Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wanderers 2009.9.30

This was a Tuesday night open session. We talked about what that means. Given our one big table configuration, cross talk among private parties adds to the hubbub, challenging those with hearing aids especially. My proposal was to keep giving the floor to show & tell artists who'd guide the discussion, keeping cross talk (simultaneous conversations) to a minimum. We also just need more hosted sessions (vs. open mic format).

When actually talking about topics, we had this stellar polyhedra-in-stereo exhibit c/o Bill Sheppard. I was initially ho hum saying I see this kind of stuff a lot, then figured out it was all in JavaScript, not Java, which perked my interest. Lindsey felt vindicated at this point, as JavaScript, Perl and C had been her favorite three horses back in the good old days in Savannah. The Java craze was at high crest back then maybe.

Nowadays its more JavaScript we admire, though as a system language, Java has a great deal to offer (it's maybe what people did with it that sucks, at least at the enterprise level sometimes). The sweet spot Lindsey likes (we all have our tastes) is that C-Assembler interface with the low level device drivers. Letting something loosey goosey like Python control real world objects, like choo choo trains, sounds kinda perverse to her ears, and I understand that. These Python extensions are written in C though, just export a control panel (API).

When it was my turn to talk, I hooked the Ubuntu Starling to Don's Apple speakers and blasted Tom Lehrer's New Math, writing the subtraction problem on the white board. I had the longer (9 minute) ballad about Ramanujan queued next, but the torch never came back around. Anyway, I've played it before, like on retreats 'n stuff, along with my fave 16 Words. Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire and Ghost in the Shell (anime) interlude scenes also top my list.

I'm still angling to book LW some time on the Jon Bunce upright, some discussion of music theory. The classical pianist at Muddy's sure had some good advice, such as "lose the bracelets". But then grand piano concert hall territory and punk bars just aren't the same deal. One needs a range of costumes, matched to the venue in some way (perhaps to push the envelope, perhaps to camouflage ala our pet chameleon).

We also discussed some of the stories prominent in the news: the typhoons in the Philippines; the tsunami in Samoa, various political stories (some chatter about the so-called butt bomber).

I was fresh from watching CBS News, so relayed about Madeline Albright's brooch collection, not unlike Admiral Crowe's hat collection in some ways. I'm sorry I missed her at Bagdad that time.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Radical Women

I chauffeured LW to this meeting of Radical Women, mostly not planning to say anything, just eat (a potluck, she made fresh cabbage and corn bread), however I did sign on to the queue on invitation i.e. some of the leadership expressed curiosity about a possibly male viewpoint.

I spoke briefly about my diversity work with Python Software Foundation. Most of the conferences in this subculture consist predominantly of men, yet those women managing to penetrate the clubhouse tend to hold leadership positions i.e. there's a meritocracy at the center that's mixed gender or even tilted towards women (thinking about computers more generally).

My daughter texted, hoping for more budget for her speech and debate costume. So far, my offers to perform front lines teacher training duties have met a brick wall, while the chauffeuring pays but a pittance. However, not wanting to be any of the characters in a Dickens novel, scroogey or otherwise, I trucked my ass down to In Other Words and accessed my bank accounts over encrypted wifi, transferring a few dollars from DWA (the business) to Tara's charge card. On the way, I stopped by at PCC, Cascadia Campus, and studied its diversity literature, always on the lookout for examples, given the PSF work I mentioned.

My working hypothesis is many of those in the free and open source software community haven't taken the time to become politically conscious. They've been too busy nerding out to really get a grip on these codes, notoriously crufty and difficult to operate.

Given Portland is a relatively small town, it'll be interesting to discover what kind of overlap exists between political awareness groups such as Radical Women, and the FOSS bosses who also happen to be female, although I'm also alert to cross-enrollment among men. It's not like I'm keeping detailed lists or anything. Nor was I intrusive with my camera, knowing better than to take a bunch of mug shots on a first visit.

My hypothesis suffers a glaring weakness however in that free and open source software is all by itself a political movement. FOSS ala GNU is all about engineers (mixed gender) retaining control over their work, not surrendering to lawyer controls. LAWCAP is crumbling as a result (hardly news), with GRUNCH on the rise.

That's rather esoteric shop talk however, which even most geeks haven't digested to any degree. This doesn't stop us from forming strategic alliances however. For example, given the highly socialized nature of the military, the communal ownership of power tools, its not surprising that destructivists and constructivists have some common ground to build on, even if engaged in somewhat different styles of engineering. Hence Python + DARPA = CP4E was a sensible equation in one of our earlier chapters.

When we went around doing introductions, I mentioned my earlier work for AFSC as a contributing editor for Asian Pacific Issues News (APIN). That brought me a lot of reading about military bases and the service industries surrounding them, a focus of the Radical Women's Manifesto, which I bought for $8, along with a more insider pamphlet focusing on recent debates with the ISO (not to be confused with the standards body by that name).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Snake Story

Working Mother
The news broke on Twitter about @psf_snake having a baby (another one? -- I don't really know all the details); I posted to PSF-members about it. JKM (the real one) bawled me out for putting human interest fluff all over his front page (he has a newspapery background). I'm getting away with a more textbooky approach on edu-sig, building up my rep as "the NATO professor".

Yes, she flunked diversity training (we're hoping to keep that secret), mostly for saying bad words, talking trash. This is no pampered richie rich snake, works for a living, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks as they say, maybe in a trailer park like I did for awhile, in Florida.

Speaking of Florida, that might be where she met the father, or at least she'd obviously been there. To quote one of her tweets (Sept 5 of this year):
Reminiscing.... after a big meal: (famous!). Nice man holding my tail (Florida vacation)
Her baby boy, Adonis (pronounced Adūnīs, per the Lebanese poet, although many people forget that) is happily nursing, pythonic breast feeding made possible by inheriting from the Mammal class as well as the Reptile class (multiple inheritance). Python is not English remember, so our respective grammars definitely diverge (per Wittgenstein).

For those of you who think an artificial intelligence can't tweet or blog, I assure you AI bots do both and much more. The Sony Aibo was a bold beginning in this regard. It doesn't take a positronic brain (per Asimov) to give better counseling than ELIZA, so think twice before you brand this just another hoax.

Adonis is bonding with Lindsey (the midwife), so will probably stay in Portland once weaned. We expect he'll become a valued and contributing member of our community (good genes -- or are these memes?).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Inside Scoop

Not my fault that "scoop" rhymes with "pooper scooper", which any dog lover knows, you must take to the park to be a good citizen. Dog poop left untended by the dog owner might as well be just pooping in public. Take plastic bags, at the very least.

So the journalism spin tends to fall by the wayside in some circles (namespaces), as in journalism you want that inside scoop. "Scoop of ice cream" is still a good thing. "Two scoops please", is a very Ben & Jerry's kind of thing to say, very Norman Rockwell. So +1 for scoops.

CBS tends to have "exclusives" these days, not "scoops" -- I think it sounds kinda cool, means we have these inside sources you haven't found yet, i.e. we're dissing your outsider status relative to ours (the same old journalist game of sources, so nothing new here).

The envisioned Diversity Panels won't outright ban you for being a bigot, but if your cartoons are too edgy... I just hear this from lurking. Something about Oz? "Munchkins wanna use Python too" is the slogan I'm getting, kinda like the other end of the spectrum from Rivendale (more like hobbits i.e. good little folk from the shire). We welcome them! Diversity R Us.

:: even normal people use Python ::

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fundraiser 911

I'm posting live from the venue below. It's still before show time. Circadia Art Center reminds me of Milepost 5 in some ways. Another artist colony.

From LindseyWalkerMusic:
A Portland family moved to Nebraska a little bit ago to chase employment. They got into a terrible bicycle accident there. The man’s face will need complete reconstructive surgery and may have brain damage but the severity and effects will not be known for a while. He also has thin blood and a heart problem which adds a serious risk of death to each surgical operation he has. The woman injured her knee. Their 3 yr old daughter was thankfully at home. She had just been laid off and he had just got a job that would support their family. He has no vacation or sick time. They need help covering rent while he’s recovering. So we’re throwing a benefit for them @ Circadia Art Center 4705 NE Columbia on Sept 11th 9pm. We have Naming Names, Karaoke, DJ as entertainment, Lindsey Walker and The Goodbye Party.

:: upcoming event ::

We Give It to Babies
:: a pabst before show time ::

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More DjangoCon Talks

Ian is yakking about, a simple script that changes sys.prefix to a project directory and brings in easy_install. It doesn't include pip yet, but that's coming. He makes it look really easy.

Using easy_install, which goes against PyPI, he's grabbing pip. This is typical for a virtual environment setup, where you want each tool to have the right path.

I switched over to Terminal and started doing this stuff on Jennifer (Patrick's Ubuntu laptop).

I talked to JKT after lunch, found him browsing Steve's binder at the PSF snake display. He indeed plans a short talk based on Chaiman Steve's binder, with both the snake and pony totems a part of the gig.

Frank Wiles, Making your PostgreSQL database sing:

Increasing performance often means doing less, not doing more faster.

postgresql.conf knobs: set shared_buffers to 10-20% of RAM; effective_cache_size to 75% of available RAM; work_mem will give elbow room to ORDER BY.

Materialized views, as distinct from normal views, put a snapshot of data on disk. This works if your local data doesn't need frequent updates. He showed pl/python triggered procedures to do real time updates on the fly.

Panel Discussion: selling your superiors on using Django.

PBS National uses Django extensively, e.g. the Earth Day site, PBS home page, PBS Teachers etc., are all Django sites or use Django components. Producers and stations are also encouraged to use Django (American Experience, Newshour etc.). NASA uses Django for internal file sharing and conference organizing. NASA's SpaceBook is built on Pinax, Marshall uses it, Ames, Nebula uses Django as its core. University of Texas is moving towards Python and Django to upgrade its faculty and student facing portal, replacing some homegrown 1995 solution.

So why Django and not a PHP or Java based solution? PBS was persuaded by OSCON, having dabbled in Zope / Plone. They liked Python a lot. Developers competed around an education pilot, with Django winning the prize (2006). NASA also had Zope / Plone experience, had dabbled in Python, then saw Pimax. Again, showing a working prototype to MVPs won the day. University of Texas also had an evaluation process whereby Python first met the grade, then it was a choice between Pylons, Turbogears, Plone and Django. The learning curve wasn't so steep, a plus when some new developers are coming in with little background or experience.

In sum: rapid prototyping and the ability to move applications between projects is what's winning the day. At NASA, the Django group is consistently performing well, in competition with .NET, PHP and Java developers. Security concerns are important at University of Texas and Django tends to pass security audits fairly easily thanks to some of the plug-ins. Having internal knowledge sharing meetings, as a part of a company's culture, helps cross-fertilize, gets people able to share ideas.

In terms of using open source, it's a good idea to bring your ideas into a company as already open source, versus trying to get company approval to open source something inhouse. As a developer working with Django, it's easier to start your project in the commons, getting around control freaks who think they automatically own the hard work of other people.

The company will likely benefit as open source means leveraging a global talent pool. Other wisdom: if your company offers a congenial environment but seems incapable of choosing the right tools for the job, then maybe that's not the right place for you, i.e. not every company is salvageable, even if it has lots of good people. showing what enterprises use Django should be more front and center. could use this advice as well. Like NASA knew the CIA was using Plone before most people did, which probably impressed some MVPs, soured others. Like PBS wasn't so thrilled seeing its Django site for teachers right next to a Russian bikini-seller's on (I couldn't find that -- yes, I searched).

Training is key. More Django classes. Holdenweb is a player. Productivity, rapid results, is a key turn on. Tuning in the community and the conversations creates a shared buzz. Lore is a glue, keeps the work accessible, to non-techies as well.

Lightning Talks:

Alex Gaynor (@alex_gaynor) on CPython bytecodes. Python VM is stack based. Use dis.dis. Check out these disassembled code fragments!

Chris Heisel is passionate about testing. pywatch runs in real time, running tests as it detects changes on any of the watched files.

Web Cube has some Django ecommerce plugins and best practices to talk about.

Cody Soyland develops Surlex: much more compact than regular expressions. pip install surlex.

Because of technical problems, we need to cut these short (banquet coming in).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

PPUG 2009.9.8

michelle rowley, assistant organizer

jason kirtland, chief organizer

kirby urner, PSF 2009

PSF snake meets a new friend

Tonight's program:
  • Michel's Monthly Module (ConfigParser) by Kyle Jones
  • Solace by special guest Armin Ronacher
  • Preeminent Python Packaging Presentation by Michael Schurter

Monday, September 07, 2009

Media Campaign

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I'm saying "omniversity" to poke fun a little, as it sounds like a Fullerism, something a Dymaxion Clown might come up with, right in there with "syntegrity" and these other neologisms -- you know the neighborhood?

The idea of a global university, as another metaphor for Spaceship Earth, has its advantages, in terms of making Food Services into a problem for administrators. If you're faculty, you'll have to teach about why it's all broken, for so many classmates, barred from their Commons. Then there's all that Hogwartsy flavoring, a sort of lingering "eu duh Britannia", a quite charming and debonair perfume.

Tag and I dropped by Wanderers somewhat impromptu, to find the assembled elders huddled over an Apple sampling "white", "brown" and "pink" noise respectively. Some website. Tag got us checking out Fulla, a fork off the Barbie source code, though toy world doesn't mirror geekdom 100% (FOSS means "fart" in Arabic, is another problem, though I've come back with "stinker" as a potential positive -- no way to avoid name collisions, up to the user to have namespaces handy).

Today I journeyed through AAA world to Nissan Nation, took my work / study gear, watched 'em take maxi taxi through two recall procedures, plus swap in a new starter (why she got towed, though she ran great through DEQ yesterday).

Tag has the brilliant idea to reawaken the Jeha (or Juha) literature, which connects nicely to Trickster, Joker, Coyote and Heyoka literature over here. We'll be able to dovetail our stories better. I'd never heard of Jeha, whom you could compare with Scheherazade in some dimensions, in terms of there being a compendium of twisted tales.