of the solution:  deny them the vote by establishing a criminal record, which in turn hinges on which of the many drugs to make illegal to blue collars without health insurance or legal representation.

The movie opens up a wider debate around prisons for profit, i.e. prisons motivated enough to give your neighbors a "finder's fee" if they catch you sodomizing some sausage or whatever, through their prison-paid-for night scopes.  Before you know it, enticement and entrapment become number one sports, with for-profit prisons hosting the Hunger Games behind the scenes.  Are we far from that now?  Not really.

The USA is still a dystopian nightmare, but it's still better than the Civil War, and Prohibition is at least partially lifted, while slavery is officially outlawed, even if practiced against the undocumented aka stateless and/or houseless population.  As a Quaker with a lineage around prison reform, I would have no trouble suggesting high bandwidth Internet to all offenders with uncensored access to Youtube at least.  That's a starting point.  Reintegrating the prison populations via social media is the job for coming generations of social media engineers.  Facebook for Inmates?  Don't call it that, but sure.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Outdoor Art (Quaker Meetinghouse)

No, I had nothing to do with its production or placement, just stumbled upon on a morning walk, and yes, I usually carry a camera (not just a smartphone), so I was ready to capture the scene.  Caption: "You will see him picking at the delicate fibers of his own reality".


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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Henry Ford Museum



My geography is not that good and where Dearborn, Michigan might be, relative to Detroit, was not "recall knowledge" though my smartphone ("him or her", "the Android") would know.  Once I found out, just eighteen minutes from St. Regis Hotel, twas a no-brainer to go there, as seeing Fuller's one remaining Dymaxion House had long been a "bucket list" item.  Here were Tara and I, freed from the WILPF bus tour by reason of it was completely booked (good reason), which would have been interesting, but hey, what better time for this outing?

The museum was way more intelligent and charming than I'd anticipated, as is the whole of Motor Kingdom and what it had wrought from wrought iron.  The size of the steam engines was impressive and I'm not just talking stereotype rail car pulling engines.  I'm talking about the mother of all steam engines used to make motor-vehicles, around which Ford had the museum built.  At least that was my understanding.  Such breath-taking wonders.

Shortcomings?  Well, the AC versus DC chapter is followed the The Revenge of DC, i.e. HVDC across distances, such as from Oregon to California.  But I'm sure those exhibits will be updated one day.  You're not trying to hurry it along, as a museum, more you're wanting to linger.  "Here was my childhood bedroom" many a stroller-pushing parent might think, seeing a realistic-enough diarma, set in the 1980s (I was already post college by then).

Best of all were the heartfelt and lavishly curated exhibits on overcoming slavery, oppression of women, and the US Civil War, with Lincoln an icon, but also Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks.  Her bus is right there.  I sat in the back (by choice, for the longer view camera shot).

I should have expected such an intelligent museum knowing the one Dymaxion House had been done up like new and showcased.  The museum guides say nothing bad about organized labor, when giving reasons for this enterprise falling through.  Did it really fall through or just take a few detours?  The mobile home age, the RV age, was coming up on Peak Oil.  Here's the prototype just as Bucky might have envisioned it, sprung from a time capsule, inspiring imaginations to think big in terms of what technologies we have today.

O-volving shelves?  Brilliant.  Great to see them operational.  And the one-piece bathroom (not just the shower stall, but the whole thing), very 747.

The Imax film about penguins was truly excellent, family friendly and somewhat sad.  Nothing really bad happens, it's just that being a penguin looks like such an ordeal.  I think if a human feels maudlin she or he should be given space, as projecting one's own sense of a "daily grind" onto the big screen, and working some alchemy with it, is a big part of what the film medium is all about.  Lets hear it for IMAX.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

WILPF Congress / Detroit

Tara and I were privileged to join Carol, my mom, Tara's grandmother, at this meetup of peace-makers.  Some thousand plus years of cumulative experience were packed into that room, partners in arms against war with outward weapons (as Quakers put it; inward weapons, e.g. satire, is OK, as an alternative to violence).


Medea Benjamin of Code Pink was a part of the opening panel.  She'd been beat up in Egypt recently yet is outspoken against persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood, as chronicled in a recent issue of Harper's.  She spoke appreciatively of WILPF for educating American readers about Hamas and thought John Kerry (a chief emissary of the City of Morons -- my spin) was missing crucial peace-making opportunities by not publicly meeting with one of the two major offenders / defenders in the obliteration of Gaza.


The meeting opened with a welcome from Wayne State's director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Fred Pearson.  He invoked the memory of Helga Herz, the librarian for this program for some twenty years.  Her mother,  Alice Herz, was likewise a strong peace activist during the Vietnam War years and in solidarity with Buddhist protesters self-immolated herself on March 16, 1965.

Given this meeting focuses on corporations and their abuse of humans, now that they've gained human rights themselves per Voodoo Economics (zombies come to life), a lot of the talk focused on water cut-offs.

City managers in Detroit are hoping to sell off / privatize infrastructure as governments abdicating all responsibility for anything has been the name of the game since FDR in North America.  To make the water bureau seem like a profit center, human beings around town are seeing their services cut off due to an inability to cough up sufficient dollars.

Detroit has shrunk from two million to 800K people in just a few years and much of the city has a post-apocalyptic appearance.

The move to privatize as in "for profit", allowing money grubbing to reign supreme, is world-wide, with Detroit but an obvious symptom.  Zombie Economics, with its walking dead corporations, is working its wonders (sarcasm on) across the nation, with politician-puppets lining up at the microphone to sing its praises while lining their wallets with campaign donations.

Carol knows a lot of these women of course, and has worked with many of them over the years.  The always-ebullient Dr. Linda Richards showed up, a happy surprise.  She was at mom's award ceremony as well, has spoken at the Pauling House, and helped arrange a tour for Wanderers of the Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Archives at Oregon State University.  Ava Helen was an ardent WILPF member / supporter.


We didn't get to stay for more of the conference however. Tara and I drove back to Richmond, Indiana the next morning, after a breakfast with Carol at a nearby diner. That's when I got the $45 parking ticket.

Earlier that first day, WILPF conference attendees went on a bus tour about the labor movement in Detroit, an historic hub of labor activity.  The bus was full however, so I used the time window to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, in particular the restored Dymaxion House by Buckminster Fuller.  I'll do a separate blog post on that visit shortly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Visiting the Heartland

By "heartland" I mean the so-called "mid-west".  Because of how the Anglo-Euros migrated, from east to west, one has the mid and far west, with the east a kind of home base, like Greenwich in England.  Nowadays, an unkind term for the mid-west is "the flyover states" because so much air traffic is from one coastal region to the other.  Many business class travelers only see the mid-west from an airplane window, if at all.  But then O'Hare in Chicago is one of the busiest airports in the world to this day, so "flyover states" is hardly an accurate phrase in jet travel world either.


Anyway, our connection from Portland to Detroit was through Phoenix, leaving at 5:20 AM, meaning getting a taxi at 3:30 AM.  Some large sports teams, each with matching packs and uniforms, were sprawled around the Portland airport (PDX).  Carol checked her bag just in the nick of time as the line grew tremendously behind us while we checked in at US Airways, still in the process of merging with American Airlines.

Had it not been for the wheel chair pushing guy who met us at the gate in Phoenix, we probably would have missed the connection as Terminal 4 has two separate concourses, both with A gates.  We came in near A4 but left through A27. The plane was was boarding when we finally got there.  Carol isn't allowed to use moving sidewalks with that walker, so left to her own devices, she's pretty slow.  The Portland trek was also long, to C18.  I almost left the Mac Air at the security choke point.

I thought Expedia said the Hertz counter was in the airport, but none of the rental car companies have that in Detroit.  We grabbed the free shuttle, with the bus driver warning he would be singing to his music, which he did, but quietly and in tune.  "This is Motown, this is what we do" he said.  Very friendly and helpful.  Melvin I think was / is his name.


While waiting in line at Hertz, my Android asked if I wanted to upgrade.  I've been saying "no" for over a month but this time my fingers got confused and I paid the price in terms of time and stress (the upgrade was free), waiting for the new system to download and optimize my 233 apps, media and contact databases.  All before I could use Google Maps to steer us out of the parking lot.  I've come to rely on my smartphone's GPS and Google Maps quite a bit.  How else would I know to get to I-75 down to I-70 just north of Dayton, Ohio, then another 50 miles or so to Richmond, Indiana?  The queue for getting out of the Hertz parking lot moved very slowly, giving my phone the additional minutes needed to finish the upgrade process.


After so many hours of flying with only expensive snacks on the plane, both Carol (my mom) and I were hungry.  She and my sister are used to eating at Denny's a lot so we went to one of those, somewhere between Detroit and Toledo.  They were out of Caesar salad dressing, so I went with the Cobb salad as my second choice.  Both meals were ample.  Yelp comments had been mean to this Denny's but I found nothing so objectionable.  People tend to have a lot of "first world problems" around here, a phrase my daughter says is a commonplace nowadays.  I'd just seen the Weird Al take on it.

Also according to my daughter, in its former glory days, Richmond had been famous for manufacturing pianos and coffins.  Neither are mass produced here now I gather -- or am I wrong?  There's a big Purina dog food plant.  Richmond High looks substantial, as does Seton Catholic High.

We toured her college campus, checking out the new science hall (Stanley) and admiring the lasers she'd been working with, careful to not touch anything.  She assured as the main laser was sparkly / pretty when fired but she didn't switch it on, saying that was only done with proper permission and supervision.  We were understanding.  Just seeing the equipment as thrilling enough.  She had been working on a kind of laser-based camera that analyzes the reflection patterns to assemble a picture of the original object, using various advanced mathematical techniques for which Python, the computer language, had proved useful.


During our visit to the campus library, mom got interested in a new book on the Vietnam War years and in the car back to the hotel we talked about Kissinger and what level of war criminal he was, along with Nixon.  The book is about the formation of Bangladesh, where Carol used to live. I turned devil's advocate and said we should scapegoat the Quakers instead, as they always talk about ending the conditions for war but never seem to come through.  Lay these war crimes at their door then.  This was just banter / debate-talk (pro and con).  My daughter was a national champion in Lincoln-Douglas style debating.  She just listened to this conversation though, riding in the back seat of the Mazda 2.  Then we all went to Red Lobster as mom had been thinking about having a crab feast for some months and here was a golden opportunity.