Friday, July 27, 2012

BuckyBalls: Consumer Ban

Consumers have been banned from buying Bucky Balls on the open market.  No, this does not refer to C60, the molecule, or its family, but to a toy that had made an earlier appearance under a different brand but was then marketed as "Bucky Balls".  These small, powerful, spherical magnets are a subject of study in STEM, or have uses as a lab / studio supply.  STEM labs often work with controlled substances, including live animals that might kill you if let out of their cages (Cabin in the Woods type places (Joss Whedon)).

Oregon is home to some companies that make very dangerous chemicals, whereas other extremely dangerous chemicals (EDCs) are just stored here.  You've heard of the NIMBY syndrome ("not in my back yard") -- well, Oregon is "someone else's back yard" to a lot of people.  Externalizing waste i.e. the true costs of doing business, is a way to avoid having an ecosystem come together, i.e. it's more a wealth prevention strategy (masked in short term profits).

Instead of "Oregon" (named for smelt?), I should speak of Cascadia more regionally, as Hanford, a major seepage site, detritus of the Manhattan Project (Ellsberg's Manhattan 2), has vented chem trails as well.

Vital research up close to nuke plants is a biomedical activity that only risk takers engage in, like Navy SEALs.  That tick of the Geiger counter may be your best signal to back away.  Or call it "eco-tourism" of as an extreme sport perhaps.  Like Mt. Everest, the study of externalized waste streams, as a field, a discipline, is riddled with the corpses of dedicated scientists.  Fukushima has contributed exponentially to the supply of recruits, many of them unwitting, feeling committed by fate.

One of the weak boundaries in STEM is between climatology, CDC style epidemiology, and EPA style studies of toxic waste (radiotoxins included). EDCs certainly alter the economy in a big way, as civilizations cope to prevent and/or deal with a major disaster, and/or many scattered deaths in the case of swallowed Bucky Balls (the magnets).  How does one avert one's eyes from these climatological effects and only focus on CO2 levels?  Aren't Hanford's and Johnston Atoll's chemtrails a fact of geological history?  I studied the latter when editing Asian-Pacific Issues News  (APIN).

Responsible management of controlled substances remains an elusive goal as organized crime typically competes with governments with investments in selling arms.  Escalation or continuous low grade warfare lines the pockets of various stakeholders, who also profit from the "illicit" (full of loopholes) trade.  The medical profession is traditionally overruled by the legal profession in this area, except in some categories.  With the right medical documents, one is entitled to STEM inventory, not unlike the governmental classification system for secret document librarians (a set of circuits sometimes short circuited, per Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers or as a result of blackmail, strategic leaks, inadvertent misplacement).

In the end, it's all well and good to ban "mindless consumers" from various forms of access.  Of you have a clear research need or medical requirement, that puts you in a different category.  Where small magnets are concerned, other toys have them and Bucky Balls circulate aplenty in the after market (not always by that brand), one more hazardous material that could endanger others or oneself if used irresponsibly, another poison.  Mindless consumers didn't know how privileged they were, until they lost that freedom.  Mindfulness is forged in relative bondage sometimes where those "bonds" may be relationships, commitments, obligations.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wanderers 2012.7.25

Steve Holden and I were to present, post OSCON, about our sense of Open Source and so on.

What's up with the FLOSS revolution?  Whiter teeth?

As anticipated, I had to skip the first hour.  Per Facebook from the night before, I've been doing car trips to Union Station, connecting with Amtrak and Greyhound.

I'd also wanted to check in with Officer Walker at City Hall, where she's been undertaking logistics.  I shared that with the Quakers etc., Facebook Friends, in the context of updating my profile on several topics.

I came into the room to find John Taylor had joined us.  He's on a stint from Indonesia.  At age 77, he's semi-retired, looking for a landing spot, maybe in Portland, for himself and his soon to retire younger wife.

I'd helped John find temporary quarters while in town, after mom had offerred him Lindsey's storage studio, but I didn't think his head would survive the low rafters.

FNB seems to be in flux again, with SE chapter not always so alone.  I sometimes get inquiries whether the Quakers might offer their kitchen again, one day a week.  I'd certainly be game. but I'm not clear what the routine would be.

That was something Lindsey and I did together for a year, before we went our separate ways in that namespace.

Although I still play an administrative role as an anarcho-boss, I've been less of a fixture at Colonel Summers Park, and not just because of OSCON, Indiana.

I've sketched more FNB science fiction in the background.

My take on Open Source was it has become a recruiting tool in some ways.  If your company is not contributing something freely, of quality, then maybe your company has not much to offer?

Mine (ours) puts a lot of courseware out there for free, plus of course O'Reilly Media is behind OSCON itself, the Open Source Convention.

I gave the example of Conoco-Phillips and the graphics package it maintains, one of the topics at Europython a few years back.

But what what does "of quality" mean?  Do we recommend Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at this point (by Pirsig)?

I confess I've been saying some relatively uncharitable things about VistA, the medical records system from the VA.  I had a run in with MUMPS (the M-language) earlier in my career and I just can't bring myself to think anything MUMPS has much of a half life.

I say this as someone who has actively looked at the recruiting problem (how to get more M programmers?), made proposals (on math-thinking-l especially).

I'm not one of those who thinks that just because something is "open", it is thereby "of value".

Some of our group adjourned from the Pauling House to Pepino's down the street, for an outdoor eating experience.

I worked from then forward until the AFSC meeting.  We've been meeting monthly, with a bunch of us phoning in.  I've been hearing a lot of stories about the immigration situation.

When the French donated the Statue of Liberty, with its inscription about "send us your poor, your huddled masses", what was the assumed debt?  What was owed?

Did the New Atlantis at one point promise the world to always serve as a beacon of hope?

One could say that was a part of the Telos, a promised land archetype, a Next / Other World.  A New Jerusalem.  God had led His people to less godforsaken parts, less mired in past soap operas.

The USA operating system, now global, has a more closed feel about it, true, since Planet Earth is a ball.

She's not a "closed system" however, not in the thermodynamic sense.

We (as a species) have reason to hope for a breathable gas mix for some time to come.

Yes, I saw the stories about Greenland.  Brian came on strong, about the 97% melt off.  But the footnotes did not escape me.  We've been here before, in like 1889, and the ice record tells a story:  every 150 years or so.

But given how many other curves are out of rhythm, or apparently so, it's hard to interpret what we're seeing.

Climatology is properly a part of STEM, at least that much is obvious.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Steve and I left the car on Senate Street and Maxed it, arriving before the doors opened.  O'Reilly knows attendance at an early morning plenary will be down the 2nd day, so the walls were rolled in, curtailing the space, yet still it was huge, bigger than many churches, if not cathedrals.  Yet here we were, the bazaar economy.

Mark Shuttleworth did the best keynote in the sense of most technical, introducing Juju and the direction Canonical has taken with their new desktop.  I went up to him during Office Hours (an Expo Hall service) and thanked him for the boost he gave to curriculum writing / programming, including mine.  The opportunity to hang out with Alan Kay, Guido etc., in person, for three days in Kensington, was fantastic.  That was some years ago.  He again mentioned his early fascination with Smalltalk based Squeak as a trailblazer environment.

The Cloud business is an evolved reiteration of the ISP business, with customers wanting more control over what's on their servers.  Juju is about porting ecosystems of connected applications between systems and designing their API interconnections using "charms".

My Quakers have converged at annual session by this time.  Although I'm an AFSC rep, I'm leaving it to Eddy Crouch to run the interest group and help manage the NPYM / AFSC interface.  Getting more Quaker services into the Cloud, education-related, sounds like an interesting project.  That might just mean a bookstore, branching out into access to archives.  History, timelines, biographies, scanned minutes, records, journals... a kind of for Quakers?  New branches could start an instance this way, by customizing templates.  New classes of Friend... (in the sense of types or species)... we shall see.

I'm in HP's sponsored talk on its Cloud services at the moment.  They've moved into the data center business more, following Amazon and others.

The Facebook keynote was also good.  The fact that so much hardware is still closed design has led to the same basic wheels being re-invented over and over with lots of incompatible variations.  Secrecy begets duplication and meaningless resource-wasting inconsistencies, such as train tracks with different gauges.

OpenStack on the software side has its parallel initiatives on the hardware side.  Facebook is supporting that.  Standardizations begets savings.  It's the old pendulum, between a tightly knit civilization and a more every-man-for-himself Wild West kind of place.  Oscillations occur.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

To Tell the Truth

Anthropologists may question whether a form of government still based in theocracy can afford the same levels of hypocrisy as an oligarchy with democratic aspirations.  Of course I'm thinking of Iran and its official line that it's not lying about not wanting to break the NPT, but is rather intending to enforce it (in a coalition of the willing), to the point of global divestment.

I'd say global divestment is an official policy of many in the Pentagon for cynical military reasons:  wars used to accomplish something, maybe we could get back to that.  I think it's more a mind over brain thing, meaning "upgrades are possible", so going back to the old kind of "theater" may or may not be in the cards (not a given, despite Satan's fond hopes).

What swept the so-called West was "real politik".  I would refer you to CFR docs and the writings of Henry Kissinger to get a stronger idea of what that means.  One might call it Machiavellianism.  The job of politicians was not to communicate truthfully, which was handed off to journalism, which could be bought; the job of politicians was to say what was necessary to win the allegiance of key constituencies.

The constituents could know you were lying (open secret) as they did it themselves.  Lying was just another tense, like past perfect or future.  This was actually consistent with the linguistic turn in some ways, and Nietzsche's critique of the will to truth, of which he was justifiably suspicious (oppressive moralism wears the mantle of truth in various clownish guises -- this was pre psychoanalysis lets remember).  Theologists were given handicapped parking with the intention to grandfather them out as old school.  Iran, also Israel, are anachronistic to the extent clerics, rabbis, imams, any of those, are given undue influence.

In retrospect, we might agree this attack against one brand of ideologue by another, perhaps seen as realistic in the light of scientism, was not especially likely to result in a clear win for either side.  The religious have felt on the defensive, with secularism and democratism a real check on their power.  However the religious have some ethics and disciplines that keeps them viable.  The question is to what extent hypocrisy (disconnecting self characterizations from one's actions and intent -- relates to overall credibility and authenticity) is able to fly in these circumstances.  Does one side have an edge or stand to lose more if mouthing phony shibboleths?

The question is this:  if Iran is theoretically a theocratic state and is essentially telling the truth about its strategy, then when does it morph into a global champion of the NPT against defiant rogue states such as Colorado and other states allowing nuke weapons in storage, or in launch position, in their homelands?  Or have these states been colonized?  Do they really have much say?

Iranian weapons inspectors, somewhat inspired by Scott Ritter and other "just the facts mam" intelligence analysts, enlist for duty both at home and overseas, under the auspices of the IAEA and others, ready for duty in Australia, Chernobyl, whatever Restricted Zones of possible weapons contamination, sometimes amidst pristine natural beauty (a subject of ecotourism, other extreme tourism genres).

The teams are diverse, multi-ethnic, with some recruits from Reed College in Portland.

A career as an supranational pro-Earthian warrior is rewarding in itself.  Foil the Dr. Evil types.

The question facing Pakistan is whether to join Iran as another Muslim state with a Countdown to Zero agenda.  India has been asking for admission into the nuclear club under the terms of the NPT without making divestment of nuclear weapons its priority, turning away from any course Gandhi would have advocated.  Einstein would likewise have been for an anti-nuke weapons Israel.

We might see India's deterioration into having nuke weapons as evidence of the impotence in India's engineering caste and/or the relative moral immaturity of Hinduism. If Pakistan flips the switch, ala South Africa, and joins Iran in its leadership role, the contrast with the Islamic states will only be heightened.  "Islam is about ridding the world of nuclear weapons."  I would agree with that.

A youthful more hopeful movement is showing signs of wanting to go this route, as Occupy / Arab Spring spreads a Countdown to Zero message.  Reversing a lot of the eco-damage committed in the 1900s looks like ethical work, the work of healing.  The need for pro-Earthians is medical, as much as religious.  Science and engineering shake hands, are on the same page.

NPT:  Non-proliferation Treaty
CFR:  Council on Foreign Relations
IAEA:  International Atomic Energy Agency

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I was on duty chauffeuring, drinking coffee at the base of the tram.  A guy zoomed up in his wheel chair.  "Is that a computer?" he asked, in child-like wonder.  Hadn't seen an Air before. I emphasized it was light weight (unlike its owner).

Then who should walk in to the scene but Brian Sharp, one of our Wanderers, but often remote, in central Oregon, and mostly contacting by list (Yahoo group).  We talked for awhile about this and that, then it was off to Providence, from OHSU.  Back to OHSU later.

Brian followed pilot projects to reintroduce the condors to North America.  They'd had a life here in Oregon, per records, but have long since died out.  Brian does not see a way to bring them back in our particular era; the problems are insoluble at the moment.  But he has been working on a book about what it used to be like, and why they once thrived here.  That book is due out soon.

Why they can't survive now traces mainly to man-made substances in the environment that subvert their lifestyle.  Lead shot in animal carcasses proves toxic over time, but also the pabulum they regurgitate to infants:  these have more plastics in them, fragments of non-biodegradable things.  These tend to clog up digestive systems.  Not enough survive to make it a viable community.

Brian was recently back from a San Diego championship tournament wherein his soccer team was best in the over-64 class. He's run the circumference of planet Earth three times if you add up his frequent player soccer miles.

Another Goodbye


Lindsey brought her from Savannah, where she'd bonded with this already mature animal. Titty lived in the Blue House as an indoor cat, after Moon Kitty died.

 She was gradually transitioned to an outdoor lifestyle, which she seemed to enjoy for the most part, after learning to defend her turf, although an altercation with some other animal was a likely cause of death eventually, the wound going undetected for too long (she did not exhibit behaviors of someone in pain).

She lived a full lifespan for an outdoor cat. She was occasionally recruited for indoor service during the Great Rat War of 2011.  She had access to the basement studio through a tiny window during colder months.

She will be missed. 

Thank you to Joe Snyder for a veterinarian's advice, and to Pet Samaritan for the 9th hour consultation, where Lindsey and I took her yesterday on short notice. She died peacefully amidst expressions of affection.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Big Fix (movie review)

Avatar Meetup

This movie makes the case that BP has specialized in "bad boy" high risk game playing and has been rewarded in the past for recklessness.

The consequences of a cavalier and above-the-laws-of-nature psyche are still incalculable, but in the meantime we get some good X-ray snapshots of how the appetite for oil and its attendant sums of petrodollars, can deprive us of trillions of dollars worth of ecosystem assets, shortening many lives, human as well as nonhuman.

It's somewhat a repeat of the war of 1812 as the UK-Pentagon axis plunders and rapes North America, while the patriots drive their hippie (sometimes biodiesel) buses around, taking inventory of the devastation.

Great Britain has conquered what used to be considered more French territory.

Orlando is an outpost for British Aerospace and Guantanamo is where Her Majesty keeps the puppet US fall guys (the patsies) cynically undermining their own government (on paper not a monarchy).

Gitmo (which the movie does not mention) is a potent weapon against American democracy on both continents, a violation of the Monroe Doctrine.  But the BP-Pentagon has no way of shedding its imperialist reflexes.  That programming runs deep.  Puppets get used to their assigned roles.

The movie considers Huey "The Kingfish" Long as inspirational to these coastal peoples, colonized by an empire yet wanting to stay non-violent and democratic about it (having already won the Revolution).  The filmmakers have family ties to the coastal peoples themselves, although their accents are not as colorful as some of those interviewed.

The movie does a nice job of tying the story back to Iran nearer the beginning, and to Saudi Arabia.  The BP-Pentagon is ravenous for more fuel, if only to carry-out its fuel-happy plans to get more fuel.  Flying jets like that is great fun, especially on the 4th of July, with colored contrails.  If some people get ill as a result, just make them the enemy -- like Louisiana is now infested with insurgent ecoterrorists (many former fishermen) which BP will fund TV and universities to help us demonize as dirty oil-covered hippies.

Greg Palast is funny.  Lindsey cracked up at the "Frankenstein machine" remark, about how they just churn out another CEO when the last one has absorbed enough punishment in exchange for a compensation package. Other talking heads stake their reputations in various ways, carving out their positions.

From an emailed review:
The movie is ambitious in that a wife-husband team try to take in a grand sweep of history view.

They point out various semi-obvious things, such as the fact that the military machine runs on BP etc., so one can't expect much protection from the more violence-prone based in DC, UK etc.

The dispersant used to make the oil sink to the bottom is having consequences that are still being studied.  Big dead zones in the Gulf.  Many unknowns.

Lots of people sick from all the spraying (the atmosphere has changed).

What's somewhat amazing is how it's up to amateur non-scientist filmmakers to bring just about any of this to light, as the monied media have little interest in investigative journalism anymore.
There's a kind of born-yesterday innocence to the viewpoint, as if "corruption" were only just now being revealed. We need a better word for the fact that world history does not always unfold according to our imagined ideals. Of course it's a struggle to resist colonization and enslavement by one's fellow humans. We have a pattern of forcing one another to work against our own best interests. The right and freedom to pursue happiness? Really? Even for "little people"? What will they think of next?