Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Thoughts on Politics

This article by George Lakoff was interesting, in focusing on the nature of empathy, not just as a value, but as a professional job requirement i.e. you can't do the work if you haven't developed this primitive human ability, a basis for socializing, getting along.

Sorting through difficult legal puzzles with no empathy for the characters is like reading a romance and not getting it about that "feeling attracted" part "like what's that about?" -- and you want this person judging you from the bench, like some crufty old Vulcan?

I'm immediately on the defensive though, as I think about "cold fish" engineers, that reputation for being "calculating" which sounds just plain wrong if designing habitats for humanity.

The architects distance themselves from engineers for just this reason, paint themselves as more warm and friendly, not like "peas in a pod" Bucky and his eerily austere suburban village with cigar-shaped cars, and in every home on a pole: another naked Barbie doll, each machine world identical (pre Sims).

:: dymaxion neighborhood (scale model) ::

Sometimes I try thawing this stereotype by pointing out how the word "self" appears everywhere in Python (though it's optional), and not out of selfishness, but as a part of an expressive language designed from the ground up to keep the coder empathetic, with any type of being or subject (including inanimate!).

However, I'm just digging deeper in here I'm thinking, defending my geekiness by quacking like a geek -- obviously circular logic. My audience titters, shakes its head. They'll never let me on the Supreme Court is what I'm thinking (and that's quite OK).

What I worry about after reading this Lakoff piece is he says Democrats don't really know beans about neuro-science or linguistics, and so get all confused about the difference between metaphor and literal truth, and so Republicans like G. Gordon Liddy keep hijacking the conversation with their silly remarks, getting everyone sidetracked in some laugh tracky sitcom.

Democrats get tripped up, get lost in dangling conversations, sometimes rather frequently. This makes sense, as many are descended more from tea cuppy Victorians, aren't really Drapes in that sense, don't say "yar!" all that often (those would be the Independents perhaps?).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Victory Lap

:: project earthala, work in progress ::

At 67 and still going strong, after bypass surgery, Wayne is a poster boy for how to tackle a debilitating muscular dystropy, one of about two hundred known varieties. In his case, cardiomyopathy is less likely the problem than the usual plaque buildup. Since he's not using that leg much, the femoral artery was repurposed with gusto.

Wayne pioneers wheelchair dancing as an art form, works on both modifications and green field development projects. Of course I've been hyping the latter, hooked on my own vision of high desert XRLs, art-engineering colonies for skilled individuals wishing to remain productive, help maintain a server farm, practice permaculture, sort through estate papers for web archiving, other such knowledge worker jobs (Carewheels?). He's especially energized by Gershwin, got that from his mom.

As Katie Couric wisely pointed out the other evening, some forms of cancer get less focus simply because their chief advocates don't manage to survive long enough to mount an effective lobby, a kind of vicious circle when you think about it.

Wayne's affliction isn't cancer, yet he's hoping his MVP status within the community might somehow motivate more research into this condition. It's not just about "finding a cure" (although that's certainly worthy), it's also about designing rewarding lifestyles for people accommodating to these new restrictions, looking to sustain a high quality of life.

Wayne knows a lot about staying independent. We should consider casting him as a role model, as a teacher and life coach, once he's finished with rehab.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cyber Attack

So as fortune would have it, after grabbing a shot of FixMyDead PC on the corner, I come home to my daughter's HP desktop under vicious viral attack.

We've got one of those panicky wallpapers saying we're hosed, a system shutdown, changed partition... really gnarly.

A dweeb would push the panic button (handily supplied) and dig in even deeper, like Uncle Sam would have done (until the recent IQ boost anyway).

What to do?

Given AVG was blocked and subsequent boots don't even materialize the desktop, I went for a bootable XP on CD, but now have the infernal license to enter, who knows what green box goes with what CD, or where those green boxes even are right now (did some sweaty work in the garage, Hercules in the stables...).

I'm glad Rose is coming over. They'll go to the park.

Tara is already making up lines like "all those hours of Spore, never downloaded Hotel California to my iPod, spent a buck 99!" i.e. psychologically disconnecting, good bye HP Pavilion.

I notice president Obama is appointing a new CyberCzar to counter all the malicious malware out there, presumably aimed at the military but of course that means Joe Sixpack with a flag tattoo. Banning Windows outright, because of its lack of file permissions (easy to just thwack a DLL, get away with murder) would seem too Draconian, kinda fun to fight spam artists, wit against wit.

On the other hand, if you're letting government contracts, you have a right to insist on open source secure solutions, no hanky panky, no closed doors. I could see various branches going Linux-only, recall NSA's doing a distro not so long ago. Makes sense.

Quick switching to local politics (we're watching The Simpsons now, damn the dead PC), I'm making headway explaining our strategy. It's DM vs. CM where DM stands for Digital Mathematics (lots of computer stuff) and CM stands for Continuous Mathematics (that calculus snake oil, makes your hair grow back).

Keiko and I sorted through some confusions, like I said a placid morning. I'm not going to let this Microsoft stuff destroy my quality of life, Tara's either.

Anyway, Microsoft had no way of knowing that plans to charge cash cow prices for a state of the art OS would be subverted by brave engineers, was doing its best to play within the rules, work as a profiteer. I'm not a Microsoft basher, use WinXP on several desktops, just suggested to NM she try going with Win7. Windows hosts many open source languages and projects no problemo, CPython, IronPython and Google Python (through the browser).

Postscript: Yes, next week I'll take Tara's box to the experts at FixMyDeadPC why not. I need to get back to marketing CSN, geeking out, other heroics.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Tech Talk

Skulletarium
(click through to Flickr photostream)

Thanks to the new O'Reilly book coming in the mail, Using Google App Engine by Charles "Dr. Chuck" Severance, me named as a technical reviewer, I'm galvanized to do technical reviews all over the place.

I dove into comparing and contrasting two approaches on O'Reilly's Safari, to Python descriptors, clearly favoring David Beazely's approach. I also dove into itertools again, showing yet another way to define Cayley Tables of totatives for simple algebra-teaching purposes.

Glenn recommends Rodney Strong chardonnay as a good buy, and given I'm joining some emeritus types for a luncheon, I thought I'd be socially adept and actually bring a bottle of something, drink the whole thing in front of 'em (joke).

Then come some additional visitations, with R&R on the weekend, in some tame game Victorian salon (no, not Chuckie Cheese) maybe do a séance? As long as we don't talk about Darwin I should be able to handle it (I have nothing against Darwin mind you, am allied with the Catholics in thinking DNA is OK -- we're open minded that way).

What are the barriers to more intelligent commercials? I have that vodka one planned, could repurpose it, other clever storyboards, but then I'm not Weiden + Kennedy.

Why don't pharmacologists want more icosahedral virus cartoons, about H1N1 or whatever?

What's the hold-up on 1, 12, 42, 92... making its way into children's books about great all-American inventors, such as Alexander Graham Bell?

Why is NCLB still a sick joke in so many zip codes?

These are some questions to investigate this summer. I should talk to people in Salem more, as maybe it's mostly just a matter of joining the right lobbying groups?

A lunch topic perhaps? OK, time to go buy that bottle of wine, maybe some goat cheese to go with it.

Note: Don phoned to say he saw an article in Willamette Week saying LEP High was given a three year extension. My evening appointment got canceled. Maybe watch CBS News, take Tink for a ride?

Followup: yes, rode Tink. Found out later I didn't get Glenn's favorite Rodney Strong, has to say Cliff Hill on the label, so that's still ahead of me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Clowning Around

"cool illusion"
thx to Bill Shepard for link


Thanks to Wikipedia, I no longer think I founded DENSA, even if I founded my own chapter, kept changing what the acronym meant. We were talking about this in the car the other day, enroute to Chang's Mongolian Grill, extending my birthday celebration.

I work against the "absent minded professor" stereotype, try to keep mine present, but today I was staring at some outrageous tattoos and followed her out the door without my $40 cash back. Some lucky stranger was the beneficiary of my losing focus on my finances.

I'd planned my day today then spent it cleaning up messes instead, finding all kinds of stuff I wasn't looking for. Then I discovered my camera was missing. The day got replanned as I obsessed about finding it, which I finally did, face down on the patio, where I'd been yakking out under the stars (on my cell, not to myself exactly).

Wanderers this evening, watching slides from an away team's location scouting (looks lovely, little stream, falls, madrones -- not far from Crater Lake). Don and Glenn went on this trip. I was mostly a homebody this weekend, carrying water for Cyberia (my virtual community). Bill is sitting next to me, surfing, likes Reality Carnival quite a bit. War injuries on PBS; bring the troops home.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Parade


:: a memorial day collection ::

I drew us a little CBD this morning (Central Business District), planted some office towers, staged a parade with a Python balloon. This is toontown, so I get away with it, very low budget to boot.

I'm in the parade of course, as a kind of mayor (FOSS boss), a classic montage with this gray haired magistrate, some kind of chief (marketing?), surrounded by devilishly (as in wickedly) badass chyx of some kind, in an art car (clown car?). Lots of all-American motifs, floats 'n stuff.

Portland is moving into this season, what with Rose Festival, various beer blowouts, Gay Pride, and of course July 4. We've already had some fireworks, which I took in rather distally, having a Workingman's Red with Derek @ Bagdad (good beer, even if not free).

I've got some schoolwork today, some chauffeur duty. Like many in the service sector, my R&R isn't necessarily in sync with the local time zone's, except in broad outline i.e. in summer we don't start new wars overseas, keep our guardsmen home to fight forest fires, other domestic duties.

Derek and I were thinking renaming Grand to Chavez, right next to MLK (formerly Union), while moving Grand out to 39th, where grandeur is already a theme, might be the better plan. He was thinking Linus Pauling deserves a street (two Nobel Prizes), but I like just calling ours Pauling Campus (already on Trimet maps as a point of interest).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

More on Future Shock

I remember when I went to the meetinghouse that time, and the house next store was just a hole in the ground. No, not a drone, a surgical removal by a recycling industry that knew how to save old houses by moving them down the street. I remember CSN CTO Nirel supervising a much bigger move of this nature, in a partially overlapping scenario.

So like today, I escorted dear Carol to our spanking new Fred Meyer, completely rearranged while shoppers went around their business, according to some multi-dimensional critical path developed on a Cray or one of those. She took it all in.

My sonly duties as tour guide ended at the checkout lanes, where management proudly displays its awareness of local history: yes, this used to be Asylum Avenue, thanks to one compassionate Dr. Hawthorne who knew Oregon could really use one (a mental hospital), our Oregon Trail being quite the ordeal and all (some only made it here physically, if you know what I mean).

Now I'm at Fine Grind, catching up on the dailies, lots to read. Democrats not wanting smooth closure funds for Gitmo sounds in alignment with plans. It'll live on as a type of "concentration camp museum" in some necks of the woods, but not necessarily in the current location, which might just have an historical marker, more like Iwo Jima's (too out of the way for most tourists).

Keiko has relieved Chris, is back behind the counter. We're comparing notes again, me wearing my CSN CMO hat (figuratively speaking -- it's too hot for that hat). A siren went by; some emergency vehicle. I've been working on Quaker stuff recently, taking a break from too much computer science mumbo jumbo (lots of AI going around, "toxic assets" a lot of 'em).

We're convening a clearness committee, plus continuing to take credit for making micro-lending the new buzz word among bankers. Helping clients get on their feet, not kicking them when they're down, was a signature strategy of Right Sharing. Those who succeed through your lending, will thank you later, is part of the philosophy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Commander Carol

Commander Carol
photo by Kirby Urner

Monday, May 18, 2009

Star Trek (movie review)

Bold moves with the characters, not just playing dolls with that other cast, so hats off to the crew, set designers included.

Then I have to get somewhat nasty about that Peter Pan Universe in which boys and their toys have a field day, and it's awful. Like I'd be off with them elvynchyx (part Klingon?) and their "Patriarchy Sux" decals, like how does Uhura stand it, come join us on the wild side maybe?

The funniest part is the slow pan into Vulcanville, kid level, hearing all that whispered hypercross stuff ("cubed... squared"), flashing to calculus. Like duh, this is just another stuffy high church, gimme a break. What a scream (great spoofing), these fraudulent "logicians" just more teasy bratfinks, same as on Earth, sayin' stuff about "your mother".

But then, flash to Earth, this Kirk kid is real piece of work in a different way. He has problems with authority yet clings to dear life, leaps before he looks. Not all that "calculating" but "intuitive" in a way guys can get away with and still be called slugger or scooter or whatever.

So where shall we turn for leadership? Why to synergy of course. Throw in a few more wackos and it's a balanced archetype (not, cackle).

We trekkies have have had years to mull over these characters, so the newest versions really hit the ground running. Chekov verges on pre-adolescent, nicely balancing the far older USS boss, who goes with the army he's got.

Anyway, I loved it. There's such wry humor in the sets. Why do people build spaceships with plummeting vistas and no guardrails, floors guaranteed to trip you up? Seems like everyone has those. Hominids: stupid forever yet proud to the bone (loved that "tall face" guy at the bar, seemed to think more the way I did about stuff).

And the inside of the USS Enterprise is like Willy Wonka's on steroids, everything mega-heavy, factory fresh and spanking new because hey, weight is simply not an issue in the 24th Century (like warp drive means "no inertia").

Very tongue in cheek, and like I said, great acting, with wise Spock reminding the two half-brains to keep a channel open, they'll thank him later (and each other).

The final scene: yes, Kirk's a hero (then wakes up in The Matrix?), but those tasteless gray curtains remind us: that life in the Federation can be really dreary and unimaginative... and now pop! here we are, back in school (daydreaming), in Kansas once again.

My favorite effect had to be that Romulan drill though, really ugly and mean, well rendered, smart physics (when they want it, they've got it, go ILM, maybe see ya next Pycon!).

And it's really bold to just call it Star Trek like that, no ifs ands or buts. It's a brand, like Bud is.

Friday, May 15, 2009

With Friends of Jung


:: friends of carl jung ::

Tonight's lecture by James Hollis, a long time favorite of this Jungian congregation, is another one of those I'll keep mulling over, thinking back on. This was the last lecture of a memorable season, so I'll go the extra mile and toss up some pictures. Sleep first though. It's been a long day in River City.

I was interested in his rap about casinos, highlighting Atlantic City and Las Vegas as the giant destination spots, compared to Orlando, New York City or even Mecca.

I'd imagine that has something to do with the high repeat visit rate. You go to Mecca maybe once in a lifetime, whereas visiting a casino easily becomes a habit, especially for those within commuting distance.

His points were non-judgmental in that the entire tangible reality may be considered so much "myst" i.e. "bling" (translating from "vanity" in the King James version of Ecclesiastes, which he compared to the Iraqis' Gilgamesh -- older yet, and with similar teachings).

Like most Jungians, he had a kind of "ego puppet", a character he'd bring out in his stories, a whiner and complainer eliciting laughter from the audience. We mostly consider the ego a bumbler and stumbler in this western creation myth.

The deeper mysteries, the divinities, needn't be ego-friendly.

We need to keep limber and not let the semi-paralysis of fear dictate our decisions, such that fear sucks all the life out of living. Obedience to fear gods (and goddesses) is a big part of life, true, but remember your calling and use the 2nd half of life to repair to your center and live from your soul.

By 2nd half of life, he didn't mean chronologically. Whenever you're able to gain that observational space within which you observe how your infantile reflexes are your own biggest obstacle sometimes, that's an example of "2nd half" living (paradoxically, we may experience more of this as children, "grow out of it" as adults).

He also spoke very intelligently about the gift that "otherness" brings, precisely this otherness -- and so the power to kindle transformation in self awareness.

Certainly this is true for me: I've learned the hardest, best stuff in workouts with friends (both physical and metaphysical), an unfolding process, not a one time affair.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PPUG 2009.5.12

looking at gitk: lots of concurrent development

I don't usually blog twice on the same day to the same blog, so I won't say "here I go again" as that'd imply it's a habit.

I'm learning about DARCS, by David Roundy at Berkeley, based on his theory of patches, developed for GNU Arch but never committed. He prototyped in C++ and developed in Haskell (gasps and chuckles), ergo the Haskell crowd loves it ("probably the most used Haskell application out there" dig dig).

Theory of Patches
is dry but not a bad read. PPUGs are pretty seriously into CS, so likely some of us will or have. It's not unix-y in that the tools "talk back" (not the usual POSIX thing) but it's unixy in doing one little thing well. It doesn't "do branches" though, just plant new trees and exchange genetic material.

Don't think in terms of revisions. Partial sequence stuff (sequencing is a kind of ranking, post-cardinal naming). Problems: small community, small set of tools, the Corner Case [tm] -- sometimes your merges take exponential time (could freeze or crash -- a mathematical possibility in any case). Darcs 2.0 seems a lot more stable.

I need to cancel with Juniper, meeting at IBM building day after tomorrow. A long time friend wants to celebrate my birthday. I'm not really wearing the pants in my company, where virtual chassis technology is concerned.

John Melesky is good at presenting stuff, as was Jason, who gave the preamble (overview), from the haze of his cold. darcsweb is written in Python. patch-tag.com offers free hosting for FOSS, or paid for ~FOSS.

I'm sitting next to Robin Dunn of wxPython fame, mentioned my using his name recently, trying to self promote as some noob in a qyoob. He's not tested the EMF feature much, isn't sure how capable it is. EMF is a Microsoft format, comes with an instruction set (you can store a sequence of steps, not just their end results, more like PostScript in that way).

Review Board is a Django web application (in beta). It's a front end to "any" DVCS. You get a dashboard and a way to submit code changes for review. Idealist uses this to manage workflow, giving peers ways to discuss potential commits to the shared trunk.

On to our Mercurial presentation by Brett Carter. It's fast, efficient and simple. Version control is one of the most important tools programmers have, so having a clear mental model, in understandable code, is a commendable goal. Changesets get sha hashes. The "tip" is the most recent changeset. There's some other nomenclature: DAG (directed acyclic graph -- aka your history); named branch; workingdir; parents (the changesets preceeding you); id (globally unique hash for each cset). You can nest directories (repositories).

Mercurial gives each user a complete repository of the project, with all the history. It's easy to create clones over ssh. Push or pull. Pull the new changesets and run "hg update" to check in the changes (into your local version). Serve any repository over http (hg serve -- name a port eh?).

So what about merging, doesn't that get difficult? Yeah, sometimes. A conflict results in a head, a new branch really. You can merge them if you want to.

Manas closing party? Not everyone is on the same page on that one.

Mercurial uses the unix "merge" command by default.

When you're ready to distribute your product, make a branch. You have distributed and local tags for those csets, then you can refer to them by name. Tag something as a release why not?

I asked a summary overview type question prompting several overlapping replies, reaching tacit consensus that these tools don't dictate workflow, but provide more freedoms to design good ones.

Robin uses Mercurial to distribute the days work among a large number of test boxes and virtual platforms, syncs them all up at the end of the day, and checks back in to svn, a non-distributed repository (aka a mother ship). Most DVCS regimes will end up with a Mothership at the end, i.e. some canonical location where the veridical thing lives, e.g. Python's web site is a central repository for Pythons, even if the version control is Hg.

Bitbucket: I'm getting distracted through some of this (there's another group in the next room, kinda loud), but we're getting a very clear example of using this tool to commit improvements to Piston, another cool Django application (we keep hearing about those).

Basically, the social networking that needs to happen atop a DVCS is wrapped in some web application that manages the pushes and pulls.

Michel is talking about bzr (Bazaar) from Canonical, also written in Python. Launchpad is like Bitbucket for bzr. The Zope community has moved to Launchpad recently. Repository, Branch, Working tree, Revision -- this is your working namespace in this kingdom (queendom).

Hey, I'm liking this new battery, been going for like an hour and a half, still 2 hours available. I just mail ordered it last week.

Igal Koshevoy
(Pragmaticraft) is a fan of Mercurial, but is raving about git, a "special snowflake" of Kafkaesque proportions (another ethnicity, surprise surprise). But normal human beings can use it now, it's no longer completely crazy. The Linux kernel moved to git in a kind of panic mode when Bitkeeper stopped serving community needs. Igal is going lickity split, geeks seem amused (chuckle chuckle). Gitk looks pretty wild.

"Mercurial people like to make lots of clones" -- that's a good line.

Clinical Research

Some in the health professions may be asking themselves to what extent a student's fitness record should be made public. How many push ups did Franny do, versus Zoe?

That shouldn't be public information necessarily, but then kids like to brag, talk about how much money their family racks in from owning a Jack in the Box or whatever.

So what's to stop Franny from registering her feats on a school intranet, as a part of her profile, or even on Facebook if she wants her reputation to spread, inter-school?

Similar questions
bedevil the medical community, as the concept of legal medical record (LMR) translates into software. Many doctors are ravenous for more control over this technology, as it impacts their practice rather considerably. In working with peers, you expect nuance and story to enter into it sometimes.

Charting a patient is sometimes a prolix process, especially in psychiatry, where personality disorders may be flagged in terms of quoted remarks.

So is some AI robot supposed to digest all this stuff and convert it to DSM codes on the fly, then bill insurance? That seems unlikely, but then a lot of doctors see the state of the art on Star Trek and become willing victims of snow jobs.

Big companies (even some little ones) are only too happy to promise the moon, will even open source their results, as long as they're able to gobble some grants in the process. "Beware of hand-wavy AI" would be my advice to the star struck, especially when considering the price tag (make sure they give you a demo up front, try before you buy).

If all you know about computers you learned from Hollywood movies, then for your own protection, don't sign any checks, especially if your name is Uncle Sam (you've got no more money to waste guy -- we want bang for that buck).

Abstracting meaningful clinical data, either in real time or post procedure, is a challenge for statistical researchers, not just medical doctors. Employing armies of people to sit down with the files, bubbling in scannable forms on the basis of what's been transcribed, is too slow and tedious a process.

Scannable forms, touch pad devices, indeed have a role to play (I've used both), but the game is less about chart abstracting than about harvesting data before it lands in the narrative format.

Current medications, blood pressures, what was done, contributing factors (smoking and drinking habits), height, weight and maybe some idea of the DNA (e.g. sex), are all going to be of interest to the statistician, whereas billing address will be of no concern whatsoever, even less so the patient's true identity.

Document management is not a new science. Xerox has a long history of photo-scanning, plus OCR has come a long way over the decades, even when based on handwriting (though doctors specialized in making theirs unreadable for a reason -- to cut down on forgeries based on notes to the pharmacy).

Much of the design work has to do with workflow, as much as with which tools to use. In support of the doctors, I advocate more self-sufficiency on the part of hospitals, less outsourcing to know-it-alls in faraway universities who like to promise the moon, but who never (or rarely) deliver.

As so often happens in medicine, a lot of the best practices get refined in triage situations where there's no time for frills. Basic charting still needs to happen, so what shall we use? Do we have a crackerjack geek team in the clinic? Was our recruiting drive successful in any way?

At a next level, pioneering research hospitals will afford a window into their processes, so that others might learn by example.

The idea that a busy gotham hospital might itself be a case study, in service of the advancement of health care, is not a new one. Indeed, hospitals have pioneered a lot of information technology (IT) over the years, including entire computer languages.

My focus has tended to be those clinical research records (CRRs), as distinct from legal medical records (LMRs). I'd get between a gotham hospital's database and some national registry and make sure all the submitted data was squeaky clean i.e. clinically significant without being traceable to specific patients (no social security numbers, only meaningless IDs).

Other people around me were doing the same thing, abiding by HIPAA while getting on with the value-adding business of outcomes research.

Sometimes this work took me into the operating room itself (CVOR), always properly sanitized and usually with no one else present. My data collection tools needed field testing in a real world environment, and this seemed the best way.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

We varied the format at Bridge City this morning, the planning committee having arranged for a children's activity at the center of our worship circle.

We transitioned from singing (from the hymnal), to "straight worship" (in the sense of unadulterated), to worship sharing, which Rocky introduced by way of an extended analogy involving tossing pebbles into a shared pond.

At this point, the children and a few designated adults dove into the center and prattled happily, while other adults stood and delivered, sharing about readings, happiest moments being a mother, being mothered, other teachings.

I was pleased to sit next to Barbara Janoe, one of our most esteemed long hauler Friends. I'm guessing she misses her Crooked River overlook. If I manage to get some high desert XRLs going, she's on my short list of invitees. Earthala Queen Aimee would be the first to agree.

Speaking of Earthala
, we wanted it wheel chair accessible in some versions, with Wayne our adviser. He's trained for years in ADA compliance, and in wheel chair dancing as an art form. He faces bypass surgery tomorrow, for a heart long in disrepair. I went and visited him today, plus did some CSN recon.

I hope Wayne gets to enjoy the energy boost a repaired heart will bring. We could maybe use his expertise at the site, maybe helicopter him in sometime.

Speaking of helicopters, a wave to Dave Fabik, perhaps still in Phoenix? He's a former helicopter pilot, both military and civilian, knows a lot about the importance of following procedures (a recent discussion).

Some might accuse us of "programmed worship" given how we followed a definite program. Bridge City advertises as being unprogrammed, as do Multnomah Friends in the old ESI building. However, in the Quaker namespace, "unprogrammed" tends to have a more nuanced meaning I won't get into here.

We'd been encouraged to bring pictures of our mothers this morning. I didn't, but phoned her on cell, left a voicemail. Circuits were very busy today, reports Dr. Nick, whom I left to Go By Train (May 9 is National Train Day). He has some great mom stories, inherits a wild mix of genes and memes. Also on my short list.

Linda Richards
and I, Mary Bolton and others, have been after mom to slow down, stop wheeling through Congress (she's in DC today, having trained down from the United Nations in NYC) and write her memoirs.

Tell us stories about working with Coptic Zabbaleen in Cairo, with indigenous peoples in the Philippines, fighting those land graby lowlanders and their Christian missionaries (sometimes abusive). Tell us about Jacopa, friend of St. Francis, and the family she came from, camped out somewhere in Rome (where again?).

But mom always says she needs to see the world on the right track, before she lets up and turns to writing that much. I can attest from her emails that she writes a crisp prose. So whaddaya all say: for Mother's Day, lets give all our moms a real present, a sense the world is finally on the right track for a change. That'd be worth something, to all of us I think.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Looking Forward

So what are the talks I'm hoping to get to at OS Bridge, or at least want my friends to get back to me on, if a favorite two happen in parallel?

I've long been curious about Parrot and the C hacker behind it, Allison Randal, so Introduction to Parrot top o the charts. Parrot is a virtual machine (VM) that invites dynamic languages to ride it, like a work horse. The runtime engine at the core of Microsoft's .NET and Novell's Mono (as in monkey) represents a similar architecture, as do standalone Python and/or Java. The advantage of getting multiple languages to use the same VM is of course greater interoperability. If you find the perfect Ruby gem or Perl pearl and want to run it within Python, no problemo, you just need the API. Now, given I don't know a lot about Parrot yet, please accept the above as in need of refinement -- why I'm eager to get the story from the author herself.

OK, FOSS on the Farm, I have to admit I'm curious. Over on Python's edu-sig, I've long suggested DwellingMachine as a paradigm Python class (canonical blueprint), a way to inspire young imaginations with the methods and attributes needed for better than adequate (i.e. satisfying) environment controls in possibly challenging climates, perhaps in a scientific research capacity but hey, we still need to eat, so farming and/or permaculture and/or John Todd type ecovillages need their open source "how to" manuals, with maybe some remote sensing equipment and feedback cycles, such that if I forget to water the plants, they get watered anyway? Geeks being lazy, what a concept (or just devoted to science, the job they signed up for). OK, I realize FOSS on the Farm isn't likely to be this futuristic, but I'll glean some ideas, I'm pretty sure, always looking to add realism.

My own talk, Python for Teachers. Let me be honest: I'm interested in how it'll go and since attendence (by me) is mandatory, I might as well make it a priority. As the old saying goes: freedom is to desire the inevitable. That little blurb attracted attention from SAO already, cuing me about the Litvins' book, which Steve Holden and Dr. Ian both ordered. Ian described it as "excellent" but 23 hours ago. On the other hand, no matter how strong a curriculum, having it accepted means a lot of rough and tumble politics. Like here in Portland, LEP High is on the ropes, is fighting back with a benefit concert (Koreducators was always big into music). LEP High is one of the few schools to invite me in to deliver a Python Briefing directly to students, though with a math teacher always present, ostensibly grading papers off to one side, quietly attentive. This isn't my usual format, but then LEP High isn't you're traditional Portland Public high school.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Time for Reconciliation


:: reconciliation ::

The University of Portland Chiles Center was packed, as were campus parking lots. Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) organized this event. Providence Health & Services was one of the main sponsors.

David Leslie, EMO's executive director, delivered the introduction. He and his wife had lunch with our family (me, Tara, Dawn, my parents) in Cape Town in 1999, during the Parliament of World Religions.

Lowen Berman and Bonnie Tinker got to snap close ups right in front of the stage. I sat fairly close as well, taking in the music, poetry, invocation, the lecture, panel, awarding of a degree. Quite a program.

Bishop Tutu was earthy, puckish, ebullient, full of good humor and hope. He focused on the truly positive developments we've experienced, not just in South Africa, but also in Ireland, Rwanda, Liberia, even the USA.

He encouraged us to applaud ourselves for electing president Obama, which we did.

He's a big fan of the Dalai Lama's, made that very clear. Given this was an ecumenical audience, like in Cape Town, this wasn't a tough sell.

Good seeing Carolyn Wilhelm again, a good companion for Dawn during her long illness (she made the shroud).

Hey, wasn't that Rodney Page in the fourth row? He was our EMO boss back when I worked for CUE in the late 1980s, where Dawn and I met.

We saw George and Annis on the way out, the Quaker couple who helped me close down the family estate in Lesotho after my parents' accident.

I took Tara and Luci from the Quaker Meetinghouse in my car. Elizabeth Braithwaite took them home, while I caught up with Ron.

Friday, May 01, 2009

BarCamp in a Box

I was thinking ahead to where the ESD maybe bused kids to CubeSpace, or a place like it, so that BarCamps might happen, similar to science fairs in that people man booths, take turns at the microphone, practice the Art of Lightning Talks.

However, teachers wouldn't be comfortable surrendering control to a bunch of alien adult strangers, so the idea would be for them to own and run the event, having been through it themselves. Take an average faculty and remap to FOSS boss positions. The english teacher learns DOM, some puppet string JavaScript, journalism takes firewall, history takes file management (a kind of sysadmin), and throw math teachers to the Pythons why not, or the Ruby mines? Teachers might think about it ahead of time, plus this isn't about typecasting or locking into a role. It's a quick training to give the flavor, then it's yours to have and to hold.

Whereas Python is looking strong along the discrete math track, sometimes bypassing computer science enroute to philosophy maybe, I'm realizing it's the whole ecosystem that makes us powerful, and that means Apache, also Jython and IronPython, not just the C version, currently the classic fast one everyone understands (is there a PyPy channel on YouTube yet?). We're close to Perl, obviously, but also to Postgres and MySQL, the latter becoming Sun and then Oracle or whatever epic myth. My latest QUIPP main menu routes into Elephant Land, but then I'm not in charge of all decisions DB.

That's why I'm thinking the EduPython conference, say at Pacific University, will have to wait for FOSS culture more generally to make some dent in education. We can't do it alone, as Pythonistas. We need our gnu and penguin friends across the board. In Portland, that means places like Free Geek and CubeSpace. In Chicago, there's Chipy. I can't tell you how it is in your town, so don't send me those questions. Ask around locally, check a coffee shop.

About the BarCamp training: I'd also be for sending 'em home with a goodie bag of DVD samples (yes, freely copiable), high quality high def stuff, suitable for classroom use. This gives you more to show and tell about when you get back to the day job, newly empowered to put new skills to good use. Your students will benefit, at least that's how we look at it, but allow for opt out (that's the default -- to opt in might involve jumping through some hoops, showing initiative in various ways, e.g. by volunteering at a PyCon, perhaps in Hong Kong?).