Friday, December 30, 2005

Hanukkah Party

We missed the big Hanukkah Party this year, because of our booking on the mountain. I was actually triple booked: Wanderers featured Dick Pugh and his Trans-Siberian Railroad adventure (not a recent trip, but still a great story -- I got an update from Don).

So this year we went to a smaller Hanukkah Party, same site, and enjoyed many of the same activities: eating latkes, playing dradle for chocolate geld, exchanging gifts, perusing the Yiddish dictionary (a simple one). We talked a lot about movies and TV shows.

I brought several brands of sparkling juice (grape, pear, strawberry, apple, apple-marionberry) and suggested we each hypothesize which we'd like best, then see if we'd guessed right. That didn't happen exactly (my agenda wasn't a big priority, nor was I especially attached to it). The grape was a big hit, and was kosher besides.

Earlier, I helped Barry, a retired banker and peace corps vet (and Wanderer) snake some wires through a pipe on his 40 foot Tollycraft -- he was adding a new GPS device.

Update 1/1/06
: the GPS works great! Barry took her out the next day and we watched ourselves make a line on the screen (lots of floating wood, dodged a dead tree).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

On the Mountain

discovered decal
North wall, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Lodge

We took a break from Bridge City (nickname for Portland) and ventured into the mountain clime: lots of freezing rain, turning to bona fide snow at higher altitude. Dawn had never seen a world class ski resort before, having grown up in Ohio and Florida.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Festive Outfit

Friend Mark Allyn designs his own clothes
(Christmas Eve, in front of Stark Street Meeting House)

Christmas 2005

Yesterday morning, Don and I drove out to Sandy to assist the Lehmans with tree decorating and computer stuff. Gene, a devout Catholic intellectual, publishes the LUNO newsletter.

Then I drove Don to the boat so he could retrieve his car (a water pump issue). I'm still thinking about Gloria's rum cake.

Dawn and I met under the big tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square for some last minute shopping. A baby carriage tipped over on the swaying trolley, dumping infant and toddler. Dawn rushed to help mother while I mumbled some apologies for the faulty engineering.

Last night we did Christmas Eve with Quakers at the Stark Street meeting house. Bridge City Friends Meeting produced the event which featured readings, singing, and candles. I was happy to share this time with so many fine people.

My ability to sing appears to have deteriorated somewhat -- these days I mostly just listen.

This morning, our family was graced with gifts from faraway places: Italy, Lebanon, Tibet, Michigan...

I wanted Tara to experience the joys of vinyl records, and so purchased a turntable (Denon), along with some used records (The Beatles, Tom Lehrer), plus Dawn has an old stack, plus Don was giving 'em away at the Wanderers party. We also got her a more modern disc player, cell phone, and a robot dog (Tara has developed an intense interest in robotics lately).

I'm expecting Matt to come by. I bought his gift from a nonprofit toy store that donates its nonprofits to children. Matt renewed my subscription to The Nation.

Thank you friends and family, for your many gifts and blessings.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sushi for Xmas

The title alludes to this hilarious skit I heard on a recent Prarie Home Companion, about this clueless public radio guy doing all this multi-cultural programming around Christmas time, inspiring mass demonstrations and rocks through the window.

Like, who wants sushi music for Xmas? Me, for one.

Today I get to eat as much sushi as I like, sumo style, in celebration of my wife's new bookkeeping collaborative, which does dynamite fund-accounting for worthy NGOs around town. We'll be joining Phyllis and her husband, a computer geek like me (I've not met him before). We'll have our children with us too (yay).

Then maybe we'll get to see King Kong. See Grain of Sand for a review.

Merry Christmas everyone! Ho ho ho. Good WILPF party last night at Boltons. I sat next to this Lakota, former high school biochemistry teacher, who had all this interesting evolutionary theory (mapped to medicine wheel mnemonics) about how patterns of light and dark (a consequence of spiralling / spinning) program our solar system. Fun fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Prospero's Books

Scholars through the ages have dreamed of bringing books to a higher state of aliveness. Thanks to modern electronics, we're able to make this dream real, to a degree. By embedding applets, Flash animations, movies within the text, we're in a position to offer new vehicles for content delivery within the classroom or home school.

Another dream is to make interaction with these books remunerative, in the sense that passing tests in safe, controlled conditions will advance your credentials along various tracks, making you eligible for new services. Remuneration needn't be in the form of cash. If you're a marine biology major, you might net an invitation to join some field expedition, ala Darwin's journey to the Galapagos. Or you might get some new gear.

The point is to make education rewarding, as well as demanding, both by enhancing the content delivery mechanisms, and by embedding new opportunities within that content. Resource allocation occurs intelligibly, in response to students' needs, abilities and commitments.

Of course this already describes the current system fairly closely. The difference is more in terms of bandwidth -- these fatter pipe books will move you along more quickly, waste less of your limited time with us here on Spaceship Earth.

Related reading:

Sunday, December 18, 2005


From a masterfully done invitation to G4G7, the 7th annual Gathering for Martin Gardner, master puzzler and keeper of the mathematical archives. I am honored by this invitation.

I'm also a fan of Gerald Gardner, cofounder of Wicca, a designer religion for which many Quakers of my ilk have developed a special fondness. See Triumph of the Moon for more info.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More Time on the Boat

Last night we saw Christmas ships on the Columbia River, an annual phenomenon, largely governed by radio waves, by which I mean: we were tuned in to the shared frequencies the Coast Guard uses, with others, to ensure safe operations in the water ways (for example, in this case we had an oncoming tug-pushed-barge plus a stern wheeler (both would require bridge swings (the railroad bridge is quite low (the I-5 bridge is the last draw on the USA I-net they tell me)))).

Christmas ships are thematically lighted, mostly privately owned watercraft, used at night this dark time of the year, for purposes of pageantry and celebration -- this night under a full moon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Avalanche Awareness

Our Wanderers meeting last night was a little different in the sense that another group had booked the same space, bypassing our Pauling House shared calendar.

These mountaineers had invited an avalanche specialist to discuss warning signs, what to do if buried, how to undertake a rescue op. Wanderers simply joined the meeting, contributing wine and cheese, and a twisted sense of humor.

Weather, snowpack, terrain, and the human factor all play a role in setting the danger level. About 90% of fatalities get attributed to human misjudgments.

Beware of these three modes or pitfalls:
  • sheep mode (following blindly)
  • horse mode (cutting corners in the rush to get home)
  • lion mode (woo hoo, I'm immortal).
Operating in any of these modes might get you killed. Males in the presence of females tend to take greater risks. Don't be afraid to speak up even if you're not the leader. Leaders, give your group members frequent opportunities to check in and share about their state. Keep both laser focus and peripheral awareness (urban analogy: never cross a busy intersection talking obliviously on your cell phone, even if the light is with you).

The avalanche-aware know how to read a site for signs, plus bring to bear their knowledge of recent history. Releases are triggered by shifting weight, not loud sounds. If the snow is layered, with a top layer only weakly bonded to the one beneath it, and if the slope is moderately steep (quasi-vertical isn't usually a problem), look out.

If caught in a release, plant your poles, shed gear, yell loudly to help others mark your position (you'll likely be downhill from where they last saw you). They'll need to find you soon. Warm breath within the snow pocket, usually 4-6 feet under, seals it with ice and reduces the oxygen flow. Your chance of survival drops by 50% after about 30 minutes. Carry a beacon. Carry a collapsable pole to search for your friends.

I found the speaker highly engaging and effective. This was the kind of presentation Wanderers would do well to emulate (he had slides, handouts, quotes, quips, actual gear). He was also on the older side, which was reassuring (the guy must be doing something right, given how many hours he's spent on the slopes).

Terry and I ducked out a couple times to continue our meeting of earlier today. We're city rats, less likely to be leading clueless newbies through snowy mountain mazes. However, I did pick up a wallet card for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, just in case.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Saying Cheese

"allusion to Wallace & Gromit"
(photo by Tara Urner, Olympus Stylus 500)

Sixth Grade Science

Tara's Popcorn Experiment
Winterhaven, Dec 8, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Harry Potter, GOF (movie review)

Yes, they're growing up, expressing more teenage characteristics, but one thing Harry and friends don't seem to do is question authority.

The administration summons Harry's best friends off camera, then ties them to the bottom of a lake. Apparently, a rescue is of life or death significance, as Harry goes the extra mile to free a competitor's little sister at some risk to himself (this is a contest see, some kind of sick and twisted Olympic event).

Yet no one questions the premise that such cruel and abusive sport is a good use of students' time and abilities. The docile little dummies buy in to all the pageantry.

The special effects are spectacular.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Another Interesting Day

I started with housework (an English translation of economics, a Latin root) expending energy from Bonneville to suck dust into a plastic compartment, for later emptying (electric motor -- called a vacuum, and my name is Kirby, which is also a brand of vacuum cleaner, and once the Kirby people showed up and ya know, I came that close (finger gesture) to buying one, probably just cuzza my name).

Then I drove Derek and Nick downtown, Dr. Consoletti to leave off at Union Station, enroute to Powell's Technical. I consumed Laszlo's new book about some A-field, Ervin having been in charge of this Budapest Institute, some think tank Dr. Consoletti attended in his process of earning a PhD certification. Nick's French mom was a pro scuba diver. He also has an American mom. The book is fascinating, especially to me the autobio parts.

Derek treated me to lunch at Sisters of the Road, which looks like doesn't have working FoxPro right now (ball was in my court, sorry sis). We both got spaghetti with extras, really not bad food. The "chocolate juice" (soy product) was a tad on the too sweet side for my taste.

In America 2005 (a very old operating system, precursor to USA OS, any version) you had these three categories: people who didn't work and needed to, people who did work very hard, people who didn't work and didn't need to. Those in the third category were considered to "have made it", those in the second to be "just making it" or maybe "doing OK", and those in the first "not making it". What all this jargon meant, in practice, is something an historian could tell you. Or watch

Don came by, after Derek and I got Frostys™ @ Wendy's. I shared this blog entry and he pointed out another important category: people who work hard, and don't need to. Went to Oasis.

After dark, I wrote an essay on MER for our KBE, and continued with the housework, having purchased Pine-Sol® at Freddie's. Science fair @ the school, dinner out with family. I should get Mr. Braithwaite and Mr. Bright to meet up; they're both majorly into Moto Guzzi.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Another NSR from AAA

So right in the same curb side parking spot it happened last time, on a sunny day (this time it was cold and overcast), my car engine refused to restart (dash flicker, clock says new time). Last time, she restarted, this time no dice. So we arranged another car to fetch the kids and I waited for AAA, reading Ideas by Peter Watson.

The USA Towing guy showed up in the requested Battery Support Unit (AAA roadside service and I agreed that's what I needed -- not a tow truck). He tested the battery, and 'shore nuff it was close to dead (14% rating). I cheerfully agreed to buy a new one off him, but according to his clipboard log, he'd just transacted his last compatible unit away. So although he jump started my car, he entered an NSR (no service rendered) into the AAA computer -- because he didn't have the battery I wanted to buy. He suggested Les Schwab (14% is low enough to suggest immediate replacement).

I drove her to the Les Schwab on SE Powell and received instant expert service. They offered me a choice between extremely powerful and super extremely powerful batteries. I went for the less expensive choice, which it turned out was not in stock, so they gave me the super duper one for the price of the only super one.

AAA entered an NSR for me once before on this car, when I got her towed on a flat bed, following the bicycle collision with Matt. That time, my driver was also the evening's chief, and needed to rush to a crash scene, Razz already strapped down in the back (me front). He kindly credited back the service because I didn't raise any fuss maybe.

Wanderers met this morning. Then I adjourned to Wired, and later to Meliptus (lunch at Thanh Thao).

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (movie review)

A playful romp through modern Gotham, wherein fathers rape, imprison and/or kill their own daughters -- or simply steal, write trashy fiction, and make movies. The loser anti-hero, a thief, bad in bed and at math, pursues the slinky, funny girl of his boyhood dreams. She cuts him some slack, thinking he's really a detective who might help solve a loved one's murder. He pulls off some magic and saves the day. Heart warming.

Matt and I retired to Leaky Roof (new owners) for some dinner, where I discovered I'd lost my free movie ticket (I'm a card carrying Regal Cinemas goer). That bummed me out. Plus I get tired of Gotham sometimes and wonder why Batman tried so hard to save it. The answer is Biblical I suppose: just one or two worth saving is enough to tip the scales. But I get tired of the Bible too. Maybe the real reason to keep saving the world is simpler: women.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Movie Making

Stallings saw Mindwalk again recently, liked it better than What the Bleep. My Dinner With Andre falls into the same category (Nick made this connection), plus that animated Waking Life.

All of these flicks are heavy on the chit chat, low in the action department. But still, people like to listen in on intelligent conversations, a kind of healthy voyeurism we learn as children, perhaps riding in the back seat, listening to pilot/co-pilot banter.

In my Project Earthala scenario, affiliates showcase promising new technologies, using real prototypes, not just phony stuff. Lots of strategic product placement and brand repositioning is going on, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera.

Our Reality TV stars have a lot of interesting lines however, so the genre isn't that far from the above philosophical films. Characters take strong positions. For example, I'm clearly wanting to keep our Fuller Projection nation-free at the base level, even if we allow such political data in overlays.

Others might take objection. Bohmian Dialogue ensues.