Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wanderers 2007.2.28

Dr. John Taylor @ Pauling House
(photo by meliptus)
I missed last night's irregularly scheduled Wanderers, though my digicam was there, and tripod, taking it all in under Glenn's expert handling.

But this morning, I was actually on time for the regularly scheduled event, thanks to a two hour delay in Portland Public's operating schedule, thanks to weather predictions.

Our speaker, Dr. John Taylor, made his career as an urban planner and Quaker, with much experience overseas (like my dad). He has worked in India, Thailand, Malaysia and for 25 years in Indonesia. His North American sojourns included NYC and UCLA.

John launched his career trying to brainstorm viable alternatives to Robert Moses style urban renewal, which was to bulldoze and rebuild from scratch. His search led him into the more anthropological dimensions of community: it's about what people are thinking and feeling that matters, more than the physical furniture (props, stage machinery).

Throughout his career, he's been about really zooming in to the appropriately micro level from which to anchor one's modeling. Sweeping outsider viewpoints, though seductively simplifying, often tend to be just that. Real solutions emerge from within and, not surprisingly, usually have strong indigenous roots.

A lot of discussion focused on regional differences based on whether a people felt conquered, recovering in the wake of liberation, always free or whatever. Attitudes towards consultants are a function of earlier experiences with outsiders, as Werner Herzog discovers in Burden of Dreams.

The night before, Eve Menger and friends were reviewing Oregon's public coastline policies, which realtors would love to amend or rescind. Our lack of class consciousness out here on the Pacific Rim probably owes a lot to the fact that our beaches are still free.

I had lunch with Captain Donzo (Meliptus is back in business), Glenn, and David Feinstein, who shared yet another breakthrough, this one involving the calculus of variations (that guy is amazing, and so good at explaining himself).

Then my wife and I drove to and strolled along Belmont, visiting Kinta, a Malaysian establishment near to The Tao of Tea. Dawn had some stir fry and ginger ale, while I ordered Cape Town Roi Boos tea.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday Outing

Traffic is light on Sundays in Portland, so it was no trouble driving Tara and Rose to Lloyd Center this afternoon, Dawn volunteering to come, but really needing more rest these days. Some other time.

Got that Sims Nightlife for Tara (finally -- not in stock at Freddies). She and Rose checked it out before Rose's mom showed up, on schedule, to get her home (it's a school night, after all).

I ended up purchasing Camtasia Studio, plus a bundled product, both for making inhouse screencasts and as parts of contract deliverables. I keep thinking I'll get to it soon.

Aimée came by, changed Dawn's bandage (she's a professional hospice nurse on temporary leave, married to erstwhile clerk of Multnomah Meeting, Peter, a librarian). She was in a plane crash once, in 1978, UA 173. Dawn helped organize the 1998 reunion.

Last night I wuz out with the boyz, Matt 'n Michael, with a flextegrity sample and IVM pyramid for conversation and show. We ended up all going to Trilogy, a local video outlet, in part so I could follow through on Michael's recommended viewing sequence. I have one more to go.

Later: helping Tara with Math Learning Center materials (algorithms for making tessallating shapes, with M. C. Escher and the Alhambra mentioned). Earlier: another alumni interview with a candidate for the Class of 2011 (I'm Class of 1980).

McMenamin's Bagdad's 80th birthday.

photo from website

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Boring Banking Story

So I tried to pay off the New Mexico trip out of the biz (licensed with the City of Portland as Dawn Wicca and Associates, and State-registered with a DBA of 4D Solutions), which is backed with an overdraft cushion, but in my rush I went right through it (the cushion), to hit the real bottom, meaning a bounced check meaning a $31 penalty in my online check register (a US Bank account).

Not quite understanding about the penalty, I sought out my banker at the local branch, who has done something positive with his hair (he reminds me of Nicolas Cage). Ron explained about the cushion, plus transferred from the equity loan (a kind of mortgage) so if Working Assets tries to put through again, I'll be covered, plus he refunded the $31.

However, when I phoned Bank of America about the bounce (still reflected in my transactions history), the customer service computer hadn't caught up, plus assured me the Borg's employees would know no more than it did, "it" being the central database or hive mind.

Maybe I'll call back tomorrow, as my "internal banker" is whispering that my credit rating will stay higher if I don't pepper my record with lots of records of bounced checks. If I'm able to cover the New Mexico mission, I oughta do it, and remain in the good graces of the powers that be.

BofA has like three business days to retry the same check, so maybe the central check cashing computer is actually ahead of me on this one, i.e. it has put through again since my most recent US Bank transactions. But that'd seem rather far fetched.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wanderers 2007.2.21

Given out of town guests, I was planning to be late, but given the sudden need for a laptop capable of PowerPoint, I was to the rescue with Toshiba. Carla and Scott were ready to rest anyway, our having stuffed 'em with the best Chinese food from Fujin, where Becky, born Year of the Boar, doesn't think it matters if "Pig" is a synonym (a subject for teasing, either way).

Michael Armstrong is a behind the scenes publisher without much experience around scientists, judging from his performance. Bob McGown was especially interested in the subject, given his avid love of cosmology. Glenn Stockton has likewise studied their comings and goings. David Feinstein left early, back to analyzing the 10K or so shirt models he's been given, in terms of key measurements, some missing (so how to fill in, based on a smart model?). I got to sit next to Shomar in the coupe for a fun couple moments.

Electric Universe begins by zapping the sheer fabric of current doctrines, all centered around gravity countering nuclear energy, cohering the orbits (albeit chaotically, precessionally). "This cannot stand" is the obvious counter argument, and given what one might do electrically in the laboratory, all kinds of analogies might be cooked up, such that the literal truth of the Bible will once again be restored.

Brian the birdman swooped through, interested in the psychological implications. A cosmology is likewise a psychology (as above, so below), is the key teaching here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Coming Together

new stem

mixing the glue

A T of T modules, plus remainder tet
(by David Koski with Zome)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jesus Camp (movie review)

This is a hopeful movie, as it shows how a subculture, galvanized by a credo, is free to assemble, build facilities, and seek to influence the machinery of government by democratic means, just as, by Declaration and Constitution, it's intended that they should.

These Pentacostals are living the American Dream, their version of it, and feeling themselves mirrored in their president, hallelujah.

The film itself zooms back however, to countering USA-based subcultures and their sour grapes radio, to Muslims, playing card games near the the Capitol, to a distant political contest in the world of Legal Affairs, wherein worthy judges were contesting a listing on the roster of Supreme Court justices of the peace. Here, we get to the boundary of this particular LensWorld, as the president's first choice, Harriet Miers, is never mentioned. To Britney Spears.

There's a strong myth in some circles that kids are hardwired by the end of high school, so anything you can do to get to 'em before then... But my experience of est, other "adults mostly" trainings in mindfulness schools, suggests otherwise. Young Levi, a star in this film (the main girl is strong too), will probably keep learning new trix long into his old doghood. God'll keep teaching him, just as Jesus'll keep lovin' his Friends.

Addendum: VIP Koski phoned in the middle of my viewing (easy to pause it), discussing his adventures with ZomeTool. Those miraculous little hubs are anchored in five-fold, but'll twist into a regular tetrahedron with work, not the golden cuboid with both body and face diagonals however -- something to discuss at our next summer camp perhaps.

golden cuboids: body diagonal, face diagonals
(models, photo by David Koski)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Geek Lore

So I finally got around to cracking the covers of my new LinuxUser & Developer #68, purchased at the corner grocery store. It came with ubuntu 6.10 stuck to the cover, in a plastic case, on a DVD.

Inside: the USA spews credibility like there's no tomorrow as a sick and twisted Monsanto puppets it transparently, seeking to get starving Africans hooked on genetically modified seeds of death (sterile spawn), while, meanwhile, open source alternatives still exist, plus, thanks to IRRI, are healthier.

Well dang, so that GM hype (no, not the car company) is way out in front of the science, by like decades, still lags the old multi-millenial approach. Isn't that special? In the meantime, less cynical Euros mop up in the warm afterglow of USAID's incompetence (like FEMA, except for the rest of the world), developing everything that's trully useful anymore, like KDE4 (which I'm looking forward to using).

Also inside: yes, Blender is really hard to use, but we pro artists and organizers have magical powers and blended this famous open source HDTV movie called Elephants Dream, so eat your hearts out newbie losers or whomever you are who wish you could be us. Oh, and the sound track isn't all that open source -- had to cut corners there. Good article. Made me want to dabble in Blender again (it's really hard to use).

Per usual after reading such stellar propanganda (we geeks are good at what we do), I was ready to partition my drives, debug the kernel, and wallow in cyberloneliness (back page, Addicted to the Net) with cute geekettes like Rachel Probert (me and like 10K other losers (smile)).

Addendum: oh yeah, and I really admire that Freedom Toasters idea (page 61), kiosks for tanking up on free stuff, already in 16 cities in South Africa. My hat is off to whomever thought of that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Peace Treaty?

Regarding efforts to bring an end to the so-called Math Wars, I argue on PHYSLRNR (a listserv frequented by physics teachers) that a participatory democracy leaves room for competition among diverse schools of thought.

There's no "one right way" we all have to teach mathematics.

For example, my subculture would never agree to just bleep over Bucky Fuller's concentric hierarchy, but others consciously choose to do so, while still others have yet to learn they've had a choice (to bleep, or not to bleep?) lo these many decades.

Thoughts regarding: Math Wars Peace Treaty (thread)
Thread initiator: Richard Hake
Respondent: Kirby Urner


Originally posted to math-teach @ Math Forum, Drexel. Feb 14, 2007 3:22 AM

Whereas I think we'll be more productive if agreeing to civil debate, motivations for calling an end to the "math wars" should be examined, if this means accepting some one size fits all curriculum, absent local and/or cyber community control.

For example, my geek ethnicity would never agree to limit itself to the geometric content offered under the heading of Virtual Manipulatives, in the Toolkit for Change, in support of the following standard for grades 9-12:

"use geometric ideas to solve problems in, and gain insights into, other disciplines and other areas of interest such as art and architecture."

[ links deleted ]

Said virtual manipulatives miss our core artifact for introducing polyhedra, the so-called Concentric Hierarchy developed by R. Buckminster Fuller (

We consider this a core virtual manipulative and do not accept any math curriculum that fails to include it. We also don't much like using a Mercator Projection, per (we have our own, much better projection).

Is this an "extremist position"? It doesn't need to be.

We're implementing our curriculum unhampered, our children are benefiting, plus there's no sense of needing to win any math war, as what other ethnicities choose to implement need not be our focus or business.

On the other hand, we defend our right to recruit faculty and students to our network and see no reason to withhold criticisms and/or opinions regarding competing curricula, i.e. we're at liberty to join in the debates that swirl about how best to teach math.

In sum, I disagree with the premise that children must necessarily suffer just because there's no universal agreement on standards and/or content. This is as it should be in a participatory democracy that gives ethnic groups a lot of say over how to educate their own. Diversity in mathematics education is not something to overcome or get beyond.

There's no contradiction between pursuing our own version of the American Dream, and being at odds with some of the more mainstream curricula.

Kirby Urner
Gnu Math Teacher
Portland, Oregon

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ready to Make Nice?

So I've applied to speak at OSCON again this year, which I last did in '05, but don't yet know if I've made the final cut. I carry a brief for CP4E, a sort of bully pulpit from whence I urge us to "move beyond calculators" in terms of making pre-college mathematics more interesting for students. Python is a big part of those plans.

But have I been nice enough? Secretary Gates warns from experience as a university president that you need high level diplomatic skills to get anywhere with those prima donnas on faculty: "[A]s more than a few university presidents have learned in recent years, when it comes to faculty it is either 'be nice' or 'be gone'." I know I've at least ruffled a few feathers.

I saw a little TV documentary on being nice on Continental Airlines awhile back (Orlando, Houston, Portland), how that's a key to success in the business world as well. Donald Trump was convergent with PVH of Calvin Klein fame during commercial -- can't remember all the details -- and I think "being nice" was a part of his philosophy too, like he was to Miss America after she screwed up that time. He seemed kinda mean to Rosie though.

Anyway, I really do like the defiance of those Dixie Chicks. If they're not ready, they don't need to be, the way I see it. Let others be nice for a change and drop their weapons, and let those chicks at least use their guitars to register disagreement.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Meeting on Hawthorne

bonnie & ken
I really enjoyed hangin' with Ken and Bonnie this afternoon, Ken being the farmer and sailor from Alberta, Canada who owns Synergeo (a Bucky eGroup I often cite in my blogs), and Bonnie, also from Alberta, being a teacher of science teachers (we talked about Karplus, among others).

We started with beers at The Bagdad (Bonnie had an RC), chatting about Tesla, whom Ken deeply respects, then moved on to Thai food at Thanh Thao near the Pauling House, with Tara joining us.

We talked a lot about cancer, family members who've died of it, survived it, and health care systems. Ken and Tara talked about Squeak and robotics. Ken, with a background in electrical engineering, is tracking the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) campaign, is eager to see eToys shared with the developing world's children. I yakked about Saturday Academy, TuxLabs, our summit in London, showed off hypertoons on my iPod. Bonnie talked about science education in New Zealand, the subject of a book she's recently reviewed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Synergetics in Afghanistan

This image of cybervans (bizmos) entering remote villages to spread good cheer and leave behind useful tools is an ancient one in NGO literature.

I say "NGO" because usually governments aren't trusted enough for such work. They're too in bed with some fanatical military and the usual schemer-dreamers, harboring fantasies of world (or at least regional) domination.

Imperial cybervan fleets would be no more than brainwashing mobiles, meaning (among other things) that the "opt out" component would be weak. The zealot teachers within them would be "imperious" rather than respectful of local traditions and willing to move on if not wanted.

That's no way to win loyalty for one's brand.

Cybervans in the USA's pilot programs, and operating on the domestic scene, are mostly like movie previewing machines. Students take a gander at some futuristic cartoons, they hope a part of some actually possible and even probable reality. Others provide medical services.

As a provider of some of these cartoons, at least in prototype, I focus on a suitably futuristic curriculum.

Sure, we still study ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, China, India and so on. But we have our own spin, as does any age. We're less enamoured of the Qyoob (Cube) than some Renaissance Era Italians.

We also like a kind of discontinuous, geek-flavored television, learned in part from Sesame Street, with lots of cutaways to technical animations, some of which aim to cover geometry topics. Ford's commercials during Superbowl XLI were a good example of the genre.

The military re-enters the picture as providing for its own. If you've already joined a military, your kids still need an education. Whether to get brainwashed by the powers that be isn't the question. More the motto is: if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Groups (update)

I was gratified to see Duncan Richter including this blog in the list of Wittgenstein-related (below), even though it might not be philosophical enough for some tastes (wittgenstein-dialognet #6310).

I certainly manage to rub some readers the wrong way, as evidenced by this outburst on edupython, another group to which I'm subscribed.

Of course I'm quite capable of playing the arrogant bastard, so don't typically plead for mercy in the face of verbal assaults. Plus I do keep these on-line journals (blogs), for more private confessions of my sins.

Synergeo bubbles along nicely, thanks in part to David Chako's choosing to join us.

Philosophicalcoffeehouse also contains a stash of my posts.

RE: [wittgenstein-dialognet] Awfully Quiet out there

I recently found this Wittgenstein blog:

A couple of contributors to this list have blogs too: (I'm not sure whether this is philosophical enough to mention here, but some people will be interested in taking a look)

Duncan Richter

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of kd_palmer
Sent: Saturday, January 20, 2007 12:06 PM
Subject: [wittgenstein-dialognet] Awfully Quiet out there

Seems like everyone has forgotten the W list after the holidays.

This is the one list that has always been going strong.

So this is just a reminder that the list still exists for conversation on Wittgenstein's life and work.

Or has everyone shifted over to reading Blogs instead?

Are there any good Wittgensteinian Blogs out there?

The Management.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Portfolio Night

Winterhaven takes portfolio night seriously. Students keep their work in a binder and periodically open them to inspection by guardians.

The concept map helps connect ideas in a graphical form. Students also create concept maps as mobiles that hang from the ceiling.

Seventh graders have been studying the Platonic Polyhedra, among others, along with Euler's Law for Polyhedra: V + F = E + 2.

The theater program is also important at Winterhaven and this time featured students' powers of articulation and memorization, drawing from Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit poems. Tara has been a Silverstein fan for some time. PKL has a book of his cartoons in its collection.