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.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Big Rock Candy Mountain

lets hang the jerk who invented work...

I was listening to KBOO the other day, regarding who owns the Arctic.  People living above the Arctic Circle, called "the north" in this namespace, such as in Greenland, have a dialog going with the rest of us in "the south" regarding the use of natural resources.

Sometimes there's a tidy sum to be made from extracting resource X, and it might actually be renewable (eco-tourism depends on an endless supply of tourists).  Some level of abstraction, of resources from the environment, if only oxygen and water, is required for biological continuance.

The bootstrapping equation is:  knowledge worker jobs such as one might have in some corporate office building, with bandwidth and plumbing, require fancy educations, but before we attain those high levels of education comes maybe decades of more menial work.  That's what the more plodding developers think.

"Says who?" and "Why not short circuit or leap frog, like skipping landlines for cells?"   Lets enroll thousands in general systems theory, prototype curricula, pilot testing.  Experiment with XRL (extreme remote livingry), emergency shelters.  Not because it's an emergency necessarily but because when it's not an emergency is a good time to prepare for one.

Conflate study into work / study (chores + scholarship + playful research projects) and actually pay Greenlanders to obtain that schooling starting now.  It's a loan against one's future income, if you want to see it that way.  When you're born, your elderly self is already sending you money from the future!  We can do that with bookkeeping, no time travel required.  Don't let intermediaries intercept your birthright!

Lets call this the Big Rock Candy Mountain scenario, in contrast with the Iron Mountain scenario, which latter feeds and shelters its Army Specialists on the understanding they'll do work / study under the Generalists ("the generals").  These are very similar Mountains, in terms of the patterns they employ.  Livingry and killingry both require innovation and human-powered networks.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Out of Mind / Sight

The usual phrase is "out of sight out of mind" and has numerous applications.  In Madness & Civilization, Foucault traces what he considers to be a series of signal flips in Western Europe's perceptions of, and ways of coping with madness, which we may also call "extreme deviance" to the point of inconveniencing others and prompting them to seek a radical solution.

In the Middle Ages, a town might drive its indigent, especially its beggars, outside the city gates and impose on them fines for returning.  Towns alongside rivers or canals might have their madmen hauled away by boat, creating the image of the Mad World as a large place "out there" beyond the boundaries of the Polis (city-state, police).  Foucault makes much of this "ship of fools" image.

With the Renaissance came the view of Madness as a window into a cosmic Other, a demonic realm, making it sacred in some ways, more shamanistic or shamanic.  The deranged had their own wisdom which likewise glorified the Good Order, showing how derangement was integral within the wheel of life.  Reason and Unreason both derived from the same holy root.  This attitude sounds more Oriental to me.

By the Age of Reason, after the French Revolution, madness was more a pathology associated with "not working" (as in "not making sense") and the strategy became one of confinement.  The mad should be made to work, as under Protestantism, virtue was in one's discipline and obedience to God's ordained.  What drove the mad mad was not a demonic order but an untamed bestiality, an "animal nature" which normal humans had transcended (risen above) in a moral sense.

A giant hospital system, left over from when leprosy was more of a scourge, was re-purposed to warehouse the scandalous, with the truly insane on display as people to feel superior to.  For a fee, one could visit the Asylum and mock the crazies and the freaks, or exude pity according to one's temperament.

I'm reading all this against the backdrop of JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass (a well-read theologian) wherein some random guy, Ralph Leon Yates, picks up a hitchhiker in his pickup.  The passenger has a gun-shaped bundle he claims are "curtain rods" and he wants to keep them in the cab.

The driver saw later this man looked just like the Lee Harvey Oswald on TV and the curtain rods were likely the gun he'd smuggled into the Book Repository and killed John Kennedy with.  He'd left the Oswaldy guy close to there.

The problem with this story, according to Douglass, was the Warren Commission had already included the one and only "curtain rods" story it wanted, with this extra Oswald story a loose end. Having two variations of the curtain rod story pointed back to a cover-up, as did all the suspicious shenanigans in Mexico City, which had to be rejected also, for much the same reason.

An overzealous crew of Ollie North types, imagining themselves clever operatives, had seeded the field a little too zealously with incriminating memories, very likely using an Oswald look-alike -- including in the movie theater where he was later arrested (the "other Oswald" was in the balcony and arrested later per Douglass).

The fate of the driver?  He went to the FBI with his story, but since the Establishment understood its job was to support the Warren Commission, they had to commit him to a psychiatric hospital at the end of the day, and subject him to "drug therapy".  His crazy story was too much of an inconvenient truth.  He'd passed a polygraph test but that only proved he believed in his delusion, all the more evidence he was insane.

We shouldn't stop there in associating Yates's "treatment" with the rigid Rationalism of France.  Why not see Langley itself as a mother ship of "hospitals" dedicated to the treatment of the deranged?

Lets remember though, that deep within the Agency, subterranean, riddled with moles, many an operative was even then delighted to see the cover story was so transparently a cover-up.  It would unravel in time, it would have to.  Many would participate in the unraveling, even as others would insert new stories designed to misdirect.  Right from day one, LBJ refused to blame the Russians, knowing where that could lead, dashing hopes many held for a more serious confrontation.

That's what a "cover story" is, when of this magnitude:  it buys time, is but a time capsule.  One generation hands it off to a next, an obvious puzzle, a mess.  One might as well stamp "cover up" on the box.  It's radioactive, and has a half life.  But in slowly leaking its information, whispering its truths, it's less explosive, and that's the intent.

Were FDR-era Americans ready to accept a coup?  Had they heard of the Business Plot?  Coups were the stuff of Banana Republics.  The people of the USA needed a different narrative, the truth could wait.  They needed an official madness, a story that couldn't get them in trouble at work.  The job of the Warren Commission was to provide that.  People needed something to say that was not crazy, in a crazy world.  "A lone gunman, acting alone..." that story would become their security blanket.

Beyond the mother ship is a network of secret prisons, all interconnected by torture taxis.  We're familiar with this Gothic infrastructure, as a result of the latest wars.  Large chunks of major office buildings, airstrips and old bases, sympathetic contractors... Capitalism's Invisible Army.  Yet another Gulag.

The madhouses of Reason's Europe were simply re-purposed, yet again, to confine extremists, inconvenient parties.  Madmen were not usually suicide bombers in Medieval times.  Even lepers were not that suddenly contagious.  Advances in the design of explosives changed the profile of insanity towards that of a Unabomber.

In sketching an appealing profile in courage, of Jack and Robert Kennedy, Douglass somewhat skirts the issue of madness in the Oval Office itself and what that might mean.  Other books take up that issue, including in relation to the Kennedy profile e.g. Royal Babylon and Hersh's book The Dark Side of Camelot.

In going here, I find much that's fascinating yet think there's a danger in over-personalizing what were clearly crazy times.  The Oval Office, in its shape, is clearly a metaphor for the skull.  Craziness in the Oval Office just means in the Executive Branch, West Wing included.  So we've come full circle, wherein craziness fights craziness (so who wins? -- it's the dialectic that matters, so who cares?).

Prohibition (still lingering) had turned the majority of Americans into criminals (aka "sinners") by that time so I'm never impressed by "organized crime" as anything worse than "organized religion" -- both have done their dirty business.  To Douglass, I maybe sound like Quaker Mafia.

"Goodies and Baddies" are so much less nuanced than "Cowboys and Indians" (a clash of ethnicities) -- unless you've learned to like villains.

A lot of people felt excluded and shoved aside by that Imperial Presidency.

We have a lot more hindsight today, regarding what the Kennedy brothers were up to.  At the time, they were likewise considered inconvenient extremists by many factions, as Douglass well documents.  Participation in the cover-up was widespread, including by people with no clue about the truth -- they just saw it as their duty to support the official line, for sanity's sake.

:: another puzzle piece, take it or leave it ::

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Spy (movie review)

My angle into this movie was from too serious a springboard.  I've been reading the "new" JFK book (2008), by Douglass, who talks about Thomas Merton -- whom I also read as a younger man some, though had no idea about those Cold War letters.

I was in second grade or so, when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened.

That new JFK book, recommended to me by Friends, refers to so many other such readings and plunges me back into that whole morass, wherein the CIA swirls in a more down-the-toilet sense.  I've actually not finished reading it yet.

Those were not happy times, and they stayed unhappy.  I can relate to "long strange trip" ala the Grateful Dead reunification (upcoming in Chicago).

I'd say the gear shift to this comedy CIA, one the movie's writer-director unabashedly embraces for a ready meme set of spoof-able cliches, built up by Hollywood, in complicity with the CIA's own storytellers, over the decades, was somewhat jarring.

At first people seemed to be having some fun here, but no, it was still horrific, and still quite crazy, with rats and bats and stuff in the basement.  In making the control room batty, and outfitting it with a Brit, we bridge to British humor, maybe?  Did this movie play well in the UK?

I of course appreciate the retro references (e.g. the credits), the semi-knowing satire.  But I noticed the audience around me was laughing and I was more just sinking down in my chair, worried I wasn't getting it.

Accents certainly played a role.  Spy World has always been about i18n.

There's this sense of ordinary people bashing through that wall of illusion (movie screen) behind which the phony world of 007 (one of the previews was for Spectre), its Never Land, does not exist.

Said faux world is here reconstructed as more female-friendly in some way (think Carmen Sandiego), and a source of edginess and getting lost in fashion.  Vanity and jealousy are heavy duty in this space, so what else is new?

Never Land keeps a toe hold in reality e.g. appears to have money, a real building in Langley.

Buying into horror as part of the genre and making that an object of spoof just reminds me that Spy World is also Gothic in the Lovecraftian sense.  I keep forgetting that.

Kafkaesque too.  Lets not forget Byzantine... 

So yeah, maybe not quite in the mood.  Why blame others?

So then I ambled down to the Blues Festival, in progress.

I found a patch of grass in the semi-dark and started reading Madness and Civilization by Michael Foucault.  A lot of people have read that already, the Powell's paperbacks had been around the block a few times.  Maybe I'd browsed it before?  It seemed fresh to me anyway.

I wanted a copy for Kindle so I could read it on my devices while listening to blues in Portland.

One thing I've learned from the new JFK book (also on devices) is how directly the Kennedy brothers took on some of the special interests, steel in particular.  Steel speaks up in Grunch of Giants too.

I like the idea of a president as "one who presides", which is a long way from what the executive branch had become.  But then a lot of people want to participate in government.

As all presidents know, everyone, OK at least a few, want to be, or think they're a president too.