Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More Comedy

Current household faves, when taking a break from being serious.

Earlier favorites.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Magic Christian (movie review)

I tried grabbing a screen shot of Yul Brynner in drag. Easier said than done with bitmaps.

I'd not been aware of this interesting spoof, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Early (1969) foreshadowing of Bruno, especially in the boxing ring scene.

The film is about the all-corrupting power of money, and the thin veneer of polity (polite company) over fear and longing, with all kinds of cracks and fissures manifest.

But is also a who's who of sorts, an allusion to the ship of fools that is The Magic Christian (an opulent cruise ship). Raquel Welch, of Bedazzled, makes an appearance. The future Monty Python cast is picking up the baton of British comedy. Then there's Ringo himself, with a sound track by Paul.

Sellers is preternaturally good at affecting lots of inane mannerisms and accents. American accents (and attitudes) get spoofed as well. Ringo Starr is the privileged son who gets the view from back stage as it were, with a front row seat on Vice Street goings on (board meetings etc.).

When the practical jokes are as benign as these, having lots of money starts to look like fun. Too bad so many jokers are more like The Joker than like our Being There guy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Citizen Diplomats

Tara and I met with Betsey today, in Vancouver, Washington (McMenamins). On the agenda: a delegation to Nicaragua.

Later we found out that the SE side Passport Office is not where Google says it is. The guy behind the desk assured us they'd contacted everyone they could think of about the misinformation. Welcome to government, where record keeping is hard to keep up with, even if working at the speed of light.

Good to catch up with Betsey, one of Tara's "Quaker aunts".

Welcome to Portland, Colin.

I'm finally getting back in the saddle with FNB and the Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SPD (sponsored)

The above is what my friend Andrew Frank has been into, as a dedicated worker for the Infinia company. He swooped in from Kennewick that time, to show me innovations in pedagogy. He'd always been talented.

This week: the Sonnenfeld family came through, minus Candy and Teddy, but we included Candy vicariously (she'd grown up in Portland some) by going to the Crab Bowl (in name only, but a dear place nonetheless). Ergo, I didn't get to the well-attended Quantum Mechanics lecture at ISEPP, starring Julian and George, other friends (hello Allen Taylor... Jon Bunce). Dinner at the Portland Fish House was a better use of my time.

Today: SPD (St. Patrick's Day) is also when Dawn left our company, though not in spirit. I've been invited to a Labyrinth ceremony this evening. Tara is in debate camp (nat quals), while Alexia celebrates her eldest daughter relationship. My mom phoned me, to yak about death and taxes. She's using her Google phone, which she likes a lot.

Rick got to meet Alex. The Wittgenstein Study Group lives on. Before that: OMSI. We all road the simulator, which appears to substitute acceleration with motion, but can't really do the roller coaster willies the way a real roller coaster would. But then it's only $5.

Speaking of which, I'm reviewing the ways in which Bangladeshis are called "poor" in this excellent video by my good friend Glenn Baker. In light of The Economics of Happiness, I'd suggest that be revised. Bhutanese have a high living standard, because they're free and under the thumb of nary a superpower. Superpowers are sorrowful, cuz they suck. Mad Magazine never wuz one.

LW is off to FNB. Marian Rhys phoned to say she'd be there. I have no idea about Jezebel. When the Sonnenfelds were around, I made sure to play up the Google Earth reality of some of these structures, such as the Pauling House and Lew's rendition of the Stark Street meetinghouse.

I notice Trump is on the bandwagon of sickos already in questioning the president's credibility and veracity on the matter of his own place of birth. President Obama has done a fine job in my book: no kooky generals bombing Iran already, like ran amok in Iraq. LAWCAP's "spaz attacks" were /are killing our planet (hence the straitjacketing, continued auditing).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PPUG 2011.3.8

I got good and winded running to the bus for this one, almost door-to-door. I'd forgotten where the door was though, which added time.

I barely had time to swig a beer and grab a piece of Fat Tuesday pastry at Urban Airship before the charming Michelle hassled me to grab a nametag.

My name was spelled backwards (ala Leonardo), leading one geek to joke about his mirror iPod app (for when you need to fix your lipstick or whatever).

The main talks were by Lindsey Smith regarding feedparser, "Shmichael" about PEPs 380 & 3152, Adam Lowry about some ingenious thread tracker he'd written, and Eric Holscher on a way he could track server activity with this nifty graphic web stuff he'd put together. These were definitely "makers", creative bar none.

Will I have time to propose an OS Bridge talk this year? I don't yet have the video clips I'm looking for. We're in a holding pattern, waiting for the dominant paradigm to admit it could use some stabilizing influences.

We went to Bailey's for the after-party again. As usual, I talked with the gmpy guy from Mentor Graphics, plus someone else who wanted to talk about OpenEMR, other open source medical records initiatives.

Remember: open source doesn't mean open data. You can have all the source code published and in the clear, and still be as tight as Fort Knox in what you do with it.

Some of us are going to Pycon this weekend. Not me though, gotta work and stop traveling for awhile. I'll miss the whiskey BOF. Jason Kirtland had some cool glasses made. One is depicted below.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

War as Sport

Our corporation meeting continues... Treasurer's report in progress. Friends really appreciate JimFletcher.

I've been reading some of the literature around Friends Center, reminding myself that many enjoy participating in outward wars, find meaning in it, and would feel lost without these kinds of challenges. War is addictive and many depend on it for their livelihoods, not just soldiers.

Friends engage in somewhat parallel activities in extolling the "Lamb's War" as something positive. This is an inward war, a jihad, waged with psychological instruments. Many enjoy this work and take sustenance from it.

Legitimizing large scale violence is a core function of many states and religions. The business of making war depends on inspiring ideologies, cheer leading, drumming up passions. The star "athletes" in this sport become anxious when no war seems to be looming. How will the next generation learn the ropes? The cigarette industry has a similar ongoing challenge: recruiting new smokers.

Fortunately for the violence-prone, the human condition remains dire, with resources distributed highly inequitably and injustice the norm. Betting on the war machine seems like a secure investment and many pensions depend on its thriving (or used to -- some have escaped the vortex to morally higher ground).

LAWCAP long ago figured out how to institutionalize weapons production across many congressional districts (CDs). Since WW2, the actual needs of professional militarists has taken a back seat to the economic needs of the war machine. Outward war is an economic necessity for this creature, regardless of consequences.

The proliferation of nuclear WMDs of little strategic or tactical value is symptomatic of this form of mental illness (the so-called "military industrial complex").

Yeah, these are somewhat cliche thoughts for a Quaker to be having, I admit. Decrying the "war machine" is an ancient literature by this time. If people really thought a better lifestyle were possible without it, that'd shift the balance perhaps, but such "utopianism" is routinely dismissed by the outward warmongers. Those with the "most toys" are given to believe that their living standards would plummet were there to be something called "world peace", a nasty and undesirable outcome by many accounts.

To really move beyond "outward war" (which'd require more effectively countering sociopathic behavior around the world), we'd need to go with something more like general systems theory (ala Kenneth Boulding) over traditional economics. We'd need to take a more Project Renaissance approach, wherein longing would trump fear.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Corporation Meeting

AFSC Meeting
:: AFSC Corporation Meeting ::

Quakers have this business-oriented vocabulary stretching back to the early days. They (we) actually have "Meeting for Worship for Business" which to skeptical ears could sound like we worship the almighty dollar or some cash cow (golden calf).

Are Quakers the moneychangers in the temple? At one time maybe. I had a recent thread with Ed Cherlin about all that, on mathfuture of all places.

So I'm at the annual meeting of "the corporation" i.e. the American Friends Service Committee. I'm at Friends Center, affectionately known as "the Quaker Vatican". My role is "Yearly Meeting Appointee". North Pacific Yearly Meeting being the region I'm representing, along with my peers.

Hugh Thomforde is here, whom I haven't seen since around 1970 in Rome. We used to go to his family home for Quaker meeting on Sundays. Great family! His dad worked for FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization).

Hugh, these days based in Arkansas, is savvy about fish farming, other things aquatic. Based on his experiences in the Philippines, he helped establish a pearl farming industry in the Cook Islands, working for USAID. That project had Cold War origins and at first encountered much skepticism as the "nuclei" needed to start pearls sounded too much like the "nuclei" associated with nearby nuclear testing by organized criminal syndicates (highly unpopular with the locals). We might call this a "name collision".

My mom (Carol Urner) is here too, flying in from Whittier, and Tom Head.

The clerk is using a Tibetan "singing bowl" to anchor her introductory talk. She's about to introduce our new General Secretary, Shan Cretin.

My work with AFSC in Portland was youth-focused. I helped launch a new chapter, as volunteer clerk, after my internship as contributing editor of Asian-Pacific Issues News, apprenticing under Paulette Wittwer.

AFSC has been influential on my thinking in that it tends to focus on various media campaigns which often go against the grain of contemporary popular opinion.

Quakers, especially our branch (so-called "unprogrammed"), are pretty tiny and esoteric. Getting anything done requires making strategic alliances, sometimes with unexpected collaborators. Somewhat in jest (and to raise eyebrows), I've been known to refer to the AFSC as "the Quakers' Machiavellian agency". If you know your history, that's somewhat apropos.

One focus of AFSC these days is the exploitation of workers, modern forms of slavery. We probably need to give up the popular conceit that slavery has been "abolished" (according to whom?). Many businesses are slave drivers and participate in human trafficking. Exploitation of the undocumented (so-called "illegals") is another way a broken and decrepit nation-state system has been corrupted to feed the rapacious maw of unethical moneymakers.