Thursday, July 02, 2015

Late Night TV

I don't know what exactly disagreed with my GI-tract yesterday, as I'd done my favorite things with beer and pizza, no big deviations.  Random unexplained event (RUE).

As a consequence, I bagged my plan to see the documentary at Clinton Street Theater, a retrospective showing PR / propaganda films against Weed, on the day it became legal in Oregon (Prohibition was slow in lifting, given oppressive religious imams who think this might be their Iran to own and control, most of them claiming to be friends of Jesus in some way).

Not that Oregon east of here, in West Idaho (as some call it) necessarily agrees with cosmopolitan Portland.  They don't get Willamette Week out in Dufur.  Or maybe they do?  Actually I think Terrabonne, Bend, Madras, those places, aren't going to turn tail and defect to Potato Head State.  We shall see.

As another consequence, I had to interrupt watching Endgame (so how fictional?) to more fully experience my indigestion.  Nor did I get through as much of my queues as I'd wanted, meaning more work today (but I'm better now).

Nor did I get much sleep, but that was the good part.

A long documentary on Johnny Carson was aired on PBS, and that was important for me to see, very glad I did.  Then I had BBC on (radio through OPB-3 digital broadcast).  Lots of news and views seeping in, almost replacing dreams it sometimes seems.

The Johnny documentary was important on many levels, one being it openly discusses television as a medium, the dynamics.  They take the "cool" of McLuhan and connect it to the "coolness" of Johnny, and that works to hit a note with the TV-savvy, comedians, and connoisseurs of talk shows in general.

What made Johnny so interesting was not just his erudition but his friends, male and female, his relationships.  They portray him as stand-offish but he somewhat had to be given the culture itself is still working on on-camera-versus-off personae and how these connect.  He innovated.

On the topic of innovation and media:  we could do a lot more with political cartoons in the sense of anime, not manga.  Lets use these to teach seriously even though the point of view will be challenged (serious != unchallenged).

Show the plight of Greece (too big to fail?) as an animated cartoon in other words (for example).  Of course different groups will spin it differently depending on how vested.  So have a film festival (could be virtual) and share them all?  Let audiences access the many points of view.

Am I saying that nations themselves should be turned into cartoon characters?   Doing that is certainly within the ballpark, i.e. I'm not dictating the formula (who'd care?) just recommending more didactic content in that animated cartoon form (take on history).

South Park is doing it, as is Taiwanese Animators, but these are projected as satiric and comedic.  So what would "more serious" look like then?  Think how pharmaceutical companies use cartoons to show us our own innards (ah, great tie-in!).  That's serious stuff, no?

Cartoons can take the edge off, or add edginess, sugar-coat or expose.  They have great powers.  They may be tagged, certified or rated in various ways, just as all movies are, from Youtube to Netflix to whatever equivalents.

Almost forgot:  the Dawn mission to Ceres has my attention.  They just found those bright spots.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Quakers 2015.6.28

mosque in Alabama, by Temcor

Carol and I both caught colds.  We blamed Lindsey, but then I was outside sweating through my clothes at a crowded launch site for World Naked Bike Ride, so maybe it got worse then.

My phone ran out of power from the pictures I was taking, so I got to walk home, given I do bus tickets on the phone.

I suppose I could have gotten some cash back somewhere, but I didn't mind hobbling on my bad ankle.

Today mom and I breakfasted at Tom's before coming to the meetinghouse to see the Barkers, Isolated Friends who've had a lot of experience "overseas".  I'll chronicle more of their talk as the day progresses.  Next stop after here:  Salem.

I bussed over to Enterprise this morning to rent a brand new red Toyota with under 1000 miles on it.  The Nissan is still in the shop (fine by me -- this one has air conditioning, woo hoo (though given our colds, Carol wants it turned down)).

We're having fruit salad during social hour.  We missed Meeting for Worship, given that would have meant being ready by 9:45 AM.  I was back with the car by then, but Carol needed time to three hole punch and sort papers at breakfast.

Iran (going by current borders, as some World Game people draw them), is currently surrounded by US military bases (Paul showed a slide about that), the latter emulating the UK which had a global empire that included India.

India's troops fought alongside the British against the Ottoman Empire, looking forward to spreading their own administration to Baghdad (Iraq).

Political conservatives of the American Century persuasion miss-associate "imperialism" with "greatness" whereas exporting soldiers is really just the Iron Mountain's way of housing and feeding the more socially unproductive (prisoners, like base populations, are similarly seriously curtailed, in terms of what their contribution to civil society might be).

Persians practiced "sky burial" under Zoroastrianism much as the Tibetans do.  Lots of dynasties so far.

Democratically elected president Mossadegh was victim of Dulles Brothers PR, who convinced Eisenhower he was Communist.  Nixon-Kissinger played their brain dead version of "realpolitik" to disastrous effect.  

DC's bankrupt pro-Shah policies fed Khomeini's rise to power, with student activist support, leading to the so-called "hostage crisis".  

Although Iran was sympathetic towards the US over the events of 911, by 2002 the "Axis of Evil" label had signaled the US was entering a period of prolonged political immaturity complete with idiotic baby talk, farcical clowning, and extreme violence.  We remain in this chapter.

Iran has set aside seats in its parliament based on religious orientation, e.g. two seats for Christians, one seat for Jews.  Such codifications do not impress me as good design.  As a software engineer, I detect cruft just about anytime politicians use their creaky / contrived / obsolete codes to try to run things.

Many young Iranians feel the same way about old fossil politicians as North Americans do.  They flagrantly flaunt the stupid "rules" that the know-nothings wish to impose.  Young people around the world have a lot in common in not wanting to leave global affairs to old fossils.

The Persians got their first research reactor as a gift of the Eisenhower administration.  The current line is nuclear WMDs are anti-Islamic, i.e. against Islamic principles.  DC insists this is hypocrisy, and postures as keeping Iran's WMD ambitions in check.  

However, if Iran is serious, then perhaps Christianity has become the true champion of nuke weapons, given US conservatives like to pose as such and embrace nuclear WMDs wholeheartedly as God-given (Jesus loves nuclear weapons apparently).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Visa Commercial

I found myself doing a "Visa commercial" recently, not for pay, not officially, just I was saying in some email that I'd take Visa over a visa any day, a dig at the game of nation-states, which isn't working for so many.

We went to MercyCorps on International Refugee Day, Glenn and I, to learn more about those ejected from "the system" (so-called) and what engineers have been coming up with to compensate.

Yes, we blame the non-nations, the corporations, for not letting nations have their way, but then the corporations do not require those huge contiguous tracts of land, so problematic on the maps.

True, a soy bean farm in Brazil may run to many acres but it's still not exactly a state, not that private property is any friendlier.  Is it a hospital, a hotel, a university?  Expectations vary depending on the namespace and of course one's role in whatever scripts (processes, scenarios, time tubes).

We have a lot of players that are non-nations, NGOs in particular.

So are church groups NGOs?  Temples?  Do we worship in NGOs on Sundays and Saturdays?

The nomenclature is not clear.

Many a Friends Meeting is indeed a 501(c)(3) on paper, shorthand for a kind of institution that does the same kind of work as the USG i.e. serves a public ("the people") and as such is tax exempt.

One may even donate to such tax-exempt corporations, known as charities, and claim those donations off the top is if those were taxes already paid.  Not every penny need be rendered unto Caesar.

Like, why sponsor a corrupt government, overrun by plutocrats and their minions, when you might earmark for the sleeker charities of your choice?  Many a donor billionaire has just such thoughts.

What I like about Visa is it's somewhat freed of the taint of nations and suggests that more of the real wealth, the real work, is not performed by humans at all.  The latter weave a final set of products and services and network amongst themselves, but the heavy lifting is done by water and wind, cosmic forces (gravity etc.).

Visa plugs into all that, in my imagination (PR), whereas old money still bears the face of a "sovereign" to whom credit for great works was assigned.

I have nothing against great works mind you, I'm just not one to encourage humans arrogating all credit to themselves for much of anything.

We humans didn't design our own human bodies and have yet to figure out how they work in many important respects.  We have our myths in which humans are made to be boss, but they're called myths for a reason.

Anyway, don't mistake this for some religious argument about deities.  I'm just sharing my realistic assessment of value added through Work (i.e. expending Energy in physics terms), saying I'm not about to give humans all the credit, as if humans were the only source of anti-entropy in this world.

We'd get absurd forms of bookkeeping from such an anthropic premise.  Our narratives would fail to hold water after awhile.  So lets keep it real if we want to keep our currency hard.  That's really not a new concept.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yes Men are Revolting (movie review)

Carol (mom) and I saw this at Living Room Theaters, the same venue where I saw Citizen Four.  She asked afterward how much of the back story was really real, and that got me thinking.

Having checked the web in a few places, I see Adam (not his real name) really is a professor at some New York college or university.  I was imagining he might have rented a classroom and pulled the same stunt, of having us believe that was his job.

Could it be that other guy (Mike) had never set foot in Scotland?  You can see where my mind was going with all that:  even the back story was paper thin, constructed for our edification (Adam promised in Uganda he'd do something GLTBQish, and on that promise he made good).

The spoof technique the Yes Men use is pretty interesting:

(A) show people in authority doing what we subconsciously think would be the "right thing" (US Department of Energy, Chamber of Commerce)

or...

(B) show people in authority being flagrant and crass about their true intentions (Shell and Gazprom).

Both work, although I'm not always clear on the criteria for success.  Their parody of the Gazprom / Shell collaboration in Amsterdam was deemed a failure.  How so?  Too complicated to understand?

Watching Canada lose its sovereignty has not been pretty.  Another cast of politicians has lost credibility, a needed attribute for government, but what else is new?

All this activism can get exhausting and the oceans continue to rise.  Occupy was a shot in the arm.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wanderers 2015.6.16


I met up with Elise at Sokongdong BBQ, part of the Fubonn Shopping Center, catering to Asian cultures.

I bought a bag of black rice afterward, then high tailed it to Wanderers, stopping home to share a red bean ice cream ball with mom.  Carol is not a huge sweets fan but enjoys the occasional sticky dough sphere.

Don was setting up the projector when I arrived, eager to share the above video.  That's a level of physical coordination you don't see everyday, worth filming.  Tap dancing in roller skates, sheesh.

Discussion turned to the TMT in Hawaii, the newest telescope.  The synergies between astronomy and local culture -- lots to investigate, we barely scratched the surface (excuse choice of words).

Earlier today, on a break from teaching (in the teacher's lounge as we say), I studied the physics of dam disasters, with help from Youtube.

I researched the failure of the St. Francis dam, serving LA, with much interest.  That was a disaster some people saw coming apparently.

Before then, the dam feeding the Pennsylvania canal system, or intended to, before trains took over in the transportation business, ended up re-purposed, only to end in disaster.  Talking about Johnstown.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Recent News and Readings


DC is moving tanks around (the kind that shoot shells) in a political game with the Kremlin to play Cold War in Ukraine.  By DC of course I mean the Pentagon, in turn a euphemism of sorts, for a Beltway mentality that works closely with Iron Mountain partners (e.g. Geiko) around the world, many in Germany and Japan.

DC's moves are predictable.  When all you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.  One dimensional chess is what tanks are all about, although when caught up in symbolism, as here, they're not so much tanks as pieces on a game board, so some dimensions are restored.

I've been reading The Cryptographic Imagination by Shawn James Rosenheim (Johns Hopkins Press, 1997), literary criticism focusing on Poe.  That's an important literary vector (Gothic) in my writing given Laffoley, Applewhite and Fuller as influences.  The notion of "cracking a code" as both the act of reading and a path to deeper insights, resonates through these works, from Gold Bug through Da Vinci Code.

An "encoding" (such as UTF-8) need not be about concealment so much as preservation and recording.  How else but in a dense code, some set of hieroglyphics, perhaps a language invented for this express purpose (e.g. Synergetics, less about neologisms than spinning known words in a new way)?  Mnemonics, memory palaces, are "encodings" less about "concealing" then "memory management" (data processing, IT work).

The last time I saw Ed Applewhite was at the Fuller Symposium in DC.  This was after he and June had visited us in Portland.  June, his wife, had since died, whereas my wife was just about to receive her terminal diagnosis, the reason I flew home early (missing Pycon and a dinner with Ed).  Ed was talking about the overlap twixt Synergetics (his collaboration with Fuller) and Poe's Eureka, anticipating the same convergence, in the rear view mirror, that I'm looking at a decade later.

The World's Fair in Kabul, the dome (like the Climatron), Khrushchev's admiration for it -- these themes and events will return with a renewed Cold War.  Mom was telling me that higher ups in the new Ukraine government have dual citizenship in the US or other places in some cases.  They're friends of Kagan's wife Victoria Nuland or something?

The long term credibility of the "nation state" in contrast with some "Tomorrowland" (ala Disney's EPCOT) is a theme the news dances around a lot.  I guess we need to keep believing in these "nations" so that NATO has some meaning?  How can you have treaties without nations?  Ask the n8vs.  They have nations too, and alliances.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tweeting Synergetics




:: tweeting synergetics ::

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Trusting Mathematics


If you saw Imitation Game, which title is suggestive of the Turing Machine's mission, you know lives depend on keeping secrets and/or finding them out, and once mathematics became something "engines" could do on an industrial scale, the art of cryptography really took off.

Above you'll hear me babbling away, fairly coherently, about the difference between private key and public key cryptography, and the difference it made.

Buzz Hill is tracking Bitcoin and the whole idea of cryptographic systems built to enable secure transactions.  He just sent me a PDF of Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, by Satoshi Nakamoto.  I'm looking forward to studying it more.

Cryptography came up recently around Python.org as well, where we went into the topic of tie-breaking algorithms on elections-wg, a new working group.  I summarized some of what I took away from that thread on edu-sig, also a Python community listserv.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Thirsters 2015.6.4


I'd been looking forward to more serious discussion of the Peace Corps, and that's what occurred.  The conversation was reflective and far from self congratulatory.

Many of the participants talked about how suspicious people had been.

Clearly the US was exporting its homeless and prostitutes, dumping them in 3rd world countries.  That was how Peace Corps was sometimes perceived by some of the rural students in Ethiopia.

And when the US was up to no good, as in Vietnam, Peace Corps volunteers got a lot of push back.  They paid a price for horrific stupidity in the Pentagon a lot.

Art Kohn came right out and said that, as a Fulbright Scholar, he was unambiguously an agent of the USG, State Department in particular.  Not a secret.

I wish I'd been more able to engage but Python work is at high tide.  Not that I was ever in the Peace Corps myself.  Some friends of mine were.  The topic interests me.

Thirsters is the natural place to bring it up as founder Bob Textor was one of its several architects.

I stayed in a corner with my head in my laptop most of the time, thinking about code and context managers and such.

Carol (mom) came with me and she wishes she could hear better.

We had a good time anyway.

I've been eying the Thirsters for their importance in Peace Work.  Now that AFSC is quitting the Portland Peace Program (we carry on without much Quaker support), I'm casting about for other ways to configure our Portland matrix.

Of course a lot of people are interested in so-called peace work.  Or call it citizen diplomacy or whatever.  I'm just looking for new ways to participate, given AFSC's decision to give up its role.

I talked at length with a woman who knows the Humanists of Greater Portland is also looking for new angles.  She was asking about interns and PSU.  I had no direct answer about how to find one.

Making room for the emptiness i.e. allowing the vacuum to take shape, is probably better than fighting it.

I'll wait for a way to open.  We're in a state of "casting about" (sounds like I Ching).

On the way over, mom talked about Mexico and how one of their low level officials made a ridiculous ass of himself by disrespecting the Sioux.

The Mexican government appears to be in some kind of unstable mess again, with native peoples saying enough is enough already.  But then they've been saying that for awhile right?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Internet's Own Boy (movie review)


Aaron's story has some elements in common with Alien Boy's in that both ran up against bullies who have the system (inertia) on their side.

Also, The U.S. Versus John Lennon is another documentary that resonates, with lots of big name talking heads, and lesser-knowns, adding their tribute and perspective to a hero's short life.

Aaron Schwartz was infused with a lot of the same ideals that drove geeks to create a free Internet based on free software, with free as in Liberal Arts (libre).

That MIT and JSTOR were not active prosecutors in the case against Schwartz saves them some reputation, though both were diminished by this chapter.

The Obama Administration comes away scarred, but I think we know it's really just Washington DC and its cult of lawyers under the surface, smug in its being the heavy and having the right to strip search and humiliate whomsoever it pleaseth.  Roman heritage.  Fascist (literally).

Admittedly, things have been moving quickly lately and politicians used to using a finger-in-the-air approach to sensing political winds have been confused a lot, about which way said political winds are blowing.

This film was shown at OMSI recently.

Although I've fought many of the same battles for open access, I was not specifically aware of Schwartz at the time and most of this information about his battle with SOAPA was news to me.  I remember fighting Clipper (so ancient)...  he was far more engaged than I with domestic politics.

I was glad to see Tim O'Reilly in the lineup of those appreciative of what Schwartz was hoping to accomplish, in terms of liberating hard won human knowledge from those asserting control by entitlement.  A lot of scientists and engineers resent what amounts to slavery as well.

Aaron's contribution to the Creative Commons movement lives on and continues gathering momentum.

Bucky Fuller was always pointing out what he called "LAWCAP" was up to (the post World War Two US legal establishment):  creating scarcity artificially, deliberately handicapping technology.

This film shines a light through the dying LAWCAP somewhat transparently.  We see its last gasps protesting moral supremacy before an increasingly skeptical audience that keeps wondering when a more intelligent form of life might arise from these ruins.

 Idiocracy and LAWCAP have much in common no?