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Where is Los Gatos going?

It seems to me there has been this constant theme in Los Gatos town politics for the past several years that people who get paid by the town’s taxes to run the town government are doing a bunch of stuff that the town’s people don’t support. In doing so, more of the town’s tax money is being spent to rectify many the staff’s mis-steps.

I first got involved in all of this bureaucratic gobbley-gook when Gardino’s attempted to get permission to expand. I’ve never owned real estate nor have I had any kids, so the usual concerns people have that involve them in town politics, having homes and kids, have never really been one of my concerns. When I get involved it’s more like the idealistic crusader for some unrealistic, idealistic cause. I surely am not privy to the nuts and bolts workings of town government. However, since the era of Gardino’s expansion, nearly concurrent with the Netflix expansion (or the more politically correct the “Albright Project”) and the Ditto’s Lane brouha, I have kept an uneducated eye poised towards the local political workings.

I have chosen to live in Los Gatos because I want to be able to look over my shoulder and always catch some vista of the redwood spiked ridge line of the Santa Cruz mountains, darkly standing against the clear sky blue or the damp, foggy gray. I hate skyscraper canyons and suburban wastelands. I live in Los Gatos for its small town security and its quaint provincial attitudes. I want nothing to do with urban gangs and the urban plethora of abuses; child abuse, elder abuse, spousal abuse, animal abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, abuse of authority and abuse of self, etc. I want none of it. I live in Los Gatos for its attention to cleanliness, order and appearance. I want nothing to do with the squalor and indifference of urban/suburban America. I am proud of the Town of Los Gatos, and I am proud of the past efforts of my fellows to make this town something to be proud of.

Now, getting off my soap box, I do pay attention when someone wants to screw around with this town. In my teens and early twenties I traveled this Pacific Coast looking for another rural, agricultural valley to move to after the devil himself, San Jose’s City Manager, A. P. “Dutch” Hamann, steamrolled over hundreds of acres of farm communities to install tract houses by the thousands. These “tract houses” needed to service the workers of his forthcoming urban paradise (Note to the past, “it’s not much of a paradise!”). I searched the coastal ranges for a replacement of the Almaden Valley lifestyle but I never found it, it was just very special. In the end, I settled into the town next to the Almaden Valley, Los Gatos. Make no mistake, I am very tenacious about keeping this town as close to home as possible, a home which, for all its simplicity, had a life style, indeed, very much closer to paradise than anything else that I’ve seen for a long time.

So, when I heard of the possibility of a five story building being built in the town limits (a building, which, if I got the info correctly, may have been designed with only five actual floors but which really would have stood as high as any common eight story building), I looked into the details of it. When high-density housing was proposed to be installed in an inappropriate location, I checked it out as well. I heard many other people making objections to these projects. I listened to critics and supporters and decided if I were to take any sort of action on such issues, no matter how inconsequential my action might be, I should educate myself enough so as to make sensible, informed decisions.

I certainly don’t have all the details, but it seems to me that the way this town manager sort of government works, in the simplest terms, is something like this; the people of town elect a town council. The council hires a town manager. The manager hires a staff to help him run the town. The council tells the manager what the Council wants to get done for town and he assigns his staff members to make it happen. The council cannot direct any of the staffers, only the manager can do that. The council can only direct the manager. As I understand it, in Leos Gates, the Council can only talk to the Town Manager and the Town Attorney.

Drawing from this understanding, it looks to me that the town is run by an entity, basically a business, who is buying and selling town resources. The only connection between the town residents and this business is the interface between the Town Manager and the Town Council. The staff of the town government seem to have no responsibility to the town’s people or to the Town Council, only to the manager. In days gone by, many of the town staffers not only worked in Los Gatos, but lived here as well. Perhaps in those days, accountability and responsibility by staff was more a function of social pressures than legal ones.

I remember reading in the Los Gatos Weekly that the Netflix/Albright deal proceeded for eighteen months with no one outside of the Town Staff knowing anything at all about it. From what I can find out, the Town Council never directed the Town Manager to explore such a project. Isn’t this simply the greatest of hubris or am I reading it wrong? On top of that, by the time this project was put before the Planning Commission, the staff or the developer had invoked some sort of “Planned Development Zoning” which allowed the project to bypass the Town’s General Plan which was written by the people of Los Gatos, forbidding projects from building as high as the developer wanted. It strikes me that this exceeds hubris and is just seems down and dirty. It’s not like the people of LG don’t know what they want and and leave things vague, no, they specifically said they don’t want buildings that high in their town and staff simply side stepped that limit. It would seem to me that someone in the staff should have gotten their hands slapped by the council or someone for taking too much initiative. Well, that didn’t happen, not by the Council anyway, but by an ad hoc group that stopped the project with a lawsuit which cost the people of the town even more in resources on a questionable project.

There are people in town who have a much greater grasp of all this who have listed many such instances where the Town Staff has headed off in their own direction and end up with more questionable efforts derailed by public opinion and loss of town resources, for no good reason. It also seems to me that the will of the people of Los Gatos is known, but staff simply refuses to acknowledge it. Not that the will of 30,000 people is unanimous, but even minority voices should be acknowledged.

A few years ago, several people approached me and asked if I’d help establish a volunteer phone directory of people and places in Los Gatos. The cell phone industry has fragmented and diversified phone companies and their directories so that no one directory has all the numbers. This group had the idea of slowly building one “all inclusive directory” just for Los Gatos. Inclusion in this home grown directory was strictly on a volunteer basis for both businesses and individuals. The building and maintenance of the directory would also be on a strictly volunteer basis. There would be no cost to town, it was strictly a community service. I called a community relations person on the town staff and she wouldn’t listen to more than two sentences when she said “People can google for numbers. The town would not waste the money,” and hung up on me. Well, not true, there is still no central place to find individual’s numbers. So, I ask again, how interested is the town’s staff in the town’s people, not simply its resources that can be bought and sold?

Many times, watching Town Council meetings, I’ve heard numerous residents complain about how unresponsive and insular town staff is. Boy, did I just get a good dose of that. I don’t know enough about town politics to make any credible suggestions as to how to rectify things but I do know one thing, if I had a choice between a business running town that doesn’t seem to care much about residents or a business running town that does care about residents, I’d sure choose the one that does care. But, you know what? There is no choice. We are stuck with what we have. Perhaps, one first step would be for staff to take the town’s people more seriously and at least listen to ideas and comments, and to take them seriously, much more seriously, before we see more overcrowded Council meetings and law suits burden all of the town’s workings and good will.

I am certainly no “know it all” about such things as government. I do, however, like to think of myself as intelligent and well considered. If anyone would like to educate me further on how the town is supposed to operate, I welcome such an education. If I’ve got it wrong, I’d like to make it right. However, if one’s values are simply different from mine, well, I’ll consider a discussion about what is good and what is bad for you, and differently, for me, but only as long as such discussions remain calm, rational and reasonable. I refuse to participate in emotional, dramatic, sword swinging arguments. Such things as that, I walk away from.

The phone call I made to the community relations staffer who told me to google for phone numbers, her reaction did not kill the idea for the Los Gatos phone directory. That idea, and a few more, have moved forward and have been developed to the point where we are now proud to preview the Los Gatos Art Bridge web site including its blog, book, listings of people and places, past events, current events and a lot of tall tales about our town.

Check it out at

lgartbridge.com

and let us know what you think.

A Hint About This Blog Site

If you are following this blog and get an email every time I post something, I have a suggestion, don’t spend much time on the email version and just go to http://www.lgartbridge.wordpress.com and deal with the same layout and pictures that I do.  This is the page that I am working from as I build each blog post.  While I am primarily a writer, I have spent most of my life in publishing or the graphic arts, and the appearance of my pages is pretty important to me.  This WordPress site that I use to build and manage my posts has a number of limitations and restrictions which I have learned to work around, to get as close to the page appearance that I am looking, as I can.

However, the emails that WordPress sends out to my “followers” (those who choose to follow the blog and receive the automated emails)  after I publish each post, look wholly different from anything that I see as I am building the post.  Often times, instructions regarding picture placement, line spacing, text enhancements (color, italics, etc.) are not adhered to in the emails and they tend to have a cluttered and utilitarian look.  Far too often, entire pictures are simply deleted.  I am continuously dissatisfied with their appearance and inconsistency.

As I build each post, I am continually referring to the image that is on the site, not the email.  It is very disappointing to look at the emails and see how much of my effort is wasted.

Also, admittedly, I can’t always find anyone to proof read for me as soon as I might like.  With the emails, my typos are etched in stone, so to speak, unchangeable, but on the site, I can update it as often as I like, or need to.

Obviously, read whichever you like but I thought I’d make you aware of the differences.

Thanks,

`Ed

“Tears of Joy,” Sought and Found, Musically

Today’s posting has nothing to do with me. It’s a series of ingenious videos connecting people and music and their purpose is to inspire the viewer to joy. If anyone can watch all four of these and not shed one tear of joy, you are being judged as a really, really hard case.

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This first one takes place in Barcelona. Nothing more need be said, just click on it —

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg

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The next one could use a few comments as it inspiration is derived from some very subtle elements. As any artist/technician in time based art knows, be it in music or film, editing these mediums is very, very tricky. In this video, a variety of Rita Hayworth 1940-50 movie clips are synced to the music of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin Alive,” a song written some 30 or so years after the Hayworth movies were filmed.

Take a casual glance at this video and you call it cute. However, with a more discerning eye, you can see that in some spots, Hayworth’s lips are almost in sync with the words of the music. I had to watch this thing a dozen times to eek out some very subtle but awesome synchronization. As one of my friends commented, whoever did this, had WAY too much time on his/her hands. I’m still glad they did it, though.

Things to look for:

When she is singing in front of a band with the drums in front, she is wearing a bold, black and white gown with a trailer. When the music of Stayin Alive has a cymbal strike, Hayworth flicks the drum’s cymbals with the gown’s extra fabric.

When there is a repeated yell in Stayin Alive, you will find Hayworth yelling on the screen.

When they sing “looking the other way” someone on screen is turning their head

There is a line “You can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man” and when it is sung, the screen has very strident leg movements

When the refrain “ha-ha-ha-ha” is sung, these editors found clips where the movement is nearly perfectly synced to the Bee Gees refrain.

When the words of the song use the word “kick” there is a kick on the screen.

The words of the song mention “somebody help me” and on the screen is a dancer acting out being a drunk sliding down a lamp post.

And at the ending, they don’t simply fade to black, but the dancers exit, stage left.

There are many other synchronizations between the music and the screen but find them for yourself.

The art in this one is not so much in the dancing, or the corny disco song, it IS the editing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=mz3CPzdCDws

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As I abhor commercial television, I put this video in position three as, I hope, the previous two videos will establish some sound credibility for this posting.  This is from the world of commercial TV, I do find it inspiring, and I hope other snobs like me will at least give it a chance. It makes fun of snobs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxPZh4AnWyk&feature=youtu.be

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My friend Patrick McCarthy turned me on to these videos, all but the Rita Hayworth which was forwarded to me by designer Gene Faucher, who got it from his wife, Laura. This last video is a sort of a joyous display by students of Pat’s alma mater, Ohio State University. With thanks to Pat, I include this one. Thanks to Gene as well.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDNOB6TnHSI

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Just a Little Walk Down Memory Lane, Techy Style (illustrated)

1966 was the year I graduated from high school and started a quick career at San Jose State College. Like all well intentioned, middle class college students of that time, I looked for a good, part time job to make college life just a little bit easier. To find such a job, I’d meander over to the “placement” office just a block east of the new student union a couple of times a day. The recipe cards that they posted with job descriptions would be updated every few hours. In those days, computers were only huge mainframes for the military or large insurance companies. No one had even thought of anything in the slightest way close to a “personal” computer of today. Records were kept on note cards and lined paper in three ring binders, those in endless file cabinets.

One lucky day, I found a card where someone needed a “test subject.” There had been rumors floating around the campus that some special companies were paying guys to take acid (LSD) as test subjects. This little job card I held was intriguing, hmmm, “test subject?”

I got the job at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) on Ravenswood Avenue in Menlo Park, California. Being a provincial farm boy, every thing out in the urban reality was new and interesting, but SRI was just sort of strange from the very start, a little strange to everyone. I was told to report to the main reception area to get an interview. It was a new and modern style building but as you walked down one the hall of its joining wings with a glass wall, outside you could see other buildings that were rusted Quonset huts, small pre-fabbed ammo sheds and all sorts of weird, dismantled equipment piled in stacks all over the place, rising about a tall man’s head high. And like the one I was in, there were new, modern buildings strewn in between. It had a strange, disoriented, juxtaposed feel about it. But that made it interesting. I was anxious to find out what this place was all about.

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SRI front sign

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SRI entranceThis is the first SRI building I ever set foot in

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other subjects at SRIHere are some SRI test subjects.  Luckily,

my test environment was much less ridiculous

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The woman who was walking me through this maze was attractive, well spoken, while she wasn’t in a rigid uniform or anything like that, she wasn’t dressed informally. She was a very comfortable and friendly person who had a really nice smile which made me like her right from the start. Back in those days, I would have called her middle aged, probably in her early to mid 30s. Her name was Carole and, eventually, we became very good friends.

Carole worked for Ph.D doctors who were very specialized and taught eye doctors at Berkeley and Stanford and the medical center up in San Francisco. They were doing “pure research” which didn’t mean a thing to me at the time except that it made me think of atom bombs. The test they were talking about was pretty much nothing. They shot a beam of light into your eye that reflected back off of your retina and they measured this light with computer equipment. She showed me one of the three rooms where they ran the tests. Carole didn’t realized that I’d been playing with radios and movies camera since I was a little kid. My dad was a superlative tinkerer and tore every mechanical/electrical thing he found down to its smallest components. I was the one who read up on these machines and tried to put them back together. I got my amateur radio operator’s license when I was eleven when I was starting to build radios. The fathers of many of my new school mates worked at the new IBM plant out on Cottle Road near Monterey Highway. They were always taking us to the “Plant” to show off their new stuff but, because of my radio background, I was about the only one that had any idea what they were talking about.

When Carole showed me the first of the three labs that we were using, I thought I died and went to high tech heaven. In the center of an incredibly cluttered room with no windows, was a Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) PDP-8 mini computer, about the same size as a refrigerator. To the side of it was a large lab table that had so much specialized junk on it and proto-typing aluminum that you really couldn’t make out any one thing anywhere on it. In fact, the same goodies were spilling onto the floor. There were dollys and smaller lab tables all about the rest of the large room, but there was little order to any of it. There were stands of tiny lights tacked to the walls in no particular configuration. As with so much basic sorts of electronic operations, everything looked a mess and very haywire, but, in the end, I found that, indeed, there really was some order to this jumble, somewhere in there.

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pdp_81This is a PDP-8, in between its tape unit and

the teletype machine that was its input device

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This wasn’t some IBM demo computer, with all the cables hidden under the floor, the line printer discreetly stowed in a sound box with a smoked glass window, with everything wiped clean and shiny, the floors vacuumed and no stray papers or garbage to be seen anywhere. Of course there would have been the ever present IBM reminder sign over the keyboard desk, bearing only one word, “THIINK.” No-sir-eeeee, this was a down and dirty work lab, complete with it’s own brand new wonder, the modern “mini-computer,” hot off the press. I couldn’t have imagined an even more perfect job offer. Carole couldn’t pull me out of the room until she told me she was going to show me the other two labs. I was chattering like a chipmunk.

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IBM Think signThe line under word reads “Compliments of IBM Corporation

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Of course, I took the job. Besides all the techy stuff, they were going to pay me eight dollars an hour, this was when the minimum wage was like a dollar and a half or so. How could I lose? I was the luckiest hot dog in the whole world.

To keep this as short and sweet as I possibly can (spoil sports!), these guys were doing the base level research for the heads up display . . . and what’s a “heads up” display you ask? When you hear someone talk about how a pilot’s guns will follow his eyes, the guns will automatically aim at what he is looking at, the pilot is wearing a heads up display. There were three ophthalmologists who were world famous experts in their eye ball specialties, Carole, the project’s administrator, a programmer who was closer to my age and then me, the test-subject and all around gopher. This was “the team.” A younger version of these eyeballs were used to design and build the first heads up display. You see, the doctors kept telling me that it was pure research because I used to take time off work to protest the Viet Nam war. The docs didn’t want me to get a bee in my bonnet and refuse to work on a war machine. The programmer guy told them they were silly and he told me what the research was really for. Carole almost fired him for that.

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Integrated_Helmet_Display_Sight_SystemThis helmet actually has a much more complicated name,

but it is what I’m call a “heads up display” here

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This was a really cool bunch of people to work with. They were all pretty much free spirits, to some degree or another. One of the docs had a brand new 429 Cobra, and occasionally, he’d let me drive it, on the El Camino Real in Menlo Park, where you could never go much faster than 15 miles an hour for the lousy traffic. I don’t remember all their names, just Carole, but the one who owned the Cobra told me, once that he had a friend whose wife was always trying to commit suicide but never succeeded. Well, one time when the husband went on a business trip, she sent the kids to her mother’s, cleaned the house, got everything nice and tidy and in good order, then took a bottle of sleeping pills. Apparently, her body was accustomed to these overdoses so that she didn’t die, but her blood pressure dropped really low. During her sleep, one leg crossed over the other. With such low blood pressure, the top leg cut off the circulation to the other. She didn’t lose her life, but she lost her leg to gangrene. This has nothing to do with heads up displays but every time I think of the guy with the Cobra, that story just pops right into my head, all by itself.

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427 Cobra 2

Cobra

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The “tests” that they needed me for weren’t what we all think of in terms of tests, like at school or at the DMV. What they were doing was beaming a very thin beam of infra-red light into my eye. The light would go into the eyeball, through the pupil, hit the retina and reflect back out. Think of a cat’s eye at night. When the exiting light came through the cornea, eye’s lens. The the beam would get refracted by each surface of the lens. The refracted light would splay out in different directions. It was this “splayed” faint little refractions of light that the doctors were interested it. They had infra-red sensors all around the front of my head to catch and measure these tiny bits of light. The sensors would feed information to the mini-computer. The strings of tiny red lights on the wall weren’t at all random, they were the targets they had me look at while they made reading of the light sensors. Each light on the wall would correspond to the readings from the sensors for that light’s position.

Slowly, painfully slowly, they built up a database from which they could predict what I was looking at from a certain set of sensor readings. This was just a very rough beginning of the development of the heads up display.

All of this was first time stuff, no one had ever tried any of this before. The doctors were always adjusting the hardware, the programmer was always tweaking the software. At times I would go for entire weeks without having to get in the rig that held my head in the exact same position every time they need to put the red beam into my eye. During such times, I would do little chores for Carole. And if she didn’t have anything, I got to do my favorite thing at this SRI job, I’d get together with the programmer. Boy, did I get an education you could never get in a class room.

In these days you input data into a computer with a keyboard, but not directly. On IBM machines, you would sit at a keyboard and type, but your keystrokes didn’t go directly to the computer. They were used by an intermediate machine that would punch a hole in an IBM card at a special position on the card reserved for the letter you just hit on the keyboard. Once you hit so many characters, another blank card would be delivered to punching station in the “key-punch” machine for the next set of characters to be typed. A single document might need hundreds of cards and they had to stay in exactly the right order or the whole thing was useless. The card stack would be hand carried to a “card reader” plugged into the computer. Here, the card reader’s light sensors would tell the computer where the holes were on the cards, the holes corresponding to keys on the keyboard. The early days of computers were very, very mechanical.

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IBM punch card

IBM Punch Card

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300-keypunch-machine

IBM Punch Card Machine

Unlike the IBM world, our DEC machine used old, World War II style teletype machines for human interfacing. These guys would record their keystrokes on a paper tape strip. The teletype machines looked like old style, mechanical typewriters on steroids, with the same sort of keyboard but with a whole bunch more wires and rods and little metal plates adorning the back area behind the keyboard. When you struck one of these keys, the letter would be struck onto the paper in front of you so you could read it, like normal, just as with a typewriter, but its special series of holes would be punched into the paper tape mechanism on the right hand side of the machine. The tape was about 3/4 of an inch wide, and for some unknown reason, it was nearly always a dull yellow. Unlike the IBM system, the same machine was used to write (as in “punch) and read the paper tape.

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teletype machine 1A standard Teletype machine of the day

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I, personally, much preferred the paper tape systems as the document would be on a single, long continuous spool of tape, where as the card system continually left you susceptible to losing cards or getting them out of order, which ruined the document. God forbid you should ever trip and spill your box of cards.

At SRI, we had an entire office dedicated to storage of the little spools of yellow paper tape. There was a whole variety of clear, plastic boxes designed solely for the purpose of cleanly and efficiently storing paper tape spools. These boxes were just deep enough to hold the tape spools and would be divided into any number of square compartments about two inches square. We would label the boxes for the topic of its contents on the front edge and on top would be labels identifying the individual documents each spool held. This dedicated office was nothing but a series of narrow shelves holding these clear plastic boxes. It was almost dizzying for its uniformly repeating little shelves on every wall, from floor to ceiling. Carolyn called it “the library.” This entire library probably held about a tenth of what an old 5.25 inch floppy disk holds. But, after all, this was just the beginning.

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teletype paper tape

Teletype Paper Tape

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There was one more rustic and odd little device used to communicate with the computer, it was called an “acoustic modem.” The thing was, these things weren’t used to communicate with people, they were used when you needed one computer to talk to another computer. They were generally little metal or plastic boxes about a foot long, half a foot wide and several inches thick and almost always with a slightly arched top with two large, spongy doughnuts near each end of the top. In the day when all telephones had a wire hooked to them which came from the wall, the telephone itself a two piece device, the phone itself and the handset. The handset was the thing with a coiled cord and you held to you mouth and ear, to talk and listen. To use the modem, the mouth piece and the earpiece of the handset would be pushed into the doughnuts on top of the modem. A series of indiscernible high pitched tones would be generated by the modem as instructed by the computer. This was the computer’s audible “speech” and it would travel over the phone lines for the other computer to hear. The remote computer, attached to a similar modem, as well. The remote computer would instruct its modem to make an answering series of tones for the local computer, the modem acting as the local computer’s ears.

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acoustic modem

A 300 baud Acoustic Modem in use

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The speed at which the two computers communicated over acoustic modems was achingly slow, about a GAzillion times slower that how computers communicate today. When our programmer had to modify any of our really large programs, he and I would work for a couple of days cutting and pasting pieces of the paper tape together to form a really long strip of punched paper tape. We’d spool it up and put its beginning into the tape reader/writer on the teletype machine. We’d dial up a remote computer at TymeShare Corporation who sold us mainframe time at their remote facilities. When the remote computer gave us the proper signal, we’d jam the phone handset into the foam rubber doughnuts and make sure the computers began talking to one another. With the really long programs, we’d do this on Friday afternoon and the paper tape could sometimes be still feeding into the teletype machine on Monday morning, so slow was the modem’s communication rate.

While I have a million stories about the year I spent at SRI, I’m finding that people don’t like hearing them all at once. Enough for now, except for the simple set of rules that the young programmer there imparted to me that I’ve adhered to throughout my entire life: be a consultant, don’t ever work as an employee of a computer company, don’t ever do work that directly involves the end user and lastly, never be forced into a cubicle.

I do believe that anyone who knows me halfway well, would agree that these three simple rules suit me perfectly. They haven’t made me rich but they have kept me as sane as I can be.

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P.S.:

 

punch card wreathOld IBM punch cards were recycled in many imagenitive ways,

such the Christmas wreath here.

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modern think

This is the IBM “Think” sign, modernized

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What do bagpipes and books have in common? The Library’s First Anniversary

 

If you don’t know, this week is the first anniversary of the new Los Gatos library. The Library is holding a series of happenings over there to celebrate this first year of its existence. The event I’m going to point out specifically is on Friday, February 15 at 3:30 p.m. At that time the Library will be presenting Richard Katz and his bag bagpipes. Richard has been banging his drums and piping his bagpipes for a very long time here in town. While the drums have grown quiet lately, his bagpipes can often be heard in C.B. Hannegan’s patio or at various musical venues and events all around town.

While Richard tells me that nearly every culture has devised some sort of bag bagpipes over the centuries, the bag bagpipes we consider as fairly familiar are called the Scottish Highland bagpipes. When the British Empire was expanding to the four corners of the world, the regiments of British soldiers would take their Scottish bag bagpipes with them, making this mysterious, high pitched, droning music from the land of rocky highlands and cool, stoney pastures widely known.

However, Richard will also be playing the Irish Uilleann bagpipes, which he says are a bit more versatile and complicated. The interesting thing about these bagpipes is that you don’t blow into them, as one would with most wind instruments. These bagpipes are driven by a small bellows placed between the elbow and ribs. These bagpipes can play over several octaves instead of just the one of the Scottish bagpipes. While the Scottish bagpipes are popular the world over, the Irish bagpipes almost became extinct. With the successful world tour of the Irish dance troupe, “Riverdance,” the Irish bagpipes saw a healthy and long lasting resurgence.

Don’t miss Richard’s unique music and his tales of the bagpipes this Friday, at 3:30, upstairs at the year old library. (Richard’s web site is located at rkatz2552@aol.com)

 

 Richard Katz, with the Scottish Pipes

Town Antics Today (final)

This post isn’t about any story from my vast and voluminous memory banks (or, as some call them, my endless ramblings) or some solitary controversy here in town.  This will be like a “cleaning house day,” just a few comments about a small variety of dust bunnies bouncing around the locale.

First and foremost,

I went to the special council meeting last night about Templar Armaments.  The Council chambers was filled, the lobby was filled and the crowd spilled up the stairs in front.  This was just as I suspected.  And, I suspected, for all of the bubbling and brewing controversy this topic was raised for a very good while, there was going to be some hot and heavy debating, some good ole’ down home boisterousness.  Hell, you never know, maybe someone would get hit over the head with a cardboard sign.  You just never know.

When I was in high school, every night you would see some protest about the Viet Nam war on the television news.  In those early days, I figured that all the adults were right and the protestors were just making trouble or they were “commies,” or communists, for the younger reader.  But, even before I left high school I felt there was something fishy about these news reports.  There were too many repeated phrases, too many pat answers and it got where I wasn’t trusting the news anymore.  And to support this, slowly there came to be a divergence in the news; ABC, CBS and NBC pretty much gave you the same story, but you would get a different take on things when you listened to foreign news or PBS, there might be an entirely different take on events.  When I got to college, I truly was a skeptic.  Whenever a war protest would be scheduled, I’d make sure to be there, but only as an observer.  I would watch what actually happened and then I’d scour the various news media to see who got it the most right and the most wrong.    In this way I could be more confident about who I trusted when I needed to be informed about the world.  Almost always, I was an observer, not a participant.   A few years ago I heard some guy who used to be a big-time protestor being interviewed.   I wasn’t paying any attention the interview, it was just someone’s background noise.  At one point, though, he said something that tuned me right in, like a sulking eagle cocking his head to give his eye a truer view, he said we were the generation who was lied to.  Boy, did he get that right, in spades!!

So last night I went to the Templar meeting, once again as an observer and what I observed was not what I expected.   There was no hair mussed up by a sign attack, no fist pounding, no raised voices or angry shouting.  It was very tense in there, the air taught and expectant, the audience intently listening and still, but, damn, everyone kept their cool.  I stayed through the 9:00 o’clock break which was prefaced by Mayor Spector’s observation (I paraphrase, of course), “Thank you for being good 90 percent of the time during this important meeting.  It’s 90 percent appreciated.”  The 10 percent she was referring to was a few outbursts of applause but nothing at all nasty occurred.  There were about a hundred people left to speak at the podium when I left but I trusted that no one was going to break the tone or the spirit of a good night.

I take my hat off and with a slow, sweeping bow (you know, like the three musketeers. who all had long hair) I congratulate my neighbors and friends as generously as possible for keeping their calm and their senses and their fine decorum in such a divisive and emotionally charged environment.  I was so very proud of this special little town.  Damn, it was impressive.  I bet our towns people disappointed the TV cameramen.

Secondly,

As I’ve appointed myself “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” of my self created Los Gatos Art Bridge, I guess I should keep the guys turned on to what art stuff that is happening around town.  This sounds like a pretty good one.  There is an outfit called the Veterans Memorial and Support Foundation who want to build a veterans memorial here in town.  The Los Gatos Weekly has a listing today in the Briefs column on page 5 for a meeting of artists of various disciplines (artists, sculptors and landscape architects) to get together and discuss possibilities for such a memorial.  It will be held in the Town Council chambers (110 East Main) at 3:00 on February 11.  RSVP by calling Jackie Rose at 408-354-6853.  C’mon guys, get creative, show ’em what you’ve got.

Next,

I was once the production manager of the old Los Gatos Times-Observer and I know well what it takes to put out a newspaper.  So, there was a strong dose of serendipity when I read a letter-to-the-editor today in the Weekly from Larry Arzi.  His letter was critical of the way town staff proceed on obviously controversial matters without consulting the town council or the public.   I’m certainly no sort of a political person, but I have noticed this tendency with the staff myself.  As I read Larry’s letter, my suspicions were confirmed regarding a variety of projects.  Last night, at the Council meeting , a number of people got up to the podium and made this same observation as they spoke to the Council.  Someone asked if Los Gatos was just a way station for civil bureaucrats, making decisions motivated more on what makes their resumes look good instead of following the wishes of the people who are paying their salaries, the people of Los Gatos.  I knew that Larry had to have written his letter probably more than a week ago, for the way newspapers process these sorts of items.   I felt this observation is becoming thematic, not simply a quirky, one time awareness.  This observation is coming from too many different directions, from too many different people.   Not being a political guy, how do you go about fixing this.

Enough for now, more later.

`Ed

Be Careful What You Wish for

(This is for those friends of mine who don’t know how read prose and complain about my stuff being too long.  This isn’t very long, in fact for me it’s like telling a joke (after all, Tolstoy is my hero), and there are plenty of pictures.  Enjoy!)

I had several friends who I knew before I started kindergarten and who I stayed friends with well past my college days. One of these guys was Mark. And the thing was, these few guys were like “peripheral” people, not like mainstream people. None us ever got interested in spectator sports, we were all raised on the Almaden farms, none of us ever pursued wealth, but we were all considered “bright and intelligent” and all of us were goal driven, if even to extremes.

One of these guys had an idea for a “self correcting” golf putter in the middle of his college career and 40 years later he is still, actively, refining its design, and he has never sold one single unit. I always wanted to be a writer, and I read everything under the sun, and I finally started self publishing my first book just before the Christmas of 2011. It takes me a while to get revved up. But our concern here is with Mark, a guy born with a lust for the south seas.

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islander32_putter

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When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to bring the U.S. into World War II (and I don’t mean eleven*) Mark’s mom was a Navy nurse right there at Pearl Harbor itself. She saw the bombs drop on the battleships and she heard the strafing machine guns. While this was happening in Hawaii, Mark’s father was surveying the islands of Micronesia, in the South Pacific. The American government grabbed up all of its nationals all over the Pacific and sent them to Pearl Harbor for their safety. Plus, the government needed lots of talents and skills to implement the war. They had Mark’s dad to go back to the South Seas and survey and direct the building of air strips. And thus he met and married the Navy nurse and Mark was born with a lust for the South Seas from the very start.

As we grew up in our very close and closed little community in Almaden Valley, Mark’s parents were the peculiar and nutty couple who were just way too interested in art, progressiveness, intellectualism and, be it known, the South Seas. Pa nearly always wore a light weight, flimsy, flowered Hawaii shirt about which the farmers, in their khaki or levis blue work clothes and the ever present baseball caps, would constantly tease the world traveler. Ma was an opinionated house wife/ artist who was always making reference to Gourmet Magazine, the New Yorker or National Geographics. Of all of my second sets of parents in the Valley, this was my favorite. Ma was constantly encouraging any of my artistic efforts, unlike my actual Ma, who constantly discouraged such efforts.

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When we reached the age of fifteen or sixteen, Mark took all of the money he had saved from “cutting cots” (hand processing of apricots), picking prunes (exactly what it sounds like) and whatever other we got payed for during harvest and bought the fiberglass hull of a South Seas sailing boat. (We didn’t get anything for plowing the fields or tending to the irrigation, those sorts of things were a “privilege” for us kids, we wanted to drive the tractors and pull the plows, so we were allowed to do these things. Why pay the kids to do things they wanted to do and purposely asked to do? Paying them would be dumb when they wanted to do it anyway.) Anyway, the hull was that of a 32 foot long “Islander” sailboat, with a keel and no deck.

The big, white hull was delivered on a huge 18 wheeler Mack truck towing a monstrous fork lift. The coven of high school boys bustling around the boat on the trailer were just giggling with wide eyes and unbelieving awe. How ridiculous, to have this huge, plastic dinosaur in the middle of a prune orchard, next to ram-shackle shed that was in the slow process of caving in on itself. The hull’s landing place was just outside the ring of shade trees next to this shed. It was held up in a simple cradle of pine planks with its criss-crossing reinforcing supports in such harsh contrast to the smooth lines of the hull.

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Islander32_out of water

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This vista, from the road in front of the “homestead” truly was ridiculous. For the span of years that the boat sat on that cradle, for the many times I had helped bond lead in the keel, mate the deck to the hull, mount the mast and stretch its rigging tight, for all that familiarity with the boat, every time anyone drove past the cluster of trees, the presence of the boat would jump out at you and make you take your foot off the gas. The inconsistency, the improbability, the “un-properness” of having a fully rigged sail boat in this quaint little valley under the mountains, in a fruit bearing orchard, its vista always broke whatever train of thought you had going on in your head. It always made me smile; what audacity, no, what naivety! When we could, we did whatever we wanted, in our orchards and in our fields.

Obviously, Mark worked on the boat in the orchard for years. Me and the guys were always on hand to provide aid whenever Mark needed it but no one took it on as a steady project, it just required too much commitment. Mark had put a deposit on docking slip at a small boat harbor in Waikiki, which had a five year waiting list. His slip became available and Mark sent them a few hundred dollars for a one year extension. Even that wasn’t enough time. The next year he broke down and had another Mack truck come and lift the boat in the cradle onto its trailer. The sailboat was hauled to Oakland where it was lashed to the deck of a freighter bound for Hawaii. For the first time since its birth, the boat was finally out of the cradle and in the water. It was finally where it belonged.

Periodically, Mark would make “crossings” back to the mainland. He’d “crew” on other sail boats by working as a deck hand. He saw these as educational outings, he got to learn the sailor’s trade as he never could in the orchards. I don’t remember how many crossings he completed but it was more than a half dozen. However, with each one, he became more and more mundane about his boat’s status. Then he started complaining about it. While the plan was always to live on the boat as he finished it up, the finish never came and he shared an apartment with a series of roommates. Mark had come to hate pulling out the fiber glass strands piercing his skin. He hated the stinky, oily smell of the ever present Volvo marine engine mounted just below the floor boards.

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Inlander32_engine

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One time he sent me a postcard to share with the boys. The front of the card had a panoramic picture of Honolulu at dusk, with all the city lights turned on. On the back, he wrote, “another shitty day in paradise.” Oops, he was sulking. He hadn’t connected with any beautiful, sun tanned girls, he hadn’t sailed to the south seas (I don’t remember if the boat ever actually became totally seaworthy while he owned it) and he was way too poor. Nope, that was not a good situation in paradise.

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Islander32_sailing

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For the past 25 years, Mark has lived in Montana, on a horse ranch. And no, there are no big, white dinosaurs in any of the paddocks. And no one has heard too much of him. But, I remember him bragging about what a good sailor he had become after all those crossings. In fact he used to brag that he could pilot a boat to the mainland blind folded. He said:

“Head due north for two weeks, then turn right.”

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Islander32_horse

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* I read a story in the newspaper the other day about an older fella who goes round to local elementary and middle schools and tells the kids about his army experiences.  He said that two or three kids every week, ask him if he was in World War eleven.

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