Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why No Cookies in Math Class?

I suppose that's a catchy enough title. Kids don't want to always re-enter the same passwords on a personal computer, a tedious exercise if you're not worried about spying on yourself.

But a browser typically comes with privacy controls, meaning cookies get blocked by default, meaning it's unlikely you'll be rescued from tedium, unless you know how to tell your browser from which domains cookies'll be OK.

It's up to you, the user, to set these policies.

So we throw kids into this virtual "oval office," surrounded with nifty freedoms, and then don't give 'em a clue. You get to be President Klutzo, some superhero Incredible who can't figure out how to work the netmeeting phone, drive the golf cart or whatever. What a wasted opportunity.

So you'd think math teachers, being the numeracy gurus in our culture, for little kids anyway, our having banned real geeks from actually teaching anything so elementary, except maybe on some exotic satellite channels you may be lucky enough to be getting, would be the ones to share this lore -- about how to allow cookies from Google, for example, but not from some fly by night with only a number, not even a DNS sig.

OK, well maybe the language arts teachers then? Actually that sounds about right, as XML and the DOM signify tree structures, like those old Outlines we used to do, with Roman Numeral major sections, like chapters, broken down into maybe a, b, c each with subsections i, ii, iii and so on, however the notation (this was all before those graphical "bullets" became available). Given language teachers already need to cover XML, why not let 'em handle the cookies part too?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Burden of Dreams (movie review)

This is the movie that goes with Werner Herzog's director's commentary track on Fitzcarraldo.

Werner plays himself as a crazed film maker, willing to risk life and limb (others' as much as his own) to get those special effects only obtainable if you do them for real. Tribal politics play a role, as the presence of indigenous Germans leads many to expect the worst and/or want a piece of the action.

Werner monologues about his existential problems with the Jungle's decadent opulence, plus shows a crazed Kinski losing it with the crew (bonus feature). Also in the bonus features, Werner eats his own shoe, for reasons unrelated to the making of this film.

For those skeptics and cynics who don't think this all really happened as portrayed, check out the clip from the first version (before the restart) featuring Robards and Jagger, as the split personality earlier cast for this role, and filled handsomely by Kinski once the film ran into problems (probably mostly around Werner's ego, though no one ever comes right out and say so on the director's cut).

This "making of" spends a lot more time on the rubber making process, rubber barons, and their love of opera, being so pivotal in the more fictive version.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Standards and Ramparts

So the typical scene is a wall (ramparts) with flags flying behind them. Or if behind, then presumably you're on the other side? Would that be outside or in? On a ball, a triangular walled city is really just an interface between two cities, both with three corners and three edges. Remember, Earth is a ball. Tale of two cities.

Anyway, so on my flag is this MITE, for Minimum Tetrahedron, and some initials RBF. We say minimal because tetrahedral but also because not handed: the right handed and left handed, inside out versions of one another, look the same. Then they fill space with no gaps, in terms of Couplers we might cast it, in our model of the IVM (a kind of holodeck for Scenarios Universe, our "show and tells," partially overlapping, eternally regenerative). Handed modules would be like the As and Bs, which comprise the MITEs but, like the left and right handed Ls in Tetris, can't just stand in for one another as substitutes ("some inside-outing required").

I took Carla and Scott on a mostly driving tour while Dawn underwent alternative therapies today. We left the GPS in the other car (their rental), so driving by feel, I approached Council Crest, only to veer around behind to Scholls Ferry (a road I'd haunted the day before, in service of my alma mater), winding to Hwy 24, into town via Rose Garden (made two passes at Portlandia), back under the cable car on I-5 to Humdinger on Barbur (near Dawn) thence to Grand Central Bakery in Multnomah Village, by way of old haunts (this was Matt's and my early boyhood neighborhood, pre Rome, my Markham Annex now a corporate campus, Piggly Wiggly gone too).

Cool interlude: we parked Razz at the Oregon Zoo lot and rode the Max elevator down to the station, hundreds of feet below through layers of sediment. Set into stone in this station is one vertical core sample, laid horizontally in a tube, with engravings suggestive of the millions of years that have elapsed, over the time of this core deposit's aggregating. Two trains arrived while we inspected the exhibit, one bound for Gresham (to the east) the other for Hillsboro (to the west).

Once Dawn rejoined us (chauffered by Peg), we proceeded to the Chinese Garden, which the three enjoyed, as I took Razz over the Steel for some gas. Scott and Carla fly home tomorrow. She works in an Italian restaurant. Her boy Steve wants to pit for NASCAR and like that (a worthy goal I'd hazard).

Yesterday was OMSI, fruit smoothies.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Control Room Collection

Mercator Projection
So given the name of this blog, which got started looking in on Al Jazeerah's (which has since come a long way), I feel it appropriate to mention others I come across, both fictive and for real.

In the fictive category, I just saw The War of the Worlds (1953 edition) last evening, and noted the huge Mercator they were trying to win their war with.

What I hadn't quite realized about the plot, was the good professors had the right idea, about using some biochemical counter, but succumbed to the generalized panic attack, ending up in church and without any laboratory solution.

While the idea from the pulpit may have been that prayers were what saved them, I think H. G. Wells was inspiring an even deeper faith in our Earth's design: it has an immune system (so best to stay on its good side (we've had some experience...)).

Fuller Projection

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Corporate Screencasting

I've been graced with a new VFP 9.0 Professional, completely legit, thanks to connections and UPS Ground, and last night polished off a demo screencast of inhouse academic assets, stuff we use to harvest clinical data for outcomes research, in support of the hospital's teaching functions ("what works for how long" is, after all, critical clinical information).

Meanwhile, on edu-sig, we're on the subject of teaching Python to non-CS majors, people with only a casual need to code, as a part of some humanities major for example.

"Do we share about OOP (our so-called object oriented paradigm) with the tourists?" might be a good way of capturing a key question.

I say that we should, but leveraging recog over recall skills, i.e. we make it look easy, with cartoons and such, without putting lots of pressure on students to cough up or regurgitate, i.e. you don't have to try this at home (but feel free if you want to, not a dangerous activity (though frustrating and tedious at times)).

I still have a high opinion of Visual FoxPro as a development environment by the way. Xbase was never a stupid language (though it may be used stupidly), with its procedural pointers to tabular data, combined with fast relational indexing, exposed in control structures. Best of all, it has an interactive command line (the infamous "dot prompt" in dBase), like Python does.

Then came the OO revolution, with Microsoft buying Fox as a dBase killer, once Borland's plans, to stick with the brand "dBase" (Ashton-Tate's) became clear.

Did the language die an ugly death at Microsoft's hands? No, I don't think so. The product remains an elegant solution in many situations and I'm glad Redmond keeps putting muscle behind it, despite end users going gaga for Microsoft Access (a part of Office no less). VFP wasn't just about using objects from other languages (more the VB model), had its own class defining syntax, more like in "VB#" (i.e. VB .NET).

What's great about xBase is you have this procedural way of stepping through tables and you have embedded SQL.

Sure, I can see why we'd use Oracle, Postgres or MySQL as a back end, but when it comes to creating a usable user interface, I still think the "thick client" has a future.

Making everything work in a browser "just because we can" isn't a deep enough philosophy to persuade me otherwise -- not yet anyway, XUL notwithstanding.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The "Surge"

I haven't seen many journalists linking this verb "surge" to its ironic appearance in the CIA's literature, namely in Lindsay Moran's little book Blowing My Cover (ISBN 0-399-15239-3). I include this quote in my book review (January, 2005):

Ironically, in early 2003, not long after my return from Macedonia, I was "surged" to the Near East (NE) Division in order to help gear up for the invasion of Iraq. During my short tenure in Iraqi Operations, I met one woman who had covered Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program for more than a decade. She admitted to me, unequivocally, that the CIA had no definitive evidence whatsoever that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed WMD, or that Iraq presented anything close to an imminent threat to the United States.

Another CIA analyst, whose opinion I'd solicited about the connection between Al Qa'ida and Iraq, looked at me almost shamefacedly, shrugged, and said "They both have the letter q?" And a colleague who worked in the office covering Iraqi counterproliferation reported to me that her mealy-mouthed pen pusher of a boss had gathered together his minions and announced, "Let's face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it."

Like former CIAer Robert Baer of Syriania fame (haven't seen it yet), Lindsay registers little beyond disrespect for the neocon ideology that resulted in America's biggest blunder. Baer: "I think the neocons have done more damage to the United States’ reputation and foreign policy than anybody since—I don’t know when. They’ve opened Pandora’s box in Iraq." (MotherJones, July 5, 2006).

The sad part was how these wackos, many of them "government insiders" (i.e. nut jobs in many cases), managed to infect the mass media pundits, by riding the post-911 wave of panic and hysteria.

Journalists are easy prey for cynical spin doctors in times of national distress. Let's remember that lesson and not repeat these same mistakes.

I applaud the CIA's decision to move some of its most important (mostly training) facilities far beyond the beltway, in part just to get away from all the corruption and crummy intelligence that goes with living around Washington, DC. Presidents have long sought similar getaway havens, even if only 60 miles away at Camp David. DC just gets too oppressive at times.

Followup (related news stories):
Pre-War Intelligence Acts 'Inappropriate,' U.S. Finds, Feb. 9 (Bloomberg).
Pentagon Watchdog Slams Prewar Intel, Feb. 9 (CBS News).

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Synergeo #32395

In my first storyboard, I paid some attention to social service and academic achievement i.e. a design scientist is someone willing to mix it up in the real world, not just push for Ivory Tower credentials, as the latter without the former may be quite meaningless.

However, the main thrust of my storyboard was to find a bridge, starting in the known and moving towards the unknown (assuming a demographic still somewhat unfamiliar with even the basics of Fuller's metaphysics).

I start with the Qyoob (Cube) and use it to establish the 3D-hood of ordinary space. A 3-vector zig-zag on the corresponding simplex also combines these notions of "3" and "spanning basis vectors" but of course when the zig-zag is bent that way, you're thinking "spatial" the whole time, which is more the Synergetics mindset (we don't believe in Flatland per se -- a rickety old Victorian belief system, ala Abbott's scifi by that name).

Over on wittgenstein-dialognet, I'm chatting with philosophers about this namespace thing some more. coxeter.d and fuller.d aren't synonymous. That doesn't mean we put these two scorpions in a bottle and make 'em fight it out. On the contrary, both steam engines and diesel engines create torque from liquid fuels. The goal is to investigate the mechanisms, to reach an understanding of inner workings, not to prove one or the other "can't work" (as if there weren't ample evidence that they both do).

So in moving from coxeter.3d (Euclidean 3dness) to fuller.4d, I'm not trying to "make Coxeter wrong" in any important dimension. Rather, I'm juxtaposing two "ways of looking" with a nomenclature (a namespace) to suit in each case.

I think one of the gross errors in some of the secondary literature to date is this idea that "if Synergetics is right, then XYZ goes out the window". On the contrary, Synergetics is not about pushing any math to the back of the bus. Synergetics isn't going to stay at the back of the bus either though -- that's what academia is still trying to wrap its mind around (slowly, very slowly).

Anyway, I want to get more technical with the Coupler on a second pass, making this the bridge from XYZ thinking to IVM thinking. It's very easy to place 8 MITEs around (0,0,0), one per octant, and to see this as an entry point into IVM style cogitation, wherein two of the Coupler's equators become the "fish lip" rhombics connecting IVM (= CCP) balls, with the K-points as "tongues touching" perhaps.

I've segued from to for the benefit of my Pythonic math teacher squadron. They'll be the first on the block to have a VPython view.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Synergetics Storyboard

:: a short ego trip ::
I propose an order for topics, throwing in side lights along the way. Start with the cube and really talk up its heritage, the genesis of xyz.3D for example, then move on through the MITE and concentric hierarchy to elucidate our alternative ivm.4D-based namespace. However, in dwelling on the lattice (IVM), don't neglect to (a) spin stuff, talk about arcs, circles and spheres and (b) keep a focus on the aperiodic shapes.