Saturday, December 31, 2005


Fuller Projection
(click here for PDF version)

Re domestic spying: so how *is* the NSA supposed to interpret "domestic", when the Fuller Projection shows This Land is Our Land (merry little tune). -- K. Urner, Synergeo #25562

Friday, December 30, 2005

New Years Fireworks

I recombined a lot of my Math Forum themes into some year end polemics, hoping to spark some interest in our open source agenda for the new millenium. Having the ball in Times Square be a 3-frequency geodesic certainly helps (10ff+2; V+F=E+2; N:2N:3N and like that).

But newspaper editors don't seem to have much time for a high tech math-science spin (fullerenes, viral shells, octet truss...), especially one that could snowball. Can't have that. Better to recycle the usual stories we always get around this time of year (booze etc.).

Sunday, December 25, 2005

We Win?

Dave Ulmer signaling from his desert bizmo
(self portrait)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Presents for Iraq

If I could wave a magic wand and give gifts to Baghdad (to share with environs of course), I'd probably put the following under the tree: Office and Home Depot outlets (substantial ownership in both chains, including stateside), a SeaWorld (Iraqis choose the site), lots of steady, cheap electricity (they can certainly afford it), membership in Costco, a new science museum (like OMSI), Netflix.

These gifts would be delivered irregardless of religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

In the USA, Xmas is a commercial/secular holiday, on which religions piggy-back. Jesus was not likely born on December 25 and in any case the gift-bearing Magicians showed up later (ritually on Epiphany, January 6).

The USA traces its origins to many Roman institutions (evident to anyone visiting Washington, DC), including Saturnalia. None of which is to say there's anything wrong with Christians piggy- backing on our secular holiday, as long as they don't mind sharing it with the rest of us.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thinking Globally

Fuller Projection

This recent call from some president in Iran for Israel to vanish from the world map might be construed as a proposal to make more use of the Fuller Projection, whereon all nations have disappeared.

The idea here is it's all Israel, while the frequently-heard accusation that Jewish networks seek global domination is less a source of paranoia than of hope. Mature schools of thought, many found within Judaism, are indeed committed to the long term viability and sustainability of Spaceship Earth, our promised land, for millenia to come.

Our USA operating system is up to the same thing: providing robust, secure infrastructure for our global dominion. Certainly many pro Russians think intelligently about their ship, and act accordingly wherever they may be. Space-minded Chinese call it Our Land.

The Fuller School encourages thinking globally. We want whole systems thinking, global management philosophies, people who think in big picture terms. Letting your mind get boxed in by some arbitrary political boundaries just dumbs you down, artificially constrains your horizons.

So, how will the new Persian power plants fit in to the regional grid and how will the IAEA be assured that no weaponization is happening? These are supranational concerns. Let's use a Fuller Projection to brainstorm some answers. Let's make our Iran a safe and secure world.

Mid-level managers who still need to cling to some jigsaw-puzzle nation state approach to global thinking are welcome to do so, have plenty of other maps to choose from to sustain their patterns of thought.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Design Science

Terry Bristol and I had a high level meeting of the minds in my living room this afternoon. He said I needed more Christmas tree lights, and I agreed.

Bigger still, however, was my realization that his "intelligent design science" (a kind of science that's comfortable with teleological / purposeful language) and my "design science" (absorbed through years of immersion in the Fuller School), come close enough to form a closable cosmic gap.

Lots of big names in philosophy, many of them Greek, got tossed about. Terry's account of a certain Native American training (and rite of passage) reminded me a heck of a lot of est, in terms of sharing the same "getting it" experience.

Using the language of synergetics: Terry sees that an eternal war of incommensurability (987.061) might give rise to two competing orders, such that awareness of otherness becomes critical to the integrity of any science or core set of beliefs. There's always that complementary / missing 720 degrees (omnidirectional halo concept), a seed for negative Universe (the antithesis of Universe), both arising from the same cosmic integrity, what Ervin Laszlo calls Metaverse. Awareness of cosmic otherness begets a dialectic and synergy (symbolized for Bucky by a bow-tie).

Anyway, good meeting, good outcome, and worth saving as an operational part of my control room.

Related reading:
Invisible Landscape Series (by me): [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Questions for ID Propenents @ Math Forum
More re ID @ Math Forum

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another Meeting @ Wired

Trevor and I had dinner at Fujin this evening, compared notes with the owner and son about petty thievery in China (its current shape, ever shifting). I googled with my cell (466452), looking for Serenity in PDX (Trevor is enthused about it, I've yet to catch it). Met Derek on the corner of 39th, enroute to Chinese. Bid Trevor adieu at a 75 bus stop across from FixMyDeadPC.

I've been active around cyberspace per usual today, but also doing a lot of hospital work, coding in FoxPro, working on Excel spreadsheets.

Earlier this morning, I read up on music making using contemporary components and software. Some of the best GUI interfaces come from musicians. I'm consulting for a locally based pro, ready to move into the new era.

Tomorrow I'll be teaching Python some more. We started with "hello world", moved to data structures (lists and dictionaries), types (primitive and collections).

Last night, I wrote some notes about an ACM paper on pedagogy around computer programming (teaching coding to kids).

Monday, November 28, 2005

PDX: Open Source Capital

So I'm in a small coffee shop. Terry is at the house, with another business associate and my wife the bookkeepper for ISEPP, as a consultant.

Terry wishes the plan to rennovate the property next to Pauling Campus, the renting office repair store, into a Cafe Philosophicus or like that, might materialize. Just needs the $100K.

Don's asking "how" (his name will appear this time).

So PDX was in some write-up in Christian Science Monitor today, as an up-and-coming hub of the global open source network, thanks to the hard work of so many geeks (aka software and hardware engineers), trying to write some benign-enough science / fiction.

Terry just walked in. Our meeting resumes...

Derek appears.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Quaker Gun

"insanely difficult to use effectively"
(photo by K. Urner @ Europython 2005)

Songs of Non-Violence?

"now playing..."
(K. Urner, Olympus Stylus 500)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

More Map Talk

Just because the Fuller Projection is by definition nationless, at least in its most pristine, least dumbed down form, doesn't mean we don't see the barbed wire, concrete barriers, armed guard kiosks and so on.

World Game players may very well carry passports (complete with RFID) or find workarounds (like staying home). Plus as any pilot knows, the no fly zones don't just follow national boundaries. Our targets of interest may have no visible presence except on our maps.

Whenever people pour into the streets to register their views, in Beirut, Tehran, New York or wherever, that's of course visible to satellites as well. One way we play the game is by massing ourselves in open areas, such as at Woodstock or Burning Man.

So it's not like we're waiting for any political events to occur, before we start displaying global data in the Fuller format. We've been doing it for years.

Once you have your global data sets in compatible electronic format, its fun to mix and match them, including across time. What dinosaurs lived in your local area code? How might we assign zip codes to off shore floating cities? The permutations are endless.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Memo re The Map

In my view, Snyder is a damned good cartographer and I have no problem using his algorithm to populate global data displays making use of Fuller's preferred layout, with uninterrupted landmasses (one layout among many).

I'm aware of cheap imitations of the Dymaxion or Fuller Projection, which slice into Japan or wherever, and I know would-be World Game players would be dismayed by such a dumbing down. Competent players want access to the real deal, I understand that.

I'm also aware that Fuller's algorithm, as computerized by Bob Gray starting with Fuller's simulations, expressed with Polynesian-style artifacts, might be used to replace Snyder's in some contexts, giving different gaussians (i.e. the triangles are still distorted, but in a different way).

Mostly, I'm interested in just cutting through the BS, such that open source global data displays, of relevance to NGOs especially, don't involve diverting precious resources from field offices and control rooms already fully engaged in serious-minded service on the front lines.

We don't have the time/energy to spare to ensure compliance with a lot of complicated EULAs. That's why we use Ubuntu/Gnome and like that: we're short of money on paper, and yet we're performing vital high tech services on behalf of omnihumanity nevertheless.

The Fuller Projection should be immediately accessible to such remotely deployed individuals, as well as to school kids in their safe 'n secure classrooms, complete with relevant data overlays.

Our school's objective is to foster competent planning and collaboration skills, such as we've been learning and benefitting from in the open source community more generally. Let's keep up the good work while making GIS/GPS more integral to our thinking.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Headline: GENI Out of the Bottle

I found a Plone site about the Iraqi economy, including news and views regarding regional hookups, stretching as far away as Europe (e.g. through Turkey). That's encouraging. The global grid gets mentioned in this blog, and in neighboring blogs. The buzz around GENI is not new.

Critical Path project (high priority): network the high voltage long distance distribution grids, to facilitate buying and selling of power. ENRON failed to elucidate the vision, got side tracked into attacking California, getting caught in off shore language games around tropical fish 'n stuff. Maybe not really the smartest guys in the room. More of those at Google.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Control Rooms?

Notably absent from coverage of a FEMA response, or lack thereof, to recent hurricanes, has been any view of a control room. Apparently FEMA has no central nervous system it feels proud enough to show off, no Hollywood-style NORAD or Mission Control ala Houston.

Relief engineers don't huddle over monitors, tracking the progress of this or that mobile relief convoy, with a big screen up front sharing overview. Nor do we see such centers on TV when disaster strikes around the world, e.g. in Pakistan or Guatemala.

TV news rooms come closer, give a sense of a high tech hub receiving reports from journalists around the world. The evening news is a tip of the iceberg sampling of top stories, but there's a sense of thousands more hours going to some archive for later retrieval and review.

But news rooms field spectators, watchers. The ethic of journalism is not to participate, but to report. In nervous system terms, news rooms receive pleasure and pain signals, but have no direct way to trigger a motor response. We hope other control rooms get the message.

Of course a lot of control and situation rooms don't get much TV exposure. Demolition engineers punch up real time satellite imagery, video feed from drones and so on and battleships have their bridges. When it comes to command and control, Pentagon style, wreaking havoc is the name of the game. Our script writers and scenario planners tend to be apocalyptic and/or vengeful in their thinking, anxious to fight human enemies, not weather, earthquakes, fire, famine, drought or poverty.

World Game still takes a back seat to war games, in the fantasy lives of so many children, when they imagine what a safer, more secure world might be like. Control rooms focused on disaster relief and monitoring civilian infrastructure don't really enter their consciousness. Instead they dream of overwhelming fire power, missile defense, ray guns on orbiting space platforms, zapping Earth-bound terrorists on the run.

We have the technology to play World Game for real, but our thinking remains immature, stuck in yesteryear's science fiction. Not enough grown ups. Not a new problem.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Baghdad, City of

We may legitimately expect great advances in civilization from Baghdad, once the dust settles. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi lived in Baghdad, according to an online Britannica. I was just checking into that a few minutes ago. I hear Greenspan favors still teaching the long division algorithm in K-12. I'm certainly not averse.

Did I ever mention my job at Georgetown University, refiling Arabic language texts to their rightful shelf positions? The job required at least knowing the regional alphabet. At the time, I kind of did, thanks to a course I almost failed at Princeton. I also used the time to read more about James Joyce (the Hugh Kenner connection), and naval history (this is closer to the time when Fuller's whimsical/poetical Critical Path was still new).

Let's keep working on getting Imperial Rome out of the picture. Old Glory, in symbolizing a fight against British Imperialism in the 1700s, knows something about beating back illegitimate tyranny. Democracy and self-determination at the local level go hand in hand.

We understand that a stable world system doesn't require power to apex in any one apex. Tower of Babel was for a reason: to keep Man where he belongs, out of the control room (within those limitations, we do as much as we responsibly can, and then some).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Return to the Moon?

Mom pointed out an interesting juxtaposition of stories on the front page of The Oregonian today: the rural southeast feels bypassed by federal aid agencies; NASA wants to return to the moon.

I have Google set to sweep newsmedia for any mention of the OMR stadium-shaped city idea. Turning stadiums into cities seems to be a favored solution to date, but that doesn't seem very practical in the long run.

If NASA could build us a spanking new moon base (a dot-mil operation), maybe it could help us brainstorm about new high tech ecovillages right here on Spaceship Earth. We civilians (remember us?) could use some help from the aerospace sector.

But NASA may not have the imagination for it, may not have the "right stuff." OK, so how 'bout The Mouse in Orlando? EPCOT used to mean Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, before the language lawyers changed it to Epcot (deliberately meaningless) and disgused the BuckyBall with the wave of a magic wand (camouflage?).

Monday, September 12, 2005

More on Mathematics

I've gone back to Internet brainstorming with other math heads, trying to find a way to engage the media more successfully in high def, high bandwidth, prime time pedagogy, i.e. how do we live up to the promise of TV as a medium for education? Obviously it needs to be entertaining as well. The two go together, positive synergies are inherent.

Inventors always dreamed it might be used for good, even as they cringed, bracing for worse. Well, we know what worse looks like, but there's still plenty of bandwidth for better. And we've had a lot of excellent television. I've often been awed by the talent, the writing, the whole shebang.[1] Not on every channel nor every program mind you. But sometimes TV just blows me away, the way some books and movies do, or some dreams.

A lot of thinkers have focused on "symbol dances" as a genre to focus on, by which I mean multimedia language games that have, as their content, some of the alpha/numeric, iconic, ideogrammatic, and variously stylized glyphs of our or other cultures. Like, flash the ancient greek letters and say them. Sigma, phi, pi, theta. Ro ro ro your boat. But with Flash as in Macromedia, as in Shockwave, as in Sesame Street with Big Bird -- and Evil Bert (not really evil -- that was a joke from the political sphere, some kids won't remember).

I've played with Flash myself, and come up with primitive examples of what I'm talking about. But I'm no super incredible artist when it comes to some sophisticated art-making technologies. I write pretty well. But I'm no great prodigy when it comes to animation (I like to think I add to the team, but I'm not as good in all positions, obviously).

[1] "shebang." WordNet 1.7.1. Princeton University, 2001. GuruNet Corp. 13 Sep. 2005.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Global Data

Of course another stargate that's opened (metaphor) is between New Orleans and Amsterdam, Louisiana and the Netherlands. I was pleased to see so much set in the Netherlands in Quicksilver, however twisted that telling. Such wonderful canvases.

People elsewhere on the globe are starting to get more of a picture of what the heartland of America is like. The logistics are poor here. Like, look at our dikes. Kids in Holland stare at the TV agog: so America is like this stone age place, like in The Flintstones?

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Is now the time to dust off shelved megaproject proposals, e.g. Old Man River City (OMR)? Trevor brought this up at our meeting yesterday -- seemed apropos.

This stadium-shaped A-frame features terraced living, with apartments taking the place of bleachers (obviously its scale dwarfs ordinary football stadia), plus a cover.

I updated a web page on my site with a pictured scale mockup (see Bucky Fuller's Critical Path, 1981 for more details).

On synergeo (Yahoo eGroup) some guy thought I was talking about replacing New Orleans with this leviathan, but I'm more thinking how to bring something on-line that'd be faster to start using (it could go up in sections), while employing companies starting now, thereby giving folks some options (shades of New Deal thinking).

The eventual fate of New Orleans needn't hinge on what we do or don't do in the East St. Louis area.

And we might have learned something in Baghdad about building in transparency (sorely lacking in that context).

The tsunami story isn't over yet either, by a long shot. Disaster relief could and should be one of the world's principal industries (like the body's immune system), fading into construction, communications, health care and education at the civilian end of the spectrum.

Emergency response becomes part of the military way, what with its chain of command and experience with heavy equipment. Restoring order means reverting to a natural state of nonviolent civilian living. Putting out fires is the name of the game -- not starting them.

I don't know if OMR is just a solution looking for a problem here, but bouncing back from Katrina with megaproject proposals, one of which would be rebuilding New Orleans itself (a daunting task), is a healthy response. However, going to the moon wouldn't be that relevant (thinking back to Hurricane Camille, which came shortly after Apollo 11).

Floating city ideas should also be revisited while we're at it, with realistic attention to natural disaster possibilities. Not every technology is suitable to every ecosystem -- presumably we know that much by now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina (aftermath)

Tracking with CBS, I saw that segment about the big banana shipment, a fully loaded container ship, getting tossed inland, meaning very bruised bananas. Tremendous loss of hard work, careers built over a life time. Fishermen, their boats ruined, so carefully maintained and fussed over all of their fishing boat lives. Pets gone. Children. Heartbreak in the heartland.

New Orleans and Baghdad have opened a kind of stargate between them, as both have suffered so many untold disasters, and now have armed national guard troops trying to restore order. The public now feels they're in competition: how could you provide for Baghdad and not for us?

A hurricane of destruction was willed by men against Baghdad, whereas Katrina was not of men. These crises do not have the same causes, and yet the shapes are similar. War and natural disasters have always borne some resemblance. And the Red Cross administers in both contexts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

4D Solutions

4D Solutions
A Pioneer in Open Source

Refugee Camps?

This seems like one of those times when we need emergency short term FEMA cities (camps really), with free rides to the new digs, efficient intake -- on sites high and dry and pre-fitted with portable infrastructure (food and water).

Get back on your feet, start a new life elsewhere.

We wonder about Tara's playmate Alana and her family, of Biloxi. They moved away from the house across the street to be closer to relatives, and were enjoying their new life. They came back for a visit around the same time I got back from my trip to Sweden. How has the storm changed their circumstances, near and long term? We pray for their well being, and that of their neighbors.

FEMA must have such plans in inventory. We've been in a war after all. Corporations will want to get their logos on record as well, to earn the good will of disaster victims everywhere (tomorrow's retail shoppers and investment bankers -- better they should feel gratitude than the sting of abandonment in a time of need).

Followup, Sept 1

I've since learned my info re Alana's family was incorrect: they were closer to New Orleans on the Louisiana side of the border. Our prayers reach out to you, wherever you are. And we continue monitoring Biloxi, looking for signs of your good works, amen.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Shark Tale (movie review)

I watched this again last night -- one of the few I've purchased for the purpose of sampling, as parts or as a whole, any time. Plus I like the special features.

Capturing the likes of Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese, as fish, is a major coup, and I salute these gentlemen for agreeing to be in a film for children, that's so kind to adults and their dark worlds, in this case that of an undersea urbia and a world of mafioso types. All the characterizations are brilliant, right down to the hermit crab, who cracks me up every time ("you're blowing it man!").

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Couple of Skits

Skit One:

Karl Rove hosts SNL. Skit-within-a-skit: liberal Oregon family in funky station wagon or bus, all the right bumper stickers, pulls over for disgusting junk food, to find Karl Rove serving at the 2nd window ("ketchup?"). The family freaks, barrels down the freeway, pulls over for gas. It's Karl at the pump.

Skit Two:

The day Rush Limbaugh is out sick and filling in we have Barney the purple dinosaur, spewing love for everyone.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Regarding Today's Headlines

I got home in time to watch most of Ted Koppel's Nightline about Peter Jennings, a long haul control room anchor from Canada who recently died from cigarette smoking.

Everyone remarked on how cool-headed he was on the air, and on his ravenous appetite for omnitriangulated information (only a small percentage of which made it to the nightly news on ABC, given ABC offered no 24/7 televised news channel).

Editorial re today's news:

Iranian nuke facilities take a step in defiance of those who've already weaponized their uranium stockpiles.

Nonproliferation should mean it's illegal for any facility, anywhere in the world, to produce new weapons-grade fissionable materials. Any facility that does so, including in North America, should get its satellite picture in the paper for committing crimes against humanity.

Stockpiling such materials is likewise a crime, unless the intent is to secure and eventually destroy them, or render them inaccessible (plans and timeline on file with the IAEA).

Any nation allowing such weaponry to proliferate within its own borders is of course a rogue nation harboring terrorists, by definition -- often a sign that the central government is extremely weak and without a serious national security policy (like in Afghanistan).

Histories currently in production will tell the story from this angle: the Iranian government is not alone in being inept against terrorism. We'll have quite the rogues gallery of nefarious nuke heads and incompetent politicians.

USA OS PolicyToons: [1] [2]

Friday, August 05, 2005


I'm imagining some kind of language game with syntax highlighting, symbols in motion, demonstrating the logic of a high level language: Ruby for example.

Just stepping through with a debugger is already good enough for geek television. A strong debugger even crosses language barriers, e.g. will go into the C# if that's where the problem or break point is, even if the calling code were in IronPython.

Ruby on Rails is a well designed framework for frameworks, targeted at facing a public through the web (http). Since a lot of rails is written in Ruby, the developer's comprehension of the stack will carry her quite deeply into things.

Fond memory (they're developing already): Jim Huginin, beginning his presentation with this funny remark: " the wireless microphone doesn't appear to be working, so if I trip over this cord, please all laugh loudly to help me cover my embarrassment."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Achieving Orbit

We woke up early thanks to our daughter's special interest in NASA's program, today the launching of a space shuttle. The events were well timed and exceptions minimal. NASA still does great control room. We watched it with Bob Schieffer, a CBS anchor I've always liked.

This is two years after the tragic loss of the previous shuttle, owing to exceptions at launch. This shuttle trip is all about repairing that damage, which many said was evidence of a loss of safety- consciousness at NASA. If true, or even if not, we might use this opportunity to remind ourselves that loss of safety-consciousness is not a phenomenon limited to NASA. Please drive safely.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Followup, July 28, 2005: Per today's New York Times front page, exceptions were not minimal as I'd earlier surmised: a big piece of foam broke away from the fuel tank, like last time (although this time it missed hitting the shuttle). So a root cause of the last shuttle disaster hasn't been fixed. The launch process is still unacceptably dangerous.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

More on USA OS

I was listening to this guy on public radio last night, trying to persuade us that the founding fathers were for the most part Puritan, that Deists were the exception, not the rule, and that French Enlightenment fathers such as Voltaire, were not the source of the American Revolution, nor behind the establishment of the United States thereof, in the form of two founding documents: the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States.

He started teaching us a specific vocabulary around "covenant," of Biblical origin, for contextualizing the Constitution. What was important to him was to see USA OS as a subprocess of a Christian process, not a fork, and not a separate, secularist process, as if such a thing were possible (how could a process operate without God's guidance? -- we all need to be started and stopped from within the OS, no?). Gays and lesbians were a special target of his, i.e. we wouldn't be giving them such liberties were his Xtian OS running the show, and wouldn't that be agreeable? I didn't agree.

Like many listeners, my mind shot to the Native Americans, who were already here and doing cyberspace (or spooky governance or whatever the chiefs wanna call it). Europeans had a lot to learn when they got here. The arrogant know-it-alls proved difficult to teach, so why bother? There were plenty wanting to get it, about this place. Ben Franklin for example -- part of our national treasure (was the radio guy hoping we'd just forget that?). As a scientist cum anthropologist, Ben cared what Native Americans had learned from living in North America for some thousands upon thousands of years. When Mazama blew, they/we knew. Crater Lake. Then in 1980, Mt. St. Helens (which has other names as well). I think we're all impressed by God's energy -- way bigger than our own (saw the new War of the Worlds last night -- Tom had a lot to work through).

Anyway, back to USA OS, I see her as coming a long way since the 1600s, and the East India Company days. The Puritan voice is still heard, most definitely, and the commitment to democracy in their language is strong, and an important part of our heritage, nothing to deny or try to silence in any way. We are grateful for First Amendment principles, which enshrine the sanctity of human speech, about practically any subject, because we value Language as a gift from God (why not? -- why not be thankful? (Atheists and Nontheists, think of God-talk as a grammar for expressing gratitude, but not, thereby, subservience to any other human or human establishment)).

We value Puritan speech.

And we also listen to the American Transcendentalists. We read No More Secondhand God by R. Buckminster Fuller. We're a pretty smart people. Geeky, like the Greeks. Programming an operating system is something we'll do for breakfast. USA OS is our project, we shield it and give it serious attention, and we're good at what we do. And we're not all of us Christians, and that's perfectly OK, or as the bumper sticker goes: "Just Ducky with God."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Open Source Voting and Democratic Rights Act

Notice that the whole issue of cleverly crafted, laced-with-cheats software (not to mention hardware) is strategically on the sidelines at the moment, as we careen towards a next election.

If journalism were able to sustain policy-making, that's a discussion we'd be having right now, but journalism can't do that job, isn't designed to, and nor is it the private sector's problem, really.

Attending to the affairs of infrastructure, especially those of the core operating system (the very machinery of voting for example) is the responsibility of government, otherwise there's no reason to pay for one.

So I'm not taking the absence of serious public discussion of this issue as a symptom of corrupt journalism, so much as evidence of a hands-off philosophy towards government in general, on the part of those officially installed with the responsibility to manage it.

Congress, in other words, if we are going to see any relevant legislation, an Open Source Voting and Democratic Rights Act for example, or something of the sort -- a sort of HIPAA in-reverse, in that the public has a right to know some information, just as surely as other information is none of its damn business.

Great legislation isn't written by the shallow puppets of those who don't really believe in good government, who in their heart of hearts want it to go away -- so they can steal us all blind.

Let us pray that those entrusted with the powers of political office will execute their duties with integrity, lest their words become as dust in the wind, against the forces of those who would seek to unseat democracy, as a form of government, from its rightful place at the table.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sports Night

On advice of a fellow Quaker, a woman whose judgment I trust on such matters, I've been reviewing early episodes of Sports Night, a TV series.

I consider this series linked to Control Room (the movie) in that both the TV series and the movie are about life in and around a TV control room, the source of a nationally and/or globally syndicated show, in both cases a reality show, but in the TV series case, offered as a comedic fiction scripted by talented screen writers, and revolving around sports, relationships and generally lighter fare.

Control Room
, in contrast, is about war time coverage of extremely violent events -- not sports by a long shot -- and the genre is that of documentary, not clever sitcom, not fiction.

Some of the writing talent behind Sports Night was later behind West Wing, the fictional series about a president and company in the White House.

I've found Netflix a good resource for catching up on series I'd missed, what with living overseas, studying a lot in college, holding demanding jobs and so on. I'm way behind on my TV viewing. Never seen a Sopranos (don't worry, I'll get to it). But thanks to Netflix, I've worked through some middle seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all of season one of the HBO series Six Feet Under (which has an important cast member in common with Sports Night by the way).

Monday, June 06, 2005

Chaordic Roaming

The rolling stock bizmos needn't be micromanaged from the control room. The itineraries come in the form of options, connecting events according to rule-based searches. If I've been to Oswego before, and enjoyed it, chances are I'd like to go again. The option scrolls into view, like in those TV Guide pages. Lots of channels, and I'm holding the remote. This keeps the bizmo crews happier, as there's not a sense of being coerced into grueling routines.

Availability from the various garages needs to be scheduled though. Like airplanes, bizmos are expected to file "flight plans" in advance so that logistics is smooth, redundancy minimized, effectiveness maximized. Some vehicles in our fleet do, in fact, fly, though I'm not aware that anyone has perfected Bucky's "omni-plummeting device" as Jay Baldwin likes to call it.

The bizmos criss-cross the country, connecting to conferences, museums, cultural events (e.g. Burning Man, X-Day). Plus they convene with each other, in mini-circus conventions, wherein notes and ideas get exchanged. Teachers aren't all on the same wavelength and specialize in different areas. But to get to this level (of having a bizmo), we presume you're pretty good, adequately skilled. So there's a clubby feel to it all, even if we're not all espousing the same politics.

I have no problem with the USG and energy companies becoming involved. The NSA has been earning its chops in the ed business, tracking lots of articles. The cryptography link between my math curriculum and RSA is enough to establish a national security credential. USAers want to know this bizmo, giving their kids a good look at cryptography internals, isn't leaking something vital to their enemies. The decals are reassuring in this regard.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Geodesic Mosques

I've got a Google News alert set to go off if key words "mosque" and "geodesic" occur in the same article [example, inserted later]. I figure now would be a good time for Iran to put the world on notice that it intends to be more than just nose job capital of the world (CBS News last night: dateline Tehran). Like any business, Islam LLC is somewhat risk-averse, more so than Allah would like sometimes. That goes with the territory. Every religion has some hollow spots, along with its truly holy ones.

Friday, April 22, 2005

World Game 1970

John Braley on Synergeo posted a link to World Game, this by now ancient article by Hal Aigner, which appeared in Mother Earth News in 1970. I was still living in Italy back then, attending middle school at the Overseas School of Rome (OSR). Fuller did appear on my radar, briefly, thanks to Fred Craden (my sociology teacher) and company. But I hadn't tuned in World Game per se -- just the Club of Rome (Jay Forrester et al), the topic of my 8th grade independent learning project. By 9th grade I'd be in Bradenton, Florida, but only for a semester. Then on to Manila.

Hal's article is amazingly ambitious in scope, taking in Einstein, Heisenberg, Von Neuman, a global electrical grid, and of course Buckminster Fuller, all in one fell swoop. Ah those were the days. Plus we were looking forward to utopia by the 1980s!

All these people in their 20s and 30s when this article came out, are now in their 40s and 50s, looking back on a not-so-utopian end of a millenium and start of a new one. So was world game a failure? What other game do we have? Sure, we may be incompetent players (improving?), but the way I see it world game is still the only game in town (locally anyway, in our podunk solar system).

I posted some follow-up comments to synergeo, but I'm not sure what it takes to access that archive, in terms of joining Yahoo or whatever.

I need to remember to watch Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria on OPB in about 30 minutes. My friend Glenn is the producer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Judging Science

Today fellow wanderer David Feinstein, a talented, Caltech-educated mathematician, presented his innovations designed to help judges of science fairs. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the particular one he's been focusing on. The stage is set to give his new data visualizations and associated decision support tools a try.

Thousands of science projects, neatly packaged and summarized, appear under one roof, with their authors in tow, and judges have the difficult job of interviewing all the contestants, and then ranking these projects, on a per-discipline basis, in order to hand out prizes and awards of various description.

The job is made even more difficult by the fact that no judge sees all the projects in his or her domain, and maybe only one or two other judges has registered a score for any given project.

Judges will skew their scores based on: what other projects they've seen in the fair; their background; their tendency to give generally high or generally low scores (on a scale of 0-100).

David doesn't try to influence judges. His tools merely summarize and organize their scores more intelligibly, for the benefit of later caucusing. Caucusing is the process which ensues after judges have registered their initial scores, and now need to sort out the top projects.

Today's demonstration involved jellies and jams instead of science projects. Each of 10 judges was assigned the task of scoring six randomly assigned jams and jellies, out of about a dozen samples. The scores were entered into a spreadsheet (the template was already prepared) and emailed from the Pauling House to an associate, who used the data to drive David's web-based visualizations and decision support tool.

Fred Menger, Eve's brother, and chemistry professor at Emory University, was part of our number this morning. Last night, we heard him speak at Reed College about evolution (room 301, Chemistry building). He thinks the usual criticisms of Neo-Darwinism aren't all that problematic, but what does seem strange is that this huge, energetically expensive brain would show up, with potentials way in advance of anything we might have needed at the time. What in the environment would select in favor of so many unrealized capabilities? I think the brain has probably paid its own way, in terms of conferring advantages relevant to the era.

He went on to suggest the brain supports epigenetic evolutionary processes with Lamarkian properties i.e. some acquired advantages get passed on. I wasn't sure why he thought the mechanisms needed to involve genetics at all directly, i.e. couldn't the processes be extracorporeal, e.g. linguistic? For example, cyberspace is making us more responsive without altering the human genome in any direct way.

On another front, I've been working on a new resource for the Oregon Curriculum Network, designed to provide insight into how some of the basic infrastructure in cyberspace operates.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Statistics Channel

The title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as no marketing department would entitle a TV channel as such. However, the idea is good: a tape loop of intriguing data visualizations, about big picture matters.

The subject matter might be geological i.e. the timeline might be relatively huge. Like, did you know there was likely an age of "mammals" prior to the age of dinosaurs? The evidence is compelling. Also: the comet or asteroid (I forget which) that wiped out the dinos likely hit in the Gulf of Mexico. The tsunami was huge.

Other times, the subjects'd be more contemporary/local, e.g. pictures of the global electrical grid (present and projected).

A purpose of this channel is to help humans unify around some common challenges. The carbon dioxide level is global. Just as weather reports help remind people of a local geography, perhaps a national or regional identity, so might a "statistics channel" remind people of Spaceship Earth, and our responsibilities as a species.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Consolidation Phase

The cosmic fishing process involves two major phases (not including maintenance and repair, getting to the site etc.): casting the net, pulling in the net. In more agricultural terms: we sew, we reap.

The two essays linked below are integrative, consolidating. I'm reaping, hauling in some fish.

Essay 1: Forms of Life
Essay 2: Simple Language Games

Followup (March 17, 2005):

Essay 3: Forms of Life (continued)
Essay 4: The Concentric Hierarchy

The content is philosophical, but you need philosophy if your goal is to have a lot of overview. And here in the Control Room, overview is definitely what we're about.

Applewhite expressed some satisfaction over my Fuller- Wittgenstein bridge, a construction I talked over with Jay Baldwin at some length as well, that time we met in San Jose. Lots of positive synergies here.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Proposal: Baghdad Grid Monitor

A graphical gizmo or gadget we'd like added to this control room: some quasi real time refreshing interface, perhaps a Java applet or XML-backed Flash widget, that gives an accurate picture of rolling brownouts in Baghdad. If traffic signals are affected, per Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories, this should receive special mention.

This web service could easily be expanded with more graphical gizmos as time goes on, e.g. it's not just Baghdad we care about. There'd be no special authorization required to view it. This information is public, not classified (which doesn't mean the CIA couldn't serve it and/or source the information).

Once this new web service is in place, we might think of various applications for it. For example, I might propose that for every hour some part of Baghdad is without power, that the annual income of each USA congressperson automatically drops by one dollar. Of course that's way too forgiving, plus Congress'd find a loophole in about 10 seconds. So my proposal has symbolic value only. Still, I'd like to see the numbers.

Related blog post: FAQ: So What's Global Data?


Dan Rather got it right on David Letterman (2005.3.3): infrastructure, and the state of the Iraqi electrical grid in particular, is the barometer, the key parameter to watch (paraphrasing)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

On the Edge of Chaos

Recent mathematics has converged to a state of "controlled chaos" which many consider the optimized space for innovation and creative response. The degrees of freedom are many, but not so many as to destroy any sense of rules, of a game. But nor are freedoms so restricted as to make every response "by the numbers" -- a game for AI robots instead of human beings.

War gamers well know that simulations never fully anticipate all the ripple effects of wartime scenarios. An attack commences, and the avalanche of unintended consequences begins. Then come the ad hoc responses, an attempt to keep some semblance of control over events. Finding a way to stop a war becomes central -- they're relatively easy to start, but hard to reign in, once the violence is unleashed.

World Game likewise acknowledges the limitations of simulations. This emphasis on "control rooms" may seem perversely control freaky to some, as they know in their gut that life on the edge of chaos cannot be controlled. There's a dance, a set of feedback loops, but it's ridiculous to suppose any mastermind is on top of everything -- which is why these Dr. Evil paranoias so rarely make any long term sense.

However, given World Game is concerned with building a lot of civilian infrastructure, there's more confidance going in that the synergies will be positive, whereas war gamers rightly expect increasingly grave situations.

Dee Hock of Visa talks a lot about "chaordic" enterprises. They're designed to self-organize and spread, but not under anyone's thumb. The Internet is another obvious example. And we've seen many positive synergies in both scenarios. Visa cards are a great invention, even if they're abused in many cases. Likewise the Internet has given rise to many unforeseen (plus anticipated) abuses. Yet in both cases, I'd say the positives far outweigh the negatives.

So yes, I'll readily admit that I'm not in control, even as I sit here in my control room, enjoying a lot of overview, plus some sense of steering the ship. I'm a powerful guy, sure, but I'm not masterminding the whole show, any more than any Dr. Evil is able to, from his cybernetic fortress of solitude. I'm one world game player among many, trying to do my part for the cause.

To war gamers, I may appear somewhat reckless, in my willingness to trigger avalanche effects, knowing in advance that I'm not going to be in control of them. But it's a two way street: I wonder how war gamers get away with being so cavalier, so blithe, so full of hubris, when their triggering events (e.g. aerial attacks) contain so much violence and pain. At least I'm not misanthropic.

World Game involves putting a lot of positive artifacts and tools out there, a Johnny Appleseed approach. Pepper the landscape with goodies, stuff people may find useful. Then look for ways to switch energy towards these somewhat sketchy circuits, maybe throttling back if unanticipated show stoppers arise.

In my view, this is how the USG itself got off the ground: a lot of well-architected infrastructure was implanted and set running. Over two hundred years later, the resulting controlled chaos is still a source of positive synergy. But we can't stop seeding the future. It's up to us to plant and nurture, even if we don't really know what all the ripple effects will be. That's just life.

However, if the focus is lasting/sustainable success for omnihumanity (Fuller's goal), versus myopic "you or me" survival of the most brutish, then the likelihood of reaping a reward vastly increases.

If your game is death and destruction, you're basically incompetent and need to be sidelined. That doesn't mean I'm anti-military though. Defending the long term integrity of the USG, by defending against inferior and undermining ideologies, remains an important aspect of World Game. The Russians do the same, and more power to 'em.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Simulators in World Game

Monitoring global data is one thing. Mandating interventions or corrective maneuvers is quite another. Yet on the bridge of the Enterprise (a federation starship), the captain must do both. It's not enough just to stand and stare, as everything goes to hell, freezing in a panic or whatever. Fortunately for the Enterprise, Spock is always happy to relieve Kirk of duty, if that's what it takes (or maybe the Klingons will step in).

So how shall we develop our captain's reflexes and conceptual understanding, such that she's well prepared to respond quickly (or slowly, patiently) as the situation demands? Answer: simulations, dry runs, mock ups, rehearsals. This is what every discipline tends to come up with: some way to allow an apprentice to learn from her mistakes without paying too high a cost.

NASA learned the importance of simulations long ago. Mission Control would go through the final stages of landing on the moon with the astronauts, and maybe crash the LEM a few times.

Of special interest along a critical path are those points of no return. Up to some point, you have abort capability, after which point, you've committed. The LEM crew might find itself stuck on the moon, if it chose to commit, then discovered a problem -- hence the importance of check lists.

In the press of the moment, check lists developed in times of cool, calm clarity often prove a valuable counter to the grip of fear or, potentially as dangerous, the eager thrill to rush onward. Plus there's just a heck of a lot to remember. Pilots use check lists as a matter of course. On contemporary aircraft, they're built right into the cockpit display.

Another form of simulation is field testing. Robotic rovers, designed to explore remote planets, first get a workout on Earth, perhaps in some desert. These tests disclose the limitations of the equipment, plus give remote controllers some all important experience. Sometimes the feedback loop is artifically slowed, given the lag times associated with what will eventually be the real time distances between pilots and robots. The speed of light is finite, after all.

World Game has always featured simulations. A gymnasium-sized world map would be unrolled, and participants assigned roles, as diplomats, journalists, heads of state, corporate executives. The clock would start, and players would swing into action, trying to self-organize human affairs on a global scale.

Typically, the scenario would end in disaster, and one of the trainers, e.g. Chuck Dingée, would come out with the buckets of red poker chips, each symbolizing the blast and/or fallout radius of a nuclear explosive. There'd be enough chips to effectively cover most of the map's landmasses.

Players would survey the damage and feel relieved that this was only a test. As they walked out the door into the bright sunlight, the trainers would remind them: now world game begins for real.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Mapparium

Any control room worth its salt has global data displays in the round, simulations of the planet. A flat map of the world then derives from this globe via some projection algorithm, of which we have several.

One of the more interesting control rooms I've visited is the Mapparium in Boston. All these years later I still treasure my Korea-made vinyl Mapparium tote bag, my one souvenir from that nuclear disarmament conference I attended on behalf of the AFSC.

The Mapparium is this walk-through globe, 30 feet in diameter, with backlit glass panels providing a view of the oceans and continents, plus an overlay of political data. Off to the side, there's a situation room with a desk and additional monitoring equipment (I'm hazy on the details). Christian Scientists want overview and spent big money to get it ($8,900 in 1935). And why not? More power to 'em.

In science fiction movies, such control rooms may belong to some nefarious master mind, some Dr. Evil with a plan for world domination. We want the good guys (our team) to have a slick control room, but maybe not the competition. Overview is a strategic asset. If Dr. Evil has better overview than you do, well better call batman or 007 or someone who will put those bad guys out of business -- and that usually means a thrilling climax with lots of explosions, or at least some hand-to-hand combat. The situation may look rather dim for our hero at times, which adds to the suspense. We all know the formula. Hollywood has it down pat.

In Critical Path, Fuller sketched an outdoor geoscope, 200 feet in diameter, that'd be "highly visible to occupants of the UN building as well as to all those in New York City in the vicinity of Fiftieth Street." (pg. 175) His original idea for the Montreal '67 Expo Pavilion was likewise geoscopic -- a flat map transforming into a globe every so often. World Game computers would illuminate its many bulbs with various overlays, billboard style.

Both projects had a psychological dimension, which was precessionally important even though neither was actually implemented: instead of locking his global data displays in some spooky, secret cave, accessible only to those with high level clearances, he was projecting onto very public surfaces. Every UN diplomat would know that every other UN diplomat was seeing. That in itself was a revolutionary aspect of his design.

Today we'd call it "free and open source global data."

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Big Picture Plasma

Monitor 0: No feed at this time -- fish screen saver on steroids
Monitor 1: Talking Head -- a clever self-promoter of some kind
Monitor 2: Coordinate Geometry -- geek channel cartoons
Monitor 3: American History -- some PBS documentary?
Monitor 4: Global Energy Grid -- test pattern (still in the works)
Monitor 5: A Battle -- some weird military or scifi channel thing

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Joint Ventures?

I got a call from Richard Amerman out of the blue the other day. He and I are Plone afficionados -- like, we both attended that sprint with Alan Runyaga and Andy McKay in Victoria that time. He wants to do some global data displays using Plone, in collaboration with a biodiesel guy I haven't met yet. They might need my help in some way. Sounds like fun.

On another front, I met a former webmaster with Sesame Street (Consoletti introduced us). He reminded me that Grover (a kid favorite) and Yoda (the Jedi Knight), are the same guy, Frank Oz (just like Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are both performed by Carroll Spinney). This webmaster has also worked as a counselor with navam kids.

I still remember those posters that came out after 911, with Osama Bin Laden in the foreground, and in the background: Evil Burt. I took a screen shot of that in my brief case when I flew off to the east coast in October of 2001, to visit (among others) Kenneth Snelson in Manhatten and Stuart Quimby in upstate New York; a spark of humor in a very dark time.

That's the time Ken gave me Barrel Tower, a fantastic gift that sits proudly in my office. I had to get it back through airline security at EWR (too big for the metal detector, and besides, it's all metal, so what's to detect?).

Monday, January 31, 2005

Make Sense Not War

Submerged amidst the stories of the day was this one: the Brazilian government says it will jettison "just trust us" proprietary software (like Windows) in favor of "you take control" open source software (like Linux).

The bottom line is: a bright future is both attainable and sustainable, but requires a high level of transparency, a plentiful supply of timely, usefully presented global data. That's been a political ideal earning lip service, but now it's also an engineering requirement.

Oft times, money talk tends to dumb down an otherwise coherent narrative and slow its advance by keeping our attention misdirected. Once it's all about money, expect plenty of fast talk and sleights of hand. Remember the dot com revolution and how quickly any real information about the technology was submerged in BS? Hey, we've had centuries to practice and fine tune the discourse (me like the next guy -- so pay close attention (now you see it, now you don't)).

is reporting $9 billion unaccounted for by the Coalition Provisional Authority. The chaos of war provides a convenient excuse many hope will serve as their cover indefinitely. Money pads private accounts, no work gets done, the infrastructure decays, soldiers and civilians get killed, and terrorism is to blame. Welcome to the United States of America, folks -- or were we discussing Iraq?

We geeks in our open source control rooms know to keep our eyes on the prize: good clear information, circuit diagrams, blueprints, flow charts, hard core scientific models. Like, where are those generators and what are their specs, and why aren't they working? Could a neighboring grid pick up the slack? Why all these rolling brownouts and fuel shortages month after month? Because of terrorism right? Nothing to do with willful obfuscation, aiming to make out like bandits behind the scenes, to capitalize on the suffering of others, right?

Fortunately, this is not an "us versus them" story about little guys versus giants. As uplifting and inspirational as David's story might be, the fact is that many goliaths are alert to the possibilities. We could actually make this work, so why not?

Plus we geeks have a lot of street smarts and savvy. We're holding a lot of cards. We really have the upper hand in so many ways. Like, we have the Internet, we have Google. We're Morlocks after all, not Eloi, as Neal Stephenson aptly puts it (see: In the Beginning Was the Command Line -- it's worth a read).

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Total Information Awareness

In this highly effective ACLU ad, some hapless netizen phones to order pizza and gets more than he bargained for: an encounter with big brother (or big sister in this case). And she's right of course: he should lay off the double meat, given that waist line and medical history -- although she'll allow the transgression if he signs a release from the HMO (expensive!).

Part of what makes this encounter seem so unfair is the pizza lady holds all the cards. Our would-be consumer knows nothing about his order-taker inquisitor. The violation of privacy is entirely one-sided. This suggests an important principle: to the extent that we are moving towards total information awareness (no one really knows the future), it shouldn't be about empowering Obnoxico (Fuller's term) at the expense of the average citizen. Here at Global Data, we don't just work for pointy-headed geeks named Poindexter. We work for you, the average pizza lover.

In my view, the average citizen is still sovereign. Like, go ahead and pig out on pizza if that's your karma, provided you allow for the rights of your neighbors (they don't have to watch, nor care if you kill yourself). Corporations on the other hand, being not human, don't have the same rights to privacy, especially the really big ones working closely with planetary infrastructure. The public has a right to know what these big name players are up to, given we'll all pay the consequences of bad decision making, and so increasing transparency is the name of the game.

I learned these values in the open source community, wherein I've taken an active role (like, why trust your life to source code they won't show you?) -- but also from Uncle Sam. The American commitment to freedom of information is not about providing exclusive and one-sided advantages to tiny elites, anonymous shareholders in their gated communities, or to military planners with fantasies of global domination. The commitment is to serve all of the people. That's why top management at Global Data has such love and respect for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society -- and Google. And yes, we think the ACLU is pretty cool too.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Why Civilizations Fail

Portlanders packed First Congregational Church last night -- that's on the park blocks, near PSU. Dave, Darl and I sat together in the balcony. Our speaker was Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Gems and Steel, and now of another book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Note the word "choose" -- there's the notion of free will expressed in it, by author intent.

I've heard Jared a couple of times before, and I'm always blown away by his thick American accent, which I'm not enough of a philologist to pinpoint. Typical of Oregonians, of the Portland variety anyway, we tittered almost inaudably (so as not to be rude) when he said Oregon. People who live here (and new immigrants from out of state quickly learn this), say Oregun, with emphasis on the O.

They fail, civilizations, for a variety of reasons, including when the elite manages to isolate itself from the living conditions experienced by the rank and file. He described gated communities around LA, unaffected by failures of the surrounding infrastructure (including school systems) and therefore less likely to become worked up enough to take appropriate measures. Sometimes the wake up call comes too late in such cases.

Another bad omen is when a society fails to adjust its beliefs. He gives the example of Norse who settled in Greenland awhile back. These were staunch Christians who looked down on the rival Inuit as too outside God's fold to be worthy of respect. This was fine until the supply ships stopped coming, owing to troubles in the homeland. Although self-sufficiency was in principle still attainable, witness the Inuit, these Norse in Jared's view were too proud to sit at the feet of pagans and learn some new ways. And so they all died of starvation.

When he talked about USA military interventions overseas, as in Iraq, he did so minus the tone of moral outrage liberal Portlanders expect. The resulting discomfort was expressed in the Q&A. Jared seized the bull by the horns, and replied that any number of countries were queued up to collapse or implode, and whereas it was in the national self-interest to keep this from happening, because devastation abroad means terrorism and disease back home, tackling these challenges militarily would be unsustainably inefficient and impractical. We'd see these gargantuan price tags over and over, whereas a mere $25 billion would could fuel a globally effective anti-malaria campaign, a cost that would not be borne alone because intelligent policies attract investors. Portlanders were comfortable with this answer and applauded generously.

In Jared's view, Easter Island is a kind of parable. This place was remote, insulated by vast expanses of ocean from other societies, just like humans aboard Spaceship Earth. In the case of Easter Island, the humans failed to plan and deforested their ecosystem, made a number of other blunders. Before long, they were at war with themselves, knocking over enemy head sculptures and resorting to cannibalism -- not pretty. What's different in the case of Spaceship Earth, Jared reassured us, is our access to the historical record and to real time global data. When it comes to ecosystem management, we can learn from the Japanese, who invented sustainable forestry even before the Europeans did, and from oil companies like Chevron, which takes better care of its drilling zones in Papua New Guinea than do many national park systems. Sustainability is profitable, after all.

Of course the Chevron example was again disturbing to Portlanders, but Jared's response was consistent: it's up to us, the consumers, to do our homework and not villify giant corporations simply for being giant. Villify those committing specific crimes, including crimes committed legally. Not all businesses are equally culpable. As consumers, we should reward those that we appreciate, and withhold our business from those we do not. The same goes for politicians: don't write them off as a species; the devil is in the details. Vote with your dollars and vote with your votes. Participate. Make a difference. It's up to you and I to make humanity a success, not some nebulous "them." Again, the applause was sincere.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Blog Launch

The viewpoint here will be more like from mission control (alluding to NASA's historic base of operations in Houston, Texas), although the blog's title is also an allusion to TV-style newsroom control rooms, specifically that one in Control Room, the movie/documentary about Al Jazeera at the time of the ill-conceived and badly managed neocon attack on Iraq (a situation we're still working to salvage even as I write this).

You also find this control room motif in other genres, such as "the war room" in various military channel movies. Civilians have their "situation rooms" and in a world game context, such as here, control rooms have everything to do with monitoring ecosystems and associated field operations, especially those undertaken by technology and knowledge workers tasked with keeping systems humming aboard Spaceship Earth -- reducing entropy, solving problems.

Such control rooms show up on geek channels a lot, with the distinction between geek and military channels sometimes blurred, other times in sharp contrast owing to differences in training and outlook.