Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dissing Quakes

I spent some of my day, between day job activities, mocking Quakers for being such dweebs around technology. Here we are in a futuristic Open Source Capital, with a new cable car and everything, and we don't even have a Mapparium yet (unless Google Earth counts).

So where's the Portland Geoscope gonna be? Or should we have more than one?

The details: our business Optoma is on loan for legitimate business purposes and I'm snarlingly protective, like Sarah on steroids, when so-called Friends come along begging, confiding they don't actually take care of their own young (by investing in said equipment), but instead rely on hand-outs and charity.

Query: how can a religion have claws if it outsources the care and feeding of its own young? Many will say Quakers shouldn't have claws, being all "Peaceable Kingdomy" and like that, to which I retort: don't lions have claws?

On another front, I'm unable to find a power supply for the Toshiba Satellite A60, my WinXP laptop. I've been taking Ubuntu to work a lot more. But if we've decided to go with Visual FoxPro again (my staple for some years now), then it'd behoove me to get that asset back in the game. I'll order a new power supply if I have to [update: I had to].

Enjoyed gabbing with Wanderers today, Bill and I side by side, with our Ubuntu Dells, except he's booting Win98 off a memory stick and home growing an assembly language piano, which worked flawlessly in the demo.

Liz popped up in a chat window, next-gen type that she is, with more cyber skills than even most boomers. Sometimes having Wanderers join in cyberspace is the best one might do, and really it's not half bad that way (though I prefer meeting for coffee at least sometimes).

Related blog post: Quaker Informatics (May 17, 2007)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

BarCamp Alpha

:: Charlamagne Tower room,
Olympic Club Hotel and Theater,
Centralia, Washington ::
"Alpha" has a couple of established meanings in geekdom. "Alpha geek" borrows from "alpha dog" or "alpha chimp" i.e. is a zoological term referring to some species of king or queen of the hill, a bossy mammal (can snakes be alpha?).

But the "alpha" in BarCamp Alpha traces to the other meaning, of "first draft" or "prototype" with lots of built in permission to get it wrong, to make mistakes.

After alpha, comes beta, still expected to contain bugs, not yet a production release ready for prime time.

In this case, our mistake might be the venue, which is somewhat spartan, what with bathrooms down the hall and train sounds at night.

On the other hand, for young professionals it's reminiscent of college, plus some BarCamps are actual camps, more like at Burning Man (an art event) or in the field, like in a tent city for refugees, ala One Laptop per Child, so by those standards these digs are relatively posh.

Portland's CubeSpace is closer to ideal, as an actual meeting space, but Centralia is closer to half way if attracting campers from both the Portland and Seattle areas (hence the name).

There's wifi, there's alcohol.

Personally, I think it's a fine venue, but then I'm already a McMenamins fan.

The theme of this particular BarCamp is: open source in the health care sector, especially when it comes to facilitating outcomes research.

The idea may at first seem oxymoronic, given the inherent confidentiality of patient records, but one of our goals is developing open source pools of accurate case histories, scrubbed clean of real patient identities, yet useful for research purposes.

Besides actual data, research and teaching hospitals might also share, and collaboratively develop, clinical table schemas (registries) plus interfaces for populating them (front ends) plus share techniques for reliably gathering data at the point of care, and in ways that don't interfere with a hospital's primary care giving responsibilities.

The funds raised for these projects should pay for design and implementation skills, not so much for basic development tools, as the latter (Linux, MySQL, Python... Mozilla) have already been paid for and contributed to the global ecosystem as shared assets, under the various open source license agreements.

Relevant presentation: What is Open Source? (PDF)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Cube

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Executive Toys

No cube or corner office is complete without an assortment of executive toys.

Some of these disassemble into a surprising number of parts, disconcerting for the job interviewee perhaps, if fiddling absently, but there's information to be gleaned from such events.

In the foreground, CubeIt! from Huntar disassociates into 24 magnetic Mites, though only a few insider cognoscenti have any idea what that means (so why not flaunt your knowledge, if you're a high powered exec?).

The five "flippy balls" are even more obscure. Spin them in thin air, and they flip to the other color, a kind of jitterbug action (more esoterica).

That sculpture in the background is no way a toy. That's Barrel Tower, a Kenneth Snelson original and gift from the artist.

I'm bullish about my cube.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Curriculum Writing re MVC

(click pic for larger view)
The innovation here is putting an end user in the picture, both "for real" and as a figment in the model, i.e. as the "modelled end user" (or users as the case may well be).

Modeling its users is part of what a model should be doing, as a part of its job of persisting state. And no, I'm not just talking about delegate avatars per Second Life and Active Worlds. A user model might be quite primitive, as low level as "logged in" versus not.

By this way of thinking, a user-controlled change in view needn't involve the view subscribing to the controller directly, as the model itself is made aware of some end user's change in preference (through the controller), so that next time the viewer polls, or otherwise gets notified of state changes, the view is refreshed accordingly.

Adding the end user, in other words, turns this MVC picture into a classic feedback loop of cybernetics fame.

The end user steers and fine tunes the model in response to what the model is showing (or maybe how it smells? -- this user has a big nose and the viewer looks like a funnel).

Of course this diagram makes no judgment as to the suitability of the model for the task at hand, i.e. some closed loops like this become dead ends -- which is why it's important to get your head out of your model from time to time (which is your freedom, as a human being).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Catching Up

I'm running behind in my study of TurboGears on Safari, using the impending switch to Pylons for undergirding as an excuse to tred water.

CherryPy is certainly worth learning, along with the Kid templater. Per the Kusasa discipline, I'm not one to shy away from mastering these kinds of tools (some of the heavier metal sort, I do shy away from -- working on it, getting pro help).

Tracking those orbiting lunar probes (Japan's project), wondering what they'll discover.

Fine Grind has updated its lighting to sweet effect.

I sat next to "rodeo girl" Gayle today after Meeting, jawing with Ron about a topic Ron knows the most about: motorcycles. Gayle has this feminist angle, whereas I'm the proud rider of TinkerBell.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dough Stories

The goal of teaching fiscal responsibility, by giving my daughter the use of a debit card, proved expensive when the card hit bottom, but without overdraft support. Doh!

The bank reversed some of those penalties, plus extended more credit, in the form of a new DWA credit card in my name. It pays to know your small business banker.

I'll redesign the overdraft picture, probably by offering it in-house, like she needs to keep a $200 minimum (a cushion, like an air reserve on a scuba tank (they still have those right?)).

It's not like Tara did anything wrong, just that I didn't feel like sharing keys to the control panel (I'm kinda proprietary in that way), and so she had no easy/quick access to a transaction history (yes, there's keeping a check book, and yes, there's banking on-line).

A friend and I bought new prayer flags today, for the back yard. The older ones, blown down recently, are enqueued for ritual burning.

A paycheck came in today, which is good as we were running beneath the surface.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September PPUG

We had a far out convergence of Pythoneers this evening @ CubeSpace, Portland. Our four lightning talks, two of them mine, were most illuminating: tux droid; my EuroPython experience; PyFlakes; PIL.

Ruby folks are holding a dojo in the same space, with their own screen and projector facing the other way. About 16 of us, 4 of them, lots of friendly banter.

Jeff is moderating, inventing process as he goes (resourceful guy).

The Intel guy's PIL work is about a robot detecting orange traffic cones. He projected some source code for smoothing and separating the R, G & B channels, with some simple arithmetic to detect orange.

Earlier today: just a light gym workout, mostly on the elliptical. I had 10 flatscreens within view, 9 illuminated, running 7 distinct programs.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Summarizing a Thread (Synergeo #35613)

I think the underlying problem here is people imagine a 4 CCP ball tetrahedron then zoom in on the K-points, where the balls touch, and make that a "dividing point" (which is why Frank keeps saying "solid").

That divider then takes us in our minds' eyes to imagining 2 frequency, which needn't mean any doubling in size if we're simply multiplying by subdividing.

On the other hand, it might also mean doubling in size.

The problem here is you can always subdivide and picture something else inside of what you've got. Brawley makes this process come to an end with his pionts [a neologism] in Tverse. We require no such dodge. Draw a complete Magic Kingdom inside any A module, complete with castle and flying tinkerbell. Continuing to subdivide ad infinitum is your sovereign right as a thinker.

But don't let your pride and/or fascination with continuing to subdivide keep you from appreciating the austere beauty of a simple design, one in which we've rationalized our ratios as best we can, and our best really is better than what some earlier ages managed. Why surprised? Humans have been on a learning curve and it shows. So?

Anyway, somewhere along the way, Zubek started using the 2F tetrahedron for reference, thinking 4 CCP balls must make one of those. Did Steve feed him this corrupting thought? I have no idea.

But as 2*P*F*F+2 makes clear, where F=1, and P=5, the number of balls in a cuboctahedron is 12 in the first layer (same with icosa).

That "12-around-1" is the true starting point (similar to the start of Tverse), and the volume is 20, with Frequency unity. So the 8 sub-tets of the VE are now each set at unity, with six half-octas of volume 2. 8 + 12 = 20.

Notice, now, that each of those 8 reg tet components of the volume 20 cubocta, in turn made from 12-around-1, is in turn defined by four (count 'em) CCP spheres.

This is the IVM then. All edges are CCP diameter in length, go from ball center to ball center. These edges define two shapes: tetrahedron and octahedron, of volume ratio 1:4 and population ratio 2:1.

The rhombic dodecahedra that encase each of the IVM/CCP balls, as voronoi cells, are what're volume 6, made of six Couplers each of volume 1.

A lot of this info is encoded in the form of QuickTime movies from the mid 1990s, by Richard Hawkins. His art is still on the web to this day, thanks to strong freedom of speech traditions.

Plus of course it's all in Synergetics, complete with color posters. Nothing new.

If you lived in Korea, your kid'd probably have learned all this from the back of a cereal box by now (or from the free DVD inside).