Monday, June 30, 2008

Dumbing It Down

There's really no attempt in these articles to discuss Synergetics in any way, the invention behind the inventions. And yet it contains such simple breakthroughs: a way to think more coherently about gyroscopes, a way to organize polyhedra in a memorable manner, lots of cool graphics.

But given the colleges and universities have this anti-Bucky boycott going, it's not surprising that journalists haven't the time or wherewithal to ponder deeper questions, such as why aren't we sharing any of this information on television?

Headline: ancient Greeks made some wrong turns, Euclideans especially, getting all rectilineal in their analysis, whereas nature is more into triangles, so now we've got some serious "bugs" in our "western civ programming" that make us awkwardly incompetent. Will we fix them in time? Will we give our kids a clue?

Too hot potato maybe, not topics the news editors are prepared to tackle, given the pressure of deadlines. Anyway who has the authority to question the ancient Greeks and two thousand years of follow-on flat earth thinking? There's a lot of inertia here, and if you start thinking more like Bucky did, they'll likely brand you a failure won't they? Safer to just toe the party line and be a dweeb, a square. Or was Bucky wildly successful, compared to most of us?

Focusing more on the octet truss, less on the dome, and making the connection to Alexander Graham Bell, another great American, might add some missing depth to this story. More focus on Applewhite as the Synergetics collaborator might also add some useful spin, but this requires mentioning Synergetics in the first place, which so far these editor-censors are loathe to allow, perhaps under pressure from antediluvian math teachers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Business License

I'm faxing my IRS 1065 and Schedule K to the License & Tax Division just now, explaining how come I got 100% of the partnership's income in 2007: my partner, Dawn Wicca, for whom the business is named, died on March 17 of last year, of invasive breast cancer.

A partnership is like a goldmine or ranch, or in professional circles, sometimes doctors and lawyers create them, in order to pool business expenses while deriving some percentage, usually as a function of what a partner brings in. Dawn and I would each invoice our clients from DWA / 4D, pay business expenses, then take "owner draws" -- reported as income on an IRS 1040.

Some individuals join more than one partnership and so receive multiple Schedule Ks at the end of the year, plus one might jump on and off payrolls, netting W2s as employees of this or that temp agency, school or whatever. I've netted W2 income separate from the partnership most years. DWA itself has no employees, only owners.

Law firms often keep the name of a deceased senior partner, although Dawn Wicca & Associates isn't a law firm, is more an engineering and design firm, interpreting that broadly so as to include curriculum writing.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I should be heading to Trader Joe's now, before closing, but just wanted to register my enthusiasm for the emerging ToonTown economy. Go Portland!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Family News

We lost a valued nonhuman member of our extended family this morning, Rosie, Alexia's cat (a sphynx), who died of heart failure.

Dad's side of the family is on track for another July 4 reunion, our branch planning on hovering in the area. See some of you there.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Retreat 2008

Michael Hagmeier played his didgeridoo during our outdoor gathering on Friday night, with David restraining a curious 180 pound Shomar, an English Mastiff.

Trisha talked about a 102 year old woman she visits, way sharper than the average adult and completely engaged with her world.

Matt came by to finish enrolling Michael, Anna and I in the St. Andrew Clinic fund raising walk, which took place the next morning. Great seeing Tim and his dad, learning Tim won 2nd prize in his category at this year's ISEF in Atlanta.

We spent some time geeking out on the "birthday paradox" on Saturday.

In Python, you can compare fact(N) / ((N**n) * fact(N-n)), the probability of no birthdays in common among n students over N days (N = 365), with e**((-0.5) * (n**2) / N), an approximate expression for which David had a more intuitive derivation. Like for 24 kids, the first expression gives about 0.462, whereas the second gives about 0.454.

Tara got me hooked on Mad World, a sad song Mr. Avison used to good effect in his good bye movie to graduating Winterhaven students (Tara appreciative). I've also been rereading Kirsten Backstrom's autobiographical essay in God the Trickster, thinking about other courageous people I've known.

Saturday evening: an animated discussion of corporate personhood, how to effectively counter institutional inventions run amuck. Part of my own strategy was to develop a counter-cultural supranational and propagate it as a meme in literary circles. I called it the Global Data Corporation. Don went to visit Doug Strain.

:: shomar ::

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wanderers 2008.6.18

:: The Ancient One by Lynne Taylor ::
Lots of talk about TV studios this morning, after I succeeded in hijacking the meeting just long enough for a lightning talk on anthropology, used the tiny Apple speakers on the mantle to boost my iPod, circulated some printed lyric sheets.

Duane has some talks lined up in other venues, as do I. Jim's got a Canada trip queued, to see family. Jon and I talked about the ethnography around robots while making coffee in the kitchen. Traffic lights are called "robots" in South Africa.

Terry and I talked server. He's agreed to be the whois technical contact for, so I'm going to work on making that change today (done!), one of many tasks on my task bar. Appending a diagram...

I just learned about Katie's YouTube channel from someone who knows I'm a fan.

:: current + speculative ::

Monday, June 16, 2008

Train Story

This is one of Amtrak's newest, just leaving Union Station. The sleek design says "built for speed".

However, high speed rail is the stuff of science fiction in these parts, as are bedroom communities served by commuter rail. Amtrak operates a bus fleet on I-5. A lot of the track is older than this typewriter (photo taken with permission at Powell's Technical).

Portland's new Pearl District is still up and coming. We ate at Whole Foods today, after shopping for books, dropping Nick at Union Station (background). Nick was taking an Amtrak bus to Eugene. That's Razz (my car) in the foreground.

Here's looking 180 degrees at some of the new construction. That's the Fremont Bridge in the background, with the train tracks off to the right (behind the fence).

Here's the tail end of the handsome Amtrak train, leaving Union Station and heading north along the west side of the Willamette River, moving slowly. Our passenger trains usually run behind schedule, sometimes by many hours.

All photographs taken today with my trusty Olympus Stylus 720 SW.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Per my Accessorized Quaker motif, I sometimes go with a local costume, the better to share about our western heritage why not. I see others on YouTube pulling similar stunts. My hat is real beaver (like felt), with my name inscribed.

I mostly produce these self styled pilots for in-house use, as I know other groups have their own recognized authorities, don't need me to tell 'em what a Coupler is, a unit-volume space-filling shape of eight MITEs.

I put each MITE in an octant of XYZ, all corners touching at (0,0,0), just to get the ball rolling in an analytic spatial geometry context (important in design science).

Here was a more esoteric explanation of "bow tie universe" using a Dorji as a prop (works well in this role).

The Homeland Security T-shirt is a souvenir from New Mexico, goes well with the hat and/or sunglasses.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Lore

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Scholars in Summer

If your students are eager to keep up and stay in shape with new topics, suggest puzzles, like from Martin Gardner books, or Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter.

If looking for theme based studies, recursion is always a good one, links to fractals and phi. Puzzle: "my whole is to my longer as my longer is to my shorter, so what's my longer's length if my shorter's is one?" (provide a picture?).

But without getting so numeric, consider geek lore: GNU stands for GNU is Not Unix, so the G stands for GNU, a kind of "not joke". Likewise the Y in YAML stands for YAML, which Ain't Markup Language.

Speaking of markup languages, XML and XHTML remain hot, along with JavaScript and the DOM. I was just running these by some gnu math teachers today in fact, as more topics in ~M!.

Here's an idea: obtain Periodic Table data in YAML, either as open source or from scratch (and then share it?), or how about graph the bones of the body (which connects to which?).

The point of these projects is not to create unnecessary tedium or drudgery. Let students take a lot of time learning about the elements, about bones, including from first person experience in the great outdoors. Nature guides a big plus sometimes -- your student might become one?

Recommended chemistry readings: Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks, Isaac Asimov's stuff (a chemist and fabulous writer). Biology: Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas. Mathematics: surf the Web for stuff on phi, fractals and Fibonacci numbers. Visit Koski's Kiosk?

Make sure your students are well briefed on bookmarking, maybe suggest Delicious as an option? I've certainly gotten value from that service.

Note to students: avail of work freely shared, while showing respect to your peers. Give back. Cultivate generosity. Study potlatch economics? Start a new blog?

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open House

Saturday Academy is moving up in the world, and these are their best digs yet, right across from Multnomah Country Library, a sixth headquarters in twenty five years. Willamette Week was the former occupant of these premises. Furniture came from OSDL's Beaverton office during the latter's recent consolidation.

I invited Tara along, thinking she might get in on some interesting conversation, and we were not disappointed. Gordon Hoffman, a Wanderer and adventurer, is our resident Indiana Jones. He regaled us with stories of climbing out of an active Costa Rican volcano, at night, and of a WWI German army hospital, recently discovered almost completely intact. He's headed to France soon, hot on the trail of a Medal of Honor winning uncle from that era, having spent the last couple years or so studying Chinese. I was glad Tara got to meet the guy.

My name appeared on the list of instructors with five years or less service. I'm a relative newcomer on the scene, glad of the opportunities this top flight academy provides, both to students, and to careerists such as myself, willing and able to share skills and experience.

Monday, June 02, 2008

An Immersion Experience

I forgot the Afghan place was closed Mondays so Jon and I ended up at the Indian buffet on Hawthorne for lunch, then adjourned for a brief workshop on Google's SketchUp, which I hadn't realized sports a Ruby API, lower level than VPython's, yet quite usable.

Dr. Jon Schull of the Rochester Institute of Technology has been exploring immersive projection technologies using off the shelf components, with an eye towards designing useful interfaces, not just new passive viewing modalities.

In joining Jon's touring of noteworthy sites, I got to visit with Immersive Media's CTO and check out their local office. Immersive fields those VW Bugs equipped with 360 x 300 degree movie cameras, which simulate looking out through eleven of twelve windows of a pentagonal dodecahedron (the twelfth window is reserved for the pedestal).

The views have their seams sewn together by software to give real time recordings of actual geographies. GPS gets synched with the frames, so you get a well defined world line (scenario, point of view) from hard drives filled in the field, currently at a rate of about a gigabyte per minute mas o meno.

The player (controller) typically gives the user the freedom to look around at will, viewing the surroundings as if from within a geoscope. Some models of player give more powers yet.

Then it was on to the Pearl and Powell's. Much in Portland had changed since Jon had attended Reed College in the 1970s.