Monday, December 31, 2007

Whittier USA

photos by K. Urner, Dec 31 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War (movie review)

You could easily use this as a sequel to Good Shepherd, though with a couple missing in between (like Star Wars, it comes at ya out of order).

Although unabashedly fictionalized, this Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts vehicle closely follows the literature, in showing a fragile coalition standing up to the Soviet Army just long enough to bring world attention to the practice of tyranny by helicopter gunship. Ideologues that wouldn't normally collaborate do so in this film.

The conclusion alludes to the subsequent blowback chapter, predicted by Ralph McGehee (Colby's tenure), other Reagan-Casey Era veterans.

The Tom Hanks character is an in your face fierce proponent of a Jahiliyyahesque lifestyle, patently offensive to many Christians, even more so than the Afghanis, who openly adore belly dancing.

steals the show as Gust, our wicked little green man from Langley.

OK, that's it for this marquee -- I'm not gonna go see the chipmunk movie (I wasn't crazy about the TV cartoon either).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Two Management Philosophies

Management philosophies differ on the relative weights given field offices versus headquarters.

In the models I favor, the central nervous system is designed to be responsive to needs in the field.

It's not a matter of setting policy in some arm chair setting, and expecting minions in "lower offices" to just do as they're told and don't bother us with the details.

That's what I call "too wag the dog" in that what an organization should run with are whomever actually shows up as the talented individuals, enough inspired by loyalty and a sense of shared, worthy goals to be willing to freely commit time and energy, and to freely share in the benefits of their business.

Go with their strengths, even as they train in new skills. Let your cast write the script, don't pretend you have all the luxurious freedoms a film maker might enjoy. Real time isn't so easily micro-managed.

If you have a juggler on board, then by all means include juggling in your programming (let Perl Mongers write Perl), but if your central office plan "calls for" a juggler, and a stage magician shows up instead, and you put her on hold, because of some "script" well, you probably won't be recruiting such talent again any time soon (your loss, not hers).

Case in point: the Portland School Board almost didn't go with the LEP charter high school simply because "the timing was wrong" -- never mind the cast had shown up, ready for action. The mood was to just wait indefinitely, in the name of "convenience" (for whom?).

One thinks of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, paying everyone to do nothing, because the weather was too good (only clouds would prove the airplanes were moving -- something like that).

One learns from experience (or doesn't, if one is too proud, too stuck in being a know-it-all all of the time (don't fool yourself kid)).

Another case in point: every so often, the AFSC flirts with centralizing in some literal "for dummies" sense, as if Philadelphia were some all-knowing omniscience all of a sudden (when did that happen?).

But in actual fact, the reason AFSC has such street cred among NGOs is it really pays attention to its senses, is a reality-based creature, not just your typical "nobody home" corporation with a GIGO-speak board.

So in the AFSC's case, I can't say I'm too worried -- nor about PPS for that matter, given wisdom prevailed at the end of the day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Am Legend (movie review)

A strong semi-solo performance by Will Smith, with a poignant, contemporary torch-passing message courtesy of Bob Marley and friends.

Abby and Kona combine to deliver a stellar Samantha.

The desolate emptiness of NYC suits the IMAX genre, although Tara and I caught this in a standard neighborhood theater.

Shades of 12 Monkeys.

Alice Braga nets a new fan.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Driving to LA

margaret & jane
Our first night south of Portland was with a Bridge City Meeting family. Our dinner conversation involved comparing genealogies. Margaret, Jane and I all have family ties to Switzerland going back one or more generations. Jane also has ties to the Ojibwa in Canada (a Hudson Bay Company story).

The next morning, I updated Joe on some recent AFSC business, plus studied that NYT business story on the kitchen counter about how Russian ex-spies are leveraging their experience to play world game, by investing in Exxon Mobil, Renault... Silicon Valley.

Joe filled me in on some local politics involving the railroads, which abruptly terminated freight service to his area recently ("an act of war" I fulminated). Oregonians tend to be quite passive in the face of ongoing infrastructure deterioration.

Anyway we learned long ago from A Nation at Risk that average USAers don't take threats to their sovereignty very seriously, which explains why they're being railroaded in so many dimensions.

Our drive to Arcata via the Oregon and California coastal highway was very beautiful (lots of redwoods -- very few other cars on the Avenue of the Giants today).

Yesterday, in Arcata, I posted some inspired Python Nation lore. Our solstice celebration was everything I'd hoped, with friends I hadn't seen in many years.

Right now, I'm in Ukiah ("haiku" spelled backwards said the graffiti in the mens room), posting from Coffee Critic. However, it's time to leave.

downtown arcata

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Meetings

more party bling
If we count cyber-meetups, I've been an especially busy bee of late, holding court with computer science geeks, shooting the breeze with the math teacher types, and yakking it up with some charter schoolers. I quit Quaker-P though, since awhile back, in an effort to simplify.

I started my day on the PSU park blocks with Nick, pouring over AAA maps of Northern California especially, getting insider lore, plus Hyzy emailed a trekking tip and so on. I appreciate all this encouragement from my friends, and believe Razz is ready (no bizmo this time -- the North American market isn't ready I don't think).

The Glenn Stockton hexapent is coming along, within my Chinese apothecary (an allusion to our on the drawing boards 4D Solutions bookkeeping engine (one of our Uru-like visualization tools)). We checked out The Dollar Scholar for more executive toys, then enjoyed burritos at Cha! Cha! Cha! -- both are on the Sunnyside side of Hawthorne.

I was on the hook with at least a couple 4D Solutions clients (one of them pro bono), plus had another great visit with local AFSC staff (I'm coming out of retirement), discussing cats and their health problems among other topics (our Moon Kitty has been barfing up her supermarket food, so I'm going back to the more expensive stuff we get from the vet).

Congratulations Dave, on the new gizmo.

toyz for technogeezers

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quaker PreSchool

U2 - Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Philip Glass - Sesame Street (extended cut)

Malcolm McLaren - Double Dutch

Saturday, December 15, 2007

AFSC Party

I purchased the above decoration from an Iraqi refugee family trying to make it in Portland, at last night's AFSC open house.

Lots to catch up on, given my erstwhile semi-retirement. Alice's kids have grown so big, and Marco's.

Jimmy Lott's new CD is out: Not Enough Love. You can bet we've scored a few.

Happy birthday Michael!

Carla, your chocolates just arrived, thank you! Our gift is on the way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Makeover

This version of my post to the Math Forum has been abetted with hyperlinks.

Plus here's a link to my reply to Lou, omitted from the Gnu Math thread (below).

Re: Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic
Posted: Dec 12, 2007 10:16 PM

> Thanks for the honest reply, Kirby.
> And you know this to be the case because of what
> experience with EM, exactly?

Know what to be the case?

EM doesn't have our concentric hierarchy of volumes, A&B modules -- the usual stuff I write about. No big mystery here. Gnu math and EM are completely different.**


** "This isn't Everyday Math or anything close (which isn't to say these can't co-exist, as they already do)." [link]

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Lion's Story

I received a link to this Youtube from a Jewish philosopher friend, like a rabbi (a teacher).

I'm seeing its relevance to my own work within Wanderers to fight any lingering bigotry by the two-leggeds against the four-leggeds (or against the no-leggeds in the case of Naga & Co.).

Abandoning bigotry is not the same as stopping the practice of carnivorism, although these remain closely related concepts.

So do Wanderers eat other Wanderers? -- something to take up in future meetings.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hanukkah 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Math Makeover Update

One might think I'm discouraged, given we all could be enjoying higher living standards by now, were our American heritage not being derailed, or at least held in check, by know-nothing ideologues clinging to what very little they know ("game theory" -- gimme a break).

But the fact of the matter is I'm enjoying a traditional middle class life style, a version of the American dream, tinged with iPods, memory sticks, digital cameras, other bling. I have a stable job, a living wage, health insurance and all the rest of it.

So really, I have nothing to complain about.

Furthermore, my local Oregon campaign is not standing still. And more globally, the BFI has steadily grown in stature from its humble beginnings, with me its first web master, Kiyoshi & Co. having been foresightful enough to grab when it was still grabable.

More importantly, the global electrical grid keeps integrating and telecommunications just keep getting easier, so networking with peers doesn't present as much frustrating bottlenecking as it used to.

So there's lots to celebrate of an environmental nature as well, despite global warming and the ice age it harbingers.

All that being said, I can't help registering my impatience here and there, such as with sniping from the Math Forum at Everyday Mathematics, a principal brainwashing tool of the know-nothings.

Many potential readers have trained themselves to bleep over my posts, because I always say the same things, about Python, about A&B (T&E) modules, about whatever. That Kirby guy, why doesn't he just shut up already? Doesn't he know we don't care?

But of course I have my cheerleaders, from whom I take aid and comfort (football metaphors have their benefits I think).

thanks to Steve for sharing this xkcd comic via Les

Monday, December 03, 2007

Quiet Monday

It's being pretty wet out there, with those gorge winds zipping through, making those Troutdale takeoffs and landings just a little more challenging.

We're starting to test the metal of recent immigrants from burbs more like Buffy's Sunnyvale. Tara says every outdoor scene in House M.D. shows it raining, emphasizing the Seattle backdrop, more of our Pacific Northwest rainforest economy. Lots of flooding, on Hwys 217 & 26 around Portland, and Hwy 101 at the coast (Tillamook especially).

Naga, the pet snake in my office, keeps doing her upside-down routine, learned when she was still a pup. There're some circus tricks you can do when you're all backbone.

The two teens finished pasting up their science posters on Saturday, using my office. The Ducks ended up losing the Civil War, but not without a good fight. Our Quaker group launched into Advent mode last night, practicing some arts and crafts around luminaria and paper recycling.

Tara and I took in some Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoons (DVD), then headed over to 24 Hour Fitness by way of Movie Madness.

The Chicago Pycon judges are still mulling over proposals, with over 140 candidate talks in the hopper.

4D Solutions had another meeting with DemocracyLab at a local Internet cafe.

Montag Oil sent a truck around to pump neighborhood tanks full of heating oil (I took on 284 gallons at $3.14 per). End users pay the going price, no locking in with futures, the basis of many a fat margin up line.

The dishwasher is still working perfectly, thanks to Les & Elise. Even the shorting-out problem seems resolved, which I hypothesize now was owing to the shot-through heating coil on the same circuit.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Civil War Day

In our Oregon namespace, the Civil War occurs once a year, on the gridiron, with OSU versus UofO.

Oregon State has black and orange, reminiscent of Princeton, but we're talking Beavers, not Tigers. University of Oregon does yellow and green.

Woah, a 2nd touch down in about twelve seconds, with the Ducks tying it up. The crowd goes wild. A miracle before half time. Go Ducks.

The teens are involved with science today, monopolizing my office, so I'm managing my business from the foyer, where I can keep an eye on the game.