Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wanderers Summer Retreat

We're packed around the table again. Lots of plastic. Our Blue House ethics have shifted against plastic, which doesn't mean we don't have any. I went to the supermarket, determined not to get anything with plastic in the packaging (I got glass, cardboard and metal). I paid with plastic.

This is potluck time, so some of the plastic contains food. Tara joined us. She's booted into the wifi with my old laptop. She's at the table, I'm on the steps.

For those just joining us, this is the boyhood home of Linus Pauling, one of Oregon's favorite sons. He received two (unshared) Nobel Prizes, although the one for peace you could say goes to Ava Helen as well. Their papers are collected at Oregon State University.

Our patron and sponsor, Doug Strain, helped endow the reading room, as well as restore this magnificent old home. Doug co-founded Electro-Scientific Industries, which also supplied a facility to Quakers in the late 1950s, where they practice their faith to this day, two remodels later.

Our group, called Wanderers, gets its name from (a) the ancient Greek word for "planets" (they wander the sky, especially in a geocentric coordinate system -- simpler spirals if you look from a heliocentric point of view) and (b) a quote by Mandelbrot that goes like this:
Science would be ruined if it were to withdraw entirely into narrowly defined specialties. The rare scholars who are wanderers-by-choice are essential to the intellectual welfare of the settled disciplines.
-- Benoit Mandelbrot
We're looking at close up pictures of Mars on the Web, mostly gray scale.

Gus Frederick of Silverton is a Mars nut, actually a good presenter on an interesting topic. This isn't about Martian Math so much, which is something I write about.

Carol is home prepping for her next journey. She lost some pills, I lost some money. Our exchange student (per Census interview) is out and about.

Some traffic on PSF channel today; another Synergetics boot camp on Synergeo (ongoing).

Art Kohn and I spoke at some length in the alcove (near the food table), about family matters, about image processing and the Hubble space telescope.

This latter topic led Art to recommend Case Closed by Gerald Posner, laying to rest all those conspiracy theories around the assassination of JFK. The computer-stabilized version of the Zapruder film helps clarify the single bullet theory.

Jon Bunce and Don Wardwell sang an old Woody Guthrie song Pastures of Plenty. Jon and I then yakked about Subgenius literature, the bleeding head of Arnold Palmer in particular. We're an eclectic group, so pretty open to a wide range of topics.

Best wishes to Dr. Tag. I mentioned our internationalization work on the PSF list again. Not every Python-related chat room uses Latin-1 after all.

I started screening the first of a series on spatial geometry that's been showing on Portland community access TV, after screening O Superman by Laurie Anderson.

After a just few minutes into the polyhedra, Don and I heard yelling and cheering so went outside to see what was happening. A large number of naked and/or partially clad cyclists (skateboarders, roller skaters, unicyclists) were turning onto Hawthorne, protesting exposure to exhaust fumes, other machine world insults and indecencies. The procession was over a mile long, maybe longer.