Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chronicling (Captain's Log...)

Yep, that was the drive today, Google already knows.  How?

My Android, coupled with my Gmail account, is allowed to tell Google its cell tower.  The tracing is therefore hand-off to hand-off, more like bee lines than a GPS trail would leave.

Do you have an Android and use the GPS services with authorization to talk to Google Maps?

Check /locationhistory to see if there's data.  Thx to LV.

:: spying on self ::

Cousin Mary's is a place where I often learn things from books I'd maybe not have encountered otherwise.  A treasure trove.

Here were two that I browsed on this latest visit:

:: table top reading ::

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Connecting Dots

A couple news stories that need connecting:

  1. In India, inequities in how people in India get treated as members of diplomatic corps overseas, versus privileges granted foreign visiting ambassadorial staffs, have come under scrutiny.  The issue of "diplomatic immunity" more generally is being raised, to which is connected the culpability of military and/or mercenary units, their liability for damages.  To what extent will the nation-state shielding of yesteryear protect them from scrutiny today?
  2. The other story focused on Qatar and was about indentured servant employes who came as migrant workers at the mercy of some construction company (we're looking ahead to some Olympics).  One question is at what points in the agreement if any, during orientation, may a servant raise an exception and bail?  Another question would be to what extent new families are allowed to form under the watch of these companies.  Pretty soon we're talking Pharaoh and the prison / slave class Hebrews.
I suppose what connects these stories is the common backdrop of human rights, and should the rights of humans pass a lot of symmetry tests we might call "fairness criteria"?  To what level do we tolerate curtailment of freedom and allow instead "compensation" in the form of clams, silver dollars, or other desirabilia.

Schools come under scrutiny, as well as sometimes work to call others to account.  Their faculties may or may not assess the worth of other schools -- many do, just as companies do -- and publish their findings.  We're in an era when a great amount of shared information is having an equalizing effect, in the sense of erasing caste differences.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pi Lab

The owner of The Open Bastion is outside the US jurisdiction at this time, in the UK, but his trusted co-workers had plenty to do, thanks to the generosity of both Holdenweb and the Wolfram Corporation, in particular the latter's decision to port the wolfram-engine and mathematica to the Raspberry Pi, a cigarette case sized computer that costs even less than the XO (One Laptop per Child) but, to be fair, comes minus peripherals, meaning keyboard, mouse and monitor.  It's ready for all them though.

Steve was lavish in terms of banking on these gizmos and outfitted four workstations complete with LCDs for the HDMI output, said mouse and keyboard, plenty of SD cards, network cables to the router.  Trevor, the Pi Chief, let us in with his key.  He'd been busy assembling quite a number of images (operating system + filesystem) using NOOB.  This boot loader gets in front of the boot process and offers a choice of images.  Tara and I started trying them out while Trevor showcased a latest favorite, which looked a lot like a hotel guest room TV, offering a menu of options.  More TV than computer -- a change in flavor.

For our purposes though, on the wolfram-engine project, the wheezy image proved sufficient, and after I finally remembered to plug in the network cable, sudo apt-get install... worked like a charm for both products (mathematica included).

I've heard rumors about the GPU being locked up on the Pi board i.e. maybe it's not being fully utilized, but I don't have that story.  Mathematica runs, but if you burden it with lots of graphics, you'll find it runs slowly.  But remember:  what it's doing are things no scientific calculator is offering at this price point.  Unless you count all the peripherals, but those tend to be needed anyway.  People need a big screen, even students.  I'm just wondering what advantages the UK will reap if it really goes in this direction.  I doubt the US will attempt it, except in pockets as always.  Each zip code is its own microcosm, like a fractal.  Those that march to the same drummer tend to lose out.

Patrick joined the fun mid-process.  He's been practicing with Amazon instances in the cloud, a different department one might say, plus he's working the same queue as I am re Python / OST.  Having a Pi Lab so close to my office is a big help in my work, as I'm able to appreciate more of the STEM education conversation, and not only in the US and UK, but in other parts of the world looking into the same crystal ball and trying to discern their cyber-futures.

We had a great solstice potluck at Wanderers this evening @ Linus Pauling House.  Lots of exotic characters (I'm happy to be counted among them), with Tara joining too, but feeling a need to supervise the pet situation, with a poodle joining the Blue House cast.  The basement crew is in "away team" mode.

For further reading on MathFuture:  Traditional HS math vs CS

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Twelve Years of Slavery (movie review)

I arrived at the movie theater directly from a comfortable winter Norman Rockwell family scene, with tree decorating and a crackling fire.  Definitely "the North".

Other critics aren't saying this so let me be original:  the two guys who entice our hero to Washington, DC are a lot like the two tempters in Pinocchio.  And Pinocchio is in turn related to the Biblical story of Jonah in some ways.  Certainly this guy loses everything, enters a living nightmare in the belly of "the South".

The film fit well into my own studies, of pro-slavery Christianity and divisions among Quakers, stereotypically working the Underground Railroad, but in actuality on the fence as established Meetings and not wanting to be seen as contravening (subverting the authority of) said Washington, DC, the nation's "capital" (cite Hunger Games).

The former overseer, down on his luck and paying off his debt by selling himself into servitude, is an interesting character, not just because he betrays our hero.  He's the guy Quakers are afraid will scare away black people.  Friends of my persuasion have an Oversight Committee and there's a stir amongst us to abolish said committee in favor of some more pastoral-sounding, less hard-edged committee.  That way none of us have to wear the label of overseer, which, after a movie like this, would seem at best an embarrassment and at worst an admission of a serious crime against humanity.

I'm against our brand of Quakers losing its edginess and instead recommend continuing to hack away at those ropes that bind us to the so-called "mother ship" of Christianity.  If it's a game of distancing from a specific terminology, then let's speak of Christians without so much of that "we" flavor.  Those Christians sure knew how to throw a dance party, we could say of the slaver couple, a not so happily married twosome.

At the New Thought Interfaith Panel, my mom, representing Quakers, got her own slot, along with Baha'i, Hindu, Scientologist and Essene (Islam, Jewish, Atheist etc.).  That seemed a positive step.

We may still embrace the Bible and of course Jesus himself, our friend and rabbi forever, without pledging allegiance to that twisted snake basket of belief systems unified by Emperor Constantine to consolidate control over his empire. Quakers already do not recite the Nicene Creed, a sure sign of heresy.  Why not officially leave the fold, at least among certain Meetings.

Christianity is deeply flawed and perhaps unsalvageable, as we see in this movie.  Or maybe it will heal from its horrible past.  Either way, Quakers need not tie their karma (fate) so tightly to this albatross.  We have a direct relationship with our principals and need not identify with these mostly priestly outward forms of the church-going, even if we affiliate and coalition with. 

I'd rather distance Quakerism from Christianity as a whole than hack away at our own internals and gut ourselves of Oversight.  We need not be ashamed of having overseers or admit cosmic guilt for attempting to practice responsible self super-vision.  It's all about how we spin it (overseeing).

Back to the film, I enjoyed Brad Pitt's part.  He's the modern voice in the film, speaking the mind of the audience which has been witnessing all this in horror.  "You must not be from around these parts" says our hero (in paraphrase).  "You're right, I'm from Canada" says Brad.  I almost laughed out loud, because Canada is even still sounding and acting smarter than Washington, DC ever could or did.  What a zoo, that city of pseudo-roman and modern architectures.

The bad guy slaver and the director have worked together before I've learned.

I respect the bad people in this movie for really doing a good job of acting.  They condemn one another in Biblical terms in ways that sound authentic, which is why I would never give up on the Bible as a source of soap operas, meta-stories, polemics and invective.

The Bible, a great storybook, is not the enemy.  Christianity, on the other hand, may deserve to be treated that way from time to time (with tough love). 

Look at Christians today and their two-faced support of nuclear weapons only for themselves and their friends.  Sound familiar?  How many Christians actually support abolishing nuclear weapons?  We should run more polls.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Out of the Furnace (movie review)

This was a case where I was at a cineplex in a time slot, quickly scanning summaries to find something starting within 15-30 minutes.  That narrowed my options considerably.  I went with Out of the Furnace because of the big names, like Christian Bale and Willem DaFoe (I consider myself a fan of both).

Christian plays the antithesis of the American Psycho guy.  He cares little for appearance (except he's handsome) and is not proud or loud.  He's pretty much your Bruce Springsteen all American, somewhere close to New Jersey.  But by now that's so retro / ethnic is to make it like National Geographic and Bridges of Madison County.

It's not that kind of love story (Bridges...) though, it's grim and violent.  There's the more twisted younger brother, the one who ends up in Iraq, tour after tour and gets more and more bent out of shape.  He's explosive and that sets it off in others.  The world is too dangerous for the likes of young Rodney, who has already paid too high a price.

Given I'm an older man now, I practiced projecting on the old guy side kick as my avatar in the ring.  You know how when you go to movies you pick a person...  I shouldn't say that as if novels weren't offering the same thing.  Any fiction.  Any history as a subset of fiction.  Fact is the fiction most agreed upon?  I ramble.

The bad guy in this movie has aroused our ire right from the opening scene, where he behaves like an out of control bully.  One wishes for Bruce Lee to jump out of the big screen and deal with him right then and there, but this is not a martial arts film.