Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wanderers 2016.6.28

Tonight we're learning about salmon from some experts in the field.  We're going back to the 1930s and early Army Corps of Engineer reports, about plans for ten dams on the Columbia.  The Department of Commerce promised to compensate for expected damage to the fisheries.

The Federal government suggested banning fishing above Bonneville, in preparation for the dams, prompting the Oregon governor to advise the US Senate that the tribes should be consulted.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1942 that US states had no clear jurisdiction over tribal fisheries, given tribes were quasi-sovereignties and their treaties were with the Feds.

Dams were a source of jobs, same with nuclear plants, and populations may build things damaging to their own ecosystem if paid to do so.  The tribes were hoping to protect their treaty rights and pushed back against the destruction of the salmon.  Yes, we're talking about Celilo Falls.

Engineers were thinking hatcheries could solve the problems the dams would cause.  They would not worry about managing fisheries above Celilo (The Dalles).  In retrospect, this was unintelligent thinking.

The salmon situation is pretty screwed up by now, plus there's Hanford with its radioactive leaking and resulting mutations.  Salmon-unfriendly culverts, often thanks to logging roads, have added to the extinction levels.

The Department of Commerce and Fish Commissioner of the United States have managed to take salmon from the most prevalent source of protein and fertilizer in the region, to endangered status.

Coho are making a comeback in the Snake, no thanks to Idaho, which promised to arrest any tribal ecologists who tried to reboot the species.

I've been multitasking all day, catching up on some of the meme viruses (mental illnesses) that result in so much suffering.  No Home Movie moves "at the pace of life itself" (very slowly, compared to most films).  I was able to piece together a floor plan of the filmmaker's mom's apartment.

The more inland dams were built mainly for navigation, more than for their electrical power.  Here was a way to get grain to the coastal ports by barge, instead of train.  The barge companies made a strong case to go ahead with the dams, in the face of a proposed ten year moratorium on new dam construction.

Today, a lot of ecologists, in addition to common folk, would like to restore the fisheries and remove dams along the lower Snake.  Grain could still be shipped by train, and grain trains would be a lot safer and less idiotic than the dangerous, befouling oil trains we all despise.

Men Who Stare at Goats was just stupid and I don't quite know why I watched it.  I couldn't identify with any of the losers portrayed in this film and didn't laugh at all.  Better:  The Hippies Who Saved Physics (less misinformation, a serious book, not a crappy comedy).  Hey, Across the Universe didn't work for me either.  I admit to learning from the experience.

In the foreground, I struggled with getting 3D graphics working on my new Raspberry PiHacking Math Class, the #CodeCastle textbook I'm following, uses the Pi3D module, but Epiphany (the default Web browser on the newest Pi) was not working with Github's new "Clone or Download" button (latest GUI upgrade), at least not for me and this was fresh out of the box.  My workaround was to install Chromium from an Ubuntu source.

The tribes have had about three hundred years to contend with a severely retarded "species" called "the white man" (the Euro-Anglo invaders), already infested with meme viruses (mental illnesses) when they got here, and possessing many more guns. The damage has been extensive, as we all know.

Given the Eleven Nations situation, Cascadian nationalism and so on, we have a complicated picture.  I'm not really in a position to guess how it'll go.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The King of Masks (movie review)

A touching, well acted masterpiece I thought (as did many critics), and an eye opener.  What a perfect film to start on Gay Pride Day, given the focus on gender, starting with the hermaphroditic figure of the Living Bodhisattva, an actor cast in both male and female roles inside of traditional Chinese theater.

Judging from the cars and uniforms, the film, made in the late 1990s, was set in the 1940s or so.  We're given few hints, and this story could play against many historical backgrounds.

The King of Masks is an old man with no family, in possession of a stage magician's secret, something to monetize through street theater gigs.  He's able to change masks in the blink of an eye and even with an omniscient camera we don't quite see how he does it.

The King is experienced and quite successful at running his racket, and never has to beg, steal, or surrender his dignity to make his own way in the world.  He even owns his own boat.  If this had been California in the 1970s, he could have been on Johnny Carson and made a mint in Vegas.

However he has no heir to carry on his lineage.  His prosperity would be so much greater if only he had an heir, and the Living Bodhisattva, appreciating talent when he sees it, encourages him to find one forthwith, as the clock is ticking.

The issue of gender really kicks off the story at this point, as Grampa is just as brainwashed as his compatriots when it comes to thinking of girls as worthless / unworthy.  He has a fixed picture in his mind that his heir must have a "tea spout" (a penis).

We can hardly blame him for this, as the bullies around him are mostly pricks and dicks, par for the course in patriarchal societies.  More matriarchal societies present their own cans of worms, right?

A subtext in this film is the attitude of secular militarists towards the quaint customs of an earlier China.

Sure, they like the songs and nostalgia, and appreciate the self control religion instills in true believers, but like in war, it's really all about theater.  They're cynical about Buddhism because they know it's all show business.

The young girl heroine ("Doggie') cooks and cleans for the King of Masks. He has become her boss, reluctantly at first, having inadvertently purchased damaged goods, as he sees it.  Ever enterprising, she at first experiments by stealing for him, but he rejects this type of support, showing character.

Having accidentally trashed the boat on one occasion she tries to make it up to him big time, by actually finding him a real boy heir. Her exploit this time involves a daring and athletic rescue from an orphanage.

However this "orphanage" was operating without a license, and was actually more of a kidnappers' den.  The King, by twist of fate, winds up in jail for kidnapping.

The police have no motive to believe his unlikely tale, that "Doggie did it" and intend to pin all outstanding missing kid cases on him, a convenient way of placating their public.  Grampa becomes fatalistic and morose, with just days to live.

This is about when, if there is a Living Bodhisattva out there, we could sure use one, but we only have all these theater actors playing out their assigned roles (police and army included).  The chips are down for Grampa.  He's preparing to face his karma.

I watched the film in two sittings, up to this cliffhanger, and then the conclusion.

My guest this time was an out-of-towner, a wandering vagabond (though not without coinage) and into Chinese studies among other things.  She had ventured to this neck of the woods from quite a bit further north and was finding Portland, near the 45th parallel, uncomfortably hot (around 88 Fahrenheit these days). I hope she finds the coast more agreeable, weather-wise.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Slogging On


Having reupped and raised with PythonAnywhere, going from free to paid, I'm today chipping away at my Django project, prototyped in Sqlite in a Jupyter Notebook, as seen on TV (just a saying).

Spinning up the PostgreSQL server was step one, achieved.

Step two has become gaining ssh access from mackurner, my localhost, but that's proving problematic, so I wrote to support (in the UK timezone).  Next morning:  OK, I'm in.

Speaking of the UK, today is "Brexit Day" destined to go down in history as "One of Those Days" days.  I've been touting #BBCmath as appropriate for Silicon [Forest | Valley | Hills | Alley] bitcoin miners and OS Bridge and OSCON fans -- a ragtag band of geeks in other words.

In tagging #BBCmath I'm referring to equipment not yet available in the US, as the UK is running ahead in this space.  BBC is issuing about seven million Microbits in a first wave of sharing.  These are less high powered than the Pi, but the goal is to create a self catalyzing peer group that self selects to experiment with more expensive devices (OLPC was likewise self-booting, with many of those early bird XO users by now on Ubuntu or one of those).

This stuff I'm doing around PythonAnywhere is pretty much what I'd have tried were I able to get my head around AWS when I had the chance.  That was one of my several failures, but not really, as PythonAnywhere is a shortcut to the same region of Cyberia.

I've got a review of Finding Dory in the works, however today was taken up with policy-making matters, still in proposal phase, regarding serving families more equitably and effectively with online educational services, giving guardians better access to the same courses their wards are getting. Sometimes the whole family shares an interest in learning English and Calculus (λ and/or Δ)

I have my own "Dory moments" like when I confuse a localhost with some other localhost and stop using the right passwords.  Sometimes I lock myself out just by trying the wrong key too many times. They do it for my own protection.  That's how it is in "the cloud".

I'm eager to free college level teachers from having to do "remedial" anything and am surprise they've been asked to stoop to that level when high school level teachers are perfectly able to cover those topics.

Yes, I'm tracking that #DAO hack but wonder at the easy use of $53 million or whatever as the amount thefted or accepted (depends whom you read), as that's pegging to the dollar in ways that won't stand the test of time, regardless.

People will read those stories years from now and wonder about how many tacos per ether that was.   A whole lot?  For a bank heist, I suppose $53 million is pretty meager, by world standards.

Plus how were you planning to cash out for those amounts?  What taco stands in your neighborhood take ethercoin?

Anyway, not really my business.  Call me "empty wallet" and move on (as far as ethercoin goes).

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) science is stereotypically hobbyist, but there's an illusion there, as in misleading mirage.  Really, there is only DIY science, since someone, somewhere, has to do the work of comprehending, critiquing, and composing (the "three Cs").

No AI bot is about to step in, deus ex machina, and relieve us from DIY.

On the other hand, DIY includes using automation where appropriate, so let's not make the other mistake, of thinking DIY somehow means "Luddite" -- that's just crazy talk.

Heroku is another way to get your Django projects out there, or go with Cloud9.  I've tried them all and enjoy them all.  There's more where those came from I'm sure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pandering to Muggles (editorial)

From what I've been able to dig up, the Common Core Math standards, as promulgated by a nebulous body of self-appointed experts, is devoid of any bases other than 10.

The so-called "alternative bases" are given short shrift.  But how do we learn what base 10 is, minus attention to other bases?  That's just for openers.

This omission would not have mattered so much if this curriculum outline were treated for what it is, a proposed outline, but apparently the IEEE is bending over backwards to demonstrate support for Common Core Math.

Go figure.

A lot has to do with CS (computer science) being purely elective and Math being required.  You need three years of math, or maybe four in some states, to graduate high school, and zero CS credits.

The good engineers are grateful for whatever breadcrumbs fall off the table.

However in Oregon, "CS-friendly math" is allowed by law and there's no such excuse for not teaching it.  Write to the Governor if you don't believe me.

I'd think any self-respecting engineer would have something to say about "mathematics" focusing only on base 10 topics.

That's not real mathematics, that's pabulum, unworthy of any proud nation on Earth.  Our global civilization hums on digits 0-F.  That's right, on hexadecimals.

I'm frankly quite disgusted with IEEE's spinelessness.  Why openly support something so manifestly deficient?  Does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation go along with this travesty?

Not taking a stand for CS-friendly mathematics, as a part of our everyday Oregon State math curriculum, looks like pure cowardice, or worse.

Lets review some hallmarks of any "CS-friendly math".  Here's a check list:

(1) not all functions use numbers (lexical domain used)
(2) a REPL is introduced (calculator was a first step)
(3) functions of more than one step are saved and reused
(4) Euclid's method is introduced
(5) includes Euler's function "the totient" of N
(6) introduces number bases other than 10, esp. 2 (binary) & 16 (hex)
(7) friendly to cryptography as a topic, also standard encodings (QR codes)
(8) introduces prefix notation for operators (per Scheme and LISP)
(9) introduces dot notation (per most OO languages)

That's right, this is Math that we're talking about, not Computer Science.  STEM has no "CS".  Sure, it has Engineering but that's no excuse for Math to stay so lame and irrelevant.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gathering Steam

Aperiodic Tiling in Islamic Art

I'm at the Monday night Flying Circus at @PDXcodeguild, working on my capstone.  I always have at least one captsone handy, to work on.

Joe on MathFuture sent me this article from Saudi Aramco World, September/October 2009, The Tiles of Infinity by Sebastian R. Prange.  I may have heard about this article at the Mosaic event at PSU, rings a bell.

Today is the longest day of the year, in the northern hemisphere, the Solstice.

Mom saw the advert in the Multnomah Meeting newsletter:  John Taylor was looking for a base of operations in Portland, during his visit from Jakarta.

Having cleared out a guest room in preparation for Henrique, from Brazil, coming for Pycon, I offered that space.  However, according to Joyce Zerwekh he's already found a solution.  Good news then; the advert was no longer relevant.

Don of Wanderers had mentioned John was looking for a place, but I assumed he meant a permanent residence.  I'm far from being a realtor so had nothing to suggest on that score, however temporary living quarters I was able to offer.

Margaux published her interview of PDX Code Guild CEO Sheri Dover to the CERM newsletter, where I've also published a few articles over the last few months.

The magazine cover below jumped out at me this Sunday, as the labyrinth motif is a kind of theme over here.  The "ghost church" has a smaller one (five circuit I think). We've got several others in then neighborhood, and Dawn would teach kids how to draw them with chalk.

Labyrinth Issue

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin (movie review)

Bitcoin has already enjoyed a lengthy timeline with lots of ups and downs, both in terms of its price, and its credibility.  These two are related, but not in any simple way.  That bitcoin would be worth stealing, and that investors could lose, is part of what's needed to build a narrative.  The characters interviewed for this film understand it takes time to weave a storyline, build a brand.

This documentary focuses less on what the blockchain is, and how systems beyond bitcoin might use the same technology (and are already), and more on the relationship with the would-be regulators, in particular the Washington DC based apparatus.

I salute the movie-making team, a bitcoin enthusiast and his brother, the filmmaker, for covering that angle, which is far less dry than the mathematics, more a matter for geeks and nerds to master (subcultures bullish about their swelling ranks, from Singapore to Illinois to Panama and North Korea).

As a regional clerk of the IT Committee for a specific branch of the Quakers in the Columbia River area in West Region (AFSC's designation), I've been garnering feedback from all corners, Executive Committee included, on what to make of the entire crypto-currencies phenomenon.

I yakked with Euclid, former treasurer of Multnomah Meeting about that very question today before Business Meeting (which I skipped, though I helped out with setup and teardown).  He expected we'd cash out if we got a bitcoin bequeathment, simply because we don't actively buy and sell, we're not traders.  A mutual fund has active managers looking out for their customers.  Bitcoin is known for its volatility.  Dorene shared a similar picture on the committee listserv.

I've learned a lot about what physical properties a system needs to shoulder responsibility, and consensus is a big part of it.  Quakers focus on consensus as a concept so there's a natural affinity here.

As I wrote to the editor of Western Friend awhile back (May 27 of this year, one typo fixed):
Regarding the bitcoin / blockchain thing, there's lots of resonance with the micro-lending movement, with which my parents were involved in both Cairo and Dhaka.   
The Grameen bank gets lots of kudos.  Quakers' Right Sharing of World Resources was at the forefront as well, albeit on a smaller scale.  My parents identified their own micro-lending practices with the latter institution / program. 
A lot of the same idealism is emerging in connection with "micro-payments" as well.  Primary benefits are to the "unbanked", the majority of humans with no financial services, and yet starting to get smartphones and thereby connectivity. 
Given how developing nations are looking to these new technologies with some hope, not to mention practical implementations (Africans and Filipinos are right now using the new tools to send home remittances), it stands to reason that Quakers, reputedly forward thinking, into planning ahead -- somewhat unlike End Timers who just sit on their hands waiting to get saved on Judgement Day -- need to be taking a look.   
I think Kenneth Boulding would be, were he still with us. 
It's in that spirit that I'm eager to go on record showing at least one IT Committee, however obscure, is raising the issue and taking it seriously.
However my involvement with crypto-currencies is not just through this Quaker connection; I've been looking at "code schools" and the hole they fill in the continuing adult education sector (which includes professional development).


A code school of the type that has alumni and school spirit would do well to sustain a gift shop that's somehow an exhibit in dogfooding, i.e. the code school itself has contributed to the gift shop's design.

Furthermore, shouldn't a code school gift shop accept at least one token geek currency if not more? The infrastructure around bitcoin makes that easy.

However, in helping future generations get up to speed in this space, we need "play currencies" that might just have some in-school significance, and run on a blockchain in ways that illuminate the core principles.  That might include QR-code readers connecting to store accounts.  Coders need to play with realistic simulations before unleashing their creations upon an unsuspecting world.

That crypto-currency companies might want to sponsor such exhibits precisely in order to help educate the lay public about the underlying algorithms, as well as the more surface technologies, is understandable and why the #CodeCastle model is geared to meet this need.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

More EduSummit Business

I've put out a volley of tweets lately about #BBCmaths, the Mico:bit curriculum, which I learned a lot about @pycon.  Look for Youtubes of the conference demo (#Pycon2016).  Micro Python is sweet.

Or maybe check @4DsolutionsPDX for the gist of what I'm up to locally.  Look for a similar initiative in your city?

Free Geek is another one to check, when it comes to cannibalizing and recycling hardware for museum-like exhibits.  If you're just making a diorama, you won't need to plug it in, just make it look like it's working.

The Henry Ford Museum has a messy teenager's room, from back when we had teenagers (just jokin' with ya -- though no kidding it's a real exhibit).

That's a new twitter account BTW, launched to concentrate focus on #CodeCastle type ideas. Hammering out curriculum is what's challenging but we think BBC is onto something, in focusing on where software meets hardware.

Robotics branches off from here, automating the boring stuff per that No Starch Press title.

How do we pay ourselves to get the work done we want done?  That's where the management gurus come in, rising and shining every morning, circuit designers of working workflows.  Given the many time zones involved, when one wakes up and another one rests is anyone's guess, right?

Looking back to an earlier Youtube of mine, you'll see "P for Play" as a root (core) activity.  This is Montessori type thinking in that Play is not entirely unguided or free form.  Step motors, actuators, even forklifts may be involved, depending on prior experience, readiness, maturity.  There's jargon about "jobs".

Mentoring and apprenticeships go without saying (unless we forget and need reminding) and people need to survey the field to get a sense of what's happening.  Just a 24/7 "job fair" is not going to get across the true nature of the work involved.  Effective recruiting drives require some ability to communicate foreknowledge of the workplace or studio.

Fortunately, "P for Play" evolves and by the time we get to Algebra, we're ready for those oscilloscopes and hackable GPS devices.  Those fine motor skills developed using the Mico:bit pay off at some point (it's only credit-card sized).  We're by now accustomed to the idea of leveraging a controller language to make stuff work.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Flextegrity Story

Glenn and Sam with Flextegrity Hexagon

Working with the spring-connected icosahedrons version of Flextegrity takes a real craftsman, which Glenn is, with special tools, which Glenn made, by modifying other tools.

The project:  take what had been a spiral (we called it the "e"), shown in the book, and morph it into a hexagon, for use as a table for example.  It turned out six-frequency.  The tapered base is not as regular (not a requirement).

Just after Sam left in his vehicle with the completed work, some old friends showed up, one of whom had been in the Philippines with me, in high school, when Sam would have been there too, with Bucky Fuller.

Sam knew the Applewhites from growing up in DC, and through that connection got to accompany Fuller as his sidekick and traveling companion, when invited as guests of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Imelda took them shoe shopping, with a motorcade.  She and her husband lived in a palace.  Bucky often mentioned how he'd visited with many kings and queens over the years.  They were one of those ruling couples.

As best as I've been able to piece it together, this visit occurred in 1972, but I stand ready to be corrected (I was Class of 1976 at the International School, then went to Princeton in New Jersey).

Flextegrity has much in common with tensegrity, and indeed Sam had done some sculptures in this emerging space, made famous by Kenneth Snelson who was bar none the best at it, having gotten the ball rolling at Black Mountain College, North Carolina.

Fuller was at Black Mountain contemporaneously, furiously working on his Synergetics, as it would later become known.  His first dome prototype was a failure, though Fuller was undaunted and redeemed himself the following year with a working model.  He managed to secure a patent. 

Kenneth had made tensegrity sculptures that summer, back in Pendleton, Oregon, his home town, and these excited Fuller greatly when he saw them, inspiring him to make similar works, and leading to contested paternity claims regarding who's brainchild tensegrity really was.

Some of those Black Mountain alumni came out to Oregon later, and several of them worked at Caitlin Gabel, a local private school.  I forget how that worked exactly.  I learned of this history when invited to a Thanksgiving Gathering they had at the coast every year, at Camp Westwind.

I recall joining this gathering again later with my wife Dawn and her daughter from a previous marriage, Alexia.  I don't recall if Tara ever joined us there.

Tara later got to meet with Kenneth Snelson when we took a brief trip to New York.  I had served as Kenneth's first webmaster, hosting pages at my site, in the very early days of the Web. I was BFI's first web master too.

The Catlin Gabel campus has or a had a big tensegrity made of logs and chains out near the edge of its property, visible from the adjacent St. Vincent's Hospital, where I worked as a consultant for many years.

I don't think Sam was eager to get caught up in contested waters.  In using the word Flextegrity he was branding something perhaps.  He wasn't looking to make art, so much as develop a new building strategy.

I've peppered these blogs with accounts of Sam's adventures in this regard.  Sam did get to meet with Kenneth in New York, as did my friends Julian Voss-Andreae and E.J. Applewhite.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Flying Circus


We have a varied group tonight, some brand new to Python, others more old hands.

I introduced myself as someone with a lot of experience developing applications, but more in the days of thick clients over a LAN.  Visual FoxPro.

What led me to Python was Synergetics, a new kid on the block about the time I moved from Princeton University to Jersey City.  That wasn't part of my intro, that's what I'm blogging about here, though I mentioned "3D graphics" being a driver (when in Rome...).

I brought some Whole Earth Reviews to share, such as the issue with the cover Computers As Poison. The personal computer revolution, pre open source, pre free, was just getting started back then, and those wanting to think ahead a bit were doing so, understandably, as big changes were afoot, as we see in retrospect.

What pulled me more into Python more specifically was actually a ray tracer available through CompuServ (remember that one?), named POV-Ray.  Finally, I had a way to generate some professional-looking graphics, right about the time we got the Web.  I was among the first with making my polyhedrons world-readable.  Python wrote the scripts that POV-Ray would then render.

Not that I got into Python right away, the moment I discovered my interest in Synergetics (consequent to Wittgenstein's thinking in some dimensions).  Python didn't exist yet, nor Visual FoxPro either.

Between Jersey City and Foxpro there'd be four generations of dBase and lots of different jobs.

There's an Introduction to Programming class firing up around now, Chris leading it.  I tried my hand at teaching that course, but without a clear briefing ahead of time about what was expected.

I went all the way back to The Turk, who beat Napoleon at chess, and who was believed by many to be an automaton, an AI bot.  The idea of "artificial intelligence" got a big boost from this illusionists' trick (a brave little man was inside).  The salons of Europe were abuzz with talk of "machine learning".

I told my eager listeners in that Intro class, laptops open, to follow along by making bookmarks.  "Google or Bing the keywords" I was saying, "such as GNU and GPL also POSIX, then go back and do more reading later, filling in".

I brought us forward from Napolean's day, through Ada Byron, then through the World Wars with secret code cracking a driving force (Turing's story), then the mainframe and personal computer revolutions, all the way up to through the Browser Wars.

Those were rough and tumble times, in the early Wild West days of the Web, what with Netscape rushing LiveScript to developers really quickly (too quickly), renaming it to JavaScript to make Sun happy, and now named ES6, going on ES2017...

Then I rounded out our story with our famous "world domination" meme (very geeky), xkcd comics, and how now Portland is an open source world capital, with a Pycon coming over the horizon (by now behind us).

However with a boot camp looming, my focus was supposed to be more heads down getting on with using a Python REPL right away.  What's a number type?  What's a string?

Forget about "the JVM" and "dot NET" and all that virtual machine jazz.

I'd been giving the wrong talk.  The followup faculty meeting made that clear.  I got called on the carpet.

Actually, the story is more nuanced as we had some advanced students in the mix who grooved on my overview vista, so we split the class in two:  rank beginners start over fresh, seasoned veterans follow Kirby down the hall to a smaller venue.

That worked, pretty smooth.  But I didn't get the job going forward, even though my Python is pretty good.  I'm not that much of a "Djangonaut" preferring "Djangsta" anyway.

I thought maybe Margaux would be by tonight, a young blogger and journalist who has done some interviewing of the principals at this place.  Sheri is leading a class anyway, so they might not have talked.

The meetup oscillates between round table discussion and studious silence, like at a library.  One of the students just finished his boot camp and wants to debug his Heroku deployment.

I look at < guild /> as a place to think about Code School.  Will we get to do a Code Castle in Sunnyside here in Portland?  I was thinking kids could still come in buses and do indoor camping sometimes; they were doing that before my tour, so I know it's done.  However, that wouldn't have to be the only routine activity.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Square (movie review)

Movie Madness had this on the recent acquisitions shelf, although it's now 2016 and the film takes us from roughly 2011 to 2013, through the eyes of street protestors alternately depressed and despondent and exhilarated about their apparent victories, usually short-lived, and so on (a roller coaster).  Call me late to the game if you like.

What seems remarkable about Egypt as portrayed in this film is the lack of talk radio or talk show TV, comedic and / or polemical.  I'm not saying these programs don't exist, just they're not mentioned in the documentary, which adds to the sense of low bandwidth, factions fighting without much intelligent dialog.  We see Kent State happening over and over.

Talk radio / TV is maybe not all that intelligent when one considers just a single program or channel, however when a broad spectrum is considered, along with the freedom to lurk and not talk, the ability to work through the issues, find more consensus, becomes more real.  More people get heard, even if asynchronously.  Podcasts...

Given cell phones, more call in shows would not be impossible.  Khalid's dad actually recommends the television station option, but would it have invited sincere debate from all sides?  This documentary, though overtly opinionated, does a pretty good job of that.

True, authoritarian governments by definition tend to be nervous around anything that smacks of "free speech" as that just means more content they don't control, and what's a control freak if not someone who freaks out about about perceived "out of control" situations?

Those with training in cybernetics, including economics, tend to put more faith in what we might call the planchette, or "invisible hand" -- not unrelated to a Holy Spirit or Zeitgeist, I'm sure Islam has something similar.

Feedback loops help smooth the awkward jerkiness, the spazzing out.  Ham-handed intervention by those with an overblown sense of entitlement too often simply backfires.  Angry mobs cornering a police headquarters or TV station:  what do they expect from trapped animals with weapons?  Such feigned surprise in some cases.

Jump-starting a more civil society always seems an uphill battle when those sensing some erosion in privilege are able to demonize a foreign threat.  Protestors become puppets of some alien ideology in the next round of psywar.  Keeping the battle psychological is actually half the battle (lost in this case), as physical violence only retards working with root causes and healing old wounds.

Lets remember an army of twisted Dexter types who quite enjoy their jobs as torturers, and eagerly wait in shadows, of the Egyptian Museum or wherever, for their truck- and/or train loads of human subjects.  Feeding their appetites keeps the torture taxis in business at least.  Egyptians join the rest of the world in decrying the lack of safeguards against Abu Ghraib style prisons cropping up in nations everywhere.

The protestors are pretty honest with themselves in more reflective moments, acknowledging they were poorly organized and over-limited in their access to information.  In the scramble to have national elections, no opposition party was able to self organize, a fact many blamed on the better organized Muslim Brotherhood, which had also been targeted and imprisoned under President Mubarak's brittle, zero tolerance, martial law government.

The Egyptian military gets a few voices in the mix: a security-minded general; a jovial army driver; a spokesperson for his guys.  Indeed the film itself, in giving voice to the several factions, is filling the void talk radio and/or TV shows might fill, albeit slowly, over a process of years.

I'm not discounting the Internet in harping on these older technologies as TCP / IP streams over broadcast frequencies just fine (encrypted or in the clear) i.e. the media form a networked cloud.  This movie is likely on Youtube given its content, let me go check... just the trailers.  Better for sales.

Note that I'm not saying the world is all that different outside of Misr (Egypt), a family headquarters for many years (a ninth floor apartment in Cairo).  We had our similar Occupy Portland in 2011, which led to physical violence for some, whereas most of the leadership had decided to end the experiment with the big victory party the night before.  By morning, the biggest tents were all gone.  Then the dump trucks moved in, after the arrests.

The thing about mobs is they can't often turn on a dime, much as freight trains can't stop faster than the laws of physics permit, either (no, I'm not referring to a specific legal case).  Wars are often a case of mob violence.  Once critical mass is achieved, the avalanche inevitably goes down the mountain.  There's no reasoning with it, or treating it as a subject that might in some way stop itself.

Not even the president of a superpower can stop a moving freight train single-handedly.  That's Marvel comics territory.  Warmongers know this and count on inciting mob psychology as their principal incendiary.  Spin doctors, provocateurs, false flag operators, swing in to high gear, looking for tipping points to assist their agenda.  Firefighters work to cool and extinguish the flames.

The extra "Unseen Footage" feature in special features is a retelling of the whole tale, with a lot of the same footage mixed with additional material.  I see this documentary as a valuable puzzle piece worth including in many a college-level syllabus (which doesn't mean you have to be in a college to get value from work-study programs such as I enjoy and help design in some cases).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Golden Rule


The Stark Street Meetinghouse was packed for this one, an occasion to be sure.  Veterans for Peace is a sponsor of this event.  Their goal, like the Red Cross and Rotary Club, is to eliminate nuclear weapons.

We enjoyed a classic Quaker potluck beginning at 6:30 PM.  Having been in Multnomah Village today, visiting with a North Dakota based math futurist, I swung by Grand Central Bakery on the way back (on Multnomah Boulevard), getting some fresh baked goods for tonight.

Peter Ford kicked off the event using the well-known Rise Up Singing canon, page 198, A-Rovin.

Golden Rule is a watercraft.  In the 1950s it was captained by Bert Bigelow, who deliberately sailed it into international waters in protest of the aggressor's asymmetric nuclear warfare against the defenseless people living there.

Bert was a Navy man who bravely quit his commission to stand up to the mindless cowards.

The aggressor was wrapped in an American flag at the time, although this disguise would wear thin in the following decades, as corporate persons (aka "walking dead") further expressed the debilitating effects of the military-industrial meme virus (called a "complex" at the time).

Carol, my mom, gave a strong impromptu speech about the Kellogg-Briand Pact, after we sang Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.  She pointed out the dream had come true, during a 1928 window.

Most people don't hear about this inconvenient-to-warmongers treaty, still on the books.

Sara, who wrote a hundred letters to Obama about ending nuclear weapons, did a lightning talk about her car, which has 17K polka dots each representing a nuclear warhead (a rough estimate of the number of WMSs (weapons of mass suicide)).


Carl Thatcher gave a short presentation about first learning of the original Golden Rule. Helen gave us some overview of the voyage so far.

The crew of the Golden Rule were arrested.  Their story inspired the Phoenix to complete the journey to the Marshall Islands, ground zero for the unprovoked nuclear attacks.

The boat itself turned up in Humboldt Bay, Eureka, California in 2010.  Michael Gonzalez rescued and restored it.  She was relaunched on June 20, 2015.

Mom wrapped up the occasion with a rousing speech.  She recently traveled from LA to Seattle, and from Atlanta to Boston.  Hers was a land-based version of the Golden Rule's mission.

She's done her homework, and knows from her own research that human subject experiments were a principal goal of the Mengele types hiding out as "doctors and scientists" in the so-called US government back then.

Follow-up:  Part Two.


Thursday, June 09, 2016

Ghost Church


Some of you may recall when our Ministry of Education was headquartered in an abandoned high school on SE 12th, since gentrified and restored to active use.

A similar property, not quite as abandoned, has attracted Ministry attention in Sunnyside, right next to the school my daughter attended, and what used to be the flagship Methodist church in the area, now largely forsaken for lack of parking.  The Southeast Examiner published news of plans to make it a community center, but no details of the plan were shared.

I sent some emails around about the Code School idea (CodeCastle?), a combination of classrooms and maker spaces, a community nonprofit.  Could we set it up with Google fiber?  What partners would go in with us?  The place needs some work.  Glenn and I had a meeting with one of the proprietors and were given a tour.

By way of background, the Ministry of Education was an OPDX project, an outgrowth of Occupy Portland, which was an experiment in setting up organelles of self government under emergency conditions, such as in detention camps in the Mesopotamia area, where warlords and armed gangs have prevailed over the unarmed civilians.  

During Occupy, I was in talent scout mode, looking for teachers, designers, engineers.  Some of the logistics I saw was impressive, such as the power plant and cooking tent.  We bargained with the city for better bathroom support (the city has that responsibility, with two public restrooms already at the OPDX site, still operational and better maintained as of this writing).

Washington High School proved the logical venue for the Love Song event, informing students about the design science ethos which informs our art colonies.  Enough people have that information by now that I'm not looking for any repeat performance.

The 4D sculpture we promulgate as signature, with all those whole number volumes, is by now free and open source, accessible to anyone within the teaching profession. The Ministry has done its job well.  The rest will be relatively easy.

A Code School needs lots of server space and a way to deploy new websites to the public.  Whether the servers are geographically situated at the school is a separate question.  In this case, the place is built like a fortress and has a Spooky Castle like atmosphere... and a labyrinth!

I'd suggest the Maker Space include work stations aimed at teaching about server racks, bar code and QR code readers, 3D printers and so on. I want to learn too; I'm not claiming to know all this stuff.  I go to Code School in student mode at least as much as in teacher mode, don't we all?

PCC is already offering a non-credit course in Bitcoin.  We'll have lots of space to experiment with crypto-currencies.  I'd think making headway on this project will be a relative no-brainer compared to the Washington High School chapter, at least in some dimensions.

Another idea, not mutually exclusive, is the "interactive museum" meme.  That's not hugely different from a Maker Space if we think of work-play stations (Montessori influence) as interactive exhibits.  Pouring fluids from polyhedron to polyhedron, per our 4D sculpture, could be one of those exhibits.  Maybe OMSI could help us with the design?

Monday, June 06, 2016

Of Math and Mythos

Cult of Athena

What some would deem mere superstition might be seen more as a code language by true believers.

Consider for example how in German language philosophy we find "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" used to typify both lifestyles and habits of thought.

English users did this too (invoked Greek dieties), with Psychology eventually lending an imprimatur of approval thanks to groundbreaking work in Vienna and Zurich.  We just needed that "collective unconscious" to store this stuff in, an approved container, known to science.

Hamlet's Mill, a work of scholarship, points out how those pointing the finger of superstition often miss the encoded astronomical information.  Once major players are seen to be star constellations, the myth becomes a mnemonic to help organize the public sky, the archetypal shared namespace.

Nietzsche, not a German national (don't confuse him with Heidegger), used such language to talk about the Zeitgeist, another good German word, which translates literally as "world spirit" or even "ghost".  He focused on pop culture, namely Wagner's operas.  He had a famous falling out with Wagner which only fueled more famous writing (he really liked Wagner's wife).

The concept of Zeitgeist is not that spooky though:  every company or team comes with a bonding chemistry that makes it a whole in its own dimension and we need ways of encoding this information.

We don't see it as "believing in" so much as "accounting for" and "hoping to predict".  OK, call it soothsaying, call it Wall Street (some floors of it), call it what you will.  If you want to look over the shoulders of some Quaker readers, maybe check out the books of Walter Wink?

Mythic tensions among the Greek deities reflected in these great discorporate battles we call "myths" are seen to this day, now encoded more in law than in storytelling.  The rules of trade are more fixed, more computerized.  Legal maneuvering has replaced the more memorable stories of mostly pre-literate / oral tradition cultures.

I've joined in such simulation gaming or modeling, using the Greek myth namespace.  Athena has a temple in Nashville that impressed me.  Following her thread back to the homeland, I came upon a friendly Python under Mount Parnassus in Delphi, and having something to do with Athena's  priestesses' oracular powers.  Delphi became the top brand in consulting firms.

Intersecting the above: the open source computer language Python and the Monty Python comedy troupe after which it was named.  Geeks-with-laptops are so much like musicians-with-guitars, and with other instruments, like we find in Nashville.  They're looking for opportunities to showcase their talents.

I played up this theme one OSCON when Gibson Guitar sent a bizmo (business bus).  Athena represents wisdom and music, not just excellence in war (she's a female counterpart of Mars in some ways).

Back to the future, wherein Greek myth is hardly an everyday language, I've been studying The Math Myth by Andrew Hacker,  and wondering how the threads would continue were Forum 206 still an active listserv.  A lot of the same memes are flying around in Hacker's wind tunnel.

I should mention, though, before dropping Greek mythos as topical, that Apollo ran that friendly Python out of Delphi in a somewhat hostile takeover that did not shut down the profitable oracle business, just put it on a more "rational" left brain basis.

Apollo might stand for AI (Artificial Intelligence) and a somewhat bot-like "We are Borg" approach that vanquished the Python ("slew the dragon" in later versions).  That our Python escaped to Nashville and re-established is an added wrinkle.  Apollo will learn to live with it I'm sure.

The Math Myth advocates lowering the voltage pressure on some circuits, especially where the steep climb over Calculus Mountain is concerned (one of my topics), starting in the foothills of algebra.

That trek has enjoyed privileged status thanks to huge amounts of hype (we learn about marketing in Supermarket Math, and Casino Math as risks are involved).  Diagramming the entire rewiring that's taking place is beyond my ability to summarize in a pithy manner, so lets skip most of that narrative for now.

How about these course titles below for both college and pre-college math courses (from mathfuture listserv).  None become exhausted in a hurry so keep spiraling through them in work / study mode.  Take them all to a new level.

Data Science and Public Policy (civics spin)
Probability and Simulations (more programming goes here)
Graphic Arts and Communications (includes the Fuller.4D sculpture)
Staying Safe in Cyberspace (computer security)

What Was

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Math Summit Revisited

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Oregon Math Summit of 1997.  One innovation from that summit was proposed by Keith Devlin, to better integrate the language of calculus and that of film.  That made sense to me at the time and I adopted this education reform for my Oregon Curriculum Network on-line resources.

The Lagrangian and Hamiltonian functions are both about anticipating "what's next" given information about what is moving in what direction how fast in a current frame, and assuming conservation laws, of energy of course, but momentum too.

Life coming at us in 3D, so to speak, gives more inertia values than a linear process might process, but who said we're not concurrent under the hood.  Certainly language refuses to settle down into a one dimensional meaning half the time.

You can check Youtube for lectures on these two functions, Shrodinger's too.  The concept to grasp is "phase space" meaning license to extend the metaphor, of space, to whatever.  Mathematics is poetry with special permissions and licenses that make it worth bitcoin in some cases. 

Whatever happens next, to stay within the realm of possibility, and not waste time, means staying on a surface in phase place, whereon the energy E remains constant.  In other words, keep it real.  Don't expect physics to change its mind about the rules, just for you, just for me.  Our best strategy is to use the rules to good advantage.

Notice how time as a parameter to the Lagrangian always creeps in as entirely optional, to where some mentors seem to deliberately forget about it, only to have their students put it back in (in red, but then it goes away).

How have I continued Keith Devlin's proposal?  Going with "action" in a "time tunnel", I picture film frames as framing action.  What is action?  In Newtonian units, discounting angular versus linear (say it's all angular):  mvd.  Per time slice (d/dt), that's mvd/t which is E.  E = hf, or h-bar (h/tau) or whatever.  I'm just reconciling at the unit / dimension level, not shooting for numerics.  Numerics come later. h is the unit of action attributed to Planck.

Then comes power: E/t.  Never mind how much total Energy we mean, how quickly did we spend it?  That's a delta.  "He blew through twenty million in an hour" is an assertion of some power level, for an hour attained.  Electricity generators have the same measure:  wattage, i.e. energy per time.

Think of what you mean by "rich" and the different kinds of "rich".  A busy farm may spend millions a year meaning there's high throughput, high volume.   Picture a lot of computers in a rack, mining bitcoin, using energy.  Other enterprises may just sit there and hold assets, potential energy, savings.  So we have the kinetic rich and the potential rich.  The concept of volatility enters in, as if there's nothing fluctuating, how is it measured?  Use it or lose it has meaning even in finance.

Couple "energy expense" with "bang for buck" in another dimension:  efficiency or "attainment of goals per potential burned".  Where quantum entanglement may be involved, one is in theory able to achieve more bang for the same energy, in terms of computation, exploiting features at this level.  Some people think that translates into telepathy, other spooky action at a distance.  Or would telepathy just add to the chaos?  The Internet keeps a more readable record.

We tend to tease apart Work from Energy precisely where the concept of Entropy occurs.  We need a concept of "waste", including inevitable waste.  Industrialists who want "everything for nothing" because they read about ephemeralization, need to remember no one is boss, praise Bob.

In geek lingo, a virtue is made of "staying lazy" (Subgenius:  getting slack) out of a sense that running to catch up is more likely the precursor to lame outcomes.  The concept is not the same as "doing nothing" as work is being done, just keeping it precise means attending to the local physics and actual energy conservation laws.

No one made us superheros all of a sudden. The rules of physics still rule.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Pycon 2016 Concludes

I'm in the talk on KivyPycon 2016 is almost over, though with Sprints still to go.

I just met Dorian from Cuba, on the hallway track, thanks to our exchange on python-cuba.

During the poster session, Robin Dunn introduced me to a developer working on an educational game for the Android tablet, thanks to the X-Prize contest.

Kivy is much further along for the Android than for iOS, given that iOS tools tend to be expensive.

Peter Farrell, another math-through-coding avatar, went over to Benson High School to "stir up trouble" with his Pythonic math book.  Benson assured him they do no coding in math class (surprise surprise).

Yesterday we took in the Python and music making talk.  Pyknon will let us build MIDI files.  JythonMusic was the other one we learned about.

I had some more hallway track discussions with QuantumDoug.  He hadn't known about the SymPy Clifford Algebra module.  Will it work to elucidate the content of Chris Doran's book?

I did sign up to give a Lightning Talk on Wednesday morning, but so had a ton of other people and I was not surprised in the least to not make it to the big stage.  I'd had an opportunity already, at eduSummit, where the audience was more focused to begin with.  Let someone else get a chance.

One of the most endearing Lightning Talks was by a human from OMSI (a female) yakking about our species, the python, the snake.  Although Python the computer language was named by Guido being snarky, referencing the irreverent comedy troupe, in retrospect that proved a stroke of marketing genius.

As readers of these blogs of mine may remember, my friend and former co-worker Patrick has been developing a configurable and programmable trap for snakes, with pythons in the Everglades a primary target.  The client decides if the trap has to be lethal.

The software is designed to be discriminating in that endangered snakes might be let go (any snake in a potentially lethal trap is by definition endangered, however I meant as a category or species).

Peter Farrell and I visited with Patrick briefly last night, betwixt our post eduSummit dinner at Dawarka's, and his hopping back on Tri-Met, back to his downtown hotel on Stark Street.

My thanks to Gerard Blais of Washington DC, a data scientist, for cluing me about the Amazon Web Services party on the top floor of the swank hotel across the street from our venue.  I'd been there a couple nights before with Leticia and Henrique (very fluent Portuguese speakers), and Luciano Ramalho of Fluent Python fame.   That party met at The Commons last night, on Belmont, while Peter, Patrick and I had our little get together in Asylum District.