Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Welcome to Wellville


I like the concept of Wellville, which rewards communities wherein healing and health are considered normative, and health improvements are assessed by objective criteria.  The concept is reminiscent of the BFI Challenge.

Joining Wellville mainly means signing a contract to be open with data, though not to the personal level.  Whether one's community actually gets well or not depends on making the necessary investments, which Hiccup helps catalyze.

The seed or pilot projects, were a result of an application process.  Acceptance does not result in either paying or being paid, only in agreeing to be a part of an experiment, which involves being open with data.

Participants learn they're not helpless to self organize and implement strategies (such as healthier school lunches) and measure progress themselves (lower diabetes).  Just because you're not one of the original five doesn't mean you can't learn from paying attention.

Sounds simple, but grass roots self organizing tends to sound simpler than it is.

Esther Dyson has an impressive resume, and although she's oft introduced, as tonight, by the CEO of Mentor Graphics, as the most influential woman on the computer scene, basically she's a very influential and respected Elder, all gender talk aside.

She's a stellar activist and is not afraid to apply considerable mental skills.

People rally around her based on track record and discover their own ability to manage wisely.  She has an ex Marine as a sidekick on her Wellville project and he was on stage as well, fielding questions both from Terry Bristol (ISEPP president) and members of the audience, including me and Steve.

Clatsop County, on the Oregon coast, was one of the five districts of under 100,000 chosen to showcase results.  People are excited, but that's maybe hard to measure.  Audience members asked about sustainability and follow-through.  Many such efforts dissipate, good intentions notwithstanding.

Whether health indicators improve in the next five years is the critical question and the project is in an early phase, though beyond just starting.  Their leveraging existing communities and networks, not starting from scratch, is one of the factors in favor of success.

I'd been talking earlier today about the brain drain from the USG to the private sector, as if maybe I thought that was bad, but lets not forget the NGOs, which typically do what governments might have done but need nonprofits to really do for them.

In synergy with government, NGOs and their "nonprofit corporations" go a long way towards taking the edge off capitalism and making it seem possibly socially responsible.

Where corporations meet community wellness is where the rubber meets the road and Esther is certainly smart enough to see that.

I was proud of ISEPP this evening as it was living up to its Public Policy moniker, giving the microphone to stakeholders to ask probing questions about pilot projects.  We did a good job asking serious and challenging questions (me included) with some making statements.

I could tell that Wellville was getting a boost.  Portland was turning its wheels, and not without getting some work done.

I only half expected to wedge in for the dinner, as an expendable director in the process of bowing out.  I make the dinners more well attended if sparse but tonight our sponsors and funders were enthusiastic for more schmoozing time and I gracefully took my leave, swinging through Rogue Hall on my way back to the car, having had drinks with Steve Holden at Melting Pot both after and before.

The question is how to make public health -- not just expensive intervention (e.g. bypass surgery) against a background that takes ill health (poor eating habits, lack of exercise) for granted --  profitable to major players, such as providers of factory-made food stuffs.

Steve asked if poverty or inequality wasn't by definition the metric (good question) whereas I was more focused on whether organized religion would get between young people and wise advice on lifestyle planning.

How does one teach "the middle way" i.e. avoiding excesses, while not becoming some kind of abstinence zealot (another form of addiction)?

It's not like we don't think these questions are unanswerable.

I'm glad people are serious about even taking a look.

Clatsop County has a shot at better health and that's worth shooting for.  I wish them my best and offer my congratulations on being accepted into Wellville to begin with.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Some Science Fiction

The Dog Planet

Per science fiction, or mythology as we used to call it, somewhere near Sirius, on the Dog Planet, the dogs live as long as we do. 

But because of relativity, and black holes, the dogs we get as projections, echoes, on Planet Earth, don't live nearly as long as we do. 

And yet when they get older, faster than we, they may also get wiser, so we have much to learn from them, thanks to relativity, and science fiction.

One maybe doesn't teach an old dogs new tricks, but they learn them, from whom it's hard to say.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Insurgent (movie review)

If we have schools in the desert, remote villages, with time to watch films, we'll do Divergent and Insurgent as they're meant to be seen:  back to back, not a year apart.  Readers of Charles Dickens had to put up with getting his stories in magazine serial format, whereas nowadays one plows through a whole novel, no commercials, or did, when people still had time for reading.  In those high desert schools of Oregon or Arizona or New Mexico or Old Mexico, we might even have time for reading again.

What I wanted to remark on was Chicago's decay.  Leaving aside what is real and what is Memorex (old commercial), I was noticing all the partially imploded buildings and imagining some kind of violence, instead of benign neglect.   But now I realize they were just getting old.

When old buildings crumble, what does one do if the civilization no longer as new plans for the same real estate?  True story:  I'd been to a ReThink911 talk at Humanists of Greater Portland (HGP) that same morning and was already thinking about the life cycle of buildings.

Clearly the old gray towers of the original New York were built for some forever in which buildings never needed to come down.  The Empire State Building, for example.  People were not thinking in terms of its eventual retirement by solving the puzzle of how to keep it safe.  People leave these problems to future generations without really thinking that much about it.

But then people don't plan for the seas to rise or the poles to melt either, at least the north one to such an extent.

That thing about humans being fairly good adapting:  we're not done doing that, and may need to be better than fairly good.

Anyway, I won't psychoanalyze the whole movie or boil it all down for ya.  Just I appreciate that treatment of Chicago, more shocking even than JoBerg's treatment in Chappie, in part because further in the future, yet in a world wherein AI never really took off.

So many fictional realities to explore even if, as it is, we have just this Universe.

Friday, March 20, 2015

if Universe == "__main__":

My title is Python jargon, where usually we'd put __name__ in place of Universe, meaning the name of "this module", which, when running top level, not imported, gets the string literal value of "__main__" for its value.  The Python interpreter tags a single module as "it", per process. with other modules brought aboard as additional cast members.

Bucky Fuller's Synergetics is designed with one Universe to call one's own, as in one's namespace or "world" as Viennese philosophers were prone to call it, around Wittgenstein's day.  Universe comes with chatter, commentary, verbal discourse.  Don't just picture the Grand Canyon in silence, sans narrator.  Universe oft contains someone with an opinion as well as a point of view.

"Partially overlapping Scenario Universe" was / is one of the stock phrases in that magnum opus, wherein we're represented as inter-subjective dharma tubes, rubbing up against one another, twisting past and/or sometimes convergent in various ways.  There's a difference between "coasting along with" (fellow traveler) and "falling in with" as perhaps a partner in crime ("crunchy Grunchy").

"Non-unitarily conceptual" is another stock qualifier in Synergetics, in that there's no one frame that is this Universe as some singular object or private sky.

One has the "__main__" namespace, which you may import, say from within timeit(), as in "from __main__ import write_it" just before its called, plus one has any number of imported namespaces, not built-in and not even necessarily native.

You'll be bringing a lot of namespaces on board per the constructivist model, in an endeavor to "construct your own reality" (good luck with that).

The Python Standard Library uses business English, fairly global by the 1990s, however 3rd party modules need observe no such restrictions.  Name your objects in Chinese or Sanskrit if you prefer.

Is Synergetics a work in English then?

I'd say "yes and no" in that "yes, English is a big help when reading it" yet the usage patterns are alien enough to set up sometimes dialectical if not antithetical relationships vs-a-vs "normal" usage.

Fuller imparts his own spin within a vocabulary that's deliberately remote, such that his "quantum" and his "gravity" might be kept at arm's length rather than be allowed into the "__main__" stream (a Pythonic pun) in some university discourse.

For example, Fuller's "dimension" concept, and "4D" in particular are not going to seem all that familiar in contrast with the four mutual orthogonal axes of hypercross dogmatics or related flavors of sacred geometry.

Many ethnic groups, many subcultures, have made use of the same exact words, but in namespaces that need to be spelled out (qualified). We need to anchor our words in their respective namespaces (discourses) if we have any hope of maintaining a high level of reading comprehension.

That's why the namespaces concept is so useful:  we're able to compartmentalize and tease apart the various meanings others might confuse (sometimes willfully), thereby avoiding a descent into empty babel.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nationalism and Jobs

Analysts often portray Russia as sharing the US aim of nonproliferation in Iran i.e. the prospect of nuke WMDs in Iran is in neither "superpower's" (to use the jargon) best interests.  In this respect, the US and Russia are allies, although Russia, a neighbor and contractor, is more vested in Iran having civilian nuclear power, having taken over completion of the Siemens plant (by now on-line for some years) with plans to add more.

However the assumption behind these analyses is always that Iran secretly wants nuke weapons, despite their low strategic value and despite the PR problems attendant thereon.  Nations with nuke weapons tend to be seen as cowardly and immoral.  India and Pakistan have recently lowered themselves, entering the circle of the depraved, as "little Satans" (the superpowers being greater Satans).

Iran has remained aloof, its good name not yet blighted by investments of billions in instruments of mass murder.  A "holier than thou" attitude pervades the Islamic world as a result.  Iranians feel morally superior to both the USA and Russia (according to recent polls).  Islam trumps Christianity and Judaism in the minds of many who keep score by who stockpiles what armaments.

Getting caught with a nuke WMD program would actually expose Iran to disgrace.  Why trade away the moral high ground then?

A nominally Islamic government has an opportunity to lead, rather than resist, the global effort to criminalize nuke weapons.  Pakistan has already sacrificed its historic opportunity to offer moral leadership in this sense, by following India into the club of the religiously inferior.

So I might put it differently:  Russia and Iran have a shared interest in an endgame leading to no nuke weapons, a Countdown to Zero as some call it.  They're on the same side in this respect, with the US choosing to project acquisition of nuclear weapons as somehow a desirable goal Iran must be pursuing in a clandestine manner.  For how much longer will the District of Columbia's narrative manage to hold water I wonder?

Greek nationalism, and nationalism in general, are playing a more reactionary role than most analysts describe.  Thinking of either Greece or Russia as managed by "leftist governments" tends to ignore older divisions going back to World War Two and before.  Nationalism is what the EU hopes to overcome, with the federation of the various states in North America, since the Civil War, seen as a role model.  Tensions around the financial meltdown in Greece threaten the EU consensus.

The US, Germany and France sell major amounts of armaments to both Turkey and Greece, under the "NATO" cover / excuse, whereas Russia's arms client remains Iran.  What cuts across national boundaries is the Arms Bazaar which profits from nationalism in selling to all sides, either openly, or under the table in the case of imposed sanctions.  Keeping old fears alive, as well as inventing new ones, is a primary goal of Arms Bazaar advertising (recruiting commercials etc.).

Israel's munitions industry, for example, is likewise profiting from regional aspirations couched in nationalist terms, selling arms to many players, including the Russians -- looking for better drones -- and Turkey (a major US client as well).

Much of Greece's debt is owing to loans from foreign powers underwriting the purchase and stockpiling of weapons by that nation, the Iron Mountain development strategy, pretty much proved to not create much work for civilians, but a way to keep soldiers and mercenaries semi-employed under arms.

We should remember that the military constitutes a jobs program in all of these countries, both in the manufacturing sector and in the form the the military itself.  Males without recourse to a military lifestyle would resort to hooliganism and gangsterism, is the theory, or help lead a political revolt.  The Iron Mountain solution is to provide ample toys for the boys, along with a regimented lifestyle (on base or off) organized by patriarchs.  The church, also patriarchal, is used to fuel patriotism and a sense of threat from without ("heathen", "Godless" etc.).

Theorists, more than analysts, will bring up gender wars at this juncture and argue that patriarchy itself is confronting an existential crossroads (no need to say "crisis").  The mostly male hierarchies that benefit from the endless doling out of props for the military theater no longer earn the respect of many financially literate spectators, who see their way of socializing wealth (through the military jobs program) as transparently wasteful and inefficient, a game for losers at best.

technogeeks of the world unite!
(click for larger view)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Girl Next Door (movie review)

DSCF6224

When I told Glenn S. I'd recently viewed a documentary compilation of Sex Ed films, USA / vintage (lots aimed at military men overseas), he immediately recommended The Girl Next Door as follow-on viewing.  He was on target as usual.

It's a coming of age movie aimed at vintage high schoolers especially, not just males but also females who study them and their competition, with the accepted stereotypes (remote Asian genius; stuffy oldsters who loosen up at the club) already ensconced.  Stereotypes are not a "no no", they're stock in trade in the movie industry.  Just because I run across a stereotype doesn't mean I'll think ill of a film.  Some films are all stereotypes and cliches.

The main stereotype this movie wants to explore is that of "porn star" and how the porn industry relates to Sex Ed, our could, if we'd let it talk about LGTHBQQI (H = hetero) in a classroom "driver's ed" style context (but maybe with fewer horror stories?).

The aforementioned documentary focused on how the Christian Right had used the Reagan years to preach abstinence, as this was the decade of the Church Come Back.  Or was it two decades of anti-liberalizing backlash puritanism?  Depends whom you ask I suppose.  HIV had a lot to do with both the need to be explicit, and to curb certain behaviors.  Biology is serious business, regardless of ethnicity.

For every hundred or so women you'll meet who chafe under patriarchal oppression,  you'll find a woman willing to boldly state that her side of the species is running the show.  Men are hopelessly outclassed by the fairer sex.  Is there a way it truly is, with only 1% getting the right picture?  Subjectivity trumps objectivity in this case.  The world is how one experiences it, but the higher levels are "what you're adding" as est put it; that's your "value added" in other words (the post-production cutting room is between your ears).

We had a guy at Wanderers recently, at a meetup I missed, claiming he'd developed the hypothesis of greater turnover among women i.e. they've been having shorter generations between birth cycles than men.  I'm not sure how he works the math, but the upshot is:  he thinks women have had that much longer to evolve and are literally a superior species to men, though sharing most chromosomes.

Speaking of chromosomes, now that DNA testing is not the super expensive undertaking it once was, a lot of data are coming in.  Things we thought were true may not be, such as that one's physical gender characteristics are XY- or XX-determined.  Nature is offering up more anomalies than the original theory could accommodate.  I won't advertise up to date knowledge of intersex phenomena.  Lets turn to the [web] pages of Nature.

Speaking of Glenn S., I heard from Glenn B. recently, another Glenn I know since our senior year together at International School, Makati.  We compared some notes about an upcoming conference.  He sent me this picture from when I was more like the high schoolers in this film (closer to their age).  Now I'm more like the principal, in age if not in demeanor or moral rectitude.  Actually the principal comes around in the end:  stodgy Sex Ed films don't do nearly the job the porn industry could, perhaps using animation.

I had a prom night and worried about colleges and stuff i.e. it's not like my high school experiences were without overlap with this fictional film.  Given I lived in the Philippines, I found my peers especially attractive.  My date was a nerd like I was (destined to be a geek) and from a strong Catholic background.  We had a lot of "moral fiber" back then, though like at any high school, the kids mature at different rates.  Karma is somewhat individualized, for all the stereotypes in play.

My teachers weren't that stodgy though, nor the principal.  As for Sex Ed, I think they left that to R-rated films we'd all see in the malls.  Plus there's always the encyclopedia.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Common Grounds


 I'm hanging out with my coven mates, at the local Coffee Shop.

We're enjoying Cyriak videos and talking about Hortonian Networks, Horton having invented hydrology, after Leonardo maybe (who was a Jack of All Trades).

Yarrow's birthday yesterday was really fun.  He's just turned one.  The first nine months is year 0 (starting from glimmer in someone's eye), then as a terrestrial one starts counting through consecutive integers.

Over on math-teach I'm boosting a kind of "Gnu Math" that draws on New Math but is not just a boring repeat of the 1960s and its Cold War.  The globe is not polarized in quite that way anymore.

For those just joining us, the associations between the Cold War and New Math were myriad.  As I was writing to a Friend recently:
Talking briefly about Vietnam, our friend under Ho during the push-back against the Japs (just evoking the lingo of the day, not attempting to be racist).

Ho was our friend.[1]   The a huge flip happened after WW2 and the fascists (Japs Germans Italians) were our friends (Marshall Plan) and Russia and Vietnam were now the enemies (it would take awhile for Vietnam to become that way, but Russia was bad overnight, behind an "Iron Curtain" of Churchill's invention -- Reagan's invention to tell them to take it down).

Very intelligent people in the OSS were a lot like "Hanoi Jane" a generation later (I've read her autobiography, Jane Fonda's, ex of CNN's Ted Turner).

Did you know some Americans fought on the side of the North in the Vietnam War?  That's a little known story.  Who can blame 'em, given their OSS history (the CIA would come later -- having lived in DC I would come to know some of them personally, another story, six degrees of separation, Kevin Bacon and all that).
I've been making some travel plans today, work related.

Anyway, when the Iron Curtain descended across Europe, it became important that the USA kids get up to speed on the kinds of maths that won the war, Turing's stuff in other words.  The University of Chicago started cracking the whip, getting us to turn into Bertrand Russells at a young age if we could.  Problem:  Bertie was actually a pacifist.  Einstein too. And Linus Pauling.

One of our number at been at the Economics of Happiness conference recently, where a fair amount of technology bashing occurred, making the Internet be the problem.  At least it's something people can gang up and gripe about.  What's more cathartic than a good gripe session?  We're thinking to have one at Annual Session this year, though the proposal is not finalized. Friends get phished a lot.