Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Visiting the Heartland

By "heartland" I mean the so-called "mid-west".  Because of how the Anglo-Euros migrated, from east to west, one has the mid and far west, with the east a kind of home base, like Greenwich in England.  Nowadays, an unkind term for the mid-west is "the flyover states" because so much air traffic is from one coastal region to the other.  Many business class travelers only see the mid-west from an airplane window, if at all.  But then O'Hare in Chicago is one of the busiest airports in the world to this day, so "flyover states" is hardly an accurate phrase in jet travel world either.

Anyway, our connection from Portland to Detroit was through Phoenix, leaving at 5:20 AM, meaning getting a taxi at 3:30 AM.  Some large sports teams, each with matching packs and uniforms, were sprawled around the Portland airport (PDX).  Carol checked her bag just in the nick of time as the line grew tremendously behind us while we checked in at US Airways, still in the process of merging with American Airlines.

Had it not been for the wheel chair pushing guy who met us at the gate in Phoenix, we probably would have missed the connection as Terminal 4 has two separate concourses, both with A gates.  We came in near A4 but left through A27. The plane was was boarding when we finally got there.  Carol isn't allowed to use moving sidewalks with that walker, so left to her own devices, she's pretty slow.  The Portland trek was also long, to C18.  I almost left the Mac Air at the security choke point.

I thought Expedia said the Hertz counter was in the airport, but none of the rental car companies have that in Detroit.  We grabbed the free shuttle, with the bus driver warning he would be singing to his music, which he did, but quietly and in tune.  "This is Motown, this is what we do" he said.  Very friendly and helpful.  Melvin I think was / is his name.

While waiting in line at Hertz, my Android asked if I wanted to upgrade.  I've been saying "no" for over a month but this time my fingers got confused and I paid the price in terms of time and stress (the upgrade was free), waiting for the new system to download and optimize my 233 apps, media and contact databases.  All before I could use Google Maps to steer us out of the parking lot.  I've come to rely on my smartphone's GPS and Google Maps quite a bit.  How else would I know to get to I-75 down to I-70 just north of Dayton, Ohio, then another 50 miles or so to Richmond, Indiana?  The queue for getting out of the Hertz parking lot moved very slowly, giving my phone the additional minutes needed to finish the upgrade process.

After so many hours of flying with only expensive snacks on the plane, both Carol (my mom) and I were hungry.  She and my sister are used to eating at Denny's a lot so we went to one of those, somewhere between Detroit and Toledo.  They were out of Caesar salad dressing, so I went with the Cobb salad as my second choice.  Both meals were ample.  Yelp comments had been mean to this Denny's but I found nothing so objectionable.  People tend to have a lot of "first world problems" around here, a phrase my daughter says is a commonplace nowadays.  I'd just seen the Weird Al take on it.

Also according to my daughter, in its former glory days, Richmond had been famous for manufacturing pianos and coffins.  Neither are mass produced here now I gather -- or am I wrong?  There's a big Purina dog food plant.  Richmond High looks substantial, as does Seton Catholic High.

We toured her college campus, checking out the new science hall (Stanley) and admiring the lasers she'd been working with, careful to not touch anything.  She assured as the main laser was sparkly / pretty when fired but she didn't switch it on, saying that was only done with proper permission and supervision.  We were understanding.  Just seeing the equipment as thrilling enough.  She had been working on a kind of laser-based camera that analyzes the reflection patterns to assemble a picture of the original object, using various advanced mathematical techniques for which Python, the computer language, had proved useful.

During our visit to the campus library, mom got interested in a new book on the Vietnam War years and in the car back to the hotel we talked about Kissinger and what level of war criminal he was, along with Nixon.  The book is about the formation of Bangladesh, where Carol used to live. I turned devil's advocate and said we should scapegoat the Quakers instead, as they always talk about ending the conditions for war but never seem to come through.  Lay these war crimes at their door then.  This was just banter / debate-talk (pro and con).  My daughter was a national champion in Lincoln-Douglas style debating.  She just listened to this conversation though, riding in the back seat of the Mazda 2.  Then we all went to Red Lobster as mom had been thinking about having a crab feast for some months and here was a golden opportunity.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

OSCON: Slides + Promo + Keynote

OSCON promo

Shadaj Laddad OSCON 2014 Keynote: "The Wonders of Programming"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

R0ml's Talk: Why Schools Don't Teach Open Source

I always look forward to @R0ml's talks, as do Anna Ravenscroft of Alex Martelli, in the front row (I'm one row back).  Robert Lefkowitz knows how to encourage thinking.

Java and Bluejay are commonly used in college intro to programming courses, both open source, however neither started as open source and the curriculum did not change when they did, suggesting their becoming free is somewhat irrelevant.  How to make Open Source not irrelevant?

We don't want to stress "free as in beer" nor make OSS esoteric.  We want to share an "open source way".  Programmed Visions by Wendy Chun is one of R0ml's current favorites.  He uses her definition of "neoliberalism":  the notion that individuals acting within their own interest within a framework will generate emergent goodness.

R0ml linked this to Martin Luther and Francis Bacon as fostering individualism, then empiricism versus reliance on faith and authority of the cathedral.  Etienne de Condiac also gets credit for fostering an empirical approach, then Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson with their cybernetic / feedback loop approach to governance of, by and for the people.

Darwinism and the hurly burly of the ecosystem, then Eric Raymond.... if everyone scratches their own itch, things will get better in the bazaar.  That's the current meaning of neo-liberalism.

Sugata Mitra's experiments come in, as showing that bazaar dynamics work in education ("minimally invasive education").

How might we capitalize on all this heritage to make the Open Source Way relevant in education?  Teaching programming, sure, but does everyone really need programming for some "job".  Does learning programming make one a more well-rounded person?  We all need health courses even if we don't expect everyone to become medical.  Heath:Medicine :: Programming:_____?

Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum gets a plug.

Everybody needs to direct automata, make machines do their bidding.  Praxis versus Techne was the old greek dichotomy.  Our praxis is to teach people how to use software effectively.

Software Assessments, Benchmarks, and Best Practices by Capers Jones.

How does one know if one is becoming a better programmer?

The answers have to do with the source code, not with the end user experience as much.  82% of programming does not specifically involve programming.  Becoming a better programmer is about educating one's tastes, one's sensitivity to flavor.

DARPA's MUSE might fill in the vacuum, of helping people master their machines, but to what extent might we really automate the process of choosing, applying judgement?

Why Don't Schools Teach How to Use Open Source Software?  That is the question.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


:: me with sebastopol bosses ::

I chose the i18n tables both tutorial days at OSCON 2014.  I got to meet some of the principals behind interoperability in the realm of sharing medical data (clinical, not financial). I enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland effect of walking into my own textbook, in the sense that I teach TDD all day long (TDD = test driven development) and our whole table broke out into an in depth and extended discussion of how important testing is.  Such an immersive discussion; I mostly sat rapt.

Then my two bosses from Sebastopol came by and joined our table.  One of the Aegis guys graciously offered to take the above picture, me the mentor in the middle.  If my face looks a little smudged, it is, thanks to a smudge on my lens.  The verdict on the Coolpix S9300 is it's harder than my previous Coolpix to get not-blurry pix with (even minus the lens blemish, which I added somehow).  The reviews corroborate my experience.  I should invest in a next camera given I'm such an ardent user of said equipment.  My uploaded to date number well above 20K.

It looked to me like @tati_alchueyr sacrificed the knight on purpose, to give her pawn a way to reach the end and transform to a queen, game over.  This was in the Expo Hall, after the tutorials were all over.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bagdad Meetup

I met with a Friend at Bagdad last night for a wandering conversation.  He's more the news junky and so conversation turned to the loss of a second jumbo 777, same airline (MH), so soon, under suspicious circumstances.

We know from Lockerbie and TWA800 that (a) it doesn't take a missile and (b) unless you've done some forensics, easy theories are just that.  Minus a black box etc., this remains one of those open cases where minority reports remain welcome.

Speaking of open cases, David Chandler, a well known speaker on 911, will be addressing Annual Session (NPYM) this week.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ramping Up

We're ramping up to OSCON around OST, as our parent company, ORM, is OSCON's main sponsor / organizer, though with lots of help behind the scenes.  OST = O'Reilly School of Technology. OSCON = Open Source Convention.

Long time readers / explorers in my blogs / journals may know that OSCON started out as a Perl Conference, an inclusive tent that gradually drew in the OSS languages (OSS = open source software), for example:  Perl itself, Python, Ruby, PHP... Apache projects, the GNU stuff (gcc, bash... emacs, vi), Linux, FreeBSD... actually millions of projects count as open source software, so it's like trying to enumerate "the animals of the earth" (Noah's check list).  GNU = GNU is Not Unix.

FreeBSD is a Berkeley (UC Berkeley) flavor of UNIX.  UC = University of California.

Anyway, ramping up for OSCON.  You can tell, right?  ORM = O'Reilly Media.  Got my new business cards today.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Serious About Soaps

Thanks to Synchronofile, a local media archive, I've been reviewing TV detergent commercials en masse, one after the other:  Wisk, Biz, Fab, Duz, Cheer, Exact (early tablet), Tide, Ad, Lestoil, Rinso, Salvo (also tablet)... some of these brands didn't make it to 2014, others are still household names.

Sometimes a fragment of the sponsored soap opera is included for context:  The Guilding Light; Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Death Valley...

Post WW2 was all about a baby boom, with guys off to the office, gals staying home to master a new life style based on Madison Avenue hyped appliances and new food stuffs.

Washing machines, dish washers, televisions... these appliances hardly get any expensive TV advertising today as they're taken for granted.

I'm not being sarcastic-critical about the need to master new lifestyles, complete with gadgets.  Today it's the smartphone.

Going forward, my idea of a positive show genre is a mix of soap opera / melodrama and reality TV, mixed with adventures in making the world work (est influence).

Watch your favorite world development team trundle around in a bizmo, caravaning to camps, tackling problems in a DIY engineeringly sophisticated way.  Thanks to the web, watching is not just passive, and it's not just money you can send, but advice, paid-for items for inventory.

Announcer voice (1950s tone, for nostalgia purposes):
"Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Johnson of Boise, Idaho for this high volume electric pump, and to Joe and Marge Buxton of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the solar steam generator from Infinia, used together in today's episode."
Yes, the "nuclear family" itself feels pretty retro by now.  I'm a "love makes a family" guy myself, though Dawn Wicca and I did pretty well at being nuclear.  '

The surrounding society has convenient APIs set up for families in that mold.  Even in 2014, multi-spouse "molecular families" are still a nightmare for social engineers (e.g. database schema designers).

A first step towards matching reality is allowing dependents to show up in more than one household, as divorced parents, some with new spouses, share parenting.  Guardianship is not necessarily the job of biological parents either, and many databases need to show an "authorized guardian" to pick up junior after class (could be an older sibling, could be a neighbor).

In helping Quakers to sort out such multicultural / anthropological complexities on a small scale, in schematic form, I help to come up with more robust, more general purpose APIs.