Saturday, March 14, 2009



That's as far as I've ever memorized pi. Happy Pi Day.


eyeball verdict

Well, folks, it turns out that I've got both an infection in my right and left eyes, and an abrasion on the surface of my right eye. We don't know the cause of the infection (or at least the doc didn't say), but the abrasion is the likely result of sleeping with the contacts in my eyes, and perhaps the pressure of my face on the pillow (I tend to sleep on my right side, and it's my right eye that's abraded).

I've got drops that I have to take every two hours, and an ointment that I have to goosh under my eyelids before sleeping. I'm to look for signs of improvement within 48 hours, and I've got a follow-up appointment on Tuesday.

So now you know as much as I do.


the great Eye of Sauron

It appears that I'm suffering from some sort of eye infection or allergic reaction, which started yesterday (Friday) sometime while I was asleep. I woke up on the downstairs couch around 5PM after crashing about 7 hours; I had pulled a working all-nighter that had lasted from Thursday evening until about 6AM Friday morning. The Korean company had given me 11 articles to do, which is 3 times my normal load. By the time I was done, I was pooped, but was also too frazzled to sleep right away. I ended up staying up until 10AM before finally collapsing on the couch.

I fell asleep without removing my contacts. Having done this many times before, I'm hesitant to say that the contacts were a factor in my present predicament. However, I now wear disposables as opposed to the tougher daily-wear lenses that I used to sport, so that might have something to do with the way things are now. The symptoms include extreme redness in both eyes, but mostly the right; blinking is painful because it feels as though the eye and eyelid are scraping each other. Lots of tears and mucus, and a pronounced sensitivity to light, which is currently making it hard to type. I tried ice packs on my eyes yesterday to reduce the redness through vasoconstriction, but that seems not to have helped.

Got a clinic appointment at 4PM today. We'll know more later. Meanwhile, have a look:


Friday, March 13, 2009

do it

I hope Japan does shoot down North Korea's missile. No one else seems to have the cojones to make the move. If you think my position is insane, I'm all for a discussion in the comments. This is a subject on which I've thought long and hard, and in the end, I can't see NK departing this earth in any way but the hard way. Better sooner than later, whatever the initial carnage.


techno-telepathy through better clothing

A recent article notes that science continues to inch ever closer to true "mind-reading."

A machine to read the mind came a step closer on Thursday, when scientists at University College London released the results of an experiment in which brain scans revealed the location of people moving around a virtual reality environment.

Demis Hassabis, co-author of the study, said it was “a small step towards the idea of mind reading, because just by looking at neural activity we were able to say what someone was thinking”.

I foresee a convergence of this tech with nanotech. Imagine wearing a tee shirt composed of a reactive nanoweave that, because it's in contact with your skin, is sensitive to your neural activity. Imagine that this same shirt incorporates an advanced nanotech version of a cephalopod's ability to change color, such that high-definition images of one's thoughts can be reproduced on the shirt's surface.

Now imagine thousands or millions of people wearing such tee shirts on a busy street during a gorgeous summer's day.

What would be flashing across people's chests and backs? Would we see words as well as images? How fleeting or lasting would any given image be? Would the images be layered, reflecting the simultaneous existence of both persistent, nagging thoughts and brief, random thoughts? Would we begin to see how those images varied according to people's personalities and levels of mental discipline? Would the thoughts of a soldier prove to have anything in common with those of a monk? Would there be commonalities and differences between the thoughts of the very intelligent and the very stupid? Between men and women? Young people and old people? Would cultural differences affect what images would appear, and how they appeared? Would people in a choir or on the same sports team project images that possessed some group-oriented theme?

And what if we found a feral child and made him wear such a tee shirt? How would the images be affected by such factors as religion, political leanings, sports preferences, hobbies, or sexuality? Would feelings be rendered in some way as images? What about smells and tastes and sounds that impinge on our consciousness? What about the memories of those sense impressions? What would the shirts show when a person was shopping or meditating or taking drugs or having sex (well, the shirt might be on the floor for that last activity)? How would the shirt depict metacognition? What would it show after the wearer had committed a crime like theft or murder? How different would the shirt's images be depending on whether one was talking or listening-- lying or telling the truth? What images would we see on someone who was being tortured, or mauled by a shark, or struck by a car?

And what might such a shirt show at the very moment of one's death?

Fascinating stuff. Feel free to speculate in the comments.


what I need for my walk

A mobile phone battery than can be charged in just ten seconds? Hell, yeah!

Too bad it won't be ready for two or three years.


don't fellate the pandas

Joshua opines on Charles Freeman's recent crash-and-burn.

Shortly before Freeman withdrew, the well-connected pro-appeasement graybeard Chris Nelson alleged that Freeman’s words were taken “out of context” and that it was “a lie ... no other word for it” to suggest that Freeman had defended the massacre. Well, then, let’s have some more context:

For myself, I side on this — if not on numerous other issues — with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ “Bonus Army” or a “student uprising” on behalf of “the goddess of democracy” should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. [The Weekly Standard]

It’s one thing to hug pandas, but it’s downright unnatural to fellate them.

Classic. All the current Neville Chamberlains in high places should take heed.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

many thanks

I seem, bizarrely, to have stopped thanking my readership for the different ways in which they have helped and continue to help me, even during this strange, sedentary period of the walk. The membership for my Facebook group "Kevin's Walk" has reached 20 members plus me, which is quite cool, and most of those members joined within the past week. My humble thanks to all of you. Here's hoping that you'll look through the post topics and leave advice (and, I hope, offers of help) in them. The walk truly does depend on your activism, but if my buddy Mike wins big on the lottery, he's promised to bankroll me, in which case you all can just drive by me and chuck beer cans at my head while I'm trudging along.


from a reader

Reader and friend Mark T. offers this link to a Catholic priest practicing his own form of Vatican 2-style aggiornamento. Mark's comment:

Here's a man of the cloth I suspect you would like. He loves food, martial arts, and theology. No word on if he is a BSG fan.


a "Lie to Me" question

The American version of a British TV show about a profiler-- the US version was titled "Cracker," like the British original-- fell flat in the ratings, so what makes us think that a show like "Lie to Me," which also purports to show us the power of psychology as a predictive and interpretive method, will do any better?

My suspicion is that "Lie to Me" is motivated by the school of thought that contends that interrogation techniques need only be minimally coercive, i.e., a person with needed information simply has to be detained and questioned, not tortured. A skillful interrogator, such as the character played by Tim Roth, needs nothing more than his own eyes to determine whether a subject is telling the truth. From there, the interrogator can shape the interview to reveal whatever his interlocutor is hiding. "Lie to Me" exists, then, as a response to the torture-happy "24."

In a scene deleted from the final cut of "Pulp Fiction," Uma Thurman's character, Mia Wallace, asks John Travolta's character, Vincent Vega, whether he's an "Elvis man" or a "Beatles man," asserting that you can learn a lot about a person's character from that answer. I suspect the same could be said when examining people's political leanings: "Are you a '24' man or a 'Lie to Me' man?"

Interesting note: Wikipedia says this about the British version of "Cracker":

Cracker's conception was also in some ways a reaction against the police procedural approach of fellow Granada crime serial Prime Suspect, placing more emphasis on emotional and psychological truth than on correct police procedure. In an interview with the NME, McGovern dismissed Prime Suspect, noting that "Good TV writing has narrative simplicity and emotional complexity," and characterising the series as "A narratively complex story going up its own arse." Gub Neal, who produced the first season of Cracker, is quoted as saying, "That we had adopted the right approach was confirmed for me when Jacky Malton, the senior woman police officer who advised on Prime Suspect, said that although the way things happened in Cracker was sometimes highly improbable, the relationships between the police were in many ways much more credible than they had been in Prime Suspect."

So I might not be reaching to think that "Lie to Me" is in some ways a response to "24." Both shows are, by the way, on Fox.



Tons of work to do. What's painful is that, thanks to the deteriorating won-dollar relationship, I'm earning peanuts now.


BSG heads-up

BSG fans should note that there are four hours of BSG left.

1. "Daybreak, Part 1" is an hour long.

2. "The Last Frakkin' Special," a show that brings everyone up to speed on the major issues in BSG, is also an hour long.

3. "Daybreak, Part 2" is, as rumored, 2 hours long.

Check your local cable guide for details.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

...and we're back

I'm back in northern Virginia after a brief stint at the Villainschloss, where the babysitting went quite well. The kiddies were well-behaved, and as far as I can tell, no diseases were transmitted in either direction (them to me, or me to them). Much of the time was spent in front of the big-screen TV, watching "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith." The four-year-old, a Star Wars fan, knew exactly when to cover his eyes (kissing scenes, lightsaber amputations, Anakin's lava-induced makeover). The eleven-year-old, my lovely goddaughter, is now old enough to think that kissing might not be so icky after all, her protestations about Anakin and Padmé notwithstanding. The eight-year-old was tickled by the fact that her big sis is in love with Edward Cullen, the vampiric protagonist of the Twilight series of children's books.

Much fun was had by all, and I was treated to two excellent restaurant meals for my efforts.


alone with three sick kiddies

Peace reigns at the Maximum Leader's house. Three sick children are upstairs. Two are watching a Wallace and Gromit video; one is reading whatever it is that 11-year-old girls read. Of the three kids, two are old enough to be missing school. I remember such days from my own youth.

I'm in the bedroom directly below the bedroom currently being shared by two of the children; the faint sounds of a claymation adventure are seeping through the floor. All is otherwise quiet.

They say the sage accomplishes everything by doing nothing. We'll see how long that holds true.

I look at my forearms. No purple blotches. The kids might be sick, but their leprosy hasn't spread to me yet. When it does, after my fingers fall off, I might be reduced to knuckling or tonguing the keyboard. Won't that be nice.

Should violence break out, I'll do my best to type out a final message here.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"tea party" protests

"Tea parties," essentially protests that target the stimulus and bailout packages, are becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon these days. I think the whole thing is premature-- the president hasn't even had his first 100 days yet-- but hey, more power to the protesters, if that's their thing. I'm not much of a joiner, so I've never seen the utility of gathering en masse and shouting oversimplified sound bites, but freedom of assembly is something we cherish in this country, and even I can't discount the role of protest in consciousness-raising.

It wasn't long ago that certain smug conservatives, referring to anti-Bush protesters, claimed that "conservatives don't engage in useless protests" and "protesters tend to be ugly losers with nothing better to do" (this was aimed primarily at liberal women). It warms my heart to see that many conservatives have either seen the light and embraced protesting as something anyone can do, or have never bought into that rhetoric. Good for them.


le baby-sitteur

Looks as though I'll be babysitting a sick brood tomorrow morning. My buddy Mike is coming over this evening to fetch me, then, tomorrow morning, he's throwing me into a dank pit with his pestilential offspring (they all have leprosy or necrotizing fasciitis or something) while he and the Missus head off to work, and I'm apparently supposed to spend a few hours in the pit, running in circles and trying to keep his afflicted progeny from eating my brain. Luckily, I work off my laptop, so doing work while babysitting won't be a problem. Mike says he'll be back home for lunch break. I imagine he'll throw some food into the pit, cackle at our predicament, then leave.

I think the Missus will be home in the early afternoon, as she's a teacher. If I still have my brain by then, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

More later.


Monday, March 9, 2009

well, that's one correct

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: this is my first-ever blog post written while sitting on the toilet. Not to worry-- no pictures will accompany this post.

I wanted to announce that, at long last, one of my TV predictions finally came true, and in a most unambiguous way (WARNING: SPOILER FOR THOSE TRYING TO CATCH UP ON THEIR VIEWING OF "24"): one of my all-time favorite characters, the very cool Bill Buchanan, bit the big one in tonight's episode. He went out in style, to be sure, saving the life of President Taylor and allowing Jack (plus the assault team that eventually stormed the White House) to control the situation by taking down General Juma and most of his men. Buchanan died the way I want to go: in a huge explosion.

But there was no time to mourn Buchanan's passing. Hodges (Jon Voight) is the bad guy who was in cahoots with General Juma, so we're after him now. In the meantime, poor Agent Walker is beginning to feel a true tug-of-war of the spirit as she begins to realize that her boss and possible love interest, Agent Moss, might actually be congenitally stupid. Jack is brutal but efficient, and brutal efficiency is sexy for a tough cookie like Walker, who merely needs to give in to her dark side to feel true bliss with Jack. Moss seems like a good fellow; his heart is in the right place, but his instincts are all wrong and his insistence on going by the book is making him look like a fool. So for Walker, it's a choice between the dumb bureaucrat and the ruthless killing machine. Choose wisely, Special Agent!

It's too bad that "24" will be continuing after I restart the walk, but at least BSG will be finished in a couple weeks. I'll have some closure.

[NB: Somewhere during the latter half of the post, I left the porcelain throne.]


here's one for the "Get Religion" crowd

Get Religion is a "meta" website that covers religious coverage. Here's something the GR folks might find interesting-- mainly thanks to the provocative headline:

Police: Ill. pastor deflected gunshot with Bible

Without even reading the article, you might be led to think two things:

1. The pastor somehow did this intentionally, and

2. The pastor "miraculously" survived the gunman's attack, thanks to his bullet-deflecting Bible.

The headline makes you think a miracle occurred, and many people, especially those who aren't religious, might sense a bit of nudge-nudge-wink-wink mockery on the part of whoever crafted the title (keep in mind that journalists don't always get to title their own articles).

When you take the time to read the article, however, you learn the headline is tastelessly glib, and what actually occurred was heart-wrenching:

A pastor shot and killed during his Sunday sermon deflected the first of the gunman's four rounds with a Bible, sending a confetti-like spray of paper into the air in a horrifying scene that congregants initially thought was a skit, police said.

The gunman strode down the aisle of the sprawling First Baptist Church shortly after 8 a.m. and briefly spoke with The Rev. Fred Winters, then pulled out a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol and began firing until it jammed, Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent said. Churchgoers wrestled the gunman to the ground as he waved a knife, slashing himself and two other people, Trent said.

None of the about 150 congregants seemed to recognize the gunman and investigators do not know details of Winters' conversation with him, but they planned to review an audio recording of the service, Trent said. The service was not videotaped.

"We thought it was part of a drama skit ... when he shot, what you saw was confetti," said congregant Linda Cunningham, whose husband is a minister of adult education at the church. "We just sat there waiting for what comes next, not realizing that he had wounded the pastor."

Winters had stood on an elevated platform to deliver his sermon about finding happiness in the workplace and managed to run halfway down the sanctuary's side aisle before collapsing, Cunningham said.

Two congregants tackled the gunman as he pulled the 4-inch knife, and all three were stabbed, police said. The gunman suffered "a pretty serious wound to the neck" while one congregant had lower back wounds, Trent said.

Were we to confront the editor of this piece about the tastelessness of the article's title, I imagine he'd feign wide-eyed innocence and note that the first bullet was deflected by the pastor's Bible. But given the events described in the article, does "Pastor deflected gunshot with Bible" really sound like an appropriate title for this article? Does the title really capture what the article's about, or does it manufacture a miracle and inject sly mockery in the process-- all for the marketing-related purpose of attracting the reader to the article?

I'm not sure why this particular article incenses me so much, but it does. Let me back up: the article's fine. The title isn't.


wanted: an intrepid chase car driver!

If you've joined the group "Kevin's Walk" on Facebook, you've seen that I've plotted out the route to Salt Lake City. The route requires about 40 days of walking, but if we add in the anticipated breaks (I've given myself periodic breaks), the number is closer to 50 or so days.

The route takes me out of Walla Walla and back into Oregon, where I'll be following my old faithful, I-84, for a goodly part of the journey. Once I hit Salt Lake City, however, I'll be switching to I-80, which runs eastward across the country and gets me close to one of my major destinations: Chicago.

But my journey on I-80 takes me into the verge of the Rockies and leads me through southern Wyoming. This promises to be an arduous trek: there is-- as many, many readers have warned me-- literally nothing along the way. True: it's not nothing if you're a biologist or geologist or a dedicated photographer, but from the practical stance of the long-distance walker, "nothing" refers to the lack of towns at which a weary traveler might seek rest and the replenishment of his supplies.

It will be nearly impossible to survive this portion of the walk without some sort of help, either from passersby or from a committed chase car driver. I need to plot out the exact length of the I-80 jaunt, but any potential chase car driver should know that it's going to mean a long distance and a long time. A very rough plot on Google Earth shows the stretch to be more than 400 miles. If I average about 15 miles per day, we're talking about a time commitment of at least 27 days. The actual length of the trip will be closer to 430 miles, I think, so we're really looking at a minimum of 30 days-- a whole calendar month to cross the great expanse.

I keep getting comments from people about "why not bike the distance?", but I determined long ago that I didn't want to do this. One reason is admittedly ego-related: the fraternity of trans-America walkers is much smaller than that of trans-America bikers who are-- no offense-- a dime a dozen these days. Once you adjust your mind to the scale of long-distance travel, you quickly see that biking across the country is no big shakes. A second reason I haven't wanted to bike across the country is that I'd have to have a very good bike, and would need to be able to maintain it. A big guy like me will put a lot of strain on any bike, no matter how well-made it is. I'd be stopping for repairs two or three times per state. So No, thanks to all you good folks who've suggested biking. I know you've been thinking about my knees, but my knees are a lot better; I've been ready to walk for months.

So I'll be crossing Wyoming on foot, just as I've done to get to Walla Walla, WA, and just as I'll do to get from Walla Walla to Salt Lake City.

After Wyoming, things look substantially easier. Nebraska has its open spaces, but it's got more towns along the western portion of I-80 than Wyoming does along its western portion of I-80.

Think you can chase-car me through Wyoming? Know somebody who might be able to do such a thing? Give me a comment, send me an email, TALK TO ME!

ADDENDUM: I should mention that another major problem with walking through nothing is that I can't recharge my laptop or my BlackBerry by plugging cords into a buffalo's butt. A chase car driver would have to help me out with that issue, somehow.


oh, please

If this pastor's wild-eyed prediction comes true, it'll only be because he's somehow in on the action.

Do any of my readers buy into this sort of thing? You can already see where my bias lies; don't be afraid to show yours.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

making use of Facebook for the rest of the walk

Longtime readers of this blog are well aware of my hatred of and derision for Facebook. I did, however, sign up for the service and have decided, finally, to make it work for me.

I've been quietly plotting my route out of Walla Walla and across the country, using a "group" I created on Facebook as a place to leave route-related topics. Specifically, what I've done is to create topics that cover each day of the journey, and my hope is that people will post replies to those topics, offering help in the form of suggestions or actual aid: a chase car, a place to stay, etc.

The object of the game is to avoid expenses in all the areas that killed me over the first 600 miles: paying for campsites, paying for motels, and paying for food. While I doubt I'll be able to emulate Hakim's feat (of course, I don't really know the details of his journey, so I don't know whether he really did the whole thing on 200-plus dollars), I hope to get by with a minimum of expenditures.

As always, you can help out either by sending me a donation, or by buying products from my CafePress shop (all links are on the sidebar). You can also join my Facebook group, "Kevin's Walk," and start reacting to what you see there. In fact, I'm hoping you will join that group, as it shows my itinerary.