Friday, March 31, 2006

Returning to PDX

The family is busy reintegrating into the Portland scene, which means touching base with many favorite networks, eating establishments, haunts. Plus resting. We've been up since 1 AM, Portland time, and on the go ever since.

We literally walked off the plane from Nashville (Frontier operates a fine Airbus service) , across the hallway, and onto the connecting flight into PDX. We were somewhat surprised our bags also made it (I pictured Byzantine basement conveyor systems running under the Denver airport, bags routed hither and yon, like something from a Wallace and Gromit movie -- but probably they just drove 'em over a few planes on that bags truck).

Another site we much appreciated: the Jack Daniels distillery. My family displayed a surprising interest in this side trip, about 20 miles south of I-24, exit 111 (follow signs to Lynchburg). Of course I was just as eager to go along, and indeed the tour was an eye-opener. This is a very tightly run operation, pure and simple. Even though my Quaker denominator would suggest I'd be anti-liquor, the fact is Quakers took the same approach with chocolate, just as addictive, and just as likely to make you fat (a leading cause of death in today's America). So I'm no "holier than thou guy" on this issue. I take my hat off to the master brewers and tasters of Tennessee (with no disrespect to other distilleries we didn't get to visit -- I know there's more than one in those parts).

Great to be back in Portland. Wanderers right away. I gave Glenn some guff on the hexapent issue.

Chattanooga, TN

The people of Chattanooga have done fine job of organizing a network of attractions for their visitors. Electric buses ply the main thoroughfare, connecting the pedestrian-friendly riverfront, with its world class aquarium and art museum, to hotels and theaters.

Lookout Mountain, for which the city is named (a mispronun- ciation of the Cherokee) sports no less than three major attractions: an inclined railway (aka funicular), an underground waterfall, and a rock garden overlook (which we skipped -- one can't see everything, and besides, it's in Georgia).

We stayed in the historical Sheraton Read House enjoying all the amenities: pool, gym and wifi in the rooms. I was able to keep up with my curriculum writing, Dawn with her bookkeeping. Alexia and Tara kept up with their emails.

The Cracker Barrel store and restaurant chain does a fine breakfast menu, with much of the revenue going to support the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville through advertising. Southern cooking supporting country music: a positive synergy if there ever was one. Dawn pitches for Bob Evans, a sister chain.

Off the beaten path: Dragon Dreams, a museum and gift shop devoted to all things dragonesque. Tara and Alexia (sisters, ages 11 and 27) really loved this store. We all did. Recommended.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Clarksville, TN

Clarksville Courthouse
(photo by K. Urner)

Clarksville has a fine civic museum, with art, science and history exhibits. First floor special features included paintings by an Iraqi surrealist, Babylon born, and watercolors of Shaker buildings and artifacts (no Shakers shown).

At the basement level I found recreations of a one room school house, an early printer shop, an unmarked linotype (my grandfather Reilley was a union linotype operator), plus science exhibits about radar, tornadoes, and designing for people with disabilities.

The Black Horse, a micro-brewery, and Front Page Deli are two of the main downtown eating establishments.

I purchased a local paper (The Leaf-Chronicle) from the corner vending machine next to the Black Horse. One of the front page stories (Chicks 'not ready to make nice,' but return to country, by John Gerome, AP, March 25, 2006) was about the Dixie Chicks making a come back. I agree with their analysis: country music has pretty much lost its moral compass. You can see this in and around Nashville: the genre has forgotten its roots and become a vehicle for glamorizing the excessive lifestyles of its rich and famous.

But is rock and roll any better these days?

Alexia and I joined a small worship group on Sunday, in a beautiful old house on the outskirts of town, built before the Civil War.

I purchased a matted photograph of the Montreal Expo '67 dome from the local art co-op near the deli.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Temple to Athena

John, Alexia and Dawn in Nashville
(photo by K. Urner)

Whereas neocons have misleadingly indulged in the mythology that Europeans are from Venus, Americans from Mars, in truth American culture is more informed by Athena, the goddess of wisdom and defense.

For example, here in Music City, we have the Parthenon, much loved and well maintained by the natives, with many ties at the museum level to the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

Athena in the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee
(photo by K. Urner)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wanderers 2006.3.21

Last night we were treated to some cosmic-scale modeling by Bob McGown, recently returned from Namibia, where he was overseeing a small observatory. He mentioned his encounters with giant spiders and hyenas only briefly, as he's giving his Africa talk later, to a different group.

He had our universe divided into five epochs, of which we were in the second or third. The age of black holes was still to come. The conditions for biological life might not be so favorable then. Perhaps machine life would take our place?

Bob's focus was emergence (synergy) and its centrality in evolutionary scenarios (analogies to fractals). Allen wondered if "emergence" was just another pinhead jargon, while Rick pointed out that at least reductionists still try to anticipate our future (something we need to keep working at), whereas players suckering for "emergence" might give up trying to see into any kind of crystal ball at all -- a kind of defeatism. Bob, to his credit, clearly had his crystal ball out, and was trying to look farther ahead than most of us ever dare.

For my part, I expressed some doubt that the early 21st century would be remembered for its cosmology, given its poor benchmark scores on such simple matters as feeding people and providing them with shelter, instead of blowing them to bits. Why take a dysfunctional civilization's science so seriously? Our thinking is obviously quite warped ("we are devo"). Well, we know a lot about killing I suppose. Some reputation.

Still, if I'm going to enjoy some long haul cosmology, I'm happy to get it from Bob. His dedication to this subject is obvious and admirable. He lives and breathes dark energy. More power to him. Wanderers purchased both of his well-executed cosmology posters for $5 apiece, out of the coffee fund. We hope to display them in the Pauling House somewhere.

And besides, as Laughlin pointed out in his ISEPP lecture, cosmology is good for fund raising, and we do need satellites for lots of stuff. Keeping people interested in their extraterrestrial environment remains a priority, just like we want them to care about undersea life and other wilderness areas.

What humans care about, they're less likely to destroy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More Office Chatter

So the remanufactured Brother MFC-8840D arrived on time, via UPS. I swapped it out for the previous one, which is slated for duty in another TBC office, and now I need to run some tests, starting with color scanning (or maybe a fax'll come in, and print double-sided).

Mom phoned this morning and requested some albums by mail. I don't know when I'll be seeing some of these pictures again, so this is an ideal time to be testing some new equipment.

Of interest: will Windows be smart enough to recycle the old software drivers, or will I need to reinstall from the CD? Answer: Windows was almost smart enough; maybe I was the problem.

Blogger is having problems accepting photographs this afternoon.

So here're the first scans: Mom doing her Mother Teresa thing in Bangladesh, except her students weren't half dead (just divorced, which can amount to the same thing in that culture); Dad with Thimphu in the background, in front of the family digs with the dog.

Chronologically, the lower picture comes later, as the stint in Dhaka came earlier. The parental trajectory went something this: Seattle, DC, Chicago, Portland, Rome, DC, Manila, Cairo, Dhaka, DC, Thimphu, Lesotho. I peeled off in Manila, and did Princeton, Cairo (twice), Jersey City, DC, New York, Dhaka, Portland, Thimphu (3x), Lesotho (3x). That's a greatly simplified picture (like, my sister has another trajectory yet).

I scanned these to DLW, thence to Tara's laptop by mistake (she must have left it on), thence to TMU2, from whence I grabbed it using KTU2 (the troll-damaged, dual-monitor jobber, where I do a lot of my picture editing). I cropped and rotated using Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More Fun Collaborations

"a Waterman Polyhedron"
(by K. Urner using Jython)

A lot of you have heard me lecture about Watermans (my coin, named for Steve): convex hulls with all IVM vertices = CCP centers, and of maximal sphericity per each maximal radial distance.

The above rendering uses Jython (and POV-Ray), an implementation of Python in Java, meaning I was able to import, and use from within Jython, a convex hull finding Java class.

Fun Collaborations

"study for Sam Lanahan"
(by K. Urner using Python + POV-Ray)

Sam owns the high resolution version of this rendering. Since our collaboration, Sam has enhanced and refined his FlexBlox invention.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Global Matrix (Wanderers Meeting)

concentric hexapents by Tim Tyler using Springie

Glenn Stockton is doing his Global Matrix gig. He uses analogical computation to encrypt/decrypt the generic landscape of information (a metamap). Glenn, see, is a retired cryptography guy (classically trained, pre RSA), at one time in Nam with the NSA (he has a background in linguistics, was pretty good with Vietnamese). Since then, he's been an engineer and craftsman, with a passion for science and philosophy (historical dimensions especially).

Glenn discovered design science recently. He's plugging The Parsimonious Universe. Obviously, I'm doing this in real time, which is why the present tense. I Ching now. Terry is running camera. Jim Buxton hasn't left for Libya yet, is sitting close to the front of the table, where Glenn is showing an I Ching matrix (octally based). Leibniz, when at the top of his game, got credit for early cryptography using binary methods. This was actually blowback from earlier Jesuit forays into China, which netted them copies of the I Ching, and revelations about arithmetic in other bases (Carl Jung is another channel for Chinese thinking around the I Ching ala his studies in synchronicity and such).

Polarity, less so duality, is characteristic of Leibniz and Heraclitus. A magnet is a perfect representation of polarity. Duality is illusory by comparison [the subtle unity of the two tendencies escapes the notice of Manicheans, as Walter Kaufmann used to call them -- KU].

Glenn was introduced to the pre-MOSAIC Internet by his uber-geek son. Glenn, underwhelmed, committed to defining what the search space and navigation engine might be for this emergent topology. In Bucky language: he committed to studying the geometry of thinking, making full use of his capacities and abilities, as cryptographer, linguist, and electronics engineer (he talks "gate logic" a lot, more below).

In a bifurcative logic, you have a dualistic decision process, an either/or switch. You also have the AND switch. Glenn's emerging computer design also uses inversion (yin into yang, yang into yin) -- in quantum computers, most of the gates are simply inverters.

After years of theorizing, he emerged from small town Arizona to rub shoulders with some big names in the Santa Fe Institute. He phoned Stuart Kaufmann and they had a 2.5 hour meeting. Based on such positive feedback, Glenn continued with his book project. He needed a computer engineer. Phil Walker, a senior software quality engineer (Credence etc.) encouraged Glenn to move to Portland, given the IT culture (Glenn's son lives here too).

Glenn currently has contacts at PSU, where he gets high marks for his system. He was pointed to OGI, where he met with the director, which is how he got pointed to CS @ PSU. This plugged him in to the hexagonal automata studies now happening around magnetologic (reconfigurable hardware; the computer is in the software). He also joined the PSU-based Cascade Systems Society (Wanderer Pat Barton is also a member, as is Milt, sitting here at the table). Milt pointed Glenn to Terry's ISEPP and Wanderers (which explains how Glenn met me, your blogger this morning).

Now we're back to the Civil War, talking about the jailhouse code or playfair square, known to POWs on both sides. Glenn's matrix starts with the 256-character 8-bit byte. Extended ASCII maps to this. 2 ASCII characters index an XY matrix of 256 x 256 addressable cells (= 65356). The XYZ matrix has 65356 x 256 = 16777216 cells addressed with 3 ASCII characters [see addendum].

Glenn maps this XYZ cell space to his Global Matrix: concentric, hexagonally tiled spheres, but with 12 pentagons per shell. The Z axis becomes the radius outward from the origin, each Z address corresponding to an XY ball. The same addressing scheme applies in that the remaining 2 ASCII characters cover each ball (floor, or sphere). I need to plug in to AC now, with my DC battery at only 4%. OK, nice save.

We've gotten to the point of Wanderers asking pointed questions. "How is the XYZ \ Global Matrix transformation an inversion?" Terry wants to know. "Good question" I echo. Glenn goes back to his duality versus polarity distinction. The two mappings are complementary, not in opposition (not inimical to one another). One set of file addresses; two modeling domains.

Glenn is supplying a useful bridge for introducing a more spherically adept, omnidirectional, radial modeling style to XYZ-trained thinkers. As a Fuller Schooler, I'm trained to see the IVM bricking within XYZ as rhombic dodecahedra, using Couplers to address the XYZ cube, then generating a concentric hierarchy around some arbitrary origin and spinning the icosa and cubocta, netting 120 LCD triangles from their respective 31 and 25 great circle networks (see below), then applying a frequency parameter to instantiate this template for some literal application (e.g. mapping weather, sun spots or whatever).

Glenn's hexapental approach maps to the variable-frequency icosasphere, the source of the classic geodesic dome.

Glenn was inspired by early Bucky, but hasn't ploughed through Synergetics yet (I noticed this about his library, from when I visited his apartments). That's actually very encouraging. Having someone come up with all this independently is another breakthrough. Putting on my recruiter hat, I'm rubbing my hands ("yum, fresh meat" thinks the smiley dog).

I think Portland is smart enough to support a "think tank" economy, don't you? We've done a lot of homework around how to build and sustain a vibrant KBE. Why should DC's beltway bandits have all the fun? The Pacific Northwest is just as tech-savvy as the Northeast Corridor, if you ask me (not forgetting about bioengineering ala OHSU).

Hexagonal architecture has many advantages, at the level of gate logic, modeling biological growth (including differential equations) and so on. Glenn gets into color coding, cellular automata, other branches of study. Quantum dots.

Terry, on camera, is serving as chief interrogator (devil's advocate) for now, while I keep blogging (need more coffee...). Jon used the word "trifurcation" (heh). Anyway, if you get the tape, you'll see all this. Terry just said "scale invariance." Milt is excusing himself, gave me his biz card earlier, invited me to call. Wanderers in action.

OK, now I'll go back and slightly polish what's turned out to be a quite lengthy post. Mostly, I'll just leave it rough, in keeping with the real time aesthetics.

Later: Per plan, Dawn pulled into the head shop parking lot across the street and whisked me away in the Subaru (Razz). We went to a wireless coffee shop for a late breakfast, to browse web pages about Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee.

Addendum (the following day):

Now that I've had some more time to digest Glenn's presentation, I'm not seeing how to address all the cells in a hexapent with exactly 2 ASCII characters. 65536 falls between 63482 and 66272, the number of cells in hexapents of frequency 138 and 141 respectively (and there are no frequencies in between). We could go with the 138-frequency and have some addresses left over -- but that breaks any 1-to-1 mapping to the third power of 256 (the borg-like cube).

I still think Glenn is on the right track, in hot pursuit of something useful.

Followup (March 20):

I think this "lesson plan" to the Math Forum captures the essence of much of Glenn's thinking, while shrinking it down to a friendly game-like apparatus pre-college kids might explore.

Glenn Stockton, 1962
Page, Arizona

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Green Signal?

"angle versus frequency"
4D Studios mock-up

So my focus these days is whether the war colleges would have any objection to getting behind an initiative to improve the algebra and geometry curriculum for K12ers on USA military bases, as well as in the elite preparative academies, many of them gateways to West Point and so forth.

If not, then we should push ahead with a revitalization plan that nets us more sophisticated fare on the Pentagon Channel. This was the subject of my last two Internet posts, including one to the Math Forum.

Regarding the above graphic: the student slides a shape onto the pedestal, using a mouse. Holding angles (shape) constant, the student grows or shrinks the shape using the scroll bar. The graphs below plot the resulting changes in the linear, surface and volumetric dimensions (powers of 1, 2 and 3).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Office Chatter

Office chatter, sometimes known as cube-speak (or qube-speak), involves banter about office products, breaks and glitches, fixes and workarounds. Like just today, we seriously jammed the paper feeder of our Brother MFC-8820D. Clearly, that feature will never work again. Not having much time on break, I simply ordered up a factory remade one, all parts working.

The convenience of just needing a few mouse clicks far outweighed any savings I'd gain doing serious driving, say out to Fry's, or even to Office Depot on MLK. In a few days, it'll be delivered. In the meantime, we'll put up with no paper feeder.

This thing prints double-sided, one of its most endearing features, given the paper pulp this saves.

I'm in limbo on video equipment, as it could be my talent is more in storyboarding. I've got good ideas for commercials. I'm not about to remake myself into an expensive studio overnight. Much easier is the hired gun role -- learn the ropes, while sharing relevant outdoor skills.

Like, at this Men's Group I was just in, we went walking up a trail to a vista point. I volunteered that if we got lost and needed food, I could shoot us a monkey. You had to be there (rural Oregon) to get the joke I guess.

I did phone my wife, out with my daughter in a coffee shop, to have a quick business meeting about the purchase. She was against it, so I volunteered funding from a small budget off to the side, which I control. This amused her, but she also wants to see the retiring printer put to worthy use, as it has some years left in it, even minus a working paper feeder. I agree with her thinking.

Friday, March 10, 2006

ISEPP presents...

I ran Terry's camera for the ISEPP presentation again, from high on the speaker's right, dress circle level.

Sir Roger Penrose was our in-front-of-the-camera talent, running two partially overlapping overhead projectors, quickly flipping back and forth from diagram to diagram, building a model of an eternally regenerative Universe, of cosmic constant lambda > 0.

In Penrose's latest proposal, the ultra low entropy constraints of the Big Bang are perhaps associated with zero Weyl Curvature (an hypothesis), Ricci Curvature being the other curvature of interest in this namespace.

But this same zero curvature might obtain when all future singularities (black holes) had rattled away their Hawking radiation, like so many kernels of popcorn, turning their last residual bits of mass into pure light energy.

At this point, with everything photons, all sense of time and space is rendered meaningless, and a kind of recalibration or rescaling might take place, such that our now prefrequency, isotropic, limiting special case might once again show up as a low entropy singularity with zero Weyl curvature -- and another Big Bang gives birth to another gravitational economy, ready to take it from the top.

Downhill = our direction of increasing entropy, per the 2nd Law, although on Planet Earth we're locally permitted an uphill ride on the solar gradient, with "clever plants" impounding high energy photons for the local food chain. We rebroadcast away the energy we didn't use.

Back to zero curvature, there might even be some gravitational rippling connecting one universe to a next. Penrose proposes yet another particle, charged, yet massless, to add some weight to his ideas.

Like any good scientist, Sir Roger builds falsifiable conditions into his pet theories. It's better to bow out with integrity, knowingly wrong, than it is to indefinitely linger as a hungry ghost, with some irrefutably baseless theory (i.e. all tautologies or truisms) -- and no fans.

During Q&A afterward, some of the most earnest questions came from children. He'd held them spellbound for like two hours. The two-overheads approach, with mostly hand-crafted content, is quite simple yet effective in a retro kind of way -- all those little light cones become almost iconic (9 parameters describe their shape, their angles, with only the 10th providing a sense of scale, or frequency).

Our dinner was on the 4th floor of the Performing Arts Center, overlooking a wet Broadway, with lots of flashing, reflecting light for atmosphere (big windows). The salmon with potatoes dish was excellent.

I asked no questions of Sir Roger -- although I did get his autograph in my copy of his latest book, at which time I mentioned I'd be his cameraman for the evening.

I wore my Class of 1980 Princeton reunion shirt -- little Nassau Halls in a pattern. If I'd had a Penrose tiles dress shirt, I could've worn that instead. I enjoy clowning around a little, when afforded an opportunity.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Like Narnia in PDX

Big snow flakes took children from their seats this morning. I tried to work them in: "each snowflake is an object from my one class template," I explained (except my Toshiba wouldn't really be fast enough -- nature out-computes us all, cyber ice queen that she is (friendly lick)).

We'd been hacking on our Monkey, Dog and Human classes (each student has a Windows 2000 box), each template inheriting from the Mammal class, and Mammal from object (the new-style way to start new Python classes). I wrote it all up on edu-sig. Here's the source code of my zoo module.

Portlanders get skittish in even light snow, as their driving / walking reflexes haven't been conditioned and reprogramming takes time. Winter-hardened mid-westerners'd laugh at how we spin out on our little Hwy 26 for no good reason, just because of a few snow flakes or ice.

I prefer that route along the Columbia Gorge by the way, in front of the old Bolton homestead (happy times there), and turning right and south at Hood River. We did this recently, and I dropped my Samsung in the parking lot. The beginning of the end. Weeks later, it (my cell phone) died on Meliptus but no, I didn't "bury her at sea" (that'd be unecological).

Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur are two of our main ski areas. Hood Meadows is quite big and efficient whereas Cooper Spur is maybe less intimidating, but because lower, more likely to get rain (even when Hood Meadows is still getting snow). Does Condi ski?

So yeah, this being Thursday, I did my usual Python gig at Winterhaven. Before launching into it, the Winterhaven faculty guy I work with showed me where to get a Squeakland plugin for my FireFox browser. This is relevant as I'm still intending to make that Shuttleworth Summit in London in April, where Alan Kay might be struttin' his stuff.

That's not a for sure or anything (we're busy people, so even if I go, maybe nobody else will), but hey, I like checking in on Squeak from time to time. Same with Logo, where I'm a big fan of the "swimming turtles" idea i.e. not just a flat-on-the-floor metaphors, but in a tank or an ocean, swimming freely (not a new idea, not original with me, no way -- like, I saw it in Finding Nemo).

Thinking of news stories that I've seen...

So how about a special olympics or league where you're supposed to take steroids. The players sign a waiver, like they know this stuff can't be good. But there's no game of "discovery and scandal," no attempt to deceive any fans -- just a change in the rules.

Regular non-monster players get to keep their respective gigs, and play squeaky clean, steroid-free baseball or whatever.

The point is to not stack the deck and break records with "advantages" not available to your predecessors. That wouldn't be fair.

However, if people are out in the open about their "advantages" (maybe not steroids though? -- I hear they're pretty dangerous), then maybe it's not really unsportsmanlike to just open a new chapter in the record books for these people?

Like, we won't even try to compare: to a league of their own, those "performance enhancer" athelete-users. Sounds like something Old Sparta would try. Most Athenians would be more Clinton-like, and not inhale.

Hey, it's fun writing about sports. I hardly ever do it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Followup on Funding

So far, it's looking fairly likely that I'll be doing the gigs in London (Shuttleworth Foundation) and CERN (EuroPython).

The first is a brainstorming and summit, aimed at defining a curriculum pipeline for South Africans (one of several no doubt), featuring Logo | Squeak | Python. Or at least that's the present picture.

As I stated on edu-sig, that's a Turtle, a Mouse, and a Snake. Some say Python refers to a comedy troupe, but I say "it ate Monty" (funny).

The second is to be staged at the home of W3, i.e. at the birthplace of the web. Hypertext is one of those developments I used to rave about, long before it happened, thanks to Ted Nelson's Computer Lib / Dream Machines (now a collectible), plus some brain- storming of my own. Then Tim Berners-Lee came along and simply made it happen.

The fact that I've been on target before about something positive, as a futurist, keeps me thinking I might still be on to something with my brand of positive futurism, even these many years later, even today.

I was even in The Oregonian a couple of times, anticipating hypertext kiosks and more use of the Fuller Projection.

Anyway, productive day. I got some hospital work done, coordinated with employers.

Saturday Academy gave a green light to the London trip, even if that means changes to our schedule. I'll be a more interesting and effective teacher, to the extent I'm able to bring back insights about how things are going in technology and education world.

Quakers seem OK with my missing FGC in Tacoma this year. Although it's a big deal for Friends General Conference to come this far west, I'll plan to rejoin it back east at some point. A memory from 1983: the day I learned Bucky died, I was enroute to this very gathering -- read about it in the car, in The Washington Post, and cried.

And by the way, I sorta lied about being "not [used to] getting much [assistance]." I get and have gotten a lot of assistance, by very expert individuals who're good at what they do. I don't easily forget that. Yet sometimes I need to whine.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

SAO Spring Conference 2006

I spent much of the day in Salem, at Willamette University, stopping at Starchie Archie's (aka Mickey D's) in Woodburn for breakfast and fuel. The ConocoPhillips station had Exxon decals on the pumps. This seemed quite the oil giant, so I snapped a picture for my blog.

I was attending the SAO Foundation's annual spring conference, held in conjunction with the Oregon CSTA. Congratulations to Sara Zuckerman on becoming the president elect this year.

As I was thanking WU's Fritz Ruehr for sharing his excellent computer contest challenges with me awhile back (the conference is held in conjunction with a high school programming contest), my shoulder-slung Toshiba swung into a clock made from an old disk drive, knocking out its AA battery, which was hard to put back in. This clock was for timing the contest. Fortunately, Fritz had a backup clock.

Aside from this faux pas, which people were friendly about, I think I did an effective job as a diplomat, both for Python and for the Open Source Community more generally. This year I had the added credential of being a Python teacher in a Portland public school -- plus I use Moodle, which turned out to be another big topic.

Several teachers, without prompting from me, expressed the view that math students are under-served when it comes to technology. Why not mix math with programming? Kids often thrive when this gets tried. Yet the two subjects are strictly segregated, with math made a requirement and computer science an elective.

When the civilian education budget tightens, the technology teachers are among the first to be axed, or switched into math teaching. In the meantime, demand for students well-versed in technology is on the rise, with business and industry begging the schools to be more responsive to their needs.

Universities find incoming freshmen already turned off to technical careers (especially women). Enrollment in CS departments is way down. We learned more about these frustrations during the panel discussion, with representatives from OIT, WOU, PSU, and WU.

The answer seems obvious: require computer use when learning mathematics. And yet when the NCTM talks about "technology in the classroom" it usually means calculators, with a mere nod to a few popular computer applications such as Geometers Sketchpad. Computer programming is rarely if ever mentioned in the NCTM literature. Go to my Oregon Curriculum Network website if you want the real deal.

I made a lot of good contacts. SAO meetings are a valuable networking opportunity.


A conference highlight for me was watching student presenter Steven Bocci (9th grade) whip through GameMaker, building a playable version of Breakout in just five minutes. I now have a better appreciation of why kids flock to Edwin Pillobello's classes at Saturday Academy. GameMaker is cleverly designed and probably does teach some transferrable programming skills, usable in other World Game contexts.

Also, around this same time, Brad Miller was at SIGCSE 2006 in Houston, Texas, giving a formal presentation on the advantages of Python at the college level, which he says was well received.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cocktail Party

Saturday Academy hosted a "celebrate the instructors" event at Bluehour on Everett, twixt 12th and 13th NW this Thursday night. I finally met Kent Anderson, the veteran C language instructor, and James Zaleski, the Flash instructor.

Plus Noah Kleiman was there from Old Library Studio. Musician Jimmy Lott and I had just been in a training session with him the night before, on open source multi-track (Audicity & plug-ins mostly, although the studio itself uses higher end stuff). Small town.

James, the Flash guy, has been working with the Beaverton police on youth outreach (teaching Flash) and showed some student work. Impressive. Also, Joyce Creswell, SA Executive Director (and Wanderer) screened a little pro-SA piece, which I suggested we get uploaded as a Google Video (if that ever happens, I'll add a link from this post).

This morning, I got an invite to join Shuttleworth Foundation in London in mid-April. Checking airlines, I'm not seeing a way to get back in time for my April 15 SA class. On the other hand, I'd dearly love to meet these people. On the other hand, I have no travel budget for events like this (Catalina and Nashville were family; had to pass on G4G7 in Atlanta, a disappointment). On the other hand, I could ask for assistance. On the other hand, I'm used to not getting much (I made my career helping not-for-profits, mostly, so I'm not rolling in dough). E.J. Applewhite tried to get me a Guggenheim at one point, but was turned away (he was pissed about that).

Note: we're paying like $1100 to have some of Tara's teeth extracted today, plus I'm buying her an iPod for enduring the experience (she's wanted one for a long time). So it's not like we're really impoverished or anything, just typical middle income (per USA standard). Looks like we owe about $8K in taxes this year (mostly for social security). Plus I identify as a capitalist, meaning (in my case anyway) that I've internalized vast assets and manage them, both personally and precessionally.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More Poopka from Zogby

Making the rounds on liberal elists:
  • Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay "as long as they are needed"
  • While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
  • Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
  • Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam's role in 9/11, most don't blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
  • Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
  • Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment
Yeah, but wasn't Zogby way off on the exit polls this last time? Why should I trust any of this, given pollsters can't jibe their data with who's in the oval office any more. I say pollsters should get a real job. I laugh in your faces pollsters. Hahahahahahahhahaha.

Retaliation for Saddam's role? That's not what "the trial" is about (big guys in zoo cages more like -- and where's Tariq Aziz in all this? I hope OK). Cheney says shooting this one guy with his personal gun was a "worst day" for him. Tour some more hospitals guy, they're there because of you. Have some more "bad days" on my personal tab (some black budget line item only you and a few others know about -- sorry, my leak, my bad).

Anyway, I'm glad the mission is clear, for the most part. Any soldier who doesn't get why we fight really shouldn't be in the game. Uncle Sam has every responsibility to make it absolutely clear what the mission is. Any waffling = immediate and severe demotion among the rank and file. Otherwise you get what we got in Vietnam: K-Mart clerks leading the charge, getting shot in the back by "one of the guys" (and good riddance).

Sorry, I have this mean streak.