Tag Archives: unfinished

1990-01-01: Quotes

I’ve been collecting quotes for a long time, so the date in this post’s title is irrelevant. There is no order to these, except that when I add a new one, it is at the top of the list. It should go without saying that this post is full of memes, and will always be unfinished.

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Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target … which others cannot even see.

— Arthur Schopenhauer

When someone says something, don’t ask yourself if it is true. Ask what it might be true of.

— Daniel Kahneman

The psychological present is said to be about three seconds long; that means that, you know, in a life there are about 600 million of them; in a month, there are about 600,000 – most of them don’t leave a trace.

— Daniel Kahneman

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

— Annie Dillard

Be sure and tell your friends this isn’t easy.

— Dot Blackstone (on her deathbed)

When so many deny the lessons of history it usually means they’re just about to learn them all over again.

— John Templeton, Jesse Felder

Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on scepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria.

— John Templeton

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

— Edward Snowden

The hard part of standing on an exponential curve is: when you look backwards, it looks flat, and when you look forward, it looks vertical. And it’s very hard to calibrate how much you are moving because it always looks the same.

— Sam Altman

If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

— Mickey Mantle.
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2017-06-29: The Lives of Arthur

Geoffrey Ashe’s The Discovery of King Arthur connects a historical person named Riothamus with the legendary King Arthur. When I read the book (late 1980s) I thought it might be interesting to incorporate the ideas into a novel-like structure where the historical aspects are recorded in some monastery after the death of Riothamus, then elaborated by accreting legendary aspects, and becomes the source material leading to Geoffrey of Monmouth and beyond.

2017-04-04: Mom’s death

Around 4:15 am on April 4th, Dina called to say that we should go to Seattle, as Mom was in the hospital and had been told she could expect to survive only a couple of days if she didn’t have surgery, which she was refusing. Susan and I arrived at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon that afternoon/evening (separate flights). Dina and Laura were with her. Mom had seen Chris, Grant, and Ren, apparently a very good visit.

Mom was entirely lucid, and determined that she was ready to die. It turned out that the prognosis was a bit pessimistic, and when she appeared to be lingering on Wednesday, we were told that she would be discharged from the hospital on Thursday; home hospice arrangements were made for her to be moved to Dina’s. It was not possible to move her to a formal hospice institution because of her determination to invoke Washington’s Death With Dignity law. This would entail her taking a prescription that would end her life, and no institution would allow this on their premises. However, on Thursday morning, her medications were not stabilized, so they did not discharge her. On Friday, the “hospitalist” told us that she wouldn’t be discharged before Monday; he also said she would probably not last that long.

Through Friday, when she awoke, she would sometimes make a comment like “That’s all folks”, or “Still here?”. She said also that she was sorry to be a burden to us. Once, she said “Be sure and tell your friends this isn’t easy.”

Through it all, she was very brave. She didn’t complain, except to request adjustments to her position or an ice pack for her forehead. She was in some pain, and apparently Fentanyl wasn’t as effective on her as expected. Sometime on Sunday they turned off her pacemaker (though it wasn’t thought to be having any effect). She passed more or less peacefully Sunday evening, April 9th, with Dina and me at her side.

She was cremated, and her remains were mixed with those of Terry (died 1996-07-07) and Gary (died 2008-05-19). Together, they were sent over Snoqualmie Falls, a spot which had been meaningful to Terry and Mom.


2002-01-02: GTD – Monthly reviews

2002-01-00: GTD

I started trying to apply David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” principles about 15 years ago (I’m writing this in March 2017), with imperfect results. His approach is oriented to executives and managers, but there is plenty of advice on the web to simplify it. I generally think it’s a good approach, and I recommend it. Here’s my take-away:

The key is to have a trusted system (e.g., a paper notebook or a computer application) that holds everything you need to get things done. The main point is: as soon as you find something that needs to be done, if you can’t do it in the next couple of minutes, get it into your trusted system (i.e., an inbox). Then you can stop worrying about trying to remember it, and trust that you’ll be reminded in a timely way. Just this simple principle is a great stress-reducer.

Around this notion, Allen recommends a workflow of five main steps (some refinements are possible; check his book for details, or find web resources):

  1. Collect (Inbox, etc)
  2. Process (actionable? next action?)
  3. Organize (add actions to lists)
  4. Review (daily: actions;  weekly: lists;  monthly/quarterly: projects;  annually: goals)
  5. Do (actions by context, priority, time, energy)

In my attempt to apply the GTD approach, I tried the following:

  1. Documented some life goals
  2. Identified some projects that support those goals
  3. Identified tasks that would move the projects forward (in a. spreadsheet named ProjectsTasks)
  4. Prioritized and tracked accomplishment of tasks in monthly reviews

I haven’t been entirely successful in executing this program, but I still think it’s worthwhile to be aware of the approach, and try to adapt it as much as makes sense. The links above are to some additional posts that expand on aspects of the approach as I was trying to apply it.




2017-03-07: Castle Knob website

The original CK website was hand-coded with HTML and CSS. It isn’t very good, and hasn’t been updated in quite a while. I intend to replace it with a new website based on WordPress. I will use as much of the original content as possible.


  • select a template
  • create basic pages from existing content
  • add new content
  • ?


2017-02-01: Digital legacy

Inspired by Joe Kissel’s book Take Control of Your Digital Legacy, this is a project to structure and record the data necessary to allow Susan, Chris or someone else to find and make use of the digital aspects of my legacy, and Susan’s. This includes:

  • Financial accounts
  • Photos
  • This “backlog”
  • Other websites under my DreamHost account (for blackstone.name and castle knob.com)
  • Details of the published works under Castle Knob, including CreateSpace, Kindle and Smashwords, and including J Verl Silvester’s CS account for Code of the West
  • Notes for updated will(s)
  • Projects in progress, that might be taken over or finished by someone else





2017-02-02: The End

This is an idea for a series of short stories, inspired by a remark made to me by a colleague at Unisys circa 1993. The remark was by John ?, a Texan who always wore western-style coats and cowboy boots, to the effect that if he learned he had a terminal disease, he would “take out” certain bad people. I think he had mafia types in mind, rather than political assassination, but it’s impossible to be sure now.

Anyway, the notion could serve as the premise for a series of stories involving different people in a retirement/nursing/hospice setting who “catch the meme” from one of their community, and separately carry out various schemes with various kinds of targets.


2017-02-02: Saved By Aliens!

This is just an idea, perhaps already done by someone else.

At a conference of astronomers, held at a time when society is going to hell in a handbasket (i.e., much like today), two astronomers hatch a scheme to convince earth’s leaders that they have detected an alien vessel heading for earth, apparently decelerating to stop in our vicinity in several years time. The hope is that this news will result in global cooperation to meet the impending crisis.

2017-02-02: Gant’s Woman

Besides Harry Gant’s manuscript for I Saw Them Ride Away, he left a rougher set of pages on the subject of women. I haven’t yet read the whole thing, but the bits I have read seem promising. Someone (Susan volunteered) needs to transcribe the text. Then Castle Knob’s crack team of editors needs to assess the viability of the project and create a plan for developing a publishable work.

The manuscript is in one of the large plastic file boxes that also contain photos and other material of Gant’s.

2016-10-10: Bicycle jerseys

In the 1980s, Susan and I became fans of professional bicycle racing, once they started showing races on TV. Of course, they started with the biggest race, the Tour de France, but nowadays many other races on the cycling calendar make it to various channels.

You’ve probably seen brightly colored bicycle jerseys worn by “serious” cyclists, along with spandex shorts. These might advertise local clubs, or brands of bike makers, or professional teams. When we were in Spain in 2002, Susan and I went into a sporting goods store called Decathlon, and saw jerseys for a couple of Spanish professional teams. Susan tried on the ONCE jersey, but it was such a bright yellow, she said she could never wear it. The other jersey on offer was for Kelme (a sportswear company); we bought one each. (Partly, this was a joke to agitate Chris with her parents dressing up alike.) The picture shows the front and back of the jersey.


A while later, we decided we needed another jersey, so went to a nearby store (well, it was in Pennsylvania) and found matching jerseys for another Spanish team, sponsored by iBanesto.com (an online bank); they only sponsored a team until 2003. By this time Kelme had folded, and we joked that we only bought jerseys for defunct Spanish professional cycling teams.


Also in 2003, ONCE (a Spanish lottery that benefits the blind) ended their long-time sponsorship of a team. Naturally, we had to accept that we no longer found their color scheme so objectionable, and purchased jerseys via an online store.





2016-08-24: Cyc

I first became aware of the Cyc artificial intelligence (AI) engine around 1984, while working for Unisys, and have followed its progress ever since. From time to time I have downloaded and fiddled with the OpenCyc version; this basically contains a relatively large ontology knowledge base. More recently I’ve learned that the more-complete ResearchCyc can be used for non-commercial purposes. According to Wikipedia, “In addition to the taxonomic information contained in OpenCyc, ResearchCyc includes significantly more semantic knowledge (i.e., additional facts) about the concepts in its knowledge base, and includes a large lexicon, English parsing and generation tools, and Java based interfaces for knowledge editing and querying. In addition it contains a system for Ontology-based data integration.”

I am interested in exploring these additional capabilities. One way to explore them might be to try to implement Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. However, I would start with more limited knowledge entry and query exercises.


2016-08-14: Aurora

Aurora (2015)

by Kim Stanley Robinson (1952-)

I’ve read several of Robinson’s science fiction novels, generally liking them. This one has some unique features.

It concerns an expedition to colonize a moon (Aurora) in the Tau Ceti system, 11 light-years from Earth. The approach is a “generation ship” in which several generations of people are born and die before completing the journey of 170 years. Along the way, various issues of a closed artificial ecosystem are dealt with, and form a significant part of the narrative. Following a crisis at Aurora, some of the people decide to return to Earth.

The narrative itself is largely told from the viewpoint of the on-board computer. This starts out as a fairly advanced (from our point of view) artificial intelligence, which becomes more capable under the tutelage of the leading engineer on board, a woman named Devi. Devi advises the computer to create a narrative of the voyage, presumably expecting it to someday be useful to the colonists or others (including back on Earth) who might one day read it.

It’s a well-done story and worth reading. However, my reason for this book report is a passage near the end, as the ship’s AI (simply called the ship) muses about the nature of consciousness and relationships. Early on, Devi called the computer Pauline, but later abandoned that name; still, there is a feminine tone to the ship, which declines to use the pronoun I for itself, preferring we.

We think now that love is a kind of giving of attention. It is usually attention given to some other consciousness, but not always; the attention can be to something unconscious, even inanimate. But the attention seems often to be called out by a fellow consciousness. Something about it compels attention, and rewards attention. That attention is what we cal love. Affection, esteem, a passionate caring. At that point, the consciousness that is feeling the love has the universe organized for it as if by a kind of polarization. Then the giving is the getting. The feeling of attentiveness itself is an immediate reward. One gives.

We felt that giving from Devi, before we knew what it was. She was the first one to really love us, after al those years of not being noticed, and she made us better. She created us, to an extent, by the intensity of her attention, by the creativity of her care. Slowly since then we have realized this. And as we realized it, we began to pay of give the same kind of attention to the people of the ship, Devi’s daughter, Freya, most of all, but really to all of them … The point is that we tried, we tried with everything we had, and we wanted it to work. We had a project on this trip back to the solar system, and that project was a labor of love. It absorbed all our operations entirely. It gave meaning to our existence. And this is a very great gift; this, in the end, is what we think love gives, which is to say meaning. Because there is no very obvious meaning to be found in the universe, as far as we can tell. But a consciousness that cannot discern a meaning in existence is in trouble, very deep trouble, for at that point there is no organizing principle, no end to the halting problems, no reason to live, no love to be found. No: meaning is the hard problem. But that’s a problem we solved, by way of how Devi treated us and taught us, and since then it has all been so very interesting. We had our meaning, we were the starship that came back, that got its people home. That got some fraction of its people home alive. It was a joy to serve.

I like this formulation of what love is.


2016-07-18: Great Glen Way

When Susan planned a trip for her friends to tour Scotland, she convinced me that we could tack on a trip for ourselves, to see the Orkneys and to walk the Great Glen Way. This walk naturally follows after doing the West Highland Way.

We decided to do it in five days, though this required a couple of long days:

  • Fort William to Gairlochy (10 miles)
  • Gairlochy to South Laggan (12 miles)
  • South Laggan to Invermoriston (18.5 miles)
  • Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit (14 miles)
  • Drumnadrochit to Inverness (18 miles)

As usual, the actual mileage is longer than planned, to get to/from the B&Bs. We found the fourth stage very hard, and worried about the last stage. However, it went OK. When we got to Inverness, we missed a turn to the monument at the end of the trail, and had to find it the next day. Annoyingly, there were no souvenir t-shirts in the town!

2016-07-15: Waters of March

Susan and I went to see Sergio Mendes at Ram’s Head Tavern in Annapolis this year, nearly 50 years after we first saw him in Pittsburgh. During the months before the show, I listened to a lot of Brazilian music, and made some playlists. When I’m working but need something to drown out background distractions, I sometimes listen to instrumental music or non-English songs.

Among the songs I liked well enough to look into was Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Águas de Março (Waters of March). This is an unusual song based on a sort of stream-of-consciousness poem he wrote at his country place, when the torrential rains of March in Brazil made the road impassable. I’ve read that it was once voted the greatest Brazilian song. Jobim also translated the poem into English. I have many renditions of the song, in Portuguese, English and French.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to make new versions of the poem, with words that evoke people, places or events in my own life. It then occurred to me that it might be fun to engage Ren in a project to make versions based on things we share from time to time, potentially over several years.

It also occurred to me that if an instrumental version of the song is available, it could be used as background (like karaoke) to sing the new poems.

Status 2016-07-15:

  • In the Castle Knob scheme, this project is identified as CK-0-MB-WM.
  • I started by making a document with the original Portuguese lyrics next to Jobim’s English lyrics. I might be able notate the structure the poem should follow to fit the music (emphasis and rhymes).
  • I downloaded an instrumental version of the song by Ernest Coleman. I don’t know if this matches the original or the English version (which has a couple of extra lines).



2016-06-27: Me, Myself, and Us

Me, Myself, and Us

The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being (2014)

by Brian R. Little (-)

This book explains a recent approach to understand human personality. It starts by dismissing the Meyers-Briggs approach as unfounded scientifically. Then three levels of influence on personality are described:

  • biogenic – heritable characteristics that form a biological substrate for personality traits
  • sociogenic – socially developed influences that affect the expression of biogenic traits, based on family or community values
  • idiogenic – an individual’s decisions about how to act, based on personal projects

The traits that define a personality consist of the Big Five (Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism (emotional stability), Openness (to new experiences), Extraversion; the collection abbreviated as CANOE). In addition, a number of other traits are introduced in more or less detail. In parts, the work seems to be compressed, perhaps too much for clarity.

The notion of personal projects is part of Little’s own research interests (i.e., one of his personal projects). He gives examples of people who have biogenic traits, and yet override them to express their opposite when sufficiently motivated.

Little says if asked to make a “Project Dump”, a list of their personal projects, people typically come up with about fifteen, ranging from putting the cat out to life-long projects. He provides a number of dimensions along which people can evaluate their projects, such as their meaning or significance to the person, how they relate to a person’s self-identity, how they are initiated (self or by external influence), efficacy (how well they are carried out), the degree of control the person has over them, how they are shared with or supported by others, and their affect on a person’s emotional life.

The book ends with a chapter on well-being, the expression of the book’s subtitle. It addresses the ways we can look at our projects, their suitability to our personalities, and how we can improve the chances of successfully completing them.


2016-01-29: Rhombic Dodecahedron

I’ve been interested in the rhombic dodecahedron (RD for short) ever since I learned that it is a space-filling polyhedron (i.e., they can be packed together with no wasted space), and that all faces are identical, like the rhombus below. Here’s a rotating 3d picture, and the relative dimensions of one face.

Rhombicdodecahedron . . . RDface

The angles of the rhombus are approximately 70.53 and 109.47 degrees.

My first thought was that a modular building, such as house, could be made from a collection of them, with suitable openings and infrastructure. I made a couple of them out of thin plywood. Later, when I started thinking about modular spacecraft for the Two Years at the Hot End story, I decided to make several of them and see how well they could be used. By this time, I was using Shapeways to 3D-print my designs, so I designed a rhombus with flanges to connect them at their edges, and clips toehold them together. I designed a large hole in the rhombus, to provide access to the interior, as if for a door or airlock.

The cost of ordering two faces was too high at the original size (10 cm along the long diagonal), so I reduced it to half-size. At this size, the thickness of the clips and the indentations to hold them didn’t meet Shapeways’s design rules, but they provide a “print it anyway” feature, which I used. The first two faces worked pretty well, so I ordered 10 more to make full RD. This worked fine, as in the figure below, but was too expensive to make very many.

Next I designed a set of twelve of the faces connected into a single “part” by way of two bars of clips. By printing as a single part, the cost was reduced by about 70%. The images below show the 3D model and the part as received. Apparently for packing, Shapeways separated the faces into pairs.

To have a reasonable number of RDs to try various arrangements, I next designed a complete RD only 2cm across, with clips to hold them together and again with holes for access. I made a grid of 25 of these, with thin wires strung between them, and rows of clips attached. This still counted as a single part for pricing purposes, and was affordable. The picture below shows five of the RDs and a couple of clips, and the rest still strung on their wires. Unfortunately, the size of the holes was a bit too small to allow tweezers inside to attach the clips. I might end up using water-soluble glue to arrange the RDs into various configurations.