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:


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.


** 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: