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. . .