Wednesday, January 31, 2007
He's a smart politician, knows how to act stupid. Score one for the virtual president (and on CSPAN, he listens very politely to authors of the current buildup in Iraq initiative, no matter how clueless they sound).
The stories about Damascus playing a role in brokering a peace sound promising. Regional problem-solving is where it's at. The USA needs to get back to those post Katrina FEMA villages, with something more intelligent and respectable for an encore.
Out here on the Pacific Rim, Islam has more of a Far Eastern flavor, including more pork in the diet.
Bill Whitaker's report on Rafe Esquith's classroom, where real reading occurs, was highly encouraging.
Follow-up from Damascus: I trust I'm not the only viewer to find some humor in this report by Elizabeth Palmer on the TV propaganda war.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Not having access to expensive production facilities, I've done more writing than actual track editing vis-a-vis the above proposal. However, with the upgrade to KTU3, a computer that pretty much works for a change, I now have some ability to prototype actual mathcasts, and this is what I've been doing, with my Python for Math Teachers series (today's was about RSA).
Where I'm going with this is towards a meet-up with the "this old house" and/or "revamping a motorcycle" shop shows, wherein skilled show offs make it look easy. Cooking shows similar. Except I want to be showcasing kinds of dwelling machine, alternatives to cubicles, alternatives to hurricane fodder. I've filed about this under the heading of "DynaBook meets DynaDome" -- a kind of retro way of casting it.
The goal is to recruit celebs into screenplays that show brands in a good light, doing good works. The "geek channel" heritage will permit these cutaways to background materials, lots of animations. Music videos also cultivate this mix.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The police are weirded out by all the dead people, sure, but that's not the would-be chief's focus. He wants to know if there's a method to this madness, or will the crazy guy be emperor and end up imprisoning a worthy magician?
Much to the would-be chief's relief, there was a method, at least based on his own afterimage assembly of the puzzle pieces.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Attempts to unfreeze the iPod culminated in a below freezing car at night, power adapter in a cigarette lighter, following instructions to reboot -- and enjoying a successful outcome.
With the iPod now restored to sanity, KTU3 reverted to normal as well, and I managed to copy my Python for Math Teachers pilots, which look sharper on the iPod's little screen than on Google Video in some ways.
I'm on call to assist with a larger device. Stay tuned.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
click to activate, then click play control
In this 4 minute video, made on KTU3, I flip through a bunch of slides (oops on the loud woosh noise), talking about the presentation manager plus the content of that talk (about two years ago as of this writing). Mainly I'm testing Camtasia Studio, a tool for building screencasts. The slide show ends with an embedded segment of Bucky Fuller (just a few seconds). Wanderers mentioned. Polyhedra.
Monday, January 22, 2007
The Office Depot supply room's lock was broken when I stopped in with Tara (lots of other customers affected as well), and when I returned after watching the CBS Evening News (story: UKers play finders keepers with shipping containers lost overboard), the locksmith had arrived.
Friend Gordon, a pillar of our Society, was also present. I felt a little defensive about my Quaker values, tried to reassure him I didn't just run out and self-indulgently upgrade at the drop of a hat.
No, Yeti Bubbles really had been devastating, made my KTU2 crazy (I did my little Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys imitation to show what that looked like). No icons under Network Connections for example. No ability to update from Microsoft (even with all licenses in order).
But I'd paid my dues in the penalty box (for well over a year), for being so goddamn stoopid.
Now I'm enjoying that "everything working" new computer experience. I grabbed 61 MB of upgrades right away. Next stop: Python 2.5 and a VPython to go with. I want to see what my Hypertoons look like with all this new hardware. Plus I'll have Java working again, PDFs...
KTU2 is not out of the picture though. I installed a Belkin wireless PCI card, plan to have it on the office LAN for awhile.
Advice to fellow geeks: yes, these mini-towers work well on the floor, but if your corner's a dust bowl the way mine is, consider keeping your box up on the desk. The new ones tend to be quieter, plus you'll have easier access to all those USB & memory card slots, DVD burner.
Time for a Red Bull. I have hours to go before I sleep. Which reminds me, was I supposed to be on jury duty today? I better call in tomorrow and reschedule if necessary. My bad.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
The math teachers used constructivism on the rebound, having blown the New Math revolution, so it looks like a "trying to get it right this time" move, i.e. kinda lame.
The sciences, however, were lucky to get Robert Karplus, a theoretical physicist at the top of his game who nevertheless saw Science for Children as a yet higher calling, i.e. his skills as a scientist would be yet more deeply tested. How many research mathematicians took this route?
By extension, computer science, already with science in the title, would be better off tracking with Karplus than with anything corresponding in math teaching circles. Constructivism is floundering over there, having lost hold on Calculus some time ago, to the more physics minded (moves afoot to disown Calculus completely, rebranding as "Real Analysis" even at the high school level, to give that more "pure math" flavor).
NCTM has offered no leadership, just angry defensiveness, with lots of political projections, as to whom their opponents might be, getting in the way. The sciences haven't flown off the rails to this degree, and indeed are moving in to clean up the mess, because children still need a good education -- a constant drum beat in the background through all this (there's time pressure i.e. deadlines to be hit or missed).
But what about constructivism within computer science itself?
There's still some of that European "guru on a mountain top" chauvinism (most constructivism has this Euro flavor) in the Smalltalk contingent, which from the beginning has expressed the most interest in pedagogy for young children, in alliance with MIT ("constructionism") for awhile, during the Logo chapter (Logo was maybe too much a bastardized LISP to win much acceptance in higher academe and/or industry, and we learned what a dead albatross this "teaching language" moniker could become -- Pascal went that way too, though lives again in Delphi).
I think this compsci brand of constructivism is in an interesting position, at a crossroads. On the one hand, a fairly successful application of Piaget in the sciences, via Karplus et al. On the other, a disaster in the making, but therefore with lots of ferment, room for improvement.
Python and CP4E have been in rescue mode vis-a-vis this disaster zone for some time. We have more realism in our talk than the starry eyed "unschoolers," always planning for the revolution, but never really implementing anything, except half-assed stuff they themselves are the first to complain about, distance themselves from.
Probably to Python's advantage is it never had this exclusive "for children" packaging, and isn't about to develop that now, nor receive that "teaching language" kiss of death that so many'd bestow as their sick and twisted idea of a blessing.
Python is more the property of practicing scientists, in that they use it as a glue language, in a mix with whatever else does good work, such as Matlab, even old FORTRAN repositories (still a source for some of the fastest linear algebra libraries in the business they tell me -- and you can wrap them in Python, Perl whatever).
The final puzzle piece, which I've been showing around only recently, is where the Fuller School comes in, using Python as a strong P2P (peer to peer) teaching vector, complete with MITEs and Jitterbug. Again, science is having an easier time with these, given their practical and engineering applications, while K-12 mathematics (K-5 in particular) continues to wallow in confusion, poorly served by its various brands of shrink (analyst).
Again, I think the choice is clear. Students of early mathematics need Python more than the early science students do (same kids, just different tracks). As a Fuller Schooler, I'm encouraging the recently joined Smalltalker crowd to organize more like the scientists, but focus more like mathematicians. Their radical "unschooling" ideas will continue to serve the homeschoolers, various pilot academies open to testing new philosophies of education.
But we won't let those threads dilute our focus. We have our war colleges, their feeder systems, our ADA-like, DoD style collaborative environments, wherein solipsistic lone wolf intellectualism is not the name of the game. Extreme Programming (XP), other adult-minded team play, the latter long a feature of USA public schooling, will continue serving future management teams with people ready for group action, not just for "home alone" type stuff against "bad guys" or whatever (we're not loser couch potato cop show watchers). Design Science R Us.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Kenneth Snelson, the Pendleton lad turned internationally celebrated artist, has quite a collection of this literature. We'd each have something that flies, that much was clear, whether it would park in the driveway or hang in the closet was the only question.
No one envisioned me in the TSA line, snarfing a cylinder of Starbucks (reduced fat) because of the ban on little cans of stuff. Coming back, I tried to get Southwest to accept a cute little purse sized O2 tank that my wife could wear. They respectfully declined. I respect that. But then, where's that personal jet you when you need one, NavAm or whatever.
In the outtakes, dad storms home drunk and mad that "they leak" (I think he means domes) and he smashes that Gingerbread Dome as a waste of mom's time and why doesn't she grow up and get a real job, so they can pay for day care. We tend not to be nostalgic for that part.
My daughter, only 12, is already nostalgic for Sony's Aibo, another valued exhibit in that "wasn't the future wonderful?" hall of fame.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Whereas sci.math is quite frenetic, I expect I'll pick up some new readers through comp.lang.python, a Python Nation resource, and also a part of Usenet (see: NNTP protocol).
Meanwhile, over on edu-sig, we're investigating the challenge of mentoring. A teacher usually only finds a few if any mentees at any given time in her or his career, and "few" is a good thing in this case, as it's the opposite of herding through in large numbers, a more assembly line approach to automating education.
It's not either/or of course. As students, we appreciate the caring one-on-one relationships, but understand the need for impersonal simulators, testing centers, obstacle courses.
Like in real life, educational experiences run the gamut, from warm and intimate to icy cold, although any school that's too anonymous and unfriendly will garner a lukewarm response at best, which cuts in to recruitment (a lot of student protests in the 1960s stemmed from being treated "like a number" (computer databases were still quite new)).
Back to Tiling and Spacefilling, you'll see that I'm keen to tie in a religious dimension, by bridging through sacred geometry to the various traditions, ongoing, moribund, and completely forgotten (at least for the time being). Mesopotamians especially have a lot to talk about, given how many sacred geometry traditions claim roots in that area.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
David Koski phoned last night to recount his delightful visit with Fr. Magnus Wenninger. Right after we got off, I logged something to the Synergeo Archive (#32000 ):
koski: mtg with fr. m. wenninger went well (account)
phone log urner (OR) <> koski (MN) when: tonight, just now
then koski reviewed enneacontahedron, s. baer's result
= some 120 cells (10 + 20 + 30 + 30 + 30) all permutations
of two rhombi: rhombic dodeca's, and thin one with
diags ratio .618 1.618 (1/phi, phi).
ennea actually contains off center rhombic dodeca in a
way (only 1?) of building w/ these cells. g. hart another
authority on this.
many other topics.
I'm in the Pauling House at the moment, Don and Glenn telling maritime stories, snow stories, working to recruit David Shapiro of the Academy for Planetary Evolution (APE), to present on sacred geometry.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Part of the joke is we have lots of mathematics in it, like the HP4E stuff from Katrina Network, but we're always teasing by throwing in bits and pieces of the real world, more like Discovery Channel.
I'm hoping Disney will help sponsor, but at this point it's not much beyond the "pitch stage" in Hollywood. Part of the draw (as I showcase in the pilot) is we feature mathcasts by YouTubers, including teencasters (a global demographic).
I'm happy to get this out at odd hours when transponder time is cheap. Not trying to mainstream. ~M! is way too "geek channel" for most viewers, except maybe in Japan and Korea.
PS: the math-teach server @ Drexel is down right now, or I'd give you a sneak peak. Stay tuned.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
In this telling, a somewhat brittle Anglo-Scottish empire, devoutly monotheistic, feels challenged when its hallmark trait (a good singing voice) is replaced by a penchant for tap dancing in Mumble (Elijah Wood), a child of Memphis (an Elvis type played by Hugh Jackman) and Norma Jeane (Nicole Kidman).
The ugly duckling Mumble, ridiculed by his peers, makes friends with a neighboring tribe of Latino penguins, with a more shamanistic religion centered around a Big Kahuna (Robin Williams).
Although the Latinos agree that Mumble can't sing, he's accepted as an equal, admired for his dance moves and generally good nature.
His self-esteem thus fortified, Mumble resumes his courtship of Gloria (Brittany Murphy), who sees through his bold front (a disappointment), to a worthy mate deep within (not too shabby).
The imperial rank and file, already partly Afro-Americanized, is highly suggestable (open minded), and vulnerable to heresy (new ideas), but the clergy pulls rank and the mutant is officially ostracized.
Gloria follows him into isolation, but Mumble bravely rebuffs her, having promised to get to the bottom of the mystery of the alien abductions. Like Agent Moulder of X-Files, he plans to connect the dots and prove the aliens are what's behind the increasingly acute fish shortage -- a problem the clergy had tried to pin on Mumble, mainly to turn public opinion against him.
So, not wanting to endanger his love, he hardens his heart and sends her away (shades of Spiderman, other lonely superheros), and sets forth upon his incredible journey. I won't give away the ending, but the lesson is definitely pro- biodiversity, anti- monoculture.
A moral of this tale might be: if the aliens are coming, you want to be ready with a song and a dance (it's not either/or).
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I do think Baghdad should plan on leap frogging the West, in at least a few industries. EVs for example.
Or if Netflix is too infidelic, create some Imam-approved source of religious DVDs, mixed with eye opening pedagogy ala our PKL/ToonTown offerings, making use of that optical fiber. The point is: to the extent quality of life is on the uptick, people will be focussed on family, over rushing to crush some potentially crushing enemy (a two way street).
What I don't think will work is the exclusive focus on Baghdad. New Orleans is a mess, other cities around the world, plus rural places like Darfur need attention. What no serious-minded religion can afford at this point, is to hog the limelight too exclusively for its own troubles, because the suffering is quasi-global, including in North America.
The only way to sustain a positive push on so many fronts, is to feel we're gradually winning on most if not all of them, not sustaining some vital and/or fatal loss that keeps us oblivious to everything perilous yet "peripheral" to some nightmare center stage. We can't afford to be blindsided, at least not too often, as we were on 911, and later by Hurricane Katrina.
Algebra City is a template for Everytown, with grids and services. Using high tech plasma TV type diagrams, per our Spaceship Earth™ motif, NASA, Google Earth etc., is not out of place. This beginning is also promising because Baghdad already has a track record of sourcing high culture. The television coming out of there should be excellent.
I went back to 12 Monkeys last night, which Tara'd not seen. A wonderfully tight little timeloop and very dark comedy, with the cast pumping up some amazingly wild characters, Brad Pitt chief among them. I was sort of a bad dad pushing twisted scifi so late on a school night, and Tara wisely scheduled an intermission for a healthy sleep cycle, only to find it wasn't a school night, on account of snow (a bright sunny day actually, so far, with clear streets).
I was just kidding about Spaceship Earth™ being trademarked by the way -- you don't need my permission (or anyone's) to call it that.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
What's interesting is the disconnect between what's going on with the troops, and what's going on in the public schools, our front line of defense. The media refuses to link these two topics, but of course that's only possible if you're a zipper lips or clueless.
What is it that we're teaching in public school that would keep North Americans so vested in military solutions to every problem? I think I know what they're thinking: "we wiped out the Indians didn't we?"
Anyway, I salute the brave soldiers for giving it their best shot. I'm sorry the public was so poorly educated, so incapable of holding up the civilian end of the bargain, which was to seek more civilized solutions to world problems, not to put you in harm's way in some poorly defined mission.
Putting this all on the backs of military families is unfair in the extreme. I hope when the smoke clears, the military takes more serious command and control of its own public education and war college feeder system and doesn't repeat the mistakes that got us here.
Monday, January 08, 2007
I'm following Derek's advice, screening lots of candidates -- which includes buying a copy of CPU (Vol 7, Issue 1) to stimulate my lust reflex with glossy pictures (like check out that Asus Striker Extreme mobo on page 67).
In addition to KTU3, I've been submitting specs for the PKL network, however that's a hands-on lab for NGOs and GOs (i.e. public sector) wanting to simulate donor databases, home health monitoring ala CareWheels or whatever. Some of those workstations won't even need hard drives, ala K12LTSP.
Private industry won't get away with just a booth and some dog and pony show. Our simulators will put candidate software and hardware through their paces, so customers will have a "try before you buy" kind of experience. Lots of GNU, Linux, free and open source in this picture. We call it Studio How To, a spin off from my 1997 Project Renaissance initiative.
I envision KTU3 more as a personal productivity tool for just me and my usual back office 4D Solutions brand CP4E (computer programming) and HP4E (more geometrical) curriculum writing, of which I've already published a ton.
Although firewire is included in most candidates I'm screening, I'm not really supposing KTU3 would be a launch pad for the 4D Studios and/or Wanderers curriculum videos. Those'll more likely take advantage of the render farms, per the ToonTown model. KTU3 will allow me to keep previewing our pre-release inventory, as a member of various quality assurance teams.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
You have this recognized elder and chief who gets all these accolades, plus who invents something that makes geometry easier for young people of the tribe, and all without robbing them of anything already on the books.
Then the elder chief dies (1983).
Then all that promising stuff about the whole number volumes and and so on just gets swept under the rug, not shared with the kids, for at least one generation, maybe two (we're still waiting to see), some'd argue three (I'm dating from 1975, but the chief was already old by then).
The question: is this a common pattern in human cultures?
That "invented something," just to be specific, is yet another mandala or "matrix" of interposed polyhedra. We've seen these a lot in both the east and the west.
This one intersects the two tetrahedra, Star of David style, then crosses the resulting cube with its dual, netting Kepler's space-filler rhombic dodecahedron. The respective volumes: 1:3:4:6 as in tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, rhombic dodecahedron.
Now that's not the whole story. If you pack 12 rhombic dodecahedra around the nuclear one, diamond face to diamond face, the 24 outer edges so formed define the rhombic dodecahedron's dual, a cuboctahedron, which weighs in at volume 20.
(92 + 42 + 12 + 1 = 147 balls)
And finally, the Jitterbug Transformation, a bridge to the world of five-fold rotationally symmetric shapes, per Hargittai & Hargittai.
That's all pretty easy (no?) especially if you see it cartooned.
The volumes, again: A & B = 1/24; MITE = 1/8, Tetrahedron & Coupler = 1; Cube = 3; Octahedron = 4; Rhombic Dodecahedron = 6; Cuboctahedron = 20. Plus the five-folders (where you'll net your 5 and your 2).
We're not talking Einstein or rocket science here. We're talking basic Sesame Street level visualizations involving primitive shapes, with easy links to low order whole numbers and fractions, yet with threads branching everywhichway into interesting, relevant topics, including into purely mathematical ones (phi, fibonacci).
Our collective resistance to sharing this little gem of interlocked concepts, with our nation's pre-college kids, is something I think will go down in the history books, as well as the anthropology and psychology books, as a story worthy of some focussed analysis (and perhaps some gnashing of teeth).
Friday, January 05, 2007
Otherwise, it was another typical day in the neighborhood: long brightly lit hallways, concrete echoing stairwells, windowed and windowless offices, and cafeterias (two of them, a slice of pie both times, getting some on my newly dry cleaned suit jacket -- but it came off easily).
We talked about New Mexico some more, amidst the usual day job SQL chatter re pulling lesion-device pairs for outcomes research purposes (the patients stay anonymous, but devices have serial numbers, and we need to know which work the best -- an empirical question).
Derek is a member of my personnel search committee, and counseled doing a wider search among candidates, and working backwards with a specific end use envisioned (we used to give this same advice in CUE days).
But this isn't a typical upgrade. KTU2 is severely handicapped, yet I think might be destined for greatness as a future Linux box, as the crossed wires are all in the software. But we're not about to wipe this hobbled energy slave clean, without some backwardly compatible KTU3 in the picture.
Regarding the new public school TV shows, we're still exploring the issue of "what tracks?" Pure mathematicians often chafe about how their discipline gets mangled in K-12, and we've historically made them stuff those concerns, because there just weren't enough hours in a day to make "pure math" a reasonable use of Johnny's or Jennifer's time.
But now, with all the unused media capability, plus asynchronous scheduling solutions (for "time shifting" as we say in the industry), we suddenly see room for greenfield development in this area.
Let the purist mathematicians have their own channel or channels why not? What's the harm?
Then the other disciplines, which use math without being math, don't have to worry about Jennifer and Johnny not getting it straight from the horse's mouth as it were.
They (the other channelists) will soon feel more free to share their "bent takes," wherein the math comes across as deliberately nonstraight, will not have to take so much guff for hogging the limelight.
The more puritanical straight shooters, the "tell it like it really is" crowd, will finally have a place in the sun, an unobstructed curriculum track, complete with with its own advancement criteria, and with a target demographic reaching all the way back to the primary school level.
Such Math Channel programming might seamlessly blend with the more normally twisted fare, with students free to switch tracks more or less at will. This is not a "one size fits all" solution, is instead a strategy for offering more choices.
Let's take quality of life enhancing advantage of all these new tools, why not? And open source will play a huge role in getting these goods delivered (already is playing a huge role).
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Wanderers this morning was about Phase Rule stuff: thin metal strip sensors, able to detect toxins in mere parts per illion (million, billion...), perhaps released in a pressure or temperature change.
I asked about mercury vapor as a hazard in mining, after making some cracks about Newton thereon (not the only alchemist so imbued, plus girls sipped arsenic to make their veins glow blue).
That set our geochemist (the gent to my left, a Thirster) into a very detailed discussion of the mercury vapor problem, well known to gold miners. Better if the vapor could bubble up in some acidic pool and just cake at the bottom. There's actually an aftermarket for that sort of thing.
Our guest XX this morning (the rest of us XYs), was a star athlete in her last chapter, is now shifting into computers, starting with knowing a lot about version control.
I launched into a somewhat long-winded tale of Free Geek trying to bond with local area nonprofits, under the auspices of a forward-thinking MMT (Fred Meyer's foundation).
This first tentative knotting proved a highly technical undertaking, involving a Mozilla, Perl, and Postgres stack. Naked Ape made the Perl OOish. I siphoned data from Access to Postgres, using a monster data transformer script mostly written by others (but I helped a little).
This was around the time of my wife's first diagnosis, and I needed to bow out of some of my roles.
Anyway, the nonprofits (NGOs, plus a lot of GOs, per GOSCON) still get kinda panicy around so much mumbo jumbo in computer world, which we geeks like to spew forth in firehose quantities, but get slapped down for doing.
A culture clash of some sort. We'll work it out. Somehow. Someway.
The future's gotta happen, i.e. "What, Me Worry?"™
I did manage to crank out a little talk on the group properties of the totatives of N, field propeties if N prime. Our athletic XX version controller had expressed some interest in the subject during intros, and although I'm no expert, I've been rooting for Gnu Math @ Math Forum, so have such material on tap when cued.
"Women rule in Computer Science" is my motto, related to my going gaga for Athena, an Ice Queen (IQ) of sorts: coolheaded, logical, serene, yet intuitive. A positive synergy, worth putting on a pedestal.
Trevor, newly armed with NYT access, was searching on you know who, and came up with this 1955 story about a mock liberation of Philadelphia in a simulated atomic war, with Russian brass invited to attend and attending. I forget what was Bucky's role in all this. In another story, he's serving on the board of a homeless shelter for single male vets, having recently purchased Shelter magazine.
Monday, January 01, 2007
I'm pretty sure the cracker dog (foreground) in the above picture is from Germany.
My grandparents on my mother's side favored a popular option for retired people back then: fun in the sun in a prefab or mobile home, with money saved from a big mortgage on trips to a then still America-friendly post-WWII Europe. They came home with all kinds of cuckoo clocks, walking sticks, stories, and slides of Kodak moments.
That was a bravely positive working class futurism I think, to reconnect with war torn Europe as adventuresome ocean liner passengers, eager to mix with those Marshall Plan dollars, to help the roses rise, while meanwhile, on the home front, pioneering a somewhat spacey, new and replicable lifestyle, around shuffleboard, square dancing, golf carts and tourism.
[ True, no air-deliverable Dymaxion Dwelling Machines materialized, like Bucky wanted, seein' as all the good helicopters were needed for service in Vietnam. ]
Not a bad outcome for a career linotype operator plus spouse, empty nesters on quasi-fixed incomes. Has any subsequent generation proved bolder or more successful, at making its dreams for a civilian utopia come true?