Thursday, August 17, 2017

Atomic Blonde (movie review)

Wonder Woman remembers the mission, which is to save humanity from corruption by the devil (aka Mars). But in attempting to save us, she has to join the fray, a Joan of Arc figure, with knights ever eager to serve under her command.

Fast forward to Lorraine, two wars later (really one) and now at a signature apex, the convergence of the two Germanys as symbolized by a wall-divided Berlin overcoming its internal divisiveness.

As the opening narrative makes clear, this story explores a violent underbelly of this convergence chapter, through a favored lens when exploring this era:  that of the spy thriller comic book genre. Le Carré uses a similar backdrop sometimes.

Some will raise their eyes at my use of "comic book" and ask what's so funny about all that head bashing, more like Streets of New York.

I think because of the superpowers on display, an ability to play these violent games that shows some purpose and intent, not just people caught up willy-nilly in awkward conditioned-reflexing.

The martial arts make for some bloody ballet, with protagonists appearing somewhat in control of their own destinies, more as predators in the know than as helpless victims. They serve and protect the rest of us, if cast as heroes (heroines).

Both Wonder Woman and Atomic Blonde use similar wartime spy thriller motifs, with their focus on Amazons (female warriors).

Rome, Italy, where I was during early Cold War years, was another hotbed of intrigue and secrets, with all the high fashion and flashy cars to match.

I was too young to pose as an adult of any stature, but I soaked up some of that James Bond culture at the English language movie theaters, the Archimedes especially (near Piazza Euclide).

Berlin over ten years later was more into grunge and proto-punk from the looks of things here recreated.  Disaffected youth didn't want to grow up with some Iron Curtain through their psychology.

The Korean DMZ stands out as another Berlin Wall of today.

These spies did not have the Internet, nor much in the way of social media.  The film takes us back to when people used ordinary landline telephones and didn't have to deal with strong encryption.

I most recently saw John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane and couldn't quite shake the idea that this was a flashback to before his retirement to that bunker, just a passing thought.  American dads can be pretty crazy.

Lorriane smokes and drinks and lives a punishing lifestyle, which will catch up with her later.

I was interested to learn that Charlize Theron, who plays Lorriane, is natively Afrikaans with American English her second language (IMDB). I wonder if she knows Yolandi Visser.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chain Reaction

At first I didn't like that the timer was running even if I'd not signaled my willingness to begin, by punching the green flag.  I'd have the option to turn that off, given the See Inside powers conferred in a copyleft economy.  I didn't write this game, merely remixed it and value added.

The point is to keep going to the next level, by setting off chain reactions that consume tiny sprites. The surface area of the target area is variable and rises as more sprites are consumed, before falling again. You anchor the target initially and then sit back to see if you've won the round, so it's basically a one click per round game, a feature, a kind of minimalism.

Note the timer resets on each explosion. The sprites are all clones of the main ball, which spawns multiple copies of itself, shrunk to 15% of original size.  The number spawned is three more than the level number.  Notice you have less time as the level number rises.  But then more explosions per time unit would be expected.

All in all, I consider this a handsome little game, elegantly implemented.  I'll plan to show and tell about in at summer camp today.  I actually found it in the official handbook, so it's not like I'm straying far from my ken.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Banning Nukes

Portland has joined a lot of cities, as cities stand to lose the most.

The uber-cowards plan to head for spacious luxury apartments in various gated mountain suburbs, there to send out hapless journalists at the point of a gun to see whether Planet of the Apes or 12 Monkeys has come true or not.  In the meantime, they'll eat nachos and swill Bud.

Portlanders don't savor that genre of science fiction as a their real future and so push back, joining a broad alliance of city mayors and others, signalling in the history books we were never on board with the selfish oligarchs.

The oligarchs have various pretenses or ploys they float as trial balloons, trying to gauge the public mood. Recent results have been disappointing from their point of view.  A nuclear conflagration is harder to get started even if the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty is just something on paper.  So are a lot of things "just paper" (like money for example, other entitlements?).

This year, our memorial event (remembrance ceremony) featured a Buddhist invocation, several speeches, and a second indoor event in nearby NW 70 Couch Street.  We were permitted to take pictures, and indeed spreading visualization memes was part of the intent.

I fought rush hour coming home from the day job, where mom was waiting.  My mistake to think the Hawthorne Bridge could be any better, now that Morrison is one way each way, but no way from the east side, short of joining I-5 somewhere north, which is crazy.  But then traffic-wise Portland has succumbed to North America's chief ailment:  addiction to one-driver commute lifestyles (leads to opium addiction, heart disease...).

Usually, with no evening events pending, I don't have to fight rush hour.  I know a friend with a swimming pool just off Boones Ferry, plus have Lake Oswego friends scattered around I can visit.  The game around rush hour is to avoid it completely.  Fortunately the day job starts around noon, and the drive is then typical, at posted speed limits.

Cross references:
2016: Hiroshima Day 
2015: Disarm Day 2015
2013: A-Bomb Day
2010: Hiroshima Day
2007: Remembering... 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Visiting Vancouver

Vancouver, Washington is an important port and way station, a gateway to Oregon. People complain the I-5 draw-bridge is a choke point, however Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick says the studies he's seen point to replacing the rail bridge instead, re-routing trucks to their own deck.

In some simulations, this redesign would do much more to alleviate the problem than replacing the I-5 bridge, especially if people enjoy reading and social media enough to prefer taking mass transit, even high speed rail in some possible futures.

Sam Lanahan has view property overlooking the Willamette-Columbia confluence, though from a safe distance away, which explains the telescope. Freight traffic is fun to watch.  Glenn and I got to see the hexagonal flextegrity table, which Glenn had helped build in my garage, amidst other marvels, on our car trip there today.

For those of you into intellectual history, when Alexander Graham Bell had the command of vast resources, post inventing the telephone, he plowed time and energy into what he called "kites", and which today we might call an "isotropic vector matrix" if into Fuller, or perhaps an "octet-truss" if aware of the patent literature.

Sam's matrix is no mere knock off of Bell's solution as the tension and compression forces get distributed by a different strategy.  However it helps to see it in the lineage of space frame solutions, in this particular family of lattice structures.

In the latest incarnation the basic "brick" is a soccer ball of hard plastic made of six base parts, hence the name C6XTY, all identical, with eight screw-in disks to secure each assembly.

Armature members with their own smaller screws then fix these spherical components in place, creating the Bell-like lattice with the ball centers in CCP or FCC positions, for those of you schooled in crystallography, or willing to watch a few Youtubes.

Standing in the courtyard at his house, Sam had a prime example of the kind of sculpture one might create from C6XTY, given the liberty to explore the IVM "in vitro" so to speak, as an organic pattern.

He's working on and/or commissioning several more examples for an upcoming photo shoot.  My backyard is one of the construction sites.  We returned with a portable gazeebo on the roof of my car. I excavated and removed the brick fire pit to make room for the new work area.

I need to study Quantum Mind again tonight, a book by Arnold Mindell.  You'll find Jungian psychology a recurring theme in these blogs.  I'm thinking Bell, Bucky, Lanahan and others were attuned to resonant frequencies in a collective unconsciousness that surfaces in their cases.  Something deep within us wants to get it out there.  The zeitgeist is making waves.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Leaving Terrebonne

Madras Airfield
:: airfield, Madras, Oregon ::

I'm preparing to jet out of here, with "jet" more a metaphor as I'm driving the Maxi Taxi. Yes, there's an air transport connection from PDX to Redmond, and car rental solutions, however I'm partial to taking my own wheels over the mountain on Hwy 26, then down Hwy 97, through Madras, which also hosts a substantial airport.  I'm thinking ahead, about Earthala, with roots in Terrebonne (Good Earth), science fiction at the moment, though others might call it investment memory banking.

I took down the campsite, and was never far from coffee nor WiFi, so I wouldn't exactly call what I did "roughing it". Rather I was joining over forty others in a memorial service for Sam (my brother-in-law) at Haystack Reservoir, a special place for Sam & Judy, as is the whole of this area, where they've lived since the 1970s, having met in Florida as college students.  I always feel a part of a tribe, an extended family, when coming over here, this time especially given so many reunited to pay tribute (heartfelt complements) to wise man Sam.

Sam's sister also sought wisdom, as she was much on the same path as her bro. They grew up together in Ohio, Nashville, and later in Satellite Beach, Florida after the marriage was dissolved. She took the name Wicca, as in Dawn Wicca, to give herself a high bar to live up to, a constant reminder to seek wisdom. She was not establishing herself as a Wiccan per se, a specific invented religion you may wish to read about in Triumph of the Moon, about Gardner and so on.

We're enjoying a global warming heat wave in 2017, with temperatures in Portland staying in triple digits for longer than we're used to.  I don't use air conditioning in the car and like to keep things cool and less trafficked, so chose an early departure time both coming (4:15 AM) and going (6:45 AM).  Carol (mom, 88) is back in Portland with Melody (passing-through house guest).  Last time we came over, Tara joined us.  Alexia came over with Elise, whom Dawn was living with on a horse farm when we first met.  You'll find her elsewhere in this Russian "novel" (in quotes because I'm doing non-fiction here).

Fires are a big fact of life around here.  Orchards burn, other cultivated lands, even homes.  Firefighters can't reverse the irreversible. Mother Nature is not intimidated by humans, even a little. They're her creation after all. Planet Earth has a long history of creatures coming and going.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Persia Power

There's a lot of truth to the idea that a sorry-ass "deep state" (a clique) is pushing to make Iran the uber bad guy again, in the wake of funding the Iraq side for many years, then turning on Iraq and making it the enemy.  Make up your mind?

A problem with Kissinger-style real-politik is once you cut loose from meaning what you say, on the record, you may lose your moorings. The District of Columbia is somewhat adrift.

Making Russia the arbiter of the last presidential election (or why all the fuss) is a feeble call for help?  Maybe Russia will take it that way; NATO's bluster as an empty search for meaning on the part of some neocons hoping to play hero against some invented geopolitical backdrop requiring much suspended disbelief (most of us are not buying).

The bigger news is Persia's collaboration with India in competition with China's collaboration with Pakistan.  The journalistic class wants to keep it either/or (contrary to fact) and play up the India-Pakistan rift (e.g. Kashmir), but the engineer class, more globalized, is less impressed by the tabloid press (or tabloid politics).

Two ports, not far apart, feature in this so-called competition, with India shipping to the one in Iran, China using the one in Pakistan as a springboard to the Indian ocean, bypassing the Malaysian Straits. A lot of new infrastructure is coming together.

The nation-state terminology still helps us talk about the world geographically, as states themselves disappear into the global circuitry.  We all know where Israel / Palestine is, in the context of Mesopotamia.

I see global trade route planning as an application of graph theory in a lot of ways, as in networking on a sphere.  The international school curriculum I'm co-developing gives ample airplay to graph theory and global planning.

Where do the airlines go?  I have a database of world airports, incomplete but at least on topic.  We use pandas, SQL, JSON... what they call "computer science" in English, somehow not statistics or math ("data science" maybe).

Is English broken?  I think the linguistic turn combined with basic self-critical reflection, puts English-as-a-first-language folk in a front row seat regarding the efficacy of this mother tongue.  I'm glad many diverse traditions continue feeding in to this meme-chest, as at the very least it's a language that's ripe for continued overhaul.

Iran's leading role in the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty has not yet worked its way into the narrative as the "cynical journalist" culture doesn't really have a narrative and looks to politicians to carve out the talking points.

Politicians, not being engineers for the most part, may not have much insight into investment banking either.  They're on the take, more than willing to take campaign contribution bribes and spout lobbyist language in exchange, but as originators of policy.... I'm not thinking the District of Columbia is any longer original in that sense. DC is a district of followers, not leaders.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Does Your School Have a Charter?

[first posted to Forum 206]

I just waded through a few Youtubes on the charter versus non-charter school debate.

There's a sloppiness to it all in that everyone starts by saying charter schools are public schools and then a sentence later it's back to "public versus charter". Silly right?

The mainstream discourse seems to have settled on "traditional versus charter schools" or "district versus charter schools".

What an amazingly narrow and ill-fitting vocabulary, is my thought.
Charter Schools Are Overrated, IntelligenceSquared Debates

was interesting, a hosted debate between two teams, an ongoing show that seems to think "IQ" is something real and therefore square-able.[1]

What many debaters miss, in my view, is the passion some have, in every generation, to create new schools, not just join existing schools. Any healthy society has its pioneers and reformists.

We should accept that as a built in feature of human nature, and so the debate should begin with that premise: that the public sector, however designed, needs to facilitate (not stifle) turnover at the institutional level, meaning public schools, charter or no charter, will continue to come and go.

Speaking of schools going, I think it's more than obvious we need to physically close a lot of schools that are simply beyond repair [2]. Trying to coast on clearly broken buildings, full of lead or whatever, is just lazy, the opposite of innovation, and proof we have little imagination.

I'm one who thinks a central government (of any nation), if there's one in the picture, should have the where with all to create its own flagship schools. These could be boarding schools for future diplomats, deliberately open to students from other countries. We might also see more experiments with same-sex schooling, for those wishing that option (choice). Let NASA do more than just summer camps, NSA too for that matter.

But then I'm one who thinks any government worth its salt should run a number of showcase institutions designed to provide work to a nation's citizens, including roadside lodging (motels), an airline, maybe a rental car company.[3]

What better way to stay in touch with the people than to run and manage some example enterprises.

Something other than war machines (and a few camp grounds), which is currently the main endeavor for which the weakest governments (e.g. the US) are allowed a sandbox (the war machine includes government labs such as Sandia and Los Alamos -- not much research on how to help with refugee camps -- just on how to create them in the first place i.e. by turning cities to rubble, per the 1900s, a century of barbarism).

Governments are permitted / coerced into serving as clients to a weapons-oriented private sector (Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin...). That's their major role (subsidizing the most sociopathic). Greece, broke, buys submarines from Siemens. [4]

How we tax and spend today is income redistribution, like they say, from the defenseless and over-taxed to oligarchs with off-shore investments (Russian or otherwise, what does it matter at that level?).

A truly American run boarding school might even teach some of the heritage I'm most interested in, namely this "geometry of lumps" I keep talking about (Karl Menger et al) wherein we experiment with axioms other than those inherited from ancient Greek metaphysics.

The way things are going, with Uncle Sam broke, and more a hired gun than anyone's idea of an emperor, I don't think it's a given that these dreams will pan out. We appear to have drifted into oligarchy and plutocracy with democracies fading. The politicians have the job of telling us something different i.e. they comfort us with their fairy tales.


[1] (dig way back in the math-teach archives if you can figure out how, takes IQ, and you'll see we discussed the "g factor" for like forever that time).

[2] Beyond repair... or not (in some cases):


Spain has a chain of state-run luxury hotels:

(similar to the scandal in Greece)

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Ban Treaty

Per Carol Urner's presentation to Wanderers at the Linus Pauling House, the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty has passed the General Assembly, by a wide margin, as expected.

The loser nations know the ban need not apply to them. Why? Because they have nuclear weapons and no one tells Nuke Head Nations what to do.

Nevertheless, we patriots who care about reputation have some cause for celebration this July 4th, and Tillamook butterscotch ice cream is being consumed in the Urner household.  The draft was actually adopted on the 7th, but we knew it was a done deal so were already waving the flag.

Good job Iran in helping to steer the process.  DC's mythology desperately requires Iran to be desperately seeking nuclear weapons.  Here's another nail in that narrative's coffin.  No one I know expects DC (not a US state) to ever reform its thinking. We expect it to remain a backwater.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Rajneeshpuram (movie review)

Rajneeshpuram was an attempt to found a new town in Oregon, in land zoned for farming.  Oregon has some strictly enforced land use laws.  That said township was so religious, and not Christian, didn't help.  Not that Rajneesh professed a religion exactly.  For years he wisely kept his mouth shut, went for a ride, then he gradually took control back, wresting more steering power to a point where Madam Sheila felt obliged to get away.

The folks of Antelope went to heroic lengths to not lose their cool, and played with Oregon State by the only rule book they could think to follow:  Oregon's.  That starting a Puram in the heart of Oregon by aggressive tactics ends up backfiring is hardly a surprise in retrospect.

I borrowed this OPB Oregon Experience episode from the Multnomah County Library system and today will return it, along with some books on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and another on SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, another front end Web technology).

A man who fascinates me even more than the Baghwan here, is/was Father Divine, the short African American king of His jungle, as a God in his own way.  Lavish feasts were provided by the disciples, the fans, and the gatherings were by many accounts convivial and of "melting pot" ethnicity (an all-kinds stew), and all back when MLK was still a young man.

My overlap with the Father Divine community was when I scored a job teaching high school at St. Dom's (Catholic), exactly what I'd been looking for, within walking distance. The circumstances of my hiring were tragic in that Sisters had died in a car crash.  My willingness to dive in under those circumstances was appreciated.

An old Father Divine hotel was just kitty corner and offered a good breakfast served by Sister Grace.  I studied the literature and grew intrigued.  Other faculty would join me from time to time, or go there on their own.  Why not?  Great place.

Maureen (Methodist) and I got to talking on the phone through some of this film, which I screened while folding laundry, pacing about.  But then I've been through the story before, in other media.  I never got to visit said Puram myself, even though I'd returned to Oregon in 1985, having left in the 1960s at the end of 2nd grade (my 3rd grade would be first forum in the Junior English School of Rome).

As someone with a long term interest in student exchange programs, organizing opportunities for faraway urban kids to experience some ranch living, I'm sensitive to locals not wanting to feel invaded.  Our placements will have advance training in sensitivity to community values.

In terms of setting up campuses, the ecovillages (picture boarding schools), I'm interested in what Props has to offer, thinking lower barriers to entry (to year around camping and village building) has everything to do with technology, from transportation networks to radio stations and runways (landing pads or whatever).

I'd like to see more train re-development, for the express purpose of bringing students in to their remote bases, which may not stay put for long in some cases.  Exploring ecosystems means leaving them as they were by default.  However, where railways are concerned, we're talking about a longer term commitment.  Railway work is maybe for college credit, trucking too. That's how it works in the Global U.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Catching Up

We've been over the mountain (Mt. Hood), my two daughters and I.  Alexia went earlier in her dad's late mom's Buick.  Sam, Tara's uncle, was in hospice, at Partners in Care in Bend, Oregon.

Last night, back in Portland, we visited Atlas Pizza, Tara and I, Patrick joining us.  Patrick has been contracted to dig down into command line Python minus any IDE.  A paying client likes it that way. He's using Wing's debugger in another class, a habit I'm likewise gradually acquiring.

I've completed a first Arduino course, a Coursera MOOC, and now I'm wading more deeply into that world of programmable circuits.  Tonight I'm teaching Python to adults, and next week to kids as well.  Mark me as firmly planted in tech.

However, American Literature (we might call it that) is on my mind, and I wonder about standards.  How much are able to build immune systems, as we might call them, if following a more German philosophy of bubbles, globes, foams.  To what extent will we stay prey, to "false news" in whatever guises?

Judy and I visited the funeral director while Alexia and Tara went on ahead. They ended up test driving a Ford Fiesta in Madras.  No memorial service has been scheduled yet; a way will open. This journey has been a part of it.  Remembering Sam is a new theme now, one I'll treasure.

Carol has done her share of road trips recently, both east and west, and flew the Blue House solo while we were gone.  Temperatures soared to record highs this weekend.  We're glad for the break in the heat wave, with overcast skies, now coasting in the seventies (Fahrenheit).

I've been showing Tara the latest PR around C6XTY, including my 4D logo in the mix, next to the link to Synchronofile.