Monday, December 31, 2018

Education Automation

I've chosen the title of one of Bucky Fuller's books for a blog post title.  "Automation" sounds cold, minus the warmth of human touch and attention.

For those who've received a lot of grief from humans, mostly negative feedback, a little automation may be a godsend.  Household appliances have freed up many hours for time with family.  Without a posse of servants, a single human is able to keep up with a lot of tasks, even with one or more dependents.

However, I'm getting off topic.  I just saw the documentary Waiting for Superman again and wanted to weigh in with fresh memories, and before I reread my blogged review.

Here's director Guggenheim giving Bill Gates and others a vehicle to express their vision, which is pro school choice, anti teacher union, pro merit pay, anti tenure.

The myth (which has some truth in it, how much is a key question) that what's between life in poverty and a comfortable place in the professional classes, is "a good education" provides much of the premise for this film.

Define "good"?  Is it what rich people got?  Maybe not in all cases?  You can be a rich know-nothing with few skills and no ethical sense.

What I'm concerned about is students not having any management responsibilities over accounts and files in cyberspace, because they don't get a safe workplace.  Schools focus on herding from room to room, not scheduling quality time in study quarters. The "safe study space home base" (or PWS) become more the reality in college -- but why not before?

As an after school teacher, I drive around with a phone full of login credentials, sometimes Chromebooks, which I give out to my students.  These are for accessing such cloud-based learning platforms as MIT Scratch, Codesters, Animatron, and

We're teaching a lot of techie stuff, but a lot of it's arty too.  Arty / techie is what some call "design" and with enough science:  "design science".  Many generic skills.

Back to Fuller (a master of "design science"):  he worked to counter the Protestant myth that we only deserve life support if we agree to do "jobs" for the owner classes, and that those without jobs are without merit and unentitled to any life support.

He supported minimum income philosophies, as a way to help keep us out of trouble.  Engineering could distribute the sun's munificence, according to some Food Not Bombs philosophy.  At least no one would go starving.

If all you do is work, when do we study, and if study is work, why isn't it paid (compensated)?  Shouldn't civilizations reward behaviors necessary for their own perpetuation?  One might think so.

When do parents get to stay home with their kids and learn skills together as a team?

Using education systems to split parents from children in order to homogenize and dilute ethnic differences is likewise a big use of television.

A mixed use skyscraper or larger building is more like a village in that people get to sleep, eat, study, work, exercise, and so forth, without commuting across town.  Just take an elevator.  More like living on a Starship Enterprise in some popular TV show.

When schooling is better integrated into the local economy, with apprenticeships and part time roles, that can help too, in producing well-rounded individuals.

Saying you've "dropped out" to serve as a cashier in a small family store (or on a military base), is pretty extreme.  We need systems that let you opt in and out easily over the course of a lifetime.  Some people don't see the value in education until they've had more life experience.

Getting some work experience at a young age need not be some fateful decision that keeps you away from other opportunities forever.

I want kids to have opportunities to read and write programs, manage websites, make movies, tend to databases (not only SQL) starting from whatever age they have the attention for it, a mental age more than a physical one.  But when do they get an opportunity?  I bring them login credentials.

Developing these skills usually means tending to a file tree somewhere, a software workbench, and also having a work/study environment relatively free of distractions, like we hope students have when doing homework.

Kids need cubicles, study carrels, as much as the adults do.  All some get is a storage locker.

Lots of professionals, curriculum developers, engineers, have visions similar to Bucky's:  lets make advancing through a curriculum a paying proposition, even if only in terms of crypto-currencies.

Reward the work of study, with greater access to educational resources.  Compensation isn't always in terms of cold cash, much as anonymous currencies have proved, and will continue to prove, useful.

What we need to set up are pilot projects, staffed and developed by people willing to "eat their own dog food" i.e. those designing the lifestyle also need to enroll in the programs to find out what it's like to experience various brands of "education automation" from the inside.

No one size fits all.

Lets see some more sizes.

Mine these blogs for ideas.


T4P Studies

I'm reminded of my road trips in Bhutan.  T4P or Truckers for Peace is about giving people in trucking more opportunities to share gigs and learn about different cultures for credit.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Another Math Summit

Hannukkah Present to Me

This morning I got to meet Peter Farrell and his twin brother Steve at the local diner, Tom's, for ongoing discussions about pedagogy (teaching kids) and andragogy (teaching adults).

Peter has just finished Math Adventures with Python through No Starch Press and I've been pouring over an electronic copy. The synergy of coding and doing mathematics is an obvious draw for a lot of us, whereas another school of thought (represented on Forum 206) says coding and doing math should be kept far apart and tested separately.

The separatists pretty much won their battle, meaning the coding people have had to wedge their way, hour by hour, into K-16, without math curriculum writers and publishers lifting a finger.

Their track, the math track, is just fine as is, whereas the coders needed to start over from scratch and often ended up focusing on "games" because they're trying to appeal to their new audience.

Against that default background, you'll find an assortment of creative teachers, left any freedom to innovate, will keep mixing it up.

My hybrid blend goes by "GNU Math" sometimes, deliberately a pun on New Math (we do look at sets, but maybe not as a be all end all ala Bertrand Russell), given Stallman's encouragement of wordplay and cleverness.

"Digital Math" is another name for it.  We've had a lot of discussion of the genre over the years, in Forum 206 and on edu-sig (

In the middle of Digital Math, I draw this arching bridge over the STEM-PATH chasm (cite C.P. Snow), into literature and anthropology.  "Imagine a tribe" (as Wittgenstein would say) "which "multiplication" means this different thing".

We already have multiple meanings for "the product of" in the world of binary operations (two complex numbers, two matrices...), so my injecting some alternative sixty-degree-based geometric model of multiplying, from American literature, scarcely makes a ripple. Said operation (__mul__ in Python) is already over-determined.  What's one more meaning?

However, I'm not suggesting every secular (public or charter) and private school needs to include American literature.  That's a niche, and features such expats as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, back to Walt Whitman and before (Coleridge's romanticism informs both pragmatism and transcendentalism, and whatever Poe was into with Eureka and so on).

We see this graph of connecting authors against a wartime backdrop a lot of the time.

Studying poets, such as Bucky, takes us into History (the H in PATH) pretty quickly.

Math Adventures with Python leverages having powerful CPUs and GPUs at our disposal.  The halcyon days of the scientific calculator are in the recent past.   

Mathematica, or Wolfram Language, operates in the same domain as GNU Math a lot, and much of the PR from Wolfram's corner fits with the larger "learning math through programming" campaign's.

Peter and Steve

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Russiagate Update

[Jimmy] Dore's view is "yes Russians troll, so does everyone doing net stuff" and to gain a following you start dealing in juicy memes, becoming one of the thought leaders somehow (who knows how, that's where the "research" comes in; Cambridge Analytica had their OCEAN etc.). 

Then when you have a following you can spam them for business reasons i.e. sell advertising (turn around to companies and say "you pay me and I'll tell my following about your thing"). 

Whereas DNCers see Internet Research Agency dealing in political memes with an agenda to tip the election, the Dore crowd see "business as usual" where oligarchy is concerned, and which the Russian mafia plays along with everybody else, with more interest in getting or staying rich than in trying to directly play "king of the White House" (just be sure you have some access once the slug fest is over -- what an embassy is for). 

That's pretty much my view too: there's no need to risk exposure (e.g. FBI detection) hacking federal elections machinery, when social media already provide a legal means to play mind games with the public. 

I believe Russians actively engage in social media, most definitely, and echo the DNI report in saying RT is up on its game.
Voodoo Economics

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

First Person: From the Fleet

I sometimes watch first person chronicles shared by truck drivers.  Part of my T4P work, and of course anticipating more Bizmo action.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Notes from Bizmo World

Wow, they're not kidding at Steemit, when they say keep track of your own damn password. A lotta geeks dismiss that one, knowing reset with verification is a possibility, meaning you can just reset the password once you have the victim's cell phone.  Not so with this blockchainer.  You don't have the password in memory, which is too long to remember, and you don't get to reset it if you forget it.  You'll never access your account again, another waste of a great moniker.

I was pdx4d.  They generate the passwords for you.  They look like bitcoin addresses.  You're getting warmer.  I did find where I'd backed up the Steemit address, having followed protocol.

Steemit is but one of many social media the next geek generation has cooked up.  You weren't expecting the world to stop with Facebook were you?

I'm using Facebook, as it's not either/or, but as a columnist in Bizmo World, I'm expected to keep pushing to a next horizon.  Have you signed on to Meat yet?  Just kidding.

Lets make it real here and talk about malls.  Sears Discount is suffering from low attendance, another reason to go in, great customer service.  They had their two models of microwave ovens at really low prices, but with a Walmart right next door (next store), that wasn't saying much.

I came in like a robot, checked the LG, had my measuring tape, ended up with the Oster, about the same price but more swoopy or something.  Walmart had some other things I needed.  Then Fubonn, the Asian supermarket complex.  More ramen.  Kimchi.  Couldn't find the soy sauce, will solve it next time.

Portland's 82nd Avenue, an Oregon State road, is our homage to freeway gentrification everywhere, except it's not the freeway, but the business route running north-south parallel to I-205, itself the business route branch-off of I-5, that goes through the center, branching to I-405 to the super-center.

By "freeway gentrification" I mean the strip mall culture of one-story restaurant franchises and assortment of big and little box stores, supplied by truck, the premier vehicle of the I-net, from a layer of warehouses around any hub city, especially those with ports.  Portland has humble freight traffic, and that keeps us connected in a global economy.

You may be wondering what bizmo rig I'm driving through all these parking lots and you'd be right to be wondering, since a bizmo log or chronicle typically features such a vehicle, with its quirks and problems.

Instead, I'm in a four-door Nissan from the late 1900s.  Long time readers of these blogs may remember Razz, a Subaru, and Robin Blue even before that.  Cars get proper names much as we give variable names to other features in a program, including actors, agents, whatever observables.  Mars has a name.

The archetypal bizmo shimmers in the archetypal landscape, between the lines, as we're still busy constructing the lifestyle.  T4P only came along recently.  For now, I'm just blending in as one more noodle lover.  The Oster is working great, and sensed by itself when the baked potato had released sufficient humidity.  There's some real science going on in that appliance.  No Instapot yet, thinking about it.

Fubonn is on 82nd, like the two Walmarts I saw (the one I went into is further south, in Clackamas, whereas the second came after the Entering Portland sign, me coming north).  I go there more often, as it's closer and Walmart - Amazon might be my online supplier of delivered goods, where I'm not the one in the fossil fuel business.

Speaking of which, I have a work sponsor ready to heat more of my building so we've got a truck on the way on Monday.  I'm not a new customer, having been at my current location since 1995 or thereabouts.  Newly married with child.  We used to call Montag but their customer list was acquired by another company.

The microwave just decided to blow one day, kinda like mom's knee (though the latter had more of an excuse). The Magic Chef gave up the magic, after over a decade of service I'm reckoning.  My range is a Magic Chef too, avocado green like from the 1960s, came with the house. 

The antique stove fits with my overall decor, which is likewise vintage, lots of vinyl paneling.  We had the wood paneling in the living room removed, along with the shag rug.  Pine floors.  Looks like a ski lodge where the wood takes some punishment.

A skilled repair person could likely have identified a fried wire in the Costco-bought Magic Chef and made it good as new.  Our consumer culture encourages us to replace, not repair, these small appliances, though there's more of an aftermarket for the bigger ones, like washers and dryers.

I'm not the expert.  I'm the consumer, and some consuming I did.  Thanks to my knowing how to teach Python, I'm able to afford a building with replaceable and irreplaceable gadgets and doodads.  Python and Martian Math as a combo.  That's another popular dish.  We're like a food cart, in a town of food pods (lots of competition).

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

DIY Bizmo

Monday, December 03, 2018

Truck Versus Rail

There's a bit of an apples to oranges flavor to my Blogger post title comparison "Truck Versus Rail" as what corresponds to the rail system are not trucks, but the whole infrastructure of highways, freeways, toll pikes and yes, boulevards. Highways and byways.  Upon those, the trucks ride.  As do trains with engines on rail.  So the apples to apples might be: train engines to trucks.  Both diesel in many cases.

As a kid, I preferred rails to roads because of the added requirement for such things as switches, and switching yards.  Trains brought their own set of challenges.  Round houses.  Trucks had (have) their rectangular warehouses, sometimes solar paneled.

The forklifts run around inside, or even autonomous vehicles, routed to take stuff from here to there.  Switch around among trucks, go multi-modal to trains.  Truck and train actually work very much on the same team.  Both truck trailers (with wheels), and shipping containers (without wheels, stackable), are multi-modal, with an overlapping spectrum of modes.

In adult life, I began to think more about the trucking infrastructure, a prominent feature of the North American economy.  I'm no expert on trade agreements or substance control.  My focus has been university developed exchange programs whereby driver crews gain experience on routes usually considered to be beyond their scope.

Think "Peace Corps for truckers" but don't feel you have to thrust it into the State Department as some official government program.  We're giving analogies, not stating identities.  That being said, I could imagine the existing Peace Corps adding "trucking" to its categories, or maybe it's there already, I wouldn't know.

I did not serve in the Peace Corps however our family sometimes met with, even offered hospitality to, Peace Corps volunteers in the field.  "Volunteer" doesn't mean "unpaid" so much as "not conscripted" as joining the Peace Corps is not some obligatory form of public service, as serving in the military used to be for US citizens.  We were US citizens living outside the US in places where Peace Corps people often work, such as the Philippines (but not in Bhutan).

However, my focus on trucking lately hasn't taken me entirely away from trains.  The different ways to use a rail system other than for "high speed" go through my storyboarding.  Roads and tracks are not that different anyway, in terms of needing to obey constraints on grade.  Both steepness and curvature are considerations, though rail and road follow different constants.  Trucks turn very sharply compared to trains, which need a relatively huge radius to accomplish the same turn.

Imagine your university dorm and classroom is a four train car affair, and as rather button down.  Is this Princeton?  The keg party folks charter a different service, not that we can't serve regional beers, or whatever's local.  You're studying the region you're going through, learning the language, history, tastes.  You're getting academic credit -- as a lot of those truckers are -- from your time on the rails, often intentionally side-lined without an engine, per plan and schedule.

Hooked to all this is the idea of the Personal Workspace (PWS).  Trains might not always carry sleepers.  Most do not.  They could be modeled with offices, work and study spaces.  Ping pong tables make sense when you're parked.

The North American riding public in large degree switched to jets in order to minimize travel times over long distances.  Commuter hops were and are train and bus oriented.  Some American cities have invested lots in rail, Philadelphia especially.  Others rely almost exclusively on the "rubber" tire.

One might also experiment with trains that facilitate hopping on and off.  The moving sidewalk platform has been proposed, and used by Disney with some success.  The train slows to run at the same speed as the mounting belt and the passenger simply steps on or off the train.  Slower belts (moving sidewalks) run parallel and after a few transfers, the passenger is back to standing stationary at the station (why we call it that).