Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oswego 2003

Oswego 2003

I've just been perusing a photo-blog chronicling the SNEC Summer Workshop in Oswego, New York, June, 2003. The ever-wandering Nick Consoletti, PhD attended the Tensegrity Structures workshop (also at SUNY Oswego) the following summer. Joe Clinton and John Belt were principals at both workshops.

These are the kinds of events I'd want control rooms to route my bizmo through (also to the Bridges and Bioneers conferences, to which I've never been).

Friday, April 22, 2005

More BizMo News

For sale on eBay

Trevor found this bizmo on eBay, complete with 7 workstations and externally viewable video wall. I could see dispatch sending a vehicle like this to some curriculum/circus event, to which I might be sent as well, in a bizmo we could actually sleep in. Coordinating resources is key.

The general Project Renaissance philosophy involves government working with NGOs, because they're on the cutting edge, pioneering new technologies in ways corporate R&D budgets might never directly support. Yet usable, commercializable ideas derive from such pioneering, so the money is in theory well spent (in practice there'll be some waste).

When humanity is hurt or damaged, control rooms spring into action and provide relief, which makes for good reality TV. Of course historically, humans haven't really worked as a body, as large groups typify other groups as pathogenic, and teach their children to perpetuate these views. Humanity has some kind of auto-immune disorder, like lupus or something, causing it to keep attacking itself. Project Renaissance attempts to overcome this disorder. The tsunami relief effort was a step in the right direction.

Speaking of bizmo-based reality TV, I was watching Pat Croce Moving In on the monitor at the gym today, close captioned, as I burned calories on a Precor EFX546i. This guy travels around in a bizmo, parking next to homes and getting involved in family dynamics, trying to help out and fix stuff. I'd call that prototypical of what I'm scheming to see -- I'd just like more of a geek channel overlay, i.e. a focus on technology and engineering, in addition to whatever soap opera family dynamics. Plus Croce's bizmo's interior is too much the suburban ranch style home for my taste (not my American dream).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Cornelia with her pet Berus

From Tara's toy chest. I mentioned I'd share a photo of Berus (a nickname for Cerberus) once I got my digital camera replaced (see last two paragraphs of Children's Program).

I had a Fujifilm FinePix 2600 Zoom (2 megapixels), but the battery hatch broke off. I replaced it with an Olympus Stylus 500 (5 megapixels).

Friday, April 15, 2005

Last ISEPP Lecture 2005

Our guest last night was Dr. William Wulf, currently half-way through his second and final term as president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which co-exists with the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine within the framework of the National Research Council.

Dr. Wulf made it clear that whereas the NAE is an honorific society (per usual with such academies), it also has a special mission to advise the federal government on matters of technology and social policy on a not-for-profit basis. The membership churns out a lot of in-depth, well-researched reports in answer to various policy questions coming from Congress and federal agencies. Occasionally a report will have a classified appendix (meaning it's not accessible to the general public), but for the most part, these studies are all available on-line.

The theme of Dr. Wulf's lecture was C.P. Snow's "chasm between the two cultures" by which Snow meant the humanities on the one hand, and the technology fields on the other, the latter being characterized by their heavy emphasis on mathematics.

Whereas the idea of "two cultures" is easy to grasp, sometimes it makes more sense to break it down further, and Wulf outlined differences between science and engineering, which are indistinguishible in the middle, but also define two extremes.

Engineering is different from science in its emphasis on creating new phenomena, versus simply studying existing ones. Engineers create, bring into existence, design. As such, Wulf considers them to have more in common with artists than with many scientists. He wants to communicate this to new generations, so that creative, imaginative students don't buy into some silly stereotype of the engineer as some nerdy cog in the machine who doesn't think about the concerns of real people or topics within the humanities.

This difference has also been a key part of ISEPP president Terry Bristol's philosophy, so I found it interesting to have them both addressing our pre-lecture on this issue (a small gathering of teachers met with Dr. Wulf ahead of time, in the Heathman Hotel). Terry pointed out that the US Constitution may be viewed as a product of engineering, a blueprint or circuit diagram, complete with feedback loops, load balancing and so forth.

At the dinner afterwards I commented that Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller also wrote a lot about C.P. Snow's famous lecture, and that one way of bridging the chasm is to treat Fuller within the sphere of the humanities, as a New England Transcendentalist for example, and a poet, and then follow his threads into geometric and engineering domains.

Then I brought up Dr. Donald Knuth at Stanford, who suggested we fight overspecialization by becoming competent in at least two fields, preferably quite far apart. In Knuth's case, this would include his foray into theology (a humanities topic, rather different from computer science, in which discipline he's considered a giant).

I asked Dr. Wulf (who has a background in computer science) if he liked this model: you don't get to consider yourself well educated or accomplished in the liberal arts, if you don't have fairly well-developed competence in at least two disciplines, one from each side of C.P. Snow's chasm. Dr. Wulf pointed out that Dr. Knuth was also an accomplished organist, that few attain such stature in even one discipline, let alone more than one, but yes, aspiring to competence in at least two widely spaced disciplines was a good idea and he was all for it.

Don was in high gear last night, helping organize the pre-lecture and handling logistics, including the transfer of Julian's sculpture Unraveling Collagen from the neighboring Performing Arts Center to the lobby of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall -- and back, after the lecture. Featuring Julian's work was a great idea for this lecture in particular, as it bridges C.P. Snow's chasm very effectively and intelligently. Good brainstorming by Wanderers!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

HPD Cybervan

So we had a big powwow at West Precinct on Tuesday -- a much bigger turnout than usual. George had us brainstorm around getting use from the RedHat 9 lab. I sat there with the Toshiba trying to remember how Jerritt set it up, but could only get access to Coffee People across the street (weak signal). I've forgotten the details (though I still have his network diagram -- which doesn't include passwords, so I'm not going to be sysadmining any time soon (which is for the best -- better HPD should sysadmin, vs. just driving taxi)).

The grand finale was a tour of the new cybervan out back, just arrived, pure white, no decals. It's a 5th wheel, no power of its own, except a propane generator (right?) for the electronics, which include 3 TV consoles in three sections (back, middle, front -- side door into middle). Plus there's a Windows box using the giant satellite dish up top. One of the cops was playing with that, apparently getting signal. George waved towards some pickup in the lot that's supposed to haul this thing. It must be strong, because this thing obviously weighs quite a bit.

The current plan is to have the 5th wheel available in the parking lot for a summer camp experience -- kids in groups of 44 or so, with a snack station and rotating among workstations. The 5th wheel might be one of the workstations (the lab another, a couple other rooms talked about). As for how it gets deployed to more remote locations, that remains to be seen. The Washington County Fair that happens every year is a no-brainer, but the point is to keep it busy all year. That means more content.

How the open source angle plays out remains to be seen. George is pretty committed to Linux from a finances point of view (thinking of kids wanting to own their own computers), but that's not to overly discriminate against everyone else. The cybervan serves wireless, so if a non-Windows notebook shows up and wants to patch in, that shouldn't be a problem, provided proper authorization is obtained.

I took the Max to and from, hauling the Toshiba Satellite A60 and reading my various computer magazines.