A little shake

Max, 2007/10/30 

Now it’s obvious. I suck at feeling earthquakes. I thought the strongest earthquake in the Bay Area since Loma Prieta was a truck passing by. Both of the more sensitive members of my household swore the whole house was shaking but I had to go online to check the live Earthquake map (above) to be sure. Maybe I was so intent on the pumpkin I was carving that I almost failed to notice. Dunno. Maybe I should be a battlefield surgeon or something.


Max, 2007/10/29 

This is one cool guy. I’ve been extremely fortunate not only to have met Kim Stanley Robinson personally, but to have somehow succeeded in befriending him. I can’t think of anyone who inspires me more. I’ve often exchanged accounts of wilderness adventures with Stan via email, and his brief, one or two paragraph summaries of his latest jaunt in the Sierras are as fun to read as anything in his published fiction, except more so because no one else gets to read them. I point the reader now to the next best thing. Stan has a story in Flurb #4 entitled Kistenpass, about a somewhat ordinary day hiking in the Swiss Alps- at least it starts out that way. What I find remarkable is how closely it tracks with the spirit of many of his accounts of insane adventures by some of his best characters in fiction; Sax Russell caught in a snowstorm in Green Mars (or was it Blue?), the main guy in The Wild Shore in a marathon swim to the shore of California, Frank Vanderwal facing a killing night in 50 Degrees Below. It’s a recurring motif and one of my favorite things about his books. Now you can see the real life person who inspires his fiction… Stan himself.

I also love his evident joy in intellectual and cultural exploration- like his thrill of a well executed conversation in limited German. Reminded me of the kick I got out of getting the Russian speaking store clerk in St. Petersburg to understand I needed a two to three prong electric adapter and grasping his instructions on where to find it. There’s also the vivid descriptions of the wonders of geology in its most majestic manifestations. Every observation is it’s own little scientific or cultural essay. A very cool dude indeed. Enjoy!

The New Forbidden Fruit

Demonweed, 2007/10/27 

“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

–The Book of Genesis

Personally, I place no stock in any organized faith. Yet I also take no offense from self-contained religious practices. By that I mean to indicate acceptance of prayers and sermons and even taboos as they exist within a community of faith. Where my acceptance falls away is when taboos are projected from communities of faith onto the whole of a society.

I believe murder should be illegal because living in a society where it was legal would put a real damper on happiness, productivity, et al. The fact that most religions condemn it is a happy coincidence, not proof of infallible wisdom. Thus it is that I believe eating pork, avoiding churches, or even premarital sex should all be legally protected activities. Happiness and productivity are threatened by policies that would make criminals of citizens acting on the thought “I’d like to sleep late this Sunday morning, thrill my girlfriend repeatedly, then round out the day with a nice pepperoni pizza.”

read more…

FEMA and the CA wildfires

Cat eyes,  

How hard it must be to be a FEMA employee. Worse than chickens with their heads cut off, they don’t even go around screaming “the sky is falling,” they just run. The contrast between the San Diego fires and the New Orleans hurricane are stark – say like black and white. Poor blacks and the richest city of more than 2500 (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) and guess what color and party denomination? Of course the rich people who don’t get everything back from the insurance and assistance programs are savvy enough to buy good lawyers to file lawsuits. Oh yeah, the N’Orleans folks, could afford, well, squat. Think there might be some tough questions? Naw, we’ll just ask the questions of ourselves. And people wonder why agencies and industries and corporations can’t police themselves. Puhhh-leeeeze.

Back to back

Max, 2007/10/25 

I must have died and gone to heaven. Two operas in two nights. This time it was The Magic Flute in the third row of the Grand Tier. The whole family for the price of parking. Yes, there’s a story about that, but not tonight.

I won’t be going for the hat trick tomorrow night. I’ll be sleeping with lions. Maybe a story there too?

Glass delivers – but is it opera?


Civil war soldier

Philip Glass is considered the premier contemporary American opera composer and despite having a love for his music, I’d never seen one of his operas until last night. He’s already scored big with Satyagraha, about Ghandi and Einstein of the Beach, and he has writen several soundtracks associated with civil war themes, so Appomattox was a natural draw for him.

The opening scene is prologue to the conclusion of the war. Three scenes are performed simultaneously, a technique used throughout the piece to great effect. Julia Grant (Ullysses’ wife) enters first and begins a dour lament on the horror of war, repeating refrains of “war is sorrowful” and “this is the last time” over a rising, haunting Glass score. She’s “joined” by Mary Custis (Lee’s wife) in a wheelchair with her daughter Agnes and Mary Todd Lincoln with her black seamstress Elizabeth Keckley who join the refrain as it rises to a haunting power. I love a good quintet, and women’s voices, and Glass’s music, and the combination is magical. I felt nearly knocked over by the wave of well-orchestrated pathos. I can’t think of another opera that opens so powerfully.

read more…

Athenians in Egypt

Max, 2007/10/24 

I’m reading Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, at least until Zubrin’s manuscript arrives. It’s full of detailed accounts of this city state sacking and pillaging that city state until it can, frankly, get a little tedious. There are some unexpected nuggets to be found, however. for one, I had no idea that the Athenians had at one time- not long after they had defeated the Persians and were feeling their oats- conquered and subjugated Egypt, albeit briefly:

Meanwhile the Athenians in Egypt and their allies were still there, and encountered all the vicissitudes of war. First the Athenians were masters of Egypt, and the King sent Megabazus a Persianto Lacedaemon with money to bribe the Peloponnesians to invade Attica and so draw off the Athenians from Egypt. Finding that the matter made no progress, and that the money was only being wasted, he recalled Megabazus with the remainder of the money, and sent Megabuzus, son of Zopyrus, a Persian, with a large army to Egypt. Arriving by land he defeated the Egyptians and their allies in a battle, and drove the Hellenes out of Memphis, and at length shut them up in the island of Prosopitis, where he besieged them for a year and six months. At last, draining the canal of its waters, which he diverted into another channel, he left their ships high and dry and joined most of the island to the mainland, and then marched over on foot and captured it. Thus the enterprise of the Hellenes came to ruin after six years of war. Of all that large host a few travelling through Libya reached Cyrene in safety, but most of them perished. And thus Egypt returned to its subjection to the King, except Amyrtaeus, the king in the marshes, whom they were unable to capture from the extent of the marsh; the marshmen being also the most warlike of the Egyptians. Inaros, the Libyan king, the sole author of the Egyptian revolt, was betrayed, taken, and crucified. Meanwhile a relieving squadron of fifty vessels had sailed from Athens and the rest of the confederacy for Egypt. They put in to shore at the Mendesian mouth of the Nile, in total ignorance of what had occurred. Attacked on the land side by the troops, and from the sea by the Phoenician navy, most of the ships were destroyed; the few remaining being saved by retreat. Such was the end of the great expedition of the Athenians and their allies to Egypt.

Moral of the story: if a Megabazus doesn’t do the trick, send a Megabuzus. Ain’t history cool?

Vote for green leaders


Don’t worry- I haven’t become a raving Naderite. I’m referring to the thrust in Thomas Friedman’s op-ed in the New York Times. Changing leaders is much more effective to address a large scale problem than changing lightbulbs. It’s the difference between a “green hobby” and a green revolution.

Save the Planet: Vote Smart

By the way, I’m not typically a fan of this guy, but this time he’s right on.


Jeremy, 2007/10/22 

Max blogging

The truth about global warming

Max, 2007/10/20 

(another great JAM find)

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