Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wanderers 2006.11.28

Terry Bristol (foreground) feeding
video signal of Micheal Sunanda (background)
to Doug Strain (on screen)
Micheal Sunanda regaled us with stories about spirals, their omnipresence, their vortexial and toroidal properties, with a special focus on the Earth's magnetic field.

Other Wanderers chimed in, both supportively and with skeptical wise cracks. Micheal was very engaged, the opposite of a shrinking violet. He's a credit to his hippie ethnicity.

Doug Strain, metrologist, joining us by closed circuit TV, reminded us that words in a vacuum are difficult to control, meaning-wise, which is why sharing measurements and observations is so important -- we need shared access to lots of raw global data to find common ground, even before we pinpoint any areas of real disagreement.

But it wasn't as if Micheal was avoiding all data, plus he's right that lots of relevant empirical info is shrouded in secrecy, locked away from public view (motivations vary as to why), so "establishment scientists" don't always appear to be playing with a full deck either.

The game is to get some dots (data points) out there, then edge-connect them into some credible model, the more omnitriangulated the better. The result is always full of holes (dots + holes = connections + 2). That's just in the nature of thinking. We improve our models over time, provided we're still open to feedback.

Science should be in a relationship of friendly banter with its own fringe, participating in the give and take, not hunkering down defensively in humorless silence. Micheal's emotive polemics, his wild theories about the Earth actively synthesizing matter from energy, physically growing as a result, deserve continual reality checking. Science is an ongoing enterprise, not a completed body of work.

It's these feedback loops that we need, intelligent cybernetics, not one side or another proclaiming eternal victory, picking up its marbles and going home, outwardly prideful, aloof, disengaged, snooty to the max.

The best way to showcase mature theories is to compare and contrast them with competing alternatives. Simply dismissing the competition out of hand with a haughty sniff robs onlookers of educational opportunities. Micheal wants to be grappled with. Wanderers provide a good venue for him.

We had a great turnout, including dear Nancy, to whom I waved from my darkened alcove off to the side of our packed meeting room. Then she vanished into the night as stealthily as she'd arrived.

I got home late, after hobnobbing with principals, stopping by Glenn's new apartment, closer to his work. I donned my wireless headphones, so as not to disturb sleeping family members, and caught up with Couric and her CBS team (example story: the dying Dead Sea).

poster about spirals in nature

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Space Needle

:: spy story ::

:: observation deck ::

:: spys' nest? ::

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on Thanksgiving

In the original telling, the colonists were ill prepared, after a life in the English countryside, ala Wind in the Willows, for the challenges of harvesting before winter, surviving 'til spring, in their magnificent New World.

In neighborhoods where Anglos and Navams got along, the theme was fellowship and mutual enjoyment of the fruits of one's labor, and, overwhelmingly greater, the generosity of Nature herself, to those who respect her.

Yes, Navams were romanticized, then as now, as the early pioneers of American cultures. They'd had many generations to get it right, through trial and error, through encoding their findings, before those colonists arrived from over the Atlantic.

Other immigrants didn't respect the Navams much and assumed all along the challenge was to just get rid of 'em or, failing that, to pen them inside of demarcated areas, cut off from adjacent lands, there to be forgotten, neglected. Of course this strategy was doomed on many levels, but did spawn a large bureaucracy and lots of map drawing.

Today, in 2006, many of the original nations have reconstituted sufficiently to set up self-sustaining businesses, casinos in particular, in some cases as stepping stones to further ventures. For example, in the State of Oregon we have the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde and its Spirit Mountain casino, a funds-generator for many worthy causes, including grants to OMSI, our science museum.

Further north, in the State of Washington, in Stillaguamish country where I'm writing this, the Angel of the Winds casino performs similar community service, helping to revitalize both the tribe, and the surrounding ecosystem (a large percentage of the profit is earmarked for wild salmon restoration).

Thanksgiving is a time to take some time off to just celebrate what we already have (so many treasures) versus what we still have ahead of us, both to be and to do.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Swordplay with Zorro

Some of you old fogeys may remember TV's original Zorro series, another take on the masked man lone ranger theme, this time with a more Mexican flavor.

Swordplay is also a metaphor for flashy debates, wherein each player attemps to best his opponent with rapier sharp wit (another cliché).

So there's this guy Haim over on math-teach whom I spar with a lot, and whom I've nicknamed Zorro (a compliment). We do the Y-chromo thing (fight), but I think in ways even some X-filed Pam and Betty types will find entertaining.

Here's an excerpt:
Cyber-curricula have a leveling aspect, as kids
nearer Katrina's epicenter tune in and bliss out
on 'Warriors of the Net' (why wait for stupid big
dummy textbooks to catch up?). They feel more
empowered by Python and Ubuntu than by any
King's English I'd warrant, given how the latter
has been dumbed down (slowed, degraded) by
unimaginative bankers who can't fathom open
source and its math-teaching significance to
our digitally savvy ethnicities.
I might have said "emerging digitally savvy ethnicities" (more showing off) but that's in the nature of fast-paced think on your feet debates: lotsa coulda- shoulda- woulda- saids in retrospect. So save it for the rematch?

Wanna read more? Here's a link to the full text (typos elided), plus a tie-back to the contextualizing thread @ Math Forum (now at Drexel University, but started at Swarthmore College).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fast Food Nation (movie review)

This hard edged study in bleakness pits a powerless good against a dreadful evil: cows to the slaughter on an industrial scale with humans likewise objects of gross indignities, behind a cosmetic, antisceptic veneer (of mostly lies, unless you stick to just fries, and even they may be tainted).

The cruel bullheaded engineers, descending tiers of lesser bovines, contrast with the stunning innocence, vulnerability and apparent naïveté of the cows at the bottom of this food chain.

A horror film and psychological study, without much to lighten the mood (even what's funny is grim). Many will dismiss it as preachy propaganda.

I was reminded of El Norte and Elephant.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Loose Ends

Regarding that shower drain, I did end up asking Dex ("dex knows") for a professional plumber, went with Rescue Rooter with its multi-page ad.

At first he described it as a nightmare job, as both the shower and tub drain to the same T, meaning he'd need to make a 90 degree turn into the T's bottom -- a difficult maneuver for his power snake.

But then he realized the bathroom sink also drains to the same pipe, lower down but still above the likely clotting point. This became his point of access.

I wondered if "scare then relief" was a typical rollercoaster before closing the deal -- the customer is just glad it'll be easy / routine and signs gratefully.

No, it's not quite like balloon angioplasty, but there are some analogies, especially from a Monster House perspective.

I felt OK about shelling out the $167, as it was obvious to me that my skillset and toolset just weren't up to the job i.e. I wasn't being redundant (sometimes another form of irrelevant -- not always though).

As for that paint job, they said they'd come back for a couple loose ends I might find, plus put another coat of weather proofing on the front door. I said I'd gladly pay 'em then but then went up to Hawthorne. By the time I'd come back, the check had been cut. I blame myself for not communicating more clearly with my wife.

One of the guys was a former Navy submarine divemaster and I got into sharing about my uncle's new book, now with a US-based publisher. Another member of the team, I think the company president, fell off a ladder at another site and hurt his hand really badly meaning time in the ER.

I hope he's OK by now. I liked their energy and the house looks great -- they did a good job for the price I paid. I'd recommend 'em to others.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Synergeo 30547

Re: the effect of the environment

--- In, tim stockton wrote:

> politics is really fragmenting-

Lots of phoney baloney scapegoating going on here in the US.

Trying to blame everything on GWB's inner circle is a silly cop out though he does make a fun lightning rod in a storm with that What Me Worry?™ attitude.

It's been an oppressive period, a lot of it backlash (reactionary).

When a Medal of Freedom winner's inventive thinking is kept away from public school kids, it oughta be obvious to any astute observer that moronic monkey brains are in the control room (or so they fancy themselves).

Anyway, didn't we already see all this in Planet of the Apes?

Fortunately, the Iraqis and Iranians have an easier time following, as they never lost touch with geometry so completely. NCLB owes a lot to Arab and Persian cultures. Sound familiar?


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Peer Group Networking

Of course there is any number of ways to resequence topics in a logical progression, especially since maths form a network, not a linear stairway, so it's really a matter of deepening over time, by retracing a lot of the same ground over and over, adding in new topics as they arise (this is of course an organic ideal rarely attained without caveats).

However, there's a comfort zone that goes with one's ethnicity as a math teacher that prevents resequencing too deeply and disruptively, which expresses itself with this clinging to physical hardcopy textbooks as the embodiment of any serious-minded approach to math teaching.

More emphemeral digital alternatives, including hard media such as CD and DVD, get shunted into a holding pattern (mañana syndrome) while in practice each year is much like the last, for at least a half generation (a decade or so), again because of the comfort zone of the math teaching ethnicity.

In competition with the math teachers, we now have the emergence of self-teaching peer groups who forsake the more traditional textbooks in favor of cyber-curricula of one flavor or another.

Traditionally, these peer groups have formed in the adult world as teams within companies, in order to share inhouse proprietary knowledge and trade secrets related to the business. However, with the emergence of social networking software such as MySpace (Orkut an early pioneer in the genre), college and grade school aged kids in the K16 pipeline are finding increasing opportunities to do more than just socialize.

They're colluding to form study groups, other intelligence gathering machinery for the purpose of practicing the social skills they'll need to survive in tomorrow's cyberspatially aware business networking environments.

Multiuser online gaming is another vehicle for this kind of personal development, and I'm not just talking about first person shooters and their limited appeal among girlz, Lara Croft notwithstanding (CBS News correspondents Lara Logan and Kimberly Dozier more define the archetype -- intelligent and compassionate, not unabomber gun-toting thugs).

In any case, marvels and superheros abound in this cartoon world of shared imagination, resulting in an explosion of new ethnicities and subcultures, many of them shared internationally i.e. across the political lines drawn by earlier generations of world game player.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Some Overview

interactive shell languages
In contrast to batch compiling decks of punch cards, interactive shells provided a command line experience. Logo and Scheme, both influenced by LISP, Iverson's APL (and later J), Guido's Python, all share this feature, as does xBase (e.g. dBase, FoxPro), another language that's been important to me.

my trajectory '58-'80
Sometimes sharing autobiography is helpful. Above I'm sketching my trajectory from a 1958 birth in Chicago, through my Princeton chapter (Class of 1980), where I majored in philosophy, but also dove into computer science to some degree.

Pythonic infrastructure
Today's picture is rather complicated, Python being implemented in at least three system languages: C, Java and C# (plus whatever those Nokia cell phones use). The C# version, called IronPython, sits atop the .NET engine with its Common Language Infrastructure (CLI).

Since Microsoft defined much of the .NET API as a public standard through ECMA, a Linux version, named Mono ("moe no" not "mah no" i.e. monkey in Spanish) is evolving to bring .NET ("dot net") capability to the Linux platform as well.

IronPython should provide a lot of cross-platform capability twixt Linux and Windows, if Mono keeps up to speed.

A student wanted to know to what extent Python is used to make quality games. I talked about game engines, written in a faster system language, supporting Python bindings for higher level scripting, and about Pygame as a good example.

During this same class, I demonstrated getting Fibonacci Numbers from a Python generator and their convergence to 1/phi, phi being the ratio of a regular pentagon's diagonal to its edge. Note that some authors switch the meanings of phi and tau, plus many use the Greek letters φ and τ.

rotating by theta
Most student coding time was spent modifying, a module I wrote while on vacation in sunny Florida at Bud's house. I've published more information about this module and its context in the Math Forum archives.

Related blog posts: More Pythonic Mathematics, Whiteboard Doodles, Next Generation, New Wings

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

No Problems in Houston

I'm watching a flatscreen in the Houston airport, seeing exDCI Gates ('91-'93) is replacing Rumsfeld @ DoD -- watching GWB spar with the press.

My seat mate on the plane had overview brokering architectural services, e.g. to a BBQ selling chain. CNN had an interesting Life in a Box feature about a design firm recycling shipping containers into homes and offices -- reminded me of Cape Town, that school we visited.

Houston's airport makes me appreciate PDX's no hassles free wireless. Here I'm being nickle and dimed, still the norm in most USA airports. Dawn and I are sharing a Wendys burger, Frostie™ and fries. They didn't sit next to me because of the Exit Row stipulations (I really appreciated the extra leg room). Inflight movie: Little Man (goo goo).

Is Synergetics really a philosophy then? That's what I tell people, who ask what I'm teaching on Synergeo these days.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Revamping Remedial Math

So I'm chawing through a list of "to do's" today, including buying a plumbers' snake, practicing on my shower drain (right now I'm just waiting for the poisons to work -- trying to avoid phoning a specialist from the Yellow Pages).

In the midst of such chores, I managed to kick out Revamping Remedial Math, a typos-ridden (but still highly readable) triptych regarding my three pronged strategy for upgrading remedial math (the one you get the second time through the wringer):
  1. have computer science and mathematics vie for the same talent, agreeing with economists that competition breeds out complacency

  2. make it easier for students to vote with their feet, by staging some version of this competition in their local area and

  3. let schools wishing to opt out of this sporting spectacle do so, i.e. remain on the sidelines
Those schools choosing to play and wishing coaching might subscribe to one or more roaming services (e.g. Wanderers based in Linus Pauling's Portland boyhood home), staffed by suitably Olympian role models willing to set up and stage inhouse circus slash recruiting drives with lasting benefits for the hosting Academy.

I've been thinking of ways to promote master teachers into such responsible roles, primarily by forming alliances with the open source movement, as we want a lot of transparency and freedom in this picture (not forgetting competent engineering) both to build trust and to provide ample opportunities for selfless public service within high performance, challenging scenarios ("be all you can be" in other words).

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you've already seen a lot of the blueprints, which also involve promoting closer ties between Native Americans (navams) and the various migrant occupying populations (Anglos, Euros, Afros... Filipinos).

So-called Indian Reservations offer naturally attractive training grounds for those wishing to stage a trully American renaissance in our education establishments. Our heritage in its broadest, most inclusive sense (Mahayana) will by definition include the more cliquey / exclusive sub- and counter- cultures (Hinayana).

We have so many treasures.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Voting Machine Story

I wasn't satisfied by the Diebold employee's verbal assurances in response to CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian's question as to why we should trust a private company that's only willing to provide verbal assurances. Is that the best the American people deserve, when it comes to customer service? [story]

Computer science faculties have gotten adversarial responses, instead of full cooperation, and if they're not completely satisfied, I'm not either.

In fact, most of us who're serious about security recognize that open source transparency is probably the best way to go in these circumstances. For example, just because RSA is both public key and open source, doesn't mean it's crackable (i.e. insecure).

At the very least, Diebold should by now have produced feature length documentaries about the vote counting process, and distributed these free to public schools on DVD, so that teachers might answer their students with confidance regarding what happens to a vote after you push the button (check the check box or whatever).

Just saying it's "high tech" and therefore over the heads of young children, is both a cop out and a smoke screen. Given the ambient level of distrust is so high (i.e. you can't lock us all up as crazy for questioning the integrity of the process), this level of arrogance is simply unacceptable.

I got the impression from Keteyian's report that the plan is to blame early Alzheimers among seniors if for some reason the rigging fails this time through. That seems like a lame strategy and I hope Diebold gets reamed if they try it (Congress first though, as they're the ones who sold us out for cheap).

Anyway, I'm glad we have vote by mail in Oregon, plus a culture that encourages whistle-blowing.

Also, if any patriot within Diebold is aware of any funny business (and I sincerely hope there is none), then I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we get full testimony on camera -- may have it in the can already for all I know (domestic politics is not my area of chief competence, although rigging elections is not a completely unfamiliar topic for me).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween 2006

wolf man orthodondist

receptionist goth

Jim Lehman with Wanderers

mantelpiece detail

Lynne Taylor as "Biogem"