Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hunger Games Two (movie review)

Fair warning, this is not a mainstream review.  First of all, our main neighborhood theater, The Bagdad, prominent in these blog posts, had just gone digital and first run, and I was there for the first time to experience the new screen, projector, seats, and sound system.  That puts me in a head space of checking out a theater, which is already a spin.

The other thing is Global Matrix swag / paraphernalia is signature in the Capital, which we're being programmed to hate, by Donald Sutherland (Snow).  I'm talking about the hexagon sky (a dome) and the hexagon uniforms.  The Evil Empire is all hexagons.  So now we've got that to deal with, as the colors of Rome, Coliseum, Roller Ball, Gladiators, and Fascism, all blend, using our carbon chemistry / graphene theme.  That's OK.  We do holodecks, fine.  Up to you what you tune in.

I appreciate the Uru quality of the games.  Uru was in the Myst series, and closer to my name, so I made some puns over the years, again in these blogs if still extant, Ozymandias Syndrome says maybe not.  Blogspot can't last forever etc.

Anyway, Cyan Software, out of Spokane, Washington, brought us Myst and Uru.  I wonder if they have a Youtube... Here's what I'm talkin' about:


Donald Sutherland was a great Man X in JFK (the Oliver Stone movie) and the real "Man X" is also a blog persona. Poke around, check it out.

The new Bagdad price:  $8.50 versus the $3.00 it used to be.  Judging from the crowd and the lines, people are more than willing to give that a go.  I appreciated their having the secondary drink service window open.  I got a Hammerhead then saw the fresh grapefruit and asked if I could order a second drink as well, thinking Greyhound.  The barista wisely said (per OLCC) she'd need to see whomever else I was ordering for i.e. the rules are against buying two for oneself.  Hey, I'm not trying to be a lawbreaker here.  I'll get my Greyhound another time, no problem, thanks for having this window open, means I won't miss even the previews, some of which were interesting.

So if you see some hexagons sometimes, including in the sky (a common experience among some shroom heads -- or they'll see rhombs maybe), don't necessarily freak out.  Like maybe you should, I'm not Harry Seldon, but there's intelligence in using hexagons... a few pentagons.

I want to say that The Hunger Games, as a phenomenon, took me by surprise.  Suddenly, everyone had read it and knew all about it and I'm not really in the mainstream.  How did that happen?  Harry Potter was much more observable.  And I see the connection.

It's eerie how the culture veers when you're not on the same page, and blam, you're off the merry-go-round and on to something more like a roller coaster.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thirsters: A Retrospective

Peter Bechtold was an area specialist (in the so-called Middle East, pretty much from Spain to Pakistan today) who could appreciate both the academic and governmental worlds.  He gave a two slide presentation at Thirsters this evening.  I brought Steve Holden, former PSF Chair, as my guest.  The venue was again packed. Ishtiaq from last week was there as a guest, and spoke at length with Dr. Maria Beebe, someone my mom enjoyed meeting.

Peter told a story wherein, as at first an academic outsider, he was one of the chorus who decried Washington, DC for always getting it wrong.  Then he got on the inside more and climbed the rungs of power or so it seemed, and met people he really could respect, for knowing as much has he did about an area, and then some.

However, we somewhat top out at this point, as mid-level people, such as presidents, prove themselves not quite able to steer a clear course.  They end up fudging a lot, making do with murky language.  So it seemed at the end of the day we were back to not finding DC's apparatus all that well designed.  "Only the president makes foreign policy" he said.  That seems a bottleneck right there.

Peter told his story well, reaching into current events of right then.  Secretary of State John Kerry had been saying something about drones, not apologizing or whatever, and immediately the spin doctors were sending a different message.

The audience wanted to talk about whether it was true that North Americans were "isolationist" in quite the way stereotyped.  They might still be world savvy or cosmopolitan in a different sense that could even be more dangerous, one questioner remarked (not me).

Dr. Bechtold made fun of the Portland-centric who think we're a hub.  In Boston they think we're near Michigan (like Detroit) and can't even say the name of our state correctly.  He meant that as a humbling remark, a reminder of how no on knows who or where we are.  But I took it a different way, as more evidence of an ethnocentric Atlantic culture that still thinks it runs things.  Empire State and like that.  Not my problem if Bean Town is a tad on the slow side.

Anyway, I enjoy friendly rivalry among capitals (what I call "capitalism"), Portland being an Open Source capital.  That's why Steve is here, ostensibly, to take advantage of Portland's being at a crossroads in global computing.  But were we living up to that reputation?  I think Steve is ahead of his time, and that worries me some.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

A Khan at Thirsters

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Ishtiaq Khan @ Thirsters / McMenamins

I thought this was a well placed punchy talk, just right for the audience, some of whom could share responsibility for getting him there, with his two kids, in the first place.  This is a real Pashtun overlord with "serfs" (bad translation) and so on.  Cool.

Most of what Ishtiaq had to say was new to me in detail but not in principle:  some incompetent admin types had sketched a few "countries" in the wake of a failing empire and lazy North American textbooks continue sharing this Anglo heritage, another way of continuing what white supremacist Rudyard Kipling called "the great game".

The border between two of these Stans, Afghani and Paki, never mirrored the reality on the ground, and was set to expire in 100 years anyway, according to some records.  The Pashtun, with a 4000 year lineage, have enough organizational memory to know that line is going (has gone) away.  Not if you consult lazy American textbooks or globes or National Geographic necessarily, but that's because Americans are basically politicians at heart.  They think locally and act even more locally (parochially).  World-savvy USAers are somewhat hard to come by, although we had a few in that room.

Back when Medard Gabel ran World Game they'd talk about how insane was the use of distorted maps, by which they meant the physical distortion of the landmasses, such as Greenland.  But equally distorted are these awkward ideas about "sovereignties" tiling the planet, with 2nd and 3rd tier "wannabe nations" in the wings (Kurdistan for example, or Tibet, which used to have more status), followed by all the virtual / cyber nations that are coming along (what the wannabes oft revert into -- and maybe find congenial).

We're swamped with national identities by this time.  Yet millions fell through the cracks, with more falling through them every day. There's nothing engineeringly "sealed" about this system.  It leaks everywhere, running mostly on suspended disbelief.

Washington DC is supposedly pulling out or holding back or something in 2014.  I'm not sure anyone really knows what DC is doing, including DC, a joke government in a lot of ways, with the attention span of a... well, you know how I get insulting.  That's just my lineage, back to Mark Twain and like that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

All Hands


Our ranks both grew and shrank since last year's May meetup at Bodega Bay, backdrop for Hitchcock's The Birds.

I stayed with other media savvy males in the Appian Way place, this time closer to Mother Ship.  The CEO handed me a key to a rental Impala, picked up and returned to SFO, which is where most of our party flew in.

Patrick and I took Alaska Air directly to STS, only minutes away from the gathering point.  Georgia picked us up in their Turkish-made commuter van, a Ford.

The president and operations manager, our founding couple, figured they'd completed the visionary part and demonstrated an ability to pass the torch in a way that did not delay or retard our progress along the timeline, in itself a feat of administrative smoothness.

In the slide show above, you will see us gathering by day to perform our jobs in a shared workspace at the Mother Ship.  There's also a regional HQS in Champaign, Illinois which I showcase elsewhere.  By night, we gathered more informally at one of the rental houses or local eatery to catch up.

Finally, after a day of inspection by an outside accrediting group, we went to Show & Tell (a company tradition) and learned a lot more about one another that way.  Two shared about the process of giving birth.  Others shared about life-changing travels / adventures.

We still have more steps along the timeline but are so far still on track and on schedule.

Admin was beefed up after the top level turnover, plus the Mentors added to their pool.  This was my first opportunity to meet some of them.  Finding out who one's peers are is an important step towards discovering one's organizational identity, I think most managers would agree.