Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wanderers 2008.12.31

New Year's Eve 2008
:: dave, don and barbara ::
We were blessed with some exotic visitors this morning, including two first timers: Dr. Nic Tideman of Virginia Tech, an economist, and (only briefly) Don's son David, an HR guy for Flextronics, a vast Singapore-based company that makes components for Dell, HP, Microsoft, Apple, even 90% of Lego bricks until recently (plastic injection molding). Barbara joined us as well, Dr. DiNucci, Bill, Don, Patrick.

Rudyard Kipling's birthday was yesterday.

Dr. Tideman works in Economic Justice, which has to do with ownership, whether people have rights to themselves, the land, and so on. His theories have applicability in the Pacific Northwest, where ownership patterns are somewhat in flux. Henry George is one of his influences. Portland-based Jeff Smith is another Henry George fan.

Treating corporations as partnerships makes the most sense to him though he's still thinking through the liability issues. He's admittedly radical -- professors get to be that -- especially his ideas around money (bricks (not gold necessarily)) and banking.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sketching Comics

Sometimes people don't realize the importance of drawings in scenario planning. Of course if it's a financial investment, there's a need to see numbers, and sometimes drawings and numbers go together, in which case we might be looking at graphs or diagrams.

In designing a new hospital, you want more than a floor plan, you want sims going through on their beds pushed by orderlies, giving you a point of view, an average time between locations. Where do the beds go when not in use? What might be the likely bottlenecks? How many orderlies do we need, or do the beds steer themselves (that sounds like science fiction I realize)?

However, with comics, enactments, simulations, cartoons, it's easier to flesh out the actual job descriptions, such as what do those three people in the cockpit do, in the old pilot, co-pilot, navigator design.

In this case, you'll see scripts, read and/or hear the things people might actually say to one another in this environment, such as "give me a vector" and "roger" and so forth. There's a shoptalk, a professional decorum, which varies with walk of life, changes with the times (like commercial television).

Likewise when one of our gym teaching gnu math teachers has students saddle up for this or that maneuver, there's maybe some apprehension, if students are unclear about the challenge and aren't sure of the teacher's qualifications. What will she expect us to do? A ropes course?

This is where web sites come in handy, as you see the white water rafting experience documented. Then you'd like word of mouth, someone else who's done it before you.

Some of the pilot studies we need to try might involve clarifying job descriptions in a somewhat ad hoc manner, but going over it enough times, with rotation, such that we get a pretty clear "comic book" as a result, or maybe short videos. The trainees have matured in their roles and now have the ability to pass the torch as it were.
The reason we're unclear and needing to proceed by trial and error is many of the technologies are very new and it's unclear what the optimum skills mix will be. HTML and CSS go together, but what about GPS skills, do they go with SQL? For some certainly.

What were the ramifications of geochaching, as a sport?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Swiss Christmas

Swiss Christmas
Mom scored some pretty cool booty in Geneva, giving our Portland white Christmas just the right flavor.

Greetings to family in Whittier, Clarksville (thanks for the T-shirt!), Rochester, Pennsylvania, high desert, I-5 corridor, to Victoria and family in Vancouver, BC. Signal flare to scattered friends in our Global U (e.g. GS Rao in India).

Rose Owen is still our guest, since the Solstice Party, owing to snow.

Christmas greetings to the Riggs family, courageous and brilliant.

Tara gave me Britney's newest album, which I immediately set to playing. Spaghetti Factory? Dunno, it's starting to come down again...

Hawthorne was mostly shut tight come nightfall, but Fujin was going gangbusters. Becky and her family are truly kind and hard working. Tara give our Chinese Christmas dinner very positive review.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Google Street Views

View Larger Map
:: Fine Grind, SE 39th & Lincoln ::

View Larger Map
:: Quaker Meetinghouse, 42nd & SE Stark, Portland ::

View Larger Map
:: Linus Pauling Campus, Portland ::

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Art

R&R = surfing for art sometimes, starting in Google images, tracing back to artist websites. "Snow goddess" and "Ice Queen" were two of my searches this evening. Some welcome relief from pictures like this (my Global U homework these days).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Booting Up

Integrating SQL into everyday algebra, renamed computer algebra in some contexts, involved implementing a schema of Polyhedra established by Faces of consecutive Edges in turn defined by tail-originating vector pairs.

sqlite> .schema Polyhedra
CREATE TABLE Polyhedra (
shortname CHAR NOT NULL,

sqlite> select * from polyhedra;
"Rhombic Dodecahedron",cell,14,24,12,6
At the top level, we have those V, F, E columns, good for self-joining to seek duals (where shape1.V = shape2.F and shape1.F = shape2.V and shape1.E = shape2.E). We also have volumes columns where, breaking with tradition, we also store tetravolume equivalents -- always whole numbers in the case of CCP-based Watermans for example, and in our "boot sequence".

The above covers XYZ, other spatial coordinate systems, and establishes vector geometry in the context of record-keeping (SQL engines), setting the stage for GIS/GPS topics in future curriculum segments. Ray tracing, x3d / VRML, graphics engines such as VPython (wrapping OpenGL) all fit in to this picture, establishing an integrating geometric bridge between art and science.

Having a web framework serving pages in the computer algebra classroom, with some students responsible for learning inner workings, is not a big detour away from career-relevant goals, as this form of record-keeping is pervasive in academia, government, private industry.

Traditional algebra topics, such as functions and relations and ordered pair mappings, permutations and combinations, trigonometry & statistics, get perpetuated forward, with an emphasis on modeling, controlling algorithms and summary visualizations (MVC).

Planting RSA public key cryptography at the high school level, a core feature of contemporary eCommerce, motivates forays into number and group theory at lower levels, with much of the curriculum writing still awaiting development.

4D Solutions, a sponsor of the Oregon Curriculum Network, boasts a serious track record in getting this flavor of Gnu Math off the ground.

That being said, this is very much a collaborative effort and I have a long list of people to thank, many of whom are continuing to provide our company with valuable feedback and guidance, even yummy gigs and contracts sometimes.

Looking forward to 2009 then!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Geometer Remembered

Remembering Russell Towle
:: some pythonic math ::
I just today learned from David Koski that Russell (Rusty) Towle was killed in a car accident in August of this year.

kindly helped me in my early work with POV-Ray, the free ray-tracing tool, pointing out that I had the wrong aspect ratio, making my polyhedra look squashed, like on this page. He showed me how to fix the problem. Russell was a master of the mathcasting genre.

I've also mentioned him in my Beyond Flatland essay (1998) for his early work on the Waterman Polyhedra. The guy got really around, touched the lives of a great many people with his exquisite craftsmanship.

His family and friends put together a blog in his memory, which I've been enjoying. Stephen Wolfram also had Rusty on his radar, given all those colorful zonohedra in Mathematica.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Family Album

:: dad & mom in makati, metro-manila ::

:: dad, not sure where ::

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Late Night Notes

Django derives from a fast paced newsroom, archiving to the web, with teaching examples Reporter and Article.

I just planted a Subversion trunk on my laptop, in the process of following a book on Safari: Sams Teach Yourself Django in 24 Hours (already somewhat dated), other documentation. I've posted some notes showing some of my progress.

Partners are really busy these days. Lots of wheels turning. Lots on our plates.

I shared with Gordon about the fun geometry debate I'm having, about a triangle.

It's time to focus more concertedly on skills-building -- skipping Wanderers today, just too far behind. Feels like college, all nighters expected.

New Tax Cut in the mail today.

The TV news was violent and grim tonight, about drug wars. Latter day Prohibition is taking its toll, with Mexico becoming a police state versus crime families, like gangland Chicago in the early 1900s.

I signaled an interest in bidding on an RFP this evening, just learned about it, a looming deadline, a former client with mostly new staff by now, different technologies.

Xmas shopping a must today as well, Solstice and Hanuka parties upcoming (including at our place).

Julian's art to be featured on OPB, on December 18 and 21.

Earth's magneto-sphere has bigger holes than expected, lets more particles in when north-polarized -- a surprising finding we're told.

Our thanks to friends and family for all the cards (most of you don't bother with my blogs, I realize, like who has the time?).

Hello to Sam and Judy, I need to send you some email too. Merry Christmas!

julian @ work

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Glenn stopped in, looking to transport a 50 lbs bag of contractor sand, for adding friction to ice-covered sidewalks, a service to pedestrians. We got the last two in stock from Ace Hardware (formerly Division Hardware), more on order.

I mentioned in the LPH parking lot having made headway with my CSN project, Glenn having noticed the For Sale sign on the 39th/Lincoln building, the birth place of Fine Grind Productions.

I've just posted something to PPUG, summarizing where I'm at: ready to plant a Subversion tree (svn) and showcase a demo ordering screen.

Pyrite Dodecahedron
Glenn came by earlier with the beautiful pyrite dodecahedron depicted above, "one of mom's" (mother nature's), i.e. not made by human hands. Pyrite also makes fossils sometimes (called pyritisation) -- versatile stuff, this "fool's gold" (good for fooling).

Having a lot of "geometry of nature" in the picture is part of our branding strategy, with a link to wholesome foods, such as Portland coffee shops are already known for (really they're bakeries, as much as coffee shops -- quite an evolved culture, a good place to begin (also LA, Seattle...)).

Monday, December 15, 2008


In explaining the tableau below, I wrote to one of my Quaker friends:
Esoterica from that Xmas montage: skull & crossed bones pirate flag (symbol of free enterprise) juxtaposes with small OLPC XO, which the cat (Moon Kitty) is sitting on. XO is a cross and skull also, if you look at it right:
( click for larger view )

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Deck the Halls
:: urner xmas, 2008 ::
Portlanders put exclamation points for snow days, especially when it sticks, flakes big and puffy, hard to think of them as dainty doily hexagons like under microscopes.

This is Tara's idea of what Christmas is really like (mine too), so she's fired up the seasonal CD and is unwrapping the toy tree we got on sale (50% off) at Fred Meyer's, with lights and everything.

I'm in the recliner from Bradenton (FL), supervising, imbibing coffee from my Princeton mug, using my Ubuntu laptop, and feeling Bob-like (lucky guy).

Merry Christmas all.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pondering Python

Some of those Intel guys, in a recent meeting, were saying where Python fits into their company: a workbench for chip testing, right down to the registers, comes in that flavor; IronPython looks tempting.

Speaking of IronPython, I wonder if Microsoft will give it more profile. Marketing wisdom has been to pander to the VB army above all, not rock that boat (a goldmine).

However, with .NET gaining in prominence and the newer VB morphing into a rather redundant flavor of C# in some ways, there's a lot of demand for these agiles, very high level languages like these Linux people have.

For those less familiar, .NET is a virtual machine API that doesn't specify the underlying operating system, so we really don't care in that sense.

The "Redmond look"
is already cross-platform, cross-fertilizing with Xerox-Parc's, SGI's... Sun's i.e. the whole idea of "windows" on a "desktop" is "standard GUI" in this day and age (the eye candy of our era). High level computer languages like Python are not bound to these metaphors (visualizations), yet handle them well (control them), as they will future GUIs of merit.

Of course libraries matter, to any language, and operating systems have their varying capabilities, so in that sense importing from OS (by whatever semantics) is going to result in diverging possibilities at higher levels.

Driving a motorcycle is different from driving an ATV.

The whole point of a VM, however, is to sustain the languages atop it, in part by shielding them from OS-related issues. Python, Scheme, Ruby, will compile to bytecodes in the CLR and therefore interoperate happily, whether their authors do or not. That's the joy of interoperability: we get the benefits of synergy without coercing coders to drop their favorite snake, gem, intriguing favorite language for puzzle solving.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Show Time!

This was my fourth time to take in R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe. The theater was packed, and Doug Tompos was in great form, really connecting with his audience, squeezing this expertly crafted script for every last drop of illumination. People grooved on getting such a meaty (substantial) transmission of experience. The standing ovation was well deserved.

Dr. Leslie Hickcox, clerk of Multnomah Meeting's Friendly Care Committee, bought a copy of Alex Gerber's Wholeness, then joined me for some post-play discussion at The Annex (McMenamins) on West Burnside. Having recently joined Multnomah's Oversight Committee, I actually have an official interest in how Quakers respond to the plight of the homeless in this town.

Personally, I think we're way too minuscule to provide much in the way of direct services, but might assist in steering a concerted response from the business community, in the form of better Internet access to relevant resources, including trainings and apprenticeships, coordinated transportation services.

We debated the pros and cons of various strategies, taking strong positions and defending them (Leslie is no pushover). I'm hoping to rope Desiree into these discussions as well, as she knows more of the history.

I'm glad Nancy (another Wanderer) is getting to see the play. Also Don got to go again.

This play has done a lot to alert Portland to the possibilities. The future needn't be dire, given the work already accomplished. I thank the team behind this stimulating and catalyzing theater production, for doing valuable community service at an opportune time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Gatherings

The shopping season, motivated by gift giving occasions in several traditions, is a time for overtime, extra shifts, being busier than ever, for some service industries, not just retailers. So these Hollywood images of families relaxing, apparently with nothing to do except drink eggnog and sing around the piano come across as perplexing. Where are these goldmine consumers with all that disposable dough?

Our family is quite on the busy side, being service sector, although I admit to assuming a sedentary posture as I frequent the coffee shops, chatting with owners sometimes, yakking about LCDs, wall art. Sometimes I snap pictures, the better to compare notes. The Internet makes collaboration easier. Company principals needn't all live in the same town.

Santa Sings
That being said, we're not averse to attending parties, including ones with pianos, although I'm no John Ashcroft when it comes to belting out a tune. My inward pattern is to reflect on the Manger Scene in two ways: I ponder the non-humans and their participation in the mystery of life, and I focus on the three oriental kings ("we three kings of Orient are").

I don't think it trivializes our humanity to honor our animal sisters and brothers (cousins and aunts), as co-sojourners aboard Spaceship Earth. On the contrary, I'd say our humanity is transhuman, if that makes any sense. We lose a part of ourselves when a species is lost to us, a part of our heritage. I'm not saying we're in a position to prevent every kind of extinction. I'm saying it makes sense to honor and value our heritage.

Jesus wouldn't have minded knowing about dinosaurs I don't think. Given his time and place, that wasn't an opportunity for him. He didn't pretend to omniscience in that know-it-all sense, nor need we in his name. Humility, not hubris, is the way to go, though let's admit to bravado -- as mammals, some flamboyance goes with the territory (it's not "vain" to spend some time on one's appearance -- or it can be, but why make oneself the judge in every case?).

Last year, we drove all the way to Whittier and back for Christmas and New Year's. Given Carol's late start on her winged migration, thanks to the Geneva trip this year, we're thinking to try a different mix for this transition to 2009, and staying in Oregon (with brief trips to Washington).

There's no sense of "closed for the holidays" over here then, much as some of my business competitors might wish that I'd shutter my shop and quit the field. Too many of my friends are on the street, getting squeezed by predators, or whatever. Not stuff I'm able or wanting to turn my back on.

Fortunately, some R&R is part of my job description (e.g. a gym membership), lest burnout be a problem. As the old saying goes "if you teach a work horse to pace himself, you won't have to lead him to water or make him drink" (OK something got lost in translation maybe, but you get my point).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Coffee Shops Network

Of course there's no legally incorporated corporate entity, no Inc. or LLC with this name, or if there is it's not mine.

CSN is more a philosophical commitment, and a meme, and/or a "marketing gimmick" if you want to sound cynical about it, plus an obvious tip of the hat to the Centers Network, which centered around centers, not coffee bars or salons.

There's some pedigree here, not just through me, as many Nirel fans well know.

Given Erhard's encounters with Fuller from the 1970s on, it's also appropriate that we're thinking in terms of "tetravolumes" in the YouTube below, featuring the work of Dave Koski & Co:

Here's another good one, on a similar theme, featuring the enneacontahedron again:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Food Bank

One of my clients for several years was the Oregon Food Bank. This was during that period after the first PC revolution, before open source, when a solo coder, slinging dBase, could tend electronic crops all over town, little gardens of source code. I worked for Methodist campers (United Methodists), homeless youth (Burnside Projects), the homeless in general (Sisters of the Road).

I've been doing this work for quite awhile, and then so was my partner Dawn Wicca (as a non-profit bookkeeper, not a coder), such that as of today I count like 92 clients in my DWA / 4D database, most of them long gone off my radar, though I archive old invoices.

When I was a youngster, economists spoke frequently and intelligently about an intangible asset called "good will", which they actually assigned a book value in some systems.

Food Banks serve a dual purpose in that they provide a small allowance of proteins and carbs, for families ineligible for further credit and unable to make ends meet. This forestalls social chaos, looting, urban degradation, rural cannibalism (joke).

But there's another focus as well: sponsors get their decals strewn about in ways that help them in the "good will" department, even though in many cases disposing of excess capacity is more a way to keep the stuff out of landfills (that looks really bad, any time the press runs with it -- happens every day, stuff spoils, stores drop their order numbers).

Good will is an asset in terms of building customer loyalty, and brand loyalty is the name of the game in any differentiated market offering lots of choices. When the choices narrow to just a few providers, you'll find complacency sets in and the top dogs start enjoying their power to lord it over.

When there's a tyrant in the house, you know it, because he (or she) laughs in your face if you ask for improvements. That's called earning "ill will" and is less directly talked about in Economics (seems too negative, who'd want that on the books?). If you've been a tyrant, then suddenly need help, the public many not be well disposed to honor your plight, given this elusive "ill will" line item.

So food banks, other charities, serve a truly bottom line related function. They're not just "overhead" for super-disposable extra extra income, but are more like a cost of doing business, same as politicians (easily modeled as additional charities in some business software, or as basket cases as is sometimes the case).

Respected sports figures also earn good will for their backers, including race car drivers. If you're a motor oil brand, but don't have a racing team, how do you plan to stay in the game? The public wants confirmation, through marketing and charitable giving, that you (a) still exist and (b) have a vision for the future (a plan).

Anyway, this is all pretty standard fare I'm guessing, not something you'd not know if studying at Harvard or one of those. But maybe you've not thought in these terms before, Economics being a somewhat unfamiliar subject, especially since Home Economics got stricken from the curriculum, probably the one most practical disciplines, key to wise budgeting, smart eating -- everything a "mindless consumer" is not supposed to know about ("the better to rip you off and leave you with nothing my dearies" -- monopolist talking).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bear Booty

We test marketed selling one of these through Skype using the Paypal wire transfer feature, but I think someone in between ate the money, or maybe it went to dead letters?

This web form looks like the way to go. Great going Nirel.

Save the Bears

:: save the polar bears ::

Repeal Day!

Free Show
Today Portland celebrates an anniversary: the repeal of Prohibition. A tyrannical and puritanical subculture sought to impose its way of life on every free American, subverting the promises of our nation.

We're so glad their rule was brought to an end, may it never be repeated. Smart marketing by Dewar's.

I'll journal something in Facebook, where I keep company with my Quakers.

The Sooner the Better
Mom is getting ready for her southern migration. Tara is getting a new outfit for her debating team debut. Me: I definitely need a haircut. Bishops looked pretty full though, ended up at The Bagdad, chatting with Glenn.

Homeland Guantanamos : a fun game-like approach to a serious situation, thanks to Jim Morrissett for the link.

World Game 2.0
:: sharing on Facebook ::

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wanderers 2008.12.3

I made a special trip home to get my XO, as Buzz hadn't seen it. I gave a short lecture about G1G1, how these goofy Shrek-colored gizmos weren't for sale at Circuit City or like that, because MIT's goal was to come in from overseas, make this program of benefit to OLPC. Internally (domestic program), NCLB is more what we talk about. Bill and I went over the NCLB Polynomial in some detail on the whiteboard (battery dead, so no picture, anyway I've shared it before).

The discussion moved to GM, which does have some profit centers. We asked if those could be spun off to competent managements while letting the name GM itself enter the history books, as too retro and retarded to be worth trading under that particular brand name (would be my attitude, but that's just me, not a stockholder).

Patrick is talking about his psychometric research projects, in which I'm tangentially involved (one invoice so far). I'm rushing to learn JQuery, FLOT, Pyro, Django (already know SQL pretty well, though could use a refresher on the granting permissions piece, not used much in FoxPro), in an effort to break some old habits (like thinking this is the 1990s, scoff).

Some of this work might have spillover benefits for DemocracyLab, although at this point I think Scott Lewis is still well head of me, technically (my Google App Engine skills still suck at this point). In a friendly sandbox, people might score their own political writings with drag and drop icons, driving underyling changes in the DOM (browser front end). How OWL and DAML fit in I'm not sure, but the idea is to start graphing ontologies with more willing writers in a civilian setting.

We also talked about Quakers quite a bit, their ethics around treating people as peers, but without ignoring titles and roles (i.e. we're not blind to management's internal heuristics). I told my Dalai Lama story again (set in Cape Town).