Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quaker Business

Today marked Tara's first experience on an adult Quaker committee, Multnomah's Peace and Social Concerns. I dropped her off at the meetinghouse so I could buzz over the bridge to catch the tail end of the Bridge City business meeting.

At our meeting in North Portland this evening, an informal event, we took a trip down memory lane, comparing notes from the Clinton years:
  1. then CIA Director John Deutsch flying to some high school in LA to disavow any agency drug trafficking in crack cocaine;
  2. killing the guard while destroying the veterinary supply plant in Sudan with a cruise missile;
  3. bombing the European city of Belgrade, starting with the Chinese embassy.
Those too were sick and twisted years. Most of us at the meeting had lived in Washington DC, some of us (not me) had been born there.

I had my OLPC XO along for the ride and acted like ol' Captain Grunch on the back of some cereal box, yakking up plans for world domination, purveying a more hopeful brand of futurism (e.g. children with laptops, with or without the crank units).

Then it was off to the gym to catch Joe Biden on Larry King, yakking about getting back on track in the eyes of world leaders. The derailment happened a lot longer than eight years ago.

On Fox, our American Dad was going ape over his son's getting a little too deeply into "commie stuff", the kind of kitsch you might buy at Missing Link on Hawthorne (formerly on Belmont).

So will this geoegraphy-by-dodecacam idea from Google spark renewed interest in "duals" as a topic in the better Quaker schools? The dodecahedron's dual is the icosahedron, the basis for viruses (1, 12, 42, 92...). That's the tack I took at the Math Forum today, as I'm always trying to get back to our primitive sequence of polyhedra, a kind of gem collection at the core of our philosophical system.

Why that's important is a lot of our best futuristic planning and heritage attaches thereto, through the writings of American Transcendentalist R. Buckminster Fuller: lots of telegenic topics, Medal of Freedom, dome-building Marines.

However, with zero corroboration from elementary and/or high school text books (not because the math is wrong) this remains quasi-verbotten and/or subversive and/or completely ignored material. Too many wholesome whole numbers, too much organic goodness, too much hope.

OK, I admit to having a Fuller Projection at Cleveland in the global studies classroom (and at Multnomah Meeting for children's program), and yes the geometry teacher knows V + F = E + 2, but that's just a drop in the bucket. ETS hasn't given a green light yet. Its standardized tests expect no knowledge of A & B modules, or MITEs.

There has gotta be some really strong philosophy keeping the Bucky stuff at bay, or we'd be a lot further along by now with the smarter, greener houses, the better health care.

Apparently our nation's curriculum writers are awaiting Princeton's next move, as that's where all the top notch philosophy happens in this country. Or is it the Woodrow Wilson School we need to be watching?

Welcome back to Wanderer Allen Taylor, recently returned from wandering in Costa Rica. Terry, ISEPP CEO, is still out and about someplace. Dave Ulmer is still in his bizmo, last I checked (Dave invented geocaching awhile back, I think I mentioned).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Product Placement

I stopped in at Mulligan's in route to Dollar Scholar for some Hanukkah doodads (part of our annual neighborly gift exchange -- amidst latkas (or latkes)), a chance to compare notes with a CIO type. We're in parallel universes in a lot of ways, up against obstacles, casting about for opportunities.

In my preferred future, Columbia Gorge hydropower charges the batteries of these cool ATVs, some in reality shows, computer camps with a purpose (and lotsa props). Recruits from around the world, eager for GIS skills, for logistics training, coding skills, rub shoulders with Pacific Northwest faculty, making us more cosmopolitan than ever. Could be good. So, who wants to sponsor and what's XRL and why don't I speak plain English for a change? That would be a change.

Speaking of which, apparently the Lewis & Clark Party came pretty close to armed combat with some Originals over the dog episode. Their Newfoundland, named Seaman (not Scannon) apparently got itself kidnapped. Happy ending though right? We should have more cartoons, more manga, more anime. This is a good story, worth retelling with different spins, and not just the dog part. Tell us about all the fish grandpa, before the great dams. Sea lions... Tell us more about those peoples, like from Warm Springs, where they came from, how they lived.

Happy Hannukkah

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Newsgroup Traffic

Chris Fearnley of SNEC writes:
Like everyone else, I've been thinking through the most recent examples of GRUNCH (GRoss UNiverse Cash Heist)[1] and the partial collapse of our money-focused instead of "real wealth"[2] focused economic system. I've been thinking about some of the ideas Bucky gave us to be effective at times like this (all quotes are Bucky's):
  • "There is no energy crisis, food crisis or environmental crisis. There is only a crisis of ignorance." What facts are most in need of broader disclosure? How best can we disclose these critical facts?
  • "The things to do are: the things that need doing: that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done."
  • What "local-Universe problem-solving" do you see to do "in support of the integrity of eternally regenerative Universe"?
  • "Emergence through emergency": now might be a propitious time to polish and present options for how to contribute to Humanity's real wealth assets to improve its cosmic accounting balance sheet.
This global crisis may just need the kind of bold, creative, omni-responsible problem-solving and initiative-taking that Bucky's Synergetics inspires us to adopt! I look forward to hearing about the initiatives and solutions you all are pursuing in support of our "eternally regenerative Universe". All hands on deck!
He then gives some links, like to Ron Resch's art, to a magazine called Hyperseeing where Dmitri Kozlov got an article published, and to an upcoming workshop on cellular automata, in connection with which Dr. J.F. (Jim) Nystrom, is looking for papers on the applicability of Synergetics.

Hal Hildebrand of Smalltalk fame used to chat with me about this topic (Synergetics and CA). This was before Wolfram's A New Kind of Science and its trans-human model of what we mean by intelligence (e.g. whales as Grunch CEOs).

This just in from Linda Richards:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Checking Global Data

The Google Maps service is nothing if not impressive, gives a whole new meaning to public planning with help from shared geographic information systems (GIS), a mission at Ecotrust as well.

However "unverified listings" such as shown above, returned upon searching for "Dignity Village, Portland, Oregon" are sometimes unintentionally ironic: it comes under Retirement and Life Care Communities, Assisted Living Services and Facilities.

The site is actually just over to the right (click picture for larger view).

OK, back to Facebook, adding a link to Immersive Media (thinking ahead to possible projects requiring "situational awareness").

:: me in a tree house
(photo by Cary Kittner) ::

Monday, December 22, 2008

More About Christmas

Solstice Party 2008
:: solstice party, December 20, 2008 ::

The Manger Scene encourages reflection on several themes: the importance of non-humans in the life of the Spirit; the class equivalence of Magi and Shepherds, when it comes to seeing the Light amidst darkness; Mary as a mother, experiencing joy amidst economic hardship and the real challenges and sufferings of child birth.

I've dwelt on these first two already. Mary's centrality, in birth and in death, is more a theme at the Grotto, an important destination for those into spiritual travel, as my wife Dawn was so into. We've frequented the Grotto as a family for many years, or I go there on sacred occasions with my friends and relations.

Back to my first theme (non-humans): I'm grateful for Sarah Angel today, as she's truly enjoying the snow, wanting to play, even chased her own tail for awhile, just for old time's sake.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Party @ LPH

Gus is showing Penny Boston's Ted Talk about life on Mars, about ETs more generally, me having projected some Russell Towle vids (mathcasts) which Wanderers appreciated.

Penny is the keynote speaker at the Contact conference next year (silver anniversary), Gus also a speaker, Larry Niven, Carlo Sequin, Seth Shostak... Kim Stanley Robinson (RGB Mars).

and Penny make a good couple I think, both Mars freaks, into hopper bots 'n stuff.

is here with Don and Glenn. Small gathering. Glenn and I went shopping for minerals this afternoon, a neighborhood event.

Cities at Night
was another hit, although I'm not sure in what sense cities are "caught" in that triangle he mentions.

Tara is baking Fate Cakes at Laurie's, a family tradition. Elizabeth took Tara shopping for some new clothes. We're all thinking of Dawn.

Her Turning the Wheel business keeps on turning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Humble Beginnings

Under the old rules of the game, a lucky winner in the shareholders' sweepstakes might endow a foundation and have philanthropic activities carried out in his or her memory and name. Fred Meyer comes to mind, a local grocer who earned a fortune, endowed a foundation.

In the meantime, most scrabble to get by, manage a few acts of charity, maybe have good enough accounting to take the tax deduction. However taxes, like tolls, supposedly feed the public good (sometimes we're skeptical), and you have to pay them, so that those valving these funds on your behalf (you elected them maybe?) might do your bidding, in terms of funding worthy programs.

Given the point of sale already features a sales tax in many states (not Oregon), and that vendors have their good will building campaigns (in addition to advertising) it's not a big leap to give customers an opportunity to practice philanthropy and have this go on their record (anonymous donations still an option). Instead of invisible others channeling funds on your behalf, you make your own decisions, more like a stock buyer, investment banker.

In the world of foundations, boards sometimes look for those tiny, esoteric operations that will earn them a reputation as intelligent social networkers, good at leveraging. Just as NGOs boast of their funders, so do funders tout their more signature success stories (a two way street in other words).

A philosophical (contemplative) ambience, well provided with study materials, is conducive to creative philanthropy, gives customers an opportunity to really think about what programs they want to help sponsor. There's lots of software in this picture, much of it open source.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Water Cooler Buzz

OK, so it wasn't a water cooler exactly, adult beverages involved, but the story begins with my wondering why cereal boxes haven't been rushed into service to explain about OLPC around the breakfast table.

Kids would be excited about getting one (a laptop, whatever model), not right in the box necessarily, mixed in with the Trix, but eventually, through school maybe, as tools for democratic participation, a way of working for Uncle Sam.

What does the cereal box say?

That got me on a rant about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS -- yummy in Cocoa Krispies), which has an ad campaign going, big bucks for TV, wherein this girl offers this guy a Popsicle, and he balks, worried about HFCS. Is he thinking about diabetes, about morbid obesity? The ad doesn't say.

Some of these differences are cultural. Like when growing up in the Philippines, we'd see MSG commercials from Ajinomoto with kids just pouring the stuff on chicken legs, like some kind of salt. In North America on the other hand, MSG ranks with DDT in some circles (another three-letter devil at first welcomed with open arms).

If you look at the ingredients for ketchup, you might see HFCS as an ingredient, right ahead of regular corn syrup. They say a bottle of Heinz Ketchup contains more sugar than a bottle of Coca Cola, but then no one downs a bottle of ketchup in one sitting (or most people don't).

Ketchup and fries: that's the fast food emporium's signature "diet" -- a great way to super size (want a shake with that?).

One of our number mentioned Twinkies' woes, perhaps unrelated. Twinkies and Wonder Bread have a long history together, from Continental Bakeries, through IT&T, Ralston Purina, and now IBC.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Voluntary Associations

USA secondary schools tend to inculcate a sense of rank and privilege among football players, but without setting up payroll and rewarding in monetary terms. The rewards come as perks, with the promise of payment later, if the player makes the cut and becomes a star athlete, a route open only to a lucky few.

Likewise, the business world or "private sector" as some call it, is able to cut across pay scales using voluntary formations recruited from many walks of life within a company. These might be actual sports teams, or community service squads. Perhaps a small group of health professionals joins an "away team" to provide much needed services in trying circumstances.

People who might not come face to face in the everyday workflow, now become pair programmers in some silly exercise (silly in the sense of transient, not in terms of intent), thanks to the workshop context, possibly run by outsiders. Disrupting entrenched patterns of bureaucratic communication may be the life-saving tactic in many a dying business. Relationships formed in a workshop may persist to positive effect. New possibilities arise as a result.

All too often, the infighting and feuding that led to these unproductive relationships have mostly faded from corporate memory, and yet still the CFO and CSO hardly ever sit at the same table (for example), to the detriment of all concerned. Volunteer opportunities may counter such semi-paralysis, break the ice, restore fluidity to the workplace.

This Centers Network I sometimes write about, was an example of such a voluntary association that cut across obstructive fences at a citywide level. As a Logistics Supervisor for seminars and trainings, I got to interface with hotel managements, soap opera stars, even the wife of a big city mayor (one of the seminar leaders). In my walk of life as a math teacher in New Jersey, I'd not have had these networking opportunities, with individuals of talent and with a desire to serve.

Thanks to my volunteer hours with the New York Area Center, I met this guy Harry (pseudonym) who distrusted his business partner, was co-owner of some bar. Whereas a lot of us might think owning a bar in Greenwich Village might be some dream come true, the bees knees, Harry just wanted a settled family life like he saw in Sears-Roebuck catalogs. Last I knew, he'd joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints in hopes of fulfilling his dream.

There's this somewhat ridiculous misperception that to be involved in volunteer work is by definition to be taking time away from one's legitimate (i.e. directly compensated) professional responsibilities. Even basic R&R is a part of self-pacing however, which is why taking paid holidays may be a job requirement (i.e. not so voluntary). But here I'm talking about work, sometimes quite difficult and challenging, outside the usual routines.

You'll find this bias in movies like Mary Poppins, where the banker dad is obviously too puffed up with self-importance to take his own personal or spiritual growth seriously, let alone directly raising his children (the Victorian model was to interpose a trained professional, a nanny, invariably of the female persuasion and optimally French speaking).

In some business subcultures, "volunteer work" was associated with "charities", and was therefore viewed as something the women should look after, as somehow less important, more marginal, whereas the males, the "real bosses" (aka soulless monsters) would have only their selfish money-making as a professional focus, never mind about Ubuntu (Sangha).

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I'm guessing my readers are likely familiar with these somewhat knee-jerk habits of thought, characteristic of an antediluvian way of thinking. I'm glad we're no longer of that mindset, at least not among most Wanderers and/or Quakers I work with (both good examples of voluntary associations). We know we're not just spinning our wheels when we go "off the clock" as it were, to more freely associate, engage on committees, take field trips or whatever.

Let's remember that community service used to be a major point of those "artificial persons" before those clever lawyers railroaded their "corporate personhood" philosophy down our throats, on the back of the 14th Amendment.

Not surprisingly, a next generation, better informed about past mistakes, equipped with more hindsight, is brainstorming new business models that mix in these democratizing, self-steering components right from the get go, thereby creating a new crop of "agile" companies, more nimble, less crash-prone, less trapped in self-defeating design patterns.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Spider Lilies (movie review)

This chic flick is also interesting anthropology out of Taiwan, rated NR (for Not Rated), but in Portland terms I'd say PG13, despite the eroticams and suggestive language.

For non-Chinese, this movie helps remove any prejudice about Chinese in the context of Internet chat rooms. Westerners tend to project the nightmare hunt and peck experience it'd be for them, to say anything quickly like LOL, whereas native users just rattle the stuff out, hardly thinking about it. Words like 'silence' and 'sorry' stay in Latin-1 sometimes, a testament to cross-cultural influences.

The studious older girl grew up in Japan, so you'll maybe hear how her accent is different. Jade (with green hair, though we in the audience know that that's fake) is the extrovert, wanting to recapture the innocent love these two experienced as consenting pre-adults, and before the proverbial sushi hit the fan and all hell broke loose. In the confusion, they both wonder if self-indulgence is to blame (especially the introvert), which they try to sort out as the film unwinds.

The males in this film are mostly damaged goods and/or pieces of work. The two "good guys" suffer from speech impediments, whereas the others are just downright mean and/or manipulative. Taiwan is apparently no utopia either.

As young women, both are making their way in the world, working hard, staying strong, and supporting dependents. As consenting adults, less confused, they'll make a great pair, but this film isn't focused on the happy ending.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grinch Glitch

Santa & Co. was hoping Google would streamline the wealth redistribution system this year, by setting up this machine in the Grotto, where orders and demands might be processed, after sorting them by naughty and nice (standard protocol).

However, Python Nation's benevolent dictator Guido Van Rossum apparently submitted something completely "off the scale" on the naughtiness meter, and broke the machine.

There's a headline announcing a search for the guy, perhaps to demand an apology. Here's the news bulletin on Channel 6:

Of course this may have something to do with a finalized Python 3.0 coming out. Up to the last minute, some skeptics didn't believe he'd really go through with it and release a truly backwardly incompatible Python (wasn't "plays well with others" one of the mottoes?).

In that case, I think journalists are making a mountain out of a molehill, probably misinterpreting the action (not the first time) as of course PY3K was long in the planning, Y2K a model, and no one close to the action is actually that panicked about it.

Maybe someone should tell Santa?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Car Czar

Now there's a fun concept. You can see Detroit already starting to relish the prospect of some poor slob bureaucrat they can kick around, now that they're getting this bridge loan to a next administration, which will cave to further demands. When you own such a huge chunk of the family wage jobs market, it's easy to exert leverage.

A fun response would be to reassure the American auto workers that the Car Czar will indeed be an office in the Kremlin, and that our goal is to ensure their well being, get these crappy "CEOs" off their backs (glorified lobbyists, whiners, entitlement freaks) and provide a safety net. Whether we can rescue ugly models of car no one cares about is another matter. Probably not.

The capitulation of capitalism to some new world order, is that what we're seeing? In that case, let's dust off our science fiction writing skills and start brainstorming what's next. What shall we do with reality television, now that it's a genre? How will Alaska figure into it? Are we building a bridge to nowhere or not, I forget? And what about that energy grid? At least let's find out what's going on with superconductivity -- lot's of good journalism on that already.

As BizMo Czar, I'd like to meet with the Car Czar and compare notes. I want a lot of recyclable parts in my fleets, have them be green in the sense of enviro-friendly, downright tree huggy, in comparison to Detroit's little monsters.

In the meantime, I've been brainstorming with friends about my upcoming Chicago talk, plus some fun skits / cartoons in the tradition of Monty Python (Python's namesake). There's this "guards at the gate" motif we might go with, to help explain what goes on when we pass variables to functions or methods in computer algebra, a kind of "entrance interview".

From an email with collaborators:
Guard: Hello then, you an Integer?
Unknown: No, I'm a Duck.
Guard: A Duck!?
Unknown: Also a Snake.
Guard: A wot?
Unknown: I'm in Python, everything is a snake in Python.
Guard: Want some coffee mate? I think you must've been drinkin' a bit eh?
Unknown (to the Python-aware audience): See what I mean?
What the geek audience realizes is this must be a Java guard (note his obsession with coffee), ergo he's somewhat unfamiliar with the concept of duck typing, hence his obvious confusion.

Kids will do these on YouTube, share with their peers, another way of spreading computer savvy without bothering those poor overworked math teachers, already weighed down by their parabolas, other heavy responsibilities.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Some YouTube R&R

I'm working fiendishly on too many projects, risk burn out. What keeps me going sometimes is a good laugh, and I don't find just anything funny. For example, sitcoms with laugh tracks tend to rub me the wrong way, as do aircraft carriers for some reason, although I understand they must have sex appeal in some circles, plus I'm a little jealous of Harry, who got to go on one. However, Ricky Gervais on HBO was pretty hilarious the other night, and I was able to dig up this shorter version of his sketch about Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme of "nighty night book" fame. I especially like the King's horses part, more drawn out on the version I saw.


Also, this revised Mary Poppins trailer, making it out to be some kind of horror flick, more gothic, more Stephen King, puts a big smile on my face. Aimee liked it too. I've shared both on Facebook with my Quakers and others. I'm finding that to be a lively place, a good break from my heavy duty job responsibilities, which have me staring into vast vats of bubbling source code, some of it quite putrid (not saying that's bad, just it's a dirty job some days, like on Discovery Channel).


They're podcasting from Fine Grind today, just got a bulletin / reminder, gotta go soon. Feeling more refreshed. Cleaning gutters again tomorrow, not with Matt this time though. Yes, Michael, I want to be at your birthday party, will send email confirmation. I hope Tara's enjoying her first debate team experience, somewhere in Clackamas County. Hey, good news, State of Oregon paid me back $60 after I paid that traffic ticket, no contest. I should go cash it, need the dough, or maybe Congress will give me that bridge loan (joke). My friend D.W. said he might be making it back up here. I'm in line to see his Bucky play again, get something different every time I go.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Presidential Tapes

I've been interested in the taped conversations we've been hearing lately, from past Vietnam War era administrations under Johnson and Nixon.

President Johnson seemed to have a better appreciation of his situation, in saying he'd need to be stripped of his war powers, maybe kicked out of office, before he capitulated to anti-war sentiments.

Like a typical Texan, he put troops in harms way (intentionally), then considers it his patriotic duty to protect said troops from harm come hell or high water -- a kind of begging the question as to why the troops needed to be there in the first place, especially in light of the low value North Americans tend to put on the lives of other "far away" peoples (cite General Westmoreland in Hearts and Minds, dismissing Asian attitudes towards death as "not like ours").

Buddhist students get schooled in the arts of debate, much as American children are in our better high schools. They're prepared to defend themselves in ideological and psychological games of poker. But then the Texans are always losing (because stupid?) and pulling out a gun, refusing to play fair. The rest of the nation pays dearly.

I'm glad Texas is out of power these days, don't think it should have been allowed in the Union, big mistake, look at Enron (shades of GM?).

Go Britney
! Our music millenium is off to a great start.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Teacher Resources

Elite academies involved in internationalization experiments around the XO, Pango or whatever, might enjoy Python 3.x's liberal top level identifiers policy.

Don't let the uniform Latin-1 appearance of the Standard Library scare you off.

Looking to give your students some R&R? They'll enjoy learning vector field concepts even during recess with Auditorium, not that snow fields and ice rinks can't teach the same things (remember: First Person Physics).

I showed up at Lincoln High today, met with some of the talent, brought home some paper work. I saw Saturday Academy posters, a Linux lab, lots of good quotes in the hallways, ads for a winter coat drive, notes about Oregon's hunger problem.

Having spent more hours in Cleveland and Grant, I found this visit a real eye-opener.