Friday, February 27, 2009

Boosting Bureaucracy

I was watching Newt on the tube this morning, as in Gingrich, extolling the virtues of our private sector, renowned for its aerospace knowhow, historically undertaken with Langley, other bases. He's used to the prime contractor irrigation system, wherein government doesn't do its own building, but outsources to engineering goliaths, such as Raytheon and Electric Boat Company.

These are somewhat "lines in the sand" however, in that core government functions, supported with software, take lots of civilian services no matter what, i.e. jobs are jobs, no matter how labeled. If you're a GS-13 in an embassy, or some technocrat engineer in the employ of a foreign government, you're still doing work, earning compensation, and that's really what people are looking for: meaningful employment (or deployment).

In terms of managing bureaucracy, we don't want government workers warehoused in FEMA trailers. Newt mentioned the Johnson administration which reminds me of the Jobs Training Partnership Act. Portland's Private Industry Council paid me and my coworkers to provide necessary job skills to older workers, then help them find placements. This was a holdover program from the Johnson Era, starting to die just as the "PC revolution" was taking off.

These days, the skills requirements are higher than ever. My government service unit blueprints (XRLs in high desert, etc.) aren't for entirely clueless people, although some will host newborns. The premise of our democracy is we uphold some standards. A call center or specialized clinic can't run by itself, even if staff is quite skeletal sometimes.

Anyway, I think it's somewhat fortunate, even if entirely a coincidence, that FED (as in Fly's Eye Dome) and Fed (as in federal), have essentially the same sound. When imagining your future Forest Service, don't flash on log cabins too much, even if we still have those for tourists. Low impact green living is the name of the game, meaning you want to vanish without a trace, once the mapping is complete (or whatever survey -- picture large databases filling with butterfly counts, tracked over time).

Johnson's "war on poverty" was maybe too shabby, in terms of not availing of higher tech. There's still this misapprehension that the civilian sector lags the military, even with geodesic dome patents expired, FOSS on the loose (SQL, RSA...). This is not an up to date view. Newt probably knows this, but TV viewers may still live in the past, kept there by sitcoms and soaps wherein the characters know next to nothing of math or science (except on NUMB3RS, but somehow that doesn't seem real to me).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Hexapentology

with thanks to Kara Ford, Laurie Todd

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hippie Dude

:: micheal ::
I'm watching Simpsons again, with Tara, heading to Cubespace next, after just a taste of the Evening News. Crackdown on banks...

Micheal was by, cycling many miles in the rain and the dark, enlivened by the experience. This guy is resilient, a survivor, also a pamphleteer. I'm more his dramatic foil than sidekick though. You can hear that on radio.

His latest publication is Eco Peace (Free or $1?), 99 New Trends & Sustainable Organic Solutions. I'd call it thought provoking, and like nothing you'd ever get from a politician. This is hippie lit.

The way I tell it, I met my first hippies when hitch hiking to Myrtle Point Oregon. Beade and Denise, a lot like Brian and Susan, though Princeton wasn't really a hippie school, 2D notwithstanding, while my own life as an expat made me a different brand of freak. But that's just me in a private namespace, YMMV.

I salute Micheal for exercising his freedoms in democracy, pursuing happiness. May his path be filled with joy and prosperity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eclectic Crew

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MITE Fight

I donned my "know everything glasses" to tell this one, family scene so let's keep it PG:

Once upon a time, people cared about space-filling, one of those geometry topics accessible to kids, i.e. what shapes fill space. Obviously "the cube" is a right answer or "any brick" (we don't care about the tank's walls -- this is like tiling (like a bathroom floor -- hexagons maybe?), but in volume).

However, cubes and bricks are all hexahedra, which are topologically less minimal than tetrahedra, having six sides instead of just four. So if there's a game to find the "minimum" space-filler, in terms of having the fewest edges etc., then of course you'd be looking for a tetrahedron. The reasoning goes something like this: "if there's a minimum space-filler, then it has to be a tetrahedron, but the regular tetrahedron isn't a space-filler, so it would have to be an irregular tetrahedron."

The plot thickens at this point, because irregularity is often associated with "handedness" i.e. you'll have an R and a backwards R, a left and a right. We have lots of left and right space-fillers, as well as complementary space-fillers e.g. tetrahedra and octahedra in complement (both regular). At this point, a lot of kids are starting to tune out, adults too, as we're piling on the caveats.

So at the end of the day, Bucky Fuller points to this minimum tetrahedron that's neither left nor right handed, though we can create that under the hood with A & B modules if we like. We've got our holy grail in other words, our minimum space-filler, which he cleverly named a MITE (for MImimun TEtrahedron -- kind of GNU-like in its cleverness). Other space-filling tetrahedra (called Sytes in Synergetics) may be assembled from MITEs, making MITEs the most primitive.

What happened next is for the computers to analyze, but my impression is space-filling immediately became a quasi-verboten topic, at least in any contemporary form. It's OK to tell the story up to, but not including, the MITE. Why? Because Fuller had no credentials as a mathematician and a hyper-inflated sense of his own importance, per Coxeter. In other words, it's more fun to engage in character assassination than to actually talk about math, which we all think is boring anyway.

The upshot is if you go to the indexes, you'll see the effects of The Spanish Inquisition, as we translate for Monty Python aficionados. "The Gulag" (university-based professoriate) has turned its back on our heritage and refuses to promulgate any geometry with a "not invented here" brand, no matter how useful.

The goal is to keep anything so accessible as the MITE under lock and key, so that impressionable young eyes don't start asking uncomfortable questions, seeking inconvenient truths.

So far, the program has been pretty successful, just check any K-12 geometry text book and you'll see what I mean. Or study the MAA archive. Remember: you're looking for what's missing, not for what's there (Sartre has us practice in Being and Nothingness, with a busy coffee shop for background).

One of my audience was a medical ethicist in this case. It's true I believe there are ethical implications, the business of philosophers to expound upon. We'll be getting a lot of mileage out of this story, especially given all the advances in ontological studies (OWL, DAML... RDF). We'll get a lot of detailed views to substantiate our model of how "the Gulag" works (or doesn't, as the case may be).

Note: the "orthoscheme of the cube" in Regular Polytopes (Coxeter) is handed, left or right, is what we'd all a "half MITE" or "SMITE" (S for Semi, per Koski). The "tri-rectangular tetrahedron" from pg. 71 (ibid) was named otherwise by Coxeter, but is Fuller's to analyze into A and B modules (see section 950.12 in Synergetics, with accompanying figure).

Page 71

Followup: D.M.Y. Sommerville documented four tetrahedral space-fillers in his 1923 paper, Space-Filling Tetrahedra. The Mite, and the two tetrahedral Sytes it assembles, were three of four of them.

However the Rite also fractures into four tetrahedral space-fillers that are duplications of one another, and not made of Mites. Fuller doesn't mention it, let alone give it a name. Suggestions?

Friday, February 20, 2009

AVP Again

This was Friends of Jung night at United Methodists again, on Jefferson near the BMW dealership. I didn't see any Quakers there that I knew, but could see this as an AVP talk (alternatives to violence) nonetheless.

Nancy and I talked about dear Dawn a lot, her hardships in healing, her dying. I'm lighting some candles. We also talked confidentially about work. Nancy is bat-like, likes flitting about with me, another transcendentalist. I am blessed to have such friends. Y'all are good to me.

This was at Bud's place in Goose Hollow, Bud being a former mayor of Portland, appreciated for his playful spirit.

Our speaker, Pamela J. Power
, read an effective piece, weaving in road rage, the suicide bomber, even mother-baby relations (sometimes testy), work with analysands (they sometimes get her goat, make a connection) -- there's no escaping the violence in her web, this namespace. "Tricky girl" I'm thinking later (admiringly) i.e. "smart cookie".

The only choice is real sacrifice versus a neurotic response that keeps us stuck. A sincere submit to the archetype is not an acting out, but an ending. It's not about keeping the moral high ground, being too much the hero, self judging, so much as doing the necessary chemistry (alchemy), or allowing it to be done (a fine line sometimes).

She quoted Jung extensively, clearly a scholar. So far I have to say I'm impressed by the caliber of his students. She also mentioned Robert Thurman chatting about Quentin Tarentino in the NYT the other day. Robert's lovely daughter Uma stars in Kill Bill and like that. Again, we're talking tantric, homeopathic, AVP (these are films).

I felt buoyed by some powerful psyches tonight, also this morning in our meeting. I am thankful for my friends, family, community.

I'm home now. Doll House is being violent on our tube, voices not quite synced with the action. Tara sees a dark side in debating, is still enjoying the sport, probably didn't make finals though (just as well, as she has an out of town friend coming to visit).

:: from Facebook ::

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hello World

Tara agrees that if I want to raise the level of debate, I need to help advance the storyline, get the word out. Blogs will take me only so far.

Should I be alerting more journalists to their options? I was in The Oregonian a couple times years ago, spun as a local futurist. Nothing much has changed on that score (i.e. I'm still a local futurist).

In the first article, I was holding up a Fuller Projection in the picture, talking about what might be in store down the road. In the second, I was predicting "hypertext kiosks" (this was before the web). Providence had some in the lobby of West Pavilion (PSTV) after awhile, like a lot of hospitals (?).

My public track record as a futurist is pretty strong I think.

A lot has happened since the 1980s though, in terms of connecting the dots, making it real. These are interesting threads that many readers will enjoy catching up on.

The play about Bucky at Portland Center Stage helped a lot of Portlanders get up to speed on his basic bio at least. But as for how to make use of his results, it's about more than just domes (not that I have anything against domes mind you).

Are we "shovel ready" in Portland?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1-2-3 Marketing

This is fresh catch from the overhauled Fred Meyer's on 39th and Hawthorne. There's a new $3.99 price point for some wines, competing with Trader Joe's, plus I got this Australian chard.

Trevor is coming by to help with a dog walk, so I'm downing the Optimator in the picture above, planning to enjoy the good weather. We'll be yakking about the Esozone conference, other gigs, also Stanlislav Szukalski, a mascot of Subgenii.

In it's first year, Esozone was held right next to Backspace in the Someday Lounge next door. The second year we moved closer to John Bunce's. Paul Laffoley appeared both times, sharing perspectives.

Oregon is a proud source of Tillamook cheddar, also the Bandon brand, and although we're not a coffee growing state, we know how to pick a winner: Washington State gets a blue ribbon, for its Starbucks blend (about memes, not just beans). Runners up: Seattle's Best, Stumptown. Then of course there's Peet's, now with a 2nd floor shop in the revamped Fred Meyer's.

Speaking of marketing, I made a last minute pitch to math teachers at the Math Forum, regarding my Python for Teachers workshop. I'm straddling two cultures though. Is this a bridge too far?

Public schools dismiss the open source sector as a source of ideas, have their own recognized movers and shakers, an inner circle of publishers with stables of writers, many of them not especially computer literate and dismissively defensive about it. Furthermore, MITEs (minimum tetrahedra) have that "not invented here" flavor -- like so what if they're space-fillers with tetravolume 1/8?

I'm glad not all mathematicians are equally closed minded. Some get it, accept novelty. Others will never be shovel ready, are simply too proud to touch dirt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shovel Ready

I liked this meme from the TV this morning, am looking at several "shovel ready" initiatives right now: XRL, ToonTown and Gnu Math.

Unfortunately, that reads like an incomprehensible code language to non- readers of these blogs, meaning attracting investments, even with stimulus money, gets to be an exercise in translation. Let's see if you're lost.

XRL: eXtreme Remote Livingry, with a play on URL and eXtreme Programming (XP). Geeks wanna camp, witness Foo Camp and Bar Camp (from FUBAR), but don't want to lose bandwidth for so doing, ergo REI, Columbia Sportswear, North Face and like that (Banana Republic) need to think about jobs in this area. Some geeks expect to be carried (not saying they will be), others don't know how to safely survive if more than 30 feet from a fridge.

ToonTown: yes, thinking Roger Rabbit, also of Portland's ambitions to work with Japan on the Manga (storyboards, comics) it'll take to galvanize interest in engineering lifestyles. Destructive engineering, aka soldiering, is only appealing if you get to live on an aircraft carrier or fly planes, and those jobs are hard to come by i.e. we need more brands of Reality TV than just Pentagon channel (a kind of NCLB). Show 'em DNA splitting, chip fab, immune system cartoons -- the kind of stuff you need to know in health care, robotics, XRL design and recycling. Contributors in this area might include Pixar, ILM, and our local giant Laika, among others (I'm not tracking the Tokyo exchange the way some are)

Gnu Math: this is where we rescue kids from squaresville squeaky chalk world and switch 'em to "ClayMation Station" (note ToonTown and trains both in this picture). Geodesic spheres, not just because we think they're architecturally cool, but because Nature uses them to store carbon atoms, and viruses come in frequencies (more of that health care stuff). I've been writing it with Python, but have no disrespect for Ruby or Perl, just a competitive drive to apply spit and polish to what I know best. To each his own, and I'm quite open minded about Haskell, would happily attend lectures, though I'd probably need to keep running the laptop and multitasking a little. I'm hoping to attract sponsors to these efforts, have this Oregon Curriculum Network website ready for cloning, bouncing off.

Each of these are huge employment opportunities, and not just around Portland, Oregon. What'd be required is lots of fast meetings (some slow ones), maybe on the hoof like in West Wing, or Sports Night. We don't always get butt time in this business. On the other hand, geeks in their XRL HQS (call centers, editing stations, specialized care clinics) do lots of TV editing. That takes focus and concentration, as does reading and writing computer code, like I do so much.

On the health care front, what I've been focusing on lately is integrating LMR and CRR systems within your generic research hospital. Statistical studies work off clinical research records, not the legal medical record, at least a lot of the time, with a goal being to bridge these two sets more effectively. We see workflow issues, plan for HIPAA compliance, with FOSS offering all the technical ingredients at an affordable price point, even when you factor in developer costs. To talk about FOSS isn't to exclude Microsoft, a proud sponsor of OSCONs, Pycons, other venues (OS Bridge?).

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Matt and I just had a good session. We've been friends since age six. He was the main guy I introduced Applewhites to, when Ed and Jean came to visit, along with Harold Long, the Frank Lloyd Wright trained architect.

I pumped him for info on what's happening domestically, as I'm off in Asia somewhere much of the time, tracking threads of no interest to CNN or like that. Some satellites collided? Fancy that. Panetta got through? Cool with that. What else? Oh, the stimulus package passed, even in the House.

Of course I do care about domestic affairs, duh, given I live and breath here, have a family, run a small business, so far in good standing with all the authorities and so forth. I'm Joe the Plumber in some ways, although in Portland it's hard to decipher what that means.

But wait, I can explain myself. I champion Chamber of Commerce family values in that I want junior to grow up knowing how to program, not just how to wash dishes or dress hair. "Learn some Python, Luke" (i.e. use the force). That's like Mr. Silicon Forest speaking ("obey one" -- joke). So like check out this post of earlier today to math-thinking-l, a moribund list with probably zero readers. But hey, there's an archive, and maybe the URLs won't break right away?

Thanks for a really cogent write-up Michelle, a synopsis of our recent PPUG meeting. I mentioned you in an internal memo recently, as a poster child for our thriving Open Source culture, our Django, our Ruby, even our twisted older brother PHP.

These tools are a godsend in health care I'd say, where record keeping is not just some afterthought. How're you supposed to devise a course of treatment for some patient, if you don't have a chart?

Most Hollywood movies about doctors without borders (heroes to be sure) get it wrong. You can't just line 'em up and give 'em shots (baby cries), a pat on the head (the mom smiles). You need to start a medical record and keep a chronology, or it's not really the practice of medicine, is just some stupid movie. Medicine without record keeping is either quackery or too much like a battlefield to be considered a real hospital in any way.

We moved furniture, Matt and I, talked about our various friendships over the years. We've both known lots of people, have our stories. We're starting to sound more like "old people" I'm afraid i.e. there's lots in that rear view mirror, quite the "long strange trip" as we say.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pauling House Meeting

We've convened at the Pauling House for a follow-up meeting with Dr. Susan Haack. We have about fifteen people present, ranging from artists to engineers to philosophers.

Terry is filling us in on some of the controversies that have wracked our little group, invoking Brian Sharp's objections to engineering, the proposal to attack "scientism" and so forth. His goal is to bring Susan into our threads, maybe get some input. Her interest in pragmatism, Charles Peirce, William James, John Dewey etc. is a point of overlap with Terry's thinking. Percy Bridgman isn't usually categorized as a pragmatist (one of my questions).

Terry is lecturing us, going on fifteen minutes, twenty, thirty, on recent philosophy of science. He thinks logical positivism is still an important school of thought, whereas my sense from the 1970s, at Princeton University, was that positivism (ala A.J. Ayer) was really not that interesting. Richard Rorty was my teacher at this juncture.

I'd interject that the Artificial Intelligence program (AI) was equally bankrupt, a lot of hubris and hype, although we salvaged some of that work in the form of computer science.

I think of Terry as living in the past, not really tracking contemporary issues, poor slob (smile). Actually, I've been highly supportive of Terry on the Wanderers list recently, calling him "brave" -- I just don't like it when he ties these 1800s dead albatrosses around his neck, like "strict determinism" ala Laplace, a stinking corpse (no offense to the great mathematician). His willingness to champion engineering over science makes for some interesting rhetoric I think.

Dr. Haack has her own story of the recent history of science. The explosion of Logic as an enterprise in the late 1800s / early 1900s developed the (false) impression that science must rest on formal logic. This thesis was not borne out, was overtaken by events.

The concept of positivism is a bit of a hodgepodge so it's easy to keep it "alive" in some form, as Terry does, mainly to serve as a straw man he can keep beating up on (yawn).

I have a mental bar graph going, of "Terry talks" versus "Susan talks" and to the extent his bar stays higher than hers, time-wise, he's screwing up. I need to escape to another space, within earshot, have surrendered my chair to Steve, a recent arrival. I can hear everything being said, as I sip wine and blog. I did interject a funny story just now, relating to "mortuary science" (an ongoing joke tracing to last night -- I won't try to explain). Susan's bar is higher now, Terry out of my dog house.

We'll be having Thai food from Tanh Thao and the Portland Fish House. Oh wait, maybe American Express is a problem. ISEPP is sponsoring the meal, Terry being generous (thanks guy!).

Leslie Hickcox is here next to me, along with Lynne Taylor, helping to redress the XY-XX imbalance. Leslie has studied Dewey, other pragmatists, seems to be enjoying the discussion, is taking an active role. She's lending some cross country ski equipment to Tara for this weekend, which we appreciate.

On the table in front of me: Pragmatism, Old & New (Susan the editor), Putting Philosophy to Work, Inquiry and Its Place in Culture, and Defending Science -- within reason: Between Scientism and Cynicism. So there's "scientism" in the title.

What Susan doesn't want: a culture wherein "scientists" are this elite priestly caste, with everyone else giving up on really tracking or understanding what these scientists are about. That's her idea of a distopia.

Buzz is talking about "the brain" which makes Terry impatient (me too sometimes). There's a lot of incoherence here, not unusual with Wanderers. We're all over the map, come from different backgrounds.

I did mention in my intro, as we went around the table, that I've put in a lot of time serving as a champion of Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking. That's been an uphill battle of course (most academic philosophers don't have the requisite background and training to work in this area). We had a deeper conversation during meal time, focusing on publisher ethics and copyright control. Susan is quite a fighter in this arena, sticks to her guns.

Lynne and I have a disagreement over whether bell peppers should be excluded across the board, from all the Thai dishes, given her allergies. She thinks I'm being rude in suggesting a compromise. I wish David Feinstein were here to back me up, glad he could make the Heathman dinner last night. I'm thinking my friendship with Lynne will survive this little altercation.

Before I forget, the hilarious thing Susan was saying last night, when I asked about Wittgenstein, was how so many of his students adopted his mannerisms. They'd insert these pregnant pauses, ape the guy in other ways, and that helped make the whole school seem ridiculous (shades of Erhard). She also had an injury requiring weekend treatment and the guy who showed up turned out to have been Wittgenstein's physician. He couldn't conceive of a woman being a philosophy teacher -- go figure.

Python 3.0.1 and IronPython 2.0.1 were both announced this evening, the latter being more or less Python 2.5, but on the .NET platform. Hey, what's up with the CBS News podcasts on iTunes? -- running many days behind.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Shifting resources into the civilian sector, with some continuity for military personnel in terms of providing support logistics for grand strategy planning and implementation, is what Project Renaissance is about, a broad brush stroke scenario reflecting the thoughts of many planners, and distilled in my own writings with reference to the Peace Dividend we used to talk about in an earlier chapter.

Phasing in more memes from our buckaneer syllabus does not represent some hostile takeover or victory by some enemy, but the triumph of better judgment and a commitment to retooling for a promising next chapter. "Memes" are akin to slogans or bumper stickers (we could take these as examples), such as "more with less", "think globally act locally", and "Spaceship Earth", all currently in circulation and interconnected.

Regarding the more esoteric philosophical language we champion ("we" being Grunchies, organizations with a positive future focus), there's no compulsion to sweep away or replace competing discourse, only to "add spice" (in the sense of flavor) by phasing in some obviously timely ideas. No new fanaticism has been proposed to my knowledge, though I (for one) admit to being highly repetitious in my harping on the "whole number volumes in a sphere packing matrix" meme, which makes for good television. Synergetics (the magnum opus I often cite) is not about bulldozing prior art (on the contrary).

Per recent email to Ian, a mathematician and colleague, I do work to counter the "poor slob Bucky" meme, i.e. a spin in journalistic accounts, many of them consequent to the art world's revived interest in his work (Whitney and Noguchi museums in NYC for example, also Portland Center Stage here in Portland).

His was most definitely a success story, even by conventional criteria, in terms of awards and acheivements. The judgment that he failed is with reference to his dreams for a brighter tomorrow based around the development and design of "livingry" i.e. life supportive technologies (new models of "dwelling machine" for example). Fuller wanted to establish that we had these options, considered himself a realist in this sense. He successfully communicated his findings, however it's up to the rest of us to keep taking whatever actions.

In other words, these are cultural dreams, aspects of the American dream (Fuller was awarded a Medal of Freedom), a shared asset, and our companies still work in that direction, haven't abandoned those hopes. Russian brands of utopianism likewise feed into the mix. Indira Gandhi was a Bucky fan (the guy got around). We're talking about a cosmopolitan commitment to sustaining a viable Earthian economy (= ecosystem).

We certainly welcome the art world's willingness to champion our cause. Fuller regarded artists as among his closest allies.

Also, as I was mentioning in recent communications with David Koski, our mutual friend Ed Applewhite (EJA), a lifelong collaborator of Bucky's, was generally averse to any "hagiography" around RBF, while Fuller himself insisted in his own writings that he be regarded as an "average human being" (despite his "engineer saint" and "gentle genius" monikers). He didn't try to wear a halo, only to faithfully practice his self disciplines.

Obviously I'm trying to anticipate what the barriers might be, to continuing with our design science agenda. Critical Path takes poetic license to mythologize outside of conventional storytelling, as does Tetrascroll. I take these as barriers to literalist and/or fundamentalist belief system formation. At least there's no "superman" meme or hint of a "master race" concept (the concept of "race" is deprecated in Fuller's writings, per discoveries in genetic science, as is "class" i.e. his was not a "class warfare" agenda).

In sum, I see much to recommend more concerted investment in our corporate (in the sense of shared -- Quaker jargon) agenda. People are casting about for some coordinating heuristics that have the potential to drum up business and create opportunities for interesting work. Active sponsorship of these plans would seem an intelligent response to the current crisis in confidance and fears of economic collapse. Heritage matters. Storytelling matters. Any anthropologist (or politician) could tell you that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


You probably aren't surprised to learn that geeks tend to associate "government" with "operating system", in the sense that an OS has the job of resource allocation in obedience to "we the people" (various programs).

The kernel is architected by we the people in a somewhat Rawls-like way, John Rawls being the guy who said you need to design a system without knowing in advance what will be your position within it.

Will this computer belong to a gamer or be on a rack in some data center, we don't know in advance, but lets have an OS that's versatile enough to handle either contingency. Running programs need to share resources, not step on each others' toes.

Anyway, I don't need to go into the details too much. The fact is, we're big believers in democracy, sharing, not hogging. Programs don't get to do that in a well designed OS.

Another useful feature of this analogy, between government and operating system, is the concept of upgrading. Upgrades may be tiny little patches taking care of minuscule security holes, or they may be severe, such as when maybe thousands of programs get upgraded at once. That's more like going from Feisty Fawn to Gutsy Gibbon to Hardy Heron (successive versions of Ubuntu).

Speaking of upgrading: I just downgraded my DirectTV service, although I've so far avoided killing it all together. The so-called Family Package doesn't include either Discovery or History channels, no Animal Planet.

Fortunately, I live in a great little city that's bursting with culture, don't need all those channels when it comes to exploring my heritage. Plus I still have the Internet.

Tara is disappointed though, is already missing some favorites. She'll need to explore the Internet more, and teach me about what she discovers.

Choice Plus didn't have the channels I write most about in my blogs: Geek Channel, Reality TV... Pentagon Channel.

My so-called Reality TV is World Game rebranded, not just millionaire wannabe shows. Our celebrities actually tackle tough situations in the real world, with product placement a part of the action e.g. Boeing gets to show off those new shelter solutions.

We all suffer from low living standards with the world this FUBAR. Upgrades needed.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Math Wars UK

submitted to Math Forum moderators Feb 9, 2009:

The UK has its own math wars, likewise focused on how to counter the dumbing down that puts its students at a potential disadvantage in a global economy.

There's a brand of constructivism for early math education, but it owes nothing to USA text books marketed under that label, traces more to Caleb Gattegno than to Piaget, and focuses on developing algebra sense though a tightly designed set of exercises, in conjunction with free play.

The planned reforms focus on phasing in this algebraic style of thinking around the four operations (add, subtract, multiply, divide) prior to practice with numbers alone, i.e. the colorful Cuissenaire rods take the place of numbers, while on paper you have symbolic expressions naming these rods with letters.

This builds fluency with algebraic mathematical notation, while preparing students for more spatial geometry and computer language based investigations down the road.

A Stanford based think tank connected to Dr. Milgram, with ties to the UK, is also looking at Russian curricula for concepts. The USA is being studied for its use of open source and computer languages in higher grades, such as the groundbreaking work we're doing in Portland, which leads the nation in this respect.

I don't know of any USA K-12 text books that serve as a model for UK planning. That's true in the USA also: the current crop of text books mostly role model what to avoid at all costs.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Regarding Objectifying

I showed a nonprogrammer friend my weird little cartoon about Python, harping on this "everything is an object" heuristic.

She reacted somewhat negatively to all my "objectifying" talk as too calculating and cold, the whole problem with engineers.

I was glad for this feedback, as I've been wrestling with this very issue on edu-sig. Below is an excerpt, with a link to the full text.

My thanks to David Koski for bringing my attention to the xtranormal web site, and his first attempt at a geometry cartoon (= mathcast).

The more I look at it, the more I'm thinking peoples' stereotype of "engineers" is what's keeping 'em from wanting to tackle any of this "programming" stuff.

They think of "an engineer" as someone "cold" who lives in a fluorescently lit windowless basement, a stereotype, but still pretty vivid (I've been there many times).

We look at this at Wanderers (Linus Pauling House group), a lot of us engineers by training, got some good insights from Dr. William Wulf, who spoke directly to bridging the "digital divide" between the "two cultures":

Bouncing off David MacQuigg's spiel (which I liked) about OO being over-hyped within the industry, there's that whole problem of "objectifying" which we're told is callous (part of the problem), as when we "see people as objects".

And that's exactly what we do, let's be honest, when writing OO code atop SQL tables, bringing all those pieces together to give us a "sim" (a model human) with a and a person.bankaccount who lives at person.address.

What I continue to stress is that we ("we engineers") see ourselves that way too i.e. this isn't about being aloof and above it all, looking down on miserable animals that aren't us, as if we had gods' eye views. No, we're those patients in those beds, those people on the roller coaster, those people with shopping carts, on airplanes. We're not misanthropists. We're philanthropists (like Bill Gates, Mark Shuttleworth...).

This is a lot the same ethic in open source too: no, it's not "cheap" what we're making, we're not "cutting corners", because we're designing this for us (not snookering some customer, not trying to pull a fast one). Of course some people do get away with shoddy work, but the point I'm making is engineers have plenty of incentive to do a great job, because hey, we're gonna live with the consequences, with the tools we create (or fail to create).

If no one builds bridges, there won't be any, pretty simple.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Cereal Box Rant

We need some catalyzing events that are other than terrifying or disturbing. That crash landing in the Hudson had a good outcome at least. Still scary though.

Kellogg's just dropped that Olympics guy because he admitted to smoking some pot. Very retro, very Prohibition, puts Kellogg's on my list of [warning: adult content].

What has Kellogg's done to tell the world's children about the XO, about One Laptop Per Child? All that real estate on the backs of cereal boxes: a place to share hopeful visions of the world.

Reading on the back of a cereal box, about these engineers at MIT and places, the many geeks around the world....

Why aren't the backs of cereal boxes painting attainable and appealing futures? I'm thinking of adding them to my World Game museum.

Not only do we have all those K-12 math texts, refusing to share anything about (a) whole number volumed polyhedra in a closest spheres packing matrix, (b) icosahedral numbers and geodesic spheres, five-fold symmetry in nature etc., (c) no SQL, no executable logics of any kind, but we also have all these unimaginative cereal boxes, clearly bankrupt in terms of passing on a civilization, a positive future vision. Lots of empty calories in more senses than one.

Kids growing up in the 1950s still had all these Popular Mechanics and Popular Science dreams of better worlds to come. What will 2000 be like? Science fiction galore, some distopian, some utopian. Now we're well past 2000. So what do kids today get to dream about?

Where's the near future positive vision? Is it impossible to share one? I think not. Terraforming Mars has its appeal, but somewhat indirectly, as it suggests we managed to keep evolving. What's the story there?

I do think the economy will continue in a tailspin until we start sharing a clearer future vision (pretty much by definition).

It's not just kids who need a dream of the future, but investment bankers.

If all you see in your mind's eye (crystal ball) are disasters and craziness, then are you really working hard enough?

Why give in to those fantasies? Why not put some big positive visions out there?

I think focusing on impending cataclysms only feeds the impulse to freeze up and do nothing. On the other hand, we do need to point out the dangers, I agree.

The danger right now is in not dreaming a future worth working for, and so being overtaken by events.

Remember where "money" ultimately comes from: the sun and biological processes (= wealth = life support). Energy comes into the system and we channel it, insert our water wheels. The human circuitry is just a subset of the ecosystem circuitry. Motherboard Earth.

Wealth doesn't come from taxes, first and foremost, nor from the Federal Reserve nor any purely human institution.

We're provided with a generous income. We squander it through obsolete reflexing (including habits of thought).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


About the spy plane, not the rock band this time, a topic on the Quaker-P list recently. Here's a [re-edited] post from awhile back:

Hard to blame the American people for being confused in the wake of WWII, with such a fast turnaround, Japan and Germany the mortal fascist enemies, now friends, Russian allies on the wrong side of history etc. How to keep up?

Centralia Massacre (see Wikipedia) communicates some of the confusion, as there's a memorial to fallen soldiers, but when you read the fine print you see it's right there in Centralia, because of left versus right tensions, as personified by IWW and the American Legion (this was after WWI).

Qs, in their rush to study war no more, may overlook many readings on the cold war, don't pause to ask what that even means, whether there's an AVP tie in, in terms of not using outward (hot) weapons, relying more on weirdo intelligence networks, new under Truman and suddenly in vogue, giving Hoover some competition.

For example, do other Qs read Col. Fletcher Prouty, an Air Force guy charged with flying diplomats around, knows a lot about JFK era?

Eisenhower, flush with victory, was about to lay down the law to a devastated Russian people, maybe deal them into the Marshall Plan on capitalism's terms, time to kill that subversive utopian dream they'd been harboring, nip it in the bud.

That's is one way of spinning it anyway, then Gary Powers shows up on Soviet TV having bailed out of a plane hit by missiles (a miracle of first person physics if you really think about it). Eisenhower changes his plans.

Of course Prouty has his debunkers (not saying we need to go into that deeply here on Quaker-P, as these are long ago events).

I'm just saying it's pretty confusing, how all those alliances could change around so quickly, making "left versus right" really twisted. The OSS didn't really hate Ho Chi Minh that much either, truth be told, which makes Vietnam hard to follow also. **

BTW, those U2s are still very much in play these days (kinda funny after all these years), if you were following along in Georgia.

They've got one in McMinnville, wrote it up in me blog [no, that's a Blackbird silly].

Back to Simpsons,


** fun to find Julia Child was one of their cooks

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Superbowl Sunday

The first half of my day was working with a candidate O'Reilly book on Google App Engine, a relatively new service giving our coffee shop customers, neighborhood philosophers, artists in residence, their "virtual Catalina" for exchanging memes, even if not meeting in person. These aren't the only uses of course, as we're talking about a very generic kind of web service.

Fred Meyer's was a joyful zoo, in anticipation of the Superbowl certainly, but also for the fact of new facilities coming on-line. This complete overhaul, while allowing uninterrupted shopping, has been quite the puzzle and saga, with whole sections of shelves shifting around very like the staircases at Hogwarts, then this sushi train out of the blue.

I met Peg and Ron Marson, shopping for a different party. I also chatted with mom by cell, and left voicemail with Anna Roys in Alaska about meeting Wanderers later this month (my initial connection to Koreducators).

Our evening was spent with Bridge City Friends in their new Vancouver digs.

Steve is moving ahead with storyboards for Tanzania, involving some J. Baldwin inspired domes, other models, with some link to neurosurgery (he's sending more details).

Larry let me pull up my latest movie review on his new Google Phone with T-mobile.

Karla (pseudonym) and I discussed identity theft and the witness protection program.

Tom Head had recently attended some events with Paul Krugman, the Princeton economist, which set me 'n Jeff to yakking loudly about our alma mater, his being the grad school. John Nash is another famous Princetonian and Nobel Prize winner.

The clerk tapped me for leading some Adult Education event on the 22nd.

I thought about Dawn a lot, our friendship.

Wayne Yarnall
was able to use the newly installed ramp and get around inside the house. He had a real shiner (black eye) from having pitched out of his motorized wheel chair on a surprisingly convex piece of roadwork. He doesn't remember landing on his face. The EMTs were there within minutes.

All this time, the Superbowl was showing in the media room, right down to its thrilling conclusion. Tara and I decided to side with "the red people" (Arizona), though it's not like we have anything against Pittsburgh. Anyway, we lost.

Pat expressed some skepticism that our brutish football watching behavior was ethnically appropriate. I suggested it was AVP, which seemed to get some agreement.

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