Moon over the Yosemite Valley

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Antiques, Objects and Art L.A. Antiques Show

Still Life © Jane Greene Gale Estate - courtesy of Blue Heron Gallery

The Blue Heron Gallery will be once again exhibiting at the Antiques, Objects and Art show on March 9th and 10th at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. I am splitting a booth with my good friend Cam Wilde, who owns the Milestones Gallery in Monterey. Visit this link for information regarding the show. There are some excellent painting and print dealers this time, Robert Bijou, Stevens Fine Art, Papillon Gallery, Mike Kelley, Dermot Begley, Roger Genser - Prints and the Pauper, among others. The word was off beat and edgy and it will be interesting to see what shows up.

If you are in the area I would love to see you. Wish me luck. Time to break my lousy streak in Los Angeles.

Keith Jarrett & Jan Garbarek

Feeling Fine

I was prepared to write a large dissertation on my unhappiness with the Supreme Court of late, two specific cases this week, the potential evisceration of the section 5 pre clearances in the Voting Right Act and Judge Alito's smug and cynical comments regarding the administration and warrantless wiretapping in Clapper vs. Amnesty International. Major catch 22 there, I suppose that we can discuss it later. It belies a SCOTUS with zero regard for the rights of those lowliest of beasts, citizens.

Anyway I was set to start writing but lack the resolve to attack this afternoon. Why? Good question. I could say that so many of you tell me how much of a yawner they find politics, especially my own, and I suppose there's that but the real reason is that it is so damn beautiful outside.

It was 81 today, with a light breeze. An exceptional southern california day, lodged near middle of a perfect southern california week. It's tough to get political when it is heaven outside. Supreme Court can wait.

It has been a good week. Got some field help yesterday. Mowed a decent if not good portion of the acreage. Deadwooded 15 or so oranges, a start. Planted the mexican blue palm in the 24" box that had been hanging on waiting for the frost to abate. In chicken wire, to protect it from varmints.

Sold some stuff, sent some things to the right auction. Found the lost box of silver which got sent back to my hot little hands this morning.

Mother Hawk is nesting, saw two more high aloft in a new tree yesterday. Renée tells me that the ceanothus has started to bloom. Saw a bunch of my favorite people last weekend.

Had a wonderful lunch at Tekila today, the new Mexican restaurant in River Village where Fusion used to be. Had twenty four hour marinated barbacoa nestled in hand made corn tortillas with a wonderful homemade sauce. Delicious. Tasted the chef's mole. Superb. Manny the chef is from Guadalajara. Place rocks. Looking forward to a visit there with my crew.

Caught a great sunset from John C's new roost high in the hills of Vista. Has to be the nicest vantage I have ever seen in North County. Will be back with my rig. Vicky turned 62 yesterday and we went over to their digs. Everybody I know seems like they are in a really good space right now. Must be the weather.


Leslie and I went to the farmers market on Cedros on Sunday and stopped off at Lynne Merchant's shop. This is a picture of one of her shelves. She is such a talented and unique artist. Brilliant. The place is a visual feast. People need to go over there and buy her stuff. If you love Leslie's pearl earrings, Lynne made them. All four pairs.

Wild Bill told us that he is reading a fascinating book on anti - gravity. Said that he couldn't put it down.

Nancy brought her finnish spitz over to the gallery today. What a gorgeous dog!

I barricade myself in my office tomorrow. I need to find a file and clean the damn room. Might take several days and/or serious meds.

Helen has written a couple of interesting things of late. The case of the natty hangman and a story about the Buffalo Robes of her youth in Winnipeg.

Things feel like they are falling together a little bit in my life, I hope that you can say the same. Don't believe the nabobs, naysayers and eternal pessimists. It may all be going to shit but that doesn't mean that we can't smile, love and appreciate. Human life, still one of the best rides in the cosmos.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The drone of drone

© N. Dixon Fish

I got this letter today from my friend D up in Oregon, a vietnam vet:

Hey Robert:
How about the Air Farce awarding a Medal of Honor to a drone pilot sitting in an easy chair, Stateside in a bunker, for not taking a break in120 hours? And why wasn't he relieved? Hell-low!  His bravery is equal to charging a machine gun or falling on a grenade, right?
What about the newly proposed medal for drone pilots that will outrank the Air Medal (awarded for flying in a combat zone) and Bronze Star with "V", an award sometimes given to grunts and jarheads who performed under fire.
In the political arena it all makes sense.  The Pentagon and White House love the nefarious drone program for many reasons I won't go into, and the news is full of stories lately about the efforts by the Air Force to recruit drone pilots as well as tales of stress on the part of those joy stick twiddlers being equated to that of pilots whose lives are at risk.
I'm not making this crap up.  Check it out.  This makes a mockery of service and awards, and it insults every veteran of actual combat.
-Denis Wheary

Can't argue with him. Operating a joystick in some secluded base in Omaha certainly lacks a bit of the danger and derring do from back in the time when you might look for the "whites of their eyes" and actually face your opponent. Not exactly sporting, and wait until it's Americans right here at home that you are taking out. What you gonna do then, soldier? Guess that these drone jockeys are serious candidates for carpal tunnel and bursitis, can't underestimate the risk. Here's the link to the White House petition.

Ex Press Secretary Gibbs said this week that all talk of drones was off the table from early on in the Obama administration.

"When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, you're not even to acknowledge the drone program," Gibbs said on MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes" on Sunday. "You're not even to discuss that it exists."

All you loyal liberals that think that Obama should catch a break should look long at hard at his record on warrantless wiretapping and civil liberties. Yes, we live in a dangerous world but does that mean that it is okay to now wipe our ass with the constitution? It was written precisely for times like this. Never intended to be a document that is only applicable when convenient. That means that American citizens don't get killed unless they get a fair trial, unless of course they have a finger on a nuclear trigger about to do us all in and that goes for here at home too. And that doesn't happen too often.

Of course, the targeting and assassination of americans on our continent is now only hypothetical and speculative. But note that the Obama administration refuses to rule it out.

“I have not talked to him about this (the drone program), so I want to be careful," Gibbs said, "but I think what the president has seen is, our denial of the existence of the program when it’s obviously happening undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”

NBC got a copy of the white paper and released it recently. You can find a link to it here. Here is an interesting paragraph (emphasis added.)

"This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful; nor does it assess what might be required to render a lethal operation against a U.S. citizen lawful in other circumstances, including an operation against enemy forces on a traditional battlefield or an operation against a U.S. citizen who is not a senior operational leader of such forces."
Rich sent this:

Morning Robert - Just to let you know that this time the "libertarians" are not going to "give". No more "compromise" for the sake of appeasing socialist "feelings". Amusing that you've bought into the msm hysteria about the minuscule budget cuts aka the "sequester". Not that any of it really matters as we've already gone over the financial "cliff"/hit the iceberg.

I don't agree with him but that's neither here nor there. Conservative estimates were that it would take at least 1.8 to 2 billion dollars of new revenue to make the stimulus pencil out and offset the Bush era double whammy of tax cuts and two big new wars. We aren't even close.

John Boehner can cry and whimper about "no more revenue" but it's a tired old broken record. We've been through this before, John. Your boys are going to have to pony up. Radical cuts in public spending are a pipe dream. Laudable but very impractical at the moment and dare I say it not necessary. I have dreams  as well. Dreams of playing in the NBA. Ain't gonna happen.

Stoked that Elizabeth Warren made Bernanke uncomfortable today. Lot of our Treasury Department and SEC lawyers should be made to feel uncomfortable for the game of footsie they regularly engage in with their coconspirators and/or future employers.

What a wonderful world

Bruce turned me on to this.

Nitro Fuel

Be stoked!

I ran into my friend Brett Stokes at the coffee shop the other day. Brett is a very talented artist who has been my friend for over thirty years. We used to do signs and graphics together. In the last several years he has concentrated more on his fine art and paintings but I have always loved and had a soft spot for his commercial work. He is an excellent cartoonist, his work is tight and competent, he can work in a myriad of styles.

Brett was carrying this preliminary artwork for a guy's auto parts company when I saw him. It will have insane color effects when he is done with it.

If you need any artistic services, from signage to logo design, call Brett at 760-420-8656. He is talented, fast and very reasonable.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Prison blues

Queen Calafia

I sort of made an ass of myself at dinner. The sushi bar was loud and crowded when the author walked in, a noted feminist. I had talked to her about some artistic ideas I had for her new book cover. We had a table, her hubby was sitting at the bar.

My first cover idea was a woman with a hand mirror, looking over her left shoulder, espying her reflection, very stylized and graphic a la Ben Shahn. She was interested. I should have stopped there. In a loud voice I started ranting about my second idea, an amazon princess, breast bare, standing on her vanquished male foe, one foot firmly planted in his chest while she holds with bloody hand aloft, his torn off testes, held up to the heavens as a sacrifice to the goddess of the hunt.

She looked at me in horror and I noticed, with spittle starting to pool at the side of my mouth, that you could now hear a pin drop in the sushi bar as all eyes and ears were now paralyzed in rapt amazement at my outburst. Her expression was a mixture of "what a frigging idiot" and pitiful forbearance. She said that she couldn't believe that I just said that in public and quickly rejoined her husband.

Might not get the job.

Bill Landford and the Landfordaires

1943 version

Drone Wars

Red letter day today. It appears that the Iranians have taken down one of our drones. Not by missile, by overriding the navigation system. Can you imagine the portent if an opponent got a ballistic missile to reverse course and say, target Cleveland? Interesting times indeed...

Saturday, February 23, 2013


New Hendrix compilation album out very soon.

saturnalian stuff

Less of me and more of you is always good on the Blast. Love it when you send your photos and stuff in.

The accent mark is up in San Francisco seeing one of her brood and rented a house in this neighborhood. She sent this picture today of a house that she says both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin lived in on Fulton Street. Place still looks pretty psychedelic if you ask me.

I sent a very expensive box of silver to the Arts and Crafts conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C. Sent it out Thursday, USPS express, guaranteed no later than three o'clock today. Never showed up. My client is leaving the state tomorrow, if it ever does show up, they will be gone. I called up the USPS today but they were as worthless as tits on a boar. A civil service toadie from level two kept telling me to lower my voice in his best passive aggressive voice. Said that there must be a problem with my phone's audio. File a claim in your local post office, he tells me, which of course is closed until monday. Quite aggravating. Typical don't give a shit public servant. Once upon a time we could trust our public institutions. That bus has long left the barn.

R sent this picture from her recent trip to Cuba, this one is from Trinidad.

I don't have any desire to visit Cuba, not on my short list. Patagonia, Wyszkov, Poland to scout out the family shtetl, New Zealand, Thailand, Berlin, London, could always go back to Andalucia and maybe Portugal next time.

Would love to houseboat on Lake Powell, but need someone to join me that is mechanically handy since I am so deficient.

Ken had an aunt die in Dodge City, drove back and got caught in the storm. Holed up for several days at the Motel 6, should be getting home soon.

Had a great meeting with the Fallbrook Shutters this morning, my photo group. Good, creative bunch.

I don't need it but the new Nikon D7100 looks like just an amazing camera. 24.1mp, they got rid of the optical low pass filter and the pictures are supposedly incredibly sharp.

They have also stuck a better Expceed 3 sensor on the camera and a 51 point af system. Rockwell says best Nikon ever but he says that every time. Don't need it, can't afford it, would love to have it.

I can't justify throwing $1200 bucks away on a camera that I don't need at the moment but would recommend it to anyone looking for a great piece of gear.

Blast friend Mike Finnegan is playing with Bonnie Raitt tonight. Reardon saw them last week and said Mike tore it up. Unfortunately they are sold out. I waited too long.


KJ took this shot of Sheriff Joe in Phoenix. I believe that like most arizonans, KJ is a big fan.

KerryB loaned me the four disc Rhino compilation titled Where the action is, Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968. Great early stuff by some very cool Los Angeles Bands, Music Machine, Rising Sons, Sons of Adam, The Everpresent Fullness, The Garden Club and more. Great liner notes. Two of my friends play on this compilation, Bob Zinner's W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band with Hippy Elevator Operator and Larry Robinson's band Things to Come playing Come Alive featuring Russ Kunkel on drums.


Family Tree DNA reran its whole database with newer and more advanced tests and criteria. A few things changed. My buddy Stanley is back on top as the person sharing the most common DNA with me, a 25.03 longest block.

The table at right shows where our DNA matches. It still cracks me up that the guy that buys me the test turns out unwittingly to be my closest relative genetically. Amazing! Out of a hundred and nine full pages of relatives.

Family Tree is running a $39.00 Y dna 12 allele test. Not nearly enough but if you want to get your feet wet with genetic testing and you are a guy you might take a look.

Another Man Done Gone

slave song saturday

God's Gonna Cut You Down

vera hall

They cut him limb from limb.

They killed and removed another wonderful tree on Main Ave. yesterday. A ficus. I don't see how this one was causing anybody any problems or enough problems anyway to do the tree in. Heard it might have been interfering with the sewer at the pub. Easier to kill a tree then fix a sewer, probably some bean counter or hack attorney down on Ruffin Rd. put them up to the job.

The crashes were cacophonous yesterday as the old boughs came tumbling down into the street. Almost scary. The screams of the fallen branches intermingled with the rapacious sound of the chainsaws. The old spanish revival building behind used to once house the Packing House and was, according to local lore, once a bordello. The stories it could tell. Now it has lost both its shade and its longtime companion.

We have advocates for kids, elderly, pets, what have you. Not a lot of advocates for beautiful old trees. In the future maybe we can come up with a synthetic substitute for trees and cut them all down. Make things a lot neater.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Me listening for those voices, at the Large Visual Array - Magdalena, NM

Can any American not be totally embarrassed by the dysfunctional mess that is currently masquerading as our government? I don't care which side of the aisle you are on, it is time for the politicians to act professional, pull their big boy pants up and cut through the bullshit. Get something done.

Currently we have the usual suspects pointing fingers at each other over who is really to blame for the pending doom that is the sequester. Aren't you sick of the ever present blame game? We all act so pious in treating the other guy and other side as dastardly evildoers intent on bringing down civilization as we know it. Everybody is on their high horse. So sure of the purity of our motives. Get over it already.

With the country split fifty fifty, what we have going now is no way to run a country. Something has to give, we have to start listening to each other and compromising. Because the way it lays out now, nobody is going to get their way.  So divided, we can look forward to a dismal future pattern of temporary flips and power shifts, in which we get to vilify the other side for four years and we accomplish nothing as a nation in the interim.

It's a real bad marriage right now but we are going to have to stick it out and talk to each other civilly, at least until the kids are grown or we get hit by that comet, whichever comes first.

Having said that, on a strategic level, the Democrats would probably be smart to sit back and watch their opposition immolate themselves. The fear of the current mainstream republican at the moment is getting attacked by their own on the right flank and losing the next primary election. With dour conservatives like Mitch McConnell now getting pilloried as too moderate and establishment, there is in reality a little civil war going on in the GOP. Watch Rove get lambasted by the tea party. Watch him strike back. Very entertaining to a political junkie. As any cop will tell you, it's dangerous to get involved in a domestic dispute. Probably smarter to just sit back and watch them have it out.

Boehner and Rubio seem to be blaming Obama for not providing coverage from the cannibals in the Republican Party and for being insensitive to the plight and pressure they are under from the most extreme right. The reality is that it is not the president's job to referee the republicans and protect them from themselves.  The leadership needs to show that they can bring their membership together to make a deal, any deal. I am not sure that it can be done. There has not yet been enough political blood spilled in the street. Their street.

Of course now is the time that the skillful scholar and devotee of game theory would start considering his or her triangulation gambits. Like the Israelis' adept work with the House of Saud, all practiced under the cover of darkness.

I guess it all depends on what your motivation is. If it is about issues and principles and creating effective legislation or merely excoriating your enemies and keeping political power. Will be interesting.



Bernard Parmegiani: Jazzex (1966)

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Cactus before storm, Desert View, AZ © Kerry Vernon Johnson 2013
It has been snowing in Phoenix of all places and KJ and Jasmine have been out shooting. He sends these two pics over tonight.
Elephant Butte, Spur Cross, AZ © Kerry Vernon Johnson 2013

Self Portrait - © Kenneth Ray Seals 2013 - Dodge City Pizza Hut


Thursday Housekeeping

I went to jury duty this morning. Got dismissed. Not for any major character defect or anti social proclivity mind you, they simply didn't need jurors today. Did you know that only ten percent of Americans report to jury duty, one of two duties required of citizens, the other being the requirement to pay taxes?

It was a yawner. Hung out for a couple hours and read. Laughed with the blind dude selling sundries who used to be on Overland in San Diego. I bought a hard boiled egg and he felt my dollar bill and gave it the real once over. Lost several hours of my life but it makes the whole legal system work so why not? Although I have a suspicion that things might be better if we went to a system of educated, professional jury rather than a so called jury of our "peers."

Mostly older cross section of potential jurors answering the call. Rasta white guy reading some weed magazine. I read a pulp crime novel from the Black Mask series. Nodded off. Performed my civic duty. Good to go for another year.


They cut down the magnificent ficus tree across the street today. Didn't want the liability of the funky sidewalk, I guess. Shame, it was so pretty. Big hole in the view now.

I have had some interesting letters recently that I think that I can share. First regarding the Paul DeGaston matter, I got this email  the other day. From a different Eric, from the other family. My DeGaston stuff is getting disseminated online again for some unknown reason, I need to create a one stop page with all of the information or write a damn book. Because the skeletons in both closets were so incredible, I feel like I have had to tiptoe a bit and might leave the writing thing for a more daring sort. Anyway here is the letter. It doesn't necessarily make things any easier because I was sure that there was two men and now I have a family member attempting to confirm my earlier suspicions that it may have been one guy leading a double life after all. But the pictures didn't jibe. The coincidences in the lives of the two DeGaston's are so incredible, the women named Violet that appear in both stories, the whole thing is just almost impossible to process. A family member is coming to visit soon who has put a down payment on a couple prints, maybe we sort it out.

I asked if I could publish this and never got a reply so here goes. Nothing too dramatic:


I see that the internet has become somewhat interested in my grandfather.   I don't really know if I can be of any help,  since I never had a reason (during childhood) to organize family stories into any meaningful order in my head.   Since I was born in 1978 to a 49 year old father,  most of his life stories were of no relevance to my young experience so I didn't spend much time thinking about them. 
Comparing the blog/article you've written with what I remember hearing from my dad (now deceased) and other family members, I'm going to suggest that all of the people you've identified as Paul de Gaston are probably the same person,  as just about everything you've uncovered sounds like a story I've heard.   It would appear he played his life as a very elaborate game.    According to my father,  his dad was 'the' Hollywood abortionist of repute for handling casting couch pregnancies that might affect young starlets' careers,  and the reputations of those casting directors who couldn't wait until the girls were 18.  
He apparently made decent money,  as one family story involves him buying a brand new Packard limousine,  driving to pick up his young sons,  loading the new vehicle with dynamite and pick axes and other prospecting supplies and then driving off to mine for precious metals (I don't recall where exactly, somewhere North of Los Angeles, perhaps Antelope Valley) with no regard for the pristine condition or high value of the vehicle.    Perhaps that's the story the way my dad remembered it,  and not the way it really happened.    

Paul de Gaston's father (my great-grandfather)  was August Hugo Bach de Gaston (apparently went by Hugh Bach sometimes)  and his mother was Anna Hermann 
My father was Raoul Hugh de Gaston(1929-2005) and his brother was Paul Robert de Gaston, Junior (deceased  around 1980) - they were children of Paul de Gaston, Sr.'s second (?) wife Grace.      Paul de Gaston, Sr's first wife was named Violet,  and they supposedly had a son who was also named Paul Robert de Gaston, Jr. (Raoul's older half-brother) - supposedly killed in action during WWII - but Paul Robert de Gaston, Jr. (Raoul's older full brother, died of lung cancer ~1980) also married a woman named Violet (deceased aorund 2001?) - and they had a son named Robert (living in San Jose, CA) and a daughter, Catherine.
So I don't know if I can be of any service to you.   My dad died 8 years ago and circumstances prior to that didn't exactly lead us to the closest of family relationships.    I don't really have much interest in any of the above information or people,  nor am I in any sort of regular or irregular contact with any members of the family beyond my sister and mother (Raoul de Gaston's only wife)  - but I'm willing to help with whatever questions you may happen to have - and if you have none, that's OK too.       Attached is a photograph of Paul, Sr's son Raoul from around 1977 (and my mother and sister)
Eric de Gaston


I got another letter regarding my link to the new study analyzing proto languages that I found quite interesting and powerful.


After reading your last blog on the subject of languages and attempts by sophisticated programing to decipher sounds of protolanguages etc.  It reminded me of my encounter with "protolanguages" and I thought I should share this with you.

Several years ago while hiking in the Patagonia region of Chile I had a heart attack. Perhaps something that could have been handled more easily if I was at home and close to medical help.   As it was, and because of the remoteness of the area and the fact that no one (including myself) recognized the symptoms it took over 20 hours to get me to a clinic to the nearest city Punta Arenas located in the Strait of Magellan.  The only land beyond was the island of Tierra del Fuego and then the Antartic.

I was in critical condition with an effective ventricular ejection factor of about 18% ( normal is over 60%).  If I survived that first night at the clinic there was hope for recovery.  I clearly did survive and there was a dream I had that night  that maybe somehow had to do with the survival  and also how close I was at the edge of death...or maybe just on the other side of the edge.

The dream was in fact that I had a heart attack and I was in critical condition.  It was something I just knew but I could not say it or express it in any way  because language had not been invented yet, only a few words in english did exist and also few words in french but no way to connect these random words into a thought or a phrase, kind of a protolanguage or pre-language .  Since language did not exist then nothing existed.  I was consciously alive in an ancient past beyond the memory of mankind and before creation, all that existed was just BEING and nothing else.

Did I cross to the other side? Maybe, maybe not, but the dream has stayed with me all these years just as clear as that night.  When the morning
came I remember clearly understanding that I was back in the world where language exists, and it did feel a little strange to be alive.

If language does not exist, the world cannot be described, therefore the world does not exist.  (?)


I had a similar experience that I may have recounted once before regarding a post psilocybin dream where I seemed to contact a centuries old Cahuilla Indian tribe that existed outside of time. I can in no way reject the verity of E's experience. The Blue Heron Blast - Mining the holes in life's swiss cheese since that first 0range sunsh1ne trip in 1970. I looked around for the story and I must have pulled it. Bad for my image, I guess. Maybe I will give it to you one day over drinks at the Moose Lodge. There's a 40 year statute of limitations on these sorts of youthful indiscretion things, aren't there?


Got this from Hilo today. New Opening. Might be my secret Hilo correspondent in there somewhere but he hasn't been around the blog much lately. I'm betting top right. Am I right? Maybe it's the kid...
Hilo Fine Art Center is proud to present:
Jim Rhodes and Joe Hampton
Jim Rhodes is an artist and patron to artists. He has been deeply rooted in the Hilo art community for some time and is roundly admired and respected. He will be showing photos from his Green Chair series, along with various Found-object and Assembled sculptures. Jim knows a thing or two about 2x4's.

Joe Hampton - a Graphologist so you don't have to be - is a treasure. Entertaining and thought-provoking, his works display his play with words and their concepts. Joe knows a thing or two about typeface. He is also shy, so please, no sudden movements.

The gentlemen have collaborated on a number of projects over time, and are pleased to finally exhibit together. Presented for your enjoyment.

Opening reception, Friday, March 1, 5:00 to 7:00 PM  @HFAC.
Music provided by Isaac Nahaku'elua. Slack key guitar, taro patch style.

Exhibit dates, Friday, March 1 to Saturday, March 23.
Gallery hours, Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 to 6.

E Komo Mai!

Hilo Fine Art Center
224 Kamehameha Avenue, Suite 104 (entrance on Haili St.)
Downtown Hilo

Les Perhacs brought over some photos of his new sculptures. Incredible artist, Les. Student of Moholy Nage and Fuller, brilliant metalsmith. Been working on the chaos series for decades, top flight artist. Now at the Gerald Peters Gallery.

Lena sent the following link:

These photos are incredible.
Extraordinary Photos From LAURENT SCHWEBEL
Sad loss of this special photographer.
French photographer Laurent Schwebel, 52 years old, was stabbed and killed and his camera stolen while he was taking pictures in Buenos Aires.
A naturalist photographer, he was born in 1959 in the Alsace region of eastern France and killed on February 8, 2012, in Plaza San Martin, Retiro,
Buenos Aires. He worked as a geologist, naturalist and photographer guide of a French travel agency specializing in travel naturalists.

Great photographer. Tragic. I have a few more things to say today, totally off topic but they are somewhat political so I think that I will wait for another post. I know how so many of you hate it so.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Howard Tate - Ain't Nobody Home

Bill's trip

Wild Bill and his wife Meredith recently came back from Costa Rica with some lovely shots. There are many nice ones to choose from and I will post a few.

A sloth with an interesting and very wise looking punum.

A little frog whose poisonous venom could take out a whole mess of people in a few minutes. You might not want to lick this one.

Bill got several outstanding pictures of owls.

An eyelash viper, which also possesses a fatal poison and blends perfectly into the tree. By the time that you see it you are unfortunately quite dead.


If I may talk a bit more regarding technology, Jaron Lanier is right on the money, the machines are taking over and we are letting them have their way.

I was looking for of all things, a portable vaporizer yesterday. I did a few google searches last week for a vaporizer pen. Now my blast spam filter is getting hit with a minor deluge of spam from vaporizer companies with the word vaporizer in the content. But obvious spam. How are they getting directed to me exactly? Is Google selling the information? Has somebody figured out how to hack into the himinajiminy after Google strains my emails for keywords? I assure you that the spam onslaught is not merely coincidental.


It is amazing how fast we are moving forward with driverless cars. Soon they will be as omnipresent as drones in our skies. This blogger seems to have written on and researched the subject extensively.

I have one basic fear of the proposition of driverless cars. We are dealing with heavy mechanical devices whose parts eventually break. What happens if an axle was to snap or a tire blowout? Does the car deadstop, possibly creating a terrible hazard for others on the road? Does it know how to find a "safe" zone? This is when we hit a cognitive dystopia. No machine or computer can make the split second assessments, calculation and problem solving necessary when things careen off course due to unseen factors that will surely occur in real life. The problems always take place on the seams. Maybe the car could sectionalize and curl up into a rollypolly pillbug? Then if it got hit, you just might have to roll for a while but nobody gets hurt.

Unless we reroute the whole rail system and make it like Disney's Autopia, a master controlled system where speeds and traffic are seamlessly integrated and the passengers drink martinis or play internet scrabble on their smartphones while their steeds cavort in a jetson like pax de deux.

Only two accidents so far with the google fleet. One car was rear ended at a stop light and the other car was being piloted by a human while in manual mode.

Digging the new computer. While the retina resolution is great, it doesn't seem all that much better than the prior old Mac Book Pro version 4.1.1. But all the other features are so much tighter. Unibody, incredibly light, solid state speed, better keyboard, starts up instantly. It has been a pleasure. 13" ain't 15" but it is more portable and the only problem so far is getting the horizontal gesture to register so that I can see the whole width of a document. Bit balky in that regard.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

yo shawn

Shawn sent us a sunset from his home in Koh Samui, Thailand. He also sent a picture of some of the foliage in his bathroom. I took the liberty of playing with the color on that one. Hope that he doesn't mind.

California Sun

Smart Shit

An interesting story on virtual avatars and not allowing yourself to be run by the machines by the one and only Jaron Lanier. Become the Avatar!

"You have to hate technology in order to love it." Jaron Lanier

A very interesting story in Wired Magazine, How Google Retooled Android With Help From Your Brain. First Google taught its computers to recognize cats. A discussion of neural network algorithms and cognitive mapping.

Google’s software first tries to pick out the individual parts of speech — the different types of vowels and consonants that make up words. That’s one layer of the neural network. Then it uses that information to build more sophisticated guesses, each layer of these connections drives it closer to figuring out what’s being said.

Neural network algorithms can be used to analyze images too. “What you want to do is find little pieces of structure in the pixels, like for example like an edge in the image,” says Hinton. “You might have a layer of feature-detectors that detect things like little edges. And then once you’ve done that you have another layer of feature detectors that detect little combinations of edges like maybe corners. And once you’ve done that, you have another layer and so on.”

This type of network has always interested me, the potential for systems like voice recognition to self correct. This technology is getting better, faster and do I daresay, more human, whatever that means.

Dienekes posted a couple interesting stories recently. I don't have academic permission to get beyond the abstracts but conceptually they are thought provoking.

Automated reconstruction of proto-languages 
Automated reconstruction of ancient languages using probabilistic models of sound change 
Alexandre Bouchard-Côté et al.
One of the oldest problems in linguistics is reconstructing the words that appeared in the protolanguages from which modern languages evolved. Identifying the forms of these ancient languages makes it possible to evaluate proposals about the nature of language change and to draw inferences about human history. Protolanguages are typically reconstructed using a painstaking manual process known as the comparative method. We present a family of probabilistic models of sound change as well as algorithms for performing inference in these models. The resulting system automatically and accurately reconstructs protolanguages from modern languages. We apply this system to 637 Austronesian languages, providing an accurate, large-scale automatic reconstruction of a set of protolanguages. Over 85% of the system’s reconstructions are within one character of the manual reconstruction provided by a linguist specializing in Austronesian languages.

And on a similar line, Clustering Folk Tales. The etymology of folk tales and their relationship to population genetics, geographic distance and cluster. Like the old game of telephone, 700 variants of a tale in 31 distinct linguistic populations. And I assume that the authors can analyze and mathematically model the data variants and draw all kinds of interesting conclusions traveling through time and space.

Proc. R. Soc. B 7 April 2013 vol. 280 no. 1756
doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.3065

Population structure and cultural geography of a folktale in Europe 

Robert M. Ross et al.

Despite a burgeoning science of cultural evolution, relatively little work has focused on the population structure of human cultural variation. By contrast, studies in human population genetics use a suite of tools to quantify and analyse spatial and temporal patterns of genetic variation within and between populations. Human genetic diversity can be explained largely as a result of migration and drift giving rise to gradual genetic clines, together with some discontinuities arising from geographical and cultural barriers to gene flow. Here, we adapt theory and methods from population genetics to quantify the influence of geography and ethnolinguistic boundaries on the distribution of 700 variants of a folktale in 31 European ethnolinguistic populations. We find that geographical distance and ethnolinguistic affiliation exert significant independent effects on folktale diversity and that variation between populations supports a clustering concordant with European geography. This pattern of geographical clines and clusters parallels the pattern of human genetic diversity in Europe, although the effects of geographical distance and ethnolinguistic boundaries are stronger for folktales than genes. Our findings highlight the importance of geography and population boundaries in models of human cultural variation and point to key similarities and differences between evolutionary processes operating on human genes and culture. 

And using evolutionary-linguistic phylogenetic statistical methods to date Homeric epics.

And in a similar vein, the automatic language time machine from Berkeley, actually a rehash of the first.

Neil Freeman configuring fifty new states with equal populations.

A look to the future with predictive analytics.

United Nations calls Hormone Disrupters a global threat.

“These chemicals are what we call ‘pseudo persistent,” said Tracey Woodruff, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a report co-author. “They don’t stay in the environment long but people are exposed to them all the time so it’s the same effect as if they were persistent.”

Stoned fish get the munchies.

Avian clockwork

My hawk intuition must be pretty good. Yesterday I wrote that the hawks seemed to be scouting the nest again. Today this red tailed mother was in the nest when I drove through our narrow river canyon on my way to work. Soon she will be nestling her oeufs into the twiggy basket.

I believe that this is the fifth year in a row that I will get to take photographs of buteo jamaicensis and her future offspring. Last year we had three chicks, the year before two.

I have done a little reading on the red tailed. Most widespread raptor on the continent, range extends from the Yukon to Central America, highest density is in Puerto Rico, of all places. I think what amazes me the most is the wide color differentiation. Each one is its own unique jewel.

Hope I get some good pictures to share with you. Perhaps Doug will loan me his 400mm lens again if I am nice...