Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years 2015-16

Most of the globe has already time-zoned into the new year, per the Gregorian calendar, not the only one going.  PST brings up the penultimate-rear, with zones closer to Guam ending that calendar day, Guam being "where America's day begins" per "sun never setting" meme, big in Britannia.

Being service sector, I work for a living, which these days means lining up something new given the end of a first experiment / pilot by the parent company.  I was privileged to be a part of this bold beginning of something new, and understand the need for an interlude.  In high technology, we don't always expect a position to last.  It's not that they fire us; the whole movie comes to an end, and we were cast.  California is good at Silicon Valley stuff for a reason:  Hollywood is close by.

But then Portland has its Hollywood neighborhood.  We're a micro-tronic version of LA + Bay Area, one might claim, using nanotechnology to fit it all in a pinhead (i.e. me).  Grin.  So yeah, today was a job interview, and things clicked pretty well.  I'll be entering a boot camp like experience, learning some new ropes.  However it's back to gigging it together, as from 1990 on, until I experienced my first "corporate job" with benefits in the person of our parent company.  Soon to be orphaned once more, I'm back into digging gigging.

I've got other paperwork going, plus the ongoing "radio show" serving the State of California.  Despite a competitive mentality, healthy, we're a single Left Coast nation, per this Tuft University analysis.  The Northwest is exploding economically, as is Python (that's what they say: "exploding" -- can't find enough teachers).  I'm happy OSCON is moving to Austin, for Austin's sake: the Silicon Hills need to help us continue Revolution OS, still ongoing.  That other paperwork is what took me to Fred Meyer just now, to buy replacement ink cartridges for the HP Envy, Carol's rig.

Deke (the Geek) is experiencing turnover at his place, meaning new cast, perhaps some new characters for this blog.  Time will tell.  In the mean time, we customarily look back, in these posts as well, especially to the Bucky Ball aspects of the New Years Eve ritual.  These blogs come choc-o-block with references to carbon allotropes and geodesic structures.  Waving hello to Bill Lightfoot, assorted cousins, K. Snelson, Valsquiers, Denny & family, Koskis, Boltons, various consulting firms and medical practices.  We're thinking of refugees on the move around the globe, student-teachers in our Global University (alternatively our Global Psych Ward -- some say "Hotel").

Onwards then, escaping Idiocracy, and towards a Promised Land.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

No, not my spread, owned by a school district couple in another state. A place well known to me. The drone is fully licensed. NPR is all about drones this morning, supposedly the big toy of the year, though I'm thinking flatscreen HDTVs were still near the top of the charts.

Our crew watched Climate of Change (2010), a climate change documentary, then moved the scene to nearby Tigard for Chinese food.  We ended the day watching old (1970s) episodes of Columbo (starring Peter Falk) on DVD.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hanukkah Party 2015


Alexia couldn't make it this year, but I'm glad of how she's doing and really enjoyed seeing Star Wars with her and John.  Tara joined us.  My Hanukkah was happy.

Lindsey, hot off the plane from Kathmandu, through Bangkok and Seoul (a last minute re-routing thanks to a cancellation), practiced saying "Star Wars" as if transliterating into Newar.  Newar uses the Sanskrit writing system to record a Tibetan-like language.  She was in line by 4:30 PM, for the 7 PM show.

Good seeing William again, a war vet friend.  Natalia made the cover of the last O'Reilly School catalog.  She studied Java with us, whereas William, by then a civilian in Afghanistan, became my Python student.  Now in Portland are they.

That's what this season is a lot about (meetups) and that requires a lot of travel, all at once.  They say in China a billion people are on the move by train alone, around Chinese New Year.

I'm wondering how we might keep having shared holidays but maybe telecommute more, spreading out the in-person visits, even if not having fewer overall.  Something to think about.

Les, Elise, and Ruth stopped by.  Les is no longer with the tribal casino; he works for a public school district.  Ruth is spinning her own wool and studying textiles and fabrics more.

Tara was going to focus on "listening" as a topic in Aristotle but thinks she'll get more out of studying philosophy when less involved in departmental politics (she dove into my new Heidegger book).  I understand; it's a boat I jumped from myself as an undergrad.  She has her physics and growing maturity in software engineering.

I cherish my time with family and friends and recognize "facilitating meetups" (making them feasible at all) is a primary raison d'ĂȘtre of commercial air travel.  Indeed, erstwhile house guest Lindsey is out the door again tonight, leaving Blue House for a warmer clime and a family gathering.

We exchanged gifts and enjoyed potato latkes at our cozy party.  I talked quite a bit with a bona fide Star Wars fan who could answer some of my questions.

A wedding occurred at The Bagdad, between the previews and the 7 PM feature.  We had great seats, having been in line early.  I grabbed a gin & tonic, as I'm still doing "no beer".

The audience was highly supportive of the ceremony.  A marriage is a memorable happy festive occasion, and semi-public.  These circumstances met these criteria and even strangers rose to the occasion.

I was glad of the opportunity to get Melody to Union Station today, and to have lunch with Glenn, after Deke came by and helped with Sarah (the floordog).  More meetups planned... tiz the season.


Thursday, December 17, 2015


Two of the inventors I'm tracking are producing new Youtubes these days.

Buzz Hill talks a little slowly, as he bounces back from a stroke. He's inspired by Google Cardboard, a box for enjoying the experience of stereoscopy right off a cell phone.

As an expert in retinal scanning for bio-recognition software (like finger-print recognition), Buzz is excited by the possibility of combining the two ideas.

An affordable self-identifier could come in handy in a variety of applications.   He's busy putting his ideas in the public domain to protect them from patent trolls.  He's branding around '4yeo' (for your eyes only).

Gerald de Jong has been on my radar for a long time as the inventor of Elastic Interval Geometry, a software-based form of exploration involving self-animating characters motivated by the dynamics of changing compression-tension along their elastic members.

In robotics, the idea of "muscle wires" (e.g. Mondotronics by Gilbertson) is germane.

However given the JVM (Java Virtual Machine), purely mathematical renderings become feasible.  Gerald has recently turned his attention back to Tensegrity, the concept that helped inspire EIG in the first place.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wanderers 2015.12.15

We dove right into global climate talk, in which we've become fluent over the years.  Dick is talking about the kelp forests that used to stretch out into the Pacific, much further than today.

Kelp is a fantastic converter of CO2 to O2, in case that's of any interest.  The sea urchins have been devouring said kelp however, unchecked by their natural predator:  sea otters.  Bring back the otters then?  Sea urchins fetch a pretty penny on the sushi market.  We have lots of ways to increase biomass, some more intelligent than others I'm sure.

Pretty much right at 7 PM, the projector came on and started a showing of The Power of Community, a documentary film about Cuba's austerity measures in the face of its pariah status, as enforced by old enemies and expats.

The film has been going around for awhile, but was new to me as of only a couple days ago, when I reviewed it in Control Room.  Showing it tonight was not my idea but was an idea I approved of.  Nothing wrong with Wanderers taking in a documentary now and then, especially given our sustained interest in the planetary gas mix.  Methane was also a hot topic tonight, as were hydrogen, nitrogen and some others.

Recent history around Cuba is a topic I've touched on before in these blogs of mine.  I start traversing that territory, starting early in BizMo Diaries, where I review the docu-drama Motorcycle Diaries, about Che Guevara in the early days, and future friend of Fidel Castro.  Also in these blogs, I touch on JFK, U2, Cold War... themes from my own lifespan.  I've been paying attention at least.

I brought along a brochure from OSU's Valley Library, Special Collections, about the new on-campus museum exhibit, just outside the Doug Strain Reading Room, where the Pauling papers (his and hers) are collected.  I put it in the glass case, comprised of Pauling-related souvenirs.  Linus lived here (in the house where we're meeting, showing this film) as a child, becoming aware of chemistry, experimenting in the basement (we're told), contributions to which would later earn him one of two Nobel prizes.

We enjoyed the film, it seemed to me.  Internet devices geared to help with agricultural engineering might be what's coming.  Maybe that's where we're at now.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cultural Illiteracy

Six Around One

I was mentioning in an internal memo today, regarding Quaker business, that because our high schools failed to pick up on SQL use as a basic literacy, we're now facing a shortage of clerking skills, recording clerk especially.

We've returned to the days when it seems only an elite minority get to commit records to tables, as instead of ledgers, or even spreadsheets, we now use SQL databases as a matter of course.  But most people never get their money's worth as taxpayers.  Their tax-funded schools let them down.

Fortunately for the world SQLite is free and pretty easy to use.  Forget about multi-user access on a complicated web server; an SQLite database is just a text file, yet provides a fully functional SQL API.  The day may soon come when our NPYM meetings swap .db files around like we share .xls (Excel) and .doc (Word) files today.

What else don't we teach in school?  American History has fallen by the wayside.  Civics is pretty much gone.  That's the impression I get anyway, though I understand many students plow into these topics anyway, as learning may begin when they finally get home and have a chance to access the greatest library ever made:  the Internet.  Or maybe not.  Not everyone enjoys such privilege.

I've been suggesting we open a second numeracy track, parallel to Delta Calculus, and put SQL, along with more boolean algebra, sets, data structures, algorithms, other discrete math topics (number bases, more with primes), on this newer Lambda Calculus track.  Get the lexical (programs) to drive the graphical (e.g. rotating polyhedrons).  Connect those left and right hemispheres in a more integrated imagination.

I've done a fair amount of pilot testing in the decades since the 1990s, and before.  I've been interested in pioneering new curriculum ideas under the guise of my Oregon Curriculum Network (OCN).  Then came Digital Mathematics on Wikieducator, in combination with "Martian Math", greatly influenced by Synergetics (more a vehicle for introducing some of its core concepts).

Saturday Academy let me field test with teenagers.  I even got to try out some lesson plans in Bhutan and Lesotho, thanks to my school teaching mother.

What's Synergetics again?  Again, American History has somewhat fallen by the wayside, or this would be more of a rhetorical question.  Many high schoolers honestly don't know, because no one saw fit to connect the dots for them.  Constructivism maybe means "connect your own damn dots" -- but doesn't teacher experience count for anything?


Friday, December 11, 2015

Extended Safari

STEM Class 2015

I'm grateful for the extension on Safari On-Line, which I'm showing off to my students on a shared-screen (my screen) using "Internet radio" an audio format that includes the "call in" feature, i.e. any of my students might get the talking stick and address the group.

As it turned out, after passing the stick around (metaphorically) in the early sessions, we settle on using the message board (chat box) and just let me do the talking, answering what came up in chat (both public and private channels, like IRC).

Fluent Python

We had ten sessions in all, four hours each, with labs, so I figure the equivalent of a college course in terms of lectures, but then I was not on the hook to evaluate student work, which has been the focus at OST.

I showed them recent reading:  O'Reilly books on SQLite, Flask and Luciano Ramalho's Fluent Python, all apropos because the coded example in front of us was using all three.  I'm letting them look at a prototype / experimental Flask application by the clerk of IT @ NPYM.

SQLite is award-winning, and free (both as in beer, and as in freedom), with sqlite3 a module in Python's library.  Import it, and you're set to prototype / develop.

Flask gives you a toy web server, facing yourself on localhost, again for web development purposes. The goal is to emulate a standard LAMP stack.

Speaking of LAMP, my course also featured MAMP Pro, for which I forked out $59 this afternoon, deciding its well worth the investment.  That gives me a MySQL ready to connect through localhost, and an Apache ready to serve the same way.

Some of my students were eager for more and vocal about it.  I've been offered another gig.  I'm not at liberty to steer them into OST however, given the impending closure.  However I'll be able to keep Safari On-Line, a benefit offered to former OSTies.

I've abstracted some of the best of OST and mashed it up with other learning to create OCT storyboards, OCT being a hypothetical school modeled in various prototypes.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Touring @ Home


The area of the world in which I live is undergoing a lot of development, and is certainly not alone in that regard.  Portland is sprouting new skyscrapers, not nearly as tall as New York's, but still part of a growing skyline.  There's a cable car, and a new bridge, open to public transit, foot and bicycle traffic, presumably Segways are fine.

So just to stay mentally more in sync with the times, it pays to get into tourist mode from time to time, and re-visit your home turf.  Those of you living in boom town China will know what I mean I'm guessing.  Drive around and go "wow", or just walk around here in Asylum District, noticing all the turnover.  When did that Growlers move in?   I'm not drinking beer these days but it doesn't all revolve around me, pizza world either.

So that's what I did today.  Actually my driver is a citizen from the neighboring state so really what we did is visit his home town of Vancouver, which is not the big one in Canada, but a small one just over the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

The great religious wars that have left so many scars in our region, made it illegal to openly partake of various medicines that have lately become commercialized.  I asked my driver if this were a sign of a weakening central government but he just laughed at that.  States are laboratories and some states get to go first when it comes to experimenting with legalization of new categories of formerly criminalized substance.  Lots of new rule-making, lots of new careers.  So we studied that scene some (I was the more gaga as my driver is a native).

Let me assure my readers, many of whom are far away, that my neighboring state of Oregon is part of the experiment too, as is Colorado and a few others.  In other states I think they've just lowered the fines, this is not my specialty.  Anyway, the rule-making has progressed a lot further in Washington so I was not just seeing "more of the same" (like in Asylum District).

One could say I was in another country, which in the EU would be true, the USA being zoned like an EU, to have "countries inside" called "States of America" (not forgetting "United" by freeways and lots of airports -- I liked the trains a lot too).  We don't need passports or paperwork to move around, though actually there is usually paperwork, or web forms, to fill in.  Touring is easy but changing one's state of residence takes a lot of filing.

In addition to the fifty federally recognized States and myriad Territories (Oregon used to be one of those), sovereignty rights of N8V peoples show on maps.  Warm Springs Reservation for example.

Anyway, I learned a lot, not so much about changes in infrastructure, as with Tilikum Crossing (the new bridge), but about patterns of social and cultural behavior, more economic matters, as well as mental / social.  I'll need some time to digest what I've learned.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Useful Youtubes

Sunday, November 29, 2015

MAMP Success

control panel:  manage MySQL + Apache

MAMP is the community / free version of MAMP Pro, a product out of Germany.

I'm having a pleasant experience getting it to work with the latest Anaconda, meaning I'm able to get not only PHP working against its MySQL database, but also Python 3.5 as a mod_wsgi application under Apache.

Not only that, my Anaconda Spyder IDE is happy to let me connect to the same MySQL database interactively, through the REPL, after using conda install to grab mysql.connector -- pretty painless.

talking to MAMP's MySQL on localhost:8889 (other ports possible)

First I scared myself with some reading on StackOverFlow, then these excellent two blog posts, at Racing Tadpole by Arthur Street, and this WSGI tutorial from where I grabbed some code.

In practice however, much less was involved in getting all this to work.  I've learned to study log files more and the Apache error log told me what I needed to know:  Target WSGI script '/Applications/MAMP/htdocs/' does not contain WSGI application 'application'.  Thank you.

MAMP shows Apache log files

using conda install to get mysql-connector-python

OK, now that we're through the headlines, let me given some more background:  you might want to use MAMP to mirror whatever LAMP stack you're developing, perhaps still learning about LAMP in general.

I'm using MAMP to finally tackle PHP which the Quakers are using at  As their Technology Clerk, I want to bring my skill set more into alignment with that org's needs.

I'm reading through a book in Safari On-line, Head First PHP & MySQL by Beighley and Morrison, where we're trying to rescue this guy's dog Fang, which was abducted by aliens. Thanks to mysql.connector, I'm reading the very same database of alien abuction reports from Python as well.


Anaconda from Continuum Analytics is the hot Science Oriented Distro (SOD) for those wanting a cutting edge slice into scientific Python.

Am I saying it's either / or, as if web development were anti-scientific?  No of course not.  I'm just exulting at the inter-operability of these two well-supported tools.  Note that I'm using #!/Users/kurner/anaconda/bin/python as my shebang line of the wsgi scripts.

remember to tell Apache which Python we're using i.e. Anaconda's 3.5

Yes, I'm on a Mac.  I'm not sure how all this comes together in Ubuntu, I hope just as seamlessly, and of course on Windows.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

THG: Mockingjay, Part 2 (movie review)

We're like people in the time of Charles Dickens, getting Oliver Twist or whatever in serial format. The episodes are not all collected in one novel yet.  Or at least I gather that's how it went with many of his printed works:  they came spread out over the months or even years.

Like Star Wars, these serialized spectacles come to be seen against the backdrop of one's own life.

I still remember my first Star Wars (the first ever), with the Brodheims on Long Island, all of us fresh from the Philippines, the younger generation heading for college, their family tradition being a Christmas Day movie (do I have that right?).

Mr. Brodheim, a holocaust survivor, hadn't known what to expect (he wasn't following the culture closely), and he wasn't prepared for a soap opera (a melodrama -- not implying a musical).  Was he thinking more a documentary about astronomy or something? -- at least this wasn't Wagner.

The Hunger Games remains interesting to me, a source of reflection.  Katniss is intuitively following the action and like the others is highly fatalistic about her role.  A sense of choice is lacking.  That kind of freedom is in short supply.

The tension between the districts, and the capital, drives a deadly serious game, a form of spectacle, which reminds us of our own role, as consumers of slickly produced broadcasts, filled with spin.

Our screens in this region have filled with relatively benign sports (non-mandatory viewing), mostly featuring an oblate (non-hexapent spherical) ball.  Yesterday (while I was in THG matinee) was the so-called Civil War, an annual event in Oregon, starring Oregon State University (Beavers) versus University of Oregon (Ducks).  Today it's Michigan State versus Ohio State (on right now, 2nd quarter).  Ducks and Ohio Buckeyes won against the Beavers and Wolverines respectively.

Our screens also fill with the violence of the ages (including our own).  On the fear-versus-longing axis, we're tilted towards fear, as the future has mostly been left blank by political leaders, but for some projected Mars adventure. We're afraid we might blow up or starve.

Civilians suffer at the hands of those with ordnance (landmines a lasting legacy). Producing killingry (a Bucky word) with the intent to abort human lives remains more profitable than producing livingry in the form of safe cities e.g. the people of Flint have been poisoned.  Food Not Bombs is still considered a subversive message in 2015, although NPR did focus on food waste recently, with its review of the new movie Just Eat It.

To Katniss, it's all personal i.e. her personal dynamics, high voltage and intense, mirror the war she's fighting.  Others are more caught up in a labyrinth they may not understand, or see differently.  She personifies even as she channels her world's global tensions.  Except I'm unclear on the history, not having read the books.  What was the basic issue anyway?  Lack of food?  I never got a good look at the globe.  That must be Earth?  But when?  I lack the backstory.

The ethics of dealing with "extras" i.e. of turning others into mere pawns in one's own brand of theater, is a core focus of this film.  Collateral damage is inflicted deliberately though perhaps counterproductively.  People will turn against their titular masters if they believe in the effectiveness of their supposed liberators.  What do their potential liberators say on television?

Turning civilians against their own leaders, or spreading mutiny in the ranks, may involve false flag operations, engaged in to manipulate public opinion.  THG is all about media wars, psychological parries and feints.  Snow and the Mockingjay are both spin doctors.  In that world, ethics has a lot to do with one's ability to solve puzzles.  Minus a strong ethical compass, paralysis (staying very still) may seem the better bet.

I might go so far as to suggest these movies are a study in precession: consequences that may be equal, in the sense of conserving angular momentum and inertia, but far from 180 degree opposite in the Newtonian sense of action + reaction.  Maybe split that into three (action + reaction + resultant) for more complexity, a needed leap if intending to play games, war or world, in some militarized theater.

A lot of unpredictability and butterfly effects influence any game worth watching.  Even chess has this element.  Sometimes only the impossible seems to happen, against all odds.

Saturday, November 21, 2015



I'd say a Permutation is a sweet spot in computer science, in that it's a mathematical primitive that's just complicated enough to require enough code to be interesting.

You will gain some traction, in whatever language you're learning, if you can implement a Permutation in that language.

What is a Permutation then?  A one-to-one scattering of elements to themselves in another order.

Picture an arbitrary pairing of the numbers 0 through 9 with themselves again, in any order: {0: 7, 1: 1, 2: 0, 3: 6, 4: 8, 5: 4, 6: 5, 7: 3, 8: 2, 9: 9}.  In Python, the dictionary object works perfectly.

I get to teach about the Permutation type live through a microphone, then upload the source code for asynchronous inspection.

Permutations of finite elements may be multiplied, and therefore powered.  They may also be inverted, for which operation I use ~.  A permutation times its inverse is the identity permutation, which maps every element to... you guessed it, itself.

For further reading:
November 2015 postings to edu-sig
Group Theory for Beginners (MathFuture Google Group)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Going Clear (movie review)

By the time this documentary is over, we have to see it as mostly critical, in the sense of damning.

But lets review a few points made early on:  there really is quite a bit of fuzziness on what constitutes a religion; Hubbard (LRH) was living the life of a novelist who had come to believe in his narrative and cast himself within it.

He didn't take the money and run, as the more cynical charlatan might have.  He continued to work out with his E-meter, trying to make it more powerful, that the last of the BTs (body thetans) might finally be removed.  He absorbed a lot of military memes and used them to build his top-down org / pyramid.

More a dupe then, though with elements of shyster certainly.  The guy had tremendous hubris and saw himself as larger than life.  He let it go to his head, but then what did he have to lose after a certain point?  "Might as well see it out to the end, in for a penny in for a pound" would become the operative psychology.

Given an army of doting minions, he could also afford to be aggressive, leading a charge against other temporal powers (the IRS mainly), a battle he eventually won.  That's saying a lot given the old mantra about death and taxes.  That was quite a feat, to beat "the man".  Who does that?  He did have impressive skills.

In the sense of eating his own dog food, he's not that different from other religion founders who've bought into their own tales.  That doesn't prevent us from seeing him as a seriously messed up individual.  But then what exactly is mental illness?  Again lots of fuzziness.  We're not talking settled science.

His original struggle was to break free of mental illness, criminality and war.  Travolta:  what's to argue with there?  As a Quaker, I have to like the beyond war rhetoric.  Is Scientology anti nuke weapon? My Google search suggests that it is and mom confirms a Scientologist wanted to join their recent UNA meeting in Missouri, but was not especially welcomed by others on the board (mom said he seemed like a good guy).

In bringing up "fuzziness" I'm not looking to dodge the hard questions.  I've never spent a dime on Scientology nor read Dianetics cover to cover.  My friend Ray Simon admired LRH and worried he might have died already (early 1980s).  He wrote some letters.

I remember Ray's delight upon getting a note, believably from Hubbard, saying he wasn't sure what Ray's question was.  That was about 1981, so yes, that was likely an authentic letter.

Ray exposed me to improv and a NYC Scientology celebrity center.  This was after college, when I began to more seriously understand "show business" and the hunger for star status, notoriety, visibility, a place in the sun (or The Sun as the case may be).

As a logistics supervisor for est in New York City, which I did get involved with, I was starting to meet more people trying make a living through acting, in soaps, in commercials, in whatever gigs they could get.  Scientology offered to help with that, with other stars, like Tom Cruise, helping recruit new adherents by advertising Scientology as a key to their own success.

I hadn't known how deeply Hubbard's roots were right there in LA.  Makes sense.  That's where we see all those buildings, which I noticed one Christmas season, some years ago, walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard.  It's a religion that works in synergy with Hollywood.  Celebrities help build the church which in turn helps them build their careers.

Given how much depends on image and reputation, tarnishing accounts are seen as a threat and it's part of the church apparatus to defend the brand, especially against buyers' remorse, buyers being, of course, a main source of revenue.   A goal is to help the faithful keep their faith.  Don't let Hollywood go hollow.  Making an example of public dissenters discourages any public dissent.  Excommunication as a "suppressive person" is a form of banishment, and therefore feared.

Following the arc of Scientology helps us explore other religions and governments, as the same patterns are oft repeated.  What's so amazing about Scientology is how Hollywood it really is, in how it lives up to a caricature of itself, as if a screenwriter set out to make a cinematic science fiction movie about a religion by, for and about actors.

For an institution so real in the history books, it has the flavor of implausibility, a fevered dream.  Really, this could happen?  History is stranger than fiction sometimes, that much is clear.

Speaking of est, many stories on how C/S attacked Erhard's reputation are already out there. Erhard was perceived by Hubbard as stealing Church IP and was therefore considered "fair game" by its Office of Special Affairs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Teaching Philosophy

I posted this to Bradford (cc Koski) recently, on one of the listservs:
I'm teaching adult philosophy students mostly.  We study Hegel, Heidegger, Fuller and Wittgenstein with a little Kierkegaard and Kaufmann around the edges.  From these greats, one may branch to others.

My friend Applewhite (collaborator on Synergetics) liked the Fuller + Wittgenstein combo quite a bit.  That's something I've developed.  Quadrays are a "language game" we use to investigate the foundations of mathematics. 

Is Kantian space 3D or 4D?  Verdict:  it's cultural. 

We also do some mathematics of course (philosophers always have), writing in Python perhaps (very pithy).  We might watch some of your Youtubes and have some paper plate sculptures in the Gallery.
I should be clear that the verb "to teach" as in "I'm teaching..." has come to mean new things.

Like I've been teaching Python for years without walking into 1879 Hall at Princeton and actually lecturing students.  I even teach in real time, yet not in a classroom.  Continuing to quote the same post (one typo fixed):
But the goal is not to disabuse Earthlings of their Cube fixation by coercive means.

We'll infuse some Martian thinking, that's unavoidable, but there's no "takeover" planned.  Humans are known to be violent and paranoid.  Partly why the Martians left their kids home (see "ratings" discussion) and surrounded their apartment with a LuxBlox fence [tm] is they know humans dislike anyone defying their Orthodoxies.  "When in Rome..."
However, philosophers especially, given their reputation as once at the top of the academic pyramid, have a need to be deeply informed about matters literary as well as political, and it's come to the point where not understanding Synergetics at all is like having egg on your tie.  They might eventually laugh you out of the department. 
So we needed a quick intro that's over quick, and Martian Math is it.  Takes maybe 10-15 minutes to get it in brief, with more background optional, and you're good to go.  Next time someone says something knowing about Fuller's Synergetics, you'll know to nod knowingly as you'll be in on it too.  Did you know there's a Synergetics Dictionary in four volumes (Garland Press) now on-line?
Most of my in-classroom realtime stuff has been for Saturday Academy, off and on, like when I did Martian Math @ Reed College.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

More Chores

Before Firing

 Really, an FM radio station that's all oldie-goldies and no commercials?  Seriously?  KWLZ 96.3.

Now that I have the Bluetooth headphones, I'm more likely to be on SomaFM again, a streaming service out of the Bay Area.  Send 'em some dollars if you appreciate commercial free streams.

Warming to my subject:  pumpkin pie.  More seriously, I think Linus Pauling somewhat confirmed our intuition that our bodies depend on the outside world for some macro-molecules.  It's not just low level elements a body craves, like phosphorous, the flame of life (ATP cycle), but vitamins, and who knows what else?

Sure, it all "breaks down" in digestion but it could be a side effect, some enzyme spike thanks to that pumpkin pie you just baked, yourself, from fresh ingredients.  Like a hormone.

Am I saying you'll lose weight baking pumpkin pie?  No.  The two shells I filled asked for a cup and a half of white refined sugar.  That's not a trivial ingredient even for royalty, going back not so far.

Sugar was kept on a shelf for special occasions, not pumped through on virtual IV, starting with sweetened cereals.  They'd rot our teeth for free in exchange for cartoons.  Hey, everything in moderation.  Go crazy with the Froot Loops or Cocoa Krispies (one of my faves) once in a blue moon.

What might you get from pumpkin pie in the fall, the hemisphere returning to Winter?  C'mon, right?  Sure it's psychological, as if if what, like "psychological" doesn't matter?  Duh it does, right?

But I'm thinking more than that, some actual chemical, released through special food interactions.  I bet the French have whole bookshelves devoted to this subject am I right?

Let me check the frequency of this station again:  96.3 KWLZ-FM.

Just Out

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


PDX, 2015

The term "Homering" is used as a term of sneering disrespect in some circles, and relates to the fictional Homer Simpson of cartoon fame.  The connotation is "comporting oneself in ways unbecoming of a true man" as Homer is seen to do, including simply puttering about in a domestic manner, a way customarily associated with the female role (in charge of the household -- while men go out and hunt).  Such are the stereotypes in some circles.

As for me, I use "homering" with much less judgement, and if anything am admiring of the term for its becoming "anti-macho" flavor.  Vanity about one's weight (female: figure) comes within this ballpark i.e. cosmetics, glamour concerns.

Which brings me to the "no beer diet" which I've embarked upon again, up to January 1, then assess -- probably continue a few weeks at least.  This is not about abstinence from alcohol, and to reassure the "body politic" (my fat cells) I ostentatiously invested in $70 worth of high proof liquor, which I've been enjoying, including mixed with eggnog.

I know, I know, how can I lose weight if I'm sucking down buckets of nog, spiked or not?  Plus since it rained big time on Halloween, how is helping myself to a whole basket of candy in any way in the name of "slimming down"?  My skeptics are fierce, but in the long term I find eliminating ten or so pints of distilled grain per week ("liquid bread" lets call it) pays off.  I've already largely eliminated "liquid meat" (i.e. milk) from my diet with the occasional seasonal deviation permitted by religious lights I follow.  I was brought up to guzzle the stuff based on some government PR then in circulation.

Today Carol departed for Missouri. We breakfasted at Beaches, per usual.  She's involved in the public rebellion against being treated as "collateral damage" by the Nukehead Authorities.

Environmental tourism (eco-tourism) is already big and bringing groups through Kansas City, Missouri to gawk at this city-owned nuclear weapons factory should prove lucrative.  With or without plant tours (I'd think with, but that costs extra) we'll have the dioramas and documentaries, showing how these good citizens made their homeland proud. The PR displays are all a part of the eco-tourist friendly museum, similar to the one about Gitmo (see storyboards).

We also visit Washington DC of course, as a part of our eco-tour, a place akin to Guam in terms of representation in the Federation.  The idea was to create a semi neutral District, mostly Mason-controlled, that could be trusted to managed the money.  That didn't last long of course, as money management was turned over to a separate Central Bank (the Federal Reserve), and DC became more like a Caribbean colony.  Its representative still has American values though, in wanting the US to lead us out of the Nukehead Era.  She introduces the bill every year and of course is ignored by a mostly nukehead Congress.

Weapons retirement, i.e. decommissioning nuke plants that make the weapons grade fuel, is going to consume the time of many highly-educated, students who freely choose such important work as their principal area of concentration.

OSU has made a good start, with its "duck and cover" museum (it has a more formal name).  A network of academic and collaborating government agencies is beginning to prepare students for such a career.  Cleanup & Disposal of Radio-toxic Waste is going to be a job for well trained professionals from many backgrounds, for the foreseeable future.

The US national parks administration, under Department of the Interior, is thinking to take on memorializing the Nukehead Era in the wake of making these areas safe enough at least for eco-tourism.  Hanford and so on, are hosting interpretive centers, with exhibits like the one at OMSI, explaining the project to forestall more leakage into the global ecosystem, a disaster not unlike the Fukushima experiment.

Showing maps of the health effects of nukehead experiments, not just in Micronesia but on the North American mainland as well, goes with the territory.  Showcasing Missouri is just for starters, and is made all the more dramatic thanks to the underground fire.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Remedial Philosophy for Geeks

As an aspiring geek, you may have taken some philosophy courses at the university level.  Chances are, though, the even the basics of engineer-philosophy Buckminster Fuller got bleeped over.

Don't blame yourself.  Those training up as philosophy teachers in the 1900s came conceptually ill equipped and most of them never learned to shift gears.

You'll get up to speed on your own, studying the great variety of materials provided.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Looking Back


Visual FoxPro, abbreviated VFP by Microsoft, is the name of the power programming tool I used around the change of millennium (late 1900s, early 2000s).  The package went through several editions, up to VFP9, and that was after Microsoft bought it and made it run inside Windows.

The computer language VFP implemented was more formally known as xBase, with a first commercial implementation known as dBase II (there was never a dBase I).  At one point, Microsoft expected BASIC, xBase and C to be three major pillars going forward (a magazine cover I recall).  This was well before Java, or Python, or the .NET ecosystem.

Given I'd cut my teeth on programming at Princeton (Class of 1980) using both punch cards and a dumb terminal, by the time I returned to Portland five years later, I was ready to get up to speed and take clients.  Given my wife to be was a fund accountant for nonprofits, it makes some sense that I'd work in that sector also.

We sometimes had the same clients, as was the case with Vision Northwest, providing support for mostly older adults losing their eyesight to varying degrees.  Dawn did their bookkeeping while I launched their first Vision Voice application, a programmable phone tree that came with its own circuit board for the PC.  Users could navigate to informational recordings, made by VNW staff, including sale prices for grocery stores.  Fixed income seniors needed to save every penny.  I also wrote dBase for them.

Dawn and I became a business partnership in 1990 having both served at CUE (Center for Urban Education), itself a nonprofit providing tech support to other nonprofits.  Steve Johnson ran the Apple computer center (Macs + LaserWriter).  Thanks to a government contract, we later added PCs by IBM and its army of clones.

I took on dBase clients, and even a FORTRAN client, starting then, plus taught computer classes.  Dawn was the CUE bookkeeper.  My boss was Carol Slaughter (later Slegers).  Her boss was David Lansky, through whom I made my initial connection with Providence Health System, eventually to become my biggest client for my Visual FoxPro programming services.

Visual FoxPro's tenure at Microsoft was uneasy, because (A) it had its own IDE distinct from Visual Studio (B) it competed for market share with Access, a Microsoft flagship product (C) it started to spread free of charge, in Europe especially (I heard Prague was a HQS), outside of Microsoft's control.

I'd say reason (B) was the most devastating, as Access was the Microsoft flagship in that important realm of cube farm databases, but then I'm not a Microsoft insider and have never been a BASIC fan (in any of its incarnations, including VBA) though I appreciate how it filled a niche.  So lets count me as biased.

VFP was able to parse SQL in-line as part of its object oriented syntax.  It has (or had  -- Microsoft discontinued support for the language this year) a stellar development environment, in terms of letting one drag and drop widgets into place.  On the other hand, the separate DBFs for each data table, with external indexes, was immature.  Talking to a dedicated SQL engine makes more sense and in that sense the writing was on the wall:  xBase would be going away.

These days, the most standard architecture is to have a general purpose computer language talk to SQL and noSQL engines through APIs.  The Microsoft tool stack includes Visual Studio with Apache Cordova or maybe Xamarin, allowing programmers to write for iOS, Mac and Android, even Blackberry, as well as Windows.

However, given the demise of VFP, I've not been on the Microsoft bandwagon for some time now, except at work, where I run Eclipse on a Windows server back ended into a Linux filesystem.  I teach Python, which runs fine on Windows.

At the height of my career with VFP, I was juggling both CLAIR and CORIS.  CLAIR was the Cath Lab Angioplasty and Interventions Registry whereas CORIS usually decoded to Cardiac Operating Room Information System or something of that nature.  A co-worker, Andy Bennett, made up these abbreviations.

CLAIR ran in the cath lab and helped technicians capture useful research data at the point of care.  CORIS did much the same thing in the operating room.  One of the heart surgeons took CORIS on the road to show it off to other companies as the kind of thing hospitals might use (given ours did, under his supervision).  Our collaboration was no doubt influential although neither application spawned directly derivative works.  They were each one-of-kind.

I'm not the only "VFP refugee" who had to turn to other technologies.  The fact that Microsoft had made VFP fully object oriented, even more so than VB, and the fact that xBase had always had a shell (called the "dot prompt"), or REPL, made learning Python pretty easy.  C# is too low level, coming from a FoxPro background, meaning it requires too many lines of code to get too little work accomplished.  Moving from VFP to .NET of any flavor was not a paved, well-signed highway, so many VFP refugees took off in different directions.  Yes, a diaspora.

Nowadays I look at the Python-Jython / Clojure / Java ecosystem as my homeland.  I'm actually towards the bottom of the Clojure ladder, but that just means lots of room for advancement.  When you're at the top of all your ladders, that's not necessarily a pleasant occasion.  I like having both object oriented and functional programming languages running on the same VM, in this case the JVM.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Patriotism vs Nationalism

I'm digging into an eBook on my Kindle, entitled Cultural Idiocy: Why America is Losing the War of Words by Joe Marconi.  Here's a paragraph from the introduction:


The root of the problem, or at least another serious symptom of it, if we read on, is insufficient respect for professors (the author is one) and academic values.

I'm willing to buy that to some level, i.e. work / study programs are indeed important in fighting obsolete conditioned reflexes.  Even though I only climbed the degree ladder so far, I still believe in ladders and climbing.

This attitude of "dismissing [other countries] as lesser beings in terms of intelligence and accomplishment" is one optional aspect of what I'll call patriotism, not necessarily mentally healthy but also potentially innocuous.  One needs a home team to root for, be that a home state, school or company campus.

Patriotism traces to an internal "private sky" i.e. a "virtual country" or "land" which we sometimes think, in all innocence, is widely shared and well understood by "the masses" (i.e. "other people") -- a step towards nationalism's stronger need for literalism and one conception of reality uber-alles.

A self-conscious patriot embraces solipsism, not as a factual truth, but as a constructivist premise.  One constructs one's own reality, meaning one's country within one's world, which all has a "might have been" (subjunctive) flavor.

In actuality, it's the call of a higher Self that we answer and serve, toward some greater glory.  We seek a larger more cosmic purpose, however that manifests (for some, as a nation, for others as corporation or a religious institution -- some converge all of these in some multi-faceted bliss).

Thoughts about the inferiority of "other countries" need not go with the territory, but often do.  We certainly feel more "at home" in whatever "homeland" is ours, by definition.

Americans indulge themselves with permission to see themselves as "ahead of others" as "the wealthiest nation", as a "superpower". They're groomed to think in those ruts by generations of Manifest Destiny rhetoric, in my book a root cause of the very idiocy this author is talking about.

Indeed, when we lose the psychological and subjective dimension of a promised or promising land, and project our sense of "country" as an "objective nation" on the world stage, then our tone may become more authoritarian and defensive, as the memes of Nationalism creep in.

Citizenship may become more of an entitlement, but also an obligation.  Others may need you to die for them.  The company may need you to be a hero in some way.  Here is where defending one's country, remaining patriotic, may mean going against the expectations of a mere nationalist crowd or mob.  Nationalism is too shallow to comprehend a deeper patriotism.

When patriotism turns to nationalism and requires us to become more obsessed with borders and taking our inner life more literally, that's when we start building physical walls and other such barriers.  Whereas anyone may have a virtual country to serve, a whole planet by default, a nation requires political theater, i.e. concerted acting out.  More props come into play, such as visas and passports.

Was there ever a time that the United States was in any position to "dismiss as lesser beings" these other nations?  What has been the trajectory on the world stage so far?

Certainly individuals may be inventive but nation-states are legal fictions and devoid of personality, inasmuch as corporations are, or do we think only nation-states have what we now call corporate personhood?  Have we worked out what that means?  What are the metaphysical implications?

The USA was hammered together by many groups who'd been rejected or were on the run from the more dominant societies of Europe.  These were refugees, many of them impoverished.  The Statue of Liberty was their beacon later on, but the flight of outcasts and disowned did not begin with the installation of that statue.  We tell the story of the Mayflower.  Pilgrims were seeking new freedoms.

Lets try on for size that the USA was populated by some of the least socially adjusted, who then became further brutalized in prosecuting a form of genocide against native populations.

The collective IQ of America, so-called, has therefore always been exceptionally low.  As a nation, the US has always been at best a bold experiment, but in many chapters was more of a basket case, unable to exert self control or stop itself from gross misdeeds.  Lets see the US as "most retarded" if only in the name of "tough love" (back to patriotism).  That's how this book is having us see Americans too, as losers, with some advice on how to again win.

Do we "boast" of American exceptionalism (last quoted sentence)?  I always considered it more of an accusation.  Americans are too absorbed by "ahead of" and "behind", dissing and dismissing the "behind" while being "number one" i.e. a "superpower" in their own not so powerful minds.

Even with the cult of individual initiative and doing it one's self (rebellious independence), "Americans" as a population still take credit for and thereby socialize the accomplishments of individuals and suddenly it's some "we" that's innovative.

Aren't individuals the entities who are innately innovative?  How is it that fictitious beings are innovative?  Lets give credit where credit is due:  to humans, not their own contrived institutions (which humans invented).

Patriotism supplies the personhood.  People have the same sense of patriotism about their companies, so the fact that sovereignties are getting put in their place by the supranationals makes some sense.  The playing field has leveled more.  As long as we're in the realm of fictitious personhood, more than just nations can play.

Nationalists are more puzzled by these developments than more self-aware patriots.  Patriots understand the "love of country" involves a more metaphoric use of "country" with arrows pointing inward.  Nationalists are too dull to get that and project their inner dynamics outward, expecting the world to reflect their own internals by proxy.  In forgetting the power of psychology, they become its victims, its puppets, its idiots.

A nationalist is someone who believes in nations.  A patriot serves a higher selfhood without necessarily believing so hard, without adhering so strongly to contemporary dogmas about just what or where those nations are.  Those nations may be just political theater, often farcical and fleeting, strutting and puffing their hour upon the stage.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In Corvallis

I'm not cleared to get onto the OSU secure network.  Some buildings no doubt have Guest or Visitor access, like Valley Library and La Salle, but I'm tucked away in Gilmore Annex, one of the conference rooms.

I came along on this trip as a chauffeur for Carol, the WILPF big shot around here.  Although Linda Richards emailed some details, I was too aloof and skipped doing much homework, thinking mom had everything under control.  As it turns out, she's as oblivious as I am, so between the two of us, we're sort of bumbling through the day.  Fortunately, we're surrounded by less clueless.

Fascinating stuff though.  The Special Collections section of the library has put together a rather unique exhibit on matters nuclear, as in atomic.  The Linus Pauling heritage features prominently.

I've posted about that Special Collection before, Doug Strain the key benefactor in many dimensions.  I took a ton of pictures.  I bet I'll not be handling those Nobel Prizes again.

Then we adjourned to Gilmore Annex, where I'm writing off-line.  The group is talking about how to further the Countdown to Zero campaign but in this namespace they call it Reaching Critical Will, or at least WILPF does.

FOR is represented and is speaking now.  The Scottish Nationalist Party campaign against the Tridents seems what these USers are alluding to.

Speaking of USers, I was in a McMenamins earlier, talking to Farmers Insurance, and two folks came in with their passports to get them stamped.  Those sure do look like real passports!  McMenamins has this language game going where getting McMenamins passport stamps pays off in terms of free beers etc.   Rogue Nation is another brewery that's taken on "nation state" memes, including a faux news network.

What's next?

We're to move to an auditorium and hear some music maybe?  As for tonight, something about AirBnB -- but again, I was in denial about needing to study up on what I was getting into.  I'm still not entirely sure.  We're having an interesting day though.

I'm not very talkative, ducking out for coffee, and to take more pictures.  I guess I'm feeling pretty up on this content, whereas the OSU campus is more of a known unknown (to me), so why not explore?

My mom forgot her hearing device but she seems to be catching most of it.  She is highly talkative today, given WILPF is somehow officially connected to this event (Ava's legacy).  Tomorrow she'll go back to Special Collections to study the exhibit some more, while I find a place to do WiFi.

Quakers have Annual Session here sometimes so the place is not completely unfamiliar, but it's been quite awhile since my last visit.

For those unfamiliar with Oregon geometry (geography), we have a river, named the Willamette, that comes south from the Columbia River all this way.  We drove south along I-205 merging with I-5, turning west on 34 south of Salem and Albany.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wanderers 2015.10.20

Cute Bat
:: fruit bat ::

If you know the ethnography of our region, you'll know that Halloween, the upcoming major holiday, is associated with a Gothic sensibility regarding the underworld, featuring what we call "creepy" imagery centered around cemeteries, skeletons and... bats.

This linkage, of a flying mammal (the only one -- those squirrels don't really count), to a folk meme-plex (not forgetting Dracula and vampires more generally), is rather unfortunate, as humans act out based on such nonsense.  Their brains are wired to allow such melodrama.

So, for example, entire caverns of important colonies, responsible for keeping insect populations in check, helping farmers, who feed the people, have been torched by irresponsible "idiots" as Dick calls them.

Bats were killed by the thousands in some zip code areas, by ridiculously ignorant hominids with uncultured neuro-systems, run amok.  We see that a lot in humans, less so in other species.  So many freaks of nature commit vandalism and wreak havoc in our midst!

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here .  Thank you Bat Conservation International, for helping us to understand.

Dick Pugh was our speaker tonight, despite his bad cough, and he has a lot of personal experience with these animals.

It's not like he hasn't disturbed bat habitats in the name of science.  In the early days he trapped live specimens for the university at twenty five cents a pop.

However good science seeks to learn how and when enough is enough and is today highly sensitize to the high value of bat colonies.  Sure, some are bloodsuckers, but actually not that many.  The vast majority are pollinators, sometimes the only pollinators of a species, and spreaders of fruit seeds, in addition to keeping insects under control.

To attack one's bat population deliberately is usually not a good sign i.e. chances are the humans in questions have been overwhelmed with delusions.

During the Eisenhower administration, the attack was less deliberate than unknowing.  The importance of bat colonies was one of those unknown unknowns.  The front burner concern was personal safety and the fact of gaping holes in the earth known as abandoned mines.  These were dangerous places that invited reckless and/or adventurous individuals to injure themselves, so the policy was to dynamite their entrances thereby rendering them inaccessible.

The problem with this policy was important bat colonies were already taking up residence and the ecosystems were in a new equilibrium.  Disturbing the status quo this drastically brought unexpected ill health to the economy.

Again, farmers are forbidden by law from applying DDT, at one time considered the miracle pesticide, and have wised up in general about the health effects, in the ecosystem beyond just supermarkets, of these toxins.

Establishing bat colonies in and around the same fields on purpose is a way to keep some species of pest more or less under control.  The benefits are tangible.  Letting nature work for you, instead of working against nature, turns out to be sound business strategy.

Back to bats.  Some have enormous ears.  "Echo-location" we call it, but then photons bounce too and we sometimes emit them with flashlights.  "Ear-sight" might be another name for it.  They can pick bugs out of the sky and lick the surface of a lake with their elongated tongues.

Humans have had some close symbiotic / friendly relationships with bats.  The founder of the BCI had one hanging off his arm during presentations, an old friend.  We heard other stories of this nature.

Dick has worked a lot on restoring and / or boosting bat habitats, including through a Cleveland High School program aimed and building bat houses for Oaks Bottom.

The new approach regarding abandoned mines and some other caverns, is to make them bat friendly, in terms of egress and entrance, but inaccessible to unauthorized humans.

Of course truly malicious humans will find other ways to mess with the bats, but most of us are willing to co-exist with our ecosystem partners and appreciate their hard (if unpaid) work.

Keeping it Bat Friendly
:: keeping it bat friendly ::

Monday, October 19, 2015

Women in Combat

I find myself for the most part agreeing with remarks by former US Marine Chad Russell interviewed on NPR for a show airing today, saying the US military is moving too quickly to put women in combat roles.  He was sharing his view (and that of many like minded) in light of recent remarks US Navy Secretary Ash Carter, who questioned the validity of any tests suggesting the status quo be sustained.

Chad's reasoning was roughly as follows:  the NFL is all men playing football (the US kind), so lets integrate that with women first.  As an experiment.  Lets do something in the civilian sector first, because war fighting has to be about winning, that's paramount.  Anything too political and it's no longer about winning militarily but appeasing voter-spectators, playing to the crowds.  That's a different form of campaigning, closer to mob psychology.

That's a loose paraphrase as actually Chad was saying nothing about football, only citing recent test scores hinting that given an all woman football team, versus an all male one, both selected to be the best in their gender, the male team would more likely win.  They bulk up more on average and a team of them would just be more ugly and orc-like, no matter how hard the females tried.  Turn this into a battlefield, and the orcs win.  The tests in question were not about football either, but about boot camp.

Isn't there a reason we have women's soccer separate from men's?  It's not necessarily all about modesty or locker rooms or equal opportunity. It's about making this be a sports event, meaning a level playing field in principle.  "Best of breed within gender" is found to be more fair, through actual experiment, as a result of trials with real humans as guinea pigs.

So if the sports leagues are separated by sex, what's the argument for saying combat should not be?  Those urging the Marines to change their ways first, and not the NFL and/or FIFA are maybe abusing their powers of command?

The former Marine was not sexist just realistic, in my view.  He was making the point that the laws of physics and statistics do not bend even for US Navy Secretaries.  He was very nice about it.

That being said, as a Quaker I see combat as Freaking Out at the institutional level, with individual soldiers behaving rationally to protect themselves from harm.  The work is not glamorous because it's a wholesale breakdown in decorum and polite civility as droves have their dreams for a sane experience shipwrecked.

Every episode of combat is akin to a ship going down and people dying at sea, except the latter is more likely to be more romantic.  Battle shows humans behaving at their worst, earning their title as Fallen (sinful, disobedient to God, assholes).  The thought of dragging the fairer sex into this sewage pit, or simply accepting their presence as perps, seems like further degrading humanity as a whole, one more step towards depravity (whereas combat is already rude and crude, beyond the pale).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a good example of a woman in a lineage wherein women are best.  In her discipline, you don't find many if any men.  Letting women cultivate roles that emphasize their strengths would be better than letting them play Hulk.  Not that a female Hulk wouldn't be interesting, especially as she provided companionship to Mr. Hulk in the thick of battle.  Maybe they'll make that episode.

I know "letting" as in "letting women cultivate roles" sounds condescending to some as if I'm talking man-to-man behind the back of the women.  Female Marines might counter "we're not asking, we're taking and you're in no position to 'let'".  I admire such spunk.

Let me change pronouns then.  You ladies should think about completely dominating at least 50% of the sixteen government agencies (see below) that self style as being Intelligence (Homeland Security is one of them, so include TSA).  Like, grab the CIA as yours and yours alone why not.  Kick out all the old white guys to start with; keep a few tokens (don't make the takeover too obvious).  One of the top honchos, John Brennan, just had his emails hacked we heard on the radio today.  The time is ripe.

Just because women don't get to infiltrate the Marine combat units would not mean they couldn't form their own Special Units.  Why not do more in those directions, before going up against chromosomes?  And yes, there's a lot to be said for letting individuals cross over and play for the other side, talking about trans gender, with a cis female going by Sir, as some top Vulcan.  Or maybe just call her Boss?  Might this be an opportunity to make GMO something positive?  Perhaps with gene therapy we could someday have even more XYs in core USG IC work?

I'd say the AFSC is already not-a-patriarchy in many dimensions.  Although AFSC is a Quaker NGO, not part of the USG IC, intelligence gathering and networking, as well as analysis and community organizing, are among its skills.  I offer this example as encouragement to those frustrated by any glass ceiling in academia.  In living an academic's lifestyle, you may not have the same opportunities to live on the front lines in some war for hearts and minds.

NGOs have traditionally attracted females with little patience for "making money" as a life's goal.  They're more like Roz Savage, in it for the adventure, and to set new performance records outside of some one-dimensional "net worth" money-oriented measure. Careers in public service e.g. in government, cater to that same sense of taste.  That being said, having the top "richest people" in the world include at least an equal number of females would be refreshing.  A better balance within the USG IC may help catalyze the needed changes.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Starbucks / Asylum District


Starbucks is an institution built around coffee, a brew of chemistries, and inheriting work already done, say in France, to make the "coffee shop" an alternative to the tavern, or speakeasy.

People go to bars and taverns to maybe get somewhat rowdy, to sing loudly in chorus even, and to cheer for their sports team on TV.

People go to coffee shops to read magazines in private, use the WiFi, and, stereotypically, engage in one-on-one conversations, about geopolitics, philosophy, trends in art.

However those are merely two ends of a spectrum.  Some bars, such as Lucky Labrador, are quite friendly to laptops and nerding out over board games.  Geek bars are not sports bars.  Lucky Lab has no TV.

As a rule of thumb however, there's osmotic pressure to not take your laptop into a bar for solitary WiFi activities.  For one thing, it's pretty easy to spill beer.

Coffee shops keep the WiFi tap open and flowing freely, hoping customers will continue to sip beverages and buy baked goods.

Given this background, it's not surprising that the coffee shop, not the pub or public house, has become more of a business buzz space, the place to do work.

Given the lighting and relative quiet, the coffee shop is a safe space for job applicants to meet potential employers, for contract negotiations, business oriented conversation (BOCs or "boxes").  Especially those who work at home need a neutral ground to make deals in.  Even politicians hold court.

Bars and taverns were targeted by Puritans in the US, who tried to permanently ban them as an institution, by means of a US Constitutional Amendment (called Prohibition).  Taverns were the devil's churches, congregation halls wherein sinners might practice their vices with impunity.

However "the boys" coming home after the World Wars would not be denied their grog, having put their lives on the line for their country.  Some had sampled the best of Germany's craft brews, as well as England's and so on.

However the post WW2 invention of aluminum pull-top cans and TV dinners changed the equations:  the exGIs could stay home to watch TV with their war bride sweeties, drinking the new factory-scale national brands, such as Bud and Miller Lite (craft beers would re-emerge big time in the 1990s, starting with Anchor Steam simply staying alive).

Thanks to the I-system (the freeway interstates) and the trucking so enabled, drinking beer at home, not just more expensive wines and spirits, became the new normal.  Even though Prohibition had been lifted, the anti-tavern mentality had made lasting inroads.

Sex outside of licensed relationships (unlicensed sex) is what bars were perceived to foment and enable.  Bars were the enemy of marriage (in the nuclear family sense) and tranquil nests, thanks both to loose women ("floozies") and dad coming home drunk, beating the wife and kids in some melodramatic show of patriarchal frustration.

As most of us know, unlicensed, oft paid-for sex, is typically de-legitimized as prostitution (a known vice), and run as an organized criminal business (by definition). In joining the military, a studly young man hoped to escape domestic Puritanical strictures by having "a good time" overseas, where, in some tropical paradise, sex without a marriage license was no crime at all.

Coffee shops were and are to this day seen as much less of a public threat to law and order.  At worst, the latter were more likely to give rise to "beatniks" (later "hippies" then "hipsters") and political subversives (e.g. "commie symps").  Eggheads in general are more likely to question Puritanical authority and spread dangerous ideas regarding "open license" sex (known as "licentiousness" in the Puritanical vocabulary) and alternatives to marriage.

True to form, in being a geek and business oriented, I've been hanging out at the local Starbucks learning about ISO stuff i.e. ISO 9001:2015.  One of the world's leading authorities on that topic hangs out there on occasion.  I was introduced by Deke the Geek.

At home, I study the certification system, with its certifiers of registrars and so on.  By means of ISO 9000 and so on, companies work to appear to one another, and/or to governments, as "squeaky clean" (the opposite of criminal, plus competent and sincere).  Such cosmetics are important for organizations and may go a long way towards attracting the "right" clientele.

I got my own certificate of completion from such an auditing outfit, named the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), when I read through their lengthy guidelines and took the reading recollection quizzes.  I've usually been pretty good at those.

However certifying organizations is not the same thing as certifying individuals and my taking that course was but a small part of a larger organizational undertaking.  My co-workers took it too.  The boss told us we had to and we did, knowing the goal was increased long term viability for our school.

Coffee Shops are sometimes allowed to sell a few beers nowadays.   In Asylum District, cannabis products are available for recreational purchase a few doors down from any coffee joint.  Even if Starbucks is not directly selling THC-spiked edibles, there's nothing to stop their customers from consuming same, while continuing to uphold a business-like sense of decorum.

Time will tell how these new chemistries will sort out.  Other states are watching.  Chances are, as the culture continues to mature, the Asylum District will continue to produce new concepts in industry.  The Silicon Forest already owes a lot to this neighborhood, a boyhood haunt of Linus Pauling, and later host to first offices of ESI and Tektronix.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Intelligent Design

As I was thumbing through Youtubes about ATP Synthase, I realized sometimes I was looking through a "church window" meaning a religious group was framing the animation as "proof of God" in some ongoing battle we mostly find in Euro-Anglo cultures, but I'm sure elsewhere as well, perhaps on planets yet discovered.

I hearken back to an ISEPP lecture in which our teacher very much wanted to say that bacteria were intelligent.  He wasn't trying to say they knew the alphabet (well... OK, RNA is kind of like one), but that they shared genomic material (alphabet soup) in ways that short cut merely random responses.  They adapted quickly, they adapted well.  Random mutations would be mere fumbling in the dark, relative to the responses he was seeing.

Some kind of against-the-odds upstream leap appears, a non-predictable leap, a surprise, which we might attribute to a black box (for now):  Synergy:  the behaviors of wholes unpredicted by the behavior of their parts considered in isolation.  "Emergence" is another word we find applied to this phenomenon, sometimes associated with "intelligence".

Donning a Wittgenstein-inspired Sherlock Holmes hat, and lighting my pipe, affecting Victorian mannerisms, I would investigate "intelligence" as a word,  a tool of communication, and note that we've oft admired non-human i.e. "natural" phenomena for their intelligent design.

"Intelligent design" is a meme fragment, a piece of textual RNA, like a protein set in type, that we'll likely have seen before, if used to reading, in connection with all kinds of "natural" phenomena.  A bird's nest.  The bird itself.  A bat (echo location).  Bird migration.

We see the sense of it:  the solution makes sense in light of the challenges.  Our use of "intelligent" is in light of our own understanding of its fitting cleverness.  We comprehend.  We're impressed by how it gets the job done.  That gets us thinking of jobs we do ourselves.

We may not pause at first to ask "who's idea?" but if we do, we might answer "God" as a way of saying we have no more complicated answer, as we might regarding something humanly contrived.  For some people, having such an unsatisfying answer is enough to squelch the question i.e. if you're just going to say "God" all the time, why ask?

But lets remember:  if we've entered the realm of patents and proper names, we might have a lot more to say, regarding "whom" or, in some assumed ethnicity, we might say "it's the Queen's" as the titular owner of whatever is in the Realm ("the company" plays a similar role in that its employees may be awarded with titles in lieu of outright ownership of their inventions, which company lawyers need to account for as distributed to an inner circle of partners, some hidden, or stakeholders / shareholders).

What's odd about this word "natural" and why I bring out the scare quotes is how we of academic schooling use it specifically to exclude the "man made" or "manufactured" which in some sense relates to "intentional" and/or "designed intentionally" -- to which we link such memes as "a thought process" (such processes are the stuff of philosophy books).  Finger nails are natural, but finger polish is not.  The lens of an eyeball is natural, but the corrective contact lens is not.  Brains are natural, but thoughts about them are not.

When people think things up and then build them, we don't say that they're "natural" any more, but of course whatever humans do or make is in another sense within the natural sphere, the domain of Creation as some might say.  Nature is at least as intelligent as the humans it contains and partly consists of: we could say that as a truism, but for the fact that "nature" is so often used precisely to cleave reality in two.

"Human stuff" is distinct, across some invisible line from "non-human stuff" -- and then lo and behold, when we find intelligence on both sides of said invisible line, we get spooked, as if encountering aliens in the X-Files sense.  At that point we might think things like "we supposed we were the only intelligence around here but..."

Not that we all go through that.  Many humans have always taken for granted they were in some continuum with other beings, some "higher" than ourselves. That doesn't render them immune from future shock, but then "shock" is decidedly negative.  "Surprise" is more neutral.  Imagining oneself in a community with non-human intelligent beings does not shield one from being surprised by community developments, I suppose one might say.

Those having a sudden rediscovery of Synergy as a principle may feel "less alone" as when angels, ETs and even polytheistic type beings show up as a persistent possibility (perhaps not all at once -- the possibility of "just ETs" is sufficient for an example of that new awareness of otherness, no close encounter required).

We need to conceptually visualize these "intelligencia", these alternative "sapients" ("alternative" because we imagine ourselves to be such) and fill our canvases accordingly, with story lines and figures.

One may have these experiences and yet still adhere to a Buddhist doctrine of "no self nature" meaning these visions depend to some extent on what one had for breakfast that morning, i.e. the illusion is always of parts with a sense of anchoring (maybe, at best) in some whole.

Psychology is likewise ready with answers that don't involve bending the rules around physics or admitting to the efficacy of whatever superstitious nonsense is sold to keep false hopes aflame or, conversely, crush morale with false certainties.  Many simulations dissemble.

So the machinery is this:  we start out democratic, allowing for "intelligence" to be manifest all over, but then we have this "just us" syndrome (the folk etymology of "just-ice") whereby it no longer seems appropriate to apply the word "intelligent" to such as bacteria.  That perfectly rational usage now becomes "poetic license" or "a metaphor" whereas humans learning to read are "quite literally intelligent" for doing so.  Talk about superstition!

"They can't be intelligent only humans are truly intelligent..." -- objections of that nature arise because the same word ("intelligence") is caught up in different games.  We want "intelligent" to mean "has thoughts" all of a sudden whereas maybe that wasn't so important last week, when we visited the aviary.  In some schools, "having thoughts" is a sign of slowing down.  We have the phrase "knew in a flash" to suggest "having thoughts" may be too plodding for some forms of intelligent activity.

Call it "human exceptionalism" maybe, this desire to excise ourselves from nature and posit ourselves strangers in a strange land (existential aliens).  We get to be different, and that's no big surprise as the language belongs "to us" (or so we think).  We sometimes spook ourselves, by positing intelligence everywhere, then forgetting that's allowed (even given), and getting shocked when coming up against what therefore seems to be a contradictory usage.  The contradiction gives us pause, and a sense of appreciation (perhaps), even wonder.

What's more anthropomorphic, thinking humans are special or thinking intelligence is spread out all over?  It's easy to say which is more anthropocentric, supposedly a sin to avoid when being really serious about one's science.