Holy Smokes!

Walking to work from the train this morning I see a beautiful firetruck. One of those deep crimson ones with gold lettering and chrome trim. I smile and keep walking as it drives by. Then I see another one, parked. I would compare it to seeing two rare birds in a row, but then again it was more like seeing a rare flock.

Anyway, firetruck. Parked. In front of my building. Wait, what?! There were half a dozen firefolk standing outside and a stream of water and charred flakes flowing out from the door into a messy wooden pile at their feet. Speechless, I make eye contact and point at the door. They tell me I can go in.

The river of sopping wet carpet decorated with singed chips flows down the first floor hallway and then up the stairs, around the bend, and low-and-behold, into the actors' studio. Surprise, surprise. Except, as much as I love to blame everything on them, they probably didn't actually cause it.

Their studio is directly below our space. Story goes that Adam, our founder, smelled smoke and then 20 seconds later, thought, "Wait a minute....I'm actually in a burning building." He and another resident called 911, and three minutes later the firefolk streamed in as a horde of 40 or so, found a warm wall, and broke it down, revealing flames inside.

The guess is that someone threw a cigarette butt between the buildings (the adjacent building's roof is decked up as a hang out pad, and it runs up against that wall) and it kindled over the night. But, then again, that theory doesn't exclude the actors entirely.

So our office is smokey, which is kind of fun because it's a good-smelling smoke. I've answered two firetruck chaser's calls already--restoration and smoke smell removal.

Babara, another tenant, came up and talked to us for a bit. She had a funny story about another fire that happened a bit ago. There were some pot growers who's irrigation system caught on fire. Yeah, I know, irrigation...on fire. Anyway, the sprinklers went off and the guy there split, boalting the door behind him, since he didn't want to be caught with the pot.

The tenants below just happen to notice the gallons of water dripping from the roof onto their electrical equipment, and the firefolk were called into action. The door was metal and boalted, so they went around, and one of the younger firefolk cames back with saucer eyes saying, "There was a lot of pot." The police were theoretically called, but men dressed in black came and wrapped the stuff up in burlap and threw it into a black van. Interesting.


acrobatic snails

Just a pair of snails I saw on the way to work today.

These photos were edited using Shotwell. One of the great new features is being able to edit a few photos without needing to import them into your library.


bike! bike! bike!

I've wanted to get a bike for a while, and my boy (who is really into road biking) encouraging me to get one was enough to push me over the edge.

Craigslist is a beautiful thing: I found a 2008 Schwinn listed at $400, and barely used (He said his wife rode it maybe six times). New, that thing would have cost about 750 plus tax. I get to the seller's friend's home (he's playing poker) and try it out. It's pretty and red. It's in really good condition. I ask him if I can cut him a check. He'll give it to me for 360 if I pay cash. Umb, ATM please? To do the math, that's less than 45% of what I would have payed for a new one. All I can say is I hope he didn't lose it all in the poker game.


berkeley flowers

Some photos I've taken recently of dem Berkeley flowers.
(click photo for Picasa album)


making money with colored pencils

Last week I stumbled upon an online article highlighting Jennifer Maestre. Some of the article's images are poor quality, but the portfolio on her website is beautiful. Inspired by sea urchins, she sharpens colored pencils and threads them with wire to create prickly but organic forms. I wish I could earn $5k for making art out of colored pencils.


the future is here

The Wii was the most recent commercially successful step that consumers saw in the evolution of the human-computer interface. It felt pretty revolutionary--it used natural human motions instead of adapting our motions to the interface. But it was definitely a step in the right direction.

Some of the interfaces displayed at Siggraph this month show amazing potential to revolutionize input all over again. We have touchable holography (there is still a long way to go until we reach holodeck levels), augmented reality, hyper-realistic virtual reality, 3D teleconferencing, and scratchable input. Just wait until they start releasing scents with that last one--it'd be the best scratch-n-sniff ever.


on the mercuriality of moral caliber in our beloved republic

My apologies for the title. Magniloquence is always so incredibly tempting.

The thought thread began with an BBC article about a US gang rape case. It was sad enough that an eight year old girl was raped, but then came the worst of it, in my opinion: she is in the care of the Arizona Child Protective Service, according to the article, after her parents said she had shamed them and they did not want her back. As if she wont be screwed up the rest of her life because of the rape alone.

What kind of parents would abandon an eight year old girl because she got raped? Okay, so maybe it might be justified if they knew that they wouldn't be capable of giving her the support she needed growing up--pick a reason, any reason. (We could discuss what role the government should have in supporting them, financially and with services, but that's a whole 'nother tangent.) But giving up a child willingly for no other reason than it is shameful to them?

I understand that cultures are different. I grew up in a culture in which the family came first and love was the highest virtue--fairly common in America. But some cultures place honor higher on the virtue hierarchy. It just surprises me that cultural tradition could cause a parent to want to completely abandon their child when something happened to the child rather than because of the child. Sure, the daughter could have potentially avoided the situation by not following the boys, but the same thing could have happened just as easily without any choice whatsoever on the girl's part.

So then what do you do? Since we like having choices, we can look at the parents' actions either as a person within the society or as a governing political body. Do we force them to think like us? (Or do I force them to think like me, since you might not be on board with my crusade, you never know.)

I think that if anyone feels that their position or take on a situation is superior to another person, they should share it with them. Quantifiable positions, like financial or scientific opinions, for instance, are a lot easier to justify since there usually exists fairly direct evidence for or against one's position. But when it comes to judging morality to be better or worse than another person's, we hit really, really dangerous ground. It's hard to say, "I think the way to think about the world is like this rather than like that," but I believe that if we truly feel that way, we have an obligation to share. That's a moral opinion in itself, but I'm being consistent by sharing it here and now.

Anyway, I believe that in a case such as this, people should try to help the parents by sharing their opinions. Phrases as such, I'm calling everyone to write letters, send emails, etc. to this poor couple, but that's not what I mean. I mean that local individuals or people who are close with the family should help them come to a decision about what they think is right. People never liked to be told what to do in the time of a decision, but opening up and sharing these things before and even a bit after periods of moral decision-making is fairly normal and helps all parties understand each other and grow.

I guess I am saying that members of a society have an obligation to discus morality with each other in order for the morals of a society to evolve. At least, under my moral schema, which deems the evolution of morality or seeking more enlightened moral schemas to be a good thing.

After we do our best to grown our own understanding of morality and that of those around us, we can only leave it up to them to choose the course of action that they think is best. I believe that any reasonable person confronted with two takes on morality will always be able to see two things: which is easier, and which is morally better--easier and better having no relation. Armed with that understanding, they may choose.

It's a bit circular, I know. People judge a moral schema with one they already have, so perhaps nothing will ever happen. But things do happen and people's actions change. The morality of the United States as a whole is constantly evolving, changing, shifting. will it every settle in and find what is most absolutely right, or will morals always evolve? Have we long past the most moral state, or are we still heading there?

Now comes the question of what to do as a governing body. We've got to respect traditions and cultural ideals, but keep order at the same time. At some point, all we can do is establish limits according to popular acceptance. That's all laws really are in a democracy--the morals of the majority. So if most of the people in the United States think that the actions of the parents of this girl are immoral, should there be a law about it? Or do we just silently judge them? We obviously don't take that route for the extreme example of murder, so where to we draw the line? Again, majority.

In my decision making at least, the line is where an action harms other people. This situation is kind of on the fence because I believe that it is wrong to abandon a child, but I cannot fully reject the possibility that she is better off being raised by someone who will love her, care about her, and help her deal with the scars of rape rather than by a set of parents who are ashamed of her. It's still disgusting that parents would do that, but I think there should be no legal ramification, just social.

This system would break down if and when individuals create a majority that would not naturally exist, but again, that's another kettle of fish. The issues of an artificial majority and the aforementioned government's role in supporting parents are tricky, but I shan't discuss them here and now. For the time being, all we can do is probe our own morals, constantly evolving them, hopefully for the better.


integrated art

I really love Jan Vormann's artwork. This art is of the kind that is truly alive in the world, that makes us love and appreciate things we see. It transforms the mundane into something beautiful, or brings our attention to the beauty that already exists. I also just really like Lego building blocks.

Browsing the aforementioned website reminded me of some works I've seen in Emeryville, Signs of the Times. A thought-provoking series forged from the pedestrian. Ba-dum-ch!