Saturday, January 31, 2009

Part Deux

This was a follow-on to the essay below it, first edition published to the Wanderers e-list.


> To me it's a no brainer this is a story worth
> telling, sharing with students, Reed kids for
> example. And as an American Transcendentalist,
> you can bet that I do, all over my resume,
> everywhere else. Kind of a trademark
> you might say.
> Kirby
> 4D

OK, so that went to me blog, fixed some typos, made some links.

It's next to the meeting with Lew, in part because I want people to know why I'm excited about PPS: we taught about "A modules" in 6th grade. Very cutting edge.

That 1, 12, 42, 92... is of course expressible in a formula 10*F**2 + 2, using ** for power (like in Python). We use that to get a high frequency icosahedron, then break it into triangles. Subracting that + 2, gives 1:2:3 for N:F:E (F = faces, E = edges, N = V - 2). But first you need V + F = E + 2 (elementary school stuff again).

I'm not saying every adult knows the above, just that "Quaker engineers" all do (by definition -- namespace maneuver).

But as email or "just words", it's maybe not as "way cool" as on YouTube (or ShowMeDo), where we archive more and more of this stuff. Lemme go see what's been uploaded recently:

OK, not fair, me again -- note Portland prominent in the background. We're hot stuff in this city.

Lots of related videos. Here's Colliding A and B Quanta Modules:

I have a problem with this one, in that these aren't really just As and Bs. Amalgams of some kind maybe? Couplers?

As and Bs are really simple, per plane nets (what your 7th grader might soon know, from cartoons).

It's not that we're replacing the math we get now, it's that we're abetting it with a tiny kernel of densely packed ideas, like "the red pill" that gets you out of The Matrix ( = mind-numbing qyoobist paradigm).

Try it, you'll like it. Boost your IQ!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Geometric Studies

On Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 10:03 PM, kirby urner <> wrote:


> I think it might help if more people passed this "IQ test"
> (link below). I was pounding the bar at Mulligan's about
> this today with Patrick, making my Guinness jump up
> and down. I said people who can't pass this are "morons"
> (drew a diagram):

So I'd back up to this part and say this is me (Kirby) being a lot like Terry, coming on strong, using strong words ("morons"), sounding like I'm bruising for a fight.

But probably not everyone here even knows what I'm yakking about, even though my 'IQ test' makes it clear. So maybe I should say something more?

The idea with the Python generators is you have this math object O that you kick, as in kick(O), except we say next(O), but either way you get the next term in the series or sequence, just like in any math book. Maybe its the Fibonacci numbers, or something chaotic.

Anyway, big in late 20th century math are "polytopal numbers" that increase as a shape expands, layer by layer. At one time this was called "gnomon studies" but these days it's all very hyperdimensional, with the XYZ special case having whatever quirky properties, such as a longer literature, more links to the past.

So let's take an example. I hand you a ping pong ball with 12 crammed around it. Already, a huge literature. Where are those twelve? They define the corners of some shape, let's agree. Then add another layer, of 42 balls, and another, of 92. A crystallographer is nodding along by now, tapping her pencil, as this is the sequence of (a) cuboctahedral numbers or (b) icosahedral numbers.

So if you go to Sloane's On-Line Dictionary of Integer Sequences and enter 1, 12, 42, 92 you'll go to a page giving the literature, with a link to my website actually, as there you have the virus story in some detail, mixed with intrigue, hints of a cover up. My investigative reporting is 2nd to none eh?

So once you're fluent in sphere packing and know 1, 12, 42, 92 in your sleep, then you're ready for rhombic dodecahedra. I won't go into them here except to say Kepler, the astronomer guy, was really into 'em. Unless you've read a lot of Arthur Koestler, you may not know this side of the guy, but geometers do, Sir Roger and like that.

Anyway, that's your final on-ramp to 6, 4, 3, 1 the thing my IQ test is about, coming in from like 20 (relates to 12-around-1).

Then that 1, that tetrahedron (finally!) splinters (oh no!) into 24 "A modules", which are what those genius geeks at Winterhaven learned about.

Lew, I'd say any school in the country is free to teach about "A modules" like Mr. Bright let me do, but what teachers believe they have any independence or authority anymore? They're all "ETS slaves" in my book, timid, cowed (except at Winterhaven maybe -- Mr. Bright rides a [Motto Guzzi], probably has tattoos).

A and B modules have volume 1/24, and build all these other guys, very Lego. There's the T module, same volume... more stories.

It's not like we should force this stuff, but at least maybe mention (because maybe they won't find out otherwise?): Medal of Freedom, long list of degrees, patents, everything you need to prove you're a huge success, yet when the journalists write their retrospectives, it's all about "what a failure he was". Why?

Hey, good question. Go figure.

Something their editors tell 'em? "Put a spin on it boy!" -- reminds me of Spiderman movies.

So, PPS has done the "A modules" segment, got that photographed and documented in my blog, Saturday Academy too. Score one for freedom and democracy (nyah nyah).

Notice I don't get any flak for subverting the dominant paradigm in this way. It's not like mathematicians ever nixed it, said it was wrong. Like I told IEEE at Portland Center Stage: "I have no competition." They fly me to Sweden, to Lithuania, always say the same thing. Everyone nods. No one copies. Very Yes Men in some ways. (over 10 years ago, same spiel)

To me it's a no brainer this is a story worth telling, sharing with students, Reed kids for example. And as an American Transcendentalist, you can bet that I do, all over my resume, everywhere else. Kind of a trademark you might say.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wanderers 2008.1.28

Lew Frederick
:: Lew runs a good meeting ::
Lew Frederick, long time Wanderer though rarely through, is regaling us with stories of the presidential inauguration (he'd joined the happy throng in the Mall), his history in the civil rights movement. He and Barack stood in line together in Chicago once, in another chapter, chatted a little.

Keeping it rolling requires previously disenfranchised individuals finding their new voice as power brokers, people with juice. I use these terms to keep it somewhat anthropological.

I finally developed a more up to date resume for the web, having coasted on this classic, which I've not taken down. The new one is a PDF and so easier to email to those "less webby".

There are nine of us present, in addition to Lew.

My thinking is tuition is really high at universities, growing faster than inflation, and yet private industry is desperate for technology skills you could learn in high school, a lot of them anyway (like some SQL for starters?).

So why not cap your high school career with some early college education, then have your employer pick up the tab for the higher education parts, based on actual needs for certifications?

That might sound like a death knell for the liberal arts, but who says companies don't want liberal arts people? Many good companies do, especially in top management where overview really matters. Overview includes knowing some history, some anthropology.

Why doesn't every high school have a debating team, provide training in rhetoric? USAers lose arguments too easily, resort to shouting on radio, sounding like losers. Challenge: engineers need the rhetorical skills of lawyers, when to comes to defending their coding projects (budgets in the balance).

Given Lew's long affiliation with Portland Public Schools, we chatted somewhat knowingly about Lincoln, Cleveland, Grant, LEP High... Winterhaven. I sampled my boosterism for Winterhaven, "Portland's geek Hogwarts" where I volunteered as a parent a lot.

Lew is rightly suspicious of any elitists thinking of others as "muggles" (or worse), themselves as God's gift (obnoxious brats more likely). However pride in one's school, team spirit, inter-school rivalry (as in debating?), is likewise encouraged -- a two-edge sword, this elitism business.

I say we need many elites (guilds, professional societies... sports teams). Speaking of which, Bill Sheppard is the now secretary for the Online Professional Electronics Association. Congrats Bill.

Shomar was acting a lot healthier today, got some great shots, thank you David. And it's yottawatt I was supposed to be chuckling about, used in my blog, not petawatt (not as funny).

My humor had degraded by several orders of magnitude.

I liked the Chinese fortune cookie: enjoy peace in your life, go along with what others would want. Sounds kinda wise.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Psychometric City

Tara has been cramming for finals and felt the headaches might be reading related (good guess). We were overdue for an eye exam anyway, the outcome being +0.75 diopter reading glasses, $14.95 at Barnes & Noble.

Then we hung out with the Riggs family for lunch, yakking about the not so subtle resemblance between the new Pepsi logo, and stuff Obama was using. The blogosphere is full of such chatter, driving the buzz bots crazy no doubt.

I hearkened back to an earlier campaign, where Pepsi's PR had a political edge to it, albeit in a more classically Roman sense, dialed in to my blog.

My Python for Teachers contains some unabashed boosterism, playing up some of the things that put Oregon on the map: cheese, salmon, coffee, wine, beer... Susan reminded me to include shoes. Claire has some exotic Keens with more brand value than Uggs in the college she's attending.

That's just to warm up my Chicago audience, remind 'em I'm an "alien" i.e. a stranger from a strange land. Then we dive head first into Silicon Forest stuff, the kind of stuff you'll need (and preferably start getting in high school) if you want a good job in the high tech and/or health care sectors (more of what we're known for, Oregon rocks).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Modulo Numbers

Modulo Numbers
I had another lunch meeting with my uncle (actually dad's mom's sister's son) chatting local politics some, went to Bridgeport Ale House, both of us having onion soup and ESB (one pint each).

Portlanders have a long way to go, in terms of becoming more cosmopolitan, but there's still that humility, a willingness to keep climbing that learning curve. We've made a strong beginning, since Oregon Trail days.

(free and open source software) is protectively militant within specific levels, meaning some frequency bands need to keep serving the public, except ours is a "stack" of coded layers, going down to the chip, up to the cloud.

The floors in between are open or closed, mostly in peaceful coexistence, but we work to ensure a well-endowed commons, a shared public heritage, with GNU/Linux just a beginning. Our FOSS user space is really quite huge, despite being of uneven quality.

The more secret levels make liberal use of these goodies, and give back sometimes, contributing code, sponsoring further development.

Liberal arts subcultures take the same view: freedom and scholarship go hand in hand, otherwise you lose too much transparency, become easy prey for scam artists and/or simply lose direction and organization.

You need glue languages, interdisciplinary infrastructure... wanderers.
"Science would be ruined if it were to withdraw entirely into narrowly defined specialties. The rare scholars who are wanderers-by-choice are essential to the intellectual welfare of the settled disciplines." -- Benoit Mandelbrot
In the graphic above (click for larger view), we're studying the closure property given a set of Modulo Numbers made from the totatives of 12.

Because Python objects contain innate knowledge of operations, we don't mind seeing these "modulo numbers" as a "type" of integer, modified or specialized in some way.

The above Modulo class
is actually just a wrapper, or "facade" as Alex might say. We make use of the Integer type, though not by subclassing, and for only for a few of its features. We add __pow__ later in the lesson, other __ribs__ or special names.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Org Anthro

The C.P. Snow chasm might figure sharply along a town-gown divide inside some mythical supranational, one of the Grunchies. The information technologists have an ingrown planetoid, may feel challenged by FOSS, or maybe embracing, while some congress of administrators, responsible for good government, feels both threatened and clueless, because geeks always talk like Dilbert, might be full of it in some way.

Where to tackle this gap and consequent loss of productivity, might be with object oriented modeling, already indigenous to many grammars, and therefore potentially a bridge to IT (info tech) and its curious shop talks.

Asserting "I am a person" takes no leap of faith, whereas saying "I am Bonneville dam" sounds imaginative, like a kids' book, or like a poem by Walt Whitman. Add a little Ruby, and you've got yourself a coloful Rubytoon, explaining about generating electricity and computer programming all at the same time.

The OO and FOSS communities have much to offer in this genre: mathcasting about infrastructure, how things work, Warriors of the Net a great example. Bill Nye the Science Guy: another master.

I'm thinking of that passage from the D.W. Jacobs screenplay, wherein Bucky is talking about "eating in reverse" and watching the food deploying back to the environment, dispersing as rain and sunlight, as in a movie run backwards (no, not talking about barfing).

That's how a lot of web pages come together, coming forward in time, as pictures and prices, rave reviews, all come together from different tables, remotely deployed, with style sheet cosmetics (CSS) applied mere milliseconds before show time, the job of a web framework (like Django, like Ruby on Rails), inhabiting Apache.

Those aren't "static pages" you're getting from Amazon, they're synthesized on the fly. "I seem to be a verb" would be another way of saying it, thinking of oneself as a web page for a minute.

These XYZ grids
, of rows and columns (like spreadsheets), however relational, however populated, seem too boringly matrix-like and depersonalized to attract much interest. These are but the dusty ledger books of our time, as dry as bones, mere statistics.

The object model or paradigm returns us to the "middle earth" of every day experience, provides a common ground, where we start to perceive identities, real persons. We think of Sims perhaps. We're back in our youthful mindset, playing with action figures, and getting paid for it.

This threshold is psychologically important, if we're to send those sparks across the gap, from gown to town, from town to gown, thereby rescuing both cultures from debilitating weaknesses, restoring complementarity, equilibrium -- a happy ending in this case, a lucky Grunchie gets a boost.

On a more technical note, some have suggested my focus on modeling user behaviors within the model itself is a dig against REST, even though "where or how deployed" is not really the focus of those writings. In making V and C communicate through M, you commit to keeping your bookkeeping up to date. The model remembers what users have requested, even if only anonymously in some systems.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yakking with Wanderers

On Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 8:58 PM, kirby urner wrote:

> Fair enough Allen, but I've needed to take on
> the beautiful mind crowd for other reasons,
> so why not kill two virtual birds with one
> virtual stone, to use an old Quaker saying?
> There's lots that's rotten in Denmark these
> days, ostensibly beautiful only until you put
> some real weight on it, then it starts seeming
> engineeringly unsound.
> Anyway, I've cleverly tucked some of our most
> basic Bucky-flavored geometry into SQL tables,
> with queries part of the lesson plan. Cagey of
> me, huh.

Just to explain more about "Bucky-flavored":

Fuller's thesis was we got off on the wrong foot by investing so heavily in the cube and rectilinear thinking, whereas it be triangles and tetrahedra that're stable, not cubes, plus this simplex (another name for it) is the topologically simplest "cage" in terms of defining an outside versus an inside in a spatial (volumetric) context.

Soooo.... instead of the cube, why not check out the tetrahedron as our model of unit volume and 3rd powering? Philosophically doable? Yeah, it turns out that's logically sound and results in many psychological benefits, including a revamped "maze" or "labyrinth" of nested polyhedra (those are old words for it) wherein we ratio them 1 : 3 : 4 : 6 for tetrahedron : cube : octahedron : rhombic dodecahedron respectively.

Hmmmm.... those are very simple numbers and these are very basic shapes, one might say primitive, and/or elementary, as in elementary school. But wait, there's more: the aforementioned polyhedra, others like 'em, all fractionate into slivers of volume 1/24 of two kinds, called A and B (or use your own variables), both in left and right handed versions.

Such modular dissection studies are not new in geometry, but such a simple one is, with all these rational, whole number volumes, very accessible to average laypeople, to sixth graders, probably most 4th graders, some of it to 2nd graders, I've done it in Montessori pre-school no problem (call 'em "mixing bowls", make it a cooking show).

And not only that, these practical breakthroughs in pedagogy adhere to the most positively futuristic of the published and written about thinkers, R. Buckminster Fuller, like we don't need to dig out some fringe Kirby Urner or someone else no one has ever heard of, to raise our banner and say "hey, simple geometry, elementary content, recognized kingpin, lots of awards, what's your problem?"

And yet the rank and file still cling to their qyoobism, in fear some "authority" (Grunch?) might super-nix this plan to avail of our hard earned heritage. Our high technology Silicon Forest confronts a semi-paralyzed administrative layer, a middle management not sure what to do. "Shall we teach more of this Bucky stuff or try to cover it up?" seems to be the ongoing calculation. Given recent actions by the Noguchi and Whitney museums, Portland Center Stage, numerous dead tree publications (Time, NYT...), various web sites, I'd say the preponderance of evidence suggests the "cover up" isn't working. Our Silicon Forest is winning this campaign, with a lot of help from its friends.



Monday, January 19, 2009

A Short List

Taking inventory of what we have so far in our Python toolkit:

Figurate Numbers
Pascal's Triangle (triangular and tetrahedral numbers)
Fibonacci Numbers (converge to phi, pentagon math)
Vectors (VPython -- xyz, spherical coordinates etc.)
Prime Numbers (sieves)
Prime Numbers (trials by division)
Polyhedra (as Python objects: scale, rotate, translate)
Polyhedral Numbers (icosahedral, geodesic spheres)
Modulo Numbers (override __mul__, __add__)
Finite Groups (Python module)
Euclid's Algorithm (Guido's gcd)
Euclid's Extended Algorithm (needed for inverses)
Totient and Totative (gcd based)
Fermat's Little Theorem (assert...)
Euler's Theorem for Totients (assert...)
Mandelbrot Set (chaotic sequences)
Miller-Rabin (or Jython probablePrime)
RSA.encrypt(m, N)
RSA.decrypt(c, N, d=secretkey)
More context on edu-sig and math-teach.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hat Adventure

A kind and resourceful gentleman called me out of the blue to say he had my hat, my Paul Kaufman original, my Quaker futurist hat aka Chicago crime boss hat, and could he bring it to me. I was flabbergasted, not yet having realized I'd left the thing at a McMenamins closer to Michael's and Anna's place. My name is on the inside and a quick cell call to Arizona had revealed my phone number.

Sure enough and true to his word, Joseph showed up soon thereafter, saving me the long drive on I-5. I invited him out for beers (Bridgeport this time) and we started interviewing one another, playing twenty questions ("am I bigger than a bread box?" I asked).

Hey, we're both Princeton alums, about the same age, both have daughters. I got his card, in addition to getting my hat back, invited him to Wanderers. Joseph is a hat connoisseur, has many himself, and knows Paul well by reputation, would like to meet him someday.

The hat itself is in primo condition these days, my having just gotten it serviced by Paul himself. It's pretty much my only hat, used to be more of a dome, wanted something Hopi. Later, we creased it and put the Chicago style band, but it's still too broad-brimmed to pass for Prohibition Era gangsta. As a Quaker futurist hat, it works, shows up all over Facebook, where my identity as a Q is rather pronounced (vs. on MySpace, where I'm more like a record label -- see right margin for links).

Joseph and I both had warm memories of Dr. Harold Kuhn, the linear programming guy. Joseph had actually worked for him in some capacity, somewhere along his math to computers trajectory, whereas I had him for a teacher, when dabbling in this liberal art department, somewhere between Problems of World Hunger (Woody Woo) and The History of Mentalities (spacey literature). Speaking of spacey, I spaced out doing a required paper for Vic's class, earned me an F, dang, plus I'd've gotten a low grade in Arabic if it hadn't been pass / fail.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Quick Recap

The captain just called about what's on Science Friday, something about mathematicians high in the "help wanted" category.

I had a morning meeting with Glenn, who then got to scrubbing some glyphs off of Julian's AlphaHelix, then got to work on Synergetics 101, depicted above.

Starting at the XYZ origin (0,0,0) we embed three polygons in their respective XY, XZ and YZ planes: two equal diamonds and a square.

Note our "equal" doesn't mean "same object" i.e. isn't Python's "is" so much as its "==", but they do have the same angles and share a hinge, the short diagonal. The square (3rd cross-section) connects each of these triangular tips.

This Coupler so formed has unit volume in Synergetics (yes, just like the tetrahedron) in addition to being a space-filler.

Google Earth isn't that clear about the Columbia River Correctional Institution, right next to the country club, where the Safeway Open goes on, and Dignity Village, in a triangle with Babecko's Marina and PDX airport. It's not hard to stick in those XML thumbtacks though, and swap them around.

Omnitriangulation may start with something prefrequency, like a Coupler, but we're quick to return to the geographic applications, as one expects of a place-based curriculum.

The Columbia Gorge is one of our anchoring spaces, given Outdoor School, the many tourist attractions.

The Columbia Scenic Highway connects The Dalles to Crown Point. Sam Hill enters the picture. Students remember the field trip, reinforcing the more abstract trigonometry.

Back to the Coupler, you'll get a lot from Richard Hawkins and the Clocktet approach. Use bisecting body diagonals of the cube, unity-two face diagonals, or make all 12 edges 1 if you prefer, you'll get the same angles.

The sharper point of the rhomb, where four faces meet, is the V to the cube center, between any two consecutive vertices along any edge of our (volume 3) cube.

Yo! off to Laughing Planet. See ya 'round.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wanderers 2009.1.14

Dr. Terence Love is a semi-public figure, in terms of hitting the radar in design science circles. Our tiny venue (Linus Pauling House) was packed, bursting, so introductions took time, which we're glad about, as Terry needed to fight with his projector. My intro: working on a talk for Chicago about why "Portland rocks" (except we say "hacks" sometimes).

Dr. Love is from Manchester and looks a bit like Brian Sharp (both handsome blokes). He's always loved engineering, wants to include more people in its process. How to share the magic? The word "social" is problematic for him, as it is for me. Like don't we mean business? Are we talking R&R? I don't think so. What is "socialism" outside of Anglophone cultures?

"How do we do the human stuff? If I'm right, you should be able to test what I'm saying by going inside your own heads." Milt thought "in your gut" might be better. "Patience" said Terence.

On a related front, we have programmed and unprogrammed Friends in our Quaker namespace, but of course unprogrammed Friends program, set the facts of experience in order somehow, believe, do math, engineer. We're not completely clueless now are we? Don't we know "bleep"?

Comment: I wouldn't call these "theories about what's inside" (emotionally) so much as simply "designs" (not "of" not "representational") -- the persona (aka mask) partakes of collaboratively developed institutions in some Greek idea of a democratic utopia. Buddha's "no self" is the "morphic self", the existential responsibility to define yourself (a full time job).

We're still on the opening slide, our group is hard to control I'm afraid. I'm doing more work on my upcoming Chicago talk, challenging our conventional chatter about "programming" as overly self-limiting. Remember "television programming" even if that means forgetting all about computers for a few seconds.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saving Children

These two were working a busy downtown street corner, doing serious work to save hearts and minds around the world, including in the Philippines, home to my high school.

I started my usual loser argument about how free wifi is more important than water, and in some cases having tele- communications is what's most critical, but of course wifi takes electricity and many world communities still don't have that, not even from batteries.

I flashed my credentials as an "open source blogger about town" to the guy's PDA, got permission for this promo. It's not either/or, not water or wifi -- better to have both.

She's from Boston, proud of her heritage, which includes this XO, thanks to MIT's One Laptop Per Child initiative (G1G1 posters all over town).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Proposal Re: Dimension

So there was a time, let's call it the one room schoolhouse era, when the teacher could just hold up a box and say "height, width and breadth" have the children recite, go through that a few times, and we're done: "space is 3D" (we don't really bother with proofs at that age).

Given philosophy for children is still a new idea in some circles (Montclair a champ, my sis has a degree in that), you don't get any real debate at this level. Kids don't sound like Cantor saying "hey, if the box atoms are discrete, we can address them serially, like computer memory bricks, so don't give us any of that 'because it takes three coordinates' phony baloney". Yes, Cantor made the criticism, but patches were applied, at a very high level though, not worth yakking about in K-8 (too over their heads).

Part of this is self interest, because with "Claymation Station" we go with Karl Menger's idea of "a geometry of lumps", distinguishing points, lines and planes in terms of relative shape, not dimension. "Everything is an arrowhead" in this geometry, meaning a simplex. If you wanna call that "4D" because of the strongly evident 4ness, go right ahead, free country, Medal of Freedom winner Bucky did, made perfect sense. XYZ 3D still a contender, not saying it's either/or.

Then came "fractional dimensions" ala Mandelbrot, in some ways resurrecting Cantor's objections in terms of mapping a plane to a line. Discrete math has come a long way, in terms of authority, given quantum physics and our use of "voxels" (named after "pixels") to map cellular automata ala Wolfram etc. People think more like computer scientists these days. Once "continuity" goes out the door, there's less need for "dimension" in the old fashioned sense.

But this gets to be very technical, not a one room school house yak. Save it for high school, when we do the complex plane anyway (fractals as Python objects, old hat at Saturday Academy (advertisement)).

A caveat to the above is I have no problem whatsoever with the less metaphysically tortuous meaning of the word, i.e. a unit of measure "in some dimension" be that time, weight, location, energy level or whatever. Metrology (attention to empirical accuracy) remains a number one focus of K-8. Being able to work with tools and get good results is way more important than mouthing off about "dimension" in ways that'd get you a math degree 100 years ago, but sounds pretentious that early. Again, we can get to it later, when their voices deepen a bit.

Any feedback? I've been looking over the shoulder of UK math wars thanks to connections through Stanford, have had remarks to this effect published, albeit in abbreviated form.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Metropolitan Talk

A question is whether Port of Portland could get approval, from TSA or one of those, to limo or van transport some transit passengers between flights, to our "two Ikeas" (both near PDX), on the understanding none would bolt, i.e. this is still international airspace but as a convenience we're taking you around.

A precedent for this would be Dum Dum airport that time, Calcutta wide open to Dawn, Alexia and I, even though we had no visas for India. The authorities kept our passports, as guests of the King (Royal Airline owned by the monarch in those days), and we got to tour Victoria Monument and like that. A couple days latter: Shangri-La (Druk-yul), mission accomplished.

The "second Ikea" is our outdoor "EPCOT West", a kind of modeling studio for "exterior solutions" whereas the "first Ikea" (already open for business) is for modeling "interior solutions".

There's an obvious hand-in-glove relationship, as the new exteriors will require interiors, though like I was sharing with Habitat for Humanity, the kitchenettes may come as a unit, from Boeing or whatever, so it's more a matter of customizing on top of that, like in Mobile Home World aka Florida aka Hurricane Alley aka "EPCOT East" (a little slower).

I'm in touch with Helleger & Hickcox about marketing. Even without Port of Portland approval, we could go ahead with regular tourism plans. It's just I expect some of our sponsors will be extra-nationals, possibly round-tripping from Vancouver, BC and not anxious to have their passports stamped with USA insignia.

However, the solution there is simple: Vancouver already hosts USA customs at their site, and you can do rip-out pages, like some Middle Eastern countries do, knowing if you've been to the one, you can't go to the other -- lots of stupid stuff, what expats get used to.

The USA is seen as a mean bully in many parts of the world and it's considered unpatriotic, a sign of moral weakness, to provide any aid in a time of dire need. We'd like to not overly inconvenience our would-be sponsors in that case. Let's be kind to our remaining friends.

Paro, Bhutan 1980s

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Synergetics Toon Map
click for larger view
The above hypertoon diagram will seem somewhat cryptic if you haven't specialized in the buckaneer stuff we teach. Basically any model or system needs a clock or rhythm machine (drum set), plus a corkscrewing / spiral motion, in some symmetry setup. Ours is the "bow tie" with a twisting Jitterbug (JB) connecting the VE (vector equilibrium) to the Icosahedron, our signature 5-folder, and branch point to HP4E (Hexapents for Everyone).

The Icosahedron's dual, the Pentagonal Dodecahedron (PD) has some nice relationships with the cube, known since ancient times, which we enjoy sharing about. We're really in to Neolithic Math remember, not trying to prove they were dummies back then (we admire the anthro design).

The two-frequency cube of volume 24 contains the volume 20 VE, which jitterbugs down to the unit volume tetrahedron. A discussion about sphere packing (CCP) connects these two nodes, as well as ropes in the Icosahedron (1, 12, 42, 92... is common to both the VE and Icosa). The tetrahedron, our self-dual within a "duo-tet cube" of volume 3, is our inside-outing agent, that which bridges the two bows in some inside-outing (IO) type operation.

Other designs will feature different notions of "clock" and "pulsation" but you're likely to find features in common with this generic one, given its skelatal nature, using well-known polyhedra for grist. Most teachers don't object to our "spicing it up" with Synergetics in some ways. Even if you work mostly with Windows (XYZ thinking), a quick foray into Linux World now and then (like to the holodeck for R&R) sends you back smarter. You're more ready for that day job, having sampled some alien literature. So just remember: it's not either/or.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Gowny Guy
From the think tank:

A way to feed the economy in ways both parties will accept is to restart the GI Bill in terms of giving returning personnel a shot at some new walk of life, perhaps related in the sense of involving heavy equipment and/or large scale engineering projects (repairing infrastructure, Old Man River City maybe?).

My friend Arthur tells a story of Vietnam vets returning home, having been through hell, only to find the local unions were possessive about jobs, not eager to share, even when federal programs were earmarked for their benefit. Racism was also a factor.

The University of Washington served as a backdrop for the altercation, in which protesters took control of the construction site, unarmed thanks to Arthur, with the public understanding their plight. This was quite a long time ago, Arthur with AFSC at the time (before mine), working both Seattle and Portland.

With close media scrutiny and lots of clear data on government websites, we could have some of these military units transition to a more Army Corps of Engineers style of living, with domestic bases providing continuity in terms of family life and schooling, medical services. These "bases" could be existing suburbs, mortgages purchased with government bailout money and converted to campuses.

Allowing the government to compete as a model business is not a socialist concept, in the sense of "preparing to nationalize all competitors". On the contrary, you compete with private sector competitors. The fact that you're tax subsidized means you run open book (more like open source). People learn from your example, you set a standard, provide a role model.

The government rental car agency might fall between Hertz and Dollar, in terms of customer satisfaction. The government cooking school, housed in recycled navy assets (good kitchens), isn't here to put all the others out of business. But nor is it here to encourage slackers to just goof off all the time. Have some pride in your work, set a high bar. Think Ney.

The public school system
is our best example. Here's something the government runs, but not in such a way as to shut down all competition.

It's something of a white lie that capitalists sometimes tell, that only socialists believe in government jumping in and getting its hands dirty.

Sure, have a national airline. We actually already do -- so many routes kept alive by Congressional mandate alone. So what's the problem? If Uncle Sam wants to play too, why not? Other governments get to play. No fair having both hands tied.

Another kind of campus we need, again made from existing communities in some cases, will provide accommodations for students and faculty in our international charter schools network. Again, some of these might be government run, with limited spaces available.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Tara was a little miffed, thinking maybe a pile of presents, yet we ended up on separate tracks most of today, partially overlapping. I did promise a baby Python, then handed her the ritual mortgage check, to walk to the USPO box.

My CTO, CSO and CFO are essentially working for free, as volunteers, with the HR chief getting a pittance. You'd think I'd cancel my HBO, but why nickel and dime myself? "It's the economy stupid" -- we learned that with voodoo economics (referring to Bush Sr.).

Twas an epiphany though
, a highly memorable day, and twas my great privilege to chauffeur Gordon Riggs and the visiting Dr. Bob Fuller around town.

Gordon wrote a Python utility to better shuffle a directory for his electronic picture frame, which is boringly chronological. Gordon is a very intelligent geek, also into paper airplanes these days (and origami).

Bob, of First Person Physics fame, and currently writing about the Karplus workshops, has been catching up on Margaret Fuller some more. He introduced me to his wonderful family, at a brewpub I didn't know about (30th and Powell).

Bob has been teaching since before I was born, in Rangoon and the Air Force Academy (West Point), among other places.

Dr. DiNucci joined us
towards the end of our Common Ground meeting. The stunning barista didn't want me photographing her scarab tattoo. I asked politely and didn't take it personally when she said she's scared of cameras (photography is invasive sometimes).

She said she's a geek, and that really warmed my heart (I kept bringing it up later). She studies Egyptian esoterica a lot. Works for me.

My power walk with the CSO was encouraging. The curriculum writing goes on, with or without a posse of sponsors. Terry is still vacationing in Hawaii.

Wanderers is having a fine meeting tonight (I'm posting from Linus Pauling House, brought Bob here earlier), and the CBS Evening News had some good parts, even amidst the chaos of our time, ugly and pointless.

I suggested to DiNucci, recent president of Humanists of Greater Portland, that I be invited to present on Quaker animism, which I'm helping to pioneer.

So far, 2009 is proving a banner year. We're off to a good start.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Phantom Band

This split window view, courtesy of Google Maps Street View, shows the point of view "piece" in the lower half (yellow and green icon), with the corresponding northward view in the upper.

Coincidentally, when the car went by, dodecacam filming, a neighborhood band was just setting up, and the street is marked closed.

If you follow the other car's route (north-south), there's no band.

Google Streets implies a time coordinate as well as these spatial coordinates, and intersecting trajectories will each have their own time lines -- like in the movie Elephant in some ways.

About Chicago

I only got into the city once on my last visit, mostly stayed near O'Hare, the better to miss my plane. However, it is the city of my birth and I'm somewhat drawn to the regional accent (Susan and Barbara come to mind), charming like Scottish or Yorkshire accents, but of course very different. I welcome such variety.

Dad was getting his degree in Planning, mom putting him through school. I was their first, my sister came later, when we were already in Portland, dad with the Planning Bureau. Mom & Dad were active in civil rights work, had started questioning "received wisdom" when still at the University of Washington (where they met). Dad wasn't too keen on the gun play, mandated by ROTC, did troop ship duty, liked overseas work, joined Quakers eventually, despite his mom's free thinking attitudes (or because of). Grandma Esther was an artist and voracious reader, curious about everything.

Speaking of Chicago, I'm liking Barack Obama's "not my problem" attitude. Even though he's a favorite son, he's in the executive branch now, not the legislature, not the judiciary, the two branches most concerned with the Governor's status, as the target of an FBI investigation. From his new vantage point, this is pretty low level stuff, with many other items much higher on his agenda.

The idea of "rogue states" within the lower 48, not just in the Middle East or Asia or someplace, is not a new one. During the Civil War, a lot of states went rogue. Illinois is considered a "midwestern state" more than a "northern state" in today's psycho-politics. President elect Obama, on the other hand, is from sunny Hawaii, more like Governor Palin in terms of having extra-48 experience (makes him an ET by DC criteria, i.e. most east coast politicos hail from the contiguous regions).

Anyway, maybe I'll get more time in the Windy City next March, when I'm scheduled to arrive in O'Hare again. I'd like to visit the University of Chicago, where it all began in my book. I'm definitely a product of this nation's higher education system, wear that on my sleeve as it were.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Columbia Gorge: Recent History

I had the good fortune to hear John Laursen tell us some the stories behind his Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867–1957. He spoke and showed slides in the Portland Art Museum's main auditorium (same venue as The Power of Nightmares, also Wendy and Lucy). Good seeing Gordon Hoffman again.

This exhibit is soon to close, and such a wealth of material is unlikely to be reassembled given co-author and curator Terry Toedtemeier's unparalleled knowledge and relationships with collectors of Pacific Northwest photographs. Terry died just a few days back in Hood River, having presented one last time on the subject he loved. The memorial service is tomorrow.

Carleton Watkins begins our story, having trained in San Francisco in landscape photography (still a new art) and proved his metal in Yosemite, his stunning pictures helping stimulate and sustain an environmentalist mindset even in busy cities with lots of light pollution. He hoped to do the same for the Gorge.

Watkins for awhile had the largest custom built camera in the United States, with matching dark tent and chemicals, and got the steam boat and railroad companies to sponsor his way, lugging literally tons of equipment around Cascade Falls (no Bonneville Dam yet) out to The Dalles, where the river "turned on its side" (became very deep and narrow) -- no dam there yet either, just Celilo Falls, a wonder of the world, submerged on March 10, 1957, the end of an era.

Ironically, the industry sponsoring his work was consumed with Manifest Destiny fantasies, was busy changing the basic geometry of the Gorge, first with navigable locks in the late 1800s, then with highways (Sam Hill gets a lot of credit for those) and then with the most game-changing public works projects of all: the dams.

Subsequent photographers chronicled these changes, including a team of two women, Lily White & Sarah Ladd, based in a well-equipped houseboat, who did some of the best atmospheric shots (more attention to mood).

With changes in mode of transportation came changes in vantage point, as well as photochemistry. The collection ends with aerial shots by the US Army Corps of Engineers, in Kodachrome.

After the lecture and some time in the gallery, the captain and I joined Linda Richards and her fellow scholars from OSU, Mary E. Braun and Elissa Curcio, for some interesting lunch conversation, wherein I learned of the Confluence Project, directed by Maya Linn.

I wish Tara could have joined us, am glad of the Portland Art Museum's new admissions policy: free to those 17 and under. The exhibit's last day is January 11, and spreads out over two floors. Attendance this weekend seemed high, with a line out the door sometimes.

Sponsors of the above work include: the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, Chinook and Wasco tribes.