Monday, April 26, 2010

Back in 97214

I connected with Patrick and Glenn today.

Glenn and I started our morning with Acme Coffee Shop (its real name) as I wanted to introduce myself to the owner. This shop is around the corner from the Pauling Campus with a back end facing the same parking lot.

Lindsey was in there recently talking up getting them a free piano. She's turned herself into a mini-Hubble, tracking heavy pianos people want to get rid of, in some cases still good, easily tunable and/or fixable. Of course moving them is an art in itself.

She'd like to intern at Immortal Piano or one of those.

The upright at our house likewise needs student-intern attention, might still serve to give music theory lessons (like the Yamaha gave when I was away in Baltimore).

Then Glenn and I went to Barebones (by way of Red Square, also on Belmont) which has replaced Muddy's (same server slot). We had simple fare (fresh bagels and bottled beer, some hand made apple pie), enjoyed the sparse ambiance.

We then went around the corner to where Flipside had once been, the site of our first radical math class for Portland Free School.

Glenn remarked on the professional nature of the new dry wall that'd gone in (we were looking through the window).

Glenn has recently acquired a new kite, one of those Oregon beach soaring models. He got it at a rummage sale for $1.

Patrick and I stared at Django code and managed to make some headway on a more user-friendly front end for his buzz bot. He's already using the BB's back end, harnessing its services to help with some Hollywood "what if" business. He's amazed how much money rides on decisions backed by practically no analytics or psychometrics e.g. a "sample size" of "five similar films" -- what does that even mean?

Lindsey has been in Portland for about a year, as of today. We're marking the anniversary of her arrival from Georgia, at the end of a long drive across country. In addition to pianos, she shares Mike D's focus on XOs, has other geeky plans for Laughing Horse -- which may be on the verge of closing after all these years, given the paucity of volunteers. When it's open, it tends to do some brisk business in books, T-shirts, other merchandise which in turn helps to pay bills.

I've parked a Dymaxion Projection in there a couple times, more as a symbolic gesture than as a real for-sale item -- same as I did for the Burning Man crew. Maybe contact BFI if you want copies.

In Other Words, which used to be in our neighborhood (as did Laughing Horse -- on Division) now serves fresh coffee. So could Acme could benefit from some science magazines? Inquiring minds want to know.

Glenn and I should do our next Flextegrity workshop at one of those tables. That might net 'em some new customers, plus Ken is one great portrait painter, with some example works already displayed.

I'm cooking Together Friends lentils this evening, back to the brown ones. I tried this dish with red lentils recently and effed it up, though the hodge podge tasted pretty good, especially with soy sauce. This time I think I pulled it off, as I'm more experienced with lentils of this variety.

Last night we went out with Sam Lanahan on Flextegrity business. Tara doesn't appreciate fish, got the chicken strips instead. The cheesecake was just out of the freezer but still tasted OK (I don't eat it much, though did encounter some top-of-the-line example of that edible material in Fairfax, Virginia recently).

Although I'm scheduled to teach Martian Math this summer, it's not like I'm eager to abandon Project Earthala. A focus on Mars does not entail a loss of focus on Earth.

On the contrary, our geography-aware curriculum is about upgrading our diverse domestic civilizations to a point where we might one day realistically contemplate achieving such an esoteric goal as installing some human-habitable research facility on some other planet or moon.

We have a lot of homework to do, and studying doesn't happen when our students have so little security in so many necks of the wood. We retard the Zeitgeist by letting the Global U stay so far from "ship shape". What curriculum deficiencies might we address? What "more with less" learning strategies might we adopt?

Astronauts train in giant swimming pools. Undersea cities will likely presage true space colonies. Your geodesic domes had better not leak too dramatically under water. What math might we teach to keep these submarine dome-dwellers dry?

Might we need Old Man River City and others like it, to sustain our skilled work groups of ground-based personnel? "We need to address depleted infrastructure and move on to the next thing" hardly seems that controversial an hypothesis.

The Eisenhower Administration got the freeway network going (the I-net). Today's "freeway system" is more about fiber optics perhaps, with Google the new General Motors.

Speaking of ship-related skills, Glenn taught me some more tricks with string and rope during our circuit today. He also had his handsome handmade sling along for show and tell purposes. He's been making these things since boyhood, gradually improving on his designs. Boys Life was an influence, a popular magazine, not unlike Make: in some ways, disregarding the gender bias.

The math curriculum we're imagining has a lot in common with scouting programs, with a mix of stereotypically "boy" and "girl" type skills. Home economics, gardening, self defense and weaponry, navigation and mapping, diet and health... there's a math angle to each of these, as well as multiple timelines to simulate and contemplate.

Games like Civilization help students integrate the variables into sometimes non-linear relationships, with comic books and cartoons helping to fill in and flesh out what might otherwise come across as dry-as-bones statistics and demographics.

Of course anything so practical and outdoorsy must seem like a radical departure from the more commonplace and mostly sedentary approaches to matters mathematical -- because it is. These would be your more experimental pilot programs, not just run of the mill and not necessarily widely available in 2010. Geocaching R Us.

Getting our curriculum off the ground will be remain difficult minus an influx of trained personnel with an ability to impart some of these skills. Trainers are in short supply around the world, as is logistics capability. Afghanistan is absorbing much of this talent.

As we saw with Katrina and will see again if / when a disaster next strikes, if the guard for that state is mostly deployed in some remote, poorly-directed overseas misadventure, then it's unlikely the citizenry will accept some nebulous "war on terror" as a legitimate excuse.

Since when was it OK to rob the domestic front of its trained protectors? Many governors have asked themselves this same question.

I joined a thread at the Math Forum regarding other aspects of the curriculum. Having recently observed first hand how programming skills remain in demand in the aerospace sector, I was again nudging the math teachers to maybe pick up some of that slack even pre-college.

This is not some new party line I just invented for the mid-term elections of 2010. This is a tune people have been singing since computer programming became somewhat affordable to many schools in the mid-to-late 1970s, with the advent of the personal computer with languages like BASIC and LOGO.

Later, a more Unix-like environment would migrate to the personal desktop, in the form of Linux and FreeBSD, and some additional computer languages would percolate through the popular mindset.

Languages such as LISP, Scheme, APL, Smalltalk, ISETL, ABC and so forth, would migrate from their mainframe settings onto home computer hard drives.

Of course no rule says high schools must confine themselves to running what home computers might run, but as a rule of thumb one wishes to have some continuity in that regard, if only to keep parents somewhat in the loop.

Tomorrow I'm to meet with Dr. Bob Fuller, my mentor on the First Person Physics project. This isn't the same gig as the Nebraska-based initiative (as in Lincoln), but it sounds like there may be some commonalities, e.g. a focus on delivering the information in ways health care professionals might find especially useful.

The focus on biomedicine was a characteristic of some of Dr. Urone's books as well.

Dr. Fuller is a student of Dr. Robert Karplus when it comes educational theory and techniques. A Love of Discovery sits in my living room on the "time capsule" (semi-cylindrical shelves) between a book by Linus Pauling and Wolfram's thick tome.

Dr. Tag has been bouncing around the Middle East for the last few weeks. We connected by Google chat yesterday, me just back from Baltimore, Maryland, and she in Damascus at some outdoor cafe.

Perhaps an Islamic bank might want to work with Acme? The one in Whittier seems to be doing OK (mom went to one of their meetings).

I'm not sure what financial services Portland even offers of that genre. Some branches are little more than a few cubes in some "cube space" I would imagine (we used to have an official CubeSpace in one of our banks, where I used to show up for work sometimes, or for user group meetings).

Tara is home sick. Our $500/mo health insurance policy covers 0% of her $80+ antibiotics and 0% of the $200+ doctor visit. As MoF winner RBF put it in Grunch of Giants: the "system" has been gamed (contrived) to serve only those making $100K/yr or more. That's not an American design, hence his call to arms (including cyber-spatial) against this alien GRUNCH (his books tended to be acronym cities -- search these blogs for decoder rings).

Like I'm guessing the interest on the debt for Star Wars alone is probably sufficient to restore education budgets to their higher 1970s levels (relative to GNP).

Eco-tourism could easily pick up the slack when it comes to needing skilled engineers, including those in an aerospace pay grade. The insolvency of the "ray gun" school is hardly a state secret at this point. Investors aren't buying what can't be sold (an economic truism I realize).

Speaking of economics, buzz in the financial press suggest the SEC plans to use Python more. I wonder if this might be owing to its new decimal type (just speculating again, though not without evidence).

Basically any silo is free to suck down a copy of Python and use it for whatever work / study programming. The license is liberal in that way.

In sci-tech circles, it's the NumPy module that gets a lot of appreciation, plus other stuff on top of it.

The Panda3D project started out under Disney and was published with a Pythonic API following its further development as an open source project under Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center. What kinds of course-ware might we develop around this asset?