Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wanderers 2007.2.28

Dr. John Taylor @ Pauling House
(photo by meliptus)
I missed last night's irregularly scheduled Wanderers, though my digicam was there, and tripod, taking it all in under Glenn's expert handling.

But this morning, I was actually on time for the regularly scheduled event, thanks to a two hour delay in Portland Public's operating schedule, thanks to weather predictions.

Our speaker, Dr. John Taylor, made his career as an urban planner and Quaker, with much experience overseas (like my dad). He has worked in India, Thailand, Malaysia and for 25 years in Indonesia. His North American sojourns included NYC and UCLA.

John launched his career trying to brainstorm viable alternatives to Robert Moses style urban renewal, which was to bulldoze and rebuild from scratch. His search led him into the more anthropological dimensions of community: it's about what people are thinking and feeling that matters, more than the physical furniture (props, stage machinery).

Throughout his career, he's been about really zooming in to the appropriately micro level from which to anchor one's modeling. Sweeping outsider viewpoints, though seductively simplifying, often tend to be just that. Real solutions emerge from within and, not surprisingly, usually have strong indigenous roots.

A lot of discussion focused on regional differences based on whether a people felt conquered, recovering in the wake of liberation, always free or whatever. Attitudes towards consultants are a function of earlier experiences with outsiders, as Werner Herzog discovers in Burden of Dreams.

The night before, Eve Menger and friends were reviewing Oregon's public coastline policies, which realtors would love to amend or rescind. Our lack of class consciousness out here on the Pacific Rim probably owes a lot to the fact that our beaches are still free.

I had lunch with Captain Donzo (Meliptus is back in business), Glenn, and David Feinstein, who shared yet another breakthrough, this one involving the calculus of variations (that guy is amazing, and so good at explaining himself).

Then my wife and I drove to and strolled along Belmont, visiting Kinta, a Malaysian establishment near to The Tao of Tea. Dawn had some stir fry and ginger ale, while I ordered Cape Town Roi Boos tea.