Thursday, September 23, 2010

American Dream

I'm at American Dream Pizza (not eating, plenty of food at home), chauffeuring my mother to and from the hospital. She's in relatively good shape, enjoying better eyesight as a result of cataract surgery.

Glenn wanted to share some of his most recent breakthroughs, extending his more-than-a-decade studies of what he calls his Global Matrix. Per Quaker thinking, it's given to each of us to distill a one-of-a-kind dharma or teaching that is that of God, the gift of a personal angle.

The upside is we have a precious and unique point of view. That's also the downside, as a "private language" is a kind of "black hole". The good news is also the bad news. There's still a lot of bandwidth though, for cross-fertilizing ideas -- what Wanderers is all about, so Glenn was definitely in the right place this morning.

Sam Lanahan joined us (a rare occurrence), along with the self-proclaimed mayor of Bonnie Slope (a privilege). The room was actually packed.

Let's see how I might map Glenn's thinking for Synergetics readers (yeah, right, pile the esoteric on top of the esoteric and see if that helps -- sometimes it does).
Picture two unit-radius spheres, just touching. Each is a "complex space" inside, meaning we have operational models for thinking about quaternions (Hamilton) and octonians (Graves, Cayley).

The symmetries inherent in complex number space (which he links to Lie Algebra) give us polyhedra, the figurative hallmarks of spinnability (+2) as well as concavity/convexity (x2).

The paired Platonics and their derivatives occur in both of these "kissing spheres" which have a "fixed point" singularity where they touch.

The Lorentz Attractor enters in (a butterfly with tilted wings) along with personal biographical data: some time studying languages, cracking codes for the NSA, followed by a lonesome Arizona vista, developing a system in solitude, with repeated visits to the Big City for reality checks (quantum logic courses at PSU, Cascade Systems Society, Wanderers). Or to the Santa Fe Institute, for a two hours session with Stuart Kaufman lo those many years ago.
I'd characterize Glenn's talk as a nutritious meme soup, a hefty stew. He's a craftsman and whereas homemade mnemonic structures may not be the norm in academia, that's no reason to clamp down. We've not had many centuries in which auto-didacts were in a position to share their art, when the content was most germane to the "upper classes" (so-called). Times have changed.

During the conversational period that followed I managed to get Sam's OK to show his book around. He and Buzz looked at the new eCommerce pages that make Flextegrity components available to the world. Bill Sheppard read aloud from Carl Sagan's book regarding the stellar and pivotal role played by the Paulings, in getting atomic bomb testing partially criminalized.

I thank Trish for patiently enduring a tour of my blogs, as I explained some of what my life has been like over the past year or so, with special emphasis on the poster art of one James Jameson.

Yesterday I formed some paragraphs for the Quakers attempting to set forth more of the Food Not Bombs philosophy. I'm hoping FNB helps me fine tune my rendering such that I accurately reflect the group's dharmas. I'll write more about that in BizMo Diaries sometime soon.

Speaking of FNB, my heartfelt thanks to Lindsey Walker for working on my bike at Bike Farm yesterday, hauling it in her trailer, along with boxes of food for a North Portland disbursement site. Aside from occasionally borrowing my daughter's, I've been cycle-less since Tinkerbell was stolen over a year ago.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Repairing Voting

Today is Free Software Day and geeks in my lineage (open source) are expected to stand up for democratic rights, even in an electronic age. Especially in an electronic age. Here's from today's stash of writings (typos fixed):
Imagine something similar to vote by mail in Oregon. You don't
all have to vote on the same day, there's at least a week. You
need not take time off work. You'll have a way to vote online,
by entering your PIN. Email confirmation will come back to your
email box, showing how you voted and giving another number you
can use to find your vote. You needn't keep it a secret how you
voted -- be as public as you like (your choice).

Traveling overseas? No problemo. There's a way to vote from
your iPhone.

There's also a lot of votes taken throughout the year, polls. People
are in the habit of voting often if they want to. So they know
if their credentials are working, i.e. it's not a matter of being
surprised on "election day" (once a year? once every four years?).
On the contrary, a trusted voting infrastructure is used almost
daily, by at least some set of eligible persons (you might have
needed to register -- like now).

It's easy to imagine working solutions that are light years more
advanced than what we have today. People generally feel satisfied
with the systems and understand how they work. Access is quasi-
universal. Literacy rates are high, infant mortality is low, and
the debates on TV are intelligent and to the point.

People in this future look back on our ranting raving dark age of
crazy-making punditry, and fall to their knees in gratitude that
at least it's not 2010 or thereabouts, when everything was just
nuts! They weren't even teaching about Bucky hardly at all, when
so much depended on waking up to brighter prospects.

Hard to explain, how our ancestors could be so slow.

Something in the water? Lead poisoning?

That's what some speculate happened to the Romans. Brain rot
eroded their civilization from the inside out. Fast food?
I've written quite a bit about voting and voting technology in these blogs already.

You may ask why I haven't instituted tagging for your reading convenience, or turned on comments to this post.

Well, I come to the Web from a Quaker background and was just thinking of these as my journals, world-readable for sure, but not water coolers for people to gather around and chat with each other.

Lots of blogs out there serve that purpose (literally millions at the time of this writing), so I hope it's OK.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Internet is Broken

Many have said this before (including me), and the truth is, in the wild and woolly world of the free Internet, so-called consumers are fair game, for every kind of spam, scam, virus, you name it. The sign should read: prey enter here.

If you're behind a well-maintained firewall, using free protocols and well-thought-out systems to engineer from within, then this same technology feels robust and secure to you. You're not just out there by your lonesome, a hapless Windows user with a new laptop.

Why are schools leery of the Internet? They lack sysops. Those making money, sometimes the very scammers mentioned above, pay the top talent to work for them, leaving the public sector somewhat undefended, in a vulnerable position.

I know what you're thinking: Pentagon to the rescue. When it comes to protecting the security of ordinary civilians from predatory attack, isn't that what our homeland security forces are for? This is a touchingly innocent way of thinking, and school administrators have every right, on paper at least, to be thinking that way. Like of course your government is here to protect you.

In the next chapter, more students will master the necessary skills and help their schools build up safe and protected domains. Champions will step forward, helping young people fortify their minds and bodies, and sharing the necessary memes to not fall prey so easily as their adult forbearers, from when the Internet was still new.

:: predators R us ::

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Serendipitous Opportunity

:: congressman david wu addressing djangocon ::

Chairman Steve, whose Holden Web is producing DjangoCon this year, decided at the last minute to upgrade his airplane seating from Dulles to Portland (IAD to PDX) to first class. He wound up getting to sit next to Congressman David Wu of Oregon's first district. They got to chatting, comparing notes, both being social adepts, and by the end of the ride Congressman Wu was willing to consider addressing our conference. He chairs the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation for the House Committee on Science and Technology after all, and knows about the importance of open source to Oregon's (and the world's) economy.

As Grand Poobah Snake Wrangler (what's on my nametag), I was outside the hotel to meet the congressman's car and usher his party to the Banquet entrance of our DoubleTree hotel, where Russell Keith-Magee, president of the Django Software Foundation (DSF), officially met our guest. Steve, in the meantime, had been holding forth in the ballroom in front of 250 geeks, building suspense around his special surprise guest. Who would that be? Steve Jobs? Jacob Kaplan-Moss? The identity of our impromptu visitor had been kept secret.

Congressman Wu delivered a short and pithy speech about the importance of high technology to Oregon's future in particular. Both software and hardware are a focus here, with an emphasis on medicine (e.g. OHSU) and nanotechnology (e.g. ONAMI).

He expressed appreciation for open source, understood that it was not just about "free as in beer" but about sharing standards and solutions. Innovation emerges from such a process, as the creation of the Internet itself attests.

Traditionally, our model for society has been "a top-down pyramid" said Congressman Wu. Nowadays, however, and for the first time, the model is more "a geodesic dome" with nodes connecting around in all directions.

If our open source community would realize its own power and responsibility to do good in the world, then the attitudes and behaviors of the surrounding society will accommodate and reciprocate. Open source will have come of age.

He also spoke of the importance of starting early with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), from kindergarten onward. Getting more open source technology and teacher training into our schools sounded like an initiative his office would support.

Chairman Steve ceremoniously provided the congressman with an iconic pony, as our motto this year is "everyone gets a pony". David Wu wondered if he might have two, one for each of his children. Given his status as our honored guest, the necessary arrangements were promptly made.

Out in the foyer after the speech, the congressman remarked to Steve that "a topic for another day" would be finding out why we're so disproportionately male (a fact hard to miss from the podium). What happens that leads females to drop away from STEM subjects and careers in technology? Steve assured him that we're working on this puzzle.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Technology Talk (TT)

Get a couple hundred geeks together, and esoterica happens. I was somewhat in and out on the scaling Django talk. This shop (Disqus) provides commenting services for huge numbers, millions of users. There's no down time. Maintenance mode means the comments are read-only, with new ones getting queued.

Advice to the weary: if you haven't taken the plunge and opted for MySQL or PostgreSQL, this group recommends the later, for doing a lot more. They use Slony-I for replication, failover. Lots of in-memory indexing keeps things fast (talking server side -- no mention of HTML5's SQL cache on the client, not a standard feature these days).

I'm snake wrangling and brokering ponies. Nancy needs two more and I've got a text message into Steve asking the whereabouts of those six we set aside earlier, after the photo op.

A delegate lent us his Pink Pony hat, size large, which fit over the PSF snake's head perfectly, though to eerie effect. After taking a few pictures of this unified beast, with a secret teaching (namely Django is Python), I set the display back to showing two creatures, getting along well (more how it appears to the casual observer, Django being an application of the Python language, not Python itself).

Good seeing Andy McKay again. We discussed urban farming in our respective environments and it's beneficial effects. Tending to gardening tends to relax the mind, which may lead to more rapid development, faster fixing of bugs. That book on Geek Cooking seemed a step in the right direction, I may have mentioned.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Terri's 60th
:: terri's birthday party @ taborspace ::

As Lyn Gordon explained at the rise of meeting today, our custom of first Sundays is to celebrate the birthdays of anyone born in that month, this month being September. Lyn himself was a September baby. People stood up in turn and let us know whose birthdays they were celebrating.

I thought of some, but didn't add to the festivities. My late wife Dawn Wicca was born on September 20th. Marian's birthday, September 11th, is the same as our wedding anniversary.

We don't consider it overly morose or maudlin to celebrate the dead with the living. Meeting itself was much about death, sorrow and tragedy, or the "ocean of darkness". Our faith is not about always looking away from the depths of despair.

Those with the strength and ability to be with and assist those in misery, without adding to it, are encouraged to do so. Ron spoke eloquently of compassion as the fountainhead of creation.

In a few minutes, I'm off to set up chairs for another birthday party, Terri Grayum's 60th.

I was happy to chat with Marian Rhys, Harriet Holling, Sonya Penny, Eddy Crouch, and Aimee Ford Conner today in the social hall, where leftover birthday cake was served. Aimee is also remembering some tragedies in her life, thinking ahead to October.

Betsey Kenworthy reminded me about the laptop, which I will leave in the office inroute to my next encounter.

Terri Grayum's 60th was a delight. I was amazed by the Danceability duo, their polished and engaging performance, despite the carpet. Their next stop: the nation of Columbia. I had some quality time with Carol, Tara and young Aubrey on the church steps. Our neighbor over the back fence was there with her son. I met some new-to-me people, and experienced an amazing space (TaborSpace) right in our neighborhood. Good job Presbyterians.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Debate in 97214

New Seasons To Be
(click for larger view)

A topic for debate in our neighborhood, given the New Seasons is to open soon, is whether we're on board with a planned campaign to discourage the selling of products with a Made in Israel label.

I'm concerned the plan is hypocritical, as the same kinds of injustices the campaigners decry are practiced in the name of the USA as well, so Made in USA products should be boycotted by the same reasoning.

When many USAers were practicing discrimination against those of Japanese heritage, rounding them up and sending them to camps, confiscating their property and so forth, some private companies made a special point of hiring Japanese, trying to compensate for these gross injustices (for which the USG later apologized).

So it pays to look beyond any Made in the USA label and to scrutinize the specific companies involved.

Take Ben and Jerry's for example. The parent company may be European, but those hippie era home grown Vermont-based values still permeate the subsidiary. If I were wanting to discourage the USA's persecution of Japanese Americans, would I boycott Ben & Jerry's? Not likely.

Our 2 Dickinson Street cabal was certainly on board with, and a co-organizer of, the divestment campaign aimed at getting Princeton to drop from its portfolio any companies that profited from South African apartheid.

I'm concerned that going by nation-state labeling only encourages nationalistic pigeon-holing. People start identifying with so-called "nations" in neurotic ways, basing their entire identity on what "nation" they represent. Why not go by zip code or county or sports team?

Taking nations too seriously is a form of mental illness according to Albert Einstein, who could have been the first president of Israel.

Those of us interested in doing God's will, having a Promised Land that's healthy and happy, recognize that nation states are not "of God" in the first place.

I'm on board with disavowing these Doctrines of Discovery, or any idea that land held by Christians or Jews or Muslims is somehow "redeemed" versus other land held by others. That's atavistic, antediluvian, dark ages thinking.

God is too great to be captured and/or represented by any one human religion, a teaching of many religious thinkers.

Israel has no more "right to exist" than the United Kingdom, Iran or the USA. They're all equally human contrivances, awkward and ungainly social institutions, doing as best they can, muddling through the day.

Humans, being rather pathetic creatures, have a terrible track record when it comes to so many institutions. That's a lot of history in a nutshell. Misanthropists have a field day when it comes to history, saying "I told you so" with every turn of the page.

Vain and silly humans may be proud of their social constructs, but they're no more than theater at the end of the day, the stuff of soap operas.

What's the opposite of a boycott, where you consciously reward brands or companies you think are doing a good job? Carrot Mob is a step in the right direction there.

That's what I'd like to see more of. If you're a radical or activist of some kind, come out with a list of products you think we should buy, if "voting with dollars" is the game you wanna play.

That guy who wrote Fast Food Nation spoke in Portland (I went with my youngest daughter), and dared to mention Burgerville as not so terrible, if you really wanted that kind of food. That took guts I thought. It's much easier to criticize than to endorse.

That's why cynics have such easy mental lives, as it takes little imagination to be cynical about everything. Just being a "cynical journalist" takes little courage or skill.