Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Unknown Known (movie review)

I was lucky to have Carol, my mom, here to see this, and a forty-something happy to learn more from her after the movie was over.

This is more of a "mood piece" and well suited for Halloween, given the high quality Tim Burton style music.  Good work Danny Elfman.

A goodly portion of the film is caught up in word games, especially this one of going:

known known
known unknown
unknown known
unknown unknown

The middle two are the ones Rumsfeld is most interested in.  Sometimes you think you know something and you don't (unknown known) whereas other times you're gazing through fog, maybe knowing some new unknown?

Being Secretary of Defense does this to people apparently.

Carol pointed out that not much or any of the film focuses on the redesign of Pentagon weaponry that occurred under Rumsfeld's tenure.  Lots more with satellites nowadays.

The focus was more on war in the Middle East and the US getting its wish apparently:  an impossible to draw map.  The believability of the old borders has crashed and at least some of those memos seem to suggest this outcome was desired!

"You break it you buy it" is what Colin Powell said, no longer willing to just keep kicking it down the road.  Lots of unknown knowns in that picture.  Like what's "it" again?  Maybe Clinton knows, since he knows what "is" is, or appears to.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


:: not a failing, a find ::

One of my most annoying failings is I lose track of important items, and then have trouble accounting for where I might have left them, meaning "lost or stolen?" remains an open question.  My dad understood how annoying to oneself and others this not being "on the ball" could get to be, and he reminded me to "stay on the ball" from time to time.

Given how often I lose my prized things, I waste a lot of time obsessively looking for them, often to no avail.  The etymology of the pejorative "loser" is obvious:  one who loses.  Losing is a symptom of ineffective self disciplines, which may come across as, and may be, self indulgence.  Indeed, on a world scale I have my share of treasures and should not take them for granted.  I work on those disciplines, and for long periods I've known relatively better success rates.

A way to compensate for a tendency to lose is to quickly save a copy or image somewhere.  Document the existence of items.  Keep those documents at least.

I've focused on losing in this blog post, however a tendency to break things, or not fix things in need of repair, might serve as material for additional exciting Failings episodes.

I forgot Dick Pugh was giving an excellent and well attended talk on meteors tonight at Wanderers, and was thinking to process my frustration a bit.  Finding that psychotherapy venue temporarily well occupied, I turned to the old fashioned dear diary format.  What's a journal for if not for Failings?

Quakers have had committees for Sufferings, and express Joys and Concerns.  But Committees for Failings?  Perhaps we could focus on those sometimes.  However we don't want to turn ourselves into some commune based on various forms of public humiliation and shaming.  Those patterns have been tried and found to not work over the long haul.

Even while writing this I managed to temporarily lose, then find, two important items.  At least I still have the camera and cell phone, for the time being.

By best guess is the Samsung Galaxy 10.1" tablet got swiped from the back seat of an unlocked car a couple days ago and I'm just noticing.  I promise to confess here if I find it after all, or if it's returned (unlikely).

In the meantime, check out the wonderful find Glenn shared with me this morning, a book about making patterns with thread in a cylinder, used in the 1960s at some alternative ("underground") school in New Mexico.

Click the picture to get into the Photostream for more.

OK, after visiting The Bagdad and asking them to check lost and found, the stuff appeared, both the hat and the tablet, on a dining room chair tucked under the table.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Stage Fright (movie review)

This is a golden oldie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Given it's so old, I'm including some spoilers, though if you're a Hitchcock fan you already know to expect plot twists.  Knowing them does not detract from the effectiveness of their implementation.

He's playing with the assumed omniscience of the camera, as signified by a character entering a front door of a house, and closing it, yet we the audience are magically inside, nothing closed in our faces.  We're in!  We'll get to see the body too!

The character proceeds up the staircase and we're taking in every detail, sure this is all a true memory, given the frame for this shot is all a flashback, a story being told by an innocent fugitive just trying to do the right thing.

A theme is humans manipulating one another, which is sometimes a good thing as when coaching a team of players to win games, other times trickier, as when withholding critical information that would make a world of difference to some player.

Our heroine needs to do some under-cover work while eluding a detective working the same case, without getting caught.  The heroine's dad is also a conniver.  The dad clearly has his daughter's interests at heart.

The movie builds up our rage against the vain and seemingly superficial Marlene Dietricht, until we realize she's actually not as portrayed in the flashback.  When we realize that's all a made up story in most respects, it's almost too late in the game.

That's how Hitchcock plays tricks with our miss-assumed voyeurism.  We're lulled into thinking we're omniscient, but we're not.  We've been hoodwinked by the master director again.

Ordinary Smith (Wilfred) adds a lot to the plot in having more of a "steel trap" kind of mind, as detectives are wont to develop.  He puts two and two together rather quickly, given sufficient information.  The under-cover girl is like that too, so one senses they'll make a good couple.

I wrote all of the above before watching the Special Feature commentary on the DVD, wherein the camera through the door shot, and the "false flashback" are much discussed.  I'm gratified I could come up with such on-target commentary all on my own then.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mathematical Meetup

As some long time explorers in this blogs will know, Wanderers was blessed with several sons of Cal Tech, which makes sense given ISEPP's history and ties to Linus Pauling, x2 Nobel Prize winner.  I recently had lunch with one of these alums (the reflected ambient light is from a Thai restaurant in the PSU area downtown).

How do judges decide who wins in science fairs?  That's a deceptively simple question, which I will couch in the isomorphic namespace of a "beauty contest".  First assume the impossible:  all the judges completely agree because they're all clones of each other.  As omniscient onlookers, we have ahead-of-time knowledge of how the ranking should go.  And the judges, in retrospect, would all agree with said ranking.  Like I said, impossible.

Now here's the wrinkle:  you have sixty "beauty queens" (assuming nothing about gender) or "prima donnas" and each of ten judges only gets to interview twelve of them.  No judge interviews them all (too many contestants, not enough judges -- a realistic constraint based on actual science fair data).  Every candidate is interviewed twice (10 * 12 == 60 * 2).  So what affect on final results does the initial random assignment of each judge's twelve make?

Running such analysis thousands of times suggests noise is greatest in the middle, as certain pairings will not have been made.  No one will have compared X to Y, by happenstance, and this missing puzzle piece degrades the result.  A runner-up always has the excuse (legitimized by this study):  "just bad luck, I should have ranked higher and the judges would agree with me had they seen us all." That's what the math says too.

I should hasten to add though, that these "zombie-clone judges" who all agree do not represent the typical science fair judge, or even beauty contest judge.  For one thing, with proper mathematical tools it's possible to compensate for these "luck of the draw" issues.  Judges caucus precisely for this reason:  to avoid robotic behavior and thereby falling victim to the exigencies of pure mathematics.

Good job explaining David!  I hope I captured the essence of what you're finding.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Regarding Titles and Tithes

When talking about Restorative and/or Healing Justice, Quakers of the Liberal / Progressive persuasion tend to steer clear of shaming or "guilt tripping" as a technique.

Among the churches which practice "tithing" -- a kind of taxation a non-profit is allowed to impose in lieu of having the government do it ("separation of church and state" principle) -- the congregants or "flock" may be asked to "pony up" or leave the institution ("in shame" is the presumed threat, as in "excommunicated" or as in "God will not love you anymore").

Quakers were kicked out en masse when they refused to tithe and instead banded together as one of the first "tithe-less churches", changing the name to "meeting" in the process, precisely to get around the stereotypes and misguided notions of what "shared worship" was all about.

The Church of England was top-down in those days, as this short documentary about George Fox and his teachings will attest.

"But if you don't tithe, how can you afford to pay pastors?"

Answer:  we don't.  All our positions except maybe child care and a couple others of a routine nature are unpaid, volunteer positions.  That's how we keep it open to newcomers and old timers alike.  I've served on Oversight Committee a lot for example, above the Clerks by design (a supervisory function) and yet never got a dime for so doing, again by intentional design.

We call it "management by rotation" and it makes a world of difference.  A typical church becomes top-heavy with administrators mighty fast, and once they control the check book, it's all over.  Not so with Friends.

From Facebook this morning, quoting from Bad Quaker (a good web site):
"Some other interesting tidbits about Quakers: Titles of honor; Quakers refuse to use or acknowledge titles of honor. That is to say, titles given to men or women for the purpose of distinguishing them apart or above other men or women. "
My comment:  That's all fine and good until they say you deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. What Quaker is gonna turn that down?

 But then who would be so immodest as to accept?

Solution: get the AFSC to do it. Spread the glory, and don't single anyone out as "too special" (the Catholics don't like uppity monks or nuns either).

What Quakers have to offer is not so much reparations, as an alternative to the top-heavy hierarchical organization types that have dominated humanity since Pharaoh and before.

We're not the only ones doing it (praise Allah) e.g. last night's AFSC Liaison Program conference call with Philadelphia was all about a Unitarian technology or format geared towards "non-punishing" forms of healing.  We learn from others, they learn from us.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good WIthout God

My Facebook Friends may notice I'm repeating a lot of the same themes both in my blogs and in my Profile.  Makes sense right?

The above interview speaks for itself, however I want to underline the strong Code of Conduct that's being underlined here:  don't use your abilities as a spin doctor to mislead people into thinking you really have supernatural powers (or beware -- you'll be exposed for the charlatan you are).

That being said, within the scope of "natural abilities" (not supernatural) we're still exploring what humans are capable of. Skepticism is not about closing the door on serious study of the hitherto unexplained.  We wouldn't have the science we have today if that were the prevalent attitude.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SimCity for Real

Dumpstering a House

All over Portland they're crushing "wooden tents" (homes) and replacing them with more "wooden tents" (nothing aerospace, don't worry, that market is still under-developed).

Yes, the 1% has decided "Occupy is Sexy" (not that we had a Wall Street sized gathering, but respectable):  lots of retired young people.  The New York Times can never say enough it seems.

SE Division has been transformed.  This four-story is going up across from Angelo's (where Lindsey and I first met, introduced by Patrick).

Commercial / Residential

Monday, October 13, 2014

Revised Org Chart?

Org Chart (Draft)

In light of predictions, well-founded, that Multnomah Meeting will continue having a Peace and Social Concerns Committee, and that for its part the Portland AFSC office will have its Area Program Committee (supporting staff and volunteer programs), overlapping membership should take care of any "liaison" needs. Having someone with such an important role sitting "ex oficio" (means what again?), redundantly with everyone else on both committees, is a misuse of world resources. Right sharing means dymaxion i.e. optimized at least a little (smile).

So to that end I'm proposing to enlarge my playing field to where I could be invited to address some Humanist and/or "Good without God" atheist conclave, and not have to worry about backlash from Orthodox Friends, who tend to run the show even in some ostensibly Liberal Friend (inheriting from Progressive Friend) meetings. "You schmooze with atheists you can't still be liaison" is a way of bossing some Quakers just assume, given the ancient org charts in the library ("out of date" is putting it mildly).

The Liaison Program is like a speakers bureau, so if the Liaison they send you the first time does not resonate with the group, the SurveyMonkey reports (or whatever) will reflect that and maybe next time the Liaison will be more pastor-like with a deeper more resonant "stained glass voice". Some congregants are uncomfortable without the "right mix" of hormones in the room (some people are finicky about the cocktail, the pheromones).

Having more than one Liaison per region is partly an antidote to that problem, and partly a way of challenging congregants to get out of their "comfort zone" from time to time, and meet and greet AFSC people outside their everyday experience.  Like at the circus!  Or a carnival!

Anyway, I for one think it's a good idea.

Quakers already have lots of ways to boss the AFSC, from the top down. At the top, their YMAs fill the Corporation and the Board with a mix of recorded members and "Walt Whitman Friends".

 In the middle, Regional Executive Committees help chart strategies for the region.

At the area level, you may have an Area Program Committee if your office is big enough.

Portland's, with just two staff, is certainly big enough. We have a clerk, recording clerk, a Google Group, and a way for distant members to patch in at designated meeting times. I've been serving on this committee since its inception (AFSC reconfigured recently, which is why this structure might seem new).

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Progressive Friends

 :: Quaker Elder with Reflective Ministry ::

Having recently viewed the Ken Burns documentary series on Prohibition, I was interested to learn Chuck's take on the Quaker position, which, not surprisingly was almost entirely pro. So how can Quakers boast of their "cutting edge" track record, i.e being on the right side of history, when so clearly they favored retrograde policies? Even the so-called progressives did.

Refreshingly, Chuck is not some apologist or "lawyer for Quakers" and lets the past be what it is.  The truth is more interesting than our myths.  As my mom put it on the way to meeting this morning, "Quakers weren't even allowed to have pianos" i.e. "Fox was a Puritan, maybe not of the usual kind, but a Puritan nonetheless."

I was thinking on the way home, "gee, I hope it wasn't the influx of Quakers to Richmond, IN that spoiled that town's fledgling piano industry".  I'd hate having to live down such a killjoy reputation.  Anyway, I have no evidence to support such a story (yet).  Quakers certainly did not kill off beer as Richmond has a fine micro-brewery of Quaker lineage, which I visited a couple times on my last sojourn in Richmond (Ohio Yearly Meeting was gathering and I joined their concluding worship).

So yes, Quakerism was significantly diluted by Puritanism right from the get go.  With advancing age, however, I'd say many branches of Quakerism have shed this heritage, like an old snake skin, outgrown.  Likewise, Islam in North America has shed much of the misogynistic heritage it picked up in the Abrahamic tradition (or wherever that comes from) and is currently thriving as a more or less feminist institution in towns like Lake Oswego.  Women own their own travel agencies, drive fancy cars and have the latest smartphones, thanks to Islam

Thursday, October 09, 2014