[Chicago] Big thanks from Kirby (Portland, OR) -- long

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Apr 8 04:34:14 CEST 2009

Greeting Chipyers --

I just wanted to express my appreciation for a great Pycon experience.
 Lots of other bloggers saying this was a good one.

I'm the guy from Portland, Oregon who signed on to your list pre
conference in order to propagandize extensively for my workshop,
Python for Teachers.

We had a good meeting and I met some great people, then went on to the
edu-sig BOF and a couple education-related dinners, including one with
O'Reilly's Scott Gray, learned a lot from that guy. [1]

On Sunday, Steve Holden, your PSF chairman, and Dr. Ian Benson, math
expert from the UK (and Tizard Stanford) joined me on the El for a
visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art where we took in the Bucky
Fuller exhibit called Starting with the Universe, which I hope to
revisit before it closes in June (we were kind of rushed, two of us
having planes to catch, praise Allah for those taxis to/from the El

I should re-explain that my "Pythonic Math" courses -- experimental
pilot studies in Portland -- have included a lot of Bucky Fuller right
from the start, and indeed it was in my quest for tools to make
colorful polyhedra for the Web that brought me to Python in the first
place (starting with 1.6 or thereabouts).[3]

Although not front and center in this exhibit, Fuller had a way of
streamlining geometry teaching, where we relate everything back to the
tetrahedron as the primitive beginning, not the cube.  It's a change
in emphasis really, as no pre-existing math is invalidated i.e. it's
all highly backward compatible (except there's this different

I realize that's maybe unclear.  I'm reluctant to take up your
bandwidth (hence the notes section). [4]

Hey, on another (related?) topic, what I'm trying to start up within
our local user groups (PPUG) is this "free to the public" maybe once a
month presentation on Python, entertaining and fun.  There might be
some targeted outreach  e.g. to directors of local non-profits, give
'em a feel for FOSS subcultures (we'd contextualize Python within the
larger ecosystem), but it'd be open to anyone (in the spirit of open

Why I'm thinking this'd help geeks, not just the curious public, is
here's a semi-canned gig that'd given different people opportunities
to showcase their teaching and communications skills.  People in the
audience might be like talent scouts i.e. in the market for some
consulting service or whatever, plus you can add it to your resume if
you'd wish, another feather in your cap.  Even if you're personally
booked, you could make referrals.

The user group could even go further and point to more specialized
workshops that weren't necessarily free, with these initial lectures
being more like "orientation" (big picture, overview).

My model for all this is Princeton University Computer Center, which
had a schedule of free talks to the public on a variety of subjects,
including various computer languages.  A lot of students would go, but
you didn't have to be a student or alum.  This was a way for CS
students to develop their presentation skills as well (I wasn't in the
CS department exactly, just lurked a lot, sneaked into Equad to play
with a graphical version of APL on Tektronix terminals, thought that
was way cool (which it was)).

I'll plan to lurk here some more, not take up much bandwidth.  Where I
usually hang out is on edu-sig (one of the Python.org e-lists), been
there for years.  We talk about One Laptop per Child sometimes, lots
of other stuff.  I sound off about my "new kind of geometry" or

Feel free to join us.

What I'm trying to make happen in Portland is a way for teachers
already on the job to upgrade their skills through a customized Python
training that's really aimed at recruiting for STEM subjects (science,
technology, engineering, math).  It's not about becoming a CS teacher
or applications developer.  It's about continuing to teach math (for
example) but galvanizing the curriculum with something more fun than
just graphing calculators (blech).

Given the number of teachers who might benefit, I see lots of demand
for these workshops, potentially.  We impart the values of open source
as well, i.e. using the Internet transparently to co-develop lesson
plans, curriculum (what many are doing already, but still too much
enslavement to "one size fits all" textbooks and standardized testing
-- not against testing (we teach TDD after all)).

My thanks to the PSF for allowing myself and the other nominees to
join as members, and to Laura Creighton of Strakt (Open End) for
nominating me.  Her Sweden-based company has been kind and
appreciative towards me over the years, recognizing my efforts and
intentions.  Laura is a good example of what I call a FOSS boss, Steve
Holden another.[6]

And last but not least, congratulations to Andre Roberge, author of
Crunchy and a university president, for taking over management of the
edu-sig page at Python.org, originally developed by me back in cvs
days (pre svn, plus now we're moving to hg).  We came to this decision
during our edu-sig BOF, by easy consensus.


PS:  yeah, putting some work into notes 'n stuff because I plan to
link back to this later -- standard practice for me (called
"connecting the dots" [7] -- what hypertext is all about, no?).

[1]  http://mybizmo.blogspot.com/2009/03/closing-time.html (my meeting
with Scott)
[2]  http://www.flickr.com/photos/17157315@N00/sets/72157616066135225/
(my Pycon pictures)
[3]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/pymath.html (more on Pythonic Mathematics)
[4]  http://mathforum.org/kb/message.jspa?messageID=6669452&tstart=0
(very prolific today, April 7)
[5]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/presentations/p4t_notes.pdf (last page
especially, Akbar font (Simpsons))
[6]  http://mathforum.org/kb/message.jspa?messageID=6648859&tstart=0
(re FOSS bosses, XX especially)
[7]  http://mybizmo.blogspot.com/2009/04/remembering-vilnius-2007.html
(connecting the dots)

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