Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Limiting Ball

:: Times Square New Years ball ::

I was mentioning to David Feinstein yesterday about misplacing my new global matrix jacket, a gift from Glenn, and then launched into a short monolog re the hexapent, over some excellent Thai food, on SW 2nd near Burnside in downtown Portland (Donzo was there too).

Mathcast: as the number of triangles defining the 12 pentagons, the rest hexagons, of the hexapent tiling, increases indefinitely, the positive epsilon difference twixt the degrees around each vertex (a local apex), and 360 degrees (perfect flatness), gets ever smaller. And yet these small differences, whatever they may be, add up as "taxes" to a constant 720 degree "budget" no matter how many or how few.

René Descartes knew about the 720 degrees. Bucky's contribution, I passed on to David, was more in terms of a cartoon: he made that 720 be a tetrahedron. In flying away from a flat surface, it subtracts exactly the right number of degrees for a convexity to form in its wake, say another tetrahedron, perhaps the first one's mirror image.

Tara, Brenna and I had lunch in the Providence cafeteria, Dawn joining us later for tea.

Before that, I had a heart to heart with Nirel over the phone, about her coffee shop scenario. Turns out we've had a lot of the same ideas, including around synergizing with television. Nirel'd be like that Greenwich Village character, the skilled behind the scenes match maker who introduced Bucky Fuller to Isamu Noguchi, changing the course of history thereby, and for the better.

Tonight we'll be sharing our New Mexico slides (projected off the Toshiba, through the Optoma) with Chuck and Mary Bolton, friends of our family since before I was born. We may swing by Rose's place on the way, so Tara might pick up some homework papers for Winterhaven she's missing.

:: Mary and Charles Bolton, Tara, Dawn ::

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wanderers 2006.12.27

Tonight was a small informal session, and I only showed up for part of it, in the middle somewhere. We talked Internet over optical fiber, the loss in data richness over the last leg of the trip (metal cable), and our own inhouse router woes, there being quite a maze of 'em. Glenn's son swung into it with gusto, thought maybe he could help sort it out. Terry is off writing at the beach we're thinking.

One thing we wanted to see on the Internet were these stereograms made from paintings by old masters (link).

Still later, I drove Carol (mom) and Julie (sis) back to their hotel, our pad not having sufficient floorspace, given all the offices.

I'm still reflecting on the apparent ability of Mayan civilizations to manage paradigm transitions in a self aware, non-catastrophic mode. At least, that seemed to be what was behind the intentional "decomissionings" of old HQS, with the new ones going in above. The old became the new basement, atop yet deeper basements, of world ball games gone by.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Void

Synergeo 31185:

> I don't really know why I still try to convey this core concept
> to others; they almost never get it, nor get any better at
> getting near it.
> Peace
> JB
> jb@...
> Web:

From a slow laptop in Albuquerque (downloading IE7 in the background):

Buddhist literature may identify Void with Universe as well, but more in Fuller's sense, as "not a thing" but as a whole that we're only able to partially consider (as this or that).

Universe, in being non-simultaneously considerable, is not a point-to-able -- the pointer is included. You don't get outside of Universe in order to point to it, even by imagining a big bang (whatever you imagine is also included as more special case content).

How everything could just as well be nothing is what the concept of Void tends to encompass. We're as helpless to capture either in a thought or word (which doesn't stop the thoughts or words from occuring).

In Synergetics, Universe is "eternally aconceptual" meaning that whatever you're thinking of as Universe, ain't Universe (but is contained therein -- except the word "contained" implies some kind of "thing" with an inside and outside, a "concept" in other words, which ain't "it" either (there's no "it")).

The Void concept (yes, it has a life as a concept -- gets enmeshed with the rest of the machinery), hyperlinks to the "no self nature" concept, meaning no one thing or consideration has permanent or pure existence independently of the whole (Void, Universe, Nothing, Everything).

The cogito or ego, a belief in self nature, is an example of something we'd maybe like to hold on to in a static image or thought, as a kind of "thing" (like a stone). But "it" depends on, has meaning in the context of, an ever-changing environment.

"Me" and "not me" are codefinitional. Me + Environment = Universe. 0 = 0.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


photos by K. Urner

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I continue brainstorming about remote technovillages wherein we'd showcase tomorrow's lifestyles today, including through reality television. One model is Oregon's Breitenbush, where a year round community provides the staffing for the visitor facilities -- all very laid back and rustic.

Lots of public school teachers'd come through on the public dime, as a part of their inservice training. They'd go home full of new ideas, about Pythonic mathematics and such.

Culturally speaking, it's difficult to win budget for such USA OS facilities, as anything so kwel and cutting edge gets appropriated as lures by the military's recruiters. Civilians aren't supposed to get out in front when it comes to high tech toyz, especially given the brokeback army and overstressed marines, with two whole foreign countries to keep safe from competing fundamentalisms (or whatever the mission, I've lost track, but anyway it's ongoing job security for a lot of career Iron Mountain types, helps 'em stay outta trouble).

Of course the compromise is to make these showcase remote techie towns paramilitary. Marines could train on their new biodiesel dirt bikes, preparing to protect the desert medevac communities we'd like to rapidly deploy to Darfur and such places, to get civilians out of their death camps and into something more comfortable.

If the USA were to source disaster relief in high gear, as it started doing during the South Asian Tsunami, that'd improve national security, as enemies wouldn't have such an easy time pointing to an out of control blundering idiot, mindlessly spazzing out around the globe, destroying civilian infrastructure, scaring everyone witless. Nobody loves Moron Nation, the puppet of a dying LAWCAP (what our gentle genius Medal of Freedom winner called the loser paradigm).

New Mexico would be a good state in which to get going with these experimental prototype communities of tomorrow. I would have said Florida, given Walt Disney already had the right idea (EPCOT). But LAWCAP's top management took over The Mouse and pretty much destroyed Disney's dream, turned it into another dreary moneymaking enterprise.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Competing Solutions

:: san miguel, socorro ::
I'm laptopping from Socorro, New Mexico, using a line of site antenna to New Mexico Tech, with an authorized static IP. I've been comparing notes with local faculty on various topics. For example: the right handed XYZ coordinate system is far more standard than the left handed one used in POV-Ray -- but we already knew that, didn't we?

So how should we improve students' education in America, make it "world class" as we say? My thinking has evolved in the direction of improving the average teacher's job description, less directly in terms of money, and more in terms of what opportunities for further education it provides.

Teachers need to role model the paradigm life long learner to their students. Inservice training, long a feature of the job, needs to become a relatively larger slice of the pie, in terms of the time and energy devoted thereto. A larger cast of players needs to take responsibility for giving teachers better overview, a better grasp of what goes on in various walks of life.

In this way, my own geek culture will get more of a footprint in K-12. More teachers will become aware of such innovative solutions as Pythonic mathematics.

Won't this approach lead to increasing rates of teacher loss to private industry and/or public service, as teachers learn programming say, on the public dime? Yes. We need to build that in to the model. Young, energetic grads, closer to grade schoolers in age and presumably culture, get into teaching as a way to continue their own educations. Perhaps only a minority stick with it as a life-long career.

Why should that be a problem?

According to this model, the job is more attractive up front, including as a stepping stone to other careers, so recruiting new teachers is suddenly that much easier. The military uses elements of this approach, with the draw of "the best toys." Civilians like toys too. A summer camp for teachers might feature newfangled shelter solutions, permaculture, hands-on access to tomorrow's high tech brands.

Master teachers that stick with it for the long haul become mentors for the relative newbies, perhaps roving the country in bizmos, helping to establish the new schema, based on what's already found to work in other regions of the country.

Relevant essays:
Re: Reality Check @ Math Forum
Re: What Is 21st Century Mathematics? @ Math Forum (Dec 19, summary, autobio)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Tough Choices

Another USA "education in crisis" report has bubbled up and grabbed some headlines. Some New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce has a pseudo-plan to make it all better.

Like other such reports, it dances around, defining terms, suggesting a party line, without ever diving into hard core content in any way -- except in terms of money.

Such science fiction is so typical of Americans: if we just pay high enough salaries, we'll get the most competent people, and our problems will simply fix themselves under the management of these highly paid superheros -- just give us another fifteen years, you'll see.

This is how CEOs like to self-mythologize, in terms of high "personal net worth," and their self-centered myopic ethos has rubbed off, spread into academia, with similarly corrupting consequences.

LAWCAP chewed through the USA's military's backbone long ago, leaving it mostly paralyzed and defenseless, easy prey for high personal net worth seeking politicians and their CEO backed lobbyist friends, all looking for more ways to deplete inventory, generate reorders, no matter the cost in human suffering.

Related reading:
Re: Report Urges Drastic Change, Higher Salaries @ Math Forum
Re: PUFM - Missing the Point @ Math Forum
Re: Fwd: What Is 21st Century Mathematics? @ Math Forum (Dec 19)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shop Talk

We joined in the Xmas frenzy a bit today, sweeping through both a Valde*mart and a We Be Toys (names changed to protect the innocent), ending up in an upscale toy shop, Wakey's, in downtown Portland near the Multnomah County Library.

On another front, we chickened out of a "Class C" camper van opportunity, once the subject of antifreeze came up. It'd cost extra to thaw the unit, plus we'd need to commit to supplying an AC umbilical cord solution come evenings, with temperatures averaging in the low teens, well below freezing (Fahrenheit, sorry) -- otherwise her sink 'n can would freeze right up again.

Using keyboard and mouse, I morphed the camper into an SUV and felt relieved for having done so. Lining up campus housing isn't a problem. The bigger vehicle will help us lug around the O2 concentrator, useful at high altitudes.

[ When more gnu math teachers take to the road in real bizmos someday, the problem of "mooring" will have more routine solutions depending on which economic sector is being served, e.g. a brand X certified pro might snuggle up to an appropriate campus building and jack in, whereas other brands of roving road warrior might prefer the sweet seclusion of less urban sites, less smack in the middle of some academential funny farm.]

Uncle Bill swung through again in his red Aztek, bearing pie and an invitation to lunch up on Hawthorne (Bridgeport's Portland Ale House was our selection). He's done about all he might humanly do to promote his well crafted history of pre-WWI submarine building in the Pacific Northwest. He's taking some time off to just enjoy life, is looking forward to Colorado.

We're bummed about missing Laurie's and Terry's Hannukah party again this year, but still plan to celebrate. Plus there's another party I'm not mentioning, a surprise -- but we're missing that too. Turning down invitations is a part of life. Ed had to do it all the time, especially as he got older.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Milestones (to be continued)

:: branch office implosion ::

:: momento of mom's ::

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Scientific American did a cover story in December, 2003 questioning the dogma of races, zooming in to the genomic level, and finding genetic correlations among subpopulations, regionally mappable dispersions of this or that risk factor and so on, suggesting the "race" concept wasn't entirely empty.

Coming at it from another angle, the obvious superficial feature groups men hoped to capture with the Twelve Races idea (or was it Seven?), don't have any inherent genomic integrity, in the same sense that only twelve orders of a 52 card deck might be considered "the pure ones" -- except, of course, in some humanly contrived game of relatively fleeting historical interest.

Nature, however, escapes such easy schemata and gives us an exponential library of genomic possibilities, each specific human a checkout example from said digital library. Presuming humans persist with this base template, a lot like King Kong's, the flexibility of our design will continue to undergo testing by the terrestrial and extra-terrestrial environments, with many new readings constituting a response.

There is no seven reading "core syllabus" from which all the others deductively derive, not really adding anything new. This was the snobbery of the "racial purity" buffs: they wanted to typify the archetypes while branding competing readings as "mongrel" i.e. tainted by degenerative impurities, ala Dr. Strangelove. They feared a level playing field, needed this artifical bias twixt "pure" and "impure" to handicap the competition.

So yes, by all means lets correlate genes and risk factors, genes and other genes, following wherever the statistics lead us. It's an empirical science and we have much to learn. Making good on the promise of personalized medicine, wherein we craft unique treatments, depends on our getting on with these detailed genomic studies.

The science fiction layer was this "just a few pure shuffles" myth, which, even if nationally geographically based, isn't a good roadmap to the future, where inbreeding will likely reflect other proclivities, such as the desire to live with and raise other skiers, other specialized Olympians in one sport or another (to take one example of humans forming voluntary affiliate subgroupings).

Lifestyle and ethnicity go together, with genomics along for the ride, a prehistoric substrate, still very relevant to medical science, but not especially useful to the various racisms, not really leverage or ammo for would-be Ozymandius type dictators over future breeding patterns.

We don't really know what all the interattractive ethnicities will be, have lost track already, there being even today so many from which to choose.

Related reading:
Re public education @ Math Forum (December 2006)
Re teaching advise sought... @ Math Forum (December 2006)
No Race, No Class @

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coffee Shop Talk

Wanderers was open agenda this morning, and we were blessed with a world traveling couple, friends of Milt's, freelancers attracted by Portland's cosmopolitan kulture, and with a lot of combined and individual experience in organizational development.

Our conversation veered through the Khyber Pass, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, to Ken Wilber, to Lesotho, to South Africa (protea in particular), to Cape Town, where it turned out we'd overlapped as attenders at the 1999 Parliament of World Religions, our family as Quaker delegates, and guests of the Deputy Minister of Defense at the time, Nozizwe Madlala- Routledge, also Quaker.

When the discussion turned to coffee shops, given Nirel's project, we learned about The Great Good Place, a book helping to define the role such institutions might play in our culture, or already do in some cases. The Communknitty in San Jose also typifies this pattern language, which doesn't have to center around coffee.

Dawn filtered the newspaper for me this morning, before getting her toes done with Aimée, pointed me to a Math Wars report on B2, and to an email address on C1 for reporting "early user impressions" of the new Metro-Fi service. I'll forward a link to my recent report on that subject.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A New Beginning

:: closing PKL ::
Many thanks to Patrick for the use of his truck, and to Derek, for lending a hand. Today the Portland Knowledge Lab vacated its first home, an ActivSpace incubator on 8th & SE Main.

:: reopening PKL ::
Now I'm sitting in the above depicted chair (foreground), using wireless from the Toshiba Satellite laptop.

The wall design was made for Dawn by her friends: some 10K cranes glued to a repainted crafts table she'd used for Turning the Wheel, a small business for teaching rituals around the eight Celtic high holy days: Samhain, Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltaine, Summer Solstice, Lughnassad, and the Fall Equinox.

In front of me: a cuboctahedron atop an icosahedron, symbolizing the ascendency of Mind over Brain (a theme in Synergetics, an important philosophical work on our syllabus).

:: advent ::
Bridge City Friends have been celebrating Advent for some years now. We've been less active in the life of our Meeting of late, but are continuing the tradition, which includes reading aloud, lighting a candle, and opening these little doors in an Advent Calendar in the days before Christmas.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wanderers 2006.11.28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

poster about spirals in nature

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Space Needle

:: spy story ::

:: observation deck ::

:: spys' nest? ::

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Swordplay with Zorro

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fast Food Nation (movie review)

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

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

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

I was reminded of El Norte and Elephant.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Loose Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Synergeo 30547

Re: the effect of the environment

--- In, tim stockton wrote:

> politics is really fragmenting-

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Peer Group Networking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Some Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

No Problems in Houston

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

Revamping Remedial Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have so many treasures.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Voting Machine Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween 2006

wolf man orthodondist

receptionist goth

Jim Lehman with Wanderers

mantelpiece detail

Lynne Taylor as "Biogem"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The U.S. Versus John Lennon (movie review)

I saw this with Matt, appropriately, as John was a star in his sky, and his murder left a palpable emptiness. But this movie isn't about the senseless act of violence that ended his life. Rather, it's a shared trip down memory lane with some of our favorite talking heads. A lot of this story was new to me (I followed The Beatles from a much greater distance, mostly from my perch in Rome).

Yes, Lennon had a privileged life by working stiff standards, and probings by the FBI don't begin to approach the terrors of Vietnam, but that doesn't make him an enemy. His was a family values lifestyle, if that means loving your wife and kids and wanting what's best for them.

But when your wife is an already accomplished conceptual artist, quite able to expertly morph into some ninja princess master of psycho-guerilla warfare (as Bucky sometimes called it), and when you're one of these new breed of idols called "rock stars" whatever that means, and pretty clever besides, it's really unlikely your adventure will remain within "normal" parameters. Theirs certainly didn't.

Many of these fans (plus a few loyal opponents) were new to me, as on camera personalities, although G. Gordon Liddy I've seen and always get a big kick out of.

Richard Nixon has become archetypal in some way, surreal and Shakespearean. He's the star of his own universe most definitely, but one that's hard to break into, if you're not him. I experience compassion.

This fight between angry killer bee isms (communism... anti-communism), always so ready to devolve into stupid shootouts, as if that solves anything; Lennon was trying to show a better way to fight these battles, making them more like chess. He definitely engaged Nixon's attention, made more of a game out of it. Clowning is a serious business my friend, any real circus manager knows that.

And remember to set your clocks back tonight folks; the summer of '06 is long over, never to return. On a happier note, we get that extra hour in bed, perhaps reminding us of John. Peace.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Geometry in Nature

"at peace in Universe"
(statue made in Nepal)

"Hexapent in the Silicon Forest"
("Quantum Reality" by Julian Voss Andreae)

"Reading Hungarian Geometry"
(at Peet's in Lake Oswego)

Friday, October 20, 2006

VIP Visits PKL

:: David Koski ::
I retreived David from his uncle's in Dunthorpe this morning. If neighbors Koski and Torvalds ever meet at parties, it's about Finland that they share, not boring operating systems.

Later we paid a visit to Meliptus, though the tide was too low to permit its emergence from the boathouse.

I took along my newly acquired Bobliographon, the SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack.

David invested a lot of his youthful days in sunny California exploring Synergetics-related geometry, especially phi-scaled tetrahedral blocks. Today, he's a union HVAC engineer in Minneapolis, still interested in geometry.

While I was returning David to his uncle's, and again stopping by Trader Joe's, Dawn and Tara went to Freddie's for the Sim Pets add-on to Sims 2. Tara is quite blissful, now that her cute electronic dolls have these cute pets to go with.

Last night I took her to see the kick-off ISEPP lecture, by Dr. William Saturno on Mayan archeology. Saturno is an excellent storyteller.

Mayan cities really chewed through those trees, sometimes resulting in their outright abandonment (and later reoccupation). The forests atop these ruins (many from hundreds of years before Jesus) remain discolored even to this day, thanks to all that limestone plaster, and hence their tell-tale visibility to satellites, helping archeologist geocachers get there first, to protect the public record from more selfish and greedy looters and their black market accomplices.

We've got trips locked in to both New Mexico and Orlando, though I'm on a tight leash these days, owing to my ongoing fun gig with Saturday Academy.

Related reading:
The Archeology of Mathematics Teaching @ Math Forum

Sunday, October 15, 2006

American Pop (movie review)

Probably because we were just recently in Washington Square, NYC, this oldie but goodie seemed to jump off the shelf at Hollywood Video (along with the final episodes of Lost season 2).

The arch and famous fountain appear a few times in this animated feature, plus I dimly recall coming over from JSQ to attend a talk by Ralph Bakshi himself, closer to the time of this film's release (1981), at some NYU lecture hall also next to the park.

American Pop begins in Czarist Russia, where a mother and son escape a pogrom -- the rabbi dad falls to the sword, insisting on finishing his prayer.

After the mom dies in a garment factory fire, the son gets absorbed into Vaudeville, gets wounded in WWI (losing any chance for a good singing voice), marries a stripper, and eventually becomes a petty crime boss in Gangsterland USA (in part thanks to his own son's arranged marriage).

This next son, an accomplished pianist, enlists in WWII and is shot while playing, leaving his eldest to haunt Greenwich Village (enter the arch) and soak up its beat culture.

He makes his way, by stolen car and hobo train, to the drug, rock and anti-war scene in California -- by way of Kansas where a fling in the corn field begets a fourth generation (this we find out only later).

The last son ends up taking care of his washed up druggie dad (they move back to New York) who eventually abandons him (after first pawning the boy's guitar), and becomes the street smart punkish cocaine dealer with lots of music in his blood.

This last son becomes the superstar for the climax of this story, and although he's blue eyed and blond, all that American Heritage, Jewish included, is carried forward in the music, perhaps completing the great grandfather's prayer in some dimension.

The film uses interesting techniques, painting over live actors while sometimes splicing in raw documentary footage to add realism. Whereas the characters are fictional, the music is the real deal, popular American hits from throughout much of the last century.

For 12-year-old Tara (and for me), I thought this was a good history lesson, especially in complement with the EMP exhibits in Seattle and Nashville's Hall of Fame and Museum of Country Music. Follow the memes, study the genesis of your culture.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Wings

This evening, I joined other Saturday Academy supporters, including Terry Bristol, to celebrate 23 years of operations plus the launch of a new public sector craft 'n groovy crew.

SA is finally going it alone, instead of under the auspices of this or that higher education institution (incubators OGI and PSU still plan to work in tandem).

We enjoyed finger food and alcoholic beverages in PSU's new computer science and engineering building, applauding speeches and interviewing star students, veterans of SA's courses and internship programs.

One student had helped program the latest Lego robot using prosthetics you can't buy on the open market, such as magnetic field and pH sensors. Another had helped with a laboratory process that more effectively colorizes viral gene splicers. A third had spent a summer diving into the nanotubes literature and eventually working on their synthesis. All of these kids were still high school aged.

You'll find more on Saturday Academy elsewhere in this blog. I've been an instructor at both the OGI and PSU sites, teaching Pythonic Mathematics, a way of learning mathematical concepts while developing fluency with a state of the art object oriented computer language.

I spent some of the evening chatting with a man with a son named Kirben -- such an unusual name. The dad is one of four random CalTech students on former defense secretary Harold Brown's Xmas card for the year 1970.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Musical Event @ Noguchi Museum

"peaceful garden"

"god's light"

"noguchi, fuller & sadao hqs"

John Belt and Oswego students

"setting up"

Angela Molenaar of BFI and composer Petr Kort

Noguchi bust of Bucky

Friday, October 06, 2006

Princeton Dinner

I joined fellow alums (hi Connie), a couple prospectives, parents of a current undergrad, and the staff of Pyramid Brewery (NW warehouse district), for a Princeton Club of Oregon celebration of our somewhat cerebral heritage last night. All told, about fifty of us showed.

Dr. Joshua Katz was there, hot off a jet, to stand and -- after either chicken, salmon, pork or pasta; wine, water or beer -- deliver Etymology: The Glamour of Grammar.

Among the words Dr. Katz was excited about last night and/or is known for in the etymological community, are: etymology (the word itself), you (the pronoun, Old English), eel & snake (Hittite through Latinate transformations), vespers (evening prayers) and badger (the mammal).

Princetonians lapped it up, then asked traditionally brilliant questions.

For example, I wanted to know if there was any precedent for this explosion of made up commercial words, like Tylenol and Toyota Camry. He joked about Häagen-Dazs (very made up) and all the obvious psychology that had gone into that. And no, probably no precedent.

He called on me as "Mr. Angil" because I'd earlier distinguished myself by fishing up the Latin root for eel (he'd polled his audience, just like he polls his students). I'd flashed on Angillara on Lake Bracciano in Rome's outskirts.

The Korean couple next to me featured a charming more loquacious mom (of a Princeton student, also of an NYU student), and a quiet dad who chuckled knowingly but never said anything. That reminded me of the cute Korean couple in Lost, which Tara and I were just watching, and I even caught myself blathering about that for a few seconds. A Being There moment.

To my right, the Latin teacher from Cottage Grove, with her two high school aged wards. They lapped it all up with the rest of us. My response to tough-to-get-in good schools is we just need a lot more of them. Princeton is great and we joke about God going there, but really its our wholesome Global University that's great, meaning this planet for starters, where God does indeed teach, with a special spin just for each of us.

Also yesterday, Uncle Bill came by, yet better versed in self-publishing, and we updated his website, plus I briefed him on iPods and Internet lore.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Postpone the Elections?

So this Princeton computer scientist shows on TV how mindlessly easy it is to subvert the Diebold voting machine, and Diebold's lame retort is "you didn't have the latest version of our software."

That's supposed to inspire confidance?

We have the talent in this country to develop a transparent open source voting system with tons of built in protections. Banks know this stuff cold. When big money is at stake, they're among the first to demand auditing.

But when it comes to voting, where's the integrity? Who really defends democracy anymore? Anyone?

Dissecting critical, core civilian infrastructure, describing how it works, is an essential function of public education in the USA. If we expect to recruit new voters into the system, we at least owe them an explanation of how it all works.

If a teacher can't describe how a vote at the polling booth makes it to some HQS for tallying, with checks against abuse, then that teacher's students have been denied access to their most fundamental rights as USA citizens.

Congress needed to play a leading role in restoring trust in voting, electronic or otherwise.

Not having a secure system in place is terrifying, destabilizing, and to even implicitly endorse this status quo is to be a kind of terrorist for sure.

I'll be scanning my sources for any sign that the American people are being given a clear story about their newfangled voting system. Unless these stories appear, I don't think USAers should be coerced into voting by any "powers that be," nor should the results be given any legitimacy.

The election should perhaps be officially postponed, and no I'm not talking about martial law.

On the contrary, we should go into a holding pattern, with politicians forced to fix what's broken, every move scrutinized, run through a gauntlet of experts, the security-minded, those with real world auditing experience.

This would be interesting reality television, instead of just the namby pamby stuff like on Survivor (talk about lame).

Until then, whatever these politicians talk about on television is really of no weight or significance to us. We might as well tune out and just listen to Muzak™.

If the real USA isn't what's on TV, why should we even care? Let's just admit that our USA has been subverted and destroyed from within, and move on, maybe start over on an island someplace.

Antarctica anyone?

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Security Mom Speaks Out

Bagdad interior
Cindy Sheehan took the stage at the Bagdad tonight. She spoke from the heart, to an enthusiastic audience, handling the obligatory heckler with ease.

I'd never been in the same room with her before (I was way up in the balcony). She thanked Portland for its strong support, and the Bagdad, and Thom Hartmann (who was not present).

Speaking of security moms, mine's flying back from Minneapolis tonight, where she was at some WILPF event (I'm hazy on the details). I'll be heading out to PDX to meet her plane.

Tomorrow, the painters arrive early and start doing some sanding.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our Columbia River

"a favorite toy"

"a rich person's boat"

"she who watches"
(per NavAm lore)