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.