Monday, February 27, 2017

Circuit Rider

On Belmont

Patrick was kind enough to give me a heads up about the Ninkasi Festival at Belmont Station. I had the Greg Palast movie to return, so headed out on foot by Movie Madness. Although this tap room and retail establishment started out near to Horse Brass on Belmont (hence the name) as retail only, it moved to Stark Street, just a block down from the Quaker meetinghouse.

I've met with Friends at Belmont Station quite a few times, sometimes to go over math concepts, as I'm known to float around in math tutor space. However this time I was sharing perspectives with Patrick about some hefty RFPs he's been looking at (Requests for Proposals). I've been looking at them as well.

Before November of last year, I was hell bent on ramping up professional development classes for Portland teachers. I got the idea from doing PD for Californian IT workers, in a program geared for the already-employed.

My venue, I hoped, might be a neighborhood community center, a church with a lot of floor space. The idea still haunts me, however Measure 97 didn't pass, and even if it had, there's no consensus that teachers want or need PD from the likes of myself or Patrick.  We bill ourselves as Python mentors, based on some years with the O'Reilly School of Technology, plus other gigs.  Between us, Barton and I have quite a bit of experience.

Glenn and I work on the Global Matrix stuff, which overlaps in that we're looking to display global data using the age-old hexagonal grid motif, with twelve pentagons in the mix.  These threads are not unrelated, in light of HP4E, one of my longest running media campaigns ("Hexapents for Everyone").

The Trimet Trip Planner said I could be at PDX Code Guild if I made it to Glisan, north of Stark, passed Burnside, by 6:24 or so, and I did, having only the one Ninkasi thanks to my host. The bus 19 took me within a couple blocks of 2626 SW Corbett, no transfer needed.  Pretty nifty.

Sheri said she was baking cookies just for me (I think she'd seen on Twitter that I was making my way there). I caught up a little with Ben and collected the T-shirt I'd ordered from one of the other code schoolers some months back. The purpose of Flying Circus in part is for experts to huddle with novices and help them through hurdles. I got to do some of that, as an expert in both Python and JavaScript.

Wow, a modern browser sure does a lot, in terms of allowing for inspection, setting breakpoints and so on.  Ben really helped a lot.  Sheri knows her way around that Trimet Trip Planner developer API, or is getting there (I'd never seen it before, would like to use it more myself).

Since the voter suppression scheme revealed in the Palast movie had involved deliberately sloppy SQL, I was keen to share some of the details.  Election technology, like FinTech, is a subset of IT.  Code schools have a natural fascination with voting and voting technologies, especially in this age of blockchains.

I stayed late enough to need another e-Ticket to get back, not a problem. I walked down to Tillikum Crossing and hopped an Orange Line, transferring to the 4 at Clinton Street. I was back at Blue House in no time, ready for janitorial duties.

Pooh Cup

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Filling In

School Bus Bench

Speaking of "hollow schools" (below), Bridgeport Elementary is not one.  The hollow schools of which I wrote are sometimes useful as gymnasium equipment, I don't deny it.  Some even foster community.

Anyway, one of my team needed a sub and I'm on call to some level, we're not yet sure to what level. Usually I try to keep the day clear when I'm on in the evening, as I was tonight, closed circuit, with my adult peers.

However, I'm wanting to be a team player and what better way to get into shape than visit an elementary school in Tualitin and lead an after school hour in MIT Scratch, for Coding with Kids?

What tested my resolution to stay chill, beyond reports of impending ice rain, was the sudden power outage, a kind of flickering, and then a whole 90% gone, but the snake's aquarium heater still heating.  What?

I dashed to the fuse box, forgetting the phone flashlight, but seeing clearly enough nothing seemed enough out of place to explain the phenomenon.  Then it dawned on me:  the three trucks outside my door working on the electrical pole across the street.


That's right: today of all days was the one a new taller pole was slated to replace the older one.  Portland General Electric (PG&E) had a team of linesmen, plus traffic control people, on the job, fortunately making quick work of their part of it.

Some infrastructure is lower on the pole, probably Comcast and/or CenturyLink, with cable and/or fiber. That stuff stayed on the older pole, which they also sawed off, to maybe half of its former height.

Fortunately for my peace of mind, the power had come back on before I backed out of the driveway. Also fortunately, the expected icy rain was not the occasion for a jam-up on I-5.  I got back from Tualitin in time for some last minute prep for class.

My students said kind things in the chat window, which I didn't save at the end of the day.  Patrick joined us again, for more of a speaking role than last time.  He gave a presentation on his snake trap, the one he's offering to folks in the Florida Everglades, for testing.

Like any inventor, Patrick needs feedback loops that amplify more than dampen, if his invention is to get off the ground.  As Quakers put it, we learn to follow God's will "experimentally" i.e. by means of trial and error.  Mistakes teach us a lot.

I've long been thinking "two teachers per classroom" changes the ratio, plus didn't philosophers of old often present subject material in the form of a dialog?  Sportscasters have hit upon conversational banter as a way to impart fluency.  Patrick and I have been eager to give co-teaching a whirl.

I've found it useful to cross-fertilize across my adult and kid gigs to some degree.  I'll pare down an adult Python module, then enhance it in Codesters for the kids. 

Then I'll run that same Codesters application for my adult audience, an exhibit in their world, regarding how kids these days learn to code (MIT Scratch, phasing in Codesters on the way to a cloud-based host, is one approach).

I had Steve Holden on my Python show a few weeks ago.  He brought along some hardware devices from the UK, to control using MicroPython on a chip.  Passing the screen around adroitly is an athletic ability in itself.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hollow Schools

The emerging trend in the high tech economy is to provide unemployed or underemployed workers, college students, curious teens and others, with many "hollow school" options, meaning the exercises are canned, and no teachers are present.

Work through an automated textbook (web-based), and you'll pop out the other end of the pipeline with the needed skills.

That's a theory, quite unproved.  It'll work for some people, as most fad diets do, and those are the people you want giving glowing testimonials. "I did the WorkForce Training [tm] and now I'm making one hundred K!"

Is academia the source of this dream? I'd say more it's from publishing. We need students / customers to "work through" our material. The teachers are no longer in real time, just look it up on Stack Overflow if there's a problem, or maybe we set up bandwidth for students to help each other, perhaps awarding them extra credit somehow for so-doing.

The messy business of keeping a faculty alive is what's left to the university in this picture.  The publishers siphon off students and furnish some credential based on "working through" their offerings.  States find it easier to work with publishers, which are businesses, than with universities, which are not as eager to get behind self-gutting platforms.

Where a more intelligent government + university system might step in, is with experiments to reverse the model, and pay students, instead of making students pay. If learning JavaScript + HTML + CSS is so vital to the economy, then lets bleed out a stipend, an allowance, could be to cyber-currency wallets on the cellphone (university provided?).

Pay teachers and students both, as they'll be exchanging roles all this time anyway. I may learn React and/or Angular from you (both JavaScript), but then I'm a Python teacher and will teach you Flask.  Besides, it's work to study.  Work-study is what we do for recreation, cradle to grave.

"Where does the money come from?" you ask.  That's a question for general systems theory, the answer being "from the sun" (current = currency at the root of it all). Some economists may have competing answers but GST is more of a science than Econ is.

If you want to limit how these work-study program credits might be used, that's what FinTech is all about.  Pay students to learn JavaScript in currency exchangeable for groceries but not booze. If you're studying biology, earned credits might be towards a catalog of microscopes and related equipment.

At the O'Reilly School of Technology (OST), our PR was contra-MOOC in the sense that we didn't think a 1:10000 teacher-student ratio was all that workable.

Not that there's anything wrong with watching Youtubes. One may learn plenty from passive viewing, as well as from reading. But when does another human evaluate the quality of your own work? Are you tested only by machines?  What's the workflow?  Is the school you're in hollow?

Do you think by watching doctor shows you become a doctor?  Do we get computer programmers from robograders? What's the fail rate? What's the theory?

At OST we were more wanting to duplicate the Renaissance 1-on-1 apprentice model, where, in joining the JavaScript guild, one gets paired with a guru, a guide, someone who will work with you directly and think about your code with you. A co-programmer of sorts.

The whole thrust of Extreme Programming + Agile was "those who work alone don't develop as team players."  Which is not to say working alone is unimportant. There's no either/or here.

The irony in this picture is hollowed out schools are scrambling to deal with the unemployment problem created by letting go of all the teachers by hollowing out all the schools.

We think faceless bureaucracies are now in position to roll over the apprentice model.  Finally, we don't need to worry about teachers i.e. innovators and researchers, people who study for a living.

We can freeze our pot of gold curriculum into that end of the rainbow skills training we believe is out there, and all our unemployed will get their $90K full stack developer jobs. Solution provided!

Yeah right. Count me a skeptic.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Prime Numbers

Solution in Codesters



Code on Paper

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rabble Babble


political cartoon, 2017

Kirby Urner on Facebook:

The USSA is now so fascist they'll put you in jail for calling a Russian diplomat, even if you're a private citizen about to be in government. Take the following action: 

1. Call all the Russians you know and leave a message: "help us, we're turning into mindless idiots in the USSA!" 

2. Call the Russian ambassador and apologize for the knee-jerk sanctions applied because RT happens to be better than CNN. 

3. Call your lawyer and tell her or him what you have done as an American Patriot. Sign the Patriots Roster for brave people only (you know who you are). 

4. Cut and Paste this to all your friends, especially in Russia, let them know we need their help ("was the USSR this bad?")

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Code School Business

Pedagogical Devices

At a Wanderers I didn't chronicle, I met up with Nathan DiNiro again, someone I know from an O'Reilly Foo Camp as well. He's well connected in the open source medical records world, a thread in these blogs going back to my job at St. Vincent's hospital, as a consultant.

That's where I cut my teeth in the world of gathering biomedical data points for anonymized sharing, an important aspect of outcomes research.

I worked for the Center for Outcomes Research, and built both CLAIR and CORIS (the former for the cath lab, the latter for the cardiac operating room).

Both Nat and Glenn are familiar with a HyperLedger project. I read a recent article about that at Glenn's this morning in the MIT Technology Review, before backing up my teacher supplies to do a Codester session in Lake Oswego. Last night I was doing my night school gig.

The HyperLedger relates to blockchain, at the heart of bitcoin. The idea of keeping medical records safe in the sense of private, yet shared enough to hook people up with medical studies, is something of a holy grail, and some teams are going after it. Nathan's project is called Youbase, about which you'll find Youtubes.

My teacher supplies included a Vector Flexor, never opened. That was a trademark or hallmark of anyone sharing "the Bucky stuff" back when that happened. It's a rubber-joins and wooden dowels affair that shows the Jitterbug Transformation (JT).

Some of you following me in Facebook may have seen my floating the "JT on RT" meme, which I explain on Medium.

Over on QuakerQuaker, I've been talking about trucking again, and my project to make driving the Kabul to Istanbul freeways a for-credit academic program, for "Global U" students. What characterizes the US and EU are the open borders among states and the freedom to drive freight from A to B without queuing for customs again and again.  Africa would like to see more of that too, as well as the Stans.

I use the term "Global U" (global university) somewhat how I use "Chinese Peace Corps": no specific institution or group is singled out, as these are more umbrella terms, metaphors, than particular entities.  They work together sometimes.

from MIT Technology Review

Monday, February 06, 2017

Apollo Project

If rumors are true, that US president Trump has appointed a moon landing denier as a science advisor, then I say hallelujah.  Whether the moon landings were a hoax or not is what the young people on Youtube want to talk about. Most of them were not alive at the time, and have grown up in a world of pretty realistic CGI. Add grainy television, covering over any gaffs, and wow, what a way to save money, when we finally "go to" Mars, right?

Me? I'm still a true believer, think we saw Apollo unfold pretty much as advertised. But that's not the point, what I think. Do I wade in with my hours of rebuttals? No. Am I glad to see the US government reflecting peoples doubts? Yes.

What may be closer to the truth is Apollo is the new stand-in for Nine Eleven, which is still fresh in our minds and the topic of so many Youtubes. Every theory is a conspiracy theory, no matter how you cut it.  In an age of Photoshop and CGI, of course the public is eager to debate what might be agreed upon, that's their right. Having seen Hunger Games, "false flag" is on everybody's lips.

Yes, I'm aware that some people might be holding their breaths for full disclosure about UFOs. DT will demand a thorough tour of Area 51 and then tweet about the frozen aliens.  As many adults have forgotten how many of their peers entertain such possibilities, as never knew in the first place. At least letting us know what's out there, in terms of belief systems, should be the State Department's job, not just National Geographic's, or the FBI's.

I'm reminded of a cocktail party conversation yesterday, with a student of cults, which doesn't mean she's not also a practitioner. She's not one of those who studies something with an eye to wiping it out. Most cults don't have that long a half life to begin with, as they revolve around specific personalities, which come and go.  Once a cult lasts long enough, or gets big enough, it qualifies to be a religion. That's how we think in Asylum District.

Lets talk about the cults and acknowledge them, not sweep them under the rug. But then some holier than thou "at least I'm not in a cult" might be more of a namespace issue than anything.  import this. Python joke.

My point being, cults are frequently characterized by how they grapple with the big conspiracy theories of our day, and do they sustain their own.  What stories do these religions, or mini "designer religions" tell?  How much scientific scrutiny and/or skepticism will they tolerate?  The answers vary case by case.

If there's an inner circle knowingly keeping a detailed truth from becoming public, that the moon landings never happened, then that's a cult, and a powerful one, as I'd say most of us were successfully fooled (as I said, I'm still a true believer, partly because actually going to the moon might have been easier than pretending it were doable). Where and how? It's one thing to say "it's a trick" and quite another to know what the trick was.

What makes these debates so interesting are precisely Apollo's archetypal attributes as a chief of rationality. He marched into Delphi and took over the oracular franchise, banishing and in some accounts slaying the old Python that used to run the place.  The rationalists had displaced Athena by some accounts, a direct offspring of Zeus. Or had they?  These battles stay eternal in some dimension.

Were a major achievement of the rational mind, namely the moon landings, named for its icon, to morph in retrospect into something more occult, dead ending in the murky realm of PR and special effects, then Western Civilization, so called would be charting a new course with respect to the Greek pantheon.  Youtubers sense the high stakes and resent how "mainstream media" doesn't let them participate except as viewers.  Adding to the ranks of talented producers might be the way to hang on, if you're a more traditional broadcast network.

Put another way, I think the lameness of the NIST response to pressure in the case of Nine Eleven has greatly lowered peoples tolerance for suspended disbelief. They feel deceived, even without knowing what's true. That sensation rubs off on Apollo, casting shadowy graffitti across his pedestal. "If we can't believe you about Nine Eleven, how can we believe you about Apollo?" is the question that's being asked.