red echo

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

December entries

Archived Entries for November, 2005

November 29, 2005

I'm sitting cross-legged and barefoot on my desk chair. It's raining outside; the gutters are overflowing. I have a mug of hot tea on my desk and some smooth dance music pulsing away in my headphones. I'm making steady progress on some new compiler features. The piano tuner is coming by later to bring my piano back up to spec.

I am happy.

November 27, 2005

I just got home. My mailbox was stuffed so full it was hard to yank all of the paper out (though I could probably have made the task somewhat easier had I stopped to set my suitcase down and used both hands). One thick envelope contained the prints from Adam's birthday party. Yay: this batch is entirely satisfactory, and looks a lot better than the last. (Don't let Ofoto fix your exposures when you've already corrected them.) Another package contained a copy of Fitzroy MacLean's “Eastern Approaches.” Thanks for the recommendation, anonymous reader: I look forward to reading this.

November 26, 2005

me & my sister

November 24, 2005

November 22, 2005

Some guy who lives at the corner of Bellevue and Olive has put together a “24 Hours in Our Neighborhood” photo project. He's been sticking posters up all over the area announcing a get-together at the Red Line tonight, and attracted a nice crowd; I didn't count heads but I'm sure he will have no trouble giving away all twenty of the cameras. All of the photos are supposed to be taken within a few blocks of this intersection, which is approximately the center of its nameless west-Capitol-Hill mini-neighborhood. In three or so weeks he will organize an exhibition of the photos at some local gathering spot. I got one of the cameras, and shot my first frame with it already. I'm looking forward to seeing what surprising things people come up with.

My piano suddenly sounds jarringly out of tune. I spent a little time on one of the preludes from the Well-Tempered Clavier tonight, but it was hard to focus on the music over the just-off-kilter tuning. I've known my piano needed tuning for a long time, but I guess it just reached some threshold where it's too noticeable to play over. Oh well - the tuner will be here next Tuesday, and I'll be out of town most of the week anyway.

November 21, 2005

My hair is once again most awesomely blonde.

November 20, 2005

November 18, 2005

I brought my camera to Adam's party last week and took photos of his guests. When the prints come I'm going to bind them into a little book to give him as a memento. In the meantime, I've uploaded scans of the negatives into an Ofoto gallery.

November 16, 2005

Snoqualmie Summit West

The snow sucked, and I felt rusty, but it was snow and I was skiing. The cover was really patchy on the lower slopes, with plenty of bare patches and protruding rocks, and two days of rain left it all slushy and lumpy. Classic “cascade concrete.” But here we are, two weeks before Thanksgiving, and there's enough snow to ski on - how cool is that? The slopes were quiet; there were no crowds and never any waiting. Most of the people there looked like high school kids, and I wondered how they got the day off. Maybe they, too, were playing hooky.

November 15, 2005

Radical Cartography has a strange interface (yes, most of the page stays blank) but once you figure it out, there are a whole variety of interesting maps to look at. Some are simple and traditional, like the maps of the British and American empires, while others make creative use of the web: a map of medieval Arab trade, or an animated slice-by-slice time zone map, or a history of telephone area codes in the US.

Skiing skiing skiing, I'm going skiing tomorrow, skiing, skiing, wheeee, skiing!

November 14, 2005

November 12, 2005

Adam's birthday party

Here's a very nice tutorial, with screenshots, demonstrating how to configure Apple Mail to use encryption and digital signatures.

November 11, 2005

I just updated the Rave-O-Matic site to include pictures from its appearance at dorkbot earlier this month. Sara's camera can also record video clips, so I edited some video she recorded into a little movie showing the machine in action. While I was poking around I noticed that I never got around to updating the site after Burning Man or even Phoenixfest, so I uploaded those pages as well.

BoingBoing had a link to some dramatic photos shot on color infrared film. I knew about regular, monochrome infrared film, since my friend Stacie Mayes has done a lot of work with it, but I had no idea you could get color film as well. Interesting... I love the saturation.

November 7, 2005

November 5, 2005

Restoration work at Cedar Falls

Today was this year's last restoration project in the Cedar River watershed. It was a pretty big group; the usual dozen or two volunteers were supplemented by ten or twelve people from Earthcorps. We split in halves; one group worked around the visitor center, removing invasive exotic plants and replacing them with native species, while the other went down the road to the former town site of Cedar Falls, which was abandoned when the City of Seattle bought the property back in the '40s.

I went with the latter group; our job was to encourage the forest to move back into some of the old lawns and landscaped areas. Only three houses remain, which the city now uses for offices and storage space, but there is a lot of left-over non-native grass on the ground surrounding them. Left to its own, it will be many years before the forest can begin encroaching into these areas. We sped the process up today by planting clusters of native shrubs and small trees, extending the fringe. In a few years these plants will shade out the grass, and the clusters will develop into micro-habitats for wildlife.

It felt strange to be working right on the edge of buildings and nicely paved roads. I'm used to going out, far away, when I work on this sort of project. Proximity to civilisation, or at least its remnants, makes the work feel more like glorified gardening. I've heard people talk about ecological restoration work that way before, and the thought has always depressed me; my desire is to put things back the way they were, to clean up the mess, to make the forest healthy again and then let go of it - to remake the wilderness. I don't want to make something new, I don't want to create, I don't want to shape, I don't want to maintain control; I want to unmake, to roll back, to remove human influence from the shape of life on the land.

Alas, such is impossible. No matter how hard we work, how much we plant, how aggressively we cull the invasive exotic plants, these areas have been through a massive shock and will not regain the range of biodiversity they once had for centuries to come. Even then, this ecosystem will never be like it once was - we can't just put back the organisms that were there, since many of them are simply gone. All we can do is try to push what's left toward some new balance, some new design, some new sustainable state. The forest we create will not look like a native forest would have looked; even when it reaches maturity, it will not look the same as a never-logged old-growth forest.

Oh well; it is what it is. It will never be the wilderness I wish it were, and I get angry when I think about that too much. But this is still better than nothing, and I'm glad I can help do it. Mixed with the wistfulness I felt a definite sense of satisfaction at physically taking over lawns and road verges: it's undoing development, giving land back to the forest in the most direct possible fashion.

November 4, 2005

November 2, 2005

November 1, 2005

Tomorrow night is the November meeting of dorkbot, which is all about “people doing strange things with electricity.” At this particular meeting I will be demonstrating my Rave-O-Matic; it will provide a sound and light show before and after the presentations. This will probably be the last time I show the machine in public, so if you have been wanting to see it you should show up at CoCA tomorrow evening around seven-thirty.

October entries


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Current reading

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Scrambles Amongst the Alps, Edward Whymper
The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Judy Blume
Watership Down, Richard Adams
Fire on the Mountain, Edward Abbey
Crystal Express, Bruce Sterling
Collected Poems, Arthur Rimbaud

Catalog of my library
Suggest a book I might like