Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A One Hand Clapping Sound

I thought I was hot on the trail of some denial of service attack.

Finally, someone felt offended enough to spam me at a rate of over one per second.

My email boxes were filling fast, with thousands upon thousands of spams. I phoned Qwest to complain. This was at least drama, if not trauma.

What I finally figured out is one of my auto-responders had gotten into a devil's embrace with another auto-responder, with each politely telling the other the same thing, over and over and over...

Neither had any reason to ever stop. Reminds me of diplomacy sometimes -- those stalemates from hell.

Anyway, once I shut down my own auto-responder, the "room" went silent. No more echoes.

I detect wry smiles from sysops, as in "welcome to my world" ("no, welcome to my world", "no, welcome to my world"...).

Monday, February 25, 2008

80th Academy Awards

I am like so out of sequence, though at least recognized Juno from living among fans, had taken in the cartoon about rats sometime earlier.

Now, with my ignorance admitted, let me just say I enjoyed the editing and respected the obvious, and not-so-obvious talents among those controlling my view (both in front of and behind the camera as they say -- or was it a curtain?).

The retrospectives on periscopes and binoculars, and awakenings from bad dreams, were also both much appreciated (in case other reviewers forget to take note). My thanks to Jon Stewart and company.

Today on car radio, some talking heads were talking about cutting the fat, paring it down. But hey, the Superbowl drags on for at least twice as long, doesn't it? Quit complaining why not? It's just once a year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

I learned at a dinner party last night, about the lunar eclipse we should see tonight, providing the skies are clear (so far so good, in Portland).... Yep, the skies were clear, even if my own eyesight is less than perfect (some doubling (didn't find binoculars)).

Much of the evening was about getting the Compiz Fusion rotating cube of desktops working on Tara's new Ruby Red laptop (Dell 1420 N), while watching Simpsons and eating Subway. Adding to software sources, and installing lots of updates over factory (hundreds of files), and finally finding a new compiz configuration manager in Synaptic, proved the answer in this case (we're using restricted nVidia drivers, having had good luck with that previously).

In a lunar eclipse, the Earth's shadow completely covers a full moon for a short time, as it moves in front of the sun. Looking back from the moon, the earth would somewhat cover the sun. I tried to get that view from the moon in Celestia, newly installed on my laptop (another Dell), but I'm still all thumbs with that program, much as I tout it as a classroom-ready paradigm open source project.

Along those lines, today I've been studying the HDTV pix of the moon's surface coming back from one of the Kaguya sensing stations in lunar orbit (i.e. from a satellite designed to spy on the moon).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Computerizing Synergetics

Background reading:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

This Just In

(click here for stereo version)
Recently published to Synergeo, a Fuller School asset: this "jumble pack" by John Brawley, rendered in POV-ray from output generated from a C++ package he authored.

Unlike Steve Waterman's quasi-spherical packings, which assume a CCP center for each ball, John lets his 100,000 strong army self-organize more casually ("at ease"), in accordance with his Tverse cosmology.

Kudos to Adrian Rossiter of Antiprism fame, for giving John some C++ coding pointers.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Salem and Eugene

(click image for larger view)
For those of you not familiar with our Willamette Valley lore, I should introduce you to our two sister cities to the south, not forgetting Corvallis, nor Albany for that matter, but both are tucked away from the principal artery, I-5.

Also, there's Springfield, on the east side of this same I-5, Eugene to the west, which road (or freeway) extends northward into Canada, southward into Mexico.

While in the USA, it's a part of the I-net or I-system, a set of freeways numbered with odds north and south (e.g. I-5) and with evens east and west (e.g. I-84, which also converges to Portland).

Another convention is to prefix a number, as in I-405 and I-205, also both in Portland. Those are sub-arterials or subsidiaries to the principals.

Out east, the I-count is higher. The New York to Philadelphia arterial, which continues all up and down the coast (a mirror of I-5 in some ways), is named I-95.

So Springfield is opposite Eugene, site of one of our major universities. Salem is the seat of state government, that state being Oregon, my early boyhood and later adulthood home.

Speaking of family homes, the March 2008 issue of National Geographic has a fun article on Bhutan (Urners lived in Thimphu for many years).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Easy Does It (movie review)

This 1946 animation, with cuts to live action, seeks to develop brand loyalty among grocers worried about their bottom line. Although cast as a simple love story, it's really a tutorial or "how to" for grocers, an "infomercial" in today's parlance.

A decent Smallville type, alter ego to an aging father figure (the store owner), is about to lose his bride-to-be (owner's daughter) to a Lex Luthor type, a villainous high roller and banker named Mr. Squeeze, who uses his petty patriarchal powers to leverage sexual favors and so on (compare with Betty Boop in She Wronged Him Right (a 1934 "mortgage melodrama")).

Mr. Easy, a boy pixie capable of time travel, appears from the engagement ring and educates our young hero about the Stokely-Van Camp line of canned vegetable products (also canned chili and tenderoni).

Intensive push advertising, including strategically placed recipes, helps cultivate customer brand loyalty, which in turn entails a greater gross for the grocer, even if the margin per can is lower than with some of those unknown brands no one buys.

The Stokley man who does the explaining (by showing a movie within the movie) is a Bob Dobbs type, with a pipe and smoking jacket.

Our hero follows the advice of the Stokely man and sets up an over-the-top Stokely Week™ at the home town store, assuring enough cash to pay off Mr. Squeeze. He then dashes to the church in Blissville, where Mr. Squeeze is about to steal away his love interest, and indulges in some cathartic animal violence, winning the day.

I liked learning about "starter gaps": housewives (live action) don't like messing with perfectly symmetrical displays (e.g. cans stacked in a pyramid) so make sure you prime the pump with some intentional gaps in the merchandise.

Related Reading:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pop Culture

I've finally started reading The Portland Mercury more, high time I should think. It's not like I had any focussed reason not to.

Quick zip to Salem and back this afternoon, for some bureaucracy and coffee, not so doubleplus unfun (Orwell allusion, for those of you just joining us).

Tara tried her first real nigiri sushi @ Toney Bento, SE 37th (a school-related project).

On tap from the vid outlets: High School (documentary / ethnography), some old Betty Boops and Bill Plymptons (toontown stuff).

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Domestic Scenes

Friday, February 08, 2008

Toki wo kakeru shôjo (movie review)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time chronicles the adventures of a high school aged girl, living in contemporary urban Japan, a safe enough environment, but not without dangers.

It's a coming of age story, of the kind my wife loved, on the surface a romance, but laced with metaphysics, a sense of wonder about time, the deep dimension, one might even say the only.

Makoto enjoys a rough and tumble lifestyle, to put it mildly, even without all that leaping. Girls have most of the freedoms of boys in this culture, relate as equals, although when it comes to after school drudgery, the guys tend to goof off (sound familiar?). She pushes her body to its physical limits, running, cycling... even studying.

Whereas a more somber soul might be plunged into an existential crisis by this new degree of freedom, Makoto takes it in stride, gradually building her power to solve triangles and otherwise "fix" things (shades of Groundhog Day), including for her own benefit.

She only gets really lonely when she finds someone to share it all with, but apparently misses the opportunity. Anyway, she still has her wise auntie to console her. I won't give away the (happy enough) ending.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Neighborhood Meetings

For me Super Tuesday, the televised experience, began in a bar in zip code area 97214 (like places in Austin -- four of us yakking geography, statistics and demographics), returning home to KOIN, then CBS.

Oregon wasn't voting today, just watching.

Then I went out to mingle a bit, encountering Nat among six or seven others of mixed gender, three of us from Richmond.

Interesting lessons, great teachers across the board.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Political Rant

So why do people suppose it's up to politicians, the USA president in particular, to "fix the economy"?

I'm sure there're important roles these folks (most of 'em lawyers) might play (but mostly don't). I'd rather they just focus on running the government effectively, streamlining it, converting more of those antediluvian leather-bound law books of tortuous code into cleanly designed, runnable software (executive = executable).

The president presides over the executive branch, puffs up into commander in chief during war time. It's not really part of the job description to "fix the economy" -- that I can find in the Constitution anyway. That's for the enterprising, risk-taking American people to do.

Only intellectual slobs think manufacturing and selling war is a good way to dig out of a slump (and we have slobs aplenty, no question).

The huge standing army that saddles the USA with debt and makes it the laughing stock of more developed economies, is probably what's killing the future the most. All that oil down the drain, just to keep a lot of dinosaur equipment (e.g. aircraft carriers) working overtime to intimidate and threaten (called "projecting a presence" in the infantile language of idiocrat bullies).

There's really no room to focus on upgrading the education system as long as these silly North Americans are busy losing wars left and right, with children in military families among the least well served (sacrificing their parents to the war gods is downright cruel and unusual if you ask me).

This thing about being a "superpower" just feeds that old imperial presidency mindset, leaves people treating presidents like they had mystical / divine capabilities above and beyond what any human might cultivate. Very superstitious, very not how the nation got started, very devolved and pathetic. What losers!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Coyote Academy

Coyote Cum Laude
Coyote Cum Laude
print of etching by Amy Adshead

photo by K. Urner
So how might a public, tax supported charter school interface with the private sector?

Individual teachers might mine company web sites for their lesson plans, sure. Another likely design pattern is companies offering modules at different grade levels, perhaps a free version surrounded with purchasable services leading to a credential of some kind.

Textbook publishers provide a relevant model or prototype, although here we're replacing traditional wood pulp with bytes and pixels, meaning even small engineering firms might get into the game.

We might also have a Subway concession in the school's food court, and/or maybe a Noah's Bagels.

Note that shopping for curriculum segments and putting them together in creative ways could still be under local control, the responsibility of academy faculty.

I would encourage not abdicating this responsibility, plus devising democratic ways of collaborating with both students and their families, with the details left to the players (various templates available).

Even an extremely remote school depending on the Web for most of its content might nevertheless earn a reputation for creativity and curriculum writing effectiveness, based on what the school's in-house web wranglers had wrought.

What accredited schools provide that homes need not is a controlled testing environment. The private sector is already used to credentialing over the Web, but typically depends on administering tests in a safe and secure environment where (a) no bullies take unfair advantage and (b) well-meaning guardians don't get to back seat drive.

Congrats to Dave Koski on his new 4D Golden Spiral (made of T-modules).

image by DK in vZome