Sunday, February 28, 2010

road rat

road rat
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
In my memory our VW camper was vast and magical. It smelled of vinyl and metal window screens and orange juice in a carton that my mother pulled from the small fridge behind the front seats. The yellow plaid curtains lifted on the hot breezes of summer and I longed to sleep in the popup bunk that my sister claimed by right of primogeniture.

I can’t recall if I ever actually sat on the thin foam of her little cubbyhole that rose over the roof of the bus like a crow’s nest peering out over strange seas; I remember only that she meted out peeks to me as I stood on my tiptoes, all curiosity and tense tendons, before she decided that was enough I had to go now, to play elsewhere with my Barbie in the strange wilderness where we had dropped anchor, to load her long hair and legs and her fashion sunglasses into her red convertible and dream of racing along the open road.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

then & now (midtown)

Midtown, not today.

Sometime last Summer. (holga)

Day before yesterday. (shot by a colleague)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

hope they opt to de-ice

hope they opt to de-ice
hope they opt to de-ice
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Posting by cameraphone
enroute to DTW

Monday, February 22, 2010

1,000 fps

The difference 1,000 frames per second makes. Footage shot for a Pedigree Dog Food Commercial -- recut by Director Bob Purman and crew just for kicks.


Featured in Creativity Online »


When I was at Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle over the summer, collecting the rough temporary markers that have long marked my family’s graves, I took out my holga and wandered a bit. As I’ve mentioned I used to walk here a lot when I lived a short distance away. These aren’t all of my favorites, but they’re a few.

grandfather cedar

Grandfather cedar. Easily the most magnificent tree in Lakeview, a cemetery that is littered with magnificent trees. Old growth. Sits on the crest of the second hill.

the rhodes

The Rhodes. This small charnel house (can I fairly call it that?) matches the department store that the Rhodes built in downtown Seattle. That department store later became Frederick & Nelson and is now Nordstrom. The Rhodes also built a Greek revival home along 10th Avenue, just down the street from here. All three structures match.

My grama pointed this out to me on one of our many visits to Lakeview together.

the lees

Bruce and Brandon Lee, unquestionably the most popular denizens of Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle.

They’re rarely without a visitor or two, and their graves are covered in coins and flowers and notes.

a pioneer

A pioneer. Nestled near Henry Yesler and Princess Angelina. Otherwise unmarked.

princess angelina

Chief Sealth’s (aka Seattle) daughter Princess Angelina is buried under a rough stone near “her good friend Henry Yesler” as her marker reads. When I was a kid we lived along Angelina Avenue in Suquamish, just off Agate Pass.


The poet Denise Levertov's grave. I've written of this stone before »

temporary marker

Sunday, February 21, 2010

agate passage

I lived here once.

In this small pocket of place
capped by our rental shack
at the crest
buttressed by the boathouse
at the bottom

gapped by a steep incline
where the tips of the tall grasses
heaved with spit bugs
in the Summer

large white wet loogies
that smeared and burst
against my leg as

like a capsule called to splashdown
I catapulted to the sea

here I am again. now.
the tide is high
the Sound has pulled in her skirts
and the rocky shore remains
maybe a yard wide for walking
a thin path of passage
that after half a mile (I guess)
dissolves to sand, grows wide

I was small then and knew the distance
as Suzie’s house first (the trampoline!)
and then the wide open stretch that
became the path to Richie’s place

Sealth knew it too, this place
where now the massive cedar
rest like errant detritus

soft from the saltwater
limbless from the efforts
of lumberjacks

the Longhouse was here
warmed by towering fires
the congress of commerce
consanguineous and carnal
heated conferences. confidences.

I wasn’t going to Richie’s place today.

The tide was high, just shy
of the soft silver wood of the
deck and I lay my belly
against the boards

to listen to the water drum
in that small space between it and me

the barnacled legs of the dock
(encrusted like armature, impenetrable)
wake to the waves, and then
(I came to expect it, I came to see it)
they roll back their lids
like observatories to the night sky

and then, unearthly, they
extend their tendril tongues
to lap and feed

a soft undulation
that looks all the world
like Armstrong taking his first
uncertain steps
on the Moon

p.s. The place I mean »

Saturday, February 20, 2010


super conducting magnet

Received a tour of Fermi Lab this morning from a generous friend who works on the supercollider and is part of the team trying to track down the Higgs Boson particle -- both here and over at Cern. I’ve made the mistake of posting this two glasses of wine into my evening, so I won’t try to salvage all that I learned today about the acceleration and wanton smashing of particles, one against the next, and the ways and means by which physicists detect their errant behaviors.


There were magnets involved (super ones) and attenuated copper wires. Cosmic rays figured large in the explication of the whats, the whys and the wherefores of the protons that shower the earth in the aftermath of super nova explosions, and mention was made of their baked-fresh-daily kin -- anti-protons -- that Fermi generates each day to the tune of trillions before sending them off to the slaughter in the big ring.


I learned that the big bang was infinitesimally small -- more like a quiet burp that escapes during an animated dinner party (when the laughter is raucous and no one can hear it) -- and I began to suspect, as the talk veered to stars, that for all of their elaborate plumbing these folks really are in the business of simply (simply?) emulating brilliant star bursts and then piping their meteoric messages through fiber optic wires that extend from the campus like so many pneumatic tubes conveying cylinders to far bureaucracies, as if shuttling intergalactic gossip at the speed of light.

Fermi Lab
Batavia, IL

cooling hold on

Friday, February 19, 2010

macaroons at midnight and other oddities

Snapped last night at the Roger Smith Hotel in the company of a friend who was kind enough to meet me in Midtown super late, even though he's tired of meeting me in Midtown. (Honestly, who can blame him? There's so much more to NY than Midtown.)

So next time: we travel North to Cloisters territory. (Or I do. He stays put and tells me how to get there, because he's also a public transportation savant.)

There's a back story to this shockingly cool installation that I was too tired to grok or even snapshot well last night after a full day of being and speaking at our annual client forum. I'll see what kind of info I can dig up after I've had a chance to nap a bit.

Posting by cameraphone en route to JFK.

Update: The space is a storefront that has been re-purposed for THE LAB:
THE LAB (For Installation + Performance Art) is a New York based, converted storefront turned fishbowl producing 30+ fast paced performance art and installation exhibitions annually. Aimed at furious midtown foot traffic, THE LAB’s programming is designed to confront modern relationships between art and audience and seeks to force interaction between high energy, "outrospective" exhibitions and nearly 25,000 daily passersby. It is THE LAB’s goal to reach out through the glass and capture, fascinate, amuse, bemuse all who pass within eye or ear shot of the corner of 47th and Lex.

More on THE LAB here »

And here's a video interview with the artist, Grimanesa Amoros, about the piece. Bonus: contains sound clips of the composition that is piped out over the sidewalks on Lexington:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

sushi yashuda run, midtown

Passed two shivering Chihuahua in green argyle and a man selling camel hair coats at the curb for twenty bucks a throw.

Now back to work (tomorrow's the thing and this deck isn't done).

Posting by cameraphone within a stone's throw of St. Agnes' on 43rd. Ash Wednesday.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

beloved of man and dog

Fred Morrison with his Pluto Platter
Photo: Wormhole Publishers

While some over-anxious press agents swear up and down that the Friz (as it is known on a first-name basis at Princeton) will soon sweep the nation and become as universally accepted as the Yo-yo, it is generally believed in the trade that sane people can’t stand most toy fads for more than five months.

Gay Talese in The New York Times on Aug. 11, 1957 about this new Frisbee thing that "kept students so busy that they had no time for rioting", as cited in today's Sunday edition »

Walter F. Morrison, inventor of the Frisbee, died last week at 90.


on luge runs & user error

User control and freedom
Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.


Error prevention
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

Excerpted from Jakob Nielsen's Ten Usability Heuristics
for Human Computer Interactions.

As someone who develops computer-user interfaces, I have a professional and ethical responsibility to design systems that users can use successfully.

Sure there's money to be made by doing it well, but the money is simply an artifact that flows from customer satisfaction. In my business, when you don't look after the customer they feel like idiots because they can't figure out how the web site works. If they can't finish the thing they set out to do they hate themselves and they hate you and they leave before they're done.

It's true that there are folks in my profession who blame the user for not being able to figure things out. Fortunately this philosophy is growing increasingly unfashionable.

I am responsible for seeing that my user doesn't leave for any of the wrong reasons. If I blow it, my client loses a sale. If I continue to blow it I will lose my job.

The stakes are higher in Vancouver, where a poorly designed, high velocity luge run led to the death of Olympic athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili on Friday.

It's bad enough that there was an opportunity for Kumaritashvili to fly off the course; worse that there were steel poles in close proximity to the icy run where lugers customarily reach speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour.

It is reprehensible that the Vancouver Olympic Committee and International Luge Federation would issue a statement which, in effect, blamed the accident on user error:

It appears after a routine run, the athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not compensate properly to make correct entrance into curve 16. This resulted in a late entrance into curve 16 and although the athlete worked to correct the problem he eventually lost control of the sled resulting in the tragic accident. The technical officials of the FIL were able to retrace the path of the athlete and concluded there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.


How wrong? See the responsibilities inherent in: User Control & Freedom along with Error Prevention, above.

(So wrong.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

may i touch said he / how much said she

Illus: e.e. cummings

In honor of the holiday, The Daily Beast has compiled a large lovely pile of erotic poems and drawings by e.e. cummings »

But they left a few out. Among them:

it is so long since my heart has been with yours

shut by our mingling arms through
a darkness where new lights begin and
since your mind has walked into
my kiss as a stranger
into the streets and colours of a town--

that i have perhaps forgotten
these hurrying crudities
of blood and flesh)Love
coins His most gradual gesture,

and whittles life to eternity

--after which our separating selves become museums
filled with skilfully stuffed memories

-- e.e. cummings

Many thanks to @scrivenings for the heads up.

p.s. and here's the poem of this post's title »

herein to pass without delay or hindrance

The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.

This is my second passport, ordered in in 2000 to replace one issued in the early 90s and then stolen just as we were crossing into the new decade. I was the kind of skinny then that you get when you’re in the middle of a divorce that you didn’t see coming.

But should have seen coming.

You can't see the knot in my stomach but it was there, and stayed with me for a good couple of years. Maybe three. I’m fatter and happier now. (And no: you can’t see my new passport pic. It’s miserable.)

This one is heavy on Central America -- Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador -- and light on other International destinations, although Dublin’s in there along with Osaka and a brief week in Paris (with an overnight in London).

The one that was stolen was littered with backpacking trips and otherwise to Greece, Norway, Paris, Thailand, Singapore and London.

It’s been too long since I’ve spent any real time in London.

Which is why I’m shipping this one off today, seeing how it expires in March and I plan to be in London just after that.

Wanted a snapshot before it goes. I hear the new design is hideous, and I don’t want to forget what American passports looked like before they went mental.

updated: just penciled in a couple forgotten -- but how could I forget Thailand? and Singapore? oh. right: finally trips in the final days of a dying marriage.

Friday, February 12, 2010

face time

Illus: ~CrapsY

The site removed "Random Play" and "Whatever I Can Get" from the options of what members were "Looking For"—to be replaced by "Networking."

Charles Petersen, In the World of Facebook, in the 25 Feb 2010 issue of the New York Review of Books, speaking on the evolution of the social networking site Facebook.

Petersen's piece is interesting for its exploration of class (with a shout out to Danah Boyd's seminal piece), exclusivity, and the social network as an architectural space.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

red deals

red deals
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Red generously shuffled for me when I told him I wanted a quick clip, even though the only deck handy was eleven shy of a full 52 (something he neatly assessed when he shook the pack, saying "feels like there's about ten missing.") and barely broken in.

And here: Texas Hold 'Em for Dummies

Posting from Foster City, CA

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

sugimoto I think of you

sugimoto I think of you
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Every time the cloud horizon lays itself down flat and still, like a Midwestern plain yearning to be the sky, Sugimoto's seascapes come to mind.

(How could they not.)

Posting by cameraphone enroute from ORD to SFO.

Monday, February 08, 2010

on remembering

louis v. willard

In 2001, while conducting ethnographic research in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, I spoke with the son of a local traditionalist priest regarding his ancestors who had founded certain ritual prayers and practices performed during Day of the Dead observances in the community.

During our discussion, I showed him a photograph of the principal elders of the town taken by Alfred P. Maudslay in the nineteenth century. He told me that these men were well known to him, although they had died long ago: “We all know them. They still visit us in dreams and in person. We know their faces, they are still very powerful -- the soul of our town. These people live because I live, I carry their blood. I remember. They are not forgotten.”

In highland Maya languages, the word na’ (to remember) also means “to feel,” or “to touch.” To remember someone who has died is to make them tangible and present to those who carry their blood.

Allen J. Christenson, Dancing in the Footsteps of the Ancestors

Sunday, February 07, 2010

roast squab | pigeon rôtis

Combine 3 1/2 ounces sausage meat, generous 1/2 cup chopped bacon, white bread soaked in milk and scant 2/3 cup finely chopped onions to make a stuffing. Spoon the stuffing into the squabs, bard with bacon, tie with string and roast at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Recipe from Ginette Mathiot, Je Sais Cuisiner (English translation), p. 498

Pigeons from Daley Plaza in Chicago's Loop, earlier today.


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Beckett + O'Neill with Brian Dennehy.
I have promised mr. hoo: "no people in pots."

Posting by cameraphone from
Chicago's Goodman Theatre

Friday, February 05, 2010

who says poets aren't sexy?

Marilyn Monroe hanging sexy with the poet Carl Sandburg. One of a series of new Marilyn photos released today by photographer Len Steckler.

Available for purchase via »

beam me up.

beam me up.
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Dinner at Rhapsody + Buster Keaton's
Sherlock Holmes Jr. with CSO orchestration
= let the weekend begin.

Posting by cameraphone from the Chicago Loop.


Naom the Jaguar
Originally uploaded by paulakoala

Have you listened to this story? (You should listen to this story.)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

temporary markers

temporary marker

This is where Corinne is buried. She was my grandmother’s older sister, a marvel on the violin, who attended the Cornish School of Arts (just down the road from where she lays now) on scholarship (her family was not the sort that was able to afford tuition).

She died when she was 8 years old of meningitis. Her family buried her in the Spring rain of 1925. My grandmother was 7 when she stood beside her sister’s grave.

Seven years later they buried Ingebor, my grandmother’s grandmother, at the far opposite edge of Lakeview Cemetery. (Only the rich have the luxury of family plots.) There as here the ground is thick with paupers under pauper’s stones, all of them invisible. Rough cinder blocks with the names and dates of death roughly stamped in them. The birth is not noted, and if you want to see the stone at all you need a plot map and a trowel or you ask the nice man at the office to bring out a shovel. This is because the headstones of the poor are not maintained on the regular maintenance rounds and the sod soon reclaims them.

I can verify that there are dozen stones that run below those two large slabs from here all the way to the fence that edges the property close by. I can verify this because I dug them all up one wet Spring day with my trowel. My grandmother sat nearby offering color commentary, darkly wicked and witty, words I thought I could never possibly forget; words I wish I had written down because, of course, I’ve forgotten them all.

But not how she made me laugh, and how she sat there watching me work, a far away sadness in her eyes beneath the laughter; a faint hope that we would find what we were looking for; a set jaw that was prepared for disappointment.

I wish I could describe the light on her face when we finally found the stone.

This is where I asked them to lay the new stone this Summer, as Grama lay dying across town. The man at the office (his last name was very Guys and Dolls -- something like Detroit) was a bit baffled by the request as he ran the calculations; frustrated that the plots were far distant from one another (they wouldn’t be able to share a stone); graciously offering to run the numbers for children’s headstones (they’re smaller, less expensive); pointing me to the standard issue granite.

Still, as he punched the numbers into his 10-key and gave me the result he said: “There it is. I mean: that’s a trip.”

He didn’t mean a groovy trip. He meant: you could take that money and go to Hawaii.

The stones were installed within a month’s time, and I stopped by to see them when I was in Seattle over this last weekend. They’re simple: I asked that they be carved verbatim to their temporary markers. I requested no ornament.

I simply wanted them to be seen.

p.s. The original markers? I had them shipped home. They’re in my backyard, under the big bluestem grasses.

lakeview cemetery plots

Update: I posted an annotated map identifying Ingebor and Corinne's plots, along with a few others »

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

the readers

The Readers by David Bivins, a New York subway series

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

lost in georgetown

lost in georgetown
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo
Nice sightseeing, anyway.

Posting by cameraphone
from DC.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The World's Best Mechanical Engineer on the feasibility of Helium 3 Harvesters (as portrayed in the movie Moon)

I saw Sam Rockwell in Moon over the summer. My intention was to escape the emotional world I was suspended in, if only briefly, attending to the bedside of my grandmother who had fallen and injured her brain in a way that could not be repaired. It was intended to be a respite from sitting with her while she died.

Instead, it managed to extend the desolate, zero gravity feeling that pervaded those weeks in July, but I didn't object. We read, we attend theater, we watch movies, we tell stories so that we, each of us, feel a little bit less alone. Moon did that for me just then, just the way I needed it to.

It also prompted me to send the World's Best Mechanical Engineer an email asking him 1) have you seen Moon and 2) when you do, let me know what you think of those Helium 3 Harvesters.

The World's Best Mechanical Engineer designs and deploys agricultural harvesters (currently in the works: a machine that harvests romaine lettuce with water jets -- video on youtube) so I figured he would have something interesting to say about it. His guest post series, The World's Best Mechanical Engineer Explains it all For You, is also some of the most heavily searched out and retrieved content on this blog, so I asked if he would want to do a guest post on detritus as well.

He was kind enough to agree.

Video: Moon Movie Trailer

The World's Best Mechanical Engineer on the feasibility of Helium 3 Harvesters (as portrayed in the movie Moon)
I watched "Moon" on video the other day, and suttonhoo asked my technical opinion of the Helium 3 harvesting machine in the movie.

Roughly I would say the size of the machine was 25 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 25 feet high. The harvester had wide spindly arms extending off each side that were upsetting the surface of the moon. The exact details of that might have been clearer on the big screen, on the small screen it looked like either some form of high pressure jet or laser. The machine ran autonomously on a huge pair of tracks.

The track drive is where the problems start with this machine. Track drives have three defining traits: they are high maintenance, they are heavy, and they give great flotation in soft conditions. The first two negatives generally outway the last positive trait. That's why your Honda has wheels instead of a pair of tracks.

In the context of the moon, high maintenance is a gigantic liability since there's only a single maintenance guy for a fleet of four harvesters. And maintenance is difficult in a vacuum, dangerous work for a single maintenance man. Helium 3 is going to be a very expensive product, and downtime in your operation will be lost millions. Compared to a wheel drive, track drives are in my experience roughly 5 times more maintenance intensive than wheel drives.

The huge weight of a track drive in and of itself is not much of a liability on the moon, except that those tracks have to be fabricated somewhere. If they are fabricated on earth, the cost of hoisting them into space would be probably prohibitive. So we'd have to assume that they'd be fabricated on the moon. But everything you do on the moon is expensive and time consuming. Tracks are a costly design proposition in both the earthly and lunar context.

This leaves us with the one compelling advantage of track drive: flotation. When NASA first landed on the moon they were afraid that there may be many feet of unpacked dust on the moon's surface, enough to swallow the entire lunar lander. In practice, however, the surface of the moon did not threaten to swallow any of the landers or men that landed there. Undoubtedly this was in part due to the moon's low gravity, about 1/6th of earth's. A typical car tire puts about 35-50 psi pressure on the ground.

A typical track drive applies 5-10 psi of ground pressure on earth. But a car tire on the moon, would only apply 6-8 psi of pressure to the moon's surface (with the same amount of tire squash). Effectively a wheeled vehicle on the moon would achieve flotation comparable to a track drive on earth. A track drive would be an expensive and unreliable overkill. If there were flotation concerns, a six wheel drive would be much more compelling. Six wheel drive would be lower maintenance, and allow for lifting a damaged wheel or suspension without stopping. Harvesting could continue until repairs could be scheduled or parts were available, allowing for minimal downtime.

The second problem with the Helium 3 harvester involves the scarcity of Helium 3. In spite of what the taikonauts may want you to believe, it takes a huge amount of lunar material to produce a pound of He3. The concentration of He3 on the moon is roughly .01 parts per million. Any harvester would have to process enormous quantities of lunar material in order to produce a trickle of He3.

I'd expect a harvester to have a huge scraper on front delivering surface material into the machine, and for it to eject over 99.99999% of the material as probably an extremely fine powder. It just didn't appear that nearly enough material was being handled to produce an economically attractive quatity of He3. I will acknowledge, however, the possibly that the lasers/high pressure jet device on the fronts of the machine were extracting the He3 using some futuristic technology. But if so, why were there rocks flying all over the place?

On a more political note, the lunar corp astronauts and employees probably should have been Chinese. Nasa was supposedly returning to the moon in this decade, but it appears that funding for that program will not exist. In fact the U.S. will soon lack any kind of lifter for astronauts, and we'll actually be buying astronauts tickets on Russian rockets. Not that I mean to disparage the Russian space program, they build the most reliable rockets in the world. It just seems a shame that with both the U.S. and Russia's venerable space programs, the real Lunar Corp logo may very well be in Chinese.

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