Monday, July 25, 2005

More on Gothenberg

My day in Liseberg, Gothenberg

A thing I did in Gothenburg: buy an all-day rider's pass at Korsvagen, use it even on the ferry boats, and go to Vrango to read Quicksilver and take pictures. At the terminus of tram 11, I found myself in a Thai food kiosk. Guido and family were also present, having previously ordered and waiting to collect the merchandise. Guido had it on good authority that the food here was indeed good. And it was. I got in trouble for eating it in the upstairs cafe enroute to Vrango -- the whole upstairs belongs to the coffee counter (I'd surmised only the closest tier, misjudging the scope of the counter's authority). I was flattered that she lectured me in Swedish. Scandanavians are cool.

Gothenberg has a "Lip Stick Building" similar to our "Candle Building" (KOIN Tower), only theirs is more over the top.

Liseberg was great fun. There I was, all by myself, a 47 year old guy kicking around an amusement park, and who should show up but the University of Washington Varsity and Alumni band! Great baton twirler, enthusiastic musicians. My fellow amusement park goers stood around and clapped, trully impressed in some cases.

I bought an "as many rides as you can stand" pass in Liseberg. I went twice on the roller coaster that parallels the escalators to the tower, once on the others. And that swing thing towards the middle, next to Kannen's 360, wow. I hadn't watched a session before boarding (was just doing my random walk) and wished I'd pocketed my glasses. 47 year old man goes round and round and upside down. In Gothenberg. Fun.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wanderers 2005.7.19

Yesterday's Wanderers was one of the best ever, and yet was unplanned, for the most part, a "do whatever we feel like" kind of event. The result was a kind of round robin, although moving at variable speed, with lots of back and forth between turn-taking.

Big news was more about Lew and his Educational Leave of Absence to dive into the Urban Studies department at PSU -- one of the best in the nation (Carl Abbott is a Friend).

Dick Pugh revealed more mysteries of the meteorites. Brian indulged us with more Condor-talk. Don offered to assist everybody (at the last meeting, Don introduced himself as "Terry's Igor," which brought the house down).

I wedged in a complete OSCON presentation off the laptop (no projector), complete with "Fog of War" battlemap (drawn in green felt on the spot). Jim talked more about the watershed and his plan to view next year's eclipse from a Libyan standpoint, insha Allah.

David left before the round robin got to him (and before I drew my battlemap), but I enjoyed re-explaining Quadrays to him (one slide in my OSCON presentation) -- David being an applied mathematician, with an emphasis on spectral analysis.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bewitched (movie review)

Here Hollywood makes a film about Hollywood remaking a Hollywood TV series. The outermost frame is unspoken (this isn't a documentary about "the making of") but that just heightens the irony of actors making fun of, and celebrating, acting (including bad acting) and its made-for-the-camera cultural milieu.

For Nicole Kidman to frame herself as an actress playing an actress, she almost has to come from another dimension -- which she somewhat manages to do, as a witch who knows her own nothing-to-sneeze-at charms. Ferrell is charming too, and of course more obnoxious as Kidman's male foil.

Shirley Maclaine and Michael Caine play the older parallel couple (as Endora and Nigel), and covertly bewitch one another, likewise to foment romance. So is love authentic if it's so artificially begotten? The movie industry is forever asking itself this question, given the impersonal machinery of love-making is so in-your-face all the time (smile for the camera now).

I don't remember the TV show well enough to recall Uncle Arthur, originally played by Paul Lynde. His appearance in the person of Steve Carrell smashes the illusion: he starts in Wyatt's dream sequence, but is still there when he wakes up -- the layered realities collapse into one (hi Steve). Nor did I recall that Darrin got recast some distance into the original series, a fact Farrell's Wyatt alludes to, when feeling nervous about his career.

The film stays light-hearted throughout, faithful to the spirit of 1960s USA sitcoms and their suburban Pleasantville fluffiness -- is a traditional mid-summer comedy in other words.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Wanderers Meeting 2005.7.5


Long time digital activist and alpha geek Ron Braithwaite was our guest speaker at Wanderers yesterday. He's moving to Canada shortly to begin work on a new kind of safety net for elders, staffed in large degree by disabled workers and backed by volunteers.

This net provides elders with human contact by telephone, plus raises exceptions when the installed sensors detect deviations from daily routines, e.g. when a medicine cabinet fails to open, or a stove gets left on. If the telecare provider can't handle the exception, e.g. the phone isn't answered, it gets passed to a higher level, e.g. to an on-scene emergency contact and/or 911.

Disabled workers will staff the call centers, either in offices or at home (some people want to "go to work"). A web browser interface will provide the daily contact list and color-coded warning flags. The software is already being field tested.

Given the average smart home generates a lot of data, the current design puts filtering and summarizing algorithms on a client appliance, thereby shielding the more centralized servers from a flood of routine information. Summary reports will help establish baselines so that long term trends might be monitored as well (e.g. increases or decreases in mobility, number of nightly trips to the bathroom and so on).

Also present to provide supplementary detail and background information, was Claude Goodman, founder of CareWheels and originator of this model. Ron and Claude first met when Ron was spearheading CollabTech for Free Geek. Claude remembered me from that venue.

We had a lot of lively discussion, focusing on possible big brother abuses, and on whether living alone was really the best option. Passions ran high, as personal histories were recounted. Ron and Claude held up well under interrogation and we ended up wishing them well in their adventures.

Given many in the private sector expect to generate future revenue from such On-Star-like home monitoring services, Ron feels it's important to get a working model established using open source software and business models. Otherwise, the more money-hungry will hide behind exclusionary regulations and patent claims, to make sure native human smarts and resourcefulness remain enslaved and controlled by self-serving "know better" elites.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Roller Coaster

We don't have a firm diagnosis yet, but there's some likelihood that Dawn's long-running dry cough and CT scan results mean the cancer has moved to her lungs. This news hit home by email while I was still in Sweden, amusing myself for a couple days after the 3-day conference (given how late the bookings were made on my behalf, no immediate return was available -- a prospect I'd welcomed).

Or maybe it's pneumonia, or a lesion left behind by the radiation. We'd be happy with either.

Life is a roller coaster -- symbolism I was conscious of at the time, in Liseburg.

This wasn't the first time I'd endured a long flight with my guts knotted in grief and sorrow (the MD-11 was packed -- the cabin crew did a good job). I escaped into the pages of Quicksilver, while on inflight TV, Homer put on more weight to qualify as disabled, so he could work from home (I need to lose more weight).

Dawn and Tara came to fetch me from the airport (but the suitcase stayed in Vancouver -- ground crew couldn't fit it on the tightly packed Air Canada Dash-8). Dawn has all her hair back, is so strong and clear in mind and body these days.

We joined a backyard picnic in honor of some moved-away neighbors, back in Portland for a visit. Their daughter Alana and Tara are friends. Jimmy played his guitar, with others joining in. Mom took some time from her peace work to partake of the festivities. Tara and Llysa sang most of an old Dylan ballad they'd learned off a Joan Baez album.

I was glad to be home, experiencing the life of a civilian.

Sweden hasn't sent its young to war for some hundreds of years -- a model. Life is sorrowful enough without we humans doing the killing. What do our computers say, our simulations? Is war a mathematical inevitability? Yesterday's Herald Tribune editorialized that fighting malaria and other such killers should be our priority. I agree. Health care and food services, education, entertainment -- a global university, a city-campus network, all interconnected by airlines, telecommunications, shipping, that's my vision.

Followup (July 13, 2005): The anti-matter scan (PET) indicates anomolies in Dawn's lung are from the radiation field used earlier. Nor were other cancerous hot spots detected, per the preliminary study, which we obtained yesterday. I'm very happy about this news.

Followup (July 21, 2005): The MRI gods, on the other hand, were less kind.