Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tom Hussey Left Field Graphics

My friend Tom Hussey has created a nice web page that illustrates both his artistic efforts and his we programming skills. Have a look at

Friday, September 14, 2007

World Trade Center, Dave Day and Me

My World Trade Center memories
I am a few days late for the sixth anniversary of the destruction of New York's World Trade Center; but those events remain seared into my memory like those of no other date. I have not previously written about how the events of September 11, 2001 affected me. Certainly I was affected me far less than the people in lower Manhattan. Certainly my place and time were untypical; but as the years move along I realize just how life altering those events were to me and many others far from the action. We should all remember where we were when we first heard and saw the news.
To my mind, September 11 is both the day that New York was attacked and is also Dave Day. It was named that by my nephew. His father David, my brother, died on September 11, 1999. (I have a David 'Sorry' Memorial Page). I am sure that many people died in traffic accidents on 9/11, babies were born and there must have been storms. Movies were reviewed and books published. Any particular day evokes different memories and feelings for different people.
I have made several short visits to New York City. I have some nice WTC memories and photos. (Many are shown at my WTC Page and NYC 2006 page). I have been to the top, I have taken pictures from the Statue of Liberty and just 18 months before I had several early morning meals in the basement PATH station.
One of the curses of modern travel is that it is just as easy to visit places such as Hiroshima, Bamiyan or Lower Manhattan as it is to visit places of beauty and happy memories.
Morning in Fremont, California
I awoke early on September 11, 2001. I remember feeling well and healthy. I was working at NUMMI in Fremont and I had to leave early to beat the intense morning traffic. I am a Canadian and was working
a Silicon Valley job.
Just before I left home I stopped and turned on the television for a check on the stock market pre-opening news. On the west coast the stock markets open at 6:30 AM local time. I had been in the habit of watching the antics of Joe Kiernan, Mark Haines and crew on the MSNBC Squawk Box. Their studio in New Jersey was directly across from lower Manhattan and they often showed the view out the office windows. Sometimes we saw the morning sunshine, sometimes the local dockside construction and sometimes the twin towers as seen across the Hudson River. I have often wondered why we have not seen more from their cameras. There must have been few cameras trained on the World Trade Center before the second plane crashed.
In the years since I have seen many time-lines and documentaries. I have often wondered exactly when I turned on the TV that morning. It must have been between the first and second plane crash. I remember MSNBC's Mark Haines talking about hijacked planes in the air and talked about an airplane hitting the World Trade Center. I know that for several long minutes I thought he must be talking about some small private plane or perhaps an off-course commuter jet. It took quite a while before I got the concept through my mind that large passenger jets attacking New York City. I remember mention of multiple planes and multiple targets.
Having some prior knowledge of history and politics, having some curiosity and a reasonable imagination; it was immediately clear to me that America was at war. My physical reaction was complete shock just like in my first-aid courses. I was in a cold panic and shook for at least 15 minutes. I must have made a half dozen irrational phone calls back to my family in Canada. I have no idea what I said.
Imagination and Emotion
In my imagination on that day the American President would already be firing up the bombers for an overseas attack. I had no idea what the target would be but I knew that a response would be immediate and unmeasured. I was really quite amazed when Bush gave a sincere and calming speech that night. I was expecting a far more emotion and anger.
For a couple of hours that morning I clicked between channels but kept coming back to that MSNBC view across the river and the voice of Mark Haines. When I changed to street level television coverage I remember seeing the jumpers. There were many and they were shown live. I think that the later news coverage removal of those shots was a mistake. We should not sugar-coat what happened in any way. Some of those people stood at their windows and gazed out at the sky and made a final prayer. Then they shose to jump as the only logical choice. Their actions should be remembered.
Sometime after the second tower collapse I decided that I might as well go to work. I did not want to stay all day by myself. I needed other people. I was thinking that I might be clearing out my desk and leaving town by the end of the day. I had thoughts of which route I could drive back to Vancouver that had the fewest bridge crossings. I thought that the banks would be working in the afternoon and stopped at the ATM to withdraw $500 cash gas money in case I had to flea.
It was a crazy time and I was not acting completely rational, but being crazy was the sensible way to be that day. I am still astonished at the people who were so uninformed, so unimaginative and so unperceptive that they did not panic at all that morning. I have met many since who did not really how much the world had changed.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Reading unusual books: Man-Eaters of Kuamon

I am an eclectic book collector and reader.

Apparently most people make their book selections from the newspaper best seller lists or they rush out for the latest Oprah recommendation. In the days of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens there were fewer options for entertainment. Everyone in and out of high society would be waiting for the next book release or serial publication. The latest offering would be eagerly read and passed around. It must have been like those days in the sixties where everyone on the street watched the Laugh-in or Ed Sullivan the night before.

Now there are popular readings -- everyone seems to be reading Harry Potter -- but that is rare. I suspect that more people read Rowling's books so that they are ready for the next movie than read them for the shear pleasure. Reading seems more of a fad than a pleasure.

In my teenage years I sometimes read a book a day! Usually basic science fiction by Andre Norton or Robert Heinlein. Now, decades later, there are so many distractions. There are plenty of good shows on basic cable and I could spend half of every day answering email and twittering away on the Net. I have magazine subscriptions (news, computers and business) that I read from cover to cover.

So it takes special effort to sit and read a book. In the meantime I enjoy visiting used book stores. That is a merchandising category that is in decline. I buy the book categories that no-one wants. Those poor mislaid volumes written by missionaries in old China or perhaps some guide book for a long forgotten World's Fair just seem destined for my bookshelf.

The problem in recent years is of course retreating far enough from modern life to actually read something from my collection. Today I finally finished something that is different than most of my readings.

Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett (Oxford University Press 1946)
Jim Corbett is now known as an environmentalist. India's oldest national park is now named the Jim Corbett National Park. In the twenties he was more famous as a sportsman hunter. He was famous as the man who rid the hills of several man-eating tigers and leopards.

One of the things I liked about this story is its first-person directness. I read another book last year about hunting in BC. That book was full of stories told at some vague time to someone else who told them to the author. This book here is full of first person detail with occasional stories told the author in the immediate aftermath of the events.

Jim Corbett realized that these tigers were a beautiful and necessary part of the Indian hill country. He described how these cats became man eaters out of necessity. Generally the tigers in these events were injured by a hunter who had let the beast escape wounded into the forests. Hunger lead to unsuccessful attempts at their usual fare; then these wounded tigers would turn to something easier. That something easier was the local villagers as they worked their fields or cut tree branches for their livestock.

One surprising thing is the great number of deaths in these cases. One of the tigers in this book was aid to have killed more than 300 victims. The normal tiger habit is to return as many days as it takes to completely eat their kill; but the man eaters had become so shy after many failed hunting attempts that they would gulp a meal of human flesh and then leave for a hiding place. The next day they would be on the hunt for another victim.

Jim Corbett was raised in the hill country. He took prodigious chances and did prodigious feats. He commonly walked many miles up and down thousand foot hillsides. Every sense was at full alert as he stalked his prey. He preferred hunting alone or accompanied by his dog Robin. That way he did not have to worry about loosing a companion to the tiger or a stray shot. He only had to worry about his own hide.

His most common method of bagging a tiger was to hide in a tree within a short distance of the remains of a tiger kill. He would sit there for 14 hours all night at alert readiness for an animal that was as interested in hunting him as he was as interested in hunting it. In several of the stories in this book he managed to bag his tiger as it leapt toward him and fell at his feet.

I am still not a game hunter or what Mr. Corbett would have called a sportsman; but I do have a better appreciation of the difference between his solitary contests between man and beast and that so-called sport as practised by helicopter travelling millionaires.

My hunting will remain the search for elusive and unappreciated books as found on the dusty shelves of bargain book stores.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes. Recognizing genius

Kurt Vonnegut
I wrote a post last November about Mr. Vonnegut. The theme was his fatalism and apparent readiness for his death. Apparently that end finally came yesterday. And so it goes.

I did love his books. I always meant to create a web page in his honour and now it will have to be a posthumous effort. I think that his work is yet another case of mankind not recognizing genius. How can one not read his books and not realize their simple truths and genius?

So many books are created in an effort to turn simple ideas into complexity. The author takes a simple idea and adds layer upon layer of bullshit. I don't think that Kurt Vonnegut knew the meaning of bullshit. He would take immense ideas and add some Kilgore Trout fantasies or perhaps some babbling about talking dolphins and Tralfamadorians; and suddenly that immense idea would appear just so simple and easy to Grok.

(Here is a link to my Amazon associate store where I have links to Vonnegut books and videos).

Recognizing Greatness
Perhaps we humans are not capable of recognizing innate beauty or genius. There was a great article in last weekend's Washington Post. It had some profound words, sounds and images. They performed a simple experiment. Last January they had Joshua Bell -- a violin player who commands tens of thousands of dollars per performance -- play a solo concert in at the entrance to the L'Enfant metro station. He played divine music on a three million dollar Stradivarius. (If you have a decent Internet connection and sound card you can hear the proof online).

Apparently more than a thousand people walked by and barely a dozen stopped for even a moment's pause.
Washington DC commuters were apparently incapable of recognizing greatness when it was thrust into their faces.

This article prompted pages and pages of comments. Many of them complained that it was unfair to do this when these commuters were on their way to important jobs. Many of them were keeping the American dream alive and trying to not go postal in their jobs at the Post Office headquarters. Some others thought that if Tupac Shakur was playing they would have stopped.

I think though that these comments are disengenious. The biggest point should be that some things are simply inheritably great in themselves and some things are actually more important than being five minutes late for work. I like to think that I would have stopped; but should I blame a single mom who is working two jobs and never got any music education in school from recognizing greatness and taking the risk of stopping?

The picture here is of a string quartet that I saw in the Moscow subway in March 2000. I sat and enjoyed but I had the excuse of being on vacation.

Recognizing Visual Greatness
Here it is time for me to make a confession. I don't have a muscical bone in my body and don't know the difference between a C Sharp and an F flat. But I do have some pride about my eye for art.

Just as some music is has greatness built into both its design and its performance, some art also has greatness built in. On that same trip in Spring 2000 I spent a day at the Louvre in Paris. There are galleries of paintings and I can understand how some rooms are nearly empty. Of course seeing too many Old Masters can be, well, just old. Other rooms are packed with people determined to see those paintings that are famous for being famous.

On the other hand some paintings are perfect. I stood in the room that contains Vermeer's Lacemaker. Some people stopped but most gave it barely a glance. Here was the perfect painting -- featured on book covers and posters -- and few seemed to recognize it. I wanted to stop people and shake them. "Don't you know what that is!".

When we are presented with the opportunity of greatness -- whether by written word, well played music or fine art -- I am afraid that most people refuse to recognize it and are happy to go back to their Tupacs, video games and conceptual art. Am I a snob? So it goes.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Moon Landing publications (Apollo 11)

Apollo 11 Moon Landing
In the sixties I was a huge space fan. I read a lot of science and science fiction books. Until Apollo 11 I had not missed watching a televised American space launch.

The big exception was Apollo 11. By the day of the launch I was in the middle of a student trip to Paris. I had a small transistor radio and listened to the launching and news about the landing from the tiny speaker. Sometimes I was able to receive Voice of America but other times I could only get the French translated version with the original English faintly heard in the background.

The landing was in the evening with the actual Moon Walk late at night. We asked the dormitory manager if we could use his television for the Neil Armstrong one small step for mankind. Unfortunately he forgot to mention that their TV was broken! Argh! So it was back to the tiny radio for the big event.

I did save my International Herald-Tribune from July 21st. Over the years I saved several more newspapers and magazines from that big week. I have several such as that Herald-Tribune and an unopened Life magazine framed in my hallway.

Apollo 16 Moon Flag
I was impressed in 1972 when my new friend Tom H. told me that his father's secretary was marrying an Astronaut. The following year I visited Tom's Family in Nassau Bay, Texas. That is very close to the Johnson Space Center. Tom's father had a small framed nylon American flag in the front hallway of his home. I was impressed to discover that it was a signed memento from John Young from his Apollo 16 moon walk.
During that visit I finally saw the film from the Apollo 11 landing in a theatre at the Space Center. Looking back it is amazing how our instant communications and universal video recordings have changed our memories of many events. In decades not so far in the past, if things were not caught on TV the first time around one might never see them in reruns.
Tom was riding lawn mower for the space program at the Space Center and Vandenburg Air Base. Eventually I talked him into driving me home and we have visited each other many times since.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Long Pause from blogging (NotSorry Expansion)

I am back from a rather long pause from blogging. I started doing this in October last year and finally got going in November. Then one day I started to write a blog about how I created and all my plans to make additions and improvements. I realized that there was a lot of an awful lot of work that I had been putting of for several years.

So I decided to do something about the missing pages. In 2002 I had spent many hours scanning my old slides. I organized and renamed and edited. But then I did nothing about them except file them away. Later I scanned some old photo albums.

So now -- since November -- I have edited and cleaned them all up. I selected the best and posted them on new web pages. My new pages include the following:
My World Trip 1974 to 1975
This shows my round the world trip that took me from December 1974 to October 1975.
The first section includes Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Sailing to Singapore.
The second section includes Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, France, Holland and Great Britain.

Travels in East Asia 1983 to 1985

This shows my travels in the early eighties that include the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Japan.

France Student Trip 1969
This is a single page covering my student trip to France and England in 1969.

Canada Pages
This new section covers my photos that I took on my various travels across Canada.
Pictures from British Columbia are shown in a separate section of
BC Pages
Here I cover various places -- some very small -- in BC outside of Greater Vancouver.
Vancouver Pages
This section covers various part of the Vancouver area.

USA Pages
Here I show my various pictures from all over the United States.

My old web page sections include
Round the World Trip 2000
This shows my travels across the northern parts of Asia and Europe in the spring of 2000.
Most of these pages were edited and posted on the go as I did my travels.

European Trip 2003
This shows my trip to France, Belgium and England in spring of 2003.