Friday, November 29, 2013

TG 2014

Provided these blogs still have structural integrity, you will find a pattern around this time of year:  a journey North to visit friends and relatives.  This year, I drove alone, having I-5 adventures, with occasional forays into the hinterlands.  Of course driving has changed now that smartphones plugged into the dash talk, giving directions, and play music.

Tara joined the eight of us by Google Hangout from Greater Chicago, for a video chat.  Lee brought his parents, Howard and Wilma, along with Howard's brother Bill, to Mary's.  Alice (Mary's sister) and Steven joined us from further north.

We found assembling the jigsaw puzzles congenial as they gave us something to focus on while having after dinner conversation.  They were not run of the mill puzzles in that the pieces were unusually intricate, sometimes detailed shapes in their own right.

I drove north on Wednesday and south on Friday, stopping by Bill's place for the first time near the University of Washington, the day of the annual football game, Huskies (University of Washington) versus Washington State.

Many of our conversations were quite lighthearted, others serious in terms of topic, such as end of life planning.  Mary is a doctor and wanted to be sure we were all aware of the agony some go through if the paperwork does not allow them to die and they can't represent themselves.

My love to friends and relatives out there, both near to me and far.  We are one interwoven web of life, empirically as well as spiritually.  There's not much to argue about there.  The devil is in the details I suppose.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life Hacks for College Students

I like the Maker (as in Make:) culture here, the pragmatism.

He has a whole body of work which I have only just begun to explore.

By the way, this seems as good a place as any to note that Vodka + Grapefruit Juice is called a Greyhound.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

End of Life Planning

The Urner family has often taken in long term guests, in the Philippines, in Egypt, in other places.  Readers of my blogs know we've given shelter to one Lindsey Walker, a political refugee one might say, escaping a more repressive state.

The "host" role is quite a bit different from the "landlord" role, but any lawyer will tell you it's still important to limit your liability.  Given only two adults in the house, I have to be sure the law does not treat us like a couple, at which point assets get shmooed together.

If we were married, even if just in common law terms, and I called an ambulance, I might be held liable for those expenses.

But we're not married, not by any standard, and any medical bill I get relating to her care I'm going to return, burn, or forward to her next of kin, unless the courts somehow find me liable for her condition in the first place -- a contingency I have to keep working to prevent (I must exercise mindfulness around my fellow human beings and not cause them injury through negligence, no kidding).

One of the guys at Thirsters the other day was sorrowful because his nephew had been killed by unexploded ordinance, one of the bomblets from a cluster bomb.

If I left cluster bomblets around my house and my guests picked them up or kicked them, not knowing their true nature, then lawyers might come after me.  I would be liable for their deaths and/or medical treatment.

Indeed, as a US taxpayer, you could say that I do pay for such injuries, as whenever US employees hurt themselves on the job, they're in a position to file claims, which US borrowing and revenue will need to cover if said claims are upheld, as many are.

I gave Lindsey some ultra-sonic rat repellants, devices one plugs in.  If a rat bites her in the neck and gives her a deadly disease, people might say I was not a good host and that my humble basement was too humble.  I'm not saying we have lots of rats, but many Portland basements are not immune from rodents, possums too in some cases.  We have squirrels in the attic and walls.  They're not rabid and don't usually bite humans.

One thing I'm very clear about is that even though Lindsey has very low body fat (she knows Victoria's secret or whatever) she'd be non-trivial to pick up and carry to the maxi taxi (the Nissan, which used to be hers).

We've used the Nissan for medical emergencies.  Lindsey doesn't have health insurance or much savings and an ambulance could be ruinous to her, financially.  As long as she's been ambulatory herself, transport by car was an option.  I've usually been the driver.

But I'm not about to try to lift her up, if she's comatose or simply limp and delirious, and I've told her that.  I'll call 911 and let the professionals use a stretcher.

I know she wouldn't try to lift me.  I probably weigh well over twice as much as she does.  If I pass out in the 2nd floor office, she is not going to try lugging me down a flight of stairs and out to the Nissan just to save on some ambulance costs.  That'd be foolish.  She'd likely injure herself just trying it.

But I'm saying it'd be equally foolish for me to try that with her.

An acquaintance of mine told me about dragging an inebriated friend from a bar (I think it was) and how heavy that friend was.  I believe he had help.  Two of them were trying to drag their friend somewhere, but somehow they dropped him and he hit his head.

How it all turned out I don't remember, but the storyteller was still traumatized by the event.  Another time I saw a father drop his little girl completely by mistake.  He was so torn up about it, although she was fine.

What Lindsey and I both need are contingency plans in case either one of us finds the other comatose or dead.  911 is the default answer, but more responsible adults, or those with the time, especially later in life, start getting their affairs in order.   My mom has done a lot of end of life planning.

Some phone number on the fridge, with a check already made out, might be the best answer.  "In case of death, cremate me here:  555-XXX-YYYY."   Lindsey and I should each have that, plus make arrangements for whatever ceremonies above and beyond corpse disposal.

In Lindsey's case, I think Satya would be a good person to help out planning ceremonies, notifying next of kin and so on.  In my case, I should exercise my Oversight Committee powers and get one of those Wishes Upon Death forms in the files.  I'd like to keep the Flickr and Facebook accounts public, my blogs.  I should start saving whatever emails are worth keeping...

Preparing for one's death is a lot of work actually.

I don't like the word "retired" because in physics work is any energy expenditure and there's no way around spending energy, even just breathing.  So life is work and work is life.  Death might be the absence of work, though some might say that's just what we mean by context i.e. death is context.  That's a metaphysical discussion for later maybe.

Besides, I'm not even legally retired.  I have a full time job.  I did participate in my wife's end of life planning, most of which she did herself, while self employed.  She was extremely responsible about managing her own death, having received a death sentence from her doctors (about three to six years, which she got).

Moving Dawn became problematic towards the end.  She stopped being ambulatory.  I moved her solo one day and we realized that was not a good idea, too much pain.  We realized we needed more help, which our community provided.

I don't have any funds budgeted for Lindsey's care.  Anything extra goes to the college where my younger daughter goes.  Ever since the coma discussion, I've been comparing notes with other friends, including some who are lawyers and/or landlords.  I'm trying to distill into writing what a non-lease extended house guest agreement might look like.

But then, at the end of the day she's planning to leave anyway, maybe storing some stuff in the basement, taking off for various adventures, some of them probably higher risk than anything she tries around Portland.  She's like a circus worker, a tightrope walker.  Someone living on the edge.  She lives her life at the limits as Walter Kaufmann would say (he thought you needed to do that to call yourself a philosopher).

People with dangerous work need to keep their affairs in order, soldiers, philosophers, and political revolutionaries included.

That's probably why Friends have a habit of being so meticulous in their record keeping and personal affairs.  Being a Quaker has been dangerous too, in different times and places.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ender's Game (movie review)

Earth has been attacked and was almost defeated before humans repulsed the alien invasion.  Now the Earthians are taking the battle to the alien home world.  Their psychology has discovered that when it comes to war fighting using weapons not requiring brawn to operate, that children make the best warriors as their nervous systems are more flexible and adaptive.  So an all child army is being raised to fight the aliens.

True to form, the adults are endlessly manipulative and the protagonist, as he is groomed for leadership, becomes increasingly aware that the true enemy may be these adults.  His hunch is confirmed when the adults trick him into annihilating the alien home world.

The sense of compassion which enables Wiggins to outwit his enemy is also what leads him to love and understand them.  In the case of the aliens, he feels obligated to make amends and find a way to continue their lineage.  The Earthians make him an admiral at this point, a way of saying he's on his own.

Friday, November 01, 2013


Although I'd not yet seen her work, Vi must have been talking to the same muses, when I started my McLuhanesque rant against math teaching at low bandwidth.

The above specimen of higher bandwidth teaching (than most chalk 'n talk) is especially representative in that it's bursting at the seams with ideas, hardly able to keep the snakes out, or in as the case may be.

The questioning of standard notations leads to an even deeper questioning of authority, an irreverence, the atmosphere of breakthroughs.

At around 5:30 into it she's galumphing happily through Synergetics territory, giving the same lecture I might about triangling versus squaring.

This is not only high bandwidth, it's close to home.  Hooray for Youtube and Vi.

More discussion on math-teach.

Riddled With Holes

The way Fuller presented his philosophy was as mostly space but then also framed windows in a kind of spider webby networky sense, gossamer, ephemeral, ectoplasmic (ghostly shmear).  Windows being the O in V + O = E + 2, O for Opening.  Like left by bullet holes.

Star Wars adapted Earthian war movies, adapted from war itself, to an alien environment (long ago, far away) but kept the "war torn" or "battle-worn" look.  Things were dented and dirty, not pristinely shiny as if just off the showroom floor.  That touch alone gave it a flavor of realism that movie-goers relished.

I'm not saying Star Wars was the first or only pioneer.  Aliens was banged up in its own way.  Science fiction as a literary form has always had that broken and bruised look.  Movies maybe took awhile to catch up?

Anyway, Synergetics is like that, some kind of bullet-ridden battle star, definitely a spheroid.  He's been polemical this Bucky, and look at these scars here.  Wow, pretty rugged.  There's grudging respect.

But also outrage, like David was pointing out, the 1950s table with some early Synergetics Constant stuff.  What's up with that Dodecahedron of 12 Hexagons?  Say what?  It's a communist er capitalist er insect people plot, to put stupid mistakes like that in the public record and let them stand.  How could a mistake like that get through the editors?  Makes Bucky look bad, like he can't count fingers and toes.

I'm arguing there weren't that many layers of editor and Synergetics is both meticulous and "thrown together" as Cosmic Fishing shares the tale.  There isn't that editorial oversight you might enjoy if settled in and enjoying a well-diagrammed workflow.

Think of Donald Knuth, for example.  I just got his four volumes in the mail.  He's been meticulously organized.  Fuller was just dragging papers around in his suitcase and relying on Applewhite for the meticulous part.  I'm not saying that was in any way unwise, as EJA upheld his side of the bargain and then some, but it's not the controlled processing of errata we might have had, and still may have.

Bob Gray did a superb job of getting the opus reliably transcribed.  Version control going forward? Big project.  Notice I haven't stepped forward.  I just got on Github like yesterday for the first time.

Synergetics is also wildly speculative.  Linus Pauling got that way too.  You've got a front row seat in high stakes poker and you just throw down the hand you've got, in hopes of winning at least something.  Pauling's proposal for DNA was inside-out impossible, a freak, but with that many horses in that many races, how might we not have a freak or two?

Like where he compares a T-module to a Meson on something like that.  He's shoving chips on his quanta modules having some future in some quantum mechanics but how do you "shove chips" in 1970 without just speaking nonsense?

Perhaps nonsense was a best option; the author of Finnegans Wake certainly seemed to think so.  Here's a literary figure with a tiger by the tail, a fun new geometry, and he's determined to make the most of it.  "Evidence of partying" the police report might say later.  But can you blame him?  He confesses to being pee-in-the-pants excited sometimes.  He got passionate about this stuff.

But that doesn't excuse all the mistakes and transgressions does it?  Not in my own case either.  I shouldn't act like I'm apologizing for Bucky when I have my own harrowing Kafkaesque case to be concerned with.  But then "apologist" or "disciple" have never been my chosen terms.  I'm definitely a fan of certain people, where "fan" connotes "from afar".

I'm a fan of Katie Couric, Walter Kaufmann, Stuart Kauffman... Alan Watts, lots of people, some of whom I've actually met.  Bucky was somewhat in that category, though like Kiyoshi I was experiencing metaphysical eddying.  I think I've talked about his experiences before.  The collective unconscious is a busy place, lets put it that way.  Friends are people I'm fans of but get to spend more time with, Sam Lanahan for example.

We kept a low profile this Halloween.  Steve had had knee surgery.  The Barton kids are still young enough, and their porch is just right.  Glenn came by.  Thai food was enjoyed.  Trick or treaters got their candy and maybe shook the fake hand.