Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Visiting the Heartland

By "heartland" I mean the so-called "mid-west".  Because of how the Anglo-Euros migrated, from east to west, one has the mid and far west, with the east a kind of home base, like Greenwich in England.  Nowadays, an unkind term for the mid-west is "the flyover states" because so much air traffic is from one coastal region to the other.  Many business class travelers only see the mid-west from an airplane window, if at all.  But then O'Hare in Chicago is one of the busiest airports in the world to this day, so "flyover states" is hardly an accurate phrase in jet travel world either.

Anyway, our connection from Portland to Detroit was through Phoenix, leaving at 5:20 AM, meaning getting a taxi at 3:30 AM.  Some large sports teams, each with matching packs and uniforms, were sprawled around the Portland airport (PDX).  Carol checked her bag just in the nick of time as the line grew tremendously behind us while we checked in at US Airways, still in the process of merging with American Airlines. 

Had it not been for the wheel chair pushing guy who met us at the gate in Phoenix, we probably would have missed the connection as Terminal 4 has two separate concourses, both with A gates.  We came in near A4 but left through A27, which was boarding when we got there.  Carol isn't allowed to use moving sidewalks with that walker, so left to her own devices, she's pretty slow.  The Portland trek was also long, to C18.  I almost left the Mac Air at the security choke point.

I thought Expedia said the Hertz counter was in the airport, but none of the rental car companies have that in Detroit.  We grabbed the free shuttle, with the bus driver warning he would be singing to his music, which he did, but quietly and in tune.  "This is Motown, this is what we do" he said.  Very friendly and helpful.  Melvin I think was / is his name.

While waiting in line at Hertz, my Android asked if I wanted to upgrade.  I've been saying "no" for over a month but this time my fingers got confused and I paid the price in terms of time and stress (the upgrade was free), waiting for the new system to download and optimize my 233 apps, media and contact databases.  All before I could use Google Maps to steer us out of the parking lot.  I've come to rely on my smartphone's GPS and Google Maps quite a bit.  How else would I know to get to I-75 down to I-70 just north of Dayton, Ohio, then another 50 miles or so to Richmond, Indiana?  The queue for getting out of the Hertz parking lot moved very slowly, giving my phone the additional minutes needed to finish the upgrade process.

After so many hours of flying with only expensive snacks on the plane, both Carol (my mom) and I were hungry.  She and my sister are used to eating at Denny's a lot so we went to one of those, somewhere between Detroit and Toledo.  They were out of Caesar salad dressing, so I went with the Cobb salad as my second choice.  Both meals were ample.  Yelp comments had been mean to this Denny's but I found nothing so objectionable.  People tend to have a lot of "first world problems" around here, a phrase my daughter says is a commonplace nowadays.  I'd just seen the Weird Al take on it.

Also according to my daughter, in its former glory days, Richmond had been famous for pianos and coffins.  Neither are mass produced here now I gather.  There's a big Purina dog food plant.  Richmond High looks substantial, as does Seton Catholic High.

We toured her campus, checking out the new science hall (Stanley) and admiring the lasers she'd been working with, careful to not touch anything.  She assured as the main laser was sparkly / pretty when fired but she didn't switch it on, saying that was only done with proper permission and supervision.  We were understanding.  Just seeing the equipment as thrilling enough.  She had been working on a kind of laser-based camera that analyzes the reflection patterns to assemble picture of the original object, using various advanced mathematical techniques for which Python, the computer language, had proved useful.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

OSCON: Slides + Promo + Keynote

OSCON promo

Shadaj Laddad OSCON 2014 Keynote: "The Wonders of Programming"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

R0ml's Talk: Why Schools Don't Teach Open Source

I always look forward to @R0ml's talks, as do Anna Ravenscroft of Alex Martelli, in the front row (I'm one row back).  Robert Lefkowitz knows how to encourage thinking.

Java and Bluejay are commonly used in college intro to programming courses, both open source, however neither started as open source and the curriculum did not change when they did, suggesting their becoming free is somewhat irrelevant.  How to make Open Source not irrelevant?

We don't want to stress "free as in beer" nor make OSS esoteric.  We want to share an "open source way".  Programmed Visions by Wendy Chun is one of R0ml's current favorites.  He uses her definition of "neoliberalism":  the notion that individuals acting within their own interest within a framework will generate emergent goodness.

R0ml linked this to Martin Luther and Francis Bacon as fostering individualism, then empiricism versus reliance on faith and authority of the cathedral.  Etienne de Condiac also gets credit for fostering an empirical approach, then Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson with their cybernetic / feedback loop approach to governance of, by and for the people.

Darwinism and the hurly burly of the ecosystem, then Eric Raymond.... if everyone scratches their own itch, things will get better in the bazaar.  That's the current meaning of neo-liberalism.

Sugata Mitra's experiments come in, as showing that bazaar dynamics work in education ("minimally invasive education").

How might we capitalize on all this heritage to make the Open Source Way relevant in education?  Teaching programming, sure, but does everyone really need programming for some "job".  Does learning programming make one a more well-rounded person?  We all need health courses even if we don't expect everyone to become medical.  Heath:Medicine :: Programming:_____?

Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum gets a plug.

Everybody needs to direct automata, make machines do their bidding.  Praxis versus Techne was the old greek dichotomy.  Our praxis is to teach people how to use software effectively.

Software Assessments, Benchmarks, and Best Practices by Capers Jones.

How does one know if one is becoming a better programmer?

The answers have to do with the source code, not with the end user experience as much.  82% of programming does not specifically involve programming.  Becoming a better programmer is about educating one's tastes, one's sensitivity to flavor.

DARPA's MUSE might fill in the vacuum, of helping people master their machines, but to what extent might we really automate the process of choosing, applying judgement?

Why Don't Schools Teach How to Use Open Source Software?  That is the question.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


:: me with sebastopol bosses ::

I chose the i18n tables both tutorial days at OSCON 2014.  I got to meet some of the principals behind interoperability in the realm of sharing medical data (clinical, not financial). I enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland effect of walking into my own textbook, in the sense that I teach TDD all day long (TDD = test driven development) and our whole table broke out into an in depth and extended discussion of how important testing is.  Such an immersive discussion; I mostly sat rapt.

Then my two bosses from Sebastopol came by and joined our table.  One of the Aegis guys graciously offered to take the above picture, me the mentor in the middle.  If my face looks a little smudged, it is, thanks to a smudge on my lens.  The verdict on the Coolpix S9300 is it's harder than my previous Coolpix to get not-blurry pix with (even minus the lens blemish, which I added somehow).  The reviews corroborate my experience.  I should invest in a next camera given I'm such an ardent user of said equipment.  My uploaded to date number well above 20K.

It looked to me like @tati_alchueyr sacrificed the knight on purpose, to give her pawn a way to reach the end and transform to a queen, game over.  This was in the Expo Hall, after the tutorials were all over.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bagdad Meetup

I met with a Friend at Bagdad last night for a wandering conversation.  He's more the news junky and so conversation turned to the loss of a second jumbo 777, same airline (MH), so soon, under suspicious circumstances.

We know from Lockerbie and TWA800 that (a) it doesn't take a missile and (b) unless you've done some forensics, easy theories are just that.  Minus a black box etc., this remains one of those open cases where minority reports remain welcome.

Speaking of open cases, David Chandler, a well known speaker on 911, will be addressing Annual Session (NPYM) this week.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ramping Up

We're ramping up to OSCON around OST, as our parent company, ORM, is OSCON's main sponsor / organizer, though with lots of help behind the scenes.  OST = O'Reilly School of Technology. OSCON = Open Source Convention.

Long time readers / explorers in my blogs / journals may know that OSCON started out as a Perl Conference, an inclusive tent that gradually drew in the OSS languages (OSS = open source software), for example:  Perl itself, Python, Ruby, PHP... Apache projects, the GNU stuff (gcc, bash... emacs, vi), Linux, FreeBSD... actually millions of projects count as open source software, so it's like trying to enumerate "the animals of the earth" (Noah's check list).  GNU = GNU is Not Unix.

FreeBSD is a Berkeley (UC Berkeley) flavor of UNIX.  UC = University of California.

Anyway, ramping up for OSCON.  You can tell, right?  ORM = O'Reilly Media.  Got my new business cards today.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Serious About Soaps

Thanks to Synchronofile, a local media archive, I've been reviewing TV detergent commercials en masse, one after the other:  Wisk, Biz, Fab, Duz, Cheer, Exact (early tablet), Tide, Ad, Lestoil, Rinso, Salvo (also tablet)... some of these brands didn't make it to 2014, others are still household names.

Sometimes a fragment of the sponsored soap opera is included for context:  The Guilding Light; Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Death Valley...

Post WW2 was all about a baby boom, with guys off to the office, gals staying home to master a new life style based on Madison Avenue hyped appliances and new food stuffs.

Washing machines, dish washers, televisions... these appliances hardly get any expensive TV advertising today as they're taken for granted.

I'm not being sarcastic-critical about the need to master new lifestyles, complete with gadgets.  Today it's the smartphone.

Going forward, my idea of a positive show genre is a mix of soap opera / melodrama and reality TV, mixed with adventures in making the world work (est influence).

Watch your favorite world development team trundle around in a bizmo, caravaning to camps, tackling problems in a DIY engineeringly sophisticated way.  Thanks to the web, watching is not just passive, and it's not just money you can send, but advice, paid-for items for inventory.

Announcer voice (1950s tone, for nostalgia purposes):
"Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Johnson of Boise, Idaho for this high volume electric pump, and to Joe and Marge Buxton of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the solar steam generator from Infinia, used together in today's episode."
Yes, the "nuclear family" itself feels pretty retro by now.  I'm a "love makes a family" guy myself, though Dawn Wicca and I did pretty well at being nuclear.  '

The surrounding society has convenient APIs set up for families in that mold.  Even in 2014, multi-spouse "molecular families" are still a nightmare for social engineers (e.g. database schema designers).

A first step towards matching reality is allowing dependents to show up in more than one household, as divorced parents, some with new spouses, share parenting.  Guardianship is not necessarily the job of biological parents either, and many databases need to show an "authorized guardian" to pick up junior after class (could be an older sibling, could be a neighbor).

In helping Quakers to sort out such multicultural / anthropological complexities on a small scale, in schematic form, I help to come up with more robust, more general purpose APIs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shift Happens Rapidly

I'm under the gun and work and regret not getting to the end of Jeff Goebel's slides today, but those that I saw were excellent and totally apropos for a Wanderers meetup, as the content was science.

Lots of STEM. 

The topic was global climate change, but from a refreshing new angle. 

Jeff works with ranchers, farmers, foresters, tribes, subcultures, to formulate land use and long range resource management plans based on buy-in and consensus.

He's been working with Deidre Schuetz, who presented last week, about her land and resource management projects in Senegal and Guinea.

As his slides made clear, keeping our atmosphere viable is all about the race between photosynthesis on the one hand, and carbon being lost to the atmosphere. 

Rather than limit his focus on the fossil fuel problem (peak oil etc.), he understands that increasing biomass in and of itself is a way of countering global warming.

His arguments require only a high school understanding of geo- and biochemistry.  However, unless you've been doing your homework, you might not have the puzzle as put together as Jeff does.

Great talk.  We're still in for rough times though.  Jeff doesn't know how much a difference his approach will make, but he feels good about catalyzing it spreading quickly. 

Perma-culture and so on are known sciences i.e. he's not looking to science fiction to save our butts, though I'm sure he'd welcome a few deus ex machina maneuvers, if we can swing 'em.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

When Quakers go Trans

By my title you might be thinking I mean "trans-gender" but I'm talking about another kind of transition at the institutional level.  The ideas of "hormone therapy" and/or "surgery" still have application in this extended metaphor.

When a cis Liberal Meeting decides to pass for Pastoral, it needs to embark upon a somewhat lengthy process.  In the final stages, vital committees considered intrinsic to Liberal Friends, including Business Meeting itself, may be put on ice or shelved.  This is sometimes posed as "an experiment" i.e. lets put aside our structures and just have potlucks and family fun, not worry our heads about such worldly matters as Liberals (remember them?) might be concerned with.

A first sign that a change might be looming is when Friends cannot seem to fill their own Peace and Social Concerns committee.  Why should a bunch of middle class white people enjoying their privileges want to busy themselves with fighting the status quo?  Life is pretty good.  Lets focus on our families instead.

If you have a nice meetinghouse, you'll have "event center" possibilities, i.e. a steady income, and with a Pastoral Care Committee, you'll be able to divvy the surplus among the faithful, meaning mostly members, i.e. those who've demonstrated due obedience to the Pastoral team.

We Liberals sometimes call this form of Pastoralism "kiss butt Quakerism", clearly pejorative, but forgive us, the whole of Quakerism owes itself, in large degree, to throwing off any pastoral caste.  That some Quakers fell back into the slime and lost their evolutionary advantages is not tacit permission for all of us to fall from grace in such a spectacular manner.

The meeting I attend and have served for many decades, as Quarterly Meeting Planner when we host that event (WQM), as Overseer, as Peace and Social Concerns person, even as Assistant Clerk, appears to be undergoing hormone therapy with an eye towards becoming a Trans Church.

As a dry run, the Pastor-Clerks assumed record-level powers and made a secret deal with a radical political group many Liberals have real questions about.  Oversight was bypassed, except for its clerk, whom the pastoral team pledged to secrecy until the deal was done and announced to the world on Facebook, i.e. until it was too late.

News of the deal going down was leaked however, and a delegation of Liberals approached the pastors on bended knee, so to speak, to beg for lenience.  They brought a petition.  Don't sell out by committing a trophy meetinghouse, a symbolic property, so easily, and in such a back-handed manner, was our silent plea -- I said nothing during this April 13 meeting, as I was still trying to understand what was happening to our meeting (e.g. what is "CAC"?).

The pastor-clerks eventually relented, after taking a few days to consult with advisers (the CAC), saying they have great compassion for all members and if anyone feels bullied by any group, they're here to protect them.  A series of special meetings was called, to prove the sincerity of our protectiveness.

This about face totally pissed off the first group (understandably) the radicals with whom the secret deal had already been struck, but their wrath was probably worth the price, as the main point was in terms of internal Quaker politics:  Business Meeting must beg, not decide.  The pastors were in control and were making all key decisions, not the laity, i.e. the surgery was almost complete.

As an Overseer at the time, and of the Liberal persuasion, I understandably went ballistic, and that's where an Eldering Committee comes in, instigated directly by pastor-clerks against any lingering dissident Liberal: lets make an example of this dissenter, by loving him to death ("compassionate listening" they called it).

Likewise Oversight -- soon to be renamed Pastoral Care Committee if the kiss-butts have their way -- was not really a factor in making this decision, either to go with the radicals or to cancel.  The hormone therapy was almost complete.  We're a Quaker Trans Church in the making.  That's the fashionable trend these days.  Pastors rule!

True Liberal Meetings are a vanishing species perhaps.  Don't assume simply checking the Faith and Practice will get you the truth.  Ours is riddled with misleading inaccuracies and, at this point, I'd say outright lies.  It says we have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee.  That's covering up the fact that we don't (no meetings in ages, nothing on the calendar going forward, AFSC ex oficio... gone).

So yes, I see our Integrity testimony as falling by the wayside here, but minus any Peace and Social Concerns, who's to be concerned about it?  You see how it all fits together, in an almost hermetic way.  Quakers are brilliant around process, that much is clear.