The three day weekend is shaping up to be fairly uneventful for us. Thats OK, as there is a lot of thesis grinding to do.

There was some more rain last night here in the desert. It always smells so wonderful while its coming down and afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t rain like you might get in … Ohio or Washington or someplace where mothers don’t grab their young children and rush them outside to witness the miracle. “See? Water comes from the sky! Just like Grandma says happens at her house.” The reaction to rain here in Las Vegas is much like the reaction to snow in the midwest. At first people are thrilled “Rain! Look outside, it’s RAINING!”. But its just the idea of rain. They get in their SUVs and cars and completely forget that the laws of Physics (pavement + rain = slick) still apply. The rain loses most of its mystique after about the first half hour and people start to complain as though anything but smog-drenched ‘climate’ is a personal inconvience. The weather-droids on local TV are of no help either, announcing the likliehood of rain as though it certainly will contain toxic waste. Whatever is happening is not what you want. Shouldn’t you be in a casino gambling, or at the very least buying something? So I go outside to be with my friend who just got into town, Mr. (Ms? I never thought about it) Rain.

Rain in the desert is wonderful. The smell of wet desert – the mix of wet rock, cresote, and soil is exhilarating. You can almost feel the cells in your nasal passages swell and give a little “pop” as they get to draw moisture from the air for once. Then as everything dries, you can see the colors of the rocks and mountains in the distance. They’ve been newly washed and replenished. On a perfect day the last of the Sun breaks through the purple and black clouds to spotlight Red Rock Canyon. From my point of view (unlearned in the ways of photography) it looks like something Galen Rowell would take a picture of. Then in an instant, the Sun goes behind the coulds again and the overwhelming beauty winks out. Wow, thanks for that!

I’ve noticed that once you’ve been in the desert long enough, rain becomes an event to celebrate, like the farmers dancing in the drought-breaking torrent in The Rainmaker. Life is good.

slashdot is featuring a review of Full Moon from Knopf. The book is actually a collection of 129 of the best photographs taken of the Moon out of the 32,000+ taken over the several decades and 11 manned lunar landings. There is also an original essay from Andrew Chaikin. I’ve spent a lot of time in my brick and mortar bookstore of choice, looking at this wonderful, wonderful book, though I haven’t bought it yet.

Speaking of space travel, STS-99 has been given the go ahead to do even more mapping. NASA, CNN, Reuters, and the latest images from the mission. They’re mapping the planet in Alaska-sized chunks. This is great!

MacFixIt Special Report: Troubleshooting AppleTalk And Cable Modems. We’ve been bit by this HARD here at the blivet haciendia and thus far our ISP has not been helpful.

Another bit seen at slashdot: David Brin (scientist and bestselling novelist) has a piece on Giordano Bruno, one of the greatest geniuses of the later Renaissance and a spectacularly interesting fellow. Bruno has been the subject of the last couple of days worth of Earth & Sky programs on the local NPR affilliate. In the slashdot dixcussion was this link to another Bruno essay.


X-Files OK. I’m not sure anything was answered. Samantha was taken, Fox re-connected with her, and is ‘free’ now. I’m not sure I am ready to let go of that yet. I really admire Chris Carter’s ability to weave this tale, and Millennium’s as well, though that ended hastily and without proper attention IMNSHO. This is one of the few series I’ve been with from episode one. (I didn’t warm to ST:TNG until the third season, or B5 until the second) I’m just not sure I have that much to say. I’ve been told I’ll never know until I give writing a serious try. One thing at a time, I feel too scattered, too discombobulated. Perhaps it would be centering. I should start keeping a journal again. IMNSHO means ‘In My Not So Humble Opinion’, ST:TNG is Star Trek: The Next Generation, and B5 is Babylon 5.

I spent most of the day with two dharma brothers and Ming Zhen discussing a Tai Chi video project, then went to Las Vegas Chinatown for New Year’s festivities. We’re still basking in the post-rain glow. The air is sooooo clean. Its wonderful! The Lion Dance was so cool this afternoon

Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schultz dies at 77. Reuters, CNN sigh!

‘Fly Cast’ Keeps Shuttle Radar Mast Stable. A tricky inertia maneuver gains altitude for the Shuttle with the 20-story radar boom deployed.

MacNN notes that the Apple PPCLinux site seems to be unavailable, as are links to their MKLinux site. I will not give in to dark speculation, I will not give in to dark speculation, I will not give in …


I missed mentioning the latest Risks Digest, number 20.77, came out on Saturday.

Nomad the robot is finally driving solo – in the Antarctic outback. from yahoo daily news.

It must seem like not much is happening in blivet land, but there is frantic activity behind the scenes at the Las Vegas nerve center. The Super Bowl came and went unwatched. A group of archaes got together Saturday night and after lengthy spirited discussion, solved nothing. However, many opinions and potential solutions to problems real and perceived were presented and a good time was had by all. Remember, fondue represents an unrealized ideal. Several essays are in the hopper, but none are ready to go hopping yet. Oh yeah, there is that thesis thing too.


We lost two days of blivet in the server crash. Oh well, its not like there was any thing that important here, just self-indulgent ramblings.

This is strange – The Intercollegiate Studies Institute of Wilmington, Delaware, a conservative “think tank”, has named Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead’s 1928 treatise, as the “worst nonfiction book of the past 100 years”. Beatrice and Sidney Webb’s Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (1935) and Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and 47 other books make their ‘list’. I hear the sound of axes being ground in the name of ideology. The CNN story is here. Think Tank my ass! You have a political agenda, you’re not a think tank. Not to be confused with Dave’s computer program ThinkTank.

If my maternal grandfather (Lovell Martin Boyle) was still alive, he would have turned 100 today. Imagine having a lunar eclipse to mark your 100th birthday. 🙂

He was born in Oklahoma and raised in northeast Kansas. He farmed for much of his life and watched a lot of changes I take for granted like indoor plumbing, electricity, cars, radio, and television happen. Together, we watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon on July 21, 1969.

He started farming with a team of Belgian draft horses, followed by steam engines, kerosene tractors, and gasoline tractors. He and Grandma raised their kids through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

Once, I remember him squinting at my mother after she had complained about not having much while she was growing up and then very firmly and quietly saying, “You had two dresses, they were always clean, and you never went to bed hungry.” I can still see in my mind’s eye how ashen her face got when he said that.

She told me later that he had once put cardboard inside his work boots to cover up the holes in the soles through the fall and winter, so she could have a brand new dress to start the fifth grade. She said it was the first new, not a hand me down, dress she remembers having.

I’ve never been that poor. I have to say, I hope I never have to go through times like that. I wish no one ever has to.
One wish: If I could sit one more time with he and grandma in the motel chairs under the Elm trees in their back yard late in the summer, and drink iced tea from a Mason jar while I listen to them talk and watch the fireflies dance in the south pasture.

It was cloudy here last night, I didn’t get to see his lunar eclipse. Rats!

[archivist’s note 8/13/2006: my son bears this man’s name]


College has roared into session. It seems very unnatural knowing my diploma will have the date “2000” on it. I feel like I should have a data jack just below my right ear or something. Where’s my hovercar? We were supposed to have hovercars in the year 2000! We were supposed to have colonies on the Moon and Mars too, for that matter. The futures just not what it was all cracked up to be. Where does that phrase “all cracked up to be” come from? I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean though it gets used often.

Karl is in town for the Scuba Con. We getting together Thursday night, it will be the first time we’ve seen each other since 1977. Coool.

Work proceeds on the Las Vegas Springs Preserve Master Plan. It is truly strange to be involved a project that has a roll-out in 2005 and think that there isn’t much time to get things done. So much science to do, so little time.


Personal Archaeology

Late Friday I accepted a temporary position with the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. I’ll be working with some people I genuinely respect. Coooool

For some reason I’m having a great deal of trouble connecting to this site and several others associated with Userland, but not Scripting News. I don’t know if the problem lies here on my machine or out there. I’m having lots of other problems here so this page may not be updated regularly for a bit.


I don’t know what is is about Las Vegas traffic. Every time I return home relatively unscathed I’m reminded of the story (probably an urban legend) that Paul Erlich got his inspiration for The Population Bomb (1968) after being a taxi without air-conditioning stuck in a noontime Calcutta traffic jam in July. For those of you who don’t remember, the book was a dystopian view of an overpopulated world with diminishing resources and imminent disaster. Sort of like ‘Neuromancer’ without the plot or style. Las Vegas traffic elicits those sorts of images of the social fabric on the brink of some sort of Malthusian-induced collapse. People gesturing, yelling, shooting each other. Wait, that has already happened – some time ago in fact. OK, maybe congested traffic is not the harbinger of the decline of civilization. Thats already happened too. Driving in Las Vegas is just a pain. With all the people in town to witness The End of the World as We Know It© and get their drinks comped it just aggravates a bad situation. We need to finish those much delayed infrastructure improvements to I-15 and US-95, and build the Beltway. It would be nice to have a County Commission that planned as though people lived here, raised families here, and did something besides go to casinos instead of lining their pockets with developer dollars. did I say that last part out loud?

Early this morning George Harrison was stabbed at his home. Apparently he was not injured seriously. “From what we know, George was stabbed in the chest several times and [Harrison’s wife] Olivia was hit over the head,” said Police spokesman Geoff Baker. Will people please stop this nonsense! Please?

We put Mom on the plane back to her home about 6PM yesterday. I’ll have more on this ongoing rumination later, it needs some zafu* time.

There is some interesting stuff out there I missed yesterday, being away from the computer. Like that is a bad thing or something. slashdot has an interesting discussion on Geeks, Geek Issues and Voting “For Americans: it’s high time we thought about who we want to run the country for the next 4 years. What kind of laws we would want passed…or repealed. Who would be the ideal “Geek Ticket” and why?” Wired has a story about the Ig Nobel committee’s list of the 20 most spectacular failures of the last century.

*p.s. a zafu is a firm, round cushion associated with sitting meditation (zazen).


blivet /bliv’*t/ n.

(from the Jargon File)

[allegedly from a World War II military term meaning “ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag”] 1. An intractable problem. 2. A crucial piece of hardware that can’t be fixed or replaced if it breaks. 3. A tool that has been hacked over by so many incompetent programmers that it has become an unmaintainable tissue of hacks. 4. An out-of-control but unkillable development effort. 5. An embarrassing bug that pops up during a customer demo. 6. In the subjargon of computer security specialists, a denial-of-service attack performed by hogging limited resources that have no access controls (for example, shared spool space on a multi-user system).

This term has other meanings in other technical cultures; among experimental physicists and hardware engineers of various kinds it seems to mean any random object of unknown purpose (similar to hackish use of frob). It has also been used to describe an amusing trick-the-eye drawing resembling a three-pronged fork that appears to depict a three-dimensional object until one realizes that the parts fit together in an impossible way.

discuss! This is a blivet. When you see this on any other page here, it is a link to the current topic in the discussion group.

My intent is for this to be an eclectic mix of science (I’m a professional archaeologist [MA, 2001, UNLV] and general science geek), topical observations (I read a lot – broadly and omnivorously), and Zen Buddhism (I’m an ordained Southern School Ch’an [Zen] Buddhist priest). If you’re really that curious about me, you can have a look at my university home page.

In the ever expanding attempt to reduce unsolicited commercial email I have removed the ‘mailto:’ urls. Kindly send email to gmail [dot] com using halrager. Not that I really think that this will result in less UCE, but kindly humor me in my delusion. Thanks.

"Zen is a path to nirvana, a magical mystery tour in which we turn our attention away from the chaotic opposites of right or wrong, good or evil, and meritoich we turn our attention away from the chaotic opposites of right or wrong, good or evil, and meritorious or unmeritorious action. By visualization, by sound, or perhaps by picking up a sutra’s line and tracing it back into its source… we go deeper into ourselves, into the magic and the mystery. We follow the inward path that leads into the Buddha’s Refuge; and, there, our back to the temporal opposites, couchant, in the tranquil Sanctuary, we repose in the Eternal One." Ming Zhen Shakya, ZBOHY

In true reflexive fashion this will probably resemble how things affect me (because it appears as though we’re separate), but my aim is to touch how things affect us (because we’re connected).

I’ve dabbled with Frontier through version 4.2.3 for several years, but never allowed myself to get very deep. I always figured I would get distracted from other things, like graduate school.

To Dave, everyone at UserLand, and the amazing user community ˜ thanks for Frontier, Manila, and Radio UserLand!

Occasionally you may see what appears to be comments in italics after some things. Like this! Dave Winer (who ultimately is responsible for all this Frontier and Manila stuff) refers to this as his “evil twin”. I’ve borrowed this (with love) for these pages. People who know me in the flesh know I carry on a running commentary with myself once in awhile. For myself, similar to Dave, this seems like a logical extension for the web. I’m finding it especially useful as I struggle to find my voice here. So that is what those italics represent, one of the voices of my ‘committee’. You know, those folks inside your head, in the back of the bus, that make comments and heckle the driver? don’t look at me that way, it’s normal I tell you! Sometimes they’re your friends, sometimes, well, not. Anyway, that’s who, and what, the italics are supposed to be for. Sort of a Herman’s Head thing (if you remember that TV show).