Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Xmas 2013

Christmas 2013
click through to album

As some friends and family already know, our family syncs winter celebrations with Hanukkah at Laurie's and, for the last nine or so years, the Wanderers solstice party.  The Hunukkah date is at the families' convenience, which this year meant December 21st, Saturday.

Christmas itself is a day to kick back and play with toys, me reminiscing with Dr. Kent (whom I met at the London Knowledge Lab) about ISETL (a didactic gizmo) on Math Future, before ascending Mt. Tabor (sounds impressive but it's just a bump).

Tara is catching up on Hitchcock films this season and I re-watched most of The Birds.  I thought I'd seen Vertigo but watching it today left me wondering:  is my memory really that bad?  Yes, probably.  Now that I've read the murder mystery around Mary Meyer (friend for Jack Kennedy, former wife of Cord Meyer), with its beckoned witness, its patsy, its assassin, I have more ways to remember.

Alexia, being service sector, like me in some ways, is working today.  We get our hours off other times sometimes.  I'm actually not doing anything except to enjoy the time off.  Most of Portland is doing the same, with most businesses closed, streets thinly trafficked.  Safeway was open though, meaning I could resupply with bay leaves, an onion, detergent and other sundries.  Some ciders.

We're looking after two additional non-humans these days, a poodle and an unseen cat.  The cat is somewhat theoretical, but I swing by its outdoor encampment and refill its bowl from time to time, with no visual proof that another animal isn't doing the munching.

The poodle belongs to Alexia, Dawn's daughter by her dad Tom.  I was not a custodial parent if that's what "step" means in the eyes of the law, though she did come and live with us from about age sixteen until college (starting at Willamette U., one of Oregon's best).  Then she married into the US Army and moved to Clarksville, TN.  She came back after a subsequent marriage.  She lived here (Blue House) this summer in fact, in Tara's room, before moving to current digs.

Lindsey has been picking up more Buddhist practices (not surprising in this zip code) and weaving a wreath for her girlfriend Melody.  Tara and I plan to drop by Melody's later. then hang out with Alexia.  I'm baking Teresina Lentils for the occasion, as I sip ciders, blog, and upload to Photostream.

Carol, my mom, is with my sister in Whittier, CA.  She's been discovering more relatives on her side of the family, meaning Goldens.  Goldens and Urners have likely overlapped before according to Grandma Margie Reilley's research.

I ate at Fujin on Tuesday, wanting to have a last cold sesame noodles and crispy eggplant (brought some home) before they close at the end of this year, lease not renewed by their speculating landlord.  Fujin has been an institution on Hawthorne since before my own scenario began here, in the early 1990s.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (movie review)

My daughter was the prime instigator in our seeing this one, at Living Room Theaters, not far from Powell's downtown.

Chomsky and I are contemporaries, though we've not met in person.  I've got him linked into my writings on the web in a suitable context, given where AFSC was politically.

There's lots I don't know about his philosophy or world view, and this animation, kind of like Khan Academy on steroids (not intended as a sleight to either), was quite informative, as well as fun.

I hadn't realized to what an extent he's an anti-representationalist, like Rorty, which makes him very on board with Wittgenstein.  The generative grammar phenomenon is true to life:  a small enough rule set snowballs into a seeming infinity of permitted possibilities, like the game of chess (so many games, a tree).

That the animator is also working in his second language, French being his first, provides some of the humor, and other pathos.  And it's relevant because communication is after all the topic.

This is one of those films to be quoted as we develop our ability to quote films more seamlessly within our writings and other films.  A resource.  In the sense that a book is a resource.  Because the man is right there and it's an interview, you get a lot of autobiography.  Michel Gondry did not waste Chomsky's time, given this little gift of a film.  I don't think Ali G. (Sacha Beron Cohen) wasted his time either -- that was only a short exercise.

Chomsky stresses the importance of the concept of "continuity" in "identity".  Subjectively, we're more like getting film clips and assembling them mentally.  The salt shaker is seen in many shots and is assumed to be a persistent object.  

Our systems break down in the face of too much unaccounted for swapping, i.e. if she's really her twin and this really isn't my laptop (I'm thinking of that time Patrick was flying to HQS and was already in his seat when we realized (with a little help from the police) that he had the wrong computer, due to a mix up at security...), then we realize we have lost the thread of the narrative and our current reality unravels.   

He stresses how tenuous it all is, and how words coexists with discontinuity, a swiss cheese of possible holes.  Another way of saying it maybe:  cogitation itself provides much of the continuity.  Language is a glue, not a mirror.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug (movie review)

I've gotten over my initial prejudice and narrative, poking fun at how this blew up into three, with a lot of foot dragging by the original Lord of the Rings director, who had planned originally not to make any of them.  In fact, I'm not against lots more tellings of this story in various styles and am intrigued by what I've read of where other directors might have taken it.

I was in a sparsely attended Monday night audience for a 3DH performance, meaning the double frame rate, like last time.  I had the curious sensation that I was watching really good quality television, and my rational lobe tells me that's because TV is higher frame rate than the movie industry's 24, i.e. 24 < 30 < 48.

Although that sounds sensible (some people call their smart phone a "third lobe" -- or was that their tablet?) I'm no expert, and maybe MPEG obsoletes the whole notion of frame rate to some degree?  It's not like there's a raster beam, or is there?  The details have gotten murky, post CRT.  Companies are not as interested in junior having a clue.  Bruce Adams has shared that worry, that we're too closed with what we know, to the jeopardy of civilization itself.  It doesn't pay to be smug about everything you know.

Back to the movie:  I'm glad they got to play with the dragon that long, really stretch it out in those caverns.  Having the luxury of more time is like TV also.  They get whole seasons for character development.

I agree with Tara that the she-elf reminds of the Lost woman -- you're right Tara, she is.

I'm glad this is all shot and in the can as they say.  Really smart, all you people.  You get my High IQ award, which I've never given before and may never again.  I thought I invented DENSA (for recovering Mensaholics, but then Wikipedia doesn't even mention me).  Really epic you guys.  And fun.  I think I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ongoing Logistics

We got it to the point in the Buddha Room where it looks like mudding all the walls would be better than trying to just mud one of them.  "To mud" is to add texture, making the wall more orange peel like.

The movie director turned landlord I sometimes write about is flying off to Germany and I just got some training to help with her cat while she's gone.  I'm not the primary care guy, more the supervisor who relays how it's going.  This is a stray.  The Humane Society reports no extra cats.  People are giving them homes.  I blame effective PR.

I missed Keith's visit to Red & Black, part of a tour.  Food Not Bombs (FNB) is a global NGO with a large following, and I'm locally one of the lynch pins, though in a back office sense, given my bicycle was stolen.  I used to haul vegetables, two trailers at a time, even with grey hair in my fifties, a way to stay fit.

However I've been engaged in follow-up archived correspondence, with Keith in the CC, regarding a Seattle Weekly article vaguely alleging FNB was an unwitting vector for botulism.  Or rather the allegation was potatoes wrapped in tin foil may sometimes be a vector, and FNB has been known to distribute potatoes in tin foil, QED, or at least sort of.  "Sloppy journalism" I called it.  Let me dig out a quote (from RiseUp):
I agree there are detractors of FNB out there, and smear campaigns, but I can't prove Seattle Weekly is working off one of those "programs".  Sloppy journalism is endemic in this culture.  The standards once upheld were all changed once entertainment in the format of news (Comedy Central, Fox News) could exempt itself from the standards of news journalism.  This has had an eroding effect on news reporting more generally.
The local FNB chapter is doing a "how to make vegan tamales" workshop this coming Sunday.

At Quakers today (Multnomah Meeting) we looked at slides of events in Washington, D.C.  We're seeing more collaboration between FCNL and AFSC than usual, which most take as a good sign.  I don't mind being a minority voice in many of the internal debates we Friends enjoy.  That reminds me, I need to renew my subscription to Western Friend.

Friday, December 06, 2013


But what does that mean in terms of getting my Buddha Room mudded?

High Performance Homes phoned me last night with a sudden opening in their schedule.  I'd been dilly dallying on the last bit:  more sheet rock bashing (gypsum wall substance) and insulating with "the pink stuff" (R-21, but sliced because no batting comes that narrow, about 10" between beam insides).

So I said "let's go for it" and swung into action, already four pizzas into it, child labor laws skirted (Patrick was passing on useful skills to his son, with Steve directing the 2nd time, given knee surgery, me staying out of the way).

I used one of those retractable razor things to slice batting, careful with your hands, like sheering sheep (which I've never done).  Then stuff it, paper down, between the beams, which in my case hold up a slightly sloping fenced deck area, where people can stand outside and scan the neighborhood, drinks in hand perhaps.

Bashing with a crowbar:  that's for removing the old sheet rock, which had to be done to rebuild a good percentage of the back office.  Then there's prying out the nails and getting the last remnants of gypsum from the cracks where the new gypsum will fit.  By "gypsum" I mean "sheet rock" as it's called, a favored interior surface material for these old wooden homes.

I call it the Buddha Room because of the Bhutanese tankha that hangs there (a likeness of the Buddha), and because of the joke I make about my home being a registered non-profit temple with this giant inflatable Buddha in the back, so if the IRS comes for an audit, I can throw a switch and have "instant temple" (the Buddha Room in action).

What's closer to the truth is that has been my office (Dawn Wicca and Associates -- she and I worked as a partnership), and as a self-employed person was entitled to claim some floorspace on my taxes, and to account this rebuild due to water damage as an expense to that office.

Presumably, the HPH team will arrive promptly at 9 AM, regardless of snow, and make the interior paintable in short order.  The guy on the phone said his team was experienced with "hot mud" meaning they wouldn't be using a lot of hours.  The cost is already fixed anyway so it's to their advantage to not squander time.  The same company built my deck railing, a wooden fence, which I am also quite happy with.

HPH just phoned again to say the snow is causing delays but the plan to start work today is still in place.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hunger Games Two (movie review)

Fair warning, this is not a mainstream review.  First of all, our main neighborhood theater, The Bagdad, prominent in these blog posts, had just gone digital and first run, and I was there for the first time to experience the new screen, projector, seats, and sound system.  That puts me in a head space of checking out a theater, which is already a spin.

The other thing is Global Matrix swag / paraphernalia is signature in the Capital, which we're being programmed to hate, by Donald Sutherland (Snow).  I'm talking about the hexagon sky (a dome) and the hexagon uniforms.  The Evil Empire is all hexagons.  So now we've got that to deal with, as the colors of Rome, Coliseum, Roller Ball, Gladiators, and Fascism, all blend, using our carbon chemistry / graphene theme.  That's OK.  We do holodecks, fine.  Up to you what you tune in.

I appreciate the Uru quality of the games.  Uru was in the Myst series, and closer to my name, so I made some puns over the years, again in these blogs if still extant, Ozymandias Syndrome says maybe not.  Blogspot can't last forever etc.

Anyway, Cyan Software, out of Spokane, Washington, brought us Myst and Uru.  I wonder if they have a Youtube... Here's what I'm talkin' about:

Donald Sutherland was a great Man X in JFK (the Oliver Stone movie) and the real "Man X" is also a blog persona. Poke around, check it out.

The new Bagdad price:  $8.50 versus the $3.00 it used to be.  Judging from the crowd and the lines, people are more than willing to give that a go.  I appreciated their having the secondary drink service window open.  I got a Hammerhead then saw the fresh grapefruit and asked if I could order a second drink as well, thinking Greyhound.  The barista wisely said (per OLCC) she'd need to see whomever else I was ordering for i.e. the rules are against buying two for oneself.  Hey, I'm not trying to be a lawbreaker here.  I'll get my Greyhound another time, no problem, thanks for having this window open, means I won't miss even the previews, some of which were interesting.

So if you see some hexagons sometimes, including in the sky (a common experience among some shroom heads -- or they'll see rhombs maybe), don't necessarily freak out.  Like maybe you should, I'm not Harry Seldon, but there's intelligence in using hexagons... a few pentagons.

I want to say that The Hunger Games, as a phenomenon, took me by surprise.  Suddenly, everyone had read it and knew all about it and I'm not really in the mainstream.  How did that happen?  Harry Potter was much more observable.  And I see the connection.

It's eerie how the culture veers when you're not on the same page, and blam, you're off the merry-go-round and on to something more like a roller coaster.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thirsters: A Retrospective

Peter Bechtold was an area specialist (in the so-called Middle East, pretty much from Spain to Pakistan today) who could appreciate both the academic and governmental worlds.  He gave a two slide presentation at Thirsters this evening.  I brought Steve Holden, former PSF Chair, as my guest.  The venue was again packed. Ishtiaq from last week was there as a guest, and spoke at length with Dr. Maria Beebe, someone my mom enjoyed meeting.

Peter told a story wherein, as at first an academic outsider, he was one of the chorus who decried Washington, DC for always getting it wrong.  Then he got on the inside more and climbed the rungs of power or so it seemed, and met people he really could respect, for knowing as much has he did about an area, and then some.

However, we somewhat top out at this point, as mid-level people, such as presidents, prove themselves not quite able to steer a clear course.  They end up fudging a lot, making do with murky language.  So it seemed at the end of the day we were back to not finding DC's apparatus all that well designed.  "Only the president makes foreign policy" he said.  That seems a bottleneck right there.

Peter told his story well, reaching into current events of right then.  Secretary of State John Kerry had been saying something about drones, not apologizing or whatever, and immediately the spin doctors were sending a different message.

The audience wanted to talk about whether it was true that North Americans were "isolationist" in quite the way stereotyped.  They might still be world savvy or cosmopolitan in a different sense that could even be more dangerous, one questioner remarked (not me).

Dr. Bechtold made fun of the Portland-centric who think we're a hub.  In Boston they think we're near Michigan (like Detroit) and can't even say the name of our state correctly.  He meant that as a humbling remark, a reminder of how no on knows who or where we are.  But I took it a different way, as more evidence of an ethnocentric Atlantic culture that still thinks it runs things.  Empire State and like that.  Not my problem if Bean Town is a tad on the slow side.

Anyway, I enjoy friendly rivalry among capitals (what I call "capitalism"), Portland being an Open Source capital.  That's why Steve is here, ostensibly, to take advantage of Portland's being at a crossroads in global computing.  But were we living up to that reputation?  I think Steve is ahead of his time, and that worries me some.


Friday, November 15, 2013

A Khan at Thirsters

Ishtiaq Khan @ Thirsters / McMenamins

I thought this was a well placed punchy talk, just right for the audience, some of whom could share responsibility for getting him there, with his two kids, in the first place.  This is a real Pashtun overlord with "serfs" (bad translation) and so on.  Cool.

Most of what Ishtiaq had to say was new to me in detail but not in principle:  some incompetent admin types had sketched a few "countries" in the wake of a failing empire and lazy North American textbooks continue sharing this Anglo heritage, another way of continuing what white supremacist Rudyard Kipling called "the great game".

The border between two of these Stans, Afghani and Paki, never mirrored the reality on the ground, and was set to expire in 100 years anyway, according to some records.  The Pashtun, with a 4000 year lineage, have enough organizational memory to know that line is going (has gone) away.  Not if you consult lazy American textbooks or globes or National Geographic necessarily, but that's because Americans are basically politicians at heart.  They think locally and act even more locally (parochially).  World-savvy USAers are somewhat hard to come by, although we had a few in that room.

Back when Medard Gabel ran World Game they'd talk about how insane was the use of distorted maps, by which they meant the physical distortion of the landmasses, such as Greenland.  But equally distorted are these awkward ideas about "sovereignties" tiling the planet, with 2nd and 3rd tier "wannabe nations" in the wings (Kurdistan for example, or Tibet, which used to have more status), followed by all the virtual / cyber nations that are coming along (what the wannabes oft revert into -- and maybe find congenial).

We're swamped with national identities by this time.  Yet millions fell through the cracks, with more falling through them every day. There's nothing engineeringly "sealed" about this system.  It leaks everywhere, running mostly on suspended disbelief.

Washington DC is supposedly pulling out or holding back or something in 2014.  I'm not sure anyone really knows what DC is doing, including DC, a joke government in a lot of ways, with the attention span of a... well, you know how I get insulting.  That's just my lineage, back to Mark Twain and like that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

All Hands

Our ranks both grew and shrank since last year's May meetup at Bodega Bay, backdrop for Hitchcock's The Birds.

I stayed with other media savvy males in the Appian Way place, this time closer to Mother Ship.  The CEO handed me a key to a rental Impala, picked up and returned to SFO, which is where most of our party flew in.

Patrick and I took Alaska Air directly to STS, only minutes away from the gathering point.  Georgia picked us up in their Turkish-made commuter van, a Ford.

The president and operations manager, our founding couple, figured they'd completed the visionary part and demonstrated an ability to pass the torch in a way that did not delay or retard our progress along the timeline, in itself a feat of administrative smoothness.

In the slide show above, you will see us gathering by day to perform our jobs in a shared workspace at the Mother Ship.  There's also a regional HQS in Champaign, Illinois which I showcase elsewhere.  By night, we gathered more informally at one of the rental houses or local eatery to catch up.

Finally, after a day of inspection by an outside accrediting group, we went to Show & Tell (a company tradition) and learned a lot more about one another that way.  Two shared about the process of giving birth.  Others shared about life-changing travels / adventures.

We still have more steps along the timeline but are so far still on track and on schedule.

Admin was beefed up after the top level turnover, plus the Mentors added to their pool.  This was my first opportunity to meet some of them.  Finding out who one's peers are is an important step towards discovering one's organizational identity, I think most managers would agree.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book of Rhombs

Glenn Stockton was regaling me with stories this morning, as we hiked around Mt. Tabor, stemming from all the Megalithic Math he's been studying.  He's been devouring Keith Critchlow's new book Time Stands Still.  At one point in our conversation he mentioned finding it very British to hear diamonds described as "rhombs" as if this latter word were so familiar.

Meanwhile, David Koski has been pushing this triangular book covers demo from several angles.  Start with any rhombus really, but some have more interesting properties.  We started with the two book covers being equilateral triangles of edges D, then right triangles with edges D, and now, in this latest video, the long diagonal of the rhomb is D, while the short diagonal is sqrt(2).

This D is the diameter of the unit-radius sphere.

I'd actually written quite a bit about these two rhombs defining a Coupler when placed at 90 degrees, but it took David's nudging for me to finally realize I was again covering this same territory, now with the "triangular book covers and two oppositely flapping pages".  Putting the Coupler at the XYZ origin is a great way to build a bridge to the IVM and Synergetics way of thinking more generally.

In massaging the source code for this demo, I realized that my code for the inadvertent tetrahedron was hard coding around all edges being D except the green and magenta, so needed to fix that for this video to have the right volumes.

Towards the end, I start mentioning the Rite, though it might not be clear that's actually the name of a specific tetrahedron.  The Rite and quarter Rite are both space-filling tetrahedrons.  Aristotle said tetrahedrons fill space and is often criticized on the theory he meant regular tetrahedrons.  However irregular tetrahedrons do fill allspace with identical copies of themselves and without left and right handedness, the Rite is one of these, as is the Mite.

To recap a theme of the last three "triangular book covers" videos:  the flapping triangular page defines two equal volumes, with a 3rd "inadvertent tet", again of equal volume, supplying a space-filling complement to the other two.  Indeed, any two of the three tetrahedrons formed, may be used to build an octahedron (two and two needed), with the third tetrahedron playing the role of the complementary space-filler ala the isotropic vector matrix model, but skewed and/or stretched (same topology).

In this case, starting with the rhombus of the rhombic dodecahedron, when the page is at 90 degrees, all three tetrahedrons are Rites and the octahedron formed by any two is the Coupler, of unit volume in Synergetics.

The rhombic triacontahedron hovers as tantalizingly relevant.  A next video might get into five-fold symmetric space-filling more, David's forte.  The page tip needs to click stop at "4/8" on the way to its vertical at 9/8, where 8/8 is the regular tetrahedron.  Length-determining volumes are the 2nd roots of these fractions.  That's back to when our rhombic book has edges 2 (i.e. D).

Link to source code on Github.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I spent a lot of time reading Alan Watts as a younger person, none of which time I regret; he was / is a good teacher of what we may legitimately call "Buddhist thought".  For those who don't know, this intellectual guy lived in Sausalito.  The Wikipedia picture shows him in full guru costume, which at the time was a trendy form of rebellion against establishment Western dress.  People were re-balancing their relationship with Asia, especially around the Pacific Rim.

Watts was in turn a student of D. T. Suzuki, a Japanese Zen master, and a lot of the Watts stuff works at translating such words as "satori" as "enlightenment" and so on.  But then what does "enlightenment" even mean in English?  You have the "Age of Enlightenment" which points back to such French luminaries as Voltaire.  You have the several dictionary definitions.  "Enlightening" can mean becoming aware of a more inclusive or elucidating way of looking.  That's a link to Wittgenstein, who baked "ways of looking" into his core "language games based" elucidation.

One has times in life wherein dots connect and circuits flip on.  Epiphanies may be fleeting, hour-long, ongoing themes.  Salvador Dali had some lengthy epiphanies.  He didn't worry, like a Viagra commercial, about an epiphany lasting too long.  In hindsight, surrealism benefited enormously from Dali's willingness to experience "satori" quite a bit.

One of the things the enlightenment literature tends to recommend is maddeningly complex practices of some kind, lots of tedious, repetitious, stupid, boring stuff.  This is no accident.  The mind is more prone to produce breakthroughs when forced into some corner and made to fend for itself.  Koans were / are like this:  puzzling little sayings and mantras designed to produce "aha!" experiences, more than one.  But then just life itself induces these "aha" experiences.  You don't need to go looking for koans.  They're in your face at all times, if you know where to look.

That being said, it's also true that communities need dishes washed, pigs milked, goats tended, fish smoked, or whatever the tasks of a subculture.  Were "enlightenment" to be reserved only for those on vacation or in retirement, that'd be droll.  Busy home owners need "enlightenment" as much as anyone.  An egalitarian flavor enters in, but also in reward for some kind of meekness, or humble submission to "chores" (doing your share of the work, participating in building / sustaining community).  The Buddhists call this Sangha i.e. Community.

Westerners often get bent out of shape by the word "Community" as it rhymes with "Communist", and yet they pay lots of lip service to "Fellowship" and "Church Community" as a good thing. It's disbelief in any God that made Communists a bad thing, but then Buddhism was never attacked in this way, at least not directly.  So Alan Watts could be rebellious and anti-establishment and not-communist at the same time, which was doubly subversive.  I was / am a fan.

Lots of movies use "satori" in that they help the audience experience revelations about things.  The plot twists and turns, and by the end there's a satisfying resolution, or not.  The ending may not be what matters.  Satori is found in films, that's what matters.  No wonder Japanese cartoons (anime) are often so philosophical / spiritual, so Zen in some cases.

The Quakers have "satori" too, which I might talk about another time.  The mode of "expectant waiting" is precisely that cultivated by many a devoted seeker.  To somewhat personalize the provider of insights as "God" (in place of "the muses") is the monotheist mode, but you need not be a "believer" to appreciate the power of intuition.  Kant's obsession with the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori is no less a meditation on whether moral truths might share something with the logically imperative.  You don't need to be a believer in some "God" to experience satori, as any atheist might tell you (whether Communist or not).

Sunday, October 06, 2013

IVM 1-2-3

Given how I wrote the code for these demos, spreadsheet style, with governing globals up top, it wasn't hard to stretch the spine of the book, to make the two book covers make a square, instead of a rhombus.

In the previous "book covers" video, two equilateral triangles lay flat against a plane, with a triangular "page" flapping between them.  In this one, it's two right triangles laying flat, and when the page reaches 90 degrees, the half regular octahedron shows up, each of the complementary tetrahedrons a quarter of same.

Then there's the "inadvertent tet" made from the purple and green rods, others red.  Right when the complementary tets are equal, it turns regular (they're produced together) and the "octet truss" is born (the pure IVM).

Let's be clear though:  the IVM was there last time too, with the equiangular book covers.  The regular tet's complement, the "iceberg tet" is a quarter octahedron, just like the two "iceberg tets" forming here in complement (see Fig. 987.210D).

So this time the inadvertent is the regular tet and both complements are icebergs.  Last time the IVM formed when both the inadvertent tet and one of the complements were icebergs, with the other complement a regular tet.  So two views of the same thing.  A little dance.

Here again, even with the different book covers, you have the option to pair the inadvertent tet with an iceberg (1/4 oct) to get an oblate octahedron of volume 4 + another iceberg to fill space. That's not the focus, but is a consequence of the generalization in the earlier video, that any two of the three may be chosen to build the octahedron, leaving the third tetrahedron to complete the "IVM-like" space-filling matrix.

It's not hard to see that the IVM gets to "waver" in some affine ways (to become "IVM-like").  Picture a layer of squares, like a checkerboard, then another layer above, but with its squares offset to have its corners above the others' centers.  Keep stacking that way, corners over centers, and connect each center to the four corners below.  The distance between layers is just right such that these slanted intra-layer members are also all the same length, the length of the square edges.  That's your IVM.  No shortage of squares.

Now picture the squares "wavering" to become rectangles as the distance between layers also wavers.  All the rods have become stretchy but we're keeping the layers parallel and no rods are disconnected, so the same 12 from every hub.  The familiar topology.

Space Filling Triads of Tetrahedrons

Do we say "tetrahedra" or "tetrahedrons" for the plural?  My spellchecker prefers the latter, but through long habit, I tend to use the "hedra" ending.

Tetrahedrons in the plural is what this video is about.

My technique was to code in the PyCharm IDE by JetBrains, to which I subscribe, while importing the visual package from VPython dot org.  Then I turned on QuickTimePlayer on the Apple Mac Air, which does a decent job of screen recording.

Finally, I pull that recording into iMovie and talked over it, before uploading to YouTube.  These are skills within range of a broad audience and are also increasingly the skills associated with academic studies.

David Koski provided most of the brain power in terms of providing the original insight I'm endeavoring to communicate.

What's somewhat interesting about this video is what's not shown, or what I leave out of the narration.

For example, I don't make it abundantly clear that the "inadvertent tetrahedron" with four red edges, one green and one purple, also has the very same volume as that of the two complements with which it is associated.

These three, the two complements plus the inadvertent tet, are what comprise the space-filling triad.  Any two will assemble an octahedron with two copies of each (for a volume of 4x whatever volume we're at), and the remaining tetrahedron will complete the space-filling, with a volume 1/4 that of the octahedron at all settings.

In the video, I use the term "isotropic vector matrix" somewhat loosely, as it's the topology of this simplicial complex that I'm focused on, whereas clearly not all the rods are the same length, as they are in the pure IVM scaffolding (as they are in the XYZ scaffolding).

In the IVM topology, every vertex has 12 rods emanating therefrom and tetrahedrons combine with their partner octahedrons in a ratio of 2:1 i.e. there are twice as many tetrahedrons.

Do the triangular book covers need to start out as equilateral triangles?  No.  In a future demo, I will start with 45-45-90 degree book covers lying flat to make a square and go through the same transformation.  A triumvirate of space-filling tetrahedra are made that way as well.  Indeed, we can make the pure IVM rather straightforwardly.

The demo I'm showing here does have the pure IVM within range.  When either complement is the regular tetrahedron, the inadvertent tet and complement are the same 1/4 "orange slice" of a regular octahedron (four wedges =  1 octahedron).  David and I call these wedges "icebergs".

In XYZ accounting (cube based), when the page tip is at 90 degrees, the octahedron and tetrahedron have a volume ratio of 4:1, as always, but the volume actually is 4, the tetrahedron 1.

I'm assuming red edges of 2, my value for D, the Diameter of the four unit radius spheres that might pack to create and all-red-edges tetrahedron when their centers were interconnected.

Synergetics accounts this as a model of D to the 3rd power, which is why the volume numbers differ by sqrt(9/8).  When the complements reach their highest volume at 90 degrees, that's sqrt(9/8) more than the regular tetrahedron volume (= that of its iceberg complement).

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Afghanistan Revisited

Maria A. Beebe is back.

Wanderers are getting an update on the state of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), from someone who has lots of on the ground experience.

Dr. Beebe has met with us before.  Carol (mom) joined us this time as she's tasked with making a public presentation on the current state of Afghanistan.

Cisco has quite a bit of market penetration.  Curriculum writers have clamored for less brand-based training.

She started off by showing us this World Bank video about ICT in the recent past.

Getting university curricula ramped up, as well as providing mobile phones to an increasing number of subscribers are the primary goals.

Afghanistan suffers from a syndrome similar to China's:  in pirating Windows, the ICT population is both stymied by virus prone platforms, and their skills development is being retarded, as they struggle with black box software.

I was curious about the level of censorship of the Internet, e.g. whether opposition groups fighting the US occupation could have their web sites.

Others asked to what extent phone calls were being surveilled.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pacific Rim (movie review)

A change of marquee at The Bagdad and I'm back for more "mindless entertainment" as it's called.

Lets watch some monsters rip up some cities.  Spectacular.

And it is spectacular.  Loud professionally-mixed sound has everything to do with it, plus there's that audience complicity we bleep over called "suspended disbelief".  How come when we go to book stores there aren't whole shelves on "suspended disbelief" -- isn't that an amazing concept and doesn't it ultimately cover so much outside of just movies?

A less nice term for it is "being in denial" but that's so unfriendly.  Doesn't it just mean having a good imagination and willfully coloring one's own life with what "special effects" one might bring to the picture?  If movie-makers do it why can't we?

Why do they call it escapism?  Yet at the same time "curling up with a novel" is a healthy thing?  No consistency there then.  If you wanna believe you're doing something "wrong", you will always have evidence, built in to the very fabric of the universe.  But "right" is there also.

Reading (fiction or non-fiction) actually keeps you in practice as a reader.  If you stop reading, the habit erodes, as it has for many non-reading TV-aholics.

Anyway, it's really rainy and stormy here after a pretty summer and people were packing the theater big time.  Indoor entertainment this weekend, not hiking, not exploring the great outdoors.

I don't like missing beginnings, especially holes opening into other dimensions, but I wanted my beer 'n pizza (this was dinner -- though I'd snack more too), so I head tripped about how they weren't firing on all cylinders (some cashier positions were open -- and some filled as I got closer) when I should have gotten there earlier.

Which reminds me, I need to give my mom her meds that I picked up on the way... hold on.  OK done, she has them.

Code Guardian on steroids.  With the Chinese Restaurant from eXistenZ, just a little.  These ugly bugs have parasites that are just as ugly.  It's ugly all the way down... but for sale and prized in Hong Kong (conjure the laugh track).

This movie knows to get a little goofy sometimes (I've not even mentioned the science types).  It's not as seriously scary as World War Z (also with its science type, just the type to slip up), which is more horrific by far.  The UN was at it again (like in WWZ) appearing to make the big decisions ("build walls!"), with the US fitting in, not playing the standalone "superpower" so much.

The fighter pilot hero seems American idol like, but most around him in command seemed Australian, see below.

This is just epic science fiction and fun with special effects.  Alexia had already told me it was so silly it was satisfying, just the mind-chicken one might need after a gnarly day at some office.

Let's just watch the world ending and see some bold heroics to save it, why not?  Lots of allusions to Godzilla.

I'm largely skeptical of Jaegers by the way.  I suppose they're more believable than Transformers and believability ain't even the point.  Just I don't think that super heavy metal with hoses the pneumatics is ever going to achieve that level of gracefulness quite, certainly not at that scale -- even the level of grace depicted, which is still pretty lame.  Sound is what makes it believable.

All that clanking.  Definitely heavy metal, yep yep.

I think it was Saving Private Ryan where the movie-makers suddenly paid more attention to bullet and gunfire noises, not using Hollywood stock effects.  Breakthroughs occur on that level.  I'm not saying this film had such breakthroughs, or that it didn't, just it gets me thinking about movie-making wizardry again.  So much goes into these productions.  I'd gladly watch The Making of Pacific Rim on special features.

Another plot element that gets me is you don't get to practice "drifting" (mind melding) with your battlefield partner, you just dive into it, already aboard a giant robot.  And when did you get training with that?  Learning to drive is hard enough but here you get converge your memories with someone else's and pilot a skyscraper all in one go?

Seems like you'd want to gradually build up to such onerous real time duty with the drifting and start more casually?

But that'd turn a science action film into a romance or other voyeuristic nonsense (as she and he got to know each other better, other than by fighting that is).  Nope, not what you came to see.  It's a monster movie for gosh sakes, not about adults doing lots of kissing (but then you're supposed to get how you might wanna, if you're only fourteen).

Probably the deepest aspect of this movie is its title, and the blend of East and West it concocts as a backdrop (not forgetting "down under").  This clearly can't be the present, as we don't have Jaegers yet and the UN doesn't cohere all that well (no external threat is really that big I guess, no "other dimension").

Speaking of the UN there are some big talks on nuclear disarmament going on even now yet it's hard to dig up stories.  The US isn't wanting to be "told what to do" and has not yet embraced the view that it can afford to lose the business, though Countdown to Zero -- the campaign (aka Critical Will) -- continues to make inroads, including with top intelligentsia.

Code Guardian too seems set in the past, and has these giant retro robots, as the popular mind back then might have imagined them (projecting its own technology).  It's this "retro futurism" that informs the ambiance of this film, Aliens no question an influence (open homage is paid).

It's not the job of science fiction to always believably situate itself, in either time or in space, as an other tomorrow.  Here's another way the ability to "suspend disbelief" comes in handy.  Then disbelief can come flooding in again, as your lonely planet whirls its silent way along some geodesic.  Nothing unbelievable about that.

Another similarity with Code Guardian (a tiny budget film, entirely computer generated) is precisely this Pacific Rim focus, in some ways furthering the peace it projects, with a nod to lingering sparks of hostility.  Many Asian countries get left out though, as many as are included.  This isn't a documentary on Asian cultures.

I met Derek walking back and we talked about coming changes to the neighborhood.  He was on his way to a sports bar to watch a game.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

World War Z (movie review)

I judged this movie to be astoundingly good, because it really scared me.  The last time I remember being that scared (because of a movie -- life is plenty scary) was in Aliens.  Is it because I identify with the protagonists so completely?  They each do a good job (Signourney Weaver and Brad Pitt respectively).

I've been doing my homework in the zombies mythology, falling further behind with the vampires, which has also been undergoing strong development in these early years of this millennium.  When AMC's Walking Dead started showing for free at The Bagdad, I found a collection and watched several seasons.

The Bagdad, by the way, is about to undergo a transformation, shutting down for awhile as a theater (owned by a brewpub) to reopen as one equipped to show first run films.  I'm ambivalent as that means a jump in price and more people wanting parking (think of a way to come by bus or bike people -- no mega-mall parking lots, just sleepy neighborhoods).  I can see where it'd be fun to jump on that circuit though, as a brewpub.  I hope The Laurelhurst isn't planning to follow suit right away.

The film is scary and not very jokey except when you zoom back to appreciate the ironies:  the WHO, World Health Organization, frantically distributing dire sicknesses to children, that they might live.  I won't explain.  Brad has been hanging out with Angelina (who can blame him) and knows what that world of NGOs and UN people is like, mixed with NATO and all that stuff.

He and the other movie-makers paint with that fairly contemporary palette to make a globalized "good guy" and it's a refreshing divergence from the perpetual US / Hollywood rehash, where the "good guys" are always some Team America World Police (Man of Steel gets it right but that's a period piece, deliberately retro).

In this movie, the US prez is dead already, get over it, that's not even a big part of the plot.  When you've got humanity against misanthropists, you have an opportunity to bring us together.  Bring Israel back into the fold, why not?  They were winning against the undead until becoming over-exuberant, a known pitfall in Judaism (hubris, too sure God is on your side, the "loud Jew" meme).

That was another funny irony:  the Israelis were so close to encircling themselves with that stupid wall that just a few more bricks made it a done deal.  Most thought it was about the Palestinians but we meet the Mosssad mastermind who took rumors of the "undead" seriously and pushed the wall on that basis.

There's no evidence such a wall had any affect along the Mexican border though (Dallas and Mexico City were equally Zombie-lands).  The CIA is probably less vested in that technology for combating the spread of Zombie-ism (they say like Communism but you don't have to know how to read or raise your consciousness).  Some things only make sense in the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Future is Now

If you're looking for a meditation theme, those of you who use meditation themes, or would like to try one, here's a good one:  the future is now.

Of course that's obvious.  When I was growing up the future was like 2000, wow, and we're well passed 2000 now (OK, 13 isn't a lot, but it's after 2000).  So this is that future.  Look around.  You spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like.  This is what it's like.

The problem about "the future" is you never get there, a mean trick in a way, as you're always in suspense even when the thing you were in suspense about is long over.  Meditation helps you relax and appreciate how many of your questions have already been answered.

Monday, September 23, 2013

...So Goes The Nation

"The Nation says Occupy is a failure" Lindsey was saying.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Because some guy walked out of a meeting, said he had to go compost, and another guy behind a web site got a job working for Google."


"They don't know about Occupy Portland, she continued." "I'd send them an email but I'm not really into using computers these days, the I Ching says to practice my music."

And so it goes.

I don't think we're a failure.  Tweet or something, if you agree.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Introduction to Synergetics

From an outgoing email dated today (hyperlinks added):

Synergetics is a rather strange hard-to-categorize philosophy that tries to turn science into something readable as prose and imaginable in terms of geometric cartoons.

That is not a radical idea as we all watch cartoons of batteries and ions flowing or electrons flowing, while listening to some narrator say what's going on.  Synergetics is a lot like that.

But then I would always study it in conjunction with something else, like electrodynamics or computer programming.  I don't think it's meant to stand all on its own, as if everyone else should stop what they're doing and focus on this thing over here.

No, not like that.

More like the I Ching, something to consult from time to time, or like DSM V (another reference).  Fuller himself was a voracious reader and listener.  He took in vast amounts.  Synergetics is like Esperanto, or trying to convert what everyone is saying in different language to something more in the middle.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Leveraging Python

:: Special Feature | Director's Comments ::

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Version Control

I've been jeering at Washington, DC wannabe government types for not using version control for important documents.  No wonder these are not the real coders.

But then some of them do, and when you get down to it, the NPYM Quakers do not, for their Faith & Practice.  I've sort of crafted an identity stretched around such a framework and should backpedal from jeering to producing hearty exhortations.

We both should get serious (we in government, we Friends).

Someone with a commit bit is not necessarily hogging the limelight.  One commits on behalf of others after reviewing and passing their code.  You're a conduit into a shared asset of considerable value.

Needing to go back a branch because the stuff you've committed actually sucks is the reason version control exists, but do that too often and you might lose that commit bit.  Stop leading us down blind allies.  We'll even forgive a few, but followers have their limits, before their leaders become scapegoats.

Wikipedia is so interesting and would take lifetimes to really study.  The discussions that go on over small editorial changes, the feuds.  Sometimes you go to the page less for the end result than for the discussion behind the scenes.

Our Faith & Practice would be that much richer with such a background.  So would government documents, that could find the time to mature (some official documents are written hurriedly, under the pressure of events).

I'm not just talking from inexperience about matters of which I know naught.  I've done a Wikipedia page in concert with others, the one on Synergetics (Fuller's version).

Here's a snap shot that pretty much comprises my total contribution.

If you check the discussion tab, you'll see others played a big role.  I was not the originator of the page, it had simply long remained dormant.

The process of co-creation was reminiscent of giving birth in the sense that there was some pain and strife, as well as risk.

Although "version control" may sound cold and "engineery" it's actually more humane to preserve these timelines that register the passions of those who provided content, or experienced their content getting blocked.

Movie making is like this too, inevitably, as ultimately life collapses to what's so versus what it might have been.  Even those who work solo must make their compromises (to work solo is also a cost, a freedom lost or not chosen).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Quoting from Facebook

[In the original FaceBook version, comments by others are interleaved.  NPYM = North Pacific Yearly Meeting.  I am discussing a public document available at that Meeting's website. I've added some hyperlinks, refactored the paragraphs ]

Interesting the NPYM draft Faith and Practice already has renamed Oversight Committee to Pastoral Care Committee. This despite the fact that the largest meeting in the region has not switched to that nomenclature and some actively oppose such a name change.

In the old days, Faith and Practice was descriptive more than prescriptive (said what we did do, not what we "should" do per somebody's blueprint). Clearly there's an attempt at top-down management here, such as we've not seen hitherto?

For me it's about grass roots versus top-down. If individual meetings want to adopt a name change and go with Pastoral Care over Oversight, then F&P should reflect these choices. At the moment though, the meetings I'm aware of in the NPYM region are all using the traditional terminology. This new draft language is very out of step with the standard practice of its people. That's what seems surprising. I don't see it as splintering for some meetings to use different terms. I just don't think we're at a point where such grass roots choices should be codified at the NPYM level. Most of us say "Oversight" and don't assume there's a problem in saying that.

The paragraph I shared around Oversight before sending it off (not presuming to speak for anyone but me -- but it had come up as an agenda item to discuss NPYM's draft): "AFAIK, MMM has no plans to change the name of Oversight Committee to Pastoral Care Committee. I know there's a minority that wants to do that but without real discussion in Business Meeting I'd say F&P has gone beyond its light in making that name change for our region and/or meeting." (AFAIK = "as far as I know").

To me, advocating we drop "Oversight" in favor of "Pastoral Care" is like saying we should stop saying "master / slave" when talking about disk drives, or that tool users should stop asking "male or female?" when wanting to know if it plugs in, or accepts a plug. Bending over backwards to be inoffensive too often means pabulum in place of edginess.

Quakers have diluted their language sufficiently. Loss of "Oversight" looks more like self-evisceration, Hara-kiri.

To "oversee" means to have the big picture view.

"Pastoral" reduces people to seeing themselves as sheep, as a "flock" of bleating brainless (sorry sheep), needing to be led.

Why is that vocabulary less offensive than empowering Friends to be "overseers". Better to have "overseers" (a rotating position) than docile sheep expecting to be patronized by all-knowing (better qualified) "pastors" (ala the religion we divorced from, quite awhile back, no regrets -- or are we hankering for a caste of professional theologians -- clerics -- again?).

I go off Oversight / MMM in 2014 at which time I predict the clerk (continuing) will be expected to push through the name change, neatly dovetailing with Discipline Committee's plans to move us into a more mainstream churchy vein, more like "other Protestants".

Once MMM falls to Pastoral Christian Friends, it will be easier for them to take the Valley.

It's definitely a shift to the right from the point of view of ye old College Park Beanites and their liberal ways. Adopting mainstream churchy language helps consolidate a more "ecumenical" Christianity with less dissent (less outward divergence at the level of theology).

I propose to fight back by referring to churches as "steeple houses" once again (unless they really don't have steeples -- I pay attention to architecture).

I also support the narrative that some Quakers are "forking off" from Christianity, meaning a meeting may well stay a Friends Meeting without identifying as Christian, and indeed some meetings may publicly not want that "Christian" affiliation / moniker / brand for themselves (which doesn't mean they can't or won't study the Bible; no books are banned).

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Google Earth as Rear View Mirror

Google Earth + Panoranimo: Quarry in Thornton, IL w/ I-80 Crossing

What was that?

Sometimes you'll be on a car trip, like I was, and do a double-take, as I did. I was going over this bridge somewhere in Illinois, my GPS taking me to O'Hare.

Suddenly, on both sides, steep cliffs, a drop off. Clearly a quarry of some kind.

I wished I had a better view and quickly scanned for exits and a better viewpoint.

In retrospect, I could have found one, but Google Earth, linked with Panoramino, is the next best thing.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Crossroads





Saturday, August 31, 2013



I'm ensconced high above street level in Hotel World, peaking over Steve's shoulder.  I'm one of the speakers at Djangocon.

Django, for those who don't know, was a world class musician, and as such, had some things named after him, one of those things being a web framework known as Django.

Web frameworks rule, in the sphere of eCommerce, so there's a community of geeks associated with this free, open source software, that ekes out a living doing that, to a degree that annual conferences are semi-affordable.

This may be a golden era for the Django community; I'm not saying I'm the crystal ball holder here.  Frameworks come and go, as do computer languages.  Django is written in Python.

The people in front of me in the Alamo rental car line at O'Hare were appropriately concerned about the escalation of violence in the Middle East, Washington DC a top committer in that regard.

This is 2013 and we're looking back on "shock & awe" plus a president making fun of himself looking for those never-found weapons.  The pretext for the war was a sham.

CNN is causing wars, by not ever pulling back and giving the big picture.

Has the USA used chemical weapons recently?

Lets start with white phosphorous in Fallujah.  We should also talk about DU and the fine powder people breathe.  A lump of uranium as a door stop is not the same thing.  Packaging matters.

CNN won't zoom out and adjust the focus and is therefore causing war.  You can see it on the serious faces.  The journalists and pundits being interviewed know they're the cause of serious and escalating violence.  How do they live with themselves?

CNN turned out to be a terrible idea and Ted Turner is not a hero for creating it.  CNN caved early, when journalists started telling the story of American warriors on the side of the North Vietnamese and how they were attacked with chemical weapons.  CNN caved when attacked for reporting along these lines.  That's when we knew it was in the tool bag of warmongers.

You'll say I'm not being fair in criticizing CNN and not Fox, but Fox was never about news or objective reporting.  CNN has some pretense in that area.  Fox is a joke (a sick joke, but a joke).  Al Jazeera is way better than Fox, as is Russia Today, and I'm not saying either of those is that great.  Being "better than Fox" takes almost no talent whatsoever.

I'm checking out Chicago.  This is a huge North American city, lots of tourists.  I recommend it as a destination.  Do some homework first.  There's plenty of history to appreciate.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wanderers 2013.8.27

Given I'm swamped at work and boning up for a workshop, and given Lew Frederick is a state representative, so there'd be constituents and interested parties galore, I didn't feel I should grab a front row seat.

Lew knows a lot about education and has the same conversations I do a lot of the time.  We were there to learn from him, not me.  I sat on the steps on the west side of the Linus Pauling House, our Wanderers venue for many years.

Then I went home to get something for his legislative assistant, something from her bro who moved to St. Louis recently.  I delivered that item, then went home again, to work on my Python stuff.

Even though billed as commemorating the I Have a Dream speech, I was glad to see no one nostalgia tripping, even though we were oldsters for the most part.

The controversies were today's:  kids getting the message they'll be letting their school down, their families down, everyone, if they don't perform well on high stakes testing.  It's a "corporatization" as Lew puts it, meaning there's no empathy in it, no humanity.  Corporate persons (so-called "personhoods") are literally soulless, and it shows.

Hey, did you catch the recent Harper's article, Wrong Answer: The Case Against Algebra II by Nicholas Baker?

I've been filing my own summary remarks on the matter, revising and extending for the record.
I'll be in Champaign-Urbana, site of University of Illinois, one of the players when it comes to setting the tone and speed of many a high school. I'll be making fun of Algebra II, as usual, not because you have to be smart to learn it but because you have to be dumb. You have to be a sucker for all that musty-dusty stuff that pretends it's state of that art at Musty Dusty High, then it's off to Musty Dusty College. Lots of moola, lots of dough. But do they ever get to the good stuff? A lot of times, no.
That's from a recent posting at the Math Forum.

Long time readers of this blog know I hang out there.

Lew and I go back a long way.  He's had a lot of experience and has met a lot of the players.  I'm glad we had him at Wanderers again, where he's been many times, always welcome.


Wanderers retreat: Joe Arnold, Lew Frederick, Terry Bristol
(June 2007, at Joe's place)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Policy Debates and Advisories

In a recent public speech by a native American and treaty rights activist, I learned of some government official saying "someday" the toxic radioactive waste from Hanford might make it into the ground water.

She pointed out how misleading that comment was, as that day is already long in the past.  People taught to stay ignorant and take their cues from pastoral cattle prod wielders (aka pastors) are not known for their acuity in debate.

Natives confront vast hordes of average know-nothing Americans who take on faith what "the government" tells them.  That leaves them feeling lonely, surrounded by a sea of mindlessness.

Anyway, the ability to discuss radioactivity in the environment in scientific and rational terms begins with simple acceptance.  Nuclear meltdowns have occurred and that era of safety we were promised by some (most are too young to remember) was never backed by the engineering.

PR is rice paper thin sometimes.  If you choose to fall for a false facade, at some point blame yourself, draw that line.  If you're a sucker, suck it up.

However, I'm not into "blame the victim" as a favorite art form.  The innocent people around Chernobyl were simply not in the loop.  Then as now, sensor readings were hard to come by.  I just did a survey of Oregon's public sites and so many of them were saying "we're so sure there's nothing to worry about we're just not taking readings."

That's like students saying, these exercises in our math books have been solved thousands of times by our ancestors (yes, our textbooks are old), the solutions are known and shared in teacher manuals.  Why do you make us slog through solving these problems the solutions to which are already known?  The answer is obvious:  so that you might be ready to put out a fire when it comes to your home.

Just develop the practice of taking readings.  The art of placing sensors, and reading them, is a skill in itself (not that it's always that easy as sometimes your "sensors" are dead birds and fish).

Place sensors in "perfectly normal" areas and practice reading them and proving a reliable source of data.

Find parameters it makes sense to measure and develop a model of how theses parameters inter-relate.

Draw on existing research and resist temptation to become overly secretive about your findings, condemning yet another generation to rediscovering what you already knew.

I am pleased that resort casinos understand the museum industry as a worthy interface between a specialized culture and a lay public.  The Warm Springs Reservation has an excellent museum, as do the Pueblo in Albuquerque.  The interpretive center as an institution makes sense to "Indians" as it would to ETs.

The System of Reservations (aka "jurisdictions" or "zones") which the Federation of States United (FSU) put in place -- I'm getting it slightly wrong, close enough -- is well-positioned within the museum industry to keep educating the public about the ecosystem and its cause and effect networks (its "karmic wheels" as some call 'em, meaning they're super-size big and slow-turning, not human, and/or sometimes they're atomic / subatomic).

Call them science museums if you wish.  OMSI is a good representative.  Where art meets science is in the science of effective presentation, which includes Tufte but also Crumb, Disney, and Dr. Seuss.  We use animation and simulation to impart information.

Not all exhibits need take the same broad path or recruit the same public.  Highways and byways remain useful.  I've got my eye on the Portland Hilton for some esoteric events.

Changing topics a little, I wonder about how the abortion debate would reshape if deformities per pregnancy were on the rise.  I'm not saying that's our world at this moment but imagine the moral debates in such circumstances, wherein viable offspring are a rarity and may have to come from implanted genetic material kept in lead-lined repositories deep within the planet (call it Krypton if that makes you feel any better -- I'm fine with generalizing beyond Earth).

Back to measurement-making and sharing results:  sensor networks are not intrinsically about "worrying" and/or "not panicking" the public.  They're intrinsically more neutral than that, like thermometers and barometers.  Their mere presence is not saying anything about what's expected.  When people with measuring devices show up, or fly instruments over you in drones, they're not necessarily foretelling doom.  They're about providing reliable global data that might be good news as well as bad.  The information may leave you indifferent.  But at least the information is being collected.  "No change" means you're establishing a baseline.

New scouts need to learn to make a fire.  To take a reading is routine.  To log a result is your habit.  Data gathering is something humans do.  If they ask you why you're attending to sensors and sensor data, taking readings, ask them why they're not.  When you monitor your environment, you are "minding your own business" -- don't let them tell you otherwise.  Tell them you're working for a museum, the one that will treasure your data someday.

If you need to focus on the "half full" aspects of the glass, closet pessimist that you are (an "out there" optimist), then subscribe to RSS feeds about happy camper villages where air quality is going up and people are happier with their lives than ever.  I'm not saying you won't find such news if you dig.  I'm subscribed to a few of those channels myself.

Summary statements:

Just don't let yourself off the hook if you prove yourself gullible.  At some level, you need to set your own standards.  Suck it up and move on.  Don't use the shock of finding yourself hoodwinked (fooled), lied to, as an excuse to stop probing.

You have a right to keep puzzling away, trying to think it through, whatever "it" is.  Admit you've been lied to, and you believed, and make that part of your mental model going forward.  That does not mean to never again extend trust.  That's a decision to keep making:  when to trust, when to not.

People lie, some are paid to, and your ability to discern "the story" will be continually challenged.  Accept the challenge.  Remember computer games.  You get to die many times.

If you watched a lot of cop and detective shows, or read those books, you have that scientists' sense that true stories have this advantage over false ones:  they cross-check and omni-triangulate, demonstrate internal consistency, to a much higher standard than cobbled-together postpone-the-day-of-reckoning falsehoods.

The latter (make-believe fabrications) tend to fall apart upon probing, which is why a lot of times it's really up to the prober:  how much do I want to believe this story?

Acknowledge your biases, at least to yourself.  Is it shameful to wish for better living standards for sentient beings?  Was the mistake that you trusted, or that you were let down?  It cuts both ways.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Novel Plots

In the old days, according to Glenn, the gentleman farmer Republican, to some extent mythical in his role as founder of this nation (v.2), had a different relationship with his pharmacist than today, under Obamacare and under administrations in my lifetime (I go back to the Eisenhower-Kennedy transition, the one Col. F. Prouty writes about).

The GFR (say Abe Lincoln) could walk into a log hewn pharmacy and consult directly with the Chinese apothecaries running it.  Ol' doc Watson down the road was for other squeaks and squrims.  You didn't need to bug him for a piece of paper (Rx) or have it faxed over or phoned.

Those days are long gone of course, except in some of the mail eating professions (say psychiatry), where big pharma ships samples to every registered practitioner it might legally mail to, and then some if in Canada (statutes differ from nation to nation, as most are aware).

I'm not knocking trying the samples sometimes, as you're also remiss if you're just pushing to patients with no first hand experience, and is that a psychiatrist you want in your service.  At least rattle-bearing shamans could be counted on to have tried before they'd buy.  Same thing in anthropology:  if you won't drink the kool-aid, what right have you to be "an authority" on these people.

Yes, I'm sampling some long-running debates.  Many plot lines twist and turn around polarities like this, any novelist or screenwriter knows.

Of course some GFR want to turn back the clock and return to the old days, when they had more authority to self treat and self heal.  All this red tape is for bozos, the "boat people" of all varieties who quickly complicated the scene, and the myth. 

This is their agenda behind "legalizing drugs" (which doesn't make much sense given most drugs are already legal, at least the good ones).

Inertia is not on their side though.  Huge staffs of migrant workers make a living interdicting supplies and enforcing various codes.  Customs and borders have always been this way, an opportunity for families to get their fair share.  Call them "bribes" if you must, but there is often risk involved, and the families "on the dole" are proud of their roles in the grander scheme of things.

We could make this about the "pepper trade" if that made it more accessible.  Apparently people got a lot more out of pepper than most of us today, simply because we take our own living standards for granted and are always lusting after the "next big thing", aka whatever next "spice" as they say on Dune.  Again, these plots have been around for awhile.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Visiting The Open Bastion

Company Logo

I've mostly holed up in a corner office, not the one at Lyrik, my HQS for the longest time, as that place has vanished, but somewhere in the same neighborhood.

Today though, I wandered down Hawthorne to Common Ground where I opened a tab.  Bagels and lox plate for lunch, downed with more coffee and a lemon Pellegrino, followed by, more than an hour later, berry pie for dessert.

I tend to treat myself well when slaving, er slaying.  That sounds Buffyesque, intentionally.  I enjoy the resonance.

Dave DiNucci was there, a fellow Wanderer, formerly NASA, a computer geek (with CSC for awhile I'm pretty sure, like Lindsey was before reporting to my office).

Then I wandered back to The Open Bastion and slayed some more.  A first floor walk up, counting ground as T as Italians do.  Tara worked here a lot this summer, recruiting sponsors.

At OSCON she met a young woman crewing a bizmo who boasted she'd be retiring at 23 and "never needing to work again".

That's not the physics meaning of "work", or at least of "energy".  Just to breath is to work.  Gamma rays are doing work.  Work is just change, once you take away its value, a moral and economic quality.

We've been yakking about all this on the PER list, physicists and chemists, with the occasional information theorist, all talking about Entropy, what a mess (smile).  This is the Buffalo University archived list I joined with encouragement from Dr. Bob Fuller.

Patrick was hard at work on some art, which I photographed for this blog post, as it's promoting my workshop or talk or whatever.  I shared with PPUG and Chipy about it, also edu-sig.  There's a group signed up already.


On the way between Common Ground and The Open Bastion, I came upon a colorful kid, tooting his own horn so to speak (I'm not sure if it was his literally, or if borrowed from some temple -- we have a number of those around here).

Little Buddha

I've seen other child buskers on the street recently. You don't have to be an adult to be talented.

Child Busker

Speaking of "little people" as Laurie Todd calls them, I've been thinking more about how to bring new life to the grandparent - grandchild loop. These are the people with time on their hands, and a natural tendency to want to bridge generations.  The people in the middle, the parents, the teenagers, are just too busy, poor them.

I've been thinking about these Internet BizMos (see BizMo Diaries for more on the "business mobile" concept) that travel between "nursing homes" trying to sales pitch adding more from Cyberia.

You want the old folks to catch up, thems that wanna. And so you run like an anthropology course. You encourage talk about social trends (but not too much talk as they'll have time enough to listen to themselves when the van-like thing, the UDO, has departed).  You continually sample the subcultures, letting 'em know what's "out there".

Youtube genres and long-running themes: LOL cats. Fail compilations. Annoying Orange.... Mandelbulbs.  Oh, and yes there might be that so-called erotic stuff.  We could sanitize a cupid site if the home had a policy.  There's a lot of material to get through so it's not like we actually stop at Trevi Fountain.  Just throw your coins for good luck and remember it was real.

I forgot to write, in my review of Monsters University, how much the not-scary guy reminded me of Annoying Orange. Scholars take note.

But we don't just skate along the surface. The Global U, maybe via Cyberia, will help you learn Python too, so you can learn it with your grand kids. Study it together. Not just Python (computer language) but all kinds of things cyber.

Which is not to forsake the "real world" of insects and flowers 'n stuff -- is National Geographic avoiding that world, by only having pictures and not the real thing? Nonsense, right? You do what you can, with the media you're given.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Monsters University (movie review)

As always, it's fun making fun of movies that make fun of real life.  The idyllic college campus in the fall (autumn), the orange color of the leaves... that all makes an impression.

The formula is a standard for kids:  the contradiction.  A shark who's a vegetarian; an airplane afraid of heights (preview); monsters that aren't scary...

There's a place called "work" where the monsters scare children enough to power their world, and a place called "school" where you train for that place called work.  Those deemed unsuitable for the high prestige jobs start getting that message early:  you could never be one of them.  Some of them, in the meantime, have a strong sense of entitlement.  That's a core tension:  the entitled WASP named Sullivan versus the newcomer with a Polish / Eastern European name.

I thought the dean was marvelously scary, perfect for the part.  She was so many people for me.

Don't be fooled kids:  the adults are programming you big time with movies like this.  First there's Smallville, then... wait, Clark never gets into college.  He goes straight to the city paper, The Daily Planet, does he not?  Well, according to the latest version, he works on fishing ships and stuff, while we wait for him to get older.

There's a similar lesson in MU:  if you flunk out, it might be because you're really too good for that place, and if you apply yourself in that Monster Factory instead, you might work your way up, starting from the mail room.  Then you work in janitorial, cafeteria, and before you know it, you're "discovered" and it's just like they said Hollywood would be:  from waitress / waiter to celeb -- and without the expensive Scientology classes.

When the team is losing hope, they study the adults and each finds a role model, a Scarer they might become.  I found it poignant that they had to risk their necks to such a level to get this message, whereas the school, left to its own devices, would demoralize without restraint.

Back to stereotypes, the studious nerds are the butt of jokes at this party school of obviously mediocre quality.  Its grads are trained to just pick on children.  When adults are targeted, the economy proves unable to harness that level of energy.  Adult fear is something too intense and therefore verboten.  As a cartoon by Disney, it's OK to hint about those things, but lets remember some of the scariest people have been nerds, and I mean that in a nice way ("scary" = "bad ass" = "worthy" in this namespace).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Man of Steel (movie review)

I think I'll skip making any critical remarks about the film as a film.  Thoroughly competent, nothing to complain about.  A confidant and comprehensive rendering of the myth.

More I'm just meditating on the whole matrix of filmdom.  Once you've lived to be my age, you've seen a lot of films and recognize the signature patterns.  You see the pattern language.

I want to highlight what I saw as an homage to Marco Spitoni's CodeGuardian, which I've shown often in Saturday Academy classes, as an example of what can be done with rendering and a small competent crew.  The appreciation for film making is there too.  The word "Guardian" is used even as a truck is thrown at an oncoming airplane by some robot -- or close enough.

Like the most recent Star Trek, Into the Darkness, allusions to 911 infuse the crashing building scenes.  We have these views etched in the collective psyche and here they surface.

Contemplating what it would be like to be contacted by another hominid, landing in space ships.  That's etched in the psyche from surface ships landings too.  One day, the Spanish ships were there in the bay, and life was never the same.  Or they came to Plymouth Rock.

Smallville is small town midwest North America, amidst fields and railroads.  Familiar brands fill in the mindscape:  IHOP and Sears.  What time are we in?  Vaguely before now.  There's no concerted attempt to make it the 1950s, but then we don't see cell phones.  The NORAD type place seems way ahead of it's time, as does the satellite.  No international space station.  There's a subtle nostalgia, but only because Superman Comics have that baked in.  They come from that place.

Spending a generous amount of time on Krypton is a good investment I think.  That's a fairly tough angle to take given we have to create a whole world.  Somehow an alien world has got to segue to the hokey uniform and somewhat embarrassing caped look, made fun of in The Incredibles.

A great dream in the chest of our child, caped crusader, jumping up and down in bed, slaying dragons.  We come from there.  Superman is an ego struggling to master being in a body, having senses.  I need to be a hero in the face of anxieties, one of the hardest ones being aging and dying parents, who also seem more like strangers.  The family argues in the truck.  Alien means alienated.  Dad is soon gone, mom more fragile.  We meet Lois in the cemetery, someone willing the share the grief.

My thanks to all the talented people who advanced us to a next iteration.  Good work.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Star Trek: Into the Darkness (movie review)

I'd call this a "meta Star Trek" in that it truly starts over with a new cast, yet gets back to its roots in the collective psyche, where it has its roots in the first place.  The space of comic books, of fantasy, day dreams, children at play.

The Federation has always flirted with military aesthetics, what with the usual male-dominated hierarchy of obsessed-about-rank, rule-governed bureaucrats.  We flirt with this big time, alluding to all that's fashionable in uniforms, a familiar theme in the films.  There's the Darth Vader admiral, wanting to pilot a Death Star in wartime.  His daughter is disgusted.  Savagery just doesn't cut it with the newer generation.

This finding of too much war abhorrent is set early in Star Trek history.  The crew is young and looming war with the Klingons, Cold War foes, would give way to a truce in future chapters, a token Klingon on board.  Universe gets more and more into Civil Rights.  The 1960s fade in the rear view mirror.  But first we need to live through it a little, encountering the Battle Crazed Galactica -- the warrior archetype, frozen in time, eternally a possibility.  The dark father thaws one, a symbolic opening of Pandora's war games again.  We go back to 911, more nutty times.  The audience is not necessarily happy about all this.  So much death and destruction, with so little comic relief.

The comedy is in adhering to the formulas, with a guest appearance from Leonard Nimoy.

There's irony in working hard to sound the themes, even when they're so well known.  Kirk is all too human, a bundle of bravery and intuition, whereas Spock is more geeky but not without dignity.  These characters know how they go together.  More comic relief with the twist though, of Spock in a lover's quarrel.  The original Star Trek was always testing his character in that way somehow.  Jim is bravado and hubris.  Spock is rule-bound.  As aspects of the Personhood (what corporations wish they had), we recognize familiar faces.

The credits salute post-911 vets, a nodding acknowledgement of the dive into militarism the culture experienced, with darth vadery types coming out of the wood work.  There's a claustrophobia in this eternal return.  For all this rushing into the future, it's still so Art Deco, so much our own projection.  Our collective imagination hems us in, knitting us a fabric of spacetime.

The physics is familiar:  the airlessness of space, a suction, its debris, the shedding of heat shielding upon re-entry.  The frenetic parade of planets at the end suggests those comic book origins, the "outer space" of our inner imaginations.  The theme music is boldly operatic.  Universe:  a place to feel at home, but not free from danger.

Friday, August 02, 2013

More Ruminations on OSCON

I try to get to R0ml's talks, and as one of the screeners, I bring my experience of "what's an OSCON".  We like Perl people.  Larry and family like R0ml talks.  So do Alex and Anna (fellow Pythonistas -- she had the Google glasses this year).

This year he was talking about the reflex-conditioning around "secret source" and how it still impacted open source practices.  Aren't "config files" just a holdover from not being allowed to compile in your favorite settings?  It takes less code to say it in source, he showed in slides.  And what about testing?  If you're doing that because the source itself is closed to you, then you're a good little monkey, but studies prove more bugs are found by people reading code with comprehension.

On this last point I could feel audience unease and we had a hand go up.  Defense of testing runs deep and R0ml was uttering deliberate heresies.  Even though we knew that, it was hard to not formulate a come back, right there and then.

As background, I should come clean that I take the podium in favor of "test driven development" for money.  It's a soap box, with examples, and I know in the business world that strict TDD was never king of the hill.  What's TDD?  You actually write the tests of your code before you write the code, and then your code is all about passing your own tests.  It's like playing chess against yourself.  The testing is looking for weaknesses.  You do counter-intelligence against your developer self, and that makes your developer self develop, which is why TDD is a valuable plank in the "agile" platform.

The other talk I've been thinking about is the one on Race and Racism.  She was good at making us endure a little awkwardness as the theory is Race is best confronted with such a willingness.  Your first moves as a ballerina, as a wannabe, might make you feel awkward, given you're a blundering oaf.  Shrek trying to play Tinkerbell.

However much I appreciate the Gibbsian / visceral approach to self analysis, I think we should also provide road maps, topologies for these topographies, ala Euler (I'm using these names with a Buckyesque spin).  She was always asked "what are you" in terms of race and she was force fed the usual answer of "mixed" having had a "white" father and a "black" mother.  The idea of "mixed" implies "pure" a kind of phenotype, and then we're back to the five, seven or eleven "races of man" depending on which Bible-informed Social Darwinism or other Anglophone pseudo-science we happen to be reading.

As I was saying at NPYM, I really don't trust the Anglophones to puzzle their way free of the Race concept, because they base so much on it.  The investment is still there.  Getting "beyond" race does not mean deconstructing the concept as anthropologists, but being "tolerant" of other races and such bull crap, buying into the basic premise, which is there's some essence or blood substance we're keeping track of, and fractional bookkeeping applies.

1/32nd Native American is supposed to make sense.  And it does, after a fashion, when it comes to family inheritance, legal rights and so forth.  Membership in a tribe may hinge on proving that 1/32nd is "real".

But this is not really genetics.  The genetic code has no specific "race" gene and the kind of mixing that goes on is not captured by our feeble words like "white", "black", "yellow" and "brown" (or "blue" if you think aristocrats are divinely "blue bloods").  Those are kindergarten concepts, for politicians who choose to avoid science.  But they're also very embedded in English, these concepts, which taints it and limits its utility.