Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Closing Keynote: USDLA

The closing keynote by Burck Smith focused on mega-trends for the future.

Non-accredited institutions are muscling in to the same teaching space occupied by accredited institutions.

Accreditation has been a kind of monopoly allowing those on the inside to keep their tuitions high.

With the falling cost of course delivery thanks to distance education, profits have been fattening for the accredited, but at high cost to students.

In the next chapter, the competition from the players outside the accredited sphere are likely to make deeper inroads into diploma space, offering certificates instead.

Monday, April 27, 2015

USDLA Keynote

Hal Plotkin, with experience in the Obama administration, is now with Creative Commons.  His abbreviated history of the copyleft movement (skipping the GNU / GPL chapter) led to this punch line:  in some scenarios, dropping proprietary content in favor of equally high qualtiy open content saves enough money to assure students get a properly equipped personal workspace to get on-line.

That's a lesson learned in the software industry a generation ago.  Perhaps the Linux / GNU chapter got skipped given Microsoft's interests in this area?  Free software and free curriculum content (free in the sense of liberated) certainly have a lot in common.

A focus of Hal's keynote was CC-by within TAACCCT, a US Department of Labor program.  We got to watch a fun little video (above) and learn about some success stories.

Translating into computerese, he's into gamification of learning e.g flight simulators for everything (chemistry etc.).  "Nobody can cheat on a flight simulator".

The geek world memes of "Ignite" (as in Ignite Portland, or and "open licenses" appear to have permeated this education world.  Several of the talks have the word "ignite" in them.

I'm here with some of my co-workers from O'Reilly School of Technology, nothing to do with the auto parts company, everything to do with publishing e.g. Safari On-line.

We got some statistics that only 7% of the world's humans have post secondary school education, but that's measured in terms of having academic degrees.

If you're like my friend Lindsey in Nepal, deeply involved in the study of Newar Buddhism, you might not have a PhD in that, yet still be highly educated.

Education and academic schoolwork are overlapping non-synonymous concepts in my book.  That might be heresy in this group, not sure (I'm a newbie).  The pro open source ignite flavored memes we're getting here are quite familiar to me however.

OSCON will be in Austin TX next year.  Portland and Austin have a lot in common.  They're both into staying weird.

The first talk I attended after the keynote was about "the four stages of SAMR" meaning Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition, an approach to giving new technology a foot in the door into course delivery.  Share PDFs with Dropbox, use a Learning Management System (e.g. Blackboard) for grading.  Basic stuff.

We're hearing a plug for Microsoft Office Mix + Powerpoint + Notepad, adding to my sense that F/OSS (free and open source software) is not a primary focus here.  "All students use Evernote or OneNote for all notes" (Powerpoint slide) -- that's Augmentation, after Substitution lets them use any app for notes. 

OneNote is free as in beer at least, if not open source.  I'll first need to upgrade my OS to use it though.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Back in St. Louis

I woke up to telecommunications in Campaign Illinois, after seeing Johnny Rawls Blues Band at Iron Post, in Urbana, to learn of the devastation in Nepal, a 7.8 earthquake.

Lindsey is in the middle of the chaos.  She had taken disaster training seriously in Portland, little knowing she would confront disaster in Kathmandu Valley, in the shadow of the Himalayas.

My Altima Nissan (actually Alamo's) served me well on this trip, a jump into the future from my 1997 maxi taxi, a Maxima.   Push button start, rear view camera, comfortable and strong.  Quite and expensive piece of equipment, and I was relieved to get it back in mint condition, though with 700 plus additional miles to its credit.

I've updated some of the people who know Lindsey, and of her whereabouts, that's she's still alive.  Many were not so lucky.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spherical Trig

I've been brainstorming with my peers on math-teach about how to make spherical trig more accessible, starting with a set of tools and not staring at a lot of cryptic scripting language right off the bat.  On a sphere, the Pythagorean Theorem has a different form.

Imagine a curriculum that used a code such as:  sTem; STem; steM... to highlight which of the four domains (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) gets the most emphasis in a given Lesson Plan. Multiple letters might be highlighted.  Superimposed (stacked), the Lessons reinforce one another and build up a multi-layered surface (spherical) or system (global matrix).

The acronym STEM is perhaps peculiar to English and need not be taken too seriously.  The pun on STEAM, with A = Anthropology, seems to be one of STEM's chief values as a marketing device.  We get another bridge to the Humanities through Anthro / Animal, thereby unifying the Liberal Arts in true Trivium / Quadrivium fashion.

In Synergetics, the spherical triangle is emphatically a face of a tetrahedron with edges to the planetary center.  Saying "planet" for "system" has a somewhat Little Prince flavor.  But then we already use the word World for a namespace, as in Python World, or Python Planet (both references to the computer language, but of course Monty Python resonates as well).

My travels took me through Salt Lake City recently and I found myself reading about Pink Floyd, the pink flamingo that escaped from the zoo and lived in the wild with the other birds for a number of years.  Brine shrimp are plentiful in those lakes (a patchwork of shallow mini-lakes), though I'm not sure if that's what flamingos actually eat.  Tourists would spot Pink Floyd from time to time, but he or she drifted off and was last seen in Idaho.

Among the tools a student might use:  Google Maps and/or Google Earth for finding locations and getting their lat / long coordinates.  These might be fed to a Web resource (URL) that spits back XYZ coordinates, taking Planet Earth to be centered as some origin.  Straight line distances through the Earth's crust would correspond to chords, whereas on the surface we have geodesics or great circles.  Going from lat / long to XYZ to spherical coordinates helps us translate between data sets.

Friday, April 17, 2015


They say a generation is twenty years.  Twenty years ago I went to the Fuller Centennial in San Diego and wrote this three part series.  I'm tonight reading a partially overlapping account.

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were boomers, somewhat post beatnik which was Jack Kerouac's generation.  The two met in New York as a part of that bus trip, Leary's group the next stop.  Sometimes a Great Notion (Kesey's next novel after Cuckoo's Nest) was being released.

Pegging the time.  I was in elementary school, starting in Portland, winding up in Rome.

My generation was / is late boomer, pre Generation X.  When our group had families, those were called Yuppies (young professionals) a play on Hippies.  Various neighborhoods gentrified or whatever.  Jersey City sure took off, since my day in the early 1980s, as a high school teacher walking to work along Kennedy Boulevard.

I took my daughter to New York and Long Island City that time, to meet with Kenneth Snelson and to take in a ceremony honoring the friendship between Fuller and Isamu Noguchi, a sculptor.  Shoji Sadao was another in that crew, a workshop / studio, across from where the Noguchi Museum is today.

My mom is aiming to be in New York City by tomorrow, for only for a brief stay.  She'll be back through on her return.  I'm meanwhile soon to set out for the mid-west on company business.  My daughter is now twenty, a next generation.

The Princeton P-rade is worth catching, if you get a chance.  The classes parade in order, though with a 25th year group in front (I think is how it goes -- I was there for that one).  You see time go by really quickly, a review.  The alums get younger and younger, turning into underclassmen at the end.  I'm not sure what other universities do that.  Pretty interesting.

The "march through time" metaphor (is it a metaphor? -- seems pretty literal) is pretty cliche.  Or is it the march of time?  Whatever.  "Time is the only dimension" was one of the tropes I remember from Synergetics.  But then time and size go together.  One needs room to rattle around.

Given I was in Rome during the tumultuous 1960s, I had a somewhat different take on things than my three-years-older wife.  She had stayed in North America, mostly in the southeast, joining the Portland scene before I did.

My return to Portland, in 1985 (as I've pegged it, I hope correctly) was after my parents left Bangladesh but then moved to Bhutan, where dad continued his career as a planner / designer, now of education systems, later in Lesotho.  When my wife was hired as the bookkeeper for Center for Urban Education, I was away in Bhutan.  On a next trip, she and Alexia joined me.

Anyway, if you're curious about my autobio I've got more on file.  Check it out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Trite Math


According to the Bridges trolls, i.e. the kick-and-punch reviewers who come out from under the bridge when someone proposes to cross it, the relationship VE:Icosa :: S:E is of no conceivable import, cultural, artistic or otherwise.  So be it.  Lets call it Trite Math (Koski's coin).

VE is a remote vocabulary word in the Synergetics namespace, pioneered by the ever-lonely Bucky Fuller.  VE stands for Vector Equilibrium.

Rational ancient Greek speakers know it as the "cuboctahedron" although that suggests a solid shape, not the skeletal version with doubled radials, eight hinge-bonded unit-volume tetrahedrons, per Concentric Hierarchy lore.

That's twenty-four radial versus twenty-four circumferential vectors in Bucky's accounting system and vocabulary, hence the name "vector equilibrium" (twenty-four of each).

The shape is barely stable however, only fleetingly itself.  It Jitterbugs into an Icosahedron of equal edge lengths, the Icosa in the ratio above.  In so doing, the volume decreases from 20 (the eight tetrahedrons are volume one, six half octahedrons volume two, so 8 + 6*2 = 20) to about 18.512... (more digits).

S & E are both slivers, splinters.

The topologically minimum container in ordinary space and ordinary language, is the tetrahedron.  You don't have a volumetric "cage" with less than six edges, if constrained to constructing with sticks.  Fuller accounts volume using aggregates of these slivers, which he names:  A, B, T, E and S.

You can look them up. They have plane nets and everything. A, B and T all have the same volume (1/24).  E outweighs T by a tad, has the same shape.  S is for Skew.

So VE:Icosa :: S:E is a volume thing.  David Koski has been playing with these blocks and making lots of discoveries.  Low hanging fruit (i.e. trite fruit) is plentiful in this 4D domain.

Lets do it in Python:

e3 is simply Evol shrunk by 1/phi i.e. all edges are .618... of what they were, with volume decreasing as 3rd power of that amount.  Edges:Area:Volume grow and shrink in a 1, 2, 3 powering relationship when a shape changes size (duh).

I agree this is all pretty easy and accessible, which in some circles is a mark of inferiority, of triteness.

[ The fact that floating point numbers have noise digits on the end owing to base conversions etc. may be off-putting to "real numbers" fans. ]

Cliché Math we could call it. Cut and Paste Math.

Speaking of which, the source code for studying the above modules is available here on edu-sig.

The source to render the above graphic is also available, but you'll need the free / open source POV-Ray ray tracing engine to get the final result.

Rejected, too-trite and/or incomprehensible papers:  Kirby's; Koski's

Sunday, April 12, 2015

POV: A Game of Fetch

POV = Point of View.  In this case, provided by a DJI Phantom Vision+ 2.

Starring Seuss the dog, Les piloting, Elise and Kirby as backup ball throwers.

:: the quad-copter ::

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Wanderers 2015.4.7

:: paying myself $30 plus postage ::

Barry is talking about needed reforms in the capital games tax, talking about day trading, after the capital gains period, eating your losses etc. etc..  He's a retired banker, but those around the table aren't that as financially savvy necessarily.

I think a state should expect commitment of time and energy in lieu of taxes or as a type of taxes.  You get a job with the government where presumably there's value added as a result of your performance.

Barry doesn't like the corporate personhood movement, also known as Voodoo Economics whereby inanimate objects (corpses, corporations) gain personhood (souls).  It's a kind of legal fiction, or science fiction that's serious enough to govern role playing in some subcultures.

A government could run hotels, rental car depots, a bunch of tourist related stuff.  It does so now, in the guise of its military, but what about civilian bases, more like Disneyland than Mordor?  There's no shortage of stuff for people to do, as committing some percent of their aliveness to serving the greater good.

The so-called 1% would stereotypically want to exempt itself from government service as they're wanting to party in penthouses and not maintain mountain trails.  Not everyone is equally able.  One could have a monetary way of playing the taxes game, but also this other way, like joining the military but the civilian correlate.

At one point I was suggesting Girl Scouts as the model, with abandoned bases in the Philippines as my backdrop.  I'd been to Clark AB pre Pinatubo so knew how a base might double as a civilian campus, or be converted into one, more like a university, less like a prison.  War is unfreedom to the max.

Christine is asking questions, as Barry continues talking about stocks and IPOs.  Insiders can't sell their shares right away.

When people give to charity they get credit sometimes.  Their profile is updated.  However the government takes the glory for how taxes are spent.  Were individual role playing the currency, bleeping over the importance of individuals would be harder.  People complain USAers are "too individualistic".  Maybe that really is not the problem.

You want to be a star, a celebrity, and how do your taxes help you achieve that?  Does the government give you fifteen minutes of fame?  Are you able to make movies?  In some cases yes, taxes get used for that.  But how many filmmakers get to serve the greater good as their way of pulling their weight?  Don't we waste talent by not letting them?

Some from the art side struck up a side conversation on Zombie Jesus, another circulating comic meme.  Warning:  not everyone has a sense of humor where Jesus is concerned.  More of a Gnostic thing maybe?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Intersteller (movie review)

I caught this at Laurelhurst, packed house, smaller screen, bright and sharp picture though, I don't require Real3D to stay happy (except outside when driving I find it convenient).

I'd been skeptical about this film given the hype and my low opinion of public opinion a lot of the time, call me a snob or elitist.  However I've come to respect the film for what it tackles:  the way in which love seems to transcend even death, or call it gravity.

The memes are straight from the dust bowl cornfields of America mixed with NASA space program ethos, a volatile combination with many stark contrasts.  Planet Earth is on the wane and there's a sense of needing to bootstrap somehow.  Why are humans always on the brink?  Or maybe that's what prehistory was about:  not being right up against it with End of the World just around the corner.

Science fiction is expected to have worm holes and higher dimensions.  That tradition was established at the end of the 1800s, when novelesque plots were developed to take advantage of 4D, the new kid on the block.  The tesseract or hypercube, made its brilliant debut, with no upper limit on dimension number.  Worm holes could be everywhere.  Our confinement to the solar system, a frustration for plot developers, was solved.

As I've harped on in these blogs, the tesseract is not a time machine except in scifi.  That these would be jumbled together on the chalkboard is part of the tradition, but formal math does not permit it.  The polytope mathematics of the nD crowd, led by Coxeter, is not the 4D mathematics of Einstein, nor the 4D philosophy of Fuller, to which this film comes very close (no obvious tetrahedrons though).

In classic humanities liberal arts, the dead speak to us in our libraries, through our books, across time, across space.  Yes, it's kinda spooky, and poltergeists (at least tales of) lurk in those pages.  Young girls are especially drawn to certain passages, specific phenomena.  Their dads use science to discourage this tendency but then end up on the other side of it, wanting to speak after deadline.  The hero's frustration is palpable.  He has machine Marines for cold comfort.

The relativity touch was really well acted I thought, complete with aging at different rates.  Maybe I'll see this movie again, in Real3D even.  A car pulled out in front of me on Stark on the way home and I was glad to have the right break-hitting reflexes and enough traction even in wet weather.  The film is long, starting with previews at 8:45 and not letting out until close to midnight.  Not complaining; it kept me in my seat.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ReThink911 @ HGP

I learned from Dr. DiNucci that David Fura would be presenting on 911 at Friendly House, addressing Greater Humanists of Portland.  Given local Quakers have been recently joined by David Chandler, scheduled to speak at the meetinghouse on April 12, as a part of our Peace and Social Concerns program, my scoping out this talk seemed apropos.  Fura cites Chandler in his slides and plays the video of David, identified as with AAPT, asking the NIST guy a question.

The National Geographic and Popular Mechanics efforts at debunking get tackled in Fura's talk.  If thermite is not useful in demolition, as NGS alleges in its own attempt at debunking the Truthers, then how does one explain the patents for using it that way?  I forget what the Popular Mechanics thing was about, however these debates are all on-line so feel free to tune in.  A lot of people are participating in these discussions, not just the Humanists and Quakers.

The ReThink911 agenda is all about casting doubt on the official NIST reports, especially around WTC7, the building that (even officially) went into free fall, officially because of fires weakening its structural members, but unofficially and off the record thanks to preset charges i.e. because of controlled demolition.

If NIST is right -- but it won't release its computer model -- then it has discovered a new way for skyscrapers to fail due to carbon-based fires never before contemplated and never before or since seen.  The Truthers remain highly skeptical of the NIST theory, wherein the numbers keep changing.  Both sides appear to use science to support their claims.

My question, as a matter of logic, is how one gets from the apparent fact of "controlled" demolition to the "uncontrolled" events of 911.  Buildings of that size and stature should be designed with demolition in mind right from the start, as Paul Laffoley asserts was the case with these 1970s monsters (which I admired), losing money and ready to be replaced by the 21st century.  With what we don't know.  Laffoley's own design, conceived after 911, was for a Gaudi-like building, part memorial, more conceptual art than a blueprint at that stage.

Could these buildings have been scheduled to come down anyway, just not as a result of terrorism?  Was someone "pushing the button" a part of the terrorist plot all along?

If demolition were integral to the design, then the question becomes at what point in the timeline were charges added.  Might there have been a schedule driven by financial concerns unrelated to troop movements in the Middle East?

As expected, once off the official narrative, it's somewhat of an inkblot test as to whom we think is really responsible.  People who don't read a lot often think of Neocons and the CIA as the same bunch, whereas from other angles one sees open hostility, or at best rivalry between these two camps.  Just saying "bad guys did it" doesn't really get us anywhere.  The devil is in the details.

That the CIA is trying to use the Truther Movement to make Bin Laden look like a patsy is consistent with past cover up failures.  Iraq would be more like Cuba by this analogy, Oswald being cast as pro Castro and by extension a Soviet spy.  Hadn't Saddam plotted against Bush Sr.?

However analogies with the JFK chapter only go so far as in this case there's really no doubt about the jet airplanes hitting the two buildings, WTC1 and WTC2 (not WTC7) -- except amongst odd-ball extremophiles.  In Oswald's case, it's rather doubtful he ever fired that rifle, or killed Officer Tippit or any of that.  He was just following instructions, up to where he tried to escape his fate as the fall guy, by explaining his innocence to the police.  Jack Ruby had to silence him.

What do the ReThink911 people imagine would have happened if only the jets had hit?  What would have been the scenario, absent any controlled demolition?

The jets hitting was enough to get people jumping off buildings.  Hundreds if not thousands had died already.  Clearly these were nightmare situations, with firefighters bravely walking into them.  If the goal were to provoke a war with Iraq, per the Neocon agenda, wouldn't this terrorist act have been sufficient?  Why would anything potentially even more risky be required?  At least one of the Humanists asked about this during the Q&A.

With no demolition system in place, would the towers still be standing today in 2015, or would they by now have been demolished, WTC7 included?  After that day, they were totaled, unsalvageable no?  So we'd have demolished them by now at least, maybe even without the planes hitting.  The Twin Towers were close to worthless by 2000, were white elephants, according to many accounts.  As soon as we had finished rescuing all the people, they would have needed to be destroyed, no question.  Repair would have been infeasible.

However Fura thinks the WTC towers may have been too full of asbestos to make their demolition practical at any point.  This would point to a major design flaw as how does one replace buildings of that size once they've outlasted their lifespan?  How would one remove towers of that stature except by controlled demolition?  Or is the theory that anything that big has to last forever?

Do we suppose architects are off the hook in needing to think about a building's full life cycle, including its eventual destruction?  I expect the buildings would have needed to come down later, actually quite soon, WTC7 included.  In fact, once the Twin Towers where down, why keep WTC7 around even a day longer?  Everyone was out by the time it imploded.  Why not?  It was worthless by then.  Just more rubble to clean up at that point.  Civilians had cleared the area.

What I don't know is how many additional lives might have been saved had the firefighters been given more time with their hook and ladder trucks etc.  People were already jumping to their deaths.  The additional numbers that might have been saved is a difficult calculation once you factor in the number of firefighters who might have died as a result of heroism, trying to rescue people from the two towering infernos.  Lots to think about there.