Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wanderers 2010.10.26

Trish is saying kind things about my blogs. Makes my day. She watched Charlie Wilson's War thanks to one of my reviews, and now recognizes the name Buckminster Fuller (I name I was dropping at Oasis Pizza the next day, confirming Glenn and I were both teachers).

Anna Roys phoned from Alaska while I was at Glenn's. The charter school approach seems a steep uphill climb for local administrators, but when she mentioned doing a school within a school instead, the lights went on. It'd be within the existing public framework, where the familiar rules apply. The charter apparatus is just so unwieldy.

I stumbled into the Aspartame debate yesterday and found a lot of the same debate patterns that characterize other "unsettled science". Just labeling something a "conspiracy theory" is hardly persuasive. It's wall-to-wall conspiracies; what else are there? "To conspire" means "to breath together". Dismissing schools of thought as "cults" is likewise non-substantive, is connotative only. But then "connotations" are what spin is all about.

Science is something of a junkyard, full of shipwrecks. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions maybe wasn't enough about economic pressures. Stakeholders don't just walk away from their investments, such as in some belief in "racial purity". Michael Crichton's State of Fear was very much about these economic pressures. I tend to focus on the appendix of that book, which looks at the junk science behind World War 2, ala Edwin Black's research.

I'm back to thinking COM is the way to go with this trucking stuff, not XML-RPC. We had a two hour meeting at Lyrik this morning and I got a better sense of how these puzzle pieces might fight together.

Not having a shared big picture positive future, such as was promulgated at international expositions and world's fairs in the previous century, is taking its toll. The fear level is driving a market for gold and silver. The breakup of the USSR gets discussed as a model of what many might go through, when the money system breaks down. Bigger tent cities, hoarding and looting...

Whatever happened to Old Man River City? How about cities that float? Aircraft carriers would count, also cruise ships, submarines. I guess we have them then, though mostly not for civilians.

I'm here at the Pauling House filling out an eligibility form for my high schooler. We're a low income family. A lot of our food comes from charitable sources. She should get school meals at a discount, plus some price breaks on IB tests, which are like $200 a pop.

I pay over $500 a month for health insurance just for the two of us, which ends up covering almost nothing routine. This is what we call "catastrophic" insurance. Life in the Global U doesn't mean having a lot of disposable income. Credits come in many forms, including simple access. I'm chauffeuring again tonight: MVP arriving at PDX in about an hour.

At Glenn's pad, Barry was talking about life aboard a British man-o-war. Being a marine was probably better than being a poor farmer. Those square-sailed ships couldn't tack well, or sail into the wind. They'd do these figure eight patterns. If the weather was wrong, shipwreck was likely. Sloops, on the other hand, were more maneuverable, or was that schooners?

The Coffee Shops Network is about funneling resources to worthy charities. Players make their own investment decisions, build a portfolio.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Active Day

I was up at 4:15 AM, not having slept all that well. I've come down with something, am not blaming the boat ride on Wednesday (after Wanderers).

Anyway, Carol needed to be at PDX by no later than 5:30 AM. We met that goal, yet she still almost missed her plane to Indianapolis by way of Denver.

I was home by 5:30 AM in time to chauffeur our debating champion to her rendezvous at Cleveland High School. The tournament is out of town.

In between 4:15 AM and 4:30 AM, I answered email from Lindsey cc Patrik McDade regarding bridging Day Labor Center to Free Geek, now that the Bike Farm link is in place and operational. I went over some of my experiences with that outfit, circled some Youtubes.

Later this morning, I plunged in to cleaning the kitchen, which had reached my threshold for entropy. I scrubbed cabinets, counter tops, the stove top, swept and mopped the floor. I was at it for some hours. Then came vacuuming the stairs and living room (lots of dog and cat hair) and putting away laundry.

I dress informally in Pacific Northwest grunge a lot, getting up to "scruffy professor" sometimes, with plenty of gray hair. I'm not usually as spiffy as the Japanese "salary man".

Carol phoned intermittently, from Denver, then Indianapolis, reporting on her progress.

The Food Not Bombs trailer and pots (down to only two -- need sponsors with cast offs) became a focus in the afternoon. That's mostly Lindsey's project, though I've been chipping in since the ER episode. Various vegetables went on the trailer, though not any chanterelles, which LW claimed might make dynamite "buffalo wings" (maybe next year?).

She's been rebuilding her strength, getting back into her Tarzania role (here on Planet of the Apes). She's ordered some more survivalist gear for life on the road, methodically pursing objectives she's had since I met her, through the Linus Pauling Campus. Deb is another Tarzania type (they've met), though personality-wise they're quite different people.

Satya came by for the trailer but Lindsey had already transported it to the cook at St. David of Wales.

Through much of this, I was putting finishing touches on a ReportLab project which reads in text files in the knowledge domain of trans-continental trucking, and spits back a PDF, complete with intelligent pagination decisions and an aesthetic choice of fonts (Lucinda Typewriter Bold for the data, Helvetica for the headers and footers).

Some readers may remember I've been racking my brains about how to combine Visual FoxPro and Python into a more seamless whole. The assumption is we'd be using COM, but I delivered a working demo using XML-RPC instead (not that they're entirely unrelated, as VFP has to instance an HTTP object).

Finally, I took the bait and answered Roberto's question about whether mathematics has ever been cast in a human-like language.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Necessary Ruin (movie review)


A hauntingly well-made little film. The tone resonates with Thinking Out Loud in that it hints at some Other Tomorrow, a parallel universe wherein we still practice a hopeful brand of futurism.

The good news is the dome has its twin, still in operation as of this writing. It won't last forever either though. Rust never sleeps.

Related thread on Facebook.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hillsboro Story

:: hillsboro story @ artists repertory theater ::

At first, Carol was confused by the title, as we have our own Hillsboro, towards the end of the Blue Line.

I too write about our Hillsboro quite a bit, in connection with my work for the police department (HPD) as a Saturday Academy instructor, a project by a former FBI guy, George Heuston, to make high tech more friendly. The police don't relish growing old amidst people who hate and fear them, any more than you would, and the world of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) looked welcoming to them. Lets recruit among recent immigrants (Latino especially) and prove America is a land where dreams come true.

OK, now lets rewind the tape to the 1950s and Google Earth over to Hillsboro, Ohio, and dial back to when the Mickey Mouse Club was first hot (before my time). This is the world of John Waters and Hairspray, of Drapes and Squares, of a certain American Look we still celebrate to this day. The play reminds us of all of this and more. The beat generation. Allen Ginsberg and Howl.

The Supreme Court had just ruled that segregation was illegal, but the state and county governments were taking a lackadaisical attitude, didn't want to feel bullied by any central authority or tyrant. Even Eisenhower didn't have the gravitas of Abe Lincoln, and desegregation, a reality on paper, was stalled on the ground. Overt racists still occupied and ran the country like they owned the place. The KKK still openly practiced terror and intimidation against "uppity coloreds".

I'm eager to share what happened next with the engineers at the Pauling House, as it was one of our ken who finally snapped under pressure and took matters into his own hands. The design of America herself was on the line, her deepest Constitutional values.

Foot-dragging about obeying the law, after a bloody Civil War, was just too much. Philip Partridge was tormented by these failures, of the legal system, of county administrators. Mothers had made their wishes clear, by picketing. The young and idealistic were expecting action (like after Obama got elected). He was mad as hell and couldn't take it anymore.

Lincoln Elementary was the pits, yet Negro children were forced to go there, to learn of their lower class status at an impressionable young age. Meanwhile, the privileged kids got to sit in newer remodeled schools, and have E.B. White read to them (Charlotte's Web) or in my case The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (we were living in Rome at the time).

Sesame Street had yet to be invented and the Woodstock generation was just coming out of the starting gate (Whoopi Goldberg etc. -- she gets mentioned). The military had already started to integrate as of WW2, though it had not yet accepted its own gayness (nor had the intelligence services, making blackmail a lot easier).

Our kindly engineer realized that if he burned Lincoln Elementary to the ground, late at night (so no one got hurt), he'd force the issue. It was a clear calculation. He was not thrilled about his prospects if he went through with it, so made a promise to himself he'd only follow through if God woke him up at 2 AM precisely...

A lightning storm of furious proportions shocks him awake in the bleak of night at 2 AM (a cinematic moment), and he knows this is his destiny. He's always felt cut out to do something pivotal. This is to be his hour of fame, his moment of glory, and he seizes the day (carpe diem)... It'd be a clear case of arson, of breaking and entering. He wasn't there to shoot anyone. This wasn't like in Elephant. He wasn't "going postal".

The operation goes as planned. The lawyers, however, are not to be rushed by this course of events. They have their own plodding process. The town puts Lincoln back together again, fire damage and all, and prepares to frame some poor Negro as a cover story. Philip turns himself in rather than sacrifice yet another innocent bystander, which galvanizes the psychiatric community to take his case.

No one suggested he was a communist or shouted treason. There was no 700 Club to play the role of the KKK and/or Rush Limbaugh. He's a well-liked engineer who knows his job. For awhile he was like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as they poked and prodded his psyche, looking for what made him tick.

They decided he was sane enough to go to prison though, not really a kook. He might have been a bit paranoid, sure -- or self-aggrandizing (too uppity) -- but then so was J. Edgar Hoover, and so was just about everyone else at the height of the Cold War (the "U2 incident" is not mentioned).

During his year or so in prison, Philip helped build new facilities (obviously with staff approval), bonds with fellow inmates, and becomes a yet wiser man. What a hero. Our Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy (ISEPP) should memorialize him in some appreciative way.

I'm on the board. I'll bring it up with our president.

In the meantime, this excellent and well-researched piece of storytelling was part of a benefit for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), for which I serve as Bridge City liaison and as an NPYM corporate rep (not a new gig for me, as former clerk of the LAAP program committee and editor of Asian-Pacific Issues News).

Several staff, members of the Executive Committee, and the Regional Director herself were all present. Eddy Crouch (EC) had done a masterful job of bringing us all together. My mom, Carol Urner, on the national board, was introduced after the play as one of the several VIPs present. Rick Seifert, currently serving as clerk of Multnomah Meeting, was also acknowledged for his early civil rights work.

The house was packed, almost every seat taken. Fortunately, Sonya Pinney managed to get in on standby. Bob Smith was there, and Annis Bleeke....

Annis said I "cleaned up well" until she took a closer look at my tie: a loud Bugs Bunny, from the USPO, my homage to my own childhood of privilege, with Marvin the Martian (also Post Office) my other option, MAD Magazine... I was also wearing a Holden Web badge on my lapel, subtle hype for Python Nation, where I serve on Diversity and edu-sig, advocating further integration within geekdom.

I like Charlotte-the-spider OK too though, though I sometimes confuse her farm with that other one in Animal Farm (another side of the American Nightmare, which it sometimes becomes).

I liked how the playwright, Susan Banyas, also the director and a star in the play, turned the legal battles into fashion shows. The top judges and lawyers appear as if on a Fashion Avenue runway, ala Bruno. The NAACP lawyers prove to be snappy dressers. No slouches in court. Social class is overcome by clothing and demeanor.

The wheels of justice turned bravely, and after the longest time, the Federal Circuit lost patience with Ohio's transparently resorting to gerrymandering (rezoning to control the demographics) to divide and conquer, a practice still rampant to this day, across all fifty states, and over many of the same issues i.e. a strong yet misguided belief in "class" and "race" as reputable concepts.

Banyas was also clear how simply forcing a mixing of ethnicities, inexperienced with integration, was not a short term enterprise. South Africa might have to integrate more successfully down the road, before North Americans could relax, given how apartheid anywhere breeds suspicion and hatred everywhere.

The saga is ongoing, with many more ethnicities to think about, more than fit on one hand, more than 195 (the current number of nation-states, a number that bumps up and down -- close to meaningless were it not for the UN and its Declaration of Human Rights).

Some of us stayed for a "talk back" with the troupe. Although I didn't pipe up, I thought the play reminiscent of the D.W. Jacobs play about Bucky Fuller, in its use of montage and sound track. The sets were less fancy, this being a lower budget production, but one could well imagine future productions with actual 1950s-looking TV screens, showing mug shots of historical figures, pictures of store fronts, excerpts from Mickey Mouse Club, perhaps with young Britney Spears.

Most encouraging was the news that Portland Public Schools would be happy to take this play on as a part of its curriculum. This wouldn't be the first play PPS had built in (as an 11-year veteran of the system, I've seen lots of good theater). I can certainly see the appeal. There's no physical violence in the play, although quite a bit is alluded to (the Civil War and the Indian Wars were both horrific and the memories are still haunting). People resolve their differences in good order in this play. Those most into hate speech fail to spark an angry mob.

The wheels of justice turn, albeit at a glacial and petty pace, from day to day. A courageous engineer serves his time. Important steps get taken without bloodshed. A Quakers even make an appearance, a supportive elders, reminiscing about underground railway work.

Alternatives to Violence were pursued, and Ohio ends up a happier state as a result. No wonder Oregon wants to share such a hopeful story.

We liked hosting Bishop Tutu as well. South Africa rocks, for having moved so far forward without cataclysm or apocalypse.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Onward Urners et al


Lots of wheels turning today. Tara Urner took the PSAT.

In family lore, we remember the death of Dr. Jack Urner, one of the world's great planners (Libya, Egypt, Philippines, Lesotho, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Portland).


Mom (Carol Urner) was with him in the accident and survived. The other driver was killed as well. This was in the Republic of South Africa, on the highway from Maseru, Lesotho to Bloemfontaine, Orange Free State.

On the topic of planning, anticipating, thinking ahead, the idea of infrastructure parks still has applicability I suppose, but we're probably leaning more towards a cross between video arcades and flight simulator trainings.

The computerized sim games have largely replaced the need to build the scale models. Militaries and paramilitaries use them, including as recruiting tools. So do zoo tycoons.

I used to write science fiction about a possible Caleb Gattegno park in Eugene that'd feature scale model trains, another Nowhere Man fantasy. I was learning about Gattegno from Dr. Benson (Stanford) at the time.

I've been checking out some of the truck simulators while reading up on truck routes across Asia. As peak oil becomes more dear, we will see emphasis on "more with less" strategies (e.g. load optimization).

The trucking world intersects both the "bizmo" world and Coffee Shops Network. The trucking lanes connect with rail, inland waterway and ocean shipping networks. Warehousing connects us to Supermarket Math.

Trucking and trade routes are also associated with the spread of viruses (such as HIV) and memes (ideas). There's much to be learned from a multi-disciplinary study of over-land trade routes, although admittedly some of these routes are somewhat treacherous.

The ability to operate an eighteen-wheeler and/or warehouse forklift might come in handy as you develop your appreciation for operations and logistics in various work / study programs around the world.

Just because you're co-piloting a truck from Istanbul to the Ukraine doesn't mean you can't be earning credit with the Harvard Business School at the same time.

Micheal Sunanda swung by on his bicycle, a classic / vintage Eugene-based hippie yakking about as many conspiracy theories as will fit into one meeting, drawing from Alex Jones, Dick Icke, the Coast-to-Coast crowd.

I briefly joined that circuit with MS for an Adventure in Radio Land that time. He has since moved on to television, appearing on Alex Ansari's cable show the other day.

What's Julie Urner been up to?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reminiscing...

Linus Pauling House
:: linus pauling center for peace... ::

Glenn and I walked Sarah-the-dog this morning. I'd been up late taking in more student videos (sometimes I lurk). We talked about the 911 thing quite a bit. That's not a discourse I'm trying to clamp down on somehow. I apologize to Jim Morrissett for seeming so impatient (a colleague from Centennial days in San Diego). Let those chips fall where they may.

I'd scrap booked about WTC quite a bit in my Jersey City days in the 1980s. I was unaware of Paul Laffoley's art back then and his future dream of a Gaudi-inspired hotel-cathedral of some kind, complete with some Thomas Edison Memorial Atrium.

One could imagine religious functions scattered throughout both towers, was my thinking at the time i.e. different religions could have their shrines, temples, other offices. Why should only bankers and lawyers get all the best views?

In today's terms, that'd mean having not just one mosque but maybe several, stacked up inside. Not exclusively of course. Nordic Lutherans could stake a claim, just like in Prairie Home Companion. These various religions all have their sects and denominations (like the Red Hats and Yellow Hats of Tantric fame).

This kind of more cosmopolitan multi-purpose zoning might be inspired by the Parliament of World Religions, although again, that world body was not on my radar at the time I was sketching these storyboards. Cape Town was still in my future, as was Bhutan.

Speaking of the Parliament of World Religions, I dropped a note to Nancy Irving today, wishing her well and following up on some of our interest group discussions. PWR and FWCC have no official relationship (I asked about that in the interest group) but that doesn't mean they can't read about each other sometimes.

Dunno if Nick made it to Bioneers this year. I was just writing about John Todd and the kind of New Alchemy Institute type stuff associated with the first J. Baldwin pillow domes (even before Cornwall's). Speaking of J. Baldwin of Bucky Works fame, I was glad to see Guy Inchbald's positive remarks regarding Sam Lanahan's new book. Guy is the author of the oft-cited Archimedean honeycombs paper.

LW is back on her feet, digging furiously in the Peace Garden. The Food not Lawns ideology is being more clearly expressed with each expenditure of sweat equity.

Nevertheless, she's not primed to lug 90 lbs of fresh produce up any hills, her stock in trade when running full steam working with Food Not Bombs. I've offered to do that myself like last week, I hope having learned my lesson about not lifting boxes the wrong way. I did finally manage to clear that drain by the way, using a plumbing snake (old and rusted).

RB asked me about some rumor about Google Earth being run by Evil Bert (picking up on a Science News meme?). I told the InQTel story again, not that I'm privy to all the details (duh), but there needed to be some bridging mechanism between those inwardly pointing space telescopes (those navel-gazing Hubble wannabes) -- otherwise known as Key Hole (KH-11 etc.) -- and the Google Earth developer network. The bridge wasn't specific to that one company though. Declassifying a satellite mosaic is an ongoing process per Bucky Fuller's Critical Path, and is also in the works for other planets (ala Google Mars).

Writing that stuff probably got me in the mood to tackle Woodward's new book (Obama's Wars), which mom has been scoping out at the local Powell's on Asylum Avenue. I headed up there with my laptop and had the biggest sized latte, going over some pages. WTF. Hard to make head or tail, but then I'm maybe rusty with my Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics. Some passages brought me back to Whittier, reading Plame's magnum opus and watching Charlie Wilson's War.

I may not be a hunk like Tom Hanks, but some adorable women were on the phone with me that Christmas (we drove both ways -- before the oil crunch). They've left me for other men by this time (not that either was "mine" to begin with), which reminds me of Good Shepherd.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Storyboarding Ecovillages

The way I've used the word "storyboard" over the years relates to science fiction writing. In movie-making, a storyboard gives some idea of the planned movie's flow in a comic book style, with the drawings suggesting some of the camera angles.

Individuals going through a vista or environment looking this way and that, might be considered "immersed" in that environment. A new kind of camera, such as those used to develop Google Street Views, takes in almost a full bubble of vista.

A corresponding projector might fill a 5/8 dome with simultaneous data. Viewers need to turn their own heads to take in aspects of the recorded scene. These vistas may likewise be simulated, generated from models, where the vista has no real existence.

Science fiction is less literally a projected rendition than a movie-maker's storyboard. A science fiction novel may provide no pictures at all, as the technology of reading is such that the reader's imagination serves as the immersive environment. One learns to project in the "mind's eye".

Pundits disagree on whether a culture of TV and movies has weakened the mind's eye. Seeing lots of movies gives one more raw material to draw upon, especially when it comes to vividly presented fantasy worlds, so the argument could be made that visualization powers are increasing.

Some point to rising global IQ in the spatial geometry sector, claiming the IQ tests have to renormalize by as much as 7% from one generation to the next, given humans seem to be getting smarter in some ways (yet the average is supposed to stay fixed at 100 regardless).

Others suggest that visualization skills may be improving, but the ability to simply read with comprehension is in decline as attention spans have shortened and more people turn to finished products, canned fantasies, rather than imagining their own worlds. This is also leading to more uniformity in thinking, as people internalize increasingly similar vistas from widely distributed films and DVDs.

The ecovillages in my science fiction are informed by Bucky Works, both a book and (I'd suggest) a genre. In this possible future, the aerospace know-how currently used to militarize and rain terror from the skies, is used to develop these humanly affordable "peaceable kingdoms" complete with horses (where appropriate) and electric ATVs.

But how do such ecosystems survive, if not depending on frequent visits by 18-wheelers loaded with imports? The designer's job requires "bioneering" (ala John Todd and others), such that village inputs and outputs are not unrealistic and therefore unrealizable.

What are the energy sources? Where does the food come from? What health care facilities do we find? What happens when people die of natural causes? Do any trucks at all visit the site? Do we have roads to the village? A rail road? Perhaps there's only an airstrip. What kinds of cargoes do airplanes bring? What medicines? What functions does the ecovillage perform? Rehab for those suffering from PTSD?

Once one gets into the nitty gritty of ecovillage design, there's a lot to consider. The capabilities of the aerospace dwelling machines needs to be factored into the equations, but if these don't yet exist... what might we realistically imagine? How much power do they require? Who has the prototypes? Will companies replace their cube farms with ecovillages? Might we find a call center in the Andes?

The world's militaries and paramilitaries already engage in these kinds of studies on a large scale. War planners often assume roads will be constructed or improved. They also assume helicopter access, with or without surface roads. Locally grown food, such as gardens, may be featured on some bases, however most corporate designers imagine food stuffs coming from outside providers, perhaps from the surrounding community (such as fresh fish in Vietnam). A lot depends on whether one assumes a friendly or hostile surroundings.

Some of my more recent writing looks at medications, their supply and distribution within a camp. Weaning people off medications is sometimes a treatment goal. Other ecovillages might be specifically designed for cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation. One might design dome-shaped outer shells, transparent to full spectrum sunlight, and then have a mix of facilities inside, including clinics and food stores.

This genre of futurism is already somewhat established in the literature. I'm certainly not the only contributor. Bucky Works is a real book, by J. Baldwin.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Views of America

Roger Paget graced our small group of Wanderers this morning. He's an emeritus professor of Asian Studies and Political Economy at Lewis & Clark College. From his written preamble:
Most citizens do not have the dimmest notion of what capitalism means for good reason. Even secretaries of the treasury and lions of industry, banking, etc., intone the ritual precepts oblivious of their fundamental vacuity in the contemporary world.... what is conventionally billed as an economic theory is in actuality integrally wedded to political interests. [ hyperlink added ]
He had some dots to share, inviting us to connect them.

The first had to do with his repeated visits to Indonesia over the years (he's fluent in Indonesian). The recent economic crash in Asia, which preceded the meltdown in North America, has resulted in Indonesia reconnecting to its own resources. The economies there are bouncing back, but not as a result of the international system. Bretton Woods era capitalism, post WW2 LAWCAP, appears to be over in many respects, but that doesn't mean everything's going down the tubes.

On another front, one of his former classmates is now a multi-billionaire and is funding important initiatives having to do with internationalizing the educational experience of many North Americans. Yet this same classmate is unfamiliar with Federal programs designed to encourage similar outcomes (more cosmopolitan thinkers and doers). Roger is very aware of the mutual ignorance that keeps public and private sector initiatives and programs oblivious of one another.

A more cosmopolitan level of discourse would help America rock. Roger is a classic liberal in many ways (he drives a classic VW bus, lives in Portland for crying out loud), meaning he's imbued with a sense of a powerful semi-omni-aware state, his state (the United States).

Here in the early 21st century, he's what I'd call a prime representative of USA OS, or the USA style of governing (steering), by means of institutions with checks and balances (to prevent despotism and waste) and with lots of participation by the people for the people (at least in theory).

In another story, Roger talked about his delivering way more than an average number of babies, including his own. I'd been musing about male midwives in chatting with Laura, so was pleased to have this thread joined. He got into a relationship with Mercy Corps, which wanted to help mothers learn how to breast feed. No, it's not all intuitive, helps to have guidance. However, by the time he got to the front lines, he was like the only guy in the room explaining this agenda. The technologists and gynecologists were learning the more coldly robotic western ways, of birth by Cesarean, followed by infant formulas. We can blame literally soulless Nestles marketing, or we can blame westernized grownups for broadcasting the messages they're willing to pay for, spreading those memes (those lifestyles).

Roger spoke especially knowledgeably and with admiration for the Comptroller General's office, an appointment of 15 years, the longest in the USG short of a Supreme Court justice. This officer oversees the Government Accounting Office (GAO), recently renamed the Office of Accountability. The theory here is an auditing office with lots of overview, and somewhat immune from short term political pressures, could point out obvious (and not so obvious) errors in the operating system's design.

He ended with a few pointed remarks about the Koch (pronounced "coke") brothers, recently featured in The New Yorker, as a way of bringing up the disproportionate influence of moneyed interests on the affairs of state. If academia fails to rally and defend a cosmopolitan center (liberal because open and diverse, not narrowing and controlling), then we may go off the deep end into another fanaticism, perhaps a despotic fascism. I took this to be the gist of his thesis.

I don't know if Roger is a member of our Wanderers discussion list. I don't think so or he'd have posted something by now. The preamble was forwarded by Don. Had he been on the list, he'd've known we've already been discussing the Koch brothers some.

I've been making lots of links in my posted remarks to Edwin Black's books, which I'm plowing through, and which have everything to do with (a) fossil fuel addiction, and (b) a lingering classism linked to racism which seeks to defeat any kind of democratic system, Jeffersonian or otherwise.

I reiterated these comments in the ensuing discussion, along with my standard identification of USA OS with a kind cyber-nationalism, a geek school of thought which tends to virtualize nationhood, such as by using Bucky Fuller's deliberately nationless world map, his "game board" for playing World Game. According to this view, the USA is powerful in proportion to the degree its design principles are evident anywhere in the world.

Democracy grows with a people's self-organizing for self-determination and cannot be imposed from without (an oxymoron). We may learn from one another however, so it's not like every wheel needs to be reinvented.

The civil rights movements, starting with Gandhi's resistance to imperialism, taught people a lot about how to be more effective, how the use "the force" (precession). Young people are especially keen to throw off any yoke of tyranny, as they have their whole lives ahead of them as the saying goes. Older people may have a next life to think about, and some are hoping to spend it right here.

Every generation hopes to steer a little closer to utopia (or God's Kingdom if you prefer such language), learning from mistakes of the past (or repeating them).

Given the USA's Forest Service is in Brazil, while the CDC is doing health work in Africa, and the FBI (supposedly domestic / internal) is investigating corruption in Afghanistan, it's obvious that national borders are becoming somewhat vestigial. Fuller saw this happening way back in 1983 (wrote a book about it), and got a Medal of Freedom shortly thereafter.

All we need next is a Chinese peace corps in Detroit, providing needed clinical services and urban farming skills to refugees from a dying political economy. One people are helping out every which way, we'll have our more well-rounded "Cosmopolis," our one "global university" with a giant spherical campus (and a moon for an annex).


That depends on your virtual nation's and/or ideological perspective.

If the planet really gets its act together and starts taking care of its students, then maybe we should call it Finlandia. In the meantime, it's more like the Wild West perhaps.

Roger has a deep soothing voice. I told Lindsey later that he sounds just like Noam Chomsky to my ears, even if what he's saying is different. That was a complement by the way, as I think Noam as an accomplished rhetorician.

Given how I'm prone to multi-task these days (part of what it means to be a geek), I had to take a short leave to chauffeur my daughter to Cleveland HS (went to "college night" tonight) after she missed the bus.

I also tapped tapped on my keyboard, self-promoting as a kind of "not mathematician" who is yet weighty as a Friend, a posting I later shared with the chairman of Python Nation as he's mentioned in passing (by title). We're expecting Steve back in Portland for GOSCON in a few weeks.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Willamette Quarterly, 2010

:: fall 2010 willamette quarterly @ mmm / unity ::

I've journaled about this event several times over the years. Last year I agitated to stage it here in Portland, at the meetinghouse, instead of trucking out to the Kiwanis Camp. The planning committee took up that idea, and so it came to be. We had over 109 people and brought in sufficient revenue to cover renting the Unity Church multi-purpose room and kitchen down the street, for meals.

I joined Nancy Irving's interest group. She was on vacation from her job in London as General Secretary of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), staying with the Abbotts. To the extent Quakers have a global office, this would be it. However, given it's a spirit-led faith without a credo, the central office is not expected to produce detailed statements regarding "what Quakers believe" that all faithful would sign on to. FWCC may know some of what's going on though, has some overview perspective.

[ In the meantime, Holly reportedly led a brilliant walking tour of nearby CSA sites (Community Supported Agriculture), an activity Lindsey had helped to organize (and would have led, if not for an illness). Larry joined this walk, and later showed me his new gizmo: a thin pocket sized access point, a wifi hotspot, through which his iTouch and laptop both connect to the Internet. Quakers are pretty up on this stuff. And wow Ron, congrats on losing 65 pounds! ]

As an example of sharing overview, Nancy talked about food insecurity in the Philippines, where the economic crash in the Middle East in 2008 resulted in many construction workers returning to the islands, with the resulting boom in housing construction wiping out enough cultivated land to create a deficit in rice production. Needing to import rice is a new phenomenon. In the meantime, there's an exodus of professionals with any kind of health care training, which contributes to poverty levels at home.

I did not attend Friday night's program on food issues (the theme of the quarterly). Instead, Patrick joined us on the back patio upon returning Tara from her babysitting duties. Lindsey, recuperating, joined us and we talked about food, the state of the world, social justice and all the rest of it.

I butted in a few times with some off the wall rants about how money isn't the problem, as Energy + Intelligence is pretty much all we've got. How does this relate to Geography + Geometry, my other unifying heuristic? I'm not sure we should get into that here. In the middle of our discussion, Simon showed up with a care package for Lindsey, lots of squash and kale, the kind of stuff she can eat.

Program Clerk Elizabeth Fischer and I went for a walk to get her photos at Walgreens. She didn't think food ethics had really percolated to the top of the interest group agenda. The recent April 2010 article on food issues in Friends Journal also seemed rather lame in her view (Applying Quaker Thought to Food by Shaun Chavis), with the author, who writes about food for a living, agonizing about whether he could live without lobster tails or pate foie gras.

There are those lobster tails again...

More permanent buildings are going up and some, already built by Afghans and deemed not good enough for American habitation, are scheduled for reconstruction. Even in distant FOBs like this one, the building boom is prodigious. There’s a big gym with the latest body-building equipment, and a morale-boosting center equipped with telephones and banks of computers connected to the Internet that are almost always in use. A 24/7 chow hall serves barbequed ribs, steak, and lobster tails, though everything is cooked beyond recognition by those underpaid laborers to whom this cuisine is utterly foreign. [source]
Welcome to the Global U, eh? The biggest educator on the block is the military, as I was pointing out on the Math Forum earlier.

People would ask me what I've been up to. Some had only vaguely heard about the Food Not Bombs group using the kitchen (a pet project of mine).

Those wanting more stories (true ones) got to hear about my ideas for GIS / GPS applied to trucking along various routes. Not everyone's cup of tea, I realize.

I forgot to bring along any Flextegrity but the guys in our Men's Group already know about that project, and some of the science fiction that goes with it (Project Earthala and like that).

Carol had a WILPF meeting downtown. Other friends, in the meantime, were busy downtown, protesting those FBI raids awhile back. Americans are nervous about their civil liberties going away.

Persecution of the undocumented ties in, as a kind of mean-spirited nationalism distracts people from developing positive futures, investing in workable plans. John Munson led a group on this topic, including references to AFSC's underground railroads.

I also talked to Gayle about my hopes for Havana, keeping it free from speculators who just want to recreate the casino culture of yore, bringing back organized crime and fast food.

The global university network might counter with some work / study programs that take advantage of the relatively unspoiled vista, giving students more opportunities to build on system architectures that reflect the ethics they study in philosophy classes.

That emerging vista may or may not include a Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory, with ties to Vermont and "hippie values" (such as open source) that have become incorporated as a part of The Grunch's legacy (my thanks to Laura for cluing me regarding The Hippie Museum in Tennessee).

A challenge here is to create branding opportunities sans the baggage of LAWCAP's antiquated notions of "corporate personhood" (aka Voodoo Economics). Land use planning based on GIS / GPS technologies is what future food security depends upon (satellites too!).

"Democracy" is not synonymous with "uncontrolled development", nor is "free enterprise". Lots of old timer capitalists believe in land use planning. Look at Disneyland: no KFC.

Nor need Mecca include any Christian churches.

The idea of a "theme park" transfers to both urban and rural settings. Like, why would Havana want to become a cheap carnival, given high literacy rates, refined tastes?

Back to Willamette Quarterly Meeting (WQM): I enjoyed connecting with Joe and Jane Snyder again.