Monday, July 21, 2014

Tutorial on Node.js (OSCON Day 2)

Notes on: Node.js Three Ways by C. Aaron Cois and Tim Palk

I played hooky in skipping the Python tutorial on meta-programming, which looked interesting.  I hope Patrick will update me.   The presenter for that one was from Brazil.

Instead I'm planning to study Node.js, also work-related in that a revamp of the company guts is expected in this technology.

The tutorial covered the same territory as a Python Django workshop in giving us hands-on use of an MVC (model view controller) web framework.  The Express architecture is remarkably similar to Django in fact:  a standard HTTP request-response pipeline with routing to templates, a modeler for mapping the database and so on.  Meteor, presented in Act 3 is somewhat different.

Important:  we're not talking about client software in a browser.  Django and Express (the node.js framework we're looking at) run on the server, not the client.  One of the breakthroughs for the JavaScript community has been its moving to the server.  We're using Redis for our localhost webserver.

The idea of a project with an app.js and a package.json to guide npm (node package manager) in what dependencies to install.

The presenters have an ambitious workout planned wherein workers contend for a lock and talk to reddis, then later, mongodb.  I've installed a lot of open source software in two days at OSCON.

Matthew and Debra of O'Reilly School found me at the i18n table at lunch.  We mapped out some strategy for tomorrow, when we harvest video clips for later promos.

Tonight, the Expo Hall opens and I'll find out where our booth is.  Then:  the big festival / party, always themed.  OSCON is a well-oiled machine in many ways, a working formula.  Why fix what ain't broke?

I got lost in this tutorial thanks to this minor issue involving curl and npm.  However the presenters gave us the means to pick up anywhere by providing snap shots of the projects, with all source code in place.  Useful.  This is the kind of material I go back and study later, with my computer prepped as a learning platform. is an interesting utility.  No need to stick to port 80 and HTTP.  That's for letting servers push to clients, such as updating chat windows with other users' strings.  Meteor is a "reactive framework" for such an environment.  Clients update each other in real time, like in a multi-user game.

OSCON (Tutorials Day 2)

Notes from Playing Chess with Companies by Simon Wardley.

Everyone brings their biases to OSCON and I'm not talking about prejudicial bigotries towards specific genders or ethnicities, I'm talking about special interests.  I'm in Playing Chess with Companies this morning.  A Leading Edge Forum (CSC) guy is leading us.  He likes data, and kitten pictures.  How do companies play chess?  Many just fly blind, neglect mapping, hence this workshop. #Gamefication would be a tag for this talk.

Most companies forget about the "why?" of their strategy beyond imitating others they admire.  Companies you should emulate, like Kodak and Atari (he's showing some old book titles).  The premise: if X does A and succeeds, then you Y, if you do A, will succeed.  He's reading his slide, but in this case that's smart as he's mocking the jargon, generating business-ese much as that paper-writer does works in postmodernism.  Funny.

As I was saying... biases.  For example, I come from a medical research background, not as a researcher, but as a data harverster, cleaner and storer, a collector or curator one might say.  That's akin to the medical records problem, however our needs were aggregate / statistical and so could be shared in a more "anonymized" form as case histories.

Diagramming by value chain gives way to diagramming an evolutionary path i.e. the value chain is evolving in what it looks like, what it produces.  Stacey Matrix:  the axes are close and far from certainty.  Ubiquity and Certainty increase from genesis through "as a service" with competition a prime driver, in both demand and supply. Practices co-evolve as well:  Novel, Emergent, Good, Best.

The Air Force FIST mantra is akin to the Unix philosophy: have many simple components that do their jobs well and in an intelligent / intelligible manner.  Value chains with an evolutionary curve provide the strategy maps.  Scenario planning, comparison, communication:  these are among the benefits of value adding over time, assuming evolution from genesis (birth) to maturity (automaticity).  Red Queen effect:  the needing to evolve just to stand still relative to the surrounding ecosystem.

Inertia builds up owing to past success, then comes the punctuated equilibrium and a time of war, then new wonders.  Kondratieff Curves again -- I learned about those from other futurists.

Good speaker in that he recaps his slides, lets them appear again and again at different speeds.  Very effective.  Five stars for this guy.  He worked for Ubuntu in 2008, hired by Mark Shuttleworth.  Makes sense.  It was Canonical versus RedHat in some ways.  Ubuntu is now huge in the cloud.

Opening versus Patenting to speed up or slow down.  FUD also slows (negative feedback, "demonization" or raising concerns about a future model).

A bias here is we want everything invisible to become visible:  not true.  They try to sell us wars we don't want so sometimes applying the brakes is a valuable technique.  But brakes over here == rapid innovation over there.  Obsoleting war in its conventional outward forms, in favor of a more psychological dynamic (more inward) might be considered a Quaker goal, providing a "why?" motivation for our Countdown to Zero actions.

Innovate, Leverage, Commoditize:  Amazon's EC2 catalyzes the genesis of Big Data in the custom built zone, which enables Amazon to fast-follow the early adopters with a Big Data EC2.  That's like hitching your star to value adding "geniuses" (the genesis minded).

I'm sold on the idea that box and wire diagrams are far less informative.  User Need versus Supplier Need is something I still need to wrap my head around.  You can easily mess up your map if you don't know how to draw one.  A spectrum: Agile in-house, Six Sigma commoditized outsourced.

For a workshop exercise we mapped a Tea Shop, which at our table was like the Starbucks of tea shops, a Tea Shops Network complete with LCDs sharing inspirational programming.  One of my table mates is Mormon and doesn't drink caffeinated beverages, but herbal teas are OK -- but not if derived from a black tea base, as these Choice organic tea infusions seem to be.

CSC seems to downplay its Computer Sciences Corporation moniker (I'm just poking around the websites).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

BizMos in 2014

I coined the term "biz mo" for "business mobile" in the 1980s to counter the spin on "RV" or "recreational vehicle".  If one does serious work for a living i.e. isn't just into goofing off, enjoying retirement, then "RV" is inapt.

The current (July 19) issue of Harper's Magazine has a good article explaining how many in my generation are in fact fending for themselves in repurposed RVs, as a migrant labor force of geezers showing up to punch tickets, pick fruit, and do shelving for Amazon.  Move over migrant farm workers, the geezers have arrived (the groups have mingled).

We call ourselves "gypsies" sometimes, which is apropos.  The jobs are sometimes physically grueling, but the optimist geezers see this as "getting paid to work out".  Shelving for Amazon may involve walking 13 miles a day if they don't give you a Segway, a lot like airport work / study work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wanderers 2014-7-15: Regarding Russia

:: William Brown shares with Wanderers ::

Wanderers is more into STEM than politics, by reputation at least, but we certainly have travelogues, and much about William Brown's presentation was based in first person / first hand experience as a traveler and speaker of the Russian language.  His degree is in Russian language and culture.

William wanted to help us break out of lingering stereotypes some of us might have, left over from the Cold War Era or from the time of the USSR's breakup.  Most of us alive today have no personal memories of WW2 except maybe as children.  One of the two Kyrgystani women in the room was six when the USSR broke up.  She enjoys that sense of independence that comes with statehood and would not surrender it back.  The institution of statehood itself was part of what we were looking at.

The bottom line is that Russia under Putin is embracing its Christian Orthodox heritage in ways never allowed in the Communist Era, meaning huge amounts of land and assets have been returned to the church.  A pent up hunger for religiosity has also fed numerous bigotries, especially anti-LGBT spasms, which is where William's story began, with Pussy Riot, the punk guerrilla protest group, branded as subversive, its members sentenced to hard labor, and used by government spin doctors to put face to, and paint a target on, a younger generation, making it OK for bullies and thugs to exercise their cowardice.  The state tends to look the other way as Russians grow psychologically weaker and less tolerant by the day.

This arc somewhat recapitulates what happened in the USA starting with president Reagan, when religious bigots of all stripes came out of the woodwork and began a long process of dismantling the secular apparatus.  Republicanism rode this wave, but ironically at great cost to the central government, with Washington DC by now a mere shadow of its former self in terms of relevance and credibility.  Religious nuts have enjoyed a more domineering role, which is comforting, especially to patriarchs battling their own inner demons and insecurities, and with a short fuse when it comes to defiance.

Fortunately, the USA's 50 states have a way of specializing and finding a new equilibrium and dire conditions in one area may be offset by corresponding changes in other regions.  I have to think that such dynamics are likely in any large-enough system with any free flow of people and information whatsoever.

Whereas average Russians may be more restricted in their radius of travel than average North Americans, if not for bureaucratic reasons then because of a generic reluctance to venture abroad (again, like many North Americans), terminal closed-mindedness is likely not in the cards for a people of such great cultural achievements, especially in literature and science.

William was clear that he brings some of his own biases to his narrative, as we all do, including yours truly.  He was trained as a media analyst in a military setting and is used to sifting through lots and lots of information in order to synthesize and summarize.  His analysis is therefore cogent, interesting, and based in doing lots of homework.

I was happy to get more of his perspective and hope to someday have more travel opportunities in that part of the world myself, maybe in connection with Python, a computer language popular in Russia and the Ukraine, and both of which host Pycons from time to time.   My visit to EuroPython in Lithuania in 2007 was certainly informative.

:: protest lyrics :: 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Changing Weather

Wow, downpour!

Good thing Lindsey didn't leave early this morning, on that multi-day trek, though sooner or later the rains will probably catch up with her.  Or not.  It's summer after all.  We don't have torrential monsoons like Manila does... usually.

I got Carol to Quaker Meeting before the rain, just thunder and lightning at 10 AM.  By now it's 10:30 AM and the lawns are getting watered.

I've been playing with "Quasi Quakers" or "Kwazis" for short.  The Kwazis on Stark Street don't have a Peace and Social Concerns Committee and have more of a tendency to flocking behavior (pastoral) than true Liberal Friends.  Not a big deal.  Quakers have forked before, many times.

Walker is cycling to Witch Camp somewhere further south, still in Oregon.  Country Fair, more established and commercial, will just be winding down around now.  I know some staff but haven't been myself in some years.  I'll know more about Witch Camp when Walker gets back.

English hosts many slang or coined neologism for what we might call "hybrid religions" (as if anything were purebred):  Jew-Bu (Jewish Buddhist), Quagan (Quaker-Pagan)... these exist, and in multiple incarnations.  The true complexity of on the ground inter-mixing of ethnicities belies the over-reaching simplifications of any computer model I've seen, not that I've seen them all (many are protected / proprietary).

Kwazis would be a mix of Liberal Quakerism inter-twined with other strands of neo-liberalism, some radicalisms.  This may not be a stable form in any case as nothing is stopping us from snapping back into shape at some point, as ye olde Liberal Friends, some plain vanilla generic version, less this exotic potentially unstable isotope (radioactive).

Transformations are like that: sudden, like changes in the weather sometimes.

Punctuated equilibrium means something in anthropology regardless of what evolutionary biologists do with the concept.

Memetic evolution happens so much faster than mere genetic evolution, and ethnicity is primarily memetic.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

More Secret Lives

I plowed through two more of these today, where "plowed" does not connote "onerous chore" but "welcome privilege": to have time to partake of such fare.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Afternoon with the Architect

:: not my car ::

I had a good afternoon with the Architect in my story, all this while a student of Systems Science at PSU, an unusually esoteric discipline for a PhD in the US of A, but not unheard of.

When my dad was getting his PhD in urban planning, around the late 1950s, only University of Chicago and Harvard offered it, or so I've been told.

North Americans are suspicious about planning of any kind, as if you're a big time polluting industrialist, you need your neighbors to see you as part of God's Will.

Planners with their pesky zoning ordinances and growth boundaries, public land use plans, are the thorn in the side for any would-be land-grabbing developer with nary a need but his or her own in focus.  Elizabeth Furse, an ex Congresswoman who sometimes joins us at the Linus Pauling House, could tell you some stories.

We sat at this table in the photograph above, outdoors at Angelo's, and if you click through you'll get to more of a timeline, a well known secret if you're a long-time blog reader. Back up a ways and you'll see slides from our most recent Wanderers talk for example, about projects in Senegal / Guinea / West Africa.

John Driscoll is the Architect's name. He showed up in Portland having ridden across the country on his bicycle, then living in the Netherlands or vice versa.

He landed in the so-called Voodoo House, so named by Willamette Week in its attack-piece on Santo Damie, must have been pick on some tiny religion week.

Anyway, one of the top dudes in that faith was the property owner. As renters (John and housemates), myself their visitor, their / my closest contact with actual "cult practices" was just to admire the tasteful decor.

John was not so pleased with the ending of Her (see movie review), which I thought was brilliant, but then that's a story worth telling in many ways, with many endings.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rich Cultural Heritage

I started my morning one day this week, with a couple of treats:  these two episodes from The Secret Lives of Machines

Barry had been bugging me to see these, as he thinks they're excellent, and now I do too.  Count me a fan. 

The edgy somewhat South Parky animations really add to the texture, as does the whacky inventor.  Shades of Myth Busters too, but of course it predates all that.  Bill Nye...

What a privilege to be able to dial in / dial back.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gay Pride

I dressed up in my AFSC clothes, meaning I had a tasteful / small badge on my lapel, but then donned the giant nametag and had Patrick take my picture.

Like just about every other government, church and nonprofit, I wanted to show solidarity with a huge percent of the population, the GLTBQQI (gay, lesbian, trans, bi, questioning, queer, inter-sexed).

First came government, with police and military, then came the high powered politicians, then the corporations, then the churches, then the more theatrical and artistic, friends of, fellow travelers, and scattered non-profits.

Churches included official congregations, in recruit mode:  Lutherans, Methodists, Unitarians, United Church of Christ, Havah Shalom, West Hills Friends Church (no sign of Multnomah this year, Liberal Friends conspicuously absent).

Some Catholics and Mormons were also present, the Mormons least officially, as families for marriage equality, not branded congregations.   The University of Portland's psych department was well represented, but not its theologians.  Theologians (students of Theo I guess that means) tend to be more threatened by the human species and it's unprogrammed (unpredictable) behaviors.

Corporations included Nike, Adidas, US Bank, Alaska Airlines, Chase, Citibank, Nordstroms and many others.

Friday, June 06, 2014


I read in Confessions of a Failed Egoist as I awaited my procedure this morning.

I walked some miles to the venue on a bright summery day, but was escorted home by a computer scientist, a precaution, given the drugs involved (nothing that put me under this time).

I was wondering about linking Trevor Blake's writings to Rorty's (my thesis adviser's, one of them), in terms of standing up for oneself.

Thoughts for another time, as appointments must be kept.  Tea with Lindsey.  Looking forward.

Follow-up:  the procedure was routine and fairly uneventful.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Falling Down (movie review)

Michael Douglas is exquisitely good at portraying psychos or getting caught up in some psycho situation.  I'd not seen this before.  Look how she runs to the phone, even though she knows it's probably her anger management problem ex.  They're slaves to that ringer, and when I hear it again, I remember, you had to run.  It was always important.  No caller ID.  No voicemail.  Dark ages.

This is a dark comedy about a defense contractor who loses his job and goes postal but in a way that builds.  The funnier role is the old cop (probably my age) about to retire (last day) who starts seeing the pattern and can't help but jump in.  It's a personal growth experience for him as well, and ex dad gets to go swimming while angel child has her birthday, so happy ending.

Anyway, Lindsey pulled this from her stash of VHSs because I'd told her I was "resigning from Oversight" (as an Overseer of our Quaker meeting) and that sounded melodramatic, like maybe I'm being "Mr. White" (Breaking Bad) or this guy, in Falling Down.

Although I've been dressing up more, sporting a blazer, I'm actually more the Voodoo Donuts guy, pushing something softer and sweeter (new donut place on Hawthorne, Blue Star).  And no big deal on the Oversight thing as I worked double time in April-May so earned early retirement big time.  I deserve the R&R and left a flurry of fun memos.