Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pretending to Care

Some elements in the business community argue that the "sane politicians" have already shown they still have enough of the old chutzpah to negotiate a multi-way deal with Iran, which the US legislative branch is now supposed to ratify, with a counterpart ratifier embedded in the Iranian apparatus.  The "insane politicians" whom President Obama characterizes as "crazies" have their inevitable FUD campaign, which goes to the masses who become stressed and concerned and maybe die early as a result.

The question is how much to care about legislative branches and their crazies, now that engineering has taken the wheel in terms of working out the business logic of world trade.  Legalese is too slow in the Software Age.  Do we care what they think?

On paper, yes, but in practice many board rooms have already positioned to open new channels with Iran, especially in the entertainment industry.  Nuclear medicine will never be huge. The construction costs for the new freeway network, from Kabul to Istanbul, translates to good jobs for Iranian construction companies.  What about the new SeaWorld, will that happen soon?

Washington DC has this persona of a "superpower" that it wants to project, wherein everyone waits to see what Big Brother decides.  The decision has to be consequential, by definition, and the crazies seem committed to plunging the world into war, just to prove how their side would be victorious in any battle with WMDs.  That's what being a superpower means -- to them.

So when it looked like the deal would go through in Vienna, we were immediately put on notice that we could look forward to not just one, but two months of lame whining by the crazies.  They have delivered on that promise.

The truth behind the facade, I would suggest, is that no one really cares what the crazies think, really about anything (almost by definition).

Yes, they have the right to make noise and Occupy Congress, as they've been doing for some time now.  The police let them stay there and pose for the cameras, but big business cannot afford to care that much what the Kindergarten Krazies (cute name) want or don't want regarding the Iran Deal.

So if you're in business, a best strategy is to "pretend to care" if you want continued contracts from the Beltway Bandits (rebranded as Beltway Goons by some), but then get on board with the rest and help with the rewiring.  Waiting two months is waiting too long.  The sane politicians have demonstrated their sanity and that's about as much as we have a right to expect from that corner.  The crazies will bring up the rear, as usual, but lets not confuse the parade with the elephant poop.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Revisiting Landmark

Newly Purchased Cigar

I went a step deeper with my re-engaging with est as we called it, creating a corporate subculture around "what is" somehow.  That subculture had momentum and is branded as Landmark today, with landmarkworldwide.com for a website.

During my conversation with Adam before our event, we talked about Landmark Forum being offered for free in Detroit for a period.  I'll dig into that a little.  I mentioned being in Detroit not so long ago, and got into my rap about skyscrapers having a natural lifespan.

Anyone building a skyscraper today needs to consider its life cycle and plan ahead for its eventual demise.  Those who simply "build for the ages" and leave it entirely to future generations the problem of retiring and recycling the monster, are not conceptualizing their responsibility as architects.

The office is just off Barbur and in miss-dialing the address, let maps.google.com take me to the parking lot of St. Clair, where my friend Matt went to elementary school.  This had been my neighborhood.  Even with heavy traffic, and that misinformation, I managed to reach the venue on time, which had been a core concern.  As it was, I beat the party from Eugene by about 15 minutes, but then Eugene has no Landmark office.

I was treated like an equal by these democratic and egalitarian Americans, though it helped I was an est vet, which means I was already somewhat on the same wavelength, at least in their minds.  Sara gave me a tour of the suite.  The 3 PM event she came for was cancelled so we filled the time rehearsing an Introduction to the Landmark Forum session, Sara leading it, with the room captain insisting Sara repeat a few segments, taking advantage of our time to practice together.

I had my exercise routine in the not working section of the workbook, then created for myself the possibility of already being quite wealthy, in terms of access to copious learning materials with which to stock my Coolpad before hitting the gym.  In no way should the Elliptical be a doldrums or boring in any way.  I realized my being wealthy could be a satisfying solution to several not-working areas before the evening was done, so yes, I got some value, just how much remains to be seen

Although I stayed through Part 2 (after the mock break), I had already chatted with Nathan and the others about maybe reviewing the Forum in Japan or some other faraway place.  The anthropologist in me wants to study inter-cultural events more.  Like are there Forums not in English, with English only in translation?  I see that there are.  Given my focus on i18n, such questions come up for me a lot.

Upon leaving the Landmark office, I went straight to Humdinger, a milkshake place from my youth.  He had butterscotch this time!  Also, since I'd parked in the lot of an adjacent store, a Tobacco Town, I felt duty bound, plus curious, to check it out and ended up with the above depicted cigar.  The cigar meme goes with the wealth meme, as a part of the stereotype / memeplex.

Kirby in Middle School

Thursday, August 27, 2015

PPUG 2015.8.27


Almost September of 2015.  I've not attended a Portland Python User's Group in awhile.  True, I show up on Meetup as a co-organizer, and I am on that listserv, but others have been far more active than I, who am more just a figurehead presence.

I do have a lot of memories, of where we've met, where Urban Airship used to be.  The Fox Tower chapter, Cubespace...  Portland has been friendly to Python for a long time.  We used to be "Poor Piggies" as in "Portland Python Interest Group" but then rebranded to "P-PUG" which is more dog-like.

If a sponsor buys us pizza, they get to make a pitch or something like that.  We give companies a way to show their support in a public manner and to recruit and/or offer services at the same time, right when people are feeling good about how you're feeding the Python ecosystem.  Thanks to Rentrak in this case.  Great Hot Lips pizza, hard to beat.  I stopped at two slices [sic], knowing my proclivity to eat an infinite amount, especially when it's gratis.  I hoard calories, as if that made any sense.

Speaking of hoarding, I was enjoying my faster fiber optic connection today, downloading a large number of OSCON 2015 videos.  Once on OB (OpenBastion) I can archive the media to one of the USB drives I have floating around.

Of course coming here on a Thursday means I'm missing Thirsters.  That's a conversation I've been enjoying but I need to offset political chatter with software engineering, as a matter of diet.

Paul is here with me, a co-worker.  We'll probably grab a couple brews after.  We're not serving any alcohol at the meetup, which is fine with me.  Those enjoying such beverages have plenty of options after it's over.

Walking here from Stark and SW Sixth, about a half a mile, was a joy, as it took me through interesting intersections.  I found myself snapping those pictures.  At Pioneer Courthouse Square:  an Italian Cultural Festival.  Wow, to take over the downtown square:  that proves Italy has mega-clout in our CBD.

Hey, Patrick just showed up.  Party!

Rentrak is shifting from Perl to other dynamic languages.  They aggregate data from TV remotes through cable companies, giving more insights than the old way of doing it.  They're looking for engineers.

Robert Dordier has been working on a computer algebra system named Maxima for Jupyter, the language-independent part of I-Python.  It's browser-embedded.  Maxima was started in 1968 as a LISP project.  The standard UI is ASCII-art console.  How might Jupyter make this better?

ZeroMQ provides the sockets from front and back ends in Dordier's solution.  The I-Python Kernel on the server talks to several front ends at once.  We're talking about a REPL based on LaTeX and SVG for output.  Pretty typeset math.   Main takeaway:  Jupyter may be customized.

Amy Boyle presented a talk entitled Data Transformation Super Powers with Digital Signal Processing.  OSCON wanted the "super powers" to fit with this year's theme, where she originally gave this talk.

She took us through what it looks like to use NumPy to do Fast Fourier Analysis on audio through time, and then how to doctor images with PIL.  The Mathematica demos cover a lot of this same territory.  Both of these talks echo patterns in the Mathematica ecosystem.

As a grand finale she dove into JPEG, an algorithm not a format, created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. I didn't know RGB was converted to YCbCr.  Amy's 'splainings were enlightening.

I think we'll jump into Paul's rig and hit Lucky Lab on Hawthorne.  Perl Mongers meet there.  Paul, like Rentrak, is rooted in Perl, newer to Python.  These two subcultures like to cross-fertilize.  I often joke the Republic of Perl is so close to Pythonia that you can see "Guido's house" in the background (a windmill; he's Dutch; get it?).

perl_mug

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wanderers 2015.8.25

Improving, still slow
:: still slow but getting faster ::

I got here late. Ecology talk.

How does all that decaying salmon nitrogen feed the forest floor?  Mycelium, mushrooms, provide nutrition-moving infrastructure, like capillaries.  The Pacific Northwest forests owe a lot to dead salmon, or lets just say the salmon cycle in general.

The salmon used to pile up high in the spawning grounds, given how many got through.  That was before all the logging and dams.

CenturyLink sent an engineer to affix a fiber box to my house and run a wire into the basement, up into the Buddha Room.  I had to move Lindsey's altar.  Then I dug into the garage to fish out an old fairly tiny desk for the Mac workstation, an Open Bastion asset.

With a direct Ethernet cable, I'm seeing around 450 MBps to an OS X workstation, which is awesome.  My Wifi is still 802.11n (not 802.11ac) and I'm apparently not exploiting the 5 Ghz bands this mid-2011 Mac Air supposedly capable of using, netting up to 300 MBps.

The CenturyLink modem comes with WiFi but not at rated to such high speeds.  Having a large number of devices, as in a classroom, would be the model.  I'm still well under 100 MBps both up and down over Wifi, still way faster than with DSL.

This talk reminds me of Jim Buxton's talk on the Nehalem River watershed, some years back.  That talk was all about salmon too.  N8v casinos have been paying for culvert upgrades that will help with the salmon cycle.  I'm no expert.

With an accessory purchased at Apple Store today, the Thunderbolt plug (also used for external monitor) becomes an Ethernet port.  I expect higher bursts to / from the Mac Air by that means as well.  This is a trial, a free month demo, a way for CenturyLink to get the box to the customer before fixing a final rate.

My thought is to drop to a slower but still fiber optic speed, keeping the modem in service, with the ability to crank back up again should devices warrant it.

The Countdown to Zero campaign (as I call it) is in high gear these days.  Citizen diplomats are concerned that legislators in DC no longer have our best interests at heart (did they ever?).

The UN nations do not want to subject themselves to the continued oppression of a few Dr. Strangelove disciples who cling to their balance of terror dynamics and puppet their politicians accordingly.  Of course harboring nuke weapons with an intent to use them is a serious crime against humanity, who doesn't see that?

Apparently the hypocrisy of having nuke WMDs for oneself, while dictating that all others should kneel in obedience, is just common sense to those intending to engage in nuclear blackmail.  Those who would use nukes to threaten others cannot be considered other than terrorists.

Yet you'll hear such threats as a subtext in many a speech and / or off-the-cuff remark.  People have their ways of divulging their own psychopathologies, resulting in demotion more often than promotion (statistics work in our favor).

Our networking around the playground bullies proceeds at a furious apace.  We outnumber them and have agility on our side.  The nuke-heads tend to think more slowly, given they're weighed down by cognitive dissonance and psychological repression, not to mention a lack of self reflection. Getting an edge in the business world is not that difficult, when the competition is so lacking in integrity.

Obviously my train of thought has strayed from the coal trains now under discussion.  I should do some shopping maybe?  Here's a call coming in, from Deke the Geek.

faster_net
:: speeding up ::

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Climate Change

very_unhealthy

When climate change started to be an issue I'd read about, the theory I first encountered was called the Hamaker-Weaver Hypothesis.

Critics say their theory was just to justify selling rock dust as fertilizer, and the outcome predicted, a next ice age, seems off the mark when the talk on everyone's lips is greenhouse gases, CO2 and methane in particular and how these are contributing to warming, not cooling.

The ozone hole was a different issue, though also gas-related.

However, lets remember that An Inconvenient Truth did not skirt the Ice Age question, and in fact Al Gore's chart showed us plunging into one, after we peak.  The roller coaster will be higher than ever, is what I recall.  Am I wrong?  Am I misreading?

Coincidentally, our city of Portland is awash in particulate carbon today, as fires burn in the east and smoke gets carried along the Columbia Gorge like up a chimney.  We're all chimney sweeps today, and the high albedo or fog or whatever it is, reminds me of the nuclear winter projected should we choose to turn our own cities to fine powder, using Weapons of Mass Suicide (WMSs).

When the blanket of powder descends, one gets colder not hotter, as more of the sunlight bounces back into space, unable to penetrate.  Once the glaciers advance, the sheets of ice do their own reflecting, starting a self-reinforcing cycle.

That was Hamaker-Weaver in a nutshell:  a lot of carbon would belch into the atmosphere, thanks to wild fires and pretty soon that would contribute to falling temperatures and the glaciers would advance, grinding rock to fine powder and in some sense plowing the Earth, performing a kind of top soil restoration in geological time.

The wild fires would in turn be a result of depleted soil, a natural cycle which humans, also natural, were maybe making more exaggerated than ever?  We've had lots of Ice Ages.  Antarctica may have been an import continent for human civilization according to a new Atlantis Hypothesis, one coupled with the Hapgood Hypothesis, that the lithosphere slid quickly at one point:
Hapgood claimed that towards the end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, the extensive mass of glacial ice covering the northern continents caused the lithosphere to ‘slip’ over the asthenosphere, moving Antarctica, during a period of at most several centuries, from a position in the middle latitudes to its current location, and at the same time rotating the other continents.
I forget if the sun cycles played a role or any different axis tilt or magnetic flip or any of that, in Hamaker's thesis.  I don't think so.  Albedo was important.  From Wikipedia:
"CO2 has its primary importance as the initiator of glaciation. Once an extensive ice field is established, its cooling effect maintains the temperature differential which keeps glaciation going. Variations in the amount of CO2 simply cause variations in the world albedo, but they do not stop or start glaciation. The world is committed to glaciation when the ice fields alone reflect enough sunlight to ensure cooling." 
Nick Consoletti got me into climate change literature through that door.  Nowadays we say "terraforming" sometimes, a way of acknowledging that humanity has already transformed the biosphere, not applying a judgement right away, just showcasing the obvious, like in the Qatsi movies.  Whether the global temperature goes up or down, humans are responsible, but then so is life in general, for the current gas mix.  That's called the Gaia Hypothesis and is not that controversial.

Life has a lot at stake, for the sake of argument, and homeostasis should be its business, as adaptation can be expensive and unpredictable.  That sounds like a conservative arguing for the status quo, but it's more just Newtonian mechanics:  it takes external forces to disturb an equilibrium and a tendency of life is to regulate and resist haphazard change, as a form of self-preservation, and yes, I'm verging on tautologies here.

Let me hasten to append that in reviving Hamaker-Weaver as a blog post topic and mentioning a hypothetical Ice Age to come, I am not thereby denying climate change nor global warming theories.  Even under the Hamaker-Weaver Hypothesis this would still be the "going-up side" of the roller coaster, with the descent into Colder Times coming after we peak.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fantastic Four (movie review)

I will advance the rather plain thesis that this portal to another dimension the kids are experimenting with is code for the drug experience, i.e. in reading this Marvel text, a youngster is enabled to mediate on the problems and issues around psychotropic use and abuse.  What else could the portal be and why would it hold such interest to everyday teenagers if it didn't relate to everyday possibilities?

The questions are several:  is there anything over there in that other dimension that I might bring back that could be useful to my world?; might I bring back something damaging?; might I not come back at all?  On top of mere substance, the metals involved, one might be transformed or transmuted oneself, psychologically, and of course this possibility is where the film spends most of its time.

Here I'd make the connection to Mad Max and the psychological landscape it provides, a denuded Earth laid waste, presumably by humans' doing.  The other world in Fantastic Four is not presumed to be Earth, nor its features attributable to humans.  Rather it's a crucible in which one has near death or rebirth experiences as a result of which one's persona is affected, perhaps with new and different powers manifested.

The comics, or manga tradition, has long embraced the archetypal story line of humans undergoing some stressful test only to emerge with at least quasi superpowers, Batman a prime example, but with so many other examples.  Just as likely, a villain is born of such a test, or a worthy ally.  The cast of characters, and therefore plot possibilities, multiplies as a function of unpredictability that stress and risk occasion.  Growing up is stressful and doesn't stop with the attainment of adulthood.

Back to the details:  we need role models and examples of what to do and how to be, in the face of this portal.  One guy is just too into it and is more jealous and proud in ordinary meat space (meetup space) as well.  These character flaws turn out to matter and this older character has the most trouble keeping his superpowers under control.  We find a similar arc in Buffy, wherein the bewitching Willow goes over the line and comes back more a demon.  Something along those lines.

We should remember that "monster" "mentor" and "Minotaur" have important overlapping connotations, connecting likewise to "masks".  In a Biblical setting, the vision-seeker comes back from the desert singing a more prophetic tune.  We need not interpolate any drug taking rituals, and in a different interpretation of Fantastic Four we might take The Portal to be simply the experience of reading (maybe the Torah, maybe something else), learning to read being, at one time, more revolutionary than taking any little red pill (both phylogenically and ontogenically speaking).

In light of the above interpretation, though, the one I've adopted, what are the lessons learned?

Maybe the main one is some changes are permanent, last a life time or longer, one could say "leave scars" if wanting to scare more.  There's no going back and undoing.  Again, true in many dimensions besides this one, so a useful teaching.

Just growing older means saying good bye to a succession of former selves and close neighbors.

The film has to work pretty hard to spread responsibility for the whole portal thing in the first place, if our heroes are to end up with moral high ground status.

One could say the whole experiment was an unmitigated disaster, does nothing but damage, a new hellmouth having been opened (thanks a lot guys) and now its just more good money after bad, trying to repair the damage (but also more family wage jobs, which I suppose is a silver lining).

The military plays the role of grounding this ultimate irresponsibility just as it does in the real world i.e. the BP disaster in the Gulf, or the seepage at Hanford, has everything to do with the military's being ravenous for what oil rigs and uranium mines come up with.  Destroying the planet to save it, is the name of the game.

My movie review here is likely colored with my summer reading in late August, an autobiography by Dennis McKenna regarding his life and adventures with his older brother Terance.  Their primary area of exploration was psychotropics and the dissemination of "Magic School Bus" knowledge (not to be confused with Ken Kesey's, a more literal bus).  Or knowledge of some "Screaming Abyss" as the case may be (an allusion to the book's title).

I got to listen to Dennis live at one of the Esozones I attended, some years back.  I've yet to sample much of Terry's stuff but expect I'll be getting around to it in my wanderings.

Americana

Saturday, August 15, 2015

OSCON Followup

oscon_vids_2015

I feel fortunate to have had a high access path through OSCON this year, as one of the proposal readers.  I'm able to watch the videos of all the talks, the majority of which I missed, obviously.

Seeing R0ml teaching Haskell brought me joy and I started downloading Part 1 immediately, having had some trouble with the online player.

That's a segue to my next piece of good news:  CenturyLink has finally brought optical fiber speeds to my neighborhood.  We've seen the trucks.  Yes, I'm ready to starve a little bit to get more of the world online.  I hunger for bandwidth, both up and down.  These OSCON videos are a case in point.

I want to download copies for my phone, other devices, for train and plane viewing (cars not self driving yet but Bolt Bus... to Seattle maybe?).

I hope to get the try-out setup before the month is out.  Today I'm still Mr. DSL with my slow uplink.

Glenn and I did Atlas Pizza today and talked about floating "flextegrity cities".  We've both had experience with Sam's material and the way it might deal with waves, damping them, seemed worth its weight in science fiction at least.

Why not speculate?

I was saying in general I think more experience with oceans, before tackling Mars, might be smart.  The rigors of ocean living would help the landlubbers clean up their act, which would pay for itself right there.

I told Glenn Stockton about Dan Suttin, who's birthday it is today.  He was so taken with what we call the Octet Truss, or IVM, that he made a museum about it, now getting more recognition.  He's 71 today.

Happy Birthday to Dan

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pi (movie review)

From the Movie

The title the movie uses is actually the Greek letter.  This is an oldie but goodie, a recent present from Glenn (he got two copies, each for a buck).  Best viewed as a comedy.

I watched it 1.5 times actually, not counting the first time, years ago, as it's fun to see it from the beginning having seen the end -- circularity is a theme after all.

The hero seems overly paranoid in the beginning but that's because we're flies on the wall and don't know anything.  We join the story as it spirals out of control.

Cohen is on the brink of unlocking some mystery of the universe that will have far reaching consequences and two cabals, one from Wall Street and one of Orthodox Jews (into Kabbalah), want to get the secret from him.

That secret is apparently well protected by Akashic Fields and the would-be knower is driven close to crazy in its pursuit.  Given it's a 216 digit number, it's also hard to memorize, shades of Tom Cruise in Rogue Nation.  Fortunately, we have a pause button.  But wait, aren't the numbers different in the two shots?

Shades of a lot of movies actually.

The repetitive nature of the shots and actions give an Eternal Return flavor to Everyman's conundrum, a sense of being trapped or embedded in a puzzle palace of cosmic origins.  His cross to bear is this sense of an unsolved puzzle, tantalizingly close to resolution.

But the secret seems well protected.

A film I'd compare this one to rather directly:  The Zero Theorem.

I went to Thirsters immediately after watching the first half a second time, and appreciated the contrast, of a group looking for a more rational explanations of world events, even while acknowledging the irrational.

That everything from the stock market to the cyclic nature of diseases should be "ruled by the numbers" is Pythagoreanism at its radical root, and Cohen is definitely an adherent of the faith -- even though his computer is named Euclid.

As Cohen converges on the secret, with the best chips available (provided by the Wall Street cabal), his computer needs more and more power.  Something like ectoplasm drips from the circuit boards.  His mind likewise becomes more tortured.  The two, brain and rack, seem one and the same.

His Go-playing buddy, an elder and mentor who in his youth went down a similar path, offers sage advice which we may paraphrase as the Steve Holden 3-2-1 rule:  if you're at a conference and having a great time, still make sure you get at least three hours sleep every twenty-four, and two meals, and at least one shower.  If things get really hectic and you need to skimp on any of these, make sure it's not the shower (treat that as mandatory).

Likewise his friend keeps telling him to take a bath, especially after expressively recounting the well-known story of Archimedes, in which bathing occurs.  Open up to others.  Listen.  Learn.

Cohen's dogged pursuit of some solution to his puzzle is actually setting him back.  There's such a thing as "too dogged" maybe?  He needs to learn to relax.  He needs the Landmark Forum maybe.

The fun cliche though, which this movie captures, is how when converging to some zero point, some Faustian holy grail, one finds Wall Street and Jewish mystics both breathing down one's neck, and fighting with each other to get there first.

What's powerful is to know or anticipate the future, and awareness of hidden patterns in events is just the ticket for doing that.  Beautiful Mind fits here too.  Reality is overwhelmingly full of patterns, but as the Go buddy reminds Cohen:  chaos and infinite complexity is what the simple Go grid anchors (no two games are the same).

Anyway we already know these archetypes, these stereotypes regarding the close proximity of insanity and genius.  What's satisfying about this movie is how it distills them down to a black and white set of touchstones, a necklace of scenes, looped through over and over.

It's as if there's already a code...

Great scene:  he explains "theta" [sic] then it's spirals everywhere and he quits the scene, on to the next.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

At a Landmark Event

DSCF9753

Close readers of my blogs know they're like a Russian novel in terms of the number of characters weaving through them, but that's life for a lot of us, not saying I'm special in attending to many threads or narratives, besides my own.

Along those lines, one Sara whom I've known since what we called "the Gathering" for short, 1980s, appears in my account of a Quaker Annual Session in Spokane, Washington this year.

By the way, while I'm on the topic of chronicling events, Melody (a Food Not Bombs co-conspirator) very kindly found me a working Nikon Coolpix to tide me over while the XQ-1 was in the shop.

I switched back to an XQ-1 right about the start of OSCON, but neglected to set the clock properly.  My archive may have some discrepancies, up to where Dr. DiNucci alerted me to the issue a few days ago and I finally set it right in the camera.

I asked about the photography policy:  none during the event.  I adjudged said event to be bracketed by more informal milling about time, during which Sara did some registrations.  I took my few pictures before and after.

I was pleased to rediscover I could review The Forum for the reviewer price, and that records from est days were pretty integrious i.e. they'd be able to verify my "est vet" status.

I'd been to a Landmark event with Sara before, her graduation, some years back.  I understand her excitement about the programs, even if she had some issues staying awake through this latest, led by Forum Leader Naveed, our host for tonight as well.  She took intelligent action to counter any falling asleep.  Been there.  Getting sleepy is not a sign the training isn't working.

Naveed Bhatti correctly pointed out this wasn't television (he could see us after all), however I marveled at how well Americans spontaneously do first take quality TV on the fly, once coached to be stars by their compatriots.  That's not intended to sound cynical, more admiring.

I don't mean to single out Americans alone as having this talent and indeed I hear from mom that the Philippines has surpassed all of us in hip hop these days -- our disciplines travel around, more so in the jet age than ever.  However this was Ambridge Event Center on MLK in Portland, Oregon, so allow me the local coloring.  These folks were adorable, trust me on this one.

Which is why I was tempted to jump into the next available swimming pool (i.e. forum), but hey, lets look at the options.  I'm in the mood to mull.

Naveed, of Pakistani heritage, was deeply into IT.  As the night progressed, he continued to provide vignettes from his personal life, as Forum Leaders have lives too and deserve to work on whatever.  Even if one repeats the "same" stories, it's always a new crop of listeners willing to keep an open mind.  Tuesday nights especially are an opportunity for Forum Leaders to get more autobiographical.

Naveed knows people will speculate about the accent, or about whether he even has one, given he looks like he does. His English is pure Floridian (that's his homeland).  He's from Orlando, to pin it down.  His field, prior to joining the Landmark faculty, was fiber optics and related technologies, so he's a bit of a geek, he was quick to confess.

I hope I didn't offend anyone (well OK, a few) in saying "adorable" just now, about those completing their Forum and sharing things they'd realized from the Friday through Sunday experience.  Tuesday, included in the program as a course completing experience, is also an opportunity to bring friends and family, fellow co-workers, whomever, to this guests-welcome event.

The Landmark enterprise has been successful in remaining secular yet friendly to religions.  One video we saw sampled from Clergy, Scientists, Artists, and other walks of life.  The talking heads delivered strongly positive testimony obviously, not that Naveed avoided the topic of skepticism in any way.  Suspicion is natural and part of human nature for a reason.

Clearly the Tuesday event is designed to mitigate any psychological obstacles to signing up, the tuition cost itself obviously a consideration.  That sacrifice fuels the event in that practically no one intends to be ripped off after signing up to commit to something about improving the quality of one's own life for a pretty penny.  The logic is tight and well known in the education community:  people are more open to accepting rewards they sense they've earned, through hard work and risk taking.

Having those just completing said course offer personal testimonials, and having invited guests join them, is a working recipe, not unlike how some restaurants build their business.  Since the early days, est was accused of using "hard sell" tactics.  Advertising in a billboard or TV sense is not among those tactics however.  Word of mouth is the way to go.  Slick advertising would actually undermine the practice grads get in applying their own spin, not that the videos they showed us don't constitute PR.  I went away with a colorful brochure.

I don't want to say that Landmark has "cornered the market" on what it does, just that it does what it does quite well, which had been my experience with Centers Network in an earlier chapter.  I served as logistics supervisor and so on, as recounted elsewhere in more detail -- this was back in New York City, and in New Jersey before that, rewinding the tape to Princeton days and Walter Kaufmann etc. then fast forwarding, showing me getting into the Bucky stuff pretty quickly.  I was then living in Jersey City, teaching high school, and tracking Werner Erhard's career.

Rather than focus on competitive aspects of the human potential programs, both religious and secular, and including AA, I prefer to see Landmark as somewhat in the Open Source ballpark, as community supported.  Sure, much is confidential, in terms of individuals' records, but 2.2 million people is not negligible and the whole point is to take the methodology back to work.  Oaths of secrecy are not a big part of it, just don't blab if you see Britney (or whomever) in your room.

At events like this, where people wore name tags prominently identifying their Landmark affiliation, it'd be silly to say total anonymity was a goal.  On the contrary, testimonials are worth a lot more when personally signed, i.e. when traceable to real people.

Saying the Landmark Forum is "secret" is therefore way too melodramatic.  Listening with an ear for the possibilities a communication and/or relationship presents is worth more as a willingness and a skill, than as good avuncular advice, and intensive training goes beyond mere advising in these dense format sessions, or call them "boot camp" experiences.  "You had to be there" is a cliche for a reason.

The software industry likewise intensifies and concentrates in some places.  The Landmark Forum has elements in common with the "sprint" in software development circles, especially when conducted as in-person events.  Participants are there to add value, and to learn, not as passive spectators but as active contributors, even though in software that may mean little more than wiggling one's fingers over a keyboard.

The Panda Express company, among others, is happy to endorse the quality of the Landmark experience.  Quite a few companies are not especially shy about advertising their connection, with some offering tuition as an employee benefit.

Again, the Open Source culture is similar in having reached a truce or understanding in a kind of charitable activity that earns good will, yet advantages the participants in more specific and technological ways.  "Lets agree on these public utilities and add value within" -- that attitude becomes a source of a network's cohesion as a shared resource.

If we agree on co-creating the playing field, then we can have our secrets within it.  We agree on the rules of poker but then -- and so then -- don't need to show all our cards (according to the rules of poker, MIT license or whatever).

Although I did not wear my anthropology hat, not literally (I have a black Stetson we might call my Anthropology hat -- reminds me to stay ethnic), part of my motivation in being there was to update myself on this side of my culture.  What was the lineage like these days coming up on a half century?

Of course to know the answers in more detail I'd have to review the course.  That's a real possibility. I'm examining my options as to where in the world would be a good place.  There's one in Seattle where they're translating into Farsi.  That looked pretty interesting.


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Monday, August 10, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (movie review)


After watching Bernie Sanders, preceded by some great keynotes, on my Samsung tablet with mom, I decided to check out the new Mission Impossible film at Regal Cinemas Lloyd Center 10.  I took Maxi Taxi (the Nissan) for the 9:45 PM show.

Around here, Rogue Nation is a brewery, nor is "Syndicate" necessarily a bad word, but of course I was rooting for the Goodies throughout, made to seem like underdogs so we'd root for 'em even more.

Like so many boomers, I was brought up on Mission Impossible on TV, with Peter Graves et al.  I liked the cleverness and gadgetry, instead of just gun play, which latter always seemed kinda dumb.

As with the 007 franchise, and the Bourne movies, these agents have what amounts to either superpowers and/or super good luck.  The puzzles they need to solve are as unbelievable as those in Uru.  They're in a video game with levels.

Their plans are incredibly far fetched, yet seem to work out.

People go to the circus for the same reason, and in those you don't get to shoot retakes or employ cine-magic in quite the same way.

Indeed, Tom's trick for escaping a certain Houdini-like binding reminded me a lot of something I saw at Cirque du Soliel.

Naturally we saw lots of control rooms, standard fare in such movies, along with ticking time bombs.

Where would this world of secret agents be without Hollywood?

Theater has created this backdrop and appropriately we spend a fair amount of time in a theater, an opera no less, watching these phantoms of our own imaginations.

Catching a film in August is a good time to preview the Fall / Winter lineup.  The last Hunger Games is coming in November.  The next 007 film is in the can, ready to share.


Carol's Office:  Watching Bernie Sanders in PDX
:: watching Bernie Sanders rally on tablet, Carol's office ::

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Summer 2015


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Skidmore Fountain

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Wanderers 2016.8.5

Lindsey and Kirby, Alpha Helix, Linus Pauling House

Today was an opportunity to saw good bye to Linz (Lindsey Walker) for a spell, as she makes last minute arrangements to return to her field studies, with OSU's blessings.  She came to my upstairs office this morning wondering if Wanderers was a go.  Why not?

Everyone there knew her already, but I re-introduced her as "the Queen of 97214" though she demurred on "queen" and later I said "child of".  That was to be the theme of our later photo shoot.

The point being:  she met her new community of friends, me one of them, via the Pauling House, thanks to her meeting Patrick Barton (currently with O'Reilly School), who at one time rented office space therein (when working for a Chicago-based psycho-metrics firm).

Then by osmosis and synchronicity she become enamored of Buddhism (they call this the "Buddhist ghetto" after all) and in Newar Buddhism in particular.

The only Newar temple in North America, or maybe anywhere outside Kathmandu Valley, is in the same block as the Pauling House, just around the corner.

That's why she's a daughter of our block and zip code (Blue House is right nearby).

Plus OSU was Linus Pauling's domain (there's a Linus Pauling Ale now, in Corvallis) and that's where Lindsey is now enrolled, as a combined religious studies and anthropology major.

She's already lived through that major earthquake in April (her guest room was on a fifth floor) on her second trip over, yet she's eager to return, and to commute between Corvallis and Patan.

I was in St. Louis around the time of that quake, and in Champaign-Urbana, on assignment for the same school Patrick works with.  USDLA (US Distance Learning Association) holds an annual conference there and we were checking out (and learning from) "the competition".

Steve Mastin, Dick Pugh, Don Wardwell, Jon Bunce and myself were present (Glenn showed up in time for the photo shoot).

Between the lot of us, we have lots of experience in and around academia and there was no shortage of well-meaning advice for this promising forty year old degree candidate from Florida State, where Lindsey's undergrad work began, before she left for a career in IT.
Newar Temple

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Asynchronous Learning Engine (ALE)

Flights of Fancy

I created a stub outline of an Asynchronous Learning Engine on GitHub today (link below).  That may sound impressive however all the classes are abstract stubs, with an underlying metaphor.  The implementation is left as an exercise.

The metaphor (living at the base class level) centers on picturing airplane flights as courses of study, with a beginning, middle and end.  One could do ships and cruises -- hey, they're just metaphors, feel free to mix 'em.  "Geek cruises"are a reality already, including of the non-metaphoric kind.

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.

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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).  One 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 (our in-house system, not Open Source, isn't called that).  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).

Colleges and universities may be set in their ways and may as yet have no internal "dog food" they might eat and/or modify, nothing Open Source to share and partake in.  

Sometimes upstart companies, including not-for-profits, NGOs, are better positioned to try new things.  ALE is not just another Moodle or Banner. 

For further reading:
ALE Use Case
GitHub Repo
clojure-python