A “challenge” posted to Facebook:
A moment of thought and I realized the challenge was easy, and heartening. This speech has been given before:
“Hillary Clinton understands that we must fix an economy in America that is rigged and that sends almost all new wealth and income to the top one percent. Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.
She believes that we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she wants to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. – our roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater plants.
This election is about which candidate will nominate Supreme Court justices who are prepared to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision which allows billionaires to buy elections and undermine our democracy; about who will appoint new justices on the Supreme Court who will defend a woman’s right to choose, the rights of the LGBT community, workers’ rights, the needs of minorities and immigrants, and the government’s ability to protect the environment.
This campaign is about moving the United States toward universal health care and reducing the number of people who are uninsured or under-insured. Hillary Clinton wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their health care exchange, which will lower the cost of health care.
She also believes that anyone 55 years or older should be able to opt in to Medicare and she wants to see millions more Americans gain access to primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers throughout this country.
Hillary is committed to seeing thousands of young doctors, nurses, psychologists, dentists and other medical professionals practice in underserved areas as we follow through on President Obama’s idea of tripling funding for the National Health Service Corps.
In New Hampshire, in Vermont and across the country we have a major epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction. People are dying every day from overdoses. Hillary Clinton understands that if we are serious about addressing this crisis we need major changes in the way we deliver mental health treatment. That’s what expanding community health centers will do and that is what getting medical personnel into the areas we need them most will do.
Hillary Clinton also understands that millions of seniors, disabled vets and others are struggling with the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. She and I are in agreement that Medicare must negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and that we must expand the use of generic medicine.
Drug companies should not be making billions in profits while one in five Americans are unable to afford the medicine they need. The greed of the drug companies must end.
This election is about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that currently exists, the worst it has been since 1928. Hillary Clinton knows that something is very wrong when the very rich become richer while many others are working longer hours for lower wages.
She knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.
This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, the many others who cannot afford to go to college and the need for this country to have the best educated workforce in the world if we are to compete effectively in a highly competitive global economy.
Hillary Clinton believes that we must substantially lower student debt, and that we must make public colleges and universities tuition free for the middle class and working families of this country. This is a major initiative that will revolutionize higher education in this country and improve the lives of millions.
Think of what it will mean when every child in this country, regardless of the income of their family, knows that if they study hard and do well in school – yes, they will be able to get a college education and leave school without debt.
This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that if we do not act boldly in the very near future there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels.
She understands that we must work with countries around the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy – and that when we do that we can create a whole lot of good paying jobs.
This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It’s about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools or at good jobs, not in jail cells. Secretary Clinton understands that we don’t need to have more people in jail than any other country on earth, at an expense of $80 billion a year.”
All I did was remove the few paragraphs where the T-word was mentioned.
Life has been busy lately. I have failed at carving out time for the little things like keeping up with email and reading and writing. One theme that is just below the surface these days, is an understanding of the Individual’s impermanence, that one will inevitably be swept away down the river. But, the good news is, it is the river that is the thing. You stick your foot in the river, and you feel the tug of the currents: this one fast and warm, that one slow and cool. In life, we are these currents, flowing together, mingling, becoming something identifiable and satisfying while also becoming the river itself.
Death has been on my mind lately. Dad passed about a year back, and the Reaper has expressed an interest in the health of another loved one. I am not opposed to Death. We’re all going to get there. Life, the abused cliché reminds us, is the journey and not the destination. I’ll be forty in January. One can read that as the half way mark. I want to pull over and look around. Close at hand, I see my toddler Son, his eyes wide with the possibilities and joys of life, his future for him to know and hopefully to share with his old man. And, not far off, I see my Father, whom my Son will ever know through stories, mainly told by me. Stories I mainly lack. And, yonder still, my own Grandfather, whom I know mainly through the most exaggerated of stories.
We all come from somewhere, and we are all headed somewhere. This bend in the River knows only a short ways upstream, toward the various and contradictory legends of the Wellsprings, and only a short ways ahead, toward the various legends of the Delta, where we believe the River as we have ever understood it will cease as it merges with the Great Ocean.
The August issue of The Sun Magazine brought with it an interview with Stephen Jenkinson, whom some call “The Death Whisperer” … he packs a lot of great ideas that resonate with me into eight pages. Not bad. What follows is a bit of perspective on the idea of one’s influences.
Hoffner: Who would you say are your influences?
Jenkinson: Anyone who claims to know his or her influences probably doesn’t. I think our influences are a lot subtler than we think. For example, I was born nine years after the closing of Auschwitz and the bombing of Hiroshima half a world away. When those soldiers came home from World War II suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder before we had a name for it, North America created the suburbs for them. I grew up in the unacknowledged presence of those wartime horrors: Auschwitz on the one side, Hiroshima on the other, and the suburbs in the middle. That’s an influence on me.
As a child I was read to every night. Before I even understood the words, I was carried along by the momentum of the human voice. The pageant of the story has its way with you, even if its not in a language you can comprehend. Story is a sublime practice that makes us recognizable to ourselves.
These days I admire the songwriter Leonard Cohen, my countryman and a polestar in the firmament for anyone who has faith in human eloquence. Eloquence is a conjuring; it’s magic, and Cohen is a servant as well as a practitioner and a repository of that magic. He’s a patron saint of the Orphan Wisdom School, unawares. I don’t know what kind of life he lives, but it’s inconceivable to me that those songs might come from a duplicitous nature. In a country that appreciated its artists, he would be a national treasure and wouldn’t have to work five minutes in his life unless he was so inclined. As it is he’s been on the road for years trying to make back all the money his manager stole from him.
I met another of my influences at Harvard. As a young man I was on fire with learning about the historical Jesus. I didn’t come from a religious background, but I applied to Harvard Divinity School and got in. I was determined to be a preacher of some sort. I don’t know what else you could do with that kind of education. At the divinity school I met a fellow who was the living incarnation of a stereotypical televangelist: power-blue suit that didn’t fit so good: too-tight white shirt that was popping its buttons. He was in charge that year of vocational counsel. I told him I planned to get a master of divinity and become a pastor or a minister. He asked me the name of my sponsoring congregation, and I said I hadn’t worked that out yet. Then he asked my denominational affiliation. I told him I didn’t have one. “Son, where do you go to church?” he asked. I said that I didn’t, and he asked, “Well, where did you go to church, then?” No answer. So he said, “Let me understand this: you propose to go into the ministry, and you’ve never been to church?” “Yes sir,” I replied. “Well, I nev-uh,” he said, just like that. I was three questions into my vocational interview, and I was done.
My career as a preacher came to an end at that moment. I was counseled to register for a master of theological studies — a layperson’s degree — instead. That same week I met a preaching instructor whose name was Hugh Morgan Hill, but everyone knew him as Brother Blue. He was a vibrant speaker in the African American tradition. He said I should be in his class. I told him I’d already been counseled out of the master of divinity program. “Nobody needs to know,” he said. On my way to his first class I picked up a harmonica. The class had already begun when I got there, and Professor Hill was in full flight. He was a great storyteller and performer. For some reason I started to play my harmonica along with what he was doing, just improvising.
The next week his wife phoned and asked if I’d come with him to a church service — and bring my harmonica.
I performed with Hill on and off for seven years. It was an unofficial apprenticeship. We traveled all over the U.S. and Canada. This was the era of school integration, remember, and there were race riots in some cities, but since we were together, we were OK. He was a holy man from the ghettos of the American heartland. Virtually everything he did in the world was self-initiated. He never seemed to have a job description. He carved it out every time he stood up to speak. I learned from him the importance of proceeding without the green light, the red carpet, the Get Out of Jail Free card. I was emboldened by his example when I was working in palliative care, because I realized that if I was going to serve these dying people well, then I couldn’t wait for anyone to ask me to do it. And if I’m going to serve the era I’ve been born into well, then I can’t wait for approval and recognition. I’m going to have to proceed without it. If it comes, it comes; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That, and a lot more, is what I got from him.
Brother Stephen articulates a lot of ideas about Life and Death. Ideas I am still digesting. But I suppose I can share some notes.
To be Alive is to be In Debt to Death. Everything we have, everything … the food we eat day after day, the clothes we wear, the fuel we use to get around … animals and plants, and if you think about it, the Solar energy that fuels All Of It comes from the slow annihilation of the Sun, as its atoms fuse into ever heavier elements. “What will your death feed?”
The Debt is non-negotiable and it will be re-paid.
“Grief is not sadness. There’s sadness in grief, but grief is not exhausted when the sadness goes away. … Sadness has a shelf life, but grief endures …” I picture a small pot, held over the flame of death. The sadness bubbles and splatters and evaporates. The pot is withdrawn from the flame. There is a residue left over. That residue is grief. It does not boil away. You paint with it. You leave a mark somewhere so that when one needs a reminder that “this too shall pass” they may thus be reminded. This paragraph is painted with grief. I hope it feeds your wisdom.
In the interview, Jenkins has a riff about the need for an element missing in our culture: the Rite of Passage in which childhood ends and adulthood begins. A consumer culture derives better profits from a population that is not asked to Grow Up: You Deserve More and More!! His critique resonates but I disagree with the idea that a Rite must “kill off childhood” … on the very next page he explains that it is misguided to shelter children from the idea of death … I think that Childhood is maybe what lends Death its greatest contrast. Young and full of possibility and very self-involved … adults should not be so self-involved, the grown ups must labor to pay the interest on our life debt … but we still need to grow and learn. While we would prefer for grownups to not be self-involved narcissists we need also ask them to be sufficiently self-involved, and other involved, to cultivate their self awareness.
Other involved is what we ask of a child, and what we give a child, when we share with them the fact of Death. Children can appreciate Wisdoms, just as Adults can appreciate Wonders.
A last thought, while I sat in my favorite coffee shop, taking and making these notes, and watching an Old Man drink in the Joyful Clown Antics of some toddlers across the way, was that nursing homes really ought to co-locate with nurseries. Children bring Life into the Room. Elders bring Life as well. The children are starting from scratch, painting with incoherent vitality. The elders have taken their lives, chipped away at it, and produced works of art, called Lives. Day by day, they reveal these works to the children: some are beautiful, some are perplexing, some are sad, and some are horrible. The children react, embrace, reject, imitate, and iterate. Culture ensues, and the river flows enriched.
Two quotes passed along on September 11, from my meat-eating Grandmother:
A USDA inspector reviews the carcasses of slaughtered pigs for our safety. Credit: Wikmedia Commons
“As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.” –Leo Tolstoy
“We are the living graves of murdered beasts
slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
if animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight –
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
and yet – we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
regardless of the suffering and pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenseless animals for sport or gain
how can we hope in this world to attain
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring – WAR.”
–George Bernard Shaw
This drives me insane. Part of the challenge is that most software dictionaries are unaware of the word “colocation” and are happy to offer “collocation” as an alternative, but that is wrong wrong wrong wrong and it makes me a little nuts every time.
So, here is some explanation I just sent to the NOC and copied to the Sales team of a “Colocation Provider” who keeps sending me messages from something called “Collocation Status Report”:
A collocation is a statistic used by linguists to determine the
frequency with which words and phrases are found together.
On your contact information page, there is an option to contact Sales
Assuming that you are indeed in the business of Colocation, and not
actually updating us on the status of word frequencies, please fix the
name in your outgoing envelope from “Collocation Status Reports” to
“Colocation Status Reports”
Yup. That’s all I have to say about that.
A paragraph I had highlighted as I finished my reading of Du Bois’ “Dusk of Dawn”:
The Dyer Anti-lynching Bill went through the House of Representatives and on to the floor of the Senate. There in 1924 it died with a filibuster and the abject surrender of its friends. It was not until years after that I knew what killed that anti-lynching bill. It was a bargain between the South and the West. By this bargain, lynching was let to go on uncurbed by Federal law, on condition that the Japanese be excluded from the United States.
Sometimes Divide and Conquer needs some unity of purpose to succeed. All too often, we have made compromises to accommodate critically-needed constituencies, and it takes us far too long to realize the evil in the deals we have made, and far too long to correct it. These days I feel that efforts to reduce carbon emissions for the sake of a stable climate are for our generation what race and gender equality, voting rights, workers rights, national infrastructure and slavery were for previous generations.
A Prop 8 champion is having a change of heart:
Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its children.
At the level of first principles, gay marriage effaces that gift.
[ . . . ]
But there are more good things under heaven than these beliefs. For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.
I think that there is more to marriage than children, and that those children who can not be adequately cared for by their birth parents are still entitled to be cared for by whatever competent and loving parents society can find for them. At any rate, I am glad to see a Prop 8 supporter come out of the closet and realize that the way to strengthen marriage is to focus on strengthening marriages, rather than denigrating homosexuals.
The other day they were talking about Aung San Suu Kyi on the radio, that the path she chose to follow was the path laid forth by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. The idea is not to seek victory over the enemy, but to identify the universal capacity for virtue, to love the enemy and change the enemy’s heart, to be open to a more enlightened and equitable path. I feel that David Blankenhorn’s evolution here, along with the evolution of many Americans, is evidence that this sort of spiritual warfare is carrying the day in my country.
I love the smell of progress in the morning.
Above all science was becoming religion; psychology was reducing metaphysics to experiment and a sociology of human action was planned. Fighting the vast concept of evolution, religion went into its heresy trials, its struggle with “higher criticism,” its discomfort at the “revised version” of the New Testament which was published the year I entered college. Wealth was God. Everywhere men sought wealth and especially in America there was extravagant living; everywhere the poor planned to be rich and the rich planned to be richer; everywhere wider, bigger, higher, better things were set down as inevitable.
— W. E. B. Du Bois
… who entered college in 1885
Actually, Chapter 3 of “Dusk of Dawn” describes a transition from the world Du Bois was born into of the latter 19th century:
“(As) a young man, so far as I conceived, the foundations of present culture were laid, the way was charted, the progress toward certain great goals was undoubted and inevitable. There was room for argument concerning details and methods and possible detours in the onsweep of civilization; but the fundamental facts were clear, unquestioned and unquestionable.”
In contrast with the “today” of 1940:
“TODAY both youth and age look upon a world whose foundations seem to be tottering. They are not sure what the morrow will bring; perhaps the complete overthrow of European civilization, of that great enveloping mass of culture into which they were born. Everything in their environment is a meet subject for criticism. They can dispassionately evaluate the past and speculate upon the future. It is a day of fundamental change.”
I feel my heart and mind whipsawing between a world culture which is on the cusp of some fundamental, unimaginable change, and a world in which we will pretty much keep doing what we have done, just bigger, bolder, better, faster, with nanites and a higher rate of return . . . I get dizzy thinking about this world I try to live in.
And Religionists and Conservatives keep shouting their objections to a changing world ever louder, ever more viciously. They’re still attacking Evolution, so the concept and theological implications of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption are even more of a leap . . .
But the today of 2012, when the big revolutions appear to be how the European Union will manage debt among member states, and whether Arab countries can successfully democratize, whether there will be regional wars on either side of Asia, and the capacity of fundamentalists to kill civilians . . . today’s world isn’t tottering as obviously as 1940’s “today.”
But it is the Big Things you don’t hear in the news every day; When will climate change trigger famine and mass migration? Will China’s rise be sustained to the point it becomes a world power or will it implode? When are we going to be hit by that asteroid that superheats the atmosphere? Just after the devastating global pandemic that trained against antibiotics and traveled everywhere on jet planes before we noticed it? Will nanofabrication make industry and perhaps agriculture obsolete? Will the Singularity bring upon us a supra-individualist world consciousness? Will medical science and DNA repeal the eternal inevitabilities of aging and death? Is that when we will feel comfortable encapsulating our bodies on centuries-long trips to distant star systems? The new Magellans will refer to centuries as we refer to decades. My thinking is so early 21st . . .
These are the things I tend to wonder about between meetings at work.
Some article in The Atlantic about how President Obama has decided to stop being the reasonable guy who makes every last concession imaginable and then some and as of last night is now playing Chicken with the Republicans, daring them to screw the country over, since they’re likely to take the greater share of the blame. Yeah, anyway, this part got me laughing:
There’s an old Soviet joke that a friend once told me. An old man has been standing in line for bread for eight hours. His feet hurt, his back hurts, and he is faint from hunger. Finally, finally the door opens and the baker comes out. He starts to salivate. He fingers the rubles in his pocket.
“Comrades, go home,” says the baker. “There is no flour to make bread today.”
Something in the old man snaps. He has been waiting in these lines for decades, and he has had enough. “This is ridiculous!” he shouts. “I fought in the Great Patriotic War! I worked for forty years in the factory! Now you make me wait in line for eight hours when there’s no flour? You didn’t know this eight hours ago? I spit on you, and I spit on the regime!” And he spits in front of the baker.
A man steps out of line behind him. “Careful, comrade. You know how it would have been in the old days if you had said these things.” With his thumb and forefinger, he mimes a gun being fired at the temple.
Defeated, the man steps out of line and trudges home with everyone else. He goes into his apartment and sits down at the table. His wife walks in just as he pours the last of his vodka into a glass, and drinks it down in one gulp.
“Sergei, what’s wrong?!” she cries, seeing the look on his face. “Don’t tell me they’re out of bread!”
“It’s worse than that. Much worse.” he says heavily.
“What could be worse?”
“They’re out of bullets.”
Americans should maybe be stocking up on their dark humor.
“Even though bicycle commuting is on the rise all over the country, as cyclists we remain vulnerable. We’re like mammals in the waning days of the dinosaurs: far more adaptable and with much better long-term prospects, yet in the meantime still in imminent danger of being squashed.”
—Bike Snob NYC
He goes on:
You’d imagine that at some point Americans would wake up to the fact that they’re being sold a very expensive illusion of safety that is in fact killing them and opt for practicality and efficiency over sheer size, but until that day there’s nothing illusory about city streets filled with light-running SUVs driven by a gentry who are more or less free to maim with impunity. And when it comes to cycling for transportation, the fact that your safety–indeed your very life–is not a consideration is what you might call a “barrier to entry.”
We all approach this barrier differently depending on our dispositions. Some of us hop it as adroitly as a cyclocross racer and ride undaunted. Others step over it with considerable trepidation, riding only occasionally or strictly for recreation. Still others simply go around it by opting for other modes of transport. And of course millions of people buy gigantic “safe” automobiles and just drive through the fucking thing while jockeying their smartphones, with two or three cyclists pinned to their bumpers.
As far as the larger-cars-are-safer myth: more massive vehicles need greater stopping distance to break or perform emergency maneuvers. Having more tons of metal surrounding you helps only if you assume you will get into an accident, possibly because your vehicle is bulky and awkward and you have a false sense of security which lowers your vigilance. Then you end up killing the other guy, in the smaller, more fuel-efficient car or bicycle. If you drive an SUV you get bonus points for driving a top-heavy vehicle vulnerable to flipping, which, as a light truck, is unencumbered by the Socialist mandate of rollover protection. Live free and die an avoidable fatality!
Some folks are irritated with American reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden. Julie indicated that she had mixed feelings upon seeing our “own countrymen basically holding a frat party outside of the White House, hanging off of trees and singing ‘Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!'” I have heard others moan that this doesn’t change anything, why are we celebrating?
So, I expressed my own feelings in a comment on Julie’s blog:
I was happy about the news yesterday, and I still am. We killed a bad guy who has devoted his life to killing us. That is a victory, and I am proud and glad.
When the crowd outside the White House gathered and sang the Star Spangled Banner, it brought a tear to my eye. Then, America the Beautiful. People gathered at Ground Zero for a candle light vigil. In both places, the crowd chanted “USA! USA! USA!” They spoke for me.
I think it is debatable who kills the most Muslims. Our military adheres to Rules of Engagement that put them at greater risk in order to protect Muslim civilians. On the other hand, extremists recruit the young and naive to walk into crowds of Muslims wearing explosive vests.
We are not perfect and we shouldn’t pretend to be. We make mistakes, we kill innocents, and we have failed to hold ourselves to our own standards of humane treatment of prisoners and jurisprudence.
We are drawing down forces in Iraq, which has changed from a brutal dictatorship built on terror to a messy, unstable, imperfect democracy vulnerable to sectarian violence. We now have one less reason to linger in Afghanistan, which may help motivate the government there to get its act together.
Last night was progress. America done good and a bit of pride is perfectly reasonable.
I mean, its no Moon Landing. No sincere attempt to curb global warming or end world poverty, hunger, disease . . . but it is progress and I’ll celebrate it just the same.
Wednesday, September 1
This morning I skipped the bicycle ride to work, figuring that inhaling auto exhaust is less advisable on a “Spare the Air” day. Then I got double-whammied by the VTA at Evelyn station, where I arrived just-in-time to have caught a train on the platform, except I had to buy a ticket first. And of course, once the train was gone my $5 bill slid right in and required none of the usual massaging and unfolding-of-the-corners.
So, I caught another train one stop out to Mountain View: the end of the line. Since it is one track at Evelyn, any train waiting to start its run from Mountain View has to wait. And wait it did, until we pulled up to the platform. The train I wanted to be on slid back toward Evelyn before my train could even open its doors. So, I waited another several minutes to leave Mountain View, but I got to pass the time reading, which I can’t do on the bicycle, so I’m not going to complain much.
When I got back from lunch I learned that the market had rallied, and my limit order to sell TSLA at $20.45 had finally executed. It actually peaked ten cents higher and then closed at $20.45. This is the second time I had rode Tesla’s fluctuations successfully and now that I’m no longer on the East Coast and the market starts its day before I wake up, I figured I’d cash out of this fancy-pants chicanery and buy DIA. But I placed a limit buy at $100, which is where it has been lately. “Name your price!”
Thursday, September 2
“The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.”
The New Yorker
August 2, 2010
Friday, September 3
Biked to work today. Ordered a tape recorder for the99ers.net and pulled an old picture from the Tellme days for the theme’s header image. Dinner tomorrow with a friend who is moving back to Chicago. Sunday I’ll drop Mei off at the airport so she can fly to LA for the week for her boards review course.
Monday, September 6
Not much to say.
From the Catacombs, beneath Paris.
I don’t like Flickr’s new interface. It used to be that if you viewed “all sizes” you could get the HTML to link to a photo. Now you have to click on a FAQ, then navigate back to the photo, and go down a different route to grab the HTML. Would it be so wrong to support the navigation habits of users who have been using the site for over half a decade? All the buttons that used to be just a click away are buried under a menu, and I sometimes have to scroll down to beneath the photo to change the title. I also miss that tags used to each be on their own line. The new interface seems like its been labotomized so that we can be filled in with a bigger photo, and more white space.
Okay, just wanted to let that out.
The sweetheart is away. I am copying some episodes of The IT Crowd over to play.
Tuesday, September 7
I took a different route to work today, up Stevens Creek, over to Ellis and then tracing along 237 and 101, first on quiet frontage roads and ultimately on dedicated bike trail. It was nice and had very little traffic stress compared to my Evelyn-Wolfe-Arquez-San Thomas-Tasman route. On the other hand, I end up breathing in 8 lanes of highway exhaust much of the way. Do I prefer the quick death of a vehicle collision or the slow death of lung disease? Hopefully we can repair that stuff in a few decades.
It is not that children are just smaller adults, it is that adults are larger children.
Thursday, September 9
I have an orthodontic consult this afternoon. Consequently, I am working from home today. I took my hardware VPN back in since I don’t need it any more, and can free up some desk space and power drain. Alas, I had to jump through a few little hoops to get software VPN working this morning. I have been back at the office for just over a month now and my commutes to San Jose and San Bruno have all been via public transit or bicycle, with the occasional ride home from a co-worker. This little bit pleases me.
Sunday, September 12
“It occurred to him that life, which he’d treated as a pastime, and which he’d thought he could yet outdistance, had finally caught up with him. And he’d discovered, much as he’d suspected, that once life caught up with you, you could never quite shake it again. It endeavored to hobble you with greater and greater frequency. How you managed to remain upright became your style, who you were.”
“The Train of Their Departure”
The New Yorker
August 9, 2010
Mei comes back tonight. I pick her up at the airport around midnight. After too long, I have gotten my hair cut, at a Chinese place where speaking English is sufficiently awkward that the lady skipped the usual foreplay of asking what I wanted and just got down to the business of cutting my hair. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!
Compared to Brooklyn, Mountain View is a sleepy, slow town, where people spend their time waiting for turn-arrows and a trip to the convenience store invariably requires one to stand patiently in line, as the lady carefully counts out exact change and labors over the implications of whether it is worthwhile to sign customers up for the club card, while I quietly wait in line, nostalgic over all the times in the past year when I had ducked in to a store, exchanged quick cash with the proprietor, and was back on my way. Club cards be damned. They have no place at a convenience store.
Monday, September 13
From the upcoming “Social Network” movie, via The New Yorker:
“Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.”
As someone surrounded by geeks, I’ve always known that if someone thinks I’m an asshole, it is because either I am an asshole, they are an asshole, or between us we’re just confused as to who the asshole is.
Tuesday, September 14
Advice sent to a loved one:
Aaaaanyway what I’d do, if anything, is thank the lady for her good intentions, and apologize that sorry, I can’t send her any money because of my discomfort over the quality of decision making made in the name of religion. It sounds like her mission is to overtly spread the idea that personal morality can not be guided by the innate human capacity to discern right from wrong, but by a confusing and contradictory corpus of Iron Age mythology mediated by a competing group of organizations which are at best patriarchal in nature and at worst openly practice terrorism and sexual violence. This approach to enriching humanity is a cause I could never support. I would explain that I would be strongly inclined to make contributions on the behalf of secular charities with morally clear missions like Habitat or MSF.
Its like, you can gently suggest that someone’s belief system is foolish and deadly without having to bring up the inquisition, the IRA, or 9/11. After all, she thinks you’re going to hell, so, whatever. If someone ever wants to throw down I’m sure you can get all Richard Dawkins on their ass.
Wednesday, September 15
San Bruno fire Captain Bill Forester’s Engine 51 was one of the first two teams on the scene; the other big truck got hot so quickly its windshield exploded. “This looks like Armageddon,” Forester recalled thinking Tuesday. “It was like they took a Saturn V rocket and tipped it upside down during blastoff.”
Terrified residents were fleeing down the hill with the fireball chasing them, firefighters recalled, many already badly burned and screaming for help. There were so few ambulance trying to keep up that paramedics began asking unhurt residents to drive people with smoldering burns to nearby hospitals. Police officers and firefighters kicked down doors to rescue anyone stranded in homes.
Even with the wail of sirens filling the background of one radio call asking dispatchers to issue a third alarm, it is the rising alarm in a firefighter’s voice that tells the truest story. “We’ve got multiple houses” on fire, he reports to the command center. “We’re trying to get close. We have extreme heat. We have possibly several blocks on fire at this time.”
There is silence on the radio for a moment. Grasping fully the nightmare that she can hear unfolding in an invisible chorus of voices, the dispatcher slowly replies, “Copy that.”
More than 15 minutes into the disaster, a dispatcher issues a fourth alarm, summoning fire companies from all across the Bay Area to respond to “a plane crash.” A firefighter asks whether it’s a “large aircraft or small aircraft,” but no one knows. This would affect the firefighters’ initial response to the blaze because the accepted method of dealing with a plane crash is to put it out at the source in order to save passengers’ lives.
Gas main fires are extinguished by shutting off a valve, and there have been reports that it took PG&E well over and hour to close this one.
“With a pipeline that big, even if you shut it off a mile away it could burn for another hour,” said Kevin Conant, a battalion chief with the San Jose Fire Department who was not involved in fighting the San Bruno blaze. “I think it was completely legitimate for them to consider that there was an airplane involved because of the amount of fire they had.”
First responders say the most frightening moment occurred when they tried to tap into the neighborhood fire hydrants and heard only a sucking sound . . .
Mike Rosenberg and Bruce Newman
“Tapes Reveal Frantic Scene”
San Jose Mercury News
September 15, 2010
Later, Bike Snob NYC made me laugh:
“Like coffee, religion props people up and gets them through their day, and in this sense I believe that religious institutions are like Starbucks in that there are way too many of them and they sell a lot of crap–the only difference is that at least Starbucks pays taxes and offers WiFi.”
Friday, September 17
I was a little surprised to see sfcitizen whining about the physical impossibility for driving 25 MPH, so I chimed in:
Once the speed limit hits 20MPH, then your chances of a fatal pedestrian accident become extremely unlikely. There is advocacy in Britain to expand 20 MPH zones:
If you keep light on the gas, it is entirely easy to drive slowly, and a pleasure to boot, because down in this speed range your mind can almost catch up with all that is going on around you: less stress! You just have to let go of the selfish idea that you have some God-given right to drive fast.
I just returned to the South bay from Brooklyn. I have to say, driving in Brooklyn at a constant 20-25 MPH, slaloming around double-parked cars, bicycles, and the rest, is a lot more relaxing than waiting two minutes at a left-turn light so you can tear down El Camino at 40 MPH.
Open your mind instead of the throttle. you might find you enjoy driving slow. Good luck!
Yeah, I know I’m a crackpot. And when I was younger I had a more leaden foot, but over the past decade or so my driving has mellowed a great deal, possibly because of the station wagon. When you’re driving a boat it is easy enough to relax and take it easy, and I maintain that style in smaller, more nimble cars.
Thursday, September 23
So, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with Mei’s folks in Hawaii and Christmas with my folks in Chicago, so I set up our Hawaii vacation for November. I have never been there myself but it should be easy to enjoy.
On Monday they opened up a long-closed bike trail up North of Moffett Field. This has been a long-awaited link in the Bay Trail project, and I am pleased because now instead of riding on streets and on a 237 frontage road I can ride up the Steven’s Creek trail, then around the North side of Moffett Field, then East along the Bay Trail and then along a canal to the office. That’s a bicycle commute that is over 90% off the street.
But . . . a lot of this new route is gravel. It takes more concentration to ride safely, and getting a flat on my road tires is more likely. The salt flats smell of salt, seaweed, and decay. But I’ll take the occasional flat tire and maybe a gravelly wipe-out or two over being killed by a distracted SUV driver, and the wetlands scenery is a greater pleasure for the eyes and the nose than riding through high-speed suburban street traffic and waiting for red turn signals. I feel lucky.
When I rode the trail home on Monday people would smile and greet each other as they passed, because hey, we had a new toy.
The other new toy I have this week is Civilization 5. I was able to play the first half of a game last night, and so far I really enjoy it. It is a pretty huge change in a lot of ways from Civ 4. Civ 4 is more of a simulation game with lots and lots of variables thrown in to keep a player challenged. I think the developers leaned back and said “Civ 4 is great, but it is pretty dang complicated. Let’s make it easier for new players.” So, Civ 5 has streamlined a lot of things. The graphics are really beautiful, and the tech trees and units are pared down. Diplomacy is re-worked and the whole religion-civics thing has been consolidated into a new set of “Social Policies” which you can enact as you amass more culture.
The interface has moved from the traditional sim-manager style to more of a “builder” paradigm. For example, happiness is now an aggregate for your entire Civ instead of something managed in each city.
Aaaaaaanyway . . . . . I want to understand the military and diplomatic interfaces better, and just get a few games done and out of my system.
Friday, September 24
“I think we are making a transition, the most important in the history of Homo sapiens — more important than our long walk out of Africa and across Europe and Asia. This is our moment. Anyone who died before 1930 never lived through a doubling of the human population. Anyone born after 2050 likely won’t either. We are in a 120-year transition that will require an emerging consciousness if we’re going to make it through.”
The Sun, October, 2010
Monday, September 27
We purchased a humming bird feeder this weekend. Within about ten minutes of installation, the first little bird flitted over. They catch on quicker than the larger birds, who we can occasionally hear at the other feeder, spilling a steady trickle of seed on to the balcony.
Thursday, September 30
It is nearly noon and I am relaxing with the ever-studying Mei at my favorite coffee shop. My work hours today are going to be around 1pm-9pm, due to afternoon and evening deployment windows for software on our production networks. That’s my day job. Well, today my day job is slacker, and my evening job is deployment engineer.
From the August, 2010 issue of The Sun Magazine:
Cook: You’ve said that if executions were made public, people would realize the brutality of this system and work to end it. Yet, in our past, crowds would show up for public executions, some with picnic lunches. In our age of violent media, what makes you so sure average citizens wouldn’t applaud the execution of a killer they were certain was guilty?
Prejean: There would be some, no doubt, who would pull out a beer and cheer that this terrible murderer had been killed. But for most people who see it up close, capital punishment is very unsettling. The head of the Department of Corrections in Louisiana has to arrange the protocol for executions, and part of that is gathering witnesses. At first he thought he’d have a line of people stretching across the Mississippi River waiting to get in, but soon he realized that no one who witnessed an execution asked to come back. When you’re in the death chamber, you see when they have to jab the needle eighteen times into the arm of the condemned. You hear the stumbling last words of those who are killed: “Mama, I love you,” or “I’m so sorry.” Imagine an ordinary American family having their evening meal, and the news comes on, and the kids ask their parents, “Isn’t that murder too?” and, “Why are they putting antiseptic on his arm if they’re going to kill him?” It would not take long for people to cry out against this, and that’s why it will never be public. You have to keep it from the eyes of the people.
Cook: You have served as spiritual advisor to six men who were executed. What were their last days, their last hours, like — for them and for you?
Prejean: Being with someone who is about to die is surreal. When you’re with someone in the hospital who is dying, it’s at least a natural process; you can see them leaving you. When someone is fully alive, and you’re talking to him in the way you and I are talking, you can not get your mind around the fact that in two hours, now one hour, now forty-five minutes, he’s going to be killed.
The death itself is almost scripted: Now they’re walking in. Now I’m telling him goodbye and kissing him on the back. I’m praying for him and asking him to remember me to God. Now the guards have me by my arms. They are sitting me down in a witness chair. There’s the big clock on the wall. There’s the exhaust fan, already turned on, that will suck from the room the stench of the human body burning. There’s the blank glass with the executioner on the other side. They’ve already tested the chair. It’s run on a seperate generator, so nobody can prevent the execution by throwing the main switch. The lights are bright floursecents. There are two red telephones on the wall: If one rings, it is the court issuing a stay of execution. If the other rings, it’s a pardon from the governor. Neither phone rings. The victim’s family is sitting in the front row to watch. The other witnesses and I are sitting behind them. There are two newspaper reporters writing vigorously on narrow spiral pads. And the condemned man is looking at me. And I put my hand out. And he can see my face. And they put the leather mask over his face, so tight I worry he can’t breathe. How quickly they strap him in the chair and step away. It’s an oak chair. They put a cloth soaked with saline solution on his shaved head and then the metal cap. A thick, curled wire runs from the cap to the generator. And then the strap goes across his chest.
I didn’t look the first time, because with the mask I knew he couldn’t see me anymore. With lethal injection he can see me, but not with the electric chair. I closed my eyes and heard the sound of it. The huge, rushing, powerful sound of the fire being shot through his body. Three times. They run 1,900 volts, then let the body cool, and then 500 volts, and then 1,900 volts again. What’s terrifying is that they’ve done autopsies of people who have been electrocuted, and the brain is mainly intact. We don’t know what they feel. We really don’t know, when we kill a human being, what’s going on inside, the pain of it.
Cook: You believe that the days leading up to an execution amount to torture.
Prejean: I don’t say this lightly. According to Amnesty International, torture is “an extreme mental or physical assault on someone who’s been rendered defenseless.” Just imagine if somebody took you hostage in a room and said that in twenty-four hours they were coming to kill you. And, when the time comes, they put the gun to your head and pull the trigger. It clicks. It is an empty chamber. They laugh and walk out and say, Not today. Maybe tomorrow. That’s torture.
Everybody I’ve known on death row has had the same nightmare: they dream it is their time, and the guards come and drag them out, and they are screaming and sweating, and then they wake up and realize they are still in their cell. Just think about when you have to go to the dentist for a root canal. If the appointment is for Friday, all week you are living in dread. That’s just for a root canal.
You can read a longer excerpt at the Sun’s web site.
I still fondly recall the nice rubber keyboard of my Sidekick 2. So nice, I was reluctant to “upgrade” to a G1, which has a nice enough keyboard. A few months back I got to spend some time with a Nexus One, which was really nice . . . but I just could not adjust to the on-screen keyboard. The on-screen keyboard has gotten very good for inputting addresses and short messages, but if you’re a compulsive typer like me you need an excellent physical keyboard.
So, I keep my eye out for an Android device with an excellent physical keyboard, and naturally I do a little research on this HTC “T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide” . . . the name is truly awful, but it sounds like the keyboard shows promise. (It sounds like the physically-similar HTC “Touch Pro2” has an excellent keyboard, but I don’t want to run Windows on a mobile phone.)
So, in case, like me, you have wondered if the keyboard is any good, here is what various online reviews have had to say:
Of course, the main reason to get the myTouch Slide is for the full QWERTY keyboard. There are a few negatives but, overall, it’s an excellent way to bang out messages on the go. The shape of the keys are just right and the feedback and “clickability” make it easy to write long e-mails wherever you are. Hitting the secondary function or Caps lock key will bring up a handy light above the keyboard and I always appreciate dedicated comma and period buttons. There’s also pretty good auto-correction software with the keyboard so you don’t have to worry about throwing in apostrophes. The sliding mechanism produces a satisfying sound and it feels like it will hold up over time.
On the downside, I found the Tab button and A a little too close together and this led to multiple frustrating typos. What’s even worse is that the top row doubles as the number keys. This happens on many keyboards but usually you’ll have the letters and numbers a different color or font size to help you quickly find what you’re looking for. The myTouch Slide has “T5” “Y6” “I8” and others the exact same color and size, which can take some time to get used to. None of these quibbles are deal breakers though, as I was quickly able to get up to speed with my typing.
(The keyboard has four rows instead of five, and the top row reads “Q1 W2 E3 R4 T5 Y6 U7 I8 O9 P0” which looks dumb and would take some getting used to. Alas, the Touch Pro2 has five rows, like all the keyboards I am used to.)
The keyboard is one of the best four-row designs we’ve used in recent memory (LG, seriously, take some pointers from this before you go releasing an Ally 2) with great feel, spacing, and clickiness — it’s readily apparent that HTC’s deep experience in making these kinds of keyboards is paying dividends. They’ve made room for all of the most important keys that you should be able to access without pressing Shift or Alt, notably the comma, period, and “@” symbol, plus you’ve got Home and Search keys and duplicated modifiers on the left and right sides. HTC aficionados will also be pleased to see that they’ve carried over the lit Shift and Alt symbols above the numeric row, which makes it super easy to see what character you’re about to press. It’s a nice touch.
Keyboards are a very personal thing, and personally I love Slide’s QWERTY. While not quite as luscious as the Touch Pro2 on which it’s based, mT3G Slide’s thumbboard has been a joy to use save for some minor issues I have with the labels on the keys. Buttons on the keyboard are offset and isolated and have decent travel and solid tactile feel – in other words, its the exact opposite of the Moto Droid‘s flat grid of near motionless buttons, which I can’t stand. If you just read that sentence and wrote off the rest of my review because you love, love, love Droid’s QWERTY, then you may well hate Slide’s keyboard. Like I said, QWERTYs are a highly personal matter.
From http://www.mobileburn.com/review.jsp?Id=9572: “the keyboard has great feel, but is visually flawed.”
From http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2010/06/10/review-t-mobile-mytouch-3g-slide/: “who is this for? It’s for folks who miss their Sidekick and want a keyboard for messaging. The MyTouch 3G Slide’s processor won’t win the blue ribbon at the County Fair, but it is an impressive bit of cellphone.”
My verdict? I would want to try it out in the store, but it sounds like the keyboard would probably be “good enough” for me. That said, I think I will continue to hold out on upgrading for the following reasons:
- My current service plan is $55/mo+tax, but these days it seems extremely difficult to get “smart phone” service for under $70/mo.
- The Slide’s display could be better, its processor could be faster.
- I want that 5-row keyboard, or at least one less stupidly designed.
Given that it may be either a hassle or an impossibility to upgrade my phone without paying more money each month, an expensive “upgrade” had better be worth it. The Slide sounds like it would be good enough as a new phone–a better alternative to the G1–but it has a few too many compromises to justify the cost of upgrade.