Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Resolution

In the spirit of the season, I just came up with this project to "cut back on bad wiring".

Yes, that's something neuro-scientific:  talking about miss-wiring in that graph database we call "the brain" (you'll find "brain" used in many namespaces so buyer beware).

Of course there's "old wiring" in a state of disrepair.  "Use it or lose it" is another Darwinian law, or call it Lean management (related to Agile).

Then you get what I'll call outright mistakes, where you've confused identities, swapped in bold fiction (lies) as fact (truth), and / or allowed senseless filler to substitute for real thought (picture a vast range of phenomena, not just a few dust bunnies).

Organized religions are especially ineffective at clearing out the latter and become "cruft boats" in the blink of whatever deity's eye.  People don't like to offend one another unnecessarily and you never know when this candy wrapper on the floor might be sacred to someone, so onto the altar it goes.

The globalized borg among us, those steeped in IT, meaning anyone who has fought with a computer (e.g. a brain), knows that "purging cruft" becomes a responsibility sooner or later.  We sometimes forget that's part of the job.

Happy New Year!  I wanna to see that new movie about Alan Turing.  I asked another geek to go with me, we'll see if she's free. 

We talked about "passing the Turing test" at Wanderers last night (it's getting harder to tell the difference twixt human and "mess of firing wiring" in some contexts).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Marketing Considerations

Reconnecting to USA TV has proved somewhat trippy.

As Leonardo Di Carprio, a Catholic school boy "juvenile delinquent" rebels against authority in some B movie, the commercials come hurling out of the screen about all the lawsuits I might join, in case the drug I took to control something or other, spun me out and maybe left me for dead.

Then the very next commercial is for a like-named drug still on the market, but with dubious side effects such as lactating, even if you're a dude.

Am I saying it's a bad idea to update us couch and bed potatoes about our options, lawsuit-wise?  Maybe a substantial settlement, which it's suggested I might get, would pay for the next diet and hair grow drugs I buy on my credit card?

Just kidding, I don't buy those kinds of products, but a lot of us do, I realize that.  Stu Quimby would go on QVS with his magnetic toyz, and they'd get gobbled up like gangbusters.  The medium is the massage.

@DekeBridges and I discussed the effectiveness of some ad campaigns at a StarBucks just now, having done a quick trip to the Lewis & Clark college area.

The Mennonites in our hood have a QR-code in the window and that sparked some interest among Quakers in following suit, although some of our iPhone people may find QR-codes redolent of some lower class of Wal*Mart shoppers and TriMet riders.

As an Android user, I find myself on the bus a lot, and the QR-codes at every stop are a welcome convenience.

Tom Peterson was the "Crazy Eddy" of Portland in the 1980s, offering those knock-down better prices on the whole couch potato / bed potato setup:  a bed that or lazy chair that reclines at various angles, and a big screen wired to some back end that's not so virus-infested it won't even turn on (alluding to some of today's "buyer beware" purchases -- actually those are looking more like DDoS attacks).

At least the digi-TV broadcast stations are still offering PAAS (programs as a service -- advertiser-sponsored).

The idea of a "Quaker TV station" (more likely a syndicated show) came up.

Our Progressive branch is not into proselytizing or "spreading the good news" in the conventional missionary sense.  Actually "preaching to the choir" is what a lot of these televangelists at the other end of the spectrum already do.  We'd be a lot friendlier to atheists right off the bat.

The focus would be more on bringing our own up to speed on various STEAM topics (A for Anthropology).

The Coffee Shops Network (CSN) could be a vector for that.  Some of our programming is only available in the shops.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Story

I raked leaves today, cleaned up around the front sidewalk.  I told Lindsey this was when I felt most like a member of the "petty bourgeoisie" as raking all those damp leaves felt about as petty as it gets, though edging is right up there.  It's a good workout though, and as a middle aged man, I should be engaging in semi-strenuous cardiovascular activity from time to time.

The FCNL liason phoned me as I approached the Narnia light on Mt. Tabor and requested directions for Bridge City Meeting but it turned out the event she wished to attend was at the Stark Street facility.  I decided I'd attend and went home to dress more appropriately, while also confirming Lucy Duncan as my associate on LinkedIn (AFSC business).

I discovered my "NATO pants" in the closet, Army surplus woolen monster pants from Andy & Bax, a favorite army surplus outlet on Grand Avenue (near Bridge City Meeting as it happens).  I could belt them above my belly button, humpty-dumpty style and drape a T-shirt over that, then a maroon Python zipper sweater completed the outfit.  Green and maroon, silver hair, why not?

But then when shaving... what are those black spots on my pants? -- noticed in the mirror.  Wait, those are holes!  Good thing I caught it then.  I'd have shown up at the Christmas Party all in moth eaten tatters, back from the grave, the zombie look.  Not festive.

So then I rushed to change my outfit yet again and this is when the keys went missing.  You already know the punch line:  they were in the NATO pants.  But I'd looked and looked, checking pockets thrice.  Then I spent an hour looking other places.

Uncle Bill called.  He's with his son Matt in Tualitin.  He's been through the wringer but had the bandwidth to commiserate with my key issue.  I have a friends mailbox key on it too, so if I'd dropped this on Mt. Tabor, near the Narnia light... what a nuisance!  We think Uncle Bill is on the mend but I know from my bout with pneumonia last January, recovery takes time.

So yeah, the keys were buried deep in a NATO pant pocket.  By the time I found them though, I didn't think walking to Stark Street would pay off.  Weren't they going caroling those Quakers?  They'd be singing "shaggy shaggy locks" (one of our Quaker songs) to bewildered neighbors by then.  No way I was going to drive mind you, given Peacock Lane hell (just kidding, it's pretty -- just not good for traffic).  Walking takes about twenty minutes, give or take (I might stop at Red Square or Movie Madness).

I'm not making a huge deal out of December 25 lets remember, but nor am I trying to tune out the holiday experience such as it is.  New Year's means a lot too and I do spend extra time on renewing and reconnecting during this solstice period.  That's what a lot of people are in the mood to do and I'm not about to be a grinch about it.  That'd be really petty.  Not that I'm above petty.

I'll plan to check in with the FCNL liaison tomorrow.  That will mean driving but I don't expect much traffic.  I may visit Uncle Bill on Friday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hanukkha 2014

My many thank yous to Laurie for helping to anchor the holiday season with a low key charming Hanukkah party that we've belonged to for many years.

Neither of my daughters could make it this year.  I decided for gift giving I'd pick a local business I respect and appreciate, Third Eye, and buy a stack of incense, Grateful Dead playing cards, and a special T-shirt.

We ate latkes, I made my lentils, and then conversations for me wandered from Aliens (starring Sigourney Weaver) to Mt. Tabor, the nearby public park.  We also talked a lot about property redevelopment, the house next door having just been replaced, along with others nearby.  How many Facebook accounts belong to members of the dog species?  More than one, we know that.

I much appreciated getting to meet the psychiatrist / naturopathic healer, someone who'd left Portland in the 1990s when Dawn was still alive.

This was not a PTO day for me.  I'm part of that working class red eye shift that keeps the holiday season chugging along through the (in this hemisphere) cold part of the year.  I "slew my queue" (euphemism for attacking my inbox) for some hours.

Monday was also haircut day at Bishops.  At 56, I'm more hirsute than I'll be at 65 but I'm changing my look to be more like the picture, minus the aviator glasses as I mostly favor clear lenses these days. While waiting for my haircut I drank two beers (on the house) and read People Magazine about missing Robin Williams, and about the Obamas and their family life.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wanderers Solstice Party

The Wanderers, sometimes affectionately known as the Meanderers, celebrates the Equinoxes and Solstices.

Sometimes we've had full blown excursions to off-site locations or had overnight parties at the Pauling House.

This Winter's was relatively low key but with plenty to eat and drink, and even be merry about if in the mood.  Good meeting up with Nirel and her friends.  I hardly ever see her anymore.

Skip, who was at my Quakernomics talk, turns out to know quite a bit about Bucky and his VE concept.  He's been to one of the SNEC-produced RISD events and sent me a paper on some of his geometrical notions.  We both know CJ, whom Skip credits for cluing him to our shared foci.

Monday, December 15, 2014

AFSC Office Party

:: Portland AFSC Office Party, December 15, celebrating new digs ::

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Good Bye Blue Butterfly

I'm a peripheral character in the Blue Butterfly story.  Glenn has played a more than cameo role in the maintenance department, helping bring the house across from New Seasons, a few doors down from Pauling House, up to salable condition.

Michael, the owner, has pipelined artifacts from Indonesia, Bali, Southeast Asia more generally, to his color store, which has been in operation in different places along Hawthorne for some thirty years.

Michael's son operates the Alhambra Theater down the street and together they staged a blow out, complete with hundreds of slides and two bands, the second of which featured two tubas amidst its all brass (and a guitar) ensemble.

I enjoyed the whole show and an grateful for the service and dedication of the Blue Butterfly enterprise.  Michael will be moving to Indonesia, is my understanding.

Our neighborhood is somewhat a gateway to Asia, with women especially going for "sherpa chic" as their look (warm, fuzzy, lots of knits).  Some WDC goons called Portland "Little Beirut" awhile back, but I think "Little Lhasa" is far more apt, and alliterates better.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Big Hero 6 (movie review)

I was under the misapprehension that this was the 6th in some Big Hero franchise, not understanding the 6 referred to "how many" on what eventually becomes a superhero team, with shades of The Incredibles -- and a touch of Scooby Doo.

The unification of Nipponese and US cultures ala Disney is a pure synergy and helps feed the premise that IQ knows no upper limit.

Asia connotes technical brilliance to Pacific Rim folks and this movie is all about being a nerdy genius in a peer group that supports full expression of same ala Johnny Neutrino.

The movie is also about compassion and empathy (qualities in shorter supply).

The world we get is more Zero Theorem in flavor, though minus the existential concern with a global apocalypse.  The villain has specific targets.  In general the future looks bright for these folks.

I thought the Disney people did a really fine job on this one.  I'm glad kids are seeing it.

The world we see is very close to ours, but more utopian.  Recent near future science fiction ala Bladerunner has usually gone the other way:  the near future is darker than our time, with Japan a source of fascination.

Here's a breath of fresh air then.  Japan is still a focus, but in a non-threatening, non-darkening way.

Watching this next to Penguins of Madagascar was an interesting experience.  Both feature teams acting in concert, tightly coordinated, against a loner villain.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

ISEPP Lecture Series 2015: Kick Off

I use the term "kick off" advisedly as there was rumoredly a football game of some import that night, involving Oregon.  How nerdy would Portlanders prove to be, forsaking live witnessing a ball game to attend a lecture on the ball game crazies of this hemisphere:  the Maya?

Plenty nerdy it turned out.  We packed the place, and Dr. William Suturno "regaled us with stories" as my late wife Dawn would have said.  She loved this lecture series too, which has been going a long time thanks to Terry, with a little help from his friends (lots of co-sponsors).

This may well be our last season after a record-setting run.  I've benefited greatly in my education.  These blogs are richer for the write-ups I've been privileged to record.

Anyway, back to 800 AD or so, these Maya had a steady integer uptick like our Julian Date in Python, i.e. some enormous number of days going back to some mythic beginning, inside of which was their time and space.

The days were then demarcated with the periods of the astral bodies, including Mars and Venus, with no confusion about the latter being two bodies (it's not).  They were big fans of 20s for grouping groups, with 360 in there too.  The ceremonial overlay, like our weeks, persists to this day but without the planetary knowledge.

Mayan architecture involved carefully modeling buildings to match up with world lines, like where the sun got furthest north and south.  Humans have perennially spontaneously organized around such phenomena and we know birds use a lot of the same information.  Brains have to earn their keep somehow as they're expensive in terms of blood and oxygen.

Humans lug around big ones and have proved superb at mapping the cosmos with it, starting with seasonal periodicity and the cycles on which life quite literally depends, whether you're agriculturally based or hunting and gathering (or both or neither).

The Mayan civilization was highly successful and when a system winds down we need to avoid that reflex of thinking that's always some dire "collapse" as if we all wept when DOS 3.1 was retired, or Windows of the same version.  These were but passing chapters in our upgrade to tomorrow, the Omega God of the Jesuit branch headed by Teilhard de Chardin.

One might spin it this way too:  "you've got to admit it's getting better" (Beatles).  People outgrow themselves and move on, and it's not a big disaster.

He had some digs at Jared Diamond's Why Civilizations Choose Collapse (not the real title) for what he considered its fanciful spinning of just so stories in some cases.  Moralizing should not shove science in the back seat, even if one agrees with the basic message (that mismanagement will have consequences).

I always enjoy it when ISEPP speakers allude to or speak to the work of others who've been through here, as chances are I've got some personal experience to dredge up and rethink.

The rats are what got 'em on Easter Island says Saturno.  They eat all the seeds.  It wasn't so much willful mismanagement as an outbreak of infection.  Civilizations die, get over it (doesn't mean they were suicidal or pathological).  Like, so we don't get to play the game with the big heads anymore, drat those rats, lets sail away (Enya).

As an archeologist with a large time horizon, one can see feeling like that.  "Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky" (Kansas).

The highlight of Saturno's talk was the unearthing of a new find and the reconstructed paintings therein (painstaking work for sure), and what they tell us about this Mayan heyday.

The exact nature of the institution is unknown at this point, but clearly lots of calendar stuff, the same as what went in the books (they had paper from way back), was written on the wall over and over, like a whiteboard.

The sense of getting access to a retired hard drive or IT room was palpable.  This is where the torch got passed somehow, but will we ever know much more?

 :: william saturno, archeologist ::

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

About Smartphones Again

Smartphones are so smart these days they're going senile.  Leave it to our really smart devices to start showing the same symptoms of aging as we do.  Or is it aging?  The ability to pile up cruft, creating fruitless entanglements, is an ability we have at any age.  The solution:  a reboot at some level, or upgrade to the next smartphone.

However, upgrades are expensive especially when not per plan, so in the interim, a new profession, that of psychotherapist for those breaking up with their phones and needing to fall in love again.

Clearly I'm likely thinking of some more specific experience, such as my Razr flagging under the weight of Aviate or whatever it is.  I'm not wanting to point fingers, or engage in a battle of hardware (Motorola) versus software people.  I'm simply confirming that I'd be eligible for a visit to said shrink, were insurance (through Verizon?) to cover it.

Actually Aviate expanded my horizons quite a bit in that checking in on Facebook, as a way of adding to "the chronofile" (generic word for personal timeline and/or profile -- inheriting from RBF's lexicon) became that much more convenient that I'd do it just for fun.

I checked in from Union Station, Tabor Cafe, Hophouse on Hawthorne, Lucky Lab (right?) and many others.  If James Joyce had had Swarm in Dublin, what might he have done with it?

When your smartphone starts spouting Finnegans Wake in response to your Asking Google or whomever you speak with, that's probably a sign you're ready for that upgrade, or some therapy.