Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Catching Up

We've been over the mountain (Mt. Hood), my two daughters and I.  Alexia went earlier in her dad's late mom's Buick.  Sam, Tara's uncle, was in hospice, at Partners in Care in Bend, Oregon.

Last night, back in Portland, we visited Atlas Pizza, Tara and I, Patrick joining us.  Patrick has been contracted to dig down into command line Python minus any IDE.  A paying client likes it that way. He's using Wing's debugger in another class, a habit I'm likewise gradually acquiring.

I've completed a first Arduino course, a Coursera MOOC, and now I'm wading more deeply into that world of programmable circuits.  Tonight I'm teaching Python to adults, and next week to kids as well.  Mark me as firmly planted in tech.

However, American Literature (we might call it that) is on my mind, and I wonder about standards.  How much are able to build immune systems, as we might call them, if following a more German philosophy of bubbles, globes, foams.  To what extent will we stay prey, to "false news" in whatever guises?

Judy and I visited the funeral director while Alexia and Tara went on ahead. They ended up test driving a Ford Fiesta in Madras.  No memorial service has been scheduled yet; a way will open. This journey has been a part of it.  Remembering Sam is a new theme now, one I'll treasure.

Carol has done her share of road trips recently, both east and west, and flew the Blue House solo while we were gone.  Temperatures soared to record highs this weekend.  We're glad for the break in the heat wave, with overcast skies, now coasting in the seventies (Fahrenheit).

I've been showing Tara the latest PR around C6XTY, including my 4D logo in the mix, next to the link to Synchronofile.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Building Fractions

The code below shows a way of teaching operator overloading in Python.

Even though the standard library includes a Fraction type, it can't hurt to recreate it in a lesson, drawing on our knowledge of how fractions should behave.

Notice the embedded _gcd() method employs Euclid's Method to reduce fractions to lowest terms on initialization.  Since multiply and add operations, and their inverses, all end up creating new Q type instances (fractions), no attempt at reducing is made until then.

Hit the Run button to run the script.  Output appears at the bottom.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Circuit Rider

Uncle Lightfoot

Bill Lightfoot in 2010

At age 92, my uncle (dad's mom's sister's son) Bill Lightfoot has the baud rate to negotiate Amtrak on his own.  He escapes his comfy quarters in Seattle to be with his grand nephew.  He's eager for pictures of Jack, my dad.  They weren't much together after their chance meetup in Alaska, in the summer of 1947 I think it was.

Jack studied International Relations in DC, then went into regional planning under Dick Meier at the University of Chicago. After a strong on ramp performance, stateside, practicing planning in Portland, he went to nation-state scale, where you're looking at zoning and freeways, big picture infrastructure, less at individual housing or office complexes.  The latter is architecture and city planning, and more detailed.

I brought along some C6XTY as I'm timing myself to build a tetrahedron with four of them.  By "them" I mean soccer ball looking things, each assembled from six identical plastic parts, hence the name. The hexapent C60 is a meme, and a chemical (a carbon allotrope, a family of cages, then come the tubes and of course graphene, full circle, graphite, diamond and plain old soot -- carbon powder -- being the earlier discoveries).

Carol was also routing through downtown this same afternoon, and it worked to drop her at 10th and Taylor, park in a garage, observe some Flag Day childrens performance (a traveling troupe), then retrieve the car and head to Union Station, where the Coast Starlight has just arrived.  Bill and I headed over to Ringlers, where we enjoyed the usual great food and service (I'm a loyal customer). Thank you Bill, for making these forays.  I'll get you some more pictures, of dad.

This was the "short format" visit where we cut it pretty close.  The Coast Starlight is often late, getting here from California, but today was right on time.  I had Bill back at the station with only minutes to spare, whereas on another occasion we waited some hours.

On his previous visit he did "long format", coming a train earlier and leaving a train later.  That gave us time for Pittock Mansion, Kell's for lunch, visiting with Carol at Bagdad out my way, with time to spare getting back.  That was pretty exhausting though, for a ninety-two year old.  Did we get many pictures of Bill with his Aztecs (those were cars many considered rather funny looking, Bill loved 'em)?

Howard and Wilma came with Bill on one of these outings.  Bill and Barbara Hancock on another.  Amtrak:  keeping families together.  Bill wore his Northern Pacific hat.

Monday, June 12, 2017

OR Welcomes PR

Some will say it's a bit preemptive for a former territory, Oregon, to welcome Puerto Rico to the Union, as 51st state.

After some hundred years, I'm glad we have that sorted out.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Fundraising Dinner

Carol (mom) and I are about to drive across the river, against traffic (meaning with a faster trip time), for a dinner with Physicians for Social Responsibility.  As a veteran WILPFer, she's worked with the Oregon PSR rather closely, most especially on the Hiroshima - Nagasaki commemoration event, a time to pledge never again to indulge in nuclear war.

Since WW2, the planet has endured several nuclear catastrophes, beginning with so-called "testing", which irreparably harmed the ecosystem, followed by nuclear meltdowns. The meltdown in Chernobyl was such that brave and selfless human intervention was possible.

A tunnel was dug in record time to intercept the melting mass before it reached the water table.  In the case of Fukushima, human bravery is irrelevant and the Pacific Ocean is becoming increasingly contaminated, and by extension the planet.

The responsible jobs, going forward, have to do with cleanup and disaster mitigation. Humans floating around on military ships, threatening each other, saber rattling, is a lot of toy story nonsense wherein humans refuse to grow out of their kindergarten stage.

We'll have to leave them to play those war games, as they insist, and have the weapons to stop us from stopping them, but we don't have to treat them as mature adults.

I think a lot of the slowness to respond is about theater (the T in PATH).  People used to think Kings (a few Queens) had divine powers. Even when that illusion exploded, politicians managed to keep up an illusion of being in control.

That these people actually do any real work is becoming less apparent.  But then "work" in its physics meaning simply means "to expend energy" which we all do, of necessity, just to breath.  Any meaning beyond that tends to be tinged by moralizing, with Protestants (Christians known for their protesting attitude) among the first to chime in.

I need a haircut.  My gray hair is bushy and I'm wearing a maroon turtle neck with not such fancy pants. I'm in the ballpark of "frumpy academic" I suppose, though I'm closer to a Quaker crime boss (it's considered traitorous to laugh at politicians is it not?).  I've been posting to Forum 206 quite a bit. Does that make me a math teacher?

Sam Lanahan was by today with a truck load of C6XTY.  I'll be able to organize workflows for kids, having them construct soccer ball looking things from six curved pieces held together with eight screws. Then come the arms, suitable for interconnecting them in a lattice.

What's all this for?  Do you know what the isotropic vector matrix (IVM) is?  Octet truss?  CCP?  FCC (no not the government acronym).  Maybe we're just sharing some memes at first, basic STEM.

It'll be awhile longer before humanity grows up.  We're a work in progress.

Some of us don't think we need to learn about hard stuff, like science and math, as long as we have our politician parents to take care of us.  They'll protect us from the laws of physics, right?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wanderers 2017.5.30

A Peter Bechtold Briefing

I spent some of the morning listening to the Seymour Hersh telling of the Zero Dark Thirty story, based on actual events. Prying apart fiction from non-fiction is not always as easy as some pretend.  He provides missing puzzle pieces.

My sense of not needing to pry these apart at every turn, carried me into Peter Bechtold's talk, giving the history of Syria, the heartland of the Holy Land, as they called it in President Wilson's day.

Sure, Wilson sounds racist by today's standards but that doesn't make him a complete idiot. Peter sees Wilson relegated to the sidelines as French and British create their own narrative around what happened in the Middle East, subsequent to the end of the Ottoman Era.

The kinds of maps Peter showed of Syria, showing patchworks by micro-climate, language, religion (ethnicity) could be used with North America as well. However as Peter restated several times, these were static snapshots from an earlier time.  Much has transpired.

Given we're in Portland, how the District of Columbia sees the world remains influential.  Peter knows a lot of people and has great respect for many of them.  He's no fan of the New American Century PR or what the neocons have accomplished, using perhaps dated terminology.  Richard Perle and like that.

Dr. Bechtold volunteered that he had no inside information on events in Idlib, site of the chemical attack in early April, 2017.  The relevant international bodies have not confirmed the Assad government still has any chemical weapons, nor was there clear motivation to use them.  I share his skepticism.

Anyway, Wilson probably had the right idea, about providing peoples in the region with more apparatus for self determination.  The arbitrary boundaries and agreements made by English and French social engineers have not withstood the test of time.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Control Room

Coding with Kids

See the Pen Sine Wave Experiment by Kirby Urner (@pdx4d) on CodePen.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


I see refugees from Chef World (aka "the kitchen") trying their hand at coding, and thinking they're making a big leap. Yes, they are, in a way, but in other ways a short order cook is a study in workflows, and an algorithm is a semi-numerical recipe.

The key to cooperative concurrency is the wisely chosen yield keyword in Python, which is two way, and a way of handing back control to the caller, voluntarily we might say, before all business is completed.  Queue up a number of such yielding tasks, as promising to deliver in the future, and roll through them, round robin or when the timer dings (ready!) and you've got yourself an event loop.

In a seeming change of subject, I had the C6XTY "buckyball" made of six units, screwed together with eight disks, as a "booth magnet" conversation piece.

Even after understanding our proposal, for a smart router that keeps students on task, schools approved by model families, a Pythonista maybe wanted to linger, chat on other topics.  Hexapents for everyone (HP4E) meets CP4E (Guido himself sauntered by, but chose neither to engage nor inhibit, per Pycon's code).

The connection is this concept of "payload" or "something valuable inside".  When a Python generator returns, raising a StopIteration, a payload might go inside at that point.  Likewise a Future, or class of Task, this this "cooking" or "baking" internal state, which the event loop keeps checking, not blocking for more than a moment if the task is clearly undone.

Once an egg "hatches" and releases the payload, then other design patterns kick in.  Cooked meals get delivered to tables. A waiter / waitress is optimizing in many ways too.

The chef or chefs may be amazing in their seeming ability to multi-task, but lets not forget:  the whole restaurant is made from coroutines.

Nor is such an ecosystem incompatible with the pre-emptive multitasking going on at a deeper level.  The OS knows the CPU is a resource to share.

There's nothing wrong with running "blocking code" or "being a CPU hog" when you've been scheduled for useful work, and when the OS retains the channel changer (the "remote").

That's how CERN and Hubble both work, with a jobs queue.  It's up to the researchers to manage a workflow once their fun in the sun comes around.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Haim's Challenge

In chapters passed, I tried to dispute Haim's Challenge, which he re-introduced on math-teach again recently:
Thank you for the opportunity to re-introduce "Haim's Challenge",
"There are no important open questions in math pedagogy."

(The Challenge is to prove the premise wrong by pointing to even one long-term, ongoing examination of open questions in math pedagogy, by any group of people, anywhere. The context is K-12 mathematics.)
I'd bring up A&B modules, T&E modules, clearly referencing Synergetics for its pedagogical implications.  Of course the K-12 curriculum should be adjusted, here and there!
Of course I do not discuss math pedagogy, for the simple reason that there is nothing to discuss. Or, so I believe.

I believe:
(1) We know everything there is to know about school mathematics (i.e., K-12 math), and
(2) We know everything there is to know about how to teach it.

So, the only really important question is why don't the schools do what we know they should do to most effectively teach math to the most students?

The answer can only be found by exploring the politics of education, not the mechanics of long division or anything like that. We know the mechanics of long division. What is less clear is why the schools don't teach it well, if at all.
I realize now that actions speak louder than words, and Haim well explains many phenomena I observe in the ambient culture.

Whether I agree with Haim's challenge (more like a claim) or not is immaterial.  My sphere of influence is definitely limited.

People treat mathematics as a static aspect of their environment.

Hell would freeze over before "tetravolumes" would rise to the level of attracting the attention of grade school math teachers, let alone prove share-worthy, with coming generations.

I get it.  That's certainly not a decision I'm comfortable with, which accounts for my somewhat non-mainstream ethnicity.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

On Projection

In dime store psychology books for the dummy dumbfuckistanis, you'll learn that "projection" is something you shouldn't do, like picking your nose in public.

With a little training and vigilance, one grows out of this immature practice, and then just sees others doing it, so blind to their own failings.

More upscale psychology, closer to worth the money, will tell you "projection" is all you've got (in the more Plato's Cave sense) and so the game is one of "fine tuning" (presuming you're even grossly in the right ballpark).

If you make projection be your friend, and then spend the time, do the homework, to learn it as a skill, an intentional art, you might wind up with something more like a crystal ball in your own estimation.

Why we diss projection is it leads us astray. We believe our beliefs and that's rarely a good idea.  Were projection to be trusted, like corrected vision, then that'd be a new chapter.

I do like Maurice Nicoll, the intrepid Scotsman, on this topic.  He warns us to not identify with every thought or feeling posing as "one's own".

Many never even get to that first rung of the ladder: of realizing they have a choice, in terms of what inner voices to identify with.

How fast they climb from there, is anyone's guess.