Friday, January 28, 2011

Enneacontahedron Again

Finding omni-symmetrical polyhedrons with volumes close to the sphere's volume, while having the same radius in some important direction, has been a preoccupation of some geometers, David Koski among them.

Sir David works in tetravolumes, a little known standard, wherein the unit sphere is rt2(2)*pi in volume. That's (4/3)*pi*r**2 times S3, the Synergetics Constant. Either way, the ratios come out the same, so even in XYZ you will find the enneacontahedron comes within a fraction of a percent of a sphere's volume, hugging it even more closely than the rhombic triacontahedrons you may have encountered in this neighborhood: the 5 and the 5+.

Below is a rendering developed in POV-Ray using the export feature from vZome. I've jiggered with the camera and added a textured sphere inside, still growing to become tangent to the enneacontahedron's narrow diamonds, embedded in our rhombic triacontahedron's.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Waiting for "Superman" (movie review)

The movie offers a somewhat ahistoric view in that it paints a picture of some idyllic time, when it all just worked, but now it's all broken.

The supposed idyllic time was no doubt after the Civil War, but maybe before the Cold War, or during said war if your family was then living the suburban American dream and unaffected by the world's hellish conditions (a minority even then).

There was no mention of the fact that a really giant educator, the military service, slurps up a lot of people, and has been doing so for a long while. The prisons get talked about, but not the military.

Other voices in the film (besides the director's) do point out that the despoliation has been occurring for a long time, somewhat contradicting the "idyllic past" hypothesis.

So lets just say the movie tells more than one story, at least if you read between the lines.

The analysis accepts a rather rigidly nationalistic framework, with the USA pitted against these other nations in a kind of metaphysical Olympics (USA losing).

I won't deny the "metaphysical" part, but is nationalism much more than a crutch for a lame and insufficiently responsible rationality? What did Albert Einstein think about nationalism, and what percentage of high schoolers have studied that question in the last year, anywhere in the world? I'm sure we don't know, but probably not very many (OMSI-goers an exception).

In sum, this movie is itself the product of a somewhat impoverished all-American curriculum. The movie-makers have no time for much history (nothing about "busing" or the civil rights movement, desegregation, successive waves of immigration, church and state tensions). They're effective teachers (deserve merit pay) but that doesn't make up for the rather shallow analysis.

The animations work (or what does Tufte think? -- too much chart junk? I saw spatial volumes substituting for surfaces when showing percents, a recipe for making statistics misleading) but with that kind of bandwidth, we could be covering a lot more ground. Let's put even some good college teachers to shame by really covering a ton of data in the allotted time. Don't dumb it down for us.

If you have Bill Gates on your show again, maybe have him do something more technical, less political? Maybe he could teach us the next Windows, or explain SQL? Lets actually educate about math and computer science, not just talk about whether we like it or are good at it.

Like, at what speed does one actually break the sound barrier and when was this done? There's lots of room on the screen to show facts and speedometers (control panels). Why not flood the screen with data, like they do during football games (with scores of other games, recent headlines, a company logo dance, a belly dance...). Let's play with the theory that big screen communications could convey a lot more, now that we have the ability to easily rewind them. This is what happened to writing, once literacy became widespread.

I found it interesting to come to this film having just seen Helen's work, which looks at the same issues from a more zoomed out perspective. Is this "education" we plan to be offering all that big a help? Were we teaching anything about how to grow vegetables? So what if you know calculus? Sure, you might need to know it but are they telling you why? No computer programming in your high school? Reasoning? Where's the debate?

In much of the world, kids get herded off to classrooms, where a culling process begins and a few get skimmed off by The Empire. The rest are dumped on the streets with no prospects, ready to be recruited into liberation fronts. Their farmlands have been taken, their community fragmented. Why should this be called "school". If you're not building networks and friendships for life, as well as relevant skills, maybe it doesn't get that label?

When Quakers wanted to distinguish their houses of worship from the other churches, they decided to use "meetinghouse" as their designation. A church was but a "steeple house" and, as such, was not up to Quaker standards. I'm seeing a similar need today, to distinguish, to disambiguate.

People these days say "eco-village" a lot. Perhaps a real school is at minimum an eco-village. City-as-campus. Maybe these buildings called "schools" are just another kind of learning center, one of many. Should we Quakers open some new learning centers around town, and leave "going to school" to the less innovative? Let's check what the tribes are thinking.

The guardians in this movie are committed to providing a decent life for their kids, however it's clear that this cannot be done near or in the home, and that adults who have not specialized as classroom teachers are not a source of "schooling" and will not be offering many life-relevant skills beyond idle play and/or nagging to do one's homework. "On which side of the Periodic Table do we find metals?" Your average parent is not expected to know, and yet your average 8th grader is.

If there's something between you and that body of knowledge, it must either be your own lack of will, or the fact that some system is withholding your rightful heritage. In this case, I'd agree with the film makers: it's your heritage that's being withheld, by those likewise deprived, but then when has the public curriculum been overwhelmingly generous? It's not new to hold back. Not everyone needs to know the King's business, after all.

I mean look, if we were really serious about pumping more and better information into the culture, wouldn't we be doing that by now? Perhaps some of us are. We have televisions and DVD players galore, not to mention Youtube, which many "schools" block.

Sure, we could be investigating our problems way more seriously than we do, and have working solutions to many more of them. Like we could've had voting machines in the schools for some years, and been polling students frequently on many issues, lots of stats. We could have used this technology to explore how voting works, how votes get tallied fairly even when the ballots are secret. What's private and what's public?

But lets face it: at the end of a long day commuting and pushing products nobody really wants or needs, it's more fun and relaxing to kick back and pop open a can and watch something quasi-mindless. I'm not against R&R, but lets talk about how to talk ourselves out of crummy work habits. Guardians need quality time with their kids doing shared community service. When does that happen?

Note to historians: Americans had simply run out of any ability to imagine the future, other than to try to inhabit some TV world they'd had beamed at them as the wars raged in Asia. If Star Trek and The Jetsons were unobtainable, maybe we could relive something already in the can, say The Waltons or even All in the Family. "Someday, we might even break the sound barrier and wake up in the 21st Century (give us another generation or two)". Welcome to the rubber room, still open for business and packed with people in transition.

We went to this movie at Laurelhurst Theater on Burnside directly from Quaker meeting. This was one of the two days a week when minors are permitted (the marquee didn't let on there was a 1:10 PM showing, as this was only true on weekends -- the Web was my source). Tara and I had Chinese food afterward and discussed our views. Her latest debate tournament at PSU didn't result in any awards, but she felt good about her role as a mentor to the relative newcomers to the sport. Other Quakers went home to watch football, as today was an important game, especially for Bears fans.

At meeting, I talked about AVP and whether violent video games were an alternative to violence. In some curricula I think they are, most definitely. Carl and I also discussed the merits of NPYM affiliating with FGC. He's neutral on the topic. Doing so would have its costs, but they're probably bearable.

I'll be avoiding Quaker Quest (a program hatched in the UK) as I'm finding it too alien to my own Friendly faith 'n practice. No biggie, forking happens.

I also met up with Lew, our property management clerk. He'd recently finishing using Google apps such as Sketchup to get the Multnomah Friends meetinghouse in 3D on Google Earth, as a public service (our clerk positions are unpaid). Now this guy is educated.

Multnomah Friends / Google Earth
click for larger view

The title Waiting for "Superman" has somewhat the same cadence as Bowling for Columbine, but the films come from different angles. Would a KIPP show Michael Moore films to its students? How about SuperSize Me? Would it teach Verboten Math? If you're a student or teacher in one of those, maybe drop me a note, as I'm curious. Journalists? Any news?

Friday, January 14, 2011

FNB: 2010.1.13

Food Not Bombs has been in a sharing relationship with the Religious Society of Friends here in Portland since about September of 2010. The relationship goes back a little further than that if you count our participation as a Quaker household (per directories) minus any use of the commons on Stark in a non-rental community-serving set of arrangements.

Basement storage of bulk supplies is permitted. Deep frying is not (fortunately FNB tends to go with light steaming, as we did yesterday). Friends pay for heat, electricity and water use for a three hour period each week. FNB also borrows salt and pepper on occasion though with plans to replenish (I could get some next time I visit Costco).

I used to be dogmatic about some official FNB trailer not getting separated from Simon's cookware, but that was mostly invented bureaucracy on my part. The stalwarts are ingenious at coming up with trailers, including making their own. Simon, a stalwart, with history as a software developer, is pulling a new rig fashioned from a ladder. Aaron's trailer, like Noah's in Davis, is able to haul an ass of compost, maybe several (an "ass" is a unit of measure in our household).

Yesterday (Jan 13), I wasn't sure I'd be getting assistance (I'd done the job solo the previous week). Lindsey volunteered to assist, though she considers herself mostly a hauler (despite her vegan cooking skills). Upon arrival, however, I was greeted by two veteran cooks already in the kitchen. Sarabell used to work in a Quaker elementary school in Philadelphia. Noah seemed to know his way around a kitchen. We showed up with the produce Lindsey had hauled earlier that day.

Thanks to the surfeit of cooking talent, Lindsey allowed herself to sing her show tunes using the social hall piano, though always mindful that her TV-14+ lyrics might be offensive to some Quakers working in the building. She has a more PG-rated lineup when playing in houses of worship, such as during that benefit for Sisters of the Road.

At the park, it felt a bit like a Zen convention, as Satya and friends were on their way to some esoteric sitting and presentation regarding some newly translated works. I thought about going, but then Brent very kindly offered to share wood he'd salvaged from a free pile in Washington (a clear cut). Their native practice in that state, probably in Oregon as well, is to douse all this burnable fuel, including fresh hemlock, in diesel, and set it ablaze. Air pollution from such waste had already driven Brent from his habitat at another time (the fire smolders for days). He fights back by salvaging what he can and redistributing it to suburbanites who maybe don't appreciate the value of real firewood, or the level of waste their own lifestyles encourage.

Brent came to the house with his maul and ax and split some seriously big segments right there on the patio, by the light of a partial moon (plus some electric light, which Quakers are not against using). I now have that essential ingredient I'd been missing: lots of kindling, as well as more burnable woods than what we'd inherited when buying the house: a garage full of something rock hard, which Brent also took a crack at, successfully in many cases.

While all this chopping was going on, Lindsey reappeared with the trailer and responded to Brent's request for broken inner tubes he might use around his ax handle (as a veteran of Bike Farm, she stocks such supplies). Then she was off to her coven and I to my office, where my night job begins late. I went through a few billable hours of course material before shoving the dog over and crashing. Other household members are away. Nick, who sometimes stays in the room where I crashed, is still undergoing lots of tests. I plan to go visit him using the green elevators.

Noah didn't join us at the park as he wanted to be a part of this town meeting, called by the mayor, asking citizens whether Portland should rejoin a certain "counter-terrorism task force".

The reason Portland is thinking about rejoining is because of mentally ill people and their nightmares, many of which have an impact on collective living standards. People have been staging protests and vigils against terror. It's hard to find anyone who's pro-terror in this neck of the woods. Many of 'em just wanna use "shock and awe" to eliminate terrorism, using torture if necessary.

Of course the Quakers are in the minority on this issue, in wanting torture banned in all its forms (including slow death by starvation). The collaboration with Food Not Bombs is a part of our Ending Hunger campaign, the way I look at it.

Speaking of which, the head of Food Not Bombs was interviewed on the radio in a program broadcast by KBOO this morning. I missed hearing it but apparently FNB is disturbing to neighbors in some zip codes and they end up calling the police.

Here in Portland, neighbors often show up to share food and catch up on the buzz. We discuss all kinds of esoteric topics, as we hail from many walks of life. Many of us are wanderers, and enjoy comparing notes. For example, Fallon, who made the little Youtube about our operation, is these days biking around Mexico, doing her damnedest to pick up on more Spanish (or Mexican -- English:American :: Spanish:Mexican, sort of, when it comes to vernaculars).

Media Campaign

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Concave / Convex

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Epiphany 2011

The way I was taught, the Kings didn't show up on Xmas day, plus they weren't really Kings, more like Wizards or Magi, as in "magicians" (they knew to "read stars" and such). Of course in geological time, we don't reckon that December 25 is much more than a close-to-solstice holiday, like Saturnalia, but the fact of an interval (or memory address offset) makes sense, like the Kings wouldn't intrude right on his birthday (that'd be rude).

I've been reading the 2nd edition of Aung San Suu Kyi, Fearless Voice of Burma. I enjoy seeing mention of some of the same people I've shared a room with, such as Bishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama, also friends of each other. Bob autographed one for the elder son whom I hope to meet with someday. This was another Bhutan family (of subgeniuses?), living in Thimphu around a decade before ours did.

Congratulations to Steve Holden, who isn't thinking about his business (Holden Web), now that he's just meeting his first grandson. Some of us met at his behest at Kell's recently, to brainstorm about where the "open source" idea might be going. Portlanders are supposed to have ideas about that sort of thing, at least by reputation.

On the way to Kell's from the "taxi" I walked along with a frac gas guy going back to Arkansas (random chance meeting), where permitting isn't as controlled. Hard to frac for gas around here.

We've continued to apply "spit and polish" (as they say) to our crystal ball for geometrical concepts, a kind of test pattern for high def and stereo TV. I've posted some of the latest blueprints to the CSN "wall" (as people say in FB).

Our household is likewise scholarly (not unlike some of those I've been reading about). A "wave of Zen" seems to have swept the place, although it's still a bit rustic and maybe too dense.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2011: Day One

by dk

Ken Brown kicked it off by sharing from his mobile that 2011 is both prime and the sum of 11 consecutive primes. He doesn't give this as a reason for Mayan Y2K, which some predict for 12/21 for reasons I've forgotten.

Apocalypse Pretty Soon was interesting reading. Woolsey shows up as maybe talking about UFOs at one point. You could see how word would get out if that happened, grays talking about grays.

Ed Cherlin was praising Quakers for being closers in gray power suits, in a thread on mathfuture. I look more like Jack Abramoff when I wear my "power hat" (the one by Paul Kaufman).

Did some cleaning, checked in with family, did some equipment inspection (Kelly Kettles are pretty cool), telecommuted to work some. I was privileged to learn from one of the Python teachers about this Calculus video.

Dr. Z is continuing to represent the academic consensus. The Global U seems to be churning a lot, as "the Bucky stuff" continues to go viral on some LCDs. We call that an "upgrade" but others prefer to teach their usual business without competition. I should check that MIT webcam again.

Trevor reports that the Kabul Dome is now in Alaska. That sounds symbolic.

More on Islamic banking, micro-lending and Quakers on mathfuture, ala RSoWR and all that.

Anthony Manusos, Kathy's predecessor at Friends Bulletin (now Western Friend) was known to observe Ramadan on occasion and to write knowledgeably about Quaker-Islam relations.