Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wanderers 2009.3.31

I'm re-acclimating to Portland, getting a briefing on how to make a professional studio recording. Stuart Gaston has been publishing music in playable formats semi-professionally for the last 15 years.

President Obama is in London for a meeting of the G20, looking at IMF, meetings with MVPs, amidst a backdrop of official corruption. CSO and I were looking for alternatives to "corrupt", applicable in some namespaces, and came up with "shifty". The meaning here is "on the fence" leaning one way, then the other (prone to shift, conflicted).

True believers on both sides may have little patience with fence sitters, but during a societal "phase change" you'll have lots of personnel holding "transitional" positions. Ambivalence has its chemical correlates.

The opium crop in Afghanistan, drug wars around the world, are likewise a focus. A recent public forum with the prez raised this issue to top priority while I was busy at the Hyatt, so I missed a lot of that thread.

Gaston is talking about MIDI.

I've installed Django at my 4D Solutions site with the intent to serve existing content without much perceived change from the outside world. Eating my own dogfood is the name of my game today.

Gordon seems to be coming out of the fog. Let's see if fogs of war lift elsewhere as well. Clear global data means not prancing around the core issues, purposely getting lost in irrelevancies. Digging out of an economic slump means setting some goals.

A goal over here: harnessing FOSS around some proprietary contributions to get The Hunger Project back on track, even if not by that name. Coordinated action adds value. President Johnson's "war on poverty" had some of the right vibes. What are we trying to do? Politicians are casting about for the right rhetoric, looking for a credible mix of realism and positive futurism.

The huge number of vacancies within the activist NGOs suggests the need for a selective service or match-making system.

Having the NGO-supporting games in our Coffee Shops Network be somewhat topical will also help with recruiting i.e. heroic players of our "doctors without borders" games might enroll in the requisite trainings as a consequence of all this guided visioning.

Early opportunities to practice philanthropy may counter a tendency towards misanthropy in later life, is an implicit theory here. Atomizing the philanthropic experience in terms of playable "language games" means you need not amass a lot of capital before you start thinking unselfishly about world needs and problems. A corollary hypothesis: this kind of thinking improves collective IQ.

I'm making obvious analogies to existing military recruiting, which uses similar multi-user games to inspire fantasies leading to enlistment. Just as obviously, I'm looking to give civilian services a similar boost.

The fact that we're recruiting for civilian services doesn't mean our games can't be surreal and twisted in various ways. My style of AVP is potentially disturbing and thought provoking, as are the tantric Wheel of Life images (thinking of Bhutanese art).

Stuart is talking about copyrighting and distribution. CD Baby is helpful. Print your artwork at 300 dpi, anything else looks ugly.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Patterns in Python

This talk, by John Gregorio, our Google App Engine trainer, is about the lack of design patterns in Python. His first thesis is native features take care of a lot of them. If you have top-level functions, metaprogramming, iterators, closures, which we do ("sort of" closures), then you've covered a lot of them.

When it comes to concurrency, we still need some patterns. Does this mean adding new features. How about using channels instead of threads. Rob Pike's Google Talk is great on this. Let's look at pycsp.

Conclusion: if you're implementing a pattern, look for existing language features. If the pattern is missing, that's a place to think about new language features. Concurrency is a rich area of pattern design.

I'll go ahead and add about class decorators here too, a language feature that takes care of patterns.

Python 2.6 marks the start of when class decorators became possible. They're pretty much the same as function decorators. You can use them in place of metaclasses a lot of the time.

You'll keep the additional functionality outside the class definition, plus the code is way more readable and writable. The fact that you can stack them means you don't need metaclass inheritance, something Alex Martelli understands, but who else?

Patterns like Register, Augment, Fixup, Verify may be implemented with class decorators. Good talk, by Jack Diederich, the author of the class decorator PEP. Best practice: return the original class and don't assume you're the only decorator. You may still want a metaclass. Don't add __slots__ when decorating.

The ORM for web2py is pretty sophisticated, as is web2py in general -- the lightning talk was impressive. Here's a FOSS product that started in academia, with clear teaching a goal, and migrated outward as a maintainable project, or so it appears as of this writing. The project has lots of commiters, is not a private king in a private castle solo coder kind of thing (the hallmark of a "no future" project).

Guido is discussing Google App Engine's non-relational database, built atop Google's infrastructure. When you take the R out of RDBMS, what do you get? It's an object store, yes, but there's still a kind of SQL (a limited, minimal subset thereof).

Speaking of ORMs, Dejavu aims to stay more Pythonic, is less deferential to the SQL end of things. Like the other ORMs, it lets you define your database in Model classes, run queries and so on. It goes with GeniuSQL somehow (how? -- I came late).

Non-relational databases are hot these days. The SQLAlchemy and related camps are wisely choosing not to tackle those backends. Django is very focused on SQL engines, but given its pragmatic focus, it'll likely back end into CouchDB etc. pretty easily -- some experiments already under way.

Speaking of non-relational databases: good meeting up with Alan Runyan again, the Houston-based principal behind Plone. I joined his team at a sprint in Vancouver, BC that time, as a noob (newbie).

I had lunch with Jeff Rush and his wife Mary, the Pycon registrar. We had an encouraging discussion about Python's outreach to teachers. Jeff is on the PSF Board of Directors, is a former Pycon chairman (after Steve Holden). I'm a voting member of the PSF (not the executive board), as of yesterday. Other lunch chatter: Phillips Exeter is teaching Python these days (thanks Warren).

Google App Engine, which already looks like Django a lot, is motivating the SQL community to bridge to "non-relational" backends. Web2py, for example, talks to both back ends. It's easier to map relational applications to non-relational although what's the point sometimes. The panel is struggling with a lot of good questions.

This is my bread and butter in a lot of ways (databases), so I'm pretty interested in this discussion. Google's BigTable, Amazon's Dynamo, Tokyo Cabinet, CouchDB, HBase, MongoDB, Cassandra, Redis... there's no "killer" in this scene yet, according to our speaker Bob Ippolito of Mochi.

These schemaless key-value document data stores (memcached another one, no persistence) are a lot like Python dictionaries. Bob is explaining how distributed network datastores have a hard time supporting strict ACID when speed is a goal. BASE is a weaker standard, is "what everyone is doing" in the cloud these days.

The Pycon 2009 website is running on web2py atop PostreSQL this year.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Birds of a Feather

Educators BOF
About sixteen of us have gathered in an open space at the Hyatt to further brainstorm about how to further our cause (world domination aka saving the world).

Andrew's reservation at Maria's fell through the cracks somehow, so Ian and I sacrificed ourselves when they could only accommodate eight of the ten of us.

We had a fine dinner together, making more connections in our respective networks. Ian connects via Kristen Nygaard to Fernando Flores, in turn connected to Terry Winograd, across the hall from Jim Milgram at Stanford.

I was tracking Flores (a former finance minister for Chili) when he and Werner Erhard were looking at forming Hermenet, a computer company. This was back in my Jersey City days (early 1980s).

Ian has also been working with the Bob Moses aka Bob Parris.

Dr. Chuck is here. I earlier asked if he was using Dr. Phil as a role model. No, Dr. Ruth. Hah, good choice. I was one of the technical reviewers of his Google App Engine book (O'Reilly), aimed at a high school level audience.

He shared that O'Reilly may be teaming up with Google to start working more directly with the high school teacher set. I'm wondering if I might get involved in that effort, given my background as a high school math teacher etc.

We're discussing the definition of "textbook", what does that mean? Culturally, this has been defined by academia and the publishing industry. There's also the "tradebook", and a lot of the good writing in mathematics, for example, is under that heading.

Maybe high schools, unlike colleges, don't have the mentality of assigning multiple readings, sometimes just excerpts (the so-called "syllabus"). They could though: a teacher might assemble resources using the Internet, supply URLs, plus assign library readings.

English classes are more like this: you read a sequence of novels and short stories over the course of a semester (even in high school). Math teaching needs to move away from "one textbook per course" to.

Andre is reminding us how comforting a textbook is. You get to this level of learning, have this comfort zone, and having someone hand you a textbook, most of which you probably won't get to in the course of a year, is highly comforting.

The textbook is certified, authoritative, won't be questioned (in theory). Of course given today's levels of literacy, there's more contention about textbooks (e.g. "parents with pitchforks").

True though (Anna Ravenscroft talking): teachers on the front lines need resources, don't have the time or energy to roll their own from scratch at every turn.

Like on Sesame Street, you want a vast repository of usable stuff, to which you, the teacher, add new stuff. The Internet is that vast repository, in a first approximation, although not everyone has good access to that. A good library (of physical books) would be an earlier approximation.

Dr. Chuck uses "domino" as a verb. Python is starting "to domino" at the University of Michigan (and more generally, others chime in). "Win the small battles, create islands of success" is his advice. Don't just throw stones at "the establishment" and think that'll work.

I'm thinking we are "the establishment" and an island of success, in some networks anyway.

In the hallway today, a guy who couldn't be here felt it was important that I check out this science fiction novel from the 1980s with embedded BASIC as a part of the narrative. Cryptonomicon also contains some Perl as I recall.

A mix of science fiction (fantasy) and exercises (challenges), more like in textbooks, might be the mix we're aiming for. More like a video game: getting to the next level means solving these puzzles first.

Caleb Gattegno's thinking is consistent with the above, as Ian was explaining to me again. He had these "twin towers" or "rooms" or "levels", where you would advance to "the next level" (escape a given room) based on a demonstrated level of mastery (of various algebra skills) therein.

Sure, it's fine to share all this with the students, show them the diagram, give them some overview (it's not a secret).

Business: Andre Roberge stepping forward to manage the edu-sig page (which I put together quite awhile ago, back with python.org was still in cvs, since moved to svn, and now considering hg or bzr (yes I'm being cryptic -- talking version control systems). The page is stale at the moment.

Jeff Elkner is eloquently encouraging us to make better use of this strategic home page.

We're all liking Scratch for elementary school kids. Dr. Chuck hadn't seen it, has downloaded it and is testing it as we talk. He's finding it charming, even magnificent.

We've come a long way in just the last year, seemed to be the consensus, although Ian worried we might not be moving fast enough.

Urner-Holden Workshop Etc.

Python for Teachers:
Part 1 of 2
Part 2 of 2

I was blessed with some deep thinking attenders, had a great A/V team (volunteers with yellow shirts, Pycon branding). Having field tested this talk a number of times, I have to say I was both prepared and not prepared.

I was prepared in the sense of having just about three hours of material, which I got through smoothly and coherently. My demos worked, including with sound. The night before, I added the bell curve from Walking with Nobby to stickworks.py as a test, along with its first and second derivatives.

:: bell curve in stickworks ::
( click for larger view )

Steve and I had not met or pre-rehearsed the co-production, so he mainly gave me a sense of quiet confidence, plus he blessed what I'd said at the end, which made it all seem very official (he's chairman of the PSF, also the father of Pycon itself).

He felt free to leave the room on occasion, handle business by cell. Ian showed the video clip about public key cryptography just ahead of my walk through my little RSA module (the same one I shared with Wanderers).

The free-wheeling real time discussions from then onward have been most welcome & rewarding. Comparing notes from all around the world, having Python in common, is a rare and interesting experience. I'm an elder statesman around here, a recognized MVP.

During drinks afterward, I was happy to see our Portland team from Cubespace / PPUG milling about, heading for sushi. Michelle is back from Nashville I note (good talking). Fond greetings to Jason, Adam, Michel, Bret.

That being said, there's a technical core development community based around the system languages which I'm not much a part of. That's more for the hard core engineers like Allison Randal (Parrot VM), and the Swallow team, the PyPy team (e.g. Laura). However, at dinner, I was able to get some updates on these invitation-only summit meetings, which keeps me in touch with our snake's beating heart. How Python is Developed by Brett Cannon, will be informative. I'm reviewing Andre's talk on edu-sig.

Sorry to hear about Bruce Eckel's broken leg -- he was to talk more on metaclasses, one of our subculture's esoteric topics. The African and South American community organizer guy missed his plane or was otherwise delayed, so that talk will be Sunday (I'll probably be diving downtown to take in the museum exhibit, enjoyed the Africa updates at OSCON). I've enjoyed talking to Luciano Ramalho, the Brazil's user group chief, especially about Unicode issues.

As a nominee to the PSF, I need to be at the LAX room for lunch. I'll be an observer, not voting on anything.

OK, we're on to lightning talks.

PSF meeting: let's protect the logo.

VMs meeting (packed room): panel discussion with delegates from PyPy, Jython, IronPython, CPython and Unladen Swallow (a branch of CPython). Our host, Django guy Jacob, actually came to Python by way of Jython (running Django on the JVM is a goal). Google is branching CPython because it wants to accelerate services such as YouTube, a huge volume of Python code, a lot of it tied to a SWIG-based C++ library. Speed may not be the top goal of all of these projects.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Holden Workshop

I've positioned myself discreetly, next to an exit, in case Ian wants to confer in the hallway or something. I see cygwin on the screen, which already scares me, so maybe I'll just want to bolt? Steve is a role model for me, a pro at the top of his game. I'm looking forward to working with him, next session.

This is Python 401: Some Advanced Topics. We're waiting for A/V, which seems more professional this year. Last year's video sucked, hence dreams of importing a chief of operations this time.

Ian just walked in, regrets his hearing aid isn't also a recording device. I might be overdoing it with the "NATO" professor look. I think this sweater vest shrunk in the wash (heaven forbid I'd be bigger).

Wow, data driven precision using * -- hadn't tuned in that feature. He's milking this thing for every feature, reminding us of our heritage (as Pythoneers). I hope these slides are online. Ah, the "dunder dict of an instance may successfully be used as a mapping". Excellent. "Dunder" is for "under under" i.e. "double under".

Python 3 keeps most of this stuff as I recall, let me check:
Python 3.0.1 (r301:69556, Mar 14 2009, 14:06:26)
[GCC 4.2.4 (Ubuntu 4.2.4-1ubuntu3)] on linux2
Type "copyright", "credits" or "license()" for more information.

>>> for (i,j) in ((8,2), (10,5), (0,0)):
print("%*.*f" % (i, j, 3.14159))

Ian and I are whispering about the mathematical model for mapping (the formal idea of a function -- more injection than interpolation is what Ian is thinking). I'll mention string.Template in my Python for Teachers.

Python uses the iteration protocol although it honors the older __getitem__ mechanism if the new protocol isn't followed. Good historical perspective here, why it helps to be old. Strings are still not iterables. Iterables vs iterators. WTF?

dir(somelist) dumps dunder iter (__iter__), which is supposed to return an iterator (a list iterator). The returned iterator has a __next__ method, which we might call to yeild successive values in the iterator. Subtle point about how iterators aren't independent, whereas to iterate over an iterable is to return an independent iterator (containing __next__). Got that? You'll hear my voice on the tape around here (presuming you can get one). Iterators are basically generators. iter(iterator) returns itself whereas iter(iterable) returns an iterator.

The rise of iteration and generation in Python has to do with "just in time" supplying of values, meaning you're not committing memory ahead of time -- you do the work when called upon. For example, dict.iteritems and dict.iterkeys don't return lists. Check out itertools.

Remember: enumerate returns an iterator.
>>> n = enumerate(["this", "is", "a", "list"])
>>> dir(n)
['__class__', '__delattr__', '__doc__', '__eq__', '__format__', '__ge__', '__getattribute__', '__gt__', '__hash__', '__init__', '__iter__', '__le__', '__lt__', '__ne__', '__new__', '__next__', '__reduce__', '__reduce_ex__', '__repr__', '__setattr__', '__sizeof__', '__str__', '__subclasshook__']
>>> type(n)

>>> b = iter(n)
>>> b is n
>>> next(n)
(0, 'this')
>>> next(n)
(1, 'is')
>>> next(n)
(2, 'a')
Django makes use of iterators when returning query objects, doesn't touch the data until it has to. "Just in time" is also called "lazy" or "on demand" in computer science (other industries have their analogies).

I'm wondering if Pythonistas ever feed args to yield to "reset" the a generator or "rewind" it, i.e. it advances forward inexorably, but maybe we want to backtrack? Is that a use pattern people use? I might raise this question. These older Python generators have in internal 'next' versus Python 3.x's __next__ (dunder next -- invoked by next, a top-level builtin-in, i.e. kick = next, kick(can), kick(can)... down the road). In Python 3 again:
>>> def thegen():
a = 0
while True:
yield a
a = a + 1

>>> f = thegen()
>>> dir(f) # note __next__
['__class__', '__delattr__', '__doc__', '__eq__', '__format__', '__ge__', '__getattribute__', '__gt__', '__hash__', '__init__', '__iter__', '__le__', '__lt__', '__name__', '__ne__', '__new__', '__next__', '__reduce__', '__reduce_ex__', '__repr__', '__setattr__', '__sizeof__', '__str__', '__subclasshook__', 'close', 'gi_code', 'gi_frame', 'gi_running', 'send', 'throw']
>>> kick = next # next is top-level
>>> kick(f)
>>> kick(f)
>>> kick(f)
>>> kick(f)
Side note: when you decorate a function, you lose its __name__ and __doc__. You can fix this with the wraps function in functools. Steve gives us our money's worth.

functools.partial does what we sometimes call "currying" in computer science (sounds yummy, named for Dr. Haskell (Haskell is also the name of a language)) -- let's see if he uses the term... nope.

Steve is deep in some example of wrapping a partial function object in the context of talking about decorators. Way to go guy.

Time for break.

On to descriptors and properties. "Who could put their hand on their heart and say 'I know how descriptors work'?" Only one or two hands, in a room of a hundred or more. Praise for Guido at this point, for integrating a lot of good thinking into an existing language.

First, the __mro__ discussion (for newstyle classes, the c3 algorithm). However, if you don't find an attribute in dunder dict by climbing the inheritance tree (graph), then find the dunder getattr, otherwise raise an error. New style classes call dunder getattribute. Acknowledgements to Alex Martelli here, for the manga code (runnable psuedo code) giving lookup mechanics.

If the class has a foo in the class, then use its dunder get if it has one, otherwise check for foo in the instance's dunder dict, then start climbing the tree.

You get a bound method when you look up a callable on an instance i.e. a method call carries object creation overhead.

The property function gives us hooks to __get__, __set__ and __delete__, plus a docstring. Read-only attributes are the easiest to create (use the property decorator).

OK, this is interesting: create a Property function, usable as a decorator, that pulls the getter, setter, deleter and docstring from inside a function that defines them. Property(**func) solves the problem of "polluting the namespace". However, in 2.6 we're moving to different technique. Do help(property) for an example. Booting 2.6 now, going help(property):
| Decorators make defining new properties or modifying existing ones easy:
| class C(object):
| @property
| def x(self): return self._x
| @x.setter
| def x(self, value): self._x = value
| @x.deleter
| def x(self): del self._x
Deep Python: instance(object, type), instance(type, object) both return true, even though you can't be circular like this lower down. Good lead-up to metaclasses I suppose...

Type is a class factory and it's a class. In calling it, we use its __new__ and __init__ ribs. Or does it actually have __call__? When I use type as a factory, am I calling __call__ or __new__? I think __new__. I should get clear on this.
>>> "__call__" in dir(type)
>>> type(int)

>>> type(1)
We're down to the closing discussion (you'll hear my voice again, asking about __call__ versus __new__). This was a productive session.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Django Workshop

When I originally signed up for this workshop, I was envisioning maybe doing some Django for a research client (as a part of a team).

However, FOSS is still somewhat suspect in conservative environments laden with proprietary applications, or maybe that wasn't the problem? Anyway investing in my future is what I hope I'm doing here. So let's hear what the "real world" is really like then: this is Django in the Real World, by James Bennett and Jacob Kaplan-Moss.

James is Django's release manager and has written Practical Django Projects. He works at Lawrence Journal-World in Kansas, where Django was invented. Jacob is one of the two Django BDFLs, and is author of The Definitive Guide to Django which I've studied on O'Reilly's Safari.

This is about stuff that scares me: tools needed to serve web pages in moderate to high demand environments, the kind of stuff Google App Engine is supposed to handle for us (for a fee). The room is packed, pretty much every seat taken.

"Do one thing, and do it well" -- applications should encapsulate, keeping a tight focus, expressible in two short sentences e.g. "handle storage of users and authentication of their identities." The opposite of coding the equivalent of a run-on sentence.

Good Django applications are small, as they're designed to work together (have lots of INSTALLED_APPS). Extend carefully. Part of this is semantic ("project" versus "application"), but mostly it's advice against the monolithic mindset (you're not writing plug-ins, you're riding herd).

Specify default forms and template names (but the templates themselves should be stubs, or even missing in the distributed version i.e. specifics of look and feel don't really port, so why bother).

Likewise: redirect with a default URL, but let people specify their own (e.g. success.html).

Use reverse lookups (hadn't seen that before). We're getting pretty esoteric here (the presenters admit).

Use introspection on models. Learn to love managers (these let you encapsulte patterns of behavior behind a nice API). Encourage subclassing and use of subclasses. Good extensible APIs is the name of the game.

Build to distribute, even if you don't plan to, ever. Tight coupling, like hardcoding the site name everywhere, kills flexibility. A settings file and URL configuration file should be enough. Ellington is the LJW CMS. I should check into it.

This "workshop" is encouraging in the sense that we're not doing a lot with running sourcecode. I plan to have some for mine, downloadable for students to play with, but will they have VPython installed? Maybe not. I'm planning to write some more last minute examples this evening.

If you pick trunk, update frequently (meaning be clear about which version you're using). APIs aren't frozen in trunk, new stuff might change (e.g. admin "bulk action").

"ORM is the Vietnam of computer science" -- I'd never heard that one before (we're talking about "model inheritance" which is only a year old and people are still figuring out the design patterns -- letting other people be the canaries in the coal mine is Jacob's approach, at least for production work).

Jacob: Tests are the programmer's stone, transmuting fear into boredom (Kent Beck, author of Test Driven Development). Build in time to write tests. TDD = Test Driven Development. Jacob doesn't do it hardcore, gets annoyed with the dogma. Read Code Complete, published by Microsoft -- one of the best books ever. When you start down the testing road, you're making a contract with yourself to not check in code with broken tests.

In Python we use like unittest at the lowest level, however Django has its own django.test.TestCase, which features fixtures, a test client, email capture, database management (i.e. it flushes and fills). This all comes at a speed cost. Don't run tests on production servers though. Doctests are also cool.

"Whitebox" versus "blackbox" testing: you know everything about "under the hood" versus treating the application like it's more closed, seeing it more as a user or outsider might (also called functional testing). The latter is sometimes called "BDD" i.e. "behavior driven development". TDD folks tend to look down on BDD folks but it's not either/or. Twill is a good one, plus Django has django.test.Client. Web browser testing is the ultimate BDD approach: Selenium, and the newer Windmill fall into this category. Check Python Testing Tools Taxonomy.

After break: deployment. This slide always scares me (I keep seeing it)...

(click for larger view)
Django would fit where mod_perl is sitting. Use mod_wsgi instead (more predictable than mod_python). In shared hosting world, Webfaction has mod_wsgi -- that's my provider for 4dSolutions.net. I should go with Django on that site I've long thought but will our Oregon Curriculum Network ever have the energy budget?

Get you media server, database server and application server onto separate machines. Use connection pooling to talk to the database e.g. pgpool. Apache is OK as a media server, but maybe nginx or lighttpd. I'm confused by the diagrams, asked more about those media servers.

Monitoring: lots of tools.

Performance: DB is the bottleneck, most have "slow query" logs, otherwise I/O is a problem. Sometimes slowness is on the front end. Steve Souder's book is good, or check out YSlow. Caching is key. Use Django's? An external cache (Squid, Varnish)? You can direct non-logged-in users to a cache. DB replication is a next step, if caching doesn't do it.

So many tools have been mentioned.

We'd need a team of IS types do deal with these scaling issues. I get intimidated imagining trying to learn and implement all this stuff myself.

Fortunately, this is a large and growing memepool, with a growing number of skilled personnel (like Jacob -- performance issues are his bag).

If the newspaper subculture can do all this performance tuning (Django culture grew up there) then I imagine hospitals might too.

In any case, a research database with a small number of users is nothing like a world readable newspaper. Scenario: IS cuts its teeth on something tiny and intimate, gets bolder and more ambitious over time.

The commitment is more to using FOSS and an MVC approach to data serving, less than to Django per se. FOSS tools are not only free, but best of breed in many cases.

I sat next to a coffee merchant, Brian Zambrano, who does his business web site in Django. He gave me a quick tour of how he uses a media server, and Yahoo's YUI. I should point him to my Coffee Shops Network blog.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More on Quaker Animism

Long time readers know there's this animal rights aspect to my work, which I connect to my Quakerism. I also say "animism" because I've absorbed a lot of the "medicine talk" of some native cultures. This thread gains me entre into another important polarity: misanthropy vs. philanthropy, a theme I explore.

There's an important reconciliation required, at least in some systems, to accept human rights as a subset of animal rights. We want to treat humans kindly, abhor torture as a concept let alone as a practice. We regard this as being kind to animals also, as we regard ourselves, humans, as animals also. These moves are grammatical, not really empirical, ergo philosophical. In Buddhism, we think of "sentient beings" and their (our) struggle for happiness and enlightenment.

Chicago looms, the city of my birth. In our buckaneer literature, this was where Fuller suffered a crisis circa 1927, with more details coming to light ever since. How he told the story became a part of his lore. The guy was a source of epics and sagas, his own character in the picture, more like new journalism in not pretending to "no subjectivity". There's a definite subjectivity, a bias, to one's telling. I don't deny it either.

Trevor Blake kept me 'n Sarah the dog company today. He regaled me with stories about the history of Sesame Street, the origins of childrens' television (Ding Dong School with Miss Francis, Captain Kangaroo, ...Mr. Rogers). The book he's reading pays careful attention to how these shows each needed to work out a relationship with commercial advertising. Lots of ethics are involved, which get reflected in program content to some degree.

A breakthrough with Sesame Street, was that although it was strictly non-commercial, the key topics came through as "ads" (like ads for the number three, for addition, for being kind) i.e. short, punchy, funny, often repeated. This was powerful programming, a cultural template that others subclassed and extended, and it helped a generation get going on literacy (a life long process, and one which embraces screens in many cases).

Trevor also reminded me (if I'd ever known), that Al Capone used to carry Mrs. Fuller's groceries up those steps, while our hero was out carousing, avoiding his destiny. By 1958, he was in better shape, teaching at the Chicago Institute of Design "just before [the] Black Mountain gig." I'm boning up on these factoids as I mix my Python stuff with my Bucky stuff quite a bit (not really news right?), am planning to see the Fuller exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, mixing lore and company.

Trevor has also directed my attention to the work of Frederick Soddy. To quote from Wikipedia:
In Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, Soddy turned his attention to the role of energy in economic systems. He criticized the focus on monetary flows in economics, arguing that “real” wealth was derived from the use of energy to transform materials into physical goods and services. Soddy’s economic writings were largely ignored in his time, but would later be applied to the development of biophysical economics and ecological economics and also bioeconomics in the late 20th century.[3]
I see a lot of my lineage here, in terms of Quaker economics and my GST work. I corresponded with Kenneth Boulding for awhile in the early 1990s, sent that paper on general systems theory to Bucky, in 1982 (written in Cairo, mentions Zabbaleen, with whom my mom, Carol Urner, was working at the time). When Joe and Teresina moved to Portland, Joe started that Quaker economics group, where we kept some of this thinking alive.

Good seeing Dave Fabik again today. He's getting me a T-shirt that says "I'm blogging this." I also added that Linux sticker to Razz (a gift), even though I'm hardly a top horse rider in that school. Like I'm on Ubuntu a lot sure, yet my bash skills were never that great and I'm no lone coder master of the C programming language.

I'm clearly a mere mortal when it comes to my powers. That's because I'm an animal, in addition to being an animist of some kind. I'm proud of this heritage, like so what if I don't get to be a superman (never my goal). Happiness I still pursue, exercising my freedoms, not wanting to be too obstructive (I'm focused on what I'm for, less on what I'm against). Tara is away tonight celebrating Rose's birthday. Happy birthday Rose! Live long and prosper.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Equinox 2009

Today's festivities started with breakfast at Hawthorne Cafe, with David Feinstein (Caltech alum, student of Feynman's) joining Glenn, Don and myself.

Glenn talked entertainingly about his fun in the sun with NSA. You could actually check out camping equipment, REI style, from WDC HQS; not that unusual for a big company interested in keeping recruits, high morale -- sauna and gym also welcome.

I joked about neighboring agencies where you could also rent the family (for cover) along with the tent, whereas actually I've not rented much beyond a car in DC, just used the standard PX outlets (like Costco's) renting -- or buying -- inexpensive scuba equipment (dad and I were NAUI certified, tried to find manatees in Manatee County that time, but they were understandably shy).

Towards the conclusion of our breakfast meeting, I promised to show Lionel's powers of ten slides, Jerusalem centric, once back at the Pauling House, which I did.

Lionel has gone further than just zooming out and in space-wise, he also has an exponential time-wise scale relating the flap of a bee's wing to the duration (so far) of hominids aboard Spaceship Earth, based on either side of "one second" in terms of the exponents being negative (i.e. "shorter than") versus positive (i.e. "longer than").

Tara also joined us, from a birthday celebration, to meet with Shomar especially (David's familiar).

I did some more live demo of the RSA concept, taking the phrase "North Dakota people are Nodaks" and running that through mknum, raising to the 7th power modulo N, and then onward to the dth power, where 7*d is effectively the original message m to the 1st power, i.e. the plaintext. Here's what that looks like:

(click for larger view)
source code

Our three day retreat, 17th in our run, was attended by 22 Wanderers, including Tara (child) and Shomar (nonhuman). Glenn Stockton's adult children both zipped through, starting the chilis relleno on the back BBQ, adjourning to his place for an afternoon repast.

Micheal Sunanda phoned from Eugene, interested in reforestation and the BFI Challenge. I recommended he help co-found a Eugene branch of Wanderers (Tacoma, Arcata... Bellingham, why not?), as there's no reason to bottleneck all these interesting debates through the one venue in Portland. Dr. DiNucci returned and got a brief briefing on some of the above.

They've dispersed now, those Wanderers. I'm alone with my coffee and a bowl of cashews, still needing to fold up the screen, put away Terry's projector. My thanks to all, Don especially, for making it happen.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Psychometrics Today

Patrick is telling his success story around Python. He and two company geeks went to Pycon last year, on my recommendation, and managed to get a green light from his Chicago-based company for using Python in-house.

Thanks to slip-ups in IT, Patrick surged forward within his company, developing a psychometrics tool (a "buzz bot"), starting with screen scraping, ending in scoring.

This is what a lot of shops are moving towards: using the Internet as a meme pool for marketing purposes, once key questions of methodology are answered.

He's hyping "Kirby" (me) as a critical teacher in all this. So I maybe earned that invoice eh (still outstanding)? Seriously, I'm happy for the recommendations.

Patrick is now getting some 30-40K URLs to drive his graphs of public comments on vaccination safety. The Supreme Court has made some relevant rulings recently.

He's pitching his project to the Army Surgeon General next week, hoping to save the government a boat load of money.

I followed up by reviewing my Chicago slides again, taking questions from Buzz and Patrick especially.

There's some consensus that my arguments are logically strong, but does my presentation alienate more people than it needs to i.e. are my remarks good politics? Will the unions prove receptive? Inquiring minds want to know.

I had my answers, but really, only time will tell.

Don punctuated our equilibrium with a Youtube spiritual.

In the evening, Keith Lofstrom appeared, all prepared to deliver a presentation on his dinner plate sized satellites -- something he'd pitched at the entrepreneurs' event I missed. Barry, a former banker, told stories about breaking into a vault that time (something about setting the clocks wrong -- maximum wind: 144 hours).

Followup: Thx Patrick, for paying S182042: "Assist with diagnose and treatment: ghost python processes clogging interprocess communications (cite killall -9 python)." A pleasure working with ya.


We're celebrating the Equinox this weekend, our 17th Wanderers retreat.

Last night Wanderers sampled some YouTubes (quite a few comedians -- Farrell, Gaffigan, Tomlin, Gervais... Flip, Weird Al -- also human flyers), celebrated with wine, pie, chicken, cheese... pizza.

President Obama's appearance on the Jay Leno show was noted, as was Marc Andreesen's on Charlie Rose (Dr. Nick hitched ride with Marc recently, drives a biodiesel Mercedes (Nick, I got your mail order thing; Micheal, I still have a stack of your recent lit)).

Yay, Allen Taylor could joined us, asked me what's so great about Python, and what's my plan for world domination. Good discussion!

We sent an email and group photograph from all of us to Jon, got some updates on Bob.

Later, we conversed about Thomas Jefferson's long relationship with Sally Hemings (who was free in France), Utopian communities in Oregon, the desirability of ethnic diversity.

I spent much of my afternoon at Pacific University, celebrating gender equity projects.

Enjoying thinking of people I'm missing, missing yet. Fond greetings to staff, to Abigail, now back in New Jersey.

Some of our Wanderers attended this Thursday meeting for startup companies looking for investment capital. I didn't know about it until after the fact.

:: hello from the scene ::

Friday, March 20, 2009

Congratulations Fred's

In philosophy classes, they're always going over the sailors' conundrum, something to think about those many months at sea: if we replace the mast in Oregon, the rigging in Manila, the fixtures in Thailand and so on, when does it become "a different ship" because like at some point, every piece is different. People worry about that with cells too, used to think at least neurons don't "hot swap", but now we know that they do.

Anyway, Fred Meyer's on 39th and Asylum (aka Hawthorne) is closing in on its "swap while they shop" hyperdimensional polytope puzzle, in terms of a solution. The final pieces are dropping into place, with only minor tizzies on the upper deck e.g. no chardonnay in the cooler, no tub version of Earth Balance, only stick. We get over it. Like, we're talking serious overhaul, with not a business day missed. Impressive.

Thinking back to the strike, I'm wondering if this explains it, Workers of America distrusting this bizarro 9-dimensional "critical path" in fractional hyperdimensions on steroids, all in your corner store (like Little Shop of Horrors). And it worked, after all that. What a nightmare (smile). Seriously, I'm impressed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Seminar Logistics

In the high budget version, we'd field test a bizmo, complete with camera crew, FOSS boss CTO joining from LA to manage A/V feeds for later distilling. I'm not a live streaming buff, even though we've tried that from Pauling House, prefer a cut and paste approach, though I've done sustained audio underneath. Anyway, every director has a characteristic style (yawn).

However, we had few illusions going in, what with Wall Street teetering and reeling, that anyone'd be in the mood for extravagant storyboards of this nature, so, in keeping with the times, we're being very shoestringy, photocopying everything double-sided, still throwing dots at a map of O'Hare, looking for a good landing zone. Our tripods need their parking spaces (joke).

My Part I was videotaped at last year's Pycon and Ian had me the digital uptake within hours, the whole time yakking Caleb Gattegno, other arcana, getting me up to speed on the AlgebraFirst commitments to the 4-14 age bracket. My curriculum, more geometric (geographic) kicks in more at 15, sort of grades 10-16 (includes college), except compressed, as we on-ramp to college early (per the Thunderbird Early College Charter concept, also LEP High's).

Part II runs longer, giving other Python teachers more time for interpolation (my model). Then I have other duties before driving back to Portland, or maybe going by train?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wanderers 2009.3.17


I warned my audience my talk was likely to be disjointed and somewhat all over the map, which it was. I had black and white versions of the workshop handout, a ten page PDF on the web.

I managed to walk through RSA as a topic, emphasizing how the "war stories" could be interesting to a teen audience. However, I started in Lithuania, praised Nordic cultures (thinking of Allen's Viking talk), kept emphasizing what science fiction writers hadn't foreseen: that computer languages would give rise to world ethnicities in some way.

I mentioned the PGP chapter and the fact that NDS uses this technology for DirectTV (hoping to get to Lionel's PowerPoint, about powers of ten, during the retreat this weekend). I yakked about (SQL | ~SQL) per yesterday's posting, whipped through the Pycon 2009 Chicago slides on one of four desktops, ran some hypertoons.

When I got to the slide on 4D my thoughts sort of trailed off. I waved a plastic MITE around, said using more gear around math class was going to mean better eye candy, in terms of polyhedra, and once we get those in the picture, there's just no avoiding these MITE thingys. Or so one would hope. I also promised more outdoor activities, i.e. "math as an outdoor sport" (a hook to GIS/GPS topics, dodeca-cams etc).

There's some sadness and exhaustion in our family. We miss our Dawn and those happier times together. I'll give Tara some time off today. I should probably get a haircut. Good talking to mom yesterday, and to Laurie.

I only make so much sense and no more, sans additional corroboration outside of esoterica.

Duane said he was sorry the schools weren't able to do more in this area. I told him not to worry about it, that we'd do more with television, but I know what he meant. Jeff asked probing questions about motivation, i.e. why would students care to know any of this stuff? Steve wondered if I really intended to flash through a porn site in Chicago as a part of my storytelling (I was on the "HBO rating" slide, talking andragogy vs. pedagogy). Answer: no, they already know about that site.

I did tell a couple good jokes and some worthy stories. My lore is pretty strong I'm thinking. Jeff taped the whole thing and I walked out with the recording on my memory stick. I'll do some editing, see what I might salvage.

Glenn was out celebrating his son's birthday, glad of that. Great seeing Sam Lanahan again. I took lots of pictures of his latest flextegrity design. He, Barry and Jeff talked about sailing a lot, the best moorages, racing. Usually it's power boat talk in the evenings, so this was somewhat new.

FOSS boss gathering
Vancouver, Canada
June 11-12, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

GNU High School Algebra

Sometimes I dress up in what I imagine to be Chamber of Commerce clothes and go knocking on doors, figuratively speaking, looking for allies in thinking SQL should have more of a footprint in high school algebra classes, in part so we might start talking ~SQL with a more informed public.

OK, that was cryptic, I admit, SQL (ess kyoo ell) not really standing for anything some say, though Structured Query Language is the favorite, a kind of algebra for doing bookkeeping against trusted data stores, focused on verbs like "select", "update", and "grant" (as in access rights), just as you'd expect.

We're basically talking about basic file cabinet operations and indeed one of the hot new document stowages is called Tokyo Cabinet, recently installed to my Ubuntu Dell laptop through Synaptic, looking through my catalog for coffee shop classes, other user groups at CubeSpace and so on. Zope / Plone, Durus, Schevo... ~SQL has a strong track record already.

Put another way, Tokyo Cabinet, like CouchDB, is ~SQL by which I mean "not SQL" as the tilde (~) means "not" in many math books. You'll see like (SQL | ~SQL) where the "pipe character" (|) means "or". So don't just blame me for being cryptic, I had a lotta help (smile). Think of Hamlet going (Be | ~Be) if you want a mnemonic.

The informed citizenry part is we might start doing more medical records, for example, in a "schemaless storage" i.e. in ~SQL, even as we continue building FOSS stacks atop MySQL and PostreSQL. The "new neuronics" is to use MVC with HTTP's request and response objects as the only client-server go between. Use HTTP to control everything, much as we configure routers, other hardware, through web browsers these days. Have Apache on the other end, hosting some framework (like Django, like Rails) and hit against (SQL | ~SQL), or both.

Average high schoolers aren't supposed to be able to crank out reams of legal SQL on a day job, just for having been briefed, given overview, some hands-on practice. The point is to help guide their decision making in terms of career choices, with DBA (database administrator) being a hot job, lots of perks, plus we have way too few of them, or at least that's how it seems from my position.

Considering how expensive it used to be to even get close to "big iron" (mainframe computers running pricey business software), I understand why we almost snuffed out the whole geek subculture, but that's where GNU / FOSS comes in, free and open source counterparts the schools are starting to use more effectively, to share these skills and storylines with a more literate student body.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


:: hypertoon in VPython ::
Some brain researchers say we don't really multi-task, just divide our attention round robin, which is what a microchip does, unless duo core or whatever.

Freeing the scholar to return to her (or his) studies was like the subtitle of one of Fuller's earlier visionary works. The fall back or safety net is education or work-study, with various ladder, degree and/or certification systems taking you to various positions, some, as in the military, complete with room and board. The civilian sector is less privileged, especially if caught in the crossfire.

I've been downloading and compiling some newer Pythons, along with the latest Visual (VPython). I added our volume 7.5 rhombic triacontahedron to my hypertoons source code, a project started in the 1990s. Fuller's volume 5 triacontahedron has this weird radius that, if multiplied by the 3rd root of 1.5 to give a volume of 7.5 (volume increases as a 3rd power of linear scale), becomes simply phi over 2nd root of two, a rather pleasing result (see transition 31).

Yes, I'm still getting to the gym some. My personal trainer cracked the whip today, got me on a tread mill, even though I wanted to just surf within CSN (coffee shops) and mix it up with staff (I'm feeling gregarious I suppose). My company did a quick training at Fine Grind today, showing one nine year old Kiah how to work an XO, which she went home with.

Tara has been helping Alexia house sit at my therapist's, not barter or anything (we're strictly sliding scale). She was resourceful in borrowing an outfit for the Tiffany Center event.

I've got another gig coming up regarding the Math Wars, a continuation of the Cold War in some dimension in that Russian engineering in the form of Sputnik cued whiz kids to start thinking more like Bertrand Russell (who didn't understand the later Wittgenstein and said so, but then few did).

This metaphysical tsunami, so called New Math hit when I was a still small potato in Portland. Later, I'd learn about Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) and Wff 'n Proof. Today's students have their own tsunamis to deal with, or maybe that's the wrong word as the connotations are so negative. I used to call it Katrina Math, owing to the strong home economics component, not just for girls and not just for children either.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mars on Google Earth

In 1890, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli drew this map of Mars. Today, on his 174th birthday, we are excited to include his work with many other new features for Mars in Google Earth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Forbidden Knowledge

Forbidden Knowledge

The Spanish Inquisition would prefer that you not gaze upon these shapes too intently, lest you start thinking in unorthodox (non-rectilinear) ways.

Here shown: three Sytes (the Lite, Bite and Rite) all assembled from the magnetized Mite at the center, a limit case space-filler in the sense of having only six edges (cubes have twice this many).

The Bite (top right) and Rite (bottom center) are also both space-filling tetrahedra, as is the 1/4 Rite (all identified by Sommerville though not named the same way).

In Synergetics, we assign the Mite a volume of 1/8, the Sytes a volume of 1/4. The 1/8 comes from the two As and one B module, each of volume 1/24. These latter come in left and right handed versions.

Those volume figures derive from our canonical "sculpture garden" somewhat popular in Asia, Portland's Old Town, but slow to catch on where proud Anglos hold court.

From the horse's mouth:
Three Self-Packing, Allspace-Filling Irregular Tetrahedra: There are three self-packing irregular tetrahedra that will fill allspace without need of any complementary shape (not even with the need of right- and left-hand versions of themselves). One, the Mite (A), has been proposed by Fuller and described by Coxeter as a tri-rectangular tetrahedron in his book Regular Polytopes, p.71. By joining together two Mites, two varieties of irregular tetrahedra, both called Sytes, can be formed. The tetragonal disphenoid (B), described by Coxeter, is also called the isosceles tetrahedron because it is bounded by four congruent isosceles triangles. The other Syte is formed by joining two Mites by their right-triangle faces (C). It was discovered by Fuller that the Mite has a population of two A quanta modules and one B quanta module (not noted by Coxeter). It is of interest to note that the B quanta module of the Mite may be either right- of left-handed (see the remarks of Arthur L. Loeb). Either of the other two self-packing irregular tetrahedra (Sytes) have a population of four A quanta modules and two B quanta modules, since each Syte consists of two Mites. [ excerpt from caption to Figure 950.12 ]
CubeIT! by Huntar, a 24-Mite cube, is available through Math 'n Stuff, other outlets.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wanderers 2009.3.11

We're live streaming today, Terry giving a thumbs up, signaling Jeff through an iPhone. Dr. Nick is here, regaling us with stories, of Greyhound. The spirit of Sunanda was invoked. Dr. DiNucci also walked in.

I showed in my Quaker futurist aka Chicago crime boss outfit, gown coat with "global matrix hat" aka the Paul Kaufman special. Sort of Abramoff meets Quaker oats guy. I removed these outer garments upon entry (noting dog hair on gown coat), have my industry standard Python fleece, DemocracyLab T-shirt, Lucky Brand jeans etc.

We're quite aware of the lag time, video and audio in sync (so not like lightning and thunder) but like 11 seconds after the fact (on our end). Here's Jim Buxton, our chainsaw repairman of Libyan eclipse fame.

I'm pleased our Advanced Training for Gnu Math Teachers is percolating outward from Wanderers to the Math Forum teachers. This is a good exchange of memes across cultures.

I'm branding our "arrowhead geometry" as Lakota these days (gringos slow to pick up), having attained a "yellow belt" in that medicine wheel practice (not super high), having been recruited by Dawn and √Člise (I dropped out at the drum-making level, having gotten what I came for).

Talk wanders to astronomical events, Dick Pugh's presentation, other topics. DiNucci kept donning sunglasses and a beret, to protect his identity when discussing "sensitive" topics. I discussed subliminal codes in pictures of Bob in the clear, open source pioneer that I be. Jeff developed a web site for Baby Laith that's helped a lot with the finances.

I'm looking forward to lunch with Uncle Bill Lightfoot (we went to Bagdad, then to Gold Door).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring Cleaning

As a single parent with teenager, trying to swing a coup in philosophy in the background, I don't get around to daily chores as much as I should. Today, I'm getting some help, plus Dr. Nick's room (Carol's office) is off limits, so one less to mess with.

Nick and I joined a small group of theater professionals at Hawthorne Cafe this morning, to discuss Quaker futurism, and inclusion of Fuller in The Warp by Neil Oram, at one time in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest play (about 21 hours).

Like my "philosophy coup" involves getting more recognition for Richard Stallman as a great ethicist of our time, someone to read for academic credit. How would you even think about having a law degree without some mastery of the GNU GPL for example?

Whereas many high tech businesses have capitalized on FOSS, there's not much walking the talk in Ivory Tower circles (yet). The "lore" isn't shared, partly because so doing would mean hooking Fuller's "design science revolution" to what's been happening of late, and that just "feeds the world domination fantasies of fringe elements", the so-called "Grunch" in Fuller's twisted 1983 telling (highly prescient).

Anyway, much as I'd like to just sit here and write some more, I need to get back to my home & garden. The Tibetan prayer flags blew down in a windstorm and require proper retirement (burning in the fireplace) but I'm running low on incense, today's economy being what it is (run by slumdog millionaires mostly).

Having sponsored OCN from meager earnings in the nonprofit sector, I'm now focusing on distribution of its esoteric content via CSN. The idea of philosophy streaming through coffee shops is not a new one, nor is the connection to "role playing" and theater. That's to my advantage, as when one jump starts a new business, one looks for well-worn and time-tested growth patterns, which in North America often involves franchising and clever branding.

Much as I'd like to attend the WQM Quaker Men's Group this year, I'm still on the fence about it, am treasuring my memories of our recent meet ups with Joe at GWYF 2008. Our next generation Quakers appear ready for action, although new levels of AVP training always await the earnest trainee. Quaker practice is "even better than Uru" in that way (alluding to a computer game I favor).

Monday, March 09, 2009


:: ivory tower ::

Old and New
:: all aboard ::

Friday, March 06, 2009

Product Placement

rhombic triacontahedron
from StijnD's Photostream

...or call it an NCLB polyhedron? (GnuMath namespace, cite math-teach @ Math Forum).

Posted in compliance with
Noncommerical Share Alike license
(Creative Commons),
not a paid endorsement

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I've been highlighting our "new kind of geometry" on a number of math lists, making the tie to the Wolframites and their cellular automata studies, but also page 71 of Regular Polytopes, which goes back to like 1947 in print.

Loyal readers of this blog know I mention page 119 a lot, as the place where Coxeter cleaves the 4D world in two: tesseracts over here, time machines over there. He makes fun of science fiction writers who confuse these two. Well, on page 71 we get to preview yet a 3rd namespace, as Figure 4.7a depicts what later become known as the MITE, or "minimum tetrahedron", 4D in yet another sense (it's an "arrowhead").

Thanks to this minimal space-filler, we're able to anchor our tent to a "geometry for the ages" (Coxeter's), a kind of bedrock. Inside our tent: the sculpture garden we so care about, sometimes known as the concentric hierarchy with moving parts, various dances (cartoons) e.g. our Jitterbug Transformation.
Page 71
:: page 71 of Regular Polytopes ::

The MITE disassembles in two ways: as (A+, A-, B-) and as (B+, A+, A-). Bucky Fuller started researching these modules back in the 1950s, maybe earlier, and wanted to make sure they got wired into the literature within the context of their "home base" or "native context" i.e. Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking (1975, 1979, Scribner/Macmillan). For this reason, among others, dedicating Synergetics to H.S.M. Coxeter (with permission) was a good idea.

Other geniuses feeding into this NKG (besides Wolfram and Bucky): Alexander Graham Bell (octet truss); Karl Menger (a new non-Euclidean geometry); Kenneth Snelson (tensegrity); Jay Baldwin (materials studies) and Joe Clinton (optics). Of course I could go on and on (Isamu Noguchi, Shoji Sadao, Ashton Applewhite... Shirley Sharkey) -- just wanting to remind readers of the grand sweep of this literature.

J. Baldwin's Bucky Works might be a good place to start, if no grownup shared any of this in day care when you were small. 1900s-trained adults tended to be selfish about sharing this material, not sure why -- "Pavlovian conditioning" is the latest theory on Synergeo (i.e. "just trying to be good doobies, who can blame us for that?").

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wanderers 2009.3.3

Dick with Cosmic Objects

Dick Pugh is delivering his world class talk on meteorites. He's the expert, bar none in these parts.

Terry has set up an RSTP server for real time streaming, with Apple computers showing the feed. My VLC player on Ubuntu was starting to deliver audio from home, but not video. Now that I'm here, I'm not getting either, go figure (but hey, I'm here).

I was hoping Tara could join me but she has too much homework. Schools maybe overestimate the value of their content? I'm hoping to see Lucy, the ancient fossil remains, at Seattle Center before it closes. This'll require "missing school" (not really -- this is the Global U after all, Seattle Center a campus destination for sure).

Meteroites don't start fires, They're extremely cold (picture from Bagdad, Arizona). They can raise hell though, without being hot. One in Arizona broke up into BB-sized "buck shot" and killed dozens of rabbits, snakes etc.

There's Dick Pugh in Hoba, Namibia, standing next to the largest meteroite in the world. Portland State (PSU) is lucky to get branding on these slides. There's Dick in Brahin, Belarus. There's a Bondoc, Luzon, where the word "boondocks" comes from. Park Forest, Illinois; Bensour, Morocco; Brownfield, Texas...

Anyway, it's a start. Rhett Savage reports from a remote location that it's working for him.

Don thought it was cool that some of those rocks in the room were measured older than Planet Earth.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

PPS Has Friends in the Silicon Forest

As we mutter like Gollum in doom and gloom, about some lost "precious" (our economy), let us not forget that Portland is looked to, by much of the world, as a capital of FOSS. Of what? Here you are in Portland and you probably don't know what an XO is either, and therein lies a problem. Our schools need to catch up with the times. This isn't Oliver Twist. The software is now open, and free (FOSS means 'free and open source software').

So how should PPS make friends with the geeks? That bridge has already been crossed. Winterhaven is a well known "geek Hogwarts", feeding directly into BarCamps at CubeSpace. I taught there as a volunteer, a mix of Google Earth and Python, so I know whereof I speak. PDX is on the map, and not just for Ikea. We're a capital of Open Source according to Christian Science Monitor (2005), and we'd do well to remember that (the ring!).

However, the mathematics curriculum is still dark ages, stuck in the days of calculators. The situation was so extreme in Hillsboro, home to high tech, that West Precinct police, under George Heuston and company, actually started their own school, a Linux lab (Redhat). I know this because I was one of the instructors, hired through Saturday Academy, Jerritt Collord the other one. The point: kids are desperate to gain entre to their high tech heritage, and the schools just aren't the gateway that they should be, so we the police will do this as a community service (bold move George!).

Roll the clock forward, and we're looking for ways to differentiate, make our town shine. Why not consider building the best, most relevant "on-ramp" to the information superhighway that money can't really buy, only help with? What it really takes is training, and lots of it.

But that's what we have in abundance: willing trainers, ready to show you the ropes on legally free software, using affordable hardware.

I think the key place to focus is on town-gown relations, but remember to include the private sector in "gown" (think "g for Google"). Don't be afraid to let "private industry" help with a makeover.

There's no philosophical conflict, between public mindedness and profitability, philanthropy and running a railroad. Some individuals feel conflicted, sure, but consider Mentor Graphics, a proud sponsor of the ISEPP lecture series and a generous source of tickets for local high schoolers and their teachers.

This is Portland at its best. The Silicon Forest cares about its public schools, always has. Let's keep that in mind.