Monday, March 31, 2014

Taxes Filed

Thanks to Holden Web for the magnificent steak dinner, probably my most opulent in 2014.  Finding an excuse to celebrate was not hard:  Nikki at H&R Block got me through taxes for 2013, with me owed by The Feds, but owing Oregon.  I promptly paid by check, sending via USPO, and feel squared away with the IRS for awhile.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Flask Workshop in Portland

I spent much of the day geeking out with peers at what was billed as intermediate Python level, a dive into a 3rd party micro-web-framework named Flask.  We had the good fortune to be taught by the new O'Reilly author, Miguel Grinberg, software engineer and film maker.  He'll be presenting this tutorial at Pycon later this month in Montreal and was eager for a dry run or dress rehearsal one might call it.  That was great for us, with Idealist sponsoring with catered tamales, a very generous number.  Urban Airship provided facilities in this building used by our wind energy sector (windmills).

When you feed an http request to a Flask framework, it routes to functions with URL bits available as arguments.  The functions usually prepare a response object that goes back to the client browser.  What happens in between (between the ears of the web service) is what we call the application, and Flask is merely a framework, like clay.  Miguel had shaped it into a password protected service that had login, cookies, database access, email, iconic "gravatars", the whole nine yards.  He really touched on a lot of deep features, not dumbing it down for us, yet keeping it moving.  The applause was sincere, and for Flask as well i.e. I think we appreciated its straightforward yet powerful design.

I'm not seeing web frameworks, even just those within the Python sphere, as being at each others' throats in some Wild Kingdom, narrated by some gringo, sponsored by whatever insurance company.  It's not a Darwinian circus.

We're talking more like models of airplane, with Django more heavy / commercial, geared stereotypically for newspaper sites (which covers many cases) and Flask more the ultralight, with many frameworks in between like web2py.

Jinja2 is a sophisticated templating engine.

The back end might be PostgreSQL with postGIS options enable.

So in calling Flask "ultra-light" I'm not suggesting it's under-powered (you sit it behind Apache probably), just simple enough to wrap a lot of power tools and get them working together in a manner that pleases at least some web developers.

You can even just use it locally on your own machine, why not?  Play on some, work on others.

By the way, lest events overtake me, allow me to put a stub link here (in my own blog), Wiki style, to a post I want to write about the most recent Thirsters gathering on East Broadway.  There's an idealist theme connecting them.

I was greatly encouraged to learn more about how anthropologists are conducting themselves these days, adding to my respect of that profession and its ethics.  We had some Reed faculty present, at least one, and Forest Service, not sure what other government agencies.

Our topic was relations with "first peoples" as we might call them, descendents of earlier waves of migrants, going back some 10K years.  There's no sense in which "the Indians were all wiped out" and live on only in museums and interpretive centers.  To think that way is to live in deep ignorance.  However, I do understand where someone living in present day (2014) Philadelphia might get that impression.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Divergent (movie review)

A charming and competent story of love and bravery in a delightfully apocalyptic Chicago, now more like a playground, a self parody, a gotham.

We're funneled into guilds based on aptitude but some of us can't be made to fit in.  Wandering beyond the perimeter appears not to be an option.  The sense of being penned in is palpable.

I'm already drawing a blank on the name of her guild, the Rowdies lets call 'em (boo hiss, I hear you), and they've got the place rigged with secret rope walks and other cool stuff.  Plus they're seriously into drugs.  One gets how Erudite might become power mad and get our heroes enslaved to do their dirty work against Abnegation.  Man, that rings a bell doesn't it.  Always war on the poor (because they're weak and helpless, and might be other nations so laws don't apply).  OK, that's infantile.

We didn't get to see much child rearing going on, like the heroes were all this semi-narrow age group.  I guess we saw some kids, did we?

Anyway, I think there is still room at front at The Bagdad for a platform based performance, of comedians or whatever, i.e. the new first run movie status doesn't physically block these other possibilities, I know nothing of license agreements.

I'd been looking for this Kate Winslet / Weird Al muppets video that must have been removed from YouTube, so her name was fresh in my mind.  She's the wicked witch of the west (not really).

You'd see why comprehensivists would appreciate this moving testament against "tracking" and "aptitude tests" (high stakes testing).  If Lego World was the mind of a younger lad with a control freak dad, this was the stressed out world of an over-tested adolescent geek wanting to hang with a tougher crowd.... was it Drapes?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wheels Turning

 I've been surfing more web pages on the Ukraine, Crimea, Russia and such.  Wikipedia breaks the paradigm of "encyclopedia" by having such up-to-the-minute reviews, with revisions in progress, narratives in the making.  I've done my share of Wikipedia contributing / editing.  Stressful sometimes.

Multnomah Meeting seems to be gearing up to form a study group or something, but really most of our regional savvy is in Bridge City, with fluent Russian speakers, at least one.  I've been reflecting on my Lithuanian experience and thinking of Facebook pages to visit.

Nationalism in the sense of ethnicity, and nationalism in the sense of nation-states, have a very uneasy co-existence, with the former organic and natural, the latter forced and awkward.  Our maps are nation-free (liberated from those dictates) at least in some of our classrooms.

I'll check for Gorby's opinions shortly, when I have some time.  Haircut next.  Our "NATO professor" needs to look more clean cut.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day

Not wanting it to go by without mention even though blogging by cell from the airport is tedious.  I'm waiting for Tara to arrive and that's fun and interesting.  What about e Day?  I would it be an e Minute:  Feb 7, 1 hour 8th minute.  True, wrong base, but then so is 3.14.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

School-to-Prison Pipeline

This pipeline has become a focus of the AFSC (ACLU too).

Private for-profit companies are contracting with so-called "states" to provide in-school security personnel who fulfill functions formerly performed by vice principals and guidance counselors.

Instead of going to the principal's office, you might be sent to a law enforcement agent.  A bed in a for-profit prison has your name on it in short order.

"Undocumented humans" are also funneled to detention centers managed by these same companies.

The neo-fascist "state" of Arizona is an example a political jurisdiction that has gutted itself and outsourced state functions to corporate entities.

The question of whether we still have a "USA" is up for grabs at this point in time.

Washington, DC, never a state, has declared wars against a number of peoples around the world without the consent of the governed.

Medal of Freedom winner Buckminster Fuller wrote "The USA we have known is now bankrupt and extinct." (Grunch of Giants, St. Martins Press, 1983).  Do they read that in American History class?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

CS-enabled Algebra

We've enjoyed a rollicking debate on math-teach recently.  I reiterated a long-time position, that high school students deserved math credit for a discrete math sequence of topics we could provide, as an "excuse" to piggy-back the sharing of newer math notations used by various global subcultures, such as Intel and HP.

What do I mean by "newer math notations"? Simply: computer languages.

Many of them (by no means all) use "dot notation" a grammar of noun.verb() and noun.adjective (or call it property, or attribute).  The period or dot is important.  A.b means A has some feature named b, maybe its age or its level of enlightenment.

With dot notation, you've got behaviors responsive to arguments, and you've got persistent state, and no, that's not the only lingo out there, just one of 'em.  A CS-enabled algebra would be friendly to this ethnicity's lingo, among others (not exclusively).

I've suggested our economy in Cascadia, high technology intensive, could benefit from a school system that allowed for these alternative for-math-credit courses.  They'd be elective in the same sense trig and stats have been elective.  Yet three years of math credit is mandatory, in Oregon, for a high school diploma.  You have various ways of adding up to that.  The goal:  make discrete math courses count (some say "digital math" courses -- the labels are not that critical).

Cascadia, if you've not read Wikipedia, is the Pacific Northwest coastal area north and south of Seattle, some say all the way to the Bay Area, some draw a line at Arcata.  It's more a science fictional jurisdiction and one of the "nine nations of North America" popularized by urban legend and some key writers.  Northward, we could reach well into British Columbia, so-called.  These are thought experiments you may indulge in, as a way to review some geography if otherwise bored.  Good exercise. What other nations might you name?

This script was not my solo creation.  On the contrary, I was overlapping with high school computer science teachers anyway, joining the annual programming tournament at Willamette University through Free Geek.  When I presented at OS Bridge, the Software Association of Oregon was in the audience and it was from SAO that I learned of the concrete proposal to wedge in a discrete math course or sequence, geared for high schools.  Teachers from all over the state were encouraged to brainstorm about content of this for-math-credit offering.  We had a day long meeting in Sherwood, a neighborhood south of Portland out toward Wilsonville along I-5.

To sum up, I sometimes cast myself as an unregistered lobbyist, not often seen in Salem, yet definitely with an agenda.  My Oregon Curriculum Network has consistent / illustrative content.  Determining where I'm coming from is not that difficult, per the aforementioned math-teach thread.

If you want to join in the debate, I encourage finding regional colleagues, as the issues we raise tend to manifest in different ways by region.  Having solutions in one area does not automatically imply a translatable result.  There's no one-size-fits-all panacea.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Princeton Club of Oregon

:: global netnight on mentoring ::

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Inequality for All (movie review)

I discovered at the meeting house today that my Samsung Galaxy 3 had no battery charge.  This is my primary surface for reading OSCON proposals.  I plugged it in and left it charging, to watch this documentary from Movie Madness, an employee pick, and a relatively new release, taking in phenomena up through 2011 and the Obama administration.

Because Reich is a former Secretary of Labor, in the Clinton administration, having served in other political capacities in DC starting with Robert Kennedy and Gerald Ford, the narrative is DC-centric and uses a mostly nationalist perspective.

He joked about being an aide to Lincoln when lecturing to Berkeley students, most of whom were not yet born in the Carter years (his students fill a vast lecture hall and spanned more than a single generation -- and that's not counting the DVD and "e-tube" audience). Most of his self-directed humor is not about his age so much as his height (he's quite short), a result of a rare genetic condition.

One of the rich guys interviewed, a talking head, made a point I've been thinking about as well: no matter where you stand on the investments and income scale, a human body is like a 200-300W bulb, burning those calories, building those proteins, replacing those cells, and nothing more than that.  So what is "wealth" at the end of the day?  We're all roughly equal in getting some nature-provided equipment, with which to do stuff and sleep.

I'd say the movie makes an unintentional pun on "karma" and "car", because Reich's Mini Cooper is a focus, an icon, while the rich guy gets to show us his Audi, the best you can get.  So body + car might be a wealth summation.  But I think the lobbyist interview says it best:  you're paying for access i.e. wealth is access.  If you have "good karma" then that means you're lucky enough to have the level of access you need.

But that somewhat just postpones the tautology.  Why is access so valuable?  It's a means to what end?  More wealth == more experiences to treasure (as memories, once over)?  Wealth is a well-sustained expectation of being able to maintain high living standards tomorrow and the next day?  A kind of near term sense of security?  Access to medicines.  Access to education, information, training, skill building exercises.

Much wealth takes the form of public infrastructure, facilities shared by "strangers" and not just some "in group" or congregation / club.  Government that cares about "joe public" and "the middle class" is of a different type than government of, by and for the rich.

When Fuller signaled the demise of the USA of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in the early 1980s (Grunch of Giants, St. Martin's Press), he's heralding the corporate-persons-controlled Citizens United USA of today, a different "Lego Land" than before, which many rich people find more awesome (although Reich reminds us that even the rich do better with a strong middle class than with a weak one -- the virtuous cycle turns vicious at some point tipping point).

We could go on and on with this investigation, into what people mean by "wealth".

Anyway, the rich guy basically agrees the system lacks smarts, since where his money gets invested stays a black box to him in large percentage, meaning "control" is hardly the right word for what you're gaining.

It's not like he's automatically "in charge" in proportion to his making thousands of times more than the average joe.  Having many times more money does not mean calling proportionally more of the shots.  I'm sure the same might be said of Jack or Jill CEO:  net take home pay is not a measure of commensurate insight into inner workings.

The metaphor of a sailing ship is still apt:  it's your ability to adapt to the shifting weather that sustains you, not some heroic ability to "control".  That ability to adapt depends on more than just you, but on your crew (personnel) and your gear (tools).

Speaking of ships, Reich and Clinton were both Rhodes Scholars and met on the ship the selected scholars would traditionally take across the Atlantic.  That's when they first started to become friends.

During the Joys and Concerns portion of business meeting (at the very end) I expressed my relief that Jen had found another home in which to have her baby, given Carol's ongoing need for that room.  The Buddha Room is still in need of refurbishing (having been reconstructed for $12K), but as a nursery / bedroom?  I expressed my expectation the home birth will go well.

The timing had been ironic in that Peter (another Princeton alum) was telling Wanderers about his time in Vietnam in the far north, aiming to assist leveraging cell phone access to gain better health care for ethnic minority moms, and finding in this particular case that cell phone access was already high and so was birth-in-facility (versus home) an indicator of a developed health care infrastructure in his criteria.

That's what had surprised him.  What surprised me was getting an email that very evening, from someone 8.8 months pregnant, requesting a guest room.  It was just that her original plans had not panned out and finding another place was a long slog.  She's stayed here before, a stalwart of our FNB / post-Occupy (OPDX) community.  She's a joyful, kind woman and should be a great mom.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Gnostic Musings

Glenn tromped through the winter wonderland to Blue House today, though with warmer freezing rain, walking became more treacherous.  He and I would later appreciate the dribble of cinders on 38th.  We weren't the only pedestrians taking to the middle of the street.  Besides, trees were dropping big loads, maybe icicles.  Who wants to be hit by one of those?

We discussed the Gnostic literature, where we overlap some, Glenn being a voracious reader on many topics and me hosting a borrowed collection that's brimming with titles.  I've been sampling, enjoying some memories.  Pico della Mirandola and Cosimo di Medici -- these were figures I'd encountered before.  I hadn't realized Dame Frances Yates, as some call her, had left us that long ago (1981).  I'd read some Pico (in translation) at Princeton.

Cosimo played a role similar to Jung's later, in getting an early bird look at some ancient documents.  Cosimo's score purported to be the writings of Hermes Trismagistus, though a later critic would denigrate their authenticity as such.  Jung helped curate some of the more recent archeological finds, newly uncovered mostly-Coptic sources.  The hay day of Gnosticism is anchored between two and three hundred years after Jesus.  Mining sources for alternatives to established theologies has been a pass time of the rich and famous (who else could afford the risk or gather the information?).

Going forward, we get to Blake and Swedenborg, and Jung whom I've mentioned.  But also the Transcendentalists, including of the New England variety.  Bucky Fuller's Tetrascroll contains the classic Gnostic inversion of the Genesis story, meaning exaltation of the snake (Naga) as an avatar of Sophia (gnosis), Eve the emissary of a higher Self.  Women tended to have full powers relative to men in Gnostic institutions and this, Glenn and I agreed, is maybe what most roiled the emerging Patriarchy, the self appointed Christian Orthodoxy, i.e. those "highly motivated men" hell bent on putting a stop to the Gnostic heresies.

I've been thinking of how Dee's or Bruno's Monad resonates at the far end of the 20th century with Fuller's Dymaxion or VE.  We're talking about an ordinary cuboctahedron, six square faces and eight triangular ones, which in Fuller's Synergetics became the Vector Equilibrium of volume 20.  He'd call it the VE (the strut pattern was a focus, not looking at a "solid").  That kind of metaphysical symbolism marks Synergetics as a work in the humanities, its tetrahedron a bridge to STEM.  But the literary critics have not been too keen to swallow that magnum opus as a work on their side of the fence.  Getting it listed as Philosophy at Earlham College was an uphill battle and then some.

That raises the question of to what extent Quakers might be latter day Gnostics and such.  These matters may be debated as if an empirical truth could be discovered, but of course "it's complicated" is the real answer.  The mystical Quakerism of Rufus Jones is a close neighbor of New England Transcendentalism, some might saw a pure form of it.  By some transitive law implicating Walt Whitman and Emerson to some extent, we get a continuation of the Gnostic tradition.  But again, that's just storytelling and myth, not set in stone dogma.

:: tetrascroll, limited edition full size ::