The passing of a great human being

I am writing this to tell you about the passing of a great human being.

I learned on Thursday that Patrick J Hill has passed.

I want to share with you that someone you probably did not know has recently been lost to this world. I am telling you this because he deserves to be honoured by voices from every hill top and every hollow. The summer sun today may seem brighter than it should be because a light the rivaled the sun itself, that burned bright and brilliant, has gone out.

In the dedication of my Master’s thesis, I wrote these words:

“If, as suggested by Mary Parker Follett, the true test of a teacher-student relationship is whether the student can build on the work of the teacher, I hope that this work is in some way a monument of success for Dr. Patrick J. Hill of The Evergreen State College. Without hesitation, I dedicate the success of this paper as celebration of Patrick as a teacher in the best meaning of Follett’s notion and more.”

But how can such reserved words convey the depth of my love for this man that is no more?

What do I say about a man I barely knew but meant the world to me? I knew him for too brief a time. I met Patrick at The Evergreen State College, in his program, “The Power and Limitations of Dialogue.” Every moment of my life since has been deeply influenced by Patrick J Hill.

The light of him that was reflected in my eyes has grown dim, but I must keep it alive somehow. Every life I touch is touched by him.

I’ve been trying to write my thoughts down, but am having a hard time capturing even a fraction of the full impact Patrick had on my life. I was blessed to drink from the sacred water of Patrick’s well of knowledge and care for the world and to share the experience of his mentorship, and I have been forever changed by that miraculous reciprocity.

Taking a cue from another former student of Patrick’s, I offer this excerpt from a poem Patrick read to his students as an anthem, a cry, a gentle demand to be the best of yourself in this world:

“Il est l’heure de s’enivrer!
Pour n’être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps,
enivrez-vous;
enivrez-vous sans cesse!
De vin, de poésie ou de vertu, à votre guise.”

“It is the hour to be drunken!
If you would not be martyred slaves of Time,
be drunken;
be drunken continually!
With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will.”

– Charles Baudelaire

I ask you to please help all who knew him personally, in whatever way you can, send Patrick every blessing possible for his journey.

The Rocky Horror Show in Olympia opens June 5th

Harlequin Productions is putting on The Rocky Horror Show which opens on June 5th.

This is not the movie. This is the stage production. If I were in Olympia still, even crazed weasels attacking could not keep me away from this. I had the joy of seeing a live production of The Rocky Horror Show in Seattle by the Empty Space back in the day, could it have been in the late 80’s? It was unimaginably good. The movie has a place in history, but the stage version I saw has a place in my heart.

Go see this. Let nothing stand in the way of going. And, I’ll hope for you that it’s even half as good as the version I saw so long ago.

The Rocky Horror Show
by Richard O’Brien
June 5 – July 6, 2008
Tickets $34 – $38
Rush Tickets $12 – $20 available at the ticket office 1/2 hour before curtain.

Sponsored by 94.5 ROXY

Rocky marks Harlequin’s 100th Production! Celebrate with us!

Forget the movie. This is live and not to be missed! On a dark and stormy night, a couple of newly-engaged squares get a flat. (How ‘bout that?) They seek assistance at the castle of a strange host who is more than willing to help in every way he can. But first, there’s a party in progress, and you’re invited! Tighten your corset and loosen your libido. This castle is rockin’! Let’s do the Time Warp again!
The Rocky Horror show contains adult language and sexual situations.

Filming a porno in downtown Olympia tonight

Driving through downtown, I noticed a very large touring bus for “Girls Gone Wild” sitting outside a venue. WTF? They’re filming a porno in downtown Olympia?

Apparently, this is some tour across the country, and tonight is the Olympia stop.

My guess is that “The Mint” isn’t going to be around for very long, but at least the new tenants are busy living up to the history of the building. I guess the call for protests didn’t work. There doesn’t seem to be any articles about this on the Olympian’s website either about the event tonight.

Community not Communism

In this morning’s Oregonian (Wed, 18jul07; D2), there is an article, “Postage-stamp-sized service suits N.J. townsfolk,” that I cannot find on their own website. But, the Newhouse News Service is the source of “Tiny Post Offices Deliver More Than Mail“.

From the article:

“These smaller post offices are important hubs of the community.”

I’m reminded of the row over postal service in Olympia, and the Libertarian-Conservative hatred of any community gathering space. Places where people gather in community seem to be under some kind of reactionary knee-jerk encoded response to a threat of Communism.

We need community. It’s part of what makes it possible for a city or region to be flexible and creative in the face of adaptive challenges, like natural disasters or economic disruption. There has to be space for people to learn about themselves through interaction with others that are not like themselves. Too often, it seems to me, people assume their community is people like them and that anyone not like them in their community is some kind of alien intruder that doesn’t belong. It is our spaces where we gather together that allow us to see and become stronger because of our diversity; not by ignoring or destroying it, but because of that diversity.

I’m pretty sure that I ran into something about this in Place and the Politics of Identity [also], about the tension over postal service offices and community. I’d have to go back to find out, but I recall a discussion in this collection of essays about how social gathering places were being dismantled, and that post offices represented one of the important places where people could gather.

Of course, one merely need to wander in to the downtown or west side post offices in Olympia to realize that these spaces have become store fronts, places of business. These are no longer places where people come even in part to be in community. These are place that one stands around with a number waiting to be serviced as a customer and then get the heck out as fast as possible after.

That book, Place and the Politics of Identity, also has some other very interesting things to say about the waterfront in London that reflect for me on the layers of struggle in Olympia around the nuclear-free zone, the militarization of the port, and the gentrification of downtown. I also found the discussion of “spacialities” to be enlightening in relation to my sense that there are many layers of community in Olympia that exist in the same space but interact as if in different places from each other. I recommend checking that book out.

I think it was through engaging with that book that I also started to think about how it may be that the reaction to community space in American culture is coloured by some kind of learned, internalized fear of anything that suggests Communism. This is something that I haven’t remembered in a while, but deserves some more thought. If it’s true that the general hostility to community space is due to this learned reaction, then that might suggest a way to address that hostility through making a distinction between community and the fear of Communism.

Of course, Communism isn’t the same thing as communism, but maybe that’s something best left for the “advanced” class.

You make that sound dirty

This last week has been all about Harry Potter. Okay, not all about, but it’s been a recurring theme.

YouTube – Red State Update: Harry Potter

Travelled to Portland to see Harry and The Potters [also] on stage. The show was at the Wonder Ballroom, which was a pretty cool venue. I mean that it was spiffy. The temperature was astonishingly hot both outside and inside the venue.

The opening band was Blubird. The music was pretty good down-beat emo with a bit of punk. I was initially disappointed that there were not other Wizard Rock bands playing that show. But, when I realized the two women on stage were only 13, then I had a whole new sense of how good they were. The women in Blubird also made guest appearances during the Harry and The Potters set. Apparently these women graduated from Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, which is such a cool notion that I wish I was a young woman. Er, never mind that. Nothing to see here; move along.

Then, came the main attraction: Harry and The Potters. It was a short set of short songs, but played with so much energy it felt like a full show by a big name act. These men have a very polished act comprised of audience participation, witty banter and savage punk with some emo rock. All in all, quite a show that I heartily recommend.

I also highly recommend bringing earplugs to save you the damage you will otherwise suffer.

One of the particular attractions to going to Portland for this event was that the boys in the band announced they would be going to a midnight showing of the new Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie after.

So, after the concert, I waited around for a couple of hours eating sushi with friends, or not eating sushi because the lame restaurant plonked down all the vegetarian sushi on a big plate with the nasty fish flesh stuff in a way that made it impossible to tell them apart … and I ended up with a mouth full of disgusting fish and lost my appetite for any more.

Then, went to the movie. This was no ordinary showing. The media showed up. They gave away presents in what really seemed to be a rigged costume contest. I say rigged because it seemed to me like the winners had been picked before the popular voting had even started … I guess art imitates life, eh?

This midnight showing was very lively and rambunctious. Lots of jokes, even unintended ones, got laughter and there were boos for some characters and applause for others. I mean, really: how can one not laugh at the dirty joke inherent in the guy in a kilt following a goat in a mangy pub? or, guffaw at the inappropriateness of a naked adult wearing a fur overcoat huddled with a strikingly handsome young boy in a train station waiting room? That’s only a couple of the strange things in this movie …

… that I really wish had been in focus. My, but how lame is that? For shame, Lloyd Cinemas!

One of the other highlights of the night was that pre-arranged song everyone that was at the concert knew about for Hagrid’s first appearance on screen:

“HARGID IS FUN TO HUG! —”
“SHUT UP!”

The night was not over until I could hit the sack around 4 am for a few hours before driving back to Olympia.

And, then, a few days later, Harry and the Potters were in Olympia. At the library. For free! Only, they were sold out. Wait, what?

Yeah. Apparently, there were tickets issued in order to control the number of people in the building because of fire code. But, the band apparently didn’t know there would be tickets issued. I certainly didn’t know until someone told me they heard someone saying that … it was sold out.

But, my partner got tickets! She was given tickets to the show. Then, she gave them away to someone that wanted to go. Well, fine. That’s cool and all since we’d seen them a few days before, but still a bummer to have to be in the waiting line hoping to make the cut in without a ticket.

Only, my partner decided that since we didn’t have tickets we wouldn’t leave the house until the doors opened … Um. No, we need to go early to see if we can get tickets and to get in the freakin’ line! But, we were late enough that we were just a couple people away from the cut off point. However, we did get to see the people we gave up our tickets to skip past us inside …

We decided to wait outside and see if we could make it in. But, man, people were really a bunch of whiners about not getting in, and bitchy about who was next in the line to go in when space was available. Blah.

Lots of people in costumes and lots in Wizard Rock shirts. At one point, I was saying, “I really need a Remus Lupins shirt.” And, someone with exactly that showed up in line behind me. Cool.

There was a group of people behind us in line in costume. One member of that group was a young woman with a wand in her hair, and a great Hogwarts school uniform. Wow, she was sad about not getting in. She was probably one of the people that didn’t know there were going to be tickets because she would have freakin’ camped out in the library just for tickets. So sad! She was rocking herself back and forth with her eyes closed trying not to bawl.

My partner and I tried to convince the staff holding the door to let the costumed people go in first, because they deserved it. But, no go.

One woman came out of the library and the staff person told her to pick someone to take her place. So, I leaned over and whispered to her that she should pick the girl in the costume with the wand in her hair … and she did.

Yeah, faith in humanity restored!

My partner was wearing her Harley Quinn shirt, which, you know, is pretty hot. Only, I felt horrible because while we were standing in line waiting outside, the staff on the door spotted the shirt and started to talk really very shockingly loud about Batman and Harley Quinn. Here we are outside a concert, about 20 people, trying to hear the music from inside that we’re not allowed in to hear … and this guy is going on about Batman.

Ugh. And, it was hurting my head. Loud music, loud conversation and even louder Batman trivia …

A few songs into the set, apparently the fire marshal had given the okay to let everyone in that was outside, so we did get to be inside for most of the show.

I was a bit surprised at how much of the set was the same as the Portland show, but there was a great moment under the library skylight when the band was doing “Enchanted Ceiling” and pointed out the reflection of the crowd above. “The Enchanted Ceiling is you!”

Damn, but I forgot ear plugs again! What? I couldn’t hear you, sorry!

This was definitely a shorter show than Portland, but had good energy. The crowd in Olympia was definitely more high school and junior high than the Portland crowd was. In Portand, I was surprised how the crowd was a lot older than I thought it would be. Sure, there were a few adults with little children at both, but not so nearly so many young adults as in Olympia.

Then, I saw the film again because someone had bought tickets for others that could not go. I say I saw the film, but really I only saw part of the film. Who knew it would take a freakin’ hour to drive across Olympia? When did traffic get so bad here? I just don’t drive in town enough, or during rush hour, to know. And, how strange it seems to talk about rush hour in a town like Olympia!

The second time watching the film … was surprising. The film was the same, but the audience was cold fish. They were apparently slept through most of the film, for all the silence and stoicism they mustered.

Then again, some friends were at the same showing and I was introduced to someone wearing a Harley Quinn shirt, and who had a Harley Quinn costume for Halloween. Oh, be still my cheating heart! Luckily I was saved by the power of my sense of propriety from asking for pictures.

Somehow, I ended up going to the movie again yesterday for a matinee. I haven’t seen a movie multiple times in the cinema in a long time, and just in the past week I’ve been to 3 showings of this movie.

I know how I felt the first night, morning actually, in Portland. I felt that there were some great bits, but even going to see it with a crowd of really good fans didn’t shake a feeling that somehow this was the end. The whole thing felt over, and that it just wasn’t worth it from here on out.

The 3rd movie was astounding, and the movies have been down hill since. They’ve been fun and all, but the 3rd movie was a great movie. It was not just a good Harry Potter movie, but all around a great movie. I remember being in the cinema with my jaw dropped open at how awesome the 3rd movie was as a piece of cinema artistry.

But, this 5th movie … was too predictable, too arch, too much a formula action film. It just didn’t have the extra spell of magic about it that it should have, that the 3rd movie had in spades, and was already fading fast in the 4th.

The thing about the books is that they are detective stories at heart, to me. And, to take a detective story and turn it into an action film is much the same as just making another installment of the Batman franchise … hey, even the palette of colours in this 5th Harry Potter movie could have been a match for one of the early Tim Burton Batman movies.

I miss the magic already. I get some of it back when I listen to my CDs of Harry and the Potters, Roonil Wazlib, and The Remus Lupins, but I loved the 3rd movie so much I want to marry it. And, I feel like I’ve had my heart broken with what’s become of the movies to which I proposed. What happened to the movies I fell in love with?

I guess, we’ll always have our memories … until we don’t.

And by footprint, they mean floor plan

I noticed this headline in The Olympian: “Olympia woman shrinks her footprint — to 84 square feet“.

Of course, the author of the headline should have known better, but headlines aren’t always written by the author of the article. However, this person’s footprint is not 84 square feet, but it appears that her floor plan is.

Further, there was a much better article about this in the June/July 2007 South Sound Green Pages [LGT a sad, stale blog], and was written by the owner of the house. That better article also appears directly next to another article about what an ecological footprint actually is. Because, it’s not a floor plan, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, there’s no version of the two articles online that I found when I looked.

However, the South Sound Green Pages articles do offer a now broken link to a page that helps one calculate one’s ecological footprint [instead] and a short film about the little house viewable online.

It’s nice for The Olympian to pick this story up after it ran in another publication, but of course there are a lot of people finding ways to live on little; whether that’s their floor plan or their footprint, whether by choice or necessity. And, the tiny house meme was so long ago. On the other hand, I suppose some coverage is probably better than none, right?

Update @ 17jul07, 10:56am:

I keep thinking about this. For one thing, I find it amusing that the owner of this house is respectable enough for the mainstream to talk about. There’s plenty of people living like this in Olympia, just, apparently, not with as respectable day job. So, that demonstrates the high water mark of socially acceptable minimalism.

The other thing that keeps rattling in my brain is: how is this legal? It must be due to the fact that it’s a mobile trailer. That’s how she’s getting around the need for full plumbing. The reason this is a thing for me is that the Ecovillage in Port Townsend was having trouble with building small houses that weren’t en suite, and there was work needed to convince the city to allow people to live in spaces that had shared plumbing in a central location. So, ironically, the way around this is to have each person in what amounts to a Romani Bardo … making houses mobile is the way to skirt the rules.

Well, that’s only one step away from the people that find themselves living in their cars or campers on the streets of the city. And, what’s amusing to me, in a not really funny way, is that it’s those very car campers that the city can’t say is probably a major target of on street parking reform …

Minimal living then is pinched on both sides …

I know people living in what are officially designated as garden sheds, but are quite nice spaces. But, those people can’t risk talking about their places in the paper.

Harry and the Potters in OLY and PDX next month

So, Harry and the Potters are on the move. They will be in Olympia and in Portland again. In fact, the Olympia show is free. Also, while the Portland show is not free, after the show they are planning on raiding a local cinema for an early screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

From the website’s show page:

“July 10th, Tuesday
Portland, OR
Wonder Ballroom
6:00pm doors, $10/$5 for under 12
128 NE Russell, Portland, OR 97212
ALL AGES show! With Blubird opening. We know that Portland is full of some of the most hardcore readers on the planet! It’s one of our favorite places to play. After the show, we’re all going to see the HP5 movie and boo that stupid Dumbledore off-screen. Seriously, would anyone really object to Voldemort taking down Dumbledore during their battle at the Ministry? At least wouldn’t have to deal with that jack-ass ruining the 6th movie too, right? Be there to boo with us! Theater TBA.”

(And, what’s with the steady dis on the big D?) and:

“July 12th, Thursday
Olympia, WA
Olympia Timberland Library
9:30pm, FREE!
313 8th Ave SE, Olympia, 98501
Very special after-hours show in the library! We’re gonna TEAR IT UP!”

Olympia Ecovillage gets a nod in the shower

The Seattle Times has an article today about the Phinney ecovillage and Sustainable Ballard that gives an essentially anonymous nod to the Olympia ecovillage, as well as the Port Townsend ecovillage:

About 28 groups from Bremerton to Mercer Island are developing along the lines of Sustainable Ballard, and the EcoVillage concept has spread to Port Townsend and Olympia.

That’s all the article says about Olympia and Port Townsend. They don’t even link to them in the online article. What’s up with that?

Anyhow, I linked to them, for what ever that might be worth.

I was intrigued by the mention of the Phinney pledge. It’s on the Phinney ecovillage site, downloadable in PDF format.

Seems to me that could be the basis for a large-scale community awareness campaign, to form a kind of virtual ecovillage within a city. What if some Olympia group used something like this flyer to get people in the community to pledge some slice of the ecovillage lifestyle and tracked that information, like many non-profits track their donations, and made that available as a community health indicator?

One of the items on this list is to install a low-flow shower head. However, I remember there was a buzz going around a few weeks ago for “navy showers” which save even more. A “navy shower” is simply to shut off the water while soaping up, instead of letting the water run the whole time. The Wikipedia entry on “navy shower” points out, along with step-by-step instructions for the perplexed, that the opposite, lavish kind of shower is called a “Hollywood shower” as a bit of interesting trivia.

So, what if there were first and second steps to each pledge item, like first low flow and second navy showers?

But, wait. Whatever happened to Uncle Bucky’s fog-gun shower device? [also, also, also]

Also, if one were to use something like a pledge to help develop community interest in and tracking of ecovilliage-like values, there should be pledge items about being in community and that encourage social connection and sharing. Then again, maybe there should be a pledge for each indicator of community health, so that there would be a climate change pledge and also a pedge about being in community? One could go through the process of developing one’s own set of indicators, or start with those developed by the Cascadia Scorecard project at Sightline and create a pledge for each indicator.

Morning power outage on the westside of Olympia

This morning, around 6 am, I noticed my power was out.

I called in to report it and there had been 79 reports with an estimated more than 2000 people without power. However, about 30 seconds after I hung up from reporting the outage, I heard the fridge turn on. Now, that’s what I call service.

All in all, it was a blissfully quiet morning.

Of course, thinking back to the storm outage that began on Dec 15th, I realize that I have done nothing to be better prepared. Not only have I failed to be better prepared, but I’ve even failed to re-stock the supplies that I used. So, in fact, I’m significantly less prepared than I was then. Although, I still had my old corded phone out, so I didn’t have to rummage around to find it again.

As I was dreamily sitting in the dark, I found myself wondering about several things.

I started to have such a strong memory of the cuckoo clock in my grandparent’s house. All those years, I found the hourly noise of it so annoying. Thinking back, I find that I have strong memories of the textures of the carving and the metal pinecone weights. I found myself wondering if my grandfather’s love of that clock had anything to do with a sense of security in having a clock that needed no electricity. So much of that generation’s attitude towards the world was based on the experience of scarcity during the great depression, that I wonder about a possible connection.

Thinking about the generation of my grandparents being so formed by scarcity, I think about the way that the culture of the US seems rooted in the idea of scarcity. This was one of the points made by Frances Moore Lappé, when she spoke at the Willi Unsoeld Seminar Series on 17 Apr 2007. The body blow of uncertainty and scarcity had life-long effect on my grandparents, and cannot have left my parents unaffected in turn.

When I think about the effect of scarcity on the following generation, I find myself thinking about the history of Europe as re-told by Barbara Tuchman in A Distant Mirror. There is a desperate exuberance for life and sensation in the generations to follow the calamity of the plague, maybe with a tiny echo heard in the desperate explosion of emotion and life experienced by my parents and their generation. Each followed by generations of selfishness and greed.

I find myself wondering about this pattern of contraction and expansion in terms of a possible Post-Oil culture in the US. I find myself wondering about this pattern of trauma and post-tramatic stress in terms of the culture of the Middle East, and the culture in the US that hopes to welcome home soldiers sent to foreign lands.

What, I wonder, would it take to avoid another generation of coke-addled greed monkeys several curves around the bending response to scarcity? Can an engaged eco-progressive movement do better than to turn on and tune out the future consequences delayed in time that eventually cause more harm than what healing occured to our selves and our world?

I hope so.

Also, there’s storytelling to discover at the Spar

I remembered something that I didn’t mention in my previous comment about the new old Spar. That is that there are a line of murals opposite the counter. Apparently these mural pictures are each based on stories that the McMenamins crew was told about the history of the Spar. So, there’s a story to be discovered in each of the pitcures. For anyone with a soft spot for local history, that is a pretty nice touch.

And while I’m at things I didn’t mention, the pictures of old Olympia in the history sheet being offered at the Spar are credited as courtesy of Mr. Echtle whom I recognize as the current Director of the local Olympia Bigelow House Museum.

The Spar has curtained booths along the lavatory walk past the pool tables. You know, so you can go and, while having food and drinks, use the wireless internet in privacy and conduct your affairs, so to speak. A semi-private place to swap local stories or to start some new ones. It’s all so very speakeasy, don’t you know.

Everything old is newly branded again at the Spar

My partner and I decided to have breakfast this morning at the brand-newly open McMenamins Spar Cafe & Bar. (Hey, I just noticed that has a simple rhyme.) The place was very busy in the front, but there were still about 1/3 of the tables open in the back. The breakfast food was decent and not too expensive. They were still a bit dis-organized. For example, they couldn’t find soy milk for my chai and they had only Habenero hot sauce for my hash browns and not a drop of a more stomach-friendly version.

They still sell tobacco products from a humidor cabinet. I wonder, assuming that the other locations don’t, if selling specialty tobacco will migrate from the Spar to other McMenamins elsewhere? That would be an interesting twist, to have a signature product from one new location move to all the others.

However, they do not have a spot for music. Apparently they are still thinking about that, and will gauge demand. So, if you loved the Jazz and other music, you should let them know. For me, honestly, I never made it down for music at the old, though I thought about it. I was vaguely hoping that the new would offer something that was enticing enough to get me to go there for music.

The presence of a McMenamins in downtown made me think about what a Burgerville might be like up this far. I suppose then downtown would become a regional-brand theme park, but maybe that would be an interesting thing for a state capital to be?

Near the door, there were some stacks of flyers for some McMenamins things, like the White Eagle in Portland and the Olympic Club in Centralia. In addition to these, there is a double-sided sheet with information on the history of the Spar.

The story is interesting, in spite of need for a minor copy edit on the version I picked up. (Like I’m one to point fingers on that score … only I just did.) A secondary message I got from this was an attempt to connect the historic chain of Spar restaurants with the chain of McMenamins. But, the main message I got was that since the start this location has changed hands and faces, as if to say this transition to new old is not so far from the real history of the location. From a various things, including a saloon, from at least the 1880’s, and the Oxford starting in 1905, the beginnings of the Spar in 1935 wasn’t the beginning of the space, and that the Spar also has changed ownership in the past. Therefore, this sheet seems to being suggesting, the passing of the old to the new old is not incongruous nor breaking a much more historical tradition of various saloons and owners. Interestingly, the sheet frankly acknowledges the challenge of change “has caused a few locals to mourn The Spar’s change of hands–and why not?” This is a double message that says history is important to us all, but also not to fear change.

It will be interesting to see how the new Spar is received across the various cross-sections of Olympia, and whether this quasi-local quasi-chain restaurant will be shunned or not. Especially, when the novelty wears off …

Rain is still wet

New Year’s day was blustery and wet here in Olympia. I was heading out of town to pick up my partner at the airport, and noticed a young man hitching. I decided I had enough time, so I pulled over to offer a ride.

“Are you headed to downtown?”
“No, I’m not, but I can get you as far as Harrison.”
“Okay.”

“Thanks for the ride. There’s no bus service today, so I really appreciate it.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about no service today. That sure sucks. Tell you what, I’ll go ahead and take you downtown.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure, it’s not a problem.”

“It’s annnoying that I couldn’t get the bus, you know what I’m saying?”
“Yeah, having no service seems silly to me.”
“And, what’s with New Years anyway? I mean, it’s not like anyone important died on that day. It’s just a day … no wars were won or lost on New Years, not that I know of anyway, you know what I’m saying?”
“Holidays are kind of arbitrary anyway. Most of the time, it’s got more to do with making a day for people to shop, it seems to me.”
“Yeah, holidays like Easter … that’s a strange one. What’s easter all about? Where did that get started? I’m a Christian evangelist, and it’s not really Christian, you know what I’m saying?”
“Well, Easter is Ostara, which in some Pagan and Indo-European thought is the time that the Goddess arrives from the underworld, the beginning of spring. Like Persephone for the Ancient Greeks …”
“Um, yeah.”

“Okay, well, thanks so much for the ride!”
“No problem. It’s a blustery and wet day out there, so ..”
“Yeah, but I’m a Christian evangelist, so I believe in Jesus Christ and any day that you’re alive is a great day.”
“Well, okay, but rain is still wet.”

Livin’ at a loggin’ camp, dreamin’ of owls with dynamite

I don’t know about you, but where I am, there’s been the sound of chainsaws all day for pretty much the entire week, and even today on Saturday there’s no respite. Sure, it’s all about recovering from the crazy wind storm that blew in and killed the power here for several days, but it’s feeling like I’m living at a logging camp.

It’s a little bit like torture. I had a dream last night that I woke up to find that all the trees, as far as my eye could see, had been “cut down for public safety.” And, every time one of those chainsaws revs up, I have this fantasy about spotted owls swooping in with dynamite to save the forests.

Come to think about it, I can’t get the image of the animal rights terrorists out of my head. See, this image makes the clear connection between the activists as terrorists and the fear of a living planet to which the activists are allied. The meaning of this image is that if spotted owls could carry dynamite, the gun-tottin’ environment-rapin’ people in the world would be in serious trouble. Not only are the activists the enemy, but the entire environment is the enemy.

This is interesting to me because of all the folklore and myth about dangerous nature across cultures, but especially in the human versus nature story embedded in western culture. The myth is that the scary natural world is out to get humans, and humans have to fight back for their lives. The wild forest as a place of serious danger, and of magic, is a place to be feared. This is that place past the borderland, where the old woman of the forest, the Baba Yaga, lives.

So, apparently animal rights and environmental terrorists are the new druids, allied with the natural world and fighting along side the animals. The more I think about that image, of the animal rights terrorists marching with the animals, the more I love it.

Anyhow, over at Daily Kos, Wonkette is being called out for that post. But, you know, this is a post-modern world … so what if it’s not real? I’m sure I’ve seen the evil TV image before somewhere, but where?

And, in a way, apparently, Nature really is rising up. [ via ]

Phishing goes local

In a post to TESC Crier, there’s a note about a phishing scam that targets Washington State Employee Credit Union members:

Two new email Phishing scams are targeting WSECU members.  The email appears to come from WSECU. In fact, it comes from an fraudulent source shown as (Inbonline@wastatecu.org) The two e-mail subject lines are: Enroll in “Challenge Questions” Authentication Now and Changes coming to online banking!

Phishing isn’t new. Banks being the target isn’t new. What strikes me about this is that the bank isn’t a national bank. It’s a smaller bank, on a more local scale. So, the scams are moving down the food chain toward the small banks, apparently.

This, to me, seems like a big deal because the smaller the scale of bank the more damage, overall, a service interruption could become. And, the smaller the bank, it seems to me, the less Internet fraud detection and recovery infrastructure there will be in place.

On the other hand, the smaller the bank the more likely there will be clues in the scam that give it away as not being genuine. At some level, the social engineering used by these scams requires that the individual not recognize there’s something wrong. So, the larger, more formal, more distant communication from the institution usually is, the easier that is to spoof. However, for smaller, more personal banks, one would think they would have more unique communication styles, perhaps more personal, that, if missing, would offer a clue to the individual that there’s a problem.

But, it’s still very interesting to see that a smaller, more local bank is being targetted by phishers. I suspect that the availability of e-mail addresses for the state colleges and universities, harvested from websites and list archives, makes state employee credit unions an easy target.

If the trend were to continue, I could imagine that Evil Personâ„¢ might harvest e-mail addresses off of local Olympia blogs, like Olyblog, and try phishing with fake e-mail from even more local banks, like South Sound or even Tulip. There’s a point where one might pass the point of diminishing returns, but then there’s also the fact that for every local bank here, there’s banks in other places on the same scale … so there’s an economy of scale to phishing lots of smaller banks, I suppose.

It will be interesting to see how the push of spam and phishing goes – if it goes more and more local, more and more targetted.

What if instead of random text, a spam tool used keywords or maybe even just the target e-mail to google up some related text and parsed that into the e-mail? It would be like being spammed by a million monkeys on typewriters, and could become a really surreal experience. It would be like personalized engrish, or a daily personalized message from Wm. S. Burroughs! Now, how cool would that be?

Welcome to a taste of post-abundance

The PSE outage line reports 700,000 estimated without power in their service area, and days if not a week to restore power to everyone.

… but, you know, at least that power generator you bought for Y2K is useful now … as long as your gas supply holds out. Get your syphon ready to pull gas out of your car’s tank!

Funny things:

  • I can’t go to the bathroom without a candle. Stupid design!
  • It took me 1/2 hour to get candles and search my old equipment for a phone that actually works without power.
  • My nifty camp stove that burns twigs, but requires a 9v battery seems a little oxymoronic to me now.
  • I have way more candles in this house than I realized.

And, best of all, the 3-4 hour battery life of this laptop I use … while awesome that it’s got a battery so I can use it at all … is really short when there’s no power main to plug into. Which is just insane that my computer is my main priority … you know, at least, until I get hungry and realize I can’t cook anything … Wait. What?

How sane is it that to survive retail makes us insane?

I only noticed this yesterday, but Mervyn’s is closing in the Mall. This was announced as far back as January at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Layoff Tracker.

Mervyns LLC said Monday that it will close 20 stores — including all 13 in Washington — by next year, affecting more than 1,400 positions, as the struggling retailer aims to improve its profits.

The last paragraph offers the tidbit that Mervyn’s was owned by Target, but sold off. Major retail brands being owned by the same actual company. Another case of the disease in the detergent aisle: the appearance of choice, but no real choice. The appearance of competition, but no real competition. Oh, what tangled webs corporations weave, when they practice branding to deceive:

Mervyns has been steadily losing market share to more nimble competitors for years. Frustrated with the chain’s meager returns, Target Corp. sold Mervyns last year for $1.65 billion to a group of investors that includes Sun Capital Partners Inc., Cerberus Capital Management LP and Lubert-Adler and Klaff Partners LP.

I can’t help but wonder what this means for the other stores in the “shoppolis” (to try and coin a new word: shop-city, the artificial towns comprised of retail and little or no residential buildings.). So many retail companies rely on the holiday season to make money. My understanding, from many years ago, was that if a retail company didn’t make money during the holiday season they simply did not make money for the year.

This is shocking to realize. Not only does this mean that the rest of the year is a loss-leader to get people to shop with some kind of brand loyalty during the holiday, but it also means that normal, everyday purchasing of goods is not enough to sustain retail businesses. If people shopped as they normally do every other day of the year during the holidays then the retail economy would collapse. That means that the success of retail requires that people behave as if they are insane for months of the year. How sane is that?

And, that insanity is the fuel that makes the engine run. Without that fuel, there would be rolling blackouts in the Shoppolis.

But what happens when Mervyn’s goes out of business and is selling everything, even the fixtures? Will this be a gravity well for consumers seeking cheap goods for the holidays? If Mervyn’s sucks up money that would have gone to making the year for other stores, then other stores in the mall may not survive the collapse of Mervyn’s.

And, here’s a funny twist: while retail requires us to be insane, we have to be consistently insane. From The curious economics of temptation. – By Tim Harford – Slate Magazine:

Mainstream economics has no way to describe Frances’ behavior, because it assumes people are impatient in a consistent way

(I just had a moment of self-doubt about whether it was Mervyn’s or Mervyns, but find that I’m comfortably old school with the name.)

The send-off of the Pomoroy and a tale of two workers

So, the ship that the stryker group has been loading into has left. The action in Olympia surrounding this was a 10 day attempt to blockade the vehicles as they moved through Olympia to the Port.

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I had the opportunity to participate in the send-off event as the ship left the Port. I took some pictures of the “die-in” as the ship left the Port, which was a symbolic enactment of the deaths that would occur because of the ship’s departure and also sympathetically a show of how we all die a little when others suffer or die.

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There were a large number of press taking pictures and doing interviews, including the Olympian. I was amused by the frantic was that the photographers rushed to anything that held even the slightest promise of direct action by the protestors or the guards. The guards consisted of, at least, Port security, Coast Guard and County Sheriffs. And, I’m sure at least one of the idling vehicles there was some form of other national security team.

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The guards all had automatic weapons, and the two Coast Guard boats in the water each had two high caliber machine guns, one at each end. The show of force was not completely absurd, but palpable. There was a mixture of sorrow and humour among the protestors, and I’m pretty certain that I caught a smile or two from the guards. Whether that was laughing with or at us, I cannot say.

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I was recognized by one of the others, who is a professor at Evergreen, who said some kind words to me about my failed run for City Council, including that I should give a call if I run again some day. It was nice to hear those kind words.

As public as this protest was, and it reached national news, including CNN, among others; there are also other facets of the protest that will likely never reach the public.

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For example, there was a struggle among co-workers at a coffee roaster located next to the Port of Olympia entrance. This is a tale of two workers. The first worker is a young, recent college graduate that needs the work, and would like a future with the company in other ways than scooping roasted beans. The second is a grandmother that doesn’t want to learn anything she doesn’t have to learn, and wants only to do the work she is willing to understand, especially avoiding special projects and anything to do with computers. Interestingly, both of the workers are transplants from the same mid-western state, just strikingly different in every other way.

The first saw the protestors standing in the cold and rain, and knowing that she was allowed to take coffee home, and to use hot pots from work for private events, decided to, on her break, take coffee out to warm the protestors. She made sure to take off her company apron, and go on her break. She made sure that she told the protestors that she was not acting as a representative of the company, and that she was acting on her own, on her break. Over the days, she also suffered, silently, comments made by some customers, such as, “Those people look like something you’d scrape off your shoe,” or, with derision, “They all look like Evergreen students to me!” She was conscious of her work environment, and the need to keep her private life and activities separated from her work.

The second, seeing the first take coffee out to the protestors, told managers that the first was stealing coffee to give out. Not talking to the first at all, but going sneakily to tell lies to their manager, the second claimed the first was being unethical. When a third worker also took coffee out on a break, making clear that it was also this third’s personal act and not that of the company, the second worker banged on the window from the inside and made faces at the third as she walked to the protestors outside. The second worker then refused to give the third a promised ride home, claiming that she didn’t trust the third and didn’t want that person in her car. This second worker was also seen at closing time allowing one more person through the door, but, then, at the same moment refusing service to two of the protestors that were also trying to come in behind the previous. To the protestors, while on the clock, this second worker refused service to a specific kind of customer, saying that the place was closed.

This is only one example of the kind of unseen and unheard battles that happen in this city.

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Zhonka is the new OlyWa

On a lark, I checked Zhonka’s website and learned something I did not realize:

Founded and managed by experienced Internet pioneers from OlyWa.net …

I had mentioned OlyWA in previous posting in relation to smaller ISPs being purchased by telecoms, in this case OlyWa purchased by ATG. So, now it turns out that at least some of the OlyWa people have moved on. Also, the OlyWa website now goes to a 404 at ATG/Eschelon.

It’s interesting to go back and check on old players. I used to check every once in a while on old players like Spry and others, but slowed down when things got boring. However, here’s proof that there’s still some entertainment to be had in spotting the changes to the old guard.

As an aside, I notice that on the bottom of the Zhonka page is the following:

“As per RCW 19.190.40, it is a punishable offense to send unsolicited e-mail to Washington state addresses.”

Which is a statement that I find specific to a certain generation of Internet savvy people in Washington state. It’s something I added to the bottom of my page back in the day, and still retain there.