Monday, March 26, 2012

Wanderers: Equinox 2012


We enjoyed another free ranging, somewhat informal retreat this equinox.  We included some new faces and noticed absences.

Some, such as Lindsey, made only brief appearances, flitting through.

Patrick brought his boy Spencer, our youngest.

We had three accomplished guitarists.

My own experienced encompassed Blue House happenings and the fact that Tara was at "nat quals" seeing if she could qualify for the NFL championship.  She was undefeated.  She managed to join us on the final day, for a discussion of snake species, their habits and splendors.

Axolotls and salamanders also featured.

Glenn's pad was a part of it too, a source of scholarship and a place to catch up.

Nirel has been enterprising with her Cuffka line, building equipment, inventory and skills.  She has maximized use of her digs.  Her practice is high level.  She is one of my teachers.

We had a visitor at New Zealand at Blue House, who accompanied Melody to an Alice in Wonderland party.

Terry joined us on the Saturday morning walk to the top of Mt. Tabor.

Gus from Silverton shared flyers for his upcoming talk on April 24 regarding Homer Davenport, the famous political cartoonist and Arabian horse afficionado.

We had the projector set up and watched quite a few Youtubes, other videos.

Lew Scholl shared pictures from his trips to Peru, and to Nicaragua as a part of Multnomah Meeting's delegation.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Considering Nomenclature

A respected member of Multnomah Friends has requested that we change the name of Oversight Committee on the premise that it's deeply offensive to some people who harbor memories of slavery.  Plus there's a question of whether slavery ever went away, including in this country, or just went into prisons and/or became wage slavery in other forms.

In comparing notes with some UK citizens last night, we agreed that "oversight" and "overseer" contain different connotations and moods.  The east coast Quakers have used "overseer" more and many have already retreated from that use.  I think marrying "overseer" with "tryant" makes some sense, as per the paragraph below which I sent out from the Blue House recently:
In particular, the fact that many have championed the cause of freedom against coercive overseers who would impress slave-draftees into military service, is a source of hope in many chapters.  Relatively recently, Muhammad Ali stood up against overseers of the Vietnam War and served as a role model for a growing underground of anti-war youth who are clearly not cowards nor afraid of a good / fair fight.  Islam put a damper on the lust for war then, as did Buddhism-Hinduism through The Beatles.  There's a rush to war again, with many of the same voices that encouraged a pre-emptive attack on Iraq again at the forefront.   
"Oversight", on the other hand, is maybe something we don't have enough of, although it's also a pun or double edged word, like "sanctions" (which means "punishes" and "permits").  An "oversight" is something missed, sometimes leading to hurt feelings, as the connotation is "out of negligence".  Should we call it "the Negligence Committee"?  Some Friends skeptical of the committee's performance might consider this ironically honest.

Yes, there's a sense of hierarchy or topography in the word, in the sense of some committees providing more overview.  Would "the Overview Committee" sound less like it's about holding slaves?

However the important point to make here is that Friends are expected to rotate through these committees, more like going from ride to ride at the carnival.  Sometimes you ride the Ferris wheel, a nice sedate image of what Oversight may be like (another image is "roller coaster").

I'm inclined to hold on to "Oversight" for backward (and forward) compatibility while meanwhile continuing to chip away at the whole concept of "race", which is 98% pseudo-science with an ugly past.  A racist is anyone who believes in races, which would be most USAers at this point -- an especially ignorant demographic in light of all the facilities they're privileged to have.  In terms of ratios, we're looking at a far from equilibrium biological phenomenon, likely to alter state in dynamical ways (chaos is like that).

I'm also against circulating this comforting myth that slavery has gone away, as if Quakers were really finished with their underground railroad business.

In terms of people taking offense, this is part of the new diplomacy where Diversity is concerned.  Those harboring some guilt complex are likely to find a shoe that fits in such an atmosphere, and begin issuing apologies on behalf not just of themselves, but on behalf of others as well.

What's true about guilt complexes is they often seek to involve others i.e. once one decides to fight a crime one sees oneself as guilty of committing, there's a tendency to not want others to "still get away with it". This is why the guilty tend to turn against their former friends and then run in packs, often whipped on by spin doctors (a kind of overseer) in the background.

Beware of the guilty, as they tend to attack in hoards from hidden positions -- like those rogue uber-coward drone people, who claim allegiance to a bankrupt nation kept on life support by their Beltway Junta.  They wrap themselves in the flag of "we the people" while confessing to and/or committing war crimes.  They carry brief cases to work and frequent think tanks.  Washington DC is full of these creatures, many of whom stalk the halls of government, imagining their own legitimacy, feeling entitled in some way.

I'm glad Quakers are having this nomenclature discussion, which has spread across several Yearly Meetings by this time.  The debate will impact the membership discussion as well, as some meetings have turned their Oversight Committees into Member Care committees, trading overview and integrity for a sickly cliquishness.  This is not a time to take the continuance of liberal Friends for granted.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pi Day 2012

I didn't do anything special around Pi Day this year.  However I did mention the University of Havana's role in one of my meetings with a Pycon delegate.  cu.pycon.org is not yet spoken for, but I know Python is being used there.  With the liberalization of the Internet (thanks in large degree to software libre), come new freedoms for its user-developers.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up and the bloggers are making their usual point that Ireland didn't have snakes since at least the last ice age, and therefore St. Patrick's famous feat of ridding said island of snakes is at best a figurative accomplishment -- some say the Celtic druids are what the snakes symbolize.

March 17 is also when Dawn died.  We had a dinner in her honor a couple nights ago, near the Unity and Friends establishments -- with a focus on Unity's outdoor labyrinth (we didn't walk it, but we all were aware of it).

Might some readers of the Book of Genesis and the Garden of Eden story think this logo is offensive?  I plucked it from a web site in India, where snakes are associated with wisdom, perhaps going back to Chinese dragon iconography.


The positive spin on snakes remains in the caduceus in Greco-Roman cultures, and as Athena's familiar.  But then some Christians tend to demonize Athena as a version of Eve, whom they consider somehow a cause of Man's downfall.


That's a blame-based interpretation of the Bible my version of Quakerism would not subscribe to, but this doesn't keep people from seeing West Point as some kind of Eve-centric cult (because of all the Athena motifs).

I find it natural, as many do, to associate the circle (back to pi day) with the image of a snake eating its own tail, the Uroboros.  This may also be taken as a symbol of the eternal return or eternal spiral.  These are not new ideas.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Music as Water

"Music like water" will be a paraphrase of David Bowie, with a screen shot in my slides.  That was from my Spotify meeting.  Tara and her peers appreciate what this company is doing.  It all started in Sweden, with a couple of friends wanting to stream music at a private birthday party.

Echoing Graham's talk:  what's "property" is fluid.  On Luna ("Luna Park" -- our moon), they'd sell you the smells of Planet Earth, but we get those for free here (duh) -- or used to.  I've not seen the biosphere without its layer of human industrial gases at any time during this trip.

That we've morphed the planet, beyond all recognition, like a Borg, is not debatable, whether the "climate" (chuckle, what's that?) has changed or not.

I'm in the chairman's suite at the moment, having just met Julie in-the-real for the first time.  I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel with my queues.  This was not a paid-by-work conference.  I have only Ewa to thank for the promo, and Steve.

Would I have been here otherwise?  Maybe.  Parallel Universe talk, best to leave it alone ("other tomorrow" -- hello Trevor Blake).

What I saw today:  the guy who invented Selenium is well on his way to having a "magic fingers" with eyes, that tipples through your phone apps looking for bugs.  He controlled it with Python, as it played Angry Birds on his tablet and managed a decent (I thought -- not being a player) score.

As I was explaining to some of my colleagues, I'm busy losing my virginity in several dimensions here, such as in letting my Droid scan some garbage that led it to eat a 4.5MB application.  eXistenZ again.

A high point today:  I grabbed the mic after an ESRI guy called the Fuller Projection crazy.  This was after lots of reminders that the Mercator is nuts.  We had a jovial exchange.  He politely paused while I took a picture (ESRI has the Fuller Projection as an option), saying I'd put it on Facebook & Twitter (which is true).  Julie Steele (O'Reilly) tweeted the buzz, which I retweeted.

Congrats to Carl Trachte for the Community Award this morning, presented in absentia.

I'm pleased with the new Nikon Coolpix S8200.  It has a lot of built in intelligence, and as a guy with bags, swag, on the move, huffing / puffing, there's not all that slow motion time to set up a shot, use the gauges.  The approximations taken by the on-board algorithms seem pretty on target.  See what you think.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Work in the Service Industry

I admire the professionalism of the personnel and the high living standards to which I am treated, and not because I am royalty or especially entitled.  I'm just another paying customer taking care of business.

Glenn and I parted, talking global climate change and solar flares, as I boarded the 75 at Chavez & Hawthorne for Hollywood Transit Center and thence to the airport.  However, having watched eXistenZ again (movie night) I had lost a battle with my cell phone charger (I no longer saw it as being the right one) and left the Blue House with a dead Droid.

So instead of riding to the airport I jumped off in this new Mall City for some low density strategic shopping, Rev. Billy a role model, like when he buys that sweater, suits him.  No crushing through the doors in a panic for some stupid "deal".

I picked up a high zoom high megapixel camera, more later, and a new charger with built in buffer / battery for the Droid.  Got back on the next Max and resumed the trip.

I worked through a lot of my queue in Sacramento but still have a ways to go tonight.  I wanted to meet some of the Python MVPs, both on the ground floor and in Steve's suite.  I was not disappointed.

All in all, I have nothing to complain about at the moment.  As I reminisced with Steve, even though I've traveled a lot, it was under the aegis of my parents, my dad the trip planner in particular, and he was quite the smooth operator.  I was openly critical, but also admiring.  He knew his stuff.  We were the people to share it with him.

I feel I'm more disorganized and hit the TSA station like a cloud of loosely connected particles.  This guy came up to me with my postage stamps that had dropped.  I'd leaked coins as well.  A team helps me win.  Alaska Airlines still gives complementary wine on these short hops.  A high culture.

What do Pythonistas talk about at gatherings such as this, informally?  Just like everyone, we compare notes about life's journey and children are a big part of that.  We talk a lot about children, about parenting.

Not that I talk all that much.  I toted Naga this whole way, our PSF totem.  I have this newly embossed bag, done in Florida, with the stuffed / toy python inside.  Quite light and airy.  I also checked one bag for $20, well worth doing.  Again, the service has been excellent.  Alaska Airlines, the various airports, the drivers, the people helping me at the Verizon (charger) and Best Buy (camera).

My blog post on Pycon for the O'Reilly site is worth a link here.  Grandma and Grandpa O'Reilley would be amused and I think happy enough with this new incarnation.  The potato famine came up recently, where was that?  Tom's relatives came over as a result of that, or so goes the family story.

I brought (Over)interpreting Wittgenstein again, like on the trip to Philadelphia.  This book might actually pass for an anthropology of philosophy in some ways, and when I encountered has passages paying respect to Clifford Geertz, an anthropologist, I felt some happiness.  Wittgenstein and Geertz were both my heroes but I'd either forgotten or never known how much Geertz in turn admired Wittgenstein, took his thinking to heart in crafting his own style of rendering "thick description".

My Invisibile Landscapes series says "Hello Clifford Geertz" in one part, and was written closer to that time.

I consider myself to be in the service industry as well.  I work long hours, if odd ones.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Quakers and Nationalism

The AFSC has clearly bought into the nationalist model for organizing human affairs.  This has much to do with its history with the UN and the legacy of the 113 history of the British Empire, which gave rise to nationalism in its modern from.  Gandhi was a nationalist.  The split of India and Pakistan into separate nations, largely along religious lines, demonstrates the consequences of nationalism.  Now these are both nuclear weapons states, which would have upset Gandhi greatly.

Albert Einstein was more skeptical of nationalist programming.  He'd lived through the rise of German nationalism and saw how the Third Reich manipulated people into responding viscerally and emotionally to its symbols.  Humans are designed to process symbolically and to channel the archetypes by this means.  If an alchemy goes awry, the consequences may be deadly.  Ideologies channel energy and drive behavior.  If they're out of sync with the Holy Spirit or Noosphere (as some call it), nightmare scenarios may ensue.

Will humans a thousand years from now, a hundred years from now, look back on our 190+ national sovereignties as a passing phase / stage in evolutionary development?  A lot of us hope so.  However the picture is more nuanced in that one may conceptualize in terms of nations at the same time as one looks at other organs of governance on other levels.  As people continually point out these days, many a corporation has assets and annual budget exceeding those of some smaller states.  The 190+ states already share the stage with a number of other actors, including the world religions, with their own capitals such as the Vatican and Mecca.

Some people talk about Friends Center as the Quaker Vatican.  I like this nickname because it reminds us of non-national governance structures that have a global aspect.  Quakers need not be nationalist, anymore than they need brand themselves "Christian".  Like nations, religions are long-running PR campaigns, memeplexes, designed to manage human emotions and marshal behavior.

I'm interested in working with Quakers who are distancing themselves from Christianity partly because the Christian brand has lost so much of its luster in its service to nationalism and the goals of Manifest Destiny.  The institution of Pope, based in Rome, inherits from the position of Roman Emperor with the title of Caesar (Czar).

Christianity has worked hand-in-glove with imperial powers, of necessity, and absorbed much of the apparatus of nationalism.  To question the efficacy of nations, of dividing the world into a jigsaw puzzle of "nation states" is to think "outside the box" where many Christians are concerned.  It's taken for granted, to the extent that its resultant ills and pathologies are overlooked.  "Could the whole concept of 'nations' be sinful and against God's will?" -- that's not a question that gets asked much.

Moving away from nationalism does not mean strictly avoiding its core concepts ("when in Rome...") but it does mean brainstorming ways to reduce its influence.

Using world maps and globes that show no nations, or do so optionally as an overlay, is one aspect of the youth programs some Quakers have been working on.  Our Multnomah Monthly Meeting has a Fuller Projection in the childrens classroom.

Adult Quakers may have interest groups wherein a future without nation-states is contemplated, along with the question "how do we get there from here?".

Does this de-emphasis on the importance of nations put some Friends in conflict with the AFSC and its overtly nationalist programming?  Do we side with the AFSC and it's proposed "two state solution" for the Israel-Palestine conflict, or with Rabbi Lerner and his vision of a "no state solution"?  Clearly I'm more biased towards the latter solution, as are many religious leaders.  The nation-state "system" is too broken and psychologically immature for the long haul.  Humans will eventually outgrow it.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Corporation Meeting

:: Trip to AFSC / Philly ::

So here I am in Philadelphia at the annual corporation meeting.  I'm representing North Pacific Yearly Meeting. I also have long experience with the local (Portland) AFSC office, though not so much in recent chapters.

I was wondering if Hugh Thomforde would be here again this year.  He showed up just now at breakfast.  We did some catching up.  Hugh and I were part of the small clique of Quakers that met in Rome, Italy in the 1960s.  His dad worked for the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Now he lives in Arkansas.

Last year, we had a timeline about the AFSC around the breakfast room.  This year it's The Faces of Occupy.  Philadelphia's camp was right nearby and used the Friends building for bathrooms and a kitchen.  Hugh says Little Rock still has its camp going.  I showed him some pictures of from Occupy Portland on the Mac Air.  Then we moved in to Meeting for Worship.

Mom and I met at the Philadelphia airport last night and had a small meal of mussels and crab soup. This was behind the security line, so mom's carry-on, which US Airways had wanted to check, went ahead to the baggage claim area.  Recovering it from the office, where they said it would be, took some fussing, but it all worked out.

AFSC is a Quaker meme pool and switchboard, one might say.  It rises to the occasion.

Does this corporation have corporate personhood?  US law currently says it does, but Quakers have a history of considering lawyers and the law behind the times (look at immigration law), mired in superstition and obsolete thinking.  That's a perk of having a religion based on continuing revelation I suppose.  This is how new rules come about.

The AFSC has the word "American" as a first word, which suggests "America" has some role to play in Friends service.  In the obsolete world order, Americans saw themselves as helping the world be a better place.  These days, more of Friends' work is about educating Americans to be less destructive in the world.  As civilizations go, many of the North American ones are turning out to be quite militaristic and therefore frustrating and debilitating to many peoples around the world.

People "look up to" Americans a lot less than they did when the AFSC was first founded.  Working in a world that demonizes / vilifies Americans (USAers call themselves Americans) is more challenging in some ways.  As we move towards a Global University aesthetic, we learn to accommodate these twists and turns, to stay effective.

Mostly the AFSC needs to focus on its North American regions, of which there are four.  The rest of the world will be better off to the extent that Americans get their act together and stop being a drain on the world economy.  Helping peoples to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of American laws and lawyers is a worthy objective (remember the Bremer Edicts?). Many of their ideas regarding intellectual property, corporate personhood etc. are not conducive to human / humane development.

Importing better ideas from elsewhere is a top AFSC priority the way I see it, especially where alternatives to violence are concerned.  Occupy is one of those imports, to which USAers have added their spin (each city in a different way).  The idea that the USA has something valuable to offer is more back burner these days -- it does, but mostly USAers need to do their homework.

Friends are not uniform in their practices and expressions of belief.  The AFSC gets caught in the middle sometimes, as Friends project their fears and worries about one another's lineage onto their various agencies.  Many Friends have distanced themselves from the AFSC even as they have distanced themselves from other Friends.  This is not unusual for a religious tradition:  it forks and branches, not unlike software projects on Github or whatever.  Such is life in the big city.