Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FOSS in Afghanistan

Dr, Maria Beebe

Tonight we are listening to Maria A. Beebe, PhD, talking about E-Learning in Afghanistan. She's with Afghan eQuality Alliances.

Afghanistan is of course made up of a large number of ethnic groups, prone to feuding. Negotiating peace amidst power struggles is naturally difficult. Anthropologist Dupree (1973) talks about alternating phases of fusion and fission when giving the history.

Islamic law supports womens' education, but of course ethnicities vary in their interpretations of this law. The Taliban, many of them orphans, may have an especially harsh approach because of their sense of abandonment.

Women have come into higher education. Women were encouraged to become engineers under the Russians. University learning was discouraged during subsequent years, under Mujahideen and Taliban.

Implementing E-learning has involved building computer centers and setting up standards. Pairing lecturers with US universities was a priority, with a focus on getting more engineers.

A masters program in public policy and administration was set up as well, so that policies might emerge with a sense of ownership, not simply imposed by the UN, World Bank, NATO or whatever.

Chisimba is being used for distance learning purposes. University of the Western Cape has provided some technical support.

This is a USG-funded project, with NATO providing the international bandwidth via satellite.

Some bandwidth comes from Iran, although a USG-funded program is not supposed to pay for that piece, given feuding between those states.

Women who tasted university-style education when still in their 20s during the Russian period, are among those most eager to see higher education making more inroads under Grunch.

The French would like to stop criminalizing drug production (lift Prohibition), as the world craves opiates, always has.

That's a more enlightened approach than the USG is able to muster of course, given its puritanical roots and sense of entitlement when it comes to world policing. The Drug Wars rage on.

This higher education program was not dependent on US military or private security contractors. On the contrary, US armored vehicles and personnel carrying weapons are actively discouraged from visiting the campuses, as this makes them targets for military actions by opposing groups, of which there are many.

Internet and campus neutrality are important policies where freedom from armed conflict is concerned. Armed conflict, an expression of ignorance, lack of intelligent planning and skills, is not conducive to studying (a vicious circle).

FOSS in Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tabor Walk

I was roused from my pile of mattresses by Glenn, late getting started this morning, so an opportunity to partially overlap on a walk. The New Seasons is really coming along. We visited Mt. Tabor.

Glenn has been checking with sources. Exodus gets tagged for having discovered the cone:cylinder 1:3 relationship, where they both share the same base and height. Then Archimedes got that a sphere in a cylinder occupies 2/3rds its volume. He wanted that on his grave stone, and according to stories this is how a Roman scholar later found it, in want of repair, and had the grave site restored. We should have more monuments to the guy and this discovery, why not? Plus math-geometry needs its tomb of the unknown, from which many a discovery has derived.

In recent discussions with David Koski, he's focused on the analogy twixt the cone, half-cylinder, sphere and full cylinder and the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron and rhombic dodecahedron, by focusing on the common ratios 1:3:4:6. In this case, the cone in question shares a base with a hemisphere 2/3rds the half-cylinder's volume (Glenn and I called this half-cylinder a "tuna can" with height = sphere radius, not diameter). If the cone is 1/3, the half-sphere is 2/3, and the sphere is then 4/3, a fraction familiar from (4/3)( pi )( r )( r )( r ). The "tuna can" itself is volume 3, if the cone is 1, hence the ratios 1:3:4:6.

For the first part of our walk, Glenn's sources and the Koski conversations were a jumble and I was confused. The cone Glenn's sources talked about was 1/3rd the double-cylinder (two tuna cans), so already half the volume of the cylinder-contained sphere. I'd only just awakened. Actually I'd been tossing and turning, but about other issues. The night before, I was up late watching a disturbing documentary.

Once atop Mt. Tabor, we met an intelligent Protestant (no, not an oxymoron) who wondered if we'd give him two minutes of our time, not to end with a request for money. He had a stop watch. I said "two minutes is not a long time, so sure" and he launched into a debate he'd been working on.

According to his "Wanderers presentation" there's a school of thought that says Jesus was a great teacher and all, but he couldn't have performed miracles, the counter to which is that early Christianity, with all its travails, would not have gotten going based around some "nice guy" or "decent human" action figure (plus the teachings were quite radical for their day).

Glenn responded with some perennial philosophy notions of avatars, descendants of deities, who periodically show up to save humans. I mentioned a polarity, with a spectrum in between: on the one hand, the "miracles never happen" group denies any supernatural phenomena as a matter of principle, while on the other hand you have a group that assumes miracles happen all the time, as a matter of course. At either extreme, Jesus would not prove an exception to the rule.

I enjoyed the "lightning talk" and mused how Portlanders could do "philosophy in the park" more often, just show up with the intent to have these debates and discussions, perhaps using these recognized templates (e.g. the two minute presentation). We wouldn't need to have official sponsors, though I could see where some brands might want to become associated with civilized intercourse of this nature. Beats television in some ways. Like, we got some real exercise (Mt. Tabor isn't very high, but every calorie counts).

Sphere is 2/3 Cylinder

Cone is 1/3 Cylinder

Friday, August 20, 2010

Babies (movie review)

Babies is not narrated, uses music and environmental noises for sound track. This helps recreate a baby's world, not beset with lots of yammering. Adults play their roles, but not as generators of lots of talk balloons.

What's most striking about this film is that it focuses on healthy babies just having pleasant childhoods, no trauma, no strife.

The four families are all dignified and provide nurturing environments. The different civilian lifestyles, though diverse in their resource consumption patterns, do not seem in need of drastic overhaul.

There's no message about helping anyone out of their poverty, as these families do not seem "poor" and their worlds are not war-torn.

The film is also not trying to be comprehensive. One could see sequels featuring other ethnicities, but sticking to just four families.

I saw this at The Bagdad with the one baby I'm genetically responsible for, now a young woman embarked on a life adventure of her own.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lurching Ahead

There's this guy in The Adamm's Family I think it was, Lurch, kind of the butler. When I did some volunteer logistics for the est people awhile back, I remember some kid, looked like a younger me, calling me Lurch. The grownups around him wanted him to shush, as I was obviously just another one of them. A room full of Lurches, what a concept.

Trains lurch when they start up again, and every car down the line gets this tug on the coupler, to get moving. Good seeing Leslie and others at Oversight yesterday. I ran by the Food & ~Bombs plan, got some preliminary nods. I've circulated the proposal on Facebook as well, where I do some of my Quaker business.

The math teachers are yakking about globalization again, with Robert Hansen sounding a traditionalist theme, in contrast to a recent Keith Devlin posting. I chime in along the way.

The Toshiba is having weird disk problems. After chkdsk I was able to xcopy the ktraks subdirectory (a VFP app PSU is using), but I'd not want this to be the source copy, as the external drive version might have remnants of file corruption? I wish I understood NTFS better, or ext3 for that matter.

I see F15s as bloated and wasteful (today's Wall Street Journal). You don't need to burn vats of fuel to get thrills in this world. A lot of carbon footprint for what? Save it for a rainy day? Ward off the desert? Terraforming is not just about doing stuff on Mars, obviously (the Rovers did make a difference though).

How many deep silo workers inheriting VFP applications will want to use Python as a ladder out, more into the open? That's a joke... Snakes and Ladders. I don't know the answer, but let me point out that xBase ended up as an interactive, C-extensible, dynamically typed language with user-defined classes. GUI integration was more ambitious (Python leaves that to 3rd party libraries). Some will go with Java, or Jython maybe?

Microsoft would rather not compete with its own products, seems to be the wisdom in Redmond, and rewriting Visual FoxPro (VFP) to make it 64-bit is beyond anyone's job description. That'd be like trying to rewrite MUMPS (the M language) -- or is somebody doing that?

Yes, I know about Ed Leaf and the Dabo project, have blogged about it before. We're not just talking about one ladder. PythonCard helped a lot of people learn GUI programming outside the VB sandbox. Lots of VFP in Prague they tell me (hi Kathy).

For a lot of developers, it's more about giving up the thick client model completely and making the web browser the stage where it all happens. Not everyone's there yet, nor needs to be. Web apps are thin clients. Are iPhone apps considered "thick" then?

People hard at work on their respective projects around here. The side yard is a low key stockpile of bamboo varieties, amidst the vegetable beds, providing raw materials to piece workers building bike trailers. On the storyboard, they're painted pink, but that might be more an in-house joke at the Blue House. I'm not the chief planner on this one, so don't expect details on Facebook (or Plaxo for that matter).

Barton, Portland Energy Strategies, is coming by. I was mentioning his interest in developing simulations with some other energy companies. Dr. Nick is vectoring this way. I recently uploaded some pix of his mom, the late Gill Faure, to some interested NGO (at Nick's request).

Monday, August 02, 2010

Welcome Home

I'm celebrating having my daughter back from Jamaica, where she'd been on a Quaker service trip, with other young Friends.

Lynn & Co. picked her up from Seatac, though I'd been planning to all week. This way, I got to cram for my Martian Math course up to the last minute.

I've launched the 4D thread on math-teach again, which won't be new to my readers on Synergeo. Thanks to Joe for jumping in, giving me someone to spar with.

I still think my idea for a fleet of bizmos, a lifestyle for roaming teachers with a control room for centralized dispatch, was a good one. Someone should make the movie someday.

I was somewhat dismayed that health care took precedence over ending the misguided wars, once USAers thought "change" was in the bag. That doesn't mean I'm against health care reform, given we're all in the business of dying (civilians too) and could use the services.

I was glad to see the physics curriculum tilting towards health care, and away from "how to build a better bomb" ala Countdown to Zero -- at least that was my take on the AAPT conference.

My first class went fairly well today, even though we sort of dove into the deep end. I appreciate these kids and their zest for learning.