futurebird – mathematical sandbox

Escape from Planet Earth: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

We stood in a verdant meadow filled with multicolor butterflies and flowering trees as the police man tried to wrestle the dying woman from my arms.

"Look up!" I shouted. The grass from the garden curved up sharply where the horizon would normally sink. The landscape continued to mountains that loomed above us and a vast lake that curved above our head and into the mist. It was hard to look up since we were clearly in a world without normal geometry. But, the sight of a cylinder world, (spinning to simulate gravity?) was enough to stun the cop out of his fixation on me and the strange woman he had shot just moments earlier in the streets of NYC. Flat and gray New York City, punctuated with yellow cabs and red lights, felt suddenly distant and irrelevant. The dark alien woman in my arms pointed to a small cabin. "in there, place me on the bed"

"You need help?" The tall young man asked me, he and several others had stepped through the door with us in confusion.

An older woman in a pink ladies summer suit was talking to the police man. She had the patrician air of a Park Ave. resident and this seemed to calm the cop for the moment.

"I don't know where the door went." She said, exasperated "We just need to stay calm until we know what this is!"

The young man guided me to the cabin. In truth, I was still in shock. But, some things were making sense.

"You are and alien and this is your home planet." I said, mostly trying the idea on for size. It sounded even crazier out loud than it did in my head.

The cabin was like those found upstate, small, with thin walls only suitable for the summer months, a jaunty stove pipe sticking from the roof. A small porch too narrow for even a rocking chair.

Inside, it was quite different (were all doors here as strange as that first portal?) White walls floor and ceiling, clinical, modular. It was so clean and white it was difficult to gauge the size of the room. The "bed" was more like a futuristic dentist's chair. Adjustable individual rests for her arms and legs. It perfectly matched her small (if round) body. Above it an arm welded to the ceiling whirred to life as soon as we placed her down. Using 4 joints the arm could reach every part of her body. Her face relaxed visibly as soon as she was in the "bed" --that is when I noticed the tubes that had connected automatically to her neck from the chair. They started clear but now were filled with red (human?) blood.

"It must be doing something for the pain." The young man said. "It's doing more than that." I said.

Outside the shack an argument between the Upper East Side lady and the cop was reaching a crescendo. They were coming towards us quickly, about to enter the cabin.

Our alien host (captor?) sat up rapidly with more strength than I thought possible. With purpose and precision she pointed at the door. Near the door a sound like a ringing bell responded to her gesture.

Relieved she slid back into the chair so that the repairs to her body could continue.

But, the cop and the woman, were still coming. "Some one needs to take charge of this-" said the cop. Then his words and body were... cut off. His arm and the front of his face disappeared as if sliced away.

As they stepped through the threshold I saw them both cleanly sliced.

It was as if they were stepping into an MRI. Every layer of their bodies became momentarily visible as they passed through the threshold, and then there was only the right foot of the lady left for a moment cut off at the ankle, bone and muscle visible, the foot still in it's pastel pink leather pump, stained with grass and mud from the meadow, sill animated and alive, hesitating. And then it too was gone.

The young man and I gasped in horror.

"Do, not worry, humans. They are alive. Back on earth. Hopefully not too far from where they came from." Then more softly she mumbled "hopefully on land as well"

I must have looked stricken because she laughed "that was a joke" She was sitting up, the mechanical arm still working frantically to repair her, the blood filled tubes still streaming from the back of here neck.

"I am not an alien, I am human like you" she said "And this is not my planet, it is my ship." I shuddered still unable to think about the policeman being sectioned. "I know you have helped me already. Thank you."

As she said this she was taking off her shirt. The young man turned around quickly, embarrassed. She smiled at me impishly "I forgot how we once were about modesty"

The mechanical arm was placing a strange almost organic bandage around her chest. She lifted her arms. The gunshot wound was shockingly clean. The bandage was white but blended to match the texture if not the color of her skin. It formed a white band below her breasts.

"This will take days to heal." She said with disgust poking the wound.

She seemed about to cry again. She rubbed her bandage "What if none of you want to be rescued?"

For the first time, she seemed very young to me and not nearly as mysterious.

"Where do I even begin? I have so much I need to tell you and no time to explain?"

She fastened the shirt back over the bandages. I tapped on the shoulder of the surprisingly prudish young man. "Come on turn around." then to both of them "Let's start with our names." I said trying to ground the conversation again. But at that moment the ground had never felt further away.

Escape from Planet Earth: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The papers would say "Cop missing after mysterious 5th Ave. incident" they didn't mention that they shot her. I was trying to understand her words when it happened. "I need 400 humans" ... "...the rest of you will die." The cop was not masking his wonder with NYC blasé. He had wordlessly pulled his gun and when he heard the word "die" years of training (hit the center mass, do not hesitate) were activated in his preconscious mind. The sound of the gun left me deaf for a moment, for, as she was reaching out to me asking me to help her find "400 humans" the police officer had aimed his gun just over my shoulder in my peripheral vision, so the the sound was close to my ear.

It was a beautiful shot, perfectly centered, and he only shot once. It hit her, true, in the heart as her dark eyes widened with surprise, her mouth half open exposing a line of perfect white teeth bright in contrast to her skin. She fell back slowly, gracefully. I felt pulled to her, my eyes welling with tears of empathy and confusion. Then time came rushing back to normal speed, sound returned. I was screaming, everyone was screaming. Someone had tackled the cop, his gun fired again this time into the crowd, more screams, people running. I ran to her and picked her up. She was not dead! there was strength in her arms as she held my neck. A older woman and a young man as different as night and day accompanied me "he shot her" said the tall young man meaninglessly. The older woman was feeling for her pulse acting on instinct together we ran through the door. Behind me I heard the cop barking at us to stop. But as I passed into the door the sounds grew long, like a record skipping "stop stop stop stop" the cop repeated he had a handful of my jacket and another hand on my neck, but we were moving all of us through wet darkness. How had the door seemed so bright from the outside when it was dark inside? I kicked my legs there was nothing beneath them! In my arms she looked up at me and said "it's OK, it's going to be OK" I tried to laugh at the absurdity of her comforting me in these circumstances, but before I could laugh The floor, soft soil, green grass, came up to meet my feet and I nearly fell over. We were on the other side.

Escape from Planet Earth: Chapter 1

This is a science fiction serial I will publish every other day. "Escape from Planet Earth" is the working title.

Chapter 1

A door opened on 5th Avenue. In the center of the street a rectangle of light widthless, blinding bright, but clearly in human proportions, opened, swinging on invisible hinges: a door. And through this rip in reality stepped a short woman with soft features, with skin and eyes dark as jet, even her palms were black (in the future the sun burns so brightly) her hair so thick and curly it was nearly impossible to distinguish individual hairs formed cloud like opaque black smoke around her head. Her skin was somehow darker than the hair, but lustrous, almost pearlescent and reflective. Her hands are tiny, nimble, even the beds of the fingernails black. Her eyes soft and perceptive.

Everyone on 5th avenue assumed it was some sort of fashion week stunt, or perhaps the launch of a new phone or album, and, as such the New Yorkers watched her with attentiveness, but not too much wonder or admiration, gawking would be rude and someone would explain how the trick had been done soon enough, to make a door open out of nothing in the middle of the street.

But, as I made eye contact with this woman I knew instantly that she was not of our time or our world. Her beauty was alien and yet deeply familiar. She looked at me and said in surprisingly mundane east coast English "I need 400 humans to come with me through this door."

Strangers who had stopped to take in the spectacle exchanged glances. People were now trying to look into the door. Peer beyond the light.

The strange visitor pursed her lips and repeated, but this time more as a command "I need 400 humans to come with me through this door."

For whatever reason she was looking at me as she said this. As if I had the power to grant her request. So, suddenly quivering with fear that had came upon me out of nowhere I said "why?"

That is when she started to cry. "Because that is all that I can take. The rest of you will die."

Chapter 2

Growing Yixing Teapot by "feeding" it.

I have owned a teapot from sampletea for several years. It's one of my best teapots. (1990's Yixing Factory 5 Zi Qie Ni Shui Ping Hu Teapot, 90ml)  clay is excellent and the craftmanship perfect. I wish could find another 90ml pot like this one. Sampletea also has a 30ml version of this pot so I bought two of them. I love tiny teapots especially when they have crisp details.


I was comparing the the patina on the larger pot to the newer small ones on new year's eve when we had guests. "look you can see how the teapot has changed over time" (I'm always trying to get more people interested in tea.) I wanted them to see the change in the patina from the wuyi oolongs that I drink in the larger teapot. See?


My friend said "It grew THAT much?"

LOL well, I guess that is a lesser known effect of "feeding" a teapot.




Today's lecture included the topic of outliers. How is a graph changed when and outlier is included or excluded? Since outliers deal with extremes they often bring up political and social issues. The example from class was of salaries at a hypothetical company where the CEO made more then three times as much as the highest paid employee.

I noticed this graph in the New York Times and wanted to save it for future reference.

Video links for STAT students.

Dear class,
Not all YouTube math videos are created equal!! I will post links to the most useful ones here:


Confidence Intervals:


Central Limit Theorem:


If you want me to post more post a comment about the topic that you need and I will find the best (and mathematically correct) videos for the topic.

Young, cheap tuo cha showdown!

toucha5Can a cheap pu'erh be good? Is it possible to buy cheap tea and age it in to something amazing? Most say "no" --but that won't put me off from trying. The first step is to taste young teas so that one can better understand the aging process.

I put three teas (all inexpensive young pu'erh) in to three teapots without looking much then mixed them up. Who will win the blind tea taste test?


Tea #1

Astringency, Dryness, nice Hui gan, rather sweet and slightly sour like white grapes. This one needed a longer steep than the other two. Nice back of throat feeling. The leaves are big and plump and young.

Tea #2

Heavy mouth-feel, Astringency, Dryness, some Hui gan... I swear this has this flavor like older tea or shu... it's not strong but its there. Steeps dark very quickly. Thick. This is easiest to drink in some ways.

Tea #3

Astringency, yet wonderful Hui gan, thick, flavors lasts, just a little biter also smoky? why is raw puerh smoky? Love the after-taste.

I think in their current young state #2 is the most "drinkable" -- yet it isn't my favorite. I like #3 a bit more ... in fact I like #2 least since it isn't really what I expect from sheng. I suspect it is blended. Not that that is "bad" I just like things that are less contrived.

How will these age? Damned if I know. I have two of each tuocha, one to nibble on and one to keep for a long time. I don't have an special storage arrangements, by my in NYC apartment I never use AC-- so I'm not too worried, I'll probably try to find a self storage unit with the best self storage prices in the future. In any case, if they start to dry out I'll seek new arrangements. But, If I had to guess,I'd guess that #1 will end up too sweet and plain with age, #2 won't really age much since it's so unstable, and #3 has a shot at be good in a few years.


Let's see what happens!

And now....

The Reveal

Xia Guan Yellow Ribbon
Xia Guan Yellow Ribbon Tuo Cha 2010 100g Raw ($9)
Jia Ji Tuo Cha * Menghai Dayi Pu-erh Tea
Jia Ji Tuo Cha * Menghai Dayi Pu-erh Tea 2009 100g Raw ($7)   RUNNER-UP
Mystery Tea From ebay
"2012yr Yunnan Wild Old Tea Pu'er Cake tea 100g" Mystery Tea From ebay ($6) WINNER!


And there you have it!


Living with worms in a small apartment

(This is the view on our roof in the South Bronx, we have a small garden out here already but I dream of covering it with plants. The worms are helping me generate the soil that I need. Dirt is expensive!)

Earthworms like the common "red wriggler" composting worm can live for up to 6 years. They reproduce every 7 days laying a "pod" with 3-6 baby worms. Hence, a long-lived worm that's highly reproductive can produce 1,000-2,000 babies. That seems like a small number after all of those ads about the danger of un-spayed and un-neutered cats, but those ads use the trick of counting up all of the offspring of the offspring-- I'm not even going to go there with worms. Use your imagination! They are surging with life!

An indoor composting system that is 1'x1'x4' can house 4,000-6,000 worms. Once, the food supply is balanced with the population worms naturally stop having so many babies. Either that or worm college is just more expensive in large thriving worm societies, so who wants 6 kids in the big city?

1,000 worms can eat half a pound of garbage (junk mail, newspaper, kitchen scraps) every day turning it in to worm castings which can be sold to desparte gardeners at surprisingly high prices at your local farmer's market! Or just hoard it yourself and grow freakishly large plants!

(24 hours of growth. Mixed greens in old potting soil mixed with vermicompost.)


Worms can be sold too they don't mind as long as it's not to a fisherperson. They are easy to trick, though, (since they don't have eyes) so you can sell them to fisherpeople anyway, just tell them they are going to a nice garden.

Think of all the pounds of trash we could keep out of landfills if everyone had worms? You would not get as much for selling them, then, so maybe it's not as nice of an idea as I first thought. Hmm.

All of the dirt that you see in the world everywhere just about all of it was made by worms!

Oh-- you can go on vacation for up to two months and the worms need no feeding or care. Easier than cats. The perfect pet for lazy people! Are they much fun? Well, more than you expect, it's fun to watch them making their way through the bin, eating this and that, mating laying "pods" and being born. You come to like them.

And then walking around town it hits you: All of the dirt that you see in the world everywhere just about all of it was made by worms! Without them we'd have much less pleasant forest floors and parks. Darwin was one of the first to make note of this fact. He wrote a paper about the way that old ruins are slowly enveloped by dirt through the action of worms. Worms over time can move move great stone monuments by digging holes underneath, they slowly sink into the earth.

They are a quiet and powerful force.

There is a learning curve for getting set up with your own worms. But it is worth it. The easiest way is to buy an overpriced "worm farm" but a farm can also be made much more cheaply, but it won't look as good, and you're not that handy anyway, right? You can dig your own starter worms or buy them as well. (just buy them, who are you kidding here?) Either way it's very satisfying to feed the worms bills, campaign funds solicitation notices, and bad news articles -- though they refused to touch the one from Anthony Wiener. I wonder why? I guess even worms draw the line somewhere.

(Hard-working worm devouring some junk mail and wilted spring onion from the garden.)


Of course, they like kitchen scraps too-- though, one must be careful not to give them too much of one thing at once.

They smell divine, you know the smell of fresh dirt after the rain, well if you get close to the worms after they've worked through your scraps and unwanted mail you can smell nature in all her glory-- maybe that's why their castings are so valued?

eau de earth

Worms! I'm not obsessed at all!