Boston and Logan from Deer Island

waste water treatment unitsFor a long time I’ve toyed with the idea of driving over to Deer Island to get some photos of the Boston city skyline from the east, and also watch the planes at Boston’s Logan Airport. As you can see in this Google map, Deer Island is close to the end of runway 27 (the east-west runway at Boston). When I saw that today’s forecast was for west winds and sunny skies, I decided that the moment had come. My hope was that the winds would be strong enough that they’d have to use runway 27 for landings; this would be great for photography since from Deer Island I’d have the sun behind me. Unfortunately the winds were light to non-existent, so most aircraft were landing on 33L and taking off from 27. LH 744 landing on 33L

Nevertheless I was able to get some decent pictures. I drove to the end of Tafts Avenue, left my car in the little public park, and walked widdershins around Deer Island, taking photos of planes, city, sea ducks, islands, and the extraordinary waste water treatment plant whose giant ovoids dominate the island. (Purists will point out that Deer Island is actually joined to the mainland, and thus shouldn’t be referred to as an island. In fact it was an island, until the hurricane of 1938 rearranged things.) I spent a couple of hours exploring the place, staying out of the way of the joggers and professional dog-walkers who seemed to be everywhere.

So now that I know how to get there (MassPike -> Ted Williams Tunnel -> Rt.145), how to negotiate the mess at the Rt.1A/Rt.145 intersection, and where to park, I shall be watching the NWS for predictions of bright, sunny mornings with strong westerly winds….

Not in good faith

Andrew Sullivan has just posted a lengthy email from a correspondent about the US invasion of Iraq. Kudos to Sully for posting it, because, as he says, “I disagree with much of it. But I disagree with it less than I did a year ago.” Money quote:

I could have supported intervention in Iraq. Saddam was a monster. But not Bush’s intervention. If his Dad, and Powell, had put together a true global coalition, with a real commitment to pay the high price in money, manpower and years necessary to free Iraq, secure the peace and rebuild the country, yes, I could have supported it. But I knew GWB and his team would never accomplish those ends, because those ends were not his ends. His ends, and his means, speak for themselves. All the rest is lies.

Many of us who opposed the invasion undoubtedly conflated two emotions: our strongly-held feelings about Bush in general, and a rejection of the rush to war. Bush certainly evoked powerful negative feelings, based on his illegitimacy, his lack of vision and intelligence, and the way his puppet-masters cynically exploited divisive social issues to cover up the looting of the country for their fellow plutocrats. But that didn’t mean that we were wrong when we came to the conclusion that Bush was not acting in good faith about going to war. Nor does it necessarily mean that we were against war under all circumstances. I myself am no pacifist: I supported the first Gulf War, and – reluctantly and controversially – the Falklands campaign. But this wasn’t about “war in general”, or even whether Saddam was a monster or not: it was about this war, at this time, conducted by these people, in these circumstances, for these ostensible reasons.
I think that where people like Andrew Sullivan and the former editor of the Economist get it wrong is that they frame the question as “in principle”: Are you in principle in favour of overthrowing Saddam? Such questions are always presented as simple dichotomies — yes/no, black/white, good/bad — and are assumed to be logically prior to the “how” questions, the in practice. But this is simply a way of allowing the ends to justify the means: you commit yourself to a course of action, and must hold to it however badly it turns out. Why not, instead, judge each fully articulated proposal for action (and inaction) on its own merits, with a full assessment of the consequences? (Yeah, utilitarianism – why not?) Reject the seduction of the false dichotomy, reserve the right to vote “none of the above” and demand that the principals go back to the drawing board and try again. Because it seems to me that only a neocon bigot could have accepted that the course of action proposed by Bush was the best possible, that it clearly addressed the standards for the moral and legal conduct of war established by the US at the Nuremberg Trials and subsequently by the UN, that there was a clear and present danger that could not have waited months or years until Afghanistan had been secured and Osama captured.
“Agreement in principle.” It’s the way the card-sharp sucks in the mark; once you agree to play, you can’t back out even if you see that the game is rigged. And then you salve your bruised pride by comforting yourself that the original choice was justified, instead of recognizing that, just possibly, there was no “in practice” available to justify the “in principle”.

Getting down to work

Now I’m back from that unfortunate vacation, it’s time to get to work on my post-RIF “What comes after 20 years at Sun” plan. The next stage has two components: information gathering and making contingency arrangements.

First, information gathering. I’m going to talk to many colleagues — ex-Sun, still at Sun, never at Sun — about the state of the computer business: who’s hiring, what’s hot, and how they see things shifting between on-shore and off-shore, US and international, full-time and contract, in-house and consulting, and so forth. At this point, I’m trying to keep an open mind about almost everything. As part of this, I’m flying out to California for a few days at the end of the month. I’ll arrive at SFO on the morning of Monday April 24th, and I’ll be heading on to Denver on the afternoon of Thursday April 27th. I’ve set up meetings with quite a few people already, but if you’d like to chat, drop me a line.

Second, contingency planning. A couple of people have already asked me about whether I’m available for consulting work, and I’d like to try one or two short-term gigs to get a feel for the gestalt of consulting.* Therefore I’ve gone ahead and incorporated Clueweaver, Inc., “just in case”. Could be necessary, unlikely to be wasted.

* I can’t decide whether or not consulting would be right for me without actually trying it. Apart from two stints at university, I’ve had “regular jobs” ever since 1968. And I’ve been warned by a good friend, who said of his time as a consultant, “The pay was great, the work was cool, but the boss was an asshole.” Point taken.

Following Gene

Emulating Gene Bob: Cause I’m a follower:
Go to Wikipedia and look up your birth day (excluding the year). List three neat facts/events, two births and one death in your journal, including the year.
– 732 – Battle of Tours: Near Poitiers, France, leader of the Franks, Charles Martel and his men, defeat a large army of Moors, stopping the Muslims from spreading into Western Europe. The governor of Cordoba, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, is killed during the battle.
– 1971 – Sold, dismantled and moved to the United States, the London Bridge reopens in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
– 1979 – The Pac-Man arcade game is released to the Japanese market by Namco.
– 1930 – Harold Pinter, English playwright, Nobel Prize laureate
– 1959 – Kirsty MacColl, British singer and songwriter (d. 2000)
– 1979 – Christopher Evans, British psychologist and computer scientist (b. 1931)
Bonus fact:
– 1582 – Due to the implementation of the Gregorian calendar, this day does not exist in this year in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

Random 10

Late on this – sorry:

  • “The Flood” by the Nails (from Corpus Christi)
  • “Soothe (Chicane Mix)” by the Furry Phreaks (from John Digweed’s Northern Exposure II: East Coast)
  • “Closure” by Opeth (from Damnation)
  • “Asylums in Jerusalem” by Scritti Politti (from Songs To Remember)
  • “Nine Cats” by Porcupine Tree (from On The Sunday Of Life)
  • “Straight On ‘Til Morning” by The Legendary Pink Dots (from From Here You’ll Watch The World Go By)
  • “Nothing But Heartaches” by the Supremes (from The Ultimate Collection)
  • “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar” by the United States of America (from Psychedelic 60s)
  • “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” by Simon & Garfunkel (from Old Friends)
  • “Clementine” by Pink Martini (from Hang On Little Tomato)

Now that’s a really mixed bunch! Anyone else remember The Nails? Back in the late 1980s they were something of a one-hit wonder, with the delightfully witty “Eighty-eight lines about forty-four women”, but the other tracks on Corpus Christi are definitely worth a listen. Unfortunately they got tangled up in all sorts of contractual B.S. and disappeared without a trace.

Mandarin? Hmmm…

Another intriguing web quiz (mainly because my score was atypical):

I’m a Mandarin!

You’re an intellectual, and you’ve worked hard to get where you are now. You’re a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world’s problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you’re determined to try.

Talent: 54%
Lifer: 13%
Mandarin: 64%

Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.

A sort of vacation… concluded

When last I blogged, the family was cautiously considering the nutritional value of ginger ale (flat), saltines, jello, and chicken soup (risky). However a general, if slow, trend of recovery was evident, and on Monday I went with Kate, Mark and Tommy down to Monterey harbour. It was windy, chilly, and intermittently rainy, but Tommy in sunglasseswe put a brave face on it. After lunch, we drove up to Carmel Valley Village to visit my brother-in-law (also Geoff) at the garage he runs, and then explored the area above the village which we used to visit frequently. (Still as beautiful as ever.) [Click Tommy for some pictures.]
On Tuesday we drove up to Berkeley to visit Chris and his wife, see their exquisite Hearst-era apartment, and explore the campus of CDSP. After dinner at a kosher vegan Italian restaurant (only in Berkeley!), we drove across the Bay Bridge and down to SFO. I dropped everyone off at the Hyatt Regency, turned in the rental van (verdict: functional, but uncomfortable), and returned to the hotel via the airport shuttle.
And today we flew home. When we left for California last week, we were aware that we were heading into a Pacific coastal storm and leaving behind beautiful spring-like weather in New England. It was something of a shock, therefore, to see the “weather at destination” displayed as “snow showers, high 36”. Ah, well. Unlike the outbound flight, the return trip was mostly uneventful, even though Tommy didn’t really relax until we were landing at Boston. (In geek-speak, he fell asleep as we crossed MILT at 170 knots and 3,000 feet, fully established on the ILS approach for runway 4 right.)
And when we got home, I found that I’d received the first piece of (snail-)mail addressed to my new business! But that’s a different subject.

Not exactly what we'd planned….

On Thursday morning the five of us flew from Boston to San Francisco. Tommy had his own seat, with a car seat strapped into it, so he got the window! The flight was fairly uneventful for the first 4 hours; then Tommy threw up onto himself and me. Half an hour later, he threw up all over Kate. We tentatively attributed this to the fact that it was his first flight.
At SFO we picked up a minivan, and headed south towards Carmel. Tommy was still sick. We arrived by mid-afternoon, and had an early dinner and hit the sack. The following afternoon, Chris arrived, by which point Merry and Kate were both feeling unwell. At this stage it all gets complicated, messy, and hard to remember. All five of us were affected; late that evening there was a run to the local E.R. for diagnostic tests and a litre of saline drip; Chris also drove over to the all-night pharmacy to fill some prescriptions. And as each of us got rid of the virulent GI bug, we slept… for hours and hours.
By comparison, the other events – like the near-collapse of the ceiling in a guest unit bathroom, or hunting all over Salinas for an Amtrak bus – were unimportant.
More coherent blogging will be resumed when circumstances permit….