Sunday, May 29, 2016

EduSummit Thoughts (rant)

I still harbor skepticism that learning to program has anything to do with becoming a professional computer programmer, necessarily.  Not necessarily.

Operating a scientific calculator does not make one a "calculator professional".  Learning to drive does not make one a professional driver.  Learning to program does not mean committing to becoming a programmer.

Learning to program is integral with STEM generally, and with Mathematics (the M) in particular.  Euclid's Method for finding the greatest common divisor is an algorithm, a famous one:


Teaching programming as an after school elective, instead of merging it into the curriculum in satisfaction of mathematics requirements, is just dumb.  Too retro.  Too lazy.

We need math tracks that include programming.  I've been harping on this for years, as a part of some vocal minority that's becoming more of a majority over time.

Yes, schools need to teach typing.  Keyboards are not going away. That's an uber-important skill.  Not just thumbing on a smartphone.

Providing smartphones would make sense though.

Hey, if your school does not include coding as a part of the regular math curriculum, is that OK with you?  Do students have the right to protest?  How about their guardians, do they have a say?  These questions have become political.

Yes, parents need a place to look after their kids during working hours.  That's a primary function of the school system.  Providing a safe, interruption free space to focus and concentrate is not necessarily what today's schools are about.  You may just get a locker, and crowded classrooms.

Studying is difficult in such an environment, if not impossible.  Privileged students have their own rooms at home.  On college campuses, one finds study carrels, often in the library building.

Is mathematics education really happening in your district?  Does at least some coding happen? That's a question worth asking.

This artificial division between "computer science" and "mathematics" in the lower grades (pre-college) is devastating.  We teach "function" and "variable" in two separate dialects (in both algebra and computer science) and then leave it to students to connect the dots as they might (or might not).

Python's top-level functions are pure gold to a math curriculum, as writing functions that take other functions as arguments is core in calculus.  D(f), the derivative function, takes a function f as input and returns another function as output.

Computer languages make such ideas accessible, concrete.  So do we use them?

In an exclusive private school such as Phillips / Andover, those getting a privileged high caliber education might use Mathematics for the Digital Age and Programming in Python (prototypical).

As a society, we're apparently happy to share the new tools with children of the one percent (or less), while leaving the ninety-nine percent to wallow in their intellectual ghetto.  Those seeking greater equality of opportunity might want to pay attention to such inequities?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dog Mountain

:: flowers for Algernon ::

I joined a BSA troop, I forget which number, invited by a scout leader to ascend Dog Mountain, a walk-up on the north side of the Columbia Gorge, between the Hood River and Bridge of the Gods bridges, Bonneville Dam in between.

The trail was well frequented by hikers and is professionally maintained.  The last segment is along a ridge in open flower fields, gorgeous when in bloom.

Returning home, we stopped to purchase some Yakima Nation salmon at $12 per pound.  That may be more per pound than store-bought, but then this is newly-caught never-frozen.

I took a half-gallon plastic jug of Soylent in my backpack, having been advised to pack in all fluid and nutrient needs for a 3.8 mile climb, fairly steep.

Advice:  wear hiking boots in case of muddy patches along the steeper parts, for traction.  Sneakers are not advised, though that's what I got away with.

In coming down, I was using large trees to break gathering momentum, but miscalculated the impact I'd have on one of them, with onlookers present.  My glasses came off when I hit the tree, and in fumbling to pick them up and put them back on I backed over a protruding root behind me and fell on the muddy trail in the downhill direction, over backward and onto my pack.  

The jug of Soylent exploded, but not so much that I didn't get some more mileage out of it.  The cap had come off, emptying much of the content, but once back on, the jug was still usable.

Onlookers wondered at the gray liquid oozing from my backside as I flailed about, and indeed I felt like that android in Aliens who bleeds the white blood.  The BSA kid observing this spectacle later summed it up in a word:  idiot.  Hiking boots next time.

Not being a great expert in these Gorge trails, I was unable to determine, from one data point (in 2016), whether the ratio of dogs to humans was higher on Dog Mountain than average.  Safe to say, I saw quite a few dogs on the route, some on leash and some off.  I'm a dog fan so don't figure this to be some complaint.  Go dogs go.

King Salmon
for sale by Yakima Nation

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cold War Interview

People listening to talk radio often like to guess how scripted it is.  Would this person have come on without some assurances as to how it would go?

Case in point:  this morning NPR interviewed some political analyst in the context of positioning NATO as instrumental in preventing a new Cold War.  Talk about oxymoronic right?

The interviewer asked Lamberto Zannier if Russia's bombing in the Middle East could have been to destabilize Europe by triggering waves of refugees, but without really specifying what a motive would be in doing that other than "behaving badly" (as "bad guys" are wont to do).

The response sounded professional in giving Russia more the benefit of the doubt, without getting into the timeline at all.  When did the refugee phenomenon start happening?  The move to couple it with the Russians' bombing seems more the hidden agenda of this interview.

In point of fact, Iraq was destabilized intentionally, by a Coalition seeking vengeance for war crimes not yet redressed (Kuwait).  George Bush Sr. had wisely pulled back from attacking Iraq directly, but his son could create no such discipline and at best put a comic tip on it (acknowledging when a farce is a farce may be the only way to preserve gravitas).

So by the same token, we may see the US as perhaps intentionally destabilizing not only Iraq, but Libya and of course Europe, as the flood of refugees started quite awhile back, and from all those places, not to mention Central America.

However, had this been the script, I doubt our interviewee would have consented to the sound bites.  NATO would have seemed too much the cause of Europe's woes.  That would seem too "bad guy", so better to blame the Russians.  That's Cold War redux.  Yawn.

Another story nearby was more interesting:  the CIA's art museum has some new commissioned pieces, including a "puzzle piece" with allusions to ongoing operations we'll maybe learn about someday.  Fun.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wanderers 2016.5.17


My odometer flipped over today, from 57 to 58.  Mom sent me a nice email.  She had a grand 87th birthday in April thanks to WILPF members and other fans.

I started the day making Soylent waffles, then joined some fine younger women, and their children (one only six months of age) for a walk in the Leach Botanical Garden.

Melody, not with child, rejoined me later for ciders at Hop House.  Thank you Melody, for inviting me out to the garden.  Jen and Yarrow will be moving away soon, to California.

Now I'm at the Linus Pauling House, a packed house tonight.

Duane Ray is catching us up on gravitational waves, the theory behind them, especially the heroic efforts of Joseph Weber to detect them.

Weber enrolled scientists in the possibility that gravitational waves could be detected.  Kip Thorne also deserves honorable mention.

The Laser Interferometer Ground Observatory (LIGO) is the instrument designed to register ripples in time-size.  Two of them (one at Hanford, one in Louisiana) picked up the same blip recently, making headlines.

When it comes to "making waves" we should acknowledge that language itself is a tensive medium, and scientific discoveries may have the effect of "re-vectoring" word-meanings.  A visual metaphor, of some phase space, has us thinking of word-meanings having trajectories.

The meaning of "gravity" (a term) is being affected.  Meaning derives from use.  Usage patterns have changed, thanks to these 40 kg mirrors, suspended, in a vacuum.  A tautology.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rejected Meaning

Thanks for your definition of Bizmo!

A few volunteer editors read your definition and decided to not publish it. Don't take it personally!

To understand what definitions we publish and reject, check out this blog post:

Try rewriting your definition so that it's easier for others to understand, then try again.


Urban Dictionary



"Business Mobile" i.e. "biz mo" -- like an RV ("recreational vehicle") but wired for doing business on the road. Synonym: van- or bus-sized business vehicle.

That's a sweet bizmo, how many miles on that baby?

9:48 AM (1 hour ago)

to me

More Adventures

I've continued bouncing around in Adventures of Ideas.  Yes, Whitehead does mention the Quakers, in a tip of the hat sort of way, in the context of finding no improvements in Protestant flavored  Christianity over what came in the first four hundred years.  After that: variations on a theme.

Coming from Whitehead, suggesting all the pieces were in place that early is not a put down, but rather he's recognizing the mark of something enduring, with lots of inertia.

The book's namespace is somewhat unfamiliar, however his use cases mount up quickly and pretty soon we know what he means by a "society", which could be a society of cells, even those of a tree.

Having person-hood is one more attribute of only some societies, in Whitehead's namespace.  Then he uses "occasions" to mean what we might also call "events".

Not unlike Heidegger, he dwells a lot on our relationship to something called "the future", vis-a-vis what we might call the "unchanging past".

Clearly occasions are invitations / openings wherein to help shape what's coming into being, within the constraints of an economy or ecosystem.

We bring the future to ourselves through our own agency to some degree, from whence comes our notion of freedom, bounded by what might be called our confinement, possibly pictured as some crystalline network of rules.

These rules "control" (govern) what occasions might occur, versus other events that might only be imagined.

If we consider these rules "exceptionless" then perhaps we could say their "inertia" is very great (without upper limit?).

We're underlining the "gravitas of gravity" in reminding ourselves of how exceptionlessly it applies.  The term "gravity" as used here is more as a proxy for "all that holds sway".

Our freedom presses outward against this network of constraints.

These are more my thoughts, as inspired by reading Adventures of Ideas, than an attempt at a close paraphrase.

"Society" and "occasion" were two of his words I got to thinking about, as we vectored back to PDX from STL on that commercial Alaska Airlines flight, operated by Skywest.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Recent Reading

 :: link for more discussion ::

I've recently started Adventures of Ideas by Alfred North Whitehead.  I hadn't realize the arc he traces revolves around slavery and its abolition, the movement towards freedom for all people.  He equates this trend with the advance of civilization itself, and our moral tensions, described as "emotions" as having to do with cognitive dissonance.

The philosophers were advocating freedom, yet common sense was saying we had no way to run a large enterprise without slaves.

Given my 21st century sensibilities, putting an "e" in front, for "electronic", as in "email" and "eCommerce", puts a spin on "emotion" as "electronic motion", which is accurate.  Alfred as uses "nerving" as a verb, which I find interesting:
At any moment the smouldering unhappiness of mankind may seize on some such program and initiate a period of rapid change guided by the light of its doctrines.  In this way, the conception of the dignity of human nature was quietly energizing in the minds of Roman officials, producing somewhat better government and nerving men like Marcus Aurelius to rise to the height of their appointed task.  It was was worthy moral force, but the society had been inoculated against its revolutionary application. [emphasis added, from pg. 15 of First Free Press soft cover edition, 1967]
Philosophers these days are called "programmers" but more in terms of theater / TV, converging with "programmers" of computers.  The computer, like the TV, is a mirror.  The TV is a window into the computer (e.g. Netflix) which reflects back the collective psyche of the various cults (subcultures).

Philosophers consciously re-vector various word-meanings, putting them on arcs or trajectories.  We do this by applying "spin", hence the term "spin doctor".

Slavery is always sneaking back into the picture though.  England may have abolished the institution throughout its global empire, but then that empire decayed.  Automation because the capitalist industrialists answer to human labor.  Machines do not unionize or protest ill-treatment (they simply break down for lack of proper care).

Ending slavery as a global institution is concomitant with increasing automation, but then comes the new problem of what humans are supposed to do with their powers.

Some subcultures have been more successful than others in channeling the power or Real Intelligence (versus Artificial Intelligence), serving as a model for others.

With the rise of the TV-computer as a kind of shared collective consciousness, we have the ability to nerve ourselves to continue with the advance of civilization.  Spin doctors i.e. programmers may be found on both sides.  Some want to bring slavery back, or increase its staying power, whereas others expose their agenda and apply counter-intelligence, taking us further towards freedom.

I don't know to what extent Alfred will be mentioning Quakers by name.  They've been at the forefront of wanting freedom for all people, having abolished slavery among themselves and helping with the Underground Railroad.

Slave-owning North Americans were uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance these Quakers engendered, considered them terrifying.  Even if Quakers preached non-violence themselves, they might trigger revolutionary movements such as mentioned above.  Quakers were pressured to quit the scene and move west, the standard solution for relieving tensions in North America.  Their values spread across the mid-west, bringing the seeds of civilization to new settlements.

So what will Quaker TV look like?  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Monday Night Circus

My objective here was to throw something together and upload it to Youtube in a very short time, with minimum fuss and bother.  Rapid Product Development.  I was happy to see the HDTV pressed into service.  Well done.

Yes, I shot too much of the carpet, but then ever since the carpet replacement at PDX International, Portland has had an eye for carpets.

I found a royalty-free audio track (Retro 90s Arcade Machine) on Free Stock Music and, using  Camtasia with transition effects, had the video uploaded to Youtube, ready for sharing, within just 50 minutes, which time included socializing with peers.  I added the annotations in post production, via the Youtube UI (user interface).

Sheri wondered if Shoop source code was in English, given it's natively Finnish.  It is, however I found some translation modules allowing i18n (internationalization).  We were discussing hacking on eCommerce applications within the Code School ecosystem.  Given <guild /> is Python-centric, I'd been researching some of the Django offerings.

My study topic this evening, again thanks to Ted Kosan, is the Semantic Web, which we might define, depending on ontology, as built atop XML, although that's more an implementation detail than a requirement.

RDF is certainly URI-based (from the HTTP protocol) whereas HTML / XHTML integrates the necessary tagging elements (the markup).

One of the most ambitious AI plans built atop the Semantic Web is hosted by Cycorp, the company Ted points to as most aligned with his dreams on Mathfuture.

XML is not going anywhere, however obtaining any universal agreement on how data should be represented is perhaps an over-ambitious attempt to duplicate what human languages do already, in our post-Babel age.

The "cell-silicon hybrid" is what features in my writings, and refers not to something in some far off science fiction future, but to an evolving synergy we enjoy today.  

Cells do get tired with age and there's this fantasy of shifting the entire burden of thought onto relatively long-lasting silicon.  However, nature has found a way to keep giving us fresh neural nets, well positioned to construct new models from scratch.  They're called children, and tend to grow up to assume some serious responsibilities, until they in turn get tired.  And so on.  Works well.  Silicon is so far not as agile.