Category: Uncategorized

Today we had an earthquake (technically yesterday by now). I’m going to consider it practice for the real thing, as no one got hurt (all I’ve heard thus far was two people were injured in the quake… both by banging their heads trying to get under a table).

The key thing I learned today was how quickly people plug up the cell phone circuits. I could not reach anyone, which is hard because that is the first instinct (after self preservation). We felt the shake in Hollywood, and had no way of knowing if we were at the distant edge of something huge or in the middle of something minor. Luckily, we had internet, and once the shaking stopped, I could tell home was not very much affected.

It’s funny to watch. We’ve had a lot of construction going on near work. So a little shaking is not a surprise. Everyone just stopped and looked up. Then came the realization it was a quake. There wasn’t room in a doorway, so I stayed near my desk and got ready to drop next to it (new guidelines suggest finding a space that would form a triangle if something falls). It was over before I could kneel. The overall mood was a big “oh well”. Then we went outside for a bit.

So… should the big one come, I really don’t know what I’ll do. Make for a doorway before they fill up? Run outside? Or just get down beside my desk? But for now, no one was hurt, and I know that phone silence is to be expected. Oh well.

Catching Up

I just posted about 200 pictures to Flickr. I could not believe just how much time had passed since I did that. Here’s just a few… click through to see the rest!

T9!  Obey The Law Of Gravity!
Levitating Boy

S12 And His Teacher
Leaving Elementary School

T9's Birthday
Overly Happy Birthday Child

2008 Mother's Day
Mother’s Day Family Picture

Easter 2008
Messy Easter Egg Hunter

A book meme!

ChatBrat gave me this meme. You know I’m a sucker for being tagged for these things. Haha!

The rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

OK, story here is I read this but couldn’t reply right away. So I picked up the nearest book at the time, and chose that to be my book. I figured it counted more if I wasn’t prepared when I read the instructions. Knowing the rules, I was afraid it would influence my choice later.

The closest book by a longshot was “Computer Animation: Theory and Practice”. I packed this book in my backpack for laughs. It was printed in 1987 and was the textbook for a class I took while in college. Things were different then.

Here’s the text:
“Sammie was designed in 1980 at the University of Nottingham. This is, so far, the best parameterized human model and it presents a choice of physical types: slim, fat, muscled, etc. The vision system is very developed and complex objects can be manipulated by Sammie, based on 21 rigid links with 17 joints.”

Long sentences. Not the most exciting thing to share. haha The primary focus of the book was a video called “Dream Flight”. I found it on YouTube. Prepare to be (retroactively) amazed!!!!

Who do I tag?
Catholic Mom

Have fun folks!!! :D

Peek A Boo!
The rain won’t come.
So I sit in the sun and
I stare into its light through closed eyes.
This is where I go for comfort
But there is none today.
You’re not here, and yet you are.
Only yesterday I would have said the same,
And it would have meant something good.
But today I can’t bring you closer
With an email
With a joke over the phone
With a trip to the east coast.
I could work through the Gone that
The miles created.
I could get past the distance.
Now I can only remember.
That will be good in time,
But now it just reminds me
That you should still be here.
My eyes are alight with brilliant red,
My mind with memories of you.
My “little” sister Lynda died on March 30th after a long battle with cancer. Ten years ago, the doctors would probably have given her less than a year to live. I am so glad they were wrong. Most of those years, you would never have known she was ill. Still, it doesn’t do much to make it easier knowing she was only 38 years old and the mother of a young son when she finally passed.

I’ll talk about her in a better light someday, I promise. Right now, I am just having a little trouble finding words to do her justice.

My Sister and I

Today, I put my oldest computer to bed. It was purchased in October 1996, and was running Windows 98. Technically, it was retired about 18 months ago, but it sat in a room waiting for data harvesting for all that time. Tonight I did that, and the harvest was good.

Once I had what I needed, I started destroying personal data, thinking I might donate it, but the big recipients don’t seem interested in a machine over 5 years old. So I will locate a responsible recycling program and have it destroyed in a “green” fashion. The hard drive will suffer a rough end to ensure it can’t be read, because the more data I destroyed, the more I found in “ini” files and registry entries (tax programs and financial programs I’ve used over the years).

Along the way, I found this…

Good ol’ CompuServe. My entry into the world outside my home computer. This was my first account, started in 1983 on a 300bd modem and an Atari 130XE computer.

My first online experience dates back to 1982, when I was 15 years old. I was visiting a pen-pal, Holly, in upstate New York. Her dad took me into the office one day and set me off on CompuServe CB while he worked. “This is other people typing to me? Incredible!!!”

No one seemed interested in speaking to me, though. An old friend-of-the-family had stopped by recently and was telling us about his actual CB radio experiences. I was using his handle, which — though I did not know it then — was rather offensive. I learned that day, though, how offensive it was, as I CB’ed in the presence of Holly’s dad. I sent a formal letter of apology for that, and he replied that he hadn’t noticed. Kind of funny looking back, but terrifying at the time.

Later, on my own account, I made many friends, although I have a hard time remembering who they were. Daddio was from Long Island, my old haunts. I never learned where VirtualVixen originated, but she was on my channel all the time, too (the number of which, btw, I fail to recall — 13 maybe?). Later on, I remember Peaches, who was pregnant and deathly afraid of giving birth. My name was EeeTee (all other variants were taken, and it was my pen-pals in upstate New York who gave me the nick “E.T.” in the first place, so I chose to adapt and spell it the way E.T. said it). In time, a number of these folks migrated to IRC channels dedicated to the old CB channels. Eventually, I lost touch.

As the years went by, my number, “72750, 1412″, proved to be very low. A 5-digit first part meant instant respect (i.e. – you were “mature” and not liable to spend the whole time trying to “hotchat” everyone on the channel). I maintained my low numbered CompuServe account until the advent of CompuServe2000. I had to convert the account to reactivate after a brief stint with AOL, and I ended up with a high 6-digit number — a true sign of being a newbie. But that was alright. The web was alive, and really all CompuServe was for was getting to it. The number no longer mattered.

Looking today, I expected to see CompuServe gone. Last I saw, it was under AOL’s reign. But, it’s still there. Netscape is running it now. I wonder just how many people it hosts, if they still call it CB instead of “chat rooms”, and what Daddio is up to today.

I’ve posted about my hometown before, and you may or may not know that my feelings about it are not very positive. But I’ve finally drawn an analogy that left me feeling quite sympathetic. Far Rockaway is like a beautiful child who, through years of abuse has turned into an abusive parent. What drove this home is the following video, sent to me by my brother-in-law, Mike.

Thank you Ben Budick for this song, and Skip Weinstock for the slide/video show.

So, I’m going to let my thoughts on this town flow here for a bit.

Many years ago, The Rockaways were a beach paradise. They were in the shadow of Coney Island’s attractions, perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless. I am reminded periodically of this, like when we were walking the halls of Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and saw vintage pictures of Far Rockaway framed on the walls in the elevator lobby.

The problems came about when legislation was proposed to allow casinos in the area. A great deal of land became tied up waiting for casinos to come through, and eventually low-income housing projects were put up on that land. If I understand correctly, the Long Island Railroad line was split and the western link became the “A” train subway (elevated through the Rockaways). The local streets, at one time lined with beachfront bungalows, went abandoned. Houses were replaced by buildings.

When I was very little, I remember concession stands in Far Rockaway (furthest from NYC and Brooklyn) and Mom offering me a taste of a knish (“ewww!!” at the time). My memories of Rockaway’s Playland amusement park are a bit more recent and clear. I may be combining two stories here, but I remember my mother talking about riding the roller coaster there repeatedly, as they were giving out free rides while filming a Cinerama film. The growing pain in her stomach was, unbeknownst to her, appendicitis. I grew up through Playland’s downfall. As I got older, parts shut down, and I remember coming to realize it was “not a very nice place” as time went on. Still, when I heard it closed and another beachfront vintage rollercoaster was leveled, it saddened me.

My sister, when she was dating my brother-in-law, drove through “the crack capitol of the world” which lay between our area and his. One night, a cop approached her at a red light and told her not to wait for green lights anymore. “No cop would ticket you for running lights here.”

There are still a lot of good neighborhoods in the Rockaways. And there are lots of good people holding on and working to keep it nice. I can see this by those who are still living in my old neighborhood when I go back. I am also certain that throughout those rough areas there are lots of good people just trying to get by. I take my hat off to all of you. But do not confuse my respect for optimism about the town’s prospects.

The casinos never came. And the beaches are there for the residents, but not welcoming to outsiders. Many people who live there make the trek to Jones Beach instead of the short trip to the local beach.

Miss Rockaway
A picture taken by my dad of a mural commemorating Rockaway’s Playland.

I don’t miss the place I grew up. But I miss the people, and I somehow miss a place I never knew. That I caught an occasional glimpse of as it faded away. That I see in memories of others, as recorded in the video above.

… So How Did I Fall Off???

Once again, you may have wondered if I’d finally put my poor blog to sleep, and once again the answer is no. Well, yes, if you count a little winter hibernation. We are working on an absolutely wonderful project at work, but it’s a doozy. The hours have been long and it’s almost like I’m working away from home. But, as there’s a small degree of anonymity to my blog, I have chosen not to share titles and such here.

However, we have had some time on the weekends to enjoy some of what California has to offer. We’ve discovered hiking and we LIKE it! Our first trip was to Vasquez Canyon. This is the site where westerns were filmed. Blazing Saddles was filmed here as well as everyone’s favorite western, The Flintsones. Huh? Oh well. Earthquakes have caused huge rock formations to stick up at odd angles from the ground. We climbed quite high, but what looks like a 30-degree incline feels like a 60-degree incline when you reach about 150 feet above the ground (aka that very large, very hard thing that would not be disturbed in the least if you were to splatter up against it). The four stages of this incline were as follows. “S12, let’s go up!”, followed by “S12, it’s getting a bit scary and dangerous”. Next came, “I only climbed this far in case you get hurt and need help getting down”, and finally, “Well, it was nice having ya while it lasted. Hope you make it down on your own.” I will make it to the top one day, myself.



More recently, we went to the Hollyridge Trail. This is the path that takes you up as close as you can get to the Hollywood Sign. It also puts you on the pinnacle of the Hollywood Hills, where you can see both North Hollywood and Hollywood. During this trip, we spotted another special treat… snow capped mountains in the distance (which is a good place for ANYTHING covered in snow unless I’m wearing a lift pass).

It's so close... but wait!

Just... wow!

So, the truth is, we’re stretched, but we’re getting by. Our back yard is under construction and coming along nicely. Pictures of that will come soon enough. The kids are doing well in school (M6′s last paper came home with a comment, “Perfect, again.” on it – haha). Michelle’s work has been extremely understanding of the chaos in our house. We’re very appreciative. We hope it calms down.. but not too much. Gotta be careful what you wish for when you freelance.

Thanks for bearing with me, and I hope I didn’t lose too many of you in the rush.

… is not the fact that these are cloned, glow-in-the-dark cats.

It’s the fact that my entire reaction was a mildly bemused “that’s cool!”. This is really the domain of “mad scientists!” Now… if they could just mount a laser on their heads.

Click here for the story.

I am about to let the sci fi geek in me slip out somewhat. Consider yourself forewarned.

Picture two states of human existence. The first is today. One source of intelligence in society… humans. Machine intelligence is on the rise, but simply not much of a threat. This is not about a “Matrix” or “Terminator” style threat. It’s more Asimovian. It’s about one potential reality and our path to it.

The second state is where machines have reached or exceeded human intelligence. They’re not taking over or controlling us for our own good. The only point I’m getting at here is that they can basically do any and all sorts of labor previously dominated by humans, including reparing each other. In my version of this state, there is no desire and there is no real need to understand their self awareness. They don’t create a society. Desire and curiosity, in my opinion, were there long before human intelligence. The simplest of animals experiences emotion. The machines would be content to serve humans, as that was what they were made for. Their goals would be given to them by us, but they could think through them faster and more creatively.

Realistic or not, how the machines feel and think is not my question. What I am thinking about is this: Currency fails at some point. What are we exchanging? The only thing I can think of, when I think of exchanges, is real estate. Granted, someone may own the machines, facilities, and materials, but if there’s no need for people to run them, where do the customers come from? With no one making money to purchase things, the values collapse.

Society kind of falls vaguely into the communist realm. The machines provide, the people consume. People are free to pursue what they want because those producing the goods just do it. There’s no need for incentive. So, you may simply go to the store and get a lamp. Soon, another lamp will be there to replace it at no expense. You can go on a vacation where you want because the transport systems and hotels simply run. You may have to wait, though, because anyone else can do it too.

Now… there’s today, where we earn and spend. Then there’s the distant tomorrow, somewhere beyond the Singularity, where we don’t need work to earn to enjoy life. What happens between now and then?

Machines have already taken certain jobs away. The most obvious to me being the welding bots on assembly lines. Soon, you’ll be able to tell a machine to retrieve objects. Enhancements here will start to reduce the need for people in stores and warehouses. Continue onward, and jobs requiring more and more “human” skills will be replaced. We’re seeing ads now in California for robotic surgical procedures (still entirely human orchestrated, but machines are doing the cutting/stitching while the surgeon works with joysticks and a video screen — human hands have now been surpassed). What happens as machine intelligence progresses to a state above ours?

I have not figured out this scenario. It would seem to me that there will come some sort of economic collapse. Using the simplest expression I can think of, there will come a point where twenty percent of jobs are performed better by machines, or fifty, or eighty. You can’t simply “turn off” money, because it’s the whole incentive to do the remaining percentage of human work. But corporations won’t pay a person twenty dollars per hour to do what a machine can do for eight. Those that try will be shut down by those that don’t.

So, creative types, speculate with me. How do we get from a currency-based society to one with no currency? What happens to the rich and poor when the labor pool dissolves from the bottom up? What, in the more distant robotic labor society, prevents exhaustion of resources (I’m guessing anything you replace gets recycled by some process that human labor makes impractical today, mind you, and materials once mined are minimally needed again from the earth)? How would real estate work? If only one thing has value, how do you get it for the first time?

I’ve not seen this “middle state” addressed before. Is anyone aware of any novels or stories about this?

I’ve been tagged by IT Catholic Mom to do the following meme. It’s taken me forever to get to it, but here it is:

Here are the rules. (1) Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves. (2) People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules. (3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (4) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Fact one: I’m currently listening to Discworld by Terry Pratchett on MP3. The reason I included this is that so much of the book surrounds the number eight, which is reflected in the number of random facts.

Fact two: I look for patterns and numbers everywhere I go. Primarily they are 42′s, but I also seek out 1138′s (as in THX1138, George Lucas’ first film which he and his buddy Steven Speilberg reference in most of their films) . I look for birthdays and numeric references to letters. Look hard enough, and you’ll notice that 42 is in every Pixar movie somewhere, and also in the sequences of numbers presented in “Lost” and “Donnie Darko”.

Fact three: I am completely a type-B personality. That is, unless you get me in the driver’s seat. A magical transformation occurs and I’m suddenly type-A, prompting my wife to utter, “WHO…ARE…YOU?” when I am faced with an unpleasant driving situation.

Fact four: People generally cannot tell I was raised on Long Island by my accent. I lost my accent during four years of radio shows at college. Listening to my tapes, I could hear the accent, and it didn’t fit in with what I heard from the other DJ’s. I wasn’t aware that what I worked on for the radio show would carry over into daily life, but I’ve been OK with that as I moved about the country. Still, if I’ve had a few to drink or am angry, it comes back out. I’ve been pegged for Poughkeepsie (quite accurately based on where I lost the LI accent) and Canada (I say “eh”, and have picked up a slightly Canuck “ya” from friends on the ships).

Fact five: I am addicted to online socialization. There’s no word shy of that which fits. It started with “CB” on CompuServe in 1983 (actually, it goes back to the less-technical pen-pals I had as a teen). It led into a brief stint on AOL chat rooms. Then to IRC. At this point, Second Life is my compulsion. There are two reasons for this. One is that I cannot get out to social venues much at this stage in life, and the other is that people like me frequent these places, so there is commonality. Of course, this blog is yet another outlet of this addiction, although it’s suffered at the hands of SL and an exaggerated commute lately.

Fact six: In the early 1980′s, I was given the nickname “ET”. When the film first came out, I went to visit my pen-pals in upstate New York. Young teens, themselves, they had a very different view of my hometown than was reality (i.e. – “how can a little guy like you survive without a gang?”). One of them made the comment, “Wow, it’s like you’re all alone in a whole different world?” One thing led to another, and my fate was sealed. My first car, a Ford Torino Elite, was named “Eliot”, and hanging from its rearview mirror was a plushy ET figure from a carnival. In college, I argued lightheartedly with a friend (another Eric) whose last name began with “T” as to who truly owned the nickname. It was never resolved.

Fact seven: I am not easily embarrassed. At work once, a friend got a botched up haircut and fixed it by buzzing his whole head with a #3 guard. My boss asked, “How much to get that buzzcut on purpose?” I suggested $100. He dropped 5 $20′s on the table. I did it and got the money. My haircutter jokingly asked numerous times if I wanted that haircut again. At animation school, for some reason, I landed on 7 of the 12 students’ demo reels interacting with CG robots. they said it was because they liked my acting. I attribute it to simply being willing to let loose in front of a recording device.

Fact eight: I require very little external stimulus. I can simply think for hours. When I left Florida for California, I had bunches of CD’s in the car and an audiobook on MP3. Three days later, the Police best-of CD was still in its wrapper, and I’d only made it halfway through the 8-hour audio book. I listened to The Jam repeatedly and took in what passed by my windows. I don’t really recall boredom the entire way. On our first driving trips, Michelle was worried about how I’d handle being on the road. Once I learned not to drink iced tea on the road (20 minutes between potty breaks?? no way!), we established a very zen mode of travel. Our kids have inherited this trait, thank God!

OK… eight other people… I’m going to start with my newest blogging friend, Karys, who was looking for a reason to restart blogging. Next, three others with whom I’ve been blogging buddies longest… Aynde, Cara, and Christy. Then, I’ll move to friends from Second Life (of whom, Karys is one)… Rosa, Jaycatt, and Johan (who ASKED for contact and who might kill me for giving it in this form haha). I’m even going to go out on a limb and ask Dolmere to join in (fellow second-lifer and fellow poster of randomly found 42′s!). Kinda hard to come up with eight people when your circles have already been tagged. :)

OK… time to walk away from the keyboard before the urge to socialize online overtakes me once again!