Wednesday, October 11

W performs "Imagine"

W's rendition of "Imagine" by John Lennon.

Thanks to Swankette for the link ... I think.

Tuesday, October 3

Echoes of Nuremberg

Listen to this commentary. Please.

A soldier of the "Greatest Generation" - the only Jew in his unit - who served in Europe provides us with some important perspective on the current debate about trials, secret evidence, and the Geneva Conventions.

Today, in the midst of a national debate on how to treat captured terror suspects, my mind flashes back to Room 600 at Furtherstrasse 22. We gave Goering and the other war criminals a chance not only to defend themselves but in some cases, preach hate and violence.

In a ruined Germany, where so many corpses still lay buried in the rubble, and life seemed so very fragile, we found it in ourselves to give the worst of men due process.

If we can afford Herman Goering, arguably one of the worst creatures in human history, an open trial with legal representation and no secret evidence, how can we not offer the same to the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay?

Monday, October 2

Escape from L.A.

On Saturday I did a "fly in/fly out on the same day" trip to Ontario, California make a presentation at a conference.

I think I'm still not quite recovered. It's not that I'm tired. Sure, it was a long day, but I was home before 10pm and I slept in on Sunday. It's not that the presentation was that difficult or stressful - the presentation went off without a hitch, It's my sinuses, you see.

I haven't been to the L.A. basin in more than 10 years. The last time I was down there, I recall cresting the hill at the top of the Grapevine on I-5 and looking down at the ocean of brown, cruddy air lapping at the crest of the mountains. I distinctly recall thinking, "Ugh! I'm voluntarily going down to breathe that crap?" Fast forward a decade. I'm sitting on an airplane flying south over the mountains looking out the window. Oh, look. What a pretty lake. Nice trees. I bet those houses down there are expensive. About then, I notice the ridgeline that separates the north side of the mountains from the slope leading down into the valley. Lapping right up against the ridgetop is a veritable sea of smog. The exact same thought popped into my head, "Ugh! I'm voluntarily going down to breathe that crap?"

Once I stepped out of the Ontario airport terminal, my sinuses swelled up and I started sneezing. I could see the air. It's one thing when one can see the air on a misty Portland winter morning or the air on a sultry humid summer Boston afternoon - that's plain old-fashioned (and harmless) dihydrogen oxide floating around up there. It can be a bit unpleasant, but at least it's completely natural. But when one looks out and can see the man-made pollutants clogging the air ... well, that's a wholly different thing. Apparently my sinuses think the same thing. They responded rather violently. Forty-eight hours later, they're still trying to flush out the crud I sucked in while trying to breathe that artificial soup.

Why on earth would however many million people choose to live in that?

Tuesday, August 22

Stumbled upon

This has to be one of the best wedding party photos I've seen in a long time:

I have no idea who they are or who took the picture - I stumbled upon it purely by chance when looking for some CC-licensed stock images on Flickr - but I love it. Nice job!

Friday, August 18

A woman said to me last night ...

"I'm sorry, I can't give you a shazam tonight. Can I interest you in a ménage à trois instead?"

Get your mind out of the gutter. We were over at Pix for dessert.

ménage à trois

Monday, July 31


Tux the Slut

How is it the rubber penguin gets more schwag at OSCON than any of us supposedly-sentient creatures? What's worse, he scored it all on the second day when all the good stuff is supposedly gone. He just cruised around on his little toy truck raking in the loot.


Thursday, July 20

Mental note ...

... try not to gape like a fish the next time Stuart Cohen looks at me in a meeting and says, "So what can we do to help you with the project?"

I'd just been asked to sit in on a high-level meeting that my boss was going to be presenting at. I was prepared to answer questions about the details of the project, but that totally blindsided me. I don't even remember what I said in response. I hope it was good.

Sunday, July 16

Bay Leaf

So we tried a new restaurant on 49th & Division yesterday: Bay Leaf.


It's not clear from the outside what sort of restaurant it is. The sign just says "vegetarian restaurant." It turned out to be very nice Asian place with a creative and very tasty menu. We had some tasty veggies with noodles in a sort of chow-mein style, eggplant and garlic in a kung-pao style sauce (both of which were delightful) and the surprise winner: battered fried mushrooms on a fresh cabbage-basil base. The tea was very nice and it came out in a beautiful artistic teapot (they had a tea list like most places have wine lists).

Oh my that was tasty. We're definitely going back!

Friday, June 16


Is anyone else at all concerned about today's SCOTUS ruling upholding the use of evidence obtained from an illegal search?

"Without such a rule ... police know that they can ignore the Constitution's requirements without risking suppression of evidence discovered after an unreasonable entry."
Justice Stephen Breyer, in the dissent

Is it me or is this just the first step down the road to eliminating the exclusion rule entirely? Search warrants? Who needs one when anything they find is admissible, even if it was illegally obtained?

This is something I would have thought inconceivable and utterly ridiculous four years ago. If someone had said to me four or five years ago that the Supreme Court would be actively dismantling out privacy and search and seizure protections, I'd have laughed and told them they'd been reading too much Orwell - that's what we have a Constitution for, to protect us from such. How far have we fallen if something as radical as this is now not only plausible, but now entirely possible, if not likely.

Saturday, June 3


This weekend I put in the final work for my revious employer. When I left, I agreed to be available this weekend to move some of my critical servers over into their new home in the new data center. Given the nature of the servers and the effect it would have had on the lives of the thousands of people who use them every week for legal hearings, I couldn't in good conscience just walk away. It didn't cost me anything (they kept me on the payroll), so I volunteered.

Along with my gear, there were several other multimedia systems that needed to be moved as well. So we marched on up to the old machine room, pulled them all out of the racks and loaded them up in the cars. About halfway through the loading, a thought occurred to us: we were loading in excess of $600,000 worth of equipment into a beat up old 1989 Subaru wagon that might have been worth $400 on a good day.

The contents of the vehicle were worth 1500 times as much as the vehicle itself.

I'm sure there's some poetic or metaphorical phrase I could throw in here, but my brain is so much swiss cheese at this point - I've working 24 out of the past 36 hours. What I do know is that we found that exceedingly funny at the time (midnight last night).

I'm going to go start drinking now.

Saturday, May 27

Wait wait!


Our illustrious Oregon Legislature made it into this week's "Wait wait ... don't tell me!"

That's right, no more drinking while driving the Ship of State.

Friday, May 26


Wow. I knew it's be a little hard leaving the office today, but I never suspected I'd this sad about it. As I packed up the last box of stuff from my desk and hauled it out to the car I was really glad all the others had gone home already. I don't think I could have handled seeing anyone I knew at the moment.

In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected it. After all, I've spent exactly a third of my life putting my heart and soul into the job. I suspect I've spent more cumulative time in that one room at that desk than any other single place in my life. Twelve years in one job, ten of which were at the same desk, nine of which were with the same five co-workers. With my departure and another's premature retirement at the end of June, only two will be left. It was a great team. I am profoundly sad that the team is no more.

All the systems I ran were ones I built and shepherded from their very beginnings. I'm proud of what I built and proud of the services I've provided to the taxpayers of Oregon. I'm bitterly angry at the political hacks in Salem who have completely destroyed the team and the organization that enabled me to produce those systems. I wrote up a huge blog post ranting and venting about it, but I don't think I'll post it. Dwelling on and sharing my anger won't do anyone any good. It certainly won't do the co-workers I leave behind any good. I sincerely hope the mess gets straightened out. I hope that saner heads will prevail so that they can salvage whatever talent is left in the organization and get back to their duty of providing quality information technology services to the taxpayers of Oregon. Both for the sake of my friends who stayed behind to stick it out, and the people of the state as a whole.

So I find myself on the threshold of a new stage in my life. An unusual experience. I've really only quit three jobs in my life, and one of them was the McDonald's hell job in high school. The only real career-type job I ever quit was the one I left to come to work for ED-NET back in 1994. I hadn't realized how complacent and acclimated I'd become in my safe little pigeonhole. Suddenly I find myself taking a leap, sacrificing all that seniority and comfort, and trusting someone who I haven't always had the best relationship with, and a funding source that isn't assured beyond the biennium. It's scary not to be in control. I'd forgotten what it's like not being the big kid on the block who's been there the longest. At the same time, I think it's a good thing. I've gotten lazy and complacent over the past few years. The uncertainty will keep me on my toes and thinking - hopefully juicing up that creativity that has been becoming more elusive.

Well, then. No looking back. Forward ho!

Goodbye, ED-NET

Thank you to you former ED-NET staff and customers for making it a truly memorable experience. I'd do it all over again. It's been an interesting and entertaining 12 years, but ED-NET is dead and gone and the time has come to move on.

I've accepted a position starting on Tuesday as a developer and project manager with a prominent open source lab building distance education systems. It's a perfect blend of all the things I'm passionate about: education, communications, and open source software. I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, May 17

Thank you vote by mail!

I heard a bit about a new security flaw in the Diebold touchscreen voting machines a few days ago, but I didn't really look that closely at it at the time. After all, we don't use the Diebold systems in our vote-by-mail system here in Oregon. Now that our election is past, I took a look at this article:

"[a BlackBoxVoting security expert] was able to--from the keyboard that appears on the machine--create a macro that doesn't even show up that you created it, go and pickup a program through the modem, and run it," [Emery County, Utah clerk and auditor Bruce] Funk said during an interview with SecurityFocus from his home in Clawson, Utah. "I was thinking that this was not right."

Wait a second. A poll worker primed with the knowledge of a few filenames and instructions could, in a few minutes, load whatever software he or she wanted on a voting machine using nothing but the built-in hardware?

Holy voter fraud, Batman!

Thank you vote by mail! May Diebold never cross the Oregon state line.

Monday, May 15

A great loss

Last Wednesday a great man died. His name was Major Pruitt.

Unless you're active in the conservative Jewish community in Portland you may not have heard of Major, but this one man touched thousands of lives in a way that we all could learn from.

For more than fifty years Major served as the sextant and caretaker to Congregation Ahava Shalom and, later, Congregation Neveh Shalom here in Portland. Not only did he take care of the buildings and the grounds, he took care of something far more important: the people who came there. Not only did he make sure the lights worked and the heat was on, he made sure everything was perfect for thousands of weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs. Not only did he know where every candlestick and lightbulb was in the synagogue, he made sure the elderly members of the congregation - especially those who were diabetic - got what they needed to make it through the High Holy Days. He installed the Ten Commandments above the Ark when they built the new synagogue, and he made sure bride and bridesmaids made it down the aisle in good order. He touched every aspect of life for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people over the past half century.

Major was not Jewish, but he knew more about Jewish tradition and ceremony than much of the congregation. He studied for hours in the congregation's library, learning the details of the complex Jewish calendar so that the congregations' records showed the right date.

He could be gruff and stubborn, but he gave the utmost respect to everyone and in doing so earned everyone's respect in return. He loved and was loved in return by all. Especially the children. Major's touch spanned generations: from wedding, to baby naming, to bar and bat mitzvah, to the next generation's weddings and baby namings, and the next. He knew everyone. He knew who was married to who, who was whose cousin, whose children had stayed in the area and whose had moved away (and to where). His phenomenal memory kept track of an astounding number of details about the lives of every member of a congregation than numbers nearly a thousand families. His "Hello, stranger" (by the Rabbi's own admission) could carry more weight than the admonition the clergy had for those who attended services less often than Major thought they should.

I am not a religious person, nor am I Jewish. I only knew Major for a fleetingly-brief time because my wife worked in the synagogue office a few years ago. But Major had a profound impact on me. I didn't even realize it until we got word that he had died. His funeral was today, and even though we are not members of the congregation there was absolutely no doubt in our minds that we needed to attend. As we sat in the sanctuary that Major cared for, with the people of the congregation that he cared for, and listened to the eulogies I realized that I finally understood the meaning of the word "mensch".

Thank you, Major. Thank you for showing us all how to be a good, tireless, honest, reliable, generous, humble, selfless human being. Rest now, Major, knowing that we have watched and learned from your example. The dedication and generosity, the caring and love you showed for the people of the community is astounding. May we all aspire to do even a fraction of the good you have done in this world.

Sunday, May 14

Wild weather

So I get up this morning and fire up a browser to read a few blogs. My home page is my personalized Google home - which includes the weather:

Say what?

Have we been moved to somewhere south of the Equator?

Thursday, May 11

You're kidding, right?

"There's no innovation that we've seen come out of -- at least -- Linux,"
Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer at PSU's new Maseeh Engineering and Computer Science building

Methinks the US Department of Defense, IBM, Intel, and a few other little companies might disagree a wee bit, don't you?

Tuesday, May 9


Twice in two weeks. Power is out at our "world class" data center.

Let's see, that makes two outages in less than a month of having a full staff running full operations. Shall we do a bit of simple arithmetic? Say the two downtimes total one hour in the past 30 days: 24 hours * 30 days = 720 hours/month. 719 hours of uptime / 720 hours total = 0.9986. So much for a "five nines" facility.

Woohoo! We the taxpayers of Oregon spent fifteen million dollars and got ourselves a whopping two nines facility!

Gee, isn't is so nice that we're here to bail them out?

Monday, May 8

Damn, I love Beethoven

A and I went to the Portland Youth Philharmonic concert on Saturday at the Schnitz. Great show. Delightfully-talented young people playing beautiful music is always a pleasure, but in some ways the show was somewhat stolen by their conductor: Mei-Ann Chen.

We had seats off to one side down on the orchestra level, so we were low enough, close enough, and far enough to the side that we could see Ms. Chen's face for much of the performance. Ms. Chen has to be one of the most entertaining conductors I've ever seen. It's abundantly clear that she has a deep and vibrant passion for the music. It was if she was dancing as she led the young musicians. No. Not "if". She was dancing. She was conducting, but it was so expressive that it went beyond mere direction and became a dance. It was really wonderful to see an artist and educator so enjoying her work.

Then, to top it all off, at the end of the program on Saturday they played pieces from my favorite two composers - Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. They played the first three movements of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 4 in G Major. A beautiful piece, they played it beautifully. I was happy. Then they played the last two movements of Beethoven's 5th Symphony (yes, that symphony).

Oh. Wow.

We so often hear the famous "da da da dum" of the first movement that it's easy to forget just how breathtaking the other three movements really are - the third movement's scherzo leading uninterrupted into the finale is truly beautiful. All I could do was sit there and marvel at the beauty and the passionate power of the music.

Oh yeah. Beethoven rocks.

Tchaikovsky is great - just as powerful, but a precise, graceful, controlled power. I love his work, but to me nothing can compare to the raw emotion of Beethoven at his best - whether it's the famous stormy Fifth, the joy of the Ninth, or the love of the Pathetique.

Thank you, PYP for reminding me why I love Beethoven so much.

Wednesday, May 3

Our brand new "world class" data center ...

... lost power this morning for the better part of an hour.

Five nines? Nah, that's just for those private indusrty pukes. We're government. We don' need no stinkin' reliability!

There was even a cherry on top of this irony sundae - the operations staff down in Salem had to call us up here and ask us to answer their hotlines until the power came back on.

Gee. What was that you said to us a few months back?
Mr. SDC Manager Man: "We don't need a Portland office. We want everyone sitting together in Salem."
Me: "But what about geographic rudundancy? What happens if something takes out the Salem facility?"
Mr. SDC Manager Man: " ... " [insert 30 second pause here] "What?"

Wednesday, March 22

I so love Craigslist

Sure, a lot of the stuff on there is illiterate crap, but there are also some real gems:

An Open Letter to Straights

Sunday, March 12

Window display

At Powell's on Hawthorne:

One book about Dick Cheney and a bunch of books about bird hunting.


Saturday, February 25

Professionals in the Olympics

I've been opposed to the recent trend toward more and more professional athletes in the Olympics. I suppose partly it's because my sports - nordic skiing and biathlon - aren't exactly ones you'll see millionaire professionals in North America. But more importantly, I believe the Summer Games' basketball so-called "Dream Team" was a cynical brazen ploy to win at all costs - sportsmanship and fair play be damned. Part of what makes the Olympic Games so exciting is that the competitors are more human, not some millionaire prima-donna pro sorts star. Plus, the inclusion of professional athletes in the Olympics heavily favors large, wealthy nations who have large pro sports leagues. It's a structure that shuts out talented athletes from nations who are too small or too poor to be able to support full-time professional athletes.

However. I've caught several of this year's Olympic hockey games and have been impressed. I'm not a hockey fan. I've been to exactly one hockey game ever (a minor league Portland Winterhawks game). But as I watched the Olympic hockey tournament, I wonder if professionals in the Olympics isn't entirely a bad thing. Maybe it's because the games I've seen have all been exciting, well-played and competitive - nothing like the Summer Games professional team blowouts. The difference, I think, is that there are so many strong hockey players and leagues in so many nations. True, it still favors large wealthy nations, but there are so many teams in the tournament that have access to so many professional players that it was at least a real competition between many good teams instead of one or two teams full of professional ringers against a field of amateurs.

Am I convinced that professional athletes belong in the Olympics? Definitely not. But after watching this year's tournament, I'm willing to concede there might be room for them among the amateurs.

More Strip Jeopardy

Went to No Fish Go Fish last night with A and Swankette. Ended up staying for Strip Jeopardy - why not? We had a nice comfy table, tasty drinks, and didn't feel like braving the cold outside to head home. Sorry, TRP. I had a Froo Froo drink in your honor.

My how things have changed since the last time. Certainly more skin showing since last year. Far more.

Style points for the one female contestant for the creative use of a couple of strategically-placed Band-Aid 'X'es. But Mr. Bond-Wannabe in the matador hat, even though we were willing to give you style points for the shoulder holster and sock garters early on ... next time take off the bow tie instead of your skivvies. Please.

Wednesday, February 22

Destroy the world, drive a SUV!

Does anyone else think this ad doesn't say, "Look at me! I'm driving my SUV and destroying this lovely countryside!"

Tuesday, February 14

Reality check

Bravo to Joey Cheek. Not for winning an Olympic gold medal, but for what he did at the press conference after winning.

I know you want to do sweet Hallmark stories about chocolates and butterflies and all that, but I've had a pretty unique experience, this is a pretty unique opportunity and I'm going to take advantage of it while I can.

I heard that this morning while I was still in bed trying to wake up. It woke me up. His grim, matter-of-fact tone was not at all what one would expect for a post-medal press conference.

For me, the Olympics have been the greatest blessing. If I retired yesterday, I have gotten everything in the world from speedskating and competing in the Olympics. And the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to try and help somebody else.

I have always felt if I ever do something big like this I want to be able to give something back. I love what I do; it's great fun, but honestly, it's a pretty ridiculous thing, I skate around in tights. If you keep it in perspective, I've trained my whole life for this but it's not that big a deal.

But because I skated well I have a few seconds of microphone time. And I know how news cycles work. Tomorrow there will be another gold medalist. So I can either gush how wonderful I feel or use it for something.

So I am donating the entire sum the USOC gives me [$25,000] to an organization, 'Right to Play,' that [Lillehammer speed skating medalist] Johan Olav Koss either started or gave to in 1994. It helps refugees in Chad, where there are over 60,000 persons displaced from their homes. I am going to be asking all of the Olympic sponsors if they will match my donation.

In Sudan, there have been tens of thousands of people killed. My government has labeled it genocide. Hopefully, if we can stabilize the region, with U.N. or U.S. pressure, we can go in and start programs for refugees there.

Johan has lived his life in a manner I hope to live my life. I can only hope to fit in his large shoes.

A couple of days before the race, he had coffee with Johan Olav Koss. Koss' response says a lot, too:
He was talking that he wanted to do something big," Koss said. "I was so humbled to meet such a person. The most important race of his life is coming up in a couple days, and he's talking about what he can do to give back.

Here's to you, Joey. Thank you for stepping up and doing the right thing. Thank you for reminding us that "winning" and "losing" are so abstract as to be meaningless in the face of war, genocide, starvation, and suffering. I'm not saying don't enjoy the competition or cheer for your favorite athletes, just remember that winning is not everything. Remember that we can't keep living in our ridiculously-affluent lotus-land and ignore the world around us. Enjoy the games, but not to the exclusion of doing something to make the world a better place.

Saturday, February 11

It's Olympic time!

Some of you may already know that I was a die-hard nordic skiier and biathlete when in college. I was never quite good enough to compete on the international level, but that doesn't stop me from being glued to the TV every four years for the Winter Olympics.

As usual, the TV coverage for the nordic - and especially the biathlon - events is relegated to the wee hours of the morning on cable. So once again, I have to live with whatever they end up posting on the web. But oh, how I wish I could have seen this morning's 20k men's biathlon.

Not that it comes as any big surprise, but the US is not generally viewed as a nordic powerhouse. Sure, we had Bill Koch's silver in 1976, but in general US nordic skiiers never get the respect they deserve. I think that might start to change this year. If this morning's event is any indication, it's going to be a very exciting month:

Alaskan Jay Hakkinen took 10th in a time of 56:10.9, but the best finish ever by a U.S. athlete could have been much, much better. Each miss results in a one-minute penalty and he missed three of 20 shots, including a split bullet that failed to knock down the target.

Had it fallen, he would have won the bronze medal instead of Hanevold.

A split bullet away from a medal? Oh. My. An infinitesimal difference and that target would have dropped and we'd have our first-ever biathlon medal.

Hakkinen posted the second-fastest ski time behind Bjoerndalen, who missed two of 20 shots, one too many to beat Greis, who missed just once.

Did I read that right? And this is not Hakkinen's best event - Tuesday's 10k sprint.

Those Norwegians and Germans better watch that rear-view, them yankees are comin'!

Go Jay go!!!

Saturday, January 28

Ain't technology cool?

Oh, how far the world has come ...

So we had a small earthquake this evening. Piddling little thing, less than 5 seconds long, 2.9 magnitude. A pointed me at this site for the details. Hmm. Epicenter is 1km east of Portland. So I fed the latitude and longitde into Google Maps

31st and E Burnside? Dang that is close by.

And I found it from my little desk here in the basement within minutes of the actual quake. Amazing.

Tuesday, January 17

Read this. Now.

No matter what your opinion is regarding civil rights and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, you need to read this.

Beautiful and eloquent. I wish I had the talent to say it half so well.

Thanks, fawnapril, for posting the link.

Sunday, January 15

Gotta love the sneer

Nice work from some creative Aussies:

Thanks, fawnapril for pointing this site out.

My new favorite breakfast

Sunday is generally grocery shopping day here in Chez PDX. So as A and I were laying in bed this morning listening to This American Life on the radio we pondered the consequences of visiting Trader Joe's and Limbo prior to dining. The effect on our budget, of course, would be too horrible to countenance, so we dawdled under the warm blanket and warmer cat and considered our options in light of the fact that cupboard was bare and we were hungry. There is no dearth of excellent breakfast places along Hawthorne and Belmont, but they are all notorious for long lines on weekend mornings. No good. Then it popped into my head that No Fish! Go Fish! had started to serve breakfast a while ago. We'd just never managed to make it down there past Cup & Saucer, Utopia, Cricket Cafe, Hawthorne Street Cafe, Zell's ... well, you get the picture.

Hmm ... our favorite place for dinner and cocktails, entertainment, as well as a fantastically-good inexpensive lunch. Pretty high standards - breakfast has got to be good.


No wait whatsoever. This American Life was still playing on the speakers in the kitchen and dining room. The expected excellent service (as usual). And (this was the clincher) savory rosemary foccacia french toast with hollandaise and roasted vegetables.

Oh. My.

I'm a big french toast fan. As many of you know I have a colossal sweet tooth, so nothing satisfies me better than a plate full of carbs saturated in fat drowning in maple syrup. MMMM. I've devoured french toast prepared more ways than I could possibly count. Thick. Thin. Soft. Crisp. Stuffed. Orange. But this was different. I'd never had a savory, non-sweet french toast before.

I have now. I think I'm in love.

It just plain works. The savory vegetables and foccacia - fried in egg batter of course (sorry TRP) - liberally graced with rich yellow hollandaise. It was SO good!

I know several of you out there are breakfast fiends (this means you pankleb). Get over to No Fish! Go Fish! next weekend, order a fresh-squeezed mimosa (you know you want one, according to the menu) and enjoy one of the best breakfasts in town.

Thursday, January 12

Google Clips

Ahh, Google. You make brilliant stuff, but this is not one of your better days. Your "AdSense" thing isn't making much, well, sense when it pops up recipies for Spam when I open up my spam folder.


Good thing it only serves one, I couldn't imagine who would serve "Ginger Spam Salad" to another human being ...

Wednesday, January 11

"My children"

Paraphrasing Judge Alito: (sorry, I was in the shower when I heard this, so I couldn't write it down verbatim)
"When I hear a case involving children, I think of my own children"

Really? So you'd support the strip searching of your own 10 year old daughter?

Damn, you're harsh!

Sunday, January 1


Years ago before we got married, when A took me to meet her maternal grandfather for the first time she told me that he served in the Navy on a PT boat in WWII but that he never ever talked about it. The mostly-unspoken rule in the family was that nobody was to ever ask him about his experiences in the Pacific. I was curious, but I could understand the rule. I have several Vietnam-era vets in my family form who the topic of their service is too painful to bring up.

A has always adored her grandfather both because of his quietly mischievous personality - he always seemed to have a bit of candy hidden somewhere on his person to slyly fill an unacceptably-empty child's pocket - and for his keen and educated mind - he took his GI Bill and became an electrical engineer working at Bonneville. When he retired, he started taking classes and learned how to build his own computers from thrift store scrap. He never said much, and when he did say something it was usually short and practically unheard in the general ruckus of a family gathering. But it was almost always something that, after percolating in your subconscious for several minutes, would boomerang back around and hit you. Then anyone who was paying attention would wonder what you were laughing at. He is the inspiration to A as she forges onward through graduate school. She wrote a deeply touching dedication on the first page of her masters' thesis to him and had an extra copy printed and archivally-bound with the intent of presenting it to him.

A's cousin M called last week and said that Grandpa was really starting to show signs of dementia - not recognizing kinds and grandkids, forgetting where the tin of Christmas candies went, etc. A realized she had to go visit and give him the thesis. We hadn't been up to visit them in far too long, so we headed up to Vancouver yesterday afternoon. A wrapped up the thesis in some beautiful hand-made paper on the way. We stopped by M's house to pick her and her kinds up to go with us. The kids really didn't want to go, so I volunteered to stay home with them while A and M went over to their grandparents. It seemed like a good compromise at the time, but I'm wishing we'd put our foot down and made the kids come along.

A and M got back a couple of hours later. They said that Grandpa was having one of what Grandma called his "bad" days. He was happy and talkative. Very talkative, almost manic, apparently. One of the things he talked about was something none of the family had ever heard - his war experiences. For the first time, we learned the name of the ship he was on: PT-189.

A and M were stunned. One of the great mysteries of Grandpa's past was suddenly there in front of them, totally un-prompted and unexpected. When they got back to the house and told us what they learned, M said to me, "I want to know all about that boat. Can you find anything?"

We went home. I did. Google is my friend. I was excited enough when I found an image of his boat's squadron-mate, PT-188. I found records stating that his squadron saw action in New Guinea, Aitape, New Briton and the Philippines.

Then I found this:

"189" and "RON 8" clearly visible on the side. I have no idea who the officer (?) is standing on the deck. I haven't found any other information about PT-189. Yet.

I realized last night on an emotional level what I've accepted intellectually for years - there is a whole mass of history contained in our grandfathers' generation that is slowly and surely leaking away. We're losing it to old age and dementia. The men and women of the "Greatest Generation" are quietly drifting away and their stories are, often as not, vanishing with them. It's an utterly foreign concept to me, an IT professional, used to information being ubiquitous and permanent, at your fingertips while in one's bathrobe at 10:30pm on a holiday weekend evening. But I can't just sit down and google what's in Grandpa's head - and odds are that's the only place some of the information can be found.

So now I find myself on a bit of a quest: to find out everything I can about PT-189. It's a task I admit I am a bit rusty at - finding information that isn't online and isn't instantly available. I'm both sad and excited at the same time. I'll let you know what I find.