Friday, September 30, 2016

Whispering Campaign

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wanderers 2016.9.28

Pretty funny: some of our Wanderers have never seen the opening premise of the Portlandia TV comedy show.

I screened the above for their benefit, along with a short excerpt from my Nepris interview (like a TED talk).

When Bernie packed Moda Center (I missed that one), a bird landed on his microphone.  Unless you know the phrase "Put a Bird On It", you've missed something.

I drew a silly picture of the two-headed "Hilladon" (prehistoric) on the whiteboard and posted it to Facebook with my cellphone.


Jurassic Park

Tuesday, September 27, 2016



I can't make a ton of money without being a hypocrite. However I can commit the back office, the Centurylink / Prism room, to serving nonprofits, as a nonprofit that pays its share of expenses, especially telecomm.  That I make a meager income is tolerated, actually welcomed, as that keeps it simple.

As a trainer, I pop up, all paid for, and deliver the Python3 or whatever.  Python3 is more an ecosystem than just the one language, what with JavaScript, SQL, noSQL and all the rest of it.  Not that everyone is into web dev.  We've got Jupyter Notebooks, we've got SciPy.

I'm a big believer in institutional wealth.  I feel pampered on a big Boeing, or an Airbus, without owning stock in the company, let alone a slice of the jet.  Sailors on big Navy ships are proud of what they pilot, but it's not like any might claim title in the purely landlordist sense, not even an Admiral.  That's why I go with "military socialism" as an apropos model, of what the "bases economy" (a kind of "centers network") portends.

That's how I got my trips to Lithuania and Gothenberg:  they were paid for by sponsors, not as income to me but as an expense of doing business on their part.  My flying on an airplane somewhere is not necessarily "income" any more than shipping a book.  I'm an office supply.  Don't even send me the transaction, as it doesn't have to go through my bookkeeping at all.  Or send me some record if you like, it's not like I don't like to scrap book.

I'm happy here in Portland for the time being however, though close family stay high on my list and I'm not bed-bound or anything.  I have a current passport.  This is "back to school" season and I'm on the hook to deliver, lets put it that way.  Carol is here.  I'm her driver.  Lots of good reasons to stay put in this chapter.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Russian Novel (interlude)

Excerpts from QuakerQuaker set to Game World tableaus from QuarterWorld...

I was hoping that hearing the truth of these people's words, despite their theological convictions/or-lack-of -- would serve to alert those Friends still watching this site to how sadly captive their minds have become to corporate (and governmental) manipulations & outright distortions of what's going on, how the system functions, why and how the best of us are striving desperately (seeing no hope of significant mitigation within that system) to replace its dysfunctions with social arrangements more sane and humane.
Suburbia Land

Translation: you're trying to reach the walking dead, affluenza victims mostly, suburbia-land or whatever. Hah, I gave up talking to them ages ago. Triage man. Oh well... back to work. They're making a video of my 15 minutes (actually 30) in Texas (Austin), which I'll post to QQ when I get a link (but not on one of your threads as "self promotion" is a big no-no for the bored guy). 
Cirqus Voltaire

Kirby, you should be talking to Prince Andrei, the character quoting Voltaire in your War & Peace excerpt. He was the one bored with Goethe (& poetry in general). I myself merely find some exchanges more rewarding than others...
<< snip >>
I don't see any 'overhaul' going on, certainly not down where the rubber meets the no-account people it runs over.

By "overhaul" I didn't mean to imply "for the better". That remains to be seen. Could be that given smartphones and driverless cars, humans will only need very small brains in much tinier heads, and Zika is on the job. Planet of the Apes is not a pretty place. I wasn't promising any rose gardens or anything.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Working It

We enjoyed a Hophouse gathering I doubt will be repeated, in terms of who was there:  myself, Michael Hagmeir (now resident of St. Louis, MO), Patrick & Glenn (Asylum District, like me) and Mike (visiting from Florida).

Michael drove here in two and a half days, stopping at Carhenge in Nebraska and Craters of the Moon in Idaho.  The previous evening, I'd joined Michael and Matt for an evening together.  The car stays behind when he flies home.

Then Glenn and I grabbed a 14 to downtown, leaving time for me to get to Payless for shoes (I wore out the Mt. Tabor walking shoes again), and have a beer each at Ringler's.

Only a few blocks from there is Wieden + Kennedy.  We arrived 20 minutes early, not sure if there'd be any shortage of seating.

Given the Tech Crawl that just happened, I somewhat made myself at home and poked around in the lobby taking pictures, not really what their workflow is set up for.  The receptionist had to remind us this was a private office building.

Any problems occasioned by the arrival of the rest of our throng turned out to be self-solving given no one was wanting to be rude.  We all waited patiently for about forty minutes, after which the ball got rolling.   

PDX Maker Week is only just making its debut.  We haven't seen Maker Faire packaged in the context of a whole week before.  PSU took on promoting this new idea, as a sponsor.  OMSI took on the two day Maker Faire.  Glenn and I made it to that as well.  Thanks to workingIT, I got a press pass.

Some of my more detailed initial thoughts on Dale Dougherty's keynote went to @4DsolutionsPDX, which is where I work on a maker space known as #CodeCastle.  I tweeted as we bused back to Asylum District along Division. I was thinking back to a certain Pycon keynote, and the Stanford connection.  Making commitments ("I'll be there") is making.

Mostly I was observing how advertising involves projecting lifestyles with deliberately placed products, and that's a form of "making" some have mastery over.  Which booths teach that?  All of them?  Pretty much.

Glenn wondered if those promoting the "Maker" meme were trying too hard to encompass too many crafts outside the digital-electronic.  He's an analog craftsman going way back, but hasn't taken on "Maker" as a part of his own branding, preferring to leave that term to coders of devices.

Obviously memes are subject to regional variants, or call them dialects.

Bringing all these crafts together suggests synergies and continuity as well.

Getting out into remote villages with high tech, yet adopting somewhat "time-refined" lifestyles (a euphemism for "ancient"), requires places that continue to teach the skills associated with high tech, in addition to all the "intermediate" and "lower" tech.

Someone has to keep designing and manufacturing circuits, programming games and simulations, even if a lot of people live nowhere near a chip making facility or fab plant.

Civilization has a lot of batons to pass.  The relay race is another good metaphor.  Keeping our most advanced tech going doesn't mean we can't also have camping.  Not everyone needs to live or work in high rises either.  A wide variety of lifestyles are required, for any at all to exist.

Speaking of OMSI, I've known evening events to occur there.  PDX Maker Week 2017 might look at OMSI as a venue for some 6-10 event. I understand it's hard working with all volunteers and donated space.

Making events happen is itself a kind of making.  Earning credit in some currency of the realm, for helping to pull these events off, might make some sense, a standard pattern.

Where making meets camping is what we call scouting, already a big part of the culture here.  Living "outdoors" does not mean sans any shelter from the elements, yet "closer to nature".

Camping keeps upping the level of technology available, or at least opening the space of possibility.  We saw some interesting new camping ideas at Maker Faire. By camping I don't mean necessarily nomadic.  Farming and permaculture might go on, with sacred spaces made semi-permanent.

Where #CodeCastle "actually exists" physically is not important at this juncture, as right now it's a meme, i.e. more metaphysical, and tied into the "(High + Art + Code) * School" meme -- that's supposed to remind us of the distributive property.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Tech Crawl 2016

Tech Crawl 2016

I'd not been on one of these before and felt privileged to join Patrick in a night of hounding around inside some of the less open bastions (lots of security) in Portland's downtown:  Puppet, Aruba Networks, Mirador, Cloud Compass, iovation, New Relic.  These were the ones we got to, plus many more were participating.

We also dropped in on The Tech Academy, given we've both served as Python mentors for the O'Reilly School of Technology.  OST has closed.  I kept some of its DNA in a test tube (not literally) in the form of OCT / RU, a Flickr album of little diagrams and such, along with souvenir business cards.  None of our proprietary software leaked out.  That would all need rewriting, and would reflect lessons learned, no need for carbon copies anyway.

However, I digress.  What I was seeing were prototypical work spaces offering the kinds of roles those who study computer science and engineering hope to get for themselves.  Ample kitchens, friendly people, handsome facilities, right downtown.

What more could one hope for?  We don't have Cubby Camps yet, with people doing more async out in nature.  The corporate cube farm has evolved considerably, but still loves a good 30th floor view, more of the mountains than from the mountains.

In taking pictures of the Puppet library (on display in the foyer), I didn't come across many Python titles.  Ruby looks to be making more inroads there.  Tech Academy did have a Python course.  Mirador is more a Java shop.

We see different levels in people's willingness to be polyglot.  I'll venture into Clojure, which I admire, while coding something I've coded before in other languages, such as Quadrays, a system of 4-tuple vectors mapping the same space as XYZ but with four positive rays to the corners of a tetrahedron, old hat to my long time readers, check Wikipedia.

Why would anyone use that?  In philosophy class maybe, to introduce "language games" in mathematics, but where else?  Do any architects learn about A, B, T, E, S modules these days?  How about art school students?

These are not core questions pondered within the business sector downtown I don't think (not "CBD questions" -- except maybe at PSU, or University of Portland, in some study carrel somewhere, where following Wittgenstein links makes more sense).  I've taught the basics of "Martian Math" on both campuses, at one time or another, as well as at Reed and OGI, using Python mostly. CBD = Central Business District; OGI = Oregon Graduate Institute.

In other words (back to "polyglot"), suggesting people "language hop" as if that were some trivial jump, is often unrealistic, any more than an English speaker might simply "hop" to Japanese or vice versa.

There's not much truth in the slogan "learn one computer language, and you've learned them all".  Not really.  They come in families, like musical instruments do.  Learning Python does not make you a great J programmer (APL family), though I've found them to make a great combo.  Both feature a strong REPL (a rich interactive mode or "shell").

Geeks in this day and age will tend to identify as Front End or Back End as to their stronger skill set and area of most expertise.  If you study Twitter awhile, you can pick up more buzz words, like Data Scientist and Machine Learning (additional skill sets, mostly back end, except the front end is about visualization and so is data science also).

Front End means HTML / CSS and Javascript.

Back End means what happens to those HTTP / HTTPS requests once received.  Is the front end a smartphone app?  Java, Ruby, PHP... Python.  Many more languages play in this space, or define the frameworks that provide yet more layers of shared person-hours.  Why reinvent every wheel?  Speaking of which, I met an old colleague from Plone days (still a popular Python CMS), still with CD Baby.

Patrick and I went by bus (4 going, 14 returning) and wound up at Hophouse with our visiting friend Mike, in his later fifties like Patrick and I.  We've already enjoyed technology careers, against the backdrop of the PC to Open Source to smartphone revolutions.  I've spent a lot of time in cube farms, often in hospitals, or other client offices, staring at screens.  I'm still into staring at screens.

Those initial waves of technology were sufficient to change the guts of Portland's economy in some ways, while in other ways much stays the same.  I'm not the expert, but I've seen quite a bit of water under the bridge, had a front row seat on some of the action.

Some of my journal entries from years gone by somewhat bemoan the loss of CubeSpace, a US Bank building facility on the east side (not the USB Tower) that helped with cross-pollination, important when wanting to help geeks not fall into over-isolating silos.  Reinventing the same wheels over and over costs everybody.

However the code schools, especially the ones hosting regular meetups, have helped provide synergy, in tandem with the user groups layer.  The Meetup culture has taken hold. People from different walks of life discuss their projects and share skills.

Without a "public square" mentality, specialized knowledge becomes over-specialized to the point of semi-paralysis.

A Renaissance fizzles into yet another Dark Age (YADA) when the kind of liberal sharing encouraged by academia (traditionally) goes away.  The Free and Open Source movement was a direct extension of that tradition, per Richard Stallman at MIT, and the birth of GNU.

On a final note, I'd just been reading Quincy Larson's impassioned plea for "more async" i.e. less interrupt-driven open office plan setups.  He's talking about what we call Personal Workspaces (PWSs) in the GST namespace.  Study carrels.  Cubes.  Sometimes it's just office culture though, that needs to be addressed, if the floor plan is already fixed.

OST was all about async and PWSs.  Mentors gave focused attention to student programs, but not in real time while looking over their shoulders.  Diagnosing program bugs on the fly is not typically how it's done.  We'd encourage unit tests, and lots of them.  I continue to work that in.

"Too much task switching results in lost productivity" -- that sounds easy enough a proposition for the workflow architects to get.  Human beings are not ARM chips; they have their own specs.

Tech work sometimes means getting into a flow, almost a trance, like a novelist does.  I good novelist is a first reader to get the story, concentration is required.  Many novelists move to a beach cabin or some such, to get more work done.

"We need our software to work for us, not make us slaves to our machines" -- another good one.

I met up with PDX Code Guilders in one of the towers.  I'm expecting to cross paths again at the upcoming Maker Fair.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Short Presentation

Code School

A student I met in Afghanistan (I was in Portland, we were working together over the Internet), showed up in a "bizmo" of sorts -- if you think para-gliding has a business angle (to me it does) -- and chauffeured me to the code school.  "Bizmo" means "business mobile" in contrast to the "RV" or "recreational vehicle". Will's bizmo is right hand drive, a Mitsubishi built for Japan's roads.

I was the guest host this Labor Day, as the enterprise was otherwise closed and paid staff were catching up on gardening and such. I'd signed up to talk about my tiny Flask application, and to introduce the idea of Lightning Talks, which go for no more than five minutes.  My talk was not billed as a lightning talk, however we're encouraging more presentations at Flying Circus and foresee when that might be the best choice of format.  Geeks need opportunities to practice the skill of presenting in five or less minutes.

I probably talked for closer to ten minutes, presenting to an audience where many had deep experience with Angular, React (frameworks), JavaScript, Java and Python (languages).  Ben is writing embedded C these days.

My talk inspired a next geek to jump up and share his Anagram Finder, a Flask app deployed in Heroku, likewise open source.  In looking over his routing module, I could see right away where I might want to make some changes to mine.  On the other hand, I'm aiming to stay pretty close to "just out of the box" i.e. Flask with few frills.  I'm glad my talk led to a follow-on talk.

As I was getting things set up, plugging in the HDTV etc., I got a call from David Feinstein, whom I've been thinking about lately, and a film festival invite from a Palestinian-American I know. The ride from Will had also been unexpected (my original plan was to use the bus, holiday schedule).  In other words, events conspired.  I almost succeeded in roping Patrick into the event (he and another consultant were hoofing it to the zoo for exercise).

Speaking of exercise, it's the morning after, wet but not at the moment raining.  Mt. Tabor beckons.

I'll just mention what my Flask application actually does:  it simply connects an API of URLs to GET and POST request handlers, against three databases:  a Periodic Table, a Glossary of Geek Terms, and a Shapes listing (polyhedrons). These are simple SQLlite tables, not even relational in the current version, though the Shapes table has gone deeper, down to specific vertex coordinates, in related projects. /glossary/AJAX pulls up a definition in HTML (not that I'm using any AJAX) whereas /api/glossary?term=AJAX would pull up the same fill-in-the-template info in pure JSON.

When you look at the raw JSON info behind the more cosmetically enhanced view (the HTML), you'll see two additional fields I don't share through the template:  some initials and a large (multi-digit) decimal integer.  This models keeping track of whom and when a record was created.  The integer is actually the number of seconds since the start of the "unix epoch" on January 1, 1970.


Sunday, September 04, 2016

Rock Out as a Politician!

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Raspbian Affairs

Making Waves

I'm heartened by various blogs telling of the Raspbian subculture getting shared.  The Raspberry Pi is not exactly on offshoot of One Laptop per Child (OLPC).  On the contrary, it's not a laptop, just a relatively inexpensive machine with an ARM chip and GPU that doubles as the boot code runner.  I'm not the expert, more a hobbyist.

If you've checked @4DsolutionsPDX you'll find where I was politically active around Measure 97, a ballot measure in Oregon designed to administer some stimulus (we don't use the word "shock therapy") to Oregon's failing schools.  This might have been a last ditch effort, time will tell.  However, the obstacles are not primarily monetary.

Given the "stay home and learn" movement has gathered some steam (pun intended), I'm expecting more of a boom in the personal tutoring business, often a virtual gig.  I've participated in these kinds of interactions myself.  I'm sometimes tutored, not always in the teacher role.  My sense is a 50-50 mix works through adulthood: 50-percent student / 50-percent teacher.  Stay limber in both roles.

The "device wars" cannot be solved with United Methodists taking the brunt. They owe a lot to Texas Instruments, at least in some zip codes.  Why put them in a corner with the #CodeCastle concept?

Quakers have fewer ties.  I think I've been blinded by the obvious in some ways.

These powerful Raspbian devices, if openly flaunting their relevance to math learning, will not be accepted with open arms in many schools, where entrenched interests call the shots.  They'll be perceived as a threat. We need to stay polite and conforming, non-confrontational.

Therefore I'm recommending going with the flow, buying the TI calculator for math tests, and studying the Pi stuff in a PWS (personal work studio) if you can find one.  Not the Pi stuff necessarily (a fun option), more the GNU World, including serious "hard fun" coding, with Euclid's Method and all the rest of it (SQL... regular expressions).

Maybe learn about RSA from some old Linux hobbyist magazines to get the flavor, or look for translated Manga.  Stores around Portland have made those Linux mags harder to find lately, and if that's happening in Portland you can bet the dumbing down is even further advanced in the heartland.

Remember, if they really wanted you to have the skills to which they give lip service (e.g. "learning to code"), you wouldn't be commanded to buy a Texas Instruments graphing calculator.  You might be introduced to the Anaconda distro instead (from Continuum Analytics), and Jupyter Notebooks.  Not that it's either / or necessarily.  Maybe your school has both the delta and lambda tracks.

Remember to look up Mathematics for the Digital Age sometime, by the Litvins (Skylit Press).  You already know about Hacking Math Class, the Pi based classic by Peter Farrell.  Both high school level.

Fortunately, we have Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois, and of course Wolfram, to keep at least a few lights burning in that neck of the woods.  North America may indeed be dark with ignorance, but the Internet is ablaze with lots of new and interesting information.  Raspbians find one another.  Ubuntu is real.

You'll find Wolfram Language on many Raspbian distros, such as on the Jessie distro I'm using (runs Docker).  Yes, it could be faster, this is a training wheels computer in some ways, but that's better than no bicycle at all, right?  The process is one of bootstrapping.

Maybe you'll have several cloud computers in addition. Your school might spin those up for you, customized per course.  We did that at the O'Reilly School of Technology, simulating a client-side Windows pointed at a Linux server (a typical setup back in the day).

I'm still to this day using Eclipse for my tiny Flask application, even on El Capitan.  What can I say?  It grew on me. I came to like the dog food we served.


Friday, September 02, 2016

Logan's Run (movie review)

Author Interview

I'd already turned down a generous invitation from the Barton family to jump in on this one, thinking the 3rd Anniversary birthday party for PDX Code Guild was an evening soiree.  That was more my over-clocked imagination, misassuming, and if I'd read the Eventbrite invite more closely, or even looked more closely at my own slides, I'd have noticed the 1:30 - 4:30 PM as the timeframe.

By the time I'd figured out my faux pas, it was too late, however a side-effect was I was free in the evening after all, so jumped in at the last minute, buying a ticket from, you guessed it, Eventbrite.

We're in the middle of the Portland Film Festival and Logan's Run, an old classic, was billed as just that, with the added bonus of the book's co-author on stage, both before and after, an old guy by now, in keeping with the theme of the movie (they AI-bot running the place kills the humans at age thirty).

In the book, the co-author told us, for the benefit of those who'd only just seen the movie, did have a place called Sanctuary that was more welcoming than an over-grown, in-ruins District of Columbia. The movie is more like Planet of the Apes outside (with Lincoln in place of the Statue of Liberty), with one aging ape, Peter Ustinov.  The escaping humanoids (the AI programmed quasi-humans) find the old guy and use that to myth-bust back in the bubble.

What's intriguing about the myth-busting is it doesn't work on the AI-programmed, only at the bot itself, probably a Docker application by the looks of it, running Ubuntu (for irony).  Humans are easy to program so a world like theirs looks fairly doable.  We have the prototype bioshelter in Cornwall (UK).

As for the spacey electronic music, that stuff's old hat by now (but really well done here -- the Lego slash Disney World is clearly a model, but with little people on the walkways and in the tubes, so persuasive enough for folk music).

The beautiful people are coyly modest and have their main party times off camera, a lot like Idiocracy in that way (another tasteful film).  In the book, they were all under 21 but that might have changed the rating. The handsome Michael York was already in his early 30s by then, and the lovely Jenny Agutter in her mid 20s.

There's lots more back story to share about the surrounding drama, outside the movie.  The Screen Actors Guild (or something like it) was meeting at our restaurant location.  I noticed more gesticulating and posing than usual, nice costumes.  These people were used to being "on" (or "in") camera (or "room").  Patrick and Mike had walked to Hollywood Theater before realizing their mistake.  Other details.

Speaking of Docker, I've got my head in that silo this morning, seeing how it's available for the Pi.  I'll probably end up adding it to my Mac Air as well, but lets explore the Pi first, as it's more purely a Linux box and that's the most native environment for Docker.

The actual images and containers needed to program sandmen, those who "put you to sleep" if you don't want to gamble on the carousel working (highly speculative), would include such procedures as we saw Logan Five put through.

We're led to think by the ambient lore that "sandmen never run" however the 1.5K unaccounted for may indeed have included sandmen.  Keeping secrets from the quasi-humans is not a problem for this bot.  We're not actually privileged to this private container ourselves, omniscient camera notwithstanding.

We're also led to think none of this 1.5K got passed Box.  That's more believable. Thinking outside the box is indeed hard to do.

That's another wrinkle I'll leave you with:  Box in the movie looks like an easy push-over.  The Box in the book as a truly worthy adversary.

The co-writer, William F. Nolan (George Clayton Johnson died last Christmas) ridiculed the movie version of his character, saying he'd witnessed them filming that part with Ray Bradbury who asked him "who's that?" upon which replied "I have no idea" (oh yeah, Box).

Another factoid:  the book was dashed out in just three weeks, an intensive marathon process.  A standard criticism is books splatted out that fast tend to be still-born, however these particular co-authors had done about a decade of preparation beforehand, so when it came time to commit to paper, they had an established base on which to build.