Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kennedy School

An MVP is zipping through, me in chauffeur mode, still on the clock with work, school related.

I've been shaping a new STEM talk with these folks, setting it apart from Common Core Standards in that it sticks together, doesn't atomize.  Our icosahedron is allowed to talk to our virus, is encouraged to do so.  1, 12, 42...  it's a start.  V + F == E + 2.  The unit tet is relevant.

Our rank and file tends to know more American history, which doesn't have to mean they're from around here.  In Martian Math we learn more about the Orson Wells / H.G. Wells nexus.  Some of the panic was delayed, because the show was taped and replayed in other locales.  The Martians invaded again and again.

I posted to the Wittgenstein list I found it important.

One day at a time, we're not that wide in our bandwidth, or have a lot of it devoted to other things, but in the rear view mirror there's a pattern.  History is the same way.  Sure it pays to have a crystal ball that's prophetic.  That's a truism ya see.  In any case it's harder to see the pattern in one's own time, because we have a lot of stuff going, many mirrors to check.

Some school districts advise teachers to have no Internet profile, to not have a cyber identity.  My response is teachers in any age should be role models and a lot of the burden shifts to celebrities and superheros when the teachers cop out.

On the contrary, it's a teacher's job to manage an on line identity (or several), to show how it's done.  The effect might be comic.  I'm not suggesting one only wear a serious face, when making waves in Cyberia.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Solstice Celebration

:: click picture for photostream ::

We're into the 2nd day of our 31st retreat.  That's four events a year:  both solstices and both equinoxes, times doing it for almost eight years.

David Feinstein came by, somewhat glowing (livid) over the poor quality of Python tutorials, but then computer science teachers aren't known for being the world's leading pedagogues, with some exceptions.  I wasn't defensive.  My stuff is hands on at least.  Some people mistake curling up with a good language book for practice.  Not that I'm against "reading about" but lets be honest about what we're doing.  You might pick up more of the flavor, and get some buzz words.

Stephen Hawking's talk went well we were told.  Terry was producing that in California this week.

Tara joined us for breakfast at Mt. Tabor Cafe, explaining her work on The Hill (OHSU) which involves studying a certain metabolic pathway in mammalian skin cells, involving Golgi bodies. Get a baseline, between normal and cancerous cells, then snip the pathway in both with some blocker DNA and measure the impact, something along those lines.

We dove head first into the J language, after breakfast.

So yes, the J language.  I studied it for awhile, and still think learning that, in tandem with Python, would be an interesting way to go.  They're quite different, which is partly the point.  As you learn one special case language, learn two for contrast.  I can believe, with the Lex Institute, that makes the absorption of both more efficient i.e. two is less than the price of one in some dimensions.

It works on the iPhone, Android in beta.  I got the console running on Mac OS, but not the GTK version, as I don't have enough permissions as the normal user or whatever.  I just haven't had time to climb the ladder in 10.7.4.  Make "teaching Kirby" a full time job for a million people, but then make it all open source and for the general public.  Looks a lot like it does, plus I get my invisible army, an ego boost, or at least a sense of being emboldened (helps sometimes).

David DiNucci came by later, our NASA-educated computer scientist, inventor of scalable parallel processing thinking.  Patrick Barton was by earlier, our Sandia Labs vet, put himself through Dartmouth etc.  We're an interesting crew, even when skeletal.  Not a big party.  Cold, gray and rainy.  Foregoing any alcohol.  Jon Bunce.  Bob, back in school.  I took some time out to welcome the Python trainer from Boston, working with Michelle, Selena and others.  We're having a Pythonista convergence this weekend, run by the XXs.

Lindsey (formerly with Computer Science Corporation) has been reading the Wall Street Journal fairly religiously and sometimes updates me on various stories, about stocks and bonds and the price of gold.  We've been talking about gold and silver for years by now.  I could use more documentaries about current events though (Syria etc.).  Romney too I'm sure. Make 'em for all of us.  Of course it might just be I'm not watching the right channels.  I've been there before.

Uncle Bill came through.  A young naval man who'd written a sophisticated poem about the USS Colorado -- spared Pearl Harbor (in routine repairs in Bremerton) -- had left Bill with it, and Bill had followed the gun of that ship, post decommissioning, to its new display site in Chehalis, the veteren's museum there.  He gave the poem to the museum, as having the most appropriate archive.  We're lucky when scholars do these advanced placement and sorting tasks for us, thereby strengthening our storytelling.

Jimmy Lott swung by while we were watching Rebuilding Indian Country, 1933 (the whole thing).  His family is out of town and he'd not been in the Pauling House before.  We watched some Youtubes of his son Harmony in comedy clubs in LA. After he left, we proceeded to screen a full length movie, Spielberg's Adventures of Tintin.  Those who made it this far adjourned to The Bagdad for a nightcap.

Sweet dreams, Wanderers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interdependence Day 2012

Interdependence Day

There's some dancing in the streets at the moment, but I'm holed up in a man cave somewhere, hewing through stones or whatever it is I do.

Doesn't mean I can't be there in spirit (so I'm joining), plus I'm scheduled to attend festivities later this evening.

See you in two, JenQ (she's leaving us for awhile).

Thanks for admin rights on the FNB page, that's awesome.

Much of my day was spent in Steve's apartment.  Michelle came through to help prep the place for this weekend's training (Python). The trainer is staying here, while the training itself is in another venue, and already sold out.  PSF grant monies are involved to pay for air fare (she's coming from Boston).

I've been chatting with Holden in the background about a coding class or classes that would pick up the home ec thread and weave in GST, while at the same time giving video editing geeks a skills practice setup.

In STEM, we tend to teach all subjects at once, so those solar rays fuel the photosynthesis of calories, which become your corn flakes, which fuel (as metabolites) those First Person Physics things that you do (never breaking the laws of science, which are exceptionless).

Coding already has many semantic overlaps with cooking, at least in English-American (Amerish).  Not only are algorithms called recipes, motivating cookbooks such as the Python Cookbook, but projects are ranked as to how "baked" they are, with "half baked" more like alpha or vaporware, all the way to mature fully baked projects (or call the products at that stage).

The PER community (physics education research) is a bit miffed that Google is pumping a mil into so-called EDI (explicit direct instruction) versus IE (interactive exploration).  A lot of research shows students benefit from the challenge of constructing their own reality (yes, I'm using buzzwords).  However, as I point out on the listserv [link to full text]:
Here's a compromise: remember Show & Tell? Students took turns.

That's where IE meets EDI: students are expected to perform by
delivering model lectures on various topics.

In geekdom, we call these Lightning Talks and we've bundled and
franchised these into "Ignite" events, e.g. Ignite Portland, Ignite
Austin etc. We even have at GOSCONs. (note
sponsors Jive and Urban Airship -- officially geekazoid).
Michelle was off to the Hackathon (all genders) whereas I was headed to Colonel Summers Park for the evening's festivities.  There's some overlap in our respective communities already.  Michael Jennings, Simon, Lindsey used to write Perl...  Speaking of which, we're thinking to have a Dynamic Languages group hug of a booth at OSCON.  The agiles need to stick together (sometimes).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Our Week in Indy

NFL / Indy 2012

Indianapolis surprised me with its vibrancy.  We had a blast, and I was too busy to blog, what with seeing The Dictator, The Avengers, and hanging out in Ben Davis high school, where we overwhelmed their wifi -- made it hard to get work done, but then helping chaperone and chauffeur Cleveland Cannibals was also work of a fun kind.

Hannah and Izzy, our other two team members besides my daughter, Ben, assistant coach, and myself comprised our group.  I rented a commodious jeep from Budget (my donation to the cause) which I also used on a side trip to visit Earlham College in Richmond, some 70 some miles to the east.

This was my first time to attend a National Forensic League national tournament, Tara's second (last year's was in Dallas, next year's is in Birmingham).  This interesting race of young people makes speech and debate its core sport.  They talk to walls (a form of practice).

We had our own partially overlapping scenarios, mostly sticking together, not always making it to forensics events.  Participants get knocked out of the running in droves as only a few can get a trophy and perhaps a cash prize.  The Hood River team got that far, 7th in their category.  Tara, a Lincoln-Douglas champion, won a plaque and had the satisfaction of being among the top 50 or so, making it through eight rounds -- even better than last year.

Coming from Portland, we're used to book stores.  The abandoned Borders leaves a big hole in downtown Indianapolis.  We've lost them everywhere -- people mostly cyber-shop for packaged media these days, plus we're immersed in a TV and movie culture more than in one of voracious readers.  Portland. with its Powell's, stands out from the crowd in that respect.  We did find a used book store inroute to the airport though, and I bought The End of Racism and My Life So Far, Jane Fonda's autobio.  I studied them both on the journey home.

Actually, that's wrong, I got The End of Racism at a Hastings, on my way back from Richmond (driving that jeep on I-70), following directions from the Earlham College bookstore lady.  She'd looked up The Psychopath Test for me, as Tara had browsed it in the airport and was curious to read more so texted me to maybe snag a copy.  I was on the parent tour of Earlham when the text came in (myself and another prospective with her mom -- our guide from Kazakhstan, and a psych major).  I also spoke with Carol (mom) and Julie (sis) around this time, outside by the cemetery.

There was more of New Orleans here than I'd expected.  Indiana was a "free state" in the Civil War and at the center of downtown is a tall monument to that effect.  Our party climbed the stairs to the top of it.

We also met the Hood River team there in the evening, after which Tara and Izzy went off to hang out with them in a different hotel while Ben and I downed some beers and checked out Sacha Baron Cohen's latest nuttiness.  Poor Hannah had a migraine and was sleeping it off in our base camp.  We'd had dinner at Spaghetti Factory that night, Italian the night before (where we'd been served by a spaced out and apologetic waiter).

The Lincoln Financial Group, Ronald Reagan Foundation, and a host of other sponsors, are behind a good show here.  Unlike OSCONs, frequented by older after-college career-minded types, colleges and universities have their booths at this conference.  Reed College was prominent and we hung out with "the Reedies" some of the time, including for an authentic creole dinner at Yats.

NASA was also present, on stage, now at the Convention Center where we'd adjourned after three days at the high school.  The international space station was a focus, including of the final round of public policy debate.

Neither White Castle nor Steak 'n Shake have made it this far west, to Oregon, so we had to sample those.  The latter was a hit, an impressive operation I thought, for what it was.  The former is a part of the lore (Tara has been a student of the fast food industry).

We had a night at the Indianapolis Zoo as well, courtesy of NFL, where Alexia joined us by text message.  There were sitcom aspects to this trip.

We transited through Chicago both ways on United Airlines, which appears to have absorbed Continental (keeping the tail colors) when I wasn't looking (so much to keep track of).  Tara pointed out that even if the United brand was kept, that needn't correlate with the backoffice shape of the merger.  So true.

Izzy was on to a program in Providence (Rhode Island) with Ben, an amiable young decorated soldier, on his own ticket through DFW.  We left Hannah at PDX awaiting pickup by her dad, while Tara and I rode the Max and bus 75, well after midnight, back to Blue House where we live.

:: we talk to walls ::

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Another Big Day

The big days are flashing by quickly these days, accelerating acceleration.  Tara finishes her high school career and turns 18 only two days apart, however we're celebrating the birthday a day early, so Carol can still make her flight to the AFSC retreat at Pendle Hill.

I'm at the Hawthorne Powell's looking at a long queue in my inbox.  Nevertheless, I finally found the time to photograph Polymorf this morning, a rare geometric toy.  I have an interest party asking to see more details.

Portland Public Schools has a creative way of working with the seniors' need to all-night party the night of their graduation.  It provides a fleet of buses and chaperones the occasion, returning them to their high school parking lot at 5 AM the next morning.

Tara and two friends arranged a pickup by SMS (text messaging).  As the chauffeur, I tend to be on call more than some other parents.

Elizabeth Braithwaite and Chris Cradler joined me at Memorial Coliseum for the ceremony.  Carol used the special seating for mobility impaired.  Alexia and her friend found good seating also.

The high schools do not all format their ceremonies the same way, as Liz and Chris were discussing, having seen the subculture at Grant.  Alexia went to Grant as well, and I was at her graduation, with her mom.  Of course we think about Dawn at these times.  Grant had used Memorial Coliseum this year as well, and was just ahead of us in the queue.

The graduation program had an insert boasting of the big name schools and scholarships some kids had been awarded.  Tara had elected to fade into the woodwork on this one.  She also opted out of "full IB", having plotted her course carefully and consciously, running key decisions by others for peer review.  I trust her process, as they say / said in est.

I appreciate the logistics of Portland Public Schools.  A lot of awards and recognition went to faculty and staff last night, not just students.  Real institution building occurs.  The expressions of loyalty to the nation is touching as well, though I don't think hanging Cascadia's flag would be inappropriate either.   Our alliance is strong, even if WDC can be pretty frustrating sometimes (like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Main).