The Lay of Analytics

A few minutes ago I posted a link on Facebook to a recent technical report to which I'd contributed. Many of my Facebook friends are non-techies, and one of them asked: "could you say that again, poetically?" Which is a genius request, really! The technical report concerns data analytics, so here's a brief lyric to get the gist to my non-technical friends.

I wandered lonely as a cloud and tried to figure out
Where all my customers had gone, to bring them back about;
But from a million visitors how could I see the trend?
What made them walk out of my store, and what did make them spend?
And so I bought some software which could crunch the number stew
And tell me as a business just exactly what to do.
The best such tools let me explore without insisting on specifics;
I asked a geek "so what's that called?" He said: "Smart Analytics."

BTW the report in question is PwC's latest "Technology Forecast" report (PDF download), focusing on data analytics. There's also a sidebar on Zepheira's Freemix product on page 39.

Brief notes on upgrading a 2010 MacBook Pro SSD

I have a 2010 MacBook Pro which came with a 120GB SSD. I ran out of space on the drive and took it upon myself to upgrade to a bigger one. Found a great deal ($220) on this SanDisk Extreme 240GB 2.5" SATA III SSD and was ready to swap it out with the old drive.  It turns out I'd lost out on the lottery and received one of the slower Toshiba SSDs rather than one of the faster Samsung ones, so I knew the SanDisk was bound to be an improvement. After making sure my Time Machine backup was up to date I cloned my old SSD to the new one using a SATA-to-USB dock and Carbon Copy Cloner.

I started by watching this video to get a sense of my way around the inside of the laptop. The video covers a slightly different task, but I wasn't looking for hand-holding, but just the general layout and gotchas.  One of the things I gathered is that it's important to use high-quality philips and torx bits, and in my case I used a Wiha set.  It was pretty easy to take out the old SSD and plug in the new one. I couldn't find my anti-static wristband, but I made sure to wear only cotton clothing, and to touch the power supply chasis of a nearby, plugged-in desktop PC every minute or so to avoid zapping anything.

With the new SSD in place, the first boot took an eternity. Almost ten seconds from pushing the power button to the grey Apple icon, and almost another ten seconds before the little spinny boot process indicator, but it did boot up fine. I've heard that SSDs need a few days to "settle in" before they're at proper performance levels, but other than the super-slow boot-up , I haven't had any other problems. I was back to working normally right away with the new SSD.  Using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test I get speeds of around 220MB/s for read and 260MB/s for write, which is quite an improvement (and this is before any possible "settling.")

Black night! Black night!

In the case where fear presses back
Through the air, where the torch has expired
On the orphan river,
In the forest, soulless and tired,
Under the anxious and faded trees,
In the wan woods, squalling trunks
Ululate without respite
Over the accursed tom-toms,
Black night! Black night!

from "Nuit Noire" by Birago Diop, translated by Uche Ogbuji

This poem is excerpted from Birago Diop's short story "Sarzan", well known among literati with interest in African culture. I can only find it in French online right now, but I first encountered it in the collection Jazz and Palm Wine which my father loved and would sometimes read to the family. The excerpt above is from the very end, and I translated it form the French original:

Dans la case où la peur repasse
Dans l'air où la torche s'éteint,
Sur le fleuve orphelin
Dans la forêt sans âme et lasse
Sous les arbres inquiets et déteints,
Dans les bois obscurcis
Les trompes hurlent, hululent sans merci
Sur les tam-tams maudits,
Nuit noire ! Nuit noire !
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I've watched the "Kony 2012" hype and the subsequent controversy with both amusement and bemusement, thought I've thought whatever comment I might have better kept to myself. I wasn't even paying much attention to the whole affair except for a few nuggets that would strike me, usually from when it was on the news my wife was watching in the other room. The first case was when I believe NBC said they would be sending a crew to Uganda to do some fact-checking on the story. That really annoyed me.
Here is a list just off head:
  • Major unrest in Burkina Faso last year
  • Ethno-religious strife in Nigeria's middle belt
  • Al-Quaeda-inspired terrorism in Nigeria's North
  • The Nigerian fuel subsidy removal unrest
  • An oil spill by Shell almost as bad as the Deepwater Horizon disaster (in terms of environmental impact rather than barrels of oil)
  • South Sudan's independence
  • Eradication of Rhinderpest
  • Famine in East Africa
  • The arrest of Gbagbo in Côte d'Ivoire following the mayhem he caused after elections
  • The election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia
  • One of the most engaging African Cup of Nations competitions in my own memory (OK I had to throw that last bit in there).
So many compelling stories coming out of sub-saharan Africa, and it took a viral Youtube video to get NBC to send a crew to the continent.  Even if you were only interested in Uganda, the non-violent protests led by Besigye against Museveni alone were more newsworthy than "Kony 2012".

Now don't get me wrong. Joseph Kony and the LRA have been shocking and disgusting me for at least fifteen years, and of course I'd love to see him brought to justice, but the problem with Kony 2012 is that it perpetuates the approach of over-hype and lazy hyper-focus on one topic that has characterized so much popular Western attention on the continent. It's "Do they know it's Christmas time at all" all over again, and don't let me start on that unspeakable nonsense.

Anyway another snippet from the "Kony 2012" affair that struck me was the clip of the video's creator I half caught in which he was itching about some U.S. city street in the nude while muttering loudly. It instantly brought back a very powerful reminder of Birago Diop's short story, which Professor Willfried Feuser translated in his collection as "Sarzent the Madman." The "Sarzent" ("sergeant") of the story has returned from his military education in France loudly determined to "civilize" his home village. He becomes possessed by the spirits of his ancestors and goes around raving in poetry. I see the broader lesson of the story about the peril of insincerity couched in self-righteousness, especially when rooted in alien, Western values. That's certainly how the story struck me as a child, and in that wise I find the correspondence to this madness of Jason Russell extremely creepy. A friend of mine mentioned that it's as if the man was stricken by the Igbo deity Agwu Nsi.

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Some of the ravings of Sarzan/Sarzent come from Diop's earlier poetry, including his lovely "Souffles" ("Breaths"):

Écoute plus souvent 
les choses que les êtres. 
La voix du feu s'entend, 
entends la voix de l'eau
écoute dans le vent
le buisson en sanglots.

I found the above video with the poem's recitation. I translate it thusly:

Listen more often
To things than to beings.
The fire's voice is heard,
Hear the voice of the water
Listen in the wind
To the bush a-sobbing.

Engineers of the Copia family

It's St. Patrick's day. While most people go about wearing the odd green, drink excessive amounts of beer, try to get lucky (and not in the Leprechaun sense) while figuring out how to pronounce "Éirinn go Brách", I've always had a very different view of the holiday. I come from a household of engineers and was also at least nominally raised Catholic, so for me St. Patrick's day is all about his patronage of engineering, which became a tradition among US Engineering schools about the turn of the 20th century.

And this is where my father, Dr. Thomas-Ogbuji, came in 1976 to earn his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. After the Nigerian Civil War the flagship university of the east, UNN, where I later started my own engineering studies, was in complete disrepair, and students from the defeated Biafra were being shunned by other Nigerian universities.  My father took his best available option: an Association of African Universities scholarship to the American University at Cairo to study Materials Engineering, studying on the crowded boundary of Tahrir Square. It was a winding journey that took us all from Egypt to Cleveland.

He was on a superstar trajectory among Engineering Ceramics and Metallurgy societies because of his prolific papers and pioneering work with electron microscopy in that field, but eventually he decided to take his career in a more pedestrian direction by heading to Nigeria to lecture. I suspect he must sometimes feel he fell a bit short of his potential, but I'm personally very grateful for his detour because it resulted in my spending almost ten years in my home country, during my crucial teenage years.

My father's work in putting engineering into African context has another angle. He has long studied the bronze and gold casting techniques of the exquisite smiths of West Africa from Igbo territory and Benin City all the way to Ghana and beyond. The "Lost Wax method" of casting apparently invented in Benin is, as my father points out, "a technique still preferred for the precision casting of aircraft engine parts, bioengineering prostheses and other components for exacting applications."

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Of course my father was my main inspiration for becoming an engineer, and he similarly inspired others in our family, including my brother and co-Copian Chimezie, and a cousin Brian Nnolim. That brings me to another dear cousin Ubu Ana. Her younger siblings both eventually became doctors, like their father Dr. Ana, but she had spoken to my father a great deal about his work, and decided to also study Materials Engineering. Sadly, she died of an acute illness soon after receiving her Ph.D. at Loughborough University. None of us who knew her doubted what a bright future she had in her profession, but recently her doctoral supervisor, Dr Gary Critchlow, Chairman of the Society for Adhesion & Adhesives, has been explaining to her extended family just how groundbreaking some of her work had been, even as a student.

Ubu’s work has, in part, been published. The attached paper is from her research. This will one day be regarded as a very important paper IMHO as it turns one of the theories of adhesion on its head. It shows weak adhesives give better strength in bonded structures than strong ones which is very counter-intuitive!

....Her work though on the reaction kinetics of silicone-based adhesives is still World-leading to this day. I really should find time to publish more! Out of interest her work has been presented at major conferences as far away as China so her theories of why things adhere and, importantly, why they fail have been quite widely circulated and discussed.

The paper is "The attainment of controlled adhesion by incorporation of low level additives in a PDMS-based adhesive"  and from what I can tell, it offers findings that contradict prior assumptions with respect to how stearate compounds might operate as lubricants through interference at the molecular, surface level, even in the presence of strong adhesives. I've learned from my father how such subtle, esoteric distinctions can affect issues such as (from his research) preventing the space shuttle from burning up in reentry or (from Ubu's) improving molding and manufacture in the rubber industries which result in so many everyday products.

My father has always complained that engineers deserve a Nobel Prize every bit as much as scientists, and especially Economists, whose representation among the prizes is probably as much due to their influence on financial matters as any merit in fundamental contribution to humanity. Maybe one day my father's dream will be fulfilled and engineers will receive he recognition they deserve, but for now, on this day that we'll adopt for our profession, I have my own awards in regard for the fellow engineers of my family.

Out! Out! You must be prised right out...

Out! Out! You must be prised right out
Joyless desire and love's conceit!
You've cranked at my heart such a treat,
Nothing's left there for your grubby onslaught.

Now for my own good may I forget about,
Shrug off this tenant of my very suite.
Out! Out! You must be prised right out!

I took you in without sufficient thought.
Get out! Go find yourself another beat!
Don't even skirt my heart's remotest street!
Too long I've dwelled cowed by your harsh, grim clout.
Out! Out! You must be prised right out!

—Rondeau/Chanczon XI of Alain Chartier, translated by Uche Ogbuji

This morning a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

Untitled - by Alain Chartier

I turn you out of doors
tenant desire

you pay no rent
I turn you out of doors
all my best rooms are yours
the brain and the heart

I turn you out of doors

switch off the lights
throw water on the fire
I turn you out of doors

stubborn desire

I have a lot of friends who post fine poetry, of their own, or from others. Most of the time I'd just click "like," possibly comment, and then move on with life. This one seemed set for the pattern at first, a neat little piece, clever device and all. But then I noticed the byline. "Alain Chartier."

I love medieval French poetry: Villon, Chartier, de Pizan, even d'Orléans, who's a decent enough poet, but probably would have been much less remarked if not for his nobility. Anyway, it immediately struck me that the "I turn you out of doors" poem is quite un-Chartier-like, and I certainly didn't recognize it despite having read a fair bit of Chartier in the original and in translation. So just like that began a delightful journey taken up in occasional steps throughout the day.

I found the poem posted on a variety of Weblogs by the occasional romantic. It had clearly gained currency at some point as a mini-meme. But nowhere could I find information about the Chartier original. I did find that the translation was by Edward Lucie-Smith, a new name to me despite the fact that he seems a very prolific and near contemporary author.

Just about every permutation of Google search I could think up with the above info turned up at the very best a cryptic bibliography entry in The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Anthologies:

I turn you out of doors.    Alain Chartier.  BoLoP tr. by Edward Lucie-Smith

My friend mentioned she had found it in her copy of "A well-loved book of love poetry from Oxford University Press edited by Jon Stallworthy," which was probably "BoLoP" so I'd hit a dead end.

I ended up searching online editions of Chartier for a variety of likely 15th century French translations of the words in the Lucie-Smith. I didn't have time to do it the old-fashioned way, thumbing through my volumes, but I suspected this was a rarely collected Chartier poem that I probably wouldn't find in my library, anyway.  Guessing at "dehors" led me to a mention of:

XI. Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier, 
Désir sans joye et pensée d'amours. . .

Rondel de dix vers : Grenoble, n° 874, fol. 60 ; ms. du 
cardinal de Rohan, fol. 80 v°; Lyon, n° 1235. Publié dans 
Lyon- Revue, 1886, p. 315. 

In "Mélanges offerts à M. Émile Picot." Alas the full poem was not rendered, but it seemed a passable match for the Lucie-Smith.  I found many more fragmentary references until I did find the full poem in a miscellany of "Ballades, Rondeaux et Chansons" appended to Chartier's celebrated "La belle dame sans mercy"

Here is the full, original poem:

Rondeau/Chanczon XI

Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier
Desir sans joye et pensee d'amours!
Tant aves fait en mon cuer de voz tours
Qu'il n'y a plus pour vous que fourragier.

Nonchaloir vueil desormais hebergier
Avec oubly pour moy donner secours.
Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier!

 Je vous receu ung pou trop de legier.
Departez vous! Allez logier aillours!
N'aprochez plus de mon cuer les faulxbours!
Trop ay vescu soubz vostre dur dangier.
Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier!

(Sources: [1] . [2] . [3])

Well then! That's a rather different creature than the Lucie-Smith. I understand that Lucie-Smith was doing a bit of an Arthur Symons, the modernist gutting a languorous latin procession of poetry, seeking the supposed vortex. If a sonnet or canzone/chanson is like a sphere, you can see Lucie-Smith cutting a spiral out of it, looking for some sort of essence.

It does bring to mind the question of where translation gives way to adaptation or even original work. I generally label a poem adaptation when I feel I've made it too much my own, and I try to be explicit about such cases. I've done so for example in my treatment of “El Amor Ascendía Entre Nosotros,” by Miguel Hernandez, and even in my treatment of Villon's "L'Épitaph (Ballade des pendus)," where the only real liberty I took was with the refrain.

Upon finding the original Chartier poem I tried my hand at a translation, which is the lead quote of this post. I tried to preserve some of the metrical and rhetorical feel of the original, which in my opinion Lucie-Smith jettisoned, creating an entirely original work of his own. Again I think the Lucie-Smith is a neat poem, but I think its worth giving Chartier a chance to have his own, more direct say. As I wrote of the old master in a poem of mine published last year:

Doubting truth in unseen things
I seek the literal tree,
The prickly fruit, the leaves, the flowers
Some posit it to be.

Uproot the tree of vegetable love
And plant a swooning spray—
I'm well across the gospel of
Our prelate Chartier.

If love is nectar blossoming
But fades to autumn grief,
What heroes championing what gods
Are left to my belief?

—from "What belief" by Uche Ogbuji (Lucid Rhythms, 2011)

The Nigerian fuel subsidy quagmire

I caught rumblings of the fuel subsidy removal affair while on my holiday travels, but only in the past few days have I gained a sense of just what a delicate moment in time this is for Nigeria.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for whom I've always expressed much admiration, wasted no time after being installed as Finance Minister and over the past quarter, working tirelessly to convince the Federal Government of Nigeria to eliminate the subsidy on motor fuel forthwith. The subsidy was removed as of the first of this year, triggering immediate protests. This is not the first time the government has tried to eliminate the subsidy, and it has always backed down due to popular response, but this time the government seems determined to hold its ground, and Okonjo-Iweala has been quite tough in defending her position. She points out that Nigeria is in danger of financial meltdown to rival that of Greece because of the unsustainable borrowing, much of which goes straight back out of the country in subsidy payments.


The protests across Nigeria have looked to build on the extraordinary scope of popular actions in 2011, in which Time Magazine famously dubbed the protester Person of the Year, including the use of social media, where on Twitter they have adopted the hashtag "#OccupyNigeria."  Of course the "Occupy Wall Street" protests that have lent vocabulary to so many subsequent protests were against policies that support the so-called "1%" of people who make fortunes off globalized finance, while most of the U.S. is facing a harsh recession. There were actually plans for similar "Occupy Nigeria" protests even before the motor fuel subsidy removal, but the popular response against the fuel subsidy provided a spark that no protest organizer could possibly pass up.


I do think this convergence of events has led to an unfortunate side-effect. Rightly or wrongly "Occupy Nigeria" has become seen as a vehicle for protest against subsidy removal rather than a protest against the corruption and mismanagement that in effect creates Nigeria's version of the "1%." The danger, however, is that I think most commentators would agree that at some point the fuel subsidy does need to be eliminated, and the real problem is not the subsidy elimination but the likelihood that the cash that the government would save thereby would just also be siphoned into the pockets of Nigeria's "1%".

Prof. Adeola Adenikinju of the University of Ibadan has been one of the most sensible commentators on the issue, which should not surprise anyone, as there are fewer more coherent discussions of the fuel subsidy conundrum than his 2009 presentation at OECD's Global Forum on Trade and Climate Change. That presentation, "Energy pricing and subsidy Reforms in Nigeria", should be required reading for anyone pondering these current events. He argues convincingly the economic case for subsidy removal, but he also admits the considerable present obstacles. He concludes:

Nigeria needs to keep to a formula based approach for determining fuel prices in the short term, while expediting actions in respect of putting in place a vibrant domestic refining industry.

This is where I think even the brilliant Okonjo-Iweala has missed the road, and at the same time I think the "Occupy Nigeria" crowd must learn the lesson of the accusations of incoherence and unthinking populism leveled against "Occupy Wall Street." Okonjo-Iweala is all about GDP growth, and that one measure can be a powerful blinder for economists. I remember watching her famous TED talk headlined "Want to help Africa? Do business here" and thinking: "OK I can sympathize with the desire to focus on foreign development as a vehicle for recovery on our continent, but isn't it even more important to focus on domestic industry?"

Why must we slaves to the mechanisms imposed by the IMF and The World Bank when China shows that there is more than one way to turn around an economy? We are coming from a similar historical and demographic place with the immense damage caused by Chairman Mao not so different from that caused by decades of African despots and colonial meddling. Yes, I do realize that the biggest issue with that thinking is that no African nation has the combination of ruthless and effective leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Surely there is a middle path, an African path.

I can hardly think of a more apt fulcrum for weighing out such a middle path than this fuel subsidy crisis. Imagine a timetable that clearly leads up to later subsidy removal through a series of confidence-building measures, some of which Prof. Adeola Adenikinju outlines in his presentation. Even Okonjo-Iweala has been forced to articulate a bit better the material gains to the people she expects from the savings from subsidy removal, mentioning health and social welfare programs, urban mass transit and more, but coming as it has, after the fact of the precipitous subsidy removal decision, this satisfies no one.

Unfortunately present discussion has sometimes broken down into he-said-she-said, for example whether subsidy removal was supposed to wait until April, or claims that Okonjo-Iweala has threatened to resign if any compromise is made on subsidy removal. All this heat without light is not helping matters at all. Even shotgun measures such President Goodluck Jonathan's pledge this morning to slash government salaries by 25% are not enough to grow from this crisis into a pattern of long-term solutions. A continued loss in confidence the current president and his talented Finance Minister could play into the hands of the many darker interests in the nation who have been the main actors in the historical sabotage of Nigeria's welfare. I to truly fear the emergence of some player, perhaps even an agent of the "1%," who claims the populist card against the current government and ends up taking Nigeria even further into the dark ages.

Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala need to repeat their decisiveness in applying the fuel subsidy removal policy, but this time they must rapidly decide on reform of that policy. They need to articular a clear timetable and plan to tackle corruption, addressing the fact that declared government salaries are a fraction of the mismanagement problem. They need to take firm steps to shore up the domestic, refined petroleum industry. They need to deliver credible assessments of the effectivity of the social welfare institutions that Okonjo-Iweala is promising to support with proceeds from subsidy elimination. A solid, independent advisory panel of the likes of Prof. Adeola Adenikinju and former Petroleum Minister Professor Tam David West, among other specialists, could draw up such a timetable for government approval, acting under the highest standards of transparency.

Would such a course be an easy one? Of course not. But I suspect it would be less difficult than navigating the economic (inflationary pressure) and political (popular revolt) perils of the present course.

Above all, I do hope that the government and its security apparatus sees fit to let the protesters have their say. I'm very troubled by reports of hardships suffered by the protesters, and I hope that we can show the first glimmers of a new, modern Nigeria in the treatment of dissent. President Goodluck Jonathan is no Bashar al-Assad, and shouldn't even take a step in the direction of the Syrian crackdown.  I do find myself hopeful that of all the post-war Nigerian governmental regimes, Jonathan's is the most likely to act with the necessary balance and prudence to turn this crisis around and start on the long, hard road to recovery for our nation.

Triclops gets a facelift, new query management capabilities, and new APIs

by Chimezie Ogbuji

I recently had a need to manage a set of queries against an OWL2 EL biomedical ontology: the Foundational Model of Anatomy. I have an open source SPARQL service implementation that I had some thoughts about extending with support for managing queries. It’s called Triclops and is part of a collection of RDF libraries and tools I have been accumulating. The name is a reference to an initial attempt to build an RDF querying and navigation interface as part of the 4Suite repository back in the day (circa 2002).

This later evolved to a very rudimentary web interface that sat in front of the Oracle 11g and MySQL/SPARQL patient dataset that Cyc’s SKSI interacted with. This was part of an interface tailored to the task of identifying patient cohorts, known as the Semantic Research Assistant (SRA). A user could dispatch handwritten SPARQL queries, browse clickable results, or return them as CSV files. This capability was only used by informaticians familiar with the structure of the RDF dataset and most investigators used the SRA.

It also implemented a RESTful protocol for ticket-based querying that was used for stopping long-running SPARQL/MySQL queries. This is not currently documented. Around the time this was committed as an Apache-licensed, Google code library, layercake-python added core support for APIs that treated remote SPARQL services as local Graph objects as well as general support for connecting SPARQL services. This was based on Ivan Herman’s excellent SPARQL Endpoint interface to Python.

Triclops (as described in the wiki) can now be configured as a “Proxy SPARQL Endpoint”. It can be deployed as a light-weight query dispatch, management, and mediation kiosk for remote and local RDF datasets. The former capability (dispatching) was already in place, the latter (mediation) can be performed using FuXi’s recent capabilities in this regard.

Specifically, FuXi includes an rdflib Store that uses its sideways-information passing (sip) strategies the in-memory SPARQL algebra implementation for use as a general-purpose framework for semweb SPARQL (OWL2-RL/RIF/N3) entailment regimes. Queries are mediated over the SPARQL protocol using global schemas captured as various kinds of semweb ontology artifacts (expressed in a simple Horn form) that describe and distinguish their predicates by those instantiated in a database (or factbase) and those derived via the semantic properties of these artifacts.

So the primary capability that remained was query management and so this recent itch was scratched over the holidays. I discovered that CodeMirror , a JavaScript library that can be used to create a relatively powerful editor interface for code, had excellent support for SPARQL. I integrated it into Triclops as an interface for managing SPARQL queries and their results. I have a running version of this at Note, the service is liable to break at any point as Webfaction kills of processes that use up alot of CPU and I have yet to figure out how to configure it to restart the service when it dies in such a fashion.

The dataset this interface manages queries for is a semantic web of content comprising 3 of the primary, ancient Chinese, classical texts (the Analects, Doctrine of the Mean, and the Tao Te Ching). I record the information in RDF because it is an intuitive knowledge representation to use in capturing provenance, exposition, and other editorial meta data. Below is a screen shot of the main page listing a handful of queries, their name, last date of modification, date of last run, and number of solutions in the recent result.

Main SPARQL service page

Above the list is a syntax-highlighted text area for dispatching adhoc SPARQL queries. This is where CodeMirror is integrated. If I click on the name of the query titled “Query for Analects and the Doctrine of the Mean english chapter text (Confucius)”, I go to a similar screen with another text area whose content corresponds to the text of the query (see the screen shot below).

Main SPARQL service page

From here queries can be updated (by submitting updated CodeMirror content) or cloned (using the name field for the new copy). Alternatively, the results of previous queries can be rendered. This sends back a result document with an XSLT processing instruction that causes the browser to trigger a request for a stylesheet and render an XHTML document from content in the result document on the client side.

Finally, a query can be re-executed against a dataset, saving the results and causing the information in the first screen to show different values for the last execution run (date and number of solutions). Results can also be saved or viewed as CSV using a different stylesheet against the result document.

The last capability added is a rudimentary template system where any variable in the query or text string of the form ‘$ …. $’ is replaced with a provided string or a URI. So, I can change the pick list value on the second row of the form controls to $searchExpression$ and type “water”. This produces a SPARQL query (visible with syntax highlighting via CodeMirror) that can be used as a template to dispatch queries against the dataset.

In addition, solutions for a particular variable can be used for links, providing a small framework for configurable, navigation workflows. If I enter “[Ww]ater” in the field next to $searchExpression$, select classic from the pick list at the top of the Result navigation template area, pick “Assertions in a (named) RDF graph” from the next pick list, and enter the graphIRI variable in the subsequent text input.

Triggering this form submission will produce the result screen pictured below. As specified in the form, clicking any of the the dbpedia links for the Doctrine of the Mean will initiate the invokation of the query titled “Assertions in a (named) RDF graph”, and shown below (with the graphIRI variable pre-populated with the corresponding URI):

SELECT DISTINCT ?s ?p ?o where {
    GRAPH ?graphIRI {
      ?s ?p ?o

Main SPARQL service page

The result of such an action is shown in the screen shot. Alternatively, a different subsequent query can be used: “Statements about a resource”. The relationship between the schema of a dataset and the factbase can be navigated in a similar way. Picking the query titled “Classes in dataset” and making the following modifications. Select “Instances of a class and graph that the statements are asserted in” from the middle pick list of the Result navigation template section. Enter ?class in the text field to the right of this. Selecting ‘Execute..’ and executing this query results in a clickable result set comprised of classes of resources and clicking any such link shows the instances of that class.

Main SPARQL service page

This latter form of navigation seems well suited for exploring datasets for which either there is no schema information in the service or it is not well known by the investigator writing the queries.

In developing this interface, at least 2 architectural principles were re-used from my SemanticDB development days: the use of XSLT on the client side to build rich, offloaded (X)HTML applications and the use of the filesystem for managing XML documents rather than a relational database. The latter (use of a filesystem) is particularly more relevant where querying across the documents is not a major requirement or even a requirement at all. The former is via setting the processing instruction of a result document to refer to a dynamically generated XSLT document on the server.

The XSLT creates a tabular, row-distinguishing, tabular interface where the links to certain columns trigger queries via a web API that takes various input, including: the variable in the current query whose solutions are ‘streamed’, a (subsequent) query specified by some function of the MD5 hash of its title, a variable in that query that is pre-populated with the corresponding solution, etc:


Eventually, the API should probably be made more RESTful and target the query, possibly leveraging some caching mechanism in the process. Perhaps it can even work in concert with the SPARQL 1.1 Graph Store HTTP Protocol.

The role of leadership in informatics and engineering academia in lowering the cost of quality care

by Chimezie Ogbuji

The response by the Health Care industry to the quality reporting requirements of the ACA and the subsequent response to that response (by the Dept. of Pres. Obama's HHS) of slashing the number of measures that need to be reported demonstrates how much the use of information systems (and informatics) in the medical information systems of the US is in the dark ages (as a director of clinical research once put it to me many times).

The informatics needs of converting relational healthcare data into various target variables for the purpose of aggregate "reporting" is a solved problem from the perspective of database theory, however risk averse healthcare providers shell out millions to hegemony-oriented software companies (whether it be those that sell shrink wrapped products or those that sell services) to solve trivial informatics problems.

I think there is a great opportunity for AI (in general), and logic-based knowledge representation (specifically) to be resurrected from the graveyard (or winter) of pure research into playing a prominent role in the engineering underlying what really needs to be done to lower the cost associated with leveraging information to make the provision of care more efficient.

Perhaps, even the idea of the Semantic Web (separate from the WWW-related technologies that enable it) can avoid falling for the same fate and be a part of this. However, the stewards of the places where peer-reviewed scientific research is done and literature is produced on the topic(s) of informatics (web-based informatics even) need to jettison the cancer of obsession with aesthetic / academic purity: novelty of methods described in written material, citation history of authors, thoroughness of literature review, etc. This cancer is what seems to separate pure (computer) science research from informatics, or the promulgation or accreditation of professional engineering (software or otherwise).  

The development of standards, curricula, system methodology, and (ultimately) scientific literature needs to be more problem-focused (ergo engineering).  The things that will make a difference will not be the things that are truly novel but those that involve the combination of engineering solutions that are novel and others that are mundane.

Poetry, Western Slope sty-lee

This world glistens like a summer lamp saying open, open
In the time it takes to speak, everything could disappear.

—from "Looking for Fossils" by Sandra Dorr (from Desert Water, The Lithic Press, 2009)

What is that spark when you meet a friend, which crackles with instant recognition? And what is that spark multiplied like a moonless night sky's field of fireworks? It might be something like what I experienced at the Western Colorado Writers' Forum's annual conference in Grand Junction this past weekend.


I was introduced to the group by Wendy Videlock, who appeared on TNB Poetry at my behest and who then suggested I lead a workshop on submissions to online journals at the conference. I gave that workshop Saturday to a sharp, attentive group who had just heard María Meléndez's advice about submitting to print journals.

Earlier that morning I had encountered what this conference was really about, at heart.

What better place to call home
than this high desert cloud mesa wrong turn
rippling of the continental plates
before they slap down
fanning towards the Coast?

—from "The Wright Stuff" by Art Goodtimes

I woke up on the crisp, autumn morning to ride with Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason and his sweet, effervescent lover Cally Conan-Davies up Monument Canyon into the sort of jaw-dropping landscape that Colorado offers up to casually. There at the visitor center of the National Monument, a group of poets learned from Park Ranger Liz of the eventful geological and human history of the place, as well as present climate, flora and fauna. Fingers bit by the chill, we nevertheless scribbled scraps of what she said and what figments the vista inspired in us.


We then gathered in a room at the center where David Mason recited selections of poetry which exhibited rootedness to land.  He finished with Bristlecone Pine, his own poem written after visiting the oldest tree of that type in the Rocky Mountains; he started with:

We have no prairies 
To slice a big sun at evening  
Everywhere the eye concedes to  
Encroaching horizon, 

Is wooed into the cyclops' eye  
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country  
Is bog that keeps crusting 
Between the sights of the sun. 

They've taken the skeleton  
Of the Great Irish Elk 
out of the peat, set it up 
An astounding crate full of air.

—from "Bogland" by Seamus Heaney

I wrote a poem, "Parachuted," that seemed to emerge, great elk skeleton, from the dew-soaked sponge of my brain.  I also remembered that beginning of "Bogland" throughout the day, and when one of the organizers urged us to write and share weathergrams to post on Grand junction trees, "Bogland" wove into my offering.

I've since worked that weathergram into a tanka.

We have no tarn to
Mottle the copperplate face
Of rough entrada.
We've no black peat, dry fossil
Colorado, we repeat.

—untitled, by Uche

There were several fossil-marked rocks at the home of Danny Rosen, professional astronomer, director of the Western Sky Planetarium, poet, and host to a group of us. The first night Danny treated us to jaw-dropping views of the moon, Jupiter and its moons, The Pleiades, The Andromeda galaxy and more through his large telescope.  Friday evening I taught a couple of Igbo and Efik songs to Art Goodtimes, San Miguel County commissioner and Western Slope Poet Laureate and Rosemerry Trommer, runner, linguist, singer and proprietress of a large fruit orchard.  Rosemerry sang me a few Yoruba songs in turn. From there we joined the chat and debate at Danny's legendary poet's bonfire with Jack Mueller, Wendy, David and Cally.


It wasn’t the moon
that swooned me, but
the edge of the moon,
cratered and rough,
the shadow line
where substance ends
and space begins.

Plenary sessions were held in a lovely converted church with high, NBC peacock stained glass windows. Highlights included a poetry reading in which I took part, and offerings of words from elders. Saturday night, before the headlining presentation of Leslie Marmon Silko we had a bit of history from Ute elder Clifford Duncan. Sunday morning the conference closed with a series of reminiscences by elderly representatives of various cultures in the local Grand Valley: Hispanic, African American, Basque, Italian, Japanese, etc., as well as from a gentleman telling the history of geology, miners and military installations in the region. I was very impressed at the amount of time, attention and respect given over to those who have known that land the longest, and to their stories.

Maybe that is why we go on talking,
always trying to show someone we're here,
and look--I have a past just like you do,
a stream of words that fills the empty night
and sweetens troubled dreams, or so we hope,
and tells us not to linger long on bridges
staring at all the water passing by.

I thought my whole ambition was to make
the past and present come together, dreamed
into a vivid shape that memory
could hold the way the land possesses rivers.
They in turn possess the land and carry it
in one clear stream of thought to drink from
or water gardens with.

I learned that I must first talk to myself,
retelling stories, muttering a few
remembered lines of verse, to make the earth
substantial and to bring the sunlight back.

Stories were how my long weekend began, as well as how it ended. I arrived at Wendy's household, met and had supper with her charming family, after which Wendy and I discussed lives and poetics, our own, and of others, into the night.  Then it was time to sleep, because in the morning Wendy was leading a workshop, "Totem Poems and the Subconscious Muse," which was my first writing workshop, an experience I approached warily because my remote impression of workshops had been rather dire.  On the day I enjoyed Wendy's approach, and was very impressed at the quality of poems written by participants. I wrote a couple of poems which seem worthy of further attention, including a leopard poem, which I'm always grateful to receive.


Only bone, like the shadow, knows
that lasting metaphors are born
of architects and alchemists,

of those who love the arch
and beam, and of the fleshy need
to leave and have something remain.

—from "In Praise of Form" by Wendy Videlock, from Nevertheless, Able Muse Press, 2011

Sandra Dorr was too busy running the show for me to have much opportunity to hear her poetry, so Desert Water was my first read this week of the many volumes I'd bought at the conference. In the way she switches from the telescope of landscape to the microscope of intimate personal detail, Sandra is like so many of the remarkable poets I met that weekend. Something very special is welling from the ground in Colorado, and I'm excited to be a part of it. I spent about a half hour with Sandra walking to lunch one of the days, and she told me of how she had gotten involved in local literary initiatives, pointing out the many points of artistic interest in the small town of Grand Junction. I have no doubt that her tireless efforts, and that of her collaborators at the WCWF, will continue to bear fruit, and that I'll always be of a mind to witness the resulting magic in person.

See also:

So much going on I keep forgetting to write

It has been a crazy past few months. Not only has the day job been running at a gallop, but it's been full-on on the family front and back-to-school and all that. No shortage of activity in my corner of the poetry department, either. I've been posting a lot of interesting work at TNB Poetry, and other have been publishing a gratifying run of my own poems.

My poem "Villonaud of the Barflea Bard" was selected to be part of the 2nd anniversary issue of The Flea.  An excerpt:


Maenads are snarling their decree:
‘So who d'you think you are,’ they howl
‘To seal your bonnet from the bee?’
Those bouncers at the Muses’ hill
Take down attendance in their hall—
You’re conscript to the gathering
To rouse the skaldic clan again
With clinking roar of brannigan.
Yield bruckle skin to miching flea.

I've mentioned The Flea several times in Copia since I discovered it this year. I'm in the first place delighted to find a journal featuring the sort of witty and expressive poetry I love, and in the second place excited to have my own work in such brilliant poetry. In the same broadsheet are too many superb poets to list here, but I must give special mention to the contemporary Australian master Alan Gould. As for my own poem, I had a good deal of fun writing it specifically in response to the call for carouse-house poems to celebrate the anniversary. "Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief"--Hamlet, III. ii. 146

Next my poem "Fortune of Chi" was published in Soundzine, with my recitation. The poem is fairly typical of the manuscript on which I've been working for a few months, with its dash of Biafra and undercurrent of Igbo cosmology, so it was great to place it in such a great journal.  An excerpt:

Some randomized permutation of genes
Spelled these very left and right brain cortices–
Spotlight nerves on sheer possibility;
Some Mendel melody conjured these eyes,
These muscles, grafted these veins under this skin;
I am too many pin-point faults to be
By design yet I crown my own life's fitness:
I am perfected fortune of my chi.


Close on the heels of "Fortune of Chi" came the appearance of "What Belief" in Lucid Rhythms. An excerpt:

I've stroked it while it gently weeps,
Caressed each trembling string,
Cranked up to weapons grade at times
I undertake to sing.

And yet I disappoint, I rip,
I charm a wicked scar;
Hot venom as the scorpion bows
To cantor de Ronsard.

If poetry and song provide
The island with a reef,
What heroes championing what gods
Are left to my belief?


And shortly afterwards my poem "Rhapsody On Q A" appeared in Red Fez., where it was classified as a villanelle but is actually a variant of the villanelle created by Lewis Turco and named the terzanelle. Lewis Turco then added "Rhapsody On Q A" to his exemplar list of terzanelles. An excerpt:

Light on temples, Nepal to Sri Lanka,
You glide, traveling soul, earth-bound fixed foot,
Each step mounting from base camp Casablanca,

From past-life luxury of Hatshepsut
To present serene, composed asana;

Last month I was selected to read at The Poetry in Motion Project at the Boulder Fringe Festival on the basis of my submitted poem "Cabeceo de Niwot." I recited that poem and another, "Run It!" to great response by the audience.

And mixed into all that I found time to write and record a spoken word piece flowing into an old school rap to celebrate TNB's 5th anniversary, and I also wrote a great deal of verse in the 2011 session of Heather Fowler's poetry marathon. I'll also be co-leading (with María Meléndez) a workshop on submissions at the Western Colorado Writers' Forum October 7th-9th in Grand Junction, Colorado, which should be a great time to meet many of my fellow Rocky Mountain poets, including Wendy Videlock, whom I've mentioned on Copia, and David Mason, Poet Laureate of Colorado.  Busy, busy times. Fun, fun times. And I'll have more to report soon, with poems forthcoming in The Flea (again), IthacaLit and The Raintown review.