Milan's Public Journal

© Welcome to Milan's Public Journal, weblog by Milan Živić - a personal cloud of short stories, both fiction and real, including honest reviews, travel guides, rationality and personal glimpses of the world. Also a lot of science, physics, astronomy, science fiction, history and reflections on religion and politics.
Milan's Public Journal
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Basketball, The Game of all Games

Have you ever thought about first ever practiced team sport on a grand scale? Perhaps, like mine, your first thought could be some competition within ancient Olympic games, right? Well, no, old Greeks didn't like team sports at all - instead their first athletes competed within what we consider today as individual sports or disciplines. Boxing, racing, running, jumping, wrestling, throwing and similar individual competitions or fighting. However, on the other end of the world and perhaps in the more or less the same time, ancient Chinese practiced sport competition just the same and during the Han Dynasty around 3rd century BC it was documented a game that resembles very much to modern football or soccer if you will. It was called Tsu'Chu with kicking the ball in the field in the team effort and with the goal of putting the ball in the net. But perhaps millennium before Tsu'Chu, on the third ancient continent, the origin of another modern sport was invented first and it was vastly popular among old Mesoamericans. Even as early as 3000 years from now they played, well, sort of a basketball. One of few sports I really enjoy to play and watch.

The Ancient Mayan Ballgame

History of mayan religion and myths says that their famous game was connected to mayan gods Hun Hunahpú and his brother Vucub Hunahpú, who descended to Earth, or came from underworld, I am not sure which, to play the ballgame they adored. Unfortunately they played the game too near to the backyard of even more powered gods of the Xibalba and the looser after the game, Hun I think, was murdered on site by the Xibalba. I am pretty sure the other brother was killed as well. Apparently the reason for this was that they were too loud and that annoyed the mighty ones. Anyhow, the maya and all other civilisation before and after enjoyed the same game and its variations for centuries in BC and the ruins in central america are full of courts and hoops all over the ancient cities. No doubt, that the real losers in the game were forced, by following their gods and belief, to climb on the top of the pyramid were couple of priests were waiting to take their hearts out in order to please those in Xibalba. I am pretty sure in some occasions even the winners suffered the same fate as a reward. Apparently mayan gods never really made a difference between losers and winners and I guess, if you were ancient basketball players, whatever you did, you were doomed to your death.

But, let's divert back to the sport, after all, people evolved a little since brutal religious past and today nobody dies after the game. Today is more about gold, money, popularity and fame. Well, kidding aside, ancient mayan game was flexible, so to speak, when it comes to courts and rules. It was played with rubber ball and it was forbidden to touch the ball with your hands or feet. Kicking the ball was done by your elbows, hips or knees. If the ball was mainly hit by knees and hips, hoops were located low and the game looked more to handball or basketball for children. However if the main hit was performed with players' elbows, the vertical hoops were fixed high on the wall and the game resembles more to the modern basketball. The ball was heavy and it was very difficult to score through the hoop so in many occasions the game ended with 1:0 and it could be played with up to six players. Also on some drawings and from some sources there were also referee in the court monitoring the game. The game was very popular over the centuries and it was number one sport in the ancient times and the best of all it survived to the modern times and in nowadays Mexico and other neighboring countries we still have a game called Pok-ta-Pok that is real sport, folklore event and tourist attraction, all in same time. Just google it or do the googling in YouTube - can we say youtube it?

The History of Basketball*

Well, it is unclear if James Naismith had in mind ancient mayan ballgame or just "Duck on the Rock", a field play he probably enjoyed during his childhood, but 1891 he invented first modern basketball game, all in effort to create an indoor recreation for young sportsmen during winter time. His new sport was played with soccer ball and peach baskets and all within his original 13 rules. Of course, the game started to be interesting only later when dribbling is added to the rules and surely when peach basket bottoms are cut off and with removing the ladders from the sport's gear. It was pretty annoying to have someone to get the ball out of the basket after each score. Joking aside, the basketball is maybe one of those new sports invented by just one man that evolved so rapidly in following years and with enormous popularity as it possesses today.

The history of the basketball in first couple of decades or perhaps until second world war was mainly connected with YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) that was very active at the time and especially with promoting new sports (basketball, volleyball and swimming competitions) and it culminated with foundation of FIBA (International Basketball Federation) in 1932. Only four years later in Hitler's Germany, basketball was introduced for the first time as an Olympic sport. James Naismith was special guest and he was the one who awarded the medals to the winning team of USA. Unfortunately, the tournament was played outdoor on muddy tennis courts but nevertheless it was decent start of one remarkable game that soon after earned its place among all the major modern sports and always in the top 5 list in all countries worldwide. The take off started just after the second war and popularity gaining fast among American colleges, foundation of NBA and with FIBA organisation of world, continental and regional championships.

Jr. NBA 2018, Toronto Raptors (OŠ "Dušan Radović", Niš)

Here in Serbia, basketball is definitely sport number one. At least in previous years and decades. Others sports are simply either not popular or not successful enough to attract young boys and girls on a grander scale. I believe that only in our town which is not that big compared to worldwide cities and bigger communities there are at least four basketball clubs with focus on children and their first steps in the game. Viktor joined KK 'Naisus' not so long ago when he was still not in shape to even hit the hoop with a ball and now after only 18 months, the improvement is more than obvious. He is even very good defense player and regularly participates gatherings and competitions for his age group. I still remember one of their games that ended with score 2:0, when all the children were still in stage of understanding the game and all the rules, but that one score was made by Viktor and he did it in Steph Curry fashion - very fast in turn and from the long distance. The ball bounced from the back rim and heavily disturbed the net by passing through. It was one of those lucky shots when you are bare beginner I knew, but still for couple of prolonged seconds I was unable to close my mouth with odd disbelief look all over my face. In today's update, couple of years after that, he played for his school in the Jr. NBA Serbia League and they won third place among 30 teams originated from three major Serbian cities. I watched couple of their games live and experienced the same excitements as with watching normal NBA or Euroleague games. Even better, the kids came genuinely innocent and performed more honest games than most of their professional counterparts. To simply put, all the cries and all the smiles I witnessed, were more convincing and more genuine and for all of them the happiness they received after the games were something they would remember for... well... forever.

Serbian national team and basketball clubs are pretty good and every year there are opportunities to watch quality games in Euroleague championship, that year after year becomes one respectable competition and many teams are playing the ball on the level of many great NBA teams. Serbian top players are scattered all over the Euroleague teams, with some of them playing in NBA as well, but the most of the best Serbian players are currently in KK "Crvena Zvezda" (BC "Red Star", Belgrade) and when they are in high mood and shape they can beat all other teams especially in their own arena. National team is even better and within the last world championship and last summer Olympic games, they played in finals against the USA (or NBA selection if you will). They lost both games and won silver medals but to be honest, if NBA brought three teams to the competition they would most likely take all three medals. Currently and in previous couple of years American basketball players are simply the greatest. But they are not unbeatable - one game against Serbia in the group at the last Olympic tournament was pretty close and Serbian players had the last ball to even the score. Sometimes, overconfidence is a weakness that can sink you down pretty easily.

USA vs Serbia, Rio 2016**

Well, we'll see what next competitions will offer, and I hope to see next time the top USA players in the worldwide tournaments, including Stephen Curry and LeBron James. I am sure that would give the game additional level in the upcoming years. Also, it should not be bad idea to have some worldwide playoffs, perhaps to have a final eight tournament between four top teams from NBA and four from Euroleague. That would be something exceptional and more likely equalize the game levels on both sides of Atlantic. Also the rules are slightly different and it is only fair to equalize that too. Only the playing time of the game in NBA, which is 8 minutes longer is probably giving their players an unfair start. Simply put, just because of those 8 minutes, they are probably better physically shaped then all the others.

In the end, if you ask me why I like to watch basketball (and to play, although not too often in latest years), and if I have to give you just one reason, it might be that lots of basketball games, at least between most of professional teams, are played in tight and even endings. And that is what differs this sport from all the others. It is always intense and exciting and in the top competitions no team is unbeatable. It requires team effort, intelligence, great fitness and understanding and literally, the coach (if he is any good) can draw the action on the board and anticipate entire 24 seconds of action.

Basketball Training on Sports Fitness Advisor***

Of course, the fitness for the supreme basketball player is essential and I am not talking just about being tall and athletic. Training on the wooden floor, hard work and participating frequent games for young players are as important as the education and reading. One of those great guides I can warmly recommend is Basketball Training by Joey Anderson from Sports Fitness Advisor with lots of great advices for everyday practice.

Original post: December 2016, Update May, 2018.

Jr. NBA Refs:
http://www.jrnba.kss.rs/
http://sportjuga.rs/f4-junior-nba-reptorsi-iz-duvanista/
https://jr.nba.com/

Video ref:
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibytktqPN2U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uPXmSWm6eI

Image ref:
** http://www.espn.com/olympics/basketball/story/team-usa-edges-serbia-94-91
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lN75GOyC4

Basketball ref:
*** https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/basketball-training.html

Refs:
http://www.ancient.eu/article/604/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesoamerican_ballgame
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_basketball
http://www.fiba.com/

Interspecies Communication

I had once a parrot pet called Cheda. He was incredible - long ago during my university days Cheda was my only friend throughout countless sleepless nights when I was preparing for exams. He came very young and we spent lots of quality time together in my room. I never closed the cage gate so he was as free as possible and used entire flat to spread his wings. He belonged to a Australian cockatiel parrot breed or nymphicus hollandicus, how was his real scientific name. Nymphs are very popular for their ability to mimic human speech and of course for their talent to sing beautifully.


Alex the African Grey Parrot*

Cheda was no different and over time he learned a decent amount of words but what he performed the best was a tune from the movie "The Bridge on the River Kwai". It was not a simple melody for a parrot and you had to see his frustration in all those moments when he missed the note - on a numerous occasions I had to pet him and telling him to take it easy - but eventually he perfected it to the level of supremacy and in fact, if there was a parrot singing contest back then, he would easily took the throne. Without a doubt, "the Kwai" song staid way too long in Cheda's repertoire and soon enough on one occasion I literally begged him to try and learn something else.

I had no idea if Cheda's native parrot language was any good, after all he was born in captivity and spent his entire life seeing other parrots only on TV. To give a little more thought on the matter, even in those custom captivities with multiple animals of the same species sharing the same cage, so to speak, I doubt that they are able to use their 'native language' so well, or at all. Think about this - if a human baby is isolated from any social activity from the moment of birth, how would he or she be different from other animal species? With nobody around to teach him/her the human language, the baby would grow up and communicate only with different sounds and gestures. The same as what appears to be the animal language. But do animals have a language similar to what we humans developed over the eons? To articulate sounds into words and sentences? To actually speak to each other? At least with those species considered to be more intelligent than others? Perhaps among not so many scientists out there who are endlessly researching animal verbal abilities, the best answers we can hope to get is from Denise Herzing, who are contentiously studying wild Atlantic spotted dolphins off the coast of the Bahamas for 28 years.



With technology maturing enough and with computers powerful to help analyzing dolphin language in real time, Denise and her team developed a wearable human-to-dolphin communication device called Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT). With use of CHAT and tools like hydrophones (underwater microphone and speakers) we are now one step closer to the ultimate goal - understanding and talking to another species and in this case dolphins. Surely, understanding animal languages is not just about sounds in audio spectrum we evolved to use - it is proven fact that dolphins can hear up to 150kHz in the ultrasound spectrum and if we add non-verbal add-ons to the spoken language such as body gestures, it is more than obvious that Denise and other researches only scratched the surface of the ultimate goal toward the computer-based translators as we know them from scifi, especially the one described in the Star Trek universe.

Computers are surely already as fast as they are and digital data retrieved and converted from audio and visual inputs are already processable in real time. However, they are just tools - to make it really work we need to do all the programming and that requires understanding of what we are receiving in the data. To do that a breakthrough in understanding foreign languages without aids such as Rosetta stone is very much expected. The algorithm that would succeed to understand any language only by observation and monitoring. Perhaps the good idea would be to learn more from animals in that realm as well. There was one documented story of a dolphin called Moko appeared to "talk" to two stranded whales before leading them to safety. Two pygmy sperm whales got stuck at Mahia beach on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island and their desperate mood changed only when Moko arrived and as it seemed verbally advised them how to get to safety.


Denise Herzing & Wild Dolphin Project**

The ultimate goal is surely the supreme translator that will fit inside future smartphone with access to the database of all the languages in existence and not just those spoken by humans. Until that many more research is needed followed by at least one breakthrough in understanding interspecies communication of those based on Earth and probably beyond. I am more than positive that it will happen sooner than later, perhaps just like in the fiction stories such as "Breakthrough" novel series written by Michael C. Grumley.

I am finishing the fourth book in connected thriller story and all I can say is that "Breakthrough" is one amazing series fully based on the current interspecies communication research with addition of AI software capable of analyzing dolphin's and gorilla's verbal communications in real time and instant translations in both directions. I am surely not going to spoil the content but if you add decent science fiction twists neatly embedded into one great thriller, what Michael C. Grumley created is one of the best adventures I have read in a while.


Breakthrough novel series by Michael C. Grumley***

It goes without saying that I recommend warmly embedded Denise Herzing TED presentation of her current research within Wild Dolphin Project in Bahamas and Michael C. Grumley's novels. I learned a lot from both sources and definitely earned myself one more topic for the future reading habit. I could only imagine what it might mean if we could really talk to animals and I'd not be surprised if that would be really possible for more than several species and not only those considered with higher intelligence.

Image refs:
* https://alexfoundation.org/
** https://www.space.com/dolphin-intelligence

Books ref:
*** http://michaelgrumley.com/

Refs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockatiel
https://blog.ted.com/talking-with-animals
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050212/
https://voxy.com/blog/2012/04/do-animals-have-a-language/
https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-do-animals-communicate
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7294051.stm
http://www.wilddolphinproject.org/

Cyberpunk of Altered Carbon

In almost all Cyberpunk masterpieces in literature, comics, movies, games or whatever media exposure we think of when it comes to this genre, the settings is familiar. Dark atmosphere in both social and technological aspect of the story with dystopian surroundings and thin distinguished line between all characters within, no matter whether they are good or bad. I can't tell exactly why, but despite all the prosaic backgrounds and used stereotypes, I actually like this literary movement, perhaps because of the fact that people can't be really divided into good and bad per se. We all are combination of all possible adjectives out there and their summary is what makes us what we are. Actually, this is more accurate and closer to the truth compared to the "normal" or "usual" fiction with its ordinary hero-villain relations and idealized characters. Of course, like in any other genre, there are many poor and unmentionable works but also couple of those masterpieces, like in the world of movies, the famous Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" or "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, in the world of science fiction novels.


Surely, the mantra of almost all Cyberpunk science fiction is advanced technology, placed in not so far future, exploiting the ultimate fate of humans along with major role of corporations that are developing and deploying it to the people. Actually one of existing nature of nowadays corporation-technology pair inspired me to start writing this post in the first place and perhaps some of you already guessed, it is current stage of social networks and the world they became after promising couple of years after their invention. In my case, the beginning of socializing the internet was inspired by establishing and experiencing new virtual friendships and new ways of spreading ideas along with simple feeling of participation in something futuristic and big. However, after years of maturing, it all went in very different direction. The endless stream of news feeds without quality conversations replaced the great main idea along with commercializing the entire thing. Today, with some of the networks, you can even buy likes or force people to read your piece not by its quality but instead by buying appropriate keywords. In past couple of years I found myself too many times in front of the screen rhetorically asking one simple question "Why, on Earth, am I reading this?" and often wondering what happened with my own interests and why I stopped searching them directly and instead waiting for them to appear on my customized social network feeds?

Further trouble with social networks, once joined, is that it is very hard or even impossible to leave. With some networks, deleting is not the option at all, only "deactivating" your presence and leave it intact on the company's servers for who knows what reasons. With others, you can't even deactivate your account without deleting other useful services that are too heavily connected. With all of those with actual "delete" button, you have no proof that your virtual past is really deleted and not just hidden behind the (fire)wall of corresponding corporation data center. In the aftermath, you have to ask yourself whether or not this behavior is the dawn of the Cyberpunk future we read in novels or just a curved present that is going to eventually fade out and be replaced by something new.


That's how I see the present day but to continue with the main topic, let's see how Cyberpunk authors deal with future evolution of the almighty internet and computers of the tomorrow. If we just glimpse to the technology behind the scenes of the Cyberpunk world, coated in heavy noirish detective story with a little or heavy emotional connection between main characters and with lots of not-necessarily futuristic weapons and tough fights, we can see one possible (or plausible if you will) vision of the near future where humans can easily become nothing more than just a slaves of advanced technology and mediocre lives within the system that can't be possible to escape from. Just take for instance Gibson's prediction of futuristic internet that will continue to "offer opportunity to waste time, to allow us to wander aimlessly, to daydream about the countless other lives, the other people, on the far sides of however many monitors in that post geographical meta-country we increasingly call home".

In the cyberpunk fictitious world, worldwide network would also be responsible for the very existence of the artificial intelligence, matrix like cyberspace with vivid virtual reality, robots and various machines that will be doing boring things for us, cyborgs with applicable neural interface with host computer augmented by nanotechnology and like in "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan, potential ability to digitize full personality or entire consciousness and store it for eternity into home computers or even other bodies. "Altered Carbon" came this year on Netflix in its amazing motion pictures version and it was extremely good. Imagining cyberpunk future by reading only is very hard, even for us technology geeks and TV shows or movies are always welcome, especially if they are made in such amazing production like the one behind Takeshi Kovacs adventures on futuristic Earth.



Now, interesting question is should we consider cyberpunk as a pure entertainment or we could safely put it in the same basket with original and genuine Science Fiction as it was in Jules Verne's or Arthur Clarke's time with expectation of some of its predictions to become true? Well, if you ask me, even though we are facing here with dark predictions rather than something good and promising for future generations, we simply can't rule it out. We are already taking technology for granted and if this trend continues I can't see how can we avoid all the dark sides that comes within. Invention of AI and nanotechnology along with super fast (quantum) computers will bring us inevitable breakthrough foundation for the society with humans not being the ultimate player anymore. However, I don't think we should be afraid from upcoming and remarkable inventions in science and technology. It will change our lives yes, but surely it doesn't have to be overnight or all bad. Actually, I think it will bring more benefits to us than side effects. So, no, I truly want to believe that dark settings from cyberpunk worlds will not become true. Not on a great scale, I don't think so. We will wait and see. Well, maybe not you and me, but some future generations for sure.

However, what I am more afraid of are humans themselves. The corporate part of the story. Many villains in cyberpunk stories are hidden behind the corporations and their agendas and the natural question pops to mind - is there any real danger of transferring the power from political system of nowadays democracies toward corporations and their pure financial interests? Or to put it in simple words, is it possible that in any futuristic world scenario, future companies compared to today's Google, Microsoft, Apple, Gazprom, Wal-Mart, China National Petroleum, Leading German Car Manufacturers, AT&T, or any other industry lords you can find in below reference page, can be strong enough to take over the power and completely restructure the world as we know it? I am sure this is very hard to imagine from current point of view, but I am still having goosebumps every time I give I thought toward the possible world in the future where current political system weakens enough to the point that it could becomes vulnerable to the ultimate collapse with all the corporations waiting with their jaws open and ready. If you browsed my blog before you probably already know that I blame politicians and politics in general for all the dark times in the history of mankind, but if I could think of anything even dangerous than that, then it would definitely be bunch of wealthy people behind the catchy corporate names with only profit in their minds and the only goal to grow even bigger and wealthier than all the competition.

Original post: July 2014, Update: March 2018.

Image refs:
https://www.netflix.com/rs/title/80097140
http://www.mymbuzz.com/2017/12/08/netflix-altered-carbon-new-teaser/

Story refs:
https://www.neondystopia.com/what-is-cyberpunk/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cyberpunk_works
http://www.cyberpunkreview.com/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/
http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_companies_by_revenue
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altered_Carbon

5th Grade Coding

It was different when I was 5th grader in many ways. Learning how to code was not in the realm of elementary schools back then. Computers were simply too large and expensive for kids to play with and having a good teacher who knew programming languages was rarity. So I was in a bit of a blur when I pressed "P" key on, my first, just unboxed, brand new and state of the art, Sinclair ZX Spectrum keyboard with amazing 16KB of RAM memory. It reacted immediately and at the bottom of the large home TV, it said "PRINT" followed with blinking black square cursor. "2+2" I added and hit "ENTER". It was like magic seeing "4" printed on the screen next instant. The magic of course was not in the correct number. It was rather in the unworldly feeling I got that exact moment of what would come next. What I could command it to do. It was like I found the door of the amazing new world and the door started to open wide!

Soon later I learned more, especially commands like "INPUT", "IF", "FOR", "GOTO" and those more interesting ones, like "PLOT", "BEEP", "DRAW" followed with even more exotic directives like "PEEK" and "POKE". It went without saying that I occupied living room TV for too many precious hours every day, so my parents eventually bought me a small 12", black and white TV, so I continued with my self-coding BASIC lessons (and with games) on my little 5th grader's desk in my room.


Today, in Viktor's 5th grade time, three and a change decades after, introducing programming world is a bit different. The main tool is now the browser and the language evolved into VPL or Visual Programming Language. This practically means the coding is done by creating and juggling program elements within graphical environment. It is far more intuitive than doing it with words and I can't see any obstacles that, in one way or another, what kids are doing today will be the main way of coding in the future. How far in the future is debatable but just compare the function created by one simple VPL in above screenshot with the following code that does the same thing and I am sure that you don't have to be coder in order to understand what's better for 5th graders to start learning programming. And not just for them.

public void NectarCollection() { for(int i=0; i<=3; i++) { MoveForward(i); for(int j=0; j<=2; j++) { MoveForward(j); GetNectar(j); } TurnRight(i); } }

VPL coding was not the new idea. Programming languages are slowly pushing in this directions for some time. For example, within my professional world, which is fully oriented towards the data manipulation, unified communication and business in general, the main programming tool is Microsoft's Visual Studio with its first version dating way back in 1997. It's current release is named VS2017 and it's about tenth or eleventh edition by now, but despite its name very little inside is truly visual. To be honest, there are some graphically operated bits and pieces but still, good old VS is still using the text editor for it's main weapon.



However, the generation gap and software development within the internet network brought even more opportunities for nowadays 5th graders. With their VPL blocks they don't have just to draw bees and robots on the screen and task them to do things. They can do that with actual robots on the dining table! I learned about these programming aids several years ago and it was only a matter of time when the big players would step into the arena with much cheaper investments. This year that was exactly what LEGO did with their first robotic kit with pre-built 'boost bricks'. Anyhow, "Lego Boost" arrived last week and this weekend was all about "Vernie, the Robot", the first robotic creature Viktor made from the box. Not even the expiring chickenpox ruined the playing time and he spent almost entire seven hours building, testing and filming it. It is suffice to say that we both recommend this learning toy more than any other Lego before. The heart and the brain of the set are those three smart bricks that combined represents a Bluetooth hub with movement and optical sensors powered with pretty strong motors that drive not so little robot. The hub is connected to a phone, tablet or a PC and all the VPL magic is made inside equally amazing and intuitive app.

Furthermore, the most popular VPL for nowadays 5th graders education, MIT's Scratch project, with additional helper app (Picaxe S2Bot), is now able to control Boost creatures. To be precise, new Boost VPL blocks are able to control all three motors in the hub along with dynamically acquiring sensor data. In first video Viktor's and me attempted to control the distance sensor and to avoid obstacles on the Vernie's path. It is rudimentary and raw, after all, this is just a sophisticated toy, but nevertheless it opens many new ideas for custom built sets for the future.



But the story with Lego and Move Hub went even further with open source projects on GitHub developed by enthusiasts, such as Python library created by Jorge Pereira. Viktor and I wanted to make a good use for our old USB gamepad to remotely drive Vernie so we modified Jorge's code to test it out and it worked perfectly. The second part of the last embedded video shows what we did and what can be done with Python within Ubuntu environment. In a a word or two, we had a great time and learned many new things, along with how to use Python to answer the web request from HTML page. Viktor made a simple game out of it by using images from his favorite YouTube channels.

If you ask me to conclude something smart from all the VPL magic for the present time and nowadays 5th graders compared to what I had in my time - all I can say is this: "Just imagine what will be inside the "Lego Boost" alternative in thirty years from now. I wouldn't be surprised if 5th graders of the future start talking to their creations while coding their rudimentary AIs."

Guess Youtuber:
http://www.dmvprocessing.com/zviktor22/Youtubers.html
http://www.dmvprocessing.com/zviktor22/youtubers.zip

Python on Linux: Vernie Drive:
http://dmvprocessing.com/zviktor22/vernie_drive.zip

Python for LEGO BOOST library and examples:
https://github.com/JorgePe/pyb00st

Lego Boost & Scratch:
http://www.dmvprocessing.com/zviktor22/VernieScratch.zip
https://www.lego.com/en-us/boost/products/vernie-the-robot

VPL Coding:
https://scratch.mit.edu/
https://studio.code.org/courses
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_programming_language
https://www.picaxe.com/lego-boost/

Anthropocene of Movies

There is a debate whether or not Holocene, the latest geological epoch is already finished with ultimate human impact on Earth's ecosystems, which started along with industrial and technological maturity in recent past. Many of us believe that new era, suitably named Anthropocene is what we are living in already. With technology rise, it looks like humans already changed fundamentally to the point of incompatibility with our distant ancestors. Perhaps we are indeed heading toward rapid evolutionary change, like in the latest Dan Brown's novel "Origin", but this premise is way more suitable for another science fiction I have just watched (for the second time). I am sure that for all of you who like intelligent movies, a long anticipated sequel for "The Man from Earth" finally came and it, without a doubt, opened the Holocene-Anthropocene transition for John Oldman, a 14000 years old man, who also, like entire humanity, seemed to be going through the change of his own.


The movie distribution has just started and I am not going to spoil the content but I will tell you that after I watched it for the first time my initial thought was that there was many "I didn't see this coming" moments, looking from the point of view of the first film. After watching a movie for the second time, and I really needed to do it to clarify the image, my impressions didn't change a bit and I truly hope Richard Schenkman's wishes for the sequel TV show will come to life. I would definitely like to see what happens next. Perhaps little more science than religion could spice the script with additional direction. After all, Anthropocene epoch is a scientific achievement, which is maybe faster in development than what human society can handle at the same pace.

"The Man from Earth: Holocene" comes with one more twist when it comes to distribution of films in general. It uses donationware, a licensing model originates from the software publication but with one more add-on, to stay with the IT vocabulary. If you don't like it, you get full or partial refund of the small amount of money taken from your card. This is exactly what I speculated once before on the blog, back in 2012 when some sort of political attack was launched after Wikipedia. The story went toward anti-piracy war and distribution of movies and I complained that my time was not free to be wasted and after watching some movies I felt like I would like having some system that would provide some sort of refund for both of my lost time and money.


"The Man from Earth" and "The Man from Earth: Holocene" are now part of this donationware-like system and the distribution of both films is made by a fairly new website called MovieSaints and in their words, this is the place "where people can discover and watch compelling independent films from around the world. Viewers can support the filmmaker/creators if they like a film and get a refund if they don't like it." I would really like to see the success of this for the future and not just for small independent projects but also for the major franchises as well. After all, internet is also one of those scientific achievements that are forcing full closure of the Holocene epoch and this donation-refund system, if succeeded, could have power to dramatically reduce intermediaries and pirates.

Ever since the internet arrived and spread everywhere as the ultimate carrier of the intellectual property of various kind, along with came the business, politics and all the other side-effects and struggles intended for squeezing pennies or votes out from the little man behind the screen. Of course, when it all started, the stage was academic and most of the suits, whether they were hiding behind various business acronyms or political parties, stayed outside. The internet was small back then and not important from their point of view. It was also more honest in the nineties before the new millennium. Well... Almost. The web pirates were there from the beginning.


I remember I wanted to contribute with what I did best at the time and created several desktop applications for home users and small companies. It was nothing special, just couple of ActiveX libraries to help Internet Explorer to use email functionalities and sharing files more easily or, for example, a very nice application for FM radio stations - the producers' tool for organizing "on the air" time with custom lists of MP3 songs and commercials scheduled to be aired automatically without host or technician. For small applications like those, it was popular choice to go with "Shareware" distribution. It basically meant the applications were free but slightly limited in functionality and if small fee was paid, I was creating the unlock code that provided restrictions to go away. Even without that, all apps were useful enough so the end users with paying for the code were actually more sending the note that they are really satisfied with functionality. The unlock code was pretty simple - just small math equations that verified that serious of numbers corresponds with the math result. Imagine my surprise when almost day after I posted applications online, the pirate sites included license keys for all of them.

At the time, the internet market was restricted to IT only, but today, it became fast and almost everything could be stored and streamed, without obstacles from technical point of view. The obstacle now is the fact that businessmen and politicians joined the pirates. Today, if you wrote the book, composed the music, created the software, had a breakthrough in science, made a movie or contributed with any kind of intellectual property and you want to earn little money from the effort, you can't do it alone. Your significant share is taken by businessmen or stolen by pirates or taxed and/or forbidden by illogical laws that favor others. Not to mention lawyers and bankers that also parasitically live within the system and take the share with any transactions or legal processes.


In conclusion and to put everything in perspective, what people behind MovieSaints are trying to do, at least with small independent movies, and what was the main idea decade or two with shareware concept, now with addition of refund policy, is taking one step further. It does require a little bit of honesty to work. Something that is not the prime feature for the average human being but I am sure that, deep down, everybody possess it. Moreover, along with honesty for this system to work, it does require other distribution companies to follow but to see it running on the bigger scale at least one big player in the vast internet arena must join.

Refs:
https://www.moviesaints.com/#!/movie/man-from-earth-holocene
https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now
https://www.techopedia.com/definition/29170/donationware
https://www.populationmatters.org/.../welcome-to-the-anthropocene/
http://manfromearth.com/
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.../what-is-the-anthropocene