Sunday, December 30, 2018


In the movie reviewed below, Vice, we have a scene wherein they install offices for the veep all over town, which I found appealing.  People do that when they move around a lot.

Anyway, my two main perches are Blue House bound, in the sense that I have an outpost on each of two floors.  I have some work stations.

We're talking about a residential type of place, nothing unusual.  "Work station" is normal parlance for a home office and workspace, where a guest might have a laptop with WiFi.

I've bounced around a lot and had a lot of offices, but as a single individual, I'm bound to a sequential trajectory.  I'm not in all places at once, unless we all are, in which case what point am I making?

Guests have departed.  I visited Peter's model train setup, which is truly cool.  Lots of pictures taken.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Vice (movie review)

Movies that strive to make some sense of the recent past should be in high demand, if only as a source of mnemonic touch stones, memory devices, which this film is filled with.  The events come in as a jumble in time, and we piece it together through flashbacks (afterimages as we sometimes call them, in real life scenarios).

Clearly there's no way to reliably penetrate the cloak of secrecy that surrounds a high office that keeps mum.  The movie deals with uncertainty by breaking the fourth wall and otherwise reminding us of the impossibility of an omniscient viewpoint.  How does a dead man organ donor narrate a film from beyond the grave?

Clearly no cameras were present to document the intimate details of the Cheney bedroom, and there's a Lady Macbeth aspect to Lynne Cheney's role.  Having them break into Shakespearean dialog is a sure fire way to remind the audience they're watching theater, movies being an evolved form thereof.

Scenes are designed to tell a story.  During 911, Dick and Lynne head for the underground apartments and, from there, Dick insists on consuming raw, unfiltered intelligence.  Powell gets strong-armed, against his better judgement, into making his famous pitch for war to the UN, which in retrospect had the effect of lowering public confidence in so-called "intelligence".

DC has never really recovered its reputation for knowing what's going on in the world.  Justifications for recent cruise missile attacks against targets in Syria have met with derision outside of legacy media.

From Cheney's angle, however, the challenge was to capitalize on 911 in order to improve the prospects of the energy companies, with whom he liked to meet in secret.  The goal was not tit for tat, but to demonstrate overwhelming executive branch military power in conjunction with its power to shape pubic opinion.

Much of the innovative legislation, post 911, was focused domestically and internally, on building a surveillance state, although the movie has only limited time to explore the ramifications of these developments.  Hollywood is still free to make and distribute questioning films like this, which put the inner workings of the White House under a critical director's eye.

At the time, mid-career, I was one of those critical of the raw intelligence, such as we were privy to in the internet newsgroups (lots of spam), and questioning the rationale for "shock & awe".

My focus (then as now) was preventing hanky-panky with nuclear waste products, with webcams and the like, about which science fiction planning I posted fairly frequently.

This wasn't my paid day job, as a coder and skills trainer with CUE, so much as my volunteer service as a Quaker, a sect opposed to acting out with outward weapons.

But then we don't control the world now do we, and our views are easily dismissed as irrelevant by the outward war minded.  I'm used to being marginalized.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


I'm putting a positive spin on "ethnocentrism" here, which may surprise some readers, but I think it goes with education being "place based" which I also favor.

Also, I see a lot of nuance when it comes to ethnicity, as one may easily adopt a fusion approach and combine several layers.  I tend to differentiate based on what's slow moving (slowly changing) versus what's potentially more fleeting, easy come easy go.

For example, in educating myself about Portland, I'm always encountering its Asian aspects, and consider that a part of my ethnicity.  "Ethnocentric" need not mean conforming to some stereotype, in other words.

Negative vibes around "ethnocentric" stem from how people foist ethnicity on one another, insisting upon conformity to this or that norm.  People don't like being coerced, so the ethnocentrism of others may leave a bad taste, to say the least.

However, one's ethnicity includes one's profession and the professions often require a lot of background and training.  Those resisting a hostile takeover of their corporate culture are unlikely to rise through the ranks of the invader.  You never know though; lots of fiction celebrates those who do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

More T4P

The idea of truckers as citizen diplomats is not new, as camel trains, and ships' crews, were always a medium of two way traffic, diplomatic and otherwise.  The technology has changed, certainly, in that camels were not equipped with ELD devices providing a log of the driver's up time, down time, sideways time.  A kind of quantum physics.

The driver's upkeep and well being are not necessarily those of a truck's.  True, the custom is for a given driver to haul the load from end to end, but there could be a switching yard, where the driver gets to rest (as mandated), but the truck continues with nothing more than a refuel and driver-ready check / inspection.

Again, I'm not being original, just borrowing from the airline companies, which vector crews and airplanes on different circuits.  Even the cockpit teams have their own autonomy, such that a given airplane my enjoy a lot of turnover in staffing in the course of a single day.  Truckers and pilots have always enjoyed many similarities.  I don't know if commercial routes are called lanes ever, but they could be.  Namespaces overlap a lot like that.

In GST, the cockpit or truck cabin tends to meld with what we call the "personal workspace" or PWS. Sure, it might be mobile, even hurtling through space.  The PWS is distinct from the Control Room, as a place, in that the latter brings many people together to monitor the same stream of events.  They provide overview, or what Quakers call oversight, and with supervisory powers come greater responsibilities for keeping aircraft safely separated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


In the process of dropping out of the middle class, upon dissolution of the partnership, owing to the death of the partner, I gave up heating the whole house.  I had a hole in the roof, and that took priority, as well as other bills.

However, with a lot of company expected and Carol (mom) incapacitated, I was able to dedicate earmarked funds to a worthy line item:  resurrect the old Honeywell in the basement with a tune up ($229), a new master control board ($242.25 including labor) and of course fuel (200 gallons for a start).

Fortunately, this winter is being very mild, with dips into the 30s.  We've gotten this far with only a few rooms heated, two downstairs and one upstairs.  The kitchen and (usually) main living area stayed in the 40s at least.

Portland, Oregon is close to snowy peaks, but is not itself at high altitude.  Our surrounding bedroom communities get more snow than the CBD (CBD = central business district, in case you didn't grow up in a planner family).

The First Call company inherited my account from Montag, which came with the house, as did the Honeywell, when we put money down on this place in 1995.  We had been renting just around the corner and despaired of again finding affordable digs we could invest in, as we knew then this was a trendy neighborhood.

Laurie, Dawn's first friend in Portland, showed us a property just going on the market.  We lucked out.  I've lived here ever since.  Dawn (partner, DWA) died in 2007.  We still celebrate Hanukkah at Laurie's place.

I tried to keep DWA (the partnership) alive, not realizing a partnership with one partner was totally an oxymoron.  IRS was seeing double.

The H&R Block down the street helped me back out of my mistake and fly solo as a sole proprietorship.  I continued with the DWA sourced DBA:  4D Solutions.  That part stayed by the book.  DWA held the business checking account.

Around then I met LW who was looking to anchor a career as a Portland-based musician, having given up a whole lifestyle in Savannah, Georgia working in high tech as a manager.

She had a lot of good ideas for dropping below the poverty line and still surviving, having been saving all her money herself.  She was working at living on next to nothing when we met, and had a car she would no longer drive, because of her evolving ethics around Peak Oil.

Razz had been totaled. I was driving a loaner at that point.

Fast forward, I got used to eating for free at Food Not Bombs servings, and also provided kitchen space, storage space, even freezer space, for the network, which meant having some inventory at home.  I'd fully entered the barter economy and started cutting back on any use of the furnace.

However, somewhere in there, Steve Holden came to my rescue in putting my name in the hat as highly qualified to teach his Python 3 course, then in the making for the O'Reilly School.  I was hired, and for the first time since the 1980s I had a salary with benefits.

I'd been winging it as an independent contractor, then partner, ever since.  Given Dawn was a skilled bookkeeper, that wasn't as hard as it sounds.  I could focus on programming for my many clients, and fine tuning my skills as a skills trainer.  My resume is online.

By the O'Reilly School (OST) closed its doors, some years later, I had paid to have my roof fixed and had helped a strong student through college (with help from her Quaker institution).

I was looking at once again waving good bye to such middle class benefits as furnace oil heat.  Space heaters would have to do, and did.

I don't know that I'll be able to sustain this highfalutin lifestyle.  Will Earthlings want to learn Martian Math the way I teach it?

Will my productivity stay high?

Last year at this time, unbeknownst to me in December, I was just weeks away from an emergency room visit and lots of concern about my longevity.

A year later, my vitals are looking like those of an overweight sixty year old, mas o meno.  My next doc appointment is six months out, which says something I hope.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Physics in the First Person

"First Person Physics" was a meme I started using on some listserv of physics teachers. Dr. Bob Fuller saw what I was driving at, including and especially the so-called "energy slave" concept.  The idea here was not to get rid of slavery but to not enslave humans or even mammals, but machines.  Don't make a horse lift the stone, let a diesel engine do it.  You enslave things like toasters and microwave ovens, which working humans in tandem with robots need to make in the first place.

Bucky Fuller was asking humans to pause and look around and see how many calories were being expended by machines every moment on their behalf.  But instead of reckoning in horsepower, lets take this opportunity to convert into work units humans could more easily relate to (< horses).  Some positive conversion constant might apply, and there you'd have it:  a small army of robots (non-animal energy slaves) all working on your behalf.

You may need some assistance, at least at first, seeing where the work is being done.  Photons don't weigh much, and wiggling fingers over a keyboard is not a fast way to spend calories.  Better get up and make coffee frequently if that's your gig.  Lift weights.  Stay in shape.  Yet the internet is a vast energy slave army that produces lots of heat.  You, the one sitting in that chair, burn at about the rate of a one to two hundred watt bulb, which is the figure we were trying to get at, in place of horsepower.

Think about forklifts, warehouses, trucks on the freeway, stuff in your possession.  Non-slaves are allowed to possess (not be possessed), and humans typically think beyond their being 150 watt bulbs, to being this whole internet of things that burns, such as cars, trucks, trains and jets.  The internet of things comprises their lifestyle, which they value, whereas a "daily bread" of 150 watts burning 24/7 is no more sexy than enjoying a metabolism.

Your body heat needs to stay at roughly some level, pretty warm but not too hot, and just breathing and maintaining body temperature spends energy, which is work.  That's right, in physics just staying alive one second to the next is considered work, and it's paid for.  You get about what you need to stay lit, or you don't, but in each case the requirement is in a bell curve between extremes. Getting enough calories to people is the bread game.  The truth is everyone requires about the same, even accounting the difference between babies and athletes.

Aside from measuring units of work in terms of humans (watt burners) replacing horses (also watt burners), First Person Physics is about being in the "controller seat" oneself (which doesn't connote omnipotence) as a "first person" (a viewpoint and presence) and experiencing acceleration.

Riding roller coasters helps make acceleration real, but then many roller coasters in life are not in the XYZt dimensions.  Precession is omni-dimesional.  We experience those deltas, as we traverse a less literally topographical phase space (a primordial soup), in a mix of Eulerian (spatial-visual) and Gibbsian (tactile-visceral) dimensions (more on that later).

In lieu of demanding a steady supply of expendable slaves, we harness the big calorie spenders such as the wind and downhill flowing water.  The sun is what lifts the water up again, and keeps the gases roiling.   Humans tap in to big dynamos to keep their wheels turning.  They burn stuff.

Windmills turn large radius rotation into smaller blade defined rotation of sufficient umph (power) to light a lot of bulbs.  Instead of ordering a servant to make an omelet, we switch on a stove and do the job of being a cook all by ourselves.  Humans have a wide repertoire.  They can type, talk, tinker.  Cooking is a fun pass time for some, an onerous duty for others.  Lets talk about Stoicism again.

Finally, I was nudged by something Keith Devlin said, about taking film more seriously, as a way of getting at those deltas.  The "lights, camera, action!" call of Hollywood, with stress on "action" (as the content of each frame), got me thinking "action per time interval" which is mvd/t or mvv or E or hf, units measuring what I considered "energy buckets" (or quanta), frames of film.  When the film runs too fast (E/t = power), it starts looking surreal.  We know from experience at what pace time goes.

If you'll be the star (first person) in your own film of action packed frames, in a "scenario" then that brings us to another definition of Universe in the literature:  as a set of eternally regenerative yet simultaneously aconceptual partially overlapping scenarios.  This definition was embedded in the American literature feeding into what I was calling Martian Math, nothing conventional within physics, yet a bridge to some of the memes some of the liberal arts people were convergent with, if into reading said literature.