Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wanderers Retreat

:: detail from music & the brain by Lynne Taylor ::
The theme is apparently telecommunications, or at least that's how it's being for me. Plus other themes, such as chemistry and forensics. One of our visitors is expert at neutron activation, helps police determine where crime scene fragments and shards might have come from. Archaeologists have an overlapping skill set.

I wheeled the giant ergonomic workstation (a monster) behind Terry's desk so we could have an intimate "projection booth" with room for several onlookers, with the intent to not disrupt proceedings in the dining room. We used Terry's computer projector connected to my Ubuntu Dell laptop, also Terry's Apple speakers. The results were quite pleasing: sharp picture, good sound, and a lot of human knowledge at our fingertips, including "youtubes," of which I streamed several.

Greg Kramer was by, and Gloria, who I enjoyed meeting up with during our last retreat was well. Barbara and I talked local politics quite a bit. Jon played wonderfully while Don sang some old hits. Jon needs a well appointed music lab with a fat pipe to the Internet in my view. He wouldn't squander, dymaxion kind of fellow that he is.

This morning involved trips to the airport, getting Tara to a friend's, and serving on a Quaker committee relating to our upcoming Willamette Quarterly Meeting.

Later I hosted a college football brunch (University of Oregon versus University of California), then Trevor took me on a field trip by bicycle to a new electric car dealership on 20th and Sandy. And the winner is... CalBears, thanks to a touchback at 16 seconds.

Evening brought welcome new faces: Buzz and his darling daughter, Elliot Zais, Lynne Taylor, Gus Frederick, a walk-in stranger with many overlapping views... Terry. After the crowds thinned a bit, we projected the full length film Idiocracy, a Hollywood Video purchase.

Terry and I then had a long talk regarding the new intelligent design website, an umbrella forum for a lot of American pragmatist writings Terry's been collecting -- plus he's got some of his own, with lotsa links to ancient Greek philo. We'll likely spice up the mix with a dash of American transcendentalism to boot (I shared about my new "Synergetics as Neoplatonism" meme).

Looking forward.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back to School Night

I showed up in the auditorium with an OSCON bag full of math toys tonight: flippy ball, MITEs cube, hexapent... eyeglasses, iPod.

But the spotlight wasn't on me, so hardly anyone noticed (OK, one teacher did).

No, tonight was about the curriculum, with each teacher giving an overview: biology, social studies, algebra, writing, mathematics.

I was especially impressed by the writing teacher: very well spoken and poised.

I signed up for a parent, teacher, student conference and then Tara and I left. Gym time for me, while Tara tuned in the season premier of Gray's Anatomy (lots of close ups on facial expressions). Rose was by this afternoon.

Cousin Mary, a real ER doc, likes to talk about when the ER crew came to her Chicago hospital for a dose of reality. By all indications, the dose was pretty light -- enough for ambiance at least.

The hospital: a time-honored background for soap operas. And I'm a star in my very own, with some board meeting in the morning (yep, in a hospital).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Busy Monday

Today included a lot meetings, interesting and full of surprises.

But first, I started my day by watching a lecture by Randy Pausch (Carnegie Mellon... Alice) recommended by Guido, and by helping Tara figure out how to add wings to her cats in Sims 2.


Glenn and I were on Wanderers' business at Peet's, focusing on web tech in particular, cascading style sheets, managing interns. Then we walked over to Powell's on Hawthorne so I could by all the remaining Good Magazine copies (the issue with a guide to Bucky starting on page 89), including one copy for Glenn.

At Esan (great Thai food downtown), I mainly listened as others surfed in the flextegrity namespace over yellow curry. Staff very kindly let us gab past closing.

Then a meeting with Adam Reid of LÊP High, Portland's most innovative public charter high school, newly ensconced in new digs on East Burnside, and running Ubuntu.

Diane and I (both on a Quaker planning committee) shared slides at Fine Grind (cute pandas!).

Then a quick trip up (and down) Mt. Tabor on Tink (part of the daily discipline).

Then Wanderer Greg Kramer is reading at Powell's on Hawthorne, which brings me up to date.

Time to go back and catch some more of Greg's gig.


Back to Fine Grind for meeting with Don, who'd been in the front row listening to Greg, and afterwards chatting with Portland musician Lisa Mann.

Mom helped me get the garbage out for the usual Tuesday pickup.

Time to read up on the Centralia Massacre, plus I have one copy of Good Magazine remaining.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Brave One (movie review)

This beautifully and intensely acted film noir kept my attention from start to finish.

During the movie, I wondered if the dog would be a loose end, was gonna quip "what happened to the dog?" if so.

But a movie this taut hardly has any loose ends; I should have known better (though I do think a radio show host that talented wouldn't have been so left alone by the press in the aftermath).

Pat phoned Dave's cell at American Dream pizza afterward, and I motioned for the phone. She's in our meeting and could double for Jodie in some scenes in this movie.

Packing for BarCamp.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Grotto

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wanderers 2007.9.18

Tonight Allen Taylor is leading an informed discussion of Oregon State ballot measures 49 and 50. The former has to do with land use, the latter with health care for children.

I'm sitting at Terry's desk, filing about One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and Programming for Everybody (P4E), two of my pet topics. I also posted to the Math Forum regarding Michael's questions about how to teach Algebra (not past the censor yet [but here's a related one]).

However, I did wade into the discussion long enough to register my amazement at the whiteman's stupidly oxymoronic contriving to piggy back health care atop a lethal nicotine delivery mechanism (i.e. a cigarette tax). Ceremonial / ritual use of tobacco ain't the same thing as getting rich off the commercial sale of "death tubes."

I also glowingly praised the NavAm casinos for their willingness to fund community and ecosystemic improvements with their profits. Invite the public into an entertaining environment, and let them learn from the many math-based language games available.

Yes the odds are against you, but there's always a cost for having a good time. And who knows, maybe you'll get lucky. Besides, was paying your taxes for maybe less in the way of communal benefits any more fun? Whiteman spends a lot of taxes on other kinds of death tube too (cruise missiles and so on). Which is good for whom again?

I brought in the Tux Droid to show Allen, given his wife's longstanding interest in anything penguin. The droid is controlled by Python programs, authored on my laptop and sent to it via the fish-shaped USB wifi device.

Allen is campaigning for elective office as House Representative for "area 51" (a pun).

David Feinstein let me pet and sweet talk Shomar, a 180 pound English Mastiff, through the window of his customized dog-friendly Miata, always a thrill.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Still Loving Portland

So I was hanging with this dude from Barcelona, a sort of kindergarten cop, comparing notes on world cities, big and small. I've come up with "Vilnius: the Portland of Europe" because I find both undiscovered / obscure, yet maximally charming in some odd dimension. Sister cities perhaps.

I'm happily waiting for Thai food from one of Portland's best kitchens, just a block from Pauling House, where I have the key, so why not blog via Wifi, from Ubuntu on Dell? Live it up a little, woo hoo.

Larry and I did the airport circuit oggi (today), talking our shop talks, riding our bikes (me on Tink). He does a good airplane. We both like Jodie Foster (as does Jane). Me, I'm like this movie director, so I realize why I ride too closely: I'm thinking "omniscient camera" (the usual) and trying to get close ups, at risk to both myself and my partner (I get it now).

Loved the Quakers this morning. So many favorites. Sitting next to a rodeo girl talking motorcycles with Ron, it doesn't get any better.

My calendar is a conflicted monster, so many reptiles at work. I love them all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wedding Anniversary


Monday, September 10, 2007

Stardust (movie review)

Alexia gave this a positive review today, and I recruited Tara to catch it right after school (before upgrading her cell phone).

And a delightful film this was, with all the elements of a fairy tale epic, minus any pedantic ponderousness. Gentle, light, self-spoofing.

The adorable fallen starlet delivers a candidly rapturous soliloquy on love to a mouse (squirrel?). Allusions to Shakespeare abound, with ol' shark daddy de Niro exploring new territory. Good seeing O'Toole again.

I'll gladly watch this one again for all the clever plays with filmic conventions, other treats. Great witches by the way, offset by swashbuckling men just as ugly.

Got my mind off my own silly rib cage (bike event).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Futurism Revisited

:: excerpt: bfi challenge, 2007 ::
In my view, the institution we need to be subclassing the most is the Hospital, but at many different levels.

This may sound different from my Global University metaphor, but remember that many caregiving centers are just as much schools.

Disaster zone tent cities suggest one design pattern.

Semi-permanent refugee camps in need of more bandwidth would be another.

With better engineering, we're able to make both scenarios more livable, as well as more rapidly deployable.

Plus we have other forms of Hospital, more like resort hotels.

People travel among them, to and from other walks of life, as both providers and recipients of vital services.

In many a program, the palette motif suggests drag and droppable resources, such as landscape features, utilities, building types (e.g. Sim City). The user slides these objects onto a terrain.

From an historical standpoint, it's interesting to go back into the archives to find out which engineering firms were most forward looking in this regard. These would be some of the same brands we remember most fondly to this day.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Open Source within Health Care

One principle of bazaar economics (vs. cathedral), is "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" (Linus's Law). Caveats: you need experienced eyes sometimes; and "shallow bugs" is a mixed metaphor, unless we mean we see insects as psychologically immature.

Earlier in my career, back in the Free Geek days under Ron Braithwaite, MMT tried to get some good alchemy going twixt FOSS and nonprofits (NGOs as some call 'em, though in some cases that N|G barrier is difficult to detect (in part thanks to revolving doors in HR)).

We got a great client and dove in with gusto: Postgres, SQL Clinic, a pipeline from Access, Perl front end (this was also pre AJAX, not sure how it developed since, as we went our separate ways (I'm not much of a Perl diver or whatever they call themselves -- "mongers" or like that)).

MMT = Meyer Memorial Trust by the way, a major charitable foundation in our neck of the woods. Staff there sees itself paying over and over and over for the same software solutions, whereas in open source world, many of those same mortgages have been paid off, are now owned free and clear. Apache for example. And of course Python. MySQL. OpenOffice.

So what's happening is medical specialists will band together within and across hospital systems to agree on registries, basically data dictionaries guided by research needs and standards. The point is to do followup, to get good feedback about what seems to work best, in terms of treatments, yes, but also in terms of brand name devices, even serial numbers.

Patients' true identities, on the other hand, are on the other side of a firewall. It's like playing Sims, but with real data. You don't get to know, don't need to know, who each person is, in order to do outcomes research. This is an old practice in medical literature: patient names are changed to protect anonymity, and yet doctors still learn plenty from the case histories.

At Free Geek, we mocked up gobs of data (that was one of my jobs), so we could simulate a work experience, without actually violating anyone's privacy.

Then we built this secure pipeline that could be run again and again, that'd pipe legacy data (from Microsoft Access) into a powerful multi-user database server (Postgres in this case). The client could run that at several points along the way, to get a feel for the new program, as if it were ready to go live tomorrow.

My expectation is more health systems, in an effort to use resources more efficiently, in ways of benefit to patients and staff alike, will turn increasingly to open source solutions where appropriate. That doesn't mean the end of proprietary systems.

Also "source" is only "open" if you have the training and/or interest to read in those languages, so although many of these projects will be open to public scrutiny at some level, it's still an insiders' game much of the time. Having some of the common assets be open, doesn't mean one must surrender all secrets.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bat Mitzvah

Tara and I were honored guests at Liana's bat mitzvah today.

Liana did a marvelous job, as did her brother Daniel, her dad Russ (friend and Fuller Schooler), her mom Deb (who also used to hang out with Ed, especially after June died), other family and teachers.

After the service, we confabbed at a nearby Embassy Suites. "Confabbed" means dinner and dancing in this case.

Deb had me strategically seated between her DC-based bro and a Falls Church family, so I could happily engage in beltway banter about the EPA and VOA.

I passed on to Daniel the cool inside-outing ball, a gift to me from Glenn Stockton.