Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Again at Lyrik

Some of my most important meetings happen in this "corner office". She used to be named Fine Grind, likewise a worthy little establishment. I named my Fine Grind Productions in her honor.

Today it's about university-based software systems and to what extent one should outsource, versus eat one's own dog food.

There's a bias in geek culture towards doing the latter, but of course one imports the libraries one does not write (the wheels one does not reinvent), such as NumPy or the new Decimal module (to use the Python namespace as an example).

I've reinstalled the Cortona viewer for scoping VRML files (.wrl is the MIME type). The Synergeo list is proving a strong source of some new ones. Figuring out clear screen animations for projecting to LCDs, in the Coffee Shops Network for example, requires storyboarding in advance. My primitive two-threaded hypertoons generator, written in Python + VPython, performs much the same prototyping purpose.

PSU is committed to civic service, a quality experience for its students, ways to reduce xenophobia, good town-gown relations. That's a tall order for a rapidly expanding academic program. Student housing may result in more campus households such as mine, which I connect to the Pauling Campus in 97214. Portland also hosts the University of Portland and many excellent community colleges. When it comes to private institutions, Reed College and Lewis & Clark College are especially well known.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Person Physics


montage @ lyrik

Friday, April 23, 2010


:: baltimore gig ::

Happy Birthday to Hubble (HB2H).

I wasn't at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) today, where I understand they were having cake.

The free beer on Wednesday was most welcome, on the occasion of someone's contract getting renewed. Ray Lucas regaled me with stories, about his trip to Alaska north of the Arctic circle, about galaxy morphology, about the intricacies of Hubble management and scheduling.

The space telescope turns 20 today. I celebrated by going to the Maryland Science Center and watching Hubble 3D, the Imax film, with about 15 other mostly graying folks.

I'm able to blend right in as an old man, a boomer / senior as we're now known.

Kenneth Snelson's Easy Landing stood out dramatically in front of the museum. I took a lot of pictures, one of which I posted to his Facebook wall.

Kenneth and I go back. We used to correspond a lot more. I've stayed with him and his dear wife in downtown NYC a couple times, hung out in his studio. He is a kind and brilliant guy.

I was glad to see Women in Black at Baltimore harbor.

Bill Mahrer is interviewing Jack Kevorkian on HBO on Real Time as I write this. Bill is a long time Kevorkian fan. The movie You Don't Know Jack, with Al Pacino playing Dr. K, debuts on HBO tomorrow.

"I'm Blogging This" says my T-shirt.

I'm flying back to Portland tomorrow.

Happy birthday to my dear mother (HB2M), peace activist par excellence. She turned 81 the day before yesterday.

Bill isn't a big fan of funding a colony on Mars (has that been proposed?), thinks we need to set an example of belt tightening. He wants the USA to get rid of its "big stupid boat" i.e. its "empire".

picture by Julie

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flextegrity Sales

Still Life

Given the limited stash of V.3, our initial thought was to host these diplomatic /MVP events without any promise of getting to haul some away. Wandereres already does a lot of events of this nature, with visiting dignitaries, cognoscenti and technorati, so this workshop model represents an extension of pre-existing practices.

The price of admission might include some Flextegrity though. With enough draw to these workshops, we could justify more production on the back end. A waiting list of queued participants would be sufficient to suggest triggering a shipment. We also discussed the possibility of moving production on-shore. Ejection molding costs might be higher in Washington and/or Oregon, but transportation costs would be lower.

The initial workshops would often involve training new workshop leaders in turn prepared to train additional workshop leaders: the usual exponential fanning-out one expects from a startup, with the possibility to taper off after an initial growth spurt, in order to stay relatively manageable ("uncontrolled growth" or "big for the sake of big" are not Quaker business values, so I tend to steer clear of those when sketching a business plan).

The currently envisioned workshops are about applied materials more generally. Glenn has inventory of leather, antler, shell... stone, many of the raw materials for tool making. Gaining proficiency in some art or craft is not a threat to one's resume, if seeking knowledge worker training in software tools, television production, chip design or other high technology skills. Neolithic and Martian Math go together, per Oregon Curriculum Network heuristics.

More recently however, the studio has gone back to a $3/ball figure, including springs. A kit featuring 12-around-1 would go for about $39, rounding to $40, then adding $10 for shipping and handling, perhaps already assembled. $50 for a cool cuboctahedron made of 13 icosahedra, held in stasis by springs: you'd be the only kid on your block to have one, at least for awhile yet.

We have a rather short list of customers for whom this offer might be available. In these initial stages, they would rank as co-investors, in on the ground floor of an art and/or engineering school supply business. Developing these kits in earnest would only happen if we went back to the factory and asked for a new shipment. Given the currently soft market for anything so avant-garde and futuristic, we're not inclined to build inventory at too high a rate. Patrick has been sharing some simulations.

These are classic problems such as Harvard Business School types need to face every day. In place of widgets, we have Flextegrity. Other future products might include packaged tours of duty, work / study opportunities around Oregon. Not every good or service is salable by mail order.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Smart Mobs

Smart Mobs is the title of one of Howard Rheingold's several timely tomes.

He regaled us with stories at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last night, his name in lights.

Then a few of us adjourned to the nearby Heathman for a quiet dinner in his honor. Lynne Taylor praised his multi-colored jacket whereas I had been noticing the shoes.

The idea of a "smart mob" may sound oxymoronic, or at least to me it does. Mobs are notoriously stupid, get stampeded into war by pundits, then get stuck in the ensuing quagmire. Mobs beget mob psychologies, mob violence.

Howard copped to the fact that he'd wanted an "edgy" term in that title, as he shares this same ambivalence about mobs. With SMS messages, tweets, or through the blogosphere, humans are newly able to trigger avalanche-like political phenomena, either for better or for worse.

We're of course hoping for better, for alternatives to violence.

For that to happen, we need to tell ourselves different stories than the old "competition is everything" story the Social Darwinists concocted, mostly to rationalize and justify an insane level of selfishness.

The Prisoner's Dilemma and The Tragedy of the Commons are among the corollary narratives that academia uses, to keep our economists on the same page. But what says empirical science about such narratives? We're free to question them, discover exceptions. Lynn Margulis helped unveil the deeper roots of biological processes: cooperation, collaboration and what Stuart Kaufman calls exaptation.

If we're technologically enabling ourselves to act in concert, to self-organize on an even greater scale, then we had better evidence some benign and philanthropic intentions towards our thronging environment.

Upgrading our programming beyond these old social mores is both scientifically sound and in our own best interest. Altruism and selfishness are not always that counter-posed. Sometimes what's best for you is also what's best for me. As GWB once put it, in words we could all understand: the game is not "zero sum".

Howard began his lecture by stepping through the "fourth wall" and saying directly to his audience how much he appreciated Portland, Oregon. He'd won a National Merit Scholarship in the 1960s and had picked Reed College as the most alluring. He has not regretted this decision, admires Reed to this day.

The audience was rather intimate, as this was a re-scheduled talk and not heavily advertised. When it came time for Q&A, practically no one left. The audience was enthralled with Howard and his topic, wanted to learn more.

The Wanderers were present to help keep wheels turning. Allen Taylor joined us. I praised him on his blog, specifically the account of the plane crash he'd experienced.

Howard spends enormous amounts of time in Cyberia, is one of its more gifted citizens. He'd been our guest ISEPP speaker back in 1993, showing us The Well on his 2400 baud modem, working off some Apple Macintosh or something. Don Wardwell remarked later that this had been one of the more pivotal and important talks in his career, as he was just on his way to Anaheim to deliver a key speech, and Howard's anticipating the Internet had made a big impression, informed what he spoke about.

I'm pretty sure I was in the audience for that talk as well, remember the jacket.

The Tragedy of the Commons for example: you need not believe that it's true in all cases. The man pushing this story was fanatical about birth control, had an agenda. In fact, according to recent research by Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel prize winner (economics), a commons will sometimes be governed through social networking, a set of relationships, possibly non-contractual yet pegged to reputation, a kind of currency.

A smart mob, not necessarily litigious, will evolve a faith and practice that begets long term viability. True, outsiders may crash the party and break the rules, over fish, take too many lobsters. Conflicts and competition are not just things of the past. Defending a commons from interlopers may sound oxymoronic, yet consider open source software, free to everyone, yet protected from corruption by various mechanisms, by hackers, by security measures.

Like, you don't want your factory-fresh copy of Python from to "phone home" -- which it may appear to be doing when IDLE boots with a cryptic message, but that's all stuff, no yakking with some server farm, no trojan horse.

"What's a wiki?" Joe Arnold wanted to know after the lecture. I explained about Ward Cunningham's invention, about WikiWords, as well as the etymological roots of the word among the Maori.

During the dinner, I met up with an Airstreamer and we yakked about eclipse chasing and matters bizmotic. We're both bloggers.

Everyone I overheard expressed satisfaction with Rheingold's talk. I like the fact that he's teaching young people some serious Internet skills. There's this stereotype of young people somehow taking to new technologies like fish to water, without having to work at it, while the older folk are off the hook, because novelty is not for them.

In some subcultures, the oldsters work at staying one step ahead and actually get to teach useful stuff to those with less real time experience.

Howard typifies such an oldster. When a student freaks out that she'll never be able to keep up with all these Twitter and Facebook people, he reminds her that some of these media are not "queues" not in-boxes. They're more like fast moving rivers, are designed to be sampled. Reel in some fish maybe, but don't feel obligated to read every tweet. It's not one human's responsibility to be omniscient, even if the technology supports moving in that direction.

He teaches about RSS (i.e. how to subscribe to notifications of changes, rather than having to check if something has changed). Maybe learn about "de-tagging" if you think that's a step towards your career goal (one of his stories).

No, young people have to work at it too. Some just stumble around in Second Life, feel foolish and unproductive. A lot of these toys are just that: toys.

On the other hand, serious events have been triggered thanks to this new found ability of networked technologies to trigger smart mobs. In the Philippines, the Ukraine, Korea...

I also thought of Carrot Mob closer to home, a consciously designed institution with clear positive intent. We could use some more designs of that nature.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Movie Madness in Portland

Greetings from Missile Street is another video about the devastating effects of economic sanctions on the peoples of the Persian Gulf. Check for downloads.

This documentary was made before 911 and the subsequent invasion and occupation by the so-called Coalition.

Fuller's declaration that "the USA we have known is now bankrupt and extinct" in Grunch of Giants, just prior to receiving the Medal of Freedom from president Ronald Reagan, was a defensive maneuver, as no conventional sovereignty could survive this kind of negative publicity over the long haul.

He put his Grunch and its CIA out in front as the hated foe, in an attempt to spare the innocent American people, buying them some time. That was over twenty five years ago.

Earlier, in Critical Path, he set up some poker hands, suggesting some bluffing might be going on. Bucky himself was something of a wild card (a joker).

He placed himself in the USA's hand, to counter-balance the Russians, who might otherwise rake it all in as erstwhile winners of the superpower sweepstakes. In so doing, he played to one of America's strengths: the freedom of its most pioneering to follow their own hearts, to take the initiative.

He said he was confidant the Russians wanted Mir. Once again: a defensive maneuver.

Desovereignization was not a direct result of any UN declarations, new treaties or protocols. Humans were outgrowing an earlier consciousness, as they had done in previous chapters. They were starting to think in new ways.

Emerging technologies had a lot to do with the new networks and networking, the dot connecting.

Accelerating acceleration had been anticipated by Alvin Toffler, other thinkers. Like them, Fuller was somewhat prescient if not outright clairvoyant.

Thanks to hypertext and its ability to integrate information while countering misinformation, coming generations would not be so hobbled by some "military industrial complex," a debilitating psychological condition president Eisenhower had diagnosed and prognosticated about.

Global university submarines
, packed with weapons of mass suicide (WMSs), plied the world's waters, in case humans could no longer live with themselves.

The crew members of Spaceship Earth had but the one tiny planet to gamble with, and free will, a steering function. What future would they choose? Did they still have an option to succeed?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday

I'm heading off to a psychotherapy session with H&R Block shortly, should be enlightening.

Alexia came by to look at old pictures with Tara. They took a trip down memory lane in Carol's office, which is part of the work flow as I wrestle with housekeeping. Single dads sometimes have a poor track record in this regard.

I canceled a credit card this morning, one I don't use. Then I met with a client at Lyrik. I sent off a deliverable just a few minutes ago, on the clock as it were.

Alan is goading me
to do more with this MathWorld thread. I've added a post to the Math Forum about it, will link from here when it goes through.

Talked to mom in Whittier.

Lindsey has been working on new songs.

The Lotts left us some spare groceries on the porch, much appreciated. Frugality is certainly a theme these days.

April showers are the reality in Portland, lots of rain.

Our Easter egg hunt will move indoors this year, at a new venue.