Saturday, August 30, 2008

More Hermeneutics

See Synergeo #43202 (typo fixes, hyperlinks added):

Re: Whitney review

> Not condoning laziness but Synergetics is tough going-
> I've been re-reading it and it comes off as more of a
> compilation of ideas- you can see Applewhite's indexing
> and the massive effort it took to organize.

Synergetics is "round" and so may be started anywhere, one of Applewhite's points when talking about the many scenarios it goes into, i.e. the passages aren't disjoint but hook together into long trains of thought -- not unlike Wittgenstein's Philosophical Inventions in that way, also with numbered entries (a comparison he liked).

> I noticed some inconsistencies that might scare off less
> adventurous readers like the contradiction over Universe
> as largest system and Universe not a system-gives readers
> like Rybo too much flexibility in interpretation

I see that more as a matter of nuance i.e. he harps on Universe as aconceptual mostly, but when push comes to shove, we're bound to systematize and so "largest system" gets some airplay -- but isn't that what it's like experimentally? Can you flash on some image and say that's the universe? But don't you pretend you can think of it as a whole, galaxies floating around, someone feeding their pet canary?

My recommendation is don't waste a lot of time on Rybo. As more people realize that Synergetics is both subtle and fun, we'll get some more interesting interpretive literature. Likely some of the greatest contributors to this growing body of work haven't been born yet.

> Wish we had more books like Amy's to bring folks gently into
> the fold (sic)
> Lou

The Pound Era was also quite good. Don't forget my Synergetics on the Web, getting thousands of hits monthly last I checked, lots of people getting Synergetics out there.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Report from FCNL

Joe Volk (right) at Reedwood Friends near Reed College

Joe Volk recently had the privilege of joining an AFSC delegation to China, his only previous trip in 1984, and a lot had changed. Officials were easier to understand, their readings dovetailing more, plus China's charm offensive was bearing fruit, the new landscape more a collaborative enterprise, between internal and external engineers, architects etc.

Joe's story is compelling in that he started testing his belief system while still an enlisted soldier in 1968, open to the Just War doctrine, yet resolving to uphold the Nuremberg Charter and disobey orders to go to Vietnam, should push come to shove, which it did.

He liked the matter of fact way the AFSC office handled his case, offering to periodically phone the stockade where he was imprisoned, just asking about his welfare, and he resolved to later study the Quaker peace testimony, which he understood informed these actions. Today he heads one of the oldest, most respected lobbies on Capitol Hill (FCNL), which has a brand new "green building" -- a hot commodity in DC these days, with lots of MVPs asking for tours.

Back to China, Joe's previous trip had been in the company of Lewis Hoskins, a stalwart of the Quaker Men's Group I've attended for years, and ambulance driver for Friends in China during the WWII era. On this trip, the delegation's Chinese hosts expressed gratitude and appreciation for this service, which was delivered without regard for political affiliation or ideological predilection.

My only trip to China to date was way back in the 1970s, in the company of Glenn Baker and his parents. I recently uploaded some pictures from that trip, taken by Glenn, to my "good old days" folder on Flickr.

On another topic, I notice Kiselev's Geometry / Book II, Stereometry is now available in a language I know. I just ordered my copy from Sumizdat with a discount for having purchased Book I.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The word "elitist" usually has a negative connotation, as in snobbish, stuck up, arrogant, vain, or at the very least privileged, but undeservedly so.

Yet I well remember J. Baldwin's spin on the word, when he phoned me in advance of including my name in the front matter of his new book, Bucky Works. He said he was "an elitist" in not using email that much, as he considered it shallow, too superficial.

True to form, the only time we really communicated after that was in person, in San Jose especially where we talked for a few hours. The guy is not snobbish, nor rich, but he takes justifiable pride in his accomplishments and skills, his integrity and intellect. He deserves to be an elitist in that way, and was just as proud of his son I recall, a Navy SEAL.

One would like to feel justifiably proud of one's team, an "elite crew" of some type, respected. So that's the positive spin on this word -- nothing to do with hogging more than one's share, feeling over-entitled.

Some of the Wanderers have been chatting about elitism in connection with a new book The Axemaker's Gift, which I've not yet read. So is it true there's some elite controller cast, pulling all the strings, making it all happen behind the scenes?

Let me quote from one of my posts of yesterday (#2553):
I think more kids should get to experience the Ouija board in their regular school setting, complete with the psychological explanation that there are more of them than there are of you, so it always feels like others are making it move, whereas you're just along for the ride, very innocent of making the thing spell what it spells (does everyone know what I'm talking about?).

If you've experienced a Ouija board, then you know how it's possible for everyone to feel angelic and innocent, and yet the demon possessing that infernal pointer (to revert to atavistic metaphors) manages to say something pornographic or worse (how did that happen?, everyone wonders, looking accusingly at their peers).

Unless one is schooled in basic psychology (a hole in many a curriculum), then one is easy prey to gazillions of paranoias, all premised on the idea of secret cabals with infinitely greater powers of coordination and cover-up than one lowly, innocent, powerless peon.

My basic rule of thumb is if a person doesn't regard themselves as a member of some "powerful elite" (could just be some well known group like Kiwanis or Rotary) yet is over 30, I probably shouldn't work with them, as their feelings of powerlessness will just get in the way and we won't get any work done. People who feel powerless are dangerous because in denial about having power, whereas conscious and aware people at least know they're powerful (responsible) to some degree, and are therefore less dangerous in many cases.
Or I put it a different way on Synergeo (#43089):
Somehow there's this belief it must all go back to one supreme apex of power, some game room, where all the insiders whisper in secret, plot diabolical next moves. There's no empirical evidence that such a supreme apex exists, except in the minds of the simple minded. On the other hand, sure there are conspiracies, duh, and Bucky was in on several of 'em....
I like to remember Marshall McLuhan at this point, and his remark to Fuller when they met: "I have joined your conspiracy!"

Background reading: Tower of Babel, USA (1995)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Block Party

Today, Richmond, PDX, 97214, USA, all photos by me

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've noticed lots of Kimberly-Clark products at OHSU.

Over on Hawthorne, you'll find activists sharing lore about the Greenpeace battle to end said company's war of choice against a defenseless, ancient Canadian forest.

Here's from the website:

( click for larger view )
Thinking back to my Project Renaissance namespace (1997), I'd have to say Greenpeace is doing a better job than NATO these days, of branding, of communicating its core mission.

Followup: Operation Kleercut successful.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wanderers 2008.8.16

This wasn't an official Wanderers meeting, more a conclusion of what we'd started in Eugene, at the Starbucks.

The painting project kept happening as well, me doing lots of trim in the early hours, then some rolling of Ruby Slippers (a color name), Elizabeth at the helm, Tara first mate, Rose joining later.

However much of my day was devoted to meetings with Glenn and Nat, thinking some more about a Wanderers wiki, but mostly just comparing notes, talking about health care a little.

SQL is old hat, but we still need professionals with the skills and/or overview vis-a-vis this technology.

We talked about bridging to geometry from this data based side of things, perhaps with an audience of medical scientists just wanting to bone up on another tool of the trade?

The main table would have lots of polyhedra and their "topological inventories" (how many corners, faces, edges, maybe relative volumes according to some schema). We could store pictures of the shapes, even movie clips, as "blobs" (learning about field types).

The subtables would relate duals, provide vertices with coordinates, provide faces using these vertices (as in OFF format, already standard in CG).

Perhaps a server side process could ray trace a chosen shape on the fly and deliver it over the Web -- all part of our general purpose model of core technologies in action.

Geometric shapes form a neutral "plain vanilla" kind of content ("generic widgets"), useful in their own right (valuable heritage), unarguably primitive, and something to replace the over-used "parts in inventory" approach found in too many text books (gets stale after awhile) -- not that we have anything against supermarket math.

My thanks again to Elizabeth.

:: inside a polyhedron ::

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Abuse of Power

So here's a clear case of putting undue stress on the indigent who don't pay a water bill on time: you get a reminder every week, to the tune of $10 each time (adds to your balance), but if you mail your check between two such letters, they grind on you to pay that additional late fee, even if the check is post marked and cashed in between.

What they say on the phone is you have to phone them and ask for a waiver, don't understand that a check in between should have bought freedom from any additional penalty charge.

Most "down and outers" won't dare stand up to a bureaucracy so it's up to those of us with some fight in us still, to point out this kind of petty abuse (it all adds up), this kind of nickle and diming that counts on (presumes) a "grin and bear it" attitude, is not modeled on serving proud Americans willing to stick up for themselves.

:: customer complaint ::

Monday, August 11, 2008

Coffee Shop Hopping

Somewhat atypically, I shelled out $9.99 for 24 hours on Tmobile, not my usual habit because so many Portland coffee shops offer free wifi, more like in Whittier.

I'm at my third Starbucks of the day, this one in Eugene, 13th & Alder, enjoying a slice of lemon pound cake (visited the gym this morning, doing that "fool your own metabolism" diet on the sly).

To my gnu math readers: maybe help with these questions about Python? Good chat room topics in any case.

Nick is holding court, shops like this his native habitat. I brought him the shoes he ordered delivered to my address and some literature he may not have seen: the New Yorker article on Bucky (hard copy version, a present from Matt) and the new Whitney catalog, recently acquired from Powell's Technical, capping this Xmas in July (a good one).

We'll be meeting with Nat pretty soon, probably moving somewhere else.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Some Summer Memories

:: Alana and Mary (formerly neighbors) ::

:: a freedom T-shirt tableau ::

:: a heron near PDX ::

:: a secluded scene ::

:: sisters ::

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dead Languages

Over on edu-sig we've been discussing the teaching of math as a language, or set of partially overlapping language games, including with more machines getting into the action, since Turing especially.

Glenn and I walked Sarah this morning, got her toe nails clipped, discussed Alan, working conditions at Bletchley Park, the UK's Navy Department's resistance to this new kind of intelligence and so on -- Glenn is perusing a new biography of the guy, plus we're both Neal Stephenson fans.

Computer programming has been around long enough, since Ada Byron's groundbreaking speculations, to give us "dead languages" already, but that's a somewhat misleading term, as a "dead language" may be very much alive in terms of continuing to run.

It's more just that brand new or so-called greenfield projects tend to go with more contemporary offerings, given ongoing advances in our tools of the trade. You don't start new COBOL projects, but may tend an inherited code pile, keep it "well oiled" so to speak, i.e. in running condition.

Some of the best matrix manipulations still happen in FORTRAN, and there are ways to wrap code in other code, such that a Python coder might hand off to FORTRAN and receive back -- so again, being a dead language doesn't get you off the hook from being in a responsible position necessarily.

So how shall we go about recruiting new talent into maintenance jobs? Aren't those too unglamorous, isn't the danger that dead languages will have no new students? In answer I say, look at ancient Sumerian, how people still study it, even in the 21st century. To be a serious-minded computer programmer might mean knowing two or three dead languages and a few contemporary new ones. It's not either / or.

That being said, some dinosaur operating systems and / or applications run too inefficiently or ineffectively or have otherwise exceeded their warranties, their maintainability.

Especially in light of how open source philosophies have driven down costs, lowering barriers to entry, those with the right skills have many more realistic pathways into the future to choose from, if anything have too many options rather than too few (I'm not complaining).

So whereas I think it's safe to envision some classical FORTRAN packages continuing in operation for decades to come, a lot of the vertical market stuff, especially if aimed at specific hardware, will find (has maybe already found) it has a shorter active duty cycle.

I'm sure many of my peers have come to similar conclusions, although usually in connection with a more specific company, silo, brand or project.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Boat Back in Action

Barry the banker, Peace Corps volunteer, helped our Captain mastermind the rebuilding and installation of a spare maritime internal combustion engine, getting expert assistance with borings etc.

Barry knows his boat engines.

I didn't help at all this time, except with encouragement. This work took several months.

Now that she's back under power (already to Oregon City and back), but with a new engine, a name change may be in order.

MySpace might stick?

Another positive development: DWA is getting its certificate of compliance from the city, having passed the fax test.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Equipment Test

Mom, 78, did marvelously on her giant cot in the Travis's tent, as did we all.

However the rains and temperature were such that we decided this qualified as "not summer camping" even though it's summer.

So I brought them back, dog too, by way of Frys (Hwy 214 through Silverton to Woodburn, then I-5 to Wilsonville), to check on the ailing Sony Vaio, lugged with us, because we took the I-205 route going out, by way of Molalla.

The laptop, mom's main workhorse, had a hard time coming out of hibernation, but did eventually, so good outcome, didn't need to leave it for repairs.

I'm returning to the venue to pick up with the threads around the fire, eat more marshmallows, plus we've had some turnover (e.g. Ron & Liz, Gayle), expecting it'll be fun, has been so far. I've got my own dome, had a wet dog for company.

Anyway, the equipment (much of it purchased at Joe's) performed well, camp stove and everything.

These camp sites are in high demand with most of them booked well in advanced, and so are filled regardless of weather, by families grateful for the opportunity. The trees are really big, the vistas spectacular. This was an annual event for us, so a little rain isn't much of a damper, Pacific Northwesterners that we be.

No wifi, and that's fine with me.