Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Maritime Historial
:: Bill Lightfoot ::
Mom made it back, sans cell, was robbed in Geneva, but enjoyed really good treatment by the airlines, arrived in good spirits.

My relatives aren't all on the same page, politically, so some ribbing goes on. Like one of our number, retired military, had this upside-down elephant with Xs for eyes, pushing up daisies, embroidered on his T-shirt. He kept it behind his suspender though, so not too in your face, plus he only talked about it every ten minutes or so, leaving lots of room for other views. I suggested a subversive interpretation: fertilizing the future.

RIP Republicans
One of my uncles couldn't see how all these promises could be kept, around health care, education, etc., now that those making them were in.

I responded with my standard GST rap: we've got a fully functional fusion furnace pumping out yottawatts of power, an Earthian economy well equipped to receive, to convert into hydrocarbons, other assets, so let's aim for a university average lifestyle and notch it up a bit, in terms of health care, education, dwelling machines (smart dorm options). "Think less like a politician, more like an engineer" (Wanderers influential).

Cousin Mary had to leave a little early, for duty at the ER. Her dad was a chemistry professor, recognized as a wizard early on by his West Virgina coal mining community, his dad especially. The college was happy to get him. The family later moved to Colorado.

The rest of us put things back together pretty well before leaving, various vehicles dispersing, ours northward, continuing along I-5 in the direction of Canada's Vancouver.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wanderers 2008.11.25

I barged in late, having had business to attend to, arriving to a table surrounded by ten aging men, now eleven. Please pass the sake.

I remembered Jeff's book, which he'd left in our car.

We're talking about storage batteries at the moment...

Earlier the chatter focused on "Elena", that elvynchyk who ostensibly blasted through Chernobyl on her motorcycle taking pictures, the consensus today being that's not how it happened.

However, this being a story from Russia, which is really the cover story? Good for a laugh anyway. Potemkin Villages or whatever.

Effective art in any case, and cleverly packaged.

Lots of Quaker business today, both over the Web and in person.

Keith is showing and telling about an eight watt PC Engines ALIX with an AES encryption chip, which he plans to employ as a router tasked with decrypting the VPNs he's using.

It's time for some last minute shopping.

Monday, November 24, 2008

View from a Height

A Former Abode
Social networking tools such as Facebook make a lot of sense to Friends, is my leading, in that here we're able to cast a net, practice discernment, plain speech, other indigenous mannerisms.

Thanks to Facebook, I was able to find the above photo by Cary Kittner, from inside her tree house in upstate New York. Fond memories. She and Stu were partners in Design Science Toys, the source of many an important math learning artifact.

I was just bragging on Math Forum about my gig with this astute company, as a part of a marketing effort.

:: @ FG ::

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight (movie review)

I felt privileged to accompany my daughter on this quasi reunion of Winterhaven students, now somewhat scattered to different high schools, although I had my own row, wish I'd worn my other glasses.

I worry about films that make the Pacific Northwest too appealing, as we've had a lot of immigration already (including me from Chicago), but this one shows lots of rain and gray skies, so maybe people will get the picture: Phoenix has better weather, and probably fewer undead.

Yes, a vampire movie, a classic American motif by this time, a kind of soap opera, this one based on a wildly popular trilogy among teens ("the movie is a valiant attempt" said Tara, but of course has to leave a lot out).

I'm always hopeful when I see quirky introverted guys with uncomfortable secrets (hangups?) getting dates; all one needs are incredible superpowers on the side, the premise of almost every comic book drawn by a quirky guy, seems like.

Quite the little high school they've got there, plus there's a beach, a reservation, amazing views -- but if you wanna really smash a lotta glass, that's in Phoenix.

I sound tongue in cheek, but then the film doesn't take itself too seriously either, that notion of vegetarian tofu loving vampires (a euphemism) so very Birkenstock, so funky liberal in the way we are out here.

These undead live in a Frank Lloyd Wright house like the one Harold Long designed, looks just like Lake Oswego, please pass the wine and cheese (Italiano!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Planning Committee Meeting

kirby, jane and diane, photo by nancy

Mt. Hood Kiwanis had to purchase too much food on the basis of anticipated numbers, which turned out to be less than predicted.

Food and program were superb, some got cold, especially in the yurt, one Friend fell out of a bunk bed.

I left my keys in the car with my lights on, had to call AAA.

Possible future themes: the role of music and dance in our practice; Quakers as a dying breed (not really); Quakers in the arts and literature. Diane suggesting something more like Cyborg Camp maybe.

Jane had also just seen the Bucky play, so we talked about that some too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hard Times

Speaking of toxic landlords (see previous post), some infamous in our zip code (97214), many are perversely raising rents at this time, as their response to scary economic news is to squeeze tenants even harder.

What Congress apparently never understood, given those jobs pay pretty well, is that the lending industry was never a kind one (nor gentle either), and now that it's weak, missing a war it'd banked on, it really wants to destroy a lot more lives, to keep a few rich on Wall Street. Adding muscle to that species, in the form of a "bail out" is hardly good medical science, just more quack politicians with no clue, wasting a lot of time and energy dealing in sugar pill placebos.

Fortunately, we don't really need Congress, nor the state legislatures, when it comes to altering the mix in mathematics and science. Stanford is buzzing with new curriculum writers, galvanized by some of the stronger teachers there, has already given us LEP High, in the form of Koreducators. There's really no comparison between a stuck in the mud traditional curriculum, and one informed by 20th century breakthroughs, even some in the 21st, though we're only seven years into it.

As a private sector (commercial) small businessman (like Joe the Plumber, but a geek), my focus is advertising. If more people understood the world from an engineering viewpoint, there might be less vulnerability to real estate bubbles, or even dot com bubbles, with technology twisted to bizarre ends by money-lending practices designed for the dark ages. We understand energy economics a lot better now.

Our enemy is more a failure of the human imagination, which we have the means to counter (e.g. through advertising, as I was mentioning), not anything God-given about Spaceship Earth, e.g. some "fatal lack of resources".

Passenger Train

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Neighborhood Associations

Harmonic Convergence
:: good neighbors (not always) ::

Portland has a strong sense of neighborhood, each one named, proud of its history. Having city historians makes a big difference, be they at PSU or wherever. Not every city is so lucky.

Among those who preserve our heritage, by oral traditional as well is by file, are the various Neighborhood Associations. I used to work for CNN (Central Northeast Neighbors), and Southeast Uplift, as a provider of computer services. Plus I served on the Hollywood Neighborhood Association for a spell, a real eye opener at the time.

The neighborhood Fred Meyer was getting set to close, so people worried about property values, having no way of knowing a Trader Joe's would be coming in later, plus Hollywood is special anyway, with other "Freddy's" nearby (big one off Broadway, which is why the Hollywood one closed, not smart to run both so close together).

Then there was that cougar or other wild cat some neighbor thought he, or she, might own. The details grow hazy in the rear view mirror. I was still driving Gutless at the time I'm pretty sure.

Just as college students now rate their professors, sometimes with a chip on their shoulder or ax to grind, we all realize, i.e. teachers aren't always trying to win some popularity contest, come off as curmudgeonly, more like House M.D. or Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, both highly skilled TV personalities, deserving of their pay checks, so might tenants rate their landlords or banks.

Not all landlords are equally popular (with good reason) but sometimes a gruff exterior hides a heart of gold (other times stone though, so watch yourself). Neighborhood associations have the capability to poll neighbors about the kinds of commerce that go on within their borders, with neighbors equally free to opt in on some surveys. Not all coffee shops have free Wifi. The web sites will tell you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today's Workout

In an effort to understand some already working code, I've been delving into Pyro, Python Remote Objects, along with the pyprocessing library, getting a Mother daemon to feed tasks to worker bees under a Queen, each one a process. I've got SQLite taking the place of a bigger gorilla in the target TurboGears application.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PPUG 2008.11.11

:: this just in (from dk) ::
Our first talk tonight is about coroutines in Python, which in our shoptalk involves using a generator's send method.

A generator cycles around to a yield expression and waits, with a next or send triggering a next cycle. Use send if you want to pass in some data.

So why is next, a builtin, calling __next__, but yet there's no send calling __send__? I should Google up some discussions on that, as no doubt there are some. What I'm thinking: I don't think we'd want people overloading send, since it's so conceptually wired to yield, whereas __next__ (triggered by next) might be any useful idea of an iteration.

Next, a web form templating library, wtforms, allows macros, validators. But there's something changed in the design since three weeks ago that leaves this geek thinking maybe stay away for now.

Jason kicked off with some apologies for our lame swag, Argentina kicking our butts in the cool T-shirts department. I asked about just importing theirs, which are open source anyhoo, really like their look.

This other geek brought chantrelles, made some offers to share, got 'em on my radar, love those doodads. Others might beat me to 'em though, not that aggressive (or selfish, as the case may be -- got Buxton's already this year).

Speaking of Jim Buxton, I'm missing Wanderers tonight, this monthly Python meeting helping with professional development in a very niche area, a kind of workout I don't get at Pauling House, no offense.

Jason: robocop and unicorn is "a thing" right now, what the hell?

. Looks pretty cool, Jason's invention. Very schema-based, flexible, works with JSON somehow. Validation is agnostic as to where the data came from, maybe not a web form (maybe a database?).

The presentation on FormEncode (based on CherryPy) is by a geek who just moved to Portland from Peoria. We gave him a round of applause for stepping up to the plate on such short notice.

Two types of form libraries (looking at a slide): lightweight and heavyweight. Validation will never be as sexy as CouchDB or JQuery-UI. Hey, good to know what's sexy, eh? Thanks guy.

It's "beer o'clock"! Produce Row. I hung out with some Intel geeks, including Matt McCredie, talking about how to make Windows screen savers as a classroom activity, also marketing e.g. for the Core i7 (formerly Nehelam), the new CPU chip, officially releasing in about five days.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


:: Clocktet ::

This was one of my first ever Internet collaborations, back when the Web was still pretty new. Richard Hawkins had a high end (for the day) SGI computer graphics workstation, and could pump out these amazing geometric cartoons, an original inspiration for my hypertoon concept, which he encouraged me to write-up for a contest SGI was holding (I might have won a machine like his).

Anyway, I'd write these little "screenplays" about scenarios I'd like to see, and he stitched them together, added his own, picked the perfect sound track and voila: ClockTet. I remember showing this as the "cartoon feature" in San Diego's Balboa Park during the 1995 Fuller Centennial. People packed into that little theater to see movies about Bucky, and I did a live show with this ClockTet on VHS tape, just to warm up the audience.

Just to explain something: the title derives from the fact that 3 o'clock is a 90 degree angle on a standard dial clock, which 2 o'clock is 60 degrees. From the former we develop the cube, from the latter a tetrahedron, then we show all these relationships characteristic of Fuller's approach to geospatial literacy, involving the Jitterbug, duo-tet cube and so on.

Richard went on to make many more mathcasts of this kind, focusing on A & B module dissections especially, but not exclusively. Many of these were warehoused at the New Civilizations web site.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Standup Comedy at Newmark Theater

I've not been to that many live stand up comedy shows, so there's lots of basic stuff for me to observe at these events, plus I was performing liaison duty with AFSC, having been nudged to attend by Kelly on Facebook. Good meeting up with Marco.

Comedians, as they're called, feel out a crowd looking for limits, compare cities, sometimes out loud.

Portland has a reputation for anything goes, like Beirut, so the talent was eager to test our waters, yakking about Made in Oregon products, civil liberties and so on.

The crowd lapped it up.

We had lots of Iranian Americans in the audience, some of whom likely found some of this stuff somewhat shocking, what adult comedy tends to be a lot.

I should attend these gigs more often.

I'd enjoyed two of these comics before, via Glenn's PBS documentary.

Ahmed Ahmed seemed especially at ease this evening, comfortable doing playfully interactive improv with theater goers amidst plenty of tested material.

Probably those Russians in Dubai thought he was funny too, kind of an Evil Bert in some ways, a good match for Bad Barby.

So what's up with these psychology dolphins?

I tell ya, I get the weirdest emails.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More With Less

I chauffeured Carol to PDX this morning, having taken her out to dinner last night, at a local folks eatery (nothing too fancy).

A familiar sight in the halls of power, pushing her "congress coaster" and peacemaker agenda, she's anxious about making it to all sixty four senate offices, representatives of those states from which she has signatures, on a petition against weapons in space.

So far, the "don't-know-why" politicos have tended to cave to the manifest destiny crowd, a small authoritarian minority that believes in rule by brute force and yet feels entitled to pontificate about "freedom" and "democracy" -- sounding rather idiotic when so doing.

Then it's on to Geneva.

En route to the airport, we discussed how expat Americans who've spent time in Africa, such as herself, might be considered African American from a memetic point of view (talking about memes).

But of course many folks are fixated on genes over memes, DNA having been only recently discovered, whereas the concept of "race" is rather older, more tired, often confused with the anthropologists' concept of "ethnicity".

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

GST @ Math Forum

Over on Math Forum, G.S. Chandy and I are digging through old management theories and philosophies, looking for what passes for "mind maps" in today's K-12 edu-speak.

We're in agreement that time isn't the only important dimension, and that GST (general systems theory) has some kind of handle on that fact.

Beyond that, it's unclear if we have the makings of a collaboration here.

Philosophically, it sounds like we're both advocating a less sequential design, when it comes to curriculum, but with attention to coherence and relatedness nonetheless, i.e. not wasting students' time is an over-arching goal (doesn't mean student won't waste their own time, but that comes more under the heading of "live and learn" i.e. there's really no substitute for personal experience sometimes).

In a Synergetics-informed view, "mind maps" tend to "connect around in all circumferential directions" i.e. we don't sketch our networks on a flat expanse of desert, but on a desert planet (but with lots of CamelCase, either way).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Perl in the Pearl

Perl the programming language gets three shelves, Python likewise, Ruby five, though with titles repeated in all cases, talking about Powell's Technical, north Park Blocks.

Three Shelves of Perl
That's where I spent some time this afternoon, between Sushi Land and The Armory (Portland Center Stage).

Objective In View
I bought the complete works of Gaudi, am quite happy with that purchase.

A Keeper
We had power outages in and around our neighborhood tonight.

Power Outage

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Press on the Play

OK, Willamette Week (WW) was clever in calling Bucky a "lunatic" as that gets decoded in the play itself, as more preaching to the choir. Good issue overall, focusing on performance pay in education, something of a moot point in gnu math teacher circles, as we're mostly self-employed entrepreneurs in this cycle, not payrolled rank 'n file types.

Performance and staying on the job somewhat amount to the same thing for us, some more successful than others at bringing home the bacon (or tofu, as the case may be). Not everyone thinks gnu math should be taught, as it steals brain cycles from other more established curricula, such as the standard ETS-approved precalculus, adds more trigonometry (including spherical).

In the meantime, architectural bloggists are ruminating about what to say about Fuller's legacy, whether the domes were "a failure" or not. Before rendering a judgment though, it pays to check out where to find them in Portland: in the NW industrial port area, a warehouse and stockpiling district. Lots of the fuel tanks are using 'em for covers.

However, and this will be a focus of my presentation on election night: geodesic domes do not encompass Fuller's legacy, as he shared Alexander Graham Bell's fascination with space frames, with lots in the play on these (goes back to the dried peas episode). So in Portland, that means our World Trade Center most notably.

Likewise he championed more use of tension (Golden Gate Bridge), i.e. suspending from without more than pushing out from within (GrecoRoman). But of course one can't take or give personal credit for megatrends of this nature. That being said, PDX (the airport) is a good example of what Fuller had in mind when writing Synergetics.