Friday, July 31, 2015

PWS: Personal Workspace

Setting up a PWS in the form of a remote desktop on AWS is not that crazy-making, per this Youtube demo.

Your school may want to provision these setups to students automatically, with lots of stuff pre-installed besides bare Ubuntu. I-Python Notebooks + VPython, for example, for 2D and 3D computer graphics, lots of user activity.

Core to any school is the workflow around sending work round trip to / from a mentor:  your school, like ours, may already have solutions for how to accomplish that.

Typically, a mentor would expect a task queue for notifications of submitted student work (in order received or in some other mentor-selected order).  The mentor opens a copy of a student project and runs it, then provides feedback.  Quizzes may be dealt with much the same way.

Our school uses iterative feedback and multiple attempts in lieu of grades. Why settle for a B- when, with more practice, your work could be perfect?

Some students take more time to get through the obstacle course than others.  With a self paced learning model, that's perfectly OK.

:: mentor dashboard (ost) ::

Tasks per course are marked not started, complete or still in progress, with "percent complete" (tasks per course) part of the student dashboard as well.

Our school has not used AWS to host student remote desktops.  The cloud was not that sophisticated when our blueprints were drawn up in Traction Station, Champaign-Urbana many years ago.

We went with Windows servers back ended into a Linux file store and a bash shell accessible through Terminal in Eclipse (our choice of IDE), but the idea is similar.  Java, Python, C++, Android... all learned in the same development environment.

Choice of IDE is sometimes critical.  Emacs?  IntelliJ?  Atom?

A Clojure plug-in for Atom is under active development.  However feedback from the Clojure list suggests Eclipse or Emacs might be better.

The way one might work it is when a class fills (a certain minimum is required) then a begin date is set and the meter starts running.

Some students will finish quickly, however the course as a whole is of finite duration. Some students may not complete the course in time. That's their prerogative (a refund is not implied, YMMV).

The diagram below shows a seating diagram such as people see on Expedia when booking airplane tickets.

A class is metaphorically a flight of finite duration, with a cockpit dashboard for the mentor and other support staff, and a per student dashboard (GUI) as well.  Some models of airplane may offer more videos or whatever.  The metaphor extends.


For further reading:
Asynchronous Learning Engine (ALE)
PWS on MathFuture list (April 2016)
More PWS on Mathfuture (after Portland Pycon 2016)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wanderers 2015.7.28

Dr. Peter Bechtold is speaking to a packed Linus Pauling House (Gordon Hoffman is here) about his career and world view.  This is Part Two of Two whereas I missed Part One, two weeks ago.  I'm doing my best to put together a picture.  The topic is ostensibly "the Middle East" -- what "Orientalists" study.

Dr. Bechtold thinks the greatest threat to US security is not terrorism but the foolishness of voters.  They have a poor track record of electing fools, which begets silliness in government.  The quality of debate in Canada is simply much higher.  The clowns here would not have such currency in a smarter country.

Today's speech by Congressman Ed Royce (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) was typical of the laundry list of misinforming BS that everyone in Washington DC is supposed to recite, according to Bechtold.  I didn't have much quarrel with his reading.

So what the US has some of the top universities in the world; we're talking about averages.  Keith:  Americans get one PhD dumber every seven years, thanks to television.  Voter turnout is abysmal. Lots of veterans sucker for expensive on-line degree programs, running up student debt.  Oregon as a state has been plummeting in the caliber of its educational programming, per various measures.

"Why are we talking about education levels, isn't this about the Middle East?" asked Steve.

Bechtold:  the connection is ignorance and misinformation.

Carol (mom) is here.  She wanted to compare notes on ISIL, a Sunni group inheriting from old Ottoman networks, and not the only group into beheadings (with or without guillotines), whereas bombs, such as dropped on Laos, render bodies into parts more randomly.
Because the US is uber-dumb, politicians are able take advantage of that fact.  The thesis here reminds me a lot of the Power of Nightmares.  The fear-mongers are the cheapest sort of politician and get a free ride when the voters are idiots.

The bar is very low and the kind of people attracted to Washington are the same people we'd normally want to lock away in Asylums of various kinds.  Instead, we indulge them in their fantasies of "running the world" -- they're armed and dangerous, so that's about the best we could do I guess?

Hey, kudos to politicians for at least voting, right?  Assuming voting rights still pertain (prisons are a lot about stealing away that right).

Military bases are a jobs program.  Bechtold painted a rather sanitized picture of how bases contribute to the economy based on his experience at Fort Campbell. I'm not entirely a stranger to bases either.

So what about the Congo?  Do we care about oppression there?  Saddam was maybe only the 18th worst dictator at the time he was deemed intolerable.

Only misinformation could get "us" to attack Iraq (I was against doing that myself, so don't revert to "we" that easily).  The monkey-brains got their way because of GIGO (garbage in garbage out).

Misinformation results in misbegotten adventures that should have been aborted, nipped in the bud early.  Instead, these crazy fantasies get out of the bottle to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

For lack of sufficient containment of powerful nightmares, humanity has paid dearly, in lives, in treasure, in prestige and in friendships.  Why did all that stupid stuff happen (e.g. Bremer Edicts and so on)?  Because of public enemy number one:  willful stupidity.  I think we get the point.

But is that news?  Aren't we just talking about the human predicament?  We're in over our heads, collectively, and it shows.  Philosophers know this already.  Policy analysts are finally coming to the same conclusion?  Welcome to Spaceship Earth, right?

But there's more to think about here, mainly how Affluenza spoils one's capacity to think.  Given we're a species that values cogitation over conspicuous consumption (?), raising education levels while reducing the ugly blight of consumer waste may well go hand in hand.

Friday, July 24, 2015

On Super and Uber

Not that many of us got to listen to Dr. Walter Kaufmann talk about his workflows when translating Nietzsche.  Translating is not simply transcribing.  With Nietzsche's uber-mensch:  to what should he map that?  Many scholars went with super, creating "superman", in name collision with the comics and superhero complexes.  Kaufmann went with over, as in oversight, with "overseer" so similar to "supervisor" in English, with the former sounding more antiquarian, though we often speak of providing oversight (supervision).

Switching gears a little, we teach children about synonyms and homonyms.  Synonyms "mean" alike whereas homonyms "sound" alike and may (usually do) "mean" quite different things, as with "vain" and "vane" (and "vein").  However, more confusing if not sufficiently discussed, are different meanings of the very same word, often with bridging connotations.

Probably the biggest difference experience makes is it potentially deepens one's appreciation for context and the limited scope (or radius) of any specific meaning.   For example, the technical word "vector" tends to mean "some permutation of dialed in values" such as (apple, pear, pear), but then takes on more distinctly geometrical properties in some language games.  In Clojure, a LISP-like computer language targeting the JVM (Java Virtual Machine), Vector is one of the core data structures, along with Lists.

Change channels to Python and Vectors drop away as a core data structure with Python's Lists taking their place, then having tuples as an immutable type whereas in Clojure all collections are immutable.

Readers of Computer Science have more context i.e. more space, for words to wander, yet within constraints.  The meaning disease monitoring and control experts have for "vector" is another one yet.  An influenza might travel by bird, malaria by mosquito, such that infected or host species become "vectors" (enabling media) for some pathogen.

And yet all of these meanings of Vector convey the notion of momentum / inertia in some direction, against a backdrop, and therefore deltas (differences).  Even the lowly permutation, like a one armed bandit readout in a casino, may be seen to converge or diverge from specific (as in "winning") patterns, thereby defining a notion of movement through distance, perhaps purposeful movement, within some "vector field".

Ironically, I managed to miss the themed intra-OSCON party event, the night tutorials end.  This year that theme was superheros.

Tim O'Reilly talked about augmentation; Amber about the fears that come with new tech, concerns about differences and disparities.  If we're all privileged, that's different.  We're each super in different ways.  Lets not forget "extreme" as in "radical" which is rooted in "root".  We're each "root" in our own system, would by a geeky thing to say.

Uber has been considered a disruptive technology in the Greater Portland sphere, but then in geekdom, "disruptive", like "hacker" and "lazy" tend to have positive spin.  Geekdom, a subculture, has its own lingo -- so again, back to namespaces and their vectors (of propagation).


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Snapshots from OSCON


Our opening session, with tone-setting keynotes, began with a representative of the UK government explaining her enterprise's commitment to serving the UK.  Digital Services is leveraging open source by insisting on open standards.  These two drive each other.  How to best share street address information, geographic location and so on?

Now I'm in a talk on what every programmer should know about floating-point arithmetic, by Java Floating-Point Czar Emeritus, Joseph D. Darcy, currently with Oracle.  From here, I'll be heading to the HP sponsored lunch.

Before this talk, I enjoyed a first visit to the Expo Hall, heading straight for the O'Reilly booth on Debra's instructions to make sure our school's new catalog / brochure was displayed.  Yes it was, with Natalia on the cover.  Bravo.

The HP booth speaker wanted us to all know about HP's huge commitment to "keeping it open" (we got a free mug for listening).  The Facebook keynote was along the same lines, as was Allison Randal's talk:  it's not just out of altruism or some bleary-eyed thinking that companies embrace open source; they do so out of economic necessity.

Allison would like to see reluctant joiners becoming more effective users.  Holding on for dear life is less enjoyable and rewarding than contributing as a full participant.  Facebook:  the discipline required to make projects suitable for public consumption is likewise what makes them robust enough for in-house re-use.

At one point in the early days it looked like F/OSS might always be the hobbyist version playing catch up to the grown up stuff.  Whereas many proprietary solutions are best of breed, in some domains the free tools are also the only tools or simply the best tools available.

The Linux Foundation guy was super excited about containers, the next big thing in data center development.  Again, open standards is the name of the game, as the skeleton key unlocking our perennial dreams of total interoperability.

They call floating point numbers an "approximation" of the reals (ℝ), but since when did anyone multiply π times itself in pure real numbers?  The reals have always seemed pretty unreal to me.  To what precision do the real number people multiply π?  Real reals have no upper limit on precision right?

N ⊆ Z ⊆ Q.  That's a field.  Then came the leap to Algebraic Numbers as a subset of .  "They threw the guy over the boat who discovered Q was insufficient" (paraphrase).

The Lindesmann-Weierstrass theorem 1882 proved π was transcendental, not algebraic, so Real Numbers include both.  Another field.  ⊆  C ⊆ Quaternions (⊆ Octonians).  Surreal Numbers, invented by Conway ("the other Conway" some say, given OSCON began as the Perl Conference and ours is first-named Damian).  Donald Knuth wrote a novel entitled Surreal Numbers.

Floating point numbers need to be deterministic, reproducible etc., i.e. the rules need to be clear.  The significand is multiplied by 2 to some exponent.  All floating-point numbers are rational. CPU specifications often defer to IEEE 754.

Most of the talk was on the non-field properties of floating point numbers.  They're not associative for example.  Like in the 3-bit signficand "toy floating point" system introduced in the slides:  2.0 + (0.1 + 0.1) != (2.0 + 0.1) + 0.1.  Best to not use floats for money given a true Decimal type is more likely to obey established rules for rounding, that predate electronic computing.  Java and Python both offer extended precision Decimals, as do many other computer languages.

After lunch:  the future of mobile payments, by Jonathan LeBlanc from PayPal.  The payment industry is shifting to serving the mobile environment in a big way.  Location and habit awareness, browser uniqueness, device fingerprinting, all help with user authentication.  When a user deviates from patterns and falls outside the trust zone as a result, additional challenges may be provided to provide additional checks.

The key term this year seems to be "at scale" which means "not diminished" as in "using the full data set".  For example, graph analysis "at scale" implies doing something computationally intensive. Kenny Bastani showed us how to use Docker to get Neo4j talking to Apache Spark to run PageRank and Centrality algorithms against toy amounts of graph data -- but he assured us the same techniques would work against all of Wikipedia (i.e. "at scale").

Item lost:  Neoprene case for the Mac Air.  Lets hope that's the extent of my losing stuff this year.  I dashed downtown to grab a replacement at the Apple Store then grabbed a couple pints at Yardhouse, adjacent, before reboarding Max to return to the Expo Hall.  I ended up talking to a satellite guy with UCAR in the process of developing his Python chops, coming from Perl.

Steve, Cynthia, Patrick and I took the Max back to my car and ended up on my back deck, talking over events of the day.  Patrick gives a talk tomorrow.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Elementary Friends Program

Hat and Glass

I'm with the elementary school aged kids.

They're learning about pronouns in the Bike Farm sense i.e. starting a meetup saying who wants to be a "he", "she", "they"... One kid, not clear on the concept of second person pronoun, said "awesome" -- they're in elementary school, not big on grammar yet.  We're not to dispute one another's choices i.e. it's up to each person what pronoun they pick, which they may tie to character or persona more than to DNA.

"I like to keep 'em guessing as to my gender" one of the mentors said, pretty funny.  But since that can get awkward she'd settled on "she".

I'm not here to talk about gender though, I was invited by Glee to talk about my hat.

I'm sporting a black Stetson, much smaller than the one in my closet.  Both are hand-me-downs, and in my possession thanks to Glenn Stockton.

My earlier beaver felt hat, with my name embossed, also black, with horse hair band, was lost (by me)... twice.  The second time, it didn't come back to me.

We chatted about important hats in kids' literature:
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • the man with the Yellow Hat in Curious George
  • the talking hat in Harry Potter
  • the bowlers sported by Thompson & Thompson in Tintin comics.  
I passed my hat around.  I also mentioned a pronoun for me could to "he" but also "it" as that made me more a genderless robot (machine) at the core, with gender features added to the basic chassis.  In being mechanical in nature, I was not giving up on the Light within, which I also see as gender neutral.

Historically, the Quakers of classist England were anecdotally opposed to hat doffing, the practice of signifying one's lower social position vs-a-vis a deserving individual with a title, say some Lord or a Bishop in the Church of England.

Obstreperous Quakers were anti others "Lording it over" them based on what they regarded as essentially false or phony credentials (e.g. "Bishop").  They would flaunt their disdain for "superiors" by being rude, which landed them in jail over and over, their reward for bad behavior.

George Fox, a co-founder of our religious society, was hauled before a judge on at least one occasion over this hat business and he demonstrated his practice of not doffing for the benefit of the judge, saying Scripture said nothing about doffing, so what up?

The judge retorted that people in Biblical days were not hat-wearers so duh, of course hat doffing is not mentioned, so not a good excuse.

However Fox, literate and self taught in the Bible, responded that in the Book of Daniel they mention throwing some people into a fiery furnace wearing their cloaks and hats, so there!

I'm sure it was quite a spectacle:  George Fox, reportedly intense, in a battle of wits with a judge, testing each others' mettle.

Then I brought up other forms of headdress besides hats, thinking of crowns and what chiefs wore at pow wows -- lots of eagle feathers.  And what about bonnets?  Why do hats keep coming into vogue but not bonnets?  One kid theorized that bonnets had become full-bodied i.e. bonnets and morphed into burkas, which are indeed still popular in some circles.

Glee steered the discussion back towards the style of hat the Quaker men wore.  She had a lesson plan in mind, that involved making brimmed hats out of paper.  The brim itself connoted "working class" whereas brimless hats were "indoor hats" like the Bishop's miter, meaning they were mainly for people too high and mighty to get their hands dirty working outside, where brimmed hats prevailed.

So was the time where Fox refused to doff his hat the same time he refused to swear on the Bible?

Joe said to me later this oath stuff likely happened quite a bit later, after the Restoration when they brought the King back, post Cromwell.  Courts were more nervous about Quakers' loyalty to the crown at that point.  Cromwell and Fox were good buddies.  Life got harder for Friends after 1660, before things got easier again in the 1700s.

Anyway, I connected those dots in our discussion, saying George didn't wanna swear on the Bible to tell the truth to the court because (duh) that implies other times he's likely to lie, all part of the corrupt classist England that had yet to see how Quakers did business; truthfully and accurately as it turned out.  Quakers thereby verily invented socially responsible Capitalism (e.g. the utopian "company town" wherein everyone is cared for, people before profit), now in vogue in the early 21st Century and somewhat consistent with Islamic values.

Thanks to this second insult to the established order, not swearing on the Bible, individuals today are free to "affirm" rather than "swear an oath" in a court of law within the US jurisdiction.

In another addendum, in connection with the Truth Testimony, I emphasized that Quakers also keep silent a lot and that being truthful is not inconsistent with keeping secrets, per Underground Railroad lore.  Friends need not be blabber-mouths, though some of them are.  I've been known to blab on occasion, but it's the exception that proves the rule:  discretion is the better part of valour.

A highlight for me is I showed the kids how a "Spanish ambassador" might have shown respect to the Queen by doing a swirly hat doffing combined with a bow, lots of arm motions.  Then when Joe Snyder walked in later, also with brimmed hat, he did the same "Spanish ambassador style" doffing without any cuing from me (then I asked him to do it again to make sure everyone appreciated the segue twixt me 'n Joe).

Speaking of Joe, I was also in his Bible Study breakfast table this morning (he sat right in the middle of a long table, "very last suppery" I remarked in good humor, wish I'd taken a picture).  His study session yesterday inspired me to sling Bible quotes around on QuakerQuaker last night, in some thread with other scholars.

Glenn Stockton with Rubber Snakes

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Big History

Carol was very aware that today is the 70th anniversary of the Trinity Test, the first really public atmospheric test.  "The Iran deal is a reminder that these weapons remain very much a presence on the planet" remarks Joel Achenbach in today's Washington Post.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was the management hub for that experiment.  The Hanford Nuclear Reservation got more involved later.

Movie footage from the Trinity Test is all over the Web.  The negative health effects of dumping radioactive fallout into the ecosystem was not the headline in those days.  Linus Pauling would help to inform the public about that side of the story.

Carol is 86 and still says "our" nuclear weapons or "what we did" regarding nuclear testing.  I'm more discriminating with my pronouns and don't want the stigma of having done any of this engineering, not my bailiwick.  I have no nuclear weapons and do not condone anyone having them.

To have them is to have the headache of needing to dismantle them.  So many white elephants!  Humans will be dealing with these waste items for the rest of their career here.

My thanks to Junior Friends and their advisers who shared about the Guatemala trip.  My daughter traveled with Quakers to both Nicaragua and Jamaica.  She's also been to South Africa (twice) as my parents were living in Lesotho when she was born, in 1994.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Those of us into GIS understand the importance of overlays.

Actually the "overlays" concept is from Graphic Arts; consider Photoshop's layers, which get juxtaposed to form the picture we see.

Anatomy books likewise feature plastic transparencies showing different systems within a body.

Politicians schooled in international affairs understand the namespace of nation-states as a way to get things done.  Wheels turn in this namespace.

However, a supranational corporation might see things differently, having "internal organs" in a number of nations.

Transferring goods from warehouse to warehouse is not necessarily seen as "export / import" in a conventional sense, so much as "intra-company".

The political overlay has been working hand in glove with the Arms Bazaar and continues to do so, meaning fueling fears (trading in fears, as a commodity) is a salient feature of political discourse.  But then just about any discourse (namespace) is capable of channeling fears, if evolved enough.

Fear of environmental catastrophe, macro, micro, and anywhere in between, may lead to pro-active planning.  For example, the Oregon legislature has just allocated some funds towards alleviating the affects of a major earthquake, such as Nepal recently suffered.  Oil spills:  another source of anxiety.

Sometimes politicians over-react upon discovering any network of control rooms that appears to ignore information considered critical to a solution, involving nation-state agreements.

Environmentalists investigate the effects of oil spills and toxic atmospheric pollution regardless of which rig or smoke stack is the source.  The maps do not highlight political boundaries as physical barriers to the spread of toxins -- because they're not (physical).

The goal is not to steal away that nation-state layer, from those occupying this namespace.  This ethnicity (of politicians) is entitled to have a discourse, operating within its own layer of the Global Matrix (a way of diagramming and juxtaposing layers on a spherical construct).

When we say "the nation-state layer has been deprecated" that's simply to acknowledge other governance languages (discourses) wherein some of these older concepts may have less currency or relevance.

A good bridge between the two layers (nationalist and supra-nationalist) is to picture the whole world as being Nation X, e.g. Israel.  Spaceship Earth = Promised Land = Homeland = Home Base.

In the imperialist grammar, that sounds like global conquest e.g. what happened to all those other nations?

However mastery of the global context is also consistent with being responsible for self governance i.e. one needs global awareness to act locally with integrity, so everyone needs to take in the Big Picture, not just Israelis.

It's all Iran.  It's all Holland.  It's all China.

So now what?

"External" versus "internal" goes away.  We have "out towards outer space" and "in towards Earth's core" along with "around the surface, in layers" (partially overlapping systems, juxtaposed).

Engineering languages may be cast as namespaces vested in global governance (management of global affairs).  In an older model, engineers worked as minions, under Pharaoh, the Sultan, some King or Great Pirate.

Thanks to a global university system and much more connectivity, engineers were able to network outside nation-state lines and come up with such as Linux and Python, collaborative results as impressive as the Great Pyramids if we could only see them as architectural wonders.

Both engineers and lawyers write "code" to manage business.

In education, within STEM in particular, we have the kind of mathematics one might eyeball and cogitate about, and the kind that actually runs on electronic chips, managing their internals.

Legal codes tend to be implemented as business rules in software.

The convergence of the legal and Information Technology (IT) spheres is helping to drive the formation of these new layers, many of which seem more devoid of nation-state thinking than was usual hitherto.  Some call this a "new world order".

NPR had a relevant story this morning on trucking logistics in what I'll refer to as the Macedonia region (as distinct from Mesopotamia).

Trucking routes from Istanbul to Kabul are characteristic of the region in being interrupted by many political borders.  Barriers to the free flow of trucks has to do with checking their cargoes.

One way a nation-state enforces its authority is through "customs".  However, with better infrastructure, a truck's manifest and "flight plan" may be relayed electronically.  The container shipping industry has come a long way in the last few decades.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Internet User's Lament

:: make it stop! ::

:: kid prez ::

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Comments On News

I was OK with the Russians' dissent over using "genocide" and underlining that.  For one thing "ethnic cleansing" was the term of art at the time, and no one seems willing to say 7000 as a percentage of how many?  How many of population N must one kill to qualify for "genocidal" and how would this definition apply to August 6 and 9 of 1945?  How about to weapons testing in Micronesia accounting for cumulative collateral damage, ongoing thanks to fallout?

The Russian approach is to see politics more as soothing psychotherapy, a potentially healing process, but for the USA the goal is always to "win" in some "us versus them" final triumph ("war by other means").  Such thinking traces to Protestant Apocalyptic memes (which many Catholics share) wherein God comes in (again) from back stage and condemns the Baddies to hell, while exalting the Goodies in rapturous exaltation in some winner-take-all orgy of damnation such as only God (by Cecil B. DeMille, Ayn Rand a fan) could get away with.

Because of this "winner take all" mentality, which is childish at best, psychopathic more normally, the USAers need to be undermined occasionally, i.e. "outed" for their "two track" i.e. "hypocritical" as in "forked tongue" approach.  They'll smile at you over the table, holding out a hand of peace, while hiring a hit man to get you when you're not looking.  They like to lord it over the vanquished, to gloat.  Treating Russians like the vanquished in using the U2 to penetrate Soviet airspace post WW2, was problematic.  Dulles needed to be exposed, much to Eisenhower's resulting embarrassment.  People of some intelligence could see all this, and make it happen.

That's how the n8vs came to see the Anglo-Euros, and their Eagle Shield says as much:  arrows in one claw, olive branch in the other.  A schizophrenic in other words, a personality split right down the middle, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  In the national debates, we've broken it down by bird, dove versus hawk, such that only Boy Scouts have to be Eagles (vigilance is their chief quality -- not much escapes the Eagle Eye).  Why not the Jekylls versus the Hydes?  How about Doctor Who versus the Pentagoners?

How much time will the BBC spend on the anniversary of Clinton's bombing the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade?  They used some cluster bombs then too, didn't they, the helpful Beltway Goons of Pentagon City.  Always happy to help, like in Syria, which the USAers gave themselves permission to "save" much as they used to "save" witches.  Thank you for Saving Syria, the banners should say, over each refugee boat arriving in Greece.  Mission Accomplished.

When Clinton aka NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, was that when John Denver decided to check out?  That was never ruled a suicide actually.  He was hosting the Olympics before that on TV, in the Balkans, so happy that finally, in the 1980s, something good was happening in this desolate land of warring factions.  But noooo.... that was not to last.  Fast forward and we were back to crazy wars in the Balkans again.  I don't blame those nostalgic for Yugoslavia, which I'd visited.

The problem facing the supranationals is "EuroZone" is already not "Europe", i.e. no one said anything about a Zone in the 1980s.  If Greeks had known it was to be a Zone, they might have asked for "grexit" sooner?  Anyway, the Balkans are hard to believe in, with the Baltics not much more believable i.e. so many sovereignties are so fragile, so much the creations of empire, that their caving to supranational pressure is merely stripping aside a layer of melodrama no one believes in anymore anyway.  The supranationals are somewhat leery of having their masks (the pseudo-sovereignties) stripped away.

Don't get me wrong.  I love Athens, and Vilnius and Split and Dubrovnik and all those places.  I haven't been to Belgrade yet but I'm expecting to love it too.  I just don't buy much of the narrative the Hydes are pushing.  I don't really care what they say.  The Jekylls just make more sense, being medical doctors without borders and all.  I'm a proponent of psycho-health.  Food Not Bombs.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Animusic 2 (movie review)

The Animusic music videos are among my favorite.  These surreal instrument-robots would be too hard to make work flawlessly.  These animations are almost a parody in that they show physical objects of great complexity working way better than anything real of that complexity ever would for very long.  This is especially true of the bouncing balls segment.  Balls would never be that well behaved, and yet the paradox is everything seems completely determined by the recognized laws of physics.

Also unrealistic (hence surreal) is the mistake-free execution of the music.  Of course we're used to that from machine music and studio recordings.  People do things until they're perfect, and with cartoon animation, the computer is in charge from the beginning.  Nothing can go wrong.  Again, almost a parody.

The music is more than decent and the coupling of the animations to the synth is perfectly done.

My liking this music video hearkens back to my general fascination with anthropomorphic art i.e. human-like yet inhuman creatures.  The musicians in Animusic are all robotic.  But then music has historically been a prime area for innovation, of automation, of player-pianos, drum machines... so although surreal, it's familiar territory, and the machinery is highly believable in its visual construction.

If these musical vistas are unrealistic it's because these machine world operations are simply too quiet and too smooth.  The machinery itself does not squeak; only the most friction-free and precisely built watches run that silently.  We have to surrender to belief in a higher civilization, more capable than ours, until we remember:  this is "just" animation, and we're really able to pull off some magic when it comes to keeping it unreal.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

July 4, 2015

Our family has traditionally made a pilgrimage to Lake Samammish around this time, to meet up with my dad's side of the family, descended from Swedes who pioneered and developed infrastructure around Mercer Island in Lake Union.

Sisters Elsie and Esther were my great aunt and grandmother respectively, with Esther having John (aka Jack) Urner who married Carol Reilley.  My parents were in Chicago, attending 57th Street Meeting (Quaker) by the time they had me, dad already having his MA from Johns Hopkins (International Studies) and looking at getting his PhD in Planning under adviser Dr. Dick Meier (a teacher for Alan Potkin as well).  Julie, my three-years-younger sister, her birthday July 5, joined us in Portland.

This year Carol and I stayed in Portland, though we still have a long car trip ahead of us.  We drove to the Burgerville on Hawthorne and 12th, kitty corner from the Food Pod (bizmo court) so as to be closer to fireworks.  I ended up parking next to Dependable Pattern Works (pause to recall Razz) and following the crowds to the place where the pedestrian spiral takes bicycle and foot traffic off the Hawthorne bridge on the east side.

The same marching band that helped us say good bye to Blue Butterfly showed up, all in white with trombones and stuff and somehow managed to march through the crowd and make music as anticipation grew.  On the opposite shore:  the Blues Festival was in full swing.  I'd gone the previous night but on the fourth just kicked back reading the new JKF book (2008) and other things, tuning in the blues track over KBOO.

At Burgerville, Carol talked about some of her demilitarizing work.  The Ban Treaty which aims to criminalize nuke WMDs has been a dark horse but is gathering steam, enjoying strong support from Austria, Norway and others (a majority of nations have signed it already).

Those working for a Nuclear Convention have worried the Ban Treaty will steal bandwidth from a process already suffering from neglect and inattention, given many Boomer engineers see making WMDs as a pet profit-making business and are pretty rutted in their ways.  Media attention on Countdown to Zero projects (a World Game initiative) is jammed and/or dissipated by competing interests.

Carol got a turkey burger and salmon salad.  She has mostly abstained from eating mammals in her adult life, but at 86 she's committed to longevity and good health and allows herself fish and foul (Jurassic World still at Bagdad).  I had Walla Walla onion rings, which I shared, and a regular sized raspberry milkshake, one of my favorites (we also have a commercial raspberry pie in the refrigerator, and two flavors of ice cream in the freezer).

The professional Portland fireworks display was splendid, from a barge over water (pretty safe).  I recommend this form of entertainment.  First Person Physics.  Air is a tense medium and sudden sharp disturbances, known as explosions, do have the power to exhilarate, without the intense sadness and horror of outward warfare, which uses incendiary devices mainly to disappoint (shock and awe are secondary).  People in the WMD business are all about disappointing people, most especially their own mothers.

Carol managed the 9 block walk each way very well.  We had to go over train tracks and make pedestrian lights that were not timed with old ladies using walkers in mind.  Given the crowds and alert drivers, our progress remained safe.  Coming back, right after the show, with thousands flowing inland, a lengthy freight train came right across, as they do, a moving barrier.  That added context and color and a chance to gather energy for the rest of the uphill.

Clearly I have nothing to complain about in terms of living standards.  I've enjoyed marriage and family life as a father / husband, thanks to Dawn Wicca (1953 - 2007).  I've enjoyed world travel, interesting work, many teachers and friends.  So "problem solved" in my case.  Per my natural freedoms, I pursued happiness and secured a bunch.

But we have many in need, many still unhappy (some don't want houses, preferring camping) and stateless, including right here in Portland, so many puzzles to work on.  It's not like when one's own case is solved, that there aren't others to work on.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Late Night TV

I don't know what exactly disagreed with my GI-tract yesterday, as I'd done my favorite things with beer and pizza, no big deviations.  Random unexplained event (RUE).

As a consequence, I bagged my plan to see the documentary at Clinton Street Theater, a retrospective showing PR / propaganda films against Weed, on the day it became legal in Oregon (Prohibition was slow in lifting, given oppressive religious imams who think this might be their Iran to own and control, most of them claiming to be friends of Jesus in some way).

Not that Oregon east of here, in West Idaho (as some call it) necessarily agrees with cosmopolitan Portland.  They don't get Willamette Week out in Dufur.  Or maybe they do?  Actually I think Terrabonne, Bend, Madras, those places, aren't going to turn tail and defect to Potato Head State.  We shall see.

As another consequence, I had to interrupt watching Endgame (so how fictional?) to more fully experience my indigestion.  Nor did I get through as much of my queues as I'd wanted, meaning more work today (but I'm better now).

Nor did I get much sleep, but that was the good part.

A long documentary on Johnny Carson was aired on PBS, and that was important for me to see, very glad I did.  Then I had BBC on (radio through OPB-3 digital broadcast).  Lots of news and views seeping in, almost replacing dreams it sometimes seems.

The Johnny documentary was important on many levels, one being it openly discusses television as a medium, the dynamics.  They take the "cool" of McLuhan and connect it to the "coolness" of Johnny, and that works to hit a note with the TV-savvy, comedians, and connoisseurs of talk shows in general.

What made Johnny so interesting was not just his erudition but his friends, male and female, his relationships.  They portray him as stand-offish but he somewhat had to be given the culture itself is still working on on-camera-versus-off personae and how these connect.  He innovated.

On the topic of innovation and media:  we could do a lot more with political cartoons in the sense of anime, not manga.  Lets use these to teach seriously even though the point of view will be challenged (serious != unchallenged).

Show the plight of Greece (too big to fail?) as an animated cartoon in other words (for example).  Of course different groups will spin it differently depending on how vested.  So have a film festival (could be virtual) and share them all?  Let audiences access the many points of view.

Am I saying that nations themselves should be turned into cartoon characters?   Doing that is certainly within the ballpark, i.e. I'm not dictating the formula (who'd care?) just recommending more didactic content in that animated cartoon form (take on history).

South Park is doing it, as is Taiwanese Animators, but these are projected as satiric and comedic.  So what would "more serious" look like then?  Think how pharmaceutical companies use cartoons to show us our own innards (ah, great tie-in!).  That's serious stuff, no?

Cartoons can take the edge off, or add edginess, sugar-coat or expose.  They have great powers.  They may be tagged, certified or rated in various ways, just as all movies are, from Youtube to Netflix to whatever equivalents.

Almost forgot:  the Dawn mission to Ceres has my attention.  They just found those bright spots.