Monday, December 31, 2007

Whittier USA

photos by K. Urner, Dec 31 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War (movie review)

You could easily use this as a sequel to Good Shepherd, though with a couple missing in between (like Star Wars, it comes at ya out of order).

Although unabashedly fictionalized, this Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts vehicle closely follows the literature, in showing a fragile coalition standing up to the Soviet Army just long enough to bring world attention to the practice of tyranny by helicopter gunship. Ideologues that wouldn't normally collaborate do so in this film.

The conclusion alludes to the subsequent blowback chapter, predicted by Ralph McGehee (Colby's tenure), other Reagan-Casey Era veterans.

The Tom Hanks character is an in your face fierce proponent of a Jahiliyyahesque lifestyle, patently offensive to many Christians, even more so than the Afghanis, who openly adore belly dancing.

steals the show as Gust, our wicked little green man from Langley.

OK, that's it for this marquee -- I'm not gonna go see the chipmunk movie (I wasn't crazy about the TV cartoon either).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Two Management Philosophies

Management philosophies differ on the relative weights given field offices versus headquarters.

In the models I favor, the central nervous system is designed to be responsive to needs in the field.

It's not a matter of setting policy in some arm chair setting, and expecting minions in "lower offices" to just do as they're told and don't bother us with the details.

That's what I call "too wag the dog" in that what an organization should run with are whomever actually shows up as the talented individuals, enough inspired by loyalty and a sense of shared, worthy goals to be willing to freely commit time and energy, and to freely share in the benefits of their business.

Go with their strengths, even as they train in new skills. Let your cast write the script, don't pretend you have all the luxurious freedoms a film maker might enjoy. Real time isn't so easily micro-managed.

If you have a juggler on board, then by all means include juggling in your programming (let Perl Mongers write Perl), but if your central office plan "calls for" a juggler, and a stage magician shows up instead, and you put her on hold, because of some "script" well, you probably won't be recruiting such talent again any time soon (your loss, not hers).

Case in point: the Portland School Board almost didn't go with the LEP charter high school simply because "the timing was wrong" -- never mind the cast had shown up, ready for action. The mood was to just wait indefinitely, in the name of "convenience" (for whom?).

One thinks of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, paying everyone to do nothing, because the weather was too good (only clouds would prove the airplanes were moving -- something like that).

One learns from experience (or doesn't, if one is too proud, too stuck in being a know-it-all all of the time (don't fool yourself kid)).

Another case in point: every so often, the AFSC flirts with centralizing in some literal "for dummies" sense, as if Philadelphia were some all-knowing omniscience all of a sudden (when did that happen?).

But in actual fact, the reason AFSC has such street cred among NGOs is it really pays attention to its senses, is a reality-based creature, not just your typical "nobody home" corporation with a GIGO-speak board.

So in the AFSC's case, I can't say I'm too worried -- nor about PPS for that matter, given wisdom prevailed at the end of the day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Am Legend (movie review)

A strong semi-solo performance by Will Smith, with a poignant, contemporary torch-passing message courtesy of Bob Marley and friends.

Abby and Kona combine to deliver a stellar Samantha.

The desolate emptiness of NYC suits the IMAX genre, although Tara and I caught this in a standard neighborhood theater.

Shades of 12 Monkeys.

Alice Braga nets a new fan.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Driving to LA

margaret & jane
Our first night south of Portland was with a Bridge City Meeting family. Our dinner conversation involved comparing genealogies. Margaret, Jane and I all have family ties to Switzerland going back one or more generations. Jane also has ties to the Ojibwa in Canada (a Hudson Bay Company story).

The next morning, I updated Joe on some recent AFSC business, plus studied that NYT business story on the kitchen counter about how Russian ex-spies are leveraging their experience to play world game, by investing in Exxon Mobil, Renault... Silicon Valley.

Joe filled me in on some local politics involving the railroads, which abruptly terminated freight service to his area recently ("an act of war" I fulminated). Oregonians tend to be quite passive in the face of ongoing infrastructure deterioration.

Anyway we learned long ago from A Nation at Risk that average USAers don't take threats to their sovereignty very seriously, which explains why they're being railroaded in so many dimensions.

Our drive to Arcata via the Oregon and California coastal highway was very beautiful (lots of redwoods -- very few other cars on the Avenue of the Giants today).

Yesterday, in Arcata, I posted some inspired Python Nation lore. Our solstice celebration was everything I'd hoped, with friends I hadn't seen in many years.

Right now, I'm in Ukiah ("haiku" spelled backwards said the graffiti in the mens room), posting from Coffee Critic. However, it's time to leave.

downtown arcata

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Meetings

more party bling
If we count cyber-meetups, I've been an especially busy bee of late, holding court with computer science geeks, shooting the breeze with the math teacher types, and yakking it up with some charter schoolers. I quit Quaker-P though, since awhile back, in an effort to simplify.

I started my day on the PSU park blocks with Nick, pouring over AAA maps of Northern California especially, getting insider lore, plus Hyzy emailed a trekking tip and so on. I appreciate all this encouragement from my friends, and believe Razz is ready (no bizmo this time -- the North American market isn't ready I don't think).

The Glenn Stockton hexapent is coming along, within my Chinese apothecary (an allusion to our on the drawing boards 4D Solutions bookkeeping engine (one of our Uru-like visualization tools)). We checked out The Dollar Scholar for more executive toys, then enjoyed burritos at Cha! Cha! Cha! -- both are on the Sunnyside side of Hawthorne.

I was on the hook with at least a couple 4D Solutions clients (one of them pro bono), plus had another great visit with local AFSC staff (I'm coming out of retirement), discussing cats and their health problems among other topics (our Moon Kitty has been barfing up her supermarket food, so I'm going back to the more expensive stuff we get from the vet).

Congratulations Dave, on the new gizmo.

toyz for technogeezers

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quaker PreSchool

U2 - Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Philip Glass - Sesame Street (extended cut)

Malcolm McLaren - Double Dutch

Saturday, December 15, 2007

AFSC Party

I purchased the above decoration from an Iraqi refugee family trying to make it in Portland, at last night's AFSC open house.

Lots to catch up on, given my erstwhile semi-retirement. Alice's kids have grown so big, and Marco's.

Jimmy Lott's new CD is out: Not Enough Love. You can bet we've scored a few.

Happy birthday Michael!

Carla, your chocolates just arrived, thank you! Our gift is on the way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Makeover

This version of my post to the Math Forum has been abetted with hyperlinks.

Plus here's a link to my reply to Lou, omitted from the Gnu Math thread (below).

Re: Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic
Posted: Dec 12, 2007 10:16 PM

> Thanks for the honest reply, Kirby.
> And you know this to be the case because of what
> experience with EM, exactly?

Know what to be the case?

EM doesn't have our concentric hierarchy of volumes, A&B modules -- the usual stuff I write about. No big mystery here. Gnu math and EM are completely different.**


** "This isn't Everyday Math or anything close (which isn't to say these can't co-exist, as they already do)." [link]

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Lion's Story

I received a link to this Youtube from a Jewish philosopher friend, like a rabbi (a teacher).

I'm seeing its relevance to my own work within Wanderers to fight any lingering bigotry by the two-leggeds against the four-leggeds (or against the no-leggeds in the case of Naga & Co.).

Abandoning bigotry is not the same as stopping the practice of carnivorism, although these remain closely related concepts.

So do Wanderers eat other Wanderers? -- something to take up in future meetings.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hanukkah 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Math Makeover Update

One might think I'm discouraged, given we all could be enjoying higher living standards by now, were our American heritage not being derailed, or at least held in check, by know-nothing ideologues clinging to what very little they know ("game theory" -- gimme a break).

But the fact of the matter is I'm enjoying a traditional middle class life style, a version of the American dream, tinged with iPods, memory sticks, digital cameras, other bling. I have a stable job, a living wage, health insurance and all the rest of it.

So really, I have nothing to complain about.

Furthermore, my local Oregon campaign is not standing still. And more globally, the BFI has steadily grown in stature from its humble beginnings, with me its first web master, Kiyoshi & Co. having been foresightful enough to grab when it was still grabable.

More importantly, the global electrical grid keeps integrating and telecommunications just keep getting easier, so networking with peers doesn't present as much frustrating bottlenecking as it used to.

So there's lots to celebrate of an environmental nature as well, despite global warming and the ice age it harbingers.

All that being said, I can't help registering my impatience here and there, such as with sniping from the Math Forum at Everyday Mathematics, a principal brainwashing tool of the know-nothings.

Many potential readers have trained themselves to bleep over my posts, because I always say the same things, about Python, about A&B (T&E) modules, about whatever. That Kirby guy, why doesn't he just shut up already? Doesn't he know we don't care?

But of course I have my cheerleaders, from whom I take aid and comfort (football metaphors have their benefits I think).

thanks to Steve for sharing this xkcd comic via Les

Monday, December 03, 2007

Quiet Monday

It's being pretty wet out there, with those gorge winds zipping through, making those Troutdale takeoffs and landings just a little more challenging.

We're starting to test the metal of recent immigrants from burbs more like Buffy's Sunnyvale. Tara says every outdoor scene in House M.D. shows it raining, emphasizing the Seattle backdrop, more of our Pacific Northwest rainforest economy. Lots of flooding, on Hwys 217 & 26 around Portland, and Hwy 101 at the coast (Tillamook especially).

Naga, the pet snake in my office, keeps doing her upside-down routine, learned when she was still a pup. There're some circus tricks you can do when you're all backbone.

The two teens finished pasting up their science posters on Saturday, using my office. The Ducks ended up losing the Civil War, but not without a good fight. Our Quaker group launched into Advent mode last night, practicing some arts and crafts around luminaria and paper recycling.

Tara and I took in some Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoons (DVD), then headed over to 24 Hour Fitness by way of Movie Madness.

The Chicago Pycon judges are still mulling over proposals, with over 140 candidate talks in the hopper.

4D Solutions had another meeting with DemocracyLab at a local Internet cafe.

Montag Oil sent a truck around to pump neighborhood tanks full of heating oil (I took on 284 gallons at $3.14 per). End users pay the going price, no locking in with futures, the basis of many a fat margin up line.

The dishwasher is still working perfectly, thanks to Les & Elise. Even the shorting-out problem seems resolved, which I hypothesize now was owing to the shot-through heating coil on the same circuit.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Civil War Day

In our Oregon namespace, the Civil War occurs once a year, on the gridiron, with OSU versus UofO.

Oregon State has black and orange, reminiscent of Princeton, but we're talking Beavers, not Tigers. University of Oregon does yellow and green.

Woah, a 2nd touch down in about twelve seconds, with the Ducks tying it up. The crowd goes wild. A miracle before half time. Go Ducks.

The teens are involved with science today, monopolizing my office, so I'm managing my business from the foyer, where I can keep an eye on the game.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Looking Ahead

I don't know if I'm ready for a Bizmo in Winter chapter, but the thought of driving south to LA appeals, much as Tara is pining for a snowed in Xmas (an infrequent occurrence in our rain forest economy).

Given my big five oh in calendar year 2008, I've already made plans to pace myself, such as by signing a contract that'll have me teaching that day. Lots of class prep is good exercise for me, and staying in shape is good for morale when crossing one of those gridiron milestones.

You might suppose my calendar was thick with data points, and that may well be, but how much do I see of my calendar? They used to tell us in est that we'd die if we saw Werner's calendar (something of a truism, as one can't be two people at once). But I know what they meant: sign up for great adventures and you'll get them, just not the ones you signed up for necessarily.

Portland is quite the little destination (people compare it to Austin a lot), so I shouldn't always reflexively think of me going places, to meet some of the wonderful people I've met, would like to meet with again (plus new people). We've got McMenamins, other hotels.

Speaking of hotels, one of the coolest we stayed in was the Horton Grand in downtown San Diego. That was for the Fuller Centennial and my network had gifted us with the presidential suite or one of those, very over the top posh by our Middle Earth standards. Tara was just learning to walk.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Generation Rx

Given most health plans have strong stipulations around expensive psychiatric services, getting the right dose of the right stuff, under strong supervision, is a high privilege, one very few might afford (the CEO's kid maybe -- great benefits in that package).

The workarounds have these big downsides: share with an authorized user, making her or him an accomplice, or become a doctor yourself, for a big chunk of change (in exchange for some really rewarding moments).

I'm sure you'll dream up some other options (move to a country with different laws?).

The best answer to this epidemic would be to drastically lower stress levels among tweens and teens, by making more of their dreams come true, for a better planet, for more promising tomorrows. As Teilhard de Chardin put it: belief in a positive future is the key to any religion's long term effectiveness (so make that just any ideology).

A secondary answer would be to decriminalize some practices currently met with probation / incarceration, while at the same time upping the bar on who gets to dispense (legally, but on highly regulated terms).

Somewhere between rehab for serious cases, and that open minefield of "anything goes" there might be some serious-minded institution willing to pass along some constructive habits for safe and legal drug use. Sounds like something those Scandinavians might try.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Road Trip

One of my best experiences ever was joining dad on a biz trip to check out future school sites, the schools themselves being already on the drawing boards back in Thimphu. We set out in a Toyota Hilux, with a pro driver and another VIP from dad's office in the Ministry of Social Services.

We took our time (several days) wending our way through Wangdi Phodrang, Tongsa, Bumthang (Swiss Guest House), Mongar, all the way to Tashigang and Samdrup Jonkhar (sounds very Lord of the Rings I realize).

Then all the way back, by the same high mountain roads, spectacular in their heart pounding no guard rail glory (bidirectional, but only wide enough for one, with lots of blind corners (so drivers use the horn a lot (and pray a lot))).

I met some wild personages on this trip, including this Canadian WUSC volunteer in Village Nowhere (I forget which dzongkhag), unfathomably gorgeous in both mind and body, but not out of place in this thunder dragon abode (Druk Yul). I later returned with my future wife Dawn and daughter Alexia, to enjoy more blessings and good fortune.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Explaining Group Theory

In idiocracies of yore, a simple substitution code might seem unbreakable, so we start with those as "cryptography," simply mapping A to Q, J to Z or whatever (don't forget the space character).

That kind of mapping is called a "permutation" in the literature, and you can "multiply" permutations (string them together, as in A to Q to M) providing us with a golden opportunity to discuss operator overloading in some computer language that permits same (Python's __mul__ for example).

A subclass of permutation is a polytope rotating (however-many dimensional), where you make sure the permitted ops keep the polytope self-identical in some clearly defined way. It's easy to start with the axes of a tetrahedron, octahedron, cube and so on, tracing out their corresponding spherical great circle maps. These become LCD triangles in some nomenclatures, including our own buckaneer (as per our Python modules etc.).

Internal to group theory is this concept of "orbit" wherein, if you go long enough, you come back to where you started, like a classic electric train around a Christmas Tree (Norman Rockwell type department store imagery, likewise the genesis of Santa Claus), or per the movie Polar Express.

In RSA, we send your plaintext a little way around the track, per some public N as the modulus. Then N's owner, our recipient, uses a secret number d to bring the train back around to the station, where the message pops out, very readable. RSA only works because mathematicians have figured no efficient means to deduce d from N, so N can afford to be public (hence the term "public key cryptography").

RSA a h.s. topic? (April 2008)

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Day After

Thanksgiving was a milestone this year, in many dimensions. Our family gathering shifted to Mary's place for this joyful occasion. We had a series of toasts, including one for dear Dawn.

Howard told the story of finding himself upside down in his truck in Nowhere, Alaska, ending with a clean bill of health and discharge from the hospital -- a freezing sunrise in Fairbanks, a cold wait for the train (the life flight in between had translated him some 150 miles).

The pies we brought, made by Tara, Ruth and Elise, were from freshly picked pumpkin and eggs from the farm.

I showed up in my Costco leather jacket with a sheepskin lining and my beaver felt hat with the horse hair braid, Chicago style band, my name on the inside, a good match for Steven's way cool leather one. Mine is by Paul Kaufman, the Portland hatter, was made for me years ago, although reshaped more recently.

Later last evening, Les and I joined a small desserts party hosted by technomad and electronics wizard Steven Roberts, a denizen of our neighboring Republic of Perl. There I had the good fortune to listen to Sky's intelligent interview of the vivacious Roz Savage.

I showed off my own higher learning by correctly attributing the verb "galumphing" (Steven used it) to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.

Les and I exchanged meaningful glances when Roz said "gobsmacked" (I so enjoy that British language, so not often heard in these distant parts).

I've decided to add some Google Analytics to my picture, starting today with my Grain of Sand. Depending on my boredom level, expect to see mention of some of this data in future postings.

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Business News

The blogosphere seems in general agreement with my analysis that the days of Open Source versus Microsoft are over. Quoting myself:
How many know that IBM is a major contributor to the Linux kernel, or that Microsoft now sports a lot of Open Source DNA? If you still think it's scruffy hackers vs. Microsoft, think again.
Blogger Bruce Byfield agrees, thinks it's time for those die-hard Microsoft bashers to grow up and stop whining, given their war has been won. In his follow-up for Datamation he writes: "juvenile gestures like talking about 'Micro$oft' and 'Windoze' only hurt the cause." Jeff was taking that same line at Free Geek's Collab three years ago (like, let's start acting like grownups shall we?).

Serdar Yegulalp, writing for Information Week, strikes a more cynical tone, pointing out that Microsoft wants a support monopoly over its own closed source products. Is that a problem? IBM works the same way.

Open and closed source come in layers, down to the hardware, up to the global net. Plus what's open is effectively closed if you can't read or comprehend the source to begin with.

What people sometimes forget is it takes training and practice to write and/or fix complicated software. Making something "open" makes it easier to learn, true, but doesn't get you off the hook from still needing to do lots of homework. Having all the instruction manuals on how to do triple bypass surgery doesn't really get you there either.

Speaking of source code, I completed my after school Intro to Python at LEP High today. Our focus this afternoon was, wherein fox and bunny objects randomly move around on a grid, with foxes eating any bunny that lands on the same square. I recommend teachers use it as scaffolding.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Air America

Sometimes I tune in Air America KPOJ on Razz's radio, when I don't have teens playing iPods through my Belkin cassette solution. This morning Thom Hartmann was interviewing a Willamette Week guy about how school choice might have backfired, leading to more, not less, school segregation in Portland.

After listening to the banter for awhile, I was very tempted to phone in as a troll and blast through the bull with some highly spun reverse racism: if you want a better school, get those bratty, spoiled, disrespectful, lazy white kids out. Don't give me that white liberal crap in which whites are somehow God's gift, and if you don't have enough of 'em, well your school must be some kind of worthless hell hole. On the contrary... You get the picture.

I'm reminded of Ed Applewhite's cocktail party ice breaker post 911: yeah, we should increase security at airports, but let black people just walk on through, as they're just too kind and gentle to ever think of pulling off a stunt like that. Of course that sounded racist (and it was), but at least it wasn't the usual liberal poopka. Refreshing.

I make similar remarks at parties I suppose, talking about how it's not really my job to care what USAers think about anything. I've got serious work to attend to, after all. Why waste time on an idiocracy that thinks it's God's gift? I feel sorry for politicians who have to pander to that crowd. I don't. They're turkeys.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bio Blurb

Kirby Urner fell in love with Iverson's APL (A Programming Language) while majoring in Philosophy at Princeton University.

He subsequently became a high school math teacher, then a contributing editor for computer literacy text books at McGraw-Hill. His programming career was mostly in the not-for-profit sector, including as a volunteer in Bhutan.

Today he works in the health care sector, and as a curriculum writer and teacher, including for Saturday Academy, one of Portland, Oregon's flagship alternative schools.

Kirby's philosophy background led him to explore the writings of American Transcendentalist R. Buckminster Fuller, which have influenced his curriculum writing. Python and Guido's CP4E have also been major influences.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Sunset on the Columbia

by K. Urner, Olympus 720 SW, from Meliptus, Nov 7, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blind Spots

I was mentally surveying my little neighborhood the other night, thinking of store fronts, other establishments, in which I'd never set foot, despite having lived here (Richmond / Sunnyside) for over a decade.

This barbershop named bishops, for example -- looks like a fun place, and I actually take visitors to look through the window, because of certain artwork on the east wall -- but I've never gotten a haircut there.

"For no good reason" I feel like saying.

At least I finally got around to The Space Room right around Halloween, for a couple of drinks with my friend Patrick (still no beer since Lithuania though -- I've shed a few pounds). That's kind of a retro '50s place, back when the future seemed more like The Jetsons.

Speaking of retro futurism, I often think back to Kenneth Snelson's excellent collection, which he shared with me in his studio during one of my visits. Old magazine covers and like that. By 2000, we'd all be wearing jet packs or riding trains powered by Tesla coils. And there's this book I recall from the Princeton Book Store: Wasn't the Future Wonderful?

I should go buy that now (self indulgent?).

This new electric car dealership on Sandy has a similar retro flavor (by design), with the added benefit of being less speculative and hypothetical. I still don't see many on the streets of Portland yet. But I do see them.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Starvation = Torture

Partisan politicians are lining up pro / con the new AG nominee, asking him to take strong positions on stuff he's clueless about (not fair during war time says GWB in his radio speech).

Sure waterboarding is torture, but so is slow death by starvation, a result of political policies, not nature or God, unless you want to blame our retarded and selfish human nature on external causes (always an old standby).

Over a decade ago, we were hearing how "lack of political will" was the only reason people were still dying of hunger. Katrina sort of dramatized the situation: "let 'em die, not our problem" was a prevailing attitude among some of the higher ups -- still their attitude today.

And yet we're supposed to vote for these people? A joke right?

Another excerpt from Quaker-P (Sun Nov 4 17:04:58 PST 2007):

Death by starvation is also slow and tortuous, by all accounts.

I'm eager for a deeper investigation into those policies in which liberals might be complicit. Studies I've read suggest there's plenty of food and then some (just look at the average waist line in this country for confirmation).

Focusing on the president's AG nominee seems a way to deflect debate, to keep USAers from looking more deeply at their role in keeping the world a hell hole for a lot of perfectly innocent people -- then they profess to not understand why they're so reviled around the world.

If any politicians feel like showing some real leadership, they'll focus on alleviating starvation and preventable disease.

In the meantime, the rest of the world moves on to the next level, organizing around this cesspool of intellectual squalor and depravity.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gym Meditation

Tara and I just got back from 24 Hour Fitness, by way of Movie Madness, returning X-Files (season 1), whereas Angel (season 2) was still checked out.

What I noticed about the flatscreens at the gym tonight is most of them featured rather scantily clad folk, or not clad at all, but fig leaved with clever angle and blur techniques (a mainstream Playboy channel).

The rest of the screens were showing football.

What was far from obvious is that we were in a world at war, and that these were the losers.

Could Plato's Cave be any darker?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Laurie Todd

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Best of Friends (museum exhibit)

Opening November 3, 2007

Best of Friends: Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi

The Henry Ford Museum
Dearborn, Michigan

Organized by The Noguchi Museum, Best of Friends, looks closely at the vital friendship and collaboration between Buckminster Fuller, an icon of modern creative and scientific thought, and Isamu Noguchi, one of the twentieth century's most acclaimed sculptors and designers. The exhibition includes models, sculpture, drawings, photographs and film footage, revealing the two men's ongoing discourse and shared ideas, as well as the context in which they worked.

Best of Friends at The Noguchi Museum, 2006.
Photograph: Nicholas Knight

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Designing Engineers

:: random bizmo ::
This post's title alludes to a book by Dr. Louis Bucciarelli, an MIT-based organizational anthropologist with a strong engineering bent.

His focus in Designing Engineers is the often messy and confusing processes whereby collaborators self-organize (with or without expert management assistance) to galvanize the be-do-have projects completion cycle (a GST concept).

What new designs might interest us, given our "killingry is for morons" platform?

Here's a list of some intriguing collateral, with special thanks to Trevor, an expert cyber-sleuth: Earthships 101; Mobile Urban Architecture; Mathematics in Movies; Soccer Ball Houses; PhD thesis by Yunn Chii Wong; Geometric Sculptures by George Hart; Shellhouse; and last but not least, OpenMRS (thanks Gunner).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dirty Tricks

So the political campaigns are heating up again, meaning it's time for low level wannabes, amateurs, hacks, to imagine what a grand master like Karl Rove would do, or someone equally sinister, to spin webs of deceit, play games with smoke and mirrors or whatever.

In practice, most such schemes backfire or at best produce no intelligible result. Just focusing on real leadership skills tends to win every time in the long run, though it never hurts to have a good defense against cheap negative campaigners.

Spies inform on enemy camps (like at Project VOTE! in the 1980s -- we had infiltrators), those unflattering candidate photos appear from nowhere, rumors circulate, the vaguer the better sometimes.

Now, with the Internet, we have many more creative outlets for these games, including social networking software and YouTube.

The latter has proved itself relevant in just in the last few debates, whereas Howard Dean proved the relevance of social networking to netting political donations in the last presidential race.

As I mentioned to Wanderers, my flight plan is to stay above the fray as much as possible, working with my usual esoterica, plus a few issues I most care about (I'm an incumbent in my own office, is how I look at it). Plus I'm starting some new teaching jobs, getting ready for Pycon, maybe EuroPython (in Vilnius again).

Speaking of social networking software, I didn't know about vampires on Facebook until bitten, then followed Jerritt's example and joined a group called "fuck off... I don't want to be a pirate / vampire / werewolf / zombie." But then I resigned almost immediately, because I felt uncomfortable with the word "fuck" on my austere business page.

from FaceBook

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Civil Rights

Saturday was inwardly stormier than Friday, though I discovered a peaceful bus scene on my bike loop through North Portland.

Sometimes bats hit obstacles (splat!) despite echolocation. Omnitriangulating takes time, whereas that "left behind" feeling may be somewhat immediate, requiring a kind of compassionate attention that some tortuously rational process may not provide.

And so one prays for healing insights (sometimes mythical in nature), trusting one's little ego/cogito to catch up eventually (self reflection is critical).

On a more extroverted note, I've been working with Wayne Yarnall on ADA issues, in concert with this new movie that's coming out. He'd make a good Wanderer, but our Linus Pauling House headquarters is not wheel chair accessible.

I think those candidates and incumbents with the guts to champion the rights of the disabled will consequently benefit so many wounded war vets, so often marginalized once sacrificed (an old, sad story).

Non-war-related disabilities needn't take a back seat though, nor am I arguing against the right to refuse service, just on what basis and why?

Are we seeing some positive developments in Darfur of late? Too early to know? Of course I'm still tracking OLPC, although I'm way behind in my readings. Google News alerts remain helpful. My thanks to Ken Brown for staying in touch on this project.

Are any candidates interested in our new global literacy campaigns? I call mine P4E but no one else has to. The composition, editing, and publishing, of sound, pictures, words and video, so frequently involves a computer these days. Passing on a culture means passing on its skills. Geeks R Us, in so many dimensions. Accessibility issues likewise apply.

The role of technology in education: it's not just about whether or not to use calculators -- a very dumbed down way to frame the debate in my view (ever hear of programming real computers), yet ongoing for over 30 years by this time (frustrating), with the digital divide growing ever so much wider in the interim (doesn't mean we can't bridge it, using open source techniques).

Tara went to both birthday and Halloween parties today. I too went to a 50th birthday party for Art Kohn (a wanderer), with lots of people I didn't know, leading to random encounters. I wore my Bodies T-shirt. Two trains passing in the night near OMSI delayed my getting home, but only by a few minutes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Fine Friday

I'm sipping a DragonFly Chai milkshake, prepared by barrista Megan, Tara doing hot chocolate, a regular hangout, good for doing homework, wifi-enabled.

Earlier today: more executive toys purchased, imported coffee procured (Celebes, for celebrations). Tara and I visited a neighborhood bike shop to add a rack & removable receptacle (velcro bonds). Some telecommuting to work (a VPN type setup). Some preparing for classes (also work related).

My Uncle Bill, the maritime scholar, appeared out of the blue and invited me to lunch at the Bagdad. Then we had coffee at Starbucks and I took him to Missing Link. Plus he went to Presents of Mind to buy gifts, then met up with mom before re-vectoring his Aztec back north to Seattle, to visit with other family. I'm hoping we'll get him lined up for a Wanderers presentation some day soon. Like Allen Taylor, Bill has experience doing a cruise ship gig.

Maureen dropped by, also out of the blue, with news of the death of Admiral William Crowe, the spouse of her cousin, bringing me some bio, which I was grateful to get. Thank you Maureen. My condolences to the family.

Mom got to speak to school kids today, in one of Portland's more opulent schools, in the sense of owning good recording equipment. I talked to a teacher and know they plan to share eventually, maybe streaming media, which I wish Wanderers could do more with as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Here's another one that never made it to math-teach, though twas sent. Note that Texas Instruments is a sponsor of the Math Forum.

Math Club Debate
Posted: Oct 12, 2007 11:38 PM

Some high schools have math clubs, or used to. One topic of possible interest is the old TI versus HP battle of the titans, largely forgotten now. We're in the 1970s, and some kids are carrying around what's known in the trade as RPN calculators. No nested parentheses, order of operations handled using a stack model, similar to how many computer languages work (e.g. forth). OK, so like Wff 'n Proof.

What happens is HP gets beaten back by the nesters, and TI has had USA schools eating out of its hand ever since. Or that's what vengeful HP engineers might think. Actually, it's not an either/or situation. RPN is wherever you want it to be, on computers. Just download the relevant stuff and you're set.

Be that as it may, it's still fun to go back and debate, as if it mattered.


(click RPN link for more history).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wanderers 2007.10.24

I showed up quite late to this morning's gathering, not atypically, as I have other duties on Wednesday mornings -- which is why we also meet Tuesday evenings i.e. plenty of Wanderers in the same boat, in terms of not being a "morning person" or "night person" or whatever.

Our presenter, Mark Frischmuth, showcased some open source concepts packaged as DemocracyLab, a work in progress. The coding team has yet to assemble, but it's good to think the general public will soon be getting better access to such networking tools, long a staple in the private sector.

We had some heated discussion about why the pundits targeted Iraq for rape and plunder in the wake of 911 (Rumsfeld: more interesting targets).

Of course the answer is Hans Blix and his crew had determined the nation was relatively defenseless, an easy target for shock and awe. Catharsis, in other words, an expression of infantile rage, plus a lingering vendetta from Gulf War Episode 1. History is chock-a-block with such stories, dime a dozen.

But I don't really blame GWB and his crew, as my read is a lot of irresponsible people desperately wanted to be whipped into a war frenzy and no politician in his or her right mind could stand in the way of that stampede and keep a hold on high office at the same time. Standing up to spoiled brat North Americans is more like what other countries are for.

Plus most decent North Americans were consistently dead set against the war all along, and apologized profusely to the world for letting the idiocrats seize power. Plus our media have wised up a lot in the interim, so the situation isn't looking nearly so bleak, except of course there's global warming, starvation, disasters -- all addressable challenges if you're not too busy fighting meaningless shooting wars (save those for the Gameboy how 'bout?).

Showed off my new cell phone, drank lots of coffee. Good seeing Nancy again, and Jim.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Seasons Greetings

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some History

So here's a case of me feeling grateful, to Terry and ISEPP, for letting me lurk in on lectures all of these years, Heathman dinners. My blogs are full of this fare.

But I think it's time we pony up and buy bona fide season tickets, instead of perking along with the bookkeeping client. Dawn was a bookkeeper and that's just not what I am, so DWA has had to morph quite a bit, though is still going strong.

All of which is a long way of saying: don't expect a write-up of the Oliver Sacks lecture this evening. I'm not planning to hog a seat, out of deference to season ticket holders. I'll be getting mine soon.

On the agenda for today: drop PKL pillow for repairs, dentist, other stuff.

Outcomes: PKL pillow fixed, went to wrong dentist so rescheduled, front bicycle wheel repaired, three pumpkins gutted but not carved, newfangled version of Glenn's global matrix promoted for use within DWA, seeking Brian's permission for boot jingle.

Neither Tabor nor gym (worked out at home).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pycon Chicago

I've put a footprint at the conference web site, which includes branding by Django. Some parts of the family might funnel through Chicago enroute to Pennsylvania in interesting ways (we're planning a reunion).

My last PyCon was under Steve Holden's tenure. My wife came along, and we much enjoyed our stay in Falls Church. Dawn spent much of her time in the NavAm museum on the Washington DC mall, while I geeked out, blabbering about hypertoons or whatever (some kind of lightning talk). I missed seeing Arthur.

Speaking of Arthur: we always argued on edu-sig, apparently on opposite sides of so many issues, but really the big guy just wanted to have some serious hard fun. Nothing namby pamby about Arthur, a financial whiz, self taught in Python and projective geometry both, author of Pygeo.

Arthur and I first met for drinks near what used to be the Pan Am building that time. He once offered me shelter, as a part of our multi-dimensional chess game. Our best and last meeting was with David Lansky and his two very intelligent boys, in Manhatten that time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Social Hour

Refreshed from yesterday's lengthy bike loop out to Troutdale airport, I showed up at meeting rarin' to go. Spoken ministry was a pleasure (kept my own trap shut), and I ended up giving more than my usual to the contributions box as a result.

Thank you, Janet, for agreeing to fix Dawn's dragon pillow (she made them for Dawn's new office, later Portland Knowledge Lab). Hi Laten, if you see this sometime.

Per conversations with MMM's CP coordinator Kathy Hyzy (Lithuanian name?) , we're likely to move our attendance back to Stark Street more religiously, given Tara's new found friendships at the WQM level.

This is the meeting house I grew up in, post Chicago, pre Rome. I like the @ home feel, compared to Portland French, which is nevertheless a good fit for us, at least in the interim, and in this early chapter of being a Monthly Meeting (Bridge City only recently became one).

Larry, one of my bike mates yesterday, wondered if I still had copies of Idiocracy to share, which I do (a whole stack). It's a spoof on illiberal culture, wherein anything considered "smart" is considered "pompous and faggy" (anyway, go see the movie, don't let me spoil it for ya). Shades of Jim Gaffigan.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Banter @ Bridgeport

I was catching up with an old pal this evening, when I ran into a fellow Wanderer, killing time waiting for a nearby event to get going.

She joined us at our booth for some sophisticated conversation about Jungians versus Freudians, whether either still had career potential ("do they still make new ones?" I heard myself asking).

I used to carry around books by "Frood" as a kid (didn't know how to pronounce it -- still don't read German).

That was toward the end of my day.

At the very outset, Derek swung by, in search of Fry's ads. We both exulted at the low cost of Flash memory. "The laptops we're handing out in Darfur and such are all Flash, no hard drive" was my cheery news -- except we don't really have any really big shipments to Darfur yet, owing to whatever (I don't claim to know all the details, rely on journalists to fill me in).

Later, I was contacted by some cool NGO in Colorado or someplace about hooking in more with World Game. I always cite the map in such cases (this wasn't my first conversation along these lines, although I've sensed a real up tick in quality over the years (yes, some of these next gen types have really been doing their homework)).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wanderers 2007.10.11

Twas a day for snagging a small bag of cantharelius cibarius @ Pauling House, thanks to mountain man Buxton, a generous Wanderer. Those'll be cooking soon, as fresh forest produce should be eaten while still fresh, no?

That'll probably be my last visit to Island Café this season (small hangout on Tomahawk Island, closes for winter). The weather turned out to be perfect, complete with a fan club of seagulls, including a special "one" (Jonathan Livingston I presume).

Out there on the boat, some of us came up with a funny term of opprobrium, for pretending to mock a wayward Wanderer. We'll enjoin 'em from "straying" too much (too far or whatever). And some will (have, are) I'm sure, me included.

Given the meeting was open agenda, meaning "unprogrammed" in Friendly parlance, lots of random topics got batted about. I kept interjecting about Unicode and / or "coding in Klingon," a meme we of Python Nation share with the neighboring Republic of Perl, to signify challenges associated with writing source outside Latin-1 and / or the ASCII character sets.

Python 3.0, as well as Perl 6, are making significant strides in this direction, which is relevant to my work for hospital systems. I want "display name" as a standard field, so that patients have the benefit of seeing their own names properly symbolized on display monitors and such -- feels more like home that way.

Dave Fabik is wandering off to Mexico, in some jeep with a friend, kayak roof mounted. I phoned him from Meliptus yesterday.

Motorola camera cell phone snap shot
of the chanterelle mushrooms in a pan
captured on an Olympus Stylus 720 SW,
emailed to gmail via Verizon and stored
to KTU3 for editing in Adobe
and posting to Google blogspot

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More GeekSpeak

I just got off the cell with Alexia, meandering across campus, developing her skills as an accountant (she's following in her mom's footsteps in that regard). But our conversation eventually turned to the bigger pattern, of companies needing robust databases and lots of front end eye candy.

Banded report writers, like in Access, FoxPro, Paradox and others, plus these drag and drop query designers, help end users stay in a productive relationship with their core concerns.

However, once a given database reaches a certain threshold maturity, in terms of numbers of users, its criticality to the enterprise, you generally want a more austere industrial scale engine.

Traditionally, those'd be relational, meaning tabular (rows and columns, like a spreadsheet). However, as Python's flagship ZODB makes obvious, your Model needn't go the relational route, like if networked object storage works better. Many European companies are ahead of the curve in this respect, but then it's not either/or.

OK, that's the "lecturer's version" of what I started babbling to Alexia about. I've also cc-d her some recent emails to Phyllis Shelton, Dawn's principal bookkeeping collaborator in the last couple of years.

Our DWA is still very much a small, nimble business, an "agile" as some say these days (which is what Python is too).

Alexia also mentioned something she'd heard on the radio about using fullerene (Fn) to boost solar panel technology. I mentioned my friend Ed's focus on its chemical naming.

Monday, October 08, 2007

More MVC Talk

Per a recent blog post, the multi-user application, typified by the game server (e.g. Quake's by id Software), has given our Models new levels of complexity to handle.

Traditionally, a Model just reflected some target knowledge domain (say an ecosystem) and didn't care about the (one?) user, interacting through a Controller. The visualizations weren't about users and their subjective selections, but about some objective 3rd party vista, typically seen from some god's eye viewpoint.

Today, the state of each user must often be modeled in quite a bit of detail, in Second Life for example, where avatars need attention right down to clothing selection, even facial expression.

Visualizations are likewise customized per user, with none having special god-like powers relative to any other (a seemingly omniscient "bird's eye view" is perhaps just an ordinary bird's in your typical computer game / simulation).

The convergence of observers within a shared matrix or model seems to be the ascendant design pattern of late, thanks especially to advances in network and grid computing.

CS departments would do well to focus student attention on "cave paintings" of our enhanced MVC paradigm to help them prepare for their future careers, as authors of new Controllers or whatever. I've found Python to be appropriately expressive in this context.

Of course in my own case I'm thinking ahead to tomorrow's bizmo fleet control centers, cyber- centers helping busy utility vehicles intelligently coordinate disaster relief or whatever, like Lara Logan uses in Baghdad.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stalker (movie review)

I'm risking writing about a movie I've not seen in decades, believe I saw only once, and which made quite an impression.

With the benefit of hindsight, I'd compare it with Blair Witch, but not because they're "the same" or anything.

I like empty industrial wastelands, a chief attraction in Jersey City (many a late night meander, train hunting and such (nothing too dangerous)). The stalker's work in the Zone helped capture that for me.

OK, now I should go order the sucker on Netflix, returning Princess Bride, which I checked out because Cousin Mary was really up on her Andre the Giant lore, which I also study, especially through the art work of creative genius Shepard Fairey.

Monday, October 01, 2007

At the Dealership

Once at the Ecomotion dealership, I gravitated to the electric ATVs, babbling about Project Earthala and how we'll need ten of 'em.

Of course I hadn't thought it all through. Recharging from what power source again?

Yes, I'm a little shocked at how immature Earthala still is, my high tech XRL showcase, somewhere in the Oregon high desert.

You'd think, with all the storyboarding and ToonTown nearby...

But then I remember: North America inherited the dregs of Europe to start with, kind of like New Zealand and Australia did. Dump all the basket cases on indigenous peoples, make 'em their problem (a pretty cruel policy).

The USA was right from the onset swarming with maladapted religious crazies and the like, not geniuses most of 'em, like those Nation Builders like Franklin (none left like that I don't think -- an extinct species).

So I cut 'em some slack (and pray the Russians aren't likewise this stupid).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lampoon Harpoon

Margo Guryan/"16 Words"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Coffee Shop Blogger

Per Abraham Maslow, if truly wishing to be money-minded, we should quantify all the "intangibles" as income, such as sitting in a coffee shop in Portland, getting some work done via the free wifi.

That's worth an extra ten grand a year in the form of "cool working ambience."

In exchange for all that extra compensation, I should feel motivated to tackle some hard tasks, like test driving Python 3.0 alpha.

Except it's almost mindlessly easy to download and untar the tarball, run configure, make, make test, sudo make install, so that really doesn't count (tests still running).

Ah, here we go:
Python 3.0a1 (py3k, Sep 19 2007, 20:25:27)
[GCC 4.1.2 (Ubuntu 4.1.2-0ubuntu4)] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
However, I do do harder tricks too, in exchange for this cushy Portland-based lifestyle.

Don't think I'm not appreciative.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tinkering with Tink

Long time fans of this blog know TinkerBell is my bicycle (and Razz is my car).

The name TinkerBell is humorous in at least two dimensions:
  1. I have a retro dino bell on my handlebar that tinkles;

  2. Tinker Bell is a cute pixie elvynchyk (fairie, whatever) from Disney lore whereas the bicycle is more like a Clydesdale (Elise: Friesian), industrial strength and heavy
So for the last couple days I've been wondering why turning the wheel to the left makes everything seize up -- good way to pitch forward.

I wheel it all the way to my favorite shop on Belmont for expert advice.

Ah, says the man, who knows his business, the front wheel is already spun round 360 degrees, and a left turn is pushing to even more than 360. The brake cable doesn't like it.


Problem fixed, no charge.

Suitably humbled, I ride her home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More Ethnography

Cued by some posts to Synergeo, I found this September 7 post in the blogosphere attributing a theory to Bucky Fuller, I think correctly (cite Barry Farell, Playboy interview, 1972 and/or Synergetics Dictionary, Volume 2, pp. 229-30), the theory being that homosexuality is another way to separate sexuality from baby-making, in turn a response to adequate populations levels, and/or overcrowding.

That's no reason to view homosexuality as pathological (the way some cultures view it). "Adequate population" might also mean at the tribal or village level, i.e. "a full krew."

I posted some more thoughts along these lines (Synergeo #35751):

Re: R.B. Fuller On Homossexuality [sic]

> > the behavior of all other living things when their population gets
> > too high. To put it in non-scientific terms, God made gay people
> > in order to save the world from uncontrolled population growth.

Re: R.B. Fuller On Homossexuality [sic]

Not sure what's your spin. I disagree with the above "too many" reading, i.e. a civ with plenty of same-sex could just as well be "just right" in the eyes of beholders, including of heteros like me -- a judgment call, with theirs being a call to less fun. I never read Bucky's quotes as condemning or holier than thou in this respect (in other contexts, he breathes fire).

Anti same-sex coupling is more of that self-righteous puritanical crappola that says no one should actually act out the stuff I only dare to imagine. Very hypocritical, when you consider no one gets hurt if truly consenting real adults are at play (misanthropic to deny them creaturely comforts). Happy campers are generally more productive and healthier to boot.

On the other hand, many out there haven't a clue, are dangerous to self and others because unskilled or nefarious. So I'm not saying "anything goes" in my book or that it's wise to be unprotective of self and/or others.

On the contrary, I advocate the propagation of martial arts and personal defense skills, especially for women, who should be prepared to kill if necessary. In this 'Age of the Idiocrats' there's no telling what some morons might try.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mt. Tabor

:: from mt. tabor today ::
I've given myself Mt. Tabor as a "gym option" meaning cycling to the top counts towards my daily fitness regimen. Today the summit was bright and sunny. I napped some, text messaged, and, out of the corner of my eye, watched a beautiful woman pray.

Earlier today I stopped by Harrison Street Studios and flashed my "business card" meaning in this case my 4D Studios page on Myspace (see margin of Grain of Sand). I might be getting some rights to use sound clips by Gadgetto in some of these YouTube or higher rez rich data streams (e.g. my Portland Knowledge Lab pilots).

Over on edu-sig, Jeff Rush has been helping me focus on my uses of FOSS (free and open source development techniques). The MVC metaphor pertains. Sometimes the Model and Controller code might be open, like a registry for doing clinical followup, but the Views are not because the actual data is for internal use.

Moodle itself is open; the contents of moodles may not be.

Later: some gutless wonder banned me from Philosophical Coffeehouse today, an obscure Yahoo Group where I was trying to get some work done. Maybe he's now going through and deleting all my posts. Oh well, I'll write 'em off as first drafts of some stuff.

:: sarah with hexapent ::

Friday, September 07, 2007

More from the Podium

I was somewhat dismayed by the Ralph P. Boas essay.

His sounds like a very insular discipline that is used to monopoly powers, and is therefore corrupt.

Where is the competition for mind share one would expect in a healthy, vital, intelligent economy?

Why should mathematics teachers be exempted from the need to prove relevance, when it's the future survival skills of our children that we're talking about?

I think Haim's solution (to make the commons a mere basic-level sandbox for learning harmless FRP stuff, then taking a sink-or-swim attitude, with stronger families supplementing like crazy from within their religious traditions or whatever) is unnecessarily cruel to those without strong and supportive families (often because of violent upheavals and/or diasporas they had no hand in creating).

Given the Internet, it's pretty inexpensive for Uncle Sam, in collaboration with MIT and places like that, to put state of the art curriculum within the reach of all netizens. No mass publishing, few billboards. Tax paying voters take notice and reward the politicians who apparently have a hand in this Renaissance ("which one is Cicero?" -- confused student whisper).

I'm just glad those bad old days, when mathematicians felt their discipline unchallenged, are pretty much over. We're back to the original design, of the trivium-quadrivium, with philosophy back in the saddle ("'Yee haw' and all that rot, what?" -- UKer with pipe).

Back to work...


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fun Company Party

:: in operations / hr ::