Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Great Letting Go

A few months back Sharon & I were camping in Iowa and early one brisk fall morning had the following experience:

A Great Letting Go

There was no wind,
no motion or sound, that early morning after
the first killing frost,
all frozen in place but one--
a persimmon tree,
the day before heavy-laden
with rounded leaves
of yellow and green,
hastening now to drop its burden
before the morning light
revealed its work undone,
shuddering imperceptibly
in a great letting go,
a flutter and a rustle,
hinting of great forces unseen,
laying one last colored shroud
on a season turning now
to brown and gray.
By noon her work was done.

JBHannah 11/7/07

Friday, March 28, 2008

drag-n-drop database design

WWW SQL Designer is way too cool. 2.0 was released today.

This tool allows you to draw and create database schemas (E-R diagrams) directly in browser, without the need for any external programs (flash). You only need JavaScript enabled.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nerdy music

Jonathan Coulton's music is awesome. "Code Monkey" and "Re: Your Brains" are simply great. The inappropriate for all ages "First of May" is another favorite of mine. :)

On the nerd front, it's all Creative Commons licensed, so I peer-to-peer'd a bunch of his .mp3's, donated $10 by buying a monkey on his site, and will donate more as I listen to more of his music. I predict he'll make more money from me than he ever would have just selling traditional albums.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Audio heirlooms

I'm going to give these fine folks a shot at converting our 6 Earl C. Humphrey audio cassettes into digital media. They have noise reduction techniques that hopefully far surpass what I would be able to do on my own. I'm looking forward to hearing that voice again after 8 years...

The tapes are pushing 20 years old. They should be OK. Knock on wood.

The plan is to then launch transcript pages on my wiki that the fam can help transcribe, edit for spelling corrections, flushing out hard-to-hear regions/words, etc., and link to various resources around the 'net.

This should be cool.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Don't read this

Super-geeky and offensive, completely inappropriate for all ages and all audiences humor that no one should ever read:

still laughing

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eagle Sightings

For forty years since marrying and moving to Independence, MO, I’ve been routinely making the five-hour drive from there to hometown Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.: north up Interstate 35 about halfway, then east on US 34 for the remainder of the five-hour trip. I well know the towns, the hills, and the scenery in all four seasons. But in those scores of drives I saw something this trip I’d never seen before: bald eagles.

The first was perched in a tree near the Ottumwa packing plant along the Des Moines River. I slowed and almost stopped to take a picture, but couldn’t find a safe pull off or turn around. I continued on reluctantly, yet grateful for even the brief one-time sighting.

It’s my habit when making this trip to while away the miles watching along the roadside for hawks--usually, red-tails, which have grown greatly in number through the years. I’d seen at least a dozen in the course of the afternoon, so I wasn’t surprised as I continued along to spot another one in a huge cottonweed tree alongside the road. But wait! That’s no red-tail. That’s another bald eagle!

Almost as though on auto pilot, this time my truck crossed over the highway rumble bars to a stop. The sound of tires on concrete disturbed the eagle, who took flight. So large, so regal! I was feeling good just to have seen one so close when he reeled, and, unexpectedly, landed again in a treetop not quite as near the road but still within clear view. My truck crept forward a couple hundred feet and came to a cautious stop. I opened the door and eased my way out, camera in hand, looking through the view finder. Not bad. I snapped a few shots, then realized there was a tree branch disrupting the composition, so I moved toward the rear and steadied my telephoto against the truck bed, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t spook the quarry. Ok, now, look to the right a little bit…that’s it…hold it…hold it…Snap! That should be a good one, I was thinking as the eagle lifted off once more, this time to disappear over the horizon.

I mention all this because there are some who even yet don’t seem to understand the significance of a species going extinct. Such was the path of the bald eagle until a few decades ago. Today they’re plentiful enough to have their names removed from the endangered list, but only due to the diligence of a lot of very devoted environmentalists and many responsive legislators.

It could be argued that I had driven that highway dozens of times and never seen a bald eagle, so what had I really lost? You don’t miss what you never had, right? The answer to that question came only through an unexpected encounter that in an earlier day would have been routine. To me it was a thrill to see what for the most part has been only a photo in a bird book. There was a connection there that’s hard to describe: something to do with it being the American national bird, I’m sure, but something beyond that as well—the soaring sense of freedom, the grace and beauty, the sense of sharing this planet with so many wondrous creatures.

Yes, I’d driven that road many a time. But until that very day I never knew what I was missing. I’m so grateful we’ve at least begun to preserve the wildness that connects with something deep within.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spongebob Rectal Thermometer

I'm a big fan of Spongebob, butt... was this really necessary? Have all other merchandising opportunities been saturated?

the youth of today

full email thread

OBrien, TG wrote:
> Sadly, I no longer wonder about the youth of today;
> my assumptions were proven.

Those damn kids.

I'm 32. Can I join the grumpy old men club yet? :)

I'm back in chemistry after 15 years, and I'm not too different from the other students straight out of high school when the subject matter being crammed down my throat is of no interest to me.

When our interests are being served (rare) we're typically happily and similarly engaged, the 15 year age gap not making much difference.

Of course outside of class our lives are drastically different.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cool wallpapers

InterfaceLIFT has really cool free wallpapers, even for dual monitors and what-not.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Building Recognition

We dedicated a new Habitat home a few days ago. Sometimes in the midst of the rather drawn out process of hammering one of these homes together you lose sight of what it's really all about. But when Marilyn, tears streaming down her face, describes living in a homeless shelter five years ago and now having the very first home of her own for herself and her two daughters...Well, it's one of those moments when you feel that you've truly received more than you've given, and your joy, as the Bible says, is full. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with this community of all colors and ages and backgrounds, even if you can't call them by name, you suddenly recognize, Hey, I know you: You're my brother or sister! So good to see you here!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Virtual Reality (Or Pseudo?)

"Virtual reality." The term has been around long enough to have made the dictionary: "the generation by computer software of an image or environment that appears real to the senses." (The Oxford Dictionary)

I'm increasingly grateful that my own childhood years pre-dated virtual reality. Instead, I had what, at the risk of redundancy but for the sake of emphasis, might be called "actual reality." The images and environments I have in my memory are not just the appearance of reality, but reality itself--watching a cocoon twitch violently and finally break open to reveal a shrink-wrapped butterfly that oh so slowly unfolded; biting into a sun-warmed tomato, red juice gooshing down neck and stomach; climbing a young sapling to the very top, then riding it backwards to the ground; hearing the shrill call of cicadas, mingled with the low barumph of bullfrogs in a rhythmic symphony; being battered by the wind in early spring, numb fingers sending home-made box kites aloft until they nearly disappeared from sight.

The wonder of these moments is so real to me even decades later that I can still see and taste and smell and hear and feel their touch as though they were here-and-now. So when Louis Armstrong sings "What A Wonderful World" I find myself without fail singing along with him the closing exclamation,"Oh, yeah!"

It deeply saddens me that so many of "the computer generation" seem to prefer virtual reality over reality itself, which I can only liken to keeping the wrapper and throwing away the chocolate bar. How could any computer role-playing game compare to the suspense of night-time hide-and-seek, or playing "soldiers" with home-made weapons, or charging each other full-tilt as knights armed with horseweed stalks? How could even the best nature documentary compare to actually experiencing the Northern Lights, or the Milky Way? How could even theatre surround sound capture the marvel of a click beetle arching its back, then snapping itself into the air for a perfect acrobatic flip?

I could go on and on, but I suppose it would be futile. Reality is like a good joke: sometimes you just don't get it unless you were there.

The Itch to Scratch

I discovered an interesting thing about myself during a recent 3-day, 1600-mile road trip: if I don't get a bit of solitude and do a bit of writing every day or so, I get cranky. I suppose it may be similar to what runners experience, where at a certain level of conditioning the daily rush of endorphins becomes so addictive that a day missed is a day lost. I'm not quite at that stage, but I learned that the itch to scratch out a few lines each day can only be relieved by rubbing up against keyboard or pen, even if ever so briefly...Ah, there it is--that contented bliss, like a sow raking her hide against a hedge post. Life is good. : )