Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Window on Physics

Dr. Bob Fuller was through again, this final day of 2006. We had coffee at Peet's (hazelnut latte for him, eggnog latte for me, and thanks Bob, for buyin' -- on me next time).

Since last May, he's completed that article for CISE (see Vol 8, Issue 5) regarding how computing is figuring into college physics classes, a topic I gleaned info on at New Mexico Tech as well (Dr. Sonnenfeld let me study his final for his strenuous Matlab in physics course).

Bob briefly reviewed the history of the Calculus Reform movement for me (a lot about Harvard), part of which he saw from the vantage point of West Point academy, where civilians had been hired to implement said changes.

Students would now know how to look at calculus through four windows: graphical, textual, analytical and numerical (think of the four windows of a tetrahedron).

What helped big time at West Point was the discipline of rank: the department head would be a colonel, the classroom teachers captains. So if the order from on high was to "reform calculus," then by golly that's what happened, provided the mission was well planned and well executed (and at West Point, you'd expect higher odds of that happening).

For my part, I relayed more information regarding my summit in April, with The Shuttleworth Foundation, on the subject of revamping analytical thinking courses using peer teaching models, for ages 8-18, in the RSA.

Again, although these various "reform" movements (think of them as well established voices of dissent, counter-cultures) don't tend to dramatically take over all that often, they do remain simmering sources of back burner thinking, thereby tending to influence even front burner offerings over time.

For example, in this case, the mainliner calculus texts which to this day dominate the market, are more "reformed" than they used to be.

Early Calc Reform mottos: "lean and mean"; "a pump not a filter."

Tara got one of those Lego Minstorms™ products for Christmas, so now I'm off to the store in search of ziplock bags, given the myriad little pieces (over 500) that come in the kit. She and Brenna want to build the humanoid on the box, more fun than the little demo guy we built together on Christmas.

Later, Dawn and I watched the retrospective on Ed Bradley's career on 60 Minutes.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lunch Near Pauling House

:: pauling house ::
Tara and I discussed the latest Bond movie some more, over Thai curry and tea. She was impressed that the two thugs molesting the villain's girlfriend would notice Bond's earpiece as they passed him in the hallway, which reminded me of his partner's earlier obvious ear fingering.

Both times, being too obvious with the ears nearly cost Bond his job. Both times, he was able to compensate, thanks to earlier training.

The tan leather jacket has gone missing, while another, black, Tara's size, came and went. Dawn's (also black) is still in good condition, hangs in our closet. I briefly had fantasies of the three of us (Carol and Julie have returned to LA), looking like the Biker Family for our holiday letter. Not this year.

Tonight, we'll be celebrating Mike Hagmeier's birthday again, per tradition. He's been more active in Wanderers lately, but during times I've been absent, in either Florida, New Mexico or closer to Canada.

This afternoon, we're celebrating Greg's and Yulia's getting together last October, in a matrimonial manner. Greg mostly lives in Russia these days, is the son of Chris & Larry.

The math talk has been interesting of late (to me at least), delving both into theoretical stuff around limits, a calculus topic, and into an application of casino math, as applied to anti-racism.

:: yulia & greg ::

Monday, December 25, 2006


photos by K. Urner

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Homeward Bound

:: souvenir t-shirt ::
We're back in the same Albuquerque hotel room where we started (a Holiday Inn near the airport with free wireless), watching the Biography Channel. So many unfamiliar frequencies (channels) we don't get at home.

So am I the last semi media savvy guy on Spaceship Earth to know Angelina Jolie is the daughter of actor John Voight and an Iroquois princess (Marcheline Bertrand)? Like Princess Di, she took on the landmine issue. Lara Croft cross references: OSCON Day 2, An Adventure, Peer Group Networking.


The TSA guy said he liked my shirt (above), as he patted me down. Homeland Security says we're on orange today.

The Indian Pueblo Culture Center on 12th, just off I-40, is a peaceful place, as I commented in the guest book. A proud dad of the Laguna Pueblo introduced his family of dancers (2 older boys, a 14 year old girl, a younger girl in training), then sang and drummed, while his kids demonstrated growing mastery of ancient ways.

:: eagle dance ::

Friday, December 22, 2006

Secrecy and Democracy

Even back in Ronald Reagan's day it was always a question of how to promote transparency in government while keeping vital secrets from falling into the wrong hands.

This is the perennial question for a democracy, presuming enemies exist, which is pretty much a given, as it's a difficult form of self government to practice, and many want an easier way, especially where selfish ends are concerned.

As geek culture gets more experience, with its new tools and ethical codes, some of the same questions arise in new forms.

I asked this of Richard Stallman when he came to Portland: what if there're groups you think unworthy of your free source code? Shouldn't we geeks have the right to not empower those who would subjugate us?

I suppose a good answer would be that this is just a cost of doing business, and in the long run, those who collaborate will win out over the more isolated and necessarily secretive.

These thoughts continue my ramblings on geeks as role model math teachers. Keeping our mathematics strong, free and open is part of what gives our democracy a backbone. I'm also continuing my Katrina Math thread.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Casino Royale (movie review)

This was Tara's first Bond movie, and she worried at first she'd need more of the back story. I whispered the basics, about the Brits and their double-oh mythology -- not much to know.

I actually read some of the Ian Flemming books in my youth, and Casino Royale rings a bell as one of his first and mine (as a reader). Sure enough, Bond is just earning his wings in this movie, trying to impress his MI6 boss. Yet the timeline starts post 911, somewhat subverting the earlier films. Batman Begins seems kinder to its less proficient sequels.

The club (as in the card suit) does look a bit like a Mandelbrot Set -- I hadn't made that connection. I caught the global matrix motif (red hexagons) as Bond zoomed in on the villain's powerboat's location in Nassau, using M's computer.

Tara'd been asking about Venice. That's the fun of Bond movies, getting to see the backdrops, and in a mode that'd blow the average tourist budget in a heartbeat. Interesting touch to have a defibrillator in the car (is Bond finally showing his age?).

The Swiss bankers come off as a bit goofy, but still handle the money securely. Lots of brand placements per usual, though I can't remember any beyond the Sony Vaio at this point.

Winter in Santa Fe

:: hotel room view ::
We drove through exciting blizzard conditions from Socorro, pulling off in Albuquerque at the height of the snow storm to retrieve the humidifier kit from Apria (on McCleod just off the Jefferson St. exit) -- an attachment for the O2 concentrator we're borrowing. Dawn's been off the 02 in Portland lately, but here in New Mexico we're a mile high mas o meno.

Further north on I-25, we got out ahead of the snow, back to 75 mph driving conditions. The storm caught up with us after we'd already checked in, making this place even more picturesque than usual.

Now we're just hangin' out (no, the wireless ain't free -- must key to MAC address because the ISP didn't hassle me this morning). I've got saline and TPN goin' on Dawn's two lumens (PIC line), while Tara blisses out on Cartoon Network.

Last night we watched a Harry Potter on HBO (plus I used up my free 60 minutes playing Luxor 2), but the guest in the adjacent room had a TV remote keyed to the same frequency and kept ordering porn films, interrupting our viewing -- a good metaphor for something or other. Anyway, room service fixed the problem (rekeyed our TV and remote).

I'd scrounged a fresh baked pizza from an upscale joint nearby (given the snow, I was the only other customer). But I forgot that "four cheese" (actually "quattro formaggi") in upscale-speak means just the cheeses (no tomato base), probably one of them goat, meaning Tara couldn't eat it (she tried), meaning I had to snarf most of it myself (I gave her the crusts). We also raided the minibar. Cheapskate that I am, I'm hoping to replace at least the beers from a local supermarket.

Wanderers called me from their morning meeting and passed the cell phone around. Jon warned me to steer clear of bad art in this most galleries per capita town (even more than Catalina?). A lot of it's pretty good though -- and well outside of my price range.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Day at the VLA

very large array
Today we drove to the VLA, a radio telescope situated on a radio-quiet plain at around 7000 feet. Some scenes from the movie Contact were filmed here. There're some pictures of Jodie Foster in the Visitors Center -- another kind of star.

dish garage
The 27 dishes ride around on train tracks in a Y pattern, 13 miles to an edge, and share this one hangar for maintenance.

magdalena, new mexico
The nearby town of Magdalena features a traditional soda fountain, Evett's, in what used to be a bank.

traditional soda fountain
(dawn, richard, cody, tara)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Blogging from Albuquerque

One more interesting number is that about 13 million people have created blogs, but only 39 million say they read someone else's blog. Crunch the numbers. That's an average of three readers per blog.
Census: We're Fat, Lonely, Smelly (CBS News, 2006.12.15)
Math point: that average holds only if those 39 million read an average of just one blog each. My experience of the blogosphere is it's a place to go digging i.e. there're lots of blogs to explore, including Eleanor Rigby's.

Yes, a blog may be like a personal diary for some, but they have other uses as well.

Given the bookkeeping connotations of "journaling" (the Quaker term for blogging) I tend to think of mine as recording transactions, the movements of money or mojo, whatever bull. I read others' blogs for such clues as well.

Bucky Fuller developed his Chronofile as a means for tracking his experiments with 'Guinea Pig B' i.e. himself.

Also in the news: a suspension of executions by lethal injection in Florida, because the procedure wasn't working properly -- shades of Mr. Death.

Toon by T. Nast
(click for larger view)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wanderers 2006.12.12

:: invading "biships" ::
(click for larger view)
Last night Gus Frederick of Silverton, Oregon, briefed Wanderers on a famous Oregonian not all of us had learned about in school: Homer Davenport, a master political cartoonist for the Hearst newspapers in the late 1800s.

Homer, a native of Silverton, taught himself editorial cartooning in part by studying the works of his hero, Thomas Nast. To Nast we owe much contemporary political iconography, including those familiar Democratic and Republican icons, the donkey and elephant respectively.

Nast also developed the Tammany Tiger, which may linger in the affected "richie rich" mannerisms of some subsequent toon tigers, including Disney's perhaps. The above cartoon is one of Nast's, in support of public schooling.

Gus has done a lot of independent scholarship plus self-published a collection of Homer's drawings, interleaved with the back stories required for their full appreciation.

Lynne Taylor was late to the meeting, a slap-forehead missed opportunity to quickly review the same slides we'd just seen (often a good exercise). Wanderer Shomar joined us even later.

:: shomar ::

Monday, December 11, 2006

Katrina's Aftermath

I've long had a Google query checking in the background for news items mentioning "geodesic" and "mosque" in the same story. Usually, it comes up empty handed, but today it provided a link to an interesting article in ReasonOnline, from which I'll supply this excerpt:
In addition to Common Ground, secular organizations such as Emergency Communities, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, and Four Directions have joined a multitude of small church groups in the region to provide services where government and big aid organizations fell short. When necessary, they simply ignored the authorities’ wrongheaded decisions: pushing supplies through closed checkpoints, setting up in unapproved areas, breaking the rules when it made more sense than following them.

Their organizers, as well as their volunteers, have little experience with relief work. They live in tents or sleep on cots in repurposed churches and community centers. Volunteers run the gamut from hippie dropouts to middle-class students on spring break, and the outposts they’ve built are filled with things you’d never expect to see anywhere near a relief effort: free acupuncture, vegetarian cooking, cross-dressing volunteers, a giant geodesic dome. Despite their inexperience and occasional outlandishness, they are organizing and delivering some of the most effective relief work in the area. [Italics mine]

What's especially telling, in light of my angle on things, is this sense of surprise at seeing a "giant geodesic dome" in any way associated with any relief effort, and in December of 2006 no less -- a measure of our degraded IQ as a culture by some accounts, including mine.

Still, what the article chronicles, people taking responsibility, getting the job done, gives me hope. The keyword "mosque" is in connection with Common Ground, a focal NGO in this story, and which got started in one in Algiers, a neighborhood of New Orleans.

Related reading:
Satire @ Math Forum
Dwelling Machine Prototypes

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More American Heritage

Many older generation North Americans of the English speaking variety have this expression "What in the Sam Hill?" meaning they've never seen it before, have no ready explanation (the question usually comes with a skeptical edge to it).

What fewer probably realize is Sam Hill was a neighbor in these parts, alias Prince of Castle Nowhere, which castle he constructed along the Columbia Gorge not far from his lifesize model of Stonehenge, in turn close to his tomb.

Maryhill Castle, now a museum, includes a treasured Rodin collection -- that's the guy who did The Thinker -- plus an admirably large collection of chess sets.

Back in the day, when I was still living in Rome, my friend Seth Tuska would sometimes dramatically assume a standing version of The Thinker's pose when questioned about something -- an endearing mannerism I thought. Both Seth and Muqtada al-Sadr remind me of John Belushi in some twisted way (great thinkers all). But then, I'm the guy who linked Rush Limbaugh to Barney.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mingling Traditions

I spent much of the morning chiseling away at my Wittgenstein Bridge twixt Fuller's philo and an already crowded "chat room," hoping to recruit a few more philosophers over the C.P. Snow Chasm to the engineering and mathematics side, maybe to help us further improve the curriculum over here.
I treat Fuller as a post linguistic turn philosopher instead of pre, which most people never thought of doing. Like (a) they didn't think he was a philosopher in the first place and (b) they didn't think his 'deliberately remote namespace' idea would fit in so easily with the language games vista. [ Synergeo 31040 ]
We'd also like more media people, many of whom are likewise philosophical or psychological in outlook, people with well developed aesthetic sensibilities (whatever that means right?). You needn't come by any bridge. Boats, tunnels, whatever. Plus this traffic is bidirectional -- at least C. P. Snow thought he could detect some healing, according to Bucky, who apparently kept up with him, and with the late H.S.M. Coxeter (it's an unwanted divide, damaging to our culture).

This evening: a celebration of Empiricism at Winterhaven, the annual science fair, with just about every student showing off the results of an investigation, guided by an hypothesis, with a description of procedure, conclusions, preferably numerical data, visualizations (graphs), a photo or two. Lots of judges. Lots of adult scrutiny and peer review.

Tara's entry focused on falling geometric shapes, each with 100 unit squares of surface area (on each side). Which hit the ground fastest? Sounds trivial and pointless (I grumbled a bit) but that's missing the point (I now realize): it's about the discipline of doing, thinking it through, planning and executing, and around a not knowing that you're seeking to get to know. There's humility in it, and a sense of dedication.

I helped Tara just a little this year around finding the edge lengths of a pentagon and pentagram, both 100 squares on each side, like the other shapes (square, circle, triangle, rhombus). I was lazy and relied on Google for a clue. Last year her award winning experiment involved hot oil, I helped more, and yet we almost had a disaster.

I respect Winterhaven, one of Portland's public's, quite a lot, not just its computer science, which is cutting edge and experimental.

Tara is definitely maturing quickly. She's found at least two post-Aibo robot dogs in Korea, one shown in a video clip, the other an artist's conception. I find it too random an interface, this idea of flipping up a lid and reading email on your robopet. Would I watch a movie on my robocat, or maybe unscrew its head and use the body as a wall projector? Tara thinks it's the future. Anyway, we're still in the early phases, when all things seem possible, worth testing a bit.

Then, after a quick stop at Burgerville, we headed over to the Scottish Rite Center, where Revelers were staging a slice of life from a 1600s era piece of what today we call France, in turn imitating inherited traditions, and filtered through today's contemporary American culture (whatever that means right?). Lots of King Arthur type stuff, little psychological skits around dragons, knights, and pretty women.

It's a franchise of sorts, with Revelers in several cities. The program was ambitious, with some 40+ musical numbers, many including audience participation, a huge cast, many children, some stage effects, a dog, lots of interesting dancing. We all sang Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for "give us peace") which I already knew from our Quaker hymnal (we sang it in Rome a lot when I was growing up, when meeting in private homes -- Phil and Winnie's, Li and Andy Braid's, our place...). Twelve Days of Christmas -- yeah, I knew that one too (of course).

Much of the singing was in French, which I've mostly forgotten, was never much good at (all the Romance languages collided in my head, turning to Bose-Einstein condensate).

Dawn says these Revelers rotate through different ethnicities. She's wanted to see them in action for some time, is making a point of catching these things that she's missed, always wondered about. She missed Festival of Trees though. Another good reason to stick around for another round.

I'd never heard of these Revelers people, nor ever set foot in this Rite Center (Portland Valley's), so the whole evening was quite an eye-opener for me. The audience, and cast, consisted entirely of people I didn't recognize, with the exception of my immediate nuclear family.

They say Portland is a small city, but it's not that small.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Newflash: Lights On in ToonTown

Today's Oregonian, Business front page
So like three days after I evacuate from a quasi-unfree zone, MetroFi turns on the lights, or at least so says The Oregonian today. I still have a few odds & ends at ActivSpace, have yet to give notice, so now have the laptop loaded in Razz, planning a visit, and will add to this post re my findings below.

Before I give notice and return the key, we could brainstorm keeping this as a branch PKL office, provided the rumors are true. I'm open to advice from readers; send HQS a gmail if you like, take some IQ tests (just kidding (not! (see Borat, like this))). Derek? Trevor? Wanderers is open agenda tomorrow, I'll plan to solicit feedback there as well.

But keep in mind, it's just a very small 2nd floor office (with elevator), utility sink plus electrical (and free wireless, if rumors are true).

I've so far removed everything but David's T-modules, which remain scattered on the floor (not in mint condition). Those all could be yours. Going once, going twice...

And did I mention the neighbors were fun? They were all jammed in the bigger corner office next to mine, sharing Friday Margaritas, when Derek and I showed up in the pickup, as moving gentlemen.

We've started a countdown for New Mexico, still in the high T-minus phase (i.e. lift off still days away).

Mixed Results:

Rumors are true to the extent a free Metro-Fi node, plus premium channel, show up on my list, but right now I'm still depending on the good graces of some neighboring private enterprise. MetroFi wouldn't handshake, or maybe it's not really open for business quite yet.

I responded by cell to Nirel's voicemail, reaching her in LaLa Land (LA). She aced almost all my IQ tests, per usual, but only to inform me she'd already acquired a target in Seattle, wasn't gunning for Portland.

I can see from whence that old Portland-Seattle rivalry stems: we lose some of our best California girls to our big sister up north. Anyway, I fed her some shark tale (all true) about how I'd gladly share goat meat with her (we're family) were I to score some, other carnivorous imagery (rather off-putting I would imagine -- actually we're on the same wavelength: coffee shops, as in owning, with rooms to host colloquia, symposia).

Anyway, I'm happy enough just seeing the node, to wanna celebrate. Hence the (open) Foster's Special Bitter on the floor next to me, amidst the Koski T-modules, and a Spicy T.L.C. sandwich (tofu & carrots) by Higher Taste of Portland.

Additional results:

I ran the next logical test, which was to find a location where Metro-Fi's signal was stronger, to see if signal weakness was to blame for my above failure to connect from 8th & SE Main. Empirical result: I'm connected, using free MetroFi, but from Lucky Lab, which already had free Portland Telco, sans the ad banner (and counts as a free premium service therefore, but without as much coverage).

The MetroFi node, with Microsoft's sponsorship, wanted to know my income level, a mandatory field. Seemed kinda intrusive. Like, when Saturday Academy asked my ethnicity, I wrote "mixed Asian Anglo" in the provided "other" blank. That'd have to do, no time for fine tuning. I find these computations difficult to just do on the fly. I also put down I was a CEO (a type of chief) -- not lyin'.

:: nirel's dream coffee shop,
storefront / interior,
2323 2nd Ave, Seattle ::

Monday, December 04, 2006

Superman Returns (movie review)

Walter Kaufmann (we overlapped at Princeton) felt semi- compelled to translate Nietzsche's to "overman" given what the Americans had done with "superman" i.e. dressed him up for a career in the comix.

But he probably shoulda kept it, as Thus Spake Zarathustra was a proto comic book of sorts, in terms of its archetypal and colorful imagery, its propensity for parables -- like Narnia, like Manga.

The very word "comic" bespeaks a victory of sorts. And to his lasting credit, Kaufmann found some of Woody Allen's works refreshingly hilarious (me too) i.e. he knew philosophy could be gay at times, serious guy though he was. Smallville includes a tie-back (check what Clark's reading when the klutz drops his books, duh).

Clark is especially goofy in this version, which blatantly satirizes the "mysterious masked man" motif. I mean, the guy is the spitting image of himself, with not so much as Groucho Marx glasses for cover (just an ordinary pair). Yet everyone buys it, because his deliberately deflective demeanor is so "not hot" as an office dweeb (shades of Spider-Man, shades of just about any male superhero, although that Batman Begins guy seems a chick magnet even as Bruce -- but I digress).

The genius of this North American storytelling is its obvious and unsubtle use of raw elements and states of matter as a haptic mirror. Very Synergetics. The phony poser to the throne uses Superman's own crystals against him, and the battle royale is a Phase Rule extravaganza, strongly dramatizing the consequences of disequilibrium, expressed in the foreground as tugs within love triangles with doubled edges, quadrupled if you start juxtaposing Lex and his girlfriend as more shadowings -- a complicated family this, veritably bursting with secrets.

Artificial Intelligence
was sadder, though still close to the comic book genre -- looks more at a mother-son relationship, whereas this one's son-father.

Friday, December 01, 2006

NanoTech Talk

Our ISEPP speaker last night, Meyya Meyyappan, was good on the intro: the surface:volume ratio is a function of size and properties change as a shape shrinks to the nanoscale. Four grams of nanotubes have the same surface area as a football field, mas o meno. Nano gold particles melt at a lower temperature than gold bricks.

He didn't mention buckyballs, which I called him on at the dinner (excellent salmon, unfortunately for our guest, a vegetarian).

Clearly tubes have an edge these days, though I'd heard they'd stuffed buckyballs through buckytubes that time. Except now we call 'em nanotubes. So maybe the tubes are so popular because now there's a way to avoid saying "bucky" so often? Just asking.

Anyway why not say nanoballs? We should try that on for size. Nano could be the next turbo. We could have store chains like Nanorama. No, the merchandize wouldn't be invisible to the naked eye. Just because it's nano doesn't mean you can't see it, Meyya was quite clear on this point -- like, there could be buckyballs in your shampoo someday!

[ Geneva airport security did this fast juggling of purses and bags, sleights of hand, such that my mom got confused, didn't realized she'd been parted with her new laptop, the Sony Vaio, 'til Zurich. She has high confidance in the Swiss, thinks she'll see it again. I'm not so sure. ]

Anyway, properties at the nanoscale provide a whole new quantum mechanical ball game, and the goal of engineers is to usefully capitalize on that fact, and in more ways than one.

I sat next to a caustic and witty critic of nano all through dinner. He thinks a lot of pigs at the trough are self-servingly taking credit for work they didn't actually do, piggybacking on unsung heros, attracting funding away from more worthy players.

I told him I liked the talk because one of the slides had two CCP cuboctahedra side by side, of two different frequencies. Those are like icons for me. Not bad, to gain control of the Schnitzer, all those impressionable young minds [rubbing hand noises, maniacal chuckling].

1, 12, 42, 92, 162...
Another guy at our table, one Mr. Owl, expressed admiration for Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age (a book about nano), while our speaker expressed some trepedation about Prey (the movie version's not out yet). Will paranoias about "gray goo" inconvenience the nano family, the new Beverly Hillbillies on our block?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Lipton B2C
Unilever B2B

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In a Quandary

:: Hurricane Katrina, Magee MS ::
I drove down to PKL today resolute to close shop, because of the only unfree wireless situation, only to discover a weak signal (not MetroFi's) which I'm currently using. I'll truck away some items anyway, as I still think closure is the most likely outcome, with a reopening somewhere else.

On math-teach we've turned our focus to teacher quality in Illinois, the computer science teachers are threshing about discrete math, while over on Synergeo (#30932) I'm dissing the Clinton administration for the bombing of Belgrade (consistently with my views at the time).

That's pretty much my beat these days, not making toons in ToonTown, which'd be my druthers. So maybe I'll get that promotion? I should have a talk with my boss. Plus I still have my other hats to wear.

Wanderers is hosting a 3rd talk in a series re Sacred Geometry tonight, Stockton and I having delivered the first two. Micheal Sunanda is bussing up from Eugene. He's another character I'd stick in my stable of stars in a heartbeat, had I a stable. Well, I've got these journals at least (my so-called blogs).

Speaking of journals, when is Earlham College ever gonna put George Fox's on line, John Woolman's, in blog format, with proper back dating? Too difficult? Hey, maybe that's not work Earlham ever signed up for! Other takers then? Friends'd benefit by having these earlier Quaker journals on line as blogs, easily linked from today's Quakers' postings.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Journey Home

Enroute back to Portland, we pulled off I-5 at Seattle's Northgate, to find our favorite Math 'n Stuff store on NE Roosevelt Way. The store will be moving soon, though perhaps not far.

In addition to some Christmas gifts, which I'm not going to write about, I invested in a second Cube-It! for myself, a toy of 24 colorful magnetic MITEs i.e. space-filling MInimum TEtrahedra of volume 1/8th in Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics.

Now that I have two of these puzzles, not only can I build the volume 3 cube, but the volume 6 rhombic dodecahedron as well, yay.

We'd hoped to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Seattle Science Center, but the exhibit was sold out until evening, so we ascended the famous Space Needle instead.

Related posts:
More from MITEy Mouse (roar!) @ Math Forum
Half Coupler (in this blog, one year ago today)
Re T-modules and a volume 2 qyoob (October, 2006)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Family & Friends

:: family table in bellingham ::

:: élise ::

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lucky Day

Friend Chris is recovering from a successful surgery. We visited her on our way out of town.

I checked with Dawn's oncology clinic and they had my lost bag with all contents. I'd left it there on Friday, yet had persuaded myself that it'd been stolen.

Tara immediately inherited the Olympus Stylus 500, an early Xmas present. I'll stick with the new Stylus 720.

Plus I finally got to share Bodies with Dawn and Tara in Seattle this evening, having seen it by my lonesome in London in April.

Now we're staying in Tulalip and Stillaguamish country, further north, with good friends.

All in all, a great day. Giving thanks.

Even the traffic wasn't too bad, despite some heavy rain.

Monday, November 20, 2006

1-2-3 Testing...

:: 4-frequency tetrahedron on dog bed ::

:: tara tankha from druk-yul ::

photos by K. Urner
Olympus Stylus 720 SW

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lurching Forward

I enjoyed a satisfying conclusion to Pythonic Mathematics today, that was #7571 - Computer Programming from Chaos to Python. The students had turned raw Python syntax to Vpython gold, including a 3-or-4 frequency tetrahedron, moons around moons, and a mom and her kids did this "look, a real professor" number in the Park Blocks (I had the plastic 4-frequency in tow, attracted attention).

However, these triumphs are somewhat overshadowed by the loss of my OSCON bag and all its contents: iPod, digicam, new Russian geometry book... dried up cashews. Part of the torment is imagining the lucky dude who now has all that, and that's if it really was stolen, which I can't prove (more torment). I recall from some Tibetan Book of the Dead DVD that this is the hardest part: watching your killers play with your stuff. Anyway, maybe it'll turn up, along with Robin, my stolen car.

Back to the classroom: we watched excerpts of a Google Technical Talk, Guido rehearsing before OSCON 2006, talking about Python 3000. Then I shared Store Wars (Cuke versus Darth Tater) and the first few verses of Ramanujan (as many stared into their screens, completing projects). I recommended Python 411 and Dive Into Python (starting with the web version) as possible next sources of information.

As for source code, I looked at Pascal's Triangle (first time through) and Fibonacci generators (second pass -- tie back to triangular and tetrahedral sequences, plus Pascal's). I said something to the effect that these gentlemen needn't have been the first to ever conceive of such language games. So calling 'em is more an honor than a right.

I handed out the closed student evaluation forms, which get sealed and collected at the end of the final class by an SA HQS minion (cute colleague, some new kid on the block), i.e. are pretty much unseen by the instructor. Plus we send home parent forms in case an adult guardian wants to give feedback. Plus I get to fill one out about my students, my experience as the instructor. Plus I handed out signed certificates of completion, properly name embossed, like a credential of some kind.

Several of my students expressed in different ways their wish that ordinary school was more beefy like this, dense-packed with relevant multiplexing, with parents seconding the motion. I always make these "right on" noises, like gee I really empathize. That's why I teach through Saturday Academy, to fight for our Silicon Forest and its values, high standards. I've also been invited onto a curriculum advisory board for Portland Public Schools (PPS).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More Hermeneutics

Originally drafted on Synergeo, an eGroup, and therefore populated with references to other discussants -- Editor.

Cliff is in the vicinity and that always reminds me of our shared interest in outfitting Synergetics with some Mathematica style claptrap (caltrop? -- look it up, Braley-sans-w knows), except in my case it's Pythonic harkening back to APLish (given my personal trajectory), more than Wolframic in its computerized expression [*], but that's not a problem for me if it ain't for Cliffie here.

Other names for the Quadrays namespace might be: Chakovians (after David Chako of Synergetics-L fame); Tetrays (Chako's preferred term); Caltrop Coordinates (vs. Cartesian); Simplicial Coordinates (but minus J.H. Conway's focus on the hypercross and Coxeter.4D) -- and maybe Klingon Coordinates in honor of the other big Conway (Damian).

What we do is shoot four "basis vectors" (pirating from linear algebra) to the corners (1,0,0,0) (0,1,0,0) (0,0,1,0) and (0,0,0,1). To reverse a basis vector is to flip its bits i.e. -(1,0,0,0) = (0,1,1,1) and so on. So we end up not needing negative signs in this canonical representation, though by another convention we might alternatively insist that the sum of the 4-tuples always be zero.

The Cartesians claim having 4 basis vectors is redundant, as they get by with just 3, but then they permit vector reversal to play a role in netting them 7/8ths of their space. Thanks to vector reversal and the three negative "not really" basis vectors, the Cartesians have 3 additional "ghost vectors" doing most of their dirty work i.e. pointing in that 7/8ths negatively tainted space, with only one octant (+++) remaining "positively pure" and therefore directly accessible without all the "bad neighborhood" connotations of a "non-basic" (e.g. +-+) address.

So in point of fact, the Cartesians are using essentially six reference vectors to the corners of a regular octahedron, not just three, whereas in Chakovians we're using just four, and not relying on vector reversal for back-handed access to anything.

The four positive basis rays positively scale and vector-add to address any point in Positive Universe. Negative Universe is through-the-origin inside-outing of the reference tetrahedron. Your application may have no need for this other space, conjoined through (0,0,0,0), but it's there if you need it. Nor does it matter which you call Positive initially, though once you've invested, conversion may be time-consuming (just like both left and right XYZ coordinate systems have their followings).

My Synergetics on the Web @ contains a thorough overview of Chakovians (./synergetics/quadrays.html), plus transforms for converting to-from XYZ, 4x4 rotation matrices courtesy of Tom Ace.

We don't insist on using these in public schools, e.g. won't be targeting any school boards for not, but we do bring kids through on field trips from time to time, just to remind 'em that XYZ thinking ain't all its cracked up to be in some circles.

Alternatives exist, some of them smart cookie.


[*] e.g. in some versions of, imported by for doing StrangeAttractors, rendering other concentric hierarchy graphics in the 4D++ IVM.FM (lots at my and websites).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wanderers 2006.11.14

So tonight it was Barry's turn to induct us into the deep metallurgy of small microprocessors, the ones you program once for some permanent job in a car engine or, in Barry's case, a DC light dimmer.

Boats are wired for DC but don't come with a dimmer switch, usually. Barry's gizmo, a coventure, takes DC into a pulse width modulator, written in software, and matched with code to the interface, in this case either one or two switches, and rather complex behaviors.

A feature of this Motorola HC05 series chip is a ripple counter with some flag bits, such as COP. Unless you "kick the dog" every few cycles, COP'll flip and send a reset; useful for when poorly written code enters an infinite loop or whatever. You don't want simple coding errors to devalue the hardware, or maybe the code makes intelligent use of dog kicking internally. Either way, nice to know that COP is there.

So the boat owner chooses to wire either one or two switches, then meters DC power at tiny calibrations, or full on, though even this max brightness setting includes sleeping, i.e. going to low voltage for short intervals.

Given all the interrupts in this picture, 109 cycles a second mas o meno, with 256 intervals within each of those, there's lots of pushing registers to stack, running off someplace, coming back and popping the stack. Nesting subroutines is a source of subtle errors and stack overflows so Barry's code stays pretty flat. He's pretty much self taught, and being a smart guy, he made sure he did a good job of teaching it.

Safe to say, this was pretty unfamiliar stuff for a lot of those present, and Barry didn't get to the graphical (windowed) debugger until close to the end. That actually gave us stepped execution, break points, on a simulated chip, with registers, a next program line pointer (under 500 max lines), other flag indicators, and the very limited 64 bytes of RAM (right Barry?), all conveniently displayed.

I appreciated Barry's willingness to not hold back about the nitty gritty details, even though he knew we weren't tracking in all cases.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cultural Anthropology

Based on this news that the yellow "support our troops" ribbon motif actually got off the ground during the Indian Wars, when brave horse-mounted Custer types headed off like knights in shining armour, protecting Betty Crocker security moms back home, I'm extrapolating the early emergence of a later counter-culture, in the form of those racoon hatted Daniel Boone types, civilian trackers and company traders, who became friendly with North America's natives, intermarried.

When cultures collide, you always get these Romeo and Juliet stories wherein a younger sister or someone falls head over heels for a pagan, Roman, Jew or whatever rival ethnicity, and it's a big family crisis. One brother encourages his gang members to slay the infidel love object, while another brother, usually played as a pacifist introvert type (i.e. a sissy who better understands women) betrays the rougher bro by leaking news of this plan, resulting in an ambush of the Goody Gang and lots of remorseful suicides, including by Romeo and Juliet. Curtain. Sigh. Such a tragedy.

This pattern gets repeated in our day's Lost to some extent, in the love story between the California Babe and the Elite Republican Guard dude. But in the context of this island, with its strong magnetic fields, the predictable unfolding gets scrambled, and California Babe gets shot by the trigger happy Latina Police Chick by mistake, leaving the Iraqi Dude to mourn and eventually forgive (that's about as far as I've gotten in the series).

More predictable was the CNN banter I heard while in Florida, these Anglo pundits angsting about Iraqis and their tribal loyalties, their lack of sophistication around democracy, USAers having just proved to themselves theirs has yet to be rendered incomprehensible by an insider technocracy in charge of the voting machines (an advancing AI army, like in Terminator).

I haven't studied the history in detail, but I bet if we go back we'll find the brave Custer types were just trying to prevent all those unsophisticated Indians from killing each other, and so would side with one underdog tribe after another, just to balance things out and to prove to all doubters that the Great White Father in Washington knew how to pick a winner every time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

T Module

:: an original koski T ::
(Portland Knowledge Lab Collection)

The T module recursively self-fills with tau-scaled versions of itself, in complement with a stop-gap or "unfinished business" mod called the Remainder Tet or R module, shown in orange.

Keep filling the R mod with smaller T mods if you like, but expect smaller terminal R mods.

Phi-scaled Ts and Rs together make a cube, other shapes.

Plus if you regard a golden cuboid (1 x phi x tau (tau = 1/phi)) as defining 7 edge lengths (3 XYZ + 3 face diagonals + 1 body diagonal), and choose those six at a time to get additional phi-scalable tetrahedra, then you've got the gist of David Koski's pioneering explorations.

And remember, two parallel accounting systems: lowest terms in canonical volumes; most economical physical assembly using actual left and right handed modules.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

More Pythonic Mathematics

:: protocols ::
Today we dove into tcp/ip and the smoke signals that ride atop it: nntp, ftp, http... smtp.

Gnubees often say "the Internet" meaning just http (hypertext transfer protocol), the one used to serve web pages (through port 80 most likely), but long before Mosaic, Netscape, IE, Opera, Mozilla... FireFox, we had usenet (the newsgroups) and ways to swap files (ftp = file transfer protocol) -- and of course email.

All of these services working together define the Internet, not just http and its webwork of interconnected urls.

After this short intro, we watched Warriors of the Net, a mathcast I've used ever since my first Saturday Academy class at West Precinct.

:: mosaic ::
Then it was back to VPython and the challenge of connecting the dots in XYZ to make shapes, starting with the simplest, the simplex or tetrahedron.

This time we had with its Vector and Edge to aid and abet, and a few students had additional shapes in short order.

My Pythonic vectors always have their tail at the origin. If you want a line segment between any two points, feed those two vectors to the Edge class to get back your edge object, which displays in the VPython window when you trigger its draw method.

:: vector arithmetic ::
In preparation for Vpython sculpting, we went over some basic geometry using models made years ago in collaboration R. Z. Chu and Trevor. They're a bit rough around the edges but still usable, though the Vector Flexor broke a joint during my Wanderers presentation on Halloween, and the rhombic triacontahedron (see it?), scaled to volume 5, is definitely falling apart.

I pour these hard white beans from one shape to the other, reminding them of our everyday home base sculpture.

:: cargo cult geometry ::
I had a parent sitting through much of this class, even asking questions. That's new for Saturday Academy, but worth testing. Clearly some of these students are working with their parents at home on Python + VPython, even though we don't assign homework. I also learned one of the parents is a fellow alum, Princeton '83 (just three years behind me). We chatted about some of the class reunions we'd attended.

Next week: we plan to get more into animation, getting beyond static imagery. One of my students is interested in coding a planets-around-the-sun type toon. I turned him on to Celestia.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Synergeo 30350

> Marx was not caught up by the idea of not being enough-
> in fact he wrote that in the future will be plenty- though
> he didn't show me the statements of Marx in this matter-

Fuller boils it down to a very simple equation in Critical Path: assuming not enough to go around (Malthusianism), we get LAWCAP (lawyer-capitalism) versus Marxist schools of thought (workers of the world unite), each claiming the competition wasn't pulling its own weight i.e. "our side" has the right to be on the top of the heap (presumably where you find the best access to scarce life support).

Per dumbed down Hegelianism (he never boiled it down to 'thesis - antithesis -> synthesis' the way they teach in grade school) we've since moved on.

Grunch is focused on artifacts and competitive marketing/ branding, but also on open source energy planning and modeling, publicly sharing lots of relevant global data (vs. keeping it classified the way Malthusians had to, cuz the news was so grim, at least for the majority of humans). World Game is still a competitive game, but our top teams don't easily stuff into 20th century pigeon-holes.


Monday, October 30, 2006

NCLB Polyhedron Memo

"What if we teach about an NCLB Polyhedron, and how the muggles refused to share it, or really much of any Pentagon Math for that matter?" -- Kirby T. Urner, Oct 29, '06 [1]
Old timers on math-teach may recall my sudden injection of the NCLB Polynomial, a somewhat surrealist maneuver by the standards of today's joyless political climate, what with all that dreary fearmongering and race baiting that goes on (racist: someone who believes in races).

That went over like a lead balloon. I got only a few reports back of any ripple-effects in the blogosphere, let alone classrooms, although I'm used to having some of my best ideas ripped off without attribution (s'ok, I've got more where those came from).

So now, so close to the election, it's time to up the ante with an NCLB Polyhedron (different type math object from a Polynomial).

Some of you snarkies might've guessed that'd be the Pentagonal Dodecahedron but you'd be wrong. I'm going with the Rhombic Triacontahedron for several reasons:
  1. it's home base for the T modules (recursive sister of A & B modules)
  2. it embeds the pentagonal dodeca, one of the Platonic High Five, as short face diagonals (rhombs are diamonds)
  3. it also embeds the icosahedron (long diagonals), which is more structurally stable, being all triangles 'n all, and also a High Fiver
  4. [... your reason goes here ...]
  5. we need more focus on the Rhombic Dodecahedron (one of Kepler's favorites) and rhomb rhymes with rhomb
Of course there's a strong tie-in with the NCLB Polynomial, as you'd expect with a really smart cookie brand (NCLB is all about transmitting our precious smarts to upcoming next-gens, duh).

The NCLB Polynomial, as you recall, was x**2 - x - 1, which, set equal to zero, solves as one plus or minus the second root of five all over two.[2] And that's Phi Country folks, like the land o' Marlborough but without all the cigs ("I miss my lung Bob"[3]), a place for rugged individualism, just like our Python Nation (partially overlapping for sure (did I mention I was its Minister of Education once?)). Welcome to our Wild West.

And Phi is all about Five-Fold Symmetry, rotationally speaking, which is where the NCLB Polyhedron comes in, all part of the same package.

Rhombic Triacontahedron
by Ken G. Brown

Now who could deny this'd be wholesome fare for USA kidnicks, stretching to become tomorrow's freedom-loving world game players? It's a no-brainer almost. Figurate and polyhedral numbers, flatscreen computer graphics, hexapent domicile options, horse camps in the high desert. Like of course this is Future America -- who ever doubted it?

Yet the math teachers don't share our NCLB programming, pretending NCLB is no more than a "school rule" of the kind they might easily get away with breaking. They're not really interested in substantive content, which has never been their forte (secret: many math teachers hate math).

So no sharing about Fibonacci Number convergence to Phi (Python generators good for showing this), practically nothing about Pentagon Math (108, in an underground hexapent -- anything clicking?), about Triangular and Tetrahedral number sequences (columns in Pascal's Triangle), and how all this stuff links to our Geometry of the Ages (as embedded in all kinds of USA iconography and architecture [4]).

Or maybe they do bravely share this stuff (that'd be my fond hope at least). If so, they should be loud about it, run campaigns on that basis. NCLB is so important in the fight against terrorism (bumper sticker: only stoopid people bomb (and yes, mean people still suck)).

Thanks to NCLB, our president is winning his war for Iraqi hearts and minds. Why? Because Islam was never so stoopid about geometry as most USA math teachers are, what with their dim-witted XYZ calculus and "duh wuh?" reflexes around nature's well established geometries.[5]

Thanks to NCLB, our children will face life bravely, perhaps unlike their pseudo-adult math teachers, who cower and cringe in the face of their own incompetence, now shining publicly and brightly, as from a lit up billboard -- their collective professional face in our NCLB mirror.

Gnu Math Teacher
Portland, Oregon

More context on the Math Forum: Halloween, 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Degrees of Freedom

Over on Geodesic, a listserv out of SUNY Buffalo, Tim Tyler is battling pseudo-scientists over whether Bucky was right about the minimum bicycle wheel having twelve spokes.

Tim claims seven is minimal, echoing claims in a new biography of H.S.M. Coxeter, the late master geometer, to whom Bucky dedicated his two volume magnum opus.

The question is important in part because the bicycle wheel marks a transition from compression-heavy designs to lighter weight tension-based solutions.

The hub in a traditional wooden spoked wheel "pole vaults along" (Bucky's imagery), its spokes pushing downward against the rim, whereas the bicycle wheel's hub hangs from above, reaching out to the sides to prevent the rim from buckling outward.

For Fuller, learning to design around tension was a critical "more with less" strategy that would help humans aboard Spaceship Earth take better care of themselves over the long haul.

I've weighed in on the side of empiricism in this thread, plus hinted at other mistakes we may find in Synergetics, even beyond those already listed, by Robert Gray and others.
My friend Tom Ace shares a lot of Tyler's skepticism regarding Synergetics, plus knows a lot about bicycle wheels. More empirical testing is a good idea. [link]
This book, first published by Macmillan and now on the web, should not be considered the last word in the discipline, nor even a last stand, but a promising beginning, a trailblazing exploration.

Yet how many school kids even know there's a legacy, a "geometry of thinking" to explore? And who was this Coxeter guy and what means "tensegrity"?

No child should be left behind when it comes to accessing their own best heritage, American or otherwise. As I've written on Synergeo recently, a Yahoo! eGroup:
For my part, I want to recruit more high powered players who will help me get at least the basics, the concentric hierarchy and its ball packing context, televized and more evenly distributed, so it becomes a part of the background noise of our culture.

Once synergetics is more overtly in the background, I'll make less noise in the foreground and probably come off as less combative and competitive to boot. [link]
Fortunately, I'm seeing signs that we're turning this corner and really starting to get the word out to our kids.

So perhaps our esoteric little arguments will gain wider currency, and even this little bicycle wheel question may help us recruit future scientists.

bottlenecks r us

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Flags of Our Fathers (movie review)

Eastwood and Spielberg exercise state of the art skills to recreate the utter and complete hell that was Iwo Jima. A small set of lucky souls is magically transported to Alien America, to raise money for this terrible hell, and they find this confusing unto death, though they each deal with it differently.

Who are all these people and what are we doing here? Why is hell a real place and not just in the Bible?

What's palpable about these civilians is how they've surrendered so completely to the illusion that there must be some victory in this picture, when it's really all about suffering and dying, with the humanity of one's buddies never in doubt such that somehow on some level it was worth every penny, just to have died there with them. But that doesn't make war OK.

By today's standards, the treatment of those lucky soldiers was inexcusable. We're talking full blown PTSD, in the Indian's case like a flat out psychosis (but then aren't Indians supposed to be crazy? -- look at what happened to them).

Putting nut jobs like these (and I mean that affectionately) in the full glare of packed stadiums, expecting them to perform like pet hamsters or something (look where that got 'em the first time), was out and out animal cruelty. But then, that's what war is.

I salute the makers of this film (actors, logistics...) for reminding us why we want a lot of diplomatic activity, strong friendships across oceans, tourism, deep sharing and listening. The film itself salutes the actual stars, more than I, just some guy, could ever do alone.

We very much want and need to stay sane on this planet, all the more so given our discouraging track record (but King Kong makes us proud).

Our humanity was never in doubt, let's remember that. We were indeed "good people".

But let's face it, Universe is a difficult game and we're far from perfect players (as the angels keep reminding us, when they best us in soccer).

May we always play better together and love a lot more. We are worth every penny.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Libyan Eclipse

Buxton (center), Stockman (left) and Tver (right)
Jim Buxton came dressed for the part, complete with head- protective turban and Qahdaffy T-shirt, to share his slides and Quicktime movies of his in-the-desert experience. I won't go into much detail except to say the next one is in Mongolia (I hope Jim and his wife might afford to go).

Back in the alcove, I absorbed a real time mathcast from David Feinstein, based on his recent middle school teaching in Sacramento. His style of pedagogy is amazingly effective. In this case, he had Shomar in the classroom, his giant dog, which trained kids to reel in their focus (from such a wonderful animal) and refocus on command -- a new skill for them.

David agreed in principle he was available as on-camera talent when doing such gigs, at which point I rubbed my hands together and looked shifty-eyed (seeking my krew?).

At one point in Jim's talk, I jumped in with that picture from off the "time capsule" in our living room (an art deco stack of cylindrical shelves), that one of dad in the 1960s, his team assembled, maps in the background, working on 50 year timelines for Libyan development.

Libya hired a crack team as soon as it became apparent that urban and regional planning were real disciplines, not just pie in the sky distant futurist talk. Portland had already learned that lesson, and has reaped many benefits (as has Libya, over the years).

Other countries my dad worked for in a planning capacity, besides the USA: Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Lesotho.

In these latter two, I was already doing a gig around polyhedra, and guest presented to school children to rave reviews. I also wrote A Bhutanese Mathematics Curriculum with a hexapent on the cover, gave a copy to Father Mackey SJ. These were my early days as a curriculum writer and I feel I've gotten much better at it since then (but what a lucky beginning eh?).

Jim's and his wife's Libyan experience was quite joyful and they were appreciative of all the hospitality extended to visiting non-nationals. And I'm willing to bet that little patch of desert had never seen such a concentration of high tech cameras and telescopes, for both movies and stills, though at least one lady just sat there, meditating peacefully through the whole event, just taking it all in.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Next Generation

projecting directly to whiteboard
My newest Saturday Academy class got off to a slightly rough start, owing to a motion detector not disarmed, no student logins working, and my trouble finding the room, walking in a tad late.

Fortunately, an Academy pro staffer was already on the scene, addressing all of these problems, plus my login and the computer projector both worked flawlessly. Thirty minutes into it, we were cookin' with gas (means hummin' along nicely).

I talked up the importance of PEPs in Python Nation, i.e. our reliance on Guido's design sense for advancing the language, but with responsibility distributed enough to give lots of strong players a role. Like geeks do have the ability to intelligently self-organize and self-manage.

I was very strong on the Monty Python connection, plus hyped adjacent languages such as Ruby and Perl, decoding the LAMP meme towards the end (see below). Of course now that Ruby on Rails has become a primo web framework, that clever idea of a "P-language" (Perl, Python, or PHP) is somewhat obsolescent.

Some of the time we spent in Sloane's Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. I started with the story of the young Gauss adding 1 + 2 + 3... + 100 in just seconds, based on a couple insights, which led to triangular (1, 3, 6, 10...) then tetrahedral (1, 4, 10, 20...) numbers. That paved the way for the cuboctas (1, 13, 55, 147...) by way of icosa shell counts (1, 12, 42, 92...) and the jitterbug transformation (mentioned only briefly in passing, using my colorful Vector Flexor).

All of these figurate and polyhedral number sequences make for easy Python functions, importable as from ./Lib/site-packages (each student is using a local drive, to avoid some frustrating sys.path issues that hampered us last time).

One technique with the white board (shown above) is to retract the projection screen (a switch on the wall), thereby putting code on a markupable surface. I can circle bugs, scribble comments, using projected Python as my target. I used IDLE -- remarking on the pun -- with Courier, Georgia and/or Comic Sans in a 16 pt. bold. I may switch to a wx.PyCrust down the road.

My students were active and engaged, asking questions, providing input.

decoding LAMP
(click for larger view)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lunch in Oregon City

alice & tom (with george in the background)

We had lunch at a "MickeyMens" yesterday (a McMenamins -- a Disney allusion (I overheard a receptionist at Edgefield sighing, not unhappily, about "another day in the Kingdom" so seems befitting)).

Tom (the county employee) and me (the geek computer consultant) used to work in that very downtown building some years before this latest remodel (his new county digs are likewise an improvement).

Today, the hard-working Razz finally got some much-deserved pandering to at the local Jiffy Lube (see Google Earth). I insisted on Quaker State.

Expecting dinner with the Boltons.