Monday, March 28, 2005

Python for GIS Experts

I've been cramming for days to lead this 3 hour training for GIS professionals at an annual conference. As it turns out, you can't really cover Python in all its glory in 3 hours, i.e. when 5 o'clock rolled around, I still hadn't spent much time discussing how to open and read files. We covered some more advanced topics instead: generators and decorators. Going by partial feedback, at least some in the audience had fun, found me dynamic enough as a speaker. I'm pretty good with quips and asides, keeping things fairly light and moving.

But really, today was more an education for me. I soaked up a lot of info about the state of the art when it comes to geoprocessing and geographic information systems (GIS) -- good stuff for a Global Data CEO to know about. ESRI is the 800 pound gorilla in this knowledge domain. They're moving to Python for a scripting language in their flagship product (ArcGIS) which is how come I was a speaker at the Doubletree Hotel, Lloyd Center, Portland.

The lunch time talk was excellent. The speaker, Doug Divine, played a major role digitally surveying both submarines of Civil War vintage (talking USA history here). The Hunley, a confederate vessel, is the one most people know about, but the Yankees had their own sub, which was repurposed to pearl diving duty after the war and ended up all washed up on some island near Panama City. Doug's talk featured a lot of excellent DVD clips, including a dramatization of the Hunley's last mission, funded by Ted Turner.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Pycon 2005

March 24:

So I'm in Washington, DC with my wife, staying with friends in Virginia. We've been taking the Orange Line into town the last two mornings. I get off at Foggy Bottom/GWU.

Yesterday I gave a talk on hypertoons during one of the open space periods. Dawn visited the new Native American museum on the mall.

Tonight I'll be going out for dinner with Dabo and Schevo people (hi Patrick) -- both emerging database-oriented Pythonic technologies.

March 25:

So we had good Vietnamese food on M Street in Georgetown last night. Conversation meadered, a lot about raising kids, especially teenagers. Turns out Prague is a major capital in FoxPro world (a world I share with the Dabo guys); maybe I'll get back there one of these days. Would Microsoft have let FoxPro die off if it hadn't been for heavyweight clients like the US military, which uses it in JFAST (home page)?

Speaking of the military, one of the interesting applications demonstrated this week, inside of which Python plays a major role, was for imparting Arabic language skills to soldiers (PDF). Python glues together speech recognition software and a game engine (Unreal Tournament 2003), and simulates a mission: approach some locals, introduce yourself and your team; ask who's in charge; get directions to the local leader's house; follow them (all in Arabic of course).

This morning, we're looking forward to a keynote about how Python is used at Google.

In the news: I see Bobby Fischer has finally gotten out of that Japanese jail.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So I finally got my hypertoon concept implemented in souce code. Although I published the idea to the web in 1996, only recently have my programming skills intersected available technology (Python + VPython) such that I could write a working prototype.

I'll be sharing about it at Pycon 2005 next week in DC. Looking forward to seeing Glenn and his family.

Looking ahead to that, I tried the the app on the family laptop (1.2 Ghz Compaq Presario) and found the results disappointing. The family budget is tight (no Animal Planet or new fish tank accessories for Tara) -- because dad spends all his time pushing the Bucky stuff, work nobody pays him for (except precessionally, which counts) -- but I couldn't see a way around ordering up a new (refurbished) laptop. Like, I've got this 3 hour teaching gig for some big GIS corporation (ESRI) the day after my return, and this Presario keeps overheating and cutting out. That just won't do.

Trying to get used to the new haircut. Jennifer had a lot of time to trim away, going for the perfect cut. My head feels pounds lighter. She wrote a bunch of "must see" movies on a biz card (she's another Netflix fan, knows a lot about movies, and Pink Floyd too).

On Tuesday, Matt (speaking of Irish) took the day off to finally get a home computer (his first ever). I helped him pick it out (iMac) and get it connected through Comcast -- the test was to get Amy Goodman on RealPlayer (we passed the test).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Wanderers Meeting 2005.3.15

Today we learned about Meliptus, the name of Don's boat, and also a mnemonic for his Master Life Personal Development System. Don is refreshingly low key with his approach -- the antithesis of L. Ron Hubbard (another guy with a boat).

We talked about some successes in our lives, and the processes contributing to them. Mine was getting back into teaching, which I enjoy. That teaching job at St. Dominic Academy (Jersey City) was one of my all time favorites, if challenging. Getting that Saturday Academy gig last summer with the HPD's George Heuston the ex FBI guy, and co-teaching with Linux guru Jerritt Collord, was a breakthrough for me. I shared about the police chief being a son of Chinese immigrants, and wanting to reach out to Latino youth, among others, to bridge the digital divide -- hence that computer lab at West Precinct (Hillsboro). The relationship with Saturday Academy continues (and HPD).

Others had interesting success stories as well (which they might tell, if so moved). I got some good feedback from Bruce when I shared my a plan to recruit master teachers into this alternative lifestyle centered around roving teacher-mobiles (specially outfitted RV-like jobbers), coordinated and supported through some OnStar-like headquarters. Bruce told me about GM's Parade of Progress, a sort of traveling roadshow designed to clue kids about new technologies. And this was pre Sputnik, and in an age that was bolder (some would say more naïve) about its futurism.

If I ever get a bizmo, I might name it Meliptus Junior, in honor of Don's boat (a floating bizmo) and his role in my life as a master teacher.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Update from PDX

Peter Ward was in top form for the ISEPP lecture (center ring, name on the marqee). He did his best to recruit scientists and engineers from a young audience, astrobiologists in particular (though during the Q&A, a rep from our own university system challenged kids to check out Oregon's offerings -- and Ward graciously responded with a question about why both states do such a poor job of ignoring their most important institutions: their universities)). He really appreciated how we attract so many of the high school set, not just fuddydud peers with already-formed views and established careers. He expressed his deep appreciation to Terry for making that happen, and Terry in turn credits the Mentor Graphics Foundation, and Corporation, both sponsors, with the former earmarking funds directly for K-12 participation in the ISEPP series. Don did the intro. Dinner after, then drinks in the bar (The Heathman does a very good job).

Yes, I got to meet Fr. Bob, who has a cool campus setup, a spare yet well-equipped office. Ki Master George, an 8th grader, took Fr. Bob on a tour of a blog KI's serving, using bascially a LAMP configuration, though without the MySQL. Fr. Bob appeared delighted with the technology, and plans to keep it current with new postings.

I put aside most of an entire day to finally implement my Hypertoon concept in running code. Someone had it running in Germany (or was it Austria) within hours of my posting it. This thread goes way back with me, to like 1996, but to get a working source code version has had to wait for the programming environment to come within my reach. With Python 2.4 and VPython as an add-on, I was able to get a prototype out the door. I showed it to Tara and she came up with some excellent ideas for improvements.

My congratulations to Darren and Cristy on their wonderful wedding ceremony, conducted in high Quaker style. The spouses married one another with powerful promises, then affixed their names in the presence of a large gathering. We all lined up to add our signatures as witnesses after the Meeting for Worship had ended. During worship, friends and relatives offered kind words of encouragement, recollections, expressions of gladness, and advice. Darren's bro had planned a dynamite menu of two spanikopitas (rural and urban), many other delicacies. The music, which the groom had a hand in supervising, was highly eclectic. A good time was had by all -- including me, taking the full brunt of an early spring allergy (Benadryl helps). Dawn and I walked to and from the event, which was associated with a nearby park. We were reminded of our own wedding, which took place in similar Quaker style, also outside in a park setting. We likewise have such a certificate, signed by ourselves and our friends and family.

Update: I'm feeling skeptical these days that my bizmo's responsibilities will allow it to stay as compact as I first imagined. On the way to the wedding, Dawn and I passed a rig that I used to think was about the right size, but when I mentally sketch in the internals, the shell ends up expanding a bit. Still, I refuse to tow an SUV. I want maneuverability. Plus there's the caravan option, or bizmos converging from different directions. Mine could be more compact if some of the bigger circus stuff gets driven by others, and shows up where it's needed. Many permutations are possible.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Journal Entry de Jour

Well, my back isn't back to normal yet -- still paying for that splat at the roller rink. But at least I'm up and about, even lugged a bag of dog food from the store this afternoon, plus did some gardening with Tara around the Mother Mary statue, so hey, it can't be that bad.

Just posted some more of the same to math-learn (link). The Math Forum has new infrastructure for the discussion groups.

Nick is here checking his email on TMU (I'm using KTU2, which has two monitors). He just showed up a few hours ago from Seattle and will be out by early tomorrow, heading east with Stallings.

Stallings is doing a couple performances of King Lear at a Umatilla prison -- he had a gig in New York City as well, awhile back (not surprising -- the guy is way talented).

Dawn is reading a lot, mostly science fiction these days, though she enjoyed Lindsay's book.

I turned over Childrens Program to my successor. At our last committee meeting we looked over the curriculum from JACL, a prized addition to our collection.

Oh yeah, got another check from PSU, no biggie. Enjoying company of wanderers and friends, including those times out on the Columbia River.

Anyway, not a lot happening. I have another meeting with Ki Master George next weekend. I'll finally get to meet Father Bob, insha Allah. Maybe I'll post again then.