Monday, January 30, 2006

Rural Oregon

If you're a tourist in this state, I recommend you get out of the big city (not that any of them are all that big, by world standards), and explore the rural highways.

In particular, I would consider John Day a destination, and the nearby museum. Take care when exploring the Painted Hills, not to disturb the ecology (a "look don't touch" kind of place).

When studying the fossil beds, you'll learn about many departed species, such as the oreodont, a great lover of cookies (just kidding).

As you drive through this topography, notice the large farm-based economy. Horses and cattle abound. Hay gets rolled up in wheel-shaped storage units. A lot of heavy machinery gets the job done. Oregonians are pretty industrious (we even build covered bridges).

Thanks to this scene, you'll have many opportunities to sample fresh produce. If you've always wanted to try horseback riding, Oregon may be the state for you.

A lot of our sports are at least mildly dangerous you'll notice: sailboarding, kiteboarding, skiing, mountain climbing, ... gambling. Opportunities for getting into trouble abound.

South Africa is kind of like this too. When our family tried riding ostriches that time, we understood the "use at your own risk" signage. Fortunately, none of us got hurt -- that time.

So, if sampling activities, be a realistic judge of your own talents and limitations. There's no shame in starting slow and easy, staying well within your own comfort zone.

In sum, if you have a challenging goal in mind (e.g. to reach the summit of Mt. Hood), plan on taking your time getting properly trained and equipped. Don't take short cuts, when it comes to your own personal safety.

You're a tourist, remember, not Indiana Jones.

Background reading:
Saving the Salmon: A History of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Efforts to Protect Anadromous Fish on The Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Somewhat unrelated reading:
The Mysterious Smell of Moon Dust

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Religious Education

This morning I joined Friends for some free ranging discussion. We used a stuffed camel for a talking stick and took turns reading from a philosophical treatise by a zen master which quotes the Quaran a lot. I'll email Ron and Peg for the title, and append it here when I get it: Creation and the Timeless Order of Things: Essays in Islamic Mystical Philosophy by Toshihiko Izutsu.

We didn't all jump on a bandwagon. A lot of us (me included) swung invisible swords, cutting through whatever was holding us back on some personal inward journey. This means that outwardly, this wasn't a picture of everyone nodding and agreeing about everything.

We took issue, were at odds. The camel helped, plus the fact that we're quite practiced as Friends. I said the "face" metaphor reminded me a lot of Teletubbies (a baby facing an imaginary creation).

One of our number does electrical engineering with Intel, is a group leader with respect some some important nanoscale chip architectures. She reminds me of an astronaut in some ways.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Regarding Infrastructure

Dawn is preparing financial statements for NPYM (Steering Committee meets today), Tara is researching robots per usual (we home-screened I, Robot last night, using the Toshiba and Optoma EP 729 projector (plot: a beautiful machine mind turns fascist seeing how badly humans behave and has to be taken out)).

Per my recent Algebra with Python moodle, I'm on the lookout for warm fuzzy, trick- performing pet robots with Python bindings (how about a Python that speaks Python? -- perhaps too limiting ("roll over?")).

I'm wanting to propagate this algebra courseware beyond Winterhaven (my current base). Dethe of Living Code has stepped forward as a possible sysop for a new host.

An expanding courseware network is a part of my American dream for a more accessible and relevant public school system.

Update: Tara and I had lunch with Dave Fabik at American Dream Pizza, near Providence, then showed up at the Meeting House to show our videos, including that one about two ladies in the parking lot who get into a door slamming contest. Quakers ate it up.

Unrelated news: Les Schwab diagnosed and fixed a puncture in my right front tire yesterday, caused by a small nail or something, all at no charge per their tire guarantee, which tires will of course need to be replaced at some point.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

More Fragments

I drove Dawn to a TACS workshop @ Ecotrust building in the Pearl. She and other nonprofit bookkeepers congregate for updates on the general accounting principles in this specialty. We have a good core group of strong bookkeepers, thanks to TACS and friends.

I'm spending my day working for nonprofit clients (RHDS, AOI...) and doing curriculum writing, a lot of it open source. Today I'm sharing with community college professors about my virtual curriculum (uses lots of virtual reality type games, simulations, cartoons). However I'm not really thinking about the toys today [update: just thought about toyz], just bare bones content.

Yesterday, relatives showed up for a fun dinner at Portland Ale House (I was the only one to have beers). Bill Lightfoot (age 80), driving his Aztec, is touring with Eve and John Talmadge, with Eve and Bill siblings, formerly both Lightfoot, descendents of Persons from Sweden.

My grandmother Esther, dad's mom, was a Person daughter, along with Elsie, Alice, Harold, and Ernie. Elsie had the most children: Bill, Bo, Eddie, Howard, and Eve. Eve's two daughters are Alice and Mary.

We stayed with Mary enroute from Alice's back to PDX, last Thanksgiving. Harold gave us the Hancocks, through Barbara (her two boys fly jets, while Alice, like the other Alice, is into container shipping, which is big around Seattle).

This family loves Alaska. Eddie's boy Ricky (about my age) is with family up there (we say "up" meaning "around to the north").

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fragment of a Day

Finished an intro to OO concepts at Winterhaven today, using the About Classes PDF (see list). I also screened the opening 15-20 mins of Revolution OS. Premise for showing that: it's important to know what "open source" is if we're one of its capitals (you can buy a copy at Powell's Technical).

Next I'm meeting with Tom and friends. Tom spearheaded TRP (Transportation Reaching People), a nonprofit arm of county government, compensating for mileage with Tri-Met funds, the metro net having a mandate to get citizens to/from important appointments and so on. This system gives seniors a more independent lifestyle in some cases. Portland, Maine has been doing something similar (I saw it on the news).

I also confessed some of my career aspirations in this post to edu-sig.

Monday, January 23, 2006

From Over the Mountains

Sam and Judy came the whole way today, from near Black Butte, over the Santiam Pass, over to Salem, thence north, along I-5, to Portland. They had an item to retrieve, and relatives to visit: us, the Urner / Wicca alliance, marriage, family, whatever love makes. Katie Byron: is it true? Well, I sure hope so.

We ate lunch at Portland Ale House (I had fish), then headed back to the house. I showed some quick clips from Ali G. (first season), to give a sense of his amazing range: hip hop cop trainee; clueless wannabee dater; girly-man cat walker. R-rated for language (like Shakespeare).

Over lunch, we'd discussed many future viewing opportunities (allusion to quantum mechanics), which just keep multiplying thanks to outfits like Netflix (but at some point, you've gotta choose; the wave collapses). We all deserve time to catch up on some excellent theater i.e. this should be a right of anyone: to see what my age is sending off to the future (watch 'em pack the time capsule, as it were, and appreciate your own era, your own history).

Sam is Dawn's brother, Judy his wife. Sam and Dawn grew up in Ohio, then Florida, then Oregon. Judy's mom is a minister. They're both certified to deliver mail for the USPO.

They drove the whole way back the same day.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Short History Lesson

Speaking of all this (see last post): you USA kids should understand something I learned in South Africa. A lot of Afrikaaners, many of them of Dutch descent, really look up to America a lot (and yes, that includes the USA). Why? Because the perception around South Africa is that America somehow managed to win a war against the English (I'm speaking of the Revolution, the one Ben Franklin was in), whereas in South Africa, everything is apparently still Commonwealth. "So how'd you Americans do it?" is the oft unspoken question. Answer: we had a lot of help.

A Virtual Foreign Policy (US to England)

Unlike those LaRouchies maybe, I have nothing against the future King or Queen of England. Nor against the one now. A lot of my work around "virtual presidents" in USA OS (borrowing the time-slice metaphor of "virtual machine" (as in "mine, all mine")) translates into internalized royalty talk. It's sort of like the case with Wicca (see Triumph of the Moon): the UK invents it, America takes it and runs with it, transforms it (sound of something wooden breaking -- a Tomahawk, by the sound of it), and hands it back. And here's the punchline: you actually like it better this way.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Morning Edition

Creatures are stirring as our time zone rolls into wake state -- though I've been pretty sleepless (lots of transceiver brain traffic, as Bucky might say). The clock face to my left is still flashing; I need to reset it after the recent power down (I was in some coffee shop when it hit, watched it reboot some computers). Our Oregonian sits unopened -- maybe I'll have time for it today.

An evolving story (for those of you reading in time zones far distant): USAers are really wanting Congress to start those hearings on NSA wiretapping. So many Americans lead lives of petty crime, ignoring those serious FBI warnings against piracy, against drug use, and they can't quite believe government assurances that these interceptions are only Al Qaeda tied. That's not been the pattern in the past, whenever the government has assumed unlimited powers to snoop.

Now in some countries, digital media copying is a less worrisome business, even if it's a favorite movie. And the Amsterdam transit lounge flaunts that country's different approach to substance control, at least with regard to cannibus (my Ideas book club has noticed its use by various ancient cultures, along with carbon dioxide, and we've noted that most of those cultures are no longer with us (one can't help but suspect the evil weed is to blame, given how it interferes with the brain's metabolism)).

But those other countries aren't America. We have strong law enforcement here, or thought we did. The trouble is: Congress is having a hard time reconstituting its legitimate powers to get going on these hearings. It's wallowing in scandal, perhaps afraid of what NSA wiretapping might reveal about it (although in DC people are more sophisticated, and more likely to believe that only Al Qaeda is the target (on the other hand, its crimes haven't been so petty)).

So that's the story: Americans impatient to have their worst fears confirmed (about government abuses of power); Congress unable to get going on those confirmations (having already abused its powers considerably).

I'm confidant those hearings will get going soon. I've heard various senatorial promises to that effect. I still have faith in most senators, men and women of their word. On the other hand, I'm not especially interested in the NSA story (as I mentioned on some Quaker group awhile back). Don't expect this blog to focus on it. Many other blogs do, so you shouldn't feel your human rights are being violated if I say I don't give a damn.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Being There (movie review)

This one has withstood the test of time, as I expected it would. I can't quite say how much I admire this film.

Plus it proves my education philosophy: you can glean enough from television to be a virtual president -- at least if you're Peter Sellers.

Shirley MacLaine is likewise brilliant. And Ruth Attaway, as Louise.

The levity is high, symbolism deep, the serenity profound (a trully haunting piano). It helps if you grew up in the period captured (as I did) but really, this film is timeless.

I recall reading the book first, by Jerzy Kosinski -- also Painted Bird.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I had a wonderful MLK day yesterday (even Tara's dentist appointment went well: no cavities).

A friend and I went next store to Powell's and splurged on books. I bought Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell: The Ultimate Collection (picture of a slayer on the cover). I needed it for research on the synergetics cartoons I'm brainstorming (4D Studios work).

Hey, let's see if we can find me in here (flip flip flip...): page 170, giving my girlfriend a ride (I'm the horse in the background, having the dream).

Still in a spirit of celebration, Don and I had lunch at Fujin, which included a fun conversation with the owners (about the German psyche this time).

Don raised his glass to the Reverend King, as did I.

I'm not just interested in casting fictional characters or doing cartoons. I write about reality TV a lot. Maybe you've read some of my screen writing or whatever. Real people interest me too -- as do other animals.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Serenity (movie review)

This is a solid representative of the genre science fiction. It hits the sweet spot, and not in a glitzy, over-budgeted kind of way. It's a well-told story, of the kind that would've bought Scheherazade another day's reprieve.

The Alliance has won, with defeated rebel non-believers living as outlaws in the outskirts. And then there are devils (the vampires of this world), and a Slayer. Joss Whedon tells it again.

This is high TV more than over-the-top big screen, in terms of props -- enough to fuel the imagination. The story and the acting make up for the only decent special effects. eXistenZ was in this same category, and likewise brilliant.

The Alliance has upset the balance of nature and doesn't want you to know -- has enlisted a blind fanatic to keep you from finding out. But the human psyche is unerring when it comes to unearthing secrets of this type, and responds with integrity.

Moral: human nature isn't easily improved upon by humans themselves. In a fiercesome furnace we were forged. Don't mess with us. And we love our psycho-warrior children.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Recruiting A New Wanderer

photo by Jack Smith, Associated Press

At our little follow-up with Art at The Bagdad, after the main meeting at the Linus Pauling House, I let slip that one of my jobs is to help figure out where to put a SeaWorld in Iraq. Of course that's mainly up to Iraqis, but the requirements of whales and dolphins also need to be considered.

Along those lines, Don and I have reached the point of wanting Wanderers open to non-humans (we could admit tigers and so on). I don't know what that would look like exactly, especially as we don't strictly define "membership" per se (sort of like Quakers -- my brand of 'em anyway).

I propose we test the waters by considering Keiko an honorary Wanderer, nevermind that he's dead (that's not a barrier to joining either, I should add).

I also put Art in touch with my friend Glenn at CDI (Glenn and I go back to IS in Manila). I'd stay with him in DC during meetings with Applewhite and/or Pycons.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

More on IQ

Back in the early 1990s, in reaction against Mensa I suppose, I created Densa ("There's nothing Densa than Densa"), an IQ club for the rest of us.

We'd offer like a 12-step program to Mensa members trying to kick the habit of always feeling like the smartest guys in the room (something Alex Martelli once told me about working @ Google: it actually came as a relief to not always have to be that -- not in every room anyway (and Alex is a really smart guy)).

So in founding Densa, perhaps I was anticipating (or riding the wave of) the then-emergent "for dummies" culture, with its user-friendly books about some really tough subjects, like CORBA and SQL?

Allen Taylor (author of that SQL book) is a Wanderer by the way, in addition to being ultra smart. He'll be discussing impenetrable networks at our next meeting.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What Shall I Do?

I've hijacked Terry's PowerBook for a few minutes (he knows -- he just whispered "what are you doing?" and I told him "posting to my blog"). This is one of the best attended Wanderers meetings ever. We've convened to discuss purpose, life mission, what shall I do?

Art Kohn is the center of attention. He's at a crossroads: age 48, skilled in psychology, video editing, Africa (Zimbabwe especially), former Fulbright scholar, recently engaged. The guy is brilliant. Too bad he's probably moving to Washington, DC, but hey, Portland is willing to share talent. He's wondering what to do next. He wants to work with "big dogs."

At this moment, we're going around the table, discussing what big decisions we've made, what's been meaningful in our lives. When it was my turn, I talked about the big choice I had at Princeton: whether to go into International Relations (travel, women, wine and cheese) or Philosophy (darkness, madness, despair, dread). I chose the darkness (everyone laughed -- I admit to being funny).

We have some newcomers tonight and people are meeting strangers for the first time -- valuable in this context. I'm pleased to be here, seeing Wanderers in action. And seriously, the Philosophy path wasn't so bad, even has some of the same perks if you stick with it.

Also, speaking of video editing: good segment on open source on CBS News this evening.

Update: it's tomorrow already. I stayed up late and added lynx after midnight.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Morning in America

Derek and I sauntered up to the local bakery this morning (I had a muffin and more coffee). One of the regulars was showing off yoga poses he'd learned (crow, eagle, tree, etc.), to the possible amusement of passers-by (big windows). I could do none of them, but felt inspired to do more aerobics.

I'm envious of these elite few who enjoy affordable health care, careful monitoring and so on. Our family physician, Dr. Lauren Roberts, is one of the best ever IMO (she saved my wife's life, plus helped deliver our baby), but she sees like 28 people a day. Family practice MDs tend to be overworked, plus they don't see even half the people needing medical attention.

Aside from geography, I'd say biomed is the professional walk of life to be in these days. It has everything: computer science, chemistry, physics, psychology, spiritual depth, opportunities for travel... A well-rounded biomed person has to-die-for job prospects. And I'm including a lot of eastern stuff, like those mom and pop martial arts storefronts, which teach kids self-discipline and self-defense.

I'm heartened to see the cop and lawyer shows making room for more doctor shows in the fantasy genre (ER, House, M.D. and such). Both cops and lawyers need medical science to do their jobs properly (DNA testing, CSI-style forensics and so on).

If we could find a way to combine doctor shows with a kind of high tech Peace Corps operation (with toys as fun as the military's), and make it reality TV instead of just fantasy, I bet we'd get some high ratings.

Grunch would have lots of opportunities for product placement, which is even better than commercials in some contexts, when it comes to inspiring brand loyalty.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Shooting Pool

Last night I joined Matt and Mike at the McMenamins on Savier (recently remodeled) to belatedly celebrate Mike's 48th birthday. Belatedly because on the blessed day itself (December 16) he was traveling in Turkey with Tina (likewise a Sufi) in the company of his Mevlevi Order.

We had a meal, then shot three games of pool on one of the two smaller tables, then crossed 23rd to Beesaw's for dessert. I brought some of my inside-out german chocolate cake home in a box.

Michael & Tina also toured in Australia recently, in connection with Mike's career as a didj player.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Diary Entry

Worked out in the gym. Lunch with David Feinstein.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wanderering in PDX

Yesterday morning I wandered over to Pauling House to run camera for Terry, who was talking thermodynamics ala Into The Cool, Galileo vs. Da Vinci, engineering as art. Terry drove me home so I could dig out the two tapes of Rick's talk. Then I joined Don and Rick himself for a Thai lunch at Thanh Thao.

Later brainstorming with Don helped me think through some issues with my new designer religion, a form of Quakerism (speaking of which, I saw Janet Jump sitting in her car one block north of Fremont as we headed towards the boat). I'd like to bring Eve into the foreground (speaking of whom, it was great to have Eve back at Wanderers yesterday), stop blaming her for the whole snake business. We'll use a tetrahedron as a "temple of eVe" symbol, plus the snake reconnects us to Naga, ala Tetrascroll.

Yes, there's a kind of feminism implied here, drawing from Gerald Gardner, Joss Whedon, Starhawk et al, although speaking as a guy, I'm treading lightly to not wall myself out ("Kirby's angels"). I'm also interested in a series of Meliptus commercials which make people really want to sign up for the seminar or training or whatever, but it turns out the ads (e.g. "step into yourself") are the product. There's nothing to take (an obvious allusion).

OK, that's on the humanities side.

On the other side of the chasm (C.P. Snow's), I've got my new mailing address working, thanks to IEEE, and have reupped with math-thinking-l. I've been a busy bee already this month.

On the way home from the boat, I stopped at a Safeway to buy Soduku puzzles for Dawn, then rode the Max to Hollywood, where I side-tripped to Trader Joe's for some Yemen Mocha (coffee beans I favor). I'm drinking some now, from my new Starbucks Barista (an Xmas present).