Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back at Duke's


Lindsey, Troy and I are sitting at the no-alcohol coffee bar at Duke's Landing on SE Belmont. Lindsey is on her way to a gig at The Parlour next to Tara's school (Cleveland), where she's one of four acts.

I'm studying Tara's course lineup for next year. She's taking a pretty stiff set of courses, including three IB. That'd be a lot of homework.

I'll have a few things to say about my time off the grid. We delved into WWII lore pretty deeply. Jim's dad was enduring torture by water boarding at the very time Jim himself was getting born in a concentration camp near Baguio.

Much of Jim's presentation was laudatory vis-a-vis a certain Japanese officer, who was humane towards his prisoners, at great risk to his own career (he paid a price). He was always a welcome celebrity at post-war reunions.

I got back late this afternoon.

While at the camp, I sampled Beyond the Age of Innocence by Kishore Mahbubani, a reading placed strategically on the piano.

Mahbubani goes out of his way to cut post-911 Americans some slack. Yes, thanks to Gitmo any remaining moral high ground has been lost, but that just levels the playing field. Intellectuals around the world have had to shift their arguments accordingly.

Plus Gitmo is just the tip of the iceberg, given those torture taxis (Lindsey used to work for Gulf Stream, I believe I've mentioned), secret prisons in Eastern Europe and so forth.

All that being said, Americans are still too nice to really make it as warlord imperialists. They have this holdover generosity of spirit, a leftover from kinder, gentler times. The British were far more cruel, although less technologically well endowed in those days.

I would add to his analysis that many ordinary Americans are fundamentally POWs, drawn into a mindless form of militarism that's not specifically one nation's pathology, although when it comes to masquerade balls one definitely needs those masks (national flags are more retro than corporate logos, are more quaintly Victorian in that sense).

I enjoyed his passages on how USA embassies have become fortresses, symbols of impotence and insecurity. Any real diplomacy is likely taking place outside of these venues, in private homes and coffee shops. Who could stomach this ugly aesthetic? The State Department is a mere appendage of the Pentagon at this point. Congress has put all its eggs in the one military basket, with powerless presidents having little choice but to sign on.

The short term profits from elective warfare (war on the side, a kind of mercenary hobby) accrue to a myopic older generation situated all around the planet, with bank accounts everywhere, including Singapore I'd hazard. The balance of humanity suffers an ongoing holocaust as a result, which Fuller measured in stadiums-full of innocents.

Speaking of Dr. Fuller, Mahbubani avoids any mention of America's more subversive writers. He's formerly with Singapore's debating team (a diplomat) and is writing a somewhat mainstream book, the kind you'd find in an airport bookstore. Chalmers Johnson is not in the index I'm pretty sure. You'll need to go to a big book store like Powell's to find a hard copy of Sorrows of Empire.

Likewise, Bucky Fuller's subversive tale in Grunch of Giants was one of hope more than despair, but that doesn't keep it out of the realm of esoterica, Medal of Freedom notwithstanding. So-called "professional" historians mostly refused to connect those dots, as our World Game Museum memorializes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Summons

I've been summoned by my tribe to account for myself before the elders. My bags are packed, and I'm loaded down with electronics (actually, not so much, just the laptop and still digicam, the Olympus 720 SW I've been using all these years). I'm already on the road, at a first wifi stop. We won't reach our destination, in a remote part of Oregon, until well after darkness. I may not have wifi.

I left the workspace in the hands of my capable deputies, Tara at the helm. This is by invitation and on scholarship, so I'm not draining the household budget overly much. Tara's ski trip was also on scholarship, which I'm grateful about (check deposited today).

Last night, I conversed with Edward Cherlin on two different publicly archived lists, edu-sig and mathfuture. As usual, I'm busy connecting the dots even where others would disconnect them. Corporate personhood? Grunch of Giants helped kick that off. Are philosophers well enough read to even get that bit into their story? Some of them are, yes. We're not all quacks in this neck of the woods. Princeton has its pride.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Incoming

Hello Kirby, just wanted to say hello. I see Allegra from time to time even though I've been in Arizona at Arcosanti since April 2009. Read some of your blog and thought you would enjoy taking a peek at something I'm working on with Paolo Solari.

Still fighting the good fight. It's 1775, 1812, 1939, and 1984 all rolled into one and we're at the choice point again. Hopefully, the keyboard is mightier than the sword.

Brent Scott
Founder, FlowNow

Sponsor, Hopi Traditional Ranch Restoration Project
Bring on the rain

A poem by Brent Scott

December, 2008

Bring on the rain.


Bring the rain of kindness.


Let the wind scream.


Let torrents of compassion rend our separation.


Let the water come so furiously that no hatred will stand.


No lies will endure.


No pettiness will remain.


Let it cut gullies deep into your heart.


Let the flood wash away all fear.


Bring on the rain.


I am not afraid.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Main Menu

Are the numbers in parentheses the prices?

Perhaps energy content would be the better interpretation. The desserts pack it in.

The rhombic triacontahedron comes in three portion sizes. We could do portion sizes for more of the others but this menu is designed to stay short.

2F means 2-frequency i.e. all edges doubled in size compared to the cube of volume 3.

Appetizers

A,B,T (1/24)
Mites (1/8)
Sytes (1/4)
Kites (1/2)

Starters

Tetrahedron (1)
Dual Tetrahedron (1)
Cube Combo (3)

First Course

Cube (3)
Dual Octahedron (4)
Rhombic Dodecahedron Combo (6)

Second Course

Icosahedron (5 Φ2 √2)
Dual Pentagonal Dodecahedron ((Φ2 + 1) 3√2)
Rhombic Triacontahedron Combo (5, 5+, 7.5, 15√2)

Dessert

Cuboctahedron (20)
2F Cube (24)

rhombic dodecahedron (6) and cube (3)
in a zonohedral dissection of the
truncated 2F rhombic dodecahedron (45)
by David Koski using vZome


same shape, truncated rhombic dodecahedron
with square and non-regular hexagonal facets,
tetravolume 45, different viewing angle from above
(a vZome by Koski)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Crisis Line

I'm doing door at Alberta St. Pub, collecting donations for Portland Women's Crisis Line. We have three bands lined up. Lindsey is the organizer and is up first (just starting now in fact).

She's a little worried her R-rated lyrics, which she describes as "sex industry blues" might be offensive to some of the good people in her audience. I doubt it'll be a problem. She's an authentic talent, a pro, and knows how to engage the room.

I've been off in my abstruse / esoteric cyber-world, yakking with philosophers about some of the raging debates that never seem to resolve.

Whatever happened to "bringing things to a head"? Philosophers should be good at this. We need more referees. The language games have stalled. We don't have enough super bowls.

Here's from a recent post to a Wittgenstein list (hyperlinks added):
Consider this analogy: does any nation-state have a "right to exist"? In some a priori sense, no. These institutions assert themselves, insert themselves, into human affairs. And yet the ritualistic bottle-neck positions involve challenging this or that state's right to exist, as if we couldn't question them all. Eliminating states as a mental construct is maybe not in the cards, but taking all of them a lot less seriously might be the healthiest way forward. Nationalism is a killer. Which philosophers are talking about this? Creating new positions, vs. allowing only the entrenched one's to persist and dominate all discussion, at great expense, would seem a worthwhile calling. Could more philosophers step into that?

Disrupting the ritualistic / frozen / entrenched debates: how? When?

The other social service we could use: get some comic book or caricatures going. Exaggerate. When debates are esoteric, what people need sometimes, more than anything, is to boost the characterizations. This may sound too Jerry Springer to some ears, i.e. we're already swilling in a dumbed down world. But here we're trying tune in some abstruse stuff, so I feel forgiveness is in order.
Lindsey and I spent some of the day moving compost around. I decommissioned the Earth Machine, shoveled stuff into the wheel barrow (borrowed from the Lotts) for the side yard.

Walker has taken over grounds management for the company. Should I turn over the downstairs office to Global Matrix? Her suggestion. She joined us after working a job for Gulf Stream, a General Dynamics subsidiary. She has excellent organizational skills. Stockton (Global Matrix) was with the National Security Agency in Vietnam. Welcome to the Blue House, eh?

What advice would I give the president in the White House then? Back to that Wittgenstein list again (hyperlinks added):
What irks me is how little we do to converge any of these long simmering debates, bring them to a boil. Everyone seems content to imagine infinitely parallel lines, not ever converging.

If I were advising the USA president, I'd say getting students really good at debate is of the essence, as USAers are mostly incoherent these days, about why they fight (per movie Why We Fight), about what they're really up to in the world.

Sitcoms and sports have apparently trashed the neocortex and all that's left is limbic system punditry, a lot of knee-jerking spasms, semi-paralysis.

We would like the next generation to not take after their parents in this regard. But will there even be a next generation? The fast fooders wanna prep 'em for heart disease at 30, have 'em on a fast track through childhood diabetes. H.G. Wells anticipated Eloi. You'd think we'd have defenses, but they've been cynically deployed out of sight out of mind, while the USA is raped and pillaged by those guys in The Matrix (machine world reps, misanthropic to the core).

Philosophers should be like cooks, help bring things to a head in a safe manner that provides solutions going forward, now that the positions have been clearly articulated and disambiguated.
Translation: I'm frustrated by the inability of USAers to discuss their own collective future coherently. But then many stand to gain from their confusion.

The effort to keep us dumbed down and semi-incoherent is willful, isn't it? Abe Lincoln said it well: you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people, all of the time. One would hope.

We made $85 in cash plus $14 in Visa donations for PWCL. Lindsey took off with a girlfriend. I drove DJ Troy back to Duke's, was home before midnight.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Yacoubian Building (movie review)

This was a university event, with PSU's Marvin Kaiser providing some context. The Hollywood movie theater near Sandy and 42nd was packed.

The Black Studies Department is celebrating over 40 years at PSU and was co-producing this event, given Egypt is in Africa.

I was chauffeured by Dr. Tag, who'd been in a meeting with Dean Kaiser earlier that same day.

The film is in Arabic, is highly melodramatic, ambitious, and is translated well. Dr. Tag was both taking in all the idioms (she's seen it before in Jordan) and reading the subtitles to see what I might be getting.

Although I studied Arabic at Princeton and my parents lived in Egypt for many years (where I visited, more than once, wandered Cairo quite a bit), I'm no good at it.

Arabic has no upper and lower case versions of each letter (like in English or Greek), but the letters do get written differently depending on where they occur in a string (beginning, middle or end).

This came up in conversation because I was talking about my thread on math-thinking-l about capital Greek Sigma, its meaning in math. Check this month's archives.

My parents had a 9th floor apartment downtown, not far from the Nile and Meridian hotel.

Mom worked with the Zabaleen, took me down there, showed me around. Dad worked with the Ministry of Planning.

Dr. Tag asked for a quick one-liner after the film, what did I think? "Just shoot me" I said. She thought that was funny.

Turns out she's a fan of Yousra, who played pianist Christine in the film, once got to see her in person at a United Nations event at a Sheraton in the outskirts of Cairo. Tag was fresh from Yemen (work related), staying at the Cairo Marriott. Yousra and Adel Imam (another star in this film) were serving as good will ambassadors for the UN at that event.

The movie is fairly recent and sparked a lot of controversy apparently. You get some really biting stereotypes, featuring various hypocrisies and predicaments. Some audiences were offended and called for a ban, is what I'm told. Not every neighborhood wants to show this film, for various reasons.

Portlanders seemed to take it in stride though. We're a worldly bunch. Having PSU, PCC and others bring these academic showings out to the neighborhoods (no admission charge) is both generous and smart marketing.

Our city is cosmopolitan by dint of strong planning, not just by geographic accident (or so I might boast). We parked near Old Library Studio, which teaches multi-track audio recording to teens. Jimmy Lott the musician and I attended a few classes there, years ago.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kite Sighting

I found clever placement of Ben Franklin's kite in this post to a math list. OK, I put it there, so hardly geocaching on my part. I buried the treasure.

The context is explaining how variables work in Python. They're names for objects, more like strings to balloons. I drew this on Chairman Steve's tablet PC at Chicago / Pycon, not that he was any stranger to the concept.

However, I'm also suggesting that multiple names for the same object might not be a good idea (or design pattern). In Ben Franklin's case, however, one string went from the kite to the key in the jar, the other to his hand in the barn (staying out of the storm). Thanks to only one string being conducting, he wasn't shocked when the lightning hit.

This is the kind of mnemonic I'm suggesting around the NCTM conference, with kites a motif. You might have seen where Alexander Graham Bell (AGB) was into Kites.

These were later considered early prototypes of the octet truss, considered de rigueur for awhile by NASA, for any space station design, and still a good conservative choice. You'll find these things all over the place in architecture.

And at the microscopic level, you'll find the CCP and/or FCC lattice amounts to the same thing. Fuller chimed in with "isotropic vector matrix" or iso-matrix, but people mostly shouted him down. Maybe this sounded too Keanu Reeves or something, like in those movies?

I've likened the IVM to a "holodeck" like on Star Trek, a kind of "empty stage" (until the action happens) but more 60-degree coordinated than 90-degree coordinated. More like Flatworms by M.C. Escher.

Sir Roger Penrose has a kite (a tile, complements his dart). Bucky Fuller has a kite (actually two kites, a kat and a kate -- two ways for his Sytes to combine into space-filling pentahedra).

With so many meanings of Kite, most of them mathematical, you can see why NCTM might have picked them (NCTM = National Council of Teachers of Mathematics).

The corresponding council in the UK was founded by Caleb Gattegno right? He did a lot with those algebra bricks, wanting to color code and consistently teach all four operations in a way that would groom kids to read algebraic expressions.

Seemed like a good idea, not sure why the UK threw it out, if that's what happened.

Not sure why establishmentarians in the USA had no room for AGB either, though they made a mint off his Bell System. No room for his kites in everyday math class. Not until recently anyway.

One standard way to draw a kite is as a rhombus, a diamond shape. Crease the diamond along either its short or long diagonal and make that a trough, a concavity, with a correspond outside convexity. The tips are now closer together, so add a sixth edge. There's your tetrahedron.

NCTM must have really put on its thinking cap to come up with this stuff!

In the meantime, we're pawing through textbook series to see what to salvage for cyber-spatial access. Shipping hardcovers by sea or plane just doesn't make any sense given how the UN has to scrabble for coins.

MIT puts everything on-line. So do prestigious schools in India.

If we really think education is an asset, and that a world mired in poverty could really use this asset, then it's immoral, unconscionable, ugly and unethical to deprive said mired world of free access, at least to this basic K-12 pre-college material.

Yes, it's great to have real teachers in the picture, to make learning that much easier, and the way those real teachers will bone up, is through these various portals, though they'd often prefer live teachers too.

We don't require that every math textbook be conversant with 21st Century spatial geometry. We know that most aren't and it's too late to rewrite them. We mix old and new, rely on a variety of sources, encourage faculty to mix and match.

We do not trivialize the importance of teacher creativity, are counting on creativity to keep the ball rolling.

Keep a lookout for more kites!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Surreal Wars

Our grandfathers and grandmothers remember a time when, if your nation was at war, little else could matter.

The newspapers would be full of maps, discussions of troop movements. The news might be dated, and you couldn't know for sure what was true, but the war stories dominated.

That's what war was, all consuming.

Fast forward and the media have cultivated the off camera war, the war on the side. The Olympics proceed, life goes on.

There's actually no war, and yet there's a war. Two. Some interest in a third maybe. A lifestyle, a job.

Some call this mercenary heaven, however most don't like the pay and the hours are bad.

Romanticizing the lifestyle only goes so far, even on National Geographic, which tends to help with recruiting.

Warriors want to improve life for those they protect. The nation that needs building might not be overseas? What new institutions might fill the void? What voids need filling?

I'm sure Congress is working overtime on these questions, that we all might sleep better at night.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Projects

:: circling a sun ::

Tara is under pressure at school to do some video production, but we're not a Mac family. My Ubuntu Starling, though cute and professional, is not designed for that purpose. It might run Audacity though (does) and multi-track editing is a fun thing to do. I'll let her take it to school. The Flextegrity unit, on the other hand, Win7 w/ VirtualBox with Ubuntu, stays chained to my wrist, figuratively speaking. Proprietary data.

Joan Baez on CD this evening. Tara and I did some Python + VPython, projecting on the living room wall.

The quick debriefing on functions, followed by Dog and Snake as both subclasses of Animal, left us with questions about how to do something graphical, not just lexical.

I booted VPython and we proceeded to explore with the Sphere object. One thing led to another and before long we had a Earth and Mars going. I went on ahead with the trig part, importing cos, sin and radians. This was more teacher prep.

This was like our first official Python lesson. Here are a couple screen shots, code by me:

:: Snake and Dog as subclasses of Animal ::

:: playing with Vpython ::

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Polishing Resume etc.

I mentioned our Kite Campaign on Facebook. The fact that Sir Roger Penrose, Alexander Graham Bell, and R. Buckminster Fuller, all made special use of that term is a good illustration of the namespace idea.

Bell's kites equal Fuller's octet truss whereas Fuller's kites (called kat and kate) are space-filling pentahedra (half-couplers), not flat tiles like Sir Roger's kite and dart.

That's a whole lot of math enfolded in one word (figuratively speaking).

No wonder we math teachers have kites on the brain, kites being the theme at the annual session this year (NCTM). We will need to "disambiguate" when we talk about kites, if it's unclear from the context which kites we mean.

I was connecting some of these dots way back in 1997, when I ran microphone for Sir Roger, participated in those excellent workshops (thank you ISEPP). I even led one of the workshops, called Beyond Flatland, communicating a lot of the same math we're trying to get across today -- to a still largely oblivious public.

Do we think television might help? Of course. So which sponsors say overtly that they encourage more math-science literacy? At least two or three come to mind, some public, some private. Here's a golden opportunity to step up to the plate.

Lets celebrate the spirit of innovation and remember these various kites, starting back with Ben Franklin. The lightning bolt (bolt from the blue) is a deep metaphor for a great idea, used to unlock nature's secrets. The National Treasure motif would make sense at this juncture.

Let's get a time dimension back into math, not just as the variable t along the x axis, but as history, lore, stories about the real world. Ralph Abraham was eloquent on this point. A crushing bureaucracy has had some other ideas though. History remains quasi-verboten in most mass-published math textbooks, except in little sidebars. Home scholars must resort to other sources.

Quoting from my own writing of earlier today:
The gradual dumbing down of the human species, thanks to over-specialization, is what math-with-no-history typifies and encourages. The "fly your kite" campaign might be a way to call attention to this willful dumbing down, though in and of itself will not be enough. Math teachers cannot be expected to turn things around all by their lonesome.
Good catching up on Facebook with some of ya.

One of the Quakers sent me a chain letter from the ACLU urging worry regarding this Google / NSA business. Long time readers of this blog may already know I mostly leave it to other bloggers to make hay in that field, have the freedom to steer clear. Not every morass is mine to dive into.

Google already has a long history working through IQT, NRO and like that, so this is hardly a brand new business.

I uploaded a letter of recommendation from The Xerces Society this evening, after polishing my on-line resume some more.

Synchronofile helped me get my c.v. into Wordpress, but the formatting was off kilter. Several of my commentators have blamed their own browser, saying "browser X does not render your page properly" but I'm thinking the problem is / was on my side.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pauling Campus Again

I showed up early for an especially called meeting. Terry, our president, has something up his sleeve. There's no heat. I'm bundled up in layers.

Quaker educators have some loose knit professional groups, but there's really no top-down model for pushing out a message. Our interweaving Quaker journals have been a precursor to the "blogosphere" for some hundreds of years.

Cyberspace enables a faster pace, but doesn't change the anarchic flavor of our Religious Society.

TV pundits indulging in political rhetoric tend to follow a script regarding what issues to care about. Real investigative journalism is more difficult to carry out and does not always anticipate the findings, is more like real science in other words.

Does the engineering community still have the savvy to undertake such mega-projects as Old Man River City? We should not presume that as a given. As Dr. Haack made clear, back-sliding occurs. After the fall of the Roman Empire, some centuries went by before people got it together to build aqueducts on the same scale, a lot of them in Turkey.

Recent construction in Dubai, and in China for the Olympics, would suggest we still have some imaginative architects. On the other hand, the US Marines seem to have stopped building domes, since a golden age in the 1950s. Excuses about their impracticality do not match with reality, as domes have proved practical in many industrial applications. Perhaps the architecture schools have simply lost this curriculum component? They seemed somewhat ambivalent about geodesic domes in the first place, only grudgingly accepted them.

More to the point were the educational priorities of the last few decades. Spatial geometry was turned into a junkyard, a hodgepodge, with concepts such as "frequency" or "icosahedral symmetry" discouraged in high schools. Pentagon Math (as I've dubbed it), with its rhombic triacontahedron, its phi, its 108 degree angles, has pretty much fallen through the cracks, leaving traces on Lost.

"pentagon math"

Pundits fighting the Math Wars often prefer to speak in code about the various social ills that bedevil our society, without much direct focus on actual content. Really talking about math is something of an anathema to many so-called "math warriors". If they do talk about math, it's about "safe" issues, such as whether to tackle long division or use a calculator. The positions are well known.

Four of us have gathered for this meeting. We have been tasked with doing something for Portland Public Schools. Terry is thinking of producing a new study guide based on the lecture series. He's done that before. I have 1991 and 1995 copies in front of me. The next one would be on the web, saving printing costs.

I went over the whole idea of paying teachers to learn how to teach Computational Math, a vast undertaking that would require sponsors like Intel and Google helping to field an army of teacher trainers. A whole subculture would develop, based around community colleges, retreat centers, computer camps. Product placement opportunities, reality television... could ISEPP jump on this bandwagon?

Get me and other trainers in front of eager teachers, projecting "math objects" with Python (a five part series?) and we're in the game big time. Show off peer teaching tools, open source collaboration tools, encourage co-developing place-based curricula, local to school servers.

Let's start tomorrow! And let's focus on schools that don't already have lots of perks and advantages. Bridging the digital divide should start where it's most needed. Empower our teachers to empower our students!

Of course once trained, these same teachers would need the freedom to enhance their courses, based on their new insights and skills. The freedom to experiment, to try new things, would be a part of the job description.

That's just my wild fantasy though. Terry has some different ideas, based on his own experience. Regarding this study guide: will we use Wordpress? A wiki?

I demonstrated editing in Wordpress for Terry, finding a number of formatting errors in my write-up of the 1997 ISEPP Math Summit, recently transferred to Grunch Net, which I fixed on the spot. That math summit marked a decision point, when the state chose a bureaucratic approach over the reforms our keynote speakers were encouraging. Perhaps Oregon will reconsider its direction?

Python for high school math teachers? Why would we want such a thing, even in theory? They might want to try Sage, teach about hexadecimals, use Math for the Digital Age? I take some solace in the mind map at the Math 2.0 website, where Executable Mathematics has a track. At least I'm not entirely alone with this vision.

I notice Pycon / Singapore has a special track (labeled as such) for Python in Education, Science and Math. Again, I take some solace in this. Let's keep comparing notes with other Pacific Rim economies.

Karl Rove and Howard Dean were both in Portland last night, debating "foreign policy". I see no mention in the press accounts of any electrical grid issues, in Iran or anywhere else. Nothing about water management, agriculture, eating responsibly, conserving fuel...

This lack of substantive content indicates to me they were pandering to a more parochial mindset i.e. this was really a "domestic policy" debate in disguise (looking ahead to some next election).

World game is about building and maintaining infrastructure, providing life support (= wealth). Engineering enters in. From a "greatest achievements" site, under water supply and distribution:
UV Waterworks

Ashok Gadgil, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, invents an effective and inexpensive device for purifying water. UV Waterworks, a portable, low-maintenance, energy-efficient water purifier, uses ultraviolet light to render viruses and bacteria harmless. Operating with hand-pumped or hand-poured water, a single unit can disinfect 4 gallons of water a minute, enough to provide safe drinking water for up to 1,500 people, at a cost of only one cent for every 60 gallons of water—making safe drinking water economically feasible for populations in poor and rural areas all over the world.
Terry invited me to sit in on a next meeting as well, about turning the Linus Pauling House into a national historic site. I'm listening to the discussion while blogging the above. They're talking about coffee shops.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Update from Pauling Campus


I'm sending out a blast of communications this morning, even while receiving a flood of incoming.

A model UN in Alaska might pick up on our GENI debate, continuing the one in Georgetown. Delegates role playing a Putin-Palin meetup would make for fun theater. Just an idea, not my call.

My Grunch Net site is getting more hits, judging from comments in my inbox, many of which go no further. The upgrade to Wordpress was apparently worth the price, in terms of netting more readers. A contemporary look and feel is more catchy, Trevor was right about that.

I showed up with an assortment of show & tell items, including this new Quaker manifesto disavowing the Doctrine of Discovery, relayed by a former AFSC chief. This is back office stuff with possible property value implications.

I also had my copy of Genius at Work, something to flash around when talking about "tetrahedral mensuration" -- a hot topic in some NCTM circles, per recent postings to the Math 2.0 Google group.

:: alexander graham bell with octet truss ::

Buzz and I are yakking about Beaverton high schools and Google's reputation, also Wikipedia's. At some schools, teachers like to dump on all things Internet, consider these technologies a threat. Buzz had some anecdotes.

So is this a union thing? No, we don't think so. Probably more generational, with some individuals disliking change. Many go into math teaching seeking to escape impermanence, become psychologically distraught at the prospect of using Youtube, even when literally begged by students to share content by this means.

Beaverton's Sunset High, in contrast, is very pro Internet and encourages students to develop their communications skills with new media. This is one of the top schools in the nation. Do they teach about Mites, Sytes and Kites? Soon if not yet I'll betcha.

The idea of vans going around, various logos affixed (Google's?), staging dog and pony shows, remains a live proposition. The armed services have this level of access, and more (helicopters!) so why not civilians, or at least something hybrid (paramilitary). All Sparta and no Athens does not a global Renaissance make. Bombing one's way out of a recession is an impossibility, like the search for unobtainium (a fool's errand, a nutjob's notion).

I realized the other night that I could adapt my Standard Python Briefing to literally show Dog and Pony classes (both subclasses of Mammal). My Showmedo clips give the flavor, if you're wondering what I'm talking about.

My Dog and Pony class definitions would be along the lines of the PSF_Snake demo on Wikieducator, where a snake object eats a pony object. Those of you up on your lore know there's a Django thing going, a throwaway for cognoscenti.

In the humanities, we don't unpack every allusion at every turn (so much to say, so little time).

:: snake eats pony + spam ::

I like that Dr. Chuck's new Python for Informatics: Exploring Information has students pawing through Romeo and Juliet, studying word frequencies. Too many people still think programming is all about number crunching. They project all their dread of math where it may not belong. Not that math is just about number crunching either; another common misconception.

True, programming is lexical, more than graphical, but then so is Shakespeare. The brain hungers to anchor itself in prose, a verbal stream, not just in imagery, if people's appetites are to be believed (and why should we doubt them?).

As a preview of my standard training (dog & pony show), I booted Sun's VirtualBox for Steve and Jon, showing how I'm able to switch to Ubuntu (Karmic Koala). Then I went hunting for the Nelson Mandela clip about what Ubuntu means in South Africa, which I always enjoy showing.

Now Buzz is projecting a Youtube from our ISEPP president, Terry Bristol. This video won 2nd place in some AARP competition. Now we're on to palindromes, because of the structure of the above film. "We let animals laminate lew" is a good example. Segue to Godel Esher Bach wherein palindromes feature: Bill Sheppard (electrical engineer) is volunteering to lend his copy to Jon Bunce (musician), who hasn't read it yet.

Keith (not present this morning) has uploaded a 1973 Bucky lecture to archive.org, originally in ogg vorbis audio format, but now in mp3 as well. Here's a link for you die-hard buckaneers (lots of BFI types are reading this blog, for those of you wondering about my audience).

Speaking of disaffected buckaneers, FZ sent me an angry email in broken English (not his first language), vowing to stop our current forays into tetrahedral mensuration, of the triacontahedron in particular. Academics often fight over issues of priority, who discovered what first. There's a long history behind this, relating to bread and butter issues of who gets tenure, a pension.

I'm sympathetic to Frank's need for acknowledgment. In the good old days, he was less bitter. Maybe we'll patch it up down the road.

I'd give any serious geometer a stipend, just for sticking with it. Our culture is falling into disarray for lack of strong glue languages. David Koski is highly deserving of a scholarship, no question.

Don brought up the topic of Helen Specter's presentation last year, sometime after her Appreciative Inquiry workshop, which was excellent. She was fresh from Parliament of World Religions, wanting to give us an update.

Wanderers fell on its face on that one apparently, not the first time. As diplomats, we're not always ambassador caliber. I missed the event, am looking at damage control after the fact. Will the State Department forgive us, provide us with training? Where's Hillary when we need her?

Given Portland's solidarity with the Iranian people (an ongoing theme), you might suppose we speak Farsi. Instead, this Synchronofile page stays untranslated, even for Iranian readers. Over on Synergeo, I'm confessing that I suck at Spanish. My Indonesian student sends reams of code in Indonesian, but I just glaze over (fortunately, his English is pretty good).

Should AFSC move to the Linus Pauling Campus, as a reliable renter? Just a thought. Terry likes working with nonprofits that have complementary objectives. Doug Strain's company provided AFSC with a headquarters back in the 50s and 60s, when ESI turned over its facility on Stark Street to Multnomah Friends Meeting.

Much of the crew from Sam's boat trip from Seattle are here. I booted a video clip on the Toshiba from that voyage. I was not a part of that adventure. Great view of Seattle. Like you get from the Bainbridge ferry.

We ended with optical illusions ala M.C. Escher and Sir Roger Penrose. Quoting from my Math Summit essay of 1997:
Sir Penrose has added the “tribar” as something for which he and his father should be remembered. That’s that “impossible triangle” used in those famous Escher lithographs as a basis of the forever ascending staircase and descending waterfall.
Buzz is on to an old Beatles tape now.

We're nothing if not eclectic.

Out of battery, gotta go.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Small Steps

Some Python teacher in the Philippines was having trouble with Python 3.1 and IDLE. Too much crashing. I've heard of that problem before, especially from OSX users.

Eclipse is a big and complicated program, but maybe it's still OK for classroom use, running Pydev? Depicted above, a Python 2.6 project running on Windows 7.

On the other hand, some of the advice might have solved IDLE problems. Even on Eclipse, if you're preventing the internal loopback, you're going to have problems booting a console, am I right?

A reading for my Pythonic geometry students: Polyhedral Numbers by H.S.M. Coxeter.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

More from 97214

:: rare book ::

Today is Superbowl Sunday again, which for a lot of viewers is all about advertising.

I just fired off another rant to buckaneers about how even a single geometry-savvy commercial would help us turn the corner in communicating the more 60-degree based aesthetic of contemporary biology, nanotechnology. And I quote:
At the nano scale, you have the lattices (CCP, BCC, SCP etc), lots of icosahedra, all the stuff Synergetics conceptualizes about in a prose form geared to humanities types, people who don't digest mathematical notations.

That's how Fuller aimed to bridge the C.P Snow chasm, by packing lots of geometry into a not-mathematics (kind of an oxymoron to see it that way, changes the landscape to put in a chasm-spanning bridge, not seeing much tourist traffic -- a vicious circle of malign neglect that could turn the other way were TV advertisers to catch on (given it's Superbowl Sunday, which is all about TV advertising for some viewers, I suppose my message is apropos -- a single geometrically aware commercial could help turn the tide, not that I'm expecting to see any today)).
TV advertising is a primary outlet for "the Grunch" (to use Bucky's pirate talk), which may want to signal having a head on its shoulders, a way of inspiring investor confidence. We see some of that locally, but we're talking about a gigantic budget for reaching a gigantic audience. Where's the beef there?

Speaking of 60-degree based aesthetics, I was privileged to capture some video from the Pauling Campus workshop yesterday. GS is preparing to weld three plastic components of Flextegrity V4 (version four) into another sculpture for the upcoming book and web site. The audio track from the workshop is all about 60 and 120 degree rotations, with the camera zooming in and out (not "too busy" I hope -- not like Blair Witch Project, which left Russ feeling nauseous -- I wasn't using a tripod).

Two new v3 "sculptures" have just been completed, with one of them heavy enough to require a hand truck to get out the door. V2s are in inventory, v5s are in the works. I'll say more about the book later.

I was also invited to visit another Pauling Campus ISEPP fellow, our resident energy guru and psychometrician. I got my mug shot taken against a "UN blue" background, for possible inclusion on the web site.

The company president is no slouch, has continued hacking on a LAMP stack (= Linux Apache MySQL Python). He let me svn some of the source for the company buzzbot, that which crawls the web to build up a picture of the average energy consumer.

Speaking of energy consumption, I showed Patrick a picture from earlier that afternoon (busy day), when I got to briefly test drive one of the newest energy saving devices for short trips. No, not a Segway: a motorized two-wheeler with an engine too small to qualify as a motorcycle -- more a motorized bicycle.

The idea of an "energy consumer" fails to adequately describe what one finds in many zip code areas: intelligent and articulate world game players (more shoptalk) who want to internalize realistic models, just like the energy providers need to do. Wasting energy is simply not economical, while doing more with less is economical. The same ethics spill over into food.

Developing a sense of partnership with stakeholders is not a new idea. My preferred solution is to showcase a lot of energy-saving ideas all at once in some kind of prototype community of tomorrow (Walt Disney's vision as well). Make it a school or retreat center. This goes back to my Brainstorming on BuckyWorks essay, and is a cultural dream waiting to happen.

The Zeitgeist is a real enough phenomenon I think, especially now that cyberspace has given it more of an electronic footprint. Per Humans in Universe, we need not stoke fears about Persian culture. Freeman Dyson shared much the same message. Lets nip that paranoia in the bud. Students of the world unite!

The new 60-degree aesthetics has its promulgators in all corners of the Global U. TV commercials happen everywhere. This was a theme at our last Pauling House meeting, where the focus was Jewish mysticism against a background of inclusiveness. The Zeitgeist is not at war with itself at the core, only superficially, is how I interpreted Milt's slide.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Lame Analysis

A quick sweep of the media shows how "experts" are spinning the Gitmo story, saying Al Qaeda really doesn't care that much that it's still open.

The fact that two American presidents wanted it closed (Bush too) is not considered important. Defiance of presidents, of voters -- basically insurrection -- is really nothing new.

Campaign promises get broken all the time, what's the big deal?

Telling Americans how to think and not to think seems to be the primary business of a lot of loser "counter-terrorists" these days. Lots of factoids. Lots of anonymous know-it-alls.

Reassurances that "Al Qaeda doesn't care, so it's OK to leave Gitmo open" is a cheerless Orwellian message. I'm glad I'm not sending it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Reviewing the News

TIME Magazine has taken a respectable cover guy and rebranded him a "nutjob". Actually, the writer (a good one) has it both ways: "Designer-genius R. Buckminster Fuller was one of the century's great nutjobs, a walking unorthodoxy..."

"Unorthodoxy" is particularly apropos of course, given Fuller's long-running battle with the perpendicularist school. "Ortho" denotes perpendicularity, as when standing upright. However on some Little Prince planet of tiny radius, even neighbors and friends would obviously not be sharing the same sense of "up"; which reminds us that "normal" means "outwardly divergent from a center" -- more like grad in electrostatics.

I'm glad the Afghanistan president got to walk around a bazaar, yak with the yokels, share tea, swap stories, all without big security headaches. Just another normal day in the neighborhood. We like days like those.

Closer to home, we slapped a Kill the Death Penalty sticker on the art car, magnetic, so mostly a photo op. This complements my Quakers Play Quake bumper sticker (not shown) in that it plays on the edge of inward and outward violence. Jiffy Lube kindly tightened the serpentine belt on her yesterday.

Jumping to WDC, some squibs in the news regarding BFI and Arena Theater gearing up in partnership. Back to the opening paragraph, this is about the D.W. Jacobs play that worked its magic in Portland in 2008. The Dymaxion Car gets some focus, amongst many other inventions, including rowing needles.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More Grid Talk


Using a Dymaxion Projection for accuracy and a pole centric north, early World Game teams focused on the integration of the world's electrical grids, both as a time line of historic milestones and as a projected future reality.

The newspaper article I dug out yesterday, from 1987, indicates some top teams went for the Bering Strait linkup, but this never reached the level of much public debate. I also found a debating team in Georgetown that took it up.

For the most part though, talk of electrical grids is kept off the radar, in favor of Neo-Victorian chatter about oil pipelines and natural gas. By 2008, we had some "bridge to nowhere" to yak about, or could chant "drill baby drill" -- a rather limited political discourse with a low reality quotient.

Relations with Russia, in the meantime, focused on maneuvers in Georgia, a campaign topic on which both major candidates took similar positions, and then later on the transit center in Kyrgyzstan. We heard some talk of a reboot or reset, with a shared commitment to keeping nuclear technology out of the wrong hands.

After those initial World Game events, Fuller turned to Critical Path and Grunch of Giants, both laced with some speculative cosmology. Their author was a meta-physician after all, although other monikers have been applied such as "enlightened", "crackpot" or even "kook".

I've tended to pigeon-hole the guy as an American Transcendentalist just to suggest where to focus some journalism: Margaret Fuller Osoli was his great aunt and one of the pivotal figures in that lineage. I also follow spook Applewhite's lead in connecting him to the American Gothics, especially Edgar Allen Poe and the latter's Eureka and see Paul Laffoley's work, laced with gargoyle imagery, as expanding beautifully in this direction, perpetuating an age-old alliance Bucky often availed of, twixt designers and artists.

The focus on the global electrical and telecommunications networks continued through these subsequent writings, with the suggestion that admitting the insolvency of LAWCAP's bookkeeping system would be less of a loss to humanity than allowing some pseudo-USA to careen towards oblivion with some misdirected weaponry build up. He received a Medal of Freedom from president Ronald Reagan at this point (1983).

The rhetoric hasn't changed much since those years, amongst Fuller's die-hard fans, scattered throughout our "global university" (aka Spaceship Earth). The school of thought remains esoteric and off the radar in most circles, though it has a respectable footprint on the Internet. My own writings form a part of this circuitry.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Schoolish Business

I think the community is pretty OK with the Synergetics on Wikipedia page. Defining it as "empirical" (bold, not my sentence) is with reference to its essentially hands-on nature.

The discipline is immersive, the opposite of aloof. Synergetics is not a spectator sport. More like First Person Physics.

Fuller eschewed math notations for the most part in that work, and for a reason: he was wanting to contribute difficult prose, not difficult not-prose.

If the C.P. Snow chasm were to be bridged, it could just as well be from the humanities side. Lionel sent some great research on this, a distillation of Cosmic Fishing by E.J. Applewhite.

When average reading comprehension levels go up by just a couple ticks around the world, you end up with that many less scams, bogus beliefs. Outward wars, like other mob actions, are sometimes triggered by deliberate subterfuge.

Increasing the level of media and computer literacy keeps the fatalistic and apocalyptic from banding together too tightly. When communications run every which way, it's easier to put out fires, quell falsehoods. War profiteers should be encouraged to make an honest living for a change.

Our situation is dire enough without making it worse through self-fulfilling prophecies.

David Koski and I had a rather voluminous exchange recently, as I once again attempted to fathom his way of manufacturing zonohedra from hexahedra.

When he says a shape is 600-sided, he's seeing all these flattened hexahedra not visible to tourists, fair warning. They tile the surface of those not-rhombic polygons -- creating more rhombs for the initiated.

These flat hexahedra are as a result of construction, using various central angle sets corresponding to the great circle networks of such as the 6 + 10 + 15 = 31 and 6 + 7 + 12 = 25 of the icosahedron and cuboctahedron respectively. Yes, I'm describing cartoons, mathcasts.

In Bizmo Diaries, I give an example a Geometry Storyboard showcasing David's method with respect to the six vertex axes of the cuboctahedron. He did all the graphics in vZome, for explaining by email.

Q: What's a bizmo?

A: a business mobile...

...possibly going from the Bend area towards Forest Grove. Dave Ulmer had an interesting example parked at the Linus Pauling Campus some years back. In the full blown vision, we'd have dispatcher control rooms keeping the show on the road.

By "Linus Pauling Campus" I refer to a three-building complex plus parking lot, right off the Silicon Forest's original memory lane: our Hawthorne Boulevard. That's right. Both Tektronix and Electro-Scientific Instruments got started right here in 97214.

I phoned SNEC today and exulted about the Bucky play, the big difference it made in Portland in 2008. SNEC is helping to organize some events around the play when it opens in Washington DC later this year. Trevor and I both got to give talks, a real privilege in that venue (Portland Center Stage).

They're watching a lot of science TV on Youtubes over there or "back east" as some put it. Excellent production values out of India these days, lots of well-explained college level material, for free on the web. MIT isn't the only source of free / open course-ware.

Welcome to the Global U.

I stumbled upon this "bridge to nowhere article" from the Ellensburg Daily Record, December 7, 1987, when Alaskans were contemplating their global grid hookup.

That's but a distant memory most people don't have. What likely amazed some politicians in the 2008 election cycle is how dutifully contemporary journalists avoided sharing any of this history, even just for context.

Likewise regarding Iraq or Iran: Neo-Victorians chatter about oil pipes and not electrical grids, try to sound worldly-rich in some upper deck Titanic namespace. Google up some recent history to learn more about this electric world you're inheriting.

One might claim Synergetics has no engineering significance, but then just look at the track record.

True, both the geodesic dome and octet-truss were dawning lights in other geniuses (Bauresfeld and Bell respectively). That's what we'd expect. Great minds really do think alike, partially overlap on principle.

That any four events define a tetrahedron might be considered a foretaste of hyperlinks. Schools of thought "constellate" and "precess" one another in Cyberia. The invisible colleges all observe one another.

Likewise Synergetics is a hall of mirrors with respect to what people were studying in the 1900s.

Fuller was in sync with his times, and/or somewhat anticipatory.

Yes, the work may seem rather deliberately obfuscatory in never mentioning phi (nothing "golden" in the index), even while seeming to dis pi (it's more humans taking themselves too literally that he's fighting, as if literal pi were ever used in nature).

In working to stay true to himself, Fuller reinvented a lot of wheels. He didn't have time to find all the short cuts. Not saying we do either. Just some of them.

I've been trying to correct any misapprehensions regarding this math-through-programming campaign we've been waging. This is not about boosting honors or AP caliber classes necessarily.

This is about reaching out across the digital divide to anyone struggling, and providing some soothing focus time. Sometimes students relax by concentrating, if permitted the breathing room needed for study. If you've got time for a command line, then you must know where your next meal is coming from, if not the one after that.

Getting some kind of handle on the equipment just feels like a step up, especially if the stuff actually works.

I've been helping this guy in Indonesia via a shared canvas, PDF, attached Python scripts. This is stuff with colored balls in VPython.

In trying to help Bruce with his wrapper class for the Standard Library turtle, I gave some unhelpful advice. Vern stepped in.

* * *

My dear Uncle John passed away on January 20. He was an avid science fiction buff, lent me Isaac Asimov's two volume journal. He grew up in the wilds of Alaska. He radiated peace, warmth and good humor all the days that I knew him.

I look forward to seeing Uncle Bill again soon. John was his brother in law. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill's sister Evelyn.