June 6th, 2012
What follows here is an email that I sent out at work. On the occasion of Ray Bradbury's death, I came to work without a hat. I wrote this email to forestall the inevitable queries about this momentary disturbance of my habit:
Those of you in Eagan won't have noticed, but some of you in the Fremont office may have noticed that probably my most distinctive feature is missing today: my hat.
Today is not a day for hats. Let me explain.
In 1995, one of my high school (yes -- high school. This is your cue to feel old, people.) English teachers encouraged me to go to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books which was being held that year at UCLA.
I was the sort of kid in high school who preferred to stay home and read or write code -- I can't imagine that I'm the only person who felt that way in this august company. In any event, I decided to go.
One can only look at so many books when one hasn't properly entered the workforce and cannot possibly hope to afford all the things he might want. Out of self-preservation, we looked at the schedule of speakers and thought we'd sit in on a few of the panels.
My eyes fell instantly on a name in the afternoon block: Ray Bradbury.
I've always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Call it an inherited taste from my father. Call it just plain good sense. But when it comes to fantasy and science fiction, few people have blended the two as beautifully as Ray did.
I knew instantly that I simply had to go.
Those of you who have had the pleasure will know, but I suspect that most people never had the opportunity to hear him speak. Ray Bradbury gave these wonderful speeches about his life and all the things he'd done. He usually tied them around a theme. In his later years -- especially after his wife passed away -- he wrote them around love.
He'd say that he was the world's greatest lover and point out that everything he did, he'd done out of love.
I won't attempt to recount his stories. The man did it much better himself and I'm fortunate enough to have a copy of his speech from 2007. I've put it on my home server and I'd encourage you to download it. In my estimation, it's worth your time.
After the talk, he went to a signing area. I purchased a copy of my favorite Ray Bradbury book: The Martian Chronicles. My friend & I were kinda goofing off when we met him, but he was so touched by our genuine admiration for him that he exclaimed: "I think I'd like to adopt both of you!"
As it happens, my friend had just gotten a voice recorder and he decided to start it running while we were talking to Ray, so this was actually recorded. I have the .wav somewhere on a zip disk.
After that afternoon, I never missed another L.A. Times Festival of Books, nor did I ever duck Ray Bradbury's panels. Every year, I'd drag a new friend along and I'd buy a book as a gift for someone -- it was a good excuse to talk to him again.
As the years went by, he eventually had a stroke. I remember being a little worried about how it might have affected him. The next time I saw him was at the premiere of a play based on his work that a friend of mine was in. I tentatively approached his table where he was seated in his wheelchair.
He looked at me, smiled, and said "Hi testing4l! How the hell are you?"
Truth be told, the loss of his wife affected him much more than his stroke ever did. It was those later years in which he'd deteriorated somewhat. But every year I saw him, he'd light up a little when he signed my book.
Not so long ago -- maybe 4 years ago? -- he pledged to never again attend the LA Times Festival of Books because he was incensed that they'd removed the book review portion of their newspaper.
He held to that promise, so the last time I saw him was under that hot afternoon sun, signing books at the UCLA campus. I remember the woman ahead of me mentioned that she saw a picture of him during his younger years and told him that he was hot.
It is in mourning and respect that I have elected not to wear a hat today. Truly, if my hat were ever to be off to anyone, then it should be off to the sheer volume of writing that Ray put out there. The world is a poorer place for his loss.
One last note: A carnival man from Ray's youth exclaimed "LIVE FOREVER" at him. He'd often point out that after a fashion, he would live forever. You can go to any library and find him between other giants of the field, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.
He'll certainly live forever in my home.
May 18th, 2012
1) SpaceX is slated to launch their Falcon 9 to the ISS tomorrow morning around 3 AM. Hooray!
2) Solar eclipse Sunday! Hooray!
3) Last game day at Trista's place tomorrow!
March 24th, 2012
This, for its picture of Shakespeare & Company, made me think of necropalice -- who, frankly, I am guilty of not thinking enough about in the recent past.
And for the rest of you? Well, it's photos of pretty bookstores. How can you possibly go wrong?
March 8th, 2012
This is something worth posting about.
Not because of Joseph Kony. But because of the object lessons involved in this video.
Really -- watch that video and think about each image. The controlled shots of a crowd. The people they show saluting the cause. The blend with the images of Hitler and Castro. The constant attention to the kids.
Call me a cynic, but whenever I hear of white people trying to help brown people, I smell something distinctly rodentlike. This particular case is no different.
There's enough evidence that Joseph Kony isn't a great guy. Sure. We get that. There's also evidence that the Ugandan army aren't great people. And we're lending them military advisors.
Doesn't that sound just a hair like the way the world ended up with Osama bin Laden?
The Guardian did a decent, if brief, writeup which should teach you about the things you ought to do before you consider allying with a cause.
I cannot urge you enough. Understand the movement -- not just the message. The next time you're urged to take action, don't stand! Sit. There's so much free information around you. Research it. The cause isn't going anywhere. Learn about what you're getting into. Inform yourself because if it really is that desperate a cause, then it'll need people who know about it.
When you see things like this, train yourself to doubt. Train yourself to question it. The next time someone tells you the government doesn't act because it's not a significant interest, ask why that it is. Ask about what's more important.
And most importantly -- ask different people. Don't trust a single source. Trust many, disparate sources.
February 15th, 2012
Happy day after, folks!
I came home and opened up my mailbox. In there was a package. Addressed to me -- the "grand genius". Iiiinteresting.
Inside the package was a shirt.woot shirt. The Raven one which I remember gemlikeflame lusted after a bit. I wondered for a moment who would have sent it to me and then I noticed that the shirt was a size smaller than I usually wear. And then I knew that it was the work of lishd!
She'd been looking at my OKCupid profile a while ago and asked me what shirt I wore. Then she suggested that I should wear a size smaller.
Dinner commenced! stonesundial was the only one who showed which turned out to be a good thing -- Sushiyat was jammed full of people. Wendy -- the head waitress -- noticed me and said "one sec." After a bit of running around preparing tables, she plucked us out of the group and sat us at a table near the sushi bar.
Sushi consisted of:
3 pieces of sake, waloo, maguro, and hamachi sashimi.
4 pieces of hotate & 2 pieces of waloo nigiri.
A variation of Bill's trademark cherry blossom roll -- half the pieces had maguro on the outside, half had sake. I think he overheard stonesundial speaking positively about sake.
Unagi nigiri & mochi put the cap on the evening.
stonesundial was kind enough to order sake for me since I'm officially underage. It was glorious.
We were the last ones out of the restaurant. They stayed open a bit longer for us and Bill (the owner & one of the itamae) came over to wish me a happy birthday and talk for a bit.
stonesundial had given me a wrapped present a while ago and it sat atop my bookshelf. I brought it down and it was yet another ray gun. It turned out to be unexpectedly awesome because it's one of the ones that throws sparks and I have a little bit of history with one of those 8)
nyankoframe also deserves mention for the early-but-no-less appreciated "VIVA LA DECOMPOSICION!" zombie Che magnet which adorns my front door.
The evening ended with Rock Band. I drove Sparky home. As we were parked, she pulled out a tangerine, a candle, and a lighter. She'd meant to do it with sushi, but she'd forgotten. I thought for a moment, made a wish, and blew out the candle. Then I handed her the tangerine back because I didn't want that taste overriding the delicious sushi that I'd had that evening. 8)
Anyway -- as they say -- that was that. 8) Happy 20th birthday, me!
February 2nd, 2012
A bunch of people ask me "Hey Phil! You're such a skeptic, so why do you care about Groundhog Day? Is it because the groundhog's name is Punxsutawney Phil?"
Nope. I care because this morning I saw a centuries old tradition in which a groundhog is pulled out of a cage while an old guy who claims to understand the language of groundhogs speaks to it. That tradition was relayed by TV cameras through an editing room and transmitted across the country via the internet.
That, right there, is a barometer for how we've advanced in the last 150 years. It's a holiday for transhumanists everywhere who enjoy watching the march of technology.
Besides, there's something charming to the continuing fairy tale that the groundhog has never been wrong, that it speaks a special language, and that it has any connection to the weather.
Best of all, no one tells you to buy anything to celebrate it. Or indeed to celebrate it at all. That makes it fair game.
January 27th, 2012
The Saturn IB rocket. The second stage of that rocket was the S-IVB and was used as the third stage for the Saturn V rockets which would go to the moon.
A walkway to a mock up of an Apollo capsule:
The space mirror memorial at Kennedy Space Center:
A plaque opposite the mirror:
You sort of have to put that out of your mind. There's always a possibility that you can have a catastrophic failure, of course; this can happen on any flight; it can happen on the last one as well as the first one. So, you just plan as best you can to take care of all these eventualities, and you get a well-trained crew and you go fly.
— Gus Grissom
This would have been the first flight of the Block I Apollo Command Module. Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were scheduled for 14 days in orbit to test launch, ground tracking, and control facilities.
The crew members were using the time to run through their checklist again, when a voltage transient was recorded at 6:30:54 (23:30:54 GMT). Ten seconds later (at 6:31:04), after Chaffee said the word "Hey", scuffling sounds followed for three seconds before Grissom reported a fire that began that minute. Chaffee then reported, "We've got a fire in the cockpit," while White responded to Chaffee's comment. After 12 seconds, Chaffee urged the crew to get out of the command module. Some witnesses said they saw White on the television monitors, reaching for the inner hatch release handle as flames in the cabin spread from left to right and licked the window. The final voice transmission from the crew was very garbled. "They’re fighting a bad fire—let’s get out. Open ‘er up" or, "We’ve got a bad fire—let’s get out. We’re burning up" or, "I’m reporting a bad fire. I’m getting out." Only 17 seconds after the first indication by crew of any fire, the transmission ended abruptly at 6:31:21 with a cry of pain and then a hiss as the cabin ruptured after rapidly expanding gases from the fire over-pressurized the CM to 29 psi (200 kPa) and burst the cabin interior.
Had a note from K~ today. The contents were simple: I love you. I miss you. I'm sorry.
She remembered that today was the anniversary of the tragedy which was Apollo 1. This year, Apollo 1 has a special meaning to me. Not merely because I've been to Kennedy Space Center -- so very close to where they spent their last moments -- but because of the realization that tomorrow, I will be exactly as old as Roger Chaffee was when the capsule fire of Apollo 1 killed him. He would have been the youngest person in space.
I caught her on facebook and thanked her. It was touching that regardless of all else that has happened that she'd remember something so important to me.
Some might say too little, too late. And, in a way, maybe it should be. But I've always been a sucker for hope.
I owe you all a longer explanation, but for right now, I'll cut it short and simply say that we've reconciled. In a few short days, she'll be back up here and we'll give things another shot again. No other girl would have remembered that and she's genuinely working on getting a job. I think that we have an actual shot at this.
And maybe this time, things will go right.
December 29th, 2011
An out of print Blade Runner book of production sketches.
It occurs to me that I've never actually sat down and written about Blade Runner.
December 22nd, 2011
This isn't connected to any particular incident, but I really, really, really hate people right now.
I feel more and more like someone who is floating through society and trying to make do by apeing social conventions.