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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tutorial on Node.js (OSCON Day 2)

Notes on: Node.js Three Ways by C. Aaron Cois and Tim Palk

I played hooky in skipping the Python tutorial on meta-programming, which looked interesting.  I hope Patrick will update me.   The presenter for that one was from Brazil.

Instead I'm planning to study Node.js, also work-related in that a revamp of the company guts is expected in this technology.

The tutorial covered the same territory as a Python Django workshop in giving us hands-on use of an MVC (model view controller) web framework.  The Express architecture is remarkably similar to Django in fact:  a standard HTTP request-response pipeline with routing to templates, a modeler for mapping the database and so on.  Meteor, presented in Act 3 is somewhat different.

Important:  we're not talking about client software in a browser.  Django and Express (the node.js framework we're looking at) run on the server, not the client.  One of the breakthroughs for the JavaScript community has been its moving to the server.  We're using Redis for our localhost webserver.

The idea of a project with an app.js and a package.json to guide npm (node package manager) in what dependencies to install.

The presenters have an ambitious workout planned wherein workers contend for a lock and talk to reddis, then later, mongodb.  I've installed a lot of open source software in two days at OSCON.

Matthew and Debra of O'Reilly School found me at the i18n table at lunch.  We mapped out some strategy for tomorrow, when we harvest video clips for later promos.

Tonight, the Expo Hall opens and I'll find out where our booth is.  Then:  the big festival / party, always themed.  OSCON is a well-oiled machine in many ways, a working formula.  Why fix what ain't broke?

I got lost in this tutorial thanks to this minor issue involving curl and npm.  However the presenters gave us the means to pick up anywhere by providing snap shots of the projects, with all source code in place.  Useful.  This is the kind of material I go back and study later, with my computer prepped as a learning platform. is an interesting utility.  No need to stick to port 80 and HTTP.  That's for letting servers push to clients, such as updating chat windows with other users' strings.  Meteor is a "reactive framework" for such an environment.  Clients update each other in real time, like in a multi-user game.

OSCON (Tutorials Day 2)

Notes from Playing Chess with Companies by Simon Wardley.

Everyone brings their biases to OSCON and I'm not talking about prejudicial bigotries towards specific genders or ethnicities, I'm talking about special interests.  I'm in Playing Chess with Companies this morning.  A Leading Edge Forum (CSC) guy is leading us.  He likes data, and kitten pictures.  How do companies play chess?  Many just fly blind, neglect mapping, hence this workshop. #Gamefication would be a tag for this talk.

Most companies forget about the "why?" of their strategy beyond imitating others they admire.  Companies you should emulate, like Kodak and Atari (he's showing some old book titles).  The premise: if X does A and succeeds, then you Y, if you do A, will succeed.  He's reading his slide, but in this case that's smart as he's mocking the jargon, generating business-ese much as that paper-writer does works in postmodernism.  Funny.

As I was saying... biases.  For example, I come from a medical research background, not as a researcher, but as a data harverster, cleaner and storer, a collector or curator one might say.  That's akin to the medical records problem, however our needs were aggregate / statistical and so could be shared in a more "anonymized" form as case histories.

Diagramming by value chain gives way to diagramming an evolutionary path i.e. the value chain is evolving in what it looks like, what it produces.  Stacey Matrix:  the axes are close and far from certainty.  Ubiquity and Certainty increase from genesis through "as a service" with competition a prime driver, in both demand and supply. Practices co-evolve as well:  Novel, Emergent, Good, Best.

The Air Force FIST mantra is akin to the Unix philosophy: have many simple components that do their jobs well and in an intelligent / intelligible manner.  Value chains with an evolutionary curve provide the strategy maps.  Scenario planning, comparison, communication:  these are among the benefits of value adding over time, assuming evolution from genesis (birth) to maturity (automaticity).  Red Queen effect:  the needing to evolve just to stand still relative to the surrounding ecosystem.

Inertia builds up owing to past success, then comes the punctuated equilibrium and a time of war, then new wonders.  Kondratieff Curves again -- I learned about those from other futurists.

Good speaker in that he recaps his slides, lets them appear again and again at different speeds.  Very effective.  Five stars for this guy.  He worked for Ubuntu in 2008, hired by Mark Shuttleworth.  Makes sense.  It was Canonical versus RedHat in some ways.  Ubuntu is now huge in the cloud.

Opening versus Patenting to speed up or slow down.  FUD also slows (negative feedback, "demonization" or raising concerns about a future model).

A bias here is we want everything invisible to become visible:  not true.  They try to sell us wars we don't want so sometimes applying the brakes is a valuable technique.  But brakes over here == rapid innovation over there.  Obsoleting war in its conventional outward forms, in favor of a more psychological dynamic (more inward) might be considered a Quaker goal, providing a "why?" motivation for our Countdown to Zero actions.

Innovate, Leverage, Commoditize:  Amazon's EC2 catalyzes the genesis of Big Data in the custom built zone, which enables Amazon to fast-follow the early adopters with a Big Data EC2.  That's like hitching your star to value adding "geniuses" (the genesis minded).

I'm sold on the idea that box and wire diagrams are far less informative.  User Need versus Supplier Need is something I still need to wrap my head around.  You can easily mess up your map if you don't know how to draw one.  A spectrum: Agile in-house, Six Sigma commoditized outsourced.

For a workshop exercise we mapped a Tea Shop, which at our table was like the Starbucks of tea shops, a Tea Shops Network complete with LCDs sharing inspirational programming.  One of my table mates is Mormon and doesn't drink caffeinated beverages, but herbal teas are OK -- but not if derived from a black tea base, as these Choice organic tea infusions seem to be.

CSC seems to downplay its Computer Sciences Corporation moniker (I'm just poking around the websites).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

BizMos in 2014

I coined the term "biz mo" for "business mobile" in the 1980s to counter the spin on "RV" or "recreational vehicle".  If one does serious work for a living i.e. isn't just into goofing off, enjoying retirement, then "RV" is inapt.

The current (July 19) issue of Harper's Magazine has a good article explaining how many in my generation are in fact fending for themselves in repurposed RVs, as a migrant labor force of geezers showing up to punch tickets, pick fruit, and do shelving for Amazon.  Move over migrant farm workers, the geezers have arrived (the groups have mingled).

We call ourselves "gypsies" sometimes, which is apropos.  The jobs are sometimes physically grueling, but the optimist geezers see this as "getting paid to work out".  Shelving for Amazon may involve walking 13 miles a day if they don't give you a Segway, a lot like airport work / study work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wanderers 2014-7-15: Regarding Russia

:: William Brown shares with Wanderers ::

Wanderers is more into STEM than politics, by reputation at least, but we certainly have travelogues, and much about William Brown's presentation was based in first person / first hand experience as a traveler and speaker of the Russian language.  His degree is in Russian language and culture.

William wanted to help us break out of lingering stereotypes some of us might have, left over from the Cold War Era or from the time of the USSR's breakup.  Most of us alive today have no personal memories of WW2 except maybe as children.  One of the two Kyrgystani women in the room was six when the USSR broke up.  She enjoys that sense of independence that comes with statehood and would not surrender it back.  The institution of statehood itself was part of what we were looking at.

The bottom line is that Russia under Putin is embracing its Christian Orthodox heritage in ways never allowed in the Communist Era, meaning huge amounts of land and assets have been returned to the church.  A pent up hunger for religiosity has also fed numerous bigotries, especially anti-LGBT spasms, which is where William's story began, with Pussy Riot, the punk guerrilla protest group, branded as subversive, its members sentenced to hard labor, and used by government spin doctors to put face to, and paint a target on, a younger generation, making it OK for bullies and thugs to exercise their cowardice.  The state tends to look the other way as Russians grow psychologically weaker and less tolerant by the day.

This arc somewhat recapitulates what happened in the USA starting with president Reagan, when religious bigots of all stripes came out of the woodwork and began a long process of dismantling the secular apparatus.  Republicanism rode this wave, but ironically at great cost to the central government, with Washington DC by now a mere shadow of its former self in terms of relevance and credibility.  Religious nuts have enjoyed a more domineering role, which is comforting, especially to patriarchs battling their own inner demons and insecurities, and with a short fuse when it comes to defiance.

Fortunately, the USA's 50 states have a way of specializing and finding a new equilibrium and dire conditions in one area may be offset by corresponding changes in other regions.  I have to think that such dynamics are likely in any large-enough system with any free flow of people and information whatsoever.

Whereas average Russians may be more restricted in their radius of travel than average North Americans, if not for bureaucratic reasons then because of a generic reluctance to venture abroad (again, like many North Americans), terminal closed-mindedness is likely not in the cards for a people of such great cultural achievements, especially in literature and science.

William was clear that he brings some of his own biases to his narrative, as we all do, including yours truly.  He was trained as a media analyst in a military setting and is used to sifting through lots and lots of information in order to synthesize and summarize.  His analysis is therefore cogent, interesting, and based in doing lots of homework.

I was happy to get more of his perspective and hope to someday have more travel opportunities in that part of the world myself, maybe in connection with Python, a computer language popular in Russia and the Ukraine, and both of which host Pycons from time to time.   My visit to EuroPython in Lithuania in 2007 was certainly informative.

:: protest lyrics :: 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Changing Weather

Wow, downpour!

Good thing Lindsey didn't leave early this morning, on that multi-day trek, though sooner or later the rains will probably catch up with her.  Or not.  It's summer after all.  We don't have torrential monsoons like Manila does... usually.

I got Carol to Quaker Meeting before the rain, just thunder and lightning at 10 AM.  By now it's 10:30 AM and the lawns are getting watered.

I've been playing with "Quasi Quakers" or "Kwazis" for short.  The Kwazis on Stark Street don't have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee and have more of a tendency to flocking behavior (pastoral) than true Liberal Friends.  Not a big deal.  Quakers have forked before, many times.

Walker is cycling to Witch Camp somewhere further south, still in Oregon.  Country Fair, more established and commercial, will just be winding down around now.  I know some staff but haven't been myself in some years.  I'll know more about Witch Camp when Walker gets back.

English hosts many slang or coined neologism for what we might call "hybrid religions" (as if anything were purebred):  Jew-Bu (Jewish Buddhist), Quagan (Quaker-Pagan)... these exist, and in multiple incarnations.  The true complexity of on the ground inter-mixing of ethnicities belies the over-reaching simplifications of any computer model I've seen, not that I've seen them all (many are protected / proprietary).

Kwazis would be a mix of Liberal Quakerism inter-twined with other strands of neo-liberalism, some radicalisms.  This may not be a stable form in any case as nothing is stopping us from snapping back into shape at some point, as ye olde Liberal Friends, some plain vanilla generic version, less this exotic potentially unstable isotope (radioactive).

Transformations are like that: sudden, like changes in the weather sometimes.

Punctuated equilibrium means something in anthropology regardless of what evolutionary biologists do with the concept.

Memetic evolution happens so much faster than mere genetic evolution, and ethnicity is primarily memetic.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

More Secret Lives

I plowed through two more of these today, where "plowed" does not connote "onerous chore" but "welcome privilege": to have time to partake of such fare.