Friday, August 30, 2013

Reading Dynamics

Some classrooms tell you not to doodle.  That may be damaging as right brains think in doodles (a shorthand more than insider neuroscience).  As a privileged teen in the Philippines, I was afforded the opportunity to take an Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics workshop.  We were encouraged to "doodle" by which I mean, to "organize a structured recall".  Chances are, in a lecture, you'll fall behind if you try to write stuff verbatim.  Take a tape recorder?  Serial access is slow.  Rather:  draw semantic networks, connect nodes with edges.  Doodle in other words.

The mathematics teacher on Youtube who has done the most for doodling lately is Vi Hart.  She mocks a situation all too familiar, a boring background math class with a foreground active mind, one that doodles, muses, connects the dots.  At Evelyn Wood, we just called it a "recall" for short.  After any reading, close the book, close your eyes, then "do a recall".  These and other techniques I learned were well worth my parents' money.  Princeton was a lot easier to keep up with.

An aspect of doodling is "drawing monsters".  Per Monsters University, I'm not saying monsters can't be endearing.  It's just that most of us can't draw very well without really committing to learning, but simple stick figure drawings, or silly-looking stuff, may work out anyway, if you just need comics or cartoons.

I'm not saying political cartoonists are necessarily bad drawers, or pro cartoonists of any type.  I'm saying the criteria are such that South Park cartoons are considered effective and appropriate because they to some extent imitate kid drawings and this cartoon features kids.  The Beavis and Butthead flavor of edgy cartoons also owes a lot to Mike Judge. Mad Magazine is not far in the background, with demented cartoons (ala Ren & Stimpy) in the foreground.

Political cartoons tend to feature "caricatures" which are exaggerated / monstrous renderings designed to communicate more ephemeral attributes of a character's role.  These memorable exaggerations get taken up by Francis Yates in her masterful The Art of Memory.  Especially in a pre-literate era with no television, large canvases with stunning action are the way to go.  Hieronymus Bosch makes an impression.  The Mandala is likewise designed to be remembered and carried about in your head.  The image is more like a map or a model.  It's there to remind you of the "karmic wheel or wheels".

All of which art history should serve as a warning to classroom teachers that instructions to "close your doodle books" during a history or literature or math session may be about as counter-productive as it gets.  One may call it "day dreaming" but that's sometimes just projecting, a fear of not being attended to resulting in a standard classroom practice that actually causes brain damage (or call it "damage to the learning process" -- sounds a lot softer).  You want day dreaming or reverie sometimes.  Knowledge "seeps in", requires "osmosis".

At my upcoming workshop, Leveraging Python, I'm going to recommend having doodle books handy; I hope to have some piled up for quick access.  They may use their laptops too of course, this being a geek conference where laptops may be open at all times.  But I want to transmit some of that Evelyn Wood goodness, even if these are adults.  I'm not one of those teachers who thinks it's too late if you're an old dog of some kind.  Lets see what kind.  Old dogs come in many varieties.

In freeing more engineers to think in a right brained sense, maybe we'll reap some benefits, such as better visualizations, stronger metaphors, more efficient learning techniques.  Cyberia (cyberspace) is cram-packed with various "creatures".  We acknowledge "viruses" but then what should we call software running normally?  "Daemons, processes..." we have a few words, a few images.  But the cartoons are still gruel-thin at the moment.  What Cyberia needs are more doodlers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

City of Morons

Washington DC (WDC) wants to give its prime contractors an opportunity to test new infrastructure, such as permanent bases in Iraq, and is therefore ramping up to attack targets in an area formerly known as Syria.

The nation-state system is in a shambles by 2013, with out-of-control Washington DC bombing whatever and whomever it likes, enjoying it's "superpower" status (a psychopathic state of mind).

The City of Morons should not be trusted with guns, let alone missiles or heavy weapons.  But everyone knows that already.

Maybe chemical weapons were used, but for Washington DC to say "UN, you don't need to check, we have the evidence" is not going to impress anyone.  That's what they said to the UN in Iraq.  They were lying.  They lie all the time.  We tune them out as just noise.  DC is known to instigate wars based on false reports of events, starting with the Indian Wars at least.

That city's continued banking on the credibility of the USA, a once proud nation it insidiously helped to destroy, just makes it look more pathetic than ever.

I agree with this statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich:
"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, to once again create artificial, unproven excuses for an armed intervention in the region, are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa."
You won't bring the dead back to life by not allowing the UN to make its own investigations.  And if "retaliation" is what's needed, how about something other than wanton murder?  Find those responsible and prosecute, don't compound crime with more crime.  Duh.  Chemical weapons anywhere, like nukes, are a disgrace.  Send them back to the junk pile and destroy them.  Do it now.

Start another war without allowing independent investigation of the evidence (again) and you further endanger the very people you claim you want to help (but we don't believe you -- you only help yourselves; you suffer from "cruise missile build-up" and want to release the tension).

DC just doesn't get how untrusted it is, how vile and putrid its track record, how deep its hypocrisy.

Cascadia to Syria:  we're sorry.  We may be next.  They've already done a lot to destroy Hawaii and the Pacific Rim, including with radio-toxic chemicals.  By using DU, they commit chemical warfare on the environment daily, and many die as a result (no one knows how many).

Followup two years later:

NYT backs away from "vector analysis" smoking gun theory (Dec 19 2013)
Questions linger regarding sarin attack (April 6, 2014)
WDC funds both sides in Syria Civil War (April 1, 2016)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Amerish English


JavaScript is the local puppet master, 
in communication with 
a netherworld of cloud based Servers.

keep the AJAX alive 
as Clients push their shopping carts
or whatever.

Old myths lay just beneath the surface. 

The dragon, atop a treasure trove:
our Python coiled among memory stones, 
latter day oracles,
each full of juicy secrets, 
some authentication required.

I was arguing with Steve and Patrick at Mulligan's the other day, that HTML is in the province of the English teacher, grammar teacher, elementary school language skills teacher.  It's not "computer science" or a "computer language", it's more punctuation, like semi-colons 'n $%&, plus with some auxiliary grammar, the XML concepts (or, as I explained to Uncle Bill SGML concepts, from Boeing).

Patrick shot back that software gets between conventional writing skills and all this machine-oriented stuff, so mastery of HTML is not a prerequisite for mastery of English, that boundary still stands.  My thoughts went back to Gene Fowler's thesis, that Amerish (as distinct from English) did include XML grammars (one could say) much as the Roman language included outlines, argument templates, formats.  A meta-grammar if you will (this was Steve's point).

Assuming Gene has a genuine leading here, lets explore moving move of this HTML stuff into both literature and theater.  For one, you have the Document Object Model (the DOM), which you may think of as an XML outline and a puppet, a segmented floppy thing controlled by strings (or controller).  JavaScript makes the DOM "laugh and play".  You write scripts for JavaScript or you could say JavaScript is but scripts, much as English contains (is, gives form to) what we might call "scenarios" (an overlapping feature with Synergetics, another language, that has those too).

You don't want your JavaScript-controlled client-facing environment to get bogged down or bottle necked owing to not enough attention from the server.  A poorly designed web framework makes the browser wait for updates that could just as well be handled within the browser by JavaScript.  The server gets bombarded by minutiae that could have been handled locally, and so service for everyone bogs down.  "One server per many clients" is the expected geometry here, and the devil is in the details of how that's managed.

If there's no zip code but one is required, or if the puzzle question is not solved (correctly or incorrectly), then lets not go running off to the server half-cocked.  Have all your papers in order before reaching the server's desk, don't be fumbling through your bottomless purse for that elusive passport.  Servers need to move quickly, not sit there grinding away pointing out exceptions, empty blanks, missing data.  The client side should have handled that stuff.  First get the blanks filled, then send only completed forms to the server for transaction processing.

Think of court life in the age of monarchs and needing the King's clock cycles to settle some dispute or obtain permission to build some facility (approval, denial... whatever).  You queue for the King for days and days, bribing the right officials, and some wrong ones, and when you finally do meet the King you realize vital facts are missing from your story, facts that could have been discovered and provided in the time intervening, if only there had been the proper form (template), a list of minutiae that might arise.  If you're thinking lawyers and JavaScript have something in common, as to their role in workflow governance, you may have something there.

Python is happy to delegate that which can be or has been covered.  Widget tool kits and web browsers were and are doing fine without having their guts be in Python.  Google App Engine got outfitted from the inside (I used it for an I Ching application), and novel ways of configuring the back end (e.g. Heroku) kept adding to Python's power on the server side.  As a mediator between SQL engines and HTML, Python was an early "P language" as in the classic "LAMP stack" (Linux, Apache, MySQL, a P-language: PHP, Python or Perl).  So letting JavaScript manage the DOM has always seemed quite natural.  Talk to JavaScript with JSON and everything's smooth.

This was a literature class, not a computer science class.  The "tabla rasa" or "blank canvas" of our day is the web page.  That's where most writing now appears, even when published in hard copy on demand.  Gene had a point about the final repository being more XML-like at the roots, not necessarily applied "later".  The structure and logic of the document requires the DOM to express and define itself.  To argue these are the skills of human language writers, not just machines, is not the huge uphill battle it once was.  "Amerish" (a-MER-ish) is taking shape.

Postscript:  Adobe's PDF format or Portable Document Format is another DOM with its own controller language.  Although servers may create PDFs on the fly and serve them to browsers, PDF has not taken off as an alternative to HTML + CSS + JavaScript.  They each fill their own niche.  PDF remains under-appreciated for its ability to contain embedded media such as videos, as well as internal hyperlinks.

Thinking about Objects

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hotel World

Portland, Oregon Hilton, 23rd Floor

I'm a small timer in Hotel World, so I felt quite privileged to get an invite to tonight's soiree at the Hilton in downtown Portland.

The architects have redone the 23rd (top) floor not as some private penthouse but as a configurable set of rooms which, all opened up, form quite a commodious space.

"Wide open" was the floor plan this evening, with the air walls removed.

The occasion was to showcase the remodeled space to conference organizers and, as a guy on the edge of that business, looking over Steve's shoulder, I sometimes peek in.

Also on display:  some of our best local caterers.  Most wore Hilton uniforms but I noticed some others as well, like at the main cheese station.

These would be caterers the Hilton could put you in touch with.

Also exhibited:  this style of event, with interesting food stops or stations scattered around the margins, all small dishes, nibble food one could say, but with forks or spoons, and quite substantial.

Kobe beef, sushi sized, sizzled on lava.  Top quality shrimp cocktails.  Cheese plates.  Grilled and stuffed mushrooms.  The final cooking step is sometimes done right there at the station.  One sees it's quite fresh.

People helped themselves but given the tiny plates, which one put down -- and they'd disappear, thanks to a deft staff -- the flow seemed natural and encouraged mingling.  We had places to sit, but not too many.

To be alone with your thoughts, I recommend the floor to ceiling windows and a pillar table.  Someone interesting will join you, almost certainly.  It happened to me.

People who wanted to meet, or simply should, easily could.  The bandwidth stayed high.  That's what I like about the space and/or event.

Steve had actually staged an event here earlier, one of a select few, but not in this giant room.

Down the hall, to the south, you'll find a smaller room suitable for a more intimate breakfast or dinner, with place settings and seating for all.  There's still space to stand and mingle in the serving area, where diners go to fill their plates.

Newcomers come directly to this space from the elevators.  We were given floor plans as we took our badges, to help plan our events.

Steve's OSCON Survivors Breakfast was in this sit down format. I was privileged to be there also.

Back to this evening:  I hobnobbed with a Hilton sales guy, Anton, fresh from Chicago.  We talked about pop-up galleries and how these would be ideal in this space.  Artists could debut maybe one or two nights only, say over a weekend, with a few of these food stations going.

Yes, it would be an investment.  Sometimes for charity.

Or one might imagine a traveling museum that only fleetingly appeared and was not easy to just stumble upon or into.  Who knows, maybe it will come through Portland.

The established galleries (or museums) might resent the competition but I'm saying any of them could play too, in some corner of the market.

Top of the world event spaces are perhaps plentiful at the global level and hotels aren't the only ones with those.  The alchemy of creating events, and matching them to the right venue, is not the easiest to master.

The real challenge, or one of them, is in how do you select and screen your guests.  If they need to claim a name tag at the door, this could be at the top of the elevators, where there's more space to aggregate.

They had outside security at the bottom though too however.   A swipe card or ticketed event might set up in the ground floor lobby.  More like The Nines with service counters at street level.

In any case, this was not some wide open public event, but had badges pre-printed.  Weddings are often run this way.  The guest list is meticulous.

I told Steve my story, and Patrick, of going to Junior English School in Rome and having a friend who got to live with his family right inside a Hilton hotel.  His dad was the hotel's manager.

I got to stay over at the Bondis sometimes and order room service for dinner.

To me at that time, this seemed beyond cool, to enjoy a living standard so much higher than any Caesar's, now that we had electricity and TV and Lego and such.

Still no personal computers yet, no smartphones... no i-Stuff.

Yet we were definitely lovin' it back then in the roaring 1960s, hoping we'd live to see 2000.  Those holding atom bombs might not let us.

I'm not talking a whole 50 years ago quite.  Not that far back.

Today is August 22, 2013 and people are remembering the March on Washington and MLK's I Have a Dream speech, and then the horrifying Kennedy shootings and assassination of MLK.

The world got a lot more bleak in a hurry for little people like me.  That was 1963.

By 1969 we were looking back on Woodstock.  I was about done being a cub scout, in Rome.  Hayden Dunn, Mahlon Morse, Kijoon Yu, Reggie Hyde, Joe Montabello... my mom was our den leader, then Hayden's dad was, for Weblos.

Now I'm the older guy with gray hair, still bouncing around in the same matrix, yet it's also different.  The movie The Matrix was still in the future back then (duh).

I'd seen 2001 Space Odyssey with my dad at a theater just off the Via Veneto, closer to Villa Borghesi than Piazza Barberini, not far from the American Embassy (where neither mom nor dad worked -- but friends of ours did, sure).  La Fiametta.

Not having read the books, I was a tad confused by the ending of that film.  I wasn't the only one. What was that obelisk anyway?  Like the beginning was confusing also.  But cool anyway.

I also went to English language movies at the Pasquino in Trastevere (Yellow Submarine) and at the Archimedes (007 movies) closer to my home in Parioli.

But I wander...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tetrahedron Academy

Yes, I'm playing off Monsters University, and the fact that any challenge to The Cube scares people (scream!).

That's just at first, a kind of shock, as you remember what it's like to first have to think of these things, usually with a teacher making threats if your questions went too deep.  Save those for college. It's triggering.  Spikes the stress level.

Green Tetrahedron Volume == Green Cube Volume

I explain this drawing in a lot more detail at the Math Forum.

It's what David Koski and I have talked a lot about, on Verizon: a triangular book, front and back covers laid open, with a triangular page free to flip back and forth.

He births some of his modules from this apparatus, an apparatus akin to some of those in Synergetics, or Myst, or Uru.

I didn't used to imagine a page, and let one of the covers do all the work, but I see wisdom in adding that page, keeping the book "open flat".  It defines two tetrahedrons, complementary.

When the page (shown in blue) is slanted just right to make the page-tip to cover-tip the same length as all the other edges, that's a regular tetrahedron (also blue).

The green tetrahedron, in contrast, is when the page is straight up, normal, upright.  The little green square at the dihedral angle is meant to symbolize this state.  Still five edges are the same length, call it "D", but then there's a longer edge, the hypotenuse.

What's so is if the volume of the green tetrahedron is the same as that of a cube with D/2 edges (or call that length "R").  That's the Earthling unit volume, the R**3 cube.  The blue tetrahedron, known as D**3 to the Martians, has slightly less volume:  sqrt(8/9).

In the namespace of Synergetics, we go with the Martians in letting the blue tetrahedron be one.

Multiplying both volumes by sqrt(9/8) applies a different lens, and D**3 is now unity, whereas R-cubed is a little bigger than unit.

That's heresy for some Earthlings, to have a unit-edged cube be other than unit volume.  They look for a new Bertrand Russell or Officer Spock to defend them against the illogical.

The Martian Ambassador has a simple message:  peaceful co-existence.  The Parliament of World Religions seems inclined to agree.

In the meantime, my Digital Mathematics: Heuristics for Teachers continues to attract an elite audience.  By means of workshops and Pythonic andragogy, I get the word out about our triangular book and this little demo.

It's STEM-worthy storytelling, even if it's science fiction.

Mix it with War of the Worlds and the Red, Blue, Green Mars series (a trilogy) for further reading.

All hail, Marvin the Martian.  V-sign.  As you were.

Dymaxion Clown
portland center stage, 2008:  IEEE lecture

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

PPUG 2013.8.13

Well, here we are 6:38 PM, with a room full of geeks facing expectantly forward.  This will be the first PPUG in a long while not led by Michelle Rowley.  Already, we're late.

I'm on the organizing committee but bowed out of any room-facing role.  Will we see one of our other fearless leaders step up to the plate?  I brought Steve in the car, he's good in a pinch.

OK, we've kick started the ordeal.  This room needs to be miked but UA shouldn't have to shoulder all this stuff, Michelle either.  PDX Python Hack Night is in two weeks, in this very place.

Where are we?  One of the heaviest-looking stone buildings in NW houses two of the most ephemerally named:  Vestas and Urban Airship, the former being a wind energy company.  I love it when it works out that way.

TechFestNW is another sponsor this evening.  Applause.  Now the first speaker.

Steve Holden just announced a 15% promo for DjangoCon, told us the code.  I hope he lists that somewhere, like on the discussion list.  I posted about a job opening there just today.  Splinter.  Andrew Lorente is our speaker.

The giant room is packed.  People are taking chairs down off the stacks.  LOL cat to end the talk.  Splinter sits atop Selenium.  Steve asked a technical question about using mutexes as context managers.

PPUG and Wanderers happen on the same Tuesday every so often.

Eric Holscher is doing the second talk.  There is a mike, which he started with, but now it has cut out. He has a fairly loud voice.  He's delivering a good plug for really writing the documentation.  The half-life of your project depends on it.  "Documentation builds a better community."

Eric's tool uses "markdown" (.md files).  See markdowntutorial.

I should go back to my CP4E pages and document stuff more.  I think I did pretty well at the time, like with the Numeracy Series.

Good documentation covers:
(a) installation
(b) provides a tutorial, maybe a cookbook (recipes)
(c) links to code and issues, for providing feedback
(d) any other ways to get support, community info
(e) a license e.g. (BSD, GPL, MIT)
(f) contributor information (if there's a way to get involved)

No license defaults to closed source, copyleft is explicit.  This same message was drummed home at OSCON XV.  At this rate we'll be done within a single hour.  That's a fast PPUG meeting.

No wait, we'll have a Lightning Talk or two.  That's a good idea.

By the time I got to Rogue, seats looked all taken so I let Steve have some fun while I went around the block for some food.  I invited about twenty new people to my LinkedIn network to pass the time.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A-Bomb Day

Disarm Day, 2013

August 6 is more formally known as Disarmament Day, at least around here.

I'm tethered through my Android, posting directly from the event, having wandered around taking photographs.  I've been doing this every year for awhile now.  Carol (mom) was one of the originators of this event in the 1960s, following her visit to Hiroshima about fifty years ago.

A PSR man (Physicians for Social Responsibility) is speaking about the currently operational reactor, a Fukushima type (GE boiler), following a speech by Kayla Godowa-Tufti, a treaty rights activist.  This year we're finding out more about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, its role in the Manhattan Project.  The plutonium for the first A-Bomb at Alamogordo, as well as for the bomb dropped over the City of Nagasaki, were processed there.

Big wheels turn slowly.  Dr. Dyson's conclusion that the Japanese military was already in surrender-mode prior to the atomic bombings, seems highly credible to me.  The hoarding of nukes has become the hallmark of a form of psychological retardation known as "the military-industrial complex".

Nation-states, if ranked relative to average humans, have a negative IQ (below zero).  They consistently do really stupid stuff.  The UN is like a marathon Beavis and Butthead episode, with "superpowers" among the most doofy.

Nations with huge numbers of nukes are off-the-scale aberrational.  This is hardly news to anyone, and is one reason DC is known (semi-affectionately) as the Moron Capital.  The term "moron" stems from the pseudo-science of Eugenics and is used mockingly (sarcastically, satirically).

Speaking of which, the CEO of Amazon purchased the Washington Post just recently.  That's the headline for today.

Arthur Dye is here.  I should untether and go look for him before we disperse.  There's a follow-up event at a nearby museum.  I see quite a few other people I know here too.