Monday, Jul 19, 2004
Mountain View's Computer History Museum has a wonderful collection of computer lore, including a small game room of some of the earliest coin-op video games.
If you're thinking about donating your 'precious antique computer' to them though, be aware that there are many devices they will no longer accept as donations.
Considering how often museums receive donations of dubious authenticity, I wonder if I should bother donating something of my own:
Saturday, Jul 17, 2004
Did anyone out there see the series premiere episode of Stargate: Atlantis? Cause I didn't. Tivo messed up changing the channels so I got 120 minutes of MSNBC instead.
Anyone have a tape? A DVD? A bittorrent or a local PVR where Rachel and I could watch the ep? We were looking forward to it all week.
Ugh. Thanks! If you do, please drop me a line at hi at fury.com.
Friday, Jul 16, 2004
After such divine inspiration, I couldn't help but come up with a few of my own sequels to one-hit wonders:
Tuesday, Jul 13, 2004
Blogger suffers burnout.
Don't worry, it's not me. Stories need to be told, and so I'll tell them one by one.
My blogmind is just waking up again.
Thursday, Jul 01, 2004
My Grandma Kitty is going to die today.
I don't state this for shock value, but rather because any forthcoming narrative about my own life over these past few weeks would trivialize Katherine if she was treated as a plot point, an element in an interest curve, or a catharsis amid a story about my own inconsequential troubles. Grandma Kitty is none of these things. She's my mother's beloved mother, and later today she's going to die.
Up until last month Grandma lived in Santa Ana, about an hour away from my mom in Encino, in a condominium my mom bought for her 16 years ago. There she acted as a caregiver for those who needed a little help in life. While a decade ago my Aunt Judy and her family lived nearby, over the years the husband was divorced, the kids grew up and scattered over the southland to start their own families, and Judy moved to Phoenix. And so Mom and Grandma decided that it would be a good thing for Grandma to move closer to my mom, and they went real estate shopping for her new home.
After a good deal of looking, they found just the right place a little over a month ago. Just a few miles from the house where mom raised my sister and I, this two-bedroom condo would still afford Grandma her freedom while bringing her and mom closer together geographically and emotionally. Through careful planning and a fair bit of luck, Mom sold the old place and both places were in simultaneous 30-day escrow, and both closed this week.
My grandmother's health hasn't been the best over the last year, and there have been a few bouts of illness that could be chalked up to having a body that isn't as sturdy as it once was. Three weeks ago she felt ill and visited the hospital, and was put under observation for what initially appeared to be a kidney dysfunction.
The next several days were a roller coaster of tests, changing diagnoses, and shifting predictions. At first, she was diagnosed as having failing kidneys and might have to undergo long-term dialysis. The following day tests indicated that her renal functions were almost normal and the illness may have been due to an infection in her blood. The next day they decided to perform an MRI which showed a spot in her bladder that needed further diagnosis. An MRI 'with contrast' couldn't be completed because she wasn't able to drink the ounces of barium-laced fluid needed for the procedure.
The timing of all these events is fuzzy to me since I was in Northern, not Southern California, and my mom was relaying the news on a daily basis. This was still about three weeks ago, and Rachel and I had plans to come down to Los Angeles on the weekend of June 26th (last weekend) to attend my father's burial marker dedication ceremony on the 27th, and to be with my mom and sister on the 28th, my mom's birthday. In light of Grandma, Rachel and I change our plane tickets to return on Wednesday instead of Monday, to spend more time with Grandma and family.
Back to three weeks ago, and my mom's been informed that while in the hospital the previous day, Grandma had a minor heart attack and now had problems with four organs: heart, kidneys, bladder, and I believe something else, possibly liver. She now also has come down with pneumonia. Where the day before things seemed manageable, things are now in serious doubt, and Rachel and I decide to drive down the next morning (two weeks ago, Friday) and spend several days down south, to spend time with Grandma and to help with whatever needs arise.
Saturday we get to see Grandma, along with my Aunt Joanne, Uncle Joe, and cousins Janice and Joel, whom I'd only seen once in the last 20 years. It was really good to see Grandma, and because she didn't have a room to herself, we had to go in shifts of 2 visitors at a time. Grandma was lucid, very happy to see us, and though she was very tired, had six IV drips and a feeding tube, surprised me with her energy in talking to visitor after visitor. Rachel brought copies of flower photos she had taken, including a matted daisy print that's especially beautiful, and Grandma was thrilled to have them on the windowsill.
We spent the next three days at the hospital, generally taking turns being with her and being in the 'solarium' (aka 'waiting room'). The room, with about 12 chairs, would usually sit empty, and sometimes fill to capacity. After a few days there though, it felt like our space, and it felt weird when anyone else would wait there as well.
By the third day it was clear that she was responding well to treatments. She seemed to be overcoming the pneumonia, and after two physical therapy sessions where she got on her feet and took one step, she proactively started exercising in her bed, lifting her arms and legs, doing exercises until she got out of breath. After a week of not being able to eat any food, the doctors let her have some jello, ice cream, and even bits of cookies, and it seemed likely that she could be out of the hospital within a week or two, and possibly living on her own again after a month in a caregiver environment.
When we left on Tuesday, Rachel and I looked forward to seeing her again when we got back into town for our originally scheduled trip the next Sunday.
There are so many things I'm glossing over here that deserve mention:
Over the course of this long weekend, Rachel became a granddaughter in my eyes. Her caring, not just for my grandmother, but for me, my mom, and everyone else involved, was and is incredible.
Also, At the same time that all of this is going on my mom had to plan and act on what would happen to all of Grandma's things. Everything had to be out of her condominium by the 28th, and we couldn't move new things into the new place until the 29th or later, and we were all dealing with the real possibility that she wouldn't make it through, or might never be able to live on her own again. The end solution was to move everything into storage, since no matter what it would be at least several weeks before she could possibly need the things at her new place.
Lastly, we got word that Monday that my father's burial marker wouldn't be ready until at least two or three weeks after the scheduled unveiling date, so that would have to be pushed back as well. The unveiling of the burial marker is a Jewish tradition commemorating the first anniversary of a loved one's passing. Until that time the resting place is demarked by a temporary marker, and while the permanent marker doesn't have to be dedicated exactly on the anniversary, it also marks the closure of the traditional year of mourning, so should be reasonably close to the date. All in all under the circumstances, both Mom and I were relieved to have one less thing to deal with at the moment.
Back at work after being out for three days, I fielded several inquiries and well wishes for my grandmother, and felt generally optimistic. She was getting strong enough now that they were going to continue on with the laparoscopy to investigate the mass in grandma's bladder, to determine if it was a blood clot or a tumor, and if it was the latter, what was its stage and nature.
After performing the procedure, the doctor was inclined to think that it was a cancerous tumor, but was waiting for the lab results before drawing a conclusion. The results came last Thursday, when we found that the tumor was malignant and advanced. Under the best circumstances, Grandma would be unlikely to survive the Summer, and quite possibly not the next month.
I wasn't there when the doctor told Grandma the findings, and I consider myself lucky for this, though I wish I was there for her. Grandma, considerate, lost, and scared, told her doctor "I don't know how to die," bringing her doctor to tears, as it did me when I was told.
Rachel and I arrived back in Los Angeles on Sunday morning, and Aunt Davine drove us to the hospital to a changed person. There was a presence that had diminished so much in the intervening five days. The brief moments of lucidity we saw over the course of that day were when we arrived and she smiled and said "you came back!" and a few moments when she tried to speak but didn't have the energy to be understood. We stayed with her, read to her, sang to her, and held her hands. Grandma was in constant pain now and there was only a small morphine-granted window between her pain and resting.
When we came back to the hospital the next morning, my grandma was gone. Her body was still there, breathing, fevered, but from the moment I entered the room, it was clear she wasn't there. Her presence was never so obvious as it was in its absence. All I was left with was the feeling that though she didn't know how to die, she was trying to escape the painful prison her body had become, and what remained would soon follow. In the following days, leading up to today, the doctors have confirmed this deteriorization, sought to ease her pain by putting her on a morphine drip, and they believe that in less than a day she'll be gone.
In my own mind and soul I had been paying what I would be satisfied as my final respects every day that I saw her, in case things should turn before I saw her again. In this I found an inner solace. Nearly a year ago my dad died suddenly, alone, and completely unexpectedly of a heart attack, hours after my birthday. This year is a mirror image, reflected over the calendar date of my birth. Where my father's passing was sudden, giving rise to passion, pain, grieving and coping after the fact, Grandma's impact is like an earthquake in reverse, building up slowly and culminating just before the anniversary of my own birth.
We have been grieving, smaller growing to larger, with foreshocks months ago building in volume and strength to the present, when her passing will be an exhalation instead of a burst. Not to pretend that grieving will end with her passing, not at all, but I appreciate the difference between a passing and a tearing.
Susie, Mom, Rachel and I had planned for months to go to San Juan Island for our summer vacation from this Friday through to Wednesday with my father's side of the family. Now, as has been the rest of the month, I'm up in the air. My mom needs a break more than any of us had ever expected that she would, having organized three times as many things as any person should, before even considering that one of those things is the caretaking and memorial services of her own mother.
It's the planner in my mother whose traits I've inheirited that let me understand that even in the most difficult circumstances, situations don't handle themselves. It's almost amusing in a stupid, cynical and detached way, that the mortuary charges overtime if the service is on Saturday or Monday (this Monday being a federal holiday). They don't perform services at all on Sundays (whether for religious or vocational reasons I'm not certain), and that the city has to certify a death certificate before a memorial service can take place. It may be the case that the city will not perform this task over the extended weekend, or that the service might take place any day from tomorrow through to next Tuesday. Both Judy and Joanne have left their lives and vocations to be out here and need to return to Phoenix and Dallas, respectively, as soon as they can. Like everyone else involved, they also need the rest.
Rachel is at this moment scanning photos from Grandma Kitty's life to prepare a vignette slideshow for the memorial service, a task ironically mirrored by the fact that I helped Ammy do the same thing only two weeks ago for her grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. Janice, an accomplished vocalist, has recorded three solos that we'll be incorporating into the slideshow as well.
I'm coming to terms with the ineffable nature of the universe, the awareness that planning is so often a fiction, and that still waters are a true blessing, those times when something as ethereal as a plan, a mere intention, can dictate the course of events. Sometimes the waters are calm long enough that you forget that it's simply an aberrance, and that the true nature of the world is chaos. Your plans will always have an impact on the greater whole, but in the end the outcome is just an interference pattern of hills and valleys, bearing little if any resemblance to your intention.
This morning, shortly after midnight as it is, I'm postponing grief. I'm planning through chaos much as a pilot flies through turbulence, both over- and under-compensating, buffeted by invisible forces beyond my control, by the knowledge that this, too, shall pass, and the awareness that even unstable systems reach points of equilibrium, of calm waters, however distant or brief they may be.
Thanks for listening.
Saturday, Jun 26, 2004
For those of you following online politics, it's been an interesting couple of days between Moveon.org, the Re-elect George Bush site, and Democrats.org. Amidst the harsh language and finger-pointing about Hitler imagery, here's the lowdown:
Last October, Moveon.org sponsored a competition "Bush in 30 Seconds" for ordinary people to create their own commercials critical of the Bush presidency. 1,300 people and groups of people made such films, and the ads were put online for judging. Two of those spots had allusions to Hitler and Nazi Germany.
The Bush campaign and the RNC took great offense to any comparison of Hitler's regime to the current administration, and vocally denounced these two spots. In response, Moveon.org removed the two movies from their site.
Now, eight months later, the front page of the Bush campaign's site features an ad denouncing the 'attack ads' from the Kerry campaign, by showing clips not from the campaign, but from various entries in the Moveon.org competition (including both of the removed Nazi-related ads), a clip of Michael Moore accepting his Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, and other clips completely unaffiliated with the Kerry campaign.
Even more interestingly, the 'Bush in 30 Seconds' competition took place before the primaries, at a time when Moveon.org's own poll, held to determine who they should endorse for the Democratic nomination, overwhelmingly supported Howard Dean. John Kerry took a distant third place behind Dennis Kucinich.
The DNC, seeing the Hitler imagery on the Bush home page, vociferously denounces the Bush campaign for using Nazi imagery, and calls for democrats to sign a petition to get the placement removed while studiously ignoring the fact that the imagery is ostensibly being used as a case example of how Kerry's campaign is one built on negativity and attack ads.
In response, the Bush site modifies the ad on their home page to make it very clear that the clips being shown weren't produced by the Bush campaign, by labeling them as coming 'from moveon.org,' but omitting the fact that the ads weren't created by moveon.org, and that moveon.org took the clips off their site at the Bush campaign's request months ago.
The real shame here is that both sides, filled with very intelligent people, act like they're preaching to idiots who will believe the more sensational voice, and won't look beyond their words. The Republican leaders are happy to point to the ads and say "Look! They're comparing us to Hitler! They're evil!" when they know that the ads weren't created by Moveon, and were quickly pulled. The Democrats on the other hand are saying "Look! They're using imagery of Hitler on their home page! They're evil!" while ignoring the fact that the imagery is being displayed as an example of work created by (presumably) a democrat, and that it was pulled as requested last year, after being on the site alongisde hundreds of other ads for only a few days.
I just watched the episode of The West Wing entitled '20 hours in America' where one of the themes was that the campaign leaders were spending so much effort trying prove they're superior to the other guy, that they don't focus on the actual needs and concerns of real people. Sadly, that's exactly what I feel here, and that neither side is noble nor just, because each is only willing to tell as much of the truth as needed so that they look like the righteous ones.
We deserve better than this from our campaigns, regardless of who you favor.
Tuesday, Jun 22, 2004
Sorry for the silent treatment for the past several days. Rachel and I have been in Los Angeles, where my grandmother's been very sick and we've been helping watch over her at the hospital, giving love and encouragement. I'll write up more later, but at the moment it's after midnight and I need to go to bed. Driving back up the state to come back home tomorrow, and back to work on Wednesday.
Wednesday, Jun 16, 2004
The book on my nightstand right now, and one I like enough that I've been taking it other places, is Jasper Fforde's Lost in a good book. It's the second book in a trilogy that takes place in an alternate reality Earth (mostly in 1984) where all of society is centered around literature. Thousands of people have legally changed their names to those of prominent literary characters and luminaries (e.g. Nate Hawthorne
After being lost in such a good book for the last few days, it's understandable that my sense of reality gets a bit skewed, and so it's completely disorienting to see today's Google logo, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, from James Joyce's Ulysses. It's exactly the kind of thing that would happen in Fforde's world, the world I've been escaping to for the last week before going to sleep, and suddenly it's as if my own reality is a crossover work. Dizzying, but cool.
Wednesday, Jun 09, 2004
When a president sixteen years out of office dies we put his casket out for all to honor, first at the Presidential Library and now in the Capiton Rotunda where his body will stay for three days as tens of thousands of people will visit and pay their respects. Thousands of photos will flood the media for days.
On the other side of the world, when a soldier dies in Iraq nobody is permitted to take pictures of the casket under the rationale that it violates the privacy of the grieving family, even if the family explicitly gives their consent.
Maybe there should be a checkbox on the enlistment form:
[ ] If I am killed in the line of duty, I would prefer the media not take pictures of my casket on its journey home.
Monday, Jun 07, 2004
Positive reenforcement has been proved successful time and time again. Expressing joy at another person's kindness, gratitude at their thoughtfulness, or mirth at their jests, it all feeds back into the mix to produce more of the same. Somewhere along the way, quite non-deliberately, I took this principle and internalized it, and now I wonder if I'm alone.« Newer Posts Older Posts »
I love to create. I like to make beautiful things, useful things, things that other people enjoy. It's probably a good thing that I'm an interaction designer, because when I put something out there I get far more satisfaction from seeing the impact it has on others than I feel from the simple creation of the work. On the basic level, public reaction is the loopback in my positive reenforcement feedback loop. I make good things, and people like them, making me want to make more good things. But the desire to make good things isn't enough.
Some time long ago, possibly in high school, maybe a lot earlier, I got in the habit of giving my subconscious positive reenforcement. In grade school I was always a procrastinator (who am I kidding? I'm at work at 10pm writing a post when I should be finishing the presentation I'm staying late to finish) and when it came to writing papers, I'd often spend the first 13 days of a two week assignment with the subject in the back of my head, taking up spare cycles in the shower or on the bus. Come 10pm the day before the paper's due I'd crack open the word processor (or piece of paper) and empty the tank that had slowly been filling in my head.
Thanks to spellcheckers, I often didn't even have to read my paper before turning it in the next morning.
It usually worked out okay. Somehow while distilling in my think-tank the thoughts polymerized into strands that came out well without doubling back or making logical knots. Sometimes it was disastrous. By the time I was a senior in high school I'd determined that anything I write had a 2/3rds chance of being terrific and a 1/3rd chance of being absolutely awful.
I used to brag that I never knew which it would be until it came back with a grade. In truth that probably has more to do with my frequent skipping of the proofreading process than any auto-aphasia relating to my own writing. I'd never add that part though. I preferred the mystery.
But I digress.
Inevitably, the paper would come back with a grade on it. As Miss Griffith walked around the classroom, handing back papers, I honestly had no idea what I'd find on mine; the subjectivity of grading prose multiplied by my own inability to judge my own work. The uncertainty always came to a sudden clarity when the paper made its way to my desk. (Ever notice how some teachers place the paper face down on your desk, forcing you to execute the revelatory act yourself, like pulling off a band-aid, or possibly a scab?) Either way, seconds later I would know whether I'd written something good or bad. The marks of red completed the greater, outer feedback loop.
This moment is when my own inner feedback loop begins. If I got a bad grade, I'd file the paper away in my backpack, never to be read again. If I got an A I'd re(?)read the paper carefully from beginning to end. I'd read it with pride, and that warmth would drift down to my subconscious, telling it that this is what good writing looks like.
The funny part is that I didn't have the intention of making my own writing better, only to read what I sound like when I'm doing it right.
Nowadays, now that I realize the net benefit, I do it more than ever. When someone gives a particularly laudatory comment on this site, I'll frequently re-read what I wrote, often re-reading the same piece several times. It's like watching a well-worn videotape, looking for clues you missed the first five times. Sometimes I find alliterations and nuggents of metaphor that were so buried in the stream of prose that I don't even know they were there until the fifth time I panned for the gold within.
It's not just papers anymore. I'll relive conversations, re-examine designs, sites, even code. I try to view each with the fresh eyes of he who provided the praise. I wipe my own mental slate clean and pour the sand down slowly and metered to experience not only the resulting work, but the formative process of taking the work in.
I don't know what my bad writing looks like, but as time goes on I seem to have less and less of it, because I understand much better where I find my successes. This might be true in the broader context of life as well. I don't dwell in the past, and when I do, I find it filled with nostalgia, and only very rarely pain.
It may be that I'm doomed to repeat past mistakes, but I don't think so. Tromping through the forest of life we all build trails, and if we backtrack to relive the more enjoyable ones, we can set forth in the future using these well-trod paths as guides, without the need to set warning markers on the rough paths traversed but once, all illusory allusions to Robert Frost aside.
Perhaps it's a form of egotism, or maybe selective memory, but I like to think of it as taking good care in raising my own homunculus.
As a parting thought, I wonder now how far this rabbit hole goes. Does my inner creative self encompass a homunculus of its own? The spark of creativity? Is it a tiny flame that is constantly fed, or one like I, who feeds on his own successes and starves on his failures? Food for thought, as it were.
I wonder if I'll ever read this.
Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
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