Thursday, March 30, 2006

From a Cube in Nashville

I'm sitting in a large cube in Nashville, Tennessee, waiting for rush hour to finish. Earlier today, I committed some autobio to the Math Forum, talking about my post Princeton years (early 1980s).

We visited the Nashville Zoo this afternoon. Lots of families had the same idea (great weather, no school). Many of the exhibited species had "vanishing animal" icons on their plaques. We'd like to turn that around of course, hence my placement of the elephant clipart on my GST poster (in case you were wondering).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Gnu Math

This is a pun on "new math" (aka SMSG), developed within the cold war context to prod more Americans into a space age frame of mind. The Russians had launched Sputnik and paranoia was running high.

GNU = GNU's Not Unix, Richard Stallman's coin for a Unix-like command line environment, coded from scratch. Gnu Math integrates mathematics with a command line aesthetic, providing future Morlocks with tools of the trade.

For example, Pythonic Mathematics integrates algebra with OOP (the object oriented paradigm), a basis for many of our world game's models and simulations. The USG first got behind Python with its DARPA funding of Guido's CP4E initiative.

The civilian public education system was slow to catch on however, given the ideological priorities of a parasitical political machinery, which used the spectre of terrorism to keep Americans in a state of fear.

The Internet, also originally military, helped Americans develop antibodies to this parasitical ideology.

Thanks to the Internet, Gnu Math continued to make inroads, assisting the engineering community in its efforts to debug and restore integrity to a corrupted USA system.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Identity 2.0

My topic this morning relates to a talk I heard at OSCON 2005, from the main stage, by Dick Hardt. His brief: we need identity servers that authenticate to the various services behind the scenes, so we don't have to always re-enter the same stuff. Identity management would become the identity owner's responsibility. Having it all gathered in one place would actually make its theft much harder, as you couldn't get by with only fragmentary data, e.g. just an SSN or credit card number. Banks would "go to the source" and any hack of an Identity Server would be national news, not just run of the mill fraud, a cost of doing business.

Speaking of identity, I've been trying on "Silicon Forest exec" for size. I think that pretty well sums it up. I wrote to Allegra yesterday that I didn't want to be on BFI's Shelter Committee just now, not because I'm anti-shelter (duh) but because I'm trying to clarify my role in the World Game theater. I'm like this computer geek with aspirations to invest more in multimedia (4D Studios), out of my desire to craft some dynamite curriculum for future Silicon Foresters (no, not exclusively).

In order to pass along this culture, a thriving one, we need to leap frog various bastions of Ludditism, including, I'm sad to say, within the education sector itself. Too many teachers feel trapped in dead end jobs, and take it out on their wards.

In particular, I'd like to see a stronger curriculum served through the Pentagon Channel, as I think military investments will make a huge positive difference, if there's real intelligence behind them. The paramilitary gray zone between hot and cold war, is also the zone of disaster relief and emergency management. We're looking to economize through dual-use technologies. The same Fly's Eye Dome skeleton could contain a variety of hardware and software.

A military that knows how to perform civilian duties provides a stronger career path for would-be recruits, as they won't be irrelevant deadweight in peacetime. And for conscientious objector types, a purely civilian trajectory might be plotted, such that if war breaks out, they'll be tasked with the sometimes extreme services our nation has historically required of its peace-loving leaders.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Taking Stock

I taught Python @ WHVN again today, focusing on nested data structures e.g. how to index into a dictionary of some USA and Canadian cities, each with lat/long coordinates expressed as a list of two 3-tuples. Here's the worksheet we used (PDF).

has his Common Sense II pilot in Google Video, per my suggestion, bringing the count of Buckminster Fuller clips to five. For a bigger stash, check the EIK site [defunct -- Feb 9, 09].

Search results on Polyhedron/Polyhedra within Google Video still returns zero, nada. Of course I could change that, but I want to measure the Ivory Tower's level of commitment to supplying relevant open source geometry clips, sans my input (drumming fingers, twiddling thumbs). Princeton? Anyone?

Our USA military families are expected to fight and possibly die for their country, with kids expected to part with their parents, perhaps permanently, and yet what support do they receive in return, in the form of relevant education and training? Precious little. Their own American history and heritage is being denied them.

So how is this not tyranny then?

[Addendum, February 9, 2009: up to about 372 Google Videos with "Polyhedra" in the title, 291 on YouTube]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Back @ Wired

So I'm back to my usual haunts in Portland, having returned from haunts near Remote, Oregon.

I liked what Bob Scheiffer said last Thursday (?), about working to earn our trust, not taking it for granted. This Mens Retreat was like that for me -- I had to work building relationships (work I enjoy doing). We had a lot of new faces, plus many more familiar ones (e.g. mine in the mirror), and a lot to communicate, from each to many.

I did a good job anchoring my network I thought, but it's a somewhat nebulous network and I felt it taking me out of the room on occasion. I have so many to check in with. And I know I'm not the only one with big responsibilities (duh).

Fortunately, good Friends like Tom Head are out there doing a lot of checking. He got to the Dan Rather gig in Portland, reported back, and to China for a high level meeting on military matters, goes to London, Philadelphia...

He's an economist, Tom is, based at the nearby George Fox University. Tom couldn't make it to the retreat this year, as I couldn't last year, because he was off traveling some place per usual.

Anyway, I'm glad Larry was around. We talked iTunes and iPods (he had a new nano) -- plus I showed him an excerpt from Yes Men (the "leisure suit" segment), a DVD I purchased and sometimes screen on my laptop or otherwise project e.g. when I'm wanting to share about my GST brand of economics.

This money talk reminds me: I need to be on my way, delivering some pay checks to a client for TBC. Derek is supposed to meet me here; the barista was busy when I arrived, so I don't even have a coffee. Maybe when I get back, it'll be time for a Guinness.

Over an hour later:

OK, so I met up with Ron Braithwaite, tooling around town in his new biodiesel VW. He wondered about lunch and here we were, in front of Than Thao near the Pauling House, so we ordered V8 and V9 respectively.

Derek looked after my Toshiba back at Wired (his is a Compaq), drinking coffee, waiting for Joan.

Ron is steeped in Apple tech these days. If he succeeds in today's mission, Tillamook Creamery should be a beneficiary (Helvetica fonts lady). I was glad to meet up with Ron, who also missed our Men's Retreat this year.

I just got a call from Bernita about a death in the family (from natural causes). My heart goes out to the grieving.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Candid Camera

Art Kohn and Terry Bristol
ISEPP dinner for Roger Penrose
(photo by K. Urner)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

More from Quaker-P (revised)

So if the prez wants to advertise why a line item veto might be useful, now would be a good time. You've got a Congress happy to cave to mob anti-Arab psychology, and tacking its deal-killing legislation to a continued funding bill for the war in Iraq (oldest trick in the book -- bind what a president hates to what a president most wants).

The prez could say "OK, I promised a veto, now here it is" and then "I guess that means no more war in Iraq huh?" Troops start coming home, the UAE closes harbors to military shipping unless it's to take hardware out of the region (with other harbors to follow), and we celebrate the re-emergence of civilian control over the Pentagon.

The Pentagon would be only too happy to leave anyway, as what Iraq needs is better civilian infrastructure and more police of the non-death-squad variety. American boys are starting to get cynical about any bright future in the armed services and that's bad for recruiting (helping tsunami victims, on the other hand, made our boys into heroes being all they could be -- girls too).

If you can't back up that noble-sounding rhetoric about defending the Constitution, freedom, democracy, with logically consistent on-the-ground activities, well, that hurts both prospecting and recruiting -- even given the devastation in New Orleans and a compliant not-lifting-a-finger FEMA (yes, if civilian life is made miserable enough, the recruits will keep coming, having nowhere else to turn).

Back to Coalition TV: we've got John Bolton at the UN feeling "a sense of urgency" around Iran's low-level defiance of the IAEA. Iran is at least dimly aware that a nuclear superpower has invaded and occupied the country right next to it, on false pretenses no less (forged documents from Niger, accompanying hype from Cheney). Americans, on the other hand, are busy watching Survivor (so-called "reality" TV) and resent the distraction.

We already know that the UN hasn't the backbone to stand up to the USA's neocons (a principle established in round one) so I can see where Iran's defiance might enter the equations.

Anyway, since when did the Pentagon have any say in this war? The whole show has been out-sourced to beltway bandits like Raytheon, home of the cruise missile (ka-ching) and "no connection to Cheney" Halliburton.

Some days I wonder why we even send journalists to that 5-gon any more. Who even buys the myth of "an American people in control"? Nakedly imperialist aggression is the "way of life" we must defend nowadays. Like, what's the fun in being the only superpower if they won't let you flaunt it?


OK, time to go teach Python to 8th graders. You might think I take a dim view of Americans, given my rhetoric. But of course I'm eagerly investing in a bright future for our kids, which means I'm busy giving them basic survival skills, like computer programming (very needed in our urban jungle these days). See my Bizmo Diaries for more info.

And so what are
you doing to help America today, if I may ask.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Wanderers 2006.3.7

concentric hexapents by Tim Tyler using Springie

Last night we met with Micheal Sunanda (yes, that's how he spells it, ea not ae) to learn of his adventures in Central America.

He was researching the state of organic homesteading, and ended up spending a lot of time on a coastal permaculture farm, where the infrastructure was good, but staff practices had been rather lame.

Trying to jump start the "humanure" composting system proved difficult because the staff had the usual cultural reluctance to discuss anything relating to poop.

On the whole, Micheal was rather unimpressed with the state of permaculture in Central America, including among "alternative lifestyle" types. People are buying into the processed food economy, instead of perpetuating the older village-based system of complementary growing. Possible costs: loss of self-sufficiency and independence, some deterioration in health.

Micheal sent around little plastic containers of clay plus a mystery substance, which turned out to be cacao steeped in olive oil. He told the story of the centipede "tapping" him on the eyelid (they don't really bite so much as tap), and the screamingly severe pain that caused, ameliorated with clay packs to some extent.

He slept in a cloth hammock, lost in the jungle on occasion. Howler monkeys are really loud.

We had some new faces tonight, mostly friends of Don's, including Chisler, who makes esoteric metal parts for Japanese furniture and such. He liked to interject comments and Micheal got a little testy about that. I appeared to be sleeping through much of the talk, but was actually concentrating or meditating -- I forget which.

Micheal also talked a lot about Earth's magnetic fields (he carries a little magnet on a gimble everywhere he goes) and about "spirology." The conversation then turned to ley lines and the empirical basis for some of this feng shui talk, if any. Art Kohn, back from DC, steered some of this discussion.

Then there was Rob, who wanted to know when he'd be the same age as his dog, so he could have a party on that day. We'd been kicking this problem around for quite awhile (Jon Bunce had actually solved it, but I'd lost the paper) so I finally turned to the open source community just hours before the meeting, hoping to give him a real answer. This proved a success story, as chronicled in a thread on edu-sig.

Still flush with this success, I sent out a call for concentric hexapental spheres to Synergeo, a Fuller School eGroup on Yahoo!, hoping to impress Glenn Stockton with how fast I could get back to him with some images of his Global Matrix.

This morning, I had two relevant images in my in box, plus helpful pointers on how to get more. Tim Tyler's is displayed above, Adrian Rossiter's below.

This was the subject of my OSCON talk last year: how the open source community has made my work as a Fuller Schooler so much easier over time.

Another highlight: Nirel cluing me in to Ashes & Snow.

hexapents by Adrian Rossiter, using Packinon

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Politics @ Princeton

"think tank"

Matt and Mike plan to tease me over beers this evening, about my alma mater, thanks to the cover story in the most recent issue of The Nation: Princeton Tilts Right by Max Blumenthal (March 13, 2006).

The article is about some well-funded conservative think tank based at the university, but getting no direct funding therefrom. If you're reading from overseas, don't confuse "conservative" with "conservationist" -- two separate memes.

Geeky aside: if looking back from the magazine cover i.e. from inside the depicted Ivory Tower (not really ivory), the tilt is actually to my left.

As the movie Why We Fight points out: think tanks have become pretty important of late, as government out-sources more of its brains, as well as its brawn, to become a pale ghost of its former self (like a ring wraith?).

Well, I guess that's participatory democracy in action. Plus thinking really doesn't cost that much (brains are quite energy efficient), so having a ton of money doesn't necessarily mean that much. Like, I've got my blogs, and they're world readable at no cost to me. So what if I'm not a billionaire like Bill?

But hey, what if Google gets taken over by Chinese ideologues and my blogs get deleted by busybody censors? There's always room for angst. Old Europe used to have an even more drastic remedy for talking heads it didn't agree with: it'd cut 'em off or strangle 'em (or just burn the whole body alive, at the stake).

The USA's founding fathers tried to curb those Old Europe reflexes (didn't succeed entirely), by enshrining freedom of speech in the U.S. Constitution. But did our founders forecast "artificial persons" having the same rights as the real ones, under the 14th Amendment? Obviously not. But then, they didn't foresee the Internet either, which makes my websites "but a mouse click away," on a par with ExxonMobil's.

I interviewed two candidates for Princeton this year, like I did last year. Impressive achievers, per usual. I didn't hear a lot about community service though. When do high school kids ever have the time to work with the less fortunate, the impoverished? Why doesn't our public school system provide these opportunities? Because there's no more poverty to worry about? Someday maybe. In the meantime, the wall around the privileged seems higher than ever these days, gated communities more the norm (like we had in the Philippines -- I lived in the somewhat ironically named Magellanes Village).

Anyway, as a radical middle guy, I know people will probably cull through my many postings looking for words to use against me, if and when those A & B modules ever start appearing in our nation's geometry classes. Showing synergetic geometry on television (like in a Global Data commercial): that'd be like a match to the fuse of Bucky Fuller's long-running Mission Impossible thread.

Well, my would-be critics'll find plenty of Urner-authored rants and diatribes, stuff to get angry about. Like just today, look what I posted to Quaker-P (more context in the full version):
There is leverage in having someone owe me a debt. There's also the hypocrisy of the USA pushing the IMF to force other governments to repay debts, at great cost to social programs, while it simply sinks deeper and deeper into debt itself, never really forcing the same dynamics internally.
Yes, social programs get cut (FDR era programming has been gutted), but just enough is meted out to forestall a massive popular uprising or backlash -- a day-to-day calculation, requiring close collusion with the corporate media. In the Third World, it's easier to use brute force intimidation, to make activists "disappear." ....
I have this portfolio of investments. It doesn't have to have the USA in it for my operations to be profitable. There's nothing the USA has that I couldn't get elsewhere. Or that's how it might come to seem, if present trends continue.
Besides, there's a sense of poetic justice in watching those USAers join the rest of "the developing world". I'm tired of watching this self-righteous "superpower" strut about on the world stage, arrogant and stupid. I would love to have it go down, but in a controlled and intelligently managed way, such that it doesn't set off its nukes, the way Americans do whenever they feel threatened (sniveling cowards that they are).
Wow! I sound like a dangerous dissident or something. But keeping to the middle way means hanging ornaments in a balanced fashion over time.

I veer left and right, but it's design science, more than politics, which supplies the gyroscope I steer by. I Engineer (downloading it now, from iTunes -- a song Matt turned me on to a long time ago).

Other developments:

Mom just called, about to fly off to the New Europe. Sunanda is back in town, from Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, with lots of stories to share with Wanderers.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

FEMA Villages?

I caught some Congress dude pointing to an aerial photo of manufactured homes (huge numbers of them) some 450 miles from ground zero (New Orleans etc.), on C-SPAN (flip flip flip).

He was making a lot of good points e.g. why is FEMA just sitting on these homes, while in the meantime stopping payment on hotel rooms?

OK cool, so Congress is waking up. I'm all for it.

The reason of course (for sitting on these homes) is there's this pervasive assumption among bureaucrats that people are undeserving of the valuable services they might provide.

You find this in India a lot: the greatest satisfaction is in denying others what they most sorely could use. It's a back-handed way of meting out justice (however sick and twisted that "justice" may be). At last, a way to punish, a way to be in control of others, to have some power.

Or on a stereotypical English estate: the biggest snob is the butler. If you buy there's this totem pole or ranking system, and you're three rungs up the ladder, then no way are people on rungs one and two going to get above you, come hell or high water. They're just scum of the earth after all.

In a democracy, we're less enamoured of any totem poles in the social stratification sense. Old timers get respect by default, because their "been there done that" quotient is likely higher. We acknowledge experience.

But in the lifestyle department, we take a more theatrical approach: people live on different stages, act out in different soaps. They're not atop one another. More like Universal Studios: the sound stages are laterally dispersed.

Does this make any sense at all? I think so.

In the social stratification sense, I consider myself as high as I need to be. I've got a middle income lifestyle and that's sufficient. I like being average in that dimension. Ram Dass was a teacher in this regard: "keep to the eight fold bath of the upper middle way" he said (like, I wouldn't mind having a jacuzzi -- might have to up the amps to my fuse boxes though).

And I use my disposable income to man a battle station. That's a luxury, privilege, freedom, and right that I have: to engage in battle, to make alliances, to practice the art of war ala Sun Tzu and Machiavelli. Bucky was my teacher, but not my only one.

Our democracy affords me this opportunity. Thank you Uncle Sam.