Thought Overflow…Golda’s BlogIf memes are like genes, then having a conversation in which you share ideas and come up with new ones is like…?

So my writings here are sort of musings, on the personal side as opposed to the what-the-hell-is-going-on-in-the-world side. I also write as gvelez on medium; as wordmonkey on dailyKos; occasionally on Blog for Arizona & Hacker Noon; and once on impakter and LA Progressive should you wish to subject yourself…

0 That Dry Heat

Golda to Uncategorized  

I like biking in the heat. Being in touch with my body, feeling that actual need for shade and water, somehow makes me feel a bit more alive. It would be different of course if I had to do it, or if I had no shelter. But maybe because I am secure, I can enjoy the feeling of being exposed a little bit.

One thing I realized today – I think the reason we sweat in our inner joints, like inside your elbow or behind your knee, is that blood vessels are close to the surface there. Also neck and temple. Pouring cool water at those places is more effective in cooling down than like on the head or back. I wonder if that is part of first aid for heat stroke – I don’t remember being taught that. Maybe it should be – hope they don’t do a study on some poor creature, but anyway it makes sense to me.

0 reputation and things

Golda to TechStuff  

ok, just happy that Melvin Carvalho shared this with the W3C mailing list. Reputation space matters – I’m talking about human rights assertions here about bad things, how to verify and act on them – and I am really glad a few people might see this who can cause it to get implemented.

Cause I don’t have that leverage, not yet – may try to start something this Summer but my level of overcommitment now is even higher than usual, by several-fold.

So many ideas, if I write one a day I could probably write for three months straight. But I am slow to put them out. Some because I want to really make a difference with them, and write for an audience; but finding the audience, and adding the research and up-to-date lateral context takes more time than I have.

Context too, in the sense of what the reader expects. This site is mine, and I write for myself here; I have no contract with the reader to deliver a certain flavor, or for a consistent theme. Not even to frame and hook. This is my place to put words that have some importance to me, that later I will find a useful way to share.

As an engineer, useful is everything; but truth and ideas are seeds the usefulness of which is not known until they grow. So I am storing my seeds here, wrapped in some words to keep them safe until later, when enough rain appears to make it worth their risk to push out into the world.

So I was riding my bike back from Trader Joe’s on my lunch break, and a thought occurred to me (all my best work is on a bike, or in the shower…). If the universe is close to 14 billion years old, and the furthest galaxies we can detect are close to 14 billion light years away, have they been traveling away at the speed of light to get that far? Because I didn’t think stars moved that fast.

But yep – its the fabric of space that expands, and even faster at large enough distances. I hadn’t thought about that before.

This Is How Distant Galaxies Recede Away From Us At Faster-Than-Light Speeds

Need to write this up as another thought-provoking thing for kids just learning physics. There is so much we could do by letting kids think about the questions for at least a little bit before providing the answers!

0 Emerson how could you

Golda to Uncategorized  

And I thought Ralph Waldo was my friend…reading his essays for some comfort and deeper thinking and ran into one where he idolizes Napoleon. For ruthlessly killing people without hesitation. Emerson, really? What is wrong with you?

So much for comforts of the past…we’re gonna have to think our way out of this thing ourselves, ladies.

0 Binary Kids

Golda to Education,Kidstuff  

This variation on Twenty Questions teaches kids a bit of information theory and lets them take a different approach to powers of 2.

First, the kids should be familiar with the regular game of Twenty Questions.

Then, ask as an open-ended question: “Suppose instead of the whole world. you were only allowed to think of certain objects. How many questions would it take to find the right one? What if the questions had to have only yes/no answers?”

0 1/3

Golda to Education,Kidstuff  

Here is another opportunity for discovery: one-third. For kids who have learned how to divide and get decimals (or show a child briefly who has learned long division and knows what decimals are). Ask simply, what is one-third in decimal?

The discovery that 1/3 = .33333333… the repeating decimal, is surprising enough on its own for a child who has never seen an infinite series before. What usually will tweak their curiousity, though, is to continue – ok, what is 2/3? Then wait a moment, and see if they think of 3/3 by themselves. The idea that 3/3 = .999999999… may get the child saying, wait a minute – 3/3 = 1!

They have just proved that an infinite series can equal a whole number; if your child doesn’t want to accept it, that is ok. Just assure them that if the series stops anywhere, it is less than one, it only equals one if it is really infinite.

The fun thing is, this can be done by a 4th grader.

0 Zeroth Power

Golda to Education,Kidstuff  

For kids who have been introduced to exponents but haven’t been taught specifically about what it means to take ‘N to the zero power’, this is an opportunity for a small ‘Aha!’ moment.

If a child already knows what is ten to the 2 (10^2 = 10 * 10 = 100) and 10^1 = 10, ask them what is 100.

Let them think a bit. Many kids will answer ‘zero’. Ask, well, then what is zero times 10? If its not 10^1, then that can’t be right.

Explain that 100 must be the thing that you multiply by 10 to get 10^1. This should be enough of a clue that they realize that 10 to the zero is 1.

Then, without any other explanation, ask something that sounds hard – “what is eighty-seven to the zeroth power?” With a bit of thought, your child may be able to come to the sudden realization that everything to the zeroth power is 1!

(This only works if they haven’t already been taught this fact in school – it is fun to discover things that no one has told you. So don’t be afraid to try this somewhat early, before most schools cover it.)

Here is a fun way to introduce kids to the concept of modulus (without ever saying the word): ask, why does a week have 7 days? Suppose you could change it – how many days would you put in the week? Then ask some questions about ‘in X days, what day would it be?’

It helps to ask the child to consider the days as being named by number at first, to look at the patterns, starting with Zero-day and continuing as One-day, Two-day (which conveniently becomes Tuesday if Sunday is Zero-day), etc.

Start with simple questions like “So if your week has 5 days, and today is Three-day, what day will it be in 6 days?”

Make sure to ask several with the modulus “If your week has 4 days, and today is Zero-day, what day will it be in 4 days? 8 days? 16 days?”

Once they realize that it always goes back to the same day every time the number is a multiple of the days in the week, kids can have fun answering what sound like ‘hard’ questions: “So your week has 9 days, today is Seven-day, what day will it be in 80 days?” (answer – Six-day, one before the same day since 80 is one before an even multiple of 9)

Other interesting questions might be ‘can we have a half-week?’ Or for more advanced students, suppose you have weeks and grods, weeks are 8 days and grods are 4 days. Is it always the same weekday on the same grod-day? What if weeks are 7 days?

Back when my kids were smaller, I collected clever (ok, I thought they were clever) teaching techniques and published them to a website…a drupal6 website. Since I don’t want to maintain drupal, I’ve moved the bits I’m really attached to here…

0 Eyes Out

Golda to Writing  

something I wrote in 2007 and just found now

Swoosh! The thrilling sound of a near-miss filled Hal Bjordman’s ears as he wrestled against the G-forces pinning him to his seat. Nothing like a game of Supersonic Pursuit to get one’s blood moving! Not really dangerous, either, if everyone obeyed the rules.

Hal turned his small craft into a nosedive out of his opponent’s likely flight path, angled into a cloud bank and reversed direction, nearly cutting his jets as he did so. It was a daring move and succeeded in surprising his opponent and best friend, Skag Elmore. Skag had done just what Hal thought, hovering
over the cloudbank in wait. Hal’s craft emerged angled perfectly, straight towards Skag’s and just below. Less than a second later, the nose of Skag’s ship was shot off, and Hal’s friend was floating ignominously down in a large white puff of chute fabric.

Later in the bar, Hal crowed gleefully while buying drinks for the two of them.

“Pure skill, I tell you – and the luck that follows. That turn in the clouds – you never even saw me coming!”

Skag smiled ruefully into Hal’s infectious grin. “You got me all right. And the last fight of the year, no less.”

“Don’t worry, Skay – not all seniors are funless wimps. We’re still ourselves, just smarter. I know for a fact that Srs. Helbourg and Gorman played Supersonic just last month.”

“Yeah.” Skag’s face was morose. “But I don’t think they enjoy it like we do – and no Senior ever would do that turn you were so happy about. Too much sense.”

“Ahh…Well, who cares! If we want to, we will – no one will stop us. And from what I hear, running the world has its own advantages.” Hal grinned lewdly.

Further conversation on the last point was dropped as a well-dressed woman came into view, by her clothes clearly a Senior but still young, in her early twenties.

“What a touching sight – two Juniors bemoaning the impending loss of their youth. Making plans for a last night’s fling, boys? The Festival should give you ample opportunity.” Sarcasm dripped from perfectly adorned red lips, literally oozing with the latest fashion in moving cosmetics.

“Hold your fire, Lady Doris – we get enough of it from your little sister. She’s jealous, what’s your excuse?”

“Civil tongue, Junior Hal. You may be Senior and Ruler-apprentice in a year, but up to tomorrow morning I’m still your better. And I can forbid you from Festival if I see fit.”

“My apologies, Lady. Cm’on, Skag – lets get outta hear before we get in more trouble – there’s no way I’m missing tonight. With your permission, Doris? No offense meant, really.” Hal’s youthful grin and sincere-looking chagrin came to his aid – for the last time? I hope not. Can’t be – though I’ve seen some
changes I never would have expected.


Festival night turned out to be, not exactly a disappointment, but not what Hal had anticipated for his last full-blown revelry as an admittedly-irresponsible youth.

It had started out well enough. Hal, Skag, and a handful of their gaming buddies joined for an early round of sense-enhancing Gira drinks in the late afternoon. After downing the clear liquid his friends’ faces seemed to glow with camraderie, and he felt immensely close to each of them. They all agreed to experience the Festival together, and to share whatever pleasures they found. Toasts were offered.

“To us – the best Rulers this world is gonna see!”

” ‘To Rule is To Serve’ – and be served!” Laughter followed the common twist of their training motto.

“And serviced!” Cheers and laughter.

“To all of us – may we never forget th’ purity, sincerity and loyalty of our youth” – this from a friend whose name Hal had forgotton, who almost never drank. He looked solemnly unsteady.

“Let’s PARTY!!” Hal shouted, afraid someone would pass out here and put a damper on the whole Festival.

They took off towards the bright lights and loud music that marked the yearly revels. They had been to Festivals before, but never as the honored graduates, for whom the whole revelry was thrown.

Hal had few clear memories of the rest of the night – though Gira enhanced the senses, it did nothing for the memory. Which was probably a good thing. He did remember bits here and there: he and Skag surrounded by five beauties from the provinces, all smiling and eager to please. They should be! For one night, a girl lucky enough to be selected for Festival made more than she would a year in the factories, or even in the low-class whorehouses.

One image disturbed him slightly. It was almost dawn, and the four of them who were still awake were searching for a final fling. They found it – or her – towards the edge of the Festival grounds. Great body, and young too. But she hadn’t been properly instructed, or something – her eyes showed fear, and though she didn’t resist, she left them all with a bad taste, like eating an unripe fruit. The eyes were still with him.

Well, that was that, anyway. His youthful frolicking was at an end, or at least was about to change character. Hal had been woken with the rest of the graduating Juniors, after an hour or two of sleep, and was now proceeding down the hall to their pre-indoctrination review. It would be nothing new. Hal was
well versed in the process of mind-immersion, having studied it in training school. He could probably give the talk himself.

The speaker started way back with the history of Praal, how there had been centuries of instability before the current Rulers came to power; how it was determined that the fault always lay with the lax younger generation that did not understand the complexities of ruling a world; and how the wise Third Ruler had come up with the brilliant idea of passing wisdom onto the young, while they still had time to use it.

“How many times,” intoned the speaker, “has a wise old man wished with all his heart: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now. Well, you Juniors won’t have to wish that, if you pay close attention with an open mind this next year.”

Hal yawned. He wished this guy would wrap it up already. Actually, if he wasn’t so sleepy, he’d be excited – he was to enter the eyes and mind of the Eleventh Ruler’s right-hand man, Elder Senior Rojan.

This was a major coup. He’d risked a lot for it, too. Juniors could list up to ten desired mentors, and most times they would get someone on the list. But Hal, the top of his class and with record-breaking aptitude results, put down only Rojan. It was even more of a risk because he knew Rojan had not wanted
to be a mentor at all, in fact only some unknown political struggle had forced him into it. But what a prize! Seeing and hearing everything old Right-hand Rojan did for a year. Knowing, if not his thoughts, then at least his emotions. Hal would emerge knowing more than anyone about the inner workings of power on Praal. Anyone, that is, except Rojan and the Eleventh Ruler himself.

The speaker was droning on, explaining the technical aspects of the process in detail, presumably for those who had ditched the entire last semester of training school. He explained how, with the body in stasis, four receptors were implanted in each Junior’s brain: one for the optic nerve, one for the olefactory bulb, one for the auditory area of the neocortex. The last one gently encircled the thalamus, emitting the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, feeling and emotion. Tactile sensations were not received directly,
but an overall sense of pain, pleasure or exertion would be experienced through the bath of chemicals flowing through the brain.

Each receptor was sensitive to a specific frequency, emitted by the matching transmitter placed in the mentor’s brain some months ago. Essentially, the mentor’s optic activity was reproduced in the Junior’s optic nerve, and the same for the other senses. The chemical detectors and emitters reproduced waves of feeling rather than specific activity. It was supposed to take some time – a week or so – for the receiver’s brain to adjust to the new signal topography, but they didn’t bring you to consciousness until then. So you
“slept” for a week, then “dreamed” for a year – except that your dream was your mentor’s reality.

Finally the lecture ended. A few last questions were asked, including one that had been bothering Hal.

“So, you have no control over anything that happens for a year? Can we contact anyone on the outside?”

“Do you control your dreams? No, of course not, the transmission is one-way. But your mentor knows you are watching, and all of our Elder Seniors are responsible individuals. Just think of it as a long, pleasant nap – and keep a receptive mind”

The Juniors groaned at the pun, and asked no more questions. Time to go.

Despite all the preparation he’d had, Hal’s palms sweated profusely.

They shuffled single file into the tank room, to be given a tranquilizer, a mild hypnotic suggestion, and to “sleep” for the next twelve months.


Urine. Stale urine. Hal’s eyes felt like they were open, but he could see nothing. What’s going on? This place stinks, it can’t be Rojan’s chambers.

A crack of light appeared. Hal wanted desparately to look around, figure out where the hell he was, but his new “eyes” barely looked up from some kind of straw pillow.

A voice spoke, seeming to come from inside his body. A short, harsh noise. A short, harsh, high-pitched noise. Oh my god. Something’s got to be wrong. That’s not any Elder Senior I’ve ever heard. Maybe this is a real dream, a first-week dream like we were warned.

Hal’s new body sat up, arms around its knees. A large hairy figure appeared in the doorway shouting some kind of invective. Hal felt a dull fear, deep weariness, and hate. Why do I hate this guy? I’ve never even met him before.

His body rose, eyes towards the floor – and he noticed he could not see his new feet, because two bumps on his chest were in the way.


Hal’s brain manufactured enough of its own shock, rage and fear transmitters to knock him from his fragile consciousness, and he blacked out.”