Sunday, June 27, 2010


I've helped go through some of the Laughing Horse inventory recently, getting into the Esozone type DVDs and VHS tapes. By that I mean, one gets the perspectives wherein this or that subculture or ethnicity is secretly (or not so secretly) controlling everything.

The Freeman Perspective is a good example. Freeman's dad was a Mason, and by the time you've watched a few episodes, the Masonic cults are running everything, and not just in Texas. In other tapes, by other editor-narrators, it's the Vatican that's in control.

Actually, given the badly managed state of the world, no one really wants to be seen as "in control"; there's always a "them" that's messing it up. One needs to project power elsewhere. I take this up in my Tower of Babel essay of long ago.

Funny true story: I was having a conversation in the living room with my house mate about farm life in Florida when the heating element in the oven decided to self-destruct, in a burst of flame, coating the corn bread with unspecified metals, perhaps toxic.

Rather than waste the corn bread, she tried washing it in the sink and drying it on the stove top. We went back to the Freeman Perspective on population culling by chem trail, in which heavy metals are rained upon the earth from mystery airplanes. Alluding to the corn bread experiment, she asked "Why do we bother?"

That chem trails episode seemed especially likely to scare people, as it offered a ready explanation for feeling weaker, less healthy. Blame the government, not the fast food and lack of exercise maybe? As a metaphor, the chem trails meme is about an unhealthy environment and insufficient protection, a well-founded lack of trust.

Brian (a Wanderer and ecologist) avoids coming into Portland for example, because of all the benzene we're breathing. LA is just that much worse.

Anyway, I'm not above working some of these stories myself, hoping to come up with new twists that might actually be beneficial for a change. I've been using Synergeo as a doodle pad some more. Wanderers also provides me with a sounding board. One can't write in a vacuum.

For the first time in several months, I was out on Tomahawk Island again. Internet connectivity was serviceable. I've been committing some source code, working with clients in both Python and FoxPro.

The captain of our water craft had taken some pictures of a black swan, not usually seen in this area. He's been getting emails, including from faraway Japan, speculating as to the significance of this sighting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wanderers 2010.6.22

By L. Taylor / Biogem
The elders have assembled. Some exotic piece of electronic equipment is being dissected on the table. These denizens of machine world speak knowledgeably of the guts within. I blog, sip some red wine.

Next up: pictures of Antarctica, projected large. Allen Taylor is here, has visited that continent, classified as a desert. It's also quite high (quite mountainous). Don had chosen this topic. Would the global U site any domed-over campuses in this area?

Lynne Taylor (not related to Allen) is explaining each of her pictures (applause). She sold the one on the meeting room wall during the retreat and is replacing it, having asked us to vote on the discussion list, which one to bring. She picked one I like, displayed above.

Concern about the BP bleed runs high, on the list also.

Earlier today:

The Synergeo board has been lit up with activity, as I test the waters regarding my new counter to the Bucky Embargo (aka the Bucky Boycott).

Taking a page from Phil Zimmerman of PGP fame, who exported early public key utilities from New Zealand (messing up the NSA's tentative plan to keep that GHCQ thing classified) I'm thinking maybe Cuba, as a base for exporting Mites, Sytes and Kites as geometrical / educational toyz, not unlike Yoshimoto's and Huntar Mag-Blocs.

Universities in Canada might serve as intermediaries? The toyz could be rebranded with patriotic themes and used to supply the USA public behind the scenes, over the objections of various "corporate persons" (a native superstition kept alive as if by magic -- cite Voodoo Economics).

Living standards would improve, as students got a better grip and sharper picture on spatial geometry + geography.

The plot thickens when I bring in Ben and Jerry's as a possible test co-operative (vs. corporation). Product might be made locally, for delivery on bike trailer in some cases, to Fast Food Free Zones (the whole island if the health care system stays healthy).

My working hypothesis is that Unilever, being European, is free to join the Vatican in supporting "church bingo". I realize that's pretty abbreviated. More on Synergeo.

On Facebook, I was suggesting that liberal Friends have no problem with the "novus ordo eye" (on the dollar bill) being an Eye of Horus.

We don't insist that the one Biblical God be the only all-seeing, are willing to share among the many ethnicities. Per Dr. Bronner, it's all one in any case.

Anyway, Egyptian Math is pretty cool, and an Eye of Horus matches the pyramid theme.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Documentaries

Every Child is Born a Poet. The autobiography of Piri Thomas, author of Down These Mean Streets, is well made. If schools were a place to grow by watching films, this would be one to show, for the sake of inspiring discussion and sharing (articulating) one's experiences.

Documentaries are (or can be) a serious art form and watching them should count as study, as much as reading does. Watch them for academic credit (it's like this at PSU). You might need to take a train somewhere to see it. Maybe it's only out in IMAX?

Taking the train: that's for math credit maybe? Navigating the topology of your city's subway system, learning to use GPS... does your school campus and/or base issue GPS devices to members of your unit?

Amandala! is a documentary about the role of protest songs during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Like Every Child... there's a retrospective flavor, of the situation improving for some of the protagonists, and yet the backdrop is one of ongoing poverty. The ghettos and shanty towns haven't gone away. Perhaps those gallows are less in business? Many heroes in Amandala! were hanged for questioning authority (authoritarians tend to arrogate that right of retaliation, as a prerogative of the nation-state -- or corporation in some cases (we also watched Rollerball)).

I watched both of these documentaries with a Laughing Horse collective member and Portland Free School organizer. Both seemed to be about caving to conventional authority was one view expressed, with both films portraying their respective heroes as role model citizens of their respective Euro-style nation-states.

Like when Native Americans learn to depend on a casino: how is that really a victory? How is wearing a suit and carrying a brief case to work a big win for a free people? Another view: it might be (a big win), if worn as one more costume. When in Rome... or on the set (a period piece perhaps, lots of funky SUVs in the background).

Were consumerism and materialism more existentially meaningless, more individuals might find it an interesting challenge to better balance the world's energies. Alchemy could become full time work. Why should organized religion have all the fun?

If there's a role for geeks in "world domination" then here (on Planet Earth) might be another opportunity to stage a design science decade, more consciously than before. Getting that sponsored shelf of Bucky books at Laughing Horse, mixed with some free software movement tomes, and DVDs such as Revolution OS... How are things going in Africa, with free software these days? Any sponsors out there?

A war on poverty isn't out of altruism, so much as out of having nothing better to do. We've been sentenced to Earth to improve the human condition, which means working on ourselves as well (jihad etc.).

I'm depressed about the response of mathematicians. I expected a little more excitement about those Mites, Sytes and Kites, just because of their streamlining potential. Why aren't we screening about these things in prisons, given that's where so many people get sidelined and warehoused? Piri gets some geometry behind bars, but it's all so rectilinear. The war colleges shouldn't have a monopoly on these newfangled materials, just cuz they're closer to Martians (grays or whatever).

Regarding Every Child... the part about Spanish "blood" mixing with African and American "blood" was annoying. Talking about "blood" is the old racist language, which imagined these racial "essences" floating around in the plasma.

That's faux-science, just like much of Social Darwinism, which couldn't be bothered with any detailed look at real genetics. When it comes to tracing ethnicity, there's not that much interesting going on in the genome. A few skin color bits flip here and there, some nose shaping proteins -- superficial stuff, like what dog breeders care about.

Ethnicity is more about "memes" than "genes" (why all math is ethno-math) but even your average Harvard prof seems reluctant to spell that out in any detail (or is that just my imagination?). The word "meme" just isn't taken seriously enough, is too close to "commercial ditty" (the awesome hypnotic power of which, they'd rather you not think about too critically, any more than filmmakers want you guessing their tricks at every turn (spoils the atmosphere, when you see through the illusion, know what makes it tick (some say))).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Asian Scholar Visits

alan @ work

I was best man at Alan's wedding, in my parents' living room in Thimphu, Bhutan. He and Kattie, a scholar of Burmese Buddhist traditions especially, were not sure how seriously to take things going in, given what an ad hoc affair this was, with the connecting airline miss-delivering their belongings elsewhere. Everything came together as if by magic, and the ritual / ceremony proved binding and legally accepted in other nations, France especially (where Kattie is from).

Alan champions the Adobe PDF format as way better than PowerPoint or Word for distributing valuable information of a multimedia nature. I've shared his materials at GIS in Action, where I expected an especially appreciative audience for such artifacts.

One of Alan's projects was to apply projective digital media technology to the task of restoring an ancient temple in Laos. The building was rather worse for the wear, and the more lasting and actually more traditional thing to do would be to tear it down and build a new one in its place. Excavation and archeological exploration of the under-structure was also of neighborhood interest (hidden treasures?).

Perpetuating the graphics on the wall looked like a daunting prospect, with some of the skills lost. The solution: create a high quality archive of the temple interior, the wall art especially, with a goal of later projecting this information on the interior walls of the new structure, for the purpose of guiding painters in recreating the original graphics from the projected information.

The project was a success and is now an accepted way to replicate and perpetuate these traditional depictions, and their accompanying stories.

In other work, Alan made a detailed inventory of ecological features likely to be lost if hydro-electric projects were not well planned. Working with the feng shui of nature is not that difficult and is the mark of any skilled engineer, but many a developer in our developing world have little appreciation for the fine art of earning the respect and admiration of their peers.

Beautiful waterfalls that have anchored a geography and lore for centuries get shut off for a mere megawatt in return, a paltry sum, much of which is squandered on inessentials. Perhaps the shut-offs are a result of land-grabbing by a resort hotel and casino complex, wanting to exploit an "idyllic countryside" by destroying it in the process (not all casinos encourage environmental degradation -- not Avalon's for example (in Catalina)).

Alan's PDFs contain records of some of these lost natural wonders.

The story of Celilo Falls is repeated in Sri Lanka.

The locals often don't realize what they're about to lose, until it's too late. The introduction of hydro-power in Borneo seemed more propitious. I also thought the Japanese engineers in Bhutan were doing a better job, keeping environmental impacts to a minimum, or net positive. Not all hydro-power projects are created equal.

Buddhist thought offers many teachings about letting go, and perhaps the creaky old water wheels of Cambodia, used for irrigation in the dry season, were not going to feed enough people reliably enough.

Preserving these wheels in digital formats, including in movies, would seem a minimum acceptable form of preservation in those cases. Alan specializes in the digital preservation of geographical information. His PDFs tend to be multi-lingual. We all sat around the new monitor (a sponsor donation) and oogled at some of these materials, much of which was written in Laotian.

Alan was expert at getting video cameras into the hands of local witnesses, who knew what was most memorable about the local geography. His work has been pioneering and its relevance has been amplified by the fact that the equipment has only gotten less expensive, more powerful, and easier to use.

Variable Height Projector
wall mural projector

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Meetinghouse Benefit

MF Benefit Concert
:: multnomah friends benefit concert ::

Elizabeth Fischer's Program Committee worked in the wings on this for several months. Lindsey lined up the bands, orchestrated a meal. Facebook was a primary outlet for news of this benefit, along with the Multnomah Friends newsletter.

Seeing some empty seats, we at first wondered if the event had been promoted sufficiently. The car hitting Lindsey had ripple effects, cut into her schedule. However, the chairs filled. A few more had to be added.

Crystal, our emcee and member of the KBOO community, took a poll as to about how many of us knew one another (about four average), plus passed out paper so we could diagram our interconnections.

With about 45 present, we netted about $450, which was in keeping with the $10 requested donation. Thanks to a matching donation from a benefactor, the total funds raised was $1,422.

After the conversation and a vegan-organic meal (with a robust chicken soup option), some tea, coffee, and cookies (apple cobbler), we adjourned upstairs for the acoustic portion of the program.

One of the best and most effective parts of the evening was when the two speakers from Sisters of the Road traded stories about what's happening in Old Town. The dire straits we're going through have resulted in an overwhelming demand for direct services. People want mail, basic grooming items, as well as food and shelter. These resources are being denied to citizens and non-citizens alike on ideological grounds.

The camping and sidewalk laws are becoming more strict, as fewer people take control of public spaces and their governance.

Those accepting state funds to apply bandaid solutions must as a result somewhat surrender their critical voices as participants in democracy (like NPR). Not being private sector, they don't enjoy the rights of corporate personhood, such as the big businesses do.

Sisters, being privately funded as a restaurant and coffee shop, is closer to having a free voice than most, and so addresses many issues more directly than other agencies feel able to.

Walking Home was doing a last performance at least for awhile, and drew a lot of friends. Their sound was fantastic, even though one girl had a sore throat. She felt safe letting us know, and sang brilliantly anyway. They both used cellos adroitly -- percussively as well as for strings. Their guitar was strong too. You could call these folk songs, at least one from a coal town union worker. Some were original.

Rachael Taylor Brown performed a sweetly macabre set, which the audience truly got and appreciated. She gave some funny insights regarding superheros having grumpy relatives, with a segue back to the saints, who used to more dominate the literature, before Marvel came along. She sang about St. Zoe, treated badly, and warned Fox-watching Americans against returning to the days of public executions. She sang for the deceased Joe.

Rachael played the somewhat out-of-tune piano expertly. Her male accompaniment and instrumentalist was great at harmonizing while her sister, a known figure on the Portland opera scene, joined in on a couple of choruses.

Lindsey Walker took us out with Meal Tickets and Hugs, new for this occasion. She followed with a new love song, then Fear of Flying, ending with Freedom Train. The summer night sky had finally darkened. Sonya, Harriet, Elizabeth and other Friends worked hard as stagehands during setup and teardown.

Lindsey had cooked up a storm at the Blue House earlier, biking her food to the meetinghouse with Trey's trailer. Mom, Tara, Liana and I went to the meetinghouse by 75 bus and came home with Deb, who'd been napping, exhausted from some workshop.

At the very start of the program, Lindsey announced that Tara would be giving a physics lecture. The audience wanted to know more, and the topic was narrowed to Kinematics. A venue was negotiated on the fly for later, where some of us later took in a problem from rocket science, having to do with how much higher a capsule would go against gravity even after the fuel had been spent.

I captured some of this performance with my cigarette-case sized camera (we used the classroom with the Dymaxion Map in it).

Quakers appreciate simplicity and plain speech, both conducive to truth-telling and getting the problems well defined. The Q&A with the audience was most enlightening to all present. No one was wasting anyone else's time, in my experience.

Dr. Nick Consoletti was able to take a few moments out to join us. He's excited by some of the new ferment at PSU (more later).

Hello to John Driscoll etc. (the architect and cross-country cyclist). Thanks to Deb for logging some workshop hours with Tara, who still suffers the after effects of getting hit by that car (in a crosswalk, light in her favor).

I'm not having romantic feelings towards such vehicles. Don't let them fool you with the stereotype: that every North American is car crazy. Only most of them are.

Friday, June 04, 2010


:: democracylab party ::

I ended up scripting this as a solo walk, from my neighborhood (Richmond / Sunnyside) to the Pearl District, taking photos along the way. My goal was the DemocracyLab fundraiser, hosted by a company CFO and board member.

DemocracyLab's new Facebook app, Oregon-focused, made a splash at OS Bridge this year. We were featuring it again here. It back ends into a database at OSU. If enough people use the product, a feedback loop useful to self-governance might start up. Trying this on Facebook in no way precludes other channels. Democracy is robust enough to work multiple angles, fragile enough to need creative and visionary champions to keep it alive.

I needed the long walk to check vitals and think about what's next. There's a funereal atmosphere around Wanderers, fed by the disaster in the Gulf, the looming crises of out-of-control nationalism.

Koski and I have both been posting to Synergeo a lot. We do this as unpaid volunteers, which isn't a boast, it's a scary sign of the times. What are philosophers doing for a living these days? Polyhedra anyone? Perhaps geometrical studies seem too much like fiddling while Rome burns.

Thinking about polyhedra is intrinsic to the rational thought process, would be my response. That probably sounds unwelcoming, like too Apollonian when people are in the mood for "all you can eat" and cheap plastic toys, none of them very challenging or geometrical.

LinZ took off with Trey's bike trailer to seek tomato starts somewhere closer to Forest Grove, beyond the urban growth boundary. Using peak oil unnecessarily is an anathema. "Going to work" should not be an excuse. We self ration.

Birthday planning for youngest daughter... in a mad world. We all seem to be aging rather quickly this year.