Thursday, September 30, 2010

Switchboard Activity

I've been posting up a storm on the Math Forum and need to provide some "supply chains" (links). I also posted something to Synergeo reiterating our thinking about the 7.5 volumed rhombic triacontahedron (what I've elsewhere dubbed the "NCLB polyhedron" -- regardless of volume).

I was up early for surprise chauffeur duty, for the global U student we're gladly hosting as a welcoming Quaker family. She's disciplined herself to not use her car (dubbed the "torture taxi") except for medical emergencies, and this was one of those times.

No health coverage, just an "average American" and a brilliant leader in my book, a brave and free spirit (yes, many people own those qualities, I recognize).

I've got the FNB trailer if you're out there reading this, and wonder where it is. I have limited contact information, as you might expect. I started an email thread with Satya and Cera, but they may be outta town.

As it turned out Satya and Cera were just recently back in town and Cera showed up at the meetinghouse to take charge of the cooking (she's an experienced cook, had just been serving as chef at a Zen retreat closer to the coast).

At the park, I experienced a small world moment as it turned out Satya used to live across the street from Alex, son of Aung San Suu Kyi and Micheal Aris, author of several books on Bhutan (where my parents used to live).

Lindsey is coordinating with Lew on the phone about that Quarterly Meeting interest group. Even if she can't lead it herself, the show must go on.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Equinox Retreat

Temperatures are dropping. Summer is done. The thermostat in the refrigerator conked out. I was lucky to find a repairman on a Saturday.

I read old Wiki pages by students in Israel, talking about elephants and whether they had a sixth sense that warned them of tsunamis (not that adding a "sense" really explains anything, might as well add a "dimension"). One of them wrote about Gaza. This was on Wikieducator and I was conversing about conserving elephants with Mr. Wong (a Wikieducator user) in China, saving elephants being a theme of his business school curriculum. I shared about the Global U recruiting campaign to get more people seeing themselves as global university students (giant spherical campus).

Walt has hooked me up with an interesting new correspondent, a deep thinker in Canada named Ted, Lakota heritage, who writes about site-based situational learning, versus a more western model based on cookie cutter jobs (template roles) and individual volition (as if "place" were not a causative field, as if only "the individual" were the locus for action). Walt and I had been yakking about the Zeitgeist... We've been talking about David Peat and Blackfoot Physics among other topics.

My post to Synergeo from earlier today (while the repairman was working, including out buying parts) includes more on the bamboo bike trailer delivery network from some hypothetical Unilever ice cream factory in Cuba. That company has been working pretty hard on getting more recycling and composting going, including in the Lipton tea making process.

The Synergeo post connects back to the Math Forum for more details. This is a Harvard Business School type project in that we're recasting metaphors to better align with modern computer science concepts. The API between an enterprise and government is up for redesign, given all the changes in Cuba these days. The population is highly literate and attuned to such challenges. The rest of the world could learn from work / study programs along these lines, perhaps without disrupting Havana's status as a "fast food free zone" (a commercial edge, attractive to tourism).

Trish joined Glenn, Don and I for some more Youtubes on the big screen for the 2nd night of the retreat. I was drawn to WW2 era Private SNAFU toons by the great Dr. Seuss. Laura Cooper (Goodbye Party) was again influential. We also watched that 7 minute Blu toon again, and listened to Leonard Cohen (Don is his fan), also Mad World. Trish pointed us the the sand painting artist Kseniya Simonova, as well as to her own toon-like drawings on Facebook, pictures of her handsome young son, and the amazing sidewalk art of Julian Beaver.

I was glad to hear back from John Belt, who dropped me a note while in the middle of teaching a class for SUNY / Oswego. Sam, Glenn and I were in a meeting at Bridgeport, connected in real time by wifi. John had recently been staying with Joe Clinton and had showed him Sam's book. Sam Lanahan and Joe collaborated over about a two year period in Elizabeth, New Jersey some decades back, both having been students of Buckminster Fuller at different times.

My writing to Ted, the Lakota guy, included a sketch of the bizmo concept, which has somewhat blended with the Holden Web flying circus idea at this point. Geeks and circuses go together, what can I say? What institutions would (or already do) sponsor bizmos? What control rooms would (or already do) dispatch them? I saw some plans for Afghanistan bizmos go by in Dr. Beebes slides, but when I asked about 'em she said they weren't there yet.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arabs Gone Wild

Portland's Arab-American community turned out in force for this comedy troupe. Our venue: The Aladdin. The crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative, which was galvanizing to the performers. Portland is also sometimes known as Little Beirut after all.

I'd attended the Axis of Evil here in Portland in November 2009, but this was a different line-up. No Ahmed Ahmed this time, nor Tissa Hami.

Two of the comedians, Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid had been subjects in my friend Glenn Baker's documentary (along with Ahmed and Tissa). I went up to Dean after the show to say hello from Glenn (he knew immediately whom I meant), and to shake Maysoon's hand. I wanted to blurt out how much I admire her but was shy, plus she was swamped with other fans telling her much the same thing.

A quick poll of the audience discovered large Palestinian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian contingents, with fewer from Iraq and Egypt, plus even fewer from Libya. Iranians were present but not polled as Iran is not considered an Arabian nation.

These were in contrast to "whites" (also present) although these categories remain problematic, as many Arabs check "white (non-hispanic)" on the government forms. I'm told "Middle Eastern" is being added to some of the bureaucratic tabulations.

The show reminded me that social comedy is a lot like group therapy. People have an interest in healing by gaining some distance from their pain, and laughter, with a touch of compassion, goes a long way towards creating mental health.

The comedians need healing and therapy as much as anyone, and a friendly audience presents a great opportunity to regenerate one's psyche. Kader's lampooning of Dr. Phil as a source of non sequiturs was funny to me. I was likewise amused when Spears pulled the rug when he tried getting a piece of her that time.

Social comedy traffics in stereotypes, self-consciously and by design. Arab identity has much to do with extended family, food, discussing prices, dressing in various ways. The segment about a TV show adapted from The Price is Right, called The Price is Not Right drew peals of laughter.

A traveling troupe is also in a position to compare notes and update those present with a sense of the times. After some months of relative quiet and benign media, the people now seem angry, with the level xenophobia creeping up the scale.

The comics referred more than once to Ellis Island and the promise of America as a land of opportunity. We embrace newcomers. That's not the mood in California though. Anti-immigrant sentiments are again spiking, especially among "whites".

George Bush has continued as a source of comedy. Aron Kader admitted it's simply harder to turn Obama into a comic figure.

The jokes seemed mostly on the safe side, edgy but not politically all that risky. At a time of such anger, why stoke the flames? Maysoon, who has cerebral palsy, did a sketch about trying to shake Arafat's hand at the UN. As they both quivered, they were unable to connect. Most of her routine was about a new husband-to-be, rescued from a refugee camp with the promise of a visa.

Much of Kader's rap was about gender differences and communication. Guys get paranoid and feel manipulated when gals express their wishes in a round about matter, don't seem to get to the point. Guys don't like to interpret, though may be cryptically brief in their wordless expostulations. The comedy is in the mannerisms and delivery, so I'll not attempt a more thorough account here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Peace Garden


The projects chronicled in the above video, a Rock Beats Paper production, have come along a lot further since then. Camera, narration and editing by Rick Flosi of The Goodbye Party, with Lindsey Walker providing additional narration.

The juniper, which used to look like a phage, now looks more like a banzai tree.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wanderers 2010.9.14

Jon Bunce is explaining his derivation of the synergetics constant, based on my presentation on Martian Math awhile back. David Tver has joined us, and Trish, a former student of Don Wardwell's. Jeff is working a Javascript gig, injecting more AJAX into some gnarly library.

The PSF Snake (Naga) came along for a photo op. I know that seems frivolous and many wonder why I bother. Anthropologists may be more forgiving in hindsight.

Was I productive today?

I made some follow-up contact with two of my clients. Actually, one was a client of a client, but that's OK.

Does anyone care if there's fast food in Havana? What a luxury it'd be, to get away from ugly strip malls. Some cities should remain blissfully free, of large outdoor billboard advertising as well.

I've been listening to Fidel, agree with his remarks in Iran: studying the holocaust in Europe is more productive than trying to sweep it under the rug. There's no point coming off as ignorant. Edwin Black's War Against the Weak is also a good read (available in Farsi?).

I've got several of Edwin's books on hold through the library. The Multnomah County library system is truly excellent in my opinion.

There's a fine line between "denying" and simply "ignoring", easily crossed.

David Tver is talking about IBM and the holocaust, a recent thread on the Wanderers list (initiated by me). Some curricula visit this chapter more than others, perhaps when introducing SQL (Structured Query Language), the successor to simpler tabulation machines.

A more recent story, less horrendous, involves Russian security services ostensibly cracking down on pirate users of Windows, in this case some opponents of polluting industries and their political allies (similar to Greenpeace).

Thanks to all the negative publicity, Microsoft is backing away from cooperating with these services, by issuing a blanket license to the supposedly offending nonprofits. The latter claim they were using non-pirate copies to begin with, having anticipated this kind of harrassment by the police state authorities.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

DjangoCon Day Two

Sometimes I think anthropology departments must be too full of fluff, as we don't seem to attract many field workers to these tribal events, complete with totems, self-government issues, exogenous and endogamous challenges.

How to pass the torch? Who gets a commit bit?

The Django community only has 14 people with a commit bit, and really low bus numbers on some aspects of the code.

A "bus number" is how many people getting hit by buses would result in zero people remaining to maintain, enhance, otherwise work on some feature, application or code. Django's object-relational mapper (ORM) for example: few people are conversant with it among the inner 14, ergo "low bus numbers".

James Bennett gave a great keynote yesterday on the need to open up the core to more committers. These sentiments were echoed in Eric Florenzano's keynote of this morning, which focused on weaknesses and downsides of Django and the community.

These kinds of rants are valuable and expected within any group that expects to thrive over the long haul I should think. One needs to handle criticisms that emerge from deep within the ranks, perhaps with more alacrity than those more casual criticisms coming from outside, from those with less of an investment. Eric is not a core committer, but he does spend many of his waking hours wrangling Django.

Andrew Godwin's talk focused on the non-relational databases out there, of which there there are many, and efforts to make Django work as a front end for some of them. Document stores may have some schema-like aspects, which means the concept of a "model" in Django may still be apropos.

Considering electronic medical records again, an underlying structure is the time-line, as each person's "life thread" (as Greek mythology viewed them) is a chronological sequence.

:: the three fates ::

Medical devices committing data to an EMR need to authenticate patient identity and then find the appropriate point on the time-line to place the data, perhaps with clinician annotations.

Somehow, the URL to this data, being consulted at a later time, will trigger the right viewer to load, perhaps in its own window, thereby decoding the data and rendering a readily decipherable visualization, assuming a trained eye. Perhaps a cine will play; a short video clip of a beating heart, before and after angioplasty.

Hospitals currently store these cines on their own servers. To what extent will EMRs be independent of specific health care systems? Each person accumulates some gigabytes of medical data over the course of a lifetime.

Many bureaucrats have already thrown up their hands, saying the problem is too difficult, can't be done. Other say that, however it's done, their job will be to inter-connect the various implementations, not source any specific solution themselves.

However, given how under-served people are, in so many regions, opportunities for greenfield development are myriad. Doctors without borders aren't required to use HL7 or follow legislative guidelines specific to any one country.

Within a culture of open source, opportunities will develop and get shared. Closed off silos continually reinvent the same wheels whereas those who share more strongly encourage their peers to keep up to date.

Data migration services will evolve to transform one kind of EMR into another.

Yes, what I'm describing is the "messy scrap book" model at a high level (organized temporally), with specific fields being structured, as worked out among various specialists and vendors.

Might a SQL database serve as an outermost wrapper, perhaps with XML fields for less structured data, with patient identity and chronological sequence serving as primary relational keys?

I'm not looking for a single answer or solution.

Researchers will plow through EMRs seeking to generate clinical research records (CCRs), many of them scrubbed of any traceable identity information, yet still associated by case history. Having fragments of the genome decoded does not imply identifiability.

Additionally, those "donating their bodies to science" (a well-known idiom) might nowadays sign a release allowing unmasked identity information to become available to a wider circle of authorized personnel. Medical literature is already full of case histories of identifiable personae, mixed in with the more anonymous.

The data stays authentic, is not some arbitrary mix. Fictional identities may be synthesized by algorithm to mask the actual ones, but in ways that support valid correlations and therefore conclusions. Arbitrary changes to age, sex, weight, history of smoking, should not be messed with, as medically relevant data points.

Open source data sets, freely downloadable, give researchers shared access to common pools.

Intelligently designed viewers and data harvesters with built in anonymizers will facilitate extracting patient data minus patient identity. Data sets packed with thousands of true case histories will be gold to researchers, all the more so because loss or theft of this data will not represent a security breach in terms of patient confidentiality.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Day One at DjangoCon

Steve Holden served as master of ceremonies this morning. I got roped in as mic runner during Q&A, a role with which I'm familiar (I was mic runner for Sir Roger Penrose once, another great mind).

The upshot of the first plenary: the Django community is doing a fantastic job of promoting Python's relevance to the "world livingry service industry" (like hotels, rental car agencies and such) however developers are in short supply.

Universities with "emergent technologies" tracks are more likely to be providing some relevant content. Many remain decades behind. In my own view (it's my blog so I get one): high schools could be doing a lot more. Again, I circle the Litvins' text as prototypical, already retrofitted for Python 3.x.

One footnote: now that the Django Pony has become so woven into the lore, some geeks are feeling leery. Is it too late to back away? Certainly not everyone feels this way, but yeah, there's that potential for teasing, of being teased, because of one's "flippant" (the word used) mascot.

Steve took the bull by the horns by suggesting we're duty-bound to keep it light in some dimensions, and the Django Pony is the very embodiment of lightness (and yet also opens the psyche to investigations of disappointment, being spoiled, optimism versus pessimism and so forth, not to mention the innocence of youth).

Monday, September 06, 2010

Setting Up @ DjangoCon

Yes, some people have to work on Labor Day, especially hard-working service personnel in all those hotels, where some people go on vacation during Labor Day weekend.

One of the first things they teach you about labor is its division. Not everyone gets to go on vacation at the same time. In many submarines, you had fewer bunks than men, because not everyone sleeps at once on a submarine.

Then people sort themselves by skill sets, and levels of skill within those skill sets.

For example, Admirers of Javascript is the name of an actively meeting group here in Portland. HTML5 is getting a lot of buzz. Will it include client-side SQL? Sqlite has been proposed. iPhones apps use it, am I right (I don't have one)?

The Djangocon conference, on the other hand, is less about the user-facing interfaces, and more about what the servers need to be doing, fetching and storing data, returning views. Django is a web framework written in the Python computer language, one of several. The original developers hail from Lawrence, Kansas.

Do these two skills sets overlap? Django and JavaScript + HTML/CSS? You betcha.

Other skills involved in organizing a conference: encourage professionalism among hotel staff; pay attention to your environment, including smells; have a way to print name tags, labels, easily right on the spot.

She's Back

Saturday, September 04, 2010

BuckyBall Day

Google joined the festivities by commemorating the discovery of the BuckyBall. I got some emails from people from whom I don't usually hear (hi Josh, welcome back to the land of Mexican food).

David Koski first alerted me with a phone call, which he placed in the midst of setting up his new Apple.

As those up on their lore maybe know, the discovery of buckminsterfullerene came two years after Fuller died in 1983. His collaborator E.J. Applewhite lived to see the scientific community embrace this new discovery, and nomenclature.

Twas my distinct pleasure to attend the First International Conference on Buckyballs in Santa Barbara, as a representative of both the BFI and ISEPP. I got to meet Harold Kroto and many of the other researchers exploring this fascinating topic. I also crossed paths with a Nanotubes conference in Gothenburg.

The hexapent, or soccerball shape of the buckyball, is one I sought to popularize under the heading of HP4E (hexapents for everybody), an allusion to Guido's CP4E (computer programming for everybody).

Glenn Stockton promulgates this and related memes through his Global Matrix Studios (currently a part of the Linus Pauling Campus on Hawthorne Boulevard). Are we like Mad Men or what?

:: documentary on c60 ::

Thursday, September 02, 2010

FNB Food Prep

:: fnb @ mmm ::

Lew Scholl, clerk of Property Management, is yakking in the kitchen with Lindsey and Cera. They're talking about New Thought churches. I'd been out running an errand, though I'm nominally supervising this event, as the key bearer.

There's a conference call on speaker phone going, regarding Quarterly Meeting planning. Food security, urban farming, CSAs... these are themes this year. Lindsey knows a lot of the CSA groups and is coordinating with Joyce on a possible interface, perhaps here in the social hall (where I'm blogging from).

Betsey Kenworthy, now Assistant Clerk of the Meeting, was by earlier and got to meet Cera and Satya when they showed up. Jan Kjerne was here as well. Another FNB volunteer came through with some additional food contributions.

The group brings the food on bicycle trailer, preps it, then pulls it off to be served in a public location not far away. I've participated in the operation, so know some of the ropes.

Lew and I went around testing our laptops, to see if the wifi's radius has improved.

Lew has a new Youtube up about the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage, which recently stopped through, and took over the meetinghouse. I missed being there at any point, so was glad to catch this video.

FNB (Food Not Bombs) is good at logistics, has been doing this for years. There's an Episcopalian congregation helping out as well. Satya is a Buddhist monk.