(show oldest first)

from February 4, 2024

The other day, I added a new piece of room decor that makes my inner child so, so happy: an Arcade1Up 2/3 scale edition of the old Star Wars arcade game. That game just grabbed me so hard as a kid - the idiosyncratic "yoke" controller just feels so good, and the 3 stages of Death Star destroying action are so well crafted.

I wanted to get this game when we got the condo but it was out of stock in 2021, but they rereleased in time for to be an early Birthday gift to myself.

Open Photo Gallery

Moving my dad's typewriter back, along with an interesting fake tree - my mom uses something similar as a holidayable-but-year-round porch decoration, and I think it has a good vibe with the St James Infirmary poster Melissa got me in New Orleans (and an authentic circa-1894 Circus Train poster my dad acquired). Also the red rustoleum cat "hiss kitty" is peeking out from the door.
Thew new view from my webcam.... newish geek "CSS Flexbox" poster I need to rehang more properly, a typography art piece, the "Glorious Trainwrecks" poster, a cheap Blue baritone, Books, a tiny Centipede game, Alien Bill, the new Star Wars addition, a print from my dad's collection, hulk hands, a keyboard, and a tuba. Espcially with the tuba, I think this space is giving "Animal Crossing". (IYKYK)
Where the magic happens. A random bird print, some Futurama needlework by my cousin Llara, a framed photo I took, my dad's needlework of an indigenous Alaskan (I think) print, JP Honk, my "Wall of Peeps", a vintage poster of a Boston intersection recliamed from a library archive, 2 monitors, my trusty Macbook, a funky Klipsch speaker, a print of Dylan and me, a streetsign retooled into an artist's palette.
Panorama of the whole space. I really wish I had documented every "my room" I've ever had...
Arguably I don't really have room for the arcade game, but between a renewed effort to keep my office orderly (which is surprisingly soothing) and some rearranging and other newish-decor, I am really digging my space.

I also did a panorama shot when I first settled in circa 2021. I've given up the CRT/Atari setup. If we had a bigger space I still have the gear to have a lot of old game systems going, but to be honest I don't think I miss it all that much, and this new arcade replica really lands for me. The art on the side is so gorgeous as well... here is a history of its development, including how its controller (which is not like what X-wings have in the movies, but plays so well) came from Bradley Tank simulations Atari was making for the military.

from some good headphones

RIP two of my favorite sets of headphones - Skull Candy Navigator (with distinctive tortoise shell coloring) and V-Moda Crossfade M-80 with its snazzy red chevron.
Both have earcups where the black vinyl-ish cover of ear cushions leaves bits of itself on your face...

I still think no wireless headphone or earbud has the dignity of something with a cord. Headphones look like earmuffs, airpods look like you're sticking cigarettes in your ear, the semi-wireless buds I prefer (that turn into magetic-front-claspe necklace when not in use) look like a librarian's eyeglass chain.

from February 12, 2023


from February 9, 2023

In Wordle today, I was a little annoyed when I had 3 guesses in a row for the one blank I was missing. I checked and it turns out there were 6 5-letter words that matched the pattern I knew, so "in revenge" I made a new page of wordle off-by-one-letter families.

like if you have _EARS or _ILLS you're hosed, each has 12 possible values (bears dears fears gears hears nears pears rears sears tears wears years and bills dills fills gills hills kills mills pills rills sills tills wills)

ODDLY ENOUGH, 40 Years Ago Today, exactly, word was published of me getting a "superspeller" award, some fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Which seems weird to me because spelling really has not felt like a strong suit for me for some time.

from Sunglasses I have known

Small follow up to my "glasses I have known" dig yesterday, this time for sunglasses. Sometimes it seems odd to me I survived all college without sunglasses.

Open Photo Gallery

I had this one goofy pair of mirrored round circle sunglasses in high school. I remember feeling weirdly objectified wearing them during a sadly rainy trip to the amusement park Cedar Point, and the girls in the group would use me as a mirror to check on their late 80s hair.

I remember getting these springy clipons at Cohens Fashion Optical at the Cambridgeside Galleria, inspired by Rebekah's glasses. Fun fact: you can see these glasses today, they are being worn by a gargoyle sitting in front of our condo.

Moved onto magnetic clip-ons.

Switching to half-frame regular glasses, I also switched to prescription sunglasses. Curiously small, and kind of bleh.

Larger but kind of generic ones.

Oh man I loved these shades from Eye-Q. Bought two pair. Know I lost one in the Atlantic Ocean doing parasailing...

I love mirrored sunglasses. Maybe its a cyberpunk thing? I got these tinted purple-blue to match the main colors of my band.

I've switched to wearing my cheaper Zenni yellow mirrorshades. Shown here with my full quarantine look.

from Glasses I have known...


Open Photo Gallery

First pair, circa fifth grade. Here with Todd Beecher. Kinda ugly and generic frames, but you know. It was the 80s.

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. My middle school serial-killer-glasses half-tints.

I'm not sure if I skipped a pair, but these red wire frames weren't terrible. I feel like they were always askew though.

My college pair, shown here NYE's at Time Square, 1995 becoming 1996, with Veronika

1996, around college graduation... These were some of my favorites... hard to make out the green wire, but the cool thing was they came with spring-y clip-on sunglasses. Loved 'em.

Blue frames similar to the green ones, with magnets for the clip-ons, in 2001. (wearing those roll-lens shades they give you when they dilate your eyes, which I thought were super cool.)

Copper colored half-frames. 2004ish.

Very similar frames and a weirdly similar pose in 2007.

BONUS! We will never see novelty glasses as good as what we had this New Year's Eve.

2013 - modern geek regulation standard

Been sporting these since 2015! I think oversized glasses are a bit safer. But they're really bad for eating pickles, as you can see.

Overall this project confirms my hunch that I've had these current glasses longer than any before- I replaced the lenses last year in fact. Which sort of ties into my alarm of the stretching of time, when you grow up you get a whole new world every 4 years, but now the grooves are much longer.

from January 18, 2022


My dad's name was given phonetically as Ha-gu-yah-cla-ga-hus. (My mom was A-wan-ghan)

from my world and welcome to it

Finally got the art up in my office, furniture bought, and things more or less arranged. (Predictably, I moved from "don't find a place for stuff you don't want, get rid of it" to "just find a place for it, declutter later" fairly quickly, sigh.)

I really wish I had documented all the spaces I've lived in better, and maybe worked in as well. (That's advice I'd give anyone!) Like here's the Alleyoop office in 2011, and the inlaw apartment I had in 2008

So, the interesting (to me) bits, from left-to-right, top-to-bottom: The room has a strong Animal Crossing energy, so full of random stuff and in a kind of square-ish arrangement... it's a little weird how I've put as much thought into what looks good behind me in a webcam as to what I look at as I work.

I know it seems a little self-indulgent, but I think everyone with the resources to should consider making a single space for themselves that makes them happy.

from March 12, 2021

So, Melissa and I have been house hunting this winter, and seem to be on track (knock wood) for closing on a condo in Arlington next Thursday, and so will be moving in April.

Definitely aware of the privilege in being able to buy right now - I'm more lucky than good to have the resources to do this. (A possible downpayment kind of fell into my lap from my last company, and stumbling onto techie stuff as a career path in general - the 90s right before the first dot com thing - was also crazy good luck.)

But yeah, househunting is dedicating your weekends to an enormously stressful new hobby. It's a crazy contradiction - to do it well you have to deeply imagine yourself inhabiting a new place, cultivate an empathy for this future possible you. But you also shouldn't become too emotionally attached to that life in any one place, because if it's good chances are a dozen other folks are hankering for it too, and you probably won't get it.

I'm sort of proud of how I played the bidding (and getting a preinspection done so we could join this no-contingencies wild west) and Melissa was great at being a lot more detail oriented about the pluses and minuses of each place, I tended to hang back and just get the general feel.

from the first 20 years

So, today marks 20 years of this blog! I hardly missed a day in all that time. 10 years ago I made a nice montage picture.

I couldn't think of anything as great for this milestone, so I decided to finally get to a different look back - a few months ago I assembled a list of high points and lowpoints of all my school years. I was surprised at how easy it was to assemble, though I guess it makes sense that these things really stick out in my memory landscape, and all I had to do was think chronologically to survey them all.

Elementary School Middle School: High school College
How on earth does the word "plus" only have one s.

from October 12, 2020

Final Sam's Jam Fam: the sisters' salute to George M Cohan (with me on laptop percussion)

Includes: Grand Old Flag / Give My Regards to Broadway / Mary / Harrigan

They say it was a car trip favorite, like right before they got home (which is kind of interesting, the family didn't even have a car until the girls were teens...)
It's language that enables us to ask ourselves questions and reflect on our own experiences. Frogs notice all kinds of things in their world, but I don't think they can notice their noticings. I don't think they can dwell on them. That whole sort of stairway of curiosity that we have built-in doesn't exist for any species but us, and that makes a huge difference. Human consciousness is to animal consciousness roughly as languages is to birdsong. Birdsong communicates, but not much.
Daniel Dennett in Tufts Magazine, part of a response to "How do you define consciousness?"
I like that line about the frogs.
There's an old Maine joke that sums [our tricks for self-control] up. A farmer is in the outhouse, and when he pulls up his pants, a quarter rolls out of his pocket and falls down the hole. He swears and pulls out his wallet and throws down a five-dollar bill. Someone asks him later, "Why'd you do that?" He replies, "You don't think I'm going down there for a quarter, do you?"
Daniel Dennett in Tufts Magazine

from October 11, 2020

Sang this one as a call and response with my superniece Cora yesterday...

there was a man
who had a goat
he loved that goat
just like a kid
one day that goat
was feeling fine
ate three red shirts
right off the line
the man he grabbed
him by the back
and tied him to
the railroad track
just then a train
came into sight
the poor old goat
grew green with fright
he gave a sigh
as if in pain
coughed up the shirts
and flagged the train

though I mislearned it as "grabbed him by the neck" not "back", which might be how I end up teaching it...

from October 10, 2020


i'm a little acorn brown
lying on the cold cold ground
everybody steps on me
so i'm a little cracked you see
i'm a nut (*tck* *tck*)
i'm a nut (*tck* *tck*)
i'm a nut
Reshma Saujani's TEDtalk Teach girls bravery, not perfection (or if you prefer text, here's a
Great mini-honk-fest with School of Honk.

I rate it 10/10.

Or even 2020.

from October 9, 2020


I have mixed feelings about Dilbert (and about the Trump-friendly "facts don't matter, only persuasion matters" of its creator Scott Adams) but this strip from 1992 has really stuck with me; it's a very important point fairly well presented:

I have some quibbles (the "interaction of chemicals" is by no means "random") but it's important to know that action precedes rational thought and narration.

There are anecdotes involving hypnosis and split-brain patients that provide crystal clear examples of how the narrative brain will confabulate explanations for what the system as a whole (conscious/unconscious) has done - if a person acts because of unknown hypnotic suggestion or because of instructions given only to the non-verbal lobe, our inner narrator is rarely at a loss for SOME reason why it made sense to do whatever the body just did.

from October 8, 2020


I've got a little pile of tin
nobody knows what shape it's in
got 4 wheels and a running board
it's a ford oh it's a ford
honk honk rattle rattle rattle crash beep beep
honk honk rattle rattle rattle crash beep beep
honk honk rattle rattle rattle crash beep beep
honk honk

(more of a camp song, and there's a "grandpa's beard is old and gray / it grows longer every day / grandma says it's good to eat / says it tastes like shredded wheat" verse I wasn't as into.)
Legos of the 80s, 90s, and 00s...

Growing up I loved Lego's "Space" series. And I've always loved robots. One of my first really big scores was this lovely beast:

I especially loved the arm / claw things.

Sometime out of college I got this fella:

Is it weird to point out its the resemblance to certain racial stereotypes? Hopefully they'd be a little more careful these days.

Finally, this one from the "Life on Mars" series.. at this point something has shifted... Lego now makes sets significantly cooler than what most kids (or at least I!) can... lots of joints and other weird but special use pieces...

from October 7, 2020


Here are the words, as we know them. I sure there's a lot of mutation over time. Also, it sounds vaguely like there might be something old-timey racist in its general vibe, but looking at the actual lines it's tough to see anything offensive... - "a for 'of"? "hallum scallum"? a "Buck" bowling 'em?

One sort, two sort
little jig'a'jam
bobtail dominick
little tory tam
virgin mary
hallum scallum
jingle 'em
jangle 'em
bowl 'em buck

william william
tremble toe
he's a good fisherman
catches hens
puts 'em in pens
some lay eggs
some not
how brow limble lock
sit and sing 'til 12 o'clock
the clock fell down
the mouse ran around
o u t spells out
What we call reality is just when we all agree about our hallucinations.
Baba Brinkman, quoted by Anil Seth.
This is after Harris quotes Chris Frith calling consciousness "a fantasy that coincides with reality" - the idea that we absorb raw sensory data but really live in our interpretation of that data, not in the data itself. Our day to day conscious life is closer to what we experience while dreaming, only hopefully a bit more well-grounded in the external objective world.
Contrary to what most people assume, we can echolocate to some degree. If you hold your hand in front of your face and hum and then move your hand back and forth, you'll notice that your humming reveals to you the location of your hand. So you can be a lousy bat whenever you want.
Sam Harris

[The Frontal Cortex] does impulse control, emotional regulation, long-term planning, gratification postponements, executive function. It's the part of the brain that attempts to tell you, "You know, this seems like a good idea right now, but trust me, you'll regret it. Don't do it." It's the most recently evolved part of our brains. Our frontal cortex is proportionately bigger and more complex than that of any other primate. And, most interesting, it's the last part of the brain to get fully wired up. The frontal cortex is not fully online until people are, on average, about a quarter century old. It's boggling, but it also tells you a lot about why adolescents act in adolescent ways; it's because the frontal cortex isn't very powerful yet. And that has an interesting implication, which is that if the frontal cortex is the last part of the brain to fully mature, by definition it's the part least constrained by genes and most shaped by experience. So the frontal cortex is your moral barometer, if that's the right metaphor. It's the Calvinist voice whispering in your head.
Robert Sapolsky
I think I have trouble absorbing the consequences of a brain that doesn't come into its own until later in life. Ever since I myself was a teen, my method of dealing with younger kids was to treat them more or less as adults, to take them seriously and with respect. (It's usually pretty effective, and the kids seem to appreciate it...but I think one ex properly sussed that it put me at risk for being the "buddy dad" type and leaving the more authoritarian stuff for "mean mom".)

I treat kids that way because my strongest emotional driver is the need to be compliant with objective, unemotional reality, and my intuition (which is pretty much wrong, but then again I've never put much stock in intuition...) is that rational clear reasoning is available to everyone. Also because it's often fun and funny to take kids seriously, and it feels like it's good practice for them. But I realize now that it's based on a false premise.
I completely agree. My MIT colleague Erik Brynjolfsson in our business school put this eloquently on a panel at a recent AI conference: "If we can't ensure that everybody gets better off after this huge explosion of wealth, then shame on us." Shame on us!
Max Tegmark, on what humanity might reap from advancements in AI and automation

Setting up a new webcam... I do love webcamtoy.com

When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it's easy to start believing bigotry is rare, and that the label *racist* should be applied only to mean-spirited, intentional acts of discrimination. The problem with this framework–besides being a gross misunderstanding of how racism operates in systems and structures enabled by nice people–is that it obligates me to be nice in return, rather than truthful.
Austin Channing Brown, "I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness"

from October 6, 2020


Hasn't aged entirely well, a bit cavalier in a Loony Tunes way about mental health etc, but not too too bad:


here comes my wagon my wagon
to take me to the nutty factory
here comes my wagon my wagon
I can hear my keeper calling me

folks have made me what i am
i hope they're satisfied
i may not be what they want me to be
but the good lord knows i tried

just like a nut that falls
I'm a little cracked that's all
dingdingdingdingding here comes my wagon...

(I love "i may not be what they want me to be / but the good lord knows i tried" - it's a tongue twister! also new to my Aunt who only knew the first and last parts)

I forget who told me this, but someone once said, "There's very little you can learn that isn't bad news." The older I get, the more I see the wisdom in that.

I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school, this isn't the let's-read-a-book school. And I get it and I understand it and it's a very interesting thing and I'm gonna be letting you know about it.
This statement says so much about his way of "knowing" the world. Screw the experts, at least 'til what the experts know - and are willing to share in books - screws you.

from October 5, 2020

Sam's Fam Jam Singalong Entry 2: "On the Dummy Line"

On the dummy line
On the dummy line
Rain or Shine I'll Pay My Fine
Rain or Shine I'll Pay My Fine
Ridin Ridin Ridin on the dummy line

There was a boy coming home from school
Saw a half dollar at the foot of a mule
scooped it up as slick as a mouse
next day there was a funeral at the little boy's house


There was a girl she used to squeal
had a face like a lemon peel
had a wart at the end of her chin
she thought it was a dimple but a dimple sticks in


There was a boy lived down on a farm
tried to milk a cow and he meant no harm
the cow kicked him right off of the bench
because he tried to milk her with a monkey wrench


I thought the whole joke was to insert names of people in attendance, but I guess "a boy" and "a girl" work as well.

Thomas wrote that [same-sex couples' constitutional right to wed] does not actually exist--and that, in recognizing it, the court implied that "those with sincerely held religious objections to same-sex marriage ... espoused a bigoted worldview."
How on God's Green Earth is freedom of religion NOT the right to be free of someone ELSE's religion?

from October 4, 2020

I spend a nice low key week w/ my Mom and Aunt at the family's vacation/retirement homestead at the Jersey Shore (Melissa alas had to stay in Boston).
So there is this set of songs that my grandfather Papa Sam would sing along with his daughters Betty and Susan that are part of my family lore (along with a few stragglers from summer camp) and so I enrolled my folks in a project to get them on video.
Entry 1: The song "Titanic", a light hearted but kinda macabre ditty:

O they built the ship titanic
to sail the ocean blue
and they thought they'd built a ship
that the water'd never get through
but the Good Lord raised His hand
said the ship would never land
it was sad when the great ship went down

O it was sad it was sad it was sad (too bad)
It was sad when the great ship went down
to the bottom of the
*husbands and wives little children lost their lives...
it was sad when the great ship went down

It was off the coast of England
and not too far from shore
when the rich refused
to associate with the poor
so they sent them down below
and they were the first to go
it was sad when the great ship went down


so they threw out all the lifeboats
to the dark and stormy sea
and the band struck up
O Nearer My God to Thee
Little children wept and cried
as the waves came over the side
It was sad when the great ship went down

(to the bottom of the sea!)

The [1980's Spring/Summer Football league] USFL was a modest sensation until Donald Trump purchased the league's New Jersey franchise and forced the league to abandon its spring schedule for the the fall in order to compete directly with the NFL. Not long after, the USFL collapsed.
From sports franches to casinos to nations, the man really has a reverse midas touch, every his hand rests turns to crap.

The Wikipedia page mentions the play may have been to force the NFL to merge - and they even won an anti-monopoly lawsuit against the NFL. And won $1. But under antitrust law, that $1 was tripled!

(Another fun detail from Wikipedia's page on the USFL: "Trump's failure to purchase the [Buffalo] Bills [in 2014] was cited as a major factor in his ultimately successful decision to run for President of the United States the next year")

from TUBA from Eucuyo'90

An essay I wrote about playing tuba that was published in Euclid High Schools literary magazine "Eucuyo" - kind of a high cringe level for me now, so read at your own risk...

I play the tuba. It's a rather pleasant way I have of passing time. In this world there are few instruments in which the very playing of the said instrument is in itself a physical endeavor. The tuba is one of them. "I am a tuba player," states my philosophy, "therefore I can do anything." I consider the tuba the penultimate instrument. First God created the tuba, then with the material remaining He/She created the other instruments. The ultimate instrument, of course, is the kazoo. But the the tuba is a close second.

I started playing brass in third grade. I started on a baritone, which is like a premature tuba. I look back with fond memories on the days when I could only play two notes, F and G, and those not very well. Then things became "sorta interesting," to quote myself again. Well, actually, not all that interesting. Sigh.

Most of my musical training has been at school or at the Salvation Amy. The Salvation Army is a church, besides being a public service operation. So for three whole years, I happily, badly tooted away. Then, fate stepped in.

A trumpet player in my sixth grade band decided to switch from high pressure, high competition, world of trumpeteering to laid back, no competition land of Baritoneering. This upset me. I've always liked being the only player of an instrument in at least one of the bands I'm in. It's an ego kick to see your name as the only name listed under the heading "baritones." So when this trumpet player switched, a thought popped into my head. 'Right now, no one is playing TUBA! I can switch and voila, I'm a one man section again!'

So the powers-that-be of the Glens Falls Middle School music program (Mr. Antolini) locked me in a practice room with the scales of both instruments and told me to "learn 'em". So I did. My tooting continued, just as bad (if not worse) but in a lower octave.

Then I moved from Glens Falls (as immortalized in 'The Last of the Mohicans' and home of Glens Falls Middle School), New York to Cleveland Heights, Ohio. There I went to Monticello Middle School. Mrs. Beale, the music director there, was a major influence on my Tubaing. She taught me quite a lot about style and technique. I also continued playing in the Salvation Army corps band.

Around Christmas time of my second and last year at Monticello, I was informed about an event called Tuba Christmas by Mrs. Beale. I decided to try it out. 250+ tubas, euphoniums, and baritones gathered together in a large music hall and played, appropriately enough, Christmas carols. It was such a pure, mellow sound. It was enough to drive a man insane, so consider what it did to me!

Euclid, Ohio became my next home. I then joined the NEOSA (North Eastern Ohio Salvation Army) Divisional Youth Band. A trip to Mexico with the Youth Band highlighted my freshman year. Mexico was an experience that completely blew my mind. The people there had nothing like we have in the States, yet their spirit and appreciation was completely overwhelming. I also managed not to get Montezuma's Revenge.

One experience that I have neglected to mention is playing for the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle effort. This involves playing eighteen Christmas carols over and over for hours on end as your lips begin to stick to your metal mouthpiece and you pray that your valves will remain moving throughout the day. I returned to the lighter weight baritone for this chilly thrill. It is not easy to perfect your vibrato as your teeth chatter uncontrollably.

Of course there is always the wonder of Euclid High Marching Band. Marching across the field, playing as loudly as you can against eighty of everything else is not a favorable environment to hear the bass line, trying to remember where to march next, all while carrying a BIG white fiberglass tuba (sousaphone really) is not my idea of a Good Thing. Eventually football season ends, though, and symphonic band begins. Real music at last! Music that you can sit down for! Yippeeee!

Somewhere in this I became a fairly decent Tubaist. I'm not sure where, I'm not sure when, but it happened. So I'll continue making up bass lines (which is fun) and marching in marching band (which is not fun) and Life shall Trudge on.

Some thoughts, 30 years later: Kind of weird how I had a 15 year gap after college! It might be interesting for me to remake this sometime. But yeesh, I can't believe I thought I was hot stuff in English in high school...

from the koans

A story I wrote, I believe in sixth grade. Rather more charming than yesterday's... "The Koans" is an interesting title; I don't think I knew what a Koan was but I like the sound of the word. Also my nomme de plume "Lord Logan" (based on my middle name) was inspired by Richard "Lord British" Garriott who wrote the Ultima computer games.

I also know where I got the visual design for the birds - I think I saw the early CGI film "Snoot and Muttley" at the Boston Computer Museum (RIP) - it must've really made an impression on me.
(I reverse-engineered thet title of that short from this Summer 1985 version edition of Computer Museum reports.)

Another short that left a big impression on me was Beat Dedication about a robot drummer battling a VW fly- sadly this bad VHS version is all I can find online now, from it's airing on "Night Flight" -I think it was also on MTV's Liquid Television.
puppets are just acoustic robots

I should reread Erika Moen's DAR and maybe check out Bucko.

from Protectors of Terebeth

This is a story I wrote in fifth grade, I believe... bold choice to make it feel like it was the middle of a series! I know the basic "dragonrider" was influenced by the Return of the Jedi Scout Walkers - I love thosed. The name "Terebeth" might have been influenced by "Bridge to Terabithia"?

"Relaxed cursive" mentioned in the dedication is an interesting euphemism. Also, during the biefing - are the phoenixriders and krakenriders "ancient type" or "new"? Make up your mind kid. And you left out a word on that page too.
"We have a duty to speak Truth to Power."
"That's a beautiful slogan, but you know Power never returns Truth's calls."
Greg Egan, Instantiation

from logo work from my 1992 notebook

In NYC I bought a lined wirebound notebook that travelled with me to Portugal and then for some of Freshman year of college. I decided to scan anything in it worth keeping.

I was really into making logos, and funky typography in general...
Happy 40th Birthday Pac-Man!

from #foolish-idea-friends

One of the things I miss most from my old job was a certain slack channel - "#foolish-idea-friends" (channel name changed to protect the guilty.)

The heart of the slack channel was an ever-growing number list of foolish ideas - concept pitches. A few basic rules were established from the outset: no criticism of ideas were permitted... just because an idea was foolish didn't mean it was "bad"... ideas had to be original as far as we knew to get a number (later a habit of bringing in ideas from elsewhere with the tag "#SEFI" (for "someone else's foolish idea") instead of a number)

One of the fellow pioneers of the channel had written bots to scrape the ideas (one Foolish Idea was to make a "best of" book) and sent me a list of my 1000+ contributions. I had done over a quarter of the almost 4,000 the channel was up to upon my departure!

FIF #600 gives an idea of what the channel was most often used for: So, I read through all my entries and here were my very favorites, in roughly descending order of how much I liked 'em: Some of my ideas I'd like to see for real: Of course, some FIFs I ended up doing for real: Some of my thinly-veiled complaints: Sometimes I just went for the gag or pun: And finally, a few I sort of liked but didn't make the other lists: Anyway. This is the single piece of company culture I'll most miss from my old place, and I think I have a FIF in there about launching new colonies. I'd really recommend it for any big slack organization.

Oh one bonus I almost missed:

from the well-temperanced child

So when I was 5 months, I was recruited into the WCTU, the Women's Christian Temperance Union... (The Salvation Army requires temperance for its members so it's not such a stretch.)

I don't know what's worse, calling my mom "Mrs. James Israel" or calling me "Kirt".
The first humans to make water boil must have been super freaked out

Interesting theory about the toilet paper shortage it's not (just) hoarding - it's that TP for home is a different production line than for offices/institutions - and one is seeing a lot more use. And of course, once there is a demonstrated problem, people will grab more when they see it...

from Salamanca Press and Gothic

One of my parents' favorite appointments was in upstate NY, the city of Salamanca - as Salvation Army officers they really connected with the communities and groups there, from the Seneca people (from whom the land was leased in an odd arrangement) to the Newspaper that was literally right next door to the church to the Catholic school down the street (St. Patrick's, where I attended and my folks got a "clergy discount") to the local theater troop "The Village Players" to the people who had standing orders for bread or cookies when my dad did a round of baking...

The best way not to be unhappy is not to have a word for it.
Douglas Adams
(I'm not sure if this is actually true- it's a pretty big stretch for the whorf hypothesis)
F*** Trump's use of the phrase "Human Scum"

from hello, drum taps my old friend

Candace posted a link to Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think or as she said "One of [her] most desired and favorite sounds..."

It reminded me of this formative anecdote I don't think I'd journaled before, though I know I've talked about:
One lesson I carry with me is from this one ill-advised "24 hour march-a-thon" my high school band ran as a fundraiser for a trip to Atlanta. Participating students took shifts: one hour marching, two hours resting. (and I made it more surreal for myself with a combination of a box of taco bell from my mom and by accepting my AFS brother's donation - with its contingency that I wear his green tinted sunglasses the whole time, waking and sleeping.)

We started right after a Friday night football game, and by Saturday late morning we were already pretty wiped - most of us had given up playing our actual instruments and switched to percussion. And then to make matters worse they sent us down to the indoor track rather than the corridors of the school where we had been marching, because other students were taking the SAT or similar that day.

So the booming percussion echoing in that short-ceilinged made everything more hellish, until some wise person in that shift figured out we could just go to "taps" - not the funereal trumpet song, but this minimalist "tik....tik....tik-a-tik...." pattern the actual drum squad would play on their drum rims when the band needed to keep in step but had to be quiet.

The difference to my nervous system, from a barrage of loud percussive chaotic thuds to the minimalist, controlled "taps" was palpable - a true balm and blessing at the time and a lesson that has stuck with me ever since.
Not quite "silence", so maybe a tangent from the original article, but with a similar energy.
I had forgotten about Jamie Livingston: some photos of that day - a polaroid taken every day from March 31 1979 until the artist's death in October of 1997.

I did the date math (with my own Time Toy) and realized just this year I've been doing daily blogging for longer than this project ran. But of course blogging doesn't have the focus (no pun intended) of a photo every day. Also it feels like charting the 80s and 90s was inherently more interesting than the 2000s and 2010s...

Of course now I'm doing "One Second Everyday" [sic] and have been for... yikes, 6 1/2 years? I kind of don't know to stop... it just seems so odd to say "yup my early 40s were extremely well documented but nothing else was".
CAPTAIN:Trouble with a long journey like this is that you end up just talking to yourself a lot, which gets terribly boring because half the time you know what you're going to say next.
ARTHUR: Only half the time?
CAPTAIN: Yes, about half I'd say.
Douglas Adams, "The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts"
Shades of E.M. Forster "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" - Adams really has some sly and wise commentary all over the place.

from the incomplete lists of kirkisms

Twenty years ago (yeesh) My friend Paul M. recruited me to my first post-college job at a company called IDD. When we were there, he did me the honor of recording some of the oddball things I would say (this list has been languishing on a biography in lists page I made way back when - I can tell it's old because all of my html tags are in all caps...)
  1. Get the friggin' integer ass. (said to the Java compiler)
  2. Well, I sure hope I get to New York tonight. (sigh) - Fuck a duck, fuck a duck, fuck a duck duck duck
  3. Hang on while I stamp out a nipple (while brandishing a hammer)
  4. I gotta read that sex book ("Sex", the 1992 coffeetable book by Madonna)
  5. You fish and chips snarfelling waffler. (said to Paul, born in England).
  6. Ah, shoot off a nipple. Ooh. That would hurt. (said while pointing a gun at Paul's chest.)
  7. If libertarian ideals are so great, how come we use the English measurement system?
  8. Kirk: But Paul, I want to be a hero-- Paul: Yeah, but you don't want to be marketing's hero
  9. I want to have an artgasm.
  10. I wish I knew how to sing Lawrence Welk music.
  11. These bubbles make me happy as a little girl.
  12. I'd come crawling back to her in a minute if I thought I had a third of a chance.
  13. Wanna smell a nut?
  14. Don't threaten me. Don't threaten my manhood.
  15. (answering phone) Magic NetGravity Fairy
  16. That nail is an extension of me. You touched me!
  17. Lawrence Welk really had the right idea.
  18. I'm a software developer- I don't need shoes.
  19. Now my wrists are gonna get all sore.
  20. The reason that dogs chase cars is that they think they are giant buffalo and they want to herd them- or something.
Sometime in mid-2008 I started compiling a similar list of my idiosyncratic phrases
"( )"
I tend to talk parenthetically, in that I will start a statement and go immediately off into a parenthetical aside, usually a disclaimer or recognition of an alternate interpretation. This is often very confusing for the listener. e.g. "So I was thinking (and I'm not saying this is what we have to do, but it has worked pretty well in the past) we should take Amtrak rather than drive there."
An under-the-breath exclamation of discontent
"I was more struck by ____"
When I want to point out what aspect most stood out for me without dismissing the other parts.
"a little disjoint"
my favorite expression for some art work that just doesn't hang together very well
Emphatic form of "dude", often connotating pleasant surprise. absorbed from mo.
"one option you might want to consider is..."
a typical prelude when suggesting a "helpful hint" to my mom or my aunt when helping them with their respective computer... trying to balance my urge to make things better with an understanding that people often like to keep things the way that they are used to.
When I'm playfully frustrated or irritated with a female friend, I tend to call them sister... I think it comes from Han Solo's line in Star Wars, "It is for *me*, sister."
This bugged Ksenia very much.
"that's some of what it comes back to"
discussing a root cause while acknowledging the best explanations are multifaceted
"whatever you say me"
A bit of russlish Ksenia used once or twice, dropping the "to" from "say to me". I still use it as a form of grudging consent, as I did then to tease her a bit
Interesting to see which phrases I still use. I still like "you fish and chips snarfelling waffler", I definitely have too many parenthetical asides, and I like saying "*grumblesmurf*"

(I know it seems a bit self-absorbed to record and share this stuff, but if it helps I think everyone should be that kind of self-absorbed...)
okay so today the president said jews are stupid and got mad when he couldn't buy greenland

from melissa's birthday surprise!

Melissa's got a milestone birthday coming up, and I conspired with Anna H. and crew to have Anna's "Pre-Thanksgiving Cocktail Party" convert into a full-on surprise party once Melissa and I came over from seeing Patton Oswalt-- I sweet-talked a subset of JP Honk into lying in wait, and stashed my tuba there that afternoon...

We did "Space Cadet", "Mercy Mercy Mercy", and then a "Little Light of Mine" singalong:

Same close-in:

Here friends made up a photocake:

from what's in a name

Recently a great episode of the Allusionist podcast talked about how people feel about their names, especially people who end up changing theirs.

On FB, I asked folks "how do you feel about your name? Do you know what your folks were thinking when they gave the first part of it to you? What about your family name?"

I enjoyed reading the stories some of my friends shared, but here's what I wrote about mine:

I dig my name, first name especially - "Kirk". My dad (James/Jim) liked the idea of a name that couldn't really be shorted, though I'm not sure how much he disliked "Jim". My name is dripping with religion, Kirk is "Church", Logan is after a theologian, Israel is like the country. Which tends to lead to erasure of my evangelical preacher's kid upbringing w/ people assuming I'm Jewish, but hey, I'm not THAT not-Jewish. (Also most Americans will spell Israel "Isreal" like they hear it pronounced.)

But I dig the strength of the K-sounds.

(Of course if I was born one day after my actual birthday of March 31 my dad assured me my name would be "Foolsbert" - Foolella if I was a gal. (Also, Iove how weird my birthday is - 31st is the least common of all month day numbers))

Once, undergoing adolescent angst, I used yet another move (Upstate NY to Cleveland) to go by "Logan" as first name for a while...odd situation when I switched back when I changed school districts but kept attending the same church. A letter was being read about my enrollment (akin to confirmation) that called me Kirk, but he knew me as Logan, and then-Captain-Schenk said "aww just call him Butch" and with a little work on my part it sort of stuck. My full church nickname was "Kirk Logan Brother Butch Israel Brother".
FUN FACT: my mom had to convince her friends I wasn't being named after the captain from her fav sci-fi tv show. She had to convince her REALLY close friends I wasn't being named after a similarly named character in some "Bonanza" fanfic she and her friends would write

I love how David Price's hat jumps as he moves his eyebrows or whatever, like when you're trying to wiggle your ears but you're not really good at it... Also his pre-pitch "take a deep breath" routine is so human and recognizable.
Mookie Betts breaks his series drought and helps the Red Sox win the World Series and gets a hat for his hat:

What an era to be a fair-weather fan in Boston :-D What's this, 11 championships (Celtics, Bruins, 5 for Pats, now 4 for Red Sox) since 2002?
Also: in Alex Cora We Trust, Huh? He has done some seemingly inexplicable moves that in hindsight are pure brilliance. Between that and hearing how, despite a top of the list payroll, so much of the Red Sox team is young and home grown - and seeing how those "supporting" players stepped up Saturday night, and in general how the team played on defense as well... it's a great team to like!
Oh and that jerk Machado getting the last strike out... ahhh

from phone case by james harvey

Apple designers get a serious case of show-offness when it comes to make their phones as thin as possible, even at the cost of battery life and durability. One of the silver linings is that phones-in-cases become much less bulky than they were in the iPhone 5 era or before - the case just brings it up to being a typical size oldschool phone, as if the case were part of it - and so now everyone gets to pick how their phone looks and we don't look quite as much like the Apple drones so many of us Boston techies are.

I like getting custom-made ones with art by Jame Harvey - the indie artist who has done work fo DC, as well as my own comic on mortality. Here they are:

And here's the latest (first one where I didn't technically commission the art, though I helped fund the Kickstarter...

Of course, lock screens can be pretty hip too... the new one on the right is a zoom in of a poster I ordered from him when he was doing freelance commissions:

I also made a wallet or two.

The cases were mostly ordered from zazzle. For what it's worth, two of those cases were wooden, which I wouldn't recommend if you need it to last more than a year.

from proud of my mom

Read this "Thought from the Shower" the other day and it startled me as being such an excellent point:
Sometimes, your parents just want to know you're just as proud of them as they are of you.
So, disconnected from any holiday or birthday, and know I'm to sure to miss or gloss over many admirable things my mom has done: I'm very proud of my mom.

As the nickname (bestowed early by her younger yet more worldly sister) "Betty the Good" suggests, she has led such a highly moraled and principled life, mostly obviously in the context of The Salvation Army.

I don't know that much about her early life, but some of it involves working her way through University with less financial aid than she deserved because her folks were shy of opening their finances to institutions. (And I know she made the decision to go to college rather than straight to The Salvation Army's "seminary", the School for Officer Training, on the advice of elders in the 'Army - a lesson in what it means to be a well-educated and informed person in the world)

And then she became a Salvation Army Officer! That's a life-long commitment, and a job that extends beyond the 9-to-5 - not to mentions insisting you give up deciding where you're going to live, and when you're going to move, and requires vast swaths of dedication to both God and your fellow Man.

Later my view switches to my partnership with my dad. Family lore is that achieving pregnancy took some effort, so obviously I'm grateful for that and proud of whatever persistence that took.

She and my dad had a neatly symmetrical relationship both in their ministry and in the domestic sphere, modeling a kind of feminism-friendly balance that has stuck with me even now. But even with assignments at some very challenging 'Army churches, she managed to find time for local musical theater, always a pleasure for her. And the way the two of them became fixtures in their communities - especially Salamanca - was striking.

Later, she displayed huge courage through my dad's illness and death. And then had the resiliency to go back to school for her master's degree, all while being a single mom. Of course, since I was such an angel in high school it wasn't quite enough challenge so through AFS she hosted *another* 18 year old boy, Marcos, through my senior year.

It was interesting that while I could beat my mom at almost any randomly selected Atari game, with the ones that caught her interest (Bugertime and Pengo come to mind) I couldn't touch her scores. A good lesson in focus and perseverance, there.

(Dang. There's so much past tense in this, it sounds like a eulogy! And it's not meant to sound that way - but it makes me think that the concept of singing someone's praises while they can still hear it shouldn't just be reserved for the elite getting "lifetime achievement" awards or whatnot.)

Back to The Salvation Army. While I think it's a great charitable and religious organization, living its Heart to God Hand to Man slogan (and, encouragingly, seems ahead of the curve on gender roles and racial equality) my mom's politics run reliably a bit to the left of its core, and I appreciate the grace she's shown in those circumstances - and how she's done that and learned to service in NYC, and London, and also many less glamorous places.

Or I think back to her helping me on move-in day at college, when my new hallmates flagged me over just say "Kirk, you know, we really love your mom!" That was typical. Mom seemed to love everyone and often the feeling was returned.

And so even now, my mom is at best able to achieve a semi-retirement, and is as continually active in church work as the regulations allow. I'm proud of that too! (Also, if it's not too impolite to point out, the success she and my aunt have had with sticking to their diet/eating/exercise programs is pretty amazing to see as well and I'm grateful 'cause it means they'll be around that much longer!)

I'm also proud of the room she has given me. I mean one thing I've learned is that parents generally try to avoid re-creating the problems they had with their own folks - and not to speak ill of my Nana, but I know she wasn't always the easiest to be with - exemplified by her application of the classic "look, you've got me so frustrated/worried that I've had to take up smoking again" guilt-trip.

So my mom made it her mission to steer clear of that kind of that kind of pitfall. And even when I shifted into being a bit more of a freethinker, where I went through the adolescent questioning of why on God's Green Earth where there so many religions, she was patient and kind through all of that and confident enough that my upbringing still taught me well and set me up to be safe and morally well-grounded.

Or the conversation we had once, when I confessed I felt, you know, guilty that my course wasn't one of being an uncle-figure and not a dad, and so not presenting her with a grandkid, her reassurance that yeah, while it was a bit of a bummer for her, it was also true that if I lacked the convictions to make family-making and dad-being that kind of number one goal and priority of my life, her strong preference was that I would have steered clear.

Anyway, so inspired on a random quote from social media, I just wanted to say all that.

(I also want to say I'm proud of my dad, but I've written about his achievements already - written when I was 28, on the day I was twice as old as I had been when he died. I'm also proud of my Aunt Susan, who is now the other "folk" I mean when I say I'm going to New Jersey to "be with my folks"... her journey in education from "Assistant to the Dean" to "Assistant Dean" is amazing.)

"French star Kylian Mbappe gives a member of Pussy Riot a high five" during a pitch invasion protest
At work I'm surprised that everyone uses laptops, and many people use external monitors, but I'm an outlier for using the laptop keyboard and trackpad- it's a lot more common to use an external keyboard and then a mouse or "magic trackpad". I understand preferring a mouse, but a trackpad off to the side seems weird to me, at least once you're used to having the trackpad RIGHT there. I guess with external keyboards you don't have to worry about heat if the laptop is running hard, and if you're using the laptop as a second or third monitor you can prop it to a more ergonomically friendly spot, but I still love the arrangement of a laptop with a larger monitor above it, in part because it minimizes the difference from using the laptop in standalone mode.

Any thoughts? Any external keyboard/trackpad/mice users know some other advantage I'm not thinking of?

Blender of Love

from on aliens

The Atlantic on how China is leading the way in listening out ofr extraterrestrial intelligence. With the powers that be in the USA demonstrating spectacular disinterest in the scientific way of understanding the world, we're ceding so much to the rest of the world.

Donald Trump's call for a moonshot not withstanding- to my biased eye it sounds like an unfunded mandate, and I also understand that the conservatives are much more interested in retrograde "Put America In Space" ambition than NASA's attempts to understand what we're doing on the planet all but 536 of us have been stuck on, lest they suggest it might be premature to screw this place over.

I guess the American model is putting all our eggs in the Tony Stark / Ayn Rand-hero type genius who manages to have big long-shot ambition despite the capitalist desire for quarterly profit, the most notable example being Elon Musk.

The Atlantic piece came out before word of `Oumuamua, an intringuingly shaped interstellar asteroid swinging our way. So far efforts to detect any sign of intelligent construction or signal have come to nothing, but it's one of the more provocative things we've seen, shades of Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama...

Anyway, the piece ends with a musing on what evidence of alien intelligence would mean for humanity in a spiritual sense:
Even if no geopolitical strife ensued, humans would certainly experience a radical cultural transformation, as every belief system on Earth grappled with the bare fact of first contact. Buddhists would get off easy: Their faith already assumes an infinite universe of untold antiquity, its every corner alive with the vibrating energies of living beings. The Hindu cosmos is similarly grand and teeming. The Koran references Allah's "creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures that He has scattered through them." Jews believe that God's power has no limits, certainly none that would restrain his creative powers to this planet's cosmically small surface.

Christianity might have it tougher. There is a debate in contemporary Christian theology as to whether Christ's salvation extends to every soul that exists in the wider universe, or whether the sin-tainted inhabitants of distant planets require their own divine interventions. The Vatican is especially keen to massage extraterrestrial life into its doctrine, perhaps sensing that another scientific revolution may be imminent. The shameful persecution of Galileo is still fresh in its long institutional memory.

Secular humanists won't be spared a sobering intellectual reckoning with first contact. Copernicus removed Earth from the center of the universe, and Darwin yanked humans down into the muck with the rest of the animal kingdom. But even within this framework, human beings have continued to regard ourselves as nature's pinnacle. We have continued treating "lower" creatures with great cruelty. We have marveled that existence itself was authored in such a way as to generate, from the simplest materials and axioms, beings like us. We have flattered ourselves that we are, in the words of Carl Sagan, "the universe's way of knowing itself." These are secular ways of saying we are made in the image of God.
The author is painting all these belief systems with an awfully wide brush! But I disagree especially with the take on humanism. I think the modern humanist views humans not as a pinnacle and certainly not as a goal - we take pride in seeming to be the only thing *in this neighborhood* capable of constructing complex culture and a model of the universe, but it has been a long dream of the science fiction that has inspired so many of us - our secular inspiring fables - that the universe has rolled the dice better elsewhere. And maybe those more advanced ones can help us out! (The secular view isn't that we're created in the image of God, unless maybe you say that we're all a hodge podge of steadily selecting beneficial traits from a chaotic, unpredictable blend.... hmm, that might be sort of true, after all...)
In the wake of "Team Magic Unicorn" (the nextgen UI team) us stragglers formed "Team Cardboard Manatee" and today I decided to demarcate our territory with handcrafted wall art...

An artisanal authentic cardboard manatee. we don't know if there's real magic in the magic unicorn but the cardboard in the manatee is 100%

from December 12, 2017

Interesting thoughts about when family's just had one "the computer" All my life, all the way back to the early 8 bits (Atari 800XL and Commodore 64) I cut my teeth on, my computing resources were just mine, an only child with non-techie parents. But there was a time, before the rise of the smartphone and cheap powerful laptops, when my main connection to the world of computing (online and off) had its own permanent deskspace - I came to It, it didn't wander around the house with me. Sometimes I see those lovely Apple iMacs and think about that time, when my computer was its own little shrine of sorts - crossing the boundary in space demarcated boundaries in time as well.
A Predictive Keyboard is trained on Harry Potter books and writes a new book in the series: Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash!
Back to vertical monitor land!

(though not my first trip to this rodeo 2011/10/20)
Just testin' out the camera on Melissa's best lil buddy...

from October 7, 2017

Found an old DOS "lworks" text file (luckily ported to html by my past self at some point since then) containing a diary from my senior year of high school. Interesting how at the beginning of the year I weighed "still 197 pounds" - what I weigh now - but by the end of the year I had lost "about 30 pounds worth" of weight.

Man, my writing was insufferable. Very difficult for me to look back on.

Since misery loves company, here's a story I wrote 7/31/91
Jones and his Flight
Kirk Israel
"My God, this is like a dream!" thought Jones as he fell and fell and fell and fell.
Jones was not falling down in the sensible fashion. He was falling up.
He was hard pressed to explain exactly how this odd reversal of events (and gravity) was taking place.
So up he fell, slowly at first, and then faster as the savage acceleration gripped him. Vertigo caused his head to swim amusingly.
Jones was not amused.
He had been in his back yard, leaping to make a spectacularly athletic frisbee catch, when he inexplicably failed to return to terra firma. His friend was staring at the patch of grass Jones would have landed on (had gravity not been slightly inebriated,) utterly bewildered.
Now his lawn (not a huge lawn, but a fair sized place for the occasional casual frisbee toss) was just one of many lawns that Jones' commanding view afforded him.
The air started to get quite cold and moist as he continued his ascent.
It was getting harder and harder to breathe.
He could see the curvature of the Earth in the distance. Wow, was it big.
Then, popping out of the atmosphere like a cork out of a champagne bottle, via laws hitherto unknown to modern physics, his lungs exploded as all the pressure (14.7 pounds per square inch) inside of Jones struggled violently to equalise with the pressure ouside of Jones, namely next to zero pounds per square anything.
Thus ended Jones and his flight.
And a poem (8/11/91)
And in the distance I saw
A city of white that gleamed:
in imperial splendor
its defiant towers of ivory
thrust against the crystal sky
besides an angry green sea
I examined the mud and earth around me
that covered me and merged with me
untill it was not possible to tell
what was first dirt and what
was first me
so I set out to enter
I pulled my weary body
through the common sludge
untill I came unto the edge of
splatterings of mud
(or was that me? I could not tell)
fell of me, staining the
pristine road that I then
stood on
And on these defiant towers
I could see no doors and no
windows and no Cosmopolitans
conversed, standing between
towers of Ivory and so
I threw my head back and
screamed and laughed and
yelled and cried untill
breath came reluctantly
and my echo was my only
companion in
The donation bucket is always open! ....Actually, that's kind of how buckets work.
Me, during a recent JP Honk gig outside Purple Cactus in JP to raise money for Mexico Earthquake Relief where I was holding the donation bucket with my free hand while playing tuba.

'Know what I saw? On fire off the Shoulder of Orion? ATTACK SHIPS.' -- Norm McDonald as Roy Batty in 'Blade Runner'

from August 11, 2017

Our family friend Larry Wittenberg had a Super 8 w/ Sound camera and has a bunch of brief home movies. (Pretty nifty gadget.)

At least two of them have some footage of my dad. I think it's the only audio footage of my dad I know of, except there might video tape of him playing a elderly grandfather stuck in a rocking chair for a Christmas pageant (given how sick he was at that point, that part wasn't much of a stretch, alas)


(Love the shot of my mom Youtube picked to thumbnail it.)

The opening scene is a child on a distinctive kids chair, consisting of 3 slotting rectangles, made by my grandfather (there are two piece in all, and either can be stood as a chair, a rocking chair, or a desk)

Quiet scene of my dad at 0:20.

Then it's a Wittenberg and Israel kitchen scene, I suppose in our place in Cincinnati.

At around 0:54 is my dad, hiding behind his hands from the camera. At 1:06 the camera is on me, and I think my dad is talking about the mafia (a group he consistently despised, along with the movies that would glorify them.)

2:00 has my dad sticking his tongue out at the camera. Later there's some further goofing and some leg.

Around 3:13, it's a new recording. The scene changes to our over-the-church apartment in Salamanca NY. That's the first home I had recollections of, and could sketch out its layout. Now it's a surprisingly small grass field. My Aunt, Uncle, his son, and a Salvation Army cadet from Poland are also there besides my family the Wittenbergs.

I recognize a lot, like the mission chair, lamp and server from St. Thomas still in my mom's house, the record player behind my dad at 3:52, the umbrella plant "Kirk Tree" that was planted when I was born (finally died a few year ago). I guess as an "Officer Kid" who moved around a lot, it's those kind of objects that make a place for me... in almost any photo taken in an old apartment, I'm often as or more interested in what books are on my shelves then whoever is in the main subject of the shot.

Around 4:00 is probably the single biggest stretch of my dad's voice. Along with me in the background clowning for attention.

My Uncle at 4:50 and one of his infamous naps...

At around 5:15 my dad does a bit of deliberate pantomime with a pampers box, a stuffed koala bear, and a brush , kind of invoking the "Little Tramp" bit with the rolls from "The Gold Rush"

Finally the video ends with a quiet shot of an infant and a toddler, probably just using up the film.

A lot of feelings struck up with this, from some cringing at how attention seeking I was then (I know it's a fairly normal part of life especially that age but still) to some things that will never be fully resolved between father and son, to just a general feeling of bittersweet nostalgia.

from May 3, 2017

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- 
I took the one less travelled by, 
Tripped over a branch, and broke my nose 
I hear America singing, and doggone 
if someone's not flat. One of the tenors, 
I think. 
Open here I flung the shutter, 
when with many a flirt and flutter
Traversed that curs'd bird from the week before
I shot it dead, and then it drop upon the floor 
Now, the Raven 'nevermore' 
Two roads diverged, 
but the one I wanted to take had a detour sign on it, 
dammit to hell. 
A rock sat in the woods, thinking, 
for many years, of many things. 
Realized God and His plan 
How to perfect life for plant and man 
but it was a rock, and rocks can't speak 
so it had to keep it to itself 
an ant crossed the sidewalk 
in its busy little industry 
i saw reflected the laws of 
god and man 
'enough of this' I thought 
and crushed its tiny head 
--I had been searching through old scanned school papers for these, when I found them in a one of the PalmPilot journal entries I slapped on my website, in a 1997 memo called "Old Poems", so I think they date back to college or high school.

I'd been thinking of the rock poem a lot. One way of framing arguments I have with my conversation sparring partner is that I tend to focus on the surfaces things, or more specifically the interactions they can have, while to me he seems obsessed with how things really are through and through, in a deep interior way. It's interesting that as far back as 25 years ago the idea that interactions and communications are what give interior lives meaning.
That sparring partner also trotted out the psychological figure of the puer aeternus, eternal adolescent. The fact he considers the label absolutely damning while I think it's, I dunno, incomplete but descriptive, and with it's pros and cons, speaks to the other parts of the profound differences in our outlooks.

(Also looking at the latin phrase it reminded me of 1997 The New Yorker reviewed the Blender of Love (there really was a lot less going on on the web back then) and I had to look up what "puerile"meant when describing my editorials. I was mildly offended, but hey, it's The New Yorker and they cut it with "somewhat".)

from April 10, 2017

My high school best friend Mike Witczak had a piano at his house, though his younger brother Martin was the one who actually played. One day, in the summer between high school and college, the three of us collaborated with a tape recorder and made Leavin' You Blues a long (over 20 minutes) jam on the most basic of blues riffs, with (badly) improvised vocals and tuba by me, Mike on the Alto Sax, and Marty employing the tiniest fraction of his his keyboard talent, except in a few parts. (around 8 minutes in)

The rest of the tape Mike and I filled with walking through a much of basslines he and I would jam with on the Euclid High School bandroom piano or with our horns in small group settings. It's telling that my urge for archiving, even the awareness I would forget much of this, was present even then. And now it continues, as I transferred the entire tape to my computer, broke it up into tracks, and provided titles and a little commentary...

There's a lot of adolescent, goofy chatter and commentary throughout, mostly me, that I kept in, as painful as it is for me to hear now.

Without further ado: '92 Blues and Basslines

It's a E. Bishop "One Art" kind of day! My work laptop at home this morning (buried under some clothes for good will), my eyeglass case as I leave the parking garage (actually on my person, the old 'past self pranks present self by putting something in idiosyncratic pocket' gag) and then my wallet, lost outside of a restaurant but mercifully found by a kind person who happens to work at the Athletlic Club I go to for yoga.

New slogan for Delta Airlines - "We May Cancel 3,000 Flights, But at Least We Don't Beat You Up About It!"

(heh, wait, is the slogan for United really still "Fly the Friendly Skies"?)

from March 8, 2017

From the defunct Davidjohnson.net, circa 1998:

Scott told me
he never wrote anything
he wouldn't want
everyone to read.

What a good idea,
and that was way
before there was a web.

(Also I like the countdown to Y2K meter, now over 6000 days negative.) A later quote on the site: "'Bringing the beast stumbling to its feet' -the way John said not build Catalyst", Catalyst being a project I had worked on with him at IDD.

from May 4, 2016

Last night So, You're Going to Die got a Best in Category (Small & Self Publishers Illustrated) from the 59th Annual New England Book Show, the longest running book fair in the country.

Thanks to my sweetie Melissa who was my date and a great hypeman on FB, Stephen Cartisano (a member of the Book Builders, and a great encouragement for both printing and submitting the book) and of course James Harvey, who actually gets the lion's share of the credit. (Though the judges did complement the skull endpapers I generated.)
The most disturbing part of freedom, Woodfox says, has been the dawning realisation since his release that in America in 2016 there is very little sense of political or social struggle. When he entered prison in the 1970s the country was on fire with political debate; now, as he puts it, "everybody seems to be 'Me, me, me, me, me.' It's all about me, what I need and how I'm going to get it."
He sounds pretty sane, considering.
My stripper name is 'good grief cover that up'

from April 14, 2016

The Jastrow illusion is worth checking out...
360 view from Game of Thrones opening credits Not bad! Though odd that it's painted on the inside of a globe, kind of like the Mapparium...
https://www.captionbot.ai/ - a Microsoft 'bot does a surprisingly good job captioning photos.
Random naive bike riding question: the other day I saw a fellow bike commuter whose rhythm was pedal, coast, pedal, coast. He didn't seem to be pedaling especially fast, but still making decent time. Is that a notably more efficient way of riding than my "pedal most of the time" style? (Then again since my bike commute is some of the little semi-daily exercise I reliably get, maybe energy efficiency isn't the number one goal anyway...)
Sometimes I wonder if over-eager code testing policies are a bit like excessive password complexity requirements and expiry; both sound great on paper and give certain types of administrative types warm fuzzies, but unless used properly just make things worse.
‪#‎TBT‬ Some shots from my Salamanca, NY Days courtesy Robert Smith - me rockin' red footie PJs and a bean bag chair, Shinola the Cat (As in the phrase "Can't tell S**t from Shinola", and my minister parents couldn't very well call him the former), a newspaper clip from Advent, and my mom behind the wheel, looking a bit sassy!

Blender of Love

from February 18, 2016

"Awlaki was, to a certain cast of mind, a mesmerizing preacher. This world is but a station, he proclaimed. It is the next station, the Hereafter, that matters. 'We do not belong here. We are travelling. . . . We need to prepare for death.'"
I think this is problematic with a lot of faiths, especially with an emphasis on a supernatural hereafter, and in fact the Awlaki quote reminds me of messages I would get from time to time in my Christian church upbringing. Why give a damn (so to speak) about anything around us, what in the finite can measure up to the infinite that awaits? Yeah, some faiths say God wants to be good stewards, but why worry about the planet when we're careening toward the apocalypse? (Revelation was written 19 centuries ago, and still waiting, but it must be around the corner now...) Some religions emphasize charity and kindness in the here and now but those goals have to be weighed in the balance of spreading the word and fighting the fight.

I understand faith adds to the lives of many people. On the one hand, a more mature faith is balanced by basic humanity concerns, but if you start using "basic human concerns" as a litmus test for your religion, you're down the path of admitting they might be more important than religion... that it's something with common values that might transcend which of the many, many possible faiths we cling to. I wish establishing that common ground was the priority - it seems a lot healthier than this "people of faith, any faith no matter how mutually incompatible" lined up on the righthand sheep side against the skeptics on the lefthand goat side..

I know in some ways science - or rather, what science thinks is most likely true about how the universe functions, for now - requires some kind of faith. I've often longed for a good kitchen-sink science demonstration of atomic theory! (And one of the things I found bugging me most in the Scalia retrospectives was that he thought evolution was just a theory, and a crummy theory at that.) But why science differs from most other faiths is that it offers a method of its own correction; its core is coming up with ideas, and putting them to the test, and letting other people put them to the test. Knowledge is painstakingly grown, not handed from on high, or merely homegrown in our hearts. (And science doesn't tell us what to do - you can't get ought from is -- that's the job of moral philosophy, and when people try to shove science into that role you get crap like social darwinism.)

The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens I'm less interested in the rags-to-riches-to-rags aspect than the general take on tumblr culture; admittedly FB has been a better mirror for my old (and ongoing) kisrael.com but I really appreciate the "relatable" style culture, relative to other cultures (twitter or especially chan/twitter) it is very human.
Wow, an insult that bugs that Short-Fingered Vulgarian.
In 1990 my high school marching band travelled to Detroit for a band competition and the parade... jump to 27:50 for some fine tuba, cymbals, and majorette dancin' to "My Sharona".

Good for anyone who has a fetish for badly lit vintage shots of the Henry Ford Museum.

from February 8, 2016

Bill the Splut mentioned the first half of Bob and Ray has also passed on - great low-key comedy. (Like he said, "By the time we figured out we were introverts, it was too late to do anything about it.") This bit Bill shared is great:

Frinkiac is a great Simpsons' quote finder and meme maker:

That's one of my favorite quotes, just a reminder at how out of perspective problems are when they show up right in front of us.
A kiss is just a kiss, but a sigh is a reflex that happens a several times an hour and helps preserve lung function.
My sousaphone roots, Euclid High School Panther Marching Band!

The 1991 Homecoming Game, by the looks of it.

from November 11, 2015

Just got done as a pall bearer for my Aunt Ruth, my dad's sister, and last of her nuclear family.

My favorite Aunt Ruth story is this: her accountant mojo and attention to detail spilled over into many parts of her life, and when my dad and I visited her and her family near Washington DC, she had an itinerary all laid out for us, hour by hour, to see the coolest stuff in the Capital region had to offer. I overheard my dad describe her as "paydirt" for this kind of trip.

Now I didn't know the word "paydirt"- 7 year olds don't know from prospecting- but I DID know That *I* didn't like orders, so I figured it wasn't good, like getting paid with dirt.

Of course, now as 41 year old freaking out about plotting a simple trip to Montreal, I really wish I had some kind of a Quebecois Aunt Ruth...

(PS my mom proofread this and reminded me it was "nuclear" family not "atomic" in the first paragraph)

from like super-niece like super-uncle


For love, it seems, is like the peacock's tail: blind, yet full of eyes.

Years ago I posted a link to this article, and while the title leaves a to be desired, it really does make me think about how perfect some Game Boy sprites were...

from cool modular chair and desk

I just found out my mom saved something I remember from my childhood bedrooms


FAMILY LORE: When I was very young my parents worked at a Salvation Army space for at-risk youth called "Ivy House". One time for a treat they took some of the kids, including a young cute black kid, to a nice italian restaurant. My folks had to hope he was a little weak on the vocabulary of "lasagna" when he told them "one time, my family, we had a GREAT BIG PLATE of Vagina!"

Ah, malopropisms.

from Kirk 15K

It's my 15K Day - I am 15,000 Days Old, exactly.

To commemorate this, I revamped an old Javascript toy, and am launching it as TIMETOY.net/...

Plug in a birthday or other big date, and it will show you the upcoming interesting superday milestones, or you can use its calculator to figure out the seconds / hours / minutes / days / weeks between 2 dates (or vice-versa)

from a farewell to books

A Farewell to Books! The one box with M.C. Esher Popups is claimed, I have a labeling system such that if anyone seems a must have in there they can put in a request over the next few days... I of course feel a little guilty about book purges, as is natural, but I think it's for the best. Having 2 tall shelves of stuff I really love is terrific. (Basically, I realize it's akin to my music collection; in iTunes only 3 stars and up get onto my device, but here the cut off for physical presence is 4.)
You know, just because I didn't like that ridiculous comedy you did with Goldie Hawn did not mean I did not love you. That's what you always do. You confuse love for admiration.
Sylvia in movie "Birdman"

from February 16, 2015


"God! Throw this shirt! You've had it since we were dating. It's covered in holes!"
"You don't understand. The shirt is cursed. It grows older. I stay the same age."
"No you don't."
"I mean emotionally."

Trying to live "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"
This morning got rid of a big snow-thrower box worth of clothing, and now can live with a small closet, things hanging in a wardrobe, and a skinny chest of drawers.
Next on the plan comes books. "Put everything on the floor she says". Yikes!

I hope to go from 5-6 book shelves to 2-3, and out of the living room that is pretty much Miller's space and into the hallway and my own room. Much less "look at my massive intellect with all these books!", not even "Oh yeah I remember reading that"... the goal is just books that carry a spark of joy for m. Like Marie Kondo says:
"Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn't that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?"

I suddenly had the thought - last purge, didn't I go and index all the books I was getting rid of? Like put it in Good Reads? But then, the idea that I had to think about if I had or not and still wasn't 100% sure is a sign that maybe that doesn't have to be a critical part of letting go.

That said, I think making a list helped Hannah​ and a few others pick some titles that they wanted. And right now I'm hedging a bet in that direction by not closing the cardboard boxes and making all the titles readable from above.
So weird putting a book in a box, thinking "I may never think of this book again". But I guess acceptance of that is part of the process.

from January 26, 2015

In 2008 I went to Japan, and sent this postcard to the folks at work, customized with a funny speech balloon. (Well, funny for engineers on the scrum team anyway.) My company recently acquired Nexage, where a bunch of people from my old job wound up, and Steve Katz showed me it, apparently one of his favorite bits of office decoration...

Went to the grocery and packie, stocked up on Guinness and Clementines. That and a bit of milk is all you need, nutritionally speaking! Though maybe some metamucil if you planned to make such a low-fiber time of it.

from Cora @ 4 and 6 months; Great Baby, or Greatest Baby?


from wherefore art thou kirkjerk?

So, recently I was (again) asked about the actual "jerk" aspect implied by my once preferred nomme de web "kirkjerk". For the record, no, I do not view myself as a jerk (or at least feel I'm near the center of the bell curve of jerkness). But why that name? Just because of the rhyme?

Not quite! Back in the mid-90s there was a game for PCs called "Death Rally"... it was a fun overhead car-racing-with-guns game, kind of like that old board game Car Wars / Autoduel come to life. In action it looked like this:

The game had a lot of character - and specifically it had 20 characters, enemies you'd race against. Here's a leader board; I think "D3ATH" is probably the name selected by the person playing th game:

Those names were BOGUS BILL, FARMER TED, LIZ ARDEN, DIESEL JOE, MIC DAIR, MORI SATO, SUZY STOCK, IRON JOHN, CHER STONE, LEE VICE, DARK RYDER, GREG PECK, MAD MAC, MOTOR MARY, MATT MILER, CLINT WEST, NASTY NICK, JANE HONDA, SAM SPEED & DUKE NUKEM. (Yes, that Duke Nukem.... kind of a crossover. I further acknowledge this naming scheme would also work for Garbage Pail Kids.)

So, when it came time to pick my own username for the intraoffice online game play (4 players at once) I tried to match the scheme, and ended up with KIRKJERK (I also think it was constrained to 8 letters, so I was pleased to just fit it in under the wire).

I tend to prefer usernames based on "Kirk", rather than being cut from whole cloth; Kirkjerk, Kirkamundo, TheGreatKirkini. And "Kirkles" is probably one of my oldest lasting nicknames, bestowed in high school (when my teasing friends envisioned the romantic exchange "Oh Kirkles" "Oh, Lynnie-Poo") and still used by my best college buddy and his family.

Anyway, like I said, "Death Rally" had a ton of character. Some of it was in the form of "flavor text", these little evocative prose passages, narrated by "TRUE TOM":


and another example:


I'm not able to dig up the evidence, but I have vague memories of corresponding with the guy who gave voice to "TRUE TOM"; he said it was kind of an independent effort they threw in, rather than being part of the design from the outset, and there were all kinds of character constraints they were dealing with.

Once upon a time I dug up this Lore of Geek's usernames. Back before FB and Google's emphasis on "real names", online handles were even more important (I guess they still have a big role in tumblr and twitter.) Of course, we've also seen how pseudo-anonymity can be abused, and jerk-enabling.
The Banner (thanks to EB, and there's EBD!) on its jury-rigged display, ready to march!
So, my mom informed that the "Kirk Tree", an umbrella plant that was planted when I was born, is no longer with us. Here we are in 2008...

It had been struggling lately, with only a few leaves at the top.

I admit I'm bummed, even though I had foisted care and feeding of it onto my mom lo these many years, it was a cool thing to know was around. It's not like it was my picture of Dorian Gray or my horcrux or anything, but as a bit of a plant sibling of mine, I feel its loss.

Poem of the Moment
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall (To a Young Child)"

Overheard at Alewife just now: "There's a Dunkins - We're saved!"
Like I mentioned, the other big adventure I had this weekend was meeting and holding my umm-niece, a new little girl I helped her mammas make.

Here very first photo-- I love the light in this one.

Getting to hold her...

After a while she seemed a bit skeptical of all these photos...

Two amazing things happened in my life today, Saturday May the Third 2014. One was I went on that Zero-G "vomit comet" flight. It was exhilarating, exuberant, and viscerally ridiculous. Two is: last summer friends of mine, a lesbian couple, asked if I would help them add a little one to their family, and also inviting me to play an extend-family, "virtual uncle" role if I so choose. Today Cora is born. And I so choose.

Life is amazing and lovely.
This snippet of a poem, from a postsecret, stopped a 16 year old from attempting suicide.
fuck the poets of the past, my friends.
there are no beautiful suicides
just cold corpses with shit in their pants
& the end of the gifts.

I sold a Macbook Air 11" to a friend-- but I'll miss its stickers:

A restless night for me last night, but my dad made a cameo in one of my dreams.

He was standing in a pavilion near a ferris-wheel type ride I had just been on. The dream was half-lucid; I remember kind of arguing with the narrator of dream, trying to mentally persuade the dream powers-that-be to let this scene linger; it felt like it had been a long while since I had seen him.

I went up to him to drink him in visually as much as I could. He had some sort of obscure gadget in front of his face (some of my coworkers are into Google Glass, maybe it was dreamworld parody of that.) I looked at his face closely; his eyes were a little blood shot. He didn't have much to say but I told him again and again how much I miss him, and then those dream powers-that-be had their say and the scene was finished.

The world has changed a lot since the late 1980s, and so have I, and I wish he was around to interact with both.
Map of Europe Showing Literal Chinese Translations for Country Names...

(from 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World)
The book Buckaroo Banzai has a great bit
The principles by which B. Banzai lives are known as the Five Stresses, the Four Beauties and the Three Loves. Things to be stresses are decorum, courtesy, public health, discipline and morals. The Four Beauties are the beauties of mind, language, behavior and environment. The Three Loves are love of others, love of justice and love of freedom.
Turns out that's largely cribbed from the Chinese but I always like how "public health" seems to stand out. (It seems like more of a public policy matter than the others, though come to think of it all five stresses have a think globally, act locally aspect.) Anyway, Slate has a piece about the inventions and changes that let us enjoy the relatively prolonged lifespans that we do.
Maybe as a counter to "what if I could just live in one room, minimalist style" I should check out http://www.worstroom.com/
The latest rendition of my mishmash salon of people who are or have been important to me (with the caveat of I have to have a visually interesting photo of them.)

Kind of a nightmare for OCD folk! Thank heavens for Dollar Tree $1 frames... I swear I saw the exact same ones at Walgreens for $8 a pop.
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I think I have found a new band home... last night I had a little strolling Honk with the JP Dunster Road Honk Band... it felt really good to be tuba'ing with a group again.

(Man, Honk and Pep and Marching Bands are so much more fun than Concert Bands and Orchestras! If I had seen some of these as an option maybe I wouldn't have had such a long Tuba dark age...)
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"If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn"
Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, Sep 9 1949
That was one of the first quotes I ever "collected"-- it was my .signature file for a while.

Last year, before I turned 38, it occurred to me I might be about as old as my dad was when he died. I wasn't positive of his birthdate, but I thought I knew the year, so I googled my site for 1949... this quote came up before my dad's birthday (which I thought, correctly, was there from a tribute I wrote when I was 29, and had lived as long without him as with.)

Somehow I had recorded the quote with a date, and never realized that the day Charlie Parker said that was also my dad's birthday. And according to my date toy, today is the day I was wondering about last year: today I am as old as he was as he died.

I guess the guy lived it so it woulda came outta his horn, except that he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Played a mean timbrel (Salvation Army term for a tambourine) though, and wanted to start the James Edward Israel School for the Triangle.

All of the above I wrote last year.

I didn't really come up with a great way to commemorate the occasion, so I ordered a box of Payday bars (his personal favorite) and am passing them out at work and whatnot.

Now that the day is here, what does it mean? I think there's a time in late teenagehood, young-adulthood when a young man kind of takes on his father to help become his own man, and I'll never have a proper version of that. A milestone like this, where in every memory I have of my dad going forward he'll have been younger than I am at that moment, might help me grow up a bit. Maybe.

Still bummed he didn't get to see me grow up, still bummed he didn't get to see the world evolve a bit into something more connected and communication-oriented, still bummed for me and all the other people who loved him and have been deprived the pleasure of his humor and company.

History teaches us nothing except that something will happen.
Hugh Trevor-Roper
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In other news, yesterday I made the call to bring Emma's discomfort and weakness to an end. It was sad but less wrenching than in previous weeks when the right course of action was less obvious; even though she seemed to perk up a few days ago (probably a side effect of not making her take meds), yesterday she couldn't even hold up her head properly, though she enjoyed a bowl of tuna I gave her an hour before her final trip to the vet.

Emma was a fine cat. I really appreciate that she liked being pet but wasn't really a lap cat, so she'd keep company and then enjoy the petting and attention when the human was willing/able to give it. (I never knew her during her fat cat days with Amber and Karen and David -- too me she was always a skinny old lady.)

This photo, the final photo with her, tries to show off another one of her lovely features: she had terrific two tone fur, darker grey towards the end, lighter towards the roots. It made it so pretty!

RIP Emma. You were a sweet old cat.

I'm kind of worried this will bring Russia and the USA closer together, in a shared populist loathing of Chechnya.
Again to paraphrase some dude on twitter- the Elvis impersonator who tried to poison the President is the 10th craziest story this week

Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement This is an awesome story. Go Evergreen and UMass Amherset!!! Sometimes just paying attention is enough. (I guess economics is pretty far from being sufficiently "peer reviewed")
We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again -- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.
Mark Twain

Getting iTunes to keep ratings and metadata when moving to a new machine is like pulling teeth. Hack the XML-- maybe THAT will "just work"
An anecdote that didn't quite make the cut for the speech I gave on behalf of the family at my mom's retirement ceremony:
Being an Officer family means you have to live pretty frugally. One Christmas my parents got me a "The Farmer Says" toy, where you pull the string and a voice says "The cow says... Moo!". Except the one they got me said things like "The dog says... Quack Quack!" "The turkey says.... Oink Oink!" While this amused my parents to no end, they took it back to the store to replace it with one that wouldn't mark me for life, animal recognition wise, and there wasn't cash on hand for both. When they played it for the clerk, well, it was a case of "The clerk says... 'Am I On Candid Camera'"?

It's weird to realize I still have the same model of dating ("commit", THEN date) that I developed in high school. On the one hand, it seems kind of natural, and conversely weird and unromantic to be juggling lots of dates with a set of people. On the other hand I think romance can and should be cultivated (not just found at first sight), and it should be ok to check things out and explore without too much fear of being morally wrong. How are grownups supposed to handle this?
If you're not always aiming at love for forever, are you doing it wrong?
I've got 99 problems and being a decaying organism aware of it's own mortality in a society run by money that i can't escape is one of them
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Today is my Mom's retirement ceremony, marking (if not quite concluding) 42-odd years of service in The Salvation Army.

For the ceremony, my mom assembled a bunch of photos, picked some music, and Amber used that beastly iMovie program to assemble a terrific slideshow:

(You might need Chrome or Safari to see; Firefox is angry about the video format, and IE is terrible. Sorry for any inconvenience but Chrome is easy to get)

I was asked to come up with the "Word from the Family" speech for the thing. Here's what I came up with, it has a lot of family anecdotes and describes life for an "OK" (Officer's Kid) in The Salvation Army. Some of the jokes are a little forced or corny but over all it was well-received.
I noticed the program lists this as "A Word from the Family" and lists me as "Kirk Logan Israel" and at first that gave me pause, because- growing up, when my mom busted out all three names, "KIRK LOGAN ISRAEL"- I knew someone was in hot water, and that that someone was me. But back to the names thing in a second.

As many of you know first hand, Officership is a family affair. Like you saw on the slide show, I came on the scene when my folks were stationed in Philadelphia, the city of brother love. I'm sure I enjoyed many of their famous cheese steaks before being whisked away to Cleveland at the tender age of 3 months.

Cleveland! The Land of Cleves. My folks were stationed at the Booth Memorial Hospital there. My mom tells me it was convenient being a new parent working at a maternity hospital! She got to borrow a bassinet and I became a fixture in the gift shop where my mom was doing some supervising, so Baby Kirk was a kind of a coming attraction feature for the pregnant folk there.

Our quarters were very near the hospital... this came in handy one night in particular -- I had been sleeping between my folks, and somehow I had rolled onto the floor and I banged my head-- I still have a scar over my eyebrow from that night. My dad threw on a jump suit (hey it was the 70s), my mom threw on a zip up nightgown and that's how they ran over to the hospital.

so the doctors did their thing, but on the way home, my mom was concerned... it was kind of a suspicious looking blow, and my parents had no idea how I managed to roll all the way over my mom to get it to happen... what should they say if Child Services came knocking?

My dad thought a moment, and announced there were three possible tactics they could use:
1. Indigation: "HOW DARE you accuse us of doing this to our child??"
2. Explanation: calmly describe the circumstances as they understood them, and hope for the best.
3. Or, he said, we can bring 'em to the basement and show them where we buried the other ones.

This kind of humor is about par for my family's course.

Our next appointment was our most interesting -- not to mention the warmest. St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas had more than its fair share of wildlife, like these little lizards ---- that our cat would hunt.... And catch..... And put in our shoes. Thank you cat!

There were also flying cockroaches. Island kids would make little cages for them and sell them to tourists as quote "mahogany birds". These tourists would then wonder why they couldn't bring their new cockroach pet back through customs... the first night my parents were on the island, in fact, one of those cockroaches flew into my dad's t-shirt. My mom always said that if it had landed in her nightgown, they would have been on the boat back to Puerto Rico that very night.

[I learned to talk there, and had a calypso accent for a number of years... they tell me my first words to my grandfather were a phone call, "Heyee, Pop-pa Samm". They talked really fast there, so if I'm talking fast during this speech, that's my excuse.]

After St. Thomas, it was back to Ohio: Cincinnati this time. Cincinnati had its own wildlife too-- tiny peeper frogs. I would catch these little frogs and carry them around everywhere in old kool-whip containers with holes in the lid. one family story is the time my mom was driving, with me napping in the back. My mom figured I was napping pretty soundly til about 20 minutes later I piped up with "Got 'Em All Back Now, mom!" -- looks like I had been studiously REcapturing my little minions the entire trip.

"Got 'em all back now, mom!" became my family's catchphrase for situations where you don't find out about a problem until its been safely resolved.

Time to move again. My parents were told the Army needed them again as corps officers, this time in the city of Salamanca. Their first reaction: "Where's Salamanca?" That would be a small town in Western New York... the only town built from land leased from an Indian reservation. My parents developed a close relationship with the people of the Seneca tribe, even being adopted into it. They also had good working relationships with several of the other churches in the area, often filling in as guest ministers. The Catholic school, St. Patricks, was just down the street... my mom volunteered at the music program sometimes, and I was one of the few kids who got a "clergy discount" from a catholic school.

I think Salamanca was where I most clearly saw the interesting gender role balance of the Army. I like telling people that the famous song only goes halfway--- I'm not just a sweet talkin' son of a preacher man-- I'm the sweet talkin' son of a preacher woman! My mom remembers how I used this as material when I had to write about gender roles for an essay contest; it was an interesting symmetry! One week, my dad would preach, and my mom would be doing the dishes. The next week, my mom would have the pulpit and it would be my dad's turn at the sink- there was a balance to it. (Plus, this kind of scheduling led my dad to astonish his friends with an ability to count forward and backwards by 7s, so he'd always know what date was what.)

And then 9PM one winter evening, a call. Glens Falls, another Empire State town, needed us and fast- we were there 3 weeks later.

then Finally, it was time to go back to Cleveland. As a form of weird, pre-teen protest at all the moving I started going by my middle name, Logan. This made for some confusion, and even now some Army folk know me as Logan, but others call me Kirk. At the Cleveland Temple corps, then-Captain Shenk said "Aw just call him Butch", and it stuck, so my full church name was Kirk Logan Brother Butch Israel Brother. Maybe you had to be there.

My dad passed away during our time in Cleveland, and the support of the community there was a blessing. Once I finished high school and my mom got her masters in social work, she was tapped to go to New York City. Her quarters where at the Williams Residence. It was still my home, even though I was at college, and she asked for a small room for me... it turned out to be down the hall from her 3 or so rooms, and it had its own little bathroom. Looking back, I realize that at this point, I had my own New York city micro studio apartment that overlooked Broadway... the gas stations of Broadway, but Broadway none the less.

But I had come back to the family stomping grounds of Boston for college , and stayed for the hot dogs. Meanwhile, my mom got to London, back to her roots in Boston, and finally down to Virginia. But now she'll be at my my family's placein Ocean Grove New Jersey -- God's Square Mile, they say, and she'll be finally free to be the true (gasp) blue-state Democrat that the family has always been at heart.

Thank you and happy retirement mom!!!

advent day 13

Dialog between me and Amber last night, after I described my evening using Emoji. It's a challenging narrative form!

Every once in a while I hear "not information dense" as a critique of a UI. (Win8 or iOS). Man, that is backwards thinking in my book.
JIM HENSON: I think Ms. Rand and my character Oscar the Grouch would have a lot to talk about actually. I am laughing out loud at this idea.

AYN RAND: Why would I want to talk to him. What has he achieved or trying to achieve.

JIM HENSON: He has achieved what I think is the ultimate goal of your way of thinking. Isolation. Contempt for others. A hard heart. Yet even he can muster a bit of empathy every now and then.

AYN RAND: I am not isolated. I have no contempt for others. Millions of people read my books and find my thoughts inspirational. I hardly spend my time on the sidelines in a trash can grumping.

JIM HENSON: Not yet anyway.
Sometimes I really think Ayn Rand sounds like a parody of herself.
A burnt out and destroyed Detroit high school, then and now. Haunting!
Anyone who acts without paying attention to what he is doing is wasting his life. I'd go so far as to say that life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.
Nadia Boulanger
My family was so touched by what Josh wrote on the comments here the other day that they asked him to speak at my Uncle Bill's funeral today, but compared to the following tribute he wrote in some personal e-mail... well, I wanted to share it here. Josh has a combination of an truly open heart and adeptness with words that's all too uncommon these days...
You are right. He would never have wanted to live incapacitated after the stroke. He would have hated being dependent on others to take care of him. He always insisted on being independent--to go where and when he wanted to, to choose his own activities, and I think even more importantly to read what and when he wanted to. According to what I read in the emails, he would have lost all or most of his autonomy, at least in the short term, after the stroke and that would have made him unhappy.

As for the Alzheimer's, I saw that in March when I visited. He had forgotten how much time he and I had spent together talking about books and politics, going to the movies and dinner, and going to the bookstore. I had to remind him of these things, and I had to tell him, not that I minded, how much I love and admire him. He seemed surprised to hear that, but I know that before I moved to Japan in 2004, he knew that because we spent a lot of time together. It was almost like he forgot that when his mother died, he called me to go out for dinner and to a movie (this was before I moved in), and that when I lived there we spent hours together talking about literature and history and politics and watched a few PBS series together. I am glad that I saw him in March and that I got the chance to remind him of all that he meant to me and that he showed me how to be a great husband and friend.

When I think of the definition of a spiritual, religious, and righteous man, it is always Bill that comes to mind right away. If I were asked to name whom I think lived by Christian ideals, as I said to Susan a number of years ago, Bill is that person.

You are so fortunate to have had him as your uncle and to have spent your life with him. He's such a fount of love, knowledge, enthusiasm, and devotion. One of things that I noticed about you is how much of Bill is in you. When you and I hung out in Japan, I really was reminded of Bill in many ways. Of course, you are a wonderful guy and wholly by your own individuality, but I really felt that you had internalized Bill's quests for knowledge and his devotion to family and friends. I know that talking with him all those years ago,he really loves and admires you. He really looked up to you and admired everything that you have become.

I am sure that for the rest of my life, whenever you and I meet, I will be searching for Bill in you. Amber is really lucky to have you because you have inherited Bill's capacity for love and devotion. I am lucky, too, for your friendship.

Bill's legacy will live on through you, Kirk, and you should know that you are worthy of it and that you have become an amazing person in all aspects of your life. I am sure that Susan, too, sees how much you take after Bill and that you're being so close to her will comfort her and be a constant reminder of how good of man Bill was and you have become.

My Uncle Bill passed away last night, in a hospital bed but surrounded by family. After we had a mini-wake with lots of "Grey Goose Martinis, straight up"

I sort of enjoy how the Fox News website makes a "Four More Years" headline sound like a threat when to me it's a promise.
Obama raised the bar for how bad an economy you can get reelected with. But future historians will scoff, 'That was in the Tea Party era.'
While helping clean out my Uncle's PC etc workspace (not sure how many copies of Win98 and 3.5 disks one man could need... I found this, Patent 3,582,675.

I admit these days I'm kinda skeptical about all patents, but this feels like it's from a time when patents still mattered.
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My city got smacked, albeit in a very localized fashion, with what they're saying was a microburst. Many, many trees down. Our power was restored late at night, though oddly neighboring blocks seemed to never lose power...


click for larger

--Other people have been posting some photos too... I love this one of my Jazz Band in 20111991...
http://boingboing.net/2012/05/27/an-american-on-the-eurovision.html - writeup of Eurovision. I dig the idea of it so much, even if I only like 1 in 10 songs of it...
I scanned in another small batch of photos in preparation for my 20th high school anniversary-- a small selection, me and Mike in the hallway, my favorite teacher Mrs. McLaughlin (looking like she's setting a boozy example for us at '91 Prom), Marnie showing a little leg before prom (so strange how entrenched the garter dance tradition was there, for prom...) and finally Kofi "Reggie" Obeng and Ernalisa...
Nearly 20 years ago, I got this e-mail from my buddy/mentor gowen, who kind of inspired my decision to pursue a double major of English (which had influenced my choice of University) and Computer Science (which I was actually good at), which was what he was doing.
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 93 19:24:17 EST
From: Gregory Owen
To: kisrael
Subject: Re: !Si Si Si!

Follow this simple flowchart.
1) Go to a party with pretty women.
2) Find a pretty female engineer. Say "I'm a CS/English major." Watch her laugh, mutter something about leisure arts, and go over to that dork from your ee128 class.
3) Find a pretty female lib-arts major. Say "I'm a CS/English major." Watch her laugh, mutter something about "fucking geek," and go over to that dork from your Shakespeare class.
4) Get drunk off your ass, man. You are a Liberal Arts Outcast. Neither side wants you. At least you get good head off a beer.

Still, I think the double major worked out pretty well for me. ("The English to keep me well-rounded, the Comp Sci to keep me well-employed" was my quip at the time and I think I mostly lived up to that... and despite the joke, it was surprising to me to find out how many of my fellow comp sci majors were in it in a trade school kind of way.)
It's been a long time since I've been in a pep band but I learned many cheers. (Warning, lots of near-swears and a tad of implied obscenity follow.
Rick 'um Rack 'um Reek 'um Ruck 'um
Get that ball and really FIGHT!
That one might have come from Robin Williams, actually.

High school had some old standbys:
Strawberry Shortcake, Banana Split!
We think your team's full of
SHHHIFT to the left, Shift to the right!
Go Team Go! Fight Fight! Fight!
Cigarette Ashes, Cigarette Butts--
We got your team by the nuts!
and that doesn't even try to be coy,
Ur-ine Ur-ine Yer-in-trouble!
In college we learned the blame game:
and the semi-onscene:
Get off your knees, ref,
you're blowing the game!
The following came from my University days, and they are pretty rich coming from a school so firmly on the second rung as Tufts...
That's all right, that's ok,
You'll all work for us someday!
Wine cooler, wine cooler,
Beer beer beer
You only go to _____
'Cause you couldn't get in here!
(where ___ is the name of the competing school.)

Finally one that will never set a crowd on fire but is kind of fun:
Rip off his arm and beat him over the head with the bloody stump!

Whenever I start reading Yelp reviews, I always regret it, generally immediately.
Suddenly Boston's all like BAM! TOURISTS!
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--I'd just like to say that I'm moderately proud of the setup I got together for Amber and I to play Centipede (her favorite game)I can get into the 20 Ks and the 30s once; her high score is like 45K.
Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.
Robert Heinlein

Would you rather A. learn a new technique for something you already can do B. do something new with techniques you already know well? Me? Totally B. I hate learning new things just for the sake of it, but I love learning new things that empower me to do new stuff.

What about you? I think this a fundamental divide in geekdom and elsewhere.
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Bought a tuba last night! Or rather a Sousaphone, specifically an model tuned to Eb (a bit higher than the Bb I'm a little more used to.) I need to get the third valve repaired, but the price was right, mid-200s. Craiglist can be like magic sometimes.

These were the photos that sold me...

Who can resist photos like that? Well despite the broken valve button. (The other photos showed off the rather nice case it came with.)

I've never owned a tuba before, it's one of those big instruments that a group will often provide a student-aged player, like percussion. After college, I didn't want to seek out a group because I didn't have my own horn, and I didn't want to get a horn because I didn't have a group to play it in. Also...

I dunno, I really never really loved the concert band music where I think most of the tuba openings might be. In retrospect, my favorite music to play was the dumb, simple, fun stuff of marching band and pep band, not the more stuffy pieces of concert bands and orchestras.
Romney talking about the last years being "a detour not a destination" - GOP playing on bad memory, how the mess started way before Obama.
Broncos do one of those "12th Man" shticks? I'd assume Denver's real 12th Man was the altitude and lack of oxygen.

New Blender of Love Digest

(Amber suggested the art-- brilliant!)

John Huntsman PAC spot... "the world is literally collapsing around us" Really? F'in idiots.
Hail Mary, full of grace,

But hail Vishnu, just in case.

--My mom recently found my father's old typewriter... it predates him, coming from the late 1930s. I brought it to the Cambridge Typewriter Co. during their "Type-Out" event, and left it their to be cleaned up. It looks great! Such a funky piece of machinery, like having a small print shop on your desk. (The tab stop setting and using is especially retrocool.) Some quirks to the typing (I think pretty common for machines of the era) like where you use a lower case "l" for a 1, and ' and . to make an exclamation point.

--The closed Geauga Lake as seen from the air. Spooky how they left the space needle thing about 2/3 of the way up. Very melancholy for me to see this, since the layout of the place is still kind of ingrained in me. While the park was always in the shadow of Cedar Point, it was a ton of fun.

Across the lake was a Sea World, which I always thought was a bit weird a thing for Cleveland to have.

I found this video while following up on some video about Randall Park Mall -- for a short time it was the biggest mall in the world, it was the go-to spot when I was in high school, and now it's closed, closed, closed.

Sigh, Cleveland.
Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.
German Proverb

Apple's aesthetic dichotomy Would love to hear Jony Ives talk about Apple's "infantile kitsch" skeuomorphic UI. Does he dig it? Hate it?
It's been a LONG time since I'd drawn with pencils. I think when I was a kid I was traumatized in Sunday School when they gave us god-awful #3 pencils to try and write on glossy-ish sunday school activity book paper. But now I kind of dig it, especially if the pencil is nice and sharp. Ink fits my way of simplifying the world into simple shapes and sharp borders, but with pencil it seemed more natural to be a bit more loose.
In my dream, "Cornflower Blue" seemed like the ultimate band name, but "Testing Testing 123" came in a close second.
But if you want forgiveness for being a computer, don't put rocks in the snowballs.
David Sudnow, "Pilgrim in the Microworld"
(in 2023 I made a better version to view the image below: toys.alienbill.com/alleyoop-loop/)

$8.5 billion for Skype? Man, and I thought Ebay got ME to overpay for stuff...
http://is.gd/7IaG3I - Secret Service Twitter!
Three random snarks my dad would play with me from time to time: I'll be playing some of these games with the kids of my friends, having already instructed my (now college aged) cousins in the fine art of video game trash talking.
The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he'll fight and die for it. The way real science goes is that you come up with lots of ideas, and most of them will be wrong.
Francis Crick in this amazing New Yorker piece on the Mind and the perception of Time

'We're stuck in time like fish in water,' Eagleman said, oblivious of its currents until a bubble floats by.
Francis Crick, ibid
So, 1990 Star Lake Musicamp... this track made it on the "Highlights" tape. It's Anita Cocker Hunt doing some light hazing of that year's special guests Ron + Janette Smart, the old friendly hazing of "learn the pep song or we'll toss you in the lake..." (I kind of doubt they'd ever carry through with that, actually.)

11_star_lake_pep_song_full.mp3, ~4Mb

I'm on the track too (they call me by my middle name "Logan" because I went by that for a bit in middle school, and it stuck for years after in church) providing tuba beat box. What can I say, it was barely the 90s. (I remember being a little annoyed that the percussionists felt the need to help me out, but hey, all together now.)

Here's just the Pep song, which is the track I'll probably actually add to next season's playlist:

11_star_lake_pep_song_just.mp3, ~1Mb

The Pep Song was pretty fun, with the purposefully offkey "HARMONY", the big brass and syncopated clapping in the bridge section, and the jumping up on the chair for the second half (that's what's going on when everyone starts screaming a bit.)
If a man understands one woman he should let it go at that.
"Eye-Opener Bob" Edwards

How many dead do you have to see in a war before you know it is Death you are fighting for?
Raymond Souster

Did you know that before the Civil Rights Act the components of the Oreo were sold separately? Every time I eat one I proclaim that it is change I can believe in.
Jarrett via Lamebook

Random Plug: really digging our new Philips Sonicare toothbrushes. Breaking the 2 minute runtime into 4 parts makes brushing "long enough" easy. The way they kind of "sing" as they vibrate is odd at first but grows on you.
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--Got a little nostalgic the other day when I put this old tape of music from Star Lake Musicamp 1990 into MP3. I found this Youtube bit of a more recent rendition of "Star Lake March" there... a kind of fun and rousing bit. Around 1:20 you see one of the odder Salvation Army traditions (err along side the pseudo-paramilitary uniforms and British-style brass bands) "the Timbrels" -- tambourines shaken in choreographed routines, often to marches.

Around 2:08 the "chorus" kicks in, the title of today's entry. (In looking up some of the lyrics it seems that they've shifted over the years, or maybe I just didn't hear them rightly.)

Coming soon: the even more exciting "Pep Song".
Someday there will be regular timely service out of Park Street on the Green Line. This is not that morning. Neither was yesterday.
And that PSA about 18 yr old drivers and txting? Super-relevant, thanks #mbta. At least a real commercial might bring some funds...
Ah well. The semi-brisk walk through frigid morning air can put some color in my cheeks. Lord knows I have enough cheek to go around.
We need not destroy the past. It is gone.
John Cage
Ever rediscover a half-remembered book from your childhood and realize that it was probably wildly influential on you? Such was the case with David L. Heller and John F. Johnson's "Dr. C. Wacko Presents: Atari BASIC & The Whiz-Bang Miracle Machine". I recently found a good PDF copy at Atari Mania's Page of Atari 8-bit Books

The book was a beginner-level but thorough guide to BASIC programming - I suspect I knew most of it by the time I got my hands on a copy, but it was still very cool. The style can perhaps best be described as "Early Doctor Demento" -- hardly a paragraph goes by without a gag of some kind, but still it seems like it would do a good job of explaining fundamental concepts. I can even see the book's influence in my own guide to Atari (2600) Programming, Atari 2600 101. (No cartoons, more's the pity.)
I was reminded of this book when I ordered some Eggs Benedict, and I thought about this chart in it:
Anchovy Burritos: 280 Calories each
Twinkle Cakes: 340 Calories a look
Guacamole Juice: 90 Calories per slurp
Clam Dip: 70 Calories a dip
Greaso Burgers: 470 Calories per bun
Quicko TV Dinner: 400 Calories a tray
Pizza a la Hollandaise Sauce: 900 Calories a sniff

I think that for years that was my main image of Hollandaise, some kind of insane calorie vortex. (I guess I forgot how the other foods needed only a glance...)

Atari Mania also finally let me read the book's -- prequel? It was much more advanced, but came first-- companion, "Dr. C. Wacko's Miracle Guide to Designing and Programming Atari Computer Arcade Games". I'd like to think if I had had this book at the appropriate time, I finally would have gotten those damn "player/missile" graphics and in general made some better games.

My therapist just tagged me on shoppybag.com w/ a "Designer Inspired Gold Heart Charm Toggle Bracelet Links Of Love" (+4 other folk, but hm)
One final bit of Lake George-ism -- I've always liked this poster, an old party invitation, though I'm not sure of the year or of all of the references, but here's an attempt at transcribing it... (Merri-Vue must've been the name of one of the other cabins.)

Merri - Vue
extends to you -
a hesitant invitation
to come on up and grab a cup
of gin, or hooch libation .......
we've stripped the joint, so there's
no point to limit jubilation ....
besides our thirst, Anthea durst
have a birthday celebration .....
bring bob along (we may be wrong)
it's quite an education, to see him
drink and slowly sink in quiet stupification .
..... our john's inside, we say with pride
no need for constipation! ...........
so tell ivân to use the can*,
fur coats are his temptation .........
black tie and tails, long dresses, veils,
just use the imagination ..........
the date is Sun*, we'll go to Mon .
to miss. hyatt's consternation .........
come one; come all to the merry brawl
the seasons wind-up celebration ......

5:00 PM

"Hi! I'm Princess Laidup! Note that I'm wearing less clothes in this movie than before! That's because my Figure's improved! Unfortunately my acting HASN'T!"
--Leia from MAD's parody of Return of the Jedi... I remember being kind of fascinated by this drawing back in 1983 or so
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--Interesting refutation of some widely held beliefs that anime characters aren't "white" -- I'm a crappy artist and tend to think in icons, so I'm impressed by any kind of ability to generalize facial structure in a meaningful way. (Though it makes me wonder... do northeast Asians look more like *western* animated characters, too, by nature of a flatter facial structure?)
My hard nose, glass jaw, and soft heart.

If that One World Gov't the rightwingers are uptight about would mean no region-locked DVDs and games, I say- BRING IT ON! UN Uber Alles!
Apple synching kind of sucks. iTunes: some things live on iPhone, some things live on iPad. Leave the apps the hell alone.

2019 UPDATE:

Sumana (of yesterday's post) recently suffered a loss in her family, and encouraged people to post happy memories of their own families.... my response was:
I think what I like most are some of the little anecdotes and catchphrases that become part of one family's lore. I worry that they might not seem to have such comedic legs to outsiders (which is part of the point, kind of) but I guess the one that comes to mind is this:

In the late 70s or early 80s or so, we were living in a house that had a laundry chute down the basement. My mom got down there only to find she had forgotten my coat that needed washing. My dad was taking a bath when he heard the voice from the chute: "toss down Kirk's coat!"

His stentorian response "I DON'T TALK TO NO WALLS" is a family shibboleth to this day...
I also added one I've mentioned once here before:
And another one is from my toddlerhood, when my mom purposefully moved a bowl of grapes to the center of a big piano to keep it away from me - she came back to find me having made the piano climbing expedition to get to the bowl, and my quick witted, nervous grin cover story to appease her irritation was "gapes... I *yike* gapes"

Even now, my mom and I yike gapes.
Mom, feel free to correct any of the details...
Fight Fred Phelps with Fire or something... great counter-posters.

iPad Stickering Phase 1 Complete - it kinda reflects my personality and hopefully making it look a bit ghetto will make it less steal-worthy...
So yesterday Amber, Kjersten, JZ, his gal Michelle, her dog Moose, and I formed Team Angry! Manatee for the second Hub Crawl organized by my former housemate Miller. The hubcrawl is a photohunt (like a scavenger hunt but you don't scavange per se, you just take pictures) with a little bit of puzzle solving for flavoring. You get bonus points for having more team members in the photo...

Memorial Drive is taken over by Walk for Hunger. Which is cool and all, but the ice cream truck at one end seems a little out of place.
I just accepted a new job with Pearson Education, a kind of pseudo-startup in an incubator program they're running.

Weirdly I had two offers at around the same time... the other was for a company called Media Friends Inc. They have some awesome products and I may be missing out on a big stock payday by not going with them, but ultimately it wasn't the techie lifestyle I wanted. (They liked my history in diverse tech environments, and my first job there would have been in the language "Lua" (which I've never used) porting their SMS-based tv-channel chatroom app for a new bigname client.)

It is surprisingly stressful to have two awesome sounding job offers at once. In some ways, it is probably more stressful than (a short or medium length time of) having NO job offers; you have a binary decision to make, and it will affect your quality of life in ways you can't triangulate now.

I made a big list of pros and cons and polled friends and sweated it and at one point even just about went all the way down the other path. But ultimately, Pearson brings me to 4 places I want to be: I'm grateful to Lincoln Peak, the company I'll be leaving on fairly good terms, and I wish well for them - but this year taught me, I don't like the lifestyle of consulting. It's too much uprooting, and on some projects, serving two masters, where there can be a bit of a zero sum game on the client/consulting company relationship. You're troubles aren't their troubles, you're just expected to have expertise in everything. (And having to learn everything new every few months... that's one of the things that kept me away from Media Friends, where they were looking for a guy who they can throw at anything. I can do that kind of work, but it stresses me the hell out, and ultimately I prefer to make cool things in known technologies than have to create in new environments.)

This will be my ninth job since graduating in 1996, which is kind of a lot... I got to thinking about where I'd been, and why I left...
companyhow foundhow long therewhy left
IDDpersonally recruited 2.5 yearspersonal growth
Banta IMsent resume 2.5 yearspersonal growth
Event Zeropersonally recruited 1 yearlayoff
Galepersonally recruited 1 yearlayoff
Taxwareheadhunter 3.5 yearspersonal growth
Refreshpersonally recruited 1 yearlayoff
Enpocket/Nokiaheadhunter2 yearslayoff
Lincon Peakpersonally recruited 1 yearpersonal growth
Pearsonpersonally recruited .......
So half the time I leave because of my personal professional development, and the other half I'm laid off - though on a few of the times I leave on my own, the company is not the same one I joined, by a long shot. (Leaving Banta and Taxware are the main ones that felt like seeking greener pastures.)

UPDATE: I miscounted, I was at Taxware 3.5 years, not 2.5, which puts a slightly different spin on some things -- I think I do like putting roots down (though come to think of it, I had been searching off and on during my stay at Taxware, which wasn't a super exciting business domain, and a grinding commute to Salem.)

And I guess the numbers bear out the idea that networking is better than headhunters for finding jobs, though that's tempered by how hit and miss it is - headhunters are generally reliable at finding SOMEthing, even in rough times. There were 6 personally recruited jobs, but only 2 of those were after layoffs, when I was proactively looking. (I'm not counting IDD... though the personal recruitment from there is what made me pick them with 7 other offers on the table, I kind of overdid it after college, and had a kick ass resume for someone my age.)

Sometimes I wish I had kept closer track of where all I applied over the years, though that might depress me a bit -- especially during the Taxware years, I had a number of unsuccessful interviews. I guess overall that would bring the hit ratio for headhunters way, way down, I've only had a few attempts at personal recruitment that didn't payoff.

(But I'm proud to note that both of the companies I worked at as a consultant in the past year made implicit or explicit suggestions that they would be happy to try and get me a fulltime gig there.)

Now, to deal with this endless stream of random search-engine-using recruiters trying to get me to go to Virginia and California and what not...

2024 UPDATE:
companyhow foundhow long therewhy left
IDDpersonally recruited 2.5 yearspersonal growth
Banta IMsent resume 2.5 yearspersonal growth
Event Zeropersonally recruited 1 yearlayoff
Galepersonally recruited 1 yearlayoff
Taxwareheadhunter 3.5 yearspersonal growth
Refreshpersonally recruited 1 yearlayoff
Enpocket/Nokiaheadhunter2 yearslayoff
Lincoln Peakpersonally recruited 1 yearpersonal growth
Pearson/Alleyooppersonally recruited 3 yearslayoff (essentially)
Thrupoint/CafeXpersonally recruited1 yearpersonal growth
Millennial/AOLapplied online?2.5 yearspersonal growth
CarGurusHR (shoulda been referral)3 years layoff
MonsterHR 3 years layoff
Harmonia(long search) recruiter via LI----

a. All babies are illogical
b. Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile
c. Illogical persons are despised
So: babies can't manage crocodiles
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This is one of those entries I always feel the need to apologize for... there's nothing geekier and sadder than a nerd listing out hardware he has or had. But still, I realize I'm on the verge of forgetting some of this, and my future self might be interested, especially now as I might switching from a desktop to a laptop as my "main machine", the one that has the "official" copy of C:\data\ ...

Desktop Computers
Atari 800XL, ~1984-1988
Around the time of the Great Crash, some dealers were liquidating Atari stuff to give to the Salvation Army so I got this system. You know, this was a great computer for a kid geek to start with - it played games about as well as a C=64, but its BASIC had a lot more zip to it, in terms of graphics and sounds. (Only the Apple II seemed to be a better hacker maker.) Plus I loved its version of Logo...
Commodore 64, ~1988-1991
But this is the computer I really wanted, mostly because more games seemed to be made for it (at least it had more piracy going on at school.) This was a terrific Christmas hand-me-down for my uncle when he switched to PCs.
"Monk", ~1991-1994
My first PC, senior year of high school. I begged my mom for it, justified by college, but really I saw Wing Commander in a magazine and NEEDED to play it. "Lworks", this odd thing by Lotus, was my main word processor on it. Its design was a cool kind of "pizza box" that fit right under the monitor.
"Monk 2", ~1994-1997
A 486 in a giant tower and with a giant monitor. Mostly I wanted it for games... and it was great for that, at least 'til the dorms got networked and freshmen started kicking my butt with their much faster Pentiums.
"Monk 3", ~1997-1999
An ok "PCs for Everyone"-built Machine. I think Dylan figured out his sexuality thanks to the availability of sites and porn via modem when he was subletting from me.
"Monk 4", ~1999-2002
Toshiba desktop, another "pizzabox" style - man, I forgot this machine was problematic, its USB was never quite up to snuff. Foisted it off on some cousins.
"Monk 5", ~2002-2006
Monk 5 and Monk 6
HP tower. I still like the stickers I put on this one.
"Monk 6", ~2006-2009
An HP microtower. Cute, not a bad machine
"Monk 7", ~2009-now
Pretty much a direct replacement for Monk 6. Both are two small for their own good... Monk 7 every once in a while starts shutting itself off for no reason, and I fix it by dropping it a few inches.
2017 Update: I guess once I started with "Brute" as a Desktop replacement (see below) and then switched to Macs, I gave up having fixed Desktops


Tandy 1100FD, ~1992-1995
Oh man, I loved this. No hard drive, gameboy-type (but somewhat larger) CGA 4-shades-of-spinach screen, but a good keyboard and a hard-wired text editor that was ready to go in seconds. I think this was $500-ish when I persuaded my mom to help me get it for college- I was an early adopter for taking notes in class with this thing, and it did its job well.
"Matic", ~1995-1997
Tufts Connect Logo
Amazing slim laptop made my Mitac, 486- greyscale screen - ran Windows 3.1 like a champ. I shelled out for it (in the $800-1200 range) because I needed to take down diagrams in class- ASCII art on the Tandy wasn't always cutting it. With its trakball I doodled the logo they adapted for the Tufts dorm wiring project. After college I gave it to my mom but stupidly slapped Windows 95 on it, making it well-nigh useless.

Gateway 2000 Handbook, ~1996-2000
I didn't use this much, but for $50 I bought this adorable DOS machine off of Paul - it's kind of the form factor I had wished the Tandy had had. Never thoguht of a use for it though- even though it had a harddrive, I didn't have a way of getting stuff off and on it except maybe a serial cable.
"Eggdevil", ~2004-2005
A great little iBook I got an ebay. It kind of taught me that Mac didn't really work for me, alas. I gave it to Peterman when he helped me get the house ready for sale. The name comes from its egg-color and a devil BSD sticker he put on it. I think I got it back from him at some point, but then it got soda spilled in it.
I had have this Averatec laptop for like 6 years at least - nice moderate size. The power adapter on it got too wonky, despite my Uncle Bill taking a soldering iron to it... pretty good for DVDs in bed.

Ugh, this was meant to be a straight on replacement for Eggdevil but I cheaped it on Ebay, and got this stinky-ish Franenstein machine (the lid seems to be of a different material than the bottom). I keep getting Macs 'cause I want to get into Garageband music making software but never get around to it. I think this guy doesn't have enough memory to be actually useful, so it sits on a shelf.
Fujitsu Lifebook (x2), 2006-, 2009-
I can't say enough good things about this laptop! Touch screen, netbook-size before "netbook" was a concept, durable... been with me to Japan and Portugal. I actually have two of these now, I bought a spare when I realize I could get a refurbished backup for $250 on Ebay. (A Newegg receipt makes me think the original cost me $1324 in 2006)
OLPC laptop, 2007-...
More of a toy, at least the way I use it, a One Laptop Per Child laptop I bought for the heck (and charity of it)
"24", 2008-2009
Bought a kind of cheap but big Acer laptop as an experiment (I think this was just before laptop prices started getting dragged down.) "24" is named after the Jeff Gordon sticker I had JZ get for me at NASCAR. Currently on loan, not holding up all that well.
"Boilermaker", 2009-2010
A heavy duty Macbook Pro I bought off of JZ... served me well by running WinXP under VMware as a developer machine. Currently on long term loan to a cousin. Named after a redneck car detail I got at the Topsfield fair for it.
"Yoooouk!", 2008-2012(?)
Oh boy. This is one of those HP touch ones that I had, and kind of have, high hopes for, but it's never felt 100% reliable and robust- had a bit of virus issue, the power plug seems a bit wonky like it was for "Sliver"... named for a "Yoooouk!" bumper sticker it wears that I got at a Red Sox game.
"Brute", 2010-2013ish
My new purchase, the Toshiba P505, a 18.4 behemoth of a machine, meant to let my "main machine" be a laptop, and make living at Amber's make more sense - so it could mark the end of the "Monk" era
2017/2020 Updates:
"The Axehead", 2010-2013
My first at home switch to the Mac side, that weird 11" Macbook Air form factor... diminutive but great and portable, not quite enough HD/SSD space.

IBM Touch Thinkpad, 2011-2012ish
Got this for cheap at Micro Center, and for a while put it with a trackball as a dedicated Centipede MAME machine for my girlfriend
"My Macbook Air", 2013-2020
My work machine that I bought off them when I left the company. Still going pretty strong.
"The MonkBook Air", 2020-2021
Apple did a decent update to their venerable classic. This one saw me through the main year of COVID, easier to swap workspaces with my work Macbook Pros (see this entry for some reveling in stickers as I got my new MacBook Air...)
SmackBook Pro, 2021-
Time to get back to a big screen (not quite as grand as Brute was but still) and the new chip... a little calmer with the stickers.

TI flat thing, 1995-1997
Man, I wish I could find some record of this! It was a cool, flat PDA I bought off someone at Tufts - rubberized grey and maroon, it had holes so it could be placed in a 3 ring binder. I first started jotting down quotes in this thing, but I couldn't connect it to anything. (UPDATE: It was the Texas Instruments PS-9500 TimeRunner )
Palm Pro,1997-1999
the decorated IIIc
Its hard to explain how cool this was. When I first heard about graffiti, and humans having to learn a new way to write, I was skeptical, but man, having a powerful notebook/calendar/todo in my pocket was just astounding.
Palm V,1999-2001
Like the Pro, but slim and trim and awesome. I think this is when I started using "Landware GoType" keyboards which along with "PocketC" let me program on the go at a time when laptops seemed too extravagant a luxury to bring on vacations or cart around all the time.
Rexx, 2001
Heh, the laptop PCMCIA card-sized wonder was a bit too limited for recording notes and quotes, otherwise mighta been an ok PDA.
Palm IIIc, 2001-2003
Like the Pro but color... I kind of liked the minimalism of b+w but the text was so much more readable.
Sony Clié SJ22, 2003-2006
A nice little machine running PalmOS but with a double resolution screen. Nice soft flip case it came with.
PocketPC phone, 2006-2007
Oh dear. What a piece of crap this was. The slide out keyboard was nice but the OS was junk, despite kind of almost delivering on the promise of "an app where I can both doodle and write text" - in other words, why I bought a trackball laptop in 1995. It didn't just "butt-dial", it "sitting on the shelf by itself" dialed.
Palm Z22, 2007
I had forgotten about how much I loved this last gasp of Palm PDAs - it was so comfortable to hold, and cheap and cheerful. It deserved a better fate than to be drowned while kayaking.
iPhone, 2007-2008
I didn't mean to be an early adopter of this, but I was, and haven't regretted it. Even when it didn't have things I took for granted on the Palm, like "add programs" and "copy and paste", from its home screen on down this felt like the Palm, plus music, plus a great browser.
iPhone 3G, 2008-2010
What can I say - I needed more than 8 Gb for the music I wanted with me.
iPhone ??? 2010-from here on in?
I'm saying this has now reach the commodity stage. Great phone, a replacement for the Power Shot camera I started toting in 2001 or so, smooth transfer from one homescreen to another... no longer worth keeping track of
I remember how annoyed and nervous I was at the old "PDAs are dead, here comes smartphones", before I realized how PDA-ish the smartphones would be. Heck, an iPod touch is a tremendous PDA, and that's just an iPhone minus the phone and camera...

Is driving a car out of where it's stuck in the slush and slow Taoist? You have to follow the natural path of where the car wants to go...
Everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after
Baron Munchausen. Oh for the days when you could have just a hint of Uma nipple and still get a PG rating...

Rex is going to the vets to get snipped today. I feel a little bad but I guess it's just part of the deal cats and humans made on the species level.
MA FOLKS- don't vote for Republican filibuster today... we don't need a tyranny of the minority party!
Did you know that the Germans call duct tape "Panzertape"? Germans have cooler names for everything.

Really thinking I should have paid more attention to Processing.js; having access to all javascript in a browser-based sketch is great.
How are you all enjoying your new lives as biological robots? If the process went smoothly you should not have felt a thing.

http://www.cracked.com/photoshop_85_if-video-games-were-realistic/ - more realistic video games
http://safetycenter.navy.mil/photo/index.asp - Naval Safety Center Photo of the Week. Kind of a less wacky "Safety FAIL" blog.
http://www.foddy.net/Cricket.html - repost of a fun little Cricket game. Great use of Box2D.
http://www.mvhsdrama.com/50sSlang.htm - slang of the 50s. Like crazy, man.
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/C-3PX - Cracked was making fun of it but I find something really appealing about a C3P0 assassin droid.
Today my dad would have turned 60.

6 years ago (six! wow, what a number - college plus half of high school! The speeding raceway of time reminds me why I was so anxious to start dropping these daily bread crumbs for later leisurely perusal!) I had noted I had lived as many days with him as without him, and wrote a kind of tribute that I probably shouldn't try to top here. In 4 years, May Day 2013 (assuming the 2012 doomsayers prove as wrong as every date-based doomsayer has been thus far) I will be as old as he was when he died. I guess I should get over it some time? Or maybe parents are just that kind of thing you never have to get over - maybe especially if you haven't had kids of your own.

(Again, you can calculate your own happy or sad little milestones with that date toy tool I threw together in 2001.)

I've tended to express my regret in terms of be being a graceless adolescent when he died, that so much of the becoming I've done, that I'm most proud of because of its deliberate nature -- I think before you're a teen, you kind of just are -- happened after he passed. But now, coming up to the ages I have memories of him being at, I can think too about how many interesting paths could have been before him... I listed a bunch of things he'd done in that essay, and sometimes I'm still in a bit in awe.
One interpretation I tend not to over-emphasize is that of all the people who've been in my life since his passing, I think I most saw echoes of a kind of insecure, maybe-compensating but still admirable use of books and diligent study to achieve various expertise in Mo. And their style is in contrast to my own too-smart-too-young, ego-protecting comfort zone I drift in when left unattended. I mean, there's a lot to be said for low-hanging-fruit, but over the past few years I've been working on putting up more of a fight for "stretch goals" that seem worthwhile.

Heh, it's another dumb little milestone today - the tenth anniversary of the 9/9/99 release date of the Dreamcast, a video game system beloved in the hearts of fanboys, but ultimately walloped by the DVD-playing, somewhat-more-powerful Playstation 2. I wonder what my dad would have thought of me and video games - not that it's such a big, time-consuming thing for me these days, but over the years I've sunk a lot of dollars and a lot of hours into them - but they were pretty primitive back when he was watching my early fascination with them. Lately I've been pleased by one thought though... here's a (pooorly photographed) example of some of his cross stitch (an inuit design I believe)

Man, what is cross stitch and needlepoint if not a crazy kind of folksy pixel art? So our interests maybe weren't as far apart as all that. (Hell, we might've collaborated on some of this stuff, I'm sure modern stitchers use all sorts of scanning and conversion high tech tools, rather than being solely reliant on the type of pattern books my dad had (and I remember being kind of fascinated by as a kid.))

Sigh. Guess today I'll fire up the old Dreamcast and... I dunno, try to have some place that cooks hot dogs in beer or something, like I think my Dad said they did in Ohio...

Miss you, Dad, Happy Birthday.


Tufts sQ! - Magic Suits (1997)
  1. Bizarre Love Triangles
  2. Not the Doctor
  3. I Be Your Water
  4. 1979

In 1997, Tufts sQ!, then a small group struggling to find its place on campus after the founding members graduated, worked to put together an album.

That album never got made. (sQ! has since gone on to make a number of excellent albums, very highly polished and terrific sounding.)

However, Somewhere along the line- I think it might've been thanks to Austin Putman- I got hold of copies of the recordings they make.

This is a very rough cut album - in particular "I Be Your Water" has some patches that didn't jell, and I'm sure people with more refined ears than mine will cringe in various places.

Still, I'm proud to have been a part of this, and happy to put it out for the world to hear.

(One of the competing names for the album was "Dances with Trucks", the hypothetical "adopted into indigenous tribe name" I bestowed upon Wayne after following him at speeds upwards of 90 mph on rainslick highways, trying to get to Pitt. in time for a show -- hence the album art, show here in a 2024-ChatGPT'd variation)
Happy Halloween!

I was pleased enough with the way my costume came together (suggested by EBSO at a Red Sox game) that I thought I'd try to dig up my best previous costumes...
Maybe the worst part of my costume is wearing sweatpants out in the world, that whole "I give up" feeling
I realize that I have a playlist ("psyched") where the central motif is "could be danced to by Jay in Clerks": http://tinyurl.com/jayclrk
Just read "A Clockwork Orange"- was nervous about the madeup lingo, but it was fun parsing in context, and catchy. Great Bolshy Yarblockos!
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Twentieth anniversary of my dad's death.

I wonder what the rest of adolescence and then adulthood would have been like with him around. I wrote about his myriad interests and pursuits when I noted I had been alive for as long without him as I had been with him, and I wonder what would have caught his eye over the last two decades. His world was before the Internet, before the Cellphone, before clever-GPSes, before all these things that I think have really reshaped life... not (primarily) in the most important ways of love and friendship, but in a ton of other aspects, large and small.

And I wonder what he would have thought of me. My agnostic stance. My academic achievements. My marriage and divorce. Things I've written. Bands I played in. Websites I manage. My hobbies, my humor. I was so graceless at the time he was getting sick and dying. I guess there were glimmers of some of my potentials then, but also some outlines of my limits... and how would those limits have been different if he had been there? I know I'm very feedback driven, and so some of that has been cultivated in how I relate with my mom. Other relatives too, and teachers, and respected colleagues... but there's one type of approval I know I'll never really hear, and I wonder how that's changed my course, for better or worse.

I'll never look at him from an adult viewpoint, just over my shoulder in retrospect, and projection. I want to know what he would have made of this world, what he would have continue to make of himself in this world. Hell, in 4 or 5 years I'll be as old as he was when he died. Won't that be something!


October is such a bad month. Do other people get that too? Even apart from the current financial terrors, it just consistently seems to be an ugly season for me. A lot of the deaths in my family this time of year. Almost ten years ago today I wrote a note in my Palm Pilot's datebook to see if the young romance of Mo and I was still around, and it was around 5 years ago that she was deciding it wasn't what she wanted. just in general this time has a sense that things get worse, fortunes falling along with the temperature.

Can't wait for Halloween.

<<should i stand now where i've never been? / should i leave this place behind? / this old railroad car is loosening from the tracks>>
It's clear AT&T is compelled to charge 20 cents per txt msg even on unlimited data plans, because HEY SCREW YOU
pentomino Twitter's "Hot Topics" seem to be subject to whole lot of "hey guys, everyone Twitter on this!" manipulation.
McCain's really used "Fight With Me" as a slogan? I mean, I would, gladly, but it wouldn't seem super fair for him with his war injury etc.
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More progress in decorating my living room... my excuse for posting this is I assume that my mom's interested, so there.
"i once loved someone the way that you do / but I had to let her go / i live with my regret"

Man, screw the Beatles and their "too f'in good for amazon mp3s or even itunes". Seriously, are they still bitter about "Apple Corps"?
Grr. I *know* Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give it Away" is lurking somewhere in my music collection, misnamed by some blurp of the autolabler
So this photo bubbled to the top of some piles of stuff after I moved... I have a number of group photos from bands I was in, but this goofy "candid" shot really sticks out.

My high school jazz band, 222 Street Jazz... what we lacked in skill we tried to make up in attitude. By dressing up as a bad Blues Brother impression, of course. The rule was the white shirts and jeans and sports jacket, plus any black hat.

I used an online tool to make an ImageMap... mouse over various people for some thoughts. (Wish I could figure out how to do a Flikr-like boxes to show the regions that have extra info.) The end result probably isn't as poetic as I had hoped...
hover over the photo to see what i remember of them...

woodchuck ellen saxguy sahib singing marine molly marty veronika two guys mr.a myhead myhorn little jouy workman tomsic festivals
"and if you play Defender I could be your Hyperspace" is a brill.lyric; you can be the poetic escape, but also that's a social gaming tactic
top tip:leave the memcard / battery door open on your camera open until you put the bits back in place, lest you walk off w/ empty camera..
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Decided that my living room, despite its small size, needed one more piece of furniture for the sake of hospitality. Something smallish, but comfortable... behold the Ikea KARLSTAD chaise, in all its "Dillne multicolor" glory!
I think the stripes work better with the space than a flat color would have, and it goes eerily well with the circus/carousel theme I had set up on that wall. (That's an authentic circus railway poster my dad had acquired.) Hopefully it doesn't say "trying too hard"...

This might well become my "go to" piece of furniture for reading and lounging, at least when I can resist the shiatsu-esque call of my Aunt's iJoy massage recliner parked next to it. (Also, I'm grateful to my Aunt for joining me on the jaunt to Ikea and helping wrestling the not-too-heavy-but-huge box in, and then assembling the thing.)

Dialog of the Moment
["Granddad" Freeman is making grandson Huey mow the lawn...] "And make sure you get between those trees on that hill."
"It's so big..."
"But that's a good thing, Huey. This land is a dream come true. Think of it like '40 Acres and a Mule'!"
"Yeah, but I'M the mule."
"Yeah, I guess you WOULD be the mule ...
...well, I never said it was YOUR dream come true."
The Boondocks. What a great comic strip... daring and actually funny.

Diet Pepsi is a flavor of my youth, what they sold cans of from the fridge at the pharmacy I worked for Mr.J
Ikea's furniture pickup department is not the well-oiled machine, the model of European efficiency one might've hoped for.
After having this one Irish chocolate, I can definitively say that I don't have enough hazelnut in my life.
I was thinking about aliases I've used over the years... (warning, some of this preadolescent stuff is cringe-inducingly dorky. And this whole entry is a bit overly self-centered...)

When I was a kid and got a high score in an arcade game I'd enter a single "Z" in lieu of initials. It seemed Cool and was easier to enter. (In the years since I've decided it's moderately cooler to leverage having a short name and will enter "KRK" on the few games that still have the option.)

I also had a few pen names, as well as names I'd use if I were making video games. "Lord Logan" (Logan being my middle name) comes to mind, an alliterative nod to "Lord British" who made the Ultima games. Also I vaguely remember a "Troll" character... I think I remember making up sprites for it (a version shown here as well as I remember it now) and going so far as to scratch the name into my desk and getting yelled at by my mom. Also, the name "SPAZZ" comes to mind though I don't remember for what.

Probably the biggest experiment was going by "Logan" in middle school. I was unhappy about moving after sixth grade, and I think the name change was an expression of that, also the usual teenage self-dissatisfaction (around the same time my dad was sick.) I changed school districts during high school and quietly went back to Kirk, though this created some confusion at my church, where they decided to split the difference and call me Butch. (Or, in full, "Kirk Logan Brother Butch Israel Brother")

Also in high school I picked up "Kirkles", the alleged term of endearment "Lynnie-Poo" had for me, according to our mutual friends. And in Spanish class my name resisted Spanishization so I went by the (allegedly an actual nickname) "Nacho"

Later in high school I do remember enjoying picking callsigns in the game Wing Commander... I think "Metropolis" and "Whiplash" were my favorites.

It was around this time I also used signature characters, signing highschool notes with characters who would sometimes hold up signs of commentary ala Wile E Coyote. Zinger the clown, shown here, was first, but he was quick supplement by Alien Bill who has been with me ever since. Alien Bill Productions was also my default company for games or programs I'd make in college, marginally classier than "Barking Spider Productions" that I used in high school. Neither Zinger and Alien Bill are actual aliases, though sometimes people get confused about the latter.

In college I picked up "kisrael" in the classic Unix tradition of "first initial and last name" -- I was just pleased that since my last name starts with a vowel it makes a nice name in all. "Kirkjerk" was when I was looking for an appropriately menacing, at-most-8-character name for when people were playing the game Death Rally at work. I also went through a series of AOL Instant Messenger names before remember my kirkjerk password, including kirkamundo and thegreatkirkini.

I guess for the most part I'm pleased with my first name and like variations on it. Also I'm never compelled to do much role changing online, or that whole projective AOL-ish "HotStuff74" or whatever (and isn't it odd how so many people, some of whom might otherwise be a little coy about their age, tag on their birth year?)

Video of the Moment

--Since today's ramble was kind of dull and kirkcentric, here's something pretty cool...
Not much time to write today... when you have too sets of friends moving on the same weekend, things get a bit hectic.

Also, I had to blow off Christa's party which made me sad.

Anecdote of the Moment
i remember an exchange I had with Elvin Jones, Coltrane's drummer. I had seen him so many times he thought he knew me. One night he sat down at my table and asked me what I was doing. You a student? I said no, I was teaching. Then he asked my friend, who was embarrassed to admit that he was a bank messenger. Elvin shrugged his shoulders, and said, "It's a gig."

A gig's a gig..
Michael Ullman, Tufts Professor and Music Critic...
After relating his pitch-perfect I wish you could fly, too anecdote I wrote him, and may have struck a slightly apologetic tone about how I had had the English major but it was the Computer Science major that was paying the bills...anyway, he always told the best stories and had this huge repertoire of anecdotes about from his experiences with musicians, major and minor.

Least likely song interpretation ever: Veronika's English teacher in Germany swore "Under the Boardwalk" was about bugs under the floor.
Damn, over a decade into the Internet revolution and uhaul is still bozos at a counter with paperwork and a half hour wait.
Friend help friends move. Dumb friends agree to help two sets of friends move over one weekend.
So back in the day I used to commute to Tufts for my summer job, and I remembered "CAB" - Copley, Arlington, Boylston -- as the stops before Park Street, where I would hop on the red line. Now the trick is "SPCA", like the animal folks... Symphony, Prudential, Copley, Arlington, since Arlington is where I work.

Yay mnemonics!

Hello from Virgina.

Less virginal than I might have thought. Actually, a heapload of tattoos, more per capita than I think I see in Boston.

Photos of the Moment

This is the original Kirk Tree! An umbrella plant planted on the day I was born. It turns out reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated and it has bounced back beautifully from its previous infirmity.

As you can see its nearly as tall as I am, and always has been...

My mom has the Kirk Tree next to the dehumidifier, which means it gets watered from water pulled from the air, which is kind of cool.

Meanwhile, back in Boston...

I don't know if the Legal Seafood at the Prudential Center just keeps this guy around to wow the tourists or what, but I was pretty wow'd. 18 lbs of pure lobster joy! The estimate is this beast is older than I am. You think they could at least give some dignity, but whatever.

Walking in "Old Town" Alexandria,I feel like such a yankee. (in the non-baseball sense)
So back in high school my calc teacher (Mr. Pawlowski! Yay old yearbooks.) gave me an interesting way of solving this one classic-sounding algebra problem.

Like many math problems, the premise is a bit absurd: Farmer Brown knows he has, I dunno, 30 animals, cows and chickens. He doesn't know how many of each he has, but he does know that among them they have, say, 74 legs. (Why Farmer Brown is able to count legs but not animals, and not distinguish a chicken leg from a cow egg, is not made clear...)

Now there's the fancy-pants school-larnin' way of solving this: (let c be the number of chickens, m (for moo) the number of cows)
we know c+m=30
thus c = 30 - m
plus the legs means (c*2)+(m*4)=74
and c = 23

Cosmic Cow Says:
"Hey, speaking of cows standing, anyone remember the show Too Close for Comfort?"
"Monroe said his secret was being able to draw an inoffensive udder!"

2019 Update: was it Monroe or Henry???
but Farmer Brown doesn't know from Algebra. So what does he do? He has all the cows stand up on their hind legs! (and part of the fun of this is the teacher demonstrating what a cow on two legs looks like.) Since he knows he has 30 animals, he can know without counting that there are 60 legs on the ground. 14 legs unaccounted for, 2 each per cow, so there must be 7 cows, and 30-7=23 chickens.

That math seems a lot easier to do in your head! I'm not sure what the equations for it look like though... let me see...
c + m = 30
he quickly figured 2 * (c + m) = 60
but he knows 2c + 4m = 74
I guess he was able to tell that
(2c + 4m) - (2c + 2m) = 74 - 60
2m = 14
m = 7
c = 23
So that's a lot of steps that seemed easier to manage when you chunked things the right way. Maybe it's more like
Let a be the number of animals
t be the total number legs (2c + 4m), 74
let d be the number of legs down, 2*a, 60
d - t = 14
2m = 14 (I think that's the smart bit)
m = 7
c = a - m = 23
I'm not quite sure what the takeaway math lesson from this is... maybe it's the use of more variables when you're trying to do stuff in your head?

A dream of reconciliation w/ mo, turns out it's an anniversary. I've moved on but sometimes wish I'd more clearly moved on TO something/one
Why are the Onion headlines on the Slate sidebar all about homosexuality? Celebration of the CA ruling or what?

"Uh -- hey, what? You look like me but with square glasses."

"I am you, but around 7 years in the future. I want to give you advice."


"I know. It's probably not going to help."

"Why-? I mean like why me now? Do I have to prevent some huge terror thing?"

"Heh, not that I know of, but yeah, in part I remembered you're kind of freaked about that and that's why I chose this time, but you're good for at least seven years. Pretty soon they'll be some Anthrax powder in the mail or something but it's really isolated."


"There's going to be some war, though."

"!!! Like, all-out war?"

"No. So here's the thing: we're going to move on Afghanistan, and that's going to seem like a bad idea to you, but given the Taliban and who actually did this 9-11 thing (are you calling it 9-11 yet?) it's probably a kind of worthwhile thing, and do-able. The problem is you're going to invade Iraq."

"Did they do it too?"

"Not really, Bush felt the need to get rid of Saddam, but it's going to be kind of a quagmire. But anyway, enough about me, let's talk about you."

"Who is also me."

"...right. Your three month old marriage is in trouble."

"WHAT? It seems great! Neither of us are 'strongly gendered typed' and we give each other plenty of space for our own projects--"

"Yeah, that's some of the problem. You guys are about to buy a house. Stop treating it as 'Mo's project', engage more, stop being just along for the ride. Mo's looking for collaborator in ways she's not going to put into words until it's too late."

"Then do I--"

"I don't know much more than that."

"What about my career and all that?"

"Well, your current safety job isn't, but if things go the same, you'll find a place that'll be a safe harbor for a while. Things will pick up again, maybe the'll drop off again, your current drifting, job-wise, seems ok for a while."

"So why did you come back to now? Why not to our teenage self? Or before and tell us (him? yourself?) to enjoy dad while he's still around?"

"Well, to be honest, I can't relate that well to myself that far back. But you feel like the same person, kind of, just less informed. I think we fear growth and personal change because that means we were wrong, and we hate being wrong."

"But I admit mistakes! It's-"

"Yeah but your ego is more fragile than you know, and you redefine things that make you look less than stellar as not important. Maybe work on that. But really, I got to thinking about this time as sort of a critical point after playing Nintendo 64's Pokemon Puzzle League with EB*. (Who should end up stressed but with a lovely wife and kid.) I remembered playing the same game with him as a de-stresser on 9-11, but realized that you could probably kick my at this game... he and I still play it but not as religiously as you do now..."

"Heh, you're getting weak old man..."

"Yeah, funny."

"So what's new in technology?"

"Oh, not much. Focus on your Java, that's your bread and butter. There's a new round of game consoles, Nintendo's doing some cool stuff. WiFi is a lot easier and cheaper. Apple makes phone version of the iPod, looks like a Star Trek: Next Generation slab, that finally actually is better than your beloved Palm, which isn't going to get much better than it is now."

"Heh, oh well. Not too exciting then? Guess it's just seven years. But wait a minute... doesn't coming back to tell me this risk negating your existence? Like you're telling me stuff so it leads to a different future of me?"

"...Oops. Damn, wish he had least given me some lottery numbers."

*of course I'd have to use EB's "real" name, my past self thinks of EB as "Electronics Boutique"

Saw Josh, visiting home from Japan the other day. He mentioned I missed a scary fun but harmless earthquake the day after I left.
So I think I mentioned (or not?) I'm going to be moving into the Au Pair apartment at my Aunt and Uncle's in Boston, the Mission Hill neighborhood. It's a great location, it's cheap rent, it's near work, it's being with family, including being around for my Aunt and Uncle as my mom is being moved to the Salvation Army's national headquarters in Virginia, and... well, my Uncle is older than my Aunt, and is fine and fit and sharp but maybe ain't remembering things the way he used to (err, keep this among us) and there's laundry and nifty stuff like that. Not to mention finally trying some ideas of living a bit more lightly, in terms of space and clutter and all that.

So, my new apartment. Like a lot of Boston brownstone apartments, there are compromises involved. Brownstones are skinny! My Aunt and Uncle have been really nice about giving up their former office-y space (originally a dining room) so that it's not just a small studio, and now I'm having a hard time figuring out the best way to set up the rooms...

Here's a rough sketch: (Hrrm this ended up looking a bit more phallic than I intended.)
From top to bottom: the main studio apartment (Hi Josh) is there. It's a yellow room with decent hard floors and a small kitchenette. There's a cute little window space cut out between that and the room. There's a closet two rods deep, and a decent bathroom off of the hallway (ceiling to floor with bookshelves, nice.... shown in yellow) that leads to the front room.

The front room is green and has carpeting. And another closet. The blue block is a nice mantelpiece, the brown are these built in deskslabs, and the yellow represents bookshelves (there are also bookshelves above the deskslabs. My family is a big believer in bookshelves.) There's a chandelier in the center and a nice bay window facing the street.

So one option keeps how the furniture is currently set up, with the backroom used as a bedroom. I stuck in the bed (shown in green) and a loveseat foldabed that's currently there, plus drew in where I think the projector would go, using the space above the mantle. (EB thinks I should project towards the top wall, pull the screen over the two doors, but I can't figure out where the projector would sit, plus hanging the screen would be more problematic.)
So Pros include not having to re-disassemble the bed, and in general having a nice spread out entertainment space, along with my main desk. Cons include having a kitchen off the bedroom.

I came up with an alternate idea of using the front room as a bedroom:
Pros include having the bedroom be a softer room Cons might be having people walk through the bedroom, especially if I put a chair in front of the top room's door to the outside hallway. Also, having a chandelier in the bedroom, and the way it might be louder in the morning than the top room that is by a quieter alley. Plus violating the advice of not having your workspace in your bedroom. The top room has a great wall for a projector though, I might even do something clever with that little galley window.

So I dunno. Personally I'm leaning towards the second idea, but EB and JZ both like keeping the bedroom where it is.

gonna be closer to my family but have to work harder at other social contacts...
the idea that buying quality saves more in the long term. but to what extent can you trust the price/durability correlation?
heh so funny how bonnie comes to the developer cubicleland to get work done away from the hubbub of the main open floor office
in Arlington for the night. 4 years slipped by, as years do. am I crying for what my time here was, or wasn't?
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Continued from yesterday and Monday... So, like I mentioned, this Midwest Surplus Retailers catalog is written in an annoying "best beer buddy" style. Sometimes it's just ordinary retail, but something about this disclaimer at the end of their about page rubs me the wrong way.
I do my best to make sure the correct photo, price and copy are shown. But...sometimes I make a mistake. In the event of any such mistake, I reserve the right to charge the correct price, to ship the correct item, or to correct the mistake. However, you will be notified at the time you order and...I beg your pardon.
I find the first person voice really annoying in that last sentence because of how it relies on some kind of assumptive sense of chivalry...companies shouldn't be looking for that kind of first person politeness!

Oh, who knows. Maybe I'm just the wrong demographic, that this guy is to people who voted for George Bush what "J. Peterman" is for my latte-swilling crowd. And while their site is still kind of junky, its JPGs oddly compressed and its layout forever stuck in the mid-90s, it looks to have some decent prices. (though I've seen some PDAs etc in "electronics" that are complete ripoffs...)

Now, Hell, I'm half tempted to buy some hiking poles.

Toy of the Moment
Roadkill Stuffed Animals. Flattened viscera was never so cute!

you probably wouldn't believe how much money i just lost. oh well! at least I dig my iphone's "pinball" ring with vibrate on, physicality
Continued from yesterday...

So in October of 1999 I got to travel to St. Paul, Minnesota to explain the weird inbred computer language we had recoded the Midwest Surplus Retailers website in.

I'm surprised that my journal indicates it was October, because my strongest memory is how cold it was...bitingly ice cold, but I was grateful for that, because these offices are right across the street from this:

These are stockyards. These are where the cows we eat go to die, and I imagine the smell must be awful in summer. But you know, fine, it's alright, it's not like I'm a vegetarian. But still, this truck...

This truck seemed to be permanently stationed there... in fact I think I see it in this Google maps view. The truck is at the end of a raised conveyor belt. All day long former bits of cows go drip, drop, plop into the truck.

So I got the tour of the facility. They had just put in a new automated conveyor/scanning system and my main host (I forget his name, some manager) had come up with the design and implementation and was rightfully proud of it. (Their warehouse with the system still features prominently in their advertising, more on that tomorrow.) I was duly impressed, especially knowing the challenges people on the hardware side of things must face.

But that wasn't my last bit of culture shock. To be fair, I was kind of sheltered, the kid of clergy who had gone to a fancy-ish school in the Northeast and then was on his second white-collar job. Still, the amount of lockdown for the restrooms, along with posted warnings that anyone found writing graffiti there would be fired, was jarring, a reminder of a blue collar way of life I didn't know much about. (This was for the warehouse workers; the big banks of cubbies for the folks handling the calls was its own special kind of sould-draining-ness.) I was also surprised, just based on geography and I guess climate, at how many Latino workers were there, I thought that was something you'd mostly see on the coasts.

The folks whom I was there to train were pretty good guys. It was a bit depressing, just because you could see in their eyes how you didn't have a lot of options when you wanted to do high-tech stuff in that part of the country, but they seemed to be getting by. (This was somewhere in the middle of the dot-com thing, and even though I wasn't (yet) at one of those Aeron chairs kind of places, I could tell I had been relatively spoiled.)

The biggest shock was yet to come: a trip to Executive Country!

Shock #1: the paneling. Again, maybe it was the contrast with Boston corporate land, but seeing all the high muckity-mucks hanging out in what looked like the finished half of your parents' basement was odd.

Shock #2: the President of the company (Gary Olen) was out that day but his office... I think I saw more bear pelts and deer heads in that room than I have since. (At least it hid the paneling.)

Shock #3: the VP who was in, a woman who I guess was head of technology, had a pyramid of cigarette butts on her desk that would have made a crowd of tiny, tiny Egyptian slaves proud.

So, I've already mentioned the "best beer buddy" prose all the catalogs are written in, but the fact is there's something to it, I guess they do a fair amount of product testing there, and I got the impression that hunting trips were kind of a bonding thing for the upper echelons, and to be "one of the boys" this VP had to make a trip. Hence, the deer head on her office wall:

"Yeah, that was the one time I went hunting. But it was a good kill, no kill regret all..."

Yikes! Ok, fine, I eat meat, hunting is a different culture that I can respect, etc etc but... shouldn't, like, the concern about HAVING kill regret act as your little Jimminy Cricket telling you that this is something you shouldn't be doing?

The trip was OK despite the cold. (And I still have a photo of the local bar advertising the weekly "Meat Raffle" - again, there's my over-privileged snarky self being inappropriately amused.) I stayed at a hotel that was a refurbished mini-castle, and got to visit the famous Mall of America and ride a roller coaster inside. I went to Planet Hollywood there (not having enough guts to bring back a business receipt for "Hooters") and passed up the opportunity to buy a Robert Smith jersey (who had been the football star of my high school, but always in Randy Moss' shadow when he played with the Vikings.)

Tomorrow: "no snark regret at all"?

our conscius minds may not have free will, but rather "free won't!"
vilayanur ramachandran

i had "luck be in lady" in my head for a few days. luckily, my interior monologue has a lovely singing voice.
musta been a good day of coding; I'm having to unclench my jaw.
So, the other week I read about one horrified web designer's interview with the people at X10.com, those fine folks who really helped cement hatred of the "popunder" ad part of web culture. ("Well yeah... but honestly they made a shitload of money" said one of the interviewers there.)

Two quotes from the interviewers stood out for me...
You've probably seen our website, and as you can see, it looks pretty shitty. That's pretty much how it's going to stay.
and then on their target audience:
Men from around age 30-40 with a little extra money who like buying gadgets and aren't too concerned if it doesn't work too well.
because when I put those two concepts together in the context of my professional history, one name rung out.. but to be professional, I will keep quiet about it.

I'd like to write about it in excruciating detail now, over the course of a few days, so I need never mention it again.

The year was 1999. (At the risk of getting ahead of myself in the story, my proposed slogan for their ammo catalog then was Ammo @ [REDACTED]: "Let's shoot our way through Y2K"(tm)) I was working for another small company, owned by a major midwest publisher...

<geek>Oy, what a company! Back in their pure dotcom they were pioneers in dynamic websites, claiming to have invented the Virtual Server patch for sun machines that let one machine act as the webserver for various domains. In fact they were such early innovators they had their own templating language that they clung to even after industry standards emerged, until they decided to switch - to a new in-house language based on Reverse Polish Notation. Not being a big fan of HP calculators I plotted my exit.</geek>

My company had been bought by the big (now defunct, huh!) midwestern printing company. That gave my company some strange, corn-fed bedfellows, companies that I assume did their printing through our parent company and were looking to have their web presence.

This catalog is, as far as I can tell, pretty much a "midwest" thing. Part of the issue was that they already had a web presence; a straight-forward retelling of their print catalogs in Microsoft code.

The first task was to port their existing website to our own technology. They really didn't want to make it look any better, and they stuck to their guns that their website should just be a big mirror of their multiple catalogs.

The first part of that made life little fun for me, who had to do the port. I learned a valuable lesson though; when they turned the firehose from their hammered Windows NT boxes to our inhouse solution, our server went down, hard. The volume was relatively enormous, and we had a major failure of due diligence in testing how our stuff scaled. <geek>The emergency fix for that was kind of cool, something to talk about on future interviews: we discovered the problem was with the DB queries, and realized that that each catalog page had a distinct URL that we could use as the basis of a rough-and-ready homebrew cache.</geek>

The second part made life no fun for our design group (who had ambition; they wanted to kind of segment themselves off as "216design.com", some play on the Netscape color safe palette) Every month 2 or 3 catalogs would come out that they had to make into webpages, grabbing the artwork, fixing up the text markup, and correlating the item numbers.
Sheer drudgery, and we lacked the tools to really automate it, since what they got were the raw Quark files (quirky Quark; I remember the lead guy chucking about how the print catalog designers basically used big photos as their wastebasket, hiding unneeded art behind.) I did what I could with my Perl mojo, but it was still a major pain in the ass, a vast parade of guns and domestic wares and crappy closeout specials that had no end in site, and no real way of streamlining the monotony. And making it worse was the "best buddy" style the whole catalog was written, like it was just one guy finding all these deals for you, your best drinkin' buddy look for bargains.

TOMORROW: Kirk Visits the Frozen Wasteland

half my trouble with household neatness: trash bin access. an attention span thing.
new business lingo:"c level executives", c as in CEO, CIO, etc
i kind of forget there's a starbucks like, 5 doors down. i don't like starbucks all that much but maybe forgetting is some kind of defense.
I think Jonathan Papelbon said it best:
So I have to 'fess up to my moments of doubt during the second half of the season, the Yankees coming on strong and the Sox stranding giant piles of men on base. And the Indians seemed to make it a foregone conclusion. But the Sox were metaclutch, clutch when clutch mattered, and after coming back from 3-1 in the ALCS there wasn't an NL team who could possibly stand in their way.

That said, if you're suspecting you're going to be spurting each other with champagne later in the night, fine... but swimming goggles for everyone? It seems to be pushing it, and temping Murphy's Law. "Oh but you don't know how much that bubbly in the eye stings!"

Kings of the baseball world, baby! Wait 'til next year... it should be great, too.

A while back there was an xkcd cartoon entitled "Dream Girl" wherein the narrator gets a longitude and latitude and time and date whispered to him in a dream, shows up at that place and time, and...

Well, that's where the geeks who love xkcd came in, and they decided to make something happen. The place was a small park in Cambridge, and the time and date was yesterday, 2:38PM. If you took woodstock, and divided it by burning man, and multiplied it by your high school's AV club, you might have something like the xkcd meetup. Hundreds of folks were there, some in costume, many references to various xkcd cartoons abounded. The place was packed to the rafters, or at least, there was a big stack of people on one of the bits of playground equipment:

This is what it looked like from underneath:

I attended with FoSO and her SO, and she took this photo of FoSOSO being attacked by an injoke velociraptor:

I've tried to explain just how deeply this webcomic resonates with a certain population of geekish folk. Heh, and despite this comic's admonition against slavishly echoing the trappings of a beloved bit of geek culture instead of its spirit, there was a certain amount of pure fandom at the event, like staging a real-life version of a tape-measure-based olympic event. But that's ok. It was a great time and a blast to have been a part of.

Link of the Moment
Muji sounds interesting. Here's their international online store.

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Miller and Kate joined me in going to see the Simpsons movie last night.

True confession time.

There are times when I'm worried that the Simpsons' "Ned Flanders" is overwriting memories of my dad.

It's mostly a cosmetic issue, glasses and mustaches. (I don't think the Pious Ned / Preacher Dad parallel enters into it so much.) But still. My memories of a hale and hearty dad end after sixth grade, when I'm about twelve or so, and it looks like Ned made his first appearance December 17, 1989, 18-odd years ago. And childhood memories aren't the most solid stuff. I suppose the movies theme of "Flanders being a better dad to Bart than Homer" didn't help.

Article of the Moment
I hope everyone enjoys the new, resizeable, 'sweeper' program. And if when Vista finally comes out you see that it was renamed 'Microsoft Windows Vista Logic-based Hidden Item Seeking Game 2006 with Skins!', you will know why.
In short, there are parts of the world where landmines are a damn serious issue, and along with a visual makeover, the coders had to work to find a balance between what users were used to and humanistic concerns.

There's one anecdote I'll always keep with me... (in part because I noted it in my Palm journal) I was commuting on Memorial Drive one Tuesday morning in 1999, not far from that weird rotary at the end of the BU bridge, and was furious, letting myself get all road-ragey over the halted conditions. (In some ways I find it cathartic to let loose during that kind of situation, try to burn out all the irritations and frustrations of the day, but there's some real anger at the scene there as well.)

Anyway, I was ranting and raving over this Asian guy who had snuck in to the lane by tailgating the car in front of him -- in clear violation of the "alternate feeding" guidelines! -- that I thought were key to letting us all get through this mess.

So he looked at me in his rear view mirror, placed his hands on either side of his head, stuck out his tongue and waggled moose antlers.

I was completely disarmed. It was a perfect wordless Zen Koan, a reminder of just how seriously I should take the world and my current place in it.

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So today I'm leaving for a weekend in Chicago to catch the wedding of frequent-kisrael poster Mr. Lex!

Kirkism of the Moment

This is the Kirk Tree! It was planted on the day I was born.

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Sadly, the true original, 2 proud tall woody stems, succumbed to weird spidery things around ten years ago. But this springs from a cutting from that very plant. I think I missed the chance to make it a vertical growth kind of thing, but it's more dense than the first version.

I have a ritual where I take a sip out of the glass when I go to water it. Corny, but hey.

W00T, Mr. Ibis and Felisdemens will be in town! Always nice to see good friends, especially with the chance to return hospitality (I visited them in February.)

LOLCats of the Moment
Last December I posted about Cat Macros, pictures of cats with funny captions, usually in a kind of pidgin kitty talk. The meme is still around, mercifully renamed to "LOLCats" (and applied to tons of other non-Cat things).

The most canonical site seems to be I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER? I browsed its whole archive the other day, looking for this one that's been banging around my head:

I find that enormously and endlessly funny, just the idea of the big blubbery walrus voice, and the hint of walrus-y perspective... it inspired a host of sequel images, none of them very funny, alas.

As I was browsing I was a bit startled to make this discovery: That's Mo's cat Murphy, in a shot grabbed from the bottom of this page in my photbook. Memetastic! (I have no idea who assembled the final product.)

Quote of the Moment
The Devil does not know a lot because He's the Devil, He knows a lot because he's old.
from a Slashdot .sig, attribute to "unknown"

News of the Moment
Kevorkian out of prison after 8 years. Good for him! He's a creepy lookin' guy, but to say that the government needs to ban people from making difficult end-of-life decisions is just wrong.

I took a personal day yesterday and used some of the time to reorganize my books, since I was moving 3 bookcases from a common room into my bedroom to make more space for my bike.

I'm not too obsessive about sorting my books, but I do liked them lumped by large category. I thought it would be interesting to take an inventory. (Each shelf provides about 24-26 inches of book space.)

So, going from the front of the house into my bedroom I have:

1 shelf - poetry and eastern religion
1 shelf - self-improvement, home maintenance / interior design, and fitness
1 1/2 shelves - graphic novels, especially superhero and star wars
1 1/2 shelf - indy comics and cartoons, with a lot of Alison Bechdel, Jeffrey Brown
1 shelf - video game history and cheat guides
1 1/2 shelves - technical computer references and tutorials
1/2 shelf - star wars, with a lot of those oversized photo-books
1 shelf - stacked vertically and two deep with sci-fi paperbacks
1 shelf - larger format sci-fi
2 shelves - american humor (including 1 just of James Thurber, Garrison Keillor, and a hint of Woody Allen) which drifts into...
3 shelves - modern literature, a lot of Douglas Coupland and Tom Robbins
2 1/2 shelves - science and philosophy
1 shelf - history and culture
1 1/2 shelves - of mostly oversized art, design, and music
1 1/2 shelves - "school literature" including a stack of paperbacks and books from my childhood
1 shelf - boudoir reading
2 shelves - "to read", which shold be assimilated into the appropriate shelves as I get through them.

26 1/2 shelves in all. 56 feet (or so) of reading! And I've conducted a few purges in the past, so most of what remains is pretty good stuff.

Well, that was probably more fun and informative for me than all of you, but still. Anyone else ever try this?

Video of the Moment

--From the Muppet Show: A Drum Battle, Animal vs Buddy Rich.

Less visceral, but interesting and a bit topical with today's entry: a video art piece on cerebral organization by Jim Henson, introduced by Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.

Quote of the Moment
In this limitless world, breath is like a swinging door. If you think 'I breathe,' the 'I' is extra . . . what we call 'I' is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no 'I,' no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.
Suzuki Roshi.
Its been dawning on me that 55-odd feet of books, or rather my attachment to them, is not really in harmony with principles of Zen. Or decluttering for that matter.
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Ex-Coworker Humor of the Moment
Yeah, I think people are just getting stuper. Stupider.
Scott: Oh, lunchtime already?
Kirk: Gee, too bad they don't have any clocks or watches in Scott-land...err, oh wait, that doesn't quite work, does it?
Rob had a great story about his friend, ex-marine, who was in the Peace Corps in Africa...showing people how to dig wells and all that stuff. A neighboring tribe was known to raid the group he was working with, so he taught his folks how to lay an ambush and set traps and basically kill a bunch of 'em and send the rest running. Which wasn't such a bad thing, that other tribe totally had it coming, but you know, it was the Peace Corps, so he got kicked out.
--from the probably-forver-unpublished Rob Database I was keeping at my last company. Unfortunately most of it was either too context-sensitive or tasteless to really make sense here, but Rob was one hell of a funny guy.
So last December or thereabouts I was dropping my mom off at her office, the Salvation Army's Massachusetts Headquarters. (Just a block or so from where I now work, thus confirming this amazing ability I have to live or work in locations that would have been really convenient a few years before or after.)

I picked up the November 25th copy of The Salvation Army's magazine "The War Cry". I was a bit startled to see my cousin Scott quoted in a small "Quotes of the Past & Present" column, saying "I picture heaven as a great family reunion." And then later on my (dearly departed, or as the Salvationists say, "Promoted to Glory") Grandma Israel was quoted: "We have two choices when facing life's crisis--we can either be bitter or we can be better."

I have to admit that my first thoughts were oddly uncharitable. I (mistakenly) thought Scott was on the staff of the magazine, and somehow "quoting yourself" (in the biggest point type in the column, no less) was a little unseemly. It turns out Scott likely works near editor-in-chief Major Ed Forster at National Headquarters, who at one point was also the corps officer (local minister) for my grandmother's church. Which makes the thing seem a bit more appropriate.

Still, the Grandma quote... eh, it doesn't quit sound like Grandma, who was pretty plain-spoken, but googling a bit makes me think that it does come from national ministerial figures Grandma would've respected, and maybe even quoted. As for Scott's quote... it's a little poignant, given the track record of that side of my family... he and I both lost our fathers when they were fairly young, and an Aunt to Lou Gehrig's even younger (leaving behind four sons) and neither of our shared grandparents are still around. I'm not sure of the theological standing of his quote, but then again I tend not to be sure of anything's theological grounds.

Quote of the Moment
"Don't be mean. The fates are cruel enough. Remember. No matter where you go, there you are."
Buckaroo Banzai. Would have been good for me to think of that after I saw that War Cry...

Video of the Moment

--"Tyger". This gives Felisdemens "the transcendent shivers". It didn't move me quite that much, but I really like how they kept the puppeteers in

Link of the Moment
Human-Computer Interface in Sci-Fi... extremely readable, high-level overview of various "UI of the FUTURE!" A special emphasis on "Minority Report". (via boingboing)

Reminds me of one criticism I heard of the Star Trek Next Genreation approach, that none of those "reusable surface" touch interfaces offered meaningful physical feedback.

Bleh. Snow, ice, slush, sleet. The kind of day that almost makes me wish I had a job to stay home from.

Hope it doesn't make too much backup for my flight tomorrow.

Silliness of the Moment
Chaoskitty Hearts You...or at least did as of 3 years ago. Wow, have to clean up that backlog...

Vaguely Romantic Anecdote of the Moment
So I gave blood the other day, and the bandage they use after tends to leaves this ooky residue behind, a pretty resilient and ugly outline of where the tape was. As I was scrubbing at it in a slightly too-hot shower, I had a weird flashback (cue Wayne's World / Scooby Doo wavy line "doodlydoo doodlydoo doodlydoo"...)

My first girlfriend was KJ, at summer camp. (Oddly enough she came from my dad's hometown of Coshocton.) One day at camp she wrote on my hand in ink, one of those wird pre-high school romantic gestures. I have no memory of what she wrote, but she joked that now she'd be able to tell if I was taking showers...

Well, the fact was I wasn't taking many showers, mostly because of the "user interface" of the shower in my cabin... a single button that might as well have been labeled "please douse me with a laserlike stream of incredibly hot water and try to melt flesh right off bone, thanks."

So I remember furiously scrubbing at that damn ink in the sinks there, with their amazing innovation of hot and cold water. Still, I couldn't get all the ink off, and was worried what that was going to say about my hygiene...

So I received a verbal offer of a new job today. I had a bit of angst about it. FoSO asked, in effect "good, a new job offer, so what's the problem?"... but of course I'll always find something to worry about. (Could I have a physical addiction to worry? I wonder.)

The problem as of this morning was
A. the way I hadn't shopped around, that this was the first company I had interviewed with or even looked at.
B. it seemed like a cool role, though wasn't this kind of ideal I had thought of as a small series of "small tight projects" (not that I'm certain if it's a realistic ideal)
C. I'm enjoying my slackerly life

I dealt with A. by talking with Scott, the guy who "found" the place, and says we would have taken the offer but didn't like the commute. He pointed out that while I was taking it easy post-layoff, he was pretty much flat out in his search, and actually this was one of the best things he found, and also based on his knowledge of me, it seemed like a good match. Plus yesterday for grins I checked craigslist, and while a scan of a few days of craigslist postings doth not a jobsearch make, I didn't get the feeling that there was a trove of untapped supercool, horse of a different color opportunities there.

I dealt with B. in talking with Tim, the guy who was kind of my mentor at Refresh; he encouraged me to think through what I wanted to do, and I think this job could be a great base for a more-UI centric approach to my career that I'd like to get to

With C. I negotiated a bit, and won't have to start for 4 weeks, so while it doesn't live up to every dream I might have of a period of leisure (esp if I do some work for my last company) It ain't bad, and if I apply myself I should have time for a fair number of the projects, self-improvement and otherwise, I'd like to get done, and maybe even some travel.

The job is downtown, Back Bay... there was a time, post-9/11, when that would have made me nervous, but I think I'm fine with it, it's just my usual need to worry kicking in. Based on the non-rushhour interviews, it's maybe an hour each way, but an hour of public transportation beats half an hour of driving. I can take a bus to the T stop, or walk, though it's a hike; I might look to buy a beater bike.

So...yay for me!

Script of the Moment
It was at this time that the writer of this play, realizing that he couldn't finish Act I without a lot of lasers, blood and guts, and other things that make people go out and pay to see "Star Wars," wisely decided to have me come out and say that there was actually no laser battle, and that the officers accepted a small bribe, made up with Zim and Erik, and had a good, hot meal, and everyone thought that they were getting a pretty good deal. However, the Star Cops left before our stars could ask them how to fly the ship. We now return, about two hours later.
Just to wrap up "Star Hop", I wanted to throw in the cast list: (I figure there's a small chance one of these Monticello / Cleveland Heights people will Google their own names and find this:)
by Logan Israel

Erik Cabett Joey Fasimpaur
Zim Horace Adam Goodell
Ork 7AB Bob Ziegler
Greenok Ug Amy Wynne
Star Cop Officer Melissa Porter
Star Cop Assistant     Logan Israel
Narrator Tiffany Miller
Ghost 1 Alison Martin
Ghost 2 Ebony Wimbs
Ghost 3 Ken Taylor
stage crew John Romanoff, lighting

directed by Logan Israel

Staff Drama Coaches: Georgie Adamsom and Sharon Collins

Make-up crew: Julie Tricarici, Merideth Koch,
Lori Patterson, Kasha Williams, Megan Hanger,
Maxine Peatross

Finally as threatened, the ultimate photo of me:

It has it all... stage make-up, general blurpiness, outstandingly hair styling with mousse that has given up the fight, holding flowers, flashing the Vulcan salute, and a shiny jacket with pins, a too-cool-to-smile, not-cool-enough-to-scowl expression. As published in my school's paper "The Monty Times", though I also have the color original.

So the version of the play I've been showing this week was at my school, on a twin bill with "Best Friends and Other Strangers" by Dionne Custer and Meredith Howard. I played the father role in that, and had a somewhat bigger part than in my own play.

Final note, I noticed the Bianchi festival put me at the top of the bill that year, with most of the other plays being in order by grade. Guess they wanted to start with a laugh, which would make it a bit of a compliment.

(1 comment)
Decluttering continues. You can tell I'm serious when I buy some kind of shelf like product, this time a sturdy ugly plastic set of shelves to replace the cool but ultimately unreliable modular cubes I had been relying on.

Quip of the yesterday, in an apology for the state of the rest of the apartment I described it as looking as if "the closet threw-up all over the front room. But now the closet feels much better."

Video of the Moment

--Final part, and bows.

I kind of dig both the brown squared off chair on the left and the big dark plastic M+M-like chairs on the right. Very space-age.

Silly injoke: "I always wanted to see the Nicholas Murray Butler museum on earth!" The previous year the drama club had done "Cheaper By The Dozen", and there was an odd line that we loved to mock, something about "Why, she even scored higher than Nicholas Murray BUTLER!"

During the bows I'm introduced as "Logan Israel"... for the 2 years at this school I used my middle name, kind of a teenage protest against moving all the time.

I'm undertaking a giant decluttering effort. Thus far its been very successful, and my closets look fantastic. Of course, most of their contents are distributed liberally around the front room and bed room, but still, one battle at a time.

Video of the Moment

--I still think "Greenok Ug" is a grand name for an alien.

Five years ago today I wrote the following about my Grandma Israel. It was a strange time; Mo and I were just married the day before and were about to head down to Mexico. We all knew my grandmother was on her deathbed, but my mom had made the "executive decision" that if she passed away during the honeymoon I wouldn't find out 'til after we got back. She asked, though, that I write something to be read at her funeral for that likelihood. (I think that blend of real concern and sentimentality blended with practicality might be a trait of my family.) I also threw together a collection of digital photos and a copy of the video ErinMaru had shot and edited to be FedEx'd to her, but overnight hadn't been fast enough I found out on our return.

It's 2am, the wee small hours of the day after the day of my wedding, a thousand things to be done before I can go to my honeymoon in Mexico. The wedding was roundabout the happiest day of my life, despite or because of its flurry of lost rings and thunderstorms, but it was tempered by Grandma not being there bodywise, although we knew her thoughts and prayers were with us.

And now...

Grandma was the cornerstone of our family, a center we could always return to. And would always return to, and not just for the meatloaf! (I think anyone who's had Grandma's meatloaf, preferably for lunch the day after it had been made for dinner, with white bread and ketchup will understand how the confusion can be made.)

I tried to be faithful in writing letters to Grandma. Like my dad before me, I realized typing gave me my best, or only, chance of legibility. And I was often able, through some tricks of the computer, to include a photo of myself, or maybe some part of the world around me. I think it helped make sure my letters were interesting to look at even when the writing may have been same-old, same-old. I was surprised when I found out that Grandma especially liked that I addressed those letters "Grandma Israel". I mean, what else could her name be? Of course I addressed them to "Grandma".

What else will I remember about Grandma? Her and grandpa sitting me down and making me learn to TIE THOSE SHOELACES after getting away with pennyloafers for far too long. The red and white peppermint before church. I remember her big tupperware jug of iced-tea, and how happy I was at college when I found out that Lipton's bottled iced-tea, sweetened, no lemon, could do a passable imitation of Grandma's...not quite the same but good enough for a guy living off of college food for 4 years. I remember the amazing selection of cereals Grandma would have, a cornucopia of sweet breakfast goodness in the shelf underneath the oven.

You know, a lot of these memories do seem to be revolving around food and drink. Grandma always fed "her boys" right, whether you were talking food, or socially, or spiritually. I remember her settling fights between my cousins and me, and if I concentrate I can just faintly recollect the rush to the emergency room when Brian and I tipped way back in Grandpa's chair and I got a plant-stand to the head for my troubles. I still have a little scar from that time. I think the scar made from Grandma's passing may be a little deeper than that.

Worked on decluttering last night. What a slog!

Random Kirk Anecdote: when I was in first or second grade or so my elementary school (St. Pats, in Salamanca, NY) decided to have a fundraiser by getting us kids to sell plastic tumblers. They gathered us all in the gym for some salesguy's demonstration. Part of the act was hurling a tumbler fullforce against a wall. Now I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and believe his story that that particular tumbler had been his demo model for a bit too long, and believe that those tumblers were indeed reasonably durable, but the end of that sucker sheared right off.

For some reason I had some fool idea in my head about constructing steam-engine-y machines (I don't remember the details, I was pretty young) and though that the tumbler would make a good chimney. Or something. Anyway, I asked the guy for it, and he of course refused, looking kind of angry. And I can't blame the guy, he probably assumed I wanted to show off how durable the tumbler wasn't, and was probably a annoyed that his demonstration hadn't gone off as planned anyway.

Anyway, the moral I'm currently trying to take from that story is this: I need to tell myself to stop saving crap just because I have some fool idea in my head about making it useful at some uncertain point in the future. If the stuff needs to be unearthed, if it's been that far from the frontburner for so long, it's extremely unlikely to have a big utility in my life at any point. In fact, if the only reason I'm aware of it is the current decluttering effort, then its pretty easy to posit that in effect, the thing hasn't even really been existing for me, except in some ability to add to the clutter in my life.

The other lesson, without an anecdote at the moment, is I really don't need to be nostalgic about so much of the detritus of my life. Over the past few years I've gotten pretty good at recording life as it and I groove along. I have an electronic datebook with entries back to Spring of 1997, a "mundane journal" going back to June of 2000, a list of all the media I've worked through since 2000, and a website that I've updated daily since 2001. It's a well-documented life, I'm going to have plenty to look back on.

My guiding hope and principle is, the more inconsequential stuff I can ditch, the more mental and physical and emotional space there will be for the stuff I really find worthy.

It's sometimes tough to explain my burning desire to declutter to Ksenia, whose old life in Russia wasn't so immersed in goods of various types. (Though I remember her expressing mild amazement that all the stuff in my apartment was for one person.) Ditto for me not wanting to keep a full fridge... for me a full fridge is just a lot of temptation to distract myself with food, for her an empty fridge is a source of concern.

Link of the Moment
I was having a hard time conceptualizing inductive vs deductive reasoning, the diagrams and explanation on this page on Deduction & Induction came in handy.

So during that fateful visit to FoSO's and FoSOSO's, I had, maybe for the first time...kumquats! It's funny but I think I went 30 years without 'em, but now I think they're great, I love how you can just pop one, rind and all, into your mouth, and then they're kind of like nature's version of "Atomic Warheads" sour candies that were popular back in the late 90s.

There's a bit of family folklore about this fruit, where a euphemism for having to go to the bathroom was "I gotta go juice my kumquat". So finding out how diminutive they are added a new layer of meaning to the phrase, I think it also serves as a self-deprecating remark about limited bladder capacity and having to make multiple trips...

Haikus of the Moment
In Yesterday's comments FoSO pointed out that haikus are not just defined by their syllable count but also by containing a reference to the season. (I explained the seasonal reference she had missed thusly..."Duck Season!" "Rabbit Season!" "Antihippopotamus Season!")

But it reminded me of this exchange on the Usenet group alt.fan.cecil-adams...to understand it, you have to know the usual followup of "motto!" after someone writes a line that is a possible candidate for a motto for this cantankerous newsgroup.... ("Hardie Johnson" wrote the final capper.)

>>>>>Haiku has pattern:
>>>>>Middle line has seven beats,
>>>>>One line has season.
>>>> Beats: five-seven-five.
>>>> But to demand a season's
>>>> Unreasonable.
>>>Complain not to me;
>>>you should tell the Japanese,
>>>as they made it up.
>> This is an English
>> Newsgroup, not ancient Japan.
>> Hactar asks too much.
> This ain't alt.haiku.
> It's alt.fan.cecil-adams.
> We do what we want.

Motto, motto, mott-
o, motto, motto, motto,
motto, motto, spring.
Sigh...sometimes I think I should get back on Usenet more often.
So this is Texas...I think it may well be the first time I've been west of the Mississippi, except maybe in an airport en route to Mexico.

At the airport I saw a few cowboy hats. It got me wondering, and I mean this sincerly; how does a guy wearing a hat decide to wear a dark hat or a light hat? Do they pick one shade and stick with it? Does a dark hat reflect an inner dangerous streak?

Kid Games of the Moment

O I C U 8 1 2

A B C D goldfish
L M N O goldfish!
O S A R...S M P N?

F U M?
    S, E F M.
F U X?
    S, E F X
I learned these when I was a kid...I admit that now the goldfish thing doesn't make a lot of sense.

UPDATE: In today's comments Catherine described what this other site calls the Cockney Alphabet...

Rant of the Moment
Evolution is supported by the entire scientific community; Intelligent Design is supported by guys in line to see The Dukes of Hazzard. No. Stupidity isn't a form of knowing things ... 'Babies come from storks' is not a competing school of thought in medical school. We shouldn't teach both and if Thomas Jefferson knew we were blurring the line this much between church and state, he would turn over in his slave.
Bill Maher

Gadget of the Moment
The Japanese Segway has no handlebars, just a little handheld controller. (Glad it's not a remote control, I'd hate to see that thing hacked.) Just lean and go... as the article points out, it makes it a lot more stowable at the office.

Photo of the Moment

--My Dad as Superman, or at least in a Superman T-shirt. I believe this is at the Salvation Army's "School for Officer Training" (SFOT, their seminary) and this is a bit of a prank, the T-shirt there to get people to think he's gone off the deep end and might just jump.

So Ksenia and I went to the circus yesterday! A coworker had an emergency trip so wanted to sell 2 great seats to Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey's at the Fleetcenter. (Actually it's not the Fleet Center, but the TD Banknorth Garden, and I heartily applaud the billboard that says "Go ahead, call it The Garden again"...a breath of fresh air in a world of call them "LEGO bricks" and not "LEGOs" and the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim) Although the full, post-merger name of the circus is a bit much, I'm always glad to see the "Barnum" in there, given his connection to my alma mater Tufts University.

I was wondering what the show would be like in a post Cirque-de-Soleil world, and also how it would stack up to my childhood memories. It started slow...the clowns' crowd warmup seemed a little pathetic, frankly, but once it kicked into gear...wow. It is a tremendous show. (I was surprised the place wasn't more packed...if you're interested you could easily get tickets still. Not much publicity around here...actually I remember seeing last year's billboards (different "Tour", judging by the website) but nothing this year.) A grand event, some decent "theming" going on, a bit of sensory overload, sometimes a bit more focused...nice.

There seemed to a few glitches: a slightly flubbed highwire jump (nothing with a dramtic fall, though) and two times needed for the "sway-poll" switch, some feisty lions (I think they aborted one pose thing halfway through), and I think a motorcycles-in-the-stell-ball-cage finale that they kind of called off unceremoniously. Still, it was a great time, more of a spectacle than the artsier and more-intimate circuses can pull off. Ksenia thought it held its own against the Russian circuses, grander in some ways, lacking in a few others.

Far and away the most amazing thing was a bit from "Upside-Down World" where they have this little 2 person tableau, a nice domestic scene, completely upside-down (or is it umop-episdn ?). The two performers are attached to the platform apparently only by their feet, and whether it's a special form of velcro, or magnets or what (they did seem to have to take baby steps but otherwise had good mobility) I just don't know...and then they do some clever bits playing with their predicament, juggling, tryingto pour a drink...

Of course, being a geek, I was as amazed by the sheer logistics of the set build-ups and tear-downs as by the performers. I was never really "crew" for anything at my highschool, but I the precision and effeciency of the folks dressed in black, along with the cleverness of the staging, was really something.

(Oh, by the way, don't be intimidated by the weirdly formal "NO BAGS/CAMERAS/AUDIO" (No Audio? What, it's a silent circus?) on the tickets. Lots of people take pictures and they don't seem to make a fuss about bags, at least small handheld ones. Even the Ringling site mentions non-pro photos are ok, depending on the policy of the site they're at.)

Passage of the Moment
The circus is the only ageless delight that you can buy for money. Everything else is supposed to be bad for you. But the circus is good for you. It is the only spectacle I know that, while you watch it, gives the quality of a truly happy dream. The big cats do things no cat would ever do. You can see them jumping effortlessly over Mr. Konyot's head instead of making that unbelievable low rush they close with in the dusk when the female lion shows her cubs the way to kill.
...the Ringling Website has some great hidden gems like that.
Yesterday I did some work with my (AKA Major Betty Israel, aka "YELM"), my Aunt Susan, and my Uncle Bill at Otis Air National Guard Base. I kind of acted as an apprentice to my uncle in constructing some chest-high freestanding walls for a safe childrens play corner (the idea is that it will be a monitored "dropoff point" for children as adults go to the services booths set up for the various agencies, both governmental (Social Services, IRS, etc) and volunteer (Salvation Army).) With all those organizations and the military, there are some tremendous communication and chain-of-command challenges, but things seem to be sorting themselves out.

Forgive the following cliches, but...the chance to be near NOLA displacees in person did "bring things home" for me, and acted as a reminder of how many lives have been completely disrupted, and to such a degree. I saw the TV and web reports, but...well, that's just the TV and web I guess, even for an online child like me.

There was a nice moment near the end of our time there, my Uncle and I kneeling in the parking lot over the drilling of the last wall panels-- it was the start of a beautiful sunset over some literal "amber waves of grain" (or something similar...I'm not much of a farmer...), and in the distance I could hear a church service for and by the folks from New Orleans...some really joyful gospel music and some enthusiastic preaching. Couldn't make out the words, but I think there's something amazing in being able to count blessings and live hope and faith even through a time of disaster and displacement.

Also by apprenticing for my Uncle I learned a few things about construction and using tools...and not just "I still don't have much of an instict for this", even though that's true.

Oh, and a collective sigh of relief for another uneventful September 11th. I'm sure it's a time when Jihadists are itching to remind us of their capabilities to cause destruction and harm.

Targeted Link of the Moment
Just for Lex: The Ten Stupidest Utopias. Hope this takes your mind off your sexed-up cat, yo.

Kirktrivia of the Moment
  1. i had to go pee before writing this
  2. i'm dating a nice gal from Russia right now
  3. I checked the starting time with the little LCD display on my desk phone, even though I guess the clock on my laptop would've worked just as well
  4. I spoke with a calypso accent at first, learning to speak on the island of St. Thomas in the virgin islands.
  5. therefore my first words to my (probably racist, and not happy about his grandkid talking like an islander) were "Heyyyyyy Poppa Samm" -- you have to imagine the accent for that I'm afraid
  6. I don't like it when my wrists get warm from my laptop
  7. i think prose is better than poetry
  8. i'm not very romantic despite running the romance poetry community website "blender of love"
  9. I have the domain "mortals.be" so that http://lord.what.fools.these.mortals.be should be a valid domain
  10. i like to drink a lot of water but haven't landed on a vessel I'm truly happy with. Right now I'm using a big plastic tumbler, which carrries a risk of tumbling. before this i tried gallon jugs and reusing clear plastic soda bottles, but the jugs are tough to clean out and the bottles are kind of skanky and don't hold much water
  11. i think i'm about as heavy as i've ever been
  12. i can seal my nostrils just by inhaling hard, and also flare them at will. the former always gets more laughs, even though as a kid I thought the latter was more impressive and unique
  13. I don't think I have the writing cajones to be a famous writer.
  14. I'm a touch neurotic. I'm prone to very intermitent anxiety attacks.
  15. The attacks seemed to get there start around Y2k anxieties in 1998 or so, but they find various subjects to latch on to from time to time.
  16. I'm paralyzingly afraid of proof coming out that I'm not the smartest guy in the room. I'd rather not try and fail then try and fail and prove my lack of inborn greatness.
  17. Diet Coke with Lime is my favorite soft drink, the one I'll probably grab when presented with a full array at a store
  18. I've been to Canada, Mexico, Portugal, England, and Germany. Curiously I've never been west of the Mississippi in the USA, except maybe for a half-forgotten airport stop on route to Mexico.
  19. I sometimes feel like I'm in a low level digital photography contest with my ex-wife. I've been doing it a lot longer but she recently went the fancier camera route. I don't think she knows about this.
  20. I changed fact #2 to make it less incriminating. (the subject changed completely, it wasn't about my romantic life at all previously)
--Response to a "Write 20 Random Facts (true or not)" in morecake's livejournal. Supposedly then you're allowed or supposed to ask many people to do likewise as minutes it took....12 in my case. Mmmmm....EB, FoSO, LAN3, Lex, 'ELM, 'ELAS, Mr. Ibis, Beau, Sarah, Nick B, ErinMaru, Aparajita...feel free to try it, it's kind of amusing. (Dylan too but I don't even know if he's around and about.)

16 is one of my biggest character flaws, previously references (top quote there.) 19 is of course patently silly, and also previously noted

So the other day my Tufts alumni connection brought be some disturbing news. No, not that they had possibly been hacked and all my personal information they have on me was at risk -- worse. A guy named Kirk Jalbert was having his MFA thesis exhibition at Tufts' Aidekman Gallery, and it had an Atari theme. The implication was, for me, enormous: not only might I not be the biggest source of Atari 2600 mojo to come from Tufts University, I might not even be the biggest source of Atari 2600 mojo to come from Tufts University named Kirk. Troubling indeed, and further investigation was in order.

Kirk Jalbert's piece is named Illusion/Elusion and the description is as follows:
Why do outdated technologies proliferate in mainstream culture? As a member of the first generation of virtual-capable human beings, my body has grown proprioceptively comfortable with its on-screen counterpart. Interactive experiences of the past, once difficult, are now navigated with ease. Physical and mental reference points have been created. We have evolved, yet still return to earlier virtual experiences sometimes bent by the interference of distorted memory. Illusion/Elusion is an exploration of these nostalgic fascinations through elementary interactions with an Atari2600-based system.
Phew, quite a mouthful. Answers.com reports that proprioception is "The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself." Hmm, ok. "Interactive experiences of the past, once difficult, are now navigated with ease" -- interesting. At first I thought he meant that modern games are easier, but actually he means the old games are simpler than their modern-day counterparts.

Anyway, onto the work itself. (I didn't ask if it was ok to take photos or not, so I took these on the sly. Hopefully I won't get a nastygram about all this review...)

The set up at Aidekman has 3 TVs on stands on one side and then a mass of assorted, repetitious hardware (including some brightly painted Atari 2600s) attached to the nearby walls with lots of strung wire connecting it all.

Each TV has a good ol' Atari CX40 joystick, headphones, and 2 buttons (one "illusion" the other "elusion"). The TVs switch between Pitfall!, Frogger, Pac-Man, and this old black and white video from the 50s or something. The "illusion" button seems to act as a reset for the game, and the "elusion" seems to switch to the video, and also sometimes the TVs seem to switch of their own accord. The reception was really terrible on some of the TVs, it wasn't clear if this was on purpose or not.

The hardware was interesting to look at. It produced pleasing, cricket-like clicks which seemed to correspond with the switching of the TV displays.

The Ataris were brightly colored, and each had a rebadged cart in its slot. Not the sharpest looking homebrew stickers I've seen, but hey.

So, that was pretty much it. I suppose people's reaction to the work will have hinge on how they feel about modern and interactive art in general. (I generally like interactive art just so long as the viewer can actually tell that the work is responding to them and not just noodling along on its own.) Personally, I think "Art is what you can get away with", and this was reasonably interesting and visually pleasing, so I thought it was pretty good over all. On the other hand, it wasn't engrossing for that long...and of course some of the appeal was just playing a bit of Pitfall and Pac-Man, which I hadn't for a while. (And I probably have much more recently than most of the intended audience.) I suppose that ties into the theme of "technological tourism", the simple nostalgic pleasure of these old games. I think the whole 2D iconic representation of the games is a rich territory that Kirk Jalbert downplays in favor of the "it's just nostalgia" vibe. Also, the title "illusion/elusion" is pretentious as all hell...

So I give it a thumbs up. It gives me hope that someday if I ever get around to my "Myth of Sisyphus" 2600 game and make or followup a few contacts, maybe I can get some gallery time somewhere...

Photos of the Moment
I took a lot of really bad photos this party...I couldn't really see people on the little screen well enough to frame shots. Also, the lighting made it easier to see the dust on the lens.

One highlight of the evening was a Spongbob Piñata! I filled him with candy and toys: hershey's kisses and reese's mini peanutbutter cups, some lousy mints, shamrock eraser heads, happyface squeeze balls, cheap koosh-like critters...(Jim and Andy amused themselves for the rest of the evening with "Hey Kirk, what's that on your face?" The answer being one of those little balls that they would then hurl at me. I guess that's what I get for agreeing with a "you must take a shot before taking a swing" rule for Spongebob.)

This is Peterman Pummeling the Piñata! Poor Spongebob. There was some debate if this counted as "gay bashing", but we decided it was an artistic statement against the commercialization of childhood. In any case, there was candy and toys to be had...you can see a few being flung from a hole in Sponge Bob's back. So my photo had great timing at least.

Ksenia, myself, and Jane, and my books. Only Jim's poor framing saves this from being an utterly utterly generic party photo, but I'm not going to pass up the chance to get a snapshot between two cute gals. (Actually the books were, surprisingly in retrospect, the only victim of errant piñata swings...)

Ksenia did so much work doing the food for the party...we had a Russian caterer for the pork kabobs, but the rest (this kind of blintz-like pastry, cute little hamwiches, a julienne chicken casserole, salad, veggies and dip) was handmade by her, and she organized all the kitchen stuff. She also surprised me with a cake...and even got them to put little alien bills on it! Here it is with Erin, who was the other Guest of Honor. (We watched some of her tapes from film school, that was pretty cool.)

Overall the party seemed like a big success. Some videogames in the afternoon, then a lot of great food, this Karaoke game (it rates you based on how on-key you are) and DDR, a lot of shmoozing in the middle room, Erin's films, the piñata, some dancing (though it was kind of ruined by "too many DJs spoil the mix" and a lot of cut off songs...there was a techno contigent, but a lot of people found that too hard to dance to, so it was kind of a mishmash.

Lyrics and Ramble of the Moment
But I won't cry for yesterday
There's an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive
"Ordinary World", Duran Duran.
I got into this song lately because there's a decent "house" cover of it in a "Dance Dance Revolution" game I picked up recently. The lyrics have that nice melancholy vibe I'm so fond of. But when I finally thought about it... I dunno, somehow marriage seemed more like the "ordinary world", and now I'm in this kind of uncertain territory, with fewer constants to rely on.

It hit me yesterday when I was having tea out of one of these blue oversized mugs I have. (After a divorce, that whole "I don't remember how this item entered my life" mystery thing becomes a little more poignant.) They're really good to eat cereal out of, and I used to like doing that, and even drinking tea kind of reminded me of the sense-feel of it. I don't have cereal now though, I purposefully try not to keep a lot of food in the house, because either I like it and will eat a lot of it, or I dislike it and it'll spoil. But with married life, there was cereal and milk around, and it was ok.

Which brings me back to the whole time management thing...like I've already griped about here, it feels like I don't have any free time...specifically, it starts with not having much time to spend unwinding via random websurfing. That then generally leads to not having time to work on one of my backlog of "projects I want to get around to doing real soon now." Sure, I do have some time, but currently I have the theory that I'm not just lazy in these cases, that I do actually need some recharging time letting my brain play over the web or a decent book or a videogame, and only when that's done will I be able to get onto the "projects" horse.

A social/romantic life cuts into that time pretty badly (and I think my yoga class moving to midweek and about half my Tuesday nights having UU activities doesn't help either.) I guess my daily routine involved mostly hanging around my PC in the evenings. But with that out of the way, it was easier to go out or have a video game night in with friends or to do stuff with Mo or to work on my own projects and not feel pressured for time.

And I say "do stuff with Mo" but I'm not sure if there was enough of that. She certainly ended up thinking that there wasn't, though she did a really poor job of explaining that to me at the time. One of the saddest things I remember her saying post facto was that sometimes she had had a weird dream of having a daughter so that she'd have someone to do stuff with. She mentioned that in context of the gardening she had been doing in the little plot at the side of the house, an idyllic mother-daughter scene/fantasia ...I had helped her a little, but I wasn't enthusiastic about it, and I might've griped a little. Not much, I did try to get into it, but it really wasn't my thing, and I didn't pretend that it was.

So....does that mean I was a lousy husband? Mo felt profoundly lonely. I didn't. I didn't really get that she did. And for those reasons, maybe she was right to split. I didn't even think about it at the time, but the relationship was molded to what I still think might be my "ideal", this idea of being a rewarding and valuable and giving foundation for all the other interesting stuff in life. A means as much as an end.

Heh. You know, Mo suggested (getting the idea from her mom, I think) this Khalil Gibran reading for our wedding:
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow

I voted against it at the time, it seemed a little too negative or nuanced for a wedding, but in retrospect, it really speaks to what I think marriage should be, and I guess I assumed Mo felt the same way.

Ah well. Live and learn. It's like what Richard Feynman wrote:
I'll never make that mistake again, reading the experts' opinions. Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that's the end of you.

Man, that was some amazing snow. I was up with Ksenia for the whole weekend, her family who's she living with went on a ski trip, and she needed to hang around for her grandfather who's been having a bit of a respiratory thing lately.

The drifts were chest-high in places...and I have a pretty tall chest. It was one the first times I ended up thinking that the pre-storm "stock up on canned goods" staple was justified. I was still amused when we were in Stop and Shop doing more normal shopping and we found this monster, 28lb hunk of cheese sitting in the juice aisle:

I had to remove a lot of snow. My car was entombed in snow coming up to the bottom of its windows, here is the before-and-after of my semi-heroic shovelling efforts:
The photos don't always show what was going on too well, all that white-on-white action, but I had basically a whole car length of snow to remove that was blocking my car in, and then had to dig around it so I could actually, you know, get in and drive.

Finally, I came home today and had more shoveling to do, namely a big square a bit longer and a chunk wider than car itself, this time only from hip to stomach deep:

That's a lot of snow!

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When he isn't dreaming up ideas for a new play or working out video game strategies, Kirk Logan Israel, 15, is "fooling around with his tuba." Israel, whose play, "Kinda Feeble Fables" was a winner in this year's Dobama Theatre, plays tuba in bands at Euclid High and in the Salvation Army Band.
"It's basically a comedy -- no message, no symbolism."

That's how Kirk Logan Israel, 15, described his play, "Kinda Feeble Fables," a winner in the 11th annual Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival at Dobama Theatre in Cleveland Heights.

"It tries to find humor in three cave explorers who are lost in a 'Dungeons & Dragons'-type adventure and meet a series of monsters."

Although the play has no heavy message, he quipped, it has three morals -- "Never give a map to a guy who is likely to sell it for magic beans, always go to the bathroom before a long journey, and watch out for monsters armed with photon-slingers."

THE CLEVER YOUNG dramatist, who will be a sophomore at Euclid High School this fall, had the privilege of seeing "Fables" performed by a cast of professional actors during the festival, June 7-9.

The play has a narrator who wryly comments on the action, and characters named Marcus, Valkyrie, Bruno, Union Monster, and, funniest of all, Wimpy Monster.

"Fables," one of 20 plays chosen from 593 entries, is Israel's second play to win in the festival. Last year, Dobama produced his first effort, "Star Pox."

"It was about two guys who used a spaceship and don't know how to fly, and they meet three ghosts.

"After I won last year I thought would be neat to enter again," he said.

Israel, who gets his story ideas late at night while drifting off to sleep, admires science-fiction humor writers like Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

BEFORE MOVING to Euclid last year with is parents -- his father died recently -- Israel got his start in playwriting when his English teacher at Monticello Junior High in Cleveland Heights required the class to enter a a school playwriting competition.

Israel wrote "Star Pox," which was performed at the school and later entered in the Dobama contest.

Seeing his works performed on stage, he said, is "great, an amazing feeling. Sometimes you get down on yourself, if the audience doesn't get the jokes."

Despite his literary ability, his favorite subject in school is not English, but biology -- "although I think dissecting frogs is the grossest thing in the world. I like math - ... I'm terrible with grammar."

Israel revealed a fondness for video games, especially Nintendo's "Blaster Master." He also is a talented musician, playing tuba in school bands and in the Salvation Army band. His mother, Betty Israel, is a Salvation Army officer.

HIS MOTHER is understandably proud of Kirk's achievement. "I credit the teachers at Monticello," she said, "And in Glens Falls (N.Y.), his sixth-grade teacher had them make a story book.

"We're readers. and there's always been theater in the family."

Betty speculated that her son's writing talent grew out of a need to create his own reality as her Salvation Army duties took the family from city to city.

"He has to create his world wherever he goes -- to fall back on himself. By the time he was 4, he was in his fifth city," she said.

"He was born in Philadelphia, and we lived in New York, the Virgin Islands and Cleveland Heights. I'm hoping we'll stay here until he finishes school."

Kirk already has some ideas for his next play.

"It's called 'Normality's Revenge,'" he said. "I haven't quite decided what it's about, but I have an idea for it. It opens in a darkened theater, and suddenly a guy jumps out and starts lying on the floor. It turns out he's the narrator."

Asked about his penchant for using narrators in his plays, Israel laughed, "I'm too lazy to tell the audience what's going on."

As for his future plans he said he's undecided, "I'm pretty much keeping it open. I want something that allows me to be creative and a little unusual."

"I like my life different from everyone else. I just don't like to try to fit in. I like to be different and off the wall."

Pamela Zoslov (I think in the "Euclid Sun Journal")
A few notes: It's interesting in that I have no memory of biology being my favorite class, I'm not sure if that's true or not. And also, English did start to win out during high school, largely thanks to my Junior year teacher Judith McLaughlin, with whom I'm still in touch. (And if I wasn't thinking about grammar, I wouldn't have taken such care with that last sentence.) My mom's quote "there's always been theater in the family" kind of sounds like a euphemism for "my son is gay", though she's mostly talking about her own experience doing community theater, and "He has to create his world wherever he goes" makes me sound a bit like a psycho in the making. And "fooling around with his tuba"? Ah well. Hometown journalism at its finest!

I never did write "Normality's Revenge".

Quote and Bad News of the Moment
I'll tell you, before we get out of Iraq, it's going to make Viet Nam look like a good idea. [...] I can't think of a single case where a popular local guerrilla movement failed to defeat a conventional foreign occupying force. From the American Revolution through Viet Nam, the guerrillas always win. Usually, it takes them a long time and they suffer most of the casualties, but they win.
I grabbed the article a few days ago, but was reminded of it when I saw a CNN piece: Bodies of 49 Iraqi soldiers found. Combining that with reports about how international reporters are housebound in the green zone...the bad guys are running that country. The bad guys are running that country. Hell, sometimes I think we're making the USSR in Afghanistan look like champions...and they had us giving the guerillas stinger missiles. This rule of thumb about guerillas explains why Osama thinks he's such hot stuff...when it comes to this kind of struggle, he's right. The USA might not be a "paper tiger" military wise, but we are not going to achieve anything like our stated goals in Iraq, save for getting rid of Saddam.

Anyone disagree? LAN3, do you have a different interpretation?
12 years ago this month, it was a surprisingly temperate August in Portugal. I was visiting with Marcos and his family in Vilar Formoso for three weeks before going to college. (Marcos had been living with me and my mom as a foreign exchange student the school year before, he's an incredibly congenial guy with GQ looks. He had about 15 different gals asking him to the Homecoming Dance that fall.)

I drank alcohol for the first time in Portugal. In fact, I learned something, and I'll impart that bit of drinking wisdom to you now:
If you're ever in a little cafe in Portugal, and you see the guy behind the counter making up some weird, green kool-aid looking concoction in a large barrel-shaped glass, don't ask what it is.

If you do ask what it is, don't accept when your friend offers to buy you one.

If you do accept when your friend offers to buy you one, don't listen to the man behind the counter when he says "hey, you drink like this [mimes chugging], I buy you another!"

If you do listen to the man behind the counter when he says "hey, you drink like this", and you do drink like that, and you start sipping at your second, and the man behind the counter says "no, no, this one too you must drink like this", ignore him.

And if you don't ignore him...well, at this point, you're pretty much on your own.

Marcos and his brother Manny had a good friend named Baptista. The four of us had hung around that cafe, and one great early early morning drove to the bakery where Baptista used to work and got hot crusty rolls and drove back home and made up this amazing tuna stuff to put on them and played cards in the kitchen 'til dawn.

Baptista was a nice guy, a few years older than me, and a bit political-minded. He only had a little bit of English, I had no Portuguese . Together we tried to figure out the Portuguese version of Microsoft Word, which I had never tried to use before, even in English. Also, I was doodling constantly in a notebook those weeks; another time he and collaborated on some odd political cartoons about censorship; that's why I know the Portuguese word for ink: "tinta".

But neither of those were the time I want to talk about.

See, I wasn't supposed to be in Portugal for 3 weeks; I was supposed to be there for around a week and a half, spending the rest of the time visiting Veronika in Germany. Veronika and I had gone out the year before Marcos' stay, when she was a foreign exchange student. We hadn't made each other any promises about keeping it up long distance, but we were writing, and that Spring she had sent me a bit of a "Dear John" letter, she had met somebody new. A few weeks later, she wrote again and confirmed it would probably be awkward if I were to visit.


One thing I learned is that when you're young and Portuguese, living on the border with Spain, lots of times you cross the border where there are some better clubs. You drink a lot and pee on the buildings, it's kind of a tradition. So a bunch of us had done just that, and then plans got a little drunken and confused, but there was something about meeting back in Vilar Formoso at the train station. Baptista and I stumbled back and waited for Marcos and a few other guys.

I decided to tell him about Veronika, and how I still had such strong feelings for her, and how amazing she was, and how sad I was that I wasn't going to be able to see her that summer. And he opened up to me about his French teacher, this woman he had a huge crush on, but it was doomed from the start. There was something about that moment: the moonlight, the booze, the empty train station, having to stumble through phrases to find the words we had in common to tell our parallel stories of heartbreak...

Later Marcos and his friend showed up, and the friend took this picture:

If it's not completely obvious, we're all pretty drunk. Also, Portuguese train stations have some of the loveliest murals.

The next Spring, I found out Baptista had died...I guess he had some epilepsy, and maybe there was some tie-in with former drug use, or something, I don't know. So I was shocked and sad. And a little later the Beatles' "Let It Be" came on the CD player, and I wept, like I hadn't since my father had died, like I wouldn't again 'til Mo told me she wanted a divorce.

Just one of those things, I guess.

(On a whim I Google'd up Marcos yesterday, he's been really bad about staying in touch. Looks like he's involved in some European political/humanitarian stuff, head of the youth forum for The North - South Centre of the Council of Europe. I don't know how big a deal that is, though I found some photos from 1998 with him sitting next to Kofi Annan. It's making my life feel a little trivial, actually.)

And that's what I wanted to say about that. There are more stories behind the photos from that trip to Portugal, seeing the old Roman aqueducts, going to Baptista's town to see a small hometown bullfight (the bulls aren't killed, and anyone can run across the ring...) and maybe some other time I'll get into all that. But right now I'm thinking about that night, and the booze, and the train station in the moonlight in Portugal.
Breakthrough of the Moment
Gene therapy to make monkeys stop slacking. When can I get this to put in my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee in the morning??

Ramble of the Moment
It's always grated on me a bit that I don't have an exact starting date for the Blender of Love. I think I used to have a slightly stronger idea of the starting point...for some reason I've written a lot of things that put it at "late 1993", like on the Blender history page. 'Course, late 2003, I was kind of too busy with a breakup to think about that anniversary all that much I guess...

So I've been looking for other dates. I've been using Google's "Groups" features to search my old Usenet posts. I started advertising it in my signature file in July 1995, as far as I can tell. (July 12, I wasn't, July 19, I was.) So July 2005 might be as good a date as any to make an anniversary, though it won't be as cool as one for the absolute start.

Other milestones: Anyway, it's kind of sad to my archivist self that I don't have a clearer idea of the start of it all. Ah well. But come to think of it, I don't have a clear idea of how I'd want to mark any given 10-year anniversary either...

Quote of the Moment
Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
Hermann Goering.
Of course, if they're not utterly evil leaders, THEY firmly believe the war is justified. Our administration was hankering to move on Iraq for a long time, from a fear of WMD to a wish for revenge for the assassination attempt on Bush Sr.
So. At some point today, or maybe already, Mo and I are no longer married. No more of that that weird phrasing "my soon-to-be-ex", no more trying to figure out why the state makes it 120 days of waiting, not much more of anything I suppose...

Musical call and response:
"Is That All There Is?" --Peggy Lee
"That's it / That's it / That's All There Is" --Beastie Boys

Eh, sigh. I dunno. The milestone hasn't hit me like I thought it might, or at least not yet.

I have to admit I went for one last gesture. Mo's pretty insistent on not hearing from me for a while, but a week ago I ordered flowers for delivery today with a card:
Mo--So here we are. Sorry for what's gone on lately. Please try to look on what we were with kindness and generosity. You will always have a piece of my heart. --Kirk
which is pretty much how I feel about that.

Musical Interlude of the Moment
My Aunt sent me a link to this man and his suit of horns which cheers me up a bit. A lovely combination of musical talent, athletic grace, and clownish props.

Kind of interesting that the first thing the crowd claps to is a waltz, and they clap on 2 and 3...

Update of the Moment
The new Blender of Love is here for your reading pleasure.

Quote and Article of the Moment
As if there was something romantic and glamorous about hard work ... if there was something romantic about it, the Duke of Westminster would be digging his own fucking garden, wouldn't he?
I have to make sure that book makes it on my wishlist once Amazon knows about it. Not that I need any help with the topic. I thought the essay made some great points about the Protestant Work Ethic. Is it just a pity the way we have to grind away our hours at the mill, or is there a weird beauty in it?
Baby Picture of the Moment
--Me at the age of 3 months, in Philadelphia. I thought this picture was lost, but it's my favorite...either I'm thoughtful, or doing a ferocious elbow smash.

It was a bit of a shock to discover that the photos in my photo album were all duplicates and rejects from my mom's collection...I had forgotten that utterly.

Cheer of the Moment
Gimme some angst!
Gimme ennui!
What do we got?
At my family reunions we usually end up with a few rounds of Capture the Flag, but this year most of the enthusiasm for the activity was on the other side, so I came up with this irony-tinged cheer.
Link of the Moment
Peterman pointed out Japander, with lots of videoclips of Western celebes doing Japanese commercials. The Schwarzenegger page is one of the most popular...both because of his political office, and also many of the ads are delightfully weird. (Some of the other celeb's do spots that are pretty pedestrian.) The one labled "A Classic" is great, showing off his mighty mighty biceps as he swings around some giant tea kettles. The Simpsons were worth a glance, but interesting to see how they don't bother to keep anyone in character because not many people have watched the show.

Funny of the Moment
<stops using punching bag> Oh. [ahem] Hello. [ahem] So many rice crackers claim to be low-cal, but only Fujikawa Rice Crackers make your interiors go bananas! <to self> What did I do to deserve this? ..... Oh, right.
Woody Allen in the Simpsons episode Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo where they go to Japan...I was hoping there'd be some Woody Allen at Japander, guess I'll have to make do with this...

On The Naming Of Things
I've realized that my previous naming of my car was a bit on the premature side. You really should see if you can get to know something at least a bit before coming up with the right name, and I'm realizing "Dogma"/"Dogmatic", despite the Scion cleverness, just isn't quite right.

So the history of possible names has been: What amazes me is that very few people I've talked to think it's odd to name your car, or to put thought into the right name. (Though with this post, I might be pushing the envelope.) Peterman noticed that there are a number of google hits for "name my car" and "name your car" has a couple hundred as well.

Let me know what you think! Here's the picture if it helps.

Article of the Moment
Slate on an army report about how stretched our supply lines were. Also interesting was the part about the grindingly effective A10...the politics behind that plane are really too bad, because it performs brilliantly--it's essentially huge, robust artillery in the sky...the Army can't use it because it's fixed wing and that's the Air Force's balliwick, but it's too unglamorous for the Air Force to really get behind, too similar to what the army does... (Oh, right, here's the Slate piece on the A-10 where I probably got that opinion from...what a great website.)
So, I'm back from Cleveland. I realized that most of the photos I took wouldn't be of such wide interest to most of the kisrael crowd, so I decided to be a little selective.

Now, I almost hesitate to post this in case someone gets the idea that Cleveland is less urban or urbane than it actually is. In general, I guess it runs a bit on the conservative side, at least relative to us here in Taxachussetstan. Still, I was strucky by this Jeep rear window:

Two Irish flag decals plus an American flag with "No Vacancy" over it. Now, I'm more or less ok with a strong devotion to ethnic heritage even though I'm just a WASP-mutt, but do you think this person has a deep understanding of the history of Irish-American immigration, and the way the rest of the country responded to it at the time?

Anyway, in more amusing topics, we threw Mike a birthday party. Here he is wearing a mask with the eyeholes blacked out and his special birthday crown:

Dialog of the Moment
"I've got a mask on that's duct-taped to my face, I'm wearing a silly hat, I've got a wand in one hand, a beer in the other, and I've got explosives in my pocket."
"That sounds like a perfect evening."

So I think one of the things that is most frustrating with the situation with Mo is how sudden it seems to me. In particular, at our anniversary last summer, I proposed a "State of our Union" dinner as an annual thing where we could talk openly and frankly about where we saw things, what problems we saw, etc...but no hint of the trouble to come in the Autumn was there.

Now Mo claims that the signs were there to see, that in the occasional spat we'd have (apparently a lot more to her recollection than mine, and I'd say a lot less than most couples) I should gotten an indication that things needed to change. But from my perspective, that way lies a paranoia that can ultimately be very destructive for a relationship...one person always looking for problems that may or may not be there ultimately can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not that I'm blameless in this, that I couldn't have been more responsive, but if a woman can't talk about using words when directly asked, what's a guy supposed to? (I'm reminded of the old Deee-lite line: "I can't read your mind / So you got to let me (know all the time) / How it feels for it to be so real")

Of course, this kind of assumes that the problems in the marriage were fixable by conscious effort, which is a mighty big assumption. It could just be that Mo screwed up when she decided I'd make a good husband for her. But the problems we did have...I mean, compared to the awful fighting and neglect I know many marriages go through, our issues were pretty small potatoes. I think that there's a large number of marriages, my own included, that get killed for over vague and nondescript problems.

(Someone leave me some comments, I'm feeling all neglected, 3 days with none!)

Quote and Links of the Moment
Buyers are liars.
Car Salesman saying
from this fascinating Edmunds.com article Confessions of a Car Salesman, where they sent a guy "undercover" at a few dealerships for a while. Has an interesting glossary of the lingo at the end. So while car sales is indeed a sleazy profession, potential buyers lie as well, like that whole "I have to go check with my wife" kind of dodge.

The article talks a few time about how using the Internet can really give an edge to a smart buyer, but then again, it IS on an car internet site. Still, I think the 'Net provides a source of information that would be hard for the general population to get otherwise.

Another cool car-related link: Forbes' The Worst Cars Of All Time. The trouble is it's by default a slideshow...which is kind of dumb, considering the descriptions are part of the draw. And while it looks like you can turn off the auto-next feature, it reactivates when the next page loads....DUH! While I know some people think I've gotten arrogant about this, I really do think that some sites know much more about pretty design than they do about basic usability.

Online Observation of the Moment
Hey, is it just me, or is the Internet kind of sluggish today? I think it might be that e-mail worm that's going around.

It's funny how I can see the distinctive footprint it's making in my crappy homebrew webmail spambox...usually that's full to the brim w/ the usual stupid ads, which all tend to have fairly long subjects. Now it's mostly these short like "Hi" and "test" subject lines, with the traditional SPAM subjects placed farther apart.

They mention that this might be used as part of an "Denial of Service" attack against SCO, who has annoyed many Linux users. It's certainly possible that it's being done by a pro-Linux activist, though you'd kind of hope not. I wouldn't be surprised if the SCO/Linux factor is just a red herring. Not that you'd think that was even a possibility from this CNN.com article, who are willing to take everything at face value. Duhhr. Ignore the fact that they are gathering all kinds of data and might be setting up some kind of second wave, and just play up the SCO angle, dirty Linux users. (Well, I certainly don't, but some of my best friends are Linux users...)

Dang. Verbose updates lately! But thanks to those who answered by pathetic plea for feedback...
Old Newspaper Profile of the Moment

With aptitude tests, he's best

Kirk Israel
Residence: Glen Russ Lane
Age: 17
Biggest problem facing teens: Apathy -- kids don't care about getting good grades and don't take school seriously.
Hobbies: Reading, creative writing, video games, computer programs, playing the tuba.
Things no one knows: I'm a compulsive doodler; I hada a Jamaican accent for five years while living on St. Thomas Island in the Bahamas; I love to go barefoot.

By EREN WEBER Staff Writer
     Q: What's smart, wears glasses and moves around a lot?
     A: Euclid High School student and academic whiz kid Kirk Israel.
     It's no joke, though -- even in high school year book pictures Israel, 17, has been spotted wearing glasses. And, as the sone of two Salvation Army church ministers, he's been forced to move from state to state and country to country often.
     Although his teachers, family and friends could have told you Israel was a high scholastic achiever years ago, the recent results of national standardized acheivement tests now prove to the rest of the world that this high school senior has what it takes to get ahead.
     On the Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test, Israel answered 1,350 of 1,600 questions correctly. About 52,000 high school students take the PSAT in Ohio annually and, this year, Israel was among the top 100.
     He takes the honor modestly and said that, although he's enrolled in advanced placement classes, that doesn't mean he's all that smart.
     All it means to Israel is that he does well on standardized tests.
     "I always thought of myself as being pretty lazy," Israel said. "I guess I get distracted a lot, which means I don't always get my school work done, but I still manage to get good grades."
     College brochures and university applications are big distractions these days for Israel, who has set his sights on attending an ivy league school preferably near Boston.
     Israel is attracted to the old American traditions that abound on the East coast, the museums and the relatives who live close to the city on the Charles River.
     "Over the summer, Harvard sent me an application," he said. "I don't know if it had anything to do with my test scores, but I'm going to send it back anyway.
     "Chances may be slim, but you never know."
     Since then, however, his chances have improved. On the official standardized achievement test taken by more than half a million students in the nation, Israel upped his preliminary score of 1,350 to 1,490.
     With those scores, Israel could be anything he wants to be. For now, though, he's considering a teaching profession, particularly at the high school level.
     "The best teachers I've ever had used their creative talents and sense of humor to help me understand things," he said, "There's more to learning than just getting good grades."
     Euclid residents may get a glimpse of Israel's talents on an upcoming episode of Academic Challenge, in which he may star as a contestant or be an alternate.
     It all depends though, because as Israel put it, "I can't memorize answers -- I just know how to learn them."

Euclid, Ohio's "Sun Scoop Journal, November 14, 1991.
Found it while decluttering, decided I have to share it with all of you. Besides the author's misunderstanding of how standardized tests are graded, I'm kind of amused by that "love to go barefoot" line. It reads like it's from a Playboy playmate profile.

What a good kid I was...I'm surprised I didn't get beaten up more often.
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Plug of the Moment
[...] oddball hybrids like JoustPong [...]
January 2004 Electronic Gaming Monthly, on my JoustPong project.
Funny to get a tiny little mention in such a big magazine (embedded in a paragraph about AtariAge in an article about homebrew games for classic systems.)

BTW, what the heck is up with magazine predating? It makes sense that your "Special Holiday Issue is out in mid to late November, but why the heck should it be dated January 2004? Is it like how now every gas station prices end in 9/10 of a cent, where there was some weird competition going on?

Cartoon of the Moment
Mo's new favorite cartoon is sh*thouse at Pipingrad.com (click in the left column) the endearing adventures of two psycopathic, masochistic meatball-like creatures. A surprising amount of fun playing with the comic form, actually.

Logo of the Moment
This is "Frankie". He was the logo for the project that brought Internet and Cable to the Tufts dorms, "Tufts Connect". (Since Tufts' mascot is Jumbo, Elephants show up a lot around there.) I actually sketched this elephant-jumping-a-globe logo using my laptop's trackball during a planning meeting, and the final professionaly done version here (scanned off a mousepad) was almost exactly what I had doodled, except they removed the angel wing. I was a good hand with a trackball, I was. Alas, when Tufts Connect started having popularity issues, they wanted to start with a clean slate and "Frankie" (I do wonder where that name came from) was unceremoniously dropped. I have a t-shirt with him on it, though.
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Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my dad's death...I think I've said most of the things I needed to in what I wrote on the day when I had been without him for as long as I had been with him, but here are two things I'd like to post, a recent anecdote from my mom and an essay I wrote over ten years ago, that I just rekeyed in.

Anecdote of the Moment
"Had a funny incident too, that I think Dad would have enjoyed. I had my friend Wendy over for dinner last Saturday, and mentioned about Friday being the 15th anniversary of Dad's death. Wendy and I sit usually sit with a group of about eight for lunch in the canteen. On Friday the subject of October birthdays had come up, and Wendy just looked across the table at me, and in a very kind voice said, 'I really did mean to get you a card.' I knew what she was talking about, but the rest of the group immediately started wishing me 'Happy Birthday!'. Wendy look horrified for a moment, and then the two of us just burst out laughing. We did explain it once we got our breath back."
Heheheh - an e-mailed anecdote from my mom is just a lovely bit of macabre humor.

On Strawberries and the Paths Taken
I walk down the dark path at my great uncle's farm with Dad. The path is deeply ridged with tractor treads and covered with armies of rocks. There is a storage building hugging a hill, and on the hill side the roof is so low I can climb to the top and survey the strawberry fields. I don't, though. Dad and I come to a small brook and cross the wooden bridge. A sign here reads "CAUTION - STEEP BANKS, DEEP WATER". Dad warns me not to get too close. We turn right and walk past the storage house, next to the now brown fields. We pause in the chilly November night and look west. An airplane is rising, though all we can see are the three lights on the bottom. To my hyperactive eight-year-old imagination, it's a UFO riding into the inky cold of space.I tell Dad my theory. We look into the sky a little bit longer then slowly walk back to the welcoming farmhouse.
I walked down the sterile path of the hospital corridor with m mom. She had prepared me for what I was going to see. Dad had experienced seizures, and he had been diagnosed as having spinal meningitis. My mom said we were lucky; it hadn't touched his mind. However, he had lost almost all of his hand-eye coordination. He couldn't even feed himself. He was almost blind. He couldn't really see me, or my mom, but he knew our voices. His speech was slurred, almost incomprehensible. We both struggled so that I could understand him. The shock of seeing him this way banged against my mind. I really didn't feel that this was my dad, this unshaven man who needed assistance in completing the most essential tasks of life.

When my dad's seizures had first started, I had visited him in the hospital, and he was still basically well. Then, reassured that everything was going to be right, I took my planned trip to New York to visit friends. But then, after the grand-mal seizures, I did not know how to act. I hugged him stiffly, and he hugged me back, as best he could. We began to cry. I did not know how to act. What he missed most, he explained through half-spoken words and rough hand motions, were the kinds of things his father had done for him that he wanted to do for me, like giving me money out of his wallet when I needed it, with no assistance. Only now do I realize what he meant. He felt so helpless, and I was so unable to do anything to make it better. After this first visit, I went to the waiting room, trying to forget and ignore.
Finally, my dad, though still essentially bed-ridden, was able to come back home. We moved his bed into the dining room, next to the kitchen. It was my habit to pick a path downstairs to the kitchen in the dark before school every morning. One morning, as I hunted for breakfast, my dad, a very light sleeper, asked me to make him a bologna sandwich (by this time his speech had become clearer and we had become more adept at understanding him). It was a simple task. Just toast the bread and get a piece of bologna out of the fridge. Dad, although he was now able to walk with a walker, still was not able to do this himself. So every morning for a few weeks, I would offer him a bologna sandwich, a favorite of his ever since he was a boy. And then, for a reason that I cannot fully remember, I stopped. I would try to be very quiet when making my breakfast and would not offer to make his. If he asked me to make his sandwich, I would, of course, but only if he asked. Maybe I was just so stupidly lazy that I thought I couldn't wait for the time it took to make the toast. Or maybe I didn't like the constant reminder of his vulnerability, and therefore my own. I wonder if he noticed the change.
It has been eight years since we walked down the path at my great uncle's farm and two years since my dad's death. I think back to the year of slow recovery. He learned to walk with a walker, then a cane, and then unassisted. People could now understand his speech and his phone with the giant push-buttons was a prized possession. Near the end, he had relearned to read via large-print books and supermagnifying glasses. But then, tumor treatments plus pneumonia proved to be too much for him. Maybe it was too much for my mom and me, too.

At the farm, the dangerous brooks is still there. On my way down to it, I see the storage building with the low roof. Now I feel that I'm much too mature for climbing buildings. An interesting rock catches my attention. I dust it and put it in my pocket. After the bridge, I turn right instead of left and follow the brook to its other end, a small pond with ducks. Then I retrace the path we took that night eight years ago, and I squint at the setting sun. A lone strawberry lies waiting in the twilight covered path for me. On my way back, I'll throw it into the brook as a sacrifice for me and for Dad.
(An essay that I wrote during eleventh grade in high school, for Mrs. McLaughlin's class. (Later it was part of what got me recognition in the NCTE writing competition.) The writing seems clumsy to me now, but at least it is pretty forthright about what sometimes strikes me as one my bigger moral failings. )
Everyone knew that young Abe Scheinfeldt was destined to find a vocation in religious work. Many thought he would become a cantor at the temple in his native Boston. His parents held a secret hope that he would become a rabbi.

But then, at 17, Abe encountered a street preacher who led him to faith in Jesus Christ.

For the next five years he sailed the world as a freight deckhand, reading the Bible and growing in faith, even though he had no human mentor to guide him.

When his ship finally returned to Boston, Abe chanced upon a Salvation Army open-air meeting. Almost immediately he decide to join the "salvation war." Within a year he became a cadet at the Army's School for Officer Training in New York, and in November 1901, he was commissioned as an officer and appointed to the Men's Social Service Department.

Following service in New York and New England, Captain Scheinfeldt was transferred to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he met and married another officer, newly commissioned Lieutenant Inez Witherington.

Less than six months later, when they were serving in Bloomington, Ind., the young couple's zeal put them at the center of a full-blown riot. The Bloomington Journal of Sept. 7, 1914, reported that Captain Abe was arrested for "holding a religious service on the streets of Bloomington."

"The police used their clubs on the heads of both men and women," the newspaper reported. Some 500 townspeople protested, but the authorities were adamant.

Three citizens posted bond for the captain, and he was released. Immediately he returned to his troops and began preaching again, only to be arrested once more. "By this time," the paper reported, "the crowd had swelled to at least 1,000 people and most of these followed him back to the jail."

Again local citizens posted bond, but this time Scheinfeldt, on advice of legal counsel, went into a nearby drugstore for refreshments while the crowd outside grew to "at least 1,500 to 2,000 people." The newspaper reported, "Every man, woman, and child in the crowd was protesting against the action of Mayor Harris and the police and deploring the arrest and disturbance of the Salvation Army leader when he was attempting to hold an outdoor religious service."

Abe Scheinfeldt's promising career was cut short by his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1927. His wife passed away in 1961, but the legacy of these two stalwart soldiers lives on in the lives of their daughter, Mrs. Brigadier Mary Moody, and a granddaughter, Major Betty Israel, now serving at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters in London, England.
Last page of the Spring 2003 edition of Priority!
Priority is one of the print publication of the Eastern Territory of the Salvation Army. (Though check out that site, it's interesting how modeled it seems to be on People magazine.) Abe Scheinfeldt was my great-grandfather.
So, I ended up getting into the fourth a bit more; I (Mo wasn't up for it) walked down to Waltham's own fireworks display. I hadn't heard anything about it, but I somehow got to Watertown's "search Mass Gov" form, looked for fireworks, got this pdf of Professional Supervised Fireworks Display in MA (which, oddly, lists Waltham's display at 1:00 PM, not 10 PM) and that gave me enough information to Google up a community newspaper article about it.) They had a mini-mini-fair going on, 4 or so kiddie rides, some sideshow games, food stands, and everyone sat in a local school's football field, with the fireworks at one end. Not a bad display.

Shopping List of the Moment
Mo forgot her shopping list, and it was easier to scan it and post it than to read it to her over the phone. So... this is pretty much every single thing that she and I will be eating this week...
An odd milestone today: I'm exactly twice as old as I was when my dad died, I've now lived for as long without him as I did with him. (I figured that out with my javascript date toy last summer, and then noted it on my palmpilot.)

(For me the calculation is a little weirder than that, since I have this odd theory that I wasn't fundamentally who I am now until sometime during middle school. It's a self-serving rule of thumb, makes me feel less close to "middle aged" than I am.)

With Santa...
My dad was amazing in a lot of ways. Minister, Counted-Cross-Stitcher (at a national competition level), Baker (when we lived in a small town, he'd announce he was baking bread, people would place their order and leave the money on the kitchen table, and on a related note, he never did reveal his double chocolate cookie recipe, or its source, which was a book in the town public library), Furniture Refurbisher, Registered Nurse (when he realized the ministry wasn't for him forever, he started attending a local college to get his degree), Art Collector (prints mostly; a few pieces from his collection were added to the Cleveland Museum of Art's permanent collection), Gardener (in upstate NY he set up a plot for vegetables), Historian/Collector (especially Salvation Army memorabilia). He'd find a new interest, like circus memorabilia, or folk art rugs, or cigar store indians, get some books, and become a bit of an expert on all those topics. He gained an amazing amount of sophisticated culture for a guy from his background, salt of the earth folk in the farm country of Ohio. (It took him a while though, one time on a school trip to the Cleveland Art Museum, he told the teacher "Teacher, you can see her...her things.") He was the epitome of champagne on a beer budget (and knew some accounting tricks to pull that off from studying finance in college). I really think that my appreciation for the finer things suffers tremendously in comparison to his, especially when you compare our backgrounds, all the cultural advantages I've had.

He was sick for 14 months before his death (though, tellingly, I first estimated it at 2-3 years)...Spinal Meningitis that knocked his nervous system, made him half blind and left him with extremely poor coordination and difficult speech. (It also took out his sense of smell...and having been trained as a nurse, his first professional diagnosis was "huh, when you get spinal meningitis, your farts don't smell!") He had been on a road of slow recovery, regaining the ability to walk, relearning how to read, when treatment for a tumor on his left gave him a setback from which he couldn't recover. The saddest moment I know of, my own personal "what to think about if I need quick tears for a stage role", came a few weeks before his death. Word of my grandmother Eva's death had arrived that morning (and, historically, they had not always been on super friendly terms, ever since he managed to polish the anniversary numbers off of her silver--) and I had just gotten up and walked by his bedroom (he was bedridden again) and he was there weeping and weeping. Weeping for Eva, and with a likely foreknowledge of his own passing. Trying to put myself in his place there gives me a sense of horror and foreboding that's hard to comprehend.

He was generous too. He thought it was important for a guy to have a little "scratch" money on him, and would often slip a little something into letters to some of his nephews. Another sad and horrific yet somehow beautiful thing I remember is when he had first gotten ill, had suffered these grand mal seizures, was in the hospital bed, he urged my mom to give me a little money, a five or something. Because of his slurred speech it took a while to understand what he was saying, about how what's supposed to happen is a son goes up to his father, says he needs a little money, and the father takes it out of his wallet and gives it to him. And it took me even longer to get a deeper understanding of what he meant by it.

Favorite Photo Pose
People who knew him then, and me later, say I inherited his sense of humor, and his walk. One time Judy Hill, who knew him back from Coshocton, OH, walked up behind me as I was searching through some sheet music in my church's band room, and she said something in my stance really reminded her of Jim. That really touched me.

I guess some of my biggest regrets are not being able to interact with him after I grew out of my graceless adolescent phases. So much of what I'm proud of in life (getting my act together in school, going to a good college, pulling off neat technological tricks, things I've written and websites I've started, finding and wooing Mo, stumbling into a decent career, settling into my sense of humor, such as it is) have happened since early freshman year in high school... (this ties into that "life begins at 13" theory of mine.) And who knows, maybe if he had been around, I might've been a bit more culturally attuned, not quite the barbarian I am now.

Sigh. More than sigh.

James Edward Israel, 9/9/1949 - 10/10/1988.
Rock of the Moment

Back when I was around 6 or so, my dad brought me this rock he had found on a walk. We were living in Salamanca, NY, near the Seneca nation of Indians, and we thought the imprints on it might be American Indian related. The folks at the Seneca Museum said no, it was likely more a fossil of old life. I never quite believed it, but now that I think about it, It would be a kind of random thing for an Indian to inscribe, even a group that used bows to hunt.

Quote of the Moment
"Be not ashamed of yielding to televised golf's soporific power. Stay keen to the drama, but don't be shy about letting the commentary and pace waft you to lotus land during those slow, four-hour Saturdays and Sundays when the also-rans are stumbling by and the announcers are still trying to get excited. Some of my fondest golf-on-TV memories involve me waking up with a startled slurp thanks to a roar from the gallery."
Before this, I had zero urge to watch, but the way he puts it makes it seem almost Zen-like.

Article of the Moment
Another, more topical Slate piece, a warning: Christian Fundies stay the hell out of Iraq. Interestng use of bible refrences at the end.

Link of the Moment
The Institute of Official Cheer reviews Big Little Books, ungodly lame hybrid of novels and comics. (Via a letter on Gone and Forgotten, funny, funny reviews of terrible comics.)
(1 comment)
One sort, two sort
little jig'a'jam
bobtail dominick
little tory tam
virgin mary
hallum scallum
jingle 'em
jangle 'em
bowl 'em buck

william william
tremble toe
he's a good fisherman
catches hens
puts 'em in pens
some lay eggs
some not
how brow limble lock
sit and sing 'til 12 o'clock
the clock fell down
the mouse ran around
o u t spells out

a little singsong my grandfather
(Papa Sam) taught my mom and aunt.

1 eyed 6 toed
battery operated
laser sloths
Image of the Moment
From my old Tufts homepage. A guy at the Mac lab helped me cut out my picture (from a photo of me on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty) and came up with the weird idea for the background. I don't think the word "paradigm" was quite so overused in those pre-dotcom days

Link of the Moment
Interesting tool at the U.S. Census Bureau that lets find the ranking of first and last names. "Israel" is the 2962th most popular last name in the United States, and "Kirk" is 288th for guys...(edged out by "Kurt" at 249...is that why people keep folding my name into that?) (via Bill the Splut)

Quote of the Moment
Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize for his novel The Stranger, which says, in effect, that life is meaningless. But that novel's dust jacket carried a paragraph reporting that Camus died in a car wreck in 1960. It should have added, "Not that it matters."
Dexter Madison
Last night I was trying to convince Mo that Groundhog Day was a great movie before we watched it. She said she'd seen it already. I asked her when. She said "a couple of years ago". The jig was up! I knew it wasn't a couple of years ago 'cause I would've seen it too! Aha! So her opinion was old! And therefore suspect!

We both agreed that it was a little strange to be at this point in our relationship...

Image of the Moment
--Yearbook Photo of 222 Street Jazz, my high school group. I think it would be perfect except the way Molly is coming out of Veronika's head.

News of the Moment
Iran's Khatami Tells U.S. to Stop Insults..."If they abandon their threats and insulting language and we sense their goodwill then dialogue would be possible. American politicians should first learn to speak politely." This being the nation that calls us the "Great Satan" and uses hatred of us as a rallying point? Sheesh!

Quote of the Moment
Another day, another dollar...another irreplaceable chunk out of a finite and rapidly passing lifetime.
Calvin's Dad to the Shaving Mirror
Odd thing I noticed about my guestbook..."hooked daily entry reader", "Ellen DeGeneres", "Justin Anderson", "Mark T.", and "Paul Gardner" (about half of the last dozer or so entries) all post from the same IP set, one known for abuse by spammers...if I was a more suspicious guy, I'd think something was up!

Nostalgia of the Moment
Bought a new PC yesterday, my previous one was getting pretty long in the tooth. I've decided to name the new one "Monk", just like the previous 4... (Either after "The Electric Monk" from a Douglas Adams book, or short for "Chip Monk", or after "Theolonius Monk". (Warning...extremely boring walk down memory lane follows.)
Monk (1992-1994)
My first PC (before that I had an C=64, and before that an Atari 800XL), a screaming 386 16mhz. I loved playing Wing Commander on that thing! And Elite, and Star Control 2. It might be the only system I installed Linux on...a pre-1.0 release, in fact.
Monk (1994-1997)
Then I moved on up to a 486 66mhz with 16 megs...that was like the gamer machine for a while in the 1990s. I got it in a mammoth tower. It was huuuuuge. Ran Wing Commander 3 like a champ though. And Windows 95 for the first time...I think for some reason I got that on floppies. That took forever to install. Got my butt handed to me on a platter in Duke Nuke'em 3D by all the freshman with their shiny new Pentiums on our new Campus LAN.
Monk (1997-1999)
Got a computer that I thought was a Pentium...turned out to a souped up 486 chip set, as I found out when I tried to run "Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic". Not a bad machine though.
Monk (1999-2002)
Toshiba desktop. Shoulda known something was up when it came with Windows 95, not 98...the USB never did work quite right. Fit nicely under the monitor...assuming I ditch this machine I'm going to have to find a new monitor shelf.
Monk (2002...)
And now, an HP minitower. The case is pretty hefty, actually. Lots and lots of Disk Space, USB that works, DVD player and CD burner built in. Yay me.

Link of the Moment
Ok, today's entry really stunk, so here's a great link: Junkbot! Ranjit helped developed this for Lego at gameLab. It's a good puzzle game. You can also check out its sequel Junkbot Undercover.
On my way to Philly, not much time to write!

(PS: Snow?? On the ground?)

Image of a Previous Moment
This is me with my Mom and Dad singing "On The Good Ship Lollipop" for a talent show, way back when. I think we were a big hit.

My mom is doing a 20 minute presentation about her life, but she doesn't have most of her photos there with her in England, so she asked if I had any photos that would help tell our family story. (Also, if I had a better scan of this War Cry / Seneca picture, which I don't, alas.)

So I thought this would be as good a time as any to post the scans I made of my photo album, 427 images in 9 sections. They possibly aren't of terribly large interest to anyone outside my immediate family and friends, and maybe not even them... if you're in a hurry, you can see the 26 photos I picked out for my mom, in case she didn't have time to go through the huge batch. (Those 26 include 2 not in the album, one of her being dedicated (The Salvation Army's version of a baptism) and one of my mom as a young Salvation Army officer or cadet.)
Aargh, I was saving this for my birthday, and then forgot about it! So rather than subject my audience to some lame April Fool's joke (or waiting another whole year) I'll post this today. (Which reminds me of how my dad used to torment me by saying had I been born one day later, they would have named be "Foolsbert". Or "Foolella", had I turned out to have been a girl.)

Late this winter my Aunt Ruth was cleaning out the house she and my grandmother had shared, and in the cabinet she found a collection of clippings about me that Grandma had saved...some old newspaper articles for the most part. The most interesting thing to me was the birth announcement my parents had sent them. It was in remarkably pristine condition 28 years later. It was really cool to see, and nice to have. My mom had this to say on it:
You may have already known, but just in case not, your dad made those birth announcements. He carved the rattle design in a block, and using a breyer, printed them all. He chose green and yellow, because this was in the days before the common use of pre-natal sonograms and we didn't know whether you'd be a boy or a girl ahead of time. He wanted them done before you were actually born. I can still see them spread out all over our office floor in our apartment at Ivy House in Philadelphia as the paint dried.
[Ivy House was a home for disadvantaged youth my parent's were in charge of for a while.]
You'll note we said you were "23 inches tall" - that's because Dad thought any newborn so close to two feet at birth deserved 'tall' rather than the traditional description of 'long'.
Actually, I hadn't realized that it wasn't professionally made. Oddly, the gene to make such neat handcrafted pieces has skipped me entirely, and made it to my wife, who made our wedding invitations, among other things.
This is the badge my mom, a major in The Salvation Army, was given when she got the VIP-ish tour of Ground Zero the other day. (I suppose it's a little odd that she's smiling for this particular badge photo, but I suppose that's just habit.) She's home from England for a week where she's been working since last summer. For six years, she was the supervisor for many of the Salvation Army employees who are now overseeing the support system for volunteers (she was in NYC during the WTC carbombing), plus she was "visiting from Salvation Army International Headquarters". It also seems like the people working there don't mind visitors so much; they understand that people want to pay respect and bear witness, and also the workers want to keep the message out that amazing work is still going on at the site.

And the work is amazing. She told us about the "Taj" (as in Mahal), the enormous tent that is the main meal center for the workers. It's pretty cool how the meals are supplied, actually: because they're trying to support the economy of the area, they pay the local restaurants to make their usual specialty (Chinese, Indian, Sushi, etc) and then volunteers go around and bring the food to the central areas. It's cool how the support structure is working on several fronts like that, and providing the site workers with some variety besides. Also there are the "hydration stations" that offer warmth and soup and beverages. (I hadn't thought about how cold it must be for people who are out there all the time.)

One thing she mentioned that when the project is finally over, there's probably going to be a secondary sense of loss by the people who have been working at Ground Zero (which now physically resembles one of those giant construction pits). There's a solid sense of community and camaraderie there, a justified sense of important, if unspeakably tragic, work being done.

Link of the Moment
Buggy as heck yet still very intriguing, thesquarerootof-1.com has some cool virtual toys. (For some reason I had better luck clicking on the "I have shockwave but no sound" button; I still got sound, but it didn't crash then.)
Anthropology of the Moment
This is a little embarrassing...the frilly things to the left are garters. They're from the two Euclid High Proms I attended (and it's always "prom" never "the prom", kind of a "Pop"/"Soda" thing.) One of the traditions of prom seems odd to people who didn't go there... (though it may be a general regional tradition, I'm not quite sure) ...it's the "garter dance". Most of the gals who go are wearing a garter that matches their dress. At some point, the DJ announces the dance, chairs are brought around the dance floor, the gals sit and their dates get to remove the garter. The guys generally use them as armbands for the rest of the evening. It's kind of goofy but sexy fun, and I have always thought goofy sexy fun is a good thing, even though the whole affair is a bit tacky. For sentimental reasons, I'm probably gonna keep the garters forever, a bizarre personal totem. Somehow getting rid of them now would retroactively diminish those evenings.

The beer mug is from 1991 (as the mug has inscribed on it, the year of eXCItement...get it?) when I went with Veronika though I was but a junior. That year, they gave champagne glasses to girls and beer mugs for the boys, which is a bit direct of a message to send when you stop to think about it. In 1992 it was champagne glasses for everyone.

Link of the Moment
This was on slashdot: Norrath's a place plenty of people haven't heard of, but it's the 77th most wealthy nation in the world, right behind Russia. Or rather it would be, if it really existed. It's the fictional world of the online game EverQuest, but that New Scientist report is talking non-fictional money. Strange but true.
Article of a Previous Moment
SALAMANCA, NY -- Captain and Mrs. James Israel were adopted into the Seneca Nation of Indians recently. Mrs. Israel was adopted by George Heron of the "Hawk Clan" and Captain Israel was adopted by Mrs. Harriet Pierce of the "Bear Clan." Pictured are Mr. Heron, Mrs. Captain Israel, Kirk Logan Israel, Mrs. Helen Harris, representing the Hawk Clan Mother; Mrs. Pierce; and Captain Israel
--The War Cry, March 27, 1982. The War Cry is the periodical of the Salvation Army...I remember making a nest of blankets in the back of the Station Wagon as my parents drove around doing the "Tavern Route", selling "War Cry"s. This clipping was unearthed by my cousin Scott Bedio, who is a Salvation Army historian. I've always tried to figure out if this makes me an adoptive member of the Seneca tribe or not...

Funny of the Moment
"All I'm saying is that people who say 'irregardless' are TOTAL CRETINS!"
"LOTS of people say 'irregardless.'"
"That's exactly my point! 'LOTS' of people ARE cretins!!!"
"Look: just because a person doesn't have "BOOK SMARTS" doesn't mean he or she is STUPID! That newscaster might have a lot of EMOTIONAL intelligence!"
"May I inject one teensy-weensy thought?"
"Go ahead!"
"Emotional Intelligence is CRAP!!!"
Roz Chast, New Yorker back page.
Ugh, I can't believe that yesterday there were flakes of snow floating about. How discouraging. (Shut up Dylan.) And to think just this weekend I was a member of

Band Lemming Special Task Force Team Apple

Also, thanks to Dan (lower left) for another great link,
Apple Picking with Mr. T.

Quote of the Moment
Mixed feelings are good. Keep ya balanced.
That's a good but not great Cinemax remake of an old Mermaid flick. Beautiful mermaid, though, almost up there with Catwoman.

Proverb of the Moment
Blood cannot be washed out with blood.
Especially timely now.
Image of the Moment

I've been scanning in my old photo album. This is one of my favorites, my dad and I on a public beach on St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) where my family lived for a year.

Quote of the Moment
How many times must I tell you? Queens consume nectars and ambrosia, not hot dogs.
King Tut on the old Batman series
My mom is a Major in the Salvation Army, the church I grew up in. Although I no longer stand with them because of doctrinal differences, I support what they do. They really put their money where there mouth is when it comes to doing good works. The following is a message from Major Cheryl Miller, assistant secretary for program for the Salvation Army in NYC. (My mom was stationed in NYC from 1992-1998 or so.) I find it to be really moving.
Friday, September 14

I want to share my experience with you and I thought this way, through email, was the best way.

For the past two days, because of the tragedy in NYC on Tuesday, September 11, I have been at the Medical Examiner's building, better known as the morgue.

I went with Major Molly Shotzberger and I am now on her counseling team. It has been an experience, needless to say. We had a canteen there to serve coffee, food and whatever. But my job was to help the cops, doctors, nurses, medical examiners and who ever was involved with receiving the bodies for identification to get through the ordeal. We were there just to say, "How are you doing?" "Can I get you anything?" "Can I do anything for you?" Most of them said they were ok. They were going to make it through. Some of them wanted to talk. Talk about their feelings, their anger, their frustration. Some of them themselves lost "brothers and sisters" from their precincts and they were looking for them while they worked. On Wednesay when we first arrived at the morgue two cops came over to us and we said "What can we do for you?" "One of our members said we are here to help you." They said, "can you get us some American flags?" "We would like six flags." "Huge ones" We said, "Of course." Called Greater New York DHQ and requested the flags. They came a few hours later. We found those two same policemen who requested the flags and gave the flags to them. The one policeman's eyes started to well up with tears. We asked them what they were going to do with the flags. "Well," one officer who had tears streaming down his face said, "See those three semi trucks down the street?" "Well, those trucks have bodies of our fellow officers in them and we want to identify those trucks with the flags." They took the flags and draped them over the trucks. It was an awesome sight as we all stood there with tears now streaming down our cheeks.

During the course of the day we ran out of sandwiches. Just as the last sandwich was taken we weren't sure what we were going to do. Well, lo and behold, about 6 young people between the ages of 18 - 20 came up to one of our members at the canteen and said, "We just had to do something and we didn't know what to do. So we decided to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Can you use them?" Isn't God good?!

Other than the cops, doctors, nurses, medical examiners we were the only ones allowed to go right down where the bodies were being taken from the truck and examined. I was standing next to a cop and we were watching them take a body bag off the truck. Rather than take the bag into the protected room, they put the bag on a gurney and started to unzip the bag right there. I stood there with that cop and watched them examine the contents of the bag. I could only recognize a chared arm, the rest of the contents was beyond recognition. The cop said, "Do you see that?" I said, "Yes." I said, "Are you alright?" He said, "Yah." He said, "Are you alright?" I said, "Yah." Neither of us looking at each other during that small conversation. I turned to him and he just stood there shaking his head in unbelief. We talked for a few more minutes and then he went back to work. I touched his shoulder as he walked away to let him know I would pray for him. By Thursday the stench was unbearable. It was difficult to stand down at the place where they were taking the bodies out of the trucks. It was difficult to be standing there and trucks pulling into the area and knowing that bodies were in those trucks. The bodies were transported from Ground Zero to the morgue in a small truck. Then, once examined, they were transported to a bigger, refrigerator truck and kept there till it was full, and then taken to the Armoury where the families came to identify them.

I saw a lot of body parts in bags. Many bodies were not intact. Each part would be in its own bag. A couple of times when the bag was transported from the first truck to the gurney the sun was behind the bag and I could see through the bag and recognize what that item was. It is a picture I will never get out of my mind.

Another cop I was talking to was telling me that he was here when they brought in the Chief Fireman and Asst. Chief Fireman. They could not recognize either of the men. The cop was saying that the one on the left was naked and was charred all over his body. Unrecognizable. The one on the right was fully clothed but had no head and no arms. It was difficult for this cop to tell me this story.

On Thursday, when we were leaving the site and thinking that we were going to Ground Zero at 3:00p.m. (but couldn't because they were evacuating because they were afraid another building was going to collapse), a woman named Marilyn fell in front of the canteen. Several of us were there and helped her up. Two men standing there were doctors and they asked her if she wanted to be checked for any cuts. She said no. But she needed to sit down, so I found her a seat on a cooler and I knew she was distraught. I asked her what she was doing and if I could get her anything to eat or drink. She asked for a drink of water. I gave her a bottle of water and started to talk to her. I asked her where she was going. She said, "I have to find the crisis center. I have to talk to someone." I said, "Can you talk to me? Can I help you?" She started to tell me that she saw the whole thing. She saw the first plane hit, the second plane hit, and then witnessed the collapse of the buildings. She couldn't get the picture out of her mind. She can't sleep, can't eat and does a lot of crying. I talked to her for a few minutes, prayed with her and she said she felt so much better. Not because of me, but because I was able to tell her that there is hope; that God will see her through this. We were waiting for the van to come and pick us up, in fact it was late. I can't help but believe that God allowed that woman to trip near our canteen and made our van late so that I could have a few moments with Marilyn.

I am anxious to go down to Ground Zero. The firemen are requesting counseling so I know we are needed.

They are so many more stories I could tell you. Please share this with anyone you want.

I'm so thankful that Gary was not in the air at the time. He just got home on the Monday before from flying ontwo planes to get home. Just a week before the attack Gary and I were on the same route that one of the planes was taking from Newark Airport to San Franscisco (not the same airlines). God has been very good through all of this. Be in prayer.

Blessings, Cheryl

This is (the back of) Mo standing in front of the fountain at the World Trade Center plaza, taken September 11, 1999, two years (to the day) before the tragedy.

I liked that fountain very much. I once got the chance to look down on it, from about halfway up the tower, three years earlier when I was on assignment for Barron's Online. It was the most interesting thing to look at from that height... water poured from the center circle onto the larger circle. All around the outside border of the inner circle it looked a bit like a boat's wake (you can make out the 'wake' in the picture), giving the illusion that the inner circle's edge was constantly moving inward. But of course it was remaining the same size, thus confounding the eye. It was a great piece of art, now ruined. That pales in comparison to the rest of the tragedy, but that's my attempt to connect to what has happened.

Update 2002.02.25: I moved a thumbnail and link to this page to kisrael.com's front page. The image shows up on the second page of Google image search for "WTC", but the resulting "in context" link is to the site's front page.

Image Gallery
The pictures from Tuesday were horrifying, but for some reason these images of the citizens of other countries sharing our grief really moved me. (Update: parts two, three and four)

A Lighter Note
Brunching.com has An Open Letter To Dorks and Losers, exploding the myths of bullydom, like "they'll back down if you stand up to them". It's very funny and rings very true.
My dear old cute Honda Civic rolled over to 50,000 miles yesterday. I'm proud of this car. It has a goofy color, a frog holder for its stuffed frog, and I paid for it with my own money. I bought it new right before I graduated from college, in 1996. It has taken me to Cleveland and Ocean Grove and back. And to Pittsburgh, which is where I learned it can go 100 miles on rainslick highway with 5 people bundled in (with my a cappella group, chasing the other car in order to make it to a concert on time.)

I love the color of this car. It's a bit flamboyant but is aggressively cheerful and reminds me of spring after any rain.

I wanted to put up this picture for another reason...after I want to college and my Mom moved to NYC, we realized we didn't have any pictures with our beloved metalflake-orange-bronze ford aerostar minivan. (The "pumpkin carriage") That was the vehicle I learned to drive in, and the one I have other fond memories of being inside its upholstered confines. But no pictures of it, and I didn't want the same think to happen to the kermitmobile.

Online Toy of the Moment
Similar to this one school filmstrip in the 1970s, a powers of 10 visualization toy. You start out at 1023 meters out, where our galaxy is just the brightest splotch, go to 1013, about the size of our solar system, to 106, the southeastern USA, and then end up zooming in on a single leaf in Florida, until at 10-15 you're staring a proton in the face. You can let it run on automatic, or press the button at the bottom to engage manual control of the zooming.

Quote of the Moment
With the gay sexual revolution in San Francisco, he was finally free to express that side of himself openly. This was a wonderful thing, but the effects of it were confusing and bizarre for my brother and me. With him, the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name became the Love That Would Not Shut Up.
     --by Mo, 1997.12.26. Made on Dinky Pad for the PalmPilot. She graciously let me post it here; it's admittedly a little cornball, as are many things at the start of a good romance.
Story of the Moment
This is the story of one of the best days of my life.

June 30, 2001, Mo and I got married...

Murphy and his Law had their say, but didn't take the day: A serious fire in the apartment across from the one where the dress was, rings secure in a safety deposit box-- and a lost key, two soon-to-be-newlyweds developing colds, 90 degree heat (plus) that you could swim in, followed by one of the biggest thunderstorms I've ever been out in to finish up the night.

Quote of the Moment
The one-thing-after-another thing can stop now!
Mo, as a different fire alarm chased us out of our hotel hours before the ceremony

Rest of the Story of the Moment
But it worked out so well, Mo had done the lion's share of the planning, (and still wanted to marry me despite me being such a bum) and the result was fantastic. The site was great, a beautiful setting. The photographer-- working in an almost rather documentary style, with the "formals" almost an afterthought-- really knew what she was doing. DJ Brother Cleve spun great tunes, balancing the music we requested (by burning a cd for him) against the music people really got into... and finding where those two groups of music overlapped. We had a hayride, a trip to a petting zoo, and it turns out a raging storm can be great to dance in. The food was great, the cake so tasty, the flower arrangements so lovely.

And then of course, (well, before all of that) I got married to the terrific person I've been in love with so long... our ceremony was short and sweet. One of the readings was my own Yee and Lan, which is a 'just so' story I wrote once upon a time that seemed custom made for the day. (Though it wasn't...) And we remembered the vows without a burble.

Man, I'm very happy.

Anyway, I could write more, but I'm out of time, it's past midnight and I have to get to Mexico!

Story of the Moment
Did I ever tell you about the time I almost killed a gym teacher? Seventh or Eighth grade. We were playing T-ball, where you whack a softball off of a pole. I always had trouble with my stance, and how I held the bat, so the teacher helped me a bit and then backed away, telling me to swing. I did. Did I mention I tended to throw the bat? (It just seems so natural to make that part of the swing!) Anyway, I threw the bat directly into the gym teacher's gut. She was down, though I got to third before I realized there was a problem back at home plate. She had trouble breathing, I took off my shirt to put under her head (later she thanked me for that, I guess she knew that could be pretty traumatic for a chubby middle schooler), by the time the ambulance got there she was feeling ok but the ambulance took her off anyway. She was back the next day-- not even a bruise. I brought her balloons and a card-- I felt terrible. Half the school said "why'd you do that, man?" the other half said "Shoulda swung harder".

click for fullsize
Tufts has one of the oddest monuments. It's called the Gravity Stone, and its inscription is as follows:

Man, it's hard to think about how weird this thing is. Supposedly, back in the day a popular prank was to assist the Gravity Stone in 'levitating', leaving it to rest in a tree or anywhere up high. The story goes on to say they finally bolted or cemented the sucker down so now its floating days are over.

I did a little research. (Ok, I hit Google via Yahoo.) Roger Babson is the same guy who started Babson College. He has another stone but it's not nearly as odd. You can get a little more of its story from the Yucks Digest #22, textsearch on 'Tufts'.

Man. I love this thing. It's such a retrofuture thing... they're proposing a (quite possibly impossible) technical breakthrough that would change so much in society-- I mean, who knows what forms of travel, on Earth and otherwise, would be possible-- and this stone is looking for a reduction in airplane accidents.

I'm glad it's a part of my life.