Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking Forward

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poetic Comment

:: click for larger view ::

from the comments section of

Notes From the Occupation

48 hours inside Occupy Portland

· Articles · Cover Story · Notes From the Occupation
willamette week

Related comments:

@ Fun Center / OPDX
@ Ikea
@ Red Square
@ Fun Center

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another Brainstorm

October has been Brainstorm month at The Bagdad. Thanks to Wardwell for reminding me. I've enjoyed the three I attended, tonight's being the last.

The neuroscientist Larry Sherman and historical fiction author Jean Auel, wondered how the new magic of electronics might be rewiring our relationships.

The question was apropos, as I'd just gotten voicemail from Occupy Portland that a geodesic dome had appeared. I looked around through the Livestream channel later but couldn't spot it (not surprising).

I'd also texted one of the chiefs how Bill Nye the Science Guy was one of my heroes and then, a few slides later, there he was, projected large, next to a picture of Carl Sagan, and a musician who was not introduced. Larry had picked these guys as major influences.

Clearly, electronics were penetrating my theater experience in a big way. Plato's Cave is far from impermeable.

Mia Birk drew the most questions as she was the authority on re-engineering cities to make them bike friendly. She knew Portland really well and was happy to go street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood.

She understood a lot about ethnic boundaries, which are also namespace boundaries. Not everyone knows or cares what "bike lane" means, or all this other lingo (like "sustainable"), which cogniscenti treat as "the given" already. More physical separation between modes, between cars and bikes, is the harder step in a lot of cases.

Making car trips relatively more expensive: that won't be the cyclists doing that. We'll be those cyclists, running from higher pump prices.

I already hardly drive. Ward Cunningham made a lot of sense last week when he advised not choosing parameters you can't control, like "miles per gallon" (you get what you get). How about "fill-ups per month". What if you only fill up once every two months? That'd be different eh?

I actually had a question on this one: Trimet had been recently unveiling its new open source multi-modal trip planner and weren't trip planners a big part of making a city give up its secrets, in terms of showing off its routes? Kind of a nerf ball question I suppose.

Mia agreed, and somewhat made fun of how all these major players were heading off in various directions rather than sharing data and techniques.

Solving the problem might actually be more satisfying than showing the competition how incompetent it was. Always trying to beat an enemy is probably what CroMagnon excelled at, and why there're not Neanderthals left to tell the tale -- unless they linger genetically (memetically too? -- did they have music? play the flute? a hot topic).

Like Mia, the neuroscientist and author were clearly brilliant, each pulling miraculous performances out of a hat, routinely. They seemed like insanely great stage magicians in that way, though I'm not intimately familiar with the work of either.

Fixing degenerative nerve tissue disorders seems like a really valuable goal, yet this guy spends a lot of time not in the lab but out begging for funding, knowing his schools are pretty low on the totem pole in some namespaces.

Those seeking the next breakthroughs need to get in line behind those just wanting to break things or keep things broken eh?

I bought Mia's book, signed both by herself and co-author "Metal Cowboy".

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Domestic Future

Public Chessboard

Not lost on many people is the homey domey flavor of Rainbow Gathering tech, with lots of web-like fiber stretched overhead to provide a kind of utility network. One could imagine optical fiber stretching to the Camp X theater (unit J, 34" LCD dome), where we're showing some serious movies (a kind of officers' club).

The bases I've studied have had their R&R side, especially the one near Baguio which I understand is closed. Jim Flory would've been born nearby, in some prison camp, son of missionary parents. We were a technology family in the Philippines, exporting urban and regional planning from some of the best schools, plus with service in Portland on the resume, manifestly one of the better planned towns, Tripoli too.

The OPDX campus may have hit a glass ceiling in terms of what the PNW has to provide. No dialysis unit in the Medic Tent for example. These people are in pretty good physical shape on average. The refugee camps we're looking at have more heavy duty requirements, but that's precisely why implementing rotation, starting with media personnel doing coverage, makes some sense. Maybe Lara Logan will come down, and treat this as an occupation by some aliens (the thinking seems "not from around here" some days -- maybe that's the Python).

Patrick and I were brainstorming at Angelo's, and realized having interviewers encounter more embedded professors and retired military brass might be a good thing. CDI should have a tent, and project Dr. Strangelove. Given my footprint in FNB, I've already leveraged an AFSC presence.

We should get Glenn Baker out here on a documentary, get some overview on Occupations more generally (including the one in Iraq, supposedly ending if not turning more Rainbow).

I'm sure we have vets in some tents already, judging from the signs. Smedley Butler would likely join us (I say "us" without needing to bunk there -- I've got my delegates getting fed, and so stick to my beat, including Colonel Summers park when I'm able).

Back Office Park
:: at work, oct 21, colonel summers park ::

We had this classic scene at Angelo's, where like this guy and his more restrained buddy accosted me, loudly but not in too ugly a manner, over something to do with drink (a topic in bars). Was this the beginning of some altercation? He had a Food Not Bombs T-shirt on. I had the FNB trailer right outside, as my next stop was the OPDX campus (its new home). What a coincidence. He was proud of that heritage, a kind of Hell's Angels for him maybe? We parted friends.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toward a History of Domes

You'd think Global U doctoral candidates would be fanning out across the land to chronicle the early history of geodesic dome building, as this was the architectural breakthrough for which the 1900s will be remembered in large degree.

A lot of the early pioneers are still alive and willing to talk.

Dick Lehr was only just caught on tape before he died. Other key players, such as with Synergetics Inc., TC Howard chief among them, may not have been taped yet, I don't know.

David Koski and I have been looking into it. Duncan Stuart is another one. Don Richter of course. Jim Fitzgibbon, Jonathan Smith, Jeremy Martin... Thanks to John Braley for some of this scholarship. Edward Popko has been providing some puzzle pieces as well.

However, in so many ways the Global U is broken and we get to live with the symptoms of that.

Getting a working curriculum is a top priority and philanthropy will have a lot to do with revivifying various moribund circuits, many of them "between the ears" in popular consciousness.

Or call it "connecting the dots".

Monday, October 17, 2011

Workaday World

Long time readers know I champion GST, pulled down from its dusty shelf, a little used abbreviation ("general systems theory"), as competition for Econ.

Econ deserves competition, by its own reasoning, yet college catalogs don't make room for such a discipline. They used to be smarter in colleges, at least relatively. Why those high tuitions again? A question for your Philosophy departments (ethics included).

Anyway, GST is heisting this word "work" (also used by Economists) to bring it closer to the Physics department meaning of "expending energy", or just "energy" (some work is potential, held back by a dam). There's no such thing as "not working", even in sleep.

"Unemployment" is with reference to an entirely different "cult concept": that of "the job". A "job" sounds like something out of the Bible (Book of Job). All the connotations of slavery, of servitude, of travail, get vested in "job". And yet we want them, desperately. This looks like a job for the Psych department. Calling Erich Fromm.

At least everyone is working though (so relax), employed in a job or not. Non-humans are working too, sometimes very hard (lots of power out, takes nutrients). Work is not about money necessarily, although it may well be about making long term investments. "Wealth is livingry" said Fuller, using a word his "peers" (snicker) refused to adopt, in contrast to "killingry" (their nest egg in many cases -- "peers" who think of "Barfie Doll" [tm] Richard Perle as a role model).

Hey, is it true Mercy Corps is sending recruiters around PDV? Anthropologists maybe. Or was it Medical Teams International? There's already overlap in staffing I'd think, twixt some of these old time volunteers and the Portland-based disaster relief industry (bigger here than Seattle's).

If I were head of UNESCO or UNHCR, I'd be studying Occupation logistics with an eye towards cross-fertilization. These are peacekeeper occupations, unlike #OccupyAfghanistan or #OccupyIraq, more Business Plot endeavors (the business-run Occupations get to use violence as much as they like, is one of the differences, even in contravention of international law).

The vets in #OccupyPortland have a lot of influence on others of recruiting age. Getting to camp out, learn skills, get trained, manage infrastructure, supply food, sanitation, telecomm, education services, fly around the world doing good: would you rather do this in the spirit of #OccupyPortland or #OccupyIraq?

I can see where lots of troops would be willing to jump ship, maybe bringing the Navy with them, as one of the more honorable services. The mercenaries might get left behind. #Glitterbomb Blackwater (yeah, I know, a new LLC these days, shares sold by wimpy Wall Street no doubt).

I couldn't find Time or Newsweek at Freddie's either.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughts of Dad

This is the anniversary of my parents' terrible car accident on the highway from Maseru to Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State, in the year 2000.

Jack was a fantastic dad, showed me the world, and a way of living in it. I'm not a clone or even a close copy, but some of the character traits I like best about myself I attribute to his example and parenting. Our whole family was impressed with this man, and were very sorry to lose him so suddenly that day.

We are grateful mom survived the accident and thrived in future chapters.

We thank the rescue medics and health care providers of Bloemfontein for their professionalism.

The engineering community building the dam in Maseru, the diplomatic community, Quakers, friends of the family, all provided support as Julie and I helped with Carol's recovery.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Intuition and Science


The blend of an OMSI Science Pub at the Bagdad with an ISEPP lecture by Dr. Lisa Randall at the Schnitzer was quite "kick ass" I must say.

The three at OMSI were / are Oregon-based innovators: an ocean wave energy specialist, a graphic artist and war zone journalist, and an intuitive genius cook. Dr. Randall is a particle physicist teaching at Harvard.

Their stories were each fascinating (marquee below) and gave a sense of how following one's passion can be soooo the right thing to do (not talking about "crimes of").

This OMSI Pub was a co-production with Portland Monthly magazine, which provided the interviewer (a pretty good one). And of course McMenamins is involved.

Dr. Randall of Harvard was likewise spectacular. She was calm and respectful, yet happy to live up to her role of "smartest person in the room".

At the dinner after, I had two questions, a more popular one and a more philosophical one. I ran them by Tara and we agreed they were both interesting.

I led with the crowd pleaser: so what would really happen were an individual to walk through the 27 kilometer tunnel during a time of peak energy operation? What would be the biological phenomena we might expect? To Lisa's credit, she forthrightly admitted to holes in her knowledge, with zero defensiveness, and was immediately inquisitive herself. Here was a mind cut out for science: pure curiosity and a willingness to continually confront one's own ignorance, as an opportunity. Certainly her chosen field, high energy particle physics, is fraught with uncertainty and speculation, and also suspense, as the new machine (LHC) is more precise and more powerful than ever before.

My other question would have been a run through of my "particle physics as grammar" analogy, the one I ran by Dr. Robert Laughlin, just to get her comments. She'd been talking about this question of Agency, whether something external could perturb events without itself being a subject of scientific scrutiny (God would have to get in line under the microscope, just like everyone else). However, I'm more thinking of "agency within" with a more Ouija Board like synergy. No one feels in control because no one is: everybody is.

I didn't get to ask it though. Dr. Randall was timing her Q&A for the intervals between courses, so she could get some rest right after dinner, not stay late. When she got up a second time and saw my hand go up again, she said "you already asked one; who else has a question who hasn't asked one before." That was fair (I was more just being an ice breaker if needed) and I stopped putting up my hand after that, concentrating on the excellent wine and her witty responses to others' probing queries.

Back to OMSI Science Pub: it was great to meet Nirel's friend Patrick, who had been trying to deliver something to the Occupy Portland crowd when he was waylayed by some species of bigot-thug. He got into a fight, had this shiner. Dondi and Don were also present (we're all Wanderers).

I again saw Nate the videographer at the ISEPP lecture (we seem to be following one another around), Trish the teacher and gardener, Jessica (with her boy), Flextegrity Sam, Rick the engineer, Jon the musician, Jim the eclipse chaser, Lynne the artist, math guy Steve, Glenn with beads, David the applied mathematician, Joe the psychiatrist, Pat the realtor and Rhonda with Airstream and many others (this was the first of the 2011-2012 Pauling Memorial Lectures, so a kind of reunion in some ways).

Tara did a good job at the special table inside the Schnitzer, for people who had filled out the Portland Energy Strategies survey questionnaire, for a promise of free tickets. ISEPP made good on that promise, with Tara exchanging printed vouchers for tickets. Dr. Randall sat behind us (this was before showtime) being pleasant with people and signing copies of her new book.

Teacher / engineer: Annette von Jouanne – Electrical Engineer and Professor at Oregon State University, Pioneer in wave energy technology

Journalist / artist: Joe Sacco – Journalist & Cartoonist, Author of Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, and Footnotes in Gaza

Restaurateur / cook: Naomi Pomeroy – Owner of Beast, Award-wining chef

Saturday, October 08, 2011

At WhereCampPDX

WhereCampPDX 2011
:: wherecamppdx ::

This geography focused unconference has been made all the more real by the fact that Metro is missing a valued coworker, Mark Bosworth. He went missing in Riddle, Oregon when volunteering for Cycle Oregon. He's a cancer survivor, about my age (a gray). Lance Armstrong is paying attention, per Twitter.

Given a building full of geographers, mapmakers and so on, you would expect them to be thinking of how to support search and rescue, or finding missing persons. How could our tools play a stronger role?

Zooming back, making the story become more generic, it's not always a given that someone missing wants to be found. Finding people is a chief function of police, and paranoia runs high around tools for "keeping track".

The Wall Street Journal was recently talking up the FBI's ability to track cell phones, whether in use or not. TV is packed with fictionalized superpowers that only adds to people's confusion about what's real (quite deliberately in some cases -- it's a lot less expensive to have people believe they're being spied on than to actually do the work, which may be impractical in many cases).

In the case of missing persons, with worried / anxious friends and family in the background, there's a lot of pressure to make "finding" easier, but that pushes against other scenarios wherein people are evading detection for one reason or another. Perhaps they're being stalked, spied on, followed in some way?

Privacy, in the sense of going off the grid, being hard if not impossible to find, is a valued freedom many strive to defend. The antithesis of a free country is one wherein you cannot hide, are under continuous surveillance. On the other hand, some people relish a voyeur's access, why they called it Keyhole (KH) originally.

I mostly didn't say much in the session on this topic, until the end, when I pointed to my cuffka and suggested these could be pre-equipped with sensors and handed out to volunteers during those kinds of search and rescue operations when you want to leave a clear trace of who went where.

A core frustration here at Metro is not having any place to aggregate data about all the searches that have happened to date. Handing out devices, and collecting them later for downloading data and recharging small batteries, would take the emphasis off of personal phones.

Cuffkas might also be worn by hikers, other people wanting their positions to show up on an LCD somewhere.

Igal gave a great talk on virtual realities and their associated geographies, pulling from a wide range of anime, manga and computer games. Some were light hearted and fun, like the replica of Venice on Mars, with girl gondola guides. Others were dark and twisted (more gothic and/or demented), with themes of madness and the more surreal side of life (some'd say "bizarre", others "weird").

The audience, for the most part highly media savvy, was quite responsive to this talk and quick to throw out other examples of virtual worlds (Narnia for example). "All realities are virtual" used to be my sig, back when I was posting from

One of the realities was based on an old German town, down to rather small details. Another reality involved French fighter jets. This was geography gone wild (geography on steroids).

During one of the breaks, I showed Igal the faux socialist realist memes I've been weaving into my Pythonic Andragogy, complete with Tractor Art. Given he reads Cyrillic, we slowed down and zoomed in on some of my slides. I gave him the whole presentation in under three minutes, including the Cult of Athena slide at the end.

Good practice for my next lightning talk opportunity.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

At Ikea

A lot of ruckus was raised today, at Occupy Portland. Per my earlier chat with Melody, I'd be spending the evening in a slightly ironic setting: out by PDX (the airport), shopping with my daughter at Ikea.

The experience is apropos however, as I was discussing with Tara over coffee and other sundries: is it Swedish efficiency and smooth civilian operations that we're fighting, or just corrupt, overly weaponized, lazy / cowardly capitalism, as practiced by the wimps on Wall Street? A rhetorical question, obviously, as I'm defending Ikea to some degree, also Costco.

What's obscene about the business practices that run rampant in the US, a weakly governed territory held together with a rather weak glue, is the ugly lifestyles it engenders, the ostentatiousness that's synonymous with poor taste and a lack of standards.

The squandering of fuel oil in pursuit of pseudo-dreams and fantasies, as nurtured by screenwriters for TV, is especially symptomatic. The people have been reduced to wretchedness, in logistical support of such ugliness, and they're tired of it.

If the global idiocracy can think of nothing better to do than engage in war for sport and profit, then sure, the job is to topple such a fragile house of cards. That'd be the patriotic, not to mention intelligent thing to do.

Not that the October Occupation is over at the time of this writing. When I left, FNB was taking up a position to offer sustenance and morale, even as riot cops were amassing in the side streets.

There's always a chance the cops might spaz out and start firing tear gas etc., even though Portlanders are generally pretty good at handling themselves these days and the organizers are fierce about keeping this a sober if festive event with a minimal footprint in terms of damage to infrastructure. No pooping elephants or horses. The Rose Festival (which permits sidewalk camping) makes a bigger mess, with its Fun Center.

I'll check in with them later, after closing time.

Pee Wee's at Ikea

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

At Red Square

Correct Russian

I wiped out on the bike again last night, coming down the driveway too fast and putting all my weight on the front fork, leaning forward, accelerating (slowing down real quick). First Person Physics.

I suspect a feedback loop at work (a vicious circle) wherein the bending wheel caused the brakes to further seize, resulting in more forceful velocity change than ever.

The event was highly reminiscent of the "parking episode", wherein my front wheel dipped into the sidewalk tree's square of dirt right as I was braking. I turned that wheel into a tortured ovoid. Last night, I repeated the feat.

Safe to say, given the higher inertias, I went over the handle bars and landed on my back, first time out in my new paramilitary black field jacket from Andy & Bax (matches the black helmet). Officer Urner strikes [the pavement] again.

Two weeks ago, it was train tracks.

The bike shop on Belmont knows me by name. Red Square, a coffee shop, is across the street. I'm wearing my "Kremlin Kuffka" (with Nirel Foundation branding), a kind of homage to Shepard Fairey. This morning, I registered for the WhereCampPDX @ Metro.

Embossed Cuffka