Thursday, April 30, 2009

CyWar in CyBeria

Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow

Tara's home with a food reaction, devouring House M.D., me jacked in through Jackalope, dominating the world (geek job description).

Speaking of which, they had a geek on CBS Early Show this morning, one Garth Sundem, hadn't met him before, might not be a Python guy or whatever, but he knew who Linus Torvalds was, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs.

All guys apparently.

Then he expounded on the meaning of "geek": it means "passionate about something" with "world domination" being sort of video game shorthand for "mastery" or "fanatical dedication to an activity" or "at the top of one's game".

So then like Lara Logan might be a "news geek", Lance Armstrong a "bicycle geek", Roz Savage a "rowing geek" and so on. Hey, I like it.

This House character bugs me quite a bit. I routinely attack him, though today I'm being quiet and letting Tara enjoy her heroes (it's the whole crew that makes it fun, I get it).

Here's me fulminating in an earlier email (link added):
Bringing more FOSS into classrooms for the purpose of teaching basic numeracy is overdue, not feeling like a supplicant really, more like a guy who pays into the system, have democratic rights, and yet my entire subculture is shoved to the side, like gypsies, and yet engineers are expected to keep the infrastructure going, and yet we're denied our supply of potential recruits, in part by "math teachers" with no worthy skills who sidetrack the little darlings into meaningless years wasted slaving at desks to no good outcome.
Sounds like some guy on the war path. Call me a geek.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Metaphors Matter

Quoting from Chapter 2 in Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction by Steve McConnell (Microsoft Press, 1993):
A confusing abundance of metaphors has grown up around software development. Fred Books says that writing software is like farming, hunting werewolves, or drowning with dinosaurs in a tar pit. Paul Heckel says it's like filming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. David Gries says it's a science. Donald Knuth says it's an art. Watts Humphrey says it's a process. Peter Freeman says it's a system. Harlan Mills says it's like solving mathematical problems, performing surgery, or butchering hogs. Mark Spinard and Curt Abraham say it's like exploring the Wild West, bathing in cold streams, and eating beans around a campfire.
I'm probably more in that Wild West school, but I'd think you'd want to use metaphors friendly to your subculture / ethnicity. There's no need to narrow it to one namespace surely.

For example, one of our upcoming OS Bridge talks looks at farming. I don't know much about farming, but was thinking of this proposal when I did my imitation of David Beazley's more professional introduction to coroutines in Python.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Testing Jackalope

tutorial on gSculpt by Geoffrey French
running on mplayer in compiz cube

The screen flicker in my case maybe wasn't due to wifi and AC power concerns in the nVidia driver, but a wrong setting in the X Server settings. I'm still looking into it. At the moment, the problem seems resolved. I upgraded through Intrepid Ibex yesterday, from Hardy Heron, stopping only long enough to fix a few things. I figure my OS Bridge presentation should be state of the art.
The media has needed to see more dots connected to be able to omni- triangulate the story more clearly. Who has been resisting the design science revolution and why? Translating to FOSS terms, GNU/Linux has come out on top, but still needs to propagate. There's a lot of romance in the lore, epic sagas, that we need to keep telling (and we do). The "Bucky file" (B-File, like an X-File) adds a tremendous number of puzzle pieces, to where our geek culture is now "ready to roll". I don't think as many journalists will get side-tracked into the "Bucky as Britney" genre this time, i.e. all that "poor slob Bucky" talk is too squaresville, to qyoobist, for many readers to care anymore. He was an average joe who committed his life to healing the world, like any good medical doctor engineer. (March 7, 2009, Synergetics for Yahoos i.e. Synergeo).
testing OpenOffice, from GIS in Action slides

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

I did my big carbon footprint yesterday, in driving to Vancouver, so today I'm wearing my halo, being sanctimonious, walking around like a European in a well planned, pedestrian friendly town.

Many USAers are afraid to leave their cars with good reason. My walks to and from the Hyatt in Chicago involved traversing shovel ready dirt sidewalks turning to muck in the snow.

The woman with the suitcase had an even harder time, had to pull it in the street. I'd have offered but she was clearly in self reliant mode so we just chatted instead.

Another time, after dark, me trudging from the Blue Line station, a black SUV pulled alongside and suggested I hop in, which I did, given I knew the people. Not having real sidewalks leads North Americans to waste gas.

Dotting the landscape with company towns built to a human scale, self sufficient enough to forgo the "bedroom community" fate, would be another way to go.

So-called retirement communities would do well to keep some business channels open, as some oldsters have sysadmin skills, want an intranet to keep playing with. Retiring boomers want access to GNU/Linux, not shuffleboard so much.

People learn to live this way (in walkable, golf cartable communities) on small campuses especially, but also in religious establishments set aside for scholarship and contemplative living.

The latter often specialize in wine, cheese, chocolate, beer or other agricultural product for barter and/or ecommerce shipment.

Today, a given XRL might offer web services, advertising, technical writing, even television production. Some serve as call centers.

By hearsay, I know of one such remote community that specializes in state liquor laws, getting establishments licensed in whatever county. They fly around a lot, but have this base to came home to. That shifts the fuel mix, as cars and jets take from different tanks in the refinery.

Some cars and trucks also run on agricultural products, making them more competitive with bovines in some cases, in terms of driving up the price of grain. However, not every source of biodiesel is as attractive to farm animals.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Waning Moon

Harmonic Convergence
:: moon kitty with sarah angel ::

April 18: Moon Kitty may have suffered a spinal embolism, paralyzing her rear legs. I quit the scene, Matt's 51st birthday celebration, to return to a tearful Tara. She's a pretty old cat, but of course you don't see it coming, it least not in our case (sometimes there's a history of heart disease).

We did have a good time celebrating Matt's coming of age (51), with young high schoolers in prom clothes all about, as it's that time of year. Looking at all the stretch limos, I came up with the "stretch Smart Car" as a humorous oxymoron.

We could rush Moon to a 24/7 pet hospital and pay for some MRIs. She's not yowling in pain much, is mostly not too distressed, more just frustrated when she tries to move her back legs.

Will we postpone the Red Cross training tomorrow, already once rescheduled? I'm having trouble switching gears. I'm on tap for a memorial service, serving as greeter. Tara's supposed to take the bus. But what about Moon?

Do we have a budget for expensive pet care, or pet insurance? Maybe I'll make some calls. I'm owed, but everybody has those stories. The prognosis looks grim, so why disturb a peaceful kitty with a lot of bright lights and melodrama? A car trip in the middle of the night?

Speaking of melodrama, I continued poking at NCTM on Math Forum today. I've been wrestling with that organization since the 1990s, when I tried to bring up the Bucky stuff with them. I don't think I made many friends in so doing. Math teachers are quite defensive about what they're not teaching.

Rose and Tara watched Slumdog Millionaire again, without the glitches. I need to settle with Hollywood Video, am also still missing a library book (about Pascal's Triangle). My inbox is far from empty these days.

These concerns seem petty I realize. Should I write about deeper problems?

Solving refugee problems would be a good place to start with the college credit courses. You'll get experiences you can't get just staring at a screen, although screen time is part of it.

You'll also need physical coordination, management skills, training with equipment, many kinds of practice.

Civilian service is no less a challenge than military. A lot of the same skills carry over.

Earlier today I joined a Friendly Care team spearheaded by Leslie Hickcox way out on 151st street. I ended up behind a van saying WAR 151 on the license plate and imagined being one of those people who gets in a tizzy about coincidental events. I went so far as to take a picture anyway. We were there to assist in a moving project.

Later I went to Home Depot and got a blind replaced, the one that broke while I was away in Chicago.

Tara wants to skip the babysitting training tomorrow and maybe have a last day with Moon Kitty. We think Red Cross will be understanding and let her postpone, after we missed the April 11 training.

Followups: Tara got her Red Cross babysitting certification, no rush on the Moon scenario, we've agreed to consult with a professional pronto. Great meeting some of you at Ray's memorial service. April 20: vet confirms diagnosis and prognosis (no blood pressure at all in the lower frame), recommends a swift course, which we choose. We'll be getting an urn. Ray loved animals, another part of the sharing. We honor them and miss them when they leave us.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SAO Meeting

I'm doing the ping ball thing again, getting to lots of meetings. This one with Chris was excellent, helped me connect dots with Saturday Academy, think in some new tracks about how we're doing it in Oregon.

We talked Ubuntu quite a bit, also the gender imbalance, which SAO has funded some studies regarding. I mentioned this being a focus at OSCON as well, plus the fact that the female FOSS bosses we do tend to have goddess status right out of the gate i.e. it's not a matter of smashing a glass ceiling, unless you're 2nd tier, in which case you're more likely a guy (because of the ratios involved, like 9:1::XY:XX in many venues).

We had lunch outdoors on Hawthorne, enjoying a modest spring (sunny, but not blindingly). I had coffee and a spinach salad, brought along some show and tell items, including StrangeAttractors (Design Science Toys), CubeIT! (Huntar), Ball of Whacks (Roger von Oech's, comes with seminars!), a Sam Lanahan flextegrity, an XO, some GIS literature, and a small Bucky book from the art museum, still shrink wrapped. All this fit my OSCON bag, believe it or not. We had fun.

Other Oregonians are moving quickly on these issues, not just me, which is gratifying to learn. Given I'm such an old guy, I was able to talk about Visual FoxPro and dBase as if these were just yesterday's tools, whereas they're actually the day before yesterday's (smile).

That got me reminiscing though, had to agree with Patrick O'Brien: Python has a lot to recommend it over xBase. Still, our "dot prompt" culture isn't so different, in terms of our expecting a shell.

The FoxPro development environment by the VFP Microsoft team had a to-die-for GUI design environment for a thick client (ala wxPython), i.e. a great way to go if you're not taking the thin client browser based route (see Ellen Ullman's Close to the Metal for more on the evolution of database technology and what it was like in those days). VFP's development environment was even better than Visual Studio's in some ways, pioneering Intellisense (which I'd tend to turn off).

Of course it sounds funny to call today's web browsers "thin", as if FoxPro runtime were any bigger in terms of sheer megabytes. But the point is, the browser is an open standards well understood environment and almost everyone has one, meaning the actual application gets defined on the server, even if the downloaded Javascript ends up controlling the client.

The HttpResponse suitcases delivered over the wire unfold automatically within your DOM, setting the stage for JQuery or GWT magic or whatever fun and games. All this apparatus then disappears when you log out and drop the connection, whereas with FoxPro you have these multiple thick clients lying around in the form of exe and dll files, or should, unless you want a lot of unnecessary network congestion (like downloading a whole browser every time you want to use one).

Ian and I
talked by cell for a long time this afternoon with several interruptions. He's eying the iPhone for his outreach applications (colorful algebra games), which coincidentally kept cutting out when we talked about Androids (a competing model), but only because he was in a busy neighborhood with lots of buses.

Oversight meeting
this evening, no rest for the weary, hope it's fun at least. We went to Noah's bagels this morning, used our coupons.

:: bubblz w/ ian @ atm conference (uk), post Pycon ::
sent by cell

Monday, April 13, 2009

OS Bridge Meeting

I'm at Selena's with a crew of five other conference organizers (Audrey is co-chair, also Jason, Ed, Brian), wading through all these talks. We've already voted on relevance and interest, so now have an initial ranking.

I'd missed seeing mine included, think I forgot to vote on it (not out of false modesty -- I probably thought it was maybe one of the magical first cut but no, I may not make the finals, let's see what happens).

Ditto with Saturday Academy this spring, students aren't biting across the board (hey, it's spring!) and I have only the one offering. I had a good talk with an SA: staffer though, shared some follow-up with the Wanderers list.

We could branch more into teacher training, was the gist of it.

PHP has a lot more frameworks than I realized.

Co-working and hacker spaces are needed on the biz track. Doesn't have to mean hardware...

Some discussion of Scala versus Ruby, in terms of speed. This is apparently big news in the blogosphere because of that Twitter engineer, or so they tell me.

Selena is tracking everything in PostgreSQL. "I need to do an inner join", "I haven't quite memorized the schema yet".

We need my talk for long format under Culture, bridges higher and elementary ed (my focus is high school). Keith, looks like we've got yours too. Score two for ISEPP then, or at least Pauling House Wanderers.

This is good soup, thank you Selena.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What Shall I Do?

This is in the Wanderers tradition of rounding up colleagues for a soul searching, otherwise known as a clearness committee (Quaker namespace). Art did it expertly, laid out his credentials, his options, ended up making wise choices I thought (such as not to move to Washington, DC, already crowded). Then Jeffry gave it a spin, ended up branching off in a new direction. Helen added a framework, called Appreciative Inquiry, so now even more of us are doing it, as we see the potential benefits.

In my case, it's about insinuating into that gap between public and private sectors, by which I don't mean tax-funded school vouchers (I'm against those, if used to bolster competing systems, many with no use for Uncle Sam). As someone who cut a lot of teeth in the private sector, I feel uniquely qualified to come forward as a trainer of public school teachers, hoping to add to their arsenal of relevant skills and tools, perhaps in exchange for more merit pay and bragging rights as to their "pilot project" exclusiveness, if selected for the program. I'm half teacher, half recruiter, half location scout (math joke about 3/2).

So how do I retain PPS as a client. "Go for the ESDs, Luke" said one advisor, "and use da force" (Pinoy accent). "Yes Yoda" I said, "but many of them hate me, because I support LEP High, charter schools as public schools, merit pay, all that Obama stuff the Democrats want to bury. Means I'm persona non grata in some circles". "Present to NCTM" was my other advice, but now I'm thinking "ATM" would be nicer (more congenial), given the Caleb Gattegno connection and a stronger constructivism. Lots of this Lower 48 stuff is merely marketed as constructivism, but then they hold back the real toyz (no computer programming for you young lady, that's just for the Phillips Exeter kids (lucky devils, learning Python at a tender age...)).

I'm not wanting to let go of hospital work either, which is why I keep thinking "clients" (in the plural). I've always had multiple clients and find that keeps me more open minded. Besides, I'd lose my private sector street cred if I became a full time classroom teacher. The whole point of "mining the gap" is to keep a foot in both worlds -- if that makes any sense. Out here in the Silicon Forest, we use Python as an industrial standard, to test Intel chips, to write eCommerce sites. In there, in the math classroom, you could be getting more of our Supermarket Math then, not because you'll all become green grocers (though some of you will, and that's a high tech area what with RFID (maybe just let 'em push the cart through that door, no checkout lanes, sucks the Visa without anyone even opening a wallet (try in a PX first, for cigs and beer only?))).

I mentioned to Tara about Project Earthala again (we already have our first Queen), a little microvillage in the boonies, lots of Quaker aesthetics, but accessible to television, better than phony HBO stuff (love HBO, Extras especially, though that's BBC through HBO in some ways). Dot these around, among other religious, get the eCommerce going (Catholic brandy, Jewish vodka...), and voila, a market for tiny commuter jets, from the same people that make your dwelling machines (economies of scale there). I could do some teaching, even hospital work, from these high bandwidth XRL sites, doubling as computer camps when the schools aren't in session (or even when they are, in parallel). The drawings are here in the blogs, just waiting for Lockheed-Martin to get back to me (defense puts me on hold a lot, thinks I'm too tiny a customer).

I'm also a movie and TV critic, blogger extraordinaire.

So let's see what happens next. The big question, on everybody's mind, is whether we'll be seeing more Mites, Sytes and Kites on public television. I'll have to say something to OPB next time I get a chance ("Hey OPB, come visit our Coffee Shops Network sometime, get some free samples"). I also need to get to work on the Synergetics article for Wikipedia. I'll switch to doing that now, need to add some pointers.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Grip Slip

I messed up doing my job as volunteer escort today, forgetting a regular gig. So sorry.

I've been leaving a somewhat tortuous trail of signature lesson plans at the Math Forum that at least Anna is looking at.

In terms of breaking through to a wider public, that's proving difficult in this economy. My services are admittedly esoteric.

I need to try a new approach maybe, find some new breakfast of champions, other than Fruit Loops. See footnote [3].

Congratulations to Senator Ted Stevens, on his exoneration and vindication.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Math 2.0

Here's an excellent slide show from Maria's blog, and not just because she links to 4D Studios.

If you think math is boring, maybe you're not being "social" enough. Think of math as a contact sport -- doesn't have to mean rough, although when life gets that way, math can help sometimes (or call it computing).

And remember to help your partner, don't be selfish. Teaching your peers is the name of the game (plus let them teach you as well -- they'll learn more by doing it).
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him. -- Walt Whitman