Friday, June 30, 2006

Group Theory

Now someone with a pet peeve might decry my use of "number theory" in the linked/archived post (link), as I'm speaking of brightly colored polyhedra, twisting about under various camera lights (like in POV-Ray), with permutations to match. Matrices get into the act. But where's the "number theory" here? "Isn't this all group theory then?" (quivering chin, indignation) .

Ah, but there's a hidden bridge, like in Uru. Twixt group theory and number theory we have these little groups and fields modulo N. Extract the totients of a number (if prime, it'll be everyone lower -- real prima donnas those primes), and intermultiply them modulo that number. Woah hoah: those little doggies got Closure, Associative, Inverts, and Neutrality (CAIN -- some Biblical allusion I didn't invent (got it from a colleague)). And if modulus N is a prima donna (a prime), then throw in addition, and you've got CAIN in two operators, plus a distributive principle, a little Galois field (I hear he was a chick magnet -- unconfirmed), suitable for study by elementary school students.

So that was coming back over the bridge, from number theory (totatives are the positive integers relatively prime to N, but smaller i.e. no in-common factors but 1 -- a number's totient, an attribute, is "how many" of said totatives it has (if p is prime, phi(p) == p-1 (this phi, which I've seen attributed to Euler, is a name collision with the golden mean, another meaning for the same lowercase greek letter))).

There's another pun lurking here, again not my invention: CAIN reminds us of Abel in the Bible, and a pioneer of group theory is Abel, such that if you not only have Associativity (a(bc)=(ab)c), but Commutativity as well (ab == ba), then your group is described as Abelian. The maths are full of such jokes, which is why the hackers' Gnu Math is such a good fit. We get one anothers' jokes, sometimes at least.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Smart Cars

Photo by K. Urner, Göteburg, July 2005

CBS News poked gentle fun at the North American market last night, wondering aloud if these freeway people would be smart enough to buy Smart Cars, long a feature of the European mindset.

The Hummer and Ford Expedition were compared (both about 16 feet long) in silhouette, in stark contrast to this micro eight footer.

However, based on focus groups and market analysis, I think what North Americans now dream about are ways to rack mount the Smart Cars to pull them two or three at a time, behind the same gas guzzling global warmers.

Each kid could have their own that way (more convenient for everyone!).

To head off this trend, I suggest that RV park owners follow the Portland FlexCar model and stock smart cars (various models) at the camp sites. Or call it the Catalina Golf Cart model. "No, ya don't have bring them all with ya, we'll just reserve some for ya, how's that?"

I realize sharing resources, especially motorvehicles, is considered "socialism" by many North Americans. The freedom they fight for is the freedom to individually own, fail to maintain, then commend to the junk heap.

And who am I to talk right? Like here's the BizmoBozo himself up on some high horse, raving and gesticulating about sociopathic gasoholic others. Like, don't I spend about as many joules as the average fuel-squandering American, when it comes to hauling my ass down the road?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Projected Wanderings

Alice was back from the midwest, where Vicky is also from, and was sharing stories about places visited. I was jealous, having had precious little time to tour within the US, and hence my bizmo based fantasies, of making a living as a roaming gnu math teacher, ready to give schools a legup by cluing them in, giving them chanops.

South Dakota was mentioned, Iowa, Idaho. Water parks were a theme. I could see Tara having some fun, or me, like Homer Simpson, stuck in some tube, wondering if they'd ever find me (I'll posit a happy ending on this one). Mount Rushmore. Lots of wide open vistas. Wall Drug Store. Chief Crazy Horse (see the front page of today's Oregonian).

I stomped some bugs in my desert of code (FoxPro) this hot summer's day. I dined again in the Fortress of Evil (that's like Klingon for "great watering hole") on my lunch break, and savored the LL A/C. I probably had too much Diet Pepsi though. I should move to more juices... OK, now it's a Red Bull (yummy). I also drink "cow juice" (milk, usually 1% organic, not ultra-pasturized), less often anything goat.

I've continued debating the role of public education in US society @ Math Forum, arguing that it's a feeder circuit, used to recruit new talent into public service, even as it serves the needs of [some] private industries, small business, other participants in interstate commerce.

To enroll in public school is to gain experience in operating the USA's democratic institutions from the inside. Our state supported curricula are designed to run "close to the kernel" to help protect the future vitality and viability of our favored userland. In laymans' terms: your public education system is here to serve you by giving you opportunities for success both in private enterprising and in serving the public (you needn't think either/or here).

On edu-sig, I've been chatting about our hot weather, and my recent magazine reading, and also about the magic square and cube project, a focus of Martin Gardner's. My proposed data structure for the recently discovered 5x5x5 one is probably not the most appropriate. A few lines of code could fix that.

Speaking of hot weather, I just grabbed our Daewoo portable A/C from the garage and connected it up in Tara's room, so now we're contributing even more to the record megawattage pig-out we Portlanders are engaged in, as we soar through 102 degrees. I wonder what a domed over village might save, if it went with central air. Something for us gnu math heads to figure.

24 hours later: the Daewoo is dead.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More Adventures with TinkerBell

I like "TinkerBell" (the name of my bicycle) because it's in CamelCase, an allusion to the Republic of Perl, and by extension an homage to that sturdy if intractable beast of the Arabian experience. Add some discreet oasis cell towers, iPods and podcasting, and that lifestyle ain't so bad they tell me. Plus there's always the local airport, when it's time to get away from it all and see New York or whatever. A two way street.

I rode her (Tink) to Wanderers @ Linus Pauling House this morning, to join the free form discussion about reforming this and that (the PP in ISEPP). We just throw out policies, left and right, and then shoot 'em in a barrel, seeing which might survive.

I had some otherworldly suggestions, like I always do (mostly involving computers), and then wheeled in TinkerBell for a consult. We (as in "the hive mind collective") got her working well enough to get me downtown at least, where I accessed the Extended Services Building @ PSU to sign my contract (retroactively, for work already in the can).

Also at Wanderers, on request from Jon Bunce the musician, I did a Lightning Talk on gnu math, and dot notation in particular. How we think about numbers now, like of 1,2 and 3 as instances of a single class, say the Integer class, with operations like + and * being methods of that class.

I start out with a Dog class though, with just a constructor (__init__) and a self-representer (__repr__). I mostly write legal Python, abetting with diagrams. Had it been projected from my laptop, I could have executed the code.

In about three minutes and as many pieces of butcher paper, I'd inducted our small assembly into some deep mysteries of hackerdom. I'd exposed the way we think (in OO -- not everyone uses this same model).

These Wanderers (in this case all older adults) lapped it right up, i.e. got it immediately, and felt ready to play (Jim Buxton seemed especially ready). Music and software engineering go hand-in-hand I'd hazard. Both involve looping, interpreting, clock cycles and so on.

In my work queue:
  • I'm about ready to rewrite my embedded SQL programs to use SQLEXEC for pass through [later note from work site: I'm working on this now].
  • Plus I keep getting North Korea on my plate, probably because I reviewed Team America, World Police awhile back, which spoofs Kim a lot (pun). Plus there's a lot of stuff in the news about some stupid rocket.
  • Closer to home, we're doing a major kitchen cleaning, with outside professional help. I helped supply the ice chests.
  • Plus I need to deal with those 02 tanks in a minute (the Apria truck is about to swing buy).
I recall Dan was in North Korea recently, Tom Head reporting. Something about cats. A mystery. And how do the Moonies fit in? I am so out of date apparently. Is this why we call it a Church of the Subgenius? Fuller called it the Doppler Effect (534.00) -- a lot about lagging or slack, a source of relativity in our respective narrative accounts.

You can't be up on everything at once. No Instant Universe. That's one of the teachings in Synergetics. Sometimes we learn it first in Arizona. Oregon may be ahead in the race to reform math education, but our cartoon-making savvy lags that of many major studios, including in Japan.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I showed up at the DMV, helmet in hand, all humble pie, owing to this lapse of my driving credential. I felt it would be poor form to hot rod into the parking lot in Razz, and so dutifully mounted TinkerBell (newly named), which explains the bicycle helmet (also blue, but no bell).

I'd already taken my #158 when I realized this meant a new picture, but I was disheveled, unkempt, not to mention untidy, and without a hair brush in my over-the-shoulder OSCON bag (very European, don't you think?). I was wearing the orange Lucky Lab T-shirt (the same one as through Heathrow, coming in), and joked to the DMV clerk that I was getting a dual purpose license that'd also work for my dog. He laughed dutifully, having an award for customer service (I saw it on the wall).

So I went in search of said brush, winding up, on foot, in some Asian hair salon, where the proprietess had some trouble deciphering my meaning, but then happily sold me said brush once she got clear: a handsome wooden one, very spikey, for $5. I hustled back to the DMV in time for my appointment at the counter, where $34 took care of it. Now I'm back in the green, legal with the state, once again able to drive Razz with my head high (and yes, I can live with the new picture).

Anyway, as I said, this was all on a bicycle, the Seattle to Portland one, but now with a kid-friendly dinosaur bell (ring ring), plus other signs of aging. I confirmed by cell that the longer loop'd be fine, but then encountered sewerage repair happening (I'm so out of date) and had to reroute. Before that, however, I enjoyed the new pavement, waved hello to Precision Castparts Corp. (a local giant) and... well, then came the fence, and the detour up a steep hill to Crystal Springs, out by Tolman, onto Bybee and on into Westmoreland.

Don, a native of those parts, by-phone recommended the Philly steak place, which also serves Moore Beer. I was astonished by the smokey flavor of Copper, plus savored the IPA. The sandwich was delicious. Then I wandered by the Bunce residence, to discuss sheet music in cyberculture. Then home, loop complete, but without the expected east side run up from Sellwood to OMSI. In retrospect, the diversion was welcome.

Yesterday, TinkerBell and I did the Hawthorne to Steel, back along the east side esplanade (very Uru, and reminiscent of Chattanooga's), both ways through Ladd's Addition.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Roller Skating Event

My thanks to Elizabeth Braithwaite for the use of her camera

Why FoxPro?

Sometimes I enthuse about FoxPro and readers wonder why. Is it just the resonance with George Fox, our fearless leader (circa 1600s) of Friends?

Actually, for me, that is part of its appeal.

Yet FoxPro is strong in other respects, as a descendent of xBase for example, a language originating at CalTech's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), and spinning off into the commercial sector as Ashton- Tate's dBase II.

FoxPro grew up as an implementor of the defacto xBase standard, and has this whole client side way of manipulating database records that's non-SQL, more procedural.

Now, a lot of products bundle some rather primitive programming language, often named PL, with their SQL, but FoxPro's solution is different.

Visual FoxPro is a complete GUI IDE, like Visual Studio, and comes with its own back end, even if you don't have an SQL engine like Oracle's handy.

In any case, I was an xBase programmer, mostly for Portland area nonprofit and government sector agencies, long before I got into Python. The original DOS-based FoxPro was gobbled up by Microsoft, which migrated it to the Windows platform as FoxPro for Windows (FPW).

Then came a more complete overhaul, as Microsoft blackboxed some of the more speed-critical objects such as Forms, and fleshed out a large dictionary of methods and attributes.

We didn't lose our ability to write embedded SQL, plus gained new powers to send SQL dialect down the ODBC pipeline, getting back cursors developed server-side, and now returned to our VFP client for further processing, and perhaps GUI display within some grid object.

Probably my admiration for VFP over say Microsoft Access, is the underlying superiority of xBase for database work (for which it was specifically designed), over anything derived from BASIC, a hodge-podge to begin with.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cars (movie review)

The plot (which shares elements with Over the Hedge) involves a self-assured, vain No. 1 who feels isolated and friendless, takes a detour in life, and discovers family and friends, including a possible No. 2.

Then there's always some initial destiny to fulfill, an heroic gesture for an appreciative other. She gets it: he's good hearted after all. A good story, and sometimes a good movie. In this case: definitely a good movie.

I love sampling such pure Americana (Route 66 through nowhere), and consider this an homage to cartoons set amidst desert mesas and cactus, a backdrop for some of our favorite animated friends (meeb meep). I appreciate this wide open desolation, find it in Sims 2, and in Bagdad Cafe.

The time-frozen village, bypassed by I-40, showcases some interesting hippie-vet dynamics around flag time in the morning. Ferrari-worshipping Italians bow down before family icons. And everyone's into neon.

The love story was cool (Dawn loved the Porsche), and I appreciated the lesson in regional planning (how not to -- although in this case of Radiator Springs, it all came out for the best).

Lucky cars! Their civilization took my mind off ours.

Back in my real world...

I still futz with this crippled Windows computer, still unable to update itself and get cured.

Notice how a perfectly good machine world goes bad once those nasty humans show up. I could see where the Ice Queen 'd be suspicious and cold, and attempt to slow their advance (their king is a four-legged, she's noticed -- and perhaps that's to their credit (she's got her dogs)).

Like in Robots, Car World is not competing with another intelligent observer species, except maybe that guy Frank, the combine -- easily stopped by fences, though he may get through in dreams.

And speaking of competing intelligent life, Cars included a spoof outtake from War of the Worlds didn't it, with the jets fighting spark plugs or something like that. Or was that in a preview?

I hope to see Cars again someday, maybe on some Airbus with Dawn and Tara. Maybe I'll write another less quirky review.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cyber School Bus

Yes, I thought of "magic" but that belongs to Ms. Frizzle and company. I'm not trying to ride her coattails, nor Bill Nye the Science Guy's, much as I admire them both.

I blew my stack versus USA liberals again this morning, even though I count myself as a liberal arty type (need strong core knowledge that's not hyperspecialized etc.). True, apocalyptic Christians are royal pains in the behind, but these global warming freaks are just as painful to listen to. All that whining about God's will, gimme a break (joke).

The common denominator: fear in both cases. Let me scare you with Eternity and/or with being Left Behind, or if you're not God fearing, damn you to hell, then let me scare you with floods, famine and fire (and high gas prices). Just let me scare you, plllllleeeeez (Roger Rabbit voice).

What's fun is watching the Framework of Fear, so carefully crafted by Mr. Politico, crumbling. It's apocalyptic for him maybe, but from my vantage point, it's more like watching some bozo the clown on steroids cartoon on some lazy Saturday morning.

Related: United Nations cyberschoolbus website (more the idea of web content as bus-like, than of a bus-like motorvehicle outfitted with cyberware).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Driving to School

After a pit stop at Noah's Bagels, we tailed an "official use only" van down Hawthorne (heading west), and Tara speculated maybe it was a CIA van (some book she's been reading for school).

I countered I didn't think such overt decals would be in line with the agency's style. Better to just drive a raspberry-colored Subaru with a Princeton sticker and blend right in (joke). Besides, look, it has a State of Oregon sticker.

On the way home (heading east), I tailed an orange Tele Atlas vehicle along Holgate (warning: slow vehicle), noting the four cameras and GPS device mounted up top. "Mapping your world" was the company slogan, along with the "live free or die" slogan on the license plate.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Doing Nothing

Not really of course. Got Sarah-the-dog's toenails clipped, long overdue. Took Razz to Jiffy Lube for long-deferred maintenance. Did my Edward Scissorhands thing on the juniper out front; a fine replica of an exotic bacteriophage, if I do say so myself (Julian inspires me).

I had pleasant dealings with Apria, a medical supply company (like, I needed a new mask -- drove out by the airport). Visited the Columbia, taped the news.

Providence Home Services has also been top notch (great trainings, including pre Tara's birth). And the Providence cancer support group features American Dream pizza.

Studied Oracle8. Helped Bernie with Python in Middle Earth.

Talked with Alexia in Tennessee.

I ate some leftover birthday cake, from Tara's turning 12 yesterday (Dawn, myself, Tara, Brenna, and Llysa went to the Old Spaghetti Factory).

A surprising aspect of this cake, reading Happy Birthday Tara: although the baker's ticket said 2-layer chocolate, with raspberry filling and a white frosting (as requested over the phone), the actual cake was 3-layer bannana with both filling and frosting creamy white.

I'm not complaining, nor did Tara really -- a mistake in our favor, but by a pro baker (Helen Bernhard) who rarely makes mistakes, and always makes great cakes.

Anyway, the Doing Nothing title has more to do with a posting this morning, to edu-sig, about how I'm nowadays just twiddling my thumbs where Pythonic mathematics is concerned.

Blogger is pokey these days; lots of down time and publishing delays.

Mowed the lawn, borrowing Jimmy's gas one (my electric one's turned to junk again).

Monday, June 05, 2006

Portland Krew


Dawn with Pat


Rose Festival Fleet, 2006

Saturday, June 03, 2006

High School Memorabilia

We'd changed the name to International School by the time I got there, but this decal and slogan remained omnipresent and indelible. This was in Metro Manila. I'm a member of the alumni association and have managed to make a reunion or two. Plus I'm still in touch with a multi-national cast of characters, including many in high places (ka-ching).