Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Commenting on News

Blackwater's plan to hide behind the State Department, further soiling this nation's reputation, is not helpful to the USA's standing among nations. Is Condi really their protective mommy then? The FBI is being quite namby-pamby.

As far as the Iranian energy program goes, as a long time Fuller Schooler I'm always studying the grid maps. How will the new juice help alleviate power shortages in faraway Turkey? Lots to consider.

Monday, October 29, 2007

OLPC in Brazil

I'm sitting in a favorite coffee shop listening to the windows rattle, given the heavy base speakers in a vehicle just outside, waiting for the light to change. At home: science experiment in progress: is it the fuse box, the washing machine, or some other component that's failing?

The machine is pretty rusted, but I'm not one to replace unnecessarily, given the leanness and meanness I've needed to cultivate, to survive on my budget (not complaining -- it's ample). I've reactivated the circuit and mom will phone if the house shorts again (this AC 20 amper tends to take whole the house when she blows).

Much of my day is about passing the torch, helping a next generation get up to speed in various ways. The excellent thing about teaching is students come to class already spinning, sometimes at high speed, and that tends to rub off.

Academic cultures get good at creating positive synergies under optimum conditions, though many degenerate for lack of a sustainable balance among faculty (yes, a tautology). The "spin" metaphor traces to Fuller for me -- a word he kept for disciplined use within his self-invented philosophical language.

Anyway, it's great having so many good teachers, of all ages, keeping me up to speed on so many fronts. Just today, I got around to this video of XOs in Brazil, lighting up the lives of these talented students. OLPC is still in its infancy as of this writing, but the age of the low-to-no cost laptop is upon us, that much is clear.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Alternatives to Violence (AVP)

Our Quaker meeting is in the midst of this workshop right now, with participants taking a break for ordinary Meeting for Worship with the rest of us (I'm sitting this one out).

Part of me wants to call AVP "Quakers' answer to est" but that's a very esoteric thing to say, in part because no one remembers est anymore, which wasn't violent, but was edgy and austere (the way Quakers sometimes get, or "stern" as we say), with a lot of zen heritage.

Mostly I just make a joke connection between two dots: AVP the workshop and AVP the movie (Alien Versus Predator, a campy monster flick, very violent, with pretty good special effects).

But I am making a deeper point with such humor: that I think screen violence has its place, including in the lives of pacifists. "Theatrical violence" might be another term for it, "war movies" another.

We've always had such, and if it's not beautifully synthesized, like the ancient Greeks managed (along with many other delicate, studious civilizations) then it tends to get recklessly and inappropriately acted out by immature players who forget the alternatives part.

And those Buddhist depictions of hell aren't for sissies either, let's be honest.

We really need good screenwriters, storytellers, to help us stay sane, plus all kinds of other stuff (I'm not putting everything on the backs of the Screen Actors Guild, poor darlings). Props, sets.

Sometimes one hears me saying cutting things about AVP, like maybe it's too namby-pamby, e.g. maybe "not prison-based enough" (whatever that means). I cop to being polemical (ineffectively if hypocritical) but it's really in this spirit of wanting to foster competition among trainings, to keep the upgrades coming.

I think monoculture breeds good-for-nothingness after awhile. Monopolies tend to not work.

When Jesus said he came with a sword, yet preached non- violence, I think this is what he meant: we're supposed to "battle for God" (goddesses, gods, no God, whatever), as that keeps our diverse schools of thought intelligently engaged, flexible, adaptable, not frozen in dogmatic, calcified shapes, like ice sculptures.

A kind of inward/outward combat or competitive world game among schools hardly needs to be encouraged, as I'm simply describing the long term status quo. Only the names of the players keep changing, and yes, well, the rules too over time, the names of the games (links to Wittgenstein).

What we need to encourage is the practice of keeping the combat metaphysically high level, inward, non-violent, psychological, in the realm of the big screen, theater & television, with lots of good writers helping to steer.

More success along those lines would spell dramatically higher living standards for most people, including for many of those terrorists now actively working to kill our hopes for a better future.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Coffee Shop Schooling

Given the plummeting price of laptops and ubiquity of wifi, some of our Portland students have started formulating a position against wastefulness: why burn precious fuel, adding to global warming, just to get to math class, when math class could just come to us (me 'n my friends) via the corner coffee shop, which is also a kind of library (lots of print media, for those so inclined)?

Of course many of these students have no voting rights (yes, age discrimination -- but no, I'm not saying "discrimination" is something to "not do," quite the contrary, just not too stupidly, OK? (and developing one's sense of judgment is a life time process, somewhat defines your maturation into some kind of animal (and no, we don't all "end up the same" -- aren't supposed to (we have different tastes)))).

But their parents do, and are asking the same question.

Yes, of course some need brick and mortar public schools for their day care function, others for their organized sports. But it's not "either/or" is it? Join a team, build a schedule, exercise discipline (your peers are competitive), make good and efficient use of what all you've got. That's all we're saying (plus we practice what we preach -- don't wanna be hypocrites).

Don't forget how many families live in extremely isolated conditions in Oregon, oft times by choice, and oft times with bandwidth to spare.

And yes, I'm thinking specifically of Warm Springs and places like that, eager to cut loose from the ambient monoculture, yet willing to preserve ties with the feds, with the State of Oregon, in games of quid pro quo around taxes, tourism, gambling, fishing, health care or whatever.

Relevant reading: "Reinventing the wheel of education" (thread @ Math Forum)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tribal Sovereignty

Whereas neither "tribe" nor "sovereignty" are words of indigenous origin, it is historically the case that immigrants seized jurisdiction at gun point, then proceeded to make life difficult for North Americans wishing to continue lifestyles (including migration patterns) evolved over the past ten thousand years or more.

So-called "tribal sovereignty" has been rather difficult to re-establish. Immigrants and their privileged descendants still have the right to flaunt native laws, even on lands designated "tribal."

Oregon / Washington politicians have tended to align with Washington, DC and its Supreme Court on this issue, as imperialist "master race" types in training (snicker). The label "Indian lover" is like the kiss of death if you want to be president some day, or at least that used to be the common wisdom.

However, the tide may be turning, as more ties form between the Silicon Forest and tribes investing in tomorrow's high tech. Casinos are just the beginning.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 19, 2007

More AutoBio

So while growing up as an expat helped me become worldly, I was left behind vis-a-vis King Crimson or whatever, didn't have the standard cultural savvy upon arriving at Princeton.

I showed up a week early, lived on spam from WaWa -- because I'd heard spam was a thing to experience.

My roommate from Long Island found that completely different, coming to Princeton to encounter a spam eating guy from Magallanes Village (ironically so named by the people who ate him).

To this day, I'm out of sequence on a lot of stuff.

I first encountered Katie when she started hitting CBS radar, then through Shark Tale. Seems everyone else already knew from Leno that her biceps were bigger than Evil Bert's.

I got into Sesame Street in high school, already wearing my future TV producer hat.

My first car, a Honda Civic, was a present from my grandmother at age 28. Up until then, I'd mostly used public transportation, plus hitch hiked a lot (more some other time perhaps).

Nor have I ever seen a Sopranos, nor any Desperate Housewives (that I can remember anyway (OK, some excerpts)). Kinda weird huh? Go figure.

Most of middle America I've not seen, though we had Nebraska plates overseas some of the time, military base access (inexpensive scuba). Western Pennsylvania is cool, Montana.

I was born in Chicago, May 17, 1958.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WILPF Meets Wanderers

Tonight was mom's turn at bat. I'm blogging in real time. Good turnout. Milt, Rick, Allen... Liz.

Mom is decrying luddite investment houses that still indulge in space-based pie in the sky weaponry projects, beltway fluff, a fad tracing to the neocon idiocrats behind all that New American Century crapola.

Now she's talking about the NSA's crazy-making radomes, buckyballs used as ruggedized weather proofing for Jodie Foster type dishes.

Kinetic kill weapons ("Rods from God") would be based in space, but maybe have no explosives. They just drop stuff on people. Microwave guns might not be space based at all, but if controlled by satellite, they qualify as such. Plutonium triggers...

Speaking of NSA, there's a guy here with that form of Buddhism that used to be known as NSA. Apparently Linus Pauling did a book with their leader.

Now she's showing Addicted to War, an hilarious underground comic book that weaponry teetotalers use, trying to wean those poor lost soul LAWCAP types from their nasty bad habits.

Now she's going over the Kwajelein - Vandenburg - Ft. Greely triangle. "Pretty tricky business" she says (re the decoys).

However, the Pentagon remains confidant, pending maybe Poland's acceptance, that this plan will pan out.

Liz wondered how mom keeps from burning out, always working with dolts in Congress. She's only 26, and has already about had it with those numbskulls. Mom shared about her many heroes, Dennis Kucinich and such, still sources of hope. Bill Moyers.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), Carol Reilley Urner

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Random Photos

me, dad, mom, sis (philippines 1970s)

a portland knowledge lab annex
(wheel by dawn's friends)

steel bridge from a jet boat's vantage

Friday, October 12, 2007

Journaling WQM Business

Exhibit: scanned receipt from Costco, working off Diane's meal plans, assisted by Jane, paid for by DWA check, thence reimbursed by WQM Treasurer Charlie.

This was not the sum total of what we ate in two meals however, plus we sold back extra food at the end, to event attenders. Kiwanis catered three additional meals as well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Portland Radio

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quarterly Meeting (WQM Fall 2007)

I found this to be an unusually productive session.

MMM purchased a new computer projector, and shared it with Junior Friends, who were still high from their recent trip to Mexico, an eye opening growth experience for all concerned.

Jim Flory was approved to oversee the new web site.

Best of all was the discussion outside of Fanning, among some experienced nurses and attorneys, plus myself, regarding patient right of access to personal medical records i.e. to one's own about one's self.

I took the position of having automatic right of access, even if the medical language were quasi-indecipherable to a geek like me.

Even today, in some hospitals, employees just have to sign a form to gain unrestricted access to their own charts and files.

Others countered that patient exposure to unintelligible verbiage might encourage god playing (i.e. playing doctor), leading to bad decisions and a deteriorating medical condition, with the hospital made liable as a consequence.

The compromise seemed to be: feel free to access your own medical records, but don't think that entitles you to hold others accountable for what you do (or don't do) with that information (click here to accept and gain access).

On the winter camping front (I'd set up in a tent to practice my own spiritual discipline), I learned there's a reason they call it a mummy bag, and no, using it as a blanket is not guaranteed to produce a similar degree of cozy warmness. As it was, both nights were pretty cold, but with the second a lot warmer than the first.

Aimée said she has just the fire-starting system for winter campers, describing both the artifact and its manufacture (something about egg cartons and candle wax). She, Aimée of Multnomah, and Pan of Wolf Creek were then more formally introduced by me, Kirby of Bridge City, and a long time friend of both stellar women.

And speaking of stellar women, Bonnie Tinker and I spent quite a bit of time together, in spirited conversation and worship. Whereas we may not share strategies or see eye to eye on every issue, we have a lot of the same deeply held Quaker values.

The queries used to guide worship traced to FWCC's recent work to bring Quakers into sharper focus around the world. I was happy to see Doreen O'Dowd's name in the literature, our flying doctor friend in Lesotho and member of Ireland Yearly Meeting.

Tara, in Central Friends, enjoyed hiking again with Chris and Luci, plus doing the Adventure Course, an old favorite at this Mt. Hood area Kiwanis Camp.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Busy Friday

Right, not just Mondays get busy.

Today, after getting Tara to school, I rode shotgun with officer Bader on my hospital beat, an old playing field, but always new and different. I thought she was great, very X-Files, plus still high off her management workshop for 360compass, a 4dsolutions affiliate.

Then Diane swung by with mega-groceries, with a Freddies list for more. Turns out we frequent the same store but hardly ever run into each other (go figure). At Costco we physically collided, though with no ribs broken. All this food is for Willamette Quarterly Meeting, as my closer readers may already have guessed.

Then came the visit to the UPS Store up on Hawthorne, to send certified mail to the Governor of California's office. This is about my high school buddy, in the slammer since 1981 for murder one, and he's not the only criminal I've come to know over the years, deserving of another chance in this life.

OK, Luci's here now (both parents attorneys), and it's time that we finish packing and be gone, leaving house under guard (smile).

I'm tenting this time; no one needs to hear me snore in the forest (an old philosophers' joke).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Recalling Sputnik

I sort of expected more space program retrospectives, timed with this commemoration of Sputnik, a cultural icon and indelible what the bleep on the American psyche.

We're especially in need of some self reflection on recent intellectual history. What have we been teaching the kids ever since?

Right after Sputnik, school kids were told to dive head first into set theory, ala Bertie Russell and friends.

Parents suddenly had to endure future shock, given junior's unions and intersections of objects, subsets, empty set... which just wasn't fair!

It's the losers who have to change their ways, while we winners get our status quo "American way of life" preserved in every detail (unless we want to change, in which case everyone else should just move over pronto).

So comforting then, to have "won" the Cold War and not have to struggle with that infernal New Math any more!

Avast ye Venn Diagrams, begone ye SQL, it's a nostalgia trip to some chimerical neverland we're pursuing, with no time for anything Gnu, no time for anything "in the future" (like where's that again? -- never heard of it).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thoughts about Bookkeeping

What'll be fun is when some of the smart cookie NGO charities get their books projected in real time.

Make a donation, watch the money go to work. Track every penny if you like.

A "no secrets here" open books policy often makes for good fund raising, plus gives donors bragging rights they might not otherwise have.

However, these same practices might work for a mom & pop coffee shop just as well. Buy a bagel, watch the debits and credits ripple through the system on a wall-mounted flatscreen.

Is the profit margin scandalous? No.

Do loyal customers like seeing a special fund build, so that staff might get some much deserved R&R? Yes.

Per my limited Free Geek experience, I'd say top quality free and open source generic bookkeeping software is still in short supply.

For the NGOs at least, it'd make sense for Foundations to band together and to give them a boost. Pioneer some new designs that take advantage of hindsight, why not?

"Want our millions? Then document your expenses using X" might be a stipulation.

Of course that might get out of hand, if each funder tried to micro-manage which open source bookkeeping application got selected, as a condition for funding.

A more realistic goal is to design and implement systems capable of generating the kinds of feedback requested by each funder. That might include a growing archive of videos, with donors getting special access rights.

Don't be afraid to tell it like it is, only to see some backers drop away, even as others freshly join and/or step up their involvement.

Not every relationship is meant to last as long as every other. A given funder might relish the one night stand as it were. "Get in and get out, make a difference" is the preferred M.O. (the "pinch hitter" design pattern).

One hallmark of a friendly system is it's good about dumping its data, doesn't interfere with migration to competing systems.

Unfriendly systems count on using the captured data as leverage: "Want out? It'll cost ya."