Sunday, December 19, 2010

Twenty-Eight Years of Clean Livin'!

If you ever want to be reminded what 28 years does to a body, go check out this Flickr set. In it, you will see a scan of three photos from a photobooth that Jean and I took after seeing Tron (our first movie together). Then for good measure, two photos in a similar pose taken today after seeing Tron: Legacy. Oof I feel old!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Princess Pangolin

As I jokingly told my wife yesterday evening, I've been "in mourning" since leaving eMusic. Despite my complaints about the escalating costs increasing the risk of experimentation, and the dilution of truly unique music with standard major-label dreck, eMusic served one purpose very well. It got me out of my comfort zone.

I got very used to listening to bands I'd never heard of, and often got whole albums on the strength of the curated reviews. Now I'm mostly adrift, and honing my sifting and winnowing skills anew. Since early October, my listening time has fallen off a cliff, and it's mostly due to the fact that I'd grown used to a steady stream of new music forming the playlists on my iPod. That stopped, and I stopped listening.

Now, the pain is fading (wink), and I've begun to cast an eye about for new interests. Happily, Mark at BoingBoing chose to vocally declare the beauty of Princess Pangolin, a lovely, soft, folky debut album by an indie artist. It is a short album, clocking in at around thirty minutes, and at $3, is a damn bargain. My favorite song of the week, and due to the hiatus, the month, is "The Great Divide", which could easily be a single on the right radio station.

And now I have to spend at least an evening a week perusing Bandcamp. It's not eMusic, and doesn't try to be, but it is another place to hang out and stretch my boundaries.

P.S. - Chromatophore is nearly as good as The Great Divide. And yes, I am listening to it right now.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Almost since the day we bought Jean's four-door sedan, a Honda Civic, she has had trouble with it. For the most part it's been electrical, what with alarms and check lights and the like. They never really could fix all that. Most recently, she took it in for a check engine light and they made some minor repairs and told her that the light was most likely spurious.

The day after we retrieved it from the dealer, it began a mysterious whining, which would come and go, but was clearly engine-related. Well, having had troubles with it almost from the start, we started saving for its replacement, and have been putting money away regularly, almost ten years now. So I told Jean to just go ahead and find a replacement. She did a lot of looking and decided to get the Minicooper. We ordered it and about two days before it was to arrive, her Honda simply crapped out on the road to work.

Fortunately she was still close to home, and was able to limp back in fits and starts. Happy ending, we took delivery of her new car, and got rid of her old albatross.

As an after-note, I still have my Honda Civic Hatchback that is over ten years old, and use it every day to commute to work. We also used it for the trip to Cannon Beach. So this is not a diatribe against Honda, just a particular Honda.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Beach

From Halloween to the second Titan, Thanksgiving! This year we had no relatives visiting, and no plans to reciprocate. We'd spent the last few Thanksgivings at home, so Jean came up with the brilliant idea to hit the coast! She did all the work of finding a place and booking it (and tons more).

We left on Thanksgiving morning in my car, with Renee driving. I knew that the passes over the Coast Range would be somewhat snowy, so I brought the snow chains. It was touch and go, but Renee made it with flying colors. Google Maps sent us to the wrong side of a river in Cannon Beach, but we found our way to the hotel with a little difficulty. It was actually nice to drive around at random checking out the main drag.

We stayed at the Schooner's Cove Inn, which backed right on the beach. It was very nice. Only two complaints: the wireless Internet was very spotty, and the staff seemed a little surly (I guess I would be surly working the holidays too). Every morning and evening, Jean and I would step out the back patio and walk down the beach to Haystack Rock and back. I took lots of pictures, some of which are in this photoset.

Part of the reason we went to the coast in November was that we wanted to watch winter storms. The weather was pretty mild most of the time we were there, but there was one storm that really kicked ass. Jean and I walked around in it for about ten minutes and got absolutely soaked.

This was a great holiday idea! I hope we do it again.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Halloween Retrospective

I just wanted to get off my butt and change the banner for one day to a Halloween banner! That's because, once I finish uploading all my Thanksgiving photos to Flickr, I'll want to select one of them and discuss the trip.

In the meantime, the trio of photos of Renee dressed up to hand out candy are available in this set. Halloween turned out to be nice, over the course of a few days. Recall my three legs:

For the first leg, I watched the Rocky Horror tribute on Glee!, and had a lot of fun. For kicks and nostalgia, I watched Rocky Horror itself, on Netflix, and arrived at the usual conclusion: it is a lot of fun in the beginning, the music is great, but the story runs about a half hour too long.

As for the second leg, Renee dressed up and gave out the candy, so I had the fun of working with her, even if the population of candy beggars was quite thin. Thanks, Renee.

The third leg actually came the weekend before Halloween. Alan and Pia hosted a gathering at their house, and it was as usual very enjoyable. So I got a pseudo-Halloween party even if no one came in costume. The gathering with friends is what is important.

So all in all, a good Halloween, and still my favorite holiday.

Come the next post or two, I'll write up our Thanksgiving trip...


One more Halloween item. I bought the Angry Birds Halloween Edition app from the App Store. It was a lot of fun.

I remember this now, because now they are downloading a free update with a Christmas theme!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Handful of Photos

Renee took my P&S to a robotics tourney last weekend at OMSI. The lighting was not very conducive to sharp photos, so I only put up a few. After that, you'll find a handful of her with her new haircut, grabbed today.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Secrets of the Ra

Yay! The LXD is back! I'm actually a little bit giddy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Glee! and Halloween

I've watched the first few episodes of Glee!, and while it is somewhat fun, it somehow just didn't stick with me, unlike LXG. But I hope you can guess which episode I'll be making a point of watching as Halloween rolls around.


Holy Cow! Netflix has Rocky Horror available streaming now! Just keep lining 'em up!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Assigned Photos

Renee got an assignment to produce some photos contrasting plenty with want. The result is available in this photoset, and a sample is in the banner.

She took some pretty neat photos of the derelict house in our neighborhood. I think I'm gonna try to talk her into going on a photo expedition with me sometime soon.

Monday, October 11, 2010

End of an Experiment

I cancelled my eMusic account tonight. I came home from work after buying a new office chair for the den, and checked my email only to find a message that they were once again planning on bumping prices. It's only been about a year since the last bump (and they used the same excuse: "we're adding a major label to our line-up. More choice!").

Given that I joined eMusic to experiment, taking chances on new and indie music to broaden my horizons, this second price hike pushed me over the edge. The fact that they are now able to offer more of the mainstream music I can get elsewhere isn't much of an attraction. The fact that I must now spend quite a lot more to take a chance on an unknown is the final straw.

Goodbye, eMusic. You were the source of some inspired discoveries, and a lot of so-so experiments. At the new price points, I can't justify that model anymore.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday Run

Jean and I joined her friend Mina downtown yesterday to participate in the Race for the Cure. Due to my foot problems, I planned to walk it, and Mina agreed, but once the crowd thinned out, she took off. So I decided to give it a try, and ran maybe two-thirds of the route before my foot started telling me to walk again. I probably wouldn't have been able to keep up the pace in any case were it not for my weekend bike rides.

I strolled around before the race taking snaps with my P&S, so here are the fuzzy snaps.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thinking About the Holidays

It's Labor Day weekend, which to me is the 'starting flag' holiday for the real, holiday triple play of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For most people, especially families with young children, I think the three holidays occur in order of importance. Halloween is a childrens' holiday, but the ramp up is pretty one-note, and the actual holiday lasts a single night, with business as usual the next day. Thanksgiving is for the whole family and includes activities for grownups (food, sports), as well as stretching for more than one day (for many people at least). And Christmas is both a childrens' holiday and a religious marker. Santa and Jesus in one basket!

For myself, Halloween has always been the most fun of the three, and for a decade or so was unsurpassed using any criteria I chose to apply. Halloween looked down on the holidays to come, standing firm atop three legs.

The First Leg

For most of my childhood, and a fair portion of my adult life, Halloween's approach was a signal to the various television stations to begin airing more offbeat programming. Sci-fi movies saw an undeniable uptick, and in later years, some of the goofier horror movies joined the stable.

I've always enjoyed that sort of goofy storytelling, so it reinforced my anticipation of Halloween. However, in the intervening years, various botique channels such as the Sci-Fi network, took to showing these kinds of movies year round, and if that doesn't supply your fix, you can subscribe to Netflix, or visit any of a number of Internet venues. So the first leg of the tripod is shorter than it used to be.

I still make a point of 'observing' this aspect of Halloween, watching one or more cheesy horror or sci-fi movies in the run-up to the holiday.

The Second Leg

Can you say "Trick or Treat?" I knew that you could. I have enjoyed this part of the holiday both as a child on the receiving end, and as an adult on the giving end.

Add to this that for about a decade I was able to take my own daughter in tow and wander around the neighborhood extorting candy from strangers, and you may begin to understand my appreciation. I have very fond memories of my daughter learning the ritual, and selecting her costumes. Some years it was just the two of us, others we had one of her friends in our gang. Early on she was unclear on the concept, yelling "I want candy!" instead of "trick or treat."

Now Renee has outgrown this aspect of the holiday, and except for a few sporadic parties, she hasn't really replaced it with anything else (when she returns to formal parties with her friends, I won't be invited in any case). We hand out candy together, but the walk around the neighborhood doesn't happen any more. So the second leg of the tripod is also shorter...

The Third Leg

For many years, I attended meetings of an anime club, NOVA. This club met twice a month, and we gathered to watch anime and socialize. I met most of my friends there. And every year, NOVA had a Halloween party. This was like regular meetings in that there were showings of anime and socializing. But it included snacks, and members who were handy with needle and thread would show up in costumes. Often these were costumes they had worn to anime conventions, so it was sort of a mini-cosplay. Lots of fun.

Eventually, my friends and I realized that we were coming to meetings mainly to see each other, and were less interested in the club. So we stopped going to NOVA meetings, and began meeting at Tom's place, or Alan's. But I don't think we've generally acknowledged Halloween in October the way we generally acknowledge Christmas in December.

So this leg of the tripod is a tad shorter as well.

Still King

But even though all legs of the tripod are shorter, they still seem to be balanced, and Halloween hasn't been toppled from its top spot for me. It would be neat if October had a monthly gathering, and if some of the handier friends showed off a costume (Valeska... )

But either way, I'm still enjoying Halloween more than the other members of the holiday triple-play.

But What About...

Yes, New Year's Day is a winter holiday too. But let's face it. This holiday is just a checkered flag, letting us know that the fun is over and it's time to hunker down until the snow passes.

Anyway, whichever holiday tickles your fancy, happy holidays.

Sriracha Sauce

I didn't plan ahead, so I only took a handful of snaps, but you can see our experiment producing homemade Sriracha Sauce in this photo set.

The recipe is supremely simple. The biggest part of it was driving up to Uwajimaya and buying Fresno peppers. Since they are supposedly 'in season' this time of year, I can easily see this becoming a 'holiday tradition'. It's definitely got a bite, but the overnight soak in vinegar tames it. Very good. I had some with a bit of home made pita bread this morning.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

How Many Clicks

Today's banner photo may seem rather amateurish, and simple enough to warrant only a single glance. I'll grant you that, but you might be amused to check out its companion photo set, wherein we explore the answer to that age old question, "How many clicks does it take to get to a snap of Renee where her eyes are in fact, open?"

Arthur Ganson

Through a chain of links during casual browsing, I found myself back at a story on Boing Boing that I'd read when it originally was posted. The story is of an art work by Arthur Ganson titled Machine with Concrete. It's a working gear assembly that makes a very interesting abstract statement:

On the left an electric motor drives a worm gear at 212 revolutions a minute. A sequence of twelve 50-to-1 gear reductions slows the rotation so far that the last gear, on the right, is set in concrete. It would take over two trillion years for that gear to rotate.

The story goes on to link to several other videos of his works. And videos are what are required, because all of his works are dynamic machines, built to convey some abstract concept, or simply to tweak you on the nose; not literally, but I wouldn't put that past him.

My favorite amongst the artworks the article links to is Margot's Other Cat. However, I didn't stop there, and browsed many of the entries available on YouTube. My current favorite is Machine with Roller Chain.

So for now, Arthur Ganson is replacing Calder as my favorite producer of kinetic sculptures (and yes, I realize that this is not a correct label for his work). Indeed, he is currently my favorite sculptor of any sort, and I hope some of his works make their way to the Portland Art Museum or the Seattle Art Museum so I can see them in person.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Alan and Pia

Okay, my least fuzzy photos from Alan and Pia's wedding are up on my Flickr account, in this photoset. Many more are on the 'cutting room floor', believe me.

It was a lot of fun going over them, recalling the day. Good luck, you two!

Friday, August 27, 2010


The LXD stands for 'The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers', and is a series of short 'webisodes' created by Jon M. Chu. There are ten chapters, consisting of paper-thin plots and fun dancing. The plot is "Heroes" meets "Step Up", and as such just tickles my 'cheesiness' bone while gratifying my interest in dance.

So I just watched the final episode tonight, and I can't find any indication that there will be a second series or when it will start. I want my LXD!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Solar Odyssey

Today's banner is one of the handful of shots I took of Oregon State University's Solar Odyssey solar-powered car. They brought it to my workplace over lunch, so I strolled over and snapped a few. Enough of them turned out okay that I decided to make a photoset out of them.

The photos I took at Alan and Pia's wedding were not nearly as crisp, so I'm hesitant to put any up, but I'll look 'em over this weekend and see if any are passable. My only excuse is that I've been lazy about practicing with my new camera, and flubbed the settings. Sorry!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anything to Get Out of a Wedding

Renee just must not want to hit the road with me this Saturday. She was up all night sick. She thinks it was due to 'bad cherries', but Jean The Nurse mentions that there's been a bad summer stomach flu going around too.

Anyone else been having stomach illnesses?


Renee recovered with time to spare, and drove us to Welches for the wedding, which was great. I'm really happy for Alan and Pia.

As for the stomach illness, Jean stayed home from work to help Renee, and the next day she was at work, her boss told her that several parents were out for the same reason. Weird!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Miles 'n' Miles

This morning it was cool, cloudy, even a little misty. But the roads were not slick, so I cleaned up my bike, inflated the tires, and went for a nice ride. As it turns out, it was a good thing I did, since I was destined to spend three hours sitting in a confined space.

Our daughter has passed her driver's training course this summer, and is now on track to log fifty hours of driving with her parents before she can apply for a real, live license. She's been driving Jean and I on various errands, such as yesterday taking us to Target and grocery shopping. She would also have taken us to Gamestop, except the game she wanted was not in stock (thank you Internet). However, she found that the game was in stock at the Gamestop store in Corvallis. So guess where I went today? Thanks again, Internet...

Sorry, no pictures. When we left in the morning I was not planning ahead, and we were out of town before I realized I'd left all my cameras at home.

Anyway, despite a couple of hiccups, her driving was pretty smooth. We arrived at Corvallis, picked up a copy of Persona 4, then had lunch at Nirvana Indian restaurant. Afterwards, we drove around the pretty idle university campus, then made our way back home.

After this trip, I'm trying to convince her that she should come with me to Alan and Pia's wedding, but that's still up in the air.

But three hours of driving today! Sheesh!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Driver

Just a quick note, as I'm at work. I took Renee in to the DMV this morning, and she took her test for a learner's permit. She passed and is now 'in the chute' for driver's training this summer. Another rite of passage, yay!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

<em>Real</em> Black

Renee was trying to print some homework that she had entered into Quark Express, one of Jean's tools left over from her days as an editor. The printouts kept coming out sepia-toned. We've had that problem in the past when the printer drivers go wonky, so I was prepared to reinstall printer drivers if necessary.

But first, Jean took a stab at adjusting the palette of the document in Quark (she's a wizard in that layout tool). When she was done, the doc printed in nice, crisp black. She told us, "I just created a fake color called real black." I had to repeat that back to her so she could appreciate the contradiction.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Annotated Turing

I've been 'reading' The Annotated Turing for coming up on two years now. I place 'reading' in quotes, as my approach is not a continuous effort, but rather, a series of frustrated exercises. I started by reading this book from the library, and extended my checkouts a couple of times before I concluded that I needed my own copy to give it proper attention.

The book, by Charles Petzold, is, as the title suggests, an annotation of sorts, of Alan Turing's 1936 paper, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. The paper is a milestone in computer science, even if it precedes most of computer application. In the paper, Turing lays the groundwork to establish what we now take for granted, that it is impossible to 'decide algorithmically whether statements in arithmetic are true or false, and thus a general solution to the Entscheidungsproblem is impossible.'

Turing does this in his paper by a series of logical steps, first describing a hypothetical machine which can carry out various simple instructions, then gradually extending the power of this machine until it is computationally complete, that is, it is capable of generalized computation (much like a modern computer). He then proceeds to show how there is no"process for determining whether a given [machine] is satisfactory or not." In his paper, this means that we cannot determine if a given machine will perform the job it is supposed to (calculate a real number) or not (is 'circular').

Well, the paper is itself filled with lots of mathematical notation in various scripts (German, Greek, what have you), and additionally is compressed, in the sense that much of the notation and discussion assumes familiarity with the field at the time. Rather than read it alone, I thought it would be more enlightening to read the annotated version. As it turns out, this is at times true, and others, frustratingly false.

I try to read difficult papers on my own, as I don't really have the time to take classes right now. But my experience has been that in any difficult subject, I make much better progress if I have an expert in the domain of whom I can ask questions when I get stuck. Here, I was hoping that Petzold would bridge that gap, if not as an expert, than at least as an accomplished tour guide. The material, especially the mathematical foundation, is difficult enough that any ambiguity derails my thoughts immediately.

So I began reading, and enjoyed his introduction of Diophantine equations, and could even see the point in the context of the book. When he began discussing the cardinality of infinities, and tried to describe Cantor's first proof of the non-enumerability of real numbers, I had my first falling-out with this book. Unlike the diagonalization approach, which is very accessible, the first proof is difficult in the extreme (perhaps subtle is a better word), and I found Petzold's explanation opaque and frustrating. I gave up and put the book on the shelf. To be fair, it took Cantor some twenty years to come up with the clearer diagonalization proof, so the problem just ain't easy.

Eventually, I picked the book up again, and tried to retrace my steps. I reread the chapters leading up to the troublesome proof, and once again crashed on the rocks. It was not until I went surfing on the web and found a post by Dick Lipton (a Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Tech) on his weblog discussing the first proof that I was truly able to grasp the point (and the sublety is such that I can understand the fine distinctions which make this proof convincing only in the space of the day I have read Lipton's presentation -- the following day I am once again asking myself "but how???"). This entry supports my notion that access to an expert is sometimes necessary to make forward progress.

The book is not without it's moments of humor. After an ever-escalating tower of abstract machines, Petzold has shown how it is possible to do (binary) addition and multiplication with a 'Turing' machine, at the simple expense of adding dozens of machine configurations and expanding the 'tape' to arbitrary length. It is beginning to dawn on the reader that the primitive hypothetical machine may be extended to a general purpose computer, albeit so primitive as to comprise a bit of a tar-pit. At this point, Petzold shares the understatement: "Obviously, the Turing Machine is not a programmer-friendly medium."

My next stumbling block has only just arisen. I believe I understand the concept of enumerability fairly well, though I acknowledge that any given enumeration can be quite tricky. Petzold covers how Turing has assigned a number to each of his machines by stringing together all the states (machine configurations) of a given machine, along with detected symbols and transition states, to form an encoding, that when translated to digits, gives a unique, finite integer. This is its description number. Since we can enumerate all integers, and we can reject finite integers which are not valid description numbers (given Turing's encoding rules), we can therefore enumerate all Turing Machines.

But this is where Petzold loses me again. I can't agree with his conclusion. He says that since we can enumerate all Turing machines, and some of those Turing machines produce computable numbers, therefore "computable numbers are enumerable." I'll reproduce his conclusion in a complete quote:

By reducing each machine to a number, Turing has also made it possible, in effect, to generate machines just by enumerating the positive integers. Not every positive integer is a valid Description Number of a Turing Machine, and many valid Description Numbers do not describe circle-free machines, but this enumeration certainly includes all circle-free Turing Machines, each of which corresponds to a computable number. Therefore, computable numbers are enumerable.


  1. Generate each integer in turn

  2. Reject integers which are not valid Description Numbers (those which don't follow the rules to describe the states of a true Turing Machine)

  3. Reject machines which are not 'circle-free' (these machines can, for instance, get stuck in loops without generating a true real number)

And voila, we are left with the enumeration of machines which generate computable numbers! The trouble is with step three. The whole point of the paper is to show that "there can be no general process for determining" if a machine is circle-free or not. Given that, the procedure for enumerating Turing Machines does indeed exist, but a procedure for enumerating circle-free Turing Machines, and hence for enumerating countable numbers, seems not to be satisfied by this procedure. Have I misunderstood Petzold? Possibly. But once again, I am frustrated by being unable to ask questions.

I'm not putting the book on the shelf for another year, as for the most part, I've been able to follow the elaborations on the paper. In fact, the detailed dissections of the various example machines from the paper have been quite helpful. But I'm just not happy when I encounter these stumbling blocks.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Fly AwayIn the banner today, and in this post, are examples of just another hesitant step in learning my new camera. I've been playing around with the metering modes, exposure and focus settings just to get familiar with it. Also, while I don't recall the post where I read it, I have to agree with the author who said that the manual is crap.

Anyway, I decided to snap a few images of the new 'invasive species' squatting in our back garden, varying exposure and f/stop. Jean swears that she did not plant this! Without Googling or digging (heh) into a plant book, she thinks that it most resembles foxglove; the bell flowers in the banner photo bear this interrpretation out better than the 'macro' of the head flower in this post. Any friends willing to confess to horticultural expertise?

Just check out the last couple of pictures on Flickr and confirm or deny the essential nature of this plant. I didn't see any pedal (walking) or drum roots, so am currently ruling out Triffids...

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Another odd album from the 90's: Loved by Cranes. I like it, but think it will grow on me with repeated listenings...

Carl Stalling Project

Okay, I know, SOMEWHERE in this stinking house, there is a cd of this album, but I just can't find it. So after listening to Be the Frog for the millionth time, I finally decided to spend some eMusic credits to download a new copy of Carl Stalling. It's such fun!


Started season two of The Wire, and it continues to satisfy.

Yesterday, we finished Dead Man, a fifteen-year old movie by Jim Jarmusch. This is one of his good ones.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Blue Album

Just grabbed this album by Orbital. It was their last album, and contains samples from a Russell T. Davies show with Christoper Eccleston (first Doctor Who in the new series). This is what first piqued my interest. Gonna listen to it while writing code tomorrow!


Dunno why, but I just frickin' love You Lot...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Music

Picked up lots of singles: two Joy Division songs, "She's Lost Control" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart"; Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time"; Louis Prima's "Sing Sing Sing"; Adam Ant's "Dog Eat Dog"; Love and Rockets' "Kundalini Express", "Ball of Confusion", "So Alive".

Three albums:

Latest Movies

On DVD, Jean and I watched Pirate Radio. It's a bit of a light comedy, and relies heavily on it's soundtrack for goodwill. Speaking of soundtracks figuring heavily, we followed up with Grosse Pointe Blank, which I'd seen before, and was of course willing to see again as it is a very fun movie. Jean enjoyed it too.

Streaming, I watched the original A Nightmare on Elm Street with Renee, since I had never seen it and reviews of the new remake said it was "not as good" as the original. Given how corny and disjointed the original was, I don't think I'll see the remake. Funny thing is, even though Renee was alternating between ignoring the movie to play with her DS, and laughing outright at the bad acting, she said she had nightmares that night.

A second movie we streamed together was A Scanner Darkly, which is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. I'd read the novel and remember it as one of his better books, dark, gritty, weirdly humorous, and sad. The movie manages to capture a lot of that, but Linklater's decision to use the 'Waking Life' animation technique was mostly just a distraction. Except for the scramble suits, the entire movie would have worked just as well with normal cinematic film techniques.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Voodoo Donuts

Family SizeThis weekend Jean, Renee and I made a field trip to Voodoo Donuts, which is located downtown. Jean hatched the idea a while ago, and put it forward as something she wanted to do over the Mother's Day weekend. It was a small, almost hole-in-the-wall business, and as we entered, we had to pass by a couple of panhandlers asking for spare change. Inside, the atmosphere was loud, as the workers were playing a rather jangle-ey and aggressive punk music.

Jean got an apple fritter, and Renee took the plunge into experiment by buying one of their offbeat donuts, this one called Ole Dirty Bastard, which I assume was named after the rapper associated with the Wu Tang Clan. I succumbed to an impulse and bought a dozen, the 'unboxing' of which you can witness in this photoset.

The banner is a photo I took of Jean on the trip, which surprised me by turning out quite nice. She is a beautiful subject, but I am a crappy photographer, so I cherish the occasional success.

By the way, all photos taken on this trip constitute my first hesitant steps with my new camera, a Panasonic DMC-GF1, which I bought to explore the gap between point & shoot and DSLR. Needless to say, these first photos are mostly clumsy. Unlike the donuts, there will be no unboxing photos, as I was too impatient to actually get the darn thing out and start using it. It took me six or eight months of allowance saving to get it, after all!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not a Pro

Well, for a change, everybody is asleep before me. Usually, the sequence is Jean, me, then Renee, who always manages to drag out the evening chores (so I lie awake making sure that she is at least finishing up in a timely fashion). Tonight Renee beat me to bed due to running a sleep deficit. She was so run down that she fell asleep in French today, and had to hitch a ride with me, when normally she would walk home from school.

So here I am, with my new purchase. I've been running Adobe Photoshop CS for years now, and only recently discovered that the upgrade path has been shortened to three versions back. As CS 5 is coming out soon, this means that CS 4 would be discontinued, and I would be forced to either buy CS 5 at full price, or remain on CS forever after. I was waffling on this choice, but Jean said she thought I did enough family photography that the household budget could be used for the purchase. So here we are.

I did a full backup before installing. I was worried that for some reason, CS 4 would not work at all, despite the assurances that my machine/OS met the requirements for the product. With a full, bootable backup, I had a way to go back to CS if CS 4 failed. And as soon as I started, I felt pretty clever for providing an escape route. The reason is that after I invoked CS 4, I tried opening a sample NEF (raw file) from my D70, and as soon as I tried to crop it, the program locked up my machine completely. I had to power cycle the darn thing! I tried variations on this several times, to the same effect.

Finally, I realized that I needed to check the memory usage settings. The default settings try to take about 70% of memory, and do aggressive caching. I cranked these back to something more like my Photoshop CS settings, and after a bit more fiddling, I am now able to use the software on my machine.

So the lesson here is that I am not a professional Photoshop designer. I would need a machine that is newer than four or five years old, with at least twice the memory (more like four times the memory) and a fast offboard hard drive, to let the default settings stand.

Anyway, I've just begun exploring, and honestly I don't think I'll have much to say about it other than to use it. Good for another two product iterations!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Phone Eater

Just a quick note. I have my phone back after several days without it. I had given it to Renee since I don't want her without one, and she had managed to destroy hers. So now she has her replacement, and I have mine back.

There was a risk I might have to replace mine as well, since she is on her third phone since we signed with Verizon, while Jean and I are both still using our original ones. This time, she somehow contrived to completely break off the antenna (one of those ones that is molded into the damn body of the phone, fer chrissakes). The new one has no external antenna, so here's hoping...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Men Are From Hollywood

Yesterday I wrote how Jean puzzled over how I could enjoy Sholay, but it's more far reaching than that. We just finished streaming The Big Lebowski, one of the handful of Coen brothers movies (along with Raising Arizona and Fargo) to explore the dark side of human nature.

All during the movie, it was clear that Jean was struggling to stay awake, and when I laughed, she stared. Comments like "it must be guy humor" were sprinkled liberally throughout the viewing, which, again, was staged over several sessions. In the end, Jean had just gotten nothing from it.

Now I don't expect Jean and I to harmonize on every film, for each and every cinematic experience to have the same emotional impact. Gods no! This is just another example of how Jean and I can be so different and yet harmonize so well. In this case, I was trying to explain to her what I found so satisfying about this movie. To me it is not just a movie populated with goofy characters. It is an homage to Raymond Chandler, and The Dude is a marvelous sideways rendition of Philip Marlowe, that imperfect knight, if he had become a disillusioned, burned out post-protest druggie slacker. The menagerie of characters from rich California dynasties is a clear shout-out to Chandler.

Anyway, I've made my case, admittedly somewhat incoherently, and Jean sums up her frustration thusly: "It's like The Three Stooges for High Cinema." And then she punctuates this with a frighteningly bad imitation of Curly poking the air with forked fingers, "Aagh! Aagh!" Seriously, it was like watching a Martian try to imitate Curly Howard!

So I love her for who she is, and accept that there will be movies which I seriously, seriously dig, Man, which, you know, are like so complicated, that not everyone will get them. But The Dude abides. The Dude Abides...

Monday, April 26, 2010


Due to a lot of distractions in life, I accidentally got one of the Netflix movies I keep in the queue for the rare times when Jean and Renee are out of town. This movie, Sholay, is billed as a 'curry Western', and clocks in at a leisurely 199 minutes! I didn't watch it all in one sitting (in fact I watched several patches while walking on a treadmill), but I did finish it.

Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like watching a Bollywood interpretation of Sergio Leone's ouvre, with a dash of The Magnificent Seven thrown in, all the while boosting your spirits with whimsical Bollywood musical numbers!

Jean wondered how I endured it, but in truth, I enjoyed it, and am glad I picked it up. Thanks to whoever put together that list of seminal Bollywood movies!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Two New Albums

Broken Bells - Broken Bells. This is a new collaboration for Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame), this time with James Mercer, of The Shins. Sounds promising.

Battles - Battles. This is a band which features members of Don Caballero, another band which I enjoy, so I thought I'd take a stab at it.

Monday, April 5, 2010



I'm pinning this post to the top of the weblog for a few days until I have a chance to complete my photo kibutzing. The biggest delay to getting them online is that Jean wanted my most recent photo on Flickr! to be a clue in Renee's Easter Egg Hunt. Since my bundle of trip photos amounts to 221 photos (out of a total of 558 taken), that would have been quite the Easter Egg hunt!

Anyway, the banner photo commemorates our trip, with Jean and Renee posing at the entrance to Granville Island market. You can find the complete photo set labelled Spring Break 2010. I hope to create a number of subsets for the various attractions we visited. Given how long it took to get this set together, don't hold your breath...

P.S.:While not being much of a photographer, I still got a lot of pictures I really enjoyed. The aquarium was a real pleasure, so besides some neat images of Jean and Renee, Vancouver 2010-1884 is possibly my favorite photo of the trip (until I change my mind). You can click through to here for larger versions.

Original Post

I'm gonna put a placeholder here for notes on our trip to Vancouver. When I get a bit more time I'll try to cull through some of our photos and get them up online.

We went for a whirlwind tour over Spring Break with Renee. We actually had to produce passports, though they don't stamp them for crossings to and from Canada. The border agent told me we could get a stamp in the visitor center. Went in and they said "they always say that!" Bastards!

Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and stopped by Seattle on the way home. Now it's back to work, so pictures will probably be awhile coming.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

I finished The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes last night. This was the second story collection Renee was reading from last term for school. She didn't have to read the entire book to satisfy her requirements, but I did.

Unfortunately, it is also the short story collection which ends in The Final Problem, the story where Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill of Holmes so he could move on to other, 'better' works.

I never set myself the goal of rereading this entire collection, but was enjoying it enough that I would take my iPod to bed and read part of a story to get sleepy. Having finished with the death of Sherlock Holmes, I feel that I want to get past that point, and so, I'm starting up The Return of Sherlock Holmes. I'll at least read the resurrection story, The Empty House.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Recent Movies

Departures is a Japanese movie about a concert cellist who has to find another job when his orchestra is disbanded. He returns to his home town and ends up getting a job preparing the dead for burial. I found it very emotional, and recommend it.

A Serious Man is another Coen brothers movie, a fairly grim drama with no happy endings in sight. Maybe on a day when you're looking for something to confirm your pessimism.

It turns out that all those people who have been talking up The Wire were not mistaken. This is a pretty damn good show about the cops and drug dealers in Baltimore. Jean and I are watching it between movies.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Raw Photo Dump

I've dumped three new batches of photos onto Flickr:

I uploaded them raw/unedited (I think they're pretty much all from the P&S, hence originally JPEGs), then did some brief touch-ups using the online Picnic photo editor. I chose this route rather than the more time consuming local Photoshop routine, because they've been sitting on my computer for two or three weeks, and I have a new batch of photos that I want to spend a little more time tweaking. More on that later.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Musical Lapses

Okay, I know I've been on vacation from the weblog, and even when I do attend to it, I'm just using it as offboard memory, i.e. to remind me what I've recently seen on Netflix, or grabbed from eMusic, for instance. Guess what? This is another one of those posts!

I'm just starting it here to remind me to fish out the past few albums when I get home, but as I'm at work, I'll keep it short. I just wanted to note the new album I'm listening to right now:

The Edge of the Forest - Darren Johnston

Oddly, Darren is not in the Big Fat Book of Jazz, which gave me some pause. Is he a fly-by-night Jazz scammer? But the samples on eMusic sounded intriguing, so I decided to take a chance, and grabbed the whole thing (I know, eMusic bumped prices, how can I justify such a wild gamble? Just a fool for music, I guess...).

It's pretty avant-garde, and I'm not sure if it is going to grow on me, or 'go' on me, if you catch my meaning. But I'm attracted/repelled by the first composition, "Be the Frog", a nine minute journey from Gershwin to Cage to Carl Stalling (where is my damn Carl Stalling Project CD???) to who-knows-who. At times I'm just bouncing in my chair digging the music, while at others I'm sorta wagging my hand in the universal gesture of get-on-with-it.

Digging around on the net, I find he studied under Fred Frith, which is as good a pedigree as any. And why don't I have any Fred Frith, for frack's sake (I guess since I have a lot of The Residents I sorta have him, as he guested with them tons)?

Wow, pent-up weblogging fury! I better stop before I kill again. Anyway, I'll tag the other recent albums onto the end of this post when I get home. Ciao!


  • Overnight in Paris - Clifford Brown

  • Alice - Tom Waits

  • Winter Moon - Art Pepper

  • The Black Light - Calexico

And two piano compositions by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou from the 'Ethiopiques Volume 21 - Ethiopia Song'. I plan to grab the rest of this album over time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Commercial Bowl

So I went to a Superbowl party this weekend. My friends Alan and Pia were showing off their new digs, which are huge (~3400 square feet) compared to my house, and used the Superbowl as the frame for their party. The food was quite good, the conversation was entertaining, and the television was background noise, for the most part.

Also got an invitation to a wedding! Now I have to figure out if I can fit into the only suit I own, which is twenty years old...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lovely New Faucet(s)

We finally had the plumber over to do a handful of "fix this annoying leak/squeak/rattle" and had already gone out and purchased new taps for the hallway and basement bathrooms. The banner shows the new hallway faucet, and you can see before and after pictures in this Flickr set.

An unforeseen (by me) consequence of nice new taps is that Jean is now set on redoing the entire bathroom! Fear for me!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Domain Live for Another Five Years


pairNIC has an absolutely clunky payment interface, which among other things warns you to not click finish multiple times, as your credit card may be billed over again, but then rejects your submission several times on trivial nitpicks, such as not listing the name of the bank issuing your card! Who does that, really? And I have my card from, the issuer. They are not a bank. Are you going to reject my payment after you see that I listed as the bank to get your stupid form to accept my input? Really? Or are you just going to try charging my card multiple times, once for each FAIL you created?

This is not the first computer failure I've experienced today (it is the third, after trying to do some online stock option manipulation and failing [they wanted my employee id number, fer crissakes], and then trying to import bank history into Moneydance and seeing all accounts duplicated and intermingled). So yeah, figured I'd gripe.

But if the basics go well, I get to hang onto for five more years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Newest album from Vijay Iyer, Historicity is a collection of homages to compositions in other genres. Gotta say I really dig his version of Galang.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Silver Blaze

Renee had a project to read a bunch of Sherlock Holmes over the last few weeks. She's almost done, but as she started with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I grabbed it from Project Gutenberg and followed along on my iPod Touch. She then started on The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and I just finished the first story, The Silver Blaze. I don't think that she's going to read the entire collection this time, but I'll probably work through it slowly as it is a pleasant nostalgia trip for me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tualatin Hills Recreation Park

Just remembered one other cool thing we did last weekend, and which I hope we can do again. We drove to Jean's workplace, the Portland Clinic, and walked from there to the Tualatin Hills Recreation Park. Even though it's in the middle of Beaverton/Hillsboro, it's a pretty sizable nature park, and you can walk around in it for forty minutes without hitting the other side. It was very fun. Renee was enthusiastic and pining for pre-industrial days...

Recent Movies

Jean and I went together to see Up In the Air, and were mildly disappointed.

We tried to watch the DVD Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which was an HBO production, but while it tried to be multi-narrative, it was just disjointed.

I tried to watch a movie from my childhood, How to Murder Your Wife, and Jean gamely tried to watch along. It's rather dated, misogynistic humor, but Jean said the real problem was that it was so predictable. I only saw this once before, when I was nine years old, in the back of my parent's station wagon at a drive-in in Washington, D.C., and the parts I remembered were the kid-fun parts, where Jack Lemmon acts out the stories of a super-spy. Figures.

And, last weekend, as a solo outing, I went to see Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which felt a lot like the early, imaginative, vibrant Gilliam.

New Music

First, a rather kicky modern jazz album: Renegades - Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble.

And now eMusic has The Cure! But I've run low on credits, so for now, just three of my favorite songs:

  • Pictures of You

  • Just Like Heaven

  • Why Can't I Be You?


And it turns out, if I leave for work early enough to beat the traffic, three Cure songs exactly cover my commute! Nothing quite like pulling into the parking lot as Why Can't I Be You? is ending it's final riff...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recent Music

Since I've been lazy as usual, I'll update the music in a bunch:


For any friends who are on Twitter, I've opened an account, @dpwakefield (since I can't get the account ThePhin, which was taken). I don't plan on 'tweeting' much, if at all, as my main reason for starting one was to get a discount on a money management package that I'm thinking of switching over to from Quicken...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Two More Movies

Today put two more movies under my belt. Streaming from Netflix, I watched Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which is one of three films by Chan-wook Park on the theme of vengeance and how people get trapped by it, and how it affects them. While I'm sort of glad I finally watched this film, let me say that it is more or less unrelentingly bleak. Not much happiness for anyone. There were moments of humor, and quite a few of surreal oddity, but mostly bleak, bleak, bleak.

The other movie I saw was in the theater with my family: Sherlock Holmes. While they took some liberties with the characters, I felt most were in harmony with the originals. The story was similarly sinister to those of previous film adaptations, the setting was rendered very believably, and the music just felt right (thank you Hans Zimmer). There are a couple of scenes foreshadowing a follow-up movie, and given the panache with which the first was delivered, I can't say I would mind seeing the second. Guy Ritchie turns out to be good at mass-market escapism.