Searching the Haight for Signs of Life

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chess Books for Beginners

I haven't picked up chess pieces recently, but my mind has been on strategy and gaming. The books that originally propelled me into the lofty stratosphere of above-average club player were from the nice series "Winning Chess X" by Yasser Seirawan.

The books have a nice mix of diagrams and prose, not too dense. Winning Chess Strategies has "must-know" concepts for any chess player, and Winning Chess Tactics will really take a beginner to the next plateau.

And I also like playing chess here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Child Soldiers

This is a particularly odd photo, a little sad, a little bewildering. I am a big fan of Yahoo's most-emailed photos, and not just for all the beautiful women captured therein. World, meet the rebel general Johnny Htoo and his brother Luther, from the quiet corner of the world called Myanmar:

Read the story of their surrender.

The Spiders of Pennsylvania

There are only a couple of really troublesome spiders in Pennsylvania. Perhaps the scariest of them all is the brown recluse spider. In addition to neurotoxic effects that can cause nausea, fever, chills, as well as other symptoms, the brown recluse's bite will also cause the tissue around the bite to grow gangrenous and die. This entire process, I have heard, is extraordinarily painful. Luckily for Pennsylvanians, there are few of these dangerous spiders around, and your most likely shot of running into one is if it makes a home in a box and gets shipped here.

The other scary spider is of course the black widow, that sexy arachnid with the black carapace and red hourglass on its belly. The good news is, when it first bites you, it won't hurt all that much. The bad news is that its venom is highly neurotoxic and will make you very sick. The bite of the black widow has been known to kill, but usually only infants and the elderly.

Beyond those guys, Pennsylvania is pretty safe. The worst you can expect out of a spider bite is a little pain, maybe a little nausea. I was a bit scared last night when I got bit by some little brown spider, but I survived, and I am stronger for the experience. I think its my first spider bite -- it felt like a bee sting. It was wierd too, as my hand was bitten when I swatted it, even though it was crawling on my leg.

-reposted from my original entry on The Darn News

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Camping Yesterday

Brad and I saw the strangest alien creature in Laurel Canyon yesterday, and we may have been observing the beginning of some fey alien invasion.

We were mucking along the river when we spotted a luminescent green caterpillar eating its way across the algae on some damp rocks. It had a bright red head that swiveled around and looked at us eerily when we crouched to observe its life.

Getting out to the woods and interacting with plants and animals is a good way to give yourself a little perspective about the world. Everything is aware, everything is trying to live together, and it's all very beautiful until we start blowing stuff up.

Questions I would still like answered:

1) Do mushrooms grow overnight?
2) Do birds gossip about animals and campers?
3) Can people really rub sticks together to make fire? We had a hard time with twigs, a knife, a lighter, kindling, and branches.
4) Did cavemen keep fire going since the first time they figured out it was useful? Where did they get this fire? Lightning? A forest fire? Will there ever be a Delorean capable of taking us back in time to find out?

Actually, most of question 4 is Brad.

Go Go Gadget Go Game

I have rekindled an interest in the intensely geometric pursuit of Go. I have been using the Kiseido Go Server, which seems reasomably good once you get a game going. However, I have yet to uncover the mechanism for challenging someone to a game. The below image is me against Big Mike in a fun but blunder-filled game. I dropped a couple of stones early on, but still managed to get most of the edges.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Great American Freedom

My Aunt Roz has given me a green 1997 Subaru Outback, totally cherry, which will take me across the country to my new home in San Francisco. This generous gift caps seven years of support and kindness from the entire Silverman family, during my stay in Pittsburgh. From food, to job contacts, to emotional support and now a car, my life would have turned out far differently, and probably far worse, without their help. Reconnecting with them has been a true blessing.

Hopefully, I won’t have to do too much day-to-day driving once I reach my destination… walking and biking are after all the California thing to do. But this car is a great enabler of freedom and my ability to go set up shop elsewhere. Around August 10, I will pack my guitars, clothes, books, and computers in the wagon, dump everything else, and follow the sun.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ripped from the Pages of Euromoney

This is an amusing piece of journalism.

Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2006

Off the Record Special

“Whooooooooooo! I love you! I love you, man! Yes!”

-A PR official’s enthusiasm knows no bounds after he is informed of his bank’s global award

“Well fuck you then!”

-How the European head of financing at a blue-blooded US investment bank responded when told that his firm was unlikely to win the award for best equity house in western Europe

“I’m on the ground with my clients, not in some imaginary whiteboard space like those guys”

-A Citigroup banker pitching for a Euromoney award points to a rival’s shortcomings

“It’s a shadow of its former shadow”

-An M&A banker describes the fall from grace of Credit Suisse (or more accurately the old First Boston) in US investment banking

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

That Girl Emily {[(DEBUNKED)]}

This post modified so as not to pollute the world with lies ;). The blog mentioned is some marketing campaign. Still funny though.

Check out this particularly funny, vengeful blog, and remember to treat Helga better when you get home.

There was more to the post, but I fat-fingered it and refuse to do it over.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bush "Unplugged"

Media and citizens were treated to a "candid" conversation between George Bush and Tony Blair at a lunch the at the G8, when Tony Blair left his microphone on. This situation reminds me of the time that Utopian President Jed Bartlett made a similar "mistake" in the mystical fairyland of television, interpreted heavily here for your amusement.

Tony and Georgie seemed a little too on message to me, essentially recapping everything we heard publicly, but in casual terms.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Hood Gang

I was surfing around, hoping to find a mainstream review of the Pittsburgh Counting Crows show, but I guess the media can't keep up with the music.

I did see a good band on Friday at The HKAN. I wandered into, unbeknownst to me, a costume party led by a Beastie Boys type band decked out in full superhero regalia, complete with foam muscles. The Hood Gang was a tight little band, though I don't usually tend to like the rap-rock genre - the rhythm section kept everything in the groove. They played together and deftly executed several energizing medleys. They were jumping around, and standing on tables, and the entire crowd was following along. They even attracted a heavy group of onlookers outside.

'Round Here

The Post-Gazette Pavilion is like a hundred other corporate venues throughout America. A huge grandstand fanning out in front of thousands of seats that fade off into a gay grassy knoll behind, festooned on flanks with a village of retail huts.

The beer at the Post-Gazette pavilion starts out at a base cost of $5 for 12 oz. of swill. But there's the extra $2 you have to pay to get the 16 oz. cup. Also, built into the equation is a high tip over rate for the beers. Based on various things they treat the hill's dirt grading and grass with, and the specifically engineered dimensions of the cups, beers are guaranteed to spill on average 1/3rd of the time. Which brings the total cost of the beer to: $7 * 1.333 = $9.3

The show itself was unremarkable. The band wheeled out its time-worn hits, though the drunken catcalls during the exodus afterwards indicated that "Mr. Jones" should have been on the agenda. And though there was a song or two I had never heard, nothing sounded new. I just wish they had played "Einstein on the Beach."

The Counting Crows do a great job of capturing that blue-collar AND downtrodden sentiment of America, which plays particularly well in Pittsburgh. "Omaha" and "'Round Here" were faithfully rendered and both well-received. But Counting Crows is such a troupe of hired musicians playing such a known roster of standards that you come to expect more in terms of innovation and on-the-fly guitar mastery. I counted at least 3 guitarists on stage, and while none of them missed a note, their playing was unadventurous.

The Counting Crows are going to need to reinvent themselves on the road if they don't want to fade slowly into the sunset. They need to become more of a festival jam band, because they do have a special sound, a heartfelt singer, and the technical skills to bring down a house.

The Counting Crows left the Post-Gazette Pavilion stage at about 11:15 pm. The encore was one song if that's what they call the thing on the end. I bought a t-shirt for my boss, consulting co-worker Maura on the size so as not to destroy my career. Mike and Sean wandered back from the bathrooms. And we all went back to hang out and then to sleep it off.

I Was There, I Wrote, I Lived
The Counting Crows show, July 15, 2006.
Post-Gazette pavilion, formerly known as Star Lake Amphitheater.
Goo Goo Dolls also (sadly) in attendance.
Slightly tipsy, friends in tow.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I Was There, I Wrote, I Lived

People often ask me why I'm laughing, and it's because I'm always on the look-out for irony, and I often find it. There's little that people do that isn't funny, and at least in my swirling soap opera of a life. You're all just so damn amusing.

Even the most gruesome things are funny, in an instructive sort of way. If you can see the similarity between the Christian crusades and the Democratic crusades, that's pretty funny. We're still waging the same wars hundreds of years later, cloaked under a different ideal. Pretty freaking scarily funny. Over and over again, we fight out wars of ideas with swords, and get no further each time we chop each other up.

Make no mistake that the War on Terror is a fight we can never win. Not with secrecy, torture, and bombs. A war of ideas can only be won by debate and through example, and in the meantime, the right and/or rich side has to endure the wacko crazy outbursts of the embattled segment of society. The suicide bombers. The hijackings. The poorly-made rockets. The deaths of innocents. That's the price of being rich and powerful, not an excuse to start a war to keep the military machine oiled.