Sunday, January 31, 2016

Code School Syllabus

I sent a memo around at work circling this forty-five minute contribution by Derek Banas as an unpretentious quick fly-through of the Python language, minus some bells and whistles like decorators and generators.

Some of those parens might come out i.e. keywords while, if and not are not callables, no keyword is, but that doesn't mean one can't nestle right up against them, parens keeping the object circled.  Two idioms one might say:


What is and is not callable takes some time to sink in.

Good job Derek, slick editing and nice job slicing off a big helping without worrying about wrapping our minds around each and every keyword.  That would come with follow-up clips, now that we've enjoyed a quick intro.

Additionally, I'd like to recommend the clip below for it's well-thought-out and communicated views regarding what languages to tackle in 2016.  A good list to choose from, but there's really no reason to limit the field to ten, other than to keep the attention span of the viewer.  Like, Scala and Clojure are both warming waters I'd add.

Put another way:  there's room for more than one Top Ten list.  This is as good a list as any.  I like having Python in the best technical schools but yet not having to defend the number one position, stressful in any case.  I need to take a look at C++11/14 it sounds like.  Britannica's 11th was one of its best too.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cyberia: A Next Space

I was pleased to watch a goodly portion of this Southern Methodist University professor's lectures, on tap at the local library, Belmont branch.  He builds in the thesis that the easy availability of space for expansion is integral within the American psyche, as he defines it.  How much is that changing now?

Rather than give a facile answer, I do say we need to factor cyberspace into the picture.  The fight for land and property was often to get a bigger soap box and command of push media such as radio and TV broadcasting networks.  The way to have a voice heard was to emulate Hearst or someone equally powerful.  Cyberspace lets the hoi polloi, me one of them, short cut around all that.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.

In other words, I'm suggesting that Cyberia, which Americans (Amerikanskis) helped to pioneer is a factor, that this kind of space is still real.  People wanted a place "one mouse click away", not buried behind a few fat cats, a few hogs.  We're close to getting there.  The URLs are turning our pyramids into local anomalies within the graph, blips on the radar, no long so overbearing or in the way of our having a voice as a people.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

For David Bowie

for David Bowie
:: a little man who fell to earth ::

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Berlin File (movie review)

I chose this pretty much at random from the foreign country shelves at Movie Madness.  I spent probably as much time with The Making Of.

I was maybe curious how a Korean-made film would work with Germany, but it wasn't that hard to make a seamless blend, as Korea, like Germany, has taken the full brunt of the Cold War.

I recall being in Berlin myself when the wall was still a serious obstacle to one's freedom of movement.  Our train from Scandinavia was through East Germany to East Berlin whereas our US passports granted us access to the West.  Dad liked crafting obscure itineraries like that.

Director Ryu portrays a divided Korea fighting a Spy vs Spy war against the back drop of Berlin.  The budget was about $10 million.  It's a full-blown award-winning international action thriller in style, but without the distribution of say a Miramax.  The film was made in 2012 on location (in Berlin) but also in Latvia and Korea.  Getting the weapons to match in all three places was something of an ordeal.

The director imagined the film as contemporary to the point of futuristic by a few years and didn't want any dated ordnance such as Korean audiences were already used to.

As a non-Korean, I miss a lot when it comes to catching any nuances about language and am glad the Making Of movie was explicit about that aspect of the movie. The elite / elitist spies on the North Korean side apparently spoke with an accent that signified their higher social class, reflective of spoiled brats from oligarchical families.

The paradox here is the Communist Republic is ideally class-free (the US value of "equality before the law" i.e no special rights, by dint of birth, is not that different), so having the spies wear their social class on their sleeves, so to speak, made for a more curious effect in the mind of a Korean viewer.

Apparently language usage patterns are by now different enough between North and South, that the South Korean actors found affecting realism a challenge  (the "bad guy" worried about getting it wrong).  Someone in the background was advising for authenticity.

Again, I missed a lot, though I did catch the reference to John le Carré (the book passed between NIS and CIA).  Indeed, towards the start of the film I lost track of who was who at first.

Being a spy requires keeping track of plots within plots, with the story always taking surprising twists and turns.  An inability to either hatch or follow intricate plots is a self-disqualifying trait if you wish espionage as your occupation.  Those eager for such a career path need films like this for practice.

As one of the narrators points out (the director himself as I recall), the story is about people with concealed identities struggling to find their way in a foreign country and getting left out in the cold, as the wheels turning in the home country power centers get out of sync with what's going on in the field.  Heroes are abandoned or betrayed by their own headquarters, a common theme in spy novels.

I was reminded of The Americans, the TV show, because of the married couple under cover.  This Korean couple has given birth to no kids yet however (spoiler alert).  Also, Germany is not as much a direct target of the North Koreans' spying, whereas in The Americans the host country is also the primary country of interest.

I was also reminded of Farewell, for its centering on a Cold War fought by embassies in a European capital, though not Berlin.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

From a Quaker BBS

:: "guilty dog" compilation ::
 Comment by Kirby Urner yesterday on QuakerQuaker, one typo fixed, links added:

I suppose a starting point is to what extent do we think guilt is built-in chemically, like a hormone, versus cultivated as an institution, a complex social practice, like a game.  I know people like to post Youtubes of "dogs looking guilty" however I sense some projection.  I'd say the basis for guilt is in mammal behavior but full-blown guilt is reserved for those with significant linguistic abilities.

In Nietzsche's code of ethics, any grudge-keeping, ax-grinding or resentment of any kind within oneself, is a troubling sign of mental weakness, a loss in personal power, a kind of retardation.  So in Will to Power and other works, the aphorisms and meditations are geared towards stamping out such things, as too base for a true Übermensch or whatever.

This code of ethics later surfaces in the San Francisco-based "est Training" wherein trainees were sternly warned against any "putting up with" or "trying to change".  Guilt came in for a drubbing as something slavers used to deter our exercise of true freedoms -- something like that (I went through a few of these est Trainings in the late 70s, early 80s, including with overseer responsibilities as a Centers Network volunteer -- like with Quakers! -- but each one was different; it's called The Forum today (Landmark Corporation)).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Zombie Dice




Monday, January 11, 2016

Library Science

work / study site (Princeton campus left, Route 1 center, A = where I worked

Sometimes I forget how, over the years, my interest in Library Science has materialized.  I'm remembering sitting in Firestone getting trained in rules for alphabetizing the card catalog.  Reading in Knuth's TAOCP volume 3 brought that back to me; he shows some of the rules applied, for keeping publication titles in sequential order.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Finding books in a library is a skill, not deprecated, even with URIs in the picture.

At Georgetown Library, I filed Arabic language titles back to their shelves, alphabetically.  Yes, I had studied Arabic, but had not learned much more than the alphabet, enough to interpolate book titles.  I've since tried to master Hiragana and Katakana alphabets, associating them with phonemes.  My smartphone helps me.  I'm not that great a student.  Learning languages easily is not one of my gifts.  I've often wondered about what kinds of immersive videos and hands on games might accelerate the progress of an average joe like me.

Wandering through open stacks gives me a charge in some way.  A commercial bookstore like Powell's on W Burnside will do the same.  I'm not talking about mystical healing powers so much as the excitement of cortical matter, or perhaps some glandular elixir is released -- it all depends what section of the bookstore one is perusing at the time, as to the explanation for its galvanizing powers.  I've been an habitual browser of bookshelves and count myself lucky, and in good company, for that reason.  Hypertext aided my browsing with dream-come-true tools (research tools, art supplies, raw "metaphysical materials" -- cyber-stuff -- of many flavors).

So that's at least two jobs in the library.  My time in Firestone might have coincided with my 1985 return to Princeton where I ended up working in a small business back office doing clerical tasks.  H.P. Clayton's on Princeton Square.  Or was that a summer job.  I also worked as a janitor at Forrestal Campus, cleaning up around the Tokamak makers (a fusion reactor prototype; I never saw it assembled just watched workers make parts for it).  Forrestal is close to the main Princeton campus, by car at least, along Route One.  I should Google Earth it.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Eleven Nations


This Voice of America website / blog denied my comment a public presence.

I introduced myself as "third culture" (Rome, Philippines...) and finding America weird, not unlike Portland.

But no one is talking "Civil War" Marcus (real name?) or rather, we Left Coasties aren't trying to start a fight.  Like we won already OK? :-D

As a Cascadian, I was simply grateful for WDC's retreating self-importance.  Why not?  Pacific Rim wasn't born yesterday right?

Anyway, a fascinating discussion.  I'm enjoying the science fiction aspects.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

What is JQuery?

Remember the Browser Wars?

Back in the day, pre Web everywhere, I was typing odd-looking graph theory describing hypertext (the Web) and mailing it to the Library of Congress for some reason.

I was living in WDC and exploring their collection at the time, though it's hardly "open stack" like Firestone (Princeton campus), which would entail more monitoring.  I was galvanized by the idea of hypertext and not having it, felt like a palpable absence.  CERN felt it too.

A lot of us saw hypertext coming over the horizon (Ted Nelson a main avatar), but the devil is in the details, meaning W3C and Mosaic, the first freely downloadable graphical web browser, got the ball rolling on a particular implementation centered around Hypertext Markup Language or HTML.

Netscape followed shortly, with its Mozilla engine (the core of FireFox today) and the Browser Wars had begun, each vying for supremacy, though for what reason?  What was this War all about?

Zooming out even further, these types of wars boil down to whether a lead company or cabal will set the standard, leaving others to play catch-up, or whether a global standard gets established with companies agreeing to write to that standard.

Both patterns make sense, although the latter one sounds less cut throat i.e. more civilized.  But sometimes "groupthink" or "designs by committee" are less than optimum and a pioneering company trail blazes a better way.  More curious things have happened.

JQuery enters the picture when the Browser Wars have mostly ended, with W3C committees having settled the standards all major browsers now follow.  We're in a time of relative civility.

However the legacy of the Browser Wars lingers and JQuery provides a logical layer above the battlefield, masking off some of the scarring inconsistencies.

For example, the JQuery event wraps the original event as an attribute, but for the most part the JQuery user remains blissfully oblivious to browser-specific details.  One ring to bind them all!

However saying JQuery detects and handles events bleeps over its core design, which is to select and filter based on HTML tags, classes, ids, attributes, and then apply changes against whatever crop is harvested.

One might select all paragraphs, or some div with id="special", and then apply new css, such as adding a class attribute, specifically to these elements.

Now, knowing what all that means requires knowing the shoptalk of tags and elements, HTML and CSS, which we may have neglected to consider as part of Language and Communications at the high school level (Unicode etc.).

Our curriculum is full of holes.  Many school systems have promised to address them.  Some will even deliver on their promise.

If you're looking for a fast way into JQuery and have a training budget, I recommend jQuery Essential Training with Joe Marini on  His presentation is well organized, moves at a good clip, and is a great introduction to this JavaScript tool, appreciated by many a web developer.