Monday, February 23, 2015

Running from Crazy (movie review)

I was never a big Hemingway buff and I don't admire bull fighting as a sport.  However, the Hemingway grandchildren are generous in sharing their story and lives with us and I join Oprah in thanking them for sincere public service.  I was reminded of Prodigal Sons which features a grandson of another famous celebrity, the actor Orson Welles.

Is the problem with the English language?  The word "suicide" is freighted with so much assumption, as to what the surrounding language game must be.  If we decide to have corporate personhood, a kind of legal puppet show, then why not give corporations a perfectly honorable way to go.  Call it dissolution or self erasing if you like, but people will hear those as euphemisms after awhile and find avoidance of the S word distasteful.  Fine, but don't force the humiliation card.  That's the issue.

Oregon as a state recognizes honorable suicide.  Just getting the information that so and so chose to take his or her own life, nothing else said, does not give me the right, or the need, to judge X.  It's OK to not judge.  Too many people don't learn that in time.  When you get information, don't assume you're called upon for an opinion.  How refreshing to not have one sometimes. It's not always a case of trying to get life insurance or remorse for committing a murder, and even then the devil is in the details.

I watched a retrospective on Sex Ed films around the same time and heard a lot of women express the abject fear they inherited from adults around normal physiological functioning, such as a women's period.  Moms would "freak out".  We need to stop freaking out about suicide.  Let many voices have the floor.  Don't be control freaking the script.

I was also reminded of confusions about "race".  There's no single gene that constitutes anyone's "race".  Sure, patterns appear everywhere you look, but they're not super simple patterns.  The idea that some ancestor took it into his head to commit suicide is not evidence of any specific biotum getting passed down in the cells.  Protestant predestination dogmas hijacking genetics just to scare children is what that sounds like to me.  Too many such prophesies are self-fulfilling.  "Race" as a concept is not there to help science.  It's the tool of control freaks, another way of playing Facebook or one of those.  Let people opt out if it seems too stupid, like FarmVille.

Look how Interfaith Holy Landers, various species of Godder, gang up against "atheists" (whoever doesn't believe as they do) in favor of some Apocalypse scenario.  Planetary suicide would be just fine with them, as long as it involves lots of crosses and gnashing of teeth and other special effects ala God of the Bible (a subdivision of Hollywood Enterprises).  Talk about faux!  If you've been hanging out with Holy Landers and feel suicidal sometimes, don't blame yourself.  Find the eject button and escape from that cult!  Deprogram.  Get help.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Quakers Heart Beer

:: Quakers heart beer ::

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Food Chains (movie review)

As a former resident of Florida, I appreciated the portrayal of Publix as uber-powerful, but are there really no Safeways?  When it's a monopoly, you have a lot less leverage with consumers than when there's a Kroger's or New Seasons within the same or similar radius, with comparable prices.  The thing about big boxes like Wal*Mart as they count on becoming the only big box in town.  Niche markets have a harder go of it.

But lets not mistake the Publix Empire for the whole Fifty States.  As this documentary makes clear, one does have leverage, through Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).  Companies such as Taco Bell and Whole Foods got on board.  There's no reason those techniques have to be confined to any one neck of the woods.  Most these chains are global these days, so where to apply pressure is anybody's guess (meaning one might not predict where the serious change artists will find one).

When it's a monopoly, don't think of hunger strikes as a first option maybe?  The wild card here, and what makes the Coalition of Immokalee Workers special, is precisely this movie, which is shown in India and Russia just as poignantly, as oppression of the peasantry is hardly a new story.  North Americans did not invent slavery either, and to their credit, their rhetoric remains largely against it, even though it's still widely practiced in various guises.

The movie shows how criminalizing a population (making them "illegal" as in "undocumented") is then a license to exploit.  USAers needs the cheap labor, but it has to be really cheap, as in completely unsustainably cheap.

Until people start seeing that poverty in their midst is poverty nonetheless, they'll turn a blind eye.  That slum in California known as wine country, wreaks of malign neglect.  But they're working on it.

I'm working on it too.  The ecovillages I'm storyboarding are not just fancy resort party towns for the rich and famous.  They're geared for those with dirty jobs in hard places, maybe working for academic credit as a farm worker, truck driver, baggage handler or whatever.

Not in some condescending character building way, but because if you're going to be an authority an agriculture, transportation, or airport management, or hospitality, it helps if you've played a few roles.  More than a few.  Just doing spring break over and over is not that great on your resume.

If you're new to the history, you'll pick up some great archival shots of Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar E. Chavez, with more background as to the historical context for their meetup.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Anaconda: A Fat Python for You

Steve Holden has been talking up Anaconda for months, but until I saw his short and sweet video about what it's good for, I have to say I was a bit slow on the uptake, even for me.

Sidebar:  "anaconda" as a word has been used to mean "constrictors" as a generic category, somewhat like "iterators" in Python, not a type or class per see, but supporting an interface or protocol.  However in modern usage the "anaconda" is more a specific species of snake, a constrictor, found in South America and zoos.  Not sure if they've made it to Florida yet.

In our Python ecosystem, Anaconda is like a "fat snake" already stuffed with 3rd party goodies.  A lot of the big name stars of the Python namespace you might have heard about.

Yes, it's somewhat "quick and dirty" to establish a giant outpost in storage with all this stuff, but that's the beauty of free software:  you can blow it away.  Save it to a memory stick.  Check into it again later.  Anyway, watch Steve's video if curious, and check his blog post.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

A Night at the Planetarium

:: mt. hood community college ::

Mount Hood Community College invested in the Microsoft WorldWide Telescope solution some time ago, but last night was my first opportunity to see the new system in action.  The projectors were mounted around the bowl's periphery and had to meet at the seams, a lot like constellations meet, in that carved up sphere that looks seriously gerrymandered.

Remember the twelve houses of the zodiac form a minority of "most famous" constellations thanks to horoscopes and like that.  In fact, the complete sphere needed carving (see Divided Spheres) and the patch quilt projected by Microsoft includes such as Fornax and Sculptor, which we explored in some depth given the focus of tonight's presentation:  other galaxies, including satellites of our own.

We're already feeling Andromeda's love for us as she rushes thirstily towards the Milky Way, only about twenty five disk diameters hence, a short run across a field.  We'll embrace in a coming epoch, in about four billion years according to official projections.  She'll have swallowed up some nearer sisters before then.  Our own Magellanic satellites are likewise spiraling inward.  Universe may be expanding, but the local group is pulling together it seems.

Hoping to beat rush hour traffic, I migrated to Troutdale early in the day.  The check engine light is on again but the air flow meter seems to be working well enough.  For an old Nissan, she's doing great.  I camped out at Edgefield, sipping a single glass of Pinot Noir (theirs) while I tended my fish ladder, eager students making leaps and bounds in their understanding of the Python computer language.  I then relocated to a coffee shop closer to the evening venue, where I continued using WiFi.

Two astronomers joined me at the Thai place.  Bob was excited by shewanella, the new life form discovered in some lake, a bacterium that snarfs electrons through tentacles.  I need to Google that.  Brenda supports all the sciences at MHCC (that's her work), not just the astronomers, but she's an astronomer at heart, having built her own telescope and made stargazing a permanent hobby.  She gave us a tour of the equipment lab adjoining the Planetarium, which doubles as a server room for the WorldWide Telescope solution.

:: brenda wyse and bob mcgown ::

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Trash TV

I stayed up watching trash TV last night, catching up on some Criminal Mind shows.  A lot of the better series have been diluted into soft snuff flicks, quite macabre.  The one last night was about serial killers but nothing so witty as Dexter, just raw ugliness targeted mainly at aging couch potatoes who might be interested in buying jewelry and vitamins, plus more exotic drugs (ask your doctor).

In one of the other plots, a seriously badass killer bank robber lady, pretty, manages to get us thinking of Chad and Libya as she careens through the streets in a stolen government vehicle, her boyfriend gone sour on the military having been chewed up and spit out or whatever.

The FBI has to hunt them down.  The soured-on-military guy is a known species the FBI profiles, another brand of throwaway.

When a medic is killed in the line of duty by the badass, a black fire truck guy, a first responder, the elite FBI group scarcely misses a beat, as rescuing the boyfriend and marrying him is what this really is all about (gotta leave time for the dancing at the end).

By that time, the plot is certainly ready to kill off another black guy whose life doesn't matter to the storytelling.  TV is good at throwing away lots of cast without generating loose ends, especially when each story is in a different city.

The idea of huge stadiums of people watching this fun house mirror version of reality, is somewhat disturbing.  We know that's the real horror show, all those couch zombies just lying there, staring at this stuff, getting programmed in the Matrix -- but the truth is a bit too scary sometimes.

Better to focus on attention seeking serial killers and all those bad scary people in Libya and Yemen and like that.  That's what sells jewelry, not some mirror mirror on the wall (that's in another room of the house).