Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Wittrs

People bring a lot of mental baggage to philosophy, a kind of suitcase word (alluding to Marvin Minsky), are hoping it'll give 'em some grand unified theory of something or other. I think Wittgenstein's camp is mostly designed as a sanctuary for refugees from those views, wanting to find out what, if anything, remains of value, once you subtract all the claptrap of "big ideas" i.e. it's a paring back to a skeleton, a deliberate starving vis-a-vis an old diet.

Like if you've swilled beer all your life (as I have, since high school), like schmaltzy philosophy (like the Wagnerian stuff), "big ideas" (deep narrator voice at the movies, making stentorian comments about "man", about "logic"), then this "no beer" philosophy is definitely not for you. It's spare, austere, stark, zen. Nothing's happening. There's no "holding one's breath" for the next issue of 'Nature' or 'Science' (except in the sense you're usually expecting lots of nasty twisted thinking folded into the mix).

Final image: philosophy the way Wittgenstein came to show it, is like the janitors coming at the end of the parade, sweeping up all the horse and elephant poop (wow, elephants!). 99% of folks who feel drawn to philosophy are there for the floats, the bling, the marching bands. By the time the janitors show up, they're drifting away. Wittgenstein waves, at the helm of a street sweeper. Sean and I swoon, but most have folded their chairs and drifted off, gabbing about the floats ("did you see those strippers!?" (HB2U Lindsey Walker)).

Twilight Zone

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Passing the Torch

Having joined the over-50 set, I'm supposed to role model "showing the ropes" to a younger set, then gracefully bow out, although I'm allowed to keep doing that (always new ropes to show ya).

In the context of Quakers, this means recruiting people to committees more of the age Dawn and I first were when we started with Friends in the 1990s, when we were married under our meeting's care (on 9-11, 1993).

Our Quarterly Meetings have become a signature blend of oldsters by and large, even though our theme last year was The Future of Friends. Elizabeth Fischer, clerk of Multnomah's program committee, was eloquent in pointing this out at our planning meeting last night.

I suggested music as one possible theme for our October gathering, thinking of social action through lyrics, or at least social bonding.

Fifteen minutes after that meeting, I was listening to a young woman rap her heart out about the cruelties of high school, where the power of a woman to "just say no" (to all kinds of stuff, not just sex) is often challenged (as in ignored). Her imagery became violent which, as an AVP technique, I have no problem with (fantasy violence in lyrics is sometimes a way of venting and staying cool headed).

The group was supportive and welcoming. Belly dancing broke out (for real, not just an imitation) in what was clearly a safer than average environment for free self expression without fear of intimidation and reprisals.

Dr. Tag was there on a different schedule, in the midst of her gender studies research, a true professional, as was Lindsey Walker, my Pauling House associate and fellow denizen in Richmond (she and Dr. Tag know each other thanks to our meeting of the minds, with Scott, at Belmont Inn last week).

I'd invited some other Friends in hopes of starting to bridge the generational divide. Our Ben Selker was there, representing the younger set, folding little geometry things, talking about a lecture he'd seen.

Ben is a great example of someone who might thrive in Portland Free Skool, as a teacher and a student, if only we could design the right classes (I have a meeting today...).

Elizabeth has also been working with a potential base: Portland's homeless. Trevor's experience with Outside-In might likewise prove an asset. As I reminded my colleagues on edu-sig yesterday: America eats its young. Fight back!

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Twittering

:: math casting ::

More gender studies: FOSS in Portland (requires Google login)

my 7 karate belts in 16 yrs of training. on Twitpic
:: sara ford's karate belts ::

Friday, July 24, 2009

Experience Music

Another Venue
:: muddy waters ::

I've continued with operation "Experience Music" (named for Paul Allen's EMP in Seattle), this time checking out Muddy Waters with my new friend and professor of gender studies Dr. Tag.

I'm such a dweeb about music and if I'm to walk my talk early in this Music Millennium (a transition figure, kinda like Petrarch), I should at least sound more technically attuned.

Scott explained later how his lineup with lotsa Neil Young had as much to do with the caypo as anything i.e. not usually using one, and not wanting to slide it.

was typically free and open about her process, telling us right during her set which ones she was still working on (open mic is a chance to experiment sometimes, do improv).

petite, strangely shaped guitar was a source of fascination for us. Dr. Tag isn't shy about conducting interviews, which the talent clearly appreciates. I hung back and shot stills with my Olympus Stylus, mostly on the "available light" setting, rarely with flash. Throw some more dollars into this picture, and you could see us as a two person TV crew (one in front of the camera, one behind).

The climax of the evening was this group called theUnreal, a small traveling troupe that shouts hip hop style poetry, can finish one another's lines, moves in and out of chorus mode. Each has a "pause, rewind" verbal command set it can use to remote control the others, with each performer well trained to follow such commands without hesitation or fluster.

Cool language game! I bet Wittgenstein woulda sat up in his chair for this one, maybe joined in.

Although serious musicians have strong self discipline, they suffer from the same self doubts as ordinary mortals, plus are surrounded by talent, so if you have none you tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

All of these could hold their own, which is saying quite a bit in Muddy Waters, which has been doing open mic for a long time (I'm just learning).

Four of us adjourned to Belmont Inn afterward, a sports bar of sorts, cram packed on a Thursday night, but we did find a good table. We enjoyed a free ranging discussion of geopolitics, the two Georgias, Azerbaijan, travel plans, the recent concert in Hyde Park.

I've been a good doobie re my "no beer diet" (a fast way to slim down in my case), stuck to Bushmills (an Irish whiskey) and some snax. I wore one of my signature costumes, wanting to blend in to this scene without surrendering my identity as a Silicon Forest professional.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Memorable Events

with thanks to anna z

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Corporation (movie review)

In theory, at least in my own mind, this was a dry run for the shared viewing model I'm encouraging among Wanderers: borrow something from inventory and watch it as a group, of two at least, and then file something electronically, so we have something more searchable and world-readable. You might even watch the same vid in different groups, gaining different perspectives thereby.

In practice, we watched a commercial DVD, not one of the ISEPP tapes, a lengthy documentary I'd seen at Cinema 21 years ago. You could consider this a sequel or prequel to This Land is Your Land.

My viewing partner felt the movie was effective in inspiring outrage, wanted to purge the ranks, cull the herd, but then these high caliber designing engineer types easily transmute (sublimate) such urges into melody and/or sculpture, performance art, are too professional to indulge in gratuitous violence. Our Silicon Forest is blessed with such beings.

She had other cogent comments, having read some of the related literature (as had I). She appreciated Chomsky for his grounding influence, for getting her off her higher, more purely bred horse (probably faster than his too, but then we're all getting older).

From my angle, this highly spun documentary was a self parody in some ways, as it includes some of these wildcard creepazoid "spies" who say all the right things, yet seem just a tad on the slick side, plus the film itself is superbly edited and branded, a really tight package i.e. it typifies "corporate" in the sense of "high production values" (very Madison Avenue). Inevitably, there's some mirroring going on. We all use consumer goods from time to time, are a part of the same food chain, may even engage in nagging (badgering), other media manipulation.

I could just imagine a moneymaker CEO on his knees, begging these filmmakers to please please sell his snake oil, if only money could buy such a stairway to heaven.

My partner made the core point that it's a matter of who has the best, most compelling story. Like most CEOs only have flimsey economics to fall back on as a rationale and peddle their product or service in predicatable ways, are cast in a merchant's mold. Pro scholars, on the other hand, have the benefit of painstaking research with lots of dot connecting (especially in hindsight). As a result, their stories win our hearts and minds more than either empty denials or mea culpas, other salesman type ploys (gotta hand it to that rug seller though: he's good at his job).

Also, I think there just wasn't time, even in the two hours or whatever it was, to introduce all the main players, let alone all the extras. Corporations fly by, lots of 'em, including a defense contractor or two, but as we're focusing on that specific legal structure known as "the corporation" we're thereby not looking so much at brands of religion, some of which run hospitals or other NGOs, or organize big ticket festivals, attractive to tourists and/or pilgrims. Like Bhutan's military bottles and sells booze to the Bhutanese public to help sustain itself. No time for that design pattern here, nor for the technicalities of banking, micro-lending, Sharia's non-interest based approach.

People enjoy being ethical and/or ethically subversive and we had many species of subversive in this film, including some maybe reaching out into the theater, recruiting for their home teams. Maybe Shell has netted a new loyal employee or two, or a least a few fans, as a result of this movie? The CEO and his wife seemed an endearing couple. Arcata looked homey and democracy-minded (aren't cities and townships sometimes "incorporated" -- just means you have papers to wave around right? -- a charter of some kind, like a school has).

IBM certainly got its head handed to itself on a plate, another item for processing, a topic I delve into in my Chicago workshop as well. Fox also gets it in the neck in Florida, after like 83 chances to show some backbone around that "what's in the milk?" question.

Because of our intrinsic propensity to live ethically, to have integrity, I think we're going along with what this film proposes we do, are in the process of redesigning many of our commercial business institutions, somewhat from the ground up, most probably in software (law books too slow, not self executing enough).

GM is maybe trailblazing in this direction, given its new lease on life as a public/private partnership, although I'm not claiming any special insights at this point.

I'm more hopeful than that the guy towards the end, predicting a lot more darkness, but then we've seen a lot of water under the bridge since then. We have more reasons for hope than he did, see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, there's no point saddling any of these people with the views they express, if they've since come to more refined and/or evolved positions in the meantime. Sure we might say "I told you so" in some cases, but then hindsight gives us an unfair advantage perhaps.

A lot of us have been thinking a lot about this stuff, so let's not pretend like today is just a repeat of yesterday, just more business as usual, even if we still start it with FMV Cornflakes, end it with a Rogue Ale or one of those. Although commerce is ancient, the rule space for doing business is not. What Bucky Fuller called LAWCAP is already a dead language (not evolving). We're in the process of morphing into something new, and not a moment too soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Merit Pay

As one might anticipate, what comes up in some of these planning meetings is the double whammy of pair teaching and merit pay both. How are we to double the number of math teachers along the digital math track (where pairing's the norm, staggered terms) and merit pay them so they don't run off seeking better compensation in the private sector? In a constricting economy?

Part of it's bookkeeping. You go to this like already highly enough paid Intel engineer and ask "why don't you get to pass the torch to high school aged students as a part of your job description?" and the engineer goes "I'd love to, but doesn't the education mafia have a lock on that gig?" (he sounds remarkably like Haim, no?). "What if we bring the students to you, let you use your own equipment?" (talking to Hewlett-Packard this time). HP: "You sure make it sound easy".

So pretty soon, we have pairs of teachers with higher pay, doing green field development along an essentially open terrain. We've left the analog math teachers to their tired pre-wired ways, with no energy wasted on telling them how to change (a fruitless business), not our concern. We've got our own track to worry about, our turtles, robots, Bernoulli Numbers, you name it. Students vote with their feet (or butts if riding Max).

Ah, but how does this work in more rural areas further from Aloha, Beaverton, Hillsboro? Won't we need to build spanking new facilities and bus the teachers as well as the kids? Yeah, we might have to do that in some cases, but since when were opportunities to prototype and showcase novelties a bad thing? Don't you want to see a "classroom of tomorrow" in high desert Oregon?

So what about regular math teachers on the analog track who'd like nothing more than to defect to our schools. Remember, all public schools have a charter ergo are charter schools, so the system is more seamless than you might suppose. Teachers wanting to step forward might run through as students in some scenarios, just to sample the goods, keep the learning experience more inter-generational, plus they'll get specific trainings geared for already on-the-job math teachers.

Will they accuse us of union busting, because we're bringing in all these geeks outside of "mafia" control? I doubt it. The public wants a better experience for its young and this is all about providing same. Legislators understand why a DM track is needed (or a lot of 'em do). It's win-win all around provided we don't forget what the goal is: to make the Global U a U worth attending. This brings me to the subject of Food Services (their inadequacy, thanks to a weak economics curriculum), but that's for other postings.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Compare and Contrast

Here's some homework, essays due tomorrow, Twitter me. Signed, your teacher.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


:: therapy ::

Lotsa school teachers get outraged by the deplorable content of some Youtubes, and I agree these videos about bullying seem amusing only to prosecutors, happy to get state's evidence handed to 'em on a plate like that.

However, finding outlets for aggression is an age-old challenge and not everyone wants to morph into a world class NFL player, what with all those later-life weight problems, even with high salaries, constant public adoration. Guitar and hotel room trashing rock stars tend to flame out too quickly, with similar problems in aging.

I actually encourage violence against inanimate objects as potentially therapeutic, enjoy hitting my "Dr. Phil pillow" sometimes, even if only mentally. So go ahead and brand me a heretic, for encouraging such as the above. Like just today I wrote, in the Math Forum no less:
That example was simply to blow calculators and their wee little screens out of the water. We call them "hamster brained", use other epithets, maybe show Youtubes of running them over in a car, get that aggression creatively channeled.
What was I thinking?

Yes, my AVP polemics are controversial, including in Quaker circles, explains my moves to start up a remote brand, protect Friends from the consequences of my experiments in rocket science.

Mostly I'm considered a fairly safe operator though, and I'm guessing most of these calculators were already broken, and if not may I recommend first turning them on and destroying them while lit? Could we get some sparks please?

No, it's not the same thing as book burning. A skillful judge would see the difference, even a white one, snicker (sorry, obscure historical allusion).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Busy Weekend

I'm double booked on Sunday, when UrbanEdibles is looking at switching to Django, reminds me of the Foodhub proposal (the one I submitted).

Dr. Martin (emeritus) is hosting an afternoon HB2U type event and mom never gets to see him almost, Bob being Roberta's partner, so I said we'd turn up there, after a clearness for membership meeting in the Beanite tradition (NPYM).

I serve on Oversight and WQM planning for Multnomah, as local AFSC liaison for Bridge City. Last time I actually saw Marco was probably at Axis of Evil that time, whereas mom met with Pam, now with the City.

Saturday (today) isn't so packed for me, though for mom it's a board meeting (me as chauffer), Tara close to going but with last minute fine tuning, switching to Saturday Market instead, with other Qs, me joining later.

Last night was MVPs at Local Lounge (circa MLK & Fremont), all very smooth and professional (Randy good at bartending), more listening than dancing, with ample amplification. Leslie and Lindsey got to meet; two Wanderers. I wasn't chaufferring anyone, just had a good time.

I should call TC, check out the new HDTV.

I did some reconnaisance in Finnegan's after leaving Elizabeth Braithwaite with the girls, checking the civilization level. They still traffic in dark ages maps 'n stuff in this city, but that's to be expected around here (Jordanians take note).

At least Cleveland (PPS) has some of the right stuff. I expect we'll see more by September, given work on the DM track is proceeding apace, more planning sessions upcoming.

A high point of today was the Electric Car Festival in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Geek Squad was there with the segways. I struck up a conversation about Weird Al.

Congratulations to SocoHanoi on a new coworking venture, on my radar through Google Groups.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Corporate Refugees

You've likely heard the litany, about heads-down managers with blinders, worried only about the next quarterly statement, the long term not their problem, so what will work in the long run hardly ever gets tried (it's the short run that matters).

The problem may be less that they're greedy, spoiled, feel entitled, and more that they simply don't have any good ideas or real management capabilities. Just bossing people around, telling them to do impossible things, giving pep talks, is hardly managing.

Are your bosses like that guy who breaks glass and talks dirty in Charlie Wilson's War? Remember, that was an actor, a good one, with screenwriters behind him. People who act like that for real get carted away by security and put in a hamster cage, with Xanax snax through a slot, signed by a doctor.

Frequently, someone highly intelligent, a service sector engineer, will become a cog in this machine, and get over stressed, because the overall design is unworkable and that becomes transparent after awhile. It's a living wage and a dead end at the same time, and that's crazy-making. She might go to her boss and say "I want out".

Multiply this a number of times and you get what we call a "brain drain" in cybernetics, a feedback loop, and pretty soon some silos are Pointy Haired Bosses all the way down, not a Dilbert among them.

In entrepreneurial cultures, such as Republicans foster (in talk if not walk [1]), an escape valve for the talented and gifted, not always the rich and famous, is to form a "spin off startup" that works to right noted wrongs aboard "mother ship". Iterations happen faster and the companies get leaner and meaner, or develop whatever exaptations serve in the larger bioregion. At least that's the press.

Portland is fortunate in having an entrepreneurial culture and a steady influx of talented refugees burning out in Lower48. They'll never work for a Pointy Haired Boss again, at the risk of going postal, but if you have Dilberts at the top (both XX and XY), then you might get a second look.

The fact that they're not teaching the Bucky stuff in high school out there, is just another metaphor for the brokenness of this "next quarter" way of thinking, so-called "business as usual" (more it's a freakish anomaly, as longer lived cultures make longer term investments, including America's indigenous ones).

This is less an indictment of the USA than of LAWCAP, a post-WW2 internal gear works and puppeteer for its version of the USA. When that gear works seized up, became semi-paralyzed, it became more obvious to all that the men and women behind the curtain weren't really governing so much as helping themselves to the returns on past investments, made by relative giants, e.g. J.P. Morgan, FDR, Vannevar Bush, Walt Disney, other larger-than-life figures.

[1] a famed quip of GWB's was that "the problem with French culture is they have no word for entrepreneur". [ Yes, I tend to put quote marks inside the period, based on Friend Thatcher's rants around Quakers for some years, made enough sense. ]

Monday, July 06, 2009

Slowing Down

I'm glad we're taking collective advantage of this moment, to look back and reflect, almost as a generation. Michael Jackson provides the moment.

I saw about DoD Secretary McNamara today, who failed the intelligence test on Vietnam, but hey, that was a difficult puzzle and yes, hindsight is what you don't seem to have the benefit of, at the time sometimes, in the midst of wars.

Speaking of which, I saw that magnanimous gesture to keep a fueling line open, even if Operation Valhalla is failing the relevance test. People need a way out as much as they need a way in, and leaving armaments behind just feeds another round.

Mom is doing a conference call. There's plenty of business to attend to, including more at the Math Forum today, will add links when they're ready (cooked). Here we go: more on digital vs. analog math; and this one re constructivism and "dumping Gattegno" (a PSF thread).

Friday, July 03, 2009

Geeking in Seattle

This is a test of the King County wifi in Marymoor park. The lucky devils at Microsoft bring their dogs here for some off leash fun. I didn't bring a dog, but will not be fined. I'm meeting someone, but what does her car look like?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

High Brow Talk

So here's one to auto-translate to French, back to this language, then quote yourself in a footnote to make it more cerebral, say Bourbaki a couple times as you spin on one leg, acting like Derrida on steroids... (doing my Michel Foucault imitation).

In times of only live theater, the mercury-backed mirror came along and it was like high def TV. You could see yourself, wow, and how. But with symmetry reversed. Then TV came along and switched everything right-way around (sounds British but you get the point) and professionally vain people (said with no disrespect in this context) had to make the adjustment: not only could they see themselves, but they could as others do, in "this" world, not in "mirror" world.

Today's big stars in Hollywood don't use mirrors anymore, you've probably read in Vanity Fair or one of those. They have high definition television staring them back in the face. When they say "Mirror... mirror..." in just the right tone, it dissolves into a picture of Snow White, just for kicks (very American).