Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Human Experiment (movie review)


This documentary looks at the issue of toxins in our tissues owing to higher concentrations of various substances in our ecosystem (economy):  Bisphenol-A, PVC, asbestos... lead.

Flame retardants are a good thing in general, but the devil is in the details.  Efforts to change the mix in California have only incensed the flame retardant industry.

Other cases of this kind show the uphill battle being waged to get some kind of handle on poisons and/or poisonous practices.  Reducing the power of tobacco advertising, a form of drug pushing, was just the beginning of a long slog.

The fact that the USG, presumably a "superpower" is rather unfairly helpless against Big Tobacco, Big Asbestos, Big Killing You Softly in general (Obnoxico) comes through loud and clear.  Uncle Sam tends to go toothless where Cowardly Capitalism is concerned.

Lets face it, democracy is a fairly new invention, and as an average human one is a disposable item, to be milked for money in the interim, and maybe thereafter, in the form of ongoing payments from the estate.

Using the courts against Obnoxico is next to impossible as the legislation (rule making) may be so obstructive as to make court battles irrelevant.  Corporate personhood means giants among us set the rules, with ordinary humans relegated to steerage as 2nd or 3rd class.  Our monsters have us on the defensive already, yet most scientists still project our battle with AI robots in futuristic terms.

Our own conditioned reflexes have proved robotic enough, to threaten our continued survival as humane / sapient human beings.  The post-sapiens will still be good at shopping however.

Consumers still have the power to vote with whatever remaining purchasing power, though institutional buyers may be beholden to specific arrangements, through board members perhaps.

Sometimes "specific arrangements" are a good deal for all concerned, so I'm not casting aspersions on optimization as a concept.  Indeed, free market capitalism has this last resort optimizing capability:  the freedom of consumers, even without top-down organizations, to set up what amounts to a boycott.

Some ingredients get on the black list, as do some companies.  Legislation may bring up the rear in that case -- or not.  Public taste and opinion may lead legislation by a decade or more, as we've seen with Prohibition.

Lets remember the power of women, whom the USG is these days thinking to draft and send into combat, without first passing any ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).  Women look forward to having children with every advantage, and become health nuts during pregnancy, a lot of the time.

Their concerns about radio-toxins in the ecosystem thanks to reckless testing by Iron Mountain's minions, motivated Uncle Sam to clamp down on atmospheric testing, by negotiating with others to do the same.  Mothers everywhere were up in arms, more conscious than most of front lines biology.

When breast milk starts ticking, there's the thought to be more careful with our one shared planet.  Dr. Evil types need to be countered.  Have we no heroes anymore?

I think environmental engineering or engineering with ethics, informed about agriculture, conscious of human and non-human needs, is going to recruit a lot of top talent.  Movies such as this one, rather weak on science specifics, set a bench mark to move beyond.

Contrary to one mother's lament, that one shouldn't need a PhD in biochemistry to have a child, that's something we're all going to need, at least informally.  Taking care of life requires a lot more understanding of biochemistry than simply wreaking havoc, which requires few skills.

The growing crop of weapons inspectors will be a subcategory of environmental engineer.  There's nothing healthy about those stockpiles of WMDs, neither physically nor psychologically.  Humans are reduced to idiocrat post-sapiens when over-exposed to radio-toxins.  Protective measures, beyond just the haz-mat suits, are a job requirement.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Deep Cleaning

I've been in overdrive deep cleaning the kitchen, still have a ways to go.  I have original 1950s style pastel yellow, pink and light blue vinyl wall paneling + a stainless steel counter + painted metal cabinetry + an avocado green Magic Chef stove.

All this 1950s stuff is quite vintage at this point, and it shows.  The cabinets are tinged with rust and corrosion, indicating "well used".  Properly scrubbed, they're still shiny though, even if not "like new".

Our family moved in twenty years ago, taking over from the Kinglers, whom we suppose installed the wood stove in the middle of the living room (we gave that to Dawn's brother).

I popped in a VHS tape showing us enjoying life in 1997, about two years after we moved in.  Sorting through VHS tapes was another holiday project.

Blast from the past:  cleaning in a consumerist culture often means discovering interesting appliances that have fallen by the wayside, such as a WelBilt Bread Oven Model ABM600.  I don't find anything wrong with it (so far).  I got some yeast and dry nonfat milk, bread flour, to test it with.

Tara cleaned her room when she got here, to make it more suitable.  She's been resting between social engagements by taking in old episodes of Star Trek Voyager.

Lindsey has likewise been deep cleaning in preparation for the big move to Corvallis.  She officially moved out some months ago, but went to Nepal.  The next move entails actually evacuating the basement, where the bulk of her music equipment has been stowed.

I use a stiff brush with 409 on the vinyl and metal, after clearing off all items held with magnets.  Two 24" florescent tubes had gone out, which I replaced.

I'm wondering if the personal frozen dessert maker, a hand-cranked one-portion cooling device, could be re-purposed into a Martini cooler.  I forgot to buy olives for the test.  Next time.

I'm not a big Martini guy, have probably had fewer than twenty of those in my fifty seven years of life.  However, I'm open learning new things.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Listserv Posting

From: kirby urner
Date: Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 1:16 PM
Subject: Re: Presenting misconceptions detrimental to learning ...
To: The Physics Learning Research List

On Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 12:43 PM, [ JD ] wrote:
In particular, many of the most important concepts (in physics  and elsewhere) are so fundamental that they simply cannot be defined in terms of anything more fundamental.  One place where you see this with particular clarity is in Euclidean geometry, where the fundamental objects -- points, lines, and planes -- are emphatically and explicitly *not* defined.  The words acquire meaning from how they are used, and not otherwise. 
 
I'd like to riff off this paragraph a little in order to draw a distinction between "misconceptions" and "alternative conceptions".

My approach to the latter w/r to non-Euclidean alternatives is to start with Karl Menger's 'Modern Geometry and the Theory of Relativity' [1] wherein he suggests a "geometry of lumps" in which points, lines and planes are distinguished not by "dimension" (Karl was a dimension theorist) but by shape (topological characteristics).

I combine this with an alternative model of multiplying two numbers, where the two lengths A, B are posited at 60 degrees in alignment with unit-area triangles, such that A x B is the area closed off by the origin O, and segment AB. [2]

This model leads to an analogous treatment of 3rd powering (or multiplying any 3 numbers) that goes to a tetrahedron, not a cube.  "Three to the third power" is not a cube but a tetrahedron.  This is well known from the 1970s writings of geodesic dome architect Buckminster Fuller. [3]

Given the pronounced 4ness of the tetrahedron (4 windows, 4 points), and no distinction in dimension twixt points, lines and planes ("infinitely thin or small" e.g. "depth without height or width" are handled by a concept of "subfrequency" instead), we get a "pre-frequency" Platonic world that is considered "4D" (tetrahedron = concept of "container" i.e. that with inside/outside concave/convex aspects), with Time / Energy added as additional dimensions. [4]

That's all an opening into a philosophical investigation of what's permissible, in terms of having different namespaces.  Are these moves "allowed"?  It's a different way of talking.  I cast it as "Martian Math" to acknowledge it's alien, but not necessarily "wrong".

Challenging the efficacy and utility of Euclidean geometry is not the point.  Pointing to another way of connecting the dots that likewise holds water is the point.  One needs a limber mind to tackle slippery concepts (like "dimension") and getting too stuck in a rut is not a good way to stay limber.

Kirby

[1] in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist , The Library of Living Philosophers VII, edited by P. A. Schilpp, Evanston, Illinois, pp. 459-474
[2]  https://youtu.be/2B1XXV2Eoh8
[3]  http://www.rwgrayprojects.com/synergetics/s09/figs/f9001.html
[4]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadray_coordinates (a "4D" coordinate system)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rich Data Structures

rich_data
:: Python dicts mapping 64 DNA / RNA base pair triplets to 20 amino acids ::

The videos I'm watching on Safari On-line, about Hadoop, feature WordCount, a jarred job, working against a cluster containing all Shakespeare's writings in HDFS.

To unpack that a little, making a cluster of computers act in concert as a very large hard-drive, with RAID-like redundancy, is what cloud computing is all about.

You can build a cloud in your basement if you want to invest in the hardware.  You'll want two robust carrier grade master servers: one for NameNode and JobTracker, the other for Secondary NameNode (the change-log compactor, not meant to be considered a failover).

The six to one hundred slaves (for starters) may use commodity hardware.  One DataNode per slave machine keeps things easy, with paired TaskTracker too, each of these five types of daemon a long-running process on its own JVM.

This entire ensemble acts to emulate a giant disk, and actually the texts attributed to Shakespeare don't even begin to take up that kind of room.  The redundancy factor provides a high degree of security, provided the cluster is actively monitored and maintained, failed hardware replaced.

And by "a jarred job" I meant "stored in a jar file" (like a zip file or tarball), as we talk to this cluster in terms of these Java language jobs.   An ecosystem of software products, including open source, defines the Hadoop namespace more or less.  Sqoop, Hive, Pig... a bunch of funny names.

A map routine, farmed out to work against data blocks simultaneously, harvests the data for the reducers, which apply whatever amalgamating logic, summing columns, counting rows, number crunching against whatever the mappers have found.

That's all technology for dealing with Big Data.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have tiny data sets that are nevertheless more substantive than random semi-spurious examples.  In the age of print, squandering pages on "real data" (such as a complete Periodic Table of the Elements) would not be undertaken lightly.  The Periodic Table is concise for a reason.

How many "parts in inventory" does one need to get the idea? Of parts, not that many, but "many" is a concept to get one's head around also.  An appreciation for the sheer volume of the data being managed may be illuminating as well (in the sense of instructive). 

Once in a real knowledge domain, the data often starts getting bigger, even if the business logic remains more or less constant over time.  The same rules come to apply to more and more special cases -- not that rules never change.

Fortunately, and just in time when we needed it most, we often now get to learn new skills by downloading substantive example files, as it's not a matter of "wasting paper" like in the old days.  The move towards Open Data is a way to balance higher rates of collection.  Enriching the commons with more shared data provides more reality checks which presumably better guides public policy.

Having substantive files, such as William Shakespeare's works, or even just tiny maps of the genetic code, also helps us keep the bandwidth high.  You're not just learning some computer language, you're being reminded of what you learned about genetics.

Sharing bread and butter data from different disciplines, not phony nonsense examples, helps keep a subject matter grounded, and gives people more windows into one another's spheres of concern.

Yes, I understand the utility of "meaningless story problems" designed to call attention to what's most generalizable, the core concepts and techniques. By the same token, peppering one's teaching with real-world-flavored examples has valid uses as well.  It's not either / or.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Guns or Butter


This rather hawkish Frontline documentary seems inconsistent, in building support for more US troops on the ground, while never addressing the issue of US weapons falling into the hands of armed gangs.  How did "troops on the ground" really solve things in round one?

That the only response to a dark ages Catholic-vs-Protestant (Sunni-vs-Shia or the reverse) style war -- with modern weapons -- is "should we bomb or send troops?" is critiqued more directly in the Russia Today interview of a retired Marine, Jason Stapleton, below.  These two (Frontline and RT) come up back to back in my Youtube viewing queue.

The private sector floods the area with arms, in exchange for black market oil, without consulting either NATO or DC (or the Kremlin or...).  The Arms Bazaar is open to all comers, as a player in its own right.  It's not like guns are hard to find.

Pouring high-powered weapons into a war zone is not a clear recipe for restoring peace.  Just about anyone suggesting a "solution" seems to think it's a matter of which trigger-happy faction to support with more weaponry.  Certainly the weapons makers have it made.

Evacuating civilians is also a political maneuver.  Propaganda and ideology is not all about who has the most guns (or oil).  Win the allegiance of civilians by helping them escape a war zone why not?  Do more to shore up living standards in the refugee camps at least.  Take a high profile lead in lighting a way forward that's not just more darkness.  Be a beacon for hope, not a source of "shock and awe" for a change?

The suddenly low world price for oil makes sense, in light of the fact of the collective hunger for weapons.  The Arms Bazaar is feeding off this hunger, driving the price of oil down, given "black market" circuits (scare quotes because we're talking about a lawless state of war) are pumping like crazy, trading butter (crude, aka Peak Oil) for guns.

The private sector does not actually need US tax dollars to make its fortune, except on the very biggest ticket items (atomic weapons procurement funds many a fancy restaurant visit, good for the wine barons at least, until the grapes start ticking).

The US does not need to pump any more small or even medium sized arms into the region, for there to be plenty of such weapons (it's not like they're used up after two or three rounds -- expect at least a decade of trusty service on some makes and models).

Already, a large percentage of what's circulating is "US Army surplus" (captured from Mosul or wherever), valued in the hundreds of millions of petro-dollars.

Keeping the campaign aerial (the NATO-Russia solution) is a way to avoid direct weapons transfers, but ultimately dropping bombs is about continuing to destroy infrastructure that leaves nothing left by way of employment other than picking up a gun and joining the mayhem.

If the only job open is suicide bomber, but with several months of free room and board (called "training"), that might mean a longer life for some jihadists?  With nothing more to lose, why not go out in a blaze of glory right?  Goodbye cruel world with a vengeance, right?

Living standards plummet the minute those craters start happening in your city, thanks to bombs, whether delivered by car or by jet (or by cruise missile or by....).  Destruction is quick.  The consequences take longer to manifest, the healing even longer.

Invading Iraq in the first place is what helped end Iraq.  These nations were tenuous to begin with and couldn't take that much stress without shattering.

The purpose of the nation-state system was to find a way to live in peace.  That didn't work out did it?  We'll continue with the theater of it all, not having any better ideas apparently, but with less faith and belief in some of those recent ideologies, best left behind in the 1900s or whatever.  Good riddance.  On to something more sustainable, we pray.

Economics and GST both agree:  it's about guns versus butter (killingry versus weaponry) and also about non-linear spiraling, positively or negatively trending.  Without hope and longing for a brighter tomorrow (utopia), there's still room for fear and the hunger for outward weapons (oblivion).

Rather than cratering freeways, the basis of civilian trucking could be improved and extended from Kabul to Istanbul, a paying gig, perhaps for academic credit.  I know that sounds far fetched, but not for any lack of trucks or fuel oil, and the freeways were being used.

Taking that same oil money to rebuild hospitals and factories would be an option.  Other sectors besides the Arms Bazaar have goods and services of value.

What do people shop for, especially if their self-proclaimed business is to "glorify God"?  Some shop for and deploy tanks.  Others procure Boeing 737s.  Either way, it's a business (a bazaar).  The least responsible buyers are expecting the end of the world, but who can blame them?

Speaking of oil, I need to turn down the heat.  I was testing the furnace this morning.  It works.  No need to waste.  I'm mostly just using space heaters these days.  A rain forest ecology gets lots of rain, but isn't usually down to freezing except in the mountains, where skiing remains a popular sport.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Power of Community (movie review)

DSCF2143

This documentary is uplifting, as it tells a story we all want to hear, of humans surviving an energy crunch by cooperating, rather than turning on one another, every man for himself. The backdrop is local politics, less than peak oil.

Peak Oil is real, and should be welcomed as our saving grace vs. global warming, as the fossil fuels are simply running out, at least half empty already mas o meno. I always thought the Peak Oil talkers were more into taking the bull by the horns than the Oceans and Temperature Rising talkers, not that these are mutually exclusive talks.

Cuba was caught in the middle of Cold War politics and could not afford the lifestyle to which it had become accustomed, not in the wake of perestroika (перестро́йка).

Cubans were actually using more pesticide and fertilizer per hectare than many, and were exporting cash crops in exchange for basic foodstuffs, just like every other tropical paradise.  But for the US embargo, they had a mirror image thing going in the Second World, which was a lot like the First.

But then the Soviet Union morphed into something else and left Cuba to face everything short of invasion, in terms of economic sanctions.  Any ship putting in to a Cuban port was blacklisted in the US for at least six months, a heavy penalty.  Cuba went from being Second World to Third World overnight almost.

With the sudden shut off of former sources of income, Cubans had to completely reorganize their agricultural and transportation systems.  In so doing, they made some important discoveries, such that the way soil is compacted by heavy equipment requires heavy equipment to undo, and the pesticides and fertilizers were killing the natural topsoil, necessitating more artificial ingredients.  The spiral was unsustainable.

They went back to organic farming, and to oxen, with diverse crops, less mono-culture. This was done not out of idealism but out of necessity.  Cuba suddenly needed to be more food independent.  This takes big changes at the grass roots, but then in the face of severe shortages, the status quo was not acceptable either.  The changes were highly motivated.

Tractors were still important of course, but someone taking a plow to his or her field, behind two oxen, was once against lionized as an agrarian superstar.  The "peasant" (aka organic farmer) had status again.  Agricultural engineering is about as basic as it gets, just ask the Australians (they help out with their permaculture knowledge).  Once the concept of "working with Nature" is ingrained, a lot of the work just happens.

The upshot of all this morphing is Cuba is now enjoying higher living standards, in terms of people having amicable relationships (i.e. social skills).  They're not mowing each other down as much as in some countries, nor living the life of sputtering gas-aholics or shop-aholics.

Better food, more savvy, a closer connection with the Earth.  Our back to the Earthers here in the US already believe in this lifestyle, and some even practice it.  Portland, Oregon is much infused with the same values.  We admire our agricultural sector quite a bit (a source for hops, grapes and wine, cannabis products, pears and apples, berries and Christmas trees, also cheeses), not just our nanotechnology (not that these are entirely separate).

What's interesting is to mix the older more established methods of agriculture with new discoveries and inventions.  Going back to oxen and horses does not mean giving up Google Earth or smartphone apps, which draw little wattage on the demand side.  No one says you can't use Linux to help manage the farm, whether locally or in some cloud is up to the local proprietor.

This version of "the agrarian lifestyle" is not about self deprivation so much as learning how to master a definite puzzle, and learning to live lightly upon the Earth.

Living longer and prospering does not have to mean replicating a suburban American lifestyle, high on synthetic foods, low on developing the skills our pioneer progenitors took for granted.

Coming to grips with Peak Oil is what Cubans have done in miniature.  They're proud of what they've done and know the world needs hopeful examples.

Bucky Fuller always called it "starter fluid" those oil reserves.  We have this convenient store of carbon energy to boost us into a next age, with different lifestyle solutions.  We took off like a rocket and cratered our own nest.

In this next chapter, one of weaning, if we just squander the asset away without planning, instead choosing to fight for the right to stay stuck in the mud, then we'll get to look back and wonder: just what was so important about all those "jobs" we were doing? 

I mean, how can we even call it "work" if its primary goal is to distract us from what really needs doing?  What if, unlike Cuba, the rest of us just decide to goof off?  We sure burn a lot of oil just dinking around with our war toys.  You'd think as a species we might get more serious.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Timelines Welcome

DSCF9128

At Thirsters, a room on East Broadway where cognoscenti gather, we're blessed with some interesting room decor, including a framed timeline of world history, based on a Biblical version of events.  I'm guessing it was published in the early 1900s, maybe late 1800s?

I've been talking to Glenn about his Global Matrix system and the timelines it purveys, unfortunately not in such a concrete form as a website, yet.  Maybe 11K BC is when we find some evidence of humanity emerging from the prior ice age.

The Missoula floods (about thirty of them) have to do with great glaciers melting.  Lakes would pool in the ice way back when, then one warm day, break through some rim and drench the land to the sea.

The Black Sea got filled in around the same time right?  Noah wasn't lying about what was to come.

That wasn't the only flood though.  Plus there've been other ice ages.

The coasts keep changing.  Looking at the globe today does not tell us the scene even a few thousand years ago.  Dilmun is mostly under water.

Deep time timelines must be out there, I'm just in the mood to find them.  That's my attitude.  They must be out there.

Yes, it's true, scholars do not all agree about deep history or what happened when.  Timelines are based on specific schools of thought.  Lets just get them on the table at least.

The precession of the planet on its axis is important to relate to climate phenomena.  Our north axis points at Polaris these days, but that was not always the case.

Before we got into this age of Ursa, the north axis was pointed more at a star in Draco.  Old myths talk about the bear triumphing over the dragon.

It takes about 26K years to do a precessional cycle.  "In approximately 3200 years, the star Gamma Cephei in the Cepheus constellation will succeed Polaris for this position." [Wikipedia]

"Precession N" by Tauʻolunga - self, 4 bit GIF.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.

The Social Network (movie review)

Let me say right off the bat that I'm highly skeptical of docu-drama as a genre, but then what else is there?  Every war movie ever made is a docu-drama, almost, unless you count the few documentaries, spliced together from footage from the actual battlefield.  Usually those get caught up in somebody's "history" and from there acquire spin.  Fictional bits creep in.

However, having attended Princeton, I can attest to some realism in the importance of rowing as a lifestyle, to those lucky enough to grow up around rivers or otherwise break in.  However I think Zuckerberg's character is less interested in banking on Harvard's name than on achieving redemption through smarts.  The movie is about meritocracy versus patriarchy in many dimensions, with software engineering giving rise to that nouveau riche we call Silicon Valley, self-booting.

Deeper than that though, the opening scene sets off a battle of the sexes, with the Zuckerberg character honestly insecure about what he brings to the table and trying to negotiate from perceived weakness.  He's not one of those "crew cut" Harvard guys but he figures he still has the appeal of knowing some inner circle and so addresses his love interest in terms of a rags to riches story, as in "I can help make you known to the people who matter".  Isn't that a core game at Harvard?

His girlfriend breaks up with him over that as she's interested in a relationship more based in equality and neither having the leverage of social advantage.  Had Zuckerberg not felt he was coming from weakness, he might have avoided a lot of soul searching but then we might not have Facebook or this movie, so lets give him the space do the math in his own time.

His exoneration comes late in the film when a lawyer of that same ineffable species, who has heard the whole story, tells him to his face he's not what the other girl said he was.  That's worth a lot, coming from her, as she's in a position to have insight.  From that standpoint alone I could see why this movie would not prove too damaging to any of those involved.  Each walks away with something, just like in real life.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Mathy Memes

[ a first draft published to MathFuture, a Google Group ]

My talks at PyCons (Python conventions) and OSCONs (Open Source conventions) going back show me mounting the stage to decry "calculus mountain", by which I meant the obstacle course and sometimes source of disappointment occasioned by the "forced march" through "delta calculus" if wanting to get into a four year college, and by extension into a STEM field (or "work for NASA" as some put it).

My contention, in those years, was those like me who'd made it over calculus mountain -- I got into honors calc at Princeton, skipping the regular, had Thurston the topologist for a prof; we used Spivak's, Calculus on Manifolds -- found on the other side some "cool pools" i.e. an oasis of other mathy topics that could have been just as well taught in high school, providing alternatives to those not turned on by calculus.

An example of such a "cool pool", no delta calc required, is Group Theory.  Permutations at play.  More generally, what we today call "discrete mathematics" was screamingly relevant, in terms of the doors it opens, compared with "integration by parts", or so I believed.  I found other voices sang with mine.  I was part of a choir.  I also joined forces with those wanting to teach "how to code" (computer program) for core credit.

Fast forward and I'm in Oregon, joining a small lobby group to say to the legislature:  "You know those three years of math you require for a high school diploma?  We want to bring in discrete math topics and open up more space in STEM than just pre-calculus / calculus, whaddya say?"  As far as I can tell, pretty much all the states said "OK" in unison i.e. they had no concrete objections to math-credit computer science.  So ruled without objection, right?

When it comes to marketing the possibility in practice however, that's another matter and big publishing gets involved.  I like to float mnemonics, easy to use -- but we hope not misleading -- memes.  Calling the conventional pre-calc / calc track "delta calculus", as I do above, is not how most people write.  The letter "delta", though used in differential / integral calculus, has not been made to "brand" it in that way.  High school calculus, as typically taught, does not go by any Greek letter.

My innovation, then, was to cast "delta calc" versus "lambda calc" as two flavors of "calc" (computation), like chocolate and vanilla.  No one said a given student can't do "swirl" (both flavors mixed together).

Lets be clear:  lambda calc already exists, one might point to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, a couple generations back:  Alonso Church and company.  So where do we want to take it next?

Lets remember that so-called "delta calculus" was at one time esoteric and not introduced pre-college.  In formalizing the work of Newton and Leibniz, as filtered through generations of refinement, thank the French, we got it into the form of pre-college deliverables, a spiral, a ladder, featuring Riemann sums and Leibniz notation for derivatives, first, second, third and so on.  Different school systems have different histories.  Many narratives criss-cross (inter-weave).

In canning calculus ("canning" as in "canning tuna" not as in "firing from a job") for the pre-college crowd, we sliced out most of the history.  We take for granted that mathematics, being a "universal language" is somehow too eternal to be subjected to a merely tempo-real -- as in historical -- treatment.  That's considered aftermarket trade book reading.  Textbooks must peek at history only in sidebar, or in footnotes maybe. 

Whatever the rationale for so sanitizing the subject, we neglect a most important bridge to the humanities i.e. here is where C.P. Snow's chasm, betwixt the humanities and sciences begins to yawn.  History provides at least a rope bridge across, whereas many find themselves trapped, on one side or the other (reading maths or reading history, but never the twain together thanks to illiteracy barriers).

Were we to restore more of the history, we would discover more of the all too human drama of contention.  But is debate a bad thing?  Isn't moving forward a matter of dialog, or "dialectic" as the educated say? 

Mathematics has not evolved quietly, without argument.  Newton and Leibniz argued with each other (a priority dispute) while Bishop Berkeley attacked the whole idea of infinitesimal quantities and proofs based on them (a conceptual integrity dispute).  Cantor and Kronecker took different sides in some arguments.  There's ferment, disagreement, or at least alternative ways to go.

But that's precisely what gets white washed in going over this material:  schools find it expedient to agree there's at least one subject on which everyone agrees.  Or, if they don't, at least none of the boiling-over arguments should touch the kids.  That math is contentious gets "dirty secret" or "in the closet" treatment.  But Thomas Kuhn in his talk of "paradigms" at least made it OK / safe to question the caricature of a "steady advance" did he not?  So why be so timid?  Why all the shielding?

Anyway, in rolling up "lambda calculus" into a more popular form, like was done already with the Newton - Leibniz stuff, I've focused on "composition of functions" as the primitive notion, with the multiplication operator very soon introduced as a "composer operator", so that we further develop that sense of polymorphism around operators, the ground of Abstract Algebra.

A permutation, a mapping of objects to themselves in another or same order, is a primitive function, a set of ordered pairs.  It's one-to-one, bijective.  And permutations may be "chained" (composed).  As a topic, they thicken the soup of whatever computer language, giving a gym to work out in.

"Why use the multiplication operator at all?"  That's where the "cool pool" of Group Theory comes in.  This is material we currently try to get into around Algebra 1 and 2, just a little, but we're in a hurry to dive into delta calc.

We have no time for passing functions as arguments to other functions, as we do in Python and other languages (that's a good introduction to delta calc too, through the gate of functions with function-arguments).

But now we do have that time, because we have a fork in the road and the freedom to follow the lambda calc road instead, or in addition, to the delta calc road.  The lambda calc road is certified legal and open to traffic, we just need more teachers to help out as guides.

I'm under no illusions that with the snap of some fingers, even more than just mine, these "reforms" might be injected in short order.  Rather I'm providing a road map for like-minded to reference, when explaining to the general public or intelligent layman what the strategy is.  "All the computer stuff we don't currently manage to squeeze in? -- we've got a way now, and I can explain it in terms of two Greek letters, lambda and delta".

I've "rehabilitated" obscure disciplines before, too early to assess with what success.  General Systems Theory (GST) is all over the place (somewhat like Tensegrity), as a management philosophy, as a kind of ecology, who knows?  It has a high caliber pedigree but where does it go from here? 

I noticed how Economists and Economics tend to have monopoly status when it comes to advising the financial markets regarding guns vs. butter, and suggested GST muscle in under the banner that "monopoly breeds inefficiency" owing to lack of serious competition.  GST was about giving Economics a run for its money.  Still is.  That's easy to understand, no?

Courses in GST could just as well provide rungs of that "climbing some business world ladder" as more science-oriented than Econ in some dimensions, including around issues of climate change we might hope.

Finally, another axis or spectrum I've contemplated, as have many, is what oft goes by "left brain" versus "right brain" as a dichotomy.  My track record is riddled with slides talking about "lexical versus graphical" by which I somewhat mean the same thing as the brain hemisphere people do.  We're talking about bridges again.

In STEM a goal is to have noodling-with-symbols (call it "algebra" or "being lexical") match up with visualizations and other experiential presentations or summaries.  We want to understand what we're looking at when interpreting all that data.

Control panels, dashboards, instruments, sensors...  we have a kind of model, view, controller architecture to consider, where what we reason about and codify using semi-numerical algorithms is the model, the business logic, and what we view and measure is feedback regarding our direction, as a company or enterprise or whatever.

We hope for some kind of decision-making or steering capacity, where choosing a more promising direction, over a less promising one, remains a possibility.  We're hoping to be more like pilots, not just witnesses to the inevitable, spectator-fatalists with no active role.  "Activism" is not a negative, but informed and effective activism is better yet.  "Passivism" is not an English word, but needs to be, as many are militantly passivist in their anti-activism.  I think "reactionary" is getting tired and needs a rest.

One of the best left-right i.e. lexical-graphical connectors I've found is using string substitution in lexical computer code to build a script that, when rendered, provides a ray tracing and / or perhaps a 3D printable object.  VRML and POV-Ray scene description language were often my two top choices, with similar choices in Elastic Interval Geometry land (a branch I was following). 

The 2D fractal, the Mandelbrot Set in particular, coupled with some historical timeline information, is a perfect topic, a sweet spot.  A strong lambda calculus course could set its sights in that direction:   doing the vector math lexically, with overloaded operators (like + and *), yet driving graphics on the screen.  Gerald de Jong's "creatures" provide a great example, of "math puppets" turning logic into animations.

Another approach to bridging model-lexical with viewable-graphical is to simply build up the skills to create a dynamic web page, where things happening graphically are driven by things happening lexically in the code.  In my Digital Mathematics outline, I cover that in "Supermarket Math" which would cover "e-commerce" (but regular commerce as well, as brick and mortar stores use SQL just as much).  Mine is but one more sandcastle on this pretty big beach -- just take a few ideas, flatter me by copying.

The goal is to forge these left-right connections, even as we bridge the C.P. Snow chasm by remembering to share more history.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Athena's Sail Makers


A subculture that saw a lot of importance in triangles might have two well known means to multiply. Imagine saying "three by two" and meaning not a ninety degree rectangle with opposite edges three and two, but a sixty degree triangle with edges three and two, the third side closing off said area, of six triangular units.

Either way, with ninety or sixty degrees, we have a model.  Both operations may be quite familiar within a culture, the triangular way having more to do with textiles and sail making, or weaving covers for domes.

What models of multiplication have we now?  Remember how complex numbers do it, on the Argand Plane.  Their real and imaginary parts project to XY, giving length, and these quantities multiply to give another length, and yet it's their angles (say alpha and theta) that add.

So we already have multiple models for multiplication.  Adding our sixty degree based operation just reinforces the same freedom:  to have "multiplication" mean various recipes.  Matrices "multiply".  So do we.

I like associating the sixty degree based model with matters maritime, as sailing the high seas has always involved triangles, as well as economizing ("more with less").  The maritime tradition takes off into aerospace in later decades, incorporating NASA's Apollo Project with its mythical associations, of rationality, lucidity, intelligence and so on.  People spontaneously accept geodesic domes as normal, when NASA does them.

The advantage of our triangular picture of two by three, if you don't know, is that two by three by three (nine by two) becomes an eighteen-volume tetrahedron, two thirds of the three by three by three tetrahedron of volume twenty seven, all facets equiangular.

A third number joining the multiplication takes us from surface to volume, just as in the rectilinear case, but by this route we come to a unit volume that's tetrahedral instead of a cube.  Our subculture works with that too.  They don't suffer from either / or thinking the way a dogmatist might.

Might we / they want such a unit volume tetrahedron for some reason?  In Synergetics, we certainly do, and that's why we boot up with a triangle in the first place:  as a first step towards a rational and/or whole number volumes "concentric hierarchy" of nested concentric polyhedrons.  One twenty fourth will prove another important rational number, the volume of A, B and T modules for starters.

Not that in adding all these whole numbers we thereby banish incommensurability (irrationality) or the surds.  We still have convergent series and the algebra of Phi is as strong as ever.

You know the drill (maybe): the Icosahedron of edges PV (prime vector) which is two PVR (two times unit ball radius) has a volume of 5 Φ√2. The unit volume sphere still has Pi in it too (easily memorable):  π √2.

Philosophically speaking, we may not want to suggest that "nature is using Pi" (to how many digits?) even if Greek letters provide a convenient notation.  Numbers are approximations of realities, not the other way around.

Sails and sailing might be associated with a female goddess religion.  The conspiracy literature has already done a lot of work for us, in gathering the similarities between the Eve and Athena myths.

Athena is a goddess of war, like Mars in some ways, but preferring strategy to brute force, and wisdom to hormonal imbalance.  Her victories tend to be "at sea" i.e. over the horizon from visible land, meaning invisible to the landlubbers.

The ocean, these days, has become cyber-space (a space of steering, triangulation, and whole systems thinking).  We could say that Athena wins with better music, if at all possible.  She prefers to solve with psychology.  Military leaders came to Delphi for the advice, however enigmatic, not outward weapons.

Telling the story of this subculture, this ethnicity, should not pose too great a threat to existing STEM courses, given Anthropology is well able to merge narratives.  Let STEM become STEAM for the purposes of enlivening our sense of history.

Deliberately forgetting our metaphysical heritage would be the greater danger.  We should aim to remember, and in a context that's more than a jumble of semi-meaningless and unmemorable factoids.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cider House

Quadrays

One might logically surmise I'd been here before, a new establishment just blocks from my house.  But other times I've tried, I've found it really crowded, as in no seating.  At least they're doing a good business.  Given my no beer diet, this was an appropriate place to meet up with Trevor.

Trevor's experience doing archive work began in earnest with his tackling the writings of one George Walford and his peers regarding their newly invented subject of Systematic Ideology.  When I first met Trevor, decades back, he was already steeped in that project.

He has continued to grow in that role, more recently sifting and compacting the Buckminster Fuller Virtual Institute collection by Joe Moore.  Next to Applewhite, Joe was one of the key archivists of Fuller-related "collateral" as Ed referred to such materials.  Ed had worked with Bonnie on other aspects of the same challenge.  Joe chose Trevor as an heir for his collection.

This time, when we met at Cider House, Trevor had taken on at least two more projects, one for the City of Portland, involving a special collection within the library, with some very rare and great books (even an ancient stone tablet) and another involving papers donated to an academic institution by a famous columnist alum.  He'd flown back east in connection with the latter project.  He loves his new Apple watch.

I kept it to one dry cider < 7% alcohol as my Internet radio show was soon to begin.  That's not really what it is, it's a class that I'm teaching by sharing audio and my screen, in real time.   Tonight we looked at Python generators, using triangular, tetrahedral and icosahedral numbers, Pascal's Triangle, then Fibonacci numbers for a lab.  The time went by quickly.  I somewhat lost track of it.

One of Trevor's older websites had become so popular that it fit Google's profile of a spam site.  How could one person be that prolific?  Rather than fight the shunning that occurred, being listed as a spam site, he took that as a cue to drastically reshape the content.  That's life on the Web:  rolling with the punches and morphing if need be.

I meant to work in Lucy today, in my talk on classes having ancestor classes.

STEM Class 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Steve Jobs The Lost Interview (movie review)

Let me immediately disentangle this interview from the docudrama running in theaters now, which features a Steve Jobs character, interpreted by an actor.  I haven't seen that one yet, but expect to at some point.

No, I was milling about at Quakers, chauffeuring mom (packing for Whittier), and ducked into Movie Madness, per longstanding habit.  I've been looking for Going Clear by Alex Gibney, which I'll watch and review next.  Gibney has done a documentary on Jobs also, which I hope to see soon.

Jobs is still with NeXT in this interview, having suffered the painful break with Apple.  He's anticipating Apple's demise, with the next big thing clearly not happening there.  Apple would bring him back as their chief after this interview, as interviewer Paul Sen reminds us.  The rest is history (I'm writing this on a Mac Air, great machine).

Jobs is very succinct in his telling.  He fell in love with computers early, giving a story not unlike Neal Stephenson's in In the Beginning..., then talks about the Three Things they showed him during his now legendary visit to Xerox-Parc, the Seat of Genius in this story.

He only saw and understood the first of the three things, at first:  the GUI.  Anyone seeing a graphical user interface for the first time knew that would be the future.  The Terminal would become one of the windows.

The two other things they showed him, which he didn't get at first:  object oriented programming, and networking.  He would grow into those visions later.  NeXT was all about developing and extending the former.  He's quite right about what we should expect from the Web, a decade ago.  A lot of us were.

He certainly seemed to me to have his ego under control or is that calling the kettle black?  He's quite happy to stand up for high quality and does the hip-hop thing of dissing his rivals, upholding his side in a rivalrous tale.  That's par for the course and translates to athletics.  But hey, this is just the one interview -- lots of jabber about Jobs in the background in November, 2015.

Windows was maybe more plebian, but somewhat paved the way for Free and Open Source by prepping a generation to be unafraid of hardware guts in open cases.

Macs were intentionally a lot harder to break into and mess with.  The IBM side of the business, with its PC clones, did a lot to make Linux happen, and Linux is still happening.  IBM was happy to provide source code as well (the case of SCO).

I sometimes forget I'm not using Linux when in my Terminal window on the Mac Air.  How did it go again? Was Darwin a port of FreeBSD?  Time to check Wikipedia.  I think of Windows versus POSIX as backward versus forward slash cultures (\ versus / e.g. C:\ vs. /bin).  We call that os.sep (separator) in Python and let the host operating system supply the value.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wanderers 2015.11.11

I made it to Wanderers this morning.  This group has met in the Linus Pauling House for many years, settling on a Tuesday night, Wednesday morning weekly format, often just a wandering conversation, whoever's there spinning it one way or another.

I remember as a little kid looking up at "grownups" (much taller) and listening to them talk.  I noticed this form called "conversation" could twist and turn quite a bit, depending on whom were the talkers. Other times there'd be "an agenda" and the talk might be less free form.

Carol took off on the bus for Pioneer Place, where Veterans for Peace were holding their annual vigil for Armistice Day, a name that recalls the war is against outward war; we haven't given up by accepting Endless War as our "evermore" end fate (to quote the raven).  The goal all along has been to get beyond outward war, even if we still fight about stuff.

A few people really groove on outward war though.  The simulations have been getting better and better.  Perhaps with the next version the few holdouts will give in and go out and buy a console.

Today the conversation wandered through the geography of Oregon, where some of us (not me) were well traveled.  Yes, I've seen the Canyonville Museum, been to Fossil, but these were once in a lifetime experiences for me, whereas for many long time Oregonians, this is all more of a familiar stomping ground.  I'm lucky if I make it either to the coast or over the mountain to the high desert, like to Mount Scott in Terrabonne.

OSCON is earlier this year.  I don't know if I'll make it to Austin, but I'm checked in as a proposals reader again.  Open Source is not to be taken for granted, oxymoronic though that sounds (doesn't Open Source mean Free -- so why not take it for granted?).

Free as in freedom (vs. "free" as in beer) requires protection, and I understand Veterans who say freedom is worth fighting to preserve, even when that means engaging in outward wars.  I'm not the backseat general who sees how it all could have all worked out better with me calling all the shots.  I keep calling shots though, some of them.  I have a front row seat on some "operations" (doctors call them that too).

The local news tonight talked about the Blob, which may be starting to dissipate.  We haven't been hearing much about the Blob on televised media, or at least I haven't, so I'm glad to see more of that information getting out, KOIN the one breaking the news.  Charlie Rose anchored the CBS News that followed.  I left the radio on downstairs, along with the space heater, for the dog, and retreated up to my direct broadcast TV.  I also pay for some of the same stations through CenturyLink.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Winning Ways



Friday, November 06, 2015

Spectre (movie review)

old_neighborhood

I started watching Bond movies in middle school at the Teatro Archimede (no longer in business) in a high density suburb of downtown Rome, near Piazza Euclide (red balloon on image), our family apartment being near Piazza Ungeria, Viale Parioli Twenty-Five (closer to right edge, across from that roof-top swimming pool).

You may imagine I was nostalgic for Rome, a great city for a car chase.  Bond stuck behind that Cinque Cento... hilarious.

I think we were all afraid the cars would blast into St. Peter's basilica itself, which would have been in poor taste most likely, and the franchise wisely steered clear, though does allude to the priesthood in passing.

I remember taking my daughter to her first Bond film in Santa Fe.  Dawn was on oxygen and Apria helped us orchestrate some high tech logistics.  Santa Fe under snow is something else.  This new Bond guy was just getting going with Casino Royale.

I had a lurking suspicion I might have missed one and I did, Quantum of Solace, but this episode maintains continuity with the last, not breaking the storyline, and keeping with Daniel Craig.

A lot of the "intelligence lore" is converging to the same plot lines anyway:  automation is putting even these pros out of business.  They plan to phase out all the "double ohs" with their too human judgements.  Computers are taking over, along with minions and drones.

Lets cut to the BBC radio interview (replayed in the US) of two disguised-voice MI6 types, having more fun around this movie, assuring the public that the real spies of the British intelligence apparatus are quite the opposite of Bond in so many ways, but especially in brashness.  Whatever happened to self-effacing?  Bond keeps making a spectacular spectacle of himself (luckily for movie-goers).

However, this "we're just goody-two-shoes government servants" line plays into the poking and prodding these spy thrillers get away with.  The Marvel Comic style projection, with moments for uncomplicated self reflection by almost robotic characters (that's a compliment) is a good fit for the big screen and its hoodwinks and hi-jinx.  The more serious-minded derive their thrills in other ways, through John le Carré (a pen name) perhaps.  Different strokes for different folks.  Some read Tom Clancy (not me).

The suggestion that all this trashing of real estate and pouring through expensive merchandise, in addition to loss of life, has to do with sibling rivalry, family feuding, is a great statement on history.  I'm reminded of another spy novel of sorts, The Jew of Linz, which makes all of WWII a closet brawl between two school boys (young Adolf and Ludwig, Hitler vs. Wittgenstein) who presumably couldn't stand each other (the record is open to interpretation) -- and the rest is history as they say.  Makes a good story, as many spy stories do.

Our Portland audience at Cine Magic Theater was entertained, with a burst of laughter when the violence turns to sex per an abrupt and well worn formula.  That's the Bond brand, meant as light fare with some gorgeous photography and lots of beautiful people.

Back to movie magic, the seemingly seamless blending of reality and imagination is pushed to the state of the art in Bond films.  The London landscape is as plastic as Narnia's, it sometimes seems.


Viale Parioli, 25
:: former family digs, top floor right, with terraces ::

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Computer Lore




Thursday, October 22, 2015

Black Panthers: Vanguard... (movie review)

I finally got to this, having naively shown up on opening night thinking I could just waltz in and buy a ticket.  That was a gala event, for which I had not planned in advance.  No matter, Hollywood Theater, a nonprofit with members, let this important new documentary run for quite a few days.

I found it helpful to tightly focus on the Panthers through this period, but was always aware, since I was alive through some of this, of how much else was going on in parallel.  How Black Panthers related to Black Muslims and Malcolm X is discussed even less than their relationship with Black Christians and Martin Luther King.  The Panthers were more secular, less likely to invoke God in their speeches.  They simply wanted higher living standards and freedom from oppression.

With mass movements like this, mob psychologies, the so-called leaders act as tone and trend setters, but then the real inertia comes from the rank and file, people looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Not much vetting goes on sometimes as players are thrown together by circumstance.

This out-of-control snowballing effect was evident in the case of the Panthers but also in the case of law enforcement.  J. Edgar Hoover helped set the tone with Cointelpro, but it was up to individual police departments to "get creative".  Effectively micromanaging from the top, with this much going on concurrently, is somewhat impossible.  Would be public figures ride the wave, and use the media to help them do so, as another category of celebrity.

The former Panthers, police, journalists and historians, interviewed for this film have the benefit of a lot of hindsight.  If people had only had the luxury of being this reflective at the time... if only. Quakers intersperse a lot of silence for a purpose.  People need that time to reflect and to hear one another's voices in a safe environment.  They also need ways to debate and challenge one another without resorting to physical violence.  William F. Buckley, to his credit, worked at providing such a forum, an alternative to violence.

Speaking of Buckley, the segment on the park in Chicago segues smoothly to the famous Buckley-Vidal altercation.  Eldridge Cleaver delivered the speech in that park, and had left the scene before violence erupted, however he was charged with inciting said violence.  He decided he'd be better off in Algeria, where he started an international chapter of the Black Panther movement.

The commitment to Free Huey (Newton) from prison was a big part of Panther psychology and when he was finally let free, he was an icon.  However all that prison time had shaped him in ways that distanced him from his fans.  The party tried to consolidate around Bobby Seale, who ran for mayor of Oakland, and when that didn't work, things fell apart.  Huey had become abusive and tyrannical.

One could say the Panthers lost in their bid for a revolution, however big wheels turn slowly.  Nixon, the law and order president, turned out to be a crook (in addition to the usual war criminal, what most warlords are) and to this day the right to openly carry guns on public property (not private necessarily) owes a lot to the Black Panthers.

Their work in Chicago to build bridges with poor whites, so-called hillbillies from Appalachia, has paid off in some dimensions.  And backwater Oregon, where being black is no longer illegal, now has peaceful ties with Hanoi.  Today we have the Internet, and infiltration was always a two way street.

Watching this documentary in tandem with a few others, such as Neverland, the one about Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, would help open more windows on a complex timeline.  Historians are still putting together these vistas.  The US Versus John Lennon would be another good one to watch in close proximity.  No one documentary gets the whole picture of course.  History is non-simultaneously conceptual, meaning there's no single snapshot synopsis (obviously).

Today was much higher in pain and stress than anyone had planned, mostly for Carol, my mom (age 86).  She managed to gouge her leg quite deeply getting out of the car, fortunately at a hospital.  What was supposed to be a routine thirty minute checkup turned into a visit to the ER for sutures and a tetanus shot (as well as for the blood test she'd originally come in for).  I'm required to report this event to my car insurance company or risk Medicare not covering any of the costs, according to the hospital.  Mom is OK.  We're still planning that trip to Corvallis tomorrow.  Followup from Corvallis:  Farmers says they'll cover it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Religious Teachings


The talking animals in this namespace ("Noah's Park") seem remarkably incurious as to the origin of a buried treasure that comes to light.

The hypothesis it was placed there deliberately to inspire future experiments is one definitely worth exploring, but what else might it mean?  Is it a relic of a past civilization?

That the wings could have metaphorical significance is not proposed, nor does anyone care to speculate as to how this statue actually did come to be in the pond.  Is it some kind of trick, like a faux fossil in the mud?

Clearly none of the animals present have the skills to manufacture such trophies.  If this really is the complete namespace, then divine origins are as good an explanation as any.  We may accept "God-given" as axiomatic. Honk is right to seek its meaning.

At least the mysophobic camel takes this sign from God seriously, as some form of communication, and attempts to do God's will, by trial and error.  As the dutiful empiricist, seeking his true niche (a cleaner place) he does his homework, practices science.

Yes, Honk the camel is the most faithful, the most loyal to God in the face of skeptics who have never felt the tug of the divine.  Honk is perhaps the Moor, the Arab alchemist, the Kabbalah scholar who seeks to know God's secrets first hand.

The authority figure or imam, a frog-faced individual named Ponder, does not dispute the sign's divine origin, nor really offer much of an alternative interpretation.  Yet he tut tuts the camel's empiricism, smug in his all-knowing attitude.

The frog recommends the camel keep the statue once the wings have symbolically broken off (a reminder of the dead-end nature of ego pride), but then seems uncertain as to whether he, a mere frog, has comprehended God's will himself.  Any show of humility is more than welcome at this point.

Children exposed to this material will have an easier time ignoring loose ends, such as "what did the sign from God really signify?"  Did it foretell that birds, another species, would one day collaborate to form an airline, creating friendly skies for this camel?   This would seem far fetched but in retrospect apparently it did.

A hidden teaching was in due course revealed:  go ahead and give up on dreams of greater powers obtained through your own efforts and loyalty to God, and instead let your friends help you compensate for your obvious weaknesses.

Your approach to God will be indirect, mediated by others (the birds) whom God made to ply the sky.  Be satisfied with your base nature (as a camel).  Don't aspire to be in some way above your station or "beyond your light" (as Quakers might put it).

Depend on your community to prop you up, in exchange for learning your lesson and in future adopting their same incurious / unquestioning attitude, and lack of aspiration.  Learn to restate the obvious ("camels don't fly") over and over, as a kind of mantra, while avoiding all manner of speculative experimentation as empty vanity.  Be a dolt.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Diplomatic Gaffs

There's some loudmouth general on the Official Washington press release circuit who is probably making life harder for diplomats, in saying he expects to have permanent bases in Afghanistan, just like in Okinawa, Korea and Germany.

Generals may be too busy administering bureaucratically intensive Iron Mountain activities to bone up on recent history.  The granting of bases to the US was always with a veneer of sovereignty to paper over any sense of perpetual empire and hegemony as officially the New World Order (as purveyed by one District of Columbia).

That face-saving rhetoric was thin, as in hollow, but now that it's nakedly controverted, there's no way to restore the mask.  The sugar coating has now dissolved away, leaving only the bitterness of strong medicine -- or was it really a toxic poison?

The nightmare has by now become official policy.  "We're not trying to solve these problems, we're making them pillars of our institutions, our way of life" is the new line.  The War on Terror, as many predicted, is to be hard-coded, with AQ, IS and the Taliban the now eternal justification for ongoing combat (with a fallback to China and North Korea).

The US military is now frankly admitting it has no plans to scale back, meaning what were once called "zones of insecurity" are actually its source of security, with many "fighting seasons" ahead (just like "football season"!).  That's a meal ticket right there.  War is indeed a racket, feeding on deliberately induced fears, inflamed to hatred by war-monger PR.

Keeping Okinawa a theme park and playground for US forces is tantamount to job security complete with R&R and that's what Iron Mountain is all about (i.e. military socialism).  The military is the US jobs corps, with the least bang for the buck (in terms of dollars per livable lifestyle -- especially when lives lost or taken is factored in).

We have an Islamic bank in Whittier, part of Greater LA.  If some people want a Sharia Court satellite channel where they voluntarily put their cases and relationships under the care of Judge Imam and his code, so what?  It's not like there's a shortage of bandwidth.  We have orthodox everything in New York City already.  Lawyers are trained to merge management systems, like what US Airways and American are doing.

Some women really would prefer not to go to school, given learning from home is a viable option.  More of the men might want to stay home as well.  Lifestyles abound and the freedom to choose one is the freedom to practice and believe.  Weren't those the rights the US military was pledged to protect in the first place?  How was denying Taliban their religious freedom in any way a Constitutional value?  What is the end goal with respect to that orthodoxy?

Culture wars should be fought (debated) through one's culture, whereas wanton dismemberment and execution ala Vietnam is the antithesis of really having one.  Arguments around the dinner table are what's civilized (All in the Family), and tensions between generations over how best to adapt.  Civilian life is hard work and trying to find short cuts through violence only postpones that work getting done.  We end up back where we started, just with more haunting memories and yet deeper regrets.

Official Washington cannot be trusted to not say stupid things, is the (new?) global perception, heightened by the risks taken by political campaigners, on the Republican ticket especially.  The Russians, in contrast, have their new network of intelligence centers, one in Algebra City, where supposedly they're sharing IT skills with their new-found friends.  Iraqis have found a new way to fight back maybe?

Once the superpower mentality was allowed to reveal its innate slowness and complacency so directly, it became a farcical embarrassment.  Public opinion has intuitively recoiled, at least in some hard currency markets.  Is it good PR to fund scary clowns?  Matters of taste are at stake as always, but then having standards for quality was never trivial.

In stating the Pentagon position is so weak in Afghanistan that it must be extended indefinitely, like in Korea, like in Germany, the general is projecting weakness on a global scale.  The US clings to its supremacy more out of self-deception than reality.  That's why it's called a complex.  That's why the air is leaving the balloon.  The executive branch especially, is way over-extended.

The US is less truly capitalist than a mixture of cowardly capitalist and military socialist.  The military provides the "safety net" (full of holes) and a measure of social mobility, while the cowardly capitalist fears any government competition in the civilian sector (NGOs especially, but really anything well-managed and more multi-dimensional in its wealth-creating than "money driven" is perceived as a potential threat, Open Source included).

Bernie Sanders could probably create more space for his brand of "socialism" were his public attuned to the fact that they already live in the midst of a socialized wealth distribution system, called the US military.  As long as one signs up to fight for cowardly capitalists, one has one's meal ticket punched indefinitely.

More Summer Reading

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A STEM Exercise


Use biological organic chemistry language to translate the language of some ET asked to report on the chemical structure and function of:  a traffic intersection in a human city.
"The sapien exoskeleton conveyances alternate arterial traction (rubber-street friction) in response to controlling red and green frequencies emitted from the electro-signaling neurons."
In other words:  "Cars stop and go in response to traffic signals" (or "to robots" as we say in South Africa, where traffic lights are robots).  I may presume the ETs understand the sapiens have a molecular-mechanical interface ("steering wheel, gas pedal...") whereby said signalling gets implemented by motor action.

They'd have to catch examples, if only on slides, of "car crashes" resulting from some disconnect twixt the "red light" and the "brake" (an enzyme, embedded in the membrane twixt "passenger compartment" and "engine compartment").

Clearly quantum mechanical randomness was at work.

[ They (the ETs) would probably not have the science to figure out that the sapien going "against traffic" was talking on its "cell phone" (yet another neuronal network for meme delivery). ]

Now draw the diagram, then do the animation.  Of course the human translators are highly intuitive and their interpretations, though often quite similar, will have unique elements.

Our capacity to communicate with these ETs continues to improve.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Synergetic Shoptalk

Synergetics sometimes takes flak for Fuller's including a model of DNA as a triple helix, whereas of course it's only a double helix.

The triple helix does occur in nature, in collagen for example, used to weave fabric in the skin for example.

These are not replicatory fibers, lets be clear i.e. not every helical structure implies direct involvement in mitosis.  Collagens get manufactured within cells.

Given the importance of "colloids" in Korzybski's General Sementics, I think we could use the Synergetics triple helix as a bridge to / from that title / namespace.

Fuller's uses "tactile" in the sense of "feel" i.e. visceral "gut level" intuitions versus having "visions" or "seeing" a truth.

"Seeing" versus "Feeling" is contrasted within Synergetics shoptalk as Eulerian (topological) versus Gibbsian (tactile).   Synergetics remains psychological in its meanings, which is why it continued to hold Applewhite's interest.  "Explorations in the geometry of thinking" was the subtitle (emphasis added).

We both feel and see our networks (texts, tissues) and sense their level of "bondedness" as liquid, solid, gas -- with fluid the home base / happy medium for life.  One of the Synergetics animations symbolizes gas, fluid, solid using vertex, hinge and face bondings of the tetrahedron respectively.
1054.50  Polyhedral Bonding: Willard Gibbs' phase rule treats with the states of the environment you can sense with your eyes closed: crystallines, liquids, gases, and vapors. Euler's points, lines, and areas are visually described, but they too could be tactilely detected (with or without fingers).  
1054.51  The mathematicians get along synergetically using Euler's topology alone. It is the chemists and physicists who cannot predict synergetically without using Gibbs' phase rule.
Is this meaning merely mnemonic?

In a tactile sense, these different bonding modes emulate (simulate) the degrees of freedom characteristic of these three phases of matter, and even of thought.  We speak of logical foundations under-girding more fluid prose, which supports yet more gaseous / cloudy styles of thinking, more uninhibited and speed-of-light.

But then logic may be too brittle, as in less flexible, so "foundations" may not be quite the right metaphor when dealing with crystal cores.  Fuller was not a fundamentalist.  The fluid phase was the least eccentric in his book, the zero, with solid and gas a -1 and +1 degree of freedom respectively.

An Eulerian (topological) cartoon is applied to a Gibbsian (tactile) intuition, by Bucky.  I think he'd say the move is synergetic (yielding of new insights), and not just mnemonic (aiding memory).

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Integrated Learning

Fluent Python

I've got my nose back in Luciano Ramalho's Fluent Python this morning, in Safari On-line.  I caught two of Luciano's talks at OSCON this year, and have downloaded their recorded versions.  The book itself has been a bestseller in its category on Amazon.

I've always want to see a concise Pythonic narrative that ties back to underlying C code and here I'm finding that.  For example Luciano does a great job describing the hash table algorithm behind dicts and sets, and then links directly to source code, where we find these comments:
The basic lookup function used by all operations.
This is based on Algorithm D from Knuth Vol. 3, Sec. 6.4.
Open addressing is preferred over chaining since the link overhead for
chaining would be substantial (100% with typical malloc overhead).

The initial probe index is computed as hash mod the table size. Subsequent
probe indices are computed as explained earlier.

All arithmetic on hash should ignore overflow.

The details in this version are due to Tim Peters, building on many past
contributions by Reimer Behrends, Jyrki Alakuijala, Vladimir Marangozov and
Christian Tismer. 
Having a link directly to Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming in the comments for the Python dict object grounds a specific source code implementation in the computer science behind it.  Great for digital mathematics teachers in need of heuristics.

I have that Knuth volume upstairs. What a great way to learn. Plus I have the Python REPL (pronounced "reh-pull") open in another window.

In going over the set data structure and its operations, I was thinking back to New Math and elementary school, when set notation was making its early entry into kid consciousness.  This was unfamiliar material to most teachers and much of it was junked in the ensuing backlash.  But we had no REPL back then (a few lucky college kids had ISETL maybe?), what if we'd had one?

set_ops
:: a duck is not a mammal! ::

But in 2015, why not boot a Python interpreter at some point when typing has been mastered?  Learn about union, complement, difference, intersection all over again.  It's just like New Math, but with more machinery to back it up.  I call it Gnu Math.

Speaking of typing, my friend Glenn reminded me why he can't type effectively, even after a lifetime as a typist:  most keyboards don't allow resting fingers on keys whereas in his time with NSA he had to pound through ten-ply fan-fold.   When he tries to type on a keyboard, he floods his own text with errors.  So frustrating!

Maybe there's some steampunk solution where an old mechanical Royal typewrite type keyboard is wired up as a USB peripheral?  My retired college professor friend Chuck Bolton never seemed to master the new keyboard either.  The Royal sits proudly in the living room.

In sharing Python with art history students or journalists, what's more important than exhaustive practice or keyboarding is an appreciation for the layers of culture, the ecosystem.  How does C source code relate to Python and what's a hash table?  That's enough of a story for one article.

Why I'm addressing art historians these days has to do with the '4D meme' in the art world since the late 1800s, the core topic of another book I sometimes reread and review:  Linda Dalrymple Henderson's The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art.

Through Python, I introduce art history students to the topic of Quadrays or Q-rays, needing no more than some high school XYZ mathematics, thereby helping to anchor the '4D' meme as Fuller used it. I also introduce Q-rays in Martian Math a curriculum field tested with high and middle school students at the Reed College and Portland University campuses.

DSCF0953

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A Breakdown in Self Discipline

DSCF1054

Carol and I drove to Tom's this morning, which isn't far.  Walking is good for her, but today it was raining and this time three years ago she came down with pneumonia, after insisting on giving a speech on a bright October 2012 day in the park.  She had to be hospitalized and was on oxygen for months after that.  So we take care and not push it.  This year she went to Des Moines.

Anyway, at Tom's, an eatery, we had our breakfasts.  Per usual, I wolfed mine, being part wolf, at least in spirit (but also in eating behavior), so had time to spare.  Rather thank yak away, letting hers get cold, I went out for a Willamette Week, new on Wednesdays.

The cover article was really interesting.  Portland knows it's "too white" in some dimensions but is still trying to figure out in what way.  Lots of feedback circuits have been set up, and I think it's sinking in day by day, but to accelerate the process, PPS (Portland Public Schools) has put its shoulder to the wheel and tried to get some real Diversity going.  Some active recruiting has occurred.

The article is a first person account by one of the main guinea pigs in this experiment, Erica Jones, from Georgia.  Although the experiment may sound like a failure the way she tells it, I think it tells of a talented and brave person making a difference and filing her report.  Mission accomplished.  PPS and WW readers learn a lot, the whole point from the start (to learn).  The protagonist gets to retire to an easier lifestyle free from PPS pathologies (they'd made her sick), so a happy ending.

I recall on a jumbo jet, international in flavor, wherein we were all taking our seats, preparing for take-off.  Then some loud-mouth all-American white kid came on board, running his mouth incessantly in some fantasy world about terrorists and bombs, complete with sound effects -- unpleasant chatter to say the least.

What was most amazing though, was his parents seemed to see no reason to have erased this behavior before bringing him on an international flight, subjecting fellow travelers to nerve-grating spew.  It's not like this was an infant.  And that in a nutshell is what astounded this teacher:  the schools had no effective means of working with a lack of discipline and disrespect (there's a difference between "respect" and "obsequious" which any English teacher might go into).

But then to speak up on behalf of the kids, I'd say the school they're placed in really is more like a penitentiary in that the brainwashing forced through those text books is really quite obsolete and not matched to the needs of current generations.

The curriculum is way behind and kids have that intuitive resentment that stems from feeling warehoused, like refugees anxious to get somewhere better, to some Promised Land, and feeling delayed by fences and border guards.

The teachers take on the sheen of prison guards.  But that's hard to articulate when you're a kid and when kids before you all went to school and a lot of 'em thought the same thing.  Only juvenile delinquents hate school right?

However, we can give objective shape to their deprivation.

Do they teach you to cook (yes in some cases)?  Including for big numbers?  What history do you get and what civics?  How many voting machines does your school have and how often do they get used?  Do you ever get away from light pollution?

I'm not saying I know the outcome in all cases.  How about tetra-volumes, do your math books cover that?  They do?  Excellent.  I bet in some private Quaker schools they're already introducing at least a sidebar on Quadray Coordinates, designed to keep those philosophical debates alive (to be revisited in later years).

I've recently connected with another "hacktavist" youth group willing to take on more parallel / alternative schooling.  That's not a new pattern I realize.  Black Panthers did the same.

When some mainstream system or curriculum breaks down, others grow up around it, sometimes to become mainstream themselves.  This has happened often in history.  It's not necessarily a crisis, or calamity, not an apocalypse (except maybe in some technical religious sense with positive connotations -- check with your local religious authorities).

When change needs to happen, it tends to happen in some way, even if not the ways planned, and change often needs to happen.  Rule of thumb:  improving one's powers of anticipation and responsiveness is usually a likely possibility compared to the relative likelihood of stopping change cold in its tracks.

With all our new abilities to flip classrooms and provide professional development, more teachers could be like me, not responsible for a student's everyday behavior, which I don't monitor.  The teachers and students are not in the same room.

Studying for real also means time alone, as in a study carrel, not just in collaboration.  That's what you learn in college if not before.  Packed into rows and columns, in a classroom, with all present supposed to be connecting the same dots at the same time... why force that?  Why is such enforced regimentation even a selling point?

Having a safe personal workspace is what's paramount, if learning is really the priority.  If warehousing is the priority, why not just say so and drop the pretense?

Just having a locker is not sufficient.  When does this student just get to sit and read, undisturbed, or just meditate, free of distraction?  Do motion studies like in Elephant (cameras follow each student).  Develop stats.

Homework is great in theory, if you really have a home that fosters study.  Many homes do not.  Losing all interest in reading is a sign of serious brain rot.  Measure "time reading" as seriously as you measure "calories eaten" at least (over eating is more of a real danger, though over reading at the cost of degrading physical health is also a real condition).

The word "gymnasium" is right:  reading and reflecting are a form of working out.  Keeping fit is not just about swimming laps.  Watching TV is informative.  This is not an anti-TV rant.  However making TV (video / audio) is even more informative.  Does your school help you learn to do that?

As when writing or jamming, you may be lifting from other sources, making links.  Sharing camera shots, including segments, is not a crime when the licensing is deliberately liberal.  Citing sources is much appreciated and lends credibility but in some forms of journalism, sources get concealed, for their protection.

Does your school cover these basics then?