Thursday, July 31, 2008

Exchange Student

Our household just got assessed for an exchange student, and although I displayed some jerkiness, I think we're still on the books as potentials. She'd be going to Cleveland, like Tara, but a senior, from China. We shall see.

Anna Roys has been showing a lot of determination in the face of adversity, in trying to perform her duties within the TECC service area, TECC being her proposed school, mentioned in my Chicago talk briefly.

As a homeschooling mom, she has the right stuff to make it happen, but it takes more than one principal to make a play. Gotta have thespians, co-stars, including in those nebulous realms.

I've been sniping amidst Quakers regarding this "overpopulation" meme some still bandy about somewhat unthinkingly, betraying their schooling in Neo-Malthusianism, popular in 1960s text books, in parallel with Marxism in Eastern Bloc countries.

Given our reputation for scholarship, these reflexes are subject to extinction over time, per Darwinian genetic algorithms, i.e. we're not built to stay stupid, have practices against that. It's not that overpopulation can't be a problem, with any species, it's the level of malign neglect people use it to justify, as if wasting lives were a solution to anything.

As a Wanderer, I'm into protecting the good name of both of these gents (Darwin's too) which means not letting their necessarily time-bound snapshot views get blamed for the cruft of the ages, much as Nietzsche gets blamed for Nazi propaganda (he had nothing to do with that).

That pleasant naturalist and journal keeper who visited the Galapagos had nothing to do with any War Against the Weak either.

But I digress.

This isn't a plan to implement immediately, as Tara's room is undergoing remodeling and Carol's office is in business 24/7, like mine down the hall. No spare digs at the moment, plus we might need to travel more before school starts again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mining Cartoons

These cartoons from the late 1950s provide anthropologists with a goldmine.

[2019 -- cartoons redacted]

In the first one, you've got the beatnik wild man stereotype, the temptations of an evil weed. Our krew fits right in, cartoon figures that they be.

In the second one, you have Dishonest John, the tricky dick operator, slick oil man, or "cloaky Victorian" as Willow (a TV witch) might put it, with more allusions to counter-culture beatnikery, in turn affiliated with "modern art" ala cubism, plus "unintelligible" amplified music.

Within the Fuller School, we tend to regard beatniks as prototypical in their fight against "squares". That's because Bucky used to hang out in Greenwich Village with Noguchi & Co., getting loud in bars, until he decided to "dress like a banker" and/or "storekeeper" (so people would take him more seriously -- fashion matters, they say). Plus he was into triangles, not squares, and tetrahedra, not "qyoobs" so heavily.

My thanks to Alan on Synergeo for his scholarship.

Friday, July 25, 2008

FOSS on Radio

I tuned to KOPB 91.5 FM on the living room stereo for this one, booking the 9-10 AM time slot (it's a family room I share).

The level of fluency was very impressive all around, with only a few balkings at buzz words, like when that one caller was exulting about his "Python hooks to Apache".

The "green architecture" caller might want to check into Google's Sketchup, one of those "secret sauce" free applications, in a mix with other free open source software (FOSS) ingredients.

Much of the focus was on our rapidly morphing demographics, the changing collective face of geekdom. We're not losing core committers necessarily, but it's in the very nature of this business to encourage broad participation, to leverage those invaluable "network effects".

Sometimes it's just a matter of networking with other talented individuals with a shared agenda, and mastering existing tools.

Other times, you might get support from a proprietary vendor looking for ways to give back, not by donating the whole kit and caboodle necessarily, but by slicing off a piece of cake -- often the same one taken in-house for enhancements.

As one of the interviewees well explained, businesses will freely enhance tools, even in ways that help competitors, if this doesn't erode other strategic advantages they may have. For example, Intel isn't in the operating system business, so supporting Linux is a way to stay focused on making chips, not wasting energy on investments peripheral to its own core area of expertise.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Source Databases

I'm listening to an illustrious panel of database experts, many of them with much experience in proprietary realms (Oracle, Sun... Autodesk).

History: Ingres and Sybase inherited from "open source" BSD research (not called that back then). Sybase later sold its code to Microsoft. The point: databases had open source beginnings. IBM's code, in contrast, was always closed source and never went anywhere or progressed more slowly as a consequence.

The free and open exchange of ideas, and code, is what spurs innovation (it's dangerous to not avail of this in many cases, if expecting to stay competitive). Open source folks were fastest in adopting open GIS-related standards.

CouchDB is more focused on the commodification of server farms and hearkens back to node-based architectures (I'm thinking of Mumps). Web services like EC2 have become a platform for open source databases. SimpleDB is Amazon's solution for running atop its S3 web service.

The newer generation is making better use of pre-existing standards (e.g. http), not investing in one-of-a-kind inhouse protocols. There's more than just lip service in favor of interoperability these days. The USA's DoD is moving towards open source, increasing demand.

Autodesk guy: the future is where big data stores come over the web and mix with local stuff. Semi-structured data, semi-structured searches... these are cutting edge areas.

Sun guy: "All open source databases suck at blobs" (large binary files -- like entire DVDs). He also worries MapReduce is "anti-green" in terms of rack space required, kilowatts per hour and so on. Maybe the optimization literature isn't getting applied, in favor of mere brute force solutions? Other experts in the audience weren't so sure (apples & oranges?).

What's the difference between a filesystem, database, and version control system anyway? Databases are on top of a filesystem, more CPU intensive. Versioning systems tend to not use relational databases, but why? Subversion uses SQLlite. The database might be for metadata...

I asked about user friendly front ends, like Microsoft Access, which write the SQL for you, based on drag and drop, filling in forms and so on. There's nothing quite like that in the open source world, and that's a frustration for people wanting to start small medical databases on desktops, and incubate them without bothering the IT department.

Panelists mostly agreed that these front ends are hard to develop and in short supply. In the old days, SQL itself was envisioned as the user-friendly front end, but it's not taught except in a few majors, such as finance. Steve reminded me that OpenOffice has some tools along these lines -- we did some testing over the break, just for kicks.

Speaking of front ends, my next session for today was Stupid Django Tricks (except they didn't seem stupid). Django is one of the Python flagships for writing web applications, also a space served by Ruby, PHP, Perl... Erlang.

Then Steve, Duncan and I went to American Cowgirls, close to the convention center, to kill time before Emma Jane Hogbin's talk on how to get more women involved in FOSS. Duncan and I compared notes on Arabic, a beautifully logical language, while I joked with Steve about a credentialing system based on tattoos (use your own imagination).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moblin 2.0

This presentation by Dirk Hohndel from Intel is about a class of new devices now ready for the mass market. We have lots of proprietary ways of doing the software, but to drive innovation and participation, a truly open source approach is the best way to go.

Mark's notion of designing for plugins, making platforms very open (like Mozilla FireFox) is apropos of this discussion.

Moblin 2 (Fedora... Gnome) will be an open stack, i.e. no lock in -- too bad no build platform ready yet (four weeks?). The hope is the community will take ownership and move this project forward, per R0ml's "exceptional software" platform (see below).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More OSCON Keynotes

R0ml Lefkowitz poked fun at the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF), and Rational Unified Process, the this, the that. Fun phrases and namespaces.

eXtreme programming's Kent Beck gives us six phases, ending in death.

  • running code speaks
  • peer review
  • release early release often
  • given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow
  • community matters
  • fail fast
  • always make new mistakes
Quintillian: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, pronuntiatio (Lefkowitz is a fabulous rhetoritician). I call it the Be Do Have projects completion cycle (Urner, GST).

Exceptional Software Methodology:

How gracefully software handles exceptions is what makes it exceptional.

Keep Quintillian's model, but start the circle in a new place:
  • Commit / Update (memoria)
  • Run / Use (Pronuntiatio)
  • Bug Reporting (Inventio)
  • Triage (Dispositio)
  • Integration (Elocutio)
Note we start by "releasing the crap" (whatever you've got, version it, then run / use, collect bugs etc.).

No requirements: because there is no "development" only "maintenance."

Don't lock it up front with "requirements", just let users complain when it doesn't do what they want it to do.

The talk was somewhat tongue in cheek, lots of laughter. Go R0ml.

[ Later: here's Duncan's review ]

damian's impression of r0ml
(click to read talk balloon?)
Damian Conway did not disappoint. His themes interwove, lots of build up, then a really crazy riff on Dirac / Feynman and positronic variables (type pv in his Perl implementation, swimming upstream against the flow of control (going "back" in time)) -- not forgetting Rod Logic (easy links to Gattegno). His send ups of R0ml, Mark, Larry Wall, were both hysterical and highly appreciative. Wittgenstein and nanotubes (the rods) were also prominent.

I'm enjoying the new O'Reilly master of ceremonies this year Allison Randal, an accomplished geek. Nathan Torkington's shoes are big ones to fill (figuratively speaking). Edd Dumbill is co-chair.

OSCON Season

Just to follow up on yesterday's Puttering, I've invested in a new 600W power supply for KTU3 so I might interimly avail of the new KTU4 guts, to wit the ATI Radeon 4850. No rush though, shipping ground.

Back Stage has this great mural, where Patrick, Steve and I had our beers yesterday.

I picked up with Steve Holden and Duncan McGreggor where we left off, retrieving them from the coffee shop inside the Ecomotion electric car dealership on Sandy, where both were connected to wifi. I showed off "my" fleet of eATVs, like the ones we'll need for our call center ecovillage.

We sampled our local Indian buffet (Indian as in India, where Duncan had studied with some with Tibetan trainers that time), Glenn Stockton joining us, with a review of the Shuttleworth meetup @ Mission Theater last night.

So what's up with the CBS News podcasts @ Apple iTunes these days?

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm back in the saddle (new office chair, from Office Depot), reconnecting with my Portland matrix after a few days in Corvallis.

Nick is heading the other way, having tended to the flora and fauna in our absence. I took him to Fry's in Wilsonville so he could check out the latest in tiny laptops, maybe for a next Europe trip, and so I could begin acquiring parts for KTU4, a next office monster (plus I bought a Cosair flash drive, 4 GB, for just $23).

Today's big investment: a Diamond branded version of ATI's Radeon 4850, 512MB etc., sold at a discount, plus rebate (about $150 all told). My bookkeeping and other projects will be happier with more throughput.

Why not just use the PCIe slot in KTU3 you may ask? Well believe me I thought of that, but this lower end HP Pavilion a1630n has only a 300 Watt power supply with no PCI power connector. So for now I'm sticking with Nvidia GEForce 6150 LE, the mobo chipset, running at 85 hertz. Should I get a PCI power adapter and try the new ATI anyway? A new power supply might be a better idea.

The annual open source circus is in town (OSCON) meaning people to see, parties to join.

:: Anna and Inanna (cool hat) ::
Later: I had a good time showing Steve Holden around Hawthorne, including the Linus Pauling House, where I introduced him to Patrick Barton. Steve and I then joined Andy Baxter (with Google Australia), Duncan McGreggor (divmod) and the Martelli family (Anna, Alex and Inanna) for excellent food at the Montage Bistro, 301 SE Morrison. Good call Alex!

Don and Glenn went to hear Mark Shuttleworth's talk; I'm looking forward to their reports, plan on catching his keynote tomorrow evening.

Friday, July 18, 2008

More Explorations...

NPYM Friends have been generous with their scholarship, helping me develop my story a little more.

Jane, formerly a Unitarian, was familiar with the Transylvanian origins of that sect, a near neighbor of our own Friendly universalist blends.

Eugene suggested researching NeoPlatonist Friends, Isaac Pennington and Anne Conway in particular. This helps with my Synergetics thread (a transcendentalist work).

excerpt re Bucky, NYT, April 5, 1963, pg. 33
On the dystopian -- utopian spectrum, where do Quakers position themselves I wonder, both individually and corporately? That's a query to keep looking at, as there's a sense of wavering, adjusting, within each scenario.

Authoring dystopian science fiction (like 1984, like Clockwork Orange, like Brazil) doesn't mean you're committed to bad dreams coming true. On the contrary, we may use these dark and twisted fantasies to sort through pressing puzzles of the day i.e. this may be time in the simulator well spent, in many cases.

Jim gave me some pointers over a game of ping pong. He was born in an internment camp run by Japanese, in Baguio, a favorite getaway for my family in later years, when based in Metro Manila (Magallenes Village, Makati).

A few Friends and I enjoyed flipping through the art books I brought along, including The Bobliographon (ISBN 1560259396), and Obey: Supply & Demand, The Art of Shepard Fairey (ISBN 1584232447), some other gems.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Together Friends

I've elected to join the Convergent Friends discussion, ongoing these days within the blogosphere, with what I'll call my "Together Friends" -- a trope or literary figment, usable in spoofs.

Together Friends, somewhat hypothetical and/or fictional (or shall we say incredible), really do have their act together, and make the rest of us feel like bozos in contrast.

We tell stories and jokes about Together Friends with the aim of spurring ourselves towards higher levels of performance in our faith and practice as Quakers.

For example, one might say "Together Friends already have an online database of thousands of outstanding vegetarian recipes suitable for feeding large groups; just put in the number to be served, and get a list of ingredients."

That sounds way more together than most Friends I'm aware of, but is maybe "convergent" in the sense of holding out an ideal we might agree upon as worthy.

Or, if we disagree on a projected practice, then we have something to chat about, another way of exploring our differences, our relative biases.

Together Friends know geodesic math and how to use it. Do we agree? If not, then why don't we?

Speaking of vegetarian recipes, here's a family favorite from the late Teresina Havens, a Together Friend, which scales to mass quantities.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WRDL: Bizmo Diaries

click here for the applet

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bead Show

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some Quaker PR

Background Reading:
Quaker Politics
Homeward Bound
Adult Education

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Wild West Biz

A twosome in a bizmo might logically rotate as pilot and co, but when you have bigger teams, roles further differentiate, into navigator, camera crew and so on. Sometimes the bizmo mixes in with other vehicles i.e. the caravan isn't one-to-one with circus positions and/or the talent occupies dual roles (even more in some castings).

Given the Native American connotations, we like the word "chief" a lot, so CEO, CFO, CTO and CSO (chief security officer) make a lot of sense, even for non publicly traded companies.

When Quakers aggregate in their Monthly Meetings, they're expected to map to legal state boilerplates for non-profit religious corporations, meaning one needs to name officers, with the bylaws being essentially the F&P (Faith & Practice) i.e. Quakers' way of doing business, which is all about doing business, per the Meeting for Business, or M4B (another form of M4W).

By the same token, we're happy with the word "deputy" as it has that old timer Wild West ring to it, kinda Don Knotts in flavor (kinda comic).

You'll find many companies with a Deputy CEO if you Google, with the acronym DCEO sometimes used.

Some picture server is down @ Google today (~ 11:45 am PDT), messing up these blogs. I joined a group discussion about it, OK fixed.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Pseudonymizer

Since I was through Centralia today, I got to thinking of last year's BarCamp (alpha version) twixt medical and geek participants (very prototypical, no press releases).

When working for a local clinic through Free Geek, our very security conscious staff wanted to obey HIPAA to the letter, meaning no confidential patient info should leak off premises.

On the other hand, we needed realistic test data with which to develop our application (an upgrade of SQL Clinic, migrating it to more object-oriented Perl, Naked Ape the lead contractor).

Likewise, doctors need to swap case histories in vast numbers, but without compromising patient anonymity.

Enter the pseudonymizer: a program able to synthesize fake identities on a massive scale, in order to give thousands of cases legitimate cover within microseconds.

The case info remains intact, as statisticians need to know actual age, sex, body weight, risk factors and so on. But if someone left a laptop on the train, with all this valuable outcomes research info, it'd be untraceable to real individuals.

I've looked through some literature and see modest use of this term "pseudonymizer" for roughly similar purposes, although not with reference to HIPAA in particular.