Saturday, May 31, 2008

Squanderers

We burned some gallons heading over to Barry's and back, well worth the trip though.

Washington's Vancouver area is a bedroom community for Portland. Multiplying our I-5 commute by so many trips daily equals how many tanker trips? Both the cars and the oil tend to come by ship, yet the Pacific Northwest still doesn't have a great maritime museum. Some armory in Seattle...

We're approaching that season of "Olympic size" measures. So how many swimming pools of oil do we burn in a day I wonder. Quantification needn't be drudgery, especially if you enjoy the competitive ethos the athletes have cultivated -- very much about numbers, numeric records, like baseball.

In one of Bucky's futuramas, say in Education Automation, we turn suburban homesteads into part of an extended global university network, so more people have incomes while boning up for new jobs, home schooling often a necessity, given the high turnover in some sectors.

The Web is in principle secure for most payments, incoming and outgoing, thanks to RSA, large databases, other infrastructure. Crediting home scholars includes credentialing, with authentication servers helping with routing, matching, even head hunting.

You can't "get it all" on The Web though. We still need those hands-on trainings. Practice makes perfect. In so many walks of life, there's no "getting by" with just what's in the books, that just doesn't hack it.

Like think of theater, and having to staff thespian societies of one kind or another, but role playing for real sometimes, not just in fantasy.

Some stay home more than others though, perhaps in need of more monitoring, per the CareWheels model Ron told us about.

Thespes, according to legend, was the first thespian to break free from the chorus (the herd) and pioneer the monologue as a religious art form. So we were told at the recent induction ceremony at Winterhaven, Tara among the new troupers.

Until Thespes, actors tended to sing or chant their lines as a unit, more like a school of fish.

Once individual actors emerged, playwrights immediately saw their potential.

Barry's party included a number of us Wanderers, including Terry, who likes to quote great philosophers.

Some quote he attributed to Hegel plunged me back into meditating on Athena again, her Roman name being Minerva. I stretched out on the grass and relaxed deeper into it, leaving the conversation.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Buckaneer Workshop

Yes, it's a messy desk in a busy office, still with some bookkeeping, which explains the battery backup (that's a new one on standby, next to Dawn's picture).

I draw your attention to the glimmering plastic gizmo at center, something I partially assembled by hand, but, feeling retarded, got some help with from a pair programmer.

This was a little buckaneer workshop in NW Portland I went to (Trevor was there too).

I'd need more than two hands to enumerate all the little conspiracy groups around Portland, into this or that, not even counting book clubs or political drinking groups like Thirsters.

I'm sure Wanderers counts, including our Tacoma and Arcata chapters. In Washington, DC, you have like the Cosmos Club or whatever.

So like building a cuboctahedron out of 12-around-1 icosahedra, from parts made in China, hardly raises many eyebrows around here -- more of an "all in the family" kind of feel.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wanderers 2008.5.27

David Feinstein was in good form last night, as he took us through his specific challenge: to help judges make more efficient use of their time, when caucusing to pick "best in show," other levels of reward.

The mind-boggling feature he shared last time, has since been replaced by a much simpler technique borrowed from the economists.

Projects are pairwise compared in a matrix with 10K resamplings of judges' scores for each one, a kind of play-off in alternative universes (where the combinatorics come in). Clever economists.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Elephant (movie review)

This is another one from memory, not having seen it recently or anything. The focus is on a high school like Columbine's, in the wake of that massacre, a difficult subject, requiring of high level skills.

Joe Cronin, one of our Wanderers, plays the chemistry teacher, trying to bliss out on atoms while kids in the back act out in soaps of their own making. Joe is a trained Shakespearean, like Johnny Stallings, and no kidding talented I think.

Anyway, why I'm bringing this up now is in what way it's groundbreaking. You get these very long over-the-shoulder views of what it's like as each character. This came out later in video war games, with the multiple monitors. Just like high school, but also like Bucky Fuller's "partially overlapping scenarios universe" (in case people were wondering).

On a lighter note, back to this real elephant, painting a likeness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Other Russia

Given my niche concerns in these blogs, I tend to avoid such bandwagon topics as Hollywood and Britney Spears (of course I don't avoid those completely). I'm much more into esoterica, geek lore, arcane philosophy.

However, I can't resist commenting on Kasparov's bemused expression when his political speech is suddenly interrupted by a small, unmanned drone of some kind. A swat team takes action and everything is back to normal in short order.

Kasparov is a candidate of the Other Russia movement, not unlike our Other Tomorrow campaign in Portland in uniting a rag-tag group of activists against a somewhat unthinking and soulless machine (i.e. Putin's).

Speaking of socialist realism, check out this cool Obama poster I found, very Shepard Fairey in some ways -- duh, because it is:

It's already starting to wear away, which is in the nature of street art.

A passer-by said another photographer had actually stopped traffic with his van to get a good camera angle. I was on Tinkerbell and didn't stop anybody.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More Curriculum Writing

I have this rather humble resume, where a lot of browsers first find me, not updated in some years. But I keep it as a souvenir, plus it's not that inaccurate, in that 4D Solutions got into curriculum writing as a line of work, and has pretty much stayed there ever since.

What's missing from that c.v. is all my gallivanting about on the speaker circuit, attending summit meetings or whatever, padding out with credentials.

That's OK though, as The Web is a big place and there's lots more about me, for those seeking collaborative relationships. Head hunters or whatever know how to use the tools of the trade.

My latest foray, into physics, was to get some reassurance "thermodynamics" wouldn't keep my peers in that department sounding dismal in any stupid way, such that children somehow thought we were all going to hell in a hand basket (why in a hand basket?) because of something called "entropy," which is inevitably increasing.

In point of fact, planet Earth as a micro-state has a free ticket to the future on a fun energy gradient, already bought and paid for in that sense. We just have to learn our jobs better, keep it ship shape. Nature hasn't skimped on giving us the wherewithal, which includes an ability to puzzle things through. "God helps those who help themselves" as the theists say, or "oblivion is by choice" in more agnostic language (gnostic whatever).

Yes, the ride is finite (that's in the nature of rides), but there's no "entropy clock" running so fast that we all should be wasting precious life times stockpiling for that great crash or crunch or whatever it's called (Y2K?), although it's true that disasters will happen locally, and the budding relief industry is still woefully underfunded (through no fault of our sun's).

We expect more eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, not as punishments but as challenges, job security for heroes if you want to sound cynical about it. The architecture is also quite antique and insecure.

With the computer scientists, I continue debating which analogies work best, for teaching about Python. I'm finding that to be a productive discussion.

It's not like I'm some yak-of-all-trades guy who can just crash any party and start hob-knobbing with fluency. That's too Buckaroo Bonzai.

We were joking about that yesterday in fact, when I told this boat captain to stop pressure testing and just put the new gasket on and see if that worked, it would narrow the hypotheses either way.

I was just piggy backing on something Jim Buxton was saying (and I was thinking). We all laughed about that, because I'm not known for my talk about maritime internal combustion engines.

Like anyone else, I've specialized. I'm a very niche market kind of guy, one could say finicky if wanting a more negative spin (thinking of cat food commercials). Like just about everyone else in curriculum writing, I've got this pet set of concepts, this skeletal outline, and that gains me entre to specific venues.

Mostly, my business commitments keep me in Portland, as curriculum writing means animation, Youtoons, and this city has the savvy I need to get ahead in that work.

I like to compete, am a capitalist in that way.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Director's Cut

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sunny Day

I just had a productive meeting about AFSC stuff at the Bagdad on Hawthorne, followed by a quick pit stop at Pauling House.

Quakers are celebrating California's court ruling today, gay marriage is legal. Often a good sign, when mainstream culture starts catching up to Friends.

We'd been promised this sunny weather a few days ago and thanks to better data and modeling, the forecast was spot on. Drove mom to PDX this morning, after being snarly with the math teachers again (they're used to it by now).

I cashed the Saturday Academy check last night, thank you.

And thanks to Glenn Stockton for a copy of Leon Lederman's comments, May 10, Science News, about how a better science education will be critical to the future of humankind -- not really news, but the truth bears repeating. Quakers love science, take after Muslims in that way.

Speaking of Muslims, I really enjoyed Glenn Baker's Stand Up, broadcast on national TV this last First Day. Here's what I said in an email:
I liked the camera work, glint on the sunglasses (Ahmed Ahmed), angle shots in Hollywood, where I’ve been recently, felt familiar (sunny), with comedy scene more night shots, sudden pull backs, great close ups of the talent.

Love the cerebral palsy Jersey girl, bet you do too, in part given how the Jersey City chapter plays a role in my psyche to this day, leaves a soft spot for Jersey girls.
At Willamette Quarterly Meeting planning meeting last night, we came up with The Future of Friends as a topic. Our relationship with AFSC will be a focus, along with the new NPYM Faith and Practice, still in the works.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wanderers 2008.5.13

Last night's guest, Alex Ansary, has a cable TV show in Portland. He was invited by Aldona to talk about 911 and other stuff.

He predicts a lot of chaos and craziness up ahead (food riots? -- already happening in some places). We should maybe stockpile food? Guns? Definitely community networking and permaculture (cue Sunanda).

I appreciated this quick peak into the collective psyche. Alex is articulate and intelligent. As long as he keeps omnitriangulating, he'll do fine I think.

He doesn't trust official explanations of things (skepticism is good) and works hard to piece together a coherent alternative narrative. CFR, Bilderburgs, Trilateral Commission... a lot of the usual stuff (so far). He didn't claim to believe everything he was telling us, just wanted to make sure we had access to his literature.

Some of his fans joined us for the evening and echoed many of his concerns. I appreciated their commitment to investigative journalism. Patricia had a calming influence, as voices got louder, which I appreciated.

Wanderers doesn't rate as the core of any conspiracy yet, which is just as well. We're not trying to compete with the Zbigniew Brzezinskis of this world.

Good seeing Nirel again, however briefly (I'm a loyal fan).

I joked with Bill about having upgraded my Ubuntu Dell laptop to Horny Hen the other day. Of course I meant Hardy Heron (Ubuntu 8.04).

The funniest part of the meeting (I thought) is when discussion turned to space aliens and Dick Pugh the meteor man said now we were on his turf. Dick can count me as a fan as well.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adult Education

Today at Business Meeting, I was placed on the slate for a position on the Adult Education Committee, as well as for the AFSC Liaison position, which I've been angling for since late last year.

Although I don't become effective in these new capacities until July, I'm already thinking ahead to some suitable fare. As adults in a high tech medically oriented economy, we should update our ideas about biology with some of the newer materials, such as these computer animations of genetic processes:



Regarding the proposal to increase individual assessments on members, on behalf of the Yearly Meeting, I again articulated my view that someday we'll get back to having those successful Quaker businesses, such that we relieve some of the burden on our struggling families, with little if any slack in their budgets as it is.

After the meeting, Timothy and I discussed what Quaker reality television might look like.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Dumb Houses

I do enjoy my 1905 dumb house, wood frame, a classic, don't get me wrong.

But you'd think by 2008, the American consumer would have a cute little LCD showing the home's electricity expenditure in real time, totals accruing, denominated in both dollars and joules (like those calorie / lap counters at the gym). You might even phone home and enter a password, to get the latest report on your cell. Break it out by room and appliance, presuming your house has the smarts (most don't yet, I realize -- dumb houses the norm).

Just a short time ago, the Montag oil guy read my oil tank with a stick. I undertand why old oil tanks don't have electronic output, like a car's, but why do new oil tanks still suck just as much?

All this lip-service to energy consciousness; where's the beef?

Utility companies might have to provide a USB port inside the home (gasp). So maybe we display the house energy stats on an unused TV channel?

And while on that topic, why can't we interleave a local home school channel on the neighborhood network? I guess that's what the Internet's for, but TV seems to have all this extra bandwidth, redundant programming, in households with no Internet.

That old community service idea, when did it die?

Meanwhile, millions of kids spend millions of hours watching TV, but their public schools mostly don't show them how to make it ("go learn that on your own, we adults are too busy"). Schools with no time to pass on the basic communication skills of the culture? How did that happen?

If it's about money, then let's get those instrument panels on TV. Maybe show us the data, instead of stacking the deck? "Too busy ripping you off to serve you" works in the short term, but customers will vote with their feet, if true competition is permitted (the true promise of capitalism, if we actually walk the talk).

It's so easy to imagine that "smart America" that "other tomorrow," more Jetsons, less Rambo or whatever this is (Idiocracy some think -- Bucky called it oblivion, but always with some seeds of utopia and vice versa (a yin-yang kind of thing)).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Propagating Gnu Math

[ republished from a StudyPack forum ]

In my recent talk in Chicago at the Python conference (Pycon 2008), I took the line that Python might be useful in place of a calculator in what today we call "high school math class" (and we might keep calling it that).

In other words, I bill my Saturday Academy class as Pythonic Math (a kind of subtitle), not as an introduction to Computer Science (although it is also that in some ways).

Per A Mathematician's Lament, the K-12 math pipeline is widely regarded as broken anyway, even by insiders, so that makes it fair game for overhaul and replacement, by such as our Silicon Forest people, as we don't like to waste students' valuable bandwidth.

Of course realistically we don't try to take over the schools, simply offer content through the Internet, to elite academies willing to experiment and so on. Compliance is voluntary, we are not Borg-like (though some call us viral -- a common complaint about open source strategies that leverage network effects).

Primary math objects we care about are such as:
  • primitive number types and strings
  • collections like sets
  • integers modulo N
  • rational numbers (Q) -- with sets N, Z, Q, R, C
  • linear functions
  • polynomials
  • 2D & 3D plots
  • fractals and cellular automata
  • trig functions and relations
  • vectors (and edges)
  • polyhedra (tetrahedron most primitive).
Lots of stats, calculus, chemistry, biology applications for computer language treatment so the idea is once you've got a language, it will follow you around perhaps on your laptop.

However I'm not saying every course exploring this curriculum plods through all of these topics in sequence. Nor do I insist all teachers use Python, as I'm in no position to insist, am just another "gnu math" teacher (I am quite inventive though, so a lot of my collaborators and co-conspirators copy my ideas, as I copy theirs). I also don't only use Python (I've been known to use J for example). Spreadsheets are not forbidden (smile).

Regarding I/O and piping in remarks by Atanas, I am in agreement and especially extol the latter (piping) as relevant in my Chicago talk, using for my example the wonderfully pipe-worthy utilities at the Antiprism site, the work of Adrian Rossiter. For our segments on polyhedra (using POV-Ray, VPython and so on), his stash of open source C++ tools, runnable on multiple platforms, are stellar. When it comes to I/O, I think it's realistic to have objects be heavy equipment sometimes.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Parenting Comment

As a geek with a life on the Internet, I often get asked about my policies as a parent, regarding chat rooms, email or whatever. But of course a lot depends on the child, and although I've been a school teacher for teenagers a lot, I'm not expert on all the permutations.

As parents I think we shoot for the same goal: not a lot of fearfulness, yet plenty of smarts for keeping out of trouble, playing it safe.

Communicating by computer doesn't mean you can't be personable in person. I get tired of old stereotypes.

What fewer parents ask me about are my thoughts on tarot decks and such, despite the mail to Mr. Wicca I sometimes get (my late wife's last name) i.e. do I have any thoughts on the occult, esoterica, religious education, to share with other parents?

A lot of the same caveats pertain, but in general I favor "know thyself" type philosophies and see psychology coming under that same broader humanities umbrella.

You needn't have Jungian beliefs about synchronicity or whatever, to get value from reading about life's changes, transitions. Young adult fiction, including some movies (like Disney's, Miyazaki's), come under this same heading.

In later life, as adults, frustration accrues with loss of fluidity, a hardening of habits, what we call "getting stuck" in some of the old timer shoptalks.

Unfreezing may lead to somewhat unpredictable consequences, true, but at least you're not so stuck. Remembering there are recognized pattern languages out there, may help you get closer to where you wanted to go, if not there exactly.

Hollywood movie actors learn many of these techniques in order to avoid being typecast, to morph into new characters on the big screen.

So get started on this literature when you're still young, and keep limber, is my advice, whether or not you have aspirations around theater.

To sum it all up, would I have a problem with the idea of some teenager surfing web sites on Tarot, reading up in the literature? Not at all, as a general rule.

But wouldn't it be nice if our schools had stronger science, so psychology could be looked into in more depth in the classroom, with presumably experienced, well-trained teachers. Again, this was more my training, less as a parent, more as a classroom storyteller.

Nonetheless, as a single dad with a lot of community support (Portland is a good family town), I feel fortunate. Dawn taught me a great deal, having already had some parenting experience when we met plus she was wise (what wicca meant to her -- for a faith and practice, she joined Quakers).

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Political Comment

Whereas I understand the popular sentiment that it can't be helping the Democrats to not be able to make up their minds, against an outwardly unified Republican opposition, still, it's very cool that two talented individuals a whole standard deviation away from "standard white male," in terms of gender, ethnicity (confused with race), are neck and neck for this highly prized presidency (one of many, but a good one).

This proves the North American imagination is not so narrow as some had feared, that we're able to look past inessentials, to "that of God within" as we Quakers say (or "of Goddess" if we prefer). We're looking for leadership, are pretty good at finding it, thanks to this ability to overcome our own prejudices (slowly, too slowly, yet surely).

McCain too is a standard deviation or two away from standard of course, as that "white male" moniker is itself deceptive; we're lots of different animals under the hood (takes one to know one, right?).

Friday, May 02, 2008

Old Friends

I was happy to reconnect with Seth Tuska, friend from Rome days, via Facebook. He's been working on a website about his dad, an accomplished artist (as I knew at the time).

Congratulations to Dave Koski, who won journeyman status yesterday, is no longer an apprentice, in HVAC engineering.

I was also glad to hear from Kirk Petersen again recently, my 2D buddy from Princeton.

G.S. Rao wrote from Mangalore, having left Bhutan. I interned with him at RICB in Thimpu and Phuntsholing back in the 1980s.

Adam Bellow (also Princeton) has a new email address.

Glenn's movie is enqueued, has a website.

I wrote about Arthur today.

Go Wayne -- he sent me another ADA Build it Right memo.