Friday, September 29, 2006

Gnuvy Krew Calculus

a Pythonic desktop
(click for larger view)

I'm not really expecting the term "gnuvy krew" to spread very far. For me personally, it's a reminder of United Voices (UV), sometimes referred to as "UV Krew" and a former program of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) out of the Portland office on East Burnside, headed by Mary Ann Prado.

Here're a some cross references: [visit to Cambridge][push into TV][math makeover campaign].

I think of "the gnuvy krew" as my fellow gnu math teachers. We often use source code to communicate key mathematical concepts.

For example, in the screen shot above, I'm plotting a 4th degree polynomial and its first and second derivatives, using the Python code open in the left window, and an interactive shell, top right (click the picture for a bigger version).

It's all pretty home grown, and hence a bit idiosyncratic. Expressing your own individuality is not verboten in gnu math teaching.

Given the tools I'm using (Calculus, Python, VPython, a Pentium running WinXP, and now Blogger) represent many centuries of combined labor and R&D, one could argue that this quirky personal overlay is nought but a thin veneer over a vast invisible army's collective effort.

Be that as it may, I encourage gnuvy krewers to personalize their teaching materials as another way of adding value, even as they edit/recombine material from others per the open source ethic (which often includes giving and/or getting credit for stuff).

Anyway, use your persona to add positive value, to take advantage of the Principle of Synergetic Advantage. Add your own spin, why not?

Related thread on edu-sig: Calculus with Stickworks

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Big Apple

That's a metaphor for New York City, as most people know. Tara and I have locked in some plane reservations, as she's never seen this gleaming jewel of the Empire State.

In preparation for said itinerary, I've been going over some internal Fuller School business with one of New York's more skillful financial analysts. We diverge wildly in our approach to investments, but that doesn't keep me from noticing his talent. I've also been in touch with my former Quaker boss, a champion of Quality in the health care sector.

Big on the agenda: another visit with Kenneth Snelson, the internationally recognized native Oregonian artist, and one of the very few with the courage to tackle Bucky openly (most preferred the relative safety and anonymity of the snide aside, often just whispered -- or waited until he died to get loud).

Tara knows him from our own Barrel Tower, although she at one time confused him with Sam Lanahan (not surprisingly, as "flextegrity" and "tensegrity" do sound somewhat similar). She may not remember that was Snelson's work we came across in Chattanooga that time.

Speaking of business, what I was blathering to Arthur about is the sorry/sad situation with mass published mathematics textbooks for the K-12 market. None of them have any A & B modules, meaning Gnu Math teachers can't really use them.

But that's OK.

We're against felling any more forests in the name of childrens' math education anyway -- gives our self-discipline a bad name. Plus the "golden oldies" (aka "the classics") are always worth a recycle, for whatever content they do include (spherical geometry anyone?).

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dung Beetle?

Actually, a handsome snailmail promo from the folks at, which I'm proud to net for my collection. Thank you Sam and LaJean, for your brilliant work.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Revising the PKL Model

So we're revising our model of the Portland Knowledge Lab, based in part on Thom Hartmann's interview with Willamette Week on KPOJ (620 AM), which helps pop the nanotechnolgy bubble we've seen floating around near the Old Spaghetti Factory, i.e. in the Lower Southwest.

So the City of Portland has succeeded in attracting, and subsidizing, another bedroom community, not a new jobs haven, except for that clinic and assisted living center (both very welcome).

None of this changes the fact of our wanting more of a jobs haven in Lower Southeast, across from these new condos starting from OMSI, and heading up towards The Steel (the old Cornos neighborhood).

But nanotechnology may not be the big pie slice of revenue we'd originally projected, except from our more traditional Silicon Forest clients, i.e. those pursuing nanotech in robotics, chip design, and color printing -- already well established industries in our region.

So more visualizations of nanotubes (for cabling and wiring) and Z-axis layering, might be what we're called upon to provide, in addition to public (open source) mathcasting (a 4D Studios niche).

The basic idea of the PKL is it's a clearinghouse where movers and shakers get together in a collaborative mode, even though many are strong competitors in the marketplace. You need this kind of think tanky glue to fixate and focalize, such that outsiders see a more unified API.

Just phone our Knowledge Lab and someone knowledgeable will steer you in the right direction. However, behind the scenes, we have multiple studios jockeying for position, my 4D Studios but one of a great many.

I'm not sure how much of this model I've cribbed from London's. My impression from the tour they gave me is that prominent schools had coalitioned in order to process some juicy government contracts. For example: the UK is moving towards electronic whiteboards for pedagogy and the LKL was supposed to figure them out.

PKL will have this impressive list of sponsors without implying some kind of monopolistic, hegemonistic back end, which'd scare clients away as they'd presume ripoff price fixing. On the contrary, the long list of sponors only means we've succeeded in creating a neutral ground to take advantage of synergy, not to frustrate competition.

Such neutral ground building occurs quite naturally and readily in Japan. Even as competitors, it's in our own self interest to codevelop and share infrastructure -- Sten's render farm idea for example.

And finally, given we're talking ephemeral media, toons (many with highly technical content) that travel through optical fiber as easily as through satellite transponders, there's no reason we can't increase our business from out of state as well.

As a jobs haven, we're made up of local residents. But where those jobs come from, could be anywhere.

And so eventually, nanotechnology even in a more biological sense might well gain a bigger pie slice, in terms of the manhours and render farm time we give it, even if Pill Hill itself isn't the big client we'd predicted originally, based on all that hype around the cable car (which Hartmann likened to something out of an H.G. Wells novel).

Sorry I can't say I'm too worried. I still think we're on track for the Lower East. The print media businesses have already laid the groundwork. We have a proud lexical tradition and track record. Now we're getting more graphical, more animated. There's precedent for that too (e.g. Bill Plympton, Matt Groening, Will Vinton et al -- and of course not forgetting John Callahan).

Happy Birthday Dawn Wicca! Dawn's Turning the Wheel provided the original digs for Portland Knowledge Lab @ ActivSpace, near the Lucky Lab in Lower East.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Design Scientist Ron Resch

egg & kawasaki

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Popping the Champaign

I'm writing upbeat inhouse propaganda for the home front these days, feeling we're finally making real headway for a change.

Synergeo has proved a great scratch pad for me, to take another run at overcoming some hurdles I'd been coming up against. Just needed a longer runway I guess.

The community college profs and I are chewing the cud about electronic whiteboards, plus I'm yakking about Kusasa, the South African initiative to really bridge the digital divide. Math and computer science (CS) need to become the same discipline in the early grades. You can put a fork in the road later, when it's time to pick a favorite.

But how will you ever decide in to which to dive into, if CS is in-the-closet verboten, and "just math" makes you sick. Given such a censorious climate, you'd probably just end up a lawyer if bright; and we hope one of the good ones (like Joyce Cresswell, Executive Director of our Saturday Academy, and well serving our Silicon Forest, like Matt).

I'm not trying to micro-manage what language. Of course I push Python, but that's not by edict or decree. I'm a recruiter, not a conqueror, and I secretly respect a few who push back hardest (sometimes not so secretly). Like I'm sure Ruby has a bright future, even with that chip on its shoulder, about the evils of XML (hey, some days I hate it too).

Hey, Peet's is doing like free coffee and donuts (grand opening tomorrow) -- news from the Nalley family, just back from Race for the Cure with Tara. I'm headed out. Dawn is escaping to Manzanita with her bookkeeping collaborative.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Snakes on a Plane (movie review)

I normally wouldn't use this fave space to review a cheap thrills horror flick, but Snakes on a Plane is what's playing at Edgefield, and as a leading proponent of a computer language called Python, I thought I should see what Hollywood is up to with our nation's flag's icon.

Well, the predictable tripe. I'd have preferred more humor. Whacking that guy's head open with a baseball bat in the opening minutes sets the wrong tone, even if it's off camera. Remind me to cut back on the Red Bull (too expensive).

The perp never gets any return violence, which seemed unusually soft on crime, even for Hollywood. Having the snakes drop down with the oxygen masks was a nice touch: two terrors for the price of one.

Getting any real world nonfiction across to Americans is an uphill fight all the way, given moneymaking has abandoned all sense of social responsibility, given these powerful media and access to big distributors.

We could educate, or we could dumb down. Cowardly movie makers keep making the wrong choices, pandering to our reptilian psyche, bypassing the neocortex, and thereby needlessly destroying so many promising acting careers (or at least putting them in grave jeopardy).

So how do we Python programmers compete with all this negative imagery?

Well, for one thing, Hollywood seems to think snakes have poor vision (everything green and blurry). That's just pure projection on its part (goes with the moneymaking fixation). Snakes are way cooler and smarter than these cardboard cutouts, who still come across as slick compared to the awkward and hapless humanoids.

Anyway, I'm glad we're finally moving big pieces of the movie-making industry to brighter climes like Morocco. LA had its chance (the Golden Age is long over), although I'm not about to single out this one stupid movie as any worse than the rest.

Pssst... wanna see a really horrific snake? Click and scroll down (and think of Hollywood).

Friday, September 15, 2006

More About Quakers

We met in private homes in Rome, not having a bona fide Meeting House sanctuary. However, I appreciate the open mindedness of the Vatican, in letting us practice our faith unhampered. A big step up from worshipping in catacombs, the way early Xtians had to do, until the emperors got wise, and went for a kinder/gentler approach. Similar scenes in Cairo and Thimpu.

When I moved back to the states, for college, I checked out the Princeton Meeting a couple times, but mostly fell in with the C.S. Lewis crowd, having read the same Narnia books. Anyway, it's a long story.

When I moved back to Oregon in the mid 1980s, local Friends clued me about a gathering of younger type Quakers, with some older for spice, meeting every winter, over the New Year's weekend, starting on like the 28th. I hitched down I-5 to check it out, traveling solo, and got picked up by Bead and Denise, true California hippies, heading my way. What a fun group. Jugglers with torches, lots of elvynchyx (Pan, Sara... Kate). In later years, I'd bring my Dawn Wicca.

Dr. Joe (name collision with our Portland orthodontist), a former hippie himself, used to show up and read the Bible to us around the fire. Despite our outwardly pagan appearance, as Friends we remained receptive to our family traditions.

Some of us went on to become movers and shakers in the Quaker denomination, even adding to the Hymnal. However, we were also into Lord of the Rings, other scifi, and didn't fixate on the Middle East as a likely beginning or ending place for anything too special i.e. we weren't apocalyptic ranters, raving about this or that plagiarized/2nd-hand revelation, or about something some "Nostra" supposedly said -- not our style.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Viral Marketing

Usually anything "viral" would have to be bad, as they're what attack us and make us sick. We fight them with antibodies. But then, antibodies need to multiply exponentially and spread in clever ways (e.g. through the invention of vaccination, a way of spreading immunity) .

"Organic propagation" is often a good thing, both energy efficient and effective.

So "viral marketing" is sort of in between, as "marketing" sounds positive (we like shopping) and so "viral" sounds clever -- yet vaguely sinister. Kinda slimey and snake oily. Kwel.

I didn't invent this term, just one of my MySpace friends uses it in his profile, and I've been giving the matter some thought.

Basic memes are the same way. The idea of "an alphabet" apparently spread like wildfire, though not every culture chose that solution, let alone the same alphabet.

The fact of competing solutions needn't be interpreted as a threat to survival nor a weakness in humanity, but should be celebrated for the opportunities to collaborate it continues to assure us. Monoculture is dangerous and we deliberately scare ourselves with its prospect, in nightmarish science fiction (but on the other hand, we appreciate having shared criteria for what's "humane versus inhumane treatment" i.e. universal human rights).

This is one of the USA's great teachings: compete in the marketplace of ideas as civilians, and you'll prosper a lot more (i.e. don't take gun play too lightly, even if they do on TV). But that doesn't mean everyone who comes here on a boat or a jet ever learned this lesson. It's an ongoing challenge to civilization itself: how to model or simulate well enough to anticipate breakdowns. We're getting better at it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ongoing Remodel

The landscapers have come and gone, did a good job. Weeds won't be a headache, nor eyesore, quite as much. I like Lamb's Ear and the lemony stuff, but not so uncontrolled and mixed with the really prickly stuff that bites back.

The power wash might be delayed (truck troubles), plus I didn't make it in to the conference room office, owing to Dawn's longer-than-expected pulmonology appointment.

They're talking about weaning her from O2, which is interesting -- the shortness of breath is more from being out of shape than from encroaching cancer, is what the scans currently suggest. Sounds like a plan.

I let Alexia and Dawn handle the meeting, cruised around outside listening to Robert Thurman's meditation on death from Tiger's Nest, Bhutan (a podcast, one in a series), using my new 60 gig iPod.

Then I adjourned to American Dream pizza, where Dawn and Alexia later joined me. When Phyllis showed for a business meeting, I returned to my gnu math station (with Alexia, in Razz). I like Roots Red, an organic beer.

Over on edu-sig, teachers are ruminating over whether jettisoning raw_input from Python was a good idea -- well after the fact (per usual with slow-chewing cows). I'm like: who "prompts themselves" anymore? Just use the namespace directly, don't hand-hold yourself.

Within the family, we're debating on paint color for "PWS 3745" (a personal workspace, a 1905 dwelling machine). Dawn likes "NATO blue" for a main color, where I'm pushing for something darker (Tara: "deep ocean"), but I'm OK with a lighter trim.

I feel bad about what the stingray did to the crocodile guy, whom I liked as a TV personality, though we never met in person.

Robert's prayers were helpful. We part company in death, and that's sad, but many of us vow to meet again, and that's exquisite, as he puts it. That man's love of Nature endures, and that includes for his family and friends (also in Nature).

We love nature. Nature loves us. And yes, she gets violent. Mommy has a tough job.

Follow-up: OK, so were they planning to power sand it? Feathered edge means sanded from paint edge to wood, no? I left a voicemail, on the sabbath (for some Americans anyway). R.M.T. Painting, CCB171529. So far, I like their energy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 Down for the Day warned me a month ago that my domain name was set to expire.

But when push came to shove I forgot to reregister, resulting in this temporary outage in service.

Maybe my spam filter deflected the urgent warning (like the one I got last year around this time). Given my level of business, that wouldn't have to be my excuse.

Anyway, I've reupped for two years effective immediately. It'll take about 24 hours to repopulate the domain name servers. My apologies for the inconveniece (to me as well).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Across from the Blue Nile

Now I'm posting from one of Portland's many coffee shops, using a Personal Telco node. Although it's a holiday, with few cars on the road (for a Monday morning), I'm electing to get work done. Family members are shopping nearby. I'm having a 16 oz. latte + bagel & cream cheese (toasted).

John Brawley on Synergeo has been helping me hammer out an updated way of casting the Synergetics namespace. We've been focusing on the "Nature not waiting to use Pi" thread, using that to pry apart two memes: events unfolding in time, implying "more to come" versus eternal principles, already operating if only dimly understood. We "look forward" to understanding more later ("forward" is a somewhat metaphorical direction), yet Plato assures us that "knowledge is recollection," a kind of remembering + networking (Erhard's "natural knowing"?).

Over on the community college circuit, I'm trying to interest the math profs in Python generators. I think of them as internal combustion engines, with an "infinite loop" piston (while True:...). Each cycle, the generator pauses at yield (a key word) and spits back an interim result. The next method is what fires each cycle (we have several ways of triggering it). My latest example: an engine by Ramanujan that converges to 1/π. Using Python's new Decimal type within a context of 100-digit precision, I was able to match an authoritative Published Pi to like 98 digits.

Ramanujan's Generator for 1/π
Python is a clean OO implementation and inspires clear thinking about a lot of topics, including namespaces. Our Python Nation is so fortunate to have these talented professionals (Peters, Lundh, Barry, Kuchling, Holden... Guido) attending to the emergence of our core creature over the years. The growth process is somewhat organic, in that it takes surprising turns. Who would have anticipated decorator syntax for example, back in the days of Python 1.5.2? And yet there's plenty of continuity as well, a sense of maturing, of following some plan.

OK, there's my signal. Gotta go...

Later, from Lloyd Center Food Court:

Finding a wall plug was next to impossible (long delay) -- lots of cushy chairs, but no AC. No free wireless. True, $4.00 on my Visa for 2 hours is cheap (from AT&T through Barnes & Noble -- very low signal from up here) but I feel nickle and dimed. Definitely a more money grubbing atmosphere. The American flag is huge, a tip-off that "LAWCAP was here" (a faint whiff of decaying meat). It's still a well-kept facility though, neat and clean. The ice rink has a Zamboni.

So many business class Americans still need their government to tie its own hands, lest it set a shining example of customer service, way better than what the private sector provides at a much higher cost (especially when you factor in all the externalities).

That'd be too threatening to the prevailing ideology, a simplistic "capitalism good versus socialism bad" Dick and Jane mumbo jumbo. The Romano-fascist zombie Corporations tolerate a public sector (especially a bully club military), but they don't want any real competition when it comes to brand loyalty -- unless the flag and eagle shields are really theirs alone to control.

Leave the real governance to United Fruit is the Company's message, and let the USA too be our Banana Republic ["hokey pokey" playing from mall speakers].

This wifi is close to unusable -- I'll finish this later. Time to grab $100 of my own money from the ATM. We're buying up a storm here today.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lunch Break

So I'm sitting in my conference room office, waiting for the boss to come by. She wears several hats and our schedules are sometimes hard to synchronize. Anyway, it's lunch time and the cafeterias are bustling. I went through twice: salad bar and Starbucks Iced Coffee Light (in a can), then for a Sierra Mist Free (plastic bottle: no sugar, calories or caffeine).

Given the medical ambience around here, I like to eat virtuously. At home, I'm more likely to dig into the twinkie basket or whatever.

For clothing, I'm wearing tan colored trousers, a fancy dark gray Men's Warehouse blazer (three buttons), with a light blue cross-hatch pattern on the collar shirt. I'm wearing comfortable light-colored sneakers, which is a bit off protocol, but if I call 'em deck shoes, and think how that matches my Princeton University sticker on Razz, it all fits. Very F. Scott (plus I was on a 1947 Chris Craft much of yesterday, more casually attired).

Oh, and let's not forget the tan OSCON bag (a favorite accessory, matches the shoes), I'm pretty sure the same one I took to London on Air Canada and introduced on TV -- although I used to have two, and one's gone missing, so there's a bit of a mystery here (along with what happened to Robin, Razz's predecessor, swiped from the Lloyd Center while I was watching Troy).

I was chatting about Synergetics with Tim Stockton earlier this morning on Yahoo!, hyping my website, which one of my spiders says contains 118 pages (it gave me a list). Given schools are coming back into session, I'm keen to get more focus on the A & B Modules, component building blocks of our concentric hierarchy constituents ("we" being the gnu math teachers I'm always writing about). I must add those to one of these days -- or maybe someone else wants to take it in that direction, given it's free and open source and all that.

OK, the boss is on her way over (she was managing some crisis across the way), so lunch break is just about over. More later.