Monday, December 28, 2009

End of Sabbatical Reflections

It has been a busy few days. There was Christmas, of course. Then the day after Christmas we drove up to Seattle to the 5th Avenue theater to watch White Christmas. Yesterday was mostly down time, trying to recover.

The Sabbatical is almost over. A week from today, I believe, I must rise before the dawn, pull out of the driveway and drive to the bus stop where the bus will take me to Seattle. I will get off around Westlake and walk up Pine to the school. I will be back in my routine.

Have I accomplished what I wanted. Yes, and no? I finished the book and appendixes though I still need to focus on a concentrated rewrite. To do that I need some guidance from the editor, which I hope to get soon. I worked a lot on my own writings, though I didn't finish much of anything, and I didn't send things out for publication as I intended. I did redo my school web site and prepared the syllabi and all the assignments for Winter quarter. I have started to build my personal web site, which I hope can be a focus for my personal writings. (This blog will transition to become my personal blog and I will start a second blog devoted solely to my classes.) I got the front and back lawns planted. I have worked with Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010. I have read an enormous amount and have relaxed. The latter is perhaps the most important.

Am I ready to return? Yes, I think so. It is time to get teaching again.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Working on a poetic collage of sorts for this first day of winter:

gloom of this sunless winter morning
amaterusa, the sun has gone into a cave
& must be tricked to look out
light mirroring blinding light
the beginnings of a return
between darkness & dawn
a remembrance of the dead
(my mother died near Christmas
snowing at the funeral
then a shaft of sunlight
through clouds)
it is not the distance from the sun but the angle
maximum 23 degrees latitude
26 degrees longitude
standing still, if only for an instant
when darkness triumphs
if only for an instant
(if only in Northern latitudes)
circles of standing stone
they are for eternity
a day of reversals
“today when freeman fawns on slave—“
said Kallimachos
when the god is torn apart by his maddened followers
water into wine
a new shoot sprouts
delicate leaves
Dies natalis solis invictus
a day for Christmas shopping
only 4 shopping days left
at the birth of winter
earth turns
toward summer

With a little help from Wikipedia. Amaterusa is a Japanese festival for the solstice. Other relevant ones included are the Greel Linaea, the Roman Saturnalia and Sol invictus (the victory of the sun). Kallimachos is a poet from the 2nd century BC in Alexandria. It is from the fragments of his Aetia, a long poem in elegiac metrics about the origins of certain rites and practices. The translation is my own.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Not Much

I have finished and posted all the assignments for Winter quarter except the final Sql assignment. I intend to have it up before the weekend. I hope that will make the quarter flow smoothly.

Next I hope to work on my own website and get it up to the point that I can make a public announcement of its existence.

The rain has stopped.

My mind too has stopped. A blinking cursor on a white screen. More, and better, later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A holiday greeting

Here is a image for the season:

Though, I have often been curious why a tropical plant that really only flourishes in equatorial conditions should have become a symbol for a winter holiday in the northern hemisphere. Is it perhaps a dreaming after the tropical warmth?

Today much warmer. The rain pocks the standing water in the back yard.

I hope to work on assignments for winter quarter today. I have put rewriting the chapters on hold until I hear from the editor. I want to make sure that the final format is what they want.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


The first morning in a while when the house wasn't freezing. The sun through the windows offers a pleasant illusion of warmth.

So, I have been working mostly on getting things ready for school. I have 7 assignments done for the SQL class, and 4 for the Visual Basic class. I have uploaded the materials for the Database class. Students will have to log in to look at the chapters there.

I want to finish them and then work on the main personal web site. And so much other writing I want to do, but time, for this sabbatical at least, is running out. The holidays are full of activities that pull me from work. Today, for instance, after putting up the Christmas tree, we may go up to Bothell to Molbak's Nursery (a seasonal trip we do every year) and then down to Green lake for the illuminarium--paper lanterns lit along the walkway all around the lake. A lovely, if chilly, thing to do.

And there is still Christmas shopping to do. (A difficult thing without money.)

The thing is, I am not even that fond of "Christ--mass," though I am willing to celebrate the solstice, the brief triumph of night over day (in northern latitudes), and the day's slow return. A reason enough for gifts. And I love the smell of a tree in the house. (Still not sure what the conifers meant to the druids or why they were incorporated originally by the Church--ever green I guess means never dying, or at least free from the cycles of winter dying and spring renewal? I should look it up.)

Anyway, a busy time. A time for scattered incoherent blogs. . .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cold Morning

10 degrees Fahrenheit this cold December morning. Mount Rainier beautiful blue white in the rising sun. In the house it was only 62 degrees. Our poor furnace is over powered by the weather. Despite the clarity of the morning views, I look forward to the return of rain and warmer temperatures.

As for work, I have been working on school stuff primarily. I finished the first assignment for the visual basic class and started the second. I would like to have all the assignments ready before school starts. As for rewriting the book, I decided to hold off a bit until I have talked to the editor. I want to be sure what they want in the final manuscript. Once I know, I will begin an intensive rewrite.

I also had an idea for a another book. I have always had more ideas than I could handle at any one time. One of my problems has always been focus. I scatter my energies among many projects, rather than focusing on one of them and bring it to completion before I move on to the next.

One thing at a tme.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I have solved some of my CSS problems. I just turned the second column white so it looks as long as the first even when it isn't. I still needed to add an extra div to provide background color for the heading.

Today I have been mostly working on Assignments for ITC 222 SQL. I have finished the database and finished the first seven assignments. Now I think I will try to get the first several assignments for ITC 172 Visual Basic.

Otherwise the main interest of the day has been the cold. Our poor furnace struggles to keep up and we can only heat the house with a mix of space heaters and the fireplace.

Brisk mornings can shock the mind alive. Maybe I will get some work done the next couple of days.

I have decided that when I return to school, this blog will become my personal blog associated with the web site I am designing. I will start a second blog that will focus only on materials for my students and classes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

CSS Frustrations

A gibbous moon 95% full bright over the western horizon, while the sun rise paints the mountain the color of salmon in the east. Lovely, but cold.

CSS can be frustrating, sometimes. I spent way too much time yesterday trying to get my columns to be of equal length with variable content. By default columns are only as long as the content in them. There is a trick you can use, but it involves making a separate container div for each column and then offsetting the columns off screen and pushing the text back on screen over the containing divs. It is complicated and messy. It results in the appearance of equal length columns, but has some other drawbacks. For one you can no longer center the outside container in the body because of its offset.

In the end, after hours of work I resorted to cheating. I set a minimum height for each column and if I needed it larger I manually set the height in the page itself. This is bad in terms of maintainability, flexibility, and extensibility. I will revisit it again. A simple solution is not to have a background color in the second column. If the background of the container is white and everything in the container is white, it looks as if both columns are the length of the container. It is just not as pretty.

Anyway, I would rather contemplate the moon, I think, waning into December.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

a bit of Hesiod

Yesterday I got back the peer reviews for chapters 7,8 and 9. Overall they were quite positive. I also worked on preparing assignments for Winter quarter. In addition I was reviewing my "decipherment" of the first 120 or so lines of Hesiod's Theogany which forms a hymn to the Muses. Here are a couple of key passages:

they went up to Olympos glorying in sweet voices
with immortal song
the black earth echoed around them as they hymned
sweet drumming rose under their feet
as they climbed to their father ruling the sky
holding the dark thunder & bolt lightning
after defeating his father Kronos by might
distributing to each of the immortals their fair portions ad privledges
these things the Muses sing who have their home
in Olympos, the nine daughters of magnanimous Zeus
Klio & Euterpe & Thalia & Melpomene & then
Terpsichore & Erato & Polumnia & Ourania & also
Kalliope, who is the most renowned
because she attends to the exalted princes & sacred kings

--and here the end of the section:

happy he whom the Muses Love
ο δ’ όλιβιος ̀’ον τινα Μουσαι φίλωνται
sweet speech flows from his mouth
even if he is full of grief
with a mourning spirit
full of fresh sorrow
his heart parched dry
yet a singer, a servant of the Muses,
singing news of past men & the Olympian gods
causes anxieties to be forgotten
the memory of them prepared for burial
the gifts of the goddesses turn away sorrow

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Frost

The first frost of the season. The new grass glistening white in the morning sunlight. I had to scrape my car window to take my daughter to school. A line of crows sits sentinel on the neighbor's roof.

With all there is to do today, my main impulse is to do nothing. Still, I will bow to my better impulses and at least work on assignments for next quarter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Taking Stock

The first of December. The last month of my sabbatical. The time is going fast, and December, with all its holiday activities, will go by even more quickly. Time for a quick update. What have I done so far? I have finished the appendixes and have begun rewriting with chapter one. I have also done the syllabi for winter quarter and redesigned my school web site. Currently I am developing the database I intend to use for ITC 222 and possibly for ITC 172.

My goals for the remaining time:
Finish the database
Create the assignments for ITC 222
Create the assignments for ITC 172
Rewrite as many chapters as I can

also continue to work on poems and my new web site

Sunday, November 29, 2009

in memorium

lacrimae rerum et mortalia mentum tangunt
the tears of things and mortality touch the mind

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walking with Cell Phone

The day before Thanksgiving. Amazingly warm, almost 60. Sun for awhile, but the clouds slowly grayed the afternoon. I took a long walk with my cellphone, taking pictures.

Here is a picture of the mountain as a backdrop to the town

The road into Smallwood park

The fish pond in Smallwood park

The ruins of the sawmill that was once the reason for the town's existence:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Catullus Carmina 11

A translation of Poem 11 by Catullus:

Furius and Arelius, comrades of Catullus,
whether he penetrates the extremes of India
where the shore is pounded by
the waves of dawn

whether to Hyrcanus or to the soft Arabs
or to Sacus or to the archers of Parthius
whether to where the seven-mouthed Nile
colors the sea’s surface

whether he trudges across the high alps
viewing the monuments of mighty Caesar,
the Gaullic Rhine, the turbulent waters,
the furthest outposts of Briton

or whether he attempts all these simultaneously
bearing whatever heaven wills--
speak these few words to my girl
not pleasantries

may she live & grow strong in her adulteries
may she take 300 men into her clasp at once,
not loving one in truth, but repeatedly
herniating them all

nor may she look back at my love
as before, which through her fault
has fallen like a flower at the meadow’s edge
touched by a passing plow.

In this poem Catullus exposes all his moods: the conversational, the mock heroic, the brutal invective, the delicately tender. He begins by addressing two "comrades of Catullus," opening a long rhetorical sentence that turns on the preposition "siva," "whether." Then, referring to himself in third person, he outlines an empire vast enough to get lost in. The locations he cites are not merely poetic, they map the exact delineations of the empire: India, Arabia, Egypt, the Rhine, Brittan. His hurt is as big as the empire itself. There is an ironic juxtaposition here of the personal and the politic, the intimacy of his grief vs the vastness of the Roman occupations. Concluding this sentence, he tells his comrades that he has a few words he wants them to impart to Lesbia, and he warns them they are not pleasant. Thus the invective--an art form, if you wish, for which Catullus has been remembered for 2000 years. Against the anger and brutality of his statement to Lesbia, is the the almost unbearable tenderness of the last lines, cast aside like a flower tacto arato est.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Books

I got a Writer's Market 2010 from the library. I must confess looking at the Writer's Market books is always a bit depressing. There are no markets for most of what I want to do, and what little market there is, pays nothing.

I have a similar feeling sometimes in libraries and bookstores, though with subtle differences. There it is the sheer volume of books that I find depressing. So many books and so few with any real value. Good work or even great work will be simply be lost, ignored on the shelves among so many other books.

Good books, great books turn us back toward ourselves (in the full sense of ourselves in the world among others). The vast majority of books are written to do the opposite, to turn us away from ourselves, to distract us with entertainments, or superficial self help.

"Distracted from distraction by distraction" wrote T. S. Eliot.

Not that I don't crave distractions too. It is just the immense store of distractions. It is quite possible to live a lifetime without confronting a single serious thought.

Is my elitism showing through? Very well, let it show.

The Seahawks lost too badly to prove a distraction and I am running out of ways to avoid work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A few notes

The wind shook the house last night and howled past the windows. The rain sounded like pebbles thrown at the window panes. I was a little surprised this morning at how little damage was actually done. I had expected things to have blown everywhere, but there was little out of place.

I worked on rewriting chapter one this morning and then spent most of the afternoon trying to redo the index page on my school web site. It was difficult because I am not an expert at CSS, especially positioning. I am trying to avoid absolute positioning of elements and to use float instead. It takes me a great deal of trial and error to get the various sections positioned correctly. I make a change, display the page, return to the stylesheet, and then display the page again. It took me close to two hours to get it correct. But I did get it. I have a new look for the index page and posted my syllabi for winter quarter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I spent most of yesterday morning and this morning trying to write a section on documentation f0r chapter one. All my attempts seemed wooden and stiff. Finally I had a sort of break through. This is how the beginning of it reads now:


Documentation is a lot like flossing: nobody likes to do it, and far more claim to do it than actually do. Developers want to develop. The last thing they want to do, generally, is to take time out and describe what they are developing and how they are going about it. And yet, like flossing, few things are as important to a healthy database enterprise.

Imagine you have been hired to work as a data administrator for some company. They have a large and complex database, but the former administrator, who was also the developer, left no documentation. In order for you to do your job you need to understand each object in the database is meant to do. You also need to know it is supposed to work, how data is processed. Managers expect you to be able to provide them with the data they need when they need it. Some pieces probably make sense right away, but several pieces remain obscure. You try to ask people about them, but managers are not database designers and, generally, they don’t have a clue. Many of the people who were involved in the creation of the database have moved on, and it is difficult to get a clear sense of the original intentions or purpose of the database. Eventually you may solve the problems, but you will have spent countless hours in investigation, hours that could have been saved by a little documentation.

Documentation is one of the most important and one of the most neglected aspects of any database project. When you look at a database built by someone else, or even one that you may have made some time ago, it is often difficult to see why certain decisions were made, why the tables are the way they are, why certain columns were included or left out. Without documentation, it can take a great deal of research and guesswork to understand the database. You may never understand all of its original logic.

So what does it mean to document a database? There are really two main aspects that need to be documented: the structure of the database itself and the process by which the database was developed.


It is still not perfect by any means, and I don't know how the editors will react to the flossing simile, but at least it flows better than what I had before.

A brief patch of sun this morning, gold, green on the new grass of the back lawn. The mountain is clear and bright with new snow, but the weather report suggests this is a brief respit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

British Actors et al

Yesterday, I was working on a long, philosophical post about language, structure, abstraction and the particular, but I think I will spare what few, if any, readers I might have.

Last evening I watched a BBC production of Midsummer Night's Dream on DVD. The production values were low and the staging unimaginative yet sometimes strange. There was a lot of rolling around in a pond and mud that was unexpected, and puck was weirdly imagined. Yet, as the advertisement on the DVD says, "word for word as written by Shakespeare." It was a serviceable presentation of the play. Interestingly, I recognized a couple of the actors from their roles in other BBC productions in the late 70's and 80's including Doctor Who. That is not totally unexpected. British actors consist of a small pool of professionals who tend to appear over and over again in different contexts. It is still true. David Tenant, the current Doctor Who--the show has run for thirty five years or so from 1962 until sometime in the late 80's, then starting again in 2005--has just finished playing Hamlet along with, interestingly, Patrick Stewart from Star Trek the Next Generation.

Enough of my Geekdom though.

Today I am going to work on rewriting Chapter One.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I discovered an interesting (to me) and useful document on MSDN. It is essentially a book on Application Architechture. It is quite useful reading, and something I might direct my students to.

Saturday morning and I slept in, something I haven't been doing. The benefit of oversleeping is that I actually woke up with some fragments of dreams. It was, for me, a usual dream. I have an apartment somewhere, that I totally forgot existed. It has many of my lost books and albums. Often the apartment is majestic in its size or view. Often also I am living with my parents still and want to return to that apartment, to get out on my own again. There may be complications with rent--but usually I still am in possession of the apartment even though I have not been there in years and had even forgotten it existed.

I have some ideas about what the dream might "mean," though I am not going to explicate it here. Over the years, I have read most of Freud's and Jung's major works and at various times I have applied Freudian interpretations or Jungian interpretations to my dreams. But in the last several years I have taken a different approach. Now, I don't interpret the images as symbols of some representation of the ID, I just live with them awhile as they are, let them speak in their own terms.

The idea came to me when a friend told me of his recurring dream. He was holding the ladder for his father who was working on the roof. When his father came back to get off the roof, he was no longer a man but a bear. The mind leaps to many obvious interpretations. Freud would see it as Oedipal, Jung probably as an archetype of the shadow. But by not leaping to abstraction, by sticking with the bear, I believe, you get a much richer picture of the relationship. A bear, as the Indians knew, is a complex animal. It is large and temperamental and can strike at a whim. But it is also noble, a hunter, a fisher. It can even be comic and gentle. The bear is a figure of great power. It must be treated with the proper respect and, yes, kept at a certain distance. You can admire, perhaps even love a bear, but you cannot allow yourself to get too physically close to it for your own safety.

There is more in the images of a dream, than in the structure. Nineteenth century science was about finding structures (as is all science actually), so Freud and Jung looked for recurring structures in dreams mostly ignoring the individual richness of particular dream images. (I think this touches at the edges of what might be an important insight into all science, but I am not sure I could clarify it yet, something to do with the apprehension of the unique phenomenon vs the place of that phenomenon in a larger structure. There are hints of this in Heidegger.)

Anyway, enough Saturday musings. . .

Friday, November 13, 2009


Stormy morning. I woke to the sound of the wind whistling past the bedroom window. There are rumors of a dusting of snow this evening. I love autumn, but I am not sure I am ready for winter to descend.

I am ready to rewrite the chapters, but I need to develop a consistent strategy, a way to approach the rewrite that keeps me from just floundering here and there through the text. So far I have this: start by adding the new stuff, in particular the section on documentation and the additional practices. Then I will look at my explanations and definitions expanding them and adding examples where necessary, cutting where required. Then, finally, I will look at the writing, correcting errors and cleaning up the syntax where it could use it. I wrote the chapters rapidly. I think I spent about 8 or 10 hours writing each one. I just let the prose flow. For the most part that is good, but there are places that are a bit awkward.

I must confess though that I would much rather work on other projects. I have just purchased a Domain I am more interested in working on the site than rewriting chapter one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Finished all the appendixes and am beginning the rewrites of the chapters. It is hard to know where to begin. I need to add more practices and a section on Documentation. I also want to add a rubric at the end of each chapter to help guide students and instructors to judge the quality of their work for the scenarios. There are descriptions that need to be clarified, expanded, or reduced. There are some sentences that need reworked for style. A lot to do, but my basic impulse is to skip it for now and read.

I have been on a reading binge of late. I reread American Gods by Neil Gaimen. I also have been reading Shakespeare, the Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom, and inspired by it, I have reread Julius Ceasar and Hamlet. (They were the only two plays available in the Eatonville Library. I have the complete Shakespeare, but it is buried somewhere in a box in the garage like most of my books.) I am still reading The Logic of Hegel once in a while, along with perusing my most recent issue of Scientific American.

I really should be spending more time writing than reading, but old habits are hard to break. I have read many thousands of books. Despite that I am not one that believes that reading in and of itself is of all that great a value. It is not so much how much one reads that matters, as it is the quality of what one reads. Among those thousands of books I have read are many that are of questionable quality. Much of reading is a lot like watching TV--a more or less entertaining distraction from everyday concerns.

I have sometimes had the fantasy that I would like to unread all I have read, unlearn all that I have learned, return to a preliterate state where I could look at a page of writing and see not words, but patterns of black and white, shapes as mute as sunlight and shadow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Custodian

I have been working on the last appendix on Visual Studio. I also have been looking at some of my older stories. I like some of what I find there. Here are the first three paragraphs of a story called the custodian:

It could not be said that he had ever aspired to the position of custodian. He had never said as a child to his father, "when I grow up I want to be a janitor." He had never explored the option of a vocational degree in custodial science when he had made his brief foray into the community college system.

It was something he had settled into like the dust he wipes from behind the curtains or vacuums from the heavy hair dryers in the beauty salons. He had started the cleaning business in desperation between jobs. He had hawked his expensive stereo and his TV for an industrial strength vacuum cleaner, two mops, a broom, some rags, and a bucket. He had arranged to rent a buffer when needed and set out to find some jobs. It was meant to be a stop gap to keep him fed and housed until he found some "real work," something where he sat behind a desk and had two trays, one marked IN and the other OUT. But that was 25 years ago. Cleaning jobs came easy. He had always had plenty of customers and the money hadn't been all that bad. . .

He had even come to enjoy it. There was something pleasurable in working the odd hours that others didn't work, the late nights, the early mornings in the predawn or at dawn when the gold light would melt the cold glass of the window into a warm honey. There was something pleasurable in working alone, in seeing places of business when no business was taking place, in noting the traces of the people who had worked in this place or that, but who were not here now, who were a palpable absence.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rainy day thoughts on cafes

Another gray autumn day. A heavy rain is drenching my new lawn. I can tell where the low spots are by the gray puddles. I will have to add some soil to raise those areas in the spring. Something about rainy mornings--the coffee tastes especially good, black, bitter, slowly stirring my brain to life. So what thoughts arise, sparked by caffeine, on this gloomy morning? If any?

As my family arises, my concentration is shattered. Noise and questions drive away any contemplations. That is the problem with working at home. I really should find some other place to work--the bakery or the library perhaps. I can handle public noises better than domestic ones. I have always worked well in cafes. In college I got most of my work done in the student lounges. I wrote a good deal of my textbook in the cafeteria at Pierce College in Steilacoom while waiting for my son who was attending classes with running start. There is something comforting about the buzz and hum of people coming and going, the hiss of espresso machines, the clatter of dishes, conversations that flow in the background like river water over stones.

I am about to begin the major rewrite of all the chapters. For that I think it is time to seek out the public places that are paradoxically more private.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mashell River

Took a long walk yesterday and walked down along the Mashell river which flows along the borders of Eatonville, taking pictures with my cellphone. I was thinking I might use one for a new web site I intend to build.

Here is one of the pictures:

Mashell river

In terms of work, I have finished all the appendixes except one of Visual Studio. I am not sure I should use the Beta. Ultimately Microsoft doesn't allow screen shots from Beta's to be published but I could use them as placeholders. The other thing that concerns me is that the ASP.Net changed a great deal between Beta1 and Beta2. I worry it may change even more before the final version.

I may leave it for now and begin rewriting the chapters.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

ASP.Net 4.0 Beta 2

I worked last night with ASP.Net in Visual Studio 2010. I was in for a few surprises. The default template now has a master page and a fairly elaborate prepared css style sheet. I suppose that could be good especially for someone just starting out, but I am not particularly fond of master pages. To start with just a web form you need to use the blank web page template.

Another issue I had was VS was not recognizing xhtml elements. It would underline each and give me a validation warning. It took me about an hour to figure out that if I went under Tools/Options/Text Editor/Html that there was a place to set the html target to xhtml Transitional. After that everything worked fine.

I also tried to do the ASP.Net with IIS. Again I had troubles configuring IIS to work with Windows Authentication. I got it so it would work, sort of. It still didn't work with database connections. I made an Login for the IUSER account and gave it access to a database. It worked in design, but not when running. Finally I got the connections to work by using SQL Authorization and adding the connection strings directly to IIS. It works. but I want to get the windows authorization to pass through.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sugar Hangover

So, a bright morning this first of November, greeted with a sugar hangover. We gave out close to six pounds of candy last night to what must of been well over a hundred kids (though "kids" is relative--some few of them could use a good shave--). This year we were prepared. We stocked up on candy like we had never stocked up before. The unfortunate side effect is that we still have a fair amount of candy. And my daughter brought home another several pounds of it. Even my sweet tooth is daunted.

The lawn, planted at the end of September is beginning to look like a real lawn. Emerald green in the gold of morning light.

So. I feeling the urge to get down to serious work. So far I have finished two appendixes and have two to go. Then I can get into the more intense process of rewriting. I want to add a section about documentation to each chapter. I also want to create rubrics for each chapter's scenario so both students and instructors know how to evaluate their work. . .

But, first the Seahawk game. I fully expect them to lose to Dallas, but hope, however unreasonable, always champions the improbable. . .

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I saw Sting on some talk show talking about his new song "Soul Cakes." He explained that it was the origin of trick or treats. People in England would put out cakes for the dead. The dead, of course, would not eat them and the poor would come and ask if they could have them if they prayed for the spirits of the dead.

That may be one of the nearer origins of trick or treat and Halloween, but putting food and drink out for the dead is a very ancient tradition. There is the medieval tradition of All Hallows Eve, the night when the dead are released for a moment from their graves. The Ancient Greeks would put bread and beer out for the dead. Placating ghosts with food is one of the oldest traditions of human kind. It probably goes back to at least neolithic times when the bones of the dead were often kept under the floor of the house and disinterred when the family moved. I would not doubt that it dates back farther into the paleolithic, back to when humans became aware of themselves as human as mortal.

It is part of our core humanness to be haunted by our dead and by the fear of death itself and to try to placate them and it. Food is a fundamental of life, a necessity and a comfort. Providing the dead food is a way of reminding the dead of what it was to be alive. Food is communal. To partake is to be a part of the community. By inviting the dead in, we ward of their anger at their separation. We let them know they are not forgotten.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Timely Notes

Mallarmé made a big point about the white (blanc) page, the blank, the virginal page. I don't have a white page, but I do have a white screen, a blank text box waiting for some input. Red October burns into a brown November. About a third of my sabbatical is over. That's the trouble with time. It keeps moving on.

I remember when I was very young how a day could seem to last forever. Now they seem to race by. I think the difference is how great a percentage a day is in your life. When you are very young each day represents a larger percentage of your total experience. As you grow older each day becomes a correspondingly smaller part of the whole. I am sure it could be expressed as a simple ratio: 1 day / total number of days. At six years old each day is 1/2191 or so of your total experience. At 54 each day is 1/19898 of the total. (The calculator in Windows 7 has some great new additions including a date calculator. This number is the difference between my birth date and today's date.)

As Andrew Marvell said

At my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stray thoughts

Thinking about currents, eddies, surface tensions for my river poem. . .

Thinking about F#. I have been trying to write a small program that resolves the quadratic equation x|x>0 and x<42 where p= x*x-x+41. I found this equation in a novel by Arthur C. Clark, Rama 2. In the novel he uses it to trigger an atomic bomb. The unique thing about this equation is that it predicts a sequence of 41 prime numbers starting with 41. After the 41st prime the sequence falls apart. The equation is somewhat an anomaly, a curiosity. I see it as a metaphor for existence: a momentary expression of order in broader chaos. (I am writing a long sequence of 41 poems based on the equation called quadratic.) I have been having trouble with the syntax of the F#. Most examples show the syntax for the interactive interpreter, but I want to write it as a function in a program. I am sure I will figure it out eventually.

Thinking about my lawn which is greening in the gray light and the rain light. . .

Of such scattered things my thoughts consist these days . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 On-Line Trainings

Microsoft's channel 9 has a new and very extensive training course for Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010. All for free.

Some of the new features for VS include extensibility management which allows you to create applications which can easily be extended by just dropping a dll in the directory, expanded parallel computing, expanded Windows Presentation Foundation (XAML), Silverlight programming, Azure for cloud computing, F#, MVC for the web (not sure of all that that contains but it seems to be a alternate platform for web development, Expanded ADO and data binding tools, Entity Framwork, UML support and more.

I intend to work my way through many of these tutorials between reading Hegel and working on my book. (Found a bit of a Zen moment in Hegel, actually, and unexpectedly. He was saying the usual image of infinity is a line stretching both directions into infinity from some arbitrary point on that line, but that the true image of infinity must be a circle with no beginning or end.)

No Seahawk game today, thankfully. But I must attend a funeral this afternoon The sister of one of my daugter's friends died of cancer. Sad, but they don't want any dark colors. She requested that everyone wear bright colors especially yellow and light blue.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Couple Links

I am perpetually amazed at what is available on the Internet. One of my favorite sites is Ereignis. This site contains everything Heidegger: texts, discussions, articles, etc. Interestingly, I have not found similar sites for other philosophers.

The Internet is amazing for what it has, but it can sometimes be as amazing for what is absent. My students, my son for that matter, rarely turn to books for information. The subject map of the Internet may be the map of tomorrow's knowledge. The idea does not put me into despair. Modes of literacy change. Once knowledge was what you and your neighbors had managed to memorize. (Plato was suspicious of writing because it would mar memory by making it lazy and replace living dialog with dead text.)

Whatever the gaps, the amount and variety of information available is infinitely richer than what I had available to me when I was young searching the Coeur d' Alene Library and the local Drugstore book rack.

A second link, this one more professional. It is a wonderful site with hundreds of articles for developers using almost any platform and language.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Windows 7 is released today. Somehow it seems like old news since I have been running it for almost a month now. Still I hope it does well.

Last night I worked on a translation from the Greek. I used to do a lot of translation, but haven't done any for a long time. I went to one of my favorite sites on the web. The site is amazing to me. It has hundreds of Greek and Latin texts, translations, grammatical and lexicography tools. (They also have Sanskrit, German and English Renaissance materials. It was the only place I was ever able to find Christopher Marlowe's translations of Ovid.) I realize others will probably not be as enthused, but I have spent years trying to collect classical texts. They are expensive and hard to come by. Perseus makes them available for free with a host of scholarly tools.

Despite my years of working with Greek and Latin texts, I am not that good at it. I call my efforts "Decipherments." So, last night I picked a short text, a fragment of Bacchylides, at random. It is about a formal request by the Greeks for a return of Helen before the Trojan war. There is a passage very typical of Greek sentiment:

Zues who dwells on high and sees all
is not to blame for the great sufferings of mortals
All men have it in them to reach
unwavering (straight) ἰθεῖαν justice, attendant
of holy Eunomia and prudent Themis.
Prosperous whose children live with justice.

Anyway, today I am going to work on another appendix and start making notes for rewriting the chapters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2

I spent the morning uninstalling Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 and then installing Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2. It went amazingly smoothly. My experience with Betas in the past did not lead me to expect that, but this beta one had a good uninstall utility, and the Beta 2 a good install.

I haven't actually played with it yet, but I will today.

I remember with the original SQL Server 2005 beta it wouldn't uninstall. I spent hours with the registry editor trying to get rid of every last trace of the beta, so that I could install the final product. If I was smart, I would only install betas into virtual machines. The problem with that is performance. At least on my machine, Visual studio crawls inside a VM.

Monday I had to take my son up to Puyallup to see a doctor. Yesterday I went into Seattle. Friday I have to go to Tacoma. The gist of it is, I am getting a little panicked about getting the writing done.

On the positive side, My lawn is turning green. It may actually be a lawn by spring.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Centennial musings

So, a weekend of centennial activities for Eatonville. Friday there was a Centennial Ball. (I hate dressing up). Saturday there was a parade. Today there is a dedication ceremony. And, since my daughter and grandchildren are involved in it all, I must attend.

100 years to grow to about 2000 people Still, survival is survival. Over a million people pass through here on the way to Mt. Rainier each year, though I suspect most don't remember that they did.

It is a long story how I ended up here, but I will spare you for now. Suffice it to say, for now, that houses down here cost around a quarter of what they cost in Seattle. There are other compensations. We can see the mountain from our back yard. Currently the hills around the town are gold with autumn leaves. When I commute, the first twenty miles or so consist of small farms, fields and trees. I often see deer or herds of elk. The drawbacks are the distance from work and other activities. (I am really sorry not to have made it to the PostGres Conference this weekend.)

I am starting to feel a mild anxiety about all I need to get done this sabbatical. There is really a lot to do on the textbook. So far I have only finished the appendix on Access. (I finished chapters seven, eight and nine, but that was officially between summer quarter and fall quarter, not on the sabbatical itself.) I need to finish 2 more appendixes and then rewrite all the existing chapters. That, plus all the other work I want to do.

This is the week to regain my focus.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PostGres Access Centennial

There is a PostGres Convention with Seminars being held at Seattle Central this weekend. I had fully intended to attend, but unfortunately it falls on the same weekend as Eatonville's Centennial Celebration. There is a ball I am expected to go to Friday, a parade Saturday in which my daughter and my grandson are participating, and events on Sunday. Most weekends are free and would pose no conflicts, but it just happens they chose this weekend. . .

I have been working on the appendix on Access. I was a bit surprised to learn that Access no longer supports user based security at all. (It makes sense, in a way, since user based security in older versions of Access was a nightmarish mess.) That makes it useless with my security chapter. I also realized that I will have to redo the whole ASP.Net application to work with Access since I can't use stored procedures. I was further surprised to find that the OLEDB provider doesn't work with Access 2007 but the SQL Client one does. (at least in the Wizard.)

Today, there is a break in the rain. There are tiny green shoots throughout my lawn. Maybe I will get some grass after all.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Neil Gaiman et al

This morning I was looking at Neil Gaiman's web site. I like the general layout and feel of it. I wouldn't mind something like that for my site. I am sure he isn't responsible for the site except for Blog. He is too busy and has people for that.

I just finished reading his The Graveyard Book. It is a children's book, but reads well enough for an adult. (In fact most librarians feel it reads a little too adult despite having won the Newberry award, and, fearing it might be too frightening for children, classify it as young adult. Much of his work is hard to classify, he writes everything form children's stories to books that are definitely adult. I could see children, exited by his works for kids, wandering into some of his more adult books such as American Gods. The difference is't so much the subject matter as the intensity of the violence and a little bit of adult language. ) Gaiman has a very unique sense of the world in his writings, a mix of myth and dream, nightmares and morality tales with a touch of the graphic novel or comic book (He did the Sandman series.) Very modern but very archetypal at the same time. It makes me think about my own fiction. Is there any unique slant I could develop? My stories, with a couple of exceptions, seem more Ray Bradburyish than anything.

Yesterday started with a dentist appointment and went downhill from there. Not that anything went horribly wrong. It is just that nothing really got started. I need to regain some focus today and going forward.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting Started: Another Week

Each day I have spent two or more hours outside watering the seeded lawn. 8500 square feet of dirt. There are some pleasures in it. I am too muddy to come back inside, so I stay outside and watch the leaves turn, and the crows, and the kids playing in their front yard a couple houses away. I work a bit on my poems and think about what else I need to do. Still, I am looking forward to the coming rain. It will be a relief not to have to water every day, not to worry about the dry spots that appear by afternoon. . .

Finished the fraction class. All the operators are overloaded. I added a ToString() method that outputs the fraction in "1/2" form. I added a constructor that takes in a string of that format and separates out the numerator and denominator. I decided not to deal with mixed numbers.

Now what I really need to do is to finish my appendix on Access. One of these days soon I will return to my more philosophic thoughts, but today needs to be practical.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fractionally Better

Still working--or more honestly avoiding work--by working on the Fraction class. I found it much more complicated to overload the equality == operator than I thought it would be. First, you can't overload the == operator without also overloading the != operator. To make it work I also had to override the GetHash() method and the Equals() method. Though once I had done that, the operators were easy. It was also necessary to make sure I had a workable method to reduce the fraction, otherwise the comparison of say 1/2 to 2/4 would not return equal. Here are the methods

public static bool operator ==(Fraction f1, Fraction f2)

return f1.Equals(f2);

public static bool operator !=(Fraction f1, Fraction f2)

return !f1.Equals(f2);

public static Fraction Reduce(Fraction fr)
int i;
for (i=fr.Denominator;i>1;i--)
if(fr.Numerator % i ==0 && fr.Denominator % i == 0)


return fr;

public override int GetHashCode()
return Numerator ^ Denominator;

public override bool Equals(object obj)
bool result=false;
if (obj == null)

if (GetType() != obj.GetType())
result= false;

Fraction fr = (Fraction)obj;
fr = Reduce(fr);

Fraction fr2 = new Fraction(this.Numerator, this.Denominator);
fr2 = Reduce(fr2);

this.Numerator = fr2.Numerator;
this.Denominator = fr2.Denominator;

if (this.Numerator == fr.Numerator && this.Denominator == fr.Denominator)
result = true;

return result;

Now I just have the > and < operators to do, and to develop a good ToString method. I also want to overload the constructor.
As for the rest, I have been watering the lawn and looking forward to next weeks rain. The river poem flows on, approaching 20 pages.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fraction Class

So, last evening, with nothing on TV, I worked on developing a C# class called "Fraction" that will add, subtract, multiply, divide and compare fractions. This involves overloading several operators specifically (+,-,*,/,==,>,<,!=). The class has two integer fields, "numerator" and "denominator." Here is the Use Case diagram for the class:

Here is the code for overloading the addition operator:

public static Fraction operator +(Fraction F1, Fraction f2)
if (F1.Denominator != f2.Denominator)
F1.Numerator = (F1.Numerator * f2.Denominator);
f2.Numerator = (f2.Numerator * F1.Denominator);

F1.Denominator = (F1.Denominator * f2.Denominator);
f2.Denominator = (F1.Denominator * f2.Denominator);

Fraction F3 = new Fraction();
F3.Numerator = F1.Numerator + f2.Numerator;
F3.Denominator = F1.Denominator;

return F3;

I would like to refactor the greatest common denominator code into a separate method since I also need to use it for subtraction, but I am not sure how to return the results I need to the operator method. I also intend to add a method to reduce the fraction, and a ToString() method that will output the fraction in a form like "1/2" o r"2 1/3."

This program isn't purely for my own amusement. It occurred to me some time ago, that this would be a great class to give to students to test. Each operation would need testing, and with a variety of inputs. Students could design a testing schema, conduct all the tests and document the results. It might make for a good special topics sometime.

On my book, I am almost finished with the Appendix on using Access with the book instead of SQL Express, though the hardest part is still to come. Security. Access security is nothing like SQL Server's security. I am tempted to just say, if you are using Access skip that chapter. But I will try to recreate the security measures in Access.

Now to water the lawn (a two or three hour task.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Yard Work

The last two days I have spent entirely on the lawn, preparing the dirt, seeding and watering. I still have some of that to do today. This autumn weather is lovely, but I actually wish it would rain so I could water less.

Reading Hegel before bed. (It does help hurry sleep.) The first principles of his logic are Being, Nothingness, and becoming. Interesting the poem IT begins in an almost identical place:

"It. That's it. That started it. It is. Goes on. Moves. Beyond. Becomes."

In terms of computers, I was looking at F#. It is a new language included in Visual Studio 2010. It is a function based language, especially useful for math intensive applications. I have played with it some but my math skills are not sufficient to take full advantage of it.

So, back to the yard. I really hope it grows.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Parallel Programming

Reading MSDN magazine: Another new topic to explore is parallel computing. The growth in the power of individual processors has slowed. Computer manufacturers have made up for it by adding processors. In order for a program to take advantage of multiple processors it must be broken into separate threads that can be directed to the various processors. To do this requires a whole new set of fairly low level and complex concepts. You have to be aware of what's happening at the CPU and memory level. Most difficult of all is controlling the concurrency and synchronization of threads.

The question is, I guess, is this something we need to teach? Very few of our classes get beyond intermediate programming concepts. Yet, I suspect this is something that employers will be expecting of new hires in the future. Visual Studio 2010 includes some enhancements for parallel computing, such as PLINQ, that help abstract it some. Still, I really can't see, any but a very few students, being able to master these skills.

Something to think about.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brize Marine

Cool morning. Autumn in the air. Time to get the grass seed on the lawn. I started the appendix on Access. I have recreated the database from the book. Next I have to test the SQL statements. I also worked on a short story called Brize Marine after a poem by Mallarme. It is an old story, but I am reworking it, trying to make it more in my current voice. Here is a paragraph from the story:

His mind resembles an ancient Greek papyrus. It is spotted and stained with old wine spills. Holes have been burnt, corners charred by the flame of certain searing events. Pieces have molded with damp misuse, collapsing into a leprosy of paper flakes each with less than a word. Insects have gnawed at the edges. Gaps. Lacunae. Often it is the essential piece that is missing. The subject of the sentence, the object of the verb. What are left are modifiers that modify nothing, subjects without actions, actions that act on nothing. He remembers a pattern, a direction, a gist, but teeters perilously at the edges of the absences, the unbridged abysses.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First day of Classes

Today is the first day that it actually feels like I am on Sabbatical. Classes are starting and I am not there. I am sure I won't miss the commute, but I am worried I will miss the structure of working. I do better with structure. Now I have to make my own.

I ordered a couple of books from Barnes and Nobel the other day for some light reading: Hegel's Science of Logic and a long poem called "It" by Inger Christensen. For almost a century after his time, Hegel was the philosopher that one had to contend with either to expand on or refute. I have read a great many of the refutations. I thought it was time I read the man himself. The logic is considered his major work. Christensen is from Denmark and considered a major poet in Europe, though unheard of here. I find in her a kindred spirit. Her poems combine structural puzzles along with a hymn like beauty. Exactly what I have always striven for. Her poem "Alphabet," for instance is based on the Fibonacci sequence. She uses it to determine the number of lines in each section. (I often use mathematical structures too, though I usually count words.)

The trick will be to not get carried away with reading and to remember what I need to do.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Database and Derrida

I have been a bit remiss about updating the blog the last three days. We have had a contractor here who is--finally after 11 years--giving us a back yard. The sound and sights of a backhoe moving dirt from the pile in the front yard to the back has distracted me and made it hard to focus.

I did outline a few of my next steps. One of the things I promised to write was an appendix on how to use Access with the book. (I used SQLExpress.) So I need to recreate the book's database in Access. The design parts will all be the same, but I will need to show how to actually create the tables and relationships in access. I will also have to run all the SQL from my SQL chapter to see if it works in Access. The security chapter will be the difficult one. Access security is nothing like SQL Server security, and Access doesn't support stored procedures. For the ASP.Net Chapter all I should have to do is change the connection string.

On the side, or at the corners, or in whatever gaps of time occur, I have been reading Derrida on Plato and Mallarme. Derrida was one of my excuses for not getting a PHD when I finished my Masters--or rather Deconstruction was. The Liberal Arts departments in the major universities were involved in an outright war among competing philosophies--Deconstructionism, Structuralism, New Criticism. Jobs were lost for not espousing the appropriate jargon at a given university. I thought none of that had anything to do with literature and so went to work for the Forest Service instead of continuing after my masters.

I still think that was true. But, years later, I have come to actually read Derrida. I don't agree with all his pronouncements on language and meaning, but I find his discussion of specific texts surprisingly, for me, insightful and interesting. I love his book on Paul Celan, and am learning a great deal about Mallarme. . .

What Derrida and Database have in common is any one's guess. It is one of the conundrums of my life trying to reconcile my irreconcilable inclinations. But at least it keeps me occupied. I am not often bored.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


So, this morning I rose in the dark, ground coffee beans and started the coffee brewing while I got dressed, filled a travel mug, went out to the car and drove, still in the dark, up through the patches of forest and the fields with their low domes of mist to Graham. By the time I reached Puyallup the sky was bluing toward dawn. Then onto 167, to 161, to I5 and into Seattle for Convocation:

Convocation: with voice, or, better, voice with, to vocalize together, as on the African Velt some hundreds of millennium ago. The 'tion' nouns it--I love turning "noun" into a verb. The act, as it were, of voicing together the hope for a new year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Today, for a moment only, light and dark are balanced, Set has achieved a stalemate with Ra. But soon enough, the dark days of winter.

Today also they are delivering dirt for our back yard. After 11 years of living here we will finally have a yard and not just managed weeds.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Monday Morning. Things have not gone well so far today in terms of getting things done.

Yesterday I worked on recreating my Library application with Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). WPF (and Silverlight) uses the xml based XAML to create forms and objects. XAML is far more flexible and powerful than the tradition text based Windows forms, but the price for that power is complexity. I must confess I find WPF frustrating at times. The controls have less immedate functionality than their Windows and Web counterparts. You can add functionality and have enormous freedom to customize, but, as I said above, at a cost. Here is an example of XAML code. It is the code for my opening window:

<Window x:Class="WpfApplication1.Window1"
Title="Library Manager" Height="500" Width="597" Background="CornflowerBlue">
<RowDefinition Height="200" />
<RowDefinition Height="200" />
<RowDefinition />
<Calendar Grid.RowSpan="2" Height="165" HorizontalAlignment="Left"
Margin="0,37,0,0" Name="calendar1" VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="240"
DisplayDateChanged="calendar1_DisplayDateChanged" FontSize="15" />
<DataGrid Grid.Row="1" Height="139" HorizontalAlignment="Left"
Margin="31,43,0,0" Name="dataGrid1" VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="522"
DataContext="{Binding}" />
<Label Content="Items Due" Grid.Row="1" Height="28"
HorizontalAlignment="Left" Margin="12,8,0,0" Name="label1"
VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="120" />
<Button Content="Add Checkouts" Height="23"
HorizontalAlignment="Left" Margin="258,45,0,0" Name="bubtnAdd"
VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="100" />
<Button Content="Return/Renew" Height="23"
HorizontalAlignment="Left" Margin="258,83,0,0" Name="btnReturn"
VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="100" />
<Button Content="Users" Height="23"
HorizontalAlignment="Left" Margin="258,124,0,0" Name="btnUser"
VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="100" />
<Button Content="Analysis" Height="22"
HorizontalAlignment="Left" Margin="258,161,0,0"
Name="btnanal" VerticalAlignment="Top" Width="100" />

I also decided to use LINQ to connect to the database. LINQ creates a class for each entity in the database and theoretically makes it easier to retrieve and manipulate the data. It uses a syntax that resembles, but is not quite, SQL. The advantage of LINQ's syntax is that it is the same no matter what the data source. It also generates intellisense and can be debugged by the compiler--unlike an SQL String. Here is the code for the Calendar date changed event:

private void calendar1_DisplayDateChanged(object sender, CalendarDateChangedEventArgs e)

DateTime selDate=(DateTime)calendar1.SelectedDate;
LibraryDataClassesDataContext lib = new LibraryDataClassesDataContext();
var due = from d in lib.CheckOuts
where d.ReturnDate ==null && d.DueDate <= selDate
select d;
dataGrid1.ItemsSource = due.ToList();
dataGrid1.AutoGenerateColumns = true;

This works. When I click on a date in the calendar it will display all the books due or overdue as of that date. The problem is, it doesn't refresh. When I click back on an earlier date, it should show only those books overdue as of that date. But once filled, the grid does not change. This would be automatic in windows or ASP.Net. Here I am going to have to figure out how to clear and refill the grid manually.

Anyway, that's what I wasted my Sunday on when I could no longer bear to watch the Seahawks losing to San Francisco.

Addendum: I figured out the refresh problem. I was using the wrong event. I used Calendar_DisplayDateChanged when I should have used Calendar_SelectedDateChanged.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Rainy Saturday Morning

Pouring rain. The light green through the leaves. This is the Northwest that I know and love. I moved to this side of the mountains, in part, to get away from the constant heat and sun.

I have had very few philosophical thoughts the last few days. I have been preoccupied with rebuilding my computer after the installation of Windows 7. Everything has gone amazingly smoothly, and computer is behaving much better than it did with Vista. It is faster, smoother. I have had almost no errors or hangups. Many programs hiccuped a little on the install because they didn't recognize the OS. But Windows has a nice feature that lets a setup run in compatibility mode, and then they are happy.

I didn't hate Vista as much as some people did. After Service Pack 1 it was fairly well behaved and it had a lot of features that I liked. But Windows 7 is definitely better. My computer--a two year old Toshiba Laptop--behaves as if it were new.

I spent this morning with a few final downloads. Mostly I downloaded the Java runtime, and the Java SDK with the Netbeans IDE. I don't do a lot of development in Java, but I like to have the option. I also was checking to see what I lost. Inevitably there are a couple of small things that don't get backed up. I think I lost a bit of the River poem--but it is a bit I am pretty sure I can recreate. I also lost the SQL script I was making for my Winter 2010 SQL class. I want to give that class a new database and a new set of assignments. Again I can recreate what I did, but this involves a few hours work. The last thing I lost--or not lost actually, it just doesn't work anymore--is my library application. It is an ASP.Net application I wrote to keep track of what Library books I have out. It helps keep down the fines. I can recreate it easily enough, and probably even make it better. In all not bad for having to do a clean install.

So, rain. I always get a boost of energy in the autumn. I love the coolness and the smells of the season. The cinnamon of fallen leaves. The rustle of dried plants in the breeze. Autumn is when I turn to more philosophical musings, so there will be more of those soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Fresh Start

So I did it--I wiped my laptop and installed Windows 7. So far everything has gone fine. All the reinstallations have gone well. The only trouble I have had is that there is no sound. That is not a problem with Windows 7. I had the same problem with Vista. As far as I can tell, there must be a wire loose between the sound card and the speaker. As far as the OS is concerned the sound card is operating fine. My solution in the past was to buy a USB sound card to bypass the internal sound. It worked fine, but the sound card I had won't work with 64 bit operating systems. So I ordered another one. I hope it works.
I am amazed at how fast my computer is now. I think it is mostly the switch from a 32 bit to a 64 bit operating system. But it is probably also due, in part, to the greater efficiencies in Windows 7. I have a great deal more RAM available. From what I understand, A 32 bit operating system doesn't actually use all 4 gigs of ram. Also Windows 7 requires less RAM to run.
Anyway, so far, I am happy with change.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Misc. Comments

The gray skies of early morning are breaking up and the sun is streaming through. From my kitchen window I can see the blue top of Rainier floating above white clouds. It should be a good day. Technically, my sabbatical doesn't start for another two weeks. I think when I don't go to school on 28th, it will really hit me.
One of my first adventures, I think, will be to install Windows 7 on my laptop. It requires a clean install, which means I also have to reinstall all my applications. I ordered another copy of office from the Academic alliance store. (I don't have the media for my current installation--though it is a legal copy.) I have made sure I can get back to MacAfee to download the anti virus software. I can get Visual Studio and SQL Server. Most of the other programs can be reloaded from the web. I have written a few programs that run on IIS. I am not sure if they can be simply copied back and run. I may have to rewrite them, but that is usually a good exercise.
Anyway, I am a bit nervous about the process. My laptop has my life on it.
My Next project is to finish a couple of short stories. Then I will return to the textbook. I still have to write the appendixes and then rewrite the whole thing based on the peer reviews and my discussions with the editor. Still a lot of work ahead.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Relief

Just turned in chapters 7-9 for peer review. That is a huge relief. As usual, I didn't have time to really proof them for typos or to correct some of the writing, but they're in. I can take a breather and work on my stuff for a week or two. Then I will start on the appendixes and on rewriting the earlier chapters.
I want to work on some short stories. There are two or three that are nearly done, and I have ideas for several more. The goal is not only to write them, but to send them out for publication. I have been writing for something like 38 years (I wrote my first stories and poems when I was a sophomore in high school). In all that time I have never stopped working on poems, translations, stories, essays and novels. But in all that time I have submitted very few things for publication. I think I have probably published a few dozen poems, in all. I hope to change that now and start sending things out on a regular basis.
I also intend to build a web site, where I will make may of my writings available to those who wish to read them (probably not a large number.) I have been studying printing on demand. It is a form of self publishing, but unlike the traditional vanity press where you purchase 500 copies to sit and mould in your garage, you only print as much as you need when you need, even single copies. I was thinking that my web site would let people read things for free. If someone wants hard copy, I could use print on demand to send them a physical book. We'll see.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Poetry and Football

I don't think poetry is information. It is not something that you use to get an advantage, to accomplish something, to make a profit. Indeed, poetry has little monetary value if any. Even a collection by a relatively well known poet is likely to printed in an edition of 2000 copies or less. (Still, as William Carlos Williams says in "Asphodel that Greeny Flower" poetry is not news but millions die every day for lack of what is found there. )
There have been times and places where poetry briefly held a very high value. It is said Neruda could fill football stadiums for a reading. Certain Russian poets held similar rock star status. The secret to such popularity seems to be political oppression and the poets' resistance to it. What drives the popularity is politics as much as/more than the poetry.
There have been other times and places. Historically poetry has often been tied to a group's cultural identity and/or to its religious ceremonies. (Another book to be written.) Today's poetry, in English, at least, has lost all such attachments. Poetry has been reduced to an expression of personal sensibility. (Fill in here a whole history of Romanticism. modernism, post modernism and whatever other "isms" you desire.) Poetry is intrinsically difficult (more on this another time) and most people have better, or at least other things to do.

On an entirely different note, Today is the first game of the Seahawks. For almost 30 years I have willing wasted 3 hours of my Autumn and Winter Sundays watching. Each year I begin the season with an unrealistic hope of success, and each season I am more or less disappointed. But here I am again, expecting great things. . . For any of you who hate football, I would say you are perfectly justified. It is a brutal game played by genetic mutants and is an enormous waste of money that could be better used. Still, if we had the money, I suspect we would not use it for better things (a few dozen tanks, a couple of fighter planes. ..) I started watching football about the time the Seahawks were formed so that I would have something to talk about with my forest service coworkers. (They were not so keen on talking about Jung or Nietzsche.) I became addicted to the game. For the most part, I limit my self to Seahawk games. I can set aside 3 hours, but 9 or 12 seems a bit much. So with every expectation that this is the season we return to the Superbowl, I look forward to this afternoon's game.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Huckleberry Finn

Worked on my text book for several hours, but still have several hours to go. When I couldn't do it any longer I took a few minutes to work on my River poem. It is one of my two long poems. I see it ultimately as book length. I realize nobody reads book length poems except me. That is as it is. Today I incorporated a bit of Huck Finn deep into the poem:

was a monstrous big river down there
sometimes a mile and a half wide sometimes
you could hear a sweep scraping or jumbled
voices could see a streak on the water which
you know by the look of the streak that there’s
a snag there in a swift current which breaks
on it and makes the streak look that way
we would watch the lonesomeness of the river
kind of lazy along and by and by lazy off
let her float wherever the current wanted to go
it’s lovely to live on a raft

Friday, September 11, 2009

A little sun

Chapter 9 is proving to be a slow slog. I feel like I need to explain everything, and then I look at my explanations and realize they need explaining. It is far too warm and nice out to be doing this. I still have 3 days before I have to turn these in. A little walk in the sun wouldn't hurt, would it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Windows 7 and Art

I was disappointed to find that I can't upgrade from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 professional. It has to be done as a clean install. I might be willing to do this, but it means gathering together a great deal of software for reinstall. Office is the main problem. I hate to buy a new copy when the next version is coming out in just a few months.

Last night we went to a wine and cheese preview of the art at the Puyallip fair. A few pieces invoked a mild interest but most were fairly boring. There were the usual cowboy paintings, a few more or less awkward impressionistic landscapes, a couple of arresting water colors. I have a fondness for the imitations of Japanese and Chinese watercolors--the usual bamboo, plum blossoms or fish. There were a few pieces that would have been avant guard 70 years ago. A couple of well done realistic portraits.
I admit I am an elitist when it comes to art and literature. I am not interested in paintings that do what a photograph can do better. I am also not interested in paintings that imitate other styles of paintings without adding anything truly new. On the other hand, I have no problem with people doing that kind of art or liking it.
I wonder what it takes to create great art or literature these days. Sometimes I wonder if it is even possible. Though, on the other hand, I suspect that every age has felt that way to some extent.

Chapter 9 is now over 50 pages and growing. I will be very glad to have it done.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Corn Maze

Yesterday afternoon we did the first corn maze of the season. I am not as crazy about corn mazes as my wife, but I did enjoy the smell of damp earth, the rattling of the corn leaves--the corn still green and about 7 feet tall. I like looking up though the corn to the sky, watching the clouds move in, and the crows winging overhead.
Today, was the first day of school in Eatonville. We got my daughter off to middle school and then rushed over to the elementary school to watch my granddaughter line up for her first day of Kindergarten.
Once home, I worked a couple of hours on Chapter Nine. As for more philosophical musings--maybe later today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Information Technology

Information is knowledge as capital. That is, information is knowledge that can be assigned a monetary value. It can be used to accomplish some task or to gain an advantage. It can be sold, purchased, traded, exchanged, gifted, guarded, stolen, borrowed, banked on, deposited, mortgaged, or even wasted. Information is, in short, a form of wealth.
There are other forms of knowledge, but more of this another time. . .
Technology is mostly information. It consists of patents, copywrites, procedures, algorithms. It is as important to know how to make something, how to get something done as it is to actually make it. Technology comes from two Greek words "Techne" and "Logos." Techne is a term that encompasses all that is made, that is not self originating as are things in nature (phusis). Logos in its oldest sense means to arrange or order. As such it came to mean language--the ordering of letters, syllables, words--and science--the ordering of thoughts. So, technology is the logic or the ordering (the procedures, processes, recipes) of things made.
(Information by the way, consists of two Latin words and an English suffix. "In" is a Latin prefix, "forma" means shape, together they mean to give shape to. The "tion" is an English suffix that turns a verb into a noun so that Information is that which has been given shape.)
Together information technology is about knowing the ways to give shape to, the ways to create, manipulate, use, and secure knowledge that has monetary value.
It would take a book to justify these quick definitions.
Anyway today I work again on Chapter nine adding text to explain all those screen shots.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Thoughts

On this labor day, I labored on chapter 9 about ASP.NET. I walked through a simple program taking screen shots of every single step. Now for the explanations. . .

I consider myself a poet, and I teach computer programming and database. The duel definition sometimes engenders a bit of schizophrenia.I sometimes distrust technology as much as I am fascinated by it.
The common wisdom is that any piece of technology is neutral in essence. Good or bad can only be ascribed to how it is used, to the intention of the user. But I agree instead with the philosopher Heidegger, that technology is never neutral. Technology changes the world. Technology changes how we interact with the world, how we perceive it. Ultimately it changes us. Heidegger is not anti-technology, but he thinks we have never looked at technology essentially, we have never looked carefully at what is offered versus what is taken away.We have never judged what it adds to our quality of life, versus what it replaces. The only judge has been the market place.
I suppose if I were a good capitalist that would be sufficient. But I am not convinced that the fact that something can be sold makes it intrinsically good.
Anyway, I may in this blog, try to think through some of these issues about what information technology is and isn't and how it relates to poetry. It may make for more interesting reading then simply listing my daily activities, though I will continue to do that also.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Musings

Ray Bradbury reportedly once said that computers were primitive technology because they are so difficult to use. When a technology is mature it is as easy to use a telephone. (I am sure he was not referring to cell phones or smart phones). Although I am a great admirer of Bradbury, in this case I think he is wrong. Computers are fundamentally different than most technology. Most technology is designed to fulfill a single purpose--or at most a very small set of purposes. A can opener is designed to open cans. A radio is designed to receive and amplify radio waves into sound. A television is designed to process television signals. A telephone is designed to receive and amplify sound waves from another phone. They are simple to use because they have a clearly defined and limited function.
Computers on the other hand do not have a predefined function. They are open ended. What they have is a small set of actions that they can perform. These actions are very simple in nature (store, retrieve. move, remove, add), but they can be combined in almost infinite sequences to achieve unique and previously unimagined results. In this way computers are like language or mathematics or the genetic code. They offer a finite set of actions with essentially infinite recombinatory possibilities. (Part of the difficulty with computers is in their openness; part is in the limited set of processor level actions they offer. Computers do everything awkwardly, but they do it so fast that the awkwardness is usually not apparent.)
This open endedness of computers is what has fostered the huge creative burst that resulted in the Internet. (I know the military created the original Internet protocols and set up the original architecture , but I mean the Internet we have today where anybody can create a presence, sell anything, write anything, share anything.) Computers began as business machines and ended up as communication devices, media players, game machines, and shopping centers.
The current trend, I think, is to try to reign in the computer, to break it up into single purpose components that can sold and managed separately. Smart phones encapsulate most of the communication functions. Media centers that combine the computer's ability to move bits of data that contain music or video with televisions and Ipods and zunes. Game consoles. Net books are optimized for Internet browsing and shopping. etc. For most people this is really what they need. They don't utilize most of the capacities of the computer and are often confused by them.
Cloud computing also represents an attempt to gain some control over the open endedness of the computer. It is essentially a return to the thin client concept of the old mainframe days. All your applications and data will be stored on servers somewhere and the personal machine will essentially be just a device to launch a browser. For companies this is ideal. It will lessen piracy. It will decrease the costs of distributing and upgrading software. It will lower the cost of providing it infrastructure for companies, since they will not have to maintain the same quality of machines or complex internal networks.
I guess I am afraid that computers will become sanitized and limited. But perhaps not. Creativity once released is hard to contain.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Starting the Sabbatical

My first sabbatical in 20 years begins this fall quarter. I am beginning this blog for a couple of reasons: one is document what I do during the sabbatical, the other is to get the experience of blogging because I believe it could be a useful tool for my classrooms.
I have great ambitions for the next 4 months. I have a contract with Pearson Publishing for a textbook on beginning database. I want to bring that book as near to completion as I can. I also want to catch up with some new software. I have a VM with Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010 beta 1. I want to see what I can learn about the Entity Framework, and, perhaps, Azure development. (Azure is about "Cloud Computing." I want to figure out how you connect to a database when you don't know where it is.) I might also explore some free database software, particularly PosGres SQL which I have ignored in the past. In addition I want to do some curriculum development and redesign my website.
In a different direction entirely, I want to work on my poems and stories. I have, in particular, two very long poems I want to complete. I may look into self publishing for those or just post them on a web site. I also have a half dozen short stories in various states of incompleteness. I would love to finish them and send them out. And, brewing in the back of my mind for a long time now, I have played with an idea for a novel.
This is probably all too ambitious, but I really don't want to waste this time.
I don't expect anyone much to read this blog. But if you want to know what I have been up to, it will be here.