Friday, November 27, 2009

Make Sense or Money

USAers have this way of wanting to spend themselves out of poverty. This strategy has been on display in Afghanistan where troops perform as power shoppers in the various street malls (bazaars), irrigating the merchant class with Uncle Sam's dollars.

This proves a satisfactory arrangement in whatever city it's practiced (or so they tell us), it's just damned expensive, like a million dollars per troop per annum or something on that order. Beats shooting however, which accomplishes a lot less for a lot more.

In contrast is Kerala, in India (or so goes the anthropology) where the evidence suggests (not surprisingly) that talking matters out in a highly literate and informed manner is more likely the way to hammer out lasting agreements, ones that work better over the long haul, because there's simply no magic bullet that money might buy in most situations. Banking on some deus ex machina is not always the best strategy.

Getting USAers to engage in public debate is a tricky business however, as they're somewhat out of shape, a lot of 'em, having left matters to pundits for so long. Their so-called town meetings about health care proved to be PR disasters.

Civics is not taught
. Cynicism about government is encouraged, but without any knowledge of what that government even looks like. In the meantime, geeks have needed to roll their own, having been left to their own devices. FooCamp and BarCamp are where it happens, or at those "unconferences". Virtual cyber-nations have grown up all around us, are currently jockeying for position in a vast new Cyberia with plenty of drive space (shared memory).

College radio stations have not been replaced by as many college television stations, despite the promise of cable, leaving the Internet to pick up the slack where public debate is concerned.

There's not much diversity of opinion on the airwaves these days. There's a calcified left versus a calcified right, and not much flowing in the middle.

This multi-decade switchover to social networking channels (including email and usenet) is a major change and I'm not about to rush forward claiming to have all the answers. This isn't about me being a wisenheimer, last time I checked, even though I have my educated guesses.

My point is simply that our debate is taking new forms, given the roadblocks in some media, the prohibitions and inhibitions. If those were to disappear, then yet other forms of working through our differences might appear, regenerating our democracy (thinking of DemocracyLab some).

Spending one's way out of poverty is not a bad strategy if you know the fundamentals, which all have to do with solar energy (a kind of fusion energy) and our planetary solar gradient, the source of agriculture and that vast separation of gases associated with homeostatic life (so-called Gaia in mythic models -- in no way a stupid idea). So yes, you do have a steady energy boost from the cosmos, a fire hose to turn on your challenges.

However, the key is to design intelligent circuitry for that energy. Money "in the raw" (as in "millions and billions") is merely a symbol of brute force, potential energy, which in some lines of work merely signifies "bull headedness" i.e. spending sans IQ. The education system is supposed to pick up the slack here, by making the invisible hand less clumsy and goofy. "Market choice" is quasi-meaningless if "dumb and dumber" are your only two.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

TG 2009


:: thanksgiving 2009 ::

I meditate on karmic cycling this time of year, going through the winter tunnel.

Earlier times
blend with the present, foreshadowing times yet to be.

I think about my relationships, the people in my life, and I am grateful.

I-5 was not so rough going north. We enjoyed festive time with family, are now watching Winged Migration in Stillaguamish country. Mom and Tara joined me in maxi-taxi (the Nissan, shared with LW).

I am thankful for birds, for cats, for animals besides our kind (homo sapiens they call us, not always sure why).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ONAMI Tour


:: Wanderers @ ONAMI ::

A posse of Wanderers caravaned to ONAMI today, Oregon's nanotechnology headquarters, situated on the Hewlett-Packard campus in Corvallis, but belonging to Oregon State. ONAMI is a non-profit tenant in this building, charged with managing a state investment fund aimed at assisting startups taking advantage of new breakthroughs in materials science.

Robert D. "Skip" Rung, the president and executive director, took us into the Willamette conference room on the 2nd floor and gave us a sample of his various talks, the kinds of slides he shows to investor groups, politicians, researchers, fellow citizens. He puts a lot of emphasis on the green aspects of nanotechnology, countering public fears about unforeseen consequences and/or dual use applications. He mentioned "grey goo" explicitly, along with Bill Joy's fear-mongering.

I found it poetically appropriate that this building used to house Hewlett-Packard's famous ink jet technology skunkworks. Today's nanotech, a lot of it biomedical, is all about doing more with less, making individual atoms work harder. Sometimes you only need a very small amount of something, and at the nano scale, materials tend to be mostly surface area, relative to volume, so reactive atoms will have maximal exposure. Less waste equals more green, is one equation.

Another equation is keeping Oregon at the forefront in some niches, such as hemodialysis, filtration, imaging and so on. The design pattern here is fairly standard: intellectual capital is your surplus for bartering with others, so unless a region has unduplicated know-how, it has to compete in commodity manufacture which, given globalization, is more effectively outsourced.

Our group mostly played the role of the intelligent layman, bringing up those fears of unforeseen consequences. This was an easy topic to harp on, given our numbers. Skip was happy to spar a little, showing off his PR skills. Embryonic zebra fish, semi-transparent, provide a first set of case studies, when investigating the effects of a new nano-substance on a biological system.

We were too large a group to fit into any small spaces, mostly just took a brief look at the facility currently under construction. Windows on the 2nd floor look out over the floor space. This is not a place out of Andromeda Strain. Potential toxins will be handled with hoods (special handling boxes). The building is not under negative pressure or anything like that.

PNNL, a national lab with facilities in the Tri-Cities area of Washington, is turning out to be a major player here too. Various companies, like the hemodialysis one, will lease space, share equipment, in order to get their production processes more developed and tested. Bringing new materials and processes together, with an eye to commericalization, is what ONAMI is all about.

The conference room included an assembled buckyball made from the commercial Zome kit. I brought up my experience attending the first international conference on fullerenes in Santa Barbara and Dr. Smalley's "it's the yield, stupid" speech (alluding to a political meme at the time), which I wrote about in the BFI's TrimTab. Yield is still an issue of course: some of these nano-substances are quite expensive in pure form. However, you can get a veritable "dog's breakfast" of differently sized nanotubes of varying metals for cheap, Skip suggested.

Speaking of nanotubes, Skip speculated that they'd come in handy for improving the conduction of electricity over long distances, sooner than they'd be needed for that space elevator people sometimes yak about.

If I were cluing high schoolers about this content, I'd harp on my HP4E meme (hexapents for everyone), named for Guido's CP4E. Synergetics, in focusing on natural geometries, is a goldmine of relevant visuals, good for advertisers, animators with a focus on biomedical and materials science ala Zome.

I wrote this account in Steve Mastin's car on the way back to Portland. We encountered an early rush hour (this day before TG), ended up taking Sellwood Bridge instead of Marquam or Ross Island. Glenn Stockton was sitting behind me. I read the draft back for comment, tweaked it a little. Some of us regathered for lunch at Thanh Thao. Don Wardwell phoned me later, to request I post about Jon Bunce doing a concert at Terwilliger Plaza on Friday night at 7:30.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A New Quadrivium

Calling it that ("a new quadrivium") is somewhat cheeky, which could backfire, however, be that as it may, I do have this cool new "math tetrahedron" developing along four inter-related tracks:
None of these are especially new themes with me. What's new is getting a fused package committed to Wikieducator.

In combination, this four-fold approach might be adjudged to contain sufficient discrete math content as to qualify as a four year track through some arbitrary high school, and/or might be notched up for college, refresher courses for working pros.

Given the high technology angle, these could likewise become comfortably familiar vehicles for introducing new skill sets around the latest cool new tool suites, many of them free and open source.

Today's web framework may not be quite like tomorrow's, yet "supermarket math" will likely remain a viable delineation of connected topics, likewise the other three.

Having one of the modules be named Casino Math is a PR risk, and the teacher notes are full of caveats and disclaimers. Martian Math is probably less controversial.

In both cases (Casino and Martian), we aim to avoid being too prosaic and dull, an important feature where math is concerned, considered a dreary subject by many a world weary student.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friendly Business

Influential Tome
:: a childhood favorite ::

I showed up with the ostensible purpose of delivering mom, who is running an informational meeting on FCNL today (in progress).

Barb Frank roped me in on the middle and high school education program, lots of other adults present, wondering if we might use the meeting wifi to show that little Youtube rap song, filmed in Pendle Hill.

I was happy to oblige and Betsey (our clerk) was right there to approve the activity. Unfortunately, our Internet connection proved shaky, so I was only able to show it to Ben Selker at low volume in the office (he'd not seen it), then it cut out (now it's back, go figure).

Ben and I are also connected through the Music Scene on SE Belmont.

Next came signing cards to a list of people Oversight had singled out (Overseers around a coffee table encouraging others to join us), a meeting with Megge V. on the topic of Quarterly Meeting Planning (she's nominating chief), and with Diane H., who gave me her QPC binder.

My objective, working with Megge, is to find a clerk in their 30s willing to work with our committee on staging Fall Quarterly right here in Portland (all three days and two nights) in 2010. We shall see.

I updated Annette Carter regarding my collaboration with a socialist revolutionary, trying to figure where my techno-occult gets an API. Am I petty bourgeois bucking to become less petty?

My view is both capitalist and socialist societies package celebrities, have their movie stars, rock stars, astronauts, engineers -- judge a culture by its role models. In other words, there's no ideological contradiction in wanting one's show business to transcend the various ideologies (a trait shared with many religions).

Aside: Trevor's scholarship in the area of systematic ideology is probably where I should focus, in terms of bridging these diverse communities. Pauling House is only tinged in this matter, in the sense that I go there, although Glenn Stockton fits the bill (joined me at Esozone, appreciates Laffoley). I'd implicate Quakers more deeply though, for their American Transcendentalist connections, a gothic bridge.

Frank Carter and I discussed Martian Math in some detail. As a geologist, he's of course familiar with lattices, the vocab of gemstone collectors, crystallographers, medical device manufacturers.

Casino Math
:: casino math ::

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Round Two

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kicking the Can Down the Road

Kicking a can down the road: Ernest Hemingway, Iowa.

Hemingway joined the fight against fascism from the front lines in Spain, having sustained earlier injuries during WW1. His work on a film documentary about the attack against Spain by Hitler and Mussolini is mentioned in the movie Into the Fire.

1, 12, 42, 92, 162...

"Kicking a can" may be likened to generating successive terms in a number sequence, perhaps according to some rule. Sequences have various properties: some are convergent, others divergent, some oscillate, others are chaotic.

The sequence below is described by the growth of the above lattice, defined by closest packed balls, starting with 12 balls around a nuclear ball at the corners of a cuboctahedron.


The Python built-in function, next, is here bound to the name kick, while the generator is assigned the name can.

A generator returns control to the caller when it encounters the keyword yield, then waits for a triggering next, or in this case, kick, upon which it loops around to the yield expression again, providing the next term in the sequence.

The successive terms, in this case, are pairs (tuples), the first being the number of balls in the next concentric layer, the second being the cumulative number of balls in all layers so far, including the nuclear ball.

The balls define a matrix or lattice of equal-length edges known as the octet truss in architecture, because of the tetrahedral and octahedral volumes that define it. Alexander Graham Bell worked with this same truss in his famous kite designs.

Because a cuboctahedral layer of balls may be rearranged into an icosahedral layer without changing their number, the sequence above relates to the number of hubs, struts and windows in an n-frequency geodesic sphere and/or naturally occurring virus and/or carbon cage molecule.

The formula 10 * n * n + 2 was derived by R. Buckminster Fuller and featured on the front page of the New York Herald Tribune.

As Siobhan Roberts tells it in her King of Infinite Space:
When a reporter from LIFE magazine called in 1970, Coxeter gave Fuller a somewhat backhanded -- but then accidentally glowing compliment.... Coxeter sent back a letter saying that one equation would be 'a remarkable discovery, justifying Bucky's evident pride,' if only it weren't too good to be true. The next day, Coxeter called: 'On further reflection, I see that it is true.'
Here's a proof (by me), and a link to Coxeter's subsequent write-up Polyhedral Numbers (my thanks to CJ Fearnley of SNEC for bringing it to my attention).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

City Politics

I didn't write "big city" politics because Portland is pretty small, still suffers from that frontier town complex, takes its Wild West atmosphere as a mark of inferiority whereas, really, it's a tourist draw. People are still looking for the real deal, that authentic "out west" they see in the movies. Portland isn't quite that cliché, makes more sense when you remember that "Far West" also means "Asian" to some degree (and of course Native American).

On the other hand, we like a somewhat intimate subculture, like that "small town" feel, so there's this reflex to discourage too many immigrants. We scare 'em with stories about our long cold winter, rainy and depressing. That's a lot of hooey, although it's true that seemingly endless rain will feed a bleak mood.

I'm in chauffeur mode again tonight, driving the rock star to a political meeting and her date with a hot girlfriend. She'd offered to take the bus, but we needed to do some shopping. I'm happy using the bar's wifi, now that we're done with the meeting.

Glenn and I met this morning to do some post mortem on the experimental think tank event (aka private undercover party) at Duke's Landing last night, which I heartily enjoyed at least on some levels, as a connoisseur of the weird, as a card carrying member of Portland's techo-occult (yes I invited Trevor of Esozone and Synchronofile fame, but he was otherwise engaged).

At the meeting tonight, of Freedom Socialists, we focused on business class maneuvers to gain control of the sidewalks downtown and sanitize them, remove signs of casualties, families out of options, Charles Dickens on steroids in our land of opportunity.

Poorly planned social systems with few defensible practices often find it easier to just hire thugs, private militias, and keep people cowed about losing their jobs, at least in the short term.

In the longer term, malign neglect simply feeds a next round of conflicts with higher stakes. There's an escalating spiral, as people hunker down and run away from their responsibilities as information harvesters and problem solvers in Universe (lapsing into some transcendentalism here, my bad).

Given I was just the driver and roadie, I didn't ask to be on the stack of speakers, although I later emphasized to one of the leaders that this was "a queue" (FIFO) not really "a stack" (LIFO), my segue into explaining about Lightning Talks, which we hadn't bothered to get fascist about at Duke's, despite my public nod to our Python subculture.

Lindsey spoke twice, the second time spreading awareness of the protest against the ending Fareless Square in January, one of our city's more enlightened policies. The roll back to dark ages management practices is perhaps symptomatic of a failed university system? Did we not get those smart cookies out the other end of the pipeline? I guess I'm just preaching to the choir here, as how many "gnu math" teachers do we really have these days? I rest my case.

Last night at Duke's, we basically encouraged Evelyn to take the floor with her analysis of racism, to say her piece while Lindsey played a little back beat while she rapped (they're both from Georgia). DJ Troy gave us a sound track and kept the fog machine going.

I rolled through Photostream slide shows of Wanderers events for Don and Glenn, and of Claire-a-palooza when James stopped by. Another geek stopped in then left in a hurry. I got one of my XOs upgraded to version 767, thanks to the OLPC-aware staff.

Back to our meeting: the "sidewalk management program" is of course politically sensitive as we're talking about a public right of way receiving forced protection, against both citizens and the undocumented, by private security services with no obvious accountability to anyone but their employers.

Old school social action organizations still see taking to the streets as a viable option, when it comes to proving large numbers, despite the limited to no effect of such numbers in the days leading up to Iraq's occupation. Ignoring public opinion has perhaps become the safer option, given this perception that some cabal or corporate elite is pulling the strings.

But do these perceptions have much of a half-life? Recent events have given us glimpses into the chaos wreaked by unsustainable practices masquerading as "fiscally conservative". Intellectually squalid designs that won't sustain public scrutiny are kept secret for that reason, leading to lost productivity as energy is diverted into covering up the obvious (a bankruptcy at the level of having viable ideas for what to do next).

We had a former leader from Dignity Village at our meeting, as well as some pillar of society types with long experience working with help-the-homeless organizations. I get a sense the (differential?) equations are changing, as the system drives increasing numbers under water. Having some futuristic designs in the pipeline, and a willingness to showcase them, might reawaken a hunger for some intelligent planning. Even free markets need dreams to feed off, and dreaming involves making plans, not just waiting for the next big apocalypse or whatever the hell.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From Muddy's

We've got a packed house with a sweet duo doing great guitar and vocals. Following with punk R&B might be jarring, but that's the lineup tonight. LW is schmoozing on the couch with some guy from a music studio in Tacoma, working a dark beer in a bottle, going over some lyrics or whatever. I'm on a third cup o' jo, gazing into my Starling-1, not yet migrated to Karmic Koala (an Ubuntu distro, for those of you lost in my jargon). We have two more singers ahead of us at Muddy Waters tonight.

Earlier today I was updating the Synergeo folks regarding our moves to fill the vacuum, activist-wise. I keep thinking of those Circadia buses, pulling up around Burn Out and unfurling some stages. But some of these shot out buses just live there, used to be airport vans or what have you. The trek to Burning Man is but once a year. It's not like living on a cold, wet junker of a bus is anyone's idea of a great time. Nevertheless, it's cool to show up at these art colonies and stage a circus.

Anyway, here's me on Synergeo:
Of course this is not about numbers, and yes, Dick's ideas for domes make more sense than the low-to-no tech approach favored by many policymakers. I'm sharing the sense that this focus on sleeping bags is no more than a stopgap.

For a higher tech approach, per blog I sometimes chauffeur visiting foreign aid specialists to our Dignity Village, conveniently close to PDX airport. This is our "outdoor Ikea" and shows what our economy has seen fit to produce in the way of dwelling machine prototypes.

Given future investment depends on their going away impressed with American know-how, we go out of our way to strike a strong pose (I've also proposed the term "Epcot West" to suggest the strategic importance of this installation):

http://worldgame.blogspot.com/2009/01/metropolitan-talk.html

In the meantime, Laughing Horse Collective, a radical bookstore of some repute, has organized the political left to collaborate with disaffected vets, many of them still reliving the Vietnam years, over the homeless issue.
Of course I'm referring to our little Sleeping Bag Fundraiser, executed earlier this month as a political action. In terms of sheer volume, we weren't even a blip on the radar. $100 for three military grade bags will hardly keep many bodies warm, that's more than obvious. More to the point is getting the word out (thanks to Benji) regarding what bags you need for this region. El cheapo nylons rated to only 40F won't last, don't even bother with those. Seek military surplus, know your theater.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Invisible Children (movie review)


Good hearted and strong willed Norte Americanos (gringos) take it into their heads to check out the worst of the worst, or so is Sudan's reputation to the south. Their claim is to have no special video making skills, however by the time this one gets produced, they're a veritable Werner Herzog collective, so I can't vouch for "low skills".

They find a hot, boring place with nothing going on for the most part, then figure out a way to tell the story of Invisible Children. The scene is no longer Sudan, but northern Uganda, and the plot is of a possessed prophet lady and perhaps illegitimate heir, a jungle fighter who feeds off abducted children in a perpetual war against some distant government. The UN comes through and wrings its hands. The situation remains intolerably awful. The children, in interviews, mention looking forward to death as probably the best possible escape route.

The camera skills include these amazing pans that you wouldn't get from simple hand-holding. I need to find their "making of".

Movies like these suggest severe grade inflation is occuring, as no one should be bragging about being a "doctor" of anything with this kind of patient suffering. It's Quack Planet we're on here, why kid ourselves? Fun to dress up and play doctor though, I get it. We've all got a doctorate in Life on Hell Planet, eh?

In response to this disturbing story, you get this spreading cult of Visible Children, first responders working to help the Invisible ones (a topic for some of the special features).

If you want twisted worlds with bad guys and ways of making a positive difference, you're in luck. Noble warrior types will get meaningful work. These movie-makers were acting as civilians lets celebrate, meaning you have more branding options yet for this work that you do.

At the very least, we should be developing persistent medical records for each and every human being, as "millions and billions" are small numbers in light of today's cloud-based human services.

We could easily get Cassandra into this business no? Through some Red Cross front end perhaps?

Or lets go straight to academic enrollment in work/study and up the credit value of life experience, give these kids a fast track within the Global U.

Related reading
: L. Lamor Williams, Never the same: Former child soldiers describe the horrors of war as activists urge the UN to adopt sanctions against relentless violators, World Ark (Holiday 2009, pp. 23-26), www.heifer.org

Lindsey @ Muddy's

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sleeping Bag Fundraiser

Booty

Transcript from Facebook:

Kirby: Thinking might approach Sisters of the Road for advice on this charity purchase at Andy & Bax. On the horn with the latter this morning. Wide assortment of cold weather gear inexpensive enough to merit a bulk discount, not just sleeping bags. We already have the sealed envelope from Laughing Horse, could still add to the kitty though

Aimee: Aimee Ford Conner: likes this.

Lindsey (Laughing Horse): I say we buy used sleeping bags from a thrift shop and transport them to the charity. That was my suggestion all along. No natural resources are expended that way and we get the most sleeping bags for the homeless as possible. (3 hours ago)

Kirby (4D): That's a good idea provided we find a source selling for significantly less than Andy & Bax. Getting guidance from the target NGO ("the field") would seem useful at this juncture. (3 hours ago)

Aimee: I like this idea and would like to help. I think (given my limitations) we'd only be able to offer $$ but the idea has more than merit. Thanks, Kirby. (2 hours ago)

Kirby: Latest plan: swing by Good Will and stock up, meet Julia (Laughing Horse) using company car, photo op, swing by charity and/or hand deliver to street person clients, congratulate ourselves and call it an evening. Execution phase immanent. (2 hours ago).

[Good Will proved a disappointment, information that they had "a lot of bags" was incorrect ]

Kirby: Consulting with experts led us to see US military surplus mummy bags, rated "Intermediate" as the most serious contribution to a street youth person. No, not waterproof, but you're under a bridge. Cheap bags tear, rot. Andy & Bax generously gave us three, $39.97 each, for only $100, the total raked in by the Sleeping Bag fund raiser (plus we got a few bags donated, in place of the requested donation). Lindsey considers the event a success and is already planning another. Downtown Chapel is our target NGO this time, probably Outside-In next time.

Good Bye Lenin (movie review)

This movie bridges the "feel good" genre, so profitable to capitalism, with a more socialist family value system, wherein boys will change history itself to keep future shock from shocking mom.

The first shock was when the dad suddenly left, during a time when East Germans were joining an elite inner circle of international space travelers on TV. That story kept changing, as to why the dad left, as mom is regaining her memory in the second half of the film (most the action is between episodes i.e. between admit and discharge in these competent Berlin hospitals).

If you lived through the take down of the Berlin Wall first hand, say from the East German side, then I suspect you'll enjoy the surrealism of the depicted events more keenly, whereas those of us who grew up in the belly of capitalism, right from day one, might not quite appreciate the true depth of the sea change. In any case, The Wall came down.

Actually, the surrealism is hard to miss no matter where you're from. The scene with Lenin is downright boot tingly. All those floating things in the sky. Capitalism loves balloons (blimps, floats), and clowns... like Romans and their circuses.

By the end of the film, it's not clear which fantasy is the most indulged. We're thinking the boy's, as he's gone all out with his friend, even finding a cosmonaut taxi driver to play a role. He's staged parties, continued a whole mindset and way of life, quite the tour de force.

By the end, mom is more enjoying how he's enjoying his ruse, is playing along as the dupe, the girlfriend having already more boldly taken the bull by the horns and confessed about their newly boarderless Germany (she's a nurse, is more reality-based); a comment on "life as a waking trance" or one of those poetic contrivances.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Company Business

The ISEPP group has finalized plans for an ONAMI visit, sorry about the acronyms. These were a theme at Oversight as well (different ones), me taking the position that we don't need to spell 'em out so much, just link, let a reader choose whether to perform a lookup.

My day started with Bridge City Friends, then continued on this other side of the river (Willamette), where I joined the Oversight Committee for an ambitious agenda. Annis Bleeke is our clerk. Leslie Hickcox, Carol Uhte, Peter Ford, Eddy Crouch and Rick Seifert (ex-officio) were also around the table. We'll be seeking one additional member as roping me in still didn't get us our complement of six (Rick is Assistant Clerk, is more just sitting in).

Now I'm back at my corner office @ Lyrik, formerly Fine Grind, sipping a PBR (which the boss allows when I'm off duty -- no chauffeuring today although I did take the maxi-taxi to that first venue I mentioned). Here, I'm looking back over some of the new Martian Mathematics we've been brainstorming, journaling about it.

Some people think this Martian Math is just another way of poking fun at the neocons, who were telling people Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus. They may not have meant American Transcendentalists were Martian, it's true. However, we're more poking fun at "normal people" more generally, given their XYZ fixations, complexes and whatever. An awkward lack of coordination is what got all these troops into Iraq, and is what's keeping them there, perhaps for the next ten thousand years according to some presidential hopefuls.

Keiko is an accomplished provider of a Brazilian coffee shop diet, Asian spin, which I find conducive to blogging after a busy day. The bean dip is healthy, served cold with chips, or hot over nachos (I'm going with cold).

Some may consider it heretical that I'm apparently doing some sort of money-changing "on the sabbath" as they see it, like I shouldn't be "busy" if operating inside some temple gates, potentially competing with the certified religious classes trained to operate the heavy equipment around here.

However, this company is more Cult of Athena under the hood, not Middle Eastern (as in Koran, Torah, Bible). It's not that we're anti-union, down on "poor working stiffs" (how I think of myself some days), more that we regard some forms of business as a kind of enlightened (spirit driven) goofing off, and so don't mind getting paid for delivering the goods, even on Sundays if that's what the doctor ordered.

We're more like Hawaiian tribal kahunas in that way, doing our jobs as a public service when everyone else is ostensibly taking a break by going to "church" of whatever variety. That's just our way of practicing ubuntu.

Indeed, as many of you may recall, Quakers took exception to many of the religious practices of their day, and as a holdover from those times, even in 2009 many of us refuse to call it "church" (what we do), call it "Quaker meeting" instead.

Nor have Friends entirely lost their reputation for edginess, continue to challenge some mainstream forms of slavery, including servile obeisance to the various tyrannies, some of them quite innocent-seeming on the surface.

This desire to champion sometimes unpopular causes often pits Quakers against one another in business meeting debates or other threshing session context. However, the prophetic religions especially have recognized a need for ranters, even if their rants come across as short and sweet, as in lightning talks (no longer than five minutes).

In this sense Quakers likely still have much to learn from the Middle East (as well as from Mormons closer to home -- and from Goths).

And so it's OK according to our Faith & Practice to hold meetings for business even on First Day as we call it. In fact, this practice is specifically encouraged.

You might see why we're considered a radical minority in some circles.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Local Activism

:: sleeping bag fundraiser ::

Last night was the sleeping bag fundraiser at Laughing Horse Books, the kind of event activists attend just to see who else is in the business. This event was promoted all over town.

I thought LW played a great set, to lots of applause (cite recording), but she was mostly focused on the mistakes, plus this new song that's haunting her lately.

Tansy and Tarweed sang some original politically conscious tunes.

Dapper Cadavers
, playing last, turned out to be an authentic Celtic band headed by a talented female vocalist, a mix of originals and covers. Really good.

I'd invited Tara but she had Brenna coming over.

We're in a season of slim pickings where community organizing is concerned. The economy, although reportedly in recovery, has a lot of people bummed.

You'll find people more into watching TV than turning out en mass for those PSR-organized anti-war demonstrations (more or less weekly), even though it's the war that's wrecking the economy, keeping investors from thinking more realistically about their futures, frittering away their limited time aboard Spaceship Earth.

There's a level of fatigue among the civilians, matched only by a sense of unrest and uncertainty. Holiday shopping may not be quite enough to quell that sense of foreboding this year. 100K soldiers in Iraq because why again? Do the troops even know?

The plan was to raise at least $100 to buy 10 bags from Andy & Bax, a special price break just for this event, negotiated by Julia, then deliver 'em to a worthy charity downtown. We came close ($84), then we hit up a party in the suburbs for another $10 (Lindsey played piano forte). I kicked in the final $6. We were on the horn with Andy & Bax bright and early this morning.

Earmarked Donations

I swung by AFSC yesterday afternoon for an exit interview with Dan Stutesman. I was performing in my official capacity as NPYM rep, as well as BCFM liaison.

Quakers are starting to focus on what's going down with their USA-based social action committee, their American Friends Service Committee. I'll spare us the gory details here, save to say several concerned Qs joined in a national conference call the other day, mom included -- for 10 minutes of silence, and that's it (no, I'm not kidding).

Dan had two precious gifts for me, and I'm grateful for both of them.

First, he and Dawn had worked on a labyrinth project that took place in Canby. Tara and I had been present. Stemming from those golden years, was this framed poster, his only wall decoration.

Second, he had this "Quaker guts" poster I've been hankering to find. Nancy Irving of FWCC showed me one in her anteroom. I've seen it at the occasional Quaker bookstore. I'm finally happy to have one on my living room table, however creased and crumpled.

We reminisced about my days working with Paulette Wittwer on Asia-Pacific Issues News. Subsequently, I clerked for the highly successful United Voices (UV) project to cultivate a next generation of youth leader and community organizer. LAAP also produced a Spanish language TV show: Voz Juvenile.

Our paid staff was top notch. I proudly display my two Certificates of Appreciation to this day.

We also talked about Bob Smith, a mentor to many, and Arthur Dye, whom I worked with at both CUE and Ecotrust.

What's unclear, still, is whether Quakers will fork again over this AFSC business. I wouldn't put it past 'em. Or maybe this'll just be the catalyzing issue.

Some saw the writing on the wall quite awhile ago and have this "I told you so" attitude. Like I remember how upset Nadine had been, over AFSC's response to the tsunami in South Asia. Friends Peace Teams had been, for many, an alternative means of expressing Quaker values in the field, along with the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) which even unprogrammed Friends have seen fit to embrace.

On the other hand, it's difficult to let go of such a prestigious feather in one's cap, that Nobel Peace Prize nothing to sneeze at. Arthur Dye's stories have been inspiring, plus our own Multnomah Meeting's history intertwines with that of AFSC + Silicon Forest: Doug Strain, Ava Helen Pauling... the WILPF connection... also strong. "Turning away" is maybe not an option for some of us, blame Pink Floyd?

Either way, it's clear that this is a time of transformation. I'll be posting more updates as a way opens.

Addendum: speaking of Friends Peace Teams, everyone I've talked to, including Leslie Hickcox, the Abbotts, has given rave reviews of Rene Bove's talk. She had our official endorsement for her a sojourn in Africa recently, took lots of video, has lots of up to date information about what's going on in that region.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Goings On

Lots of semi-Gothic themes intertwining, in the aftermath of Halloween. Mom is in Boston via Alaska Airlines (a non-stop).

I'm enhancing a Python page at WikiEducator.

I should be at the office... packing up now, still on my beat (Facebook, Twitter...).

Some friends and I got together to watch Over The Hedge on a big screen TV. Pretty sharp.

Wrote some more on textbooks for the Math Forum.

The other night I finished reading Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean. Roz is on an outward and inward journey, is tougher than most, and is generous about sharing her lessons learned. I consider her another great teacher on the wild side like me, plus in much better shape.

I've been telling other people I'd be willing to lend it, would want it returned given I prize my signed copy.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wanderers 2009.11.4


Bill Soldering
:: soldering job ::

Steve Mastin had just attended a conference organized by ICO (Innovate | Collaborate | Oregon) and is talking about medical research companies involved in brain research and so forth. The Vollum Institute gives OHSU an international reputation. Electrical Geodesics, based in Eugene, makes those "hair net" EEG devices with 256 receptors, now being used in sleep disorder research and so forth.

However, Oregon has a hard time retaining its top researchers, who tend to get hired away by companies with better facilities. Oregon is more a way station than a final destination in the medical research biz at this point in its history. A lot of the research simply happens overseas e.g. the AIDS vaccine is being researched in Thailand.

Some brain researchers are focused on nematodes, creatures with only about 5000 neurons in their brains. Understanding the human brain requires starting with simpler models.

Some nematodes cause serious diseases although there's hardly any commercial activity around curing these because the tropical regions where these occur are too poor to fund and buy the drugs. Resulting from nematode research is a microscope stage that adjusts its positions hundreds of times a second to hold a wiggling specimen steady relative to the microscope eye.

Steve had heard an impressive talk at the World Trade Center downtown by Larry Sherman with OHSU and the Primate Center out near OGI. The brain continues to rewire itself throughout life, retains its plasticity. Music, both performing it and listening to it, helps the brain resist degradation through aging. Glenn saw the link to Oliver Sacks and his Musicophilia presentation, which I managed to miss. The poster for that event is in front of the one about Moira Gunn's presentation and her Biotech Nation, which is what today's session is all about.

Mastin focuses on technology transfer, getting results from research in a university setting moved into the private sector for commercial applications. Oregon has had some nasty barriers to this happening in the public sector, however there's been a sea change and more transfer is happening. Oregon's small biomedical firms still lack managerial experience in Steve's assessment, meaning we still see a lot of failures and missed opportunities as people try to learn on the job.

Flipping through the conference materials, I'm seeing a lot of emphasis on early detection of brain function degradation through home monitoring systems. I'm reminded of CareWheels and Ron Braithwaite's presentation. Older people wanting to stay in their own homes might be assisted with non-intrusive, non-invasive monitoring with a layer of software for flagging possible episodes in need of a response or intervention. These care systems would include a lot of humans in the loop. In Ron's model, some of the monitors might likewise be home bound.

Bill Shepard remembered to bring his soldering gear, based on last week's discussion. I'd found a lot of lore on the Web about my specific model of DVD player and the capacitor that tends to go out. Just buy a 1000 micro-farad replacement at Radio Shack, rated to higher voltage, and replace the defective one. Bill did that and indeed, the DVD player sprang to life. A farad, a unit of capacitance, defines a 1 volt difference when charged up by one coulomb (one amp flowing for one second).

Wanderers is planning a field trip to ONAMI, the nanotechnology research center, in about three weeks.

Buzz showed up towards the end, exultant that Tim's Green Lite Motors had achieved semi-finalist status in the Clean Tech Open in Seattle, a $50K prize. Now it's on to the national championship contest. Tim and Kym are Wanderers as well.

Jim Buxton wonders if Frank Baum's Tin Man character in the Wizard of Oz might've drawn on the fact that woodsmen actually wore "tin cloth" (a marketing term, as tin connoted "durable"). Although Dick Pugh isn't here, he's much in our conversation about meteorites. Steve might bring some moldavite aka Libyan desert glass to Duane's gemology presentation next time.