Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve

I'm cooking up a new batch of Together Friends lentils, having served them at the Solstice Party last week.  I been to the corner grocery store a number of times today.  It's a two floor store, maybe bigger than you're picturing, try Google Earthing the corner of SE Hawthorne and Chavez, Portland, State of Oregon.

Speaking of states and state relations, short of actually forming treaties, which is a right reserved by the DC diplomatic corps (no, not DC comics), there's studying one anothers' institutions, academically, anthropoligically, and if necessary undercover and/or incognito (you might think up some reasons for this).

Some of Portland's school teachers have been sojourning in Finland lately, which is a northerly culture, meaning we look North over the pole.  Looking back at us:  Japan, Korea, China, a lot of Siberia, Russia, Scandinavia, the UK, Iceland, Greenland and you're back to Canada.  Cold country, though with global warming maybe not so much.

I'm starting to hear more about Bucky's mysterious boat flippers, the ones that would flip their boats over, to make the hulls of their halls. Haul a boat (big boat) up on land and flip it up on a boat-shaped foundation and you've already got your essentially leak proof shelter.  Put it back in the water again when you're ready to move on.  This was the practice, according to storytellers, of the walrus-based ecosystem.  They were hunted much as the buffalo were hunted by the plains dwellers of North America, except over an open ocean.

DSCN0561

The potluck will partially overlap with Wanderers, in terms of roster.  I may ferry back and forth, as plans materialize.  Nothing's too tightly scripted.

I wish all road people well tonight, one when, historically speaking, poor judgements add up and karma rears an ugly head, sucking souls from the liquor filled veins of the victims, including many not liquor filled.  My thought is to take only back streets and go slowly, and not very far.

Of course back in those walrus hunting days, the people didn't divide the planet mentally in the same way they mentally do today.  If the oceans develop more cities, beyond the ones we call ships, we might see countries growing there too, though I expect it will be mostly about networks from now on.  The contiguous landmass jig-saw puzzle piece just doesn't mean as much as it used to, though unobstructed travel without a check point is always nice and to be celebrated.  Hooray for the interstates (the check point free ones) in that respect, though toll booths are a kind of check point, and I'm not talking about weigh stations as quite the same either, more a sub-category.

I think about the cult of freeway driving and North America and how appealing a freeway system through Iraq was looking.  The old Persia trade over land is still quite a reality.  Overland trucking is not some exotic just-invented idea where Afghanistan is concerned.

Were the Harvard Business School or one of those to offer academic credit for programs in that setting, working with that infrastructure, I think that would help with civilianization of transit corridors, needed both on land and on sea if check point free trade (fast and inexpensive) is to stay a reality (which isn't to say there can't be substance control and monitoring, checking for illegal ivory).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Re: Concealed Weapons

Clearly the Quaker policy would be biased against bringing weapons of any kind into a meetinghouse.

The Code of Conduct would be similar to those adopted in theme parks and universities.  Private property rights apply.  But are these respected?

Another approach might allow for concealment, a private matter of conscience.  Showing a concealed weapon in the meetinghouse would constitute a kind of indecent exposure however.

Having a gun clatter to the floor would be at minimum a social embarrassment, a wardrobe malfunction.  Even just letting one be seen in one's purse would be inappropriate.

If it went off (when clattering), reckless endangerment charges would apply (at a minimum).  Law enforcement might be called.

USA folk do not always respect property rights, including those of other sovereign nations, and may wish to openly flaunt what they consider to be protected civil liberties.

If a member of the public wants to make a 2nd Amendment argument and flash a gun in its holster, while insisting on entering, this might trigger Friends to proceed calmly to the nearest exit, fire drill style.

The building could be vacated until such time as the integrity of the space had been restored.

I don't see that Quakers should be obligated by the surrounding society to provide lockers or hat check type services for gun toters, although I could see some hotels doing this.  Other hotels might advertise a Code of Conduct that say no weapons allowed (a market niche).

Adding TSA style screening to Quaker meetinghouse entrances would be expensive and unwieldy.  Nudist colony Quakers would have an easier time of it.  Quaker meetups of two or more are easier to arrange with the new apps.  Compromised meetinghouses a less of a strategic problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Season's Greetings 2012

Dymaxion Necklace

 Thank you to Laurie and Terry for hosting their wonderful Hanukkah party, to which we've been invited over the years.

Carol was able to join us this time, a first.

Season's Greetings to readers of these Grain of Sand blogs.

Here's a toast (a nod with nog) in your general direction (with eye contact if feasible).

Thanks to all.  Merry wishes to sentient beings.

Wishing you well in 2013.

A shout out to Bill Lightfoot who showed up for a good dinner at The Bagdad.

Love, Kirby

@ Greater Trumps (in good company)

Canine in Disguise

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wanderers 2012.12.4

Tonight we were graced with the presence of Sylvia Benner, along with David DiNucci, both legitimate spokespeople for the atheist and secular humanist community in Greater Portland.  Both were articulate and informative.  Wanderers are very receptive to these subcultures, having no set in stone doctrinal dogmas (we have a coffee fund).  Bill Shepard despised telling children about Santa Claus (in the sense of tricking them into false beliefs).  A lot of atheists are refugees from various religions, some disowned by their families.  Until recently, admitting to being an atheist was like committing social suicide.  You were a "godless commie" or whatever.

Both principals spoke with experience about the stresses of creating community.  People come in various stages of some progression.  Some feel deeply scarred and are angry at a particular religion.  Others seek low voltage interactions, nothing melodramatic.  The mix of characters may prove volatile.  A kind of alchemy goes on.

I could identify.  I was sitting way in the back, in a nice comfy chair, mostly sitting in rapt attention, engaging in the discussion ("is the Dalai Lama an atheist?") but also focusing on a Quaker blog that had been brought to our attention by one of our members.  Once again (like in those movies), rape was an issue.  Various brands of sex offender want community too.  Why not check out the Quakers, as they're probably not armed and likely not dangerous.  Sometimes it's tiring to have to watch one's back every day.  We get our share of tourists, looking for something more permanent.  Just like the humanists do.

Sylvia was on the whole upbeat about the future.  The fact that so many young people were not bothered by atheism as a position, had no bigotry against it, felt encouraging.  Maybe the world was growing more rational and intelligent?  Some statistics seemed to show that.

In some followup conversation I mentioned about being a Quaker animist.  Like many humanists, I'm not that sapien-centric in that I respect and celebrate the nonhuman crew members aboard Spaceship Earth.

One of my themes for the Wanderers is we admit nonhuman members, and sure enough we had a dog present for this meeting, at the cost of come controversy given it snored loudly enough to interfere with some humans' hearing of the other humans.

Duane Ray was by, haven't seen him in awhile, among other prominent movers and shakers.  We weren't all in totalitarian agreement on anything.  The discussion revealed rifts, but then consensus regarding belief systems was never the game or goal.

Labeling and taxonomy were a core focus.  Are polytheists atheists?  The obvious answer is "no", but then if you've never believed in "one god" that seems somewhat atheistic to any God promoted as the one and only.  "Apathist" was another term bandied about.  Unlike the "agnostic" who either "doesn't know" or thinks people "can't know", the apathist just "doesn't care" one way or the other.  If one's commitment is to live an ethical life irrespective of stated beliefs, then "knowing" (in the sense of indulging in metaphysical belief systems) may be unnecessary.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Burma: A Human Tragedy (movie review)

The nation-state system is broken in many places and stateless refugees pile up, with bystander nations feeling helpless.  Burma is a poster child for the brokenness of nations.  But not the only one.

This film focuses mostly on the plight of Burma's refugees in Thailand and Bangladesh.  Many are internally displaced and wander the jungles, pursued by a genocidal army hell bent on ethnic cleansing.  A rebel army, actually several, fight back.

The prospects for new treaties among these peoples, new agreements, would improve in a context of more trust.  Aung San Suu Kyi is interviewed and her comments are used to punctuate the action.  Anjelica Huston narrates.  There's no deep historical storytelling nor geopolitical analysis.  The focus is recent times and what's happening on the ground.

The film is damning towards a particular ruling elite, offering few reasons to hope.  A reconciliation process, more like what occurred in South Africa, is contemplated by some.

Telling Burma's story outside Burma is somewhat effective, i.e. a kind of processing goes on which might be too incendiary within the local namespace.  People learn from seeing themselves mirrored elsewhere.

Given the ethnic strife in North America, and the history of genocide and betrayal, it's somewhat useful to compare notes perhaps.  Many of the same patterns are repeated cross-culturally.  Problems around rape for example (I happened to see this as a double feature with Occupy Unmasked, with a focus on the same phenomenon).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arrest of Dora Marsden


arrest of dora marsden
Originally uploaded by thekirbster.

I'm thinking this is from the time she heckled Winston Churchill by climbing the facade of a building and shouting through the skylight at a men-only event of some kind.  I snapped a picture of Trevor's cell phone, or was it a tablet?  I forget.  Probably a picture of my cell, a Razr / M, using the Nikon Coolpix, after Trevor shared a copy.

Yes, I saw those stories about Anonymous versus some foiled voting heist, but I don't tend to take such stories at face value.

Likewise the FBI probing into compromised relationships in and around the security networks. Tommy Chong touched on the CIA story recently unfolding, playing up its comedy (sitcom) value.

Paranoia tends to run high among any who lie and cheat in ways the FBI might find out about (and also care about). It's not like that whole phenomenon evaporated after J. Edgar Hoover. Are you a possible target of blackmail, for which you'd trade secrets to keep things quiet? That's what many worry about: getting caught up in some drag net. They'd rather just talk about Libya.

Tommy also made fun of Oregon, as did the opening comedian (whom I'd seen at The Bagdad). Oregon is the "redneck South" beneath Washington, its relative North. In microcosm, Oregon is the more racist, the least secure. Washington is the greater power, Seattle the bigger city.

In WA, you have a more Canadian approach to marijuana, more likely to diffuse the cartels and their leverage. OR is closer to Mexico in having a moralistic / paternalistic / semi-Puritanical mental outlook.  Prohibitionist imposers repress and create an underground, are fragile egos living the nightmare, acting out their frustrations.

Portlanders are especially impatient with such a Puritanical mindset, which is more reminiscent of the Feds (knuckle-draggers, ape-like). But lets remember Portland is not the entire state. There's a disconnect, about which Salem does too little, politicians being too parochial for the most part.  Satellite TV does more to level the playing field.

Dora was a free spoken British Bodhisattva of the early 1900s, intent upon advancing the societal position of women, but a bitter critic of the "cause oriented" who'd sacrifice their health by doing hunger strikes (a popular suffragist strategy).  She distrusted "ideas" and their hypnotic power, their ability to divert and deceive.

She counseled gaining property and influence, creating a secure base. Marriage and its morals were abusive. Let men and women negotiate as equals and broker their relationships without some societal requirement that they strictly adhere to a certain script. She was not a "one size fits all" kinda gal.

I believe she created many enemies, such that when she proffered her more serious metaphysical works, too many were alienated to give her the time of day. She couldn't face the disappointment. That she would have fans in 2012 was neither a certainty nor a consolation for her then.

I'm still a noob when it comes to Dora, so if truly curious, look for better sources.  Feel free to say I sent you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Seven Psychopaths (movie review)

The movie opens staring at the Hollywood sign with the dialog starting immediately on the theme of reality versus fiction.  "This is a fairy tale from the fairy tale makers" the movie screams (quietly, at its own pace).  We see the screenplay later, neatly photocopied and ready to go.  The writer is walking it to his agent.

In the context of this dream, therefore, we encounter dream violence.  The scent of self parody and satire is strong.  "This is what we do in the movies, we show you the blood and gore that we know is already in your imagination, if you're anyone like us."  Is this an alternative to violence?  Is showing it, vividly, a way of sucking it out of the real world and projecting it to a safer more contained one?  Could this be construed as a pacifist enterprise?

The film asks this question of pacifists, waving favorite symbols:  crosses, a Quaker...  Gandhi.  The Quaker is much interested in the Vietnamese psyche, which he imagines as full of vengeance, but then he takes it in another direction, as one of the co-writers of the screenplay.  He goes for an image of self-immolation (a bond).

The Quaker is also stereotypically in favor of "mixed breed" marriage, and as a couple they practice a form of satyagraha or use of inward weapons.  No guns for him.  The lead screenwriter, Irish, also tilts in this direction.

The theme that everyone in the dream is helping to make the dream, to pull it in the direction of their archetype, is also strong.

Going to and from Fox Tower (the cinemaplex) on the bus, I was reading Human Smoke, a non-fiction book about the reality and psyche behind World War Two.  The reviewers claim the writer is "a pacifist" and is providing a "pacifist point of view."

I'd heard the Quakers have a role in this book, as does Oswald Mosely.  Both are against engaging in this next orgy of outward violence, though maybe for different reasons.  I have more to read, just bought it this evening.

There's a dog on our street named Mosely.  Animals, dogs mostly (though bunnies too), feature playfully in Seven Psychopaths, riffing off the theme of no animals (as in non-humans) being hurt in the making of this film -- but then the humans are shown doing each other in with extreme cold bloodedness.  The murders are highly pre-meditated, planned, plotted, calculated, choreographed -- as if in a screenplay.

The characters wonder about an after-life, yet this becomes funny too, as they're already as if dead (killed) so many times, just not remembering clearly, the gift of time being at least a partial erasure.  They're already in an after-life, much like the ones before and to come.  Demons in hell have their own kind of immortality.  Karma is simply the conservation of momentum.

I've also been reading Blacksad the comic (graphic novel, film noire) all animal characters, and dealing with themes of racism and white supremacy, the Cold War and rabid hatreds.  More fiction, more depictions of violence, more telling stories that elucidate, as well as entertain.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Recent Victories

I urge this as an exercise, to review recent victories, you might think "to build self esteem?" but not so much, more it's about seeing yourself honestly for what you consider "a victory".  Was there someone to defeat?  Or was it some personal goal attained i.e. were you defeating your own lethargy?

One of mine was getting the Raspberry Pi to talk to my HDMI monitor in the office.  The solution was quite trivial and amounted to tweaking some settings in a text file, config.txt, already well commented.  But there's a sense of pride in doing, called positive reinforcement, that is it's own reward.  I remember when I bought an inexpensive capacitor and Bill Sheppard (a Wanderer) welded it on for me, replacing another on my DVD player's circuit board.  An investment was saved from the trash.  Skills had been well used.

Here's another.  My housemate is a lifestyle sculptress, herself the prime subject, meaning strict rules and attention to consumption and waste patterns.  All the glass bottles piling up from my six-packs were not helping her keep six-pack abs (a result of eating vegan + plenty of exercise), plus that's a lot of recycling.  Solution:  buying growlers instead, where the same bottle is reused, and filled from a keg. A higher grade, fresher beer is procured at a bulk price, and given constraints on transportation, it's gotten less often and in a healthier way.  I can bike a few miles for my 64 oz. container of Hub IPA.

Next:  I'm getting more into Haskell.  John T. at work had gone through a number of math languages, looking for innocence and purity, something aesthetic.  He felt his quest had come to a worthy terminus in Haskell.  A lot of thinking had already gone into Lambda Calculus when these functional languages were spawned, so they inherit that layer.  It's like an oil or natural gas field.  Once you start fracking in Haskellville, you get a quick infusion of gas, where gas is a good thing.

Does chronicling victories mean one should not also chronicle defeats?  "Defeat" is the grammatical opposite of "victory", not "failure", not "loss" (although "loss" is closer, since to lose is to be non-victorious).  I'd say your objective, in this mindfulness training, is to strive to report evenly.  Focusing on losses may be a way of avoiding responsibility whereas capitalizing on victories, even small ones, is building up your hand and thereby staying in the game, whatever game.  "I'm still a player" is the battle cry of the undefeated (those still willing to experience victories).

A next step with this practice is to tease victory stories out of others, get them to focus on wins in your presence, and then celebrate those victories with them.  This has a lot to do with friendship and being affirming.

At SMAD the other day we talked about "shame" and the bias of our group and group leader was definitely against it, i.e. shame was cast is an unhealthy substitute for other states that would improve the world more effectively.

One tends to self-divide into a self-teacher within, and one's admonishments to oneself are like that of a coach to a team, but in what sport and what kind of team?  We differ a lot in that dimension and when we attempt to teach others in ways we teach ourselves (often quite effectively I might add) we may encounter types of resistance that are to us unfamiliar because lo, personalities differ (duh).

Some people inwardly curse themselves out when they drop the ball in some way, but their flip side self, who takes the heat, is not overly discomfited because there's a bond of trust with this particular coach.  "She berates me in just the way I need" says the grateful trainee.  Note the rise of "nagware as a service" i.e. people use cyber-tools to goad them to run more, swim more or achieve whatever goals (sometimes with gifts to "anti-charities" used as penalties).  Other people need to be very diplomatic with themselves and only sound affirming, because any self-cursing triggers a spiral into self-hate that leads to poor team performance on no real sense of a pro coach.  There's only despair and losing.

When you meet a new person, one thing to discover is their "coach me" API.  However some may runaway scared before you get that far.  They hear you cursing yourself out, see the flame-thrower you use on yourself routinely and pretty much seem to laugh off, as you like having a dragon for a coach, consider it a privilege.

However, your onlooker just worries that dragon will flame at him and he's just not ready to be on such a team.  That's really understandable.  Or replace "dragon" (handsome and romantic) with "ogre".  "I just couldn't live around that ogre" is a common statement in divorce courts, if translated honestly.  Yes, Shrek has done much to improve the ogre image / PR, but I'm still more of a dragon fan myself (which sounds easy to say I suppose).

While on this topic:  I remember the Scandinavian fascination with "trolls" as relatively cute and cuddly.  Internet culture seems to have singled out "troll" and "trolling" as fair game for banishment and/or flames.  The question is where does honest and open agitation and debate cross the line?  Some groups just don't like to be challenged.

For example, if you speak up amidst Quakers, saying that holding nuclear weapons was like spitting on Jesus while he dragged his cross through Jerusalem, are you written off as "a troll"?

The abomination some Quakers trolled about, pre Civil War, was the holding of slaves, still considered perfectly legal and Biblical in those days (today it's more underground, a target of FBI and Homeland Security investigations).  To this day, many Christians say "they hold slaves in the Bible so it must be fine and dandy with God, so shut up and leave us alone already!".  And indeed God and the apostles say things about how how the relationship of master / slave should be conducted (respectfully), which implies an acceptance.  Many Biblical authorities have said Jesus never said anything against slavery, but I'd say the derivation of the word "Friend" (as in not-servant, not-slave -- a free and willing agent) traces to John 15:15 wherein Jesus says he's fed up with slave-minded sycophants who just wanna get to heaven, over his dead body if necessary (paraphrasing). He was lonely for real friends, who can blame him?

Quakers were less into aping the Biblical cultures (various brand of Holy Lander), as if the point of that book were to stage theater (re-enactments) -- though sure, it's full of good stories, worthy of cinematic treatment (not to worry, more to come I'm sure).

Nukes likewise enslave, by holding a sword of Damocles over vast populations, but some "Saved Christians" defend this grave sin on Manifest Destiny grounds ("if God didn't mean us to hold nukes, then we wouldn't have nukes already" -- the same demented argument used to keep slaves ("using the existence of a state or condition, as a justification for its continuance" -- there must be some Latin name for that fallacy; "status quo ad absurdum"?)).

Scandinavians think trolls are adorable, and Scandinavians don't have nukes.  I'm thinking more pro-troll PR may be in order, to balance what the oafish ghouls and ogres have been up to.  We're not just pro-elvyn around here, we're pro-troll (traditionally they fight each other, so heyoka (and watch out!)).

Sometimes the same story may be told as a defeat or a victory.  If the premise is "loser" then I couldn't even keep track of the 2011 tax statement and so I haven't done the FASFA yet, egad.  However, having filed through H&R Block I was able to have my Razr / M talk me through an interesting set of turns and I didn't even have an accident while admiring the pretty GPS map. Victorious outcome:  I now have a copy of said statement and a better relationship with my smartphone (we're spending more time together).

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer.  Steve Holden not only gave me a unit, in my capacity as PSF member, after watching him set up a few, but lent me the book.  Sliding the SD card from the unit to the Mac Air allowed me to tweak config.txt on a different machine, and after awhile I just used on-board vi to tweak the settings and reboot.  I have an aspect ratio I can live with.  The unit is also connected by Ethernet to the office router and is happy to browse the Web.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Time Storm

All is bright and calm in Portland this morning, with garbage and recycling trucks plying their beats. However, a great storm rages in the Atlantic states, from Jersey inland to the Great Lakes.  This was right before the 2012 presidential election.

Mom (Carol) is rocking back and forth in her chair ("unprecedented").  Her women are eyeing the nuclear power plants, full of distrust in the wake of Fukushima.  With all the grid problems to come, how might we conduct free and fair elections?  An extra joker was slipped into the deck.  The game of poker is now a game of something else (it's called "game changing").

Oregon has voting by mail.  There's a secret ballot envelope that goes inside an outer signed envelope, with the signature acting as a kind of thumb print, a practice in early banking as well, though stationery certainly helps.

I don't know to what extent the ability to "re-run" any election is electronically archived.  Those states with their act really together keep a record of all the ballots (delinked from identity) and are able to re-run the elections at will.  Universities download and study the data, doing all manner of statistics.  The data is safely anonymized meaning it's somewhat hard to trace back, but not impossible, especially where write-in candidates (obscure ones) feature.

Carol has her office back together.  We have CenturyLink wifi through much of the house, with signal tapering quite sharply outside the bubble.  Since the advent of 3G / 4G, I also have secondary wifi on at least one device and am able to talk to towers (cell towers) in the vicinity.

That's how tethering sometimes works, when you can't get onto an Internet access point and so avail of your cellular network's tower-based service.  Hurricanes may damage cell towers.  This will be one story among many to follow.  Telecommunications disruption hampers restoring services.

If there's any good news in this disaster it's the extra cleanup work before Xmas and the additional income this may engender, along with the physical workout (which is easy to overdo -- this is where churches and such need to offer R&R opportunities to the first responders and infrastructure rebuilders, if only bananas and sunglasses (whatever sponsors might spare and pass through that would be appreciated on the front lines)).

To what extent Food Not Bombs will be assisting with this emergency is hard to gauge from my vantage point (SE Chapter / PDX).  I know Keith McHenry himself worked long hours during Katrina to help coordinate among emergency services.  He stays in communication, is not out there to duck the responsibilities when on duty.  I haven't seen anything on the list though, which is mostly local traffic. Oh wait, this just in (linked from here).

Coordinating is a skill and well orchestrated emergency efforts make a big difference.

I expect offers of assistance from overseas teams.  It'd be wise to accept in many cases, would be my leading, even as the rest of the country responds, in part by absorbing refugees.  Sometimes it's a good time to move, when you've lost everything (or even just worldly goods).  Many North Americans will be re-assessing their next moves in light of Hurricane Sandy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thinking of Mary

Bolton Collection

:: metta for Mary Bolton, another mother for Kirby and Dawn and their family ::

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Way We Were

I'm thinking of Richard Burton singing his "one shining moment, Camelot" swan song.  This isn't one exactly, but I'm thinking at our peak we were like one of those QVS houses.

That's Quaker Volunteer Services, where Friends live together, perform community service, walking their talk in terms of Quaker values.

Per recent ministry in meeting, there's no oxymoron in "Quaker witch". They all do non-violent communication workshops or are just generally non-threatening (talking about the witches living here).

However Melody, who works with homeless / runaway youth, kids in dire straits, has since moved out.  She still stays as a guest, but you need a certain number of knights to have a round table.

I was the role model Quaker in staying with my inward weapons, gallivanting about in cyberspace, weaving in threads.  It's not like we'd all sit in a circle reading the Bible together.  This is more a Western Friend household, so we might read more Jung.  We had some movie nights.

JenQ helped write and publish The Radicle and was a key organizer for Food Not Bombs.

Anyway, that was the hay day.  Both the clerk and assistant clerk have been by in the last few days, visiting Carol, the treasured elder, board member of AFSC and perpetual WILPF strategist.

We were a buzzing headquarters we were (Melody just left again).

We were subscribed to The Economist, The Nation and The New York Times.  Our Wall Street Journal subscription, based on frequent flyer miles, had expired.  I also got Princeton Alumni Weekly.  Our Internet was through CenturyLink, DSL.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remembering The Dead

album cover, Blues for Allah
Grateful Dead

My thanks to Deb Bryant for reminding me of her friend Rosie McGee's reading at Barley Mill this evening.  For those of you not so familiar with Portland, The Barley Mill is a birth place of the McMenamins brew pub network that now spans at least two states.  It's also something of a temple to The Grateful Dead, a famous band associated with the advent of the psychedelic Aquarian Age.

The day started more prosaically, with Patrick coming by in handyman mode to maybe help with the clogged upstairs tub.  He correctly diagnosed and solved the leaking sink problem and in the process we were referred to another product by the hardware store lady that indeed unclogged the tub (I'd tried other liquids but this one had the right mojo apparently).

I'm listening to The Dead now on Spotify, trying out their premium service.  I went to the Spotify meeting at the last US Pycon, as Spotify is using Python a lot.  Some of my favorite artists are not yet sharing by this infrastructure, which one might characterize as a negotiated / legal version of Napster.  iTunes helped pave the way.

The negotiation includes what consumers want, are willing to pay for, and are able to get illegally if the cost is too high.

The Dead were always progressive about digital rights and contributed to the free / open source rhetoric when the latter was still in its infancy.  Whereas I was only getting covers for Pink Floyd and The Beatles on Spotify, I'm listening to bona fide Dead as I write this.

Rosie wasn't just your stereotypical "groupie".  She was an integral part of the Jerry Garcia family, which was a traveling circus and production crew of considerable ambition and skill.  She helped with a lot of logistics, travel, loved the behind-stage world, and never lost her fluency in French (Rosie was born in Paris, moved to Portland later, went to Washington High School).

Carol is using O2.  The concentrator came hours after her discharge, with the hospital providing two tanks.  A full recovery is expected.  Pneumonia (bacterial).  We've been getting visitors.  Friendly Care has been supportive.

I treated Patrick at Oasis for his competent and cheerful contribution to our household's plumbing health.

Someday, your dwelling machine will come with CAD drawings on a DVD and you'll have no trouble knowing where all the pipes go, and/or tubing, wiring and so on.

Having construction adopt the standards of aerospace was the huge jobs creator Bucky Fuller tried to get going all through the 1900s.  The engineers were better at weaponry though and had a sure client in Congress.  The sheltering challenge was left to architects.  The technology advanced slowly.

Living standards have stayed artificially low, given the human IQ is not what it could be (by "IQ" I'm including qualities like "compassion" which the Dalai Lama underlines as what's missing more than raw intellect).

That doesn't mean a revolution in shelter technology can't still happen.  Patrick looks at the challenge from the perspective of energy infrastructure (power grids, smart meters etc.).  Glenn thinks in terms of a "global matrix" of such grids.  Welcome to 97214.  We think globally a lot, and can't help but act locally.

Blue House is also being crewed by Melody, JenQ and Lindsey these days.  While I was at the Hackathon and Wanderers last night, Lindsey was serving for Food Not Bombs near City Hall, and performing her music.  JenQ helped prep.  This is from the Saturday market haul that provides for several servings throughout the week.

Yesterday's Oregonian's food section was on food waste, a topic we discuss a lot at FNB (though of course FNB was not mentioned), and arsenic in the rice supply, which is written about in a typical "taking it lying down" mode (Chicago Tribune the source) -- no outrage, just "limit how much poison you feed your baby, doctors advise".  Crazy world eh?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Delayed Reactions

The title is a bit of a joke, as all reactions are delayed, though "instant reflexes" have the connotation of both spontaneous and robotic, another irony.

Wasn't Romney promising a buck a gallon again, like a roll back in prices?  A truck just unloaded 300 gallons in my under-the-driveway tank, technology from another era, when that would have been $300.  "Everyone's tank is bigger than their checking account these days" quipped the driver.  No kidding.

In my world view of the New World Order or Novus Ordo Seclorum or whatever we call it, USA presidents don't get to set oil prices.  That's just not in the cards.  And I'm wondering, seriously, what the world would have to look like, for Romney to be setting them.  I think his view is isolationist:  America will fuel itself, and as King of North America, I'll dole it out at a buck a gallon.  Put me down as a skeptic.

So I sampled semi-mainstream TV last night.  I no longer subscribe to TV, but Bagdad was showing AMC's Walking Dead off the cable (Xfinity I think it was), no charge, just serving beer etc.  I got to sample the latest commercials, for iPhone 5, Droid, Windows 8, and Surface.  My new Droid went by twice, the Razr / M.  Windows 8 is designed with Surface (a tablet) in mind.  There's much controversy in the blogosphere, as to whether MSFT has gone overboard pandering to tablets when desktops, including laptops, still reign supreme.  Time will tell.

Today I met with John Wish, esteemed member of the meeting.  He was somewhat pissed that I'd used the word "cabal" with reference to his subcommittee.  Here's a writing sample (something I shared recently, with a non-member):
Oversight is... party to a hostile takeover of MMM by a clique of members who think the Beanite / College Park Association style of Quaker, which honors non-members and gives them a lot of equality, should be squashed. 

This cabal has hijacked our process with vague reasoning and allusions to anonymous members who refuse to come forward and let their identities be known.
John at 78 is not shy, no wall flower, so I can't count him among "members who refuse to come forward and let their identities be known." No way. He's forthright and speaks his mind. That's what Quakers value: plain speech. We don't have time for a lot of BS euphemisms, because we're trying to keep up with the "mind of God" (zeitgeist, Holy Ghost or whatever) and that doesn't always give us the luxury of mincing words. "Beating around the bush" sometimes just means you're being too time-consuming for your own good (and ours).

What's the College Park Association anyway, and what the heck is a Beanite?

I'm alluding to esoteric Quaker history here. Chuck Fager has an entertaining piece of writing on this history, if you want to know more.

Tonight's debate deliberately mixes military and civilian meanings of "nuclear program". Remember the UK's position:  Farsi speaking Persians and their friends have a natural right to use science in ways that don't hurt the world.

Does nuclear energy hurt the world?  Some would say so, yes.  In that case, the push against nuclear programs is tighter here too.  Note to Romney:  we / they have a right under the NPT to enrich uranium, you know that yes?  I'm against the weapons too.  Countdown to Zero is a campaign I respect.  Nuke weapons destabilize us guys, and take the "fun" out of military service. These weapons just aren't helping us stay human and we have limited experience as demons.

Funny chat about Pakistan.  Are you going to say "drone"?  Yes.  What about sovereignty then sir?  Either sir.  Why is Pakistan sounding angry sometimes, "not like any ally".  Where are the bombs going off, in Afghanistan or Ohio?  Well OK, some in Oklahoma.

Lets remember how deeply concerned the Southern whites were, white Americans in general, that the oppressed, the slaves, would rise up in revenge, if liberated, and if allowed to own guns.  There really hasn't been a race war (though it got ugly), and there's not likely to be one.  Many ethnicities share this area and aren't interested in Mad Max Roadwarrior futures, post apocalyptic but without the apocalypse.  Who needs it?

"Currency manipulator... hacking into our computer, counterfeiting our goods" sheesh.  This guy is too afraid of everything, scary scary.  That's like whites, acting scared, making everyone else pay for their "security".  OK, not just whites.  The privileged.  They're so upset about their insecurity aren't they?

No, I'm not worried about any "cabal" among Quakers.  Lots of partially overlapping cliques, in scenario Universe, nothing new there (except always new).  Chuck Fager is somewhat a role model in using high amps, but mine is techno-invective, not sure they're the same (like a difference in musical style).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Back at the Lab

"Back at the Lab" sounds white coaty, but I'm talking Lucky Lab here, the brewpub that does Dogtoberfest (coming right up -- or did it happen already?).  I'd say Sarah-the-dog here is a lucky lab, but then she's also part mutt, as the pro breeders might put it.

Steve and I joined the DemocracyLab table.  Mark and an associate were about to drive to Seattle even at this late hour, for a conference today.  He took us through a demo, where Oregon State's tax income is the focus.  How much revenue is from video poker, lotteries?  Game winnings are not considered a tax, so these numbers were not shown.

Ben stopped over.  We'd missed Duke by a smidgen.

Nate is heading of to Strata Rx 2012 in the Bay Area.  Electronic medical records using free open source software is one of his foci.  That may mean he misses WhereCampPDX, where we hung out last year, OPDX (Occupy Portland) by then going strong.

The Lab was packed with gamers and hackers.  Thursday nights are really big there.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

OMSI Science: On Race

DSCN0540

The two guest speakers were from Willamette University, where Alexia went for awhile, exploring options such as Japanese.

They've taught as a pair and bring different perspectives to the issue of 'race' and 'racism'.

Dr. Emily Drew is a sociologist and Dr. Chris Smith is a population biologist, more into the physical genetics rather than the ethnic constructs.

Every ethnicity has its idea of other ethnicities.  The "race" theme couples with US history pretty closely.  Study the history of the "race" concept in the Americas, and many doors will open.

We saw slides of an early census of 1790.  Are you (a) white free male (b) white free female (c) non-white free (d) slave?

Dr. Drew understood "race" in the ideological sense of supporting Ben Franklin's contention (apparently not satiric -- that would have been more Twain-like) that "whites" were the top race, and that thinking in racial terms is mostly buying into a namespace that's been rigged to advantage some minorities / ethnicities more than others (it'd be hard to deny that).

Dr. Smith saw the genetic underpinnings of human differences, which map to geography really well.  He's suspicious of "race" though, because as a short-hand, the "races" are awkward pigeon-holes and could lead to making bad medical decisions.

The specific ideas we have about "races" (the stereotypes) are too often misleading to be very scientific though.  Like this idea that only blacks have sickle cell anemia -- an urban legend. 

"Race" as a concept, is mostly partially overlapping urban legends, with enough truth in biological terms (people do differ, and you can trace DNA sequences in family trees), and enough inertia in socialogical terms, to keep it alive and kicking as a meme.

Actually, neither speaker used the term "meme".

I've done lots of thinking and writing on this topic of "race" for many years, including recently, so I felt somewhat party to the discussion.  I didn't ask any questions though.

Steve H. had not been to an OMSI Science Pub before.  He's of the Yorkshireman race.  I keep hoping to introduce him to Brian S. who bears some family resemblance, at least in terms of accent.

An older theory held that Homo Erectus gave rise to modern hominids in some linear then forking pattern, with the fork into races happening some millions of years ago.

More recent studies suggest an "out of Africa" migration only some hundreds of thousands of years ago.  These homo sapiens encountered other brands of hominid, including Neanderthal, which it now looks like may have been integrated into the "new model" (sapien) gene pool in some ways.  Dawn always thought so and would have loved this part of the talk.

The fact that indigenous Himilayans have genes for dealing with relatively low oxygen, similar to the way we have skin color genes based on the spectral challenges of our ancestral environment, suggests I might not be so far off base in my speculations that one day we'll have undersea hominds able to live more like dolphins.

At the very least, as people select for better skiing bodies, so may they select for better swimming bodies.

Or maybe that's all too naive, now that there's some possibility of genetically engineering some changes, not waiting for natural selection to optimize the old slow way.

Of course I don't get to know how it turns out from this perspective, as a 1958 - 20?? figure.  As mortals, we only get to pop up the periscope for a short period, assembling all the puzzle pieces we can.

Definitely we need to always do the detective work to figure out who stands to gain from one "theory" or another.  Real science should not inhibit "follow the money" style anthropology, a kind of investigative journalism with more philosophy, more distance.  Keep an eye on the agenda.  Does it involve "white supremacy" of some kind?  Not that only "whites" can be racist.  That meme virus is widespread.  The US is a racist society (according to the four criteria presented).

I don't know how far back we should push any kind of maritime savvy, on the part of these hominds.  That's probably the kind of question I would have asked.  Did Homo Erectus ever take a ferry of any kind?  We hominids always walked a lot, but did we float, even navigate?

Riding other animals (e.g. horses), when did that start?  At different times for different peoples.

An ethnicity may be defined in many respects in terms of how it casts and treats other animals, not just other human beings.

OMSI has an exhibit on Race even now.  I feel I've probably seen it before, or maybe I just saw part of it.  Anyway, I'll be heading down there one of these days to check it out.

DSCN4600
"races of man" on a timeline 
at McMenamins E Broadway Brewpub

Monday, October 01, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Parable of the Amusement Park


My brand of Quakerism is designed like Oaks Park, an amusement park in Sellwood.  Some rides have criteria, for safety reasons, like you need to be "this tall" (a ruler is shown).

In Quakerism, which is a way of doing business, as well as worshiping together, the "rides" are the "committees" as well as other activities / events.  Committees meet on a schedule. 

Besides "rides", we have other "games" and "amusements" which some may say sounds un-Quakerly but this is an analogy.  Sometimes I use "the circus" as a metaphor for Friends, or "the carnival" (from which culture the word "geek" arises).

"Membership" is not a criterion for going on or not going on rides, with the exception of the process called "becoming a member" (usually once per lifetime, like birth and death, although if you count transfers, then more often).

You may become a lifetime member of Friends, and that's one way of showing your commitment.

You may resign your membership when it's time to move on, either because you or your meeting thinks so (separations may be amicable, not closing any doors, or may be more abrupt yet open ended), or when you think membership in a given meeting might be less representative of your ideal park-goer, your preferred brand of Quakerism, and so you revert to original non-member status (the game posits "non-member" for newborns, but the "birthright" reflex might well be there, and in both parents).

You may dream up your own scenarios, about how one's membership might ebb and flow.  For some people, the chapters turn not around membership (as a concept), but around which meeting (as a place). Whole meetings disappear (we don't always talk about that), and members of those, not making a transfer... yet another way to simply fall through the cracks, as in any bureaucracy (so many have no nationhood, on this United Nations Day).

Perhaps you think your meeting's membership lacks imagination and stubbornly prevents new rides from being installed, ones the kids would love.  So you turn in your badge, your card, without surrendering any of your "inward weapons" i.e. you're not leaving the park, nor even dropping your ideas for new rides.  You become more active than ever, sounding less hypocritical when you blame the members, who have agreed, after all, to be held accountable.

A visiting member from another meeting might only consider a transfer if the new meeting had similar practices around marriage.  A given meeting might be well advised to be up front about its marriage practices when clearing new members, either newly convinced attenders (convinced to become members), or members of other meetings, looking at possibly transferring.  Don't take for granted that all meetings play by the same rule book.  Meetings differ in character.  If you're concerned about your meeting's character, consider showing up at Business Meeting and playing a role.  Ride the rides.  Do the work.  Participate.

True, you might be more effective if officially based elsewhere (overseas?), even while participating here.  Perhaps some meeting has a "secret membership" status you can obtain, until it (the secret meeting) comes out of the closet as a new Meeting, fully formed (if members can have "closed committees" then maybe non-members can have "secret meetings"?).  Or maybe there's a Swiss bank for Quaker memberships.  Or perhaps that's all happening within your own meeting (or in your own mind (where things can get complicated)).

For this reason and other reasons, people resign and take up membership in different meetings (or they don't, or they resume membership, come back from retirement, in the meeting from which they earlier resigned).  They'll say they're moving out of town but sometimes it's about not getting along with their meeting.  They find a new meeting that more suits them.

Although it's called "a transfer", it's also a process, or a ride.  One becomes a new member of the new park, and rides the "becoming a member" ride.  If practices are different in the new meeting, that may take some getting used to.  Some more degenerate meetings may have whole rooms or basement closets blocked off, "restricted to members only", a perversion of what it means to serve and spread joy.

If you're a member, you're a card carrying, bona fide, certified Friend; it says so right on the label.  Other participants in the life of the Meeting may choose not to brand themselves in quite that way, perhaps to spare other Friends the trouble of knowing about other affiliations, none of which are unrespectable, let us stipulate, but labeling oneself a member of a specific meeting just might not fit the bill.

Say there's another amusement park you belong to, and people there will feel betrayed of you make Oaks Park a spiritual home, as if one could not have two bases.  Maybe you're not able to use your legal name and don't want to dupe Quakers into granting membership to some alias.  Yet you wish to fully participate and the people in your meeting want you to as well.

Some of them know of your circumstances and understand why you cannot be public about some religious affiliation.  Yet the business is important and you want to see it done well.  You have skills in that area.  You're someone to consult.

The business might go differently were you to withhold your participation, however fortunately you see no reason to do that (pull back) since, as a non-member, you nevertheless have equal access to the decision-making process, committee service, the rides.  You know how the money is being spent.  You know what goes in to making up the various teams, planning the various activities.

Even if you're not a member, none of the rides are denied you in my park and you're a full participant, you're just not card carrying, whatever your story.  And that's OK.  Becoming a "member of Oak's Park" is just one way to register and demonstrate support, one of many ways to contribute to the life of the Meeting.  Having members is a benefit, helps the park, as long as the institution of membership does not get out of hand and out of control.

Historically, a "member" was more like a "block" in football, bulky not with mass (though maybe with that too) but with "social inertia".  You had title, ties, landholdings, and therefore could not be messed with to the same degree as most "little people".   Early Friends were bullied a lot, as they tried to stand up to the recognized authorities.  Their fortunes changed when their closet admirers started coming out of the closet.
Giving members some more powers on paper helps satisfy the state that there's a way to single out culprits should a legal case arise. A service (valuable) performed by members is they make themselves culpable. This doesn't mean non-members are insensitive to their risk taking. Members are a front line, protecting some of the more fragile / hidden Friends (more private) with their public-facing (sometimes intimidating) presence. Members give "a face" to the enterprise.  -- from my Facebook profile
In joining Friends as an overt member, you were signalling that this Society was not to be messed with.  You were taking a stand by putting a lot on the line, but were perhaps already privileged enough to be able to pull it off.  Eccentric, maybe, but not to be denied your freedoms, not to be committed to some state sanitarium or penitentiary for some "crime".

Other Friends in contrast, just as committed, but unlanded, not socially privileged, might conceal their participation in case the boss would find out, which could lead to being fired.  Being a member of a "Peace Church" while working in a military setting might be less effective than asserting one's command and control responsibilities in a manner that seemed Friendly.  Declaring membership would not be strategic, would force hands that shouldn't be forced.  A more delicate touch may be needed.  Such a "closet Friend" should not feel less included, less a participant, in the Friends tradition.

So as a soldier, you don't necessarily carry a card, claiming membership.  You support your meeting in other ways, perhaps from a distance (and in Cyberia, what is distance?).

One day, a group of Oak's Park members maybe got it into their heads that it's their exclusive privilege to ride some of the rides, and until you become a member, you have no access to said event, activity or amusement.

True, not everyone gets married.

Not everyone chooses to take this or that workshop.

But to actually bar / prohibit non-members from riding particular rides?  That wasn't part of the original design in my book.  Oak's Park would go broke in a day with such a philosophy.

A member is someone who is saying "this amusement park is good enough for me" as in "I am at peace here" or "I could die here".

A non-member may be in a different orbit, but part of what makes the amusement park a valuable experience for park goers is its equal treatment of members and non-members (including members of other parks).

The fact that some people become card carriers, public to the world about their affiliation, get the tattoo, is not a signal to the others to stop coming or to go away, or to stay out of Quakers "internal affairs" as if they were somehow second class, being judged as such  It's not as if recruiting new members were the whole point of having an amusement park or an art museum, with all the big rewards at the end of that tunnel. "Becoming a member" is just one of the rides, one of the rituals (like getting tattooed).

What Quaker theology is not:  joining Quakers as a member is about saving your soul, with attenders second class lurkers who are wondering about becoming saved and see membership as their ticket to gaining salvation.  Again, that's not what Quakers believe.

Quakerism, as a practice, is about being effective in the world by taking seriously the dogma of the Light within each person.  We are led by the spirit rather than by individual ego.  If we remain attentive to that spirit, we will find ourselves in greater unity than most ordinary business meetings might achieve.  We find ourselves in the same conspiracy, synchronizing trans-personally (supra-personally).

True, attenders are in many cases our next members in the making, at their prime in terms of inquisitiveness and wanting to run integrity checks, test institutions, develop their talents and skills, learn to work in groups, seek consensus, trust the spirit.  All very valuable.  Withholding such learning experiences is not what Quakerism is about.  The park's aim is to be generous with its many safe simulations, models for the workplace and government.  There's an eagerness to share.

For a meeting's membership to deny these opportunities to attenders to participate on some committees would be a grave perversion of the design.  Beware of meetings that close Nominating and Oversight to non-members on principle, or won't let attenders on clearness committees, including clearness for membership.  I'd consider resigning if I were in that position, where a meeting had degenerated in that way, and then stay active, as an attender, to achieve a more intelligent structure.

Having more of your life ahead of you means now is a good time to learn from the simulations, which is what rides are in many case (Property, Program, Children, Care & Grievance... Weddings, Deaths). 

Having access to all the rides is how they / we become convinced they /we want to be members (and continue to rub shoulders with all the great attenders who bless the meeting, at all levels of service).

Denying a person access to a ride on condition of membership is arm twisting in a way most art museums could not afford either.  Members may get a discount, but discrimination against attenders would rule out most of the tourist traffic, from whence future members will come -- a descending / degenerating spiral that would kill the art museum in question.

Celebrating membership is one thing.  Members-only parties or committees is another.

Get too cliquey and focused on membership and you'll forget your public, your fans, your next generation, the people your meeting should treasure and welcome.

Keep your rides open to be enjoyed by all, and you'll get your best people.  Focus on safety and quality of experience, not who wants to carry a card.

You have a Nominating Committee.  Evaluate people on their merits, attending to who expresses a leading, put also thinking about wall flowers.  The opportunity to serve comes in many forms.  People join committees just to get to know each other better.  What better way to learn about people than to do business together?

Have both members and attenders on this Nominating committee and don't worry too much about which is which when seeking to nurture the meeting.

An experienced activist attender with plenty of experience with Friends and their ways, both in your meeting and elsewhere, might make a brilliant clerk.  Never overlook attenders when it comes to filling top positions.  Make rotation work for everyone.  Experienced members will always remind one another of this responsibility.

Don't pass any rules that would forbid that from happening.  Keep your Business Meetings empowered to consider all options.  That's the design I urge, when discussing Together Friends.

"There is Silence, and there is blah blah rant rant."  
-- old Quaker saying

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Short Rant

In my view people are way too nice about Mumps, i.e. M, the computer language.

Yes, it was a breakthrough in its day, and the VA still uses it, and yes VistA, an open source medical records project, uses it.

To me, that means VistA is not really that great of a gift.  People want to be nice about it, not say "but M is butt ugly" or anything so disrespectful.

This is how civilizations die (did Jared Diamond already say this?):  they get too polite to have a sincere public discussion of anything.  They become semi-paralyzed by "correct speech".

Americans reassure themselves by sounding rough and tumble on the radio, but mostly within the confines of a recognized "padded cell" called politics or political discourse, safely neutered and mediocre (thinking of so-called "rant TV" with its "ranter shows" ala Fox Network).

The political sphere provides a "safe ranting zone", a bubble , a theater, whereas more technical STEM topics are relegated to "the fringe" (not safe for nor accessible to the average ranter -- more X-Files in aspect).

I understand UC Davis helps train up new M programmers (check archives, math-thinking-l).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Building Bombs (movie review)

A chronicle / documentary regarding the ongoing criminal activities of various rogue elements, way worse than meth labs in many dimensions.

Giving the DEA jurisdiction over the DOE's traffic in uber-toxins might make some sense, but the EPA and FDA are currently responsible.  They're doing next to nothing though.  DC does not actually contribute much to the management of North America, one comes to find out pretty quickly.

Bureaucrats tend to be more part of the problem than a part of the solution, given their conditioned-reflexes are so entirely obsolete.

Universities have an opportunity here as many idealistic young are eager to be involved in monitoring and cleanup.  That's to be a major focus of engineering from here on.

Outsourcing bottom-wiping might be what Americans need to do though.  They're being starved for relevant training, yet being charged high tuition.  Eloi.  Defenseless.

I hope Iranians appreciate the lessons of this (rather old by now) film.  Don't follow the Americans down that path.  They made a wrong turn awhile back and have lost their way.  Help lead the world in a more positive direction.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Philosophy of Art


Artists are hungry for feedback, even if not in the live performance business, and even if they don't read every review or reply.

Artists will go to the museum or gallery featuring their work, and mingle, anonymously, listening for comments.  That's an accepted practice.  Movie directors, actors:  same thing (visit an installation incognito to get a sense of the ripple effects).

In this sense, an art installation or showing is like one of those psychological experiments, like that famous "computer in a wall" in a poor neighborhood in India, an experiment to see what street urchin kids would do, a somewhat Charles Dickens meets H.G. Wells story (of course they played with it, taught themselves skills).

In this sense, art is a two way street:  the artist shares with an audience, and the audience shares back, reflects, responds.

Inspired by Trevor Blake and his series of magazine covers (Struggle!), I want to make a glossy series of magazine covers:  Social Engineer.  Happy pretty people, in various (presumably work-related) settings, with titles of articles, a price tag.

"Does this really exist?  Haven't I seen this somewhere?" -- a first audience reaction.  "Is this what they read at Facebook?"

Looks pretty innocuous, like IEEE, but the name is provocative, as it's what they used to frighten children with:  this'd what it'd be like if the Communists took over (we'd have "social engineers").

So getting a read on the audience would help gauge the lasting impact of the Cold War (the lasting effectiveness of its propaganda).

I wonder if Social Engineer should publish a special NATO edition.  Food for thought.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mixing It Up

I experience a fair amount of continuity between say Crystal City in DC and The Pearl here in Portland, thanks to the overlapping cast in our Python Nation (a "ghost state" i.e. "virtual").  The Djangocon crowd sloshes about.  I'm always meeting new principals.

However, I've certainly been meeting a lot of new people lately.  Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet up with Alan Potkin and his friends and family, out in the suburban west.  He's through here quite infrequently.  His daughter and brother were there too.  Amazingly.

I was Alan's best man at his wedding to Kati in Bhutan.  Thimphu is really built up since then, coming closer to Thailand in its global face, yet maintaining its own threads of culture.

I said good bye to Lindsey's mom at the bus stop this morning.  Lindsey was escorting her back to PDX International, to have a little more quality time.  I wish them both my best on their respective adventures outside of Portland.

Alan showed me some more 360 inside shots of old temples.  These were in Thailand I think.  Alan has specialized in digitizing off the beaten track sites, some still in use.  The new tablet, one of Apple's, was very up to the job of letting us sit on a couch and look around in these worlds.

Melody was in the back yard by the time I got home, also meeting Lindsey's mom, a Florida farmer, and to me reminiscent of Dawn's dad's side of the family in Pennsylvania (e.g. Aunt Betty).

Melody has ventured pretty deeply into Southeast Asia in her day.  She's also veteran of Burning Man, and a vegan.  She was also one of the housemates here in Blue House for some months.

My cousin, the ER doc, shot down here in her new diesel Passat (VW) to some dinner and catching up.  She was finishing a gun safety class so we talked about whether my sponsors would go for such training.  I've been OK with it, citing William Penn who carried a sword for a number of years.  The ethics are much like those of the mom & pop martial arts shops, who say the true master never needs to resort to the melodramatic stuff.  InshaAllah you never use it for other than entertainment purposes of which medical doctors might approve.

We also discussed the unbelievability of role models such as House, M.D.  Yes, viewers know they're fiction, but just like Mr. Rogers had a problem with superheroes, so one might argue these fictive cop, doc and lawyer shows are a vicious racket.  Junior grows up in a bubble, suffocated for lack of reality.  Which I guess is where "reality TV" comes in, like those "over the shoulder" cop shows where the camera crew is "embedded" (or is robotic).

However, leaving it to some schools to offer training in firearms safety etc., is tantamount to leaving other schools free to not so partake.  The luxury of attending a facility that is as gun free as it is second hand smoke free should not be out of reach.  Whole islands could abide by these rules, Okinawa for example, although it's hard to think of that many Asians giving up cigarettes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Diversity Statement


Фонд Программирования Python (Python Software Foundation) и
международное сообщество программистов Python приветствуют и поощряют
всех участников. Наше сообщество основано на принципах взаимоуважения,
терпимости и взаимопомощи, и мы стараемся помочь друг другу следовать
этим принципам. Мы хотим, чтобы наше сообщество стало по-настоящему
разнообразным: кто бы Вы ни были, с каким бы то ни было опытом, добро
пожаловать к нам!
With thanks to the Python Software Foundation members list.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Scatter Brained

I've been disciplining myself to keep track of my toys in conjunction with this leather satchel I carry around, but that discipline broke down yesterday apparently.

The new Nikon Coolpix has been a joy, purchased in March of last year.  The last picture I took with it:  Sick Jokes (a collection) and my quad shot latte, at Fresh Pot adjacent Powell's on Hawthorne.  Presumably I threw it back in the satchel at that point.

However there's no indication (so far) the camera ever made it home, although that's where I went next.  Maybe it'll turn up.  Probably it went to the same Negative Universe as my Paul Kaufman hat.  I find it disturbing when I can't put my finger on just when and where the sleight of hand occurred, me that dupe of my own legerdemain.

I still have the Olympus Stylus as a fall back.  Those 14x zoom shots and richer colors will be absent from the Photostream for awhile, looks like.

Actually, I'm so attached to this camera that, finding it on sale for only $207, I grabbed another (free shipping).  If I find the other one I'll make it, or the new one, a gift to someone.

I learned from Math Forum that Dr. William Thurston has died at age 65.  He was one of my professors at Princeton, for honors calculus.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

From a Gothamite

"Gotham" is supposed to be "any city" as you know, but there's that "Goth" right in the name, and the Dark Knight might be portrayed as a goth comic in some ways (yes, I'm referring to Batman, see post below).  But then "Gotham" fades into "metropolis" as in "metropolitan" which tends to mean any concentrated urban area, a CBD (central business district) especially.

The word "business" is fun as it contains "bus" as in Magic School Bus, or that bus on a motherboard that conveys data, perhaps in parallel.  In the urban center, things get "bussy" (pertaining to buses and business).

I'm in such a place now, one of those open inventory caverns, air conditioned, where people flock to take goods, to each according to her charge card allowance.  I conveyed a shopper here, from the bank, not by bus but by motorcar, in the 4-wheeler sedan I've called "maxi taxi" or "torture taxi" depending on mood and lighting.  She's an older Nissan, the successor to Razz, the raspberry colored Subaru.

Lloyd Center Mall:  I've posted from here before.  Back then, I was being cynical about the wifi and the nickle & dime me approach.  Nixon:  America's answer to communism.

Hey, I'll give a pro-capitalism speech why not?  First, let me explain how I tend to use the word "capitalism", even as I struggle to bring it back to everyman's way.  I think in terms of capitals, i.e. major cities, or mover and shaker places, hubs, key players.

Like when they say "London believes" in some propositions, as if cities could have beliefs.

"Portland agrees with Tehran" on some issues.  Phrases like that bespeak "capitalism".

Another meaning is "using one's head" as in "thinking cap" as in "being one's own boss in the 'what I think' department".

I'm in a vast (OK, big) mall, and people just help themselves to goodies.  Yes, they have to pay for them, sometimes (often) on credit.  But it's a layaway economy that one designs for oneself.  There's latitude for self expression.  You prefer the Ikea look?  That's fine.

There's a sense of choosing for oneself on a level it makes sense to offer choice, rather than a sense of having a thing meted out, preferentially awarded based on impossible criteria.

In a relative distopia, you'll never get that pair of shoes, because you're not allowed to just pay for them.

In a fixed price (same price for all), catalog-based economy, you don't have to do it for favors or quid pro quo.

You do it because you put your time and energy in, in some other way, in some faraway land.

You are not beholden.

You walk away from the merchant, goods in hand, not owing that merchant.   Now it's between you and Visa, and that's how you want it to be.  There's just a lot less karma, or lets say freedom to create your own karma.  It's back to Alaska or whatever, to one's own adventure's, not some state's, though you may be a state's agent.

That being said, I came here, used the free wifi, and moved on.  My intent was consumerist though: I was thinking to upgrade the phone, from this hand me down first generation Android.  But this branch of Verizon doesn't stock HTC 1x, just Incredible and Rezound, so it's out the door and off to a blogging place.

My shopper is shopping.  She doesn't always get to be in such a large metropolis, with its many charms and wonders.  Bridge Pedal was today.  I stayed home and caught up on some studies.  I also am reconnecting with Free Geek thanks again to Holden Web / Open Bastion, a great web of connections.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (movie review)

If you'd forgotten all previous Batmans and just walked in on this one, you may not remember how Bruce had fallen in with this cult in the Himalayas that plays "angel of death" to a moribund humanity. The theme, as always, is misanthropy.

Bruce is paradoxically a philanthropist, but he's enough in touch with the dark side to know why it wants Gotham to be gone. His own wasting away, in the wake of past trauma (PTSD) is taking its toll on Gotham psychically. He is thrown in a pit of despair and we dare him to climb out of it. He's just another sick and twisted little kid like all the others.

Like Pee Wee Herman for example?

There seemed to be some references to Occupy, but not many. The rich are always having that fantasy about the mob rising up, and batman films always feature Gotham going crazy, by design of some Dr. Evil type, or perhaps a dynamic duo of Evils.

Actually, it's a whole cult that's evil, with the Himalayan cult a kind of reverse Avengers, here to squelch, once and for all, a disgusting humanity, undeserving of God's love -- not forgiven, a narrative at variance with the Christian myth on the surface, but then Christians plan for an end of the world Judgement Day as well, so not that different really, more like Rosicrucians perhaps?

Law enforcement gets to be "the good guys" in Batman, which is how it's supposed to be. If you're on the police force and want to take your daughter to a film that doesn't demonize police, this could be it.  They bravely follow orders.

The guys in blue only fall down when they give up, or when they fail to rethink those orders and upgrade their performance with plot developments. The power of intuition plays a big role in bat space.  The commissioner and the bat are attuned psychically, the meaning of that beacon (the bat is awkwardly close to being the commissioner's "secret friend" -- he's somewhat lucky it's a mass psychosis or he'd have a hard time holding that job).

The reason Robin maxes out of the ranks, by way of detective (private eye), is he sees the blindness of "just following orders" as an only fall back.  There's a rule that you need to give the grunt on the ground, the man in the street, the woman salonstress, a strong sense of the big picture.  They're supposed to have deeper motives than "I just wanted to be a robot, so sue me" (the usual war cry at the war crimes tribunal).

There's the suggestion at the end that he (the bat man) has learned to become much more invisible than before. Bruce Wayne still alive was high profile, even when a waning millionaire or billionaire or whatever (the fall is as fascinating as the rise). Bruce Wayne as only seen by a chosen few is "back to the bat cave" in some ways.  The theme of Resurrection is just beneath the surface, after an ultimate sacrifice.

I guess I'm thinking the darkly gothic Batman, of all the superheros, is perhaps doing the most for a kind of old time Catholicism. He's a role model for all of those in the pits. He knows deep disappointment (like Pee Wee). He is our champion and our defender, little men and women that we be, the Gothamites, so looked down upon by those show off lofty Himalayans.

Friday, July 27, 2012

BuckyBalls: Consumer Ban

Consumers have been banned from buying Bucky Balls on the open market.  No, this does not refer to C60, the molecule, or its family, but to a toy that had made an earlier appearance under a different brand but was then marketed as "Bucky Balls".  These small, powerful, spherical magnets are a subject of study in STEM, or have uses as a lab / studio supply.  STEM labs often work with controlled substances, including live animals that might kill you if let out of their cages (Cabin in the Woods type places (Joss Whedon)).

Oregon is home to some companies that make very dangerous chemicals, whereas other extremely dangerous chemicals (EDCs) are just stored here.  You've heard of the NIMBY syndrome ("not in my back yard") -- well, Oregon is "someone else's back yard" to a lot of people.  Externalizing waste i.e. the true costs of doing business, is a way to avoid having an ecosystem come together, i.e. it's more a wealth prevention strategy (masked in short term profits).

Instead of "Oregon" (named for smelt?), I should speak of Cascadia more regionally, as Hanford, a major seepage site, detritus of the Manhattan Project (Ellsberg's Manhattan 2), has vented chem trails as well.

Vital research up close to nuke plants is a biomedical activity that only risk takers engage in, like Navy SEALs.  That tick of the Geiger counter may be your best signal to back away.  Or call it "eco-tourism" of as an extreme sport perhaps.  Like Mt. Everest, the study of externalized waste streams, as a field, a discipline, is riddled with the corpses of dedicated scientists.  Fukushima has contributed exponentially to the supply of recruits, many of them unwitting, feeling committed by fate.

One of the weak boundaries in STEM is between climatology, CDC style epidemiology, and EPA style studies of toxic waste (radiotoxins included). EDCs certainly alter the economy in a big way, as civilizations cope to prevent and/or deal with a major disaster, and/or many scattered deaths in the case of swallowed Bucky Balls (the magnets).  How does one avert one's eyes from these climatological effects and only focus on CO2 levels?  Aren't Hanford's and Johnston Atoll's chemtrails a fact of geological history?  I studied the latter when editing Asian-Pacific Issues News  (APIN).

Responsible management of controlled substances remains an elusive goal as organized crime typically competes with governments with investments in selling arms.  Escalation or continuous low grade warfare lines the pockets of various stakeholders, who also profit from the "illicit" (full of loopholes) trade.  The medical profession is traditionally overruled by the legal profession in this area, except in some categories.  With the right medical documents, one is entitled to STEM inventory, not unlike the governmental classification system for secret document librarians (a set of circuits sometimes short circuited, per Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers or as a result of blackmail, strategic leaks, inadvertent misplacement).

In the end, it's all well and good to ban "mindless consumers" from various forms of access.  Of you have a clear research need or medical requirement, that puts you in a different category.  Where small magnets are concerned, other toys have them and Bucky Balls circulate aplenty in the after market (not always by that brand), one more hazardous material that could endanger others or oneself if used irresponsibly, another poison.  Mindless consumers didn't know how privileged they were, until they lost that freedom.  Mindfulness is forged in relative bondage sometimes where those "bonds" may be relationships, commitments, obligations.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wanderers 2012.7.25

Steve Holden and I were to present, post OSCON, about our sense of Open Source and so on.

What's up with the FLOSS revolution?  Whiter teeth?

As anticipated, I had to skip the first hour.  Per Facebook from the night before, I've been doing car trips to Union Station, connecting with Amtrak and Greyhound.

I'd also wanted to check in with Officer Walker at City Hall, where she's been undertaking logistics.  I shared that with the Quakers etc., Facebook Friends, in the context of updating my profile on several topics.

I came into the room to find John Taylor had joined us.  He's on a stint from Indonesia.  At age 77, he's semi-retired, looking for a landing spot, maybe in Portland, for himself and his soon to retire younger wife.

I'd helped John find temporary quarters while in town, after mom had offerred him Lindsey's storage studio, but I didn't think his head would survive the low rafters.

FNB seems to be in flux again, with SE chapter not always so alone.  I sometimes get inquiries whether the Quakers might offer their kitchen again, one day a week.  I'd certainly be game. but I'm not clear what the routine would be.

That was something Lindsey and I did together for a year, before we went our separate ways in that namespace.

Although I still play an administrative role as an anarcho-boss, I've been less of a fixture at Colonel Summers Park, and not just because of OSCON, Indiana.

I've sketched more FNB science fiction in the background.

My take on Open Source was it has become a recruiting tool in some ways.  If your company is not contributing something freely, of quality, then maybe your company has not much to offer?

Mine (ours) puts a lot of courseware out there for free, plus of course O'Reilly Media is behind OSCON itself, the Open Source Convention.

I gave the example of Conoco-Phillips and the graphics package it maintains, one of the topics at Europython a few years back.

But what what does "of quality" mean?  Do we recommend Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at this point (by Pirsig)?

I confess I've been saying some relatively uncharitable things about VistA, the medical records system from the VA.  I had a run in with MUMPS (the M-language) earlier in my career and I just can't bring myself to think anything MUMPS has much of a half life.

I say this as someone who has actively looked at the recruiting problem (how to get more M programmers?), made proposals (on math-thinking-l especially).

I'm not one of those who thinks that just because something is "open", it is thereby "of value".

Some of our group adjourned from the Pauling House to Pepino's down the street, for an outdoor eating experience.

I worked from then forward until the AFSC meeting.  We've been meeting monthly, with a bunch of us phoning in.  I've been hearing a lot of stories about the immigration situation.

When the French donated the Statue of Liberty, with its inscription about "send us your poor, your huddled masses", what was the assumed debt?  What was owed?

Did the New Atlantis at one point promise the world to always serve as a beacon of hope?

One could say that was a part of the Telos, a promised land archetype, a Next / Other World.  A New Jerusalem.  God had led His people to less godforsaken parts, less mired in past soap operas.

The USA operating system, now global, has a more closed feel about it, true, since Planet Earth is a ball.

She's not a "closed system" however, not in the thermodynamic sense.

We (as a species) have reason to hope for a breathable gas mix for some time to come.

Yes, I saw the stories about Greenland.  Brian came on strong, about the 97% melt off.  But the footnotes did not escape me.  We've been here before, in like 1889, and the ice record tells a story:  every 150 years or so.

But given how many other curves are out of rhythm, or apparently so, it's hard to interpret what we're seeing.

Climatology is properly a part of STEM, at least that much is obvious.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

OSCON Day Two

Steve and I left the car on Senate Street and Maxed it, arriving before the doors opened.  O'Reilly knows attendance at an early morning plenary will be down the 2nd day, so the walls were rolled in, curtailing the space, yet still it was huge, bigger than many churches, if not cathedrals.  Yet here we were, the bazaar economy.

Mark Shuttleworth did the best keynote in the sense of most technical, introducing Juju and the direction Canonical has taken with their new desktop.  I went up to him during Office Hours (an Expo Hall service) and thanked him for the boost he gave to curriculum writing / programming, including mine.  The opportunity to hang out with Alan Kay, Guido etc., in person, for three days in Kensington, was fantastic.  That was some years ago.  He again mentioned his early fascination with Smalltalk based Squeak as a trailblazer environment.

The Cloud business is an evolved reiteration of the ISP business, with customers wanting more control over what's on their servers.  Juju is about porting ecosystems of connected applications between systems and designing their API interconnections using "charms".

My Quakers have converged at annual session by this time.  Although I'm an AFSC rep, I'm leaving it to Eddy Crouch to run the interest group and help manage the NPYM / AFSC interface.  Getting more Quaker services into the Cloud, education-related, sounds like an interesting project.  That might just mean a bookstore, branching out into access to archives.  History, timelines, biographies, scanned minutes, records, journals... a kind of archive.org for Quakers?  New branches could start an instance this way, by customizing templates.  New classes of Friend... (in the sense of types or species)... we shall see.

I'm in HP's sponsored talk on its Cloud services at the moment.  They've moved into the data center business more, following Amazon and others.

The Facebook keynote was also good.  The fact that so much hardware is still closed design has led to the same basic wheels being re-invented over and over with lots of incompatible variations.  Secrecy begets duplication and meaningless resource-wasting inconsistencies, such as train tracks with different gauges.

OpenStack on the software side has its parallel initiatives on the hardware side.  Facebook is supporting that.  Standardizations begets savings.  It's the old pendulum, between a tightly knit civilization and a more every-man-for-himself Wild West kind of place.  Oscillations occur.