Missoula BarCamp 2008

The Missoula BarCamp 2008 approaches in only 8 days.  Saturday April 26, 2008.  The Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation has generously donated their space.  We’ve received support from several other companies and organizations.

Having this conference was to meet a strong desire to participate in such an event.  Coming to the Missoula Web Developers Discussion group meetings once a month has been invigorating and enlivening.  It helps to learn in less formal settings and to enable more easy exchanges.  A BarCamp is an agile method of producing a conference.  It makes it easy to contribute and easy to attend.  It’s kind of a Just In Time method for knowledge transferal.  A computer language compiler converts the program written by the programmer into bytes and bits that can be processed by the hardware of a computer.  Just in Time compilation may seem lazy, just leaving things to the last minute.  But it turns out that leaving things to the last minute has some real benefits.  Because you can optimize based on the circumstances.

This isn’t a general truth.  There are times when thinking things through in advance is a very good idea.  It’s also true that some of the most interesting problems, sometimes called “wicked problems”, are best solved with more agile approaches.  And this way of thinking is solving some of the more difficult engineering and software development problems today and it has also been streamlining product delivery, requiring less warehousing and storage as production lines get closer to producing them upon demand.  It’s amazing the costs when you have to know everything up front.

GTD and Ho’oponopono

What does David Allen’s business time management program for “Getting Things Done”, or GTD for short, have to do with an ancient Hawaiian shamanic practice? Perhaps nothing on the surface, but they’ve been running together so seamlessly for me that perhaps this meditation will make sense to others as well.

David Allen’s program can look like a cult for the intensity of his following. His instruction gives great detail about managing our lists of projects and actions and finding a way to get everything out of our head and process all our actionable stuff into a trusted system. He goes to great lengths to describe his personal revelations about how best to manage our Treo’s and our Outlook folders. It can seem very technical. Yet all it’s about is clearing our heads so we can have the mental space to make good decisions in the moment. We need to collect our full inventory of things that need to get done so that our heads can be clear. Clear for what? David Allen says for intuition. But also for inspiration.

You might not know anything about this strangely named Hawaiian healing practice. It’s called Ho’oponopono. The apostrophe is a glottal stop, which means you have a short silence by closing the throat at the point of the apostrophe. I first heard about it from an article read at St. Patrick’s hospital in Missoula at their annual Integrative Healing Conference. The article stated that someone healed an entire ward of criminal psychiatric patients in Hawaii using Ho’oponopono without actually seeing any of the patients. He healed them by reading the profiles and cases statements of the patients and then healing in himself what he found in the patients.

This might seem really far out to some. It struck a chord in me, as I am part Hawaiian. And also the spiritual path I’ve embarked on some time ago had led me to see that we’re all so connected through our common genetic ties, our common cultural ties, the planet, the magnetic fields around it, the sunshine we share, that it does not seem unlikely that thought could have tremendous power. If a thought at the right place and time could either cause us to twitch a finger to launch a destructive missile or a donation on the internet to a charity that saves lives, why couldn’t a thought help heal others.

But where’s the commonality between the GTD practice and Ho’oponopono. When I first heard about the ancient Hawaiian practice, it seemed very mysterious. But after hearing a lecture and workshop from the very healer who healed that entire criminal psych ward in the Hawaiian Islands, some of it seems pretty straight forward. Dr. Len Ihaleakala spoke of the process as “cleaning”. The experiences we have had that require healing are simply lingering thoughts that need to be cleaned up and let go. Some of these lingering thoughts are very ancient. But it’s all of our experiences. And what does GTD help us do but to get things out of our head, get our inboxes to zero, so we can have the “Mind like water” experience that David Allen likes to reference from his Aikido training.

This all helps me remember the healing value of getting the flow in my email inboxes and my desk. Thank you Dr. Iheakala and David Allen. I’m going to Ho’oponopono my inbox a bit right now.

Footprints to rememberance

Footprints to RemembranceA small holiday moment is captured here. The wind blowing gently but firmly in the sun descending over the Pacific from our view at Carmel-by-the-sea. The steps ahead, they’ve usually been tread before, and these certainly have. The evidence is plain, if only for a moment. Soon it will be washed clean from the sand. But the footprints in the mind, those take longer to fade, if ever.

This beach brought back memories of decades past, moments fresh and new. I’d come from the east coast to the west, a new job, a new life. All was adventure, so much of the story had yet to unfold. And in the crashing sounds of the surf and the grains of sand underfoot, the moment is washed clean yet again.

This is not a story

Steve Chandler has done a fantastic job in a book he published last year titled “The Story of You (And How to Create a New One)“. I first stumbled on Mr. Chandler in a book store in Palo Alto. Not in the flesh, but in plastic. In an audio book CD set entitled “17 Lies that are Holding You Back and the Truth that Will Set You Free”. It took me a while to listen to it, months in fact. I didn’t expect much. I had a lot of time for a long drive, and it sounded like something that would remind me of things I’d heard and learned before. Instead I was surprised by his direct and simple approach, the depth of his personal sharing, and the freshness and direct applicability of his insights. So I had high hopes when I ordered “The Story of You”.

Ceci n'est pas une pipeThe basic idea of the book is that our personal stories are our problems. We need to get rid of them, rewrite them, make better ones. Perhaps it really all just comes down to a basic philosophical realization that has yet to be fully comprehended while in reality it is also at the heart of many of the spiritual lessons delivered by the great masters over the millenia. The famous painting by Magritte of a pipe with the words below in French that say “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” Or, “This is not a pipe”. Others have expressed this as “The Map is not the Territory.”

Our stories are not who we are. They’re stories. What is amazing is that our stories actually direct much of our experience as well as our actions. So the stories we make up about ourselves actually create our futures. But at the same time, our stories serve a purpose. Often times they make us be the hero in a sad victim story.  If we tell such a sad story over and over, it starts running our lives like a record stuck on the same track.  It just repeats over and over ad nauseum.  I could make up a story about how busy I’ve been and why I haven’t posted. But this post is not a story. It’s great to be alive. It’s great to have the opportunity to share Steve Chandler’s work. He has blessed my life with his writing. May the reader be blessed with stories that bring inspiration and love.

When’s a conference not a conference

Much has progressed towards holding an “unconference” in Missoula. An Unconference is a self-organizing event where the participants create the agenda in a transparent fashion. The format encourages dynamic content and participation in a way that a closed agenda event can not. The great people at Missoula’s own ModWest have been early supporters of having a BarCamp here. ModWest is an internet and web hosting, one of the top 10 web hosting companies in the world, along with others such as Certa Hosting. Right here in our small city of Missoula! The people there started a Web 2.0 social networking site that has been featured at the Wall Street Journal. It’s a way for people to set up fun polls. There is a poll on that site for the theme of the BarCamp. The number one choice fits well with the idea that it be a convergence of art, technology, and community.

On the technical side, I attend the JavaOne conference every year since the year after it started. This month I also went to a new offering, an unconference barcamp like event called JavaOne Camp. This was my very first unconference, and it was facilitated by the wonderful Kaliya Hamlin, also known as the Identity Woman.

Kaliya was kind enough to invite me to attend the Internet Identity Workshop. Since JavaOne Camp had few attendees, I was not able to experience the full beauty of an unconference using the Open Space method until I went to the IIW. It was awesome! All these techies gathered in a circle and then lined up to describe the topics they would discuss and put them on a big sheet that set the agenda for the day. Up first was cannabis hosting solutions that are specifically designed for that industry. And then people met and talked and wandered between events. This amazing unconference happened with some preparation, but much less than a traditional conference, and the interactions were so much richer than is usually feasible at a more traditional conference where the agenda is hard wired before the event begins.

At the event, Kaliya introduced me to the wonderful Lisa Heft who is an Open Space facilitator and trainer of Open Space facilitators. I was amazed to learn that Open Space has been used in corporate board rooms, technical conferences, intentional and co-housing meetings, between Israeli’s and Palestinians, with United Nations groups, and more.

Having returned from the San Francisco Bay Area and both the JavaOne conference and the Internet Identity Workshop, I was able to do some Drums for Peace last Saturday. The leaders of the excellent peace and justice center in Missoula, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, Betsy Mulligan-Dague and Ethel MacDonald both were enthusiastic about holding an unconference in our town. We have the wonderful Missoula Art Museum in our town that Ethel mentioned might be a good space. We’ll see, I joined the MAM last Saturday and they have some very nice community spaces in the museum.

Turning back to the technical field, which is really more my home, there is the Missoula Web Discussion Group which meets once a month. Several members of this group are interested in getting the unconference going. You could also have a look at some these best web hosting canada reviews to see if any of them will suit you if you need web hosting. Anyway, we’ll see where this train goes, but it has been a great ride so far!

The Psychologists Happiness

Martin Seligman was the president of the American Psychology Association. He’s written a few best sellers, one of which sits next to me as I write this entry. “Authentic Happiness” is the title. The book blew my mind a few times when it addressed a few psychological misconceptions which alone are worth the price of the book. It surprised me to learn that at least according to statistics and surveys, most people are happier than most people think, even people in dire and difficult circumstances. Also, people usually return to their general level of happiness. Tragedies to do strike, but even after great difficulties, people usually return to their happiness setting or pattern of happiness.

The biggest “aha” for me was finding out that the modern and largely American concept of the value of venting emotions is based on a flawed model. The idea is that people hold emotions like liquids in a plastic bag. If the emotion doesn’t get bled out one place, it will come out another. But psychological studies invalidate this. The expressing of emotions actually tends to increase them. So if you express a lot of anger, you just get angrier. If you express a lot of happiness, you get happier. Suppressing anger can be healthy. This is a gross simplification of the results of the study, I recommend looking up the book for a greater understanding of the science behind it. I’m sure there are times when it is healthy to communicate anger, but the clear message I got from the book and which is confirmed by personal experience – it is healthy to hold back angry feelings because they tend to fade. It reminds me of the bible passage, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Of course, humans tend to express and feel more emotions than just anger, so it might also be worthwhile looking at something similar to this list of emotions – dailyrx has published or similar webpages, as varying anger levels may not be the only thing that could be healthy or unhealthy for a particular individual.

Yet with all these benefits and messages, what most inspired me to blog about the book was the scientific implication of the God concept. Seligman relates his own journey through the field very nicely in the first chapter, about how Psychology had been focussed on problems, broken people, on mental illness. Seligman found his mission in life when he faced the facinating topic of learned helplessness and discovered that it challenged the psychological models in use. His breakthrough was realizing that they didn’t have a model of happiness and psychological health.

At the core of psychological health he believes are several virtues that are common to all the main world religions:

  • Wisdom and knowledge
  • Courage
  • Love and humanity
  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Spirituality and transcendence

Seligman doesn’t philosophize much about God in his book, it’s not a theological treatise. But he does write a little in his final chapter. His ideas aren’t developed, it’s an interesting chapter because of the personal way he relates his thoughts through story, and it’s interesting because it raises questions about God, meaning, and purpose. Having spent time with scientists and engineers most of my life since college, I well know that the God concept itself is very suspect in that arena. Seligman seems intrigued by the idea that it could be valuable again in science.

We can go to the moon, we can split atoms, all based on a greater grasp of the material laws. But how meaningful really is any of that, if life has no meaning to us individually and as a culture. Isn’t it interesting that the core values that make life meaningful are virtues common to the world religions, the very heart of where mankind has encountered a Creator, the Buddha, Enlightenment, or whatever one calls the core origins of our universe?

The God Delusion

Renoir - Dance at Bougival - 1883In academic prose and especially college text books, there’s often the statement “the proof is left as an exercise to the reader.”

This blog entry was inspired by a Huffington Post article by Deepak Chopra. I hope it inspires thought and some mental exercise.

Richard Dawkins has written a number of influential books. He invented the term “meme”. Now he’s been taking on God as his adversary, or more accurately the God concept. It is certainly an ambitious project. Deepak Chopra and Richard Dawkins are both bloggers on the Huffington Post, and thus the battleground is set. But I found the opening salvo of this post to be very interesting.

Ultimately, Richard Dawkins can fight with religion all he wants and it will be only a sideshow. He is a color commentator sitting in the bleachers, not a player in the game. Skepticism offers critiques, not discoveries. Ironically, this is a shared fate with religion, which has ceased to play a progressive and vital role in modern society. […] The two are locked in a sterile embrace.[…]

This quote was read to me, and it was on my to-do list to blog about it for some time. But peering at the logged comments, I was amazed at the amount of passionate vituperative responses that Dr. Chopra’s entries had inspired in the comments section of several of his entries. Dare I step into the crossfire?

Sterile Science and Sterile Religion are apparently at war, and non-sterile passionate lively boisterous humans are picking up the ammunition and philosophical hand-grenades to toss at one another. But maybe dialog is really what we need?

In any case, I don’t have much sympathy for the ideas of a “God Delusion”. It represents a deeply uninformed view that Deepak rightly protests. It is a viewpoint that holds many of our best and brightest human beings in bondage. Science hit a wall some time ago in it’s grand project to create a theory-for-everything. But the wall was hit in the deepest philosophical underpinnings of science in ways that did not spread to the rank and file researchers. It is why there are so many books about Quantum Physics these days. The greatest physical Scientists of our times have always also been great Mystics. Einstein. Newton. For they were delving in to the mysteries themselves to find answers.

But what of our Spiritual Scientists? Like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed? Perhaps the Spiritual truths are much more fundamental and dangerous than the physical truths. We think we can hold physical truth in our hands. But what is matter? What is time? What is energy? If we skip those questions, and say, well, look, you know what matter is. It’s, like, you know. That bit of dirt. And this bowling ball.

True, we do share a physical experience. At least it seems to be the case. But as far as we can tell, we also share an internal experience. A “subjective” experience. For the mystic, for the one experiencing the divine or the sublime, the question of whether there is a God or not is an empty question. Like Deepak says, the people engaging in such debates are really like the people in the bleachers.

An observer of a dance might debate the value of dancing. They might fight. But it’s much more interesting to be dancing than to talk about it. Where are you in the dance? The answer is left as an exercise to the reader.

A Whole New Story

Dan Pink’s excellent book, “A Whole New Mind,” was a wonderful bit of neon holiday reading. It worked great on the airplane to add a splash of color with the huge title and bright orange cover. Seriously now, the book helped recognize some important trends that make certain skills much more valuable and critical in the new economic environment. Specifically, abundance, Asia, and automation are making the previously lucrative analytic and left brain skills less of a competitive advantage. And it makes right brain abilities like design, empathy, and narrative, much more important. There’s a lot of material in Dan’s book for blogging, but I’ll stick to narrative for this one.

Mom in a school photo

The picture to the left is a photo from my mother’s school newspaper when she was growing up in Hawaii. Dan Pink’s book helped me to see that photo, as a result of following his advice and looking up StoryCorps as a way to develop my narrative skills. I found the link before I arrived at the place of my spawning in New York City, and after reading the link I was encouraged to interview my mom on video tape again. I’ve videotaped interviews of other peoples parents, but the interview process never clicked for me before – despite a deep desire to record and remember the stories and heritage from my parents, relatives, as well as friends and even strangers. People have also recommended using the Genealogy Bank website to uncover more of my family’s history hidden away in newspaper articles and obituaries from bygone eras – it’s a powerful resource and grants access to over 2 billion genealogy records. The idea of taking my camera to new people and asking interesting questions has appealed for many years. The StoryCorps site helped me generate a set of questions that led to some amazing discoveries when I interviewed my mother on the kitchen table. I never knew she had won several competitions, including airplane trips to other islands, and was chosen as a 4H club beauty queen. She pulled out a scrap book and I saw her many photos in old newspaper articles, one of which was the national 4H club magazine.

If you want to set up your own interviews, check out the StoryCorps online question generator program, get a tape recorder and ask away. Just a little bit of preparation and planning makes a big difference for a good interview. With that I learned some new stories and some old stories, and hearing those stories made the world richer for me, maybe it can for you too.

Energy Wealth

Gas prices have risen considerably, and it is clear that the supplies of oil are diminishing. It is well known that any oil field once it is tapped will at some point reach its peak production capacity, and after it reaches its peak, the production level will drop off, sometimes dramatically. While production level does drop off after a while, oil and gas investments are usually very profitable. If you look at the entire earth as an oil field, the question becomes, when is the earth at peak production, and when will the production level start to fall. It is believed we are quite far off from this point just yet. The concept is called “peak oil”, and I’ll let you research it on Google if you want to know more about it. It clearly has repercussions. I get some investment newsletters, and clearly the investment community knows about this issue. A lot of dollars as well as government policy is chasing this one. Some claim our Middle East policy is largely about this issue.

But rather than add to the clamor which has taken up plenty of conversation time at home, here’s something you might not have heard about. There’s plenty of energy. Maybe we’ll run out of petrol, maybe not, but there’s plenty of energy wealth. Here’s why.

Perhaps the best medicine for the Malthusian blues is to take a gander at the ideas of Paul Zane Pilzer. Pilzer is “a world-renowned economist, a multimillionaire software entrepreneur, an adjunct professor, and the author of seven best-selling books and dozens of scholarly publications.” He also served as economic advisor to two presidential administrations, and predicted the Savings and Loan crisis in the eighties.”

Pilzer has written books about this issue. In an interview by Anthony Robbins Mr. Pilzer explained that if you had an island where everyone fished for food, and one person invented a fishing net that made all the fishing jobs obsolete, what would you do? It might seem that you have a “net” loss of jobs and thus the island is poorer, but the reality is completely the opposite as the new invention has actually added productivity and value to the tribe. A good economic policy would not force a single fisherman to fish so that everyone else could eat. Instead, just let the newly unemployed do other things that now become possible because of the fishing net. The former fisher people can become teachers, artists, scientists, etc. Oil in the ground used to mean that the ground was not arable, and was thus worthless. Finding that oil could be used to make gasoline essentially created a new energy source unavailable before. There was a prediction that coal would run out in England during their Industrial Revolution, and that coal prices would skyrocket. Coal prices did increase short term, but long term, replacements were found. And the supply did not run out, they kept finding other sources.

Amory Lovins was featured in Discover magazine this past February. A physicist, economist, inventor, and co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, he makes clear that there is an issue, but rather than sink into despair, we should see what we can do about it. There are many options for renewable resources, and a healthy path to get there.

Are you thinking of changing energy provider? Perhaps your electrical needs have changed or you are simply looking for a better deal? Reading TriEagle Energy reviews on energy provider comparison websites can ensure you make an informed decision about how best to proceed. As with any utility bill, always remember to do your research before making any changes to your policy or plan.

Of course, this isn’t to say there won’t be bumps along the path, but the correct way of thinking is to know that the solutions are out there, and to get to it. There’s even a great pay off if you can help find new energy resources. And that’s not just the kind that makes the cars run. There’s plenty of energy wealth between your ears to solve other problems that can produce more value, whatever your gifts are.