Python in work/study context (futuristic, fw: from physics list)



This archival (yet recent) posting to an obscure physics list might
be of some interest to those taking a longer view. The work/study
projects described below come from an Oregon think tank working
in private-public partnerships on education policy. I'm one of the



Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2008 10:28:54 -0800
Sender: Education about physics-related social topics
<[email protected]>
From: Kirby Urner <[email protected]>
Organization: 4D Solutions
Subject: FW: new work / study opportunities...

FYI to PHYSOC, something I wrote for a different clique, mentions this
list in the endnotes.

Kirby Urner Portland, Oregon

-----Original Message-----
From: kirby urner [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 10:21 AM
To: [ list of recipients ] Subject: HPNY!

So welcome to 2008 ya'll. I'm back from a 3687 km drive to/from LA, a
loop down the coast, back on I-5 (odd number freeways run north south,
increment west to east, with I-95 the analogy to I-5 in the east).

Current project:

[ Background: Oregon / Washington suffer from degraded railroad
infrastructure and poor passenger service, whereas the latter
especially could add tourist dollars to the local economy, were it
able to manage itself successfully. ]

I'm recruiting players to this idea of college students getting
semesters abroad to do work / study doing interesting body-building
work like revamping a railroad through rural (some urban) Oregon.

Not everyone would be cut out for this, and it'd be the usual thing of
screening candidates through an admissions process.

The perks would include cultural immersion, free time, trips to
surrounding cities, room and board, lots of bandwidth, flatscreens for
after hours video gaming etc.

College credit would attach, as this isn't just about building a
railroad. You learn some North American history at the same time,
about Chinese (including pre European), about gold rushes (California,
Alaska), about the local tribal nations, both their history and
current operations (guided tour of a casino or two?).

Sounds like *nothing* to do with Python right?

Right in a way, but on the other hand 4D Solutions has built much of
its local street cred around this phase-in of explicit programming
around math concepts, per Pippy on the XO: Fibonacci Numbers and
Pascals Triangle both figure.

The partnership's results boost our credibility with funders, but more
importantly with local college and university faculty. We already have
fans at Linnfield, PSU (Wanderers helps with this too).

The fact of these contacts makes it easier to envision coordinating
with college admissions officers around such projects as the above (a
way of training geek civilians in the use of heavy equipment, or so-
called "blue collar" skills (an unfortunate classism, still very

Having been the database guy for Associated Oregon Industries also
helps, plus the Saturday Academy connection, explicitly backed by
Silicon Forest powers that be.

Of course we need to test the system locally for awhile, so the first
step is to look for interested local schools and departments.

It'd maybe sound funny to have a comp sci department recruiting for
railroad work, but on the other hand the railroads have long been
clients of software engineering (something I learned about at
Princeton, long before Python was invented (I cut my teeth on APL and
FORTRAN, was even a paid FORTRAN programmer at one point in my life,
before switching to xBase pretty much full time (all pre Open Source

In the long run, we're looking at Python bindings (APIs) to next
generation heavy lifting machinery, whole factories (EuroPython @
Vilnius opened my eyes to these possibilities), not just to lighter
weight instruments and sensors ala the Turtle / Robotics models
(though some of those robots might well be truck-sized -- might even
*be* trucks per my "ZTS" proposal on another list **).

You need people who've been there done that, not just arm chair
imagineers with cube farm experience, but no hands on, in-the-field
stuff on their resumes / transcripts.

So this semester (or year) abroad, and / or from another state,
rebuilding some infrastructure in Oregon (bulldozers!), under expert
tutelage (some doubling as recruiters for unions and guilds, seeking
longer term commitments (not a secret)) and under university
supervision (strong faculty presence, access to admin services,
including around visas), *does* tie in to building on Python's
reputation as a controller in technology settings, in telescopy and

I expect to see some of you in Chicago, where I'll be enroute to a
family reunion further on in west Pennsylvania (Amish country). I
expect my two daughters to join me, maybe more (still too early to
have a script completely worked yet).

More later,


** (e-mail address removed) Education about physics-related social
topics e.g.

See also:
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