Monday, 25 July 2016

Toomas Karmo: Open Letter re DDO&P to Muzzo and DeGasperis Families, and Others

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 1/5. Justification: This had to be a rushed job. 

Revision history:

  • UTC=20160726T0020Z/version 1.1.0: Kmo corrected a "Friday" to a "Saturday", in his remarks directed to Virginia; and he noted that he had a few days earlier contacted inter alia the Archbishop and the Papal Nuncio; and he made also some tiny improvements of a purely cosmetic character  (mainly involving such things as typefaces). With these revisions uploaded to the server, he proceeded to his actual e-mailing, transmitting privately the text here publicly, and in anticipation, displayed. 
  • UTC=20160726T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded initial version. 

[I herewith present just a minor piece of writing, as I struggle to recover from the crisis which precipitated my anomalously early, long, upload on the Friday or the Saturday  which was 2016-07-22 or 2016-07-23. My hope is that in making this present short upload in my usual timeframe of UTC Tuesdays, in the four-hour UTC interval 0001Z/0401Z, I can recover my normal rhythm of uploads. It should indeed be possible a week from today, in the normally scheduled upload of UTC=20160802T0001Z/20160802T0401Z, either to avoid the sad topic of DDO&P conservation or to combine a posting on that sad topic with a posting on something happier.]  

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4):
UTC=20160726 (a little after UTC=0016Z)

Dear Muzzo and DeGasperis families 

(as DDO&P developers; I reach you, shortly after upload to blogging server at,  via your commercial addresses,,, and additionally through your lawyers at (for the recent Muzzo criminal conviction) and (for the DDO&P property-development case generally)); 

and also Virginia = Virginia MacLean, Q.C. (; 

and  also Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre (RASC-Toronto; 
I reach you via your contact-us Web form at; 

with cc to my usual contacts at the community newspaper, The Liberal, namely,


In an e-mail under UTC timestamp 20160723T134733Z, I drew the attention of a wide cross-section of the public (including the Archbishop and the Papal Nuncio) to my blog posting of 2016-07-22, without in that e-mail making  further points of substance. 

You were all, with the exceptions of  and, included in that mailing. 

I write again today, to make sure that the blog posting of 2016-07-22 has duly come to your notice, and to give you some  friendly guidance in responding. 

(1) It is, as always, necessary for the DeGasperis and Muzzo families and me to sit down together, in some quiet Catholic setting (a Jesuit retreat house? the Marylake retreat house, or its grounds? one of the Madonna House communities?) to discuss the ins and outs of our DDO&P case, as Catholics dealing with a fellow Catholic. The best course of action is simply one on which you pull back from paving the land, letting citizen activists take on the hard work of its reforestation. No matter what you decide, we should in any case talk. I remind you of this for perhaps now the fourth or fifth time. You should e-mail me or phone  me (647-267-9566; I am set up to voice-record all incoming calls) this week. 

(2) It is, as always, necessary for Virginia and me to sit down, in some safe setting, and discuss the question of her Ontario Municipal Board advocacy of 2012-09-10. As I have already indicated in this blog, we need to consider whether Virginia was blackmailed into making her 2012-09-10 concessions to the developer, contrary to client instructions.  -  Virginia, you did not respond when I e-mailed you on Saturday: could you respond this week, please? It will perhaps make you feel better if I today remark that I would be happy to meet you within the walls of the RCMP or the Ontario Provincial Police, or alternatively within the walls of the Upper Canada Law Society. If you have some alternative idea regarding a safe venue, I would be glad to hear about that too. 

(3) RASC-Toronto: I am unclear, in light of your 2016-07-22 e-mail to me, why your DDO tour-promoting Web site,, continues to imply the continued availability of tours beyond September. Could you respond to me, as a member of your organization, via my usual e-mail,, indicating whether the accurate communication is your 2016-07-22 e-mail (which says that you are pulling out of DDO) or, on the contrary, tonight's promotion (which continues to imply that you are remaining at DDO)? 

(4) In so far as the Marco Muzzo criminal conviction has relevance to the DDO&P conservation case (the convict is a nephew of a developer director), it is advisable for me to meet  the convict. Mr Brian Greenspan, I suggest here that you advise  the Muzzo family, as lawyer to client, of the following: A special memorial for Marco Muzzo's victims will be held in King City at Kettle Lake Park on Langdon Avenue, in the late morning of 2016-08-14 (Sunday). Details are at It is inevitable that the Muzzo family, as morally upright people, will send some representative. I will hold back from the ceremony, standing a little distance away in the park, wearing my usual khaki shirt, knitted necktie, and dark trousers. I may or may not be accompanied, for safety, by plainclothes or uniformed members of the York Regional Police. The Muzzo family representative should quietly approach me after the ceremony, to discuss how I might quietly meet the convict, so as to bring some small amount of good out of his situation.  

I will look forward to your respective replies. I propose in conformity with my "Open Society" ideals of transparency to publish your incoming correspondence on the Web, following the general publication style I adopted with my "Open Letter to Jason Lloydovitch Cherniak" in 2014 December at


Toomas Karmo

Friday, 22 July 2016

Toomas Karmo: CIVIC EMERGENCY: RASC Pulls out of DDO 2016 September

From photography-of-dioramas art, on post-apocalypse themes, by Lori Nix
(working in New York, with Web outreach at;
the artist and Toomas Karmo have no commercial connection, and do not know each other personally).
Reproduced herewith by Toomas Karmo from the artist's,
with the artist's permission very kindly granted.

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 5/5. Justification: There was enough time to develop most of the appropriate points to reasonable length.

Revision history:

  • UTC=20160723T1650Z/version 3.2.0: Kmo added a remark on the advisability of his meeting the convict M.Muzzo in prison, and added a remark on his deliberately "forgotten" gardening tools, and cleaned up a very mild discourtesy, and cleaned up some typos or other cosmetic faults. 
  • UTC=20160723T1555Z/version 3.1.0: Kmo added a reference to Shanoff 2016-06-04 Toronto Sun opinion column on Tarion. 
  • UTC=20160723T1540Z/version 3.0.0: Kmo made a quite substantive addition, noting the subdivision project delay (launch is now scheduled for 2017-03-18), noting the possibility that RASC-Toronto has been used to give glamour and cachet to the subdivision, and asking the developer's Project Manager for comment. 
  • UTC=20160723T1416Z/version 2.1.0: Kmo made a small repair in grammar, and also added the quite substantive point that DDO&P is in the ward of Councillor Godwin Chan.
  • UTC=20160723T1345Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo made some substantive changes (softening a criticism of RASC-Toronto, and adding remarks on the possible future roles of Councillors Cilevitz and Chan). 
  • UTC=20160722T1959Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo brought the essay into a reasonably finished form and did an upload. He reserved the right to make  nonsubstantive tweaks, without formal documentation, over the ensuing 60 minutes, as here-undocumented versions "1.1.0", "1.2.0", "1.3.0", and so on. 

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some late points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears.]

0. Preamble

Early in June of 2016, I posted to this blog an imaginary artistic representation of an abandoned observatory, with the artist's permission. With the news of 2016-07-22, it is necessary to post  that disturbing image again.

At a first glance, all looks well. The observing floor, with its console, ladder, and computer table, seems in the first half-second a plausible scaled-down version of the DDO (David Dunlap Observatory) main-dome floor. 

But then reality sinks in.

The dome slit - in a normal observatory diligently closed as the morning twilight brightens - is in Lori Nix's post-apocalyptic artistic vision now open to the noonday. From this permanently open slit enters a luxuriant spread of vines, as when city starts reverting to jungle. 


I write to focus municipal, Provincial,and Ottawa minds on the crisis marked by the 2016-07-22 announcement from the current David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) tenant, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Toronto Centre (RASC-Toronto). In part, the announcement speaks for itself. Here is what it says. I quote it in full, under the legal concept of "Fair Use", while noting that its author has appended an assertion of copyright in the styling "Copyright © 2016 RASC Toronto Centre, All rights reserved." And I quote it while opining that in coming hours, or at any rate in coming days, it will be further posted, to full public view, at what has in the past proved to be a usual place for such RASC-Toronto announcements,

Dear RASC Toronto Centre Members,

With deep personal regret I’m informing our members that the Council of RASC Toronto Centre has decided not to pursue a lease agreement for the DDO with the Town of Richmond Hill. Town staff have been told of Council’s decision.

Council felt it was not in the Centre’s best interests to continue the lease discussions. At this point, we expect to continue programs at the Observatory until about the end of August to honour tickets already sold for the summer program.

I’d like to personally thank the many, many enthusiastic Toronto Centre volunteers whose hard work made the DDO such a success over the past seven years. Their efforts resulted in the 2015 RASC Qilak award and the Richmond Hill Volunteer Achievement Award. We have a great deal to be proud of.

Paul Mortfield
President, RASC Toronto Centre


Comment is needed from my desk in my capacities 

  • as an employee at DDO on two concurrent contracts, each of essentially a half-time nature, from 2006 mid-November to the end of 2008 June;
  • as a longtime member of RASC-Toronto;
  • as the lead author of the annual bright-stars article in the RASC Observer's Handbook (a publication with a current press run of around 9,000 copies, and now with an  emerging Web component; I started in 2001, under Prof. R.F.Garrison, being appointed lead author in 2015; my volunteer-labour contributions are logged in my computer as comprising - I give here the most recent five years - 65h04 (65 hours, 4 minutes) so far in 2016, 72h13 in 2015, 49h17 in 2014, 57h58 in 2013, and 38h32 in 2012; 
  • as the individual who founded the "DDO Defenders" in the winter of 2007/2008 (being, however, in essence ejected from its leadership by municipal politician Karen Cilevitz in the spring of 2008; the "DDO Defenders" is now somewhat misleadingly named, having as of 2011 or 2012 chosen to support the developer's aspiration to build 520-plus homes on about 32 of the 72 DDO&P "Trapezoid" hectares);
  • as the conservationist principally threatened with court action in recent years in Richmond Hill politics (full details are at and; I have received no threat since the Jason Cherniak letter of 2014-12-12, analyzed at the latter of these two sites; I further stress here that lawyer Jason Cherniak is not to my knowledge himself a land developer, and I add in this context that Jason Cherniak is not to be confused with his father, the Oak Ridges Moraine land developer-cum-lawyer Lloyd Cherniak);
  • as the individual financing the bulk of the court and tribunal work of the principal DDO&P conservationist organization, the Richmond Hill Naturalists (; I financed, almost solo, all court and tribunal proceedings except 2009 Conservation Review Board; my total outlay on the case, almost all of it by way of payments in support of the court and tribunal work, was 500,000 CAD or 550,000 CAD; although now too poor to afford a lawyer, I am happy to attmept my own court work if sued, and to rely on this blog and other Web materials if I should break down in the courtroom under the concomitant stresses of my fear and my (mild) autism)

1. Background to the 2016-07-22 RASC Crisis

(A) Further background can be had from earlier postings on this blog. 

(A.a) At is a posting of 2016-04-26, entitled "Essay on Sorrow - Its Anatomy and Remedies". Section 1, entitled "Case studies in the anatomy of sorrow", deals with my private and subjective conjecture that Richmond Hill Naturalists' lawyer Virginia MacLean (; on 2016-04-26 I call her, however, "MM"), in departing from client instructions at the 2012 Ontario Municipal Board by supporting construction of some streets and houses at DDO&P, was a victim of blackmail. 

Today, 2016-07-22, I herewith remind Virginia of our angry exchange of e-mails from a couple of years ago, and of my repeated requests for her to meet with me so that she can explain what she was doing at the Ontario Municipal Board in her painfully short, stunningly concessionary, "Summation" of 2012-09-10, so that I can - however reluctantly - in my poverty pay up the 10,000 CAD that the Naturalists still owe her. I herewith remind Virginia that she has had repeated communications from me about this in the last few months.

Section 2, entitled "Remedies for sorrow: the DDO&P file", details among other things my possible interrogation by the late Alfredo DeGasperis (in a friendly, but mysterious, 2008 meting, in which my interrogator chose to remain incognito, and in which I for my part did not press hard for his personal particulars); and the criminal record of DDO&P development-firm director's nephew Marco Muzzo (one conviction only; surely, I subjectively predict, there will be no other); and the mysterious 2016-04-18 resumption of earthmoving activity at DDO&P after a many-week hiatus; and the claim of  "Mr or Ms or Dr or Prof. or Sir or Dame I.Seem-Powerful" to have seen a University of Toronto document asserting an ongoing University contractual or quasi-contractual stake in the envisaged sale of DDO&P homes. Above all, this section contains my appeal to the development company directors, in the Muzzo and DeGasperis families, to meet with me, and to agree with me that there are more important things than an approximately-32-hectare subdivision, and to let a process of healing and citizen-led reforestation begin. 

(A.b) At is a posting of 2016-05-03, entitled "2016-05-03 e-mail to DDO&P-casework public figures, re blog". This helps bring my "Essay on Sorrow" to wide public notice. It also calls in the public interest for other parties in the DDO&P casework, of whatever political persuasion, to contribute to this present blog, without fear of censorship. 

(A.c) At is a posting of 2016-05-16 or 2016-05-17, "Part C" of an multi-week essay with the overall title "Islands in a Time of Civilizational Decline". This covers among other things DDO astrophysics research capabilities up the 2008 July shutdown; my formal rebuttal of a 2007-09-10 University of Toronto press release, falsely representing DDO as lacking relevance in astrophysics research; the 2007-10-30 University of Toronto Governing Council meeting, in which it was resolved to sell DDO&P (I mention among other things the possibility that Council member David Peterson was legally required to recuse himself, and also mention a second question of legal conflict, involving not Mr Peterson but the University's retention of Goodmans LLP); the University's possible delicate financial position, involving deferred maintenance on its Toronto-wide physical plant; the question whether the University's sale was legally,  and from another standpoint ethically, licit (I cite the original donor's 1932 Deed of Indenture); the 2008 public rallies (one of these featured the late federal New Democrat parliamentary leader Mr Jack Layton, thanks to careful diplomacy by then-conservationist Karen Cilevitz); the University's striking assertion, made to me  by then-Vice-President Ms Catherine Riggall, that "We [meaning the University] don't do moral leadership"; my 2007 assurance from the relevant Dean at the University that I enjoy the free-speech rights normal in our 'Varsity setting; the eerie event with David Grey Eagle Sanford's owl, in an afternoon of First Nations ceremonial for the DDO&P conservationists, and its connection with realtor-law questions of "Stigma" in the advertising of home sales; the conservationists' detailed "as-found" photography in 2008, and in that context our one inadvertent injury to municipal-provincial-national heritage (the loss, by one of my hard-working conservationist colleagues, of a blueprint); the hideous scenes of grief in 2008 July, not normally experienced by middle-class persons in peacetime, and in that context my photocopying of documentation pertaining to earmarked (perhaps, for all I know, now incorrectly administered?) DDO 1950s- or 1960s-era funds; the linked question of the Walter Helm Endowment Fund; the mysterious 2008 July death of my DDO computer (but my data was backed up); the question of Prof. Karl Kamper's DDO archive; my 2008 handling of a building key, including my envisaged method of proceeding should I in future be subjected to government interrogation; the University of Toronto Police head's resort to a line of sexual questioning, in our interview of 2008-07-12 (including my futile e-mail followup through President Naylor); and the "Moving Day at DDO" YouTube film, with a remark on what did not get filmed (including the apparent University of Toronto Police resort to duly parked ambulance; was this, I ask in "Part C", an unsuccessful attempt to invoke the 72-hour psychiatric-detention provisions of "Form 1", as  contemplated in the Ontario Mental Health Act?). 

(A.d) At is a posting of 2016-05-23 or 2016-05-24, "Part D" ("Conclusions") of "Islands in a Time of Civilizational Decline". This covers prospects for DDO&P, both under a favourable scenario in which the developer pulls back, allowing citizen-led reforestation, and under an unfavourable scenario, in which the developer builds the envisaged 14 streets and the envisaged  520-plus homes.  

So much, then, for earlier postings on this blog. 

There is also (B) the already-mentioned, and the already-mentioned pair of sites and

Next, (C) I should draw attention to my series of comments on an interesting but occasionally gappy blog essay by Greg Strom, at,   retrievable in Google by searching on the string ugly battle dunlap observatory. It suffices here simply to quote what I wrote to fill in Mr Strom's various gaps, since my sequence of comments nicely sums up the legal formalities of the casework: 

  • [On 2015-12-30:] I am involved in this heritage conservation case, the weightiest in Canada, as a 2006-thru-2008 DDO employee. I founded the DDO Defenders late in 2007, but in the spring of 2008 lost my leadership position (I am autistic, and clumsy) to Karen Cilevitz (she is not autistic). I funded the Richmond Hill Naturalists for all legal actions except their (largely successful) 2009 Conservation Review Board case, and additionally settled out of court in 2014 with Karen Cilevitz (since the 2014 municipal elections, Councillor Cilevitz). I therein lost most of my life savings (500,000 CAD or 550,000 CAD or so; of this, most was spent on RH Naturalists, and 37,000 CAD or so paying the lawyer who helped me settle out of court with Karen Cilevitz). Your own figures are correct in essence, but we still should make one correction: not 520 homes, but 531, perhaps plusminus 1 or 2 or so. Of these 531, some are on McMansion-style lots, in some instance or instances with boundaries within 150 metres of the largest of DDO's three telescopes. - The DDO Defenders fought alongside the Naturalists for full conservation until 2010, after which Karen Cilevitz changed their stance. Full details on Councillor Cilevitz's side of the case are at and - The developer has some promo materials, urging purchase of the DDO homes, at - I would urge readers to look at all three Web sites, and to contact me if I can be of any help in clarifying anything: Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com; 647-267-9566. It is additionally helpful to sign up for the developer's newsletter via the interface provided at I would particularly urge those readers with a conservationist philosophy to sign up: let us be very polite to the developer, but let us keep well informed through all available channels, that unhappy newsletter included. (signed) Toomas Karmo
  • [Later on 2015-12-30:] I should post again, to make sure all the facts of the Richmond Hill Naturalists' (RHNats) legal work are on record. (1) In 2009, RHNats argued at Conservation Review Board (CRB) for Conservation Heritage Landscape (CHL) status, in the meaning of the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA), on 72-hectare DDO "Trapezoid". Oppoosing were Town (seeking CHL on approx 50%) and developer (seeking only OHA protection for key buildings and for greenspace immediately adjacent to key buildings). CRB decision recommended CHL on approx 75%. (2) In 2012, RHNats argued at OMB, calling to the witness stand Prof. Bolton to testify re light pollution. OMB decision favoured the developer. (3) In 2013, RHNats sought leave to appeal at Divisional Court, arguing that OMB had in 2012 paid insufficient deference to CRB. Judge rejected this argument, holding that in law CRB can recommend to OMB, and yet is powerless to bind OMB. (4) In 2014, RHNats argued again at OMB, this time (at my urging, as ongoing RHNats donor) calling to the witness stand two international light-pollution authorities (Luginbuhl, from Arizona, and Shore, from Italy). OMB decision again favoured developer. (5) In 2015 April, RHNats were represented by a pro-bono lawyer, as developer sought award of costs for 200,000 CAD against RHNats. In its decision, OMB awarded 100,000 CAD to developer against RHNats. It is helpful to check "Google News" for the various bits of press coverage, most notably in Richmond Hill community paper, "The Liberal". At CRB and Divisional Court, Defenders observed without arguing, and at 2012 and 2014 OMB, Defenders argued against RHNats. RASC has not argued in any of the various legal proceedings. - As a student of these various proceedings, I am surprised by failure of OMB to accord protection at least to the greenspace closest to the telescope. Is it in the public interest to have McMansion-scale lots so close? - As a private citizen, I urge (A) competent provincial and federal involvement in the DDO conservation file, and (B) (to prevent a heritage abuse such as DDO from recurring) OMB reform. (signed) Toomas Karmo PS: I am willing to face whatever law suit(s) anyone may (I write here in a pure hypothetical) one day try to bring against me, but am probably going to have to SELF-represent in court(s): lawyers are for the rich.
  • [On 2016-02-24:] Fresh news: according to a newsletter disseminated today by RASC-Toronto to its members, including me, Corsica has offered to donate the two key heritage buildings (which house the three telescopes) to the Town of Richmond Hill, rather than to RASC-Toronto. Town staff are, according to the newsletter, instructed to pursue long-term lease arrangements with RASC-Toronto. So RASC-Toronto, having been tenants of Corsica, would appear to be slated to become tenants of the Town instead, and NOT to become owners of property. - This is a rather favourable outcome. It places ownership of the properties into public hands, opening that ownership up to public scrutiny through such mechanisms as the Freedom of Information legislation. And of course there is now no danger that RASC-Toronto will, in its financially constrained position, be some dark day tempted to sell the properties to private commercial interests such as Corsica or Corsica's commercial allies.
  • [Later on 2016-02-24:] Of course we still have to deal with the destruction of 32 hectares of greenspace. Let the work stop (I say), and let Corsica simply walk away, with some pipes laid, and much soil moved, but with the projected 531 homes largely or entirely unbuilt. Then let us, the citizens, somehow, with our own labour and sweat now work bit by bit to get topsoil and trees back, over
    a period of years - if necessary, toiling in deep poverty, if necessary toiling with the few hand tools we can afford, as opposed to the power machinery with which Corsica ravaged those 32 hectares in 2015. - Corsica is the creature of the DG Group, formerly known as Metrus. DG Group is the creature of the De Gasperis family. De Gasperis family, and also the Muzzos, who with the De Gasperises are involved in this case: we have to sit down and talk the ethics through, in a properly Catholic context. I e-mailed you about this, both directly and thru Corsica lawyer D.Bronskill, this evening. - Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com 647-267-9566
  • [On 2016-03-23:] We now have good press coverage, via Richmond Hill weekly community paper The Liberal, for the transfer of the two key heritage buildings to the Town of Richmond Hill. Check Google News for this (headline "Disputed Richmond Hill observatory buildings now belong to town: Astronomy charity members fuming over developer's decision", dateline 2016-03-02, byline "by Kim Zarzour"), or else point your browser directly to the coverage, at .
Finally (D), there is a work in progress, my This site adds relatively little to the materials already cited. A little awkwardly, is is under password protection. The protection is no longer imposed for any profound reason, but now merely because this is work in progress, not ready for the casual surfer. Anyone needing to read it can do so by using as login name jessie and as password accuracy

The lower-case "jessie" is a small tribute to the 1932 Observatory donor, the wonderfully upright and public-spirited Jessie Donalda Dunlap. I can speak rather confidently to her character, having looked at some of her correspondence, and at related papers, in the University of Toronto archives.

I have yet to write up (E) my rather comic account of police handcuffing on 2008-07-30, and of my formal police instruction to refrain from entering DDO&P (an instruction which, I presume, has legal force up to the instant the DDO&P western rump is transferred to the Town, as predicted for this summer, and which, I presume, becomes a nullity as soon as title is transferred - for the Town lacks, I presume, the legal power to bar my entry into the rump once the rump becomes a Town park; but I propose to check all these legal points with the police and the Town before attempting entry). 

 2. Assessment of the 2016-07-22 RASC Crisis

Very early, I think in the first few days of the DDO&P conservation crisis, I saw a thing which I think, in my capacity as a would-be Catholic private religious contemplative in the general theological framework of Firenze (Toscana) hermit Sr Julia Holloway, God desired me to see. I had long been going to public dinners at the local Catholic Worker house, and I had there made the acquaintance of "X". "X", when I knew him or her there, was probably poor, and yet did not seem desperately so. "X" was perhaps in a social situation not radically worse than my own, in which I have shelter and meals always to hand, and am able to pay my rent promptly. 

Now, however, something had happened. 

"X" seemed to avoid my gaze in the street and to be reluctant even to talk. I think I gathered from "X" that "X" was now sleeping in some improvised quarters - perhaps (but I am only 80-percent sure I am remembering this accurately) in a brothel or a homosexual sauna, such as can be entered upon paying some such fee as 12 CAD, and in which the indigent can, I believe, in practice be secure enough against sexual molestation. Privately horrified and in largely concealed anguish, I pressed upon "X" not my customary 1 CAD or 2 CAD handout to the indigent, but a banknote for 20 CAD. "X" accepted this, and then made her or his rapid escape, down a side street. 

Although I have seen worse things than this, such things are few and far between. (My dear mother's deathbed in 2011 was worse, as were my dear father's 1991 death, and my brief examination of occupied Estonia in 1990, and a 1974 Nova Scotia forest fire.) 

I stress that in my private and subjective belief, God desired me to see the bleak thing and to link it to the DDO&P conservation case on which I was then just barely embarking - even as He (perhaps) desired me to be aware of the 2016 Marco Muzzo criminal proceedings. On that bad 2016 day, I plainly saw the Christ-like figure of the wealthy and disgraced convict as he stood in his glass-enclosed dock. For most of his time in the dock, he faced the judge. There was, however, an instant at which our gazes met. As I have pointed out already (perhaps more than once) to his uncommunicative defence counsel (and as I point out again), I must be allowed to visit him in prison, and must be given some guidance regarding the practicalities of this visit by counsel. 

My  2007 experience with "X" was perhaps a sign, meant to impress on me the special gravity of what was already in 2007 promising to be a long period of DDO&P casework. Back in those initial months, I estimated to friends, in current retrospect reasonably enough, that we might be facing a fifteen-year fight. 


Having, then, here remarked on the general seriousness of the situation, I turn now to the specific seriousness of the 2016-07-22 news, as contained in the already-quoted statement from RASC-Toronto. With RASC-Toronto (as we on 2016-07-22 learned) gone as of 2016 September, Lori Nix's artistic vision of an abandoned observatory looms. 

It cannot be said that my esteemed, and now departing, organization was a fully happy influence on the declining fortunes of DDO&P. 

To the best of my knowledge, RASC-Toronto did nothing, in all its 2009-through-2016 tenancy under the aspiring property developer,  to further DDO&P astrophysical research. 

On the side of conserving national heritage, my organization did bring back into amateur-level service one of the two principal auxiliary telescopes, the 0.4-metre reflector in the Administration Building south dome. 

It is further to the credit of my organization that it took over DDO public tours, faithfully continuing the public-outreach work which we, the DDO staffers, had been doing since the summer of 1935. 

And it is to the credit of my organization that, liaising with the University's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, it brought books and other artefacts back into the Administration Building. RASC-Toronto thereby partially, or for all I know even largely, remedied the University's frightening 2008 July evacuation of heritage contents. 

Again, it is to the credit of my organization that it carried on with my own pre-2009 efforts in DDO&P gardening - conserving the beds I had created and double-dug around 2005, and doing significant planting of its own, and even procuring from within its ranks the (volunteer?) services of a horticulture professional. (In horticulture, I am myself merely an autodidact.) 

And I will long be grateful to my organization for the fact that despite having harshly ordered "DDO Defenders" activist Dr Ian Shelton, along with astronomy-and-radio enthusiast Ken Baine, off DDO&P on a public tour night, and having once in the broader daylight literally chased Dr Shelton's naively chosen political colleague Karen Cilevitz into the forest, RASC-Toronto has almost never been emotionally abusive toward me. 

But the debit side of the ledger is weighty. 

Our Town Council will be mindful of the infrequency of RASC-Toronto's visits to the Council chamber when that perpetual theme, DDO&P conservation, has been up for discussion, and of their uncivic demeanour in the Chamber on those rather few occasions on which they have attended. I remember in the most vivid way, as will others, the night they did come, en masse, with the evident intention of packing the public seats. (This was the night in which I unfortunately broke down in weeping or shrieking, thereby to my shame bringing the deliberative proceedings of a significant Canadian municipality to a dead halt for five or ten minutes. I have not previously explained, but may as well explain now, that I suddenly saw RASC-Toronto's tactic as analogous to the packing of public seats in a courtroom in Soviet-occupied Estonia, in trials such as were in the later-Brezhnev, or Andropov-Chernenko, era accorded to a small bevy of gulag political prisoners, including Enn Tarto, Lagle Parek, and Mart Niklus.) 

I recall, as will others, an episode of heckling from RASC-Toronto's position in the public seats.  It is because it was I at the podium microphone at that instant that I was forced a moment ago, in today's retrospective blogging, to stick a dark "almost" in front of my bright "never", when discussing abuse. 

Above all, I recall, as will everyone working on the case, RASC-Toronto's self-promotion. 

Whereas the podium is a place for us to try to call our Mayor and Council to civic account, exercising with all possible vigour and skill our Charter free-speech rights as we strive to clarify issues, my organization - seemingly ignorant of the way things work in municipal life, and seemingly uninterested even in learning - used it as a place for praising themselves, in the upbeat promotional tones familiar from radio commercials. 

The most damning entry on the negative side of my organization's ledger is, however, the following: RASC-Toronto has to the best of my knowledge never - not ever, not once in its eight or so years of DDO&P involvement - spoken out against the developer's envisaged destruction of 32 or so hectares in the 72-hectare DDO&P "Trapezoid" lands. From this I conclude, as subjective and private opinion freely expressible in the light of Canadian defamation case-law - I cite, now as at many times in previous writing, WIC Radio Ltd v Simpson (2008) -, that their involvement in DDO&P was not public-spirited. It was the opposite. It was self-interested. They wanted (such is my private and subjective opinion) a presence at DDO&P less to enhance Canadian astrophysics research than to give themselves, qua organization, extra heft.

We cannot, in all this unhappiness, discount the possibility that RASC-Toronto has allowed itself, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to be used by a commercial interest. Could it be that the developer was happy to make RASC-Toronto its tenant, so as to give its envisaged homes glamour and cachet, for as long as sales queries were vigorous (the advertising, available through, does play up the astronomical theme), and happy enough to drop RASC-Toronto - as one might drop a tool that has served its purpose -  once most of the pertinent queries had been addressed? Better commercial minds than mine will have to ponder this.

Such minds will further have to analyze the developer's 2016-06-21 mass-distribution e-mail announcement that development would be held back:

COMING MARCH 18, 2017.

A project this important
deserves detailed thinking.

Hi Toomas,

We're thrilled to hear how excited people are about Observatory Hill, because we are too. We know you're waiting to see designs. The reason we haven't shared them is that they simply aren't perfect yet.

All of the builders involved with the project agreed from the onset that this development would be amongst the best Canada has ever seen, and a vision like that takes time. In saying this, we are getting closer to a release, so yes, we're asking you to wait a bit longer, but it will be worth it. Our goal is to open in March of next year (2017). Observatory Hill is shooting for the moon, and is poised to deliver a lifestyle and living experience beyond anything you'd expect.

Thank you, and please keep an eye on your inbox.

The Observatory Hill Team

It has been cynically suggested to me, by a close observer of GTA real estate, that subdivisions are routinely and deliberately "delayed" once enough homes have been spoken for - i.e., once a sufficient number of prospective buyers have in some way committed themselves. The cynical suggestion is that there are commercial advantages in the delay, as the already-committed become more and more anxious to finalize everything, and therefore become less and less anxious to quibble over points of workmanship. The normal thing in a situation of complaint is to work through the development-community grievance adjuster, the "Tarion Warranty Corp." ( - an organization in which the wife, Ms Karen Mortfield, of the 2016-07-22 RASC-Toronto statement author Paul Mortfield has herself been (perhaps still is) a vice-president. Some background on Tarion can be had from Alan Shanoff's opinion piece, "Tarion too close to builders: After 40 years, new home buyers in Ontario deserve better warranty protection", in a Toronto Sun upload of 2016-06-04 to

Some public response, perhaps rebutting the cynical suggestion, from the developer's project manager Mr Michael Pozzebon would now be helpful. This present blog would be one appropriate place for such comment, since I have undertaken ever since the 2016-04-14 blog launch to publish polite and correctly signed incoming comment without censorship.  A simple, wide-distribution, press release from Mr Pozzebon's side, explicitly citing this blog, would be still better.  


What can be done for the welfare of DDO&P? 

I am prepared to take up the slack left by RASC-Toronto, donating a few tens of hours of gardening in 2017 and 2018, if the Town will ease my financial burden by buying the plant materials. I can continue using my own many tools, which I deliberately "forgot" in the lower level of the Great Dome in the upheavals of 2008 July, and which are meant to serve the public interest. 

Since security at DDO&P becomes a sudden near-term problem - I have today to bring the impending September security concern to the notice of, among others, York Regional Police - I have to make myself available as a person-on-site. If the Town's Parks department desires it, I can do my mathematics or physics studies in the Administration Building, without pay, at some upstairs desk. I could on random nights sleep right in the building, after completing my daytime civic duty of legally picketing the developer's envisaged Administration Building sales centre. (That is to say, if there is a sales centre - as always, we must be open to the possibility that the developer decision-makers, being as visibly Catholic as I myself am, will see reason, and relent, and perhaps chat with the Archdiocese, and pull back.)

Further, since RASC-Toronto never did significantly revive astrophysics research, and since RASC-Toronto is now confounding everyone by leaving, we have to figure out some other way of reviving it. 

Here I make myself available to the rather misleadingly named "DDO Defenders". I am aware that these muddled, ethically compromised, people have acquiesced in the developer's despoiling about 32 hectares. I do realize that these people have almost no credible record in conservationist tribunal and court argumentation.  (They did try, amazingly, to argue not for but against the RH Naturalists' expert-witness light-pollution testimony at the Ontario Municipal Board. Fortunately for us, the conservationists,  the otherwise conservation-averse OMB hearing Chair blocked their effort.) But I am aware also that in their ranks is professional astrophysicist Dr Ian Shelton. I am sure his wife Tuba has also retained something from her sometime astrophysics doctorate, even though not teaching undergraduates in the discipline. 

We may well be doomed to leave the big telescope to mere public outreach. Liquid nitrogen for its research spectrograph is expensive. The spectrograph electronics, rotting in its nine years of disuse, will in any case likely require gutting and replacement, for a sum in essence guesstimated for me by a DDO engineer to lie in the tens of thousands of dollars. Can such dauntingly large electronics monies be secured through NSERC at the federal level, or at the provincial level through a Trillium grant, at a time when some level of government must also somehow address the multi-million-dollar bill for deferred maintenance on the main heritage buildings? If funds for refurbishment of the spectrograph electronics are not forthcoming, we should at any rate be able to work in the long-established framework of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). Dr Shelton could help me organize some "Citizen Science" AAVSO programme. Although Dr Shelton will have his own ideas, and although he as my scientific senior must prevail, I for my part would today at least suggest an attempt to take timings of binary-star eclipses, as an ancillary to investigations of binary-system mass transfers, with appropriate public volunteer labour under his and my direction. 

On the side of public tours, I can of course help out, just as I used to, again and again and again, before the 2008 shutdown, and as Dr Shelton, with his doctorally qualified wife, still more competently can. It is helpful that Dr Shelton's wife was herself the DDO public-outreach coordinator in the years leading up to the last University-funded tours.  

It is easy for me, in particular, once again to help give auditorium lectures to the public, and once again to give little Dome talks - for an honorarium if administratively possible, but as an unpaid volunteer otherwise (at any rate until my envisaged 2018 departure for Estonia; if need be, this, too, could perhaps be put off).  

And on the side of engineering, I know (having explored the matter carefully in recent months, in a face-to-face teatime meeting) that I can recruit at least one of the former DDO engineers. At any rate, this recruitment is feasible if the Town - in concert, perhaps, with the Province, and perhaps eventually also with Parks Canada - works out some scheme of payment for him. 

On the side of the Town, it will perhaps be possible to draw in Councillor Karen Cilevitz. She has no university degree (she has only a diploma, in some branch of healthcare), and her attainments in amateur astronomy are to my knowledge slender. But she was an earnest and passionate advocate of full DDO&P conservation until her 2011 change in allegiance. Karen will of course object that there is a 2014 legal agreement between her and me, restricting our communications. But I never have any pride, ever. Or at least I ought not to have any. If I detect any, I know it is my duty to mortify it. I am therefore now and in future (as at all times also in the past) happy to sit down with Karen, in any convenient spot, and have coffee, and talk face to face, as we jointly work out how we can jointly help DDO.

Additionally, there is on Council a person to my mind still more suitable than Karen for this type of deliberation, namely Councillor Godwin Chan. In contrast with Karen, Councillor Chan has a high and relevant professional qualification: he has served as a lawyer on the team of the provincial Attorney General. Councillor Chan is additionally, with former Councillor Foster, an author of a strongly worded DDO&P-conservationist motion, duly passed at Town Council. And DDO&P is in Councillor Chan's ward (Ward Six).

Perhaps the correct diplomatic solution here is a solution on which Karen lifts those restrictions on communication which she and her lawyer Jason constructed, and in which additionally Councillor Chan becomes once again prominently active, and in which I end up working in some way or other with both those Town Councillors - the Councillors themselves, of course, now in turn becoming a welcome means of liaison with the Town's Parks Department, and with the Province, and with Parks Canada. 

I will over the next few days be trying to reach out to an amateur organization which, unlike RASC-Toronto, has on the basis of my limited information a credible commitment to astrophysics research - the North York Astronomical Association (NYAA; Can some solution, perhaps, be assembled which draws in the two Sheltons, and my engineer friend, and perhaps other former members of the DDO family, and perhaps either two or three people I used to know slightly in the York University Department of Physics and Astronomy or an ancillary York University unit, and Karen  - I do well to write here, " Councillor Karen" - with Councillor Chan, and an NYAA contingent? 

These are early days for assembling a solution. At this stage, we above all need exploratory discussions, in which all parties - the three levels of government included - provide ideas. 

[Having interrupted my normal blogging routine, on which uploads are made at the beginning of each Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) Tuesday, in the four-hour UTC interval 0001Z/0401Z, I must now try to return to the routine. My hope is  to make my next upload at the normally scheduled time (in this instance, in the four-hour interval UTC=20160726T0001Z/20160726T0401Z), but for once with an anomalously low wordcount.]

Monday, 18 July 2016

Simone Weil: Geometry Problems and the Way, the Truth, and the Life

In April of 1942, the Catholic philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) wrote an essay on education for the Superior of the Dominicans of Montpellier, to help the Catholic pupils with whom he in turn was in contact. Mlle Weil's essay was available in English at Fontana Books by 1950, as "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies", in the collection Waiting on God (in a translation by E.Craufurd). Here is what she has to say on p. 73: The solution of a geometry problem  /.../  is a pure image of the unique, eternal and living Truth, the very Truth which once in a human voice declared "I am the Truth". - The photograph, from, shows Mlle Weil's wartime identity card,
as issued by the Free French government-in-exile. 

Happy birthday, Theo! - Palju õnne, Theo! (Inspirational Quote - Vaimuergutav Tsitaat)

Selle aasta 23. juuli on minu poolõe lapselapse Theo viies sünnipäev. Theo ja mu poolõde asuvad Eestis, teatud osa meie perekonnast (mina praegu kaasa arvatud) aga siin Kanadas.  Palu õnne Sulle, Theo! - Siinjuures annan Sulle, minu eesti- ja ingliskeelsetes tõlgetes, mõned sõnad mida kirjutas poola-prantsuse füüsika- keemiateadlane Marie Sklodowska-Curie ammu, kunagi enne Sinu vanaema sündi, ja mida ma olen varemalt edastanud ka meie perele Kanadas.  - On July 23 this year is the birthday of my half-sister's grandson. Happy Birthday, Theo!  Theo and my half-sister are in Estonia, but some of our family (I presently among them) are in Canada. Happy Birthday, Theo! - Here I give you, in my Estonian and English translations, some words written a long time ago by Polish-French physicist-chemist Marie Sklodowska-Curie, at some point before your Grandma's birth. I have previously sent these words also to our family in Canada: 

  • La vie n'est facile pour aucun de nous. Mais quoi, il faut avoir de la persévérance, et surtout de la confiance en soi. Il faut croire que l'on est doué pour quelque chose, et que, cette chose, il faut l'atteindre coûte que coûte.
  • Elu pole kerge ühelegi meist. Aga mis sest - jonnakust läheb vaja, ja üle kõige usku iseendasse. Tuleb uskuda, et oled pühendatud mõnele asjale, ja et seda - seda asja - tuleb Sul saavutada maksku mis maksab.
  • Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that - it is necessary to have persistence, and above all belief in oneself. It is necessary to believe that one's existence is dedicated to something, and that this thing must be attained, come what may.

Toomas Karmo (Part B): Practical Tips for Maths-Physics Studies

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: There was enough time to develop the relevant  points to  reasonable length.

Revision history: 

UTC=20160719T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded base version (and planned to upload in the ensuing four-hour interval, without formal documentation in this revision history, nonsubstantive revisions, as versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ...) . 

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some late points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears.]

4. Means to the Goal: (c) Applying Available Physical Supports

I have already referred briefly to the filing of papers. Now it is time to expand on this - referring, by way of illustration, to my work on rotation of three-dimensional "xyz" rectangular ("Cartesian") coordinate axes. 

Pleasant though the thought of university libraries (and on suitable occasions even of humble municipal libraries) might appear, for maths and physics one has to have one's own books, and these have to be extensively pencil-annotated. Pleasant though the thought of working from a screen might appear, for maths and physics one has to be brutal toward the forests, by taking hardcopy printouts (and on these, too, making copious pencil annotations). 

My general procedure is in fact to use paper and pencil twice. 

A mechanical pencil with the 0.5 millimetre Grade B black lead optimal for maths - optimal because neither too hard nor too soft - goes first to the margins of the printed book or the computer-printer hardcopy. But the book or online resource is only a guide to what one has to work out on one's own, to the extent feasible. Writing consequently needs to be done at length, in a folder of commentary. A Talmudic scholar might call this a folder of "Midrashim". Looking at my work on Euler rotation-angle triples and rotation of xyz coordinate axes, I find that I have created a Midrashim folder, indexed in the trusty Debian GNU/Linux computer by putting a zero-byte file, with filename UNNN____HARDCOPY, into the directory 


Q and QA and QA...39 in the directory names come from the Library of Congress call-number formalism, used for shelving books, while the EONN____20160610T031324Z indicates an initiative started at Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) 20160610T031324Z. The corresponding filing folder has this same directory-tree information, in an abbreviated form, on its tab, allowing me to retrieve the folder from my shelving even a few years hence, on the strength of what is recorded in the computer. Within the folder, I find many sheets of paper, each with the same directory-tree information at the top (so that loose sheets of paper can be put back into the right filing folders at desk-tidying time). 

This is a folder, then, intended eventually to contain quite a few Midrashim (in the Hebrew plural).

One particular Midrash (to use now the Hebrew singular) starts on a sheet bearing, in its upper-right-hand corner, the annotations "Euler angles p.::01@0.1::01" and "20160709T1944Z" - meaning that I am herewith working not just on Wikipedia articles relevant to Euler-angle triples, but in this instance on the particular article whose actual title is "Euler angles". (There are easily three other relevant articles - for instance, one with the quite different title "Rotation matrix", at In   "p.::01@0.1::01",  the first "::01" means that I am presently on the first page of the article, and the "@0.1" that I am presently in the first tenth of the printed text on that page. The second "::01" means that this is the first of the approximately four sheets I shall ultimately have to use for this particular Midrash. There will eventually have to be at least one sheet in this particular Midrash for the Euler extrinsic rotation-angle triples, and least one for Euler intrinsic rotation-angle triples, and then (because the Euler scheme needs to be contrasted with the historically later Tait-Byan scheme, much used in aeronautical discussions of "Yaw, Pitch, and Roll", and correlatively of "Heading, Elevation, and Bank") at least one for Tait-Bryan extrinsic rotation-angle triples and at least one for Tait-Bryan intrinsic rotation-angle triples. 


A singularly troubling aspect of my work - to this day, I have not succeeded in learning whether others are similarly troubled, and I would accordingly be anxious to receive e-mail advice through - is mental fatigue. Catholic philosopher Simone Weil underscores the frightening moral aspect of the problem in her essay "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies" (on p. 72 of the English-translation paperback Waiting on God, as issued in 1950 by Fontana): There is something in our soul which has a far more violent repugnance for true attention than the flesh has for bodily fatigue. This something is much more closely connected with evil than is the flesh. That is why every time that we really concentrate our attention, we destroy the evil in ourselves.  

It is as though some Noonday Demon is perpetually pulling us down from the lofty task at hand. The Demon seems to me, in my own particular circumstances, to be obsessed with downward excursions into books of fiction, into books of British or Estonian or Roman history, and above all into Web surfing. Further, although I am here less tempted than many others are, I do imagine the Demon gloating with a special glee over the advent in recent decades of computer gaming, and in recent years of Facebook and Twitter. 

This specially troubling Demon is peculiar to studies in maths and physics. 

Computer programming, at any rate as I knew it in 1990s University of Toronto coursework, can go on for hours and hours, deep into the night, with the Demon mysteriously absent. Latin reading, and the writing of prose in English or Estonian, are likewise untroubled by the Demon, and so can go on for hours. Indeed programming, Latin, and (very especially) prose composition tend in my case to take on something of the brain-stimulating character of coffee. 

And yet in my case - I am, I reiterate, anxious to receive reports from other workers, via - maths seems to become brain-toxic after just sixty or seventy minutes. To my humiliation, I am forced to get up from the maths folders and walk in fresh air. A ten-minute walk does not usually do the trick. What is safe is, rather, a full half hour, or else a good twenty minutes with also some minor tidying-up of living quarters. Then it is possible to work again, albeit with somewhat diminished vigour, for another sixty minutes. There next has to be another working break with walk in fresh air, or something similar, again for half an hour or so, in the unpleasant realization that the next working session is liable to feature a still more gravely diminished level of vigour. 

After (at most - that is to say, on some rare day of high mathematical productivity) three hours of working, and two breaks, something else is bound to intervene, to relieve the strain - for instance, the evening meal, or bed time. 

There is also the problem of the Wandering Mind. This, however, I deal with rather efficiently. I keep around my neck a "nano-desk". The "desk" is a thin wooden board, of length and width around 15 millimetres and 5 millimetres, drilled with a pair of holes for its neck string. The board forms a rigid writing surface for some half-dozen blank white business cards (these can be bought from the same printing houses as will run off political fliers or advertising brochures), secured to it by little binder clips in spring steel. If I catch my mind wandering for, say, four minutes, I make a note on the card, and under the guidance of my admonitory note head for the restorative fresh-air walk not at (as it might be) UTC=201060709T1950Z, but instead at (as it might be) the mildly punitive time of UTC=201060709T1954Z. 


I have mentioned the trusty 0.5-millimetre B-hardness lead, in trusty mechanical pencil. Apart from this, it is pretty well essential to be able to write in colours, both in ink and in erasable pencil. For colours, the wooden pencils marketed as "Eberhard Faber Col-Erase", with also a basic cheap sharpener, prove good. 

Sometimes coloured pencils are a mere luxury, in Soviet Estonian parlance a mere kodanlik eputis (a "bourgeois frippery"). In the corresponding parlance of the late, unlamented Occupation Authorities - I already remarked on this within the present blog, back in April - this would possibly be a буржуазная фривольность. Sometimes, however, coloured pencils are mission-critical, as when one is working on something in geometry, and one's drawing is already crowded with a dozen lines and ten labelled points, and one now has to focus attention on two particular (perhaps partly overlapping) congruent triangles.  

I also use coloured ink pens, as I shall remark in a moment. But these are less often needed. 

Physical models are surprisingly necessary. 

From time to time, one needs a sphere. For instance, one needs an actual, physical, sphere in thinking about the dependence of unit vectors (the Einheitsvektors) on angles, in spherical coordinates. The Geneva-promulgated international standard ISO 80000-2:2009 prescribes writing theta for zenith angle and phi for the azimuthal angle. Adopting this approved convention, one then asks such questions as the following two: 

  • Is the unit vector associated with increasing zenith angle direction-dependent both on choice of theta and on choice of phi, or on choice of only one of these two quantities - and if the latter, then on which one? 
  • Is the unit vector associated with increasing azimuthal angle direction-dependent both on choice of theta and on choice of phi, or on choice of only one of these two quantities - and if the latter, then on which one? 
This is, in fact, mildly sticky. The two questions do not get the same answer. - A surprisingly large part of one's work consists simply in improving the too-terse notation of the textbooks. I myself like to use "e" with an upstairs hat and a basement tilde for an Einheitsvektor, thereupon adding such subscripts as "tang" to indicate a tangent-to-curve Einheitsvektor in line-integral work, "norm" to indicate a normal-to-surface Einheitsvector in flux-integral work, "2" or "y" for the second-direction Einheitsvektor in xyz coordinates, and so on. Proceeding in this spirit, we may well subscript  the e-tilde-hat  with "zen" in the case of the troublesome zenithal Einheitsvektor, and with "azi" in the case of the troublesome azimuthal Einheitsvektor (and, for that matter, with "rad" in the case of the perhaps-mildly-troublesome radial spherical-coordinates Einheitsvektor). But how, then, in an adequately careful notation, do we mark the angular dependence of Einheitsvektor directions? We do best to proceed under the general guidance of ISO 80000-2:2009 (the document is duly aware of the problem), writing parentheses, as when a function is applied to one or more arguments. Do we want, then, a notation in the two-variable function style "foobar(theta, phi)" (where "foobar" is the e-tilde-hat-with-appropriate-subscript), or in the univariate-function style "foobar(theta)", or in the univariate-function style "foobar(phi)"? To say that the two just-posed questions do not get the same answer is to say that of the three stylings "foobar(theta, phi)", "foobar(theta)", and "foobar(phi)", one is appropriate in one of the two just-posed cases, whereas some other one of the three is appropriate in the other of the two just-posed cases. 

At the moment, I have, for relatively error-free visualization of such situations, a styrofoam sphere, 6 or 7 centimetres in radius. 

The sphere has in the last few days proven useful for settling a specially troublesome, albeit small, question, ultimately arising from my studies in rotation of xyz coordinates: Suppose we have on a spherical surface three specks ("Blue", "Green", and "Red"; henceforth "points B, G, R"), comprising the vertices of a spherical triangle each of whose three internal angles is a right angle. (It is as though the three points are on the surface of the Earth, idealized to a perfect sphere, with one point perhaps in Texas, another in the Black Sea region, and a third not  far from Cape Horn.) For definiteness, think of these three points as in the following sense obeying a right-hand rule: if three rods are given, each of length equal to the radius of the sphere, and if each of these rods has one end at the centre of the sphere, and if the rods are mutually perpendicular, and if the rods meet the surface of the sphere at B, G, and R respectively, then the B, G, and R rods, taken in that order, form a right-hand triple.  (In more vivid language: If the four fingers of the right hand are straightened along the B rod, pointing toward the B speck, and the thumb is outstretched, perpendicular to the four fingers, along the R rod, pointing toward the R speck, then the natural motion for the fingers when they are allowed to relax into a curl will be the motion from the R rod (not away from, but rather toward) the G rod.)  Suppose we also have, somewhere on that spherical surface (perhaps on the surface in the interior of the triangle, perhaps somewhere on the three great-circle arcs which are its sides, perhaps somewhere on the surface in the exterior of the triangle), a black cross, marking the "North Pole". Suppose the latitudes of the G and R specks to be given. What inferences, if any, can now be made regarding the latitude of the B speck?  (Under what circumstances is the latitude of the B speck fully determined by the latitudes of the G and R specks?  Under what circumstances is there still some room for vacillation in B-speck latitude? What kind of vacillation is possible - through a continuous range of latitutdes, or through merely some small discrete set of permissible latitudes?  If the latter, then how many discrete distinct latitudes are in the set?)

So, as I say, styrofoam. 

I did manage to answer my question, marking the sphere up in coloured inks - first with, among other things, my R and G speck, and then with appropriate circles centred on those two specks. It proved easy to score the desired circles in the soft styrofoam with an ordinary compass, such as is used for drawing on a plane, and then to ink  them in, selecting gel pens in appropriate colours. 

But in working the question with this tactic, the styrofoam is permanently marked, in a way liable to impede upcoming, unrelated, investigations over the coming months. 

I do now know what equipment is optimal. One googles on the string Lenart sphere wikipedia. And having skimmed, with delight, the Wikipedia writeup, and examined its delightfully eloquent pair of photographs, one then googles for vendors. 

Back before the summer of 2008, when we all got kicked out of the David Dunlap Observatory, our auditorium housed something nearly as good as the current commercial spherical-geometry offerings, namely an ancient (1935?) melon-sized "spherical blackboard" in something like slate. This material would surely tolerate markup in coloured chalks, easily cleared with a damp rag. But István Lénárt's Google-researchable commercial solution is more elegant. Indeed it is marketed - as I write, I await a communication from a marketing rep, so that I can consider even a purchase - not only with István Lénárt's book suggestively entitled Non-Euclidean Adventures on the Lenart Sphere, but also with such useful plastic accessories as sphere-hugging arc  rulers. 

The celebrated 1967 Dustin Hoffman film "The Graduate" features, I gather, the following deadpan dialogue, as a commercially successful "Mr McGuire" tells the callow young hero what to aim for when planning a career: 

MR McGUIRE:      I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
BENJAMIN:      Yes, sir.
MR McGUIRE:      Are you listening?
BENJAMIN:      Yes, I am. 
Mr McGUIRE:     Plastics. 

One might also hope some day to find a plastic hyperbolic paraboloid ("saddle") surface, with explanatory "Adventures" booklet, appropriate surface-hugging (deformable?) plastic rulers, and the like, marketed for people who desire to explore non-Euclidean geometry beyond even the positive-curvature domain of István Lénárt. Geometry in two and even three or perhaps even four dimensions, possibly in spaces of so-called "negative curvature" as opposed to the mere "positive curvature" of the two-dimensional sphere-surface space, is said to be the geometrical setting for General Relativity. 

But let us return to ordinary Euclidean three-dimensional space. 

For chirality, or "handedness", in electromagnetics - as when one ponders the difference between the voltage induced by some time-varying magnetic field in a right-hand-wound coil and the voltage induced by the same time-varying magnetic field in a left-wound coil - little opposing spirals of wire prove helpful. I think I did mine in copper single-strand hookup wires, choosing usefully contrasting colours of plastic insulation. 

For rotation of three-dimensional Euclidean xyz axes, one needs some physical model, to play with day upon day upon brain-wearying, Demon-defying day , as one might obsessively play with a Rubik Cube. It would be good to find such models sold commercially, under Mr McQuire's astute inspiration, in some suitable grade of tough plastic. At my own desk, however, I improvise, resorting to three wooden sticks and three drinking straws, all held together with a lump of plasticene - or, rather, resorting to six wooden sticks, six drinking straws, and two lumps of plasticene, to yield a pair of rotation-of-coordinates models. I additionally have tiny special-purpose sticks, originally used to bind pickled herring into duly compact spirals. Those little herring sticks have occasionally proven helpful in thinking of such things as a Cone of Constant Zenith Angle. In each of the two sets of three sticks, the three are labelled (at only one end, thought of as marking the direction of the increasingly-positive) "Eins", "Zwei", and "Drei", and are this month thought of as the fixed x, y, and z axes. In each of the two sets of three straws, three are labelled (at only one end) in blue, green, and red ink, respectively, and are this month being thought of as the manipulable x, y, and z axes. 

I may as well finish this essay by writing up, by way of illustration, some of my findings on Euler rotation-angle triples, in the context of a sticks-and-straws-in-plasticene model. The writeup, although more than a little arid, does serve as a case study in the sort of thing which has to go into a Midrash, and so for this and other reasons may prove helpful to some maths students:  

(1) We examine the extrinsic Euler scheme "z, then x, then z", with Euler-angles triple alpha, beta, gamma (and with, for definiteness, the positive sense of all angles being given by the usual right-hand rule: to rotate something by, say, +37 degrees around, e.g., the Eins axis is to rotate it in such a way that as the fingers of the right hand curl along the rotation, fingernails leading, the thumb points toward the "Eins" label). In terms of the physical model, this is a scheme on which we rotate the Coloured triple through alpha about Drei, then through beta about Eins, and then through gamma about Drei. We set ourselves the goal of showing that any orientation of Coloured axes with respect to German axes can be achieved by selecting some alpha in the half-open interval [0, 2 pi[, some beta in the closed interval [0, pi], and some gamma in the half-open interval  [0, 2 pi[. (This is one acceptable precisification of the claim that "the extrinsic Euler scheme captures any desired rotation of axes.") 

Think of the Drei stick as the polar axis, in the sense of terrestrial globe-makers, with the "Drei" end of the stick marking (say, for definiteness)  the North pole. Imagine the three mutually perpendicular wooden German-labelled sticks being so carefully cut and positioned that their six ends are confined to a sphere, and imagine the three coloured drinking straws being cut to exactly half the length of the three German-labelled wooden sticks - so that when their uncoloured ends are embedded in the central (idealized as a mere point) blob of plasticene, their free, coloured, ends lie on that same sphere. 

Impose some arbitrary imaginary reference meridian on the sphere, yielding longitudes. 

Think of the entire alpha-beta-gamma sequence of rotations as an "Operation", comprising three "Manoeuvres". 

Any desired latitude for the Green and Red straw tips can be achieved through some appropriate choice of alpha in [0, 2 pi[  and beta in [0, pi]. 

Further (this is crucial) whatever Red and Green latitudes are thereby selected, as the second Manoeuvre in the three-manoeuvre Operation is completed, is safe against alteration when the third Manoevre is undertaken. In the third Manoeuvre, we keep the Red and Green latitudes unaltered, and we can in this concluding Manoeuvre achieve any desired Red and Green longitudes. 

Further, once the entire Operation is complete, the desired position (in both latitude and longitude) of the Blue tip is achieved. The orientation of the Blue tip on the sphere is not independent of the orientations of the Green and Red tips: on the contrary, the position vector of the Blue tip is always  predictable from the achieved positions of the Green and Red tips, being in fact the vector cross product of those two respective position-vectors. (In that order: "vector-B" is the cross product of "vector-G" with "vector-R", and is not equal to, but rather is antiparallel to, the cross product of "vector-R" with "vector-G".) 

(2) We examine the intrinsic Euler scheme "z, then x-prime, then z-prime-prime", with Euler-angles triple alpha, beta, gamma (and with, for definiteness, the positive sense of all angles being given by the usual right-hand rule: to rotate something by, say, +37 degrees around, e.g., the Blue axis is to rotate it in such a way that as the fingers of the right hand curl along the rotation, fingernails leading, the thumb points toward the "Blue" label). In terms of the physical model, this is a scheme on which we rotate the Coloured triple through alpha about Red, then through beta about Blue, and then through gamma about Red. We set ourselves the goal of showing that any orientation of Coloured axes with respect to German axes can be achieved by selecting some alpha in the half-open interval [0, 2 pi[, some beta in the closed interval [0, pi], and some gamma in the half-open interval  [0, 2 pi[. (This is one acceptable precisification of the claim that "the intrinsic Euler scheme captures any desired rotation of axes.") 

The argument is similar to the argument for (1) above. It perhaps in some sense suffices to say "Merely reverse the roles of the German and the Coloured axes." This is, however, a bit quick. It is in fact the kind of thing that we might conceivably hear in a bad lecture on campus, where the prof lacks the time, or alternatively lacks the inclination, to be explicit. Proceeding more carefully, we run through the same argument as in (1) above, but now with Red as the polar axis. We argue, in the style of (1) above, that any desired Drei and Zwei latitudes can be achieved by performing the first two Manoeuvres in the three-manoeuvre Operation, and that the third Manoeuvre, while delivering any desired Drei and Zwei longitudes, has the crucial virtue of leaving that pair of latitudes unperturbed. 

I bought my first computer, a 64-kilobyte Osborne 1 with 52-character lines on its screen, and with the eight-bit-registers Zilog Z80 chip for a CPU, in 1982 or so. Upon demonstrating this device at some length to two friends in Melbourne - look, I said,  it is even programmable in BASIC! - one of the two exclaimed, "Gee, I'm sure glad this isn't boring." The reader, having plodded through or past my discussions of Eins, Zwei, Drei, Blue, Green, and Red,  may now well echo that robust Antipodean sentiment. 

Among the inaccurate things parents and teachers like to tell children are these three: Members of Parliament serve the public interest. The police are your friends. Science is fun. But the fact that these statements are inaccurate does not negate the spiritual benefits of parliaments, policing, and science. 

[This concludes  the present "Practical Tips for Maths-Physics Studies". I have not yet decided what to write on for the next big blogger upload, scheduled for the Universal Coordinated Time interval 20160726T0001Z/20160726T0401Z. Perhaps something on my various adventures, down through the years, in police handcuffs, notably at the David Dunlap Observatory?]