Saturday, January 30, 2010

Geometry Storyboard

Three mutual perpendiculars were not an option, given the initial axes, so this is not a cube.

A first hexahedron.

This one builds flat.

A squashed zero-volume hexahedron. These count.

Removing extra edges.

The third possible hexahedron, starting with the 60-120 rhombus.

Not zero volume.

Adding to the zero volume base plate.

A zonohedron is born of four hexahedra. An hexagonal prism.
A rhombic dodecahedron in disguise.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Admin Questions

I've been reading some top job descriptions and comparing with my experience. Some of these overview desk jobs look through multiple ports, called viewpoints, each aimed at portraying a stakeholder's view. A stakeholder is someone with a relationship to the system under study, might be an end user, a regulator, a quality tester.

One imagines these stakeholder vistas, when designing new systems. However, the critical questions in many institutions have to do with what systems to upgrade, retire, leave as is, replace immediately and so forth. The baseline is whatever is operational today. Polling and surveying need to happen, one might even recommend reality TV crews, or at least some still cam artists who know how to storyboard. The interviewee stays anonymous in many cases, unless playing some kind of celeb or star role.

Which systems are causing the most frustration? Where are vendors offering a better alternative? Which systems depend on which others? If we upgrade, what might break? If we don't upgrade what might break? The pressure is on, because we know that doing nothing is risky too, maybe the riskiest option. So plans must be drawn and, what's more, followed.

One wishes for better than management by fantasy i.e. continuous polling, feedback from the front lines, needs to be a part of any management system.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Objects First?

We've had some recent discussions on edu-sig regarding an esoteric "objects first" approach to learning Python.

Actually, what's more esoteric is the context: a high school mathematics class. Who would expect a computer language to have much traction in such a setting?

However, assuming a few such exceptional courses, the next question is when to broach the topic of "objects".

My bias has been to step back from "computer languages" completely and remember where the idea came from in the first place: from ordinary language.

Puppets, cartoon characters, and yes, flesh and blood sentient beings, all may be contemplated in terms of a nominalist paradigm, wherein everything has a name, and those names serve to anchor both behaviors and attributes.

How old are you? Do you have a cell phone number or email address? Maybe not. Those would be attributes in any case. From my posting (fixing a glitch):

In sum, I think the best way to teach [about objects] is not as a strictly computer science topic, but just a science topic more generally.

Something like full blown UML would be overkill, but if your job is to design an airport, or manage one, it makes perfect sense to ask "what are the objects I need to be dealing with, and what are their attributes and behaviors?"

Runways, airplanes, control tower, concourse, baggage carousels, parking garage, fuel tanks, snack and gift shops.... we don't have to spend a lot of time on any one institution, and we don't have to write even a single line of code if that's not what we're into.

The idea is to have students look at a knowledge domain and start analyzing it in terms of objects, as a prelude to problem solving. Don't need a computer.
Not every teacher will be comfortable with this approach. The teacher trainings I envision, perhaps even in North America, go over these approaches as options, leaving it to teachers on the ground to configure their own curricula. Download and customize, internationalize.

Speaking of internationalization, Wikieducator is switching to a new WYSIWYG editor on February 6. Some of us are testing it now, including by writing in Chinese.

* * *

On another topic, continuing the thread below, I'll report having supported all four nights of said Sleeping Bag Fundraiser. The bags are on order under LW's auspices, are shipping to Laughing Horse. I'm not on the distribution team and have handled no money.

I'm grateful for what journal entries I've managed to contribute regarding these efforts. Community service has a place on my resume.

Supporting worthy causes, sometimes with a public record, other times not, is what Coffee Shops Network is/was all about. As a volunteer marketing agent, at least for the idea, I'm expected to walk my talk.

Philanthropy is everybody's business, even if one is living on the edge.

* * *

A positive future vision is worth keeping alive. However, special effects, laser light shows, appealing Sketchups, only take one so far.

At this point, a lot of us would settle for less mayhem.

Many Chinese organizations are getting pretty good at disaster relief, are among the first responders anywhere. Civilians need rapid deployment capability as much as anyone.

A sane and productive culture, likely to experience market growth and attract new investment, is able to compete as an aid giver. If your only export is pain, you lose.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Troop Maneuvers

I've been neglecting to chronicle the Laughing Horse Books Sleeping Bag Fundraiser Marathon, which has been going on these last two nights, part three this evening. The music has been high quality, with different PA systems on the two nights. Tonight is the Bose Tower again. I transported it per plan.

These musicians are not playing for money, are sometimes donating generously. Musicians seek a place to share their art with an appreciative audience. Some get nervous when the turn out is low. Grace told a story of Johnny Cash coming to the Rose Garden (or was it the Memorial Coliseum) when the promoter hadn't done the job. He played to just thirty people, a true professional.

Of course it's all a matter of scale. Laughing Horse won't hold a lot more than thirty people and that's about how many we had last night. Yes it was cold. As the old guy in the room, I wore some layers.

The youth debating culture is haunting the halls again, at PSU today. Yakking about economic sanctions. Are they an extension of the just war theory? That begs the question of whether they're an act of war.

USAers tend to relate to some post WW1 period, as imposers of sanctions, forgetting their Revolutionary past, when more on the receiving end. This colors positions, probably even the judging. Were USAers on the receiving end of sanctions today, this might not be a big news story. Who would want them to know?

I agree with those bloggers applying a kind of POW status to voters who never wished for these wars and now feel unable to escape their tyranny. Waking up in jail every day is what it's like in Baghdad and Kabul, including for many sons and daughters who would rather be back in their home states.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Repatriation Facilities

I was yakking with Maria Droujkova (blog linked to the right) about our ecovillages idea, shared pretty much universally. Voters would have an easy time approving the storyboards, were our policymakers up to drawing them intelligently.

She'd just been reading Walden 2 and, though never a convert to Behaviorism, was willing to grant BF Skinner was on target with some of those suggestions for promoting both physical and mental well being. Fuller's Education Automation (1962) was similarly about "freeing the scholar to return to his studies" -- another idea for a safety net, based on yet-to-be-invented Internet technology (work/study programs create the backbone of a world class economy in this design science classic).

Civilizations need multiple incubators, with different memes in different ones.

This takes me back to the Project Earthala thread. Earthala is a paradigm ecovillage, suitable for use in simulations. Subclass it, to get various types of village: disaster relief, semi-permanent, research, traveling circus, school... place with a view. These are not mutually exclusive categories, obviously.

AimeƩ contributed the name, forwarding from Peter. Sure, it might be a child's name, like Moon Unit, or Moon. I took it for the name of a village, though the word "project" maybe disguises that fact. Camp Earthala then? Like Government Camp on Mt. Hood.

Camps help serve a rebooting function as well. When troops make the transition to civilian life, they may still need some camp time, some skills-building sessions. Just dumping men and women at a bus stop willy-nilly, with no families in some cases, is not really a wise policy.

When a unit makes the transition together, then personnel may be described as "an incoming unit" vis-a-vis some semi-permanent staging area that offers career placement services after retraining. The unit gradually disperses, with reunions planned.

This was our federally funded workflow at CUE, after a fashion. Quoting from my work history again:
Developed and led multiple retraining classes for eligible older workers in Apple and PC office applications (word processing, spreadsheet, database and desktop publishing) under contract with the Portland Private Industry Council. Visited job candidates at worksites for follow-up tutoring in employer applications during a federally-subsidized six week probationary period.
Say you're coming from base X in Iraq and want to join a new charter school in Mississippi. The school is staffing up as a government program, and offers a new kind of math class, as well as some GIS/GPS training. Military surplus equipment is a part of the equation. Several faculty positions are earmarked for vets, per whatever federal legislation.

The charters need not be eco-village based. We have many openings in urban areas. The goal is to find some fast track that provides some continuity, including for the single veteran in need of more skills. The camps themselves require design, building and maintenance, another source of employment.

Of course many voters will be asking themselves why existing military bases don't serve this transitional function. The most obvious answer is you need civilian management where transitioning to civilian lifestyles is concerned.

Presumably policymakers are busy developing screening criteria. Some camps are better equipped for vets with more serious cases of PTSD. These camps have more of a VA stamp on them. Other "camps" are little more than residential colleges within pre-existing academic facilities. The course work is customized but the flavor is more GI Bill than VA treatment center, with transfer a possibility on a case by case basis.

Finding ways to fast track large numbers of vets out of Iraq has been a goal for many a Pentagon planner (if we're to believe election results). Orderly staging, dis-assembly, shipping and handling... these are contracted services in some cases, but only in support of the chain of command.

Having the camps be 21st century in design, versus a clone from some 1900s blueprint, requires the services of some of the same aerospace players. What news stories might we tell? Is everything classified? Do any of these ideas break in to the media bubble? These are timing issues.

The blogosphere is more about peripheral vision. Looking at possibly positive futures directly, in newspaper centerfolds or on TV newscasts, is somewhat of a lost art since the 1950s or so. A renaissance in this area has a somewhat retro flavor, calling up images of the WPA.

One has little chance to plan for the future when taking it day by day. Having Uncle Sam express a willingness to invest in civilian repatriation programs is politically prudent. Will more initiative need to come from the private sector?

The will of the American people was clearly expressed in 2008, so it's not like I'm the only one supporting the relevant lobbies (e.g. FCNL). Iraqi voters have likewise elected to regain their sovereignty. The people of both nations see pretty much eye to eye.

Plans for an orderly withdrawal are necessarily a core focus of the bureaucracy these days. Let's hope the supervisors are being somewhat hawkish in making sure all this planning is really getting done. They're the ones who'll have to answer, if no storyboards were drawn. Consider mine duly submitted!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cyber Nations

Many cultures and ethnicities persist in cyberspace. They set up schools there, share lore.

Supranational concerns such as Disney, with campuses in Anaheim, Orlando, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, with a new one planned in Shanghai, is a "cyber nation" or "virtual world" with a footprint on the ground. It maybe doesn't show up on maps of sovereign states, but that's just one data layer among many.

In GIS world, we speak of "data layers" and understand that ecosystem features working on geological time have a different kind of persistence than come-and-go political features.

Tibet is another example of a cyber nation: a great tantric culture with facilities all around the globe. Without Tibetan culture, I doubt humanity would still be viable (my personal bias). The campus in Lhasa is still a headquarters, but so are places in Colorado or even Portland. Dharamsala provides an anchor.

The fact physical human animals cannot breath, eat or drink in cyberspace means we cannot simply retreat to this 2nd world and make it a new home. Our 2nd world is a mental world, a noosphere, the next best thing to telepathy.

The original meaning of "cyber" is "to steer" and for sure cyberspace is having a steering effect in human affairs. The exponential speedup in global communications is giving humans another way to sort through the information. Obviously misguided policies have a shorter half-life as forcing people to act against their own interests is an expensive proposition. Or will the clash of ideologies only become more intense?

Fuller hoped that a shared focus on engineering and artifacts, nuts and bolts infrastructure such as the global grid, agriculture, energy sources, would help us stay focused. World Game was about the basics of life support. Religious wars would not hijack our collective brainstorming, if we kept our minds on the science. Emergence by emergency.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Experience the Music

:: venues ::

I got caught up in the spirit of Adrenaline Week at Muddy's, which sent out an SOS (again). This was well timed, as Flipside, their new venue, is finally ready for business. Will they succeed in raising the money or get thrown out on the street? I have no idea, too early to say -- count me a skeptic.

In hopes of going more grunge-punk with some of this Fuller stuff, I even thought we could unveil Tetrascroll there for a few hours, take advantage of foot traffic, sent some encouraging words to the sponsor. But since when does Silicon Forest do SE Portland?

That's a joke question: SE Hawthorne was where ESI and Tek were born. ESI moved to SE Stark Street, then SW Macadam, then back to SE Stark after the fire. I know less about the history of Tektronix, am not the resident historian. Doug Strain got his first break from Hewlett-Packard. They liked his super-sensitive ohm-meter, were ready to take orders by the time he got back to his hotel room.

Re Muddy's
, Lindsey did her best to line up some bands on short notice and some radio show is going to help out. I copied her blurb off of Myspace.

My focus is finding suitable venues, wouldn't have considered Muddy's pre Flipside. Urban Grind? Pauling House? Have camera will travel.

I was thinking a series of "private parties" (like art gallery soirees), everything word of mouth (including Twitter). Tetrascroll is like an underground comic book after all, an illustrated cosmic fairy tale.

Tetrascroll is also pretty big by the way, not just any room can handle it. It's not wall art, takes floor space. They had one in Chicago I'm pretty sure.

If I sound uncertain about Chicago, that's because we only had about 30 minutes to breeze through the exhibit back in March, trudging through snow to get there on the subway. I didn't want to miss my flight at O'Hare. Ian was likewise on a tight schedule, but willing to brave it, if only to get Steve on record saying he'd bring forward some proposal to the PSF board (a promise Steve made good on).

When Portland Center Stage was doing the Bucky play, I was thinking Tetrascroll on the mezzanine. Then I was thinking LCDs showing esoteric commercials for futuristic stuff, like newfangled shelter commercials. These could be pure atmospherics, utopian science fiction in support of the Doug Tompos character (Buckminster Fuller) in an already sophisticated multi-media production (by D.W. Jacobs).

Theater goers, milling about before show time, would start getting the bigger picture.

I got as far as delivering a performance of my own, on election night no less (doesn't mean I didn't vote). I projected some video for a backdrop (a Fine Grind Production), had some art pieces in the foreground (including Barrel Tower, a Kenneth Snelson original).

That was a gratifying experience, although again, I make the same point: I shouldn't be the only one doing this, with the whole number volumes 'n stuff. Trevor did a talk as well.

In earlier chapters in Jersey City, where I used to teach high school, the politics were all about competing with Manhattan across the way, and where the railroads decided to go. We watched Jersey City Soft Focus, a documentary, and learned about this history.

I was wearing my developer hat even then, looking to get some Fuller Projection on the back of Loew's.

They weren't printing billboards on polyethylene back then, and besides, who would sponsor such a thing? I suggested an airline, like Pan Am, with strands of neon to show routes. Too surreal? Too Lost? Plus the Fuller Projection just looks different, attracts attention.

Obviously you'd want to test market first, maybe in your own airline magazine in the seat pocket in front of you, before committing to some outdoor display off Journal Square. I was young and inexperienced then, what can I say?

Portland has a port, certainly, and trains right through SE, coming over Steel Bridge from Union Station. Clearly some of the same dynamics apply, with Seattle in the role of Manhattan (our giant rival to the north). The analogy is quite imperfect though. The economy around here had more to do with logging (hence "Stump Town").

Then FDR promised government stimulus money for Bonneville Dam, which had this Bridge to Nowhere flavor. Who would ever need all that power? Portland was too Podunk. The skeptics sneered and jeered. Yet today Columbia River hydro-power is a leading export, bringing revenue to our region.

Google plugged a data center directly into the dam at The Dalles (Celilo Falls) for the same reason an aluminum plant might: to take advantage of electricity hot off the generator. No leaky long line transmissions, no outages because of high winds.

That dam started operations in 1957, a year before I was born. No one was thinking about data centers back then. These are what Stuart Kauffman calls "exaptations" -- unanticipated consequences, naturally occurring non-computable leaps (ala Penrose). People still miss Celilo Falls.

When I say "grunge punk" I'm in part referring to specific exhibits in Paul Allen's Experience the Music Project (EMP). Probably tourists should go there, and to the Science Fiction Museum in the same building (in Seattle Center), if wanting to really appreciate youth culture in our region.

Speaking of science fiction, I've gone back to pressing for "dot notation" in some 3rd year high school math class. No, I'm not talking AP or IB in particular (our two accelerated tracks). I'm talking about a student feeling somewhat burned out after two years, doing say algebra then geometry, the standard textbook fare.

Oregon requires one more year minimum for that high school diploma and here's this bright shiny new math lab down the hall, with some promise of a new approach. Vector graphics with Python? Sounds interesting maybe. Sign up this September?

My proposal is we train teachers in place, encourage a self-selected few to take these classes, even choose summer camps if feeling that motivated. You won't get a math teacher using Python ala Mathematics for the Digital Age (Litvins) if she doesn't ever get an opportunity to learn it herself. Does the district provide in-service training then? What's the workflow?

You'd think I'd have all the answers by now, but lets remember I'm not a PPS employee, just an invested parent and citizen struggling to make ends meet. I'd like to help grow the economy as much as the next guy. There's no point being out of the closet as a futurist if you can't think of a future worth aiming for.

I popped that resume up on Facebook, have been getting some good pointers. Clearly I have a lot of background as a trainer and workshop leader, tried to tease that out. I've done the Python with spatial geometry direct-to-students (B2C) but when do we get other teachers more involved (B2B)?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Revisiting Malthus

I fought traffic to get Tara to physical therapy on time. I was grateful to get the one waiver for missing a slot on December 31.

Liberty Hall continues to play out. Some of its former tenants are now renting space alongside AFSC offices on Burnside, or perhaps were already. The Omega Party was one of three fundraisers aimed at paying off bills and closing up shop. This effort proved successful to within $100 of the final goal.

While in the waiting room, I read the June 2009 issue of National Geographic, the report on looming food shortfalls, and the consequent rising prices for staples.

The green revolution uses powerful chemistry and whole ecosystems go wrong if the associated pesticides and fertilizers get out of control and contaminate the water table, get into the food chain. This has already happened in parts of the Punjab.

These green revolution fertilizers and pesticides are in turn made from increasingly expensive fossil fuels. Farmers are unable to sustain their former practices. The investment banks are rolling up their sleeves again: it's still about agriculture, the first green revolution has only bought us some time.

Agriculture is the perennial number one news story for humans in Universe, as the photo-synthetics are the solar energy harvesters turning soil and gases into digestible nutrients. As mammals, we're not able to directly build bone and tissue from solar energy. We absorb amino acids and carbohydrates, directly or vicariously, from plants and phytoplankton -- the true meaning of bio-fuel (biomass, food).

Quoting Fuller:
1005.20 Biospherical Patterns: Here we see the interplay of all the biological systems wherein all the "life"-accommodating organisms of Earth's biosphere are exclusively regenerated by energy sent to Earth by radio from the energy broadcasting stars, but most importantly from the star Sun, by which design-science system the terrestrial vegetation and algae are the only energy radio-receiving sets.
This may seem like a dry technical lecture, but the point of the NG article is we can all become heavy meat eaters, and starve ourselves with an unsustainable lifestyle (unhealthy to boot), or we can go back to thinking of meat as the rare exception, not some staple to be consumed on more days than not.

Diet for a Small Planet is old news by this time. Getting protein through livestock is ten times less efficient than consuming it directly.

Our own household diet is moving in the right direction. Dairy is mostly gone, though I got some milk and eggs (the latter on sale today, only $2 for 18 per a bar coded coupon in the paper). We're mostly a squash, onion, bean, potato and rice family these days. There's some chicken in the freezer.

Lindsey is a highly trained ascetic and joined our ship's crew as a cook. She's teaching us more vegan habits, as well as greater frugality. I only dine out on special occasions, usually work related. Peanut butter, wheat bread, cereal (so yes, there's still some milk). I haven't had a steak in months if not years. That's close to bragging, but why boast about not engaging in self-destructive behavior (e.g. meat every night). Corn meal... pasta.

I'm not complaining here. My family is fortunate to have any food at all, given all what goes on in the GU (global university).

Back to Malthus: the National Geographic article says maybe he was right. If we expect to keep eating huge numbers of animals then maybe our only hope for salvation is genetic engineering, Monsanto doing GMOs. Is pie in the sky genetic science is going to save us from ourselves, as we pig out on pig? China bears the brunt of reader projections here, as we're treated to an extended view of pork-loving Chinese, the giant hog farms required, even though North Americans have an even larger per-capita carbon footprint.

Of course I'd like it better if some of this essential gardening could go on in somewhat high tech circumstances. Like Buzz and his Korean wife were agreeing, they'd like to keep using their low energy consumption toys, like cell phones. A domed-over community garden might double as a community, a school? A computer projector or HDTV doesn't consume a lot of power, yet we're still talking about electricity and that's not a big focus in this article, except as a power source for irrigation pumps.

The biggest brake on population growth in Fuller's world game modeling was increasing electrification. Interconnecting and expanding the various grids was his focus. Russian and American engineers might conspire to link grids across the Bering Strait, were the economics conducive (see Critical Path).

Regarding Malthus, I've been hard on what I call WMBS, echoing some complacency perhaps. As National Geographic makes clear, the situation is dire on this planet of mega slaughterhouses, huge mono-cultures. The more legume-based interweaving of nutrients, around Malawi I think it was, seemed a way less fossil fuel intensive route. We should ramp up on those ecovillages and plan to keep using Facebook. Electrification and agriculture, power consumption and climate control: these will remain my concerns. Yes music too.

I never dissed Malthus by the way, nor Darwin either. Go back and check.

The National Geographic article mentions the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also rock stars. The idea of having musical performances drive a fundraiser is a tested model and often works. There's a proposal in front of Multnomah's program committee to do one in March, open to the public, Quaker sponsored. This is about concurrency, running in parallel, not being too serial or sequential.

I'm allowing reader comments starting this year. Up until now, it's been Quaker journal = Blog, but Quaker journals don't traditionally come with comments. That's too atavistic though. As a concession to the present, I need to allow them. If it's blatantly a dog food commercial, I might snip it out.