Friday, December 08, 2006

Mingling Traditions

I spent much of the morning chiseling away at my Wittgenstein Bridge twixt Fuller's philo and an already crowded "chat room," hoping to recruit a few more philosophers over the C.P. Snow Chasm to the engineering and mathematics side, maybe to help us further improve the curriculum over here.
I treat Fuller as a post linguistic turn philosopher instead of pre, which most people never thought of doing. Like (a) they didn't think he was a philosopher in the first place and (b) they didn't think his 'deliberately remote namespace' idea would fit in so easily with the language games vista. [ Synergeo 31040 ]
We'd also like more media people, many of whom are likewise philosophical or psychological in outlook, people with well developed aesthetic sensibilities (whatever that means right?). You needn't come by any bridge. Boats, tunnels, whatever. Plus this traffic is bidirectional -- at least C. P. Snow thought he could detect some healing, according to Bucky, who apparently kept up with him, and with the late H.S.M. Coxeter (it's an unwanted divide, damaging to our culture).

This evening: a celebration of Empiricism at Winterhaven, the annual science fair, with just about every student showing off the results of an investigation, guided by an hypothesis, with a description of procedure, conclusions, preferably numerical data, visualizations (graphs), a photo or two. Lots of judges. Lots of adult scrutiny and peer review.

Tara's entry focused on falling geometric shapes, each with 100 unit squares of surface area (on each side). Which hit the ground fastest? Sounds trivial and pointless (I grumbled a bit) but that's missing the point (I now realize): it's about the discipline of doing, thinking it through, planning and executing, and around a not knowing that you're seeking to get to know. There's humility in it, and a sense of dedication.

I helped Tara just a little this year around finding the edge lengths of a pentagon and pentagram, both 100 squares on each side, like the other shapes (square, circle, triangle, rhombus). I was lazy and relied on Google for a clue. Last year her award winning experiment involved hot oil, I helped more, and yet we almost had a disaster.

I respect Winterhaven, one of Portland's public's, quite a lot, not just its computer science, which is cutting edge and experimental.

Tara is definitely maturing quickly. She's found at least two post-Aibo robot dogs in Korea, one shown in a video clip, the other an artist's conception. I find it too random an interface, this idea of flipping up a lid and reading email on your robopet. Would I watch a movie on my robocat, or maybe unscrew its head and use the body as a wall projector? Tara thinks it's the future. Anyway, we're still in the early phases, when all things seem possible, worth testing a bit.

Then, after a quick stop at Burgerville, we headed over to the Scottish Rite Center, where Revelers were staging a slice of life from a 1600s era piece of what today we call France, in turn imitating inherited traditions, and filtered through today's contemporary American culture (whatever that means right?). Lots of King Arthur type stuff, little psychological skits around dragons, knights, and pretty women.

It's a franchise of sorts, with Revelers in several cities. The program was ambitious, with some 40+ musical numbers, many including audience participation, a huge cast, many children, some stage effects, a dog, lots of interesting dancing. We all sang Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for "give us peace") which I already knew from our Quaker hymnal (we sang it in Rome a lot when I was growing up, when meeting in private homes -- Phil and Winnie's, Li and Andy Braid's, our place...). Twelve Days of Christmas -- yeah, I knew that one too (of course).

Much of the singing was in French, which I've mostly forgotten, was never much good at (all the Romance languages collided in my head, turning to Bose-Einstein condensate).

Dawn says these Revelers rotate through different ethnicities. She's wanted to see them in action for some time, is making a point of catching these things that she's missed, always wondered about. She missed Festival of Trees though. Another good reason to stick around for another round.

I'd never heard of these Revelers people, nor ever set foot in this Rite Center (Portland Valley's), so the whole evening was quite an eye-opener for me. The audience, and cast, consisted entirely of people I didn't recognize, with the exception of my immediate nuclear family.

They say Portland is a small city, but it's not that small.