Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wanderers 2008.9.30

The Four Horses of the Apocalypse
by Sharlene Lindskog-Osorio

Duane Ray is presenting about Creationism versus Intelligent Design versus Science, projecting slides he's put a lot of work into.

Duane started his talk by claiming the Quaker's George Fox College is "a creationist college" although not militantly so.

He's not talking about cults per se (he gave some examples of what he's not talking about, including some disturbing pictures), but more about mainline American religious people who consider the Bible a literal account of creation.

Bishop James Ussher
(1581 - 1656) gets a lot of credit for fixing the start of Planet Earth at October 23, 4004 BCE (a Saturday evening). Dr. Henry Morris (1918 - 2006) is also an influential thinker. Ken Ham from Australia is another articulate spokesman for creationism. Tim LaHaye (Revelation Unveiled) and Jerry B. Jenkins (Left Behind stories) are likewise contemporary popularizers of these born again views.

Bucky dome! (one of the slides -- about 620K year old ice cores).

Duane started down the "born again" path at age 15, then swerved into science (the way he sees it). He still has a lot of respect for the vibrancy and slick PR used by many creationists, which he considers effective, even though he isn't buying any of it, studies their materials to better his own counter-intelligence.

Duane took us through a complicated end times scenario, re the antichrist, horsemen of the apocalypse, seven trumpets, seven bowls, the thousand year reign of Christ etc. Creationism is in a lot of ways about ethics, using the raw material of empirical field data as grist for its mill, giving a cosmological basis for decrying homosexuality, other Wild West lawlessness.

Duane's discussion of how evolution operates was not specifically about humans and their intelligent / cultural methods for adapting quickly. That isn't the focus of Darwinism to begin with. Genes are not memes.

I'm not sure what Duane would say about Stuart Kauffman's rap, which sounds somewhat like Terry's.

I didn't say much during Duane's talk, other than to stick up for the rights of those picturesque old time Mormons and ethnic diversity. Other Wanderers helped Duane fix a couple typos in his slides.

Good seeing Dick Pugh again.

:: apocalypse now ::
(aftermath, Hurricane Ike)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quaker Curriculum

Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks
I joined Children's Program 101 at Multnomah this afternoon, run by the head teachers, to learn about the yearly cycle. I introduced myself as "a spy from Bridge City" but of course a lot of folks knew me already and welcomed me as one of their own.

Given October marks a transition from a focus on Quaker testimonies to adjacent traditions in November, I suggested emphasizing Halloween as one of those bridge holidays connecting us to partially overlapping calendars (the Celtic cycle was already mentioned on the handout).

A field trip the The Gold Door off Hawthorne (near Oasis) might be in order? Tibet Spirit would be another good one, and of course The Dollar Scholar across the street (thinking of stocking stuffers).

Friends also seemed receptive to the idea of a field trip to The Grotto closer to Christmas, using the manger scene and Peaceable Kingdom as our bridge to the animal world (the Festival of Lights includes a petting corral). I also mentioned a certain python I knew, that could maybe visit the classroom sometime -- or we could visit the Rose City Reptiles on Division maybe?

I also received permission to replace one of three world projections already on display in one of the classrooms, with a more apolitical Fuller Projection.

I spent most of social hour talking AFSC liaison business with Multnomah's next prospective for that role, plus again met up with the young Pennsylvania crew newly moved to our neighborhood, hyping the nearby Barley Mill as a good place to have beers.

Good seeing Pan's Zoe again, now a student at Lewis & Clark.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ram's Head

Our projects are going pretty well these days, despite some delays. I'm celebrating with a pint of Hammerhead at one of these McMenamins establishments in NW Portland.

Gordon is taking up Java, finding earlier readings in Python a boost, while Susan resumes piano teaching. Buzz is enjoying O'Reilly's Safari service, which I highly recommended: like being in Powell's Technical, yet accessible on road trips. David is making progress with his science fair software (ISEF).

At Wanderers this morning, we talked some about Scientology over bagels from Noah's, heard the story of a young Nirel coming close to exchanging her umbrella for Dianetics that time, in lieu of cash. Her dad counseled against doing so. I mentioned visiting their booth at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town that time, pretty much the extent of my dealings with that outfit.

We also talked about the fluid financial picture.

I kept disappearing to do work, got Razz through an overdue oil change at Jiffy Lube with the $10 discount, with Thai food at Thanh Thao to follow.

Bill and I zoomed in on these locations from within Google Earth, running on my Ubuntu Dell laptop (same one I'm using now). We also checked out the Vatican.

OK, time's up, gotta run!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Nation of Writers

I learned of this event from Glenn, back from Canada, and was first in line to get tickets.

Powell's Books produced a movie about the writing of a book that hearkens back to those WPA guides to all fifty states, called State By State. The project leader and movie producer were joined by three of the authors, Ms. Wisconsin, Ms. Washington, and Mr. Oregon, with an emcee guiding the panel. Their discussion led us to the movie itself, followed by Q&A with the audience.

The movie provides close up impressions of nineteen of the fifty authors, and was shot in one day in New York City, in an American Legion Hall in Harlem.

These are indeed amazing states, especially New Mexico.

Followup video: Neurotic New Yorkers (CBS News, Nancy Cordes reporting, 9/24/08)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Channel Surfing

My gym has these in your face LCDs on its newest stationary pedal machines, which you don't have to turn on, each with its own headphone jack and controls. I might go for an hour, surfing through shows. The bigger public screens hanging from the ceiling give a sense of what's on, although we have more channels than might show on ten or so panels.

The History Channel has stories about the recent past sometimes, including from the Vietnam war and more recent drug wars in the Americas. The financial shows are these days looking at the bumpy ride the stock market is having, which they say is chaordic, like fractals, part of a self-organizing system. As I posted to a physics list the other day:
So physics has some airtime, through information theory etc. (signal /noise, entropy gradient, book Into the Cool by Sagan et al). We model each region as a source and/or sink for various positives (e.g. cures) and negatives (e.g. sicknesses), talk about world trade as a self-organizing system.

Per our entropy thread earlier, keep in mind that Earth is an open system with a daily solar input, so an overall drop in entropy in biological time is not "against thermodynamics" or anything close (some older books tended to imply "entropy" was to blame for the still prevalent "white mans burden" psychological complex (talking about that famous poem by Kipling **)).
Tinkerbell, my bicycle, suffered a front tire aneurysm plus the back brakes were seated too high, wearing the fabric thin on the tire wall. I left it at the repair shop, as I'm not the best wheel tuner, don't have the right tools in my garage, although this place does let people work on their own cycles with the shop's gear, if you book the time.

Glenn is on business in Canada, I'm staying in Portland thanks to ongoing commitments.

Follow-up: Tink needed more than a new wind bladder (inner tube); she needed a new rear metal wheel, owing to the earlier one's numerous cracks, inferior spoke quality (seeing is believing in this case). Parts and labor: $104 on Visa (Visa being the paradigm chaordic enterprise the way Dee Hock tells it). I'm also ordering more DemocracyLab T-shirts.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Geeking Out

Tara and I are out doing homework with our Ubuntu laptops.

On my plate: grab Eclipse (downloading now, from the Rochester Institute of Technology) and install the Python plug-in; poke around more at Hackety Hack (somewhat esoteric); monitor the Math Forum for additions to a recent thread; compose something interesting for math-thinking-l?

We should be home in time for the CBS Evening News.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quiet Time

I'm in my "tie-dyed freak with dark glasses" disguise, sipping Nilgiri Blue in a local coffee joint, my daughter close by doing some high schoolers' homework.

Although I'm working pretty hard today on several projects, this is also a day for pensive reflection, meditation, and thanksgiving.

I say thanksgiving because although this is a dark day on the public calendar, most flags at half mast, it was also the day of my marriage to Dawn Wicca under the care of Multnomah Monthly Meeting, in the Rhododendron Garden's wedding meadow, on a blustery but not rainy day in 1993, a happy occasion for many nearest and dearest.

Mom flew back to Philadelphia today, for AFSC meetings and such.

I had lunch with Chuck and Mary Bolton, old family friends. Their romantically situated Columbia Gorge cabin, since sold, was a favorite hideaway for our family as well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Small Talk

We celebrated Tara's first day of high school by dining out at one of the excellent Mongolian grills in Greater Portland, but only after catching all of Alaska governor Palin's speech from the RNC podium, having caught big portions of the DNC show earlier. She's taking journalism this year, plus American history is interesting these days, who can deny it?

As a planner of an upcoming conference, I'm slated to join in a site check this weekend, even though this is a familiar venue, on the way to Mt. Hood. I'm playing with the idea of heading on over the mountain, but the fantasy is too vague to call "a plan" at this point. I often entertain such mirage-like possibilities, and sure enough, some of them become reality (isn't that special -- as in special case).

I was talking to a small business owner this morning, about what's good and bad about Portland. You find a lot of young people flocking here, in search of opportunity, but sometimes psychologically unprepared for how dark it gets, how much rain. I know Dawn was that way, coming in summer, from Florida, running smack into that wall of a winter.

Some swear by full spectrum lighting (check Ikea?), others take flight for sunnier climes, some grin and bear it, and some of us actually enjoy it (no kidding). Anyway, she's working hard to make it work, feels weary a lot, is supporting a child. I like her fun crew though, they generate a warm atmosphere.

Derek is swinging by, just having a chat. We're blabbing about slack, as in cutting oneself some, something we're good at in the Church of Bob (Subgenius).