Sunday, March 18, 2018

Studying Wars

Enough still unprocessed warring has gone on to last lifetimes.

The violence voyeur is always seeking some new spectacle.  A younger generation comes along and asks itself "how would I behave in wartime?"  Some seek glory.

Maybe we don't need you to find that out?  How would you behave if war were not a goal?

Politicians continually need assurance they'll be able to whip up war fever, and float a lot of trial balloons in that regard, just to see where they stand with the minions.

The minions, for their part, get bamboozled into one war after another, because they don't get the time or space to really study.  They repeat the same mistakes, having too little time to learn from mistakes already made.

"Stop the world I want to get off" is the cliche complaint people ridicule, knowing there's no stopping.  However, without reflection, life stays shallow and superficial.  What would it be like to let generations really learn their own past?

We have enough raw material to last many lifetimes.  Do we really need to create more gratuitous karma for ourselves?

Slow down and learn about what has already happened.  Wouldn't that be a huge luxury?  You could still tour, enjoy those cruise ships, explore museums.

We didn't need you to start new wars.  Maybe you did anyway.  You might have thought elective wars would get you elected? Is that what your donors told you?  Were they paying you to get a war on?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


We use these short little acronym in government (Cyberia) all the time.  ML = Machine Learning.  DL = Deep Learning.  If you don't know what these mean, you're likely a left-behind politician with too little time for engineering to really govern (steer).

As a newbie in the circle of ML / DL teachers, I'm very humble.  I sit at the feet of favorite teachers and sponge it up, tasking my own neural net to re-weight and re-bias as necessary.  Get to the bottom of all these meanings.  Investigate.  Don't assume, coming in, that your namespace is well-tempered (well-tuned).

My approach is two-track.  First, I've somewhat abandoned doing everything in Sphinx, not because I have any issues with Sphinx, but because of my own weaknesses and shortcomings with regard to Github.  There's a final step wherein documentation might "go live" in world-readable (open source) space, but I'm not taking it.  Second, I'm staying with Python.

Track One:  manual skills, like when gardening, you need to know how to use a spade, trowel, shovel, bucket, weed whacker and so on. 

Track Two:  conceptual grasp.  The latter comes slowly or at least at its own rate, less under conscious control, whereas practicing with matplotlib, numpy, pandas and scikit-learn APIs is eminently doable of one's own volition.

My focus is on polishing Track One manual skills and remaining patient with the "slow dawning" that is the gradual emergence (surfacing) of any knowledge domain.  I can't rush Track Two whereas if I burn the candle at both ends, I can practice the way athletes practice:  you keep at it.

Keeping these tracks separate has one big advantage:  I don't have to apologize for taking the ten thousand foot view and going for broke on Track Two, all out of proportion to what my manual skills yet allow.  I'm barely able to dig a trench yet am already studying the intricacies of orchid raising, or beekeeping (not usually considered part of gardening, but then really everything is).

My humility does not translate into refraining from actually studying the magic.  I just have to admit I haven't practiced enough, nor re-tuned my model enough, to fully minimize the error function (cost function).  I'm still getting to the bottom of ML DL (gradient descent).

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

World Game Continues

Wanderers, who meet frequently at the Linus Pauling House on Hawthorne, tend to be familiar with the World Game idea, and a couple of us at least, have actually played it.  Francher showed up at the ones led by Buckminster Fuller himself.  I played it in Eugene, and in San Diego, when Tara was just taking her first steps.

We're reading about the passing of Jay Baldwin and 85, an American hero and lover of cars, who escaped New Jersey and headed for California along the open road.  He love of cars it would steered him towards Fuller, who developed a three wheeled Dymaxion Car at a critical juncture.  Then came the Dymaxion House.  These were props we could use on the World Stage (where World Game is actually played).

I'm beginning a new course on data science tonight and want my students to get in touch with their internal data scientist.  I think some of us get turned off statistics for the same reason we don't really like economics:  the topics are too dismal, to fatalistic and deterministic.  "I'm not a statistic" the ego cries, fitting the model.  I know I've eschewed thinking like a data scientist most of my life.  I'll confess that, and discuss techniques for overcoming such limitations.

World Game connects to Club of Rome in that humanity was newly becoming aware of its ability to model reality based on big data, or any data at all.  Computers could churn through the number crunching, according to whatever algorithms.  Humans would be free to focus on the algorithms.  We could turn our mathematical understanding into a better tool for forecasting.  These were seeming like superpowers.

I wrote on the Club of Rome in eighth grade, for Mr. Craden's sociology class.  We had sociology at the Overseas School of Rome.  Dad subscribed to The Futurist, was an urban planner in charge of drawing up fifty year plans for the government of Libya.  I took for grated that humans were meant to "think big".  That was part of our role.  During a crisis period in Jersey City, I came to doubt that such thinking mattered, as it never seemed to gain traction.  History did its own thing, never mind how we planned it.  I've come to a later synthesis, still being fine-tuned.

World Game is all about anticipating, forecasting from data.  Even for that reason alone I should be grateful for this opportunity to retrain and change the relative weights in my neural nets, feeding more power and influence to my internal data scientist.  The free open source tools I'm learning to use help me play World Game more effectively.  The very process of learning to use them helps me project what the personal workspace (PWS) of tomorrow will be like.  The PWS is a core concept within GST.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Big Sur (movie review)


Glenn rented this one from Multnomah Public Library. He'd read some Kerouac novels and grew up in the same generation, more or less. Jack was a pack leader, of the Beat Generation, but feels ambivalent in his role.

Glenn recognized City Lights Books as iconic and said the real one was bigger than the one in the movie.  He pulled out a book he'd procured there.

Mostly it's a movie about alcohol and its potentially devastating impact on many lives, extending well beyond the drinker's. The movie is also about truth-telling and keeping it real.  The characters care about one another, they're just not sure how to express it.

Here's poor old Jack in what we might call a utopia, a cozy cabin at Big Sur, friendly supporters, and with a dream girl and her beautiful son. She's eager to be his life-long companion, and yet he's suicidal and in hell.

Viewer jealousy may be forgiven, but must Jack really suffer that much?  What were his sins that he cannot enjoy his own fame and fortune?

These beatniks were too undisciplined, drinking while driving, forgetting to make plans.

I understand they needed to escape an overly constraining, fiercely racist environment, and that the psychological cost of alienation was an occupational hazard.  Wavey Gravy, another beat poet, did a better job transitioning.

The youthful rebellion gathered momentum, and by the hippie days was more self-defining. Or was it? Jack Kerouac transitions to Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead.

The hippie era was somewhat less blighted by alcohol perhaps, in that the hip cool thing was to explore psychedelics, which have different side effects. This movie doesn't need to tackle the subject of entheogens.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

From Facebook

As an Oregon voter and taxpayer, I'd like to know more about these new security protections Oregonians have a right to know more about. Anyone into cybersecurity knows its about adhering to open standards using source code anyone can check.

That's how NIST designs stuff, around Elliptic Curve and AES. Oregon has Vote-By-Mail so I'm curious what people see as vulnerable to Russian attack.

I know my curiosity will be met by a cloak of secrecy if the plan is actually to further heist the system by making it opaque (less transparent). That'd be hard to do given the stated objectives and follow-up audits we'll be demanding.

Americans (in the US sense) have long distrusted the voting machine infrastructure, dating back several elections. I haven't seen many claims that this sense of distrust traces to Russian propaganda.

Rather, it seems well-founded and based on actual cases of tampering that have come to light, most notably purges of voter rolls using deliberately sloppy techniques designed to spread collateral damage among specific demographics.

Those who studied the black box voting machines found much to criticize.

So where is NIST in this picture?

Does the US commit any funds towards researching and developing the infrastructure of democracy?

If MAGA means anything at all, it would have to mean looking to the US for role model, trusted technology around voting, combined with best practices.

The US is very far from that now, with most judging bodies saying US elections no longer pass the sniff test. There may be moves afoot to hold the Russians accountable for Stinky Politics Nation (SPN), but that could easily backfire. Blaming all one's problems on a convenient enemy has a way of not working out.