Monday, October 28, 2013

Winter Repairs

I'd already planned to leave the Nissan in the shop when I went to California.  They told me last time, something about needing valve cover replacements or something.  Well, I waited a little too long I guess because those lights on the dash meant what they said:  I was eating through the battery; mom and I pulled up the driveway from Old Wives Tales, after the AFSC meeting, with zero Joules to spare.  Trying to restart confirmed:  battery dead.

Fortunately, I'm up to date with AAA and my annual dues covered the tow to Gladstone, near Oregon City.  That was Thursday morning.  This Monday, all was repaired, including the new alternator.  The spray or leakage from the decayed valve covers is what had damaged the alternator over time.  Front and back brakes were down to 10%.  Other repairs needed.  The grand total was over $1800 2013 US dollars, paid against a standing loan (the credit card).  Why I put it on the non-mileage VISA I'll never know.  My right and left brain don't always talk I guess.

I've been concerned about the python, with which I share an office.  The dog comes by quite often as well.  During office hours, I'm more with non-humans than not, but the snake has been very balled up in his box, his shack within the larger aquarium.  Tonight, he came out.  I'd sneaked him a test mouse earlier, picking one up on the way back from Gladstone.  He passed the test.  I should give him another one before leaving for California.  Must dry clean the jacket.  Works out.  Mouse store and dry cleaner are adjacent and within walking distance.

Lindsey professes to despise the Blue House Party Mix, though I think both videos were new to her.  Dumb uninteresting beats, is her take, as a musician.  I guess that makes me easy to please, although I do like her more off beat experimental stuff sometimes.  We didn't get to that "all video-game sounds" version of Gangnam Style, just as well.  114/94/SAT was my work today, a shorthand I've developed, chicken scratches.  Patrick would know what I meant.  He chauffeured me past Cleveland High School, Tara's old haunt, and Oak's Bottom, Dawn's and mine, in route to Gladstone.  We at first missed the Nissan repair place because I'd misremembered the Nissan layout.  No biggie.  We drove home separately, reunited at The Open Bastion.

What Marx called product fetishism is real enough, as is consumerism as a lifestyle.  Shopping.  Some like to eBay all day.  Trading is turnover and variety is the spice of life.  I expect to receive a ton of philosophy books tomorrow.  Blue House is like grand central these days, with lots of comings and goings.  On the other hand, the power of having the right tools for the job should not be trivialized with dime store psychology.  Honing in on artifacts, such as cameras, even jewelry (some ornaments are also instruments in some science), is not anti-Marxist per se, but nor is it about being intimidated by Marxist labels.  The Blue House Party Mix obviously celebrates new / vogue technology and the accompanying razzmatazz (bling).  That seems superficial, if tools can't be deep.

Alan Watts used to point out that shopper-consumers were often the antithesis of Materialists.  They were in pursuit of a concept of a concept of happiness (pointers to pointers) and the mundane reality of materials was actually no longer capable of inducing thrills.  The idea of being at a certain restaurant was more important than the food forgettably consumed.  American Psycho comes to mind, for alluding to such a lifestyle.

Then lets look at Debt:  The First 5000 Years, and review the meaning there given "communism".   You may be sure the professoriate is "going here" i.e. today's colleges are already abuzz with some new thinking (not a new phenomenon right?).  The meanings of words do not hold fixed spontaneously and in fact it takes work and review to uphold a meaning.  Stories pegged to seasonal changes, star patterns and so on, have a longer half life than some.  Political stories, sustained by journalism, can sometimes just fizzle.  You reach a kind of terminus and there seems nowhere next to go, like a StopIteration exception in Python.  The generator is exhausted.  The bandwidth is a scarce resource I suppose you could say, not asynchronously so much as when everyone has their tightly scripted part.  Some of the fancier stuff can't be done without bandwidth.  Banks fail for this reason, people simply lose interest, to recycle an old pun.

The story is one of Mind continuing to pull the rug from under merely copied or habitual behaviors.  A given Brain might be happy doing the same thing every day, but the humans' gift is to receive grace, no need to argue if it's divine.  Of course it is, if by this means we shed the old reflexes and habits in favor of and in service of, some actual will, a chooser / decider, some executive function.  That means there might be somebody home, albeit non-computable / unpredictable, and therefore a plan of action, and not just action.  We need both.  "Computable" is in contrast to.

Thoughts that hold water need not always hold water.  The Holy Spirit keeps moving, as some religious might put it, meaning the forms continue to reform.  Morphing happens.  The beats change and draw us onward.  And let us remember that in morphing may be healing; not all change is injurious.  Letting go of conversations that displace more worthy conversations:  a spontaneous / emergent process.

Enough metaphysics for one evening's blog post I'd say.  My focus needs to turn towards the morrow.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quakers in Business

:: mongo DB ::

Quakers started out as a highly persecuted minority but, once they had passed various integrity tests, they became a valuable asset to England's business community.  Their reputation for honesty and plain speech made them the logical ones to have talks with the "Indians" (English had Indians on both sides) and then, once trust was established, violate it, an old pattern.

Quakers began to feel used in this arrangement, as good will builders, only to see their investments go up in smoke.  They had their turn to run a utopia in Pennsylvania but that soon gave ways to Indian Wars, Ethnic Cleansing, Forced Migrations and so on and on, not fun at all.  They'd seen slavery up close in Barbados, and unlike King George III or was it IV, did not see much future in it.  Philadelphia was to be a bastion of freedom.  DC got the swamp.

Fast forward and you have a global network of Friends, not unlike other denominations and sects for their networks, with little campuses here and there.  It's corporation-like. Quakers helped pioneer a lot of the business practices we take for granted today and you'll find them still practiced in Quaker business meetings today.  Agendas go out ahead of time, minutes are taken and taken up at next meeting, where amendments may be made.  There's a constant effort towards leaving a clear written record of every meeting.

How do such practices carry into the future?  To some extent the written word forms a happy medium, in that we're able to have our Skype sessions and hang out on Google, but not bother with a recording, as minute-taking is still the succinct brief we will take with us, along with augmented memories for ourselves.

Practices need not change all that much, in other words.  The need to have every meeting video recorded and archived is not usually felt to be pressing.  On the other hand, living simply does have its advantages when everyone is potentially carrying a recording device and all phone conversations are retrievable.  If you have too many non-matching stories or "sets of books" then the pressure to implode is somewhat exponential in the digital age.

My expectation is that people will keep the Quaker ways alive in a sandbox or virtual space (called "religion"), there to continue fine tuning a kind of utopian business community that self administers and self heals.

Skills acquired practicing Quakerism will inform one's own private businesses thereby.  For example today I plan to reach meeting in time to transact business around coffee.  We have a supplier in Central America, as have we Friends.  The global network keeps talking to itself, including to its Beanites (that's a pun on our propensity to consume coffee, and the name of a founding family in our branches).

Speaking of Quakers and caffeine, on learning of "Mormon Tea" I was suggesting the Mormon authorities approach such a brand and allow its merchandizing.  Typical of a Quaker to think in that way.  Have little teabags and everything, some semi-fictive Santa Claus background (not my place to make it up).

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Strange Case of Señor Computer (movie review)

Lindsey built this up as the ultimate gift movie experience, a way of paying me back for all the duds we'd hit, not surprisingly, as she and I have watched hundreds of movies together (rough estimate) a lot of them from Dominic's collection at Laughing Horse.  Most of his are pretty good though -- Laughing Horse is a treasure.

Anyway, this movie is camouflauged as a badly directed amateur effort, which gets peoples minds off the budget and special effects.  It's uniformly ridiculous, like Team America, World Police (a relatively high budget film by South Park).

The star is this like white and nerdy mad professor guy (but younger) who just wants a girlfriend but all he has for company is this whacked out robot struggling for consciousness, and having a hard time of it.  The robot narrates the movie, in a synthesized voice, which makes no laugh track necessary.  I was cracking up the whole time.

I don't get to see much of Lindsey which is probably why we were both looking forward to some time alone.  She's off at City Hall all day, fighting to lift the camping ban or working Food Not Bombs in multiple shifts around town, including R2D2.  She gives the goodie two shoes churches a run for their money, in terms of siding with the poor, not a half bad performance, even by Portland standards which are pretty high.

However, her militancy against automobiles and refusal to ride in one has side tracked her music career as far as live night club appearances go (we did the downtown and east side circuit).  I used to be her roadie / chauffeur when she was new in town, but she gave up on those ethics and just gave me her vehicle in exchange for no rent in a basement (in far better use, by a quasi full time activist musician than for storage (that's what the garage is for)).  She tells her mom she lives with an old school teacher, and guess what, that's true (I'm 55 and I work for a school).

Blue House wins with such interesting talented people playing World Game (speaking of which, Jen just left this morning, having camped out both in the backyard and in our living room as the days grew shorter and colder).  She's off on the next big chapter in her life.  Here's a picture of her early this morning, with all her worldly goods.  I wish her well and expect to see her again in a future chapter.

We we're still working on boundaries though, Lindsey and I (cell phone use and like that -- she won't own one but then I can't play social secretary so she mostly works through her girlfriend Melody for telecomm).  We've had hardly any chance to catch up at all lately, as I'm really feeling it at work.  Aside from the blow-up about maybe closing the pavilion at Colonel Summers Park (no plans to do that now), I have had my head in other spaces, as this blog will attest.  She and I don't overlap nearly as much as we used to.

Back to the movie:  our hero is a mess, suicide prone, and relationships only take a greater toll than they're worth, diminishing him, not feeding him.  The robot is no help at all in this situation as the scientist's doppelganger i.e. he's pretty much going through the same thing, having a relationship over the phone, using his "father's" credit cards, and spending a lot of time introverted and morose, an emo kid for sure.

Your enjoyment of this film will be proportional to your taste for underground comix (e.g Crumb) and other films of the same ilk.  It reminded me somewhat of Doing Easy.  Very William Burroughs.  Lindsey and I share that same wicked sense of humor to some degree (as does Christine).

After the movie I invited Linsdey to sit in the co-pilot chair in my office and watch zombies storm Jerusalem again, in WWZ.  I like to share that clip with people.  Now that's high budget, comparatively.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Differential Equations

Hexagonal Awareness

:: hexagonal awareness 
by Glenn Stockton ::

I wrote to Tara about "interlocking deltas" today, something that's been occupying some attention on my walks, or call them "walking meditations" (Quakers have that too, or call it "worship walking").

"Delta" is a Greek letter, a little triangle, and signifies change, perhaps the smallest change possible.  The idea that "change" is discrete, comes in quanta (all or nothing bits, yes or no at some level), is similar to the notion that "substance" is discrete i.e. "atoms", with "atoms" boiling down (reducing to) "energy events" by most accounts.

People argue about whether "matter is energy" (Kenneth Boulding and I did some of that) perhaps imagining they're holding "is" constant (there are three words at work here, not just two, plus is it an empirical question or a matter of a priori stipulation?).

When you plod along linearly, you accumulate distance, lest on a treadmill at the gym, in which case "distance" is measured for you (and displayed).  Accumulation shows as a slanted line, and accumulating accumulation, as in adding consecutive numbers, becomes a triangle, or area.  So a first power becomes a second, and a second power change becomes a third.  That's "integration" (accumulation) where as "differentiation" is going the other way (back down to plodding).

On today's ascent of Tabor I met up with Glenn, not by prearrangement but nor entirely by surprise.  He'd found some new puzzle pieces, regarding planetary geology.

Plate tectonics used to be laughed at, but now there's this other theory, that the interlocking plates, without changing relative position, also slide around as a whole, like an outer crust would be free to rotate.

By how much?

I didn't manage to pin that down but lets just say that polar ice weighs a lot and the physics of precession might just make for a kind of axial realignment to compensate, during periods of heavy glaciation.  This would again be independent of the relatively ellipsoidal orbits at a maximum -- or is it, entirely?

I don't claim to know.


Because of oscillations of the axis and where the ice buildup happens most, parts of Antarctica have been sometimes uncovered.  The idea that human civilization might have flourished there between ice ages has its supporters, among them a Canadian couple.  Glenn had their book.

I snapped a few pictures and then moved on, this being a Monday and all.  It may not look like I work eight hour days (or more) but I do.  Getting it all in takes some packing.

The Bagdad is closed now, as I was saying it would be soon, for the remodel.

Jen has joined our household again as she did for some months last year, using Carol's room.  Carol is still here so she's got the livingroom.  Lindsey's music studio is still in the basement though she's not around right now.  I've got the upstairs split between bedroom and office, while the real office still waits for insulation (my job) and dry wall (contracted).

I share the office with a python, very active at the moment.  I should take him out... nah, he's pretty shy, some other time maybe.  The office opens out on a deck, newly redone with a fantastic fence and durable "rubber" cover.  No leaking downstairs anymore.  I paid for all this by grading mountains of student work.  I'm paid as a gatekeeper, per the Project Renaissance model.


I noticed Lyrik has turned over again, used to be Fine Grind (under Jody), before that Wired.  Keiko, our Brazilian of Japanese heritage worked with Joe on the Lyrik enterprise (half coffee shop, half art gallery).  I didn't make it to the restaurant, with its steam punk menu, and now it's gone, an opportunity not taken.  Accelerating acceleration and all that.  Differential equations again.

I remember when visiting Holden in DC, his then wife was talking about a pay delta.  She was talking about a security guard and his family, her business being property management of premium DC real estate.  Anyway, I appreciated that use of "delta" too.  So many little triangles out there, signifying miniscule differences.  But they add up they do.  It's amazing how a little leak can fill a bathtub full of water.  Been there done that.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Carol Addresses Thirsters

Carol visits Thirsters @ McMenamins

This fairly low key weekly conversation group has recently switched digs, moving from the McMenamins on Savier in NW to the McMenamins on Broadway in NE.

Carol regaled them with stories about her work for civil / human rights and Constitutional democracy in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Egypt and Lesotho.  She talked a lot about the Transformation Resource Center (TRC) as being one of her very favorite NGOs.  She never mentioned PAFID by name, the NGO she helped resurrect in the martial law Philippines to counter the land-grabbing polices of Colonel Elizalde and his cronies.  Yes, this was in the Marcos period.

Why did the US back Savimbi in Namibia again?  She has always freely questioned so-called "US foreign policy".  The succession of presidents made a difference.  Under Carter, her work was more celebrated and acknowledged.  EB asked her why she got "kicked out" of the US Embassy in Maseru.  Again:  a change in personnel, and anyway rotation is the norm in embassies, where few last as long as five years (as she had).

Carol and TRC had a lot of input during the hammering out of the Lesotho constitution in the aftermath of the insurrection by those voted out.  These people started burning down the whole country and surrounding nations had to intercede militarily, which they did without a bloodbath, though killing occurred.  Hammering out an agreement after that took about three years.

She played up the role of Quaker conflict resolvers, indigenous South Africans, in the ending of Apartheid.  My parents had great admiration and respect for the RSA (Republic of South Africa).

She talked about meeting dad and their collaboration as expats.  He was more the technocrat social engineer (sounds evil -- regional and education planning mostly), while she would work as a volunteer, more like Descartes, by which I mean she had more leverage when not subservient to a boss.  She could follow her intuitions more and whereas mom is often mixed up about matters of fact (in my opinion) she is capable of good judgement ("discernment" the Quakers call it).  One of the Thirsters made some insightful remarks along those lines.

I talked to Doug a lot, Peace Corps vet from Liberia in the 1970s, left before the Civil War.  He'd been back in DC for President Carter's inauguration.  I chose that day to see the Tutunkamn Exhibit -- while the new prez and his wife were strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue in a parade.  Looking at ancient Egyptian stuff at the same time was not disrespectful, but an acknowledgment of our bonds to civilizations past (and maybe consult de Chardin about our bonds to the future).

Thirsters obviously enjoyed this presentation.  Carol has good command of her subject.

I was fairly social with people but also brought along The Rajneesh Chronicles.  I'm about half way through maybe?  Anyone like me who fantasizes about eco-villages in rural Oregon should study this anthropology, or call it "true crime" (how the book tends to get filed at bookstores -- and not without reason mind you).

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Some Quaker Overview

Ever since Walter Kaufmann translated Nietzsche's "Übermensch" to "Overman" instead of "Superman", there's been discomfort among Quaker Overseers, who are caught in the hard place of remaining vigilant against undermining / subverting influences (cosmetics, music...) that might distract Friends from expectant waiting on the spirit.

Quakers don't believe in titles or, more accurately, different ranks or classes of human. Fox was popular among infantry and officers for his direct egalitarian manner and plainspokenness, direct speech, an asset in war time. Quakers wouldn't treat some as uber-entitled and others as trash, which got them in trouble (an understatement).

However, Kaufmann's whole schtick (or a big part of it) was to put distance between "Übermensch" and any stupid Nazi ideas of Arayan supremacy, the ultimate classism or sense of entitlement.

Friends tried hard to put the brakes on WW2 (see Human Smoke) by seeing Germans as humans too (like Americans, far from perfect); they resisted imposition of the food blockade, the siege Churchill had mounted and needed FDR to support, and they pushed to open borders to fleeing / desperate refugees from Nazi oppression, Jews chief among them.

DC Comics might have had the better translation after all, in that ordinary powers we have, as humans further along the timeline, are "super" compared to what they were until recently. We fly places. We Google stuff. We see the Earth from space.

Compared to humans just a short time ago, in terms of environmental impact at the terraforming level, for better or for worse (or neither or both), we're now "super" or "uber" or "on steroids" if you will ("over the top", "hyper", "amped up").

Nietzsche was right: humanity was about to go into overdrive and into orbit and now we have "overview" (Über-view) from space. We see the fragility of our situation. That's what our new superpowers (powers of oversight) help us realize: that we're uber-vulnerable, as a ball-shaped ecosystem in the middle of nowhere.