Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unicode Anyone?

My opening gambit on Forum 206, about the place of Unicode in any public curriculum worthy of Americans, went pretty much unanswered. Bottle-necking to so few media companies means a backlog of unresolved issues, some of which might be disruptive and hard to manage.

Likewise my invitation to elaborate on fractions, in terms of shards, or splinters, volumetric shapes, seemed to just dead end.  Welcome to zombie-ville right?  Corporate persons Я us.  I suppose these conversations are just happening in other venues, where people have relevant responsibilities. No one said we had to choose Forum 206.  I agree, totally.

The shards I'm going on about with non-members of the inner circle: Mite, Syte, Kite.  Aristotle would know what I'm talking about.

In order to appreciate Western history, one needs to follow the history of computation, certainly back to India and China, but not neglecting the stopover in Persia, where the House of Wisdom ( بيت الحكمة‎‎; ) applied some spit and polish (an idiom).

"Algorithms" taught in Portland every day trace right back through Liber Abaci, by Fibonacci of Pisa, to al-Khwārizmī who lived in 9th Century Persia (Roman calendar). As we train up a next generation to get along (to be "presidential"), our public school curriculum is making sure we remember these threads.  Europe grew into its Renaissance thanks to open source computation.

Thanks to Unicode, I'm able to quote sources in the original next to whatever translations. Did I want Persian or some Cyrillic stuff in the same blog post?  Google has provided the Blogger service, meaning Unicode at our fingertips.  Just ASCII wouldn't do the job and the various workarounds were incompatible.

Yes, Unicode has some issues and I understand if there's some impatience with this iteration of an obviously needed encoding. I haven't made it my role to play a strident advocate of engineeringly imperfect artifacts, but nor must I become their scornful detractor. On the contrary, we make do with what we have, somewhat by definition. Complaining we're but backwardly human is not likely to change anything overnight, even if prayer is powerful.

I'm glad one of my colleagues mentioned SVG again recently. I've been presenting a model of how one matures as a coder, starting with lots of games, which we call namespaces. Then comes the risk taking of undertaking projects, however small. One of my students today got a lightning bolt spinning in MIT Scratch, and felt rewarded, as I did, seeing him learn.  Scalable Vector Graphics belong in the mix with HTML + CSS + JavaScript.  Sheri was showing me some SVG at the PDX Code Guild site, another reminder.

Lindsey Walker, long-time sojourner, came to Portland with strong SVG skills already. She was one of those girl geeks with a surplus of bandwidth for geeky projects, and managed to work her way into a high technology company, where she was recognized by management. I spent many hours in VRML myself, always attracted to Renaissance perspective renderings of 3D to 2D (you likely know this namespace, if reading this far).

You may be wondering where the Youtubes might be, showing A & B modules being 3D printed, assembled into MITEs, Bites, Rites, Lites (the three Sytes).  I'm wondering too, but then remember, welcome to zombie-ville, right?  Corporate persons Я us.