Saturday, March 28, 2015

Interstellar (movie review)

I caught this at Laurelhurst, packed house, smaller screen, bright and sharp picture though, I don't require Real3D to stay happy (except outside when driving I find it convenient).

I'd been skeptical about this film given the hype and my low opinion of public opinion a lot of the time, call me a snob or elitist.  However I've come to respect the film for what it tackles:  the way in which love seems to transcend even death, or call it gravity.

The memes are straight from the dust bowl cornfields of America mixed with NASA space program ethos, a volatile combination with many stark contrasts.  Planet Earth is on the wane and there's a sense of needing to bootstrap somehow.  Why are humans always on the brink?  Or maybe that's what prehistory was about:  not being right up against it with End of the World just around the corner.

Science fiction is expected to have worm holes and higher dimensions.  That tradition was established at the end of the 1800s, when novelesque plots were developed to take advantage of 4D, the new kid on the block.  The tesseract or hypercube, made its brilliant debut, with no upper limit on dimension number.  Worm holes could be everywhere.  Our confinement to the solar system, a frustration for plot developers, was solved.

As I've harped on in these blogs, the tesseract is not a time machine except in scifi.  That these would be jumbled together on the chalkboard is part of the tradition, but formal math does not permit it.  The polytope mathematics of the nD crowd, led by Coxeter, is not the 4D mathematics of Einstein, nor the 4D philosophy of Fuller, to which this film comes very close (no obvious tetrahedrons though).

In classic humanities liberal arts, the dead speak to us in our libraries, through our books, across time, across space.  Yes, it's kinda spooky, and poltergeists (at least tales of) lurk in those pages.  Young girls are especially drawn to certain passages, specific phenomena.  Their dads use science to discourage this tendency but then end up on the other side of it, wanting to speak after deadline.  The hero's frustration is palpable.  He has machine Marines for cold comfort.

The relativity touch was really well acted I thought, complete with aging at different rates.  Maybe I'll see this movie again, in Real3D even.  A car pulled out in front of me on Stark on the way home and I was glad to have the right break-hitting reflexes and enough traction even in wet weather.  The film is long, starting with previews at 8:45 and not letting out until close to midnight.  Not complaining; it kept me in my seat.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ReThink911 @ HGP

I learned from Dr. DiNucci that David Fura would be presenting on 911 at Friendly House, addressing Greater Humanists of Portland.  Given local Quakers have been recently joined by David Chandler, scheduled to speak at the meetinghouse on April 12, as a part of our Peace and Social Concerns program, my scoping out this talk seemed apropos.  Fura cites Chandler in his slides and plays the video of David, identified as with AAPT, asking the NIST guy a question.

The National Geographic and Popular Mechanics efforts at debunking get tackled in Fura's talk.  If thermite is not useful in demolition, as NGS alleges in its own attempt at debunking the Truthers, then how does one explain the patents for using it that way?  I forget what the Popular Mechanics thing was about, however these debates are all on-line so feel free to tune in.  A lot of people are participating in these discussions, not just the Humanists and Quakers.

The ReThink911 agenda is all about casting doubt on the official NIST reports, especially around WTC7, the building that (even officially) went into free fall, officially because of fires weakening its structural members, but unofficially and off the record thanks to preset charges i.e. because of controlled demolition.

If NIST is right -- but it won't release its computer model -- then it has discovered a new way for skyscrapers to fail due to carbon-based fires never before contemplated and never before or since seen.  The Truthers remain highly skeptical of the NIST theory, wherein the numbers keep changing.  Both sides appear to use science to support their claims.

My question, as a matter of logic, is how one gets from the apparent fact of "controlled" demolition to the "uncontrolled" events of 911.  Buildings of that size and stature should be designed with demolition in mind right from the start, as Paul Laffoley asserts was the case with these 1970s monsters (which I admired), losing money and ready to be replaced by the 21st century.  With what we don't know.  Laffoley's own design, conceived after 911, was for a Gaudi-like building, part memorial, more conceptual art than a blueprint at that stage.

Could these buildings have been scheduled to come down anyway, just not as a result of terrorism?  Was someone "pushing the button" a part of the terrorist plot all along?

If demolition were integral to the design, then the question becomes at what point in the timeline were charges added.  Might there have been a schedule driven by financial concerns unrelated to troop movements in the Middle East?

As expected, once off the official narrative, it's somewhat of an inkblot test as to whom we think is really responsible.  People who don't read a lot often think of Neocons and the CIA as the same bunch, whereas from other angles one sees open hostility, or at best rivalry between these two camps.  Just saying "bad guys did it" doesn't really get us anywhere.  The devil is in the details.

That the CIA is trying to use the Truther Movement to make Bin Laden look like a patsy is consistent with past cover up failures.  Iraq would be more like Cuba by this analogy, Oswald being cast as pro Castro and by extension a Soviet spy.  Hadn't Saddam plotted against Bush Sr.?

However analogies with the JFK chapter only go so far as in this case there's really no doubt about the jet airplanes hitting the two buildings, WTC1 and WTC2 (not WTC7) -- except amongst odd-ball extremophiles.  In Oswald's case, it's rather doubtful he ever fired that rifle, or killed Officer Tippit or any of that.  He was just following instructions, up to where he tried to escape his fate as the fall guy, by explaining his innocence to the police.  Jack Ruby had to silence him.

What do the ReThink911 people imagine would have happened if only the jets had hit?  What would have been the scenario, absent any controlled demolition?

The jets hitting was enough to get people jumping off buildings.  Hundreds if not thousands had died already.  Clearly these were nightmare situations, with firefighters bravely walking into them.  If the goal were to provoke a war with Iraq, per the Neocon agenda, wouldn't this terrorist act have been sufficient?  Why would anything potentially even more risky be required?  At least one of the Humanists asked about this during the Q&A.

With no demolition system in place, would the towers still be standing today in 2015, or would they by now have been demolished, WTC7 included?  After that day, they were totaled, unsalvageable no?  So we'd have demolished them by now at least, maybe even without the planes hitting.  The Twin Towers were close to worthless by 2000, were white elephants, according to many accounts.  As soon as we had finished rescuing all the people, they would have needed to be destroyed, no question.  Repair would have been infeasible.

However Fura thinks the WTC towers may have been too full of asbestos to make their demolition practical at any point.  This would point to a major design flaw as how does one replace buildings of that size once they've outlasted their lifespan?  How would one remove towers of that stature except by controlled demolition?  Or is the theory that anything that big has to last forever?

Do we suppose architects are off the hook in needing to think about a building's full life cycle, including its eventual destruction?  I expect the buildings would have needed to come down later, actually quite soon, WTC7 included.  In fact, once the Twin Towers where down, why keep WTC7 around even a day longer?  Everyone was out by the time it imploded.  Why not?  It was worthless by then.  Just more rubble to clean up at that point.  Civilians had cleared the area.

What I don't know is how many additional lives might have been saved had the firefighters been given more time with their hook and ladder trucks etc.  People were already jumping to their deaths.  The additional numbers that might have been saved is a difficult calculation once you factor in the number of firefighters who might have died as a result of heroism, trying to rescue people from the two towering infernos.  Lots to think about there.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brunch on Hawthorne


We promised William an authentic Hawthorne brunch this first spring day, and Cup & Saucer did not disappoint.  Glenn talked about his "global matrix", a thread in these blogs.  I called it a "non-glaze over" namespace, as for Glenn at least, his particular decryption or encryption (however you want to look at it) keeps him fluent in many cutting edge areas.  He has low bus numbers though.

William is studying computer science and works full time doing the kind of work he trained for at OST and elsewhere.  When we first met, he was one of my students, still in Afghanistan.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Quick Loop (Infrastructure 101)

Our viewpoint from mid-Columbia was impressive, of sea lions, of ships.  Not that many ships actually.

On the Washington side we saw the grain elevator working, or heard it at least, with Golden Cecilie, brand new, appearing to have a full belly.

The car-carrying Delphinus Leader appeared to have delivered its load.

The container shipping terminal we went by, however, was eerily quiet amidst talk of labor disputes up and down the western coastline.

The Columbia takes ocean-going vessels as far as the outlet of the Willamette and a little higher.

What takes cargo on farther, or brings cargo from further inland, are barges, trucks, and trains.

The barges enjoy a series of locks, getting them past the big dams.  The train tracks go up both sides whereas the main east-to-west freeway along the gorge is I-84 (south edge), with I-5 north-to-south.

Containers are lifted directly off or onto ships from both trains and trucks, with barges doing more bulk items.

The rail lines do less work busing people (done by Amtrak) than freight, with airlines and private cars moving most the people, or Bolt Bus or whatever.

Freeways cater to private car traffic, shared with cargo-carrying semis (tractors with trailers, up to three).  The road and warehouse network brings goods closest to most cities.

Warehouses get used to repack different loads quite a bit.  A shipload of teddy bears from Asia gets divvied out to the different retail outlets, both big box and boutique, though some may stay with Amazon, a new kind of retail shopping.

A grain-carrying ocean-goer will park alongside an elevator and load up with grain that arriving by barge and by train.

Containers go by truck but aren't for grain usually.  Grain doesn't get shipped in containers, not in bulk quantities.  Special train cars, covered hoppers (not box cars) are best for transporting grain, and barges.  Trucks are fine for baked bread.

These sorts of infrastructure tours may not be practical as bus tours (we were on a boat) i.e. field tripping school children are not seen in droves apprehending their ecosystem / biosphere.  They need this information though, to understand their ecosystem.

With Google Earth and immersive video, these important aspects of a child's or adult's exoskeleton, the civilizational shell, may be explored and communicated.

Noticeable on the cargo ships were their bright orange escape pods, angled for rapidly shooting off and getting away from what might be a fire hazard.  The captain need not go down with the ship, as in storybooks.

The hazards of transport, the kinds of things that go wrong, are much on the minds of many who live here, as there's lots of talk of taking bigger health risks in terms of the volume and volatility of the cargo mix through the ports.

I've said little about air freight so far.

You might be surprised how many tons of commercial carpet have been flown from Atlanta to Tokyo!

Then we need to add the communications channels, which carry programs (e.g. via TCP / IP) and the power distribution networks, which channel electrical power, natural gas. Many networks to learn about.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wanderers 2015.3.10


Our guests, Brian Haug and Eli Eichenauer, are crowd sourcing their businesses based on the new Crowd Funding law, encouraging Oregonians to invest in Oregon-based enterprises.

A small number of business were chosen to showcase the model.  Small enterprises scattered across the state have started up various green industries that care about profits, people, and environment as an integrated bottom line.

Oregon is around the fifteenth state to define a Crowd Funding game. 

You have limits on how much you can raise, both minimum and maximum.  The law passed in January 15.  Hatch, a community innovation lab, wrote Hatch Oregon, a web site implementing the game (picture Kickstarter).

Software engineering allows many games to be implemented, with variable risk levels, possible payouts.  On this one, you get money back, if the business thrives.  You've got something like stocks and bonds. 

The new law allows investors to take risks without engaging in public trading around IPOs in the usual, more exclusive way.  As long as people understand the rules, and the state approves, these experiments remain possible.  [ If the state does not approve, it's called a "numbers game" or something, and the FBI gets more annoyed (sometimes, depending on jurisdiction). ]

Hatch players need to be Oregonians.  Investors go shopping for businesses to invest in, through the web site.  Hatch is a nonprofit and does not take a cut. 

Some of the success story establishments pay rent if on site, so when the law works, Hatch looks good because its tenants look good.  Training, listing, launching -- a "purpose wheel" is in the making.

The business talking to us tonight Of Hops & Men, a Taproom-Barbershop, is not open for business yet, but will be shortly we hope, in 2016.  The shop will be OLCC licensed.  As a CSN guy brainstorming about a network of licensed coffee shops, my ears perked up.

An 18-block area near the Lloyd Center named Hassalo on Eighth (an eco-district development) is currently under construction.  This is property close to the Oregon Convention Center.  Offices are flooding in, bringing lots of new retail, hence OH&M.  The picture of Portland's NE quadrant in 2035 shows impressive growth projections, a busy skyline.

Brian, a former Navy diver, Peace Corps vet (I know him from Thirsters) is a 4th generation Portlander.  His Portland pedigree is impressive.  He can feed that in to the decor. 

He has a floor plan laid out. 

He hopes to work behind the bar, with the hair cutters paying him for their high profile positions. 

Hair cutters are like journeymen and bring their own equipment. 

Despite the name, women are quite welcome, the maleness being a branding theme not a deterrent to female customers.

If Brian gets his preferred location he'll be a stone's throw from the Max line.  He wants bicycle-related decor, but not overdone.  Digital Pour, like at Bailey's and Growler's, will show the beers.

 Hotel Eastlund is growing out of the old Red Lion.  A new Oregon Convention Center hotel should be here by 2017 maybe?  For Pycon round two?   

I'd like to see a Henry George based analysis of the Hassalo project.  Taxing land value, versus income, is how that game is played and its proponents claim they're able to "raise all boats" more successfully.
Eli is doing WebLively, Your Wellness Network, a website for clients to maintain a secure profile with medical information. 

Picture Facebook, but HIPAA compliant. 

Professionals (doctors, nurses, other health professionals) also store profiles, but publicly. 

Picture a dating service betwixt clients and professionals, but perhaps with a team, not just one on one.

My questions had to do with patients wanting to withhold information i.e. why does a massage therapist need to know anything about my bout with malaria six years ago (just making that up). 

Exactly: the client is able to set permissions for different specialists. 

OK then, I've been thinking about these issues for awhile, so the model feels familiar to me already.

Hatch Oregon is involved here as well of course, i.e. WebLively is another showcase business developing as a result of the new Crowd Funding law.


Monday, March 09, 2015

Alien Boy (movie review)

PSCC Homework

Jim Jim, who went by various names, was a work in progress.  He liked Mad Magazine and comic books, as I do, and was finding his way in the Portland punk rock scene, or trying to.

James ended up getting hospitalized for mental illness and was on a long slow road to recovery, with an address in downtown Portland (finally) when his life took a nose dive.  He'd gone off his meds and was needing more help than anyone had to give, given a network of friends is not always a real safety net.  He was passed being able to take care of his personal hygiene -- but had the potential to bounce back, under care, all talking heads agree.

At the bottom of his luck, though still with an apartment, a police officer and a social worker came to his door, knocking repeatedly.  He asked if a police officer were present (a chief terror), then he bolted, unpursued.

Later, when urinating (when you have to go you have to go), different police accosted him.  Terrified of police encounters ever since getting beat up in Utah, he bolted again but these officers were not the nice kind and beat him badly, then used a taser, in front of many witnesses having lunch outside.

The police knew they had broken him, likely killed him, so the game after that was to make it look good.  Spin control started early, with allegations about cocaine on his person, as if that would explain their excessive force actions.  But the crowd wasn't buying.  Having witnessed a murder, the lunch eaters were upset (the waiter included), and thirsty for justice.  Police need to show more self control in a civilized town.

J. wasn't quite dead yet though.  The paramedics showed up and offered to take him to the hospital, but the cops, having broken his ribs in 26 places, were not eager to tell the medics they were the likely cause of death on the record, so the agreement was to waive the patient's medical treatment and remove him to the county jail where the cops could control the narrative.

What followed was caught on tape on the prison cameras:  the police carrying a terribly wounded man around, not knowing what to do with him, and refusing him treatment, until he died in their care.

The public continued to thirst for justice for many years.

Immediate family eventually got a settlement of over a million dollars, as the city needed to stick with the union and not let anyone get fired for brutality.  Losing a civil suit was the best they could do.  After all, the whole point of a police department is to be brutal, like a military.  People understand what they're paying for:  the state's thugs (good guys) versus the bad guys.  Thugs are supposed to be badass.  So the cops who committed the homicide were never charged, which is why we shouldn't call it homicide.  The court said not guilty.  Soldiers don't murder people either.  English is funny that way, very law-abiding.

The Mayors keep apologizing though (first Potter, then Adams), and the City keeps needing to settle on other cases of abuse.

Clearly the training is at fault, a finding made early.  Tackling a fleeing 147 pound man from behind because he was urinating on public or private property is actually not what the training suggests is appropriate.

However a lot of this "training" is more hearsay than anything actual cops have been exposed to.  Portland cannot afford top-level training for its people, although even if only in self protection, the union should insist.

Leaving people vulnerable because of inadequate professional skills is the great disservice.

My thanks to Multnomah Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee (PSCC) for bringing this video to my attention.  I'll wave the DVD around at tonight's APC meeting (AFSC volunteers + staff) before returning it to Movie Madness nearby.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Back @ Beaches

:: PDX ::

I'm back at Beaches in chauffeur mode, seeing Steve Holden off to the UK.  Rather recently, I was saying good bye to Lindsey, as she took off for Nepal.  We had some farewell beers, and food, in this same establishment, at the D, E gate end of the concourse.

We started up another Google Group today, for NPYM record-keepers.  Friends ("Quakers") are into record-keeping.  In order to cohere as a self-governing business, a Business Meeting needs (A) organizational memory and (B) structure.

I've been making airplane reservations, hotel reservations, rental car reservations.  Everything is so convenient and there's no need to pick up a phone to ask some busy person to take real time out of their day.  The phone was too intrusive.  Asynch is the way to go.  Friends learned that early.  We put silence between our communications, as a matter of course.

Even though the airport FlyPDX domain was not about to let me download Anaconda, Steve had a way of getting it over to me (memory stick), so I took the opportunity to blow away Python 3.2 in favor of Anaconda's 3.4.  That leaves me to face the music in PyCharm, which I expect will be easily reconfigurable.

Followup: turns out I hadn't really blown away 3.2 so PyCharm was unaffected.

@ Beaches