Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reflections (memories, dreams...)

:: a "polygraph" of rhombs ::
(by D. Koski)

I grew up around cartoons, preferred them to live action (as lots of kids do).

Moving to Italy disconnected me from TV in some ways, as it didn't come on until afternoon, was only three channels, and everything was in Italian.

They also had this thing of showing Looney Tunes cartoons in the park, maybe on a Saturday, and in English. One of the best shows on RAI was Carosello (1957 -1977) all commercials.

My idea of a fun time with my friends back then was to make commercials, using a tape recorder so more like radio spots. We didn't have affordable TV-making in those days, plus no distribution mechanism (i.e. no Internet).

We had like three English language cinemas in Rome, not counting the embassies (like the Brits showed some Dickens flicks, old black and whites, recalling Great Expectations).

I saw Yellow Submarine with my parents at that cinema in Trastevere near the fountain (I should ask Mahlon to remind me of the name, or Hayden, both Facebook friends, former cub scouts (mom our den mother)).

The Archimedes was nearer my house and Piazza Euclide, and is where we took in some Bond films, Steve McQueen etc. Kijoon (an ambassador's son) lived pretty near there as well. I remember long flights of steps in that neighborhood (Romans do steps a lot).

At another place, off Via Flaminia, where I didn't go too often, I saw 2001 Space Odyssey with my dad, and Let It Be by The Beatles.

When we moved to Florida (from Rome, interlude in the Middle East over the summer) I discovered Star Trek, which helped me get through the day. Southeast High (Bradenton) was kinda lonely.

Then we moved to the Philippines, where I eventually developed some great friendships. The TV was a lot of it in English, the RP seeing itself as the 3rd largest English speaking country in some write-ups. This is where I came to admire Sesame Street so much (yes, while in high school).

When I visited London that time most recently, thanks to Shuttleworth Foundation, Guido and Friends, I was privileged to visit the London Knowledge Lab, which gave me ideas for a Portland version:
Let's make cartoons by, for and about our FOSS subcultures, among other topics. Use cartoons to teach Perl (which I'm not claiming to know), math topics why not. They'd feel like recruiting commercials some of 'em, what with those product placements and XRL stuff. We're talking about lifestyles, not just artifacts. By cartoons I mean animations, visualizations (to go with sonifications, i.e. audio).
I started my PKL in a small office on 8th & SE Main, under Dawn Wicca and Associates, as Dawn had been using it for her work as well.

Dave Koski was my first official MVP, and if I'd had my studio ready, we could have taped, gotten to work on storyboards for the cartoons.

As it happened, I did some digital camera work around his paper models, have continued to feature his vZome-developed Zonohedra more recently.

My thanks to Associated Oregon Industries for letting me be their xBase programmer for awhile (wave to staff). Schmoozing with industrialists would be a part of my job description these days. Like thank you Sam Lanahan, for taking Tara and I out to dinner last night at Portland Fish House. You rock.

:: flextegrity meetups ::

Monday, April 27, 2009

Discrete Math Track

Quoting from a blogger at the 2009 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference, regarding Web technology in math teaching:
What is Web 2.0? Is Twitter a useful tool? What are some good ways to learn how to use these tools? Where can we find good examples of how to use them in teaching math? We agreed that confusion still reigns about what this term means and whether these tools can help create a tipping point towards a new paradigm of learning and teaching where collaboration, creativity, and publishing are the cornerstones. So are we ready for Web 2.0 in math education? I'm not sure.
We've had some good discussions about a new paradigm on math-teach of late. Shall we encourage students to make Youtubes about math topics? Schools seem to differ on this, while YouTube fills with a rich store of examples, as do some school intranets (those lucky enough to have them).

Equity is a key word in Arne Duncan's talk (he's the new Secretary of Education).
I’m encouraged by the way Duncan returns again and again to equity. He stresses the importance of education in lifting children out of poverty, and paraphrases Bob Moses in calling education the civil rights issue of our time. [link added]
The call for merit pay is consistent with President Obama's remarks before the National Academy of Sciences recently (thanks to Anna Roys for sending me the heads up):
I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use of science and technology in our classrooms. And I am challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training, and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our schools.

In this endeavor, and others, we will work to support inventive approaches. Let's create systems that retain and reward effective teachers, and let's create new pathways for experienced professionals to enter the classroom. There are, right now, chemists who could teach chemistry; physicists who could teach physics; statisticians who could teach mathematics. But we need to create a way to bring the expertise and the enthusiasm of these folks – folks like you – into the classroom.
A problem in giving high school math teachers better computer skills via in-service training (paid for by the public) is they then use these new abilities to escape into private industry.

Whereas private industry might make use of their talents, let's keep it a revolving door, with schools providing attractive opportunities to already skilled IT and/or GIS people, other engineers, wanting to transition into teaching gnu math for example.

We need our trainings to work in both directions, with an emphasis on feeding the schools, given the unmet needs of Global U students. For example, those with a military background might avail of a new GI Bill to receive the necessary certifications.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mapping Gnu Math

A workshop for teachers keeps the focus in Cyberia, a mythical space of vying kingdoms and/or queendoms and lots of stacked fruit in SQL-modeled supermarkets (UPC, RFID...)

:: cyberia ::

A castle considered separately might be our MVC ecosystem, with the moat and the gate reminding us to think about security issues (yes, it's a memory palace). The keep is the model (M) whereas the templating (V) is done in the shops (guilds, smithies) around the inside of the protective wall (the firewall).

Cartoon Storyboard
:: workshop model ::

In the Django framework, an incoming httpRequest is matched at the gate by a regular expression (or falls through the cracks), is escorted (passed) to a view function, perhaps to fetch from the keep (Postgres?).

The results get "dipped and rolled" in a typesetting template and sent back out the gate in an httpResponse suitcase (properly padlocked in some instances).
The HttpRequest object is actually passed into your view function by Django. You use this view to gather and process information about the request in the view function. When you are finished handling the request, the view function is required to return an HttpResponse object.

Sams Teach Yourself Django in 24 Hours by Brad Dayley
Calling Python "the controller" in this particular castle is somewhat of a misnomer as really the developers and administrators control the site. Python is merely an implementation language, like PHP or Java.

However, since we're looking at source code, which is "what runs", there's a sense that we're punching the right ticket here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GST and Nonprofits

explanation & more context
(click for other views)

I was all hot to make World Plone Day (on Earth Day no less) when I received one of those "client in crisis" calls. Actually, this was someone else's client, hoping to switch horses. Some well meaning volunteer had set up this "Unix system" on a server (she likely meant Linux)... database unresponsive... immediate needs.

So why are NGOs either expected to fail, or, even if they're really tight, actually have their act together, are still not expected to ever receive ample funding, are supposed to go begging, like in Oliver Twist?

This is what The Hunger Project ran up against, a deeply ingrained spin. Humanity is supposed to fail right? Just a chosen few get to survive, by self-indulging in cruelty to others? What's the science here? Economics?

Come to think of it, why is Uncle Sam in the same boat, even with the full faith and credit of we the people to back him up? We call it all "public sector". Do we take pride in this sector, our just use it selfishly for purely private (in the sense of selfish) ends?

Many talented youth would flock to "glocal" (global-local) jobs, many with NGOs, if liberated to do so. Does organized religion fear a brain drain, is that the bottleneck? "Helping those in need" is how many religions engage in branding after all. Too much competition?

Do they fear secular services sharing the same turf?

Given the level of suffering in the world, this could only be considered a hypocritical response, and therefore superficial. Religions with staying power can't afford to be superficial.

A lot of the work that needs doing involves addressing those externalized costs not claimed by the for-profit bookkeepers. Their whole job is to externalize cleanup, garbage collection, to the point of malign neglect in some cases. Non-profit bookkeeping, on the other hand, channels wattage to worthy causes. Plug in to the sun, and make it happen.

Take our Coffee Shops Network for example: we encourage heroic world game players to show and tell about their adventures. Work for the nonprofits you've dreamed about serving, then come back and tell us about it, share with your friends. Talk about your frustrations, your victories, what you've discovered, about yourself, about the world. Receive credit, advance.

Humanity would clearly be better off if we could figure out how to pay ourselves to tackle the really hard jobs that need doing. Just as clearly, the military is a pattern we might learn from, even if we're holding some different cards. There's overlap. Logistics and self-discipline, commitment to ideals, a willingness to put out... these values get expressed, albeit variously, in both NATO and Greenpeace.

I've tended to band with the general systems camp within Economics, the Kenneth Boulding types. We have a different way of doing the analysis, such that providing stellar services through non-profits does not seem like an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms.

Upgrading with GST doesn't mean for-profits won't or can't continue turning a profit. They tackle different jobs, play by different rules.

Will OS Bridge help us think through some of these issues? These are puzzles of longstanding. As former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill discussed in his book, it's not really about the money. He was starting to sound a lot like Bono by the end of his tenure.

Anyway, I missed World Plone Day, made it to Admirers of Javascript, where I am right now. Maybe I see why Cambridge is into it. Functional programming just seems smarter right (looking at a new library)? Actually, there's a lot of ferment here. The native XML type is really brilliant (use dot notation at a js prompt to build a DOM, right before your eyes).

Technical stuff I'm reading: Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and other Beginners (just mailed to me, my name in the acknowledgments); Code Complete by Steve McConnell, because recommended in the Django workshop at Pycon. Speaking of Django, I've open sourced Charting the Future, a background study I wrote for a clinical research group on a possible application of said technology. HTML 5 is looking interesting (slated for 2022, just in prototype these days).

I picked up Moon Kitty's ashes today. Tara and Brenna made a place in the family altar upon returning from Fine Grind. My thanks to Brenna's family for kindnesses shown us in these difficult times.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

GIS 2009

:: gis in action 2009 @ hilton, vancouver, wa ::

I'm at a Hilton in Vancouver, WA. Unlike at Pycon, almost no one is using a laptop. My 10:30 - 12:00 talk went very well, everything worked, room full, audience laughing at my jokes, asking intelligent questions, no complaints.

I still need to hover more in the booth area, which splits exhibits between town and gown i.e. academic posters and private company booths safely cohabit, plus some of the private booths are university departments. This is a blend we might be shooting for at Pycons, thanks to Vern Ceder's new position. Currently we're pretty much all business.

I spoke at this seventeen year old conference a few years ago doing an uphill slog with lots of source code. Today's talk was far more autobiographical, winding through dad's Libyan sojourn, visiting our 8th grade class in Italy that time (About Zoning), the high school math teaching interlude, some mention of McGraw-Hill.

Given the 2005 lunch talk was about Civil War era submarines, I had a good excuse to segue to my uncle Bill Lightfoot's work, on submarines pre-WW1 (there's a slide with the book cover).

I was trying to explain my relationship with PPS, per local politics. I said nothing about Alaska, or Bhutan for that matter (given the lunch topic, the Mongolian Altai by Jim Meacham more stories from the Himalayas would have been appropriate, with links to Shirley MacLaine).

Fresh from Pycon 2009 (Chicago), I had lots of news. Then I connected the usual dots between New Math (e.g. Venn Diagrams) and Gnu Math (e.g. SQL), the latter being our campaign to run more FOSS on Intel and AMD chips, not just have calculators for brains in math labs. That's a well honed rap by this time, lots of heads nodding.

I went into Google Streets with Immersive dodecacams, place based education, PY3K. Ian's work with the ATM in the UK got some focus, as did some South African pilots. I told my Y2K story about watching the BBC in Lesotho, USAers freaking out about their superpowers (there'd been some apocalyptic literature, a crisis mindset).

Talking so much about my dad and urban / regional planning, was my way of reaching out to this other culture. Later, dad became an education planner, which is sort of where I pick up, given all my curriculum writing experiments, mom likewise an influence (she wrote quite a few textbooks during their stint in Thimphu).

It's OK to see prehistoric dino Pythons as a basket of hissy snakes, happy to work for ya for many years to come (no pressure to migrate 2to3 if you have no economic reason to do so). Unlike cars and trucks, bit-perfect Pythons don't wear out or break down.

I ended with a brief summary of CSN planning, given that's getting my focus these days.

When Boost goes 3K, that'll be a big milestone (a clue from one of my astute listeners -- these folks are pretty Python aware, thanks to ESRI). Will there be a Google Summer of Code focused on that project?

GPS-Photo Link with TerraSync looks cool. It's not a live demo yet, just screen shots (wait, here we go...). Demos are risky, but worth doing.

Although I rotated my cube between exhibits a lot, I didn't do much in live Python beyond disassemble a function (dis module), explaining what byte codes are all about, in the context of narrating about the VM summit, which I followed from a distance.

I steered a couple of folks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/17157315@N00/3321022118/ as where to get some real Python overview, access to trainings.

I have Alan Potkin's Water in Mainland Southeast Asia PDF for Bob Pool, who expressed interest in learning how to do more with less. Perhaps ReportLab would help customers of GIS data get it all in one highly usable CD / DVD.

Adobe's PDF format has many under-exploited features. Patrick's idea of just distributing websites (per recent traffic with Synovate) is also state of the art i.e. browsers are the "universal client" these days. Microsoft was prescient in seeing them as replacing / augmenting the GUI.

People loved the spinning Compiz cube. I'm clearly an accomplished showman, had a whole table of artifacts, actually poured beans between polyhedra (Saturday Academy hat).

This wasn't a carbon copy of the IEEE talk at Portland Center Stage, but had some commonalities. Having Trevor touch base this morning, regarding some manuscript he's writing, got us off to a good start. He's my source for the "other tomorrow" meme, a feature in today's slides (3.x meg).

Hybrid SQL ~SQL applications appear likely in this domain as well (not just in the medical field). Come to think of it, Anatomy & Physiology is really just another kind of geography (interior mappings), as Fantastic Voyage reminds us.

Some data is amenable to row and column treatment, other documents might come in through mapreduce. The HttpResponse object is their confluence (a stream of suitcases). The browser doesn't care where these came from, so long as they appear secure (what that means is up to your firewall).

I was glad to finally meet Tim Welch who works with GeoDjango for Ecotrust. We chatted at the OSGIS booth, yakked about FoodHub some. I'll hope to make a future user group meeting. The PSU booth heard my rant on the Red Cross web site, something I've been sharing with Cubespace engineers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Random Lore

Alan Michelson, a Facebook Friend, posted this lore on Synergeo yesterday, with a number of links:
"The title Monty Python's Flying Circus was partly the result of the group's reputation at the BBC. Michael Mills, BBC's Head of Comedy, wanted their name to include the word circus because the BBC referred to the six members wandering around the building as a 'circus' (in particular 'Baron Von Took's Flying Circus' after Barry Took, who had brought them to the BBC). The group added flying to make it sound less like an actual circus and more like something from World War I. Monty Python was added because they claimed it sounded like a really bad theatrical agent, the sort of person who would have brought them together."
I'm interested in the history of television programming, including commercials.

More introspective retrospectives made by the pros, but with some outsider perspectives, would help us stay critical with respect to our fantasy worlds, lest we be overwhelmed by the unreality of our ghostly cells in the Matrix (fed by machine world TV).

I got some praise for my Bugs Bunny tie today, purchased from the USPO awhile back.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Meme Campaign

Tara was writing me notes this morning, instead of speaking, reminding me of a campaign I'd seen on Facebook, a day of silence for gay rights. I remarked this seemed like a tough commandment, as I'd already broken it through ignorance. The irony was apparent, as many get second class treatment simply for crossing invisible "color lines" that might not be advertised.

Being on the wrong side of history, for having been born on the wrong side of the tracks, like in some kind of prison camp (like Kiyoshi Kuromiya was, Heart Mountain, Wyoming), is the kind of unfairness this campaign was meant to signify. What's civilization about if not addressing inequity? As a species, we tend to enjoy serving justice, without sharing the same norms. Allowing for differences in taste is a skill among lawyers, as among other brands of diplomat. Kiyoshi became a respected gourmet in Philadelphia in a land of opportunity.

Anthropologists understand how orthoschemes (template orthodoxies) tend to model an indigenous cosmology, such as Adam's and Eve's in the Middle East. We don't learn if the snake in the garden was gay, not from Genesis, and in hermeneutics more generally the snake is hermaphroditic, meaning not sexless but ambisexed, that "third kind" we read about in the Coyote tradition (a school of Lakota), responsible for some local casinos.

This "original family" (not counting angels) soon became dysfunctional, per Abel and Cain, our mnemonic friends in group theory per our everyday algebra.[1] The implication was they'd disobeyed God and the rest was history, or "koyaanisqatsi" as the Hopi call it, also known as "oblivion" if you wanna sound bleak about it.

With the invention of jet travel, American tourists would come home with Kodak slides of other climes, where other models and cosmologies led to alternative outward behaviors of various kinds e.g. pictures of French kissing in public. Margaret Mead's subjects made disavowaling noises after awhile and who can blame them?

The spotlight of the over-curious, the paparazzi, grows wearisome. How do you say "none of your business" in generic Unicode. Britney Spears says it well, in her Piece of Me.

Nevertheless, these stories got back to us, making extra work for the pastors, who needed to reassert the prominence of tribal dominance according to community standards and practices. Even pastorless brands of Quaker, such as NPYM's, had to adjust for globalization. Portland's position as a sea port, though not as prominent as Seattle's, kept us from playing an ostrich with its head in the sand. Sailors came back with stories, sometimes more than stories.

For the most part, the various zip codes adapted to the news, but in different ways well known to market researchers. How far is the nearest airport? Do they read books? Demographics matter. Families near Las Vegas, even if nuclear, might not require the same Avon products as an equally nuclear family in Omaha. It even depends on what part of Omaha.

In 97214
, being gay is not necessarily "a problem" (no one cares either way, except in terms of finding a good match) whereas you'll find other neighborhoods where "gayness" is only spoken about in code. An "out bishop" would likely be "out of a job" in some sects, whereas others expect same gender relations as a consequence of enforced celibacy between the sexes, including among their top dogs.

Oregon has an "end of the trail" ethic which is somewhat live and let live. Getting this far was an ordeal on steroids, involving covered wagons, ornery horses, sometimes dissenting natives.

Portlandia's sons and daughters share that pioneer spirit of liberality that allows for (even close) collaboration across ethnic lines. You might be a Chinese rail worker, earning credit in grad school (signals engineering), or you might be a Nashville musician turned geek, networking in coffee shops, getting established. Both of you would be welcome at Cubespace, where no embedded sensors go off just because you play wii and/or snake charm and/or perl dive for a living (alluding to Barcamps, their obvious diversity).

[1] the properties of a mathematical group are Closure, Associativity, Inverses, Neutral (or Identity, iNverses), with Abel a pun on Abelian (a subclass of group).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

M&O 2009.4.16

Most of what goes on in a Quaker M&O committee is confidential, and a Friendly journal off to the side is in no way a substitute for meeting minutes, even if said Friend was present for said proceedings, so let's be clear I'm not minuting our meeting in this context (April 16, upstairs meeting room, Peter Ford clerking based on Maye's agenda and notes).

That being said, since we were looking at a draft State of Society report, soon to be part of the record, I'll comment about my own comment: might we wish to say more about Qs using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, other social networking tools?

Lots of us are doing it and are finding it a congenial way to keep some of our younger members in our community (hi Rachael, Finnian, Estili, Luci... Kathy). We experience other benefits as well.

I'm grateful for these tiny windows, these interweaving storyboards.

These are gifts of the Spirit we collectively and/or synergetically dreamed into existence (prayed for), or at least that's been my experience, going back to IGC, CompuServ, even a guest account on the NJIT system through a terminal at St. Peter's College.

I never got into Fidonet much, though I did enjoy getting lists of local BBSs and trying those out (300K, 1200K...).

I wonder if I might find a "modem noise" as a playable sound file. Yep, took just a few minutes, embedded below:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PPUG 2009.4.14

I gave the opening lighting talk, testing some of my newfound Python skills, like saying WTF a few times, OK once maybe. We streamed out to a few onlookers who couldn't make it this time, a similar setup to Jeff's at Pauling House.

I told the story of my rant regarding the Red Cross web site, pitching Cubespace as a source of real talent in Oregon, ready to help out with relevant skills galore. That's probably a true statement, but the devil is in the details, I admit. I should interrupt myself here: Red Cross was quite responsive and professional about my negative feedback below.

Michel presented on the dis module, rallied the troops to cough up a volunteer for next month's show & tell. We got one, a noob (doesn't mean inexperienced).

Bret went over his many experiences at Pycon, Jason following with a look at his upgraded shell slash presenter, a kind of poor man's Crunchy, brilliant and spare.

Michelle shared some great pictures, then pitched her idea of working together on a new blog for our user group. Lets all squeeze into a beer bar and hack up a storm. She's a born leader.

Someone asked what was the best talk at Pycon. Bret liked extensions in C, I mentioned Designing Django which I caught after the fact (did catch Django in the Real World at the venue).

Now it's time to raffle off the OS Bridge ticket. Chris Pitzer wins.

I think we should look for sister user groups around the world and contact them, exchange a few memes, Python-related of course.

There's free beer in the kitchen, 65% foam but still tasty.

I'd've loved to stick with Michelle's web site development project, maybe pick that up later? My two inputs in the meeting: host from Uzbekistan, just for fun, and get some vodka company as a sponsor, to help pay for our parties. Just a thought.

Wanderers has a medical doctor on tap for this evening, and if I haul ass I might just catch the tail end of it. It's a public policy discussion.

I like getting doctor perspectives -- a horse's mouth kind of thing. Is it true that a third of the kids in Newark are on Ritalin? I should ask Julie Steele.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

We returned Rose to her neighborhood, then I made a wrong turn, getting us back on I-5 south instead of over the bridge to Boones Ferry. I rescued the situation by getting off at Corbett and ascending Palatine Hill from Macadam.

Our destination: the annual family gathering of Boltons, whomever is within range. The eldest daughter is with a prototypical XRL (extremely remote location) in the hinterlands, near Detroit Lake. Jeanni & Joe and their daughters, Sue and her kids, Sammie, close friends (we fall in that category). Chuck and Mary knew dad from University of Chicago days, hadn't connected the dots with Carol until Portland, whence they moved once the city planning degree was granted, me about one at the time of the move.

Joe wondered how I'd been affected by the downturned economy, leading to our comparing notes around Iceland and Ireland, the media directed against them, also Portland getting "saddest town" moniker from somewhere (our Mercury fought back, with some vicious attack on Detroit -- all in good fun). Anyway, yeah, it's been rough. Python programmers aren't exempt from credit crunches or whatever those were, with Pycon rather literally decimated in terms of attendance being down by 10% (and yet the quality was excellent).

Although a gray day tending towards drizzle, then a downpour, our enjoyment of the occasion was undamped.

Our fond greetings to friends of Ray and Pahtrisha in Couger, WA. We hold you in the light in remembrance of Ray.

:: ray cottrell, 1940 - 2009 ::

Friday, April 10, 2009

Frustrated with Red Cross

:: messy website ::
> Congratulations Tara Urner! This note confirms your enrollment in the
> following course:
> Babysitter's Training
> Class Information:
> Start: 4/11/2009 09:00 AM Pacific Standard Time
> End: 4/11/2009 03:45 PM Pacific Standard Time
> Instructor:
> Facility:
> Location:

We got this confirmation from Red Cross by email awhile back, note the missing facility etc. We'd paid for a babysitting training, offered for tomorrow.

Now, when you search the various sites, there's no class listed for that date anywhere.

In addition, you'll find the October - December 2008 schedule as one of the principal offerings (we're in April, 2009 now). See above.

Click on this site, then Safety Classes (left margin): HTTP/1.1 404 Object Not Found. That's maybe because redcross-pdx has been superseded by oregonredcross, but the answering service still gives the old website over the phone (why keep the old site anyway -- just redirect the whole domain).

The search box
has some extraneous HTML showing, returns links to pages that've long been removed. The URLs are extremely long and ugly. Using Google, you'll get calendars from like 2005 (not removed).

Volunteer Events
says "coming soon" -- I wonder for how long...

Sheesh, I can't say I'm proud of the Red Cross in Oregon. I'm sorry to see the Fred Meyer Fund getting ripped off in this way (it funds youth programs apparently).

I'd say we're dealing with the opposite of a "tight ship" here -- reminds me of the Lower 48 in general.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wanderers 2009.4.8

We're sitting around with our laptops. Only Glenn and Patrick aren't running one. Don gave us an update on Jon, sending our greetings and well wishes, looking forward to his return.

Dr. DiNucci advertised Roy Zimmerman's coming to Portland this month, plugged into the house sound system and played us a YouTube. Tom Lehrer endorses the guy for "reintroducing literacy to comedy songs".

Bill Sheppard is once again sharing his circuit diagram for his Not-a-Theramin, plus has the real deal in a cookies box. This would make a fun Saturday Academy project -- I wonder if Gordon Hoffman ever made use of it. I wish I understood it better.

Out in cyberspace, I'm creating a disturbance around the Synergetics Coordinates page on Wikipedia, which attributes this claptrap to Bucky Fuller, making no mention of Clifford Nelson anywhere. The guy needs to take responsibility for his own work and stop piggy-backing.

That being said, having a real Wikipedia page on Fuller's Synergetics, versus just Haken's is long overdue. I've been taking the line that academia itself should step up to the plate. Maybe I'm "academia itself" then? I'm certainly getting quite hawkish about proper citations.

I published the following tentative outline to Synergeo this morning:
Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking

  • Bow Tie Universe
  • Collaboration with Applewhite (Cosmic Fishing)
  • Secondary Literature
  • Concentric Hierarchy
  • Jitterbug Transformation
  • Modules
  • Geodesic Spheres
  • Tensegrity
  • Vocabulary
  • Categorization
  • Related Concerns
My thanks to David Koski for forwarding the Kite posting to the Poly list, about the Penrose kite. Fuller's kite lives in a different namespace and is either a kat or a kate (half-couplers) the two ways to face-bond sytes, in turn composed of mites. Is that so incomprehensible? Certainly this is primitive information that deserves some mention in the Wikipedia article. I'm not aware of any universities sharing it, except maybe Princeton.

Also in cyberspace: I'm enthusing about Sage, a Pythonic version of Mathematica in some ways.

Monday, April 06, 2009

GIS Meeting

I'm not marketing myself as a GIS expert, not primarily, and so know enough to recruit a current PSU student to fill me in on some of what's cooking.

We met at The Bagdad and went over some stuff, me explaining about the broken pipeline using the e | m | h | c motif, which looks cryptic, but just means elementary then middle then high school then college, or basically K-16. We see a break pre-college, when a lot of students feel heartbroken that they'll never "get math".

Our proposed fix is to use FOSS. GIS / GPS uses FOSS too (per FreeGIS etc.), so that's the bridge.

I learned more about SEEDS and Corpus Linguistics. There's both a physical and a mental geography, in the sense that zip code areas might be filled in with more DemocracyLab data.

I explained about the idea of deliberately spicing your rants with icons, changing the markup behind the scenes, because we want the search algorithms to take these rants into account i.e. we work with the grain of the design, to make the summary representations more cogent.

We're not summarizing in some distant board room, sharing exclusive secrets. The mirroring is right back to the ranting public, providing feedback for steering.

Anyway, the DemocracyLab stuff was more a sidelight. More to the point was the urban gardens, their interplay with the schools, institutional buyers. We want to improve the cafeteria food with Farmer's Market type produce, something Portland is already doing to a limited extent.

Even more to the point, the GIS systems need to show kids where the animals might be, including domesticated farm animals like sheep (a theme for today), and semi-wild animals like muskrats, herons, possums, coyotes, deer and raccoons, all native to Greater Portland.

Make that a Python list, then study some GIS maps, help with the data collection in some case. I saw both a heron and muskrat today, near Dignity Village.

I talked a lot about my visit to Immersive Media with my University of Rochester connection. If you get to practice your skills in some immersive world, like Second Life, then graduate to the real deal in some field trip up the Columbia Gorge, then maybe you'll be less likely to peel off from our math track. You'll think it's exciting and relevant and the GIS objects we give you (an API) will impress you with their power and ease of use.

Maybe you'll get to make mashups? Having mastery over a Controller (often a computer language) in the MVC design, is a key to future happiness in this regard. MIT's Media Lab's work on the Landman Report Card is a case in point.

Close to the surface in my thinking was Glenn's global matrix approach, which uses simple and elegant mnemonics to add more of a time dimension to these global data displays, i.e. he pushes global awareness back to those ancient civilizations we read about in Critical Path as well.

In my "road show" model, I'm able to segue to or from Glenn's segments pretty easily, the idea being to field a rotating cast with swappable members.

I look at Cubespace as a base for some of these trainings, Wanderers for others, e.g. I represented ISEPP at Pycon when doing my three hours, with segues to contributions from both Steve (PSF) and Ian (Tizard / Stanford).

In terms of fantasy worlds, I don't mind asking "where is Python Nation?" as like a question about Middle Earth. Now that Pycon has this Rivendale reputation, that's easy to do, plus the geography is actually quite well developed, thought out.

I alluded to Middle Earth in last year's Chicago talk as well, referring to Moria, a next stage on the journey after an abortive attempt to tackle an over-mountain pass -- metaphorically, Calculus Mountain, a chief obstacle on the older maths track, pre discrete math getting more of a footprint, thanks to FOSS and Portland's innovative math teaching subcultures (MLC a good example).

Friday, April 03, 2009

Model UN?

Given our predilection to use an apolitical world map, to speak of "supranational institutions", there's maybe some confusion as to whether Fuller Schoolers are "anti UN" in some way. Isn't the United Nations itself a supranational institution?

is not a result of legislating something away, but of acknowledging limitations. The ecosystem didn't suddenly split asunder just because a small minority instituted a system of jurisdictions, with many falling between the cracks, either unable to get a passport, or simply not caring about these "invisible lines" through their deserts.

In like fashion, Native Americans never felt compelled to memorize the "50 states", as their points of reference were much older and no more arbitrary. How we choose to mentally subdivide the planet is to some extent a matter of ethnicity and personal choice.

If your company administers a sprawling network in many cities, it stands to reason the CEO might put her "nationality" on the back burner, as something to quietly take pride in, but without being too vocal about. Whereas refugees and non-humans may have no citizenship, some others have two or three.

As a maverick individualist, Fuller tended to see himself as a "me ball", with his environment as "otherness", their interplay an "awareness" (a relationship). Each one of us has a similar individualized relationship to the planet, one which transcends accidents of birth, conventions around citizenship or membership.

In exercising more personal responsibility towards our fellow beings, regardless of which passport they're carrying, we come to think more supranationally, more like airline cabin crews, or like one of those doctors without borders.
Self-seeking brings a potential loss that engenders first caution, then fear: fear of change; change being inexorable, fear increases and freezes. Self-seeking always eventuates in self-destruction through inability to adapt. (411.23)
Fuller was eager to give us a more worldly outlook, one well informed by global data. He designed something along these lines for Montreal '67, but the USIS decided against it. Nor was the East River version of the geoscope ever much more than a sketch.

And yet, psychologically speaking, these projects still made a real difference. Ephemeralization, doing more with less, sometimes means doing practically nothing, and yet exerting a steering function. Our "A team" players know what I'm talking about (i.e. "precession").

My standard line is that even if the Fuller Projection is somewhat copy protected against unseemly displays of nationalism, we still have all those other more traditional maps for showing those national boundaries.

I favor using those highly distorted Mercators, as they usually give just the right retro flavor, provide that edgy, mocking tone. I chuckle whenever I see them, especially on "sophisticated" news shows, so cosmopolitan yet not.

At some point, misinformation becomes ironically self referential and people use it as kitsch. We've seen this with the Sino-Soviet propaganda, which is somewhat appropriate given the "withering of the state" was the projected outcome, not the same as "world government" exactly, more noospheric and cyberspatial.

We still need a United Nations though, to protect against human rights abuses, to gather data, to monitor agreements. A lot of professional engineers get a career boost from that corner, plus Quakers have their own QUNO.

Our family had UN passports for awhile, back in the day. We felt pretty cool about that I remember, liked flashing 'em in airports.