You are viewing flwyd

Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Recent Entries 
16th-Oct-2014 09:53 pm - Celebrate Chuck Berry's 88th Birthday
octagonal door and path
This Saturday, Chuck Berry turns 88, a very auspicious number.
While he rocks around the clock, why don't you reel and rock around our yard?

We spent much of the summer moving in to a house in east Boulder with two Ranger friends of ours. Then the moving boxes got swapped out for Burning Man boxes. Then those boxes came home and had to get the dust wiped off.

But now we've put everything away, cleared off the porch, and would love for our friends to help warm our house before it gets too cold. The weather looks good; highs in the upper 60s. Croquet and chili by day, beer and glow bocce by night. Plus board games, burn barrels, socializing, potluck, and all the other things you might do at a party.

If you didn't get my address from an invite on Google+ or email, drop me a line or call 303-EEL-WANG.
30th-Sep-2014 12:22 am - A Western Proposal
tell tale heart
Be Love and a colorful umbrella
The spiritual heart of Burning Man is the Temple, a beautiful, intricate wood structure. It serves as a blank canvas for the joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, intention and letting go for the city. After three weeks in construction and a week in communal expression the Temple, along with all its messages and offerings, is burned to the ground as thousands watch in a circle of quiet reflection.

For the last year or so, my girlfriend Kelly has frequently asked if I want to marry her. It became something of a game: "Will you marry me?" "Not right now, I'm going to bed." "Will you marry me now?" "No, there's a cat on my lap." Kelly has played along, but I sensed she was getting annoyed by my non-answers.

On Tuesday of Burning Man, Kelly (aka Oasis) and I went on an art tour adventure in the outer playa, with the temple our final goal, hoping to leave offerings to Margot Adler and Robin Williams, two wonderful spirits the world lost this summer. But with construction delays from the August rains, it was not yet open to visitors.

On Wednesday morning, Kelly had a shift scheduled to give manicures to volunteer Rangers, a great way to keep her hands moisturized in the desert. I slipped away to the Temple with something of a plan. I found a good place for my photos of Margot Adler and Robin Williams and wrote Margot a farewell. I then walked around the inner sanctuary and the outer wall, searching for a blank slate that felt right: right shape, right position, right surrounding energy. I found it in a pair of wooden plates at eye level just north of the west door. After a lot of thought and grounding, I took out a sharpie and wrote on the left piece
Kelly, my love, my oasis,
will you marry me now?
Yours forever, Trevor 石胡子
and on the right wrote
Kelly's response? _________
I cried and smiled and then headed back to camp to await the moment of unveiling.

After a hot afternoon in the shade at Ranger Outpost Berlin I eagerly invited Kelly to ride out to visit the Temple in the sunset light. After five days of the environmental stress that makes Burning Man what it is, we were having trouble communicating when we arrived. I could tell she was stressed; my response was to ask lots of questions about what she wanted to do which just led to more annoyance. To ground and prepare ourselves, we walked a clockwise circle around the outer wall, setting a spontaneous intention to each cardinal direction. We then entered the southern gate and turned to face the inside of the outer wall. The first message we saw was someone else proposing marriage. "Will you marry me now," Kelly asked. "Not… right this minute," I replied. She grumped a bit while I kept a poker face. We continued a counterclockwise walk; I placed a hand on her back because I could sense her energy was still off kilter and I wanted to pass on some calm.

On the east side we saw a photo someone else had left in honor of Robin Williams. Kelly posted her photo of Robin and wrote him a message. As we continued along the north wall I realized there was a kink in my plan: she would see my Robin Williams photos before my proposal and I'd have to think of an excuse. She was angry when she spotted it, upset that I didn't wait to enter the Temple together with her. She continued walking along the west wall, a storm of emotion brewing. As we approached the gate, I placed my hand on her back and gently guided her to turn to the right. As she read the words I wrote, the bundle of tired and grumpy and upset melted into a great big kiss and embrace. I offered her a choice of sharpie colors to fill in her response. "Hell yes!" she wrote and then appended "– Dr. Stone." She's coveted my last name for a while.

With a chaotic summer, I hadn't had a chance to be a ring-seeker. I was also hesitant to buy an engagement ring that Kelly hadn't approved: what would be more awkward than a marriage proposal with an ugly ring as the centerpiece? In place of a circle of metal I brought a small bag of Mayan bracelets from a craft cooperative in Zunil, Guatemala. She selected one for me to tie around her wrist and I picked one for her to encircle mine. We kissed and hugged and cried and laughed and hugged some more and took photos and talked about our love for each other.

Took photos and kissedCollapse )

After we celebrated our moment in the west we saw a group of Rangers and artists from Element 11, Utah's regional event, carrying a banner honoring the man who ended his life in the flames of their effigy this July. We stepped into the central pyramid and the honor guard made their way to the west, parting the crowd between Kelly and me. We helped hold space as our comrades marked the tragic loss of a community member. Quick emotional transitions from fighting to uneasy to joyous to sorrowful: this compression of intense feeling is why Burning Man holds such a strong draw. We are fortunate that we could share this vulnerability with each other and we had a fantastic community to support and celebrate our choice.

On Sunday the Temple burned hot, serene in the crowded silence. The bones of the structure held strong as the details fell away and then the core collapsed together in a beautiful spiral a fire dance I've never seen before. The pillar with our proposal was one of the last parts to burn, an auspicious sign for a strong union.

Post Script: So… wedding? We're brainstorming ideas for our wedding in 2015. For family scheduling reasons, Memorial Day weekend is attractive, though no firm plans have yet been made. We're thinking about holding a variety show so our friends can help us celebrate through their many talents. We're also talking about making it a multi-day event so guests can get to know each other and enjoy the Colorado mountains in summer. We may also perform a marriage ritual at Dragonfest in August and we're digging through mythic sources in search of a good wedding story to play with.
18th-Sep-2014 12:56 am - Game Like A Pirate Day
black titan
Avast, Mateys! This Friday be Talk Like A Pirate Day! And this Sunday be Boxing Like A Pirate Day Observed! So make 1062 Stearns Ave yer port o' call an' try yer luck at cards, dice, and maybe a rousin' game o' Rum and Pirates!

Landlubbers are also welcome.

As usual, the details:
On Sunday the 21st, come to 1062 Stearns Ave, Boulder, CO 80303 any time after 2 pm. Come around to the back of the house; we're probably in the basement (or ring the new rear doorbell). Call 303-EEL-WANG if you get confused. Bring any combination of food, friends, drinks, games, and pirate accents. Be advised that the house is populated by four adult humans, one rapidly expanding human, two felines, and one canine.

Also, save the date: we'll be having a housewarming party on either Sunday the 5th or Saturday the 4th of October. Games will probably be played at that gathering too in addition to a casual bike ride, socializing, and sitting by the fire.
step to the moon be careful
Margot Adler passed away this morning, after living with cancer for 3½ years.

She is probably best known as a long-time reporter for NPR. Yet she is also one of the most recognized names in the Neopagan community, and introduced many of us to that world through her book Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and other Pagans in America Today. The book was published in 1979, a time when it was often difficult for people with minority interests to find like-minded people. In addition to cataloging the ideas and practices of a lot of different individuals and groups the book had an extensive section of contacts and resources, enabling the curious and isolated to plug in and learn more. The book was also an opportunity to educate outsiders: given a long history of Pagan persecution, most Neopagan groups in the 1960s through at least the 1980s kept a low profile. Since the Neopagans weren't telling their own stories in public, it was left to paranoid parents who watched Rosemary's Baby and fear-mongering evangelicals who conflate all non-Christian religious practices with Satanism. While Margot's book probably didn't make it onto Focus on the Family's bookshelf, it provided a non-sensationalist journalistic source that someone could point to which demystified the contemporary occult.

Margot used her three decades at NPR to share the stories of many other subcultures and marginalized groups, religious and otherwise. She approached her work as an educational conduit. Her stories didn't have a sensationalist bent with the unusual habits of a minority group used to titilate mainstream listeners, nor were they partisan promotions. Rather, she dove deep into the culture and brought their world view and social context to curious ears.

Margot was a frequent visitor to Boulder, attending CU's Conference on World Affairs 22 times. She came to CU in the fall of 2001 as part of the CWA Athenaeum speaker series. The main subject of her visit was journalism and her reporting on post-9/11 New York City. What neither she nor the CWA organizers realized was that CU's Pagan Student Alliance group was working through Drawing Down the Moon to learn about the history of modern Paganism. I managed to get on the list for the Athenaeum dinner and happened to choose a seat next to Margot's. She seemed a little surprised when I told her I was part of a group reading her book and asked about how the Pagan community had changed since the 2nd Edition was published in the late '80s. With true reporter skills she turned the question back to me and my perceptions.

At a CWA panel one year, an audience member talked about an African community she was involved with. She said there were people in powerful positions who used witchcraft as part of their trappings to remain in power and make decisions the questioner felt negatively impacted the village. She asked how she could bring up the negative effects and suggest change in a culturally-sensitive way. I remember Margot answering "Not all witches are wonderful" and suggesting that there were likely village members who were unhappy about the state of affairs and that they might be a good place to start organizing. This is what I love about Margot Adler: even though she was perhaps the most famous witch in America, she was really just a radical who happened to be a witch just as she happened to be Jewish and happened to be born in Arkansas.

I hope Margot's journey to the other side was the start of a fantastic new story. I'll toast her fondly in a week and a half as I dance and draw with Colorado's Neopagans.
21st-Jul-2014 12:26 am - New House, Old Games
black titan
After a hiatus full of box moving and parking challenges, it's time to restart the tradition of monthly games at my house.

HOWEVER! "My house" has a different referent. Get thee to
1062 Stearns Ave, Boulder, CO 80303
It's in the Cherryvale neighborhood of Boulder. Brief directions:
* Take Arapaho or Baseline east of Foothills Pkwy.
* Turn south (from Arapaho) or north (from Baseline) on Cherryvale.
* Turn east on Baseline (even if you were previously on Baseline).
* Stearns Ave is the first left past Platt Middle School. (Any of the first four lefts will eventually lead to Stearns, in case you miss.)
* My house is on the east side of the road, with a bunch of bushes along the street. There is ample (and I mean *ample*) street parking.
* Games will be happening downstairs, where we can't hear the doorbell or knocks. Come in the back door (through the gate) and down the stairs.
* This house contains four adult humans, one baby, one dog, two cats, and a large yard. Consider yourself forewarned if you're allergic to any of these things.
Arrive any time between 2pm and your bedtime on Sunday the 27th.
Bring friends, games, children, snacks, drinks, or whatever moves you.
Call 303-EEL-WANG if you need directional assistance.

See you this weekend!
14th-Jul-2014 11:58 pm - Why Do People Run Into Fire?
drum circle w/ fire
This past weekend, a man ran into an effigy burn and died, apparently as a premeditated suicide. This occurred at Element 11, a regional Burning Man event in the Utah desert. The Utah Burner community and others who attended the event are doing some serious processing and supporting this week and there's a lot of discussion happening in the broader Burning Man community. On my favorite mailing list, someone asked Do we know why people run into fire? I don't know any particulars about why this particular human ran into this particular fire, but I had a lot of thoughts about humans and our general relationship to fire.

There's a lot of symbolism and human cultural context wrapped up in fire. It's long been an element of mystery, harder to predict and control than air, earth, and water. We are often drawn to what we don't understand. Fortunately the discomfort of a fire's heat usually keeps us from playing too closely with fire, though many a young child has received a direct lesson as a result of their curiosity. Many people at Burner events cultivate a state of childlike wonder and, at times, lack of awareness of personal safety.

One of my favorite quotes about religion goes:
There are three ways of knowing a thing. Take for instance a flame. One can be told of the flame, one can see the flame with his own eyes, and finally one can reach out and be burned by it. In this way, we Sufis seek to be burned by God.
Fire and community are intertwined; it's a big part of why Burning Man works. From burn barrels to camp fires to bonfires, humans are drawn to the warmth and the light. Encircling a fire, you can see (because it's light) everyone (because it's a circle) and you see that they can also see you. We tell stories around fires. We cook food on fires. We bring fire to all our major ceremonial events. This is how community grows.

Since fire is a key ingredient in story and spectacle, death by fire is often a very public death. Burning at the stake was often a punishment for heresy, witchcraft, and other cultural crimes in which authorities wish to set a cultural expectation with the execution.

The myth of Icarus also shows an ancient warning about drawing too close to the fire and the dangers of hubris and brashness. He didn't even make it to the fiery sun, but his quest to do so killed him nonetheless.

Suicide by fire, much less common than execution, can also reach a much larger audience than many other forms of self-harm. Thích Quảng Đức brought global attention to conflicts between the South Vietnamese government and the Buddhist community in one of the most famous protests of the 20th Century. I doubt he would be remembered today had he died by hunger strike.

I don't know if or how the decedent at Element 11 planned his immolation, nor do I know what message he expected the community to take from the act. I suspect, though, he chose (perhaps subconsciously) this way to die in part because of its publicity; he knew this act would be known to the community. Had he wanted a private death he would have chosen a different method. There were surely inward reasons as well, whether it's fire's symbolism as purification, mystery, dynamism, emotion, passion, or some other way that flame spoke to him.

Fortunately, the community which was shocked by this act can also support each other in recovering. And that community has a larger, encircling community that can provide support for that network of support.

Footnote: Wikipedia's Icarus article has links to a few other cultures' myths of similar characters. Not to mention the cultural mythology of my teenage years, Pink Floyd, with this great live performance of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun with a gong on fire.
20th-Jun-2014 12:36 am - From Now On it's Stationwagonwheel
Akershus Castle cobblestones
For what is likely the last time, I rode down Wagonwheel Gap to work this morning.
Eight months of tricky Driveway access have led to some pretty extreme washboarding, so I play it safe and don't get the big gravity head start I used to.
A few grasses are settling into the bare dirt wall at the property edge that September's erosive flood carved.
The dirt sections along Wagonwheel, constructed in November, were recently touched up so the ride was pretty smooth.
The curve on Lee Hill is one lane as they build up a creek wall with cement Legos. It looks like a pretty fun gig.
The Fourmile Canyon Creek bike path finally connects to Violet from Broadway again, sporting a new bridge from the developing apartment complex to the New Urbanism of "NoBo" mixed use lofts.
There's no more mud on the street near 26th and Topaz, though there's still plenty of yard and ditch work waiting.
The Iris underpass for Elmer's Two Mile has been open for months and the rushes by the creek are starting to stand up again.
A rainbow-clad Happy Thursday cruiser ride diverted just once for high water in Boulder Creek, not atypical for late June.

As I rode along creeks and ditches to our new place in Cherryvale I reflected on how well Boulder rode out the flood. Thanks to farsighted geography and diligent planing work from folks like Gilbert White, Boulder's network of trails and paths fulfilled their buffer mission. And with the help of heavy machinery and construction crews the bike paths are springing back to life like the canyon vegetation, nourished by the damp earth.

The Anne U. White trail, appropriately named for Gilbert's wife, will take longer to regrow, with work starting next year at the earliest. The absence of that trail in the weekend experience is one reason we're moving on: walking the footpaths and quiet streets of Cherryvale is a lot more refreshing than a stroll along a dusty road that still tastes of chaos. As stressful as moving is, I'm feeling pretty good about not having owned property over the past year.
10th-May-2014 11:02 pm - Why Rent is High in Boulder
1895 Colorado map
Someone on a local games day list asked why rent in South Boulder is so expensive and why the roads are so wide and the yards so big. Cribbing from Boulder History Museum's timeline and 35 years of stories from my dad and others, here's some background.

Boulder's population more than trebled from 1950 to 1970, driven in part by easier access[1], good science/engineering jobs[2], and post-war suburban boom that visited most of the country. Martin Acres was the first large-scale cookie-cutter housing development in Boulder, with a lot of cheap modest houses[3].

Development of the Table Mesa subdivision (which includes Emerson) occurred in the mid-60s[4] at the base of the fancy new NCAR. With several other high-tech employers in the south part of town[5] and a booming economy, the Table Mesa neighborhood targeted well-paid professionals with families, leading to the ubiquitous 2-level with a two car garage, a porch, and a big yard.

While the Blue Line policy restricting housing development on the mountain sides was introduced in 1959 and the city started buying open space in 1967, most of Boulder's growth-restrictive policies didn't start until the 1970s. By then Boulder was one of the national centers of environmentalist culture and had begun attracting recreational and outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to environmental concerns, growth restrictions play to the advantage of existing homeowners (who are also, not coincidentally, the primary electorate). By preserving open space and limiting housing construction, market value for existing houses goes up on account of demand outpacing supply and the house having a nice view and convenient outdoor recreation.

Boulder has continued limited growth policies for the last 40 years, but has only really been concerned about soaring housing prices for the last 20 or so[6] and they've only gotten serious about density in perhaps the last 15 years. These days there seems to be wide support for dense (but not tall) housing and New Urbanism ideas like mixed use development. Yet with a greenbelt of permanent open space, transitioning to this model is slow. There aren't many places one could build a new subdivision on these principles. And even single family houses which get bought and torn down usually get replaced by a much larger, fancier single family house rather than a multi-family dwelling.

So why are rents in Boulder so high? Demand greatly exceeds supply and there are social limits to increasing supply. Why is demand so high, even at high prices? Boulder's one of the most enjoyable places in the country to live for certain sets of people, including professionals (who can often afford Boulder housing prices) and students (who can include rent in their student loans). And part of the reason that Boulder is an attractive place to live are the restrictions on growth. The construction-focused policies of Denver's suburbs has resulted in a lot of houses which are pleasant as dwellings but hasn't led to any communities as attractive as Boulder, let alone Boulder's geographic perks.

[1] My grandfather told my dad that the vote he was most proud of from his time in the Colorado Legislature was the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, which opened in 1952.
[2] NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards) and Rocky Flats were opened in the early '50s; Beech Aircraft and Ball Aerospace in the mid-late '50s; NCAR in the early 1960s.
[3] says you could get a home loan in Martin Acres for $700 down in 1950.
[4] My dad's family moved into a brand new house on Carnegie Drive in 1963. My dad said they could've gotten a better deal elsewhere, but his mom wanted a brand new house so she wouldn't have to clean it before moving in, a luxury she'd longed for in the Army.
[5] IBM's presence on the Diagonal starting in the mid-60s is a fantastic example of "Of course everyone will drive to work."
[6] My parents paid $80,000 cash for a 4-bedroom house in 1980. In the late '90s, houses in our neighborhood were selling for $400,000.
[Bonus footnote] Boulder was a dry town from 1907 to 1967, so the British ideal of a pub in every neighborhood was illegal when most Boulder subdivisions were built.
intense aztec drummer DNC 2008
This TED talk by Rodrigo Canales draws parallels between prominent Mexican drug cartels and more ordinary businesses. Brand, markets, and social involvement all play a key role. Canales describes Los Zetas as a franchise business for ex-military members and local gangs. They're credited with many of the most gruesome killings in the drug war, and part of that is their brand. There are parallels here with Al Qaeda, which is also a franchise organization with an interest in tooting their own horn about how destructive they are.

Los Caballeros Templarios Guardia Michoacana (Knights Templar Cartel, successor to La Familia Michoacana) control some very important transit territory. They operate on a very local basis with social programs, and are loved by many in the communities. They portray many of their killings as community defense (petty criminals, local drug dealers, outside organized crime) and have played a significant role in local politics. This sounds to me a lot like Hezbollah, which operates schools, hospitals, and other social capital-building enterprises along side their long-running battles with Israel and arab governments. Other paramilitary organizations have had similar success with social programs and local support including the IRA and loyalists in Ireland and the Basque ETA. It's very hard to destroy an organization like this; they have the benefits of guerrilla warriors plus the financial resources of a major corporation.

The Sinaloa Federation operates a lot like a multinational corporation, including an executive on the Forbes billionaires list. They innovate in product delivery technology, they have executives (aka family members) supervise new ventures, they outsource tasks that would damage their brand, and so forth. In addition to parallels with legal corporations like oil companies I think they also bear a striking resemblance to historic organized crime groups like the Mafia and Yakuza. The salient feature is the organized part moreso than the crime. The latter is only present because the business's products happen to be illegal.

I think it's helpful to think of these groups as companies with violence as one of their business methods rather than a grand version of random street violence. It also suggests that tourist fears about travel in Mexico may be unnecessarily elevated: would killing you further the business interests of the cartels?

A TED blog post about this video links to a few others on similar topics, including a suggestion that the best way to fight these organizations is to devalue their brands.

One interesting twist in the Mexican drug war is that the Americans are funding both sides. The cartels make most of their money by selling drugs to the U.S. distribution network, not to mention side businesses like smuggling migrants for the labor market. Meanwhile, the U.S. government subsidizes the Mexican government's anti-cartel activities, with gun manufacturers from the States profiting from sales to both sides. Not to mention the money spent on border enforcement and anti-drug efforts north of the border, a chunk of which also goes to American arms dealers.
I *kiss* linguists
A couple months ago I mused:
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.

Recently I realized there is a nice, short, Germanic word for female genitalia: cunt. Even better, it encompasses the whole vulva (another Latin word), not just the passage between the cervix and the labia minora (Latin again). (Acquaint yourself with the relevant anatomy.)

The history of cunt

The etymology of cunt traces at least to Middle English (cunte, "female genitalia"). The first known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c.1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in "Place-Names of Oxfordshire" (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Cunt shares cognates in several Old Germanic languages and is perhaps linked to Latin cuneus (wedge) or cunnus (vulva).

Cunt has been considered taboo and impolite since the 15th Century (Shakespeare alluded to the word but didn't use it directly) and obscene and illegal since 1700. This shouldn't be too surprising: genitalia is a fairly universally taboo subject with dozens of slang terms and euphemisms in every language. Cunt was probably considered obscene because it unambiguously refers to a woman's genitals; polite discourse of the time only referred to sex organs indirectly. Even the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue glossed the word as C**T, The chonnos of the Greek, and the cunnus of the Latin dictionaries; a nasty name for a nasty thing: un con Miege. (emphasis mine). It was impolite to directly refer to women's genitals in a slang dictionary! Contemporary society has dropped many centuries-old taboos, including direct genital discourse in many contexts. So let's also drop the taboo on calling a cunt a cunt.

Twat (origin unknown) gained use in the 1650s, perhaps as a more polite replacement for cunt. It too became considered vulgar, and doesn't seem to have sustained a long literary life, based on this ngrams comparison of cunt, twat, and vulva.

That ngrams graph shows a promising rise in use of cunt in written English since 1950 (after some notable pre-war literary appearances). This may originally have been driven by offensive use. It was then picked up as a common topic by feminist writers; some wanted to banish the term as offensive; others wanted to reclaim the term as powerful. Ngrams suggests that the latter is gaining ground: "her cunt" now appears in twice as many books as "a cunt".

Isn't cunt offensive?

Thanks to context, the word can be both offensive and powerful. It remains offensive to call someone a cunt; it equates the whole of the person with a single sexual body part. It is likewise offensive to call a person a twat or a pussy. Even the accepted medical terms would be offensive if used as an epithet: she's such a vagina is offensive, though vagina and vulva are such awkward words that nobody uses them as insults. Likewise, penis words applied to a person are also offensive: he's such a {dick, prick, schmuck}, though the male versions seem less offensive: a guy's more likely to say I'm a dick sometimes than a gal is to say I'm a cunt sometimes. Calling someone an elbow, a thumb, or another non-head body part is likely offensive, too. One of my favorite exchanges on the old Forum2000 site was Q: My girlfriend is a cunt. A: I think you're making an is-a/has-a error. Many young logicians fail to make this distinction.

When used to refer to a body part rather than a person, cunt is unambiguous and direct, which is powerful. It acknowledges female sex organs as normal, like any other body part. It doesn't imply that a woman's genitals are a cat, a rodent, a mollusk, a food, or any other silly euphemism. Cunt and twat don't try to be cute like coochie, fanny, or vajayjay; instead they fit in with other short, direct, Germanic body parts like head, arm, leg, and groin. You could say that cunt rolls off the tongue.

Vagina comes from medical Latin; vagina in general Latin means sheath, scabbard, and similar enclosing uses. Medically, the vagina is the passage between the uterus and the vulva. Using vagina as the polite and accepted term for the whole of female genitalia denigrates several important components in female anatomy and sexuality, not least of which is the clitoris. Cunt covers the whole kit and caboodle, as does vulva. In a medical context, use vulva to refer to the whole package and vagina to refer to the passage. In a context where belly or gut would sound better than abdomen, use cunt or twat over vulva. Even in medical contexts, Germanic words may be a better choice:

Novick remembers one of the first arguments he had with a prudish supervising clinician who insisted that their HIV questionnaire use the words vaginal secretions when asking women if their partners performed oral sex on them. Novick thought the word choice was preposterous because the clinic served a low-income area with a heavily Latino population. He fought and eventually won over the supervisor when he showed that half the participants didn’t know what vaginal secretions were. But when they were asked if they knew what Novick’s term meant, there was 100 percent comprehension. His choice of words? Cunt juice.

Post script: penis

Researching this post, I was hoping to find a similar nice Germanic word for penis. It's not as awkwardly medical as vagina, but there's a whole host of monosyllabic slang terms like dick, dong, schlong, and wang that sound better. "I'm gonna suck your dick" sounds sexy, "I'm gonna suck your penis" sounds like a procedure. Unfortunately all the Online Etymology Dictionary results for penis are euphemistic. Penis itself was originally Latin for tail, which makes me wonder how to refer to the penis of an animal with a tail. Plug tail and tickle tail appear for penis in 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with tail itself meaning prostitute and several other tail associations for lewd women. Wikipedia's Penis article claims that English previously used yard, though that also seems derived from a measuring stick. There are more objects shaped like a penis (tail, shaft, tool, wiener) than like a cunt, so perhaps it's natural that people would reuse a term rather than evolve a distinct word. Now pardon me, I need to make a saving throw vs. rod, staff, or wand.

23rd-Apr-2014 10:49 pm - Post-Resurrection Games
black titan
Hello friends! After a several-month hiatus, it's time to resume my quasi-monthly game day.

When: Saturday, April 26, from 2pm (or so) until late (or so)
Where: 1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd, Boulder -
Contact: 303-EEL-WANG

A few things have changed, mostly having to do with parking. Much of Wagonwheel Gap Road got wiped out in Boulder's flood last September[1]. The semi-permanent dirt road is in really good shape right now, but the shoulder at the base of my driveway is no longer a suitable place to park a car[2]. Please (a) carpool if possible and (b) call before you come so I can suggest a parking location based on the situation on the ground. The two likely parking spots are the southwest corner of Wagonwheel and Pinto (the part without a No Parking sign) and the west side of Bow Mountain. We can also fit some cars in my driveway, but coordinate with me on that since it might be full.

Other traditional trappings of game day remain the same: you're welcome to bring food, friends, drinks, children, games, stories, and more. I'll have some snacks, beer, and juice on hand. Arrive when you're ready and leave when you're done. Consider turning your cell phone off when you get here, since you might not get reception.

See you soon,
17th-Apr-2014 10:25 pm - escutcheon
I *kiss* linguists
Originally posted by prettygoodword at escutcheon
escutcheon (ih-SKUHCH-uhn) - n., a shield or shield-like area displaying a coat of arms; an ornamental or protective plate or bezel around a keyhole, door handle, drawer pull, light switch, faucet, circuit-breakers, etc.; a panel or plate that protects or hides another piece, especially one that protrudes slightly; a plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's name; the pattern of distribution of hair upon the pubic mound; the depression behind the beak of certain bivalves, the ligamental area.

The first is the best-known meaning, the one involved in the phrase "a blot upon the escutcheon," meaning a stain on one's reputation. The second/third meanings can get very general, of which the ship's name is a specialization. The pubic hair one amuses me the most, however. First attested in the 1470s as Middle English escochon, from Anglo-French escuchoun, from Vulgar Latin an unattested Vulgar Latin form derived from Latin scūtum, shield.


So "a blot upon the escutcheon" could also be a euphemism for a period. I'll have to start using that phrase.
currency symbols
Eric Garland has a collection of articles about Guitar Center, the company which set out to do for musical instruments what Circuit City did for consumer electronics. The first was a short post about how their business model is failing and their bonds were degraded to junk status. A few months later, he wrote a little longer article with a great title Guitar Center's real problem: their customers are broke, pivoting from the store to the disappearing middle class and the country's significant unemployment problem despite a nominal recovery from recession. His latest piece focuses on the byzantine financial structure Guitar Center's set up with private equity firms Bain Capital and Ares Capital Management and the parasitic effect these financial shenanigans have on the economy.
When I recognized how much the financial markets have become like 2006, I finally figured out why some other financier could shell out $50 or $100 or $300 million for Guitar Center junk bonds. For the customers of private equity, a few million isn't that much money. These investors actually need some higher-risk assets in their portfolio, rather than let their money sit around in a zero-interest rate environment. They might be like Warren Buffett and already have huge stakes in sensible things like Too-Big-To-Fail banks, railroads or Coca-Cola. This just rounds out their overall position. Make 6-9% with the chance that the company could finally go tits-up? Why not! If it pays out, then great, and if it doesn't – tax write off!

In the business reporting during the financial crisis of 2008, you might have heard the phrase "appetite for risk;" this is what they were talking about. When an investment is risky (which basically means the thing you're investing in is more likely to fail), you can charge higher interest rates (which basically means you get more money until it fails). So that's why a few big financial companies can spend the better part of a billion dollars on a company that's likely to have a fire sale and go bankrupt: they've got a budget spreadsheet that says "Spend $XX billion on investments at 6+%."

Imagine an alternate world where the same financiers took the same $3 million per Guitar Center retail store and invested, say, $1 million in each of 940 community music centers. A community music center could be something like a coffee shop of sound, with instruments for sale, music lessons, rehearsal space, and an "intimate" concert venue. This would help foster a local music economy and boost both supply and demand for music.

But now that it's run by equity firms, approximately nobody in the Guitar Center management or financing chain is involved because of a deep desire to increase the amount of music being played, expand musical literacy, build a community of musicians, or even necessarily because they really enjoy selling guitars. They're in it because they think they've got reasonable odds of making a significant return on investment and the pieces of paper making up Guitar Center's corporate structure and debt obligations are an available vehicle for the financial joy ride they want to take. The folks running the show would be just as interested if they'd bought a national chain of soup canneries.

Trevor's Rule for Running a Great Company

Use profit as a tool to grow the business. Don't use business growth as a tool to obtain profit.

One of the things I really love about Google is how it's run, from top to bottom, by people who care about what we're doing. We structure efforts to be profitable so that we can easily invest in improving their quality and bringing them to more people–if YouTube makes more money than it costs, we can keep making YouTube better and serve more of the world's visual stories. Yet not every effort must be profitable on its own; many projects are done because they're good for the Internet or good for the world, with the foresight that a better Internet and a more informed world will be a better world for Google to be in for the rest of this century.

By contrast, a business run by people who don't really care about what the business produces or the people it serves (which is basically the point of private equity firms) has no reason to foster the long-term ecosystem its customers live in. When profit is the product, anything that doesn't put money in investors pockets–no matter how relevant it is to the company's ostensible mission–is likely to be slashed and burned. The private equity firm doesn't care if it clear-cuts the spending power of its customer base or strip mines the market for its colonial products as long as it extracts the monetary resources it needs to fuel its endless quest of profit for profit's sake.
Trevor Stone Character
A discussion on our bad-puns mailing list got a little Wilde when I posted this:
A Picture of Durian Gray

Some clever tweets that entered my mind:
Are slanted fonts called "Italic" because of the tower in Pisa?
Haskell: a highly functional language for high functioning autists.
Function, method, procedure, routine. Why don't any programming languages have maneuvers?
Some say if you're not paying then you are the product.
Yet also: if you get paid for your work then you are the product.
If you think stereotypes are bad, wait until you hear how inaccurate my monotypes are.
Content-Type: multipart/sandwich
"Why are you such a retard?" "Must be all the asbestos exposure."
Driving across Colorado I got to the Park County seat and had to go home to get something. Like they say: Turnabout in Fairplay.
I wear strange outfits to cover my heterogenous zone.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote prose and Khans.
I don't know where Einstein is buried, but I know how fast he's going.
DITKA: Double Income, Two Kids, Alpacas
Catholic services are boring because they're all mass and no energy.

And then there's Freddie Mercury Retrograde…

If you'd like the daily blather of my LiveJournal from over ten years ago, consider encircling me on Google+. I've even got a catchy URL: Fair warning: it can mostly be summed up by "Here's this cool thing someone did on the Internet" punctuated by "Here's this bad idea someone's highlighting on the Internet." It's not a format that's well suited to posts like the shower meme.
28th-Feb-2014 09:52 pm - The Cynic's Bill of Rights
bug eyed earl
You have the right to be offended.
You have the right to get shot.
You have the right to tell the military to fuck off.
You have the right to be framed.
You have the right to be impugned.
You have the right to a jury with cultural bias.
You have the right to fact finding by non-experts.
You have the right to mundane cruel punishments.
You have the right to the inconceivable.
You have the right to misguided local government.
3rd-Feb-2014 12:17 am - Body Syllables
Vigelandsparken heels over head
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.
transparent ribbon for government accoun
Obama's speech about surveillance last week featured the following paragraph which gets modern cybersecurity totally backwards:
We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it's to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.
This train of thought made sense during the cold war. Communication systems built by and used in the Soviet Union were different than those built in the U.S. So if the NSA could simultaneously find and keep secret flaws in a Russian phone system while ensuring security flaws in American phone systems got fixed.

On the Internet, that game doesn't work anymore. Tech companies, open source groups, and standards bodies sell and distribute hardware, software, and protocols globally. Countries and companies throughout the world use the same routers, the same operating systems, and the same secure communications protocols. Every undisclosed security hole and every undetected backdoor that the NSA has at its disposal to "penetrate digital communications" is a tool that attackers have to harm the targets Obama claims the NSA is trying to protect. The stock exchanges and air traffic control systems and banks are using the same networking gear, the same database software, the same VPNs, and the same web browsers as the plotting terrorists, hacking criminals, and enemy governments.

Even if the NSA only uses their powers for good, the more "capabilities in [the digital spying] field" they have the less safe American interests are from foreign spies, criminals, and terrorists. The nation will be more secure if our communications technologies are robustly secure than if we can listen in on all the world's chatter. And by making American communications more secure, the world's communications will be more secure.
escher drawing hands
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not—for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a² cos 2φ!
Early in my experience with Unix-like systems I discovered fortune. This program would occasionally provide me with a clever passage attributed -- Stanislaw Lem, "Cyberiad" "Who is this Stanislaw Lem fellow and what is a Cyberiad," I wondered. And then, because it was the mid-90s and search engines didn't exist yet, I did nothing.

A few years later, I started collecting quotes to add to my random signature program. A great many of them came from fortune, since it gave me a quip every time I logged in or out. The first Cyberiad quote that made it on the list was [The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical.] They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each nonexisted in an entirely different way. Different modes of nonexistence, a fantastic puzzle for a philosophy minor like me. I wanted to find and read this book.

There are a few books and authors I keep in the back of my mind for eventual purchase. It gives me direction when I find myself in a bookstore: check the D section of Classics for The Vicomte de Bragelonne, check the A section of Sci-Fi for the HHGTTG radio series scripts, check the L section of Sci-Fi for Stanisław Lem… You would think it wouldn't be too hard to find a book by "the most widely read science fiction writer in the world," yet ten years went by without finding one of his books between Le Guin and Lewis. I was even a beta tester for Google Books on Android tablets, but couldn't buy an electronic Cyberiad. (It's available now, though.) Tantalizingly, Google ran a fantastic narrative doodle based on The Cyberiad. I finally found a copy when I chanced to stop in to Red Letter Books in Boulder, enticed by a book about mangoes on the shelf out front. "Before I buy this, I need to see if they happen to have any Lem." Sure enough, my Quixotic quest found its goal, wedged in a dense shelf of mass market paperbacks.

The Cyberiad is a book of short stories about machines who build machines. The central character is Trurl, a constructor. He and his good friend Klapaucius the constructor build all manner of robots and devices, often on commission from rulers of distant worlds. Unlike the science fiction school led by Asimov, the engineering details of the machines and their scientific mechanism of action are of little importance. The stories are not about the machines but about the philosophical considerations and allegorical implications of such a device in a world not entirely dissimilar from ours. The first story, How The World Was Saved concerns a machine that can create anything starting with N. After creating concrete and abstract nouns, they ask the machine to do Nothing, whereby it starts to eliminate the universe.

Originally written in Polish, the book has a lot of rhymes and wordplay with sciency terms which works surprisingly well in translation (to English, at least.) The sidebar to the right has a poem produced by Trurl's Electronic Bard. Lem has a great facility for technical naming in a way that's fun rather than dry: The second, newer trail was opened up by the Imperium Myrapoclean, whose turboservoslaves carved a tunnel six billion miles in length through the heart of the Great Glossaurontus itself.

What I like best about The Cyberiad is how it resonates with my experience as a constructor of sorts. The book was written in 1967, when hardware was still the king of technology, before we realized that software eats the world. Yet the story Trurl's Machine and other passages describe the foibles of building, debugging, and otherwise producing a computer program better than any software-focused essay I've read. Throughout the book, Trurl displays the three cardinal virtues of the programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris. If more tales were added to the Cyberiad today, perhaps the constructors would be programs which write other programs.

All makers and builders and coders and creators would do well to read The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age. This hypermedia book report claims the book inspired Will Wright to create SimCity; what might it do for you? Acquire it in cybernetic digital form or via a musty-bookstore-quest for a well-loved copy not so overpriced as these.
1st-Jan-2014 02:26 am - The Tyranny of Specificity
1895 USA map
When you write a story down, it only happens one way.
When you adapt a book to film, the characters have specific appearances.
When you draw shapes on a map, a smeared spectrum becomes four crisp colors.

I want to expound more on these ideas in a blog post, but starting the year with an intellectual all-nighter wouldn't be very auspicious.
black titan
On Wednesday, January 1st, join me for the first games day of 2014, and the first one at my house since July!

2013 brought many changes. Closest to home, a 1/1000 flood changed the course of Four Mile Canyon Creek and the continuity of Wagonwheel Gap Rd. The water's mostly back where it belongs, washed out sections of street have been replaced with a flat dirt road, and all my books are back on the shelves.

Not all is back the way it was, though. The Anne U. White trail is closed (on account of no longer being a trail). And the road shoulder at the bottom of my driveway where everyone used to park is now a steep ditch, unsuitable for parking.

If you would like to join the fun, please follow these three requests:
* RSVP so I know how many to expect
* Carpool if at all possible
* Call 303-EEL-WANG before arriving† for updated parking instructions based on the situation that afternoon
† Your cellphone probably won't work in the canyon. If you're calling from the road, do so around Broadway & Lee Hill. Or just call from home and don't use the phone while driving.

In other respects, this will be a normal games day. Feel free to bring
* games you'd like to play (new holiday gifts?); I have plenty here
* food and beverages to share; I'll have beer and several snacks
* friends and family young and old (especially if you carpool)

Arrive at 2pm or later; leave when you get tired, bored, or turn into a pumpkin.

Happy New Year, Hogmanay, Omisoka, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Christmas, Nochebuena, Festivus, Yule, Dongzhi, Yalda, Thiruvathira, Ziemassvetki, Korochun, Saturnalia, Dhanu, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, and all other winter holidays,
Trevor and Kelly
17th-Dec-2013 09:26 pm - Cthulhufruit, the Citrus Cephalopod
cthulhufruit citrus cephalopod
Cthulhufruit makes a tasty fruit insaladty.
I'm not sure if this is appeeling or appalling.
A great old one a day keeps the doctor away.
Sweet? Sour? I'm the fruit with demonic power.
Eat a balanced diet with five to seven earthlings.
10th-Nov-2013 09:44 pm - Devacuation
smoochie sunset
After seven weeks, I live at my house again. Hooray!

It's actually been livable for a couple weeks, but we had to choose the right timing to reacculturate the cat. Even so, she spent four hours yesterday pouting under the porch, where she felt safe.

One of the many perks of living in Boulder is that I can evacuate to my parents house for a month and a half. They've got a spare master bedroom, lots of tasty teas and nuts, and an endless supply of conversation. They're also half a block from a bus stop and in biking distance of all of Boulder, which is nice when your car's stuck on the side of a canyon.

It's nice to be back, though. The Internet is faster. There's a hammock on the front porch (and it's still super sunny in November). I can listen to the punk music show at loud volume without my dad giving me a funny look. We can walk around naked and fondle each other. Rather than setting aside a weekend day to drive up to the house and rearrange things (which got moved to make way for carpet), do a little work, goof around, do a little work, make out... On the plus side, my room is way more organized than it was this summer... or indeed last summer.

I'm not sure if we'll host a games day this month. We can have a welcome living room and a clear table, but it's still a one-lane road at the bottom of the driveway. I'll see how it holds up to rain and snow. The county says the contractors should have it done by the end of December–hopefully we don't get a big dump earlier.
7th-Nov-2013 11:51 pm - From the Inbox of Trevor Stone
step to the moon be careful

Dear Manager,

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)

This email is from China domain name registration center, which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally in China.
We received an application from Huatong Ltd on November 4, 2013. They want to register " trevorstone " as their Internet Keyword and " trevorstone .cn "、" trevorstone " 、" trevorstone "、" trevorstone " domain names etc.., they are in China domain names. But after checking it, we find " trevorstone " conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?

Best Regards,

General Manager
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
Nah, mollybzz was my distributor in China.

(Interestingly enough, this was sent to two email addresses which can be found on, but not the address associated with the DNS record. I'm also amused by their inconsistent use of the halfwidth-width comma.)
raven temple of moon
Halloween is Burning Man for normal people.
  • Families put significant effort and money into decorating their home theme camp.
  • People get dressed up in sexy, creative, and unusual costumes.
  • They wander around town checking out theme camps, meeting strangers, and participating in the candy gift economy.
  • Raging parties happen on weeknights.
  • Some folks eat more stimulants and drink more booze than they should.
  • It's a spiritual experience for some, an artistic outlet for others, and a bunch just treat it as a visually stimulating excuse to party.
31st-Oct-2013 12:02 am - Fair Rental Price
currency symbols
Please give me as unbiased opinion as possible to the following question:

Suppose, due to a natural disaster, that a rental property was inaccessible and uninhabitable for roughly a month. Assume that during that period, objects in the house remained secure. What percent of the rental price is it reasonable to charge for that period of time?
spencer hot springs feet
Yesterday was a gorgeous early fall day. It would've been a perfect afternoon to hike the Anne U. White trail. Unfortunately, it's now the Anne U. White jumble of rocks and downed trees, made inaccessible by a river channel running through the parking lot and trailhead.

At 7 pm on Wednesday, September 11th, I was at work making a hilarious meme after three unusually rainy days in Boulder. Kelly asked me to pick up Chinese food on the way home, so I called and placed an order. Listening to Soelta Gael on KGNU, I heard an emergency broadcast system announcement that the rain clouds had just passed through Boulder and were expected to camp out above the Four Mile burn area and flash floods were expected. "Whoa," I said, "I'd better bring the Chinese home to Kelly before a bunch of debris washes up on the road."

With windshield wipers on the highest setting and a pleasant smell in the car, I arrived at the base of Wagonwheel Gap Rd to find two firefighters and a truck blocking the way. I asked if I could drive up to my house, which is just past Bow Mountain Dr. They didn't want to let me in, but suggested I drive through Pine Hills to Bow Mountain where another firefighter pair might let me cross the road. That route was significantly scarier, with hairpin turns in tight fog and deepening rivulets through the dirt road. I explained to the second set of firefighters that I lived in that house right there, on top of the steep driveway, and that I was bringing dinner to my girlfriend and wasn't planning to go anywhere else that night. They let me through; Kelly made a "my hero!" boast post on Facebook.

After dinner, I spent a bunch of time reading the Internet, then started writing some code, occasionally stepping out on the porch to admire the water running down the street, highlighted by firefighters' bright lights. At midnight, the elderly couple across the street, with the creek running strong along their back yard, drove past the firefighters and over the mountain to safety. At 1 am, the power in the neighborhood went out. "Oh my," I realized, "This experience might get a lot more exciting." Without sun, electricity or Internet, I did what anyone would do: went to bed.

At 5 am on Thursday we got a reverse 911 call announcing that electricity and gas would be shut off in our area for 24 hours. At 7:30 the sun, still filtered through clouds and rain, was bright enough to get us out of bed. I surveyed the canyon from our windows and porch, expecting to see a bunch of mud and sticks on the road, perhaps preventing me from getting to work that day. Instead I discovered that an entire 10-foot section of road at the bottom of our driveway had disappeared, replaced by a rushing river and a jumble of rocks. I realized then that this would be much more of an adventure (yet staying in place) than I'd expected.

I called my manager, thankful we have some corded phones that work without electricity. "I'm letting you know that there's no longer a road at the bottom of my driveway and we have no power." "Do you want someone to come get you?" "No, let me explain: there is no road to my house." "Oh, so you're working from home?" "No, there's no power." "Oh, okay. Stay safe and take care of what you need to do." "Yes, we will. Could you please find someone to cover my oncall shift? I will not be responding to any pages for a while."

We realized that no power means no water when you're in the mountains on a well. We filled a few gallon jugs with the water left in the purification system. I filled a few more from the water container left over from Burning Man. We took advantage of the clogged gutters and continuing downpour to fill four large tubs with water for all our non-potable needs, primarily toilet flushing. We took stock of our food situation: fine. Chinese leftovers, some meat in the fridge, a table full of pretzels, ginger snaps, spam packets, dried fruit, and other non-perishable deliciousness from festival season. Not to mention a cabinet full of provisions and a freezer with slowly thawing meat, chocolate, and Tofuti Cuties. Cooking wouldn't be too much of a hassle, thanks to two camp stoves and a box of propane canisters. Also thanks to impulse Burning Man purchases we were flush with flashlights, AA, and AAA batteries. We found the pack of C batteries I'd bought when I really wanted Ds, thankful for the mistake that let us turn on the radio. Thanks to KGNU, Boulder's community radio station and the National Weather Service, we had a pretty good idea of what was going on: flooding all over Boulder County, and plenty of folks worse off than we were.

Grabbing one of the 20 warming beers in the mini-fridge, I recalled a bumper sticker I'd seen on a computer at Burning Man: Maybe partying will help. It turns out to be a pretty good motto.

We called parents to assure them we were okay and would be staying put for a few days until the river goddess's visit was over. Our landlord called; we assured him the house was fine. He asked if we wanted him to bring us anything. No, people hiking in would just make the situation worse. We've got plenty of food and water and batteries and flashlights. What we'd like you to bring, our upstairs neighbor said, is three pepperoni pizzas. We're fine; we'll band together; we can survive like this for a week. We're Burners, we do this sort of thing for fun.

Over the next three days we had a fantastic, if somewhat damp, time. We met way more neighbors than we had in a year of living there. Potlucking with the folks on either side of our house, we ate steak, halibut, vegetables, omelets, and bacon. We drank beer, wine, and mead. We played Dominion, crazy eights, and a bunch of percussion instruments from my room. After a year of random access clothing storage on top of my dresser, I folded all my T-shirts and put them in drawers. I found my copies of The Hobbit and The Cyberiad that I'm in the middle of and had been looking for since July. We packed and repacked for hike-out evacuation in 21st Century style: two changes of socks, a pair of cargo pants, a warm hat, a Ziploc with cell phones, a tangle of cords, a grocery bag with my Mac Mini and another with my hard drive.

As Thursday and Friday unfolded, we'd saunter down the driveway every hour or two to ogle the river and marvel at how much less of a road we had. There was a car stuck against a tree in the middle of the creek, having floated 200 yards downstream after falling out of a garage. There was also an electric lawnmower at the edge of the paved precipice, arriving by some great measure of cosmic luck or perhaps an uphill neighbor with a sense of humor. As water receded the gas lines were revealed, naked as they ran up the canyon.

A year ago in September there was no water in Fourmile Canyon Creek; a hike up the Anne U. White trail revealed only a few strips of mud. We had a box packed for the cat in case we had to evacuate in a hurry from a fire. Flames were no longer a concern as the soil refused any new water, forcing rainfall to flow down the slope. The minor ditch on the north side of the street–downhill from a totally separate drainage basin than Fourmile Canyon Creek–had become a creek of its own, conjoining with the canyon's main water course several feet below the end of our driveway. I remarked that if we got three feet of snow we could get some fantastic air sledding down our driveway before crunching safely into powder padding the rocks. Yet again, maybe partying will help.

On Saturday morning, the rain took a break and the skies cleared. Dozens of folks were exploring the area, sharing speculative tips on how to hike out and where it might be safe to cross the river. Our upstairs neighbors rescued two cats from a nearby evacuated house. A few guys from the power company hiked in, surveyed the lines, and before noon we had power back on. This changed the fun survivalist game quite a bit. The food in the freezer wasn't in danger. (Cold) showers, dishes, and toilet flushing were possible. Nights would be more normal, less intimate. Without much warning, our upstairs neighbors took the slight rain reprise and crossed the river with three cats and a dog, meeting up with a friend on the other side and hiking up the the road on side of the canyon.

On Sunday the 15th, as we finished camp coffee, tea, and bacon, a UTV of firefighters came down the canyon. They told us more rain was expected through Monday and Tuesday. "That's disappointing," I said, "We were planning to hike out on Monday or Tuesday." The firefighters let us know that they had some trucks parked just up the road which could evacuate us now, and that they wouldn't be coming back in the next few days. Making sure our next door neighbors (who couldn't hike out) were coming, we grabbed our backpacks, put the cat in the carrier we'd prepared with comforts and treats, and gave a big thank you to the BLM firefighter from Rifle with a pickup who drove us out through Carriage Hills, skirting the chasm near the top of the road while a crew shored it up. It was a more abrupt departure than I'd expected so there wasn't much closure; as I looked down from Lee Hill a part of me wished I was still there, enjoying the flood, the camaraderie, and the lack of chaos and responsibility from the rest of the world. It had been a fleeting glimpse of how life was not so long ago in parts of the U.S., and still is today in many parts of the world.

Returning to the connected world, we discovered that several of our friends and relatives were a bit panicked about us and considered hiking in to see if we were okay. We found this a bit amusing, since we weren't panicked about our conditions at all. We were rather glad that nobody hiked in to save us, because we wouldn't have let them hike back out: the river was pretty dangerous and we've got a hammock you can sleep in, not to mention bacon. Furthermore, we were in a far better position to assess the hiking options: we know the curves of the canyon, we know exactly where we live, and we could turn around and retreat to safety if we got to a dead end. If you're concerned about your loved ones in a natural disaster, check the people finder resources and contact the folks organizing the emergency response. Volunteer firefighters who live in your friend's neighborhood will do a much better search and rescue (or search and say hello and leave in place) operation than a pal with a backpack with some trail mix and a gallon of water.

As flood evacuees, I think we're pretty lucky. My parents live in Boulder; they greeted us with open arms and an available master bedroom. Kelly's mom isn't far away either, and her house is a good base of operations for Kelly's weekend classes. The only damage to our house up the canyon was some water that seeped into the carpet in my bedroom; the only damaged objects were empty cardboard boxes. Although our cars are stuck at the top of a driveway which ends at a chasm, we're in one of the best cities in the country for alternative transportation. Before I got my bike situation sorted out I spent a few days walking to work, a 45-minute opportunity to catch up on podcasts from August. Our evacuation expenses have been fairly minimal, too: cat food and litter, a week's worth of clothes and other immediate needs at Target, a couple hundred bucks to my parents for food and gratitude for space.

Cruising around town in the two weeks since the flood has been a bit surreal. Boulder was just the focal point of a major natural disaster, yet after two days of sun there was less visible damage than after any heavy snowstorm in March. Boulder Creek was higher and faster than I've ever seen it before and you can tell where creeks and ditches had overflowed by the red- and orange-tinged dirt residue that's been swept to the sides of the streets. Open areas along waterways are now covered in this dusty umber, a subtle surprise out of the corner of your eye when you're used to seeing a field of wilting green. Several bike paths, which almost invariably follow the water, are still under an inch of gunk.

Yet these evaporated muddy fields and closed bike paths are all part of the plan. For several decades, Boulder city government has displayed an unwavering focus on flood mitigation, pushing back hard on people who wanted to build in 100- and 500-year flood plains. Along came a thousand-year flood and the city came out in fine shape. Fewer than 10 people died in the county and most of the buildings which washed away were in the mountains or in Lyons, which hasn't had as flood-focused a zoning process.

The flood response and rescue effort also highlighted effective government at its best. The National Weather Service provided fantastic and timely information. County and local officials started disaster response on Wednesday night and were (as far as I could tell, with the radio as my only connection to the world) on top of assessment, response, and communication. Volunteer firefighters hiked through the hills to check on folks and prioritize evacuations. The federal government got involved quickly, with National Guard helicopters flying rescue missions as soon as the skies were safe, FEMA organizing crisis response, responders from other jurisdictions joining the effort, and government-supported relief organizations Red Cross and United Way setting up shelters, staging areas, and providing other social infrastructure. Road crews were quickly working hard in tough conditions and Xcel has been on the ball restoring utilities.

Over two weeks, a crew established a replacement road for the sections of Wagonwheel Gap Road that had transformed into Wagonwheel Chasm. It's not paved, and it's one-lane in several sections. It also, unfortunately, leaves a large gap at the bottom of our driveway, so our cars are still camping out, wondering when partying will help. Our house is one of the few in the county without gas, though they expect to be ready to turn on the pilot light this week. It will be a week or so until our carpet can be replaced–you won't be surprised to learn that there's a backlog of carpet orders in Colorado. In the mean time, I'm boxing up all my books and moving all the ends and quite odds from my bedroom into the living room. It's a bit like moving, with the object placement rejiggering and the "I probably don't need most of what's in this box but I don't have time to go through it" sighs and the "where am I living" angst and the "I have other things I'd rather do with my spare time." Other things like hiking the trail. I'll miss out on so many great colors of leaves and crisp breaths of air. I'm glad I was present for this experience, though. It's rare in our modern world to see up close the dangerous power of water, the abysmal and how it handles the obstruction of a mountain keeping still. We got to watch local geography be made.
intense aztec drummer DNC 2008
The wrong words said with the right energy are better than the right words read stiffly from a page.
Shakespeare bust oval
I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival this weekend. If you're near Boulder, plan to see it in the next two weeks.

The Athenians were dressed in a 1920s style, which worked pretty well. The fairies had a very Burner asthetic, which worked excellently. In a departure from other productions I've seen, Puck had quite a bit of Grumpy Cat in him, sporting a dusty tuxedo coat, a beer belly, and a rotating collection of found hats. Totally a Burner.

The association got me thinking. Someone should record a Midsummer Night's Dream adaptation at Black Rock City. Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena are camp mates, at Burning Man for the first time. Lysander and Hermia are dating; Demetrius and Helena hooked up a few times, but now Demetrius has the hots for Lysander's girl. Annoyed with his lechery, the two head out for a night on the playa, planning to have a personal wedding ceremony at the Temple at dawn. Helena mentions the two's plans and then chases after Demetrius as he tries to track the couple down in the blinking and burning wilds. The two have an ongoing argument about love and its unrequition as they stumble from bar to dance camp to bar in search of their camp mates.

Oberon, a Cacophanist leader and long-time Burner, sees Demetrius and Helena arguing up and down the Esplanade. He tells his pal Puck to grab some of their crazy aphrodisiac drug and covertly slip it to both his sometimes-lover sometimes-competitor Titania, another Cacophanist leader, and to the arguing virgins. "You'll know them by the Reality Camp outfits and lack of headlights or glowsticks." Puck finds Lysander and Hermia, also poorly lit and boringly dressed, sleeping on two couches, part of an art installation in deep playa.

Meanwhile, there's a bunch of white collar guys at their camp (also birgins) rehearsing for a performance in center camp later in the week. Most of them lack any theater experience and one of them is cutely uncomfortable with the idea of dressing in drag, even though, hey, it's Burning Man. Puck happens by unseen, having found Titania asleep on a cozy pillow-laden art car parked across the street. As Bottom, the drunk actor with the big ego, exits the stage and ducks behind the camp's shelter, Puck trips him into a food scraps tub and then rolls him into a pile of costumes. Smelling strongly of bacon grease and cheap beer and with butt costume piece stuck to his head, Bottom rushes back to the play. His camp mates get wigged out (maybe they were peaking) and split. Too drunk to be fully aware of his situation, Bottom tries to chase them, running straight into Titania's hammock. Titania falls immediately in lust, licking Bottom's neck where she can taste the bacon. Titania tells her friends to drive around the playa at her new beau's direction while the two of them cuddle in the most comfortable part of the car.

On the other side of the playa, Helena has lost track of Demetrius but then trips right over Lysander's couch. Under the drug's influence he starts trying to get in Helena's panties and the she gives chase. Hermia wakes up and can't find Lysander. She freaks out and runs off in a different direction. She runs into Demetrius, who got distracted by a dance party where Oberon and Puck happen to be hanging out. She starts accusing Demetrius of doing something terrible to her boyfriend. They get in another tiff and she storms off toward the other side of city. Demetrius starts to give chase, followed by Oberon on bicycle, but gets tired and crashes out on a bench by the Man. Oberon sees Helena and Lysander approach and slips Demetrius an aphrodisiac dose. Upon hearing "Whoa, it's Demetrius" from his friends, he wakes up and immediately starts a testosterone battle. Puck has meanwhile found Hermia and said "I think the guy you were with earlier tonight is over at the Man." She shows up, is insulted by the guys who were trying to get it on with her mere hours before, and hilarious drama ensues. The guys insist they take it to the Thunderdome, but get distracted by Puck with a really cool blinking light and spooky sound setup and get drawn to a hammock camp in the city where they pass out and Puck slips Lysander a hangover remedy.

Oberon spots Titania's art car and follows it by bike for a while, grinning widely. When they stop for a nap, Oberon slips a hangover remedy to Titania. She wakes up, totally embarrassed that she's been making out with a foam ass and wondering why her clothes smell like bacon. (She's a vegan.) Oberon explains the prank, Titania admits he got her good and the two make up. They take Bottom back to their camp and wipe him down with baby wipes, then set him on a couch on an esplanade.

Dawn breaks and the birgin campers find themselves cuddled in hammocks and madly in love. They decide to do tandem weddings at the Temple later that day. Bottom wakes up with a head full of crazy dreams and wanders to the Temple to journal and process. As the campers are getting ready for their weddings, he hears them mention that they want to see this play at Center Camp they read about in the What Where When. Remembering their theatrical plans, Bottom hops a community bike and dashes back to camp. His friends are worried and sad that they won't have their stage opportunity when Bottom busts in and stirs everyone up. They put on a production that would be panned in any normal theater but which is ridiculous enough to amuse everyone in Center Camp.

The end.
10th-Jul-2013 11:39 pm - Gamedog Days of Summer
black titan
Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Sing this little ditty
Head to the mountains, they're quite pretty

This Sunday, come on up to 1006 Wagonwheel Gap Rd and play games in the shade. Bring friends, kids, food, drinks, games, and anything else you'd like to enjoy a great summer day with a bunch of nerds.

As usual, the fun starts around 2 PM and continues until everyone leaves, which is usually in the 11 to midnight range. If you'd like to get a trail hike in, get an early start -- Anne U. White "closes" at noon due to flash flood concerns.

Directions to my house are at
My phone number is 303-EEL-WANG. Most cell phones won't work in the canyon, so give out my number if someone needs to reach you while you're up here.

Be seeing you,
If you've put off migrating from Google Reader until this weekend, you're running out of time to pick a replacement. First, be sure to export your feed list with Google Takeout.

Google Reader had a lot of subtle bits that I really liked, and none of the replacement options perfectly replicate that experience. They have, however, had feature development in the last three years, so it's not all a wash of bummed-out nostalgia. Some options, with pros and cons from my perspective follow. Slashdot has some pointers and there are plenty of other lists floating around. Also note that you can set up a LiveJournal "user" for RSS feeds (if one doesn't exist for the feed you like) and read it on your friends page. This would probably be overwhelming for something like Slashdot or Boing Boing, though.
Feedly seems to be the majority choice.
Feedly started as a new UI on top of your Google Reader data. Prior to Reader's notice of impending doom they'd started a project to replace the Reader API on AppEngine. This API means there are several apps you can use which will all work from the same feed list and read/unread state. They've got a very modern web/app design, so if you're a crusty old hacker you might not like it. Sharing happens through any of a dozen or so popular web services, and Feedly tends to replace the original URL with its own shortened one.
Pros: Per-feed settings for post order and layout. Feeds can be in multiple groups and sorted arbitrarily. Algorithmic picks for interesting posts in each category. Magazine layout with article snippet for picking what to read. Good Android client, including quick reading of original article. Android client has a button to read the title text on XKCD.
Cons: They don't have a business model yet, so they might not be sustainable. There's no "full screen" mode on the web, which I liked for APOD and other large photos. They don't have an import/export UI yet, so keep your Reader zip file around and migrate by Monday.
NewsBlur is also fairly good.
NewsBlur is open source, with one guy doing most of the work. The service is free for up to 64 feeds and pretty cheap if you've got more. There are some features available only to premium users; unfortunately "arrow keys work like every other web page" is one of them. NewsBlur's key distinctive features are reading posts in "original" mode, with styling more like the blog's site, and a training-based article recommendation algorithm. It's got a lot of keystrokes, making feed consumption pretty efficient. Unfortunately, I've found a lot of the UI confusing and awkward. It's unclear to me how the training system works (which may be partly a UI issue), so I haven't used it much. If I like cat memes and dislike dog memes will it show me more cat memes, or will it just be confused about whether I like I Can Haz Cheezburger? NewsBlur has an official Android app with some warts and it's got some third-party clients as well. NewsBlur users can comment and share within the app; you can see other NewsBlur user comments under posts or you can limit it to just designated friends.
Pros: You can pay money for it; you can also use it for free. Good interaction for "read everything" mode. Lots of keyboard shortcuts. Reasonable Android app.
Cons: Awkward UI. Android client has some issues like trouble playing YouTube videos and sometimes missing posts. Training system is unclear, may take a while to be effective. Can't put feeds in multiple folders or sort items arbitrarily.
The Old Reader is kind of like Google Reader was circa 2009.
The Old Reader totally collapsed under the migration load of Google shutting down a service because it didn't get enough use. They've got more server power now, but I didn't spend much time with their app since it took a couple weeks to import my feeds. Their web UI is straightforward and familiar to Reader users. They've got in-app sharing, so if all your friends want to use it too, it's a good choice. They don't have an Android app yet.
BazQux also has a familiar Reader UI.
It's named for metasyntactic variables and is written in Haskell, which tells you something about their team. Its unique features include showing the blog's comments and easy subscription to people and pages on Facebook and Google+. As far as I can tell, they don't have any mobile apps yet. If you're really into blog comments, this would be a good choice. There's a 30-day free trial, after which you have to pay. In the first month of "OMG, gotta replace Reader," BazQux didn't stand out enough to warrant paying.
GoodNoows has a 2D card UI and a focus on news sources.
GoodNoows had the best source discovery of any of the apps I tried. I didn't use it much, though, because my brain still can't handle blocks of non-linear text on the web. Also, I don't like the new Google+ UI.
Digg and AOL have late entries into the fray.
Somehow, it seems both companies didn't realize that Google Reader was on life support, so they probably banged these apps out in three months. I haven't tried either. They might be good; they've probably got a team roughly the size of Feedly's working on them.

Any good RSS readers I've missed? My requirements: Read from a web browser on several computers and an Android tablet.
This page was loaded Oct 22nd 2014, 1:48 pm GMT.