Saturday, November 26, 2016

TG 2016

TG 2016

Our Scandinavian branch of the family, which forks back to the Hancocks, historic hosts of our Fourth of July gatherings, wisely switched the main meal for this holiday season to Friday, versus the traditional Thursday, meaning no battling of major traffic, such as we've experienced on previous Thanksgivings.

The Hancocks don't host TG, doing heavy lifting on the 4th. They have a fifth wheel (trailer) and the freedom to visit others, and came down by train with Bill Lightfoot shortly before Carol's shift to southern latitudes. The descendants of my great aunt Elsie tend to run this show, the torch having passed to Elsie's grand daughters through Eveyln: Mary and Alice.

On Thanksgiving itself, I got to see Fantastic Beasts..., the newest JK Rowling movie, with Alexia, already Dawn's daughter when we met.  Carol (mom) and I joined Alexia for Mongolian Grill in Beaverton some days before.  I ended up at Patrick's, per my movie review.

Maybe I just lucked out, but the I-5 / Hwy-302 lane to Port Orchard and back was really easy and smooth, about 150 miles each way. Given I was running early going north, I pulled over and sat in a parking lot, the perfect time to get a call from Maureen.

I was privilege to tour Howard and Wilma's equipment museum, and reconnect with my extended family. Lee was down from Alaska, joining his sister Carol and husband Ken.  Howard is one of Evelyn's boys, now the family patriarch. 

Howard's brother Bill is the historian who wrote about the pre WWI submarine industry that grew up here in the Pacific Northwest. Boeing is big around here too, as I've often mentioned.

This side of my family is very practical and handy with equipment.  These are what we today call "Makers" in a broad sense.  Lots of mining experience.  Rock and gravel.

We were able to summon Tara by "spirit phone" (smartphone) from her faraway digs.

Next I get to meet with Les and Elise again, before they head north.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Work Day

I'm in studio tonight, broadcasting closed circuit.  No this is not OTT with Kaltura, though I am talking about that with a Guild guy (PDX Code Guild, for those just tuning in).

I'm a teacher by night, in a night school, of the Python computer language. Students hussle home, or connect by Bluetooth from their cars, meaning no texting, no staring at the screen.  The audio channel is better than no channel, if I do say so myself.

I've been working all day however, doing marketing for the DSR (design science revolution) as I've been doing for decades, all through the GNU / EFF years, up through OST and USDLA.  Sometimes I tweet, other times I add to Facebook.

Then I served as a chauffeur. Back when I used to write custom computer applications, I designed a county-wide system of ride dispatching, pre-uber, likewise with centralized reimbursement to the drivers, on a mileage basis.

We did a brisk business, Clackamas County and I, with cigarette tax support.  My server-side code faced the dispatchers in their cubicles as no smartphones were yet on the market.  Riders mostly booked routine rides going out a few weeks, adding the occasional doctor trip.

Nowadays I still drive, dispatching myself when I have to.  We did a hospital today, one in the Providence system.  I used to write code for their St. Vincent's operating room theaters, under the supervision of their world class cardiology team.  We served the cath labs too.  CORIS and CLAIR (those were two of the applications I wrote).  Memories...

Tonight in my pep talk portion, I'm going to remind students that programming is hard, meaning it's not something one learns once and for all really quickly, so much as one gains in proficiency.

Computer programming is more like composing music than playing it however, in that real time coordination only need be extended so far, to the clerical level one might say.  Guitar playing, like figure skating and hockey playing, take a different form of concentration, and those take time to learn too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Indian Point (movie review)

Risky Business

The Indian Point reactor issue is really heating up again in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, still unfolding.  Do the good folks in Iran have evacuation plans also?  I'm as interested in plants outside North America, when it comes to making the planet unlivable for some, if not all.  The US has no realistic evacuation plans in many cases.

There's a lot of reducing to soap opera, where the NRC is concerned (NRC = Nuclear Regulatory Commission).  The opening says we're going to need a lot of energy, but little analysis is shared regarding how exactly closing these plants would affect the price and supply of electrical power.  Saying "the price would go up" isn't saying much.

In other words, as viewers, we're not privy to the relevant computations measuring risk versus loss versus benefits.  Would thousands die in the cold of winter owing to lack of heat?  What is the load of space heaters, AC powered?  Where is the SimCity for policy-minded adults?  Not available?  I didn't think so.  Who has the mandate to develop such a thing?  Not the NRC.

The relicensing system is designed to encourage the power plants to keep running.  The public, for its part, is lectured it has no reasonable alternatives.  Is that true?  Who knows.  We're too busy with soap operas and witch hunts to really do much serious engineering.  WDC is about politics, not science, but we knew that.

The filmmakers have really good access, to people and to internals.  The nuclear industry says it's on the side of reducing greenhouse gases.  Solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear all go together as contributing less to global warming than combustion.  What about new designs and why do we never discuss nuclear submarines?

The conversation in the mass media is too dumbed down to really mean much.  Documentaries such as this one certainly help.  We need to go a lot deeper, since as a species we seem committed to this technology, at all costs.  The backup of spent toxic fuels around the country is considerable.  The plan to dispose of same is somewhat broken.  Remember the kitty litter.

The point that these plants were conceived of sixty years ago, and so are far from state of the art, or what the state of the art could be, is more shareable around Oregon, at OSU in particular.  People on that campus freely explore the idea of closing all the plants we have now, without saying no to better designs in the future, when greater intelligence is available.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Protest Street (the game)

Protest Street provides an on-line virtual environment, cloud based, where protestors are free to design their avatars, give them signs, enroll them in teach-ins, and have them chant slogans.

Other players, or those with multiple accounts, will control city functions to accommodate the protestors, and to flag violations, according to whatever rules of the road.  If you want to add tear gas, rubber bullets etc., you may have to pay extra.  The jail module might be outsourced as a whole other game.

Protest Street is vaporware at the moment.  If you get it Kickstarted, you'll likely find yourself reading this as background, and maybe even starting a protest regarding how I was not officially credited sufficiently -- wouldn't be the first time my good ideas fueled a success story.

That the action be authentically crowd-sourced is important, yet the hardest part to verify unless people, celebrities even, come forward with their testimony.  "Yes, that was me at that protest last Friday" -- you can boast to your friends.

For protests to be newsworthy, we won't just want the cartoon, but some of the names and identities behind them.  If everyone plays anonymously, that will to some extent defeat the purpose.

Having a track record, like an athlete has, is what enables you to rise on various totem poles, in various narrative and computed accounts.  Keep at it, and you'll get to be a protest organizer someday.

The difference between an actual Second Life like virtual space and an ordinary ranters list, is the bandwidth and the ability to stage a protest in a choice of Gothams.

The difference between a virtual protest and a real one, in the street, are numerous but boil down to cost, convenience and safety.

Realism may not always be a goal.  Protests may be organized for esoteric reasons, with signs like "Aristotle was right, remember the MITE!" -- what's that all about?

The VR version will be the most immersive of course. Mapping your own gestures to those of your avatar makes your whole body more of a mouse.  Not everyone prefers to puppet their avatar in that mode.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Made in the USA

Looking Back

Memorandum:  advice to importers of Made in the USA goods and services.

I predict a growth in USA studies in schools abroad, following the surprise election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

Children might see something about ISS (the International Space Station) and conclude the US, like Russia and China, is living in some Space Age, with the best minds in aerospace pioneering our lifestyles of tomorrow (ala EPCOT).

That's only partly true.

Children are also facing a young nation that narrowly avoided fragmentation in a bloody Civil War that has continued to have repercussions.

Talk about the Shia and Sunni all you like, in the US you'll find any number of ethnic clashes, as well as synergies, some of which have all but ended the Federation, for better or for worse.

Ongoing Prohibition aka the Drug Wars have gone global as well.  The US fights itself on many levels.  As children find themselves caught up in all this karma, they'll naturally want to know more.

Carol asked me to screen the above award-winning movie, Freedom Riders as a part of the Blue House documentary viewing program, an institution of longstanding.  We screened a bio of Oppenheimer, chief architect of the Manhattan Project, before this.

Does your house, camp ground, or military base offer much history?  What kind of documentaries are you able to access, and from what devices?

I walked in and out of the living room, hearing more than I saw as I cleaned up in the kitchen.  This wasn't my first or last documentary on the topic of seeking a new equilibrium in lifestyles and workflows. Students of GST tend to focus on such struggles, learning from the past, not ignoring it.

I'm not saying the US is the only nation that cannot contain its warring to within its own borders.  Many nations carry out proxy battles overseas, far away from a domestic audience, at least geographically.

However, as the world turns, it gets smaller, with cell phones now penetrating to every corner. The Art of War (ala Sun Tzu) is likewise changing, becoming less outward for those most able to follow the action, on Twitter and so on.

Although I didn't make it to the downtown library today, I was close and thought hard about going, checking my wallet for my card.  I value the access I get from my information sources.

Each one of us is an investigative journalist, not because we're paid to do that in most cases, but because it pays to do homework, research.  Find a diet you like and stick with it.  Fiction has its place for sure.

The conceptual entity known as "the US" does contain many seeds of a positive nature, worth protecting, nurturing, even planting and cultivating, as does the EU and UK, obviously.

Look for ways to escape "strings attached" that might be more than you bargained for.  Keep testing for quality, when it comes to selectively importing, from any vendor really.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trolls (movie review)

Carol (mom, 87) and I (58) thought today was Armistice Day.  I'd already blogged a Vets memo, and knew the 11th was it, but was too lazy to second guess mom.  Pioneer Courthouse Square was getting ready to accept the annual Christmas tree.  No bell ringing today.

We ending up at Yard House for lunch.  We split a "trump tower" of onion rings, though neither of us had voted for the guy.  Onion soup.  Wisconsin cheese curds.  I had a couple IPAs (RPM by Boneyard).

Hey, the Election has been exhausting and I worked hard at my teaching job last night.  The school kids are getting a bunch of days off this week too.  Why not see Trolls?

The film was funnier than I expected it to be, mainly because of the brain-wipe we get as it overdubs old tracks with the new imagery.  Yellow Submarine mixes with Cinderella a bit.

The Blue Meanie Grinches (not what they're called) make the classic mistake of all literalists, especially cannibals, in thinking that literally eating those with the qualities you admire or crave, will endow you with those qualities.  I think some people call it "mass".

In any case, the trolls are like the angels, or the little people of the forest, all glittery and child-like, upbeat about life, whereas the grinches are like ordinary folk, down and miserable, more beaten, like muggles. They're jealous of the glitterati.

The chief cook for Trollstice, the annual partaking of trolls, is the arch villain whereas we develop more empathy for the spoiled Brat King.  The chief cook gets her fate with a traitor troll and minion, one of those slimy self-help guys.  Empathy only goes so far.

That's the plot, but the musical overlay is what gives these bones flesh, along with the subplots and strong characterizations.

Trolls dance, hug and sing in some endless loop anyway, so their breaking into song is hardly as contrived as when Buffy does it.

Sounds of Silence will never be the same.

Monday, November 07, 2016

True Stories

The Multnomah Meeting's Peace & Social Concerns Committee arranged for this event.

We had a potluck downstairs, then adjourned to the upstairs worship room for singing and stories told by Carol Urner, my mom, about her life.

Lew Scholl recorded the whole thing on his cell phone, picking up audio over the meetinghouse sound system.  Rhys sat to Carol's right to help keep her on track.  I took pictures.

Carol is currently preparing for her move south to Whittier where she lives with my sister Julie.  Last night she took me out to Japanese food at Maru.  We had the new biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, a chief topic of conversation.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Cubs Win!

November 2nd

I don't want this momentous sporting milestone to whiz by completely without comment, especially in light of my authentic sports bar experience, at Claudia's, frequented by Cubs fans.

Indeed, Deke and I, at Hair of the Dog a few days earlier, had recommended this place to an out-of-towner, as a major destination sports bar in our neighborhood.

All that being said, I'd planned with my house guest David Koski to go to Tom's, another sports bar I like.  That was mainly to avoid what I expected would be hopelessly crowded conditions, and before I learned Patrick was heading to Claudia's uber-early to save seats.

We let him save us two, and propitiously met up with Diane, a true Chicagoan, heading the same way.

Patrick did a seriously good job saving all those seats as the place was indeed really packed.  I'm sure Tom's was packed too.  The waitress at breakfast that morning had advised us to get there early.

I won't recite the whole game blow by blow, just underline that I appreciated the spirit.

The guy right in front of me would shout for the Indians.  No harm came to him, despite the bar's bias.  This is sports for gosh sakes.  People root for both teams, obviously.  Having fans makes it fun.

Koski of Minnesota was originally lukewarm about either team but we decided to find the Cleveland mascot offensive just to have some more skin in the game.  Of course we knew it'd be momentous, for the Cubs to win, in the face of such a strong belief the team was fated to always lose.

Mark Twain was around to see their last victory (1908) and that seems more than one Haley's comet cycle back.

The game was amazing, with its ups and downs.  The crowd went wild.

Anyway, I said a lot more on Facebook, and even uploaded a short video from my phone, from the event as it happened.

Crowd at Claudia's

Friday, November 04, 2016

From a Vet

Spaceships Earth

[ from my inbox ]

Almost a hundred years ago, the world celebrated peace as a universal principle. The first World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was born and was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated."

After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.

Veterans For Peace has taken the lead in lifting up the original intention of November 11th as a day for peace. As veterans, we know that a day that celebrates peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans. We want generations after us to never know the destruction war has wrought on people and the earth.

Veterans For Peace is calling on everyone to stand up for peace this Armistice Day. More than ever, the world faces a critical moment. Tensions are heightened around the world and the U.S. is engaged militarily in multiple countries, without an end in sight. Here at home we have seen the increasing militarization of our police forces and brutal crackdowns on dissent and people’s uprisings against state power. This year, with a political arena fueled by hate and fear, the conversation of peace was missing from almost every interaction. It is as urgent as ever to ring the bells for peace. We must press our government to end reckless military interventions that endanger the entire world. We must build a culture of peace.

This Armistice Day, Veterans For Peace calls on the U.S. public to say no to more war and to demand justice and peace, at home and abroad. We know Peace is Possible and call for an end to all oppressive and violent policies, and for equality for all people.

S. Jenika
Veterans For Peace Chapter 72
"Promoting a Consciousness of Peace"

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Wanderers 2016.11.1

At Wanderers, November 1, 2016

David Koski is here in town so it makes sense he would be speaking at Wanderers.  We have an established affinity for geometry.  We did the Mt. Tabor thing this morning, ascending to its summit.  That sounds strenuous but remember it's a tall hill.  He's from Minneapolis, not often in Portland, so I'm in tour guide mode, which I enjoy.

Yesterday we visited Cargo, a retail outlet specializing in oriental goods.  There's a large down stairs with lots of floor space.  Then we circled round through the code school (PDX Code Guild) to say hello to the Monday night Flying Circus crowd.  I had Glenn and Deke the Geek in tow, in addition to David.

Speaking of code schools, this coming Monday I'll start teaching again, my course in Python in forty hours.  That's like a radio show in some ways, or closed circuit television.  Small class size.

Glenn and David compared respected mnemonics over lunch.  They both do minimalist diagrams capturing some basic ratios and relationships. I'm talking about pure geometry, extending from surface tiling to space-filling.

For example the golden cuboid or "phi brick" has a good many embedded relationships and serves as a factory for tetrahedrons each using six of the seven edge lengths.  A brick with a 2nd root of phi edge also figures in.  David assembles shapes from an elementary set of tetrahedrons which he scales up and down in size.

I mistakenly thought the Rite, so named by Fuller, was not MITE-composed, whereas it's the 1/4 Rite, a Sommerville space-filling tetrahedron, that is not Mite-composed.  "Aristotle was right, remember the Mite" -- the shoptalk of which all-the-same tetrahedrons fill space (with no gaps).  Check Math World for more information.

David Koski