Friday, August 15, 2014

Delta Calculus

I'm thinking Calculus is too generic a name for the Newton-Leibniz thing, takes up a good word for what I'll call Delta Calculus, as opposed to say Lambda Calculus (different greek letter).

People make fun of Newtonian mechanics for being "mechanistic" (duh) meaning "clock-like" which is where delta calculus hails from:  the world of gear-works and their ratios.  How quickly does this gear turn relative to that one?  dy/dx comes from there.  You're trying to reverse engineer nature by modeling her as a clock-works.  Sure it's primitive, but it actually works pretty well when it comes to planetary orbits and what not, even if we admit to chaotic elements.

The figure below, distilled by Glenn Stockton from the many images flying through his workspace, provides a fine summary of rotational motions "in principle" i.e. what you'd expect just thinking about it, in a somewhat Kantian sense (synthetically a priori in other words):

You've got the magnetic field thing going, as a kind of involution / evolution of toroidal (donut) shape, then the revolving and orbital-precessional.  The solar system "corkscrews" whereas in profile it's sinusoidal, which means sine waves.  We should talk about sine waves more, and their oscilloscope values.  Trigonometry remains such a key, don't let e to an imaginary power divert your attention from the underlying rotational phenomenon.

The rate of change at which something changes gets us back to that "trim tab" idea of the butterfly effect.  Butterflies do not in fact cause climate change individually, yet are a part of the climate collectively, and deltas in butterfly cultures may indeed serve as canary-in-mineshaft warnings or positive omens, of big wheels turning in a helpful or harmful direction (you need a model to figure out about preferences, and a value system).

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Holy Toledo


Hygenic Dress

Pythian HQS


For further reading:
Re: Hygenic Dress League

Friday, August 08, 2014

Space Available (E Burnside)

E Burnside Offices

Office space for sublet.  Common areas.  Photocopier.

Wheel chair ramp.  Street front. 

E Burnside.  Share with others.  Nonprofits please apply.

AFSC is vacating its offices.

Contact PCASC for more information.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Thirsters Again

I dropped mom at her drones workshop at Unitarians and buzzed over Fremont Bridge, exiting on Kerby by the hospital then taking Weidler to the McMenamins on E Broadway.  I left just in time to retrieve her, in light nighttime traffic.

Now I'm having a cup of tea with my British friend Steve.

Tonight's topic was the history of the Middle East (so-called) since around the time of the Ottoman Empire, with the rise of industrialism in Europe posing new challenges and giving rise to many new artificial states, such as Lebanon (a French project) and Jordan (British).

The French helped give the Maronites in Lebanon a boost before leaving, while Britain in drawing in Jordan, as a state, was compensating some Caliph for allowing Iraqi Muslims to be conscripted against Turkish Muslims (Arabs against Ottomans).

I was interested to learn more about ISIS given that demonstration in Detroit we'd come across.  Christians and other ethnic minorities are feeling the boot of some rival gang as it takes over along various transportation corridors.

Religious gangs are not a new phenomenon and one Thirster piped up with analogies between sectarian violence in Europe (Catholic versus Protestant for some hundreds of years) and what we were looking at here.  I'd say that goes without saying.  Humans are fairly predictable beasts of limited bandwidth.  They argue about a lot of the same things all through time.

So I hadn't realized this spooky subset of Shi'a's Twelvers, the Alawites, were so in control in Syria, another faux state.

It's not that only some states are faux; they're all faux, it's just some get all offended when you point out their fauxness, whereas others are more reconciled to their being phony.

Thirsters have been meeting for many years, thanks to founder Bob Textor, anthropologist and a valued contributor to the design the Peace Corps in its early days, during the Bill Moyers and Lyndon Johnson years (early to mid 1960s).

Our presenter tonight was Bill Beeman.  From the Thirsters listserv:
Bill is an internationally known expert on the Middle East and the Islamic
World, particularly Iran, the Gulf Region and Central Asia. He has also
conducted research in Japan, India, Nepal, China and Europe. From 1996-1999
he sang professionally in Europe as an operatic bass. He continues his
musical career.
One of the Thirsters piped up during Q&A, asking if Al Qaeda was as advertised in The Power of Nightmares, a largely imaginative projection, not unlike "Mafia" or "organized crime".  Bill said that it was, though he hadn't seen that BBC series, which I've written up and oft linked to from within this blog.  Once the demonizing had begun, Al Qaeda offices sprung up all over, like Symbionese Liberationists in the days of Patty Hearst.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Returning to Portlandia

:: picking up mom at Wayne State after the WILPF conference ::

Hertz really came through for us.  The Mazda 2 was about the smallest car I could get away with given mom's walker needing to fit in the back, plus luggage for three people, but we were traveling light and the car proved peppy and up to the job, of traversing I-75 and I-70 both ways, from Michigan to Indiana, for a total of four times at about twelve hundred miles all told.

We got to Detroit airport (Wayne County International) in the pouring rain, though the return lot was sheltered.  Glenn, a paratrooper from the 101st airborne, based at Fort Campbell under General Westmoreland in the Vietnam era, graciously took us right to US Airways (merging with American) rather than have us take the Hertz passenger bus.  He was my idea of a good chauffeur.  I was saying all this to the Hertz feedback form on the web, suggesting a new "car with driver" rental service, but the web form just took me to an apology about the feedback form not working -- after entering reservation number, confirmation number and everything.  So it's Hertz IT that's suffering.  Glenn, on the front lines, is doing his job well (and thanks to Melvin the bus driver too, when coming in).

Best Western was a comedy of errors.  The housekeeping service verified I hadn't checked out just because the room was bare (I'd taken my things elsewhere for washing), plus the cables on the desk were an indication I was still there, plus I walked in with leftover Thai food for the fridge and verified I was still an active guest.  OK, so then why did they take those vital cables from me and lock them up, and not tell the night manager?

The desk manager next morning knew about my fussing and said cleaning would unlock them by 10 am.  But by then I'd already (a) replaced the micro-USB at WalMart, needing to charge my phone and (b) bought and returned a Samsung cable, hoping the iPod one was compatible (I didn't even open the box, after Googling up the expected answer:  no way) so I (c) found a Samsung cable on-line for much cheaper.

That's not the end of it though.  I came back that night and yay, the cables were returned to my desk, but I'd just pushed open the door, my card-key no longer working.  Kinda scary to have unkeyed access to all my stuff in a dark room.  Yes, dark.  No lights, no TV, no clock... no power.  The night manager went to some breaker box and tried throwing switches, no dice.  Lets move me to a different room.  Good thing my smartphone has a flashlight.

Lastly, although the morning manager assured me the tub would send water through the overhead shower component, I didn't find pulling down on the O-ring in 227 actually doing anything.  The next room, 314, had the toggle on the top, and that worked well.

Breakfasts were fine and the high speed Internet was reliable.  Also Best Western IT works better than Hertz's, as my survey / feedback form to the "mother ship" recounting these stories, took the data just fine -- or so it seemed as an end user.

US Airways did a marvelous job getting us home, though Phoenix ground personnel get the standing ovation, for getting mom pushed to A10 from A-whatever, two different concourses even if all labeled A.  We only had about 50 minutes to make it happen.  I took all the bags on her walker and pushed alongside, moving quickly.  People with walkers and wheelchairs can't use the moving sidewalks.  The electric carts were already booked up helping other people.

PDX Airport was a bit of a let down, which surprised me, as it's highly rated and respected.  But apparently even though they charge a gate fee to US Airways for that after 1 AM flight, they're too cheap to man the exit on that whole side of the airport.  Sure, the baggage carrousel is way at the other end too (number 9) but does it have to be?  Why not let E-side people get their bags at 1 or 2?

Mom has a walker and walking from the very end of the E concourse, all the way across the airport to the C exit, down to 9 (by which time the bag was already on the "unclaimed" cart) was somewhat of an ordeal especially because it was so late at night.

Tired passengers, made to walk the extra mile, because PDX is too podunk to keep one of two major exits from the restricted area operational.   Asymmetry at work.  "If you take flights arriving after 1 AM, you should provide exit services until at least 2 AM" would be my memo to the Port of Portland (TSA has nothing to do with it).

Yes, a wheelchair was offered but under normal circumstances the walker is all she needs.  No one warned us about the extra mileage we'd be expected to put on.  The longer walk affected all passengers, not just us.

Like I said:  first world problems.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Lucy (movie review)

Tara tells me the critics have been unkind to this film and she left the theater saying "too unkind" and "I'm glad I saw it on a big screen".  My remarks were "interesting how it had so much didactic content, like cutaways to documentary footage".

We agreed the science itself, as presented by Morgan Freeman, playing a scientist, was rather bogus.  I also remarked on the blueness of the crystals, how reminiscent of Breaking Bad, and would this film help boost the demand for "smart drugs" if not crystal meth?  Certainly it plays off the meth meme.

What's interesting about the film is it presents us with a superhero where smarts / knowledge is the superpower, not swinging from buildings (Spiderman), not physical strength (Superman).  Lucy gets lots of auxiliary powers from her amped up brain for sure (e.g. a kind of X-ray vision), but the core capability is purely gnostic.  I can't think of another superhero with "intelligence" verging on "omniscience" as the core capability, except maybe Spock in Star Trek, who cultivates "logic".  Addendum:  co-worker John Baker reminded me later, during my stopover in Toledo:  Tony Stark as Iron Man.  I would add:  the anti-hero / bad guy in The Incredibles.

The aspect of "enlightenment" is present as well, and fulfilling a built-in human capability.  Shades of Lawn Mower Man, and Time Machine by H.G. Wells.  But to what extent is her enhanced intelligence filling her with compassion and empathy, per the Buddha or Jesus?  She doesn't act very Jesus-like, converting her enemies to allies or turning the other cheek.  She does perform lots of miracles and could probably part the Red Sea towards the end.

The sense that she's running out of time and has to get it all done within maybe a day or two means she has to optimize in many ways, leading her to break the rules right and left.  She drives crazy and won't put her tray table up in the stowed and locked position, when preparing for landing.  She cuts to the chase in every interaction, interrupting her roommate / friend's girlie chatter with House M.D. like diagnostic remarks, while handing her a prescription and walking out the door.  So a kind of gruff compassion then.  She retains her humanity.

The fact that time is running out means we don't have to get into long term scenarios like manipulating the stock market or building an empire -- the stereotypical things an omniscient might do.

I was curious going in if there'd be any reference to the prehistoric Lucy, the name for the fossilized hominid skeleton from Ethiopia we got to visit in Seattle.  Of course.  That Lucy is her name is drummed in from the opening scene, with the link to our hominid made right off the bat.

That's probably what I like most about the film:  despite the bogus science (we forgive science fiction taking liberties, Morgan Freeman acknowledges we're in that genre as we boost brain power in some hypothetical dimension) the movie does a lot to survey the evolutionary experiment called "humans", taking us to lots of cities (ala the 007 franchise) and diving into the distant past (she travels in her office chair), meeting Lucy herself, as well as seeing dinosaurs and pterodactyls. Time is the only real dimension, we're given to learn.  Very Synergetics, very Heraclitus.

We get treated to lots of nature film clips and get to "think about" cells, anatomy, reproduction... lots of science memes, colorful and fast-moving.  That's what I liked:  the didactic flavor.  The audience is treated to a hypothetical "what it might be like to think in a connected big picture way" -- an ISEPP lecture on steroids.  Fun.  Maybe more people will feel inspired to do some reading, get some education.  Good PR for STEM, and with a strong woman at the center.

As Tara mentioned a few times, we have to consider that Scarlett Johansson also plays Her, another super-intelligence (so yet another super smarty).  She's well suited to her role here, as a bitch-witch well able to handle herself in a world of cruel Asian Matrix-like, black-suited bad guys.  So yeah, a role model for girls being both badass and smart.  We need those.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Visiting Downtown Detroit

Although I had only a few hours in Detroit, I was eager to get a sense of its historical trajectory.  That a great city has many square miles of now uninhabitable structures is not really a surprise, as North Americans did not always build with the intention their structures last hundreds of years.

Huge swaths of urban acreage all across the industrialized east are well past their pull date.  You'll see this in Baltimore and from any train window in the northeast corridor.  I don't see this as an apocalyptic crisis, more just physics at work.  Rust never sleeps as they say.  Decay happens.

That being said, it's ironic that "the big three" (Motor City's car companies) colluded with government to wipe out city rail systems and pave over everything, to insure the motor car's monopolistic dominance of the landscape for almost a century.

Now that we've burned through over half the fossil fuel, the costs of maintaining all that infrastructure have become prohibitive and North Americans are fighting a losing battle against pot holes and shrubbery poking through pavement.  I'm glad our Mazda 2 had robust suspension as we bumped our way through the decaying streets (and broken parking meters) of downtown Detroit.

I mention parking meters because that first one, Friday morning, ate two quarters but gave zero time, so I moved to another one that ate two quarters for 30 minutes credit, but gave no credit for the third or fourth quarter.  Tara tried a dime.  No dice.  We were out of change.  I came back to find a $45 parking ticket on my windshield.
Downtown Detroit is indeed blessed with these decaying empty gigantic buildings.  Some may be restored or are being restored, but others just need to come down, or stand there as tourist attractions for people like me.

While on the topic, I told Tara my belief was the Twin Towers of NYC were built with a self destruct system as a prerequisite for anything that huge needing to come down someday, not because of any tragic catastrophe but because all buildings have a half-life.  Ditto Building 7.  Now that David Chandler is a member of Multnomah Meeting, we're likely to have more such conversations back in Portland.

We also stumbled across a protest, against the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle Eastern war zone, where the British drew some lines many political world maps still show to this day (not Fuller's).  Violence against ethnic groups is not a new phenomenon and North America swelled in population precisely because humans were fleeing persecution in the more populated areas of the eastern hemisphere.

Once humans were crowded together in America, that same ethnic violence arose.  Humans have a violent and ugly past and present.  I'm not especially proud of this species.  I understand why many religions consider us a "fallen" experiment (as in "failed").  The angels mock us with good reason.

Detroit does have a bit of a rail system they call a People Mover and there's a futuristic station downtown amidst all the urban decay, providing a stark contrast between the new millennium's early days, and the one gone by.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Trials of Muhammad Ali (movie review)

I grabbed this without a moment's hesitation when sharing Movie Madness with some visiting Brazilians.  The documentaries are right inside the door and something on Muhammad Ali was just what the doctor ordered:  illuminating, inspiring, brimming with interesting characters and history.

Revisiting the surge of Islam as a religion of peace and non-violence, but with a strongly defiant rhetoric, under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali, provides new perspective in 2014, over a decade after 911 and the new face of Islamophobia.

I'm not suggesting the history of Islam has been non-violent (on the contrary), nor arguing the moral superiority of any particular religion in the abstract.

Clearly the Nation of Islam in 1960s North America, during the time of the civil rights movement and the parallel rise of the Reverend Martin Luther King, a Christian minister, was all about countering some hundreds of years of oppression, by instilling both self-discipline and self-pride in its citizens.

The idea that an Islamic spin better fit the urbane / urbanized rebellious while the civil rights movement appeared both more rural and integrationist was not a contrast I'd considered.

Christianity had proved itself unable to head off a Civil War, the Bible and its interpretations being used by pro-slavery churches and abolitionists alike.  No wonder a period of intense disillusionment followed, among a people that had been given little choice in religion by their slave masters.

I hadn't realized how the Supreme Court had reversed itself, using some logic relating to Jehovah's Witnesses and whether one's objection to war was across the board or pick and choose.

A heavy-weight fighter cuts a violent aspect in demeanor and profession, but Jehovah's Witnesses were saying they'd fight if it were clearly a Lamb's War (Quaker jargon) i.e. if they felt moved by the Spirit, commanded by God.  That's not quite the same thing as "picking and choosing" one's wars. 

Quakers are less about objecting to wars as to wars using outward weapons, which is about the only kind of war comprehensible to those doomed to think literally about everything.

Muhammad Ali is a quick study both inside and outside of the boxing ring.

Father Divine is rarely analyzed in the same scope as the above leaders, yet his hotels were integrated and his message religious, if not strictly Christian.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ramping Down

I was glad to attend Steve Holden's OSCON Survivor's Breakfast, as I'd missed the party for the Program Chair.

This follow-up event gave me an opportunity to sit at Sarah Novotny's table and personally register my appreciation for the focus on inclusivity, non-profits, collaboration with other disciplines.

Everyone seemed jazzed by Andrew Sorenson's keynote the morning before, and I filled in more of a picture of the guy, highly regarded.  We were lucky to have him.  I'd watched on Live Steam with somewhat choppy DSL, knowing I could go back to Youtube later (above).

Another topic at this table was the 40 hour work week, which business analysts back to Henry Ford Sr. had discovered was a local optimum.  People need time to recharge and enjoy the fruits of their labors.  Without rewards, motivation drops away, and with it, productivity.  Yet many in management seem to have forgotten this wisdom, when it comes to exploiting a steady stream of young talent eager for a foot in the door and not realizing they're being set up for PTSD and "pager hallucinations" i.e. that feeling of being on call for possible emergencies 24/7.

Duncan told me about Hy, a LISP dialect that's friendly with Python.  I'm eager to learn more.

At Tatiana's table, I learned about her pleasant chat with Tim O'Reilly during the interview period at the O'Reilly booth (my role was to be at the OST booth around then).  She continued the discussion about i18n (internationalization).

I hadn't realized how prolific her father is, in the Portuguese language, sometimes including original translations from Sanskrit in his works.  Both her parents are university professors.

By analogy, a future O'Reilly title might go directly from Python to Portuguese and vice versa without going through English along the way i.e. this would not be a translation.  Tim said he was open to such proposals (but of course it would need to be something more concrete than a mere notion).  I am grateful to Tati for continuing the conversation.

In sum, much appreciation was expressed for the program managers and the assemblage of keynotes this year.  People seemed satisfied this was one of the best OSCONs ever.

The Hilton provided a world class breakfast and I partook with gusto, having barely touched my food last night after some unfortunate mixing of food and beverage earlier.  But hey, I survived.

I was glad Don Wardwell of Wanderers could join us.  He was able to take positive advantage of some of the networking opportunities a room full of such high caliber folks offers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Keynotes (OSCON XVI)

The focus on inclusivity continued, with talks about leveling the playing field and working on the pie chart (i.e. only 11% of committers to open source projects are women).

Leslie Hawthorne shared a story leading to a cliche in the diversity training circles, that dark skinned people cannot buy bandaids with a dark color tone.  No longer true thankfully, the market has responded.

She also recommended we experiment with changing our speech patterns (a kind of API).  As an example, Leslie mentioned she now avoids the word "lame" with regard to software and uses "un-groovy" instead.

My mental monkey objected with "namespaces" (the concept) and the fact that engineers frequently re-purpose words.  The "master / slave" relationship between disk drives is not an endorsement of slavery as an institution.  Program co-chair Matthew McCullough mentioned his "very lame" early software projects just moments later, when introducing Tim O'Reilly.  

Some speech habits are deeply ingrained and carry technical meanings.  Diversity also means accepting those already a part of a community, not just being disruptive of their status quo speech habits.

That being said, I agree with Leslie's goals and the importance of experimentation (trial and error) in achieving them.  My morning talk selection was attending the Girl Develop It (@girldevelopit) presentation, about encouraging women to get involved in OSS.  A combination of mentors, fellows and projects provides a game plan for a women-oriented Summer of Open Source.  The Code for America Brigade was really helpful in getting the GDI chapter in Philly up and running.