March 22, 2007
Last night, as I reported on my Hack Bend blog, the house across the street caught fire. It wasn't terribly serious, as these things go: some hot embers from the chimney landed on the wood shake roof and sparked into flames. But the fire department came out in full force; there were four engines, the fire chief's (or whomever's) SUV, an ambulance, and police closing off the street.
The weird thing is, we didn't hear any of the emergency vehicles arrive, but other people in the neighborhood told us they heard them coming. Instead, around 6:20 I started noticing a rumbling noise coming from outside, but we were eating dinner and I didn't think much of it—nothing that couldn't be checked until we were done, anyway. It was my wife who took something out to the garage that heard the noise, too, and went to the window to see what it was.
Imagine our surprise!
So we ran outside and rubbernecked along with the rest of the neighborhood. Smoke was still rising from the roof next to the chimney while we were there; our neighbor next door told us she had seen the flames when she came out. They were still hosing the roof down, but got the smoke under control pretty quickly. After that, they tore out the chimney and the part of the roof that was (presumably) still hot and/or smoldering.
Nobody was hurt. According to the KTVZ article, the fire did $25,000 worth of damage, with minor smoke damage inside the home.
Here's some of the pictures I took (when I finally had the presence of mind to run back in the house for the camera):
Apologies for the mediocre quality of these pictures... it was dusk and the low-light conditions along with the zoom was enough to get the point, but some came out shaky. And actually, when it was starting to get really dark, they brought one of the engines over with a set of bright spotlights to illuminate the scene:
You can see the light pole sprouting up from the top of the truck. And here's a shot of the lighted-up scene at full dark:
I actually think this last picture is kind of cool. Unfortunate set of circumstances, but you know what I mean.
March 19, 2007
Next week is spring break around here, and this year we decided to pack up and head down to San Diego for the week, to visit my brother and his wife.
We're driving down, spreading it out over two days each way. It's roughly 1000 miles from Bend to San Diego, so that's a lot of driving. But hey, that's the Jack Kerouac experience, right? Sort of. Though I'm pretty sure Kerouac didn't have a family along with him.
It's been awhile since I've taken this much time off from work. I wonder if I'll be able to go back.
February 25, 2007
Okay, it's been a good long while since I unleashed a comic book rant here and got my geek on. If you don't read comic books, or don't care, or whatever, you can safely pass this by. Otherwise, expect this to go long, and you may even be a little embarrassed for me.
February 23, 2007
The other day Dave posted a story riddle with a creepy punchline: the people who answer it "correctly"—i.e. a certain way—think like psychopaths. (Sorry to spoil the surprise.) It's meant to illustrate a particular way of thinking that pyschopaths exhibit: that of other people—even family—as impersonal tools to be used for their own benefit.
(Fortunately, I didn't answer the riddle "correctly.")
Of course, I make random connections, as I am wont to do, and I remembered this older post on Boing Boing about psychopathy:
Are psychopaths genetically adapted to survive by exploiting the rest of us?
[CBC's Quirks and Quarks] talks to research psychologists about the biological basis for psychopathy — and the fact that psychopaths are sexually profligate and have lots of kids. Psychopathic rapists target fertile women — not children or old women.Dr. Marnie Rice is a psychologist with the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene, in Penetanguishene, Ontario. She studies criminal psychopaths who are incarcerated there. She views psychopathic behaviour as an evolved survival strategy. She says that there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that psychopaths are mentally ill but there’s good reason to believe that their disturbing behaviour is an evolved trait. She says psychopaths have evolved to capitalize in a particular environmental niche — namely preying on the rest of society.
Yeah, it's kind of an odd thing to be ruminating about. But it's a weirdly compelling idea to imagine that psychopathy is a possible result of natural selection. It makes a certain sense. I wonder what the "particular environmental niche" is referring to—large cities? Seems to me (from a purely layman's perspective) that's where this particular trait would take hold and be successful in an evolutionary context.
For reference, here's Wikipedia's article on psychopathy.
Anyway, cheery thoughts to take you into the weekend.
February 13, 2007
So my friend Brian of BuzzTouch Designs has a regular podcast, each show lasting a few minutes (not super long, like some) and touching on local happenings—and on yesterday's "episode" I was the guest star. Or interviewee. Or something. Basically, Brian called me up and we did an interview (I was in my "Brew Site" persona) on the topic of beer label art.
I had fun doing it, and actually thought it turned out okay. (Not a slam on Brian—I just wasn't sure how I'd sound myself!) You can listen to the show here.
February 11, 2007
So far this 2007 I've been consuming bunches of books. Kind of continuing my trend from last year, though based what I've gone through in these first six weeks of the year, my year-end list might be much larger.
- Lisey's Story, by Stephen King. His latest, pretty good but not the best he's ever written. I had a pretty good hunch where the plot was going and I was mostly right. What makes it interesting is all the backstory which is where all the real stuff is happening.
- Manifold: Origin, by Stephen Baxter. Rounding out the Manifold series he wrote (the first two of which I read in the last months of 2006). Interesting concepts, all of them (he wrote them as possible solutions/scenarios to the Fermi paradox), but one thing Baxter generally isn't good at is characterization. And Origin, plot-wise, is the weakest of the bunch; a lot of stuff happens that has nothing to do with the final reveal, or the overall point of the story.
- High Desert of Central Oregon and Bend in Central Oregon, both by Raymond Hatton, which I reviewed respectively on Hack Bend here and here.
- The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. Sure to be controversial. Oddly enough, it's the first Dawkins book I've read, even though he's been publishing since the '70s. He's been called "Darwin's rottweiler," and that's pretty much in full force here.
- Mona Lisa Overdrive, by William Gibson. Pretty good read—it's Gibson, after all—but I think my least favorite of his three "Sprawl" novels. Neuromancer set a pretty high bar.
- I've been going through all the trade paperbacks of the Fables comic series (available at the library, which is very cool). This is a really brilliant series. The premise: All those fairy tales and fables of lore are real, but they've all been driven out of their worlds by a mysterious Adversary, and live in New York City in their own private and secret community named Fabletown. King Cole is the mayor, Snow White the deputy mayor, like that. For mature readers. I'm through the first seven trades, at least three were this year.
- The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson. Pretty good, about the cholera outbreak in Victorian London in 1854 and how that changed science and cities.
- I'm also finishing up Bend, Overall by Scott Cook, though that's quite a bit shorter than most of the others. It's a guidebook read.
Next book will be fiction again. I haven't decided on one definitively yet; it's between Idoru (William Gibson), Wolves of the Calla or Cell (Stephen King), Singularity Sky (Charles Stross), and A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge). Or, perhaps I'll read several concurrently...
February 10, 2007
Okay, I was a little slow on the uptake for this one: Transformers: The Movie. Live action. For real. Opening July 4th of this year.
I remember hearing the rumor about this way back when, thought, "Hey, that would be cool," without thinking it would actually happen—you know, the usual Hollywood stuff, rumors are always flying. Then, suddenly, I recently spot the trailer online and nearly fall out of my chair.
Yes, I'm fully aware I'm out-geeking even myself here, but back in the day Transformers were the toys to have and it was the cartoon on TV to watch. I even made paper Transformers, for crying out loud.
Not surprisingly, Wikipedia has a comprehensive page on the Transformers movie. I only have one complaint: Bumblebee will no longer be a Volkswagon Bug—instead, he's a 1974 Chevrolet Camaro. WTF?? That just ain't right.
February 9, 2007
Living relatively self-sufficiently on five acres, we always had some livestock. For all intents and purposes, we had a farm, but it was more of a small family farm than the big operations I usually think of when I hear the term (with cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, etc.).
At any given time our livestock generally consisted of one milk cow and a coop full of chickens. Along the way we tried out different animals, but this was the general combination that held.
February 1, 2007
I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, but I don't quite get how this is going to work: Publisher launches its first "wiki" novel. It's:
...a Web-based, collaborative novel that can be written, edited or read by anyone, anywhere thanks to "wiki" software, the technology behind Web encyclopaedia Wikipedia.
The novel, "A Million Penguins," went live on Thursday and its first lines are already being written, edited and rewritten by enthusiasts on www.amillionpenguins.com.
Penguin, which embarked on the project with a group of creative writing and new media students, says it is using the novel as a test of whether a group of disparate and diverse people can create a "believable fictional voice."
So, are they planning on "locking down" chapters as they're finished? Because there's really nothing stopping anybody from going in and changing, well, everything at any point, if it truly is open like Wikipedia. Suddenly chapter three makes no sense because chapters one and two are now telling a different story.
Cool and interesting experiment, though. I might have to play around with it.
January 30, 2007
Making lunches for the next day: my daughter's, then my own. My daughter's is simple: peanut butter and honey, carrot sticks, CapriSun, GoGurt, cheddar cheese sandwich crackers. Oh yeah, throw some candy for dessert in, too. Pack it all up in the Barbie cooler.
Start on mine. Bologna and cheese on wheat, very original. Retrieve from the fridge: mayonnaise, dijon mustard, bread. Pause, then queue up some Journey on the computer. The kitchen is apparently in need of rock ballads tonight.
Into the midnight sun
Wheels go 'round and 'round
You're on my mind
Sandwich comes together. Set it aside, back to the fridge. Carrots, celery... celery is droopy, good thing it's the last of it.
Any way you want it
That's the way you need it
Any way you want it
Oddly appropriate music to chop veggies to. Careful of the fingers, the carrot is rolling a bit. Now, cottage cheese or yogurt?
Living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night
Cottage cheese. It's the big container, Costco-sized but not from Costco. Scoop some into the tupperware-that-isn't-tupperware plastic bowl, snap a lid on it. Pack it all up into my lunch cooler (soft-walled), then grab an orange while Steve Perry tells me to Don't stop believin'.
Lunch is ready.
January 22, 2007
So there's this article that appeared in the New York Times about Activia, Dannon's yogurt that is filled with "live cultures" that are healthy and good for you. And they're marketing it like it's something new and revolutionary.
Except every bit of yogurt I've ever bought—regardless of brand—has been full of live cultures that are healthy and good for you. That's what yogurt is. Seriously, go buy a generic brand of yogurt—it says this on the container. Are people not aware of this?
Yeah, I know there's a lot of misinformation out there, but for some reason this one just rubbed me the wrong way.
January 18, 2007
I find it rather surreal that the Oregon Lottery is now offering Space Invaders lottery tickets. Seriously. It's part of their "Travel back" line of Scratch-Its. They look rather complicated though, and cost $3 a pop.
Now they need to come out with other classic arcade games: Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids...
January 17, 2007
Just a collection of links to things I like and/or found amusing recently.
- dive into mark: Spaceships
"Parenting is like an ongoing episode of CSI. You’re always following the evidence back to the crime."
- The Bend Bigfoot stuff:
- YouTube: Discover Card "Scissors"
Is anyone else as freaked out as I am by the image of thousands of scissors coming to life and swarming the streets?
- Project Gutenberg: The London and Country Brewer (1736)
January 10, 2007
Yes, it's that introspective time again. Since I've done these for the last two years already, I thought it would be interesting to put it all together in a table format to compare years.
|Number of blog entries:||155||244||306|
|Total words written (approximate):||29,894||39,810||45,537|
|Average words per entry:||192.9||163.2||148.8|
|Total visitors (including all the junk):||1,041,504||633,100||242,433|
|Average visitors per day:||2,853||1,734||687|
|Total real visitors (approximate):||681,069||430,505||n/a|
|Average real visitors per day:||1,865||1,179||n/a|
|Most active month:||October, then May||October||n/a|
|Ten most popular blog entries:||
|Total non-spam comments:||599||1,556|
|Ten most popular searches landing here:||
|Top five search engines:||
|Approximate breakdown of browsers and traffic:||
|Total number of bot hits:||418,028||n/a||n/a|
January 7, 2007
I'm adding up the numbers from my three blogs, and it turns out that between them I wrote approximately 101,192 words among 511 blog entries for 2006. Wow... the previous year the numbers were 78,181 and 466. Another way to look at it: that's roughly the equivalent of a novel a year.