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.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Headline News

Headline news in my subculture is Guido van Rossum (GvR) is stepping down as BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life) of the Python community.

In practice, Guido had final say over what PEPs were accepted (PEP = Python Enhancement Proposal), however he discovered winning approval for a recent PEP to be an exhausting process.

Stepping down after winning a grueling battle (assignment expressions are to appear in Python 3.8) is probably a good way to make an exit.  Guido deserves a vacation.  He's not disappearing from the scene.

An issue for most dictators is they have no exit strategy, or they appoint a heir to the throne.  Python's community will need to reinvent its own system of governance going forward.

Guido deserves praise, not only for his skills as a language designer, but as a community organizer.

Chris Angelico and Tim Peters were also behind this PEP.  I've read it through and see the logic of adding this new feature.  Like other Python semantics, it might be inelegantly abused by some.  That's no argument for not including it.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Remembering Lisa


The meetinghouse was full on this occasion, with both Multnomah and Bridge City Friends, and a lot of Sisters, a Catholic order based in Mt. Angel (about fifty miles south of Portland) that allows lay participants, known as Oblates.  Lisa was one of those as well.

I only attended Bridge City a few times in the last year.  Great seeing so many familiar faces, and chatting with some of them.  Greetings Dave Fabik, Ron Braithwaite, Jane Ewert, Gail Sanford... Betsey Kenworthy (I'm mixing the meetings).  Janet Jump.

People remembered Lisa as especially real, authentic.  She made a big impression that way.  She was devoted to non-humans, took care of pets, including her own several.  She loved dogs and cats.  Her authenticity likely traced to her living with beings of so little guile.  Mischievous but not phony, these fellow travelers.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Cyber Tourism

Much as I'm in favor of actual tourism, there's much to be said for getting to know one's world from the comfort of some home base.  When physically touring, there's usually less possibility of integrating into some local lifestyle, like an anthropologist.  A cyber tour guide, on the other hand, may take you on some more intimate journey.

For example, my Twitter feed this morning was about following the adventures of an old lady needing new glasses and going to "America's Answer to Communism" for this purpose.  Those were vice president Richard Nixon's words, in a speech at the dedication.  The Cold War was about showcasing what competing socioeconomic systems might do for their participants.

Americans were going to wait less for a greater abundance of goods than ever, to the point of instant gratification in some cases.  Citizens of the USSR, their economy deeply wounded by two world wars, were lining up longer for fewer goods.  Then came Sputnik, the satellite.  We're the studying harder?  Was their mathematics better?  The space race was on.

The old lady was able to schedule her eye exam for an hour later.  Medicaid paid a lot of the $89.  The frames were $170.  The frames industry is a known scam with lots of history behind it.  Where systems compete is in their ability to provide stakeholders with basic care, including eyeglasses, some dental.  Veterans get less dental benefits than many suppose.  My American War buddy Glenn had to resort to a low cost cash only dentist, with inexpert help.

The Lloyd Center has apparently turned off all its public-facing electrical plugs.  I have a Mac Air from O'Reilly Media, where I used to work, that has to be plugged in, and no it's not a battery problem.  I've been able to plug in at Lloyd in the past, but not today.  I'm taking refuge in a nearby McMenamins (where Thirsters meet, more Peace Corps connections) with plugs and WiFi, while the old lady, my mom, gets her new lenses ground.

The Chinese Peace Corps plan to give free eyeglasses and dental care to Detroit's underserved, sounds a lot like science fiction.  Seeing is believing in that case.  I went to some meetings at Wayne State some years ago, about whether military welfare was the way to go.  The US military is a major experiment in military socialism.  Every time someone joins, they're saying civilian life in a democracy is too precarious.  In the military, one takes orders and shares property owned by the state.  Some health care is available.

Cyber tourists might even get inside some military or another, not as spies necessarily but as welcome witnesses to a friendly service.  Given today's telecommunications, there's no reason militaries can't lurk in on one another's high level meetings.  A "tour of duty" doesn't have to mean lots of time flying in some jet.

Portland, where the Lloyd Center is based, has a lot of eggs in Refugee Camp Science.  I'm not sure what OSU and University of Oregon offer, specifically, in terms of degree track preparation.  "EPCOT West" has been one of my media campaign operations, aimed at highlighting our focus on working with refugees.  MercyCorps has sent a speaker or two to Wanderers (Linus Pauling House) over the years.

What's it like trying to get an eye exam and eye glasses in a refugee camp?  That all depends on the camp.  Are we talking Palestine?  Cyber-tourism helps the Chinese Peace Corps figure out where they're most needed.  You don't have to leave Beijing to follow an old lady around in Portland, seeing whether she's able to score a pair of glasses.  How about in Detroit?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Six-Hearted Sex


Some of our heavyweights turned out for a science talk on octopus sex this morning, July 4th, as is our freedom.

The octopus favors deeper waters, say two hundred feet on average, or at least that's true of the species we're looking at.  They occupy all levels actually, including the shallows.  These creatures contain venom as a defense. Sometimes the little guys are the most deadly.

We use the term mantle to refer to the gut sack, connected to one side of the head. The octopus has multiple hearts, one associated with each gill funnel (mantle openings, or intake valves), and one more centrally located.  Two octopus ("octopi" is wrong) equals three plus three hearts, hence the title for this talk.

One exhaust port takes care of everything going out, including deoxygenated water. There's a mouth of course, lips around a beak right at the center of the radiating arms.

The arms are called hectocotles (with ligula at the ends) and one of gets involved in reproduction, when a male pulls a spermataphor from its own funnel and places it through a gill opening into an ovaduct.  Arms are not tentacles.  The octopus has no tentacles, technically.

Each spermataphor contains billions of sperm cells.

The oviducal gland nurtures the sperm for maybe six months or more. A given octopus may have been fertilized through both gills meaning both sperm incubators might be active.

Hariana Chilstrom is our presenter. She worked for many years with the Seattle Aquarium. She knows many of the creatures in her pictures by name.

In our discussion list she wrote:
Although there are thousands of invertebrates with crazy, sexy lives that live largely unnoticed by most people, octopus are animals that most folks recognize. But there’s a lot of misinformation about them, much of it involving anatomical inaccuracies that affect descriptions of the mating process. “Six-Hearted Sex,” is based on first hand observations, studies with a cephalopod expert for ten years, and research from primary sources.
Potential mates sniff each other out for a protracted period.  They're discriminating and in the wild have a choice of several partners.  They don't always get along.  Sometimes they run away from each other.  Sometimes cannibalism occurs.

If they do mate, the process may last for some hours (say four). Some researchers theorize the male ligula may even scoop out sperms injected by a previous male.  That's speculation however is a pattern seen elsewhere in Universe.

Placing the eggs in clusters and guarding them until they hatch (if all goes as planned).

Males tend to go crazy or lose their will to live or whatever in older age, becoming fish food in open waters, especially for sea lions in the Pudget Sound area.  The females tend to die in their caves.

The octopus has a reputation for being very intelligent.  They have big eyes and a large visual cortex. It's believed their vision is monochrome, but high resolution.  They've been known to blow bubbles and chase them, indicative of playfulness.


Monday, July 02, 2018

Fifty Years of Sixty Minutes

Deke phoned me last night just as this program was coming through broadcast media. Although I have optical fiber with television signal, I use a digital antenna. My home sports a satellite dish, but it's not turned on.  Remember when you see vistas of Medieval cities sporting dishes, that only some of them are able to tune in.  Great to get a look back.

Yeah, Iraqis weren't lying, and were being ripped off leading up to the first Gulf War from the point of view of national sovereignty. But nations are more just for show in those regions of the world, there for the benefit of TV viewers.  If you're an historian of this period, don't neglect to dig deep.

The show stumbled a few times.  I've talked about that elsewhere.

An irony with active journalists like that is they wouldn't get to play at that level if they were major couch potatoes, and yet TV depends on couch potatoes for its budget.  At some point, couch potatoes start resenting their own lives in front of the TV and switch off, seeking adventure.

TV programmers, like computer programmers, have to walk a thin line, as if they make their worlds too engaging, they create a matrix people sense is hypnotic and seek defenses against.  Good people, the kind we want to buy our consumer items and take our drugs.  "Make TV good, but not too good" is the rule.  60 Minutes has been perilously too good at times.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Running Rust

Every strong computer language comes with conceptually useful mnemonics, and Rust is no exception. We use Cargo to build and crates to define dependencies.  I'm just starting down the Rust rabbit hole, in anticipation of OSCON.  So far: no regrets.

Contemporary frameworks take for granted a canonical tree structure, with given paths, such as /target/debug versus /target/release in the case of Rust.  Use cargo check more than cargo build, skipping the final step of building the executable.  In some cycles, all you need to know is your code will compile.  Actually running it is not a requirement, and indeed might slow down the development process.

The idea of extending Python with Rust or even implementing Python in Rust someday, has of course crossed my mind. However I don't depend on this idea as a sole source of motivation, when it comes to wading in as a newbie.  The humbling effect of wading in as a newbie has intrinsic value. 

However I'd prefer to explore a rabbit hole with a reputation, such as the one in Alice in Wonderland.  One wishes for wonders, in exchange for one's labors.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer Camp

The term #camp has take on various connotations, however summer camp remains a ritual activity for families seeking activities for the kids when school is out.  I went to a summer camp in Sardinia, when my family lived in Rome.  I remember being homesick.  My parents stopping by for a visit made it worse, though I'm glad they visited.  The camp language was mostly Italian and my Italian wasn't very good.

This year, I signed up with Saturday Academy to do another edition / iteration of what I call Martian Math wherein I converge science fiction, a little history, some astronomy, and the off-beat 4D stuff I learned from transcendentalists, Bucky Fuller in particular.  I'm up front with the kids that I'm drawing from this source for what I call "martian" -- not a secret.

Summer camp is not supposed to be grueling or any kind of unwelcome imposition on the customer.  We're aiming to provide entertainment, and in a well equipped, well connected computer lab, with middle schoolers, that tends to mean games.  My approach is to introduce each meetup with a short lecture when they're fresh, and then permit multiple activities.  Quite a few opted to assemble C6XTY or try out Lux Blox.  I also had a folding paper exercise, wherein we might assemble a whole Tetrahedron.  I didn't get enough interest for this last activity, but did have a completed tetrahedron already made.

Again, I featured War of the Worlds as featured on CBS radio by Orson Wells and company.  Today I played a 48 minute program in the background, covering that incident.  Later I switched to showing Mandelbulb reveries.  In both cases I kept the sound a relatively low volume and didn't mind if student attention were focused elsewhere.

This morning's lecture featured the number series 1, 3, 6, 10, 15... (triangular numbers) along with the tetrahedral 1, 4, 10, 20, 35... (cumulative), both found in Pascal's Triangle.  Then 1, 12, 42, 92... took us to the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences and the link to my web page on the the Microarchitecture of the Virus.  There's a tie-in here, to War of the Worlds, as it was microbial life that eventually brought down the Martians, otherwise the humans would surely have perished.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hard Work

24 A Modules (12A + 12A') = Tetrahedron

The stereotype of a Protestant is one who protesteth that he's working all the time, because of the Work Ethic thing, where you're a burden on the King if you don't serve His Royal Court in some way. One must justify one's existence, as jurisprudence in this jurisdiction dictates, omni omni Latin Latin yadda yadda, Amen.

When New Math came out, as we saw in Incredibles 2, parents felt hard pressed to keep up and help with homework. Parents not knowing any of what junior brought home as assigned labor ("homework") was undermining of their authority.  The head of household needed to establish basic mathematics competence in the eyes of progeny, given the insistence on maths as a Cold War necessity (Incredibles 2 is set in the 1960s but is entirely innocent of political war-making, unlike the backdrop for Black Panther).

Speaking of both Wonder Woman and Black Panther, I'm back with the Ottoman Turks reliving the final days of the British Empire.  So really?  Ireland and India color-coordinated their respective flags? Both were striving to gain egress.  Iraq, newly taken, along with Persia (Iran) and Kuwait, were also chafing to establish a more localized sovereignty.  Iran was actually not part of the UK, just the oil deal was highly favorable to BP or whatever they called it back then.  I've also been studying the Opium Wars, which is relevant in light of the American opioid epidemic.

So Physics has its own meaning for Work (W) in terms of energy, with units of productivity and throughput, along with Big O notation in Computer Science (CS).  As a hominid, we burn calories at about the rate of a light bulb, but we're not all doing the same processing, in the sense of Process Work (I've been attending workshops downtown).

By analogy, not all CPUs or GPUs are running the same jobs, an obvious point, but when considering raw power in a "plugged into some hydro dam" sense, there's a tendency to overlook just what exactly the power is used for (usually a long story).

What if families were under time pressure to learn GNU stuff in a hurry, as in bash (Bourne again shell) and other POSIX type stuff?  A lot of them are.  Dads and moms everywhere are wading into bash, a gateway shell environment.  Much of the working out is not directly compensated, and in fact people go into debt seeking these skills, having been promised a shovel at the end of the rainbow with which to dig themselves out of their financial hole.  Many retirees are counting on those student debt backed annuities.

So how is the Global U, going forward, planning to teach about Work both in the Protestant Christian sense, and in the more secular sense of Higgs Boson (God particle) physics?  Thermodynamics enters in.  Climate science.  Concerns about plastic in the biosphere.  Thinking globally, while acting locally, is not something one consciously chooses to do, necessarily, which is why "Think Globally. Act Locally" is less a moralizing enjoinder and more just a label on the box, especially where billionaires are concerned, processing financially as it were.  Is that work?

The pressure to learn New Math had to do with maybe those Communist nations pulling ahead, now that they had the full support of their Proletariat base classes.  Capitalism needed to prove itself through its superior university system, and the University of Chicago was up for the fight. SMSG (the official name for New Math) would introduce the missing rigor required by Academe of its best and brightest.  I was a guinea pig for this project, one of many, until extracted and landed in a British facility, with coat and tie.

However, as students of Systematic Ideology well know, political ideologies tend to have a short half-life, morphing into one another (quantum physics like) with Marxist Russians nowadays presenting as Eastern Orthodox, or some other Byzantine variant of what was once Emperor Constantine's official religion for the Roman Empire.  Protestants have lost some of their shining lights to this competing branch of the One True Faith (OTF).

The Ottomans were planning to follow Rome's model, but using Islam as an engine, in place of Christianity.  They were semi-successful I suppose one might say.  I'm still catching up on all these stories, and I haven't even started on Game of Thrones.

The question is "what Work is productive?" and in which namespace are we, when asking that question.  What "work" is merely Entropy in disguise?   The water would have flowed downhill anyway, but you're charging me for this "service"?  This line of inquiry invariably plunges us into Information Theory, Thermodynamics (again) and of course GST (the general theory of systems).

Would it behoove the Seattle economy to invest in luxury cruise submarines that take people to undersea gardens and even SeaWorld Resorts?  Or would that make less sense than extending the monorail, which I gather continued to see service after that mixup with Elastagirl (Incredibles 2 allusion).  Investment bankers decide which science fiction scenarios deserve their reputations and savings, be those autonomous vehicles (and required infrastructure), Hyperloop, hotel submarines or whatever.

Seattle does have a history of building submarines already, as well as hosting a World's Fair.  Fewer people remember the Spokane Expo, making for two such events in the same Union state.  Oregon hosted a giant world's fair type expo as well, in 1905, called the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition. Oregon had joined the Union on Valentine's Day, 1859.

Microsoft has shifted a lot of its weight over to Github for a reason:  collaboration on software projects is a way of life for many of its most productive developers. Like I'm these days hacking on a next iteration of Martian Math for Silicon Forest clients.  PayPal was talking about Inner Source.  The culture has benefitted greatly from the productivity of the GNU era engineers, once their best tools were escaped (freed) from the grip of IP lawyers.   Or rather, a new brand of IP law challenged an older set of schools for intellectual dominance and carved out some turf.  Linux would make a splash as the darling of the Dot Com revolution, only to take up residence in the cloud as a premier cloud service, long after Dot Com at ceased to be as much of a thing.

What I'm saying is the dad in Incredibles 2 is tackling a hard job in reprogramming himself to think more like a New Math teacher (Tom Lehrer et al) and parents continue to face a steep wall in the homework department, with Learning to Code a new kid on the block.  Nowadays we're pummeled with messages about the importance of coding to a child's future, but without much attempt to provide parents with the necessary background.  That's all changing of course, plus many parents are already techies and/or hobbyists leading the charge.  The point is:  learning to code is hard work.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Incredibles 2 (movie review)


Even before the cartoon begins, we got a brief promo from some of the voice actors acknowledging a gap of fourteen years between the original in 2004, and this sequel in 2018.  That promo may be just for theaters, dunno if you'll see it on the DVD, in front of the main feature.

The movie opens right where the last one ended and pursues the same themes.  The Mole, by the way, is never caught (spoiler alert), is simply forgotten about.  He gets away with his crime whereas superheroes are framed by the media as the bad guys.  The public seems awfully gullible, as usual, as if it weren't obvious The Mole was a serious threat.

The Mole's methods of destruction are reminiscent of urban legends around Nine Eleven, which focus on gold stolen from deeply buried broken-into vaults.  Superheroes did not materialize then either.  Firefighters did, heroes of the real kind.

Interestingly, it's the billionaire elite who want to bring a nearly homeless family, ensconced in a motel with only two weeks unemployment left, back to prosperity.  The kids are ecstatic to receive the charity of a billionaire's extra home, while mom goes to work in a PR capacity.  She and the Bezos character will restore the reputation of superheroes everywhere.

There's a funny Peter Sellers allusion given the control panel in the fancy house.  Remember "birdie num num" in The Party?  Here it's "cookie num num".

Bezos and his sister have a batman-like story of how their dad was murdered by bad guy intruders. Instead of retreating to the panic room, ala Jodie Foster, the dad tries the two "bat phones" representing faith in superheroes and is let down.

The sister has never forgiven this decision and blames the Cult of Superheroes for plunging people into unreality and faith in imaginary friends ala Waiting for Superman.  Her screen-slaver persona plays a double role:  as a superhero through technology (not unlike in Incredibles the first) and as a prophet reminding people of their life in The Matrix, as slaves to screens.

The Screen Slaver tries to talk us out of our blind trust in the vicarious existence screens give us, while at the same time enslaving us with that same power (hypnotism).

The sister has got a point.  An audience of rapt movie-goers stares at the Disney movie, hypnotized, while the villain tries to break the illusion and push us back towards our own lives, wherein superheroes are not illegal, they simply don't exist.

Since we're enjoying the dream so much by this time, and empathize with the homeless family, now so much less hopeless, we resent the villain for trying to break Disney's spells.  We root for Bezos, the billionaire, and by extension for Hollywood and Pixar.  We want to be hypnotized.

We appreciate the billions that go into providing us with this virtual reality, wherein magical superpowers do indeed seem real, thanks to the miracle of telecommunications and computer generated graphics (plus audio).  We've paid our admission and are entitled to this experience.  May the good guys win.

The movie seeks to perfect a recent era, wherein the FBI consisted of apolitical men in black and New Math was proving frustrating to parents.

Government plays a minimal role in this world. An ambassador Merkel type character represents some kind of global social order.  A supranational global elite controls the superheros despite the latter's special powers.

As good guys, the superheros are constitutionally law abiding.  They obey the law because that's the right thing to do, even if that means working for an insurance company.  With great powers comes great docility.  Clark Kent would understand.

In keeping with the movie's theme, my next stop after Bagdad was the Powell's Books across the street, where Peter Rubin, an editor for WIRED, was sharing readings from his new book Future Presence about VR and the intimacy it promises.  A book about the artwork in Incredibles 2 was already on the shelves. 

We may feel divided and isolated by social media today, as our smartphones intrude on actual real time relationships, with the people in our immediate vicinity.  However VR might cure all that, by making the virtual world at last as satisfying as the real one.

Screen Slaver has the potential to hypnotize us to an even deeper level.  Disney and Pixar will be right there with us, along with FANG, helping us believe in The Matrix, as we fly around the world meeting with each other in Cyberia, super beings at last.

At Powell's