Monday, August 29, 2011

On the Road Again

Well I'm off again, on the road for 2+ months and according to Google Maps 6,262 miles. The motivation for hitting the highways again, like need a reason; one of my brothers is getting married in October. Of course, there are other relatives and friends to visit along the way.

Leg One of the trip I have already made, I am back in Weed, California (up north near Mt. Shasta almost to Oregon for those not up on their Northern California geography). Once again I am cat-sitting at my good friend's place while they do their own relative visiting in Oklahoma. I imagine I will be here about three weeks give or take and then head out on the first really long leg of the trek from Weed to Shakopee, Minnesota (just south of Minneapolis/St. Paul).

After a short, poker-filled stop in MN. I shall meander about the midwest until the wedding in mid-October. Then another long hunk of driving south to Texas.

Current itinerary subject to mid-course corrections:
Berkeley, CA
Weed, CA (I'm already here, there, everywhere)
Shakopee (Minneapolis), MN
Ann Arbor, MI
Fort Wayne, IN
Franklin, IN
Austin, TX
Albuquerque, NM
Phoenix, AZ
Palm Springs, CA
Venice, CA
Marina Del Rey, CA
Berkeley, CA

Not sure how much coverage I will give the trip, the blog continues but geographically I don't really need to be anywhere in particular to disgorge the contentions of my head onto this cyber-page. I'll update the "Going Next?" over in the right column, other than that and reports on any strange natural occurrences, it will be business as unusual.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Avocado

Because it's Saturday, my blog play day.

if you're not a big avocado fan, today might well be wasted on you

so many varieties, so few meals

(to be spoken aloud in your best Homer Simpson glutton voice)

Seared Scallops with Red Grapefruit and Oh, Oh, Oh Avocado

and Ah, Ah, Ah Avocado

Friday, August 26, 2011

Aha! Moments

Sunset on Horseshoe Falls, Yosemite National Park

There is an Aha! Moment television ad in which a guy plays music at a Ronald McDonald house and a young girl comes up who has just had cochlear implants. It is the first music she ever heard. It reminded me of a story from the two years when I was a demi-god in a virtual world. Yes, a real job with Fujitsu of America, down in Silicon Valley. This was one of the early graphic virtual attempts (WorldsAway for the internet addicted) I was there in '97 & '98 before the crash.

We had volunteer helpers in the world, members who were experienced and given special powers to help new members, mediate problems and general keep an eye on things when the paid staff were not "in world." We called those helpers acolytes, this is a story one of them told and we retold when the business side of the company wanted to know what we were doing over there in our dark cave.

You get an avatar when you first entered the world and part of the identity process was making your avatar unique and recognizable to others. You could buy clothes, change your hair style and color, carry a cane or a pinwheel, have a pet puppy or a parrot on your shoulder. But the real defining change was the head. You could buy heads out of a vending machine and create yourself anew. Rare heads made for a thriving trade in noggins.

So one fine day, one of our acolytes gets a page from a member, the 'acolyte page' was an option for anyone inworld but was used most often by newbies who were just acquainting themselves with the virtual world. The acolyte responded with a standard - "How may I help you?"

Acolytes are usually busy with several citizens, so it was not unusual not to get an immediate reply. After three or four minutes, a reply came back - "I want to buy a new head."

Clearly a request from a new member and since heads are the most expensive items inworld and since you earn tokens by being inworld, it was likely the new member had not accumulated enough credits for the big purchase. The acolyte knew this, so she walked over to find the newbie and assist them. She messaged - "I will come over to you."

It took the acolyte a couple of minutes to reach the citizen, just as she got there the newbie responded - "Thank You."

Two responses each with a lead time of several minutes. Conversational lags are significant in virtual reality worlds, it could mean any number of things but being aware of them is part of virtual maturity.

The acolyte said - "Shall we go over to the store and look at some new heads?"

Again, a long lag before - "Yes, thank you."

[I am omitting a lot of the dialog here but let me just say that each move from locale to locale inworld takes two mouse clicks and each speech communication obviously takes both mouse work and key strokes. The summary is that it took the acolyte about 45 minutes to walk the citizen to the store and have them look at each of the heads on display. There were long pauses on each and every communication even though the acolyte took the initiative to accelerate the interaction by operating the head vending machines and commenting on each item for sale.]

Finally the member had selected a head and the acolyte being a good helper offered to buy the new head for the member. - "No, I would like to do it myself" was the reply.

The acolyte stepped away from the vending machine and over about five minutes the citizen was able to purchase the new head and try it on for the first time. After several more minutes the member wrote - "Thank you very much, I will write more later."

Our acolyte moved on to other requests she had been putting off while helping the member with the new head. But she was absolutely sure there would be more to the story. About an hour later, she got this message:

"My name is John. I am the person you helped buy my new head. Thank you again. I was born without the use of my arms or legs, I operate my computer with a blow straw. Until I found this world I had never ever earned any wages and today for the very first time in my life, I bought something for myself. Thank you again."


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Week in Earthquakes

Who would have thunk it, earthquakes in Colorado and Virginia. We Californians tend to chuckle at the evacuated buildings in D.C. We would never get anything done if we ran outside every time the earth moved. The best line I heard was a native Golden Stater who said: "Five point Two, hell that's just enough to rock my kid to sleep."

Late last night, after I send out several smug emails to my east coast friends who were all afrazzle about their big quake, well I was shaken out of bed by a little (3.6) tembler epicentered about six miles from my 8th floor apartment. Then this morning another one. Makes you wanna go immediately to and check the Armageddon Alarm Clock.

But seriously, this would be a good week for those of you not living in Alaska, California, Hawaii or Puerto Rico to take a look at a weekly map of quakes in the U.S. I think you might be surprised just how often the planet does shake, rattle and roll.

Oh and that picture up top comes from not from California but from the fields of Tennessee, where we find the New Madrid Fault that includes parts of Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. On December 16, 1811 a 7.2 quake was recorded on this fault line, but you know what they say - "these things only happened about once every two hundred years."
• just a tiny bookkeeping note - this is the 600th post on my blog since I began in '07

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gay Prejudice

There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.  -- Robertson Davies

Some time back I wrote a blog post in which I offered my opinion that one of our current societal prejudices is  slowly dying. Gay prejudice, homophobic hatred is simply going to die out as -- well not to put it too bluntly -- as the bigots get old and die.

The youngest of the generations actually able to make themselves heard and understood, say 12-20 year olds, just don't care about the old bigotries surrounding gender identification. Or, again to be blunt, the kids don't care who you screw, or why, or when or how often. They, thankfully, have shed the prejudices around sexuality.

However, my opinion was that we are indeed waiting for the old bigots to die. I think in the post-modern western world we may have been in this situation for a very long time. The objects of the fading prejudice change but the progressive progress towards universal equality ebbs ever onward. 

Woman, Irish, Blacks, Gays and yes there are many more on any comprehensive list and more to follow in the tide of giving us your tired, your weak, your hungry, your flamboyant etc. etc.

Recent news might suggest that, at least in the gay (Sorry PC-lovers: LGBT) arena, the walls may be crumbling faster than I anticipated. A recent Gallup poll found the 53% of respondents believed marriages between same-sex couples should be legal with the same rights as traditional marriages. This represents an all-time high having never polled a majority in favor of gay marriages before.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bertrand Russell - In His Own Words

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim. --Bertrand Russell

I ran across this Bertrand Russell quotation the other day and was a bit taken aback. Cynical was not really his style. Critical yes, but not cynical. I realized this would be my second Russell quote in as many months, which led me to today's litany of quotes from the esteemed philosopher, mathematician and social commentator.

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way. - also B. Russell

I was with him right up until the last line. I too think that we tend to reject any evidence that goes against our engrained belief system and accept all types of nonsense that supports what we already think we know to be true, factual or real. I don't quite see how he got to the origin of myths with this. Besides the best quote on that subject is: "History becomes legend, legend becomes myth."

All movements go too far. - B. Russell

My favorite BR quote even though when I was younger I completely disagreed with its main point. "Our" movement after all was going to change the world.

A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand. --

Bertrand Russell

I phrase it a bit differently - I have one big prejudice, I abhor voluntary stupidity.

In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. -B. Russell

One of the hallmark slogans of the sixties - 'Question Authority' became the more universal - 'Question Everything.' Bertrand and I would add - 'Question Yourself.'

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence. -Bertrand Russell

While I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment, the point needs to be pushed further. Intelligence is spoken of in the bible, but god is credited with having an exclusive.
photograph from National Geographic

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Newspapers

When I was growing up in semi-rural Michigan, the bulk of the Lavalli clan still lived in Detroit. Easter and several other Sundays were spent on W. Lafayette at the house were my Aunts Alice & Doris, Uncle Ray and Grandma Lavalli still lived. Most of my father's generation were born in that house. Often as kids we would go to the city for the weekend and come home with our parents late Sunday night, I still remember falling asleep in the backseat on the long, pre-freeway drive home on Michigan Avenue.

No internet back then, no news magazine for my family either; we were newspaper readers in the heyday of print media. Early on Saturday evening when we were in Detroit, the "first edition" of the Sunday papers would be delivered. One each of the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit Times. I fondly recall sitting on the green metal glider on the enclosed front porch and reading all three sets of comics. Full page, brightly printed, full size Sunday comics on Saturday night. My aunts, uncles, parents and older cousins would collectively pour over the "adult" sections of all three papers. As I got older, I added first the sports sections then entertainment and finally the hard news.

But what fascinated me the most was that on Sunday morning there would be three more papers delivered before anyone woke up. The 'Sunday sections' including comics, roto-review, ads, personals etc. all came only with the Saturday evening deliveries. The Sunday morning papers were overnight updates of the front page section, sports, editorials and entertainment and 75% of those were repeats of the first edition from the evening before.

Those were not the only two weekend editions. There was the regular Saturday morning or afternoon deliveries. The Free Press was a morning paper, the News an afternoon edition and the evening Times. In the city we got all of the Saturday papers plus the first  Sunday edition on Saturday night and all three City Finals in the morning. There was also a late night edition that was printed overnight between the "first edition" and the "Sunday final" it went out by truck to the suburbs that was the paper we got delivered at home, way out there in the sticks.

I discovered when I started working at the pharmacy that my dad had not broken the multiple-Sunday edition addiction. He had a bundle of the Saturday evening first edition delivered to the store late on Saturday, one copy for him and several more for other Detroit ex-patriots who had like us, escaped to the rural life.

The Times stopped operating in 1960, while the Free Press and the News have had a "joint operating agreement" since the late 80s. These days I don't subscribe to any newspapers, haven't since I left Michigan in 1975. Times and The Times change.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Facial Recognition

Poker players and crime profilers know how important it is to read facial expressions. Do you know what cards these cats have? or what crimes they've committed.



Turn around and go back where you came from.

the dog did it

Palin, really?

(readers choice on this one)

Hello lunch.

Ooooh no you didn't!


Get back in the truck now!

Yes laughter.

a little closer, just a little closer ...


Friday, August 19, 2011

Bumperstickers to Explain It All

There's a difference between a philosophy and a bumpersticker. -- Charles M. Schulz

Just a bit of a metaphysical pondering on the back end of the classic American motorcar. I was prompted to explore the variety of philosophical bumperstickers by this next one I saw the other day in of all places - the People's Republic of Berkeley.
This prompted an ugly scene, I saw the car parked in the lot of the Berkeley Whole Foods. Angered lefties had thrown tofu and sprouts all over the vehicle. Will vegan violence never end?

I just like this one, the meaning escapes me.

This one for my friends who never quite "got" buddhism.

for my platonic friends
(apologies for all the white space, the blogger software and I are having a disagreement; I lost)
no need to elaborate

Friedrich really?!

I just couldn't resist.

and this is simply my favorite bumper sticker ever

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jerry Garcia

I was in San Francisco the other day, we stopped for lunch at Cha Cha Cha in my old neighborhood - the Upper Haight or as it is still called Haight-Ashbury. In the summer of 1995 I was living a couple of blocks from the corner of Haight & Ashbury in The City. On August 9th of that summer, Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia passed away of a heart attack while in a drug rehabilitation facility. He was 53.

Around 11 o'clock in the evening, I walked up to Haight Street to see what tributes there might be to the fallen leader of the Grateful Dead. The light poles at the corner of Haight and Ashbury were festooned with garlands. There were pictures of Jerry and the Dead on every stoop and curb. Candles glowed from windows. Lots of kids were sitting on the street listening to Dead tunes coming from a second story window.

Later that night I wrote an email to my friends who could not be there that night. Those words are now long lost but one thing I vividly remember. I painted the picture of Haight-Ashbury 1995, the four corners reflected the changing face of The Haight. Sure there was still the same vintage clothing store on one corner and a t-shirt shoppe full of tie-dye on another; but the other two corners were a brand new Gap and a Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Emporium.

I knew that ice cream shoppe or rather they knew me, I stopped there often enough that the evening crew recognized me. I had given a couple of the scoopers advice on community college classes. I poked my head in that night and one of them waved me over to the counter.

"I've worked here for two years," he said, "we've never run out of a flavor before."

I must have looked at him with a blank, unknowing expression because he continued: 

"Everybody's been buying Cherry Garcia, it's all gone."

There are tributes and there are tributes. I wonder do they still make Wavy Gravy?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Medical Marijuana (6): A Conundrum

This post is a little late, not that anyone but me takes notice of these things, but I have a dilemma. As I mentioned last time "an experimental anomaly" has arisen. In my perfect world the effects of medical marijuana would be a high level of pain alleviation coupled with a low level of mental alteration. I would hurt less and not get high.

Unfortunately, it seems the same chemical properties of cannabis that contribute to pain relief also deal out the marijuana buzz. After several instances of being 'too high' I was considering abandoning my medical marijuana investigation when a friend pointed out that I had, over time, completely overcome the deleterious side effects of hydrocodone. Might not I be able to do the same with cannabis?

My approach has been to inhale or ingest mini-doses to minimize the buzz of the marijuana. That, however, means delivering micro-doses of pain relief to a macro-pain problem. Therefore, I am going to institute a new protocol using the higher dose approach to see if indeed I will adjust to the side effects. In the next few days I will acquire another batch of products in several "delivery modalities" and begin phase two of my foray into personal human experimentation.

Below, good news, a product that does work without side effects.

PRODUCT REPORT: Tincture of Cannabis

Several providers produce a topical tincture of cannabis spray, usually alcohol based liquids. One dispensary (Harborside in Oakland) has a two part product, often referred to as being like "the two ingredients in epoxy." You spray on the alcohol based part one, let it dry and then rub on the cream based second part. Even though my pain comes from a deep spinal deformity, I find the tincture relieves topical pain and relaxes the surface muscles. If I use the product fifteen minutes before my stretching exercises, I have more range of motion and less pain while exercising. I would recommend this product, to those with arthritis and joint pain, particularly for use on the hands, neck and elbows; areas with close skin surface access.

Previous posts in this series:
Medical Marijuana (5): The Patients
Medical Marijuana (4): Botanical Chemistry
Medical Marijuana (3): Human Experimentation
Medical Marijuana (2): The Dispensary

Afghan White Widow

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings)

Land of Oz

Neverland (Disney's not Jackson's)

Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin)

Hogwart's (Marauder's Map)

Map of the Verse (Firefly)

Population of Imaginary Friends (USA-2006)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Online Dating Reflections

Today the semi-serious side of sex and relationship in the age of online introductions. It's not really online dating, unless you consider anonymous texting a date. But we live in the age of the net and much bantered about numbers suggest that one in every four new relationships begin on the web.

My history with online introductions is over twenty years in the making. I was an early adopter with many forays into web-based dating in the last two decades. The result has been way too many coffee dates for a guy who doesn't drink coffee and an overall dissatisfaction with my limited success. It seemed to me that I lacked commitment to the endeavor; yet, when I really focused my intention to using the various services and meeting "the" woman, I did meet more women but with even more frustration, failure and coffee.

I took a fresh look at the whole world of online relationship initiation when a friend had not only success but big-time, over-the-top, super-duper, approaching soul-mate success.

I have discussed this with male friends, who have also dipped their cyber-toes into the fertile waters of the internet. I was surprised to find that my profiles tend to elicit more responses than most, so it's not that I don't draw initial interest. It's the follow through that lacks - well, lacks follow through. Which, in my mind, leads to the conclusion that I am doing something wrong. I have tweaked my profile, tried humor and linked to this blog. My 100 Things About Me link has gotten dozens of responses, but without the big click.

So when my friend found her guy, I thought I should take another look at her approach. Luckily she is a writer and has several excellent posts about her experience. Her early frustrations seemed to mirror mine and when she reached the promised land I was more than intrigued.

I am a bit envious because she manages to articulate the ins and outs of online encounters without trashing the men who have not risen to her standards. I have never been able to accomplish this in the dozen or more posts I have drafted and trashed in the past 4+ years. Before this week, nary a word has been written on this blog about online dating. Today I offer two insights - one for you fellow seekers and one for me.

If you have tried online dating or intend to, I strongly recommend you take some time to read the writings of my now successfully relationed friend. Here is a link to her most recent post which has internal links to half a dozen or so previous commentaries on the entire process of finding someone online. I promise the time you spend reading her reflections will save you endless hours of online frustration and numerous uncomfortable cups of coffee.

One point she makes I am taking to heart. She stopped following the formula of the online dating sites; she ignored the "likes & dislikes", put aside the "family history" and the "books, movies and exercise" questions. This produced a new profile which she wrote is: "a straight forward statement of what I was seeking." That rang a big bell for me.

Apparently my profile represents me pretty well, but it really doesn't deal with what I am seeking in a relationship. Notice the line does not read "what I am seeking in a woman." Fatal flaw of many online daters is the assumption that they are fully formed and once they dangle their perfect partner description into the dating waters, the perfect man or woman will arise. 

If you have a "perfect partner" list - burn it. What you need, what I need, is a clear statement of what you/I/we seek in a relationship. My friend saw that and she rewrote her profile to conform to her relationship goal. A few months later, it found her. So ....

When I come back from my impending fall road trip, assuming I do not stumble on true love or a reasonable facsimile while on the road; when I come back I am rewriting my profile to address my relational wants, needs and desires. If it worked for Arlene . . .

To my friends, advisors, warlocks and crystal-gazers who have attempted to help me in the past - many thanks but I think I am going to go with this plan for the immediate future. The voodoo totems, genital acupuncture and full moon sacrifices of politicians will be on hold for now.
art: Luci Gutierrez - NYT

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seeking SWF with Big Lens

I have been seeking that someone special for a very long time. Most recently I have updated my "needs list" to include a woman who has a good camera with a big telephoto lens. You see I have this really big view and I just can't capture it with my really tiny instrument...

What do I have to offer? In no particular order: big bed, big stories, big brain and this really big view.

On a clear day - the Bay Bridge and San Francisco.

Bay Area weather is nothing if not changeable.

and since we view is due West . . .

Among other things, the woman of my dreams should possess: photoshop and a enormous level of acceptance of over-the-top metaphors.

I would also add that I am about to embark on another of my periodic road trips. This one begins in two weeks and will last a bit over two months. More on that later, including my big reveal on my new approach to online dating, which I will implement upon my return to the Bay area later this fall.

Tomorrow - the writing that led to this week's focus on relationships.