Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Hit Parade and David Orr

I've always called it The Hit Parade. I mentioned last blog that I hear music all the time. About 20 years ago, I was out eating Chinese with some colleagues after a meeting of the Louisville DECUS chapter (of which I was chairman for 2-3 years at the behest of my friend David Orr -- more below) and mentioned this. One of my former DEC coworkers, who was normal to a fault, said he seriously believed that this was evidence of schizophrenia or some other other mental defect. David Orr then did a typical David Orr'ism. For the next few weeks, he asked everyone he talked to if they heard music. The results of his natural scientific survey was, if the person had been musical and played an instrument, they reported hearing music all or most of the time. Non-musical people did not. Case closed.

David Orr I met through DECUS in the early 80's. He was running a small computer reseller. He had taught philosophy at U of L for a while. He was 10 years older than me. He and his wife and daughter lived in great old 3-story house in the Cherokee Triangle in Louisville where pretty much every wall, including on the staircase landings, was covered with bookshelves filled with books. Either he or his wife's father had been a bookie, and there was a family tradition: when sitting around bullshitting, they would get out the "bet book" -- where you would enter your predictions, with or without monetary value attached. He administered a trust fund, Weng & Associates, which was charged with promoting the arts in Kentucky. At one point, Weng & Associates had a coloring contest, of a Chinese dragon or buddha, I think mostly because he wanted to see what my 4 kids would do with it. We visited with family once and all swam in the pool in his backyard ("whaling about" he called it), the kids remembered it for years.

David would basically ask everyone he met: what really interests you and gets you excited? Why aren't you doing it? He got me thinking and talking about Astrophysics after years of not doing so.

He was also a SF affeciando. I remember at one DECUS convention in maybe '84, he gave me a copy of "Neuromancer" and said, you've got to read this -- which I did over the next few hours. David's news input model was even more restricted than mine. He neither watched TV news, listened to radio news, nor read the newspaper. He believed in the oral tradition -- if something was really important, someone would tell him.

Anyway, he died in the early 90's (I think -- a bug/feature of my memory model, forget the past, live in the present, focus on the future, is that I can't remember when anyone dies). He was walking down a street in San Francisco and keeled over, massive heart attack. His memorial service had every author, poet, etc, in Kentucky there (Weng gave them all money at some time -- but we was great at inspriring people regardless.) I haven't thought about him much in recent years (again, my memory model), but he was one of the few great friends of my life, and when I do think of him, I miss him. I can't believe he died before the net (although we did sethost ourselves around the world on DEC machines in the late '70s), he would have totally loved the net.

On the topic of music, I am currently being blackmailed by 2 coworkers who found this link to me playing in Salamander -- so I may as well out myself. It was a decent band, Richard was very talented, he moved to LA, got a PhD in music, now does very abstract electronica. The biggest problem with Salander was that the bass player would get a little too wasted sometimes and pull. Nothing's worse in a rock band than the lack of a totally solid rhythm section (bass and drums). Before that I played in Blue-Eyed Boy Mr. Death -- bass, drums, 2 guitars, Hammond organ with a Leslie (damn I love that sound).

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Leg cramp

Owww. Last weekend biked 38 miles, 3 hours. Today had some new roads in western Woodford county, did 43.5 miles, 3.5 hours. I was out from 9:20 to 12:45, attempting to beat the heat (93 today), and it wasn't too bad. Still haven't showered (attempting to cool down), napping in the recliner, woke up to a call from my wife visiting our son and his wife in southern California, got a huge cramp along my entire left inner thigh. Ouch.

Last summer the official temperature in Lexington never hit 90. So far this summer, 5-10 days over 90, no rain for a week and none expected for 2 more.

Which brings me to the 3rd Jared Diamond book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed". Starts out somewhat depressing, with accounts of the collapse of 6 civilizations (3 chapters on Vikings re the collapse of their Greenland colony after 400 years. He actually refers to "The Vikings" movie, a favorite of mine since childhood!), followed by current trouble spots. Per Diamond, a mixture of 10 environmental failures involved in all of them.

Interesting side note, the Viking colonies in Vinland (Newfoundland) only lasted 10 years because the Vikings usual method of dealing with new or different peoples was to start out by killing a few of them. After they did that in North America, the Native Americans basically drove them out. Go Native Americans!

Book ends on a hopeful note tho. Other interesting points:

  • Big oil currently goes out of its way to be eco-friendly. Cleanups such as the one required after the Exxon Valdez are too expensive and bad for business.
  • Home Depot and Lowe's both push wood products from suppliers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which requires that the logging be done only at replenishable rates, etc.
  • Mining is the nastiest. Very low profit margins and generally inability for consumers to trace products back to producers.
  • Fishing in the wild also nasty, "the tragedy of the commons" leading most fishermen to overfish, cause "if I don't do it, somebody else will". But, Marine Stewardship Council has a certification process like with the logging and is getting some traction.
  • Penultimate chapter has a list of one-liners used to justify inaction on environmental issues, with retorts. The thing that grabs you is that this is clearly a case of "an ounce of prevention", cleanups cost billions, maybe as people realize what they are leaving their children, the tendency towards "rape and pillage" approaches which don't balance the economic equation will decline.
Still, the thing I found most interesting is that corporations have responded to pressure from consumers and their employees to become more environmently friendly. Something for me to look at, particularly after retirement, is to figure out what I can do personally to help save the planet, in addition to just buying a Prius.

Speaking of which, driving my wife on country roads that I bike where you don't get much above 40 mph, got 65 mpg for 30 miles, a new record! (don't obsess, don't obsess).

"If I don't do it, somebody else will." I found "The Last Waltz" by Martin Scorsese and The Band on DVD at Kroger for $10. I have seen it referred to as The Best Rock Movie Ever Made, it surely does have great music. And, a high point is Dr. John doing "Such a Night", which had the great lyrics: You came in With my best friend Jim. And now I'm tryin To steal you away from him. But if I don't do it ... It reminds me of "No guts, no glory", which I have always used to exhort others into questionable behavior. "If I don't ..." seems like an exhortation to one's self to do something they know they shouldn't.

Music-wise, "Funeral" by The Arcade Fire has definitely gone to 4 stars, track 2 to 5. Got the new Coldplay, "X & Y", after repeated listens still not doing much for me.

Friday night, went to High on Rose. Had noone to go with (:-<), some of my youngest's crowd were there. Ben Lacy sat down and talked during his break, went from Steely Dan to Michael McDonald (backup singer) to the Doobie Brothers. Came home and downloaded 4 Steely Dan albums. I had forgotten how much I liked their 1st, "Can't Buy a Thrill", and "The Royal Scam" as well.

I have all of Steely Dan on vinyl, I have been meaning to try to come up a scheme for getting my vinyl to digital. Any ideas? My iTunes is now at 3900 tracks, 11 days, woo-hoo!

Bad news, High on Rose is being sold. The Japanese woman who was responsible for their wonderfully eclectic menu and her husband are going to sell condiments. The Wasabi Vinagarette sounded good. They want $380K for the building and the works. If it were 10 years from now, I would think about it. I lunched with the guy who brought me to Lexington to work in 1980 a couple of weeks ago, he retires in 1.5 years, he has moved to Champion's and taken up golf. I just can't see myself doing that. I can see myself with a little club with all kinds of music and eclectic (but tasty) food. I could move my library there, see if I could spread some memes as well. Well, we'll see about that in 10 years I guess.

Movie-wise, watched "The Aviator", a testament to the ability of ob-com people to get shit done! Well, that probably wasn't the intended message, but it should be. Last weekend my wife worked 2nd shift both days, so I treated myself to "Electra" (2 stars) and "Blade Trinity" (2 stars -- note, I believe I may have seen every vampire movie ever made). I noticed in "Electra", she was portrayed as ob-com, and one of her symtoms was counting -- steps as she walked was an example. I have counted my whole life, including steps, I am not OCD (nor autistic nor Asperger's) but I am GOOD AT MATH. I don't know, it struck me as part of the plot by the non-mathematical to discrimate against the mathematical. I had a nice visit with my younger brother yesterday, his 2 kids are very bright, 12 and 13, and they were describing to me doing their math homework and having to write out verbal descriptions of their problems. Ach, I'd forgotten about that, it was part of KERA, I had assumed it was gone by now, what a load of crap! Math is not about words, it's about numbers. We're sorry not everybody gets it, but, it is more PC bullshit, deny the gifted their abilities, so everyone can feel special.

Neal Stephenson has a great op-ed piece touching on some of this in the NY Times, someone fwded me the link. (Damn, it's pay-per-view now.) It's funny, but it's also really, really scary.

Oh, we watched "The Incredibles" during my visit yesterday. Very enjoyable, and also touches on this same theme.

I went and saw my dad last Saturday. The last time I'd seen him was in February, he was surprisingly good, didn't repeat himself for 1.5 hours, had some potentially new thoughts. Saturday, he was totally gone. "Nixon can never hold office again." "Dad, tricky dick's been dead 5 years." "Well, he can never come back." "From the dead?" And that was a high point.

It's weird, he'll talk about his wife, the schoolteacher, and his 4 sons and 3 daughters, as if I weren't one of them, maybe he just didn't recognize me or forgot my minor role in the story.

He did talk about the importance of having a living will; how most people refuse to believe they are going to die; how he was ready, had his paperwork all done, had his plot next to his wife ready to go. Not particularly maudlin, just kind of proud that he had figured out what most people didn't and had everything all set.

Oh well. He would occasionally hum and sing a bit. I had a flash of myself in 25 years (Dad's age). My personality would be completely gone, but I would have at last discovered my superpower and become a superhero. I would be "The Human Jukebox" -- name a tune, I sing it for you. I would estimate I have ~10,000 songs in my head, and one of them (or a jingle, or a melody acquired somewhere else) is always playing. I wonder where in my brain that would show up on a CAT/PET scan?. I asked one of my kids to get me a brain scanner for their next gift-giving occasion, seems like it'd be fun to play with ;->

Enough. Time for a shower (phew).

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Rolling In It

Played the natural scientist the other day. Question is, why do dogs love so to roll in stinky stuff? Answer, what do they mostly like to roll in? Dead stuff and crap. Dogs are pack animals, and creatures of their noses. So, a dog is away from the pack, finds something good, i.e., a dead animal to eat or the spoor of a live animal to hunt, how does it let the pack know? I don't think dogs have a bee dance. So, they roll in it and get all stinky, when they return to the pack it will definitely know something is up.

Just finished reading "Superluminal" by Tony Daniel. It's a sequel to "Metaplanetary", with apparently one or more books to go. I think I prefer when a book is n of m that they let you know. It's an interesting world, but maybe has too many threads going.

Movie-wise, watched "Finding Neverland" -- sweet movie, a real tear-jerker.

BTW, wound up going 7 days without a drink. Didn't notice much difference.

Biking last weekend was 37.25 miles, 3 hours. Lillard's Ferry Rd seems to run along the Kentucky River, but on such a steep palisade that you can't see the river. Had to walk the bike up the hill that went down to a creek near its junction with the Kentucky. Going down the hill, per my odometer, hit 37.5 mph -- a new record!

Thursday night, drove the magic car to Danville and back. Got 53.5 mpg going and 55.5 mpg coming back. 28 miles, 1/2 gallon of gas each way. My wife drives it 4-5 times a week and fills her exploder up twice a week. I'm trying to talk her into trying the magic car, she says I enjoy the magic car so much she doesn't want to drive it. She will give in to the temptation eventually, I guess.