world lines

I’ve been thinking for some time about this space here online. How it compares to the space in my head, in my house, the spaces between each of us. I suspect they are all connected.

This year, I’ve written very little. I had a stalker for a while, and then this fall I got tangled in a clog of spooks. They invaded my privacy and my peace as they tried (but failed completely) to determine exactly who and what I was. I doubt they could even see me properly even when we were in the room together, they were so out of sync with actual life.

Their attention was a penalty for showing happiness, forward motion, and for speaking truth inside the war machine.  It’s a rollicking sort of story which I may tell more of one day – it features ships and pirates and topology and surfaces. There is treachery, of course, but not mine.

As a result of all of that, I can’t really remember how it felt to speak freely here. When I visit my archives, I’m surprised at how open I’ve been.

tucson kitchen window

I suppose that I wrote so much over the past 25 years because I was achingly, existentially lonely in a world that didn’t understand me. I wrote in the hope that my words could go farther than my feet, my ideas further than my own mind. That they might move into the world and find kindred spirits.

It worked. I connected with people all over the planet; my books are at the poles, my connections are deep and wide. My worldlines tendril all over; I am linked with you, as you are here now. I’ve gone to faraway countries, and met people on the street who said, to each of our wonderment, “I’ve read your blog!”

sky in tucson, photo by kate mckinnon

I loved the Internet immediately. As soon as I comprehended what it was, I learned a bit of HTML and constructed a virtual mirror of my life, a place I could pour my thoughts into, a place to put things I might forget. There was no word for blog.

Making my own web site was so much easier than reporting directly to individuals. Anyone who wanted to know where I was, what I was doing, or what I was thinking could go to an equivalent mirror on their own desk and look into mine. It was magical, like remote viewing in a pool, it was a kind of nakedness to me, a truth.

Now, decades later, the web is unbeautiful, unknowable in its crevices. It’s a living supersociety, but not a good one. People behave horribly in general, I know, but it seems intensified online. I find myself turning away, celebrating the physical world.

In acknowledgment of what has recently burned me, I’ve vowed to burn clean.

The Tucson house went on the market earlier this month, and it might not be long before it’s in new hands. It seems that the house got lucky and found people who love it for what it is; clean-lined midcentury mod, but also warm and peaceful, vibrant and real.

Over the last year I’ve given away almost all of the treasures I collected over a lifetime. I want to get as close as I can to freedom from possessions, from ownership, from the responsibility of protecting my space.

Cooper Pool May 2013

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This house has been such a refuge for me, in fact for many of us. I feel a deep gratitude for the place. On the day of the Open House, I wept at the depth of it as I walked the garden for the last time before the sign went up, feeling the connections, hearing the echoes of the laughter, the birdsong, the boys squealing in the pool.

As I’ve handled each thing I’ve given away, I’ve thought about where they came from (all over the world) and what they were made of: wood, pigment, cloth, clay, metals, paper…. each thing elemental, each object speaking of many lands, many hands. I could see how my collection was talismanic.

I had wood from many forests, dirt from many lands. Artisans and makers from all over the world created the boxes, tables, paintings, sculptures. Figures of clay, of metal; elements dug from the earth, cut from trees, pigments squeezed from fruits, nuts, clay and dirt, sparkling colours ground from precious stones.

I had ballgowns, costume jewelry, red silk curtains. Hats, scarves, and handbags. Shoes, dancer lamps, rugs, furniture.

Owls, Lamps, and Boars, Cooper House, Kate McKinnon. 2010

When I look at these things in the pictures, now I see the people who have them.

When I look at the garden wall, I see every lizard who has ever cavorted on it. Below is a photo from Orangelina’s last season; she is eating worms with Owen, her young son, and Mr. Long & Lovely, her last lover.

lizard family breakfast july 2015

The resonance of everything that has ever been fills my senses.

In a way, it seems I have let go of what might look like Everything for the privilege of having what might look like Nothing, but honestly, I’ve never felt clearer, closer to light.

This cleanness is not Nothing, and I am no longer achingly lonely; in my dreams, I am working, and in my work, I am dreaming, and in this moment, I am whole.

Goodbye, David Cassidy

david cassidy on a horse

Goodbye, David Cassidy.

I loved you, as only a young girl can. You were sexy, but you know what else?
You were a nice guy. It must have been a trip growing up how you did, with swinger Jack Cassidy for a dad, and Shirley Jones and the Partridge Family, the rigors of a TV show and all of the pressures of being a kid in show business, a boy everyone wants to kiss.

Your job was to be fantastic and you did it. You worked hard all of your life, you had human problems, and I’ll bet you were nice in person too, not just as a teenager on TV.

When you realized that you weren’t going to make it, you took it with grace and love.
Thank you for helping me make it through high school.


Where what?

Hello from California! I’m once again in the Antelope Valley, above LA. I’m spending my writing time finishing the last books in the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork book series, and spending my thinking time trying to make sense of the beautiful (and often situationally difficult) circus of life and momentum we are all moving through.

I expect to be moving back to Boston soon. It feels like home, and it’s where I want to be. I’ve been out here on the west coast for an entire year; long enough to load the system with what it needs to flip. One thing that pleases me intensely about the year I have invested here is that I won’t have to look back on this time and wish I had worked harder. That means a lot to me.

In my spare time, I’ve been learning to surf with a science team I formed to study the work being done in the ocean therapy community to heal PTSD. The people I have met in and through the surf community are expansive, intelligent, made of energy.

learning to surf, Carlsbad Harbor (I’m on the board), photo Eli Mack

From the science to the beads, it’s all important stuff, difficult to summarize. We’ve found so many new shapes and ideas that the work has ranged from exhilarating to overwhelming and back again. And again. Our ideas about structure, signal and form (and our beadworked examples) have been inside the dark labs, the industrial design firms, up on the rooftops, to the sea, and they all just went to visit the Navy at MIT.

The beadwork project has a book launch scheduled for the third week of October, in Boston, and people are coming from all over the world. The only way to finish at all (forget about in a timely manner) is to include the theory of everything on every page. I have found no diagrams that illustrate the way the Universe works better than the sparkling models we can hold in our hand; we can watch reality dissolve into unreality in our fingers, and build in life, predictability, unique experience, and energy storage.

a CGB Universe Machine, as interpreted by Joke van Biesen, the Netherlands

As I think about the secrets of the Universe, it strikes me that an art book is likely the best place to publish any shocking theory; it is both unnoticeable in a larger frame and yet essentially unquestionable in terms of date said. “I built this” is always more convincing with a publication date of the paper describing it.

Asking anyone to do a thing (or worse yet instructing them to do it) is ridiculous if you haven’t done it or understood it properly yourself. I never expected to spend so long on these shapes. I did not expect to be swimming with sharks, pointed at the Moon, or thinking about different kinds of beams of light. I suppose I rarely expect anything that happens; isn’t that the point of all of this?

with Timothy Murphy at Carlsbad Harbour, Sept 2017, photo Eli Mack

I’m learning remote viewing (again for a science team) and I’m working so hard on my listening, which is only a vestigial shred of a sense for me, like someone soldered it into my board askew. I hear so many nuances (and I record so much mind-video of any random proceeding) that sometimes I miss the more straightforward points that people are trying to make.

There have been thrills. Last week, three of us from the Surfing & PTSD Team went to meet Kelly Slater and his crew (!) and see his gorgeous new built wave in the desert.

I have an idea of making some sort of wave for Camp Pendleton that is always on, like the ocean, and that would be a wave that you can form a relationship with, that can sing your own song of coherence back to you if you lost your way, or were badly injured.

Kelly Slater’s wavepool

At the Surf Ranch, we met all of the greats. Stephanie Gilmore encouraged me to keep on surfing, and that kind of made my year.

This past weekend, I went on a whirlwind trip to Boston to meet with the Navy Hack The Machine team at MIT. I have ideas for kaleidocyclic surfaces, aware reefs, aware architecture and lots of unreal folding things that I think would be a great fit for ships and planes. The workshop was a real education, and I met yet another hundred smart, thoughtful people, many of them in uniform. So good.

As part of the meeting, we also had the chance to step onto the newly refurbished USS Constitution for the first time since she went into drydock. It was moving; we were there for a private dinner event, so we had the ship to ourselves.

On the deck of the newly refurbished USS Constitution, missing Sailor Bri on the foretop

As we were meeting in CSAIL, we ran into everyone. CSAIL tends to be a gathering place – there is decent food and great coffee on the ground floor and a parking garage below. Bumping into Jack Wisdom and Erik and Marty Demaine particularly delighted me. Marty’s office is completely stuffed with folded forms, and it’s always a trip to take people in there who have only seen the shapes in beads, physics or mathematics, but not in paper.

Folded paper forms in the office of Martin Demaine, MIT

The week before that, or the week before that, it’s been much the same. There are no postcards to send; the work is intense.

Sometimes, when we play tennis in the mornings, there is a red tailed hawk that watches. I’ve probably mentioned this before, because it stands out in my life as a constant. I’ll look over to the fence and see big yellow chicken feet, impossibly big chicken feet, and there she is.

Also, a hummingbird.

turning to June

As the months wind out in front of me, behind me, I see new sections of my timeline. The way it unwinds before my consciousness reminds me of something. I think it’s DNA cloning. My timeline strand is exactly as long as my lifetime, so with normal life experience, it will take exactly my entire lifetime to see the whole strand. I can think of my timeline as a long strand of DNA if I want to, why not? It kind of fits.

If I model spacetime like a donut built by Buckminster Fuller:


then maybe one human lifetime is kind of like a potato chip.

Hypar Potato Chip

I am constrained (because I am human) to experience the entire potato chip as a straight line. I am not sure about animals. Maybe some of them can access the donut, or the potato chip. We already know that many animals can do magnetic navigation. I say, humans have blood too! If this is just ferrofluids, maybe I can access that. Is my womb a magnetic chamber, lined always with ferrofluid as it is? Are babies grown in a magnetic field? Is a chicken egg somehow doing that too?

This is what my brain looks like (the Sunshine Band, starting at :50). I evince as KC, the friendly kinda dorky front for an organized parade of OMG going on behind the scenes. If KC and the Sunshine Band are a model of my brain, the bongo drummer (2:03) is key. I don’t have that dude on my own and so must partner with that resonance. See him? HE IS COMPLETE UNTO HIMSELF.

My brain is the band (especially the guy in the Technicolour Dreamcoat) and goes at that speed, at that resonance, and mostly the rest of people in the room, in the world, look to me a lot like this audience. Many people are just standing there. And some people are trying, and some people are moving. 


Hypars (which everyone really could be if they were comfortable unfolding) don’t even fit into flat planes unless they have the context (and tension/pressure) of a much larger system that they are part of (like a really, really huge donut).

To fit into a line, which is even more condensed, the Hypar needs the advantage of being reduced to a mathematical expression or the convenience of being folded. And good news, everything folds! You can absolutely fold the Hypar into what looks like a line. It will be oddly dense, of course, much like our Universe, or the potential of a human lifetime.  It’s fun to do this with origami Hypars, fold them into a line and slip them into a cigar tube.

Here is Erik Demaine, holding one Unfolded. You can fold your own, here is his pattern. Try one, and condense it! You get a weirdly dense line.

Erik Warped Square

Most people don’t even look directly AT their potential, much less try to use it, because it’s well known that it can bring madness if there aren’t enough degrees of freedom.

Thinking creatures with no freedom can constantly dream of being free (and be miserable) or abandon the idea and conform (and perhaps find happiness in complacency). Each outlook makes a different kind of creature; most of us live somewhere on that line. I am completely, irrevocably on the left. I’d rather die than lose freedom. Others fear death.

Anyway. Density.

It’s our birthright, if only because of the number of choices we have at any given moment.

A sparrow many not have very many choices, as it turns out – most of the intervals of a snack-sized songbird are likely occupied with finding something to eat or not being eaten. It’s like a hoarder; lots of intervals, but mostly the same impulse over and over (I need that/someone might take it from me routine is much like Is that something to eat/am I about to be eaten routine of a prey animal.  (photo Warren Photographic)


(Crows don’t kill sparrows (or they shouldn’t be doing so under the Universal Plot) but it’s a good picture. Each of the birds has concerns, but the concerns of the crow must really different from those of the sparrow. What is a crow afraid of? Loneliness, guys with guns?)

I can think about these things because I have lots of intervals, and also because I have others to commune with. Two people I love to talk to told me about birds and hoarders. I can’t think of everything on my own or I am just a protest singer, not the damned SUNSHINE BAND. Of course protest singers have won vastly more Nobel prizes than flashily dressed rock bands (1-0 so far).

Back to density.

What IS all that invisible density we cannot see or measure yet, we wonder. We can’t even measure our own potato chips! Embarrasing, but understandable. Much is supposed to be hidden, it’s part of the enjoyment of the game. If we didn’t have variability, probability, chaos and resonance, we’d be bored to tears; every dice roll would be predictable (if there were even dice in such a dull Universe) cause you’d always roll a damn 2, 1 or 0, and they would all be the same move.  BORING.

The next Universe you built, if you were bored with predictability, you’d build in some variability into an otherwise sturdy system, right?

On a recent trip to Albuquerque with the Skunk team, I met a suite of amazing people. One of them was a retired Sandia scientist named Pace VanDevender. He worked with my uncle, John Freeman, in the experimental plasma fusion labs at Sandia.


John was my mother’s younger brother, I loved him dearly, and he died of Huntington’s disease, which runs in my family. The photo is of him holding his daughter Jennifer, my first cousin.

He taught me everything I was willing to absorb. From a very young age he encouraged me to believe that E = mc2. I mean, actually believe it. If I would simply start there, I could do or be anything. There are no words to convey what he (or my high school geometry teacher, Burton Tingle) meant to me. You really had to be there to understand how deeply isolated I was.

Pace (who loved John Freeman probably as much as I did) has been studying how individual particles (like quarks) may be banding together in three-part harmony to form cosmic dustballs. So far he calls the tangles quark nuggets, but I’d rather call his high-energy dustballs potential bundles.  All of the quark words seem silly to me up, down, strange. Is Chicago up from Memphis? Am I strange?

Stuff like that depends on context, so to me it has no place in scientific naming.

Pace is pretty sure that these potential bundles, these quark tangles, they are raining down on us from space all of the time, and he’s built detectors to record them.

This reminds me of free radicals and cosmic rays, electrons from space. I have a feeling about all of this energy. While some of it may be damaging if we don’t understand how to use it (or shield from it) it also might be manna from heaven.

Pace, who has been thinking about all of this for a good long number of decades, is also hypothesizing that extreme ball lightning, a phenomenon that he separates from “ordinary” ball lightning (which is controversial enough, but probably just ordinary plasma) is a representation of some of the quark bundles.

Here is an entertaining review of a talk that he gave in 2006, some time ago now.

It’s always a Thing to be a highly qualified physicist looking at something bizarre, and you can see how careful the blog author is to list his qualifications. “Dr. VanDevender is a Senior Member of the IEEE and a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.” 

Identifying some pieces of dark matter like this would be handy, and I’m 100% behind it. After all, we can only observe and categorize something like 4% of the known Universe; there is a lot of stuff we’ve binned under “dark energy”, “dark matter”, “energy from the quantum vacuum”. Quantifying any of it would be refreshing, and ease the math.

I’m fairly sure that much or most of what we are calling dark energy can just be called potential. It’s everything that didn’t happen, isn’t happening, and won’t happen, it’s energy that lives on the Other Side of the equation; the lagging strand, the manna that we can derive from what is constantly raining down upon us. There are a lot of ways that energy can arrange, balance, or fit into a place that it doesn’t really fit. If you see something that doesn’t make sense, there is probably a Special Circumstance. In this photo, it’s probably just glue.


I take great pleasure in also linking to the Daily Mail story on ball lightning.

Crackpots discussing genius beautifully is my favorite thing, and if my blog had footnotes I would SURELY link the Daily Mail writeup to the 1979 business of the reporter from the newly formed Weekly World News being the ONLY ONE to discern that something fishy was up with the sudden re-appearance of S-band transmissions in the Pioneer 11 Saturn data – and sure enough, he was right – the sudden blast of signal was the Russians, turning their satellite array back on. We had a secret deal! And only the crackpot noticed it!

The Daily Mail graced their ball lightning writeup with a bonus illo from 1901.



Yesterday, in trying to comprehend something else, I watched a couple of simplified animations about DNA replication. I think the partial segments are what my unspooling timeline is reminding me of.  I was enchanted to watch the enzyme engines working in mirror sections, unspooling a whole DNA doublestrand at the speed of a jet engine.

The little machines clone off half-strands (at 10,000 rpm!) that ideally end up being identical no matter how they were made. Due to their mirror orientation on the DNA strand, though, each section isn’t equal into the copy machine. The lagging strand (which is essentially upside down and backward) must undergo a second processing during cloning. So it goes through Ginger Rogers-style, you know, backwards and in high heels.

Why? It would be easy enough to create the cloning zone with mirror cloning factories. I mean, seriously. If you have what it takes to build this, you can build a mirror setup.

What’s in it for us to process both sections separately (and with fairly radically different processes) if our goal is identical halves? It must be that the opportunity to diverge is deliberately built in at the system level.

Real-world takeaways for me:

•  If you make 1/2 of a thing it’s likely to attract a match
•  1/2 of anything will likely be more natural/easy than the other half
•  More processing = more room for error but also evolution.

If half of your product is produced efficiently/correctly/identically/by the book and half is produced with more room for error, then you have met the universal ratio. Should we be doing this? Hell, for the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork project, I just spent five years of CPU time re-engineering Rick-Rack to grow through mirror production, instead of the tedious half-easy, half-hard. Did I blow it? Or am I a GENIUS?

It makes me wonder what percentage of that more vulnerable half produces variations? And how many of those stick and turn into positive evolution? How can evolution be really evaluated as positive or negative until the whole system is over?

Lots of builders use the tactic of matching halves too. If you put two mirror forms together, even if an error is built in, well, maybe you have something new instead of something that can’t breathe properly or stand up straight.

chaos and destruction

Whew. I spool all of this out not necessarily because you need to know it (although you may) but mostly because I need to communicate: this is what it’s like inside my head, this is why it’s difficult for me to churn out conclusions. Conclusions are never correct, nothing is ever over, there is always more to know, to discover, every gate we crash is just to the next bit unspooled for our examination.

It’s a warehouse in here in my head, it’s crammed so full. Unless I can keep the top of my head open, streaming energy, I would be in danger of Exploding Head, which might be a lot like spontaneous combustion, who knows. Or maybe those poor people just got hit with potential bundles, and what we really need are the equivalent of tin foil hats.

Maybe the reason that that guy I know who briefly lost his mind thinking that Jupiter was controlling Earth just lost his shit because he happened to notice (accidentally or through drug use) with his own detector that JUPITER WAS CONTROLLING EARTH. I mean, it is. It really is. But so what. It’s way off of any of our potato chips. But if you are the only person who knows it, and you try to drive somewhere really fast to tell someone, you are more likely to be held on a 5150 than to be taken immediately to MIT. Better to just take yourself.

kate lying in chapel, photo by Ryan Anas

For survival, and optimal system performance, I’ve got to match as many cards as I can to make space for more. It’s nuts in there, but really also highly organized and I try to be as rigorous as I can. I must finish all of my existing questions, yes, but I know that what will come from that is more questions. It’s a machine with no end.

I am that band, I am that enzyme, I am the questions.

Oh, also, jumping spiders can see the Moon. Craters and all. This charming story could be the front end of any story about scientific discovery… people talking to people, noticing things, telling each other.

We must get together, or we are nowhere.


lizard love

This is my second week home in Tucson after a full year mostly away.

The yard is full of flowers, full of life and lizards. The whiptails are friendly, as always, and can be hand-fed. But the best news is that one of Orangelina’s handsome sons, Euell, is in command of the Lurk. He consents to be fed dried worms while he suns himself on the edge of the brick, just as she did, and he is intensely curious about my doings, craning his neck to see what I’m watering, to watch me swim, see who I’m talking to. Most lizards just go about their business, so it’s nice to have another curious one.

This was pretty little Orangelina in her last summer, 2015. Euell will have golden eye patches instead of orange, and his belly is a bright green and blue. He’s still shy of the camera. Orangelina loved to pose.

The birds are having a ball in the gentle spring weather. A young towhee flew into the house earlier, and had to be hand-carried out, shivering from fear. Perhaps it will remember me, that I was gentle. I hope so.

As I work on the books I watch the Gila woodpeckers, finches and hummingbirds careen between the aloe flowers, the honeysuckle, and the jasmine. The flowers of the Carolina jessamine have turned from yellow to white, and the blossoms from the palo verde and citrus trees are almost all on the ground, making an ethereal carpet. Maybe this year the orange and grapefruit trees will keep their fruit. They’re old trees, and take hardships to heart. We haven’t had a really good run of grapefruit or tangerines since the deep freeze of 2011.

There are cardinals, seemingly endless supplies of finches, goldfinches, mockingbirds, doves, towhees, brown thrashers and hummers. I see palo verde beetle holes, but so far none of the ladies have turned up at the pool. Perhaps the young Cooper’s hawks will appear, I always forget when they fledge, but they do it from a tree just down the street.

Beautiful colours in the garden

The house is seeing more activity than just me working in a corner –  my friend Eric was here for weeks, taking out the decade-old violet carpet. He’s refinishing the floors, taking them back to their original deep red, softly polished concrete. He plays chess too, and amazingly we each played first board for same high school, although almost a decade apart. We had the same chess coach, the same fierce geometry and English teachers. What are the odds?

Check out the old floors, I love polished concrete, it’s so cool in summer.

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The stripping-down process here started as an exercise in getting the house ready to sell, but it turned into something deeper as the months went by; layer after layer went out, and I gave away most of my furniture and more than half of my Things. The more open things become, the better I feel. I still don’t know if I’ll need to sell it, but for now, I’m treating as if I plan to keep it forever, which feels nice.

It’s difficult to answer questions about my future, even when it’s next week, or even when it’s me asking.


Also, I feel I should say, I’ve fallen in love again. It’s a dicey thing, the discussing of a new love after the end of a long and cherished marriage, but this love is so elemental for me that it as time winds on, it’s more of a sin of omission to leave it out than one of bad taste to declare it.

It’s been a year now. Love found me almost as soon as my heart was free. Out of respect, it didn’t seem kind to talk about it earlier, but I have wanted to say that I feel as fierce and as strong as I did when I was ten years old, loved and safe, I run like the wind. I feel unquenchable, unstoppable, and my dreams have wing. We work and play games all of the time; science, architecture, tennis, backgammon, chess, Scrabble, we laugh, we keep moving, working, talking, dreaming. There are notebooks and notebooks full of ideas, he has teams he’s built that are as wide and as deep as my own, brilliant people, carefully curated, loved, encouraged.

Like I can see the difference in one lizard in a sea of lizards, he can see me, shining out, curious, noticing, something radically different in a sea of people going about their business, and I can see him.

I thought I’d be living in Boston by now, but there is still so much to do. So much to do. So, I’m just doing one thing after the next thing, and keeping an open mind and heart, and soon my work will be done and then I’ll be moving forward.

For now, head down, working, giving things away, trying to get as small as I’ve ever been.

unwinding into summer

I’ve come back to Tucson for a few months to finish up the edits of the new CGB books, and to see to the Tucson house, the lizards, to spend time with the cat Miss Fish, who lives here in a paradise of vines and birds and huge soaring skies.

I’d still love to keep this place, and I hope I can work it out. I’ll find out soon.

Either way, I took advantage of my time away from town and took out all of the furniture and had the floors taken back to the original red concrete, which I should have done ten years ago. It’s almost finished now, and it’s really something to see the house as it was built; simple, open, clean, so many windows.  I’ll photograph it when it’s finished, cleaned up.

I admit that I’m looking ahead to gentler days in the later summer, days when I have a little extra space and time, days when I know just a little more about the yet-unspooled part of my timeline.

It may seem as if I’ve dropped off of the face of the Earth, but I’m here, working, as I have been for 6 years now, staring straight at triangles and hypars and at the challenges of people working together in imperfect systems, finding their way on a living, shifting fabric of society and planet.

I’ve come to realize that most things are a fuckshow if you look too closely, but then if you look even closer, you can see that everything is beautiful too. Intensely, achingly beautiful, chaos and order, edges and energy. No matter at what level I examine this work, the patterns, the answers, the math, they all cross over.

I hope that I’m able to communicate that beauty and connection through whatever constraints apply at any given time; it’s my only goal.

So much connection, but so also much noise right now too.

The palo verde tree and all of the aloes are blooming now, and all of the world is tiny flowers.

crazy beautiful cooper