Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wanderers 2017.12.27


Don organized this Tuesday's meetup around sharing a short movie about the power of advertising.  The writer-producer says what distinguishes capitalism is its huge output, with the log-jam (potentially) in not giving players enough incentive to consume it all.

The analysis casts the players in their archetypal role as mindless, once the brainwashing is complete, and still unsatisfied, because one never really has enough of what one doesn't really need.  "Enough is never enough" as they say, in Over the Hedge, a cartoon parody of suburban living.

A shortcoming in the analysis is how lack of means puts severe brakes on consumption, such that advertising works against itself in portraying an unattainable never-land as its mythical backdrop, but then promulgates "starvation wages" as what all these consumerists deserve.  The left hand fights with the right and capitalism becomes semi-paralyzed.

The question "what makes us happy?" and the false answer "more stuff" avoids another question: "what is work?"  Work from whence happiness derives, versus some mindless "pursuit" of end-of-the-rainbow type happiness, would seem a more secure footing with which to gain traction.  What does advertising tell us about that?

Advertising tells us that doing advertising, or PЯ as I like to call it (rolling in propaganda), is powerful and effective and well worth paying top dollar for.  This DVD said much the same, attributing all kinds of power to advertising even while skirting the question "is it effective?" -- the assumption already being, that it is.

I've been recalling the Hunger Project and the level of cynicism that quickly grew up around it, as a purpose of that project was to bring to bear the full power of advertising to unleash our outrage about low living standards on the richest planet in the solar system (by far).

We're like a superpower compared to Mars, so why do we let Earthlings die in droves from easily preventable causes?  The humans rose up against the prospect of full-scale brainwashing PЯ campaigns for anything other than their customary purposes.  The Hunger Project as envisioned by est Trainers, was strangled in its cradle by righteous critics.

However, now that we've had some decades to even more fully appreciate the power of memes and memeplexes, with memetics a mature science (with a little help from anthropology), we might be ready to try again at outgrowing our old ideas about "what is work" and look for something more satisfying than bombing ourselves back to the stone age, as we seem to still consider a likely prospect.

If you're part of the problem are you really working?  I'd say a lot of money is spent forcing people to do "negative work" in exchange for compliance.  "Compensation" we call it, and with good reason.  I take issue with this idea of "net worth" and side with GST against the most laggardly forms of Economics, which confuse wealth with money far too carelessly.

We used my Mac Air with a borrowed DVD player, connected by USB.  The technology performed well. I didn't contribute much to the discussion as I think about advertising all the time and didn't want to get myself started.  I'm not at Wanderers to hear myself think.  I get that pretty much wherever I go.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

DSCN5724

:: remembering 2013 ::

Sermon:  looking back on the year; so many gifts left unopened; God's generosity.

Catching up on cartoons,  a few Youtube poops (that's technical geek-speak).

Dinner with friends.  Hallelujah.  Waving to family.

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:: same room today ::

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Solstice Party

Bar Carlo

I'm fortunate in having entre to a series of winter holiday parties.  This year (2016) I was especially lucky thanks to Laura and Rick, whom've not been in my blog for years, though I did see Rick at the Portland Tech Crawl not so long ago.  I'd never met the younger of their two boys, now about five, to give a sense of time passing.

The Wanderers have a solstice potluck, also a favorite.  However Deke and I had been stuffing our faces at Round Table on Foster, an all-you-can-eat he treated me to, in exchange for driving out to the horse farm.  Ergo, I ate sparingly at the Linus Pauling House (across from Third Eye, if you know Portland), sampling a couple goodies while sipping red wine.  A few came over to my house afterwards, and continued with festivities.  Bob and I traded off as veejays (VJs), calling up favorite Youtubes on various themes.

Today I was back on Foster, right near Round Table, for brunch, at Bar Carlo, which brilliantly doubles as a record store at one end.  Rosalie has medical conditions that keep her from traveling, however in spirit she's been standing with the protesters at Standing Rock, an unfolding chapter in American history.  Small eateries such as this one perform important service in their neighborhoods, as do food carts. Networks form.

In this age of social media, vicarious participation in protest actions, disaster relief, and refugee camp community building, is afforded by such as Facebook.  I mentioned our zip code's wheelchair guy with the dogs, who says he's been out to Standing Rock by bus, with other vets.  There's a place there called Facebook Hill where you get the best reception.

Zip Code Node

I'm expecting to switch to Soylent for much of the remainder of 2016 as we take stock and restock.  More walks up Mt. Tabor are also "in the cards" (are those proverbial cards in some kind of Tarot deck, that tells the future?).

At Wanderers I chatted mostly with Bob and Marianne.  Bob is a nurse-in-training, already with a lot of experience in care-taking.  He came to Esozone that year (my second time to hear Paul Laffoley speak).  Marianne is in her 90s having escaped Berlin in her childhood.  She's like a psychoanalyst by training.  One of her sons, Alex, is a Hegel scholar.  Our conversation wandered, and was somewhat esoteric I suppose, not surprisingly, given the mix.  Dream interpretation and all that.

Bob wanted me to summarize Wittgenstein's philosophy in a succinct way and I came up with a pithy way.

First imagine getting it distilled down to this question, as within it are many others of a philosophical flavor:  "how do words mean?"  Wrestle with that for awhile, through observation and investigation, don't quote authorities, then come back for this second koan:  "words to not point."

Bob questioned that and I told the story of the screwdriver, how it took shape in our language through its utility, without pointing to anything in particular. Think of all words more like tools, in a machine of so many moving parts (yes, an analogy, and way of looking).

A segue from "words do not point" is to a discussion of "spin" in the sense of applying a layer of interpretation.  Facts under-determine the story we tell.  Even with all the facts in, how the story is told is not nailed down.  Is it shared as a puppet show?  An animation?

In the American lexicon we have this term "spin doctor" with somewhat negative connotations in the sense that spin may sometimes be a cheap substitute for substance.  "Connotations" come to the foreground when discussing "spin" I think it's safe to claim.

Today is when I learned of the death of Kenneth Snelson, from a Facebook post by Gerald de Jong and shared to my profile by David Koski.  He'll continue in our conversations; I've been sharing about our friendship. He had a wonderful life and loved his family. To this day I treasure the small tensegrity sculpture he gave me as a thank you for doing a first website for him in the early days of the web. To quote myself on Facebook:
The sheer scale of some of his sculptures puts him in a class by himself. He was head and shoulders above everyone else doing tensegrity as an art form, as most artists would gladly admit or acknowledge. He also helped open a portal into a whole new way of thinking about tensile forces, part of a longer historical arc that includes bicycle wheels, suspension bridges, and ephemeralization more generally.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Refugee City



Related:
ESL Bits

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Business Meeting

A lot of non-profits will put in the small print that they're committed to leaving a public record of their doings, however nothing could be further from the truth.  There's no turnout for their meetings, no public passed the guards at the skyscraper door.  Nonprofits become accomplished at staying beneath the radar of the public, even if they remain sharply visible on the dashboards of their sponsors and funders.

Quakers have taken a different tack in building attendance at Business Meeting, making it more than a religious duty, but a hobby, like keeping a sophisticated model train in working order in the basement.  Attendance by a critical mass is a practical necessity when the Meeting's continued existence is what's at stake or up for grabs.

A Meeting has lots of moving parts, from physical property to the design of its workflows.  Some positions may be paid, however the most important decision-making happens through consensus, which means gathering for business once a month (if a Monthly Meeting).

For example, at Multnomah's most recent business meeting, we probably had upwards of thirty people.  Hobbyists come from far away just for this event i.e. it's the weekly Meeting for Worship they don't attend.  Sometimes there's a worship group (without the overhead of a monthly business meeting) closer by.  Between Worship Group and Monthly Meeting is another phase:  Preparative Meeting.

The Treasurer gave a full report, including our current position, income versus expenses, along with a budget for the future.  This was just one item on the agenda.  You might think there'd be exponential inefficiencies in involving "people off the street" into such proceedings, but that's not the flavor of a business meeting.  Close attenders get the benefit of the bigger picture and so reach consensus more easily.  The greater the transparency, the less maneuvering about, the shorter the discovery process.

I'd not been to Business Meeting in quite awhile.  Per past blog posts, I'd been doing my part more regionally, as Clerk of IT Committee.  When October rolled around, two years into my three year term, I decided to relinquish my hold on that title and share the glory with someone more in agreement with the new policy, to outsource the website rather than keep it in-house and unpaid.

The Multnomah Meeting website has its own trajectory, which comes under the purview of the Communications Committee.  As I stated during introductions (we go around and say names, maybe mentioning any official roles), I'm not currently on any of the Multnomah Meeting committees.

My listowner roles in Cyberia, mostly through Yahoo! and Google, don't extend to the Monthly level, not currently.  I'd started a P&SC listserv but rendered it inactive pending more evidence one was needed by those actually on the committee (I'd been on at as AFSC Liaison, first locally, then West Region, but gave that up with the AFSC's closing down of our Peace Program).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wanderers @ OMSI


OMSI is our local science and industry museum, of which I've always been a fan, since I was single digit, age-wise.  By now I'm almost sixty, and OMSI has moved, having been near Oregon Zoo in the old days.  Packy the elephant, a resident of said zoo, and I, are about the same age.  He's not doing well, bad case of TB.  I remember first seeing pictures of TB germs at OMSI. Small world.

Our speaker tonight, Dr. Sarah Schaack, was well practiced, having appeared in ten previous science pubs, or the like.  It's called a "science pub" because yes, they let us bring beer to our seats.  These were the really steep seats of the movie theater, originally Omnimax, now branded 4K and no longer projecting on a curved screen.  Quite the remodel.

Our topic: the human genome (and the genomes of other animals), its sequencing, what it is, why it matters and so on.  Given the gigantic screen and super high resolution projector, we were treated to a Powerpoint on steroids.  Our Reed College professor needed to gaze up at three story high slides from close range, and not lose her balance.

Don consulted with a few of us Wanderers, before announcing this experiment, in which we would forego meeting at our usual location, the Linus Pauling House, and congregate at OMSI instead.  Glenn and I road with Barry in his Mustang, who fought his way to our zip code through rush hour.

Speaking of Barry, I take care of a python (as in snake) by the same name, here in my office-plex.  I decided to give his aquarium a thorough cleaning today, and somewhere in the process, cut a knuckle, leaving a visible wound, upon which the human Barry later commented.

My mind was already drifting along the day-dream of gene transfer, me absorbing some snake genes through the cut.  That could only be mythographical, like what happened to Peter Parker in Spiderman (horizontal transport -- one of the warm-up quiz questions).

The human genome, especially the Y chromosome, is enlarged with a library of what we might call transient sequences, not part of the active protein-encoding version, more like skipped code, a wasteland in some accounts, a valuable repository in others.

I'm reminded of human language and the many memeplexes that lay dormant, possible, even potential, but not much expressed.  Diversity lays dormant, between the lines.  Humans are packed with such "detritus" which may be our salvation in the long run.

The talk was free-ranging, if bound by the slides.  The Q&A afterward was even more so.  Portland has a rather science-savvy subculture.  Lots of geeks have moved here.  They don't call this the Silicon Forest for no reason, and genomics seems a branch of bioinformatics in many ways.

After PCR, this process called CRISPR is the next big breakthrough. I missed an ISEPP lecture on that topic.  We learned about the patent war and what's at stake with that.  Geeks are always explaining to other geeks about one intellectual property war or another.  The cost of sequencing has been plummeting.  Now we're getting better at synthesis, not just analysis.

We learned about daphnia, somewhat ugly critters that pass DNA from one generation to the next asexually, unless under pressure.

Mutations sound like a bad thing to most ears, however most are considered harmless, and every so often the new sequence may be just what the doctor ordered.

We don't have all the big data we'd need to really cross-correlate genetic sequences to phenotypes, meaning profiles.  You need more than just a pile of genetic sequences to discover links to whatever traits.  We have a long way to go with our analysis.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Monday, December 05, 2016

Political Cartoon

Political Cartoon



Previous political cartoons:
[1] [2] [3] [4]

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Driverless Bizmos


What's a "bizmo" again?  Business Mobile, like an RV ("recreational vehicle") but for business -- you're not just goofing off.

A driverless bizmo would be the autonomous version. We already know about downloading the operating system when you get to the garage.  Or the rental agency might have that step taken care of. You might not think of it as a rental agency, either.

Because humans have avoided discussing the Old Man River City project, even in science fiction, we don't have much fluency around "cities from scratch".  Even though we could use them.  A city with "people movers" as they used to be called, i.e. "driverless cars", would likely need the whole grid to be controlled in that way, more like Wall-e, except we'd also allow pedestrians.

Doing a whole city for driverless would seem pretty EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), what Americans used to be famous for, before the Fourth Reich period we've been enjoying.  If we dial back to Disney, his original vision, we might actually get somewhere with these memes.  Or just keep doing Dubai.

You know, of course, that once cars are driverless, humans will want to kick back and send them on errands.  "Go get me those groceries" (a robot picks them in the warehouse, fills the basket).  A goodly portion of cars on the road will contain no humans at all.

We've already planned that for trucks (the "zombie truck system" I called it on the physics listserv), but people tend to forget about "no people" movers in the general case.  We've taken to calling those "drones".  But what if on wheels?

Like luggage systems at airports -- you're not supposed to ride in your suitcase.