Monthly Archives: March 2004

future impossible

i went to a friend’s place in berkeley today for an impromptu BBQ, an opportunity to enjoy the sun.
before elaine and i arrived, i thought to myself, i’ve known this guy for 19 years. 19 years. when i was a kid, 19 years was an age to which you aspired, not a period of memory or acquaintance or anything else. and then i remembered how we met…

he and i were in the same math class our freshman year in college (math 4, uc berkeley, 1985). we also shared the same section. he was the weird guy who sat in the corner with a backpack that had bands like ‘bauhaus’ and ‘sisters of mercy’ scrawled across the blue canvas with liquid paper.

i was thinking tonight, imagine if he and i had been pulled aside one day and told, “look…in 19 years, you two will be sitting on the deck of a multimillion dollar home in berkeley owned by you (Mr. X). one of you will be a partner at a respected management consulting firm with 3 kids, the other will be a freelance internet consultant with a PhD in condensed matter physics.” we would have laughed. possibly hysterically. and yet that’s how life worked out.

anything can happen. it’s all a mystery. we’re driving down a road at night, and our headlights are only showing us part of the road, even though we might think or wish it were otherwise.

link reciprocity

hyperlinks are becoming a currency in the digital age, but one limited to those with the power to create and destroy them.

i went to a friend’s web site recently (URL withheld to protect the "innocent"), and noticed that the link to my home page had dropped off his blogroll. what??? dropped me from the secondary navigation? had i slighted this friend in some unbeknownst way? was some kind of digital payback going on? granted, it was kind of petty of me to care in the first place, but hey, links matter if you want people to read your site. and why would i write on the web if i didn’t also hope that people would read?

it then occurred to me that links have become a form of currency. i’m probably not the first to say this. in fact, i’m probably about the 10,000th. but links matter to people.

link reciprocity is a term i’ll use to describe the you-link-to-me-i’ll-link-to-you phenomenon. i’m sure someone else has thought of that one too [pause—google search—ok, yeah, here is another blog about the exact same damn thing].

that guy i just linked already thought about it and wrote a lot on this topic. i’m not gonna write any more. you get the point. ;-)

ps: do you think he’ll link to my site because i just cited him?

pps: he mentions in his intro that this phenomenon is not new. it has been happening in academia for years. of course, i should have realized this, since it used to happen to me all the time when i was in that world.

prescience redux

in a previous entry entitled Prophecy and Free Will, i examined the relationship between prophecy, imagination, and free will, specifically in the context of Frank Herbert’s Dune universe.

a recent post on examines the limits of prescience, but in a different context, one bounded by the concrete reality of the year 1945. specifically, john discusses a 1945 Atlantic Monthly article by Vannevar Bush called As We May Think, which put forward a series of interesting technology-oriented predictions.

john’s analysis on is sound, as always, and provides many interesting insights that i won’t repeat. i would like to add, however, more notes of praise for vannevar bush, and to highlight a few other areas where mr. bush missed the mark in his largely utopian predictions. there’s also a bit of an intersection with my previous post on prophecy…so, for the interested reader:

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point reyes pics

pictures from a recent camping trip to point reyes are now available here.

it was a quick, somewhat last-minute, trip, but it proved to be one of the best i’ve had in point reyes. it helps that winter seems to have summarily vacated the bay area, leaving behind anomalous (but welcome) sun, warmth and good cheer about things in general.

highlights of the trip included:

  • a hill-free hike that even i could do without whinging about my pack being too heavy and "who picked this hike anyway?"
  • the best weather i’ve ever seen in the fog belt that is normally point reyes
  • the company of friends Pete and Aidan (just met and catching up with, respectively)
  • a 5-hour bonfire on the beach, started using the box of wood aidan dragged for 3 miles
  • the bottle of small-batch bourbon brought by friend Pete, which helped the fire in its mission to keep us warm
  • a quick day-hike with aidan spent talking about everything and nothing at all, as needed
  • an hour spent on the beach, with book cracked, shirt off, and toes firmly buried in sand

day-tripping in the bay area…enough said

a mighty weed

weeds will outlive the cockroaches after the cockroaches have outlived us.

this is the conclusion i’ve come to after spending 2 hours removing roughly 411,268 weeds from the gaps between the flagstones that tile our very modest-sized backyard (when i say modest, i mean it’s the postage-stamp version of a real backyard, although we still love it).

and i’m not done. there are still more weeds. i need to finish the flagstones, and then venture in amongst the plants, where the weeds are playing the am-i-a-cute-happy-plant-or-a-nasty-soil-eating-cancer game we all love so much. they play this little masquerade, thinking we won’t pull them out. a lot of the time, they’re right.

as i was hunched over in my garden, with failing circulation (due to overly tight gardening kneepads) and with what felt like the back of an 80-year-old, i made a few notes:

  • plants (usually the nice one you bought last week at Home Depot or some rare orchid you’ve been breeding for years) can be pulled with almost no effort, like they don’t even have roots, whereas weeds might as well be anchored in concrete
  • weeds, specifically those with tap roots, come loose quite easily, and then always snap with a small, dirt-muffled laugh just when you think you’ve got them, leaving precisely 1 inch of root in the soil (no amount of further digging will expose the root that was left behind, by the way – nice try)
  • the exquisite care taken at the outset of a weed-pulling session (e.g., have i got all the root?; oh…i can’t compost all that dirt; i should leave behind the moss between those stones, etc.) is invariably replaced by wanton weed, plant, and dirt destruction, where the ends justify any means
  • just when you think you’re done…

weeding is like fighting entropy…it’s a losing battle. so i’ve decided to take a zen attitude – enjoy the ride, be one with the earth. say hello to the worms and the potato bugs and the earwigs in your garden, and don’t worry about leaving those roots behind, because you always will. maybe there’s a life lesson here, but my knees hurt too much to see it.