Friday, May 25, 2007

Design Science

Last night marked the completion of my Python for Wanderers course, during which I shared a new storyboard for using Python in the field to teach analytical thinking.

We don't always call it math (~M!) as it's more a mix of subjects: philosophy, computer science, graphical arts... music.

We're hoping to leverage the capabilities of the new technologies, including these inexpensive laptops now coming on the scene. has been investing in X3D recently, another way to make graphical material interactive and "fly through- able" (Octaga actually has a little paper airplane icon signifying "fly through").

I've embedded a screen sample. Plus there's been a lot of structural analysis going on behind the scenes. Sam was by 4D Studios not long ago, with the latest hardcopy version.

Yes, I agree, it looks a bit like the obelisk from 2001.

:: sam lanahan with
flextegrity prototype ::

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Laptops, Intelligent use of

Intelligent use of laptops (setting): the lecture hall is large and the teacher far away, the chalkboards too. Given there's a camera or two, recording for posterity, it's easy to patch in to the camera feed and see what they're seeing (the producers in the control room), like sports on TV, everything close up and clear.

That's using a laptop, everyone with sufficient bandwidth to capture the feed, with headphones if desired.

Of course the temptation to multi-task presents itself. What did she say again?

Teachers like to day-dream that "undivided attention" is behind all those dreamy eyes out there. Laptops simply make it more public: no, other thoughts are happening too, get over it.

At least let 'em control their own thought process, how 'bout it?

So if you're a lecturer, you might see a lot of student eyes pointed not at you, but at a screen below eye level.

But they're watching you, through eyes on the ceiling or wherever they put the cameras.

Unsettling? Maybe. But at least it's easier on the eyes, plus your lecture is getting saved for future polishing/editing (spin doctoring), such that your "greatest hits" become a salable compilation someday.

So maybe you'll be free to retire from showbiz then, and try out other pastimes, thanks to all those royalties or whatever?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Middle School Program

Friends as in Religious Society of, with many lowercase among them, have gathered to plan future meetings, which sounds boring I know, but that's what we do: meet. For some, that's in anticipation of some future action. For us, that future action will minimally include meetings.

I served as chauffeur this time, escorting my middle schooler, lugging a laptop. I'm not trying to steer stuff at this level, got me blogs to keep current. So I'm back in a corner office while the meeting, after some pizza, gets under way.

Earlier today I wore my tie to some business meetings regarding this or that data, database programmer that I am. Not that I always wear a tie of course, but I've been shopping recently, and felt like road testing some of the combos, having tried out the completely new suit on my birthday recently.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Lots of geeks were cued to watch this segment on OLPC on 60 Minutes this evening.

I was first to publish a review to edu-sig, Python Nation's "Python in education" list (hosted at

Excerpt: "Negroponte himself comes across as a class act, handsome, well spoken, an idealist we can love. So the XO uses AMD chips, so what?"

In other news, Jason has agreed to take on Python Meetups in Portland, via the infrastructure. Per Kevin's input @ BarCamp, we've created an official ( mailing list for Portland as well. Thanks to Brad Allen of Dallas for hitting the restart button.

In my inbox: finish downloading Ubuntu Studio (37%), prepare and mail an NTSC DVD of my Dawn's bio & slides to Pat MacAodha; blog screen shots of Google Sketchup (free) doing domes 'n stuff; read more of George Tenet's "encoded spy novel" (I've enjoyed it so far, especially playing "musical chairs" in Georgia).

Sam called; we talked about poets. Dad'd be 77 today.

:: from the 3D warehouse ::

Thursday, May 17, 2007


:: rebecca @ island cafe ::
As it worked out, my surprise birthday present today was to hang out with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, our guest ISEPP lecturer, tonight rounding out the 2006-2007 series with a talk on incompleteness. Terry managed to schedule a quick lunch-focused trip on Captain Donzo's Meliptus, with me 'n Glenn on crew.

Rebecca did some hard time in 1879 Hall (Princeton's philo building), at the grad level (I was undergrad), escaping the limited options a trully orthodox Jewish curriculum could have provided a woman of her day. We gossiped and/or compared notes on a few of the big names for which Princeton is famous e.g. Kripke 'n Kaufmann.

Rebecca and I are both Sasha/Borat/AliG fans, so using my faux AliG voice I asked "if Gödel was on Myspace, who would his Myspace friends be?" Rebecca responded without hesitation: "Einstein and Leibniz." Me: "but Leibniz was dead." Rebecca: "They're all dead." At which point I broke character to speculate how three hundred years from now, Myspace might include as many dead as living (the info'd still be of historical interest no?).

Post lecture: Gödel would've nixed Wittgenstein as a Myspace friend at the time, especially as LW was being hailed as the god of logical positivism (a gross miscasting) whereas Gödel was into proving his brand of Platonism still held water. Rebecca: definitely one of Gödel's best Myspace friends.

:: rebecca chatting with nirel ::

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wanderers 2007.5.15

Scene One:

Mom got a computerized call in the wee hours of this morning informing her of a change of itinerary on United Airlines: her flight had been canceled, with the new one scheduled in at 8:30 PM instead of 3 PM.

Arriving early at the airport, given the pre-scheduled shuttle, she rebooked via Seattle but that flight was pulled for safety reasons, after passengers had already boarded, meaning she's now wait listed on the flight in at 8:30, with a backup confirmed in at 10 PM.

We call that "being jerked around" in the airline biz, but fortunately the customer in this case, age 78, is a veteran flyer and knows how to roll with the punches.

On my end, it's an ever-changing pickup time, meaning how much of Wanderers I'll make is still a mystery.

Scene Two:

Nirel did a great job laying out her dream of a cafe/lounge in this particular Seattle property that speaks to her. I've written about her project before in this blog. We all know I'm a big Nirel fan, in addition to being a Katie Couric fan. Count me a Condi fan too, talk of policies aside.

Scene Three:

Mom really felt for the airline clerks, especially this one who got 130 unhappy campers from the deboarded plane to Seattle, some missing international connections, all lined up and mad. Her own scenario worked out pretty well, with a comfortable seat on an Airbus that arrived some 20 minutes early, closer to 8 PM.

Tara and I retrieved her, and her bags, from PDX. She was amazed and pleased that her bags had made it as well, given her earlier wait listed status.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

OMSI on Mother's Day

::: wandering around OMSI; studying shelters ::

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Prepping for Class

output from first draft of povtoyz,
after rendering in POV-Ray

Python for Wanderers, part three of four, is tonight, and I wanted to be up to date with part three for Saturday Academy, which I'm teaching @ PSU. To that end, I wanted something like VizToyz but geared to work with a ray tracer, POV-Ray, instead of VPython out the back end.

In writing this afternoon, I finally noticed my was eight faces shy of the full complement for my Icosahedron subclass, duh. I hadn't noticed because I was so focussed on the wireframe view, but once I got experimenting in POV-Ray, the defect became obvious, as faces, defined by POV-Ray's polygon primitive, were missing from I, Icosa (a menu option parallel to the one in

today's scribbles

Jennifer is presumably on her way over the mountains, if Judy was right about finally finding a rental car. Not someone I've met before, but she may come to Wanderers as a part of her tour of PDX.

Another feature of the upcoming Wanderers class will be to review my work with Dr. Bob Fuller and team, getting that Studies in Human Motion CDR ready for the summer '04 meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

I used Python + POV-Ray for my part in that project, starting from Excel spreadsheets giving the successive (x,y,z) spatial locations (rows) of several sensors (columns) affixed to a ballet student going through her moves in Lincoln, Nebraska. Each row became a frame in a POV-Ray film, with my Python code doing the conversion (included as open source on the CDR).

studies in human motion CD

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

At the Lab

Nick and I are waterholing @ Lucky Lab, connecting through PersonalTelco (he's on a MacBook, me the Toshiba, nowadays with a gig of RAM). Nick's just back from four months in Europe and Canada, including Ireland and Toronto, with lots of stories.

I was late to another power lunch with Arthur, the retired Ecotrust and AFSC VIP, because I was countering the carpenter ants in my garage. Arthur gave me his blessing on that, eco-unfriendly though I'm being. We ate at Portland Fish House, just a tad towards Mt. Tabor from Pauling's on Hawthorne.

Power lunch with Terry Bristol yesterday and Mio Sushi, just prior to a power walk with Trevor and Sarah-the-Dog to Laurelhurst then Ben & Jerry's. Trevor updated me on the twisted history of Oswald Mosley, with the partnership ending up buying the Obey Giant artist's hardcover magnum opus at Missing Link for $60.

Python meetup tonight, organized by some geek from Dallas. Looking forward.

I'm drinking Crazy Ludwig for beer, their signature Hawthorne Best Bitter being off line. The guy behind the bar said it was named for van Beethoven; I thought maybe that Neuschwanstien guy.

Sky Camp

I used this occasion to share my dream, of a helicopter lowered prototype in the wide open field, just there for the duration of the event, for Junior Friends to monkey in and around, then gone.

How we get there in just a year (with earlier prototypes showing up elsewhere in the meantime) is not by me joining the tiny planetary clique of billionaires, but by me exercising my skills as a director, collecting raw footage for the editors, using my connections, my chief forms of embeddedness, e.g. with the Quakers here. I only had a tent this time, and that might be it for me next time as well. No smorgasbord, no yacht parked in the lake.

The difference between my kind of movie-making and Hollywood's is the props are corporate sponsored as future real world, in some cases mainstreamed candidates. It's product placement of a kind, similar to what the military does for its theater-ready killingry. Livingry is cutting edge, ready for soap operas, and the backgrounds now compete more with the talent for audience attention, something for actors' guilds to get over (this is a genre, akin to the documentary, not a hostile takeover and/or ban on our favorite fictionalizing techniques).

We use fewer mock ups, more of an improv script, because this is "real time" (like ordinary life), not always with opportunities for "take two" type redoings. Not every director is trained to work in this way. Nor do I forbid myself the luxury of slow frame rendering, when such R&R type movie-making gigs get offered.

But this is a surge to Darfur and such places, a FEMA type scenario, with real lives at stake on the ground. So these languid pauses in Quaker boot camps nestled in the Pacific Northwest has this "save the children" urgency about it. The corporations sponsoring us don't take it all too lightly either. We're free to insert our Glad bag commercials, our SuperBowl XX..VI. But that doesn't mean we're not serious-minded about our responsibilities, such as these may be, to our fellow beings aboard Spaceship Earth, nonhumans included.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

FEMA Villages

I met Arthur for a power lunch on Belmont. He's my former boss at CUE, during the Reverend Rodney Page era at EMO, and later a higher up at Ecotrust, a former xBase client.

He filled me in on some Quaker influences, as chronicled in Nixon Agonisties in Whittier, in South Carolina during the AFSC's participation in desegregation, and among the Klamath here in Oregon. Other gossip.

All that, plus the ongoing OLPC vs. CP4E thread, has me thinking of those FEMA Villages again, the ones not made of trailers by The Flintstones, more like a futuristic Dignity Village or Camp I Am.

They'd have a faster-moving queue of disaster survivors, with more slowly rotating staff managing the intake to placement cycle. Staff might be tasked to the different villages TSA style i.e. on a just in time basis.

These villages are not designed around any permanently located dwellings, but serve as removable temporary waystations twixt a disaster and a next chapter.

And no, a given FEMA Village needn't contain any geodesic domes, as if "by law" or anything like that. It's more a matter of who's coordinatin', exercising her or his artistic judgment.

Part of the Katrina Math curriculum (similar to Rainforest Math, but gnuer) is to ensure our HP4E thread continues, i.e. students at least have the option of designing and building geodesic domes i.e. we don't want this relatively new knowledge to get buried for hundreds of years, in some precious "dark age" of Flintstone contrivance.