Monday, March 26, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Middle East Studies

I was running some errands in delivery mode, taking some paperwork to La Salle High School near Clackamas Town Center and picking up a few wine bottles for the chairman's suite, getting passport pictures.

I got a call regarding the meetup organized by Portland State's Middle East Studies Center, part of its outreach to district school teachers.  I'd attended this event once before.  I was at the venue within minutes.

Sometimes these Middle East discussions get volatile.  I learned that at a last meetup, two of the gentlemen, one in particular, had gotten really voluble discussing the issues and the restaurant was having second thoughts about allowing the group to return.  I was the only male this time and the conversation remained quiet.

What occurs to me is a lot of these worries about "what to wear" (veil or no veil) go away in the distance education world I frequent.  Middle Eastern women wanting to learn Python, Javascript, MongoDB, have plenty of opportunities, given ample bandwidth.

The course materials might be in the local language, even if some of the instructors only communicate in English.  Tatia, of Lebanese heritage, had been clear on the model.

On my way to Tarboush, a venue my Wittgenstein Study Circle has also used, I followed a Prius with a 99% bumper sticker.  Demonizing a full 1% of humanity, or around 70 million people, seems somewhat over the top and I chided Friends, during the workshop around Occupy at AFSC HQS, to be less exclusionary.  It's "that of God in everyone" not just in some 99% (the criteria of division remain unclear).

Once I got there, one of the teachers introduced herself as retired from formal teaching, but currently representing Occupy "the education wing".  I don't claim to know all the deputy ministers or whatever her position and was glad to get my picture taken next to her.

I'm glad our Ministry of Education is continuing to look at the Middle East -- at its refugee camps especially.

The 2-letter country code system may have broken down, leaving many people nationless, but that doesn't mean we can't provide better connectivity through subdomains.  Several refugee camps might be linked together behind one umbrella domain, along with a university or two.  Many URLs might take one to the same place.

Some of the dot mil facilities might be reachable by a different front door, in line with Marshall Plan type repurposing.

I talked about Hawo's Dinner Party (the DVD) and the work I learned about at the AFSC meeting in Philadelphia.  Religious practices, practices in general, tend to be divisive.  Dietary restrictions are just the beginning.  When it comes to sharing houses, as we do around Portland quite a bit, we find ourselves using a lot of check lists. 

Mixing vegans and carnivores is sometimes more trouble than its worth.  Just because they don't live together doesn't mean they can't share commit rights to the same Subversion repository or whatever (we're converting to Subversion at work).

Tatia suggested we could get our course materials translated for free, and I think she might be right about that.  Plus there's Google Translator and so on, for when the readings are not too technical.

Dr. Tag sees a lot of problems with patriarchy.  I'm not sure what constitutes patriarchy exactly, but the Somali students have been asking good questions, such as why it took women so long to get the vote in the USA, and why there are still relatively few women in the US Congress.  Getting USAers to talk about their own deficiencies, versus their ideas for how to fix other peoples, is usually good therapy.

Arab Spring Poster
:: poster child: arab spring ::

Saturday, March 17, 2012

From Bagdad Chat Room

Bagdad Cafe

Glenn and I welcomed Julie to Portland at Tabor Hill Cafe.  She and Steve will be using the rental car to see more of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  They drove back from Pycon.

I've been doing some more thinking about what spin to apply to some of this geometry content, whether "coordinate system of nature" is too much hype.  As long as XYZ is not making that claim, I think we're past the point of needing to promote any human artifact too heavily or highhandedly.

The ISEPP lecture on Thursday reminded me of the importance of the power rule where omnidirectional growth is concerned.  Volume goes up as a 3rd power, surface area as a 2nd power, meaning S/V = 1/r, which is roughly how we see the melting point of gold changing, as we shrink down to fewer and fewer atoms, more like ... 162, 92, 42, 12, 1 (the reverse of what I usually give).

Matt and I met up for dinner at Barley Mill last night, visiting Palio (Ladd's Addition) for coffee.  Then I went by Food Not Bombs (SE 17th & Taylor) to check in with the cast.  We have an additional house guest from back east who was taking it in. I actually skipped eating as I'd just done that with Matt.

I snagged Perez Zagorin's book Francis Bacon at Hawthorne Powell's this morning, while running errands in the neighborhood.

I'm having a couple Irish coffees.  Physicians have a strong meaning for snakes, in bringing forward their caduceus.  Most Irish I meet are jovial about St. Patrick's supposed feat.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Occupy Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is a spread out motherboard accustomed to dealing with convergence / divergence.  We were whisked in and out of San Jose airport by taxi, van and shuttle bus.  Others simply drove from nearby digs and parked out behind the Convention Center, which is attached to the hotel, a Hyatt Regency (shades of Chicago).

Some critics of our Portland setup express frustration that the Oregon Convention Center, built to a similar scale, is unattached to a residential suite.  However an overflow event such as Pycon occupies several hotels in the vicinity, so the question is moot in the experience of many attenders, or at least Portland's easy Max ride from DoubleTree should be contrasted with hoofing it from the Hilton in Santa Clara across the highway.

Python plays well with others, like I sat next to a Rails guy at lunch on the 2nd day.  There's a natural affinity between our respective communities, with several revolving doors. The 1st day I was at the PSF members lunch, trying to herd Jack Diederich there in border collie fashion as he'd mentioned his intention to be dutiful at the party on Thursday night (I got a haircut on Hawthorne, but am still recognizably some blend of sheep dog (he got away)).

Facebook switched to the timeline format around now, so more like that long sheet of butcher paper in the D.W. Jacobs rendering for Portland Center Stage.  That was the 2008 apogee of "Bucky Power" in Portland.  I've been surfing the ripple effects ever since.  Allegra joined in the opening festivities, where mom and my daughter got to meet herTrevor was very much a part of these events, delivering a lecture on the Portland Center Stage mezzanine, as I had.

I was networking with the Friends of Fuller at Pycon for sure, with David Koski phoning from the vicinity of the TC Howard dome in Ohio, getting his shots, while I had the ESRI guy pause for this picture:

Fuller Projection by ESRI

For contrast, distorted Mercators all over the place, with (some) geeks conscious of the discrepancies (cite Spotify meeting).

Greenland Too Big

Having the OST badge made a difference in terms of who wanted to talk to me.  We have little direct competition at the moment.  Steve had hosted an all night gathering in his suite the night before and left Vern to discover me as the interviewer for a sampling of posters.  I yakked with climatologists (including financial), the CERN software guy, and the guy from Bump, which runs Diesel (an open source project with adapters to MongoDB).  You might try following links through Python.tv (not redirecting, texted Holden Web) if you want to find those and other snippets.

How was this an Occupy then?  Well, you could say this is an economy contra to Wall Street's.  Although JP Morgan had a booth, Silicon Valley is somewhat self feeding and not taking direction from any "bosses" in New York or its puppet DC (the latter being more about lawyers than engineers).  That doesn't mean "non-compliant with government" though, as the latter has come to depend on the same GIS / GPS infrastructure.  Google Earth and the space program (e.g. NASA) go hand in hand in a lot of ways.  Geeks have their Ignite.gov and their GOSCON, so what else is new?

Yes, there's a counter-culture with hubs in California that thrives on diversity and is friendly to the world.  That's really news to nobody, so it's not necessarily a CNN story when these kinds of Flying Circuses self-organize and happen, in the US, Brazil, Cuba or Singapore.  The media trucks don't fill the parking lot.

I came back to my co-workers with news of potential recruits, pretty much as I had around Occupy Portland (OPDX).  Interesting and talented people frequent these places.  Call it a freak show if you like, we won't necessarily be offended (were you trying to be mean?).


(I come in at 29 mins 10 secs or so)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wanderers 2012.3.7

Dick Pugh and Barbara Stross were with us this morning, always big news.  They were colleagues in my daughter's current school so many years later.

I devoted quite a few hours in on United -- which doesn't take cash in the cabin (OK by me) -- reading that Democracy Despite Itself book, as well as the Wittgenstein one.  Lots of wheels turning.  The politician in the opening, who says psychologists should wear pointy hats and brandish wands, had a point I think, and might be the kind of guy I'd vote for someday.

Is democracy a luxury that depends on darker underpinnings?  More debates needed.  We pretty much resolved at AFSC to keep the curtains raised on the blight of slavery, which has hardly gone away with the advent of privatized forced labor camps preying upon wayfarers and pressing them into service.  Moving about one's planet, one's birthright, should not constitute a crime.  Keep those public roads / channels open so that more wandering humans might fly their friendly skies.

Interesting to see Immanuel Kant writing on democracy.  You shouldn't get away with calling yourself a "philosopher" and not have remarks on file that would constitute "sticking one's neck out" on the questions of the day.  Kauffman was entitled to strut as braver in the positions he took, not just anyone could have delivered those lectures in the Princeton physics building (Frick was it?).  Anyway, if I can't find what you said when it mattered, at the brink of this or that, then please accept my skepticism of you'd lay claim to that title.  Nor is academic experience alone usually sufficient (Kauffman again).

My last day in Philly was with Chris and Jeannie, serious scholars and community organizers for our Synergetics Explorers Club (as it were).  They've been immersing themselves in all manner of open courseware offering ala Glenn's "Open Source University" meme (he may have caught it from somewhere, as such memes are "blowing in the wind").

OPDX is not having much success with conventional mayoral politics, with Cameron, one of our candidates, expressing some relief that his competition, Tre, has been temporarily incarcerated once again.  That latter detail came up at Wanderers this morning, which was mostly a meeting about chemical and/or radio toxic substances, lots of stories and lore.  Dick was yakking about Teledyne Wau Chang when I got there, late from Noah's Bagels (I brought a baker's dozen, three kinds of shmear).

TarBoush was a splendid place for another catch up session last night.  I hope Suzanne makes one of these meetups again soon.  Note to self:  I need to ask Maureen about the Moody kid, another Nietzsche scholar.

While visiting Upper Darby, I got to see some of the video from the RISD event.  I'm sorry I missed this opportunity to meet up with Pearce.  I don't think I'm going to make Gathering for Gardner again this year, though I've given it some serious consideration and posted the invite proudly in the Blue House kitchen.  I saw where Dr. Nystrom mentions "quadrays" in his talk.  He has to be one of the few explorers to take them up in earnest since their elaboration by David Chako et al (myself a part of that dev team).

Keeping up with other Pythonistas is the name of the game here.  I wrote to Nate about the auto-mosque generator for Blender (it might do churches as well).  Cyberspatial interiors can't face a physical Mecca maybe, but then the latter may have a cyber-interior as well, that we face towards.  Speaking of which, I saw about hackers doing something with the Vatican website recently.  I was having lunch and watching the LCD behind David NiNucci's head, so don't expect me to source any details.  Ask CNN?  CBN?

Friday, March 02, 2012

AFSC and Ethnic Phobias

We're getting briefed on some of the programs AFSC is engaged in.

Washington DC has a way of channeling refugees to targeted parts of North America.  For example, after the USA ended its occupation of Vietnam, a lot of refugees from that region were directed to the Portland area.

The Center for Urban Education (CUE) where I worked, was involved in managing this influx.  More recently, the obliteration of Somalia (people still pretend it exists -- nationalism is a lazy ideology, with lots of inertia) has resulted in lots of Somalis moving to Minnesota, Tennessee and so on.

After CUE, I did lots of program work with AFSC, as the program clerk, to work on tensions between ethnicities resulting from the various waves of immigration.  Latino students were not necessarily getting along with the "Chinos" i.e. Asians.

Lots of different cultures get stereotyped e.g. just as a person from Mexico might have a hard time distinguishing a Laotian from a Filipino, so might a Vietnamese not appreciate the differences between Mexican and Guatemalan cultures.

The education process is a lot about geography, learning the stories of the different human scenarios and their inter-twining.

Jiway Tung joined us by voice from Yogjakarta.  We learned about AFSC's work with partner organizations helping to promote some of the same inter-personal and leadership skills we nurtured in the Portland area.  Bringing groups together and doing things in common, as well as having separate programming, is a fairly useful activity.

Hawo's Dinner Party was along the same lines.  Shelbyville gets introspective about being at an historical cross-roads.  Not so long ago, Anglos were a rarity in this region.  The newest arrivals, from Somalia, have rocked the boat a little.

We should remember that European cultures have immigrated in huge numbers over the last few centuries. There's no one way street when it comes to Anglos either -- they're everywhere by now (witness Australia). Helping disparate ethnic groups find ways to get along is important work everywhere. Often the schools are having a hard time coping.  That's where NGOs may step in, including religious groups of all stripes.

The Parliament of World Religions has a similar focus on inclusiveness, tolerance, getting along with aliens.  If we're visited by ETs (e.g. Martians), similar skills may be required.  Indeed, it's interesting to rank ethnicities on their ability to get along with other ethnicities.  The patterns repeat over and over, but the outcomes are different based on some variables.  How cosmopolitan are the people to begin with?

My "schools for diplomats" (a theme in these blogs) are really schools for everyone, as in a planet such as ours, where "intelligent life" has jet airplanes, lots of ships, satellites, television, everyone is a diplomat.