Monday, April 30, 2018

The Americans (movie review)

The Americans is not actually a movie, but a TV series, like Breaking Bad or Dexter.

The premise is we're following the lives of "illegals" in the KGB.  The suspense mechanism is similar in all of the above:  people with secrets play in close contact with originally unsuspecting others with growing suspicions.

I mention this series in a recent story about Spy Camp, as I try to extract positives from this memeplex.

What I do enjoy about this series is it's a throwback to the Reagan days, which from the perspective of 2018 is long enough ago to seem a "period" in terms of cars, telephones, and the est Training.  Lots of excerpts from TV news.

True enough, est was big around DC for awhile.  That's where dad did it, whereas I was busy getting in trouble with one of Erhard's lawyers.  Nothing too special.  I had my own ideas about where the training might go.

The historical backdrop is this:  DC, a determined player given its command over weaponry and trained personnel, was ramping up in Afghanistan and Pakistan in ways designed to make trouble for Russians.

What concerns me though, is how Cowardly Capitalism leaves it to screenwriters to ooze history through the pores of science fiction.  Every "real world" TV show conjures up some form of imaginary reality.  As FBI agent Beeman makes clear:  it was through comic strips about the FBI that he first became interested in becoming an agent.

People express skepticism about how much emphasis psychology puts on dreams, fantasy, folktales, theater.  Or do they?  Once you think about all the hours we subject ourselves to fictional television, the word "programming" takes on new meaning.

The portrayal of est is pretty good but not perfect.  The est Trainer was not alone with the trainees. We had mic runners, logistics supervisor, trainer assistant.  The agreement was to do both weekends (keeping one's word was a big part of it). The screenwriters didn't have room to get into it.

The fact that one of the FBI agents is John Boy from The Waltons is a further loop-back through earlier archeological layers of memes.

Oops, I'm wrong:  they're back for their second weekend (est).  Hard to believe all that happened in just five days, but then life is a roller coaster (soap opera, whatever).

I took in Covert Affairs awhile back.  They have a lot in common, however I find the screenwriting deeper on The Americans.  I guess I'm a sucker for this est stuff.  A bit of a nostalgia trip.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Vehicular Autonomy

I think we've all been impressed by the theme park ride, if we've had the pleasure.  I'm talking less about the rollercoasters than what I called "noisy doors" in remote childhood.  The car rides on a track, with passengers not responsible for steering.  Sometimes the track veers unexpectedly, part of the fun, and a reminder of helplessness (these rides can be scary).

We understand that a swarm of vehicles, controlled by the same software, could fly down the freeway, not touching.  A small town might implement the "Disney" system.  I think of it that way because of the rides, the Wild Ride of Mr. Toad in particular.

So where are the EPCOTs for testing these technologies?  We see the Hyperloop experiments.  Prototypes are important, nor must they stay under wraps.  We're doing science here.  Science evolves through "many eyeballs".  We're a Bazaar, not a Cathedral.

From Al Gore to Donald Trump, the rhetoric has been similar:  infrastructure needs upgrades.  With president Obama, we got the surge, the economic stimulus package, a shot in the arm.  But the public sector is locked out.  Investors want to keep it all proprietary.

The Grunch, in the meantime (a word we use, for "supranationals as a group"), needs human subjects. I know that sounds evil.  Now I'm thinking of Guinea Pig B, another insider reference.

Bernie Sanders:  give everyone a job.  Reality TV might have a more serious purpose, to show life in an EPCOT.  Let people decide for themselves if this is a future to favor.  Product placement might happen even sans commercials.  We see the artifacts in action.  We talk about the brands we use.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Troll Farms

Adrenalin Peak, Oak's Park, Sellwood, Oregon

I perused that Atlantic Monthly article, about the old US president's job being impractical, and listened to the follow-up interview on NPR. I sat in my car in the driveway to get the whole thing, having returned from the elementary school in the blog post below.

A strong president needed input from Intelligence Chiefs, with the word "chief" clearly resonating with N8V American tribes and their chiefdoms ("fire chief" is in there also).  Lots of them.

Today was warm and Spring-like (because it's Spring). Glenn knocked on my door, arousing me from REM sleep.  He was on his way to Willamette Week on his bicycle, upset that Oregon Theater on Division was littering sidewalks with flyers, not even bothering to staple them to phone poles.

Upper Hawthorne was awash with these things.  He picked them up, which took some hours.  I discovered the same littering phenomenon along Foster, and took some pictures.

I also photographed the spanking new rollercoaster at Oak's Park.  I'd read about it, and now got to see it for myself.  It's brand new and in pristine condition.  The park was not open, but pedestrians are welcome to mill about.  I walked the bike closer for a better view.

My meet-up on Foster was in part about Australian history, today being Battle of Gallipoli Day.  Or maybe that was yesterday.  I'm doing some research on it now, and thinking of the movie Churchill and his reluctance, per that narrative, to sign on to the Normandy campaign.

We talked about the actor George C. Scott.  I was right that he starred in Day of the Dolphin ("man is bad").

Most interesting was my discussion with an expert in Icelandic culture in medieval times, the educational institutions in particular.  I queried him about the Scandinavian spin on this word "troll" which is much in the news lately.

Internet Research Agency out of St. Petersburg was deemed a "troll farm" by the FBI, but I didn't see Cambridge Analytica getting cast as a "troll farm" despite its openly bragging about its meddling in the 2016 election via Facebook.  Why the double standard?  Are Russians more troll-like than Brits?  Evidently.

As it turns out, trolls were badass anti-heroes that added spice to a family tree.  If you were a weighty House in Norway, you might proudly proclaim some troll blood in your veins.

I'm reminded of how Neanderthals are in vogue today.  Good news if your genetic profile suggests you're not just a plain vanilla Cro-Magnon.  How bland.

Of course I'm aware the term "troll" has developed its own meaning in the context of the Internet.  There's also the verb form "to troll" which roughly means "to bait" or even "to tease".

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Learning to Code

I'm about to head out to a distant section of Greater Portland, actually outside the city limits I'm pretty sure, to work with elementary school students on learning to code.

Working in this wartime economy is difficult.  You might think I'm far away from any wars, living in some American Dream, so what am I talking about?

In truth, North Americans have become psychologically damaged by Endless Wars with no end in sight.  The Weapons of Mass Suicide are singing a siren song to a lot of people.

This morning I galvanized the Wanderers discussion list to pick up some controversial topic for debate, something with science and engineering angles.  We'll be looking at so-called 5G and the topic of microwave radiation.

There's a sense that we're drowning in false reports and propaganda.  The narratives have not grown up sufficiently to sound realistic, so we get these little nightmare scenarios.  We know they have a short half life. I think that's because we've already outgrown the nation-state system, such as it was, but so what if that's what I think.  What people feel are the constraints of the straitjacket.

People take refuge in what's slower moving, the more cosmic, the wheel of life itself.  The political narratives of the wartime economy are a source of brain damage.  Lets just call it "wrong frequency" and seek protection.

I'm all for increasing tourism to replace terrorism.  That's stereotypically a leisure class activity and a lot of people are being expelled from the leisure class.  Another way to tour is in uniform, not as a guest necessarily, but as an armed combatant.  That's how many get to see the world today, as terrorists.

However, we also see that many of those engaged in the fighting cannot afford uniforms.  They're civilians defending a piece of turf, turned into combatants by circumstance.  North Americans see how this phenomenon is spreading and cling to their own weapons just in case.  They see Aleppo and realize that cities are not safe.

That's what happens in wartime.  Planning for the future tends to low ebb.  People just don't see a shared vision.  Only positive science fiction is in any way unifying.  Dystopian science fiction is more ubiquitous, but then people can't agree on it as easily.  The narrative fragments even as it demoralizes.

I don't bother my students with world affairs.  We're focused on learning skills and concepts.  I do my best to exit the wartime economy and create a small oasis of peacetime for them.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Cerebral Sunday


Our breakfast meeting was about GST, in particular the question of how best to teach thermodynamics in conjunction with the global economy.

Now, I'm not talking about global warming or climate change, so much as what we call the Earth's energy budget.  How much energy comes in, and how much goes out?  Terry emphasizes that it's close to net zero, otherwise the global temperature would be increasing or cooling much faster than it is.

OK, I take it back, there's a global warming aspect to the equations.  Just to be clear though, we're looking at how hydrocarbons impound solar energy to create vegetation, forests and so on.  Then there's the rain cycle:  evaporation feeds rivers and an endless supply of water flowing downhill.

Humans stick their water wheels into these rivers and thereby get more horsepower than ever.  The same strategy gets us hydroelectric power today.

Malthus appreciated that life increased at geometric rates (exponentially) in the right conditions. That includes vegetation, however since surface area is a constraint on arable land, he forecast a human population outstripping food supplies in the near future.

Terry, whom I was meeting with, also Glenn, went to the same London School of Economics, ages later.  The population was pushing towards ten billion but growth rates were slowing according to some metrics.  He's interested in the history of thermodynamics going back especially to French language thinkers Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis and the Carnots (Lazare and Sadi).

GST does factor in solar power as the major ecosystem driver of life on Earth, but of course it takes more than power to make a system go.  One needs components, complexity, organisms.

How the build-up in complexity affects any global entropy measure, if that makes any sense, is still an open question in my book.  I'm looking for more authors to address it.

After breakfast, Glenn and I walked to the Friends Meeting on Stark, by way of Movie Madness, and met with several Friends.  We were heading up Mt. Tabor.

Then I had a 2 PM appointment with an earnest student of what I might call psychological physics, also known by the label Deep Democracy as championed by Arnold Mindell and associates based here in Portland.  I've been to a few of Arnie's workshops and studied his writings.

Physics, in proposing to offer "theories of everything" tends to get drawn in to talking about such memes as "consciousness" which of course connects them to what "unconscious" might mean.  Typically, an "unconscious being" is simply unaware of some otherness, insofar as it has any awareness.  I realize that's a circular definition.

I took a lot of pictures of book covers and book contents throughout the day, given the veritable blizzard of information coming at me.  What better way to make a record?

However, I went through my camera battery doing that, such that when it came time to attend my friend Matthew's sixtieth birthday (we're about the same age), I had to grab a backup camera, the one that was starting to jam (it gets paralyzed). The backup camera jammed every time this time, so I feel back on my Android for any pictures.  This was out in Tualitin-Sherwood, at the Century Hotel.

D'Arcy Thompson was a main figure in the morning meeting, so when I got back I started reading his On Growth and Form again.  I've never read it cover to cover.  Then I found some Youtubes about the guy, including the one linked above. D'Arcy was a big inspiration behind this new book Scale by Geoffrey West which I've been reading, and recommending.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Death of Journalism


The US and UK no longer have a functioning mainstream media when it comes to reporting "news". The independent voices have access to the internet. RT has helped a smarter group stay in public consciousness.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hectic Day

Although I made a token appearance at Wanderers tonight, I didn't have much energy for conversation, and left early, seeking cheap caffeine, which I have at my place.

This was marathon psychotherapy day with H&R Block, only to find out that the USPO had changed pickup times at Fred Meyers.  Only yesterday, April 16, the day before the tax rush.

Fortunately, I had an afternoon gig in Clackamas County.  Unfortunately, the detour to Fred Meyers cost me valuable minutes and a few kids gave up on me and went home as usual.  I'll be there extra early next time.  One of those schools where if you show up when the bell rings, you have no way of parking.  My first day in Happy Valley (that's not the name of the school).

After an hour with the kids sharing MIT Scratch, a favorite of Portland Public Schools (I'm private sector), I used the maps app to find the nearest post office.  The thing is:  these were amended returns and it's especially true that the State of Oregon freezes whatever you claimed on this date.  I had a few dollars in savings, which, to me, actually means something.

I sent checks with both returns and have Trimet queued.  I just need to wait for a couple invoices to clear.  In the meantime, I have overdraft protection.

It's all going through the motions for me, as it hurts to face extortion by organized crime, which is how it feels when an executive at some far off desk job chooses the most reckless course possible, thinking people buy the farcical "reality TV" they're pumping out to us.

You know how it is.  My family tried to live overseas as much as possible to avoid propping up the military junta, as we might as well say in the open now. The facts are on the table.  I've lived under martial law before.

You don't need to declare war to have war.  That's a lesson these latter day executives have taken to heart.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Loving Sophia


I've been mounting an old soap box and calling for a recall of the PhD degree, a defective product.  How could "lovers of knowledge" prop up such a corrupt academic establishment?  Letting Pearson get away with not sharing our polyhedrons is a travesty.  The UK is not our friend.

Look at what happened in Saudi Arabia.  A hoax puppet, made to seem smart, got to be a Saudi citizen and address the UN, making a mockery of the curriculum everywhere.  Who needs Yes Men anymore, when supposedly bright people are this gullible?

I take the high fear levels around AI, traceable to Terminator movies, as a projection of what we most fear:  that our own conditioned reflexes, our robotic side, will end civilization.  That's a real danger.  We're 99% robot, with only 1% "that of God" (intuitively minded). Our robotic side is very useful in a pinch, but may also get us killed.

The real danger of AI is that we, the really intelligent (RI) will become dumber and dumber, turning into robots.  The army of PhDs, so-called "doctors of philosophy" aren't fighting back it seems.  They're surrendering to their own artificialness, turning phony to their cores.  AI = PI (phony intelligence).  It's everywhere.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Queen of the Desert (movie review)

I took in this masterful piece of storytelling at Glenn's place.  He had it checked out of Multnomah County Library.  Nicole Kidman plays Gertrude Bell, and creates a haunting tale of a big soul, another Tara in her world (this one of camels and pyramids, and Lawrence of Arabia -- set somewhat the same time as Wonder Woman, the big movie).

Gertrude felt horribly penned in by British domestic society and begged her dad for more adventure. Good patriarch that he was, he found her a situation in Tehran, where she fell in love with the culture, and the third ranking secretary (male persuasion). Her dad was not about to give his property to that gambling house (they wished to marry) and the situation deteriorated (neither was fully a master of their own destiny, but then who is?).

Flash forward, and Gertrude is amongst the Bedouin.  She has the truly healthy and in no way twisted ethic of the anthropologist just hoping to understand her / his fellow man.  She knows at some level that she's helping to stabilize the situation simply through the force of her own integrity.  The men respect that and understand she's playing as they do, for high stakes and respect.

Werner Herzog employs either cranes or drones we don't know, perhaps all mysteries were revealed in The Making Of, but on this date and time, I needed to withdraw and continue with my overall mission.  That includes another rendezvous, and then more thinking about Machine Learning in tandem with Synergetics.  Glenn was all about Bayesian geostatistics this evening, flipping through the latest Nature.

I think of my mom and her sojourning with Coptics, south of Cairo.  Women with big souls often are first over the walls, you could say riding broomsticks, but why not also with respect.  Women are not some lesser species, after all.  Not that this needs reiterating in polite company.  Feel free to resume enjoying your desserts.  Coffee anyone?  I think I'll have one.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Colonialism 2018

The Colony of Puerto Rico, called a Commonwealth as that sounds better, is not free to accept ships from just anywhere. The hurricane was a jobs program for many maritime workers, not to mention pilots, if only for evacuation purposes.

The Jones Act is what I'm urging AFSC to keep studying.  Lots of analysis slowly brews and gets untapped at a later date. Just like with the HVDC lines, and all that research (GENI etc.), and with the refugee issues studied by UNHCR, the learning phase takes time.  Detective work is sometimes painstaking.

The above connects to the Chinese Peace Corps meme, which is somewhat esoteric.  The idea for free eyeglasses for all who need them, as a bare minimum living standard expectation, sounded like something Chinese would think of, and then encourage by means of inexpensive aid programs, in Walmart parking lots perhaps, in Michigan.

North Americans sometimes don't see themselves in need of care and assistance.  Yet the rest of the world sees a lot of sickness on their screens, and lots of acting out around the world. 

Having Chinese help provide eyeglasses might seem demeaning, as if "the richest nation on earth" couldn't organize such a thing.  But it couldn't.  More likely it would punch you in the face and break the glasses you already have.

I think the struggling people of North America are more aware of their pain and therefore more likely to assist others, whereas those enjoying insulated lives want to control how much the dispossessed try to help one another.  That's a long way of saying we won't be angry if other countries ignore the embargo against Puerto Rico.

Targeting Puerto Rico for sanctions was never fair in the first place.