Sunday, November 26, 2006

Middle East Interests of the US

The US has grown into the only superpower, more and more is done through Washington in the World arena. Power though corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Oil is a strategic input to the US economy, and right now it is costing US tax payers trillions of dollars to control the Middle East.

Life's Turns

We pick one job and not another, we pick a girlfriend and not another. And life goes on. Each choice is a different life. Which is the right life?

My first answer is, there is no right life, but then again, if I could run several life courses, like in the Sims software game, would I choose one over the other? Now I am describing simulations. These are used in science and business. The short answer is that even with these tools, the future is unknowable.

Some cultures, state these choices as God's choices, and just live whatever life they get. This is wise, the only difference with my secular world view, is that I assume that I am the architect of my own destiny, or maybe I should say, I should take some blame and some credit for my decisions.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What Does it Mean to Commit Suicide?

All of us have different histories, in each case if the choice to commit suicide is taken, there may be different reasons. I myself have not asked myself this question before. I know of three friends that did. I met them before I was twenty, or around twenty, two made it to twenty the other did not.

Today I found out that a close relative of our family did it. What does it mean?

All of us know that we are not here forever, but choose not to dwell on that too much. I for one am grateful to be alive and have plans to do what alive people do, contribute to our common life.

These reflections will not relate on the recent event because I do not know this person enough to try to make sense of his case. As is frequent with me, these are abstract reflections.

In simple terms one accelerates something that is going to happen anyway. What is strange to me is that instead of doing as much as possible before the time comes, one tries to end before it is time. People expect us to be around, they depend on us. Only when they see that we are going away, against our will, they stop depending on us. Most of all there is joy in being alive.

On the other hand when it comes to the whole of our species, there are reasons to believe that we are killing ourselves, in that case though, most of us can claim that the future cannot be predicted, and there is no point in being so glum.

As always, do not expect deep answers from this little mind just trying to make sense of the world around him.

2045 (Second Part)

The Second World War ended in 1945. Ray Kurzweil predicts that a hundred years after that terrible war ended, humans will have another chance to reach unprecedented heights. That is the year of the Singularity according to his calculations.

Steve Wozniak was recently interviewed through the Washington Post by his readers and admirers. He is not so optimistic as to when Artificial Intelligence will appear, but he more than Kurzweil has contributed to the ubiquity of the personal computer, and I take his opinion seriously.

To believe Kurzweil I have to do more research like he has done. I am not convinced, for one thing I do not see in Kurzweil's book any mention of the show stopper that environmental degradation can become.

Wozniak and Child Development

I finished reading Steve Wozniak's book, iWoz.

I was taken by the description of the communication with his son Jesse. Obviously Mr. Wozniak was an intelligent child himself, and we can assume that his son is also. But more important is the level of communication they reached; before most fathers and sons can do it, these two were "talking" to each other. When the baby was light, and Mr. Wozniak could easily carry him around, he could feel the tension in Jesse's muscles and thus follow the instructions of his son to find objects. Mr. Wozniak could close his eyes and be directed by his son towards objects.

This is a great man. He reminded me of that other great American thinker, Richard P. Feynman. This physicist also wrote books with the same down to earth and wise tone. In both cases the father-son relations are worth pursuing.

The human mind has a genesis, as Jean Piaget revealed last century, teachers and parents can greatly benefit by knowing the stages of brain development in children discovered by Piaget; this development is easily one of the most important phenomena going on in the home of any family with children.

Friday, November 24, 2006

RSTS & iWoz

"Why relevant science?

Relevant Science and Technology Society (RSTS), Bangladesh. This foundation was formed by a group of scientists under the leadership of Dr. K. S. Rabbani.

RSTS provides a framework under which individuals may develop their own ideas and programs.

RSTS also works through its different organs which help improves the quality of life of common people."


I was doing a Google search on this blog, Relevant Science, and the number one site was:

Relevant Science and Technology Society

This Bengali society is promoting something very important. Science and Technology to the People.

I am also reading Steve Wozniak's autobiography, "iWoz". Wozniak is a great man, and Dr. Rabbani also is doing good with Science and Technology.

Science to the People!

That is Relevant Science.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Each Head Counts

In these trial times all of us should be looking ahead. By the nature of our limited number of neurons each one of us cannot hold all the thoughts, nor propose all the solutions, but all together we are in better shape.

My friend Julián Félix from León Guanajuato together with a team at Fermilab, reported back in January of last year that the Sigma particle may decay into a new scalar particle with a 214.3±0.5 MeV/c 2 mass.

Now Germán Valencia and collaborators reported yesterday, that this may be the so much sought after Higgs Scalar Particle.

Good work Julián!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Global Economy Local Employment

I live in Illinois, I have read Tom Friedman's "The World is Flat". I buy his idea that technology makes workers compete worldwide; but I do not know how to make a living in the new world.

In the new economy knowledge is more important than in the old economy, I went to school until I was thirty years old, but I feel that people with less schooling and more connections are doing better than I am.

Part of the reason is that I am more concerned about the concept of information, for instance, than how to use information to make money. I will keep trying to figure out a local employment solution to the global landscape open to me, if I do find a good business, first I will take advantage of it, and then I will post it in this blog.

NYT View of Mexico

Writing today about the Swearing in Ceremony of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the Mexican presidency JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. of the New York Times states:

"It remained to be seen if Monday’s political theater was a graceful exit for a candidate who could never acknowledge defeat, or truly the start of a unified left-wing movement to challenge the oligarchy of politicians and business executives who have controlled the country for a century. "

He put in a nutshell the Mexican situation.

I myself don't know the outcome of that situation; but to me, this is a historic moment in Mexico, and maybe in the world, when "the oligarchy of politicians and business executives who have controlled the country for a century " as he aptly puts it, has shown an utter inability to solve Mexico's problems.

Maybe is time to let the people give it a try. We are going down a big hole to extinction if we continue the short sighted policies that have destroyed the environment following the policies of this oligarchy.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What are the Children Seeing?

Since the sad Columbine incident several years ago, I have been digesting the ations of those two boys. Before them Timothy McVeigh had committed a heinous act. My daughter's friends in high school seemed gloomy for my taste. What is going on?

Right now I believe these children are like the canaries in a mine.

"Canaries in a Mine


by Diana Chapman Walsh, President - Wellesley College

For 11 years, I have presided over commencement at Wellesley College, always a moving ritual, full of history, promise, and hope. Over this tumultuous decade, we, like most colleges and universities, have experienced challenges, conflicts and threats to our sense of cohesion. College campuses are crucibles in which struggles of the larger culture often first appear. College students - so bright and sensitive, so impatient and idealistic - serve as sentinels; they function for the larger society as canaries in a mine."


I agree with Ms. Chapman Walsh. Children are the canaries in a mine.

Now I am starting to see what they see, the end may be near if we do not mend our ways.

Report in Spanish of Today's Celebration in Mexico

La Jornada already filed a report on the historic events today in Mexico:

La Jornada

Peaceful and effective political action by the Mexican people.

AMLO's Government Plan

  • Foster a process of renewal for public institutions
  • Defend the right to information and demand openess of communication media
  • Attend the migration issues of Mexico, insisting in changing the economic policies of Mexico to increase employment, and oppose the border fence the US plans to build in the Mexico border
  • Denounce injustices and watch public servants, and demand the destitution of Ulises Ruiz and the removal of federal forces from Oaxaca
  • Send legislators from his coalition an initiative to make corruption a constitutional crime, and to diminish the salaries of public servants.
  • Not allow tax raises agains the poor.
  • Press for the formation of a public budget and demand more resources for agriculture
  • An initative to Senators from his coalition for a law that controls the prices of goods and services
  • Creation of a "comission for the truth" to investigate the Fobaproa and watches over contruction of federal public works
  • Protectionist measures for national producers
  • Defend the constitutional right for a just and dignified salary
  • Legally protect the informal sector of the economy
  • Defend the autonomy and democratization of unions, and not allow the privatization of the energy sector
  • Protect Mexico's natural resources and archeological sites
  • Fight for subsidies to senior citizens, and other minorities
  • Promote in Congress a Welfare State
  • Support for the San Andres Larraizar accords with the EZLN
  • Indiscrimantely accept all youth into public education institutions
  • Guarantee access to public health services
  • Help Mexicans in slums without public services

Three Presidents in Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador ( AMLO ) is the third Mexican President. The first is in his way out, Vicente Fox, and the second is Felipe Calderón, elected by a very small margin on July 2nd. Today in Mexico City, AMLO was sworn as President of Mexico by a Democratic Convention of several tens of thousands of people.

Foundational Assembly in Mexico Tenochtitlan. The Mexican people is waking up. After hundreds of years of European domination, just like in Bolivia and Venezuela, the original people of these lands are back to claim what is theirs, the land and the resources of this continent. AMLO supports the Mexican branch of this movement.

Three Presidents in Mexico, one of them AMLO, like Benito Juárez, many years ago, is going to go all around the country. The Mexican people is here to stay.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tlaltehcutli

The Las Ajarcas Monolith is of Tlaltecuhtli
ARTURO JIMENEZ
November 18, 2006
La Jornada
This is the November 17, 2006 Edition
Matos Moctezuma confirms this is the Mexica Earth Goddess
The Las Ajaracas monolith is of Tlaltecuhtli
Mexica goddess Tlaltecuhtli, discovered in Las Ajaracas, lot where the archaelological findings continue

Mexico City - There is no doubt, the huge Mexica monolith found a few weeks ago in Templo Mayor, in the Las Ajaracas lot, represents the Earth Goddess Tlatecuhtli, devourer of cadavers and the dusk sun, confirmed yesterday the archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma.

But also, the researcher offered the hypothesis that this sacred stone, now free of a floor and a layer of soil that hid it both from the common inhabitants of the Great Tenochtitlan, and the Spaniards, could be Auizotl’s tombstone, Tlatoani (Emperor) that ruled the Triple Alliance from 1486 to 1502, and was buried there some years before the conquest started.

Located at the bottom of the stairs of Templo Mayor, the monolith was shown yesterday for the first time to the media and, despite being fractured in four big parts, is in excellent shape, with its human face, claws in hands and feet, and in birthing position.

This deity, that also was represented in its male phase and that was created with pink andesite and decorated in red, ocre, black, and white, could be appreciated in situ after its restoration and located in a kind of dome for outdoor protection.

In the presence of Luciano Cedillo, director of the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH), and the archaeologists in charge of the project, like Alvaro Barrera, Matos Moctezuma described that the piece “wears a small skirt adorned with skulls and crossed bones, in addition of showing the dorsal adornment of stripes and snails, exclusive of female deities associated with the earth and the nocturnal. Also it has unique elements, like skulls in elbows and knees, and paper flags in the hair, symbols respectively of death and sacrifice”.

The archaeological findings continue and, for instance, only this past Tuesday a tomb was located at one side of the monolith not yet explored but that contains some human and animal bones.

With the participation of the Federal District Government, that acquired the lots in Guatemala and Argentina streets and donated them to INAH, the research and restoration activities are just beginning.

Copyright © 1996-2006 DEMOS, Desarrollo de Medios, S.A. de C.V.

All Rights Reserved.

Author Rights 04-2005-011817321500-203.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Earth Goddess unearthed in Mexico


The huge sculpture found in Mexico City a few weeks ago represents the Earth Goddess Tlaltecuhtli. You can read the story in Spanish in the following link:

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2006/11/17/index.php?section=cultura&article=a06n1cul

Some people may take this as a message from Gaia, another name from another culture of the same goddess.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Are there Signs of Danger?

Ever since I was a teen ager I have followed the environmental news. Since then I thought in only having two children, just to keep a "copy" of me and a "copy" of my wife. After I left Lucent in 2001 I have followed sessions in Congress through C-SPAN, and other news channels. My life in particular has been eventful to say the least. As I have written before in these logs, I am "spooked".

I think I am perceptive and here I report that something wicked may be coming our way.

Central Africa is falling down to hell. I heard today in NPR (National Public Radio), that the war in Darfur is moving towards Chad. They told us the story of a woman that moved out of her country because she was raped, only to find out that her tormentors can now go to Chad and rape her again.

In Mexico the city of Oaxaca, for all intents and purposes, is taken by a political movement based on poor native Americans and school teachers. The elected government officials seem to have been displaced. Next week on Mexican Revolution Day, November 20th the alternative president of Mexico is going to lead the celebrations and the current president of Mexico and the newly elected president, from the same party as the current one, will just pass. On December 1st the alternative president is vowing not to let the elected president to take over. To complete the picture, it is frequent to read in the Mexican news media that people are being killed and kidnapped. From Chicago, it looks like if Mexico is getting out of control.

Now on a more local level, one of my classes at the high school is out of control. It is getting harder to teach that class.

Is there a pattern? Should I worry?

When the World ends, all of us will know because the signlas will be unmistakable, the art is to get the message before everybody does. Keep tuned.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Language Meaning and Power

This week we had parent teacher conferences at school. I talked to almost forty parents; given that I have a hundred and fifty students, that was very good.

I told them what I am doing, and what I need from them. I got their support, sometimes in front of the children. I believe I have more authority in the eyes of the students now. In the past parents and teacher knew each other and it was unlikely that a student will not respect a teacher. Nowadays the big communities we live in, make the threads of authority weaken, or disappear altogether.

I am satisfied with these two days of teacher parent conversations.

Language

Conventions in sounds and the ideas they represent are the beginning of language.

Meaning

The conventions start motion of ideas energizing brain regions, we call that meaning.

Power

A set of neuron motions directing us to the real causes of events, gives us power.

In my conversations with the parents I spoke Spanish. Many of the parents do not speak English. I could express quite clearly in my native language, my concerns about their children, and how best to direct them in the direction we think is good. They are behind me, and now I have more power over my students.

In this moment of crisis if we are to survive, knowledge will set us free.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Days to the End

Nobody knows with certainty when they are going to die. Some times one is more certain than other times about things like this. A thousand years ago, there were pandemics in Europe during the Middle Ages, also called Dark Ages. I believe that humanity as a whole can "sense" moments of stress.

Our species has had difficult times before, I can think of at least two. When a hundred and so thousand years ago a small band of humans left Africa to try their luck somewhere else, and when another small band crossed the Bering Straight more than ten thousand years ago. In both occasions we succeeded, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this, but the future is not assured, and I believe that the human race is "spooked".

Like a thousand years ago, there are now Millenarians and false prophets telling us what to do now, that the sky is falling.

I only hope that now, like in other moments of trial, we come through, I am betting that our knowledge will set us free.

Wangari Maathai

This African woman won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Wangari Maathai fought against a government that instead of protecting the environment, was destroying it for profit.

That is the main reason Homo Sapiens may disappear from the Earth. The level of destruction is unprecedented and could be final.

I believe that by following honest brokers like Ms. Maathai we may have a chance of keeping our children healthy and thus assure our survival. As she says a lot of the suffering we see today, like the genocide in Darfur has a root cause, fight for resources.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alternative Government in Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently announced an alternative government in Mexico. His government, Like Benito Juárez's government more than a hundred years ago is going to move around the country. At that moment, Maximilian of Hapbsurg, was the emperor in Mexico City, but Juárez was the president moving his supporters all over the country. At the end Maximilian was killed in Querétaro, and Juárez was one of the best presidents Mexico has had.

Maximilian
Juárez

Nowadays Oaxaca, the land of Juárez is out of control from the central government. We are living in interesting times.

1,500,000 March to Oaxaca Capital

5 November 2006, Protesters reorganize and march to demand Ulises Ruiz resignation, the police and military forces are barricading main streets in the Capital to stop the march from reaching the central headquarters of Oaxaca.

read more | digg story

Proud to be in Diggnation

There is a composite picture of the two men behind digg.com. It is made out of 10,000 icons of us, the users. This is a nice metaphor to the community of the mind that Professor Minsky brought up to our attention in his book "The Society of Mind".

I am a proud member of Diggnation.

Giant Diggnation Mosaic - Revision 2 - TEN THOUSAND icons!

This time there are 10,000 user icons. only maybe 3 or 4 dupes (what's digg without dupes?) ;)
It's a 'perfect' mosaic, ie: the tiles haven't been tinted.
FLASH UI - click the + and - symbols to zoom in and out.

read more | digg story

Psychology and Global Warming

Psychological reasons why nothing is done about global warming

read more | digg story

Economic Security -- GAO Chief Warns Economic Disaster Looms

One of the constant, overarching themes of Words of Power and GS(3) Intelligence is that you cannot have national security without environmental security and economic security.
Here is an important story on perhaps the most dangerous of several economic security issues that undermine the present and imperil the future...

read more | digg story

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Mind of a Student

I have taught for many years. My method most of the time has been first to understand clearly what I am going to teach, then find out what students think, and finally have a plan to get them from not knowing to knowing. This method takes the mind of the student as the fundamental element in the process of learning and teaching.

Very likely now I have a challenge. This is the first time I teach mathematics to fourteen and eighteen year olds. They are more interested in sports and the opposite sex, than in mathematics. They have to find their place in the high school society; to compound the problem most of them were born outside the US. What is in the minds of my students?

They definitely do not belong to the culture of the students from this same high school, but forty years ago. The school has tried to accommodate. The task is enormous.

It is not just that the language is different, we speak mainly in Spanish, it is also true that the issues that form the high school culture are not integrated yet in their world view.

Here I write just a few items I have to understand better to help my students, some are general, and some have to do with mathematics:

o how to take them from recent immigrants to successful Americans

o when I say congruent triangles, what do they think?

o do they get involved with American culture?

o is there a universal mathematical mind?

At this point I do not have solutions to these challenges. I believe that as I resolve them, I will be a better teacher.

Latin Leaders Question U.S, Europe Immigrant Policy

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (Reuters) - Latin American leaders questioned U.S. and European immigration policies on Saturday and called for help in fighting poverty at home to cut down on illegal immigrants.

read more | digg story

Latin View on Immigration

The leaders of Latin America and some Europeans met in Uruguay to coordinate efforts on human migrations, among other issues. You can read in the NYT

Marvin Minsky

Professor Minsky has recently written a book,The Emotion Machine. This book concludes, as anything of this magnitude can be concluded, his lifelong interest in "The Self". That set of behaviors, memories, and the rest, in our minds, that we call ourselves.

Each one of us is distinct. I am who I am because of my history. I am the only Eduardo Cantoral born in Mexico City teaching high school math in East Aurora High School, in Illinois. That history that starts with the Big Bang, ends right here with my writing my Web Log, or blog.

Professor Minsky has thought about, more than most of us, what is it, that is us.

We are over six billion minds on this Earth. Could we merge into a Society of Minds that keeps our civilization going for other ten thousand years?

I do not know, but Minsky's ideas can help me answer this question.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Marcos in Juárez?

Subcomandante Marcos was yesterday in the US-Mexico border:

La Jornada

The message was that both countries are one, that the border does not mean anything. In a globalized present it is becoming more and more so. As I see it, the reason the original people of this continent could be robbed of their place is because they got sick with European diseases, but now they are immune, and American law enforcement forces have to contend with Marcos et al.

A new day is coming. We better learn to live like brothers or we will die like enemies.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Immigration and Macroeconomics

In a globalized world it is easier to move to another country to make a living. It was not possible just a few years back to move so far away from the place of birth. Companies also can operate in different countries. One consequence of this state of affairs is the huge number of Mexicans working in the United States.

Macroeconomics considerations deal with billions of dollars associated with different economic phenomena. Mexicans abroad send tens of billions of dollars to Mexico, more than the direct investment in that country by foreign entrepeneurs. It is this amount of money, that in a sense defines the backbone of the Mexican immigration problem in the US.

As long as that backbone is robust, I do not see any fundamental change in the present relation. Passing this midterm election, I predict that the status quo will remain, until both houses of Congress and the Executive decide to legalize this macroeconomic fact.

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