Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Reflection on Celilo Falls

In The Oregonian on February 18, 2007, Kara Briggs wrote:

The place drew Native people from as far away as the Great Plains and Vancouver Island. Season after season they came to fish and trade for hard-to-get goods at the village, which spread out on both sides of the river. Young women helped haul the fresh catch. Older women cleaned the salmon to dry, sell or cook for the masses that gathered when the fish ran.

The whole village came alive and smelled of ocean. "I always heard the old people say 'this is our center of the earth right here.'" -- Olson Meanus, Jr.

At 10:00 a.m., March 10, 1957, the gates of The Dalles dam closed and by three in the afternoon, Celilo Falls were under water. Thousands listened to radio and watched TV. The ancient ones stood by in horror, as a place known for ten millenia disappeared.

I was not yet eight at the time. We sang Roll on Columbia in school. I later learned that my parents witnessed salmon fishing at Celilo Falls on their 1937 Honeymoon. Looking at it as an adult, I thought — it's only flooded, maybe it will return some day. But the Oregonian article shocked me. We had blasted the basalt land forms so barges can pass where Salmon once jumped.

We destroyed a way of life and fish, just 50 years ago this day.

More reading:
Umatilla recall the ending of a way of life at Celilo Falls

Friday, March 9, 2007

General Systems Theory meets Ecotopia

Thanks to The Oregonian for listing WORLD REMIXED in the Living section today.

I hope you'll consider going back to #1 remix on February 21st, where I took up Steve Woodward's challenge to become a rookie blogger. In any case, Welcome!

As an amazing co-incidence, 30 Years ago this day I sent the following memo.

TO: All faculty and Students
FROM: John Miller, Mathematics Department

The following is a description of a course that I am offering this
spring term at Lewis & Clark:

Math 298 General Systems Theory

The purpose of this course is to have the student momentarily
eschew the role of a specialist to confront real world problems
from a comprehensive viewpoint. Working as an organized team,
the class will define a large scale problem, a set of mutually
agreeable assumptions, and a direction toward some goal. The
course will consist of several lectures, guest speakers, a film
or two, join problem solving sessions subgroup problem solving
sessions, and hopefully much dialog and exchange. The magnitude
of the problem to be viewed in on the order of:

1) A model of a capitol city for Alaska, or
2) A model of a self-sufficient Utopian colony.

The end product of the course cannot be known at this time. However,
a term's worth of thinking should lead to realizations about the
nature of comprehensive problem solving.

Your contribution and/or contributions will be appreciated.
Students from all Majors are encouraged to take the course.
The class will meet Period 10, 7:00-9:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.
I wish to speak with each prospective student sometime before registration.

I had a reading list prepared, but somebody stopped by my office and told me about Ecotopia, by Earnest Callenbach, so I scratched the list, order copies for the bookstore, and made Ecotopia required reading for the course.

The blog entry on February 23 describes a little more about how the "class" went. We got a good start on a world model.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Virtual Community - Beacon Hill Village

Suzanne Stark, 79, lives in a book-lined apartment in central Boston's lovely Beacon Hill neighborhood. Independent and active, the author and freelance writer nevertheless acknowledges there are times when problems arise and she needs help. Like when her beloved cat Zenobia became suddenly, violently ill, and Stark couldn't get her into a carrier to take her to the veterinarian.

"I tried everything, and then I called Beacon Hill Village," she says. "I said, 'I know this is weird, but can you send someone to help me get this cat in the carrier?' And they did."

Beacon Hill Village is a revolutionary, all-encompassing concierge service created by residents who want to grow old in the homes they have lived in for years.

I read about Beacon Hill Village in the December 2005, AARP magazine, in an article by Barbara Basler, entitled Declaration of Independents, Home is where you want to live forever. Here’s how.

The concept was developed in the MIT AgeLab. They have put together "HOW TO" documentation so that the nonprofit association can be duplicated anywhere.

Services available with a subscription to the village include: Home repair and adaptation, Household cleaning, Errands, computer problem solving, bill paying, Transportation, Weekly grocery shopping, Home-delivered meals, Regular trips and events. The association also organizes dining groups, free lecture series, and tracks opportunities for members to help each other and local non-profits, and so on.

The village can be whatever the association want it to be. They just contract for services and hire a manager.

Beacon Hill Village is hosting a two-day national conference, The Building Blocks: How to Make Your Neighborhood into a Village, designed for community leaders and professionals interested in creating and funding living alternatives. April 30 and May 1, 2007 in Boston.

Virtual Communities

We are no longer in Medieval Times, when there was one church in the village where everyone belonged. People drive across town to church. In the countryside, people drive to one another's town to church. The members of each church form a community, without a doubt, and yet they live in different places.

'Community' in the vernacular can refer to sets like all the families who have students at a particular school.

People organize for just about any reason at all, forming social and cultural communities that may meet once a week, or only once a year, communicating from afar. These communities can be of any size and there can be an unlimited number of them, unconstrained by time and space.

Labor Unions can be a brotherhood. Software developers work on 'Community Source' projects. Others have embraced Community Organizing as a way of life. Grassroot movements hope to form a united front on issues of common concern. Grass roots are often seen as the foundation of our democracy.

So let's not discount these virtual, social, and spiritual communities. Virtual communities can and do exist independently from the community level of the world model.

And so the term 'community' can be usefully applied to the physical world. Consider the cloud of homes and people that surround a given main street or business "district", and the businesses themselves, and business owners. If they are all lucky, they make a community. This is closer to the sense of community that we need to recognize in our new world order.

Therefore, in the World Remixed world model vocabulary, I use 'community' to refer to a collection of villages plus a certain level of amenities and services, together with the schools and so on that make up a physical community. This will be useful.

In the next remix, I'll give an example of a virtual community, although it has the name "Beacon Hill Village". Later in this introductory series of entries, we'll come back to more fully define community.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Global Address Space?

Zoom in:

Planet —> Continent —> Nation —> Region —> Area —> Town —> Community —> Village —> Neighborhood —> Watch Group —> Dwelling —> Person.

You have arrived, but you are likely skeptical. Did you have a sense that these words were in order?

The world is not wholly man-made or natural, but a combination of both — to us humanoids anyway. Who knows what the animals think of what we've made, like the deer that tries to cut through my "yard" every spring. Like the deer, I think a good many people are bewildered by the array of jurisdictions and systems we have made. So let's just look at the basic model for awhile. Don't worry about islands, oceans, or moons.

This remix will focus on a couple aspects of the 'Area' level of the model.

A Region is a collection of various Areas. 'Area' is the only level in the model where there are different instances possible, Urban or Rural.

Obviously, an Urban Area is a city or a constellation of city and town centers - The Tri-Cities, Twin Cities, Dallas-Fort Worth. Note that there is no "City" level in the Zoom List above. Metro(politan) area is an urban area is a metropolis may be a city the world around. They can be interesting structures in themselves, but for the sake of naming in the model, let's use the term Urban Area.

A Rural Area can contain Towns and smaller entities, but not a city — that's why it's rural! A Rural Area can also be a wilderness, a forest, a desert, and so on, things with little or no "built environment".

In rural areas, you may find an isolated dwelling or village. A rural community can exist with a town 50 miles away. In rural areas, any number of levels might be folded into one. A rural community might consist of a single village with one or maybe two neighborhoods. All depends on size.

We know the world isn't just geographic — there's a human dimension. Families live in dwellings. People form nations and tribes. So, to begin there, we'll introduce the notion of virtual, spiritual, and cultural communities, in the next World Remixed.

Tower of Babel

According to the Old Testament, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity to reach the heavens. God, observing the unity of humanity in the construction, resolves to destroy the tower and confuse the previously uniform language of humanity, thereby preventing any such future efforts. —from wikipedia.

I've always thought something was screwy that we can't get our act together.

Consider this babble: area, arrondissement, borough, circumscription, canton, city, commune, community, country, county, department, district, emirate, enclave, hamlet, league, megalopolis, metroplex, metropolis, municipality, nation, neighborhood, parcel, parish, place, precinct, prefecture, province, region, republic, section, shire, state, subdivision, territory, town, township, tribe, vicinity, village, ward, zone. Don't get me started on acronyms.

To be fair, some of the above name different kinds of political units, e.g. emirate vs parish. You can bet definitions of the same word vary from country to nation, city to state. Even if we define a set of "regions", we can't agree on the same set. Every company in America has their own set.

But, a geo-gazetteer shows quite a number of countries (?) having similar kinds of political divisions, and interesting variations on a few themes. We'll remix nations later. For now, let's consider some Portland Babble.

What is a region? The Oregonian refers more often than not to the Metro Area. Maybe they like to use Region to refer to the Pacific Northwest. In other words, "Regional" issues affect a larger area than an area. Mixed up yet? "Metro Area" nicely describes the, uh, urban area. I agree with these uses.

So, can we say that Metro is not a "regional" government? Can we say that Metro is a (local) area government? Can we say (consistently) that our region is the Pacific Northwest? If not, why not? (Hint: Tower of Babel)

Consider neighborhoods. To me, a neighborhood is the domain of a child, Mr Rogers, and families. Just a small number of houses. Not thousands of houses. Some so-called "neighborhoods" in Portland have 20,000 people in them. That's larger than a small town! What if we call these larger things "Villages" instead... and Villages can be associations of neighborhoods (smaller things). And a neighborhood can be a collection of .... watch groups. Communities and continents zooming in and out.

I'm Babelling toward the one, big, remix.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Blah Blah Blog (Remix)

On February 9th, The Oregonian wrote: "If this article inspires you to start your own blog, we want to know about it. E-mail the name and Web address of your blog to living@oregonian... Include your full name, location, and what you hope to accomplish with the blog." So, this is what I sent on Sunday, February 25th.

World Remixed - Toward an Organic World Model.
John Edward Miller

My Location:
     PERSON         John Miller
NEIGHBORHOOD Boone's Ferry Road
VILLAGE Collins View
COMMUNITY Burlingame
TOWN Southwest
AREA Portland
REGION Pacific Northwest
NATION America
CONTINENT North America

What I Hope to Accomplish: To Stimulate myself and others to think about how we might re-design and re-align our "man-made" systems, to Motivate myself to continue work on my own incomplete world model, and to Accumulate a body of writing on the application of that framework to real world problems.

Unsolicited Comments: Thanks for the challenge. My toughest job wasn't coming up with ideas and words. The Title took days, then figuring out how to serialize material into blog-sized chunks — offering something discrete in each entry and making it rewarding to read. Developing a blogging style seemed to be a challenge, but I'm finding it similar to sending well-written e-mail messages to groups of people. My first blog entry was February 21, 2007, after mulling over your challenge.

Steve Woodward responded:

Thanks for letting us know about your blog. I really like the thoughtful content. By sheer coincidence (or maybe not), "Communication Defines Community" addresses the very issues The O is grappling with right now. Your concept of a distributed news system is fascinating and, I think, new.

On March 9th, 2007 WORLD REMIXED will be listed in the Oregonian. Look for a special entry on that day!