Saturday, December 29, 2012

Concluding 2012

We got a card from the Baker family today.  "Looks like the Mayans were wrong..." though of course those "Mayans" as seen in hindsight have little in common with how they viewed themselves.  The geopolitical affairs of 2012 were not their concern, any more than these weighed on the minds of those channeling their one god (aka God) for the Book of Revelations.  Anyway, The Rapture was last year (May 21, 2011).

I tuned in the Mayans in their more New Age chapter back when I met Andrew Frank.  He was steeped in the writings of José Argüelles.  Andrew married, had a son, and moved out of town, much later turning up as a field worker in solar energy.  This had long been a dream of his, stretching back to when he and I drove to Olympia to visit Doug Wood, a reigning prince of solar steam.  Andrew's other focus has been early childhood education.  He's developed some interesting hands-on activities around pipe cleaners (multi-color) and polyhedrons.

Glenn and I saw each other, after some years in between, around Djangocon this year.  That was an Open Source highlight, Open Bastion presiding.  We toured in Georgetown some, visiting the "Exorcist steps".  Glenn gifted me with a copy of Easy Like Water, his newest documentary, also a first person travelogue, about the floating schools in Bangladesh.  The film has a global warming spin.

Food Not Bombs has continued to morph.  I'd hoped to take another step with what I've dubbed our Ministry of Education building (an abandoned high school) by repurposing its kitchen for food rescue logistics.  Then the reality principle set in:   JenQ had already explored the possibility a year ago, and found out there's no kitchen.  Portland Public Schools is likely to sell the property soon anyway, having shut it down in the 1980s (it was down to either Washington or Cleveland that had to close, the latter with disjoint but greater total hectares).  We continue to explore other possibilities.

Carol's bout with pneumonia ironically prolonged her stay into winter, as she gained strength to make the switch to sunnier digs.  The house was again stocked with oxygen tanks and a concentrator, a sign of high living standards and a sharable privilege we should afford ourselves globally, along with eye glasses for all who need them.

An oxygen industry (like Apria's) is benign enough, as are other harmless pursuits, such as fashion, movie-making / theater, arts, crafts, cooking.  Yet these enterprises tend to go begging while the truly toxic endeavors get fully funded by the slavers.  Slavers are those who enslave us to past reflexes that are also suicidal and inconsistent with humans' best interests.  Slavers need to be countered, for their own good as well as our own.

We'd stocked up on tanks before when my wife Dawn was healing -- and dying (like we're all doing) -- and Apria was our supplier then too.  We were able to rent a vehicle and collect tanks in New Mexico, visit Santa Fe in winter.  Again, this was a high living standard experience, a real privilege by global standards in our time.  Most of our collective wealth was being squandered back then, and humans reaped a more miserable harvest for their collective inability to reprogram.

How does one enjoy high living standards without spoiling?  Over-sheltering, cocooning excessively, leads to getting stuck in larval states.  Nerds fail to mature into worldly and socially responsible geeks.  Psyches stay trapped.

Philosophical counseling was not well established and many religions had run out of gas, as we made the transition to 2013.  With 2012 in the rear view mirror, would we continue with global maturation?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Skyfall (movie review)

I'd been meaning to see this one for a long time, plus there's one between I'm still behind on.  I'm talking about the James Bond franchise, now in its 50th year.

Skyfall is more comic book in the Batman sense, a little darker and exploring roots.  My Friendly movie mate (Quakers are going to movies more as a part of their practice) thought it lower budget, or at least slimmed down, but with computers added.  There's an "eternal return" aspect as the formula gets followed, with old parts swapped out for new upgrades.  Moneypenny gets a facelift.  Bond is still getting old.  He and M are somewhat over the hill and their powers are at least half from beyond the grave at this point.  The opening credits play up the dead theme more than most, but then he's into "resurrection" (direct quote).

The archetype of M is celebrated.  She has her posse of freaks, not unlike Picard in a wheelchair, husbanding X-Men.  Octavia Butler novels came to mind, as I contemplated freakishness, a theme with me these days.  Bond has several sixth senses.  The part where he says "stop, go back" when they're looking at the computer, is another bead in the necklace of cliches, but also shows his John Nash like ability to pattern recognize.  We could call it that.  He's seen all the Bond films, by definition, through many lifetimes, and knows the pattern language.

The computer display (what the new Q is using), looks awfully Struck-like, talking Gereld de Jong and elastic interval geometry, Tim Tyler and others (I was an early adopter, had a first Synergetics pow wow about that, with Kenneth Snelson also a chief inspiration (yes, they get lumped together a lot, with good reason)).  This was before I explored Sam's Flextegrity concept and prototypes.

Back to the posse, things can go wrong and agents can swallow their poison and not actually die.  Or rather, who they were somewhat dies.  Bond has some bardo states in the freezing cold water, and the first time is not the last.  He stays in the game though as he senses his talents are needed.  MI6 is soon ablaze in his absence, as the alchemy goes awry and M's posse starts to implode.  Bond was a needed compression member.  Without him, that chapter comes to an end.

Shanghai is as Denny describes it, electrified and bright.  The height of the many skyscrapers plays a role.  Another cliche for the necklace: an elevator on steroids.  We don't get much of a window into why we're here.  Shanghai is not implicated.  Just a backdrop this time.  Chinese are not bad guys, or North Koreans.  The evil is a rogue agent and it's when unleashed and undisciplined by English ethics that we see the freakish abilities more.  Bond is a different mix, has other talents.

My movie mate had a good idea for an English style bar in the neighborhood, that night a victim of a pub crawl so we lucked out getting a last table in the back.  Our analysis continued, turning to other topics.  The movie itself encouraged exploring Freudian themes, or at least probing beneath the surface about this archetype, and its association with freaks on the fringe, in the shadows, and in this world rather uniformly armed and dangerous, though moving towards more computerized.

In the backstory, M had indeed abandoned one of her agents in hopes of smoothing relations with China.  There was some "greater good" reasoning.  One might remember Gary Powers, the U2 pilot, and the anger some felt at his coming back from the dead.  Bond goes straight to M's apartment, knowing that in coming back from the shadows, you need some real friends.  The future M questioned his judgement in not wanting to fade away in what could have been a kind of bliss.  Commitment, and a duty to the franchise, keep him on, past what bureau testing might advise.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DorkBot PDX

Steve Holden and I crashed this subculture on invitation from Ward Cunningham, inventor of the Wiki and now working on his Federated Wiki concept (mostly in JavaScript).  The venue was Someday Lounge, where I'd been long ago for Esozone, and just a few doors down from Backspace (connected management and kitchen as I understand it) where Tim DuRoche was playing jazz that evening -- I found out by happenstance.  SW 5th and Davis.

This event had me thinking of Trevor and his performance as Gadgetto by William Black.  Having mechanical and/or electronic music emerge mysteriously from black (opaque) boxes was one of the themes of the evening.  They called it open mike, meaning OK to fail.  Some seemed to take this literally, making the talk about failure and having the demo not work.  Such discomfort may be therapeutic when properly channeled.  This seemed a good venue for that.  Dork out at DorkBot.

Some of the presentations were quite successful, especially the purely musical numbers (though perhaps with visualizers -- the Wall Street audio collage was amazing, child-sounding voices reading headlines about a moody character).

A full-sized doll house served as the target of a specifically customized projection.  Characters danced in each window and light schemes took over the surface.  The display was seasonally apropos as control of lighting by electronic means is a lot of what winter is about, decoration-wise.

Much of the talk was about MIDI and pure data.  Meanwhile, at our table, the discussion was somewhat deeply into electronics, instrumentation, welding techniques and so on.  I was clearly in the presence of some very gifted and talented individuals.  Many thank yous to all concerned, and to Ward for alerting us about this bi-weekly gathering.  I look forward to being there again sometime.

We drove home past Dukes Landing, now abandoned.  A lot of musicians took advantage of that facility, to share with an audience.  Belmont street kids.  Muddy's.  A mostly vanished subculture by now.  They come and go.

The conversation at our table was educational, not run of the mill.  Much of it went over my head or got filed for future reference.  I like to connect the dots, but sometimes it's more dots than connections.

Viva L'Arte

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winter Coders' Social

Winter Coders' Social

I'd not made it to one of these before, to the best of my recollection.  Diana was able to astound me quite easily, with tales of The Bodyguard, a suffragette posse that knew the jujitsu of Victorian England, all about canes and parasols, called bartitsu.  You've got to be kidding.  No for real.  She and I both whipped out suffragette photos on our cells (she had more, I just had the Dora Marsden shot).

I reconnected with quite a few of the good folks of Portland's open source community.  I've always felt Portlandia steered clear of such as Adam the Robot and other touch stone hallmarks of the world community known as geekdom.  That doesn't immediately resonate I realize.  To some, a geek is a tawdry side show act, another trafficker in snake oil.  I understand.  There's a dark underbelly to everything, why not be proud of a dark side?

We had a raffle, free to enter, so I guess not a fundraiser really.  More like potlatch economics in that the chiefs got to thump their brands, their drums.  Open Bastion gave out the top prize, a Nexus 7.  That's Steve's entity, the producer behind some of these conferences I write about.

Urban Airship seemed to have its act together, as did our open source denizens, who dutifully shared potluck.  I filled up on bean burritos (home cooked pintos in my crock pot) before the event, so as not to crave the smorgasbord too gluttonously.  The strategy worked, plus I'd burned 1000 calories earlier, at least.  Even with the beers, it was probably a net loss day, and that's a good thing when you're in my ballpark, stats-wise.

This was not a night for presentations, no Ignite format.  Ward Cunningham was there, as was Amber Case, people with high link counts, as in "weighty Friends" (rough translation into subculture-speak).  Steve and Ward hung out.  I've had some good times around Ward, at that Barcamp especially, but other times too.

Weird donuts were a feature, with the FireFox logo.

Steve heard a rumor that Tiger Bar on Broadway specialized in Blues on Tuesdays, so we made our way there by way of Deschutes Brewery.  No, they'd discontinued Blues some months ago and Tuesdays were movie nights, and tonight was The Watchmen.

We'd sort of barged in, in the middle.  Clearly some characters were having fun.  I don't pretend to be an expert all of a sudden.  I only just got started on The Avenguers, gimme a break.

Parking is no piece of cake in the Pearl on a Tuesday night.  I ended up quite far from the venue, but didn't mind.  The walks in semi-rain were refreshing.

Waling at night in a city is a pleasure I enjoy.

Steve had been planning to include some Raspberry Pi's in the raffle, but Michelle's read was we had enough to give away and she hadn't had enough chance to promote these exotic specimens.  I'd brought a number of them in my brief case.

She ended up with two, and during the raffle ad libbed that this five year old girl and her family might want one, as raffle winners, which they did.  I appeared mysteriously from the crowd and handed them one from my briefcase.  Steve let me carry them (he's their owner).

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Judgement Day

I dove back into the world of state high school debate and elocution yesterday.  I paused in route to Ridgefield High, Washington State, to take a picture of my odometer going from 1999999 to 2000000.

I judged a public form about raising taxes versus cutting spending, and an interpretive reading contest.  Then I judged several spar sessions, where the topics are purposefully superficial -- it's the form and delivery that matter more.  "Wiley Coyote > Roadrunner" "Royalty > Celebrities", "mechanical pencil > ordinary #2 pencil", "email > snailmail", "football > soccer", "Star Wars > Star Trek", "broccoli > carrots".  These would be the affirmative "is better than" resolutions.  The Neg side takes the opposite view.

Spar:  AFF chooses from two resolutions:

One minute prep
AFF speaks (2 minutes)
Cross examination (1 minute)
One minute prep
NEG speaks (2 minutes)
Cross examination (1 minute)
AFF gives summary speech (1 minute)
NEG does the same (1 minute)

Maureen had given me the October 2012 issue of Harper's with High School Debate and the Demise of Public Speech by Ben Lerner, a former high school debater (a national champion even).  Ben talked a lot about the spread of "spreading" which is talking really fast like those voices speaking legalese during television commercials, and small print that goes by quickly everywhere.  In making reasoning somewhat unintelligible and intimidating, one creates more space for the slow plodding of unreason, for political sound bites.

Interestingly, he traces the Lincoln-Douglas style debate, Tara's specialty, and which slows it down and relates issues to values, to Phillips Petroleum, these days Conoco-Phillips.  This corporate person, and adviser to the National Forensics League, was having a hard time with "spreading" as well, and designed this newer event format (LD) to slow things down somewhat.

Ben considers that more evidence of the fragmentation of US discourse.  There's dumb slow political talk playing on sentiments, mixed with fast unintelligible legalese, and precious little in between.  He wonders if Occupy with its "open mic" experiments (people repeating others' words) marked the beginning of a revived folk discourse, more oriented towards democratic practices.

Gonzo said he'd read the article and photocopied it for his team captains.

I notice Burgerville is serving beer and wine in Washington.  Do we have that in Oregon yet?  That state is just so much ahead of ours in some ways.

Good seeing Gonzo, Ben and Izzy again.  Hello to Hannah.  Hello from Tara.

I was able to download from a fair selection of stop watch apps to my Razr / M (Android).  This helped with my timings.  Time is taken quite seriously in these events.  There might be a 30 second grace period here and there, but no more than that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

All Nighter

All nighters are frequent at our house, but mostly because the basement musician goes to a nocturnal schedule sometimes.  I'm up all night trying to get IPython Notebooks to work, while yakking with Jean, a Friend, by email, regarding Lincoln, the movie.

This is part of that Quaker Conversations practice I've been outlining on FaceBook ("movie night" is a subcategory).

Awhile back, I checked out what Quakers were saying and doing on Youtube and developed a short compilation.  Having a committee behind this work, at the Yearly level, seemed important at the time and I was getting some positive feedback.

This is a Mac OS that I'm attempting to trick out in ways Holden deems worthwhile.  He's all hyped about IPython Notebooks these days.  He's just back from Vegas, not short on sleep, and we decided on an all night work party.  He's Skyping with his girlfriend at the moment (she's back in the UK).

My installation process broke apparently because I don't have some Mac OS 10.4 SDK that gcc might compile against.  I'm in over my head on that one.  This whole Mac thing is pretty new to me.

The Mac Air I'm using actually belongs to my employer, which is why I felt I should notify a co-worker of a tiny almost imperceptible screen blemish that some sticklers would want fixed under warranty (replacing the screen as all one can do).  They may not care about it.  Just trying to be dutiful in protecting their investment.

Steve is just back from Las Vegas.  He was with the CloudStack people (do they CamelCase it?). That's an Apache project, somewhat competing with OpenStack I gather, and Steve is moving in Apache circles more and more.  He'd never been to Vegas before.

I was inspired to sketch some of the Quantum Field Theory in Python, just parsing out the particles, not computing at all.  I've also been agitating (just a little) to get our edu-sig page upgraded at  Lots has been happening what with Python Tutor, Skulpt and who knows what all.

My read on Lincoln was he didn't see any long term solution that didn't build on the Constitution, hence his need for amendments.  Living in a perpetually divided condition based on some "negotiated peace" would be as prone to breakdown as any social order.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

ISEPP Physics Lecture

Sean Carroll's talk was somewhat a continuation of Lisa Randall's.  Just as Lisa would shortly appear on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show (after her ISEPP talk), so had Sean just been on the Colbert Report.

Both Sean and Lisa are students of high energy particle physics with high aptitude for explaining their studies to a lay public.  Sean's topic was the Higgs boson, which he's recently written a book about.  The LHR is the world's largest machine ever if you define machine a certain way, really impressive in scale, a 17 mile underground ring that penetrates an underground river.  The process is relatively innocuous:  it collides protons at high speeds (closer to the speed of light than bullets by a long shot) and, just as importantly, collects the results with layers of detectors.

I dropped Carol (mom) and an oxygen tank at AFSC for the seasonal open house and headed downtown, where I was cast in a supporting role as one of the ushers.  A lot of us Wanderers were there for that purpose:  Patrick, Mark, Barry, Jeff, Christine, Dave, Glenn, Don, Lynn, myself.  This was a new venue.  Oregon's chancellor's office no longer has the funding it once did and these civic science lectures needed to squeeze into a smaller less expensive venue.  First Congregational Church is but a few blocks from the Schnitzer.  We still had our dinner in the Heathman, per usual.

The Higgs boson is what the $9 billion supercollider at CERN was supposed to discover, and apparently it has.  The Standard Model now seems uber-confirmed.  Quantum field theory is poised to enter a new era, with the sense that conventional reality has the particles it needs, and now it's time to turn to dark energy and dark matter to find out what makes those tick.

It's less the discovery of a particle that's at issue than the incorporation of a new field, the Higgs field, which is at relatively high energy compared to other fields which average around zero.  Will confirmation of some super-symmetry theory be a next outcome after this?  There's some hope of that.  The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is due to shut down for two years and when it reopens, will be upgraded to ram protons together even more violently.  Detecting and sifting then takes place, with an eye towards isolating what's interesting versus what's mundane.  The vast majority of collisions are uninteresting whereas aggregate statistics may tell a story.

As a phenomenon, the Higgs boson is conceived to last less than a zepto second.  Finding it was hard because the signature resultants could just as easily be the signature of non-Higgs decay.  Only aggregate statistics suggest that there's a Higgs field at work.  Once this field is accepted, it helps explain why fermions have mass.  The Higgs is what delays them and prevents any light speed electrons.  The Higgs field may be treated as their source of mass.

The lay audience asked many intelligent questions.  One lady gave a sermon.  It turned out later at the dinner that Sean is not especially friendly towards religionists.  He's not one of those who thinks science and religion need to "get along" although he's quick to admit religionists may do the same science, and just as admirably.  A young woman wanted to know about spin, and whether some particles might have spin greater then two.  Higgs bosons have zero spin, and a consensus seems to have developed that bosons have at most a spin value of two.

Sean's lecture contained an interesting subtext:  it's also about the people.  He dwelt on Nobel Prize winners not just because they're celebs but because one may learn from them, and he had.  Organizational skills matter.  Why CERN and not Texas?  Thereby hangs a tale (several in fact).  But in sharing credit where due, how fair is the limitation of Nobels to like three at the most.  And was it the Higgs field because he had the most interesting name of the group?

He dwelt on the fact we were looking at a guy-heavy roster and addressed that with his scientific assessment that women have in fact been subjugated by their "lesser half" (as some fondly refer to XYs, though I'd say this is more about archetypes than relatively "simple" genetics).  Trends were moving rapidly to overcome and/or heal this rift in access however.  Public libraries have made a difference (they did in his case for sure).  He showed some graphs to make his point.  The audience was cheered and expressed relief and encouragement of these trends with sincere applause.

Even if QFT (quantum field theory) is getting work done, in the way of glass beads, simply re-presenting existing content with remapped terminology could be done for exercise.  Calling them quarks was quirky and quirky sticks, like I'm not saying "muons" and "gluons" aren't cool, as phonemes (phonemic memes), just that we could remap the constellations the same way, wrap them with alternative namespaces.  And sometimes do.  Or we look at it as other civilizations did or do, or will or might or might have already (same diff in some ways, civs are flip sides of cosmic casts of characters).

A whole subculture has grown up around high energy physics, with its own ethos and characters.  Although the economy has gone through a lot of resources, it's mostly value added.  They're not trying to kill anyone, just figure out what makes things tick.  The demands / stresses placed on tooling, data processing, constructing, planning, collaborating, yield benefits outside of CERN, certainly.  Take the World Wide Web for example, to which the CERN ecosystem gave rise, in complement with Tim Berners-Lee and the hypertext true believers (count me a young convert, reading Ted Nelson's book in Jersey City, hoping the Web might really happen (and it really did)).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wanderers 2012.11.28

Elizabeth Furse spoke knowledgably and from much personal experience at the Linus Pauling House this morning.

I came late, as pre-arranged, given Sarah Angel (a nonhuman) needed to be left at the vets for a procedure.

The subject was treaties and do they matter.  Article 6 of the Constitution is quite important here.  Elizabeth, an immigrant from South Africa, served three terms in the US Congress as one of Oregon's representatives.

We learned a lot about the "termination movement", which got rolling in Congress in the 1950s when people grew tired of honoring treaty obligations.

Oregon had much valuable timber along the coast.  Simply ending a tribes existence, a kind of "de-listing" was the easiest way to get at those resources.  Governor McCain help free up a lot of land for deforestation by commercial interests.

In many ways, the Federal government is defined by its interface with other sovereignties, including these internal ones.  Tribal populations, of necessity, have steeped themselves in both the lore and the technical arcana, the better to further prevent erosion of their rights.

We had a lengthy Q&A period (in which I didn't participate), touching on many issues, including casinos and the Indian Gaming laws.  Elizabeth is masterful with this material and a font of relevant information.  I'm so glad I managed to stop in.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Plain Speech: A Meditation

A myth (or story with teachings) within the Quaker world, is success in business followed the early period of persecution (special prosecution).  Enough members of the nobility, celebs, had publicly joined to make the sect respectable even in Court (somewhat like Scientology in that way).  At that point, a reputation for plain truthful speech would get you far, as this quality was sorely missing in business and gave the practitioner, the Friend, an edge.

However, what is "plain speech"?  Quakers prided themselves on pretty much purging their grammar of notions of class.  The familiar "you" (back then "thou") was used towards everyone.  We should pause to remember how many languages, outside of English, inflect the "you" according to rank in society.  The grammar tells you your place, which helps keep it unconscious.

English becomes peculiarly frustrating in that it fails to obey the rules, is not inflected to read "inferior speaking to a superior", not by default.  You have the Quakers to thank for that to some degree.  They pioneered a kind of egalitarianism that was highly compatible with the spread of democracies and their rhetorical bastions.

But speech may be classist in other ways.  An accent packed with dodgy euphemisms that seems to not "cut through it" has the aspect of "not plain". What will it take for Quakers to stay plain in both dress and speech?  I don't think it means unappreciative of highly fanciful.  There's a unity of opposites here.

The plainness is to allow the bigger moves to become apparent.  People willingly suspending their individuality to help some "will" be expressed:  that's where things may go awesomely wrong or awesomely right depending.  In making a movie, the stars work together to create a story as conducted through a director, screenwriters and so on.  The whole is not just some sum of the parts.  Or: "summation" is not just the simple operation we think.

Musical events have this channeling ouija-like ability, other shared works of art, even TV series (coming out in "serial" is how Charles Dickens made a living -- back when people relied on their own imaginations instead of telecasts).

If you come across a Quaker cussing, talking like a pirate, swearing a blue streak, is that "plain speech"?  Should this man or woman be eldered?  She or he may be an elder.  Perhaps a psychopath?  Perhaps, but since when are we called to serve as judge before Judgement Day?

My definition of "plain speech" would encompass the standard est vocabulary for example (a late 1900s philosophy talk and workout), easily, wherein metonymy (synecdoche more specifically) was sometimes used to equate people with their anal orifices.

No, this was a real philosophy, and not necessarily lobotomized (unintelligent) just because crass or crude.  More just TV-14 for language, sex and violence (people told their true to life stories, though the emphasis was on Logic more than History, in the Hegelian sense).

I saw Tommy Chong and his wife in a live performance last night at Helium, one of Portland's many comedy clubs.  I learned from them too.  I found them plain spoken enough.  More than many, lets put it that way.  I was happy to bask in their non-hypocrisy, far from the euphemisms and perpetual pussy footing of many a meetinghouse Friend, more straitjacketed by their matrix.

Tonight it was The Walking Dead at The Bagdad.  I saw at least one other member of the meeting there.  I won't officially propose this AMC tele-drama for the syllabus though (the Adult Education program), at least not for the "meetup" format, as it's a serial, still ongoing, so a bigger commitment in terms of time.

Our practice is starting with the "all in one go" event, though Lord of the Rings is a trilogy, and I hear they're extending Star Wars as well.  I say lets start with bite size and work up to it.  If a group wants to peel off and do a series, fine, but I'm not volunteering to convene such a thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bopping About

I missed Wanderers last night, lost in work, though I'd meant to go.  Sometimes Don reminds me but he knew I had Tara visiting for just a week.  She was elsewhere though.

Oh well, I ran into Glenn at the supermarket and he updated me.  Yes, I'd heard this guy before, at an Ignite, right?  Interesting.  He helps advise on the voting infrastructure aspects of democratic governmental forms.

Voting isn't the whole picture, but a true secret balloting system is great infrastructure.  I've suggested every high school needs one, with open source voting software the students are free to, encouraged to, dissect and discuss.  Which is not to mandate electronic voting to all experiments, no way.  So many ways to go on that score.

This is ricochet week in terms of bouncing around, or bopping about as we might say in the UK.

Sam Lanahan hosted Urners at Bread and Ink for a fine get together.  I haven't seen him for a long while.  He was looking forward to having two of his three kids visit (a little younger than Tara) -- with his third on a sojourn in Brazil.  He was looking forward to seeing Lincoln.

Good seeing Alexia, Sam, Reed, wish I'd popped in to say hi to Lea, the Valsquiers... we won't make it as far north as Stillaguamish country this year I don't think.  That's been part of our ritual in the past.

We still celebrate NavAm heritage though, regardless of itinerary, and toast to a bright future for original peoples of the Pacific Northwest (and by extension, peoples elsewhere who've live through really hard transformations, killing fields).

Great Kachina dolls at the Hyde residence.

I've welcomed the opportunity to see the inside of more Quaker homes.  Josh and I overlapped on committee work.  We're already Facebook friends, why not meet in person.  We had coffee together at Fresh Pot, after which I stayed on to keep working (have wifi will work).

Food Not Bombs is back to using the Quaker meetinghouse under Lindsey's direction.  I played a key role yesterday, per my report to the listserv.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lincoln (movie review)

I'd been delving into pre US Civil War history already, fleshing out my sketchy knowledge of the Quakers' saga, which forms a fine trunk through which to branch out into much of US history, as Human Smoke is disclosing (I'm reading it on my Kindle).

As David Prideaux explained it at meeting (Stark Street), this is not an epic battle movie, like Waterloo, nor a biography of Lincoln, so much as a dramatization of the machinations surrounding the the passing of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution.

How did that come about?

Lincoln is well spoken, and played as an intuitive by Danny Day-Lewis.  He's loved by the people but, as important, he is respected by his inner circle, even as they feel free to open up to him with divergent views.

He lives with a democratic demeanor, not as a lord or superior.  He tells stories.  He seizes the moment, and takes control.  There's a chief executive aspect, which comes out in his lengthy soliloquies about the law and his doubts about the lawfulness of what he has already done to set the slaves free, as property of a rebellious enemy.  He's confiscating enemy assets by using his war powers, but now he wants a longer lasting civilian version that will long outlast these more freakish circumstances.

African Americans have already been fighting and dying in Grant's army.  How could any peace be developed which involved returning former slaves to their original estate?   Unless some law could decree an end to and/or outlaw slavery, a ratcheting back might solidify a state of disunion, rather than unify a state under a shared standard.

The House of Representatives is another main theater or continued scene / setting for this film.  Here we listen in on the patriarchs who seem so like these anthropomorphic animals, cartoon characters.

I'm thinking of Blacksad, the comic strip and graphic novel.  The scene here was comic in that same way, in the sense of exaggeration or caricature -- not because of unfaithfulness to the true past.  Lets remember Dante's "divine comedy" is a book about Hell.

The audience laughed when everyone in that chamber (except the Tommy Lee Jones character and some others) loudly booed the idea of a vote for women -- what might happen after black men got the vote, heaven forbid (if ever, centuries from then).

Sally Fields was strong, and again the audience laughed, with empathy, when she said "all history will remember of me is I was crazy".

Indeed, when history gets tightly focused and everyone knows they're in the eye of the storm so to speak, there's a tendency to play to the unseen audience, the future if you will.  To vote for the 13th amendment was to make a statement in the eyes of some anonymous future America, another tomorrow, a projected United States.

To enshrine anti-slavery edicts within a standard bearer for democratic forms of democracy, was to answer the call of logic and self consistency.  How could a democracy with an "all men created equal" premise forever deny itself the consequences of such a philosophy?  The war would end when cognitive dissonance was lowered -- that seemed the gist of Lincoln's therapy.

I was seeing this as a 2nd exercise of an emerging Quaker practice involving seeing movies together (maybe plays, standup comics) and discussing them, blogging about them.  Robert joined us in that capacity.  I hope to get him together with Steve for some followup conversation.  Cloud Atlas was our earlier trial run and has resulted in some emailed group discussions.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Bright November Day

Checking out comics

Cloudless, rainless days in November need to be enjoyed, or rather we have a need to enjoy them.

I went to Belmont early in search of wifi, and to join a lunch meetup and share culture at Laughing Planet.

I showed some Blacksad to a young reader to be.  Blacksad is film noir style manga / comix.

Nirel:  "That's James Brown" (restaurant sound track), Me: "that's Frank Zappa" (artwork on the wall).

Passing the torch, as it were.  Plastic dinosaurs everywhere.

Some of today's writings (Nov 15):

more news 'n views

Digital Math
STEM stuff

Cywars in Cyberia

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armistice Day 2012

Some have taken to calling it Armistice Day instead of Veterans Day, remembering when it was a day to celebrate the end of wars on this planet.

Since then, war racketeers have cynically puppeted their spineless DC government to return to glorifying equipment and marching men in uniform; back to dreary parades of fascist vintage.

They want their version of "Veterans Day" to serve as a recruiting device and photo op.

However, some elders still remember president Eisenhower's warning, that these Business Plot types would bring death and suffering to a post WW2 America, and that's exactly what they did.

Smedley "fighting Quaker" Butler also called it as he saw it in War is a Racket.

And they're still eagerly going about their business to this day, these war-mongering uber-cowards.

Hunting them down is a full time job for many in the intelligence community (such as there is one) as a part of its ongoing Countdown to Zero campaign.  This "world game" has lots of computer power at its disposal.

Reading Human Smoke is edifying.  Movies really do make a difference, judging from how the Nazis hated certain films and banned them.

WILPF has taken to honoring an obscure treaty that nations signed, the US included (Senate ratifying), that buried the hatchet after WW1.

That particular treaty has not been rescinded, just relegated to obscurity, but then the US, like many sovereign nations, has a habit of breaking treaties whenever it feels like it.

Veterans gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square to wave their banners and ring their bells.  Carol joined with her oxygen tank, representing WILPF (Barbara was there too, and some others).  I took some pictures.

Later, at the Quaker meetinghouse, some vets got together to watch a fellow vet on screen, plus he was there in person for the Q&A. Wray Harris, a private in the US Army, honorable discharge etc. is not afraid to speak his mind.

I was reminded of the patriots during the Vietnam War who refused orders and packed the jails.  Thinking for yourself is more courageous then letting others do it for you.  Muhammad Ali told the DoD where to put it.  I admire his courage.

Thanks to AFSC staff for logistics / equipment.  I was out of the building after intermission for awhile, as was Wray, each handling our respective business (he said more about that during the Q&A).

I hadn't known Simeon, one of our members, was acting headmaster at Phillips Academy in Andover.  I snapped some pictures of a biographical account during intermission.

Then I took off down the block, seeing the tow truck get loaded etc.   I left Joanne & Co. to close up, after using the office computer to post to the Math Forum.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Catching Up at Meeting

Denny of Shanghai and I compared notes on antebellum Quakers, meaning pre Civil War.  He's done a lot of research as well and inherits from the Abolitionist lineage.

Many meetinghouse Quakers back then were inquisitional against abolitionists (into disownment) and protective of the rights of the KKK types to own slaves.  "They had their spies everywhere" Denny said in disgust.  He'd done some reading in the archives, at Swarthmore I think it was.

Leslie Hickcox persuaded me to see The Seven Pyschopaths, given a prominent Quaker character. I'd earlier read a review on The Mercury that perked my interest.

Had a great time yesterday, in a man cave (Broadway Cigars) watching college football (Oregon doing great).  Transfer of some gigabytes of data (no, not a dead drop).

Lew and I realized the headphone option might be used to gain more silence and no one has to know.  Bring your own ear covering studio device and borrow one of the amplifiers.

For all they know, you've turned it on.

Carol was at meeting to attend the Peace and Social Concerns committee.  Jesse, the clerk, had announced at business meeting, that we'd be surveying the meeting to uncover its concerns.

I found out today that said survey had been "dumbed down" in advance to just be about homelessness as an issue (not what I'd understood from business meeting).

That's great, but as a household I feel we're already doing more than any other household in the meeting on that score, so I'm not personally that interested.

I do support the partnership with Human Solutions, however, and have Facebooked to that effect.  The focus on families with children is complementary to what we're doing at the Blue House.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween 2012

A core activity of the evening, in the upstairs apartments, was the matron of the house, resident activist extraordinaire, age 83, taking her supper in the living room, usually doubling as my office, and watching Easy Like Water, Glenn Baker's travelogue / documentary, about Bangladeshis pioneering new ways of coping with global warming, a good example to learn from then.  Carol exclaimed several times "this is wonderful!" and gave Glenn really high marks for that movie.

In the meanwhile, we kept getting knocks and / or rings of the door bell, as we were signalling the availability of treats, by means of high end decorations and a bright porch light.  The expected result, upon knocking on such a door, is wishes for a Happy Halloween and commercial brand candy.

The actual witches in the house had provided some decorations, JenQ in particular.  When I say "high end" I don't mean extravagant.  We had customized one-of-a-kind art.  I contributed the pumpkin skull at the last minute, well into the evening, debraining it in the kitchen.  Check the pictures.

Around this time of year and St. Patrick's Day, we tend to honor non-Christian or pre-Christian (post-Christian) roots. To one Friend I wrote:
A backstory re Witches is my wife's name was Dawn Wicca, and although not a practicing Wiccan (it means "wise woman" -- a chosen name to help her be one) she was quite distrustful of Christianity, but not of Jesus (whom she liked reading about -- a voracious reader).  When she felt led to become a member of our Religious Society, she did so in such a way as to leave a clear audit trail (she was a bookkeeper after all):  no, you don't have to identify as Christian to be one of "our brand" of Friend.

What do I mean by "our brand"?  I mean "Beanite", named for the Bean family that came West, escaping the sweeping evangelism of Iowa that was changing the character of the people.  Kinda scary. They founded what was called College Park Association in California.
When it comes to Christmas itself I have my Fourth King ideology (mythology).  There's an acceptance of "Festivus" which is "A Festival for the Rest of Us" i.e. not-Xmas is holy too.  From the Parliament of World Religions I learned to celebrate "days in common" i.e. it's not essential (to me) to distinguish the various winter holidays in denominational terms.  Winter can be a hard time to get through, especially in the farther northern latitudes, a tunnel with precious little light seen at the end, going in.  There's some blind faith involved, plus an inability to stop the cycle except by migrating south.

The latter is what Carol is planning when she sees a way open for an entourage (perhaps).  Could we get a posse together, for intra-Quaker visitation?  Portland Friends are always visiting faraway places but what about Greater LA?

Letting a Western Friend editor do all the work of piecing it together is too lazy for words.  We should host some serious meetings amongst ourselves that aren't always following established patterns.  Some good might come of it.

Carol's ethnic bias is anti-Halloween as she associates it with cruel taunting and worse by Protestants against Catholics.  Her dad was Irish and perhaps this lore came down through that branch.

For me, orange and black imagery, and the hexapent ball (called a "global matrix" by some), go back quite a ways.  There's the "skinning a cat" discussion of how to make a flat map from a globe, where said cat would be striped were Princeton colors involved (OSU uses those too).

Safe to say, I have owned it in my own way, but then in the traditional way as well:  as a time for "traffic between the worlds".  Not about teasing Catholics in this zip code.

Tigers feature in Glenn's movie by the way.  Bangladesh is tiger country, all the more reason to scrutinize the action.

Lindsey took off with a bike trailer to pick up her order from Peoples, long in the planning.  Our attempts at efficiency as a household might earn us the label Dymaxion in some dimension.  That doesn't mean we're without lag, slack or waste.  Just that there's some discipline.

Happy Halloween.  I think I'll sip some Jack Daniels.

Maureen came buy earlier with an article from Harper's Magazine about high school debate.  That was Tara's sport in high school and Maureen knows that and is looking for a Blue House reaction, preferably in writing.

I showed her some opening frames from Resolved, the documentary, just to acquaint her with "spreading" (which Lincoln-Douglas does not do).  By the sound of what she read to me, the author's criticisms lay elsewhere.  I may have some comments in a later journal entry.

Nirel came by earlier, eluding my sensors.  In my "landing space for jets" mythology, she's one of the stealthier, puts down and leaves, refueled and resupplied, before anyone notices.  More power to her, another "witch" in this story (or "elvynchyk" if you prefer).

Enjoy your winter scenario (if in the north).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Functionalism Versus Objectivism (again)

Yes, the title is a joke, as there's no global fixed namespace for these "isms" -- you can read whatever you like into these inkblots.

However, I have a definite Versus in mind, the semi-feud between the Haskellians, the Knights who say "Ni!" to the Objectivists, those who are object oriented, and proud of it I might add (come to our Proud to be Objects Day parade sometime).

By Haskellian, I mean the broader camp of Lambda Calculus lovers who discourage side effects and hidden state changes.  Pure functional programming keeps the expressions just saying what they mean, whereas Objects are capsules of secrecy, making proof quasi-impossible; the transparency is just not there.

Objectivists are in the "wizard with wand" school and the Actions (spells) may be redolent with side effects, especially on globals (environmental variables).  Since structured programming days, we've been discouraged from hanging ourselves with all the slack that we're given.  Perhaps too few of us took heed, and now the frustrations of end users are aimed at us, for all our bugs.  If Windows had been written in Haskell, we wouldn't be where we are today (I don't disagree by the way).

My lurking suspicion is if the compass needle had flipped the other way, and functional programming were more at an apex in power, there'd be a counter-culture of Objectivist die-hards exclaiming about the purity of their new mental model, the one with state machines passing messages around, networks of agents, like "turtles" (or was that "tractors" and miss-translated?).

In any case, I'm quite admiring of Haskell's implementation of a type safe system with a kind of inheritance or polymorphism.  I find some similarities with Python, not just differences.  I also find it charmingly steam-punky in its retro neo-Victorian-sounding metaphysics.  "Don't be afraid of Monads, they're just where we get more imperative-seeming with our do [not dot] notation and stuff."  When they need to "talk to the real world" they let the Monads come between them, and their Shangri-La of pure functionality.  "You from the real world?  Talk to the Monad, please".

I don't mind "teaching the controversy" as some Creationists used to put it, but to steer clear of computer languages in general, scared away by this feud, is just too high a price to be paying.  We're sacrificing way too many ready-to-learn-somethings.  "Better both than neither" will be my Mantra of the Day (MOTD).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Revisiting Slavery

I've been studying several books on the history of slavery in the USA including:

Fit for Freedom, Not Friendship (2009)
The Origins of Pro-Slavery Christianity (2008)
Slavery and the Meetinghouse (2007)

On my Kindle / smartphone / laptop:

The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (2006)

Quaker neoliberals of the pre Civil War period were quasi-uniform in condemning slavery but not in a "right now, get rid of your slaves" sense.  Government had legitimized slaves and the rights of slave owners should be protected against religious zealots who might impose other forms of zealotry once given the reigns of power.  Quietists don't trust the shrill.  Plus the immigrant pioneer settlers had a similar solution for all social ills:  send the troublemakers elsewhere.  Recruitment into evangelist churches had much to do with preparing slaves for God's plan to send them to Haiti and Liberia.  Quakers who couldn't abide slavery moved west and north.

Slaves tended to embrace Christianity for its promise of Liberation, ala the later Catholic Liberation Theology of Central and South America.  The non-slave class needed countering pro-slavery arguments to bolster Christianity as a slavery-justifying religion.  As the Bible is but clay in the hands of a skilled minister, it comes as no surprise that both pro- and anti-slavery extremists sought comforting words from this book.  This has continued to be the way to win friends and influence people in North America:  thump the Bible like a drum, but with a characteristic beat pattern that attracts your own kind (anti-gay, white-supremacist or neoliberal or whatever).

Many settled, well off Quakers did not like the "immediatist" position, whether they held slaves or no.  In social theory, slaves should be free, but until a new homeland could be found in Africa or someplace, some "Israel" (a promised land), they'd have to put up with 2nd class treatment as guests in this New World.

True, the slavers felt a different kind of relationship to the slaves than to the native peoples (Pueblo).  The pueblo had not been "invited" as in forcibly removed from their homeland and brought to America by boat.  Anglo-Euros and Africans were both here as boat peoples.  The Christians put a lot of pressure on themselves to "convert" their guests, so they would "think as we do".  Interracial church services were the norm in many counties of Virginia, as slaves were encouraged to take in the English view of themselves.  The Pueblo, on the other hand (I'm using the term inclusively, not just for the folks near the Rio Grande), were going to be a more classic enemy to be fought with weapons.  "If they won't join you, beat 'em" was the rallying cry.

The Quakers mostly disagreed with this philosophy and were ostracized as "people lovers" i.e. "lovers of human beings".  Their "no human being is illegal" campaign typifies their belief in a universal Inner Light, whereas most North Americans have a knee-jerk impulse to criminalize the undocumented and oppressed as a source of cheap prison labor (slavery is still going strong in the USA, by these other labels (one might argue the South won)).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dot Notation Again

I'm somewhat the short order cook or maybe Chinese chef (that'd be a stretch maybe) in that I keep hopping around twixt the same simmering pots.

Back burner becomes front burner, then back it goes, and so on.  No, not so simple as "round robin".  More "interrupt driven".

So on Math Forum, I'm back to:  "sharing 'dot notation' with K-12 is overdue."

That sounds somewhat cryptic right off the bat.

K-12 is jargon for the ethno-cultural torch passing that goes on up through "coming of age" young adulthood.  Kindergarten through 12th grade, in the USA system, with four years of college sometimes called 13-16, making K-16 a rather complete induction into adulthood, by academic means.

"Dot notation" means different things to different web pages.  The chemists have a dot notation for indicating electrons, valence patterns.

There's a "dot notation" associated with Principia Mathematica, by Russell & Whitehead (I start my thread with an allusion to their approach), borrowed from Peano according to Wolfram.

Newton used dots for his "fluxions", first, second and third derivatives.  That's considered a bit unwieldy.  Typography went for Leibniz notation dx/dy, though Spivak had some problems with that too right? (thinking Calculus on Manifolds, my text at Princeton).

However, the "dot notation" to which I refer is "none of the above".  It's the "dot notation" of the object oriented family, i.e. C-family including Java, ABC / Python, JavaScript.  Smalltalk is considered a parent as well.  I've not been comprehensive (Simula, OCAML.. FoxPro).

Plus one could argue that using a "dot" is not that conceptually critical i.e. you can use an arrow or double colon or... yes, yes, I agree.

I'm casting a net and pulling in enough fish to at least point to substantive content.

"These fish, lets share them, with loaves too, why not?" -- these languages are free and open source and replicate faithfully to the bit.

But saying the software is "free" in the Stallman sense (of four freedoms) implies an ability to read and modify source code in the first place.  "Computer literacy" we were calling it in the 1980s.  I'm just calling it "literacy" and, under STEM, I don't see the need to decide which pigeon-holes.  These memes bounce around.

The key point is to share them, not pretend we only care about Leibniz notation, or Riemann.  This bias against machine executable languages was surely overcome by Mathematica and Mathcad.

We're over that prejudice: that it can't be mathematics if it runs on a machine.  On the contrary, Mathematica had to tighten up the old notations, with yet more precision.

Machines have helped us take our mathematics to a new level.  Lets teach "dot notation" in K-12 to help share about this breakthrough.  More SQL too while we're at it (different topic).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quakers and Racism

My initial take, when I heard the suggestion we let go of "Oversight Committee" in favor of something less slavery-oriented, was one of surprise, then suspicion.

That Anglo-Euro Quakers would flinch and drop their own ball (their heritage and nomenclature) suggested deep-seated guilt, worth probing more deeply.  These "peculiar people" might be sicker (more psycho) than I'd thought.

Jiggering with words is a typically "white and nerdy" response; to make it all better with cynical / facile word games.

Put some "English" on the cue ball, replace "Oversight" with "Member Care" (fortifying against non-member interlopers?).  I wasn't eager to leave it to "English" to be the magic puzzle solver, yet again.

Isn't this is the essence of corporate sanitization:  keeping the language innocuous, toothless, feckless?

Keep it squeaky clean on the surface by further delaying the conversations that need to happen.

Is that Quakerism in a nutshell then, or is that Mormonism or what?  If the shoe fits, right?

Actually, now that I'm reading Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, I'm seeing plenty to celebrate in this Quaker heritage.  They were into cleaning up their act early and showed it could be done.

Yes, they started out as slave owners, many of them.  Quakers were sharp at business and slaves were a part of their version of World Game.

Today, undocumented aliens (including ETs?) perform much the same role.  Prison labor as well.  The USA has always depended upon grave inequities to uphold its proud (as in "vain", verging on "ugly") living standards.  That's really not a secret.  It's OK to say so in your speaking voice.

Euro indentured were less of a good deal.

Africans could be passed on to your children in your will.  Euros would pay off their debts and not be indentured.

The economics of owning slaves were easy, at least in the short term.

I had been unaware to what level the Quakers had disowned other Quakers in droves over the slave owning issue pre 1800.  I'm not sure all those "disowned" actually agreed with their status though (still studying that question).

The current fracas with Indiana Yearly Meeting might prove instructive, as to how Friends go about disowning each other even if that only means recognizing a schism when you see one.

IYM is agonizing about marriage at the moment, whether it's Biblical (as in "OK with God") if apparently contrary to the social mores and taboos of Middle Eastern agrarians before Jesus.

What's instructive is the extent to which the Bible was used by the pro-slavery movement, i.e. Scripture has a way of arming both sides, with God playing the suckers off against each other in true divide and conquer fashion.

"Way to go God! good job managing those silly humans, barely worthy of your breath" -- this is how the angels think, say some know-it-all gnostics:  humans are just beasts, prove it every day -- actually beasts are better.

Good thing God keeps confusing them, then, in their vanity-packed Towers of Babel (pick a skyscraper, any skyscraper...).  God subverts humans and their best laid plans, is smart enough to do so (being of superior intelligence).  Or maybe we're talking about a sub-god (Theo?), tasked merely with Earth's management?  It might be heresy to even ask.

Anyway, I'm happy to see Quakers fighting their own reflex-conditioning through the ages, standing out from the crowd.

However, this succumbing to the temptation to rename Oversight, because apparently (go the apologists) some people can't be trusted to see the difference between a whip-lashing slave-driver and a Friend, is most telling, most symptomatic.

"There they go again, wallowing in guilt, a low state, spiritually banal.  Shouldn't we help them?  I'm thinking more workshops would be good."  AVP.  Alternatives to Violence.  That was one way Friends sought to better themselves.  They took the workshops into some really difficult situations, where feuds were long-lived and vengeance potent.

Working with AFSC in the 1990s was a relief, for me, from some of the more the boring forms of racism I'm not that interested in.

In LAAP, we were looking at how immigrants from South and Central America were dealing with an influx from Asia and vice versa, mostly from the Asia-Pacific region.  Hence our name:  Latin-American Asia-Pacific program (with variants).

Our scene was sort of like West Side Story but without the white juveniles.  We weren't that interested in blacks either, although respected DJs and VJs helped out at dance parties, where whites showed up too, but not as centers of attention.

To study racism and work on smoothing relations, yet not with any special interest in "whites" -- that was interesting and fun.  I'm somewhat tired of "white racism" which I find rather predictable and boring, no longer instructive.

Will they get over it?  Who cares?  Not holding my breath.  Whites are just dummies, what can I say (chuckle).  Their idiocracy is absurd.

Sometimes I enjoy not thinking about "whites" at all, either as part of the problem nor as part of the solution necessarily.  What a privilege.  I am blessed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Lady (movie review)

In some ways this movie reminded me of Logicomix, probably because of all the shots of Oxford, and all those famous people (e.g. Bishop Tutu), making an appearance.  My own little life is kinda "comic book" to me, ala Crumb decor at Laughing Planet (a frame in a frame), so don't think I'm "putting it down" in comparing this movie to a comic book, or "graphic novel" if you prefer.  Anime.

The meditation it inspired was again about nationalism and its failures.  I think of the patch quilt of nation states applied as a layer as an especially Anglo invention that reached its peak with the Anglo empire.  Our suspended disbelief in nations was most suspended back then.

Of course (goes the thinking) every people needs a flag, a central government, ministries, agencies, bureaucracy.  "Is Greenland a country?" I asked a member of the Yorkshireman race.  "Of course it is, want me to look it up in the CIA World Fact Book"?  Antarctica isn't a country (yet).  The Vatican is a country.

Sony (as in Sony Pictures) is a company, not a country.  Disney with Disneylands could be a country, if it wanted to be.  EPCOT shows the nations as World Expo style pavilions, facing Tomorrowland, all companies (named The Grunch by Fuller, the BuckyBall an anchoring motif).

Some companies are bigger than some countries, though their assets may be more globally dispersed.  They make alliances with nations.  East India Tea... British Petroleum -- these companies have their own diplomats and embassies so to speak, not to mention bureaucracies, but the namespaces are different (logos instead of flags, though both use decals and stencils).

Then we have these more illegal-sounding names, like "cartel".  Burma has a lot of company cartels, no doubt with their internal rivalries, but from the outside it behooves them to don the "dress of nations" and parade around on stage with the others.  It's a lot about style & fashion, and whether one carries weapons, and whether it's socially acceptable to use them.

The presentation on Zapatistas at the meetinghouse used the word "gang" and "party" (as in "political party") somewhat synonymously.  These were violent actors.  They would sweep through and seize property, vandalize with impunity.  This is how warring groups attempt to assert control and/or deny rivals the benefits of having inventory. 

As a veteran of Laughing Horse Books and Video Collective movies, I'm quite aware that "companies" and "nations" fade into the underworld pretty quickly, with few hard edges.  You get to violence, bullying, coercion, imprisoning pretty quickly.  England has as sordid a history as the rest of them.

Companies seize land from peasants at gun point, often using nation state armies to do so.  Smedley Butler wrote about this pattern in War is a Racket (just delivered to my Kindle for $2.89).

Some peoples had the good fortune to work out some agreements before the weapons got so powerful and effective.  Imagine the US Civil War with carpet bombing and long range missiles.  Submarines were only just getting going.  With the US and others exporting outward weapons to pay bills, strengthening the hand of those opposed to weapons use becomes a critical business.  Countdown to Zero is a part of that strengthening, and is popular with non-aligned nations (those without a "superpower" complex).  The intelligence community tends to be supportive, somewhat by definition.

We packed the living room:  Steve Holden, myself, Lindsey & Melody, mom, and JenQ.  Melody and I went to Freddies and stocked up on popcorn.  I projected using mom's Sony VAIO, directly on the wall.  The picture quality was sharp, the sound plenty loud.  The sound track is quite musical, featuring piano and violin music.  Pachelbel's Canon rises to the level of theme music.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Mixing It Up

Today was somewhat complicated, however the weather was beautiful:  clear, crisp, still warm, a sunny October day.

October 6, a rally point for Occupy.

October 6, date of some DC-led invasion of Afghanistan (I'm a little hazy on the details, not my area of most focus (DC's various epileptic fits, attacks of neuritus or whatever we call it -- lots of flailing and flinging explosives, lethal dorkiness (like 911))).

October 6:  Willamette Quarterly Meeting (WQM) in full swing.

The complicated part:  Carol Urner, my mom, was scheduled to address both the Occupy Rally downtown, in the park blocks, and to serve on a panel at Quakers at WQM.  Yet she was quite ill with a cold-flu and would she even be mobile?

The bright weather and Tylenol helped her back on her feet and I got her to the rally in time for her speech, but her WILPF peers, knowing of her illness, had scheduled a Code Pink woman to speak in her stead.

The Code Pink woman's talk was pretty interesting in that she mentioned that a substantial delegation of civilians were marching in Pakistan to visit areas hardest hit by the V2s er drones.  Not just Congress people get those junkets.  Authentic citizen diplomacy is more effective anyway.

I was serving as a roaming camera guy, sometimes wandering away from the event.  Most of the police, charged with ushering the subsequent march through town (a complicated route) were hanging out at Starbucks.  No one was giving them any trouble.  The horses were out as well.

Some faux police ("Occu Popo") with giant fly swatters shadowed the police, just clowning around, somewhat mocking state authority (an old theme, goes back to the Middle Ages).

At meeting, I got to meet Kathleen Burkhardt, daughter of Jeanne.  She gave me one of the '3rd Culture' pamphlets they have at Lewis & Clark for people like herself and myself, somewhat expat in outlook i.e. lonely planet types, less able to say where we're "from".

Mom's presentation went well.  Two of the panelists chose homophobia as an example of a touchy topic that their respective Quaker institutions had been dealing with.  A former NPYM clerk and current NWYM clerk shared about their multi-threaded process.  Jane's story was set in East Africa whereas Tom's was set here in Oregon.

Mom's story was about an AFSC board (which meets in Philadelphia), going from rubber stamp to more activist during the recent succession of executive directors.  She gave us some good insights into Quaker process at AFSC, which has a Quaker board of directors (of which she has been a member of for several years).

While Brian Wilson was talking (effective speaker) I swung through a regulated state liquor store for some Jack Daniels in a circuit to check the parking meter.  I used some in my coffee after all this was over and I was back at my house, blogging.  Apparently alcohol is a touchy topic among some Friends as well.

Tom thought processing around alcohol had helped his Yearly Meeting develop practices and discussion muscles which carried over when it was time to address homophobia more openly.

Speaking of homophobia, some of the standup comics at The Bagdad last night were doing their best to gross us out about sex in general.  Anything carnal (means "meat related") can be gross, I agree.  Raw unadulterated first person stories tend to be better ice breakers than teachings delivered from on high as it were.  Comedians may be more effective than preachers, when it comes to stirring the pot.

In the Middle Ages (Europe), it was more common to see meat space as ugly (they had more disease, enjoyed less sanitation that many take for granted today).  The 'body beautiful' movement that came with the Renaissance hearkened back to ancient Greece.  The idea of sexuality as 'dirty' helped protect people from STDs.

A lot of credit goes to the film industry for helping elevate carnality to a higher art -- not just talking about MA-rated skits (aka porn) that take a cultural context for granted.  Real innovation creates a new context, doesn't just piggy-back.

I've been looking at some of the characters around the time of Louis IVX, thanks to discussions with a retired musician from Italy living at Leslie's house.  She specialized in music of that period.  Ms. Jeanne Guyon was spreading the mysticism of Quietism in his court, affecting his grandson, in opposition to Catholic orthodoxy.  Quakers were having an impact in that regard.

Thanks to Melody for sharing this instructional video about how to build a self-wicking planter from pallets.

After the end of the panel discussion, I mingled with Friends.  I told Sara Michner and Chris Cradler about Drunk History on Youtube, the one about president Harrison being my favorite.

Speaking of DIY projects, Lew Scholl (with some help from his Friends) has recently installed the new sound system and was giving it a workout.  Panelists used a hand-held mic to project sound from the several ceiling mounted speakers.  Special battery-powered devices allow especially hard-of-hearing individuals to jack in with ear buds.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Sanity Check

I listened to the first of the US presidential debates on National Public Radio (NPR).

The NPR correspondents do not seem like National Forensics League judges in that they put relatively more weight on style of delivery and less on content.  Both matter of course.  But NPR's seeming to call it for Romney traced more to style than substance.

"I wonder what the conservatives will say about the 'liberal media' if we call it for Romney" one of the correspondents mused aloud.  That may have been more the point:  to show journalistic "objectivity'.  After all, Romney had just said he would cut NPR from the budget, rather than let China finance it (through borrowing).

I think the assumption is political debates take place in their own namespace, have their own logic, which is not always that connected to what's really going on.  Internally to that namespace, I thought president Obama did a better job.

The public knows, at some level, that the plans of presidents never pan out exactly, life isn't like that.  So the substance is somewhat discounted, intuitively.  The debates become more like an audition, like American Idol, for a role.  The president will be a media personality and the public is judging whether they might get used to a persona.

Governor Romney allowed his proposals to collapse without alternatives if they were seen to raise the deficit in any way, yet it seemed clear that with the tax policies and projected military spending increases, that "closing loopholes" was not going to cover expenses.

If the loopholes could be closed, then maybe some of these shareholders and executives at General Dynamics, insisting on producing more M1 tanks, even with a desert full of them, would shoulder more of the burden.  That's unlikely though.  The whole point of making those tanks is to enjoy rolling in dough while letting the public pay back the lenders, with interest.

The "closing loopholes" idea is itself a giant loophole, being used as a sound bite, to get elected.  It's more what people want to hear than it is a coherent set of policies.  As the one NPR correspondent said:  of the two, Romney seemed the more eager to get the office.  I agree.  He's willing to say whatever, no matter how mushy.

Reality can come later, once he's in.

But maybe the unreality of Romney's thinking was more a reflection of my fevered state.  I was suffering from chills and went to bed soon thereafter.

I feel better today and am working in a neighborhood coffee shop.

My thanks to Ellen Simmons, member of Multnomah Friends, for arranging for me to meet with Jeanne Burkhardt, visiting from Canada.  Her husband Jim, who has visited Wanderers, also joined us.

One fact the NPR fact checkers (interviewed after the debate) didn't check, was this idea of tax breaks for relocating a plant overseas.  President Obama claims businesses have tax incentives to export jobs.  Romney said he had no idea with the president was talking about.

That'd be something for NPR to get around to talking about I think.  What's the story there?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Disarm Day 2012

Checking back through my blog posts, I'm not finding much on the 50th anniversary of Portland's officially commemorating of the atomic bombing of two cities (authorized by some) and a commitment to healing from nuclear weapons woes more generally, with a focus on Hanford.

The poet Laurette of Washington grew up in Hanford and had a personal take on the whole scenario.  She and her charming family were a welcome part of the well-designed program.  Japan had a diplomatic presence.  Native Americans had a foot print.  Many said this was the best ever.

Polo gave the event continuity, as he has in other years, and singled out Carol Urner, my mother, for all the commitment she had demonstrated in helping get the event rolling 50 years before, the bombs having been dropped several years before that.

I'm sure I wrote about this someplace before, or did I only take pictures?

Portland is celebrating its 1st anniversary of Occupy this Saturday and I'm chauffeuring between events. The Willamette Quarter is also doing its thing, with AFSC putting its time into the Occupy side of things.  I'll be driving for AFSC, and doing photography.  Carol, my mom, is both speaking at the Occupy rally (lightning talk) and at the Meetinghouse (on a panel).

Lindsey has a map of the march route and is planning some performance art (trademark punky loud, somewhat on the rude and crude side though no worse than American Dad in that respect -- just went through Season Six I think it was).

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Birthday Party

Birthday for Chris

My memories of Chris go back a long way, to my earliest boyhood, back to when we still lived around 12th and Prescott.  The Martins, Hazel Hemphill, the Jumps, the Pinneys, Iona Tanner...  these were some of the early personalities I tuned in, sitting in the back of the car, sent upstairs for First Day School, and so on.

A faction within the USG had successfully lobbied Truman for permission to detonate uber-bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Contrary to Einstein's hopes, the Americans would import German scientists and use the very Nazis he'd hope to circumvent, to make the Atomic Age an horrific experience.  Portland works on healing this trauma to this day, with Hanford part of the scar.

Speaking of Hanford, mom is just back from a conference there.  These days, the USG is being vocal about having been raped by the Grunch and left in a ditch, defenseless.

You wouldn't think of Uncle Sam as broken and bust, left in a ditch, but then you probably haven't read about the Gross Universal Cash Heist, a continuation of the story in Critical Path, wherein the ever law-abiding, ever rule-changing "zombie devils" ("corporate persons" ala Voodoo Economics) work to subvert and overturn any advances on behalf of humanity made by FDR and his ilk.

The Business Plot people hoping to recruit Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler, never gave up on their quest to gut the government and repurpose its treasury to their own ends.  We're talking about a billions-of-dollars vitrification plant that has yet to do any useful cleanup work, budgets sucked dry.  What's the story on the Savannah Plant?

Anyway, back to Chris.  He lives across from the Stark Street Meeting House today, which is where I first met him.  However, he's a member of a different church, and actively performs in that church's rituals, which are more elaborate than Friends' (that's not saying much as Friends have it stripped down to a minimum, the name "Stark Street" apropos (as in "stark naked")).

His older brother is Craig and his younger is Doug.  Doug does a lot of database work, as I've done, mostly for unions these days.  He and Heather talked a lot.  Heather is married to a high school chemistry teacher and I couldn't resist telling her Breaking Bad should be in her queue, as worthy adult entertainment.  She's one of those brilliant and beautiful Pinney kids after all, an original founding family of our Stark Street (aka Multnomah) Meeting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Attenders to the Spirit

Attenders are Friends who attend to the Spirit (however named) using the Friends Meeting for Worship as a vehicle for group (corporate) experience and worship.

If an attender is led by the spirit to seek membership status, she or he should write a letter to the Meeting's Oversight Committee.  This triggers a process involving a Clearness Committee wherein the attender tests this leading, a kind of peer review process.  See the Meeting's documentation for details.

However, it is not a requirement of Friends that attenders seek membership in order to fully participate in the life of the meeting.  Committee work is open to all, and the label of "Friend" is used liberally to embrace all participants in the Religious Society who wish to claim some level of affiliation.

One's level of participation, more than one's status on paper, is often a better gauge of one's degree of commitment to Friends and their testimonies.  Attenders may identify themselves as attending Friends e.g. "I attend such-and-such a meeting" whether or not they claim membership status.

Membership brings with it some new practices however.  Members should expect their Meeting to be involved in carrying out their wishes upon death.  What do you want to happen with your Flickr account, your Facebook, your email?  What should happen with your body and so forth.

Attenders usually have not taken the step of asking a Meeting for these kinds of services, though I know of exceptions.

Membership, once acquired, may be transferred from Meeting to Meeting by a recognized process (see Faith and Practice or similar documentation).  Other forms of membership, not obtained through any specific monthly meeting, may be available, either through a Yearly Meeting or perhaps FWCC.  Check manuals for the latest practices or write to the clerk of one of these bodies for more information.

The choice to not pursue membership does not mean one is a second class participant in the life of a Meeting, only that one may have made other arrangements with regard to the dying process.

The practice around weddings is similar:  one may have a Quaker wedding without being a member, or be a member yet choose to wed in a different manner, perhaps because other family would prefer to celebrate in a different tradition.

Sometimes a new Meeting will form from a worship group in such a manner that the attenders attain membership in the process of the Meeting itself becoming recognized as part of a larger group of meetings.

However, in the case of breakaway Meetings, affiliation with other Quaker organizations may come later if at all.   Not all Friends recognize one another as Friends of their own kind (the division between unprogrammed and pastoral is an old schism, however there are others as well).

Attending Friends may choose to not seek membership because their affiliations extend to other traditions, some of which may be controversial among Friends.

A given membership may collectively fear infiltration by "pagans" or "spies" or "gangs" or "ranters" or "the AFSC" or "clerics" some other persuasion judged "not Friendly enough".

Rather than rock the boat by insisting on membership, attender status may be the way to go i.e. continuing to participate as an attender may be the most "sympatico" or mutually agreeable outcome for a given special case Friend.  Ben Franklin might be considered a role model in this regard.

Note that a common practice among Friends, historically speaking, among members and attenders alike, is journaling, which these days might mean blogging.

If you're looking to adopt more Friends' practices, consider taking up journaling in some way shape or form.  More and more people are doing that anyway, which might be taken as a sign that Friends were on to something early -- which fact should probably not seem surprising given Friends attend to the leading of the spirit or zeitgeist.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Equinox

I'll summarize a number of events here.

First, the Portland State Meteorite Lab held its annual fundraiser, once again featuring Brother Guy Consolmagno, astronomer for the Vatican, a sovereign nation with two disconnected properties:  at the center of Rome and Castel Gandalfo.  Then lets not forget VATT, the Mt. Graham observatory in Arizona.

During WW2, the Vatican's growing meteorite collection was preserved at Castel Gandalfo.  There was some understanding, promoted by FDR especially, that there would be no bombing of Rome or other historic sites in Italy.

Castel Gandalfo was likewise mostly spared, although an American plane did hit at least one of the buildings.

Brother Guy also talked about the tank battles of North Africa, given one of the meteor donors was also a leading Anglo surveyor of the region, and an evangelist for the idea of a new lake in the Sahara, fed by canal.  The Brits were advantaged by the surveying / mapping that had occurred as a result of this planning.

Lew was at this talk and showed me some of the pictures on his phone that he's been getting with his new telescope, which takes a camera as an attachment.  Lew has pressed ahead with researching, ordering and installing a sound system for the Friends Meetinghouse on Stark Street.  We should be testing it this week.

Lots of biking that day, including out to around 13th and Alberta, near the house where my memories of Portland begin.  I took some pictures of it.

Most of the week was devoted to getting our Portland faculty reconfigured, with a super from Illinois flying out to do some training.  We toured a bit, visiting Oaks Park.  She's a grader, like the rest of us.

Wanderers kicked off its Fall Retreat, timed with the Equinox, on Friday.  Bob and Sarah joined us.  Good seeing Alex again (he stopped by the Pauling House today and we went for lunch at Toney Bento).

Rose City Astronomers, the cosmologists' group, decided to shift their meeting to Friday and showed up just as the retreat was getting underway.  This confluence of groups resulted in some interesting cross-fertilization.  At least one cosmology buff jumped over to our group and stayed with us until Saturday.

Wanderers met for breakfast at The Roadrunner, a new cafe on Division.

Since everyone except me has been out of town, the dog has had some unsupervised time to bark up a storm.  This bothered the neighbors quite a bit.  I need to keep the windows closed when no humans are home.

Lindsey returned from her hike around the mountain, in the company of three others.  Today, the Food Not Bombs drop off was bigger than ever.

I've been plowing through Breaking Bad amidst a flurry of documentaries.

Ignite Portland 11 happened in the middle of this.  Ben, with our school, was a principal organizer.  That's appropriate given the historical roots of the Ignite franchise.