Friday, June 29, 2007

Personal Workspace

A control room may be as humble and spare as one laptop and one child (the controller), which is close to where I am, except I'm a grownup. My one laptop (the other one's in the closet) is now the wildly popular Dell Inspiron E1505, a duo-core jobber, running Ubuntu, in my case with Beryl 0.4.2 (a release candidate).

CubeSpace, which hosted the wildly successful Portland BarCamp a few weeks ago, is premised on this model: find your cube and fit in. Doesn't have to be the same cube every time. Join a counter- part cube farm in Tokyo. Flit about, a wandering cube farmer. Except I've always envisioned my PWS as a tetrahedron in GST, but that's just my Fuller Schooler aesthetics shining through the covers.

So O'Reilly's Safari Unleashed or whatever they're calling it, proved its weight in gold just now. After fighting the problem for hours, as to how to get my 1280 x 800 desktop to share out to my 1024 x 768 Optoma or some like-minded projector, preferably on both screens simultaneously.

Answer (as I found by browsing Safari): use the Ctrl-Alt-Fn-minus to lower the resolution, which'll make that 1280 x 800 surface (one side of a cube of two caps and four desktops) into a virtual desktop not quite fitting in its little brother window. I can live with this outcome.

What's amazing about this nVidia card is it'll then play a DVD movie through both displays simultaneously, though I don't ask for "full screen" as that'd mean "partly off screen" in my space. My Toshiba, the one in the closet, hasn't mastered that trick yet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Deja Vu (movie review)

I'm just focusing on one particular scene here, wherein Doug Carlin, played by Denzel Washington, throws a kind of tantrum in a control room, breaking a monitor.

Why does he do this?

He's being let in, as an insider, to the core counterterrorism center, the better to do his job. The monitors show events four days in the past, which the experts claim is based on satellite feed and some post processing.

Carlin does some empirical testing of his own and confirms his suspicion that he's being lied to, which is when he throws his fit. How can he really do his job most effectively if he doesn't have a realistic grasp on what his degrees of freedom really might be? Is he actually able to retroject himself into the past? He really needs to know this, and he tries to hammer that point home.

I found this scene effective in that I wasn't buying the satellite feed model either, as I kept telling Tara. Besides, we both knew from the previews that time travel was somehow involved. My impatience found cathartic expression in Carlin's throwing a fit. He's just trying to do his job, so why all the BS?

Carlin and the other controllers have witnessed a horror and will do pretty much anything to prevent it from happening again -- or might they really undo the past itself, even at the cost of erasing the present? Yes, apparently.

Within the domain of timeloop science fiction (12 Monkeys being another of that genre), this one resolves nicely, like a clever slip knot.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Summer Retreat

Wanderers gathered at Joe's place in Oregon wine country, to learn about his long term experiments in horticulture and forestry, and to compare notes on practically any subject under the sun.

Given the Willamette Valley's almost Mediterranean ecosystem, with drenching cold winters and hot dry summers, a relatively small set of plants and animals are good to go here.

Although redwoods and great sequoias grow in largely separate bioregions of northern California (along the coast and in the Sierra Nevada respectively), Joe hopes his experiment of interleaving the two species will work well on this property. Once these trees are big enough, they tend to create their own self-sustaining micro-climate.

At one point I felt we were becoming too cult like, with the sun beaming down between rains, listening to ourselves chatter in the well lit, finished barn (more of a workshop). When people prefer the sound of their own philosophies to unedited Mother Nature, that's a warning sign.

I left the group and hiked up to the old oak, taking in the view, coming down from the mountain with a message for my peers: "you're all crazy" (I got a few nods of assent). But the group was transitioning to the outdoors at that point. Joe cleared a main trail with his Kuboda tractor and before long we were all guzzling Nature's Own kool aid, taking in the forest.

And besides, we are an interesting group, chat wise.

Listening to Gus and Bob blab about who they know in common in the Mars Society, what experiments they've been up to, what telescopes made, articles read and/or published, is all very entertaining and enlightening to boot. Too bad I'll miss Gus's upcoming talk on time lapse photography, which I expect will be excellent.

Terry was busy spinning thermodynamics, channeling Greek philosophers. Gloria led a discussion of family design patterns in relation to ethnicity. Phil, the book store owner, suggested I read up on those tough guy Teutonic Knights given I'm heading to Lithuania soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another Control Panel Fragment

ProQuest search panel
(with special thanks to Trevor Blake)
As a card carrying Multnomah County Library user, I have access to the New York Times historical database, which includes ads as well as articles. I've been using the above control panel to scan for relevant projectable citables to help my audiences get a grip on some recent history.

Here's an ad citing Bucky's infamous "nature is not using pi" meme, which in 1980 sounded fresh enough to serve as a recruiting tool. This company is looking to hire some new crew members.

NYT ad: Apr 27, 1980 pg. F33

So that's Shirley Sharky on the left (below). I got to meet her in Ed's Georgetown apartment during that big shindig in 2004 he cohosted with his daughter Ashton, with foci of her own.

I got to share lasagna with Thomas Zung and Shoji Sadao as well. Dick Fischbeck was in the little kitchenette where Ed kept the gin.

Anyway, I tend to get a little giddy when I'm around so many beautiful people all packed into a single meetup like that.

NYT article: School of Tutors Uses World as Campus,
by Sharon Johnshon, Sep 7, 1980
(Janet Bergman with glasses)
Now it's time to watch the evening news with Katie Couric. Tonight's closing story: Lake Superior is at an 81 year low. How low will she go? Container ships are especially affected.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Today's Confabs

I joined a tetrahedron of phi guys today: DF has been studying the spiral; GS knows sacred geometry; DK (who phoned my cell while I was having Thai food with DF); myself.

Chatting with DF is always a pleasure. He knows lots of tricks I don't, just as CalTech has fared better at providing email to its alums, Princeton's TigerNet having caved under ambient conditions within Spamalot, our trashy cyberslum.

I'm boosting coffee consumption, beans from Burundi, cutting back on other calories (I have plenty in storage).

DF and I spent a pleasant quarter hour exploring the OED around "jerk," a real name for the third derivative at Boeing, where people value smoothness as a passenger experience.

r = pow(math.e, theta * (2/math.pi)*(math.log(phi)))
DF: the successively shrinking quarter-circles-in-squares in a phi spiral aren't exactly quarter circles. That f(x,y) = 0 would put too much jerk in the joins.

OED: another meaning is to "jerk out" something sage between draws on one's pipe, not quite the same as "blurting" nor "pontificating" either.

This association with witty, whip-like quips, is in stark contrast with another meaning of "jerk" as in "slow to catch on," "a dim bulb," a spectrum mirroring people's differing experiences of the same performance on occasion.

Judging was a major focus of our lunch as well.

DF's visualizations around the science fair model, of judges ranking projects with an eye toward awarding prizes, have been evolving for some time now, a fascinating process to observe and to learn from I reckon.

GS found me at the supermarket, looking for butter pecan ice cream for mom, mint chocolate chip for Tara. We then co-spiraled down the beer aisle.

I returned DK's call from earlier. He's recovering fast from an injury, has almost finished the new garage.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Always a Marine

I just listened to John Rushing's latest interview with Terry Gross, regarding his new book and career as a correspondent for the English language version of Al Jazeera.

Given the etymology of this blog, and my tracking of Rushing's career, I feel obligated to comment; the relevance quotient is so high.

And my comments are very positive. Count me a Rushing fan, even though I don't get Al Jazeera on my DirecTV.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Computer Anatomy

My last upgrade to Camtasia Studio cost me easy access to sound features within the application, owing to my exotic integrated RealTek circuits, stardard on these HP Pavilion a1630ns, but that still doesn't mean there's a huge intersection of app users willing to press for a solution (by running diagnostics, sending screen shots and so on).

In the meantime, as new C stuff is hammered out, tech support advises that I slip into something more Soundblaster-compatible. Here's the polite letter, which I'm not complaining about, simply sharing:
Hi Kirby,
We found that this is a specific issue with Realtek intergrated sound card. We are currently working on ways to accommodate the rare integrated type of sound cards that seem to have issues with Camtasia.
In the meantime I would recommend purchasing a Sound Blaster sound card as we have always had good success with those working with Camtasia.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Kind Regards,
TechSmith Support
OK, so I could dissect the Santa Cruz card out from KTU2 in the basement -- the unit swapped in to replace Jennifer, once I repurchased the latter from Derek for display in the Pauling House as a generic, well performing Ubuntu box (from where I'll sometimes post to my blogs, such as during Wanderers meetings, like when not lugging my wireless Toshiba Satellite) -- and transplant it into KTU3.

On the other hand, those Camtasia movies were more "proof of concept" and're still out there doing work, so I'm not all that knickers-in-a-twist (as Brian might put it) over the vacation I'm getting from making more mathcasts and/or pilots for ~M!. Let's give would be sponsors ample time to evaluate the merchandize. I don't believe in being too pushy.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Oceans 13 (movie review)

Some friends invited me to this on the basis of free tickets they'd received, handed out by Regal in compensation for some glitch, Jimmy said minor, in some HD showing of Pirates... on a big screen in the multiplex across from Lloyd Center, the one with the parking lot from which Robin Egg was stolen, our Subaru wagon pre Razz, along with her bicycle rack. Miraculously for this Friday night, Jimmy found a space right at the entrance.

In the mood for mindless fun, I gave this movie big benefits of the doubt. None of that could actually work in real life, starting with floor plans, which is why they had too many to show. Everything would be totally broken, starting with the lame explanations for how a tunneling machine could be run by one man. The audience gets taken. The casino wins again.

But the point isn't the claptrap, the bells and whistles, but the clear friendships and utter competence of the guys in the foreground, a rat pack for our age. This is a shared vehicle well shared, by a sensitive bunch of Oprah lovers, what can we say. Not quite as high level as Shark Tale perhaps, but still a crime family drama, and those tend to be good once we're above certain cut offs.

Greco was the furthest off the mark. So what he (a thinking computer) detects short term deviations from average outcomes on the tables, and so what some big winner acts not innocently surprised, but like he expected it. So whatcha gonna do, big guy? Deviations happen.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Control Panel Fragment

My default screen is a personalized one of Google's. I play around with it, swapping gizmos in and out.

I get a Buddhist thought for the day thing via RSS, which I don't always check, but I popped it just now:
War can only be understood and put an end to if you and all those who are concerned very deeply with the survival of man, feel that you are utterly responsible for killing others. What will make you change? - J. Krishnamurti
That reminds me of some stuff I wrote awhile back, but I'm not finding it right now plus I'm noticing lots of badly formatted pages at my web site. I need to go into janitor mode again and clean things up some more.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Patter About Poets

So I'm to understand from today's park meeting with Mitch that Emerson had no problem with all the sex in Whitman's poetry, but maybe from a coaching angle encouraged him to throttle back.

Plus T.S. Eliot was of course quite a bit later on the time line and in a very different social situation, must have disdained Whitman's work for being unschooled. "Poetry is not mere metered exuberance" -- but nor is Walt's.

The proof of transcendentalism is in its pudding. We eat our own dog food as some geeks like to say.

These remarks are with reference to this excerpt from my Connecting the Dots:

Emerson liked Walt Whitman a lot but thought there was too much sex in his poetry. Whitman refused to back off -- much to the disgust of T.S. Elliot -- probably with his future HBO-minded American audience in mind (i.e. he was prescient).[i]

Fuller of Harvard comes later in the game, dubbed “World Game” by him, with “Guinea Pig B” a star player. Fuller, an inventor, invented his own namespace fairly completely, after taking time off post 1927 to thoroughly divest himself of any unwanted “reflex conditioning,” and laying the groundwork for some life-long self-disciplines, somewhat described in his penultimate non-posthumously published magnum opus Critical Path.[ii]

[i] Per my conversation with Johnny Stallings, actor, at Common Ground on Hawthorne

[ii] my biography of the guy is available here:

So I probably need to study the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg to better understand cultural currents linking the 1840s and the 1960s. Could be some fun airplane reading.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pioneer Century

:: tinkerbell ::
Today I joined Chris and Larry for Pioneer Century, one of Oregon's oldest organized cycling events.

We chose the shortest loop (45 miles). Whereas the workout was a real pipe cleaner for me, it was even more of a milestone for Chris, who started noticing troubling health symptoms during this same event last year. This year she conquered the course.

Part of the reason physically active people live longer on average is they notice changes earlier, when pushing themselves to perform. Many illnesses are far more subject to treatment if caught early.

Only a few cyclists marred the event by disrespecting signage and taking to the middle of a busy highway. Local motorists, always courteous, put a bright face on these antics, accepting that some tourists may be prone to goofy behavior.

Yesterday I put some finishing touches on my sixteen page Connecting the Dots: American Transcendentalism Meets Pythonic Math and sent it off to the Europython folks, with strong encouragement from my community. I might tweak it again slightly before putting a copy at my website.

:: playground at the half way point ::
I came home to some terrible news about a friend's 22 year old son's fatal car accident. My heart goes out to my friend and his family during this time of painful separation. I am lighting candles and sending them metta as my dear Dawn would say (and do).

:: in memoriam: filepe gonzalez ::