[Edu-sig] More on Tourism...

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Tue Jun 5 20:01:45 CEST 2007

Just to elaborate a little more, I think I'm in agreement with a lot of
Pythoneers that it's more than just a computer language, this glue
cohering our various Python-using communities (partially overlapping).

It's a webspace (docs, PEPs), a shared namespace, an in-common
history, players, characters (benevolent dictator)... the usual stuff of
ethnography.  I could also mention rituals:  lightning talks, sprints,
meetups, Zopefests.

And then there's the language itself, with its many __ribs__.

Part of that shared ethnography is Monty Python the comedy troupe,
and I make a big deal out of explaining that at the start of my Python
courses in part because it's a good segue into the whole idea of what
a "namespace" is (a concept with currency in the XML community as

However, Monty Python, though still a Broadway phenomenon
('Spamalot' on the marquee last time I was through, which was late
last year, Eric Idle of IDLE fame in the credits), is not common
knowledge among OLPC kids. Which is *not* to say I think we
should drop it.  On the contrary, with YouTube and the like, these
allusions will become easier and more fun to explain (in the form
of short clips, streaming media).

Nevertheless, those kids in Cambodia just getting their laptops
and cranking up to "learn programming" or whatever they're expected
to do, aren't going to have this shared context of British comedy,
at least not right away.

All an OLPC kid might know, from cursory English, Amerish or
perhaps some Caribbean brew, is that Pythons are a kind of snake
(constrictors more specifically, not venemous).  And a Ruby is a
gemstone (usually red), like an emerald (green).  A Perl is a
valuable thing too (from oysters), but look how it's spelled (some
won't notice or care about the difference though, leading to
like Perl Divers in Panama -- a group of coders).  Java is of
course the legal drug.

Geekdom more generally has experimented with martial arts
metaphors, like kung fu (there was some TV show where the
one geek had to admit the other geek had more of it -- was
that a Buffy episode?  Yes, I think it was).  A reason there
is many people, males often more overtly, like to display rank,
often by means of costume (white, yellow, brown and black
belts are just the beginning -- wait'll you see epaulets).


I'm not posing as the only answer man here, but I don't mind
remaining a font of suggestions, as many others of us are.  Lots
of good suggestions come from edu-sig IMO, from many corners.

My suggestion is to embrace the snake imagery whole heartedly
and not just in the form of permuting and punning on Py.  In my
case, I actually have a constrictor in my office (my daughter will
be buying a mouse for it on the way home from school today).
It's not a Python though, but a baby Corn. Here's its picture:

Not every culture is intrinsically snake friendly, depending on local
myth and so on.  But kids are typically open minded to fairy tales
from other traditions, and that's what they see on satellite TV:
mythologies from around the world, some rather alien-seeming.
Rather than try to accommodate and "water down" the snake
associations, for "marketing reasons", I think core Python culture
should be unabashedly willing to help the snake world preserve
itself and thrive.  We respect and enjoy snakes.  We don't teach
mindless fear and panic ala 'Snakes on a Plane'.

There's a link here to the word "geek" which implies "circus performer"
if you study the etymology.  Circus kids are likewise open minded
and by definition friendly with animals (elephants, horses...), even
if some freaks bite the heads off chickens on occasion (more geek
etymology). This helps close the loop with comedy *troupe* and
*flying circus.*

Another suggestion.  Snakes naturally bridge to dragons in all
kinds of lore, much of it in the Fantasy section.  A pro snake
attitude translates to a pro dragon attitude.  I won't try to unpack
all the consequences in this post. I go into more depth in my
talk proposal to Europython, which I'll eventually put at my


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