Sunday, August 05, 2012

Adventures in Teaching and Driving

I was just coming to the Y where I-405 sweeps over the Willamette on Fremont Bridge, a high arching double decker taking traffic through downtown, a branch off of I-5.

I-205 is the other branch, feeding the east side of town, rejoining I-5 south of Oregon City.  I-405, in contrast, rejoins right on the south edge of downtown.

Branching off the Fremont Bridge though, if you don't want to circle south, is Hwy 30 to St. Helens and Astoria.

My destination:  University of Portland, on a Friday afternoon in the blaze of summer, after 3 PM.  At 4:05 my classroom would be brimming not just with my students, but their siblings, guardians, parents, grandparents... the place would be packed, and I wouldn't be there if I stuck to I-5.

That was the calculation anyway, as I veered at the Y, over the Fremont.  I-5 was hardly moving.  I'd be stuck.  I'd drive north to the St. John's Bridge, and come back south through St. John's.  The plan worked.  Hwy. 30 was relatively light, except for the queue to cross the bridge itself on a long uphill grade.

This bridge is dramatic, an historic landmark.  Next week, they'll be Bridge Pedaling  over it.

Coming back I've mostly been enjoying the parapets of Willamette Boulevard.  I've seen geodesic domes on both sides of the Willamette.  The ones on the ship are more like golf balls, radomes, or are those for natural gas of some kind.  I'm thinking radome.

The ones next to the highway are the usual fuel tank covers, a commonplace in the fuel distribution network.

Trevor once did a geocache on this theme.  I helped out by chauffeuring.

Speaking of Trevor, he's got some new Kindle ebooks out there, low priced and enticing, and suitably esoteric.  We met at Greater Trumps again, though no cigar smoking this time.

I was somewhat anxious about Tara's oral surgery early next morning, and how that would go (wisdom teeth extraction), and would I be hitting my marks at University of Portland by 10:50 AM -- an earlier start on this Friday, as we were having an open house in the afternoon.  Could be a day from hell.

The operation went smoothly (only Novocaine, no nitrous).  I read in TIME (about polygamous families) and Newsweek (about people going crazy using the Internet).  We'd switched venues because I was for the first time getting some dental coverage from insurance.

Healthnet paid big bucks on Dawn's terminal illness but we could never afford any coverage for mundane stuff under $5000 -- those were always out of pocket expenses, if affordable.

As it happened, our family had just become eligible for assistance with this medically necessary procedure after a six month waiting period.  This was new insurance.

These are the language games we had in place back then, somewhat in place when I got here, though the rules have kept changing.  People mostly only had a dim understanding of the games, with TV a weak link in not being able to explain them.

Banking was especially opaque, with the scandals around Barclay's attracting little evening news attention -- too complicated, too close to home.

My class ended at 12:35 PM and rather than wait around until 4:05 PM I elected to drive home.  That was easy enough on I-5, in the middle of the day.  Interstate, a street, not an interstate freeway, is another way to go north and south, on the east side of the river, and I'd done that the day before.  The Max (light rail) takes that route. 

Anyway, the real traffic didn't start until closer to rush hour, when I was on my way back.  I'd found Tara to be well after the procedure, resting and recovering.  I enjoyed some time with the family before skedattling back.

What was I teaching?  Martian Math and Python Programming we called it.  They ended up needing to use Notepad in Win7 as their code editor, with Python 2.7 in terminal mode.

We did have access to VPython though, on a Q: drive.

I recycled and some others from the Reed College version of this class, plus added some news.  We rolled our own.  Students each had a directory in which to write, but that had to be added to the Python path, so:

>>> import sys
>>> sys.path.append("c:/users/SAstu1")
>>> import sa1   # copied from the Internet or USB memory stick

The Mandelbrot Set was more important this time, and I made the connection to the Mandelbulb, in terms of aesthetics, computer fly-throughs.

Given we could darken the room (a "lower blinds" switch) and project on a big screen, I was sure to take advantage.  During the open house, a switched the lights off several times, so they could appreciated the theater-like ambiance (the seats were also tiered).

On the Math Forum, I used the opportunity per usual, donning my lobbiest hat and strutting on stage on behalf of a STEM curriculum that's deliberately integrating, and considers TCP/IP a worthy topic for middle schoolers, why not?  We watched Warriors of the Net.

What's not to understand?  True, we didn't get into DNS and BIND, but this was just a week's course.  The goal was to become more enamored with what geekdom has to offer, in terms of toys that morph into tools as one grows older.

We talked about the Internet's history.  Thanks to Trevor, I was able to share the first picture transmitted over the WWW at CERN.  I mentioned Tim Berners Lee having some role in the Olympics.

Given this generation has little first hand experience with WW2, or even that genre of movie, Code Guardian might have seemed a little strange, as it looks like a Nazi attack on Pearl Harbor (never happened).

My point, though, was how few people were needed to make this film, given technology being what it is.

I also mentioned August 6 was coming up.

We also looked at Blender quite a bit, not hands on, but in terms of what it could do.  That included watching the movie Sintel.

When the open house was over, by 4:30 PM (some had come early, but I was there first), I drove back to St. John's.  Rather than add to the rush hour traffic, I settled in at the McMenamins there, for some beer, food and wifi.

I was actually able to catch up on the day job for a couple of hours, and catch some Olympics, before wending my way home, over the St. John's Bridge and along Hwy 30 again, a dramatic way to get back through Portland.