Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hobbit Economics

"everything is awesome!" (so much gold!)

So King Thorin has a serious headache with all that gold, inherited from the nasty dragon.  If he just lets it out the door then pretty soon it won't be that scarce.  We saw how the villagers treated it, but how long would that last?  It would have to be meted out, and you would need to be an Einstein, or Milton Friedman, to figure out the velocity of money issues.  How fast would be the military build-up?  Would inflation lead to food riots, with wheel barrows of gold barely buying a zucchini?

What are orc children like?  Did we see a hatchery in a back episode?  Do Mr. & Mrs. Orc ever party, and do they form nuclear families at all?  They don't appear to have much use for money in other words, or the finer things in life.  That's probably why Smaug's Mountain has to be "strategic" in some battle ground, as a bunch of gold is not attractive enough.

Indeed, what can gold buy you?  The Elves have what they need so remain aloof.  No HDTV, no iPhones... there's precious little money can buy back then, and one gets tired of mere jewelry and gold bricks used for street pavement.  So what?  What's so "wealthy" about streets paved with gold when you get right down to it?  Slippery, impractical.  Back to Thorin's nightmare.

One can almost read Gandalf's lips there at the end when he says Bilbo is a terrible liar.  We all know he's got the ring and Gandalf understands the Shire is the best place for it as the saga continues, with Mordor on its military build-up, post face-off with the elvyn chyk (tail tuck time).  We know that in the audience as well, that Gandalf is just biding his time, plus the book readers among us even better understand how the ring is increasing Bilbo's willingness to lie, never mind how bald facedly i.e. badly.

The first of the three Hobbit films got me claustrophobic and I'm reminded by last night's Solstice banter that the book is that way too.  Now that I've seen the Snowden documentary, I can't help but make the pun "snowed in" and draw the parallel of getting stuck in some hotel room in Hong Kong for N hours.  Lets just start on some adventure already!  People should let up on Assange.  In general, lets be a lot less Mordor-like, less Orc-like, if we really think the Hobbits won or deserved to.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Test Piloting a QR-code

with special thanks to David Chandler and to Portland Mennonites

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where's the Fair? (movie review)

Where's the Fair? asks why the USA no longer seems to care about the World's Fair or Expo concept, having withdrawn from the international body that plans them while producing only lackluster pavilions and then only when goaded by foreign governments to step up to the plate.

Talking heads propose various theories as to why the State and/or Commerce Department have dropped the ball, while the Freedom of Information Act begets a lot of heavily redacted documents.  No one seems to know for sure.

The film spends very little time on the Montreal dome of 1967, Buckminster Fuller's contribution, and mentions Kabul and Khrushchev not at all.  Minus the Bucky thread, perhaps too much of the narrative unravels?

Washington does not want to get trapped into doing another dome probably, while winning hearts and minds is an undertaking that city despairs of doing anymore, having alienated just about everyone. 

The confidence to spin truly hopeful visions of the future is not in the USIA's repertoire anymore, as there's no longer a USIA.

I learned quite a bit from this film.  I had no idea Spokane, Washington had hosted a World's Fair in the 1970s, or maybe I'd known that once and forgot.   Archival clips from some of the events were exciting.

Perhaps the USA is just too diverse to be represented by some out of touch State Department in any case.  Cascadia could have its own pavilion someday maybe?  GM did, in Shanghai in 2010, with its Chinese partner company.

Milan 2015 will be the site of the next Expo.  The documentary suggests the USA will not have a pavilion but from the perspective of December 2014, we do expect one.

:: rendering:  usa pavilion 2015 ::

Followup proposal:
A possible food candidate for the American Food Pavilion

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wisdom @ Work

Monday, December 08, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar (movie review)

Strange as it may sound if you're not used to thinking of movies in a curriculum context, ala film school, this cartoon deserves doing some homework first.

The Madagascar franchise is already well evolved, and this narrative follows an off shoot:  the special ops team of penguins, so endearing in the earlier episodes.

Ideas come quickly at high bandwidth, fighting boredom all the way (I was never bored); ideas about physics, about relationships, and about human (or octopus) motivations.

The villain feels royally dissed that all the zoo patrons coo over penguins and not him.  His revenge:  "monsterize" penguins.  The giant ray gun, a staple of villain cartoons, is playing the usual role.

Another special ops team appears on the scene, somewhat modeling the so-called "special relationship" between the US and UK.

The US broke off from the UK at a high management level, as well as in the rank and file, and the two cultures still have a lot of the same attitudes toward what "special ops" looks like (ala James Bond, though I didn't catch that many direct references to this Ian Flemming character).

Seeing Penguins of Madagascar and Big Hero 6 both on the same day, with a few hours in between (enough time to visit Yard House for dinner, bus home, come back with the car), made for some interesting thinking.

John Malkovich plays a great villain, bravo.

Note closing credits:  they get it right with the hexagons as connoting high tech.

By 2014 we have successfully migrated from the right angled XYZ look to the more futuristic / organic IVM look, when it comes to connoting high technology.  Graphene is where it's at.

When buying two 3D movie tickets at once (the 2nd for Big Hero 6 at 9:50 PM) for like $29, I mentioned something about breaking the bank.  The ticket lady said she didn't mean to be rude but if I were age 60 or greater I could claim a discount.

Although I have the requisite white hair, I wasn't sure if she'd card me so demurred: "I couldn't prove it" I said, "but I'll be 60 soon though, and then I can watch all the cartoons I want!".  The guy behind me thought that was funny.  Me too.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Men Were Too Slow

Given ongoing ops in Bangalore to raise living standards for children by sharing a more intelligent STEM curriculum (OLPC an influence), I'm seeing a next campaign shaping up.

You may remember my Kite campaign, a connecting of dots that included Alexander Graham Bell's kites.  This campaign will be similar in that many dots will connect, and many light bulbs will go on.

Before that it was "Aristotle was right, remember the Mite", homage to space-filling tetrahedrons (Sommerville a champion).

The gist of the new campaign:
Men had thirty years to appreciate Synergetics and a few of them did, but mostly the Bucky stuff, being about livingry and not killingry, is about "girlie man" stuff i.e. is "for girls" i.e. "patriarchy [sic] is too dumb to get it" (as in:  too lazy, too slow -- a non-virtuous kind of dumb).
This taps into pent up fury against patronizing men, plus helps counter the Barbie Syndrome.  Works well in India, but other places too.

More on Facebook.  Stay tuned. Wicca an influence as well.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Good Bye Party

I'm at a low key good bye party for Steve Holden, who comes and goes from Portland quite a lot, but with this departure having a penultimate flavor.  We look forward to having him back in 2015.

Steve lent some serious technology to the Blue House:  a color printer, now in the Buddha Room, and an Apple computer, to which I added an HDMI monitor and USB keyboard.  Lindsey uses this setup, freeing my Samsung tablet for use as my reader.  I bought Dataclysm this evening.

I'm chauffeuring Steve to PDX tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


After watching a few motivational Youtubes about Neo4j, which I'd been playing with using the default Movies tutorial, py2neo just started working as advertised.

What I'm still not clear on is where this data persists, and will Tom Hanks come floating to the surface, some castaway, perhaps lost in our Quaker terminal?

The "4j" should be seen as meaning "for Java" i.e. Neo4j targets the JVM, as do Scala and Clojure.  No matter:  the C-family of Pythons have an API to the engine, just as they have the standard DB API for talking to SQL engines.

Neo4j, in being an open source graph database, is "not SQL" or "~SQL" per the graphic below, aimed at elucidating Model, View, Controller architecture in the form of a web application.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mockingjay Part 1 (movie review)

My daughter warned me as I entered one of Plato's many caves (The Bagdad) -- having just bought her his Republic, a new translation -- that this would not be a happy world, beer and pizza notwithstanding, nor one tied off with a bow (being a Part One).

Katniss, Tara noted (having seen it earlier), had broken through to a next meta-level of The Hunger Games when manipulating cat behavior in a bomb shelter (cave), suddenly seeing her own role (as Katniss) with new eyes (bingo, enlightenment strikes).

I'm somewhat in awe of this whole series which snuck up on me.  The pieces it fits together are pieces we've seen before, but the arrangement seems deftly done and that impresses me.  More to think about.  The Wag the Dog aspect is especially intriguing i.e. the PR dimension.

I've been writing about PR a lot on the Math Forum, sometimes in complement with a disillusioned "mad man" from Bangalore, soured on sloganeering from having pushed too many products he did not personally approve of.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Onion Pie

Steve Holden is a pretty good chef and blogs have traditionally kept recipes.  I only have one so far, for a lentil dish.  Here's another:

Take six pounds of onions, and chop off tips, skin outer layer, halve, then slice with cross-section laying flat.

Add to large sauce pan with stick of butter and steam over medium heat until cooked down and flavorful, about 25 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425F.

Add to onions:  four slices (rashers) of sliced bacon, sauteed; pint of sour cream; two heaping tablespoons flour; salt; pepper, four eggs lightly whipped to blend yokes.

Fill pie shells and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until golden brown.

Extra filling may go in portion-sized bowls.