Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin May 19-25, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting May 19, 2014

Southfield City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting Held on May 19, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • The Possibility of Bringing to the November Ballot a Bond issue and/or a Millage in Order To Better Fund and Improve The City's Road Infrastructure
  • Authorizing a Survey and Polling to Be Done on the Issue of Voter Approved Road Funding
  • The City's Programming of CDBG Funds

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield May 19, 2014 Regular City Council Meeting

Southfield City Council Regular Meeting Held on May 19, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • A Joint Resolution Honoring Police Association of Michigan (POAM) "Officer of the Year" Nick Smiscik
  • An Amendment to The City's Master Plan That Affect The Valley Woods Area Around McDonnell Towers In The Hope of Gaining Funding To Make Improvements
  • Rezoning and Site Plan To Allow A Developer to Build Restaurant Facilities.

An agenda and related documents can be found at here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Battle for Terra vs "Scorched Earth" and Eureka Seven (Spoilers)

Oh Battle for Terra, great idea horrible horrible execution.

If I had to say why Battle for Terra fails it's the characters even the sympathetic ones come off as a  bit obnoxious and stupid.  Not flawed. Not nuanced. But stupid. This is first contact. First contact where I might add it is flat out stated the survival of mankind as a species is on the line.

This is the reason why you need some sort of protocols. Who do you send? How do they act? How do they communicate? How do they not risk starting an intergalactic war that would further limit our numbers past the point of being ecologically feasible?!

In short how do you not piss off the locals?

Part of me wants to cut this thing some slack because its so short at less than 90 minutes.  On the other hand I have seen this story done better so many times.  Nobody is given enough time for me to actually appreciate them, to give a damn about their arc. Everybody just seems to be there to play thier role in the story whichis a nerfed version of Ferngully.

For context I've seen the story done in a 40 minute episode of Stargate with more emotional impact.

Yeah Scorched Earth.

Okay quick recap. Think of Stagate SG-1 as the Millennials' Star Trek except instead of a ship our guys travel through the event horizon of a black hole housed in a ..."Stargate".  We didn't build the gate system but we can explore it going where no man has gone before.

In the episode our guys are on a humanitarian mission to help a group of humanoid aliens find a new world suitable for their unique biological needs. They're just getting settled when ... terraforming you get it. Our guys are in the position of figuring out gets to use the planet. Who gets to live on it and who is doomed to extinction.  Rock meet hard place. I love Stargate so I don't want to spoil it. So moving on.

You know for about a week ago saw Eureka Seven Astral Ocean. As a sequel to Eureka Seven it kind of fails. I finished of the original right before watching it and damn is it optimistic. This is a show where the love struck heroes literally carve their names into the moon. DA MOON! That's not to say the show is soft. There is war, genocide, military coups, propaganda wars, aaaand more war,  all that... "good stuff" but it also just wears its love beats all message on its sleeve. Its sequel pretty much undoes the enthusiastically happy ending of the show in favor of a bleaker tone that almost feels a betrayal to the original's sincere unabashed optimism in the face of hell.

All of this is a little trippy so sit down while Granpy Greg tells you a story.

In the before time (now really, the story takes place 10,000 years in the future) an alien life form crashed into the ocean. This life form has a biological imperative to "communicate" with all life which it does by biologically fusing to it. Growing as giant mushroom heads all along the surface. That freaks humanity right the hell out.

First there is war and then there is exodus when the war was lost.

The show makes clear that the, "scub corral" (guess what they assimilated the ocean) aren't exactly evil. It's just how they work. You wouldn't get mad just because my skin is mocha would you? WOULD YOU!? Point of fact they never understood why we would be so unwilling to assimilate since again that assimilation is the only way they know how to communicate. Hive mind and all just doesn't beget words.

After we leave it occurs to to them just how badly first contact went and they decide to mulligan. After a few thousand years we return home evidently forgetting most of the back story. The scub try to "birth" beings that can not only communicate with humanity but understand it. The scub are alien alien.  People, human thought, art, and morality is beyond them though they are sentient. Thus they create humanoid coralians creatures born of the scub who can interact and communicate with humanity.

Since scub are so alien these humanoid coraliens are basically born as tabula rasas.  Eureka Seven is the story of one of those tabula rasas on her journey to humanity and looooooove.  (Seriously this is the type of show it is. Deal with it. DA MOON!)

Of course the story is very slow to explain all of that as it really is the story her romance with Renton Thurston.

Oh and there's sky surfing.

Since the only guys who know all of this are the bad guys and the corraliens the story mostly reveals this through flashbacks, ecological phenomenon, the emotional baggage of our literally mutinous main cast (What if John Kerry said, "screw this" and took a PBR boat and his crew to chill for a few years surfing in the South Pacific before coming back and finding a way to peacefully unify Vietnam before the Cambodian genocide. That is Holland, the Gekko, and the Gekkostate.) and trippy trippy metaphorical mind melds, (the acperience episodes are not for the epileptic, alien alien, though the third and fourth ones have "spirit guides" to help make sense out of everything.)

Right right. What was point again. Yeah the story of two intelligent species that are literally and biologically unable to coexist in the same type of environment can make a great story. I've seen and read a few of them. But Battle for Terra just doesn't have any meat on its bones. Nobody has any character context for their actions other than what they need to do it in order for the story to make sense which the movie fails at anyway.

In Eureka Seven you spend the first third of it with Eureka before you find out what her deal is. In Stargate the story really does try to explain what a new home means for the Enkarans who have searched for a safe place to live for multiple generations.

I just didn't feel it here.

Both of those other stories feel like they have something to say, that the writers gave the material a real working through in a way where the story can make a powerful emotional statement. This feels like somebody said, "Hey I liked Ferngully as a kid, but the singing bat was sort of stupid. Let's make Ferngully but without the singing bat"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Southfield Board of Education May 13, 2014 Meeting

Southfield Public School District Board of Education Meeting Held May 13, 2014

Topics Include

  • Youth Internet Safety
  • Teen party Safety
  • Keep Southfield Clean Awards
  • Battle of the Book Contest Winners The Southfield-Lathrup Charger Laundry Service
  • Southfield Summer School Programming

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin May 5-11, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Southfield May 12, 2014 City Council Meeting

Topics Discussed Include
  • Giving the Council More Regular Financial Information
  • The Budget for the Upcoming Fiscal Year
  • The Oakland County Violent Gang Crime Safe Streets Task Force
  • Utilizing Law Enforcement Intelligence Networks and Organizations

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Southfield May 5, 2014 Infrastructure Work Session

At the May 5, 2014 Southfield City Council meeting council heard presentations from Leigh Schultz the city's assistant city Engineer as well as representatives from OHM and Hubbell, Roth & Clark two firms the city works with, regarding infrastructure.

The representatives, including Gary Tressel, Rhett Gronenvelt made several points about infrastructure funding and the city's need to plan for the future.

Google Satellite Map

Power Point Presentation

  • In 2014 in Southfield's Jurisdiction based on the PASER rating system, which is based on how much maintenance roads need,  there were 66 roads in poor condition 122 roads in fair condition and 56 roads in good or very good condition. 
  • It is financially more efficient for the city to maintain roads in fair (PASER Rating) condition than it to repair roads in poor condition.
  • Prioritizing based on the last point would mean that roads that roads that are in poor condition would be that last to get money and without increasing road funding the city could not efficiently both maintain fair roads and increase the quality of poor roads in that model.
  • Conditions of the roads and politics might not permit the city to stick to the more efficient model and council needs to decide how to balance cost efficiency and practicality.
  • Based on 10 year (2024) projections both maintaining fair roads and improving the quality of poor roads would require roughly $10 Million a year in infrastructure investment. (Page 18 of PowerPoint) Currently the city invests roughly 2 million (Page 20)
  • If the city were to raise funds through a millage it would need to do so by 3 mills or about $225 a year for a $150,000 home. (Page 20)
  • In order to gain further efficiency the city should coordinate water and sewer projects with road construction. Doing so will allow money in the budget to be used for both water/sewer projects and road projects when underground work is needed.
  • In defending criticism against some of the road aesthetics from council the engineers pointed out that while maintaining the road is cost effective it does not always leave the road looking the best. In particular resurfacing the road is a short term repair that is not expected to last as long as full reconstruction. 
  • Also the engineering teams discussed the problems of recycling pavement and how the unknowns about the process in the 90's and early 2000's may have lead to some of the durability and lifespan problems council has been mentioning.
  • Over the past several weeks the council has been debating road work warranties. Both the legal and engineering departments agreed that the increased cost and negotiating effort of those warranties may outweigh their benefits.
  • Various Detours and Impacts of Evergreen Construction between 8-Mile Road and 9-Mile Road
  • Due to the low bidder missing a Michigan Department of Transportation deadline on the Evergreen 10-Mile to I-696 project completion of the will be delayed.

Actions Taken

  • New Pump Station and Force Main North of Ten Mile Road Between Southfield Road and Greenfield Road (Positive Consensus) (Page 38)
  • Preliminary Design Engineering For BASF Cul-De-Sac (Positive Consensus with Reservations from Councilman Moss) (Page 44)
  • Preliminary Design Engineering and Estimates to Aid in Federal Economic Development Grant Downtown Development Authority District Locations (Positive Consensus) (Page 48)
  • Preliminary Design Engineering and Estimates for Bridge Street Industrial Park Federal Economic Development Administration Grant (Positive Consensus) (Page 50)
  • Set May 19 5:00 PM Meeting to Discuss Potential Road Millage (Positive Consensus)

Useful Links

Southfield City Council Meeting May 5, 2014

Southfield City Council Meeting Held Monday May 5, 2014

Topics Discussed Include

  • Road Funding
  • Road Conditions
  • Projections of Road Conditions at Various Levels of Funding
  • Various Road and Water Infrastructure Projects
  • Methods of Communication to the Public Regarding Road Infrastructure Particularly on the City Website
  • Delays in Evergreen and 10-Mile to I-696 (Evergreen and Civic Center area) Project
  • The Need to Discuss a Road Millage
  • The Appointment of Michael Racklyeft to the Position of City Assessor
  • The Mayor's Presentation and Transmission of the Proposed Budget for the Next Fiscal Year
  • A Brownfield Redevelopment Plan For The Site of the Former St. Bede Church on the Corner of Southfield and 12-Mile Road.
  • Changes to Building Department Bonds

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Note: I will be posting a more in-depth post about infrastructure in a few hours depending on a few factors.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Anime Review: Psycho-Pass Season 1

You know there is very little I hate more in this world than people thinking they can get a bead on me by taking a quick read. I'm more complicated than that.  I am not a number and I am not a name.  I am myself. But what if we lived in a world where all the data that makes up my personal history was available. Psych exams, proficiency tests, criminal records, medical history, behavioral  proclivities, typical coping mechanisms etc. Furthermore what if all that data could be accessed and collated instantaneously so my mental state could be analyzed at the drop of a hat.

Thus is the concept of Psycho Pass. In the future a system combines all that data into a crime coefficient able to determine the likelihood a person will commit a crime under emotional strain. The story focuses on a rookie cop put in charge of leading a unit designed bring latent criminals in once it becomes clear they're about to snap.


I know it sounds familiar.

But the show makes it clear that it's not just talking about criminal alienation but the consequences of our current big data world. What happens when all that data takes good old fashioned human agency out of the equation.

Half the time it isn't people's inherent nature that pushes them over the edge but the despair of knowing they've crossed the empirical line. "If the cops are going to kill me I might as well go out with a bang." But the numbers are there and if tool is available why not use it.

And I want to be clear we are in the gray here. There are some real pieces of work in this show.  The human animal is an animal. A delusional beast that roams the earth believing itself to be beyond the savagery of the hunt. It ain't. We are all voracious beasts.

(Miles, you're starting to scare yourself.)

Okay here's the thing the show has the visual style and tone of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Sometimes it comes close but this is no GitSac.

It doesn't come close to the sheer level of mindfuckery of that masterpiece. All in all the show is better when it's exploring the implications of its setting rather than any sort of narrative. A world where everybody, particularly the police can know more about you than you, where our reliance on data has trapped us and in that trap we despair.

When it tries to go for plot its too conventional to make a good mystery and too convoluted to make for good drama. But when it delves into the implications of an automated society where the random coefficient of free will is ignored and denied you have some good speculative fiction on your hands.

Since everybody has a breaking point, society has turned everybody slightly into happy funtime zombies in denial of their passions and vices in fear of bringing down the heat who are a bit too trigger happy. It's not even their fault though since their guns are automated. Part of the reason why I trust cops is because somebody through training and accountable policy has to know how and when to use force. Taking that judgement away from human hands and entrusting it to a computer program just feels... wrong.

I don't want an anarchist state where every man is for himself and I don't want warlord land where might makes right. We need smart, honest, compassionate, just, responsible, well trained, accountable cops, (Yes I know we don't always get that but we need it all the same) and while I love computers they don't have any of those qualities. A computer is only as smart, responsible as the person who programmed it. Stats can lie, and if/then statements don't leave much room for compassion or nuance They can tell me who starred in Oceans 11 though.

After the second half the show almost becomes a deconstruction of Ghost in the Shell's stand alone complex. Quick recap the stand alone complex is the ability for many different agents acting without coordination or collusion to create a singular effect.

And the big twist of Psycho-Pass is about how such an effect birthed by people who are in affect sociopaths is absolutely nuts especially when sanctioned by society to be a "justice" system. Crowd sourcing jury duty, no judgeship.

You know what I can't dance around it.



The "program" is a bunch of brains in jars.  Particularly the brains the system deems most worthy are a bunch of damn  ubermensches of the Beyond Good and Evil variety. No wonder I was getting a facsist vibe from the place, all art being sanctioned by the state, careers dictated by the system, and everybody too mullified by the peace to realize we... damn I'm sounding like the series' villian.  Which I suppose is his whole deal. Sure he's evil but the potential for evil is a consequence of freewill and being an anomaly in the system of control he's self aware of it and sees himself as humanity's liberator.

Just a reminder he's evil and a bit of an ubermensche himself feeling that the ability to choose evil is innate and denying that capability is a lie. A lie which society can not be built on.

Anyway the brain in jar thing has a lot implications. I generally advocate crowdsourcing. The more guys you can put on a project the more good ideas they'll cook up, but in the process those ideas loose their tangible link to their creator.  Their humanity. Which I suppose is the point. Humans are flawed and a justice system based human ideals and morality will also be flawed still justice has to be human. It's too important, too complex an idea, not to be.  Can you build a law machine?

Law is the crooked dusty dirt path. At times it may seem like a road to nowhere but it is our only guide in the darkness that is our souls.  Look not away from its mud nor the grime it leaves on your feet, for they too are part of that path as they are part of yourself.

Oh and the ending is brilliant.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Movie Review: Nights of Badassdom

Well if I haven't reached Micheal Moore levels of douchebaggery.  Right now, after Robotics;NotesStiens;Gate, and A Woman Called Fujiko Mine, I NEED something simple and fun. No more navel gazing. I don't want anything that makes me think right now. Just something to munch popcorn with.

  • No relations with, references to,  comments on, or continuations of other narratives, including adaptations from other media.
  • No allegorical statements about society.
  • Nothing that interacts with a historical narrative and makes me question the interplay between fiction and reality.
  • No weird plot twists that make you reconsider the text.
  • Nothing that even looks like it could be post-modernist or post-structuralist.
  • Nothing that depends on knowledge of pre-existing genre conventions.
  • Nothing that ponders its own medium or production. 
  • No quirky ensemble pieces that question the role of the protagonist.
  • Nothing that comes close to deep seated personal insecurities
  • And for God's sake nothing surreal, absurdist or dada.

I want a simple, traditional, classical narrative with a single protagonist! And no existential debates whether such a movie truly exists! No! I ain't havin' it.

There is a guy and there is a plot.

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it!

Knights of Badassdom is free on Xbox live.

Alright soooo this takes some explaining. Soooo this is a film everybody in nerd culture has been talking about for a while but for about two maybe three years it hasn't seen the light of day. I saw trailers and it looked awesome. It has a cast I liked and a weird trippy nerdy plot so. But there's also been a bit of a studio kerfuffle and I'm pretty sure I'm getting an edited cut so the question is, "Is it good?" Let's go.

I'm going to be honest this thing got me with its awesome cast it has some real star power especially from the  TV circuit, Game of Throne's Peter Dinklage, True Blood's Ryan Kwanten, Firefly's Summer Glau,  Treme's Steve Zahn. It's a who's who of genre television.

The plot basically involves a group of LARPers who find some real deal evil crap. Contrary to what every 80's D&D movie would have you believe they all (okay all but one) know it's a game, it's just some stupid fun but then...

They summon a god damned succubus.

Let's back up True Blood's Jason (yeah its going to be one of those) is dumped by his girlfriend. His buddies get him blazed and kidnap him for a LARP to get him out of his funk.  When initiate him using the evil necronomicon of destiny (yeah that comparison has been made by people smarter than me and I see it.) shit gets real.

As you can already guess by my not so subtle reference this thing works on Tenacious D style humor with one big difference.  The cast is larger and self-aware. The big joke of POD was that Jack Black had bought into the rock and roll mythos completely.

But here half of the cast thinks the other half is taking things a little too far and needs to lighten up in the LARP. And that's what makes it funny the dichotomy between the in and out of game moments. Why else would you make a movie about LARPing.

Oddly enough its the crazier characters who are the first to realize something's wrong and take action, of course they're the crazy ones so that aint exactly effective.

By act two the tone just shifts as shit gets real. As the party becomes THE party. Never piss off the bard!

For its budget this this has some decent atmosphere, and the novelty of seeing Tyrion Lannister larp alone makes the movie worth seeing but movie manages the sweet spot of being both fun and scary that said it's ending is obvious nerd pandering.

Then again I am a nerd. But I also wonder what the ending would look like if if hadn't been cut. On its own merit though I have been entertained. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Angry Black Man: Defending "People of Color" AKA Post -Stuctural Racial Issues AKA Fujiko Mine Strikes Again

In a recent post I made the mistake of saying colored peoples when I meant to say people of color. I apologize for that.

Anyway, because as anybody reading this blog knows I over-think EVERYTHING I started to consider even the use of the phrase "people of color" (I'm black by the way).

And you know what, it's the phrase we NEED.

Okay because "colored" has negative and I'll be honest exclusionary connotations people get offended by it, but I have a strong belief that the modern civil rights movement is too caught up in the baggage and struggles of the past. And this is a great example of what I've been talking about in past blog posts.

Too often is the discussion of race in America centered along black and white lines, but you also have Asians, Latinos, Middle-easterners a bunch of others as well as people who are mixed race. We need a way of discussing issues that involve all of these groups without exclusion.

Furthermore there are some people who are willing to admit that they are affected by white privileged but don't want want to identify with any particular group. This phrase gives them an out so they can participate in the discussion without having to choose a fixed racial identity.

I understand that due to historical differences we still need to have words to describe the experiences of Japanese-American internment, Native-American genocide, African-American slavery etc but all these groups even those that have no name yet have a stake in America's future and shouldn't be ignored by the political discourse because we refuse to change language or are scarred by it.

Furthermore my experience has been that in the attempt to find a racial identity we can assume that all members of a race have a shared experience and in some ways I suppose they do but often individual experiences and identities are glossed over.

I grew up in the burbs. I know next to nothing about drug dealers or gang violence. Yet I know a lot of people for whom that was an important part of their life's experience, their journey and story. I'm black and I want to talk about the black experience but that aspect of the black experience isn't MY experience. Urban violence is something important to discuss, sure. But in that discussion I don't want people to assume that I am an authority on it because it was part of my Black experience.

"People of color" gives enough distance from stereotypes and flexibility of identity that we can engage in more complex discussions about race and individual experiences with it, and right now that's what we need to be doing.

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin April 21-27, 2014

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