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.