Friday, September 28, 2012

A Birthday Party


My memories of Chris go back a long way, to my earliest boyhood, back to when we still lived around 12th and Prescott.  The Martins, Hazel Hemphill, the Jumps, the Pinneys, Iona Tanner...  these were some of the early personalities I tuned in, sitting in the back of the car, sent upstairs for First Day School, and so on.

A faction within the USG had successfully lobbied Truman for permission to detonate uber-bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Contrary to Einstein's hopes, the Americans would import German scientists and use the very Nazis he'd hope to circumvent, to make the Atomic Age an horrific experience.  Portland works on healing this trauma to this day, with Hanford part of the scar.

Speaking of Hanford, mom is just back from a conference there.  These days, the USG is being vocal about having been raped by the Grunch and left in a ditch, defenseless.

You wouldn't think of Uncle Sam as broken and bust, left in a ditch, but then you probably haven't read about the Gross Universal Cash Heist, a continuation of the story in Critical Path, wherein the ever law-abiding, ever rule-changing "zombie devils" ("corporate persons" ala Voodoo Economics) work to subvert and overturn any advances on behalf of humanity made by FDR and his ilk.

The Business Plot people hoping to recruit Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler, never gave up on their quest to gut the government and repurpose its treasury to their own ends.  We're talking about a billions-of-dollars vitrification plant that has yet to do any useful cleanup work, budgets sucked dry.  What's the story on the Savannah Plant?

Anyway, back to Chris.  He lives across from the Stark Street Meeting House today, which is where I first met him.  However, he's a member of a different church, and actively performs in that church's rituals, which are more elaborate than Friends' (that's not saying much as Friends have it stripped down to a minimum, the name "Stark Street" apropos (as in "stark naked")).

His older brother is Craig and his younger is Doug.  Doug does a lot of database work, as I've done, mostly for unions these days.  He and Heather talked a lot.  Heather is married to a high school chemistry teacher and I couldn't resist telling her Breaking Bad should be in her queue, as worthy adult entertainment.  She's one of those brilliant and beautiful Pinney kids after all, an original founding family of our Stark Street (aka Multnomah) Meeting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Attenders to the Spirit

Attenders are Friends who attend to the Spirit (however named) using the Friends Meeting for Worship as a vehicle for group (corporate) experience and worship.

If an attender is led by the spirit to seek membership status, she or he should write a letter to the Meeting's Oversight Committee.  This triggers a process involving a Clearness Committee wherein the attender tests this leading, a kind of peer review process.  See the Meeting's documentation for details.

However, it is not a requirement of Friends that attenders seek membership in order to fully participate in the life of the meeting.  Committee work is open to all, and the label of "Friend" is used liberally to embrace all participants in the Religious Society who wish to claim some level of affiliation.

One's level of participation, more than one's status on paper, is often a better gauge of one's degree of commitment to Friends and their testimonies.  Attenders may identify themselves as attending Friends e.g. "I attend such-and-such a meeting" whether or not they claim membership status.

Membership brings with it some new practices however.  Members should expect their Meeting to be involved in carrying out their wishes upon death.  What do you want to happen with your Flickr account, your Facebook, your email?  What should happen with your body and so forth.

Attenders usually have not taken the step of asking a Meeting for these kinds of services, though I know of exceptions.

Membership, once acquired, may be transferred from Meeting to Meeting by a recognized process (see Faith and Practice or similar documentation).  Other forms of membership, not obtained through any specific monthly meeting, may be available, either through a Yearly Meeting or perhaps FWCC.  Check manuals for the latest practices or write to the clerk of one of these bodies for more information.

The choice to not pursue membership does not mean one is a second class participant in the life of a Meeting, only that one may have made other arrangements with regard to the dying process.

The practice around weddings is similar:  one may have a Quaker wedding without being a member, or be a member yet choose to wed in a different manner, perhaps because other family would prefer to celebrate in a different tradition.

Sometimes a new Meeting will form from a worship group in such a manner that the attenders attain membership in the process of the Meeting itself becoming recognized as part of a larger group of meetings.

However, in the case of breakaway Meetings, affiliation with other Quaker organizations may come later if at all.   Not all Friends recognize one another as Friends of their own kind (the division between unprogrammed and pastoral is an old schism, however there are others as well).

Attending Friends may choose to not seek membership because their affiliations extend to other traditions, some of which may be controversial among Friends.

A given membership may collectively fear infiltration by "pagans" or "spies" or "gangs" or "ranters" or "the AFSC" or "clerics" some other persuasion judged "not Friendly enough".

Rather than rock the boat by insisting on membership, attender status may be the way to go i.e. continuing to participate as an attender may be the most "sympatico" or mutually agreeable outcome for a given special case Friend.  Ben Franklin might be considered a role model in this regard.

Note that a common practice among Friends, historically speaking, among members and attenders alike, is journaling, which these days might mean blogging.

If you're looking to adopt more Friends' practices, consider taking up journaling in some way shape or form.  More and more people are doing that anyway, which might be taken as a sign that Friends were on to something early -- which fact should probably not seem surprising given Friends attend to the leading of the spirit or zeitgeist.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Equinox

I'll summarize a number of events here.

First, the Portland State Meteorite Lab held its annual fundraiser, once again featuring Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer for the Vatican, a sovereign nation with two disconnected properties:  at the center of Rome and Castel Gandalfo.  Then lets not forget VATT, the Mt. Graham observatory in Arizona.

During WW2, the Vatican's growing meteorite collection was preserved at Castel Gandalfo.  There was some understanding, promoted by FDR especially, that there would be no bombing of Rome or other historic sites in Italy.

Castel Gandalfo was likewise mostly spared, although an American plane did hit at least one of the buildings.

Brother Guy also talked about the tank battles of North Africa, given one of the meteor donors was also a leading Anglo surveyor of the region, and an evangelist for the idea of a new lake in the Sahara, fed by canal.  The Brits were advantaged by the surveying / mapping that had occurred as a result of this planning.

Lew was at this talk and showed me some of the pictures on his phone that he's been getting with his new telescope, which takes a camera as an attachment.  Lew has pressed ahead with researching, ordering and installing a sound system for the Friends Meetinghouse on Stark Street.  We should be testing it this week.

Lots of biking that day, including out to around 13th and Alberta, near the house where my memories of Portland begin.  I took some pictures of it.

Most of the week was devoted to getting our Portland faculty reconfigured, with a super from Illinois flying out to do some training.  We toured a bit, visiting Oaks Park.  She's a grader, like the rest of us.

Wanderers kicked off its Fall Retreat, timed with the Equinox, on Friday.  Bob and Sarah joined us.  Good seeing Alex again (he stopped by the Pauling House today and we went for lunch at Toney Bento).

Rose City Astronomers, the cosmologists' group, decided to shift their meeting to Friday and showed up just as the retreat was getting underway.  This confluence of groups resulted in some interesting cross-fertilization.  At least one cosmology buff jumped over to our group and stayed with us until Saturday.

Wanderers met for breakfast at The Roadrunner, a new cafe on Division.

Since everyone except me has been out of town, the dog has had some unsupervised time to bark up a storm.  This bothered the neighbors quite a bit.  I need to keep the windows closed when no humans are home.

Lindsey returned from her hike around the mountain, in the company of three others.  Today, the Food Not Bombs drop off was bigger than ever.

I've been plowing through Breaking Bad amidst a flurry of documentaries.

Ignite Portland 11 happened in the middle of this.  Ben, with our school, was a principal organizer.  That's appropriate given the historical roots of the Ignite franchise.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Love Song of RBF (movie review)


This traveling exhibit of movie director + live band is a new kind of blending of film and the arts.  In the early days of film, before "talkies", a live piano or even an orchestra might provide sound track, with spoken parts inserted as readable text, usually not much of it.  Comic books were for the more literate, who could get off on lots of talk and thought balloons.

Having the director, Sam Green, narrate the movie adds to the texture of the Q&A, plus makes it the logical analog of the book tour.  Why would you tour your movie and not show it?  The show is to get into the material with an audience and go with the flow they create.  In this case, the fifth showing of the work, the audience found Fuller endearing but also easy to mock in a gentle way.  They were actually mocking a whole generation.  "Bucky meets the Hippies on Hippie Hill" is one of Sam's favorite tapes and it's obvious why.  An acid tripping hippie gives Bucky a "high David" (star sign) amidst a veritable talk balloon.  Bucky takes it all in, amused, and the TV anchor assures the audience we all had a good time (the 1960s was quite tense remember, with a break-down in town-gown relations).

This is a definite contribution to the literature.  People have been wondering about that archives.  That the Rodney King episode and near burning of Fuller's chronofile was a triggering event was news to me.  What I remember is more mundane and soap operatic, but with the same outcome:  the chronofile went to Stanford, which has this Matrix-like way of storing things.  Good outcome.  The audience is somewhat mesmerized by that image, right from the beginning, right after the helicopter does its thing.  But then all those copters were soon needed in Viet Nam and did "that thing" (lifting a geodesic dome from point A to point B) hardly at all, after that.  Domes have faded into the industrial background, the spheres back into nature, as carbon molecules and viruses, topics in STEM.

Allusions to Thinking Out Loud, another major filmic contribution, were cut through it.  We end in pretty much the same place, with memories of this quirky man in a Hawaiian shirt trying to get us to feel the world spinning round, a fool on the hill.

The Q&A was interesting, as was the venue, Washington High School, our ghostly Ministry of Education but a headquarters for PICA all along (an art colony of sorts) and producer of this TBA event, 10th year running.  A major event.  I stood in the wrong line and despaired of getting in, then found Trevor with his friend.  I felt lucky to get in, lets put it that way.  Plus I'd gotten special dispensation from the clerk of Oversight to leave our monthly committee meeting early (enough time to go over guidelines on the membership process, a process subject to attender review).

One guy in the audience told the story of how Bucky stopped by his VW bus to explain how he could enlarge its footprint, when stationary, with slanted awnings of various kinds, a well known design by this time.  We have a tea van with "wings" here in Portland.  Another announced that "tensegrity" was still important and could change the world.  Trevor and I exchanged glances, mutually amused to be immersed in such a theater.

Trevor had some souvenirs for the performers, was actually a guest of the director's.  His Synchronofile is well respected among Buckynauts.  I'd learned of this event through Tim DuRoche whom I met through Portland Center Stage during the last major Bucky-related event in Portland.  Speaking of which, one could see relationships between this performance and the D.W. Jacobs play.  The synchronization of pre-recorded media and live performance is essential to them both.  Psychedelica haunt the background.

The arc of Sam's story is the Seattle World's Fair as we know it today (Seattle Center), where there's still a "laser dome" showing synchronized sound and light.  He'd gone to "laser Gaga" and gone gaga, in part owing to the mystery of the venue.  Who had planned a "laser dome" for Seattle's youth, anyway?  Where does this story start?  That's what takes him to Stanford, and the archives.

The music was quite engaging and reminiscent of the Burning Man focused Factory Of One.  The "music video" genre has come full circle, as there's no reason a live performance can't have pre-recorded elements as well.  The extended shots of the Dymaxion Car, the dome in Montreal, and the compositions that go with, are nicely meshed.  You could hear the horn in traffic.  Bucky having his own house built, in Carbondale, is indeed endearing.  Anne's presence is muted.

The audience thought "dymaxion" sounded funny (which it does).

T.C. Howard gets credit for the laser dome, which was originally part of a Boeing exhibit.

Speaking of psychedelica, the sidebar on Stewart Brand is quite good.  "Why Haven't We Seen Any Pictures of the Whole Earth Yet?" he's asking, after yakking with Bucky (and dropping acid).  Pretty soon, we're seeing them, including on the cover of the Whole Earth Catalog.  Good to fit that in.  One could sense a torch being passed, in a way, as the old hippies communicated their lore to a 21st century audience, mostly born after Nixon, dim memories of Reagan.

Having an atmosphere of general levity, with Fuller's upbeat message still resonating, is conducive to seriousness also.  This was a Powerpoint on steroids, with lots of resources devoted thereto, and one would want it to make waves.  Even if the content becomes more cartoon-like, as we turn to Synergetics with live sound, we'll not want to let go of the serious notes.  Your quality of life somewhat hinges on what you do with those artifacts, those toys, now that you have them.  You've been well provided for, but are your reflexes too dated to make good use of the opportunity?  Are you humans too slow?  That's a perennial question, isn't it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wanderers 2012.9.11

DSCN0209

Michael Hagmeier is here at the Pauling House, with Heather, and some of his didj collection.

Dick Pugh is here too, reminding us of the upcoming lecture by the Vatican astronomer, about the Vatican's meteor collection.

Since Dick and Michael have both been to Australia that made for some discussion.

Michael is selling tickets for his concert, September 29th.

The conversation continued to meander.

Discovered bombs and weapons from wars long over (a topic).

Jimmy is here talking about his experiments with ultra-light camping gear.  That discussion is apropos as Lindsey is busy configuring for an away team, leaving tomorrow.

I left her to her business in the living room as conversation would only make for further delays.

How much weight to pack is a big discussion.  Lots of parameters and tradeoffs.

This all sounds like STEM to me, and/or "girl scout math" (one of my curriculum writing projects).

More with less.  Dymaxion.

The tiny water filter Jimmy brought for show and tell was awesome.  Lindsey should meet this guy.

Friday, September 07, 2012

DjangoCon 2012


We met in Crystal City this year, adjacent Reagan Airport.  I came and went on US Airways.  Election fever was in the air, or at least lots of political theater.  I took a break from the MVP party in Steve's suite, to see what the prez had to say.  Then back up the elevator for more jocular banter.  I'd supplied the booze, though I knew my taxi driver had religious practices that forbade him to deal in alcohol.  He wasn't, these were separate transactions (cab fare versus supermarket).  Hyatt again.

I was most fortunate to reconnect with Glenn Baker, high school chum in the Philippines.  He'd been in Vienna, Virginia before Manila, in India, Turkey and Pakistan before that, another expat brat, like me.  His dad was USIS when I knew them, mine USAID, former UN, a free lancer.  My dad'd also worked for the Libyans, the Egyptians and the Swiss.  Glenn stayed with our family that time we were living in DC and I was rather newly into the Bucky stuff.  Glenn got a job with CDI, and formed better relations with Cuba.  I went on in software, developing applications in a proprietary Microsoft language (acquired, formerly FoxPro 2, another in the xBase genre), then migrated to Python, which is what brought me here, courtesy of The Open Bastion and my day job.

In supplying some drinks (including Dead Guy Ale) for this party, I was contributing as a private citizen to an event.  The Django Software Foundation (DSF) never commits funds for alcohol purchase (I think that's a bylaw) and some of its core developers have no use for the stuff.  This doesn't mean Django the product can't be used by gambling establishments that serve drinks.  The software license is one of freedom, and open source.  Coffee shops that offer games of skill and practice for charitable cause funding, are welcome to use Django.

Glenn and I checked out The Artisphere in Rosslyn, closed on Labor Day, where he spotted a friend of his in the lineup of exhibitors.  Then we found ourselves in Georgetown, almost by accident, exploring the "Exorcist steps".  This will be the topic of my presentation at our next staff Show & Tell I'm pretty sure.  These don't happen often (last one:  Bodega Bay, backdrop for Hitchcock's The Birds).  As The Story of Film remembers, The Exorcist pioneered new ground in helping audience members go crazy and faint or whatever it was (some kind of religious frenzy, as if possessed by some spirit).

I learned a lot about the limitations of current web technology.  Stuff I thought had become seamless, is far from it.  The question, from an engineering standpoint, is whether you're looking at JSON or HTTP stuff on the wire.  A Twitter or one of those will load the HTML and then just puppet with JSON, using web sockets or whatever.  That's right, up to our ears in geek speak as usual, happy to have our own language.  I sat next to such creatures at Princeton in the cafeteria, shyly with my tray, wondering what they were yammering about.  Was it English?  Maybe not quite?

At least the gender gap is closing.  Many other gaps are strongly in evidence.  PyLadies invited Steve for breakfast.  I was "slaying the Q" that morning (shop talk).  I was grateful to sit in on many of the talks.  FoxPro was SQL intensive, still is (a language for writing thick clients -- can also work server side).  I think a lot about Trucking (as in Truckology) in this context, not exclusively about medical data.

The talk on credit card industry standards, PCI, and the difference between A and D status, was enlightening.  To certify as a D, meaning you warehouse credit card info, is no easy task.  The Web offers many solutions, with more to come, whereby an A status merchant can sell to a cardholder without card numbers ever hitting her or his persistent storage devices.  This makes life much easier, should auditing happen.

I actually managed to space out my return date and lucked out, thanks to Expedia guy and US Airways.  Usually same day fares on busy flights are unavailable to exorbitant.  I was glad to help with ground control remotely by cell, when Lindsey's mom's plane came in late (LW, our visiting scholar and blog character -- and strong athlete in the "lifestyle Olympics").  I kept burners warm at the Math Forum, cooking up some steamy STEM stew (I think with a good aroma, healthful fare).

Eric Sterling proved an interesting interlocutor, one of our keynote speakers.  He joined our party at the top of the Hyatt, with our friends from Brazil, other places, and held forth on Quakers and Quaker history in an engaging manner.  His first job upon leaving college was with WILPF, where my mom works to this day.  Fascinating guy.  That's the kind you'll meet around DC if you're lucky.

Burning Man proved a theme, somewhat unexpectedly.  Ties within the Django community were somewhat anticipated (by me) but in the rear view mirror it makes sense.  "More Monty Python jokes and allusions in the literature" was one of the popularly agreed upon resolutions, at least in the circle I was lurking in.  My perspective is limited, as always.  Good hearing from Gagus (his Google name), my student in Indonesia.