Thursday, December 29, 2005

What's an Urner?

Insignia of Kanton Uri, Switzerland
(use permitted by GFDL)

The name Urus, plural Uri, with the Greek forms oupos ouot originally designated a species of wild mountain ox that was common among the higher Alps. So a free definition of the word Urner might be, "a dweller in the land of the mountain ox."*

* Geneology of the Urner Family by Isaac N. Urner, Clinton, Mississippi, 1893, revised and updated by Barbara Urner Johnson, Bakersfield CA, 1996, pg. 37 (I'm mentioned in a bio of my parents, pg. 242). Library of Congress Catalog Card Number : 96-78942.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

BuckyWorks Ten Years Later

:: 1996 ::

In
Brainstorming on BuckyWorks
I dreamed of
high tech ecovillages,
relief bases, retreat centers,
alternatives to corporate cube farms.

My initial emphasis was on
high turnover scenarios,
such as we experience in:
timeshares,
hotels,
and
college campuses.

:: 2006 ::

Hypothesis:
instead of designing a bright future,
would-be futurists
are still fighting ghosts
of the last millenium.

In my view,
fighting the nightmares you fear
is far less effective
than dreaming up tomorrows
worth expending some energy to achieve.

The USA didn't get a superhighway system
simply by scaring itself silly.

Work for, not against,
or you risk wasting your opportunity
to make any real difference in this life.

That has the flavor
of a New Year's resolution,
doesn't it?

I plan to take my own advice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

In the News

The Dome Village folks need to move on, the rent on their patch (somewhere in LA) having gone sky high. I've been in touch with LEK recently, the company behind some of those domes. I'd think we could use similar high tech in the vicinity of Cape Town.

In addition to the FEMA trailers, several shelter-focused NGOs are working the tent and dome angle, which is all to the good, as more disasters are likely. Expanding the range of response options is what anticipatory design science is all about.

Grunch continues seeding the Math Forum with its preferred curriculum ideas. There's nothing to say private industry can't have a voice in shaping our shared future -- especially when it's a future that'd be of substantial benefit to the average human.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Commercial Break


A proud sponsor of this blog:
Global Data Corporation

Saturday, December 24, 2005

King Kong (movie review)

King Kong is a venture into the skulletarium, as my friend Gene Fowler might put it. We're warned in advance that science / engineering (the other side of C.P. Snow's chasm) is not in control. Some discontinuities appear deliberate: swept away in the river, then dry?; where'd the natives go?; how'd they get the ape on the boat?

It's a film, see, inheriting from theater before it. So check your literal rational machine world mind at the door. This ain't no Jurassic Park. This is a feast for the unfettered imagination, supported with the best our high tech has to offer. Dino pile!

The injections of vaudeville and burlesque are likewise by design, as is the veneer of faux depth, atop the real depth of strong storytelling. I caught so many intentional Hollywood cliches: scenes of the boiler room; feral boy with mentor turns sharp shooter; pied-piper movie-maker loses his way, improvs a thin cheese, including a final line (no truer than anything else he's said).

So whose dream is this, whose skull are we in? Is our girl undergoing intensive regression therapy? Is our writer rescuing his feminine soul from the collective bug-infested Jungian unconscious? I had to admire Kong as technology, completely adapted to his world, winning a victory for mammal and ape consciousness, with whom we share a bond.

Arrogant city people, impressed with their machinery, their airplanes, don't really have their own economy together. There's this superficial consciousness here, so unsatisfyingly hollow compared to our primal one. Kong is the fitter species, in so many dimensions (no, I'm not jealous; hey, let's do a love triangle).

Our girl moves beyond fear with Kong, because he's so at home in Universe. Even when outside his private enclave, he follows his intuition and soon knows the score. He sets her down gently, knowing he's doomed -- and that he's found his friend again (she's real in both worlds).

Kong is no dummy.

So maybe the dream was his?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Solstice Party (Wanderers)

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this gathering, Sol Day, 2005, officially where the sun reaches its southernmost drift vis-a-vis my current private sky coordinates, or where we're at this extreme in orbit around Sol (the sun, one possible proper name for her), and have the northern pole maximally tilted away, creating a sunny, shining climate in places like Cape Town, where I've enjoyed some happy days.

So far, I've invented this rule: a Wanderers solstice party should have nonhumans invited. I was thinking how David, Rick and I all have dogs, plus there're more pets out there. Not that we should turn the place into a menagerie. Just have one or more selected delegates or representatives from the nonhuman kingdom (which kingdom Wanderers forever respect, appreciate, hope to learn from).

In that sense, we'd be proud to be monkeys: as sisters and brothers to the great apes, because they, like we, have to survive here, on a wonderful planet. There's simply no shame in that. And no, I haven't seen King Kong yet, just read about him flipping through Willamette Week, in the East Broadway McMenamins.

We want to save it for them too (the so-called "beasts"); we respect that it's not just for us. This teaching is embedded in the Nativity Scene. Baby Jesus loved animals (including goats, yes), and never changed his mind. He pointed to them as examples to emulate sometimes.

Somehow, sin is for Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve to worry about (this tendency to blame snakes is symptomatic of the condition (Nietzsche: so resentful, these humans)). Maybe it's some Machine World thing. The denizens of Narnia can't know about it (never having "exited" the Wardrobe). The IQ merely defends against it (humanity might be disloyal to deep magic: let's test).[1]

Only Aslan seems to have been around the block a few times (he wanders on up the beach, maybe to enjoy a transit strike somewhere, make a movie).

God to humans: don't destroy my planet. Humans to God: mixed reaction, but mostly yes, sir! (as if God trained Marines for breakfast).

We're still here at least. That's something.

Must we say "sir!"? Not in my book. Some might salute a female icon. Yes, idolatry comes into it, pretty much inevitably. Idolotry: love of dolls -- a sin that defines us.

Part of our job: to make it safe for dogs to be dogs here (nothing more, nothing less). We lose some, but let's not plan on being too abusive, OK? Same goes for other cast members. No torture allowed.

And so: Sarah (our dog) got to prance around in the party space for a bit, just during setup (Jon Bunce showed up with musical instruments). Then she was gone. Our smiley dog exits, cheerful in disposition, glad to have had a moment on stage with the rest of us.

[1] IQ = Ice Queen, Narnia's counterintelligence chief. See my Narnia analyses of earlier this month for more info.

America Reboots

Well, it's the middle of the night; lots of people in tough service jobs hard at work.

I've realized the codebase is more corrupt than I'd thought. Overinstalling hasn't resolved the deeper problems, so over the next few days I'll be taking more radical measures (but not boring my blog readers with too much nitty gritty).

Of course the analogies with the bigger picture haven't escaped me. Overhauling democracy ain't easy, yet doing so is a necessary investment in our shared future. So it's a good thing we're in the land of the free, home of the brave, no?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big Foot Strikes

I find it somewhat ironic hearing all these Capitol Hill lawyers screaming about the NSA's domestic spying, when they've looked the other way for years as Obnoxico pours spyware and malware into our computers. North Americans are the most spied upon people in the world I'll wager.

Like some 11 year old is going to read all the fine print before downloading a "free" copy of Yeti Bubbles -- gimme a break. Five minutes later, the computer is compromised, reporting back to HQ about pages visited, triggering popups and who knows what all.

How many happy campers, receiving a new PC this Christmas, are going to get bogged down in viral hell within days? Millions of trojan horses are chomping at the bit even now, eager to charge down the throats of those poorly protected, clueless "what's a firewall?" consumers. Merry Christmas, suckers!

We need more serious-minded protection against unscrupulous predators of all kinds in this country. While the politicians scare us with their "terrorist threat" jabber, they're in the meantime letting the sharks have their way with us (hey, whatever it takes to pay the bills, right? -- campaigning is very expensive).

On the other hand, it's a little sad to see the FBI thrust aside so unceremoniously, by some supposedly sexier eagle shield agency. Most of these domestic threats don't require heavy-duty code breaking, unless you count all those license agreements and other tiny print crapola the lawyers legally bury us with, and then offer to help shovel us out from under -- for only $300/hr (cheap).

OK, so I'm writing from a biased state. Against my better judgment, I downloaded Yeti Bubbles last night, wanting to play some games with my daughter (I should have just stuck with addictinggames.com). Now I'm in the throes of reinstalling Winsock on my main machine -- and blaming Congress for not protecting me from my own stupidity.

OK, sorry guys -- you can go back to enriching yourselves now, as this was just another pointless citizen outburst (maybe I should write a letter to the editor (snicker)). Ya'll can go back to whining about the NSA, which apparently cares more about the sorry state of our public education system than you do.

Later that same day:

So I reinstalled XP (twice = two activations), yet still had to hand enter a static IP (DHCP not working, why?) along with Qwest DNS servers.

I phoned Don to vent a bit (thanks guy, Meliptus rocks), posted an education-related comment to a Forum @ BFI, read Joe Clinton's Christmas letter about his intelligent grand kids, and the recent SNEC event in NYC.

We've sent out probably about fifty Xmas letters so far (not really counting) -- my parents used to do hundreds, likewise to a multinational cast.

Dawn and Tara went shopping, bought a lot of owl-related stuff (Dawn's leading a workshop in January, her group to focus on Owl Medicine).

I advocated seeing King Kong this afternoon, but Tara vetoed -- I shouldn't have warned her about the giant bugs.

Anyway, I need to download and install a bunch of patches from Microsoft, now that connectivity has been re-established, plus reinstall the driver for my Santa Cruz sound card, which I've been quite happy with. Done!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Wolf Medicine

(multiple sources)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

More TV Talk

As made clear on the DVD (special features), Buffy the Vampire Slayer is now fair game for UCLA and Berkeley type schools, interested in exploring perennial themes via "TV literature" (which'd make sense in California, where high level TV literacy is greatly prized).

So here I am, a wannabee UCer, filing my PhD thesis in American Literature, about why I found the resolution so satisfying. Stop reading if you're anxious to keep the ending hidden (same with Huck Finn or any good yarn -- open source doesn't mean you have to know).

Buffy's chief source of suffering is her "one and only" status as The Slayer, which means it's up to her to show leadership in the face of trully daunting odds (lots of mirror imagery). But she intuits that her own Messiah-hood is a pitfall, a weakness that plays into the hands of her enemy (The First).

Buffy asks herself how this "one slayer at a time" bottleneck ever came about in the first place. With that question, she realizes she and her friends have the freedom and resources to spread the slayer function more widely, per a democratic model. Willow finds this a nifty exercise and deftly executes the maneuver. The charge goes to women, mostly. The First seemed rather deeply misogynistic, so that makes sense too (forewarned is forearmed).

Our little party is still on a magic school bus when it's all over (an eternal return to the beginning, another turn in the spiral); more adventures lie ahead (in Cleveland?). And yes, good people have died: Anya gets to explore her humanity more deeply (a privilege she seems curiously excited about, despite our obvious stupidity) and Spike goes out in a blaze of glory (literally), his soul saved just as surely.

Like I said, a satisfying ending. We watched it as a family on the upstairs Sony, renting from Netflix.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More Accounting

I reupped as grunch.net domain owner, having got it going in synch with Fuller School syllabus materials, i.e. Bucky's Grunch of Giants forecasts a potentially benign world livingry service industry. I added a little more science fact to his science fiction. A lot of us did, in various interesting ways. Dawn just got the confirmation back to her inbox @ Qwest.net.

Dawn is scheduling another bookkeeping appointment, where she goes to the client and operates client bookkeeping systems. I'd like to provide her with better VPN, to take some stress off the Subaru, but mainly to help us get more mobile. So much of our work involves telecommuting already.

Got a snailmail from Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) asking for a W-9 (they likely have it by now). AOI is one of my clients: membership is managed using a client-server VFP program, featuring a tabbed GUI with the member home page showing up in the rightmost tab, courtesy of a canned Microsoft ActiveX object. That's only if the member has supplied AOI with an URL for its database -- having a web presence is certainly not a requirement for membership AFAIK.

We have two memorial services to attend today: I'll be with the Martins, celebrating the life of Roberta, while Dawn will join Elise in celebrating Gordon, Elise's dad.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Charter School Approved

Per a story by Paige Parker in today's Metro section of The Oregonian, the board of directors for Portland Public Schools has approved the Koreducators proposal to create the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Charter High School in northeast Portland. Wanderer Don Wardwell and I attended the meeting, as did like a hundred other Koreducator supporters, many with children. The board had earlier denied this proposal, with some board members absent.

Nirel almost came, as she's back to doing her big budget video documentary on the future of public education, but her batteries were low, plus we'd been unable to produce a tripod. So we left her and Jules at Jake's Grill, where we'd enjoyed the crowded happy hour (1/2 lb. cheeseburgers for only $1.95!). But we needn't have rushed. The board had many hours of business to attend to before it got around to taking a second look at the charter school proposals.

Jules, just old enough to legally drink beer, is a big Neal Stephenson fan and is close to finishing the Baroque Cycle. He's also a fan of Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) and Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen). He encouraged us to catch the latter's interview with Pat Buchanan (clip).

I've flagged the new Koreducator school as a potential asset on in-house company maps (as has Coca-Cola). The emphasis on entrepreneurship might dovetail well with Portland's growing reputation as an open source capital. New talent has to come from somewhere. Why not from northeast Portland?

Monday, December 12, 2005

IQ Test


"relative volumes"
(Python + POV-Ray)

  • Tetrahedron: fills space with octahedron; inscribes in the cube as face diagonals; self-dual; 24 A mods; same volume as coupler = 8 MITEs (MITE = 2 A mods + 1 B mod).

  • Cube: space-filler; inscribes in the rhombic dodecahedron as short face diagonals; dual of octahedron; same volume as six half-couplers (24 MITEs).

  • Octahedron: fills space with tetrahedron; inscribes in the rhombic dodecahedron as long face diagonals; dual of cube; 48 A mods + 48 B mods.

  • Rhombic Dodecahedron: space-filler; the domain of each ball in the closest-packing arrangement below (CCP); dual of the cuboctahedron; volume of twelve half-couplers (six couplers).


3-frequency cuboctahedral packing
(92 + 42 + 12 + 1 = 147 balls)


Followup:
Kirby's address to alumni (Math Forum, Dec 16, 2005)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

More About Narnia

The four Pevensie children, destined to rule Narnia from four thrones, might be construed as a tetrahedron, a minimal system of six two-way relationships (we get dialog along every edge).

Whereas the Ice Queen had many opportunities to kill Edmund, thereby spoiling the prophecy, her job is to test the competence and readiness of the whole system, which is why she's so keen to net the other three and to engage all in battle.

No child vertex is as yet a whole adult, though as a system they're already internalizing parental functions and beginning to assume adult powers. They're in full retreat from a nightmare world, a city under bombardment wherein the grownups have clearly failed at some deep level. The kids are thrown back on their own devices, to cocoon and transmogrify within a fabulously optimized pre-machine scenario. The wardrobe is an alchemist's crucible.

To be frozen is to be paralyzed, stopped in one's tracks along one's inward path. The IQ presides over a world in stasis. However, the minute the children show up, her ruthless / heartless dominion begins melting (shades of Oz). Aslan and Father Christmas befriend humanity, urging him/her to take heart and keep growing.

Meanwhile, the IQ prosecutes the case that humans are unworthy and destined to fail. Edmund provides some evidence the Queen will win, as do the disloyals wielding outward weapons -- bombers etc. -- running amok in Machine World outside, endangering it, betraying the trust of future generations.

Narnia provides enough mythic grist for the mill to enable swift computation, and the children munch through a lifetime of testing in a hurry, emerging in the relative blink of an eye, having trully sampled young adulthood and proved to themselves (the ones most in need of proof) that they're indeed ready for prime time (or will be when the time comes).

Anyway, that's all this particular wardrobe / simulator was designed to provide. This first Narnia fantasy was a dead end eventually, as our foursome had no human otherness to bounce off. Susan is cut out to do more than chase stags for a living. Game over, we've won.

In the process of forging themselves into a true pattern integrity, the humans developed an awareness of synergy (Aslan: wild, surprising, unpredictable), but how this new awareness will unfold is for stories to come.

At any rate, the professor's job is done. The children have been healed.

Chronicles of Narnia, LWW (movie review)

The Narnia books were important to me as a kid. I was hooked on this first one by my teacher at the Junior English School in Rome -- she read it aloud to our class. This movie refreshed (and replaced) a lot of boyhood fantasies. I credit C.S. Lewis for piquing my curiousity about Turkish Delight (not a bad treat as it turns out).

Now that I'm older, it's the Ice Queen herself I went gaga over -- brilliantly cast. Paradoxically, her DNA seemed the closest to human of any in Narnia. I confess I was sorry to see her taken out.

The IQ's general, a bovine, I took as symbolic of the ancient cults of a more Minoan flavor, the ones that worshipped, danced, fought, and traded with bulls (like some still do in Spain). I agree that lions and big predatory cats in general are prettier and probably more worthy as religious idols (although they're less convenient as food).

I was glad to see the forces of good included fauns and centaurs. Lots of Christians want to purge the ranks of any goat-like or even horse-like creatures, given some effective Church propaganda of ages past. Humans have come a long way overcoming their racism, but still harbor beaucoups bigotry against so many in the animal kingdom.

Mr. Tumnus, who looks very Pan-like and plays a mean set of pipes, only flirts with being evil out of fear of the secret police. Edmund is likewise more clueless and mean than outright bad. The IQ gets both amateur disloyals in her dungeon per job description. She didn't write the deep magic, just knows the code really well (Aslan didn't write it either, but is an even deeper reader).

The wolves seemed the most evil, what with their snarly American accents and all (not that the entire dog family was implicated). Maybe the chief wolf was someone the IQ could snuggle with. She had a tough and lonely job and now that I'm older, I can more empathize with that.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Science Fair



Tara won third place for her popcorn experiment. Her hypothesis proved incorrect, but that's not a bad thing in science. Finding and fixing errors in thinking is the name of the game.

A goal, and a skill, is to propose testable ideas, such that experiment brings one closer to an answer, perhaps by suggesting additional experiments.

Science is also about dreaming up streamlining heuristics which organize what's known into mnemonic devices (e.g. search engines), facilitating faster lookup and application. Or maybe that's more the job of engineering?

In any case, knowledge is more valuable when it's retrievable when and where you need it. A lot of good science gets buried and/or ignored, only to be rediscovered much later. That's wasteful.

Science also gets locked away by those hoping to use it to private advantage -- or maybe just to keep competitors from using it.

One reason Bucky was such a control freak regarding his intellectual property was to frustrate bureaucracies, public or private, that might wish to keep it secret.

By retaining the freedoms and privileges of ownership, Fuller was able to pioneer an open source strategy on behalf of omnihumanity.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Incomprehensible?


A & B modules by Richard Hawkins
(SGI workstation, early 1990s)

Through 2005, Americans were still complaining that USA Medal of Freedom winner R. Buckminster Fuller wrote "indecipherable" poetry and prose.

Academics ridiculed his propensity to invent new shoptalk, even as specialists continued to multiply the number of technical terms within their respective disciplines. For some reason these A and B modules (each 1/24th the volume of the reference tetrahedron) were just too arcane, too esoteric, to merit further mention.

A simple approach to polyhedra, using lots of wholesome whole numbers, embedding them within a lattice well-known to scientists (crystallographers especially), got shelved by the math and science educators, as either too difficult or too trivial, depending on which audience was hearing the excuse.

This all seemed pretty lame to me. I called for a Math Makeover and suggested students might want to exercise some civil disobedience or employ other non-violent tactics, given their heritage as Americans was being denied them (like many of my generation, I was inspired by the civil rights movement).

On Tuesday, December 6, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) recycled an old video about fractals (a good one, starring Arthur C. Clarke) as a part of its fundraising campaign. I didn't send any money. I felt my patriotic duty was to keep advocating for a more intelligent, less recycled, public discourse.

From my point of view, Americans couldn't really understand their own history (and didn't) minus at least some passing familiarity with the contributions of this great 20th century American philosopher. Our TV-intensive culture hadn't yet devised an effective way of sharing the info, not even on Sesame Street. I used this blog, other venues, to brainstorm possible remedies, investing most of my hopes in a new kind of Reality TV, one in which the stars actually did something useful for a change.

Entering middle age (I'm 47), I was aghast at the level of intellectual squalor my peers seemed to find tolerable. But then, I'd never pretended Bucky was too hard to understand, at least not the easy parts. I didn't go to Princeton for nuthin I guess. At Princeton, we'd read Hegel for breakfast -- and maybe get Kantstipated (Walter Kaufmann's pun, funny).

Related f/u threads:
[1][2] @ math-teach, Math Forum
Postmortem (Bridges submission)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Omnitriangulating

I've joined a book group reading Peter Watson's new book Ideas: a history of thought and invention, from fire to freud (assignment: first 200 pages by Friday).

His discussion of the Bronze Age led me back to the Ban Chiang thread: Southeast Asia gets new respect for its early tin-copper metallurgy (starting 3000 BCE?). Fuller brought this up in Critical Path, in connection with the evolution of seafaring and ship building.

That thread took me back to cross-checking his submarine aircraft carrier claims, about which more has surfaced in the last few years: OK, so the Japanese had 'em in WWII. See my Sept 17, 1997 review of Critical Path at Amazon.com for more context.

Woah, a guy just walked off with Ideas! -- said he planned to use it for a mouse pad, thought it was community property, apologized. It's now back in my possession, no harm done. Time for lunch with Don and Nick.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Bucky Book!

I finally got my own copy of Michael John Gorman's Buckminster Fuller: Designing for Mobility from Amazon.com this morning. I'd previewed it at Trevor's (mostly looking at pictures), but today was my first in depth read.

Per opening credits and acknowledgments, I wasn't in the loop on this one, although I know many of the people Gorman interviewed for this work. Maybe I'd have influenced him to focus more on the whole numbered volumes business, the so-called concentric hierarchy, which is how Synergetics fits so many standard polyhedra into the isomatrix or IVM (octet truss), which Gorman does discuss.

Russ Chu's toothpick IVM is depicted on page 92 -- I opened straight too it upon extracting the book from its packaging (Derek is my witness).

But hey, no one book needs to cover every angle, and I think this book has a lot going for it minus whatever complementary material it leaves out. The writing is engaging, the story well told, and I've picked up several tidbits (about the DDUs & DDMs, the radomes, the teardrop car). Lots of great pictures.

Best of all, Gorman proves there's still lots of relevant unrealized potential packed into these Fuller projects. That keeps me hoping we'll get some more interesting Reality TV in the not too distant future, provided our networks show some courage and imagination (they've shown these before, so I'm not too worried about our prospects).

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Toyz!


This marks the first time I've uploaded a picture to my blog directly from my camera's memory card, via the Mozilla FireFox browser and USB (looking foward to WUSB). These are some of the toys in my personal collection:

  • The cubocta (lower left) with magnetic edges around a foam sphere is by Kenneth Snelson.
  • The plastic hinge-bonded cube (upper right) is from Polymorf.
  • The larger glow-in-the-dark buckyball (top center) is from DaMert, based on an earlier design by Roger Gilbertson of Mondo-tronics (with supporting notes by me).
  • The wooden puzzles are from Design Science Toys in Tivoli, New York.
  • I forget who did the smaller buckyball executive toy in the middle (uses magnets)
  • I don't currently own any Zome.
  • The coffee coasters are from Lesotho.

Related Reading:
What about puzzles and games? (Math Forum, Dec 2, 2005)
More toyz! (from Summer Memories 2005)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Radical Evolution (ISEPP lecture)

Joel Garreau is typing as fast as he can to bring possible futures into everyday thinking.

He writes for a lay audience, women mostly, as they're the big readers and book buyers around this holiday season.

He's a layman himself, a reporter with The Washington Post on his resume, not a techie, not some heavily degreed guy.

Joel frames his story in earthy terms he hopes will reach into truck stops and blue collar diners where people of good sense and imagination will ponder his core question: what does it mean to be human, and how will we retain what we value even while altering what it means?

The new human-altering technologies he's looking at comprise his GRIN (Grunch's smile?): Genetics, Robotics, Infotech, Nanotech.

From behind the camera after dinner, I asked if human nature wasn't itself a continuing surprise and revelation, already many times transformed.

And I recommended the science fiction museum in Seattle; we exhibit our fears and longings in distopian and utopian scifi. Neal Stephenson's works (Diamond Age etc.) had already come up in discussion, so I thought this commercial appropriate.

I was pleased my friend Dave Fabik was able to join me. He'll make a great Wanderer (plus he was aboard Meliptus yesterday which makes it official).

I was also pleased by Nancy's continuing enthusiasm for my blog.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Speaking of Music...

Hey, I was just exchanging emails with Jürgen in Germany who was asking about Bucky and the cuboctahedron (dymaxion, mecon, VE whatever), and he brought up John Denver.

That got me searching in iTunes.

I purchased Denver's World Game just now, a little calypso tune I mentioned way back when at the GENI event.

I also grabbed the Buckminster Fuller track from 26 Scientists Volume One by Artichoke (each was $0.99).

Then I emailed back to Jürgen that I'd just done that, and blogged about it.

Kinda fun. Sometimes I forget we have all these cute, light-hearted technologies to play around with. More with less and all that.

Dr. Consoletti is staying in my basement again.

And speaking of dialog groups, we had a wild one at the Pauling House last night, which I won't even begin to describe.

Oh, I'm back to posting my $.02 at math-learn.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Charter Schools

So if establishment public schools still refuse to teach about Couplers (after 30 years and counting), maybe we could establish some new ones?

I take heart from the hip-hop movement, which went global-commercial while remaining partially submerged and subversive, still in position to challenge any lazy, entrenched top-sider crew, hogging the limelight with irrelevant spew.

Plus I see a lot of savvy around graphic arts -- strong propaganda skills. Let this be a music millenium.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Half Coupler


The dissection of the cube into 6 half-couplers is easy to show with Cube-It! from the Huntar Company. I purchased my copy years ago at Math 'n Stuff in Seattle. The half-couplers further disintegrate into 4 MITEs (MInimum TEtrahedra) in Fuller's concentric hierarchy.

Most middle schoolers received no instruction in these concepts for over 30 years after their publication, despite their obvious relevance and simplicity.

For further reading: [1][2][3][4]

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chicken Little (movie review)

This one makes me think, maybe because I'm in it (Kirby that is, three eyes) -- but then so is Mickey (on a watch), so at least I'm in good company.

We had lots of little kids in my audience (Lloyd Cinemas annex), and some were clearly troubled by an over the top War of the Worlds scene. Like the kiddie roller coaster at Oak's Park, before you ride the big one with Tom Cruise. Why do we scare kids silly with that ET stuff again?

My take on ETs: shooting for here in a spaceship would be a huge gamble, given relativity, since even if the subjective lag is reasonable (time for a couple of inflight movies, some drinks), by the time you get here the Earth has aged like a million years, and has probably had time to discover new defenses you didn't see on I Love Lucy.

You can't bank on overcoming an alien auto immune system. The odds are strongly against any would-be attacker. Be thankful for the vast wastelands of insular space.

For life forms to be successful over the long haul, they have to have really gotten to know a place. We've evolved as many eyes as we need, thank you very much.

Anyway, as you can see, it got me thinking. The characters were funny. The small town had a very peculiar homeland security system. As we all know, chickens make mistakes rather often. Putting the whole place on a trip wire, while giving chickens easy access to the panic button (or bell), would seem a poor design. I wouldn't blame the little kids for that.

Hey I'm really liking the new Google portal. I use Yahoo's too of course.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Science Project

So Tara's school science project this weekend, an experiment of her own design (with input from family members), is to pop 50 kernels of Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn one-by-one in the microwave, record the 50 popping times, and bar graph the results. For example, X kernels will pop between 2' 30" and 2' 35".

What we've found so far is that the individual kernels in this batch aren't inclined to pop. After several four minute trials, with single kernels center stage, the Magic Chef decided it'd had enough, and gave up the ghost -- temporarily or permanently we're not sure. Obviously I'm not anxious to run out and buy a replacement appliance, only to blow it again. New strategy needed.

Current experiment: bring oil to high temperature in a saucepan on the electric stove. Add a single kernel, start stop watch. Wait for results. Results so far: I hear the smoke alarm in the living room. Gotta go.

Follow-up:

The Magic Chef came back to life, but we stayed with the shallow stovetop bath of Canola Harvest, with a transparent Pyrex cover. Kernels were added to the simmering oil one by one and their TTPs (times to pop) recorded. A few never popped.

Addendum:

We celebrated the success of our experiment by seeing Chicken Little at the mall (stop signs are not hexagonal by the way). Then Derek came by and we watched some of the 109th Civil War (UofO Ducks vs. OSU Beavers -- USA-style football). Oh, and Don says with emphasis that it's Mt. Hood Community College (never "Mount").

Tara offered to make spaghetti but turned on the wrong burner. Heat accumulated in the aforementioned Pyrex (Kim's) and exploded, covering the stove and floor with glass. Our kitchen linoleum acquired permanent sear marks from the super hot shards. Fortunately no one was standing nearby. The Ducks won. I finished making the spaghetti and put duct tape over the blemish.

We're rough and tumble in this family. Buddhism in a nutshell: Suffering R Us (now you figure out how to turn that R around and invite a lawsuit). Tara is following her plan for the evening, happy I'm not too burned up over the Pyrex misadventure. I wonder how Alexia is doing, and Julie. Sam. Carla.

So here I am, typing in my blog, and feeling pretty zen about the whole day -- maybe because I went to sleep listening to Alan Watts on CDs (a present from Jim Buxton around the time of George Hammond's memorial, McMenamins after). I read lots of Alan's files (published books mostly) in my high school years.

Now, back to USC vs. Fresno.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More from the Urner Soap

We had breakfast out before school, then I was summoned to the hospital for a sudden meeting, which turned into a kind of promotion, which likely means more time on the VPN (encrypted because of HIPAA). I explained about my dreams of a bizmo. Apparently I wouldn't be the first to get work done in this way (I suspected as much). Some bizmos contain roving doctors using a lot of skills I don't have, yet sometimes need or could use.

Then I came back to the 'hood for coffee with Derek. We were about to cross Hawthorne under the marquee of the Bagdad, when we were accosted by a charity organization trying to help children in developing countries, the kind of thing Jack Nicholson got involved with when he played that guy in an RV.

I challenged the charity rep to think more in terms of village wireless, so power nesters, protective of their adopted families overseas, could see for themselves how the donations were invested, thanks to web cams, Google Talk or whatever. A prodigy 'deshi kid might chat with salon guests in Chicago on 2-way big plasma, about the meaning of pi, or the prospects for unicode in South Asia.

The charity guy shot back, asking if I'd ever been outside the country and did I have any idea of the realities his charity had to face every day in the field. I put some credentials on the table, but concealed the fact I'd as yet never been to South or Central America.

"Don't you think they should learn to read and write before we give them computers?" he asked. "Learn it all at the same time" I replied.

I talked about that computer scientist in India, who embedded a computer in some wall, no explanations (see Frontline). Street kids played with it and gradually taught themselves tricks (including a few the scientist hadn't learned). Imagine how far they'd go with a little more instruction. Some kids take to high tech like fish to water. The circumstances you're born into shouldn't matter that much.

I didn't give him any money, although I probably should have (more leverage for me). Instead I offered to share a competing vision through an independent operation, to demonstrate the effectiveness of "high tech first" (right up there with safe drinking water in importance).

"High tech" is not synonymous with "inappropriate tech". Villages need access to weather reports (visual data displays) and ecommerce. Guatemalans good at handicrafts could sell them directly on eBay -- or through a mall-based intermediary (movie allusion).

The vision: help these villages turn themselves into cybervillages if that's what they'd like, with village elders (but not just elders) empowered to steer, accelerate, apply brakes. Nextgen youth, born into the new environments, will then lead off in various directions. The village as a whole could use democracy and/or a sense of the meeting (Quaker talk) to find a good way forward. Absentee landlords needn't have overbearing influence.

"So, what will you call your new organization?" the clip board guy asked. What indeed.

Shall we call it CyberCare?

Whatever it's called, we'll work closely with other NGOs, UNICEF, UNESCO and like that, but we'll specialize in wireless access, distance education, high tech solutions (shelters included). We'll give our donors a lot of customized insight into what their donations are doing. We'll also give them opportunities to visit, to join us on Reality TV.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

As The World Turns

I kept stumbling into soaps on TV just now, while struggling to get S-Video plus audio from my Sony Hi-8/DV cam to my Sony TV (even my new 20" Dell monitor is a Trinitron) -- I'm trying to audit the newly minted Doug Strain DVD (test only), to see if the various glitches we're seeing were because of the tape or the player. I'm pleased to report that the physical recording is on the whole fairly good, and Doug's quality narrative excellent.

Thinking back to those soaps: these people can certainly act, but what're their computer skills like? Willow certainly had the right stuff in Buffy, right up there with Chloe of Smallville fame -- both demonstrated a well-developed ability to investigate, to dig. Judging from the level of savvy I encountered at HPD, I bet even a kindergarten cop would know a thing or two about searching arcane computer data bases.

I had the Earth turning for the 8th graders today, in three different applications: Google Earth, Celestia, and Stellarium. I call this curriculum segment "Hello World".

So we're cycling around to Thanksgiving again. Last year at this time, I was exploring various Native American threads. There're hints of that again this year, as in this recent thread at the Math Forum. Exercise: think more about pronouns, as in "what we whiteman?" or "my Marines!" (per Applewhite's index see: Complex it, Ego, I, Me, Self, They, You & I).

Tonight's another Wanderers' gathering -- I'm typing from the Pauling House right now. I'll likely stop chronicling these gatherings, or do so more sporadically. Our focus is shifting to synchronous/asynchronous video connections, plus maybe more realtime chat and IM channels. Check the website for developments. I relay fond greetings to my bizmos in the desert.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Acting Locally (continued)

I got Mom's shipment out the door (nine boxes), with tracking URLs emailed from the UPS Store (a handy service). Then, after coffee with Derek at Powell's on Hawthorne, I walked the Doug Strain tapes over to Bullseyedisc. I look foward to delivering him his copy.

Then Sunanda and I joined Don on Meliptus where some interesting phone calls came in (hey Russ, I'm glad you'll be making the upcoming SNEC confab in NYC, sounds like great fun).

This evening I took the Max over to the Dixon Building to see if the Koreducators charter school proposal would be approved. It was voted down 3 to 3, after a couple firebrands took the floor and raised a lot of straw man issues (including ad hominem remarks lambasting a plan to locate the new public school inside Marshall itself -- not really the plan at all (hence a straw man argument)).

Board member David Wynde did nothing to shush the cheering and applause in the wake of these unseemly polemics, but when I booed loudly, suddenly we weren't to indulge in "public spectacle" and he threatened ejection (so would the applauders be ejected too? -- I think not (get the tape, see what you think)).

All in all, it was disappointing to watch so much hard work derailed by fearfully protective impulses emanating from within our older model schools.

Whereas the board has a mandate to give grassroots organizers exactly this kind of opportunity to experiment with new approaches, career educators think it's somehow their special right to monopolize reform from within. Obviously our charter school initiative is being subverted and undermined by the selfishly entrenched.

So maybe it's time to explore other options?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Jarhead (movie review)

There's a long and twisted history behind Marines being the way they are, and this film chronicles some additional twists that will feed into the lore going forward.

Instead of studying existentialism in college under the tutelage of hot professors (yes, Camus is a fine place to start), Swofford elects to take it straight from the horse's mouth. He works all the way up to nausea (ala Sartre) and really deserves some kind of degree in the end (he's a good writer). These guys should be making films, not just watching them.

The sense of wasted talent, watching one's youth go by in a desert (a teenage wasteland on steroids), understandably makes 'em psycho. The dead end job once they get home doesn't really make up for the sense of loss (dread, despair etc.).

The price of oil is really very high. We don't just pay at the pump.

Related post: A Catholic Economy (Nov 10, 2004)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Google Gets Video

So I've been uploading since like 4 AM, even while sleeping, this 712MB vidclip of me presenting to Wanderers @ Linus Pauling House some years back, on the subject of Geodesic Domes.

At this point in history, open source video is still somewhat new. However, my general systems theory papers suggest this model: humans in scenario Universe = PWSs = personal workspaces = edit/recombine studios.

Of course "recombine" evokes "recombinant DNA" and all the nightmare possibilities early 21st century humans needed to grapple with (right up there with extraterrestrials and dolphin intel).

But it also has more benign meanings, e.g. individual humans becoming very adept at mixing multimedia, expressing themselves and their worlds, making use of studio quality equipment 24/7 (with breaks), and in the freedom of their own homes.

This is in addition to performing in popular day jobs: baggage handler at megajet and microjet airports (including UPS, DHL and FedEx), outdoor security and park ranger (including at zoos), web wrangler (e.g. like for Wanderers), computer technology trainer, health care pro, architect & construction engineer, heavy equipment operator (some airline pilots), and those doing Hilton-Sheraton-Marriott type services (includes a multi-ethnicity cast of career diplomats and spies).

All these lines of work harness many energy slaves, in the sense of robotic time on the CPUs and SQL engines -- a true mass labor force even in 2005 -- with software and circuits etched in silicon (the possibility of machine intel another one of those "must grapple withs" -- and well played by the then Governor of California).

Followup: I'll link to said vidclip lecture here when the uploading process is complete.

Followup: Google kicked us all off Google Video in 2011, so I moved the clip to Youtube (which is also Google's).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Math Forum

I posted more futuristic mathematics today, invoking a lot of VBNs in the math teacher community (Gibbs, Heaviside, Hamilton). The general topic is Math/CS, this hybridized numeracy curriculum my colleagues and I think makes a lot of sense in this age of Google Earth and XML. We want formal operations applied in business and commerce, like before, but with more attention to the global Internet, how it works, who administers it.

Washed Razz (the Subaru) in a local U-Wash (insert coins, operate a cycle waving giant wands, Harry Potter style, with stuff spurting out all over your car, sometimes under high pressure -- worth a couple bucks, plus you get this shiny waxy vehicle to drive off in (a happier camper for sure)). Swapped a couple items at Trader Joe's. Having better luck with DVD-Rs for some reason, the DVD+Rs keep wiping out. Burned a complete set of Don's Guatemala pix to a JVC yesterday afternoon. Loved the final Extras with Patrick Stewart on HBO!

More open source curriculum writing from 4D Solutions: [1][2]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Acting Locally

Some days ago I used the wget tool at my Cygwin command line, a *nix in a *doze, on Joe Moore's site. He's spent half a lifetime compiling bibliography & connecting ideas around Bucky (Bucky being a veritable switchboard of the 20th century), all in rough and ready wild west HTML (no rules, or almost none -- however consistently tabular, a big help).

So this morning I subclassed HTMLParser in Python and wrote a quick hack, aiming at filtering HTML noise and republishing in a strict XML. From there, it'd be easier to head for mature formatting, via XSLT. We wouldn't lose touch with Joe's primary audience, either: souls on the web (so-called "eyeballs" in market research parlance). My Python code globbed through "books By"*.htm and spit back some reasonable XML for a minority of pages (those in a strict 3-column id, chapter title, page number format). I pasted one success story to GEODESIC c/o SUNY at Buffalo. Here, lemme link to my code.

That was this morning.

This afternoon, I left Dawn with some veteran/alumni of some enlightenment training (Portland has a lot of good schools), while I picked up Tara, who needs something faxed to her teacher (due homework, completed per spec, but left in the printer this morning), and then drove out to Marine Drive to welcome Don back from Guatemala. He spoke with great awe and respect of the Guatemalen experience/people (pueblo). I'll be rejoining him later for the kickoff of the 2005-2006 ISEPP lecture series, our latest in a series of presentations delivered by some Very Big Names (VBNs) -- sometimes with repeat visits (e.g. Roger Penrose is returning in March).

Portland has felt very privileged to be on the receiving end of Terry's circus. I've enjoyed so many of these lectures so very very much. You VBN people are simply amazing and wonderful creatures. Love!

But some of that hasn't finished happening yet. Gotta get back to work.

PS: Lotsa VBN-hoods out there, and you're welcome to be a Big Name in several of them. The Universe is not stingy about letting us be celebrities in cool circles we respect, if that's our goal (which doesn't mean individual humans can't be miserly). Join the club, beat your drum (metaphor), and sometimes hold it down (Quaker voice: ssshhh, keep it quiet), and you'll dimly hear many more drum beats, from far far away (something drums are good for).

Followup (Nov 4): my write-up of last night's lecture (link).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Wanderers Meeting 2005.11.1

The Gaia Hypothesis holds that complex chemistries known as "the living" may play a homeostatic role on a planetary scale, maintaining atmospheric conditions far from an "equilibrium of the dead." Our oxygen-rich Earthian cocktail could never have arisen, nor would be sustained, minus cell-based metabolism.

We humans play a role in the local cybernetics and have evolved new powers to anticipate and counter death threats the dinos never had (e.g. Apophis).

Gus Frederick of Silverton, Oregon shared his hopeful hypothesis that our self-destructive tendencies were symptomatic of species adolescence, a passing phase we'd survive and outgrow. Our long term destiny, thinks Gus, is to spread life extraterrestrially, starting with our moon and Mars.

Only time will tell.

Followup: link to Gus's slides

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Capote (movie review)

Truman helps prolong the lives of two murderers, giving them false hope of reprieve within a barren prison existence, in order to better understand their crime, and turn his understanding into a non-fiction novel.

He makes good on his promise to portray Perry as more human than monster. The other killer gets far less empathetic treatment. The victims of the crime appear only in horrific flashbacks and crime scene photographs.

Truman is aware of the exploitative aspect of his work. First he needs to keep the prisoners alive, so he can get their story, then he needs them dead, so he can conclude and sell it (his friend Nell sees this dynamic even more clearly). He also sees a lot of himself reflected in Perry. His empathy is real, if tainted. And besides, it's not just Truman who stands to gain by exploiting suffering and violence, but his community of literati, generations of English professors, the makers of this film.

Coincidentally, just a few hours before seeing this film with Dave, I read Lawrence Weshler's essay Valkyries Over Iraq (Harper's, Nov 2005), which looks at how violence and art sometimes feed off one another within the war movie genre. Obviously art is part of life, not outside it, just as language is within the world -- it's not really a matter of one imitating the other. As a Buddhist might put it: parts reflect other parts but the whole is unreflected, because it has no mirror.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Legal Affairs


Some news and views regarding legal matters:
  1. President G.W. Bush's defense of Harriet Miers reminds me of my own defense of Ada Byron: "It's a casting decision, and in my judgement this Ada Byron character has done a creditable job, and should keep developing in this role. It's her niche and she's earned it. Others may (and do) disagree, but I'm unmoved to alter my aesthetic judgement at this time."

  2. The big crime tangential to special prosecutor Fitzgerald's investigation would be the forging of documents aimed at implicating Niger, a sovereign nation, in secretly circumventing the IAEA by supplying a nuclear weapons program with uranium. Ambassador Wilson's trip to Niger was a part of that larger CIA and FBI investigation. I hope the dangerous criminals behind this ruse eventually get caught, so we can all feel safer.

  3. This morning, I wrote an essay discussing my views regarding the practice of law, which is partly what got me onto this topic. Software engineering is inevitably replacing a lot of legal boilerplate with self-executing code -- the only way to keep up with the increasing volume and speed of global commerce. Philosophy helps communicate our ethics and aesthetics to these engineers, as their soulless machines are intrinsically ignorant of our human values (note: PI = Philosophical Investigations, a book by Ludwig Wittgenstein).
Addendum: link to news item re #2, by Martin Walker, UPI Editor.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Wanderers 2005.10.18

Rick Grote took us through an overview of classical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, in preparation for his review of Into the Cool, a new book by Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan (and which mentions some Wanderers in the acknowledgments).

A core thesis of the book is that life capitalizes on thermal gradients, gets work out of them, is itself work (or organized play, as the case may be). Of course the 2nd law prevents 100% efficiency i.e. there's always leakage in the form of heat such that no standalone machine ever wins immortality for itself.

Another thesis: just noting our Earth is an open system, and therefore not currently bogging down under the 2nd law, doesn't "explain" life's amazingly inventive gradient- exploiting ways, any more than the brute fact of ocean waves "explains" the phenomenon of surf boarding in California.

Grote, a chemist and engineer, found Into The Cool persuasively written and full of interesting info, such as the graph relating successive generations of ground cover to thermal efficiency: small, short-lived, energy-inefficient ecosystems give way to slower, bigger, more thermally efficient ones (e.g Oregon's old growth forests).

He also found insightful the focus on metabolism (eating) over sexual activity, as a signature of primitive life. However when it comes to sheer complexity and pattern formation out of chaotic conditions, non-life is pretty good at that too (the book is pregnant with examples). Life seems destined to explore at the edge of chaos, is always taking risks, flirting with disaster, in terms of becoming overly-complex and experiencing a break down.

On the down side, Rick doesn't much like the aphorism "nature abhors a gradient" as she seems to create and depend on them just as surely as she erodes them away. He also didn't find the tie-ins to preferred social policies scientifically persuasive, even though he shares many of the same policy goals.

Temperature differentials are what separate living ecosystems from an entropic desert, and life seems intent on keeping it that way (an uphill battle), by creating new gradients, new possibilities for interesting work, even as she/we/it burns through existing ones. Even if we're all headed for an ultimately entropic state, as many writers suppose, life has a way of drawing things out, postponing the inevitable for as long as physically possible.

Addendum:

After the end of Rick's talk (2 Hi-8 tapes, recorded using my Sony TRV240), I projected Gerald de Jong's Fluidiom project (Java app). Apparently the digital life people come in for some withering criticism in Into the Cool (which I haven't myself read yet), especially in connection with Stephen Wolfram style cellular automaton studies. Gerald's approach is more like Roger Gilbertson's (muscle-wire robotics), and uses tensegrity-inspired elastic interval geometry (Kenneth Snelson, R.B. Fuller, Cary Kittner, Sam Lanahan, Karl Erickson, Russ Chu, John Braley et al).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Candle for Dad

Today we remember the October 13, 2000 car accident, and the wonderful life of Jack Urner. My uncle Lightfoot came by for some coffee. We talked about his adventures in publishing, now that his new book is available. Dad and Bill both worked in Alaska for a spell, had similar adventures. Dad's side of the family really digs Alaska.

Carol, my mom, born in Chico, California, grew up in the midwest and Seattle, her dad a union linotype operator for newspapers. She met my dad at the University of Washington. Dad's lineage traces to Swedish settlers on Mercer Island on his mom's side, and to Urners emigrating to North America in the 1700s on his dad's side. He studied urban/regional planning with Dr. Richard Meier at the University of Chicago, after a stint at Johns Hopkins in international affairs. He then moved his family to Portland, where he joined the Planning Bureau.

Dad's dream all along was to see the world and do planning abroad (a civilian lifestyle -- he'd become a convinced Quaker by this time) and his first overseas client was Libya. He always worked closely with counterparts in the client country, which were then the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Lesotho.

The car crash happened between Maseru, Lesotho and Bloemfontaine, South Africa, on a dangerous section of road. I flew out to tend to mom in the hospital, arrange the memorial service, settle accounts, and sell or ship our family possessions. My sister Julie spelled me after about a month, and got mom back to the States once she could be moved.

The US Embassy in Maseru, and the one in Johannesburg, were helpful in our time of grief, as were many engineer and diplomat families of many nationalities, the funeral director in Bloem, the police, many Southern African Friends, the Bleekes of Multnomah Meeting. My profound thanks also to the professional staff at the hospital, including the rescue team, who saved mom's life. Thank you to my parents' friends in Lesotho for making their years there so enjoyable, and to Emily for all her good work.

I am also lighting a candle for the driver of the other vehicle, who also died as a result of the crash.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Saturday Academy

Terry is chattering about "E equals emcee-squared" (apparently the topic of last night's Nova on OPB). In synergetics, we don't think "squared" so automatically -- "triangled" could be cooler i.e. the important thing is just to imagine some/any surface area (a topology). "Cubed" is volume, and closely associates with "tetrahedron" in synergetics (i.e. the minimal sharp-edged volume). Volume is related to energy, frequency, information and experience (see Synergetics Dictionary).

A few minutes ago, we were exploring Caitlin's (Terry's daughter's) blog. She's enroute around the world.

Joyce Cresswell (SA CEO) kindly appeared to deliver her presentation. Also present: Allen Taylor, Terry Bristol (ISEPP CEO), Jon Bunce, Jim Buxton, Rick Grote and myself. Don (Wanderers CEO) is enroute to Guatemala today, hurricane Stan (now past) notwithstanding. The earthquake in Pakistan was a focus of CBS News last night.

SA was founded around 1982 by 2 PPS TAG teachers. Computers were invading the business world but not yet the home. HP, Tektronix, bright kids = dynamite combo. The companies said yes, let's do it @ Oregon Graduate Institute (OGI). Taught 185 kids the first year, enrollment now up to around 4K+, including Corvallis.

Transitioning to a knowledge-based economy (KBE), is what SA is all about, because that's where creativity is heading in this state: design, invention, not so much manufacturing (although we do some of that). Average income for Oregonians is pretty low by USA standards (75% < $40K). KBEs center around engineers. Degree stats: US 5%, Oregon 9% and China 46% graduate in engineering (source credited on slide: Institute for Engineering Education). Employers have little choice but to import leadership talent. Problem-solving, critical thinking, work ethic -- all in short supply, on top of missing engineering savvy. Allen, citing a recent meeting of IEEE, chatted about the lack of training in cross- disciplinary teamwork.

SA offers courses in: robotics, programming, forensics, web design, genetics etc. It offers apprenticeships in industry, research labs, agencies. Community-based professionals comprise the faculty (I, Kirby, am one of them -- e.g. Joyce placed me with the Hillsboro Police Department that time, teaching open source). A benefit to engineers: SA provides participating firms with a sneak peak at native talent, relationships form, which may lead to later recruitment.

Bottom line: Oregon is moving to address its obvious weaknesses. The elements of a new pipeline are in place, but it's still relatively low volume. The older pipeline, which loses most would-be scientists and engineers through the cracks, still handles most of the load. Too much native talent is needlessly squandered.

SA is working to double enrollment, triple scholarships, and consistently reflect the locally complex demographics (in both students and faculty). Oregonians of whatever hue tend to be multi-ethnic, yet have a common interest in continuing to build a dynamic, world class, Pacific Rim KBE.

We finished with lengthy discussions and Q&A. Wanderers and Saturday Academy have a lot to talk about. Terry sampled a lot of his pro-design, pro-engineering soap box rhetoric. I mentioned Trevor Blake as a possible future Wanderer/presenter regarding such topics as the Technocracy movement and systematic ideology.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Flightplan (movie review)

Took some fancy footwork (Trimet assissting) but I got there in time, with a preview to spare. This was at the end of the hall in the multiplex out in the infamous parking lot (across from the LC mall), where those crooks stole my Dawn's Suburu during Troy that one time.

She's in top form, dear Jodie as Kyle, sprinting the length of a very long jet, a few times, adrenalin pumping, every emotion in gear, single minded, to find and rescue her missing child.

Hints of Red Eye, sure, but also, for me, a strong hit of Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, what with her nakedly aggressive bias (pro-human), which audiences know and recognize. We love our children. We fight for them.

The difference being: in this film, the heroine is not up against space aliens, but immigration aliens, i.e. us, the human types. And we're scary enough. We're all those other people on that plane, with our own private losses and dramas. We secretly admire Jodie's character, because she's strong, willful, even right, i.e. a goddess protectress, an incredible.

My insider take is that the movie blatantly lied about aircraft architecture outside the double- deck cabin, territory Jodie's character supposedly knows well. Like that Cray- like supercomputer beneath the cockpit? A pure archetype. Or hey, maybe she really was crazy and wakes up later in bed in some Arnold Schwarzenegger scifi -- or in eXistenZ (caught David Cronenberg's interview with Terry Gross the other day, wherein parent-child separation anxiety was also a theme).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Market Research

Pat Barton shared about his science with Wanderers last night, camcorder on, lapel mic on. He works in linear equations describing covariances discovered in focus group data, tying customer attitudes to brand loyalty. This is an expensive high end service for Fortune 100 corporate clients.

An example would be Whirlpool: the company was already heavily involved in Habitat for Humanity, because of its specific history, but the public didn't know that. In the mean time, Pat's company's analysis showed that power nesters, mostly boomer women with bucks and a desire to have the best appliances in all dimensions, cared deeply about corporate social responsibility, and if it turned out Whirlpool actually cared, then more people would replace older Whirlpools with newer Whirlpools. So obviously the answer was to publicize this pre-existing commitment and track record. Everybody wins.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

WQM (Fall, 2005)

WQM may not actually meet quarterly, but the Q does refer to a four period cycle. Quakers apex into local Yearly Meetings, which conduct business during their Annual Sessions. Minutes from the Monthly Meetings for Business, such as MMM or BCFM (both in Portland), filter up through the quarterly level (e.g. WQM) enroute to the Yearly level, in our case NPYM (North Pacific Yearly Meeting). The Willamette Valley stretches from Portland south through Salem, Corvallis, and Eugene.

I talked a good bit with Anthony Manousos of Friends Bulletin. He authored the short pamphlet Islam, which documents some kodak moments that characterize the relationship between Islam and Friends (generally good).

Manousos observes Ramadan, which begins this Tuesday. This signature month-long period of fasting at the core of Islam is in part about strengthening and celebrating God's gift of an intuitive mind, attuned to eternal principles, and so frequently our ticket out of these hells of our own making, hells brought on by inappropriate automatism, obsolete and unexamined habits of thought.

Another motivation for the Ramadan fast is to commiserate with the starving. We pray this form of compassion will be of fading relevance, as our global university campus Food Services starts to kick in.

Ibrahim, one of the featured panel members this time, also catered the main meals. He's a pro in the local food biz. His excellent dishes got rave reviews. WQM has been turning to catering more and more (a topic in Business Meeting, along with EMO). Helen's son John catered Thai food a few cycles ago, and that seems to have gotten the ball rolling.

Thanks to my friend Pan, I spent some time thumbing through The Fourth Turning, a cycling-through-archetypes panorama. I got slaughtered at ping pong by a Junior Friend, also a talented piano player (good game). Friend Michener related some of her experiences in leadership with Landmark Education.

The weather wasn't all that bad Saturday night, so star gazing was an option. Mars was very bright overhead around 6 AM the next morning, when I joined the breakfast crew (Pam Avila of MMM directing, fellow BCFMers at work stations).

I shared Stellarium with several Friends in the main lodge while charging up on AC. Later I ran solo on DC in an open field, comparing screen pixels to patterns of starlight. Then I transferred to my tent for the night, where I used up the rest of the battery.

Other abbreviations decoded: MMM = Multnomah Monthly Meeting; BCFM = Bridge City Friends Meeting; AM = Ante Meridiem (i.e. before noon); AC = alternating current; DC = direct current.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Another Day in the Rainforest

Jim Buxton gifted our group with some of the best chanterelles ever, and for two days in a row we've been having them on the side next to mushroom & Tillamook cheese omelets. My FitDay food log is having a cow about it, but hey, I'm still under my daily calorie budget, steadily shedding pounds (a British imperial unit).

Quarterly Meeting starts today @ Sky Camp. Given the dismal weather, this'll be largely an indoor affair, more about fellowship and less about banana slugs. I'm packing a tent and may cocoon with a Buffy DVD vs. Stellarium.

I wrote a cool essay on the Urner/Wittgenstein relationship today @ Math Forum.

Great job Nirel! -- she's our new Wanderers Web Wrangler. Whomever holds the Portfolio of Scheduling should report directly to her (we're thinking to rotate the job of booking presentations, so we each get a chance to share some of our favorite people, like I did with Ron i.e. as we've already been doing from the get go).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Public Licensing

Obviously a lot of the thinking that's gone on around how to keep software designs public, per the intent of its authors, is starting to inform licensing more generally. Some types of inventor have always wanted their work to benefit humankind. Toys, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing processes -- I expect to see more and more open source licensing protecting these assets from overexploitation by a greedy and undeserving few.

The corporation, having sneakily insinuated itself into our codes as a pseudo-human (see Unequal Protection by Thom Hartmann), has tended to suppress our very human desire to benefit one another. However, the power of this particular institution, in its LAWCAP form at least, is on the wane, in part because much of its core infrastructure is in the hands of philanthropic engineers with an appreciation for general systems theory (i.e. of what it will take for us to succeed macroeconomically).

What does nature herself provide, in terms of common heritage? Should we consider DNA sequences found in nature to be under some kind of BSD type license, or is she more GPL? Such questions will frame the ethical debates of tomorrow, thanks to people like Richard Stallman, one of the great moral philosophers of our day. Unbridled human selfishness, on the other hand, will be seen in retrospect for what it was: a pathology and design flaw that nearly got us wiped out as a species.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More World Game Data

Page A10 of today's Oregonian talks about the rally in Washington, DC on Saturday, next to an ad for Terry's lecture series. My friend Matt was at the rally along with others in his family. He flew all the way from PDX just to be there. I'm looking forward to hearing his personal account.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

GST Revisited


Last night I decided to alter this ancient graphic at my Synergetics on the Web, by sliding a copy of the Pentagon to the lower right (if looking from this side). And I added the paragraph: "The Pentagon is shown in both directions because some in the military have largely freed themselves from LAWCAP's obsolete reflex conditioning and have a more GST-informed outlook."

I think it's important that we acknowledge the progress we've made to date.

And speaking of progress, kudos to Blogger for making picture uploads a snap through the standard interface.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Talk Like a Pirate


Jolly Roger

September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day -- another excuse to get in touch with this part of our heritage. According to the algorithm in today's Living section in The Oregonian, my pirate name could be: Squinty Rumpot Broadside (I think I'll pass).

Related Post: Adventures in Radio Land (Part 2), 10 Feb of this year.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Build It Green

Today we joined other Portlanders on a self-organizing tour of G/Rated homes, featuring various intelligent, energy efficient designs. We visited the tiny one-person house on wheels (visiting from Olympia), the sunlight and rain harvesting "net-zero" Victorian, and the little clay studio with a living roof.

We also left voicemail expressing some interest in a refurbished '84 Ford Econoline camper, a possible bizmo, though hardly G/Rated. The Victorians had a pickup they run on B100 (vegetable oil recycled from restaurants).

We had coffee in one of Dawn's former work places on Foster (she quit shortly after the bomb incident -- the site used to be an abortion clinic, Dawn their bookkeeper). Then we went to a nearby Vietnamese bakery to buy moon cakes.

Across my desk: Bruce LeBel's temporary shelters proposal to Oxfam (forwarded by Dick Fischbeck); a poorly sourced story about US soldiers raping Iraqi infants in Tellaffar; email from Nancy, a would-be Wanderer (I invited her to the 9/20 meeting); a request for a CV update from Nick (changes made); a heads up from Gerald de Jong about N J Wildberger's innovations in trigonometry; other stuff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Powell's on Hawthorne


Tricycle Magazine cover
Vol. XV No. 1 Fall, 2005


I snagged a copy of this issue of Tricycle at Powell's this morning, along with Make: (vol. 03) and a copy of The Onion (a satirical newspaper). Coffee with Derek.

Before going out, I worked on some new reports for one of my clients (a coding project, Visual FoxPro). Later today, I finished a first edition of a new web page, in preparation for a course I'm slated to teach.

This afternoon, I watched some Smallville with the family on a borrowed Braithwaite DVD (though not the episode mentioned in the aforementioned web page).

Yesterday was our biweekly Wednesday morning Wanderers meeting. KOREducators Adam Reid and Reese Lord went over their hopes and dreams regarding a new charter school they'd like to start under the umbrella of Portland Public Schools.

Charter schools are public schools, but follow a slightly different rule book, allowing them to experiment with different types of teacher (only 50% must be state certified).

Joyce Cresswell of Saturday Academy joined us as well. Her institution likewise gives students access to teachers from a variety of backgrounds.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Summer Memories (2005)


Geometry Toys

Part of the Quimby-Kittner collection in upstate New York. I took this photo during my stay in the tree house this summer, enroute to my 25th Princeton reunion (Class of 1980). For more summer memories, check BizMo Diaries, September 2005.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Red Eye (movie review)

A salute to lonely pro service workers who take their jobs seriously and fight back when cornered. Modern commercial flight is faithfully rendered (especially coach), but the off shore Russians seem implausibly employed.

The screenwriters provide no backstory about the kingpin with the private jet, who holes up in Miami with his henchmen -- into money laundering perhaps (that'd explain the high caliber enemies).

Saw it with Dave Fabik in the Regal @ Lloyd Center (VP Nixon: "America's answer to communism") . We previewed the new Jodie Foster movie, also airplane-based. She's effective in those suspenseful paranoid films -- I'm looking forward to it (perhaps as inflight entertainment).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wanderers 2005.9.7

Doug Strain kicked off our evening series, alternating Tuesdays. We had the camcorder going, fingers crossed the lapel mike was doing its job (audio is critical for hearing Doug's many excellent stories).

We learned more about how Doug got transitioned from war time nutrition experiments to fighting fires started by Japanese fire balloons.

In the experiments, Doug and other conscientious objector friends were fed various diets to see what'd keep them alive in shivering cold conditions (they spent 8 hrs a day in especially refrigerated rooms -- like on some reality TV show). The high protein diet proved the best, which was disappointing to the experimenters, as it was also the most expensive.

Doug's talents were better used working with the U.S. Forestry radio lab. Maybe 5000 fire balloons were set adrift over the Pacific, timed to crash and burn stateside. Fortunately, the best wind patterns coincided with the wettest forest conditions, so although the fire fighters were kept on their toes, actual fire damage was not that great. Perhaps four lives were lost.

I quizzed Doug most intently on ESI's relationship to its neighbors on the Stark Street property, which was subsequently gifted to Quakers and the AFSC, after the city zoned that neighorhood out of bounds to even light industry (Jantzen had constructed the factory originally, installed lead lined die vats upstairs). Turns out ESI didn't get along with its neighbors that well either. Some long-running karma just goes with that territory I guess.

After ESI moved, over to the Macadam area, the new place burned to the ground the night of some firemen's ball (no one to answer the distress call -- probably couldn't have saved it anyway, given the high temperatures involved). Fortunately, the insurance came through. And later, State Farm (also insurance) helped grow the Silicon Forest with a lot of investments, as did Hewlett-Packard. HP loved Doug's ability to measure resistence in micro-ohms -- about 350 micro-ohms for a house key -- and added Doug's inventions to its product line.

Doug started the meeting with what he called good news: British Petroleum's outlook on remaining proven reserves (40 years worth?), then shared about some promising new city power R&D that Westinghouse is helping fund at Oregon State. Four of these vault-contained helium cooled convection units could sustain Portland. Yeah, we're talking nuclear fission again (means toxic byproducts), but minus any weaponization pathway. Iran might do something similar. Our two Davids discussed the average 24 kW-h per diem energy requirements of the average USAer (takes about a kW to power "the good life"™ they say).

Rick Grote brought a box of golf balls, inviting us to help ourselves. I took seven (six around one). Great seeing Allen Taylor, Dick Pugh, Julian, Steve.

Jim, Don, Barry and I, joined by Derek, celebrated afterwards with beers at the Bagdad. This was after Jim drove Doug home but forgot his thermos bottle, and so came back for it. I'm borrowing Jim's copy of The Astronomical Companion, which I'm cross-checking against Celestia, thanks to Trevor.

Addendum:

I almost forgot to relate Doug's much earlier interesting story about his participation on some panel proposing the switch to cesium-based atomic clock time, and how the Navy was all bellyachy that only astronomical cycles mattered, nothing so measly as an atom should give us the time of day.

Congress got caught up in the soap opera. So the cesium clock people just set it up in Colorado. It's not like they wanted to take anything away from the Navy, just add this new layer. And to this day, atomic clocks take the cake for enabling us to synchronize within tiny slivers of a second -- a kind of synching needed for GPS for example (so ironically, the Navy is now as interested in cesium time as everyone else).

Moral of the story: if you want to get anything done, don't get it bottled up in Congress. Which is too bad really, Doug went on. If only those lawyers understood the science even a little bit better, the whole enterprise might run more smoothly (which is where I think USA OS comes in). The job of educating powerful politicians is enormous, but with modern media, I think it's doable.