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.