Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AFSC on the War in Syria

I was checking the AFSC website recently to see what the "Quaker KGB" was saying about the war in Syria.  The advice is typically Quaker: agree to stop pouring in weapons, look for other ways to resolve differences.  Weapons are profitable of course, but those taking advantage of tensions and helping them escalate may not look heroic or noble in the rear view mirror and some people still care about reputation (legacy).

People wishing to be respected as hard-nosed realists, with a strong grip on reality, will often resort to talking weapons, their procurement, shipment and operation. It's part of the currency of sovereignty, a way to signify independence as in "no one gets to push me around".  Governments will amass weapons as a way of saying "you can't make me".

However, the "laws of physics" or "generalized principles" we might call them, don't coerce in the way people coerce each other. When people are trying to assure themselves they're not under attack by some enemy, either without, or within, they may question what's willful and what's fate.

In writing history, we're free to project almost superpowers on various players in our narratives, attributing to them powers of foresight and acumen they probably did not have. Quakers have the advantage of believing in "higher intelligence" meaning they're not always as paranoid about what may appear an organized set of developments. Patterns happen. No need to blame the ETs.

Everyone wants the war in Syria to end except maybe those who hate God and hate Islam. Some psychopaths have a strong urge to feed fires, exacerbate conflicts, see violence expressed, if not by themselves, then by proxies.

I'm a Quaker, but also one to delve into psychology as a STEM discipline.  I've been studying up on the Borromean Rings in Lacan (French philosopher) for example, linking those rings to the three mutually intersecting Phi rectangles of the MAA icosahedron (to take one special case).  Spatial geometry is what links me to so-called Western Civilization, and is likewise a road to Islamic architecture and designs (likewise Western by educated accounts).

I'm not with AFSC these days.  In chapters passed, I attended Corporation meetings in Philadelphia as a representative of my Yearly Meeting (North Pacific).  I also worked locally on the Latin American Asian Pacific program (LAAP), which was mostly about improving cultural relations among diverse ethnicities.  I came to LAAP from having helped with Asian-Pacific Issues News, an obscure AFSC journal.  Lets call it Asia Desk work, or more accurately Pacific Rim.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Page Turner

Operating Manual

I was reminiscing with David Koski recently, about the "operating manual" he placed flat open on the table, triangular book covers, just the one page.  The edges of the book covers, including hinge, are all two, the diameter of a unit sphere.

Imagine a page swinging back and forth, wagging, a triangle just as big as both book covers. It has an eye hook at the apex, something for taut string to pass through, should we want to emphasize this sixth edge of the two tetrahedrons. Yes the "page" can stay stiff. This is a moving sculpture I'm describing.

The two tetrahedrons have this page as their wall-in-common. As the page wags back and forth, two neighboring tetrahedrons co-vary and thanks to "base times height" have equal volume.  One may be a regular tetrahedron, with the other more a wedge, yet they'll both have the same volume, whatever we set that to be.

Right Tetrahedron of Volume 1

Imagine holding three ping pong balls in a triangle, a fourth one in the valley between. That's a starting place. Now take one of those balls (of radius R, diameter D) and pivot it around any two-ball valley to assume an angle of 90 degrees to the no-longer-touching furthest ball.  That's √6, ball center to ball center (longer than 2 for sure).

The equilateral triangle of edges 2, both page and two book covers, has a vertical mid-edge to opposite vertex altitude of √3. The Pythagorean Theorem hasn't changed.

The right triangles defining each book cover have legs 1, √3, and hypotenuse 2. Area?  Base times height over two = 2 * √3/2 = √3 per each book cover.

So what's the volume of each right tetrahedron defined by the single page pointing straight upward, at 90 degrees to the book covers open flat?  The string from each book cover apex, to the eye hook in the page, is √6.

Even without that fact, however, we have the base, √3, and we have the height, also √3.  Multiply those together and divide by three, per volume of tetrahedron formula, and we have 1.  Exactly.

Having achieved a volume of one, lets switch to a corresponding cube of edges R, with R being the radius of diameter D spheres.  Our original tetrahedron, recall, started with four of those.  Then we spread a pair further apart. Anyway, our cube of edges R has a volume identical to each of the two right tetrahedrons just described.

What do we do with this fact?  The starting tetrahedron of four closest packed ping pong balls was where we start when measuring volume in our Synergetics namespace, perhaps branded as Martian Math in your neighborhood.

The right tetrahedrons associated with the vertical page each have a larger volume, by a factor of the √(9/8), about 1.06.  We may want to use this constant when switching back and forth between two volumetric evaluations of the same vista, in doing unit conversion.

Green Tetrahedron Volume == Green Cube Volume
:: from Martian Math storyboards ::

Koski Data
:: calcs by D. Koski ::

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

School Teaching

I've been deeply involved in work-study, about 50% work, 50% study, which was my goal. The work that I do is teaching. I'm an andragogue (teach adults) by night, and a pedagogue (teach kids) by day.

It's the latter work I'm just starting, meaning I've still got a ways to go when it comes to mastering MIT Scratch and Codesters, even though I'm pretty well versed in pure Python (above average anyway).

The studying part is more eclectic and harder to describe. I think of myself as an anthropologist quite a bit. I'm an avid consumer of culture.  Remember Bucky Fuller (whom I write about often in these journals) and Marshall McLuhan were good buddies

There's a Fuller title that's very like a McLuhan book, what is it again? I Seem to be a Verb.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I, Robot

I reconnected with the Russian mysticism, as some call it, thanks to a pile of books for sale at Multnomah Meeting. I've since traced prior ownership, of these four volumes, from a set of six, by Maurice Nicoll, Friend Marson ("the Marsonite" I sometimes call him, a Peace Corps vet).

I'm referring to Psychological Commentaries by the Scottish Jungian, also a disciple of one "Dr. O" i.e. P. D. Ouspensky. Where did Dr. O enter our story before? In Linda Dalrymple Henderson's book, about non-Euclidean geometry and modern art. Ouspensky was branding around 4D, an icon which the young Bucky Fuller took on as well. Einstein was flying this banner. The 20th Century was looking propitious.

As I've been clear about it other blog posts, we have multiple meanings of '4D' in play here, but let me avoid that whole thread and get back to the Russian mystics.

Nicoll suggests we get back to developing our essence in later life, after maturing through the earlier stages. We have a fully formed personality by then. We've worked out with the reality principle. Put another way, our egos are fully developed and now we're ready to go the next step as it were, to reach for wisdom.  How is that done?

The Russians want us to confront our robotic nature, our mechanical side. That's not always easy for US Americans because "robotic behavior" is usually demonized as somehow totalitarian (which it may be). Using "robotic" without a negative spin, with reference to human behavior, is akin to making "porn" somewhat meaningless, as when we talk of "train porn" (admiring trains, thinking of a Barcamp talk by the late Igal, PDX geek, worked with Patrick a little).

Let me take a well run (smoothly clerked) Quaker business meeting as my model.  The people in attendance all have considerable experience, personalities fully formed.  Kids would usually be off elsewhere, in a program of some kind. Business meeting is all adult stuff, pretty much, awfully dry for little kids especially. Nursing mothers are certainly welcome.

In saying the meeting went like clockwork, I'm not making a negative characterization. However if I say that Friends were robotic in their practice, that sounds insulting, like I'm saying "unimaginative" or "dull" (without the spark of life etc.). That's the cultural divide I'm facing, in translating these Psychological Commentaries into the language of my locale. "Robotic" is a term of admiration.

The resolution of my puzzle is perhaps through the example of Muhammad Ali, a man of schooled reflexes who could hold his own both inside and outside of the ring.  He professed the discipline of Islam in later life, however he came to that religion already self-disciplined.  In Afro-American subcultures, "machine dancing" is a recognized art form, influenced and enhanced by some of Michael Jackson's maneuvers.

Through "machine dancing" we move to the martial arts and all those routines people go through when working for that next colored belt, the next level.

True, Dr O. and Maurice want us to see, in our robotic nature, those features we may at first project on others, when we fail to "remember ourselves" as they say in their jargon.  I'm not suggesting that Friends all convert to such thinking.  However I do think it worthwhile to remember our deeper culture and apply that in our daily lives. Teachers like Maurice did not do all that writing out of sheer boredom. They were working towards a less violent world, less indulgent in negative states, from which great misery arises.

For those not familiar with Ouspensky, one of his famous maxims is "man cannot do" which is on the face of it meaningless. I'd say the program is meant to apply what Nicole calls "the shock of consciousness" which is an experience of extreme determinism and epiphenomenalism wherein all humanity appears to be on autopilot. Walt Whitman's The Sleepers is a soliloquy of great compassion, by someone with a body electric, another robot in other words.

Friday, January 20, 2017


I was watching one of those reviews of Uber, where they try to talk a would-be driver out of the deal, based on various starting assumptions.  One thing people forget to do is continue discounting the value of what to them is valuable equipment.

In my case, for example, I have this creaky-old 2011ish Mac Air that's been my workhorse through thick and thin.  It has no health insurance.  I could send it in for refurbishing at some expense, but in the accounting world I'd have been creating a savings account based on the obvious need for a next computer someday.

OK, so I'm thinking in that direction. All I need to do is slip in the ice one more time, as they say.  I'll be starting another class soon though and as long as she's still running (the Mac Air), I'm going to keep her on my desk. She's wheezing though. Her fan is off kilter. The severity of the wheeze comes and goes. I know it could get so much worse.

Speaking of loss, did I mention the fish that are going or have gone?  We decided the horse faced loach was a goner quite awhile ago, when he failed to appear even at the usual low frequency. More recently, my top-feeder has died. Lower temperatures may have been to some extent to blame. Fish don't last forever though. Turnover is built in to their design.

Alexia is studying bookkeeping at the college level, having gained some practical experience working with her mother, Dawn, my wife and business partner.  She was good at accounting and really understood the clients she worked for.  She had already taken on another partner and split off the bookkeeping in a way that could continue, after DWA was reduced to a checking account.

One of the DWA aliases, registered with the bank so people could write checks to it, still can, was 4D Solutions, which I map to 4dsolutions.net on the web.  Behind my logo lives the Oregon Curriculum Network (OCN), which I consider my not-for-profit way of helping Oregon in particular.  It's not that anyone in particular has adopted this material. I'm more just joining the throng of earnest scholars who took to the web, like fish to water.

Probably my most ambitious project, considered as a business plan, is Coffee Shops Network (CSN). Under that heading comes a "charitable gambling" operation that converts winnings at games into charitable donations to the coffee shop's list of charities it supports. A donut company might give you the token, with purchase, to try your skill in some way, and then back up your performance with charitable giving on your behalf. You've won the right to commit the donut company's dollar to the cause you've championed.

GST used to be about "fundraising thermometers" a lot, on the web. That certainly happened, in the form of Kickstarter, GoFundMe and all the rest. I've been pretty strong at predicting things, but that's what hindsight is good at seeing.  We get to be right about stuff.  We get to be wrong about stuff.

Talking with Alexia about bookkeeping a little has reminded me of amortization as a concept. Lots is coming back to me. I also used to write about Global Data the corporation a lot.  Going back in time in my blogs gives some examples of that. The goal was and is to provide a lot of global data to the world, however in practice it's Google we usually think about.

My style of thinking is somewhat informed by those years looking at the Hunger Project and looking at some of the Fernando Flores stuff around that same time. His thinking was centrally featured at the 2016 Pycon here in Portland, when one of his students delivered a keynote. I'll insert my recent tweet about that.

Hey, right on cue, as I write about things breaking or falling apart, my kitchen sink just stopped draining. After wrenching apart some pipe, I've discovered wherever the blockage is, it's below the standard trap. Not good. Especially with guests coming.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blockchain Voting

I was bringing up blockchain voting in a Quaker forum, as an example of a promising technology. Farm house Friends still put more faith in old fashioned paper balloting with visible counting, and in a one room school house, this can work.  Perhaps paper ballot counting scales much further, without limit, for the sake of discussion.

Blockchain has excited people for different reasons. What a financial playing field requires is a set of rules that are self-enforcing, in the sense that cheating should be next to impossible, even in theory. With strong encryption, such schemes became feasible.  Gambling casinos are a first good example, as they depend on the mathematics of probability to stay profitable, not on sleight of hand, even if stage performing magicians are among the attractions.

The example most cited up to now is Bitcoin, which came with clever terminology and a self funding model of a self booting currency.  "Bit miners" around the world would learn of the different transactions at different times, more how Facebook works. Not every Friend sees updates to your profile at the same time, but after awhile, everyone knows about them.

The question then becomes, which sequence of events, which chronology, is real?  Instead of making the players prove their case, each one hiring an army of lawyers (good for middle men), a contest is held (about every ten minutes), of a brute force nature, meaning if your computer is capable of monster computations, you win the contest often enough to make transaction-tracking worth your while.

If your bitcoin miner computer wins the contest, it's paid some bitcoin, and its version of events (of transactions, their sequence) gets added to the globally shared blockchain, the one true narrative account. The point of doing it this way is precisely to rely on some shake of the dice that no one controls. Agreement gets created. Trust builds that the transactions are secure.

Micro-payments between individual parties becomes possible, without the usual and more expensive amount of overhead. Sending remittances home, from family members working abroad, is one of the most used applications of this technology.  The currency converts into bitcoin at the source, and out into perhaps some other currency at the intended destination.

How does all this apply to voting though?  That's an excellent question.  Lots of talented social engineers have been exploring the ramifications of blockchain technology on electronic voting.

Before Measure 97 went down to defeat, on the State of Oregon ballot (November, 2016), I was having fantasies of showcase facilities where rotating groups of students, with faculty (more advanced students) could come to learn about the new tech.

However I hadn't thought through who goes where exactly. The mostly unused Sunnyside Methodist Church (or "ghost church") had given me some ideas. I was thinking in terms of teacher training, having watched over my dad's shoulder (he was an education system planner) and having some sense of the workflow.

In other words, say you're at Cleveland High School and learning about how polling and voting works, or doesn't. The school has some voting machines and equipment for counting ballots, with the school routinely bringing questions to a vote. "Who believes in UFOs?"  Yes, that's a poorly designed question, however if the goal is to work out with equipment, the point of the question may not be the point of the exercise.

We go through a lot of effort to authenticate here and there.  To our banks.  To our medical service providers.  One would think a citizen of a nation is by definition entitled to specific on-line services, including the right to vote in various elections by means of a smartphone application.  The fact that the USG gives us no means to authenticate as citizens to perform our civic duties, is evidence that USA OS is still more on paper than a socially engineered reality. Lets hope better days are ahead.

Some readers may have been inwardly objecting, from the top, that Quaker practice is not about voting, so why would blockchain voting be pertinent in a Quaker forum in the first place.  To clarify, I'm accepting that Quakerism does not define the public sphere and that my civic duties as a voter do not fall outside the scope of my duties in general.

Monday, January 16, 2017

War Studies


That famous folk song that goes "ain't gonna study war no more" seems clearly in the back of the mind of our writer, Friend Wolf Mendl, as he opens with a defense: "Why would a Quaker, a subclass of Pacifist, study and/or play war games?"  Obviously, in order to end it (outward war), in favor of world game instead, he says in translation to 2017-speak.

Lets remember George Fox was looked up to as a leader of the type you'd want to follow in battle. England found it frustrating that some of its bravest had a strong penchant for non-violence, but as the pamphlet points out, that's more the Chinese way, of Sun Tzu. Overt force is just gross, compared to the subtle thrusts of his martial art.

Friend Mendl, then quotes Clausewitz (more often cited than read) in saying the political has to guide the military is a truism, as "the political" is simply what thoughts go through our minds as we set about with our planning. What's the ideological glue that coheres this massive attempt at cooperation? What follows is almost robotic, and gets faster and more precise with practice, which is what drilling is all about.  Martial artists are always looping through their moves in various hypertoon scenarios.

We get to Kissinger and ample citations to a dogma that military might makes for influence on the world stage. That truism, combined with a lot of zero sum game misassumptions endemic to English speakers, but not only English speakers, has led us to the threshold of mutually assured destruction, a cliffhanger for sure.

Back to my point about George Fox as cut from cloth similar to that of a military leader, I think Quakers around Oliver Cromwell's time, on through William Penn, got some appreciation from the war rooms for at least having done some homework. They didn't walk in and immediately start kneeling or handing out pamphlets or other inappropriate behaviors (pouring lamb's blood on everything). They speak knowingly of the chessboard (if not a go board) and have constructive things to say.

This Pendle Hill Pamphlet (#247) contributes in that tradition. Having come out several decades ago, there's no hint of our curriculum changes in the lower grades around geometry, bringing the context of world game to American literature, as E. J. Applewhite predicted and helped make happen. I'm not saying every public or private school shares anything about all of the focal points my own students all know about. Not in early 2017.  However the garden had been planted, the memes released, much earlier in the 1900s. Osmosis takes time. At least Quakers were doing their homework.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wanderers 2017.1.10

Honored Guest

Our honored guest at Wanderers last night is an extremely intelligent and diplomatically skilled dude. I've met a few of these Afghani-Americans with a foot firmly planted in both worlds, that of the US, and that of contemporary Afghanistan.

Dr. Monammad Khan Kharoti is a medical doctor, a surgeon, with a strong understanding of the cultures he's dealing with.  His focus, since well before 9-11, has been providing schooling for Afghans, for girls as much as for boys.  The Taliban have never objected to that agenda.  The facilities are internally gender-segregated and religious texts are not eschewed, as has been the Western standard until quite recently.

Khoroti sees two scourges in Afghanistan: illiteracy (which leads to incapacitating ignorance) and the misfortune to have been associated with Osama bin Laden, which turned the US from friendly to definitely hostile.

Offering free tours of the US to small groups of Taliban, through the State Department, just to learn about the differences first hand, would go much further towards establishing a peace than misguided attempts at military takeover.  Ideologies spread by osmosis, not bullets, which only harden the hearts of those shot at.

We reminisced about the good old days when the world was less in turmoil.  I took a commercial bus for ordinary folks from Peshawar to Kabul that time, through the Khyber pass, with my mom and dad. We had no reason to be fearful in the 1970s.  From Kabul we flew to Tashkent on Aeroflot, then on to Moscow and St. Petersberg, then Helsinki no problemo.

Those were the golden years maybe? Any way back to that?  The trucking industry needs the routes from Istanbul to Kabul to work without obstruction.  Kabul isn't far from Islamabad after that.

Kharoti is well respected by the Taliban.  He's clearly acting in the best interests of the people he serves. His integrity goes unquestioned.

Monday, January 09, 2017

More About Martians

presentation at NIST

I've been on a CC or two with Istvan as I recall, as I was in communication with Ed Applewhite about the time he wrote The Naming of Buckminsterfullerene for Chemical Intelligencer, which Dr. Hargittai edited.

I'm still taking this one in, about the Martians of Science, Istvan's name for his fellow Hungarians advising the Manhattan Project.

Me on Facebook:
I remember when Edward Teller spoke at Princeton. Students hissed a lot. They do that at Princeton, like a viper pit or something, could be unsettling. They did the same thing with James Schlesinger as I recall, another GST guy. No hissing at Isaac Asimov's packed talk as I recall, nor at Nader's (an alum).

Certainly economists compete with one another to become stars in their own field, but the discipline as a whole still…

Given my interest in Martian Math, with input from Applewhite, it makes sense that I'd be doing this homework.

Speaking of NIST, I've enjoyed a recent exchange with Friend David Chandler on the awaited results of a next study (not by NIST, a peer review thing). NIST has findings of consequence for future building designers, given WTC7's structural failure from fires.  I'm following from a distance.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Andy Warhol Exhibit

I've been speculating on Facebook that a combination of "cosplay" (costume play), rebellion against arbitrary dress codes ("no head covering") and the emergence of more fairy-tale job titles ("security princess") is going to make the business world quite a bit less boring, in terms of people making fashion statements.

Not that the "business world" even today is a monolith.  In high tech we dress down whereas those "motivated by money" tend to "dress for success".

My own outfit has drifted towards Urban Cowboy with Magnetic Mittens. I've got a P-coat and a Stetson (a little discolored from the weather), and these nifty mittens that fold back to give me fingers, more precise than gloves especially when it comes to smartphones.

I don't have to take my mittens on and off as I ride the bus, at risk of losing them.  Out come the fingers and the smartphone.  I get on with my work.

The hat stays home a lot.  I have a Python logo sweater, gray or black, as an intermediate layer, given we're averaging around water's freezing point, with frequent thawing and melting.  Snow rarely piles up here for very long.

I was heading towards the bus stop the other day, going to see the Andy Warhol exhibit before it leaves town, and letting ten quarters jingle in one of the magnetic mittens, my bus fare.

In a moment of absent-mindedness, I brought out the fingers, I think to wave at someone, and the ten quarters went flying, meaning I was on my hands and knees on the sidewalk picking them up.

When I got to the bus, I was short one quarter but then found a disk in the lining of the mitten I was mistaking for the tenth quarter.  I told the bus driver a just needed a minute to get it out.

But of course the disk was actually the mitten magnet. I must have lost one of the original ten.

Fortunately, my associate had an extra quarter and I explained to the bus driver how I'd made a mistake.  Kinda funny.

Now you might think I shouldn't be bothering a busy city bus driver with meaningless drivel about how what I thought was a quarter was actually a mitten magnet.

I will respond in my own defense that the bus was following another of the same number and was therefore approximately empty.

Just two of us and the driver sailed over the Hawthorne bridge (figuratively speaking) and into town.

The next thing that happened was the PDX Crow Choir (not paid, not human) did their 5 PM raucous caucusing.  The sky and trees were host to great numbers of crows.

In Italian cities it's maybe pigeons and Portland certainly has those, and a few seagulls.  But this time of year the crows own the south Park Blocks, where the Portland Art Museum is.

Again on Facebook, I was showing off my knowledge of arcane English and referring to this large gathering as a "murder" of crows, as that's the technical word for a collection of crows, much as we have a "flock" of sheep, a "herd" of cattle, and a "grunch" of giants.

At lunch today at Dick's Kitchen on Belmont (with pictures of Dicks, such a Tracey and Nixon) my eating partner agreed that "alchemist" sounds less cynical than "spin doctor" for a business card, not that I have either card.

Job titles are getting weirder, that's for sure, and not just in the Capital of Weird (sorry Austin).  Both jobs involve PЯ (PR + propaganda) which is also storytelling.