Monday, February 24, 2020

Midsummer's Dream in Portland

I'm posting this in the wintertime, still February. I thought I'd share something relatively upbeat, with a festival atmosphere.

When I think about the positive connotations of an asylum, I think of festivals and celebrations.  Maybe the dress code is a little crazy.  I've never been to Burning Man proper, but I've been to satellite events happening elsewhere, attended by some of the same people.  I'm sure that's another source of the vibe I'm attempting to somehow capture.

The party archetype connects to Dionysus, to Bachninalia, in Western Civ. The stereotype suggests Roman excess, drunken orgies, like in Fellini's Satyricon.  That's one extreme.  Somewhere in that mix we get the more sober engineers, the event planners and producers, charged with keeping people safe and responding to emergencies.  Actually I'm conflating roles.  Think of theme parks, and family fun.

Do refugee camps share cartoons with the kids?  Do they feature circus tents?  How about theaters?  When you're looking for ways to manage crowds, have them settle down, the usual solution is entertainment, which is oft times informational.  Film festivals.  Documentaries.

In my Coffee Shops Network business planning, we encourage people boning up, becoming informed, studying, which could mean watching lots of Youtubes.  Because then it's your job, in proportion to your level of performance in gaming (think "language games") to commit funds (your winnings) towards various programs, some in progress, some storyboarded.  To the extent our clientele is well informed, they're more likely to commit their winnings wisely.

When you help fund a program, you'll be in some cases looking forward to jumping into the action.  I commit to a somewhat science fictional Trucker Exchange Program, in some dimensions an outgrowth of my Business Mobile (BizMo) fleet fantasy.  We do location scouting in our bizmo caravans, sometimes with bigger trucks to follow, heavy equipment, in order to construct a new campus location.  In some cases, we'll provision by helicopter, per Fuller's visions in Shelter magazine (4D Timelock etc.).  My science fiction revisits many familiar themes, already prevalent before I joined the scene.

Where shall we put the new experimental prototype community of tomorrow?  Are we learning about an ecology?  Are we in Antarctica?  In the Amazon?  Will airstrips be involved?

Breakfast at Tom's

I was talking with Hayden about Libya at Tom's this morning. We were reminiscing about our time in Rome together, as young boys.

I was pointing to the painting of Portland decorating the north wall of this neighborhood diner, mentioning the Steel Bridge as an early icon in my consciousness. Although I was born in Chicago, my memories really start in Portland.

Dad moved us here from the University of Chicago when he joined the Portland planning bureau. However he'd always dreamed of working overseas in "developing countries" as we called them. He jumped at a chance to work with Libyans.

Hayden reminded me about Colonel Gaddafi's famous Amazonian bodyguards (all women). I remarked he was indeed a colorful character and recalled his setting up a tent for a meeting in the UN in New York, which made for entertaining theater.  I wasn't in the habit of demonizing the guy, as many around me would.

A story broke recently that a certain crypto company based in Switzerland had a compromised back door. We were told some of the things the CIA supposedly learned in this chapter.  Do we believe the news?  I'm sure most of us do.

Libyans took the blame for the downing of a commercial 747 over Scotland.  That wasn't discussed in the article I saw however.  The stories were more focused on the German nightclub massacre.  Libyans were overheard congratulating themselves, we're told.

Our family moved to Rome, where I first met Hayden, in the 1960s, so that my dad could practice the profession of planning, his client being the government of Libya.  When Gaddafi took over from King Idris, the work continued unabated.  Libya needed plans.

We saw the lives of most Libyans improving over the years.  I never actually never made it to Libya myself, nor did dad ever go back after the 1970s.  His career took him to the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Lesotho.

Hayden is visiting this part of the world because he's a cat lover and owns a special cat, worth a considerable sum, that he hopes to breed.  As of this writing, he's optimistic that kittens may already be on the way.  The special cat will stay here tonight.  I'll add a picture.  [Update: the cat is staying with the breeder up to the last minute, will go directly to the airport, so we won't get to meet].

Dad didn't live long enough to see Libya demolished and looted, its weapons shipped to Mesopotamia to fuel the wars in that region.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Wanderers Presentation: Auto Automation

Our small group, a side-effect of the ISEPP Lecture Series, gathered to learn as much as we could, in a short Thursday morning, from Gordon Hoffman.  He has followed the autonomous vehicle story for many years, enjoying the contests, and studying in his lab.  Gordon is a paradigm autodidact, nowadays tackling issues around higher frequency power grids and communications speeds (4G, 5G...).

I arrived a few minutes late, and Gordon graciously caught me up, as we were but one or two slides into it.  Daimler featured prominently, as one of the companies seriously exploring truck automation and optimization possibilities.

Daimler Trucks also a boasts a Leed certified North American headquarters on Swan Island, at the industrial center of the Port of Portland, close to the action at a ship to rail and truck interface.  Port of Vancouver is nearby to the north, along the deeper Columbia, with its Pacific Ocean access.  Seattle's is the nearest behemoth port along the Pacific.

Gordon painted an appealing picture of electrified fleet vehicles quietly, efficiently, autonomously plying the road ways, periodically checking themselves in for cleaning and maintenance.

Street side parking would be mostly a thing of the past, as would be car dealerships, and vast central business district parking garages. People could enjoy 24/7 driverless cab service, stepping nimbly from vehicle to vehicle, everything cybernetic and programmable.  The energy savings alone would be enormous.

Maybe they would still rent old fashioned muscle cars for occasional joy riding.  People still ride horses recreationally, after all.

Gordon also shares my interest in the spread of high voltage DC lines and the ongoing integration of electrical networks.  Growth in Asia has been impressive whereas North American engineers encounter endless red tape when it comes to any so-called "national energy policy".

So interested is Gordon in the driverless truck convoy idea, that he inquired about doing military service as a guinea pig himself.

I have also made guinea pig noises about wanting some truck tours, in the context of my Trucker Exchange program: trucking-related tours of duty for academic credit, like a peace corps, with built in opportunities for citizen diplomacy (like at truck stops especially).  I've shared some of these reveries in my YouTube channel over the years, in these blogs, and on Medium.

As Gordon pointed out in his concluding slide, New York City went from being knee deep in horse manure, with a stench people today would consider unbearable, to a more pristine gas mixture, in under two decades, thanks to affordable motorcars with internal combustion engines.

The horses went into retirement.

Could today's emissions infused-collective breathing soup be purified even further?

Could the human pilot of a city automobile be going the way of the elevator man?

Between today's vehicles and full autonomy, comes a lot of pilot testing.  Whatever the long term future, the morphing of our driving experience is already changing full tilt, with GPS, backup cameras, dashboard apps, many new sensors.

I chirped up about Disney's EPCOT (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), not the theme park that was actually built by his brother, and part of the original plan (for greater DisneyWorld), but the planned community, with built-in turnover.  I've been "infected" with that vision myself, though it's not just one such Prototypes City that I'm hoping to still see.

Bucky's gargantuan stadium-shaped Old Man River City (picture tiered bleachers scaled to garden apartments) was about prototyping, and is but one example.  However mega-projects went out of style in many areas, but for military endeavors in some cases.  Within the context of experimental townships and campuses, programmable transportation solutions could be tested and fine tuned.

Gordon has appeared in my blogs before, as one of the Wanderers, and as an early board member and instructor for Saturday Academy, an experimental school that brings together younger students (pre-college, usually) and career professionals.

I've learned a lot from my association with this academy over the years, from field testing some of my curriculum ideas around computer science and geometry.  For example, I got to work with the Hillsboro Police Department, West Precinct, where Saturday Academy was hired to share free, open source computing with underprivileged immigrant kids, or with whoever signed up for the program.

In addition to diving back into electrical engineering and smart grid devices, Gordon is looking into Python (the computer language) and its data science ecosystem (such as Jupyter Notebooks).  Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a role in the equations, as our technology rolls forward...  or backward as the case may be.

Real intelligence is still needed, to help steer the zeitgeist in a human-friendly direction.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Exploring Our American Heritage

I keep expecting the Jesuits at Central Catholic or one of those, to invite me to one of their seminars, in walking distance, or maybe a series on curriculum concepts. I wouldn't be the only presenter of course. I have no monopoly on American Heritage.

I understand where the "public schools", made to toe the line in Math (Common Core etc.) and unlikely to innovate in Literature, might not touch this stuff.  I've worked on the math textbook publishing side, and know there's little room for making waves.  We were attempting to sneak in some coding (Logo and BASIC back in those days), and already that was too much.

However the private schools have more leeway and I'd think the Vatican would be grooving on Beatnik Bucky's Greenwich Village not-so-square style mytho-poetry.

Just kidding, I'm not surprised by the silence.  Quakers are good at silence too, judging by their (our) own PR.

I'm better positioned to affiliate my content, a brand of Transcendentalism, with Quakerism, even though I have plenty on my resume thanks to Catholicism.  I'm referring to my years working for the Dominicans (Jersey City), and later for the Sisters of Providence here in Oregon.

I've also worked in a number of local Catholic schools in Greater Portland, sharing a STEM curriculum that's pretty much devoid of "eutrigon" type thinking but not entirely, given Turtle Graphics live on (thank you Seymour Papert et al).

Sometimes I work it in around the edges (the geometry memes) such as by making C6XTY assembly and disassembly (fun) a point of the class.

That approach especially worked with Saturday Academy, which come to think of it is connected to Portland University (Catholic).  I was able to field test Martian Math during two separate summer schools, in the luxury computer science lab at Reed College.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Curated Chess Channel

After our family pulled up stakes in Rome, mom & dad served as camp directors at this AFSC summer camp for people in the Middle East interested in ending conflict. We built a swimming pool together, or started off in that direction. The terrain was solid rock and we only got a pool in outline. It might have made a nice basement for some future building or condo. I haven't been back to Ramallah to see if I could find any trace of it.

Anyway, that was the year Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer faced off for the world championship.  I came to this channel in the midst or revisiting those games, which I was also tracking at the time.  We would work until it got hot (early to mid morning) and then knock off for ice cream at Rukab's.

I was going from middle to high school that year, and once we got back to North America, for job hunting purposes, I started life as a freshman at Southeast High, Bradenton, not far from the Tropicana place.  Dad found work in the Philippines and I finished my freshman year in Manila.

I was used to being uprooted by that point and so was the school (ISM, formerly ASM).  Families were always coming and going in that capital.  My friend Glenn Baker would show up in our senior year, fresh from Islamabad and before that Turkey (with an interlude in Virginia or one of those).

Monday, February 03, 2020

Let Them Eat Soylent

Star Trekker

Kirby Urner
In a late bid to run as president, I'm handing out free bags of Soylent at the Krobar today, then dropping out of the race, with 0% of the vote. You know where to find me.

Kirby Urner My own approach is to cast Persia as the leading anti-nuke weapon power center, leaving the imams and ayatollahs to feel shame for disgracing Islam if they're hypocritical about their fatwah against weaponized atomics, a tool of satan. Suits my purposes to have a non-aligned network (pro UN Nuke Ban Treaty) on my side. California / Oregon (Cascadia) has already passed legislation in favor of the Persian stand.