Monday, December 31, 2007

Onward to 2008!

tara & luci, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Musical Theater

I mostly just review movies in my blogs, not trying to be a jack of all genres or anything, but that doesn't mean we don't take in plays, musicals, other performance arts.

Among the musicals in recent memory: a light hearted A Christmas Carol at the Armory, courtesy of Rocky of Bridge City Friends; Jacob and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at Jesuit in Beaverton, as guests of Nancy of Wanderers (her daughter was truly stellar); and Wicked at The Pantages Theater in Hollywood yesterday, thanks to Carol Reilley Urner, my mom. Plus Tara was actually in the OATC troupe doing Schoolhouse Rock this summer, under the tutelage of Jo Lane.

I liked that Canadian show Slings and Arrows (not claiming to have caught every episode), which does a lot to remind us that movie acting and stage acting are a lot alike, yet quite different (somewhat ironic, given this was television).

Live performance is more like real life on the fly, is more demanding, as it's not so easy to do retakes or just piece together short scenes in the editing room. Movie directors tend to favor actors with live performance backgrounds, or so some will tell you, as less likely to need a lot of coaching (which not all directors are prepared to give).

I like that Buffy episode, Once More with Feeling, for it's gentle spoofing of the musical genre. I found it satirical, yet not mean spirited, given all those darling characters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

National Treasure 2 (movie review)

So this Book of Secrets episode begins with the phony end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln, resulting in contemporary speculation about whether Thomas Gates was a co-conspirator with Booth. However, given our omniscient camera viewpoint, we already know Gates was killed by KGC operatives.

The funniest moment in this film is when Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) successfully pisses off the Buckingham Palace security guards (all a part of his clever plan). In cinematographic terms, the car chase through London is a groundbreakingly impressionistic blend of sights and sounds.

Perhaps his and Abigail's acting out will remind tourists to keep their family squabbling less public -- shouting on your cell phone may also be rude, plus have some respect when you dress to visit holy places and shrines OK? Let's all just try to behave a little less foolishly shall we?

On a more serious note, the film at least alludes to JFK's tenure and assassination.

So I eventually tired of all the pseudo-adult bickering (ex partners trapped in old arguments). Yes, relationships are like puzzles, and so why are these premier puzzle solvers and translators so bad at them then? And why was the City of Gold built to look like a tacky Hollywood movie set? Poor craftsmanship apparently (lotsa leaks).

We came home to the news of the cowardly, insane assassinations in Pakistan. Maturity is in short supply on Animal Planet, especially among humans.

I cooled my jets in the jacuzzi and was more upbeat when later posting to edu-sig.

I also joined a Polyhedron elist today and posted some appreciative remarks regarding the recent Koski filings. I see other names I recognize in the archives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Zoo Disaster

The LA Times today is reporting on page one about an irresponsible zoo that doesn't know how to contain its tigers.

Visitors whom the tiger mauled to death, and the animal star killer, shot dead by police, paid a very high price indeed.

How about no more captive tigers in the San Francisco Zoo until 3008? That'd be my idea of justice well served.

Update: I watched the news conference from my treadmill @ 24 Hour Fitness. Casualties at that time: two killed (one human, one non), two injured (human).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Map Psychology

Having lived in Europe for so many years, I'm aware of the pomp and circumstance attendant upon crossing a so-called border (so-called because these people can't seem to make up their minds, like to gerrymander).

Europeans then look at a map of the USA and see more like one color, with the states thinly outlined, and anyway what do those states even matter given everyone eats at Burger King and gases up at Chevron?

But the truth of the matter is the territorial USA is even more ethnically diverse than Europe's, having inherited that mother lode plus we had a ton of cultures going before they really got here en masse. All those plastic franchise signs paint a thin veneer of shared culture over a vast expanse. We all need gas, we all go shopping (mas o meno).

In the history books, you'll find lots of Norte Americanos going psycho over all this diversity, thinking it's a bad thing and must be conquered. That's laughable if you think about it, because the messianic "save America for the Americans" fanatics are always ethnic sectarians of one brand or another, a tribe of some kind.

Back to the Euro folk: in seeing the advance of Golden Arches and such icons across their land, fantasies turn to occupation by the Borg, some single-minded mono-culture that knows what it's doing going into Iraq. These fantasies are just that: delusional paranoias.

Globalization is not a dictated, creepy cult phenomenon, staged by some chosen few, but a natural consequence of diverse cultures reaching some compromises in order enjoy commerce with one another. This is not a new challenge (learning to get along), but the pace has picked up, given the big crunch, not so much in terms of population (there's still room to spread out), but in terms of more happening closer to the speed of light (e.g. satellite telecommunications).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Trip Prep

As the solstice draws nigh, I felt moved by the spirit to clean up Dawn's meditation space, aka our branch office of Portland Knowledge Lab (PKL -- somewhat patterned after London's). We've also got a portable altar ready, borrowing mostly from R.

Some of the coastal Friends I plan to visit got to know me through Camp Myrtlewood, a Church of the Brethren facility (see Urner geneology for more ties). We were young then, juggling torches, sharing memes (sometimes jeans). Obviously we came from many walkx of life (including this AI guy from Apple), although most were from Oregon and California, a few from Washington.

When my partner Dawn Wicca joined Quakers, she was clear with her clearness committee she wasn't Christian and would that be OK. In our neck of the woods, it most certainly was, at least in her case, as our brand of Quaker doesn't require buying in to the Protestants' authority structure, nor JudeoChristendom's for that matter, much as we might study the Bible (not the only holy book).

These latecomer colonists are welcome to their rituals, their shopping, but don't "own" this time of year in America and some Friends simply prefer to celebrate rebirth and reawakening with people who are very clear that they've never been subjugated by aliens (think of it as an Independence Day kind of thing).

That being said, Dawn was also very Catholic, both in upbringing and outlook, was awed by the priesthood's mastery over ritual, especially around Easter time.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Weight Loss

A down side of my no beer diet is some of my outfits gained a gunny sack appearance, unfortunate this time of year, when people are on the alert for people to assist. Or maybe I'm just too much the scrooge to buy clothes that fit?

I'm afraid a security webcam or two might've caught me trying to adjust my belt, tuck in my shirt, a strange routine for a hallway pedestrian at full stride (rewind, replay...).

Today though, I compensated with my Wild West leather jacket and beaver fur hat, which I mostly saved for my dramatic exit, and some remark about the horse in the parking garage (a joke of course -- though I did see real goats grazing from my level 5 vantage point).

It's not just the no beer (a vow over vodka in Vilnius); I'm getting to the fitness club somewhat more often as well. TinkerBell, my bicycle, hasn't been out much, since the weather got colder.

I was sorry to hear of the collision between a cyclist and a P.T. Cruiser in Gresham today. All around Greater Portland, you can find these little markers, where cyclists have died. Yet on the whole, I find our drivers to be more courteous and bicycle-aware than average.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Management by Rotation

Usually the CEO, CTO and CFO of a company have their faces published in various glossy annual reports, on coffee mugs or whatever, so their ability to "blend in" among the rank and file is compromised.

A 2nd tier manager enjoys more anonymity, plus may have been recruited from within the company to begin with, so won't be seen as "just clowning around" if she or he joins a baggage handling team or some IT project for a spell on the front lines.

The CBS News team is another real world example, of a managing editor still doing field work, while those more often on assignment, or hosts of other programs, jump in to anchor from time to time as well.

Such management by rotation helps keep a crew limber, cross-trained and resilient, plus sustains a two way street of reality checks flowing, such that "the field" and "the head office" don't become divorced worlds, each with an exclusive, insular culture.

Of course a given special case reality is way more complicated than sketched above. For instance, you can't just hop between jobs and bleep out the training part, unless maybe you're going back to something you were good at already (frequently the case, but why not challenge yourself, pick up some new skills?).

Even as a top manager in your firm, you may need to join a specific "away team" as a neophyte apprentice, a "lower down" in terms skill level, and be willing to take direction from these more adept professionals, even as they learn from your high level ways.

Many a Western (movie genre) featured this plot, of an urbanized big shot, say a banker, reduced to needful dependence on local fur trappers, ranchers or even Native Americans in some cases.

A stint in the field may be a humbling experience for a boss type although sometimes "humbling" really isn't the word for it so much as "eye opening." A stint in the field may also be refreshing and revitalizing i.e. is duty to look forward to, to welcome, to not shirk or pass off as mere "busy work" to an underling.

Physicians are especially aware of this revolving door experience, simply because we're all mortals ailing of this or that terminal condition (i.e. life as we know it). Healers more generally find themselves on both sides of a healing equation, as patients of other healers, and so no wonder then that so many symbols of reciprocity ornament the medical literature.

An inspiration in the background: John R. Coleman, a former president of Haverford College who used to take low paying service jobs to keep some perspective. Another inspiration: the Centers Network, which implemented quite a lot of rotation among its volunteers and staff.

Here we're talking about a consciously designed aspect of a company's infrastructure, set up not as punishment but as an intelligent design aimed at sustaining the vitality and longevity of any long haul business venture.

Of course an older archetype is from Chinese philosophy, in which the emperor is forever disguising himself in peasant clothing and going out among his people. Given published photographs were less prevalent in those days, this was actually a more imaginable practice, plus one could always resort to disguises, various cloaking devices and so on.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Quaker Infrastructure

from the Laffoley archives, early works

I was comparing notes with a former Presbyterian on the Vietnam Era this morning. Whereas the AFSC was openly providing medical services on both sides, its traditional humanitarian calling (for which a Nobel Prize had been granted), the church-goers were launched on a relatively slow moving, deliberative approach, more professorial.

Activism is an anathema to some temperaments as it bespeaks "acting without guidance" or, in Quaker parlance, without a sufficient leading.

Given we'll always have a bell curve of temperaments, smart religions, other bureaucracies, take at least a two-pronged approach: give activists immediately relevant operations to manage; give analysts the time they need to really think before acting.

One of Paul Laffoley's more difficult instruments is this gyroscope of embedded gyroscopes (Levogyre, 1974). This seems a most definite allusion to what Bucky Fuller termed "precession," a phenomenon associated with gyroscopes, but by which he meant something more like "attractive, yet other than gravitationally." To be precessionally related is more like twisting as a strand within the same rope, and is how many a business partnership operates, though you still need core bookkeeping services to keep partners on the same page, more or less.

I think of the concentric hierarchy of meetings (monthly, quarterly, out to yearly) as like Laffoley's gyroscope. Here is a space for contemplation, deliberation, however fast or slow. Let the minutes season at the monthly level, then percolate outward, tilting the outermost rung in this omnispherical ladder, even as other minutes impinge, coming from other angles.

At the center, in a monotheism, is one source of all good. Polytheisms more focus on the concerns of top management, where not everyone gets the luxury of one overview. Atheisms are tired of crediting dieties for everything (angels whatever), wish humans would have the guts to simply take responsibility once in a while.

Given the AFSC does not mandate a specific religion among its staff, awareness of these and many more mindsets becomes a focus of Quakers as well, given their job of oversight with respect to said activist agency.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wanderers 2007.12.5

I showed up late, per usual on Wednesday mornings, to catch the balance of an excellent, highly technical presentation by Wanderer Nancy Ankorn, CPA. She ran through the for-profit business models defined by the USA tax code: sole proprietor- ships, partnerships, C & S corporations, LLPs and LLCs.

From my viewpoint, the partnership information was the most interesting. And yes, the K-1 is a lot like a 1099.

On the back burner (via the Ubuntu Dell), I participated in an exchange on Quaker-P about religion and business. So when are Quakers going to run some key businesses again, like in the good old days? I don't think the oats guy is really a CEO, more of a figurehead, like Betty Crocker.

Nancy really knows her job well, and what with the rules always changing, that requires lots of study. The apparatus she monitors forms a basis for lots of flashy North American soaps, like my friends in Dhaka (Bangladesh) would watch. Turns out Nancy and I are both Warren Buffett fans.

Amazingly, Jim Buxton joined us this morning, despite major flooding in his neck of the woods.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mirroring Public Views

Accurate surveying is a gold standard in whatever discipline, and that includes politics, unless "the pulse of the public" really doesn't matter, in which case you're probably not as high up in office as you'd thought.

Philosophical question: but how do you determine accuracy if all you have are competing surveyors, isn't that a chicken-egg conundrum? Sometimes you just have to shoot the philosopher (just kidding -- they used to say that about engineers too). Actually there's a better answer: reputable companies tend to reach very similar, if not precisely the same results, i.e. lots of cross-checking and fine tuning goes on (competing surveyors is a good thing).

Social networking software is providing students of public opinion with new tools, little ships in a bottle able to model ships of state, other big enterprises, fairly well, or at least that's what's being advertised, as in: "punch in your data, customize the picture, and the generic power of our model will give you some most interesting predictions, and this ain't just hocus pocus neither."

A side benefit of all these new pools of polling data is it's increasingly hard for fly by night shops to simply make stats out of whole cloth. The bad apples in the bunch become more apparent, as social networking accelerates the reality checking. That's actually how democracy is supposed to work, so don't take this as a report on some crisis. Sit back, relax, and make sure you keep voting (your thinking does matter).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

EtchaSketch View

(click for larger view)
This was for a meeting in Hollywood, a NE Portland neighborhood with a great theater (same era as The Bagdad in Richmond).

The genre is "church retreat center" given how AFSC files taxes, plus we've got a bona fide Quaker Lodge overlooking the pounding surf (on foggy days, that's more just a sound effect).

A FED is a Fly's Eye Dome but that's just an unbranded generic name for it. Our sponsors aren't bound to call 'em that.

From my email outbox:
My Project Earthala model follows the Breitenbush model i.e. a core group or community runs the operation, with a large turnover population of tourists, who book facilities for retreats of various kinds, trainings.

We specialize in trainings featuring the new toyz or technologies associated with living this way. Extreme Remote Livingry or XRL I sometimes call it, following a pattern of having an X when doing eXperimental prototyping.
Earthala is more of a back office type place (one of several), helping Friends and their coworkers get up to speed for duty elsewhere in many cases.

Once you know the ropes, you'll expect redeployment in some civilian scenario focused on disaster relief, health care, truce monitoring, habitat studies, diplomacy and ethnography, other training.

My brand of Quaker isn't much into missionary work though. People who wish to join us will find a way open, but we're hardly into the art of the hard sell. We keep our Faith & Practice on-line in hypertext, for those wishing to familiarize themselves with our ways.

Project Earthala is currently near future science fiction, on the drawing boards. Making it real will require more ambient, televised awareness of design science, alternative curricula. I focus on Junior Friends as a potentially interested demographic, although a few older adults still have the capacity to absorb new information (most are much better at suppressing it, once vested in whatever mindset).

Note: I envision the ATV garage containing mostly electric editions, like for sale here on Sandy. Also, there'd be some times during M4W & M4B when a lot of whiny little engines wouldn't be a welcome noise (another reason we like electric more).

Rocky and I joked at the meeting how he'd inadvertently booked our Quaker group into that ATV camp, and we sat around doing M4W amidst motorized mayhem (hey, it's not like there wasn't fun stuff to look at, not sorry we tried it, a formative experience even).

Historical note: my CamelCase title alludes to a very popular toy in its day, although practically no one (extremely few) had the level of operational skill shown below: