Wednesday, July 24, 2013

OSCON XV


The Open Source Convention, produced by O'Reilly Media with help from many stalwart sponsors (more every year), is always a blast of streaming data for the napkin-sized (when unfolded) neo-cortex, where, according to Jeff Hawkins, the equivalent of the CLA (Cortical Learning Algorithm) is running in distributed fashion.

Numenta's mechanized version, at the heart of Grok, is maybe the most important breakthrough in AI in a long time, we shall see.

Clojure is making more of a splash with me, and I got it working over a break on my Apple Mac Air running Lion 10.7.5.   I have Clojure and Node.js books open in Safari in tabs, and flip to them when blocking on other tasks (writer's block, web slow... multi-tasking, even if sequential, means not waiting for water to boil -- domestic tasks are oft done in parallel, yet one at a time).

Guido's keynote at Pycon, plus chatting with Yarko, has me realizing that PEP 3156 aka the Tulip repo, is Python's hat in the ring, where asynchronous I/O is concerned.  The flagship there has been Twisted, but now the language itself is building in more awareness -- not the first time Python has baked in some of what might have started 3rd party.

Speaking of concurrency, David DiNucci wandered through.  I saw him listening intently to Tim O'Reilly, of whom I took several photos as he held forth on Open Government (a topic).  Other Wanderers present:  Christine and Patrick.  I saw Mark Allyn from our Meeting.

There's also a bevy from work.  We hung out, at Planet OSCON, at a table, Tara again joining us, along with O'Reilly author Steve Holden of The Open Bastion, the conference organizing company (Apachecon, Djangocon, Apache Cloudstack Collaboration Conference and more).

Clojure is a LISP-like mostly functional language that runs atop the Java JVM (not unlike Jython in that respect).  Clojure also controlled the quadcopter drone, which appeared remarkably stable.  Its programmer:  a whiz woman, Carin Meier, who'd always wanted a robot friend, and with a degree in physics.  Perfect for Tara, sitting next to me through the keynotes.  She'd always wanted an Aibo, downloaded the manuals for one as soon as she could read at that level.

My philosophy of putting speakers to work at OSCON (have them deliver more than one talk if possible) seemed personified by Tim Burgland, both our Git trainer (as in Github) and our Discrete Mathematics teacher, where Clojure was featured.  He walked us through Euclid's Algorithm in its recursive form, and talked about the Euclidean Extended Algorithm for getting an RSA d from an e, given knowledge of phi(N).  I walked up to him after to mention Mathematics for the Digital Age, a high school discrete math text, featuring Python, that shoots for RSA as its grand finale.

The functional languages will likely grow a larger footprint at OSCON, as the incoming chair, Simon St. Laurent, is getting more into 'em.  He promised as much from the stage this morning.

Mark Shuttleworth had no sharp delta to surprise us with, just a continual phasing in of his (Canonical's) flagship products:  Juju, and maybe, if it gets the green light, Ubuntu Edge.

Juju shares a space with OpenStack, Puppet, Chef in that it's about spinning up combinations (bundles) of services.  The glue is in the "charms".  Mark's Foundation flew me to England that time, to discuss curriculum topics for three days (a select group) in East Kensington.

Speaking of Ubuntu, the Chinese government has selected that as its official OS of choice going forward, fairly recent news.  I attended a talk on OSS in East Asia (which doesn't include the Philippines).  Japan and Korea enjoy a freer Internet than mainland Chinese, as the latter are behind a great firewall, protected by Big Nanny.

I met the incoming chair Simon St. Laurent in the Skyview Terrac, a 7000 square foot gathering space at the base of one of the Oregon Convention Center towers.  Numenta was there too.

When it comes to East and West hemispheres growing more of a shared brain, the nexus formed by  computer science, OSS (free / open software), and global English (one might call it an evolving dialect, or family of dialects) is something of a bottleneck.  Piracy is also a problem as stealing what people want to be paid for delays mature development of competing projects.  If all you do is steal Windows, you will never acquire the skill set needed to hack on open source software.

Better translations out of English and into Korean, Japanese, and Chinese are sorely needed.  Even with a core / kernel in this shared code (Anglo derived) the user space (student space) needs better expression in local terms and characters.  Unicode is helping as well.  Japanese folks are proud of Ruby and lots of curriculum is being written for that language in Japanese.

Given the Philippines is already Anglophone in large degree, one might expect more of an explosion there.

Patrick Barton is especially interested in the Numenta stuff because of its focus on energy grids, where Grok is already used to predict the near future demand patterns, based on timeline data constantly streaming in.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Major Monday

DSCN3214
click here for slides

I had two major meetings on my calendar for today, each quite different.

The AAPT is back in town, at the Hilton, enjoying one of its two conferences a year.  The last time AAPT met in Portland, in 2010, I was the invited guest of one of its past presidents, Dr. Bob Fuller emeritus, University of Nebraska / Lincoln.  This year, 2013, we gathered to remember Bob and to listen to some of his collaborators and former students recount their experiences.

I met with Margaret Fuller again, and other family.  Margaret and Bob had long ago planned to attend the first reunion since 1964 of the Methodist English High School (MEHS) in Burma (Myanmar) this January.  Bob did not live long enough to see it, but Margaret was there and able to immerse herself in another side of her life partner.  Among the 670 alumni was Aung San Suu Kyi, another one of Bob's students (he was there from 1958 to 1961).

Had I been one of the speakers my story would have been somewhat similar to theirs in emphasizing Bob's eagerness to leverage digital technologies for their physics-teaching potential, including but not limited to interactive simulations.  I had worked with his team turning simple Excel spreadsheets from motion sensors, pasted to a ballerina, into ray-traced animations, with a pipeline of Python + POVray.  Our work was a free CDROM at the AAPT conference one year.

I was not aware Bob had developed Playground Physics and Amusement Park Physics to quite that degree.  I came along much later with my First Person Physics, a somewhat umbrella term for a kind of physics you learn through visceral first person experience (subjectively, in your bones) not just "objectively".  I can see why Bob found his thinking so consistent with my own and considered me one of his team.

DSCN3248
click here for slides


The second meeting concerned the brick and mortar structure we call "the Pavilion" in the Buckman neighborhood.  Several religious groups and lineages, as well as non-professing, have structured relationships through community meetings there.  We're like an EMO. I showed up in my Reverend Billy mode, prepared to sound churchy with my prepared remarks.

However, I did not feel a need to steal the show and merely introduced myself from the back of the room, donning an AFSC Corporation Member name tag (left over from the last Philadelphia meeting).  Lindsey (Officer Walker) was doing fine in her Betty Crocker outfit (in turn somewhat suggested by Sketch, who'd advised her to "dress normal, like Betty Crocker").

Since the meeting was scheduled as a potluck and was our regular meal time, we just folded the two events together.  FNB turned up in large numbers, Satya and Fallon included.

Given I was in a suit coat on a hot day, and that I weigh too much, I was finding the meeting room hot and stuffy.  I hoofed it over to the McMenamins, the Barley Mill, where I explained to the bartender what we were meeting about in that nearby stuffy room.  She uses the pavilion too and wished me luck keeping it open.

I snarfed down a Boneyard IPA, like I'd done with Patrick the day before, and then grabbed a free Yerba (non-alcoholic) in a can on my loop through the Buckman park back to the church.   A perimeter vehicle (human powered) was giving them out for free.

I'd missed the Art Hendricks presentation and only stayed up to where they were going to consider padlocking our meeting structure.  They've already padlocked the one at Powell Park, meanly excluding thousands of non-voting high school teens from congregating there, so I know they're cruel and heartless, or at least poorly managed.  Why any building calling itself a Christian church would allow such a meeting on its premises... don't get me started.

That was just too sacrilegious a discussion for me to want to sit through it, especially wearing a suit in a stuffy room, so I absented myself before my Trimet ticket had expired, sharing my prepared sermon with Miz Melody later (she's the Reverend Billy fan).

I hadn't realized the Hinson Church had a full indoor gym with a basketball court and everything.  I didn't get a look at the kitchen but I bet it's more than adequate.  These privileged churchgoers have a lot of assets.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Zoning for Scouting

How might scouting relate to the local and global problem of refugee camps.  In Portland, we have R2D2 (R2Dtoo), an efficiently run protected area for tent users.  Tents in the city are considered "bad for business" by business owners, at least those not involved in the camping business.  Some of ours, such as REI, are, and urban chic does include the ninja sub-branch, with people living in trees if necessary, while the city planners pass them by, no zoning imagined, except perhaps by the airport.

Public facilities, the world around, are a hallmark of a society's willingness to support itself with public spaces.  Sanitation duty is a "dirty job" (one of many) though may be connected to jobs of high repute, such as sanitation engineer.  Lew Scholl of our Quaker meeting is a sanitation engineer and joined the team to Managua.  Much was learned of peoples needs and some collaborative achievements were engaged in.  My daughter went on that trip and helped mix concrete.

Teresina Havens, whose work I've been reading in the meetinghouse library, served on clean up crews for Tokyo's public restrooms.  Some Buddhist trainings involve taking on civic duty with gusto and learning humble tasks.  That's not unlike scouting, with its ethic of cheerfulness and helpfulness to others.  All without some Nazi / KKK pledge to "racial purity" or other dogma to weigh it down -- Buddhism has lasted thousands of years for a reason.

Scouts on snazzy bikes complement the ones in crew carts or bike carts, peddling warez (wares).  These might be non-commercial, like Freedom Toasters (a hybrid -- branded / sponsored open source CD / DVD copiers).  Helmet cams?  GPS?  I'd expect the chapters to work out their own best practices in response to actual conditions, as Food Not Bombs must.  Like our leadership is currently split on whether Buckman has enough relevance, given the siege at R2Dtoo and its "bad for business" tents.  At least there's a common front line.  Which is not to suggest tents in Colonel Summers.

In fact, people need ways to recycle and reinvent themselves, even within the space of a physical lifetime, more than once maybe.  Christians use "rebirth" talk, as in "born again", which should be enough of a hint that life changes are involved.  Tokyo currently has maybe 6K people living full time in "Internet Cafe" shared facility booth motels.  These are not a result of optimum planning.

Camp grounds with decorum, like scouting camps, with sanitation and organization, were what US tourists wanted to find in Germany after the war, and did.  Tourism means sharing the camps, what my own family did, especially in summers, the car's rooftop (a station wagon) crammed with gear, including a family-sized tent from Stronmeyer, the German manufacturer.

Yes, things are different in the winter.  The idea of a giant dome, with tents in it, is cliche in science fiction, but then there's a reason people migrate, north to south, south to north.  I'm suggesting we don't all have roots.  As Bucky Fuller pointed out, humans are not trees (though I bet others have noticed that too).

One summer, between jobs, we had given up the apartment and were in transition back to Florida, with a stint in the Middle East as AFSC camp leaders, working with Palestinian "boy scouts" (a rough translation as they could easily be fully grown men).  We drilled a swimming pool in the rock crust, hauling boulders to the dumping space, mostly in the morning hours when it was cool enough for such work.  But we camped in Rome that same summer, Camp Monte Antenna I think they called it. By the end of the summer we were living in a mobile home estate in Florida (mom's parents).  Next stop:  the Philippines.

The government already has a network of public lands and campgrounds it tends, but you need a motor vehicle and lots of gas, or lots of time on a bicycle, to get to them.  We are finding more and more youth with more and more time for the bicycles, which have improved in their design.  But the destinations need to be near cities or in them, as often as far away.

But then US cities are afraid of those "shanty towns" of sheet metal and no sanitation service, unplanned communities (like unplanned pregnancies).  Which is why I'm suggesting a planning style or zoning solution which raises expectations for these camps, and in some cases commits them to civilian service, and not just "dirty jobs".

You could have a mayor's family in such a camp even, or at least immediate offspring.  People in tents have responsibilities.  Many of them are idealistic and study science.  Some help place eco-sensors at leaky sites, places where potentially dangerous gases are emitted.  They're trained in the use of safety gear.  Important work.  Monitoring, advising, comparing notes, publishing findings.

Activists don't want sprawling mansions with a pool.  They want adventure and improved prospects for those with few.  You don't need to call it "missionary work" to make it worthy.  Nor must you call it "a pilgrimage".  But if you do use such religious language, and maybe manage to rope in Burning Man, that's not to your detriment either.

Wandering troupes of troubadours, sharing a bus, is an old meme in this ecosystem, pioneered by the Grateful Dead in the electric guitar era.

You don't need to burn a lot of biofuel and if you share cultivation in rotation, tending the crops in your care, as you travel, then you have access to a rotating cafeteria, year round.  You farm and you travel and enjoy your good health.

This does not make you a "threat to society" so much as a "strand of glue" in keeping humans informed and up to date, with time to plan rather than panic and freak out ("future shock" should be thrilling more than chilling, an opportunity to heal from something).

Will freeways get a bicycle lane?  That sounds horrific to truckers.  More likely are smaller single user electrical solutions, more solar power stations.  With an electric cycle with paniers, you've got something to get you around.

Trade for a fuel powered hog at the station or share a van, or follow the cyclists and their special high energy diets, ultra light gear.  That's certainly an athletic lifestyle and a great way to see the world.

Leave the freeways to buses and trucks that take both the travelers and their gear for longer hops, wheels up in Portland, wheels down in Salem.  People take their bicycles back and forth, to ride on either end.

Some have lightweight tents and are hopping from city to city, sometimes as troupes (as in scouting).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Make Them Fat!

 padlocked pavilion:  students keep out!

Here's how it works in America.  A brave generation of public spirited citizens invests lots of time and energy into city parks.  Large structures are made that shield people from the rain.  Public restrooms are attached.  A public high school is nearby and on break students are allowed to leave campus, a sign of their emerging adulthood.  Some may use the building to smoke when not in the rain, victims of earlier ad campaigns, but lets look at fast food.

Fast forward and you find the large proud structure at Powell Park is closed, padlocked.  The public high school is still there, with a Burgerville directly across the street.  There's a McDonalds or is it Wendy's (or both) a little further away.  You know the scene:  get teenagers obese, like the adults, milking them for easy profit.

I'm not saying Burgerville is bad or unhealthy actually.  Of all the fast food chains, it's probably the one I'm least worried about.  It helped our Cleveland Cannibals (speech & debate team) raise money, whereas the district itself is too starved, its funds blown away by other governments on worthless munitions, million-dollar soldiers etc.

Health conscious kids go to Burgerville and find things on the menu.  This isn't really about Burgerville as the villain, but about those who padlocked the park pavilion, forcing kids to become consumers whether they wished to or no.  It's the surrounding ecosystem that reeks.

It's the American way, to be of service to commercial establishments.  Just standing around in a Gazebo or Kiosk or Pavilion is considered "loitering" -- unless its a public park ("a loophole! -- must close it" thinks the idiocracy).

Repeat this story a thousand times.  Public facilities, non-commercial, not making a buck on fast food, are accessible to young healthy bodies.  Fattening food is placed directly in front of a school and options to stay slender are physically closed off by Parks and Recreation.

How do you spell "ugly", how do you spell "mismanaged".

What does Cleveland High School think of the closure?  Were the neighbors asked?  How many and when?  What was the process?  Were the students polled?

These questions are pertinent now because the very same mismanaged bureau, complicit in making teens fat and less thrifty, is now thinking of applying the same treatment to another health nut space, another public Pavilion in another public park.

People show up on bicycles and enjoy themselves, get out of the rain.  They share healthy food, have a picnic.

"They're having too much fun, they must go to Burgerville, they must be commercial consumers!"

The hive mind is buzzing again.

Come to Hinson Church at SE Taylor and 20th next Monday if you want to hear the hive mind buzz.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Fourth of July, 2013


This was a memorable event in that we had a guy physically wrapped in the stars & stripes shouting stereotypical patriotic slogans in a drunken yahoo style, a kind of folklore exhibit.

We were standing atop a high building with only intermittent guard rails so being truly falling down drunk (I managed to stumble, but because of a rooftop projection, not the beer -- it was getting dark) would have been dangerous.

The Waterfront Fireworks were not "on the dot" at 10 pm.  We amused ourselves watching other, more distant displays, we thought Oaks Park and probably Lake Oswego.  We could hear the Blues Festival, where a number of my friends were.  Then the closer fireworks got started.  I rediscovered the fireworks setting on my camera and experimented with technique.

These were mostly geeks I knew from around town, Python coders and so on.  I was accompanying our colleague from Brazil, Henrique, who was here for a World Domination Summit.  That maybe sounds threatening because most of us won't have been at said summit and don't want to be dominated, however I suggest one should translate it more as Self Mastery (world = self experience).

To have dominion in this world is to have a sufficient skill set to enjoy some satisfaction in piloting through life.  I'm not going to the conference either though, so I shouldn't talk.

"Jihad" has a similar translation BTW, as "inner conquest" or "transcendence of pettiness" (yet another spin).  In the Quaker tradition we similarly speak of "inward weapons" when using our war metaphors.

Independent... in the realization of "no one thing is Self" i.e. selfhood is not a thing (nothing). Repose in being "alone as everything" is different from the loneliness of separation and abandonment (isolation, confinement).  Each nation needed to see itself as responsible for its contextualizing world, and so transcended its borders to become a part of the "space program" (our shared campus, the "global U").

The withering of the state has been correlated with that growing sense of "globe-hood" many humans have experienced.  Thanks to global climate change, pictures of Earth from Universe, better telecommunications, more circling, we're more aware of our spherical selfhood, a network of convergences.

Average humans seem like blood cells in that they circulate, sometimes in cars and trains, planes and ships.  They may be likewise (like the blood) transporting substances of high potential ala 12 Monkeys.

Memes have the easiest time traveling, face the least resistance, but they're also ephemeral. Neutrinos flood out of the sun as lighter elements bake to heavier ones, hydrogen to helium, a fusing process.

Enormous energy gets thrown out but a lot of it is so close to not mattering, and yet has its significant role in cosmic bookkeeping.  That's lucky for life, as DNA is delicate.  Cosmic rays punch real holes but neutrinos are extremely unlikely to interact.  A giant tank of liquid, shielded from all else, only detects a handful.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Dancer in the Dark (movie review)

At first I thought this might be like Donkey Boy in another gender, but as we get to know the character she seems less and less alien in some dimensions. 

Dancer is more a continuation of my previously reviewed film by this same director, Breaking the Waves, which focuses on a woman of unnatural innocence who gets everything fubar as a consequence.

Selma Jezkova's loyalty to secrecy and "keeping mum" is too strictly translated into her native Czech I think.  She should have been more forthcoming in her own defense at the trial.  "Yes, I lied my way through the eye test, I just didn't want Jessie to worry" --  which explains how the conflicted / confessing cop got to the cookie jar.

Jessie is her son and the metaphor for their blindness (both use thick glasses) is strengthened in their mutual caring mixed with alienation.  They're not on the same page in a lot of ways.

That the mother feels guilt or even actual responsibility for Jessie's karma is something the court would respond to, but why not just tell it like the movie we all just saw?  Spill the beans already.  Relay each conversation.  Having secrets means you're capable of sharing them.

The film is scary.  Showing the state committing murder and the eeriness of the prison relationship... is it progressive blindness or madness, as the musicals become more hallucinatory in quality?  The music comes from another time, closer to our own. 

But then imagining an audience of voyeurs to one's life is like madness, but then so is a sense of being "on stage"... so then who isn't mad in that sense?  The eyes of others are upon us, if not literally in a theater.  

The movie twists around to ask that question.  It also asserts something about the musical:  the opera uses music and dance to express an underlying story that the banal plot lines of cinema verite (and real life) would not capture.  The surreal mirrors the real.  Art shows us other angles. 

In treating serious darkness with musical numbers, the genre is fighting back against rumors of being antiquated.

The musical episode, of the Buffy series, is a another one to link in.

The women in both these movies are "too child-like for their own good" one might say.  On the other hand, both are dealt a rotten hand of cards and it's easy to armchair-criticize. 

These films encourage empathy, but with empathy comes a desire to coach, to offer advice.  Many a sports fan knows that impulse.  You feel in their corner.