Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (movie review)

Greg Palast strikes again with an in-depth look at what happens when high powered database tools, such as SQL (Structured Query Language), fall into the hands of politicians.

As an SQL user myself and someone with experience with joining tables, I feel a bit like an architect or engineer after my discipline gets accused of not knowing how to build high rises.  Of course we know that outer joins on first name, last name, skipping middle name or including it, are not going to mean anything regarding double voting across state lines.

Apparently a bunch of Mickey Mouse astroturf organizations have been pandering to the spoiled gliterati with a kind of pseudo data science snake oil, as an answer to their prayers.  The sucker rich have willingly coughed up millions, at fundraisers and so on, to underwrite a dream-come-true gold plated voter suppression scam called CrossCheck.

The overall design is nothing new but requires serious computer power to do its work. The scam also depends on willing minions in charge of voter laws, and a spineless Supreme Court (which we've enjoyed for quite some time, witness Citizens United), working in cahoots with pretend data scientists to break the (former) law of the land.

Because the fronts look so corporate, no one suspects organized crime, except the very few paying close attention.  Corporate media look the other way as their job is to manufacture consent according to sponsor preferences.

If you're watching closely, the sleight of hand is not even that clever and mostly depends on journalists not behaving like Greg Palast, calling out the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, and Paul Singer, whom he dubs "the vulture" (clearly a leading villain in this film).

Rumors about "double voting" on a massive scale get pushed out through social media, getting voters to pass strict photo ID laws tailor made for racial profiling and discrimination.

Require DMV ID (Department of Motor Vehicles) and then close the DMVs in red-lined neighborhoods. These tricks are not new.

Unfortunately, these uber-rich people schemes came at a time when the USA was already fragile. This time the Tea Party plus Trump Train wrecking ball combo may have succeeded in shredding the final veil.

We're living in some "USSA" now, new territory and one in which Washington DC enjoys a precarious claim to legitimacy, what with the vultures closing in from every side.

Uncle Sam is broke, and all sold out to the highest bidder.  The Pentagon now brokers mercenaries for hire. But is that new?  "War is a racket" said Smedley (read on).

I'm not saying the USA couldn't reboot itself somehow -- at Project VOTE! we tried to include the disenfranchised (I worked for Americans for Civic Participation the year Jesse Jackson ran for president), after the ERA had gone down to defeat (as est grads, a sort of cult, we'd been warned in our Graduate Review that the ERA's failure in the 1980s was the beginning of the end).

We'd need to finally face the truth about national elections: that we've never yet had a free and fair one (those without women, or black people won't count), but still might like to someday, per some MLK inspired dream future.

We might like to live in a democracy one day.

Politicians have been unable to deliver one for quite awhile now, however.

We still enjoy the museums.

Palast has more punch than Michael Moore in some ways, but we need not view one as working at the expense of the other.  They bring a complementary (stereoscopic) view of what some call class warfare.  Add Yes Men for higher satire.

Palast is more a technologist in digging in to the flim-flam shenanigans, the abuse of modern day Hollerith machines.

Like Moore, he's looking at the heartland, and America's heart, which the billionaires have finally broken.

As a logistics guy for Occupy, I remember all the signs about Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler, a folk hero of the Hooverville generation.  WWI vets were being screwed out of their pensions and president Hoover sent in MacArthur to break them up.  Butler thought MacArthur was an incredible jerk.

FDR and Eleanor stood up for the working stiffs after that, and corporate America, calling it socialism, hatched a Business Plot to do him in, which Smedley then exposed.

Congress was uncomfortable about it, as indeed buying congresspeople is not hard to do.  The Business Plot was real enough, but this wasn't the age of television, and people forgot about the possibility of a coup -- until the JFK assassination some years later.

Said Business Plot may have been frustrated temporarily, but as we read in Critical Path, the long, slow cannibalization of the USA by lawyer-capitalism continued in earnest post WW2.

The military-industrial meme-plex took over and slowly but surely sucked the remaining life from the USA, leaving this pale shadowy USSA, the soulless monster the Beltway Bandits built.

Now their puppet-zombie stumbles around on the world stage, bombing inanely and polluting self destructively, the proverbial chicken with no head.  No one believes this creature has much in common with anything the Founding Fathers had a hand in.  There's simply no disbelief left to suspend.

Where we go from here is unclear.

We've seen the USSR break up without horrendous turmoil.  The nation-state system itself appears to have dissolved throughout the Middle East.  The demise of the USA leaves a power vacuum for sure.

Is that a bad thing? Perhaps humanity is entering a new phase of its history.  Time will tell.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Remembering Magnus

Magnus Wenninger was 91 when I first met him, still doing stairs plenty, very spry.  He gladly gave David Koski and I the tour of his beloved campus, sharing about his life and world.  He was a priest, or monk as he sometimes called himself, always humble.

DK got to go back to that campus for the recent memorial service, following the rituals of his Catholic sect. David went with Tom Ruen, who had worked on the Wikipedia entry for Magnus, having been a fan for many years.

Father Wenninger made paper polyhedrons, designed other geometric objects (such as sculptures) and is often cited in the literature for has basic "how to" publications.

David called me earlier today to share how impressed he was by the service, by the caliber of the campus and the teachers who work there.

A bunch of us have been celebrating Magnus on Facebook, which has niches for geometry buffs for sure.  David and I are both in the "tetravolumes" camp, meaning we've been influenced by a specific branch of 1900s thought.

Tracing ethnicity through the spread of memes, more than through the spread of genes, is fairly commonplace in anthropology.  Getting the "meme" meme anchored in the first place, as a placeholder in cybernetics (super to memetics) didn't happen overnight.

David and I will say "IVM" and "super RT" (for a Rhombic Triacontahedron of a specific relative size) in ordinary conversation, much as when doctors engage in shoptalk relating to some pathology and/or anatomy.  Magnus was an initiate in such a partially overlapping namespace.

I'll continue to learn about Magnus Wenninger as his life gets reflected in the lives of others, and back to me, as we continue moving forward in time.

Much more becomes known in retrospect, whereas "right now" is always the eternal mystery.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pop-up Pyramid

Popup Pyramid

There's still some ambiguity, one could say by design, in what Pyramid means, even just as a shape, never mind as an artifact.

The artifact provides the default meaning: square base, for five facets in all (base + four sides).

However in mathematics texts we learn of the n-sided pyramid, meaning a triangular base as a lower limit, and no upper limit on how many uniform sides, to approach a perfect circle, a cone.

We have a special name for the hexahedron of all equal angles and edge lengths: the cube.  We might say "simplex" for tetrahedron if we want to sound savvy, but that still might not mean regular.  "Regular tetrahedron" takes a long time to say and write.

One of our andra- / peda- gogical devices is the book with triangular covers, open flat, with a single triangular page flapping back and forth, a stiff flap, its tip arcing through 180 degrees (or pi radians) to define complementary tetrahedra.

David Koski and I put some of the math in the cloud as open source, in the liberal tradition of academic sharing. The only unusual aspect of this exhibit is the option to measure in regular tetrahedron units, when tabulating volumes.  Also, Quadrays get used in the unit tests.

Today I was working with an elementary school math teacher / tutor on the Pythagorean Theorem and its ramifications, which dovetailed nicely with my work with the @property decorator in Python.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Three Bucky Tapes

Note: the low viewer numbers bolster my debate club argument that the US has no public schools anymore (or we'd see more evidence of serious homework).

The Business Plot (cite Smedley Butler) succeeded awhile back. We'll see how that goes.

If we get a working USA OS someday, maybe we could start some genuine public schools as a pilot.

How about more boarding schools, more overseas travel opportunities, and more same sex options, which is traditional in schooling.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Darwin's Birthday

White House

My Facebook study circle was about Racism again, where it came from, where it's going. That BBC documentary sure was powerful. The timing was perfect, seeing how Darwin's speculative science soon became an "ism" as in Darwinism, and in the rear view mirror we see Social Darwinism as a fork, disowned by current science. Or call it Eugenics for old times sake.

I got Lew Scholl involved in the conversation. Some of my comments:
I'd say we have a history of using physiological cues to guess about a person's ethnicity a lot, and ethnicity is in turn influenced by what the physiological cues are. The genetic (hardware) stuff is becoming less and less reliable as a guide to what ethnicity (software) is "running" a person (habits of thought and ethnicity go together). If I see a white skinned person I think "might believe in / think about races" but I can't be sure. Once I learn they're from the US, then almost certainly they think in terms of races quite a bit.

In the US they're always shoving check boxes in your face and asking you to check which one identifies your race. When I see those check boxes, I know I'm home in my racist homeland.

Same pretty much no matter what your skin color: if you grew up watching US TV and reading US media, you're programmed a certain way, with race a big part of that. What I think of as "US bots" are stereotypically racist, as in always inquiring as to what race she might be, and is that a mixed race child and so on, all core to their homeland soap operas.  
I've been talking with a Process Institute guy about my Global U exchange truck driver program. We don't have to worry about the visa situation yet as we're still working in tandem with Hyperloop planners / testers to understand what the traffic flows might be.  I'm not a transportation engineer but did work with a master, albeit briefly, Jim Hauer. We both used Visual FoxPro to cut our teeth.

I trouble-shot a Windows 10 not working with HP 5510 all-in-one today, for a neighbor. Speaking of which, the little white bungalow house next to ours, slated for demolition, has won a reprieve and today was repainted (street facing side). The for sale sign is up already, people visiting. We're in a real estate bubble in my area code (97214).

The US went out on a limb putting so much stock in anti-communism, when history shows ideologies have a relatively short half life. With Russia re-grounding as Eastern Orthodox, a lot of calories have gone out of the NATO thing. With Trump's feinting to cut it off (the Treasury just passes through borrowings at this point, servicing customers, so Uncle Sam is hardly in a position to be profligate), we learned more about the fracture lines in this somewhat fragile alliance.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Trucking Again


The good folks on QuakerQuaker (Q2) are maybe wondering if I imagine funding my partners' truck fleets from that Quaker Sharia bank headquartered in Istanbul. My answer: why not? We have Halal-compliant banking in Whittier, a Quaker town (historically: the poet John Greenleaf Whittier was a Quaker). This idea that a car might be financed in only one way is gringo-jingoistic. You might get a steep discount for buying it in bitcoin, in some schemes.

The "truck fleets" are Global U fleets, even if sporting the logos of private companies. From a curriculum design viewpoint, you're giving resume and transcript credits where due, to all your work-study students, all several billion of them.

Motion Studies

Not any one database does all the work, I grant you that, and many schools are not even trying.  But my sense is if you get from Istanbul to Kabul by truck, as one of the drivers (apprentice at first), with stops along the way to immerse yourself in various cultures and languages, you're likely deserving of a Bachelors at least, possibly a PhD. We just need to design the programs, as the trucking is already there ("work with the grain" is our mantra).

By working backwards from an open borders civilian economy, with lots of interstate-style freeways, lots of truck stops, we hope to show the way forward to an enticing-enough future to keep so many Americans out of the mercenary militias and dependent on Iron Mountain for their daily bread. The US is a chief exporter of economic refugees in the form of "million dollar men".

More capitalists, fewer economic refugees, with recognized CO status (thanks to membership in Quaker and/or Sufi sects) is not a prerequisite for having a more prosperous global economy, but might catalyze its happening faster. The Iron Mountain is dragging us down and holding us back, with the basic Bucky stuff only taught in the highest ranks, if at all.

To espouse principled objections to use of outward violence, let alone nuke weapons, is hardly a mark of a kook. Quakers have held this position for almost four hundred years. On the contrary, those cults who insist on acting out as a matter of right and/or entitlement, seem among the least stable, mentally. Their grasp on power appears problematic at best.

That Quaker Sharia bank in Istanbul was science fiction last I checked, but then science fiction differs from speculation and investment banking in degree, not in kind. That's if your science fiction is able to except a boost of science without breaking. In Martian Math, we talk about the S-to-F ratio (Science / Fiction).

Trucking Families

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Class Notes

Relative Volumes with Beans

Art students come to school eager to draw, paint and sculpt nudes, with rented subjects, friends, or each other, so my class is a relatively boring affair by many accounts, with all its skeletal outlines of duals and what-not. But lets remember it's not either / or and we wouldn't have flesh without bones to hang it on.

The bones of which I'm speaking are the metaphysical rods of the IVM and XYZ, two space-filling scaffoldings we'd like to relate smoothly. To that end, we isolate the quintessential cube of Cartesian science and cast it next to the IVM's home base tetrahedron, the edge-lengths of which likewise define the octahedron voids in this matrix.

I'll abbreviate making that bridge as I've done extended presentations on just that topic in other venues, and go straight to the dual of said home base tetrahedron. I color code the two intersecting tetrahedrons black and orange, which goes with Princeton, tigers, Halloween, OSU and no doubt many other worthy themes.

Stella Octangula

One needs to start somewhere with the coloring, or not. I've gone with green for cube, red for octahedron, and blue for rhombic dodecahedron, of volumes 3, 4 and 6 respectively. Yellow for the cuboctahedron (20). Then in my accompanying text and symbolic formulae, I'm able to use matching coloration for the font.

The aforementioned four-fold crystalline shapes then need to work in some other prime numbers, most notably more 5, which we accomplish visually with a Jitterbug Transformation (JT). The cuboctahedral and icosahedral number sequences are the same, thanks to the ball-count-preserving JT, possible with any hollow layer.

The minimalist JT provides a back-bone transformation for the canonical suite, out to the two-frequency Cube of volume 24. Once "frequency" is established we're ready for the space-time realm, a place of energy vectors (inertial flows). Pre-frequency is more Platonic.

Art students don't need the whole of Physics, with its energy conservation, spelled out there and then. More of that comes in film school, wherein a "lights, camera, action frame" pd (in Planck units, a momentum for a distance) goes by in a time (pd/t = E = energy buckets), at a frame rate (E/t = power).

Get them to electric light and paint pigments, RGB, CYMK, and you're well on your way to that art degree. Maxwell's Equations might be in some optional reading section?

In making these notes, I'm not saying we shouldn't do Physics when introducing the concentric hierarchy. Probably the classic set of opening moves is through icosahedral symmetry to the micro-architecture of the viral capsomeres, then on to buckyballs, nanotubes and graphene (diamond, graphite...).

The sequence 1, 12, 42, 92... gets in early, with the thought that "shape" reflects the prime number composition of the first term (2PN**2 + 2), whereas the second term (+2) suggests polar pairing, axial spin. The first term diverges as a 2nd power, showing surface growth, which integrates (accumulates) as a 3rd power volume count  (1, 13, 55, 147...).

They're all expected to know XYZ, sometimes known as Fermatian coordinates as well. Next to those, the Chakovian coordinate system (Wikipedia: Quadray coordinates) makes a brief appearance, so obscure, so esoteric, so underground.

Artists, including comic book artists, lap this stuff up, so they might sometimes impress their math major friends with something somewhat surprising. Artists like to jump into the limelight and perform feats. Many architects are likewise into show business.

New Fountain Downtown

Thursday, February 02, 2017


Servo Mechanisms

Per my recent post to the edu-sig archive, part of the mailman empire, I'm enjoying the company of Holden Web this week, a UK based company, the principal of which is part of Python's "deep government" (not that it has one, more in a Monty Python sense). Actually Steve isn't self branding as Holden Web these days, but was when we met. On his resume at least.

Back in the day, Steve helped get Pycon off the ground, now trademarked and a global currency. The Python Software Foundation had the benefit of his input, and chairmanship, for some years. These days he's emeritus, and still a huge fan of the language.

Apropos of Steve's "weightiness" as Quakers might say, he'll be the guest on my closed circuit Python TV show this evening, produced out of California with studios in Portland. He's got a hardware device to show off, a Python API to variable speed propellers. With some luck, we'll get a camera on his apparatus for the group tonight.

Earlier this week (yesterday), I took an OLPC XO to a fifth grade classroom and gave students an opportunity to try connecting it to the school's Wifi. The GUI is way graphical, and dubbed Sugar, coded in Python atop Linux is my understanding.

I was not directly involved with Sugar Labs, however I do continue the Turtle Graphics tradition, as shown in one of my blog-embedded Codester applications (fingers crossed those servers stay in business). I received both XOs from Juliet and Jerome and featured them prominently in my Photostream.  Here's a link to one of my favorites (I still give money to this organization).

Steve and I led a Python for Teachers workshop in Chicago one year. I came at my subject from a background in philosophy, not straight computer science, and put a somewhat different spin on things as you might learn from the Youtubes.

My other guest hail from St. Louis and have hosted me during two year-apart trips to the Missouri, Illinois, Indiana heartland. I sometimes share pictures of their two greyhound dogs on Facebook. I'll leave it as a "crossword puzzle" to obtain identities, if not already in the know.