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Sunday, January 28, 2007
Quick Hike at Cougar Mountain 

Elisa and I did a quick Saturday hike in the sunshine in the Cougar Mountain wildlife area: King County Virtual Map Counter: Cougar Mountain.


We started at the Red Town trailhead and got onto the Cave Hole Trail, to the By Pass to Fred's Railroad Trail and then back on Quarry to Red Town.

In addition to lots of cave holes (the trail is well named) we saw lots of trees snapped and down from the 2006 windstorm. The caves are considered dangerous due to cave-in and poisonous gasses (methane, I believe). Along the way, we'd see remains of abandoned structures. I have no idea what they were and they linger there in anonymity.

Red Town is one of those settlements that no longer exist. Newcastle / Coal Creek was quite the coal mining area. I flipped through one of our history books, A Hidden Past: An Exploration of Eastside History, and discovered that 10 million tons of coal was harvested from the Newcastle fields (the last company closed up in 1963).



Eric's Favorite Quotes, VI. 

(Okay, this is the last bunch of quotes I typed up from the various snippets of quotes I have been collecting over the past few years.)


The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
-- William Shakespeare

To the right, books; to the left, a tea-cup. In front of me, the fireplace; behind me, the post. There is no greater happiness than this.
-- Teiga

What's here right now? Delusion is yesterday's dream - enlightenment, tomorrow's delusion.
-- Taizan Maezumi

Work is much more fun than fun.
-- Noel Coward

One day at the monastery of Master Fugai Ekun, ceremonies delayed preparation of the noon meal, which forced the cook to hurry. He took up his sickle and quickly gathered vegetables from the garden, then threw it all into a soup pot - unaware that in his haste he had cut off the head of a snake.
At the meal, the monks where highly complementary of the delicious soup, but the Roshi himself found something odd in his bowl. He summoned the cook and held up the snake head. "What is this?!?"
"Oh, thank you, Roshi!" the cook said, and immediately ate it.
-- "Eating the Blame" Zen Story

No man is born wise.
-- Don Quixote

I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.
-- Antonio Porchia

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Ayn Rand and Epictetus 

I had a nice lunch-time meet-up last week. Topic for consideration: what story or tale affected your life... and how?

At first I thought: ooo, I don't have any idea on this one. I've read quite a few stories, mostly junk science-fiction and fantasy when I lived in Maryland, I can't think of any -

Oh. Two popped into mind.

  1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
  2. A Man in Full by Tom Wolf.

Like many teenagers, Atlas Shrugged really screwed me up.

Before my senior year in high school, I was fortunate to go on a three-week Europe trip... high-school students from three different locations in the US (Texas, California, and North Carolina) with teacher and community escorts (what where they thinking? "Oh, this will be fun!" Sheesh.).

Anyway, one of the darkly sad poetic girls on the trip talked with me in a shaded patio in Lucerne one day, and at the end wrote something on a piece of paper. Amidst the shade and sunlight, she gave me the paper, and said, "You need to read this book."

"Atlas Shrugged."

So I did.

That led to a self-centered ego-trip and me-centric philosophy that spanned well into my college years. Ayn Rand led to more Ayn Rand and then later to Nietzsche.

What's interesting in retrospect is that recently I took a course where we were introduced to Robert Kegan's levels of self. A teenager is pretty much focused on getting what they want, and any means to do that are acceptable. It's an amoral view of the world based on desire. That jives pretty well with Ayn Rand's point of view. The next level of self is achieved as some level of empathy develops in a person.

Many years, and many philosophical crises later, I picked up the book-on-tape set of Tom Wolf's "A Man in Full" at Half-Price Books, read by David Ogden Stiers. I had read reasonable reviews of the story and my drive from Graham to Redmond was long. I had time to listen to a good book.

A turning point for two of the characters in the book is their discovery of the stoic philosopher Epictetus. The story has the two men deal with the crisis in their lives by integrating the stoic philosophy into their world view and use it to survive the crushing blows fate deals them.

The teachings of Epictetus resonated strongly with me.

I had been reading Zen teachings for quite some time (it was my next level as I grew out of my dark Ayn Rand / Nietzsche years). I wasn't so much into the spiritual aspects of Zen / Buddhism as I was in the point of view and the awareness of the now. It was also a pretty inclusive point of view, respecting all enlightened souls.

Epictetus? Some say that the Serenity Prayer, while not by Epictetus, summarizes his core stoic point of view:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

The most important point being realizing what you have an effect over and then realizing what you do not. Do not let those events or those people who you cannot and do not control bother you. Furthermore, it's developing an awareness of how you react to the events and situations and people around you and being aware that you control your own reactions.

Which brings us back to Kegan. As part of elevating yourself through the levels of "self," you become aware of an aspect you hadn't noticed before and turn this from the subjective to the objective. The subject to the scrutinized object. In class, they said this is like realizing you've been looking through a lens and being unaware that there was a lens. Now you're aware that there is a lens and how it has been distorting your view.

Once you're aware of it, you become aware of how you have allowed this subjective thing to influence you. By becoming aware of the influence, you can change and grow.

A lot of philosophies come back to awareness of self and the unseen influences of who you are that are guiding you. Perhaps in an unhappy direction.

I picked up Sharon Lebell's book "The Art of Living" which is her version of Epictetus' teachings, modernized and made shiny. It's very nice for a quick read. Highly recommended for anyone to have to flip through on occasion and reflect upon. As I hit my personal hardships, I meditated on the teachings quite often and found it very comforting. It helped me a great deal, and I've valued the teachings.

Anyway. Two stories that affected my life. It will be interesting to see what the third might end up being.

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An earlier Star Wars script 

Bits and pieces of the Star Wars original movie remain: Adventures of the Starkiller. I've scanned through the script several times over the years but I've yet to read the whole thing from beginning to end. That's going to take some real willpower.

It's part of Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Scripts - which seems to be a very dangerous place for science fiction movie fans to lose hours of their life very quickly.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007
University of Washington Digital Collections 

Jim sent me a note about the Centralia Massacre, which led me to read about the nearby Everett Massacre. Lots more interesting Washington history for the browsing here: ::: Special Collections :::.

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Eric's Favorite Quotes, V 

The believer is happy, the doubter is wise.
-- Greek Proverb.

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.
-- Tennessee Williams

After the ecstasy, the laundry.
-- Zen Saying

A beginning student complained to his master that the meditation practice of following the breath was boring. The Zen master unexpectedly grabbed the student and held his head under water for quite a long time while the student struggled to come up. Finally, he let the student go.
"Now how boring is your breath?" he asked.
-- Zen Mondo

The only practice that is worthwhile is to ask: "What is this?" WHAT IS THIS?
-- Zen Saying

Don't just do something. Sit there!
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.
-- Jack Kornfield

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Saturday, January 20, 2007
SCIFI.COM - The Lost Room 

I finally got around to watching the miniseries The Lost Room. It was really good. I watched the first episode last night and the second and third tonight.

Nice concept of cursed objects with special powers that can be combined together. Pretty damn fine acting, too. I especially liked Roger Bart as The Weasel and Dennis Christopher as the obsessed Ruber. In a way, it seemed very much like a Stephen King novel, just avoiding being over the top.

It would be great to see it as a series or come back as another miniseries. It certainly left many open story lines, but I can't imagine them easily reassembling the cast. Maybe if it can be shown again on another network it can build interest and momentum.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Raymond Chen - Iced-over roads + people who can't drive = very expensive (and dangerous) game of billiards 

A follow-up to yesterday's Portland smash-em-up video of cars on an icy hill: this includes an interview with the young man who took the video, with commentary and, at the end, an on-foot view of the car carnage:

Unbelievable video of people in Portland, OR who should know better trying to drive down an icy road. (Direct WMV link. Interview with the person who shot the video, but you're going to have to put up with the inane local news-anchor chatter. That last link includes images of cars that, yup, struck the fire truck.)

They said this was at SW 20th and Salmon in Portland... let's see if I can find a map...

Source: The Old New Thing : Iced-over roads + people who can't drive = very expensive (and dangerous) game of billiards

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
MTVs Rock the Vote Screws Up Big Time 

Via Blake Ross: Blake Ross on Firefox » Not the best way to “rock the vote”.

What happens when you're full of good intentions but too damn lazy to check what you're linking to: Rock the Vote - Home

MTVs Rock The Vote screws up big time.

You put in a beautiful link to learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King to what surely must be an official site. Unfortunately, the site that seemed legit to the blink of the eye is full of hate and white supremacist diatribes. None of which are too kind to Dr. King. Five seconds of actually using the site would have revealed the deception.

Score one for hate. And laziness.

Update: I checked in this morning and this has been fixed to point to a proper site now, not the one indicated on hover in the status bar in the image above.

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Puget Sound - More Snow For You! 

From King5: Puget Sound hit with new snow

This video from Portland shows what happens when you mix wintry roads, hills, and determined (foolish?) drivers.

I met a fellow yesterday who is from the Northeast US and passed something on to me: most of the roads, in say Boston, started as roads used by horses. Horses can bear loads on only so much of a grade of road, so the roads were put in to be gently sloped, rather than laying down a grid pattern. This meant that there's less slippage as such on those evolved roads. Out here, we're all about the grid baby, geography allowing, and thus have some crazy hills that are fine 99% of the time but totally impassible when you get a dusting of winter.

What's frustrating is that this stuff is not expected to melt today; it will get a little slushy and then refreeze. I hope it's all gone for good by the end of tomorrow. Huge globs of snow are falling off of the trees now.

A strange thing I learned: kitty litter can be used as a snow and ice preventative. When I tried to get the cleaning ladies car up the hill to our house yesterday, I scattered some kitty litter about in attempt to provide traction.

Nope. No good. It wasn't sandy kitty litter but rather pellet like litter. Probably clay based.

But this morning, where I scattered the kitty litter yesterday, is all melted. It prevented the new snow from sticking plus melted the snow and ice that was there. Hmm! Something to think about when our next time comes.

Just hopefully my road doesn't become the hang-out for the neighborhood cats.

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Oi! It's snowing again! 

I peeked outside a couple of times early this morning to see if there were any snow flakes to worry about. Nope. Nope. And Nope.

Then I actually got up to looked carefully: stealth snow! Small flakes that zing by quickly without getting enough attention to be seen out the window from across the room.

I took Bella out for her morning walk and the stealth snow quickly changed to big fat fast falling cover everything again snow. And it's still going. Okay, Northwest metropolitan snow is supposed to cover everthing, be ooooh'd and aaaaah'd over, and then quickly melt and disappear. We're going on a week with snowy, icy roads and the promised rain to melt all this away is no longer promised.

It makes no sense to slip and slide around on the icy roads, so, it's another day remoting it in for me.

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Monday, January 15, 2007
Eric's Favorite Quotes, IV 

To understand God is to listen, listen to Jesus and Muhammed and Buddha; but don't get caught up in the names. Listen beyond them; listen to God's breath.
-- Zen Saying

All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.
-- Kabir

A clearly enlightened person falls in the well. How is this so?
-- Zen Koan

My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate - that's my philosophy.
-- Thornton Wilder

"Who is there?" asks God.
"It is I."
"Go away," God says.
"Who is there?" asks God.
"It is thou."
"Enter," replies God.
-- Western Mondo

Begin at once to live.
-- Seneca

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Sunday, January 14, 2007
Movies - Hard Candy and The Descent 

I watched two DVDs this weekend while Elisa is visiting her Mom:

  1. Hard Candy - tables turned on a suspicious adult who might be a sexual predator.
  2. The Descent - adventurous ladies spelunking running into mishaps and horror.

Both are kinda horror movies. Well, okay, The Descent is 110% horror. I recommend both, but you have to be into subjecting yourself to the subject matter.

Hard Candy is certainly horror for any adult indulging their naughty side in chat rooms with young people (perhaps it is this generation's Fatal Attraction, meant to scare them back onto the straight and narrow road). Hard Candy is also a wonderfully filmed and put together movie. I cannot believe the focus control used in the movie. It is super human. There are scenes where the focus point can't be more than four inches wide, and the camera is moving and the actress is moving and still, it all stays in focus.

If you're into understanding movies and movie making, its behind-the-scenes extras is fantastic. Just like the movie, the discussion of getting the movie funded, how it was made, and how post-production and the premiere went is tight and well put together.

And the movie had me squirming in my seat and exclaiming "Holy crap!" several times.

And I loved the dialog. The writer, Brian Nelson, said he thought of Buffy The Vampire Slayer as a strong female role and you can see that in the dense, fast, smart dialog that Hayley had.

The Descent didn't need the Crawler cave adversaries to make me any more scared or exhausted. After seeing news reports of Vietnamese soldiers who would squirm along tunnels just wide enough to hold a body, I started having nightmares of being caught in a tunnel - like having to turn around when there wasn't enough room.

Scenes like that, where the cavers were crawling and twisting through tight spaces, had me curled up on the couch in suspense. Then it goes to all hell.

A cast of powerful, all women adventurers was refreshing, too.

Both of these movies are a bit of a change for me, too. I've been focused on safe flights of fantasy in my movie watching for years now. When I was in my early twenties, I was focused on movies full of angst and the terrible trials of being human. Then I had my own trials. Those movies offered no escape, no lessons that I didn't already know. So now, bit by bit, I'm gravitating to more challenging movies. And I've got some catching up to do.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007
The Snow Makes Everything Beautiful 

It's mid Saturday afternoon and it's snowing again in Redmond. Just a light snow, but it wasn't predicted. I went to Redmond Town Center to see Pan's Labyrinth and when I emerged I was a bit surprised to see the air full of meandering flakes.

"Cold enough to snow, eh?!?" said an enthusiastic movie-goer, holding the exit door open for me to follow him.

"Indeed!" I replied. I edged over to the railing to look down on the street: nothing much was sticking. It was fluffy, dry, slow snow. Fine. Off to Borders and then QFC for some groceries. The new snow is accumulating on the roads now, putting a fluffy, slippery layer ontop of all the compacted ice the previous snow has been turned into.

The snow that hit this past Wednesday, though... that was a different story.

A week before the event happened, the weather service put out a severe weather warning. I use the weather feature in My Yahoo! and I've become accustomed to looking for that little asterisk next to the town's weather prediction for the day. Asterisk means: better check this warning out! Usually it's about flooding. But sometimes it's about high-winds. Or snow. Or icy roads. Or (as it was this morning), tsunamis.

So I was at work Wednesday, checking in on the North Seattle radar time to time, when I noticed a big mean blob in the Everett / Mulkiteo area edging around the protective boundary of the Seattle rain-shadow (from the Olympic mountains) and moving towards the south: right towards Woodinville and Redmond. That didn't make sense. Our weather out here doesn't move like that. I kept an eye on it. Direct hit, in the making.

I had a lot of reading to do so, as soon as I saw the blob was intent on descending upon the Eastside, I grabbed my laptop and headed out, stopping by the QFC on the way home. Looking to the north towards home, all the sky was filled with a wall of dark, thick, grey clouds.

I arrived home just as it hit. It was a snow squall. I didn't know those things existed, but it helps to explain how snow can stick to the ground and roads after having a 50 degree day: a snow squall comes along and unloads fast accumulating graupel. That's something like big, soft, snowy-hail. Everything was covered in white in minutes as the graupel pummeled everything. I parked the Subaru at the neighbors and came through the back-fence, Bella happily bouncing along side of me as I made a bee-line for the back-door.

I noticed that I missed a call from Elisa about right then. And I realized while I made it home this time and avoided a hellish commute in the middle of the snow event, Elisa was out in the worse of it.

It was a long night. After the snow subsided, I went out and shoveled snow so that Elisa would have a path to get the van up to the house. Even though the van has four-wheel drive, Elisa had done the smart thing and got off the road for a couple of hours to let all the frantic drivers either get home or abandon their cars (lots of hills and icy roads mean lots of cars that can't get anywhere).

I took a break from shoveling our long drive to talk to Elisa as she made her way home. Right after we disconnected, I heard a loud snap coming from up the hill, behind our poll barn. Then a series of serious snaps, following by a deep walloping sound that thundered through the trees. Some poor tree couldn't take the load of clingy, wet snow. I took a quiet moment to eye the trees surrounding me.

Elisa made it home safely. Right before bed, it started snowing again.

The morning was glorious. A sunny day with snow everywhere. Here's a picture looking out of our sunroom off the deck across the valley. The trees behind Chateau Saint Michelle are all lit up with the emerging sun:

Snowy sunrise behind Chateau Saint Michelle

Our hilly road leading to the house was passable by the Subaru. As the road got more traffic, the compacted snow got denser and denser, but the sunshine helped to melt the portion that meets the highway (well, the sunshine and a dosing of ice melting pellets). Thursday night I took Elisa to the airport and while the side roads getting to the highway had their moments, the highway was tooting along at 65 mph no problem.

The only issue I had was on the way back, as the roads freezed more and more, and I slowly came up on a patch of thick ice in front of a red-light. The ABS on the Subaru went crazy doing its job of keeping the car on target and not slipping. Then I saw a van coming up behind me that was going to hit the same patch. I flashed my brake lights and they slowed down before hitting the patch.

I love looking at the snow covered trees around The Tree House. I haven't made it back behind the poll barn to find the poor tree that fell. Yet. Between the windstorms and the snow we've certainly culled the weak trees.

Oh, and I feel guilty about not telling people (and Elisa) to bug out and get home when I saw that big blob headed our way. I have a strong desire not to be Chicken Little. Microsoft was a complete mess, from what I was told, as everyone tried to leave and barely no one could get traction up the hill leading to one of the main exits. Roads were closed off. Trucks with tow-lines were helping: one car at a time.

If anything, we're becoming more rugged people out of necessity. And for a reason I can't quite explain... that makes me happy.


Noise - sweet, sweet Thousand Island... I hate you. 

Time to add some noise to the signal and rant about just a little annoyance.

Thousand Island. Kraft Thousand Island, in particular. First, a diversion.

Sometime when I was in college, I read an article that ranked your fanciness in society according to the dressing you put on your salad. Oil and vinegar was at the top. Thousand Island was at the proletariat bottom. I was a Thousand Island man my whole life. Up to that point. In a silly attempt to fancify my life, I moved up the dressing ladder. I couldn't stand oil and vinegar (ick!) but could make it as far as Italian dressing.

And there I stayed. For many, many years. Until recently, when I rediscovered Thousand Island, buying the fancy cooled jar of some top-notch brand when it was on sale. Mmmm! Good stuff. And then Elisa whipped some up from scratch. Double mmmm! I was indulging in the tangy-goodness of Thousand Island, my social standing be damned.

Then recently Elisa did a quick good deed, picking up a bottle of Thousand Island for me. I loaded up a spinach salad and dived in. Ick. Did the Thousand Island go bad? It didn't taste like any Thousand I had ever had in my whole life, which was strange, because it was Kraft brand. You'd figure if anyone could nail the taste buds of the proletariat, it would be Kraft.

I gave it a second try a couple nights later. Ick. Definitely ick. Sweet, sweet ick. So I opened the fridge and squatted down to read the ingredient list on the back of the bottle: tomato puree was #1 (aka, ketchup) and #2 was high fructose corn syrup.


Why in the world does Thousand Island need a massive dosing of sweetening, let alone the public enemy #2 high fructose corn syrup? I'm very fed up that the America diet over the past two decades has become more and more dosed with sweetening. Enough with making everything sweet! Please.

So now when I shop and I'm not shopping on the edge perimeters of the grocery store (edge items that tend to be safer and better for you) I'm having to squint at the back of every item and ensure that the dietary boogey men of MSG and HFCS are not present.

Makes a guy want to make his own Thousand Island.


Sunday, January 07, 2007
Eric's Favorite Quotes, III 

People with opinions just go around bothering one another.
-- The Buddha

Who is content with nothing possesses all things.
-- Nicolas Boileau Despreaux

Wealth is the number of things one can do without.
-- Feodor Dostoyevsky

The fire-fly
gives light
to its pursuer.
-- Oemaru

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.
-- Thich Nhat Hahn

The trouble is that you think you have time.
-- Zen Master

Great doubt results in great enlightenment, small doubt results in small enlightenment, no doubt results in no enlightenment.
-- Yuan-Hsien

No, no, you're not thinking, you're just being logical.
-- Niels Bohr

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Thursday, January 04, 2007
Great King County Map Resource: KC Virtual Map Counter 
King County has some awesome online map references. In addition to the "where did the past three hours go" power of iMap, there are a number of excellent downloadable maps for the region, including my favorite: Sammamish Valley.

More here: KC Virtual Map Counter: Topic Index

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Heroes Spoilers! 

And if you look at the symbol on the hilt of the sword, you know that Hiro is destined to own that sword: Heroes Spoilers! | Just Jared .

And don't forget that the downloadable graphic novels continue to be updated (including what happened after Eden confronted Sylar): Heroes TV Show on NBC NBC Official Site.

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Stuff going on with EricRi. Yeah. Grey-beard geeking it in the Northwest.
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