Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wanderers 2017.1.18

We've taken to calling our open forums (no set presentation) "improv" which I remarked sounded Scientology-friendly. What I learned from Ray Simon, back in Jersey City days, was that those looking for acting work need opportunities to work out, and "improv" is one of those ways. A way an aspiring thespian might test if progress towards "clearness" was being made, might be through participation in improv.

Improv is a kind of theater, not just an exercise for those practicing to be on stage. Steve Holden and I used to attend a comedy house (a nonprofit) on MLK.  The audience could suggest themes, or at least appear to do so. The spontaneity of the ensuing performance somewhat depends on the assumption we're not seeing the results of hours of rehearsal.  But then improv techniques may be rehearsed. I'm not the expert.

Lest I give the wrong impression I'm trying to come off like some authority on Scientology, that's not my intent. I've not risen through the ranks on the inside, as a paying customer, and although I've done considerable homework from an anthropology angle (one of my favorite subjects at Princeton), I don't go around billing myself as an expert.  Ray Simon was far more the L. Ron Hubbard fan.

Let me say more about Ray. He was really into synchronicity, a topic with respectability, but also practical applications. He believed various techniques might be employed to deliberately create "synchronicity fields" wherein serendipitous events would be more likely to happen.  I told a number of stories wherein he appeared to employ these techniques with great success.

I met Ray and Bonnie as a young couple, Bonnie a nurse, Ray doing office work, a series of temp jobs in the big city (Manhattan and Jersey City are but a PATH ride apart). I forget the precise circumstances however Ray and Bonnie were into est, often associated or confused with Scientology and indeed their histories swirl around each other in stormy tales.

Anyway, stormy tales aside, Ray was a staunch admirer of both Hubbard and Erhard. Ray was also paranoid that Hubbard might be dead.  He was really tickled one day when he got a convincingly authentic letter from Hubbard saying "I'm not sure what it is you want to know." He probably did know though: Ray wanted to know if his hero was still alive.

Ray is not still alive. He moved to Las Vegas at some point and wrote a book, not about synchronicity, but about the bold and audacious ways now well-known people had jump-started their careers: Mischief Marketing: How the Rich, Famous, & Successful Really Got Their Careers and Businesses Going (2000).

We didn't talk about Ray at the Wanderers meeting at all.  However a theme at Pepinos later was people who had left us, died, in some cases recently.  Ray died some years ago, Bonnie having been taken by the same influenza epidemic that claimed Jim Henson, the Muppets master.  I got to babysit for their daughter quite a bit, having stopped being the high school math teacher, my first job after Princeton.  I'd jumped into an est Training while still an undergrad living at 2 Dickinson Street.

Scientology comes with an elaborate schema supporting ideation, which I'd say is fine to call "science fiction" (not a put down) or lets say teachings encrypted in the language of such. Those seeking literal truths (scientific ones) in such movements may encounter the purely ridiculous in the many fairy tales that swirl in any religion, a dreamy concoction of narrative potions usually. The "clown" archetype is metaphysically real.

Subgenius derives energy from "clown energy", a need to spoof all these crazy-cult beliefs.  est, for its part, shared the goal of imparting empowering language to the trainees (who became graduates), but did not bother with much mythology. Even P.D. Ouspensky offered more in the way of a belief system, as one may study in Psychological Commentaries of Maurice Nicoll.

est's relative minimalism gave it more the stamp of a philosophy than a religion, although Erhard himself circled Zen is influential.  Remember Erhard's enlightenment is set in San Francisco, in the time of Alan Watts.

Friday, January 13, 2017

More Theology

I'm continuing to yak with Friends (as in Quakers) on QuakerQuaker, about terminology. Given the Tower of Babel as a premise, we're not really in a position to agree in spoken or written language, so how is it we get across our most important spiritual insights, right?  If we're condemned to speak Scramble to one another, when and how do we "unscramble"?

St. Augustine had words to say on this question, saying something reminiscent of Socrates, which is "all knowledge is recollection" meaning inwardly recognized and comprehended, owned, taken in, believed. There's a kind of digestion which occurs, whereby another's language is taken into one's own.

My brand of Friend is not expected to focus on the study of theology as a divine calling, as we're somewhat the "ordinary language" branch, as Wittgenstein was to philosophy (Rorty: "linguistic turn"). Some peg the beginning of that change to Nietzsche's writings, not that saying so is much help to those unused to navigating in these esoteric waters.  People might see his name go by in TIME, but what has any of that to do with the price of eggs, right?

However, I don't eschew giving theology a spin, thanks perhaps to my Subgenius background. Although the ideology is self-spoofing, the actual practitioners work on "devival" skills, meaning oratory, preaching, public speaking, with cadence. I need to do that to, in front of some choir or another.

Were you looking for some of my most abstruse writings, right off the bat?  Sometimes when I dive into reading someone new, I want to sample their whole repertoire.  You'll get some condensed writings in the Invisible Landscape Series linked from here.

However, what I'm really thinking about more is this thread on Q2.  In the background I'm looking at some Franklin Merrell-Wolff writings. He's another in the tradition of using '4D' as a kind of branding icon, to help seekers steer in his direction. P.D. Ouspensky shows up in the background.

Speaking of "Dr. O", I think it'd pay off to compensate scholars for taking "knowledge work" seriously. If we want to learn about the Russians, lets get $15 an hour and let us do some serious reading, and viewing, of important works.  Superficial sound-bite knowledge is not going to get us there, and when people pay for college, they're as likely learning how to do their nails.  Even tackling "being a medical doctor" doesn't mean learning much world history.

Paying for work-study, not just work, is not about wanting people to be lazy, it's about needing people to use their minds enough to stay sane enough to have the planet stay fun and habitable.  Fortunately, we have a star nearby that continues to make an energy investment, pretty much grant income for our species and fellow travelers.  General Systems Theory (GST) suggests we do our best to make the most of it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Expectant Waiting

"Expectant waiting" is a religious practice used within the Religious Society of Friends to test their leadings, or expectations, regarding the will of God.  "Expectorate" is a different English verb and means "to spit".  Some "Indians" [sic] maybe have been confused, as according to my catechism as an English (as in British) kid:  A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tobacco in Church.  That's the mnemonic we used at the Junior English School of Rome, to remember how to spell "arithmetic".

I want to relate "expectant waiting" to "unit testing" and also just to pausing a moment at the command line, and reflecting on what you intend to make happen, so that you'll be somewhat clear from the feedback, whether you achieved your goals or not.  More simply:  imagine the output you'd expect in response to 2 + 2, pause a moment to expect, then hit the Enter key and confirm the outcome or note discrepancies.

In doctest, we do that too.  At the code school the other night, a different instructor was showing how

$ python -m doctest

will run the doctests on the target script, passed as an argument to the doctest module.  Brilliant.

Ben and I discussed our different testing framework preferences over chips at that point.  The reason I like unittest (aka Pyunit) is precisely because it's somewhat clunky, shows a lot of apparatus, making the point that testing is no joke sometimes.  However Ben's choice was more practical.

For those of you who just lost me (too much POSIX?) , think of humming along to a tune, then the tune suddenly stops. You expected it to continue and may already know the next several bars. In other circumstances, you're hearing a tune for the first time and have a sense of where it's going, and then you're surprised. Perhaps the composer was intending to spark interest. In music appreciation courses and/or Youtube videos (Vimeo...) we learn about such things.

I bring up humming along to a tune (think of God's will) in connection with Thomas Paine and his writings about what it means "to prophesize" (from whence "to profess" right?).

Paine's thesis was we don't hear much about "singing" in the Bible because foretelling was in itself a musical activity akin to singing. As people picked up on what was to happen, the prophecy might gather steam and come true, what we call a "self fulfilling" prophecy.

However pointing out that some prophesies "snowball" or "gather steam" is not to suggest that everything expectantly awaited then happens, or that what happens is somehow always a result of what's expected. Neither proposition follows, as a matter of logic.

On the contrary, surprising events and developments continue to occur, whether we choose to call them miracles, cataclysms, or whatever acts of God. That everything would always go as expected is not our experience as human beings. Our fondest wishes are not necessarily any genie's command and some prayers go unanswered.

Tests set up our expectations, keep us aware of what we were intending in the first place.  Wittgenstein documents this grammar, this "tensegrity glue" (invisible) between our islanded concepts, such as "understanding" vis-a-vis "expecting".  These words "fly in formation" as it were, leaving inter-twining trajectories.

When all unit tests pass, that's a sign our project is responding as expected and that we do indeed "understand" what we're doing, at some level. When we're better able to "hum along" than previously, that may indicate a stronger sense of God's will, which is somewhat the point of this exercise, not surprisingly.

In Synergetics, a transcendentalist work, we have this term "precession" which in that namespace suggests "developments not predicted by [physical] laws considered separately".

The sum or product achieves results the list of ingredients did not foretell.  Alchemy, not just chemistry, is full of unforeseen reactions, even when they appear to pencil out in retrospect.  That's why we continue to experiment in science.  Arm chair speculation will only take one so far in life.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

13th (movie review)

Friends gathered at the Stark Street meetinghouse for this public-invited showing of 13th, a widely distributed, award-winning documentary about the ongoing cultural and civil war in North America.

Although Lincoln declared the slaves free, an opening shot in his war to preserve the Union, the South was not on board with providing them with full human rights overnight.  Women couldn't vote yet either.  A system of apartheid was instituted that continues to this day.

The Civil Rights movement won some semblance of equality before the law, but then social engineers in the White House realized a "get tough on crime" approach might be used to stimulate mass incarceration of mostly black people. Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton pursued this agenda to the tune of billions of borrowed dollars.

The War on Drugs became a war of oppression against black US Americans, a continuation of Prohibition, which had earlier criminalized most whites as well.

Once in prison, people could be made to work as slaves again, according to the terms of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Mass incarceration is currently falling out of favor, as even ALEC admits, but in the meantime has been useful for maintaining the privileges of the non-criminal population.

Nowadays, white people are finding themselves addicted to drugs as well, especially opiates such as Oxycontin, and want medical treatment, not prison.  They've also found marijuana congenial and have started legalizing it for both medical and recreational use.  The huge prison population of over two million, earning the US its reputation as a Prison State, will need to come down in light of these changes.

The movie does not touch on the 14th Amendment, originally designed to acknowledge that blacks were fully human.  This amendment was used by another caste of less protected person, the corporate being with artificial personhood, to gain more privileges under US law.

Based on this loophole in the Constitution, corporations were enabled to attain full personhood and continue their strategy of masked domination. Anonymous shareholders were protected from personal bankruptcy and stood to lose (or gain) only to the extent of their investment. Corporations that do not run afoul of the law eventually gain superpowers relative to ordinary humans, thanks to their relative size and immortality. They become giants, a part of "the Grunch" per Medal of Freedom winner R. B. Fuller in Grunch of Giants.

Unequal Protection by Thom Hartmann (which quotes Fuller) traces this connected story.  The two stories overlap in that corporate persons now manage much of the US prison system for profit.  Social engineers have developed school systems based around standardized testing, that are guaranteed to feed these hungry corporations with future inmates.  At AFSC (Quaker) this design is called the "school to prison pipeline". The US continues to feed its appetite for free labor, undercutting wages for those still on the outside not living on investment income.

Lew Frederick, to be sworn in on Monday as an Oregon state senator, was with us to watch the movie and discuss it afterwards.  He's an Earlham grad, black, and comes to meeting quite often.  He'd not seen the film before and found it moving and educational.

[ first published on QuakerQuaker ]

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

New Year's Day

Black Eyed Pea Soup + Collards + Corn Bread

A standard thing to say about the USA, along the lines of "war and Christmas", is that Americans (USers) are war-prone because, in their experience, the war with fascism shocked them out of their depression and put people to work.

Life had meaning again and the spoils of victory, mostly side-effects of gearing for war, proved life could be sweet in the 1950s.  Unlike most peoples, Americans still harbor some nostalgia for war, as long as they're winning and reap their reward.

However I'm thinking any telling that begins with either World War is too Euro-centric to explain Americans and their militant streak.  The polarizing experience of a Civil War has far more to do with the US psyche having a schizoid flavor.

The PTSD of a brutal war, followed by a crack down on self medication through alcohol (Prohibition) turned us into a gangland, from which we've hardly recovered.

As I was pointing out on Facebook, when looking for commonalities in US presidents, don't overlook ties to organized crime.  But don't respond with shocked moral indignation, a favorite mask of pure ignorance.  Innocence is an annoyance sometimes.

The crowds are looking for specimens, be that in a pants suit, and/or in orange.  They're looking for a quality called "worldly" which Obama has, Michelle too.  They were big city slickers more than hillbilly hicks.  Of course Bill was a Rhodes Scholar.

My thoughts on the Civil War were inspired by the black eyed peas stories I was getting.  The troops were eating all the food, not unlike in Aleppo. Fighters need to eat to fight. Civilians get to be extras, like in Hollywood movies, except the blood isn't ketchup.

Southern Belles found themselves eating black eyed peas, the food of slaves and other livestock. They turned this intolerable sign of oppression into a badge of honor and now cook the same peas voluntarily, as a badge of honor, and in a way that's really tasty.

Philosophy of Mathematics

Winter Storytelling

Thursday, December 29, 2016

More Evangelism


A segue from Kenneth's atoms' rotations, patterns no doubt studied in Group Theory (not a physical science), would be to Quaternions, a mathematical device used to drive spatial transformations by iteration, much as rotation matrices get used.

A rotation matrix, recall, is an XY array of numbers set to "multiply" (__matmul__ in Python) with another matrix after it.  They don't necessarily commute (switched around, you get a different answer).  That "other matrix" may also be a target vector, where the rotation matrix is "pre-loaded" with just the right numbers to re-point it in a different direction.

A quaternion is a vector on steroids with more moving parts.  They'll multiply, much as complex numbers do in a plane (a flat surface), and thereby "spin" or "rotate" all the ways an avatar would need to, in a computer game.  They'll get the same work done as rotation matrices, but perhaps in a more elegant manner, using fewer lines of code?

These were the early days of the World Wide Web (1990s) and I'm chugging along reading about how game engines get built, and I find out some game-makers are using Quaternions to power their physics engines, and claiming to get faster frame rates, smoother performance, as a consequence.  "That's cool", I'm thinking, "as now I'll have running source code versions."

I like to "make math" not just read about it, and coding languages let me do that. Scott Gray, my future boss, had come to a similar conclusion using Mathematica (or Wolfram Language): some people learn better when they get to "make" or do "hands-on".

In this chapter, when the Web was young, the Java applet, embedded in your browser, run by the Java engine you'd have downloaded, was expected to be the king of the hill on the client side.  JavaScript, in contrast, was hardly taken seriously.  People would monkey around with it waiting for Java to assume its throne, but it never did.  JavaScript ended up taking a lot more responsibility.

The technology is still out there and serviceable though.  Java remains very important, even if the applet genre didn't take off.  Ahead of its time?  Remember a "headless browser" is just another thick client on your platform, and many of your smartphones are JVM devices, the ARM architecture having a native mode for its bytecodes.  I'm glad we have lots of talented coders ready to embrace those skills with open arms.  Python and Java are more synergetic than pitted against one another.

This other essay, which I'd tweeted about earlier, embeds the same Java applet, the quaternions cube, but is really more about the Python code I was then developing, to get on with my work in curriculum writing.  I ended up with a four-part series.

Now remember not to confuse "quaternions" with "quadrays" (same "qua" or "kwah" sound). The "quadays" are the four vectors from (0, 0, 0, 0) with the topology of a methane molecule (a central Carbon and four Hydrogens).  Linear combinations of these four vectors reach (span) all surrounding space with unique, canonical, non-negative four-tuple addresses. Rotation matrices apply. A variant addressing scheme balances negatives with positives in "sum to zero" format.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Design Science

from the mind of Kenneth Snelson

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Rogue One (movie review)

Spoiler alert:  no spoilers.  I'm not even going to talk about the film, much beyond agreeing with Alexia, who confirmed at the Hanukkah party, that it's certainly worth seeing, especially if already invested, time-wise.  Why not, right?

Instead of talking about the film, a great on-ramp if you're just coming into the series, its intent really, in addition to pleasing die-hard fans, I'm going to mount a soap box and make a point.

The point being:  if you want that ostensibly zero-gravity city you keep making movies about, with all these autonomous vehicles moving in every dimension, please reconsider beneath the ocean surface as the more readily accessible habitat for such cities to happen, versus the empty vacuum of space.

Yes, I know the pressures get high and we would worry about catastrophic ruptures, yet outer space, with its space junk and other mishaps, is likewise hostile.  Implosion and explosion are both violent.

With buoyancy compensating weights, moving around under the ocean as an affordable option to orbiting space-stations.  I'm not saying it's either / or, either, just I think humans have a lot more ahead of them on this planet than these landlubber civilizations of today.  Or could have, if they stick around, don't wimp out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Library Science

My title is partly owing to where I'm posting this from: the Multnomah County Library.  Multnomahns are proud of their library system, much as Muscovites are proud of their subway (not that New Yorkers are not also, and Londoners of their tube).

These centrally located, downtown library facilities border on being grand without going over the line to grandiose.

Portland is a Pacific Rim capital at least (taking "capital" to mean "important terminus" or "destination"), so having carvings and sculptures going on is not "over the top".

Just checking the shelves under Computers (in the same room as Military, Social Issues, Crime, Law and Economics) I notice only a few Python titles, many more on PHP.  However that's not a good test of the extent of the collection.  For that information, one would consult the card catalog.

Finding only a few Python books on the shelves could be a sign that most are checked out, by people learning to code.  That's a good sign, not a cause for concern.

I was here yesterday as well, as the company I'm working for knows booking rooms in a public library facility, for meetings, is accepted use.

I checked out three books then:  two on statistics and probability, and one a history of Russians spying in America, given that's a hot topic in the headlines these days. However it focuses on a different, non-21st Century time frame.

The allegations in the news after the 2016 US presidential election are not so much that Russian spies had to come to the homeland to try tipping the election, meeting surreptitiously in parking lots or anything so surreal.  That kind of operation would have been more characteristic of the Reagan Era, per the popular TV show with that premise.  Rather, given Cyberia, the Russians might have given a green light to some mole within the DNC to release secrets to Wikileaks.

However disaffected party insiders might not need any prompting from a foreign power to serve as whistle blowers, so the accusations impress many as circumstantial to say the least.  Then we had those incidents of phishing, which spread well beyond the DNC.

The book I checked out was about spies a long time ago, though published in 2009. I don't have the title in front of me because I was concerned the library detection equipment might not distinguish between checked in and checked out, but of course it does, as I confirmed with the info desk.

One of the co-authors wrote The Haunted Wood, that much I know.  OK, that's enough info to figure it outSpies, the Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (ISBN-13: 978-0300123906).

Over the years, I've spent a lot of time browsing tomes in this Dewey Decimal section, reading books by or about spies.  I wouldn't say it's an obsession, as it maybe gets to be for some people.  One learns a lot from others' experience, understanding in advance these authors often have an agenda and spin their stories to the advantage of this or that team.  Same with movies.

Speaking of Python, a literal python bit me this morning, though it was entirely my fault.  I was handling the python's food and my finger got between me and it.  When there's no confusion, the python lets me handle it without a fight.  I'm way out of its league as potential prey, it's smart enough to know the difference.  My finger however, appears mouse-like.

Given the DNC is not officially part of the US government, extending any government protections to its servers, extreme vetting its personnel etc., would not be a job for the USG.  The USG needs to stay focused on what's properly its purview.  CBS News says the Pentagon needed to upgrade its secondary communications systems recently, and we learned earlier the CIA director might have been using AOL for something. These deficiencies are of the kind most appropriately addressed.

I don't see off hand why the the FBI needs to protect the DNC and/or GOP in some particular way, any more than it protects the Rotary Club or Boy Scouts of America.  In other words, the FBI should focus on protecting the vital organs of government, and then extend advice and training to the general public as a whole.

Saturday, December 17, 2016