Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blogging from PDX

I'm hanging out in a mostly empty Portland International Airport (PDX).

The cleanup guy is excited about the Blazers, especially this new guy from Spain, also says the weather will be good tomorrow, like 85 Fahrenheit.

This is a good airport for Fuller School MVPs to fly into, given the dramatic use of tension to suspend walkways from a curvacious IVM-like canopy.

I'm sipping a Wendy's Frosty [tm], enjoying the free wifi, revisiting this IAM site and reading about 7 Hills Ranch.

And speaking of presidential politics (below), I found lots of interest in this NYT article about McCain, Abramoff, and Indian gaming.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Night

This event sparked a lot of interest in our household, although ultimately a football game at Franklin High took the teens' attention away.

I watched it all, with a few trips to the kitchen (no beer though -- although off my year long beer fast, I don't drink it all by my lonesome, keeps me trim).

My thanks to Glenn for the Eddie Bauer jacket with removable liner, which I wore to lunch with Dave Fabik today, in Old Town again. I got a $40 ticket because I forgot to take Razz through DEQ in time. Tomorrow would be a good opportunity to do that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


A fun aspect of using VPN and such to access the work site, is your water cooler crowd might be a bunch of Quakers, like on Quaker-P.

Then it's "back to work" in some cube farm in a basement bunker some place, with people in tighter fitting clothing -- Qs tend to go for baggier looks these days.

But then I'm just imagining the clothing, as I'm not talking about Second Life or any fancy avatar interface in this context.

Mostly it's just chatter, like what you hear on the radio, all the action imagined.

But then I have a policy of working with clients I'm also able to meet on occasion, so when I imagine the facilities or water cooler in question, it's more than just guesswork.

My congratulations to the crew of Shenzhou 7 on attaining orbit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Please Sir...

My title is an allusion to the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, also made into movies, and featuring grovelly (as in subservient) underclass boys and men begging for a wee bit more bread from the nasty authorities.

Cleveland High School isn't like that. The authorities are kind enough and the students are respected. But in terms of infrastructure, one can see Merry Old England under the hood: one jump rope for ten kids, calculators unused because of no budget for batteries, a general sense of going nowhere, a stale environment. This is the world of Major Barbara & Co., still going strong these hundred plus years later.

You'd think we wouldn't leave our pipeline to languish, given our need for skilled, high tech workers in ToonTown. That's where Saturday Academy comes in, other supplemental institutions with a charter for change. It's all about finding alternate routes, in addition to the well trafficked.

Of course a better outcome would be Cleveland attracts new sponsors in the business community anxious to do a more inspiring job of product placement than the vending machine crowd, which boasts of its inappropriate offerings, very "nose picking in public" these soft drink peddlers, but then that's Dickens for ya, full of colorful, twisted characters.

:: product placements ::

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Multnomah Teens

Andy Cross & Co. are launching a new cycle of kid friendly programming under the aegis of Multnomah Monthly Meeting.

Jimmy led an away team to Movie Madness, where our krew snagged Batman Begins. I provided hospitality and some large cheese pizzas from Rovente on Hawthorne.

Tara showed off Spore, downloaded yesterday, to curious onlookers.

:: spore ::
A fun time was had by all.

Other Quaker business: I signed up as a friend of John Woolman College today, looks interesting.

Also I felt like quite the Quaker animist at the Wanderers Fall Retreat this year, lollygagging on the lawn with Murphy and Sophie, a couple of kooky canines, while the adult humans discussed heady matters in their lodge.

Joe's lecture on wood-working and the Tao was well crafted, including a power tools demo with a slab.

Terry wrestled with his latest ghosts, looking at themes in economics.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Formative Meetings

As I was sharing on a Quaker list this morning, I'm interested in Quaker meetings for business and worship that design themselves around open source and social networking tools, a marriage made in heaven if done right.

Qs have a long tradition of journaling, which today might mean blogging (as I'm doing here), but that's on the more individual level.

At the meeting level, the recording clerk distills the essence of a business meeting into minutes, and these become available to others concerned with the work of a meeting.

The shared meeting archive becomes a useful repository for historical information, such that newcomers needn't feel completely reliant on the selective memory of elders, oral histories etc., although these records may also be relevant.

Not every detail becomes public and transparency doesn't mean a complete lack of privacy.

Finding the right mix of secrecy and democracy is a topic many writers have tackled, especially in the business management section of your local bookstore, but also in the neighboring religious traditions, as religious institutions are businesses too i.e. serve economic functions.

I look forward to learning more from these and other sources.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Outsourcing Mania

As a long time business customer of my bank, I was somewhat perturbed to get a call from a non-bank entity, per caller ID, asking for my routing number, claiming I owed fines I couldn't find through my on-line window into my accounts.

This all seemed rather suspicious. When I called back to confirm, the receptionist just told me to "have a nice day" although she did answer the phone "U.S. Bank".

I took the matter to my local U.S. Bank representative on Belmont & Main, who assured me, after poking around in my accounts, that everything was in order and no, they'd never farm out to a 3rd party collections agency so sloppily.

Later he called me back: in fact my bank is sloppy, and I do owe the fines, which I paid there and then over the phone. They do outsource to collections, even in less than 90 days.

Live and learn.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Mad Cover

:: Mad Magazine cover, September 2008 ::

I'm mostly a lurker in this meeting, which involves modeling the issue of class size reduction (CSR) in Oregon, a focus of The Chalkboard Project, which is providing a real world example for testing working code, a Google appengine with an object model.

A semi-structured approach mixes SQL style thinking with a more XML based approach, as evidence and opinions are more subject to tagging, like on Delicious. Buzz crawlers take advantage of consistent tagging without requiring the grid-iron lockstep approach of only-tabular data, ala SQL. Both approaches have their upsides and downsides.

How does one extract implementable programming from position statements? Not every discussion yields practical, actionable minutes, as Quakers might put it. Sometimes "action minutes" even get flagged as such. A democracy engine might borrow this infrastructure, helping users refine their discussions in the direction of actual, executable programs (working code, implementable policies).

I'm learning a lot from Scott (ECF project lead for Eclipse) about Google's new GWT: develop an AJAX or more static GUI in Java using these various widget libraries, then generate the corresponding JavaScript for embedding in the client browser, no Java required. Use this as a front end to a Pythonic Google appengine maybe. What a concept! DemocracyLab is quite forward thinking in using these tools.

Although I did hit the gym last night, appreciate the new personal DVD equipped machines for "pedalphiles" (also iPod ready) that doesn't justify the maple bar I ate, while waiting for this DemocracyLab meeting to start.

I've got that latest Mad for political content, a good balance for my unrelentingly technical diet around GnuMath teaching these days. I've been collecting these covers lately (search my blogs?).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mutant Aliens (movie review)

A wronged astronaut, Earl, breeds and trains mutant aliens to avenge his suffering. Not everything goes according to plan, his daughter Josie, her boyfriend Darby, also getting in on the act.

A spoof of space invader films, other genres, a Bill Plympton cartoon, verging on horror, except funny (and obscene), not least because of the brilliant sound track.

There's a "body parts" planet, noses versus fingers mostly, although this turns out to be a clever cover story designed to win the trust of the evil Dr. Frubar.

Be sure to catch The Plympton Diaries on the same DVD, a week to week documentary about the making of this film, in some ways a tribute to the animals who've been wronged as a part of the space program.

Wanderer Don used to take swimming lessons with Bill and his older sister Sally, back when they were all kids.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Business Trip

Given the high cost of fuel these days, I try to kill as many birds with one stone as possible, an English expression for which I solicit less violent equivalents, as our "Quaker saint" John Woolman was quite devastated by a certain bird killing episode in which he participated, and I try to honor his well-meaning intentions.

The mission started with another visit to Mt. Hood Kiwanis camp, which endured a severe winter this year, perhaps the worst in 30 years, leaving quite a bit of destruction, not to mention wounded psyches (we talked at some length with one of the traumatized).

We hope the new bridge is in place by October, although cars do have a way around, if not (we'll need to provide some relevant signage in that case).

Next stop: Kah-Nee-Tah, a Warm Springs tribal facility helping the three tribes in this area recover from forced relocation, and from a kind of ethnic cleansing that leaves people and structures standing, but wipes out languages and traditions (by design, as a policy).

Even the Bureau of Indian Affairs, originally a War Department entity, saw the folly of its ways eventually, realizes now that the indigenous heritage of North America is one of its greatest assets, and not just because of all the new wealth coming in thanks to international tourists looking for the real deal, although that's certainly part of it.

My final check-in is with family in Unity circles, Teri's church in Bend, where people know a lot about audiotaping a Sunday sermon for the archives. As a Quaker, I could use some new skills in this area, in addition to what I've learned using Youtube.

One of the first Unity ministers, now retired, is living here, in her 90s. This morning we visited some Gothic Christian web sites I've been exploring in connection with my American Transcendentalist studies. She found these "very interesting" which I expect is what many Goths would say about Unity.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wanderers 2008.9.2

:: Linda Richards ::
Linda Richards is our guest this evening, a grad student at OSU. She's telling us about the two operational nuclear plants in Oregon, one at Reed College, the other at OSU. Followup: both are 1.1 KW capable and 40 years old, Mark 1 and Mark 2 TRIGA models by General Atomics respectively, with OSU's designed for 3.2GW pulse operation (thanks Keith).

Her research
started with the question: what did Linus Pauling think of this reactor, when it was going in? She hasn't yet discovered the answer to that question, but in the meantime her studies have branched out to many related questions.

Linus was still alive during the Three Mile Island incident, was in Hawaii when it happened, getting some award. He spoke to his concerns about nuclear power at that time.

This is kind of a family event in that we're talking about the Paulings in his boyhood home on Hawthorne (age 11 - 14?), plus I have my own family here, Carol (my mom) and Tara (my younger daughter).

Linda is reading from No More War!, first published in 1958. Writing for a re-edition 25 years ago he wrote: "I hope that when the year 2008 arrives... the world will have survived and that the human race will still be here, although I will probably no longer be living, and I will no longer need to republish the book... because world peace will have been achieved." I paraphrased at the end there, as I'm taking notes live.

Now she's talking about Doug Strain's recollections of 1941, the National Guard's operation on the Cal Tech campus in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Linus questioned the registrar's authority to convene this meeting for hate speech, pointing out that Cal Tech was known for being an institution dedicated to reason and considered debate. The students applauded his boldness and views. Many thought he earned his Peace Prize right then and there.

He debates Edward Teller live on TV at some point, taking notes during the face-off, saving remarks for future archivists (Linda is passing copies of these hand written notes around now).

This was a really good presentation, well attended and video taped by Terry. Linda is a lively and thoughtful person with a very active mind, a natural Wanderer in my view. The Paulings are lucky to have such a qualified student digging around in their extensive collection. The Linus Pauling blog is definitely worth a visit.

Wanderers expressed their wish for Linda to give another presentation down the road, more specifically about Ava this time. She sounded quite willing to give it a go. Don set up an appointment between herself and Doug Strain for tomorrow morning.

:: Linus Pauling, age 7 ::

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Paved Over Past

I was watching Laura McKenzie's travel show on a CBS affiliate yesterday, an episode on Angkor Wat with its seven headed Naga sculptures, and on Vietnam, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh cities especially.

What was interesting was how little of America's wartime experience was alluded to e.g. Laura likes Saigon because it's "more western" i.e. French colonial -- no mention of USA colonial.

A younger person viewing the show might get no clue there had even been a war recently, although in fairness I was walking in and out of the living room, might have missed the newsreels and war footage (CBS has a lot in the archives).

But this was about attracting tourism, not teaching a lot of recent history, so I doubt much was shown even when my back was turned. Plus the badly misled Americans lost this one, a downer for some viewers, doesn't get them in the mood to think about tourism.

Turning to voting machines, I see a lot of the same ahistorical USA Today style "tourism journalism" i.e. let's not stir up trouble with too much realism or recent history. Lets fall back on that dream of free and fair elections we learned about in civics class (do we still teach civics in public schools, or was that abandoned for lack of courage?).

A sign of growing viewer maturity would be more shows that dig up what we know about voter fraud through the ages, including in America. These shows could start way further back, not dwell on Florida or Ohio or any recent elections at first, just start moving in that direction.

Let people in on more of the inside story, about how their government really works, or doesn't.

Like, we hear a lot about voter fraud in principle, but not much about the nitty-gritty. Where's the Discovery Channel show called Elections I wonder? The focus could be outside the USA as well, as experiments with democracy aren't confined to North America.