Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Day in PDX

So I got my daughter up early this morning, even though it's winter break, to expose her to some bona fide science talk: Todd Boswell telling us how to really inventory Cascadia watershed baby fish sanctuaries; at night, during winter, with a dry suit and flash light -- turns out old hand surfers are cut out for this work.

Todd works with Jim Buxton's and other water districts in Oregon. His counting technique was developed by some experts in Corvallis, and most Cascadia field scientists agree it provides better quality data than the more typical, lackadaisical, and superficial (but more convenient) summertime approach (BTW, happy solstice everyone!).

A funny part of the talk was when Todd described approaching private landowners out of the blue, with his on-the-face-of-it bizarre request to snorkel in their back yard forests. But Oregonians aren't stupid, for the most part, and readily accept that watershed management is the way to go. A large percentage of those wild migratory salmon caught off the coast of Alaska are actually Made in Oregon.

Afterwards, David Feinstein, one of the Wanderers, and a gifted mathematician, came by 4D Solutions to further discuss his ideas for providing science contest judges with interactive displays. He's a statistics guru. I'd been pushing my trademark POV-Ray + Python approach, but now that I understand his project a little better, I'm inclined to think maybe Flash or Shockwave is the way to go. However, he's also planning to check out PyGame (a Python wrapper for the gamers' SDL library). Unlike Flash or Shockwave, PyGame is free and open source (plus so far Shockwave doesn't run on Linux -- I signed a petition to Macromedia encouraging them to think about it). I also showed him FoxFire, which runs well on WinXP.

This afternoon, I'll be meeting with Ron Braithwaite to tie off some loose ends regarding Free Geek and Collaborative Technologies. Ron is currently thinking to emigrate to Canada, per disappointing election results and all the rest of it.

Like many liberals, Ron is dispirited by the outcome, and even more so by the black boxiness of the process. He fears the USA is sliding down a slippery slope into a post-USA era i.e. one wherein no one really defends the Constitution any more. I followed-up his letter to geeks about this, saying I didn't think the situation was quite that dire. After all, we can still play Uru when we want to.

Then, I'll have an ILP meeting with Ki Master George, stopping enroute to off-load some recycling at a Metro facility.

My daughter enjoyed the science talk, although the hour was early and her sleep last night intermittent (my wife and I were at odds over whether her even going to this talk was really well advised -- in retrospect, we seem to agree it was probably a good experience).

Tara and I left a tad early to swing by Noah's Bagels, where I read in the Jewish Review (2004.12.15) about some Bill O'Reilly guy on Fox calling someone named Foxman a nut. I explained the story to Tara, about how this country is not specifically Christian, or Jewish, or any religion (something she already knew from school), because the founders weren't dummies, and knew from like a thousand years of European history what a stupid trap it could be to get the religions at each others' throats e.g. by having the government weigh in heavily for one or another. Religious hatreds are about as nasty as they come.

In America, we know that inciting violence among the myriad religions is not a smart way to govern. People who indulge in that kind of thing have no place in government. Since O'Reilly has none -- he works for a private company, owned by some Aussie -- there's not really a big problem here. As a private concern, Fox is free to broadcast as much nutty TV as its sponsors are willing to buy (within FCC guidelines of course). I have the same freedoms (plus I'm a lot less nutty).

Followup: Ron persuaded me that my BizMo should probably be diesel, with an eye toward using biodiesel when the opportunity arises. He said the Marines already have diesel motorcycles for scouting (lucky devils). I'm not saying I wouldn't take a BizMo with a standard gas-fired engine, ala Detroit's forte, but down the road, I'm seeing diesel as a potential upgrade, perhaps even in lieu of a hybrid. Ron was a combat photographer in Vietnam BTW -- for the Air Force I think it was. He's also a Friend.

Closely related blog entry:
Nehelam Watershed

More tangential blog entry:

Interface Designs