Saturday, October 03, 2015

Oblivion (movie review)

I'll compare this movie with Zardoz right off the bat.  Tom Cruise (vs. Sean Connery) is an outlander and he has the same job Sean had:  do the bidding of the giant Sky Head and kill all the Brutals, though in this case the face of authority is not sculpted into the Sky Shape, but shows up on screen instead.

Her name is Sally and she has the same superior "I'm in charge here" attitude as Zardoz.  Our hero has a rebellious streak but it's his housemate, Victoria, who gets to deal with Sally and they get along quite well.

In both films, our hero becomes suspicious, then resentful, and through study manages to penetrate a layer of lies and deceptions that have been perpetrated against him.

The plot comes together like a puzzle, with pieces coming in out of order.

I think Bucky fans, who know of Utopia or Oblivion, will appreciate the irony of having a Tetrahedron as the symbol of the New World Order.

Mad Max, 2001 Space Odyssey, Star Trek and The Matrix, all have some themes echoed herein.

Oblivion, literally rendered as a world without personal memories, is perpetuated by a human disloyalty to the Earth and a fascination with the possibility of an off-world existence, an after life (underworld) in the realm of Saturn.

Belief in an after life makes the current tour of duty seem OK.  This world is but a doorway to the next.

Jack Harper (Tom's character) is haunted by dreams from his personal past.

As in The Matrix, he has lived many lives in some eternal return without actually solving the puzzle and realizing the nature of his imprisonment, let alone acquiring the tools and allies to attempt escape.

Events set in motion before the memory wipe are what trigger him to at least partially re-awaken.

Obviously I'm avoiding telling the whole story, in hopes of letting viewers puzzle it out themselves.

Friday, October 02, 2015

More On Gun Control

On CBS tonight, in the wake of the Roseburg Massacre, some guy in a uniform was saying he hoped we would end these "gun free zones" so that ordinary people could defend themselves.  I wasn't sure if he meant on airplanes.  A bullet through the fuselage can be a bad thing.  What do air marshals do?

But in like a Disneyland (picture a theme park), where they hope you don't bring a gun, they could escort you out if they found one, with lots of devices doing screening, even on rides.

A Donald Duck like creature (dressed up staff) might have a lethal something-or-other.  Spy cams keep a lookout.  Signs tell you the rules.

Like I'm not saying staff engineers have to be disarmed.  This is private property.  Bring a gun here, and we'll... escort you out.  Customers are not welcome to bring their own firearms.  Leave them in the parking lot?  Much better at home.

So a "gun free zone" isn't really what the uniform was saying.  Some of the authorities are armed, but they're also carefully screened.  They don't sneak around collecting armaments and plotting revenge, like the profile student shooter, or the Unabomber, another coward.

They've also trained in how to use these weapons, when forcing everyone to do so is pretty severe.  Only if you promise to also learn a computer language (yes, with tests).  Tit for tat.

I'm not for solitary confinement by the way, unless the prisoner begs for it while having viable non-tortuous alternatives, and even then only for intervals (not too long).

I think establishments should be able to advertise "gun free", conferences too.  Make it a badge (gun with a line through it) and a part of the Code of Conduct.  It's explicit.

That way, if a gun clatters to the floor, it's an embarrassment, as it should be.  You'll be a hero for turning in an illicit carrier.

In some circumstances, you should only have a gun if you have a badge (of whatever description), not a new idea.

I brought up these ideas on PSF-members, a non-public listserv, awhile back.  Engineers do think ahead, and not just at Disneyland.  I'm not saying any consensus was reached, just the topic was not verboten.

A shortcoming of media debates is it's always about "the right to own a gun" as if that were the whole topic right there.  Owning a gun doesn't mean having the right to bring it to into my house.  Property owners have rights too.  Americans worship property ownership at least as much as gun ownership, so these two should be counter-posed if the "debate" is not just filler between commercials.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Substance Control


Oregonians were in the mood to celebrate today, in Portland especially, as Prohibition notched back a bit.

I made a symbolic purchase, snapping pictures, then came home to the tragic news on the radio, about the mass killing in Roseburg, one of Oregon's towns.

There's a connecting theme:  substance control, interpreting "substance" rather generally.  Guns are a substance, but then in a way, so are states of mind.

We're instituting different substance control protocols around cannabis, will we around guns as well?

A civilization is somewhat defined by how it controls access to such and such.  That would include to information, news sources etc.

Another duh moment:  I'd been scouring the Internet for a computer monitor also able to show HDTV.  I finally realized any monitor with HDMI-in would do, and I already have one of those, so no new purchase necessary to use the CenturyLink Prism service.

Glenn talked of General Semantics and "substance control" in another sense: maintaining mindfulness, not falling victim to one's own body chemistry, i.e. not becoming only a complex of  knee-jerk responses.  Korzybski segues to Bucky at St. Quentin [ the Youtube is gone -- the warden is introducing Bucky to the prisoners, mentioning they've been studying Korzybski most lately].

Of course way more people in Syria are getting mass killed every day.  Same issue:  it's so easy to get weapons, all you need is a "just cause" and some money, or a patron with an agenda.  But then try crossing a border for the same "just cause" reason.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wanderers Equinox

Equinox Selfie

We're definitely in full Fall season, coming up on Halloween, is how we thought of it back then (2015).  Wanderers / Pauling House ("Dr. Phil" joining) held its customary celebration however I arrived very late.  My day had already been quite busy in many dimensions, including a follow-up visit with Dr. Bolton, this time with Deke the Geek (as I call him, also Derek).

We wound up at Humdinger which was maybe a mistake on a potluck night.  I ate next to nothing at Pauling House, not arriving until almost 8 PM.  Gus was there, from Silverton.  We joked about the parking meters and talked about what "Liberal" meant, at one time.

Dick Pugh delivered an amazing lecture about the migration west of "religious crazies" (we may afford to be affectionate, a term of endearment lets say), along Erie, down through Ohio and out west to the fork, where it was either Venture Capital (California) or fertile valleys of farm life (predictable, one hopes) in Oregon.  The names of the towns are telling.  We're talking Klan-imposed definition of "white" combined with full blown Manifest Destiny Syndrome (MDS).

Dick tells it better than I do though.  I was entertained.

The Russians did come through but mostly didn't land here:  They headed for Sebastopol, CA and the Russian River area.

Mary especially had extensive knowledge of the giant Chinese ships, that had "farms" in their holds and could trade with one another (the flotilla was a floating city).  More to learn.

We enjoyed other oral recitations I won't go into, including a battle royale twixt me and X, over some matter of logic (or illogic as the case may be).  I'd done the lentil dish.

My top story was about Micheal Sunanda (not a typo), who was on his way from Eugene.  I'd brought some copies of his most recently published issue.  Dick was prepared to argue that Azomite was not the chemical name of anything.  Micheal agreed though.  It's more a brand name, for a mixture of chemicals some have used in permaculture.

He's here now (Blue House), this being the after party at my place.  I'm downstairs for a bit, keeping a lonely dog company.  She no longer climbs stairs.

My innate "misanthropic" (?) tendencies was another topic at the meetup, somewhat customary for me at Wanderers, where I've wanted to be open to non-humans.

I said I'd had a realization that if I were super rich, I'd be donating to all these non-human causes, knowing well that humans were being taking care of by their more loyal donors.

Some need to take care outside that horizon.

Actually my viewpoint was not that controversial.  Mary seemed on my side in that way.

Her rant about the kid who couldn't work or be useful gave me food for thought for days to come I'm sure.  I pretended to be his lawyer at the meetup, but only to uphold my end of an ongoing investigation.  X said she'd dig the holes (Mary needs to plant some roses but her apartment complex can't muster the help, even given a likely candidate).

I should rejoin my party upstairs.  Thanks for listening.

The Nissan needed a new starter and has one.  That's mostly in my Photostream, along with the parking ticket.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Car Karma


When I dropped Carol downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square the other day, the Nissan acted quite reluctant to start, but finally did.  I'm glad I didn't need roadside assistance in busy downtown, right next to the Max tracks.

Were the problem a low battery, the process of driving home should have charged it up some --that's what the alternator is for -- meaning today the start process should have been smoother.  It wasn't.  No dice.

I had a physical therapy appointment so took off at a good fast walk for the bus 14, getting to my appointment in the nick of time.  Coming home, my smartphone battery had just enough charge to show my still ticking ticket to the driver.  All good.

Fortunately, I'm all paid up with AAA.  If you flip back through my blogs you'll find my AAA stories.  A battery specialist came by and checked the car in my driveway.  The battery is almost fully charged.  The starter itself is now the chief suspect.

Will I need to rent a car next Wednesday, when Carol wants to go to Corvallis, or might it be fixed by then already?  Stay tuned.
Towing Nissan

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Citizen Diplomacy

Refugees Welcome Here

The Eliot Center is well-known to those of us working alongside Unitarian Universalists, an active and populous church in Portland's downtown.

The Unitarians' Mark Slegers is a strong choral director who gets a lot of eager participation from the congregation, as Curt confirmed this evening.  He married my supervisor at CUE (Carol Slaughter, coincidentally with same last name in a different language) way back in the 1980s when I was still fairly new in Portland.

Anyway, tonight we attended (my mom and I) a celebration of the Jewish New Year (it's 5776), with citizen diplomats from Portland's Jewish and Iranian communities, with a smattering of Unitarians present.  This was not an evening for speeches, just people sitting around big tables and yakking.

Two floors down from here, Carol (mom) received a Congressional lifetime achievement award from Congressman Earl Blumenaur in recognition for her work on disarmament.

The Pacific Northwest Social Form, Econovergence... plus some Barcamps, all staged in this building.  Lots of memories...  Johnny Stallings...

All this talk of peoples needing homelands got me thinking that Quakers should talk about wanting Pennsylvania to really be a Quaker State.  What would that even mean? Quakers have a history of continuing to move west, or to Costa Rica, to escape the slave-owning militaristic yahoos that have dogged the Americas since its inception.  The Quaker utopia envisioned for Pennsylvania never materialized.

I think "demanding" a Quaker homeland is more a jokey way of saying we have a sense of independence and sovereignty too, as a Quaker Nation, and don't plan to always run or move away just because newcomer neighbors plan on being thoughtless blockheads in some way.

We look on the legacy left by the perpetrators of the Indian Wars (Andrew Jackson et al) with some skepticism.  Louisiana Purchase?  Yeah right.  From Napoleon?  Uh huh, sure.

Lets just say the United States is not entirely believable as an entity, despite all the theater, the role playing, given all the contradictions and how much we're asked to take on faith.  As science fiction, however, it has ongoing potential as a plot driver.  I've introduced USA OS (operating system) as a meme in my writings.

Mom and I were yakking about the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in the car on the way over, having picked up olives on the way.  There's a lot of anti-colonialist sentiment in Scotland as well.

It's just uncool to be tainted by the WMD brush and most nations would rather not sully their image by hosting such retro barbarisms.   The nuke nations form the Nuke Nation Ghetto of less morally developed, more delinquent nations.  Scottish have national pride and want out of the ghetto.  Who can blame them?

Scots provide safe harbor to WMDs (Trident submarines) because the UK / WDC / NATO forces them to do so, not because they think it's smart or the right thing to do.

Hearts and minds have been lost, leaving hollow institutions to strut and puff on the world stage, looking foolish, clown-like, but in an ugly, not-so-funny way.  A farce in other words, neither persuasive nor convincing.

The people in the room tonight are all eager for humans to get to a next level in their evolution wherein their suicidal tendencies are less salient.  Why tempt fate with such hubris?  We've seen so many accidents already.  Why is our drive for self preservation so disengaged?

Curt, a retired neurosurgeon who worked with fish in a hospital setting, didn't have time to tell me if fish get as suicidal as humans do.  I doubt it.  The latter seem to specialize in taking stupid risks with the ecosystem and then paying for it later.  Fish seem less maladapted no?

Speaking of maladapted, I came back to a $39 ticket on my windshield, because I simply forgot the City of Portland changed its policies awhile back and now runs parking meters on Sundays.  It didn't used to be that way.

I don't know why I slipped back in time like that.  I need to get back to the future.  I'll consider it a payment to city coffers earmarked for more refugee resettlement programs (CUE used to help manage those contracts).

The Jewish story of evolution gives humanity a direction towards what's better:  the Promised Land.  The past, in contrast to the future, is a relative nightmare, a state of enslavement (metaphorically Pharaoh's Egypt, no disrespect to the Misr of today).

In heading towards the Light, towards Freedom (Liberty and Justice for all), towards a Peaceable Kingdom -- and away from the darkness of the 1900s -- Judaism and Quakerism steer together in positive synergy.
Happy New Year

Friday, September 11, 2015


This is my wedding anniversary.  Yes, 9-11.  I'm remembering being in this very room when the planes hit, our living room in Portland, Oregon.

What else I remember was on that very day in 2001, TriMet was unveiling its new Max line, the Red line, to the airport.  Max is our light rail system.

Now, on 9-11 in 2015, Tillikum Crossing and the opening of the Orange line, is a top story.  They lit it up last night.  The actual opening is this weekend.

So far I've noticed no uptick in attention to the concerns of those unhappy with the official explanation of how those WTC buildings were destroyed.

Certainly the airplanes contributed but many architects and engineers see WTC7 at least (emptied at the time) as otherwise demolished, perhaps because although not hit directly by a plane, it had been totaled nonetheless, in an economic sense?  If not a white elephant before, it was now?

Having a system already in place to self-destruct is more than a lot of buildings can advertise.  Better to add to the rubble now by self destructing, than later when the rubble is cleared -- is that what WTC7 was thinking?

NPR takes us into an exhibit (some 911 museum), and discusses how people are reluctant to talk about those events, but without talking about what people are most reluctant to talk about.

CBS likewise:  the word "thermite" is not welcome anywhere near the Twin Towers story, not this year.

Those new to my blogs will see I'm echoing previous postings.

Monday, September 07, 2015

From the Far East

Gift from Trisha to Wanderers


Far east of the Portland downtown (CBD) that is.

We talked about how "official London" is pretty small, compared to Greater London all around it. Steve Holden, whom Trisha asked about, is now working in "official London" on Christopher Street.

Trisha teaches the kind of maths needed by pharmacists, lots of measure conversions, getting amounts exactly correct, lots of stuff I don't know about.

Trisha was blown away by the poetry grand slammer below.  I'm glad she clued me in.  She introduced me to Logan and more of her extended household at a favorite neighborhood public house.

This was free pool night (as in striking a small white ball with the end of a long stick, on a green table, not swimming).

Friday, September 04, 2015



Living Room

Chair of Computer Science

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Flipped Classroom

The "flipped classroom" is not a new idea, nor need "either / or" be the logic, i.e. a school using flipped classrooms need not use them always, not even per a given subject.

Take mathematics in the context of STEM.  Some shared equipment is spendy, such as lab equipment, and team building exercises are critical anyway.  Coding, on the other hand, may require some times alone, ideal for homework, though with on-line collaboration exercises also key (coding is a highly social activity).

Learn your coding skills asynchronously through hands-on practice and give talks about your projects, recorded to the school server in some cases.  Adjourn to the lab for team work.

Does this sound like college?  The personal workspace (PWS) is not necessarily a single location, but access to undisturbed safe study spaces, privacy, time alone, is an integral part of many learning patterns.  A typical campus takes the PWS concept very seriously, from dorm to study carrel.

Lower grades, twelve and below, have historically assumed the classroom as the core learning space, but this is changing.  Depending on the region and school system, learning may look more like scouting and homeschooling, and working in a TV production studio, in addition to sitting in classrooms.

Food prep and cooking may be rescued from Home Economics and placed under STEM.  Both health and chemistry get the focus in serious food oriented courses.  Question dogmas.  The food and beverage industry comes with agendas, sometimes hidden.  Critical thinking means bringing these to the surface for analysis and open discussion.

Critical eating (studying ingredients, nutritional value, production process, environmental costs and benefits) is as important as critical consuming of any kind, including of media.  We're fighting the "mindless consumer" stereotype less so "the consumer" as we all must consume, but lets do so mindfully.

Sharing kitchen equipment, like lab equipment, and learning to cook and clean up for larger numbers, is another benefit of sharing a school.  Larger scale kitchens have equipment not needed in the home.  Food Not Bombs took me into many a church kitchen (OK, a few).  The Quaker Gathering of Western Young Friends was likewise about moving into a large camp-style kitchen and making food for each other.  2 Dickinson Street:  same deal.