Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wanderers 2007.10.30

This was the most well attended presentation in recent memory, with listeners overflowing into the alcove and foyer.

Dr George Weissmann discussed his views on quantum theory. His focus: the discontinuity of dharmas (his phrase), the discrete nature of experience, a sequence of distinctions, discriminative moments, events, vertexes, observations.

Particles have properties, including that of being particulate, only when measured (detected, tuned in, reified in special case). In pure principle, these "particles" are more "tendencies" (probabilities, likelihoods, proclivities, incipient views).

I was reminded of passages in Bucky's Synergetics (e.g. 1072.30), also in Franklin Merrill-Wolf's Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object.

Quantum theory is weird, very entangled with philosophical and psychological namespaces.

Dr. Weissmann is Julian's father in law.

The Princess Bride (movie review)

This light hearted tale, in the same genre as Stardust and Shrek, features Andre the Giant, my main motivation for ordering it from Netflix.

The focus is storytelling, not big budget special effects.

The plot is framed as a bed time story, with actor Peter Falk (one of my all time favorites: Wings of Desire... Columbo) reading to his grandson.

Now I need to get this returned, as mom wants to see Who Killed the Electric Car? before she departs for California.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Circus Bus

shared with permission from Cirkus Pandemonium

photos by K. Urner

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima (movie review)

This film is more of an intimate stage play than Flags of Our Fathers, its companion film, although both are psychologically focussed on loyalty, courage, dread and betrayal.

The island serves perfectly as a stage, as all concerned appreciate its ironic and surreal movie set quality. The battle to extract meaning from all this carnage, though invisible, is certainly intense.

Some of the most horrific vignettes, cast as flashbacks, take place in civilian Japan.

The peer pressure on women to sacrifice their love lives and families, because other women have, is exquisitely framed in that scene where the local draft board comes to the front door, serving notice to our foot soldier protagonist -- who never learns to shoot, but admires high command.

The arrogant cruelty (deep immaturity) of an elite special force, and one man's wish to stay human, and consequent expulsion to Iwo Jima as punishment, also makes a lasting impression, and in my library connects to Ralph McGehee's Deadly Deceits, another story of redemption.

The flashback to California is likewise poignant, as we lurk in on a dinner conversation between our Japanese commander and some admiring socialites. The real possibility of war is intimately contemplated, thanks to some party chick who really cuts to the chase.

The symbolism here is the pearl handled Colt pistol, a gift from the Americans to our Japanese general, and a sign that both sides are in some deeper sense the same side (fellow humans), someday destined to become friends.

Of course in retrospect, we all wish we could have skipped to the happy ending, avoiding the nuclear holocaust still to come.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Amusing Women

from the blogosphere

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Something to remember is your phone company may not have the time to alert you about better deals or upgrades.

As an early adopter of DSL, I got what by today's standards is a slow connection, then noticed my latecomer neighbors were surfing along at higher speeds.

Should I have been coddled?

We can argue the ethics of leaving me in the dark until the sun goes down.

Anyway, safe to say, once my suspicions were aroused I quickly phoned Qwest to find out what was what and, sure enough, I could be enjoying twice the speed for a little less per month -- a no-brainer once I'd learned of my option (this was quite awhile ago by now).

Many North Americans share this value: a commitment to individual initiative: don't just sit back and expect some big sis phone company to take care of you. Do your homework, take action. Maybe that's no one else's job but your own?

Want an electronic bill instead of paper but don't know how to use the web? Too bad then. Guess your schools let you down (not our problem).

"Land of the free, home of the brave and all that, what?" (some Monty Python type voice).

Speaking of upgrades, I was overdue for a new cell phone, one with a decent keyboard so I can keep up with Tara's verbose text messages. Mouse clicked for it yesterday, FedEx delivered it today. Mom lost her old one in Seattle so will inherit the Motorola (donating working cell phones to a women's shelter is another good idea).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Letter to Terry (Wanderers Business)

Republished from the wwwanderers archives -- same date as today...

For the record, my main problem with doing a lot of global warming in this archive is it's also happening on so many other lists and I'm always focusing on branding. We might lose our identity if we get lost in local (North American) politics. Morons R Us in that case.

To Terry's credit, he links it in to a big world view type discussion, lots of Kuhn, lots of Carnot. But I don't see those names and/or readings sparking many citations to the literature. A lot of us here are not as scholarly as Terry.

I am though, coming from a way cool school (not like Cal Tech, but still proud), and from philosophy in particular. I like meeting Terry where he's at, as best as I'm able. But doing so at the cost of talking global warming is risky, for the reasons cited above.

Terry, might we shift your entire set of concerns to a different arena? Artificial Intelligence (AI) versus the Roger Penrose model of ratiocination? I know we're both Neo-Platonists of some variety.

In any case, I personally plan to ride out the upcoming electoral storms on a more esoteric plane than global warming, pro or con. I only listen to Dutch engineers on the subject of global warming (no one else has as much standing in my global model).

Whoopi Goldberg for president!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Across the Universe (movie review)

This tableau of clich├ęs, an homage to Jahiliyyah (vacuous liberalism), had me squirming pretty bad, fumbling for that cell phone thinking to play Luxor.

Like, if we're taking histories, give me Kinsey any day.

The King Kong in me wanted to grab a small plane and jab it into my forehead.

That being said, there were funny parts. I liked the American Pop guy at the bottom of the escalator, and the out of control sufi priest in the hospital.

The blue heads were funny, kinda like blue meanies on a diet.

The military geeks were clearly a different species, more like those chocolate factory dwarfs Johnny Depp hangs out with, only bigger.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pet Stories

:: tara with moon kitty ::
Sarah gets a fair amount of airplay in my blogs, for a dog anyway, what with her being an honorary Wanderer 'n all, like Shomar (and Keiko). Moon Kitty is much lower profile. Plus the fish stay in soft focus. Naga is getting bigger, enjoying her calm world (some kind of punctuated equilibrium).

Moon Kitty is a jet black feline, very much an indoor cat. She'd get in trouble when we let her stray. Some cats just don't handle themselves well, in the wilds of Richmond / Sunnyside.

Alexia had Moon Kitty, along with BunBun, the vicious rabbit, before leaving for sunnier climes. Now she has one of those mutant sphinxoid cuties with auto-immune disorders. They're more circus geek kitties, not mainstream, but Alexia is experienced with cats in general, so has developed a good working relationship with her sphynx.

What triggers all this? I was just cleaning the cat box, a product of American pragmatism. An electric poop scraper periodically (at random?) sweeps the base clean. Moon Kitty just has to jump out of the way in case of a scheduling conflict. Works pretty well, provided one occasionally resupplies plastic waste receptacles.

:: alexia with bunbun ::

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

PPUG @ CubeSpace

Sitting right at the same table, Matt McCredie emailed these three cool Python modules from his hard drive to mine: ap.py (classic screen saver), die.py (mouse rolls and drags 'em) and rot.py (rotating squares), all showcasing Python's ability to talk to Tk.

I'll be sure to mention on 'em on edu-sig, Dr. Zelle's hangout. He's a Python/Tk graphics guru of sorts, author of a top selling teaching book, other resources (like graphics.py -- easier than Tkinter).

Jeff Schwaber ran the meeting, per his experimental formatting suggestions, then flogged us through his brainchild, pretty effectively I'd say (more background in the archives). He told us our table should read and write code and discuss the Standard Library, which we dutifully did (e.g. we looked at Matt's shlex-based RPN calculator).

I stayed in the back, close to a power outlet, running Ubuntu on Dell, blogging in real time.

Jeff: "eXtreme Programming (XP) is an agile methodology..."

Our Beginners group was ironically probably the most advanced. Tom, new in Portland from Pittsburgh by way of Tuscon, is focusing on making GUIs more accessible, e.g. to vision impaired Python coders.

Accessibility remains a gaping hole in many open source projects (maybe Wayne could branch out in this area?). Microsoft has been pioneering in this regard, setting a bar for others to reach and perhaps eventually surpass (but how long will it take?).

Dwight had some good PyQt-based eye candy to share, competing with Tk's for attention.

Although we talked wxPython, none of us showcased it directly.

I was glad to see Tim Bauman in attendance at another table (he's no beginner, but then neither am I).

Other tables: ReportLab, Web Frameworks, Mercurial.

Jason talked about O'Reilly needing reviewers, and about a sample book he'd left at home (title again?).

CubeSpace was hopping tonight. Lots of meetings in parallel.

This business model is definitely a success. Alexia was thinking it'd fly in Clarksville and/or Nashville. The concept could be franchised and/or rebranded.

Maybe I'll ask at the front desk if they get inquiries from other cities (like Gresham, Lake Oswego?). No time for carousing tonight. Lots on my plate back at the office.

Relevant follow-up on edu-sig: Curriculum Fine Tuning (Fri Oct 12 21:13:57 CEST 2007)


Monday, October 08, 2007

Head Hunters

This somewhat gruesome metaphor, by Hollywood applied to stereotypical brands of savage, also applies to "executive dating services" seeking to capitalize (get paid) by matching best of breed candidates with customized dream teams.

Many high caliber performers languish for never having their heads sufficiently hunted and examined, like this women's clothing store manager, who loves writing C# for .NET way more than he cares about upcoming Fall fashions -- not a good match.

He could move the whole family to India to become a retail app coder, with better living standards, better schooling, for all concerned. But New Jersey seems safer, and besides, without an intermediary to see the possibilities, how is he even to guess at these missed opportunities?

Head hunters are increasingly turning to social networking software, other cyberspace-based technologies, to fine tune their matchmaking. Orkut, LinkedIn, MySpace and so on are a good place to start.

Like dating services, head hunters thrive on repeat business, meaning building a loyal base of satisfied customers is critical. Knowing your niche demographic is likewise vital therefore. Make too many mismatches, and your competition will grab all your business!

Perhaps there's only one person in the whole world most qualified for a specific opening, some barber in Seville. Which head hunter will find him first? It's a game, and a fun one, if you like this sort of thing. I'll risk saying women play it better than men (yes a stereotype), but without claiming their edge is genetic, although it may well be.

My own 4D Solutions is not primarily a head hunting service, but I recognize the value of making good matches, helping people become happy campers in jobs they adore.

So in the course of my generic business day, at the office or on the road, I may well make a referral or two.

And like everyone else here, I'm on a learning curve of sorts, with much further to go in my training. Maybe my "could be a heart surgeon" seems more like a "circus clown" to some of my hospital friends (not that these categories are mutually exclusive of course).

I don't always "make plenty of sense" -- just sometimes.


Thinking more about Terry's project, along with our Wanderers reading Into the Cool, I'm reminded that we're free to create centers of syntropy on planet Earth, given it's an open, sun-powered system.

Not every center is going to hell, at least not all at the same time. We had this same philosophy at Centers Network, come to think of it, wherein a maverick Area Center might turn around and head off in some seemingly entropic direction -- which in higher risk, experimental or prototyping situations, may in retrospect prove a smartly competitive move.

In a human centers environment (HCE) modeled as lots of personal workspaces (PWSs) -- perhaps as a cube space using shared back office server farms -- we tend to focus on "the team" as a management unit.

The size of teams varies, depending on the challenge, the rules, the walk of life (just like in sports).

We introduce Wittgenstein here, especially his "language games" invention (relates to namespaces).

We also look at emerging disciplines like XP (eXtreme Programming), and what they teach us about optimizing the syntropic maturation processes whereby new goods and services become real and ready for prime time.

Plus in some careers / scenarios, lots of solo work is both required and expected. Bucky Fuller's "Guinea Pig B" experiments were sometimes of this variety, plus were meticulously documented to help him learn by trial and error.

General Systems Theory (GST) provides lots of drag and drop palettes to help you get some overview vis-a-vis whatever vista. The palette styles you choose will tend to reflect your own ethnicity and that's perfectly OK, is a practice we tend to encourage in fact, especially when consulting about branding.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Teacher Trix

So I went to this 2.5 hour training session last night at PSU, for both current and wannabe Saturday Academy instructors.

Our trainers were mostly from the public sector and wanted to coach us regarding various pedagogical ploys they'd mastered, perhaps invented, perhaps adapted from some other educator / guru.

One lady had a "talking chair" where kids got to sit if they broke the silence with uncalled for chatter, got the idea from somewhere. Another teacher had an invariably affirmative response even for completely bogus answers, a feature some rascals might enjoy exploiting in darkly comical ways.

It seemed to me that many of these teachers still harbored that myth of an "undivided attention" i.e. had what Fuller branded a "never mind what you think, we're trying to teach you" attitude.

In contrast, we geeks relish the freedom to multi-task, and I tell my students to go ahead and divide their attention in ways they feel optimizes their productivity, maximizes the value they get from my class.

If that means checking email while the presenter is talking, no problem. Adult geeks do that all the time, and it's not considered disrespectful. Quoting from an earlier blog post:
Highly technical talks may be sampled on many levels. I appreciate the freedom to not give my undivided attention to the C# code being discussed on the big screen right now, even though it's really cool.
On the other hand, the presentation may be riveting and/or have cost you time/energy to attend, whereas you can check your email from just about any mom & pop coffee shop in this our fair town.

So my advice is: don't squander the opportunity.

Also, the freedom to multi-task doesn't mean you don't also have the freedom to concentrate your entire being on a single point (belly button?) if you want to and/or still have that childhood ability (some lose it early, with some using medications to address their deficit).

It's just that we don't expect our students to have to always wear that "look and act attentive while thinking of something else" mask, as if completely ignoring their own thought process, denying they even have one.

That's an unwanted holdover behavior from Old Europe or something, detracts from developing one's true potentials (which was maybe the point?).

Shades of Pink Floyd.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wanderers 2007.10.2

Barbara Stross shared about her life on an island in Panama, with pictures.

She has a beautiful setup, though security is a problem (she gets burglarized when she's gone).

She has an ATV for getting to and from town.

The cisterns fill in like half an hour during the heavy rain storms.

The sunsets are beautiful, complete with lightning. The community is cosmopolitan.

Howler monkeys. Bats. Colorful spiders.

Unfortunately, Barbara's ecosystem is coming under severe strain thanks to unscrupulous developers and consumerist suburbanites expecting "all the amenities" and then some (blech).

Barbara was a school teacher in Portland for many years, at Cleveland (a contemporary of Dick Pugh) and at Metropolitan Learning Center.

Lew Frederick operated Don's PowerBook. Eve Menger joined us as well, and Brian Sharp. Derek. Barry. About thirteen of us in all.