Monday, January 11, 2021

Sunday, January 03, 2021


As we moved to mail-in ballots for all, in all states, making them more like Oregon, I expressed skepticism that such a large infrastructure switch could be made smoothly.

I'm like a geek from IT, one of the janitors, and when people imagine huge changes in how we do business (like Medicare for All, a wonderful idea) I wonder if we have the management skills to pull it off. You don't ask a kid who can barely tie her or his own shoes, to run a decathlon.

Although many say the election ran very smoothly, with nary a Russian in view this time, we could see signs on the horizons that sudden rule changes and impromptu decision making, required for the conversion, might become a basis for future challenges. The machinery might work better than ever, but that many people voting from home, could be painted as treachery.

What treachery? We're in the middle of a covid pandemic. Did you expect us to stand in line for days or what? We did the practical thing and went all out, sending ballots to every house in the state. The lists aren't that coordinated.

Yes, some went to dead people. Are we saying those dead person ballots were abused? Because if your household got an excess of ballots, or ballots for dead people, that's not a crime yet. That's an irregularity and doesn't change the outcome. Because pandemic. Because it's a scramble. Not all states have the tight integration with DMV for example (motor vehicles).

But the losers are not in a forgiving mood. Trump says we shouldn't let covid rule our lives. He must think we're sissies for voting from home. Those were Democrats, socialists, not Americans really, who adapted to the pandemic and changed practices quickly. We're going to call fraud. The system was never tight, and it's not like we're watching ballerinas. There's always room for more FUD.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas 2020

Any longtime readers of this blog, say in 2050, may remember that Christmas was a time for being studious in my book, to buckle down. 

A lot of people feel that way, about the season in general. There's so much to catch up on, and work is a treadmill.  Let off the hook from work for a couple weeks, and some people dive in, desperately hoping to bone up one whatever it is that might be their ticket to something new. 

The tread was quite evident when I worked for OST, a pilot school, not in the sense of being "just a test", but more in the sense of "first incarnation". As soon as you put graders in the back end, for certification, and don't use automation to judge correct results (because coding is about more than results), you've got a big number of puzzles to solve.  

One of those puzzles is how to give faculty a break when the masses are getting theirs.  Everyone wants to learn Python over Christmas vacation. I don't blame them. My queues would start spiking.

This year I'm not "slaying the queue" as we used to put it.  I'm running a plush retirement home for my mother.  Actually it's not all that plush, and one of Dawn's embarrassments was how cluttered it was. She was hoping we might move, or develop more handyman skills (not just me, but the both of us).

My reality was different:  we'd been super lucky, with catalyzing assistance from Laurie, in scoring this place and my ideal household was like the Thomforde's in Rome, a transplanted farm family, the dad working for the FAO.  

They had lots of kids and we'd go there for Quaker meeting -- a cul de sac off the Via Cassia, not far from the school, an ideal location.  They actually had two homes over time, moving further down the street at one point.  A large undeveloped valley, farmland, stretched to the school (Overseas School of Rome).  

I thought I'd like to have a house like theirs, not like one of those museum piece homes where everything has its place and so on.  That thing people do with their "living room": all antiques and hardly ever do people actually sit there (only on "rare" occasions), with a "rec room" separate... that's all a sign of social class I guess, but to me it's a big waste of floorspace.

For Christmas, we practiced Video Chat with Julie, my sister, using Facebook. Then we connected with my younger daughter.  I texted my Christmas greetings to Alexia earlier this morning.  Bill Lightfoot sent us the ritual fruit cake.  

We shifted our emphasis to Lauries Hanukkah party a long time ago, in terms of celebrating Shangha (community) and exchanging gifts. Christmas became more a time for study and introspection.  I did some more followup on the recent spy story scandals, updating a blog post and therefore redating it forward.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve 2020

Xmas Eve 2020

 I just got back from Glenn's, one of the five places left in my orbit.  He's rediscovering a lot of ideas all at once, what I called "epiphanizing", most of them having to do with the Platonic Five projected is if from without, to map the Earth's surface, or mapped to the heavens, to see through and get coordinated with.

I'm being studious. Some random Quora answer, not mine, persuaded me to dive into FastAPI, a newer Python framework on top of dependencies I'd never heard of.  So far so good.  Which isn't far.

People kindly send us cards.  I've been thinking a card any time of year is better than no card at all.  That could get me sending cards again, any time, to anyone.

Speaking of which, our partial reunion (good turnout) of Two Dickinson Street early denizens, the 1979-80 interlude, and others who knew Tom, was galvanizing.  I'd already accepted Swarthmore's invitation but couldn't shake my curiosity, and indeed Princeton proved a deep well.  One could say I'm still at the bottom, but that sounds too unfortunate.

I won't reiterate everything I've been saying on Youtube, or on Medium, here on Blogger.  Much to mull over.  Is this really the dawning of an Aquarian Age?  The most recent great conjunction has gotten a lot of people thinking in terms of astrological patterns.  When it comes to judging the mood of our times, and its potential, we need watchful analysts.  What it says on your business card, will vary.

Carol allows herself turkey ham (a turkey thing) but rarely, and Christmas qualifies.  We also have the usual supplies.  Our area is not in any kind of complete lockdown, but we do have our protocols.  Today I avoided any shopping.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Political Speculations

I could be wrong, but it seems now that Flynn is out of the penalty box, he's on Trump's team, vicariously, through his lawyer, giving free reign to the kinds of fantasies we were worried about in the first place.

I've been in General Flynn's corner all this time, thinking the Deep State was too heavy handed, one criminal syndicate versus another, tip-toeing around all the broken laws, trying to do sneak attacks in broad daylight.

Had the FBI been more restrained and had Flynn been let loose on the world stage, the shit woulda hit the fan from other angles. I'm not going to speculate.  OK a little: he probably woulda gone after Gulen as a favor to Turkey, but who knows.  I sure don't.

Now that we've had a reset, with the FBI duly chastened, Russiagate discredited, and Flynn free to spin spy stories, I think we're revisiting the start of the Trump term, with a lot of chaos and proofs of loyalty. 

However, with the four years behind, instead of ahead, the loyalty proofs aren't so evident.

The think tanks based in DC, with their aging oligarch Foundations, haven't necessarily kept up to date. Spreading the Deep State around the world was the name of the game starting a long time ago.  

I agree with those proclaiming the world is multi-polar.  Indeed it is.  Call it an NWO (New World Order) if you want to, I'm not sure anyone will care.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Sister City: Shiraz

Here's a project some municipal authorities were working on during the hiatus of hostilities between great powers, Portland and Iran.  

That hiatus continues, as PDX has in no way affiliated itself with the thug policies of The District.  The District sent its thugs to beat us down.  They failed, and went home, sniveling.

Let's find something on Facebook....

Regarding decentralization and a certain video that's popular these days in some circles, I wrote:

[M]aybe that's how it is now. Council of Mayors has no problem with Portland (PDX) developing its Sister City relationship with Shiraz (Iran). We don't ask Pompeo's retinue of losers whether this is OK. We inform the central government, don't seek its guidance (on matters of global strategy, we don't need The District telling us how to negotiate relationships).

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Dockerizing My BizMo

Given I have this whole other BizMo Diaries journal (chronofile, blog...), why am I posting this one here?  A mistake?  More a cross-filing. 

I don't want World Game Player (Grain of Sand) to be oblivious when it comes to "a life on wheels" we could call it (leaving room to keep it metaphoric, as usual).  "Grain of Sand" being me, or any one of us, but why not "as a member of a bizmo team" in some chapters?  I need my left brain to remember what my right brain is up to, and vice versa.

Let's get to BizMo now:

BizMo: you go into the garage, where the many plain vanilla models are arranged. They come in many shapes and sizes.  Once you're in the one you've been assigned, based on your selections, you're ready to download your familiar cubby, the personal workspace environment you're accustomed to using. This rig is outfitted for business but doesn't presume to tell you what that means, in terms of desktop layout, icons, favorite playlists and so on.  That's something you craft, and port from vehicle to vehicle.


Some of you are thinking: all very fun science fiction but what's this 'dockerizing' business in your title, makes no sense. 

That's likely a minority, but who knows, don't feel left out.  In my vocab a Docker container is something that comes to you over tcp/ip, and equips your local workspace with a bunch of versions of stuff, all tested to work by whomever designed this container in the first place.  So you sit in the cab of your vehicle, enter some codes, and you get the kinds of applications you need to do the kind of work that you do.

You might be thinking:  why go to all the trouble to install anything locally when your vehicle has full time access to the cloud?  

You see how I set that up to contain the answer:  your assumption about full time access to the cloud is not assumed.  The team needs to operate remotely, off grid, perhaps on battery, and there's no seeking for signal in all circumstances.  But then another reason is response times, ease of use and so on, even when cloud access is maintained.

I'm using Docker in the following way these days:  

I like using the Python language but it's always moving ahead to a next version.  Sometimes I want to play around with the next version without yet changing my everyday work bench, so I turn to Docker.  Thanks to one of those containers, I'm able to boot up the newest Python and work out in its shell, import its Standard Library modules, sometimes cutting and pasting to Quora, where I'm storing my answers to questions, as a way of giving back and working out.

I could be doing all this from within a wheeled BizMo, an actual van of some kind, in which case I might have given myself a Cascadia themed dashboard that talks a lot about geology as we're driving by (something designed by Patrick and Diane).

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Pythonic Polemics


I've been circling the block, pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, none of that literally, to advance the just cause of (drum roll)... lets just call it: sharing the Pythonic ecosystem.  Yes, "python" sounds like a scary snake, eating up the everglades in Florida.  Monty Python is funnier, but is also esoteric.  But then geeks enjoy esoterica... 

I'm talking about Python the computer language, invented by a Dutchman named Guido, with a lot of help from his friends.  It's a gateway language, a grand central.  Get oriented in Python, then use it as your bridge to something else.  Take advantage of those added smarts.  Python fits your brain.

"Pythonic" means pithy, to the point, according to the principle of least action, optimized.  It doesn't mean densely clever or tricky, what the Djangonauts call "being an astronaut". 

When you code in Python, you're ideally not showing off so much as upholding standards.  You're aiming for readability, almost personability. Pythonic code is reader-friendly.

On Quora, I answer a lot of questions about Python, though I'm starting to branch out more.  Answering questions about Python helps me improve my writing and teaching ability, or to at least stay in shape.

This ecosystem includes more than just the one tool however.  We have that whole Anaconda business, with the flagship Jupyter, both Notebooks and Labs. 

I saw another thing calling itself Pluto out there.  Imitation = sincerest form of flattery. That's what they say.  We're not talking about planets here, but types of interactive "notebook". Know what I mean?

I'm the guy thinking it's a travesty to offer something called "high school", which is supposed to get to the median hard core of whatever the current culture has to offer.  Yes, that includes skills like:

supplying the cooks
cooking for groups
playing sports
reading maps
making jewelry, other adornments, clothing
studying infrastructure (both global and local)
tilling the fields, planting
caring for animals
personal and public health... 

... and then, as usual, academics: PATH + STEM.  

Jupyter stuff would usually go under STEM but could just as much be Literature (silently between A and T, anthropology and theater) or natural language processing (NLP).

As a futurist, I work to keep pace with the Zeitgeist, not hang back and pretend like I still live in the past. 

Not having a command line, a shell, a place to store files, electronically, in the cloud and/or locally, is so forty years ago by now.  

I remember my gig with the police in Hillsboro, Oregon, who were pissed.  Why inspire fear among the youth, around the criminality of copying (piracy) -- Napster was new -- when the copyleft cultures exist?  

You don't need to pirate Windows when you can legally copy Debian, and distribute it to all your friends. This liberated media culture had legally free music tracks, as well as free executable programs.

These police, led by a second generation Chinese police chief, resolved to teach about that Copyleft World themselves, at the police station, if the schools were too cowardly to do so. I'd hazard most were more lazy than cowardly. 

The police hired a Linux + Python teaching duo, Jerritt Collard and myself.  Officer Heuston (since retired) was our man on the inside.

So yeah, if you went through high school in the last five to ten years, or make that twenty to thirty, and had no exposure to Python, or Jupyter Notebooks, then you live well below the poverty line in my book.  You've been oppressed.  

I'm not saying to therefore act like a victim.  

I'm saying it's your work to fight back.

The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.

Explicit is better than implicit.

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

Flat is better than nested.

Sparse is better than dense.

Readability counts.

Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.

Although practicality beats purity.

Errors should never pass silently.

Unless explicitly silenced.

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.

Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.

Now is better than never.

Although never is often better than *right* now.

If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.

If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Another Russiagate Postmortem

I think Trump is a lifelong real estate and casino owner crook (of the kind that do well in this country) and digging into his inner workings is definitely going to yield dirt, lots of dirt. Reminds me of vice president Johnson, in the sense of lurking scandal. Saved by the bell.

The Dems were diligently doing that digging, paying Steele, and enlisting the support of FBI operatives in going after Flynn, whom they feared might be a loose cannon (Obama considered him a nutcase).

Trump's assertion he could get along with the Russians was indeed alarming. Presidents don't get to say whatever comes into their heads like that, not when it comes to national security. Trump was a rank outsider with no District experience. "Spy upon him we must" was the sense around the FBI, according to testimony as recently as today's. The McCabe Cabal was getting grilled again, for abusing FISA.

As for the two main aspects of the Russiagate story:

(1) Russians have as much right to troll farms as anyone and Facebook users are not intrinsically protected against the PR / propaganda efforts of paying users. 

Lots of trolls use Facebook to influence public opinion, including Brit and Israeli IDF, so to single out Russians is just bigotry and part of that old timey "how we make money in the District is scare people about commies" (even if Russians aren't commies anymore -- doesn't matter that much, people aren't paying that much attention to begin with) and ...

(2) it wouldn't take a large crew to write the technical parts of the CrowdStrike report, wherein the GRU are depicted as hearing Trump publicly call for digging into Hillary's emails, and deciding to hop to and stay late, beginning phishing operations right then and there, eventually snagging Podesta perhaps.

It reads like a screenplay, complete with comical swear words, the cursing of Crowdstrike by Guccifer 2. I wonder how many government documents of such gravitas contain such silliness.

A few people with an intimidating level of internet jargon (plus omniscient author viewpoint, self conferred) will have no problem crafting a narrative that presumes to reenact what the perpetrators were up to. Really close readers will "discover for themselves" this date/time coincidence and draw their own conclusions (that Trump is secretly signaling the GRU in his speech, cue CNN).

It's like one of those Qanon puzzles: if the light goes on in the reader's head in a way that makes them feel like Sherlock Holmes, then you've scored. 

I put Russiagate on the same moral and intellectual level as Qanon, i.e. in the supermarket checkout tabloid lane, same place where Hillary has an ET love child.

I know the Russiagaters consider themselves intellectual overloads, obedient to Science, and oh so superior to those superstitious Trumpers, but I find this self perception largely unearned. 

This naive "do you really think intelligence services would lie to me?" (big eyes, quivering lip) after decades of being lied to (Vietnam, Central America, Iraq), just seems pathetic.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

EPCOT Revisited

Defunctland: Walt Disney's City of the Future, E.P.C.O.T.

I like that Kevin, the narrator, brings up the "science fiction meets reality" issues that EPCOT would have to grapple with. What about civil unrest, what about voting? What about democracy?

If you watched the Defunctland deep dive into the Robert Moses project: the New York World's Fair of 1964-65 (in which Disney was intimately involved), you might remember the worker slowdown.  In today's terms, one might say "the Black Lives Matter movement was not entirely happy with these white supremacist plans" -- which is how they came across on many levels.

I like to think the Old Man River City project was set afloat in the culture to grow organically.  There's no top down support for it, just as there isn't for Fuller type futurism, which I assume many still confuse with a kind of technocratic fascism.  I'll be addressing these topics on my Youtube channel, perhaps tomorrow.