Monday, December 27, 2010

From Day to Day

Just off the cell with Dr. Nick, having contacted Verizon to roll back the terms (a rep had talked me into a lower text messages bracket but that had backfired).

I cataloged a list of science fiction storyboards I'm working on, some closer to reality than others. This was to Brian with copies to our Wanderers group, which meets on that Linus Pauling Campus I sometimes write about:
EPCOT West; safety corridor for academic degree program "truckology" students twixt Istanbul and Kabul / Stans; Pycon / Tehran; Pycon / Havana (post Gitmo); Martian Math cartoons (Japan / PDX); "weapons inspector" as a major at University of Colorado and New Mexico Tech, Python courses and lightning talks, GOSCON, "girl scout math" at abandoned military bases in the Philippines (lots of Martian Math influence); SeaWorld / Iraq (going on many years by now -- relevant that Keiko is an honorary Wanderer); Countdown to Zero, the computer game / simulation (Valerie Plame Wilson and Scott Ritter sought for board of advisors).

Science fiction? Maybe, although some of these are pretty dang real (Martian Math is on Wikieducator and was field tested at Reed College this summer; GOSCON = government + open source, was a blast this year, I was at the table with PSF chairman Steve Holden, Rami Kassab of Portland, and some Barcampers from where Keith and I last met up).

Martian Math:

GOSCON:

So is that review or preview or what? We all have our preferred futures, and science fiction is a way to express them. The Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, part of the Experience the Music Project (EMP), focuses on this theme quite a bit, or did when I went through.

After making supper for Tara and I (toasted cheese sandwiches with pickles), it was time for Food Not Bombs. I took the bike Lindsey tricked out for me, versus the FNB hauler with the tall pedestal.

What a crowd tonight! Simon, Aaron, Cera... David. Lots of people I couldn't name.

I told David about the college major of "weapons inspector" I was writing about, a story set in the near future when we have a lot of weapons to inspect (kind of a joke). I think he could see why I'd be recruiting for this career among those standing for Food Not Bombs. I also explained the difference between a maze and a labyrinth.

Satya was just arriving as I departed, ships in the night, quick greetings on passing bicycles.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Virtual Ornaments

by david koski

by swdharmraj


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Storyboarding Engineers

We've enjoyed some passionate discussions on the Wanderers board, between actual meetings in the board room around the long table. Those of us most active on-line may not be the ones who show up at the meetings and vice versa.

The solstice party was fantastic. Gus played some vintage radio from funnier times.

I've been going over with Keith some of the IAEA stuff I've been looking at in connection with these schools for diplomats. These are like OMSI camps in some circumstances, complete with caring for horses (more important than riding them -- it's more about them in their welfare, not you in the movies pretending you're a cowboy).

The cosmopolitan spin is about all getting along, even after we go back to our respective "bubble villages" in whatever grid sectors we monitor. Maybe EMO should have a role. Ecotrust definitely. GIS/GPS is a big part of IAEA "geocaching" (sometimes with assistance from FBI people).

Although you may be picturing boarding schools for mostly young people, it's not always that way. Picture a few thousand Camp Davids (maybe not easy, if you've never been there), and take the average.

The reciprocity in training and verification techniques makes IAEA duty not unlike TSA duty, and indeed, there's overlap, and I'm not just talking about 12 Monkeys type stuff. You might have a week's rotation in Colorado followed by a short stint in South Asia (many more states). All have their respective challenges. Multi-tasking is less wearying (at least to some -- others like to stay focussed on the one situation).

I've had to change my grading philosophy based on feedback from my boss. Given the kinds of jobs I envision, I was being a stickler for details, but at this early stage keeping high morale is more important. Many people lack the self confidence to jump in to this business.

Here are some excerpts from my correspondence with Keith, archived to our group:

What I write about are "bubble villages" that look something like
those DEW line encampments, or subsequent models. The people
living there tend to have strong backgrounds in STEM. They might
be bioneers like John Todd, or developers of the Garden of Eden
dome concept, like J. Baldwin.

The latter wrote Bucky Works, an interesting book that has served
as a basis for a lot of my screenwriting and science fiction planning
for over a decade.

...


Back to my original point, I see a lot of serious and immediate
concerns about the health of the biosphere and ecosystem being
corralled by this feckless discourse called "global climate change".

Like, I'm fine with trying to figure out of the global temperature
is going up or down and whether the sea level is being affected.
We need to monitor everything and have plenty of open data for
people to analyze.

But I think it's mind-numbing to imagine that "global warming"
is the only signature we need to look for, if the goal is to avert
catastrophe and provide for the well being of future generations,
of non-humans and humans alike.

Yes to a focus on global climate change (one of many).

No to any monopolistic hijacking of that debate by people
who think "climate" does not include the presence or absence
of nuclear weapons.

Their presence is warping everything about how humans behave
and that's affecting the climate. Getting rid of them is what
serious engineering is all about (unless maybe you live in
the Lower48 where it's more like Planet of the Apes these
days, monkey see monkey do etc.).

Over on math-teach, the topic is bandwidth again. We watched the RSA Animation about how adults are drugging their kids to keep them focused on too-boring-for-words presentations. I'm hoping the Ignite format helps address the boredom issue, and that we can give students better self-management skills where "brain meds" are concerned.

On Synergeo, Rybo is learning to say "meds" instead of "medications". In my book, that's a positive. Yes, idle banter, but among feuding factions, so an improvement in our internal affairs (buckaneer world).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New on the Job

This feels like that first day for Centers Network, getting balled out by a lower chief for forgetting the golf pencils. Checker cab full of bankers boxes, straight from supplies. Then to seminar setup. Sometimes in the snow. "Damn, forgot the damn pencils" forgetting to censor my own train of thought. I had some between-jobs soap opera guys on my team as well, I'll call them fans. They booed when Ron gave me a dressing down, stayed in my corner.

The training today was well crafted. I followed along on screen.

On other fronts, I was putting out fires.

But the main situation in my control room is mundane: a leaky roof. Pictures will be forthcoming but I must say I'm grateful for the break in the weather. Patrick turned me on to some goop that appears to be just the ticket. His sample had hardened to onyx chewing gum, which is kind of the end state I'm aiming for, but the new stuff, going on, is more like thick cake frosting. I went to town with this stuff. Like slag from some oil refinery, like where David was pulling night shift.

At least the math teaching forums are being peaceful. I sense a broadening consensus about where to go next. People are getting used to their iStuff and are ready for more outdoorsy experiences. Hiking and geocaching, camping and maintaining trails, look like a better bet than just lying on the couch all day with a diet coke shooting at pixels in high def. Your thumbs get strong, hand-eye improves, but you're still not getting much exercise or team player skills (not counting your on-line buddies).

It's not like they won't have video games at the school, twenty miles walking in. You'll have other stops along the way too, complete with wifi and interesting activities. This isn't about wasting a lot of your time, but on the other hand what are the skills? Sometimes watching and waiting is one of them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wanderers 2010.12.15


We're having one of those open sessions dominated by comparing notes on computer matters, quite boring to some. The "Microsoft treadmill" is a theme, which is not really a good name for it. Any number of companies require fees to keep their software functional.

Bookkeeping companies want you to download new tax tables. Of course the government should have made such software available for free ages ago, as compliance with the government's own laws is what's at issue. It's an executive branch function to interpret the will of Congress into running code. However, DC doesn't have the imagination for real government, is just coasting on past fame and glory. Or maybe I'm just unaware of the cube farms already working on this challenge? Where's the beef?

Speaking of which, the Blue House would be happy to prototype the energy simulation games, contemplated for use in the schools. These give both a household view and more zoomed out views, comparable to first, second and third person. Monitor your resource consumption as an individual, team or household, or grid sector on the globe. With this equipment in place, we could also look at those gorgeous new bookkeeping front ends the government is thinking about, complete with a Wild West motif for those wishing, lots of history tucked away as easter eggs. Even people who "hate money" will love playing these wonders of contemporary engineering.

Even if DC is planning to pass on all these opportunities to keep the USA alive, other cities might share the responsibility more. Hollywood has done plenty to inject life into various myths, such as Iron Man, Batman, Superman and all of those. People use these as matrices for internal guidance sometimes (internalize role models). Introjecting comic book characters is phase one in becoming a geek, escaping the larval nerd incarnation. A kind of morphing (transformation) occurs.

The same thing happens at more zoomed out levels. USA OS gets a new shape, new feathers. HQS are more distributed.

Congressman Wu put his finger on it when comparing it to a geodesic sphere, not a pyramid hierarchy. Should we change the dollar bill, and put the eye in the middle?

I shared my view that the rest of the world is hopping onto the free bandwagon where "metaphysical assets" are concerned. Most cities don't torment their kids with negative propaganda about the "free Web" being a bad thing. That's more retro thinking from the 1900s, still spewing, still polluting the 21st century. We wave good bye in the rear view mirror.

Speaking of "girl scout math", Trish showed us a website where she'd gotten the template for a free antenna that enhanced her laptop's wifi reception considerably. This led to many additional forking conversations, regarding access to bandwidth. Jim would like something other than dial-up where he lives, but not at exorbitant cost.

suggesting Uncle Sam supply "liberty apps"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Onward FNB

Here's what I posted to the board this afternoon. Run of the mill stuff really. Lightly edited:

[pdxfnb] Re: week of Dec 12 (Tues / Thurs )

  • From: kirby urner
  • To: pdxfnb
  • Subject: [pdxfnb] Re: week of Dec 12
  • Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2010 12:41:55 -0800
Greetings FNBers --

The trailer is in the usual location. Chefs should be
thinking about acorn squash and kale as major
ingredients. Also have pomegranates, other fruits
and root vegetables.

Food prep on Thursdays at the Quaker Meeting house
has been happening since the beginning of September,
except on Thanksgiving when we made other arrangements.**

I'll be there at the usual time (sorry, was late last time)
to open up, return the soup ladle, and look for some left
behind plastic. I'll wash the pots and await the chefs.

If you're volunteering for Tuesday, you know where to
go for the trailer (blue house on Harrison) and OTY
ingredients. Greetings from OTY.

LW still gearing up to check possible CSA site in Yamhill.
I filled in as hauler per prior plan. Fond greetings to all.

Kirby

** Here's a write-up with slides from back when we started:

Product Placement

Friday, December 10, 2010

Postmortem FNB

By "postmortem" I mean "going meta w/r to the last chapter" as FNB will continue on its merry way. I'm still hosting the trailer, planning a next pickup.

There's a trade off between excess and waste. One brings an abundance of food to the market so as not to run out, and paying customers come to get what they need. After closing, you have the problem of what to do with unsold produce. Trading with your neighbors is not always feasible as you may all have an excess of the same thing.

Enter these various alternative recycling systems, engineered by geeks, drawing from the gleaner tradition. Yes, the material has already been picked over by paying customers, or in some cases selected and delivered. That doesn't make it all substandard though. Excess may mean "more of the same" i.e. there's no detectable step down in quality.

A geek cook or chef is someone to value. If there's a doable menu with lots of essential nutrients, both hygienic and flavorful in a rustic vegan kind of way, then your chefs will come up with it. There's not always much lead time. Here's what we have, start the meter running. You may have seen similar talent shows on The Food Channel.

Fruit that's too ripe for further storage might be perfect for a pie. Not being an expert chef, I'll spare you a long list of examples. Whitney brought cinnamon yesterday, and that made a real and positive difference to the fresh squash Aaron cooked. We also had scads of mushrooms. I proposed we make that a soup, to which beets, potatoes and some other stuff was added. As part of the janitorial staff, I'm allowed to make proposals.

What many would have to do with their excess is drive it back to its rural origins for composting, as the city waste collection system isn't open to excessive dumping. A farmer's market can't just abandon a pile of wasting produce and expect to be invited back week after week. So it's an expense to the farmers to haul a lot of it back. Earning the good will of the townsfolk by feeding one of its recycling architectures, makes a lot of sense.

In my own case, I model the "radical house terminus". I know you're probably thinking "radical" means something "bad" politically, but as a math teacher let me assure you it simply means "root", as does "terminus" in some lexicons, as in "tapping point". We provide time and energy to the recycling grid, which means accepting some compost and doing our own gardening and food provisioning. We contribute to the kitty.

On the other hand, we don't want FNB to become a composting service for surrounding neighborhoods, or, if we do, we'll need to work with the city on a truly intelligent plan for that. Maybe bulk storage and delivery around town on CSA routes, using lots of bamboo bike trailers, a job for academic credit in some programs, becomes fashionable, if not in Portland then maybe in Brooklyn.

However if neighbors start lugging bags of compost they can't use to the FNB fooding events ("fooding" is a colloquialism in Bhutan), expecting free haul away service, then "termini" such as mine would be quickly overwhelmed.

Now Lindsey is a composting genius and when she takes up residence on a property, it's "with intent to farm" -- and that means compost. She'll get off her bike to check out a compost pile, strike up conversations, build her whole social network around the art and science of composting. This isn't me though, and when Lindsey leads a girl scout math training in Oregon's hinterlands, I'm immediately over my head with this composting business, unable to route and organize effectively. I go under, as neighbors use my terminus for a landfill (we haven't gotten to that yet, thanks to city codes).

So that gives a sense of the workflow. If Portland wanted, it could probably scale up these types of operation and pretty soon be teaching gourmet ethnic cooking to legions of young people, taking advantage of healthful local produce, some bought and some vectored through experimental math curricula like FNB and girl scout math.

In a TV literate culture, you'd expect to build public acceptance and understanding through sharing video and audio (so-called "reality television"), and indeed we're well along in that process. FNB chapters have been feeding media to public repositories from all over the world, each providing a local spin. Our chapter was recently the subject of a PSU student study.

When Lindsey came to town from her engineering company background, the bicycle equations were front and center, all about joules and calories, and skills, intelligence. The bamboo bike trailer phenomenon was getting going, thanks to a civil engineer we later met at a FNB event. Aaron's metal version is like eight feet long and easily took everything from the meetinghouse yesterday (including a soup server I need to return, along with Aaron's plastic ware).

However, we're well aware at the Blue House that this is a lot about trucking as well. Food conveyed to the warehouses, on a big enough scale to stock supermarkets, does not happen without trucks. Fortunately, our insights into that world are growing, owing to geek activities in transportation engineering. The same routing games played with bicycles are played with trucks on another scale.

Portland has been working on being bicycle friendly, so the idea of "feed me" cafeterias staffed by people in training, with a lot of bicycles going and coming, is not going to overwhelm the infrastructure right away. The lanes have been painted and are intended for use in all weather conditions (except ice and snow for most cyclists -- for most motorists too, in these parts).

An electrified fleet might be coming, if not here then in a sister city, but it's still a different mix on the road, more vulnerable and fragile.

Oregonians make fun of themselves for not knowing how to drive in the snow, but they do know how to accommodate bicyclers hauling trailers or just hauling ass. That might be a university geek you know, does Ruby on Rails. Or maybe she's a nun of some variety (we have those too), cross-enrolled on several campuses around town. These aren't people you wanna hit with your gas guzzler. Foreign exchange students (many from Africa). Ambassadors' kids. Lets keep Portland tourist-friendly.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cave Paintings

Speaking of debates, today is Civil War day in Oregon and the clerk of our Quaker meeting, himself an accomplished journalist, has been wondering about the appropriateness of this metaphor. Doesn't this nomenclature tend to trivialize, while at the same time lending an air of innocence and fun to something intrinsically awful? Oregon's so-called Civil War is this annual football game between two of its major universities, the University of Oregon (Beavers) and Oregon State (Ducks).

The debate has to do with language and imagery. Some Quakers oppose violent language whereas others think the imagination, including science fiction, the Bible, comics, film, television, are appropriate media for channeling demented, disturbing and violent memes. Art absorbs these transmissions, not to amplify them in the physical world, but to render them less likely to erupt in mob behavior. If we're not violent on paper, we'll be violent for real, because of the real voltage pressures beneath the surface, the teleological vulcanism of the zeitgeist itself.

As is obvious from my rhetoric, I place myself in this second camp, likely because I started reading Freud in 8th grade. I was schooled in the view that an id or unconscious needs some approved way to express itself, and that a strong superego is less repressive than a fragile one. Tapping into the deeper recesses of the mind requires encounters with the archetypes. Fairy tales are full of violence. However, if the violence remains within the metaphysical vista, then those fairy tales have done their job. Those who insist on a completely sanitized psyche, all sweetness and light, are actually feeding the maw, serving as shills for the underworld, by adding to the imbalance.

Judging from its imagery, Tantric Buddhism would seem more well rounded than a lot of the more sugar coated stuff.

My many postings on Alternatives to Violence (AVP) therefore have a somewhat dark aspect. I link them to my Jungian Society talks. When watching football (or playing chess), I might sometimes imagine the horrors of war. Or I'll play videogames with violent content -- not because I wish for more violence in the world, but because I think potentially horrific content needs to be wisely channeled.

This analysis goes for debate world as well, the world of diplomacy. The contestants often invoke images of all the death and destruction that will likely result, if their opponents' views are more widely adopted. Disptopian outcomes are unfurled on screen, in movies such as Punishment Park, or Clockwork Orange.

There's a tendency to exaggerate, to engage in hyperbole, to invest in caricature. Again, these are ways to express stresses and tensions that are even more dangerous and likely to get out of hand if not allowed to express themselves. One needs to spy on the id ("id" for "idiot"?), get a sense of its thinking, if wanting any semblance of a rational, well-crafted civilization. This is difficult work, and requires spelunking deeply into oneself.

That's supposedly something Quakers are good at, or so some would contend.

The Ducks won this year.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Countdown to Zero (the game)


playground dome, Hillsdale, Oregon

As I was remarking to my fellow think tankers, you do not copyright titles, so we are really talking about a whole genre of game, with many internal axes or criteria, such as "how much math?".

The idea of a game based on a movie is not in any way new, of course, so I'm not loudly tooting my horn about this non-innovation. As a role playing game, you probably have a choice, each with a wardrobe (imagine dressing your Sim). You might be an FBI agent on a sting operation, somewhere in Colorado, with control panels to IAEA, Interpol and CIA. Your wardrobe includes snow shoes (optional accessory).

For those who didn't catch the movie, Countdown to Zero is a sobering policy film, a documentary, in which several powers that be, across the political spectrum, line up behind this policy of criminalizing and eliminating all nuclear weapons. Actually, the criminalization phase might be more of a medicalization phase where we chalk up WMDs to PTSD and treat the "military industrial complex" like any psychological complex in need of treatment. That's for game designers to decide.

Another axis is realism. To what degree is this set in the future, when presumably sensors are better, and infra-red webcams more affordable? More to the point: what actual datasets are publicly available giving known sources of weapons grade fissile materials? Where are the dumping grounds? The testing zones? Much of this information is already available to the eco-tourism industry, which is bringing people through Hanford, WA and to Nevada. Visits to retired missile silos make for great photo-ops and new uploads to Flickr.

When it comes to realism, you'll want to work with colleges and universities with a focus in environmental sciences. Serious schools take such studies seriously, if declaring an interest and attracting students on that basis.

The math does not have to be inordinately difficult. The concept of "half life" is fairly easy to get across, and students will better understand why producing all these toxins was considered criminal behavior. Many of the cleanup jobs are themselves life threatening and require special wardrobes and access to sensors. The role playing done through the game is actually preparation for real life for some stellar players -- another reason to take the math seriously.

Related reading:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hurt Locker (movie review)

Les pointed out, as we settled in for this war movie, in a snowy horse farm, that it was directed by a woman. That did seem relevant, as we entered the surreal world of occupied Iraq.

The guys are in pause mode when it comes to developing civilian life skills. They've forked off into a hellish world they do not question. The language games revolve around rank, giving and following orders, demonstrating competencies with one's equipment, one's tools.

When the protagonist, Sergeant First Class William James, tries to re-integrate into his civilian persona, he feels he has no skills. Chopping carrots and pushing a cart through the supermarket only add to his sense of alienation.

Feeling like a fish out of water, not especially respected or understood, only separates him from his art, his work, which is disarming bombs. He needs to go back to the theater, to where he understands his rank and role in a social network.

In not questioning this man-made reality, simply taking it as a given, the film duplicates the atmosphere of a computer game, such as Half Life. Concrete wastelands full of wind-blown trash, any of which might be explosive, turns this into a first person Quake or Doom.

The film alludes to this, by showing the hero playing such a game. The army recruits with such games as well. The implied message is that life imitates art, and the Middle East has become a stage for acting out teenage fantasies of destruction and death.

The message of the film is rather clear I thought: war is a drug, and may become highly addictive. Finding some place in the world to live out one's destiny as a soldier becomes an existential requirement. Survival of the persona trumps survival of the body. Better to die for one's art than for no reason at all.

One of our Wanderers has a son who did that job of bomb decommissioning. Takes courage, and lots of it. The guy is somewhere outside the theater of war these days, though is still working with explosives.

Les and I talked about whether the XY chromosome was buggy. In a world where war is unnecessary, does the "male species" lack relevance? Many seem to think so, and respond by making sure war remains necessary.

Hurt Locker would work well as a double feature with Jarhead, as both are overtly philosophical.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Global Data


Made in Sweden

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gasland (movie review)

John Fox is worried about what it might mean to allow hydrofracturing in his water table. Would toxins get into the ground water and destroy his habitat? Hydrofracturing is a process of injecting a brew of chemicals deep into the earth to release natural gases.

A complicated and unknown geology may offer little protection against seepage. Wells get contaminated and the the tap water catches fire. Streams go bad. Toxins trickle in (or flood in as the case may be). Animals (including humans) get sick and die.

John makes a pilgrimage across country, starting and ending in Pennsylvania, aiming to discover what's been going on. Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Utah... Louisiana.

Are the denizens of the Lower48 still hell bent on destroying their own environment. Yes, apparently they are. Environmental protections put in place by a previous generation have been rolled back, as unfavorable to industry.

The largest unfiltered water supply in the world in upstate New York is the next target. People worry about "terrorists" poisoning their water supply. Ironic.

Lots of people enjoy natural gas though. Big city folk use it to cook with, heat their buildings with, power their "clean energy" buses with. Gotta have it.

What's happening to the countryside is a lot like what's happening to the Niger Delta or any region where rampant energy extraction occurs without much rhyme or reason. The locals are no match for the conquerors, who bully them into subjugation. There's little government to speak of, and no real national guard (in the literal sense, of guarding the people).

One might imagine ways to actually plan and develop energy resources in harmony with the ecosystem, intelligent designs. Such planning is hardly evident in the Lower48 though.

Any real science is short circuited as politicians try to create "jobs jobs jobs" (opportunities to "earn a living") regardless of the consequences.

Update (September 2017):  see this as a double feature with FrackNation for another point of view.  There's also a Gasland 2 out by now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quick Note

I enjoyed getting some training to serve as a judge of debate teams, and of other speech events. This was at Cleveland High School. As Nancy pointed out, it's a big poor public school with limited resources.

The state doesn't provide much funding for debate as a sport, even though this is such an obvious long term investment in cultivating democratic institutions. Government is half-assed and lazy, is Tara's view.

I'd been at Glenn's when she reminded me this was the 10th. Somehow, I'd always pictured this training happening on a Saturday, so was somewhat discombobulated.

Glenn and I had been discussing my global exchange student fantasies, which he tended to regard as too expensive. Why would taxpayers fund all that travel, over more local exchanges?

I took my general systems theory view that it's not taxpayers we're crediting, but the sun itself. Yes, human labor is mixed in... (more in my science fiction linked below).

The example debate, shortened for show, to give the new judges some exposure, was kind of interesting. The national forensics league had picked the "mosque at ground zero" meme for Public Forum (pofo) and was taken aback by all the backlash. For the first time, a resolution was retracted and replaced with: resolved: public forum resolutions should not be about sensitive religious topics.

Tara and I discussed it later. She sees debate as her sacred sanctuary, free from much of the crazy nonsense that infects the wider world. Keep silly religious topics out of bounds, and the sport will stay more enjoyable. My view was the debate format is pretty wimpy if not robust enough to handle run of the mill controversies, religious or otherwise. Wearing my judge's cap, she probably won. Keep the sport from getting too ugly by picking resolutions wisely.

On that particular issue, my view is religious installations, including temples, synagogues, mosques etc., maybe smallish ones, should be a feature in many an "office" building. Zoning should be for mixed use, including residential in more cases, so we have less mindless commuting. Why not work, sleep and worship in the same skyscraper?

I scribbled some more science fiction before I went to be, trying to be a good capitalist (means "using one's head"). I was also sparring with Brawley some more (he's a vet -- another topic), on whether it's a lost cause to try overcoming cubism. I think the Martian Math approach is being productive, as it lets me speak of Earthlings from a more external perspective (ETPV). I've been doing this on mathfuture as well.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Made for TV


So it's a week later at the meetinghouse (see below) and I'm learning a lot more about workflow design, even though that's already on my resume in places.

The idea of a "made for TV" Food Not Bombs maybe sounds cruel and heartless (too LA, too Hollywood), but in an era when we're counting down to zero, the ~bombs part has broad agreement and appeal, such that sponsors might want their brands front and center (or miss the boat).

I might see applying Centers Network skills and/or Western Young Friend skills, but then these are somewhat generic and emergent already. And I'm not seriously thinking this has to be a Hollywood show, unless you mean Portland's local neighborhood by that name. This is community participation TV of the kind we were always promised. Doesn't mean we can't filter excerpts to the bigger networks like ABC. Now if we only had real optical fiber, that let small outlets share the infrastructure -- not what the monopolists are intending.

In the meantime, there's a lot of local awareness of the criminal syndicates building more bombs, buying their pet politicians, while neglecting infrastructure for children and old people. To the extent there's any DEW system anymore, there'd be some real push back from the Pentagon. I still think an open alliance with Cuba would be cool (bridge through CDI?), a noble alliance versus that nefarious international human rights violator known as Gitmo.

Given recent progress within the Global U, I could see where the real dollars would go with us, and not with the phonies.

However, I digress. Back to workflow: what if the sponsoring donors send too much food to the cooking plaza, where the kids are lining up to learn and showcase their cooking skills? True, the cooking happens daily, with bike trailers, electric conveyances, delivering servings all over town (yeah, like Meals on Wheels).

On a small scale, what this looks like is too much produce piling up. For example, Lindsey (a star student) has a superman complex (very Nietzsche): she enjoys lugging huge amounts of produce up hills with a bike trailer, distributing it to free porches, sharing it with friends (she built the "tractor bike" herself). Sure, we could use more heroes like her (the more the merrier), but I can see where a plethora of committed horsepower might overwhelm some of the cooking facilities or, more likely, their composting facilities (not every church is so well equipped -- nor every meetinghouse either for that matter).

One solution is to cultivate more urban gardens, like in Brooklyn.

There's a lot of useful work implied in this picture. In Global U terms, one may not get a cash advantage for participating, but consider the sponsor credits. Free time in a bike co-op or gym, movie tickets (serious-minded documentaries most likely), even access to conferences, concerts, travel. I'd advocate sending Lindsey to Havana if we could get that ice cream factory thing going.

Plus like one of the crew was saying tonight (a former Brooklyn resident): hanging out with F~B gives free access to coveted apprenticeships learning to cook healthy vegan and/or vegetarian meals for lots of people. That's valuable skills building. Our Gathering of Western Young Friends, using the kitchen facilities at Camp Myrtlewood, is likewise a training zone.

These kinds of rewards, more career related, count as income in anyone's book. All it takes is some organization and a willingness to pitch in.

How wonderful to have Quakers at the forefront. Logistics R Us.

Will Code for America step up to the plate? We hear a lot about that initiative. What open source fund accounting software is out there. Coffee Shops Network wants to know.

Multnomah Friends / Google Earth

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meetinghouse Again

Food Not Bombs came off brilliantly last week. However, this week we're decimated by illness, though with a crew of under ten, that might not be the best word choice. I'm still fighting a bronchial condition, with abdominal pain from so much coughing (more at night). I'll steer clear of the food prep except for sterile procedures. Lindsey is just as under the weather with different symptoms, so is wisely out of the picture.

Satya and Cera came by the Blue House the other evening and spoke at length about Bhutan with my mom. I made a cameo appearance after Pauling House, saying the plane was early, so I had to move quickly. I was in and out the door in about 30 seconds. The MVP in question is the chairman of Python Software foundation, in town for GOSCON.

Speaking of GOSCON, the Ignite.gov event was the first ever Ignite for the government (.gov). O'Reilly is OK with the meme transfer, i.e. the spread of the brand from non-governmental services (NGOs etc.). The Ignite format allows for 20 autopaced slides at 15 seconds per, or is it 15 slides at 20 seconds per -- seems that should be up to the presenter?

In any case, the talks were excellent. I sat with two of the same folks I'd shared a table with at Barcamp 4, along with Rami Kassab (a presenter) and someone else from his company. Steve and I were both wearing Holden Web badges. Most the tables were occupied but were by no means packed. Small intimate conferences are a rarity in some circles, especially with so much going on between the developer community and government.

What did I come away with from these talks? Government is today seeing itself as a provisioner of data sets. That's something governments often do well: amassing data, statistics, large pools of information.

Making the presentation layer attractive, or thinking of ways to combine data sets to tell a story, is not something government should have to worry about. The developer community, the app builders, have those skills.

By providing a level playing field of data set libraries, the government fulfills its side of the social contract. Different players will come along and mine that data, sometimes for private gain, sometimes for public service, often as a combination of both (serving the public garners good will and customer loyalty to the brand).

Portland, Oregon has a fairly advance community accustomed to using data sets to create what are called civic apps. This might be iPhone and/or Droid apps. The data might be real time relevant i.e. when is the next bus set to arrive. That's a service anyone with a cell phone might avail of today (I was using it last night in fact, when talking the 14 back from downtown).

The data might be long term chronological and only changing slowly. We could say all of it is geographic at some level, defining geography rather broadly (biochemical processes within the body use energy in a time and place, so are geographic in that sense). Not surprisingly, many of those attending GOSCON have a GIS background.

I introduced Chairman Steve to Selena Dickelman, one of the chief organizers of this event. Amber Case was also present but too surrounded by discussants for me to want to break in. Later, at Kells, we met up with Deb Bryant of OSL, the lead protagonist in that Willamette Week article some weeks back. She and Nate were both primed to talk about public-private partnerships.

Nate had lots to say on the topic of EMRs (electronic medical records). Deb kindly consented to having her picture taken with the PSF totem (Naga, our mascot). Such as I've been around at the edges of GOSCON, I've been serving in the capacity of "snake wrangler", same as at Djangocon some weeks ago.

My request for a discount on school lunches was denied within just 24 hours. I probably shouldn't have reported gift income, nor does the form anywhere ask about expenses. That $500 a month for catastrophic coverage... when it comes to civic apps, I did not really see how this was a well designed one.

Lindsey's solar panel came today, for powering her battery charger and perhaps an XO-1 (experiments needed). How does one live lightly on the earth? She's very conscientious about recycling, including fabric and materials. Her boots, scavenged from a free pile, have lasted about a year with frequent patching. They're close to worn through.

Two of the cross-country bicycle guys from a few weeks back have showed up. Their buddy was hit on the road near Cocquille and had to be life flighted to Emanuel in urgent condition. They hitched back to Portland and are researching their options....

Here's Cera, gotta go.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wanderers 2010.10.20

President Obama is in town today, but it's still too early in the day to expect any new traffic patterns. Carol wanted to attend the meeting but has a full plate.

Our presenter this morning is Dr. Karl Widerquist, Visiting Associate Professor in Philosophy, from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar


This is a talk about academic political philosophers and some of the irresponsible factual claims they've made about "primitive peoples" without bothering to factor in much of the anthropological research.

A lot of their claims (e.g. "everyone is better off with private property" or "individuals appropriate; collectives interfere") tend to be no more than the superstitious projections of their day and age, a kind of post hoc justification for an ideology, minus many reality checks.

Philosophers tend to live deeply in Plato's Cave (a kind of movie theater for the mind's eye).

The myth, traceable to John Locke and contemporaries, starts with an untamed wilderness. Homesteaders and pioneers appear, thereby appropriating it (mixing labor with land).

Inheritance and trade among homesteaders develop, after which the State appears and begins imposing its will, rules, taxes etc. In a pristine state, private property precedes government -- or so goes the (unsubstantiated) theory.

Anthropologists typically classify societies into hunter-gatherer bands, autonomous villages (tribal societies), chiefdoms, early (archaic) states or civilizations.

The philosophers depict these as ancient patterns, with only states or civilizations remaining. However, one might see a campus as a semi-autonomous village (Cal Tech, Reed College). Urban areas have bands, camps or gangs. Proctor & Gamble and Unilever are chiefdoms, as is any company with a CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO etc. (C = chief).

The argument that these are archaic forms relates to what constitutes the "highest" authority, i.e. anarchic bands (with no head person giving commands) didn't have to report to a chief or be patrolled by a police. Colleges pay taxes, engage in commerce (town/gown relations).

In conventional accounts, the nation-state is nowadays considered the highest authority, with the above configurations turned into an evolutionary tale of how the state emerged, a kind of dialectical materialism.

In hunter-gatherer bands, large game is considered a common resource no matter who kills it. In an autonomous village, access to land is flexible and non-exclusionary, with households entitled to their own harvests. Every household does its own farming, including the village administrators.

Only in large chiefdoms, consisting of multiple villages, does one find people with the power to exclude others from resources. Chiefdoms introduce the idea of a chain of command with an owner at "the top".

With the evolution of states comes tyranny and slavery, kingdoms. This pattern emerges around the world. Land tends to be a gift from the central authority, perhaps in exchange for military conquest (land was deeded for deeds).

The modern concept of private property turns out to be a recent development, emerging in Europe rather late in the game (1500s). The idea of private property spreads through colonialism and through establishment by governments. The romantic libertarian notion that private property begins in the earliest primitive societies, the government coming later, is eminently debatable.

Private property as currently understood is through government. Centralized government does not represent the usurpation of pre-existing property rights in primitive societies, but is more the vehicle for the creation of private property rights as an institution, beginning with the rights of monarchs (chiefs).

Property ownership and real estate ownership are distinct concepts. Nomadic or herding societies may not stake ownership of ground by surveying and fencing (like ranchers and farmers), but will recognize ownership of wives, sheep and goats.

Chiefdoms seem a gateway to tyranny, almost universally. The Iroquois seem to be one notable exception.

The talk was not a lot about maritime trading and the subcultures aboard seagoing vessels (pirates etc.). How a given ship is organized is a variable, even where titles of captain, first mate, navigator might have conventional meanings.

During the Q&A, I brought up the Doctrine of Discovery again, which several religious traditions are threading about. There's a need to unravel some of the mysteries behind "property" and own up to a new form of calculus that doesn't bank on the supposedly inherent superiority of one people (religion, ideology) over another.

Jim Buxton brought a generous haul of chanterelle mushrooms again, a quasi-yearly even in October and a day I look forward to. He set them out in a box with bags for us to truck them away in. Given the theme of Karl's talk, I thought this most apropos and highly civilized. Jim Buxton is a great chief.

Back at the Blue House, I advocated donating a portion of my haul to Food Not Bombs tomorrow, perhaps as a garnish or ingredient (not as bulk produce). I'm not a chief chef though.

My vision is lots of Youtube cooking shows as F~B turns into a gourmet occassion, with restaurants, farmers markets and warehouses eager not only to donate ingredients, but their personnel, as what better way to market superior quality product than in these potlatch potlucks in the park.

I need to backpedal though, as if word got out about this underground gourmet "fooding", we'd be inundated with tourists wanting to take but not give. The same phenomenon is evident in the FOSS community, where "giving back" often only happens in exchange for generous self-helpings to the work of the ages.

Our mostly under-the-radar operations, through FOSS covens and Zen dens, keeps our sponsors visible among an inner circle of cognoscenti, earning good will, without the overhead of a lot of over-the-top hype, or push advertising (no Crazy Eddy commercials required -- though around here we think of Tom Peters).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The New Atlantis (movie review)

This obscure DVD, a talking head documentary interspersed with theatrical re-enactments, is Volume One in the Secret Mysteries of America's Beginnings series. The material is not anything that oughta be kept secret, if the goal is to provide a deeper understanding of past and contemporary myth-making. The content is certainly PG enough to share in an American History or Literature class, is not even TV-14.

I agree with the premise of the filmmaker that the ideologies driving the colonization of the so-called New World, by the English in particular, included these so-called occult and/or esoteric brands, the Freemasons and Rosicrucians in particular.

The screenwriters don't want to come across as mindless shills for the Masons, and so frequently cut to disapproving voices tsk tsking about "witchcraft" and "the occult" (as if Christianity didn't have its share of occult teachings).

The disgraceful kidnapping and murder of one Captain Morgan, who supposedly divulged some Masonic secrets, is re-enacted such that one could understand why the ensuing backlash took its toll on membership.

Francis Bacon is the pivotal figure throughout the narrative, cast as the successor to John Dee, a core member of the Rosicrucian school.

Dee was at first a confidant of Queen Mary (daughter of Henry VIII), but he fell out of favor (for not being Catholic enough?) and was later confined, along with Mary's sister Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth 1) for whom he became a mentor as well.

Given the Pope had declared Queen Elizabeth and the Anglicans in contempt, a secret service formed around the new Queen as a protective body, headed up by Sir Francis Walsingham.

One could see where these secret societies would have a role countering the Roman Pope, and later the King of England during the American Revolution. The formation of underground (sometimes literally) secretive societies in the face of persecution and/or prying busy-bodies is an ancient design pattern.

The Boston Tea Party, a protest against the East India Company, was organized by such Masons as Paul Revere. This is perhaps ironic in light of today's "tea party" seemingly wishing to disavow any such "occult" and/or "outlaw pirate" affiliations.

The documentary, being of recent vintage, connects a lot of contemporary dots, including the National Treasure movies (deemed too literal and materialistic), Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, and several other lesser known scholarly works. The Masonic philosopher Manly P. Hall gets a lot of attention.

The script claims John Dee is the model for Marlowe's version of Faust, Rowling's Dumbledore in Harry Potter, and even Ian Flemming's "007" (Dee's occult signature). And yes, there's a whole chapter laying out the Baconite view that Francis Bacon, Dee's protege, was a principal ghost writer behind the Shakespeare plays, not the Stratford-based actor, who provided the cover story (Mark Twain was also a Baconite in this sense).

Speaking of Shake-speare, the story about "spear shakers" Athena and Apollo as core archetypes for Bacon and his cronies -- with a tilt towards Athena -- is perfect PR for Coffee Shops Network, likewise anchored and tilted.

Sir Francis Bacon comes across as passionate about alleviating misery and contributing to collective prosperity through invention in language. He sought to improve English, based on his experience of what the French were up to. As a curriculum writer, he was doing his best to have the inevitable colonization of the New World be a positive experience yielding lasting benefits, even a paradise on Earth if possible (hence the title: New Atlantis).

I was reminded of E.J. Applewhite's Paradise Mislaid, which title suggests we might have gone astray with respect to Bacon's metaphysical program. Applewhite lived a life of the mind and was an admirer of both Bucky Fuller (with whom he collaborated) and J. D. Bernal. Does today's curriculum promote such mental aliveness, or does idiocracy prevail? Utopia or oblivion?

What may annoy some science-minded viewers of this DVD is the murky blend of experimentalism and spiritualism shared not only by these historical figures, but by some of the contemporary talking heads. Perhaps John Dee felt he could contact angelic beings, but today you need to see a shrink if they catch you thinking like that.

I'm not saying I think this is a great documentary that somehow "reveals all" (whatever that might mean -- nothing probably). The analysis of the Woodstock era North American counter-culture of the 1960s is quite superficial.

Linking Britney Spears and Madonna to the occult seems more like naked piggy-backing on popular culture, in an age when the Masonic subculture has reached a low ebb -- which is not to deny an age-old link twixt celebrity / court culture and esoteric science fiction. Indeed, a core point of the movie is people like Ben Franklin would have little choice but to frequent the eating clubs of the spoiled witless (somewhat notorious for hanky panky, especially in the projections of the puritanical), when seeking sympathy for the USA's upcoming forking off (Declaration of Independence).

In remaining tightly focused on a very few secret societies, many other factors, such as slavery and the genocidal "manifest destiny" ideologies, are overlooked or simply absorbed as footnotes to an unquestioned Anglo imperialism (somewhat Reichian to begin with, as if Atlantis were some "superpower").

Watch more documentaries then, lots more. But at least weave some of these threads into your world model as well. Keep the secret societies on your radar, if you want your analyses to remain credible. Also keep in mind there's a fine line between "secret" and "accessible only with study and practice".

Too many people forget that "intellectual property" refers to the capabilities of those who know some craft, have some skills (like computer programmers). Scribbles on paper, a few diagrams, do not in themselves constitute the transmission of the relevant metaphysics.

In other words, don't forget to "know thyself" in your efforts to know the selves of others, and choose your friends wisely.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

PPUG 2010.10.12

Python User Goup

Michelle Rowley is introducing "Thunderdome" -- Pythonistas are coming forward with lightning talks on various modules. At least the name sounds exciting. Abstract Syntax Trees... (ast).

Jim is here, one of my clients. I'm counting 30 men here with Michelle, whom I identified to Jim as our fearless leader.

ast is highly esoteric. It builds a syntax tree from Python expressions. We're looking at a module that parses PHP yet converts it to Python. Next we're learning about dis, also abstruse, from Chris McDonald. dis spits out the assembly language like byte codes for functions 'n stuff.

Earlier today I did some light exercise by climbing Mt. Tabor (that might sound like a big deal, but Mt. Tabor is a local park surrounding a dormant volcano, like a butte). The next exercise was somewhat heavier: I pulled the Food Not Bombs bike trailer from a pickup site

Adam Lowry is lecturing on the operator module, tying it back to dis.

The select module is "used for I/O multiplexing". Yikes.

Regarding our 30:1 male:female ratio, I invited a gender specialist to join me (she was at the Mercy Corps meeting), maybe give me a read just for fun.

One can't learn everything from just the one meeting of course. We could use more anthropologists and documentary movie makers in our midst (what I came to at Djangocon, surrounded by so many "pink ponies").

I'm having a lot of deja vu today, about a lot of things. We're also looking at __main__ and __builtin__.

We adjourned for beers at Bailey's, where I enjoyed Hopworks ESB quite a bit (was on the bus, so didn't mind the extra pint). I was honored the maintainer of python-gmpy was with us.

Python Geek

Friday, October 08, 2010

Casino Math

Casino Math

Tom Siegfried, editor in chief of Science News, kicked off our the 2010-2011 Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture series last night, at Portland's central Broadway venue, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, his name in lights.

Most of Tom's talk was a walk through the rise of statistics, from its inception in the world of gambling (hence my title). Cardano got the ball rolling, with Pascal and Fermat picking up the thread, then de Moivre and Adolphe Quetelet (a lesser known but one of Tom's favorite thinkers).

Quetelet was pioneering the notion of "human physics" i.e. predicting social trends and phenomena using statistical methods. Applications to molecular dynamics, stochastic analysis, was more a derivative of nascent sociological sciences than vice versa, a point often overlooked by those claiming the soft sciences are always trying to imitate the so-called hard sciences.

The arbitrary P=0.05 correlation threshold required to prove "statistical significance" has its own history, which was more spelled out in the printed program than in Tom's talk. Safe to say, a lot of studies misapply statistical reasoning, meaning drugs that shouldn't be out there are, and some that should be are not -- among other consequences. The process of aggregating studies to get a larger sample size and perhaps a more significant outcome is also regularly botched.

In general, people have a poor understanding of probability theory, which demands improbable events, flukes.

Then Tom went off the deep end in a culturally approved way, by discussing a "multi-verse" picture of branching universes. The discourse was especially interesting to those five-to-ten of us in the world who read Synergetics, as Boltzmann gets credit for "eternally regenerative Universe" ideas in Fuller's work, and here it was all about "Boltzmann brains" and their likelihood in alternative universes. I disagree that "infinite time" is an antidote to "never" i.e. I don't agree that what's "infinitely improbable" is somehow bound to occur given infinite time.

Ascribing meaning or sense to "infinitely improbable" occurrences is problematic to begin with i.e. how does one know if one is confronting such an outcome even if it does occur? If a monkey types a work by William Shakespeare (say Macbeth), why would we agree this was "random"? Perhaps the monkey was suddenly possessed by some well-versed ghost? Remote controlled by hidden grad student by means hitherto unsuspected? Who has authority to give the "true account" in this alternative world? In a multi-verse, anything would seem possible, including far-fetched explanations for incredible events. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

The entire exercise seems more like a safety valve, a licensed "letting off steam" in an otherwise pressurized system (alluding to Boltzmann again, and how his thinking is featured in Fuller's philo). Language needs to exercise its grammatical capabilities sometimes. Philosophy is a playground, largely unsupervised these days (so watch out for rusty nails, hidden pitfalls -- most your grownups are on vacation).

After the Heathman dinner of cod with eerily moving parts (some kind of garnish -- very eXistenZ), Tom answered some additional questions. He expressed a "Google is evil" point of view, i.e. here's a company dumping hard-won value added writings into the commons at no cost, undermining publishing as we know it.

No wonder science has become so much the sex slave of moneyed interests with axes to grind. There's almost no way to sustain oneself as an independent, self-respecting, objective private investigator anymore.

Science journalism is likewise under pressure to sensationalize, to hype murky findings, simply to stay in the game. The economics seem unsustainable, which makes the job difficult, sometimes discouraging.

I also entitled this journal entry "Casino Math" because of my Heuristics for Teachers on Wikieducator. Puritanical readers may have a problem with this nomenclature because of strictures against gambling, but it's true to the history of the field, as Tom's talk well illustrated. Universe has casino-like aspects regardless of what games people play, as one of the questioners pointed out, saying "Even if God does not play dice, He seems to have a serious gambling problem" (audience laughter).

I was happy Tara could join us for this event. We took the bus to and fro. She gamely ate the cod, if not the mushrooms, and shared many insightful and intelligent remarks about the talk and proceedings.

The next day, Terry phoned me at American Dream Pizza, where I was waiting (on chauffeur duty). He wanted me to accompany him in treating Tom to an intimate dinner with some PSU students interested in further discussion. Twas my distinct privilege.

We spent the evening at the McMenamins on the Park Blocks, quaffing beers, munching on snacks, and discussing the pros and cons of various philosophical positions, such as determinism versus macroscopic randomness.

Terry drove me home in his brand new Prius after leaving his distinguished guest at The Heathman.

Take Two

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Wanderers 2010.9.28

Dr. Cari Coe of Lewis & Clark College regaled us with stories on Tuesday, regarding land use planning in Vietnam. One of the ministries is hoping to protect remaining forest lands using a national park system. Local residents have land claims stretching back through time, and the national park overlay creates two levels of story.

Is the central government being successful in conserving these resources?

Deforestation is a problem all over Asia (and the world) and forest management really needs to extend to beyond a few protected areas. Creating new forest lands (a kind of terraforming) was not among the topics discussed however. This was about preserving some old ones.

Cari's research was on behalf of the Vietnamese government and some banks, maybe the World Bank among them. She speaks fluent Vietnamese and had a woman traveling companion or "minder" (also a friend) to give more authority to her visitations.

They traveled by motorcycle all around one of the nature preserves, interviewing about 103 families in three provinces. Cari had been to Vietnam before and is a motor bike enthusiast with lots of hands-on savvy when it comes to their maintenance.

The study is somewhat inconclusive as to the long range impact of these plans, but that doesn't mean her findings were not valuable. On the contrary, a detailed snapshot emerged, as nothing replaces field work and actual feedback from the villages.

Writing policy in some centralized bureaucracy gives no clue as to whether these policies are being followed and, if so, how.

Her status as an obvious outsider, a North American, helped interviewees speak more freely, was her impression, since she had no obvious affiliation with up-close participants, party to whatever rivalries or tensions.

Rice paddies and forest lands are deeded to caretakers and beneficiaries on timed leases, according to the latest model.

After 20 years, a parcel of rice land reverts to the government and the lease will need to be renewed or renegotiated. If the land is being used according to plan, it's more likely to remain with the family that works it. These agreements are registered in little booklets.

One goal of the research was to find out which families had booklets, and how they got them if so. In theory, protected park lands should not be deeded out, but given local authorities made the arrangements, forcible land reform i.e. confiscating lands from those with historic ties to the park lands, was not really in the cards.

The system is more like a "land lending library" than a system of titles and deeds on a market, with inheritance (where zoning and land use policies may also apply). Forest lands are lent out for 50 year periods.

The slides included some GIS and I wish I'd asked more about how much GIS is getting used in the ministries. I've been posting about GIS to math and Python discussion lists, most recently regarding Singapore's use of GIS /GPS and its possible applications (along with GST) to long haul trucking along the old trade routes, from Istanbul to the Stans, via Tehran.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

American Dream

I'm at American Dream Pizza (not eating, plenty of food at home), chauffeuring my mother to and from the hospital. She's in relatively good shape, enjoying better eyesight as a result of cataract surgery.

Glenn wanted to share some of his most recent breakthroughs, extending his more-than-a-decade studies of what he calls his Global Matrix. Per Quaker thinking, it's given to each of us to distill a one-of-a-kind dharma or teaching that is that of God, the gift of a personal angle.

The upside is we have a precious and unique point of view. That's also the downside, as a "private language" is a kind of "black hole". The good news is also the bad news. There's still a lot of bandwidth though, for cross-fertilizing ideas -- what Wanderers is all about, so Glenn was definitely in the right place this morning.

Sam Lanahan joined us (a rare occurrence), along with the self-proclaimed mayor of Bonnie Slope (a privilege). The room was actually packed.

Let's see how I might map Glenn's thinking for Synergetics readers (yeah, right, pile the esoteric on top of the esoteric and see if that helps -- sometimes it does).
Picture two unit-radius spheres, just touching. Each is a "complex space" inside, meaning we have operational models for thinking about quaternions (Hamilton) and octonians (Graves, Cayley).

The symmetries inherent in complex number space (which he links to Lie Algebra) give us polyhedra, the figurative hallmarks of spinnability (+2) as well as concavity/convexity (x2).

The paired Platonics and their derivatives occur in both of these "kissing spheres" which have a "fixed point" singularity where they touch.

The Lorentz Attractor enters in (a butterfly with tilted wings) along with personal biographical data: some time studying languages, cracking codes for the NSA, followed by a lonesome Arizona vista, developing a system in solitude, with repeated visits to the Big City for reality checks (quantum logic courses at PSU, Cascade Systems Society, Wanderers). Or to the Santa Fe Institute, for a two hours session with Stuart Kaufman lo those many years ago.
I'd characterize Glenn's talk as a nutritious meme soup, a hefty stew. He's a craftsman and whereas homemade mnemonic structures may not be the norm in academia, that's no reason to clamp down. We've not had many centuries in which auto-didacts were in a position to share their art, when the content was most germane to the "upper classes" (so-called). Times have changed.

During the conversational period that followed I managed to get Sam's OK to show his book around. He and Buzz looked at the new eCommerce pages that make Flextegrity components available to the world. Bill Sheppard read aloud from Carl Sagan's book regarding the stellar and pivotal role played by the Paulings, in getting atomic bomb testing partially criminalized.

I thank Trish for patiently enduring a tour of my blogs, as I explained some of what my life has been like over the past year or so, with special emphasis on the poster art of one James Jameson.

Yesterday I formed some paragraphs for the Quakers attempting to set forth more of the Food Not Bombs philosophy. I'm hoping FNB helps me fine tune my rendering such that I accurately reflect the group's dharmas. I'll write more about that in BizMo Diaries sometime soon.

Speaking of FNB, my heartfelt thanks to Lindsey Walker for working on my bike at Bike Farm yesterday, hauling it in her trailer, along with boxes of food for a North Portland disbursement site. Aside from occasionally borrowing my daughter's, I've been cycle-less since Tinkerbell was stolen over a year ago.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Repairing Voting

Today is Free Software Day and geeks in my lineage (open source) are expected to stand up for democratic rights, even in an electronic age. Especially in an electronic age. Here's from today's stash of writings (typos fixed):
Imagine something similar to vote by mail in Oregon. You don't
all have to vote on the same day, there's at least a week. You
need not take time off work. You'll have a way to vote online,
by entering your PIN. Email confirmation will come back to your
email box, showing how you voted and giving another number you
can use to find your vote. You needn't keep it a secret how you
voted -- be as public as you like (your choice).

Traveling overseas? No problemo. There's a way to vote from
your iPhone.

There's also a lot of votes taken throughout the year, polls. People
are in the habit of voting often if they want to. So they know
if their credentials are working, i.e. it's not a matter of being
surprised on "election day" (once a year? once every four years?).
On the contrary, a trusted voting infrastructure is used almost
daily, by at least some set of eligible persons (you might have
needed to register -- like now).

It's easy to imagine working solutions that are light years more
advanced than what we have today. People generally feel satisfied
with the systems and understand how they work. Access is quasi-
universal. Literacy rates are high, infant mortality is low, and
the debates on TV are intelligent and to the point.

People in this future look back on our ranting raving dark age of
crazy-making punditry, and fall to their knees in gratitude that
at least it's not 2010 or thereabouts, when everything was just
nuts! They weren't even teaching about Bucky hardly at all, when
so much depended on waking up to brighter prospects.

Hard to explain, how our ancestors could be so slow.

Something in the water? Lead poisoning?

That's what some speculate happened to the Romans. Brain rot
eroded their civilization from the inside out. Fast food?
I've written quite a bit about voting and voting technology in these blogs already.

You may ask why I haven't instituted tagging for your reading convenience, or turned on comments to this post.

Well, I come to the Web from a Quaker background and was just thinking of these as my journals, world-readable for sure, but not water coolers for people to gather around and chat with each other.

Lots of blogs out there serve that purpose (literally millions at the time of this writing), so I hope it's OK.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Internet is Broken

Many have said this before (including me), and the truth is, in the wild and woolly world of the free Internet, so-called consumers are fair game, for every kind of spam, scam, virus, you name it. The sign should read: prey enter here.

If you're behind a well-maintained firewall, using free protocols and well-thought-out systems to engineer from within, then this same technology feels robust and secure to you. You're not just out there by your lonesome, a hapless Windows user with a new laptop.

Why are schools leery of the Internet? They lack sysops. Those making money, sometimes the very scammers mentioned above, pay the top talent to work for them, leaving the public sector somewhat undefended, in a vulnerable position.

I know what you're thinking: Pentagon to the rescue. When it comes to protecting the security of ordinary civilians from predatory attack, isn't that what our homeland security forces are for? This is a touchingly innocent way of thinking, and school administrators have every right, on paper at least, to be thinking that way. Like of course your government is here to protect you.

In the next chapter, more students will master the necessary skills and help their schools build up safe and protected domains. Champions will step forward, helping young people fortify their minds and bodies, and sharing the necessary memes to not fall prey so easily as their adult forbearers, from when the Internet was still new.

:: predators R us ::

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Serendipitous Opportunity

:: congressman david wu addressing djangocon ::

Chairman Steve, whose Holden Web is producing DjangoCon this year, decided at the last minute to upgrade his airplane seating from Dulles to Portland (IAD to PDX) to first class. He wound up getting to sit next to Congressman David Wu of Oregon's first district. They got to chatting, comparing notes, both being social adepts, and by the end of the ride Congressman Wu was willing to consider addressing our conference. He chairs the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation for the House Committee on Science and Technology after all, and knows about the importance of open source to Oregon's (and the world's) economy.

As Grand Poobah Snake Wrangler (what's on my nametag), I was outside the hotel to meet the congressman's car and usher his party to the Banquet entrance of our DoubleTree hotel, where Russell Keith-Magee, president of the Django Software Foundation (DSF), officially met our guest. Steve, in the meantime, had been holding forth in the ballroom in front of 250 geeks, building suspense around his special surprise guest. Who would that be? Steve Jobs? Jacob Kaplan-Moss? The identity of our impromptu visitor had been kept secret.

Congressman Wu delivered a short and pithy speech about the importance of high technology to Oregon's future in particular. Both software and hardware are a focus here, with an emphasis on medicine (e.g. OHSU) and nanotechnology (e.g. ONAMI).

He expressed appreciation for open source, understood that it was not just about "free as in beer" but about sharing standards and solutions. Innovation emerges from such a process, as the creation of the Internet itself attests.

Traditionally, our model for society has been "a top-down pyramid" said Congressman Wu. Nowadays, however, and for the first time, the model is more "a geodesic dome" with nodes connecting around in all directions.

If our open source community would realize its own power and responsibility to do good in the world, then the attitudes and behaviors of the surrounding society will accommodate and reciprocate. Open source will have come of age.

He also spoke of the importance of starting early with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), from kindergarten onward. Getting more open source technology and teacher training into our schools sounded like an initiative his office would support.

Chairman Steve ceremoniously provided the congressman with an iconic pony, as our motto this year is "everyone gets a pony". David Wu wondered if he might have two, one for each of his children. Given his status as our honored guest, the necessary arrangements were promptly made.

Out in the foyer after the speech, the congressman remarked to Steve that "a topic for another day" would be finding out why we're so disproportionately male (a fact hard to miss from the podium). What happens that leads females to drop away from STEM subjects and careers in technology? Steve assured him that we're working on this puzzle.