Saturday, March 26, 2011

Set Design

I think it'd be way against code to trash the Blue House and replace it with a dome. You might think, as a Fullerite, that I'd be all for doing that, but as a matter of fact, I'm into preserving the historic character of the neighborhood and all this wood, as configured, is way more valuable than what it'd be in a recycling heap.

That being said, the Evaluation and Monitoring Room (aka the "control room") is going to acquire a new cover of some kind or another. Some guy plans to saw off the fence, which will make it easier to build the temporary deck atop the doomed flooring. Should a two-story movie set arise, budgeted by the film company? What about Duke's then? Our fates seem tied in some way. I've imagined a spiral staircase and metal framework, more like a fire station. LCDs and speakers, computers, screw onto poles, in a kind of minimalist system, perhaps a Home Depot product down the road, or Office Depot as the case may be.

No, I don't think a loan officer would be in the mood to underwrite such a thing, given Coffee Shops Network is already getting juice, or some business is, barely keeping the lights on (with heat intermittent in balmy Rainforest, Oregon (he says I'll need a "tiger loop")). Retrofitting "this old house" with energy monitoring devices just echoes that ever receding end-of-the-rainbow dream of a "smart house".

It's an open secret that Americans are mostly into "stupid houses" these days. The idea that each of your appliances could be held accountable: that's still considered Jetsons territory, even though the technology has been around since the 1970s at the latest. The central thesis of Idiocracy is borne out once again.

Portland Energy Strategies might be another candidate for upgrading, as well as the Pauling House. Product placement, lifestyle modeling... Californians like to showcase what's new. Oregonians have a more retro aesthetic to inject maybe, which viewers will find comforting. The "dream of the '90s" and all that, something to use as raw material anyway.

Of course this is all science fiction (aka investment banking). Any real control room involved in dispatching bizmos, say, would likely need more space. The idea of pro-actively doing useful things has its allure, versus simply "countering terrorism" or otherwise making this another "fighting the bad guys" game. CDC and FAO tend to have more mature players than those who think 24 Hours is worthwhile television. Counter-terrorism requires a steady supply of terrorists for job security. Making enemies is a full time job for many a family in WDC.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Source Photocopier

I rewatched Revolution OS last night, after a well attended FNB. Jay did a good job with those zucchini from the Blue House (prepared at St. David's). Melody gets the potatoes this afternoon, for Pink House prep.

This time I notated the time signatures where O'Reilly was mentioned or featured, as I was sharing this with OSTers, many of whom have probably seen it.

Combining the ethic of Make: and DIY, I'm envisioning a course built around an open source photocopier, meaning you may explore and experiment with it in any direction without hitting a brick wall of proprietary "eyes only" layers.

The microcode, circuit diagrams, drum architecture (if it has one), are all laid out and for free, with parts obtainable. Robotics has already taken this route, as has bioengineering. Sometimes we overlook the more mundane, yet printing machines of various description play a huge role in the workings of human societies.

How might your average city kid, male or female, of whatever "race(s)" and/or "creed(s)" avail him- or herself of said assets? Or average rural kid, or statistical outlier? There'd be these learning shops full of strategically placed products, much like is found on some university and corporate campuses today. People who already know the business get to be trainers.

I was thinking to see Inside Job this week (with Tag, Jody and/or Suzanne?), which is not about 911, but about all those people playing real estate games in airport hotel seminar rooms, being like the Werner Erhards of "get rich quick" Ponzi-like operations, all dressed up and corporate (a lot of this was post the dot com bust, another big let down for many canny investors).

When that all went away, as obviously it would, many dream bubbles burst, kind of like in Yugoslavia (more Ponzis gone wild), which became once again Balkanized. But I haven't seen the movie yet, so I'll save it for my review.

I also need to write to Nick (still in Eugene, where Rick and Cody went). Did Amber ever find her way back to Hannah's and John's?

I don't know if the University of Havana would be interested in the photocopier idea, on top of all the ice cream (another set of open source plans). Perhaps Japanese campuses already have closed source versions they'd be willing to declassify. Even if they're older models, you're building up the folk knowledge any service-oriented culture will need. Yes, of course I have my eye on the Pauling Campus, as usual.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wanderers Retreat (spring equinox)

Yet again I missed an opportunity to see the next movie after The Cup by that cool Bhutanese director. I'm not despairing though, and used the time wisely to continue my visit with Rick and Cody, whom I hardly ever get to meet.

Their visit over St. Patrick's Day ("we're back") was well timed and appreciated. I'm glad they got to meet Alex.

I spent a lot of the day with David Feinstein, a rare privilege. He vectored one of his inner circle through Pauling House, a protege working in Tri-Cities, and chalking up another in the XX column, Trish having invited her friend from yesterday, and Jessica bringing her girl.

Mostly we who show up tend to XYs, with me sometimes offering up some archetypal Athena talk (feminist?) in somewhat the Francis Bacon tradition (via Nashville).

Tara has invited Reed over to see a movie. LW, free schooler, is practicing with R2. Having "qualed for nats" Tara is looking toward Dallas, then some other American states, including south of "the border" (bell sound), Friends a factor.

Trisha wanted me to explain "Quaker" and I did an account based in the 1600s, which is around when the East India Company began. I should have talked about branches in GIT, sometimes mergings, ala this O'Reilly book I've been reading.

Yes, these are somewhat random notes for building upon later (in Facebook?). More happens on retreats than meets the eye. Glad Rick and Cody could come by Pauling House last night, to meet some of the crew.

Lots happening on the discussion list as well, though a lot of it's dino talk (antediluvian). Tara and I made Hotcake House memories, also the site of tonight's victory dinner.

Speaking of privatized military firms (what the nats were about), I'm not noticing much civilian procedure whereby another front for warfare was entered, as a fait accompli. We saw the committing of inventory and personnel without much formal legislating or even policy debate. Talk about wagging the dog...

The premise: that some phenomenon in "the Arab world" is the monster, versus some more inter-generational breakdown (more a natural process than a beast to be contained), is resulting in some miscalculations.

Why not connect more dots, in Thailand, Burma, Greece? Big cities, small countries, brimming with hopes and dreams, want more democracy, why should that be a surprise? "Passing the torch" to a next generation is not always a smooth process. Perhaps with better media, it's getting smoother?
The Academy Awards helps keep the wheels turning, as does the awarding of Nobel Prizes. David Feinstein's comments reminded me again of the importance of merit in meritocracies, often signified with bits of resume and credential. I'll have more thoughts about that another time.

For all these mixings of worlds, I'm hoping to mix them more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stewart Brand at Reed College

:: Stewart Brand at Reed College ::

Glenn and I got there way early, as I was having paranoid fantasies of lines around the block and not being able to get in to the Kaul Auditorium. Stewart Brand, co-founder of Co-Evolution Quarterly, Whole Earth Catalog, the WELL, Clock of the Long Now, with tons of other street cred, is like a superstar in my little fish pond. I was expecting most of Portland to be there.

As it was, the auditorium was comfortably capacious for the many Reed students and faculty, with a smattering of Wanderers. Don joined us closer to opening time. Those who got there early got to see this Youtube (or one very like it) which Stewart clearly found hilarious and ingenious because of the guy's inventing an English-sounding "language" (I'd just come from a Wittgenstein study group session where we discussed the "private language argument", so this seemed peculiarly apropos).

Stewart is a big picture thinker, taking a uniquely individual angle on stuff. He thinks cyber-government needs to charge the externalities of coal burning back to the coal burners (that'd be most of us), so we'll have to pay a lot more for the privilege. Cheap coal is both trashing the climate in ways that might kill us (the Venus Syndrome) while keeping competing solutions at bay.

He's finding wind power to be something of a boondoggle and favors civilian nuclear plants, including the kind that eats the nuclear weapons captured from those antediluvian criminal syndicates who still think about using them. The smaller plant designs, well under a gigawatt, would bring the power sources closer to the villages or townships.

He's pro solar, but doesn't like the idea of bulldozing thousands of acres for these vast arrays of panels. Wind farms are likewise land hungry.

Will there be fusion in our future? He's an older gray guy, so is quite aware of how long we've been hearing that hype, but he doesn't mind contributing, including by providing the voice-over for a rather elaborate cartoon about the latest ignition scheme.

On the whole, his slides and videos were top notch.

Stewart has a lot of respect and admiration for humans slogging in slums, building cities at a higher rate than ever in history. He's not dismayed by poverty, but encouraged by trends. We just need to keep harvesting that energy, without triggering a Venus Effect (ala Lovelock) and enjoy a bright future.

Energy includes biomass of course, and he's pro genetic engineering. As an open source hacker type, he takes the Freeman Dyson view that monopolistic control of biotechnology by corporations is already a thing of the past. Monsanto could go belly up tomorrow for all he cares, yet bio-engineering of new food stuffs, some with medicinal properties, is here to stay. Which doesn't mean that all applications to date have been well managed or sustainable.

Listen to those closest to the technology in question, such as farmers and foresters, he counsels -- a way of making friends and allies. He'd been a logger in Oregon in a past chapter, as well as a rock music show producer. "Loggers love the woods" he intoned. He has the sensibilities of a politician, although he's happy to pick arguments with libertarians or anyone who thinks civil servants are to blame for the world's ills.

The central question of our age, he said, is whether democracies can self-organize to the extent needed to get their ecological house more in order. The global climate conundrum is going to remain a scary source of inconvenient truths.

He likes that new variety of vitamin A rich rice (hitherto a missing ingredient), and sees anti-GMO sentimentalists as unwittingly condemning more children to blindness, as a result of the delays they'd imposed on the roll out of this genetically engineered product.

During the Q&A, many questioners took different points of view. Stewart was always happy to refer back to his sources and reading list, so we could delve more deeply and appreciate where he was coming from.

Stewart reminded me of Duane Ray, one of the Wanderers in attendance. Duane asked me if I was pro or con nuke plants and I gave a somewhat count-intuitive, counter-cultural response, practicing counter-intelligence on Americans to comical effect (Duane laughed).

The faculty member making the introduction (biology and environmental sciences department) mentioned Stewart's intelligence community connections, plus we'd heard talk of the CIA at the PPUG after-party from some guy in police work, relaying some CTO views. Stewart didn't seem at all worried about those Persian nuke plants, which currently borrow their fuel from a Russian fuel bank (library). He mentioned Valarie Plame of Countdown to Zero fame.

Stewart also thinks there's a right way to do fish farming (as well as a wrong way) and humans should let more of the wild stay wild, far less interfered with. Why eat any wild fish at all? Grow your wood crops and leave natural forests alone too. Bring back beavers. Introduce more diversity. This is his vision of how humans should live: as catalysts for nature's abundance and propensity for innovation. Accomplishing this goal requires keeping global temperature in check -- his highest priority.

Reed's campus is quite beautiful. People who get to live there must feel ultra-privileged. I don't know if its environmental sciences department has a "weapons inspector" major or course (something I've been pushing for OSU), but there is a nuclear reactor on campus.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Greetings from Philly

[a post to Synergeo, hyperlinks added ]

We're talking about Math for Mystics (book) on mathfuture. No one has mentioned Bucky, which is fortunate, as he did not consider himself a mystic (see Synergetics Dictionary). On the other hand, he was a transcendentalist, at least in my book. This doesn't constitute a belief in the "supernatural" however. Sure, he considered telepathy a reality, based on experience, but thought it would therefore become a topic for science. You find "non mystic" physics writers expressing similar thoughts, about the reality of a zeitgeist, noosphere, or shared mind (morphogenetic fields etc.). These topics should be filed as "speculative" to be sure, but it's not necessary to get all occultish about them. Fuller was not another Aleister Crowley.

I'm currently attending a meeting of the AFSC corporation, a Quaker action arm, somewhat Machiavellian in that it's all about forming alliances and networks with non-Quakers. That's what one has to do if in a small and esoteric sect (more a privilege than a burden).

I haven't met up with any SNEC people yet, but have some plans to do that tomorrow. Then the next day I fly back to Portland.

Also on mathfuture, I'm continuing to share my ideas for the emerging digital mathematics track, a multi-year conversation. In my case, I was influenced by the rise of object-oriented executable math notations (so-called "computer languages"). The idea of giving more concrete expression to "math objects" (such as rational numbers, vectors, polyhedra...) and defining their powers operationally, in terms of scripted algorithms, seemed like a "no brainer" to me. Subsequently, I encountered the resistance of the functional programming crowd, some of which are strongly opposed to "imperative" and/or "stateful" grammars.

A core "math object" (where the concept really takes off) is of course the "polyhedron". People ask where polyhedrons occur in the real world, but if you're thinking generally, then the answer is "everywhere". Any kind of container at all, from beer can, to planet, to human body, is a polyhedron in some sense. You have an inside and outside, spinnability, translatability, scalability... a rich set of ideas explored in detail in Synergetics.

Once we agree that polyhedrons make sense as paradigm "math objects", the question remains as to whether Fuller's treatment is relevant and important. My position is clear: of course it's relevant and, in fact, not mentioning this treatment in any way has gone a long way to draining the more traditional curricula of their credibility and viability. In failing to incorporate even the gist of the "concentric hierarchy", we've discovered math teaching subcultures to be mired in straitjacketing reflex-conditioning. This belies many claims of operating "logically" and/or "intelligently" (rationally). I see corruption and a lack of integrity. That's an opinion, clearly, and the countering view seems to be that Fuller's treatment lacks integrity for one reason or another. For the most part, the guardians of the status quo feel no obligation to be explicit in their defense of said status quo, as they don't see polyhedra as making a come back under any guise, let alone as avatars of some "world game" nonsense.

Those who do tend to verbalize their defense, including many who may be "pro polyhedron", tend to recite the mantra the "Fuller was a mystic" (taking me back to my opening paragraph). Somehow, teaching about the 1/24, 1/8, 1, 2.5 3, 4, 5, 6, 18.51 20 volume progression is associated with Tarot, astrology etc.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Wittgenstein (movie review)

I finally got to see this, after complaining to Alex Aris that no movie had been made of the guy's life.

"There is one" he informed me, relaying details, and a generally positive review (good leading actor).

"It's more like a play" he cautioned.

As it turns out, I was on my way to Movie Madness (on my bicycle), which specializes in hard to find videos, and there it was, a dvd filed by director Derek Jarman.

Having Ludwig's skeptical students (including Maynard and Bertie) sitting on deck chairs, like poolside, was a funny touch.

He keeps exiting stuffy Cambridge, stage left, disgusted by mediocrity and the dialed back "polite company". He goes looking for craggy cliffs more like a Fortress of Solitude, and finds them in Norway, later Ireland.

Is Wittgenstein our superman then, ready to stare down the internal self-believing solipsist?

What's harder: "egocide" (per Fuller) or "killing God" (per Heller on Nietzsche)? A question for another day perhaps.

I respected the script for working hard to communicate something of what he teaches, beyond doing a biography.

Beautiful Mind? Sort of. The scene in the Soviet Union was interesting. The play casts somewhat scary and/or disapproving women.

I liked how it starts with a young boy character and never really gives that up, ending with like a bed time story.

There, I'm reminded of A Cosmic Fairy Tale by Fuller, his Tetrascroll (a collaboration).

He goes to Russia to be a manual laborer but fails to meet the requirements.

Keynes is as important as Russell to the plot.

Then there's some guy he befriends, like a protege maybe, whom he's trying to liberate from the fly bottle (to escape academic philosophy and get a real job). He's considered a corrupting influence by academic recruiters, obviously.

Like what about the protege's parents who gave up everything to give him this opportunity? Parents hate Wittgenstein lets remember, because he was so mean to that little girl, scared her witless.

All in all, I'm reminded quite a bit of Logicomix about Bertrand Russell, in which Wittgenstein also features.

"Compare and contrast the war scenes (before he was taken prisoner) in each fictional account" could be a writing assignment.

The movie alludes to some of the scholarship: same history teacher as Hitler, with Cambridge a spies nest.

Regarding these latter rumors, you've gotta remember that McCarthyism had it's British incarnation (with "commie symps" everywhere, riddling fascist fandoms).

The comedy is understated, although Wittgenstein's thinking to kill himself because people were flipping him off with "a V sign", driving him to self doubt, is beyond hilarious (laughter too high frequency to make any noise). Thinking of Adam Bellow for some reason (yeah, son of Saul and fellow alum).

He's definitely cast within the "tormented saint" archetype (suffering from an excess of virtue), again not unlike the treatment of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (we empathize with these projected "crazies", our certified shamans).

If there's a strong word for this Wittgenstein guy, it's "abrupt" (as in "I'm moving to Ireland" or "our friendship is over") but also -- and this is what the young boy establishes -- "flamboyant" and "theatrical".

To just say "moody" is really too "broody" -- he's got an ET friend after all, and a beautiful mind.

Maybe the funniest line is at the end, delivered with Steven Wright like dead pan:

"I wanted to write a philosophy book that was nothing but jokes." Pause. "So why didn't you?" "(sigh) I didn't have a sense of humor."

Badaboom. Applause.

I told Alex I found it somehow ironic when people kept "questioning the obvious" in this film (thereby sounding philosophical) and yet the truly obvious ("this studio") is barely mentioned.

A die-hard truth-teller might want to point that out: that for all this talk of "language picturing facts in reality" these were actors in a Made for TV world (or language), with Wittgenstein himself nowhere directly depicted.

Is he not even present between the lines? OK, maybe there is some "rhinoceros in the room", but there's still no "pointing" in this direction.

"Read more Hegel? That would drive me mad" -- another throwaway from Mr. Loony Tunes himself, in response to yet another Nurse Ratchet type, who didn't like his bringing up Trotsky for some unfathomable reason.

I still can't get over the Martian (almost like a Yellow Submarine character, foreshadowing a more psychedelic future perhaps, where they / we breathe a different air?).

This jolly green ET is a private language court jester, an imaginary friend, a projected homunculus imagined since boyhood, a font of wisdom & nonsense (like an oracle) tapping into a more cosmic, more secret, sense of self.