Oct 312005

(All photos for this entry are posted here)

Pete, Paul, Mark, Anna and I wandered down to 21st street on Saturday night to check out the Golden Hill Block Party. It featured The Adored, Fifty on their heels, and Jezebel, with a DJ in-between bands. I wasn’t familiar with any of the bands, but the new-wave-punky sound was fun and easy to get into – they all put on good shows. I don’t have a clue who put it the block party on, but they did a great job. They had the street blocked off, a stage & lights, hell they even had two porta-poties. All for free. Can’t beat that. Thanks to whoever you are! (Sophie & Scott)

Update: They also put on a great show at Sessions Fest at Golden Hill Park

Oct 252005

The Long Now Orrery, photo by Jacob Appelbaum

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but finally got around to it after reading at Boing Boing that the Long Now project unveiled their prototype, the Orrery clock. Jacob Appelbaum has some great photos of the event.

What is all this fuss over a clock? Discover has a lot of good info about The Long Now project.

While nearly every mechanical clock made in the last millennium consists of a series of propelled gears, this one uses a stack of mechanical binary computers capable of singling out one moment in 3.65 million days. Like other clocks, this one can track seconds, hours, days, and years. Unlike any other clock, this one is being constructed to keep track of leap centuries, the orbits of the six innermost planets in our solar system, even the ultraslow wobbles of Earth’s axis.

Made of stone and steel, it is more sculpture than machine. And, like all fine timepieces, it is outrageously expensive. No one will reveal even an approximate price tag, but a multibillionaire financed its construction, and it seems likely that shallower pockets would not have sufficed.

Still, any description of the clock must begin and end with that ridiculous projected working life, that insane, heroic, incomprehensible span of time during which it is expected to serenely tick.

Ten thousand years.

The span of time from the invention of agriculture to the present. Twice as long as the Great Pyramid of Giza has stood. Four hundred human generations…

I find the whole thing amazing. Thinking about humans in this sort of timeline is really unheard of in our culture. They plan to put the clock into a man made cave near Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada. The area is dry, remote, stable, and surrounded by bristlecone pines. Rather appropriate, I think.

There are just so many things about this clock that I find great. The clock is mechanical, and thus will not be a black box to an outsider. It uses the solar system to show the time, something that is easily understood to all people. It has solar synchronization: A sunbeam striking a precisely angled lens at noon triggers a reset by heating, expanding, and buckling a captive band of metal. They plan to make the clock charismatic, and easy to interact with – to even require attention from people. There are also plans to include a library of sorts to the project. This will include things like the Rosetta Project (publicly accessible online archive of ALL documented human languages) and the Long Server (pervasive server and email infrastructure, open source Timeline tools, and file format conversion).

The project is massive, and threatens to become a Library of Alexandria for the future. I love it.

Oct 212005

The quality at BBC dropped a notch on this story of an American tourist in North Korea:

“To be honest, I was surprised with how friendly and warm-hearted they [North Korea assigned tour guides] were… They had their photos taken with us, told stories about their lives, answered our questions – some to more of an honest degree than others – sang songs and had a few beers with us in the evenings.”

“…Initially I had a few reservations about going to North Korea… But having been, I highly recommend that others take any opportunity they can to go and see for themselves what Pyongyang is like – as soon as they can, as it won’t be the same forever.”

The whole thing seems to be a lot of fluff. The author is surprised with how friendly her handlers were to her – despite the fact that it is a huge part of their job. Misinformation begins with smiles. As is required by NK, she didn’t talk to any locals, go anywhere, or do anything outside the handled state tours. One would think this might ring some alarm bells with regards to the accuracy of her experience in NK. While she shows a bit of concern for the locals, on the whole she seems happy with the world which was presented to her. She even recommends that others “go and see for themselves what Pyongyang is like”.

I am being harsh, but I have serious doubts she learned anything about what North Korea, or even Pyongyang, is really like. The evidence suggests she saw exactly what she was supposed to see. Documentaries like Welcome to North Korea have exposed the incredibly flimsy layers of facade in North Korea – Impossible lies being told to the people, brutal control, and widespread poverty and hunger. Other recent NK travelers, like Steve Knipp at the CS Monitor, seem to be very aware of the tourist bubble. So why is her experience so blissfully ignorant?

Update: A much more in depth take on North Korea by an American, possibly from the same tour group. It is interesting how the tour seems almost identical to the one taken by the people who did the Welcome to North Korea documentry. Visit the great sites, watch the children perform, etc. But never interact with the locals, and the country side is quite off limits. He seems to be right leaning, but I have to agree with him on this:

She also said that “North Korean people hate Bush,” to which one woman in our American tour group quickly replied, “We do too.”

As I mentioned earlier, in general I have no problem with people hating the President and saying so. Furthermore, showing the North Koreans that we can dislike our own leaders and freely talk about them in a negative way can be healthy because it is a stark contrast to their world in which their leadership must be revered and can not be questioned.

However, North Korea is a nation in which the leaders use hatred of America to manipulate, control, and oppress their people. The citizens only hear how terrible the American government and President are – they don’t have access to any contrary information that can lead them to an informed opinion. Here are Americans aiding and abetting the propaganda of the North Korean government.

I had heard other similar statements on the trip, but this comment stood out and infuriated me even more because of the use of the word “we” – she was appearing to represent the whole group, including me. I didn’t want to get into an argument, but I had to speak up.

“Not all of us,” I said, and left it at that.

Right after this, I heard another in our group explaining to a North Korean guide how “Bush represents corporations…not regular people.” He was confirming for a citizen of a socialist nation that businesses and the “regular people” are at odds. Great.

Too many people are quick to agree with those who oppose the current administration, without putting any critical thought into it. This ends up being just as bad as the people they bitch about. Question everything, we would be in a much better state.

Oct 182005

Califone opened the concert up and had some help from I&W on a song. I like some of their stuff, but they usually go weird-experimental-jazzy half way through it. It throws me off. Still worth lisening to though.

Calexico was next up, and they rocked the house. Great sound from them all, had the crowd moving. Who doesn’t like steel saws and trumpets? Crazy people. Anyone know if the projection stuff was part of the tour, or part of HoB?

Next up came Iron & Wine. There seemed to be a lot of fans in the house, and people enjoyed him. Me? Not so much. I don’t mind his whisper-singing, or the slightly dreary songs, but it was really hard to get into at House of Blues. Standing on concrete for three hours isn’t fun, but Calexico gave me an excuse to move my body. There was little of that from I&W. The bar was noisy. People were actually yelling at people to shut up, or doing the ever popular ‘shhhhh’. Add to this the light machine blinding you every second song and you don’t have a great mix. Had this been an intimate cafe, me with a beer or tea in hand, I suspect I would have enjoyed Iron & Wine a lot more.

So I guess my one word rating would have to be something like this:

Califone – OK.
Calexico – Woo!
I&W – Meh.

Oct 162005

I just picked up tickets for Anna and I to see Iron & Wine and Calexico tomorrow night at the new House of Blues in downtown San Diego. Should be a good show, I’m a big fan of Calexico. I expect a lot of indie-folk-desert-bluesy action. The UT has a good write-up on the Iron & Wine-Calexico collaboration.

Make sure you buy tickets at the HoB box office, just outside. Tickets there cost $22 after taxes, tickets through TicketMaster start at $28, before taxes – a nice $7.95 ‘Convenience Charge’ per ticket. They also charge you $2.50 to ‘let you’ print your own ticket. What a bunch of dicks.

Oct 142005

I learned here that Ninjalicious, the guy behind infiltration.org, has released a book: Access All Areas – A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration. However, I also learned this bit of sad news:

Access All Areas is a fitting — and final — testament to his passion. Having been diagnosed with cancer last year, Jeff spent much of his time finishing and publishing this book. He died about a month after seeing it in print and debuting advance copies at the annual gathering of urban explorers in Montreal.

You can hear Ninjalicious in these round-table discussions on Canada’s Urban Exploration Radio Station Infiltration.org will still keep going strong, and there are other urban decay and exploration folks out there doing great work.

Urban Exploration Resource (uer.ca) has some great information, forums, and a location database. I have always wondered why there so many Canadian urban explorers. Less people to stop you, or perhaps the boom bust cycle of a trade dependent nation creates more places to explore.

Opacity.us – Has some great photos of urban ruins, and even boat graveyards

Urban-Resources.net has a lot of information on urban architecture and exploration from around the world. Closely related to Urban-Resources.net, Zone-Tour is a database of urban exploration sites. It also has movies from a few locations.

Standing But Not Operating – pictures and history about amusement parks that are standing but not operating

You can see links to other sites by using the ‘Exploration’ category on my blog.

Oct 132005

Beets and I don’t get along. I find them too sweet, too chalky, and they have a strange aftertaste. Anna and I had two weeks of beets from our Be Wise Ranch farm share, with no idea what to do with them – she is also not fond of the purple devils. After watching an episode of River Cottage where Hugh makes some beet soup, Anna wanted to try it out. So we did.

River Cottage Beet Soup – Add 1 part chopped onion, 1 part chopped carrot with a bit of olive oil and sweat in a pot. Add 3 parts chopped beets. Just barely cover the whole mix with beef stock. Add salt (unless your stock has some), pepper, and some tabasco sauce for a bit of kick. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Spoon it into a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. You can serve it hot or cold, and add a bit of plain yogurt for a nice contrast.

After the success of the beet soup, it was on to the beet greens. Be Wise Ranch always leaves the top greens on the veggies, and I made use of the beet greens by way of slight changes to this recipe. I cooked down a bit of summer sausage, some left over lamb, and an onion in some olive oil. Added 3/4 of a cup of water, a couple table spoons of balsamic vinegar, a large pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, and good sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Let it boil a bit to dissolve the sugar and deglaze the pot. Then added in about four handfuls of roughly chopped beet greens (about 8 beets worth), mixed them in, covered, and let them cook for 8-10 minutes. The beet greens are not unlike spinach or swiss chard and are quite good.

I’m a changed man. It turns out that I don’t hate all beets, but I’m pretty sure the pickled ones still suck.

Oct 082005

(All photos for this entry are posted here)

Last week Anna and I checked out Tower After Hours at Balboa Park’s Museum of Man. The event focuses on the art, food, drinks, culture, music, and dancing of a particular country. This edition was focused on Puerto Rico, and was put on by the Puerto Rico house. The music and dancing performances alone were worth the $20 admission. You can really see the African and Latin roots of the country through the dance – Full bodied, stylish, enthusiastic, and rhythmic.

We both enjoyed Tower After Hours, and would return. However, the Museum of Man receives failing marks on two things. One is the food. The food was excellent, but they ran out of it 15 minutes into the event. Many people ended up only eating rice and bean dregs. I assume this was poor planning, perhaps this particular event was a bigger crowd than usual. The second was recycling. The event included drinks, but nowhere to recycle. Which means that something like 200 recyclables ended up in the trash. This is something that could be easily fixed, and I hope they make the change.