outdoors People Photography


The clouds broke today and for the first time in about three weeks, I finally had a chance to go for a long walk. The fall colors have started, and I was able to get some color shots. I am concerned, though, that something might be wrong with the camera. The photos seems to have an odd blurred edge to them — not being out of focus, almost like a slight double exposure. Probably some setting I’ve tweaked wrong. I hope.

I’ve loaded a few. Sorry, no sunflowers.

I don’t know if it was the fact that the weather was nice today after so much rain or perhaps the people were excited at the prospect of the debate, but the folks I met on the trail were exceptionally nice. Gentle, friendly smiles and nods, and even letting me pet their dogs. I met one, Scruffy, I wanted to take home but remembered Cat and that Scruffy had a Mom who would most likely object.

When the people said hello, it wasn’t a quick hello either; it was looking into my eyes, making sure I knew they were looking at me and saying hello.


Spirit Cane

My brother asked me what I wanted to keep of my father’s and I answered without hesitation, his cane. Upon further reflection, I also asked for his books, and I’ll borrow the photos long enough to make digital copies.

I bought Dad the cane years ago when he starting slowing up a bit, at the youthful age of 75 I believe it was. He just needed a little support from time to time, but he hated the canes you get at the doctor’s office. Said they made him look old.

We were out shopping at a store that specializes in hand crafts when I saw an umbrella stand and in it, several walking sticks known as spirit sticks; so called because each is a solid tree branch that is finished smooth, and the face of the spirit in the wood is carved into the rounded knob at the top. We gave it to Dad and he loved it instantly. It stayed with him, always, up until the very end; even then, he would fret about where his cane was.

I love this cane, with its real wood feel, and smooth finish; to look at the pattern in the grain and the bore hole of some insect; the cut off end of a smaller twig that had sprung out from the side of the branch. Most of all, I love it for the wise face of the spirit. And since Dad and I were pretty close to the same height, it’s a nice fit for me if I ever find the need for such…some day when I’m 75. Or so.

Spirit Cane

The books have alternated between being a treat and a puzzle. My dad was very much into mysteries and suspense, so I am now the proud owner of every John le Carré book written, in addition to every Robert Parker book and several by Grisham, Elizabeth George, and so on. Though detective and mystery books are not my favorite, I love a good novel and I’ll have plenty to keep me busy on these increasingly cold evenings. After all, is there anything better than curling up in a warm bed with a good book on a cold evening? Especially at the end of a day of hiking, and an excellent dinner, perhaps shared with another?

Among the books, though, were some surprises. There was one book called The Book of Virtues by Richard Bennett. It’s a odd book that features a different virture, such as courage, discipline, honesty, and so on, each chapter. The author then publishes works that reflect this virtue, ranging anywhere from philosophies of Plato to poetry to the children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit.

I sampled some of the pages on discipline and courage, the morals of compassion and responsibility and can already tell that I hate it. I mean, I really hate it. Can’t stand it, finding myself almost repulsed by it. I am thus compelled to read it thoroughly and share it with all of you.

I also found Frank McCourt’s Tis among all the whodunits. It’s the memoir of McCourt’s journey from Ireland back to New York, and his experiences re-adapting to his native land. In light of recent news, I particularly liked the following passage from the book:

No, I might be able to confess in the darkness of an ordinary church confession box but I could never do it here in daylight all swollen with the mumps with a screen round the bed and the priest looking at me. I could never tell him how Mrs. Finucane was planning to leave her money for priests to say Masses for her soul and how I stole some of that money. I could never tell him about the sins I committed with the girl in the refugee camp. Even while I think of her I get so excited I have to interfere with myself under the blankets and there I am with one sin on top of another. If I ever confessed to a priest now I’d be excommunicated altogether so my only hope is that I’ll be hit by a truck or something falling from a great height and that will give me a second to say a perfect Act of Contrition before I die and no priest will be necessary.

Sometimes I think I’d be the best Catholic in the world if they’d only do away with priests and let me talk to God there in the bed.


Another from Slashdot-a replacement for SQL?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Another entry from Slashdot, this one about an alternative to SQL, based on SQL guru Chris Date’s innovations in the field.

This alternative, known as ‘Tutorial D’, would seek to eliminate some of the more persistent relational DB problems, such as that pesky multi-meaning null. Is a field null because it makes no sense for data to exist in the field? Or is it null because no data has been provided yet? This has always been a killer in database design, and something the proponents of “Tutorial D” could resolve, among other things.

But before we throw out our MySQL and Oracle, the authors caution, take heed:

There’s a way to go, though. First off, there are still some unconquered faces on the mountain – the notes from a presentation by Darwen (see the Third Manifesto website) admit that the implementation of some of the new techniques is “something for the next generation of software engineers to grapple with”. The main problem, however, is that although SQL is clunky and, from a purist’s standpoint, just plain messy, it passes the usual business test – that is, it’s good enough to do the job that’s asked for it.

SQL is ubiquitous. For something that’s weak, fallible, and failing, it’s used everywhere; it’s a rare application that doesn’t use a relational database. This is something the ’s, w’ semantic webbers, (not to mention the RDF critics) should keep in mind: a technology, a model, or an implementation doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful.