Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Dots Connecting

Yes, I literally get my history from bars sometimes.

I was at Mulligan's tonight, with Patrick.  The beautiful and uber-competent Diana was behind the bar (someone I know through Steve) and poured my Guinness

Patrick was smoking outside, despite the 90F degree weather, and we were joined by a young woman, training to be a public interest lawyer, who wanted to share about the USS Indianapolis.

I listened with fascination as she and Patrick compared notes.

This ship was somewhat in the black ops category on that particular mission, delivering components of the atomic bomb intended for detonation over Hiroshima.

August Sixth is coming right up, and this morning at Bread and Ink I was yakking with mom about upcoming ceremonies.  We think of August Sixth as Disarmament Day.  That may seem parochial to some readers.

Coming back from its mission, said ship was torpedoed and sunk quickly.  You can read about the worst shark attack in recorded history on-line.

I'd left my camera at Patrick's, where I'd visited for a company all-hands (video patch in to Sebastopol).  We went back for it from Mulligans, then hopped a bus to Lucky Lab.  Another co-worker, Paul, expectantly waiting for us, learned of our recent adventures and conversations over a pitcher of Super Dog IPA (one of my favorites, right up there with Hawthorne Best Bitter).

Thursday is game night at Lucky Lab, meaning board games are in evidence everywhere.  As a World Game player, I'd cop to being into gaming (game playing).  We just didn't happen to have a board.

Earlier I was outlining a role playing game in computer circles for mom, using the analogy of Pragmatic versus Evangelical Friends (Quakers) the latter being more into Theology as a discipline, which should stand for "any orthodoxy".

We also talked about Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.  Mom sees Noam is a good role model for a long haul activist, which she is too.  They're actually both 86.  Zinn lived a pretty long time too, 87 years.

The more orthodox computer scientists treasure the theoretical purity of Functional Programming languages, of which the LISP family is a model.  When MIT switched to Python for pragmatic reasons, some theologians felt that as a betrayal and sell-out to the Object Oriented camp, where state is more mutable and the code arguably more pragmatic.

Speaking of mutable states, when we got to Lucky Lab, board games all around us, I said one way of telling history is that in using an atom bomb over two cities, the US actually lost WW2.  Only losers use nukes.  The Nazis had wanted to be an uber-power (Third Reich).  Was a superpower all that different?  Einstein later said had he anticipated what the monkey-brains would do with the new physics, he'd have become a watchmaker.  The real USA fights back, is anti-nuke weapon, same as Iran.

Of course that's not the accepted narrative, and I footnoted that my world view was influenced by what we might call a "post-nationalist memeplex" citing Grunch of Giants (by a US Medal of Freedom winner), meaning I had an easier time with "bent" history (another form of science fiction).

Our public interest lawyer in training, at Mulligan's, was not one of those "motivated by money" as many want ads say they want on Wall Street (still true?).  Financial analysts (aka "quants") can get religious too, about their craft.

We talked about age a lot with the young woman (Patrick and I are both in our fifties) and a Louis C.K. segment on that.  Then our discussion veered off into cannibalism and the original true story behind Moby Dick.

:: patrick @ work / all-hands July 30 ::

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Anticipatory Design Science

:: a lecture commemorating Fuller's 120th birthday, by Trevor Blake ::

Trevor regales us with stories about Fuller "dog trotting" (as he called it) in his underwear (to stay healthy) and obsessively "keeping a chronofile".  Today we call that "jogging" and "using Facebook" (in some domains) and neither habit seems that weird.  Fuller made a career out of being a "weirdo" (i.e. "ahead of his time" aka "an early adopter").

Fullers' mind / brain model was server / client, making the metaphor of "upgrading" easy to come by even before we had "the cloud" (we at least had "heaven" i.e. the state of everything working flawlessly, and then the "afterimage" i.e. a lagging human understanding).

Quaker's too use "expectant waiting" as a term for seeking divine grace i.e. illumination (enlightenment) -- an ongoing process (continuing revelation), not so much a moment of satori as the ongoing possibility of satori.  Referring to this extra-human (super-human) source as Mind simply tinges the discourse with a Gnostic flavor.  Whether one might go on to distinguish Mind from Being in any formal way would of course depend on one's namespace, e.g. which flavor of whatever Transcendentalism.

To what extent was Fuller's "walking away" from the Wichita House enterprise an after-shock associated with the Dymaxion Car's overturn?  Everything looked so hopeful around the car, before it was run off the road in some pissing contest, just before showtime.  Things might go wrong with the house as well:  one might fall off the pole and squish the family pet.  What controls did Fuller have over the quality of assembly and might not a few visible failures set us back?  He was gambling at a high stakes table and did not feel like bluffing, nor did it yet seem a winning hand.  He folded.

Trevor reminds us to what extent "Dymaxion" came to mean encampments and camp equipment, refugee camps, people making the most of what little they had.  The Occupy Movement was about instituting insta-government where possible.  City downtowns were not ideal for long term experiments but did serve to (A) recruit large numbers instantly, to the possibility of such communities and to (B) serve as demonstrations of where we're at, in terms of ability to coordinate.  One might focus on disastrous aspects of these scenarios, but as an OPDX logistics person, I saw a lot to admire in the mechanics as well.

As I was discussing with Melody this afternoon, I think learning to cook contemporaneously with the task of wrapping one's mind around concurrency patterns in programming, in say Clojure (to pick a language), is a great example of a positive synergy, not least for the cooking skills acquired, let alone programming.  She was over saying good bye to Lindsey, currently packing for Corvallis, where she's a student at Oregon State University.  But then Newar Studies (not an official OSU major, something she's putting together across departments) will be taking her back to her main studio shortly.  I'm on tap to drive her to PDX.

Friday, July 24, 2015

OSCON 2015: Wrap Up

Buying the keynotes and talks as a post production recording actually costs money, as a way to recoup, so if you find a vintage year (they're all vintage) for cheap, say at Good Will, you'll know it's a good buy.  We also stream live, so if you time your life to watch the keynotes, they're available for a window.  OSCONs provide telling snapshots of the swiftly evolving IT world from year to year.

Now I'm back in a second floor ballroom, Oregon Convention CenterTriMet is doing maintenance today, on the Max track itself by the look of it.  I came on the Hawthorne bus (14) through downtown and switched to Max, getting as far as just over the Steel Bridge, Memorial Colosseum area.  The walk from there is quite short, plus shuttle buses were provided (I walked).

So did you see George Dyson, historian, talking about Imitation Game?  He wanted to remind us that Turing was very much a team player and quite popular with his group, not uncomfortable around women or socially awkward in the ways depicted.  In other words, he was not the endearing dweeb played by a good actor, a character more of the movie-makers' invention.  The movie never claimed to be a documentary right?  People need to be reminded about genre.

The Uber geek, Raffi Krikorian, a polished speaker, wanted us to understand how "choosing your team" is "choosing your architecture" in large degree, if only implicitly.  Engineers use the tools they know best.  So build eclectic full stack teams, and keep them smaller (two pizza rule) rather then letting them grow out of control.

That's the way to manage teams: around micro-services, the wave of the present-future, now that so-called monoliths have been tried and understood.  That's not to say "no more monoliths" only that if others want to use your monolith, they'll probably want it containerized within the cloud.

As any geek will tell ya, the philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well is baked into GNU and before that Unix, so micro-services is less a new dogma than data centers hitting their groove, finding a scale at which the concepts apply.

"Interoperability" will keep coming back as a buzzword.

Finally, for a last keynote of the morning session, we enjoyed a retrospective of milestones passed, by a precocious thirteen year old girl from LA.  She gave us the benefit of some wisdom, about not judging a container by its color, as well as a peak into her busy inner life.  She'll have a resume to die for at this rate... already does.

I've come to a final talk entitled:  A centralized team in a decentralized world:  Engineering tools at Netflix by Mike McGarr (@SonOfGarr).  He presents clearly and memorably.  Recommended (if you find OSCON 2015 for sale some place).

Just like an airplane experiences thrust versus drag, lift versus weight, engineering tools give us  innovation versus change, customers (like lift), the need for support (weight).

Customers, in this scenario, are Netflix engineers.  Netflix sits on Amazon a lot, Asgard being one of the open source tools it supports, watch for Spinnaker.

Netflix has its own culture (Freedom & Responsibility):  senior engineers, high trust, context not control.  Somewhat like doctors in a practice I imagine.  Highly aligned to business goals, yet loosely coupled, the teams get behind microservices just like that Uber guy said.  This leads to strong subcultures within the organization, reflected in hiring.

Echoing Amber, software engineers need to give undivided attention to coding on occasion.  That means rotation in setting a watchman.  Let someone monitor feedback letting the others bliss out.  Not having a ticketing system was a weakness.  My workplace uses JIRA.

All this thinking aobut Netflix gets me thinking about "hypertoons" again, polyhedrons of scenarios (as edges) with switch points (nodes).  The nodes are smooth segues and switch points.  Player heads navigate the hypertoon, feeding the reveries on CSN LCDs, and elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cooling My Heels

I'd never thought to take that phrase suddenly:  "cooling my heels" -- what does it mean?  Deke, a long distance runner in his college years, a "track star" as we say, recommends submerging said heels in a bath of ice cold water.  I've been trying that, with just the one heel.

Also in the leg department:  Sarah the dog's have gotten rickety to where she can barely walk.  I have to help her up on her haunches, at which point she's able to teeter around.  She has an appetite.  Given I'm at home a lot, working, it's feasible to keep watch and monitor.

I'm due to see a certified M.D. in the near future, having heard Louis C.K.'s doc's prognosis already (a comedian, lots of Youtubes).

I've learned the "embed" tag's API allows for start and stop times i.e. one may excerpt using HTML.  My thanks to John Denker on PHYSLRNR (a listserv) for digging that up for me.  We'd been talking about how one "quotes" video (off-list).

I'm cooling my heels in another sense:  just hanging out "on the hallway track" as we call it, sitting quietly with other geeks, each submerged in a laptop.  Conversations carry on quietly around me.

Most geeks are in their tutorials, but given dog care duties and yakking with Carol and Lindsey, I opted to join the hallway track on the ramp up to lunch, blogging and managing my queues.  I'm wearing my O'Reilly School of Technology T-shirt, bright red, with name badge to match, with the black Stetson, just to add a touch of West Region (or West Zone or whatever it is).

Having my Fujifilm XQ-1 back is fun, as I zip around snapping some great angles in a quiet period, the lull before the storm.  A large influx occurs on Wednesday after the optional two days of tutorials on Monday and Tuesday.  These tutorials are a professional investment for many present i.e. that Docker tutorial I attended yesterday will for some be a springboard to future professional development work.

Thoughts of professional development bring me back to Quaker business, and the conference I just came from in Spokane (at Whitworth University), and the emerging possibilities for some positive synergy twixt the Friends and geekdom.

Earlham College is already a recognized center of excellence in computer science, for undergrads and eclectic types especially (the emphasis is undergraduate education at that school, similar to Princeton in that respect).  A dockerized Python + Neo4j core designed to help a Monthly Meeting self-manage its affairs might be a fun pilot project, already embarked upon for all I know (my stirring the pot does not amount to a "project" yet, minus any shared repository).

The thing about Quakerism as a worthy target for textbook CS projects is they have so many moving parts yet a logical order, amenable to both SQL and no-SQL based treatments.

For example, every Monthly Meeting has its Standing and Ad Hoc Committees of rotating membership, often with staggered (partially overlapping) terms, each with clerks and recording clerks, cross-enrollment ex oficio and so on, with regional structures to boot.

That's a lot to graph, beyond a mere flat file listing filtered on tags.

I've been emphasizing Unicode aspects of the design on our NPYM IT discussion list (a Google Group).  A visiting delegation sporting name badges outside of Latin-1 could have phoneticized English for local consumption.  The badge wearer may choose double-sided, just Cyrillic, or whatever.

I updated Sam Lanahan by email this morning, about David Koski's finally finding another explorer showing up in the same ballpark of phi-scaled tetrahedrons and their many assemblies, including with details of Holding It Together (a tension-compression sculpture).

I've pointed the Coffee Shops Network blog in that direction, linking to both the Grayham Forscutt video and a recent summary of explorations within the Concentric Hierarchy of Synergetics fame.

Once again I found myself at a Pythonista lunch table reminiscing with an old hand about the heady days of Zope and Plone. Both these open source projects have served as valuable opportunities for talented coders to evolve the technology of the Object Database as a breed.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wrap Up

I've known Sara since Gathering of Western Young Friends days and followed her trek into Landmark, with which she's been active for quite awhile by now.

In the dinner line I suggested she refer to me as her "est vet Friend" in Landmark circles.  "I'm like the Viet Vet who can't quite remember to say Ho Chi Minh City and keeps saying Saigon" I explained, meaning I continued using the word est to refer to Landmark stuff sometimes.

Carol (mom) has a hard time specifically remembering when Jack (dad) did the est Training in Washington DC.  "He did a lot of things" she says.  We were living behind the Capitol building, not off DuPont Circle like that other time.  Lon Golnick was dad's second weekend trainer.  That was the summer Bucky died.  I got the news when we were heading to Friends General Conference (FGC).

Mom's not remembering dad's doing est came up at dinner last night, as she overheard Sara and I yakking about Landmark.  My two trainers were Ron Browning and Charlene Afermow (the training lasted over two consecutive weekends, for which different trainers were deployed).

I was reaching a peak around my est activism in those days, picking up on some urgency from Bucky Fuller and elsewhere.  I was return-addressing my envelopes from Erhard's San Francisco office, earning me a phone call from his lawyer who told me to cut it out.  We'd had friendly correspondence too though, that office and I, so chalk it up to stormy times.

Applewhite was uber-suspicious of est when we first met.  Our friendship was far from a done deal at the outset, despite my evident fascination with Synergetics.  We had our ups and downs, as I reminded him the last time I came to his apartment.  "You can abbreviate all that" he said, meaning no need to draw it out into some long story or soap opera.

He was then in the process of shipping off collected papers to the Standford Archive and wondered what of mine I might want to hold back.  I kept most of a file labeled "Quirky" (my writings range from the quirky to the whimsical a lot).  That would have been in 2004.

Another issue between me 'n Ed was I'd at one point lept to the erroneous conclusion, based on a "close" reading of Cosmic Fishing, that "E. J. Applewhite" was one of Fuller's pseudonyms and was a clever allusion to what a human brain looks like when sliced.

Fuller has a strong mind / brain distinction running through his works and I thought it clever he gave his brain a pseudonym and had it doing all the filing and other mechanical grunt work to get Cosmic Fishing published, not to mention really  solo-authoring Synergetics.  One could see where Ed might not be amused by my error, which earned me some mocking down the road.

Anyway, Sara ducked out of Annual Session to keep current with one of her Landmark activities, which she was able to do in Spokane (she had been doing them in Portland).  Whitworth U is just outside Spokane's city limits (right?), as I discovered wandering around in the car, looking for a Wal*Mart.

The Nikon Coolpix Melody gave me to tide me over while the Fujifilm XQ-1 is fixed (actually "replaced" is the latest word from Camera World -- under warranty) has the older Compact Flash memory cards.  I'd been to two Fred Meyer's and not found a reader, but then the electronics sections of the various branch stores carry much the same inventory, so saying "two" was over-dramatizing the situation.

Wal*Mart, with a somewhat larger inventory, had a SunPack multi-format card reader that did the trick, resulting in my being able to read the card(s) and share a few pix to Flickr, where I created an album for NPYM 2015 (embedded above).  Wal*Mart saved my bacon in Richmond, IN that time as well, after the cleaning crew locked away all my charging devices.

I yakked with Larry at breakfast this morning.  He came by Alaska Airlines.  He's a licensed pilot himself, but renting an airplane is not a small cost.  A plan to have someone to fly out with him and return the airplane to Portland that same day did not pan out.  Chris met him at the airport and they went geo-caching on the way back to Whitworth U, a sport akin to treasure hunting and involving GPS devices and a loose community of peer players.
Card Reader @ Wal*Mart

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Keynote at NPYM 2015

Our theme this year is Quaker Craft, and our keynoter Robin Mohr was faithful to said theme.

The connotations were comfortable:  handicrafts, carpentry, pottery, guilds with apprentices.  The sense of craft as in "crafty" was somewhat missing.  No one said "witchcraft" out loud.  No connotations of shamanism, at least not obviously.

Quakers the World Needs:  what would those look like?

The imagery was fairly conventional:  we need Friends who:
  • Visit other Friends in the hospital (no mention of jail)
  • Help at the Food Bank maybe (the Luchinis do that -- most active Friends in our region)
  • Address one's own racism (in some way other than swilling in guilt we hope)
The liberal-academic middle class profile was much in evidence, with specific mention of:
  • listening to NPR
  • driving a Prius
  • dutifully replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, and 
  • learning what not to say to friends in the hospital (following the rules of social etiquette is important)
NPYM Friends tend to be car-owning good doobies in nuclear families (on my resume too!), so what else is new.  We're comfortable.

Encouraging:  Gayle in her intro mentioned Robin's Twitter profile.  Robin herself mentioned discussing ideas on-line as a way to practice.  Of course I'm thinking "listservs!", a technology Quakers under-utilize.

Quakers have said for ages that, semi-sardonically: we started out wanting to do good (like the saints), yet ended up doing well (as in wealthy).

Yet these comfortable Quakers also want to be "dangerous" according to some of their (our) aspirational literature.  Really?  Seems like science fiction right, as in pretty far out.  Who could seem less dangerous?

Formation in the Vocation of Being the Quakers the World Needs:  that's what our Friend in Residence considers our business.

Robin herself is general secretary for the FWCC section of the Americas, FWCC being Friends World Committee for Consultation.  Coincidentally, Nancy Irving and I were chat partners for "share your Quaker credentials" exercise.

Nancy was FWCC general secretary when we visited in London that time, plus has served on God knows home many committees.  Improvising a fun answer, I confessed to my role of "Quaker Pirate" (pointing to my black hat on the floor to prove it, an now the Whitworth University Pirate T-shirt).

Speaking of confessions, Alan Mountjoy-Vinney noticed I was acting like a professional cameraman and as board member for Western Friend suggested I might be the best one to help editor Mary Klein, who'd sent out a call for pictures in advance of her being here later.

Actually, Mary had already suggested by email that I play that role (in addition to her board people), but in my own mind that was contingent on getting the XQ-1 back from Camera World.  But it wasn't ready in time.

So instead, I brought along an untested-by-me vintage Nikon Coolpix which Melody very thoughtfully rescued from a free pile and passed along, knowing how much I missed the Fujifilm.  This Nikon is old enough that even its memory card is hard to find a reader for anymore.

Anyway, I tried confessing to Alan I was somewhat faking it, until I figured out if this camera's pictures were worth sharing.  I've yet to see the final images, pending acquiring said reader.  Thank you Melody, for thinking of me (she went to Witch Camp again this year, used to work with AFSC in Austin).

Putting the keynote theme another way:  Quakerism is a factory for making more Quakers (yep), stamping out more in the same mold.  Query:  what does this factory look like and what does the world need more of, in terms of product?  Good question.

Speaking for myself, I'm not convinced the world needs any more middle class Protestants of the North American variety, evangelical or otherwise.  Of course it's really not up to me and they'll keep flooding in by the legion no doubt.  However, insofar as I'm helping to design and build a next Quaker factory (a next Quakerism), I'll tap other influences a lot more.

What influences?

We had mic runners, which reminded me of est, but only a little.  A few years ago I picked up some resonance with Scientology, but just a tad.

Maybe the world really does need more est people, per that science fiction novel, by S. Clark Stevens I still need to read.  Note to self:  download Kindle edition if available (whoa, hard to find!  Expensive!).

Scientology is good around improv and so is popular around Hollywood, but beyond that I'm not into it.

Anyway, I'll take more Crafty Witches over more Protestant Good Doobies any day of the week.

What resonated the most for me personally was the theme of diplomacy.  "We need to speak both NPR and NASCAR" Robin said, paraphrasing another Friend.

Able to communicate effectively, with people in many walks of life:  that's a craft, even if the mix of walks one talks is highly variable.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Minions (movie review)

Seeing Minions isn't work, is it?  I'd worked double hard the day before, needed some R&R.  I'm fortunate The Bagdad right nearby had the 2D version on opening day.  I was there by the second showing, at 3:45, mixed in with kids and their parents, no doubt with a few other over-the-hill cartoon nuts.

I was glad to catch this so close to Spy, thinking of Overkill, the female villain.  Spy had a similar jealousy thing going between a heiress baddie, a highly spoiled brat type character, and an earthier female goodie agent in a mostly-male agency.

Strong female models of both Goodies and Baddies are needed by 1968.  We already have a female Goodie by then, the Queen of England, but what about a signature Baddie?  Barbie will not do.

Our villain shows up in Orlando (Scarlett does sound Southern).  The Mouse is still underground (not much going on yet, cloaked in secrecy).  She of course wants her new Minions (adepts) to steal England's Queen's crown (what else?).  It's as tight as mathematics.  Some will call it formulaic.

Minions are a species, see, that evolved independently of humans but immediately took to them and has followed them ever since.  Humans were too hopeless however, for a long dark age, to attract the continued devotion of Minions, who in the meantime had stumbled upon a sanctuary free of natural predators.   Why not try democracy for a change?

Their freedom from sycophantic service to a Tyrant or Boss, was initially greeted with enthusiasm, but such freedom went against the very constitution of their being; they needed a Commander in Chief, like a hive needs a Queen.  Call it a craving, call it an addiction.  Minions are called that for a reason.

Three brave Minions, led by Kevin, set forth then, leaving the ice cave (symbolic of the dark ages period) to seek a new Boss amidst humans, which parallel species had evolved by then into 1968 urbanites.

Rock music is still somewhat new (The Beatles is all the rage), the Sydney Opera House is still under construction, and Nixon is running for president.  Kids go with their grandparents to see this summer movie, it all makes so much sense in 2015 with the Grateful Dead about to play their farewell concert.

After New York and Orlando, we end up in London, persuaded Scarlett is worthy, only to end up meeting a young Gru, this being a prequel to their later stories together.  Like I said, the plot is tight, and part of a larger franchise, like the Oz books.

Minions are following their destiny just as predictably as everyone else is in this story.

Meanwhile, the cave-dweller Minions, getting news of success in London, and finding local surrogates not working out, follow their instincts and make the trek, like the penguins do, to become Scarlett's invisible army (Minions do seem close to invisible at times).

I'm seeing predictability versus surprise and transformation as thematic, as in the Lego Movie.

Critics might complain of "a formula" but cliches and cardboard cutouts are the raw material for knowing satire and/or for sharing Gnosis with a sophisticated movie-educated crowd.  I'm happy to use the word "deft" to describe the twists and turns.

Having a Minion grab the mystical Excalibur, bringing superstitious Britons to their knees, and sending QE2 to the nearest bar to drown her sorrows, was brilliant and leads to the 180 turn in the Minions' relationship to their villain sponsor.

Scarlett is their Enemy now, outraged that instead of stealing the crown, they hath crowned themselves King, a betrayal, after Herb had armed them with special powers.

As King, however, Bob has the power to make things right.

My seeing predictability-versus-surprise as thematic is perhaps explained by the fact of my meditations these days (including blog posts) drifting to the topic of epiphenomenalism,  the philosophical sensibility of being "along for the ride" -- somewhat surrendering versus control freaking.  Observer : Observed :: Train Whistle : Train :: Rider : Roller Coaster.

Clearly most stuff just runs on autopilot, on a track, so where is the will in all this?  An old question.

We make choices (executive decisions) all the time of course, but the events of history come off as more than the sum of the parts.  We choose, yes, but in hindsight somewhat as puppets of history acting out in bigger scripts, a concurrent computation of some unknown precision (compared to what?).

Arguing for or against epiphenominalism as a rational exercise is empty calories, as affective psychologies (I didn't say "disorders" -- "orders" too) are more like phases of the moon, to be experienced and savored, not adhered to as ideologies in need of disciples (of minions).

Like in theater, if someone loves improv -- as an actor, as a spectator -- that bare fact doesn't commit that someone to any specific philosophy, not even Scientology (popular in Hollywood).  Yet your abilities and sensibilities along those lines may grow more within some practices more than in others.

Your coaches or gurus may matter most and your improved improv skills need not entail your becoming an initiate in every teacher's philosophy.

Improvements and skills just "rub off" sometimes.  Transmission occurs.

Just being around someone may prove contagious in a good way i.e. one gets what they've got, and is grateful (not all meme viruses are unhealthy, i.e. some are worth catching and spreading).

Diplomats need to improvise, are improv artists, agents for their agendas.

"Exaptation" Stuart Kaufman called it (improvisation), in that ISEPP lecture:  evolution by surprise innovation.  It's a phenomenon in no way confined to the human realm.  Bacteria are especially adept at innovation.  "Synergetic" implies "unpredicted by the parts" i.e. surprising when made whole.

Speaking of which (OK, a bit of non-sequitur), I enjoyed Vi Hart's comments on gender in a recent Youtube I saw (and Facebooked).

The tie-in is: she tells the story of, as a teenager, suspecting people who said they liked beer were hollow phonies just posing as beer lovers, as the stuff tastes awful and how could that not be obvious to all concerned?  But then she discovered Belgian beers, and had a change of heart.

Likewise, some theme in the philosophical literature will seem an empty waste of time from a distance, but in another chapter will gain some foreground respect and new-found relevance.

The same literature comes to seem more colorful and lush.  Life goes in phases, in spirals.  We're born not just again, but again and again and again.  We go from hating beer to liking beer, to not caring about beer, to forgetting about beer, maybe back to liking beer, and so on.

Another tie-in with Vi's talk is Minions are seemingly genderless, like her stick figure drawings, the film poking fun at some of their meaningless modesty gestures.

Yet Scarlett Overkill is a first female super-villain.  So gender is likewise a theme.  She has a husband, a chief of staff, named Herb, providing complementary contrast, and role balancing.

High contrast and comedy, count me a fan of this Gru-some brew.

BTW, how does it work where Universal is able to claim all resemblance to non-fictional characters is purely coincidental?  Isn't the Queen of England a real historical figure?  I agree Minions is not a documentary nor aimed at relaying actual historical events.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

What is Work?

from: Chemistry: Imagination and Implication 
by A. Truman Schwartz (Elsevier, Dec 2, 2012)

I can see on a macro scale where a piano mover, standing stationary, holding up the piano, is "not doing work" in the physics sense of "work" (force causing motion against resistance), but at the micro level, the energy expense has a real chemical manifestation.  The APT cycle is real, and sugars are breaking down.

How able are we to separate the concept of "work" from the concept of "intent" i.e. work is accomplished relative to a goal.  The difference between energy and work is that energy is "wasted" when it could have been harnessed to accomplish the "job" (goal) at hand.  Even if that energy was used somehow (expended), the expense was "waste" not "work".

The perpetual motion machine is impossible because of the law of unintended effects, i.e. so-called friction, a loss to waste, to heat, to meaninglessness, senselessness, entropy, corruption.  Every intended goal comes with a nod in the wrong direction and some energy goes that way every time.  We never achieve 100% satisfactory conditions for wasteless energy use.  That's a physical law.

The notion of work explains how "the very same energy" may be vested in Emerald City, the Oz capital, or in the desert sands surrounding the broken statue of Ozymandias, King of Kings.  Desert winds are energetic, but what work is being done?

In a Teilhardian sense, the direction of Work is "towards the Omega Point" of absolute Negentropy i.e. God, the Syntropic Source.  Energy doesn't care if we go there, but Will does.  Through the concept of Work, the concept of Will somehow enters the equations.

However in retrospect the value gained from a project may not have much to do with original goals.  Side effects of the initiative come to have foreground importance.  That one's Will may not be "of God" so much as just Ego, perhaps weighed down by faulty beliefs, means the "amount of work accomplished" is sometimes an eye of the beholder thing.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


Those who've played Sims more than a little know it's sometimes fun to "game the game", e.g. in some scenarios, just give each Sim a bed and a refrigerator.  The house can come later.  Give every Sim a smartphone... actually they didn't have those did they?

SimTopia is a genre with the premise that things basically work, and it's set up energetically to pencil out.  We surf the solar gradient, each a 100-200 watt bulb.  Keeping us lit really doesn't take that much energy, so we have disposable income atop survival.  Such is our game board (a sphere).

What some philosophers maybe miss about Utopian models is they're not so much "pie in the sky" as "in your eye" meaning if it's a believable model using existing technology, then the fact that we actually live in squalor only speaks to our inferior intelligence, our lack of competence.  Believable utopias seem to mock us from their perch in unreality, saying "you could have been here by now".  Those feeling superior to utopians are maybe not as well versed in math and science.

Yet feelings of inferiority have a lot of self-fulfilling aspects and I'm not so foolish as to grab the pulpit merely to sneer about our basket case Earth and preach some "I told you so" gospel.  That's too easy and cheap.  I will settle for "a bit edgy" in that it does feel uncomfortable that we so deliberately miss-steer.  We appear to wallow sometimes, even fly off the rails.

In the background:  Greece, a fiction -- but people feel strongly about stories (what else do we have?) -- is in financial trouble per narrative accounts.  An entirely different Sims game could try to give a sense of the dynamics there.  As a Cradle of Civilization and HQS for the Cult of Athena, I do think going back to first principles is a logical move.

However being a Cradle of Civilization doesn't always mean much, in terms of getting respect.  If people want good paying family wage jobs, how about repairing Baghdad (more cryptically "Algebra City" in some neighborhoods).  People today will diss their own cultural roots without much pause for reflection.  The slow food movement, like the slow reading movement, is about remembering to remember.

Does it pencil out?  What is the energy income of Earth?  Lets stop dialing back to writers in the early 1900s who had no pictures of Spaceship Earth yet, shot from far outside the atmosphere.  Lets remember this is 2015 and talk again about planetary biology, the prospects for human life.  There's a gas mix to talk about, sometimes known as "climate", and much more besides.

A Sims game is only programmable because so much is dropped out.  Only reality has enough computing power to compute reality.  The World computes the World.  The parts are even less of the whole than we'd realized, a negative way of talking about Synergy, but the good news is everything is under control, thanks to no tiny cabal.

Just saying:  in developing a game of Sims, a SimTopia even, I am not thereby gaining a Crystal Ball.  Too much is missing.  We're talking about a model, not an oracle.  No Holy Grail here either, sorry, just I welcome Greece for its logic (logos).  SimTopia should have some Greek features.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Head Banging in Private

That sounds like a bad thing, that "head banging" and indeed I'm speaking only metaphorically, as when one debugs computer programs and finds it slow going sometimes.  There's the sense of a frustrating uphill battle.  This is called "head banging" sometimes, symbolic of frustration.

What helps with head banging a lot is no, not aspirin, but relevant and useful feedback.  One needs some surface to push against, to gain traction.  What I like about REPL i.e. a computer command line that "talks back" is one has the ability to practice, to head bang, in response to feedback, without delaying another human i.e. without inviting scrutiny, auditing, supervision etc.

Put another way, it's gratifying to learn to program against a machine, like a chess playing machine, that is non-judgmental i.e. is not seen as a source of projections or fantasies.  People do not worry, as in Ex Machina, if they're being "used" by the shell program.  They understand how it works, down to the metal, and are not about to imagine they're talking to a ghost, as it were.

In saying all this, I am not meaning to short circuit difficult debates involving Turing Tests and so on, i.e. celebrating the efficiency of REPL when learning programming, is not tantamount to saying Ex Machina (a science fiction movie) does not present us with problems, most especially the machine-like determinism in the humans just as much (what was so important about materials again? -- the same question as in AI).

I'm more using for contrast the archetypal one room school house with a bunch of mixed-ability mix-of-interests kids.  The teacher pauses for a student to "get it" e.g. work it out on the board, in front of spectators.

That may be a fun and useful exercise and I'm not denigrating classroom practices that feature that (nor ignoring the possibility for traumatizing i.e. classrooms feature in many nightmares), I'm only saying many are grateful for alternatives, such as the ability to engage an interpreter in prolonged battles of wits, during which the rules of the language one is learning become ever more clear.  And during which interval one does not feel under scrutiny or judged.  One is not "in front of the classroom".  Teachers like that too, appreciate respite, R&R.