Monday, May 22, 2017

Pycon: Looking Back


Pycon was very sciency this time, and I'm plenty glad about that. We're up to developing 3.7 around now, with a lot of emphasis on asynchronous capabilities.  That's event loop programming, not unlike event-driven GUI programming, indeed it's the same (to some degree).

Most the examples seem to focus on network probes, and how those might take forever.  An await state keeps something trying, working to fulfill some promise, complete some task, even while other coroutines get on with their business.

The paradigm of multi-threading is germane, it's just Python takes responsibility for expressing how the players should share, leaving the operating system to think in terms of a single process.

One of the keynotes was an astronomer, another a nuclear physicist engineer, studying the complete fuel cycle, from cradle to grave.  We flashed on pictures of space telescopes, like the Hubble, the Hubble itself (still operational in 2017), and considered how Python is a boon to the scientific community.

I got to meet with the SciPy / Cuba guy, Olemis Lang.  He's facing some of the same logistics encountered by Steve Holden, former PSF chairman and conference organizer (starting with Pycon itself). I'd be his sidekick through some of these events, taking in the business in a more backseat driver role.

Ed Leaf and I reminisced about FoxPro quite a bit, another coding language community that went through phases.  "Every language has its story" I remind my "Python radio" audience (really more like TV).

Jeff Elkner of edu-sig came through as well.  This was during booth and poster time.  CS is now well-established throughout the states, lets assume, at the level of standards (what Jeff has been helping with, in Virginia especially), but on-the-ground implementation is another story.  Urban versus rural: it makes a difference.

Bridging to the agricultural sector(s) is a big part of what open source is all about these days, because agriculture, bar none, is a science, from population genetics to pathology (we also compared notes with Sheri Dover, also a scientist by training, and code school insider), to business management.

If interested in the Cuba stuff specifically, remember python-cuba is an open archive, as is edu-sig. Some years ago, Pythonistas came to the realization the Cuba could be another Python hub, given proper care and nurturing by the various users already there.

Python use is skyrocketing thanks to a vibrant ecosystem and ways of making science journal articles come alive with Jupyter Notebook versions. Share the data, share the process, with your peers.

Mostly I served as sidekick to Dr. Charles Crosse, a physicist by training, adventurous and risk-taking by temperament, with experiences as far off the beaten trail in Guyana as it's possible to get (a world of river rapids, crocodiles, anacondas...).  He'd served in the Peace Corps in Kenya before that.

His infrastructure for governing access to elective cyberspace, based on fulfilling requirements (buying time), was completely working as a prototype.  He'd ported some puzzles from SugarLabs. Reading assignments complete with fill in the blank follow-up / recalls could be generated on the fly. We did one on Isaac Newton, as a test.

The gist:  a server in France provided "bird feeder" credits towards keeping the router open for other purposes. Developers, supported by consciously allocated subscriptions or purchases, build these life-giving games (we're talking about cyber-lives, time on the Internet, not miracle cures, not snake oil), whereby students net metered credits, the currency of "staying on-line through this particular router".

Of course it's easy to bypass a router, a Raspberry Pi in this case, but that's all family politics. Once a given router is accepted as a valid player, according to whatever rules, one has incentive to rack up higher scores.  I see plenty of applications to Coffee Shops Network, which features charitable giving games, a casino to benefit the deserving recipients of winners' winnings.

The job fair booth people have to answer whether their place of work allows remoting in from places like San Antonio.  Do they have telecommuters?  I was tied to the poster, complete with working Pi and slaved tablets (representing metered clients), so took my job booth pictures mostly during setup, when I was free to roam.  I fetched Charles a couple turkey sandwiches before they all disappeared.

My transition to post conference mode involved taking the Max downtown with Charles for a hand off to Luciano outside the Apple Store, after which I Maxed it back to maxi taxi and headed for the FredMeyer rooftop parking slots.  David Koski was there on Hawthorne at Fresh Pot, embedded in Powells, across from Bagdad.  He was touring in the area.  We walked backed to the car through Freddies, purchasing coffee and shaving cream.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

As the World Turns


Coming back to a certain soap opera, yes, I remember when the president elect said he was completely in support of Flynn talking to Russians. As incoming National Security dude, that was his role, and he was ramping up in a conscientious fashion, as a key player on the transition team.

Pizzagate got in the way, and Flynn came across as less than fully candid to the Veep, and Trump needed Pence, even more than Flynn, to stay on board. However Trump was forthcoming with the media, which he loathes as we know, that he didn't think Flynn's sin arose from his interaction with Russian counterparts.  That part was just a future National Security advisor doing his job.

Now Trump is accused of being like Flynn, doing what Flynn himself was accused of.  The difference: Trump is president.  He gets to exercise his own judgement, and that's precisely where everyone wants to rein him in.  As president, he gets a national security team to defend the office. Flynn didn't have the home court advantage.

As the plot continues to thicken, everyone needs to second guess this rich uncle who has stumbled into the White House, to everyone's surprise, and now gets to pull the levers of power.

Democracy means you get a lot of back seat drivers.

However now that we're an oligarchy (according to many studies), mirroring Russia's (kleptocratic), those busybody back seaters may be safely ignored, at least for longer.

So now, in that light, with such history now remembered, we're hearing from the ex FBI Director that Trump really hoped this was not going to be a witch burning of his friend Flynn.

This was right after the sacking.  Flynn had already paid a high price, and forfeited a job to which he had been much looking forward.  Had he sounded reassuring, even conciliatory on the phone?  We wanted more saber rattling?  And who are the "we" in this picture?

Everything had turned to ashes for the guy already, so why make it worse?

A president is allowed to express (confess?) his loyalty and hopeful feelings, as if to a confidant. Maybe Comey would be that?  Too early to know, in those days.  He didn't want to pursue Hillary any further either, despite the large number of jackals in his own camp, happy to do just that.

And now, lo these many months later, everyone is looking back at those episodes and thinking, aha, more proof of sneaky connivance, colluding or whatever.

The media hates Trump for all the insults he's heaped upon them.  He's not at all polite, like Obama was, except we call that being "politically correct" i.e. "civil" which to many ears sounds too insincere to pass muster.

Hence Trump's win in the Electoral College (maybe with a little help from voter roll purges, the FBI is still looking into that right?).

CNN especially has been the lap dog of monster GRUNCH, according to these anonymous sources. However we can't blame that on Ted Turner, an American oligarch, as he's a founder, not a daily operations guy by 2017.

Nor does it make sense to blame Time-Warner, a literally soulless corporation, even if metaphorically "a person" in anthropological literature (aka "voodoo economics").

The soap opera is one of aggrieved parties seeking vengeance, each hoping to do the neighbor in.

There's a certain awkwardness about fighting dinosaurs.  The ground trembles and it's all very dramatic.  That sells product, especially soap (politics feels so unclean sometimes).

The economy cranks ahead, one day at a time, as the world turns.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Coffee Shop Networking

Arduino Environment

The clouds really let loose while I sat looking out the window of Common Grounds, here on Hawthorne Boulevard, Asylum District, Portland, Oregon.

Lightning flashed, and the power went out, twice. Thanks to some electrical issue in my Mac Air — not the battery — a power out entails a reboot.

I was productive anyway though: I plowed through several lectures on Arduino programming, continuing with the MOOC I'm taking through Coursera; submitted an invoice for recent work; edited Wikipedia, adding how Python implements partial application of arguments to functions, resulting in new functions.

Fellow Wanderer Dr. DiNucci is here. I invited him to dinner at Szechuan Chef, I'm hoping with Alex. We're always looking for excuses for Szechuan cuisine, and miss Lucky Strike being so close by.

Alex confirms that was Yangsi Rinpoche I got to meet at Dwaraka briefly, back in April.  He's like the headmaster at Maitripa College, which I visited a week ago tomorrow.

What I need to get clearer on is how the Arduino IDE uses something like Processing to end up with C.  We tend to call Arduino programs "sketches", the same word Shiffman uses when teaching about vectors, acceleration and forces in his Coding Train videos.

I've been sharing my enthusiasm for the Shiffman syllabus on math-teach, and also on The Physics Learning Research List. He's one of several Youtube math teachers I consider talented. Eugene Khutoryansky is another.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Philosophizing


I'm likely offending some of the more idolatrous, with this Pastafarian sermon, one might call it, on Synergetics no less. Cinco de Mayo was a productive day for me, in terms of getting out three videos for the Synergetics 200 playlist (on Youtube).

In Western Civ at least, the sciences purposely developed a certain edginess with respect to religion, as a matter of asserting a human freedom to speculate.  Thinking outside the box may seem a threat to in-the-box thinkers, though more likely they'll take no notice.  I make reference to Descartes' apparent worries, that his discoveries outside the recognized canon of authorities might get him in trouble.

Dr. William Martin, whom I also mention in my talk, had just given a cogent lecture the night before, about how cell-based autonomous programmable life forms could have developed on the sea floor and in the crust.  He sees the chemistry as hardwired to move in that direction, given the right preconditions.

The black smoker type vents were maybe not as prototypical of the earliest RNA World apartment as the undersea vents later discovered and named Lost City by the community.

Sulfur, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen all play a serious role, with catalyzing metals helping organic reactions flow towards life forms.

On the other hand, scientists would likely find Fuller's U = MP too much the transcendentalist fantasy, regarding some aspect of being that's weightless, non-energetic.  We've been pretty strict of late about keeping "meta" away from "physical" -- although "metadata" has not been a problem.

Any talk of some "metaphysical" aspect of Universe sounds too ghostly to be a science, to postmodernist ears.  All the more reason to usher philosophy back into the picture.

In addition, Synergetics seems atavistic for its fascination with polyhedrons.  Didn't philosophy outgrow such toys long ago?  Many grownups seem to think so.  Polyhedrons feature at best in recreational mathematics, as hobbyist devices.

The basic process in Dr. Martin's view is for cells to break free of their towering infernos, or incubators more accurately, they'd need to incorporate the catalyzing metal function, which is to maintain voltage pressure across a membrane.

Protons (hydrogen ions) want in, driving the ATP generator, ATP Synthase.  Those ATP pathways may seem too complex to be that old, but are really no more elaborate than RNA itself.

Anyway, complexity arises more spontaneously than earlier mathematics seemed to permit.  Positive synergy is better understood.

Yes, these narratives are speculative theories, incomplete, and may be wrong, Dr. Martin was up front about that possibility.  We cobble together the most credible story we can, given what we have to work with, is the attitude.

What repels these scientists most are those closed, irrefutable dogmatic stories that harbor no self critical counter-intelligence to speak of.  Such stories seem too brain dead to be trusted really. 

It's the freedom to keep saying "we're not sure yet, lets not pretend we are" that scientists fight for, whereas such "not knowing" may leave others uncomfortable.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Gadding About

DSCF5409

Portlandia loses a great Creative with the departure of Melody.  She shot away from my place, her last base and former residence, perhaps to wind up in India we don't know yet.  She wouldn't drive all that way.

My next expected house guest texted me from seat 20-D what his alternative arrangements were, which make sense  (loose ends to attend to -- he used to live in Beaverton), just as the cabin door closed on his flight to Costa Rica was it?

Anyway, Pycon-related. That's coming right up, and I'll get to most of it I expect.

Speaking of the Python.org "nation" (some people don't like me calling it that, something to think about before having a "dictator"?), edu-sig is ramping up again, in terms of activity.

I'm by far the most active poster, and I'm happy to have my few haunts, my bat caves.

Yes, generous individuals have saved us rekeying the Periodic Table data, by saving it for us, in JSON format, workable license (as in free).  I've already updated periodic_table.db on my Github and live Flask application, my forty hour Python course a top concern.

I also have SQLite tables named glossary.db and maybe polyhedrons.db.

I'm signed up to give another lecture next week, outside my virtual classroom. I think that will help me speed think my way through some material.  I often get a boost out of such performances.

Not that I think "speed thinking" is always the way to go.  Makes my blog posts less readable, some might insist.

Melody has a plan and is self sufficient in many admirable ways.

I know North Koreans are skeptical that USers are anything but brainwashed, given the craziness they buy into.

My working hypothesis is neural networks still outperform the machine learning ones in many critical-to-us dimensions.  I'm not against pushing work off onto machines though, where applicable.

On Facebook I'm looking at whether college as an institution combined with the loan industry is really viable.  We don't have enough GST going.  Still too much Econ, garden variety.

That's an analysis many don't share, but then I never claimed my blogs were anything other than esoteric.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Denial of Service

I'm assuming this "switch" means all my posts to this site to date will be lost, breaking many links. 

If and when that happens, I'll plan to stop my monthly contribution and never post again to the QuakerQuaker site (nor read it either).


From the webmaster:
It's time to move QuakerQuakerEverything's not quite ready, but it's time to move QuakerQuaker over to the new server. It will be powered by BuddyPress, a variation on WordPress blogging platform. It's still very much an experiment in progress, but that's fitting in with the history of QuakerQuaker. I've announced some of the changes on a blog post there:

Time to switch QuakerQuaker

When the switch happens that site will become QuakerQuaker.org and this will be temporarily Ning.com/quakerquaker until I close it down. Please send all feedback as comments on the new site. I'll be traveling on a family vacation soon and not as available on email. Having everything at one spot will help!

Also, as I say there, the Paypal account is currently about $30 short (and the vacation means I can't front any myself this month). You can use the PaypalMe account to help out. Thanks in advance.

—Martin for QuakerQuaker.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Factory Girl (movie review)


Andy Warhol fans and detractors already know this story. I was only glancingly familiar with most of his work until recently, when Portland Art Museum unveiled a major retrospective.  That helped me tune in more of his scene, though I didn't catch the name Edie Sedgwick until last night, when I finally saw the dramatization.

My thoughts flashed to Patty Hearst a few times, and her relationship with her own family. I'm not a know-it-all on these families, just we have a lot of windows and telling remarks in the public record, which facilitates discussion of celebrities.  Orson Welles comes to mind.

Edie was an heiress from a Santa Barbara ranch family, transplants from Boston, East Coasters on the Pacific. Hearst Castle is on the same coast.  When I think of Hearst, I often flash on Homer Davenport, his lead political cartoonist in some chapters, and native of Silverton, Oregon.  I have quite a bit about Homer in my blogs owing to my friendship with Gus Frederick, an expert on Homer's life and to some extent times.

Edie's big dream was to find herself in New York and to pioneer a freer way of being alive in a city big enough hearted to support such experiments.  She was by all accounts bold, but in falling victim to drug abuse, got derailed.  This was the story of a generation and has not ceased being the core plot of many scenarios.

Folks in my cohort have their own generational window in that I was old enough to have Warhol on my radar, but not adult enough to track the soap operas.  I uncover the history of my own time in my later years, having lived through it in my own day dreamy way, as some kid in Italy or whatever.

A lot of work went into making this a real telling. The filmmakers undertake their task seriously. I'm reminded of Mishima.  In being a dramatization, the script takes many liberties with the facts, many of which remain unknown. This movie is but one possible assembly of an intricate jigsaw puzzle.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Naga Returns

I'm eating my own dog food with the codepen.io, doing some of the most basic pens, based on Youtubes, some of which are quite good.  Making a green box slide back and forth with some button interaction, is all doable in this interesting environment.

My two students will get some overview about how it all fits together.  Here's what I have in Movement:

codepen

Yes, JavaScript (ES, JS), a moving target of a language. A front line. I'm impressed by the many troopers who march into Angular, React and all that. The tutorials look fun.  Yet I'm still busy boning up on Python.  JS is back burner for me, so not the front end developer in that sense.

"Eating my own dogfood" is a geek expression which, loosely translated, means walking one's talk. If I'm out there talking code schools, Silk Road or otherwise, I need to be putting in my hours, though not completely at the expense of exercise.  I did make it up Mt. Tabor today.  Rain was threatening, so I had my hat.  David DiNucci (computer scientist) happened to be walking in the same direction and joined us.

Melody was by today, in part to return Naga, the stuffed snake Steve Holden brought into circulation around the time toy animal mascots were seen as cool, a sign of not taking ourselves too seriously. Perl started it with the Camel, and then O'Reilly gave us the animal books.

Naga @ Home

Friday, April 07, 2017

Women as Kings


I've chosen this title precisely because it's a gender bender, as we normally translate "King" to mean "of the male gender" and so "women as Kings" is an oxymoron, a grammatical error?  Why so though? Kara Cooney was interested in precisely that question.  In ancient Egypt, a woman would occasionally become Pharaoh.  How and why?

The timing of the talk was ironic in that pyramid-hierarchies run by men were clearly wreaking havoc, cranking up military invasion plans long in the making, and triggered by magic trick (not good magic, evildoers at work).  Women are not really represented in world affairs and are expected to go along as cheerleaders and care-providers, but why so?

Kara's hypotheses are in the direction of raw biological facts of life. Bearing a child puts huge stress on a woman, and that's just the beginning of her caretaker role.  Men, unencumbered by pregnancy or nursing offspring, range far from the camp, in hunter-gatherer tribes, and fetch the hard to find, treasured meat protein.  They literally bring home the bacon, which serves as a currency, cementing inter-family relationships.

In societies were getting the valued protein is something both sexes engage in, such as by fishing in the American southwest, women are more likely to sit on councils of elders and weigh in on the big decisions.  Where all the whale meat comes from men, women have little leverage and are treated more like livestock.

Once we're into an agricultural society, women still do most of the clothes-making and janitorial work. They're expected to have even more kids per year than in hunter-gatherer societies. Again, biology is against their achieving leadership roles.  Men are more likely to survive, in not undergoing childbirth, though they may fall in war.  Life spans weren't as long across the board.

Now let's turn to Egypt and what made her special:  an ocean for a northern border, desert on three sides, and granite boulders in the upper Nile.  Large scale military invasions were pretty much out of the question, and the fertile river valley produced just about everything a civilization might need.  By dint of geography, Egypt was both abundant and well-protected.  In such a society, patterns could settle, through thirty dynasties, until she became more of an annex to Rome.

The main focus of Kara's talk was Hatshepsut. Dr. Cooney (UCLA) is an expert in Egyptian sarcophagi and knows her Egyptology really well. Her book, Women Who Would Be King, is on what allowed women to rise to the highest, most divine position in the land, beginning with explanations for why the occurrence was nevertheless uncommon, and still is to this day (not that we have pharaohs anymore).

Hatshepsut had a perfect pedigree, as a king's daughter who married a king.  When the king she was married to died, without leaving a son, succession switched to her nephew. She was permitted to act as regent as the nephew grew into adulthood, and even then, she served as co-king.

Some decades after she died and was given a king's tomb, the nephew went to some lengths to have her memory expunged.  Archeologists are still putting the story together, understanding how temporal powers, even more than acts of nature, tend to mess with the record.

Cleopatra, Nefertiti, and some other female pharaohs made her list.  She was respectful of all of them, but pointed out the pattern:  none of them ruled solo, all were apparently tolerated in order to provide a placeholder and smooth a transition to some new lineage.

Given the brute facts of biology, Kara thinks women are perceived as loyal within a narrower, smaller sphere, the family or tribe, whereas men get to be the power brokers in the greater games. The public is more suspicious, almost instinctively, of a woman's loyalties and motives.  Men get more benefit of the doubt.

The Q&A was lively, and at the dinner downstairs, Kara kept the conversation going well through the dinner hour.  People gathered from all tables and shared viewpoints late into the night.  That was evidence of Kara's power and leadership right there.  She's a powerful presenter, and charming as well, in being so forthright.

What I wonder, as a Quaker, is if women come into their own in power structures that have no obvious hierarchy, are less pyramidal and more networked.  I think of switchboard operators, a passing profession.

I'm glad Christine got her truck back.  She drove me home, telling me the story.  The truck had been stolen right out from under her.  Except for the smell, it was undamaged, even came with some extra tools.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Yakking About Synergetics


I'm deliberately not setting some super high bar, in terms of production values, keeping my focus on the story. People tolerate a crude stage and hand puppets if they have some respect for the content, and I don't even have hand puppets in these.

In terms of content, my work is easy: I'm presenting the work of an established genius. The respect factor is already high, the relevant work already published, its authors already highly decorated (Applewhite in his own way). We've got the Wikipedia entry. Britannica will need to catch up.

Random high schoolers, especially numberphiles, will stumble across these and a few will watch the whole series, Synergetics 101.  As of this writing, that's the only playlist I'm done with.

Having taught Python live, on-line quite a bit, I'm able to get these out in single takes, but not without complete do-overs. I've also caught some mistakes, which I rectify with annotations rather than overdub or rerecord. Mistakes happen.

As of March-April 2017, I'm pretty much the only Youtuber presenting straight Synergetics, although even here I'm sneaking in some results and discoveries that came after the publication of the two volumes, as the field has not been dormant since Fuller died in 1983.

Lets see if others realize this material is accessible, especially with colorful models and constructions, animations. Higher production values are well within range of teachers better endowed than myself, in many ways.