Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Loose Ends

Thank you to Laurie and Gayle for the winter jacket for Tara, looks really snug, and just in time for our latest XRL venture, my garb at the cleaners. Departing tomorrow.

While Tara went shopping, I had a marketing meeting over Thai food. At what point, when Photoshopping an NGO's (or GO's) logo onto high tech gear, do you want to seek the client's permission? Obviously if it's not real, is science fiction, you're free to tickle the client's imagination. Permission should fall under the heading of informed consent, meaning you've at least tested the waters already.

In terms of funding, the Bhutanese Army has a charter to ferment alcoholic beverages for revenue. Given military discipline is a lot about controlling inventory, supply chains, this makes plenty of sense.

Many NGOs have adopted the same model, making jams, chocolates or cheeses for barter in the marketplace, while offering seasonal retreats to practitioners of whatever faith, closer to the core mission of the abbey, although having ritual chores around cheese making is also food for the soul.

Speaking of NGOs, I've been yakking with Western Friend about the state of the art when it comes to DB work (data bases). In liberal software circles, some talk of AMP or ARM, losing the L and/or changing PHP to Ruby.

We used to say LAMP for those who weren't tracking back then: LAMP = Linux (operating system) + Apache (web server, might be for localhost) + MySQL (database engine) + some computer language starting with P (Python, Perl or PHP).

A lot of us still use Linux of course (I'm on Ubuntu right now), but OS X users need to understand they're not locked in to FileMaker Pro or other proprietary solutions. MySQL (M) and Apache (A) work well on a Mac, and for P you've got Python, although some still prefer Perl.

Same with Windows: don't assume you're locked in to Access and/or any flavor of Visual Basic (VB) including .NET. I'd recommend IronPython if Microsoft seemed less ambivalent about its marketing.

Regarding IronPython, is this the FoxPro story all over again? Visual FoxPro (VFP) was far superior to Access, but Redmond's home grown VB was more the cash cow, not alien xBase, inherited from JPL by way of Ashton-Tate. Access made cube farmers feel special, and as a front end productivity tool still makes some sense, especially if you like those "fat client" office suites (a web browser is considered "thin" even if bulky).

Now some child prodigy is going to remind me that this DB work could all be done in Emacs and LISP i.e. none of this browser-based stuff is really necessary if you can type in computer code. To which I reply: remember we're not all like you, even if we like you.

I've got a second XO, as of today, will maybe get them to talk to each other. XOs prefer to stay social (called mesh networking, like they explained on some cereal box maybe).

Good talking about Hong Kong at lunch, got me thinking about visiting Asia again. Portland's new International High School is set to open in September. That might dovetail with some of our plans to build more bridges with PSU.

Dick Pugh's Willamette Meteor talk
could easily pack an auditorium, and it's this kind of geographically localized content, backed with lots of GIS/GPS, that keeps food on the table in our region. Greater Portland is a city of planners in many respects, my dad having been one of them, before moving his career overseas.

Speaking of GIS, I should talk about the Times Square 3-frequency buckyball again, something I usually get around to this time of year. More though, I'm wondering why CAD people don't burn us an n-frequency ballroom ball to replace the more traditional sort (lots of ill-fitting squares), of hexagons and twelve pentagons (n % 3 == 0). The precision fittings would speak well for the company that did a good one. Maybe it's out there. Please send me a link.

Some high points of 2008: breakfast with Allegra, boating with Tompos (plus seeing the play four more times), hanging out with D.W. Jacobs, Sam Lanahan (Dark Matter found), and Trevor Blake at the Portland Fish House on Hawthorne, a business trip to the high desert, Willamette Quarterly Meeting, HR meetings with some Portland pros, that visit to the Linus and Ava Pauling special collection, some of those Esozone talks, getting Tara's room remodeled (thank you Elizabeth, Gayle), voting, hanging out with Gordon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Game Night

Even though I'm still coughing some, I was able to venture out with Matt last night for a game night (plus we listened to a musical score in progress, a somewhat game-like activity (a language game)).

Some of these beautiful dark Italian women, maybe Jewish, turn out to be Irish, you never know. We were a talented crew, somewhat blindingly fast in our game of Apples 'n Apples.

I was semi-professorial
with my usual rant about not watching Al Jazeera on DirecTV and so not knowing about the S-300s aka Gargoyles they want us to care about (probably a good idea).

Of course as a Quaker, I'm not expected to know anything about such things, so it's OK I don't watch. Demented cartoons not teaching anything about Fuller's geometry are another specialty of mine, right next to not watching Al Jazeera.

I'm a collector of blind spots.

There's a fine line between surveillance, anthropology, and planning a location shoot. In sending an Immersive Media dodecacam, a person to go with it, to a place like Darfur (per storyboard) we're not trying to break the "visiting ET" sensibility: yes we're not from around here, no we don't have all the answers, yes we'd like conditions to improve.

Practice in the Gorge
first, like with that stealth boat, like with Dignity Village (amidst PDX country clubs). People around here are used to what's strange (Keep Portland Weird, we say, meaning more than just Portland).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Exxon Math

I was on Quaker-P again, sneering about Exxon Math. Here's your paradigm big oil company, claiming to be doing something for "culture" yet I've seen no real uptick in people passing even our most basic IQ test, thanks to their "initiative".

Instead, I've seen their moves to intimidate, to pump out imagery relating to math's authority and power over us, very crypto-fascist and ugly, typical Obnoxico ooze. "Boost the sludge factor!" says the man behind the curtain.

Yeah, I'm kinda pissed at Exxon, posing as a helper of poor junior, trying to give a leg up in math and science, while meanwhile it's mostly intimidating cartoons showing unexplained cryptic math expressions, meaning "we're blindingly smart so you should listen to us when we blather on TV" whereas a serious sponsor, like Westinghouse in the old days, would have puppet shows by now, a character like Big Bird teaching about the complex plane, fractals... just empty advertising and hollow commercials, not the kind of company I look for, when looking for quality.
The "Bucky stuff" isn't going away guys. Show some courage maybe? Just a wee little? No one took the bull by the horns when that was still doable, and now it's too late: stampede of buffalo, heading straight at ya, in no mood to "talk" about anything.
But hey, it's easier to pick on nations, because their work looks far more hopeless (kind of like kicking nuns when they're down, a favorite pass time in white man suburbia they tell me). Get an economist in a corner, and see if he lashes out at the hand that feeds him (an investment bank for example) or some guy named Chavez.
I think we know what most will do.
What's a business without trust? The American people have enough access to history to at least figure it out half the time, when they're being bamboozled. This is one of those times.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Industrial Scale

We have this inherited mental picture that "industrial scale" means really big, as in heavy equipment, large factories, and it still does mean that (supertankers, pipelines), but lets recognize we went in the other direction too, organizing a workflow in the very small. The two go together: it takes a big place in Aloha (near Hillsboro) to put all that Intel inside.

We would like better health care, no reason you, as a student in our Global U, should have to forgo access to some corrective technologies (e.g. eyeglasses), no matter what your status in life. We're a theater-minded culture, don't need to be stingy with basic props of that nature. Sally Field gets her Boniva, even if she's just a poor nun.

We don't consider it an extravagance to provide dental and optical of a basic corrective / remedial nature, but the engineering challenge is still considerable and we don't want faculty burnout. We want the health care professions to remain highly attractive, and yes, there's a lot to know and practice and not everyone will have the stamina for it. That's true in many walks of life. But why make jobs artificially difficult, e.g. by withholding essentially free information technology?

You want relaxed, happy doctors, not over-worked speed demons, much as some doctors enjoy a fast pace. We're talking about average, ambient working conditions, where supply meets demand (a price point).

Talented actors and screenwriters managed to turn Korean War MASH units into yuk-it-up zones. Why aim for that though? I'd rather have my doctors on cruise ships, nurses likewise (and no I'm not stereotyping about gender, know both of both).

Personalizing your experience is likewise something we're more able to do, not less, because of advances in MVC designs and implementations. You're able to record more of your preferences, portfolio, pamphlets, not because you're a sudden celeb and everyone's rushing to supermarket checkout lanes for the latest gossip, but because software is paying close attention to all of those druthers of yours and, unlike a paid servant, never tires of poking you with fun suggestions.

Is this what you meant? Look like a fun opportunity? Remember: you asked for it, you got it (and OK, our AI isn't perfect -- but whose is?).

So what if it looks like mission control, with thousands of patients streaming to and from scheduled procedures, like a factory, beds on wheels? Yes it's a machine, yes it's heavy industry. It's also micro-surgery and caring about your body, which is likewise a bevy of scheduled processes, like a factory.

Your insides, like your outsides, are working 24/7 on your behalf, just it feels unfamiliar (alien) sometimes, like it's not "the real you". We project demons (a real "them") instead. No one here but us chickens, trying to get things a little more organized (a lot more in some contexts).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Musings

Although we did manage the trudge to Movie Madness again, snagging some provisions along our return, I'm mostly in my LCD-lit cave, glasses reflecting, storyboarding for 2009.

Dr. Bob Fuller is in town
, maybe we'll meet up again (talked to Frank). Getting around ain't that easy these days though. Portland sort of seizes up in these weather conditions.

Our DirecTV dish is too snow-caked to be receiving that CSPAN, HBO... they should make it all free while we're not getting any, as a good will gesture.

I've been yakking with Friends on Quaker-P about whether Jesus would be "freaking out" about our world today, me saying "no, too hippie-like, not his style". Hippies were not in control, blamed the Establishment, were closer to zealots in hating those fascist pig Romans, a lot of 'em.

Jesus was no hate-monger, but not a flower child either.

So many movies, so many renditions, each one with the stamp of some ambient culture, interpreting to its own. Speaking of which, I haven't seen Oliver Stone's W yet, will maybe get to it soon.

But then "hippie" is just a label, like Generation X, or now Y. Bio-regionally, we're also quite diverse. To excerpt from a recent Quaker-P posting:
Someone else: The celebration of Christmas started as a means to oppress pagan celebrations. Many enduring Christmas traditions, the Christmas tree, the yule log, mistletoe, holly and ivy, are pagan in origin, stolen, usurped, as a means of oppression.

Me: Today though, pagans feel back to running a railroad and can easily afford to break bread with their Christian brothers and sisters, the many saints. We're a big happy family these days, no one "oppressing" except maybe in their own minds. At least that's in our Pacific Northwest, YMMV.
I was partly thinking of our trip last year, through California, all the good people. Portland too, is a lovely place to have a truly white Christmas for a change.

OK, back to Django and JQuery. I'm only allowed so much R&R, then duty calls. I'm glad to see the ACM is adding its prestige to our call for more computer literacy in K-12. Here's a quote from the ACM web site:
ACM CEO John R. White welcomed the Obama team's efforts to increase the pool of students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields and identified key recommendations to address the particular challenges at the K-12 level. "The new Administration can play an important role in strengthening middle school education, where action can really make a difference, to introduce these students to computer science. They can also expand efforts to increase the number of females and underrepresented minorities in this field and expand professional development opportunities for high school computer science teachers."
Yes we can!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Barack Obama: The Power of Change (movie review)

Coming off a brilliant and magic-filled Solstice Party, planned by Tara and Elizabeth, I've decided to be somewhat old and sick, although I did venture out to Movie Madness with the girls, snagging this documentary selection of important interviews and speeches, including by Oprah and Michelle, both of whom definitely rival Barack when it comes to presence at the podium.

There's a tension here I think it's well to investigate: working class families want a social contract that rewards hard work fairly, with livable lifestyles, whereas keeping the government's end of the bargain will require brilliant, creative imagination.

But aren't "we the people" that very government? How do we get off being any less responsible than Barack, as individuals? He needs us as co-conspirators in the dreaming, not as docile "just tell me what to do" blind followers, and he's very clear that this is what he needs i.e. this is how democracy was designed to work.

In other words: you too are called upon to exercise your powers as a participant and player in our many-state experiments, as "virtual presidents" responsible for your own freedoms, both protecting them, and exercising them.

Like, the limelight might shift to you all of sudden (as it did to Sarah Palin), with Michelle's voice asking: and what were you doing not after you became famous for fifteen minutes, but when you lived in the shadows? Her answers are proud. Not everyone is that ethical or selfless.

There's a strong belief among "the working poor" (as one namespace would have it), in these inner circle elites of the super rich, the ones who never wanted weekends or paid holidays, who believed in a Charles Dickens industrialism that worked people to exhaustion, then cast them aside, with only lip service about their care, treated army veterans much the same way, as expendable, a means to an end (theirs). "Welcome to the machine" we sing -- a place like Chicago under Prohibition (or Batman's Gotham), cruel and uncaring, ruled by some nebulous mob, a distopian oblivion.

In contrast, there's this thesis in psychology about "conditioned reflexes" which holds that whereas these inner circle behaviors may still exist (upper deck Titanic) at the level of mannerism, or habits of mind, no well-integrated, intelligent personality actually bases its identity in these obsolete and completely selfish ways of thinking at this point.

Put another way: nobody powerful really thinks like that anymore, that is if they're truly in it for the long haul in any way. Oprah is a good example. She's like no one found in any novel by Dickens. We're in an entirely new era, and there's no turning back the clock, no nostalgic escape from "the fierce urgency of now" as Barak so eloquently puts it.

That's the tension I'm sensing. In electing Barack, are we gearing up to fight these inner circle elites, or are we more getting ready to confront our own habits of mind, exorcise some inner demons (racism just a beginning)? In speaking truth to power, whom do we imagine might be in that mirror? Where lives this "military industrial complex" Eisenhower warned us about, if not in our own mental machinery?

Who made "us" the "leader of the free world" for starters? At least you have the right to ask the question. "Because that's what they told me to think (and to say)" -- might be an honest response, and the beginning of an open-ended, self searching investigation (a response to a query, as we Quakers might say).

Do I really buy there's this "working poor" of simple hombres, just wanting to get up every morning, receive their marching orders to do the right thing (whatever's expected) in exchange for a little dignity and security, a livable lifestyle? Whatever happened to those freedoms, especially that freedom to dream? Did you surrender those then, and without a fight? Are you really those fearful cows in some Fast Food Nation? That's not the America we're longing for, and Michelle is very clear that's not her dream (mine either).

Both these obstructive "inner circle elites" and heads-down herd animal "working poor" seem somewhat dubious self parodies (like Mr. Burns versus Homer), not secure grounding for any believable policy writing. They're the stuff of soap operas, rather farcical, or quaint musicals perhaps.

The political namespace is littered with such antiquarian phraseology, as we found out about "lipstick on a pig". We like to think in a junkyard. If we sound like our ancestors, parrot their chatter, then we must be in charge.

That's no way to run a railroad. We need authentic leadership, not hollow "sounding like a know-it-all". Only time will tell if we've turned that corner, although I tend to agree with Oprah that the evidence is now in our favor, that we've successfully made it around the bend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

MVC Arcana

In studying the canonical (definitive) Django book from Apress by Holovaty and Kaplan-Moss, via O'Reilly's Safari (not to be confused with Apple's browser by that name), I'm running across a seeming subculture war around the meaning of 'MVC', which these Django journalists might want to call 'MTV' instead (clever pun, if you know your television):
If you're familiar with other MVC Web-development frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails, you may consider Django views to be the "controllers" and Django templates to be the "views." This is an unfortunate confusion brought about by differing interpretations of MVC. In Django's interpretation of MVC, the "view" describes the data that gets presented to the user; it's not necessarily just how the data looks, but which data is presented. In contrast, Ruby on Rails and similar frameworks suggest that the controller's job includes deciding which data gets presented to the user, whereas the view is strictly how the data looks, not which data is presented.

[ from The MTV Development Pattern in The Definitive Guide to Django: Web Development Done Right ]
I sense ambivalence around 'C for Controller' as that just scares people away (engineers as control freeks), and Djangonauts, like Pythonistas more generally, just wanna be warm and fuzzy (not controlling). The T is for Templating, and the attitude here is everyone uses boilerplate, that's all a web framework is anyway.

My bias is to rescue the word 'control' from its negative spin, which doesn't mean we can't make fun of controlling individuals, control freaks and so on. I myself take pride in developing the (dismissive) progressive tense of this latter, as in "oh, he's just control freaking about it".

However, in aviation we have cockpit controls, right in there with the instruments, and we actually want them to perform as advertised. Likewise we admire self control (self discipline). Control, in an engineering sense, isn't necessarily evil, or if it is, it's a necessary evil, like original sin.

So yeah, it cuts both ways, definitely.

So in the context of Django's controlling (driving), the urls- directing and switchboarding via regular expressions is "C work". And by the way I like the emphasis in Django world on the crafting of urls, making them elegant, treating them as user-facing (which they are), like not putting php or jsp or asp on the end of everything, as if users care (sneaky subliminal advertising though, until they notice).

The Python interface to the SQL engine is also all about control, in the sense of giving users vicarious access to (control over) their own records, e.g. medical records (they like that, don't mind "controlling" in that sense).

Visualizations, on the other hand, come in with the XHTML, CSS, JQuery, FLOT etc. In development work, I'm usually working closely with a client on this part, as we're talking what's public-facing, what the urls actually bring to the screen, in terms of streaming media, colorful (sometimes audible) interactive experiences. Most ecommerce sites are hoping for repeat business, are looking for long term, loyal customers, not "first time users" at every turn.

To confuse matters a little, in the context of a visual, such as a web page, controlling widgets may appear, courtesy of JavaScript or whatever, which is what end users tend think of as "screen controls" (legitimately, as they're interactive through touch pad and keyboard). Under the hood, they're populating an HttpRequest object and sending it via POST or GET, for which an HttpResponse will be given, Apache mediating perhaps, with Django behind the curtain.

The Model is basically the persistence layer, in terms of organized information, close to the SQL end of things, all quite straightforwardly implemented as Python classes in Django, with semantics that layer atop the SQL itself, using the manager type objects (used to update, insert and delete from the class-defined tables).

In terms of control rooms (a theme of this blog) -- newsrooms not unrelated -- we cover MVC in SuperMarket Math (related to Home Economics). Retailers (e.g. coffee shops), wholesale outlets, use MVC frameworks to drive point of sale devices, while meanwhile updating tables in the background. Web frameworks control the majority of shopping carts these days (a predominant metaphor for buying online). Customers typically enjoy that exercise of control, of voting with their hard earned dollars, for goods and services they freely choose.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Global Grid Info

Something of a cartoon version, but good information nevertheless, suitable for sharing in Portland Public e.g. global studies.

:: with thx to Joe Moore ::

Monday, December 15, 2008

Polling Places

Engineers talk about polling the same way they talk about busing, in an unfamiliar (quasi-alien) namespace. A bus takes signal between devices. Polling means listening to instruments, likely through ports, using some kind of looping mechanism (buses involved?).

The CSN "polling place" is likewise a coffee shop, virtual office. You, a taxpayer, want your money's worth, so log in as a citizen of this or that nation, and archive your views, knowing auditing happens, buzz crawling, scoring. These aren't games monopolized by nations of course; companies want to play too. How and where you spend your time and creativity will be largely up to you. The Coffee Shop Network is there to show you some options.

One language game I've mentioned occurs at the point of sale. Don't leave it up to the proprietor what causes you support, select from a menu and have that go on your record, back to your Identity 2.0 server. Other players want to see your track record, just as you'd like to see theirs. Point of sale tracking is already part of everyday shopping, thanks to supermarket rewards cards. This is bumping it up a notch, putting your money where your mouth is when buying a donut, bagel or beverage.

Although an open source project, CSN software will come optionally customized with vendor listings using a lineage system, meaning previous proprietors will contribute listings from experience. Encoding "word of mouth" value-added is leveraging network effects, which is why I'm expecting a centralizing back office to provide economies of scale. Stats from just one shop will be interesting, but scattered by zip code, against time lines, will be downright fascinating, and vendors will feel amply rewarded for the privilege of their sponsorship.

I just got a call from US Bank while I was writing this (Milwaukie Branch), a follow-up to an earlier call, not because of this blog post, but I did blab on a little about what we're doing here. She'd like to lower my interest rate some, if I qualify as a long term investment. Having started in 1990, according to their own records (as DWA / 4D), I sound like a pretty safe bet in some ways, but then I'm not the whole picture, have a cast of characters I work with, plus there's the larger economy to consider...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

X-Files (movie review)

The subtitle I Want to Believe well captures the subplot, of Catholics feeling alienated by pedophiles in the priesthood, taken advantage of by those they've been raised to trust.

Scully feels this sense of betrayal especially intensely, given problems with her bureaucracy at work, a somewhat dreary Catholic hospital.

Her suspicions of Mulder's bull-headed dogmatism, fascination with the dark side, return to the surface. How gullible does he expect us to be? The FBI is wondering the same thing, always has.

Predictably, Mulder thinks the "psychic priest" is truly psychic, not just leading the FBI on a wild goose chance in an effort to cover up his complicity in as yet unconfessed crimes -- still involving an altar boy, or part of one.

The gothic horror is tinged with disturbing enough realism to remind us of where medical science sometimes takes us. The ethical issues may be intense, the trade-offs uncomfortable, so we really do need a strong faith in a wisdom deeper than our own. Scully's suffering is therefore as believable as the ghoulish Russians are ridiculous.

The note of self-spoof is unmistakable, keeping X-Files from taking itself too seriously, a hallmark of this literature.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Traditions

Bagels for Christmas
stocking up on carbs

Candy Cane Bagel
Noah's candy cane bagels

English Influence
studying our Anglo heritage

Getting Leaner
no dead tree this year

Kitchen Supply
buying green

Friday, December 12, 2008

Camp Economics

In case of disaster, deployment teams might set up a staging area, possibly with transportation (e.g. bus or ship convoys) to more permanent facilities elsewhere e.g. NATO uses bases in Germany.

These bases are likewise equipped for high turnover, including among staff (to avoid burnout, to keep cross-training a reality -- knowing the other guy's job means being better equipped to do one's own).

Division of labor becomes an obvious feature of the operations, as talent divides into partially overlapping crews and/or teams. A badge system, other insignia, provide a shared recognition system. Campers may become staffers in some cases, or temporary volunteers.

Getting an identity established within the bookkeeping system is often a first order of business, right after providing shelter, medical attention, basic security. Longer term treatment requires record keeping over time, meaning following appropriate privacy conventions (example: HIPAA), and allowing individuals substantial control over their own profiles (per social networking software).

There's not just one pyramid hierarchy or inner circle, but several subcultures knit together in various ways, or at least that's one design people seem to enjoy. We're not trying to emulate Prussia or give wannabe tyrants an edge, prefer our more democratic designs.

In climbing the skills and responsibilities ladder, we gain access to tools of our trade, including currencies.

There's nothing to say we can't experiment with local camp currencies, tokens for internal use, with the ability to set expiry dates, how we do it with plastic.

Given tokens of a certain vintage will fail and go out of circulation, we have the ability to evolve through frames (chapters), to end and begin our various implementation experiments, garner feedback.

With free wifi, families gain access to schooling, whereas skills-building means training and testing in variously equipped facilities (like gymnasiums).

A willingness to enter testing programs in exchange for camp currencies, meal tickets, other tokens, possibly software tracked: this is a basis for nurturing the requisite human resources for keeping campers happy and/or assisting them in transitioning to next chapters.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NATO Professor

NATO Professor
photo by Carol Urner

We call me "NATO Professor" in this composition (note original Bunce in the background), because of the NATO surplus pantaloons -- also used for my Santa Fe paramilitary look (mix and match is the name of the game).

Although I may look smug, I'm actually uncomfortable with these ordinary-seeming spectacles. The narrower framed pair were advertised with the slogan "they'll think you know everything" -- more consistent with the professorial look, courtesy of Mens Warehouse.

I realize the haircut (by Bishops on Hawthorne ("obey!")) is not regulation, however we "long hairs" get special privileges, so we'll mix more unobtrusively with our peers, i.e. the more "ordinary" (less nutty) professors.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wanderers 2008.12.9

Making a Point
:: Carol Urner @ Linus Pauling House ::
Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Carol came to Pauling House fresh from some celebrations, involving former Oregon Governor Victor Atiyah, Mayor Tom Potter, other dignitaries.

"I spend most of my time staring into the heart of darkness" she began, referring to her studies of militarism, not unlike Linda Richards' studies of nuclearism.

WWII was no picnic, though referred to as "the good war" (Don), so inevitably the backlash was significant, leading to said Declaration, Eleanor Roosevelt referring to it as "the Magna Carta for all humankind". Carol expressed her admiration for the text, which covers a lot of ground, isn't namby-pamby or written in corporate BS. It's also quite a hodge-podge.

In attempting to cover so many bases, the Declaration provides for private ownership of real property, however it doesn't suggest all cultures must adopt the same model of exactly what that means. She gave a detailed case study of property management patterns in Lesotho, not at all what some Anglos are used to, but why should that surprise anyone? Anglos are a minority on Planet Earth, always will be most likely.

Patrick had a great question: could an individual American take the inclusive approach and say her gay marriage trumps any US prohibition thereof, thanks to verbiage in this Declaration? Likewise (me): could a so-called "mixed race" couple escape persecution by pointing out the local sovereignty is duty-bound, if a signatory, to honor these guarantees of civil liberties (assuming some countries still enforce apartheid like strictures)?

The answer was quite complicated. Sovereignties sign on with reservations, plus local governments come forward with "shadow reports", basically blowing the whistle on more regional governments, and so on up the line. Having evidence of violations motivates reporting, is what it comes down to, meaning the UN must have many warehouses of full of such reporting by now, in many languages, mostly awaiting translation.

Bill Sheppard was having coffee from my Axis Clinical mug, a souvenir from a previous job. David Feinstein, Jim Buxton, David DiNucci... Tara, Aldona. Lynne and Linda sent their regrets, as I did to CubeSpace via the PPUG list (hey, we can't all do everything).

We joked about Kagan's little necon tract (the Mars / Venus manifesto). Neocons don't get much respect in our neck of the woods, never have. We also laughed when she explained how "signed" means "intending to ratify" i.e. you sign to mean you'll eventually sign. DiNucci asked if there were signing with the intent to sign before signing. These are engineers remember, we think of lawyers as kinda slow sometimes.

Dr. Feinstein
asked some rather deep questions about whether agitating for declarations is the most effective way of adding to the wealth of nations, starting with a clever speech about the ephemeral nature of said wealth (citing the Wall Street Journal). Carol invoked World Game as a part of her reply, which I thought was interesting.

Don mentioned Charlie Wilson's War, which he'd just seen. Mom didn't mention her organizing a speaking engagement for Chalmers Johnson in Whittier, closer to the action than these screenwriters. She did mention Ghaffar Khan however, a life she's studied quite a bit. Buxton: Three Cups of Tea.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Iron Mountain Revisited

Wasn't that something of a coup last night, with the military services saying up front that the downturn in the economy is helping with re-enlistment, as hombres scurry to take advantage of government sponsored health care, skills training?

That used to be the stuff of spoofs ala Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace, vicious satire in the tradition of George Orwell -- cite Prouty, who helped keep it going -- as back then, during the height of the Cold War, it sounded like some kind of admission to talk about the military as a vast socialized welfare program, like something those totalitarian Russians might try, especially if achieving world domination.

Today, people are more up front about the realities, like of course the military is a government-run wealth redistribution system, always has been. That's somewhat refreshing, to get it out in the open, helps change the debate maybe.

Given the change-oriented noises from DC, civilians are wondering what their government- sponsored jobs training program will look like, given a lot of the skills our economy needs don't involve driving humvees or cleaning a gun.

What will the bases be like (campuses?), the living accommodations? Which bridges will we get to fix? What will the training facilities look like?

Judging from magazine covers, people are hearkening back to their FDR heritage, the WPA and so on, and I agree, it'd be foolish to ignore that fertile meme pool. We should leverage its retro-ness, maybe mix in this word Dymaxion while we're at it (Fuller's brand of futurism was hot in the U.S. Marine Corps at one time, why not again?).

Of course the munitions makers like DuPont are still quasi private sector, government sponsored only in the sense of having those lucrative cost plus contracts, so by analogy there'd need to be a branching tree of corresponding civilian industries, with services similar to Halliburton's (food for the corps).

What's the land-based version of an aircraft carrier I wonder? Or might civilians have some ships too? What if the Pentagon runs out of "interesting targets" (as Rumsfeld put it) -- could that happen? Is it time to diversify the portfolio, get more people-friendly? "Misanthropy R Us" might not be the best marketing strategy. What do the focus groups say?

However, with two wars going, one of them drug-related (opium again), plus the war on "illegals" (so call it three), there's no talk of a Peace Dividend in this chapter, only a sense that the USA military could really swell as Americans look for better options, step off the going-nowhere mortgage treadmill and step in to something more comfortable. Be all that you can be. An army of one.

This trend might effectively cut in to the prison population as well (another huge profit center), by keeping young men, a few women (martial arts trained), off the streets and out of trouble, some older folks too.

Of course many in detention aren't eligible for military, paramilitary and/or civilian service -- but might more become so, with special programming? What has Congress drafted to date?

It's time to check those vast on-line repositories of intelligent brainstorming, so vital to keeping our democracy on track. One can't have a society without a vision of the future, a plan. Your taxes at work.

The upcoming civilian services will offer plenty of opportunities for new branding games. What kinds of uniforms? What kinds of gear? Why should Homeland Security have all the fun?

I'll be interested to see what the media-savvy Obama team comes up with, in terms of marketing, recruiting. What role might my Quakers play? We've been training with the new cybertools, might showcase new curriculum ideas. Honey Bunches of Oats has a bizmo on TV, so why not Quakers?

Will our federal selective service be repurposed to cover the screening process, or will universities be asked to give a hand, in exchange for some of these new contracts?

Building railroads or bridges for college credit, not just to get one's hands dirty, would be more the military model, in terms of offering lasting credentials in exchange for loyal and patriotic service.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Drive By Physics

Yes, that sounds a little scary, given the connotations of "drive by", but then physics is involved, even in scary situations.

In this case, I'm thinking it's helpful, if you've driven a car, absorbed its nomenclature, to come head on into Newtonian thinking, where the brake is also an accelerator.

That's right, both the gas pedal and the brake are accelerators, and so is the steering wheel while we're at it.

Now you're starting to get it: acceleration means messing with the vehicle's inertia (why we wear seat belts). These "cockpit controls" exercise freedoms to speed up, slow down, change direction. If you're a fish, not a car, you have even more degrees of freedom, more directions to choose from.

So is there something wrong with standard usage, ordinary language, wherein "to accelerate" is so definitely associated with "speeding up" as in "going faster"? No, there's nothing wrong with that usage. It's fine to have two or more namespaces, wherein the "spin" on a word (e.g. its "acceleration") is different in each of them (except instead of "spin", some will say "meaning").

What makes diplomacy difficult, as I'm sure Hillary already knows (as any savvy politician knows) is that people don't all mean the same thing when they say "George Bush" or whatever, i.e. you really need context (which convention, which party?). I make this very point in my Chicago talk, let's find a time signature: 15:00 - 16:00.

Likewise "Barack Obama" or whatever president name -- just using these for examples, good to drag in some civics while we're at it.

In the art world, we talk about framing, where competing news crews might seek to outdo one another, in terms of getting the right spin. And that's not a bad thing, we like competition, consider free speech, like free enterprise, an essential element of democracy.

So definitely let's let the Newtonians have their own spin on "acceleration", and give them plenty of space to explain their thinking around all these key terms, as that's a valuable namespace, great heritage, and very practical to boot.

Euclideans likewise: give them their right to profess those weird axioms, about their infinitely thin planes or whatever, doesn't mean they own the world, so don't worry. It's not like we're running out of disk space.

Aside to grammarians: this guy Thatcher in our Multnomah Meeting argued cogently for a different way of punctuating around quotes, which I tend to favor, i.e. I prefer keeping my commas and periods consistently outside a quoted string, even if I still succumb to bad habits on occasion.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Random Wanderers Post

From today, me to Terry Bristol, president of ISEPP, in response to something he posted about genetics, archiving to Wanderers list:

Question for ya Terry: in all your vast reading of the literature, what's your sense of the "meme" meme, i.e. are people still thinking in those terms (?) of "meme versus gene" or has "meme" maybe been abandoned as some anomalous 1990s cleverness we won't take seriously any more?

The reason I ask is I've decided I only care about memes, not genes, given how many other people have made "genes" their business. Plus memes take me into marketing and advertising, lucrative areas, plus I get to overlook a lot of the genetic differences people care about but I don't.

Anyway, I'll use your answer to help calibrate my barometer as to how the ambient culture is dealing with the meme meme. If I need to work harder to bring it back from some grave, I will, as I think it's too good a coin to just let fall by the wayside.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fuller Archive

Bucky and Werner
bucky fuller and werner erhard (link)
Stanford special collection
Having recently visited the Linus Pauling special collection at OSU, I've got a better idea of what a state of the art archive is like.

Plus on CBS News tonight we heard some newly released Nixon-Kissinger sound bites from the National Archive, getting me wondering what else might be in there.

Dick Fischbeck on Synergeo has been posting links into the Fuller Archive, which requires free registration to get a login. We're getting more access to audio and video, as well as static documents.

I've already had to adjust my internal time line some, as I often tell my story as if Erhard started tracking Bucky sometime after I'd been through his est program, yet as this screen shot proves, those two were already hitting it off in 1977, me then a freshman at Princeton.

It's good to get these reality checks. Good record keeping helps us learn our own past, study our heritage.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Trevor's Talk

Smooth driving conditions from north of Seattle meant arriving in plenty of time to (a) give Carol my cell, hers lost, for some important conference call and (b) make it to Trevor's talk at Portland Center Stage, in advance of the Bucky play.

Trevor's illuminating thesis is that Fuller's intuition (mind) had his Bucky puppet (brain) boldly operating years ahead, in terms of featuring behavioral innovations.

For example, his Chronofile seemed weirdly egocentric at the time, yet now people Twitter, leave records in Facebook, blog, post to Flickr, and don't take much flak for it.

He did something to keep in shape we'd today call "jogging" plus learned some advanced sleep techniques, both from observing the dog family (wolf medicine).

His three wrist watches prefigured today's time-zone aware models.

His steak-intensive approach to losing weight, was what later became known as the Atkins.

His use of BUCKY for a unique pre-Internet global telex address prefigured a living standard involving private email addresses.

The Geoscope anticipates Google Earth and so on.

Finally, the very idea of "Bucky" was a kind of identity branding (4D Syndicate, Dymaxion... Grunch) which today we understand as the "rock star" way to go, the kind of thing any artist might do for self marketing purposes, as more of their art.

In sum, over two generations ago, Bucky was already practicing the thinking and behaviors of our own day and lifestyle, as a result of his own life-long quest for greater effectiveness as a solution provider for omnihumanity.

I enjoyed comparing notes with Tim DuRoche about this and that, and with Heather, just back from a trip to Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Reno. We talked about casinos some, including about my recent tour.

Upon returning home, I see our Pycon workshop Python for Teachers, co-presenting with Steve Holden, has been approved for inclusion in the final lineup, woo hoo!