Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shift Happens Rapidly

I'm under the gun at work and regret not getting to the end of Jeff Goebel's slides today, but those that I saw were excellent and totally apropos for a Wanderers meetup, as the content was science.

Lots of STEM.

The topic was global climate change, but from a refreshing new angle.

Jeff works with ranchers, farmers, foresters, tribes, subcultures, to formulate land use and long range resource management plans based on buy-in and consensus.

He's been working with Deidre Schuetz, who presented last week, about her land and resource management projects in Senegal and Guinea.

As his slides made clear, keeping our atmosphere viable is all about the race between photosynthesis on the one hand, and carbon being lost to the atmosphere.

Rather than limit his focus on the fossil fuel problem (peak oil etc.), he understands that increasing biomass in and of itself is a way of countering global warming.

His arguments require only a high school understanding of geo- and biochemistry.  However, unless you've been doing your homework, you might not have the puzzle as put together as Jeff does.

Great talk.  We're still in for rough times though.  Jeff doesn't know how much a difference his approach will make, but he feels good about catalyzing it spreading quickly.

Perma-culture and so on are known sciences i.e. he's not looking to science fiction to save our butts, though I'm sure he'd welcome a few deus ex machina maneuvers, if we can swing 'em.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

When Quakers go Trans

By my title you might be thinking I mean "trans-gender" but I'm talking about another kind of transition at the institutional level.  The ideas of "hormone therapy" and/or "surgery" still have application in this extended metaphor.

When a cis Liberal Meeting decides to pass for Pastoral, it needs to embark upon a somewhat lengthy process.  In the final stages, vital committees considered intrinsic to Liberal Friends, including Business Meeting itself, may be put on ice or shelved.  This is sometimes posed as "an experiment" i.e. lets put aside our structures and just have potlucks and family fun, not worry our heads about such worldly matters as Liberals (remember them?) might be concerned with.

A first sign that a change might be looming is when Friends cannot seem to fill their own Peace and Social Concerns committee.  Why should a bunch of middle class white people enjoying their privileges want to busy themselves with fighting the status quo?  Life is pretty good.  Lets focus on our families instead.

If you have a nice meetinghouse, you'll have "event center" possibilities, i.e. a steady income, and with a Pastoral Care Committee, you'll be able to divvy the surplus among the faithful, meaning mostly members, i.e. those who've demonstrated due obedience to the Pastoral team.

We Liberals sometimes call this form of Pastoralism "kiss butt Quakerism", clearly pejorative, but forgive us, the whole of Quakerism owes itself, in large degree, to throwing off any pastoral caste.  That some Quakers fell back into the slime and lost their evolutionary advantages is not tacit permission for all of us to fall from grace in such a spectacular manner.

The meeting I attend and have served for many decades, as Quarterly Meeting Planner when we host that event (WQM), as Overseer, as Peace and Social Concerns person, even as Assistant Clerk, appears to be undergoing hormone therapy with an eye towards becoming a Trans Church.

As a dry run, the Pastor-Clerks assumed record-level powers and made a secret deal with a radical political group many Liberals have real questions about.  Oversight was bypassed, except for its clerk, whom the pastoral team pledged to secrecy until the deal was done and announced to the world on Facebook, i.e. until it was too late.

News of the deal going down was leaked however, and a delegation of Liberals approached the pastors on bended knee, so to speak, to beg for lenience.  They brought a petition.  Don't sell out by committing a trophy meetinghouse, a symbolic property, so easily, and in such a back-handed manner, was our silent plea -- I said nothing during this April 13 meeting, as I was still trying to understand what was happening to our meeting (e.g. what is "CAC"?).

The pastor-clerks eventually relented, after taking a few days to consult with advisers (the CAC), saying they have great compassion for all members and if anyone feels bullied by any group, they're here to protect them.  A series of special meetings was called, to prove the sincerity of our protectiveness.

This about face totally pissed off the first group (understandably) the radicals with whom the secret deal had already been struck, but their wrath was probably worth the price, as the main point was in terms of internal Quaker politics:  Business Meeting must beg, not decide.  The pastors were in control and were making all key decisions, not the laity, i.e. the surgery was almost complete.

As an Overseer at the time, and of the Liberal persuasion, I understandably went ballistic, and that's where an Eldering Committee comes in, instigated directly by pastor-clerks against any lingering dissident Liberal: lets make an example of this dissenter, by loving him to death ("compassionate listening" they called it).

Likewise Oversight -- soon to be renamed Pastoral Care Committee if the kiss-butts have their way -- was not really a factor in making this decision, either to go with the radicals or to cancel.  The hormone therapy was almost complete.  We're a Quaker Trans Church in the making.  That's the fashionable trend these days.  Pastors rule!

True Liberal Meetings are a vanishing species perhaps.  Don't assume simply checking the Faith and Practice will get you the truth.  Ours is riddled with misleading inaccuracies and, at this point, I'd say outright lies.  It says we have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee.  That's covering up the fact that we don't (no meetings in ages, nothing on the calendar going forward, AFSC ex oficio... gone).

So yes, I see our Integrity testimony as falling by the wayside here, but minus any Peace and Social Concerns, who's to be concerned about it?  You see how it all fits together, in an almost hermetic way.  Quakers are brilliant around process, that much is clear.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Membership Matters

A friend of mine was asking about membership in the Religious Society of Friends.  How does that work?  I was recounting a story of a fun little family that got rejected for membership, which is what triggered the question.  How does it work?

The way it works normally is a Monthly Meeting will want to clear you for membership, in return for your demonstrating loyalty to that particular meeting, paying your dues so to speak.  If you live far away, you won't be able to participate much, so you'll be directed to a more nearby meeting most likely.  At least that's how it was at Multnomah until recently, when we branched out and offered long distance membership to someone in Canada, without the labeling of Isolated Friend.

Once a Monthly Meeting clears you for membership (write a letter to Oversight to get the ball rolling), you're on the hook in terms of coming to business meetings and serving on committees -- unless you attain Released status.

This coveted Released status lets you (a) retain your membership in the Monthly Meeting and (b) keeps Nominating from tapping you for chores, or Oversight from snagging you for clearness duty.

Obtaining elite Released status requires having some ministry or testimony the meeting adjudges worth taking on the road.  You're a spokesperson for Quakerism at that level, and that gives you an alibi, a justification for being "off the hook" vis-a-vis regular membership duties.

Finally, there's what I call Walt Whitman Friends, which are people who eschew the shackles of any particular Monthly Meeting yet manage to worm their way into Quakerism nonetheless.  Walt Whitman never joined a Meeting but walked and talked like a Quaker and Quakers would like to claim him as one of their own. 

Birthright Friends used to be in this category, not subject to a clearness process, but most Monthly Meetings no longer accept such an entitlement.

On the other hand, if your currency as a Quaker is relatively weak, your lack of a formal membership in any Monthly Meeting may be used to demote you.  You'll have the rank of attender.  You'll find members sometimes being snobby towards you; they can't help themselves usually.

Both non-members and Whitman Friends have a fair amount of clout in a Liberal Friends meeting.  Liberal Friends are serious about not taking titles too seriously, including that of "member".  Jesus never invited us to form a membership club after all, that's just after-the-fact bureaucracy, added-on infrastructure, like a fan club.

So non-members will oft be found riddling a Liberal meeting, providing walk-the-talk integrity to the Equality Testimony, showing the world that the whole "membership" thing is to be taken with a grain of salt (member = officially cleared cheerleader in large degree).

Having members is important though.  It boosts the morale of a meeting to have a few pillars of society step up to the plate and roll up their sleeves.  These pillars don't see committee work as a chore or obligation so much as a privilege.

Both members and non-members may share this more enlightened perspective.

Like, how often do you get to do serious role playing in a 350+ year old language game that encourages personal and corporate growth, one centered around a shared business (the meeting itself)?  What a great sandbox to work and play in.  And you don't have to be rich.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Prying Open a Generator

A Python generator is very like a function but is characterized by the keyword yield, and preserves state between calls.

For example you might have a generator that keeps spitting back a successive digits of Pi, but to do that, it needs to keep track of internal values between called to pi_digits.__next__() or whatever.

Do we have a way to take a generator that's already been advanced through several yields, and study the internal values of its state variables?  Yes.

Steve Holden wrote some code like the following to show me how it's done:

The output is:

... the current values of i, and n, respectively.

Using a FrameType object, you get to act like a debugger and get into the current state. This technique applies to more than just generators, but I think generators are a good example of something the guts of which you might want to peek into.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Lifetime Achievement

Carol got her lifetime achievement award from US Congressman Earl Blumenaur today.  She's a rallying figure in the nuke weapons abolition movement, which I blog about here a lot, like mother like son (dad was anti nuke weapon too of course, ours being a pacifist / Quaker family).

The First Unitarian Church has this useful Eliot Center where I've been to a Johnny Stallings fundraiser to help prisoners, and at least one BarCamp, maybe two.

Today the place was packed with Quakers, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Columbia Riverkeepers, and observers from myriad other groups (see slides).

We had a panel which yakked about the Marshall Islanders' lawsuit against the slothful / inefficient / incompetent Nuke Nations, who under the NPT have agreed to shed these signature hallmarks of an idiocracy in the making.  Some Nuke Nations are outside the NPT though, understandably skeptical the others will abide by it.

When people lined up at the microphone, I took off to get some neighborhood context shots and catch up on correspondence.  I'm getting pretty good using my thumb to keep the business flowing.  However my day job is not doable on a smartphone.  I digress.

Carol's role was to accept our appreciation, which she did gracefully.  I will refer to this event more in future.  Hanford and its impact on the Columbia River was a big focus.

People are still slow to absorb that seepage is not a danger that might occur, but an actuality.  They're still thinking the price is avoidable.

The challenge is to expend wisely.

The Congressman's speech was in part about getting a handle on what's really being spent.  Big expenses are not that easy to track sometimes, as you might imagine.

Friend Barnes reminisced in the background about this being the 25th Anniversary of Tienanmen Square.  He was there, saw what happened.  Around him, mostly denial.  I was glad to provide a listening ear.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Art Piece

For those of you who want a conversation piece, this is a sculpture of myself pole dancing at The Last Supper.

 Thank you Mark Allyn, for adding some light and levity to my day. Very Burning Man.