Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quaker Quest Program (QQP)

My title is with reference to a workshop held yesterday at the meetinghouse. I hadn't attended; I was on call to assist with Nick's departure from the hospital. I was the acting custodian for much of his stuff.

The Quaker Quest Program (QQP) appears to originate in the UK yet comes with FGC's imprimatur in some way. Lew had photo-documented the event on Picassaweb and set up the new meetinghouse A/V cart to project on the wall during social hour. We could read what had been committed to standard meeting-sized paper.

Photos disclose at least one dog had been in attendance, a seeing-eye puppy-in-training. The same dog was in our joint Oversight and Worship and Ministry meeting a couple Saturdays ago. We also had a dog at Food Not Bombs the other night, chauffeured by fancy car. This caused some philosophical ripples on the serving crew. As resident animist and observing anthropologist, I tended to praise our inclusiveness of non-humans.

I wanted to also showcase Lew's work to get the meetinghouse in Google Earth and eventually let a junior Friend take the helm (hope that's OK Lew, you were deep in conversation). He kicked Google Earth into Flight Simulator mode and proceeded to fly off towards Mt. Hood. A gaggle of other youngsters gathered around, taking in the belief system.

This being a Blue Moon First Day, as Tim called it (an allusion to infrequency, this actually being a fifth Sunday in a calendar month) our format was a little different. A query was read around 2/3rds into the worship and the format flipped into Worship Sharing, a kind of overdrive which encourages more messaging. Explorations in the geometry of thinking ensued, an experiential endeavor not just a head trip.

The Blue House has some focus on Egypt, though just now I was mostly talking about Greece, echoing Nirel's communications about the tensions in that country. I didn't think the unrest and impatience with not-democracy was going to confine itself to some "Muslim world" (insofar as we might project such a thing). Journalists have taken to reporting anonymously from the scene, even on major networks like Al Jazeera. Their narrative is often uncomprehending it seems to me, but then I'm a fine one to talk, I think many would say.

Hey, great meeting some of Trisha's entourage at Pub 181. The guy with Autodesk, who reminded me of Jesse Ventura, had been to 168 countries already, beating my score by far. You could tell he loved traveling, had his passport and shots card in his wallet. He'd grown up in the Philippines speaking Cebuano, part of the backlash against Tagalog-speaking nationalists.

One might see parallels with Burmese vis-a-vis those not agreeing to the current nation-state system or standardized language proposals. His brother had been killed during the secessionist unrest, caught in the cross-fire, around the same time I was there going to high school by the sound of it, shortly after the declaration of martial law.

And this guy was but one of Trisha's many interesting long time friends. Another quiet engineer type had been a source of ideas. This other girl wanted to yak about quantum physics and was wishing for Brian Greene tickets.

Trisha was a turbo-charged young hellion, going off on her own quite early. Like Michael Bolus, she'd survived a nearly-fatal accident. More recently, she's been abducted by Wanderers and seems to be enjoying our conspiracy. She introduced us around her circle as her "science friends" (or "science guys"), which I found congenial.

According to Lew, the Quaker Quest program advises dropping the "ism" in Quakerism and going with Quaker Way instead. One might say "Faith and Practice" in place of "Way" I suppose, or F&P for short, or, as Nick says: MO (modus operendi).

Key terms of art, of the belief system, get imbued with meaning operationally, not by "pointing at objects" in any static literal sense. Hence the sense of Becoming (emergence) that imbues one's sense of "being in meeting" (a space of partially overlapping scenarios, a theater (non-simultaneously conceptual)).

Speaking of Food Not Bombs, I wanted to be there at Duke's Landing when Lindsey hammered out her show tunes, uncensored and raw (Beans & Rice a current favorite). Satya Vayu and Cera Monial, practicing Buddhists, joined in on hand drums, Cinnamon on tambourine. Evelyn made several wry comments and her daughter and friend joined in the singing.

Cinnamon was wearing an eye patch to preserve night vision in one eye. He makes frequent transitions to his bike in the darkness and finds this technique helps with his practice.

Sarabell (on the scene in the aftermath of Katrina) showed up at Duke's before any of us (except Walker), with her tap dancing shoes. She's a talented dancer, though somewhat new to tap. Her shoe action, combined with the drumming, complemented the free-cycled piano most excellently. Great percussion track! Duke's was looking grand as well, with room for many more faces around those tables.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wanderers 2011.01.26

Our little meeting room was full again, as we welcomed some newcomers. I'd posted to the Wanderers list that Lew Scholl might be joining us. Jon Bunce brought a friend as well.

We all hit if off in spatial geometry, as Lew, inspired by finding Koski's great vZome in Coffeeshopsnet, had embarked upon duplicating said embedding of several polyhedrons using Google SketchUp. Jon's friend wanted to talk about the unit volume tetrahedron. We were feasting on NeoPlatonism on the Linus Pauling Campus, so apropos.

Lew has been uploading buildings to Google Earth, including the Friends Meetinghouse on Stark Street. He hooked up to the projector, borrowing Buzz's Apple, because of a keyboard issue, and took us through the initial steps of getting the Pauling House uploaded (it's already there, but Lew's was looking more detailed, insofar as it went (nothing new got placed)).

Multnomah Friends / Google Earth
click for larger view

We also learned a lot more about posture and the Alexander Technique. I hooked up to the projector and showed a few things as well, including Kenneth Snelson's newest, with the snakes, and, on Don's request, this older one from animators working for the Whitney Museum in NYC. I also played the trailer for The Economics of Happiness.

Some of the time, I was in the anteroom connecting to the pantry and back porch, as the Toshiba was low on charge. It'd been having some serious problems as of our last Oversight meeting @ Quakers, but after leaving the battery out for awhile (something customer service had once suggested in another context) that particular situation resolved.

I'm thinking about Nick (what news?), my family south and north. Cousin Mary's dad was concerned that one of his research papers be made world-readable via the web. I'd uploaded the PDF version awhile back, but now I've got it in HTML with an embedded hit counter, per Dr. Myer's request. I've cited this paper twice on the Math Forum.

Lew was fortunate to get a tour of Glenn's Global Matrix Studio in its original Pauling Campus location, before it moves down the street along Hawthorne Boulevard. Glenn let me snap together a raw six pieces to form a Sam Lanahan icosahedron, which we gave to Lew. Lew is still wanting to get that rhombic triacontahedron added, ala the Koski vZome.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Using words you will find are strange...

from Pink Floyd's On the Turning Away.

When the Jitterbug spins down to the first station stop, I might
call that 'Landing on Mars'. We're at a first base camp. The
octahedron is the next platform, everything doubling. The final
four-fold quadrivium (a signalling) happens at the turn-around,
where we flip to the other dorji or whatever we call it (go through
to the next measure, or chapter). You want an Icosahedron closer
in than base camp, right around 5. Having checked Bucky's figures
I see he's not trying to label said Icosa's edge in his

diagram, so I'm thinking we're OK with said figures. Note the
arrow by the RT. That's his choice for 5 at the end of the day.
I've called it the NCLB Polyhedron but the math teachers haven't
been able to follow that, as they're XYZ qyoobists bouncing around
in their rubber room, like a trapped gas (maybe methane?).


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Economics of Happiness (movie review)

This documentary with a message recaps the movie-maker's experience in Ladakh and then proceeds to deduce lessons. An interesting aspect of this film is some of its leading activists are Buddhist monks, other Buddhist authorities.

Helena Norberg-Hodge knows a lot about language and this movie is structured as a kind of language training. We need partially overlapping namespaces going forward. How shall we spin these words "globalization" and "localization"?

The former (globalization) is associated with loss of local control to corporate behemoths and banking leviathans, which also seem to have lost control of themselves and turned into giant machines people no longer comprehend. It's not that the people in them are bad, just locked in, straitjacketed.

The latter (localization) is associated with more transparent and open relationships, wherein its easier to see the difference one makes to a shared ecosystem / economy. More feedback loops are closed nearby so steering actually seems possible. People have ways of judging their own performance and making adjustments.

The giant black box machines, on the other hand, can't be steered and come across more like trains that either go faster or slower along a fixed track. The black boxes externalize costs in order to appear profitable on paper (governments give their imprimaturs) while they're obviously wasting precious resources.

The scene leading up to this movie at the First Unitarian Church on 12th was cinematographic. Lindsey (36) lugged Tara's Casio keyboard on the tractor bike and sang her new political protest song for the first time in public. Satya (41) got it right away: music with a message, just like in the old days. We huddled around our serving pots atop the painted labyrinth, believably who we felt we were, in a near perfect setting (a city park after dark).

Then a posse of us bicycled over the Hawthorne bridge to catch this movie ($15 donation requested, no one turned away for lack of funds -- though maybe for other reasons, such as a full house). I (52) was having trouble with the pump falling off and so lagged a bit, but caught up and just managed to squeeze in.

Indeed, the event was so packed it looked like Lindsey and Whitney would have to go on without me, but then we managed to pack in a few more in the overflow room. I ended up sitting next to Tom Head, the famous Quaker economist (George Fox University) and Gayle of Bridge City Friends.

The FAQ after the movie was quite lengthy and I admit to having an overwhelming wish for fresh air and beer. Part of it was sitting in all my coats in the well-heated overflow room, connected to the main sanctuary by closed circuit TV. I ducked out to McMenamins on foot (not having a key to my bicycle) checking voicemail and messages along the way, then returned to catch more of the Q&A.

Then our motley krew regathered outside, waiting for the rest to rejoin. Alex strolled over to remark how Helen had remembered him. The Aris family had been in Ladakh as well, as Alex's dad was a famous student of the Himalayan Tantric cultures. Simon worked on Sara's bicycle, replacing the brake pads with the ones Lindsey had provided.

Lindsey talked about how local communities (such as hers in Florida) may become oppressive when there's no room for dissent or alternative lifestyles. Some might become clowns or shamans or musicians, but perhaps the others are shot at dawn? The parochially-minded have a track record of intolerance (illiberalism), witness Nazi Germany.

Satya thought truly innocent cultures were open to diversity, whereas bigotry was more a result of globalizing pressures. We'll likely revisit this issue in future debates.

Speaking of debates, Tara is at another tournament this weekend. Last night, she left her cell on a window sill and whoever picked it up wasn't about to track down the rightful owner ("finders keepers" is the law of the sea). Fortunately, I had it insured through Assurion and was able to suspend service and order a replacement for the $40 deductible (probably under the wholesale cost, plus they get premiums). The replacement (same make and model) should be here on Monday.

Per the movie, every action may be construed as a move for globalization or localization (a way of encouraging self awareness), as these poles were defined. Clearly this film is a recruitment drive of sorts. I might show it in sequel with Yes Men if sharing in college reading programs.

Our FNB study group had, two nights before as homework, taken in a previous film based on Helen's book Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, and so recognized quite a few of the clips (recycled for this much longer movie). Satya had strolled through Ladakh after becoming a Buddhist monk and had been impressed by the apparent simplicity and sufficiency of the old ways, and the satisfaction level of the people practicing them. He'd done this quite independently of Helen's work.

One of the best parts of the film was that Indian farmer deadpanning about how one can't have infinite growth on a finite planet (audience laughter -- so obvious).

Another was outtakes from "Reality Tours" wherein Ladakhis get to tour "the west" and then go back home with more realistic attitudes. The impression they were getting from western tourists was that these people have any amount of goof off time with money to burn, thanks to all those labor-saving devices. That makes "the west" seem pretty appealing. However, the grim reality is rather different.

They're not prepared for the Wall-e sized rubbish heaps (ala Idiocracy), nor the level of loneliness that's created, especially among those who don't have the right "earning a living" story to fit a script.

The screenwriters have limited imagination when it comes to roles for the more elderly, or those not seeking celebrity status as fashionistas and/or as rebels without a cause.

Bucky (author of Grunch of Giants, about globalization in crunchy times) used to cast aspersions on this "earning a living" myth, as if individual humans could prove their own relative worthiness in God's judgement. Like many Buddhists, he had a more cybernetic understanding, saw our destinies as intertwined.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wanderers 2010.01.19

Duane Ray was our presenter tonight, talking about The Creationists, a legitimate subject of anthropology. These various ethnic minorities, which may cumulatively form a kind of majority, do not all rally behind the same spokespeople, yet there's a taxonomy, a family tree (a set of lineages or pedigrees if you will, right back to the original first couple).

When I got there, a little late (I'd been visiting Dr. Consoletti), Duane was sharing a video clip of some creationist who was disputing that the striping pattern in magnetic signatures in undersea basalt was really evidence of pole shifts. The guy was claiming it showed a cyclic pattern in field strength over time, but didn't prove actual pole flipping.

This creationist also thought long-lived giants once frequented Earth, in communion with the original dinosaurs, which he didn't deny once existed. His goal was to make a 6-Day schema fit a smattering of geography. His "days" were not 24-hour periods. I'm not sure if it starts with a Big Bang as I came in towards the middle.

Some loss of a water firmament over head took us out of the Garden, he claimed. Was this the first fish with legs, coming out of Mother Ocean? I could see where it might feel that way.

All this fantastic storytelling sounded rather poetic after awhile, but I could see where a reality-minded geographer might wanna butt in and explain what the evidence for the pole flips really is. There's obviously more to that particular story, and a literal truth to get to the bottom of.

I bet the Vatican's own astronomer could probably fill us in on that score, as it's hard to beat the Catholics in science these days after all that embarrassment over Galileo. They're really into evolution, given their new Creation Theology puts an eternal light at the end of their time tunnel.

Duane then took us on a tour of many partially overlapping camps, tribes, schools of thought, and their folk beliefs. He paid special attention to hypocrisy, citing the golden rule, kind of rubbing it in if a sinner (usually a male) fell out of faith in some way.

Indeed, many wander from the straight and narrow and find themselves abducted by ETs or corrupted by government mind-readers. Others, like Britney, simply get caught up in sex scandals. Ah, but it's a wild and woolly world out there, beyond the walls of our Linus Pauling House, ground zero for sensible thinking (and dinosaur comic book making -- with kids in 'em, but only in science fiction).

I think if Duane is serious about attracting defectors to the side of reason that he might wanna paint a more welcoming picture of those who would receive them with open arms and overlook their supposed transgressions. So what if you're gay and/or couldn't keep your vows? Welcome to the club, have a cigar. Take a load off. Jesus loves you.

Coming out as an "evolutionist open carry polymath" need not be scandalous if one puts the right spin on it. Some of our Quaker households contain non-nuclear and/or molecular families and no one raises an eyebrow (except maybe Mr. Spock). I'm something of a polymath myself, and an animist to boot.

Also, the Constitution does guarantee religious crazies and cultists access to the wheels of power, just like anyone else (it's called a democracy). There's no "sanity test" nor even a "Turing Test" that everyone need pass, before exercising the power of the ballot.

"Ballots not bullets" is our USA motto, as we choose to hammer out differences through political mud wrestling (campaigning). Or is this apparent commitment to civilized non-violence mainly owing to Posse Comitatus? If so, then it's probably a smart firewall.

Besides, there's an awful lot of "federal land" on those maps (plenty of space to guard, install sensors, monitor parameters), plenty of need for work / study.

Joe Arnold was there, our Wanderer psychiatrist, always eager for clues. If you weigh down a presentation with enough citations to make it scholarly, then how do you avoid boring people, causing them to glaze over? Duane was being more the non-boring sensationalist than an academic, given his intended audience.

Also, Dr. Arnold wanted to know if Duane had encountered many perfectly reasonable people who were two or three standard deviations out along some Bell Curve in some narrowly confined frequency band and/or ecological niche. That seems to be a common pattern, and Duane said that he had.

Hey, good seeing Nirel (back from LA), and Trisha, among others we don't often see.

Nirel is working hard on a motorcycle-centric "for girls" event. She exulted about how friendly and professional the IRS people were being. Is this maybe the best customer service bureau in the whole world? Having been around it (the world) recently, she's in a position to judge.

Restaurant Decor

Monday, January 17, 2011

Walking with Sarah

Glenn and I were at Oasis this morning, touching on multiple topics. I brought up Shining Path and Dr. Guzman, having seen a 1900s documentary recently, courtesy of Laughing Horse entitled You Must Tell the World... by the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr. Abimael Guzman.

Not unlike in this Ann Sang Suu Kyi bio I've been reading recently, the voice of the narrator has a hard time staying in the past tense as we approach the then present (late 1990s).

But by now it's over ten years later and Peruvian president Fujimori himself has been confined to quarters, after having his own TV show and being a popular leader. Mandela has been a head of state. Revolution keeps happening.

Sarah is a member of the BH household, is of the canine species. She's literally a bitch, which is not a put down, and in fox world translates to "vixen", which even some humans will cop to being (proud as they are). I grew up thinking humans looked goofy in my early years, but gradually grew to be OK with this species.

The Laughing Horse documentary is valuable in that it provides a collation that's willing to side with Dr. Guzman and his Maoist views (including some Kurds, Filipinos, various human rights activists familiar with the Peruvian government's brutality), even though he's credited with 20K deaths. That's a small number compared to what the opposition will admit, but he doesn't embrace it. Besides, even China has turned on Mao, much as the USSR was turning on Stalin as it cracked apart (actually, it had turned awhile before that).

Navigating a revolution in terms of retired philosophers is a risky business. You forget why it's all about some dead chino and/or white guy euro-anglo or whatever the hell. At least Bob doesn't age, and/or at least he has a long half-life (esoteric insider allusion).

I'm sorry Portland doesn't appreciate Laughing Horse more, and it's astounding video collection. Talk about hard to find! It's all very well to make fun of this place on Portlandia, but how about paying attention to the heritage? I doubt PSU has anything like it. If I were a professor, we'd be mining this goldmine, that's for sure.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beyond Rangoon (movie review)

No, I hadn't seen this movie before. I took it as a work of historical fiction, even if based on real adventures, in the fashion of Logicomix, about the life and times of Lord Bertrand Russell.

I watched it with a "girl scout" in training (BH/FNB LW), who provided running commentary about what she would have done in similar high stress situations. Build a debris hut? Stay on that train?

Being a wild card tourist galavanting about is not always considered an ice breaker. Laura's desire to escape the city to learn more of the heartland sets off a cascade of tragic events. Thailand ends up being the hospital for her motley crew, escaping the hounds of hell.

We're maybe to think her naive in saying she can't imagine her passport being stolen, with the characters saying over and over how valuable they are.

That little girl in the first demonstration, who snuggled up next to her: wasn't that a golden opportunity to win some prosperity for her family from a rich American who could just waltz into the embassy and get it replaced? That's what Laura ended up doing, by then already off the deep end.

Or maybe she knew very well the little girl was helping herself (why she smiled) and had already resolved, at some level, to stay behind and learn more. Her other life was over anyway. She felt her calling to practice healing (medical arts) among an admirable and wise people, without much need for more certification.

The film seemed theatrical and choreographed, almost like a musical in places, like when the nurses came running out half way between the armed and unarmed, all pretty, young, and uniformed for the child-like sacrifice.

But then Burma seems somewhat that way (caught up in kabuki dances), as does any nation in a war of mass stereotypes (masks): students, monks and soldiers in this case, with shopkeepers and commercial shippers somewhat ancillary, except as weapons suppliers (not a focus of this film, except for that one pistol).

Although women were proclaimed to be equals (by the professor) they seemed more like flight stewardesses asking if you'd be wanting a pillow, slim and secondary. The only woman brandishing a gun, unholstered (though still in a pillowcase), was our not-so-quiet, freedom-loving American, still grieving and a tad reckless, and now caught up in a first person shooter with bad guys, a Jodi Foster, a Neo in The Matrix.

The irony here is that vesting all one's hopes in one personality is, in some sense, the antithesis of democracy. A democractic architecture distributes the load, is more sphere-like than apexing to some bottle-neck pinnacle. But then so is a faceless company of armed controllers antithetical to democracy. These seem more Brazil-like.

Lindsey remarked that the weapons looked American-made, which was probably on purpose. When our hero goes to the embassy for her passport again (sheesh), it's the Burmese army which is both guarding it, and denying her access, symbolizing how Uncle Sam is in bed with the bad guys, perhaps with hands tied.

Democracies tend to be polytheistic in the sense that Hollywood is: one celebrates many celebrities at once. Like Christianity, Buddhism has many bodhisattvas or saints. That's the more democratic layer. Burma probably has all the right ingredients, if any nation has them.

Aung San Suu Kyi is in the company of other Nobel Prize winners, such as Linus Pauling and the sitting president of the USA, but that's a fairly lonely club at the top of the world. One wishes her plenty of R&R with the blessings of her people, already the beneficiaries of her selfless example.

As for "new nations" coming into being (not that Burma isn't one already, at least in English language science fiction), the whole claptrap of nationhood has somewhat lost its luster. One may covet a territory with a flag, some staff cars, a front row seat at the UN, but does this prove really soul satisfying at the end of the day?

We know we're Earthlings, a species of two-legged (like ostriches) and that the true the front lines are not between us, but between a round campus and airless space at some -451 Fahrenheit degrees. The biosphere itself is our shared fortress, and promised land (samsara).

The movie contains a lot of dharmas about suffering and appreciating happiness if you're lucky enough to have any, and accepting change. There's an implied foray into Buddhism for newcomers, starting with a more superficial tour guide, then learning more from the horse's mouth as it were (the void of existentialism), from life itself.

As a contribution to our spiritual literature, it's working hard to teach some hard lessons. When we lose another crew member off the bridge, but not the professor, our American hero is diplomatic, saying "I am sorry for your loss" or something to that effect. Anyway, the movie is about her, not these extras.

There's too much suffering in Burma, that much is obvious. Just having a lot of foreign journalism going doesn't necessarily address the underlying problems though. The whole world needs to be a lot safer, as these outwardly violent student-military confrontations are not isolated to Rangoon.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Office Note

I was the sole FNB guy on duty today.

Speaking of which, I thought Deb (at the meeting at Kell's) had a good way of using the word "guys" in a gender neutral manner. No need for "dolls". Just as easily, I could see using "dolls" but not "guys" down the road, if the guy dolls don't mind too much.

I used the carrots and potatoes Cera brought by, fresh from some plot, still dripping with dirt. These were cleaned and divided, with the potatoes going into a mash and the carrots, mixing with celery, turnip, other vegetables, going into a vegan soup (no meat broth or anything like that).

The trick to staying on schedule is to begin cleanup right away, and devote quite a bit of time to it throughout. By the time the meal is about ready, there's nothing left to do (except type in one's Quaker journal).