Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years 2013

I watched the above geometry clip, by DK, among other things.

Tara and I had rented a pile of DVDs, among them 56 Up (like my age), and We Steal Secrets:  The Story of Wikileaks, which probably deserves its own review. 

I watched the latter, having seen 56 Up shortly after getting back from our trip north.

I also attended to AFSC business.   At the last corporation meeting (in early March of this year) I was reading the testimony of Bradley Manning.

Phone calls, emails, text messages... I wouldn't say I'm alone.  But nor would I call this a party.  Just hanging out.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Celebrating the Solstice with a Celebrity

My choice for this year, the talented Sheryl Crow singing about sunshine and covering John Lennon's war torn piece.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gravity (movie review)

Tara and I caught the 3D version at Fox Tower.  Good sound.  Yes, a pet peeve I've always had is how much spurious sound gets added over top, where "sound" is an oxymoron.  In outer space, you don't have sound like that.  Finally, at last, a film with the guts to add some realism in that regard.  Having vast destruction occurring in silence reminds one of the role sound does play in alerting us to situations.

Many bold moves.  First person shots, "in helmet".  You couldn't have that other point of view, that we get as an audience, but those quasi-omniscient points of view were long ago accepted.  We say we don't believe in angels but only because our language buys them entirely, hook, line and sinker. The film industry is the champion of impossible viewpoints.  And right next to them:  the stars.

Clooney does a fine job.  At first we think maybe he's a loudmouth jerk, but soon realize he's grounding the whole mission, anchoring.  He's a geodesic.  A meaning of gravity (yet with levity -- he's always cracking jokes).  Clooney is a rabbi, if we want to go with that, a dharma teacher.  Then Bullock is gutsy brave and evolving, as one tends to do in death's face.  Nothing like death's face to spur one to get a move on, spiritually speaking.  She goes through plenty.

Tara, a physics student, was fairly OK with the physics engine.  In reality, the inertias involved would likely just be too great.  Grabbing a moving car on the freeway or leaping onto a moving train, is not that much easier in zero gravity.  Grabbing the box car door as it flies by is just too much a jerk on your body.  You need to swoop alongside and grab, but just a fire extinguisher is likely not up to it.  She's in that lack of O2 fantasy.

That's a darker interpretation:  when she's dozing off as an homunculus, perhaps to be reborn in China (as a dog maybe), we think she has like an hallucination, but it's more like a discontinuity, with George having his desire to keep living the dream too.  Both have died at some point, and we the audience are left with our impossible point of view, dead long ago and far away.

This got us both eager to cross-check (omni-triangulate) and we sat at Ringler's later (a McMenamins) with our smart phones, reading about the Chinese space program.  Most of the hardware credited to China in the film is planned to make it's real time debut in the near future.  The film is "quite close to now".  No Orion yet.

At the Wanderer's Solstice Party, Brenda, a lab tech at MHCC, said the new planetarium software was really great.  She's Ms. Frizzle from Magic School Bus when in character -- she actually dresses up as that during one of the college campus summer festivals.  She'd probably be a good astronaut, or could at least play one.

Life of Pi was somewhat a precedent for this movie, in exploring seamless CG.  We've come a long way in films.  This was the industry's way of showing off it's own breakthroughs, its ways of communicating the reality we know is out there, the reality of "outer space".  We live in it, within a biosphere as thin as the oil on the surface of an orange or thereabouts.  Maybe a little thicker.

The themes of death and gravity stay tightly interwoven in this film, which is what probably keeps it from being "just another action thriller" and makes it a meditative play, a profound work worthy of these serious performances by stars, lots of close-ups.  It's an existentialist stage play, ready to join conversations with other works, in future writings, and yet it's a roller coaster as well, a thrill ride in addition.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bylaw Changes

A rather open secret among Friends is that it's an uphill battle to keep the American Friends Service Committee in their good graces.  You'd think, with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize coming up, that Quaker churches and meetings would be crowding into the frame.  Twas the AFSC that accepted, on behalf of Quakerdom more generally.

However, the political landscape has changed since those days leading up to World War Two, about which I recommend the book Human Smoke (on my Kindle).  That flash of early brilliance and optimism was nearly drowned in the wars to follow, in Vietnam especially, where the AFSC kept showing up in Hanoi, maybe on the same airport bus as Jane Fonda.  That alienated a political demographic that overlaps with Christendom certainly.  The Vietnam War had many elements of a crusade, especially if you see it as Diem did, a devout Catholic.

Consider the late Bayard Rustin,  his 100th birthday the focus of a recent Corporation meeting.  US President Obama subsequently awarded him a posthumous Medal of Freedom.  A lot of the same people who love to hate Hanoi Jane have no time for our hero Rustin either.

Our Corporation bylaws currently stipulate that at least two reps from each represented Yearly Meeting be Corporation members.  This governance relationship, between Yearly Meetings and the AFSC, which includes "at large" as well as geographic members, is strained to the breaking point, with the logistics of reaching a quorum proving daunting, well neigh impossible sometimes.

To address this shortfall, the Corporation feels it must adapt by streamlining.  Instead of stipulating "no less than two" reps from any Meeting, it will be "no more than two".  The status quo will become the norm, whereas it had been our Achilles Heel.  The AFSC will continue operating with the proper bona fides, as truly a Quaker organization, and the peanut gallery can just stay unfilled (the balcony seats are never needed for Corporation meetings as it is).

I played devil's advocate during the conference call with Friends Center this morning, in my role as convener for my region's reps, our Yearly Meeting being North Pacific YM (NPYM).

The clerk congratulated me on my performance but one could sense our seeing a way open, the way of shrinking, like Alice.  There's that tendency to stampede towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

A streamlined AFSC will be cozier, more tightly knit, goes the theory.  Those who do share a commitment, will more likely get more done, divested of the more lukewarm hangers on, the foot draggers, the grumblers.

I pointed out that because we're still hammering out what's considered legal representation in cyberspace, the day may soon come when reps need not travel to be legally present in meetings, thereby constituting a quorum.  Where are the laws with that today?

So why worry so much about our "carbon footprint" when we might be on the brink of another upgrade?  Might we address our shortfall in numbers another way?

If our goal is truly to maximize diversity (another bylaw change) then isn't cutting back our numbers a move away from that goal?

Why not pack the house, in virtual space, in augmentation of the physical meeting, and demonstrate greater diversity at the same time?

We'll see what happens.  These discussions will be ongoing for some time.

The board takes a look at it again, before kicking it back to us for a red or green light.  At least we've found a way to be open about our shortfall and the legal bind that has put us in.

If we have no way of living up to our existing bylaws, then it's not surprising we feel compelled to change them.  We have to go with the army -- inward weapons only -- we've got.

On with the metaphysics then! -- or whatever "organizational alchemy" is called.

Friday, November 29, 2013

TG 2014

Provided these blogs still have structural integrity, you will find a pattern around this time of year:  a journey North to visit friends and relatives.  This year, I drove alone, having I-5 adventures, with occasional forays into the hinterlands.  Of course driving has changed now that smartphones plugged into the dash talk, giving directions, and play music.

Tara joined the eight of us by Google Hangout from Greater Chicago, for a video chat.  Lee brought his parents, Howard and Wilma, along with Howard's brother Bill, to Mary's.  Alice (Mary's sister) and Steven joined us from further north.

We found assembling the jigsaw puzzles congenial as they gave us something to focus on while having after dinner conversation.  They were not run of the mill puzzles in that the pieces were unusually intricate, sometimes detailed shapes in their own right.

I drove north on Wednesday and south on Friday, stopping by Bill's place for the first time near the University of Washington, the day of the annual football game, Huskies (University of Washington) versus Washington State.

Many of our conversations were quite lighthearted, others serious in terms of topic, such as end of life planning.  Mary is a doctor and wanted to be sure we were all aware of the agony some go through if the paperwork does not allow them to die and they can't represent themselves.

My love to friends and relatives out there, both near to me and far.  We are one interwoven web of life, empirically as well as spiritually.  There's not much to argue about there.  The devil is in the details I suppose.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Hacks for College Students

I like the Maker (as in Make:) culture here, the pragmatism.

He has a whole body of work which I have only just begun to explore.

By the way, this seems as good a place as any to note that Vodka + Grapefruit Juice is called a Greyhound.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

End of Life Planning

The Urner family has often taken in long term guests, in the Philippines, in Egypt, in other places.  Readers of my blogs know we've given shelter to one Lindsey Walker, a political refugee one might say, escaping a more repressive state.

The "host" role is quite a bit different from the "landlord" role, but any lawyer will tell you it's still important to limit your liability.  Given only two adults in the house, I have to be sure the law does not treat us like a couple, at which point assets get shmooed together.

If we were married, even if just in common law terms, and I called an ambulance, I might be held liable for those expenses.

But we're not married, not by any standard, and any medical bill I get relating to her care I'm going to return, burn, or forward to her next of kin, unless the courts somehow find me liable for her condition in the first place -- a contingency I have to keep working to prevent (I must exercise mindfulness around my fellow human beings and not cause them injury through negligence, no kidding).

One of the guys at Thirsters the other day was sorrowful because his nephew had been killed by unexploded ordinance, one of the bomblets from a cluster bomb.

If I left cluster bomblets around my house and my guests picked them up or kicked them, not knowing their true nature, then lawyers might come after me.  I would be liable for their deaths and/or medical treatment.

Indeed, as a US taxpayer, you could say that I do pay for such injuries, as whenever US employees hurt themselves on the job, they're in a position to file claims, which US borrowing and revenue will need to cover if said claims are upheld, as many are.

I gave Lindsey some ultra-sonic rat repellants, devices one plugs in.  If a rat bites her in the neck and gives her a deadly disease, people might say I was not a good host and that my humble basement was too humble.  I'm not saying we have lots of rats, but many Portland basements are not immune from rodents, possums too in some cases.  We have squirrels in the attic and walls.  They're not rabid and don't usually bite humans.

One thing I'm very clear about is that even though Lindsey has very low body fat (she knows Victoria's secret or whatever) she'd be non-trivial to pick up and carry to the maxi taxi (the Nissan, which used to be hers).

We've used the Nissan for medical emergencies.  Lindsey doesn't have health insurance or much savings and an ambulance could be ruinous to her, financially.  As long as she's been ambulatory herself, transport by car was an option.  I've usually been the driver.

But I'm not about to try to lift her up, if she's comatose or simply limp and delirious, and I've told her that.  I'll call 911 and let the professionals use a stretcher.

I know she wouldn't try to lift me.  I probably weigh well over twice as much as she does.  If I pass out in the 2nd floor office, she is not going to try lugging me down a flight of stairs and out to the Nissan just to save on some ambulance costs.  That'd be foolish.  She'd likely injure herself just trying it.

But I'm saying it'd be equally foolish for me to try that with her.

An acquaintance of mine told me about dragging an inebriated friend from a bar (I think it was) and how heavy that friend was.  I believe he had help.  Two of them were trying to drag their friend somewhere, but somehow they dropped him and he hit his head.

How it all turned out I don't remember, but the storyteller was still traumatized by the event.  Another time I saw a father drop his little girl completely by mistake.  He was so torn up about it, although she was fine.

What Lindsey and I both need are contingency plans in case either one of us finds the other comatose or dead.  911 is the default answer, but more responsible adults, or those with the time, especially later in life, start getting their affairs in order.   My mom has done a lot of end of life planning.

Some phone number on the fridge, with a check already made out, might be the best answer.  "In case of death, cremate me here:  555-XXX-YYYY."   Lindsey and I should each have that, plus make arrangements for whatever ceremonies above and beyond corpse disposal.

In Lindsey's case, I think Satya would be a good person to help out planning ceremonies, notifying next of kin and so on.  In my case, I should exercise my Oversight Committee powers and get one of those Wishes Upon Death forms in the files.  I'd like to keep the Flickr and Facebook accounts public, my blogs.  I should start saving whatever emails are worth keeping...

Preparing for one's death is a lot of work actually.

I don't like the word "retired" because in physics work is any energy expenditure and there's no way around spending energy, even just breathing.  So life is work and work is life.  Death might be the absence of work, though some might say that's just what we mean by context i.e. death is context.  That's a metaphysical discussion for later maybe.

Besides, I'm not even legally retired.  I have a full time job.  I did participate in my wife's end of life planning, most of which she did herself, while self employed.  She was extremely responsible about managing her own death, having received a death sentence from her doctors (about three to six years, which she got).

Moving Dawn became problematic towards the end.  She stopped being ambulatory.  I moved her solo one day and we realized that was not a good idea, too much pain.  We realized we needed more help, which our community provided.

I don't have any funds budgeted for Lindsey's care.  Anything extra goes to the college where my younger daughter goes.  Ever since the coma discussion, I've been comparing notes with other friends, including some who are lawyers and/or landlords.  I'm trying to distill into writing what a non-lease extended house guest agreement might look like.

But then, at the end of the day she's planning to leave anyway, maybe storing some stuff in the basement, taking off for various adventures, some of them probably higher risk than anything she tries around Portland.  She's like a circus worker, a tightrope walker.  Someone living on the edge.  She lives her life at the limits as Walter Kaufmann would say (he thought you needed to do that to call yourself a philosopher).

People with dangerous work need to keep their affairs in order, soldiers, philosophers, and political revolutionaries included.

That's probably why Friends have a habit of being so meticulous in their record keeping and personal affairs.  Being a Quaker has been dangerous too, in different times and places.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ender's Game (movie review)

Earth has been attacked and was almost defeated before humans repulsed the alien invasion.  Now the Earthians are taking the battle to the alien home world.  Their psychology has discovered that when it comes to war fighting using weapons not requiring brawn to operate, that children make the best warriors as their nervous systems are more flexible and adaptive.  So an all child army is being raised to fight the aliens.

True to form, the adults are endlessly manipulative and the protagonist, as he is groomed for leadership, becomes increasingly aware that the true enemy may be these adults.  His hunch is confirmed when the adults trick him into annihilating the alien home world.

The sense of compassion which enables Wiggins to outwit his enemy is also what leads him to love and understand them.  In the case of the aliens, he feels obligated to make amends and find a way to continue their lineage.  The Earthians make him an admiral at this point, a way of saying he's on his own.

Friday, November 01, 2013


Although I'd not yet seen her work, Vi must have been talking to the same muses, when I started my McLuhanesque rant against math teaching at low bandwidth.

The above specimen of higher bandwidth teaching (than most chalk 'n talk) is especially representative in that it's bursting at the seams with ideas, hardly able to keep the snakes out, or in as the case may be.

The questioning of standard notations leads to an even deeper questioning of authority, an irreverence, the atmosphere of breakthroughs.

At around 5:30 into it she's galumphing happily through Synergetics territory, giving the same lecture I might about triangling versus squaring.

This is not only high bandwidth, it's close to home.  Hooray for Youtube and Vi.

More discussion on math-teach.

Riddled With Holes

The way Fuller presented his philosophy was as mostly space but then also framed windows in a kind of spider webby networky sense, gossamer, ephemeral, ectoplasmic (ghostly shmear).  Windows being the O in V + O = E + 2, O for Opening.  Like left by bullet holes.

Star Wars adapted Earthian war movies, adapted from war itself, to an alien environment (long ago, far away) but kept the "war torn" or "battle-worn" look.  Things were dented and dirty, not pristinely shiny as if just off the showroom floor.  That touch alone gave it a flavor of realism that movie-goers relished.

I'm not saying Star Wars was the first or only pioneer.  Aliens was banged up in its own way.  Science fiction as a literary form has always had that broken and bruised look.  Movies maybe took awhile to catch up?

Anyway, Synergetics is like that, some kind of bullet-ridden battle star, definitely a spheroid.  He's been polemical this Bucky, and look at these scars here.  Wow, pretty rugged.  There's grudging respect.

But also outrage, like David was pointing out, the 1950s table with some early Synergetics Constant stuff.  What's up with that Dodecahedron of 12 Hexagons?  Say what?  It's a communist er capitalist er insect people plot, to put stupid mistakes like that in the public record and let them stand.  How could a mistake like that get through the editors?  Makes Bucky look bad, like he can't count fingers and toes.

I'm arguing there weren't that many layers of editor and Synergetics is both meticulous and "thrown together" as Cosmic Fishing shares the tale.  There isn't that editorial oversight you might enjoy if settled in and enjoying a well-diagrammed workflow.

Think of Donald Knuth, for example.  I just got his four volumes in the mail.  He's been meticulously organized.  Fuller was just dragging papers around in his suitcase and relying on Applewhite for the meticulous part.  I'm not saying that was in any way unwise, as EJA upheld his side of the bargain and then some, but it's not the controlled processing of errata we might have had, and still may have.

Bob Gray did a superb job of getting the opus reliably transcribed.  Version control going forward? Big project.  Notice I haven't stepped forward.  I just got on Github like yesterday for the first time.

Synergetics is also wildly speculative.  Linus Pauling got that way too.  You've got a front row seat in high stakes poker and you just throw down the hand you've got, in hopes of winning at least something.  Pauling's proposal for DNA was inside-out impossible, a freak, but with that many horses in that many races, how might we not have a freak or two?

Like where he compares a T-module to a Meson on something like that.  He's shoving chips on his quanta modules having some future in some quantum mechanics but how do you "shove chips" in 1970 without just speaking nonsense?

Perhaps nonsense was a best option; the author of Finnegans Wake certainly seemed to think so.  Here's a literary figure with a tiger by the tail, a fun new geometry, and he's determined to make the most of it.  "Evidence of partying" the police report might say later.  But can you blame him?  He confesses to being pee-in-the-pants excited sometimes.  He got passionate about this stuff.

But that doesn't excuse all the mistakes and transgressions does it?  Not in my own case either.  I shouldn't act like I'm apologizing for Bucky when I have my own harrowing Kafkaesque case to be concerned with.  But then "apologist" or "disciple" have never been my chosen terms.  I'm definitely a fan of certain people, where "fan" connotes "from afar".

I'm a fan of Katie Couric, Walter Kaufmann, Stuart Kauffman... Alan Watts, lots of people, some of whom I've actually met.  Bucky was somewhat in that category, though like Kiyoshi I was experiencing metaphysical eddying.  I think I've talked about his experiences before.  The collective unconscious is a busy place, lets put it that way.  Friends are people I'm fans of but get to spend more time with, Sam Lanahan for example.

We kept a low profile this Halloween.  Steve had had knee surgery.  The Barton kids are still young enough, and their porch is just right.  Glenn came by.  Thai food was enjoyed.  Trick or treaters got their candy and maybe shook the fake hand.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Corrupting the Oldsters

This job takes you on the road, to nursing homes mostly, as they're mostly called now.  Your job is to share Internet culture with some older people, a lot of them bored.  You have good equipment, a lot of bandwidth and sharp color on a big screen.

Fail compilations, Annoying Orange, conspiracy theories... plenty to keep us occupied while only alluding to PornVille, just left off the Interstate.  We're aware of adult humor and the Internet comes pre-packaged with some sense of sleaze, not much one can do about it.  Kids know about Grossology...

Hey, speaking of which, I'm taking a breather myself and tracking down a meme.  Gangnam Style.  I've seen four or five that purport to be takeoffs thereon, but when do I get to the tap root?  Sherlock Holmes hat on.

Wikipedia to the rescue. I was there already. Psy is the source, Korean derivation. Got it. And these others are the parodies...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AFSC Support Committee

We haven't met in months.  Those of us around the table may be a little hazy about what our purpose is (to support local staff and program).

Tonight we're meeting the Assistant Regional Director for the Western Region, Marielle Oetjen.  She works with Sonia Tuma, the Regional Director (replacing Susan Segal -- except the regions have also been changed).  There's also an Associate Regional Director.

Marielle will have a base in the Portland Office.

At the Philadelphia level, AFSC and FCNL have put out a document called Shared Security, which I still need to read and blog about.

Our recording clerk, Eddy Crouch, is also on the Western Region Executive Committee and has already started a series of meetings at the Multnomah Meeting House following the study guide that goes with this document.

I know other denominations work this way:  they develop program around Great Decisions for example, I know the Methodists use that.

I'm suspicious of these studies usually because they instill nationalism in a non-critical manner.  The whole idea of "foreign policy" on a tiny spherical ball is a tad ridiculous, as is the whole idea of "sovereign nations".

Bucky Fuller was right to resist politicos marring his map with a lot of their corrupting data.   Our Promised Land is less stupid than the Land we have.

Speaking of sovereigns, did I mention I was reading Royal Babylon? The author refreshingly turns the tables on these so-called royal families.

I can see how Shared Security (I'm scanning it now) could help with the creation of new "schools for diplomats" developed with some Quaker influence.  These my high tech boarding schools, part of the larger "eco-village" phenomenon, slow in materializing given various vicious circles.

Pedro and I discussed the military's use of immigrant conscripts to pad itself out.  Pedro pointed out a core irony:  when one of these immigrants is killed in the line of duty, they're declared a citizen postmortem, whereas the wounded are more likely to be deported, as a budget liability.


Monday, October 07, 2013


5 x 6 = 30

:: 5 x 6 = 30 ::

This is not such a hard way to multiply.

So what that we do it against a backdrop of triangles instead of squares?

Triangles are simpler and we're allowing for all edges the same length, same as squares, so that's no advantage on the square's side. 

Take your two lengths, A and B, and just connect a line across, and you're done.  That's your area, in equilateral triangular units.

An interesting feature of pouring fluids into such containers is you may tilt it to have the water level connect A and B.

 When filling a tetrahedron, your corners A, B and C may be independently reached as well.

So if the goal is to measure out a number that's factorable, into two or three terms, you've got a way of tilting to get that:  get the fluid to hit all the factors in the flask, as calibrated along the edges.

Think of it as a kind of beaker, amidst other lab equipment. Tilt the tetrahedron to 4 x 5 x 3 for 60 tetrahedron's worth of liquid.  Scale those unit tetrahedrons to be milliliters if you like, no one's stopping you.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Afghanistan Again

:: chatting with Afghanistan ::

The invasion of Afghanistan, ostensibly a manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, commenced about twelve years ago, making this the longest "war" in "US" history.

I put "war" in quotes because it's not headline news and few people care about it.  "Dirty wars" are like that:  clandestine / covert.

This "war" is more the kind of thing Orwell envisioned:  a hell pit in which to dispose of million dollar soldiers and equipment, a black hole for contractors and profiteers who need to perpetually resupply and restaff the operation.

Many militias participate in this gold mine for mercenaries, not just the Pentagon's.

The private sector runs this war internationally, mainly through its sham non-democracy aka the Beltway Junta in DC (currently in "shutdown mode" -- though not when it comes to the resupply effort, which is endless).

That's why I put "US" in quotes.  The private sector has a jobs program to keep the assembly lines going, but said program has nothing to do with the US Constitution or Declaration of Independence.

The age of once-proud nations is well behind us by now.  This is what "desovereignization" looks like:  a lot of pretenders behind the masks, trying to keep the illusion of "sovereign states" alive.  A bit of a corpse show.

Keeping the North Americans employed in bases around the world is a mainstay, and the legacy of the WW2 prime contractors irrigation system (aka LAWCAP).  They like the perks that come with the various occupations (pun intended) and stay compliant / obedient in exchange for low PX prices (comparable to Costco's) and access to red light districts, with veterans' benefits to follow if they hang in there and stay out of harm's way.

As Marty the PhD economist (panelist) pointed out:  on paper, the US squanders over a trillion a year on its military jobs program, a gross monument to the ineffectiveness of mankind.  If you ever wanted proof that patriarchs are incapable, here's your proof.  You might say the space program proves the opposite but the violence-prone want to ruin that too, make no mistake.

We had a Skype connection to Afghani non-violent activists which was cool (thanks Mireaya).  They were in an early morning time zone while ours was late evening.  Lots of translating went on as speeches and Q&A occurred.  One guy reminded us none of the 911 hijackers were Afghani.  That's true, but then gaining control over the world's opiate and cocoa leaf crops has little to do with 911 either.

One of our panelists (not mom) was in the frontier area a year ago, where most of the drone attacks occur.  Shameless dishonorable uber-cowards are in charge of those.

Mom was prepared to give a much longer talk, not an 8 minute lightning talk.  She got the audience interested, talking about our bus trip from Peshawar, with what amounted to a teaser or trailer (like a movie preview).  She did bring in her hero Ghaffer Khan, and did so again during the panel discussion.

As the off-duty chauffeur I ducked out to a liquor store during part of that getting Smirnoff's vodka and Bailey's irish cream.  Yes, I was escaping being social around then.  I get upset by these stupid ape-like creatures sometimes, though I'm one of them.  Is misanthropy "self hating" or more "alienating" or are these two the same?  Existentialists should discuss this question.

We and the Afghanis think the same way about the low-life scumbags who murder by remote control.  War criminals.  Like Nazis.  They'll be vilified for decades to come, in children's books, in museums, in history books.  Like the thugs running Gitmo (the puppet US presidents are helpless against them).

Neither we nor the Afghanis on the line had any easy solutions to recommend.  The militaries of the world have the weapons and use them to extort from less well armed civilians.   Or at least that's what the disreputable militaries are doing.

They perhaps have no choice, given they have no real skills or marketable talents other than stealing from others at gunpoint.  The education system has let us all down.

Let's be clear these Afghanis were as disgusted by Taliban violence as any brand name violence.  All brutal violence is ugly and stupid and hurtful (the antithesis of "sexy" except in Hollywood movies and uncool gringo TV) -- on that most religions can agree, despite their own track records.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

DC Withdraws from Governance

DC appears to be bowing out.

They call it a "government shutdown" meaning when I went to a Library of Congress website, I got this message:

Library of Congress

Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government,
the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice.

All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible
except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and beta.congress.gov.

So does this mean the Pentagon is no longer refilling its aircraft carriers with BP? No, of course not.

The Pentagon runs with or without the Feds as it's controlled by the private sector which uses DC as a sham, to give people the illusion of a Federal democracy among some 48 states in North America.

When democracy shuts down, the occupations (e.g. of Hawaii, Okinawa... Afghanistan) and permanent base construction proceeds apace. Mostly just civilians are affected.

DC is telling the world it no longer needs or wants to be taken seriously as a center of governance.

We get it.  That's been obvious for some time.

Washington DC has been in the process of de-legitimizing itself for quite awhile, starting aggressively with the Nixon Administration.

The question is:  when DC starts up its sorry show again, will anyone care?   Sure, many will.  It takes awhile to lower expectations so completely.

Switching medical services to other circuits would seem to be in order.  The MD community, doctors without borders, must be in high gear.  Shall we appeal to the UN for disaster relief?

The rumor is whole departments are soon to disappear, FEMA among them -- or am I reading the wrong sources?  We'll need more foreign aid and care packages than we're already getting.

Ever since the end of WW2 there's been a lot of cannibalization going on, as tax-funded research and development was privatized and spun off.

At some point, you go below critical mass and the whole thing just dies.  There've been lots of rehearsals.

How about the US Post Office, who or what will replace that?  We may not be able to take junk mail for granted anymore.  But what about pay checks?  Electronic transfers?

Do we need to designate a new capital city?  How about LA?

When they turn the ignition key will it start up again?  Under new management maybe.  These clowns can't be trusted with the Library of Congress, that much is obvious.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bumbling Professor Talk

At 9 minutes in.
I'm somewhat the wild haired space case in this one, an early morning session when people needed something energizing.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

PythonUK 2013

Drones, er, quadcopters, were a big hit this year, like at OSCON.

Controlling a quadcopter from within Minecraft, using Python on a Raspberry Py (alternate spelling):  that was a theme on the education track.  The whole Python + Minecraft thing is fun with or without the quadcopter element.

Judging from video clips, kids loved the event, as did their parents and teachers, including mentors from Bank of America, an event sponsor.

Source:  PyconUK 2013 Roundup

Don't have a Raspberry Pi but want to play with Python bindings anyway?  Lost Bear Labs has a solution you might try.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wanderers 2013.9.24

Patricia Rumer has followed the action in Guatemala since the late 1960s, when she saw police bashing skulls at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and decided she'd had enough of the USA for awhile, or at least needed some perspective.  That she got, in Guatemala.

What indigenous peoples have experienced at the hands of "the government" (a militia, more like Burma's) is going down in history as a Civil War, complete with genocide.  USAers may remember it from the Reagan years.  They won't remember the general, Rios Montt, against whom a lawsuit was brought, but then dismissed in a backroom process, after a guilty verdict.

I don't know if they wanted a grisly hanging or what, but he, at 85, still has the comfort of his family and many of them don't.

Indigenous folk are always great at using the civilized option, doesn't it seem, just as in the USA they're like walking encyclopedia attorneys when it comes to treaty law, whereas average gringos are sipping Slurpees [tm] and watching Beavis and Butthead on DVD.

I showed up early to provide A/V, though Patricia had brought her own Windows computer.  The PowerPoint came up just fine in Preview off her thumb drive; the Mac Air came through, as it often does.  I depend on it greatly.

The audience was a mix of those who had, and had not been to Guatemala.  We went around the table answering that question in particular.

Although I've been a gringo in a martial law zone, that wasn't in a Banana Republic, unless you count the USA as a Banana Republic, and that argument could and has been made (including by me).  You say we're not enjoying martial law but I'd say at least foreign policy has been pretty well militarized.

Diplomacy these days usually means "lip service" to something, and is not a serious career -- judging from recent scandalous admissions about relations with Iran.

Anyway, our audience was a mix and some were most interested in the more gender-specific injustices, such as rape, overwhelmingly a male offense, and sex trafficking (ditto).

Does it start in the School of the Americas?  We should get a copy of that school's honor code sometime, for analysis.  Lots of people have that school as their focus so this research sounds doable at least.  In which course is rape discussed and dissected as a tool of intimidation against a Cold War backdrop.

Actually there was maybe some question around the table about whether Cold War terminology was relevant any longer.  Lew Scholl was there, and Lynne Taylor, the latter being chief organizer of the recent World Religions confab (no Mormons, but then Atheists don't get much attention either and certainly we had one of those).

This was a high powered group, we Wanderers, lots of worldly experience.  And yet none of us sounds like a Cold Warrior.  We're pretty much bored with the "capitalism versus communism" dialectic.  What was supposed to come next again?  Some withering of the state wasn't it?  Shall we get on with it then?

Patricia was eloquent in her analysis.  She focused a lot on the need for bottom-up grass-roots decentralized planning styles.  If you want  your copper mines, why not willingly go through channels versus throwing all your eggs in some short term top-down basket?

Why cast your lot with some Burma-style militia?  Why not plan for the long term and do your mine in partnership, and with the proper feng shui?  Stretch it out.  Don't try compressing multiple generations into one.  Wheels have their different turn cycles.

If mining is truly unaffordable, the decision will be reached, but in a lot of cases, there'd be ways to develop the resources to some level without making enemies for life of the current landholders.

I'm not sure what US Embassies advertise as their role to political fundraisers for Congressional  positions.  Perhaps State is weak because it over-promises way more than it can deliver, which makes the military nervously insert itself lest "America seem weak" (how often do we hear that?).

Did you over-promise on the power of a US Embassy as a bully pulpit and now feel hat-in-hand towards your sponsors in some board game, where natural resources are like tokens?  Is this Monopoly?  Does DC even know what game it's playing?  Forgive me for not having all the answers.  An investigation is underway.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Drug Policy

One reason I'm skeptical that English may be used to write laws (I'm sure it is, but likely bad ones), is how it has three ways of thinking about drugs:

(a) you abuse them, which includes using them recreationally

(b) you need them for your illness or

(c) you need them but can't get them, for one reason or another (this can make you seem pathetic on fictionalized cop shows on television, where you're another meth junkie / walking dead).

These categories overlap.  English are moralistic and often see illnesses as morally deserved, so (a) leads to punishable illness (b) for which (c) is the punishment.  Hah hah, funny English.

But when you say meth do you mean speed?  Lots of business executives, male and female, are chugging through life on speed and I don't just mean caffeine.

Some have ADHD and take Vyvanse, Adderall, Ritalin for a reason, because they're sick.  Others are doing these recreationally, which is illegal, unless an "unscrupulous" doctor let them in on a lucrative diagnosis.

I say "unscrupulous" in quotes because I resent those who patronize psychiatrists who use their own judgement as to who gets the speed.  Mrs. Jones is slowing down big time and we could go into the reasons, but she really picks up on an ADHD drug, and Mr. Jones likes it better that way too.

You could do a big favor to that household if you wrote them a prescription.

But even that whole system is so patronizing.  If people had more freedom to self-medicate, with all the dangers to self and others that implies, then they would need to spend a lot more time learning to think, behave, and have the ethics of medical doctors.

They would need to be more health-aware and compassionate in general, because compassionate people don't "drink and drive" in all the billions of ways that can happen (no alcohol need be involved, where kool-aid is concerned).

If we had the ID thing down, then if you're the equivalent of an Eagle Scout, then go ahead and customize what's in your own medicine cabinet, you're Tom Cruise or Bruce Wayne and this is the science fiction future already.  The board is waiting.

Write scholarly journal articles about it and upload your biometrics, participate as a guinea pig in human subjects experiments, openly on the Internet, where lots of people can audit and see you're not mistreated.

You signed up for this.

A lot of people do drugs in this fashion, but usually only to (b) cure an illness.  If you do it to get better at sports, or at math, you're a criminal (if you think in English).  I mean yes, it is cheating the way some rulebooks are written, but where are the sports for which it's not cheating.  Give us those too.  Tours de Something.

What's missing from the English language is the concept of using drugs for work, like Protestant work ethic work, i.e. not because you have an insurable illness but because some medicines are tools of the trade (whatever trade -- jazz musician the stereotype).

People who use drugs in religious ceremonies are about the only ones carving a new space in English law, and their progress has been slow, because the cultural IQ is low and rising only slowly (a vicious circle, don't you see).  I used to visit the Voodoo House (a spoofy misnomer), an institution connected to this new space in the law.  Not that I ever got to try their kool-aid, an opportunity missed I guess.

So yes, I come out in favor of more OTC solutions, perhaps with ID checking and rule-based authentications.  I'm going to watch the NRA closely because they've been all over this territory in trying to persuade people about why a world with guns is a safer place.  Abusing guns is dangerous but guns in their place have their place.  Likewise, I'm saying, with controlled substances:  that you don't have to be sick to wanna use them responsibly (unless English is the box you think in).

Does this mean I'm for banning "recreational" as a category in favor of some new "professional" use?  No, I think the recreational category should stay.  But it's usually just lumped with abuse as another illegal activity and in that sense I'm saying Prohibition is still wasting too many resources on its hopeless fight against Pandora.

Far less expensive is reinterpreting Pandora.

It's somewhat overwhelming, yes, how much was in that box, a cornucopia, but it's not just the bad stuff, it's the good stuff.   And it's not always the stuff's fault, but how we're klutzy in using it.  We win a lot of Darwin awards, as humans.

She's more like a Santa, this Pandora.

Using Pandora as a scapegoat was what the "blame religions" were into, religions that focused "blame".  We've all met these religions.  They're a pain aren't they?

We're even rescuing Medusa with snaky hair from always being so scary-ugly.  Her visage awakened a conscience in Perseus and led him to consult with Wise Athena about matters of the heart.  His "slaying the gorgon" was not some triumph over an archetype, an impossibility, but a sign of his own journey in self mastery, a stage along the way in his personal Jihad.

Others can take it from there, you see where I'm coming from.  Less moralizing would be good.  English moralizing gets in the way of doctors without borders, all too often.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Heat (movie review)

Having the FBI lady meet the USPO lady in a bar made a lot of sense as both the FBI and USPO are government pressure cookers where people of varied ethnic background are expected to get lots of work done, sometimes really difficult work.  Ethnicity gets in the way sometimes, or makes for a diverse crackerjack team.  It can tip both ways depending on the day, if the team is still bonding.

The "team" in this movie is a duo and spans a stereotype range in the night sky (of stars), roughly from Sandra Bullock to Rosie.  A particular spectral band of womanhood post Wild West chapters, the gun toting still there, amped up even.  Rosie has a fridge full of guns, which Sandra admires.  No, I'm not making fun of the actresses by calling them by these wrong names.  They are both hardworking and competent.

The nerdy girl complex targeted by the FBI closely matches the nerdy Osama tracker's in Thirty Dark Zero [sic].  The homework pays off, redeeming these strong readers from wallflower unpopularity.  We spend a lot of time on the lonely lady's high school year book, speaking volumes about the "to whom" this movie is addressed.  Rosie is from Jersey City where I probably taught her sister's niece or something.  Just kidding.  Any resemblance to non-fictitious people or places is purely coincidental (except we're allowed to say Boston).  All my best to both characters in their policing careers. 

The film is out-and-out comedy, tongue-in-cheek to the max.  This helps offset the believability.  Girls are being pushed by urban America into a life of fighting crime.  That's what Americans do.  We have good people and bad people and tourist attractions if you're just visiting.  Not like we're imaginative or anything.  And even if we're cops, we're free to abuse alcohol all we like.  Whiskey gets a field day, as does Mercedes.

The cathartic violence against the "john" based on Rosie's mind reading powers, rewards its primary audience with instant street justice, the kind of gratification they're there for.  If you're an anthropologist, new to North America, and want to learn some ropes, see this film, not just Borat.  See it at a brewpub like I did, one that happens to show movies, eat some pizza, down some beer (they were out of 20 oz pints so I got two of the 16ers).

Was it risky to target an albino for the kind of joke where you make fun of someone's appearance?  The movie insists its harmless slapstick, basically vaudeville.  People are just funny, what can we say?  The other guy spoofs "bad actor" and that dovetails with our unconscious expectations.  But this film is more wicked than predictable.  I'm not going to diss it, so much as hold it out for anthropological study.  I'd like more psychological anthropologists on the job, not shrinks so much as people who analyze culture.  Saw a bunch at Reed College that time.  Impressive.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lunch at Maru


Mom and I were agreeing, over Japanese fare, that now was a fine time to be confessing how few and far between had been any diplomatic contacts between Tehran and Washington, DC, since the Shah was deposed, and yet we were already up to bombing again (Syria this time) a few days ago, from zero to sixty.

Military action is supposed to be a last resort after all diplomacy has failed but here is evidence of not even trying.  When diplomacy breaks down is when you need a flurry of diplomacy, or have US colleges and universities completely dropped the ball in teaching this stuff.  Has Woodrow Wilson School been replaced by West Point, when it comes to how conflicts should be handled?  May the historians investigate.

If John Kerry derailed the attack for the time being, he was just doing his job.  Diplomats should avert wars as a matter of course.  State should steal all the business, all the limelight, from the Pentagon from now on.  We don't want, need or care about the Cruise Missile Porn, generals on TV with their model jets, stroking their smooth lines, slobbering over the mayhem they're about to unleash on CNN.

Talk to Hollywood about that if that's your kinky complex.  Get your own Adult Movies studio.

We talked about Citizens Diplomacy or "second track", which in years gone by State has advocated.  Whatever happened to Citizens' Diplomacy?

It's just they're so rusty at diplomacy over there in the State Department -- overworked at the top, feckless around the middle -- that any talk of a "second track" immediately sounds threatening, potentially disruptive to one's career.

Like when the amateur athlete presumes to challenge the reigning champ.  The champ just hasn't been working out lately.  The smell of "rout" is in the air.  State is ashamed to take its shirt off and reveal there's nothing there and/or a lot of flab.  Been letting the military fight your dirty wars eh?  Nice vacation?

We have lots of Iranians in Portland, including a family I interviewed for Princeton, one of many.  We're talking intelligent professionals with satellite TV, lots of skills, highly personable.  If DC is too quick on the draw to reach for the cruise missiles, even before deigning to pick up a cell phone, then maybe we should help those poor slobs out, so desperately out of shape they've become?

"DC, you have three years to get back up to steam, in the meantime Portland will assume all your diplomatic responsibilities, free of charge, simply to save our own skins and build up tourism".  Sounds like a generous proposition.  We'll give 'em four years if they can't hack it.

So, hey, Iran, whaddya wanna talk about?  You wanna go back to calling it Persia and stop caring about old Anglo maps with stupid countries?  Yeah, that sounds like a conversation, we've been thinking that too.  Greetings from Cascadia.  How's the weather?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

AFSC Fundraiser


I returned to the Metanoia Peace House on 18th Street this evening.  Eddy Crouch and John Munson organized this check-writing ceremony on behalf of the local office, i.e. checks were to be coded a certain way so the money wouldn't be dispersed as general funds.  Call it earmarking.

I lured Lindsey into coming on the chance some Quaker Voluntary Service people were there, and there were, but I didn't know they were there, nor who they were, silly me.

Plus I'd made the mistake of describing them as "professional revolutionaries" to Lindsey which she interpreted a specific way.  I guess I was being somewhat tongue in cheek about anyone using that label, but then Linsdey had a plastic ID tag that touted strong credentials along those lines.

Her plan to publicly thank the Peace House for past support (food provisions) and to discuss a new serving site nearby, that might make use of the kitchen, did not come off.  At least she got to see the place and meet some of the people.  She came by bicycle of course, while Carol and I took her car (originally hers).

Our focus theme this evening was empowering young people to grow into leadership roles, and that in part meant making television.  Portland Community Media had a sign next to AFSC's and some of the thank you speeches included expressions of gratitude from AFSC to PCM. 


Because the focus was showing videos, the Door Project was not specifically mentioned, nor was Opt Out (Truth in Recruiting) nor some of the other youth-focused things we've been doing.  Instead, the "if I had a trillions dollars" program was featured.

Whereas that program was certainly apropos given the focus, from my own personal viewpoint, the "If I Had a Trillion Dollars" campaign / contest does not represent AFSC at it's most brilliant.  Portland isn't to blame.  It's a national program, and not one I personally have much love for.

But that's OK, it's not my role to automatically give a thumbs up everything the AFSC does.  I'm not a robot, or at least not that mindless a one.

The movie by and about migrant "Global U" students, on the other hand, had much more serious content.  It featured high school and college aged individuals without social security numbers (SSNs) and therefore with very limited prospects.

Refugees around the world are stuck in limbo, as the nation state system was never about serving everyone.  In theory maybe it was, but in practice it never worked out that way.  Millions of people are stateless as well as homeless.  There's no reason to hope that nation states will ever fix this problem.  They have proved themselves incapable, on many levels.

A paid signatures collector came to our door today, asking us to petition Oregon State to rescind the governor's decision to issue watered down driver's licenses to people without social security cards, (presuming they pass a driving test) and to let people vote on the issue instead.

As Pedro explained later, these licenses make the roads safer, as those without SSNs don't feel obligated to dodge the DMV.

But as I explained to the signatures collector, these are less powerful IDs than real Oregon State drivers licenses as they can't be used with the TSA to verify identity when boarding an airplane.  It's a watered-down ID.

The signatures collector had no idea about any of that, as those responsible for his training had done a cursory job.  We didn't sign in any case.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Practicing Democracy

Quakers bring skills from their professional lives to the life of their Meeting.  At the start of a recent meeting the clerk said "I'd like to start this call by..." and then self-corrected (this wasn't a conference call).  Another committee member started talking about the integrity of "the firm" as she's a lawyer at work or in some such professional practice.

The profile of a typical Quaker some hundred plus years ago, might be "slave owning businessman" with a conflicted conscience.  The anti-slavery movement was strong in England right from the get go.  And yet where did Jesus ever come out against "slavery"?  We talk about "human trafficking" today which should alert the more sensitive that we're in stormy waters:  the meaning is in the usage pattern, less so in the "word itself" (whatever that means).  "Slavery" is alive and well today (unfortunately) but goes by different monikers.

The profile of a typical Quaker today might be more "social worker" or perhaps "school teacher".  We have become less of an entrepreneurial class, charged with running big institutions, and now frequent the world of "nonprofits" and "NGOs".  That was my professional sphere, starting with CUE, though also Project VOTE! (Americans for Civic Participation, 501(c)(3)) before that.  Then I became a self-employed entrepreneur (1990) with Dawn (we created DWA, like a law firm) but we both continued to serve the same clientele:  the non-profits of Greater Portland (and beyond -- e.g. Clackamas and Washington counties).  We had a business license and everything (DWA was literally a "partnership" in IRS jargon, filing a 1065 every year, Dawn the experienced bookkeeper of the two).

Our Quaker Meetings are a lot like theme parks, like Oaks Park.   The committees are the rides.  In joining the life of a Meeting, you get to "simulate democracy" by involving yourself in a business process that's probably not run like your place of work is run.  Lots more rotation.  Lots more volunteerism.  The metaphysics is not particularly money-focused but there is a focus on paying the bills and planning for the future.  Whatever it's like "at work", here you get to play on Quaker-designed "monkey-bars" and that may stimulate fantasies of a future utopia in which more of the world works by these principles. 

Serving on Oversight is like riding the ferris wheel (the Big O):  you get the great overview.  Birth, marriage, death -- it's all there in microcosm.  Go on and go off, then go on again.  That's what I've been doing (going off in 2014).

Just got a call from The Open Bastion.  One of the interns has found a new job and we're taking her out to lunch to celebrate.  She was recruited from Code Scouts as I recall, a nonprofit Michelle manages.  My daughter interned here this summer, earning her keep in helping to scout out sponsorships for Djangocon.  So there's a lot of continuity in what I do, even though I'm more the standard for-profit sector worker in 2013, with DWA retired as a partnership (my wife died of IBC).  My level of volunteerism is still high.  Food Not Bombs.  Quakers.  AFSC.

The conspiracy (a weak one) to rebrand Oversight Committee as Pastoral Care Committee within NPYM has something to do with the trend towards Pastoral / Protestant Christianity more generally, among more reactionary older groups, mostly grays, like me.  The gist is "Oversight" and "Overseer" sound "too severe" or even "slave owny".  To me, it's a deliberate shying away from plain speech in favor of corporate "word-smithing".  Protestant Christians are spiritually immature (witness the Baptists of Buckman).

Fortunately, Quakerism is no longer completely controlled by the exclusively Christian among us, so we have some stronger overeers than you'd likely find among average Xtians of more mediocre faith.  Quakerism stands well-protected against too much dumbing down I'd hazard.  We must remain vigilant.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ghost Cities

I was out hunting for new-to-me memes tonight and tracked down Agenda 21, thanks to Wanderers (our widely flung intelligence gatherers -- e.g. harvesting from Terry Gross on NPR and such).

Agenda 21 is scary to free-wheeling capitalists as it represents the more Borg side of humanity, those eager to fit in well enough to build great Cathedrals (not "just" Bazaars the way they see it). Lets do something planned, top-to-bottom, not a patchwork, not sprawl.

The Ghost Cities look to me more like China's learning from the sprawlers' mistakes. Portland has had its own little Ghost City recently, but it seems to be filling fast. People don't throng to a construction zone, but do to a spanking new neighborhood, if the alchemy is right.

China isn't stupid about Feng Shui.

The whole Ghost Cities meme is maybe somebody's marketing ploy to get free publicity for these lifestyle options. Clever.  The lure of the mysterious.  "We're moving to a Ghost City." How cool.

Anyway, I like that this guy (the videographer) is out there with his videocamera, following up on 60 Minutes. We all know 60 Minutes goes over the line sometimes.

Stewart Brand, the Reed alum (like Jobs) and visionary, welcomes highly concentrated cities. Humans seem well adapted to pack and stack, but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy the wilds.  Just mount your bike and head out.

The wilds will be vaster and freer of humans to the extent humans concentrate and leave nature well enough alone.

Better a smattering of Borg Cubes by Paolo Soleri than strip malls 24/7/365 as far as the eye can see.

I think he has a point there.

The flip side of concentrating humans in cities is purging more nature of human beings. Not in the sense of totally forbidding access to thrill seekers, but not encouraging human settlement on a large scale either.

The infrastructure won't be there for that, though for a light powdering of humans, as in agriculture, there may be.  Those wanting small communities in relative isolation need not be disappointed, and again, people willing to be concentrated in high rises are helping them enjoy that option.

The same people may go back and forth of course.  I'm not talking about a daily commute but about life being in chapters.

Your school is in the wilderness, though amply high tech, while your first teaching job is in a densely populated area.

Then you take a wilderness job.  Then back to some brave new Soma City with some unique hive mind vibe.  Delphi had a vibe too, many over the years.  Humans achieve new synergies in cities.  Why diss that lifestyle?

Just because "both" (urban / non-urban) ecosystems exist doesn't condemn any given individual to an either/or choice of lifestyles.  Experiment with a full gamut.  Life is short, yes, but that's the hand you're dealt in being human.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

O'Reilly School: Regional HQS




Thursday, August 29, 2013

Code for America Projects?

I have two new areas for Code for America to consider, or maybe not new as I've not been privy to C4A's meetings.

My only real contact was with their CTO at the last OSCON, at the chairman's party (we were saying good bye to Edd Dumbhill in that role, a team effort, with Simon St. Laurent rotating in).
(1)  get enough volunteer parents who speak Laotian, Vietnamese, Russian or whatever, all the languages of ESL kids, and help them learn Python.  In teaching ESL with Python, we're focusing on a technical subject, requiring technical English, yet there's room to better their skills typing in their native languages.  There's a lot to work out and I'm not saying only Python should get to play.
(2) get enough traveling troupes together to help make the Internet come alive, as a culture and play space, for institutionalized or incarcerated individuals who might benefit.  This is a huge job and working with nursing homes is probably easier than working with prisons.  You want a population that's well briefed enough to stay safe enough to have the experience be rewarding.  Like when learning to scuba dive or roller blade, both potentially dangerous.  The Internet is not necessarily physically dangerous but it could do damage to your bank account.
Neither of these may seem sexy enough, but the anthropologists tell us that closing the grandparent / grandkid loop is one of the great secrets of a healthy culture.  There's no reason grandpa shouldn't continue to poke around in C or C# with those fifty years his junior.  Nor should a teen shy away from having some grandmas in the queue wanting questions answered about HTML.

I'm not saying anyone has to go to anyone else's house to make this happen, though I do have the CareWheels model ever at my fingertips.  That was Ron Braithwaite's program, a collaborative effort, to have non-invasive people monitoring services that kept older and frailer people safely in their homes for longer.  In that model, dispatching would be notified if Mildred needed a home visit.  My work with Clackamas County helped me envision the dispatching side of the business.

Imagine going to school and having a parent-engineer (doesn't have to be your parent) speaking Vietnamese while also teaching you English, with "learning Python" a conversation piece.

You don't feel "held back" as learning Python is learning a STEM-relevant skill, plus you're addressing the topics of internationalization, world languages, Unicode, head on.   Here's a safe spac to yak about culture and what it's like when they encounter one another.

The engineer might be there as an aide, along with two or three more aides, all of whom speak different languages.  They help students at their terminals, giving them suggestions.  They go back and forth between English and whatever else.

The main thing we're all watching might just be cartoons.

There's a way to rewind and pause.

But then you can watch them again at home (on Youtube?).  Each one comes in multiple languages but in ESL there's an emphasis on learning English (of course).  Keep going back and forth, learning Python and Unicode in between.  That's an ESL course many EFLers could benefit from.  Sign me up.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chernobyl and Fukushima

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Planning Committees

AFSC and YM Regions
North American Regions, American Friends Service Committee

As one of the NPYM reps with the AFSC corporation, I'm on the lookout for opportunities to integrate the AFSC's machinations within a Quaker context, which isn't the same thing as seeking exclusive control.  AFSC is a shared enterprise, an alliance builder.

My latest memos focused on the Doctrine of Discovery, whereby in some imaginations, vast lands became the property of some King or Queen or President or one of those, even as the people who lived there were informed of their new "undocumented" status.

The Doctrine of Discovery was part and parcel with the migrant worker policy of exporting excess populations to "bases" in the colonies, aka the New World (New Atlantis -- many visions were projected, many of them focused on the element gold (Au), not that the silver (Ag) people would be without their say).

Given these "bases" were that far away there was little to stop them from banding together and declaring their independence from the King, little beyond their own inability to get along.

You likely recognize this old story, which has actually been repeated many times, with different names and faces.

The Wabanaki of the Maine area sent delegates to our last AFSC corporation meeting in March.  They were interested in talking about the Carlisle Industrial School, which Quakers had a hand in, and in this Doctrine of Discovery, recently repudiated by the Episcopalians, and a focus of the Parliament of World Religions.

Our internal documents spin on a shared web server we call Star Cafe, which sounds somewhat Hitchhiker's Guide to my ears.  The 18 page overall National Plan is there, mostly about demonstrating the efficacy of non-violent development over wonton destruction, in terms of raising living standards.  You'd think that'd be a no-brainer but remember this is only 2013.  The regional plans, more detailed, get a bit more in to the nitty gritty (but not a lot).

Given the recent redrawing of the AFSC North American regions, there's a sense that our current drafts have a ways to go, but that's usual for living documents.  There's always inertia, things that already have momentum and can't be expected to just turn on a dime.

Whether the Doctrine of Discovery is mentioned explicitly or not in current draft language, I feel in a position to say it's topical among Friends, and a current focus of some intra-NPYM communications.

We'll talk more about it all when the Area Support Committee next meets.

For further reading:


click pix for more context

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Testing Diets

Doug Strain volunteered as a guinea pig during human subjects trials for the military.  He preferred to be in a freezing box car, eating various gruels, than being ordered by others to open fire or whatever.

The military study ascertained that a high protein diet was necessary to counter extreme cold, an unhappy outcome in the judgement of various bean counters, who were hoping cheap lard, maybe wax, would be the ticket.

Speaking of diet, schools that have switched to healthier fare have sometimes noticed dramatic improvements in student mood and attentiveness.

I'm sure there's some truth in the view that just sending the message one cares enough to improve the cafeteria offerings (add a salad bar) begets reciprocation, but there's even more truth in the view that a healthier diet helps stabilize and improve mood.

Food Not Bombs sometimes tests that theory by providing "green gruel" (as if we're back in that box car with Doug), somewhat like Popeye's spinach, to front liners into today's psycho-battles.

Do the tent people brighten up as they get more fresh Willamette Valley produce, rescued from a composting room when still in prime condition?  If they do in schools, why not in tent cities?

I've been a consultant for the Oregon Food Bank and respect the personnel and professionalism I encountered.

I also have no special ax to grind against Fritos or the Frito-Lay division of Pepsi, but lets face it, if you bring home a box of Mac 'n Cheese to be followed by Doritos then Fritos, you're not very high on the food pyramid.  It's not what the health-conscious executives eat in any of these companies, except for occasional snacks at company venues.

Replacing healthy meals with snacks only is what that Supersize Me guy tried, and look how he almost died.  I don't think the McDonald's Corporation would recommend doing the experiment he did.  Just because one opens a roller coaster park doesn't mean one encourages addicts to ride them 24/7.  Your company doesn't need fiends and ghouls to channel decent profits back to stakeholders.

Lindsey, one of the FNB cooks, was hard at it again today, throwing together a fresh fiesta salad with another pot of lightly cooked vegetables, generously spiced.  I had a bowl of the latter, having just treated mom and myself to Burgerville, complete with milk shakes and Walla Walla onion rings.

I could feel the "two cultures" contending for my body.  At Burgerville, I ordered from a car.  Lindsey takes her food downtown by bicycle.

She lives in the world like the world is a gym.  I need a special place called a "gym" or I'll turn to jello.

Speaking of which, it's time for a Guinness!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Leveraging Python

Some people come to Python because they heard you could get a website up and running in not that many steps, if you downloaded and installed something called Django.  There's more to it than that of course.  You need a public-facing web server with something in DNS (a name, a URL).

Should I say "an URL" and pronounce it "Earl"?  Some people do, whereas others say "You R eL".  I'm aware of the pun on Uri, not far from CERN, where http was invented.  URLs were originally URIs, Universal Resource Indexes.

Uncle Bill, 88, swung through today, enjoying public transportation, looping from Seattle.  He'd been to the "big Powell's" downtown, where a PSU professor just happened to be haunting the stacks, and directed him to well respected tomes on (a) the life and times of Mohammed and (b) the early spread of Islam -- topics of interest to many readers, and especially those steeped in history, like my uncle.  I recalled a book called The Arabists from Free Press.  I found the letter Adam Bellow sent me, son of Saul, when he sent me that book.  He was with Free Press then.  I dug it out of the garage, thanks to synchronicity, and gave it to Bill.

At "little Powell's" (across from The Bagdad), Bill and I looked at books on HTML and Python.  I was sketching some history of how / where I work and wanted to point to the publisher's logo.  I also had a copy of Make:, the "danger issues", all about making "sugar rockets" and a tesla coil 'n stuff.  The founder of that had discovered this math teaching school and corralled it for Sebastopol.  The Python book was Learning Python, but mostly we talked about HTML (Head First series) which I traced back for him to Boeing.  Boeing is familiar to Seattlites like Bill.  SGML came from there, from which were derived other ML flavors, such as XML and XHTML.

We crossed back over to The Bagdad and Steve Holden joined us, on his way for ice cream down the street at Ben & Jerry's.  Bill and I had just had breakfast at Cup 'n Saucer.

What's probably easiest to grok is "substitution" i.e. the Madlibs kind of thing, otherwise known as "fill in the blanks".  You start with the whole story then punch some holes it it, make those variables, which gives you a realm of possibilities.  If we're filling in with (x,y,z) coordinates, and the story is about objects such as cylinders and spheres, then we get colorful renderings in Pov-ray.  I worked for a toy company doing that for awhile, making realistic images of StrangeAttractors, which was actually manufactured in a last bid to put a great geometry toy in the hands of both children and adults.  Another plastic rod and ball-bearing affair, with detachable magnetic tips, cone-shaped.  The dimensions were those used in ZomeTool.  They came color-coded.

Doing the math requires rotation matrices.  You can do quaternions too, as "math machines" or "math objects" to make polyhedrons turn.  This was where Stickworks came in, my 3rd party library.  I'm still hearing the admonitions at OSCON to put licenses on all my code.  Apache's would work.  I just haven't gotten around to it.  I'm not even on github.  That's a social faux pas in geek world these days.  Gotta be on github.

My lightning talk at the Pycon EduSummit took us through an hypothetical fifth course in our series out of Sebastopol (actually the servers are in Illinois).  Cellular automata ala Wolfrom.  Not unlike the PSU systems curriculum in some ways.  Doing next, next, next... in the sense of exercising a Python generator, is a really good idea.  I have a whole farm, a kind of midwest place, built as a place for Tractors (instead of turtles).  We get into it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Great Gatsby (movie review)

"I was the same man inside and outside" is one of the refrains.

So is he betraying erstwhile friends in spilling these beans, or do we know from the get go it's a fantasy?

Gatsby is a self made man, in the estimation of our morbidly alcoholic in patient.

We think our Old Sport gets out, by telling his story, restoring perspective and sobriety.

At least he's learned some self discipline, thanks to a kind doctor who wants to nudge him along.

Like, if you study literature at Yale, what makes you think you're cut out to sell bonds?  No, you need to fall in love with your characters.

He's sailed around the world, went to Oxford, a war hero, and now he's at the top of the heap, all for love.  He's the hero of his own life, defined by his quest.

Anyway, whatever the critics say, I'm fine with this blending of imaginative, faux reality, with everyday movie-making competence.  We saw some of that in J. Edgar, even The Aviator.

The Coal World (a Machine World -- a Matrix) with the all-seeing billboard is clearly the occult unconscious, that feared-yet-attractive place, black and bleak, a place on which the rich project their darkest fantasies.

Our storyteller is initiated into this underground through his mentor's "game world", through a gas station, which for me echoed with eXistenZ and the gas station there.  Be a player.  Hop in.

What sustains the Gatsby's hope is his dream has come so far.  The dream-like quality of the scenery continues to feel like "in someone's head".

The storyteller is in a sanitarium we remember, with a case of writer's block.  We're living his dream, of perfection.  An alter ego.

Gatsby pushes too hard but who can blame him when he's so close.  He kind of blows it, there's a train wreck (metaphorically) and we, the omniscient voyeurs, see the waves of fear coming in.

"The best she could come up with was..." another refrain.  We fall short.  Tragic.

Operatic, that's the word.  The sets seem "fake" only in the sense that all fiction is "fake" -- a forgivable (indeed encouraged) playing with our truths.  An exploratorium, this skulletarium.

The grand estate-based aristocratic lifestyle with many servants, a choreographed affair, added to the sense of "a musical" with an all-dancers cast.

The panorama of the parties is very cabaret, like Moulin Rouge. "Very Fellini" said mom, astutely, thinking of Satyricon.

The city is very Gotham.  There's even a bat mobile of sorts.

Underwater again... love seems to end this way for DiCaprio.

Slinky Debicki was the perfect glamor girl.

Iron Man 3 (movie review)

Hah hah, I went to Laurelhurst Theater's web site and clicked on trailer for Iron Man 3, and got a notice the trailer was blocked by one or more of the content owners.  Blocking their own trailers are they?  Well, never mind about the film then.  I've heard from enough people that this is a miserable / terrible film to just leave it at that.  Fine with me if the "owners" lose money and reputation on this one.