Saturday, January 01, 2022

Happy New Year 2021 - 2022: School of Tomorrow

My video coincides with a writing blitz, ostensibly in response to Curt's call for content, given a new BFI website going in. I'd started with the opening paragraphs a couple weeks ago, and the piece had mushroomed on Github ever since.

Yes, this is a time of family gatherings and/or family consciously choosing to play it safe in our second year of covid, when variants name delta and omicron were all the buzz.  

However our family has established a pattern of scholarship and learning around Christmas, as you'll find if you consult these blogs going back.  Our default gift giving gathering had become Laurie's Hanukah party.  However these rituals were all disrupted.

The TrimTab Book Club is Curt's project.  I didn't learn of it right away and was invited to join around the time Princeton's architecture program was a main focus, number twelve on CJ's reading list for last year: R. Buckminster Fuller: pattern-thinking by Daniel López-Pérez (Spain, 2020). Bucky had taught at Princeton that time. This time a core focus with the Geoscope, as an idea.

I'm thinking in terms of movie-making in my year end video, by contrasting possibilities for the future as I would movies we might want to make, or see made.  

Some resource hogs are hell bent on continuing to waste.  

My editorial sense tells me we can't spare the time on such pointless detours.  Any wars between Russia and Ukraine for example, have to come across as both avoidable and pointless.  My brand of cold warrior is about keeping it too cold for the hot heads to get their favored fireworks going.  Meaningless fevered dreams needn't gain traction, praise Allah.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Opportunity Cost

I'm ready for a sprawling network of quasi-academic institutions, with more military levels of risk, in terms of the dangers of leaping from helicopters or donning scuba, with the curriculum intelligently redesigned, to include, for example, American philosophy.

However, my fellow chrono-bums (cronies) are more into robot re-enactments of WW2 scenarios, with some "evil communists" in the picture although it's hard to say exactly how that works.  

So many DC roles are defined as "X vis-a-vis the former Soviet Union" i.e. the Russians moved on, but the Americans are still stuck in the 1980s, reliving Reagan and believing their own fantasy TV shows.  

Out to lunch in other words.

So nothing much is getting done, of a materially beneficial nature.  

We can keep hammering on the metaphysics until the cows come home, or is it the chickens that come home to roost?  Something animal related.  Something about a farm.  That would connote basic macro-economics, which is what this is.  

If you're coward who can't face your responsibility to make the world work, then you'll take up arms and hope to die a hero for no good reason other than what your village elders managed to concoct -- something about "communists" or "authoritarians" -- you know, the ones who assume authority to destroy the earth in the name of their stupid and obsolete fantasies?

If you want more self understanding, you will work to provide yourself and others with more opportunities for travel, and not just to resort destinations for conferences.  

My Truckers for Peace was / is a refreshing break from the usual format, involving more heavy equipment, but not degenerating into toting WMDs around (highly unfashionable in my book).

Friday, December 10, 2021

Metropolis (movie review)

I haven't been doing movie reviews, and I doubt readers notice.  Even when I did them quite a bit, they wouldn't always stay on topic and just focus on the movie in question.

Starting with the facts:  I told Glenn I was sure I'd seen Metropolis at some point, hasn't everybody? It's one of those Citizen Kane type films, archetypal.  And so it is.  But I'd never seen it.  Excerpts maybe.  

And this from the guy who went downtown five weekends in a row to watch that fifteen hour odyssey about film making.  I'll have to link to it.

The film is German, released in 1925, and as shared on this Multnomah County Library DVD is to some unavoidable extent a reconstruction.  All the real footage that remains, is used.  Some captions are added to keep the storylines clear, which is important, as the storylines twist around quite a bit, with lots of spying and people outsmarting one another.

A privileged son is turned off by the insipid shallowness of his padded existence and catches a glimpse of his heartthrob from the other side of the tracks, from the Morlockish underworld of the downtrodden proletariat.  

The Morlocks, if you don't recall, were the subsurface technologists who kept civilization going in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.  I'm borrowing some of that imagery.

The hero starts out Eloi (a privileged child-like surface-dweller) but is determined to discover the depths of his own father's depravity in chasing his heart throb.  

When it comes to exploiting the underclass (his dad is the industrial overlord of this whole Metropolis project, the Tower of Babel in particular).

I should probably go no further without stating the thesis and teaching put forward explicitly by the film: the heart is what mediates between head and hand, meaning if you think of something you want to have happen, it needs to filter through the heart, and be real, in the heartfelt sense, to lead to right action.

The father decides to deceive the son into seeing his heart throb is really a slut (thanks to the stunt double robot he has cast in her place), but the son isn't fooled for long and the ruse backfires, and seemingly plays into the hands of the robotics expert originally charged with the cloning project.  

The slut robot is programmed to run amok, to stir up worker rage, while meanwhile the actual heart throb, good to the bone, sets about rescuing the children, who will surely be impacted when the workers, whipped into a mob frenzy, decide to destroy the machines.

The evil dad (the dark father or "darth vader") has been wanting to provoke the workers all along, so they'll do something he can use as an excuse to use violence against them.  

The whole seething mess of unleashed pathos is ultimately self destructive and both the above ground and below ground aspects of Metropolis are existentially threatened.  

This brings people to their senses, at least a little, and the mob figures out they've been duped, multiple times.  The dad and the workers reconcile, as the hero rescues the heart throb from the robotics guy, who falls to his death (spoiler alert) in the denouement.

That's all me regurgitating much of the plot and calling it a movie review.  Glenn and I were agog at its sophistication, for one of the earliest commercial movies.  Glenn said Hitler saw it and liked it.  That's what they say about The Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin as well (that Hitler found it funny).  For his part, Chaplin said he wouldn't have made the film had he understood the full scope of the ongoing holocaust.

Carol (92) watched the film with us (Glenn and I).  We paused the film for popcorn and beer. I expect to watch the commentary on another occasion.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Martian Computing

Colonizing Mars

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Not So Early Adoption

The decision to not share about the concentric hierarchy in public schools, in K-12, came from an authority I so far have not encountered, and nor would I trust it initially if I did, as I disagree with the decision. 

Another possibility is it -- the nested polys with volumes expressed in tetravolumes -- just fell through the cracks.

Perhaps the decision was to not share in K-12, as that ghetto-neighborhood is already packed to the gills with tested content and prereqs, but in higher ed, we have more room to share.  Note to Earlham.

I think maybe the "fell through the cracks" narrative has merit.  There's a chicken-egg issue with booting any new content, like starting a startup.

The decision to share about the concentric hierarchy in some public schools is the one I'm backing.  We're free to start in the literature department, or in history.  We're also free to continue questioning the slow adoption by others, demonstrating a competitive spirit.

If computer science (a) exists and (b) takes an interest (in that school, does it have its own server space?), then we're free to widen the circle.  Look for schools that share Blender (

Teachers of mathematics are welcome to keep their distance, as they have been doing.  We'll be drawing on their knowledge base, while trying not to disturb their SAT, AP and ACT preparations.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Public Schools Embrace Design Science

Not all at once mind you. A blend of computer science + the humanities is ready to roll forward without disturbing the math teaching rank and file, which are boxed in by standards.

Our impact on other STEM subjects is more by osmosis and organic growth than because of any top-down campaign led by think tanks, not that we don't have our own think tanks and ways of advertising.

Some public schools have more freedoms than others, when it comes to sharing American and/or World Literature and History. We do not all share the same notion of "cultural literacy" and the resulting diversity is considered a positive.

School of Tomorrow. Oregon Curriculum Network. 4D Solutions.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Steering in Cyberia

TrimTabers are plowing through Fuller's Earth these days.  "TrimTabers" is not really an English word, although "trimtab" is, at least according to Collins English Dictionary.  

I find many dictionaries have "trim tab" as two words.  Either way, the meaning traces to maritime origins (but has aeronautical applications as well), as "the rudder that steers the rudder" (or smaller plane that acts on a bigger plane -- with "plane" meaning "piece of the wing" and not short for "airplane"). The trimtab steers the wing or rudder in which it is embedded.

Cybernetics was likewise linked to the verb "to steer" i.e. ""kubernetika" referred to "steering as a skill".

To some extent, Buckminster Fuller (aka RBF) likely helped "trim" and "tab" stick together in a single string, as that was his usage, with "Call Me Trimtab" his famous epitaph.

But even with TrimTab a brewery in Alabama (I have some souvenir empty cans, shared on Youtube), we don't say "TrimTaber" a lot (and should it have two "bs" as in Tabber and Tabby Cat?).

By TrimTabers I mean participants in Curt's TrimTab Book Club.  I'm tempted to write BookClub in camelCase, to allude to TrimTab in camelCase. At least Simple English Wikipedia writes camelCase in camel case (not all sources do).

The other week we had Siobhan Roberts as our guest, author of two biographies connected to our own readings.

John H. Conway was her most recent subject and she had some interesting anecdotes about him.  

Donald Coxeter (also known as "H.S.M. Coxeter"), based at the University of Toronto (Conway was at Princeton in his final days) is the late great geometer to whom Synergetics was dedicated, speaking there of RBF's magnum opus.

These days we're plowing through Fuller's Earth, as I mention in my opening.  That's a book wherein RBF gets together with a few kids, with a tape recorder and a camera going, operated by a small crew.  Their plan was to turn the voice recordings and photographs, along with Fuller's hand drawings into an easy to read book.  The one we're now reading, almost forty years later.

We'll take our time with this book, but it's pretty short and I've been reading ahead.  The kids he's hanging out with know he has a reputation as a futurist, which is akin to a prophet or soothsayer, but with strong grounding in science.  Fuller stresses has faithfulness to science, but in a way that would dismay many teachers: as a source of skepticism versus axiomatically accepted mathematics.

We may be used to pitting science versus religion, but not science versus math.  

He encourages his young proteges to get good grades by pleasing their teachers (what he did ultimately), by giving them the sought for answers ("when in Rome...") but in the mean time, they had the inherent right to exercise freedom of thought, which could mean harboring and cultivating a counter-narrative.

Fuller sets an example by exercising his own freedom to diverge from convention, by converging to something else:  to the tetrahedron, his central construct for conceptuality itself, and his unit of volume.

How esoteric is this history and will it be taught in American high schools?  Not in all of them certainly, but then propagating curriculum ideas is relatively easy these days, so lets expect a few to take it up, perhaps under Lit.  American colleges too, will in some places be picking up the slack.

In the Google Group archives, not public at this time, we intertwine our various threads.  There's a Zoom meetup and a publishing / prototyping aspect.  Some of us are Canadian, as was Coxeter.

Fuller isn't giving spooky Greek metaphysics a free pass, even though it masquerades as beyond questionable.  The infinitely long lines of mono-dimensional thinness come in for some scrutiny. Why don't we reject the Cube World as a world of phoniness and fake news?  Obviously such questioning of the dominant paradigm is enough to perturb the authoritarians, especially given he's passing this torch to kids, in the open.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Centrum Censorious

I take umbrage that Moderate Rebel Max Blumenthal would diss a Blogspot blog as inherently less professional than whatever else he was pointing to in the linked Youtube.  Blogs started as long ago as mine didn't have this wide range of choices or sport the current vogue look.  So what?

On the other hand, the Rebels are making the good point that NATO is the immature school boy with its hands in the wrong jar again.  Their mockery of Nemo who whomever is appropriately scathing.  The "west" likes to pretend it's above censorship ala some imagined Chinese model (not that there isn't one, just it wouldn't be exactly as you imagine).  On the other hand, "censor" was an appropriate privilege and job title within the Roman-Catholic Empire.  Other euphemisms pertain.

I quit the Mathematics Research Educators group yesterday, public on Facebook.  The admins just couldn't be bothered to include a "pensive cowboy" in the conversations.  That's my Youtube persona:  a guy with a black Stetson a lot of the time (not always).

The education research I'm doing centers around mainstreaming various aspects of a "Bucky math" that's embedded in American literature and that some universities are now starting to grapple with.  They don't like having to play catch up, but in an open source economy that may become their role.  

Remember how GNU / Linux grew from the need to continue practicing one's craft even after enjoying tools covered by license fees unaffordable to individuals.  Everyone needed UNIX but relatively few could afford to pay Bell Labs.  Once ordinary people could use Cyberian power tools, the playing field was leveled like never before and a new kind of democratic meritocracy could begin to experiment with itself.

Our "open source textbook" approach is not new.  I get peer reviewed by my peers even as I pump out the Jupyter notebooks from JupyterLab, while urging my high school students to do the same.  There's no reason to censor my School of Tomorrow content, which extends various entries in Wikipedia and Wikieducator.  We're more delayed than stopped, by the Pearson + NCTM conspiracy.  Given the American literature context, we will continue to "debritify" i.e. escape the tyranny of NATO + English programming.  Does that mean widening the distance twixt NPR and BBC?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Design Way and Dissipation

Back in the day, and even still, I've written of "designer religions".  Wicca comes to mind. A designer religion may be just right for the times, the perfect catalyst, and then, its job completed, it dissipates. That doesn't mean something bad happened to the followers.  They let it go, with a sense of completion.

My attitude somewhat carries over from my skepticism regarding corporate immortality, and whether even that is a worthy goal, in and of itself.  Put it another way:  what's the scandal, what's the controversy, when a big company, such as Kodak, diminishes or goes out of business.  

Kodak performed great service in getting the world of photography popularized.  That it didn't turn into the world's top digital camera maker should have surprised no one.  That wasn't Kodak's area of expertise.

I think of movie companies.  These may come together to provide enough structure for the template called "making a movie" to be pulled off, in one form or another.  Once the movie is made, other dynamics kick in, and the original production company may disband.  Is that a tragedy, and must we go back and analyze all the so-called mistakes?  If the default position is "immortality is the norm and anything short of that is failure" then yes, maybe we must.  But why that default position?

The above ruminations bring me to The Design Way, a book, which has been a convergence topic for several interconnected meetups across Zoom world.  New York and Philadelphia have been doing most of the talking, with Portland, i.e. my backyard group in Oregon, listening in.  

I also catch up on my own, sampling Youtubes on Louis Sullivan, Buckminster Fuller, and some other names most familiar to architects.  Shrikant (52 Thinking Ideas) has found himself drawn to architects, likely thanks to their polymathy.

The Design Way opens a space wherein conspiracies may develop around client desiderata, whereby design teams form, and under the direction of designers, make something (some vision) real, according to ideals (idealism) and in cooperation with useful truths (pragmatism).  The process is according to schemas, which develop over time as a designer gains experience bootstrapping a designer culture within which to strive and perhaps thrive.

That sounds a lot like the movie industry to my ears, likewise steeped in the logistics of special skill sets. In Martian Math we learn the story of Orson Welles, and of the partially overlapping scenario of Agnes Moorehead, in the cast of Mercury Theater company at that time.  

The troupe enacted "Mars attacks!" in the format of a CBS radio news story, but for entertainment, creating an aura of authority and credibility that fooled many.  Hollywood recognized their talent and the rest is history (Citizen Kane etc.).  

Orson Welles gets to be a designer-director in this story, the client being RKO Studios and, more invisibly, the movie-going public and future connoisseurs of film.  

Companies come and go in Design World,  because they're "designer companies" meant to fill a niche and then go on a shelf.  Like a rock band, a company may in some cases jump off the shelf and reform, but if it doesn't, that doesn't negate the work it accomplished.  

Kodak moved mountains in many dimensions.  Don't believe business school teachers, or preachers, who hold up "immortality" as a necessary criterion for success.  Dissipation in a clean designed way, without a lot of loose ends, may be a beautiful part of the overall performance.