Thursday, April 30, 2015

Old Dog Coaching

I had several great hours with lithe and slinky greyhounds, Rhys and Rusty.  Gorgeous dogs, working class, bruised from years on the track.  They deserve this retirement, cared for by truly kind humans.

My Sarah, an old dog, was also getting lucky, as Deke didn't just keep her fed, he kept her on her feet and moving.  I'm guessing he added months if not a year or more to her constitution.  She tripped on her long toenails today though.  I need to get her to the clipper, aiming for this Saturday. I've done it myself but I prefer to let someone do it who does it often.

Tomorrow is the May Day March and Rally, which the unions are sponsoring, as well as individuals.  We're working hard to pull it together.  Management sometimes doesn't lift a finger when it comes to standing up for those who actually do the work, the unsung heroes.  A lot of people just sit around and "own", a more passivist approach.  Taking the credit is sometimes easier than doing the job.

We don't all share the same culture, even company-wise.  If your company is cruel, don't conclude they're all cruel in exactly the same way.

Taking care of other humans is a full time job.  Then there's being taken care of.  I'm suggesting it's a two way street, and there's no omniscient eye available to any human that shows all the bookkeeping.  For all our talk of transparency, Universe is what it is in that sense.  Is there really "dark matter"?  We're somewhat in the dark about what exactly that might be.

Humility means recognizing one's ignorance is right there in one's face, not far off in some distant "we'll get there someday" sense.  We're there right now, right up against it.  Facing one's own ignorance is always a possibility, and does not require judgements or conclusions.  What's more interesting is the darkness itself, leaving aside all the monkey chatter about what's so.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Against the Grain

Most of the teachers / learners here still use letter grades.  They're spreading this ideology of A-F via distance learning tools.

I'm glad other points of view are out there (such as Scott Gray's), as to how learning is best encouraged and rewarded.

Getting it right, even if it takes multiple attempts, is better than getting a C with no chance to redo.  I share Scott's views in many dimensions ("dimension" is a buzz word around here).

I'm a little sad to see edu domains "polluting" cyber-space with such a stale brand of academic experience.

At least they have some competition from the com and mil sectors, not to mention gov.  I hope South Africa doesn't clamp down on companies with more imagination.

Sometimes I say "I need to do some grading" but what I'm doing is providing a gradient, some steepness.  Powering up a gradient is a way to build strength.  Think of a gym.

So I use the term loosely.  I haven't handed out a letter grade in three years.  Learning works better this way.

On the more positive side, I like what Michigan is doing to redesign high school to make it more of a blend of on-line and off-line work-study in a more office-like setting.  Nexus Academy is the trailblazer here.

Michigan still uses letter grades though.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Garden of Eden


As I was explaining to Heather, the original conception behind the Climatron was to provide what J. Baldwin would prototype using argon gas-filled pillows:  a Garden of Eden dome.

These were later developed on a larger scale in Cornwall.

The homestead inside a dome, in some ways a cell nucleus, could have "flimsier" construction materials, though sometimes soundproofing is important.

A spiral staircase or elevator might connect the floors, but rain and wind would not be a factor, as the dome would be a shield against the elements, providing habitat for permaculture, aquaculture, whatever forms of horticulture.

Perhaps it's a Quaker-founded brewery, like Boswell's in Richmond, Indiana, with some of the ingredients right there in the dome with the tanks.  Or the fermentation tanks could be in another facility, with caretakers living amidst the greenery.

So many permutations might be tried.  So many experiments waiting to happen.

However, architects are not exploring these possibilities much in 2015.

Could we still build domes like the Climatron today?  Perhaps in the Orient.

The Garden of Eden dome concept has become  disconnected in the popular mind from Old Man River City (OMR).  School children are not taught American history. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What is Terrorism?


I'm auditing an Earlham College class with my daughter, led by Ferit G├╝ven, professor of philosophy.  They've been boning up on recent history, with Edward W. Said's The Question of Palestine up for discussion.

Said is interested in what he calls Orientalism, a discourse shaped by the colonial past.  But then the US view of "terroism" is colored not just by the crusades, but by the so-called "conquest" of North America by an heir apparent to the British Empire (with the "imperial presidency" a consequence).
Key supporters of the War on Terror themselves see GWOT as an Indian war. Take, for example, the right-wing intellectuals Robert Kaplan and Max Boot who, although not members of the administration, also advocate a tough military stance against terrorists. In a Wall Street Journal article, "Indian Country," Kaplan notes that "an overlooked truth about the war on terrorism" is that "the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians."
I'm plowing through An Infinity of Nations using Kindle software, tapping into a critique of conquistador type storytelling, which the Spanish were also good at.  I always think of Aguirre at the end of that Werner Herzog movie, exulting in his conquest of Mesa-America.

I was going to question Said's thesis on this basis:  that colonization of the Western Hemisphere is by definition not an Orientalist project.  But then I remember:  Columbus thought he might be in India.  Europeans called the people here "Indians".  So in that sense, "the Orient" includes the Americas.  Poetic justice.  "Welcome to the Orient" I say from my desk-chair in Indiana.
President Andrew Jackson, whose "unapologetic flexing of military might" has been compared to George W. Bush's modus operandi, noted in his "Case for the Removal [of Indians] Act" (December 8, 1830): "What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, . . . and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?"
Us vs. them is, of course, a feature of all wars, but the starkness of this dichotomy -- seen by GWOT supporters as a struggle between the civilized world and a global jihad -- is as strikingly apparent in the War on Terror as it was in the Indian Wars.
I'm interspersing my post with John Brown's essay on the web Our Indian Wars Are Not Over Yet.

Clearly the militarized wall along the US-Mexico border has much in common with the wall in the Middle East.  A lot of the same technologies and psychologies are operative in both cases.  Israel and DC have a special relationship based on mutual wall building.

How does Orientalism, which converges ISIS, Al Qaeda... Hamas into a single hydra-headed beast, relate to the Cold War and another wall, now removed, plus the psychological "Iron Curtain"?  Eastern Europe, Russia... to some extent the Byzantine / Ottoman matrix forms a backdrop.

Britain inherits from Rome more than from Constantinople.  Going back to the Crusades, we need to remember Christendom forked.  Did crusaders come from Eastern Europe at all?

Christian7777 writes, on OrthodoxChristianity.net:
I know that they were victims of it, like with the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. But I'm wondering if the Orthodox had at any point in time participated in The Crusades, as in helping the Catholics fight the Muslim invaders. According to Wikipedia (which I understand is not necessarily the most accurate source of information), "The Crusades were originally launched in response to a call from the leaders of the Byzantine Empire for help to fight the expansion into Anatolia of Muslim Seljuk Turks", so I figure that at some point in time, the Orthodox were participants. Were they ever? I'm just curious.
 Then, answering his own question:
I did more research, and found out that the Byzantine Empire was involved in the First Crusade and the Second Crusade. The Fourth Crusade is where things went downhill between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church due to the Sack of Constantinople; it's very unfortunate that the attack occurred, especially because the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians were fighting together at the beginning.
Looking at nationalism as under-girded by organized religion, I can see where Said is coming from.  Fuller's thesis (hypothesis) was that supranational corporations, as distinct from organized religions, were inheriting the wealth of nations, as the concept of "sovereignty" gave way to a more unified Spaceship Earth (or Earth Inc.).

One might say Fuller anticipated the triumph of secularism but what is secularism exactly?  Isn't secularism more about the enforced co-existence of religions than their abolition?

The notion of a Liberal Orient i.e. a time when Islam was uber-friendly to religious minorities under its care, is largely romantic science fiction, contrary to fact.  However it may also be a kind of foreshadowing.  Progressive branches within the world religions already have their Parliament, seeking a rollback of any Doctrine of Discovery.

A secular Orient that (A) includes the Americas and (B) embraces STEM as not a threat to "interfaith" psychologies, has the potential to seem like Fuller's Grunch of Giants, also science fiction of a kind. The completion of East-meets-West, i.e. the blending of the hemispheres (globalization) is what the Spaceship Earth meme attempts to summarize.  Is that really so terrifying?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Business News


Today was a milestone in many respects.  Washington High School, which had been an art colony HQS, mostly abandoned, has finally morphed into offices plus a theater venue with ample bars to handle crowds.  We didn't get into the theater for picture-taking but did ride the elevator to the well appointed rooftop venue.

William, an Iraq War vet with subsequent experience in Afghanistan, joined Glenn (at one time a code cracker for the NSA), myself, and Steve Holden for lunch at Barley Mill, outside table (sunny warm day), then toured the remodeled school.

The remodel takes a page from McMenamins (Barley Mill was the first) in making no secret of the building's original purpose as a public school.  Museum cases and wall art are devoted to conveying that theme.  That the school's name was Washington is what gives Revolution Hall (the theater) its name.

Another transition was that of the symbolic (and quite literal) Chair of Computer Science, a fixture in Steve's apartment and successor to the Michael Jennings version.  Fortunately it comes apart into two pieces and could be transported by car to my place (just a few blocks away).  William is good at carrying things.  Steve is leaving Portland in about two weeks time, with future visits planned.

William met me as a student of Python while still in Afghanistan, later branching more into SQL which he now does for a living.  I've been putting a lot of emphasis on SQL in my curriculum writing as the majority or record-keeping is done using it.  As a Technology Clerk (IT Committee) for regional Quakers, I see SQL as having religious significance, Quakerism being a lot about record-keeping (including journaling).

Steve has a somewhat sardonic thing he says about concluding his Portland chapter:  "legal weed, Pycon in Portland, my work is done."

Steve got the ball rolling on having Pycons, in addition to EuroPython, in the early days in DC, an institution which has snowballed and has now been taken over by the PSF (Python Software Foundation).  The most recent North American Pycon, just concluded, was in Montreal with over three thousand in attendance.  That's fairly large number for a Pycon, even more than in Santa Clara.

As for weed becoming legal, the inertia behind that was less of Steve's doing.

Carol Urner, my mom, flew from LAX to EWR today.  She turns 86 tomorrow, somewhere over the Atlantic.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wanderers 2015.4.15


Tax day!

Terry Bristol, ISEPP president, is doing a test talk regarding two ballot initiatives he's planning to back:  $20 minimum wage; 5 weeks paid vacation.

The paid vacation policy feeds the travel and tourist industry big time i.e. it actually increases GDP, per the French model, not to mention living standards.

The $15 minimum wage is already a well-established lobby, so Terry is just one step ahead.

Lew Scholl is here.  His mom, like mine, came to Quakerism while in college, likewise at the University of Washington.  My parents were going to YWCA meetups where students spoke in earnest about ethical questions then facing them.  Vietnam was cranking up.  Civil Defense.  Atom bombs.

I filed awhile ago and got my refund already.  Given I have a daughter in college, I'm motivated to get my taxes done early so I can file a FASFA with nailed numbers.  FASFA is a form used by colleges to compute financial aid amounts.  I go through H&R Block.

My taxes this year were approximately the same as last year's.

ISEPP is a public policy think tank, an NGO.  I've served on its board for a few terms (an unpaid position, though with some perks).  Dawn Wicca and Associates, when still a partnership, was ISEPP's bookkeeper (Dawn died in 2007).  You'll find lots more history buried in these blogs.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Unicode Musings

Lindsey is keyboarding in Devanagari some of the time however the situation with plug-ins is my Gmail is so far not decoding it as such.

I'm getting nonsense, not surprising on a first experiment.

Another thing that's confused me:  Trashigang or Tashigang?  I'd always said "Tashigang" and seeing "Trashigang" on Google and Facebook had me thinking either I was wrong or some typo was propagating.

Turns out:  both spellings are considered correct, Facebook says so.

Glad to have that cleared up.

I'm packing for a trip and looking forward to trying the new cider bar that just opened on Hawthorne where the essences and oils shop used to be, a bead shop before that if memory serves.



:: tashigang or trashigang? ::

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Chain of Command


A lot of people are confused about how a succession of US presidents, nominally commanders in chief, can say publicly they hope to close Gitmo, only to have Gitmo stay open.  Are we not looking at a treasonous level of insubordination?

Plans to spin-off Gitmo, give it back to the Cubans, have already been drawn up, with dates and everything.  Those running the place may be held back for interviews, which could lead to future jobs.  The prisoners need a place to detox and reconnect with family.  Those running Gitmo will have no responsibilities over prisoners ever again is the hope.  They have failed to obey the president and are dropping in rank by the day.

Having Gitmo on one's resume in any way adds to the stench of one's portfolio.  Those connected to Gitmo have something shameful on their record that I recommend hiding.  This was the Nazi Chapter, when Neocons were out of control and behaved contrary to democratic values.  After a president says he wants to close the place, continuing to obey orders is a Nuremberg thing.  A Hall of Shame is being prepared in the historical record.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

OLPC + OPPA


OLPC = One Laptop Per Child
OPPA = One Palmtop Per Adult

A palmtop is another name for a laptop computer so small it fits in the palm of your hand, a smartphone in other words, but perhaps with the cell feature turned off.

OLPC pioneered making laptops so inexpensive that even children, among the least privileged in our societies, might get one, not just their teachers and the administrators.

What OPPA means in 2015 is a $15 Coolpad, an Andoid, that one may use to play music, take pictures, and use free Wifi from any hotspot, no need to sign up for any plan.

Put it in airplane mode to make the battery last longer and then turn on the Wifi only.  This isn't your phone.  It's your palmtop.

If you're careful, you don't even need to let Google know this phone has been switched on, though you'll be asked many times if you wish to create a Google account (you may already have one, and still choose to keep this phone more anonymous).

I recommend paying more and getting an SD card for it, adding gigs of storage.  More room for more music, like Philip Glass and Pink Floyd.

Related Reading:
STEM Lesson Plan
Kirby on YouTube (2009)
Invading Florida
More Autobio