Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neverland... (movie review)

I've had this since NPYM 2008, a Netflix borrowing: Neverland: The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army about the abduction of Patty Hearst and surrounding events. What a slacker I must be, eh? We tried playing it at Dave's just now, but it's either too scratched, or the format is just not backward compatible.

Anyway, here I am waiting for Alexia to give some guidance on her birthday cake, just blocks from Helen Bernhard, a family favorite. I've got the DVD playing in the background, determined to get through it this time, sipping a mocha.

These were high achievers who couldn't follow the post WWII logic, wherein the army that defeated Hitler now seemed to have come down with the same disease, akin to mad cow. The students went crazy, mirroring Nixon's apoplexia.

The nation was in turmoil.

Having Nixon elected to a second term went down pretty hard. Paranoia ran high and the scene got to be very 12 Monkeys, crazy Brad Pitt their natural born leader. SLA: "White farmers in Rhodesia?"

Murdering Marcus Foster made no sense. Walter Cronkite's voice....

I'm reminded of the turmoil reflected in Japanese student culture, in this other movie that's fun, not a documentary though.

Why is the audio so good? Overdub? Are the mikes really that good? I like the spooky "symbionese" music -- sounds Middle Eastern. Reporters yukked it up quite a bit, lots of booze at the crime scene, very Hunter S. Thompson.

The U2 and CIA got involved.

Mr. Hearst reminds me of William F. Buckley in some ways. Patty's accent is also pretty upscale: "Mom should get out of her black dress, that doesn't help at all."

A drawback of DVDs like this is you don't have footnotes and sources clearly displayed (the captions help). We need a new format that drives Web links on the side -- hit pause and follow.

OK, management is kicking me out. This coffee shop is not 24/7 after all. Alexia called about her cake. Marionberry cheesecake it is.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Five Cubes

:: cube space ::
by David Koski

A Wanderer @ CubeSpace

I'm calling myself a Wanderer since ISEPP's Terry Bristol said I could represent ISEPP in Chicago. I've made a career working with nonprofits in Portland, so feel pretty comfortable in this role, even though my 4D Solutions isn't itself a 501(c)(3).

I've invited some coworkers in health care to join me tonight. It's no secret that I see a bright future for FOSS in health care, especially around clinical research and medical records management, two separate infrastructures, yet coming together in many ways. You'll find I'm in plenty of good company in thinking this way.

OHSU is here, a guy from the research applications group.

Governments like FOSS, as do academics. Thanks to free and open source software, powers once only available in the private sector (like truly serious SQL), are now available to any kid with a laptop, any professor with eager students, basically any government department with computing needs (which is all of them).

If the taxpayers fund the development, saving results in "the commons" makes perfect sense, even if some of the pieces stay in private silos (especially data, some of which is highly confidential, obviously). A bank using FOSS isn't thereby divulging anything.

Portland JavaScript Admirers have convened for a second time. There's a mailing list, a web site, plus you can follow on Calagator. We meet at CubeSpace, Portland's geek HQS (for software -- not competing with Free Geek). Ad: Women's Networking Group meets in Roman on second Tuesdays.

Our main focus tonight is Apache CouchDB, a document database, written in Erlang. Merlin Albery-Speyer is our first speaker.

We're getting a recap of how ORM takes SQL to/from objects (like what Python likes). We're thinking differently here, with documents much coarser grained than objects. JSON, not SQL, will be your API of choice. As an RDBMS guy, I'm a little freaked out (I'll get over it).

Whereas the SQL model uses JDBC or ODBC (say), the persistence layer for CouchDB uses HTTP as the connection, with a host/database/document looking API -- which is how Django looks to a client as well, thanks to Python.

I asked about ACID compliance, which started a cascading conversation, enlightening I thought, really high caliber.

There's no schema, just JSON maps. Use GET, PUT (create or update), DELETE, POST (for bulk operations i.e. batch).

A map function emits (key, value) pairs, a map, sorted by the key. This is equivalent to SELECT (with filters). Because sorted, it's easy to do ranges.

The web interface makes this easy to play with. The optional reduce function then works with this map. Basically: get your ducks in a row (map), then do something with those ducks (reduce).

J. Chris Anderson of Apache is our second speaker. He's a world class expert on CouchDB, a principal developer. He's working on Sofa as a test application (a blog -- are blog and chat sort of the "hello world" of web apps?).

The delivered Peer-Based Replication feature is how local offices sync with HQS, basically Couch yakking with itself over HTTP. Geeks are geeking out over this topic, about 25-30 of us, all males at the moment (Audrey joins later).

There's a _show and _list being demonstrated, which render the JSON as HTML -- these are Javascript functions, that run on the server, and show up in the URLs. I'm not accustomed to thinking of JavaScript as server side, but that's how CouchDB is designed, around Spidermonkey.

Design documents store application level stuff, like validation and rendering. I guess I'm seeing why this is for JavaScript Admirers, even though there's Erlang involved.

This is all cutting edge stuff. I don't see us diving into it right away in a production setting. I could see using it for medical devices, other inventory management tasks, where local workstations sync to a back office. I get the impression it's blindingly fast if used efficiently i.e. speed is a real benefit, and small changes to data, requeries, won't require moving mountains.

Actually what occurs to me later, is this key-value pairs approach maybe is the future of the medical record, mined with map-reduce to get clinical research views, perhaps for feeding to more traditional SQL engines. The patient-centric, individualized "whole enchilada" i.e. the document "atom", is precisely that unit of storage for which CouchDB is best suited. Note to self: explore in more depth.

Our third speaker, Adam DuVander is presenting about Mapstraction. Adam is with the Legion of Tech, Portland Web Innovators. He's writing a book about mapping APIs for New Starch Press. Mapstraction takes 11 map APIs, like Google's, Yahoo's. This makes it easy to switch around between back ends.

This is something students could be playing with in PPS, just need some latitude and longitude coordinates. Geography and FOSS are like peas in a pod. The Javascript looks something like this:
      function londonJavascriptNight(map) {
// create a lat/lon object
var myPoint = new LatLonPoint(51.520832, -0.140133);
// display the map centered on a latitude and longitude (Google zoom levels)
map.setCenterAndZoom(myPoint, 12);
This reminds me of Cities At Night.

Next I'll grab a couple brews at Lucky Lab -- no wait, cell phone, need to head home.

Hey Derek, sorry I missed you at Fine Grind today, got sucked in to my own soap opera. Best wishes on your trade fair gig, other projects! Kim & Jimmy, many thanks for the bouillabaisse, definitely "brain food" like you said. I wrote up a storm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Speech Night

I watched tonight's politics from a kicked back arm chair position, tuning in at 6:30 PM PST, Tara coming home from work a little later (she gets dinner thrown in, I dined on cold cereal).

I found myself musing about camera angles, how they get those drift shots (slow pans at balcony level or thereabouts).

I used to sit in those balconies sometimes, especially in the Senate, then I'd go back to my typewriter and make comments, sometimes send them. This was in the 1980s. I was pretty civic minded, curious to see this democracy in action, maybe get a foot in the door, plus we didn't have C-SPAN yet, or at least I didn't. Those balconies were put there for a reason (to encourage onlookers, and kibitzing).

Note to self: I have to rewind that tape I didn't make and check out that one face in the crowd. Web site maybe.

Leave it to the fiscal conservatives to kill our Disneyland-to-Vegas maglev train, dammit all to hell.

Anyway, I agreed with the commentators that we saw a lot of bipartisanship, but is that a good thing?

I'm not persuaded "two parties" is really best, seems awfully bipolar, so I do cringe a bit when it gets too bipartisan. Mono-partisan wouldn't be any better, like at least we have two, plus I like the idea of "parties" (whoever thought of calling them that?).

Appropriately, I found myself working with another "inaugural ball" from David Koski, echoing an earlier speech-making occurrence (inauguration day).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Family Night

We're camped around the living room TV, including two dogs, watching an Academy favorite.

Dinner was Ethopian, and a chance to compare notes with the proprietor, with a focus on WWII. "Who was Haile Selassie and what was his connection to the Rastafarians?" is what we wanted to know. We learned a lot.

Earlier, I was corresponding with Friends about some of my projects. From an outgoing email:
For my part, I took the billboard thing seriously, along with my long-standing concern (AFSC related) to work with Native Americans on restorative justice, which puts me at loggerheads with some Friends, e.g. one John Wilmerding of John Woolman College, because of their Prohibition Era associations around gambling and casinos.
That's somewhat a translation away from my native namespace, "restorative justice" being closer to the CERJ way of talking.

Tomorrow I'm to lead some adult discussion. I mentioned Appreciative Inquiry in my queries. Let's focus on what's working?

One of my guests, a physician, is curious about my sagas around health care, also about my mom (mom's room is the guest room). I explained a little about MUMPS versus SQL and a dutch boy cartoon.

We also watched a bit of Zeitgeist Addendum (memes in a suitcase) which I'd seen previously -- not that exciting right? Like where does energy from the sun enter this picture? Pharaoh Akhenaten seemed to have a stronger grip, though he was maybe somewhat overbearing. I saw Sun Ra perform live that one time -- a bit of a non sequitur, but for the Ra - Aten connection.

From Synergeo #48573 some hours later:
Typical of gringos, they think it's money that's in short supply, whereas the real problem is an oversupply of people thinking the way they do. If you know anything about anything economic (e.g. home economics, no longer taught -- too basic) you know that energy comes from the sun and we're surfing a solar gradient. I have to go back to Egyptian sources to find much lip service to that effect. Today's econo-heads want you to think central banks and the Federal Reserve are a source of wealth. Any building with columns. There's this superstition that traces back to Roman times, used by the emperors for their Ponzi schemes even then (how little has changed).
Anyway, I agree that explaining economics more clearly is a big priority right now, given all the distrust of financial institutions. Maybe spice it up with some GST? Saturday Morning cartoons might explain it? Kids need to be clued too.

According to Tom, Princeton's Paul Krugman is calling for glasnost (a truth process), although that's a translation as well. Bishop Tutu is coming to Oregon soon, so maybe that's a good sign?

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Marketing

A lot of today's marketing meeting focused on Portland's supposed inferiority complex.

We're wedged between Washington and California, which both have a reputation for attracting venture capital. That's Silicon Valley to the south and Bellvue/Redmond to the north.

From my angle it's more symbiotic than competitive as we have more of a FOSS meets healthcare angle (a stimulus focus), whereas Microsoft has Xbox and San Jose has disk drives and routers -- not saying I'm not biased.

My attitude is we're happy to accept sponsorships for program expenses, but what we really want are program participants getting to work with us as a part of their job descriptions.

Don't just send us your money, send us your people too. That's more the non-profit psychology, with paid volunteers (e.g. paid by their own companies to help reboot the schools, a self interested practice if your long term plan is to stay in business, recruit new players).

Of course there's a product placement angle to all this. Who wants to be seen as a champion? You don't get it about marketing if you think there's no glory.

Speaking of Portland and champions, I liked how Portland Mercury handled the Michael Phelps story. Way more honestly than the Kellogg's approach. We still have some free speech left in "Little Amsterdam" (FOSS capital). We may be corporate and button down, but we're also sanely liberal (as in catholic) -- OK, so maybe "Little Vienna" then (as in Vienna Circle), likewise a hotbed of liberalism (as in "liberal arts" as in "open and sharing").

The upshot: market Portland as the Nashville of Open Source, laptops as like guitars, geeks as like musician, with lots of different sounds (more than "just country" -- in Nashville as well). The analogies run deep given how player pianos fed into the punch card era. Gibson Guitar already saw this a long time ago, as our sponsor at OSCON. I paid my respects on my last visit to TN (to Jack Daniels as well).

And no, we're not ashamed of our Wild West ethics, park American Cowgirls right across from our Oregon Convention Center. Don't think we're not proud of our night life. Our streets are packed when many a city shuts down, everyone home in the suburbs watching TV. We'd call that scary (even creepy), much prefer to nurture our own, have music clubs galore. That's a feature, not a bug, as we say in the business (show business).

"Shocking maybe, but not shabby" could be our mantra, because we're very serious about studying. We're book readers in this City that Works (another slogan). We plan, we have meetups (oft times at CubeSpace).

So don't underestimate Portland's value, would be my advice. Like if you're really serious about being a Grunchie, get a footprint in this town (to sound esoteric about it -- not everyone reads our buckaneer syllabus, gotta remember that).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Flash Forward

World Views
I was gratified to see a Fuller Projection getting front and center treatment at Cleveland High School this evening, although we were there not as students, but as supportive parents, looking forward to the new speech and debate team, ramping up under the care of the Madison coach.

The Fuller Projection forms a good backdrop for telling stories from the Cold War Era, like about those radomes, basically radar covers, with 3rd generation models in use even today. As Oregonians, it helps to see why that Lufthansa to Frankfurt takes such a northerly path, over Great Slave Lake by way of Calgary.

Dr. Chuck Bolton, emeritus in Sociology at PSU, brought me a recent Futurist article by one Marvin J. Cetron (Timeline for the Future... March-April, 2009). I scanned it over lunch and agreed it seemed pretty fanciful, not unusual in this genre. Science fiction is what you get whenever you write about some time beyond the present.

Transforming possibilities into realities is a kind of alchemy, with lots of psychological elements. The Jungians talk about sublimation a lot, even this late in the game. Strong concepts have a life of their own it seems. This doesn't mean psychology is all you'll need. On the contrary, you'll want to study chemistry, biology... art, ethics.

On the Wanderers list, I've been telling the story of FOSS (free and open source software), somewhat drawing from Revolution OS, a documentary. Grad students were tired of losing access to their favorite toyz, once ejected with a degree, and so used the Internet to collaborate on all the tools one would need to build an operating system (this was GNU-not-Unix), and then they built that operating system (which was Linux-also-GNU).

By keeping the generic power tools in the commons, everyone enjoys higher living standards right out of the gate. Those who put work into it, benefit from the work of that many more others. Those that don't put any work into it, still benefit as well, presumably add value in other ways besides committing to the kernel (something I've never done).

FreeBSD, OS X... Windows. There's lots more lore.

I also talk on the Wanderers list about about how we could be doing a lot more fun and informative storytelling if we'd deign to introduce SQL, a language for "keeping tabs":
You can't explain the world to children without talking about SQL. Not really. If this were a village, and you were the village elder, and you didn't have anything to say about core memes of the culture, left that to other elders, then we'd want to find those other elders. I have this "take me to your leaders" attitude, being fresh off the UFO (Princeton).
I was yakking with Larry and Dave about OLPC:
On edu-sig (Python Nation), I tout MDPA i.e. multiple desktops per adult, thinking more of those NASA type mission control places ("control room" in the language of places). Park your laptops at the door when ye enter the workplace (or return them to the checkout clerk?).
The XOs are really for children, not adults so much, or even teens. That doesn't mean they're not cool.

In Hillsboro, we liked having the Internet through a gateway with two subnets, so we could play IP routing games. We had a wifi option but student stations were on traditional ethernet, with an air gap between the lab and the rest of West Precinct.

I've been getting some good peer review from New Mexico on my nascent "geek versus nerd" distinction, an exercise in systematic ideology.

I'm mapping "geek versus nerd" to Terry' "engineering versus science" meme, which encourages practice, exercising of freedoms.

Brian wisely counsels against hubris.

I've got lots of mnemonics going. Mostly I'm working to recruit activists for our "circus" (an allusion to our geek heritage).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wanderers 2009.2.17

This is one of those gothic meetups, like we're all Victorian ghosts, arguing Scopes Trial stuff. There's lots of wood, old fixtures, i.e. the Pauling House works as a set for this material. We're living in the past, way way in the past.

This is why I'm skeptical that the Lower 48 is holding many cards. Why would an investment banker park an office in this neighborhood, when people act like nothing significant has occurred since Williams Jennings Bryan went up against Clarence Darrow that time?

How about Ed Murrow versus Joe McCarthy? If you want great debates, why not come a little further forward towards the present? Any interest in recent history? Anyone? Gary Powers was fun. Let's do some First Person Physics around him, his clever dodges? Just trying to stay relevant, thinking of McMinnville, field trip possibilities.

I used to think Ronald Reagan giving a Medal of Freedom to some guy declaring "the USA we have known... bankrupt and extinct" a newsworthy event. That's back when I thought journalists were supposed to take "the long view" about stuff.

Later I learned it's historians who hammer together a story like that. So what's the story? Over twenty years to cover since then, so we'd best get on with it then. Narrative makes a difference. Geeks know that.

Anyway, Duane does a good job with the slides, packs in some good science (amino acids, tyrannosaurus). I've blogged about his rap before. He admits that Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians are pretty much off the hook, don't listen to Creation Station, an obscure network to begin with. These aren't real debates in my view, just re-enactments of what used to be real debates. There's a difference.

I just interrupted to ask why we care if North Americans are ignorant slobs (excluding Canadians of course) i.e. the whole world already knows we're living in a fictional media cloud, a Matrix. We could probably let them wallow in their Wall*e-like way, and still get through the day maybe? Misplaced priorities? Wasting pearls?

Duane defended his people, I thought somewhat valiantly.

I'm always taking this weirdo position that the Lower 48 is this irrelevant "dumbfuckistan" we don't care about ("toxic assets"). Just a position (offensive!), looking for feedback.

People know Kirby takes weird positions, defends them, find me entertaining in that way. Bring me to a meeting and it'll probably take a different direction, even if I just sit there blogging, sipping vino.

Given I actually live here (in the Lower 48), you can imagine I actually care deeply about the ignorance levels (duh), have fond hopes of reaching out through coffee shops, television, Internet, maybe addressing these shortcomings.

LCDs anyone? Cafe Philosophique to the rescue (or Philanthropique).

Anyone care about Zonohedra? MVP Koski does, and I salute him for advancing our cause.

Given where my head is at, I just get impatient with all this retro, dino, prehistoric thinking. Mad Magazine cheers me up sometimes, but that's just escapism.

Why do we continue arguing "calculators or no calculators?" like we're all broken records? Why no "live logic"? Why no "software robotics"? There's lots we could do around marketing. Do I have to think of everything myself?

OK, I'm ranting. My blog, might as well pound a desk somewhere eh? I'm allowed to vent, doctor says.

I just interrupted again (too much to drink? nah): what about devolution? Can't we slide back into the primordial ooze, at least mentally? I'm thinking the Lower 48 is proof positive.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Family Bulletin

For those tracking Famiglia Urner via the blogosphere, rumors are true that Carol Urner is in the care of Presbyterian Hospital with a non-life threatening ailment, likely to be discharged this week.

Alexia is on standby in case I'm needed but that's so far unlikely, our family reunion for later this year. I might have more details on Facebook.

My thanks for your expressions of concern. I'm thinking she's getting excellent professional attention.

Julie recalls her care in Bloemfontein (Orange Free State) when the prognosis was far less clear. South Africa has earned itself a good reputation for its superior medical care.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy V-Day!

:: watch cat
(campus security) ::

Friday, February 13, 2009

Science and Public Policy

I scooted from the OS Bridge planning meeting, which I will blog about separately, to this ISEPP lecture at Portland's main downtown theater, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, where Dr. Susan Haak was already in full swing with her slide presentation. I managed to sit towards the front, with other Wanderers.

Susan teaches law, coming from a background in epistemology (a good word for clearing any room). Her focus is the scientific endeavor, of which she is rightly proud, and yet using "scientific" as an honorific, a tool for inspiring deference, is one of the social problems bogging us down, including at the Supreme Court level.

The ethics of science are coming under increasing strain because of the huge sums involved. The open, sharing aspect of the work, so critical to keeping the enterprise on track, is up against the will to hunker down around intellectual properties of an undisclosed nature, a "we have it and you don't" ethic, running contrary to overall productivity.

Bruce Adams had some excellent perspective on this, which he raised at the Heathman dinner right after. He works in chip fabrication, is currently crazy busy moving two laser labs in a stormy business climate. How do we recruit new talent to these industries when the greatest technical achievements, the most celebrated romantic breakthroughs, are wrapped in secrecy for legal reasons?

In the old days, a young person could dream herself or himself into the future by reading realistic accounts of airplane flight, and enter on the path to becoming a pilot or aircraft engineer as a hobbyist or amateur, feeling equipped with the knowledge of where this might lead. The state of the art was relatively "open source".

Bruce worries high technology, esoteric to begin with because of its invisibility, its super smallness, is self limiting, self strangling, because when it gets really good, it becomes inaccessible. People can no longer follow the action and become beauticians instead. The culture fails to replicate itself. As Susan pointed out towards the end of her slides, there's no guarantee against backsliding. We're capable of losing ground.

I sat next to Bruce at the dinner and shared my "Portland as Toontown" meme. The story here is that one of Portland's high technology outputs is visualizations, animations in particular, which feed the imagination with well-informed disclosures.

Children grow up on cartoons, such that schooling may feel like a sudden deprivation, a removal of oxygen (a suffocating decrease in bandwidth). We need to see what we're talking about, from the chip to the cloud (as in "cloud computing").

Open source "code" (as in "software code") is insufficient, though necessary, is only a part of the solution. O'Reilly works to fill provide some of the rest of what's needed with Make: magazine.

The hardware itself needs more public appreciation (I'm agreeing with Bruce in other words).

Medical science is a good example of where these cartoons apply, and yet most of the budget for such animations goes towards marketing, where realism and technical content are not priorities, only get in the way. Inspiring desire through motivational psychology is not the same thing as teaching science or its ethics.

Joe, our practicing psychiatrist, had some related concerns. If the science doesn't really corroborate the practice of giving highly psychoactive drugs to young people as a "preventative" (a controversial tendency pushed by industry), will the flood of "scientific" papers dressing up the idea drown out these physicians' concerns.

Psychiatry is a difficult area and the best and the brightest in that field do not have a uniform view, are not in lockstep. The scientific enterprise might suggest a go slow approach, simply on the basis of the lack of consensus.

But with huge pressure from big pharma, the manufacture of consent might proceed forthwith. Children get to be guinea pigs, woo hoo.

Susan is quite familiar, from her involvement in actual cases, with how science becomes corrupted. This counters and tempers her pride in the human animal. Our capacity for selflessness and patience is offset by our rush to cash in, no matter how prematurely.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

PPUG 2009.2.10

Our Portland Python Users Group is well attended tonight. We went around introducing ourselves. A lot of us are between jobs or underemployed, but a few of us are doing OK, working for the State or whatever. We seem to be collectively into Django a lot, web frameworks being the currency of the realm in some ways.

Robin Dunn of wxPython fame has joined us, good seeing him again.

I said something about fighting a MUMPS dragon in some unspecified context, not getting into details. Nobody knew what that was.

Michel gave a really quick talk on the Python turtle module (like in Logo).

I went to some key slides in my Chicago talk, like the one showing Python Nation as a neighbor to the Programming Republic of Perl, wondering if that made sense, talking about lore, storytelling, it's importance as cultural glue. We need to tell our own history. Every age has its epics and sagas. Technical content embeds against that backdrop.

These thoughts connect with my power walk with the CSO this morning, to the top of Mt. Tabor. Glenn is into a strong mnemonic matrix relating geography, navigation and geometry. Generating the key edge lengths needed to construct the polyhedra is a part of it. Our raps dovetail quite a bit.

Back to the meeting: I mainly focussed on VPython, showing the kind of stuff I use to teach geometry, animation. I didn't mention anything about Bucky this time. I opened with my little xtranormal cartoon, which people enjoyed, shared that with Gordon Riggs as well.

I was somewhat scattered, as is my style, but entertaining and not incoherent. People expressed appreciation afterwards. I built up Saturday Academy as a headquarters for showcasing novel curriculum ideas, true enough given I teach there (ahem ahem), but it's not just about me obviously. Gordon Hofmann comes to mind, an SA: mainstay over the years.

Jason did a fine presentation on Zine, which I'd never heard of. I always come away from these meetings feeling twice as ignorant as before they start. So much I don't know.

Pocoo Development Center
: check it out! Very young people are behind this high quality code.

Werkzeug isn't a full web framework. You call it, it doesn't call you. It's more a toolkit with some glue, for doing webby things. Adam Lowry is showing us his little demos.

This looks like a good framework for getting a handle on the newish MVT paradigm for web frameworks, which seems to have fallen into place. He's using Jinja2 for a template language (T), a lot like the Django's but a superset, allows more Python in the tags. He's using SQL Alchemy for an ORM (object relational mapper (M)). There's a really cool debugger. Total control, best of breed tools. But direction is often better than freedom.

Over beers I struck up a conversation about PHP, which I'd been cramming on in case my destiny demanded it (it didn't). Michelle, employed as a Django programmer, considers it like an ugly old pair of pants she keeps around because they're comfortable.

A lot of web programmers cut their teeth on PHP, a sprawling infrastructure that grew without much of a plan, a hodgepodge in many ways. Python is cleaner, a better design, but hasn't been in the web world as long, unless you count Zope (we had a couple of Zope developers tonight, including Maria).

Michelle's idea to do more outreach to newbies, maybe new to Python but not programming, or maybe new to programming, is a good one. Maybe the City of Portland needs an open source avatar (some appropriately named office)? The Chamber of Commerce?

Our Coffee Shops Network
needs imaginative coders, whereas vendors need more ways to position themselves and their products as a part of the solution, as public supporters of worthy programming, including a more productive kind of Reality TV. These are ongoing themes in my blog posts.

We all agreed that universities lag the private sector 3-5 years or more, high schools even further behind. In "theory courses" it maybe doesn't matter as much, but when it comes to teaching skills... we could be doing a lot more.

I need to wake up pretty early and fetch Anna Roys from the airport, am on duty as a Wanderers escort again, plus am wearing my Quaker futurist hat.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Broad Brush Strokes

After a heady morning discussing dark energy, dimension theory and so on, our little group of Portland cognoscenti, our visiting MVP, stood in line at Tanh Thao, awaiting a large table.

Conversation turned to politics and the fact that so many USAers were already giving a thumbs down to the perceived stimulus package, and why was that?

Maybe because they didn't believe it would help them fulfill their dreams and aspirations? "How will this help me pursue happiness?" was the question. "Life is short, and we have no more time to keep getting it wrong".

In my view, USAers have had it drilled into their brains that the government is inherently ineffective and wasteful, squanders taxes, whereas the private sector is lean and mean, a pinnacle of know-how and efficiency.

This party line, more associated with Republicans, has been used since Eisenhower's day to argue for privatizing taxpayers' assets, dismantling FDR's "experiment in socialism".

For the public to buy in and consider it believable, it needs to have a private sector look and feel, with "it" being some positive future, some other tomorrow, one wherein the recession turns around and we see a brighter path forward.

When the federal government tries to lead, by growing its own infrastructure, the reaction is negative, because of how government is widely perceived.

The rationale here as that the government is inherently a monopoly, even with all those branches, and branches within branches, whereas the private sector or so-called "free market" is full of cut-throat competitors who must stay wasteless to keep in business.

Missing from this analysis is the fact that these cut-throat companies may feed on Americans like bloodthirsty parasites, leeching off taxpayers and their government alike, as there's nothing in a corporate charter that defines it as needing to think or care about the welfare of Americans in general.

"Just stay barely legal and go out there and make a killing for your shareholders" -- that's the free market mandate. "Raising all boats" was never the goal.

If the government wants to make a comeback, it could maybe offer some valued fee-based services at no profit. We could have government run hotel chains, rental car agencies, banks, even theme parks. Why just run schools? Why not set some standards and compete in the private sector, not as a monopolist but as an alternative.

This is what the military is in fact, an entire parallel economy with its own stores, fleets, health care system, theme parks. You just need to sign away your democratic rights to join, and then you've got a socialized ownership model, access to the people's property (jets, ships, all manner of toyz).

A good way to reinsert government into civilian life in a positive way would be to repurpose some military assets for civilian use, while keeping the not-for-profit design. Turn some bases into training centers for future road engineers, disaster relief personnel. Offer a cut rate inter-base airline.

This all sounds like science fiction today, as the status quo is to let Democrats and Republicans keep their old context, one in which they don't have to invent a real future, only have to debate in monetary terms, a degraded form of discourse, a low IQ banter.

Numbers with a lot of zeros after 'em don't really register, aren't substantive enough to really tell a good story. A trillion dollars isn't worth much, if you can't paint a clear picture of what you'd do with it. Futurism would have to be in vogue again, if these science fiction scenarios were to start holding water.

What it comes down to is a need for role models. The American public has high regard for the new president, for the most part doesn't doubt his integrity or intelligence. But politicians in general just talk about money a lot, and that in itself is a kind of dumbing down.

Take the resources and personnel you already have, a vast network of properties and assets, including public schools, a post office, even a passenger rail line, and do some creative things with them. Show us you're thinking about the future.

Otherwise you're just a cash cow with no brains, which is why the vote of no confidence. Do something smart, or don't do it at all.

For example, what's to stop a public school from sharing about the Fuller Projection, World Game, a concentric hierarchy of polyhedra in a sphere packing context, geodesic domes?

These are "adding spice" memes, not "replace everything" memes. The military is apparently not patriotic enough (unlikely), or too cowed by dino professors, to institute these reforms, but there's nothing to stop a public school from distinguishing itself, standing out as an early adopter of a new curriculum. Or how about an intelligence agency? Do we have any of those?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dimension Talk

From the Wanderers list:

> If Physics is mathematical, is it "a miracle" that
> something physical is described by a mathematical
> formula? What does e=mc-squared mean anyway,
> what is gravity anyway? Is its essence mathematical.
> Or is the mathematical formula a partial descriptor
> of one or some of its realities?

Note that in buckaneer world we don't say e=mc-squared. Whoever saw the play at PCS might remember he always says "to the 2nd power".


Because using a square to model 2nd powering is a cultural convention, not anything "proved" or "necessary", not a "law" mandated from on-high.

Likewise a tetrahedron models 3rd powering just fine, plus is more economical in terms of edges and faces, is the minimum polyhedron (hence simplex) in terms of having an inside and outside in Kantian conceptuality (= ordinary experiential time/space, whereas that so-called "flatland" of "2 dimensional objects" is just a lot of cartoons about triangles on paper with talk balloons, "seeing" each other as line segments etc., Abbott's book having set the stage for the next 100+ years of inventive fiction along these lines).

We don't teach kids to "question authority" around "dimension talk" or even explain to them that there's more than one authoritative language game using it, i.e. "fourth dimension" in Einstein-Minkowski lingo (world lines etc)., is not the same as "fourth dimension" in Coxeter-Conway lingo. Coxeter himself is authoritative on this point.

Fuller's "4D" is yet different again, simply identifies the primitive 4ness of the tetrahedron (4 corners, 4 faces) with our Kantian experience of spatiality as beings in time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Having cut some teeth with Google App Engine, I'm keen to learn more of these routing and templating solutions, the key to "HttpResponsiveness".

In the former category: Werkzeug. In the latter: Jinja2 and Flatland (the latter by Jason of PPUG fame).

On the Chicago front, I did some promotional work around our Python for Teachers.

I need to poke Lew on Facebook, hope OK I compared him to Vernon Jordan, Jr., -- trying to map DC memes to PDX more, as they've apparently stagnated out there, no surprise really. Capitalism at work.

Speaking of nation-building, I liked this bumper sticker on an obviously union-loyal rig: Fight the Rich, Not Their Wars.

Of course I don't believe in class warfare per se, as the concept of "class", like the concept of "race", is both bogus and obsolete (per Fuller, building on work in anthropology).

Speaking of Fuller, another Medal of Freedom winner by that same surname was honored on the CBS Evening News last night, the co-founder of Habitat for Humanity. Millard really got the ball rolling, in terms of where to put the focus, if wanting to win the war on idiocracy.

In Pythonic Mathematics, we're likely to subclass DwellingMachine or EnvironmentControl (sounds Javaesque), if wanting to get back to our retro "doll houses" of the 1900s (kinda dumb), e.g.
class Retro(DwellingMachine):

def __init__(self, it):
   self.weatherized = False
   self.heavy = True
   self.inefficient = True
   self.mortaged = True
   self.air_deliverable = False
   self.precision_parts = None
Watch out for that garbage collector! (insider Python joke).

Older generations have a right to be proud of their old fogie solutions (it's what they knew), but if the newer ones don't evolve the aerospace sector, serving civilians in our Global U... well, that'll be a sign they're still suffering from an internalized "military-industrial complex", a debilitating form of brain damage (post-WWII) that lowered IQs across the board.

Let's not stay stuck in that rut, eh? Look to Canada more? Smart cookies in those parts.

Only realistic positive futurism on TV will stimulate the economy at this point. No one cares about billions or trillions for ho hum more of the same. Let's build Old Man River City maybe? Lots of contracts for veterans.

Money-talk is mind-numbing, deadens the senses. Nobody smart just yaks about money. If someone comes forward as "an investment banker" and just talks money all the time, show him the door. That's not what it's all about. Even the hokey pokey is more relevant.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wanderers 2009.2.3

Lynne Taylor is the featured artist at Artwalk in Hillsboro tonight, so obviously won't be joining us at the Pauling House.

The beautiful painting above is from her promotional materials.

Speaking of promos, the MOTD (message of the day) at Open Source Garden is a sneak peak at the OS Bridge call for proposals. I like the innovative categories Audrey came up with.

Open session tonight. If the elist is any indication, we'll have some rollicking debates.

Good seeing Gordon today, glad to meet his brother.

Later: all guys tonight, Steve Bergman included, with conversation drifting to motors and engines (internal combustion, marine, jet), though we started with kosher foods, the difference between gefilte fish (עפֿילטע פֿיש), and lutefisk etc. David Tver knows lots of lore.

Clean air standards: retiring more of the fleet in favor of contemporary vehicles, not just hybrids, would improve matters. In LA, the average new vehicle breaths in filthier air than it exhausts, contends Barry.

Our proposed repatriation bases in Stockton, Las Vegas, might feature van pools for carbon-conscious security moms, government issue, more practical than hummers. They could do their own driving (we're accepting in that way).

How is a company like Raytheon not part of the government? Just asking.

Lots of discussion of philosophy as a discipline, rhetoric versus logic etc. We discussed Terry's defense of free agency and engineering, scientism vs. Scientology etc. We coached Steve on possible scenarios regarding his philosophical framework. Bill worked on a jigsaw puzzle.

The wine flowed freely.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Found Art

:: sleeping bizmo ::

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still (movie review)

I'm posting about the remake with Keanu, who by now has lots of street cred as "the one". This is a Judgment Day reverie, with God replaced by a Really Big Metal Person, Keanu his quasi-human emissary.

It's the same dark pestilence though, with the same humans in denial about their selfishness and depravity, a very Biblical film, could be one of Cecil B. DeMill's, but we've come a long way (a long way) in the special effects department.

I went with my North Portland friend Leslie, sometimes a man's name. Some people wonder if ethnic Quakers are allowed to mingle in mixed company, especially if single. Our practices aren't especially unusual in that regard, at least not in the USA.

We exercise our civil liberties in a democracy, meaning our meetings (of even just two or three) criss-cross ethnicities and genders (related concepts).

Jesus is encouraged as a role model, in that he pow wowed with tax collectors, Roman soldiers, other non-Jewish types (however a lot of his best friends were Jews, as he was).

That wasn't an entirely irrelevant aside, in that the biologist mom in this movie is the non-biological guardian of a cute little boy, who could pass for a girl in the introductory scene, even though playing a violent video game (as many girls do). Later it's clear what sex he is.

Although the relationship between Helen and Jacob is somewhat strained, it's real enough, and strong enough, to give Keanu pause. He's also met with a wise Chinese sage (note "Chinese dialog coach" in the credits), formerly one of "them" who has become comfortable with his humanity, thinks we're OK.

Those metal mites eating the truck and stadium were awesome, very Prey.

Our venue was the St. John's McMenamins, a charming stop on any leisurely itinerary. Read up on your history. Expo 1905 was no joke, one of the great world's fairs of all time. Seattle's came later.

National Cash Register (NCR) had the domed pavilion, and that dome was preserved, what you'll look straight out at, from inside the movie theater.

I'm reminded of the Expo 1897 in Nashville. Most of the pavilions went away, but Nashvillians fell in love with Athena, a relationship that has only gotten more serious with the passage of time.