Monday, December 15, 2014

AFSC Office Party

:: Portland AFSC Office Party, December 15, celebrating new digs ::

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Good Bye Blue Butterfly

I'm a peripheral character in the Blue Butterfly story.  Glenn has played a more than cameo role in the maintenance department, helping bring the house across from New Seasons, a few doors down from Pauling House, up to salable condition.

Michael, the owner, has pipelined artifacts from Indonesia, Bali, Southeast Asia more generally, to his color store, which has been in operation in different places along Hawthorne for some thirty years.

Michael's son operates the Alhambra Theater down the street and together they staged a blow out, complete with hundreds of slides and two bands, the second of which featured two tubas amidst its all brass (and a guitar) ensemble.

I enjoyed the whole show and an grateful for the service and dedication of the Blue Butterfly enterprise.  Michael will be moving to Indonesia, is my understanding.

Our neighborhood is somewhat a gateway to Asia, with women especially going for "sherpa chic" as their look (warm, fuzzy, lots of knits).  Some WDC goons called Portland "Little Beirut" awhile back, but I think "Little Lhasa" is far more apt, and alliterates better.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Big Hero 6 (movie review)

I was under the misapprehension that this was the 6th in some Big Hero franchise, not understanding the 6 referred to "how many" on what eventually becomes a superhero team, with shades of The Incredibles -- and a touch of Scooby Doo.

The unification of Nipponese and US cultures ala Disney is a pure synergy and helps feed the premise that IQ knows no upper limit.

Asia connotes technical brilliance to Pacific Rim folks and this movie is all about being a nerdy genius in a peer group that supports full expression of same ala Johnny Neutrino.

The movie is also about compassion and empathy (qualities in shorter supply).

The world we get is more Zero Theorem in flavor, though minus the existential concern with a global apocalypse.  The villain has specific targets.  In general the future looks bright for these folks.

I thought the Disney people did a really fine job on this one.  I'm glad kids are seeing it.

The world we see is very close to ours, but more utopian.  Recent near future science fiction ala Bladerunner has usually gone the other way:  the near future is darker than our time, with Japan a source of fascination.

Here's a breath of fresh air then.  Japan is still a focus, but in a non-threatening, non-darkening way.

Watching this next to Penguins of Madagascar was an interesting experience.  Both feature teams acting in concert, tightly coordinated, against a loner villain.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

ISEPP Lecture Series 2015: Kick Off

I use the term "kick off" advisedly as there was rumoredly a football game of some import that night, involving Oregon.  How nerdy would Portlanders prove to be, forsaking live witnessing a ball game to attend a lecture on the ball game crazies of this hemisphere:  the Maya?

Plenty nerdy it turned out.  We packed the place, and Dr. William Suturno "regaled us with stories" as my late wife Dawn would have said.  She loved this lecture series too, which has been going a long time thanks to Terry, with a little help from his friends (lots of co-sponsors).

This may well be our last season after a record-setting run.  I've benefited greatly in my education.  These blogs are richer for the write-ups I've been privileged to record.

Anyway, back to 800 AD or so, these Maya had a steady integer uptick like our Julian Date in Python, i.e. some enormous number of days going back to some mythic beginning, inside of which was their time and space.

The days were then demarcated with the periods of the astral bodies, including Mars and Venus, with no confusion about the latter being two bodies (it's not).  They were big fans of 20s for grouping groups, with 360 in there too.  The ceremonial overlay, like our weeks, persists to this day but without the planetary knowledge.

Mayan architecture involved carefully modeling buildings to match up with world lines, like where the sun got furthest north and south.  Humans have perennially spontaneously organized around such phenomena and we know birds use a lot of the same information.  Brains have to earn their keep somehow as they're expensive in terms of blood and oxygen.

Humans lug around big ones and have proved superb at mapping the cosmos with it, starting with seasonal periodicity and the cycles on which life quite literally depends, whether you're agriculturally based or hunting and gathering (or both or neither).

The Mayan civilization was highly successful and when a system winds down we need to avoid that reflex of thinking that's always some dire "collapse" as if we all wept when DOS 3.1 was retired, or Windows of the same version.  These were but passing chapters in our upgrade to tomorrow, the Omega God of the Jesuit branch headed by Teilhard de Chardin.

One might spin it this way too:  "you've got to admit it's getting better" (Beatles).  People outgrow themselves and move on, and it's not a big disaster.

He had some digs at Jared Diamond's Why Civilizations Choose Collapse (not the real title) for what he considered its fanciful spinning of just so stories in some cases.  Moralizing should not shove science in the back seat, even if one agrees with the basic message (that mismanagement will have consequences).

I always enjoy it when ISEPP speakers allude to or speak to the work of others who've been through here, as chances are I've got some personal experience to dredge up and rethink.

The rats are what got 'em on Easter Island says Saturno.  They eat all the seeds.  It wasn't so much willful mismanagement as an outbreak of infection.  Civilizations die, get over it (doesn't mean they were suicidal or pathological).  Like, so we don't get to play the game with the big heads anymore, drat those rats, lets sail away (Enya).

As an archeologist with a large time horizon, one can see feeling like that.  "Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky" (Kansas).

The highlight of Saturno's talk was the unearthing of a new find and the reconstructed paintings therein (painstaking work for sure), and what they tell us about this Mayan heyday.

The exact nature of the institution is unknown at this point, but clearly lots of calendar stuff, the same as what went in the books (they had paper from way back), was written on the wall over and over, like a whiteboard.

The sense of getting access to a retired hard drive or IT room was palpable.  This is where the torch got passed somehow, but will we ever know much more?

 :: william saturno, archeologist ::

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

About Smartphones Again

Smartphones are so smart these days they're going senile.  Leave it to our really smart devices to start showing the same symptoms of aging as we do.  Or is it aging?  The ability to pile up cruft, creating fruitless entanglements, is an ability we have at any age.  The solution:  a reboot at some level, or upgrade to the next smartphone.

However, upgrades are expensive especially when not per plan, so in the interim, a new profession, that of psychotherapist for those breaking up with their phones and needing to fall in love again.

Clearly I'm likely thinking of some more specific experience, such as my Razr flagging under the weight of Aviate or whatever it is.  I'm not wanting to point fingers, or engage in a battle of hardware (Motorola) versus software people.  I'm simply confirming that I'd be eligible for a visit to said shrink, were insurance (through Verizon?) to cover it.

Actually Aviate expanded my horizons quite a bit in that checking in on Facebook, as a way of adding to "the chronofile" (generic word for personal timeline and/or profile -- inheriting from RBF's lexicon) became that much more convenient that I'd do it just for fun.

I checked in from Union Station, Tabor Cafe, Hophouse on Hawthorne, Lucky Lab (right?) and many others.  If James Joyce had had Swarm in Dublin, what might he have done with it?

When your smartphone starts spouting Finnegans Wake in response to your Asking Google or whomever you speak with, that's probably a sign you're ready for that upgrade, or some therapy.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What is a Proof, Really?

[ original thread ]

On Sat, Nov 29, 2014 at 11:12 AM, Joe Niederberger wrote:
<< SNIP >>

> Finally, I'm happy to accept your chess problem as mathematical. Frankly, I
> don't know what a survey on that question, given to working mathematicians,
> would turn up. And, any mathematically acceptable way of arguing it would
> have to be logical in my opinion. (If you have an illogical approach that
> is also mathematical I'd be fascinated to hear about it.)
> Cheers,
> Joe N

I think we mostly agree. Criteria apply.

A proof is not a recipe nor even algorithm.

An algorithm tends to have proofs in the background, to back it up as it were, e.g. we make use of V + F = E + 2 in some step in a computer program, e.g. we get E from V + F - 2, but then why is it safe to get E in this way?

In the background: Euler's Theorem for Polyhedrons and the many proofs thereof, my favorite probably the one by G. K. C. Von Staudt:

[ however this is not my favorite forumulation of it; that would be in Peter Cromwell's Polyhedra, cite ]

The other thing I'd say is: lets not go overboard in assuming some finite roster of individuals tagged as "mathematician" truly owns or controls or governs the discipline and shared heritage we loosely call mathematics ("loosely" because anything tighter would be clearly too tight and therefore outright wrong).

Innovations come in from left field all the time e.g. most naturally from closely neighboring disciplines, and those self-identifying as official spokespersons for mathematics, i.e. mathematicians, must scramble to keep their background cosmetically acceptable i.e. the pros keep it looking professional, add the right panache (sometimes a little lipstick on the pig is all one needs).


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Global Data Revisited

So where's the math in all this?

We clearly need better and more reliable global data.

However I'm skeptical that partitioning the world up into a jigsaw puzzle and collating by "nation" is an at all useful way to be measuring humanity's progress or lack of same.

The UN has to do it that way, for political reasons, but supranationals like Google (or some hypothetical Global Data Corporation) would not need to present and/or visualize global data in those obsolete terms.

More context:
Reply to Israeli Knight (math-teach, Nov 25 2014)
The Mapparium (Feb 09 2005)
FAQ:  What is Global Data?
Checking Global Data

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dear White People (movie review)

I'd deliberately avoided reading any reviews so wasn't sure what to expect.  I drove to within a half mile of Cinema 21 and loped a lot of the way, not wanting to miss even previews.  I got there on time.

The film is set in a somewhat timeless world called "college", not the real world at all.  Obama and current events get cursory mention, but Sam (a girl) is using a 1950s style Bell & Howell looking movie camera that helps catapult us back to some other time.  The college president is straight out of MAD.

The most disturbed individual is the shy-teased guy with the Afro, way out of style.  He's the first to break glass and turn the scene violent.  He destroys property, expensive stuff.  Then he sexually assaults another guy.

Everyone else is relatively mature and touchy issues of racism and classism are dealt with without violence.  College is a cerebral place and these kids are a brainy bunch, especially Choco or whatever she goes by, the ghetto girl from Chicago.

The anti-racists get to be segregationists as Black Pride is just another form of professional elitism and deserves its own circle in the Venn Diagram of "things to be".  The college administration had been trying to randomize "blackness" out of existence but disrupting memes-with-inertia is even harder than disrupting genes, as to accomplish the latter you just need condoms, as these students appear to comprehend.

My university had houses for social clubs like this one and we were expected to intelligently work through differences.  A Third World Center and a Womens Center helped add balance, plus the particular house I lived in junior and senior years, 2 Dickinson Street, was about balancing some of the more conservative houses.  Ours was in favor of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) against apartheid in South Africa for example.  My roommate for a time was editor of the Daily Princetonian.

The college portrayed in this movie seems a lot less in touch with the real world than Princeton, and more stuck in a time warp, but that's fiction for ya.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gender Again

:: gender tweets ::

For further reading:
Gender Wars

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wanderers 2014.11.13

:: steve holden ::

Steve delivered a well-received and attended presentation on The Impostor Syndrome, perhaps a syndrome he made up, but then I haven't Googled it yet.

He was using the Wanderers format to best advantage: prototyping a talk he might give someday, and getting behind the scenes, before you go on stage feedback. He took notes as feedback was freely offered.

This being an early morning crowd, buzzed on coffee, we chimed in with a lot of witticisms.  I liked Steve's "I was gonna write my paper on the Stockholm Syndrome but I think I'd rather stay with my new friends."

Dave DiNucci of NASA background was present and avidly following the comet landing story.  We were in the suspenseful moments before knowing for sure whether the landing module had actually managed to arrive at its surface destination.

Steve naturally traced the syndrome back to childhood first experiences, and recommended what we might do in adulthood to counter some of the more hampering habits of mind.

Steve's track record rivals Terry's in some ways, of being able to deliver public events.  That's apples and oranges really as the lecture circuit and conference venues are different sides of the business.  Just saying:  both have been highly successful, and those are only tips of the iceberg in both cases.

Steve was also a chairman of the Python Software Foundation and continues to teach classes as well as mentor newer teachers in many IT-related topics.

However, as I discovered at Princeton and many other places since, one will continue to be astounded by neighbors and random strangers with skills one doesn't have, like at a circus.

Sometimes the Impostor Syndrome might mean feeling less good at being human than say some role model or super type, some example.

Anyway looking up to others is healthy.  I'm not one to say "putting so-and-so on a pedestal" is always a bad idea.  I've got people on pedestals everywhere I look; kinda "sepulchral" as Ed Applewhite might have said.