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Month: January 2010

Just one more thing

Just one more thing

Just finished a good book by one of my favorite actors:

Couple of interesting tidbits:

  • Lost his right eye as a kid to a malignant tumor.  He had a plastic/glass one ever since.  He even used it to great effect during a baseball game, “I remember once in high school the umpire called me out at third base when I was sure I was safe. I got so mad I took out my glass eye, handed it to him and said, ‘Try this.’ I got such a laugh you wouldn’t believe.”
  • He was a star athlete and president of his senior class in high school.
  • He’s a pretty decent artist.  His idea of a dream day would be to get up and draw all day long.  He used to go to nude/live drawing classes – even after some of his normal days of shooting.
  • He was a terrible drifter after high school,  yet even during his wanderings and school, he acted and played in local stage roles:

He left high school with little direction and entered the merchant marine as a cook since his eye disqualified him from war service.  After a year and a half in the Merchant Marine, he returned to Hamilton College and also attended the University of Wisconsin. He transferred to a school in New York City, where he got a bachelor’s degree in literature and political science – for no apparent reason other than he liked to read.  He then traveled to France to meet up with a girlfriend, and when Yugoslavia revolted from Russia, they ran down on a whim and helped build a railroad in Yugoslavia for six months.

The relationship on the rocks, he returned to New York, enrolling at Syracuse University, where he obtained a masters in public administration. It was a new program designed to train future workers in the federal bureaucracy, a career that he said he had “no interest in and no aptitude for.” He applied for a job with the CIA on a whim from his helpful instructor, but didn’t even make it through the first screening because of his membership in a union while serving in the Merchant Marine, his work in Yugoslavia and his other wanderings.

He then became a management analyst with the Connecticut State Budget Bureau as an efficiency expert.   He joked about being so efficient he actually showed up at the post office by mistake on his first day.  He hated his day job so much that he lived for each night of acting at local shows – until he finally quit and went for acting full-time.

  • He got his start at lots of local stage shows.
  • He played a bartender in a revival of “The Ice Man Cometh”, and in the play actors were at individual tables passed out until they stood up individually to tell their stories.  Well, often the actors really DID fall asleep during the 3 hour show, and Falk had to go over and whack their tables with a broom to wake them up on queue.
  • He talks of the few times in his life he was arrested and has interesting stories behind each one.  One was because he was working on a film and went to Cuba still in his scraggly beard and camos, and was mistaken for a guirrilla due to his appearance looking so close to Fidel Castro and his followers.  Most of the rest were also overseas for various funny infractions.
  • He did so well in his early roles as a gangster that he almost got type-cast and had to work hard to get other acting jobs.
  • Columbo’s trademark raincoat was still in his closet after all these years – despite rumors it’s in the Smithsonian.  Though by the final two seasons, the directors were becoming worried that the trademark coat’s quickly degrading condition would become a real problem.
Stocks gadget/widget for Windows 7

Stocks gadget/widget for Windows 7

Miss the old-style Vista stocks widget/gadget?  I do – and the new one has a terrible look and feel.  So they finally fixed the old one to work on windows 7.

But classic Microsoft help forum though – they bitch and moan about how there’s a new version that’s SOOO much better and you’re basically stupid for not using it.  Only after tons of people complain constantly on how the new one is terrible (which IMHO it is terrible looking) – *then* they finally fix the old one and release it quietly.  Man – take a page from customer service people – the customer is right – not the engineer in the case of look and feel.

Anyway, here’s the gadget:

Stranger than Fiction

Stranger than Fiction

Finished another good book by Chuck Palahniuk

A good collection of short essays and stories, but one of the best was a commentary on how people meet in airport hotel conference rooms and sometimes pay up to $100 for 7 minutes to ‘sell’ their stories to a publisher/filmmaker/producer/etc and he makes an interesting social commentary on our times.  One that I think hits some very interesting and uncomfortably true points.  A better description of our times I haven’t seen – or at least of GenX-er’s.

Paraphrased, his argument runs like this:
We are now a society that has: unprecedented amounts of free time, the technology to publish/be seen rapidly and cheaply, educated enough that literacy is available to almost everyone, and enough disgust to say that we can do better than the books/movies we see.  Along with free time, we take more time to relive, reorganize, sum up, and make little internal or external ‘highlight’ reels to remember all those memories and events in our lives.  Everything from our growing up family life, to horrible experiences like alcoholism or worse.  We package them up in a screen play or book – which our disgust tells us is often just as good or better than what we see already.  With all this in play, he asks if we are headed down a road towards mindless, self-obsessed lives where every event is reduced to words and camera angles?  A world in which we review our lives, not as Socrates intended as a growing event – but only in terms of movie or paperback potential.  Palahniuk goes one step further and suggest – we may even start picking experiences in order to generate a story.

A world in which the experience happens in order to generate a story.  Where the story you can tell is actually more important than the actual event.  Where we hurry through life, enduring event after event in order to build a list of experiences.  The problem is we may never even really be touched by the events if we live this way – we might experience them, but not actually grow or mature because of them.

He ask if folks will start actually picking and choosing our way through life so-as to make the most cool sounding character.  To live a life that we’d see played by Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt.  We may only see the world’s experiences as what Heidegger called bestand – raw natural materials like wood/oil/clay.  The problem is that Heidegger said that if you start seeing the world as bestand – then it leads you to use things, enslave and exploit things and even people for you own benefit.  Or even to enslave and exploit yourself.

So, is it happening?
I’d have to say that this somewhat happened to me in my 20’s during the dot-com boom.  I had an image of what success looked like in my head that I’d formed in college and with the dot-com raging – money flowed like water.  I aimed for that.  I got the good job in my field, the right fun activities that were cool (like snowboarding, etc), living in the right part of the country (Oregon is a magnet for this), traveling to Europe and New Zealand, searching for the right crowds to hang out with and so forth.  It wasn’t until I attained those goals that I realized that they weren’t necessarily ‘me’.   Oh, parts of them were and many were very good for me, but parts were not.

It wasn’t until I dug into my motives for acquiring or participating in these events, it often uncovered that it was sometimes me trying to impress myself or someone else in my mind.  Another might even be to impress or mimic famous people we idolize or want to pattern our lives on – like movies/sports/music stars, or historical figures.  Sometimes even fictional people I projected or created.  You were secretly trying to impress a parent(s), or someone that said you’d never make it, or classmates in school you hated and wanted to show them.  You might even play out the dialog in your head and come up with your retorts.  But in short – it is to fill your own void.

I think much of our generation – despite claiming we’re all so independent – wastes a lot of our younger years trying to be something or someone we’ve invented in our heads.  So much so that we don’t get down to the somewhat scary, but really wonderful, stuff of finding out who we really are in ourselves.  It wasn’t until I started really being comfortable and confident with my own faults/reality of myself that I was able to let that person start to blossom when I went to the seminary/monastery – and stopped needing to live up to whatever thing was in my head telling me what I should be. Instead, I can now let go of all that, and just simply live as I am.  And that’s a truly unique, wonderful, and free place to be – but can be very different than the person we think we are, or wanted to be.

As a final note, that discovery of who I am, for me, is intrinsically linked with my faith.  For my faith reminds me constantly of how loved and beautiful I am – even if I’ve made terrible mistakes or don’t measure up to my own internal yardstick.  That my past and even current fallacies – while they may have shaped me – does not have to be who I am or discount from what I was always meant to (and hopefully one day will) be – a pure person of light and love.  And if I don’t live up to my internal yardstick, then I can rely on the fact I have, or will be given, everything I really DO need.

Tom Forsyth talks to Stanford class about Larrabee

Tom Forsyth talks to Stanford class about Larrabee

Here’s a pretty good summary of what we’ve been up to – and since it happened in a public forum, you can see it.  I actually helped Tom with some of the lock-less algorithms he describes around 1:12:50



Sleep talking man’s comments blogged by wife

Sleep talking man’s comments blogged by wife

Produces pearls like:
“Elephant trunks should be used for elephant things only. Nothing else.”
“It’s CHICKEN and you LIKE IT. Lentil-loving, bean burger-sh*tting wanker.”
“Put it down! Step away from the yam. Step away!”
“I can’t control the kittens. Too many whiskers! Too many whiskers!”
“Don’t leave the duck there. It’s totally irresponsible. Put it on the swing, it’ll have much more fun.”
“Since when did my underwear look good on you? Take it off. Take it off your face.”
“I demand compensation in cola bottles. Lots of fizzy cola bottles. In one lump sum.”
“Put the lobster down. Put it down!”
“Robots making sweets? But they’ve got no taste buds! Metal smarties.”
“Oh, we’re going to be late for the pogo ballet, stop it!”
“So many spoons. You can’t have any. Cock off!”
“I’ve got a badger, a dog, a cat, and a sack. Now that I’ve got ’em you can f* off. All mine.”
“Look. Look at my left foot. Look at my left foot. Smack you in the face!”
“It’s definitely time to get up. Yes. My dog needs a new tutu.”
“I love the fact you’re a moose. Yes. So soft, so soft.”

Restoration without the restoration

Restoration without the restoration

Fascinating idea from the Computer Science guys at Purdue. 

Instead of doing expensive and dangerous chemical restoration on art, you use this completely non-evasive method.  A 3D image of the object is acquired.  One then calculates how the restored item is supposed to look (filling in paint gaps/color correction/etc), and this program controls projectors that  projects the color and image correction back onto the object via off the shelf digital projectors.  Fascinating!