30 December 2005

Admiral Boscawen

"I beg my dear will not be uneasy at my staying out so long. To be sure, I lose the fruits of the earth, but then I am gathering the flowers of the sea." - Admiral Boscawen to his wife, 1756.

There is a wikipedia entry on him, but a more detailed look up at the library or in the Oxford Companion To Ships and the Sea (Editor of the supposedly better 1976 version was Peter Kemp) would serve you well. Boscawen was a badass.

Music: two recommendations

First, Coupe Cloue. Haitian. Heard it in a cab on the way down to the Knitting Factory for the Fortress of Attitude show. We got into a conversation with the cabby about it and he wrote down the name of the group and recommended Henry Gesner in particular. None of this is available on iTunes Music Store.

Second, Devendra Banhart. Undefineable, but I would say folk would be the closest label to use. You'd hear him on KEXP (available on your iTunes radio) and WFUV (90.7 on your NYC FM dial). College radio. Cool lyrics and a nice mellow vibe. Fire up the hookah and turn up the sound.

27 December 2005

23. Incorporation by Conan Purves

Good story. I read it today in just about one sitting.

Coming on the heels of Snow Crash, I couldn't help but see some parellels. And I think it also reminded me of Lawnmower Man and Tron, though I have not seen either of those movies in years. Influences, not robberies.

The basic plot: Nick gets a new gadget that helps him navigate in his corporation's server. It consumes him, but also sets him free.

You should read it if you haven't: incorporationthebook.com

22. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

What a great book! It has been recommended to me by so many people, all trusted readers, so I am glad that I finally finished it. Hackers, linguistics, some math and number theory, avatars, the internet, skaters, and the mafia. Cool.

I definitely recommend it.

20 December 2005

TS Eliot

I just read that TS Eliot had two signed portraits on his wall: WB Yeats and Groucho Marx.

Nice.

The article didn't say how many unsigned portraits he had on his wall.

I read this in a magazine called "mental_floss." In the Nov-Dec 2005 issue.

14 December 2005

21. Everything I Learned About Business I Learned From Monopoly by Alan Axelrod

This was a very cool little book that I got from Rick for Xmas last year. I thought it would be a book about tips and tricks for how to win at Monopoly, or at least do better, like the book I got from Summer at Christmas 1997. That was the Monopoly Companion.

This book is not that. It is a guide to doing business Monopoly-style. As the author notes in the introduction, many parents and older folk think Monopoly is a great way to teach kids how to be responsible with money. Well, unfortunately the lesson that is reinforced in Monopoly is that risk is the key to success. Risk and pushing risk, taking chances, investing as deeply as possibly in sources of revenue, and making deals with other players until you are ready to stab them in the back – those are the lessons of Monopoly.

This is an interesting book for me to read right now because I am just starting the business plan for two ventures I'd like to start – a magazine and the Mashomack Boatshop that I spoke of earlier (on 8 December).

The business plan has a lot of mystique around it, like it's so hard to get right and write it and only an experienced person should be writing it. All false, as far as I'm concerned. It is just like a screenplay. Just another writing format to use to convey information. No big deal.

Anyway. I found the format of the book to be entertaining – short little bits of Monopoly wisdom followed by short little stories that illustrate that wisdom And clocking in at 200 pages it was a quick read.

"Fail not our feast"

So one of the 7th graders had a birthday party last week, on Friday, and nobody showed up. Not one kid.

We asked if the kid thought it was because of the snowstorm, but that didn't seem to be the case.

I want to respond in some way, to say it's OK, or will be, or help the kid just say, "fuc.kem" but I'm not sure what to do.

13 December 2005

if only

Copyright New York Times Company Dec 5, 2005

A man from Arkansas scaled the fence surrounding the White House on Sunday while President Bush was inside and was immediately captured by Secret Service officers.

10 December 2005

20. Hero by Dan Barkan

This was a good yarn.

I'll save the gory details for the final draft, and send my full critique right to the author himself. Dan wrote a short first draft, 68 pages, and it was a fun read.

The story is about many things, so perhaps the easiest way to describe it is to describe the characters. My favorite was Jinx, the young rascal that Hero, the main character pals around with at Hux War University. These two are fesity and fun, and she is irreverent and daring, but loyal and true to Hero. Next are Ghazi and his father Raj Alai. They are contacted by angels to perform a quest. And there is Angry Pipe, the tattooed, agnostic elf. He becomes the surrogate father for Hero and Ghazi late in the story as the quest's goals are shifted, or perhaps a better word is postponed. On the other side is Smoke, more a thing than a person. he's powerful and he's bad. He's in league with the mechanical Night Eaters. What are they after exactly?

I look forward to the long/full version.

that was close...

So a kid who attends the high school I teach at was stabbed in the neck Thursday after school. Seems he was walking back from his house (picking up his jersey for the basketball game) and he walked past a neighboring school. He saw a friend of his get into a fight, so DM rushes in. A friend of the other kid in the fight jumps in and stabs DM in the neck, cutting his carotid artery. DM's friend N puts his tshirt on DM's neck and they walk to Beth Israel hospital (which is right across the street from our school). Then the stabber tries to catch up to DM and crew to finish the job. The cops arrested him. The stabber is 14 years old. After surgery and five pints of blood, DM is in ICU and is expected to be OK.

Wild.

08 December 2005

Mashomack Boatshop

I am midway through setting up a nonprofit boat shop. The idea would be that the group, called Mashomack Boatworks, would take beat up and broken down sailboats, rowboats, dinghys, and rebuild them. If it used to float we'll rebuild it, might be one of our mottoes.

Ideally high school kids would do the rebuilding, but I would be open to community folks coming by and helping. I don't know how to build boats by scratch so it couldn't be a boatbuilding thing, yet, but that would certainly be in the long term plan.

It's quite a process to set up a nonprofit, but it's going. I already have an Employee ID Number (EIN) so I can start hiring folks. And I have a Fiscal Sponsor, so people can start giving donations (boats or money or tools or space) as soon as they want. No website, yet, and just a staff of one.

Mashomack is a Native American (Long Island) word for "those who go by the sea."

07 December 2005

A new alignment system for the D&D

Here's my new way, please comment.

But first a critique of the old system and why I find it doesn't work.

The current alignment system in D&D doesn't make sense to me, such as evil, pure evil or chaotic evil. Why would a being, by its nature, be evil? Why destroy stuff? What being in our world destroys for no reason? To destroy what one considers pointless or alienating, part of an oppressive system, doesn't make someone evil. I feel that often, the portrayal of evil in D&D has no overarching philosophy, other than world-domination. Or evil bad guys want to introduce extra-planar creatures onto the material plane so it will be "utterly destroyed." It makes no sense.

So evil doesn't exist. Sort of. What does exist is competing agendas and philosophies that provoke different biases, prejudices, and stereotypes. One man's Terrorist is another's Freedom Fighter. Were the Sons of Liberty terrorists?

I do like the axis though, and use it to explain Motivation, or Bias. Call it what you want.

Along the horizontal axis (the X-axis) is a spectrum, a political spectrum, I guess, with degree of regulation as its topic. It asks, "to what degree should the government regulate political, social, and cultural freedoms?" Heavily regulated on the left and unregulated on the right.

The Y-axis concerns the individual, and asks, "What is a person's chief motivation: the individual or the group?" Selfish-ism on the bottom and Altruism on the bottom.

So. If you are in the top left corner you would be someone who wants a lot of regulation and believe people are mostly for the group, putting others before themselves. I think the D&D would call a person in this box LG-ish.

And if you are in the bottom right corner, you want very little regulation, and expect people to be motivated by themselves. Would this be between CN and CE?

How about the bottom left corner? You want high regulations and believe people are selfish. Is there a match for this in the D&D? I don't think so. Is there a person like this in the world? Yeah, maybe the fear of others' selfishness motivates the government to regulate? I'm not sure.

And the top right corner leaves you with a person who wants unregulated societies and people who are mostly into the group. Anarchists? Local people in small groups who set the rules for themselves.

Here ends the first draft.

01 December 2005

1000 miles

I finally got 2005's 1000th mile on my bike today. I've done very little riding so far this school year. (I haven't been taking the train or driving either, spending many of the nights in the area.) Half of the 999th mile was on the Queensboro Bridge, that fine old span, that Gothic Beauty, that no fare thoroughfare. It's not as impressive as some of my other cycling milestones, and compared to them 1000 miles ain't squat. But I did ride my bike to work in February, getting a split lip from the cold. And I did wipe out into a snow bank after I hit some ice on the uphill end of the Queens-bound side of the bridge. I definitely wasn't feeling groovy then. And I only almost got hit by two cars, which, I think, is pretty good for 12 mos/1000 miles worth of riding.