Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wanderers 2007.8.29

We met for unprogrammed sharing this morning.

Much of the chatter was astronomical in nature: the shepherd moons in Saturn's rings, the fact of our Moon's inching away from our Earth year by year -- but then aren't both getting heavier?

Jim Buxton, our solar eclipse resident fanatic, hadn't much use for the lunar eclipse we'd just experienced.

Don mentioned Katie Couric's plans to anchor from Baghdad next week.

David Tver talked about goats and their environmental impact.

New fitness goal: gym once a day, even if just a short visit, any day I'm in town, through the end of September.

[ posting via a free access point in the Lloyd Center, while Tara does some shopping for school clothes ]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Which Hollywood Star for President?

Hindu cultures have done much to mix celebs with politicos with minor dieties, and that may be catching on here, what with President Reagan & Cronies being such a smash hit at the box office with many voters.

Who would we consider drafting today, of the Hollywood variety?

I'd propose Whoopi Goldberg, though I'm quite aware of the hilarity and fast times we'd enjoy under the current Governor of California.

I just like her Calypso energy whereas so many of the guys are so slimy and retarded (no offense guys, been there done that).

It's all about balance. We could revert to a John Wayne down the road, when all the shrill testiness has died down a bit. Whaddya say voters?

Back to reality:

I like having camps champion constituencies, no question. You don't have to be a huge party to be impressive.

Take the Pirate Party in Scandanavia for example: very exclusive, but walks a good talk, has clout. Voters give it just enough credence to stay in the game, like adding hot sauce (them Veekings ain't cowards).

In the USA, we're mostly supposed to declare Red or Blue to even get chips on the table. Then at higher levels (e.g. intelligence community) it's like we're completely forbidden to play either Red or Blue cuz that's just "too political."

Go figure. A nation of turkeys if you ask me or Ben Franklin (smile).

for bbq

Friday, August 24, 2007

Liberal Islam

One of the cool aspects of American Islam is it hasn't inherited all the legacy battles of the Mesopotamian region.

Sure, there're tensions, even gangs, but high level teachers have their roots in the civil rights movement, post USA Civil War.

Even if not devout followers of MLK, they understood the nonviolence stratagem, and see it strongly enacted in the person of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, an Afghani.

So you'll find no shortage of patriotic Muslim Americans ready to defend against the likes of Bin Laden, no love lost.

It's not about being "pro" 911 (not about being a twisted psycho). But nor is it about being "pro" attacking Iraq (for what again?).

Liberal Islam also has no silly restrictions against using comics (e.g. cartoons, manga) when treating of serious subjects, including the religiously themed.

Related readings @ Math Forum: [1][2]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Re: Spherical Trig

[ in response to Lou Talman @ Math Forum, re "spherical geometry" becoming important, in tandem with geography and graph theory, typos fixed, hyperlinks, local color added ]

I don't think that spherical *geometry* (or any other non-Euclidean geometry) was ever particularly important as a high school topic. If you meant spherical *trigonometry*, that's a horse of another color.

Geometry, trigonometry whatever. The fine points of your "non-Euclidean" are of some interest though. I take it up in more detail in geometry-pre-college.

And your suggestion that it was displaced by Newtonian calculus is arguable, at the very least.

Joe Clinton showed me the spherical trig books that used to get air time pre the big push to gateway everyone through Calc (moooo!). Fast Food Nation indeed.

Spherical trig may just have died on the vine when it was no longer expected that high school graduates could become surveyors and/or navigators with no further formal education.

Yeah, a presumptuous class thing. As we're learning in South Africa, it makes perfect sense to get young boys on the water, sailing, before they get recruited into landlubber gangs, and a lot of distracting politics (Lara did an excellent story about this awhile back on CBS -- she's chief foreign correspondent and an RSA native).

Navigation arts make a big come back in my scenario. We don't *let* it "die on the vine" the way they did in the dark ages 1900s (but then they didn't have the GIS/GPS tech we now take for granted, poor slobs).

In education, such deaths are usually quite protracted, and that explains the "recent memory" part.

- --Lou Talman

I'm glad you too feel secure in your model. Nice isn't it?


Saturday, August 18, 2007

IEEE Picnic

:: the fantasy ::
Our tour guide with the Army Corps of Engineers professed ignorance of our IEEE guild, at least with respect to our geographic origins, and so queried us before his talk, a kind of namespace check, to see if he'd need to decode the likes of BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) and/or WPA (Work Projects Administration).

As it turned out, we were mostly local yokels with or without family members. I was there with Carol (my mom) and Tara (my teen). We also visited the Fish Hatchery and saw some really big sturgeon, enjoyed coffee from the gift shop (chocolates by Ghirardelli).

Mom hadn't been here since her trans-America trip with my dad as a newly-wed (car trouble in Montana, genius mechanic).

Someone (not me) asked where he, our tour guide, was from. "Indiana, Pennsylvania" as it turned out, which was cool. I have family there too, where we both knew Irelands.

:: the reality ::
Anyway, Powerhouse One is a WPA project dating back to the original design of Bonneville Dam and Lock.

Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned in the area on the promise of starting this project, which had huge momentum behind it.

Myopic easterners expressed skepticism that our Pacific Rim economy, rather recently contacted by Lewis & Clark, would ever make use of the six planned-for generators, let alone the 21 we're now using (that's counting the smallish two fish ladder engines on the Washington side, plus the one in Powerhouse One for local use): "the Dam of Doubt" they called it.

Transformers bedeck the topside of Powerhouse One and put stronger pressure behind the high voltage distribution networks, while lowering amperage. This works pretty well to counter unwanted power loss over the long haul.

He anticipated questions about pricier superconducting solutions such as are found in some parts of the Russian system, but doubted we'd be needing such services down here any time soon, so far south, and the very last in the sequence of Columbia River megawatt dams, which start up in Canada.

The big local news is the ongoing remodel of the generators themselves, which still contain parts dating back to the 1940s and before. Engineers are gradually switching in some new parts, including new blade assemblies, designed to be more fish-friendly plus less oily/leaky to own/operate.

:: a newer blade assembly ::

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


:: Jeff sharing about Python 3000 ::
I'm not sure if PPUG is what we're really calling ourselves (Portland Python User Group). We used to be PORPIG (Portland Python Interest Group). Have we morphed from pig to dog?

I got here late so didn't manage to propose anything for the agenda. I came prepared to give two lightning talks (5 minutes each): my Vilnius-OSCON talk, and the tux droid talk (with Crunchy kindly lent to me by Tara).

I did manage to catch the concluding minutes of Kirk McDonald's talk, about using his Pyd library to write Python extensions in the still-obscure D language.

Jeff talked about Python 3000, using Guido's OSCON slides, prompting some interesting discussion, in which I participated, defending Guido's decision to change the behavior of the division operator, plus mentioning his intent to standardize on Latin-1 in the Standard Library, except for strings like author name. Third party modules are welcome to go wild however, as long as keywords remain keywords.

Mark reviewed David Goodger's OSCON tutorial: How to Program Like a Pythonista while Jeff flipped through David's slides.

I volunteered my lightning talks for next time, plus enjoyed the more informal chat that came afterward -- an important aspect of any Python meetup.

We opted for the IEEE picnic this Saturday. With so few weekends left in the Summer of 2007, I want to maximize time with my family.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


:: Paul Laffoley delivering his keynote ::
I inadvertently woke Trevor to come to this, originally hyped by him as worth catching, and we were both glad we attended.

This artist, Paul Laffoley, was able to enthrall for four hours, working off some bottled water and a defibrillator. His visuals were simply stunning -- deeply alchemical, occult, weird. That's what his audience is into, and that's what he delivers. His speech, on the other hand, is first person "been there, done that" with improvised science fiction.

He's argued for eight hours with Bucky about the Mobius Strip, had that mind-blowing phone call with Kenneth Snelson, did Claude Bragdon's 4D house, a basis for Heinlein's crooked one, as if Bragdon had had the time, builds space elevator time machines in his head and paints them... Gurdjieff, Ouspensky.

A walking compendium of some of the 20th Century's best circus magic, with intimations of what's coming in the 21st. An earnest student of utopia. Shades of Hieronymus Bosch. Many allusions to Dante.

Complete with self-interruptions over others' voices, coke bottle shadows, stories of assistants he'd driven insane. Oh, and a Gaudi version of the World Trade Center, post-911. Wants to live in a Klein Bottle house, grown from some philosophical vegetable matter.

Got my 50 dollars' worth, that's for sure.

OK, time for Bridge Pedal.

:: trevor's comics @ backspace ::

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rippling DNS

I repointed my to some new domain name servers, making them the veridical authorities regarding the hostname and IP number of the hosted archive.

In sum: I jumped free of, landing on some Dual Xeon at a datacenter in Houston, Texas. The move took under 24 hours.

My .py files @ Oregon Curriculum Network are once again popping source code, thanks to a documented AddHandler in the appropriate .htaccess file. I even got the geoquiz working again (uses MySQLdb in the context of Pythonic cgi scripts).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Fuller Schooler: Trevor Blake

Sunday, August 05, 2007


As a local Darfurian, my goal might be to simply escape the region, visit later. This is how many people have historically improved their lives: by moving. North Americans are especially familiar with this strategy.

The global NGO community shouldn't buy the fiction that only "political prisoners" deserve something called "asylum" (relief from suffering). Rather, once you're born a human being on Planet Earth, freedom of movement is your birthright, a freedom perhaps curtailed as you grow older and break others' rules, but why does simply being born in Darfur merit a life sentence to that region?

This is your planet, as much as the next guy's.

I think Darfur represents an ideal set of challenges for OLPC and P4E people to walk their various talks.

Add wireless using satellite, hand out some laptops (not just to kids). They're designed to be self-teaching i.e. this is not a "literacy first, then computers" model, but a "literacy through computers" model, combined with peer teaching ala the South African design.

Portable movie theaters, for showing documentaries about the great outer world outside of Darfur (plus the occasional blockbuster) would also be a part of this program, though individual XO screens pretty much serve this same purpose (like that little screen on the seat back in front of you, on a fully equipped Airbus).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Simpsons (movie review)

[Some kind of "spy kid" review, excerpted from elsewhere]

Common knowledge that Simpsons, like Google, is heavily infiltrated, in the former case through Korea, as direct infiltration of domestics is forbidden (Google through China).

Hence the cleared-for-public-view insider shots of an NSA listening center, where Lisa's worst paranoias are confirmed. Those calls to the boyfriend next door might be monitored. Emails too.

More subtle was the allusion to Marvel comix superhero Spiderman, mixed with capitalist pig iconography and long associated with selfishness (Homer) and product fetishes (as in Wired Magazine -- Bart himself a manikin sex toy in some catalogs Flanders never sees (though his boys maybe do)).

Some may see the evil hand of Moscow in all this (environ- mentalism leverages such as Greenpeace against NATO), but that paranoia's maybe too old school for most tastes ("old school" as in "during recess -- monkey bar talk").

On a more positive note American Dad continues to boost recruiting volume through at least the first few hoops, among women especially (per long term equalization goals -- gotta bring guys up to speed).

Myself: recently returned from Lithuania, toured "KGB museum" disguised as an overweight American tourist (very persuasive, even to me).