Friday, August 22, 2008

Coffee beans on conferences!

I am on the planning committee for our electoral unit convention. I love convention. I loved it when it was one statewide weekend long convention but now we have grown too large and are broken down into smaller units of approx 450-500 Baha'is per unit. Which means the Portland area has about three or four units and we, who used to be a part of Washington County North's unit 162, are now part of unit 159 which is comprised of Clatsop, Tillamook, Marion, Benton, Linn, Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson, and Polk counties. Sort of a large, wide "v" or inverted "j".

In looking for a central location for our convention the concern is fuel costs. Who is going to travel how far for this convention? In asking for prices for rentals on convention spaces one of the most galling things to me is how many require to you to use their catering service and the price that is charged for coffee! All we want are coffee and tea urns set up at the back of the conference room so people can fill their own cups as the meeting goes on. So far, thats a no-no! Each conference center wants to put carafes on the table and charge $8 per carafe that provides 6-8 servings! At a conference that will have probably 150 (maybe 200 at best) in attendance! After the initial charge of $1200 for the facility!

This is aggravating! I am talking about such venues as Chemeketa Community College, the State Fairgrounds, County fairgrounds, as well as hotels/motels! At least with the hotels/motels we can get a cut price on the rooms and people start off with a continental breakfast. Here is an ideal way for a community college to make extra money in rooms sitting empty on the weekend, yet they are locked in with a catering contract. And forget about a snack with that coffee! Eighty-five cents per COOKIE! Absolutely NO outside food allowed!

We are not running on panic mode, yet. Just aggravation mode. I am simply appalled at what should be nominal charges, or even a part of the package, that one can get dinged for. The state fairgrounds have excellent rental fees on the facilities. Then they charge $30 per outlet used, $1.25 per chair used and $10 per table used plus require a $200 set-up fee and you are not allowed to set-up yourself.

It is almost like opening up your phone bill. There's the nominal $14.99 fee for your phone line and then .... when they get done your bill is $35.00 and you don't have a single additional benefit. Forget the cable bill.

Sigh, back to internet conference shopping!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tenuous Connections of humanity

According to an August 3, 2008, article in the UK Guardian the theory regarding six degrees of separation away from any other person on the planet has been proven true, almost. In actuality it is closer to seven, with the precise number being 6.6 after researchers at Microsoft studied records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people in various countries.

"Eric Horvitz and fellow researcher Jure Leskovec considered two people to be acquaintances if they had sent one another a message. They looked at the minimum chain lengths it would take to connect 180 billion different pairs of users in the database. They found that the average length was 6.6 hops, and that 78 per cent of the pairs could be connected in seven steps or fewer. But some were separated by as many as 29 steps."

So much for privacy, but that wasn't guaranteed by Microsoft's Messenger™ was it?

It makes me chuckle at last year's big headline in a local paper where they took five degrees to connect a local county commissioner (that the paper's owner/editor had taken a dislike against) to someone who contributed $4,000 to a campaign and the commissioner had said he didn't know the person. The contributor ended up being his second wife's daughter's second husband's oldest brother's (older by 17 years) either girl friend or tenant. The same paper later didn't print the fact that the same county commissioner's first wife had been the godmother of a person they supported for a seat on the commission, a mere one degree of separation but the paper couldn't seem to find that connection!

So how important are these connections? Don't businesses thrive on networking? Aren't employees encouraged to extend their networks, isn't a good portion of the spam we receive promising to help our home businesses grow by expanding our networks? What is Facebook™ all about? Without looking, can you name all the people in your address book? Would you be able to point them out in a line up? Do you know what is happening in their lives right this moment?

Why does it take a tragedy to make us realize how close we are? A plane crashes in Gearhart, and everyone reaches out to one another. Gearhart draws closer together, feuds, slights and hurt feelings forgotten as the realization that something can literally fall out of the sky and end anyone's tomorrow. The December storm, where each leader of each nook and cranny of the county not only stepped up to the plate but actually stepped back from the microphone and allowed one voice to speak for (and to) everyone, while they quietly went about doing their jobs. No horn tooting, no "look at me", no grandstanding by the locals. A few out of the areas politico s showed up later for their media shots but locally we stood by one another. That was amazing. We held hands.

All too soon it was over.

What leaves me perplexed is how can we allow war? Famine? Poverty? If everyone on the planet is just six steps away from us how can we turn our backs on one another? But we will and we do.

For me, when people ask "How can you believe in a God who allows such and such to happen" it is because of this. Even in celebration we rarely come together as we do when there is tragedy. Until we can learn how to come together in celebration as strongly as we come together in tragedy we will need the sadness of it. We are not, merely, a different species of animal that occasionally collides with one another. The orangutan in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia is never going to worry about the bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As wonderful as these unique creatures are, we are distinctly different. We are human, and that should mean something.

Two friends have brought me food for thought recently. Actually, four. I shared one the other day and today, the other three. We are all so very connected. Celebrating life should be done together as much as drawing on one another's strength in the time of tragedy. We should mourn for one another, but we should also remember one another in our moments of anger. It takes a strong person to remember that there is still a human being standing before them, in an argument, then painting devil horns on everyone who disagrees.

I look at the upcoming months with trepidation. Not for the outcome, but for what it will do to those determined to get their way no matter which connection is severed. I think that our community will be dramatically changed. I can but only hope, eventually, for the better. I fear not.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Random thoughts on 08-08-08

Eight-eight-oh eight, Beijing is celebrating, others are protesting. China chose this day on purpose, supposedly, because it is a lucky number. Having no superstition about numbers, merely a fondness for nine, I don't understand what the significance is behind eight. However, apparently , numerology has been around forever, and quite a few use it to plan their lives. Here are a few who do.

I do not fully understand gravitation and yet I do not pooh-pooh it, so I can not totally disdain numerology. I do think, however, that much like gravity, we do not understand it. We play at "interpreting" the numbers, but I always wonder at what point do, or did, the numbers start? Whose calendar are we using? It makes no sense to me to apply biblical prophecy to our calendar. Unless, just by doing so we are creating the climate in which the prophecy has no choice but to manifest itself.

If we are going to have self-fulfilling prophecies, why don't we create good ones? On 08-08-08 I am going to wake up and find that all is right in my world. I have paid all the bills on time, my vehicle is running well and full of fuel, my family members are all agreeing with one another and most importantly, of course, with me. My home will be clean, every person I speak to about an assignment I am on will answer me, fully and honestly. I will be thankful for the day.

That just reminded me of an email I received earlier today from someone whose friendship just snuck up on me. One of those where you put someone in one catagory and all of a sudden, in a delighted surprise, you notice they've slipped over to another and you don't even realize when it happened!

As I have written earlier, I am not overly fond of forwards or chains, however, those friends who do bother to send me one I don't grouse. I accept, read, sometimes delete. Sometimes I google and write back a warning that it is a complete hoax and don't bother becoming alarmed about snakes coming out of the toilet or spiders living in your ears. And sometimes, not so often, but sometimes, an email takes me off guard and can take my breath away.

While I had heard it before, quite awhile ago, it must have been time to hear it again. Once, for this one, isn't quite "enough." And I love it.

In a country of over consumption, in an age of let-me-have-it-now, when we all believe we deserve the most and the best as often as we desire it, I do believe we can considered ourselves blessed if we have "enough."

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Goodbye."

[Bob Perks, in Chicken Soup For the Grieving Soul]

I wish you one and all, family and friends who take the time to stop on by, enough.