Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Blue Dino

Monday, September 25, 2006

More About Santa Claus

He's been coming up a lot lately, Santa has.

One of our Wanderers isn't welcome in his daughter's home, or something like that, because he tries to disabuse his grandkids of any Santa Claus nonsense. He has that wound up with religion, and how "all twelve" (?) can't be simultaneously true.

Today at the Bagdad, Trevor was talking about this artist who planted live crabs with Barbie Doll ™ parts strapped on, in a place where kids lined up and asked for stuff from Santa. The point was to subvert the department store's moneymaking, "asking Santa" being management's clever gimmick for getting customers in the right mood for shopping.

This was considered a disruptive maneuver, even for an artist, but one bystander said "I'm glad someone is finally doing this."

I think it's the spectacle of luring we don't like (ensnaring, baiting and switching). But the truth about Santa Claus isn't supposed to be disappointing, even when we deliver the punch line, that mom and dad love you, as do your friends and relations, and they express their love through this multi-faceted story, which says more about their love than mere physical things under a dead or dying tree could really get across.

Telling stories is not in and of itself criminal, but the life blood of a culture. This is why we hate seeing children lied to, by this target of Fuller's Obnoxico meme.

Like, I understand this guy's integrity, about Santa not being real and all that. But the rejoinder is "reality isn't the whole story around here, and never has been."

So what's so "anti-science" about this attitude? Science is for compentently managing the reality part, and we take that very seriously, don't believe in being stupid about it.

We want awake and alert scientists, want to be them ourselves, doing intelligent (and we hope mostly safe) experiments that teach us important and valuable lessons. Endlessly repeating the same mistakes is not what we signed up for.

So let there be no doubt where I'm coming from at least: I think empiricism is a valuable ism.

It doesn't follow that religion needs to get in the way of this pro-sciences agenda. On the contrary, many a religion is augmented with a set of sciences and vice versa.

Our mythical awareness doesn't have to go to war with the literal truth if it doesn't want to, i.e. the operator in U = Meta*Physical (a Fuller School teaching) is meant to be both/and inclusive, not the sign of an internal contradiction.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


photos by K. Urner,
w/ Olympus Stylus 500
click for larger views

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Focal Points

I think I'll swipe the "focal points" lingo and smatter a few for the benefit of our cadres (not a word I like, right down there with comrades -- probably a translation thing).

Addressing my coworker competitors then, I have the following four focal points to propose:
  • Pascal's Triangle, with appended ethnography, tracing it wherever we find it (like in Lost).

  • The Concentric Hierarchy (you knew that'd be here, now didn't ya?). A & B modules in other words. MITEs.

  • The NCLB Polynomial, tying algebra to geometry, with lots of connections to the art world and design science.

  • The Mandelbrot Set, perfect for learning about convergence and divergence in the complex plane (valuable in precalculus in other words).
I realize this seems to leave a lot out, but bear with me, as I'm going to explain why this constellation will help our cause -- and forgive me for choosing Python if that's not your forte (let's get with the cross-training -- I'm always polling for high quality HDTV Rubycasts (not much of a selection these days)).

:: Pascal's Triangle ::

Pascal's Triangle will give us sequences, the starting point for our Python generators segment. Right after we visit Functions, we look at these "state remembering engines" that fire off cyclicly, and remember state between cycles.

Here's a Pythonic way to generate Pascal's Triangle line by line:

generating Pascal's Triangle
(also known to Chinese)

The triangular and tetrahedral numbers are column-wise side by side; our first generators in other words (a little easier than this one).

So here's our link to the cuboctahedral (aka icosahedral) growth curve i.e. to 10 * F * F + 2 (F = Frequency) -- the formula of Fuller's that H.S.M. Coxeter liked so much (provable with high school level math). Sloane's Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences becomes our friend at this point (e.g. cite A005901).

1, 12, 42, 92, 162...

:: The Concentric Hierarchy ::

The concentric hierarchy sets the stage for so much later science that we have to not postpone. This is "without further ado" material that any gnu math teacher must master.

The A and B mods themselves might come later in the intro (I teach 'em in sixth grade), but the basic nomenclature around polyhedra, plus Descartes' Deficit and Euler's V + F = E + 2 need to be there from the beginning (OK to postpone Descartes until you've gone over the Babylonian stuff i.e. 360 degrees, planar triangles having 180, tetrahedron having 720 (the deficit)).

Basically, this is our launch pad for computer graphics careers. You've got XYZ embedded (with optional Hypercross), and our unit volume Coupler right at the origin, at (0,0,0) -- or at (0,0,0,0) if using Chakovians -- thereby giving segue to our four IVMs (R.Z. Chu et al).

Yes, these are abstruse college-level topics, but they all have the Concentric Hierarchy in common (OK to say "Cosmic Hierarchy" at least among hippies). And yes, we're still working on your toon library, stocking it with goodies.

:: The NCLB Polynomial ::
"pentagon math"

The NCLB Polynomial, a quadratic equation with two real roots, is a jump off point into both algebra and geometry. On the algebra side, we meet up with Pascal's Triangle again, and Newton's Binomial Theorem (since rediscovered by other whiz kids his age at the time).

"generating a bell curve"

On the geometry side, we get phi, which also has many interesting algebraic properties. To further tie things together, Pascal's embeds the Fibonacci Sequence (a first Python generator) which sequence converges to 1/phi as follows:

"converging to pow(phi,-1)"

From here, you could jump to any number of connected topics, including to Ramanujan's Pi Engines for more advanced generator drill and practice (e.g. consider using Python's Decimal type for extended precision, for Phi as well).

:: The Mandelbrot Set ::

Kids have a natural curiosity about fractals, as do some adults who still remember the pop art explosion, come across the great artwork on the web.

This is unabashedly eye candy, yes, but exploring the Mandelbrot Set also reinforces key concepts we want our graduates to take with them into their college experience: convergence; divergence; and the complex plane.

This is what'll make 'em ready for Calculus, which, per UCSC's Ralph Abraham's disciplined pioneering, should now probably be taught with a strong dynamical systems bias (there's a similar trend in statistics, undermining the status quo).

Once again, you can use a Python generator for your converging or diverging sequences:

"generator at c"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More Compositions

:: daring a candle ::

:: a coupler ::

:: low frequency bizmo ::

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Quick Account

I sampled the gym today, running in place for just 30 minutes, then whipped through a Trader Joe's in time to drop off the frozen goods (including salmon for dinner) before heading on down Division.

The new Coxeter bio arrived from Amazon, and I looked in the index for Fuller overlaps. No mention of Applewhite (part of the fullerene story). I found some juicy bits though, which I read after watching some Lost with Tara.

I can't really fault the author (to whom I apologize for earlier referring to as "he") for steering clear of Synergetics, as this is a book about H.S.M. Coxeter and his geometry, not about Bucky Fuller's philosophy, although Ludwig Wittgenstein is mentioned, even depicted (pg. 107).

Wittgenstein thought mathematicians didn't usually make strong philosophers -- true of his student Coxeter (whom he liked, plus used his room for meetings) but so what? He was a true King of Geometry and ain't that plenty?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sculpture (with found objects)

"some weird North American religion?"
(click for closer view)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Edgefield: Home of the Black Rabbit

"a peaceful view"

The Water Tower

Judy, Sam, Alexia, Tara, Dawn

photos by me
and the Olympus Stylus 500

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chatting With Mom

Mom and I had an interesting conversation this morning. She was joking about her disabilities and I was exulting how sharp she was, and credited the military-industrial complex for keeping her sane. She fights it all day, tells it to disarm. Keeps her in shape.

Meanwhile, down the hall, I'm like this pro DARPA person, because when Guido was a nobody, and brilliant (now he's a somebody, still brilliant), his bold Computer Programming for Everybody manifesto attracted DoD attention. What a boon to democracy it would be, to have Americans at least (more if willing) computer literate.

Here's an article from Salon
about what happened instead: teachers actually dropped all mention of programming for the most part, and now maybe think they'll get away with blaming the PC engineers.

Sorry to disappoint
, but the freedom to download and run free languages has never been greater. If your curriculum is in trouble, don't come whining to the engineers about it. They've met you more than half way. Think of some other excuse?

That being said, we have a long way to go with improving the technology. That's why we recruit so avidly, hoping to bolster the civilian sector with high caliber talent. We need next generations to help us make life better. We're not done yet, not even close.

But where will this talent come from, if we ignore golden opportunities to educate when it matters, before they've become hardened-in-their-ways adults, possibly all Eloi, hardly a Morlock among them. That'd be bad for our time, and we don't need any "time machine" to tell us that.

So anyway, Mom and I basically agreed we're working at opposite ends of the same spectrum. I deal with dark sider tooth/fang stuff all day, while she gets to work with wise women (I'm not saying which is easier). She's glad my campaigns are going well, both HP4E and 4D.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Merging Traffic Patterns

The painters are back, doing a smart job. We're operating on schedule.

Mom's United flight from O'Hare was late, but lets face it, this many people flying around the world is a dream come true as well, a case where futurism paid off. You'll see Amish on Catalina (I did, visiting from a cruise ship), and isn't that a blessed thing. Mom's trip originated in London. Now she's back in her office, joining in conference calls.

I drove out to PDX to retrieve her. Our curved IVM archway, protecting us from the rain while suspending two bridges, is an engineering marvel. Speaking of which (rain), that's what it's doing right now (raining). And yet the painters don't care. They like living in a rainforest (our SiliconForest is one of those too).

Dawn uses the iPod to listen to dharma talks, meaning I get to lurk in from time to time. I also have Dyxy Chyx Not Ready to Make Nice music video (a strong performance) and EBN's EBCS, now a Google Video in low rez.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More on Project Earthala

From earlier today, responding to some talk about what a disaster global warming might be, in real human terms:

Re: [wwwanderers] Global warming: practical approach

This is where I usually start saying biting things about Economics as a discipline, proposing that General Systems Theory (GST) is less likely to feed a collapse, because more science-savvy in so many dimensions (ergo less prone to breakdown).

But that'd be for a whole 'nuther thread.

Anyway, I do think the ongoing high price of oil will help with my horse camps in the Arizona desert, where we do these permaculture domes and pretend we're these hippie Quakers, except with Internet and flatscreens, and biodiesel dirt bikes.

Oh, and we talk about Synergetics like it was the Bible or sumthin' sometimes quoting chapter and verse -- i.e we talk like buckaneers (even eat BBQ sometimes).

Most people just visit as tourists. We're kinda cliquey sometimes.


There's a pun lurking here, in that such ecovillage communities might likewise occur in South Africa, home to various "click languages" such as Xhosa.

As for the Project Earthala reference, I've got lots of other posts and allusions: [1][2]... [3] (some samples).

Other recent Wanderers posts focus on Chaco Canyon, and how global warming might not have been a big crisis/calamity for the people living through it back in the 1100s.

Tourist traffic tapered off and people went on to other businesses.

Civilizations, especially highly developed ones, don't always panic and fail when the climate changes. Some smoothly transform.

I also look at the case of Holland, which has a lot at stake where sea levels are concerned. I think we should fight alongside the Dutch, if their homeland is imperiled, in as smart a way as our global climate models will allow (and then some).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Belmont Street Fair

electric car prototype, 1921

more recent specimen

proud of her dog

the happy face of downtown

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


"privately enterprising"
(photo by K. Urner)

Obviously I consider my skills as a teacher bankable assets, and indirectly, so does my bank, in that they model me keeping an income sufficient to pay down the mortgage and maintain high "credit worthiness" (which computers keep track of).

My "earning capacity," along with my wife's (a dual-income household) allowed us to build equity in the house, typically the principal physical asset of a middle income family, next to the car and/or truck (no ATV or jet ski in our case).

Such physical assets are also principal assets of the neighborhood bank, which models average incomers as incapable of financing a home's purchase without credit, meaning a huge markup on the sticker price, but one you tend to not see unless you run the spreadsheets, and realize how good it is to be on the receiving end of exponential interest rates (where the "rich people" live, a lot of 'em bankers).

Banks get to mortage the same house multiple times, as people in varying financial straits assume title and secure financing. Homes are like DVDs in the video store, watched over and over and over again. It's a secure way to make a living, if you're in the business of loaning for homes.

Part of why LAWCAP fought Bucky so much is he derided this system of governance as somewhat pathetic, as it assumes dire straits for so many. But that's how LAWCAP tends to operate: overwhelming lack of life support is just a given. "We don't fight that state of affairs, we make money off it."

Not a popular strategy among the poor, and in a model democracy the government might take a different direction. That presents a puzzle: how to intimidate enough people into supporting the low living standards standard. You need a lot of ideology in overdrive, keeping people thinking straight and paying those mortgages.

Anyway, part of my responsibility as a stakeholder in this home (me and the bank share this asset), is to see to its upkeep. To that end, we just had some painters come by to make a bid. The "down to the wood" approach is the premium ten years guaranteed way to go, but most middle incomers not surprisingly go for the "feathered edge" (scape and power wash, but if the paint's tightly bonded, leave it be and paint over). The bid for the latter service was like $4,500 give or take, more like $11,500 for the former, with 10% off if we commit within the next three days (likely we will, after checking against other bids -- I liked their energy).

Now if I were a really good capitalist tool, I'd be using my intelligence to venture capitalize in various corporate ventures. By age 48 (my current age), I'd have a track record of having bet wisely and earned good returns. I might have lots of money, which I'd subtly advertise with various lifestyle cues, and various dependents, friendly companies (affiliates) would want to piggy-back their money on mine, i.e. let me manage their investments for them, so they could get rich the way I did.

What with a Princeton degree, no doubt some social connections, perhaps membership in one or more clubs, I could be living on easy street by now, with several homes, several cars, and a lot of satisfied (well off) customers.

However, I made a career building skills in the not-for-profit (aka public) sector, trying to think ahead the way Bucky did, anticipating new kinds of need, even new kinds of science. This is called "high risk" venture capitalizing, closer to what "crackpot inventors" seem to do. Some of them get rich, but mostly they end up remorseful, for having squandered so much energy on cold fusion or whatever.

But from my point of view, Synergetics was more of a "sure thing" in terms of its philosophical sophistication. I could see a bright future, if I only stuck to my guns, which is what I did, and I don't regret it. Now I'm this hot shot gnu math teacher, respected by my peers.

OK, gotta go now. Time to open a new bank account for my daughter. She had a summer job this year, earned some savings. Now I'd like to wire her account to a debit card and iTunes, so she can pay for her own music and video iPod downloads. She'll still get her allowance and all that, but I'd like her to consolidate and have a sense of managing her own affairs.

Back from the bank: snapped that cool bizmo on the way home (above picture).

Transaction: cheque from pays for Portland Knowledge Lab's rent this month. I did some work on the web site (still very minimalist at this point).

Addendum: we also plunked down for two years of orthodonture for Tara; we like and trust Dr. Joe. Tonight: joining Wanderers on Barry's boat (Barry the banker).


Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Lost City (movie review)

We gathered for BBQ with other Friends, three married couples enjoying a warm bug-free evening in the backyard. Larry and Susan went to Hollywood Video to make a selection, and came back with this R-for-violent tale of a family torn asunder by the Cuban Revolution of 1959 (about 8 months after my birth in Chicago).

Instead of the mellow "chick magnet Che" of Motorcycle Diaries, this time it's "psycho Che" already with many friends murdered. But neither he nor Fidel get much focus in this flick. The main character is a dinner jacketed Cuban on the Meyer Lansky side of the fence.

Lansky (played by Dustin Hoffman) gives our hero the creeps mind you, but as the owner of a successful music club, he has little choice but to rub elbows with organized crime which, upon being evicted from Havana, headed straight for Las Vegas (the movie alludes to this winged migration).

The pretty girl is like a Marilyn figure, wanting to use her head like a man's, to play on the world historical stage, even if only around a rotund Russian ambassador for starters. She wants to be someone in this life, not just someone's lover or wife. I respected her courage.

But the male principal, a man of principles, was not about to share her with a revolution that, from his perspective, had utterly destroyed his own family, leaving only heartbreak and remorse in its wake. Cuba as a "saxophone free zone" really sucked (and yes, so did the Belgian Congo). New York held more promise (that statue really helps).

But then, most Cubans didn't have "New York" as an option. The film isn't really focused on the lower decks of this particular Titanic.

Dawn's O2 went out half way through. She switched tanks but forgot to dial a level, and so breathed unassisted for an hour, leading to some chest pain towards the end. She enjoyed the film but, as with V for Vendetta, was put off by the violence level.

Maybe Bill Murry is what keeps this film watchable. He breezes through as the writer-comedian, perhaps emblematic of the screenwriter's viewpoint. He pokes fun at all players, out of familiarity more than fear, like some other-worldly being. He typifies high artistry, the kind of thing these high rolling bosses really traffic in anyway (all of them seek quality).

There's a lot of theater in politics, a lot of politics in theater. This film takes a raw reality and transmutes it into something worth watching, even if oft times unpleasant to contemplate.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Back to School

"dwelling machine rendering"
(by Andrew Owens)

"a child's workspace"
(photo by Dad)