Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend: In popular culture, USAers take trips, connect with family, sort stuff out. About 4.4 million were expected to engage the airlines system this year. That's like a large city, squeezing through high speed tubular networks, riders in the sky.

If you don't take a trip, you just sort of camp out and BBQ in the backyard. The idea is to express a fondness for a way of life, and to acknowledge the price some have willingly paid to protect that for us, to express gratitude.

Of course the whole psychology is twisted if you're believing in empire and thinking the enslavement of the people isn't going well, or whatever cocktail chatter. But fortunately the USA was premised against empire, wasn't going to go the way of Rome this time. Checks and balances were put in.

However, in the shorter term, one Memorial Day is not a carbon copy of the next. The national mood and/or thought process continues to update, however quickly or slowly.

Our family was in the stay at home camp and engaged in the ritual in-taking of movies. The freedom to make these big movies is also perhaps to die for, and we enjoy taking them in. Yesterday it was Pirates of the Caribbean, Third Part.

The movie opens with a spy kid in the gallows, singing defiance, a regimented army of cocksures in control. We all shared a fondness for the Calypso character. I liked the recursive metaphysics involved in sending Davy Jones to his locker (i.e. "slaying death"). I also liked the "too many Sparrows" rendition of an eternal holding pattern, I thought an allusion to Depp's other role as the chocolate guy.

My day: Trevor and I cycled from his place to mine, then by the Stark Street Meeting House, where remodeling is happening, ending up at Sam's Hollywood Billiards for brunch. Then I pushed on alone to Chris and Larry's, for a bike ride out to Troutdale airport, where Larry got to fly in the simulator for a little while while Chris and I watched and asked questions (he's trained there before).

For no apparent reason, Tinkerbell and I fell into a shrub at the airport (add ironic Rocky theme music). Extrication was difficult and I did something weird to my left handlebar gear control in the process, such that I had to manually apply torque to stay in third all the way back (about 14 miles). Fortunately, Bike Gallery was still open and was able to fix the problem for $12.

This evening: BBQ with the neighbors.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Aunts & Uncles

clockwise: carol urner, bill lightfoot,
eve and john talmadge, tara urner

Bill and Eve are brother and sister, children of my dad's mom Esther's sister, Elsie Lightfoot of Mercer Island. Eve's other older brothers are Howard, Bo and Eddie. Eve's daughters are Mary and Alice. Bill's son is named Matt. Eve and John live in Bellingham.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Laurelhurst Park

:: kim & jimmy ::

:: the pond ::

:: a denizen ::

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Coffee Shop

So I just went back to Philosophical Coffeehouse, a Yahoo! eGroup, to queue another posting.

I'm really in a commercial coffee shop today.

I'm feeling penitent for having zoned my own home a coffee shop (a home where I drink coffee) just so I could relax my religious practice for this eGroup, of only posting to it from a bona fide coffee shop.

There was some moral laxity there, if you ask me.

Johnny Stallings swept through, updating me on T.S. Elliot's view of Walt Whitman, WW's relationship with Emerson, other stuff. This was pursuant to a conversation with Sam in the high desert, about his own poetic influences.

He drove off with Nick just now, Johnny did, having left a flyer with the barista (see above).

Earlier, using my cell, I transacted an Amtrak ticket for Nick, who is eying SUNY Oswego again this year, having just returned from Toronto, Ireland, Berlin, the southern coast of France, other places. Quinn might get back to me with the $44 but I'm in no rush on that score.

The pixel fault in my Olympus Stylus 720 SW was fixed and returned under warranty. I've returned the earlier model Stylus to Tara, who'd kindly let me shoot with it in the interim.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Newest Family Member

:: baby naga ::

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Class Notes (session five)

:: student work ::

I solved the PSU parking garage puzzle only to have the login puzzle dog me in class. I solved that too, by starting from the bottom of my list and initializing new, unused accounts.

In addition to showing some animations, I gave a short lecture on vector algebra, focussing on the difference between left and right handed XYZ, and four vector ops: __add__, __neg__, __sub__ and __mul__ (note Python __rib__ syntax). See my CP4E write-up for more context.

On behalf of Saturday Academy, I handed out certificates of completion, with sa: staff coming by to collected the confidential student evals.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


:: detail ::
:: cutting the cake, llysa observing ::
* HB2M = happy birthday to me

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Class Notes (session four)

design pattern: model, view, controller
(click for larger view)
I started today's class with a two page handout, and encouraged students to take some notes by writing on the handouts as I explained them.

Our Model is mathematically expressed in terms of vector vertices wired up into faces, per the Polyhedron subclasses. Our Views are VPython's, standing in for a real time game engine, and POV-Ray's, representing a render time ray tracer. Python serves as a Controller, connecting the Model to the Views per user selections.

two views: real time vs. render time
(click for larger view)
Viztoyz and Povtoyz have a lot in common, but are designed as controllers for two different views, a real time and render time view respectively.

Python + POV-Ray
(click for larger view)
I projected from the DVD Animusic 2, including some director's commentary, to demonstrate how render time output might nevertheless by synched with real time music, via some MIDI-to-Machinima API.

I also recounted my role in the Understanding Human Motion project, again helping to suggest how render time animations might be helpful in various kinds of simulation.

parking violation
I keep indulging in this utopian fantasy wherein Saturday Academy instructors are these elite academics with parking privileges in PSU's mostly-empty-on-Saturdays garage (vs. the other one, mostly full). This fantasy has so far cost me $60.

Friday, May 11, 2007

BarCamp Portland

I learned about BarCamp from Jason of Virtuous at the recent Python Meetup. The venue is CubeSpace, a rennovated cube farm formerly a US Bank back office on Grand Avenue.

Barcamp is a somewhat self-organizing investigation into contemporary geek culture.

During networking time, I met up with Marshall Kirkpatrick of Splashcast, and Chris Bretano of Download Squad, who'd actually reviewed Splashcast back in February.

I'm working to syndicate my flickr photos from this evening through a embedded Splashcaster, with Internet Explorer crashing a number of times as the Flash ActiveX object encounters problems.

I also met up with Jeff, Martin and Kevin, young Free Geeks I know from our CollabTech experience with HomeStreet. And with Ki Master George, a talented former student.

:: Portland barcamp 2007 ::

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pixel Fault

I noticed while doing the recent Sky Camp post that the pixel fault in the viewer, a persistent green dot, isn't the only problem with my Olympus 720 SW. I first noticed that flaw when trying to shoot (as in photograph) a racoon ahead of me on the sidewalk, while walking home some candles, which I dropped, breaking 2/3rds of their glass encasements, thereby missing my racoon shot (it scooted away).

But the flaw I've more recently noticed is in the pictures themselves, and that's worth fixing under my soon-to-expire warranty, hence my trip to the UPS Store on Hawthorne just now.

The way to test for a high civilization, fragile, ethereal, is to exercise its circuits, so no, I don't feel "guilty" attending to one pixel among many in my camera, when Darfur so much demands our attention.

That's a false either/or, but does remind me of Princeton's philo guy Dr. Kaufmann, raggin' on Dr. Kant in that lecture, 'cause the latter was supposedly bellyachin' about some exotic chocolates he'd craved that never arrived, whereas what was really goin' on, 'neath the surface, was people sufferin' and dyin' (probably drownin' mostly -- some shipwreck at sea).

I was exulting with my new optometrist the other day about how wise were those Victorians, or whatever we call 'em, for pouring so much intelligence into Optics, such that today we not only have eyeglasses and contact lenses, telescopes and microscopes, but also ray tracers, render farms. Optics was one of those problem domains within reach of that era's materials science. Investing lots of work in a robust and practical theory has paid off many times over, starting with prolonging one's ability to read, even the small print.

And in that tradition, I take my pixel faults seriously. How this culture values its hard won skills and kudos around the Optical Sciences remains a kind of barometer. And it's not just the visible spectrum we care about. The electromagnetic spectrum is a wonderful shared bonanza and Mother Nature doesn't begrudge us our accessing it.

But attentiveness is required, given how we use it in common. We're not supposed to just fall asleep at the switch. So again: let's take our technology seriously enough to attend to it, and keep it in good repair and/or amortize it accordingly, which means to really retire stuff when it's no longer safe to keep it operational -- maybe it has a next life in a museum or something, but don't be afraid to expire what's been on the books for too long.

I'm also having tremendous déjà vu around this whole "return camera to fix pixels" scenario, except I don't think it's déjà vu when it actually did happen, is it? I believe I undertook a similar excercise with the Fujitsu, around two cameras back. I guess I've cared about my pixels for awhile.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Class Notes (session three)

This week's animated short: Code Guardian by Marco Spitoni and friends. This WWII era fantasy features an improbable universe in which AI amounts to more than a hill of beans, plus the Nazis have a hexapent geoscope.

Marco is completely familiar with film's idioms. Close ups of the pilots in their cockpits sometimes include computer generated camera jitter. One point of sharing this was to emphasize how small a talented team, with the right skills, tools and computers, may nowadays create such a meticulously detailed rendering. All you need is a lot of free time, plus it helps to have a day job that you're good at.

Next we looked at Bill Sheppard's several Mandelbrot Set fractal generators, written in assembly language, runnable under Windows. Multiplication in the complex plane bears some relation to working with vectors, with quaternions even more. We'll look at fractals again in a future class.

Then it was back to our shared stash of Python source code, downloaded from 4D Solutions, and more talk of polyhedra.

By default we pass in a prickly sea urchin of radials, vector-spines emanating from a shared origin. The vector tips are the named vertices of our polyhedron, as in the case of the Icosahedron, originally defined by the 12 corners of 3 mutually orthogonal golden rectangles, with edges 1 x phi. Given the vertex-defining vectors are each named, i.e. keyed to strings of letters, we use a Python dictionary to store them.

Then come the faces, described as consecutive vertices going around each, a circumferential network of edges, each defined by two named vector-vertices. We distill unique edges from the face tuples.
The resulting polyhedron needn't be centered around the origin however; adding the same vector to each radial effectively translates the edges (30 in the case of the icosa (remember: V + F = E + 2)), and hence the entire polyhedral wireframe, to surround a different center. The Polyhedron class overloads __add__ to implement translation.

The generic Polyhedron class (from which the specific polyhedra are subclassed), also supports scaling. Each vector gets multiplied by a scalar this time, with the edge topology (faces) remaining unchanged. The Polyhedron class overloads __mul__ to implement scaling.

One classroom challenge was to dig through the documentation to find how to make a scene show up in stereo, given these cheap red/blue frame cardboard glasses I had for each student (answer: pass stereo='redblue' as one of scene2's parameters, in viztoyz).

With class over, I grabbed a few more items at home, then swung by Baibi's to bring her along to NPYM's Spring Willamette Quarterly Meeting at Sky Camp, about 2.5 hours southeast of Portland by car, and where Tara had already gone the night before, with Dave and Jane.

I found Tara with the Junior Friends, playing Shona music on a mirimba.

Related reading: Class 1, Class 2, Python for Math Teachers, Focal Points, Getting Inventive with Vectors

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I visited the Costco nearest the airport (PDX) twice yesterday, the first time to cancel Dawn's membership, the second time to prove my partnership status with Dawn Wicca and Associates (DWA), and start a new membership in my own name with that business, still a going concern (Dawn's membership had been through ISEPP).

Then I went shopping, choosing judiciously I think, resisting temptations (no HDTV today, thank you very much), focusing on prosaic mundane needs, such as detergent, coffee, work clothes... OK, so I got a case of Red Bull, 24 for like $32 (plus cases of Sprite and Thomas Kemper Root Beer for Tara, anticipating summer).

Then I went back to my spring cleaning, between calls for tech support, which I provided.

I've made great progress freeing Dawn's good name from any negative karma in the form of debts. The medical bills are all paid, except maybe one from Apria (still researching). There's still a pair of shoes to pick up.

The home equity line was retired per Dawn's plan, though I'm still slogging through the original mortgage (at least we bought in the Hawthorne District before prices skyrocketed, thanks to Laurie Todd -- we were just renting before).

Today I should visit some clients in person. Sure, we all like to VPN from our coffee shops, but there's no substitute for real face time. I'm not one to just telecommute and never set foot in a place -- a practice which helps keep my client list small, and therefore manageable.

We have a Phase Rule thing going with Naga-the-snake, where I recycled a 10 gallon (37.85 liter) aquarium tank in the garage but skimped on buying a lid (which explains her getting out the other day).

The current theory is poor ventilation made the internal climate too humid, hence the two barfed up mice. We've had her under observation at a more secure facility and hope to have her back shortly.

In the meantime, I have of course upgraded the lid to a world class mesh, providing plenty of air circulation.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wanderers 2007.5.1

James Gardner, one of the original Wanderers, is a big draw tonight. We're packed in around the table, overflowing into the wings. I'm posting via Jennifer, a first.

Jim's book, Intelligent Universe, is a sequel to his Biocosm. He expects to come up with at least one more in the series.

Jim and I agree that we're not just a "carbon based life form" any more, in the sense that our form of life, including our thinking process, requires all this fast acting silicon.
Our version of humanity is already a hybrid of these two elements working in synergy.

But of course that's an oversimplification as well: the whole Periodic Table is expressed through our design. Let's not forget zinc!

It's just that we should acknowledge our tools, including our electronic environment, as a part of our eXistenZ.