Friday, May 29, 2015

Engineering as a Moral Enterprise

As many have already pointed out (including me), having these ISEPP lectures in a beautiful old church with stained glass windows is definitely a plus, given how Science now rules the roost when it comes to being taken seriously.

However, picking up on STEM, and recounting his early experiences tuning in the E-for-Engineering, Terry manages to nudge out Science in place of Engineering in his insider talk, as the most evolved discourse and practice.

His theme is perfect for Silicon Forest, i.e. "ONAMI country" (nano and micro scale work), where people hope we're up to something positive i.e. not just making more WMDs for the world's bonehead military.

Culturally, engineers have tended to have their own schools and then wait for the project to be specified, not entering the process or stoking the pipeline in the early phases, when the jockeying is deemed "too political".

"When you know what design you want for that bridge, come tell us, but don't expect us to decide for you, if it's to be a bridge for cars or just trains -- that's political."  Actually that's urban planning, so engineering of another kind.  Portland's new Tillikum Bridge is nearing completion:  trains yes, cars no.

However, for engineering to see itself as the pragmatic, moral enterprise that Terry envisions, training for engineers would likely need to change.  More history and philosophy of science, intellectual history in general, would need to be infused, not willy-nilly, but with a punch line:  your conscience, which is likewise your intuition, should be fully informed and engaged.

In that vein, Terry tours recent 20th century chapters, most notably the foray into quantum mechanics, which ends up in complementarity, the concept which allows alternative and even seemingly contradictory world views to co-exist and even bolster one another for the greater good of all.  We see the electron as a wave and develop technology X, as a particle and get technology Y, with X + Y = the smartphone in your pocket.

Synergy among complements, versus everyone getting on the same page politically is the key:  dynamic tension, not oppression of some minority by a tyrannical majority.  He's not pushing a Technocracy agenda per se, as there's no assumption of uniformity in outlook, only a multiplicity of complementary outlooks that still need Science (aka "engineering research") for reality checks.

"The US Constitution is an engineering document, an experiment answering the perennial question 'how shall we live'" says Terry.  The very fabric of self government is an engineering enterprise.

Propitiously, the same church was simultaneously serving as a venue for another venerable NGO in Portland:  Sisters of the Road.  The Journeys! Art Festival expresses optimism and the values of community-building.  One of the speakers was Asian Reporter’s columnist and staff member at Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, Ronault L.S. “Polo” Catalani, who has also addressed Wanderers (ISEPP's think tank) on matters of conscience and engineering.

Does all this convergence suggest politicians should be touting their credentials in engineering, including software engineering?  Of course it does.  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Going N8V

If you know I18N ("internationalization") you may see N8V as "native" as in "local to a place".

I've got that going with Casino Math, inheriting from Probability / Statistics but also Ux Design i.e. the aesthetics of game making.

It's one thing to say "it's all footnotes to Bingo" and another to actually craft a quality Ux (user experience).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Xenophobia, Portland Style

thinly veiled boosterism in disguise?  funny anyway...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Disaster Relief

A long running theme in these blogs, you'll find if you go back, is having edge case communities such as R2DToo and Dignity Village, willingly test pilot shelter solutions in a somewhat Darwinian filtering process.

Not every new tent design or lean to is ready for prime time.  But some are.

Glenn got me thinking, as he had an elegant pan deck solution from his Institute for Integral Design.  Just stacking pan deck might be an interim solution, a replacement for corrogated steel, already a staple.

Not pretty necessarily, but able to protect.  Blue tarps aren't that pretty either one could argue.

Dignity Village, which I've dubbed "EPCOT West", is nearer the airport and is where the big Disaster Relief Honchos (MVP women and men) could get a peak.

R2DToo is right downtown, on Bursnide, and could be the site for the new AFSC office, or one of them, if we play our cards right and stay in the relief business.

Glenn is already seeking out John Driscoll, the Architect in earlier posts, to get some professional renderings.  As for having a prototype at R2DToo, that would depend on finding some sponsors.  We shall see.

Relevant acronyms in this namespace:  XLI = "extremely low income"; XRL = "extreme / remote livingry".  You see XRL at base camp in the Himalayas, state of the art.  XLI usually cannot afford XRL, but then who wants to be that remote anyway?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wanderers 2015.5.13

Newar Temple

I'm listening to some well sourced discussion of the earthquakes in the Himalayas.  We've got a speaker who goes there often, did his PhD work there, and is an accomplished Dev Team player, comes to Thirsters.

The police and army came through like gangbusters, on the street within five minutes pulling people out, with sacred sites protected also as a specific goal and task, for rebuilding later, nothing stolen, no souvenirs like in Baghdad.

Government leaders seemed to disappear.  They abandoned ship in some way?  Of course the Internet was down and probably television?  Everyone disappears when the media stops working.  You need trained people on the scene anyway, not just improvs.

The airport was jammed with jets going in and out, huge volume.  Paperwork was a bottleneck as well and only registration was preserved with most customs falling by the wayside.

Tents were pilfered, when still on airport property (not all of them, just a lot).

People need tents so chalk that up to free distribution?  People think "plans" must be followed, because they grew up in environments designed for school children.  That's me having an opinion.

The "most deserving" is always a difficult calculation and people don't always come to the same answers, so you have tug-o-war tensions among families, often characterized as "class struggle" in more superficial analyses.  Not that that's wrong.  At Hogwarts, Slytherin defends itself against the inferior houses, which are class-like in some ways.  Did you say Harry grew a pair of horns?  Hah hah.

We talked about the Newar Temple around the corner, so far spared by the earth's crust shaking, though many say Portland is overdue.

We're looking at a picture of a Gurung in his cape, who plays a role in Gurkha soldiery.  How does the English word "private" translate into many cultures? -- that became a next question.

Dave DiNucci is here, president of Greater Humanists.  We're brainstorming about the house next door, also still standing.

The Gorkha Foundation.  That's the nonprofit this guy supports.  His name is Don.

They work with a hospital, Physicians without Borders and so on.  Tarps, blankets, food, medicine....

Keeping it going over the long haul is the big challenge, after the media goes back to turning a blind eye.

Thinking of Nepal

Monday, May 04, 2015

Open Bastion News

Having relocated here in 2011, Steve Holden is heading back to his native British Isles.  We'll see more of him.  He's load balancing.  That means moving a giant couch down three flights and up two, through twisted topologies.  Like City Museum, St. Louis.  Did it make me smarter?

He grew up sampling Oriental food, lets call it for fun, including Pakistani, any "ani" (Hindustani), in that catch-all.  So Dwaraka has always been a comfort, food from home.  We stuffed ourselves there tonight.

T-minus only a few hours until departure.

I spun up a dyno in Heroku yesterday, with Django both in the cloud and local platform, git going back and forth.  The tutorial walks you through it.  Connect that to this simple model and the API below, and you get the idea (an RFP in the making).

Good job Lew adding that picture of the ESI chapter in meeting house history.  I got to the meetinghouse without taking Claratin first, and paid a high price in terms of sneezing.

:: hanging in Stark Street meeting house, formerly ESI ::

Steve produced quite a few successful conferences.  Djangocons.  Apachecons.  These are not all that easy to pull together and destination hotels appreciate those with a magic touch.   I got to watch over Steve's shoulder on a few of these and learned a lot about that territory.  Steve relied a lot on an Orlando based team for logistics.

I'll be keeping souvenirs from the Open Bastion, which had offices in the same complex and served as summer work for Tara among others.  Steve gave a lot of people interesting rolls, the hallmark of an effective community organizer, geekdom being a community of sorts, if Middle Earth was.  Not always that friendly.

I'm still processing my experiences at the USDLA conference, and my excursion through Earlham.  Future posts will be referring back to those recent times.