Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Time Storm

All is bright and calm in Portland this morning, with garbage and recycling trucks plying their beats. However, a great storm rages in the Atlantic states, from Jersey inland to the Great Lakes.  This was right before the 2012 presidential election.

Mom (Carol) is rocking back and forth in her chair ("unprecedented").  Her women are eyeing the nuclear power plants, full of distrust in the wake of Fukushima.  With all the grid problems to come, how might we conduct free and fair elections?  An extra joker was slipped into the deck.  The game of poker is now a game of something else (it's called "game changing").

Oregon has voting by mail.  There's a secret ballot envelope that goes inside an outer signed envelope, with the signature acting as a kind of thumb print, a practice in early banking as well, though stationery certainly helps.

I don't know to what extent the ability to "re-run" any election is electronically archived.  Those states with their act really together keep a record of all the ballots (delinked from identity) and are able to re-run the elections at will.  Universities download and study the data, doing all manner of statistics.  The data is safely anonymized meaning it's somewhat hard to trace back, but not impossible, especially where write-in candidates (obscure ones) feature.

Carol has her office back together.  We have CenturyLink wifi through much of the house, with signal tapering quite sharply outside the bubble.  Since the advent of 3G / 4G, I also have secondary wifi on at least one device and am able to talk to towers (cell towers) in the vicinity.

That's how tethering sometimes works, when you can't get onto an Internet access point and so avail of your cellular network's tower-based service.  Hurricanes may damage cell towers.  This will be one story among many to follow.  Telecommunications disruption hampers restoring services.

If there's any good news in this disaster it's the extra cleanup work before Xmas and the additional income this may engender, along with the physical workout (which is easy to overdo -- this is where churches and such need to offer R&R opportunities to the first responders and infrastructure rebuilders, if only bananas and sunglasses (whatever sponsors might spare and pass through that would be appreciated on the front lines)).

To what extent Food Not Bombs will be assisting with this emergency is hard to gauge from my vantage point (SE Chapter / PDX).  I know Keith McHenry himself worked long hours during Katrina to help coordinate among emergency services.  He stays in communication, is not out there to duck the responsibilities when on duty.  I haven't seen anything on the list though, which is mostly local traffic. Oh wait, this just in (linked from here).

Coordinating is a skill and well orchestrated emergency efforts make a big difference.

I expect offers of assistance from overseas teams.  It'd be wise to accept in many cases, would be my leading, even as the rest of the country responds, in part by absorbing refugees.  Sometimes it's a good time to move, when you've lost everything (or even just worldly goods).  Many North Americans will be re-assessing their next moves in light of Hurricane Sandy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thinking of Mary

Bolton Collection

:: metta for Mary Bolton, another mother for Kirby and Dawn and their family ::

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Way We Were

I'm thinking of Richard Burton singing his "one shining moment, Camelot" swan song.  This isn't one exactly, but I'm thinking at our peak we were like one of those QVS houses.

That's Quaker Volunteer Services, where Friends live together, perform community service, walking their talk in terms of Quaker values.

Per recent ministry in meeting, there's no oxymoron in "Quaker witch". They all do non-violent communication workshops or are just generally non-threatening (talking about the witches living here).

However Melody, who works with homeless / runaway youth, kids in dire straits, has since moved out.  She still stays as a guest, but you need a certain number of knights to have a round table.

I was the role model Quaker in staying with my inward weapons, gallivanting about in cyberspace, weaving in threads.  It's not like we'd all sit in a circle reading the Bible together.  This is more a Western Friend household, so we might read more Jung.  We had some movie nights.

JenQ helped write and publish The Radicle and was a key organizer for Food Not Bombs.

Anyway, that was the hay day.  Both the clerk and assistant clerk have been by in the last few days, visiting Carol, the treasured elder, board member of AFSC and perpetual WILPF strategist.

We were a buzzing headquarters we were (Melody just left again).

We were subscribed to The Economist, The Nation and The New York Times.  Our Wall Street Journal subscription, based on frequent flyer miles, had expired.  I also got Princeton Alumni Weekly.  Our Internet was through CenturyLink, DSL.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remembering The Dead

album cover, Blues for Allah
Grateful Dead

My thanks to Deb Bryant for reminding me of her friend Rosie McGee's reading at Barley Mill this evening.  For those of you not so familiar with Portland, The Barley Mill is a birth place of the McMenamins brew pub network that now spans at least two states.  It's also something of a temple to The Grateful Dead, a famous band associated with the advent of the psychedelic Aquarian Age.

The day started more prosaically, with Patrick coming by in handyman mode to maybe help with the clogged upstairs tub.  He correctly diagnosed and solved the leaking sink problem and in the process we were referred to another product by the hardware store lady that indeed unclogged the tub (I'd tried other liquids but this one had the right mojo apparently).

I'm listening to The Dead now on Spotify, trying out their premium service.  I went to the Spotify meeting at the last US Pycon, as Spotify is using Python a lot.  Some of my favorite artists are not yet sharing by this infrastructure, which one might characterize as a negotiated / legal version of Napster.  iTunes helped pave the way.

The negotiation includes what consumers want, are willing to pay for, and are able to get illegally if the cost is too high.

The Dead were always progressive about digital rights and contributed to the free / open source rhetoric when the latter was still in its infancy.  Whereas I was only getting covers for Pink Floyd and The Beatles on Spotify, I'm listening to bona fide Dead as I write this.

Rosie wasn't just your stereotypical "groupie".  She was an integral part of the Jerry Garcia family, which was a traveling circus and production crew of considerable ambition and skill.  She helped with a lot of logistics, travel, loved the behind-stage world, and never lost her fluency in French (Rosie was born in Paris, moved to Portland later, went to Washington High School).

Carol is using O2.  The concentrator came hours after her discharge, with the hospital providing two tanks.  A full recovery is expected.  Pneumonia (bacterial).  We've been getting visitors.  Friendly Care has been supportive.

I treated Patrick at Oasis for his competent and cheerful contribution to our household's plumbing health.

Someday, your dwelling machine will come with CAD drawings on a DVD and you'll have no trouble knowing where all the pipes go, and/or tubing, wiring and so on.

Having construction adopt the standards of aerospace was the huge jobs creator Bucky Fuller tried to get going all through the 1900s.  The engineers were better at weaponry though and had a sure client in Congress.  The sheltering challenge was left to architects.  The technology advanced slowly.

Living standards have stayed artificially low, given the human IQ is not what it could be (by "IQ" I'm including qualities like "compassion" which the Dalai Lama underlines as what's missing more than raw intellect).

That doesn't mean a revolution in shelter technology can't still happen.  Patrick looks at the challenge from the perspective of energy infrastructure (power grids, smart meters etc.).  Glenn thinks in terms of a "global matrix" of such grids.  Welcome to 97214.  We think globally a lot, and can't help but act locally.

Blue House is also being crewed by Melody, JenQ and Lindsey these days.  While I was at the Hackathon and Wanderers last night, Lindsey was serving for Food Not Bombs near City Hall, and performing her music.  JenQ helped prep.  This is from the Saturday market haul that provides for several servings throughout the week.

Yesterday's Oregonian's food section was on food waste, a topic we discuss a lot at FNB (though of course FNB was not mentioned), and arsenic in the rice supply, which is written about in a typical "taking it lying down" mode (Chicago Tribune the source) -- no outrage, just "limit how much poison you feed your baby, doctors advise".  Crazy world eh?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Delayed Reactions

The title is a bit of a joke, as all reactions are delayed, though "instant reflexes" have the connotation of both spontaneous and robotic, another irony.

Wasn't Romney promising a buck a gallon again, like a roll back in prices?  A truck just unloaded 300 gallons in my under-the-driveway tank, technology from another era, when that would have been $300.  "Everyone's tank is bigger than their checking account these days" quipped the driver.  No kidding.

In my world view of the New World Order or Novus Ordo Seclorum or whatever we call it, USA presidents don't get to set oil prices.  That's just not in the cards.  And I'm wondering, seriously, what the world would have to look like, for Romney to be setting them.  I think his view is isolationist:  America will fuel itself, and as King of North America, I'll dole it out at a buck a gallon.  Put me down as a skeptic.

So I sampled semi-mainstream TV last night.  I no longer subscribe to TV, but Bagdad was showing AMC's Walking Dead off the cable (Xfinity I think it was), no charge, just serving beer etc.  I got to sample the latest commercials, for iPhone 5, Droid, Windows 8, and Surface.  My new Droid went by twice, the Razr / M.  Windows 8 is designed with Surface (a tablet) in mind.  There's much controversy in the blogosphere, as to whether MSFT has gone overboard pandering to tablets when desktops, including laptops, still reign supreme.  Time will tell.

Today I met with John Wish, esteemed member of the meeting.  He was somewhat pissed that I'd used the word "cabal" with reference to his subcommittee.  Here's a writing sample (something I shared recently, with a non-member):
Oversight is... party to a hostile takeover of MMM by a clique of members who think the Beanite / College Park Association style of Quaker, which honors non-members and gives them a lot of equality, should be squashed. 

This cabal has hijacked our process with vague reasoning and allusions to anonymous members who refuse to come forward and let their identities be known.
John at 78 is not shy, no wall flower, so I can't count him among "members who refuse to come forward and let their identities be known." No way. He's forthright and speaks his mind. That's what Quakers value: plain speech. We don't have time for a lot of BS euphemisms, because we're trying to keep up with the "mind of God" (zeitgeist, Holy Ghost or whatever) and that doesn't always give us the luxury of mincing words. "Beating around the bush" sometimes just means you're being too time-consuming for your own good (and ours).

What's the College Park Association anyway, and what the heck is a Beanite?

I'm alluding to esoteric Quaker history here. Chuck Fager has an entertaining piece of writing on this history, if you want to know more.

Tonight's debate deliberately mixes military and civilian meanings of "nuclear program". Remember the UK's position:  Farsi speaking Persians and their friends have a natural right to use science in ways that don't hurt the world.

Does nuclear energy hurt the world?  Some would say so, yes.  In that case, the push against nuclear programs is tighter here too.  Note to Romney:  we / they have a right under the NPT to enrich uranium, you know that yes?  I'm against the weapons too.  Countdown to Zero is a campaign I respect.  Nuke weapons destabilize us guys, and take the "fun" out of military service. These weapons just aren't helping us stay human and we have limited experience as demons.

Funny chat about Pakistan.  Are you going to say "drone"?  Yes.  What about sovereignty then sir?  Either sir.  Why is Pakistan sounding angry sometimes, "not like any ally".  Where are the bombs going off, in Afghanistan or Ohio?  Well OK, some in Oklahoma.

Lets remember how deeply concerned the Southern whites were, white Americans in general, that the oppressed, the slaves, would rise up in revenge, if liberated, and if allowed to own guns.  There really hasn't been a race war (though it got ugly), and there's not likely to be one.  Many ethnicities share this area and aren't interested in Mad Max Roadwarrior futures, post apocalyptic but without the apocalypse.  Who needs it?

"Currency manipulator... hacking into our computer, counterfeiting our goods" sheesh.  This guy is too afraid of everything, scary scary.  That's like whites, acting scared, making everyone else pay for their "security".  OK, not just whites.  The privileged.  They're so upset about their insecurity aren't they?

No, I'm not worried about any "cabal" among Quakers.  Lots of partially overlapping cliques, in scenario Universe, nothing new there (except always new).  Chuck Fager is somewhat a role model in using high amps, but mine is techno-invective, not sure they're the same (like a difference in musical style).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Back at the Lab

"Back at the Lab" sounds white coaty, but I'm talking Lucky Lab here, the brewpub that does Dogtoberfest (coming right up -- or did it happen already?).  I'd say Sarah-the-dog here is a lucky lab, but then she's also part mutt, as the pro breeders might put it.

Steve and I joined the DemocracyLab table.  Mark and an associate were about to drive to Seattle even at this late hour, for a conference today.  He took us through a demo, where Oregon State's tax income is the focus.  How much revenue is from video poker, lotteries?  Game winnings are not considered a tax, so these numbers were not shown.

Ben stopped over.  We'd missed Duke by a smidgen.

Nate is heading of to Strata Rx 2012 in the Bay Area.  Electronic medical records using free open source software is one of his foci.  That may mean he misses WhereCampPDX, where we hung out last year, OPDX (Occupy Portland) by then going strong.

The Lab was packed with gamers and hackers.  Thursday nights are really big there.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

OMSI Science: On Race


The two guest speakers were from Willamette University, where Alexia went for awhile, exploring options such as Japanese.

They've taught as a pair and bring different perspectives to the issue of 'race' and 'racism'.

Dr. Emily Drew is a sociologist and Dr. Chris Smith is a population biologist, more into the physical genetics rather than the ethnic constructs.

Every ethnicity has its idea of other ethnicities.  The "race" theme couples with US history pretty closely.  Study the history of the "race" concept in the Americas, and many doors will open.

We saw slides of an early census of 1790.  Are you (a) white free male (b) white free female (c) non-white free (d) slave?

Dr. Drew understood "race" in the ideological sense of supporting Ben Franklin's contention (apparently not satiric -- that would have been more Twain-like) that "whites" were the top race, and that thinking in racial terms is mostly buying into a namespace that's been rigged to advantage some minorities / ethnicities more than others (it'd be hard to deny that).

Dr. Smith saw the genetic underpinnings of human differences, which map to geography really well.  He's suspicious of "race" though, because as a short-hand, the "races" are awkward pigeon-holes and could lead to making bad medical decisions.

The specific ideas we have about "races" (the stereotypes) are too often misleading to be very scientific though.  Like this idea that only blacks have sickle cell anemia -- an urban legend. 

"Race" as a concept, is mostly partially overlapping urban legends, with enough truth in biological terms (people do differ, and you can trace DNA sequences in family trees), and enough inertia in socialogical terms, to keep it alive and kicking as a meme.

Actually, neither speaker used the term "meme".

I've done lots of thinking and writing on this topic of "race" for many years, including recently, so I felt somewhat party to the discussion.  I didn't ask any questions though.

Steve H. had not been to an OMSI Science Pub before.  He's of the Yorkshireman race.  I keep hoping to introduce him to Brian S. who bears some family resemblance, at least in terms of accent.

An older theory held that Homo Erectus gave rise to modern hominids in some linear then forking pattern, with the fork into races happening some millions of years ago.

More recent studies suggest an "out of Africa" migration only some hundreds of thousands of years ago.  These homo sapiens encountered other brands of hominid, including Neanderthal, which it now looks like may have been integrated into the "new model" (sapien) gene pool in some ways.  Dawn always thought so and would have loved this part of the talk.

The fact that indigenous Himilayans have genes for dealing with relatively low oxygen, similar to the way we have skin color genes based on the spectral challenges of our ancestral environment, suggests I might not be so far off base in my speculations that one day we'll have undersea hominds able to live more like dolphins.

At the very least, as people select for better skiing bodies, so may they select for better swimming bodies.

Or maybe that's all too naive, now that there's some possibility of genetically engineering some changes, not waiting for natural selection to optimize the old slow way.

Of course I don't get to know how it turns out from this perspective, as a 1958 - 20?? figure.  As mortals, we only get to pop up the periscope for a short period, assembling all the puzzle pieces we can.

Definitely we need to always do the detective work to figure out who stands to gain from one "theory" or another.  Real science should not inhibit "follow the money" style anthropology, a kind of investigative journalism with more philosophy, more distance.  Keep an eye on the agenda.  Does it involve "white supremacy" of some kind?  Not that only "whites" can be racist.  That meme virus is widespread.  The US is a racist society (according to the four criteria presented).

I don't know how far back we should push any kind of maritime savvy, on the part of these hominds.  That's probably the kind of question I would have asked.  Did Homo Erectus ever take a ferry of any kind?  We hominids always walked a lot, but did we float, even navigate?

Riding other animals (e.g. horses), when did that start?  At different times for different peoples.

An ethnicity may be defined in many respects in terms of how it casts and treats other animals, not just other human beings.

OMSI has an exhibit on Race even now.  I feel I've probably seen it before, or maybe I just saw part of it.  Anyway, I'll be heading down there one of these days to check it out.

"races of man" on a timeline 
at McMenamins E Broadway Brewpub

Monday, October 01, 2012