Archive for the 'Richard Lathwell' Category

Happy New Year! The 2011 Photo Array!

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I’m looking forward to a 2012 that is just as fast paced as 2011. And for whatever it’s worth, I didn’t blog as much as I did last year which is something you will notice in this post of photos. Yes indeed, a picture is worth 1000 words.

In fact, we only made 12 posts for 2011 and in spite of this low showing, my faithful readers, according to a report WordPress sent me last night:

This blog was viewed about 9,700 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

I’m thrilled! Rock on!

Happy New Year Everyone! Let’s kick some more ass in 2012.

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Country thievery and small arrays

Ken Iverson's copy of ALGOL 68

Klout reminds me this morning that my “influence”  has dropped 50%.  I guess this is what happens when one doesn’t participate in cyberspace these days, you get an automated email: “Hey!  YOU’RE not the cool kid!” Yikes.

The truth is I’m so busy, I can’t believe it. I got into that Statistics class I was hoping to avoid because last week it was full.  It’s still full, but now with me in it.  Damn. That’s good.  Right?

Fortunately, I had the foresight to hike up to Manitoulin Island to visit my dad on his new farm before it all began. The farm is not actually new, he moved up there two years ago, but this was my first venture.  If you’re wondering why it took me so long look at the map.

So, while I was there, dad worked.  I did nothing except wander around and photograph small and wild things.  And try to capture the moon and clouds. And poke around in his private business.  I brought back his journals from 1966 to 1977 among other bits and bobs.  And it turns out that my dad is perhaps a bit of a book thief, so I now own a couple books which previously graced the libraries of Ken Iverson and Adin Falkoff.

Incidentally, Sage, the infamous cat in the box loves country life and slept at my feet while I was visiting.

Now it’s back to the rate race.  Hey! Up my Klout!  I wanna be the cool kid again!

(Just kidding. I know it’s not Klout that makes me cool.  To borrow from Manuel Simone, it’s intellectual badassness.)

 

 

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Daunting VIP interviews, Cat lady trigonometry and light!

newreflect10 199x300 Daunting VIP interviews, Cat lady trigonometry and light!Good cinematography is all about catching proper light will expertly balanced gear.

One of the uncomfortable consequences of the subjects I usually film is that they have a better handle on basic math than I do.  Not that I suck, but often my thinking-through process is slower than theirs.  One can see that internal gears are at work. I noticed a very well controlled twinge of impatience in one instance when I was mentally working out the angle for a light.  In other words, I need to practice a lot before I go out in the field.

Today I’m gearing up for some VIP interviews in the fall, literally.  I haven’t been satisfied my lighting system so I bought a new reflector.

newreflect4 300x199 Daunting VIP interviews, Cat lady trigonometry and light!

And spent the evening testing it on my trusty models, Nichi and Nanna.

I want to be able to capture a richness of colour in people’s personal environments.

Light and cameras are all about getting the triangle just right.

Testing was going more or less fine, until the reflector came floating down on poor Nichi’s head.  At which point I switched and aimed the sun beams at Nanna.newreflect6 300x199 Daunting VIP interviews, Cat lady trigonometry and light!

 

 

 

 

 

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Jaxon and me on Falkoff’s one liner

The following is adapted from email conversations with Greg Jaxon, a Compiler Engineer from Illinois, USA who studied at Syracuse University.  He is an active contributor to the APL LinkedIn online forum and it turns out he met my dad at Minowbrook in 1980. I needed a little help to conclude my, “Where were you…” miniseries, and Greg graciously stepped up to the plate.

My dad, incidentally, sends his regards from Manitoulin Island.  Though he still controls his farm house with his iPhone, he doesn’t miss the Internet connection. 

To give a little bit of context, I was born in 1965 to very young and idealistic parents who believed that the 60′s really were going to change things.  In 1966, IBM whisked my family off to NY, USA from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  We subsequently moved to the Philadelphia, PA, USA area and ended up living in a small college town called Swarthmore.

Greg Jaxon writes:

One non-programming thing that has always intrigued me about the “APL community” and which has been formative for me politically and personally is our early and frequent use of consensus decision-making.  Perhaps your Dad could start that thread of the story, since (as I understand it) the group at Philadelphia took on this Quaker practice to form the exact definitions in the first APL implementation.

On Day 1 of the X3J10 APL standards effort the topic of voting came up right away. As that work progressed we used a few unorthodox voting schemes to tease out where consensus could be found – a lot of preference ranking and approval threshold measurement. It was clear that the intellectual descendants of the first 6 had the same passion for getting the hive mind to function optimally – to not marginalize the difficult corner opinions, not to cave in to majority rule. I’m convinced this is why APL is so very good – it hasn’t compromised on anything important – instead it found and fixed all the problems until no more could be found.  It’s not just good enough to get by…

The Minnowbrook conferences also echo this emphasis on cooperative agreement. Trade Secrets come out of their closets there – mostly I think out of the sheer joy of meeting other live humans who understand the topics (these are the uber-geeks of an already too geeky computing subculture).

This got my attention.   Swarthmore is in the heartland of Quaker territory.  I was educated by Quakers.  And Greg must have read Adin Falkoff’s, The Design of APL.

I belong to the generation uncomfortably sandwiched between the boomers and their children.  My attitude is formed more from the dress in black, hard core music generation, than the Flower Child generation but I still have strong ties to the Quakers and have remained connected to them up here in Canada.   To my good fortune, I started programming APL as a teen and unlike many of my peers, I’ve had a career from the get-go.  But still, the irreverence of my generation stuck.  In other words, I’m a little cynical.

The first time I read Adin Falkoff’s, The Design of APL, the line about Quaker Consensus jumped right out of the text.  (like: WHAT?  Where the hell does that come from? Consensus? At IBM?) And as I move through this project, I am learning a lot more about business, I have been chipping away at 50+ years of Computer History, and naturally, my gaze falls upon the history of IBM.  Which is also American corporate history.  And patent history.  An intellectual property law history.  I’m still pondering… What on earth is a reference to Quaker process doing in an IBM publication?

Greg responds:

My history lesson on this: Penn was a Flower Child of a famous military officer; he joined the Quakers who were emphatically not the Church of England, nor easily governed by any hierarchical law. Through consensus they sought God’s natural Laws for their community. Penn acquired his North American woods to settle the King’s debt to his late father. But by the time he got with the English aristocracy programme, his Woods were full of Quaker hippies.

For many years he sent governors and magistrates and others to try to collect rents or taxes, and the resident Friends politely declined to impose these on themselves. So your Quakers were the original American libertarians struggling to understand God’s intention for human Law.

To find Harvard mathematicians (arguably in search of much the same kind of revelation) adopt this practice, is interesting.  To see it grow into APL, itself a quaint minority language with an uncannily natural place near the heart of Computer Science’s new fascination with parallel execution models, cooperating independent processes, and clean data abstraction,  … is perhaps a recurrent story in the history of ideas. Your Dad’s “shared variables” ideas combine “message passing” with “shared memory” approaches to parallelism, a synthesis sorely missing in modern parallel languages.

There… my contribution to a historical explanation, I can cite “Conceived in Liberty” by historian Murray Rothbard for this summary of the Quaker colonies.

Wow.  Now THAT gives me a lot to think about.  On this crazy filmmaking journey, I’m paying careful attention to the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, our culture and “progress”.  And by we, I also mean people, not just us.

And, sadly, this is the one year anniversary of Adin Falkoff’s death, the man who wrote those words about Quaker Consensus at IBM in 1973.

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