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Category: life

09/17/08 12:07 - 67ºF - ID#45706

Of Past and Present

Let me respectfully remind you:
Life and Death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
Awaken, take heed, do not squander your life.

-- Buddhist Evening Gatha



My favorite author died this week, my boss died a few weeks ago, and today is the anniversary of my Mother's death. The thread of these three deaths has been at the forefront of my mind, no surprise. They are all tied together, in their base and inescapable human ways, but marked by such deep contrasts that it's impossible not to sift through and try to find meaning, to learn something of the nature of being in this time and place. To reflect on my own existence.

Every year on the day of my Mother's death, I write about her loss. On her birthday I try to make a post about her life. It's been three years since she died, and this time I'll depart from the usual pattern and talk of myself, and of others who have died recently.

David Foster Wallace was the pre-eminent postmodern author of the last 15 years. He was the person to best employ the English language since Shakespeare walked the Earth. He died this week, a suicide. He was 46. His work was intellectual and all-encompassing. He would write about subjects and consider all angles, paint them vividly, but always carried a specific intention of meaning and attitude towards what he was writing that shone through. His writing spared not a single ounce of truth, missed no branched paths to travel along, and appealed to the reader in only the most direct expressions he could muster. He towered in my mind as an example of giving only your best, unfailingly. Of juggling insight and madness and confusion and constructing glorious insight from within. To have him give up, decide not to try anymore, cuts me to the core. I had not realized he was my hero until he died, as I generally avoid having heroes.

I am flawed through and through. I try every day to be a better person, and fail. That is merely human, but maximally humiliating in practice. I don't know how to do it any differently. I just need to keep trying, harder and better. My Mom used to say, "such is life", and I've resorted to using that as my shield for pain and distress I encounter. Yet, particular circumstances of life are painful and beautiful in ways that shouldn't be reduced to aphorisms. You can't live without choosing meaning and vision broader then what you've been handed down by those who precede you. So, such is life, to question deeper then you're capable of understanding. The journey is the destination, goes another famous saying, but that's not always enough, as David Foster Wallace apparently decided.

My boss and friend Luke, who also committed suicide, died three weeks ago. Killed himself, yes, but in this case it's easier to understand why. He was diagnosed with cancer, and had a serious chance of not making it through treatment. The manner of his death was carefully planned. All his affairs were put in order, and he let no sign of his decision slip to those around him. A deliberate and personal choice of how to end his death. I don't harbor any ill-will to his decision. What I do think of, is his life - painted starkly sad in his death. He died here, a stranger to this city, with no close family and few friends. Only a co-worker to find him, in bed, naked and bruised and lifeless, and no way to express his pain without feeling guilt burdening those to whom he had few ties.

I have learned over time how to exist in a relationship, and share my life with another person. That is the truly rewarding accomplishment that I'll count on until the day I die. I have to work every day to not be selfish and to not close myself off. It's a constant struggle but one I feel I'm winning. James, I am sorry for my failings and glad for my successes, and I am so thankful for your presence that it hurts. There is nothing that could change my life more, or better, than my relationship with you.

Rosanne, my Mother, has been gone for years now. Not to suicide, but sudden - very sudden, at the age of 54. I no longer pick up the phone absent-mindedly, thinking to call her for advice or to chat. Often the saddest part of thinking of her is that it doesn't happen every day any longer. There is much I could now say about her, but I'll restrict myself this year to once again thanking her for never sparing an ounce in giving me whatever she could. For sending me into this world as a human being, capable of compassion and forgiveness.

What comes before and what comes after is mere shadow next to this moment. I tell of these people to shine up the past, make a flicker of connection, and to feel less alone. Picking and choosing certain words to make years of random meaningful moments align. Right now I'm still breathing, and in agony over these losses, each in different ways. I wonder what story might be told of me, my life and death. I wonder how I can change that story in the time I have left.
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Category: finance

09/15/08 02:42 - 62ºF - ID#45689

I'm not panicking yet, but...

Lehman goes under, Merrill sold for a song. The weekly Sunday slaughter on Wallstreet continues.

Lehman is being allowed to fail instead of bailed out, score one for moral hazard, and that won't affect individual Americans as much as if it were FRE/FNM, which actually are too big to fail.

Yet, the concerning part, I can't find any press or research on the actual market value of CDO's. When Lehman's CDO's are sold at market, suddenly other financial companies have a way to value their own hand-wavy balance sheets and that's what scares me. Day of reckoning. Sunlight-as-disinfectant is a great idea and is what we need for the long term, but I do fear actually living through that process, and am glad the industry I work in is education, a bit removed from the greater turmoil.

Also, there are still big lending institutions that have yet to go under but appear to be teetering: Wachovia and WaMu. And, AIG, the insurance company, is pretty much insolvent and now has permission to borrow from itself to continue operating. That's insanity. I bet one of those 3 companies is in the news next Sunday as being forced under or into acquisition. And another the week after that.

"They can make a bridge loan to themselves" - Gov Patterson, about AIG. Sign of times during the Bank-apocalypse?

If it turns out the Bank of America was allowed to fund their purchase of Merrill with treasury funds secured against CDO's, I really will have lost all faith in the market personally. It's gotten down to glorified check kiting. (Update - supposedly a stock swap, so maybe this fear is unfounded?)

The over all derivatives market is something like $100 trillion dollars in the US , and granted most of that is never going to see the light of day or be made actual, but can any person honestly understand the effects of four levels of chopped and diced risk? Institutions clearly can't. Our elected representatives surely don't. I don't! Maybe we need some restraints on how imaginary investments can get before they're plain old fraud. 2nd order derivation is about where I lose my ability to follow along, and I'm a fairly smart guy.

So, what it means, as I see it: no more living on credit for Americans as individuals or as a nation. It's going to hurt. I have a feeling that I won't be able to buy a home until I save 20% of the purchase price, like back in the good old days.

Why? Not letting 2001 become a real get-rid-of-the-deadwood recession, but instead injecting insane cash into the system, and letting real estate values build up to soak up the liquidity and prop up the economy, because it had nowhere else to go but overseas. Financial markets were deregulated, allowing investment banks to merge with regular banks, removing firewalls and independence and creating bizarre shadow world markets that are magnitudes larger in notional dollar value then the stock market. For the last 30 years, our economic measuring tools have been made worthless by presidents of both parties, making the situation seem less dire then it actually is, inflating or hiding information to make themselves look good. Also, a half trillion dollar war in Iraq didn't help.

I do not see a soft landing in store for us, and am glad I have another 35 years to be able to save up money to retire at some point.
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Location: Buffalo, NY


09/09/08 11:07 - ID#45620 pmobl

Yay James



Congrats, (e:James), you spent three months kicking ass and being
awesome. Sam Hoyt won!
image
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Permalink: Yay_James.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: electronics

09/06/08 08:33 - 63ºF - ID#45595

Microcontrollers Part 4

OK!

I was able to program / animate the LED matrix. Basically, there are 8 pins on each axis, and you scan down one column at a time shifting bits out to off/on states for each LED in the row.

Each LED is only light 1/8th of the time so I need to boost the brightness a bit, see if I can lower the resistors maybe.

Now that I have it working I can get it all permanently soldered into place, and then work on the sensor components.

And of course, come out with some nicer animated faces :)

::Download Flash Video::


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Permalink: Microcontrollers_Part_4.html
Words: 100
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: work

09/05/08 03:37 - 81ºF - ID#45588

UB Faculty/Staff LOL!

Finally, finally, took the time to go get my UB Card (need to be prepared for buying CS4 when it comes out in October). Bad hair day, for sure, with the wind. Hard to read, but I am technically in the staff category at UB.

image

The company I work for is just somewhat related to UB, I am not actually teaching or anything crazy.

I am eligible for staff parking on campus though :)

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Permalink: UB_Faculty_Staff_LOL_.html
Words: 75
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: electronics

09/04/08 10:05 - 75ºF - ID#45577

Progress

Have the matrix hooked up to the LED driver chip and that to the microcontroller. Will figure out how to program it tomorrow. Mmm, bitshifting.

image
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Permalink: Progress.html
Words: 27
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: politics

09/04/08 10:52 - 68ºF - ID#45561

Election

This is a freaking 4 hour news cycle election.

I usually try very hard to stay out of commenting on politics on (e:strip), and confine my anti-religion rants to 2 or 3 per year, but I'm falling under the weight of an urgent need to talk about every little detail of the political season.

Aaargh. 2 more months to go.


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Permalink: Election.html
Words: 57
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: politics

09/01/08 09:30 - 70ºF - ID#45534

Republicans Flailing

So, after a couple days of revelations about Sarah Palin, the nail in the coffin comes: she was a member of an organization that sought Alaskan sovereign nation status.

Yes, that's right: John McCain choose a secessionist for his running mate, and his slogan is "Country First". Clearly they didn't check Palin out at all. He just sort of panicked, I suppose.

Can you imagine if Obama had belonged to a 3rd party that in any (even minor) way challenged the US's legitimacy?

Alaskan Independence Party. Source:
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Permalink: Republicans_Flailing.html
Words: 94
Location: Buffalo, NY


Category: electronics

09/01/08 03:18 - 80ºF - ID#45531

Microcontrollers Part 3

I'm building a DIY version of this Tengu thing ( ) for my first full project.

I've got the LEDs for the eyes in and programmable, and have the face matrix assembled but that's not yet programmed. It will eventually be hooked up to sensors to react to the environment as well.

So far this weekend I've spent a lot of time relearning C and especially pointers. Matrix and timings for the rest of the animations will be challenging, too. Trying to fit everything in a few Kb of space brings me back.

::Download Flash Video::



Watching myself on video makes me realize I really need to work on my um's. :(

Here's a video of what it should end up looking like, although mine won't look so polished:



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Permalink: Microcontrollers_Part_3.html
Words: 136
Location: Buffalo, NY


08/25/08 03:03 - 67ºF - ID#45453

How To Break A Window

On a slight tangent from yesterday :)

Don't break a window with a brick and your bare fist. I'm an idiot.

Next time I'll wrap a shirt around my hand! I think taking a photo of my hand afterwards is due to Paul's blogging influence. He's my blogspiration.

image

image

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Permalink: How_To_Break_A_Window.html
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