red echo

A web journal by Mars Saxman: my life, reflected and filtered

November entries

Archived Entries for October, 2005

October 30, 2005

This project is so bizarre, so outlandish, so overtly fantastic that I can scarcely believe it actually exists. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is in the process of building hundreds of artificial islands in the Persian Gulf to be used as a luxury resort. What's next? A new skyscraper, tallest in the world.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation has a database of places where land is used in unusual ways. Examples include an abandoned solar power plant in California, the Boeing main assembly plant in Everett, and the largest grain elevator in the world; but it's not all giant structures, as their list includes the Barbed Wire Museum in Kansas, the geographic center of North America, and the Johnson Ridge Observatory.

October 29, 2005

Music is fun. I did some work on a project Thursday night, spent a few hours recording and tweaking, but it just wouldn't go anywhere. Then, while I was wrapping up and getting ready to go to bed, I thought of another context for one of the background loops I'd recorded - next thing I knew it was two in the morning and I had something totally different on my hands. I've been doing some more work on it this morning: stretched it out to just shy of four minutes, gave it a rough verse/chorus structure, and rearranged some of the loops to make the whole thing flow more smoothly. It still needs a lot of polish, and some vocals would be nice, but I really like where it's going.

It's such a relief to finally have hardware fast enough for the kind of work I am trying to do. Anytime I want a new track, or a new synth, or an extra reverb here or there, I can just add it: no more crashing, no more sluggish UI response, no more carefully bouncing tracks to reduce the number of simultaneous channels. This project has eight tracks, five softsynths, and more effects plugins than I can remember, but the processor isn't even working hard enough to kick the fan on.

October 28, 2005

Depeche Mode's new “Playing the Angel” has pushed itself onto a select list of albums so compelling that I have to ration them out to avoid overplay.

October 27, 2005

This is hilarious: scrambling to defend themselves from the terrifying specter of homosexual marriage (and the imminent threat it poses to... um... pretty much nobody), some anti-gay Texans have placed a proposition on the ballot which is so poorly worded that it would ban all marriage.

This inadvertent solution is actually one step short of the one I would like to see. Marriage is a cultural institution with religious roots, and for many people it still an active religious practice; the government should get out of the business altogether and simply abolish the notion of a legal marriage. Churches could continue to offer their sacraments according to their own rules and historical practices; less traditionally-minded couples could celebrate their relationships in ways that suited them. Any couple who felt that their relationship would benefit from a contractual foundation could simply go down to the courthouse and fill out the paperwork for a civil union.

October 26, 2005

October 22, 2005

I spent the afternoon climbing Mt. Si. It was a nice day for a walk in the woods: the air was cool but not at all cold, and the sky, though a little hazy, was clear enough to make out the Seattle skyline from the peak. I did the Haystack scramble this time; I usually skip it, but I felt energetic and more unhurried than usual today. It was a good view and worth the extra effort. I ate a chocolate bar and tried not to let the sprawl get to me. There is a cute little hummocky mountain just north of Si, standing all by itself, that I have never noticed before. How much does it cost, I wonder, to buy an entire mountain? It looks like it was logged, maybe sixty years ago; is it still private land? Could there possibly be a road going up there?

I had so much fun boulder-hopping through the rock field near the summit that I pretty much jogged my way down for the first two miles, bouncing off roots and boulders in the trail, flying down the steps, pivoting off rocks at the ends of the switchbacks. It was exhilarating but now I have a blister on each heel. This is the first time I've gotten blisters since I discovered synthetic sock liners; I hadn't realized it was still possible. I'm sort of tickled to have accomplished it.

Shower next, then dinner. I'm thinking something along the lines of a prime rib, medium rare...

Ahhh, I love hiking.

October 19, 2005

I've just posted photos from the trip to La Push a week and a half ago. Sand, surf, and grey skies...

Today's photos are the first batch from the Rolleicord. I still have a lot to learn about exposure, but I like the direction this is going.

I've been seeing posters all over the Hill recently with headlines reading “THE WORLD CAN'T WAIT! DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!” All very bold and exciting, practically a call for insurrection; but when you read the fine print it's advertising yet another stand-around-and-listen rally at Westlake. Oh yeah, I'm so excited. All that three years' worth of marches and rallies have accomplished so far is to salve our consciences and illuminate the Bush administration's fundamentally autocratic nature; anyone still in doubt of the latter or in need of the former is unlikely to be moved by yet another protest.

October 18, 2005

Energy discussion comparing fuel efficiency of different travel modes; it would appear that cars are a more efficient mode of long-distance travel than either trains or planes, second only to buses. Plenty of citations to back it all up.

October 16, 2005

It's grey, windy, and unabashedly autumnal outside. I had a nice sushi dinner at Hana's earlier tonight, then spent twenty minutes on the phone catching up with my sister. I'm sipping bourbon, eating some fudge, and reading about ice-climbing in Alaska. In half an hour or so I'll probably go to the compline service at St. Mark's. This, my friends, is an evening against which I can make no complaint.

October 11, 2005

Here are some maps of various planets and moons, including a particularly interesting rendering of what the Earth might look like if the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica were to melt.

Leah Buchley, a CS student at the University of Colorado, has invented an LED-studded shirt that plays Conway's game of Life. The article includes full instructions, schematics, and parts lists.

October 10, 2005

I'm still alive: currently in Austin, getting up to date with my co-workers. I'm staying in a hotel on Sixth Street this time, instead of being stranded out in the usual middle-of-nowhere location. I haven't actually taken advantage of the local entertainment yet, but it feels nice to know that it's all out there should I need it.

We all went out to see “Serenity” last night at the Alamo Drafthouse. I never saw the TV show, but Kevin & Chandra made me watch the pilot a while back, and I've been looking forward to seeing the movie since. It was as good as I'd hoped. The Drafthouse makes movie-watching fun again: not only do they bring you beer while you watch, but instead of blasting you with commercials for half an hour before the show starts, they play funny old movie trailers, clips from the DVD extras, and - in this case - a ten-minute primer on swearing in Mandarin.

The Noguchi filing system discards subject categorization and relies strictly on time: the file archive becomes an MRU-list, where documents are replaced on the left side of the list after use, and thus slowly migrate rightward as they age. This is, with slight modifications, the way I have been filing my clothes for years.

October 9, 2005

October 1, 2005

My protest vote made the Seattle Times. With the whole flap about the monorail budget and Mayor Nickels' cancellation of the right-of-way permits happening so close to the primary election, apparently lots of people expressed themselves with a creative write-in vote. The Times' article on the subject ends with this paragraph:

Some apparent supporters of the project used the write-in line to let Mayor Greg Nickels know what they thought of his decision to withhold street permits for the monorail. Their ballot choice for mayor? Monorail.

Yep, that was me. I wonder how many other people had the same idea?

September entries


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Current reading

Collected Poems, Arthur Rimbaud
Marooned in Realtime, Vernor Vinge
Eiger Dreams, Jon Krakauer
Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux
Linkers and Loaders, John Levine
The Heart of the Antarctic, Ernest Shackleton
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
An Unexpected Light, Jason Elliot

Catalog of my library
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