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2008 photo bonus: scenes from portugal

(People so inclined can see a more detailed day-by-day travelog at http://kirk.is/2009/09/29/ )

Highlights for July were a trip down to Ocean Grove New Jersey, Porchfest, a nice ladybug on the 16th, and lots of band as always... on the 17th, actually, after a pipeline rally, my tuba and I did a bit of background bass for a freestyle rap thing that I guess is a weekly event at Downtown Crossing Station.

RIP Seymour Papert, co-inventor of the "kid's" computer language Logo - "You can't think seriously about thinking without thinking about thinking about something."
The End Of The World

Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
Quite unexpectedly to top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all.
Archibald MacLeish

I just finished Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation". It's a brief book but in a stridently and generally not too sympathetic tone... some quotes:
The same Gallup poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans are actually creationists. This means that despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of life and the greater antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue.
Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious.
The problem with such [atheist tyrants e.g. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Kim Il Sung] is not that they reject the dogma of religion, but that they embrace other life-destroying myths.
If current trends continue, France will be a majority-Muslim country in twenty-five years-- and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow.
Most of the arguments he made I'd heard before... again, his tone was a little angrier and strident than I like, though I thought his points were well argued. One point he made I hadn't thought of, or heard elsewhere: "But let us assume, for the moment, that every three-day-old human embryo has a soul worthy of our moral concern. Embryos at this stage occasionally split, becoming separate people (identical twins)." He's stating it in terms of stem-cell research, but I think the argument also has implications for Pro-Choice/Pro-Life arguing, at least the form of it- if it's not a strawman - that says there's an immortal soul created at the moment of conception. If so, what happens with twins? Of course this argument fades away if you have a less supernatural conception of soul (though the hope for immortality usually goes with that) - I think even for people who believe it's an issue for women and maybe their doctors, there's a natural preference that abortion be "safe, legal, and rare"... the potential for personhood is worthy of some consideration, but I don't think too much, lest we go slip into the catholic view where every form of birth control is suspect... we're certainly under no obligation to make sure as many potential people become actual people as possible... in fact, to some extent the opposite.

second best photos of 2009 and july 2016 new music playlist

Second Best Photos of 2009. Several years have had some bonus images thrown in, but 2009 was strong enough that I thought it could use its own runner-up gallery dozen.

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With R+D we made a legion of homemade peeps and then puffed Totoros.

Ariana at the shore.

Amber with strawberries.

4th of July kayak.

Jane at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

Me at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

Spy Pond.

Amber at ICA.

Rockport Gull.

Jack O' Lanterns at Sarah's.

Steampunk Ariana.

Christmas loot.

Bonus: haunting child from Cozy Coupe box.

In its essence, technology is something that man does not control.
Martin Heidegger

It was a rough month for me and iTunes; I realized that 180 or so songs were just gone, so I had to spend a lot of time digging them up from archives and what not. (and it's frustrating, because I'd prefer to use "smart" playlists based on "Added" dates, but iTunes doesn't let you backdate files.) Not sure what caused that; my dalliance with Apple Music, some bungling on my part, or what, but now I'm out to be a lot more careful with my music collection.
4 stars in red.

best photos of 2010


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Amber finds machines viscerally appealing (hence her tolerance of Transformers movie) and I was always curious so we went to a Monster Truck Rally. Man are those things LOUD - bring earplugs or be ready to buy them there.

I was working at a consultant place, with a gig in the Financial District.

Deconstruction near Malden.

On a trip to Cleveland we took a sidetrip to Niagara falls. I persuaded Amber to try this ferris wheel - it was scary for her, but going ahead with it calmed her down about driving over bridges - it's this general feel of stuff not being under you...

Once in Cleveland I took a sidetrip to my dad's grave at the Bakersville Cemetery, and let myself grieve.

New job at Pearson; their cafeteria has a swell view over Newbury Street.

The pier at Ocean Grove (still with the fishing shack). I'm inordinately fond of oddly cropped shots that show more sky or landscape than thing.

Err, flowers. (Nikko Blue hydrangea, maybe? I think from the walking part of commute in Arlington.)

Side of a Redline Car, great wabi-sabi.

EB's baby, EBB2... looks to be about the same age as EBB1 in that shot from 2007.

EB Birthday.

Amber spied through a rock sculpture at the deCordova sculpture park.

But more than that I can't figure out if abolishing the memory of pain is the same thing as abolishing the pain. [...] If I take the drugs, it's like dividing myself into two people. It's a fork in the road: the person who experienced the procedure and the person who didn't. It's like leaving a version of myself alone with the pain, abandoning him.
from Ben Lerner's novel "10:04"
The character has to decide to get local anesthetic vs general, with the general tending to cause amnesia around the whole thing. Decent short novel, touched on a several themes relevant to me and people I'm close to, from donoring to dental work, and with a whole pile of apocalyptic nervousness.

best photos of 2011

The year included a trip to Paris and London and also a trip to Cleveland. (Oddly enough more photos made it from Cleveland into this top dozen.)

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Interior wall outside the MFA's (then new-ish) Art of the Americas wing.

Spotlighted cellist at Harvard Station.

View from the patio of our Air B+B in Paris. Honestly my favorite memory and meal of the trip was baguette and cheese and fruit and good cheap table wine on that balcony.

St. Paul's Cathedral, across the Thames from the Tate Modern. (What was that I was saying about liking oddly cropped shots with too much sky?)

Amber's dad, I think on the Cannon Mountain Tramway in NH. I wonder if those who know him will agree this is like the most Amber's dad photo ever.

My second annual return to parasailing over Belmar and Ocean Grove.

My team of Alleyoop-ers for a run around near Faneuil Hall photo scavenger hunt.

Sunset at Rocky River Park near Cleveland.

The Broken Piers at Cleveland Edgewater Park.

Amber and her bestie Sam, who is wearing a dinosaur mask I had just bought at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

View from my work, near Newbury Street.

Some "vandal" added perfect makeup to a Paul Revere portrait poster for the MFA (the portrait that was the basis for the Sam Adams brewer, patriot bottle art.)

2011 photo bonus: scenes from europe (paris, germany, and london)

There's a more detailed day by day photo journal at http://kirk.is/photos/2011europe/.

Spooning is out, spatulaing is the next big trend. Slide up behind your partner and then launch them out of bed

second best photos of 2011

(Err, not counting the second best of the Europe Trip, but I think I'll leave those be.)

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JZ in one the Pax East hallways.


For ten years, I attended (and sometimes ran) a 'covenant group' at my UU church - this is the crew at its height, I'd say

Spider web on Cannon Mountain.

Amber's brother did some bike racing. STOP GUYS! You're going too fast.


The Cleveland Natural History museum has this board of Beetles, but one of them is special.

Karaoke night with some Alleyoopers at Limelight.

MELAS (My Ever Lovin' Aunt Susan)

At the MFA, "Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism"

I'm known for making this face in photos, but usually at the camera not at the person I'm with.

My dad's folk art Christmas Tree, and his typewriter. (It was an antique when he got it, he wasn't THAT old.)

30-plus years of being a Star Trek fan and I just now realized that fictional doctor Leonard McCoy and science fiction actor Leonard "Spock" Nimoy share a first name.
http://kottke.org/16/07/ive-never-had-a-goal - I've had this link open in a tab for way too long, meaning to write about it a little.

I'm very non-goal-oriented, which I kind of view as a source of weakness (recognizing it's because I'm a bit too wussy about the ego damage of failure vs the more even wear of not trying) but also strength (I think I'm better than average at locating low hanging fruits and making small but meaningful tweaks to existing things.)

best photos of 2012


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2012 - The year I discovered Instagram filters, apparently! I do like how they got people thinking more about image presentation for a while, and the square crop format is pretty hip.

New Year's "Cherry Japanese Things" (according to my journal entry) at Erica + Todd's

EBB2 on ice, with EB and EBB1 behind.

Got a Nintendo-themed racetrack for my birthday - never had an electric racetrack growing up! Also this shows off my book collection of the time. I don't really regret "Kondo"-izing it, since it is a pleasure having book shelves of just books I love, but sometimes I miss how smart I thought it made me look.

Lake near Lake Champlain from the Burlington VT side.

Took a little weekend jaunt to Washington DC with JZ. I liked the atrium in the National Portrait Gallery.

Emma was a sassy cat. After Amber left I took care of her, though she aged out half a year later. (Supposedly she was once a fat cat but I only knew her skinny.)

Amber by the shore.

Kirk under the shore. Waterproof cameras and underwater cell phone cases are fun.

Gummy-bear cubicle prank @ Alleyoop. It started with the giant gummy bear and an unfulfilled wager about whether it could be consumed... turning it into Gulliver's Travels (Gummiver's Travels?) was genius.

Toy Robot at Magnolia Park in Arlington. And the discovery of Instagram filters.

Lego Spaceman and EBB1.

Spy Pond in Arlington. #nofilter #justkidding #somefilterclearly

I just finished Penn Jillette's "Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales". The kickstart to his losing 100 lbs was two weeks of NOTHING but potatoes, but that was mostly just to get him away from the super flavors of "SAD", the "Standard American Diet". (Then it switches to something like "Whole Plant" emphasis. It's pretty dang spartan overall.)

I'd like to flatter myself by seeing some similarities in me and him, though that's obviously a stretch (despite finding out he's been keep a daily diary for years, like I do.) I think the most critical difference springs from this:
Live outside the law. Be honest. It's easy once you get there, but it's difficult to start. You're bucking the whole system. The law says make things easy-- so do things that are hard! Everything you love was hard to do: juggling, playing bebop jazz on upright bass, catching a bullet in your teeth, working with Teller, being married, raising children-- even reading Moby-Dick was hard. All the things that make life worth living take work.
Actually Penn quotes Neil Young on how I end up feeling:
It's hard enough losing without the confusion of knowing I tried.
...I have a hard time shaking this fixed mindset that causes me to seek out all the ego-gratifying low hanging fruits. A useful talent, sometimes. Though also I've been thinking about how it has shaped the music I like, which tends to prefer the accessible to the subtle; I think though I have enough "novelty seeking" that it keeps me out of the worst of the ruts.

Another passage I found striking:
I worry a little about the young adults of today. I worry that they aren't sexting quite enough and won't have enough naked pictures and porn video of themselves. I worry there's still too much false information about society's unnecessary stigma about sex. There's stuff in the news all the time about college students sexting, but still reports say that fewer than half of young adults are sexting pictures of themselves. I don't want to see pictures of young people naked. I'm old and I'm creepy, but I'm not that creepy. What I want is pictures of my friends and myself when we were twenty. I want just what at least half of young people are going to have when they themselves are old and creepy. The news sources I read (which are for old people like me) fret about young adults not understanding that when they post nude pictures of themselves, those pictures will never go away. That's a feature, not a bug, and fortunately at least half of young adults know that.

I understand immediately why people collect stamps. I understand why people play polo. I can relate to every sexual kink I've ever seen video of.
Penn Jillette

Horses don't eat anything but plants, and they build strong bodies that some women find sexy in a way that's a little creepy.
Penn Jillette

It frightens me, the awful truth of how sweet life can be.
Bob Dylan (via Penn Jillette, who says it's his favorite line)

My dad loved soup and taught me to love soup. He also taught me to love ritual jokes. There were certain jokes he did every time the chance came up. Every time my dad had soup, he'd say, "Once I had soup while my nose was running, and I thought I'd never finish."
Penn Jillette
That is a TERRIFIC dad joke! So delightfully gross.

2020 UPDATE: I was surprised I never mentioned
In 2012 I went on The Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump, who has hair that looks like cotton candy made of piss.
Penn Jillette

August Blender of Love

second best photos of 2012

Hope it doesn't undercut the idea of picking "the dozen best for each year" by including these.

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Project photo! Over the years, "cheap, funky watches" were my go to gift for my mom, being about the only jewelry-like little bit of fun she was allowed to get away with when in uniform. This year I went all out and got her a dozen, to be opened one per month. Each month got its own icon reflecting the season or the watchface or both.

<geektime>This book on Java EJBs is actually a callback to, like, 2002. "EJB encourages collaboration of more than six different parties." It's almost unclear if they're talking people or components, but I think people... anyway, the first generation of EJB was where I first encountered a technology that was achieving huge popularity despite what to me was clear and egregious over-engineering, high complexity, and poor transparency. Anyway, like I said in 2001-- EJB - the technology to allow you to scale your application across many servers... and the performance to make sure that you'll need to"</geektime>

Still too fond of shadows, they're kind of a fallback for "One Second Everyday" B-roll footage.

Google Image search tells me this is the Old Patent Office Building (from my DC trip.)

Old Abe from the Lincoln Memorial. I was holding the camera up so the shot was a bit less "up the nostrils" than usual.

JZ and I went to a DC United soccer match. I lost my sunglasses at the tailgating.

EBB2 + EBB1 on the Harbor Islands.

Smokey, my Uncle Bill's loyal companion.

MELAS at the shore.

My Sousaphone, "Beauty". I like how she seems to be plaintively looking out the window here. (As if she's looking for a band to be in, which will happen next year.)

Arlington had a crazy "microburst" in the evening... trees were uprooted everywhere. I think I had been on the subway at the time, walking through the aftermath was surreal enough, not sure what it would have been like to have been there in person!

Kjersten and Raia.

Olympic Logos discussed and rated...

Propublica on the white underclass. Reading about J.D. Vance's bio makes me think a bit about my upbringing; a lot of privilege, despite money being tight, but then some inheritance and insurance money that had the silver lining of making college available without crushing debt. Sometimes closer exposure to some of this 'underclass' because of my parents' roles in The Salvation Army, probably the transition to college was a bigger demographic shift than I noticed.

best photos of 2013

This was the year I started doing "One Second Everyday", and I feel like the peak of photos was 2009-2012 or so, maybe? That I'm less thoughtful and anxious to make good images because I'm taking so many little videos...

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Ah, sweet New Hampshire fireworks, from a July 4th at Kimball Castle

Kimball Castle at sunset.

David and Hunter.

The boat on Lake Winnipesaukee (that David and Hunter are on). A dinner cruise with Lobster, I think.

One of my early band favorite photos of me, at "Circle the City". I didn't have my "sex cop onesie" yet. I really like how I was decorating my bell then, getting the name of the band there but not covering up the nice reflective curves of the bell.

Detail of Tom Parmenter's drum.

Instagram detail of my dad's typewriter.

Snuck a shot on the train. Man, that guy is ASLEEP.

Cherry pickers outside the BCEC.

At this point the owners wanted to sell the apartment I had found with Amber (and subsequently invited Miller in as a housemate) and this is a Halloween party in the new place.

David, MELAS, Mary

The pier in Ocean Grove, again. Last year's Runner-Up album has a shot of MELAS where there's still a fishing house at the end, but this is after Hurricane Sandy.

Easy to watch but not dumbed down History of the American Civil War.
First Person Squirrel!

From womenburningthings.tumblr.com

First Seven Jobs:
Pharmacy Stockboy/Clerk
Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Worker
Camp Counselor for Special Needs Kids
Dorm Mailman
Computer Lab User Consultant -> (to Manager)
Computer Programmer (On Campus)
Computer Programmer (For Reals)
I am not your Watson, a**hole!
Relevant to my interests. (I always like Douglas Adams more when he put things back on Earth, than when he was in "zany adventures in space!" mode.)

2013 travel photos: alaska, later cardiff and london.

(I kept a more detailed photolog for Alaska and later for the UK stuff)

Poop is the cause, diapers are the effect.
Josh Dahl, instructor of a comics story making class.
Explaining how good comics stories tend to have strong senses of cause and effect...

second best photos of 2013


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Trio out for a drink.

Ocean Grove after Sandy.

Everyone needs a Totoro hoody.

Spy Pond, Arlington.

Trumpeter from Balkan Brass at (sigh) Johnny D's. (Small point of pride for me is that in late 2014 I got to 'play' Johnny D's backing Chandler Travis' Trombone Choir.)

Different homebrew JP Honk drum.

My tuba "Beauty" waiting before the HONK! Parade.

Young entrepreneur Hunter.

My Ever Lovin' Mom.

I was taking some drawing classes. I wanted to see if could improve my usual 'doodle' style of art, but I admit being able to freely look deeply at an uncovered body was a pleasure, and relatively rare for me.

A+T in Salem.

Another view of the broken pier (sans Fishing Shack) in Ocean Grove.

Rainbow over Memorial Drive

BONUS: selfie @ Harvard Sq Panera, showing a new pair of glasses.

Twenty percent of Americans describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious." Although the claim seems to annoy believers and atheists equally.
Sam Harris, "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion"

There is barely time enough in a book-- or in a life-- to get to the point.
Sam Harris, "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion"

The neurologist V. S. Ramachandran seems to have been thinking along these lines when he wrote, "It may not be coincidental that [you] use phrases like 'self conscious' when you really mean that you are conscious of others being conscious of you."
Sam Harris, "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion"

The philosopher Roland Puccetti once observed that the existence of separate spheres of consciousness in the normal brain would explain one of the most perplexing features of split-brain research: Why is it that the right hemisphere is generally willing to bear silent witness to the errors and confabulations of the left? Could it be that the right hemisphere is used to it?
An answer consistent with the hypothesis of mental duality in the normal human brain suggests itself. The non-speaking hemisphere has known the true state of affairs from a very tender age. It has known this because beginning at age two or three it heard speech emanating from the common body that, as language development on the left proceeded, became too complex grammatically and syntactically for it to believe it was generating; the same, of course, for what it observed
Sam Harris, "Waking Up".
More than any of those other quotes, this idea has got me thinking. I want to read up on split minds, and the dual consciousness we all seem to carry. I've coming up with some "Just So" stories about and want to find out if that split could explain things like this "inner teenager" I have to struggle with in order to, for instance, keep my weight where "I" want it. I've tended to assume that my conscious self was just the aggregate of all of my brain when it decides to muster itself into a voice, but could it be there's more of a spatial division?

Even if true, it does myself - my full self- a disservice to let my left-brain speaker presume it's "more authentically me" than my inner teenager or what not... "we're" all in this together, in the most literal sense possible. Similarly, in the Sam Harris podcast where he's patching things up with Daniel Dennett, I'm surprised they both let Texas belltower shooter Charles Whitman - whose notes and requested autopsy pointed to a brain tumor as the cause of his murderous behavior - let that brain tumor be considered as something external to Whitman... since if detected in a timely way it could have been removed, and Whitman would have been by most accounts a fine upright person. But I'd have to say, when that tumor was controlling his actions, it was "really him", you know? Saying otherwise feels like a distraction.

I want to ponder on this further to think if other external influences to a person's behavior, outside control, hypnosis, etc, challenges my view, but I think it's pretty consistent.

best photos of 2014

Two of the most amazing events happened on the same day in early May; Cora was born, and I went on a Zero-G flight.

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Kay has an enviable look. (Haven't talked about cameras in a while... some of the shots from the end of last year and this one were with a new Canon Rebel T3, a DSLR larger than the PowerShots, and feeling more like a "real" camera overall.)

Had an all-night "Hack-A-Thon" at work, this is Seaport District at dawn.

EBB2 and EBB1 at a playground.

Googly Monster Fingerpuppet. I think this might have been an accidental photo shot when going to take video for "One Second Everyday" - 1SED is great, but probably makes me less thoughtful, or at least less frequent (which leads to the same results) about static photos.

Bar scene, being taken by hunter. There subtle emotional play going on here.

Me in Zero-G, on one of those "vomit-comet" type planes - a 40th birthday gift to myself.

Me and my Super-Niece Cora, about 2 months old here. I have a similar shot from the day after she was born, but I like how she looks like she's puzzling something out here.

I didn't take it but this is about my favorite early photo of Cora.

Photo by David F Parmenter - a glitchy panorama of the JP Honk Band at Haley House that I Printed and put above my bedroom door.

Cora at rest with her Mama K.

EB and I collaborated on designing and making the "hoop banner" for JP Honk.

Finally, my tuba "Beauty" and I dressed up as skeletons for Halloween.

"Hey Elliott, here's a tasty way to get over your sadness: Eat your tears."
Dying is Probably Okay - a retort to a piece on Peter Thiel being right about radical life extension.
BABAM band (collective of folks from HONK-stye bands) played along with the Landmark Orchestra at the Hatch Shell, like we did last year. Here's Marie, me and organizer Chris Schroeder's kid, all who were feeling pretty Super!

Disclaimer: if you like vaping, more power to you. Have fun with it! The clouds of smoke seen kind of fun, and I guess it's less dangerous than more traditional tobacco. That said...

I think I figured out why Vaping seems so weird to me- even beyond the dystopian sci-fi feel of it, beyond the goofy candy flavors that are often chosen for it, beyond folks who treat he human fog-machine aspect as a competitive sport:

A classic cigarette is an event. Like having a drink, it demarks a period of time (often providing a small time of respite from work drudgery): from the moment of lighting to when the cigarette is stubbed out. This seems not to be the case with people vaping; people can carry it around and take a puff whenever they feel like it.

Vonnegut kind of justified smoking as "a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide" but vaping seems to rob it of some of that critical dignity... at its worse, especially dangling from a chain around the neck, the vaporizer looks (and, to some extent, acts) like a baby's pacifier- at its best, it's like someone walking around with a sports bottle, having a pull as thirst dictates.

Again, not really trying to mock its use, just isolating why it seems so goofy to me in a "you kids get off my lawn!" kind of way.

second best photos of 2014


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Another shot of Kay, handsome devil.

Young Entrepreneur + GF.

Escalator, alligator!

Rain on the glass ceiling at Copley T.

"Power Surge" at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Me riding "Power Surge" at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.


The view from the road between WTC and the BCEC.

Northern Outdoors Penobscot River Rafting is excellent. Went with some coworkers including Motvi (behind) and Liyuan (front and off-center)

Presiding over construction of the hoop bannner.

Trampoline date at Sky Zone (experimenting with that 'make a first date something adrenaline pumping' idea)

At EB's.... POOING BEARS EATING PEARS what more needs to be said?

Cool, our cross-honkish-band BABAM got mentioned by name in a Boston Globe article about our gig with the Landmark Orchestra!

best photos of 2015

2015 - this project is just about at its end! Just today and a "Second Best of", and then I'm caught up.

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I'd done book purges before, but this was one significantly deeper - really getting to the Kondo-esque pleasure of having bookshelves of books I love, no filler. Presided over by Daidai, whom I was catsitting for.

or my "One Second Everyday" I take too many shots of reflections in puddles, but I find them fascinating. As a kid I used to wonder if they might be insights into mirror universes...

Mama C and Cora.

My "sexy cop onesie" (from Garment District) for JP Honk, taken around that year's Wake Up The Earth.

EBB2, with EBB1 peeking behind.

JZ and MZ got married, and dang me if them and their family don't look like they should be stock photography for something.

My go-to profile shot, a selfie taken in my hallway. I think I did a good job framing my head with the sunlight.

Just last week we had the repeat of HONK-style bands playing at the Hatch Shell with the Landmarks Orchestra... for the first event I wandered in and got a photo of the city looking out from the Hatch.

Fisheye lens view from work... This 8th floor in Seaport is definitely in the top 3 "views from my office" I've enjoyed, maybe even the top.

Melissa and Me selfie, at Weirs Beach.

Melissa and I took a trip to Montreal. I didn't get as many fantastic photos as I might have guessed (it was just a few days) but the Notre-Dame Basilica was amazing. I was a little surprised how many times they told us it was where Celine Dion got married.

Set up a holiday shot with my Mom and Aunt.

As I get ready to head to Ireland for a work conference (silver lining to housemates: I can pre-announce this stuff without worrying about advertising an empty house), with a layover in Germany to meet some old friends, I realize they might ask me about Trump etc.

It makes me think that one current advantage of our two major party system is this: Trump's surprisingly high floor is at least partially supported by some really ugly sentiment; if the Democratic Party were to splinter, the USA would be at big risk of seeing a lot of traction in extreme right wing parties, like the more multiparty states in Europe are dealing with.

second best photos of 2015

So this marked 20 years worth of photos, posted! Thanks to everyone who took time to comment, its been a great stroll down memory lane.

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Liyuan was kind of amazing at the teambuilding event at Brooklyn Boulders!

Just another Honkband practice.

I often have this trio of robots at my work desk: Invid Scout on the left, Iron Giant on right, some Fisher Price transformer in the middle. I kind of see them as my mom, my dad, and myself with characteristics of both, in that order

JP Honk event - Marie, Tom, and bubbles.

EBB2 looking pretty artsy.

This is either a screen capture or a misclick of my One Second Everyday video. But a fun one innertubing!

Early date with Melissa, going to see the fireworks on the Charles via Kayak. I like the elegance of her gesture.

Honkin' at the Hatch.

Beercan Art.

Shadowy Tuba Player.

A treat seeing my comic "So, You're Going to Die" at Million Year Picnic...

Panorama of Ocean Grove beach

from "Don Quixote"

I finished "Don Quixote" for a second time a few weeks ago. (living out some old maxim that just as a piece of architecture should be viewed in the morning, mid-day, and dusk, so should this book be read as a young person, a middle-aged guy, and an old man.)

I read Edith Grossman's 2003 translation. Some highlights I made to record here:

The one passage I remember from my first reading is from Marcella's defense, as she's being accused of a shepherd's death because of her failure to return his love:
Heaven made me, as all of you say, so beautiful that you cannot resist my beauty and are compelled to love me, and because of the love you show me, you claim that I am obliged to love you in return. I know, with the natural understanding that God has given me, that everything beautiful is lovable, but I cannot grasp why, simply because it is loved, the thing loved for its beauty is obliged to love the one who loves it.
In the same way I sometimes dig the KJV version of the bible, this translation is nicely old school:
Heav'n, you're pleas'd to say, has made me beautiful, and that to such a Degree, that you are forc'd, nay, as it were compell'd to love me, in spite of your Endeavours to the contrary; and for the sake of that Love, you say I ought to love You again. Now, tho' I am sensible, that whatever is beautiful is lovely, I cannot conceive, that what is lov'd for being handsome, sho'd be bound to love that by which 'tis lov'd, meerly because 'tis lov'd.
Marcella in Don Quixote.
Another idea I saw cited in Jack Kerouac's "Dharma Bums" was "Comparisons are Odious":
'Stop right there, Señor Don Montesinos,' I said then. 'Your grace should recount this history in the proper manner, for you know that all comparisons are odious, and there is no reason to compare anyone to anyone else. The peerless Dulcinea of Toboso is who she is, and Señora Belerma is who she is, and who she was, and no more should be said about it.'
While here "Comparisons are Odious" mostly applies to people, I find it critical in my understanding of "Amor Fati", the love of one's fate; we spend so much effort comparing this world to all these other, slightly more pleasant alternative universes (just like this one, but I'm not stuck in traffic!, for instance) that it makes us miserable with very little return.
Harold Bloom's Introduction to the work mentions:
It remained for La Rochefoucauld to restate the other side of the paradox: some people would never have loved if they had not heard of love.
The book cites verses from other source, such as Commander Escrivá's
Come, death, so secret,
so still I do not hear your approach,
so that the pleasure of dying
does not bring me back to life.
and there was also a reference (Sancho watched everything, and not one thing caused him sorrow) to
"Nero, on Tarpeian Rock, / watched as Rome went up in flames; / crying ancients, screaming infants, / and not one thing caused him sorrow."
Of course, much of the joy of the book are the proverbs and quotes, famously by Sancho but also Don Quixote himself:
too much wine cannot keep either a secret or a promise.
The ox who's free can lick where he pleases.'"
(Grossman explains "A proverb that extols the joys of liberty.")
stultorum infinitus est numerus:
"The number of fools is infinite."
Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it's bad luck for the pitcher
"I have always heard, Sancho, that doing good to the lowborn is throwing water into the sea."
At one point the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance says "Now you will see, said Agrajes" which Grossman footnotes "Agrajes, a character in Amadís of Gaul [One of the most established tales about knight errantry] would say these words before doing battle; it became a proverbial expression used at the beginning of a fight."
Some passages still resonate today:
"Be quiet," said Don Quixote. "Where have you ever seen or read that a knight errant has been brought before the law no matter how many homicides he may have committed?"
"In short," said Don Quixote, "it seems clear, Sancho, that you are a peasant, the kind who shouts, 'Long live whoever wins!'"
"Even so, I want you to know, brother Sancho," replied Don Quixote, "that there is no memory that time does not erase, no pain not ended by death."
I was interested in a view of the year that seems to put the year into five seasons, not four
spring pursues summer, summer pursues estío, estío pursues autumn, autumn pursues winter, and winter pursues spring, and in this way time turns around a continuous wheel;
Finally, I loved this rant:
"Oh, base, lowborn, wretched, rude, ignorant, foul-mouthed, ill-spoken, slanderous, insolent varlet! You have dared to speak such words in my presence and in the presence of these distinguished ladies, dared to fill your befuddled imagination with such vileness and effrontery? Leave my presence, unholy monster, repository of lies, stronghold of falsehoods, storehouse of deceits, inventor of iniquities, promulgator of insolence, enemy of the decorum owed to these royal persons. Go, do not appear before me under pain of my wrath!"

Hello from Ireland!
Rudy Giuliani: "Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn't have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when (Hillary) Clinton and Obama got into office" Between this and "Obama founded ISIS", Republicans are deciding to double down on Big Brother-esque rewriting of history.
The next level: Zapp Branigan READS those Trump Quotes

August 17, 2016

AOL #DefFest2016 in Ireland...

from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
Holy wars are not fought over [Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism] because verbalized statements about reality are never presumed to be reality itself.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
'Peace of mind isn't at all superficial, really. It's the whole thing. That which produces it is good maintenance; that which disturbs it is poor maintenance. What we call workability of the machine is just an objectification of this peace of mind. The ultimate test's always your own serenity. If you don't have this when you start and maintain it while you're working you're likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself.'
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
What you have to do, if you get caught in this gumption trap of value rigidity, is slow down-- you're going to have to slow down anyway whether you want to or not-- but slow down deliberately and go over ground that you've been over before to see if the things you thought were important were really important and to... well... just stare at the machine. There's nothing wrong with that. Just live with it for a while. Watch it the way you watch a line when fishing and before long, as sure as you live, you'll get a little nibble, a little fact asking in a timid, humble way if you're interested in it. That's the way the world keeps on happening. Be interested in it.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".
I have to admit, this passage was usefully timed in my reread; it's very applicable to software debugging.
The next one is important. It's the internal gumption trap of ego. Ego isn't entirely separate from value rigidity but one of the many causes of it. If you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to recognize new facts is weakened. Your ego isolates you from the Quality reality. When the facts show that you've just goofed, you're not as likely to admit it. When false information makes you look good, you're likely to believe it. On any mechanical repair job ego comes in for rough treatment.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".
"Gumption Traps" are willpower dampers. Unfortunately soon after he states "Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of the opposite of ego." which means he's not thinking of the ego-protecting anxiety produced by having a "Fixed Mindset"... we get anxious because we want to protect our delicate egos.
The hippies had in mind something that they wanted, and were calling it 'freedom,' but in the final analysis 'freedom' is a purely negative goal. It just says something is bad. Hippies weren't really offering any alternatives other than colorful short-term ones, and some of these were looking more and more like pure degeneracy. Degeneracy can be fun but it's hard to keep up as a serious lifetime occupation.
Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

in dublin

I wasn't sure how much tourist time I'd get in Ireland during AOL #DevFest2016, but a 2 hour walking tour on Thursday, ending at the AOL office and with a great guide Sean of LetzGo City Tours showed us quite a lot in the two or so hours we had.

I know I'm being dense but I don't get the graphical message here. The text is implying things are cheap here (~$4.70 for a small bottle of soda not withstanding) but unless they're making a really bold claim about relative currency evaluations, it doesn't make a lot of sense? how do I parse this?
I think that the pain in the ass factor of our customs and immigration process relative to other wealthy democracies says loads. and not in the USA's favor. It's not that we're THAT much more popular, we're just a big old C.Y.A. nation.

August 20, 2016

I can say with some certainty that the most beautiful sound I know is the wobbly clink of a dinged-up air-hockey puck dropping into goal.

August 21, 2016

I know it's old news but I hadn't thought about Trumps "2nd Amendment People" joke and Yitzhak Rabin's assassination; words matter. (Of course, it goes the villainization has gone both ways, and Trump had his would be assassin as well, but at least there the jokey suggestions aren't coming from the top.)
Starring the Computer is a delightfully nerdy survey of real world computers showing up in various shows and movies. (From this article about a guy who made a replica of the Burroughs B205, as seen in Lost in Space, Batman, and elsewhere)

I missed this Usain Bolt Photo but it's brilliant. via
The History of the Pencil. Man is that top of the image page mesmerizing!

the many faces of donkey kong

One of my new favorite blogs is Supper Mario Broth. Besides the awesome name and header image of the famous brothers eating soup, it has a great range of Nintendo ephemera and lately details about glitches and "behind the scenes" various 3D Mario games use. (2D pixel games are generally too flat to have much behind the scenes, so to speak.)

Anyway, with Mario handing things off Olympic-wise (and my own month long "Best Of" Photos series done) what better time to start a week or so showing off the stuff I liked most when I did a deep backlog dive last month or so.

Today's topic: the many faces of Donkey Kong...

Diamond rings are basically pet rocks.

August 23, 2016

Dieting and Weight Talk Are Bad for All Adolescents, Says American Academy of Pediatrics Ugh. My usual approach in talking with young people is, you know, just talking with them, kind of as a adults, and trying to take their point of view, and admitting what sucks but then discussing what you can do about it. Sounds like that kind of straightforward talk might be counter-productive about weight, which is an issue near to my heart because I have worked out strategies that more or less work for me but it's still a grind. Gotta be careful with not advising kids I play an avuncular role with, probably especially the females.
More from Supper Mario Broth: I've always liked when the games play with the logos and iconography of their characters...

Clouds are a glimpse into the mighty power of fluid dynamics, complicated equations made real and actual and gorgeous, painted across the sky.
Phil Plait

August 24, 2016

More from Supper Mario Broth - the many cross-platform faces of Donkey Kong...

And there is another, subtler reason you might find yourself convinced that things are getting worse and worse, which is that our expectations outpace reality. That is, things do improve – but we raise our expectations for how much better they ought to be at a faster rate, creating the illusion that progress has gone into reverse.
Oliver Burkeman

The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.
Derrick Jensen

(Both of those last quotes from The Guardian's How to stay happy when the sky is falling in.)

August 25, 2016

More from Supper Mario Broth - animations.

August 26, 2016

Final selections from Supper Mario Broth...

"The pencil is mightier than the pen."
Robert Pirsig.
I just finished his second book, "Lila: An Inquiry into Morals". While "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" made a path through through reconciling Western classical vs romantic analysis to a singular Tao-like sense of "Quality", this one describes a struggle of Static Patterns (roughly, what's known to work) vs Dynamic Patterns (the boundary pushing into new spaces). He also claims all static patterns of value can be divided into a hierarchy of inorganic, biologic, social, and intellectual - each level depends on the stability of the preceding one. I'm not sure if I have full buy-in but his exploration of the concepts speaks to arguments I have with some of my friends; I see them as rather reactionary, they see me as a bit hippy-dippy, but in some ways its their concern with the social patterns and preserving that base vs my interest in boundaries and finding out where we can go.
Western New York combines the brains of the South, the culture of the Midwest, the hospitality of New England and the climate of Hoth.

What Reality are Trump People Living In? This is more nuanced and interesting than some earlier work on how Conservatives have a stronger "disgust" reaction, or even my view of everyone has a circle of empathy, and the liberal impulse is to expand it so you have more people on your side, and the conservative impulse is to retract it so as to keep potential cheaters out.
Liz and I are Going to see this guy Sunday in Worcester:

August 27, 2016

Note to a Four Year Old Past Self:
"Allow me to preface this by saying that I don't know why you started eating salt in the first place, but regardless of the precipitating circumstances, there you are.
As soon as you became aware that eating huge amounts of salt is really, really uncomfortably salty, you should have stopped eating salt. That's the solution. The solution is not to begin eating pepper to cancel out the salt."
Allie Brosh, in "Hyperbole and a Half".
Great read, was literally laughing on the T.
Final Supper Mario Broth tidbit:

"This Kong with a hat was featured heavily in early Donkey Kong Land art - without name or explanation - and then was dropped once the game came out. He remains a mystery."
Batman only fights crime at night because otherwise he would have weird and obvious tan lines.

August 28, 2016

I'm not making such a social media deal out of it, but I got an addition to my tattoo yesterday, using this program to help create the banner. The text, "This Fate", is a rough paraphrase of Amor Fati (I think I prefer sticking to my own language for body art.) THIS fate. This circumstance, because no other fate or circumstances exist. Accepting that and loving what is, either the less lovable parts, is part of being a better human; and when we aren't making ourselves unhappy about how things aren't, we have more room to strive for improving the might be. (Tattoo inked by Dave Norton at Pino Bros Ink)
@ The Worcester Palladium, going to see Thomas Sanders

August 29, 2016

When Boston Dynamics adds a cussing module to their bots... (suitably bleep-ed out, which kind of makes it funnier) - literal laugh out loud funny.

Finally, sustaining me through the long, lonely nights here with consoling memories of love, support, companionship and shouting is the precious image of Margaret. If I could have only one thing from my lost life with me on this island, it would be pizza. But, if I could have two, then the other one would be Margaret.

August 30, 2016

I saw a billboard with this magazine cover in the Frankfurt Airport

With self-driving trucks on the horizon, kinda makes ya think. Made me think, anyway.
Followup from Bill the Splut

August 31, 2016

Man customizes a van to live in. "Tiny House" on wheels.
"He who has a hundred miles to walk should reckon ninety as half the journey."
--Eugen Herrigel, citing a Japanese Proverb in "Zen in the Art of Archery"

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