Friday, December 18, 2009

A Visit to the Annenberg Space for Photography

For several months I have been hearing about the new photography gallery called The Annenberg Space for Photography. I’d also heard that there was an exhibit up of the works of Walter Iooss and Neil Leifer, two veteran Sports Illustrated sports photographers. I’m not big on sports photography anymore, since I don’t follow organized sports, but I do know how to do sports photography and more importantly I know greatness. And these guys are great. Of course “great” in photography often goes according to the “f/8 and be there!” rule. Neil Leifer may fit into that category with his persistence, work ethic and willingness to shoot anything and everything, but Walter Iooss has a more artistic attitude and bent. And I think both of them communicate this well in the video interviews that accompany the several hundred photos.

One does not have to be a sports fan to appreciate the unique beauty and appeal in these photos, but for those who are sports fans and not photography aficionados, they too will appreciate the talent and vision expressed here.

I would guess that there are probably about 100 photos by each photographer in the entire exhibit. Many of these photos are prints on the walls, or video stills on the many monitors that are also on the walls, but most of the photos are best seen on the giant screen video monitor in the central Digital Gallery. This display intersperses the photographs with a long interview with the photographers and several of their many subjects.

For example, we see several photos of Jackie Joyner-Kersee including a series Walter shot with her, and these are interspersed with JJK talking about being an athlete and working with the photographer, and what the photos mean to her both as an observer of them as well as the subject that was being observed by the photographs, and by us the viewer. She is the most expressive of the people interviewed, which includes other athletes as well as colleagues and editors at SI. One thing I learned was that Walter Iooss was the guy who started the “tradition” of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition when, in the sports doldrums of late winter he suggested shooting some models in swimsuits in the tropics. That idea would certainly come from Walter - one can tell just from watching and hearing him that he enjoys life.

Both Leifer and Iooss started with SI as teenagers in the late 50s. I was pleased to hear both Walter and one of the older editors give credit to the photographers who preceded them and taught them, and helped them along. One of these was John Zimmerman, who I had the honor and pleasure to work with a few times as he was transitioning from semi-retirement to fully retired. I am not of the caliber of Walter Iooss - or John Zimmerman - but it was nice to hear a photographer of the stature of WI give credit to JZ. One night on location with John he talked about his experience shooting for SI, especially in the tropics and the wilds of Africa, and what it was like to work with Walter and Julie and many of the people he worked for. It would be nice to someday find an exhibition of JZ’s work.

I took the small camera with me and though I didn’t take any pictures of the photos on exhibit, I took a couple of exterior shots of the gallery’s sign, and one interior shot of the back wall of Wally’s Cafe. This is a small space inside the gallery that really looks like a modern kitchen, though in the photo you can see that the back wall has a nice collection of books and wine.

The rest of the gallery is essentially wide hallway spaces with prints and monitors, and a room with a large monitor, all arrayed around the main digital gallery. The whole space is smaller than you might think given the name of Annenberg and the location in Century City, but the smallish size keeps the feel of the place intimate. There is some cutting edge technology (for mid 2009), including the main display in the main gallery and a small promo space with a pair of Microsoft table computers. (These aren’t tablet computers, but the coffee tables that are actually computer monitors with touch screens that allow you to move the 10 or so display photos around on the monitor, to orient them and to resize them. (You’ll get the full effect within about two minutes.) One other piece of great technology is the programming that leads the main show, the interview and photo show on the main screen. I don’t know what program the designers used, but the show is very good and whoever put together the animation and production was obviously professional.

The photo at the top is the best picture I got of the exterior sign, and the interior space of Wally’s cafe is on my Flickr page. I also took some pictures of the big buildings that make up the Culver Plaza, and some of these are interesting too with the reflections of the late afternoon three days before winter solstice. Take a look at them.

Update: I forgot to mention that, in addition to the main exhibit of Iooss and Leifer, there was a small video exhibit running in the Workshop Area that included The Art of Surf Photography, which featured Brewer, and The Science of Hitting, which featured a former journeyman major league catcher (that I’d never heard of). The piece on Brewer and surf photography was kind of interesting, especially since he has been doing surf photography since before the short board renaissance, and has pictures that cover the timeline since then, with action surf and studio shots of the people.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

PC company economics, July 2009

A few weeks ago the announcements of quarterly (and some annual) quants came out for public companies, including the major software and PC companies.

This report cycle was significant because it was the first year in which Microsoft reported a loss. And this loss was significant at $1 billion. From the Financial Times:

The world’s biggest software company said revenues had declined 17 per cent amid falling global demand for new PCs and servers. The news follows a spate of more positive earnings news from Apple, Intel and IBM.

Microsoft also sounded a far more cautious note about the prospects for a recovery in the second half of 2009.

“It’s going to be difficult for the rest of the year,” said Chris Liddell, chief financial officer. “We’re really still not sure we’re out of the woods.”

While the software company had been expected to suffer more than other leading tech companies, given its heavier exposure to cyclically volatile PC and server sales, the extent of the decline was unexpected and its shares fell by nearly 8 per cent in after-market trading and were off by 10 per cent in early trading on Friday.

The setback in the fourth quarter of Microsoft’s fiscal year caps the worst year in its 23-year history as a public company, and the first in which it has seen a revenue decline.

Broader trends in the technology markets have also hurt the company. Netbooks, the small, low-cost laptops that have been the one bright spot this year, now account for 11 per cent of all PC sales, according to Microsoft.

However, it receives much less for the version of the Windows operating system shipped with these machines.

In spite of the latest signs of weakness, Microsoft’s shares are still up nearly 60 per cent since their low point in April on hopes that new product launches, including the Windows 7 operating system, will revive its fortunes next year.

Mr Liddell said that Microsoft was not anticipating any further big declines from current levels of spending by its customers, and sees “the potential for improvement” in 2010.

A 29 per cent plunge in revenues from Microsoft’s core Windows PC division, to $3.11bn, aggravated the decline in the latest quarter. Microsoft was also affected by an upgrade guarantee that allows PC buyers to switch to Windows 7 when it goes on sale in October.

Heavy cost-cutting made up for some of the shortfall, with Microsoft slicing 10 per cent from its operating expenses compared with a year before. But net income fell 29 per cent to $3.045bn, or 34 cents a share.

There are some odd factors in here.

  1. Intel - which makes processors for nearly all the PC manufacturers - did well.
  2. IBM did well, though many - and perhaps most - of the servers it sells run linux.
  3. Apple, which is a direct competitor of Microsoft, did very well.
In fact Apple had their best non-holiday quarter ever, making $1.3 billion on profit.

So Microsoft’s financial and market experts say that the whole industry is down due to the recession, but in fact it is Microsoft’s business that is down, and forecast to be negative for some period in the future.

This is starting to look like those years in the auto industry when the American car makers said things were bad, but the Japanese car makers did well continuously.

In both cases, the problem is not consumer or corporate sales as much as it is management ignorance. Microsoft has a problem, but management wants to lay the blame somewhere else rather than actually examine the problem analytically.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Twilight Dance Series 2009

When I finally restarted swim workout in earnest (every Tuesday and Thursday 7:30-8:30) it meant I had to give up some evenings. I’ve been well disciplined in going to workout every time for about a month now - and that means that I’ve missed the entire Twilight Dance Series on the Santa Monica Pier thusfar this summer.

That means that I’ve missed Joan Baez, Sgt. Garcia, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Thomas Mapfumo. (I’ve heard music of three of these four and like what I’ve heard. The description of Sgt. Garcia made them sound good too.)

But this coming Thursday I’ll be skipping swim practice to go see Dave Alvin and his group The Guilty Women playing live.

And three weeks from that event I’ll be skipping swim practice again to see Lila Downs.

Mmm, these will be fun. :-)

The Spectacle of Religions

I was walking back from the beach (morning surfcheck) and nearly got run over by the annual Festival of Chariots, or as we local residents call it - the Krishna parade.

Well okay, I wasn’t really “nearly run over” because the people and the carriages move at a slow walking pace, but the parade was about to start at Pico and Main St., less than 100 yards from where I crossed Main. So I decided to wait a few minutes and watch the spectacle as it passed by.

This was the third time I’ve seen the parade, and at least the fifth time that I was aware of it as it went by. (I live close enough to Main St. that it’s easy to hear the amplified chanting and music.) It’s interesting to see the collection of people who are part of this religious celebration. There were several hundred people walking, dancing and chanting as they preceded and accompanied alongside the three “chariots” ((more like giant carriages). There are a few people riding along on the carriages: some are the transport workers who 1) pull on the traces to provide propulsion, 2) man the tiller or steering wheel, 3) operate the brakes. These workers ride on the bottom deck. There are also a number of people riding on the second deck with the avatar of the god that particular carriage is carrying.These appear to be the priests and priestesses who have literally achieved a higher plane and are allowed to approach the symbol of the god(dess).

The whole spectacle is quite entertaining due to its colorful clothing and decoration, the aforementioned walking, dancing and chanting, and especially the happiness and apparent peacefulness of the participants. A number of them, let’s call them the outwalkers, hand out little pamphlets and lollipops to bystanders. (I graciously declined taking any of these offered “gifts”.)

Unfortunately I hadn’t carried my camera with me on this surfcheck (small waves, but good for beginners) so I can’t show any original photos. (I remember taking pictures in the last year or two, but cannot find those photos.) However here are some other’s photos:

ChezLuna’s picture of the Santa Monica Festival’s three chariots
Flickr photos of all FoVs worldwide
Picasa photos of the Santa Monica FoV

Here is Wikipedia on the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” or as they call themself, ISKCON.
Here is the city of Santa Monica’s listing of the Festival of Chariots, as well as other events on 2 August 2009.

Sadly, the main reason I really missed having my camera was the pathetic trailer following the whole parade. This guy, in his mid-50s and dressed like a Bubba with the ball cap, salt-and-pepper beard, and t-shirt stretched over a distended beer belly, was carrying a large banner for his own god. The beer belly supported a harness with a leather pocket that help up this ten foot tall banner that proclaimed “there’s only one god and that is JHC”, and a similar slogan on the flip side. This guy followed carefully about 20 feet behind the rest of the parade. When it slowed or stopped, he stopped. When he was stopped he would occasionally rotate his message so anybody watching could see the flip side’s slogan. When the happy paraders started up again, this somber sad man would also start again. He never took his eyes off what he was following, never looked around to see if anybody was watching him or his message. I don’t know if this was due to drilled-in parade ground discipline or because he didn’t want to let the heathen devils out of his sight. (Lest they sneak up on him and steal his soul, perhaps?)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Art Center Car Classic 2009

Last Saturday (18 July 2009) I went up to Art Center in Pasadena for the annual Car Classic (2009). The theme this year was “Land, Sea, Air“ and the show included not only cars but also some boats and planes. The planes on the ground were a Rutan Vari-Eze and a hang glider with a rigid wing and a propane powered jet. Actually, it wasn’t quite a jet but it wasn’t quite a rocket either. I did not get a photo - just didn’t think of it. There was a flyover by some Ezes, and about 5 flyovers by some Yaks.

I don’t take nearly as many car photos these days as I once did, but there are about 50 pictures from the show. It’s surprising how much photographic situational awareness I have lost since I was a pro. I didn’t take many photos, and didn’t get many placards for identifying the cars that I did shoot.

That being said, I’m moving forward (albeit slowly) on my project to digitize many of my photos from when I was a pro photographer. I have recovered my light box so I’ll be able to review and choose transparencies to digitize, and more importantly I’ve committed some money to a digitizing service. A few weeks ago I signed up with Scan Cafe, and when I get a few hundred pictures chosen I’ll be sending this selection to the company for my first batch scan. This will be a test to see how good the service is and whether they return all my pictures in good condition. Timeliness is not a major factor as I evaluate the company and its service. However, I sure hope it is good. This could be the opportunity to digitize several thousand photos, including transparencies of all sizes from 35mm to 4x5, and eventually a smaller selection of B&W negatives.

All this won’t happen until I get a new computer though. The computer I am writing this on is only 4 years old, but it is so unable to handle the workload I subject it to that it really needs to be moved down to second tier service, as the laptop I occasionally use when I’m on the road. I’m planning on getting a new Mac Pro tower in September, when Apple releases the new OSX 10.6 operating system and possibly (hopefully!) some new Mac Pro models. But that is a topic for another post.

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Bad Week for Goldman Sachs

Just a few days after GS announces the biggest-ever bonuses to their staff, they get the following...

Matt Taibbi attacks in inimitable Taibbi style. (IMHO Taibbi is the new Hunter Thompson, because he is such a scourge to the corrupt powers that be.)

Then Frank Rich piles on in his smooth j'accuse way by equating Goldman with Bernie Madoff but worse, and explaining why John Dillinger the bank robber was such a hero to the American public during a major economic depression - then and now. (Hint: GS had a somewhat-invisible hand in both. And not a small invisible hand, but a big one.)

And then Goldman is forced to publicly admit through their attorney in the NY district attorney's office that their secret computer trading code was not only stolen and released to the open internet, but is used to "unfairly" "manipulate" the markets! Of course it’s unfair manipulation when somebody other than Goldman does it - but if they do it, well, that’s different.

I love this!

PS: Matt Taibbi is this generation's Hunter Thompson.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Big Brother

"Big Brother is watching." Today (8 June 2009) marks sixty years since Nineteen Eighty Four was published.

Thanks Mr. Orwell for the warning. Too bad we haven't done much about it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

WGA seminar: Movies That Matter

I went to this WGAw inspirational seminar today. It was useful in that it helped inspire me again and a bit, and was entertaining to watch and listen to a couple of the writers who appeared and spoke, i.e. Paul Haggis and Billy Ray. However, there was not much new material for me other than Billy Ray’s Venn diagram of screenwriters and studios, which is mostly self-evident but was humorous nonetheless. Anyway, my notes…

I attended the opening session, then sessions 3 and 1, and skipped the final session. (By then I had a headache that was bad enough to massively distract me from the discussion, and I can always watch it later on DVD in the WGA library.)

The theme of the seminar was “Theme”, finding it and expressing it. The day started with this but these professional writers generally agreed it was too difficult and too dangerous to establish a theme and then write around it. By “difficult” they universally acknowledged that if they had a theme going into a writing project then it was rearranged or redefined by the end of the project. By “dangerous” they all meant that it is impossible to state the literal theme to the studio at the beginning, and it must be slipped covertly into the story so the studio doesn’t recognize it. Also, overtly stating the theme was too heavy handed, and would be too obvious and amateurish.

Jane Anderson: Humor and objectivity will save you (when you get in a spot from which you can’t get out).
Billy Ray: Don’t think of it as art, think of it as work.
Billy Ray: If you do a great job in storytelling, THEN you will make a statement.
Billy Ray: The story’s scenes and dialogue should be loaded with subtext. This is what the actors use to act with, and it is communicated to the audience.
Billy Ray on “notes”: When people read your story and give notes, listen to their questions and their problems but not to their solutions. The solution they tell you is probably the solution to/in/from another movie.
Billy Ray: Start with a story idea, a character idea, or a theme idea.
Billy Ray and all the others: The stories you have in your head that you want to write are a much larger number and span of subjects than the studios want to make. The studios look at what is in the market right now (profitable or not) and want to make those. So currently, in Summer 2009, they only want comedies and some action movies and anything with Will Smith or written by Judd Apatow, and anything that is an existing franchise, preferably with capes. (Update: A look to McG’s wikipedia entry shows that he is currently making an update to 20,000 Leagues under the sea, with Will Smith.)
Billy Ray: They are saying they’ll never make dramas. But the business cycles, and dramas will come back.
Paul Haggis: Talked about how much research he did to construct the characters for Crash.
Paul Haggis: Also wrote the Bond movies Casino Royale, and the first draft of Quantum of Solace - but then the strike happened. He turned over the draft to the producers and they went into production. When the movie came out he hardly recognized anything in it. Robert Nelson Jacobs asked him “So who rewrote it?” and his reply was a shrug of the shoulders and they both looked at each other knowingly.

WRITING MOVIES THAT MATTER: Finding and Expressing Your Theme
Saturday June 6, 2009
Writers Guild of America, 7000 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048

+ Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash)
- Winnie Holzman (TV – My So-Called Life, Once and Again)
+ Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop Loss)
~ Robert Nelson Jacobs (Chocolat, Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep)
~ Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost, The Last Mimzy)
~ Robin Schiff (TV – Ten Things I Hate About You)
+ Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society)
+ Robin Swicord (Little Women, The Jane Austen Book Club)
~ Dan Jinks (Producer -- American Beauty, Big Fish, Milk etc.)
- Jane Anderson (It Could Happen to You, The Baby Dance, Normal, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio)
+ Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach, State of Play)
~ James Uhls (Fight Club, Jumper)
+ Nick Kazan (Frances, Reversal of Fortune, Fallen, Bicentennial Man)
~ Stanley Weiser (Wall Street, W.)
- John Sacret Young (China Beach, Thanks of a Grateful Nation)
~ Albert Berger (producer - Election, Little Miss Sunshine, Little Children)
~ Nathan Kahane (producer - Juno, Stranger Than Fiction)

9:00 am: Registration, continental breakfast
A panel of experienced, produced writers will discuss in depth the stories that matter to them, and how they view their job as storytellers. Is it possible for movies to change the culture or do they just reflect it?

Jane Anderson, Dan Jinks, Nick Kazan, Billy Ray, James Uhls Moderator: Bruce Joel Rubin

11:30 am Coffee break
Three break-out groups, each led by two or more experienced writers: Choose ONE group. Panelists will engage in a more intimate discussion with smaller groups. You have two precious hours to talk to the world. What are you going to say? What matters to you? How do you allow your deeper self to break through into your writing? Explore strategies for discovering what you really want to say.

(1) Bruce Joel Rubin, James Uhls, Robert Nelson Jacobs
(2) Jane Anderson, Nick Kazan, John Sacret Young
(3) Winnie Holzman, Tom Schulman, Billy Ray

1:30 pm Lunch Break
Three break-out groups, each led by two or more experienced writers: Choose ONE group. Panelists will engage in a more intimate discussion with smaller groups. What’s the difference between ideas, concepts and themes? How do you layer themes into your scripts? How do you get the audience to feel your theme without having to state it overtly? What makes an audience care?

(1) Robert Nelson Jacobs, Paul Haggis, Albert Berger
(2) Winnie Holzman, Kimberly Peirce, Tom Schulman
(3) Robin Swicord, Stanley Weiser, John Sacret Young

4:00 pm Coffee Break
Identifying studio execs or production companies who share your passion. How does one navigate the system while holding on to why you wanted to write the movie in the first place? Can a movie that matters still make money? Can you make a tentpole that matters? How do you get what matters to you made?

Albert Berger, Paul Haggis, Nathan Kahane, Kimberly Peirce, Robin Swicord, Stanley Weiser Moderator: Winnie Holzman

6:00 pm – 7:30 pm Wine and Cheese Reception in the Shavelson-Webb Library

Friday, May 29, 2009

NPR stories and a poem

In honor of this morning’s NPR stories on cybersecurity, a monster software company spending huge money on a third rate search site nobody uses, and poetry about economic meltdowns, a haiku:

OS insecure
a hundred mil spent on hype
loser search engine

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Surf today

I have to admit this is my first day in the water since coming back from Costa Rica - nearly three months ago. Of course the January-February-March-April part of the year is about the worst in California for surf - not to mention that the water is cold... and I had just returned from warm water!

But I’ve been antsy to get into the water lately, and with warm Santa Ana winds blowing offshore and a 1’ - 3’ west swell coming through (see below), there’s no better time than the present. High tide was about 6:50 am and I should have gone out about then or soon thereafter, but instead I got some work done on the computer (organizing TODO list, planning tasks, etc.). I didn’t actually get into the water until about 11:30 am, about an hour before low tide.

It was kind of closed out, and with the tide being low these close-out waves were breaking in hip-deep water, but I got a few waves anyway. I also fell off a few times because I’m so out of shape. I stayed out for about :45 minutes, and had a good time.

Some observations and events:

There were a zillion ladybugs on the beach, flying around, sitting on the sand, landing on boards and other items. They weren’t swarming as I’ve seen at Ladybug Camp in the Los Padres National Forest, but there were more than I’ve seen at any other time and place.

Also, I met a woman in the water who was congenial and a fairly good surfer for a beginner. It turns out she started a local woman’s surf group, and has turned that into a MeetUp group, so I’m going to pass the info on to a female colleague who may be interested.

Monday, March 23, 2009

5 Stages of Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a thesis that humans deal with death and dying in five stages - the fourth being depression and the last being acceptance.

Paul Krugman has read the plan by the Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to reinflate the bubble and writes that he is in despair. I will equate his despair to depression, but I have to disagree with him. I am now in the acceptance phase.

It is over - the patient is officially terminally ill. In fact, the officials have made the patient terminally ill, now we are only awaiting the death.

By putting thousands of billions more dollars into the “toxic assets” (read: mortgages on millions of overpriced homes) the Secretary and his advisors and minions seem to think they can reinflate the bubble that just recently burst, and restore everything to the way it was. They’ve even said that their goal is to attempt to restore those “toxic assets” to their “true market value”. But what if, just maybe, those TAs were already falling back down to their true market values, and this massive infusion of cash will go in the inflator part of the balloon and flow just as fast right out the rupture in the balloon that caused the whole thing to collapse in the first place.

However, it looks certain that Wall St. will be able to profit from this. So it will be another massive transfer of money from the taxpayer to the banker.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blogroll Changes

I’ve been meaning to winnow the blogroll list - short though it may be - and finally got around to it. Currently I am of a mind to link to personal weblogs more than mass metablogs (some exceptions for those I refer to or read a lot). Also dropped links that are now dead or taken behind a wall.

Midnight Meandering (He took the weblog private, so it’s useless to link to it anymore.)
Nonlinear Truths (Tom Is Gone, and his weblog has been taken down.)
Freakonomics (They have enough linkers already. Plus I don’t read it all that often. Ironically, the post that is current on their weblog as I write this asserts that there is no such thing as too many posts or links, and as they add up they have increased effects on viewers. But I’m still dropping them.)
Arms Control Wonk (I don’t read this much anymore. But it is still important.)

David Pu’u Photography (Really beautiful photography, technically excellent, heartfelt, emotional, gorgeous beaches, waves and sunsets, and good people photos too.)
Charlie Stross (I’ve read about 7 of his books, and liked them all. Am waiting patiently for the next in the Merchant Princes series.)
Jamais Cascio (I first encountered him at Singularity Summit 2007. He made sense in his thinking about the future.)
Thomas Ricks (astute observer of foreign policy and military affairs)
TidBITs (This is more of a Mac news website than a weblog or metablog, but it has useful information very often and is a community I participate in, so it is included.)
Daring Fireball (observation and clear opinion)
Real Climate (The sine qua non of climate weblogs, unparalleled. And if you’re going to argue that you don’t “believe in” GWCC, just stfu and stfu. You are wrong. Do you still believe in a flat earth? And that the sun revolves around the earth? Get a grip - the science cannot be denied.)
French Word a Day (Learn some vocabulary and some culture from an American expat living in a small town in France; and she finally has an RSS feed!)
The Casbah (online radio and podcast, from KSYM in San Antonio, 80 miles west of SXSW)
Spouting Off (Mark Gold, D.Env. and president of Heal the Bay about water and especially about water quality, from local Santa Monica to worldwide)
Paul Ferguson aka FergDawg (Quid custodiet ipsos custodes?)

How Do You Remember Someone When They Have Been Erased?

I went to the weblog to do* a little clean up and organization, particularly of the blogroll.

There are a few I’ve decided to remove, and I want to add a few. While there I checked on the link to a close friend of mine who died exactly two years ago today. I wanted to read some of his words, and remember him a bit. When he died so young (49) it was a sad day for his family, and certainly it was worse for them than for me. But more sadly, it appears that the presence he had left behind on the Web has been completely erased. He had a weblog that he wrote to, including poetry, musings, observations and the glimmerings of beginnings of stories he wanted to write. Those are now all gone, and don’t even appear in the Wayback Machine. He’s also gone from LinkedIn. A google search of him turns up nothing. This is sad too. The man wanted to write and was good at it, but was always so busy with life and taking care of his family that he never really got the time to write much more than what he left behind on the web, but now that too is gone.

*(No posts lately, though many items have built up to post about. More pleasant posts to come later.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Musical Entertainment at McCabe's Guitar Shop

I’ve been living in or near LA now for 20 years. This is a great city for entertainment, especially for music - but I always forget to check the venues I like for acts that I like.

Recently I subscribed to the email announcement list for McCabe’s Guitar Shop, an institution in Santa Monica that’s been around for 50 years. I’ve seen bands like The Cowboy Junkies (acoustic) and Al Stewart.

Last night I finally got to see an outstanding guitar player that I’ve wanted to see for decades (literally), David Lindley. And I was not disappointed. I’m not literate enough in musicology to be able to adequately describe what a virtuoso he is on stringed instruments, or how funny he is both in song and spoken word. His repertoire extends from LA folk-rock (or rock-folk) to bluegrass, to blues (John Lee Hooker style, and he does a mean imitation of JLH) to Pakistani traditional and even to atonal classical. I’m sure much it’s broader than that too. He played for us for only 90 minutes - enough for one show but probably not enough to show his various styles and influences. He played guitars, an oudh (sp?), a bazuki (sp?), a mandolin, and a long-necked mandolin-looking instrument that might have been a sitar. The room was full (about 150 people) and we all had a great time.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Surf Camp, Costa Rica

I got back from surf camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, exactly one week ago, and finally have my photos edited and tagged. The pictures are up in a Flickr set called Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. These are only the pictures - the text descriptions will follow in a few more days.

I spoke with a friend and former colleague at one of the big tv networks (I worked there for five years) and he’s going to help me put together a mashup of photos and videos contributed by all the guys on the trip. I’ll have that done in a couple of months and will post news of it here too.

From L to R (above): Dayton M., Fernando U., Tim D., Dan O’D, Andy L.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Give me stars, planets and a moon

Last night just after sunset we had an uncommon celestial event - the moon was just past new, Venus was just above it, Neptune was just below it, Jupiter was nearby and Mercury was low in the sky nearby. With the naked eye I could see four of the above, and with my 7x50 binoculars I could also see Neptune. Four planets and the moon all in sight all at the same time! I didn’t get a photo, but here is a good illustration from the website Earth & Sky. (Click the picture for a bigger version.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Surf Costa Rica

I have wanted to go to Costa Rica (and other places in Central America) for more than 30 years. I want to see the places, but I also want to dive and surf. I made it to Venezuela once, but was with other people and only got to swim once in the Caribbean for a little while. (I had even taken my mask, fins, snorkel and regulator. It was a bitch to carry all that bulky and heavy stuff around for 3.5 weeks and not get to use them once.)

There has always been a small industry for dive tourism at numerous locations throughout the Caribbean, including the Caribbean side of Central America. In recent years ago an even smaller industry for surf tourism has sprung up at a few locations on the Pacific side of Central America (and Mexico).

A few years ago I found out about a then-new destination resort called Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. A neighbor here went there once and really enjoyed it. I made a reservation in 2005 but was unable to get down. Then a few months ago I got an email from WRSC saying they were having a 25% discount for one week only. The discount week happened to be the week immediately after Macworld, and a few weeks after the xmas holidays. It’s a convenient time for me to be away from work, and I could spend a little less money. (Having enough money to go has been my problem for the past 3 decades.) Coincidentally, American Airlines had a 67% discount flight to Liberia, the nearest airport, for exactly that week.

So, finally I get to go to Central America and especially to Costa Rica for a surf trip. It’s only a week, but this is much better than no time at all. And instead of spending about $2,000 (air + hotel), I’ll only be spending about $1,400. (Not including all the various taxes, fees, meals and other costs of course.)

Here is what Joe Walsh, the owner and resident big kahuna at WRSC, says about the surf spots in the area.

TAMARINDO - multiple surf spots in town. The beachbreak in front of WRSC is great for beginners/intermediates, has a sand bottom, best on mid-to-high tide. The rivermouth has lefts and rights and can be good on any tide. There are multiple reefs in Tamarindo, some are rarely surfed. There are many good peaks on the north side of the rivermouth as well, best on mid-to-high tide
WITCH'S ROCK - beachbreak with strong offshore winds making for big barrels, lefts and rights. This spot is always good unless the wind is onshore
OLLIE'S POINT - right pointbreak, sand bottom, can get quite hollow and really fun. Only accessible by boat, breaks on low tide
PLAYA GRANDE - beachbreak that is more exposed to south swells, fun rippable waves, best on mid to high tide
AVELLANAS - multiple breaks that work on low to high tide, sand bottom beachbreak, a rivermouth with some reef, Little Hawaii which is a heavier reef right, plus a couple more spots if you know where to look
MARBELLA - sand bottom break that throws big barrels, definitely the heaviest wave along this stretch of coast. Good tube rides if you know how to ride them, can get bigger than you'd think.

And to add yet one more coincidence, the Costa Rican national surf championship is happening there at WRSC on the first weekend I am in country. Actually, the surf championship happens Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I arrive late afternoon on Saturday. So I may see some of the semi-finals, and next day will definitely get to see the finals. Also, there will be the inevitable big party that Saturday night. (It will probably be really loud near my room, but oh well - I’ll have a few days to recover after it’s over.) From Joe Walsh's weblog:

The Costa Rican surf circuit, known here simply as the CNS, is hosting the Witch's Rock Surf Contest here at Witch's Rock Surf Camp January 10th and 11th, 2009. Inscriptions will be at the camp the night of Friday January 9th. I f#ck%d up and told Sebastian, the owner of Babylon, that we would host the contest party at his club on Saturday night. I did this because I was planning on leaving town on the 10th on surf tour. Then I found out that Red Bull had already purchased the advertising rights to the party directly from the CNS before the season started. I guess I didn't get that memo, probably because Larry forgot to put a cover on the TPS Report. So, as to eliminate confusion, here are the facts:
- Friday January 9th, 5pm-7pm - Surf contest inscriptions @ WRSC
- Saturday and Sunday January 10th and 11th - surf contest, Playa Tamarindo
- Saturday night - 911 La Radio, Red Bull and Witch's Rock Surf Camp present the Torneo Witch's Rock Party at Witch's Rock Surf Camp.

With a week on a good surf beach in a tropical beach town with a national contest and me with no computers to distract me, I’ll probably have a lot of pictures to upload to Flickr when I return. Departure countdown: 12 days from today 28 December.

(And right now I am coming down with a cold or flu, that I picked up from work.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Is the Plural of Prius?

It’s a serious question. When a made-up word for the English-speaking market sounds Greek or Latin, how does one pluralize it?

Okay, it’s not a serious question. I think we have at least a few possibilities:

  1. Priuses (for English-only speakers)

  2. Prii

  3. Priae

This came to my mind earlier this evening as I was walking down to La Bodega Estrella for a bottle of chardonnay. In front of my building was a Prius about to turn left into its building, while oncoming was another Prius. Both were in electric drive on a residential street so they were totally and completely silent. Except for the headlights you wouldn’t have known there were there. It was eerie. Two cars passing in the night and they were totally silent, not unlike two ships in the night - and the non-metaphorial version of same.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Despair

We went to see Quantum of Solace yesterday afternoon. I don’t check reviews - either written or podcast - but do watch the headlines of same just to get a general sense of what the professional critics think of a given movie. In this case more critics had panned the movie than had liked it, but there seemed to be votes in both directions.

I went in hoping for solace from the critics, but came out desolate, disappointed, in despair.

This movie was chase, fight, chase, character interaction, fight, chase, fight, chase, chase, character interaction, explosion... Roughly in that order, and with the character interaction approximating about 3 minutes of the first 30.

While it is certainly true that we always expect a Bond movie to be filled with action, in this movie it just went on and on. There was little in the way of story or character development, or perhaps the story and character development were just in the way of the chases, fights and explosions. It’s further true that in a Bond movie we don’t expect Bond, M, or the Bond girl to show much if any character arc, but in this movie they just didn’t show any. The villain didn’t show any either.

There can actually be some story and character development even in Bond movies. This is part of why we like the series. Casino Royale had that - a mix of story and character shaken in amongst the fights and chases, and it helped us learn about the new Bond and helped us learn about the other characters in his universe. There was story that kept us watching to see what was going to happen and where it was going.

In this movie though, within 7 minutes we knew all we would ever learn about the characters, and we knew where the story was going. Late in the movie it even got to the point where - though some of the audio was garbled and we couldn’t make out the exact dialogue - it didn’t matter because we knew the characters’ motivations and could read the telegraphy of their next actions.

As in any Bond movie there was a lot of money up there on the screen, and there were some expensive above the line people too, so this movie obviously cost a lot to make. (I don’t have the interest to look up what it cost.) So if you go to these solely for action and explosions, this is your movie.

In addition to my complaints of too much vapid action, let me also register a complaint about how the action is shot and edited. In all the fights, chases and explosions throughout the movie most of the shots were too tight and the edits too damn quick. We liked that in the first two Bourne movies, but it wore out its welcome by Bourne 3 and it’s tired now. Appeal to the producers: please ask your directors use a few more middle shots and let us watch them for a few seconds. In Slate’s review of the movie - snarkily titled 000 (read Double-Oh Zero) Dana Stevens notes that the likely problem with this movie was that the director has made mainly tearjerkers, which is not a job requirement for a Bond movie director.

And my final rant: Why use a Ukrainian actress to play a Bolivian? Were there simply no South American actresses available for that movie? Her accent in English was funky, and they couldn’t have her speak any Spanish (or at least very little).

And my last (only?) kudo? They used my All Time Favorite airplane, a Siai Marchetti SF-260 - and it was even done up with military hard points and gun pods.

(The picture linked above was the best example I could find of the airplane with gun pods. Even so, you can just barely see the barrels of the .30 cal pods peeking out from under the leading edge of the port wing. This site has a history of the SF-260, and the SF-260W or the “Warrior” variant of the basic SF-260.)


I've been working on reorganizing and reducing distractions so I can start writing again, both here and items as yet unpublished. Consider this the first in the restart.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bailout Balls

I've been thinking lately about how these latest government bailouts of private industry compare to some in recent history. Fortunately we have the internet, and for every original thought dozens of other people have thought it at the same time.

So I ganked the graphic from Kevin Drum's blog. He ganked it and the idea from the originator, ProPublica. Isn't it amazing how much welfare money Big Business has received from Big Government when the former has had bad ideas go south? Despite their railing against Big Government that they need to be left alone...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rockstar Scientist

Yesterday work had a guest speaker at the Haskins Lecture - Ralph Cicerone. Dr. Cicerone is the president of the National Academy of Science and shared in the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He has at least a dozen other awards, but that goes with the territory.

He came to talk about Global Warming and Energy Economics. It was attended by several hundred people, and was very interesting. (It's not every day one gets to see a Nobel prizewinner*.) I'll write more about it later when I have a bit more time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blame It On the Democrats

Quote of the day (from Kevin Drum):

"Look, I owe the American people an apology. If I had beaten the old man you'd of never heard of the kid and you wouldn't be in this mess. So it's all my fault and I feel that very, very strongly. So this is an important election for us. Let me tell 'ya."

Who said this? Who else - Michael Dukakis. I never thought about it quite that way before. And of course in a deeply sadly ironic way, he’s right.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cool Summer

It has seemed to me that this has been a particularly cool summer, and I’m pretty sure we’re in a La Niña year. Here in the Santa Monica Bay we’ve had spring fogs all summer long, even into late September. Also, the water never warmed up much and we haven’t gotten any good south swells. So the cool summer is here in Santa Monica, but the climate effect that causes it is probably stretching across the Pacific and probably to the southern hemisphere and maybe even to SE Asia.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer of Euros

In walking around Santa Monica this summer - up and down the 3rd St. Promenade, the streets around that, and the streets up to and around the beach - I’ve noticed more Europeans (both by sight and by hearing the languages) this summer than ever before. This isn’t a scientific survey of course, but I think this is true. Must be the effect of the dollar-euro exchange rate.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scouting surf spots

I’ve been wanting to start surfing point breaks again for at least, well, since I moved here over five years ago. But it’s so convenient to just walk three blocks down and go out at the local beach break that I haven’t been sufficiently motivated to check Topanga, Sunset and Malibu.

Actually, that’s not quite true. On July 4 of last year one of the people from the Cambridge office was in the middle of his 6-week posting to the Santa Monica office. As I’ve become the unofficial surf instructor for the Cambridge office, he looked me up and I started taking him out. He caught on to surfing faster than anybody I’ve ever seen - it probably helps that he’s 27 and a very good athlete already. Because he was getting good fast I put him on the 7’0“ David Pu’u funboard and he was doing well with it. Unfortunately he didn’t heed my advice to be aware of the board’s presence and position if you get pitched off it. It ended up hitting him hard on the arm - with the sharp pointy end of the skeg and cut him open. We went to the ER and they put about 15 stitches in to close him up and told him to stay out of the water until the wound closed. (Picture will go up on Flickr shortly.) That dry spell happened to overlap 4 July - at which time we also happened to get a fantastic south swell. I decided it would be good to take him to see Malibu, which just happened to be my first time too.

Yes, despite growing up, living and surfing in SoCal nearly all my life I’d never actually been to Malibu. (Reason: Ventura County has a good point break as well as all other types of surf breaks, and frankly I just didn’t want to hassle with the crowds at the ‘Bu in the summer.) We went - and the waves were incredible. (Pictures to follow.) They were consistently 4-6’ set waves and just rolled through all the points. However, there were zillions of people out. But I digress...

This morning I left early and drove out to Sunset to check that point break. I’ve seen Topanga and it’s just not very good - bottom looks not very well-shaped and the put-in is rocky. Sunset has a rocky put-in too, but there was a south swell running today and it handled the sets and waves fairly well. (Pictures here.) There were nearly 100 people out at a place that doesn’t seem to have a lot of takeoff spots, but that won’t matter much if I dawn patrol and go out when few people are there.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thick lips, good juice

A small south swell came through today and I got waves. I hadn’t been out in weeks - maybe two months - so I went out on the boogie board. Turns out that was probably a better choice than the stand up board because the waves had some juice, so they were fast and walled up. I saw one guy getting rides, but most of the stand-up surfers were getting creamed or just not making the takeoff.

I made 4 waves in :16 minutes, and got punished by each. On the first, I didn’t have a sense of how strong the lips were. I stayed high on the wall after the takeoff and turn, and got hit in the back of the head by the lip. It tore my hat off and I think I got a mild concussion. On the second wave I pulled into the barrel a bit lower on the face, but then the descending lip hit the nose of my board and pearled it so fast that I literally flipped, fins over my head. The water was pretty shallow and I got scared that I was being pushed down so fast that it was going to break my neck, but I didn’t hit the bottom after all. This one overpressurized my ears too. In the third wave I got el rolloed, but by then I was prepared. I got a good view looking down the barrel, which was fun - for about .5 sec.

After the first :17 minutes I didn’t get anything else for another :15, so I got out. Water temp was 68F according to LA County Lifeguards.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Batman, again

I saw the first Chris Nolan interpretation of Batman when it came out on the big screen, and again some later on DVD video. It was a fantastic story. (For those people who dismiss it by saying “it’s a comic book character”, consider that it is another portrayal of a conflicted archetypal hero character. Look at the story in that context.)

I also saw Nolan’s Memento not long after it came out and it was fantastic. It was cryptic too, but at the end one could sort of put the story together.

His new movie “The Dark Knight” opens in three weeks, on July 19. I’d seen trailers and read the description of the making of the movie included in an interview of Nolan in a story in Wired magazine. Rolling Stone has a review that is hugely laudatory as well.

The movie was shot in 70mm for IMAX, and fortunately there is an IMAX theater not far away. Nolan also eschewed digital effects almost completely, instead going with real principal photography and stunts for the spectacular scenes.

So I bought a ticket for the 12:15 (noon) show, and reserved a front and center seat. This isn’t the first showing - it actually shows at midnight:15 early the night before. When I bought the reserved ticket, the theater was already half full with reservations. So the marketing - viral and overt - has worked. But I think people are going because Chris Nolan is such a good writer and director, and Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman are such good actors.

PS: I’m seriously considering buying another ticket for the showing immediately after!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Movie - Up the Yangtze

I went to a showing of a new documentary movie “Up the Yangtze” about the effects of the creation of China's Three Gorges Dam. The movie is by a Canadian-Chinese filmmaker, and was financed by the National Film Board of Canada. It is about a peasant farm family who live near the banks of the Yangtze, and are being forced to move off their tiny farm and into a town as the river turns into a lake and the water rises. The oldest daughter in the family, who seems to be about 13 or 14 years old, wants to go to high school but instead has to go to work on one of the luxury cruise ships on the river that carries Western tourists who want to get a glimpse of the "old" China. We also follow a young Chinese youth (who is more metropolitan than) as he starts his first job as a greeter and host on the cruise ship. There are no grand vistas in the cinematography, but we get to see huge apartment buildings that have been emptied of their occupants as the residents were forced to move to higher ground.

The movie gives an excellent portrayal of the family, which lives in a candle-lit hut that they co-occupy with their chickens, a pet dog and a kitten. Neither of the parents can read - they are farmers - but they are sending all their three children (an interesting situation that is alluded to obliquely in the movie) to (at least) primary and middle school. The eldest daughter wants to continue school and has a goal of becoming a scientist, but has to go to work to earn money. The youth on the other hand, is an only child. The man who hires these children to work on the ship characterizes them as young and self-centered, and that seems to be a characterization shared by other adults and even lived up to by some of the youths working on the ship. (These kids' attitudes wouldn't be out of place at all in an American high school or college though.) The young girl from the peasant family is a notable exception, and is easily the most sympathetic character in the movie.

And that is what's curious. Even though this is a documentary, it seems almost like a feature movie. Except that we are deeply touched by the effect the dam is having on the lives of so many people. It is sad and touching.

Apparently the film is showing in the US only at the Laemmle's Santa Monica, but it seems to be available through Netflix.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Screenwriter's Blues

It’s 6:30 AM and I’ve been up for an hour or more. I almost always wake at least :30 minutes before first light, and have done so for decades. Usually I just lay in bed and daydream, or think about what I have to do in the coming day, or think about problems in life I have to solve. But I don’t usually get out of bed until I have to, or maybe even until the very last moment so I’ll be a little late getting to work unless I really hustle.

But my foray up to Malibu last Sunday morning at 6 AM has become somewhat of a model for what I’d like to do and can do if I just get out of bed.

So I got up at 5:30 this morning to check the surf and maybe go out. But the surf is non-existent.

I did actually check it last night shortly before dusk. It was blown out then, but even so I could still see that there was nothing underneath the miniscule wind swell. And the CDIP showed it still small this morning, so I didn’t even walk down to check. (Surfline says a small southern hemisphere swell may begin to start up late this week and into the weekend. So I may start dawn patrolling soon anyhow.)

But back to the morning.

After not going out, I got onto the computer and didn’t the normal start up chores - check email and check a few random websites. For the past couple of days I’ve been enrolled in UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program free “Open Cyberhouse“ (sic). It’s a forum where the various teachers of the various writing classes promote their classes and answer questions to interested prospective students.

Like me.

Or like me if I had any questions.

And most of the questions in the forums are frankly not very useful to anybody but the original questioner. So I watch and pick out the tidbits or quips or references that are useful.

Thus far I’ve found about two, one of which prompted this post. And that was a reference to a weblog by one of the writer/teachers, Scott Myers, who has Go Into the Story, a Blogspot blog with his own domain name. Myers apparently is a well regarded teacher of character development, and in one of his recent blog posts he refers to WGA’s podcast interviews of well known screenwriters and TV writers. This sounds interesting. And so I bookmarked both Myers’ site and the WGA site, and found my collection of bookmarks of writers’ sites and started visiting them (e.g. Kung Fu Monkey, by John August). This is inspirational, or perhaps simply catalytic for my current spate of inspiration to start writing again.

Anyway, I avoided (yet again) reading the NIST Guide to Computer Security Log Management. And now it’s 7:20 and time to get ready and then leave for work.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

FileVault test

I got a new computer at work, finally*. Now I have to transfer my account on the current machine to the new machine.

However, the account on the current machine is encrypted with FileVault, and is fairly large. (Possibly larger than the remaining free space on the machine, but I’m not sure about that.)

The question is whether deleting a file vaulted account results in an encrypted disk image of the user’s home folder? I decided to test this at home. (I’m a professional, I can do this.)

I created a new account on the home machine and FileVaulted it. It turned out that I had not set a master password for the machine, and creating an FV account requires that. Who knew…

I created the account and added a few things into Documents, iTunes library, and iPhoto library. I then attempted to turn on FV for the account, but the machine warned me that I couldn’t do this with other accounts open. I switched to my main working account and logged out, then back to the test account and turned on FV. It started the process by effectively logging me out, then encrypting the account by (presumably) creating a new encypted sparse image and copying the test user data into that. It then securely deleted the test user account’s files, and dumped me back into the login screen.

I logged in and checked it (all okay) and logged out. Went back into my main user account and deleted the test account through the Accounts preference pane. This took about :90 seconds, which wasn’t a problem.

Unencrypted, the data volume for the test account’s ~/ was about 142MB. Encypted, the data volume for the test user’s encrypted sparse image was almost 190MB. Apparently there is some overhead.

Next test is to create another test account and then move the orphaned files from the first test into the second test, and see if they properly inherit permissions. Given how the encrypted home was deleted into an unencrypted sparse image I anticipate no problems.

Follow up: I was wrong. There is a problem.

I attempted to open the FileVault Test sparse image with Disk Utility but it failed, both in /Users/Deleted Users and when I moved it to my own Desktop.

So I’ll have to look to the user forums and the books in hope for a solution.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cape Horn of the Pacific

A friend of mine in Silicon Valley has a cousin who has a boat. ("It's better to have a friend who has a boat than to have a boat.")

The cousin wants to drive the boat (a 34' Boston Whaler) from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I guess he wants to do it for the adventure of it, because he's going to have somebody drive it back. And he certainly doesn't need to deliver anything.

Anyway, since I have sea experience in that part of the Pacific Ocean, my buddy asked what I thought about him going on the trip. (He has no sea experience other than a few boat trips out of Half Moon Bay to go salmon fishing, and a trip to Anacapa Island from Ventura Harbor.)

I pointed out that they will have to cross two long and wild stretches where, even close to the coast, the ocean is likely to be rough and there will be no place to land if they get in trouble. In fact, one of those stretches, the trip from about Morro Bay south around Point Concepcion to Santa Barbara is a particularly rough and nasty piece of ocean, with no place to come ashore.

In fact the
region around and offshore of Pt. Concepcíon is known by sailors as Cape Horn of the Pacific. (See the story here from 2006 about a sail from Avila Beach around the Point. Or see Richard Henry Dana's 1840 book Two Years Before the Mast.) You can see that sailors have recognized this as a wild and formidable crossing for centuries.

This afternoon I was checking the local surf report for a possible surfing go-out in the morning. I checked the CDIP (SEE-dip) to see the surf and swell report and discovered that the prediction (based on measurements from offshore buoys and oil platforms) showed about 1'-2' swells along the Southern California until Pt. Concepíon, where the surf suddenly jumps to 15'-18'.

Yeesh! Even when I was working on that ocean, spending countless hours driving back and forth across the Channel, if the surf or the groundswell got that big we simply wouldn't go out. And we were running in bigger boats than 34' Whalers. (Well, most of us were anyway.) I wish him well, and hope that he doesn't easily get seasick.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Surf reports - today and yesterday

The weather has turned warm, unseasonably warm even, and the water has warmed up. The air temps yesterday and today here, 600 meters from the water’s edge, are in the low-mid 80s (Fahrenheit), sunny and balmy. There is barely an onshore breeze - the palm fronds are just moving a tiny bit and the trees themselves are not moving. There is not a trace of the June gloom which would be more normal this time of year. The water is up to the low 60s (Fahrenheit) and basically the conditions are perfect. (!)

There is not much swell though, but the surf is still there (a bit) and a lot of fun. It’s actually perfect for me since I haven’t been in the water for at least two months due to my surgical wounds. But I got in the water in the morning, around high tide, both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday I took the funboard out and got a few waves in about :25 minutes. Today (Sunday) I decided I wanted more waves so I took the bodyboard out and did get many more waves. I also got a much better workout. Curiously, there were at least three sets that came through with one or two 5’ waves in each of these sets. These weren’t frequent enough of the lineup to move out to meet these waves, and in fact nobody got them. But they were beautiful to see from 20 yards away as they were rising and coming in.

I still haven’t prepped my camera to take it out in the water. (Truth be told I’d forgotten about the housing over these past few weeks.) So I don’t have pictures of these two good days. But I got the images from Scripps’ CDIP (Coastal Data Information Project), and here they are.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adventures - Then and Now

Bruce Sterling has a post at his blog on Wired about an upcoming Long Now event "Mechanicrawl" celebrating “steampunk”. Now, I’m not too into steampunk - it’s fun to examine for its ingenuity and mechanical complexity, but I’ve worked around enough old machinery that I’m not infatuated or fascinated by such things* - but I am into Long Now events. I may go up for this for another reason too.

This event is going to be centered on and around the rebuilding of the torpedo targeting computer on the WW2-era diesel-electric submarine USS Pampanito. The computer is in the sail, also known as the conning tower, which is where the Combat Information Center (CIC) is located. Apparently the event is going to allow people into the conn to see the computer and the other things in the CIC. This is rare because normally access to the conn and the CIC is extremely limited.


One day at least 25 years ago, not long after I’d graduated from college and was living with a friend in South San Francisco and was still into doing wild and crazy things, we went down to the Pampanito late one weekday when it was late dusk. We bought our tickets and went onto the boat, down into the crew spaces on the main deck. We looked around there and then came up. We looked at the person in the booth, and took a chance and shot up onto the sail and down into the CIC. It was much more interesting in there, and not only because it was forbidden and we had beaten the rules. It’s also the most interesting part of the boat, because that is where all the important business took place. After all, this was a weapon in a shooting war, and that space was where the shooting was planned and took place. (It would have been cool to get into the torpedo room too, but we didn’t get there.) We spent a few minutes there, and I can still remember a big red (lit) plotting board. We also looked through the telescope, but I don’t remember if we were in the main compartment or in the CIC on the conn when we did that. I’m pretty certain we looked through the scope while in the CIC, because I was concerned that turning the periscope would be seen by the ticket-taker/authority and thought we better escape soon. One more thing - the view of San Francisco from the periscope was really great - it was bright and clear with great optics!

Anyway, Long Now is having an event and maybe I’ll go up for that.

*Okay, I’m into machinery just like any guy and this stuff will be cool!

En Guarde!

A long-time friend invited me to go to the Pasadena Convention Center for the Pacific Coast Fencing Championships. This was a "super-regional" competition, meaning anybody inside or outside the Pacific Coast region could attend and compete. He went with his son, and they both competed, singly and with the club (team) they're in.

The picture isn't very good, but still pictures don't do justice to the speed and dynamics of fencing. I also shot a lot of video, but haven't edited that down yet. Will post an update to links when the video is done.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Celebrity Spotting

Some people at work sponsored a workshop (or conference) that brought together artists and media people from the Middle East to get them to discuss how to solve the problems in that region.

Near the end, one of the attendees (
an entertainment celebrity in Damascus) wanted to buy a Macintosh to take home to her sister who owns an advertising agency in Damascus. At the same time one of the organizers also wanted advice on what new Mac she - as a life-long Windows user - should buy. I volunteered to go with them to the Apple store and help them decide.

The next day, as a way of thanking me for helping her with entertaining some of her guests and helping on the Macintosh decision she invited me along to a dinner with another of her guests, the Syrian film and TV writer/director/producer Najdat Anzour.He looks rather like a Middle Eastern John Huston, in his 50s, and has at least as much urbaneness. Najdat is well known in the Middle East as the director of some famous tv soap operas which air during Ramadan, the time of the year when the biggest tv audiences occur (due to the fasting during the day and eating after sunset).

He was here in LA to go to the conference, but also to pitch a movie project to Hollywood. He's got a story, a script, a budget ($50M) and even a big name star, but he couldn't get mainstream Hollywood interested. We spent a good part of the evening talking about the culture of Hollywood, and simply talking about movies. His english was very good, and he has a huge knowledge of film. It's obvious he is well traveled in Europe, and I advised him that getting it into the US might require that he first get it well played in Europe, and get some recognition for it there (e.g. Cannes, Berlin, London, Rome, etc.)

Near the end of the evening we participated in the ritual Exchanging of the Business Cards, and he promised he would send me the script for reading and analysis. And so very unlike Hollywood, he held to his promise. He sent me the script that very evening.

I was supposed to read it this weekend, but was so busy reading other things that I didn't do it. Will have to do it tonight, tomorrow (day) and tomorrow night.

All in all though it was a very interesting event.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sneak Preview!

One of the local art house theaters (The Aero, part of American Cinematheque) is running 5 days of "heist films", starting with the new movie "The Bank Job" by Roger Donaldson about a famous bank heist in London in 1970. The movie opened last week in the UK (top of the charts there) but doesn't open here in the US until Friday. We not only got to see the movie, but there was a Q&A with director Donaldson ("No Way Out", "The World's Fastest Indian") afterwards too.

Geez I like living here in LA...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Onion as Prognosticator

Very infrequently I read The Onion as a source of humor and comedic insight about current events, but I actually remember reading this article seven years ago about the Bush speech proclaiming "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over." (Reference to a speech made while Bush was still Prez-elect, about to move in after Clinton.

What is amazing is how many of the "predictions" they made actually have come true.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

U2 movie

I found that a concert movie of U2 on their Vertigo tour was playing. Even better was that it was in 3D. Even better still, it was at the IMAX theatre in Culver City. U2 in 3D - woohoo! We went to see it. The theatre was packed. We should have got tickets beforehand, but were able to buy some of the few remaining tickets in the very front row. (Of course I’m happy with tickets in the front row. Marianne was a little bit hesitant, but by now she’s sat close enough times - and in front a few times - that she was a good sport and went along. It was great.

That is, this was one of the best concert films I’ve seen. The directors had great camera placement, with multiple cameras, and had multiple angles and tracking shots. Basically, the shots and angles did not get boring. Not that a U2 concert could be boring, but it was not a simple documentary with one or two cameras in static positions.

In fact the shots were taken not from one or two concerts, but from several - maybe 6 to 8 - across much of South America. The really good scenes or best songs from each concert were edited together so skillfully that we the viewer could not tell that there were several concerts over several days or even weeks. We simply could not tell that this wasn’t one single concert from beginning to end.

So. This was a really good concert film.

But it was then made even better by being shot and shown in 3D. Apparently all the shots were done with two cameras for each shot, and shot in cross polarization. We had to wear polarized glasses to see the film in 3D as well. (I peeked over the glasses a couple of times just to see what the pictures looked like without, and they were definitely not red/blue.) The 3D picture quite realistic, though not totally. More particularly, it was not gimmicky. The 3D effect was not there for the sake of itself but really added a subtle effect to the pictures of the band and the crowds, and it was good and not intrusive. Sitting up front we were able to see that there was a flatness to the images of Bono, so that he looked a little bit like an animation of a picture of Bono on a lifesize cardboard cutout. On the other hand, we were in the front row in an IMAX theater so he appeared so close that we felt as though we could reach out and touch him.

I’ve never been to a U2 concert though. So it was interesting to see Bono up close and to listen to him in such great sound. He’s not actually a very good singer - though I’ll admit that he is seriously emotional and committed to the lyrics. Which is great too. He is so committed that he is sweating like he just came out of a shower, and sometimes he’s so fatigued and out of breath that he has to stop, lean over and catch his breath. Edge, on the other hand, is the epitome of cool. Adam Clayton is like “fashion boy”, even though he’s the bass player and is supposed to be the calm cool disinterested one. (Think John Entwistle.)

I’ve seen some people speculate (in Salon letters) about 3D being too gimmicky and they “don’t like it”. But they’d never seen it. This movie was really great. Sure, the theater was full of fans so they’d like the movie already, but we really were impressed by the movie, its content and the skill with which is was directed and edited, and the musicianship and showmanship, and it was simply enhanced by the 3D. So if you get a chance to see it - and you’re even just a little bit of a U2 fan - then go see it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Computing Systems Security

I was scheduled to start a class at UCLA Extension this evening in Vulnerability Assessment and Auditing, but it was cancelled (only three people signed up). Too bad, as it sounded very relevant to my new job:

Security professionals, auditors, and IT management must evaluate the security of their systems, both to ensure protection of critical business information and to meet an increasing array of regulatory requirements. This course provides an overview of security assessment methods and introduces technical tools for conducting security assessments. Key distinctions between information security audits, vulnerability assessments, and penetration testing are clarified. Assessment methodologies covered include audit general control reviews, Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard, National Security Agency (NSA) INFOSEC Assessment Methodology, and NIST SP 800-30 risk assessment methods. Technical assessments of Windows and Unix environments are discussed, and open-source evaluation tools (such as nmap and nessus) are demonstrated.

Somewhat ironically, tomorrow morning I'm off to MacWorld Expo in San Francisco to be a speaker on auditing, actually - Using Common Criteria Tools Under Mac OS X - How To Audit Systems for Compliance with Business and Government Standards. This is the second year I'll be giving this presentation topic (I gave it in Jan 2007 also). Last year was successful, so along with repeating this presentation I also pitched the MWSF technical chief on doing a BOF session for Federal Systems Administration and Integration. They liked that idea, so I'm leading the discussion in that also (assuming anybody shows up at 6:30 PM). It is supposed to include the following, but as a BOF I think we can be flexible.
  • Configuring Macs for Federal Use
  • Auditing
  • CAC Cards
  • Problems and Solutions
  • Differences in Inspection Requirements
It will be interesting to see how this goes.

I'll be giving largely the same presentation this year that I gave last year, with only a few additions or changes. This is even though Apple has gone completely to Intel CPUs, and to OS X 10.5. I point this out because they haven't actually released the BSM installers for Intel (they can be got by special request), and they don't have BSM ready for OSX 10.5 either (not available by special request!).

Most of the people in the audience will understand though that I am not an Apple employee, or even a messenger from Apple.

Will be fun. (And I hope the swag bag is just as goody-laden as last year!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A little less talk, a little more action

Trying to wean myself from the constant scanning of political blogs and newssites, and focus on the science and tech.

Am also going to try to use my bookmarks a little more. I've got the account and the space, might as well put something there.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Getting to the tropics

I've been trying to get to the tropics for more than three decades, but now it looks like the tropics are coming to me. It turns out that climate zones that characterize the tropics are expanding, both north and south. (Which actually isn't good news, but it's not like we can do anything. Check the last line in the quote.) The link below is to the website of Nature. The blockquote below is the Associated Press summary report published on

Earth's Tropics Belt Expands

Dec 2nd, 2007 | WASHINGTON -- Earth's tropical belt seems to have expanded a couple hundred miles over the past quarter century, which could mean more arid weather for some already dry subtropical regions, new climate research shows.

Geographically, the tropical region is a wide swath around Earth's middle stretching from the Tropic of Cancer, just south of Miami, to the Tropic of Capricorn, which cuts Australia almost in half. It's about one-quarter of the globe and generally thought of as hot, steamy and damp, but it also has areas of brutal desert.

To meteorologists, however, the tropics region is defined by long-term climate and what's happening in the atmosphere. Recent studies show changes that indicate an expansion of the tropical atmosphere.

The newest study, published Sunday in the new scientific journal Nature Geoscience, shows that by using the weather definition, the tropics are expanding toward Earth's poles more than predicted. And that means more dry weather is moving to the edges of the tropics in places like the U.S. Southwest.

Independent teams using four different meteorological measurements found that the tropical atmospheric belt has grown by anywhere between 2 and 4.8 degrees latitude since 1979. That translates to a total north and south expansion of 140 to 330 miles.

One key determination of the tropical belt is called the Hadley circulation, which is essentially prevailing rivers of wind that move vertically as well as horizontally, carrying lots of moisture to rainy areas while drying out arid regions on the edges of the tropics. That wind is circulating over a larger area than a couple decades ago.

But that's not the only type of change meteorologists have found that shows an expansion of the tropics. They've seen more tropical conditions by measuring the amount of ozone in the atmosphere, measuring the depth of the lower atmosphere, and the level of dryness in the atmosphere at the edges of the tropics.

Climate scientists have long predicted a growing tropical belt toward the end of the 21st century because of man-made global warming. But what has happened in the past quarter century is larger and more puzzling than initially predicted, said Dian Seidel, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Silver Spring, Md. She is the author of the newest study.

"They are big changes," she said. "It's a little puzzling."

She said this expansion may only be temporary, but there's no way of knowing yet.

Seidel said she has not determined the cause of this tropical belt widening. While a leading suspect is global warming, other suspects include depletion in the ozone layer and changes in El Nino, the periodic weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.

Other climate scientists are split on the meaning of the research because it shows such a dramatic change — beyond climate model predictions. Some scientists, such as Richard Seager at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, say changes in El Nino since the 1970s probably are a big factor and could make it hard to conclude there's a dramatic expansion of the tropical belt.

But climate scientists Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria and Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Seidel's work makes sense and that computer models have consistently been underestimating the ill effects of global warming.

"Every time you look at what the world is doing it's always far more dramatic than what climate models predict," Weaver said.

Both Weaver and Seidel said the big concern is that dry areas on the edge of the tropics — such as the U.S. Southwest, parts of the Mediterranean and southern Australia — could get drier because of this.

"You're not expanding the tropical jungles, what you're expanding is the area of desertification," Weaver said.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Malibu Fire, 21 October 2007

Google Map of the Malibu Fire.
Web site of the fire.
LA Observed’s Here In Malibu.

I’m going to look up the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) frequencies and see if I can get info on the air freqs the water birds are using.


Swam 1,000 yards today, the first in a long time that I’ve swum that far in a workout. It wasn’t too hard and I wasn’t too tired when I finished. I could have done more, but arms and shoulders were a little tired and my blood CO2 was fairly high. The distance was good, so I called the workout a success and called it a day.

Telecommuting with robotics

In the middle of September I took a day off work and went downtown to the LA Convention Center to see the Wired NextFest. (I haven't written about NextFest yet, but I will soon.)

But what I wanted to write about is the link to the robot used as a telepresence avatar. With my program at work about to incorporate and envelope (and probably be consumed) by telecommuting, this could be a useful thing to propose as a virtual presence for people who are remoting in to meetings.

Shrinking icepack

An even better representation of the shrinking ice pack.