Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Political Remarks

To the Wanderers, I wrote:
I think people are being awfully mean to this Palin character. John's using her to get the XX vote, said so himself, and she's trying to rise to the occasion, having been put in a somewhat impossible position by her party. She's giving it her best shot. [2851]
By "mean" I don't mean Katie's sharp questioning of Sarah and other key players, which is both welcome and professional. I'm talking about a lot of the shrill ugliness, typical of American politics.

Speaking of ugliness, I posted the following to Quaker-P, regarding the recent incident at George Fox College:
Some of the more paranoid alumni suspect the work of agent provocateurs i.e. campus outsiders trying to get some negative spin going on Quakers, hit 'em where they live.

I suspect ordinary students behind the deed, given the aforesaid history and the fact that you don't have to profess Quaker values to gain admittance to said prestigious academy.

Anyway, the FBI is working on it, will maybe find out something.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Responding to Critics

Critics of our Gnu Math agenda say it's doomed for the same reasons New Math was doomed: no way to retrain the rank and file math teachers in time, and any attempts to do so will merely breed resentment and backlash, end of story.

My reply is simple: the Internet.

Back in the 1960s, when USAers were feeling panicy and self conscious about their lack of math and science skills, a tiny elite tried to introduce a lot of contemporary "best thinking" to an initially receptive "we'll try anything" audience, but there was no Internet to press into service this time around.

Things have changed, and now we don't even consider trying to move the big textbook publishers in our direction.

Maybe that tail will wag eventually, but it's the rest of the dog we're most concerned with e.g. Web sites, Youtubes, Flash, podcasts and so forth.

Emphasis on the Internet isn't just a matter of convenience either, it's a matter of (a) reaching students where they already prefer to be reached, i.e. we work in their medium of choice (cyberspace) and (b) a lot of the mathematics we're teaching in gnu math is geared around these very technologies e.g. computer languages and tcp/ip.

Because of this different mode of implementation, there's no point waiting for some thick "door stop" of a "gnu math textbook" to come down the pipe, no point mobilizing "parents with pitchforks" to militate against such a choice or curriculum option.

We're not planning any offerings in that regard.

We're way past that point, in terms of distribution and market penetration.

Plus we appreciate multicultural diversity and recognize that many ethnicities might choose to stick with more traditional fare, don't care for our product, don't even wish to sample our wares.

I have no objections to that. Free country.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Portrait of an Artist

[ photographs on display @ Fine Grind ]

Jody Francis -- Reflective Images -- self portrait of sorts

I have always had a fascination with the reflective image in photography. It represents itself as an understated act of repetition.

Reflection: the image of somebody or something that appears in a mirror or other reflecting surface.

Act of Reflection: the process or act of reflecting something, especially light, sound, or heat.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Forum Fragment

You may have seen a classification of sequences into:

(a) convergent
(b) divergent
(c) periodic / oscillating
(d) chaotic

We start using more ... (dot dot dot) with sums of terms, investigating whether we're approaching a limit or not -- the on-ramp to calculus.

High school texts often skimp on (d) chaotic because that's a new branch since the 1800s, and as we all know, anything 1900s is quasi-verbotten in that locked down slave ship of a sad sorry discipline called K-12 math teaching -- nothing much to do with actual math.

In Gnu Math, we skip from the 1800s to around now, which is a big shock to some teachers, but a real boost and eye-opener to those students lucky enough to "get it".

[ original thread ]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Changes

:: remembering Hollywood ::

:: perfect, uncarved ::

:: new meter from PGE ::

:: orange & black candles ::

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Revising and Extending

When I talk about Sam Lanahan, I usually start with their visit to Malacañang, Mrs. Marcos wanting to get them new shoes, Bucky & Sam having just come from the midwest or somewhere, their shoes clearly inappropriate.

I hook my own bio into this telling, as I too was in the Philippines at the time, still in high school, not tracking Bucky much, though I'd heard of him from my earlier Overseas School of Rome teacher, Fred Craden.

I've been telling the story as though it was through E.J. Applewhite's son, a contemporary of Sam's at the same high school, that Sam got his gig with Bucky, but last night at our meeting Sam clarified: it was more through his mom's relationship with that family (the Applewhites) that he owed his initial introductions as a potential side kick.

Ed spent a couple boyhood years in Tahiti by the way per this bio blurb in Chemical Intelligencer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wanderers 2008.9.16

:: retro 4D futurism ::
Dr. David DiNucci is giving a talk on parallel computing, which I'll attempt to summarize below.

What I'm thinking about this evening is how tame and lame is the futurism of our day, as expressed by wannabe world leaders. At least the shared dream of freeways with cloverleaf interchanges was bold and well defined, much as people diss it today, want more rail back in the picture.

Today's investors tend to watch helplessly as various 20th century lifestyles prove unsustainable, too expensive. So where're all the new 4D solutions? Not much is offered in the Bucky Works tradition, i.e. North Americans are still turning their backs on their own best heritage.

I was glad to see the RNC moving a baby step from hyping the hydrogen car, a time-buying agenda, to the electric car, with Ford pushing a prototype for 2010. The DNC has much the same rap.

But motorvehicles alone don't constitute a vision of the future. What's missing is imaginative, positive near futurism, the bread and butter of investment banking.

Excerpting from the Wanderers e-list (something I wrote earlier today):
"Capitalism" connotes dirty coal fired Britain in the Charles Dickens era, rich people scrooges, unwashed masses with no health care. Not a bright happy picture. As such, we're keen to stamp it out, let's just do it.

However, back to nomenclature, is a farming community that does everything sensible to keep the scene sustainable, from crop rotation to genetic breeding to best practices and yada yada precluded from calling itself "capitalist" as in using its head? I don't think so.

My problem with Economics is it's all below the surface, is filthy with connotations but with precious few denotations. It's been taken over by advertising, a branch of psychology (psychometrics, like Patrick does). As a discipline, it deserves competition. Enter general systems theory or GST.
David's talk is cleverly animated in Flash and not too technical, uses lengthy extended analogies involving pebbles in a bucket, making waffles. He's teaching about the problem of deadlock, an old problem in parallelism (everyone waiting for everyone else to go first, would be an example).

A lot of these problems are addressed by SQL engines seeking ACID compliance, a model for parallelism Microsoft esearchers might be considering within its Haskell based subculture.

We have an attentive, participatory audience.

Good seeing Aldona, of Lithuanian heritage, and Steve Bergman, sitting to my left. We have a new person as well, with a degree in international business.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Songs in the Studio

:: photo by captain wardwell ::
Clear Creek Distillery shares space with this art studio, where we gathered tonight to hear Lucinda Parker, the vocalist, accompanied by Jon Bunce on guitar.

They performed Four Favorite Sonnets by Jon Bunce, including Ozymandius by Shelly (1792 - 1822) and Euclid Alone Has Looked by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950). Lucinda also sang some tunes collected by Mátyás Seiber, an Hungarian Jew who fled to London just in time, was much later killed in a car crash in South Africa, like my dad.

Ay Me She Frowns by Francis Pilkington (1565 - 1638) was the opening number, a song to sing to your girlfriend when you've pissed her off, was the story there.

Lucinda's husband Steve runs the distillery, known for its brandies made from fruits from Mt. Hood. I'm reminded of the pear brandy of Bumthang Valley (Druk Yul) not surprisingly given the Swiss heritage behind both.

Hot Lips pizza and primo wines were enjoyed by all.

Jon remarked how the staff at the Apple Store, where he just bought a new Mac, wore color coded uniforms reminiscent of Star Trek's, in denoting techie, officer, or communications. He asked about it, but the staffer didn't know about TV that old.

I was reminded of that juror who wore a Star Trek outfit to court, using her brief moment of fame to make a statement.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Friendly Wedding

:: kathy, stacy, betsey (photo by eliz) ::
Our tribe gathered in North Plains this afternoon, with family and friends from across the nation, to affirm the marriage of Kathy Hyzy and Stacy Woodbrook according to the good order of Friends, with Multnomah Meeting's clerk Betsey Kenworthy officiating.

Tara and I both signed the certificate, along with myriad others, after a period of expectant worship, during which people offered their love and encouragement to the happy couple. I helped out with the pirate pinata, fun for the kids, and consumed some of Stacy's fine homemade beer. We brought way too much of our lentil dish, given the abundance of good food, had fun making it though.

Of course there was some small talk among Friends during the reception afterward, of the various political dimensions of marriage, affairs of estate and so forth, an always shifting picture. Bonnie Tinker and I compared notes on the doings of other tribes, the Coquille in particular, with Elizabeth Braithwaite attending.

Probably many felt as I did, glad of our simpler ways and plain dealings. I felt complemented when this out of towner and friend of Stacy's told me I looked just like he expected a Quaker should look (even minus my black hat I was thinking, plus I couldn't find my camera, look forward to getting some pictures).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

PPUG 2008.9.9

Jeff is explaining about pdxferment, literally about making yogurt, beer, other fermentables. Dark Horse Comics is here, recruiting a Python coder, as is Patrick (a Wanderer), Jason having moved on to full time work (right Jason?). We're about twentyfive strong this evening.

Brett Carter of Kavi (and a former astronomy student of Dick Pugh's at Cleveland) is talking about Python eggs, which are similar to Java jars. There was no eggified Zope 2.x MySQL adapter, which scared him. Summoning his courage, he tackled egg-making. Brett: "setuptools is just a giant monkey patch on top of disutils, adding on eggs, some other stuff." Getting your egg to include non-Python files takes some tweaking, then host your package at PiPy when you're done maybe.

Mark Frischmuth is here telling us about DemocracyLab, a think tank for building "democracy engines," a first one evolving as a Python application. He pointed us to the data model and source code threads on Clearspace. Coincidentally, I'm wearing a DemocrayLab T-shirt, but I don't say anything about my role.

Leo Soto is our visiting speaker, in the USA with Google's Summer of Code, also a Jython developer. He's here at Cubespace to share about his work around running Django on Jython.

What are the advantages? No global interpreter lock (GIL) for one thing. The Java ecosystem is rich, will read Excel files natively for example, through Apache POI support of OLE. You've got scalability with Hadoop, Hbase, JRuby... it's a lot like .NET, in terms of being packed with goodies.

In retrospect, J2EE was a big, horrible mistake (picture of Titanic). Sorry to hear that.

OK, so there's a new Web ARchive format (war). Unpacking a Django war looks something like jython manage.py war --include-java-libs = XXX.jar. War files are a kind of jar, so sort of like eggs you may have realized. There's no native MySQL or SQLServer adapter for Django on Jython, but then there's zxJDBC.

Leo showed us some back end code for talking to Postgres, importing from the original django.db.backends, but also from zxJDBC for more Java specific operations. There's only an experimental SQLite back end, per a question from the audience (not from me).

So Leo was able to get Django working on Tomcat, showed us a demo.

We can expect a finalized Jython 2.5 towards the end of the year.

I joined the more informal conversations afterward, at Green Dragon, a new brewery on 9th and Belmont, incorporating that old Q-hut that use to sell recycled computer junk. I like Jason's idea of organizing a Python 3.0 release party.

Monday, September 08, 2008


I've been reflecting back on what we learned at Kiwanis Camp, saw with our own eyes, in terms of snow damage. Quakers should offer to step up to the plate and do some hard labor on behalf of this camp, if there's a real opportunity. That could be run as a fifth interest group, or sixth if we count the challenge course, which didn't seem damaged.

I like Teri's point that we have a lot of control over the stories we tell, the very same facts (not counting disputed ones) amenable to multiple interpretations, many of which "come true" only in retrospect, and so "after the fact" is actually a good time to refocus. I've learned similar lessons from some of my savviest business partners.

I still think back to OSCON and that high powered meeting on the future of databases. I complained that few open source projects seemed targeted at the gap filled by Microsoft Access, making SQL generation a drag and drop experience. Some in the older generation have a different spin: SQL itself was to "meet you half way" i.e. all further use of training wheels in the corporate sector is just pandering, not counting web services.

I think what mystifies a lot of students is why they work so hard, some of them, and have to pay for the privilege, whereas so many desk jobs involve little more than zapping memos to and fro, shooting the breeze as it were, and getting paid for it. They're right to be mystified.

:: debut September 16 ::

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Python Briefing

My Python Briefing concept has a lot of market potential, but lest I bite off more than I can chew, I'm being pretty open about the business model.

My target demographic is math teachers, but Glenn is thinking no reason to be so restrictive, and yes, if we have a stable of presenters, we'll be able to serve more groups than just the one.

I'm mostly not recruiting computer science professors with a reason: my goal is to inspire imitators, and at the high school level a lot of the computer teachers have come up through the ranks, might've been gym teachers, don't necessarily have a college level degree in that field. "No problem" I'm saying, "we'll take you where you want to go anyway" (shades of Microsoft's advertising).

Given my focus, I've got all these GnuMath memes in play, like I'm wanting to have geometry tables in SQLite (a light weight and free SQL engine) pulling rows from within Python's scaffolding and projecting colorful polyhedra on screen, aiming to be up front with the eye candy (this is a dog and pony show after all).

If teachers like the performance, think we might be sympatico, then I'm happy to offer more follow-up experiences from our catalog, including customized trainings, retreat weekends etc. The briefing itself is short, to the point, and pretty much free (except I'm not offering to eat a lot of travel & fuel costs either, would still need my sponsors at least).

Speaking of sponsors, we might get more of those for the bizmos, as we keep moving in that direction per my long term plans. The question of "what decals?" is an old one by now, as is the topic of product placement more generally.

As a Fuller Schooler, it's a lot about artifacts, and of course we want to show these in action, so it makes sense we'd be thinking "what brands?" right from the get go. Like, who's into "extreme remote livingy" (XRL) technology already? That's one place to start. We want our students to see the stars, without too much light pollution getting in the way.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008