grid matrix

World Game Puzzles

Kirby Urner
Feb 22 · 5 min read

Imagine using Google Earth to start this story, and zooming in on a city south of Seattle, itself along the Pacific Coast of North America. Are you able to visualize Portland, Oregon? We teach our kids about the fifty states that comprise a Federation. They say we learned a lot of our federation skills from the natives, whereas European states have their less federated European Union.

Portland is well inland for a port. Ships have to cross over a shallows near Astoria, keeping to the dredged channels, and make their way up the Columbia River, as settlers call it. Lewis and Clark, whom the settlers followed, were coming the other way at the start of the eighteen hundreds. But even then, you haven’t made it to Portland yet. Turn right at the Willamette River and ask for Swan Island.

As you might imagine, all that extra sailing inland, to connect with truck and rail, is not to the taste of all customers. The local politics and dockyard union disputes may not make it to their radar.

In case of a serious earthquake, Portland is not well positioned. The major tank farms will likely be the first to go, sinking in to the river, or so says the Portland Mercury.

Once the dockyard has transferred the containers, to rail or truck, they disperse through a system of arterial freeways. Europe built those too, and now so has Asia and much of Mesopotamia. We might still use antiquated terms like Old Silk Road out here, in referring to the overland routes in question.

However, before these trucks have right of way, we have armored vehicles that wish to parade and convoy along the same highways. Some of these travel much more slowly, whereas long convoys make passing impossible.

We may have some pullovers, but for the most part dual use is a contraindication. A strong commercial sector requires fewer armored vehicles hogging the road, by definition.

Then come the checkpoints and barriers, the need for papers. The costs become endless.

Again, the federation of states in North America has it pretty good, when it comes to decent infrastructure and lots of freeways. Some freeways are actually free, with no tolls.

A truck might get a lane, clear from Los Angeles to New York City, and not encounter significantly long queues, despite the occasional weigh station or toll booth.

North Americans seem to take their freeway infrastructure for granted, not seeing themselves as lucky.

The Damascus to Aleppo route has been in the news a lot lately, for being usable. No one takes unobstructed commercial traffic for granted there.

With a breakdown in consensus over borders, the refugee crisis around the east end of the Mediterranean has overflowed into the neighboring EU.

The map keeps changing. People are asking on the nightly news if we are expecting a next Ottoman Empire. Bombing Libya back into the stone age didn’t help matters.

I’ve watched Scott Ritter a lot from afar, and appreciate the strong role he took to uphold the rights of a sovereign nation, what we’ve been calling Iraq and drawing with a certain shape.

Without control over its own airspace or oil resources, since that time it tried to retake a former province (Kuwait), the concept of Iraqi sovereignty has been weak to nonexistent. The Bremer Edicts set the tone.

Nowadays, Scott seems rather hell bent on letting the armed groups fight it out to restore some sense to the old world map. He used to work with the United Nations and is sensitized to national sovereignty.

Words like “buffer zone” have served a cosmetic purpose, as media viewers continue to process the news in terms of their familiar political map, perhaps undergoing plastic surgery, nothing too drastic.

With a few more alterations here and there, we’ll have some approximation of the earlier borders, which is what is needed to keep the peace.

That my lineage would sound somewhat skeptical on that score is not surprising. Our world map has been border free for some time now, the better to plot the realities on the ground.

On the brighter side, the region I’ve been calling the Middle East has no shortage of federations in the sense of cabals or cliques. The Venn Diagram is rich with partially overlapping attributes, based in religion, ideology, ancestry, profession, school affiliation, gender, sexual orientation.

And lets not forget the political parties. These end up forging alliances and all too often backing the militias.

The commitment to settle scores with armed conflict makes ordinary commercial trucking nonviable. The roads get cratered. Traffic halts.

The social media viewers (TV now one of the social media), are starting to get wise to the paper thin quality of their social media narrative.

They’re waking up to the fragility of their working assumptions, regarding what’s what.

Imagine growing up in North America and feeling secure that your state would outlive you. That ability to take your state for granted is a luxury by world standards.

A passport stamped Prussia or Yugoslavia suddenly becomes a collectors item, as these once real countries become the stuff of dreams once again. The line between real and imaginary is vanishingly thin in some places.

Back to Portland…

The region in which I currently live has a reputation for moving us forward in a Silicon Valley sense, meaning into digital computing and electronics more generally. We call this the Silicon Forest though. The tempo and temperament is a little different.

I’ve written in Medium before about our companies, such as Tektronix and Electro Scientific Instruments (ESI). The Quaker meetinghouse I’ve been attending, within walking distance, was once an ESI fab.

I attend even more meetings at the former home of Linus Pauling, where he taught himself a lot of chemistry in the basement. He went on to win two Nobel Prizes, one of them for peace, thanks to Ava Helen’s influence.

Swan Island (mentioned above) is where Daimler Trucks of North America has a headquarters, in their new Leed certified building. As we learned from Gordon Hoffman at a recent Hawthorne Pauling House meetup, that company is engaged in serious research regarding a role for artificial intelligence in global trucking.

GPS has already made a huge difference. What forces are shaping that industry today?

Will electric trucks be in high demand? The newest Tesla truck was only recently unveiled.

My angle on Medium and in my blogs has more of a Peace Corps flavor, even though I’ve not been relying on the District for initiative. “The District” is my shorthand for Washington, DC.

A lot of the armored vehicles clogging the roads seem to result from District sales. Young people are encouraged to take up arms.

Quakerism tends to oppose this strategy. I’m actually looking to Southern Africa as a more likely site for pioneering the global trucker exchange program. I’ll have more to say about that in other stories.

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