Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mycology Festival

I'm super-uninformed about the fungal inhabitants of Planet Earth, in terms of their names and ecosystem niches.  That doesn't mean I don't find them fascinating.  Given Christine is a professional photographer of same, i.e. makes a part of her living selling beautiful pictures of these guys, I was happy to use that as an excuse to pay a visit to Miller Hall, a part of the World Forestry complex near to the Oregon Zoo (shares a parking lot).

Indeed, parking can be a problem in that lot, so if you're a tourist or smart Portlander, consider parking below in Goose Hollow or nearby and visit Goose Hollow Inn for some fine local fare (I had Country Boy IPA).  Then hop the Max for one stop and study the quirky yet excellent timeline made from a core sample drilled as a prelude to carving this deep tunnel Max station into hard rock.  The elevators will take you hundreds of feet, to the surface.

Patrick, a co-worker, was on an independent health hike from Asylum District to the zoo.  I used my Max ticket to revisit Goose Hollow Inn to meet him for some Sunday Headless Chickens (Bloody Marys).  We rejoined the Mycology Festival and I sampled yet more of the exquisite shroom-based miso the Culinary Institute was serving.

The Pacific Northwest is haven to a large number of fungal species, so no wonder you have a legion of shroom-heads out here.  The festival was well attended.  Hugely knowledgeable experts where on hand, to identify specimens and give advice to hunters and collectors.  Again, I'm quite on the fringe of this subculture, but I appreciate the well-organized event.  The white square worked fine when swiping my card.  Encouraging.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reminiscing About Conferencing / Software

Speaking of Quakers, a long term low priority topic (in the sense of non-urgent), is do we want to open source any of our PHP + MySQL LAMP stack stuff through NPYM (where these are most used).  I'm suggesting moving slowly, in light of how specialized and esoteric our needs in the first place.  An adequate needs assessment has not been done.  Open sourcing is not the first step but a much later step in a longer process, as I have been underlining in committee / subcommittee threads.

I was NPYM Registrar at least one year, passing the baton to Dave Fabik as I recall.  That was in my FoxPro chapter, a language since discontinued, though still popular in Prague they tell me.  Actually the USA is full of FoxPro adherents and I don't mock it in any way.  Serious applications that do heavy lifting were my bread and butter, from camp registration to food banking to hospital data collection work (in tandem with other products -- the camp stuff was in dBase not VFP (they're all called xBase in the lingo)).

Anyway, that was before watching over Steve's shoulder in the Open Bastion chapter, which saw several conferences produced, only some of which I got to be at and observe first hand.  GOSCON was maybe my favorite because so esoteric.  I don't think I'll ever see one quite like that again.  That's where I first ran into Rami Kassab.  Then the DjangoCons were good, ApacheCon... nothing less than top notch, though I'm not a judge of speaker quality, not being a web framework geek (FoxPro was thick client LAN-based, pre-TCP/IP even).

I'm a somewhat peripheral player given IT Committee has a rather narrow mandate at the moment and grand schemes to use Github for anything are far from front burner.  That's fine with me.  I'm more here to grease the wheels for conversation among the principal players than to press for any new agenda.  The wheels were already turning when I got here.  I'm just adding some lubricant and telling campfire stories from my software developer past (now I teach a language, a little different, yet related).

:: from xkcd ::

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Threshing Session

:: meeting room, Stark Street facility ::

Yes, I'm blogging from the meeting room right now, but like a TV reporter in front of the camera before the event begins.  The Quakers are mostly down at Social Hour, schmoozing, which is what I'd usually be doing, but the hubbub was distracting.

I'm also listening to SomaFM (Drone Zone), probably sucking off Meeting Wifi.  Lew et al have done a good job reconfiguring the building to take advantage of what bandwidth we have.  The laptop is likewise "live", which is why at least the first couple paragraphs were real time.

I'll probably want to put this away soon, when more people show up (only three in here besides me, listening to Lucinda).  In geek world, like at Google, it's OK to keep using a laptop when a speaker is speaking, as remarked upon soon into it by Andrew Bacevich, a progressive Catholic (or so he seems to me).

Now there's no one here but me, when I snapped the above picture.

Quakers are not like Mormons or Masons in having "members only" rooms or rituals.  We have rooms and rituals, inner sanctums, retreats, but non-members are allowed to infiltrate by design, as a way of keeping a check on member honesty.  Quakers noticed from studying history (lived experience writ large) that a "members only" club design leads to abusive relationships, institutionally speaking.  Chuck Fager goes into this at some depth in an adjacent blog posted video.

What are we threshing about?  Depends whom you ask but the Bulletin distilled it down to a little box, so I should grab a screen shot of that:


The prospect of losing the PSC committee is exercising (worrisome, anxiety-producing) for many Friends as it looks like a disembowelment, a suicidal act.  The right to have such a Committee was won through bitter struggle so to just give away the store looks a tad cuckoo to put it nicely.

But that's just one angle, probably more prevalent among oldsters like me.  The younger hipsters see a way forward where we all turn to one guy or gal for guidance, or treat as a catalyst or whatever.  I'm hoping to pick up on what the new lingo might be, in the aftermath of such a radical surgery.

My guess is Friends will back away from the precipice and signal a willingness to resume their duties as Quakers (a self identified Friend has one choice: to walk the talk or appear hypocritical).

However, that we've even been to this brink says a lot about us and the State of our Society.

Our upcoming State of Society Report will need to draw from whatever Megge and Rick put together (they're to write some report).  I'll be sending some analysis to Philadelphia, plus blogging here obviously.

I think I'll move to the library now, and take some more pictures.

Marty has a laptop open, so I feel OK for me to do that also.  Good to see Carl, sitting in front of me.  He's clerk of Nominating, which is sourcing this proposal to shelve Peace and Social Concerns.

"Friends do not avoid issues which are difficult and controversial, or complex, or require learning information of an esoteric nature, and threshing sessions help the community get up to speed in advance of going back to executive mode."  That's a paraphrase.  Hmm... I don't see Josh.  I thought he might have a view on all this.

Megge is opening the discussion on whether we agree that the topic is "how best might Multnomah Meeting address Peace and Concerns issues?"

We're back to the water / welling / bubbling metaphor which has been popular in meeting lately, one of our thematic memes.  Catholics go through these.  Seems the topic wording is more vague than what was put in the newsletter.

Some Friends are too upset by the prospect of killing off Peace and Social Concerns (OK, icing it for a couple years); they want to thresh about their shock and worry about losing it, and maybe to share about their PTSD from being on the committee in the past.  We have some PSC veterans here.

Veterans:  Joanne Luchini, Carol Urner, Jim Metcalf, Desiree Hellegers, Debbie Averill... so far everyone is speaking passionately about how a Peace and Social Concerns Committee is vital to Quakerism.  Jan Kjerne remembers a time thirty years ago when the committee members all wanted to act solo and never attend meetings.  That's probably the time this meeting seriously faltered before, in the 1980s.

Jim emphasized that such a committee is not about solving all the world's problems, but about supporting people doing serious work in the world as peace workers.  The committee provides advice and coaching and is a repository for the meeting's organizational memory.

Still an hour to go.

Carl, clerk of Nominating, finally addressed the question as to why we're even having this discussion, as so far no one has backed Nominating's proposal.  Mostly, it seemed to Nominating that Friends were not interested in serving on a reputedly "falling apart" committee.

The idea that people might come to Peace and Social Concerns meetings without going through an appointment process sounded like a good way to address this apparent reticence on the part of potential committee members to come forward with concerns and leadings.

"There's still a Peace and Social Concerns Committee" Carl claims.  That sounds a tad euphemistic to my ears.  He used the word "goofy".  Mom said "I don't think you're goofy Carl".  Carl:  "well, it may be that the proposal was."

Eddy is reviewing her career with the meeting, as several Friends have.  We have only about nine minutes left.  Glee is confused about how to separate her concerns into Oversight and/or Peace and Social Concerns.  She's relatively new to Friends.

I don't sense any interest in shelving the committee so far.  My guess is the Meeting will move to resume operations as usual, with this vital organ intact.  That doesn't settle the issue of AFSC Liaison though, as I will likely discuss in a future blog post.  For today, that's a tiny footnote.

Peace and Social Concerns

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Zero Theorem (movie review)

Glenn and I agreed afterwards, at the nearby English-style pub, lights out shades pulled (a holdover from bombers over Britain days, unfriendly).  This Monty Python esque movie is a frolic in the collective consciousness of our day, with perfectly played stereotypes or masks (archetypes if you're Jungian).

The "ga-ga girl" from Management, top of her class, kept being a spelling teacher in my fantasies, and I knew why.  The son of Management was convincing, with the onset of hormones, already a smart cookie.  The supervisor of our anti-hero (or hero) is brilliant as well.  And so on.  Management does a great job.  Having so much set in a church, which burned down when none of the faithful monks (vow of silence) would yell "fire!" made this a comic Brazil like relief.

The job life there is so utterly crazy yet a lot like mine "crunching entities" (I crunch with "objects"), and instead of pneumatic tubes ala Brazil we have glowing test tubes of fluid as the storage medium du jour, with human hands still in the picture.  Storing data in fluids as gene sequences (packets) to be assembled later (they're numbered) isn't such a bad idea, and glowing is like labeling, so Gilliam's team may have nailed it.  Pizza will of course still be popular.  The realism level here is quite high, right down to the almost-contemporary advertising and product placement gags.

I won't go into the plot or share more of the jokes.  Check the official trailer for more details of that sort.

Glenn knows about the authentic English-style pub tables one may procure in Dundee, a nearby town in wine country, Willamette Valley.  I used to live about three blocks from here in Hollywood, for which the theater is named or vice versa, used to serve on the Neighborhood Committee in fact, with neighbors and realtors bellyaching about the supermarket moving out, and someone with a pet cougar.  I rented a basement space from a dear Quaker family with kids, watched 'em both grow to adulthood before I passed on (met my death on) _______ [intentionally left blank].

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A Quaker Arc

Fighting Quakers

Speaking of Carl Jung's Red Book, I will be suggesting in my Quakernomics talk tonight that branches of Gnosticism may have re-awakened within specific branches of Quakerism, but then I'm using a larger backdrop wherein Quakers, whatever their diverse makeup, had almost peaked around the time Philadelphia was Quakerdom's new capital (well before 1776 in other words).

So it's a bell-shaped curve rising up towards the "total capitalism" phase, when Quakers gave birth to the industrial revolution, and by extension the UK itself, with Friends then starting to experience diminishing power "until 1756, when they refused to vote a tax for war against the Shawnee and Delaware Indians".

Their refusal to fight the "Indians" was somewhat the final straw.  Then their refusal to support slavery was just beyond the pale.

Many a Quaker family fled westward in the build-up to the Civil War, finding themselves unwelcome guests, viewed as outright terrorists, or as disruptive at best, in the pro-slavery South.

However, in the UK, slavery was a less "in your face" phenomenon, and Quakers continued to climb the social ladder with their crowning achievement being this Iron Bridge which opened in 1781.

So let's use 1781 to mark the apogee of Quaker power in Universe so far, with a long sunset phase carrying us through the North American dark ages and near extinction within the derivative Pastoral forms.

I wrote a little program to draw timelines in ASCII, with a few examples:
timelines = {
"Oliver Cromwell":(1599,1658),
"George Fox":(1624,1691),
"Henry VIII":(1491,1547),
"Rene Descartes":(1596,1650),
"Margaret Fell":(1614,1702),
"Mary Dyer":(1611,1660),
"Queen Elizabeth":(1533,1603),
"Ben Franklin":(1706,1790)}

def make_line(person, start = 1490, end = 1800):
    line = (end - start) * ["."]
    born = person[1][0] - start
    died = person[1][1] - start
    line[born:died]= ["@"] * (died - born)
    return "{:>40} {}".format(person, "".join(line))

for person in timelines.items():

The British Empire peaks when Quakers have already started to wane, not surprisingly as imperialism is incompatible with egalitarianism.

The US empire -- more a flash in the pan by comparison -- takes place against the backdrop of the New World Order or whatever we wish to call the Future Unknown.

Historians and some economists may seize on Quakernomics as a useful meme. We shall see.

As I posted on Facebook recently:
Our Multnomah Meeting spawned a Quaker Economics Group under Joe Havens for awhile, huge interest and attendance, but no one thought to coin "Quakernomics" as anything special at least that I can recall. So hats off to these PR gurus and their new branch of economics. May they live long and prosper (Spock sign).

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014


I spent some of this morning reopening NARMIC files one might say, not that I actually made it to Swarthmore or anything. This is Opt Out season in Portland and plus AFSC is always studying militarism in one form or another.

"Ain't gonna study war no more" is maybe a fond hope on the part of that folk singer, but I don't see a way to follow suit at the moment, as steeped in war as the planetary humans still be (it's more about upgrading the quality i.e. making it more virtual, that AVP is about: Alternatives to Violence, lots of blog posts already...).

So in that mode, it's unsurprising I found myself watching this Google Talk by Andrew Bacevich regarding hyper-militarism in the USA.  Shades of Walter Kaufmann I'd say, in issuing these warnings, and of course Chalmers Johnson would be in this choir.  Hey, I'm obviously appreciative.

Then an unplanned nap hit me and the day went by.  That kind of time shifting happens when you're a world traveler and need to accommodate time zones, which sometimes one accommodates by ignoring, as in some cities the infrastructure is permanently active and in fairly high gear.  So just keep going in whatever time zone you're in and ignore the relative positions of planet and star.

Portland is getting to be a lot more that way.

But then of course the Internet is always that way too, as it's always "rush hour" in some subnet or other.  Topology replaces geography at some level.

OK, back to the lambda calculus (i.e. day job).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PPUG 2014.9.24 / Ongoing Threads

We're learning about how to use Django + Postgres to handle unstructured / schemaless data.  Clearly Postgres is an SQL engine, so this talk was about a kind of hybrid.  The searchable JSON field type is key, with binary JSON coming in version 9.4.  JSON is the de facto standard for web APIs.

I was in a somewhat grumpy mood on the bus, as I knew we'd be having pizza, courtesy of Energy Builders, or job-seeking sponsor of the evening, along with Urban Airship.  The Division bus 4 was running a bit behind schedule, not unusual during rush hour.  Contributing to my grumpiness was my ongoing thread with GS Chandy on math-teach.  The discussion is moderated and sometimes I'll spend a lot of time on a post only to see it vanish into oblivion, or at least not make it to the official archives.

With django-pgjson added, you can query JSON fields, impose orders and filters and so forth.  Basically you're doing the kind of thing SQL does but within JSON fields inside Postgres.  Don't imagine Postgres is necessarily slower than Mongo.  This seems like a cutting edge talk.

From my posting to GSC:
National governments generally use schools to instill nationalism, a form of patriotism.  This may mean familiarizing students with the roles and institutions available to them in civic government, or perhaps it means exerting peer pressure to enlist in a military service, provided that's a voluntary choice to begin with.  

In this model, schools are seen as extensions of recruiting offices by the military services.  That's another reason a Quaker family might homeschool in a given zip code:  the programming at the local public school comes across as too militaristic (e.g. mandatory ROTC for boys).

Lets start with a list of roles and then start looking at workflows.  

Roles + Workflows is how to analyze a Quaker meeting as well (where "Role" might be "on a committee" i.e. other objects need to be defined to give roles their sense -- but lets keep thinking in terms of theater and scripts).

"Role playing games" tend to be popular among young people yet how much time do we spend on the mathematics of "game theory" (closely related or perhaps a part of GST, as you know).
As you may know, in our geographic region, school has been used as a tool of cultural genocide in that native populations were forced to surrender their young to boarding schools / indoctrination centers the purpose of which was to expunge the region of local cultures and replace them with a uniform Anglo-Euro veneer. These boarding schools no longer exist as such, but their after-effects are still part of everyday experience in our region.

One purpose of these indoctrination camps or prisons was to make the "nuclear family" the only acceptable norm and to recast family relationships according to the "white man" model. The imposition of alien marriage customs was part and parcel of this genocidal program, as memorialized at the cultural museum on the Warm Springs reservation.

 A nation such as India will go into a region such as Ladakh and apply western concepts of "living standards" e.g. cash income per annum, to determine the indigenous lifestyle "poor" as in "under-developed". We're talking about a lifestyle that has evolved over millennia that includes a lot of hard manual labor, but then many adults with privileges and freedoms actively choose manual labor as a voluntary activity, so that in itself is not a sign of "poverty".

What are the criteria of "poverty" anyway? I'd say malnourishment is a sign of poverty and by that criterion the US population, in suffering from increasing obesity rates, is becoming increasingly impoverished over time. It's not really about money as in some economies that commodity is not so much needed. And yet the "dollars per annum per household" measure is still often quite mindlessly applied, as if money were the measure of all things.

 Some in my circle have been to Ladakh and we have actively discussed and been to events about whether "schooling" and "westernization" in general is helping improve living standards there, or whether it is actually having an overall negative impact in disrupting a 1000s-of-years old lifestyle by penning children into the "Free and Compulsory" new schools that India sees fit to provide.

Here's a blog post with Youtube on the topic.
I managed to get plenty of pizza and am glad to have salvaged at least some of my prose. We talked some about the ShellShock exploit / vulnerability.  This was during our "ask the audience" session wherein people poll the audience.  Who's using Python 3.x?  Who's using Flask?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bombs Away


WDC is doing what it does best again:  bombing.  There's always a cloak of "coalition members" (e.g. CNN) to keep our socio-paths in DC from seeming too Unabomberish, but I think that's a transparent rain coat at this point (apologies to Mark Allyn).  We know the Pentagon to be a bastion of mental illness and there's not much anyone can do about it, other than "sit back and eat pizza" (as I used to put it, back when bombing Belgrade was the cruise missile fiesta du jour, under Clinton).

However we should also move further west in our analysis, closer to The Heartland as it's called e.g. Ohio and Michigan, where you have many immigrants from the Middle East with strong views and extended families.  Atrocities by self-proclaimed ISIS members (or branded as such by media) trigger demonstrations in Detroit, which in turn make "bombs away" an acceptable policy, a cathartic revenge killing, characteristic of Christians who haven't turned the other cheek since the crucifixion.  Why should they?  No one else does, except maybe Buddhists sometimes.

The phenomenon of immigrants with an ax to grind is a standard pattern.  Organized crime was about to capitalize in Havana when Castro spearheaded a revolution, and Florida has ever since supported ostracizing Cuba, a policy the rest of the world pretty much ignores.  Many Syrians in the US have their own axes to grind e.g. with the Assad regime.  Their lobbyists become a source of white papers, just as refugees from Saddam's government were milked for justifications for invading Iraq.  The war profiteers are eager to test the F-whatevers of course (F-22s in this case).

Around AFSC there's this fixed view that the military is for those too mentally incapacitated to survive in a civilian ecosystem.  The gangland-mercenary lifestyle becomes an end in itself and killing sprees get you merit badges on your resume and/or colorful threads on your uniform / costume.  There's an esprit de corps, a camaraderie, that develops around bombing, both suicidally and otherwise.  Terrorism begets fraternalism, with token women as brothers.  ISIS and the Pentagon have much in common in that way:  both provide career opportunities for fratricidal morons.

Of course not everyone in the military is a rank idiot.  Starting wars is easy whereas getting them to wind down takes expertise and diplomacy.  The idiots all say war becomes necessary when diplomacy fails, but then outward war is by definition a failure, so it's eventually back to diplomacy again, this time perhaps more in earnest by people ready to try living as a civilians again, perhaps desperate to do so having tasted the no-win dead end that is war.  So we'll recruit a military person from time to time, as a war-stopper.  Quakers attract a cohort of ex-military in every generation who believe as Smedley Butler did:  that war is a racket.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quick Insert

Before racing down to People's Climate March, I was thinking to review El Topo (Jodorowsky directing, and acting), however I'm under some time pressure.  September 21 is one of those circle your calendar type days.

I'm also cramming on Category Theory for notation buffs, though I might stay on the humanities side and say "analogy" or "metaphor" in place of "functor" given similarities in meaning.

Talked to Chandler at meeting, wanna figure out which "island in the Willamette" he was yakking about.

Mt. Tabor is looking good.

For further viewing:
Type Theory Foundations
Category Theory by Tom LaGatta