Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years 2015-16

Most of the globe has already time-zoned into the new year, per the Gregorian calendar, not the only one going.  PST brings up the penultimate-rear, with zones closer to Guam ending that calendar day, Guam being "where America's day begins" per "sun never setting" meme, big in Britannia.

Being service sector, I work for a living, which these days means lining up something new given the end of a first experiment / pilot by the parent company.  I was privileged to be a part of this bold beginning of something new, and understand the need for an interlude.  In high technology, we don't always expect a position to last.  It's not that they fire us; the whole movie comes to an end, and we were cast.  California is good at Silicon Valley stuff for a reason:  Hollywood is close by.

But then Portland has its Hollywood neighborhood.  We're a micro-tronic version of LA + Bay Area, one might claim, using nanotechnology to fit it all in a pinhead (i.e. me).  Grin.  So yeah, today was a job interview, and things clicked pretty well.  I'll be entering a boot camp like experience, learning some new ropes.  However it's back to gigging it together, as from 1990 on, until I experienced my first "corporate job" with benefits in the person of our parent company.  Soon to be orphaned once more, I'm back into digging gigging.

I've got other paperwork going, plus the ongoing "radio show" serving the State of California.  Despite a competitive mentality, healthy, we're a single Left Coast nation, per this Tuft University analysis.  The Northwest is exploding economically, as is Python (that's what they say: "exploding" -- can't find enough teachers).  I'm happy OSCON is moving to Austin, for Austin's sake: the Silicon Hills need to help us continue Revolution OS, still ongoing.  That other paperwork is what took me to Fred Meyer just now, to buy replacement ink cartridges for the HP Envy, Carol's rig.

Deke (the Geek) is experiencing turnover at his place, meaning new cast, perhaps some new characters for this blog.  Time will tell.  In the mean time, we customarily look back, in these posts as well, especially to the Bucky Ball aspects of the New Years Eve ritual.  These blogs come choc-o-block with references to carbon allotropes and geodesic structures.  Waving hello to Bill Lightfoot, assorted cousins, K. Snelson, Valsquiers, Denny & family, Koskis, Boltons, various consulting firms and medical practices.  We're thinking of refugees on the move around the globe, student-teachers in our Global University (alternatively our Global Psych Ward -- some say "Hotel").

Onwards then, escaping Idiocracy, and towards a Promised Land.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

No, not my spread, owned by a school district couple in another state. A place well known to me. The drone is fully licensed. NPR is all about drones this morning, supposedly the big toy of the year, though I'm thinking flatscreen HDTVs were still near the top of the charts.

Our crew watched Climate of Change (2010), a climate change documentary, then moved the scene to nearby Tigard for Chinese food.  We ended the day watching old (1970s) episodes of Columbo (starring Peter Falk) on DVD.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hanukkah Party 2015


Alexia couldn't make it this year, but I'm glad of how she's doing and really enjoyed seeing Star Wars with her and John.  Tara joined us.  My Hanukkah was happy.

Lindsey, hot off the plane from Kathmandu, through Bangkok and Seoul (a last minute re-routing thanks to a cancellation), practiced saying "Star Wars" as if transliterating into Newar.  Newar uses the Sanskrit writing system to record a Tibetan-like language.  She was in line by 4:30 PM, for the 7 PM show.

Good seeing William again, a war vet friend.  Natalia made the cover of the last O'Reilly School catalog.  She studied Java with us, whereas William, by then a civilian in Afghanistan, became my Python student.  Now in Portland are they.

That's what this season is a lot about (meetups) and that requires a lot of travel, all at once.  They say in China a billion people are on the move by train alone, around Chinese New Year.

I'm wondering how we might keep having shared holidays but maybe telecommute more, spreading out the in-person visits, even if not having fewer overall.  Something to think about.

Les, Elise, and Ruth stopped by.  Les is no longer with the tribal casino; he works for a public school district.  Ruth is spinning her own wool and studying textiles and fabrics more.

Tara was going to focus on "listening" as a topic in Aristotle but thinks she'll get more out of studying philosophy when less involved in departmental politics (she dove into my new Heidegger book).  I understand; it's a boat I jumped from myself as an undergrad.  She has her physics and growing maturity in software engineering.

I cherish my time with family and friends and recognize "facilitating meetups" (making them feasible at all) is a primary raison d'ĂȘtre of commercial air travel.  Indeed, erstwhile house guest Lindsey is out the door again tonight, leaving Blue House for a warmer clime and a family gathering.

We exchanged gifts and enjoyed potato latkes at our cozy party.  I talked quite a bit with a bona fide Star Wars fan who could answer some of my questions.

A wedding occurred at The Bagdad, between the previews and the 7 PM feature.  We had great seats, having been in line early.  I grabbed a gin & tonic, as I'm still doing "no beer".

The audience was highly supportive of the ceremony.  A marriage is a memorable happy festive occasion, and semi-public.  These circumstances met these criteria and even strangers rose to the occasion.

I was glad of the opportunity to get Melody to Union Station today, and to have lunch with Glenn, after Deke came by and helped with Sarah (the floordog).  More meetups planned... tiz the season.


Thursday, December 17, 2015


Two of the inventors I'm tracking are producing new Youtubes these days.

Buzz Hill talks a little slowly, as he bounces back from a stroke. He's inspired by Google Cardboard, a box for enjoying the experience of stereoscopy right off a cell phone.

As an expert in retinal scanning for bio-recognition software (like finger-print recognition), Buzz is excited by the possibility of combining the two ideas.

An affordable self-identifier could come in handy in a variety of applications.   He's busy putting his ideas in the public domain to protect them from patent trolls.  He's branding around '4yeo' (for your eyes only).

Gerald de Jong has been on my radar for a long time as the inventor of Elastic Interval Geometry, a software-based form of exploration involving self-animating characters motivated by the dynamics of changing compression-tension along their elastic members.

In robotics, the idea of "muscle wires" (e.g. Mondotronics by Gilbertson) is germane.

However given the JVM (Java Virtual Machine), purely mathematical renderings become feasible.  Gerald has recently turned his attention back to Tensegrity, the concept that helped inspire EIG in the first place.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wanderers 2015.12.15

We dove right into global climate talk, in which we've become fluent over the years.  Dick is talking about the kelp forests that used to stretch out into the Pacific, much further than today.

Kelp is a fantastic converter of CO2 to O2, in case that's of any interest.  The sea urchins have been devouring said kelp however, unchecked by their natural predator:  sea otters.  Bring back the otters then?  Sea urchins fetch a pretty penny on the sushi market.  We have lots of ways to increase biomass, some more intelligent than others I'm sure.

Pretty much right at 7 PM, the projector came on and started a showing of The Power of Community, a documentary film about Cuba's austerity measures in the face of its pariah status, as enforced by old enemies and expats.

The film has been going around for awhile, but was new to me as of only a couple days ago, when I reviewed it in Control Room.  Showing it tonight was not my idea but was an idea I approved of.  Nothing wrong with Wanderers taking in a documentary now and then, especially given our sustained interest in the planetary gas mix.  Methane was also a hot topic tonight, as were hydrogen, nitrogen and some others.

Recent history around Cuba is a topic I've touched on before in these blogs of mine.  I start traversing that territory, starting early in BizMo Diaries, where I review the docu-drama Motorcycle Diaries, about Che Guevara in the early days, and future friend of Fidel Castro.  Also in these blogs, I touch on JFK, U2, Cold War... themes from my own lifespan.  I've been paying attention at least.

I brought along a brochure from OSU's Valley Library, Special Collections, about the new on-campus museum exhibit, just outside the Doug Strain Reading Room, where the Pauling papers (his and hers) are collected.  I put it in the glass case, comprised of Pauling-related souvenirs.  Linus lived here (in the house where we're meeting, showing this film) as a child, becoming aware of chemistry, experimenting in the basement (we're told), contributions to which would later earn him one of two Nobel prizes.

We enjoyed the film, it seemed to me.  Internet devices geared to help with agricultural engineering might be what's coming.  Maybe that's where we're at now.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cultural Illiteracy

Six Around One

I was mentioning in an internal memo today, regarding Quaker business, that because our high schools failed to pick up on SQL use as a basic literacy, we're now facing a shortage of clerking skills, recording clerk especially.

We've returned to the days when it seems only an elite minority get to commit records to tables, as instead of ledgers, or even spreadsheets, we now use SQL databases as a matter of course.  But most people never get their money's worth as taxpayers.  Their tax-funded schools let them down.

Fortunately for the world SQLite is free and pretty easy to use.  Forget about multi-user access on a complicated web server; an SQLite database is just a text file, yet provides a fully functional SQL API.  The day may soon come when our NPYM meetings swap .db files around like we share .xls (Excel) and .doc (Word) files today.

What else don't we teach in school?  American History has fallen by the wayside.  Civics is pretty much gone.  That's the impression I get anyway, though I understand many students plow into these topics anyway, as learning may begin when they finally get home and have a chance to access the greatest library ever made:  the Internet.  Or maybe not.  Not everyone enjoys such privilege.

I've been suggesting we open a second numeracy track, parallel to Delta Calculus, and put SQL, along with more boolean algebra, sets, data structures, algorithms, other discrete math topics (number bases, more with primes), on this newer Lambda Calculus track.  Get the lexical (programs) to drive the graphical (e.g. rotating polyhedrons).  Connect those left and right hemispheres in a more integrated imagination.

I've done a fair amount of pilot testing in the decades since the 1990s, and before.  I've been interested in pioneering new curriculum ideas under the guise of my Oregon Curriculum Network (OCN).  Then came Digital Mathematics on Wikieducator, in combination with "Martian Math", greatly influenced by Synergetics (more a vehicle for introducing some of its core concepts).

Saturday Academy let me field test with teenagers.  I even got to try out some lesson plans in Bhutan and Lesotho, thanks to my school teaching mother.

What's Synergetics again?  Again, American History has somewhat fallen by the wayside, or this would be more of a rhetorical question.  Many high schoolers honestly don't know, because no one saw fit to connect the dots for them.  Constructivism maybe means "connect your own damn dots" -- but doesn't teacher experience count for anything?


Friday, December 11, 2015

Extended Safari

STEM Class 2015

I'm grateful for the extension on Safari On-Line, which I'm showing off to my students on a shared-screen (my screen) using "Internet radio" an audio format that includes the "call in" feature, i.e. any of my students might get the talking stick and address the group.

As it turned out, after passing the stick around (metaphorically) in the early sessions, we settle on using the message board (chat box) and just let me do the talking, answering what came up in chat (both public and private channels, like IRC).

Fluent Python

We had ten sessions in all, four hours each, with labs, so I figure the equivalent of a college course in terms of lectures, but then I was not on the hook to evaluate student work, which has been the focus at OST.

I showed them recent reading:  O'Reilly books on SQLite, Flask and Luciano Ramalho's Fluent Python, all apropos because the coded example in front of us was using all three.  I'm letting them look at a prototype / experimental Flask application by the clerk of IT @ NPYM.

SQLite is award-winning, and free (both as in beer, and as in freedom), with sqlite3 a module in Python's library.  Import it, and you're set to prototype / develop.

Flask gives you a toy web server, facing yourself on localhost, again for web development purposes. The goal is to emulate a standard LAMP stack.

Speaking of LAMP, my course also featured MAMP Pro, for which I forked out $59 this afternoon, deciding its well worth the investment.  That gives me a MySQL ready to connect through localhost, and an Apache ready to serve the same way.

Some of my students were eager for more and vocal about it.  I've been offered another gig.  I'm not at liberty to steer them into OST however, given the impending closure.  However I'll be able to keep Safari On-Line, a benefit offered to former OSTies.

I've abstracted some of the best of OST and mashed it up with other learning to create OCT storyboards, OCT being a hypothetical school modeled in various prototypes.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Touring @ Home


The area of the world in which I live is undergoing a lot of development, and is certainly not alone in that regard.  Portland is sprouting new skyscrapers, not nearly as tall as New York's, but still part of a growing skyline.  There's a cable car, and a new bridge, open to public transit, foot and bicycle traffic, presumably Segways are fine.

So just to stay mentally more in sync with the times, it pays to get into tourist mode from time to time, and re-visit your home turf.  Those of you living in boom town China will know what I mean I'm guessing.  Drive around and go "wow", or just walk around here in Asylum District, noticing all the turnover.  When did that Growlers move in?   I'm not drinking beer these days but it doesn't all revolve around me, pizza world either.

So that's what I did today.  Actually my driver is a citizen from the neighboring state so really what we did is visit his home town of Vancouver, which is not the big one in Canada, but a small one just over the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

The great religious wars that have left so many scars in our region, made it illegal to openly partake of various medicines that have lately become commercialized.  I asked my driver if this were a sign of a weakening central government but he just laughed at that.  States are laboratories and some states get to go first when it comes to experimenting with legalization of new categories of formerly criminalized substance.  Lots of new rule-making, lots of new careers.  So we studied that scene some (I was the more gaga as my driver is a native).

Let me assure my readers, many of whom are far away, that my neighboring state of Oregon is part of the experiment too, as is Colorado and a few others.  In other states I think they've just lowered the fines, this is not my specialty.  Anyway, the rule-making has progressed a lot further in Washington so I was not just seeing "more of the same" (like in Asylum District).

One could say I was in another country, which in the EU would be true, the USA being zoned like an EU, to have "countries inside" called "States of America" (not forgetting "United" by freeways and lots of airports -- I liked the trains a lot too).  We don't need passports or paperwork to move around, though actually there is usually paperwork, or web forms, to fill in.  Touring is easy but changing one's state of residence takes a lot of filing.

In addition to the fifty federally recognized States and myriad Territories (Oregon used to be one of those), sovereignty rights of N8V peoples show on maps.  Warm Springs Reservation for example.

Anyway, I learned a lot, not so much about changes in infrastructure, as with Tilikum Crossing (the new bridge), but about patterns of social and cultural behavior, more economic matters, as well as mental / social.  I'll need some time to digest what I've learned.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Useful Youtubes