Monday, May 22, 2017

Philosophy of Science

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Terry Bristol treated us to a lecture on intellectual history, using a big picture "macroscopic" approach. I brought my mom to this last Linus Pauling lecture of the season, and maybe for good, we don't know. Terry has a busy schedule.

My work takes me to Pycon, starting up this same Thursday, although I'm writing this from the following Monday's perspective.

The mind-meld (the seque, the synapse), twixt Pycon and ISEPP, was pretty smooth, in that software engineering blends with all kinds of engineering, just as computer science blends well with all science.

Terry maintains a somewhat insider "science versus engineering" thread, using these as two poles around which to organize different paradigms.  From outside his philosophical namespace, such a distinction might seem nonsensical at first, but that's how it is with namespaces: they may take awhile to penetrate (decipher).

I was please to see Terry's bringing in Vienna Circle thinking, even with his Karl Popper background. Popper disciples tend to be rather suspicious of Wittgenstein, but Terry is living proof it's possible to leap that fence.

Mom is somewhat hard of hearing and bleary of sight, needing new glasses, but in the darkened church was able to puzzle through the quotes pretty well.

I extol the ISEPP lectures, happening since the 1990s, in my Tying Off Loose Ends video presentation below (embedded Youtube).

LW in a Church

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pycon Begins


Walking in, I spied Guido immediately, which makes it official, then I registered, no lines, the Oregon Convention Center seemingly almost empty but for the geeks around tables.  Looks are deceiving however: they're all in tutorial sessions, with lunch about to start.

I'm taking a low key approach this year, haunting the periphery more, checking out open spaces, or such is the plan.  In years past, I've been ravenous to not miss a thing.  Designing one's own experience is an art.

I grabbed a Max at the Hollywood stop, leaving a car.  I have a gig co-teaching at Laurelhurst PPS back near where I parked it.  Then tonight, rather than attend the Intel sponsored soiree, I'm heading into town for an ISEPP lecture, Terry Bristol presenting, Carol Urner (MVP, mom) joining me.  This is the final lecture of the season and will there be another one?

In my May 5 lecture above (embedded Youtube), I exult about the ISEPP Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture Series and all the great minds it has brought to Portland.

Tomorrow the conference starts in earnest with the opening keynote and lots of talks.  I'm in one of the tutorial rooms as I write this; Applied Modern Cryptography in Python begins at 1:20 PM.  Maybe I can sit in for forty minutes to an hour, before grabbing a Max back to Hollywood.

A threesome next to me is yakking about the concept of "duality" as relating to topology and polyhedrons. I must be in the right place, huh.

At lunch I met a chief of Visual Studio documentation. Microsoft is making Python a top-level citizen in the VS ecosystem, meaning a direct install option.  That's CPython, not IronPython or Python .NET as some call it.  The consensus seems to be:  we use Python for machine learning and data analysis. Windows has also made it easy to install a bash shell.

A reason Python might be considered a "glue language" is it's bringing all the platforms together. One ring to rule them all...

Neil Raja, whom I know from Flying Circus, was haunting the hallway track. We ended up at an Anaconda workshop together, about dask, an open source project enabling the use of pandas (a set of data structures) across multiple gigabytes relatively painlessly.

David Koski is flying in Sunday afternoon. I'll be transitioning between Python world and Synergetics world.  Glue language.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Changing Channels

I accepting an assignment in Sellwood, given Monday evenings have cleared and I'm not anxious about traffic. Sellwood is on my side of the river anyway, and it's the bridges that are bottlenecks, especially with the Morrison still closed.  I'd never been to this picturesque little neighborhood school. We did a lesson on functions.

The debate on functions on Math Forum has been a little bit interesting but I just don't find much contemporary thinking going on, meaning I need to change channels.  I'm stagnating on math-teach.  Maybe switching back to math-future would be good for me.

Pycon is coming right up.  I'm also expecting a quick visit from my partner in arms David Koski, who is celebrating Finland turning 100 years old this year, same as AFSC.  David and I received that Synergetics Explorer Award back in the 1990s.  I've been living off the lump sum ever since (just kidding).

The new playlists on Synergetics I put out have been percolating through social media.  Osmosis is our friend. I notified many of the key players by Twitter, more to document my having done my part, regardless of how the network responds.  I'm upholding my end of the bargain at least.

In the last few hours I've taken a brief vacation from nonfiction to advance through Season One of Dollhouse, which came out quite awhile ago by now.  We're Joss Whedon fans in this family, when it comes to fictional storytelling. However that doesn't mean I'm always able to stay up to date.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bardoville

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Glenn clued me about this performance.

I was some concerned I'd not be able to fight may way back to my zip code in time (Asylum District), given rush hour traffic and my plan to wait it out.

After McKay Elementary (my assignment) I popped in to Shiraz Grill for some gyro, then migrated to McMenamins on Scholl's Ferry for pint number two, followed by black coffee. I got back to the hood right on time. The Facebook timeline has more of the details.

Bardoville was in a small church-like building (ParaTheatrical ReSearch PDX) buried in the Foster neighborhood, one of Portland's last traditional holdouts, still funky and unspoiled by the upscale franchises, unless you count Roundtable (I don't).

The wraiths writhed in the foreground, in black leotards, going through all the emotional states, while a priest with a blow dryer (religious prop) did his best to officiate.

An author, with his proverbial desktop and typewriter, bottles of beer and wine, broke in with his stream of consciousness, about this twilight zone between lives, pregnant with meaninglessness.

I think Bardoville might be a better name than Portlandia. It sounds less Utopian, and besides, there's more to Oblivion than meets the eye.

That's the whole point in a way: for something to constellate, you need a galactic soup like the Milky Way.

I wasn't clear if this troupe had come down from Seattle, or originated there awhile back. Glenn remembered them from Esozone in some way.

Quoting from the Southeast Examiner:
Alli, a professional astrologer, has authored many wild mind books on experimental theatre, astrology, and Timothy Leary’s 8-circuit model of consciousness.

Of the production he says: “The idea for Bardoville came about while pondering the current sociopolitical landscape and watching the world as I knew it collapsing behind me with the new world not yet in sight. This harrowing awareness reminds me of the Tibetan Buddhist term bardo which refers to the 49-day intermediary stage between human incarnations. As a culture, I think we are currently passing through a major bardo, an epic state between states, where the future remains unknown, yet also open to the potentials of creation.
We adjouned to O'Malley's, a neighborhood tavern, and watched the pizza guy make pizza in a most authentic fashion, sipping IPAs from Silver Moon.

DSCF5868

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Buddhist Ghetto

Meditation Room

I consider myself lucky, fortunate, to live in what some call a "Buddhist ghetto". I learned that moniker from an Episcopalian at St. David of Wales. The phrase was not used with any malice or disrespect.  The parishioner (congregant?) was more demonstrating a kind of knowing awareness of neighborhood demographics.

My contact at Maitripa College was leading a guided meditation this morning and invited me to attend. I was happy to do so, not having set foot in this institution before.  We talked a little about Buddhism afterwards.  Serious scholars don't buy that "Hinayana" as opposed to "Mahayana" is a useful term.  I think the word "Protestant" sounds similarly condescending, as if "in order to protest" were this movement's defining feature (at one time maybe, but to be branded that way seems diminishing).

In any case Maitripa inherits mostly from Tantric sources, which goes by Vajrayana as well.  Having lived in Bhutan for some months over multiple intervals, I know more than average about the history. Bhutan is more "red hat" territory whereas the Gelug branch is more informally known as "yellow hat".  The Bhutanese Drukpa sect is considered a subset of Kagyu.

After my visit to the college, I stopped by the nearby Burgerville (Asylum District) for a seasonal strawberry milkshake (I don't drink milk often), then headed back to Harrison Street on my bicycle. Most of the rest of the day was spent studying programming, which is what I do for a living as well as for a hobby, a lot of the time.  I teach programming, even as I learn it.  In this case, I watched another David Beazley Youtube, from way back in 2013, when Python 3.3 was still the newest.

Mahayana Buddhism, if we wanna call it that, came up with the Bodhisattva concept, or so I was told. A Bodhisattva is a compassionate being committed to being more a part of the solution than a part of the problem.  The translation to "saint" and/or "savior" is somewhat inexact, given all the spins involved.  There's no guarantee any specific translation will work.  If we know how to get the eigenvectors and/or singular value matrix for some great translation, that'd be welcome, but in the meantime it's up to each scholar to evolve a private understanding, with public auditing.

Quakers tried to dispense with titles for the most part, opting for "roles" in relation to given projects or meetings, but occupied in rotation, not for life.  We each get a persona, a character to work on, an individual soul, as distinct from the body.  The idea that a soul is singular, or even exists in the first place, might be questioned, however in common language, we acknowledge "individuals".  Through individuality shines a guiding light, or inner light, according to Quakerism, which might translate as Void or Buddha depending on one's brand of Buddhism.

I like to use "void" in the sense of C or None in Python, given my programming habits.  Existence has no final "return value" in this picture, which I'd contrast with a more judgemental one, wherein someone's opinion ultimately decides on some Judgement Day, what the return value is.

For sure the Buddhist deities, such as we see them depicted, may come with an attitude.  They're not necessarily neutral in the face of suffering or evil.  Perhaps they're causes of same?  From a human perspective, we might think so I'd suppose.  Some forces seem unfriendly.

Deities in the Joseph Campbell and psychoanalytic traditions get to be eternal embodiments of various qualities, inheriting from the Greek and Roman pantheon.  Monotheism eventually eclipsed these polytheistic religions with the rise of the Jewish and Christian faiths, while preserving a sense of hierarchy and of lesser beings (angels, demons, human mortals and so on).

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Code School Business


I introduced Wanderers to my topic with the write-up below.

During the presentation itself, I screened various learning tools I've seen used around Greater Portland, in connection with my code school work.

The slides merge coding with design work, as tool-making and tool-using is highly multidisciplinary.

What Does the Future Bode, in Terms of Learning to Code?

 The "code school" business is still shaping up in a rough and tumble world, full of uncertainties.

O'Reilly Media finally threw in the towel, closing its fledgling School of Technology. So then what happened to Wanderer Kirby Urner, one of the school's full time Python mentors (souvenir biz cards will be available)?

He's branched out into mentoring much younger folk, in addition to sometimes hosting a night gig for professional adults, off and on (a forty hour ordeal). He did a Python for Wanderers a few years ago, Allen Taylor attending.

Coding with Kids is the new company, based in Redmond, so you might be thinking Windows, but we use Chromebooks on resources in the cloud, what Kirby plans to project. After school, in schools (both public and private).

Given Kirby's unique perspective from the front lines, along with years spent developing curriculum for his Oregon Curriculum Network [1], we should get some interesting discussion going, starting with a 20 minute show and tell (projected) featuring some of the latest tools now in use in education. 

Presenter's bio:

Kirby is a former full time math teach (St. Dom's in Jersey City), text book editor, political activist etc., an early childhood denizen of Portland with an upbringing overseas (Rome, Manila) and a degree from Princeton (philosophy a focus).

He returned to Portland in his later twenties to met his late wife Dawn Wicca and raise a family. (ISEPP was one of Dawn's bookkeeping clients back in the 1990s). Kirby specialized in writing programs for nonprofits and for medical research.

 Full resume: http://grunch.net/kirby-urner

Want to optionally do some homework ahead of time? Read these to bone up on the presenter's views:

On Medium:

https://medium.com/@kirbyurner/is-code-school-the-new-high-school-30a8874170b https://medium.com/@kirbyurner/the-plight-of-high-school-math-teachers-c0faf0a6efe6

Ongoing Debate @ Math Forum:

http://mathforum.org/kb/thread.jspa?threadID=2852324

[1] Oregon Curriculum Network
http://4dsolutions.net/ocn/cp4e.html
http://4dsolutions.net/ocn/
http://wikieducator.org/Digital_Math

Friday, April 28, 2017

Portland Design Week 2017

Deke with C6XTY

Continuing the theme of HP4E, Hexapents for Everyone, today was the long-awaited debut of C6XTY as a camera-ready product.

Glenn and Deke came over to my place for the occasion, with Sam Lanahan, the inventor, bringing inventory fresh off the ship from China, more on the way.  You'll be learning more about this invention in future blog posts.

Good catching up with Trevor Blake this week.  He knows my HP4E campaign from the "design science" angle as well.

Likewise in the spirit of Design Week, I was able to get the Raspberry Pi talking to the Arduino Uno, by downloading and decompressing a nightly build of the Processing development environment.

As mentioned earlier, I'm plowing through a MOOC on Coursera, about the Internet of Things (IoT).


Design Week

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wanderers 2017.4.26

globalmatrix

I've been shaking a cold since Earth Day, last Saturday. Peter, retired librarian, used to working with the public, says those cold viruses usually take about sixteen hours to incubate to the point of producing a notable physiological response, so the notion that I actually contracted the virus at the march, or later at the studio in Sellwood, would be pure science fiction on my part.

This morning's challenge was to ssh into the Raspberry Pi on the same network for file copying purposes. I was unsuccessful in entering a valid password, so had to venture to the basement in person to yank the memory stick, without ejecting properly. Yeah that sounds bad.  Psychoanalyze me why don't ya? So the point was to get anti-aliasing working better on these high frequency hexapents I'm doing for Glenn, a specimen above should be coming from Flickr.  How long did that last?

However the workflow, starting with Adrian's antiprism, through POV-Ray (the rendering software), ending in a PNG file, is supposed to go on to the making of transparencies. The shading or shadowing the ray tracer applies by default, is maybe command line turnoff-able. In lieu of that, I spent some thirty minutes dumping paint buckets (a tiny icon) of perfectly white paint (255, 255, 255), atop the bazillions of hexagons, a few pentagons.  Not that many actually. However I was at least forty minutes late to Glenn's talk, amidst other unrelated distractions such as forgetting where I'd put my boots.

Today I'm co-teaching in an elementary school and must remember to pack an HDMI cable, as that's our ticket to the projection screen, where MIT Scratch will be revealed to these second graders.  They're ready, having prepped with simpler games on the company Chromebooks. I wonder if we'll have enough mice this week. Tracking pad practice is important too of course.

Later, I'm on the Internet radio, closed circuit, with my highly qualified adults. That's a gig I've been hosting for awhile now.  The format is quite similar to what you'll find in my Youtube channel, with regard to Synergetics, say, except in this context it's all Python, from built-in to user types, callables (objects that "eat"), making your own, up through context managers, generators, the usual object oriented patterns, found in so many languages.

Last week I shared the news from Stanford, about Javascript replacing Java as an "intro to" programming language. Harvard's CS50 has been using MIT Scratch same as us, just for getting feet wet, before plunging into C and out the other shore (by week eight) in the lush jungle of Python, and other very high level languages. One appreciates the latter more having experienced the austere starkness of simply C.

Glenn has taken to coloring the hexapents to bring out patterns. I'm not going to recap all that here. He had a copy of Popko's book on the table, but didn't lug the Sloterdjik volumes I noticed.  He might as well have, but then pretty soon you're introducing a whole truckload of volumes, just for the one talk. Why should logistics be that hard, right?  The talk was well attended.  Barbara Stross, Milt Markowitz, Steve Mastin, Jon Bunce, Deke Bridges, Don Wardwell, Steve Crouch, Glenn and myself.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Learning Programming

I'm always learning programming, or "how to code", coming from several angles. I'm ever curious to learn more Javascript, what with it's being a moving target and now having Node.

I've always been a REPL guy, meaning I like my languages interactive. dBase was my home base for so many years, flavors thereof, up through Visual FoxPro version 9, a Microsoft product. REPL means Read (the user's command), Evaluate (perform said service), Print (share results), Loop (do it again!).

I'm not some super-duper programmer who quickly embraces new skills or whatever. I struggle to have a niche in some environment with a fast moving current.  Geeks have that constant battle to remain current in a few areas, while lagging in others, and foraying on ahead in yet other respects.

Tonight I focused on input and output through file objects, using JSON and CSV files for my main examples.  I had Facebook stuff about me, sucked from their API some time ago, now just a text fragment.  We played "Where's Waldo" against data structures.  Kinda fun.




Thursday, April 13, 2017

Worldly Affairs

Using Antiprism

The Synergetics 101 playlist is complete at least for now. I've turned my thinking towards Synergetics for Dummies or whatever.  In the meantime, I'm content to watch imitators pick up the dropped baton and carry forward and/or jump on the bandwagon.

I spent some time this morning, in response to an email, researching InnerSource, which is now mostly what OSCON is about.

Portland, an Open Source capital, whatever that means, no longer gets to have OSCON.

Moving what used to be the Perl conference to Austin sends a new message.  Portland is no longer in the loop as much. I wasn't able to offer any suggestions.

My MOOC is going well. I finished the first week, however the way Coursera works my report on the "AI bicycle network" has to be evaluated by peers.

I've been talking to someone just recently in Shanghai and comparing notes regarding how cities now may provide bicycle transportation to people who don't want the headache of actually owning such a device.

Portland's system is not quite the same as Shanghai's, in terms of scale obviously, but also in many other ways.

What's going on in the background these days in the mainstream media is some cabal with a lot of friends in high places is going ballistic about stuff.  Literally.

So-called North Korea is angering to various species of control freak, as it might be a threat of some kind someday.

A high ranking Pentagon employee just decided to use that establishment's biggest non-nuke bomb on an enemy. They say that sent some kind of message to the defiant NK. I'm sure that will inspire more patriotism among Kim Jong Un fans.

Then of course many people watched the cruise missile show on CNN etc., with viewers invited to gather around the HDTVs in sports bars, and maybe cheer on social media. Many complied I'm sure, though some maybe more out of a sense of obedience.  North Koreans understand I'm sure.

Quakers don't usually find outward war either sexy or attractive, so in my Portland-based circles we probably weren't as glued to our screens as some.

We don't ignore worldly affairs though as the brand of Quakerism I practice is not about grooming Friends to become hermits, much as the Internet of Things is making such lifestyles more attractive.

I don't know who at West Point is in charge of teaching about literary movements and philosophy, American history. You can't really fight for a nation you haven't studied or don't understand.  I'm pretty sure they read Wittgenstein at least.

InnerSource means using a lot of the same technologies used by public developers, including version control, Agile, collaborative teams.  How open source gained so much market share in the first place is the subject of Revolution OS, dated by now, but still worth a look.

One may own a bicycle privately, and still choose to use a public bicycle routinely.  Software works the same way.  Many people who work on public projects and contribute their time liberally to such endeavors, are also hired guns inside of private organizations, where their work is appreciated by a smaller audience.

Antiprism Hexapent

Friday, April 07, 2017

Data Science


Yesterday was bright and sunny, and I got out on my bicycle, first time this year. Today is dark and stormy, with 50 mph gusts, quite melodramatic.

I got data science on my plate, more specifically pandas, not the animals, but the spreadsheet on steroids built from NumPy, available in the Python ecosystem.

Last Monday (at the start of this week), I was reading in from roller_coasters.csv, from within a Jupyter Notebook.  I'll get a screen shot.

Note that multi-dimensional panels, with more axes than dataframes, are multi-dimensional in a somewhat different sense than in regular polytopes.  Sometimes just adding a metric (distance formula) is all you need to bridge a polyhedron to a database.

I've signed up for a MOOC as well, in order to squeeze more value from the Raspberry Pi in the basement.  I've got a sponsor for that one.

My taxes went in weeks ago, however I have some loose ends to take care of.  I need to get printer ink for the Epson (also a scanner).

Thursday, April 06, 2017

More Ethnography ("Quakers")

Replying to a blogger on QuakerQuaker (Q2):

The model we've developed is one of Peace & Social Concerns giving a platform to activists to compare notes, somewhat in your Ulster warring groups model. These would be the warlords of various activist factions, perhaps drawn to Quakerism for its "judo" (right stuff), an opportunity to hone skills.

In our meeting that committee currently includes a Palestinian-Gazan rights activist, an anti weapons-in-space pro (my mom), David Chandler (Nine Eleven) and so on. The Racial Justice discussion group and listserv runs as a subcommittee (ad hoc), much as our ad hoc Gender group has been under Worship and Ministry (W&M).

Yet each P&SC member does battle alone, with other networks (mom with WILPF), as a "token Quaker" one might say (we're too small in number to be anything but token in most worlds).

The upshot: the Business Meeting as a whole is rarely tasked with worldly affairs "stance" minutes. W&M is more focused on "who comes through the door" PR, i.e. the quality of Meeting for Worship and do we welcome Goths or whatever ethnicity.

In practice, what Business Meeting gets tasked with is more around creating a safe space, which in recent years has meant a lot of focus on gender, given Portland is a gender-bender capital. Not every meeting is dealing with the same themes at the same time.  This meeting has been through other chapters.

What we call the Seifert Doctrine (named for one of our elders), is "Peace & Social Concerns shall not serve as 'the conscience of the meeting'" which is another way of saying its activists need to bring their own gravitas to the table, as there's no implicit endorsement of their actions by some Religious Society.

We do have "explicit endorsement" which may be sought. In our jargon a "released Friend" has a prized privileged exemption from committee duties and chores, freeing up time to share ministry, perhaps with a traveling minute of introduction -- a Clearness and ongoing Support committee would be expected in the background. Membership on Peace & Social Concerns does not confer such exalted status, but does serve the same support committee functions (activists consulting with activists).

In sum, we're a safe harbor for many who'd like a place of worship, a meeting, they don't feel defensive in, or about. For many, a Quaker meeting is that sanctuary, but without enforcement on the meeting's part of any strict conformity in how one chooses to participate in secular affairs, though we'd normally expect non-violence, truth telling, and plain speech from a Friend. One of our number, Lew Frederick, is a state senator. He hasn't time for committee memberships.

As another frequenter of Quaker meetings, I'm likewise free, without explicit endorsement, to go out there and do my Trucker Exchange Program or whatever, while others fight for refugees, wage war on false news, or plan realistically for climate change and eco-cleanup. Joe, not on Peace and Social Concerns, works a lot with Guatemalans (he and his wife go there and help out).

We don't have a Program Committee these days, but it's a relatively easy thing to book the meeting room for workshops and study sessions.  We had one of those on Iran the other day, Diane showing slides from her recent trip.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Experiments in Social Engineering

Peter Bechtol

Usually I entitle Wanderers meetups with a "star date" like in Star Trek, YYYY-MM-DD format, however this was closer to an ISEPP presentation in terms of polish. Peter Bechtold has done a lot of homework, and we enjoyed the presence of first-timers, another hallmark of a capital-e Event.

Peter's topic was both a quest and a conclusion. His quest is for a better explanation of the "coastalization" of US politics, with Blue states hugging left and right coastlines with mostly Red in the middle. This polarization mirrors the loss of a political middle.  How does one continue applying the old structures amidst such a sea-change in the political climate?

His conclusion is in part prescriptive:  the Canadian system is more democratic, in letting more people vote their conscience, with a peer group, versus voting against the lesser of two evils. The average USer is now facing the double-headed hydra of a schizophrenic out-of-control Uncle Sam. Is government governable?

The US system, as designed, heaps power on the two party system and leverages any challenge pretty much to the sidelines as a matter of course.  The winner take all bipolar infrastructure makes it well-nigh impossible for the double-headed hydra to die, or even share power.  Alienation is the outcome, and low voter turnout.

We learned a lot about other experiments in social engineering. Lebanon treats specific ethnic groups as axiomatic and assigns specific government roles to these orders, mostly bounded in religious terms, with several flavors of Christian and Muslim.  When we get to Israel, that's when government dissects into more flavors of Jewish than may express elsewhere.  Prime Ministers need to contrive allegiances and alliances.

Peter worked in the State Department for many years, having emigrated from Germany and earned his several degrees (two from Princeton). He studied how Sudan first adapted voting rights to its needs, first in deciding how independent of Egypt to become. He currently teaches in the Department of Politics at Portland State.

During the Q&A, I argued that the more politically literate needn't begrudge the "one person one vote" principle (children excepted), even though some budget relatively little time to stay informed. The act of voting is but one of endless ways to participate in a democracy. Transmute that literacy into political effectiveness in other ways.  I'd say Peter does that.  His willingness to present at Wanderers is proof enough. I also brought up the latest Palast movie.

That being said, some systems do hand out more than one vote to some people. Lets remember too, that USers vote in more elections than for USG-defined offices.  Corporations, universities, other entities, have their governing bodies, any of which may implement some type of voting mechanism. For example I vote for Python Software Foundation board members, by means of electronic ballot.

Also, as came up in discussion, many people have dual citizenship and as such are entitled to vote in more than one election.  Also, not all nations naturalize their native born, meaning children may inherit nationality from the parents and not from the surrounding state.  The US extends citizenship to babies born within its borders, more an exception than the rule.

Alpha Geek

Friday, March 31, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Glossy Magazines

Glossy Mag

I did a Mt. Tabor walk this morning, as Spring was in the air. I'm thinking back to our Wanderers Equinox celebration, which I didn't blog about. A lot of my favorite characters were there.

This time I stopped in at Common Grounds for coffee and magazines.  Dwell is for the one percent, jealous to have homes in magazines, where they might be depicted drinking coffee and reading Dwell.

TIME is still trying hard to be the voice of sobriety, these many wars later, the truly "presidential" American voice, in contrast to new waves (generations) of media that more openly advertise spin doctoring. 

Of course we see TIME as propaganda, but that's not a bad word, just old fashioned Latin.

A second after explaining what truth really is, these journalists get all know-it-all about True Korea and what "we" should do with "our" nuclear weapons or whatever.

Leave it to the Voice of Discorporate Authority (the man behind the curtain, some emperor with no cloths) to give us a good read about what's so in the world.

We can trust TIME to sound worldly, also pop and hip, not unlike the BBC in so many dimensions, with lots of advertising. Not the tea leaves I look at usually, but sometimes I'll wedge it in.

Oh yeah, what really hit me as ironic was all the hype for trailer park living, for those at the other end of the spectrum from Dwell readers, in some socio-economic sense. These are the "undersavers" we're told (no spin there, right?).

Never mind that architecture ("exterior design") has again failed us again, that we're falling back on solutions from the 1950s for the boomer retirees. How imaginative, right?  Your American Dream come true, Mr. and Mrs. Rinkydink.

And to think, some were thinking the Year 2000 would be like The Jetsons with jet packs and all the rest of it. At least we get to talk with our search engines and other so-called "smart" devices.  The Dwell people get to talk to Amazon.


The article on Camille Paglia and her free speech position, wanting universities to butt out of speech policing, was interesting. I can see why that'd spread.

I think generations sometimes talk past one another, like when a father continues to talk to a little girl long after a woman has taken her place.

The new kids on the block grew up watching Breaking Bad (a soap opera) and aren't about to let geezer-boomers tell them "how it really is" because what do they know really?  Just go back and read the older issues.  How well did they serve us then?  I suppose your answer might have something to do with whether you read Dwell or not.

Recycling a Vision

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unicode Anyone?


My opening gambit on Forum 206, about the place of Unicode in any public curriculum worthy of Americans, went pretty much unanswered. Bottle-necking to so few media companies means a backlog of unresolved issues, some of which might be disruptive and hard to manage.

Likewise my invitation to elaborate on fractions, in terms of shards, or splinters, volumetric shapes, seemed to just dead end.  Welcome to zombie-ville right?  Corporate persons Я us.  I suppose these conversations are just happening in other venues, where people have relevant responsibilities. No one said we had to choose Forum 206.  I agree, totally.

The shards I'm going on about with non-members of the inner circle: Mite, Syte, Kite.  Aristotle would know what I'm talking about.

In order to appreciate Western history, one needs to follow the history of computation, certainly back to India and China, but not neglecting the stopover in Persia, where the House of Wisdom ( بيت الحكمة‎‎; ) applied some spit and polish (an idiom).

"Algorithms" taught in Portland every day trace right back through Liber Abaci, by Fibonacci of Pisa, to al-Khwārizmī who lived in 9th Century Persia (Roman calendar). As we train up a next generation to get along (to be "presidential"), our public school curriculum is making sure we remember these threads.  Europe grew into its Renaissance thanks to open source computation.

Thanks to Unicode, I'm able to quote sources in the original next to whatever translations. Did I want Persian or some Cyrillic stuff in the same blog post?  Google has provided the Blogger service, meaning Unicode at our fingertips.  Just ASCII wouldn't do the job and the various workarounds were incompatible.

Yes, Unicode has some issues and I understand if there's some impatience with this iteration of an obviously needed encoding. I haven't made it my role to play a strident advocate of engineeringly imperfect artifacts, but nor must I become their scornful detractor. On the contrary, we make do with what we have, somewhat by definition. Complaining we're but backwardly human is not likely to change anything overnight, even if prayer is powerful.

I'm glad one of my colleagues mentioned SVG again recently. I've been presenting a model of how one matures as a coder, starting with lots of games, which we call namespaces. Then comes the risk taking of undertaking projects, however small. One of my students today got a lightning bolt spinning in MIT Scratch, and felt rewarded, as I did, seeing him learn.  Scalable Vector Graphics belong in the mix with HTML + CSS + JavaScript.  Sheri was showing me some SVG at the PDX Code Guild site, another reminder.

Lindsey Walker, long-time sojourner, came to Portland with strong SVG skills already. She was one of those girl geeks with a surplus of bandwidth for geeky projects, and managed to work her way into a high technology company, where she was recognized by management. I spent many hours in VRML myself, always attracted to Renaissance perspective renderings of 3D to 2D (you likely know this namespace, if reading this far).

You may be wondering where the Youtubes might be, showing A & B modules being 3D printed, assembled into MITEs, Bites, Rites, Lites (the three Sytes).  I'm wondering too, but then remember, welcome to zombie-ville, right?  Corporate persons Я us.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

RussiaGate


The morphing of #PizzaGate into #WeinerGate, or visa versa, depending on the observer's coordinate system, was seen as an ongoing #RussiaGate from a more IC-based viewpoint, i.e. the ODNI fingered RT (formerly Russia Today) for being the Kremlin's Al Jazeera and perhaps fanning the Breitbart flames (the late Andrew Breitbart helped Weiner's weiner go viral).

Bannon, formerly with Cambridge Analytica, may have had this endgame in mind, with the White House citing GCHQ as a possible source of intercepts, used to oust Flynn as revenge for Comet Pizza and Podesta stories (traced to Wikileaks in some cases).

We're used to that anti-pattern, of believing British Intelligence and then paying a price. First came the infamous "sixteen words" about Saddam Hussein, used by Colin Powell types in business plotting. By the time we learned the truth, it was too late, Congress had caved (a lot of 'em were in on it).

The phony justifications for the attack on Saddam's palaces were enough to ignite CNN's countdown to "shock and awe" programming. Those should have been tourist attractions by now, like Mad King Ludwig's (of Bavaria -- see Royal Babylon by Karl Shaw, on my Kindle).

The CIA has hated getting flogged for that disaster, but is reluctant to admit it knew ahead of time that Nine Eleven was coming (cite Susan Lindauer and others), as that just feeds the conspiracy theorists. Tenet sat behind Powell, symbolically bolstering the war planning, however stovepiped by neocons.

Pointing to those who quit the agency in disgust (Lindsey Moran) maybe doesn't help either as Manifest Destiny must never be questioned (see below). A convergence of interests helped bruised egos find one another in the aftermath of Trump's victory, and sing kumbaya together, at least briefly.

However, in casting the GCHQ as idly boastful, claiming to have superpowers equal to the NSA's, the White House is deflecting criticism from Russian operatives onto MI6. The damning dossier, to which many hopes are still pinned, has been all but disavowed by its leaker-compiler, and now the intercept story is falling apart, as another case of the White House misplacing its trust.

Who wins from wandering through this wilderness of mirrors?

We're gaining in financial literacy at least (Rachael Maddow is a good teacher, able to sustain a note of outrage), in finding the oligarchies all invest in one another. Popping open a Pabst probably adds to the bottom line of some fertilizer king somewhere, only three degrees of separation from Darth Vlad, and maybe fewer.

Trump towers around the world play host to many businesses and yes, Russia has lots of cash to spread around, gas and oil money, though not as much as the UK maybe, given British Petroleum and British Aerospace are integral within NATO's Pentagon and therefore flush, as that's what Uncle Sam's paying customers mostly sponsor: world policing by Team America, the hired gun, the campus heavy.

NATO wants to keep it up with the weapons testing in several theaters, having acquired a strong taste for blood as well as oil, including in Europe itself thanks to president Bill Clinton's angry bombings in the Balkans, of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade etc., the CIA at its peak?

As long as the White House obeys NATO and the Iron Mountain's edicts more generally, creating jobs jobs jobs for the million dollar camo people, the CIA is unlikely to get much more direct revenge, as it eats from that same trough, another piggish beneficiary of Manifest Destiny exceptionalism (what keeps Washington DC in the money).

Guantanamo Bay (the base, not the torture chambers) is still safe from the Cubans, still in service for R&R (so much closer than Okinawa!). NATO is all about its many bases, some of them titularly still "US" (never mind Uncle Sam has no money, there's cheap credit available).

A truce of sorts may have been attained therefore, with the IC going back to business as usual, hoping the White House was never serious about a lot of that stuff, about how the CIA uses Nazi tactics or whatever. CBS was really offended by that, as George Tenet told Scott Pelley directly they didn't use torture.

Hurt feelings still run deep, as Brennan and Panetta made clear, invoking their privilege to speak for the anonymous dead in the Wall of Stars. The new president has a severe case of ODD ("oppositional defiance disorder") that much is clear.

However pathological presidents are nothing new (cite Richard Nixon); goes with the territory.  Once the psychological profile is more fully grasped, they're easier to manage. Pharmacological prescriptions are not out of the ordinary (cite JFK).

As long as the American people remain dupable (very doable) it's business as usual perhaps. Lets see how the Dems respond. Oligarchs from John Kerry to John McCain bear watching closely.

My guess is the drum beat for impeachment, for better integrating Russia into the plutocracy (a form of treason?), will likely stay back burner as long as Scotland keeps accepting those Trident submarine bases and NATO keeps Russia from joining the EU (a lost cause with the UK gone?).

Of course both Russia and the EU would change in character were Russia to think more seriously about joining, but that's the point: more customs-free borders, with substance control handled in other ways.  We don't want to inspect every Tom, Dick or Harry who happens to drive a long-haul truck, given RFID and all that.

Joining the EU would not preclude Russia's continuing with other alliances, including with Iran and Asian players, also BRIC or whatever.  What's the downside?  We shall see.  NATO probably has some objections, and the UK is still part of NATO (including Scotland).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Service


I lucked out finding parking at the school today. I'm a circuit rider, and sometimes traffic is unpredictable, at least by me.  I'll need to make an earlier start next week.  As it was, I got there by 2:30 PM on the dot, calling Darwin to assure him I'd hit my mark.

I'm impressed by all these boys getting along. They're developing culture around MIT Scratch. My own little offering is admittedly silly.  I like how the captions are so lame, in terms of timing, whereas this is a computer program, so should be perfect.

Getting a Quaker to concede to safe firearm training as a public school elective might've seemed quite the arm twisting feat. Safe driving courses: same category.  I didn't make the meeting in Salem. I'd go down there weekly when I consulted for Associated Oregon Industries however those days are long over. I make do with Facebook.

Is that K-16 public school? I know a lot of people agitating for that. Lots of boarding options. We'd have outdoor opportunities, but city folk don't always cotton to the ways of country folk, so orientation is essential, as for Peace Corps. Social engineers needed, and that includes politicians as a subspecies.

What do second graders know? I'm not the expert. I'd probably be more effective thinking through with teachers how they'd like to innovate. We had these discussions in Kensington (Greater London) in 2006, care of Shuttleworth Foundation but with the RSA in view, not the USA.  How would Learning to Code mix with math learning. In the USA they had an answer right away, without needing to think about it.

Their plan here is to teach a lot of topics several times in several ways, as we do now. Consider plotting points in the XY plane, then adding the Z axis. That's taught without vectors, the first time, then again with, though without mentioning vector graphics versus bitmap.  Now we'll probably want yet another pass, with Computer Science providing the objects (vectors are objects).  Is that an optimized approach?  Who knows and who cares.

I've agitated for the rights of math teachers to think outside of their box and get paid to do so. They want better jobs, less hectic, more creative, more respected.  Having responsibility for innovation would add all that, or could, but for now math teachers are told to stay in their box and let computer science nail them into their coffins.  Math teachers tend to not suffer from Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and are getting boxed in.

With Computer Science come ray tracers and the ability to sculpt in computed light. Geometry beacons, with its hard science of set ratios.  There's grist for rationality as well as irrationality in that 3D printable domain.  The NCLB Polyhedron is there: the RT.  Whether we hearken back to NCLB or not, at least there's Phi (I say "fie", some say "fee").

Speaking of Phi, I'm not sure where Princeton Philosophy stands on whether I'm right in my claim that our Medal of Freedom winner grandnephew of Margaret Fuller should get in more air time in K-16.  I'm seeing where all the kids research famous people for their poster presentations, such as Helen Keller and John Glenn.

I'm aware that philosophy in general has rendered its decision, with Peter Sloterdjik providing enough of a context in the Bubbles, Globes and Foams trilogy to keep some of this heritage rolling forward, even if not in the US. Lets not confuse the US with North America the territory however. Silicon Forest remains a pioneer. Not everyone has to play the role of blood clot in this scenario.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nuts and Bolts


I figure I'm "working for the government" simply in doing my civic duty and investigating my own country. The FBI might as well pay me to study up on the heroin epidemic, shades of Mena in where the drugs might be coming from i.e. from aircraft involved in drug wars.

However that's not my main focus.

Contextualizing my analysis in light of the "Amy cartoon" (she does the storytelling), I have to think of how news networks sop up advertising dollars from the major drug companies, the ones lucky enough to own FDA-approved inventory, meaning insurance will reward the privileged who happen to have whatever conditions they get prescribed for. The DEA will not interfere.

The painkiller industry stoked a major epidemic in North America, especially with the advertising around Oxy. Yes, deflecting blame onto Percocet and Vicodin is often done, but it's about more than if you're an opiate, it's about what media campaigns you succeed at.  The Oxy team had some pro spin doctors.

The FBI went after the "bad apple" physicians but has no mandate to pursue systemic change, as that would be the business of Congress, the rule-making body. How might the FDA admit wrong-doing in allowing Oxy's claims to be especially non-addictive, to go unchallenged?  There's no way, right?  Law enforcement has little leverage with what's by definition legal.

The medical community as a whole got wise to the truth about Oxy, but the damage was done. Cutting off the supply means pushing former patients into desperation. Heroin is the next thing.

We learned about Oxy with Rush Limbaugh, a high profile user. Billboards have gone up everywhere. The issue came up in the presidential campaign. Yet now here we are, debating health care, and we're not really saying if addiction to medication will receive any concerted government attention. Public health and the government's health care bill exist on different planes of discussion.

On Facebook I started up a group of citizens united behind the idea that our heroin epidemic is an emergency and FEMA should step in.

Those "camps" might sound last resort, but hitting bottom on heroin can get that way. These will be a way out.

Also, it's an emergency if your name was purged from the voter roles by intentionally sloppy SQL, so FEMA should have a phone number for inquiries about that too.

Science fiction I realize, that FEMA would take either emergency seriously, but I thought a 3rd party (neither Dems nor Pubs) might use this as a plank in its platform, with the slogan "FEMA loves you". Yes, eerie.

However what's also eerie is how, now that we're down to something like six major media companies, there's no room to focus on the real sufferings of real voters (or would be voters). Air time is what you pay for, you being the advertising sponsor, not the viewer consumer.  You need to push a lot of painkillers to those in pain. Our stories will help you do that.

The supposedly logical response is to deprive local farmers of their privilege to grow their own opium poppies. Demand-side health programs, compassionate treatment, is actually addressing the issue (addiction), whereas supply-side shut-off and interdiction is the better way to get cut in, as another dealer.  The moralizers, who would criminalize and not treat, end up fueling the whole game.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

WQM Mens Group 2017


I've been a stalwart of this Men's Group for many years now, although I was not present at its inception.

When I moved back to Portland and sought friendship, twas the regional Gathering of Western Young Friends to which I felt attracted. Such beautiful people (Pan, Kate...). I still think so.

However by now, in my late fifties, versus late twenties, I've shifted gears, and it's with these old farts and geezers, half of us dead, that I hang out with at Big Bear Camp, once a year.

This weekend, for me, was a lot about being a tourist in my home state of Oregon. As a person born in Chicago, with memories mostly starting here, but away overseas from 3rd grade until well after college (overseas includes New Jersey, Cairo, Rome, Manila and more, not necessarily in that order), I'm not nearly as familiar with the territory as some of these other Quaker men.

Their knowledge of history, geography, ethno-botany, far exceeds mine. Wesley's lunch, a detailed introduction to local foods, from olive oil to salmon to hazelnut and stinging nettle pesto, was a total eye opener.

Much of the time, I had my head in a book, a peek into the Castaneda family by the widow.  She's no slouch as a writer and as "something else" (between outright lie and factual truth) I'd circle "encryption" (in itself a full spectrum). A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda, by Margaret Runyan Castaneda (Millenia Press, Victoria BC, 1997).

One wishes to tell a story, but not lay it all bare, as it's not a confession or admission of anything.  Do we always assume the anonymous reader is entitled to unearned access?  From innocence, one may play with the truth in order to share a deeper truth.  Is that true?  People do encrypt, as well as obfuscate and confabulate.

I'd set a goal ahead of time to out myself more explicitly this time, rogue that I am, as practicing Subgenius and Pastafarian, as well as Quaker.

In closing worship, I expressed gratitude for being a spaghetti strand (scenario) in partially overlapping scenario Universe (spaghetti ball).  "Ra-men" quipped one of the elders.

Somewhere around Munroe, Joe and I, not driving, reconnected to the grid. Within minutes, I was babbling in the back seat regarding the issues some were having on Forum 206 with Gulen schools, charter schools run by a Sufi sect, even more controversial in Turkey.

Joe started  telling us everything we needed to know about zirconium.

Our driver was amazed at how Cyberia makes easy the asking of all questions, like some Delphic oracle. Just ask Her.

One of my other readings this weekend was The Gift: Poems by Hafiz The Great Sufi Master, translations by Daniel Ladinsky (Penguin Compass, 1999).

We're not all as old as I'm making out, with some definitely younger, and others bordering on ageless. Check our outreach listserv for more insights into our subculture.  Maybe you'd like to join us some year? Watch for the flyer.

March 12 or close thereto is when we meet, the week before St. Patrick's Day, at the very beginning of Spring in these parts (snow fell in the area as recently as a week ago).

As always, we devoted considerable time to reminiscing, and thinking of men who couldn't make it this year. We also focused our attention on people undergoing procedures. Marty in particular was on our minds. He'd just blogged what it was like undergoing brain surgery.

Our group includes both war veterans and conscientious objectors, and descendants thereof. We talked and thought about war a lot, and how best to forestall outward, in favor of inward, struggles.  What good news might we share? These are perennial Quaker queries.

I yakked about my "Truckistan Project" a form of science fiction I'm nurturing to move in the direction of reality. Some call this process "investment banking" I pointed out.  Truckers of the world exchange routes, for academic credit (the program is about more than hauling loads).

Wes went to seminary school in Boston, was a Quaker pastor, lived in Hawaii for many years. He seems the quintessential indigenous Oregonian to me. He knew the mussels were plentiful thanks to the starfish die off, but maybe the latter were coming back?  As it is, we enjoyed the mussels he'd hand picked, his allotted portion.

His folks were of the Gurneyite persuasion, whereas many of us North Pacific Yearly Meeting types would brand ourselves refugees from that branch. The Bean family escaped Iowa Yearly Meeting to found College Park Association in California.  Our Willamette Quakers grew from Beanite roots in many ways.

Another topic of discussion were some of the controversies engaging the attention of other branches of Friends. Northwest Yearly Meeting is different from ours. That doesn't mean we don't track or care about their internal debates.

I'm not the expert though.  In gatherings such as this I'm more taking mental notes as the observing ethnographer.  Many elders have a stronger grasp of specific narratives. I chime in with jigsaw puzzle pieces, hoping to find out where they go.

I had the little yurt to myself. Having soaked my socks through, I decided to dry them on the wood stove, a stupid mistake, as they charred and set off the smoke alarm. I confessed to camp management that some "sock juice" remained on the burner. Hal assured me he could burn it off.

Hal really enjoyed getting my multi-national life story this time and by the end was telling Tonia we were a CIA family. I appreciate where he was coming from on that, however as good Quakers, we never aspired to proselytize for the USG in that way.  Dad was freelance, a planner, mom an activist. My parents did get to meet the Applewhites that time.

I don't think I left anything behind this year.

Once back in Portland, I was eager to lookup Glenn and have a beer, our WQM Men's Group being alcohol free by tradition. He'd scored more Good Will finds (where he scours for books).

A proto-Phoenician civilization connected South America to Crete.  You had to know the wind currents.  Many did (relatively few, but enough to crew whatever ships).

I could picture Bucky Fuller reading this stuff in the 1960s, when it first came out, and weaving it into Critical Path, his unique mytho-poetic (encrypted?) version of world history (in some sections).

Bucky was as much an exile as Castaneda in some ways, a pariah, somewhat given a bad name by psychedelic culture. I write more about that elsewhere.

:: video by Joe Snyder ::

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Wading Around

Some dike in the nether-sphere burst someplace, and now we're all knee deep in something, not sure what it is.

Yeah that was some interview with former CIA chief Leon Panetta on CBS, saying maybe Trump was crazy for thinking the CIA was against him and maybe he should step down?

Or maybe "crazy while in office" is OK. Worked with Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria to a certain extent.  I see some parallels, who wouldn't?

Would Panetta be acting interim president while the CIA decided who to really run? I'll probably hear all about that on Alex Jones.

However I'm leery of this sea of tabloid, of polluted press.  Do I want to swill around in it?  Last night in an extended Wanderers session, we talked for almost an hour about cow manure, what it's like to fall in it head first.  Was that an omen of something?

I understand the confusion. Who really said anything about a wiretap? OK, the NYT did, but never that Obama authorized it.
The White House forwarded The New York Times several articles about investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that include the word “wiretapping.” None contend, as Mr. Trump did, that Mr. Obama personally ordered the surveillance of Trump Tower phones.
 Trump: "Oh, so it was unauthorized by any president?" Pause. CIA: "We think you're crazy."

No one said anything about a wiretap for sure right? Like anyone high up enough in CIA with enough clearances could call the Russian ambassador and ask directly if Flynn said anything interesting.  Who said anything about "intercepting"? Heck, I'll call Putin himself if I feel like it (I don't think he'd take my call though as I'm a nobody).
 
OK, maybe that word was used ("intercept").  Former congressman Kucinich was warning about the high Banana Republic quotient, when you get intelligence chiefs and the president duking it out on Oprah.

However it wasn't like that exactly.  Panetta got to have his say, ratcheting it up from where Michael Morell had taken it earlier, on the same network.

More likely Flynn himself remembered more details, when under the bright lights. Then what he confessed got leaked?  For what crime again?  Lying to the Vice Principal?

Taking his job too seriously I think it was.  He was trying to reach for the munchies before the party had really started yet.

I'm not saying the CIA and FBI don't have reasons for going after the White House.  They've been public and aggressive about it, or at least some high profile talking heads have played a role.  Go seek and ye shall find.

As a simple corollary, the president would have every right to be paranoid, and in need of some assurances he could trust his own bureaucracy.  No way, according to Panetta.  This feud is not resolving any time soon.

Wanderers is a sort of Ouija board style of conversation, a co-creation of those present. Group dynamics may be studied in this way, ala David Bohm in his later work.  Dr. Nick Consoletti, speaking of peripatetics, did his thesis in that area.

Monday, March 06, 2017

STEM for Philosophers




Friday, March 03, 2017

Thermodynamically Speaking

Alternative Paradigms

We got a deeply insider look at recent history last night, though fair warning by "recent" I mean towards the start of the Industrial Age in Europe. Steam power was coming on-line, changing everything, and reasoning about steam, a precursor to reasoning about electricity, was something on many a gifted mind, Sadi Carnot being one of them.

Here's what most people don't know: that Carnot's dad, Lazare, was a thermodynamicist as well, and a damn good one. I think of Kenneth Iverson and his son Eric, computer language architects, as a similar duo. Sadi, who only lived into his mid-30s, perishing we're not sure how, was in many ways advancing his father's work.

Our tour guide for the evening is by day a practicing professor of the history of science in beautiful France and boasts a brilliantly multi-national resume.  He is founder and first former head of the Research Centre for the Theory and History of Science, University of West Bohemia, in Pizen, Czech Republic.

He's been a collaborator with the late Dr. Gillespie at Princeton. Raffaele Pisano was eager that we know of their work together, and I understand why. I'm planning to bone up on Gillespie's corpus in hopes of bolstering my own grasp of science history. I attended Princeton myself. We were definitely reading Thomas Kuhn.  I worked under Dr. Rorty's supervision on the philosophy thesis on Wittgenstein, a product of my time.

Dr. Pisano is Italian by birth and heritage, lectures in French, and has enough command of English to hold forth in Portland and not lose me in that sense (I'm fine with European English).  What I learned from the talk will take awhile to put together though. I'm still working on these puzzles.  It'd be hard to say I've gotten to the bottom of anything, but I do like digging down.

We learned that the Carnot lineage really has a different look and feel from the Newtonian one, which was more ancient Greek in its callback to Axioms (Newton's Laws had that sheen).  Carnot was more into Hypotheses and deliberately eschewed much special mathematical notation in his actual treatise.

We were seeing slides of actual papers, hand-written, stuff the various archives still have on file.  Raffaele knows his way around these hard-to-access places and we sincerely respect him for that (Terry was especially effusive, knowing what it takes).

Carnot's logic made heavy use of the double negative, and much of Dr. Pisano's talk was aimed at categorizing types of logic such that Carnot's might be recognized as a brilliant specimen of one such type. This is where some in the audience probably felt out of their depth.

Given our Buddhist Ghetto in Southeast and familiarity with Nagarjuna for example, we're somewhat aware that the law of the excluded middle, and a lot of other such rule systems, may be specific to a namespace, form of life, and/or subculture.

We don't count on everyone agreeing on just "the one" system at this point in our history. Portland is cosmopolitan among its digerati and literati. ISEPP talks bring our Silicon Forest intelligentsia together, and I assure you, we're out there.  Terry has provided years of entertainment unlike anything even on Youtube.

These post Renaissance thinkers, still heavily into Archimedes and Aristotle, were newly discovering instrumentation for measuring specific physical phenomena.  How does mass differ from weight?  Deep discussion.  What is pressure?  Density?  Thermodynamics is/was especially slippery. How to relate measurements to concepts in language did not materialize overnight.

What we today call the Carnot Cycle and present with clever diagrams, volume versus pressure, was not how he was thinking about it originally. He was picturing an actual cylinder, anticipating our V8 internal combustion engines of down the road (the cycling model is a little different but at least we knew how to think about combustion cycles by then -- thanks to Carnot).  Carnot was not talking about Entropy, that concept came later.

The Carnot Cycle involves steam pushing a piston to squeeze a gas, in ways that may preserve temperature but change pressure, or vice versa.  You go around in a square phase space, alternately isothermal and adiabatic, ratcheting a machine through some work cycle, while contributing to pollution with a more highly entropic off-gas (less work-ready).

Given the solar fusion reaction we've found in the Sun (closer to Einstein, long after Newton), and picturing Motherboard Earth as a solar powered Carnot Cycle, we see how photosynthesis produces the base material for what we call "the biosphere" around our planet (per Lynn Margulis). 

How photosynthesis got started has been a topic of other ISEPP lectures, with some postulating geothermal vents underwater as providing all the necessary ingredients for mathematical operations (copying and self-propagation).  Replicating photosynthesis using some deliberately designed nano-process has been another ONAMI type goal, not sure we're there yet.

I've been probing the physics teaching community on whether any generalizations might be offered at the whole planet level, regarding Entropy.  We typically introduce Gravity with whole planets the main topic.

If Entropy has whole planet application, where in the curriculum would it be a good time to mention that?  However, thermodynamics somewhat suffered the same fate as evolutionary genetics: it got side-tracked into popular phony theories with limited staying power (Social Darwinism, Eugenics).

Textbook publishers are not eager to wade in to hot waters, lest they get it all wrong.  Economics is the sandbox in which to try out some of those memes.  The more slowly adapting wait to see what happens there.

In other words, thermodynamics is still something of a mine field when it comes to ideology / theology. You'll get a Teilhard de Chardin thing going, and then where's the math at that point?  Omega alone does not constitute much of a namespace.

We're back to game theory and cybernetics, which I'm not saying is terrible, just I don't wonder that we're slow to work our way through this part of physics.  We get confused.

Dr. Pisano was at ease throughout the evening I thought, and our group is happy to take in these kinds of esoteric diversions, think and talk about them later.

I'm sorry I missed the good doctor's appearance at Linus Pauling House on Hawthorne.  I was expecting to be there but was waylaid by urgent business and then thought coming late would be rude.

I was glad at least to hear the talk.  Much to ponder. I fell asleep later (thanks to Dr. DiNucci for the ride home) listening to Youtubes on autoplay, explaining the Carnot Cycle over and over.

The dinner was great and Terry even let us take some, not to waste any.  I just took one meal's worth, as if I'd had seconds at the time (allowed).

The chocolate dessert was uber-dense (I didn't take a second one of those).  I ate all mine, but then I'm only doing Soylent as my regular intake, so these deviations don't wreak havoc. I'm also allowed to drink wine in moderation. Our caterer had a fine one.

I don't have any wine bottle collection, not one of my hobbies.

I keep an empty Bhutan Mist (whiskey, made by troops) for conversation.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (movie review)


Greg Palast strikes again with an in-depth look at what happens when high powered database tools, such as SQL (Structured Query Language), fall into the hands of politicians.

As an SQL user myself and someone with experience with joining tables, I feel a bit like an architect or engineer after my discipline gets accused of not knowing how to build high rises.  Of course we know that outer joins on first name, last name, skipping middle name or including it, are not going to mean anything regarding double voting across state lines.

Apparently a bunch of Mickey Mouse astroturf organizations have been pandering to the spoiled gliterati with a kind of pseudo data science snake oil, as an answer to their prayers.  The sucker rich have willingly coughed up millions, at fundraisers and so on, to underwrite a dream-come-true gold plated voter suppression scam called CrossCheck.

The overall design is nothing new but requires serious computer power to do its work. The scam also depends on willing minions in charge of voter laws, and a spineless Supreme Court (which we've enjoyed for quite some time, witness Citizens United), working in cahoots with pretend data scientists to break the (former) law of the land.

Because the fronts look so corporate, no one suspects organized crime, except the very few paying close attention.  Corporate media look the other way as their job is to manufacture consent according to sponsor preferences.

If you're watching closely, the sleight of hand is not even that clever and mostly depends on journalists not behaving like Greg Palast, calling out the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, and Paul Singer, whom he dubs "the vulture" (clearly a leading villain in this film).

Rumors about "double voting" on a massive scale get pushed out through social media, getting voters to pass strict photo ID laws tailor made for racial profiling and discrimination.

Require DMV ID (Department of Motor Vehicles) and then close the DMVs in red-lined neighborhoods. These tricks are not new.

Unfortunately, these uber-rich people schemes came at a time when the USA was already fragile. This time the Tea Party plus Trump Train wrecking ball combo may have succeeded in shredding the final veil.

We're living in some "USSA" now, new territory and one in which Washington DC enjoys a precarious claim to legitimacy, what with the vultures closing in from every side.

Uncle Sam is broke, and all sold out to the highest bidder.  The Pentagon now brokers mercenaries for hire. But is that new?  "War is a racket" said Smedley (read on).

I'm not saying the USA couldn't reboot itself somehow -- at Project VOTE! we tried to include the disenfranchised (I worked for Americans for Civic Participation the year Jesse Jackson ran for president), after the ERA had gone down to defeat (as est grads, a sort of cult, we'd been warned in our Graduate Review that the ERA's failure in the 1980s was the beginning of the end).

We'd need to finally face the truth about national elections: that we've never yet had a free and fair one (those without women, or black people won't count), but still might like to someday, per some MLK inspired dream future.

We might like to live in a democracy one day.

Politicians have been unable to deliver one for quite awhile now, however.

We still enjoy the museums.

Palast has more punch than Michael Moore in some ways, but we need not view one as working at the expense of the other.  They bring a complementary (stereoscopic) view of what some call class warfare.  Add Yes Men for higher satire.

Palast is more a technologist in digging in to the flim-flam shenanigans, the abuse of modern day Hollerith machines.

Like Moore, he's looking at the heartland, and America's heart, which the billionaires have finally broken.

As a logistics guy for Occupy, I remember all the signs about Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler, a folk hero of the Hooverville generation.  WWI vets were being screwed out of their pensions and president Hoover sent in MacArthur to break them up.  Butler thought MacArthur was an incredible jerk.

FDR and Eleanor stood up for the working stiffs after that, and corporate America, calling it socialism, hatched a Business Plot to do him in, which Smedley then exposed.

Congress was uncomfortable about it, as indeed buying congresspeople is not hard to do.  The Business Plot was real enough, but this wasn't the age of television, and people forgot about the possibility of a coup -- until the JFK assassination some years later.

Said Business Plot may have been frustrated temporarily, but as we read in Critical Path, the long, slow cannibalization of the USA by lawyer-capitalism continued in earnest post WW2.

The military-industrial meme-plex took over and slowly but surely sucked the remaining life from the USA, leaving this pale shadowy USSA, the soulless monster the Beltway Bandits built.

Now their puppet-zombie stumbles around on the world stage, bombing inanely and polluting self destructively, the proverbial chicken with no head.  No one believes this creature has much in common with anything the Founding Fathers had a hand in.  There's simply no disbelief left to suspend.

Where we go from here is unclear.

We've seen the USSR break up without horrendous turmoil.  The nation-state system itself appears to have dissolved throughout the Middle East.  The demise of the USA leaves a power vacuum for sure.

Is that a bad thing? Perhaps humanity is entering a new phase of its history.  Time will tell.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Remembering Magnus



Magnus Wenninger was 91 when I first met him, still doing stairs plenty, very spry.  He gladly gave David Koski and I the tour of his beloved campus, sharing about his life and world.  He was a priest, or monk as he sometimes called himself, always humble.

DK got to go back to that campus for the recent memorial service, following the rituals of his Catholic sect. David went with Tom Ruen, who had worked on the Wikipedia entry for Magnus, having been a fan for many years.

Father Wenninger made paper polyhedrons, designed other geometric objects (such as sculptures) and is often cited in the literature for has basic "how to" publications.

David called me earlier today to share how impressed he was by the service, by the caliber of the campus and the teachers who work there.

A bunch of us have been celebrating Magnus on Facebook, which has niches for geometry buffs for sure.  David and I are both in the "tetravolumes" camp, meaning we've been influenced by a specific branch of 1900s thought.

Tracing ethnicity through the spread of memes, more than through the spread of genes, is fairly commonplace in anthropology.  Getting the "meme" meme anchored in the first place, as a placeholder in cybernetics (super to memetics) didn't happen overnight.

David and I will say "IVM" and "super RT" (for a Rhombic Triacontahedron of a specific relative size) in ordinary conversation, much as when doctors engage in shoptalk relating to some pathology and/or anatomy.  Magnus was an initiate in such a partially overlapping namespace.

I'll continue to learn about Magnus Wenninger as his life gets reflected in the lives of others, and back to me, as we continue moving forward in time.

Much more becomes known in retrospect, whereas "right now" is always the eternal mystery.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pop-up Pyramid

Popup Pyramid

There's still some ambiguity, one could say by design, in what Pyramid means, even just as a shape, never mind as an artifact.

The artifact provides the default meaning: square base, for five facets in all (base + four sides).

However in mathematics texts we learn of the n-sided pyramid, meaning a triangular base as a lower limit, and no upper limit on how many uniform sides, to approach a perfect circle, a cone.

We have a special name for the hexahedron of all equal angles and edge lengths: the cube.  We might say "simplex" for tetrahedron if we want to sound savvy, but that still might not mean regular.  "Regular tetrahedron" takes a long time to say and write.

One of our andra- / peda- gogical devices is the book with triangular covers, open flat, with a single triangular page flapping back and forth, a stiff flap, its tip arcing through 180 degrees (or pi radians) to define complementary tetrahedra.

David Koski and I put some of the math in the cloud as open source, in the liberal tradition of academic sharing. The only unusual aspect of this exhibit is the option to measure in regular tetrahedron units, when tabulating volumes.  Also, Quadrays get used in the unit tests.

Today I was working with an elementary school math teacher / tutor on the Pythagorean Theorem and its ramifications, which dovetailed nicely with my work with the @property decorator in Python.