Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Resolution

In the spirit of the season, I just came up with this project to "cut back on bad wiring".

Yes, that's something neuro-scientific:  talking about miss-wiring in that graph database we call "the brain" (you'll find "brain" used in many namespaces so buyer beware).

Of course there's "old wiring" in a state of disrepair.  "Use it or lose it" is another Darwinian law, or call it Lean management (related to Agile).

Then you get what I'll call outright mistakes, where you've confused identities, swapped in bold fiction (lies) as fact (truth), and / or allowed senseless filler to substitute for real thought (picture a vast range of phenomena, not just a few dust bunnies).

Organized religions are especially ineffective at clearing out the latter and become "cruft boats" in the blink of whatever deity's eye.  People don't like to offend one another unnecessarily and you never know when this candy wrapper on the floor might be sacred to someone, so onto the altar it goes.

The globalized borg among us, those steeped in IT, meaning anyone who has fought with a computer (e.g. a brain), knows that "purging cruft" becomes a responsibility sooner or later.  We sometimes forget that's part of the job.

Happy New Year!  I wanna to see that new movie about Alan Turing.  I asked another geek to go with me, we'll see if she's free. 

We talked about "passing the Turing test" at Wanderers last night (it's getting harder to tell the difference twixt human and "mess of firing wiring" in some contexts).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Marketing Considerations

Reconnecting to USA TV has proved somewhat trippy.

As Leonardo Di Carprio, a Catholic school boy "juvenile delinquent" rebels against authority in some B movie, the commercials come hurling out of the screen about all the lawsuits I might join, in case the drug I took to control something or other, spun me out and maybe left me for dead.

Then the very next commercial is for a like-named drug still on the market, but with dubious side effects such as lactating, even if you're a dude.

Am I saying it's a bad idea to update us couch and bed potatoes about our options, lawsuit-wise?  Maybe a substantial settlement, which it's suggested I might get, would pay for the next diet and hair grow drugs I buy on my credit card?

Just kidding, I don't buy those kinds of products, but a lot of us do, I realize that.  Stu Quimby would go on QVS with his magnetic toyz, and they'd get gobbled up like gangbusters.  The medium is the massage.

@DekeBridges and I discussed the effectiveness of some ad campaigns at a StarBucks just now, having done a quick trip to the Lewis & Clark college area.

The Mennonites in our hood have a QR-code in the window and that sparked some interest among Quakers in following suit, although some of our iPhone people may find QR-codes redolent of some lower class of Wal*Mart shoppers and TriMet riders.

As an Android user, I find myself on the bus a lot, and the QR-codes at every stop are a welcome convenience.

Tom Peterson was the "Crazy Eddy" of Portland in the 1980s, offering those knock-down better prices on the whole couch potato / bed potato setup:  a bed that or lazy chair that reclines at various angles, and a big screen wired to some back end that's not so virus-infested it won't even turn on (alluding to some of today's "buyer beware" purchases -- actually those are looking more like DDoS attacks).

At least the digi-TV broadcast stations are still offering PAAS (programs as a service -- advertiser-sponsored).

The idea of a "Quaker TV station" (more likely a syndicated show) came up.

Our Progressive branch is not into proselytizing or "spreading the good news" in the conventional missionary sense.  Actually "preaching to the choir" is what a lot of these televangelists at the other end of the spectrum already do.  We'd be a lot friendlier to atheists right off the bat.

The focus would be more on bringing our own up to speed on various STEAM topics (A for Anthropology).

The Coffee Shops Network (CSN) could be a vector for that.  Some of our programming is only available in the shops.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Story

I raked leaves today, cleaned up around the front sidewalk.  I told Lindsey this was when I felt most like a member of the "petty bourgeoisie" as raking all those damp leaves felt about as petty as it gets, though edging is right up there.  It's a good workout though, and as a middle aged man, I should be engaging in semi-strenuous cardiovascular activity from time to time.

The FCNL liason phoned me as I approached the Narnia light on Mt. Tabor and requested directions for Bridge City Meeting but it turned out the event she wished to attend was at the Stark Street facility.  I decided I'd attend and went home to dress more appropriately, while also confirming Lucy Duncan as my associate on LinkedIn (AFSC business).

I discovered my "NATO pants" in the closet, Army surplus woolen monster pants from Andy & Bax, a favorite army surplus outlet on Grand Avenue (near Bridge City Meeting as it happens).  I could belt them above my belly button, humpty-dumpty style and drape a T-shirt over that, then a maroon Python zipper sweater completed the outfit.  Green and maroon, silver hair, why not?

But then when shaving... what are those black spots on my pants? -- noticed in the mirror.  Wait, those are holes!  Good thing I caught it then.  I'd have shown up at the Christmas Party all in moth eaten tatters, back from the grave, the zombie look.  Not festive.

So then I rushed to change my outfit yet again and this is when the keys went missing.  You already know the punch line:  they were in the NATO pants.  But I'd looked and looked, checking pockets thrice.  Then I spent an hour looking other places.

Uncle Bill called.  He's with his son Matt in Tualitin.  He's been through the wringer but had the bandwidth to commiserate with my key issue.  I have a friends mailbox key on it too, so if I'd dropped this on Mt. Tabor, near the Narnia light... what a nuisance!  We think Uncle Bill is on the mend but I know from my bout with pneumonia last January, recovery takes time.

So yeah, the keys were buried deep in a NATO pant pocket.  By the time I found them though, I didn't think walking to Stark Street would pay off.  Weren't they going caroling those Quakers?  They'd be singing "shaggy shaggy locks" (one of our Quaker songs) to bewildered neighbors by then.  No way I was going to drive mind you, given Peacock Lane hell (just kidding, it's pretty -- just not good for traffic).  Walking takes about twenty minutes, give or take (I might stop at Red Square or Movie Madness).

I'm not making a huge deal out of December 25 lets remember, but nor am I trying to tune out the holiday experience such as it is.  New Year's means a lot too and I do spend extra time on renewing and reconnecting during this solstice period.  That's what a lot of people are in the mood to do and I'm not about to be a grinch about it.  That'd be really petty.  Not that I'm above petty.

I'll plan to check in with the FCNL liaison tomorrow.  That will mean driving but I don't expect much traffic.  I may visit Uncle Bill on Friday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hanukkha 2014

My many thank yous to Laurie for helping to anchor the holiday season with a low key charming Hanukkah party that we've belonged to for many years.

Neither of my daughters could make it this year.  I decided for gift giving I'd pick a local business I respect and appreciate, Third Eye, and buy a stack of incense, Grateful Dead playing cards, and a special T-shirt.

We ate latkes, I made my lentils, and then conversations for me wandered from Aliens (starring Sigourney Weaver) to Mt. Tabor, the nearby public park.  We also talked a lot about property redevelopment, the house next door having just been replaced, along with others nearby.  How many Facebook accounts belong to members of the dog species?  More than one, we know that.

I much appreciated getting to meet the psychiatrist / naturopathic healer, someone who'd left Portland in the 1990s when Dawn was still alive.

This was not a PTO day for me.  I'm part of that working class red eye shift that keeps the holiday season chugging along through the (in this hemisphere) cold part of the year.  I "slew my queue" (euphemism for attacking my inbox) for some hours.

Monday was also haircut day at Bishops.  At 56, I'm more hirsute than I'll be at 65 but I'm changing my look to be more like the picture, minus the aviator glasses as I mostly favor clear lenses these days. While waiting for my haircut I drank two beers (on the house) and read People Magazine about missing Robin Williams, and about the Obamas and their family life.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wanderers Solstice Party

The Wanderers, sometimes affectionately known as the Meanderers, celebrates the Equinoxes and Solstices.

Sometimes we've had full blown excursions to off-site locations or had overnight parties at the Pauling House.

This Winter's was relatively low key but with plenty to eat and drink, and even be merry about if in the mood.  Good meeting up with Nirel and her friends.  I hardly ever see her anymore.

Skip, who was at my Quakernomics talk, turns out to know quite a bit about Bucky and his VE concept.  He's been to one of the SNEC-produced RISD events and sent me a paper on some of his geometrical notions.  We both know CJ, whom Skip credits for cluing him to our shared foci.

Monday, December 15, 2014

AFSC Office Party

:: Portland AFSC Office Party, December 15, celebrating new digs ::

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Good Bye Blue Butterfly

I'm a peripheral character in the Blue Butterfly story.  Glenn has played a more than cameo role in the maintenance department, helping bring the house across from New Seasons, a few doors down from Pauling House, up to salable condition.

Michael, the owner, has pipelined artifacts from Indonesia, Bali, Southeast Asia more generally, to his color store, which has been in operation in different places along Hawthorne for some thirty years.

Michael's son operates the Alhambra Theater down the street and together they staged a blow out, complete with hundreds of slides and two bands, the second of which featured two tubas amidst its all brass (and a guitar) ensemble.

I enjoyed the whole show and an grateful for the service and dedication of the Blue Butterfly enterprise.  Michael will be moving to Indonesia, is my understanding.

Our neighborhood is somewhat a gateway to Asia, with women especially going for "sherpa chic" as their look (warm, fuzzy, lots of knits).  Some WDC goons called Portland "Little Beirut" awhile back, but I think "Little Lhasa" is far more apt, and alliterates better.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Big Hero 6 (movie review)

I was under the misapprehension that this was the 6th in some Big Hero franchise, not understanding the 6 referred to "how many" on what eventually becomes a superhero team, with shades of The Incredibles -- and a touch of Scooby Doo.

The unification of Nipponese and US cultures ala Disney is a pure synergy and helps feed the premise that IQ knows no upper limit.

Asia connotes technical brilliance to Pacific Rim folks and this movie is all about being a nerdy genius in a peer group that supports full expression of same ala Johnny Neutrino.

The movie is also about compassion and empathy (qualities in shorter supply).

The world we get is more Zero Theorem in flavor, though minus the existential concern with a global apocalypse.  The villain has specific targets.  In general the future looks bright for these folks.

I thought the Disney people did a really fine job on this one.  I'm glad kids are seeing it.

The world we see is very close to ours, but more utopian.  Recent near future science fiction ala Bladerunner has usually gone the other way:  the near future is darker than our time, with Japan a source of fascination.

Here's a breath of fresh air then.  Japan is still a focus, but in a non-threatening, non-darkening way.

Watching this next to Penguins of Madagascar was an interesting experience.  Both feature teams acting in concert, tightly coordinated, against a loner villain.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

ISEPP Lecture Series 2015: Kick Off

I use the term "kick off" advisedly as there was rumoredly a football game of some import that night, involving Oregon.  How nerdy would Portlanders prove to be, forsaking live witnessing a ball game to attend a lecture on the ball game crazies of this hemisphere:  the Maya?

Plenty nerdy it turned out.  We packed the place, and Dr. William Suturno "regaled us with stories" as my late wife Dawn would have said.  She loved this lecture series too, which has been going a long time thanks to Terry, with a little help from his friends (lots of co-sponsors).

This may well be our last season after a record-setting run.  I've benefited greatly in my education.  These blogs are richer for the write-ups I've been privileged to record.

Anyway, back to 800 AD or so, these Maya had a steady integer uptick like our Julian Date in Python, i.e. some enormous number of days going back to some mythic beginning, inside of which was their time and space.

The days were then demarcated with the periods of the astral bodies, including Mars and Venus, with no confusion about the latter being two bodies (it's not).  They were big fans of 20s for grouping groups, with 360 in there too.  The ceremonial overlay, like our weeks, persists to this day but without the planetary knowledge.

Mayan architecture involved carefully modeling buildings to match up with world lines, like where the sun got furthest north and south.  Humans have perennially spontaneously organized around such phenomena and we know birds use a lot of the same information.  Brains have to earn their keep somehow as they're expensive in terms of blood and oxygen.

Humans lug around big ones and have proved superb at mapping the cosmos with it, starting with seasonal periodicity and the cycles on which life quite literally depends, whether you're agriculturally based or hunting and gathering (or both or neither).

The Mayan civilization was highly successful and when a system winds down we need to avoid that reflex of thinking that's always some dire "collapse" as if we all wept when DOS 3.1 was retired, or Windows of the same version.  These were but passing chapters in our upgrade to tomorrow, the Omega God of the Jesuit branch headed by Teilhard de Chardin.

One might spin it this way too:  "you've got to admit it's getting better" (Beatles).  People outgrow themselves and move on, and it's not a big disaster.

He had some digs at Jared Diamond's Why Civilizations Choose Collapse (not the real title) for what he considered its fanciful spinning of just so stories in some cases.  Moralizing should not shove science in the back seat, even if one agrees with the basic message (that mismanagement will have consequences).

I always enjoy it when ISEPP speakers allude to or speak to the work of others who've been through here, as chances are I've got some personal experience to dredge up and rethink.

The rats are what got 'em on Easter Island says Saturno.  They eat all the seeds.  It wasn't so much willful mismanagement as an outbreak of infection.  Civilizations die, get over it (doesn't mean they were suicidal or pathological).  Like, so we don't get to play the game with the big heads anymore, drat those rats, lets sail away (Enya).

As an archeologist with a large time horizon, one can see feeling like that.  "Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky" (Kansas).

The highlight of Saturno's talk was the unearthing of a new find and the reconstructed paintings therein (painstaking work for sure), and what they tell us about this Mayan heyday.

The exact nature of the institution is unknown at this point, but clearly lots of calendar stuff, the same as what went in the books (they had paper from way back), was written on the wall over and over, like a whiteboard.

The sense of getting access to a retired hard drive or IT room was palpable.  This is where the torch got passed somehow, but will we ever know much more?

 :: william saturno, archeologist ::

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

About Smartphones Again

Smartphones are so smart these days they're going senile.  Leave it to our really smart devices to start showing the same symptoms of aging as we do.  Or is it aging?  The ability to pile up cruft, creating fruitless entanglements, is an ability we have at any age.  The solution:  a reboot at some level, or upgrade to the next smartphone.

However, upgrades are expensive especially when not per plan, so in the interim, a new profession, that of psychotherapist for those breaking up with their phones and needing to fall in love again.

Clearly I'm likely thinking of some more specific experience, such as my Razr flagging under the weight of Aviate or whatever it is.  I'm not wanting to point fingers, or engage in a battle of hardware (Motorola) versus software people.  I'm simply confirming that I'd be eligible for a visit to said shrink, were insurance (through Verizon?) to cover it.

Actually Aviate expanded my horizons quite a bit in that checking in on Facebook, as a way of adding to "the chronofile" (generic word for personal timeline and/or profile -- inheriting from RBF's lexicon) became that much more convenient that I'd do it just for fun.

I checked in from Union Station, Tabor Cafe, Hophouse on Hawthorne, Lucky Lab (right?) and many others.  If James Joyce had had Swarm in Dublin, what might he have done with it?

When your smartphone starts spouting Finnegans Wake in response to your Asking Google or whomever you speak with, that's probably a sign you're ready for that upgrade, or some therapy.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What is a Proof, Really?

[ original thread ]

On Sat, Nov 29, 2014 at 11:12 AM, Joe Niederberger wrote:
<< SNIP >>

> Finally, I'm happy to accept your chess problem as mathematical. Frankly, I
> don't know what a survey on that question, given to working mathematicians,
> would turn up. And, any mathematically acceptable way of arguing it would
> have to be logical in my opinion. (If you have an illogical approach that
> is also mathematical I'd be fascinated to hear about it.)
> Cheers,
> Joe N

I think we mostly agree. Criteria apply.

A proof is not a recipe nor even algorithm.

An algorithm tends to have proofs in the background, to back it up as it were, e.g. we make use of V + F = E + 2 in some step in a computer program, e.g. we get E from V + F - 2, but then why is it safe to get E in this way?

In the background: Euler's Theorem for Polyhedrons and the many proofs thereof, my favorite probably the one by G. K. C. Von Staudt:

[ however this is not my favorite forumulation of it; that would be in Peter Cromwell's Polyhedra, cite ]

The other thing I'd say is: lets not go overboard in assuming some finite roster of individuals tagged as "mathematician" truly owns or controls or governs the discipline and shared heritage we loosely call mathematics ("loosely" because anything tighter would be clearly too tight and therefore outright wrong).

Innovations come in from left field all the time e.g. most naturally from closely neighboring disciplines, and those self-identifying as official spokespersons for mathematics, i.e. mathematicians, must scramble to keep their background cosmetically acceptable i.e. the pros keep it looking professional, add the right panache (sometimes a little lipstick on the pig is all one needs).


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Global Data Revisited

So where's the math in all this?

We clearly need better and more reliable global data.

However I'm skeptical that partitioning the world up into a jigsaw puzzle and collating by "nation" is an at all useful way to be measuring humanity's progress or lack of same.

The UN has to do it that way, for political reasons, but supranationals like Google (or some hypothetical Global Data Corporation) would not need to present and/or visualize global data in those obsolete terms.

More context:
Reply to Israeli Knight (math-teach, Nov 25 2014)
The Mapparium (Feb 09 2005)
FAQ:  What is Global Data?
Checking Global Data

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dear White People (movie review)

I'd deliberately avoided reading any reviews so wasn't sure what to expect.  I drove to within a half mile of Cinema 21 and loped a lot of the way, not wanting to miss even previews.  I got there on time.

The film is set in a somewhat timeless world called "college", not the real world at all.  Obama and current events get cursory mention, but Sam (a girl) is using a 1950s style Bell & Howell looking movie camera that helps catapult us back to some other time.  The college president is straight out of MAD.

The most disturbed individual is the shy-teased guy with the Afro, way out of style.  He's the first to break glass and turn the scene violent.  He destroys property, expensive stuff.  Then he sexually assaults another guy.

Everyone else is relatively mature and touchy issues of racism and classism are dealt with without violence.  College is a cerebral place and these kids are a brainy bunch, especially Choco or whatever she goes by, the ghetto girl from Chicago.

The anti-racists get to be segregationists as Black Pride is just another form of professional elitism and deserves its own circle in the Venn Diagram of "things to be".  The college administration had been trying to randomize "blackness" out of existence but disrupting memes-with-inertia is even harder than disrupting genes, as to accomplish the latter you just need condoms, as these students appear to comprehend.

My university had houses for social clubs like this one and we were expected to intelligently work through differences.  A Third World Center and a Womens Center helped add balance, plus the particular house I lived in junior and senior years, 2 Dickinson Street, was about balancing some of the more conservative houses.  Ours was in favor of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) against apartheid in South Africa for example.  My roommate for a time was editor of the Daily Princetonian.

The college portrayed in this movie seems a lot less in touch with the real world than Princeton, and more stuck in a time warp, but that's fiction for ya.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gender Again

:: gender tweets ::

For further reading:
Gender Wars

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wanderers 2014.11.13

:: steve holden ::

Steve delivered a well-received and attended presentation on The Impostor Syndrome, perhaps a syndrome he made up, but then I haven't Googled it yet.

He was using the Wanderers format to best advantage: prototyping a talk he might give someday, and getting behind the scenes, before you go on stage feedback. He took notes as feedback was freely offered.

This being an early morning crowd, buzzed on coffee, we chimed in with a lot of witticisms.  I liked Steve's "I was gonna write my paper on the Stockholm Syndrome but I think I'd rather stay with my new friends."

Dave DiNucci of NASA background was present and avidly following the comet landing story.  We were in the suspenseful moments before knowing for sure whether the landing module had actually managed to arrive at its surface destination.

Steve naturally traced the syndrome back to childhood first experiences, and recommended what we might do in adulthood to counter some of the more hampering habits of mind.

Steve's track record rivals Terry's in some ways, of being able to deliver public events.  That's apples and oranges really as the lecture circuit and conference venues are different sides of the business.  Just saying:  both have been highly successful, and those are only tips of the iceberg in both cases.

Steve was also a chairman of the Python Software Foundation and continues to teach classes as well as mentor newer teachers in many IT-related topics.

However, as I discovered at Princeton and many other places since, one will continue to be astounded by neighbors and random strangers with skills one doesn't have, like at a circus.

Sometimes the Impostor Syndrome might mean feeling less good at being human than say some role model or super type, some example.

Anyway looking up to others is healthy.  I'm not one to say "putting so-and-so on a pedestal" is always a bad idea.  I've got people on pedestals everywhere I look; kinda "sepulchral" as Ed Applewhite might have said.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Mountain

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Common Core Mathematics as Poverty Line

I sound naively "born yesterday" in this outburst on math-teach (Math Forum) against Common Core Mathematics, whereas those following the action more closely could have told me years ago:  the standard advocates teaching base 10 operations, but stays silent on teaching what "base 10" actually means.

What people maybe don't understand about Common Core Mathematics is it deliberately sets a very low bar and schools are encouraged to rise above it.

To actually cover no more mathematics than is contained in that standard is to be mathematically disabled and in dire need of remedial practice, but then what curriculum worth its salt would only cover Common Core Mathematics?

In some earlier posts, I appeared to understand that, saying I could embrace Common Core Mathematics Standards only to exceed them.  That's what I'm saying here too.

In contrast, this "US Coalition" believes the Common Core should be "world class".

By my reasoning, no it should merely set a very low barrier to entry and be used as a criterion in that way.

Common Core Mathematics is "gruel thin" but not "non-nutritious".

Common Core Mathematics defines the mental "poverty line" we all strive to stay above.

No one wants to really be as mathematically unsophisticated as a hypothetical Common Core Mathematics person would be.

Monday, November 03, 2014


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Remembering Dora Farms

The curtain opened on the Attack Iraq scenario with what was billed as an heroic bid to end the war before it started.  If only the head of state, and former ally, could be murdered in his bed using high altitude precision guided bombs, steerable even through cloud cover, we could call it a day.   Worth a try, right?

The new bunker busters had been ordered up in a hurry and having stealth bombers drop some was the Beltway Goon wet dream du jour.  A pretext for pre-emption was all the Neocons needed.  Since the War on Terror had been personalized to Osama and Saddam, viewers already understood that a manhunt could be a wartime activity, involving cruise missiles and high altitude bombers.

The American public was asked to believe the CIA had spooky insider knowledge that Saddam's chances of being in that secret bunker were greater than fifty-fifty.  Given the number of American lives that might be put in harm's way should Operation Iraqi Freedom proceed on schedule (which it did), the President and Secretary of Defense must be forgiven for trying.  Great cover story.

Of course in reality there was no such bunker and Saddam was not waiting around in Baghdad while CNN waited breathlessly for some explosions for the home-viewer voyeurs.  Whether the CIA really had any spooky insider knowledge was irrelevant as the only important order of business was to get some stealth bombers doing their thing on TV, being heroic and all, their pilots getting in harm's way.

As we see in Why We Fight, a postmortem documentary, the neighborhood was populated with ordinary civilians.  The "precision guiding" practiced here had nothing to do with geography or preventing the slaughter of these innocent "extras" in the Pentagon's show, and everything to do with surgically wiring US TV viewers to appreciate how supremely awesome and shocking the Beltway Goons could really be, so they'd pop popcorn and cheer for more, good patriots that they be.   What, no Saddam under that palatial tea cup?  It's a shell game! Bomb them all!  Go Team America.

The TV dupes and doofuses bought it, hook, line and sinker.  The myth of "trying to stop the war at Dora" was spun, whereas in reality it was planned as a curtain opener, with much more to come.  So much more.  The Attack Iraq extravaganza would be another one for the history books.  Many proud and heroic chapters would follow, with troops putting themselves in harm's way all over the map.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Recent Lesson Plans etc.

Do we include these in the Common Core Standards?

New Kind of Science:  experiments with cellular automata

Modulo Arithmetic
Laying foundations for later topics

Number Bases
Included in New Math but phased out during the Great Dumbing Down

Public key crypto:  what any citizen should know about

Classic STEM
State of the art

V + F == E + 2
Attributed to Euler but did Descartes also know?

Martian Math
Looking at Earthling assumptions about area and volume through ET eyes.

More reading:

Focal Points

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tommy (movie review)

I'd just assumed I'd seen this before as hasn't everyone seen Tommy?  However after a few minutes I realized this was new material to me.  I'm glad to be taking a director-centric approach to movie watching.  Ken Russell films are my latest focus.

Tommy is set during the Narnia generation, when kids had to leave their families by train, for the English countryside or even the Americas, to avoid German bombing raids (Germany was experiencing much the same thing, with Churchill ever eager to test the new weapons systems at his disposal -- Hitler and Franco too, in Spain).  Sometimes junior would come home to find mom with a new dad, given the real dad had been downed over enemy territory.  Tommy finds himself in a similar situation.

The new dad, a William Shatner type played by Oliver Reed, the studly priest in The Devils, is as inexperienced as the mom when it comes to child psychology.  Neither has read Dr. Spock or has much insight into Oedipus Complex issues, somewhat typical in boys of Tommy's impressionable young age.  Both overreact when the ghost of the real dad raises its ugly head in Tommy's thinking, and have to seek psychotherapy for Tommy as a consequence.

Fortunately, the new dad has an eye for talent and snags Tina Turner as a therapist.  She provides a "safe space" as we said in est, and feeds him "Voodoo Donuts" (as in "popular Portland treats"), at least figuratively, and Tommy blisses out long enough to at least reconnect to parts of his former self.

Thanks to Tina's intervention, he improves at his game quite dramatically (besting Elton John), though is still a PTSD case and only makes it up to the "Jesus freak" level, which never works out, before arriving at Game Over much where he (or the real dad) came in, ready for a rebirth of some kind.

I've skipped to the end though, missing the therapist mom could have had were she feeling less forsaken and abandoned early on:  Jack Nicholson.  The obvious chemistry between them suggests she might have developed her mind more before getting reconnected with a male counterpart, and this might have benefited Tommy in the long run.  But that's all hypothesis contrary to fact i.e. specious speculation.  She did fine snagging the new dad and they stay together to the end.

An interesting wrinkle for me is I had my head in the pages of Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?, when it came up to see this movie.  I'd been reading all about operatic renderings of psychological complexes, and here I was, suddenly immersed in just such an operatic rendering, albeit not by Wagner, but by The Who, a band with much greater name recognition and better known music in my "teenage wasteland" generation.  Nietzsche and I had very different childhoods, that's obvious, including in the music department.

Monday, October 27, 2014


A rare lobster dinner.  We don't eat this way often.  Last time we had lobster was celebrating our meetup with family in Indiana this summer.  I was privileged to be at both events.

And then the symphony! Wow, what a weekend!

What are we celebrating?

Mainly Carol's continued success as an peace activist and anti nuke weapons leader. She was in a near-fatal car wreck in 2000, and was only recently on oxygen following hospitalization, yet now she's feeling great and working hard.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Holding Two Nobel Prizes

:: Carol Urner in Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Archives 
OSU, Corvallis, Oregon ::

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Unknown Known (movie review)

I was lucky to have Carol, my mom, here to see this, and a forty-something happy to learn more from her after the movie was over.

This is more of a "mood piece" and well suited for Halloween, given the high quality Tim Burton style music.  Good work Danny Elfman.

A goodly portion of the film is caught up in word games, especially this one of going:

known known
known unknown
unknown known
unknown unknown

The middle two are the ones Rumsfeld is most interested in.  Sometimes you think you know something and you don't (unknown known) whereas other times you're gazing through fog, maybe knowing some new unknown?

Being Secretary of Defense does this to people apparently.

Carol pointed out that not much or any of the film focuses on the redesign of Pentagon weaponry that occurred under Rumsfeld's tenure.  Lots more with satellites nowadays.

The focus was more on war in the Middle East and the US getting its wish apparently:  an impossible to draw map.  The believability of the old borders has crashed and at least some of those memos seem to suggest this outcome was desired!

"You break it you buy it" is what Colin Powell said, no longer willing to just keep kicking it down the road.  Lots of unknown knowns in that picture.  Like what's "it" again?  Maybe Clinton knows, since he knows what "is" is, or appears to.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


:: not a failing, a find ::

One of my most annoying failings is I lose track of important items, and then have trouble accounting for where I might have left them, meaning "lost or stolen?" remains an open question.  My dad understood how annoying to oneself and others this not being "on the ball" could get to be, and he reminded me to "stay on the ball" from time to time.

Given how often I lose my prized things, I waste a lot of time obsessively looking for them, often to no avail.  The etymology of the pejorative "loser" is obvious:  one who loses.  Losing is a symptom of ineffective self disciplines, which may come across as, and may be, self indulgence.  Indeed, on a world scale I have my share of treasures and should not take them for granted.  I work on those disciplines, and for long periods I've known relatively better success rates.

A way to compensate for a tendency to lose is to quickly save a copy or image somewhere.  Document the existence of items.  Keep those documents at least.

I've focused on losing in this blog post, however a tendency to break things, or not fix things in need of repair, might serve as material for additional exciting Failings episodes.

I forgot Dick Pugh was giving an excellent and well attended talk on meteors tonight at Wanderers, and was thinking to process my frustration a bit.  Finding that psychotherapy venue temporarily well occupied, I turned to the old fashioned dear diary format.  What's a journal for if not for Failings?

Quakers have had committees for Sufferings, and express Joys and Concerns.  But Committees for Failings?  Perhaps we could focus on those sometimes.  However we don't want to turn ourselves into some commune based on various forms of public humiliation and shaming.  Those patterns have been tried and found to not work over the long haul.

Even while writing this I managed to temporarily lose, then find, two important items.  At least I still have the camera and cell phone, for the time being.

By best guess is the Samsung Galaxy 10.1" tablet got swiped from the back seat of an unlocked car a couple days ago and I'm just noticing.  I promise to confess here if I find it after all, or if it's returned (unlikely).

In the meantime, check out the wonderful find Glenn shared with me this morning, a book about making patterns with thread in a cylinder, used in the 1960s at some alternative ("underground") school in New Mexico.

Click the picture to get into the Photostream for more.

OK, after visiting The Bagdad and asking them to check lost and found, the stuff appeared, both the hat and the tablet, on a dining room chair tucked under the table.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Stage Fright (movie review)

This is a golden oldie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Given it's so old, I'm including some spoilers, though if you're a Hitchcock fan you already know to expect plot twists.  Knowing them does not detract from the effectiveness of their implementation.

He's playing with the assumed omniscience of the camera, as signified by a character entering a front door of a house, and closing it, yet we the audience are magically inside, nothing closed in our faces.  We're in!  We'll get to see the body too!

The character proceeds up the staircase and we're taking in every detail, sure this is all a true memory, given the frame for this shot is all a flashback, a story being told by an innocent fugitive just trying to do the right thing.

A theme is humans manipulating one another, which is sometimes a good thing as when coaching a team of players to win games, other times trickier, as when withholding critical information that would make a world of difference to some player.

Our heroine needs to do some under-cover work while eluding a detective working the same case, without getting caught.  The heroine's dad is also a conniver.  The dad clearly has his daughter's interests at heart.

The movie builds up our rage against the vain and seemingly superficial Marlene Dietricht, until we realize she's actually not as portrayed in the flashback.  When we realize that's all a made up story in most respects, it's almost too late in the game.

That's how Hitchcock plays tricks with our miss-assumed voyeurism.  We're lulled into thinking we're omniscient, but we're not.  We've been hoodwinked by the master director again.

Ordinary Smith (Wilfred) adds a lot to the plot in having more of a "steel trap" kind of mind, as detectives are wont to develop.  He puts two and two together rather quickly, given sufficient information.  The under-cover girl is like that too, so one senses they'll make a good couple.

I wrote all of the above before watching the Special Feature commentary on the DVD, wherein the camera through the door shot, and the "false flashback" are much discussed.  I'm gratified I could come up with such on-target commentary all on my own then.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mathematical Meetup

As some long time explorers in this blogs will know, Wanderers was blessed with several sons of Cal Tech, which makes sense given ISEPP's history and ties to Linus Pauling, x2 Nobel Prize winner.  I recently had lunch with one of these alums (the reflected ambient light is from a Thai restaurant in the PSU area downtown).

How do judges decide who wins in science fairs?  That's a deceptively simple question, which I will couch in the isomorphic namespace of a "beauty contest".  First assume the impossible:  all the judges completely agree because they're all clones of each other.  As omniscient onlookers, we have ahead-of-time knowledge of how the ranking should go.  And the judges, in retrospect, would all agree with said ranking.  Like I said, impossible.

Now here's the wrinkle:  you have sixty "beauty queens" (assuming nothing about gender) or "prima donnas" and each of ten judges only gets to interview twelve of them.  No judge interviews them all (too many contestants, not enough judges -- a realistic constraint based on actual science fair data).  Every candidate is interviewed twice (10 * 12 == 60 * 2).  So what affect on final results does the initial random assignment of each judge's twelve make?

Running such analysis thousands of times suggests noise is greatest in the middle, as certain pairings will not have been made.  No one will have compared X to Y, by happenstance, and this missing puzzle piece degrades the result.  A runner-up always has the excuse (legitimized by this study):  "just bad luck, I should have ranked higher and the judges would agree with me had they seen us all." That's what the math says too.

I should hasten to add though, that these "zombie-clone judges" who all agree do not represent the typical science fair judge, or even beauty contest judge.  For one thing, with proper mathematical tools it's possible to compensate for these "luck of the draw" issues.  Judges caucus precisely for this reason:  to avoid robotic behavior and thereby falling victim to the exigencies of pure mathematics.

Good job explaining David!  I hope I captured the essence of what you're finding.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Regarding Titles and Tithes

When talking about Restorative and/or Healing Justice, Quakers of the Liberal / Progressive persuasion tend to steer clear of shaming or "guilt tripping" as a technique.

Among the churches which practice "tithing" -- a kind of taxation a non-profit is allowed to impose in lieu of having the government do it ("separation of church and state" principle) -- the congregants or "flock" may be asked to "pony up" or leave the institution ("in shame" is the presumed threat, as in "excommunicated" or as in "God will not love you anymore").

Quakers were kicked out en masse when they refused to tithe and instead banded together as one of the first "tithe-less churches", changing the name to "meeting" in the process, precisely to get around the stereotypes and misguided notions of what "shared worship" was all about.

The Church of England was top-down in those days, as this short documentary about George Fox and his teachings will attest.

"But if you don't tithe, how can you afford to pay pastors?"

Answer:  we don't.  All our positions except maybe child care and a couple others of a routine nature are unpaid, volunteer positions.  That's how we keep it open to newcomers and old timers alike.  I've served on Oversight Committee a lot for example, above the Clerks by design (a supervisory function) and yet never got a dime for so doing, again by intentional design.

We call it "management by rotation" and it makes a world of difference.  A typical church becomes top-heavy with administrators mighty fast, and once they control the check book, it's all over.  Not so with Friends.

From Facebook this morning, quoting from Bad Quaker (a good web site):
"Some other interesting tidbits about Quakers: Titles of honor; Quakers refuse to use or acknowledge titles of honor. That is to say, titles given to men or women for the purpose of distinguishing them apart or above other men or women. "
My comment:  That's all fine and good until they say you deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. What Quaker is gonna turn that down?

 But then who would be so immodest as to accept?

Solution: get the AFSC to do it. Spread the glory, and don't single anyone out as "too special" (the Catholics don't like uppity monks or nuns either).

What Quakers have to offer is not so much reparations, as an alternative to the top-heavy hierarchical organization types that have dominated humanity since Pharaoh and before.

We're not the only ones doing it (praise Allah) e.g. last night's AFSC Liaison Program conference call with Philadelphia was all about a Unitarian technology or format geared towards "non-punishing" forms of healing.  We learn from others, they learn from us.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Without God

My Facebook Friends may notice I'm repeating a lot of the same themes both in my blogs and in my Profile.  Makes sense right?

The above interview speaks for itself, however I want to underline the strong Code of Conduct that's being underlined here:  don't use your abilities as a spin doctor to mislead people into thinking you really have supernatural powers (or beware -- you'll be exposed for the charlatan you are).

That being said, within the scope of "natural abilities" (not supernatural) we're still exploring what humans are capable of. Skepticism is not about closing the door on serious study of the hitherto unexplained.  We wouldn't have the science we have today if that were the prevalent attitude.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SimCity for Real

Dumpstering a House

All over Portland they're crushing "wooden tents" (homes) and replacing them with more "wooden tents" (nothing aerospace, don't worry, that market is still under-developed).

Yes, the 1% has decided "Occupy is Sexy" (not that we had a Wall Street sized gathering, but respectable):  lots of retired young people.  The New York Times can never say enough it seems.

SE Division has been transformed.  This four-story is going up across from Angelo's (where Lindsey and I first met, introduced by Patrick).

Commercial / Residential

Monday, October 13, 2014

Revised Org Chart?

Org Chart (Draft)

In light of predictions, well-founded, that Multnomah Meeting will continue having a Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and that for its part the Portland AFSC office will have its Area Program Committee (supporting staff and volunteer programs), overlapping membership should take care of any "liaison" needs. Having someone with such an important role sitting "ex oficio" (means what again?), redundantly with everyone else on both committees, is a misuse of world resources. Right sharing means dymaxion i.e. optimized at least a little (smile).

So to that end I'm proposing to enlarge my playing field to where I could be invited to address some Humanist and/or "Good without God" atheist conclave, and not have to worry about backlash from Orthodox Friends, who tend to run the show even in some ostensibly Liberal Friend (inheriting from Progressive Friend) meetings. "You schmooze with atheists you can't still be liaison" is a way of bossing some Quakers just assume, given the ancient org charts in the library ("out of date" is putting it mildly).

The Liaison Program is like a speakers bureau, so if the Liaison they send you the first time does not resonate with the group, the SurveyMonkey reports (or whatever) will reflect that and maybe next time the Liaison will be more pastor-like with a deeper more resonant "stained glass voice". Some congregants are uncomfortable without the "right mix" of hormones in the room (some people are finicky about the cocktail, the pheromones).

Having more than one Liaison per region is partly an antidote to that problem, and partly a way of challenging congregants to get out of their "comfort zone" from time to time, and meet and greet AFSC people outside their everyday experience.  Like at the circus!  Or a carnival!

Anyway, I for one think it's a good idea.

Quakers already have lots of ways to boss the AFSC, from the top down. At the top, their YMAs fill the Corporation and the Board with a mix of recorded members and "Walt Whitman Friends".

 In the middle, Regional Executive Committees help chart strategies for the region.

At the area level, you may have an Area Program Committee if your office is big enough.

Portland's, with just two staff, is certainly big enough. We have a clerk, recording clerk, a Google Group, and a way for distant members to patch in at designated meeting times. I've been serving on this committee since its inception (AFSC reconfigured recently, which is why this structure might seem new).

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Progressive Friends

 :: Quaker Elder with Reflective Ministry ::

Having recently viewed the Ken Burns documentary series on Prohibition, I was interested to learn Chuck's take on the Quaker position, which position, not surprisingly was almost entirely pro Prohibition. So how can Quakers boast of their "cutting edge" track record, i.e being on the right side of history, when so clearly they favored retrograde policies? Even the so-called progressives did.

Refreshingly, Chuck is not some apologist or "lawyer for Quakers" and lets the past be what it is.  The truth is more interesting than our myths.  As my mom put it on the way to meeting this morning, "Quakers weren't even allowed to have pianos" i.e. "Fox was a Puritan, maybe not of the usual kind, but a Puritan nonetheless."

I was thinking on the way home, "gee, I hope it wasn't the influx of Quakers to Richmond, IN that spoiled that town's fledgling piano industry".  I'd hate having to live down such a killjoy reputation.  Anyway, I have no evidence to support such a story (yet).  Quakers certainly did not kill off beer as Richmond has a fine micro-brewery of Quaker lineage, which I visited a couple times on my last sojourn in Richmond (Ohio Yearly Meeting was gathering and I joined their concluding worship).

So yes, Quakerism was significantly diluted by Puritanism right from the get go.  With advancing age, however, I'd say many branches of Quakerism have shed this heritage, like an old snake skin, outgrown.  Likewise, Islam in North America has shed much of the misogynistic heritage it picked up in the Abrahamic tradition (or wherever that comes from) and is currently thriving as a more or less feminist institution in towns like Lake Oswego.  Women own their own travel agencies, drive fancy cars and have the latest smartphones, thanks to Islam

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Recent Meetups in Portland

:: myitson dam project (artist's conception) ::

Carol and I were invited to an "oyster freakout" in North Portland.  My GPS took us to the wrong place but only because I'd dialed it in a little wrong.  Alan still hears his phone (smile).  We enjoyed some of the best food we'd ever had, including fresh caught salmon brought by Bob, a talented fisherman.

Alan was just back from Burma doing what he does best:  preserving a way of life in a sharable PDF document, showing how scholarship could be done if more than perfunctory.  He's a "best of breed" at what he does.  China has seven dams planned in the region but doesn't play by the same rules.  Now that China has sided with Burma this many times in the UN, it's time for that nation state to cough up the goods, is how some analysts see it.


Alan has popped up in my blog before.  He and his world class scholar of Burmese Buddhism wife got married in my living room ("my" in the sense of lent to Urners for the duration of their stay) when visiting on their honeymoon.  They'd planned another "more official" backup marriage ceremony in France in case the Bhutanese certificate didn't hold up in court, but it did, with flying colors.  Something like that anyway.

Of course when I heard about the Chinese plan for the dam I immediately said "Celilo Falls" i.e. immigrants arrogated severe privileges around here as well, much to the sneering and jeering of Roosevelt wannabes who couldn't fathom how much power Google would eventually need.  I'm talking about The Dalles, where Celilo Falls, one of the most important fishing sites in North America, was submerged, somewhat redundantly with Bonneville further down river.  Aluminum was another big consumer of inexpensive power, before Amazon and like that.  Oregon also exports to California via HVDC.

Willamette Quarterly Meeting is going on at the Stark Street facility.  Our region is experiencing none of the tumult that characterizes the Southeast (Carolinas and such).  They're still fighting the Vietnam War per the recent summary by Chuck Fager.  Our meetings are not FGC (yet) but we use their Cloud Services quite a bit, for websites and whatever.  A professor at GFU that I know thinks we're bound to "come out" as FGC at one point or another.  Another option is to just stay what we are, descendents of a New Hampshire lineage named "Beanite" i.e. named for the Bean family, refugees from religious persecution in Iowa.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Women in Love (movie review)

This Ken Russell film came out some time ago and is tame by modern day standards.  However D.H. Lawrence was considered racy in his day, and Women in Love was controversial, or at least so I was warned in advance.

Although the film was made in the 1960s, it's set in an earlier time, emerging from Victorian.  The one guy, not the coal mine owner's son, is given to strong opinions but doesn't cite many contemporary authors, so from purely a textual analysis, I couldn't quite place him vis-a-vis some of the other luminaries, my fault for being an ignoramus in many dimensions.  No one mentions Freud or anything.

I just learned that Nietzsche died the day Hitler was born, is that true, or just the year.  Let me go Google... timeline = {"Adolf Hitler":"20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945", "Friedrich Nietzsche":"15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900"}.  Not even the year.  I've been reading in Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? recently and I guess I'm wondering what these D.H. Lawrence characters think about fascism.  Maybe it was the day he went crazy?

I'd look for attitudes towards fascism starting with the father I think, the old man.  He's more like an earlier industrial revolution steel and coal Quakernomics dude in wanting to see his workers taken care of, with widows getting free coal to not freeze to death.  He's more of a Luddite though whereas Quakers saw reason behind labor-saving machinery.  The son is more in the "let them freeze" school (ironic given his ending) i.e. the "not my problem" camp, not wanting much wholism in his diet.

Lack of interest in any "big picture" seems to be a key feature of most these players:  a willful obliviousness to their animal context from an analytic perspective, and therefore with only an ability to act out.

Such obviously intelligent people don't manage to get along very well at all.  But then what would be the plot if all were daises and roses?  There's some happiness in the mix, but these stars sometimes seem disappointed way beyond reason given their many social privileges.  They're disappointed that "love" is maybe not really an emotion?  Like in some Japanese manga (comic books), lots of soul-searching goes on, and that's part of the charm of the genre.

Given the build-up I'd received I was misinterpreting the title somewhat and expecting more attention to the topic of physical intimacy among cis and/or trans women.  One cannot say intra-female relationships go unexamined, however I'd say the film is rather male-centric.  That's not a criticism, just an observation.  Maybe the title could have been Women in Love with Weird Men as Distinct From Each Other (but who would have bought it then?).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lambda Versus Delta

:: algebra student asking herself:  what's next for me? ::

I suppose you could say this minor semantic innovation or marketing wrinkle is about leveling the playing field.

In calling differential calculus "delta calculus" in contrast to the already-named "lambda calculus" we're giving the public an easy mnemonic, a hook into the sometimes obscure Math Wars.

The first battle, which the computer science camp won, was to get more computer-related content recognized as credit-worthy along the math track.

The second battle, coming up, is to introduce a fork around algebra, such that going forward students have, in broad outline, these two tracks:  lambda and delta.

Currently, "delta calc" is the road hog du jour, with "lambda calc" the competing underdog, angling for more bandwidth / market share / attention.

The CS crowd needs to stay with its strong suit:  graphics and visualizations.  We get that with the network / polyhedron of nodes and edges, the stuff of graph theory and graph databases.

Stay tuned.

For further reading:
recent posting to maththinking-l
followup on math-teach (Sept 29, 2014) 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jodorowsky's Dune (movie review)


This documentary bills itself is being about "one of the greatest movies never made".  The issue is Jodorowsky is from the "strong director" school and with such an ambitious film planned, investors in the Hollywood community couldn't stomach the risk.  I don't blame them and wonder why other movie-funding networks were not approached.  El Topo may have been a big hit in Europe, but fewer North Americans have ever heard of it, let alone Holy Mountain (which I've seen, though not on the big screen it deserves).

Jodorowsky comes across as in control of his talent.  At 85 and looking back on a dream "not coming true", he now sees in what ways his contribution was completely real and impactful.  I thought his son summed it up best:  Jodorowsky's Dune is a lot like Paul, slain in the end, only to be resurrected in the souls of others.

What Jodorowksy's Dune did become:  a complete comic book / storyboard for the entire film; a platform for future collaborations / relationships within film-making (all that rigorous training in martial arts would certainly have opened doors for his son, cast as Paul).  He had approached and was planning to cast in cameos:  Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, David Carradine, with music tracks by Pink Floyd.  His morning pep talks to the developers would certainly have been inspiring.

Judging the precise influence of these spin-offs (precessional by-products to use Bucky's language) is impossible, which is maybe another way of saying "immeasurably great" in some dimensions (as we say of the space program, likewise a junkyard of unfunded yet influential draft projects).  All the big studios got their free copy / proposal of the comic book (the 2D stills rendering, the storyboard).

For example, the idea of a POV shot from inside a robot, how that might render, with foreground information, as in heads-up displays, gets clear graphical treatment in the comic, only to show up quite like that in films going forward, e.g. Terminator and Star Wars.

Yes, such imagery bubbles up through the Zeitgeist and the director himself spoke about "channeling" so there's no need for direct attribution or intellectual property debates.  He recruited some of the very best talent in the business around a compelling vision, creating a giant-castle-based "meme factory" for many films to come; the developers literally rented a giant castle aimed at gelling the vision, from script to storyboard -- something we've also done in the software industry for coding sprints.

I agree with the talking heads who say the shared head space of movie-goers would have been different given this alternative past in which said movie had actually been funded.  Would this have been the blockbuster game changer Jodorowsky imagined it would be?  We'll never know in those terms, but as the director himself makes clear, the comic book is substantial enough to give rise to a the full blown picture, even posthumously, perhaps as an animation.  The documentary teases us with the possibility.

David Lynch got a crack at making the film, and Jodorowsky was gratified to see it didn't completely fill the void i.e. another could still be made.  Lynch's needn't be seen as the canonical Dune.

The talking heads make a good point though:  psychedelic fervor was at a peak when the film appeared most likely to be made.  We're a bit like a surfer waiting for a next wave perhaps.

The lower budget yet effective style in Serenity comes to mind.  Joss Whedon might do a good Dune.  But then maybe he, like me, was never super-thrilled by the novel in the first place.  That's not meant as a damning remark, more that of a potential future fan, still willing to be persuaded.

In the meantime, El Topo is now at the top of my queue.  I'll look for it at Movie Madness when I return these (a well-made docu-drama about Alan Turing was my other investment this time, having previously plowed through a season of Longmire).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gender Wars

The gender wars, don't need to call it that, have much to do with grammar, especially around pronouns.  I'm familiar with pronoun battles as it is, given how often a speaker assumes the "we inclusive" i.e. including me in some "we" that I either (a) fight or (b) have nothing to do with or (c) maybe have huge respect for but do not consider myself a member of, and so on.  However that "we" stuff is a two way street as I learn new ways to use "we" on my side as well.

Nor is it like I'm in any way alone in my appreciation for pronoun battles.  The "we" fight, as in "what 'we' white man" is pretty dang old, hence that phrase.

In progressive Portland, Oregon, early 21st century, it's considered polite in some circles (circles I've been in, with people I know personally and appreciate as individuals as well as members of various other circles), especially in a work setting with strangers, to introduce oneself and the pronoun one prefers, the prevalent choices being she, he and they.  That's right, a 3rd person plural is more gender neutral and so becomes idiomatically singular.

Individuals with a background in show business are far more accustomed to the idea of a persona, a role, a character.  One needs a home base for one's avatar, a person to be in daily life, and then, with that as an anchor, one swings out into various alternative roles, professionally, as an actor / actress (assuming a determinate sex or gender for the character, not always the case, especially in cartoon voice parts where gender may be deliberately ambiguous).

Portland is big enough to attract a theatrical crowd i.e. we have enough readers, theater-goers, music fans, film addicts or whatever, such that separation of persona and avatar has come to seem natural, so if your DNA sex is XX yet you're more yourself, persona-wise, being a male, then the pronoun should go to your character, not to your "horse" ("dog") or physical "piece" (body).  Ditto if you're operating an XY, apparatus-wise, but feel home-based in a female persona, then it's the persona that gets the pronoun.

The person's self-declared orientation is accepted and the pronoun goes with the persona.  Ergo, in polite society referring to a person as "he" or "him" who is biologically (DNA-wise) not male is grammatically accepted.  By many.  We might accept it, your group might not.

Just to go into the anthropology a little more, these people who identify with a gender other than their gender at birth are considered "trans" whereas those identifying with their birth gender (i.e. decision as to sex at birth or pre-birth) are considered "cis".

Should it come up whether a sister or friend is a cis-woman, that's meaningful to ask, though may not be polite company discussion in the Victorian sense.  Inquiring directly about DNA or one's "cis-or-trans-ness" is quite possibly somewhat intrusive as "does this relationship involve community policing of some kind?" ("What?  Are you a cop?" -- "cop" as in "officious busy-body" i.e. a "need to know" person with a perhaps self-assumed right to pry).  A trans-woman was most likely cis-male at birth if this grammar is followed.

Helpful in this connection is the mnemonic GLTBQQI, sometimes with L first.  The final "I" is for inter-sexed and refers to bell curve phenomena wherein sex is biologically ambiguous at birth, issues of persona aside.  The more clinical term might be "hermaphroditic" but that comes with cultural baggage.  "Inter-sexed" is not synonymous with "uni-sexed" and "androgynous" though these are all related concepts.

"Asexual" and/or "gender-neutral" are in many ways fixed points of reference regardless of one's personal orientation or persona, but of course we're into "eye of the beholder" country.  People come calibrated differently, which is somewhat the point / cause / driver of the gender wars in the first place.  "War" as in "tug-o-war" maybe:  it's played out in grammar as the battlefield, is semantic in nature.

Obviously in busy street life you do not always have time to learn a person's preferred pronoun and they may dress ambiguously, and in those situations polite society accepts a shared but more rude public space wherein pronouns often fall into the wrong places, and a kind of jarring occurs, as when riding a bus or subway (metaphorically).

People use the wrong pronoun with you, about you, making wrong assumptions or not obeying the rules of grammar you're used to given your ethnicity as a Portlander.  We have lots of tourists after all.

Speaking of public spaces and miss-assumptions, gender-typing public restrooms is an age-old architectural feature and gender-queer learn to bend their characters sometimes.  Many a trans-male has a fallback or secondary fem character when needed and vice versa.   Gender-neutral restrooms are already the norm where a small coffee shop or restaurant has only one shared public toilet.  Turning two gender-biased restrooms into two gender-neutral is just a matter of changing signs on the door in some cases (not others -- plumbing also an issue).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ecosystem Software


wxPython (classic) has been released and is now available for
download at  This build adds some
updates of the 3rdParty libraries that were left out of the last build
by mistake.

Various binaries are available for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, and also
for OSX using the Carbon and Cocoa APIs, for Python 2.6 and 2.7.
Source code is also available at of
course, for building your own.

What is wxPython?

wxPython is a GUI toolkit for the Python programming language. It
allows Python programmers to create programs with a robust, highly
functional graphical user interface, simply and easily. It is
implemented as a set of Python extension modules that wrap the GUI
components of the popular wxWidgets cross platform library, which is
written in C++.

wxPython is a cross-platform toolkit. This means that the same program
will usually run on multiple platforms without modifications.
Currently supported platforms are 32-bit and 64-bit Microsoft Windows,
most Linux or other Unix-like systems using GTK2, and Mac OS X 10.4+.
In most cases the native widgets are used on each platform to provide
a 100% native look and feel for the application.

Robin Dunn
Software Craftsman

       Support the Python Software Foundation:

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Quoting Nietzsche

Walter Kaufmann of Princeton University, where I met him late in his life -- he'd had a long track record before that -- used to quote with approval Nietzsche's  advisory:  "be a hard bed for your friends."

Now why would anyone wanna be that?  Aren't friends precisely those people with a soft lap, more cuddly?

Well, if you think of cop or doctor shows where there's some conflict -- or lawyer shows -- you get the alpha apes playing racket ball.

They're on the opposite side of some issue at work, so there's a plot.  They've been at loggerheads before.

That's part of what drives the season (plots involve opposition and tension).

"These two women are friends" (just to go against the stereotype) one soon realizes, yet they're each into trouncing the other in some professionally recognized way, like in sports.  Racket ball becomes a metaphor.  Or tennis.  The CIA executive director (e.g. Nora Slatkin) is always leaving her 7th floor office to go play tennis with the FBI director (DiCaprio?); the spy novels are full of that stuff.

So in that sense I think Nietzsche was saying to be a strong racket ball partner for your friends, like a coach or better, a sparring partner.  What better way to develop your immune system, your defenses, than by working out against a lesser enemy, i.e. a friend.  I know it sounds weird to put it that way, which is why I did so on purpose.

When you have someone's interests at heart and yet appear to present obstacles, you're in well known territory where storytelling is concerned.

Married couples often confuse themselves in not recognizing that they're also racket ball partners i.e. well positioned as trainers to play hard ball in such a way as to improve the others' performance.  That's the theory anyway.  The mindset to adopt is your opponent is not "unfair" or "out of line" but "highly paid by invisible others to serve just exactly in that way".  That's a meditation, like when the Dalai Lama says to imagine everyone as your mother.  I'm not trying to make you paranoid.

Monday, September 01, 2014

DjangoCon 2014

Portland is lucky to get so much of the open source world coming through its venues, this week, Labor Day week, being DjangoCon 2014, produced by The Open Bastion.

As per usual, I'm ensconced in the office suite, using Hilton Wifi to perform some tasks in Cyberia.

Today being a holiday, post Burning Man's man burning, and the temple too, I'm also kicking back to watch Little Stewart, Mrs. Swan and other MAD TV offerings.  I get my mini-vacations through multitasking sometimes.

At lunch I enjoyed the company of Jeff Tripplett, one of the in-on-the-ground-floor people around Django, a web framework originating from the Lawrence Journal-World and its newspaper culture.

Portia, local like me, and Leah, from Seattle spoke of Angular.js and the morning tutorial.  Steve Holden and others joined us later.  This is a small conference, which I like.

We talked quite a bit about version control systems as applied not to source code necessarily, but to contracts and legislation.  A lot of legal language is about amending this or that, what we call "patching" the code.  The gentleman to my left, from Minneapolis, was aware that the practice of using software for version control behind legal contract language was already spreading.

I'm interested in version control software within Quakerism.  How might the differing meetings swap DNA around to find the right rules just for them, yet with a family resemblance to the others?

Forking and branching as a managed process makes a lot of sense in this context.

Coming home on the 14 bus, I read Polo's piece in Asian Reporter, about Asians succeeding in mainstream America and needing to maybe adjust to having arrived.  He was giving a talk at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and seeing that as a metaphor for really making it, as an ethnicity and minority -- but then we all qualify in having those attributes (some minority ethnicity, such as "djangsta") in some dimensions.

I know my daughter really enjoyed her high school summer internship at OHSU, doing some pretty serious lab work for a person her age.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Comic Material


The English language is too cold with its "it", such that we're considered abnormal if we have a date with an automobile.  You're allowed to have a date in your automobile, but not if the automobile itself is your date.

The reason I bring this up is not just that Hindu festival honoring machinery, which I think we should have in "the west" of all places (the rusting side of the globe).  I'm encouraging better treatment of our stuff, honoring maintenance, not as a sorry chore but a privilege.  We get to participate in various upgrades.  Computer people have that enthusiasm for the next version.

Anyway, I took Ms. Nissan, aka "maxi taxi" on a date to Jiffy Lube yesterday.  She'd started lurching the other day, fuel filter suspected, long time since last oil change.  She deserved it.  Rather than be all resentful, I should celebrate this little affair we're having.  Sounds crazy, I know.  English.

Car talk:  the yellow light I brought her in on is still on though, and decodes to needing a sensor fixed.  We're talking about a pretty old car here, well over 200K, but in good condition.  I'm optimistic the sensor issue is secondary and the fuel line cleaning / oil change will have her back in good running condition.  Here's to Her.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alberta Street, NE Portland

:: from a walk form 24th to St. Andrew's and back ::