[Edu-sig] ACM Urges Obama to Include CS as CoreComponentofScience, Math Education

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Jan 3 17:28:57 CET 2009

Yes Gerry, sounds like we're in agreement on many points.

It'd be lovely to be at a point where we're questioning SQL as the
best way to go, but alas you don't find many students ready for that
discussion in Portland, as they still don't know what SQL is, the
Oregonian (town newspaper) rarely mentions it (even though I bet they
use it).  'Dilbert' is a great comic, but xkcd is taking the cake in
some ways (I'm not persuaded Dilbert really knows much SQL, Wally
either -- pointy haired boss uses Office I bet).

SQL is required for government and administration.  Easy to topple a
gov't that has no databases, as there's not really a gov't then,
whereas anything with big iron behind it (like IBM behind the Nazis)
has real muscle, and that big iron runs SQL (Hollerith keeping tabs,
on steroids).  SQL is required for industrial scale medicine, as you
want that infant associated with a treatment program.  This image of
doctors without borders seeing people just once is ridiculous, you
need repeat visits and you need medical record keeping.  These days,
that usually means SQL, though it could mean Google appengine, so GQL
then ( http://gql.sourceforge.net/ ).

That you can become an adult in this culture and not know what SQL is
reminds me of when people couldn't read the Bible, had to go to a
priest who would likely leave out the juicy bits (e.g. certain
demented passages in Leviticus) and spoil the fun.  Thanks to
Gutenberg, we're able to read our own source code (whatever ethnicity)
and in geek world (e.g. GOSCON, GIS), that includes (but is not
limited to) SQL.  Computer algebra is our way of bridging the digital
divide, getting that world class education to South Chicago and

In today's idiocracy, we flood the cube farms with cube monkeys who
beat their heads against that padded cell called Microsoft Access, a
fat client piece of Office, but never grasp what's going on behind the
scenes, in which case they'd be able to fire up like a shell and go at
it directly, hitting those tables with the likes of Django (manage.py
shell) or what have you.  Access is notoriously not "shell mode
friendly", same with VBA in general, whereas J, Scheme, Python... all
the decent agiles (Ruby, bash...), have one.  So let's just agree to
keep Access *off* the XO (for the sake of our children's sanity) and I
think we'll be fine.

As for the smartest person in the world being a bartender, that makes
a lot of sense, as HR/people skills are among the most intensely
difficult.  One of the smartest people I've ever met was a barista,
ran a friendly, happy wifi cafe here in Portland.  Yet this person
could also coordinate international disaster relief, take guff from
egomaniacs (with grace), and champion the plight of orphans around the
world (she's been one), forgetting which NGO at the moment.  Anyway, a
battlehard genius, all of 5 feet tall, kickboxer, Asian model
equipment.  I've only met two or three other people that intelligent,
and I've met a *lot* of really smart people.

I think the Indonesians have it right with the shadow puppets.  A lot
of enculturation will involve projecting and turn taking, people
getting up in front of the group and doing show & tell, Q&A.  Python's
"lightning talk" practice is a great encapsulation of this meme, which
isn't that new, except for the technology, having YouTube for showing
'16 Words' or whatever.  This is the direction we're moving as Quakers
(small ethnic cult).  Picture us out in Montana, bed sheet strung
between two trees, quiet battery powered projector showing J IDE out
under the stars someplace, one of our teens giving a short lecture,
camp fire crackling.  Picture this happening in 2009, already
storyboarded (NPYM meets in Montana this year).

The XO models the laptop you carry around like a brief case.  Once you
get to the work place, it may be more like mission control, with lots
of people sharing the same screens, big, up in front, more like TVs
but really Django and JQuery out the back, talking to Oracle or
PostGIS or whatever, helping coordinate food buying (thinking of
FoodHub by Ecotrust, or something similar).

These are interesting, sought-after jobs, available right out of high
school if you're ready for NGO work, internships, or as a part of a
college's work/study program if aiming for one of academia's
certifications.  Having had training on the XO will have been a big
boost.  You'll thank G1G1 and all those kind people in Hollywood like
Angelina and Britney (billboards around Portland again too -- plus we
have our own Hollywood (around 42nd and Sandy, used to rent space



[ see previous messages on edu-sig, public archive, Python community,
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Message just prior:


On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 7:09 AM, gerry_lowry (alliston ontario canada)
<gerry.lowry at abilitybusinesscomputerservices.com> wrote:
> k: =. kirby urner  (partial quotes)
> g: =. gerry lowry (reponses to k)

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