31 December 2005
I Need You Like I Need a Hole in My Head
Addendum: Was shot in his sleep, woke up bleeding, went to work, and then only later drove himself to the ER! "I went to work. But when I got there, I didn't feel too good and the blood kept gushing out. So I left my boss a note telling him that I was going to the hospital." The girlfriend committed suicide when the cops showed up at her place.
Brushes with "Greatness," Part I
I used to live in the same apartment building as Drexler and his girlfriend. In fact, I think I lived right over them from summer 1984 to fall 1985. I only had a couple of stairwell conversations with him, but even then he was preaching the gospel of the future of tiny machines.
Yes, being at the prestigous Eastern technological school meant what is likely a higher rate of brushes with "greatness" -- sorry, I'm of the "they all take a dump just like the rest of us," "feet of clay," etc. crowd, which is meant to reduce hero-worship, not denigrate their achievements (and I say that in a post that clearly has "name dropping" written all over it) -- than, say, attending DeVry or ITT Tech. I got to take classes from and work with people like Gerry Sussman, Hal Abelson, Ken Stevens, B. K. P. Horn, Victor Zue and Stephanie Seneff (my SM thesis advisor), and the like. Bill Siebert was my doctoral thesis advisor, and I got to teach along side Al Oppenheim and Eric Grimson.
I once got to yell at Jerry Wiesner, then president of MIT, through a bullhorn. From about 10 feet away. Surrounded by smelly hippy people. This was back in 1975, the pseudo-radical post-Vietnam days. I can't recall whether we were protesting the Institute's trying to transfer inertial-guidance technology to Taiwan or to transfer nuclear power technology to pre-revolutionary Iran; regardless of which, either would've been a boneheaded move on MIT's part (even as we were complete assholes about how we protested it).
(The apartment building where both Drexler and I lived at the same time? I moved after that to the building next door, where I lived until 1991. Later I found out that I had lived in the same apartment there that had once been occupied by Dennis Klatt, who worked in the Speech Group at RLE with Ken Stevens, and his wife. Still later -- I mean relatively recently, like 2003 -- I met someone in a gay bar in Daytona Beach, Florida, who was currently living in that same apartment!)
Later (second time around) I was lucky enough to work out of Cam Searle's lab. Cam and Paul Gray, who was by then president of MIT, literally wrote the book on semiconductors. By then, Cam was (and still is, to my knowledge) working with Jerry Lettvin on cell-membrane models, so I got to hang out at Lettvin's lab, which was a kind of nearly-never-ending bull session on everything. (It was at Lettvin's lab that I once had a discussion on depression with a very low pre-Free Software Foundation Richard Stallman.)
Jerry had ended up with the library of Giorgio de Santillana (myth as natural history). I, er, borrowed two of the books in that collection and have yet to return them: Zen and Science, by Daisuke Ueda, and The Revolt of the Masses, by Jose Ortega y Gasset. Inside the Ortega y Gasset, there is still a newspaper clipping of a column by Sydney Harris, titled "Even the Best of Us Has a Faulty Side." The column:
One of the wisest and shrewdest men of our times, Jose Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher, said something to me at Aspen a few summers ago which I have never forgotten.There are a few more "brushes with'greatness' " to mention, but I'm saving them for later.
When kind and charming ladies at that resort recognized him and approached him and asked, "Are you Senor Ortega?" he said he was moved with the desire to reply: "Madam, I am he only in a vague way -- because I feel so much that I am only a remote approximation of him whom I should be, of him whom I have to be."
What is this puzzling and paradoxical answer to a straight question? He meant that each of us has a double personality, not in the dramatic Jekyll-and-Hyde sense, but in a deep authentic sense.
There is another self, the true personality, which lives beneath the social self, behind the face and mannerisms and occupation and life-situation. And most often, the profiles of these two selves do not coincide.
What distinguishes genuine human beings from those who have already become monsters is this -- that human beings know that they are not living as they really should, morally and spiritually, no matter how much success or esteem they achieve in the eyes of the world.
The monsters have given up the struggle to conquer themselves and have reshaped their private identities to fit their public visage. The monsters define themselves by their occupation, their status, their reputations -- and have sacrificed their total inner life in order to present a bland and impressive coutenance to the world.
What constitutes a philosopher like Ortega, is that he knows how far he falls short of his public profile. He knows what an authetic man should be, in his thoughts, his actions, and his ideals. And he never fools himself that the figure on the platform, receiveing the honorable award, is the same as the naked personality in the silence of his soul.
Each man has to win a victory over himself -- which is another way of saying that each man has to lose his life in order to find it. For only when we shed the snake-like skin of our social selves are we reborn as creatures of freedom and integrity.
29 December 2005
My Christmas Present from Mack
Accept differences Be kind Count your blessings Dream Express thanks Forgive Give freely Harm no one Imagine more Jettison anger Keep confidences Love truly Master something Nurture hope Open your mind Pack lightly Quell rumors Reciprocate Seek wisdom Touch hearts Understand Value truth Win graciously Xeriscape Yearn for peace Zealously support a worth causeIt's set in a Roman font, all small caps, with the leading letters, capitalized above, boxed.
(Why no picture? Because I have reached the lazy point!)
Goodbye, Christmas 2005
All in all, except for Mack's cold, it was a great Christmas: good times with each other and good times with family and friends.
28 December 2005
Christmas 2005 Travels: Home Again (Kinda Sorta)
26 December 2005
Christmas 2005 Travels: Day Three
We're still here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Yesterday, we had a Christmas dinner that couldn't be beat: Ham loaf, scalloped potatoes, corn, broccoli salad, and rolls. Dessert was pumpkin pie (or choose among other sweets and desserts that have been around the entire time). In a word or three, we've eaten well.
This set of pics at our Flickr site includes pictures of Tim (the other Tim Wilson) and Amos (Tammy and Tim's son) working on Amos's rehab cross, various McKinleys standing around discussing who's who in old pictures, and our visit with the folks at Mack's nephew Nathan's place: Nathan's wife Val; Mack's sister and Nathan's mom Valerie and her husband Kendal; Nathan's brother Levi, his wife Jamie (who was under the weather); Nathan and Val's kids; Levi and Jamie's son; Val's mom and dad; Kendal's mom Fonda. A big mess of people.
25 December 2005
Merry Christmas to all, including the men and women of the armed services of the USA and of all nations. May we all find the balance of individual liberty with strong communities based on free association; civil, family, and personal responsibilities; and traditions associated with human dignity.
This is it folks, this is what a peaceful, democratic, multi-ethnic and religiously-tolerant Iraq looks like. The Western media's myopic focus on Baghdad and Arab Iraq means it's missed a quarter of the story, the northern quarter, where five million people are building the Middle East's first indigenous democracy from scratch. Every day Kurds thank me, believing I represent all Americans. They thank me for freeing them from a murderous tyrant. They thank me for saving their lives and their families' lives. They tell me that they understand we went to war for many reasons, some quite bad. Still, they say, no American has died in vain here, for even if there were no weapons of mass destruction, even if Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11, there is at least one good reason to fight and die in Iraq.
In fact, there are five million.
Merry Christmas, America. Merry Christmas, Iraq.
24 December 2005
Christmas 2005 Travels: Day Two and More Day One Pictures
Also, here are Mack's windmill pics and video from yesterday.
23 December 2005
Christmas 2005 Travels: Day One
We found a windmill farm on our trip. It's something that John Deere is involved in. 24 1.25 MW windmills in this installation, with 38 more 2 MW windmills planned.
Finally, we made our way to his folks' house. Caught a beautiful sunset in the process.
More pics from the above here.
Tomorrow, we make our way to Bartlesville, OK, to Mack's sister's.
21 December 2005
"A Charlie Brown Christmas," SNL Mashup
Brace yourselves: It involves actual humor from Saturday Night Live.
Not altogether similarly or dissimilarly, Scott Adams asks:
“Suppose you found a thousand dollars in cash that you knew had been lost by a billionaire. Now, because this is a hypothetical question, let’s assume that the billionaire would never be aware that he lost it, and there would be no way that anyone else would know if you kept the money. And let’s say you knew there would be no reward or other indirect benefit in returning the money. Would you give it back?”
In my experience, most of the people who say they’d give back the cash are the ones who don’t need an extra thousand dollars. The ones who say they’d keep it usually have a good idea how they’d spend it.
A certain percentage of the population believes that God is watching them with one hand on a lightning bolt and the other on the trap door to Hell. About half of that group will also keep the money, under the theory that if God wanted the billionaire to have it, he never would have let him lose it in the first place.
18 December 2005
The state of contemporary mass media
Exhibit A: Chenney's itenerary didn't formally include Iraq but involved going to neighboring states. Just about anyone with a lick of sense could see an un-previously-announced stop in Iraq happening, so when it does, it shouldn't be called a "surprise." Take your pick among just about any ensemble of first- and second-tier news sources to see this in action. Just one example here.
Exhibit B: This inane "War on Christmas" nonsense. Here's an example (USA Today, surprise, surprise, but any of the usual suspects would do) of the nonsense, and here's Mr. Lane linking to some semblence of data suggesting the vast majority of people feel otherwise.
What do they teach in those purported journalism schools? Surely it involves more than rehashing press releases or being a conduit for leaks from government officials (e.g. Judith Miller, the latter incarnations of Bob Woodward, etc.).
(2) When I can find the passage in the signal-processing textbook that my thesis advisor wrote about not being able to distinguish evolutionary outcomes from design, I'll post them. Bottom line: How could one tell the difference, so it's okay to say "designed" or "evolved." Management regrets that that might not line up with your politics.
(3) Get your "God is a Moog" t-shirt here.
(4) Lyrics to "Jesus, Etc." here.
(5) Warner/Chappell music apologizes for threatening developer of lyrics-search software. Boing-Boing post on that topic here.
16 December 2005
...On the other
I parked the truck while he checked his luggage and I walked him quickly to the Security Checkpoint. A brief embrace and a kiss. I insisted. I didn’t care who was watching. And he went on through, franticly emptying his pockets and taking off his shoes.
I stood and watched him walk into the terminal until I couldn't see him anymore. Then I went on to the truck and waited for a phone call saying he had made it aboard before I headed home to an empty house and a dirty kitchen where dinner still sat, cold on the stove.
Another goodbye. Two years ago almost to the day it was the same for me. I was on my way to fight in my war. Now it’s his turn.
On the one hand...
15 December 2005
"Regardless of what happens to you, get a smile on your face and keep it there"
Besides being an advocate for government and personal thrift, Senator Proxmire was also a fan of exercise (daily, he jogged from his D.C. area home to the Senate) and of smiling.
14 December 2005
My own take on this experience is that it is possible to live a good life in America if you are gay. You can manage -- through a combination of luck, skill and grace -- to get into a situation where you are surrounded by accepting family, friends, and neighbors, in a city or region where you are fairly well-integrated and working at a decent job where being gay is not an issue. Even if you win this luck lottery, though, you are still way closer to the knife's edge then any heterosexual person. There are powerful people who make hay by denouncing you in the most hateful ways, and the legal system is at best a rusty shield and at worst a sword aimed at your heart. You never are allowed to forget that you are tolerated rather then accepted by large chunks of your society. It takes a great reservoir of human dignity and pride to erect a levee around yourself and your family in such a situation.
13 December 2005
"The Trained Soprano" or "Just to Hear the Opera Singer Singin' Rock and Roll So Pure"
12 December 2005
150 Years of Leaves of Grass
I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,
And accrue what I hear into myself....and let sounds
contribute towards me.
I hear the bravuras of birds....the bustle of growing
wheat....gossip of flames....clack of sticks
cooking my meals.
I hear the sound of the human voice....a sound I love,
I hear all sounds as they are tuned to their uses....
sounds of the city and sounds out of the city....
sounds of the day and night;
Talkative young ones to those that like them....the
recitative of fish-pedlars and fruit-pedlars....the
loud laugh of workpeople at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship....the faint
tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his shaky lips
pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the
wharves....the refrain of the anchor-lifters;
The ring of alarm bells....the cry of fire....the
whirr of swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with
premonitory tinkles and colored lights,
The steam-whistle....the solid roll of the train of
The slow-march played at night a the head of the
They go to guard some corpse....the flag-tops are
draped with black muslin.
I hear the violincello or man's heart complaint,
And hear the keyed cornet or else the echo of sunset.
I hear the chorus....it is a grand-opera....this indeed
A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.
I hear the trained soprano....she convulses me like
the climax of my love-grip;
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches unnamable ardors from my breast,
It throbs me to gulps of the farthest down horror,
It sails me....I dab with bare feet....they are licked
by the indolent waves,
I am exposed....cut aby bitter and poisoned hail,
Steeped amid honeyed morphine....my windpipe
squeezed in the fakes of death,
Let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.
(Song of Myself, Stanza 26)
10 December 2005
Things That Really Matter
Here's Fireball, the machine that Craig Selvage and I inserted many quarters in when we were froshlings at a prestigious Eastern technological school.