Sunday, August 02, 2015

Asynchronous Learning Engine (ALE)

Flights of Fancy

I created a stub outline of an Asynchronous Learning Engine on GitHub today.  All the classes are abstract with the underlying metaphor, using airplane flights as courses (one could do ships and cruises -- hey, they're just metaphors, feel free to mix 'em) living at the base class level.

Names like Student, Course, Mentor make up the foreground, but without leaving our extended metaphors behind.  The course fills to a minimum, gets start and stop dates, but in many models students manage their own time (talking months) and finish anytime before deadline.

Some are in a hurry, some not.  Some have time to study hard, others have only tiny windows in their day, to inch ahead.  Few if any synchronized events are required therefore.  It's not about all moving in lockstep, even if in the same course.  That doesn't preclude some exercises involving a stop watch or timer.

The Flight Recorder (built in to the Course or Airplane class) saves the transactions, meaning submitted and handed back work, communications to and from a mentor. Quality Assurance (QA) is about going over these records and learning from them.


Feedback loops are the name of the game.  Mentors improve by learning from each turn in the cockpit, perhaps we have co-pilots (like co-clerks, of committees).  On might be the apprentice of the other in one course, the senior pilot in another.  Mentors are students themselves as there's never a shortage of new stuff to learn, new skills to pick up.

Some designs encourage chatter amongst the passengers however more typical is the private one-on-one experience, with the mentor interacting individually with everyone and anyone in the course (or courses -- in this world a mentor may fly several airplanes simultaneously, called "multi-tasking", just as a student may take more than one course at a time, just like in college).

What I envision as a typical use case are EC2 / AWS (Amazon) type implementations of the Personal Studio or Personal Workspace (PWS) model, such that learners remote in to their personal Ubuntu or whatever, the instance pre-configured per whatever course design.

Are we doing 2D & 3D graphics?  Is VPython installed?  That all depends on the course, although presumably there are many parts of the Ux (user experience) that are common to all courses, giving a branded and perhaps eventually familiar, look and feel.  A student might work on more than one course within a given PWS instance.

Containerized services at the other end of a student dashboard given the "traveler" (wanderer, browser, tourist, visitor, guest... scout) a way to "book flights" including with "connecting flights". 

The mentor dashboard shows the task queues (see source outline below). 

Student and mentor are connected asynchronously through the ALE.  That's it's primary job, to glue together all the components required to run an airline (or railroad, if you prefer).

For example:  { Ruby Rails JavaScript in the Browser (including JQuery) JS on the Server } would earn a merit badge or certificate in our "learning by doing" space (hiking trail metaphors apply also -- as in scouting).

I've been looking at { Python ↣ Java ↣ Clojure }  as a set of connecting flights, perhaps spanning grades 10 to 16.  The ALE does not nail down curriculum content per se.  Its job is to organize students into courses, assign them mentors, and keep things moving forward towards completion.  Course designers have a known framework to work with -- whatever version of ALE the client / school uses. 

Mentors, like students, have different availability, different schedules, as well as areas of expertise.  That's where Air Traffic Controlling (Dispatching) comes in.  We need admin to help us with load balancing such that no one mentor burns out under the caseload.  "Adding to the fleet" where demand is high is easy with ALE.  Smaller more esoteric courses may have higher marginal costs, but add to a school's luster in other ways (guest mentors may be celebs in their fields).

For further reading:
ALE Use Case
GitHub Repo

Friday, July 31, 2015

About a Factory


Glenn and I enjoyed The Bagdad today, another hot one.  Lots of street theater, though none of the buskers from the other day (above).

A long happy chapter in Glenn's life was re-purposing an old abandoned high school, twelve foot ceilings, tall windows, maple floors, a huge walk-in air conditioning solution... to make it a healthy place to work, producing sensitive measuring devices.  The town had already dwindled to not quite a ghost town, when a new generation of young people showed up, Glenn among them, a Vietnam vet (exNSA).

Glenn did a lot of the wiring and our discussion turned to conduit, how it's bent without crimping.  Ingenious spring sleeves do the trick, though he also described a more conventional solution.  Having tried to bend copper tubing by hand, and quickly crimping it (a kindergarten experience, saved for kitchen sink owning adulthood), I could appreciate the need for tools.

Fishing the wire through (this is conduit for wiring) is another art.  He talked about an air pressure powered "mouse" that may be used to fire the pull-cord right through the length, after which a tightly bound bundle of wires is pulled behind it, perhaps with the help of lubricant.  Why tighter is better I wasn't sure, having a memory of "cable trays", suspended from the ceiling, open to the air, but then there's a difference between high voltage cables and data cables.

The plant was in Jerome, Arizona, and the instrument was a very fine almost-pure gold mesh.  One could detect toxins at parts per billion not million, including the "sour gas" that kills oil rig workers, if they hit a pocket of the stuff.  And mercury.  These were canary in a mineshaft devices, and used by environmentalists to document "externalized costs" in the form of deteriorating health (lower living standards) for surrounding populations (some factories are more polluting than others).

At its peak, this "mostly hippie" factory, meaning egalitarian, no cubicles, parties every Friday afternoon (well earned), turned a pretty penny and outperformed the competition, making a lot of less competent companies look bad.  I guess the factory was publicly listed or something, or in any case it got bought out and ruined by lesser minds from Phoenix or one of those.  That's from Glenn's angle of course, given the takeover involved everyone being fired (and adding cubicles "so people couldn't see you not working").

The unions, when influential on a construction site, have their respective turf when it comes to tubes and ducts.  Pipe fitters have their specialty.  However once the building is complete and in service, a next cast of ongoing maintainers get to practice a more inter-disciplinary blend of skills.

Glenn really benefited from all the talents he got to develop, extending what he'd learned from growing up around a construction site:  Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona.  His dad was a senior engineer on that one, the family having moved there from St. Helen's, Oregon.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ramping Up

Synergetics Modules
Fig 1: Clojure IDE:  IntelliJ

In this classroom, we foreground Python while ramping up at a slower rate in the background with Clojure. That lets us dabble in Functional Programming while absorbing the Object Oriented mindset, providing a strong basis for future exploration and new skills acquisition.

The segue computation, twixt Python and Clojure, is this "volume of a tetrahedron based only on six edge lengths for input" algorithm handed down to me from the ancestors, and in my subculture fine tuned by one Gerald de Jong (of Elastic Interval Geometry fame) to natively output in what we call tetravolumes, i.e. when all edges are one, the thing is calibrated to return one (unit volume in this system).

Gerald shared his results on Synergetics-L which used to run in the Teleport domain.  I brought the result to sci.math, coming under attack (by some guy named Chapman) for not getting my priorities straight.  I have not gone back to sci.math with anything important (too frenetic!).

David Chako, Gerald, myself, and later Tom Ace, were all working on Quadrays at the time, which we also called Chakovian coordinates. I became aware of Darrel Jarmusch's parallel efforts somewhere in the course of this R&D.

Imagine a regular tetrahedron centered at O with four radial arms to its four vertexes.  These are the unit vectors, at most three of which are needed, in linear combination, to span each quadrant. All IVM (= CCP) ball centers have positive integer or zero coordinates with origin O at (0, 0, 0, 0).

Quadrays may be used in combination with tetravolume measures to show all Waterman polyhedrons have whole number volume, as do all tetrahedrons with all four corners at IVM points (proof by Robert Gray, the original transcriber of Synergetics onto the Web).

To use the Volume function (below), one gives the three edges from a common apex, call it O, meaning we input OA, OB, OC.  The next three edges are the AB, BC, CA respectively, i.e. going around the base.  The algorithm works with 2nd powers of these lengths, forming products of "open", "closed" and "opposite" sets of edges.

Fig 2:  Call-out:  the Volume function

In the above figure, the summary Volume computation is matched with a special case example, that of the A module, for output of:

All edges D=1, Volume: 1.0
Amod volume: 0.04166666666666668

The labeling in that case corresponds to some plane net in Synergetics. The unit volume tetrahedron fragments into 24 such modules, 12 left and 12 right (inside-outs of each other), and therefore each with a volume of 1/24 (same as B and T modules).

The Clojure program, just like the Python version, then goes on to compute other module volumes, including the E and S module volumes, from published plane nets, with the S / E volume ratio named "sFactor" in other computations relating to the Jitterbug Transformation (see CSN blog).

I recommend Wittgenstein's philosophical investigations, into mathematics especially, for those balking at the very notion of a unit volume tetrahedron, which may at first seem counter-intuitive, just as Clojure's LISP-like syntax may feel too alien (remote) at first.

Showing how the tetravolumes language game extents to the planar case, along with the payoff in terms of whole number volumes, may lower the student's skepticism level enough to where engaging in hands-on exercises with these concepts, using computer languages, does not seem a waste of time on some purely nonsensical activity.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Of Kepler and Aristotle

World Game Continues

I've grown in both my respect and understanding for several historical figures in recent years, Descartes and Mercator in particular. Both had to navigate in the treacherous waters of fear, based in strife among namespaces.  Religious wars were rampant in other words.

Mercator ended up in jail for a spell, whereas Descartes was always dodging the equivalent of paparazzi and may have been poisoned in the end, as chief adviser to a Scandinavian Queen.  Copernicus was also cool.

Johannes Kepler, however, I'd come to appreciate much earlier, through Arthur Koestler's works.  Here was a guy really into the classic rhombic dodecahedron, a space-filling shape.  He understood its connection to what we today call the CCP or FCC matrix, both with the word "cubic" in them, yet 60-degree and 120-degree angles are what stand out given balls closest-pack in triangular relationships as much as square.

The growing cuboctahedron of dense-packed spheres that defines the CCP is actually the dual shape to the rhombic dodecahedron, the shape which naturally encases each of those spheres such that they become inter-tangent at the centers of its twelve diamond faces.

1, 12, 42, 92, 162...
:: Growth of the IVM (= fcc, = ccp) ::

Thanks to graphene and the emergence of the Age of Carbon as some call it, hexagonal awareness has surged to the foreground, with checker-board patterns (except Chinese) receding, though also present in the CCP in cross-section.

The discovery of buckminsterfullerene as an allotrope of carbon in the 1980s marked the beginning of a cascade of events, leading to nano-tubes and then graphene.  The computer industry has converged to this space of hexagons, and, by extension, the rhombic dodecahedra so fascinating to Kepler.

On to Aristotle, who fits in for his controversial claim that tetrahedrons are space-filling.  Regular ones are clearly not, so is that what he meant?

Rather than put words in Aristotle's mouth, or take them out, we should simply remember the MITE or Minimum Tetrahedron, as a component of Kepler's rhombic dodecahedron.  Crisscross each diamond face and pull out the four right angle tetrahedrons.

These Mites also form cubes in assemblies of 24, and the space-filling Coupler (= 8 Mites), an oblate octahedron.

That "Coupler" rhymes with "Kepler", at least a little, helps hold this memeplex together.

The MITE is space-filling, in other words, as are some of the Sytes built from them.  The quarter Rite (also space-filling) is yet another.  None of these have "handedness" and so qualify as Sommerville Tetrahedrons, named for the geometer who studied them.

What Glenn Stockton calls the Global Matrix includes concentric hexapents, like carbon cages of arbitrary frequency, as a data store and display structure.  Such layering for mapping purposes is consistent with other geometry learned from dividing spheres.

Shifting education channels to help bring these patterns forward into more common everyday awareness could mean putting more emphasis on both Kepler and Aristotle for the reasons mentioned.

When it comes to memes and memetics, the core metaphor is: "connecting the dots" -- the stuff of graph theory and graph databases.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

OSCON 2015 Continues!

Tim O'Reilly held court in the Expo Hall during the break (sponsored by New Relic), after the UK's counterpart, the head of a US version of Digital Services, had given a keynote.

PayPal with InnerSource is on the same page as other big enterprises:  the open source way of working, with tools that are open source, builds a better enterprise.  The shorter tag line:  Apache Inside (as in Apache Foundation projects; still a hotbed of open license technologies).  Walmart Labs has likewise standardized on the Open Source way inhouse, both using and contributing to the ecosystem, with a stack based on Node, Cassandra and Mongo in large degree, and moving to Trusty for a standard OS (Trusty is in the Ubuntu series).


Tim talked a lot about Technology to solve social ills by augmenting people power, not oppressing us. "Where's the Uber for eldercare?" he wondered, echoing ideas I learned about from CareWheels, a project to let people stay longer in their own homes with light monitoring and community support over the Web, in addition to in-home visits and services.

Uber does seem a lot like Transporation Reaching People (TRP), originally administered by Clackamas County, software by me, in an age before smartphones.  "What about Technology for refugee camps?" asked Tim.  Indeed.  Any instant city needs ephemeral organs of self government, feedback loops mainly.  That's what journalism helps with, in the context of bigger picture framing viewpoints (oft referred to as "bias" but also "leaning" or even "leading" if using esoteric Quaker parlance).

Technology has the ability to create wealth (life support) by augmenting our powers.  As Amber Case pointed out in her later talk, with augmentation comes fear, including possible estrangement between those who "have" and those who "have not" whatever new powers we're talking about.  Other technologies are more restorative e.g. eyeglasses, used to bring people up to normative speeds. Her theme was Calm Technology, meaning feedback loops ranging from non-intrusive to subliminal (highly peripheral).  Suggest today's weather with light hues.  Ambient cues.  Atmospherics.

Luciano is running something concurrent to search for 192 country flag URLs, using all 676 letter combinations from AA to ZZ.  He's about to talk about Python's new concurrancy features.  He's (virtually) hitting against the CIA Factbook, first sequentially (five minutes) than concurrently, at first with five connections (one minute), then with a hundred connections he gets all the flags (thumbnail gifs) in under five seconds.  He does this all using Python's new native "green thread" capabilities.

I was just at Damian Conway's talk about extending Perl 5's syntax using new packages he's written, to make it a lot more like Perl 6.  One can even add new keywords in that language, by a kind of macro substitution process against the source.  Alex and Anna likewise did a language-centric talk on patterns in Python, calling out specific high level features in the standard library.

Advice to Pythonistas regarding asynchronous programming: start with learning generators thoroughly, and then study coroutines.  The newest Python (3.5 in 2015) has new keywords:  async def replaces the @asyncio.coroutine decorator and await replaces yield from.  An asyncio Task wraps a coroutine, giving an API allowing task cancellation and status checks.  The style suggested is a way of avoiding "callback hell" according to Luciano.

Luciano would later be wandering over to the Urban Airship site on the west side to deliver his talk to our Python User Group.  I hope I get to ask him how that went.

The grand finale talk for me today was co-worker Patrick Barton's presentation, about using some fancy "neo-cortical" algorithms (implemented in Python) to predict short term energy demand based on previous learning.  Then it was off to Amber's talk and the WalMart Labs mixer at Spirit of 77 across the street.

Training a Numenta instance is somewhat like training Dragon speech recognition software.  In this case, the "voice" was the collective energy demand of some 116 households in Austin, TX (the site for next year's OSCON as fate would have it). Paul (co-worker) and I adjourned to Lucky Lab on Hawthorne in his company car (different company -- he has two jobs) for a nightcap with Ben (former co-worker) and a fellow car nut, then I hopped a bus home.

Tomorrow I think I'll start out walking Mt. Tabor again.  It's been quite awhile.  I've been working on healing the ankle.  Then I'll watch the opening keynotes via live streaming before trekking over there for closing ceremonies.

Amber Case
:: amber case (esri) ::

Monday, July 20, 2015

OSCON 2015 Begins!


This time I had my confirmation code, after the embarrassment of last year where a phone call needed to be placed to confirm my status as a proposal reader.  On top of that I'm an employee.  Anyway, this year the confirmation code was not required, simply a QR-code on one's phone, or the email address one had registered with.  Super fast, with the name badge printing right there.  I was good to go in no time flat.

Holden is in from the UK and we met up with Patrick and Deke at Hop House last night.  Today, he and I were both in the Docker tutorial, brilliantly presented and organized by Andrew Baker, with Twilio in DC.  He had a large number of Ubuntu cloud instances ready to give us each one-on-one access to a docker-ready platform.

So what's Docker?  As Andrew explained, on the spectrum from manually configuring a server from scratch, all the way to configuration scripts and virtual machines, it's closer to supplying a VM but not in the sense of hosting a guest Operating System.  Might one call it a light-weight operating system layer, an OS extension?

Docker containerizes processes (services) and thereby has them join a community of well-behaved players, and in a way that stores to an image one places in a Docker Registry.  Run an image to boot up containers, each supervising a processes such as a Flask app, PostgreSQL, Nginx, Neo4j, and so on.

I met up with Alex Martelli then rejoined Steve and we shortly adjourned to lunch, in the vast "Holodeck" as some call it, in the Oregon Convention Center, there to be joined by Anna Ravenscroft (also Martelli family).  Conversation turned to having enough supplies to last through some unspecified catastrophe, a focus of LDS church members as well as preparedness groups more generally.

I got through the gifify exercise then decided I wanted my XQ-1 back from Camera World.  I was able to secure the replacement and return before the tutorial had ended, whereupon we splice to the above lunch at the Pythonista table.  This is actually a replacement, not a repair (same language used in cardiology) with a new serial number and everything.  I'm looking forward to blissing out with it.  Above is the first shot taken, of Holden on my back deck, after lunch.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Discipline and Record Keeping

Although many Friends don't think of it this way, keeping accurate and complete records falls under the Truth Testimony.

"Are these records to be believed?"  If the answer is "no" then we may conclude:

(A) they're meant as fiction (storytelling) perhaps with embedded teachings
(B) they're obsolete (out of date) and in that sense misinforming
(C) they're deliberately misinforming
(D) the records are riddled with outright lies.

In moving from A-D, I'm escalating the severity of the untruths.

Many not-truthful records fall into category (B) within NPYM.

We have creaky, obsolete ways of conducting business.  Collectively, we lack discipline as a business.

Saying a nonprofit or 501(c)(3) "is not a business" is probably a grave error, one that kills off serious Quakerism by suggesting that our "business" (as in "Meetings for Business" -- a core activity) is not really business, and so the idea of applying serious "business logic" or "business rules" need not apply.

The lack of discipline in our record-keeping is thereby justified.  "Everyone knows non-profits are dysfunctional" -- a belief I've encountered often.

Perhaps it would be constructive to use the term NGO (for non-governmental organization) more assiduously?  Personnel in the global development business know that not all NGOs are slouches,  Some NGOs have their act together, including with respect to record-keeping.

What holds us back is the stereotype of a "non-profit charity" as a loose ship run by mostly volunteers, a hobby activity.  The outcome:  recreational Quakerism, not all that serious and typically middle class Christian, a religion being something people engage in "on Sundays" and on some holidays.

Thanks to the connotations of "non-profit", our "business" takes a back seat, including record-keeping, as Friends indulge in what they consider "more spiritual" matters.  Record keeping is not sexy enough.

NPYM Friends fall further and further behind, in terms of relevance, as they allow their "business culture" to continue to degrade.  Quakers reached their peak in power and credibility sometime in the late 1700s, when they actually ran legitimate businesses.

The very idea of a "sectarian business" is fairly unusual by now, at least as a marketing ploy.  Everyone knows that Quaker (the commercial brand) does not mean Quaker (the religious sect).

When the Rajneeshis tried to start their own company town in central Oregon, they opened some storefronts in Portland, like a bakery, but those all were shut down, leaving a bad taste with many Oregonians (a twisted tale).  Churches sometimes have gift shops at least.  Christian supply stores abound like at The Grotto in Portland.

At some point, with the passage of time, the neglect starts to seem more willful and we move from (B) closer to (D) along the Scale of Untruthfulness.

Not lifting a finger to become more up to date eventually becomes a way of lying, with lying becoming a way of life.  Externalizing "future shock" so that others must endure it, but not oneself, is a way of postponing the day of reckoning.  Answering the call of the Zeitgeist to "shape up" means keeping up with best practices around curating and record-keeping.  Graph database anyone?

I don't believe we need hirelings when it comes to the basics of Quaker record-keeping though.  In today's world, these basics include knowing something about Structured Query Language (SQL) and databases. People in a clerking role should bone up on the relevant technology.  It's not all ledger books and quill pens anymore.  We do not live in Victorian England.

Bottom line:  software engineering is not "outside" the spiritual sphere, but is rather at the core of our practice and has to do with the Truth Testimony.  Engineering is a spiritual activity.

I'd like to address issues of lax discipline around record-keeping in the context of joining said standing Discipline Committee.  The role of "clerk" involves attention to records.  Keeping our information up to date is a shared responsibility of clerks, not something to outsource or lay at the door of some paid person.

As the Technology Clerk, new position (unpaid of course), I've been agitating for ex oficio status on the Discipline Committee.  I want our practices to improve with respect to record-keeping.  Lets see where that goes.  I'm getting the feeling my proposal is not taken seriously yet.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Annual Session (Day One)

Lunch Break

Since getting the new air flow meter, maxi taxi (1997 Nissan, doors dented cosmetically, right side), the ride has been smooth, not lurchy.  Carol and I left Blue House (as named within the FNB namespace) around noon, making it to Spokane by about 18:30, with a stop at Cross Roads truck stop near Umatilla / Irrigon, right where I-82 hops the Columbia.  The Caesar salad was enormous.

Barry (Wanderer) drives to Spokane often and talks about the windmills, which he doesn't like.  But then the pylons were there first and he's OK with those.   Notably, one sees none outside the Gorge margins.  The farmlands are still using hydro-power, from the numerous dams.  Actually that's an oversimplification as the windmills feed the same grid.


I'd not been out this far by surface vehicle for so long that the windmills were new to me.  I'm more used to the farmland ones along say I-70 / I-75 in IN, IL, MS or one of those.

Friends (the Religious Society thereof) were born in the 1600s so lets call them Elizabethan.  In the times of Shakespeare and the East India Company's rise to global power, a man named George Fox questioned authority in a big way, and served to focus what a lot of people were thinking at the time.

How this sect got branded "Quaker" is a bit of a story, however this was a lucky break as any ad man will tell ya.  "The rest is history" as they say.

After a period of persecution in which Quakers faced jail time or worse, they become vogue, partially owing to their success in banking and business.  By the late 1700s, Quakers were making tons of money, and doing it without slavery.  The industrial revolution was in full swing, displacing human labor as a source of brute strength.  "Brain over brawn, mind over brain" might be our mantra.

George Fox, like William Penn, another big name Friend, has lots of stuff named after him, including a university (at least one).  Penn State is a whole state (Pennsylvania i.e. Billy's Forest -- no one called him Billy AFAIK).

We're sharing eating facilities with a large number of athletic young girls in the middle of summer soccer practice.  Women's soccer was huge this year, a bigger magnet for viewers of that final World Cup game than even the final playoff NFL game or whatever.  The US team trounced Japan's in the final round, wow, what a goal (I caught up later, despite my Facebook-registered intent to catch it live).

Lots more soccer players than Quakers so far, have entered the dining area, but then that's true world wide.  I hope they leave me some breakfast.  I'll add to this account after we hear from the Friend in Residence (traditionally, an invited guest gives the keynote).

Oh wait, duh, basketball, not soccer.  Actually seeing the balls was the giveaway.  Oh, and the shirts.  What was I thinking?  I'll leave the above paragraphs to show how I come to false conclusions sometimes (but I am also self-correcting, given enough opportunity).

Good chatting with (in order of appearance): Clint Weimeister, Dave Fabik, Ethan Berleman, Chris Cradler, Eddy Crouch (we used to work with AFSC together) and assorted University Friends Meeting folks (Seattle), plus one guy from Olympia.  Chris's Larry will be flying out later.  Greg, their eldest is with the grad school in housing close to Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which I used to jog through a lot, when a student.

What I'll call the Zen wing of Quakers is actually very traditional in eschewing theology, preferring to let each Friend fill the void with whatever experimental brain-chatter.  The more Zen-like Friends see theology as the bureaucratization of faith by a hireling priest caste.  Our Society started out by purging itself of any priestly hierarchy in favor of a rotational self-management scheme, based on clerked committees, both standing and ad hoc.

However, women especially love theology and that gender has banded together to form a more theologically-oriented group called the Women's Theological Conference.  They had some PR (book markers) at every table here at Annual Session, advertising their 2016 event.  Our WQM Mens Group is hardly that together.

Some brands of Friend actually do hire pastors, going back to the kind of outsourcing familiar to most "steeple house" Christians (as "spin doctor George" referred to the churches of his day, somewhat disparagingly).

I'm in favor of the Zen wing breaking off from and/or distinguishing itself from Christianity as away of underlining its freedom from theological concerns, but then right away we get into philosophy, so what's the difference?

Philosophy has more room for Gnostic influences is how I'd put it (Gnosticism in turn inherits a lot from Zoroaster and Hermes T. both).  The Jungians would understand I think.  Zen is more a psychology and a philosophy than a theology, ditto the Quakerism I practice.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Deficiencies in the English Language

The BBC interviewed some bloke last night who used to be a BBC journalist and so needed to be unbiased, but was now in a new position, as a pundit, and so could come right out and say that Iran is seeking nuke weapons.  He was open about shedding his former journalistic guise and becoming more openly biased.

The pundit was talking about ongoing negotiations in Vienna to establish a "breakout box" inside of which Iran would be boxed, not allowed to break out.  This is the Standard Model used within Washington DC circles (e.g. within the Beltway) as well.

What's missing from the analysis, as usual, is any calculation as to what's in it for Iran to paint the Rogue States (the nuclear WMD states) as minions of a Great Satan, the hubristic desire to hold a Sword of Damocles over the rest of humankind, to arrogate the role of a "Do as I Say or Else" supreme bully.

People with nukes tend to threaten, gloat, lord it over, strut, puff etc. (it's a syndrome) -- we've seen it in the White House, and lets talk about Tony Blair.  Saying nuke WMDs are "against Islam" is a setup to portray Christians, Jews and secularists as morally inferior i.e. susceptible to the military-industrial complex (a meme virus).

Eisenhower himself warned us of this susceptibility.  Iran, not just South Africa, stands for hope, sanity, and a better tomorrow in this picture.  Islam is about a better future, not Tyranny by the Rogue States, with the same criminal, murderous weapons that Iran should never have (Iran agrees).

Even if Iran is secretly building a bomb, or wanting to, it's poor journalism to not even sketch for the listeners how Iran might actually have a motive to lead the Ban Treaty movement, and to embrace not only non-proliferation, but criminalization of existing nuclear arsenals, an agreement most UN nations have already signed.

Wouldn't that be good PR, to help leverage a ban on nuke weapons worldwide?  Iran would be seen as a moral leader, victorious against the reprobates and backsliders, the less humane.

Politically speaking, it adds to Iran's gravitas as a principled nation and great civilization, to take a stand against nukes while allowing for atomic power.

Doing so from a position of strength makes it a conscious choice.

The US wants to paint itself as victorious in "forcing" Iran to submit to inspections.  But what about the US itself?  It has no intention of submitting to anything, and that's where its hypocrisy is both self evident and self undermining.

The US position well explains its continuing loss of credibility, day by day, which the BBC is striving valiantly to shore up, given that Special Relationship and perhaps loyalty to another English-speaking culture.  But hasn't all this shoring up become uncomfortably transparent?

In fact, imputing such a motive to Iran, to be a religious leader seizing the moral high ground, which might have an endgame wherein Iran-trained weapons inspectors gain access to syndicate facilities in Colorado someday, once the Ban is imposed, connects a lot of dots already out there, such as the Nuclear Free Zone we know Iran proposed, but which the WMD nations derailed for the region.

Great Satan wants His nuke weapons without restrictions of any kind.

Great Satan has actually used nukes against Japan and Micronesia.

Yet through misdirection we're made to think Iran is the hypocrite.  Very clever?  Maybe just dumb?   How long can it last?

The longer Iran's rhetoric and actions match up, the more Great Satan seems engaged in delay tactics around preventing any Countdown to Zero clock from ticking.  Tick, tick, tick...  Austria is already strongly in favor of a Ban Treaty.  Is that why they're meeting in Vienna then?

I'm not at all surprised that CNN hasn't the courage to explain the PR situation to the American viewers, easy to fool, none too bright, par for the course.

However, I'm a little surprised the BBC won't let its global listeners even sample this line of reasoning, which is well-known outside the Anglo-speaking sphere.

Maybe tonight?

Will they get anyone more conversant with the actual dynamics of the situation, for balance if nothing else?

One almost thinks the English language, or "forked tongue" as some call it, is incapable, almost as a software issue, of revealing its own inconsistencies and hypocrisies.  It'd be too undermining.

Perhaps the BBC is really just for superficially intelligent listeners.  Certainly real intelligence services would need to keep score at a deeper level, if planning to stay relevant on the world stage.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Term Limits

BBC had an engaging episode, in the form of a multi-voice, moderated conversation, last night on the topic of term limits.  On Newshour Extra.

The guy from Singapore posited an East-West dialog with the West trying to be more important than the East in suggesting term limits as a panacea.  An ascendant West was an aberration from this gentleman's point of view, though in some models of our spherical GU (global university) it's hard to find these political divides in the first place.

The US President got a lot of focus. 

Imagine a Constitution that allowed a president to run for a third term, but under different rules:  the electoral college would be bypassed and a simple majority vote would need to be obtained.  No fourth term would be possible without interruption i.e. after sitting it out for at least one term, OK to start over.  Might we vote for Obama for prez in 2020?  Not possible per Amendment XXII. 

Grover Cleveland was 22nd and 24th president when a 3rd term would have still been allowed.

Or suppose Supreme Court justices had a maximum of eight years? 

We make the Judicial Branch a "for life" appointment (yes, I know the theory, similar to that behind academic tenure -- freedom from influence, but if you're already partisan?) but subject the Executive Branch to stringent term limits.  Why not jigger this?

Obviously the inertia behind a system as vast as the United States is there's no turning on a dime.  We could have science fiction movies about this 3rd term alternative campaign. 

Imagine "3rd term" were institutionalized as "experimental" i.e. anytime we held a presidential election for a 3rd termer, we'd assume innovation.  Then, ideas that worked well, that seemed beneficial, could be worked into the first two terms as reforms.

Nice idea on paper maybe but there's no turning on a dime as I've said. 

But think of individual high schools full of teenagers eager to interact, to practice self-governance, along with faculty and admin.  Why not use our imaginations there?  Or in a college? 

The appeal, in the college catalog, to prospective students, is not just course offerings, but this intricate manner of self-governance that really gives a resume some cred.  "Their Student Senate has real power, wow, I should go there!" thinks the politically-minded prospective.

We think some 200 UN nations might sound like a lot.  But think how many corporations we have, some of them supra-national. 

Why not have "corporate governance" be more flexible? 

Who says it's not flexible even today? 

Quakers have corporations, with no voting, no Robert's Rules.  Doesn't that prove the corporate structure is already flexible? 

That's a query not a rhetorical question. 

To be continued.