Friday, October 31, 2014

Which Way Home (movie review)

Los Estados Unidos have become mythologized in more tropical climes, though here in El Norte, Costa Rica has a reputation as a subtropical paradise.

Not only do these kids often have very hazy, uninformed ideas, their parents and/or guardians may likewise have a very poor understanding of what almost two thousand miles on the top of a freight train might do to a person.

The children run away, clump together in teams, and a large number come home as PTSD victims, having been starved, robbed, imprisoned, and/or forced to witness crimes, including atrocities, against fellow travelers.  Some come back in a coffin.

What a lot of these Guatemalan, Honduran and Mexican kids don't realize is that North America has a large population of runaways just like themselves, fleeing broken homes.  They may be orphans, disowned, have an alcoholic step dad, mom's a meth head or who knows.

For one reason or another, a radical reboot / reset looks more promising than staying in the hood, and these kids hit the roads, sometimes the trains.  It doesn't matter what America you're in, the plight is the same, as are the attempted remedies.

What's most touching is how many of these young wanderers imagine they might find a loving family up north, not realizing many of our voting USA taxpayers would rather enjoy using them for target practice.  Immigrants who got here earlier tend to be mean to later immigrants:  an old pattern, similar to the "snobby butler" phenomenon.

Organized work / study tours for academic credit, and web sites for matching students with global opportunities would be part of the solution, as well as safer train tracks.  By the looks of this film, trains in Mexico have a bad habit of flying off the rails.

The film crew is gutsy in riding the trains with the kids, getting lots of hours in and winning the trust of their non-unionized cast of characters.  The social services and authorities, as well as NGOs, are portrayed as always caring and professional.  The "corrupt cops" and "predatory smugglers" do their thing off camera keeping everything PG-13.

Many thanks to for hosting this showing of an Emmy Award winning HBO documentary.  Save The Children International was the designated beneficiary of all proceeds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Thriving Adhocracy

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lunch Break

Long time readers of these blogs will remember Glenn Stockton, both a handy-man caretaker, really great with tools thanks to much off-the-grid living, even raising a family that way, and a scholar. 

He haunts the Good Will sometimes, knowing it's a place to score finds and today found a really great condition copy of a classic by Linus Pauling and E. Bright Wilson, which one is welcome to read for free on the Web:

Not that this book is light reading by any means. Pauling was a good clear writer in general though, Glenn points out, and I assume Wilson was too.

He also shared several other titles which you can take a look at by entering my Flickr Photostream, by clicking on either picture above.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Devils (movie review)

Students of Royal Babylon understand that royalty, like circus people, have been in-bred for a reason, to create a courtly cast of public figures easy to manipulate from behind the scenes, to puppet in other words.

The Devils is a reenactment of an historical period when France was undergoing incipient nationalism (this was long before Napoleon).  The so-called King of France (a royal) is kept feeling insecure by the "threat" of any city within its "borders" with walls.  Yet with a rampant plague going around, having a wall is actually good sanitation and the local strongman knows it. So the strongman must be framed and then murdered for his "crimes", which provides the plot for the story.

That the strongman happens to be a priest is very convenient for the framers, as he's something of a rock star with the nuns.  Absent family planning or competent medical services, when he gets a nun pregnant, she has no social security and freaks out, leading to momentum for a backlash against his studly ways.  The head of the nunnery doesn't quite have her head screwed on straight and she becomes the primary vector for vengeance, and ultimately furthers the king's minders' plot to fell the walls of the town.

The priest reminded me of Copernicus, also hounded by fellow Catholics for having a live-in partner whom he listed as a servant in official papers.  Lots of priests had women friends, which Protestants used against them, leveraging the hypocrisy charge, although this particular priest had done his homework and found nothing Biblical to support celibacy in the first place.  Or rather, the Bible tends to self cancel on many issues, with voices taking all kinds of positions.  The Quran is the same way.

Copernicus, Mercator, Descartes... all these good souls lived in terror of the Inquisition, and always for the same reason:  their intelligence was superior to the Pope's.  Any titular Pope or King is prone to throwing a hissy fit when some mirror mirror on the wall says someone else is the Snow White du jour.  The resulting rage feeds a desire for vengeance.  In the case of Mercator, with better maps than the Vatican's, that meant jail time.  For Descartes, also caught in the middle of religious wars, it meant encrypting some of his best secrets in time capsules not decoded until the 1980s.

The nuns do not have the benefit of depth psychology in the 1600s and have no way to deal with the unconscious other than buying into the namespace of demons and devils, the occasional angel.  Instead of psychoanalysts, you had exorcists and the Inquisition fielded these psychopaths by the gross.  Not surprisingly, the minders wanting to capitalize on France as a nation are hell bent on using the Inquisition as their tool, to bring down the strongman and the walls protecting his people from the plague.  They are successful in their plot and France goes on to terrorize the world as one more nation-state monster with corporate personhood (or "sovereignty").

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blustery Day

:: Fall Look ::

High winds today, trees bending, quite stormy but without the driving rain.  I was walking in it no problem, descending Mt. Tabor.

It was mini boom town in Stump Town in those years, with many a new palace, new bridge (making a dozen total).  A proud city approximately at the end of both the Oregon Trail (pioneered by Lewis & Clark) and the Missoula Floods (in different chapters obviously).

The last Dick Pugh talk I missed wasn't content I'd heard i.e. I missed out on quite a good talk by all accounts.  I'd been moping in my beer contemplating a different fashion line up now that ol' Stetson Gun Club was gone for good.  Longmire without a hat?

The Punch & Judy Show at Math Forum has been productive for me at least in that I got in touch with a GST buddy in India, a pen pal if you will, who knows more about Warfield and Pearce than I do.  We've had our differences, which I've even blogged about, but that only shows how much we care.  Awww...

This really happened:  I saw The Zero Theorem twice and the second time my RAZR decided it needed a red vortex splash screen and gave itself one.  A first perturbation of the Singularity?  Smartphones might start showing signs first, like dogs yelping before the tsunami.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Biosphere is Better

Monday, October 20, 2014

Remembering Occupy

Rear positioned, with police, we bring food tent supplies to Cascadia Pioneers statue.  Beach head established, full sized tent by evening.  Good relations with police got us off on the right foot.  Polarizations would happen later, in predictable ways.  Portland got some better bathrooms.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Speaking of Role Playing...

I have reason to use this clip in a somewhat academic context, in a footnote to some timeit() project where different versions have to race. The student is asked to cut a function's time by almost two thirds or more.

Rather than destroy the slower function, the two versions are raced, or maybe more than two. In my thinking, this image of a "snail race" occurs, and this movie clip, which makes it all come alive in CG.

I also appreciate this clip because of its resonance with real life situations of course. The film was obviously made with children in mind, and they know getting teased and/or teasing at recess.  They got teased for being "a crier" perhaps; and sure enough, one of the snails is immediately picked on by a bully.

There's no time to waste developing personalities however. The film itself does that at leisure, but our clip merely takes us to the races.  Barely more than a minute.  Yet a winner is found.  Given this is a cartoon, the laws of physics need not apply.

The premise of this movie his hilarious: a snail with aspirations to become a speed demon. The sheer idiocy of the premise, combined with expert follow-through, makes this a favorite of mine. I've already reviewed it.  Check it out.  Oops, sorry I'm slow... can't find it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Innovations in Role Playing

Besides experimenting with graph databases, Quakers in the 21st Century have options George Fox never did, such as to fully record Business Meetings on high bandwidth storage media for the Meeting Archives (picture a server farm, a rack space, if the meeting is big and old).

Traditionally, a recording clerk synthesizes a meeting's decisions into Minutes, and this practice should not be suspended.  Written minutes have a life of their own within a graph database.  However, if a remote Quaker wishes to (a) view and participate in real time and/or (b) record a response at a later time, an "after thought", why disallow this on principle?  Which of the Quaker SPICES testimonies says to only meet behind closed doors and never make any recordings?

The obvious answer is Business Meeting (a form of Meeting for Worship devoted to management and governance) contains confidential material sometimes and the "need to know" ethic predominates in Societies not given to idle gossip.  For this reason, real time access may indeed need to be limited to only invited / trusted remote parties.  Likewise, before a Business Meeting goes to the Meeting Archive, an editing step might be applied.  A skillful editor, like a skillful clerk, is not trying to change the sense of the meeting through censorship.  Editing is a way of sculpting and bringing out features, highlighting.  The Job Descriptions manual may need a new Role, though perhaps "recording clerk" already covers it.

Speaking of roles:  remember the Advices from past clerks of Peace and Social Concerns: to not let Nominating rule the roost when it comes to activist participation.  Practice first, get nominated (or not) later.  How are people supposed to know you and your concerns well enough to nominate you if all you do is play wallflower and hope you get noticed?  That's no way to run a railroad.  Wade in and get noticed.  Flamboyance may be preferable to sulking.  Think about it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Graphing Relationships


Those of you who've done most your bookkeeping or other record keeping with SQL, may have heard of NoSQL or "not only" SQL, but your mind flashes to something like Mongo or CouchDB, not to a graph database with a language like Cypher.  That's still forgivable as graph databases are still relatively new players in the record keeping ecosystem.

Neo4j depends on Java and gives you a web browser mashup that's a combination IDE / REPL and visualization portal.  For those of you not decoding:  IDE = interactive development environment; REPL = read / evaluate / print loop (interactive prompt); SQL = structured query language.  You'll see that above:  the $ is the interactive prompt and the box beneath, listing movie names, is what a MATCH query in the Cypher language came back with.

Getting some basic / primitive Python API might be a next step, or maybe not.  I should probably just work out in native Neo for a couple weeks and build up my Cypher skills.  The command language front end would be like:  "Make Ahmed clerk of Peace and Social Concerns for two years starting in 2014".  The Cypher would happen behind the scenes.  Something like WikiWords might come in handy, to keep the parsing part easy.  If you prefer to write Cypher directly, more power to you.

Then a clerk could query using syntax like:  "show all previous members of Peace and Social Concerns with the percent of regular meetings they attended".  This might be a Nominating clerk query.  One wants reliable attenders usually, though some people have pre-agreements that could also be encoded e.g. members who live in another city half the year, the case with Carol.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Reviews on Amazon

Quakernomics: An Ethical Capitalism (Anthem Other Canon Economics)

Quakernomics: An Ethical Capitalism (Anthem Other Canon Economics)
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Did Quakers practice "Total Capitalism"?, October 9, 2014

Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Very cool that the author focuses on The Iron Bridge as an entry point, a science fiction novel about a time traveler sent back from a future that's decided humans had industrialized too early, before their thinking had matured enough to handle it (witness the World Wars the followed). In this future, the planetary ecosystem is messed up beyond repair. Industrialization must be delayed. So she (the time traveler) is to sabotage the Iron Bridge, built by industrious Quakers who treated their workers fairly well. Hence the book's claim that Quakers not only practiced "total capitalism" (from foundry to factory to wholesale to retail) but did it in such away as to give "total socialism" a run for its money, i.e. they treated their workers relatively well. Quakers reach an apogee in power and influence around 1781 when the bridge opens. Given their socially unpopular positions in the US, anti Indian Wars and anti slavery, their Quaker utopia (Pennsylvania) is already on the wane, but that's another story. This book is more about the UK and the difference Quakers made there.

Divided Spheres: Geodesics and the Orderly Subdivision of the Sphere

Divided Spheres: Geodesics and the Orderly Subdivision of the Sphere
Price: $55.46

5.0 out of 5 stars A Well Rounded Primer, June 12, 2013

Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This handsome, beautifully illustrated primer is authored by a career geodesic dome engineer with a sense of the big picture, including the history. I found plenty of mathematical trail heads leading off in various directions, all worth exploring, with a core of spherical trigonometry.

Yes, my own writing is in the bibliography, which may color my opinion, but to me this just means Edward Popko (whom I have not met) was extremely thorough and really did his homework for this tome, including exploring a lot of obscure topics. Amy Edmondson's A Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of R Buckminster Fuller is likewise cited, helping weave together a story that is still unfolding today.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Elders in Action

This went by on the Chipy list today.  I've watched it before but this time had the sense to grab it for my blog:

Also today, in addition to chauffeuring a friend with a hip replacement around, I joined some women at the waterfront, East Side Esplanade at Salmon, for a quick photo shoot in honor of of the ongoing global Kites Not Drones campaign.

That's the abbreviated slogan. Drones have their legitimate uses, just not in the hands of vicious killers. It's a misappropriation of technology. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Ava Helen's old haunt, organized the Portland action.


I rounded out the day at a local temple (Newar Buddhist), on invitation from a friend. Classical Indian ragas sung by an older guy, accompanied by traditional instruments, who knew what he was doing. My ears took awhile to adjust but then that's part of the process. By the end, we were pretty much all on the same page.