Friday: 28.November.2003

Steppenwolf visits Two Bunch Palms

We're back. Spent most of our vacation (4 days) at Two Bunch Palms: a natural hot springs resort & spa, located in Desert Hot Springs. "An oasis of tranquility in a world of stress." I took along my digital camera, and planned to snap some photos for you to peruse, but never got around to it. Soaking in hot springs all day turned me to mush.

Two Bunch is all about peace & quiet, rest & relaxation (no pets, no kids, no cel phones). Long time Rad readers will remember Wendy from her Film school chronicles. She's the one who first took me to Two Bunch, some 6 years ago. But we're no longer together. So the first thing I did, after making reservations, was to call her up and gloat: "Guess where we're going?"

She couldn't believe it. She had made reservations (with her new honey) for the EXACT SAME DAYS. What are the chances of that happening? I thought it might be fun for all four of us to hang out together, but Wendy didn't quite see it that way. She wanted me to cancel my rezers, or change them to a different time. No way, José. In the end, we all actually had a good time. But, yes, the coincidence was strange.

A lot of Hollywood people frequent Two Bunch. The Player, a 1992 spoof about the Hollywood system, starring Tim Robbins, was filmed there. While soaking in the waters Wednesday, we ran into Bruno Kirby. He's most famous for his roles in the Godfather Part II and City Slickers. He was there with his lovely wife and kindly introduced us. Very nice guy. Distinctive voice. I just saw him in Sleepers last night. He says the F-word more naturally than anyone on television. Usually play a ganster type.

We also ran into a famous yoga instructor, whose name I'm not supposed to repeat. But if you're not into yoga, I doubt you've heard of him.

Most people take a book into the waters with them. There they find a cubbyhole, prop up their book on a life-preserver, and read quietly for hours. It's always interesting for me to see what Two-Bunchers are reading. One girl was reading Portnoy's Complaint. A guy was reading Emma (© 1816) by Jane Austin. A couple of folks were reading books by Tom Wolfe.

I took along a copy of Steppenwolf (© 1927, lent to me by Jan & Frank), by (the German-Swiss Nobel Prize-winning author) Herman Hesse. Turns out, this was a perfect book because it explores man's plight in moden society .. exactly what people go to Two Bunch to get away from.

The story of the Steppenwolf (a "lone wolf of the steppes" named Harry Haller) has influences of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. Note that both Herman Hesse and Harry Haller have the initials "HH". The book definitely strikes a cord in you. It did in me, anyway.

Most people probably associate the title with the 60's rock band, which was named after the book (Born to be Wild is their most popular song).

The book starts out with the idea that Harry is a unique individual, with a dual personality (both civil & wild). But you soon get the idea that *everyone* has a little "wolf" in them. We are all animals, you know, and we all have our animal side, no matter how well we might disguise it. The book, Hesse's most popular, is discussed here. A lady at Two Bunch was reading Siddhartha: another popular book by Herman Hesse.

The book was also extra interesting to read at Two Bunch because of how much it contrasted the Two Bunch lifestyle. Some quotes about the book that you might find helpful (not my words):

* From the text: "My story is not a pleasant one. It is a story of nonsense and chaos, madness and dreams .. like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves."
* One man's journey into the hell of his own being, paralleled only by the hell of a world in which he finds no home.

* It's about a man who does not relate to society. An outcast, because of his sensitivity and talents. He is a rebel, a genius. It's about the Artist, the True Genius, attempting to live in a world where mediocrity reigns. And how the superior human cannot bear to live in an atmosphere of stupidity, and yet must somehow come to terms.

* A mirror into the soul of every sensitive person trying to avoid becoming a wreck on the super-highway called egomaniacal nihilism. The struggle for the survival of the Self. Not a book to be read in a casual manner; put on some gentle music and read slowly, like a prayer or meditation. You will emerge all the better for it. God bless.

* Typical themes for Hesse: human exploration, psychology, self-discovery. A wonderful book, well written.
* One of the most powerful blueprints of the human experience ever written; mainly because it's a true story, written by one with the courage to go down this road and the skill to put on paper what he found.

Steppenwolf was originally written in German. Translations usually make for cumbersome reading. Some parts read cryptically, but overall it is smooth. I found the following passage rather bold: "I am curious to see how much a man can endure. If the limit of what is bearable has been reached, I have only to open the door to escape. There are a great many suicides [Steppenwolf-type people] to whom this [type of thinking] imparts uncommon strength."

Hesse was born in 1877. Steppenwolf was first published in 1927. Which means he probably wrote it in 1926. Which means he was probably 39 years old when he penned it. From the autobiography he wrote upon receiving the Nobel Prize in 1946: "I spent most of my early years in boarding schools and theological seminary. I was a good learner, good at Latin, though only fair at Greek, but I was not a very manageable boy, and it was only with difficulty that I fitted into the framework of a pietist education that aimed at subduing and breaking the individual personality." Enough about Hesse.

Everyone always asks, "What do you *do* at Two Bunch?" The answer invariably: "Nothing." (other than getting a few massages .. from Elia, who is the best masseuse there, daughter of a Native American medicine man. She has the mojo going on. I guess you have to eat too.)

It never ceases to surprise me how resistant some people are to the idea of doing nothing at all. Many friends are always on the go. "I could never do that," they claim, as if terrified by the very concept. They insist on filling every waking moment with one distraction or another. Relaxing is an art. On the seveth day, God rested. If he walked the earth today, he'd probably be at Two Bunch.

I have 3 inflatable neck pillows, used by travelers. I use these pillows to float me in the hot springs, late at night, when everyone is asleep. I put one behind my neck, and the other two under each knee. It's pretty cool to float at midnight, with the steam rising up into the atmosphere .. with the stars out, palms swaying in the strong desert winds, and desert white owls (nocturnal) flying thru the tall palms overheads. Talk about relaxed. It's downright magical.

Roadrunners motor up and down the sidewalks of two Bunch. They are not at all afraid of humans. Coyotes can be heard yipping and howling in the surrounding hills at night, especially around sunset. Hawks and hummingbids alike populate the place during the day.

On the way home, we stoped at Joshua Tree, which is not far from Two Bunch, to do some hiking in the surreal lanscape of the high-desert there. A coyote walked right up to us, as if it wanted some food. No fear of humans. Another stood in the middle of the road to stop cars .. looking all cute, walked right up to the driver's door, wanting a burger from In-N-Out.

Yesterday we had Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house back here in Laguna Beach. Best Thankgiving dinner I ever had. A few gourmet cooks got together. Really incredible food. For dessert they had a chocolate torte (low profile) that contained chipotle powder (smoked jalapeno pepper) as its secret ingredient. Best desert I ever had. Could've ate the whole damn thing myself. =/

After dinner, the host went around the table and expressed her appreciation (thankfulness) for everyone there, addressing each person individually, even the little kids, and speaking gracious words over them. That was cool. Never seen that approach to a Thanksgiving tradition before. All the girls got teary-eyed. A few guys, too. Hope you had a nice Turkey day, also.

Thursday: 20.November.2003

Microsoft Windows Vista (previously called Longhorn)

Vista is the code-name for Microsoft's next-generation Operating System (previously called Longhorn): the successor to Windows XP (which was code-named Whistler). It is still a long ways off, a couple of years. But you will begin to see alpha and beta copies floating around the Net.

The best way to get a copy is to become a beta tester [sign in using the guest account 'BetaReq' (case sensitive)], or know someone who is. My previous contact has since dropped out of Microsoft's beta-testing program. He used to give me his log-in and password, so I could download the latest revisions directly from M$ (fast, secure download).

I keep a partition dedicated on my system so I can always play with the latest OS-toy from M$. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a copy that downloads faster than 1-KBps, which would take 100 years to download.

••• continued •••

The best place to learn about Vista/Longhorn is at Paul Thurrott's WinSupersite. Paul gets into some detail here about build 4051. Here is the official M$ Longhorn developer's site. Microsoft has also recently added a page specifically for Windows Vista. Wikipedia has a nice, concise introduction to Longhorn posted here. Information Week discusses it here.

The *next* operating system after Vista will be based on (code-name) Blackcomb, which is named after a mountain in British Columbia, not far from Redmond, where the Microsoft headquarters are located. Whistler, upon which Windows XP was/is based, is also named after a mountain in BC.

So is Longhorn also named after a mountain in British Columbia? No. It's actually named after a saloon located at the base of Whistler mountain, between Whistler & Blackcomb. The story is posted here (200-KB PDF from the Vancouver Sun).

This page updated 24.July.2005 to reflect the name change from Longhorn to VISTA.

A Google search for "windows longhorn" is found HERE.

Thursday: 13.November.2003

St. Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's Existence

After dinner last night, while sitting around the fire with a group of learned friends who were sipping cognac and discussing the meaning of life, St. Anselm's Ontological Argument came up (for the existence of God).

Anselm lived about 1,000 years ago (1033-1109) in Canterbury England. Ontology is the study of being & existence. Philosophy can be fun. Anselm's celebrated argument is a mind-bender, which is said to be the most written about philosophical argument ever. It goes something like this:

1. [First premise] One of two options are possible: either God exists in reality or he doesn't (you should have no problem with this part)

2. [Second premise] It is true that the idea of "God" exists in your mind, where you *conceive* of God as the most perfect being possible, or "the being for which none greater is possible", or "the greatest conceivable being". (this should be no problem either)

3. [Third premise] It is certainly possible that God exists in reality. (yeah, still no problem .. similar to point #1)

4. [Fourth premise] I can conceive of a God that exists in reality. (obviously .. similar to points #1 & 3)

5. [Fifth premise] Things that exist in reality are greater than those that exist only in the mind. E.g. the real Eiffel Tower is greater than the one that exists in your mind. A gold coin that exists in reality (preferably in my greedy, little hand) is greater than one that exists only in my mind. The same goes for a winning lottery ticket. This is why people spend their lives trying to "make their dreams come true". Even bad/negative stuff, such as biological weapons, are consider "greater" in reality. (You should have no problem with this part of the argument.)

[Here comes the tricky part. Pay attention.]

6. [Argument part A] Let's assume for a minute that God exists only in the mind (remember point #1). Since it it possible that God exists in reality (point #3), and I can conceive of a God that exists in reality (point #4), then I can conceive of a being greater than the greatest conceivable being. (according to point #5, based on point #2)

7. [Argument part B] But it is not possible to *conceive* of a being greater than the greatest conceivable being. (obviously not .. it's like surpassing infinity .. you can't surpass infinity because infinity never ends .. you should get the "ah-hah" here).

8. [Conclusion] Therefore, only one other option can be possible (according to point #1): God must exist in reality (as well as in the mind). It's actually a pretty elegant argument, if you think about it.

Must've been some good cognac, huh? =) This is from memory, from Philosophy class, many moons ago. I'd appreciate it if one of you Philosophy majors QA it for accuracy. I loved Philosophy class. Tweaked my brain really good. [QA = Quality Assurance] Anselm's argument takes the form of "reductio ad absurdum" .. which means it takes a hypothesis [God does not exist in reality] and shows it to be absurd.

When I was at Franklin & Marshall (F&M), my professor there (Prof Roth, an atheist, most philosophers are atheists) held a big debate with a professor from Notre Dame. Posters were put up all over campus, saying "Come see Prof Roth get his @ss kicked." The prof from Notre Dame had an IQ of about 2500. The auditorium was packed. Prof Roth got slaughtered .. but he is still one of the most entertaining profs I ever had. I really looked forward to that class.

Philosophical debates follow strict rules. I found it very interesting. It's nothing like arguing with a hormonal woman who is suffering from PMS, where logic means nothing.

I've also had a class in Logic .. where you spend time discecting 'arguments'. Lawyers are encouraged to take classes in Philosophy & Logic .. to help them 'argue' more persuasively. Especially enlightening in Logic are the Fallacies.

Other sites present Anselm's Ontological Argument for you. Some of them are:

* Princeton University
* Lost in the Cosmos
* Philosophy of Religion
* Fordham University
* Trinity college

Need more? Here is a:> Google search that includes the terms: anselm, ontological, argument, existence, god

Tuesday: 11.November.2003

Life on a Boomer

Here in the US, it's Veterans day. I am a veteran, thank-you very much. I served in the Navy, aboard a submarine, a nuclear submarine: called an FBM [Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine] .. colloquially referred to as a "boomer" .. home-ported out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

I've heard it said that "a boomer out of Hawaii" is the best sea-going duty you can get. There were two crews for the boat: blue & gold. We were "the goldies": the good crew. The "bluies" were a rather dysfunctional lot if you ask me. Too damn serious and always screwing things up .. things we had to fix.

Each crew took turns with "the boat". We each had it for 3 months, and would fly to Guam ("Guam USA: Where America's Day Begins" the signs read): a long-ass flight, crossing the International date line, to pick it up. There was a 5-day turn-over, where the bluies informed us of everything they broke during the previous 3 months, before flying back to Hawaii .. where you do nothing but lay around in the sun and spend the day at the beach for 3 months.

Guam sits about 13-degrees north latitude. Twice as close to the equator as Hawaii (21-degrees). Guam is pretty damn hot and muggy, even at 6AM. Step outside at any hour and you instantly begin to sweat. Right off the coast of Guam is the Marianas Trench: deepest spot on the planet. If you cut off Mount Everest at sea level, and stuck it in the Marianas Trench, there would still be a mile of water above it. That's deep. You don't want anything to go wrong over the trench.

They kept the boat like a meat locker: ice-cold. So, naturally, everybody got sick, going from sweltering humidity to freezing meat locker all day. But we still had to work 18 to 20-hour days. We did the math and figured we were paid about 75-cents an hour. Guys used to complain how prisoners had it better than we did: they were able to sleep every night and got to see the sun everyday. They had bigger cots than we did, much more living space, and better food. We wore the same uniforms.

They worked us like dogs. I can't even count the times I worked all day, all night and then all day again, with no sleep. You can do that when you're 21 years old. It would kill me now. You would think they might be concerned about a person being too fatigued and making a mistake while working on a nuclear plant. Apparently not.

We didn't even get time to do our laundry. I remember pulling clothes out of the bottom of my dirty-clothes bag because they weren't *as* dirty as the ones I was wearing. When they can't stand how bad you stink, they give you a few hours off in the afternoon on Sunday to go do laundry ("and hurry back").

The end result is that, now, nothing seems very difficult. When I hear people complain about how tough they have it, I think to myself: you have no idea.

My best memory comes after one "patrol". We had left Guam at 6PM and flown all night. The pilot announced in a quiet, calm relaxed voice: "This is your captain speaking. We'll be beginning our descent into Honolulu International airport. Please fasten your seatbelts. Local time is 6AM. It's 72 degrees and sunny. Today's forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 88. Thank you for flying Flying Tigers airlines"

Because we crossed the date line, we got to live that day all over again (Sunday). When the plane landed, the pilot said, "Welcome to Honolulu." I thought everyone would jump up and and shout 'Hallelujah!'. But everyone just sat there, too numb to celebrate. Myself included. You could've heard a pin drop in that cabin.

In the taxi, on the way to Waikiki where we lived, with the sun coming up over Diamond Head, cruising down Ala Moana blvd, a song by Steely Dan was playing on the radio: FM (No static at All). The Dog said to the big, 400-pound Samoan taxi driver: "Can you turn that up a little?" Those were the only words anyone said the whole trip. I sat in the front; the Dog & Courtland sat in the back. It was early enough that not many cars were on the road yet.

A few joggers were running through Ala Moana park. It seemed as if they were running in slow motion. Sunlight flickered thru the palms. Seemed downright surreal. We hadn't seen colors like that in months. The visual stimulation was hypnotrizing. The Dog was my best friend in the Navy. Still is.

The reason they pick the length of the patrol cycle is because studies show that after 3 months underwater, people start cracking. The crack-rate increases. Anyway, I was just reminiscing about the good ol' days. Would I do it over? Knowing what I know now? No way. I have some good stories (*really* good), and would like to say more, but I think the government doesn't like it when you say too much.

Saturday: 08.November.2003

Vector Cutco 'Work for Students' Marketing Scam

I have a friend who is a student at Saddleback college in Mission Viejo, California. He recently responded to a vague ad at the college for a job paying $16/hr, and discovered it involves selling Cutco knives for a company named Vector Marketing.

He has already attended several (unpaid) sales classes. Today he asked to borrow $145, and I thought it strange he had a job where he pays *them* money. So I did a little research and discovered literally *hundreds* of allegations of fraud and deceit, saying this is a major scam .. all over the country and in Canada. Perhaps you know a someone who might benefit from this information. Here is only a small fraction of what I found:

1. Did you hand over the last of your money to them yet?
2. The SAVE Campaign · Students Against Vector Exploitation

3. Consumer Affairs: Students want to slice up Vector
4. Important Information for potential employees and class action law suit

5. Complaint Station for Cutco Cutlery
6. Petition Online: STOP the Scamful ways of Vector Marketing and Cutco Cutlery

7. The Vector Scam
8. Epinions: Disadvantages Of Cutco Knives and Comparison to the Others

9. Students Stand Up Against Summer Work Business
10. Vector and Cutco discussion

11. Illegal Business Practices from Vector Marketing
12. Vector manipulates people into taking a job that they would not normally accept

13. Vector Marketing / Cutco knife vendor misleads prospective workers with false claims
14. I got scammed (June 02 entry)

Unfortunately, I think he already left to go give them the money.

Friday: 07.November.2003

Updated the Black Beast

Updated the Black Beast. Faster processor, lower prices. More performance for less money: the story of technology. Added reader comments. The new Matrix Revolutions is out. Might have to go see that this weekend.

Thursday: 06.November.2003

String Theory on Nova

I've been watching the Nova special on String Theory titled: The Elegant Universe. String theory is a new model of the universe that attempts to resolve the differences between (unify) Quantum Field Theory (based on Quantum Mechanics) and Einstein's General Relativity. The best explanation of String Theory (called M-theory by some) is found here: A Theory of Everything.

The show is hosted by Brian Greene, a professor of Physics at Columbia University (NYC) who wrote the best-selling book similarly titled: The Elegant Universe. He does an excellent job of explaining concepts so the average person can understand them.

String Theory is still only a theory. It hasn't been proven yet. Some say it never will. But it has much mathematical support behind it, which provides promise. Yet it would suk to spend your whole life studying something, only to discover on your deathbed that your theory was wrong. Here is the Official String Theory site. More here.

String Theory says the universe is comprised of of tiny, vibrating strings of energy. The theory requires parallel universes and 11 dimensions: the 3 we already know, 1 for time, and the rest, which are known as "degrees of freedom". Uh, okay. Stretch my brain.

I love this kind of stuff because it's so intellectually stimulating. It's something you can sink your intellectual teeth into and give your brain a little exercise. I'd like to watch the shows (there are more than one episode) a few times each to absorb it all.

Back in school, I had a professor (Dr. Wolfe) who taught Applied Mathematics for nuclear physics. Ten minutes before class would end, he'd glance at his watch and say, "Okay, put your books away. You don't have know this," and would proceed to delve into wild, cutting edge physics. That was the best part of class. It literally made my head spin. One time I stood up after class ended and almost fell over .. like when you spin around for a minute and then stop.

Wednesday: 05.November.2003

GuruNet: 1-click Reference Tool

Here's a nifty program you might enjoy: GuruNet. It's based on the old Atomica, which you might be familiar with. I've had GuruNet installed for a few weeks now and decided to keep it.

GuruNet is "super-reference tool", including search-engine, dictionary, spell-checker, thesaurus & encyclopedia. It also performs langauge translations. They explain their product here.

For search-engine, I use Google and Fravia's page. For dictionary, I use WordWeb and Onelook. For encyclopedia, I use Encarta and Wikipedia. But GuruNet allows you to find the definition of any word by simply holding down the ALT key and clicking on the word. This makes it super-easy (1-click) to look up any word you don't know.

An English professor at Franklin & Marshall college once told the class: "Look up the definition of any word you don't know. That's how you get A's in all your subjects." For some reason, that bit of advice stuck with me. Now, many years later, I never read a book without a dictionary handy. And when I cruise the web, and stumble across a word I don't know :> ALT-click for an instant definition. Simply close GuruNet, and you're right back where you were. Couldn't be easier.

The program offers full features for 7 days, then reverts to the free version. No nag-screens appear after the first 7 days. The free version is fine. First thing you'll want to do is disable the annoying 'swosh' sound the TopicBar makes when opening & closing it.

Do this by: Tools > GuruNet Options > TopicBar tab > Remove check for box labeled "Use sound effects". You can also remove the Topicbar there, if you find you don't use it. I think you'll like this program, especially its 1-click feature.

Tuesday: 04.November.2003

Downloading pirated movies & Ripping DVDs

Update - 19january2004: Seems many folks are arriving at this page while searching for a place to "download pirated movies". This page discusses the phenomena of downloading pirate movies, but you'll find none of them here. What follows is the original post from 04november2003. (end update)

60 minutes, the popular, prime-time weekly television program produced by CBS News, featured a segment titled Pirates of the Internet. In it Lesley Stahl delved into the (under)world of downloaded movies. They quickly discovered that you can download pretty much any movie you want, often before the official release date.

She mentioned Kazaa: the "world's most downloaded software application", as the tool of choice, and how a federal judge ruled that such file-swapping programs are perfectly legal. She interviewed Wayne Rosso, president of Grokster, a similar peer-to-peer file-sharing program. One comment Rosso made really stuck with me. He said, "The hacker will always win."

I agree. If a protection scheme is based on *software* of any kind, some hacker somewhere will break it. It's just a matter of time. And it usually doesn't take them very long, either. There is no such thing as an uncrackable software protection scheme. Anything can be "reversed".

Despite spending million$ on an elaborate protection scheme for DVDs called CSS or Content Scrambling System, it took a 16-year old kid from Norway named Jon Johansen no time to defeat it. Now anyone can find the crack almost anywhere. More here.

The industry's response to the problem is to flood the Net with fake copies, so you download something that *looks* like a movie but isn't .. become frustrated and give up. Wishfull thinking, if you ask me.

Doom9 and its popular forums are *the* place to find info on this type of stuff (I hear). There you'll find detailed guides for all aspects of "backing up" your DVDs. Most of this stuff originates outside the US, where the laws are less draconian. The problems faced by movie producers aren't limited to the US. The Internet is a global phenomena. Welcome to the digital age.

The reason this has become so BIG is because so much MONEY is @stake. The industry claims to make *half* its profit$ from the sale and rental of DVDs. Here in Southern California, where we live in the shadow of Hollywood, where so many of our friends work in the Film industry, and where movies represent a major cash crop, we are perhaps more sensitive to this type of thing.

To work at some 'sensitive' industrial facilities, you often have to take a psych test. I remember one question on such a test. It asked: "If you could sneak into a movie theater and knew for certain you wouldn't get caught, would you do it?" I answered 'No' .. thinking this was the obvious right answer. Not!

They didn't like my answer and called me into the office, where they told me they thought I was lying on the test, specifically citing this question, saying that a 'normal' person would answer 'Yes'. I said, "Oh, I meant to say, 'Yes'". They said, "That's better," and gave me the job.

So, it seems, the "normal" person, if he knew he wouldn't get caught, would answer 'Yes' to the question: "Should I download movies off the Internet?" .. especially if he can't afford to see every movie in a theater .. and who can these days, when movies have become expensive? Findings by Lesley Stahl in her 60 Minutes segment seem to support this psychological perspective.

For those of you (like me) who prefer to watch movies in a theater, on the silver screen, rather than your computer screen, Rotten Tomatoes is a good place for reviews.

Update - 22december2003: A Norwegian court has acquitted 'DVD Jon' - a second time. Norwegian authorities have also decided *not* to take the case to their Supreme court. DVD Jon (Johansen) was accused of 'breaking into' DVDs that he legally purchased and owned, and then sharing his findings on the Internet.

Monday: 03.November.2003

Blog spamming bastards

Been having trouble with spammers depositing their offensive crap in the comments sections of my blogging software. And it's not just me. Many people with Movable Type are having this problem. If you read their 10.15.2003 entry on the MT homepage, you'll see where the authors of this award-winning software (listed under Best Practices) address this issue.

Fortunately a guy name Jay Allen has whipped up a little program called MT-Blacklist (v1.5), which not only blocks spammers' entries, but also allows you to delete prior entries (de-spam). The MT software, strange as it might seem, does not (yet) provide this feature.

We were hit by a variety of spammers: Casinos, hotels, and Viagra, about 5 from each. It upset me more than I imagined it would. Most frustrating was that I couldn't do anything about it .. until MT-Blacklist was released. Here is a screenshot of the program interface (13-KB).

Spammers would say things like,. "Hey, Nice site. Check out mine ..." These bastards should have bamboo shoots slid up under their fingernails. Nah: that's too good for them. But now, all these entries are gone. Installation of MT-Blacklist was surprisingly simple, and the program is easy to use. Couldn't ask for anything better. My blog-page is here:> Ye Olde Rad Blog.

Sunday: 02.November.2003

Mexico's Day of the Dead

Today (and yesterday, November 1st & 2nd) are the Dias de los Muertos. The English translation: Day of the Dead. This is when Mexicans remember their ancestors. Note that it comes right after Halloween, when the nights are longer than days, and continue to grow even longer for a few more months (until the winter solstice on December 21st).

Here in Southern California, with its large Mexican population, the Day of the Dead is a big thing. The tradition is some 3,000 years old. Cultural traditions like this interest me for some reason.

Mexican people are remarkably hard-working. On occasion, I've hired day-laborers for odd jobs when I needed extra muscle. They never cease to impress me. Even the little guys possess the strength of an ox. I think this hard-working attitude is a cultural thing too. On the other hand, education does not seem to be a priority with them, as it is with Asian cultures.

Saturday: 01.November.2003

California fires

In returning from a week of self-imposed blogging exile, I must say: it was harder than I thought it would be. These daily entries have become a habit, and you know how difficult it can be to break deeply ingrained habits.

Even if you don't live in California, you probably heard about the fires. Here in Laguna, we are half way between the blazes raging to the north and south. The cars were dusted with ash if we didn't put them in the garage. It looked like snow. We had to close the windows to keep it out of the house. It still got in.

The days developed a strange, yellow tint. I think the ash filtered the sunlight in some weird way. It looked as if you saw the world thru yellow-tinted glasses .. like the end of the world was coming.

The weather changed today - for the better . The problem was due to what are known called Santa Ana winds. Normally, the winds blow off the ocean toward the land. When they change direction and blow off the desert, they bring to the coast hot, dry, dusty air. That's what they mean by Santa Ana's. My sinuses usually bother me when this happens. Santa Ana winds can turn a cool, winter day into a mid-summer scorcher.