Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Roxy in the Shop

Just wanted to post an update on Roxy, although I'm even a bit out of date now. Took these pictures about two weeks ago. She's in the shop being stripped - the pictures show Tony's taken out the interior, and taken off the fenders and the hood. Still doesn't look like much, but she's a work in progress.

He's going to keep cleaning her up, repairing some minor body damage, and get her ready for paint. Cyn and I went to the shop and picked out the colors. Oohh.. I can't wait. She's like a big fat Christmas present that I won't get until March. :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Eric Kaufman is running an experiment on meme propagation from his blog: Measuring the Speed of a Meme.

The idea is that you read his post, create your own that references it, link back to it, tell your readers to make their own posts about it, and enter the link to your post in Technorati so it can be tracked.

Eric will track the propagation of his meme "across" the internet, and post an analysis at some point.

So, just to be clear, I'm propagating a meme about meme propagation, which is itself measuring meme propagation processes. And if you've read this far, you're now a host. Have at it. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Meet Roxy

Meet Roxy (no, not the boy, although he's cute too). She doesn't look like much now, but we have big plans.

The story is that when I moved here, I found a gret VW Mechanic, Tony Schoen, who owns German Autowerks here in Beaverton/Hillsboro. One day when I was in there I noticed this trashed-out, rusty bug in the shop. I mean.. the thing looked like it had been sitting outside with no windows for years, it was full of debris and generally looked like hell. He said they were restoring it, but I was skeptical. A few months later I came in for something else, and there was this shiny new light-blue bug with a shiny black interior sitting in the lot with a temporary permit sticker... I didn't believe it, and had to ask "Is that the same bug?" just to make sure.

I got to talking with Tony later on after we sold our Volvo (I recovered their customer database off their laptop when its hard-drive crashed), and he's going to build a bug for me. He's been working air-cooled VW's since the 70's, and claims to have "built" over 100 of them. He had a few 60's models laying around that he's been working on occasionally, so I'm buying one off him, and he's going to do the restoration work, build an engine, and has a guy joining his shop to do the body work and paint.

So, I've tentatively named her Roxy. She's a '67 (last year they had metal dashboards and a flat windshield) and we're going to give her a classic look... trying to stick close to the look of that year, within reason. Going to go with a two-tone paint job, and will eventually have the roof and tail-racks. I'd post a concept picture, but I want it to be a surprise. :)

There's a few more pictures of her current state (Cedar likes her, he hopped right in and started driving) on my flickr site, I'm planning on taking more as the project progresses and posting updates. We're planning on having her done by March, and entering her in a local VW show in the Portland Convention Center.

I'm itching for her to be done, but I got nothing to do but hurry up and wait.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ridin' the Rails

Writing this entry from the train. Just passed through Olympia, will be getting off in Tacoma here shortly. Visiting family, and going to a Halloween party tomorrow night. First big party we've gone to in, well, years, really. With the exception of Burning Man a couple years ago, I suppose. :)

I love taking Amtrak. If you haven't, I highly recommend it. It's cheap ($30 PDX-SEA), it takes about the same amount of time as driving since the train gets to bypass traffic, and all you have to do is sit there, eat some dinner, drink your Jack & Coke, watch a movie, and write blog entries. They even have power for your laptop now, go figure.

The other reason I love the train is the scenery. The water is nice, and the forest is cool. You get to see a lot more countryside that isn't sliced up by roads, and you have much more time to look out the window than you do when you're driving. But what I love is that, from the perspective of the tracks, you get to see the dirty underbelly of civilization. From the road, everyone presents a nice image - glass-front buildings, or houses with manicured lawns, clean driveways and shiny cars... from the tracks, you get to see all the backs of those buildings and houses, with the junk in the backyard, the rotting cars, colorful graffiti that nobody bothers to paint over.. all the things that people have forgotten, or just don't care about.

And there's also the industrial districts, with giant tanks of who-knows-what deadly chemicals and flame-topped smokestacks, or acres of logs as far as you can see. Or farmland with old dilapidated farmhouses and rusty tractors. I mean, nobody builds their huge mansion, or their shiny new condo building next to the tracks if they can help it. We're such a car-centric culture that it's interesting to see what's behind the scenes, either the stuff that's fallen by the wayside, or the normally invisible industrial structure that makes our society work, but that nobody wants to live near. It's a little glimpse behind the facades of everyday life. And if you're attentive, you can spot evidence of times past, when the train was the quickest way to get from coast to coast, and we all weren't in such a rush to drive from one place to another.

So hop on the train and come visit. I'll pick you up at the station...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This is part of an effort to bring all these fun articles about the slease and corruption of GOP Congressional candidates up in the Google search rankings. For more information, go to the Daily Kos article here.
If you want to participate, the HTML source is here.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert


Gotta post a follow-up to the Cheetah run... it wasn't easy, and felt good to cross that finish line. Of course, the first serious rain we'd had in two months had to start that morning, so it was cold and wet, and the course was pretty steep - first downhill, then back up. So we walked a bit on the uphill part, but I'm happy with how we did. It wasn't a very serious run (all the "professional" runners seemed to be on the 8k run), but we seemed to do better than people that looked to be in better shape than us. It wasn't a race per-se, but we came in pretty solidly in the middle (140/141 of 293).

It was fun to get out and see other crazy Portlanders (are we Portlanders yet?) running in the cold and rain. There was a lot of info on Cheetahs, and the woman (Dr. Laurie Marker) who runs the Cheetah Conservation Fund was there. A couple of interesting things I've learned about Cheetahs lately:
a) Cheetahs are all basically clones of each other. At some point in the past, the Cheetah population got so small there were only a few breeding pairs left, so they lost almost all genetic diversity when the populaton expanded again.
b) There's only about 12,000 of them left. They get around so fast though that it appears there are many more of them than there actually are, so the local farmers trap them and kill them to protect their livestock without giving it much thought. There are efforts underway to get the farmers to raise and bond herding dogs to the livestock herds for protection, which is apparently amazingly effective at deterring cheetahs, making the herds not such a source of easy kills. The same technique is used by Rocky Mountain farmers in the US to protect against wolves.

So all in all, it was a good first run. I think we're going to need to do small runs like this fairly frequently to keep motivation up. There's another one coming up at the Zoo in November, we'll have to try and arrange child care for that.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Running in Circles

We're running a 5k run at the Portland Zoo tomorrow. Wish us luck. :)

I think it should be fun, really. I never thought I'd consider myself a "runner". I still don't, really, not like the obsessive type. But for two or three months now we've been alternatively running or doing our "aerobic kickboxing" class at least every other day.

I should add that this is the first time in my life, since the weight training class I took in high school, that I've done any regular exercise. The first week I thought I was going to die every time I went running. Came back pouring sweat, out of breath, was all I could do not to just collapse on the couch. I ran a few times on a treadmill, generally around a mile, mile and a half. Then we mapped out a route around our block, which is about 1.7 miles. Took me a few weeks to be able to do that without having to stop every so often and catch my breath. We eventually started going slightly longer routes around the neighborhood, up to 2 1/4 or so miles now, I think. Now I can do three miles on the treadmill. Haven't run that distance on foot yet though, guess I'll find out how I do tommorrow.

Off to bed, gotta get up early and run.

Never thought I'd say that...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tao Te Ching Number Two

When people find one thing beautiful,
another consequently becomes ugly.
When one man is held up as good,
another is judged deficient.

Similarly, being and nonbeing balance each other;
difficult and easy define each other;
long and short illustrate each other;
high and low rest upon one another;
voice and song meld into harmony;
what is to come follows upon what has been.

The wise person acts without effort
and teaches by quiet example.
He accepts things as they come,
creates without possessing,
nourishes without demanding,
accomplishes without taking credit.

Because he constantly forgets himself,
he is never forgotten.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

This is your brain...

You may have seen this before, but some guys with too much time on their hands figured out that, when you read, your brain mostly just picks up on the first and last letters, the length of the word, and which letters are in it, generally disregarding what order the middle letters are actually in. So, give this a read:

It is a vilaotion of btoh dmstoeic and interntioanal law. But mroe ianomtrptly, ttuorre is amoarl udner evrey maojr rliigeon. Taht you cnnaot fhgit a mroal war wtih imrmaol mnaes. And if we're rdaey to emcrabe irmamol maens, if taht's how we're giong to fihgt tihs war, tehn we hvae lsot. And no one wlil cmoe to our aid. We wlil be aolne. And taht's waht hapneps wehn you bmoece - in the veiw of mnay - an enmey to the rlue of law. And we cannot affrod taht to hpaepn.

(Quote from Johnathan Turley on last night's Countdown with Keith Olbermann)

And here's another interesting brain-buster, the language of Europanto.

Europanto is an "artificial" language constructed by a guy named Diego Maranti, in 1996. It's basically a loose scramble of words from various european languages with the same basic structure. The idea is that people who don't speak the same language can understand enough to get the basic point across. I suppose the downside is that you'd have to know words from each language in order to speak it, but it seems like a good candidate for computer-translation software. Here's an example:

Que would happen if, wenn Du open your freund's blog, finde eine message in esta lingua? No est Englando, no est Germano, no est Espano, no est keine known lingua - aber Du understande! Wat happen zo! Habe your computero eine virus catched? Habe Du sudden BSE gedeveloped? No, Du esse lezendo la neue europese lingua: de Europanto!

(Comment stolen from Metafilter)

Completely unrelated, here's a new Science fiction short by Bruce Sterling - I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Political Haiku #1

Our Liar-in-Chief
Accidental honesty
War for a "lesson"

(Also, an interesting analysis of the "Warrantless Wiretapping Scandal" ruling, and how the Department of Justice refused to dispute the merits of the case, thereby basically botching their defense and leaving Judge Taylor no option but to rule in favor of the ACLU.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Catching up...

Been slacking, lots to catch up on...

Since Mattbear is bringing up celebrity sightings, I thought I'd share mine. I was in the Las Vegas airport, heading home after a weekend at DefCon, and there was a section of the terminal blocked off by my gate, with a bunch of people standing around. Being in a hurry, and having stood in the security line for half an hour, I probably would have breezed past it without looking, but I stopped to buy a pack of gum, and the cashier pointed and said "Brad Pitt and George Clooney are over there". I wandered over, and sure enough there they were, with Matt Damon, apparently shooting "Ocean's 13". The scene had the three of them were just sitting in airport chairs by the terminal, so during the shoots they would do some dialog, and one of them would get up and walk out of scene. They were far enough away that it wasn't worth taking pictures with my phone, and you couldn't hear them talk. Every few minutes the crew would shush everyone so they could shoot. I only had a few minutes, and then I had to hop on my plane. All the stewardesses were bitter because they had had to come in through a security entrance and didn't get to walk past the set.

Added a link, over there on the right sight of the page, to my Pandora station. I call it No-Doz, since its main purpose is to keep me awake and upbeat at work. I need music with a good beat, but that I can tune out so I can concentrate on coding or whatever. If a song has lots of words, I tend to listen to them and get distracted. So, good beat + no vocals generally equals some sort of downtempo or ambient techno. If that's your thing, give it a listen. If you haven't checked out Pandora, the concept is that you give it the names of artists and songs that you like, and it creates a "radio station" on the fly based on music similar to your input. It's slick and well-designed, I really like it.

On the political front, I ran across a well-written article called Flies vs. Hammers: How Asymmetric Warfare Works, which I highly recommend reading. It's an excellent analysis of the goals and tactics of the "Occupier" and the "Insurgents" in any given asymmetric conflict. The conclusions you can draw from this with regard to Iraq is that: 1. The Bush administration's arguments against announcing a timetable aren't valid. 2. Unless we can win the "hearts and minds" in Iraq, it's almost inevitable that the insurgency will only grow, quickly making it too costly for us to remain there, in dollars and bodies. Since our budget at this point is targetting like 95% towards killing iraqis, and 5% towards rebuilding the country, it seems pretty obvious how this is going to turn out. Of course, the question that always gets me is: "If it's obvious to me, how come the (theoretically) best military planners in the world couldn't figure this out?"

I have a pipe dream of buying a significant chunk of land somewhere around the puget sound, and dropping a cheap structure on it that my family can live in for 4-5 years while we build a house. And I mean build the house, with our own hands as much as possible, the goal being that at the end of the process we'd own a house, on some land, with no mortgage. For the "temporary house", I've mostly been looking at dome houses, or a haybale/stucco structure, but recently we found the site for a "green architecture" group, hybridseattle.com, that shows off the concept of "Cargotecture"... buildings contstructed from used shipping cargo containers. Some of them are pretty ugly, but it's a cool concept, and pretty cheap to implement (apparently you can buy 40' shipping containers for about $1900). You can buy the "Studio 320" unit from these guys directly, but I don't have a price. I'll update as I get more info.

I found an interesting new (about a year old) TV station called current.tv. It's channel 366 on Comcast, and is largely sponsored by Google. I call it "stream of consciousness TV", because it's not scheduled, per se. It's sortof like modern public access, although they have editors and such so that it's actually worth watching. People upload video segments called "pods", and Current seems to just grab some stuff off the internet, but I've found it to be mostly interesting, and somewhat addictive. They will also put in "news" stories and blurbs about whatever topics are popular on the internet, based on Google's zeitgeist data. If you go to their website,www.current.tv, you can see what's coming up, "approve" pods for air, read the tutorials on how to submit your own videos, and all sorts of other stuff.

All I've got for now...

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert doesn't pull any punches...

Even if you're not a big Colbert fan... you have to watch this. I like the Daily Show, but haven't watched Colbert's show much. That's going to change...

Stephen Colbert was one of the comedians signed up to provide the entertainment at the White House Correspondents ' Association Dinner. I'm not sure who decides who gets the invites to these dinners, but everyone was there. And Colbert, standing about ten feet from W and Laura, made his typical straight-faced-style of jokes about everything.. I mean everything.. from Karl Rove, to Valerie Plame, to the retired-generals-calling-for-Rumsfeld-to-step-down thing. It's one thing to hear these jokes occasionally on his show, but this was basically a "best of", spinning through half the scandals of the last few years, while the President was sitting right there. I mean, I find the stuff hilarious, but it even made me distinctly uncomfortable, particularly when Colbert talks directly to W during the show. I'm guessing a lot of people felt that way, because there was a distinct lack of laughter (shocked silence?) after a number of key jokes.

An interesting thing to note is the camera shots. Usually, while Colbert is
making a joke at someone's expense, the camera will jump to them for a few seconds, show a reaction (which in a many cases seemed more like a grimace than a smile), then pop back to Colbert. However, even when Colbert was talking directly to him, the camera never jumped to Bush. I'm guessing either his reactions weren't very favorable, or he had some sort of contract worked out beforehand that they wouldn't show his reactions to things. In any case, I think it's pretty lame, but typical of this administration's press control.

Here are links to the video on YouTube. You can probably google a link to a downloadable version somewhere if you prefer...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Amature Mechanic Hour

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my bus? For anyone who doesn't know, I own a '76, caution-sign-yellow VW Bus. Let me see if I can dig up a picture...

Here's Whirligig at Mason Lake (Cyn's Parents' property) in camper mode... note the playa dust still covering the pop-top canvas.

At any rate, I'm driving home from work yesterday, tooling down TV Highway (Tualatin Valley, not Television), I go to accelerate, and *bam*, the gas pedal just drops to the floor. "Crap!"... think fast... throttle cable must've broken. I had enough speed to coast a bit, so I turned left onto a side road and pulled over.

I knew I had a spare throttle cable under the back seat that had come with the bus. I popped the engine cover, found the throttle, and there's this little metal bar sticking off it... "hmm.. that looks like it could be a cable end." Looked around until I saw the end of the cable sticking out of its little tube. Crawled under the front, popped off the metal plate that covers the underside of the pedals. Yep, the cable is loose, so I pulled it out of the tube that runs to the back, and threaded the new one in. There's a point where a metal tube meets a rubber tube where it popped out and I had to crawl under the back and re-thread it, but in the end, after about 45 minutes, I attached the cable end to the throttle, fired up the bus, and drove on home.

One of the main things I love about this car is that everything is mechanical. No electronic throttle, anti-lock brakes, assisted steering, none of that. There is literally a cable running from my gas pedal that goes under the bus and attaches to the throttle on top of the engine. S imple and uncomplicated. The engine doesn't even use water - it's basically a glorified lawn mower engine. If you have the part, the tools, and maybe a book or two, you can pretty much fix everything yourself. I love German engineering, the thing is literally made to be taken apart and put back together with simple tools.

I've been driving her for five years, and this is the first time she's broken down on me on the road. She even made it to the middle of the Nevada desert and back with nothing more than a flaky blinker.

Plus, I love her 'cause she's bright freakin' orange, and really obnoxious. I love parking her next to the Mercedes, Corvettes, and other high-end cars at work. I've seen a Delorian pulling in and out a couple times.. if I can manage to park next to that I'm gonna take a picture.

Oh, and btw, I finally completed my "probationary period" at work, so I guess I'm an official employee now. It's weird working for a company that's not a startup, and most likely won't go under anytime soon. This is the first time I've had actual vacation time I could count on, and it's strange to be able to plan a "career", and think more than about three months ahead. It's all weird, and I feel really lucky to be there. I almost feel like a responsible adult... don't tell anyone though.

Friday, January 06, 2006


I try really hard not to be a "conspiracy nut". I realize that the human brain is a pattern-matching machine, and often finds connections where none exist. Thus, I'm always willing to look at all sides of an issue, and I'm always skeptical of conclusions until I have sound evidence. It is also easy to freak out about technological implications that aren't very well understood, and you end up with things like the Y2K "scare".

However, I also believe that the most heinous acts are often carried out (or at least begun) with the best intentions, and that's why we have a complex system of checks and balances in this country. Furthermore, I believe that it is probable that there are people in high positions of power in this country that may not only have the best interests of the American people at heart. A lot of other people believe this too, which is why we have laws for such concepts as the separation of church and state, Miranda rights, and the right of American citizens to be safe and secure in their persons.

That's why this blog article has me so freaked out. It's long, and dry, and technical, which is why topics like this are often overlooked by traditional media. But not only is it completely possible, it is almost inevitable that a database such as this will exist. Following closely, it is almost inevitable that these capabilities will be abused. I highly suggest you read the whole article, follow the links, and research for yourself, but I'll try to summarize anyhow:

The Department of Defense started off by creating a database which DOD employees and military personell (such as those guarding military bases) can use to record any suspicious information or event, verified or not (note that this is usually referred to as gossip). The software interface to this database is called JPEN (Joint Protection Enterprise Network).

This is much like the way that the Google search engine is the simple interface to the giant database where they store all the harvested web pages. JPEN is supposed to allow agents or MPs to quickly share information, such as sightings of suspicious vehicles, that may not spread fast enough to be acted upon by agents at another bases, or otherwise might just get filed away. This was the good intention.

However, this database has become too tempting not to share, and now just about every military or intelligence agency is in on the action. This is just asking for serious abuse.

JPEN is run by NORTHCOM, the DoD division responsible for handling the domestic affairs of the military, meaning this has nothing to do with Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Incidentally, NORTHCOM is also the division in charge of enforcing martial law in this country, should it ever be declared.

From the Washington Post:
Northcom centers conduct data mining, where information received from the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, state and local police, and the Pentagon's Talon system are cross-checked to see if patterns develop that could indicate terrorist activities. Information from these reports is fed into a database known as the Joint Protection Enterprise Network (JPEN), which is managed, as is the Talon system, by the Counterintelligence Field Activity, the newest Defense Department intelligence agency to focus primarily on counterterrorism. The database is shared with intelligence and law enforcement agencies and was found last month to have contained information about peace activists and others protesting the Iraq war that appeared to have no bearing on terrorism.

So, let's summarize a bit:
The illegal NSA wiretap of that call to your friend in Germany? In there.
That last ticket you got for speeding? In there.
The fact that your car was parked near the last WTO protest in Seattle? In there.
Your current credit scores? In there.
That time you checked out the Anarchist's Cookbook from the library? In there.

Keep in mind that, under the Patriot act, the FBI can basically request information on you from any organization, and forbid them from telling you that the request was made.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the U.S. Military can now arrest you, label you an "enemy combatant", keep you indefinitely without access to a lawyer, then hand you off to a civilian court if/whenever they see fit.

Perhaps you can begin to see a little of why I'm concerned. It is a known fact that this database exists. It is not a stretch of any sort to believe that various and sundry (possibly unverified or incorrect) details about your life will make it into this database. I also don't consider it much of a stretch to believe that people in power in this country may use this database to keep close tabs on activists, political opponents, or anyone that stirs up trouble.

Perhaps this helps explain why the author of Bush's Brain is now on the No-Fly list. What database do you suppose the No-Fly list software queries when you check in?

Sigh. Enough for now, it's late and I'm tired. I'll update as I find more info...