Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flag Waving

With Flag

Another Quaker queried, on one of the Facebook threads, about what the Quaker read was on the pledge of allegiance. For background, Quakers have issues with taking any kind of oath to begin with, as there begins a double standard (under oath and not) and "forked tongue" as a native language.

My answer was esoteric. As a child I learned the pledge as a classroom ritual and have said it many times. A pledge is a pledge unless somewhere retracted right? So insofar as I'm obliged to accept the burden of childhood promises, I'm pledged to the Republic for which it stands, Banana or otherwise.

Nowhere in the fine print does it say we can't do due diligence and unearth the distant past of said flag. Yes the USA took it over, modified by stars in varying patterns, signifying states of the Union (more on that shortly).  Took it over from whom?  That's not a verboten topic for exploration.

As a matter of logic, the flag's standing for a certain Republic does not preclude it having many other meanings, including those resonating with a certain past. A Republic has a prehistory. The pledge might keep going back, in that case, to even before the Republic and its symbol.

Some states tried to secede and flew a new flag, abandoning the more Yankee-flavored East India Tea motif.  Their attempt at secession occasioned a great Civil War, during which time, a pledge of allegiance to that specific symbol could be considered traitorous to a warring side.

Forcing a Yankee ethic on the loser states, newly suffering other losses of specific icons, is what the Trump Tower edicts appear like to some in the NFL.  He's making the Confederate States pay homage, now that he has defended their right to be defiant, in an almost ACLU type position.

I saluted the flag in Portland, where dad was in some pitched battle over how to route the future freeway. He was not a fan of its hugging the shoreline, obliterating the riverfront.

He was a city planner back then, with a hankering to work overseas, the focus of his PhD thesis.  He'd been trained at Johns Hopkins for international work, so why not?  Let the locals have their freeway battles.  He'd be in a small plane over the Sahara (not flying it, part of the overview crew), not looking back.  Lots of oases.

He was a consultant, not telling anyone how it had to be (not bossy), just applying what he'd learned, at University of Chicago and elsewhere, as the state of the art insofar as the US practiced it (city and regional planning).

This explains my transplant to Rome, Italy at a young age, to resume my academics at the Junior English School of Rome, and later the Overseas School of Rome (OSR).  I came to more appreciate my identity as a USA citizen according to some macro-melodrama one could scarcely understand.  We'd have to learn about Rome first, and Greece before that.  "It's a long story" the adults said, rolling their eyes sometimes.

Fast forward and I'm almost sixty and still couldn't tell you exactly what's up with all this flag business.  Symbols play a deep role in human consciousness, is what the anthropologists are telling us, historians too.

I'm hypothesizing that recent Civil War tremors (aftershocks) have newly awakened us to the fragility of the Union.

The spectacle of Puerto Rico needing rescue, as part of a big triple whammy (Harvey, Irma, Maria), just adds to our sense of disorientation, if not outright disunion.

There's a need to bond over something.  As far as secular symbols go, Old Glory still carries weight. I'm not gonna walk on stage and tell people how their symbols don't matter.  Of course they matter.

However I've always been taught graceful ways to stand aside on oath taking, using "affirm" or other language.  As a Quaker, I enjoy the practical consequences of walking an ethnic talk.

To me, that's the glue of the Americas: an understanding of our melting pot role, an acceptance of varying ethnic practices, yet getting the job done anyway.

People were already here; people came here from everywhere.  The flag belongs to Chief Crazy Horse as much as to General Custer.

With a history like that, one shouldn't be apologetic if "allegiance" means something nuanced.  Ben Franklin would understand.

Betsy Ross got in trouble with some Quakers, many of them still loyal to their King, in Revolutionary War times.  Free Quakers broke off from the mainstream, in taking a pledge of allegiance.

Later, Quakers as a sect forbade the practice of slavery among its members, well before the USG deemed slave-holding illegal. We're in a similar position today with our support for the UN treaty banning nuclear weaponry.  We also remember the Kellog-Briand Pact.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fall Equinox Celebration

Equinox Party

The Friday following the CERM Academy presentation, we gathered for potluck.  Greg & family were of course invited and may make it another time.

We've been doing these Equinox and Solstice celebrations pretty much since being granted access to the Linus Pauling House as a part of the Silicon Forest sponsored ISEPP project, which included restoration and preservation of this historic home.

Linus studied chemistry in the basement and came to intellectual maturity during that exciting time  when organic chemistry was first getting its head around macro molecules, DNA included. He won two Nobel Prizes, one for Chemistry, one for Peace.

Our discussion turned to off-color acronyms, such as engineers use to remember the color coding of resistors. That took us to the politically incorrect (at first blush) mnemonic phrase I learned at Junior English School (Appian Way, Rome) for spelling "arithmetic": A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tobacco in Church.

Bob McGown and I realized somewhere around the time I trucked out Pascal's Triangle, that this Red Indian must be that very Chief SohCahToa to whom we who our memorization of the specific names of functions in Trigonometry.  He lives in a tetrahedron tepee. It all came together.

My spin is of course smoking tobacco would be the natural thing in a church, seeing as it was treated as a medicine and religious substance.  We have lots of "tobacco churches" in America, and that's just for starters.

C6XTY, often dubbed a "molecule" by neighbors, especially when assembled, is indeed named in part for C60, the carbon molecule.  The 6 also refers to its six identical parts, locked together with eight screws to give the 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons of the Fullerene macro molecule.

Alpha Helix by Julian voss Andreae, the red helical sculpture outside, commissioned by ISEPP's Doug Strain and its president, Terry Bristol, shows a much simpler molecule than DNA, but one that inspired chemists with portents of what folding could do. Linus Pauling had worked out its structure.

We collectively learned molecules could do origami like nobody's business.  Shape matters, a lot. There's a jigsaw puzzle aspect to chemistry, with lots to visualize.  Chemistry is a lot like a block-based language (thinking of MIT Scratch and its kin).

In attendance: David DiNucci, Barbara Stross, Dick Pugh... I could go on, but not everybody likes their name mentioned.  Brenda Wyse showed up, nice for me as she always showers me with affection (an English idiom).  No Nirel though.

We talked a lot about Brenda's ambitions to get a rather muscular tractor.  She'd done a lot of homework and got into details.  I enjoy tractor talk, even if I'm not good at it.  She has a large farm, that her dad worked on, showing her the ropes.  We've had celebrations there to.

"Tractatus" for "work" connotes "tract of land" and "roe to hoe".  One of my favorite Latin roots.

Mom and I drove the maxi taxi, parking a block behind, and coming across Satya at the temple.  Some equinox-related ceremony was happening there too.

Satya is one of our local holy men who bounces around between the outdoors athletic youth culture (Rainbow Gathering etc.) and elder spaces (Food Not Bombs is for all ages).

I met him through Lindsey, political refugee (not unlike Dawn in that respect) and former house guest, sometime Wanderer.  She's in Kathmandu these days, immersed in some of the cultural traditions this temple traffics in, part of a Religious Studies major through OSU.

Bob McGown brought his dog, which I appreciated and Facebooked about. Wanderers for me is about celebrating non-humans in addition to humans. I've always considered the dogs among us as symbolic of this respectfulness.

However the dog's specific name will be left out of this account in order to keep the confusion level down.  Having a pet python named Barry is bad enough, given Barry Redd the former Peace Corps volunteer machinist banker.  Barry helped a lot with the Sam Lanahan C6XTY Gala Event, another major subject of our conversation.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Life During VUCA Time

:: greg | CERM Academy ::

VUCA, an abbreviation for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, is meant to characterize the times we live in.  We can't just go by established patterns.  Alvin Toffler anticipated a somewhat shocking future, and this is it.

Greg and Vic, with their daughter Margaux, packed the Pauling House for what was a first for this audience: a talk on life during VUCA times with perspectives from the Hutchins family.

Greg talked about the challenge to continually reinvent himself given accelerated change in engineering.

Vic is in the midst of changing careers in mid life, turning herself, along with Margaux, into a computer programmer.

Margaux, age 18, has researched the return on investment for college and doesn't see how it pays off. A lot of people she knows find only low income jobs yet are already saddled with debt.

She has been homeschooling and volunteering on numerous projects, gaining life experience by leaps and bounds.  She and her mom just got back from Burning Man, a first time for both of them.

The premise of the talk, well established using slides, was that the challenges faced by each family member were highly representative of mega-trends in the workplace.  Their predicaments are our predicaments.

We're moving to a gig economy.  Artificial Intelligence is promising to automate many jobs that humans are currently paid to perform.  The nation (USA) is swimming in debt, yet only mega-spending on infrastructure is likely to keep it alive politically.

Greg has written and led workshops on Risk Based Thinking [tm] for quite some time, and through his CERM Academy counsels businesses on ways to manage risk in times of upheaval.

Learning to connect the dots and think outside the box may sound cliche, but only because such skills remain vitally important.

How we respond and adapt organizationally is at least as important as how we respond as individuals.

The talk was perfect for Wanderers and sparked conversation and debate.  Some of us are already retired whereas others are just starting their careers.  We come from many walks of life.  I didn't recognize quite a few.

Steve Crouch brought donuts.  Chips and salsa, along with soft drinks, were also served.  Deke recorded the whole presentation on his iPhone.  The projector misbehaved at first, so Vic and Margaux dashed home to get another one, but then it ended up getting the job done.

Deke (Derek)
:: derek @ LPH ::

Monday, September 18, 2017

It (movie review)

It took me a few weeks to realize this movie It at The Bagdad, my neighborhood movie theater, was the same movie as this box office record-setter I'd been reading about, featuring some scary clown.

For context, I was joking about Trump fitting the "scary clown" archetype before going, and then after coming back from the movie I dove into the Steve Bannon interviews, with Charlie Rose. 

So Trump is a student of Jung's I found out.  So the scary clown knows what he's doing?  Scary.

The film is a kind of Goonies meets Stand By Me meets Carrie, and some other horror films you may have heard of. 

The directing is confidant, way more than competent, and is self aware of its genre, which filmmakers in this area generally need to be.  It's a world of symbols and motifs, of nightmares and minor keys.

As we learned from Vienna Circle, a good way of tackling taboo subjects and sending messages along to the tormented, is to employ the code language of Gothic horror. 

What children most fear, including their own fantasies of vengefully murdering others, get explicit treatment amidst manifestations of disgust and outrage over mistreatment.

In childhood, the local bullies may be of primary concern.  Intelligence learns to zoom out and appreciate the bigger picture.  A 27-year-long time cycle haunts this town.  The evil is at the archetypal level, less than in the individual incarnations.

The stereotype personalities in the making band together as blended hero, to fight their collective projection of pure Evil, whom they eventually find, and corner.  They fight for each other.

The hellmouth they find is worthy of another Buffy and crew.  I respect the cinematographic effects.

There's always a library, full of those musty books, telling texts that at least hint at the sulfuric sepulchral creatures that haunt the netherworld. 

Childhood means taking up the perennial battles against our own deepest fears. 

Horror flicks like this one help us focus and deal with whatever traumas.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Eye Glasses

Glenn and I moved some plants out of the expected rains, an October harvest, prior to which I shop vac-ed a bit, spewing fine what powder out the rear while barely getting enough pressure to lift a few rat turds.

I also swept a bunch in the basement, wherein the dust is harder to see but nevertheless a suspect.  New hot water heater going in, the last one lasting from a manufacture date in 1992, and installed before we moved in to what these days we call the Blue House.

I'm blaming the fine dust for the more milky vision, but according to WebMD and other sources, I'm overdue for another eye exam.  I rolled over on my main frames the other night, falling asleep to quantum mechanics (Bell's Theorem experiments again), and woke up to another logistical challenge.

Of course it doesn't help that the city's air is full of particulate matter, the detritus of incinerated forest out the Gorge. I-84 has been closed for some time.  The fire is less than half contained.

Lloyd Center Lenscrafters didn't carry spare parts, only sparkling new frames, but I was directed to a place I'd seen driving by on numerous car trips, may have even patronized in chapters past:  a frames fixer on SE Powell and Foster.

The guy was quick with the frames.  All they needed was new bows.  This milky vision symptom came later and seems fleeting hence the shop vac dust theory.  However I'm reminded by the Internet that I've got the problems of an almost sixty year old male.

I switched my healthcare plan awhile back and haven't visited my primary provider since the switch. However we're talking eye doctor here, not family care.

I'll be relying on pretty good vision in the coming weeks given all the driving and coding I have scheduled.  Vacation time is coming to an end.

No I don't have a bizmo yet (beyond the body itself), although my friend Tim Hitchcock does. He brought it to Sam Lanahan's gala gathering on Friday.  More about that gathering in another post.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Grampa Carl
:: grampa carl ::

Jack Urner
:: Jack Urner (my dad) ::

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Vacation Time

Half Octahedron

I was grateful for some downtime after the 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM gig, including commute, with some even longer hours ahead.  I'm just staying at home ("home me o stays is") and marveling at the strange colors.  Oregon's forests are burning, British Columbia's too.  The moon, almost full, is blood orange (deeper red than just copper). The atmosphere is full of ash.

Hurricane Harvey has already struck as of this writing, lots of collateral damage.  Irma is still swirling in the Atlantic, its future uncertain. Computer models see about two weeks ahead max. That's less a deficiency in computing than a feature of everyday math.  Climate modeling and weather modeling are two different things.  The former need not be detailed about day-to-day weather phenomena whereas in weather modeling, that's the whole point.

The downtime has not been idle time. I have more freedom to dwell on my own projects, which these days includes drilling into Jupyter Notebooks more, and sharing them on Github.  I'm recycling some of my homework from the 1990s wherein I dove into cryptography some.

The whole RSA thing (public key crypto) was fascinating. These days we hear more about the blockchain, with crypto-currencies bopping up and down like publicly traded stocks, investments in some Global Data Corporation (GCD) of the science fiction future (but with value today).

RSA is in every web browser so is for sure not off limits to journalism, given Mozilla is free open source, plus the patents have expired.

When you use your Visa card number via HTTPS (little lock next to URL), you're in TLS mode, meaning your browser and some distant server have shaken hands (shorthand for "opened an encrypted channel") that makes it difficult for 3rd parties to crack in, stealing info.  People are meant to have secrets in current economic models, if prosperity is a goal.

What I'm attempting is an on-ramp into Python the computer language, where I explain a little Group and Number Theory along the way, somewhat mirroring an established academic approach you will find in some progressive high schools and colleges.

RSA is completely open, as an algorithm.  What makes it cryptographically secure are current facts about the state of the art, in mathematics and computing power.

Bitcoin and blockchain technology leverage similar facts.

A bitcoin miner, a dedicated computer, has the job of brute forcing through a math problem that should take about ten minutes.

The miner that gets there first broadcasts to all the others, and in the case of a tie, there's a way of breaking it.

The miner's version of the blockchain thereby "wins the day" (actually just the block) and the block detailing what just happened (a set of transactions) around the world, in the last twenty or thirty minutes or so, is accepted by all the others as "the truth" and on we go, block by block.

Lots of blockchains are up an running, many of them experimental given this is all recent technology.

Glenn and Joanne Baker came through for dinner with Carol and I at Bread & Ink.  They were on vacation too, exploring Ashland (pun intended) after catching the eclipse.  I was at work during the eclipse, but allowed to go outside to get the 99.4% experience (not totality).

They were able to see Crater Lake, but on some days I gather the smog has been filling the crater, hiding the lake from the rim.

Oregon is burning, as I said at the top.

We had heavy rainfall all winter and a lush spring, then the water shut off (no rain) and lush vegetation turned to tinder.  The flick of a cigarette will set off a major forest fire.  Some jerk was doing fireworks near Eagle Creak.  There's no telling how careless some will be.

Glenn Stockton (different Glenn) has been assiduously working on the back patio and backyard, on those C6XTY sculptures. I've had an art teacher visit.  I should encourage Julian to swing by.

Most of these sculptures are on their way to a photo shoot, and some won't come back.

I'm reminded of Bonnie Tinker's Love Makes a Family float, a tall-tiny house on a wagon, that used to sit out there too.

Our Quaker Meeting was supportive of liberal values, with member Dawn Wicca providing safe haven for said float (I believe I'd become a non-member by then, without changing in my love of beer).

Vacation time is a chance to run errands and catch up on stuff.

I rolled over on my glasses (talk about careless) and wonder if Lenscrafters at Lloyd Center will be up for fixing them.

Carol (88, hard of hearing) needs to replace a charge card she canceled, then thought she'd lost, then found again.  Lloyd and OnPoint are not far apart.

Glenn Baker and Kirby Urner