Sunday, October 24, 2010

BarCamp 4

:: barcamp 4 @ eliot center ::

I woke up with the sense of gentle tendrils pulling me downtown. I'd need to go on my bicycle, in the rain, to keep it a pure experience. I blundered about the house, scarcely believing I was going to an event I'd only just tuned in the night before. What better time though? Better than staying home and being sick.

The registrars and Eliot Center management were most gracious in allowing me to wheel the bicycle into an unused classroom. I'd forgotten my keys at the house, so couldn't lock it to a post. Bicycles do get stolen around here.

Not everyone is interested in stratifying by age, drawing attention to the obvious demographic pyramid, with a broad base of young geeks in their 20s and 30s, with a dwindling number towards the peak. Ward Cunningham wanted to explicitly address the span of generations and have us interact cross-generationally. We were "young" if we considered HTML a first language, "old" if we'd ever programmed an Apple 2e.

A lot of us were a lot older than that. When we got a show of hands as to who'd ever used punch cards, not only did several go up (including mine), but a gent in the corner actually produced one, passed it around for show & tell purposes. For the most part, Ward got us to sit facing one another in two groups, the so-called old and the so-called young. Some oldsters preferred to mingle with the more youthful however, but no one really cared.

Keith Lofstram's ServerSky talk has progressed since I first tuned it in at Wanderers (at the Pauling House). He imagines relieving Earthian power grids from needing to fuel data centers, by moving this capability into orbit. His brand of science fiction features solar panels thinner than paper and steerable by light pressure alone. He's pretty "out there" and BarCamp is the perfect place for such speculation. Just working through some numbers on power demands, energy sources, in big picture terms, is plenty edifying. The basic thermodynamics of the solar system come across as more intelligible if cast in terms of a long term story wherein humanity plays a role.

On my lunch break I headed over to the library and read some collected essays by Richard Stallman. If there's an elder statesman for Geek Nation, he'd be the guy. Without free software and a willingness to question the ethics of those who make helping one's neighbor illegal, we would have no assets to boast of.

After lunch, I sat in on a discussion of Haiku, a reincarnation of BeOS. Is it going anywhere. Having diverse operating systems represents a well spring of ideas and feeds those hungry to do original, ground-breaking work.

The workshop on Brain Meds was interesting, mostly a litany of warnings to just stay away from most modern "crazy meds", especially the anti-psychotics. However, the discussion was nuanced and delved into related medical topics such as sexual dysfunctions, insurance, generic versus brand name. The two girls leading the talk had medical diagnoses that were covered by insurance. One researches and writes for a blog on this very topic.

Free beer followed, courtesy of Widmer.

Did you know that generics can be plus or minus 20% the dosage of a name brand and that's OK with the FDA? The advice was to stick with a known manufacturer, once you found a right dosage, or you could be in for a nasty surprise when switched by insurance to a supposed equivalent.

I was glad to see geeks taking responsibility for sharing about such personal matters in a frank, no nonsense style. Most television and politicians are relatively gutless. There might have been some extra nervousness in the room as a result of taking on these topics, however Portland BarCamps are nothing if not experimental and cutting edge.

Igal's Train Porn was one of the most interesting. I'd been fascinated by trains as a kid. Dad and I had an HO scale train set when I was still in the single digits. I'd also had the good fortune to ride many a funicular and even a few cog railways in Europe. North America has fewer of these. I'd never seen that wild 1950s way people got to Timberline Lodge before the newer highway was built. A bus suspended from tension lines and using its on-board power to "fly" over the snow, ascending 2100 feet in 10 minutes.

Speaking of the Pauling House (where Wanderers meet), my science fiction about bringing it into the Unilever fold have so far proved unsuccessful, were never on Terry's radar to begin with I don't think. Besides, what would an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate want with such an asset? The company is already holding other property just a few blocks away, so why be redundant?

Which reminds me... one of the young geeks had a "Silicon Forest" tag on his BarCamp badge. He spoke knowledgeably of the history, shared the lore. He knew quite a bit about Doug Strain, but hadn't connected him to Linus Pauling. I filled in some of those details for him.

I also met another rad math teacher type, Tom Henderson, espousing Punk Mathematics. Perhaps we'll collaborate as time goes by (as the world turns). InshaAllah.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Art of Note

from Chapter 5, Flextegrity on-line

Genki Sudo - World Order のパフォーマンスユニット - 須藤元気

From my meeting with Ovo

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Listening to Women

Women do seem to have the role of suggesting the wiser course, with more thought for the future.

Sure, that's a generalization. I'm thinking of Belau (bet you weren't) and the Compact of Free Association. The women hoped the men would stand by their Nuclear Free Zone position (this was a small tropical island nation, expressing defiance and a fond hope for a nuclear free world).

Through several plebiscites, the men did, before they caved. Or at least that's one way of telling it. Roll the tape forward and Valerie Plame Wilson becomes the new voice of sanity, urging the men to reduce their nuclear arsenals to zero.

Not that much has changed, beyond the names and the places...

In that spirit, of listening to the women for a change, I was privileged to join my mother and a large crowd of well wishers to celebrate the life of Pat Hollingsworth. She'd stayed the course, fighting for women's rights and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

I was pleased that her family encouraged us to toast her memory with Jack Daniels. The Quaker Meeting had suggested alcohol would be inappropriate (not my policy) but we had too many people for that venue anyway. Hoffman Hall is much bigger.

Pat was a superb pottery maker (among other talents) and her estate was giving away numerous pieces. Mom selected a handsome mug.

Yvonne brought her dog and sang songs, taught us a game ("conkers") from her childhood. Another man made a stirring speech, about not giving up.

Afterwards, we visited the Wall of Fame, part of the Portland State University campus, whereon my mother's name is carved in stone next to Mary Bolton's, with Pat's just inches away.

The Womens International League for Peace and Freedom memorialized many of its star players here, although Barbara Drageaux chose to stay off the list for some reason.

When I got home, I learned of the death of Benoît Mandelbrot. I'd opened for him once, giving a talk on fractals on short notice. Cool dude.

An Achievement

Memorial Service

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Sunday, October 10, 2010

20/20 Hindsight (movie review)

We're watching a movie, 20/20 Hindsight: Censorship on the Frontline, an interview with a whistle blower, Richard Grove, who tried to go to Frontline etc. with this story about a software application, owned by Legato and then EMC, that contained a "back door," a way to defraud investors and circumvent the strictures of Oxley-Sarbanes.

The irony was the software in question was advertised as supporting Oxley-Sarbanes, the anti-corruption legislation. The software actually provided circumventions of the laws it claimed to support. Just delete the jar file: millions of emails go away.

The whistle blower brought his case to court. Everything he asserted was proved, according to Grove, but the judge ruled that the statute of limitations had run out.

I was reminded of the Doctrine of Discovery and its "statute of limitations" defense. If there were a problem with this "law" it should've been raised years ago. Likewise the idea of "corporate personhood" can't be overturned this late in the game (say the courts), as it wasn't overturned when it should have been, years ago.

Capitalizing on ignorance, using fear to manipulate, is not a new phenomenon of course.

Rhetoric and persuasive speech, even if full of fallacies, is the way to control behavior.

Getting paid to speak persuasively, using intimidation where needed, tends to short circuit the intellect, says Grove. Emotional content, feelings of insecurity, is the basis for making a sale, especially of gold and silver.

Putting your intellect back in the driver seat is an antidote to fear. The media might have been that intellect, but that hasn't been happening.

Grove is a fan of Tarpley, is hardly a cheerleader for the Obama or Bush teams. His project these days is to help people in thinking for themselves. He's gone back to the trivium / quadrivium for heuristics, in contrast to "outcomes based" education, which he regards as promoting subservience and dependence. He's also a 911 "inside jobber" (believes in a conspiracy to recycle the real estate).

The interview and Grove's subsequent career reminded me of this quote:

Never before in all history have the inequities and the momentums of unthinking money-power been more glaringly evident to so vastly large a number of now literate, competent, and constructively thinking all-around-the-world humans. There’s a soon-to-occur critical-mass moment when the intuition of the responsibly inspired majority of humanity, in contradistinction to the angered Luddites and avenging Robin Hoods, faced with comprehensive functional discontinuity of nationally contained techno-economic systems, will call for and accomplish a world-around reorientation of our planetary affairs.

R. Buckminster Fuller
“Can’t Fool Cosmic Computer”
Grunch of Giants (St. Martin’s Press, 1983), pg. 89

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Oh Superman...

So at 52, I'm not at the pinnacle of my athletic career. To live in the world of my dreams, I'll likely need to be reborn, perhaps as some Tarzania type (a female Tarzan). A traditional Jungian projection (anima... anime).

Fantasies aside, I picked up that Food Not Bombs box the wrong way, in that walk-in refrigerator, and sprained my lower back pretty good. At "college night" last night at Cleveland High, I hobbled around like I needed a cain, looking somewhat pathetic (because I didn't have one).

Before that misadventure, I'd tackled some plumbing upstairs in the 105 year old Blue House, placing a bucket beneath a sink full of corrosive toxins before unscrewing the curved piece of pipe ("the trap"). The pipe piece went plunk into the overflowing bucket and splashed some of the toxins in my eye. Coulda been worse, a lot worse. Why wasn't I wearing my glasses? Events conspire sometimes...

A lotta civilians would like a kind of boot camp experience, a way to get in shape, learn some skills, without other grownups being super mean and sending them off to kill or be killed. They'd like to be part of a solution in some way, welcomed as world game players. Movie stars work hard for such treatment, and such roles. In my Project Earthala communities, we have a lot of "off your duff" stuff to do, if you have a young body needing to stay trim, or an older one, likewise predisposed.

Wanna work on a railroad, even literally?

You may do so, for academic credit, while learning history and general systems. Might be in Russia someplace.

But you're not here as a prisoner.

The work / study people flit about. You'll meet some of them again... and again.

Our discussion this morning (while cleaning) was about so many office buildings zoned to where you can't legally sleep in them. The night time janitorial service doesn't want to be stumbling upon snoozing personnel. No, you'll need to drive 50 miles to get to a bed from your cube farm, or ride some bullet train. Those are the zoning rules.

Gazillions of people slosh in and out, because home is not suitable for working and work is not suitable for taking time off work.

Work is a place that you "go", as in "go go go" (all that fossil fuel, sluicing down the drain -- welcome to Planet of the Apes).

Anyway, the fantasy was of small firms, wandering bands, troupes, with banners (logos, coats of arms -- such as I just returned to Djangocon sponsors), coming into a city and setting up shop, perhaps only for six months. They have live-and-work style offices, more like lofts, more like studios.

Perhaps the job is to teach urban farming techniques, help set up another plantagon, get the software tuned, train some friends, get some training, share some music... and move on, to another city with floorspace.

You don't buy a cube farm in a sky tower and a hotel room by the airport.

Or maybe you work in a home, outfitted as a workplace.

The Blue House is all futuristic by then, lots of monitors (including on-board energy use), lots of two-way communicating, routing, both in real time and asynchronously (like today).

New toons are getting made, XRL (a kind of livingry) is being field tested. We're a management hub, like CUE used to be for "refugee resettlement" in some other war against terrorism, another chapter in fighting fear.

Should this be Reality TV? The Pauling House people talk a lot about streaming.

Given I'm embedded in this old school urban grid, I'm only somewhat able to walk my own Global U talk. I've done my best to conflate the commute, to have my studio and sleeping quarters be ship shape, not spread all across town. The torture taxi stays in the driveway a lot.

In doing Food Not Bombs today, I rode a bicycle to the Quaker meetinghouse, towing a trailer full of sustenance. Marian Rhys is here, helping Cera (Sara) and some new kids in town, part of a cross-continent cycling team.

Their plan is to ride both ways, to start back by looping south (as far as New Mexico? -- I haven't asked 'em).

Working in the kitchen, pealing potatoes, washing pots and pans, is somewhat close to my Ecovillage fantasy.

Sure, Lockheed-Martin has failed us, Boeing has let us down. EPCOT was a disappointment (sad for Disney). The "best toys" are uncool. The engineers built us a railroad we don't want or need (remember MX missiles?), at great expense in shared living standards. Welcome to our self-inflicted slums then, a sad memorial to Bombs Not Food. I hope our progeny have compassion and forgive us our many tresspasses against them.

This unpleasant reality doesn't keep us from dreaming some American dream however. The power of nightmares is only finite after all.

We may be a conquered people, slaves to an alien ideology, a kind of "complex" (as the Jungians say), but one day we may again breath free, having tossed off the sorrowful yoke of empire.