Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rendezvous @ Bagdad

Dr. Bob Fuller and I enjoyed catching up, over beers and appetizers. I stayed on after he left to join family, time alone, before rejoining Sarah-the-dog and Titty-the-kitty (Barry-the-python etc.).

I don't recall if I'd known that he taught school in Rangoon, under auspices of the British, a course in morals circa 1959. Aung San Suu Kyi was one of his pupils. He'd not realized her status, as daughter of the nation's father, until seeing the limo pull up one day. Would she remember him? She'd have been in 9th grade or thereabouts. He'd talked a lot about democracy, drawing on his USA and Methodist heritage.

This was a small world moment, as I had Willamette Week along with me, open to page 16, a story about Satya, who knows Alex, Aung San Suu Kyi's eldest son.

Bob hadn't found the exhibit on Identity I'd been writing about (2nd level). They went to the physics room at OMSI and learned about Eadweard Muybridge. Dr. Bob's research, especially Understanding Human Motion, echoes back to that corpus. Twas my privilege to contribute some Python on that one, and some rather extraordinary renderings.

I haven't solved the drip in my office yet. We should have a two-floor control room with lots of LCDs, but that's for the science fiction shelf.

My loop for Food Not Bombs was entirely in the rain today. Why pay for cardiovascular workouts at the gym, when you can haul X pounds of produce up and down hills? I filed a log post with the official e-list, but didn't make the park dinner, having chosen to work with McMenamins this evening. Looking forward to Thursday.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Scholarly Xmas 2

Our Xmas was low key again this year. We played with the symbolism some, allowing allusions of more ancient religions and philosophies to percolate through, augmenting the advent calendar with dragon symbols.

Tara and I opened gifts from family and friends. Gayle, that's a mighty fine wooden jewelry box for Tara. Mom and Julie, those were perfect and thoughtful kindesses. Thanks to the Nally family for all the homemade cookies. Carla, we think of you and Stevie. Have you been hearing from cousin Pat? Greetings to relatives in around Seattle and Bellingham.

For intellectual fare, Tara and I looked into the darkness, where the Light of Peace is most needed, watching two of Michael Moore's classics, interesting for their "speech and debate" techniques. Tara had just discovered his blog posts about Wikileaks and was interested in his movies, plus last year's Xmas had also featured historical scholarship into the barriers to world peace.

I'd not seen The Big One before. Tara thought Phil Knight of Nike came off OK for taking this bull by the horns. Most CEOs seem on the shy side and find Moore too much the extrovert (he's more like a politician in that way).

North Americans are still in much the same pickle as this pre-2000 movie depicts, over-relying on the military's welfare payments to corporate contractors, extended from borrowings against future work. The Global U is still bedeviled by debilitating meme viruses that weaken our curriculum. Rewiring to make cleanup ops pay more bills requires significant upgrades in our trains (habits) of thought.

It's that "knowledge economy" we have trouble understanding, given all that open data, all those free bits flying around, informing and misinforming. We pray we're becoming more enlightened on balance, that the net is in our collective favor. I agree with the Dalai Lama that it's more about realizing the value of empathy and compassion than about wrapping one's mind around lots of data. Western philosophy came to the same conclusion in Wittgenstein's work. Not that it's either/or, but you need to have a heart to keep your head.

Our prayers to family in western Pennsylvania and to those providing health care to our clan in those parts. We think of relatives on their maritime voyage, their near and dear in Alaska (hi Ricky).

Greetings to others here around Portland, in Tennessee, Florida, Minnesota and of course Whittier.

Greetings to Friends in Arcata, Myrtle Point, and to the Olarte family in Vancouver. Thanks for the greeting from DemocracyLab.

Best wishes, fond memories. May we continue pulling together to make this a better world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Close to Solstice

Tara and I chose to celebrate Xmas at OMSI today. We each picked out gifts for ourselves. I got The Martians by Istvan Hargattai, while Tara selected a well-fitting OMSI hoody, black. Then I chauffered her to Alexia's apartments, which I'd not yet visited.

The OMSI traveling exhibit from The Franklin Institute was most interesting. I felt almost quoted with that "there's no race gene" display, all about how "race" is a social construct (check out those check boxes). The Transparent Lady and beginning of life exhibits, old timers at OMSI (especially the TL), are well integrated. What an interesting exhibit, I look forward to going back.

We each solved a couple IQ puzzles in the foyer (I wrangled those metal pieces a long time, and the attendant said he wasn't worried about me, but every so often some tourist would try prying it with his boot, a funny image).

Since I was already tooling around in Suburbia (Beaverton, near the Nike Campus) burning up peak oil in the torture taxi, I decided I should save and go shopping at Costco. That sounds oxymoronic, but in purchasing wholesale, one is making an investment.

As I told Glenn later, it reminds me of buying at a Px on one of those military bases (Asia-Pacific in my case). The further back you get to the supplies, the more it seems like one big world order, doesn't it? Lots of factory scale engineering, replication of quasi-identical items (making copies).

So yeah, I pushed a cart through the NWO and picked up most of the same things I get retail, plus a few garments, then was back in the neighborhood in time to score some Willamette Weeks to read and share lore about Satya. I'd dropped a hint on the FNB list that this was coming, and it's a fine write up, with good input from Cera (Sara) and Simon as well.

Costco supplies included brown rice, pinto beans, spaghetti and sauce, soy sauce, some cheese, some cereal, no booze, no bread. Coffee beans. Some garments. This was dead of winter stocking up, which may seem out of rhythm. What's actually more characteristic of Xmas are impulse buys and non-utilitarian luxuries, stuff you normally wouldn't find in your average manger scene (frankincense for example). That's more what the OMSI sweater was about (20% off thanks to Tara being a member).

The Identity exhibit doesn't come right out and say that your propensity to laugh at certain jokes is genetic (that'd be pseudo-science). On the contrary, as the exhibit unfurls, you get an increasingly nuanced teasing apart of genes and memes.

Your meme self is more plastic in a lot of ways, more that "dress up doll" of your younger years. Regardless of your physical characteristics, you have a lot of freedom to position yourself in a metaphysical vista.

However, there too, you'll also find yourself in various circumstances, not able to change your core identity on a whim, no turning on a dime in some dimensions. Inertia isn't just about physical gravity, there's the weight of tradition, of lineage and calling, of karma and happenstance.

I was the solo provider at Food Not Bombs on Tuesday, doing prep at the Blue House instead of Pink. About 7-8 of us mingled, or stood apart. Sketch was there, and Simon. Also the bamboo bike trailer engineer.

Some people mostly kept their own counsel, ate in a meditative mood. Here's a solitary dude who said OK to my snapping his photograph (no, that's not Satya).


Sunday, December 19, 2010

More XRL in Bhutan

I was reading about the Dalai Lama's priorities today, via Facebook. Politics takes a back seat to the ecosystem (= economy), not a new story. Ecosystems are the most precious, and money can't buy them back, once they're lost. We're looking at that in the movie Gasland.

The cleanup industry is destined to be one of the biggest, or engineering failed us in the imagination department.

Anyway, more of these somewhat esoteric "schools for diplomats" could sprout up around Paro, or where the Bhutanese think is best. This would be a hosted enterprise, not an occupation and / or invasion. The purpose would be, among other things, to amplify people's appreciation for the ecosystems of the Himalayas. This would not be just casual eco-tourism however.

Our family was based in Thimphu for many years and it was my privilege to check out much of this rugged and vastly beautiful country. Attending some school there would be a real privilege, and the program's design would need to be especially valuable to the locals, the people of Druk-yul, to offset any downsides.

XRL = Extreme Remote Livingry, some of which is available today, other still science fiction or in more need of prototyping.

"Livingry" was Bucky Fuller's coin, cast opposite "killingry" (perhaps the flip side of the same tool in a "dual use" category). We're basically talking about "camping gear" but sometimes with shelters more substantial than canvas, yet just as removable.

We'd probably like to see prototypes on Catalina (part of a Martian Math camp?) before testing them in Bhutan. That's another pristine ecosystem with an aversion to colonization by urbanites.

What passes the smell test on Catalina is more likely suitable for the Himalaya, although I'm sure you can think of other testing areas. Should Ecotrust be involved?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dymaxion Home

Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House
:: by Steve Brown, June 29, 2013 ::
(click picture for more details, other photos)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gender Studies Continued

Many threads coming in around "girl scout math" versus "boy scout math". Here's what I posted to Wanderers recently:

I'll repost my recent rant when I fix a typo (mine = mind). haha.

in other news, the dead juniper tree behind my house, the detritus
from Peace Garden **, is now an igloo, dubbed a "debris hut" by
the fabricator.

She claims no violations of the Flextegrity patents were observed,
although the principle is in evidence. I'll have some photographs

I know I told Keith it couldn't be done (tensegrity greenhouse),
but then he and I are mere XYs, so I stand corrected.


Radical Math Hut

:: girl scout math project ::

Related posts:
Gender Studies (2 of 2)
Gender Studies (1 of 2)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quaker Business

I just shoved Carol's mailing address across the table to Betsey. She's passing it back to Western Friend.

Quakers were in my thoughts earlier today
, on an archived discussion list. I've been working with Marty, Tim and, by extension, the Yearly Meeting on matters of data base design. I'd call it "membership tracking" (a well known genre, with many templates available), except "member" has a specific meaning in the Friendly namespace, and our database tracks others besides them.

I go back to those anthropological concepts of "nuclear family" and "molecular family", suggesting a variety. The database fields also encode wishes upon death. Keep the Flickr Photostream alive? How about Facebook? Blogs? These might be family decisions, and yet some might wish to record their preferences in the meeting's electronic records. A blog is a lot like a Quaker journal -- some treat these concepts quasi-synonymously.

An Overseers or Oversight Meeting is a fairly confidential process. In the theory of operating system design (thinking of Unix or one of those), a "process" is a pretty well defined notion.

Cross-pollination twixt Quakers and geeks is not an especially surprising development. Any memologist (memeticist) -- a student of memes and their propagation and association (into "memeplexes"?) -- could have predicted this outcome. Hari Seldon maybe (a fictional character).

We have a couple memberships up for consideration. The process here is for Oversight to accept a letter from an individual requesting this status, upon which a Clearness Committee may be formed for meeting with that individual.

If membership is recommended, then Oversight brings the matter before the Monthly Business Meeting for seasoning. Final approval, if obtained, will be minuted a month later by this same Business Meeting. Those with doubts or concerns may in the meantime communicate these to Oversight (not the Clearness Committee, which dissolves upon submitting a recommendation).

Some of us may be heading to Nicaragua next year. This place isn't labeled on all of our maps, but on many of them it is. Most of us are geographically literate enough to place most nations, given a jigsaw puzzle challenge (might be of wood, a present under the Christmas tree). I even know where Bhutan goes, and Lesotho, and Lithuania, and Borneo (all places I've been).

We do tend to talk about death and dying a lot, in these Oversight Meetings. Perhaps not surprisingly, we're somewhat older adults. As in most subcultures, it tends to fall to the elders to grapple with these equations. Younger people pull some weight though (we speak of "weighty friends"). Death is a phenomenon for all ages. We are holding Tina's family in the light. Thank you for your friendship, Peter Saint James, and letting me read your book.

I mentioned caskets were available from the Costco website, suggested we might stock up in the basement. Betsey recommended cremation. You can get urns from there too.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lunch Business

I met with Glenn today at Oasis, across from Bagdad. Some find this intersection poetic. Glenn says he's camping out, even though he's perched in an apartment complex.

Camping is the geek theme or message of the day (MTOD). Once you've been tossed out of your digs, you get to camp, and the camping laws become important. It's a public roads issue. Sisters of the Road has been at the center of the action.

I wrote Knocking on MIT's Door for the Math Forum. What's somewhat new is to have people on the humanities side thinking they know enough to follow the action. Dr. Arthur Loeb was a Renaissance man at Harvard and MIT whom many respected.

However, when it came time to unveil some of the work by his proteges, he received some ungenerous backlash. People were sure, at that time, that they wanted nothing to do with buckminsterfullerene (not yet discovered, so that can't be correct). Humanities people may get their wires crossed sometimes, but it's good to see they're at least paying attention.

Anyway, Glenn and I talked about our workshop. He's friendly and gets people in a pretty good mood. Some of the scarier amusement park rides seem more doable when the background context is so safe. Martian Math is more like one of those roller coasters, like the Matterhorn or one of those. We call it "getting abducted" -- and some of the math teachers seem to agree.

Lots of torrential rain, hour after hour, day after day. A young woman with all the right gear just showed up from work, full of song and good cheer, ready to pitch in on our vegetables project (squash in the oven, mushroom soup...). That's right, it's a Thursday, and we're at the meetinghouse again with Food Not Bombs. I did hauling, prep and now need to do cleanup.

Lindsey has officially laid down her commission, asking to be "released" (Quaker jargon). She's morphing into a chieftess of a different variety. I've been using her as a model to think about a new kind of math teacher, more energy conscious and politically aware (quite revolutionary actually, in the sense of "adding spin").

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Schools for Diplomats

We see a pun of sorts in the title, in that "diplomats" were simply "those with diplomas" who seemed therefore more civilized and therefore better able to get closer to the court. Having higher degrees was roughly equivalent to having a powdered wig or top hat, if male, and able to lord it over others in some high horse manner (possibly literally, as equestrians tend to wear head gear for safety, much as cyclists wear helmets, while many motorists literally encase themselves in metal armor).

In a more modern context, the diplomats in question might be the speech and debate teams of my previous post, multiplied and cross-pollinated around the world to create a more even sense of a spherical playing field. These exchange student circuits do not undermine long established demographics however. There's not much a handful of outsiders might do, to tip any big scales. These are not the invading hordes. Just because your community hosts a few Africans or Asians or Americans or Australians, doesn't make you a "sell out" or a "shill" for some competing continent. That's just too stupid a game to merit our diplomats' talents. They've got bigger (and better) fish to fry.

In recent storyboards, I'm back to eying those former USAF and USN bases in the Philippines, thinking how "girl scout math" could gain a footprint in that ecosystem. This is a variant on the GIS / GPS intensive curriculum elsewhere called "off your duff" math, and involving geo-caching. I've got a couple new essays in this genre on tap at Math Forum: Of Backpacking and Sphere Packing, and Of Mathematics and Outdoor School.

Speech and Debate Meetup

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Judging Day

I dove head first into my daughter's world today, caravaning behind Gonzo to Clackamas High School, ferrying three from the Cleveland debate team. Cleveland's team has grown big and strong under Gonzo's leadership. He and Tara formed a natural alliance, as Tara, a Cleveland student, had started out on the Lincoln team, given Cleveland had no team. Gonzo was moving over from Marshall, so the timing was propitious. Cleveland started a new team right when Tara was ready for a leadership role. This was Tara's anniversary of sorts, as her first debate tournament was here at Clackamas, two years ago.

The first event that I judged was a series of 10 minute speeches which students had researched and mostly memorized. I used a stop watch, took notes, then scored and ranked the students relative to one another, per instructions.

The first speaker spoke passionately in favor of a boycott against one-dimensional autotuned pop music such as stuff by the Black Eyed Peas. In contrast to the golden age of folk music and rock and roll when real values and edgy viewpoints countering the mainstream's were expressed, today's lyrics tend to glamorize binge drinking, drug use, and sex at a young age.

Today's music industry is transparently about exploiting youth and making money. Corrupting messages delivered by bands of little talent gives foreign nationals a bad impression of America and attacks the integrity of future generations. Let's boycott bad music now. I could see where this message would get some agreement from senior-boomers like me. I did like that BEP hit Boom Boom Pow quite a bit (a kind of geek anthem).

The second speaker took a strong line against giving psychologists greater powers to prescribe controlled substances (medications) more like psychiatrists do. She argued that states providing these expanded powers have tended to experience more malpractice lawsuits from patients and their families. The added schooling is expensive and that reduces the choice to the public in terms of fees i.e. if prescribing psychologists cost as much as psychiatrists, where's the choice?

She did not address the idea of giving patients more powers over their own treatment, no doubt because it would seem counter-intuitive to give more control to the more incapacitated. Taking more responsibility for one's own medical records and treatment would entail more public education all around, assuming access to treatment options to begin with. Making everyone more like a medical doctor with respect to their own conditions sounds like more pie-in-the-sky utopianism I'm sure.

The third speaker spoke passionately about the evils of ethnocentrism and America's reputation abroad for being extremely ethnocentric. She was Muslim herself, but did not thereby share the anti-American views she had encountered overseas. Racial profiling is simply not helping Americans live up to their own values. America is in danger of living up to the negative stereotypes being applied by those most suspicious of her motives.

The fourth speaker spoke about the situation in Palestine and the plight of the people there. He quoted Ronald Reagan challenging Gorbachev to take down the Berlin Wall. He advocated a two state solution, not the no state solution of the anti-nationalists. The latter position doesn't in itself offer any details about how to decide water rights or how to prevent land grabbing by any given faction. A need for governance remains, even when "nations" aren't considered jurisdictional.

Yes, I'm inserting my own editorial remarks. The speaker felt America's foreign policy blunders in the Middle East might be so severe that recovery of international prestige would be impossible. Being on the wrong side of history has its disadvantages, he argued.

The fifth speaker counseled moderation in all things and ridiculed those who artificially pump busyness into their lives in order to avoid really dealing with the deeper issues. Being over-busy simply leads to frivolity and unreflective living. On the other hand, his recommendations on how to take it easy seemed a tad on the superficial side. Also, whatever happened to "doing what needs to be done" i.e. using one's "free time" to engage in "what matters"?

Although my editorializing may give the impression that I was scoring based on how much I agreed or disagreed with a given position, this was not my role as a judge. I could have my own thoughts of course, but my criteria were based on speaker effectiveness. Speeches are supposed to be delivered with some passion, some intent to persuade, but without seeming too forced or artificially pumped up with rhetorical tricks of the trade. There's a fine line between passion and artifice, I agree.

I also judged two public forum debates. One had to do with Americans' right to know. Many references to Wikileaks were made (one of the stricken resolutions was about that explicitly -- each side, aff and neg, gets to eliminate one of three choices).

The other debate had to do with going green, versus the costs. China figured prominently in the latter debate, as a nation to whom the USA owed trillions.

The former debate eschewed all mention of the Vietnam War and parallels between Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers. I was interested to read a school-posted time-line regarding the Vietnam War in one of the USA history classrooms. Diem's failure to hold elections, per the Geneva Accords, given Ho Chi Min's evident popularity, goes somewhere between I Love Lucy's debut and Elvis Presley becoming the King of Rock and Roll. The time-line sets this war against the backdrop of American popular culture (an ethnocentric approach).

I judged a radio event, which is about reading prepared editorials as if on the radio. Topics included: bed bugs; frivolous lawsuits; airport security procedures; taking care of one's aging parents.

I also found one chapter in the library by Bucky Fuller in an an anthology called The Futurists, edited by Alvin Toffler. Bucky's chapter consists of excerpts from congressional testimony and includes his bizarre cosmology, which I don't understand, wherein Planet Earth is destined to become a star someday, by which time the humans will have presumably moved away to "avoid incineration" (Bucky's words). This is not the expected fate of the Earth according to any of the other contemporary models I know about. The sun is supposed to engulf the Earth as a part of its life cycle. Whether humans have found somewhere to go by then, or will exist at all in a recognizable form, is not for my century to know, although speculation is always a source of science fiction.

And yes, I got to sit in on a Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate wherein my daughter faced off with her opponent on whether drug abuse should be treated as a medical or criminal matter. She was assigned the affirmative position, which didn't mean advocating zero control over controlled substances. More responsibility would be placed with average people perhaps. As it is, the criminal justice system is manifestly unjust (she argued) as those with serious drug problems need medical treatment, not incarceration. Her opponent painted a picture of profligate drug use and a society in chaos, not unlike today's. He argued that criminalizing drugs provides a deterrent.

Of course I was not a judge in this debate or for anyone from Cleveland (that'd have been a conflict of interest), nor did the judge know I had any relation to a contestant (not that this would have mattered). Plus I was not the only non-judge adult present with undisclosed relationships. Tara was awesome, better at keeping her cool than her more flustered opponent. I'm pretty sure she won that round.

Regrettably, I missed two other opportunities to sit in on Tara's LD debates. Finding her in this mob and figuring out where the rooms were... I just didn't have it together. Instead I wandered between the Judges Lounge and the Media Center, eating too many bagels and cold pizza slices, drinking too much coffee. Whenever I encountered Tara, she was excited and clearly enjoying her sport.

Listening to student banter in the hallways, especially with regard to global affairs, was most enlightening. "Russia still has a KGB, it just has a different name" and "the CIA won the Cold War" were two overheard snippets. Both sides wanted to keep it cold (the colder the better) so I'd say the victory was shared in that sense. I also listened in on the judges' banter (being one myself). I heard a lot of praise for the students and their phenomenal performances. Many of us were first timers as judges. However some of the more seasoned judges were having a problem with how the LD format is going, though they blamed the coaches, not the students. There's really quite a bit of jargon to wade through, a somewhat elaborate metaphysics.

Speech and Debate is a great multi-generational event. Adults experience teenagers being well-dressed, polite, intelligent and friendly towards one another. They're also good sports. Tara said I should have attended the semi-final LD event were her opponent "kicked my ass, but he was really good". She has sincere admiration for worthy opponents and learns from them. That's impressive right there.

At the end of the evening, I got to join two other judges in a final round of Dual Interpretation, a kind of drama, with pairs of students both introducing and commenting on their selection, then performing in a somewhat ritualized manner. The event was ranked novice, yet I was frankly blown away by the excellence of these performances. Ranking them was a hard thing to have to do. Teenagers, when encouraged to excel, really rise to the occasion. I am inspired and thank Gonzo (and of course Tara) for affording me this opportunity.

The awards ceremony was awesome as well. Cleveland won the best overall debate team award (not the first time) while Tara came in 2nd overall in LD (she'd actually won her semi-final event). The people in the tab room, who have to design and score all this stuff, have my lasting admiration as well. This is quite an advanced little subculture to have stumbled upon. America: there's some hope for her yet. She delivers beautiful children. Now if she'd just stop eating them, squandering their talents.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What's an Engineer?

We've been having some spirited debate in one of the think tanks about exactly what constitutes an engineer. We're an interesting mix in that some of us are proud to call ourselves engineers, whereas others think engineering epitomizes everything that's messed up in the human psyche. A mixed bag, to say the least.

I'm asking about film-makers and whether they're engineers. The standard answer is "no" but is that more ethnic, more anthropological than anything else? Some of the Illuminati I track recommend STEAM over STEM, i.e. to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, lets add Anthropology, not to dumb it all down, but to keep it more worldly and wiser.

Game designers are also engineers, especially when we call them "simulations" ("game theory" in systems science added respectability for games, as did "language games" in philosophy, yet there's still the need among some people to find a more serious-sounding word than "game"). These "countdown to zero" games require a lot of background. "Do your homework people" -- shades of Alex Jones.

To some degree, I tout philosophy as competing with engineering, following the unoriginal assumption that competition counters excessive complacency. I champion General Systems Theory (GST) versus Economics for the same reason. When it comes to bread and butter issues, we'd be foolish to put all our eggs in just the one basket.

I'm listening to a piano serenade at the Quaker meetinghouse as I blog this. One of the FNB guys. Walker is off with her tractor bike retrieving the cooking utensils and produce from the Pink House. We both missed out on the Thanksgiving festivities. Satya shot by with his own trailer, bringing bread. He's scooting off to somewhere not far from Scappoose, via St. John's.

Deke the Geek and I met at Fred Meyers this morning for coffee. Although Portland has a reputation for being a geek capital of sorts, the print media such as Mercury, Just Out and Willamette Week are pretty weak on technicalia. The Oregonian barely even tries, nor does the Portland Tribune.

This is why Geek Out should have an instant market, especially as a free 'zine, hard to find, strategically distributed. Topics might well be retro. Figuring out how we got here and from there is what we call "lore" in the business and PDXers have no shortage of lore, nor our we confining our sources to Portland, Oregon. It's a big world out there.

I added a comment to Chris Fearnley's ruminations on Bucky Fuller and Existentialism. I'm glad he's taking the bull by the horns and actually talking about Philosophy for a change. Too many of Fuller's commentators think the only topics we care about have to do with Physics.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Philosophy Bar

I'm cheating a little in saying I was just at a philosophy bar. Yes, we discussed philosophical topics. Anna's boys (men) are really into those. Belief in a god, in a self, were topics of conversation (I prefer directing skepticism towards a "belief in self" than a "belief in God" as that tends to hit closer to home, sparks deeper debates sometimes -- plus who cares about "beliefs" anyway sometimes (Karen Armstrong an influence)).

However, the giant LCDs were all devoted to sports events. We actually needed to request a more out of the way table so that our philosophy talk might be more focused.

Just before heading down to this "philosophy bar" (on the 2nd floor of this hotel), I'd been adding to some thread on precisely this topic. In part I was keying off some stuff Nirel had been saying regarding the Netherlands. They're feeling burdened in Holland, yet realize their bars have become a tourist destination, owing to less prohibition in that neck of the woods. Are the trade offs worth it though? Lots of debates.

Another way we intersected philosophy today was at the University of Washington, where we toured the campus. Savery Hall is where the philosophy department is headquartered. Then we went to the bookstore, where Tara browsed in neuroscience. I mostly perused angry political books by people taking issue the what they imagine to be the president's programs. These angry taxpayers would probably never support Operation Starry Night, my utopian science fiction about helping students escape light pollution, a way of investing in the future.

I was meeting with Anna Roys in this philosophy bar (really just a sports bar) in downtown Seattle. We're both into education reform in our respective ways. She's become a certified teacher since I met her the last time, when she came through Portland. Her Thunderbird Academy is still in the works, although it may piggy back on an existing public charter, rather than launch a new charter of its own. Anna is here to visit with two of her four adult sons.

I went over my thoughts about philanthropic gaming again, and my history as a buckaneer, starting with Walter Kaufmann's endorsement of est as an interesting exercise in applied philosophy. I become more aware of Bucky Fuller through Erhard's collaborations therewith. These collaborations maybe didn't sit well with E.J. Applewhite, at least at first. Bucky was already facing PR problems without this. That's all water under the bridge by this time though.

We also talked about the bizmo idea. The Pacific Science Center is running one that brings a "dog and pony show" to Washington State schools. Anna had even thought of applying for the position at one point.

Monday, November 22, 2010

OMR Again

A recent thread on the Math Forum regarding multiple choice testing got me thinking about OMR again, and the energy simulation games that might use it. SimCity could add this module with practically no changes to the underlying framework I bet. Perhaps I should write to Maxis. Or should we start over from scratch, using open source Python, perhaps Blender?

OMR, for those who don't know, is a stadium-shaped city projected for middle America back in the time of the Union Tank Car dome, the apogee of that kind of technology in North America, at least until EPCOT. Actually that Baton Rouge dome opened for business in 1958, the year I was born, so I guess I'm a little off on my time line. The plan for Old Man River City came out of the civil rights movement and was part of the "war on poverty", envisioned as a public work fueled by a "peace dividend" (although that wasn't the term used).

The prime contractor irrigation system, set up during WW2, proved too lucrative to just turn off, and indeed was ramped up under Eisenhower under the direction of Congress, which saw pork barreling of defense spending (so-called "ear marks") as the ticket to staying in power.

ICBMs became cruise missiles which then morphed into drones. Each generation of technology required its "theater" for live guinea pig testing, usually overseas, although paramilitary goods had their domestic applications as well, among police forces, private security services, hunters, and survivalists.

After-market military equipment remains an important ingredient in most scouting programs. Many homeless people use military grade sleeping bags.

President Eisenhower could see the writing on the wall and realized that war, once hugely profitable, could be commodified and sold to the American people as a permanent way of life. Robert McNamara, fresh from a job with Ford Motor Company, helped "create the space" for all subsequent secretaries of defense.

If allowed to build aircraft carriers, tanks and missiles (along with a defense against missiles) white collar voters would prove grateful and loyal, regardless of any party affiliation. These were the family wage jobs one needed to pursue the American dream of happiness, preferably in a suburban setting.

Not all Americans would sucker for this plan, but enough of them would to keep LAWCAP in ascendancy through the arc of the Cold War, and on into its War on Terror.

The architects of this economy took Europe's religious feuds as their gold standard, a time-tested recipe for prolonging hostilities. As long as Jews and Muslims couldn't see eye-to-eye, the money changers would have a field day in the temple, while Christians could be counted on to arm all sides.

The term "beltway bandit" was common currency in the news stories and referred to that privileged cast frequenting the "revolving door" twixt the arms bazaar and DC-based agencies. "Privatization" (a euphemism for cannibalizing public resources) transferred much of this know-how overseas, helping "level the playing field" as billionaires spread around the globe more evenly.

The hoi polloi made do with their impoverished schools, decaying infrastructure, and nursed their hatreds for the designated scapegoats du jour. They were told that any living standard advantages they enjoyed were a consequence of weapons research, and for many decades this folk myth was accepted.

As America fell further and further behind in the standings, some deeper thinkers came to question this central dogma, including many CEOs of well-known companies, who saw the mindless waste more in terms of its opportunity costs.

OMR, a symbol for any number of futuristic projects, large and small, stayed in the closet, amidst other esoterica. Not even the science fiction writers out of Hollywood dared touch it, lest old civil rights memes get reactivated. Positive futurism had the potential to "go viral" and the advice from PR firms was to "keep a lid on it" if serious about getting sponsors and advertisers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Visit with the Architect

Nick reconnected me with the architect John Discroll, this evening. He'd been in Oklahoma recently, at another convergence celebrating the work of architect Bruce Goff. His own chief mentor had been in that lineage. We shared a meal prepared by Hannah.

The house they're staying at is connected to the Santos Daime church in this town. I took some pictures of the interesting decor.

Carol (my mother) is leaving tomorrow, to stay the winter in Whittier, her other home with my sister. We sent the shipment of eleven boxes by UPS today, files and clothes.

Tara won best in show (best overall speaker) as well as first prize for Lincoln Douglas debate at her meetup today -- four awards in all, plus a ceremonial cape. I'm grateful to Gonzo for putting so much heart and soul into this vestige of civil society, which the public schools barely have funds to support. In a more enlightened society, we would have more of these debates on television and the Web. These cerebral sports don't get nearly the attention they deserve.

Lindsey has ordered up a storm of outdoor survival products, spending literally days in the Web doing the necessary homework. She's been describing to me all these purchases and how they fit into her vision. Solar charger, lights, water filter, kelly kettles... repair kits.

Her plan is to strike out in the dead of winter to test her metal as a cyclist-camper. If these early tests go well, her radius will steadily increase. If all goes per plan, we'll be seeing a lot less of her around Portland, is her latest news. At her request, I contributed an OLPC XO to her on-the-road inventory. Tara has lent her a battery-powered keyboard.

More action around the Blue House tomorrow, preparing food for the homeless and then distributing sleeping bags by bicycle, a Laughing Horse project started by Lindsey last winter. Food Not Bombs is invited to join in. Lindsey has been an effective community organizer during her chapter in Portland. She will be missed, and not just by me.

Thanks to cues from Nick, a current guest, I watched David Kaiser's lecture How the Hippies Saved Physics. This MIT-based history-of-science guy gives a lot of credit to Werner Erhard (and to CIA spooks) for funding a transitional (and talented) cast of characters who took physics from its Cold War phase into its more philosophical phase. I filed some pointers to Synergeo. I've been echoing the thread on Verboten Math from a Math 2.0 list.

I had Noah over again today, age 12, for some Python computer language lessons. His mom joined in for part of the lesson. We like to share Youtubes and explore little known aspects of Google. Did you know about the Google version of Pacman? Noah was quite ready to code up a Python class/blueprint, a template for any number of objects. He's already studied some Java, so had some questions about public versus private variables. I showed how we do this in Python in my sample code.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I recall the term "fashionista" from the Bruno DVD. Much of what motivational psychology is about is this drive for "coolness", which is of course a moving target. Sometimes a style will make a come back though. I'm reminded of the movie Being There. Our hero (played by Peter Sellers), had just the right look when his time in the limelight came around.

These games around fashion may seem the apogee of self-indulgent nonsense a lot of the time. The narcissism may be intense, as the pro models learn to strut the latest stuff. One needs to not only look good, one needs to feel good about looking good, to perform in the groove, to stay in the zone. William Burroughs spoofed this as DE ("doing easy").

The flip side is feeling awkward, inept, out of one's depth, dorky.

One needs to go through these "I'm not cool" experiences in some chapters, when adapting to new styles. If one's resistance level is too great, then one gets stuck in a rut, and maybe hopes the old music and dance numbers will at least have a niche. One finds one's flock, one's natural audience for a finite set of karaoke numbers, perhaps even written by one's self, in a past chapter.

Here at the Blue House, we have these same growing pains. Just when I'm at the top of my game in some dimension, a superseding technology or better way of doing it comes along. Take Visual FoxPro for example: that used to be my bread and butter. If it weren't for using Python, I'd be looking more reptilian (more like a dino -- and yes, I know they were more like birds).

In terms of having the right credentials for this zip code, we're gold at the moment, maybe platinum, and yet there's a sense of imitators nipping at our heels.

We're surrounded by serious urban gardeners, community organizers, radical teachers, star debaters, other IB students, other Quakers, other cool individuals who sew their own clothes and make yogurt out of soy milk, made directly from ground soy beans. Not needing electricity may be a next trick, cooking with sunlight at some tailgate party for bicyclists / tricyclists (semi-clothed) and their sensor-equipped trailers.

We hold our own as fashionistas, but the competition is intense.

On the activist front, criminalizing nuke weapons has never been trendier, even among so-called conservatives (sometimes just a euphemism for "among the last to catch on"). Carol was interviewed for KBOO after Countdown to Zero, like how cool is that? The show has since aired.

To keep ourselves in the zone, it becomes necessary to tap into that 73% of the universe (aka the collective unconscious) known as "dork energy". This is where we talk to God (or Bob Dobbs as the case may be) about our deficiencies, our uncoolness, our sins. Confession is important, the Catholics got that right. You need to find a good ear, as just talking in your head will not necessarily do the trick.

For me, the Linus Pauling House group has been a good source of feedback. We know we're dinos in some dimensions, unable to roll back every sign of obsolescence. On the other hand, as committed scholars and thinkers, we're able to stay up to speed in other respects, plus have the benefits of long and varied experience. That's not my only source of feedback though.

Speaking of feedback, I was privileged to catch up with Dr. Tag recently, my Palestinian friend. She's off to Malaysia in the near future. We talked about visas, other complications of world travel. She's a fan of Yemen in much the way I'm a fan of Bhutan: people don't freak out when the electricity fails them. Not that either of us have much access to our respective ideal countries. Neither of us has much use for idle tourism, and the free open source eco-villages ala GOSCON etc. are still in storyboard phase.

A still rustic, simple way of life keeps people honest and in touch with their physical environment, their integrity. There's no need to spoil this, by adding too much glitz and faux glamor, much as the media moguls might like to pimp it out more, add more crass consumerism. There's a big difference between being a consumer and a connoisseur.

Yes, I'm connecting back to our theme of encouraging Havana, the whole of Cuba, to stay free of fast food franchises, and to continue nurturing a more well-rounded way of life. That would be strong PR, attractive to Global U students seeking meaningful experiences in collaborative environments, making and delivering ice cream or whatever.

Driving gas guzzlers past the fast food window was cool at one time in El Norte, but is today a more reptilian activity, neither romantic nor even warm blooded. On the other hand, reptiles are cool in other contexts (like Jurassic Park), so I'm not about to fall into the trap of demonizing them across the board.

Speaking as a Pythonista, that'd be somewhat counter-productive.

The Cult of Athena (so-called) remains enamored of Pythons, Apollonian atrocities notwithstanding.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

GNU World Order

I told Marian, Multnomah Meeting's Recording Clerk, that I thought the Food Not Bombs policy of feeding anyone who showed up was about a commitment to community and besides, what would be the alternative? A test of low "net worth"?

USAers have this pathological way of talking about people as having low, no, or even negative "net worth" -- which makes sense in terms of some of the board games they're playing (like Monopoly), but then they tend play by those rules no matter what the walk of life, don't they?

Like, everyone is poor in the USA, spiritually speaking, given all the inferiority conditioning that goes on.

As RBF would point out, the flip side of "earning a living" is "not deserving one" by default. You've got to "prove" your right to freedom. You're born into a state of servitude. That's not what the original coders of the USA operating system intended, but then the counter-revolution has been unrelenting. Many new bugs have been introduced.

I really liked this fast drawing cartoon (above), but couldn't help thinking the economists it depicts are overly mystified. Our "gnu world order" did not emerge inexplicably. On the contrary, engineers know that tool use creates life support, whereas money is merely a measure of same.

Take away the skilled tool users, the Morlocks, and your Eloi money becomes worthless.

The last FNB meetup featured a skills sharing about building bike trailers from bamboo. Some of these same folks took off for a skills share this weekend, put on by some of the same personnel doing the first aid trainings. FNB is also about learning how to community organize and cook healthy food for medium sized groups.

I wrote another gossip column for the folks on Synergeo, using my chattier writing style. I like to switch gears a lot, like in some of this Willamette Week stuff I've seen. In the meantime, math-teach is seeming downright political in this thread about political humor -- I'm reminded of the Other Russia movement.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PPUG 2010.11.10

For those readers unfamiliar: PPUG = Portland Python User's Group. If you word search on my three blogs (worldgame, controlroom, mybizmo), you'll find plenty of prior write-ups.

So tonight was our last gathering at WebTrends, at the top of a Portland skyscrapter adjacent to Pioneer Courthouse Square, a prime location. Next meeting: Urban Airship, their new digs in NW. Looking forward.

Wow, tonight was esoteric, about extending Python in multiple directions.

Ctypes is a great module for importing a DLL or Unix/Linux so (shared object) and using it directly. I asked if this'd work with COM. Not sure. Anyway, it's cool.

Did you wonder about extending Python with FORTRAN? That's a whole cult. FORTRAN has hardly gone out of style, even if the punch cards are no longer (lots of chuckles). f2py is truly awesome. Wrap your FORTRAN compiled object with C, and import it into your Python scripts. NumPy is of this genre.

Then we learned about GMPY and GMPY2, the extended precision modules. Such awesome tricks. Mutable integers? Amazing. Extend precision to 1000 bits (or more), and ask about pi. There it is, to many decimals. Impressive.

The most esoteric talk: extending Python with OCAML. It's that C-language bridge that eats up cycles, translating data types from this language to that. If you really wanna multiply two 100 x 100 matrices in the shortest time, consider NumPy (back to FORTRAN). Ocaml is cool though, no question. Brilliant talk.

IronPython is dead they tell me, wow. Seems like Microsoft really missed the boat then. I'll have to think about that one.

Good conversation with Jason, about women in computer science. I say they own it. Not the majority (male) view.

Thanks again Michelle. You're a great leader and a lovely individual.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Runaway Universe

Inflation Theory

Alex Filippenko is a popular lecturer who knows how to engage a lay audience. Our Pauling Memorial Lecture series folks are more sophisticated than average, as Alex readily pointed out, so we might not have needed as many cosmetology vs. cosmology jokes, but those were the slides, a part of the script. Ironically, I was wondering if his hair was dyed (so dark), but Tara said professors weren't that vain. Or maybe they cultivate the gray look.

Cosmology is still in its infancy, it's probably safe to say, as is humanity, which isn't to say humans are guaranteed a long trajectory. During Q&A, Alex expressed his opinion that humans, broadly defined, are a rarity in the universe, even if microbial life maybe isn't. Their intelligence may not confer sufficient advantages to keep them in the game. Here we are, only about 160 million years into the homo sapien experience, and we're already giddy and teetering, devoting zillions to weapons of mass suicide (WMSs).

"Dark energy" is mostly a placeholder these days, as is "dark mass" (these two are not the same). Plain old Newtonian gravity isn't providing a satisfying explanation for the galactic clusters cohering, which is where dark matter comes in. Dark energy, in contrast, is repulsive (or repugnant -- more jokes), and is responsible (in a theoretical sense) for pushing the clusters apart.

The bulk of the lecture was about detecting supernovae of a particular chemistry (A-1 type) and using these as "standard candles" to register distance. The work is tedious, but software helps. Monitor a few thousand galaxies a night, superimposing successive frames, and find the deltas, the bright spots. Two teams were doing this work, which was productive, both for the competition (a sport) and for corroboration once the results started coming in. These results were surprising: the receding of galaxies appears to be speeding up, starting around 5 billion years ago. Before that, the expansion was slowing, or so measurements seem to show.

Dr. Filippenko has his visuals. He threw a bright red fake apple into the air numerous times, to illustrate points about gravity, expansion, contraction, Einstein's cosmological constant. The rubber band with the balls strewn along it simulated an expanding universe. He also had a small blue balloon to inflate. Much of the banter was "by the book", is what you will find in introductory textbooks on cosmology.

The very meaning of "the universe" seems to have broken down, now that we have talk of multiple universes, with some philosophers proposing communications between them. Partially overlapping universe scenarios might suggest eternal regenerativity to some minds. Each universe would be another way the game could be played, a set of realized possibilities. Such talk is purely speculative of course. Alex asserted his credentials as an experimentalist, not a theoretician.

Tara joined me for this outing, an expanding universe in her own right, an active thinker eager to learn from her world. I so wish for a better civilization for her and her peers.

My own universe seems to have settled into a combination of sorrow and love. I'm deeply fond of these people, awed by the suffering. Thinking of Paul Tillich and his "courage to be".

Good seeing Juliet and Jerome in the auditorium. Jerome went to middle school with Alex. Juliet was my contemporary at the International School in the Philippines.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wanderers 2010.10.26

Trish is saying kind things about my blogs. Makes my day. She watched Charlie Wilson's War thanks to one of my reviews, and now recognizes the name Buckminster Fuller (I name I was dropping at Oasis Pizza the next day, confirming Glenn and I were both teachers).

Anna Roys phoned from Alaska while I was at Glenn's. The charter school approach seems a steep uphill climb for local administrators, but when she mentioned doing a school within a school instead, the lights went on. It'd be within the existing public framework, where the familiar rules apply. The charter apparatus is just so unwieldy.

I stumbled into the Aspartame debate yesterday and found a lot of the same debate patterns that characterize other "unsettled science". Just labeling something a "conspiracy theory" is hardly persuasive. It's wall-to-wall conspiracies; what else are there? "To conspire" means "to breath together". Dismissing schools of thought as "cults" is likewise non-substantive, is connotative only. But then "connotations" are what spin is all about.

Science is something of a junkyard, full of shipwrecks. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions maybe wasn't enough about economic pressures. Stakeholders don't just walk away from their investments, such as in some belief in "racial purity". Michael Crichton's State of Fear was very much about these economic pressures. I tend to focus on the appendix of that book, which looks at the junk science behind World War 2, ala Edwin Black's research.

I'm back to thinking COM is the way to go with this trucking stuff, not XML-RPC. We had a two hour meeting at Lyrik this morning and I got a better sense of how these puzzle pieces might fight together.

Not having a shared big picture positive future, such as was promulgated at international expositions and world's fairs in the previous century, is taking its toll. The fear level is driving a market for gold and silver. The breakup of the USSR gets discussed as a model of what many might go through, when the money system breaks down. Bigger tent cities, hoarding and looting...

Whatever happened to Old Man River City? How about cities that float? Aircraft carriers would count, also cruise ships, submarines. I guess we have them then, though mostly not for civilians.

I'm here at the Pauling House filling out an eligibility form for my high schooler. We're a low income family. A lot of our food comes from charitable sources. She should get school meals at a discount, plus some price breaks on IB tests, which are like $200 a pop.

I pay over $500 a month for health insurance just for the two of us, which ends up covering almost nothing routine. This is what we call "catastrophic" insurance. Life in the Global U doesn't mean having a lot of disposable income. Credits come in many forms, including simple access. I'm chauffeuring again tonight: MVP arriving at PDX in about an hour.

At Glenn's pad, Barry was talking about life aboard a British man-o-war. Being a marine was probably better than being a poor farmer. Those square-sailed ships couldn't tack well, or sail into the wind. They'd do these figure eight patterns. If the weather was wrong, shipwreck was likely. Sloops, on the other hand, were more maneuverable, or was that schooners?

The Coffee Shops Network is about funneling resources to worthy charities. Players make their own investment decisions, build a portfolio.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Active Day

I was up at 4:15 AM, not having slept all that well. I've come down with something, am not blaming the boat ride on Wednesday (after Wanderers).

Anyway, Carol needed to be at PDX by no later than 5:30 AM. We met that goal, yet she still almost missed her plane to Indianapolis by way of Denver.

I was home by 5:30 AM in time to chauffeur our debating champion to her rendezvous at Cleveland High School. The tournament is out of town.

In between 4:15 AM and 4:30 AM, I answered email from Lindsey cc Patrik McDade regarding bridging Day Labor Center to Free Geek, now that the Bike Farm link is in place and operational. I went over some of my experiences with that outfit, circled some Youtubes.

Later this morning, I plunged in to cleaning the kitchen, which had reached my threshold for entropy. I scrubbed cabinets, counter tops, the stove top, swept and mopped the floor. I was at it for some hours. Then came vacuuming the stairs and living room (lots of dog and cat hair) and putting away laundry.

I dress informally in Pacific Northwest grunge a lot, getting up to "scruffy professor" sometimes, with plenty of gray hair. I'm not usually as spiffy as the Japanese "salary man".

Carol phoned intermittently, from Denver, then Indianapolis, reporting on her progress.

The Food Not Bombs trailer and pots (down to only two -- need sponsors with cast offs) became a focus in the afternoon. That's mostly Lindsey's project, though I've been chipping in since the ER episode. Various vegetables went on the trailer, though not any chanterelles, which LW claimed might make dynamite "buffalo wings" (maybe next year?).

She's been rebuilding her strength, getting back into her Tarzania role (here on Planet of the Apes). She's ordered some more survivalist gear for life on the road, methodically pursing objectives she's had since I met her, through the Linus Pauling Campus. Deb is another Tarzania type (they've met), though personality-wise they're quite different people.

Satya came by for the trailer but Lindsey had already transported it to the cook at St. David of Wales.

Through much of this, I was putting finishing touches on a ReportLab project which reads in text files in the knowledge domain of trans-continental trucking, and spits back a PDF, complete with intelligent pagination decisions and an aesthetic choice of fonts (Lucinda Typewriter Bold for the data, Helvetica for the headers and footers).

Some readers may remember I've been racking my brains about how to combine Visual FoxPro and Python into a more seamless whole. The assumption is we'd be using COM, but I delivered a working demo using XML-RPC instead (not that they're entirely unrelated, as VFP has to instance an HTTP object).

Finally, I took the bait and answered Roberto's question about whether mathematics has ever been cast in a human-like language.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Necessary Ruin (movie review)

A hauntingly well-made little film. The tone resonates with Thinking Out Loud in that it hints at some Other Tomorrow, a parallel universe wherein we still practice a hopeful brand of futurism.

The good news is the dome has its twin, still in operation as of this writing. It won't last forever either though. Rust never sleeps.

Related thread on Facebook.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hillsboro Story

Hillsboro Story
:: hillsboro story @ artists repertory theater ::

At first, Carol was confused by the title, as we have our own Hillsboro, towards the end of the Blue Line.

I too write about our Hillsboro quite a bit, in connection with my work for the police department (HPD) as a Saturday Academy instructor, a project by a former FBI guy, George Heuston, to make high tech more friendly. The police don't relish growing old amidst people who hate and fear them, any more than you would, and the world of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) looked welcoming to them. Lets recruit among recent immigrants (Latino especially) and prove America is a land where dreams come true.

OK, now lets rewind the tape to the 1950s and Google Earth over to Hillsboro, Ohio, and dial back to when the Mickey Mouse Club was first hot (before my time). This is the world of John Waters and Hairspray, of Drapes and Squares, of a certain American Look we still celebrate to this day. The play reminds us of all of this and more. The beat generation. Allen Ginsberg and Howl.

The Supreme Court had just ruled that segregation was illegal, but the state and county governments were taking a lackadaisical attitude, didn't want to feel bullied by any central authority or tyrant. Even Eisenhower didn't have the gravitas of Abe Lincoln, and desegregation, a reality on paper, was stalled on the ground. Overt racists still occupied and ran the country like they owned the place. The KKK still openly practiced terror and intimidation against "uppity coloreds".

I'm eager to share what happened next with the engineers at the Pauling House, as it was one of our ken who finally snapped under pressure and took matters into his own hands. The design of America herself was on the line, her deepest Constitutional values.

Foot-dragging about obeying the law, after a bloody Civil War, was just too much. Philip Partridge was tormented by these failures, of the legal system, of county administrators. Mothers had made their wishes clear, by picketing. The young and idealistic were expecting action (like after Obama got elected). He was mad as hell and couldn't take it anymore.

Lincoln Elementary was the pits, yet Negro children were forced to go there, to learn of their lower class status at an impressionable young age. Meanwhile, the privileged kids got to sit in newer remodeled schools, and have E.B. White read to them (Charlotte's Web) or in my case The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (we were living in Rome at the time).

Sesame Street had yet to be invented and the Woodstock generation was just coming out of the starting gate (Whoopi Goldberg etc. -- she gets mentioned). The military had already started to integrate as of WW2, though it had not yet accepted its own gayness (nor had the intelligence services, making blackmail a lot easier).

Our kindly engineer realized that if he burned Lincoln Elementary to the ground, late at night (so no one got hurt), he'd force the issue. It was a clear calculation. He was not thrilled about his prospects if he went through with it, so made a promise to himself he'd only follow through if God woke him up at 2 AM precisely...

A lightning storm of furious proportions shocks him awake in the bleak of night at 2 AM (a cinematic moment), and he knows this is his destiny. He's always felt cut out to do something pivotal. This is to be his hour of fame, his moment of glory, and he seizes the day (carpe diem)... It'd be a clear case of arson, of breaking and entering. He wasn't there to shoot anyone. This wasn't like in Elephant. He wasn't "going postal".

The operation goes as planned. The lawyers, however, are not to be rushed by this course of events. They have their own plodding process. The town puts Lincoln back together again, fire damage and all, and prepares to frame some poor Negro as a cover story. Philip turns himself in rather than sacrifice yet another innocent bystander, which galvanizes the psychiatric community to take his case.

No one suggested he was a communist or shouted treason. There was no 700 Club to play the role of the KKK and/or Rush Limbaugh. He's a well-liked engineer who knows his job. For awhile he was like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as they poked and prodded his psyche, looking for what made him tick.

They decided he was sane enough to go to prison though, not really a kook. He might have been a bit paranoid, sure -- or self-aggrandizing (too uppity) -- but then so was J. Edgar Hoover, and so was just about everyone else at the height of the Cold War (the "U2 incident" is not mentioned).

During his year or so in prison, Philip helped build new facilities (obviously with staff approval), bonds with fellow inmates, and becomes a yet wiser man. What a hero. Our Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy (ISEPP) should memorialize him in some appreciative way.

I'm on the board. I'll bring it up with our president.

In the meantime, this excellent and well-researched piece of storytelling was part of a benefit for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), for which I serve as Bridge City liaison and as an NPYM corporate rep (not a new gig for me, as former clerk of the LAAP program committee and editor of Asian-Pacific Issues News).

Several staff, members of the Executive Committee, and the Regional Director herself were all present. Eddy Crouch (EC) had done a masterful job of bringing us all together. My mom, Carol Urner, on the national board, was introduced after the play as one of the several VIPs present. Rick Seifert, currently serving as clerk of Multnomah Meeting, was also acknowledged for his early civil rights work.

The house was packed, almost every seat taken. Fortunately, Sonya Pinney managed to get in on standby. Bob Smith was there, and Annis Bleeke....

Annis said I "cleaned up well" until she took a closer look at my tie: a loud Bugs Bunny, from the USPO, my homage to my own childhood of privilege, with Marvin the Martian (also Post Office) my other option, MAD Magazine... I was also wearing a Holden Web badge on my lapel, subtle hype for Python Nation, where I serve on Diversity and edu-sig, advocating further integration within geekdom.

I like Charlotte-the-spider OK too though, though I sometimes confuse her farm with that other one in Animal Farm (another side of the American Nightmare, which it sometimes becomes).

I liked how the playwright, Susan Banyas, also the director and a star in the play, turned the legal battles into fashion shows. The top judges and lawyers appear as if on a Fashion Avenue runway, ala Bruno. The NAACP lawyers prove to be snappy dressers. No slouches in court. Social class is overcome by clothing and demeanor.

The wheels of justice turned bravely, and after the longest time, the Federal Circuit lost patience with Ohio's transparently resorting to gerrymandering (rezoning to control the demographics) to divide and conquer, a practice still rampant to this day, across all fifty states, and over many of the same issues i.e. a strong yet misguided belief in "class" and "race" as reputable concepts.

Banyas was also clear how simply forcing a mixing of ethnicities, inexperienced with integration, was not a short term enterprise. South Africa might have to integrate more successfully down the road, before North Americans could relax, given how apartheid anywhere breeds suspicion and hatred everywhere.

The saga is ongoing, with many more ethnicities to think about, more than fit on one hand, more than 195 (the current number of nation-states, a number that bumps up and down -- close to meaningless were it not for the UN and its Declaration of Human Rights).

Some of us stayed for a "talk back" with the troupe. Although I didn't pipe up, I thought the play reminiscent of the D.W. Jacobs play about Bucky Fuller, in its use of montage and sound track. The sets were less fancy, this being a lower budget production, but one could well imagine future productions with actual 1950s-looking TV screens, showing mug shots of historical figures, pictures of store fronts, excerpts from Mickey Mouse Club, perhaps with young Britney Spears.

Most encouraging was the news that Portland Public Schools would be happy to take this play on as a part of its curriculum. This wouldn't be the first play PPS had built in (as an 11-year veteran of the system, I've seen lots of good theater). I can certainly see the appeal. There's no physical violence in the play, although quite a bit is alluded to (the Civil War and the Indian Wars were both horrific and the memories are still haunting). People resolve their differences in good order in this play. Those most into hate speech fail to spark an angry mob.

The wheels of justice turn, albeit at a glacial and petty pace, from day to day. A courageous engineer serves his time. Important steps get taken without bloodshed. A Quakers even make an appearance, a supportive elders, reminiscing about underground railway work.

Alternatives to Violence were pursued, and Ohio ends up a happier state as a result. No wonder Oregon wants to share such a hopeful story.

We liked hosting Bishop Tutu as well. South Africa rocks, for having moved so far forward without cataclysm or apocalypse.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Onward Urners et al

Lots of wheels turning today. Tara Urner took the PSAT.

In family lore, we remember the death of Dr. Jack Urner, one of the world's great planners (Libya, Egypt, Philippines, Lesotho, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Portland).

Mom (Carol Urner) was with him in the accident and survived. The other driver was killed as well. This was in the Republic of South Africa, on the highway from Maseru, Lesotho to Bloemfontaine, Orange Free State.

On the topic of planning, anticipating, thinking ahead, the idea of infrastructure parks still has applicability I suppose, but we're probably leaning more towards a cross between video arcades and flight simulator trainings.

The computerized sim games have largely replaced the need to build the scale models. Militaries and paramilitaries use them, including as recruiting tools. So do zoo tycoons.

I used to write science fiction about a possible Caleb Gattegno park in Eugene that'd feature scale model trains, another Nowhere Man fantasy. I was learning about Gattegno from Dr. Benson (Stanford) at the time.

I've been checking out some of the truck simulators while reading up on truck routes across Asia. As peak oil becomes more dear, we will see emphasis on "more with less" strategies (e.g. load optimization).

The trucking world intersects both the "bizmo" world and Coffee Shops Network. The trucking lanes connect with rail, inland waterway and ocean shipping networks. Warehousing connects us to Supermarket Math.

Trucking and trade routes are also associated with the spread of viruses (such as HIV) and memes (ideas). There's much to be learned from a multi-disciplinary study of over-land trade routes, although admittedly some of these routes are somewhat treacherous.

The ability to operate an eighteen-wheeler and/or warehouse forklift might come in handy as you develop your appreciation for operations and logistics in various work / study programs around the world.

Just because you're co-piloting a truck from Istanbul to the Ukraine doesn't mean you can't be earning credit with the Harvard Business School at the same time.

Micheal Sunanda swung by on his bicycle, a classic / vintage Eugene-based hippie yakking about as many conspiracy theories as will fit into one meeting, drawing from Alex Jones, Dick Icke, the Coast-to-Coast crowd.

I briefly joined that circuit with MS for an Adventure in Radio Land that time. He has since moved on to television, appearing on Alex Ansari's cable show the other day.

What's Julie Urner been up to?

Monday, October 11, 2010


Linus Pauling House
:: linus pauling center for peace... ::

Glenn and I walked Sarah-the-dog this morning. I'd been up late taking in more student videos (sometimes I lurk). We talked about the 911 thing quite a bit. That's not a discourse I'm trying to clamp down on somehow. I apologize to Jim Morrissett for seeming so impatient (a colleague from Centennial days in San Diego). Let those chips fall where they may.

I'd scrap booked about WTC quite a bit in my Jersey City days in the 1980s. I was unaware of Paul Laffoley's art back then and his future dream of a Gaudi-inspired hotel-cathedral of some kind, complete with some Thomas Edison Memorial Atrium.

One could imagine religious functions scattered throughout both towers, was my thinking at the time i.e. different religions could have their shrines, temples, other offices. Why should only bankers and lawyers get all the best views?

In today's terms, that'd mean having not just one mosque but maybe several, stacked up inside. Not exclusively of course. Nordic Lutherans could stake a claim, just like in Prairie Home Companion. These various religions all have their sects and denominations (like the Red Hats and Yellow Hats of Tantric fame).

This kind of more cosmopolitan multi-purpose zoning might be inspired by the Parliament of World Religions, although again, that world body was not on my radar at the time I was sketching these storyboards. Cape Town was still in my future, as was Bhutan.

Speaking of the Parliament of World Religions, I dropped a note to Nancy Irving today, wishing her well and following up on some of our interest group discussions. PWR and FWCC have no official relationship (I asked about that in the interest group) but that doesn't mean they can't read about each other sometimes.

Dunno if Nick made it to Bioneers this year. I was just writing about John Todd and the kind of New Alchemy Institute type stuff associated with the first J. Baldwin pillow domes (even before Cornwall's). Speaking of J. Baldwin of Bucky Works fame, I was glad to see Guy Inchbald's positive remarks regarding Sam Lanahan's new book. Guy is the author of the oft-cited Archimedean honeycombs paper.

LW is back on her feet, digging furiously in the Peace Garden. The Food not Lawns ideology is being more clearly expressed with each expenditure of sweat equity.

Nevertheless, she's not primed to lug 90 lbs of fresh produce up any hills, her stock in trade when running full steam working with Food Not Bombs. I've offered to do that myself like last week, I hope having learned my lesson about not lifting boxes the wrong way. I did finally manage to clear that drain by the way, using a plumbing snake (old and rusted).

RB asked me about some rumor about Google Earth being run by Evil Bert (picking up on a Science News meme?). I told the InQTel story again, not that I'm privy to all the details (duh), but there needed to be some bridging mechanism between those inwardly pointing space telescopes (those navel-gazing Hubble wannabes) -- otherwise known as Key Hole (KH-11 etc.) -- and the Google Earth developer network. The bridge wasn't specific to that one company though. Declassifying a satellite mosaic is an ongoing process per Bucky Fuller's Critical Path, and is also in the works for other planets (ala Google Mars).

Writing that stuff probably got me in the mood to tackle Woodward's new book (Obama's Wars), which mom has been scoping out at the local Powell's on Asylum Avenue. I headed up there with my laptop and had the biggest sized latte, going over some pages. WTF. Hard to make head or tail, but then I'm maybe rusty with my Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics. Some passages brought me back to Whittier, reading Plame's magnum opus and watching Charlie Wilson's War.

I may not be a hunk like Tom Hanks, but some adorable women were on the phone with me that Christmas (we drove both ways -- before the oil crunch). They've left me for other men by this time (not that either was "mine" to begin with), which reminds me of Good Shepherd.