Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Closing Keynote: USDLA

The closing keynote by Burck Smith focused on mega-trends for the future.

Non-accredited institutions are muscling in to the same teaching space occupied by accredited institutions.

Accreditation has been a kind of monopoly allowing those on the inside to keep their tuitions high.

With the falling cost of course delivery thanks to distance education, profits have been fattening for the accredited, but at high cost to students.

In the next chapter, the competition from the players outside the accredited sphere are likely to make deeper inroads into diploma space, offering certificates instead.

Monday, April 27, 2015

USDLA Keynote

Hal Plotkin, with experience in the Obama administration, is now with Creative Commons.  His abbreviated history of the copyleft movement (skipping the GNU / GPL chapter) led to this punch line:  in some scenarios, dropping proprietary content in favor of equally high qualtiy open content saves enough money to assure students get a properly equipped personal workspace to get on-line.

That's a lesson learned in the software industry a generation ago.  Perhaps the Linux / GNU chapter got skipped given Microsoft's interests in this area?  Free software and free curriculum content (free in the sense of liberated) certainly have a lot in common.

A focus of Hal's keynote was CC-by within TAACCCT, a US Department of Labor program.  We got to watch a fun little video (above) and learn about some success stories.

Translating into computerese, he's into gamification of learning e.g flight simulators for everything (chemistry etc.).  "Nobody can cheat on a flight simulator".

The geek world memes of "Ignite" (as in Ignite Portland, or and "open licenses" appear to have permeated this education world.  Several of the talks have the word "ignite" in them.

I'm here with some of my co-workers from O'Reilly School of Technology, nothing to do with the auto parts company, everything to do with publishing e.g. Safari On-line.

We got some statistics that only 7% of the world's humans have post secondary school education, but that's measured in terms of having academic degrees.

If you're like my friend Lindsey in Nepal, deeply involved in the study of Newar Buddhism, you might not have a PhD in that, yet still be highly educated.

Education and academic schoolwork are overlapping non-synonymous concepts in my book.  That might be heresy in this group, not sure (I'm a newbie).  The pro open source ignite flavored memes we're getting here are quite familiar to me however.

OSCON will be in Austin TX next year.  Portland and Austin have a lot in common.  They're both into staying weird.

The first talk I attended after the keynote was about "the four stages of SAMR" meaning Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition, an approach to giving new technology a foot in the door into course delivery.  Share PDFs with Dropbox, use a Learning Management System (e.g. Blackboard) for grading.  Basic stuff.

We're hearing a plug for Microsoft Office Mix + Powerpoint + Notepad, adding to my sense that F/OSS (free and open source software) is not a primary focus here.  "All students use Evernote or OneNote for all notes" (Powerpoint slide) -- that's Augmentation, after Substitution lets them use any app for notes.

OneNote is free as in beer at least, if not open source.  I'll first need to upgrade my OS to use it though.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Back in St. Louis

I woke up to telecommunications in Campaign Illinois, after seeing Johnny Rawls Blues Band at Iron Post, in Urbana, to learn of the devastation in Nepal, a 7.8 earthquake.

Lindsey is in the middle of the chaos.  She had taken disaster training seriously in Portland, little knowing she would confront disaster in Kathmandu Valley, in the shadow of the Himalayas.

My Altima Nissan (actually Alamo's) served me well on this trip, a jump into the future from my 1997 maxi taxi, a Maxima.   Push button start, rear view camera, comfortable and strong.  Quite and expensive piece of equipment, and I was relieved to get it back in mint condition, though with 700 plus additional miles to its credit.

I've updated some of the people who know Lindsey, and of her whereabouts, that's she's still alive.  Many were not so lucky.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spherical Trig

I've been brainstorming with my peers on math-teach about how to make spherical trig more accessible, starting with a set of tools and not staring at a lot of cryptic scripting language right off the bat.  On a sphere, the Pythagorean Theorem has a different form.

Imagine a curriculum that used a code such as:  sTem; STem; steM... to highlight which of the four domains (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) gets the most emphasis in a given Lesson Plan. Multiple letters might be highlighted.  Superimposed (stacked), the Lessons reinforce one another and build up a multi-layered surface (spherical) or system (global matrix).

The acronym STEM is perhaps peculiar to English and need not be taken too seriously.  The pun on STEAM, with A = Anthropology, seems to be one of STEM's chief values as a marketing device.  We get another bridge to the Humanities through Anthro / Animal, thereby unifying the Liberal Arts in true Trivium / Quadrivium fashion.

In Synergetics, the spherical triangle is emphatically a face of a tetrahedron with edges to the planetary center.  Saying "planet" for "system" has a somewhat Little Prince flavor.  But then we already use the word World for a namespace, as in Python World, or Python Planet (both references to the computer language, but of course Monty Python resonates as well).

My travels took me through Salt Lake City recently and I found myself reading about Pink Floyd, the pink flamingo that escaped from the zoo and lived in the wild with the other birds for a number of years.  Brine shrimp are plentiful in those lakes (a patchwork of shallow mini-lakes), though I'm not sure if that's what flamingos actually eat.  Tourists would spot Pink Floyd from time to time, but he or she drifted off and was last seen in Idaho.

Among the tools a student might use:  Google Maps and/or Google Earth for finding locations and getting their lat / long coordinates.  These might be fed to a Web resource (URL) that spits back XYZ coordinates, taking Planet Earth to be centered as some origin.  Straight line distances through the Earth's crust would correspond to chords, whereas on the surface we have geodesics or great circles.  Going from lat / long to XYZ to spherical coordinates helps us translate between data sets.

Friday, April 17, 2015


They say a generation is twenty years.  Twenty years ago I went to the Fuller Centennial in San Diego and wrote this three part series.  I'm tonight reading a partially overlapping account.

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were boomers, somewhat post beatnik which was Jack Kerouac's generation.  The two met in New York as a part of that bus trip, Leary's group the next stop.  Sometimes a Great Notion (Kesey's next novel after Cuckoo's Nest) was being released.

Pegging the time.  I was in elementary school, starting in Portland, winding up in Rome.

My generation was / is late boomer, pre Generation X.  When our group had families, those were called Yuppies (young professionals) a play on Hippies.  Various neighborhoods gentrified or whatever.  Jersey City sure took off, since my day in the early 1980s, as a high school teacher walking to work along Kennedy Boulevard.

I took my daughter to New York and Long Island City that time, to meet with Kenneth Snelson and to take in a ceremony honoring the friendship between Fuller and Isamu Noguchi, a sculptor.  Shoji Sadao was another in that crew, a workshop / studio, across from where the Noguchi Museum is today.

My mom is aiming to be in New York City by tomorrow, for only for a brief stay.  She'll be back through on her return.  I'm meanwhile soon to set out for the mid-west on company business.  My daughter is now twenty, a next generation.

The Princeton P-rade is worth catching, if you get a chance.  The classes parade in order, though with a 25th year group in front (I think is how it goes -- I was there for that one).  You see time go by really quickly, a review.  The alums get younger and younger, turning into underclassmen at the end.  I'm not sure what other universities do that.  Pretty interesting.

The "march through time" metaphor (is it a metaphor? -- seems pretty literal) is pretty cliche.  Or is it the march of time?  Whatever.  "Time is the only dimension" was one of the tropes I remember from Synergetics.  But then time and size go together.  One needs room to rattle around.

Given I was in Rome during the tumultuous 1960s, I had a somewhat different take on things than my three-years-older wife.  She had stayed in North America, mostly in the southeast, joining the Portland scene before I did.

My return to Portland, in 1985 (as I've pegged it, I hope correctly) was after my parents left Bangladesh but then moved to Bhutan, where dad continued his career as a planner / designer, now of education systems, later in Lesotho.  When my wife was hired as the bookkeeper for Center for Urban Education, I was away in Bhutan.  On a next trip, she and Alexia joined me.

Anyway, if you're curious about my autobio I've got more on file.  Check it out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Trite Math


According to the Bridges trolls, i.e. the kick-and-punch reviewers who come out from under the bridge when someone proposes to cross it, the relationship VE:Icosa :: S:E is of no conceivable import, cultural, artistic or otherwise.  So be it.  Lets call it Trite Math (Koski's coin).

VE is a remote vocabulary word in the Synergetics namespace, pioneered by the ever-lonely Bucky Fuller.  VE stands for Vector Equilibrium.

Rational ancient Greek speakers know it as the "cuboctahedron" although that suggests a solid shape, not the skeletal version with doubled radials, eight hinge-bonded unit-volume tetrahedrons, per Concentric Hierarchy lore.

That's twenty-four radial versus twenty-four circumferential vectors in Bucky's accounting system and vocabulary, hence the name "vector equilibrium" (twenty-four of each).

The shape is barely stable however, only fleetingly itself.  It Jitterbugs into an Icosahedron of equal edge lengths, the Icosa in the ratio above.  In so doing, the volume decreases from 20 (the eight tetrahedrons are volume one, six half octahedrons volume two, so 8 + 6*2 = 20) to about 18.512... (more digits).

S & E are both slivers, splinters.

The topologically minimum container in ordinary space and ordinary language, is the tetrahedron.  You don't have a volumetric "cage" with less than six edges, if constrained to constructing with sticks.  Fuller accounts volume using aggregates of these slivers, which he names:  A, B, T, E and S.

You can look them up. They have plane nets and everything. A, B and T all have the same volume (1/24).  E outweighs T by a tad, has the same shape.  S is for Skew.

So VE:Icosa :: S:E is a volume thing.  David Koski has been playing with these blocks and making lots of discoveries.  Low hanging fruit (i.e. trite fruit) is plentiful in this 4D domain.

Lets do it in Python:

e3 is simply Evol shrunk by 1/phi i.e. all edges are .618... of what they were, with volume decreasing as 3rd power of that amount.  Edges:Area:Volume grow and shrink in a 1, 2, 3 powering relationship when a shape changes size (duh).

I agree this is all pretty easy and accessible, which in some circles is a mark of inferiority, of triteness.

[ The fact that floating point numbers have noise digits on the end owing to base conversions etc. may be off-putting to "real numbers" fans. ]

Cliché Math we could call it. Cut and Paste Math.

Speaking of which, the source code for studying the above modules is available here on edu-sig.

The source to render the above graphic is also available, but you'll need the free / open source POV-Ray ray tracing engine to get the final result.

Rejected, too-trite and/or incomprehensible papers:
Bridging XYZ and IVM Volumetric Accounting Systems with the Square Root of 9/8 by Kirby Urner
Revisiting R.B. Fuller's S & E Modules by David Koski

Sunday, April 12, 2015

POV: A Game of Fetch

POV = Point of View.  In this case, provided by a DJI Phantom Vision+ 2.

Starring Seuss the dog, Les piloting, Elise and Kirby as backup ball throwers.

:: the quad-copter ::

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Wanderers 2015.4.7

:: paying myself $30 plus postage ::

Barry is talking about needed reforms in the capital games tax, talking about day trading, after the capital gains period, eating your losses etc. etc..  He's a retired banker, but those around the table aren't that as financially savvy necessarily.

I think a state should expect commitment of time and energy in lieu of taxes or as a type of taxes.  You get a job with the government where presumably there's value added as a result of your performance.

Barry doesn't like the corporate personhood movement, also known as Voodoo Economics whereby inanimate objects (corpses, corporations) gain personhood (souls).  It's a kind of legal fiction, or science fiction that's serious enough to govern role playing in some subcultures.

A government could run hotels, rental car depots, a bunch of tourist related stuff.  It does so now, in the guise of its military, but what about civilian bases, more like Disneyland than Mordor?  There's no shortage of stuff for people to do, as committing some percent of their aliveness to serving the greater good.

The so-called 1% would stereotypically want to exempt itself from government service as they're wanting to party in penthouses and not maintain mountain trails.  Not everyone is equally able.  One could have a monetary way of playing the taxes game, but also this other way, like joining the military but the civilian correlate.

At one point I was suggesting Girl Scouts as the model, with abandoned bases in the Philippines as my backdrop.  I'd been to Clark AB pre Pinatubo so knew how a base might double as a civilian campus, or be converted into one, more like a university, less like a prison.  War is unfreedom to the max.

Christine is asking questions, as Barry continues talking about stocks and IPOs.  Insiders can't sell their shares right away.

When people give to charity they get credit sometimes.  Their profile is updated.  However the government takes the glory for how taxes are spent.  Were individual role playing the currency, bleeping over the importance of individuals would be harder.  People complain USAers are "too individualistic".  Maybe that really is not the problem.

You want to be a star, a celebrity, and how do your taxes help you achieve that?  Does the government give you fifteen minutes of fame?  Are you able to make movies?  In some cases yes, taxes get used for that.  But how many filmmakers get to serve the greater good as their way of pulling their weight?  Don't we waste talent by not letting them?

Some from the art side struck up a side conversation on Zombie Jesus, another circulating comic meme.  Warning:  not everyone has a sense of humor where Jesus is concerned.  More of a Gnostic thing maybe?