Saturday, April 28, 2007

Five Things You Didn't Know about Me

Well, just when I managed to get through all those various and sundry Selba tags, I got hit by one out of the BLUE by Shlemazl. The challenge this time is to list five things that people who read this site don't know about me. I realize that would be very hard considering there are probably very few things about me that old friends like Snabulus, Pa've, and Seymour don't know, but I'll see what I can do. (I'm posting this here rather than on my blog since I already just posted something there and don't want to distract people from it.)

1. Tobacco has been a part of my life for a long time. I started smoking cigarettes off and on when I was 9 years old at the behest of a friend who lived next door. (He ripped them off from his parents, who were both chain smokers...and he was cruelly punished when he was finally caught, I can tell you! Fortunately, I only got grounded for a week.) Once again, during my junior and senior high school days, I smoked on occasion with certain friends, later switching to chewing tobacco, which I did far more regularly. I started smoking a pipe in my late college days, and I probably enjoyed it the most. In Japan, however, I found pipe tobacco expensive and difficult to find and chewing tobacco totally unavailable, so I went back to cigarettes, only now I smoked them far more regularly than before. Even so, I was never a particularly heavy smoker; at my peak I was smoking only a pack a week. I finally decided I didn't want tobacco to have any kind of hold on me, so I reduced my smoking to once or twice a week and finally more or less quit. Now I only smoke an average of twice a month, usually my pipe (in my car...never at home).

2. Though generally classified as a "leftie", many of my views are actually rather conservative. The last time I took a political alignment test (at the behest of Pa've, who was sure it would prove me to be a total liberal) I came out only a little left of center...officially "slightly less liberal than Bill Clinton". This is mainly due to my views on the environment, foreign policy, taxes, and some forms of social welfare. However, the truth is that I also believe in strong law enforcement with stiff punishment for offenders (and I lean in favor of capital punishment of repeat felons), holding people fully accountable for their actions, clear-cut education with strict school discipline (including swift removal of disruptive offenders from a classroom environment), and a strong national defense. I'm also against neither logging nor hunting as long as both are carried out intelligently. I've been called a "communist" by conservatives. I've also been called a "Bush-loving fascist" by liberals. Whatever. I believe in what makes sense rather than toeing someone else's line.

3. In my college days I vowed never to get a computer. I was actually one of the first in my circle of friends to start playing with computers back in my early high school days. (I think Snabulus was probably the first...or maybe Dewkid.) However, the arrogant attitudes of some of the computer nuts I knew in school (not including Snabulus or Dewkid) began to bother me. As an engineering major (briefly) in college I was even more exposed to annoying cyber-snobs, and I finally got turned off by the whole thing. Once I switched majors from engineering to chemistry I no longer needed to work with computers much, so I gave them a wide berth. Then, at the university, I started hanging out with a group of computer science majors, who introduced me to mainframe computers, UNIX, and the internet. My rapidly-renewing interest quickly crashed, however, when that group turned out to be a bunch of pathetic, backstabbing dorks. After that I refused to touch computers except when I played games on friends' machines...till I finally broke down and bought an IBM (cr)Aptiva running OS/2 Warp in early 1995. I've been a user ever since.

4. I've been a helpless romantic more or less all my life, but was bad at it for most of it. I had my first steady girlfriend when I was in kindergarten, and I continued to chase girls aggressively until the fifth grade, when I suddenly became shy. (Maybe part of it had to do with the fact that the other boys all gave me so much crap for my being so interested in girls...) In high school and college I had a bad habit of going after girls I had no chance with whatsoever while blowing off the ones that were openly interested in me. The few relationships I had in college tended to start for the wrong reasons and ended badly...quite often due to sabotage on the part of my or the girl's friends. I think I was lucky to meet and marry a woman who seems to match me so well in all the right ways while being different from me (indeed my opposite) in all the right ways, too. However, even though I'm loyal to my wife and have never cheated on her, I'm still easily attracted and develop crushes very quickly. I've never been good at controlling my heart, and I don't think I ever will be. Oh, well. As a writer and a musician, that can actually be a very good thing.

5. The only kind of food that bothers me is sweets. Considering I'm a chocolate fiend (DARK CHOCOLATE!!!!!), I know that can seem surprising, but the fact is that really sugary, sweet food makes me sick. I really have to be in the right mood to eat candy or ice cream, and when we have birthday (or other) cake at home I actually have to force myself to finish it a lot of the time. American food tends to be a lot more sugar-laden than Japanese, so every time I go home to visit I spend at least the first three days with an upset stomach. Today at my school's sports festival I had to eat a strawberry jam-filled roll for a race, I couldn't swallow it except in very small bites (i.e. I lost), and my gut yelled at me afterward.

Okay, that's five. I wonder if any of those surprised Snabbie, Pa've, Dewkid, or Seymour. Oh, well. I'll tag all of them plus anyone else who reads this and hasn't done it already.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Wicker Man!

Although this particular UK "Wicker Man" Beltane festival is pretty tame, the original 1970's movie, "The Wicker Man" was a little more sinister, (and alot more fun!). This version is mostly about the juxtaposition of paganism vs xianity There was a remake in 2006 w/Nicolas Cage. This seemed to be more about the age old men vs women (which I liked a little less as a theme), but has some very interesting new takes on the older film's references.

Another big difference between the two films was the soundtrack - in the older version alot of money and time went into the performance and research of actual old folk tunes. There was a release in 1998, then another in 2002. You can find more info here, but you have to scroll down to the soundtrack info part.

A quick run down of the both movies symbolism can be found here, (you'll need to scroll down just a little).

Now if you want to go to a big huge Beltane fire festival that's been held for 20 years, just hop on a plane to Edinburgh. Geez, with all the traveling I want to to so, it'll be a full-time job for at least a couple of years! (what with all the regional festivals-Oktoberfest, Carnival, Chinese Moon Festival, Diwali, etc.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Flashback: October 1996 The Well Connected Office

It is time to get your Geek on for this flashback. Back in the day, I wrote a few articles for a monthly local magazine called Computer Bits. Sadly, they are now defunct, but a similar magazine called Computer Chips has taken up their gauntlet and continued the tradition.

I was an OS/2 aficionado in those days like some people are part of the Cult of the Mac today. As IBM slowly but surely pounded OS/2 into oblivion, I ended up becoming the Windows guru that I am today.

This article shows covers basic networking in an OS/2 environment but it also contains some concepts that are generic in terms of both current and historical value. If you are setting up a home network, it might even be worth a peak.

The Well-Connected Office

Using OS/2 to network PCs in the small office ... by Don Limbaugh

"So, Don. You're in charge of networking the office. Can you handle that?" "Sure," I replied.

I managed a confident smile and concealed a golf ball size lump in my throat. A network. Lovely. I suppose I need to be a CNE, know SNA and TCP/IP, be able to use a Novell and a BNC and set up a 10-Base-T. That's a big 10-4. No problem. Huh?

So began my trial-by-fire of networking our three office PCs (now we have six). Learning a new bunch of buzzwords is no fun, especially when it comes to networking. Many people who know about networking paid cash for their training and are not going to water down their investment by giving away free information. The good news is that there are a couple of ways to share hard drives, printers, e-mail, and game strategies without becoming a walking TLA (Three-Letter Acronym) encyclopedia.

Read the rest here

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Is this Extremely Lucky or Unlucky?

You be the judge...

Columbine, VT student: 'Normalcy never comes back'

Regina Rohde explains how people will cope with the Va. Tech tragedy

"It’s going to take time," Regina Rohde told Matt Lauer on TODAY. "People are living minute to minute, not being able to cope with anything. Eventually it becomes hour by hour, week by week. It takes a lot of time."

Rohde knows. Eight years ago, she was a freshman at Columbine High School in Colorado when two classmates, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, came in armed to the teeth and bent on murder.


And now, on Monday morning, it was happening again. Rohde wasn’t in the direct line of fire, but she knew that a gunman was on the prowl, and she found herself experiencing the same emotions as she had in 1999.

She did survive both. I count that as lucky. However, the trauma and surreality of the situation and the PTSD afterward are definitely unlucky. If I were her, I'd start buying lotto tickets and staying away from dark clouds.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tagged; Part Deux

Actually, this should have been "Part 1" but I wasn't sure I had to do the whole thing...but decided I better anyway.

The tag questions is this: If I were to be marooned on an island, what five bloggers would I want to have there with me?

Now, I'm going to change this a little bit, as I can't believe one wouldn't be able to take one's significant other on this little sojourn on some enchanted Polynesian it's going to have to be 10 people, not counting Snabby and I (since were a team!).

1. Mini-Snab and friend of her choice - already have one kid missing in this life, ain't gonna have another!

2. Our ex-neighbors and good friends T & C (and their 2 boys, but since they're kids, they don't count) - They are young and work hard, plus we know we can live in close proximity and not drive each other crazy!

3. Pandabonium & SO - They have the actual skills & knowledge to survive on my imagined "South Pacific Paradise", plus we'd have some great conversations!

4. Dean Wormer, SO & kids - They're alot of fun, and we're going to need some comic distractions! Plus they don't mind a little bit of hard work and the more the merrier!

5. Swinebread, his SO & our doctorate sibling (ok, it's kind of a weird grouping, but bear with me). We'll the professor to properly document our "Last of the Mohican" type existance; and Swinebreads military training plus C's excellent organizational skills will come in handy!

Well, that's it. Should be just enough folks to make it interesting, but not so many as to starve to death!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

May Day!

A fun time to celebrate the warming days - May Day used to be celebrated in our neck of the woods by kids hanging paper baskets of flowers on neighbors doors, ringing the doorbell, then running away and hiding. There were no big parades or anything, but it was never a big holiday here in the US anyway.

That's changing a little bit, but you kind of have to search out the festivities. Usually Waldorf schools hold a May Day party, complete with Morris Dancing, (a type of traditional English folk dance), and a May Pole Ribbon dance, sometimes a May Queen and King.

Here in the Rose City, you can visit the Rose Garden at sunrise on May 1st, to join ia public celebration with 3 different folk dance troupes, music and a May Pole dance!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Flashback 4/23/2002: FCC and the NOT Free Market

Since I wrote this nearly 5 years ago, media consolidation has continued apace while the choices of what to watch on TV and the range/scope of views has constricted considerably. My point continues to be made. News has largely turned into "infotainment" with facts synergistically melded with opinion and marketing to attract a demographic audience.

There are increasingly bombastic and shocking reality programs and talking heads to tap into a rage complex that lies not far beneath our individual veneers of calmness and stability. This is especially true of the white male 20 - 40 yr old demographic who lead lives of precious little excitement and whose responsibilities are not as romantically charged as in days of old. The shovel and crane have been replaced with the keyboard and the telephone. It is no wonder that men feel emasculated and pine for (the fjords) something more macho and confrontational. It is also no wonder that the difficulties they do face can be blamed on some other factor that lies outside themselves (race, gender, political correctness, etc.) Hence the market for shows like TNA Impact and the support shown for Don Imus after trying to build himself up at the expense of the national champion runners-up.

Thus we are left with a general failure to inform or even entertain in the sense that we should also be edified and educated (the 3 Es). There are, in fact, only so many reruns of Scrubs I can watch before just turning off the TV.

As cable and satellite take over for RF signals, the ability of independent television to break in to the market will decrease further thanks to the FCC shirking on its job of overseeing the VHF and UHF spectrum in a way that allows diverse ownership and viewpoints.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002, 8:30 pm
Justice to the left of you,
Justice to the right,
Speak when you are spoken to,
but don't pretend you're right.
--Yes, 90125

Who is allowed to broadcast on what frequency and when? Who owns the land where the cable for TV, phones, and computers run? Who gets access to these things? How about satellite frequencies and times? The FCC, currently under the thumb of Michael Powell sets the rules (with occasional help/interference from Congress).

The FCC wants to clear the way for large media companies to buy all of the television rights for a given region. One part of me says, "Dang straight. Let the market sort it self out." Another part says, "Hey, what about local autonomy? What about ensuring diversity of programming?"

The problem is that the government is STILL CONTROLLING the frequencies and municipal pipelines for signal and cable. If we were truly in a free market, there would be no controlling who could broadcast what or on which channel. Your neighbor Bob could have a 24 hour Elvis channel and the church down the street could preach to the masses. Anyone with a transmitter could broadcast (just like we currently have with printed materials).

Unfortunately, the advertisers would play heck trying to reach anyone and would eventually give up. Keep in mind that it would be a FREE MARKET open to anyone with spirit to use the medium. Herein lies the problem. What you are seeing today is not a free market. It is cooperation between government and large media conglomerates. Plain and simple. If it were free, you could go to Radio Shack and buy a transmitter and make your own TV. I don't think anyone wants to see the garbage I would put out.

Therefore, we need the rules. We need the FCC. We need some sanity in how the frequencies and cable access are granted. Unfortunately for the larger companies, we also need to simulate the free market to the degree that we should not allow a mighty few to control everything we see and hear.

It comes down to this. You either run it like the best bureaucracy you can and protect the "little guy" or you open it ALL the way up and run it like free enterprise. You can't have it both ways...

...or innovation will grind to a halt.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

At Least Kilimanjaro is Safe

Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007)

The Bokononist faith took a large hit today when Kurt Vonnegut died. He was 84. According to this article in Yahoo! News,

Vonnegut once said that of all the ways to die, he'd prefer to go out in an airplane crash on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He often joked about the difficulties of old age.

but in actuality he died a much simpler and common death...

Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.

I must admit I was not the most avid Vonnegut reader, but Cat's Cradle sticks with me even until today. His description of the substance Ice Nine and its effects are still vivid in my mind decades after I read about them.

One of the few who actually learn from war, Vonnegut has taught us much in his writings. I shall miss his self-deprecating, yet still rapier wit and I only hope I am as sharp in my 80s as he was.

I like the cut of his jib, that's for sure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ja, Das ist Amerika

My coworker pointed me towards another interesting music video. This is a German hard rock/metal band called Rammstein. Their take on American culture is an interesting one even if I can't understand the words. Ladybug, Infogeek, and Moody might be able to pick out some catch phrases here...

Monday, April 09, 2007

In Cars

I missed out on this one when it was new, but my coworker sent me this YouTube link where new waver Gary Numan hooks up with heavy metal's Fear Factory to remake the Numan classic, Cars.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Quasi-Flashback: The Miracle of People

So it is easter. Not an anniversary for 9/11 or anywhere close to it. However, I was looking through my old pages to see if there way anything to "flash back" to when I ran across the "When Words Fail" website. It shows how the world grieved with us because of 9/11. All of us. All of them. Together.

Regardless of how we Americans squandered that goodwill, and rest assured my good readers we sure as hell did, there was a period of time when politics didn't matter, religion didn't matter, and those petty squabbles and major conflicts took a back seat to an atrocity that occurred in OUR COUNTRY, with OUR PEOPLE dying as well as those from other countries. The people of the world were shocked into showing their love and solace for America, regardless of their differences with us.

Here is a sample from the site:

When Words Fail...

In Belarus...


In Germany...

Even so-called Mr. Terrorism himself know when things had gotten way, way too far...

Here is to those died on 9/11 and we hope that our questions about that day are answered completely and fully at some future date. Those of us who lived through that day owe it to those who didn't to fully seek the details and demand justice where justice is due. A simple blanket comdemnation of a religion or a race is not only immoral, but also not nearly enough. Every T must be crossed and every I must be dotted or the coverup will damage us all and words will indeed fail to mean much of anything at all.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I got tagged...

So, I will now list out my top 5 favorite places to eat at my location.

1. Caprial's - This uber expensive restaurant we actually haven't eaten at in several years as the wine list seems to be as extensive as the prices are high. However it's the best place I have EVER eaten! You can lounge around for hours and never feel rushed, just like back in Europe. Let's just say I would love to eat here once a month, when my MBA job at Bank of America comes through that is.

2. DeNicola's - sort of a hole in the wall place right on Powell Blvd. that's nearly 30 years old. It's old fashioned Italian, meaty, greasy and oh so good! My Dad, my daughter and I would usually have dinner about once every 2 months there when I lived on the east side. It's got great prices and it's kid friendly.
*We had a reception dinner there after our son's memorial service; and 50 people showed up instead of the 25 I had made reservations for; they handled it with no problem and NO mistakes in the orders! It was kind of funny, I was the first to walk in, (and I had flowers w/me of course), and the woman in charge (a daughter of the original owners, and probably now an owner herself), said "So do I wish you a Happy Birthday, or is it a wedding we're celebrating today!?"....I was kind of in shock, so I stammered, "No, um it's not exactly a celebration, it's a reception for the memorial of our baby son who died." Her face fell, and she enveloped me in a huge hug, she & her staff were the nicest, kindest folks!

A close runner up for 2nd, is another Italian place on the west side Nonna Emilia's. Higher prices, but gargantuan portions, a little more upscale.

3. Pretty much any McMenamins...But I particularly like Rock Creek Tavern, just a short drive from our house, but the Road House is actually closer. Service can be slower at times, particularly at Rock Creek. The food is reasonable, good, and there are plenty of vegetarian options. Also, I just like the ambiance, it's really a place for anybody (families, singles, folks getting together after work), not just a "beer" joint an although it can get noisey when busy, not your typical sports bar!. In fact, McMenamins brews most of it's own beer, wine, and spirits.

4. Takahashi - while we haven't had the best luck of late, this is a tried & true homestyle Japanese restaurant that been open many years. Mostly the problem is that you have to wait a long time for a table, and for the food occasionally. I don't like sushi, but I love the gyoza, miso and cucumber salad! Also, their tempura is always delivered hot and fresh.

5. Curry Leaf - although it's in a weird strip mall kind of place, the food's absolutely authentic. I go crazy for the sinful butter chicken, and the garlic nan "is to die for". Indian food is one of my passions, I love it, but so far it's the one I haven't really been able to cook. Perhaps it's the expensive spices, the deep frying, or just lack of technique (nan looks so simple, I mean it can't be harder than tortillas, [which I have made by hand, in the far past], can it?). It's got reasonable prices too, but the last few times we've been, there haven't been that many people. I hope it doesn't close!

Now I tag Swinebread!

Ride the Bike, Capture the Flowers

I went out riding on my bike yesterday to enjoy the air and rehabilitate my knee. I rode over to the Nature Park not too far from work and used my cell phone to capture some local flowers. Hopefully, distant Oregonians like DewKid and Moody can use these to commune a bit with the home country. My cell phone camera lense protector mysteriously has a crack in it, so the left part of each picture looks funky. Given that I've only had the camera a week and a half and haven't dropped it, the origins of the crack are a bit of a mystery (which will likely remain unsolved).

Oregon grape in bloom

Some variety of wild violet, possibly Stream Violet

Trillium. Unfortunately, the yellow stamens were completely washed out in this picture. Dang cell phone cameras!

The tiny winged sees and just-formed leaves of the Vine Maple (similar to the Japanese maple)

A blurry flower from what I believe is Fool's Huckleberry

A couple tri-foliate Vanilla Leaf plants just coming up. They should be blooming in a few weeks I think.

Some tender fiddleheads from the prolific Sword Fern plant.

Some kind of tree blossoms. Not sure what they are.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Homeblogging: Coming home from SF on Fri

There are no pictures to accompany this post, but our homecoming still had its share of adventuring. We woke up at about 5am, called the front desk and cancelled our wakeup call, finishing our last minute hygiene and packing activities and headed down to the lobby to await our, ahem, Towncar. Travelling in style is fun, but it really helps that the Towncar price was the same as a cab for our destination.

The driver was a nice gal who, after hearing we were from Portland, launched into a 45 minute conversation/monologue about the fact that:

A. Portland has a women's rugby team
B. She played against them for 3 years while part of a Bay area team.
C. That her team enjoyed "mooning" people (I mean sticking their butt out the window, not following the Messianic owner of the Washington Times and UPI, Rev. Moon)
D. They enjoyed chugging beer while she enjoyed a glass of wine and marvelled over why she always had more energy then they did.
E. Farting was involved with the aftermath of the beer chugging.

Luckily, we were all too sleepy to interrupt except to laugh and gasp at the appropriate times, so it all worked out well.

We arrived at SF Int'l about 2 hours before our flight. The ticket counters were exceedingly busy, so we thought we were soooo smart to allow plenty of time. We checked our bags and got our boarding passes...except they weren't really boarding passes because there were no seat assignments. The counterperson said they would be assigned at our gate; Gate 68. Fine.

We slid through the TSA security theater more quickly than expected, double-checked our gate (Gate 68) on the monitors and proceeded to it for our nearly 2 hour wait for our flight.

Time passed. and passed some more. I napped. The entire time, our gate display said Flight 698 to Portland, on-time departure, Gate 68. Well, the seats weren't filling up very fast. Weird. Finally, some guy came by (not an airline employee) and said that he checked the monitor and the gate had changed to Gate 81. Greeeeeeeeeat.

We motivated ourselves and hauled as much butt as my creaky knee and sore foot would allow to our new gate; Gate 81. We got there, got into line and found out...wait for it...that the flight was overbooked and we didn't have seats. Yes, all the people who came later got seats and those that came on time, as in RIGHT ON TIME, got screwed. We were told to take a seat and wait for our names to be called.

(Aside: This was UNITED for those who like abuse)

We explained that we were here before all these other people who had seats and they said the usual sorry, please take a seat and wait for your names to called. So we went to sit down and I rather audibly said, "ASSWIPES!" while I walked away. (Sometimes my tact disappears when under duress)

After sitting for a couple minutes, Ladybug walked back up to at least try to get the Minisnab on a flight so she wouldn't miss her flag team prep for the Championships on Saturday. Apparently her form of upset worked better than mine (big white males with foul mouths just don't get enough respect) because she hung around until we all got seat assignments.

Our collective mood improved considerably at that point. Apparently the original plane was broken or otherwise ineligible for reflight, so some of the confusion was due to our boarding on a different model of Boeing 737 than planned. Why they didn't change their sign or send a person over like I've seen happen in Portland, I don't know.

In any case, one of the complicating factors is that airlines are allowed to do something that is illegal in just about every other pursuit of commerce, which is overbook flights. What made this particularly troubling for United is that they overbooked ALL of their flights by a dozen people on a known vacation week. For me, that little act of short term greed is going to cost them. If we had not gotten on that flight, we were probably done for that day at least because of the other overbookings. We were even talking about renting a car and driving home.

I fly several times each year and all I have to do is say, "Avoid United Airlines" and they lose a few grand. If several hundred people went through what we did, it could mean real money before long.