Friday, May 22, 2015

Directory Services

As the NPYM Tech Clerk (IT Committee), I've been looking at the issue of name badges across the full spectrum of Unicode character sets.  Given our regional personnel are schooled in the Anglo alphabet, I'm using Last, First for collation, using the A-Z phonetic alphabet, but then allowing any glyphs in Full Name.

For example if your name is Лэрри Фэргуссон (fake Russian pseudonym) then you can have that on your name badge, but the Friend fishing it out for you is going by phonetics.  Л is an El sound (L) and Ф we all recognize from Phi, as an F sound.  So in finding the nametag, a Last = "F", First = "L" search algorithm is used.

My original vision was of R2DToo / Dignity Village as field-testing campuses for such as Institute for Integral Design's lean-to prototypes, made of a pan deck material and solar paneled, better than simply corrugated metal, already a staple in refugee world.

Other refugee camp / disaster relief shelter solutions would likewise get a dress rehearsal in these pre-deployment testing zones, with MVPs flying in to PDX to get the tour.

R2DToo aka Right to Survive, is already a refugee camp, in downtown Portland (W Burnside).  Dignity Village is close to PDX (Portland Airport) and to a prison.

These are not new ideas, as far as these blogs are concerned, i.e. I've been suggesting prototyping disaster relief solutions in disaster relief villages for quite awhile.

R2DToo is "North Campus" vs. PSU as "South Campus" in terms of Portlandia geography.  Most people refer to North and South Park Blocks as parallel concepts.

Speaking of PSU, Linsdsey is eagerly awaiting her transcript from FSU (Florida State University, where Dawn also went) which should come by snail-mail to Blue House.  I'll scan it and send it to Nepal as PDF or JPG, and she can share those documents with her language-teaching university.

With enough bona fides demonstrating her intention to be a full time student, she'll get that student visa, less restrictive than the tourist one.  She's been pursing getting such an upgrade all through the many earthquakes and resulting devastation.

Institute for Integral Design is Glenn's idea.  Last time AFSC was planning to move, from E Burnside to somewhere else, he nursed the hope of NGOs banding together for a building on Hawthorne, by now a furniture outlet.

I knew it was a long shot, and AFSC ended up moving to ElderPlace / Providence, an admin building on Belmont across from Horse Brass.

Just as Philadelphia was choosing to pull the plug on its Portland Peace Program sponsorship, I suggested the Pauling House campus for a gift shop ala Laughing Horse Books, replacing the vacating Anthology Books.

That was a long shot again.  A high end tattoo and piercing studio moved to fill the void.  ElderPlace stays landlord for the AFSC office, home to an industrial strength photocopier, though that's clearly a back office.

E Burnside had a receptionist and was friendly to walk-ins in the old days, before AFSC became a ghost of its former self.

However, Stark Street Meeting (SSM) has a PSCC (Peace Committee) so the idea of needing non-Latin-1 nametags for some Portland AFSC meetup (co-hosting) is not as far fetched as one may imagine.

They've co-hosted / co-sponsored events before, and could again.

If NPYM, in the meantime, has helped make the nametag situation more cosmopolitan, then kudos to Quakers for being catholic (open minded) in that regard.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (movie review)

DSCF8656

A Mad Max movie is like one of those human subject experiments one may never run, not just for ethical reasons but think of the expense.  Science fiction screen play takes over and we do anthropology in a simulator.  The players throw out their hypotheses, as to how humans would cope, and we in the audience, the spectators, engage and endorse somewhat to the extent we empathize with the characters and their motivations.  Do we understand this reality?  Does it ring true in some way?

In a Mad Max, the virtual reality is horrific in that most technology has been removed except the gas guzzlers.  You get an oil refinery, a bullet factory, lots of vehicles driving around shooting each other, lots of road rage, and that's about it, a very simple simulation.

The humans form into pyramid hierarchies that apex in some "strongman" archetype (like a Saddam or Qaddafi).  The leader clique controls the water supply and the rabble get all religious about what this means.  Unionization, forming into agribusiness co-ops, let alone revolution and wealth redistribution, is not in the cards, as peoples religious tendencies are turned against them.  That part rings true enough.

Furiosa, the protagonist (Max might be her alter ego), is tired of how women are treated in this domain and remembers a better place.  She has made her way up in the ranks in this almost entirely male hierarchy, as one of them, but she was a kidnap victim from the start and these are not her people.

She's always felt alienated and decides its time to right the balance.  She's going to seize the day and get the women to that greener place, a place in her memory from before the kidnapping.

Max reins her in at a critical juncture, talking practicality and reality and saying we need to face our original fears and not forever run from our deeper selves.  Not that it's quite so psychological in that way.  All the metaphors are geographic in this invisible landscape, this teenage wasteland.

The drones or fan-boys who love the strongman at the top, don't have much use for children or women except as tools of their pyramid.  Harvesting milk and feeding infants has been outsourced.  There are no "fathers" per se.  However, in the emerging relationship between one of the breeders that Furiosa is rescuing, and a fan-boy, we see that human nature still retains a latent ability to form male-female bonds.

I caught this movie on my birthday thanks to Melody, a good friend and experienced world traveler.  We talked about Belize and the Mennonites there.  I was going on about Amish Mafia on the Discovery channel (I've only watched previews so far) and wondering what a Quaker Mafia would look like.  We went to Yard House on 5th both before and after the film, at the Regal in Fox Tower, which had devoted a majority of its cinemas to Mad Max viewings, including a 3D option.

Melody, who reads a lot, wished the narrative had veered off the action track and explored this virtual world a little more, giving us a richer context, perhaps with back stories and flashbacks (ka-ching!).  The twelve hour version probably has that (smile).  I agreed.  This was like a whirlwind tour through Narnia wherein we only have time for one battle and a quick interview with Aslan, then its back home, tour over, so many questions still unanswered.  Melody thought the funniest touch was the fan-boy rock star, with drummer backup (all very portable), a fitting signature of this psycho-wasteland.

DSCF8660

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Be Unusual. It's OK.

I'd not worry about some fixed universal true meaning of "game" in Plato's World of Ideas.

Being of "language game" (LW) and "World Game" (RBF) heritage, I'll obviously come with my own spin, but so does everyone "mean" (i.e. "spin") in some way.

Are maths "really" but language games? But what is "language" here? "Forms of life" said LW. So it just keeps on going. One spin after a next.

Follow what beaten tracks you will, or go off beat. Many games to play that way too. Be unusual. It's OK.

Kirby


From this Reply-Tree at math-teach

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (movie review)

I'm very far from being a deep Marvel or DC comics scholar.  MAD was more my beat.  These X-Men, Fantastic Four and Avengers were familiar to me, Hulk especially, but that hardly counts when it comes to fandom.

We all find our angle if willing though, and I'm in love with the Natasha character (I love Lucy, one could say, or call her Her) and find her being "Hulk whisperer" appealing.  Captain America is a brooding philosopher, so ironic given his outfit.  "Maybe he's right and we are monsters" he mulls aloud, in the midst of a pitched battle with their eternal foe.

Ultron is brilliant, as is the spawn of Ultron and Jarvis, but let me not give away the whole plot.  You'll wanna see it.

I love the way comic book writers can just suddenly supply details.  The classic rural farm, so like the one in Interstellar in some ways, shades of Furious 7...  Superman was here.  A family from nowhere.  The Avengers express surprise, just as do our avid readers, the fans...

Anyway, our family has been Joss Whedon buffs for awhile now.  If only Nietzsche had had Whedon instead of Wagner to look up to, we might not have had Hitler.  We wouldn't have needed the big falling out and misunderstanding and we could all have been happy Egoists together -- or at least that's how it's seeming now.

Really funny and quirky is how Thor, son of Odin, is on stage from another mythology, pre Marvel, yet accepted as one more Avenger, one of the Elders thereof.  Such a tip of the hat to mythologists, one writing crew to another, to welcome Thor aboard, among the immortals.

We're more suspicious of Tony Stark and his defense contractor reflexes.  Ultron is prepared to use that to split the Avengers and therefore win.

But lets remember the Avengers themselves have a supporting cast.  After the CIA blew it in the last episode, under the milk-drinking evildoer Robert Redford, the aircraft carrying quad-copter is back, ready to evacuate the Eastern Europeans from their Dracula, ur Ultronic Lord.  Good to see us being friendly with those folks instead of using them for target practice.

The Hulk is becoming more brooding and Natasha is ready to admit there might not be a viable child of such outliers, but the relationship is real nonetheless, already complete in the immortal chrono-log of another might-have-been Universe (aren't they all a tad fiction?).

Friday, May 08, 2015

Axing Staff in West Region

After repeated assurances that a move would not mean a downsize, thereby garnering our support as a Committee, the West Region management team:  (A)  downsized our Office and (B) dissolved our committee.  After we worked our butts off to move out of the old office, friendly to walk-ins.

The staffer that worked hardest to accomplish the move is the one for the chopping block, most ironically.  And walk-ins?  No one knows where the new place even is (hint:  near Red Square and Movie Madness).  We've gentrified ourselves out of the picture.

So why do Quakers allow such evil in their name?  Well, for one thing, they don't know what's going on.  Regional Executive Committee is devoid of Oregonians so it was easy for the unrepresented state to have its Office axed, despite promises and lies.

These people hardly ever meet and most Quakers don't know what a listserv is and therefore expect the world to plod along as slowly as they do, with Business Meetings only monthly (guffaw), or less.  Organizational memory leaks away in conference calls, nothing recorded.  What a mess.

Nothing really gets done at this pace and our numbers are understandably dwindling.

Also, Quakers are losing their enthusiasm for Peace Work and prefer the blanket comfort of being against Climate Change, as if the Biosphere had ever not been changing, and yes, thanks to humans in large degree.

Such a nice safe discourse, the suburbs compared to inner city struggles with Racism and other cancers of the soul, such as Affluenza and "nuclear superiority" (oxymoronic in the extreme).

So sweet and antiseptic, to be against "oil trains" while gassing up at the nearest pump (oil is cheap this summer and USAers are guzzling like mad).  Who in the Pacific Northwest wants to ruin nature?  Talk about playing it safe!

Given a combination of ignorance and apathy, it's no wonder the back office blood suckers are able to ax the talented while keeping jobs for themselves.  Capitalism gets away with so much profitable crime, is right up there with organized religion on that score.

The relocated Office is in a building prominently marked for sale by the way.  Did our earlier landlord kick us out?  No.  Were our co-tenants begging us to stay?  Yes.  Glowing promises of a better tomorrow are what suckered our Committee into stepping off a cliff, score one for the West Region management team.

Even when the bottom line was starting to look good, they pick on Portland, as if we had nothing to do with things getting better.  I say we did, and we will continue the Peace Program in Portland, with or without Quaker support.  The Unitarians have proved reliable.

Things look pretty bleak for the AFSC though, just as it was turning one hundred years old.  Rufus Jones was a cool dude but couldn't predict everything, not even Hari Seldon could.

Will we recover by 2017?  Not necessarily.  They're pretty stuck in their ways in Philadelphia, I'm able to report, having been to quite a few meetings there.  Actual people want to talk Doctrine of Discovery and show up prepared to do so.  But these privileged Corporation folk just want to preach to the choir and pretend our West Region will just go away.  That's the east coasters for ya.

Don't expect too many miracles from people who know nothing much beyond Windows (we have some stellar staff, but are way top heavy in admin, judging from experience on the ground, not from abstract financials).

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Quakers: What Do We Offer?


A Quaker Meeting is less a "church" than a "business" as the original Friends had greater trust in the honesty of bookkeeping and plain speech when the "hireling priests" were not in the picture.  Church was a corrupt institution in the eyes of these early Children of the Light.

The purpose of Quaker business is socially responsible, i.e. if Corporations are People, then a Meeting has to live up to some high standards, unlike a Corporation of the purely money-making variety (these latter tend to have many pathologies and short half-lives in any case).

Through participation in the business of Quakers, members of the public reconnect with a way to get work done as equals and by consensus.

Equality does not mean we're all clones of one another, or are striving to be.  Rather, we respect one another as athletes in a Metaphysical Olympics of sorts, with some high achievers outrunning or outgunning the rest of us.

I say "outgunning" in a tongue-in-cheek fashion as Quakers pride themselves on keeping their weapons "inward" i.e. the invisible / ephemeral world of warring memes is where Quakerism builds its open bastion and takes up its mission.

Our mission is not to convert the world to Quakerism or Christianity.  Diversity is welcomed and treasured.  Religions come and go.  The best religions are likely still to come.

Our mission is to provide those already convinced of Quakerism's effectiveness and its value in their lives with opportunities for structured practice, meaning Meetings for Worship for Business and work on Committees at the very least.

The Peace and Social Concerns Committee is one of the most important, as that committee is about putting Quaker values and teachings into practice, bringing healing justice into the world.  PSCC is where Friends practice their skills with the Sword of Compassion (another meaning of "jihad" in fact).

As a non-profit Corporation, your Meeting has officers in the eyes of the state, but it also has roles, likewise public facing.  Quakerism is a role playing "game" though to say "game" does not imply we're not serious.

The good order of Friends promotes transparency, not just carrying private fantasies around in our heads about who has what role.  The clerks, rewarded not by coins but by a deeper experience of their Faith & Practice, facilitate and record, as the Committees go about their business.  We know who they are and what job descriptions they follow.

Indeed, the slate is one of the Meeting's most important public-facing documents, as it puts in writing what Business Meeting has approved, of Nominating's recommendations.  Any Monthly Meeting wishing to be taken seriously has an up to date slate, easily available as a matter of public record.

Sometimes people ask about Membership as in "do I need to become a member to participate in Quakerism?"

The short answer is "no" and indeed one is encouraged to work on committees in a "try before you buy" mode.  "Convincement" comes through practice, not through "leap before you look" mindless / reflexive behavior.   Skeptics are most welcome.

The long answer is: membership provides a way to be public and out of the closet about one's Quakerism.  Some cannot afford this luxury and need to keep their affiliation hidden, but for those willing to brand themselves Members, that institution is alive and well.

Contact your Oversight Committee for more details on how to apply.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Old Dog Coaching

I had several great hours with lithe and slinky greyhounds, Rhys and Rusty.  Gorgeous dogs, working class, bruised from years on the track.  They deserve this retirement, cared for by truly kind humans.

My Sarah, an old dog, was also getting lucky, as Deke didn't just keep her fed, he kept her on her feet and moving.  I'm guessing he added months if not a year or more to her constitution.  She tripped on her long toenails today though.  I need to get her to the clipper, aiming for this Saturday. I've done it myself but I prefer to let someone do it who does it often.

Tomorrow is the May Day March and Rally, which the unions are sponsoring, as well as individuals.  We're working hard to pull it together.  Management sometimes doesn't lift a finger when it comes to standing up for those who actually do the work, the unsung heroes.  A lot of people just sit around and "own", a more passivist approach.  Taking the credit is sometimes easier than doing the job.

We don't all share the same culture, even company-wise.  If your company is cruel, don't conclude they're all cruel in exactly the same way.

Taking care of other humans is a full time job.  Then there's being taken care of.  I'm suggesting it's a two way street, and there's no omniscient eye available to any human that shows all the bookkeeping.  For all our talk of transparency, Universe is what it is in that sense.  Is there really "dark matter"?  We're somewhat in the dark about what exactly that might be.

Humility means recognizing one's ignorance is right there in one's face, not far off in some distant "we'll get there someday" sense.  We're there right now, right up against it.  Facing one's own ignorance is always a possibility, and does not require judgements or conclusions.  What's more interesting is the darkness itself, leaving aside all the monkey chatter about what's so.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Against the Grain

Most of the teachers / learners here still use letter grades.  They're spreading this ideology of A-F via distance learning tools.

I'm glad other points of view are out there (such as Scott Gray's), as to how learning is best encouraged and rewarded.

Getting it right, even if it takes multiple attempts, is better than getting a C with no chance to redo.  I share Scott's views in many dimensions ("dimension" is a buzz word around here).

I'm a little sad to see edu domains "polluting" cyber-space with such a stale brand of academic experience.

At least they have some competition from the com and mil sectors, not to mention gov.  I hope South Africa doesn't clamp down on companies with more imagination.

Sometimes I say "I need to do some grading" but what I'm doing is providing a gradient, some steepness.  Powering up a gradient is a way to build strength.  Think of a gym.

So I use the term loosely.  I haven't handed out a letter grade in three years.  Learning works better this way.

On the more positive side, I like what Michigan is doing to redesign high school to make it more of a blend of on-line and off-line work-study in a more office-like setting.  Nexus Academy is the trailblazer here.

Michigan still uses letter grades though.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Garden of Eden


As I was explaining to Heather, the original conception behind the Climatron was to provide what J. Baldwin would prototype using argon gas-filled pillows:  a Garden of Eden dome.

These were later developed on a larger scale in Cornwall.

The homestead inside a dome, in some ways a cell nucleus, could have "flimsier" construction materials, though sometimes soundproofing is important.

A spiral staircase or elevator might connect the floors, but rain and wind would not be a factor, as the dome would be a shield against the elements, providing habitat for permaculture, aquaculture, whatever forms of horticulture.

Perhaps it's a Quaker-founded brewery, like Boswell's in Richmond, Indiana, with some of the ingredients right there in the dome with the tanks.  Or the fermentation tanks could be in another facility, with caretakers living amidst the greenery.

So many permutations might be tried.  So many experiments waiting to happen.

However, architects are not exploring these possibilities much in 2015.

Could we still build domes like the Climatron today?  Perhaps in the Orient.

The Garden of Eden dome concept has become  disconnected in the popular mind from Old Man River City (OMR).  School children are not taught American history. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is Terrorism?


I'm auditing an Earlham College class with my daughter, led by Ferit Güven, professor of philosophy.  They've been boning up on recent history, with Edward W. Said's The Question of Palestine up for discussion.

Said is interested in what he calls Orientalism, a discourse shaped by the colonial past.  But then the US view of "terroism" is colored not just by the crusades, but by the so-called "conquest" of North America by an heir apparent to the British Empire (with the "imperial presidency" a consequence).
Key supporters of the War on Terror themselves see GWOT as an Indian war. Take, for example, the right-wing intellectuals Robert Kaplan and Max Boot who, although not members of the administration, also advocate a tough military stance against terrorists. In a Wall Street Journal article, "Indian Country," Kaplan notes that "an overlooked truth about the war on terrorism" is that "the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians."
I'm plowing through An Infinity of Nations using Kindle software, tapping into a critique of conquistador type storytelling, which the Spanish were also good at.  I always think of Aguirre at the end of that Werner Herzog movie, exulting in his conquest of Mesa-America.

I was going to question Said's thesis on this basis:  that colonization of the Western Hemisphere is by definition not an Orientalist project.  But then I remember:  Columbus thought he might be in India.  Europeans called the people here "Indians".  So in that sense, "the Orient" includes the Americas.  Poetic justice.  "Welcome to the Orient" I say from my desk-chair in Indiana.
President Andrew Jackson, whose "unapologetic flexing of military might" has been compared to George W. Bush's modus operandi, noted in his "Case for the Removal [of Indians] Act" (December 8, 1830): "What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, . . . and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?"
Us vs. them is, of course, a feature of all wars, but the starkness of this dichotomy -- seen by GWOT supporters as a struggle between the civilized world and a global jihad -- is as strikingly apparent in the War on Terror as it was in the Indian Wars.
I'm interspersing my post with John Brown's essay on the web Our Indian Wars Are Not Over Yet.

Clearly the militarized wall along the US-Mexico border has much in common with the wall in the Middle East.  A lot of the same technologies and psychologies are operative in both cases.  Israel and DC have a special relationship based on mutual wall building.

How does Orientalism, which converges ISIS, Al Qaeda... Hamas into a single hydra-headed beast, relate to the Cold War and another wall, now removed, plus the psychological "Iron Curtain"?  Eastern Europe, Russia... to some extent the Byzantine / Ottoman matrix forms a backdrop.

Britain inherits from Rome more than from Constantinople.  Going back to the Crusades, we need to remember Christendom forked.  Did crusaders come from Eastern Europe at all?

Christian7777 writes, on OrthodoxChristianity.net:
I know that they were victims of it, like with the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. But I'm wondering if the Orthodox had at any point in time participated in The Crusades, as in helping the Catholics fight the Muslim invaders. According to Wikipedia (which I understand is not necessarily the most accurate source of information), "The Crusades were originally launched in response to a call from the leaders of the Byzantine Empire for help to fight the expansion into Anatolia of Muslim Seljuk Turks", so I figure that at some point in time, the Orthodox were participants. Were they ever? I'm just curious.
 Then, answering his own question:
I did more research, and found out that the Byzantine Empire was involved in the First Crusade and the Second Crusade. The Fourth Crusade is where things went downhill between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church due to the Sack of Constantinople; it's very unfortunate that the attack occurred, especially because the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians were fighting together at the beginning.
Looking at nationalism as under-girded by organized religion, I can see where Said is coming from.  Fuller's thesis (hypothesis) was that supranational corporations, as distinct from organized religions, were inheriting the wealth of nations, as the concept of "sovereignty" gave way to a more unified Spaceship Earth (or Earth Inc.).

One might say Fuller anticipated the triumph of secularism but what is secularism exactly?  Isn't secularism more about the enforced co-existence of religions than their abolition?

The notion of a Liberal Orient i.e. a time when Islam was uber-friendly to religious minorities under its care, is largely romantic science fiction, contrary to fact.  However it may also be a kind of foreshadowing.  Progressive branches within the world religions already have their Parliament, seeking a rollback of any Doctrine of Discovery.

A secular Orient that (A) includes the Americas and (B) embraces STEM as not a threat to "interfaith" psychologies, has the potential to seem like Fuller's Grunch of Giants, also science fiction of a kind. The completion of East-meets-West, i.e. the blending of the hemispheres (globalization) is what the Spaceship Earth meme attempts to summarize.  Is that really so terrifying?