30 March, 2006

One of history’s mysteries

How & why did beer become a historically universal beverage?

The why part is the easy one, because it gets you intoxicated - Making beer however, is nether a natural or intuitive process and to extrapolate lifetimes of trial and error happenstance that somehow cumulated in drinkable beverage is a true corundum, one of those problems where the end is known (how?) and the path there is not obvious – at least to my feeble collection of synapses that pass for a brain.

Let us examine the steps required to make a simple brew

First, you have to ‘malt’ some suitable grain (extract the natural sugars or precursors) - for some reason a lot of things fall in to the category of suitable grain, Barley, Rice, Corn, Rye, Wheat – that I’ve tried (for this exercise we’ll exclude Mead, wine and other ‘fruit’ based fermented beverages) this typically involves soaking and then cooking the mash to the point where all the fermentable starches and sugars are extracted from the grain and the resultant mash can be converted in to wort –this can take hours to weeks depending on the grain and the other prep work required.

Then cooling and ‘pitching’ the prepared yeast – at the correct temp and then most deliberately containing in a pressure vessel and leaving the resultant concoction alone for anywhere from several weeks to months before attempting to drink. – this is not natural behavior for primates.

So the question stands, what set of circumstances caused some human to set aside some fermenting mash (could not have smelled too good either) and then whatever in the world provoked them to drink it weeks or month later? ( I’ll bet it was a dare, - “betcha can’t drink this”) – once the genie was out of the bottle (so to speak,,,) the course is more obvious, but the question remains who were the first brewmisters?

27 March, 2006

Rabbit holes

JFK, The Gemstone File, KAL 007, TWA 800, 9/11

These events have had path altering effects on my life from the obvious travel related concerns to a three year hiatus in international work of any sort.

As I sit here on the eve on yet another solar orbital anniversary (never mind which save to say if I was sipping Arminac of the same vintage it would cost me deep in the purse) the following comes to mind - To paraphrase (out of context) William Gibson

Politics, acting with the death penalty

(side note, his original title was “Singapore; Disneyland with the death penalty” – and it is)

For me, my first journey down the rabbit hole was something called the gemstone file over 30 years ago (interesting document, some of it is/was actually verifiable) and over a decade of obsessing over the JFK assassination up to the point of lugging all the volumes of the Warren Commission and almost every other book written on the subject around for more than 20 years

In the end the only conclusion I could come to was there was a conspiracy – and that was about it.

for every election cycle I was cognizant of (and despite rumors to the contrary I was not quite old enough to vote for Estes Kefauver) and an intense 12 weeks following candidate Carter around for the peacock network it has occurred to me that for most races it is a matter of surface cosmetics between the candidates – little to no structural differences, when both go to the same BoHo Grove rituals and burn effigies and dance nekid in the woods, attend the same Bilberger group conferences, subscribe to the “the new world order” I came to the conclusion that its all show, modern day circus maximus to keep the great unwashed from asking important questions, to divert attention from the hidden agenda – the only problem I have is

who’s agenda?

14 March, 2006

Random thoughts on a spring drive

Drove from sanatorium sanctum in mendoland down to so-cal Santa Barbara, a pleasant 7 hour spring drive - hey, limited phone, can listen to what I want and no one bothering me? And all I’ve got to do is keep it between the dotted lines? - and I get paid?

My first day at new job.

O.K. I’ll admit it, I’m prejudiced and opinionated, having traveled and worked over a fair portion of this rock (mostly covered with water – there is lots of water, some of it is hard), I like NorCal (to be fair, I like major portions of real estate west of the Rockies and north of the Tehachapi’s) I suppose a major factor is my family has been in the area for a few generations. While the land may not be part of ones DNA, for me the sights, sounds and smells of childhood invoke powerful memories.

Growing up in mendoland in the late 60’s was, um, ‘interesting’ is accurate but not nearly inclusive enough, suffice it to say I could not wait to get out of the area and due to various factors and choices spent the next 20 years ‘elsewhere’ before moving my family to Mendoland 15 years ago.

I realized long ago that for me, there would always be a portion of my work that would have a location requirement of ‘elsewhere’ and indeed there has been a lot of elsewhere over the years. I was always one to push the edge and realizing that with laptop and connectivity, location requirements become relevant only for face time and hands on time, my personal epiphany came a decade ago when I was controlling two TV stations in Baltimore before the FCC and congress from my hotel room in Singapore.

Recently, I’ve configured a 200 channel IPTV Headend from my living room sofa - and if you had been to the Headend, a environmental enclosure in a cornfield in very rural Kansas, closest ‘accommodations’ were 20 miles away with culinary choices limited to Sonic after 2000 and the best choice before was the Chinese buffet (that’s 8 pee emm for those who went ‘unh?’) you would want to be just about anywhere else anyway. On the other hand, I had a recent client in Atlanta who would not grant me remote access and paid full rate for two full days, air, car, hotel and meals for 40 minutes and one button push onsite – sold those stocks as soon as I could…

Random, I tell yee, random!

The tricks for me are finding the balance and leveraging chances to take my family

I’ve avoided commenting on politics, for much the same reason as I avoid comments on religion, if forced to, I’ll admit to being an rational anarchist, small l Libertarian and will attempt to confound any attempts to pigeon hole me.

My favorite uncle (great) was described as ‘a gregarious hermit who lived alone on a mountain, a tattooed pillar of the community, a gun toting long haired redneck organic sheepherder/rancher/farmer (who had been confined to a wheel chair for the last 20years of his life, the name of the award the local Business and Professional woman bestow each year is named in the honor of his wife – who died a decade before) for the last 40 years of his life they raised cherries, there are generations of folks who visited the ranch, feed the Emu’s and picked cherries and were only charged on what they had in the bags after an afternoon of climbing trees on a sunny summer afternoon.

I said random

Women have the rights to control their bodies
Abortion is the termination of a potential person – this is a decision I can only face as a male and as such I don’t have much to say, I have been the shoulder cried upon.

08 March, 2006

Mortality, we’ve all got one.

Was just informed of a long time friend and coworker’s passing

posted with permission
  • Mercury News

  • Posted on Wed, Mar. 08, 2006

    Chung: Chu Lin paved path for journalists

    By L.A. Chung
    Mercury News

    Irascible, abrasive, utterly professional and exhaustingly demanding, Sam Chu Lin would have been hard to duplicate. And now that he's gone -- too soon -- at age 67, that high challenge is nigh impossible.

    The Sunnyvale resident died suddenly Sunday in Burbank, where he worked as a television reporter -- commuting, as he had for more than a decade, from the Bay Area. Locally, he hadn't been on TV since the mid-'80s on KRON-TV, but he was unforgettable.

    If you worked for Hewlett-Packard, you might have seen him as host of that company's in-house video magazine. His trademark bass voice was heard on KQED Radio's Pacific Time program and he wrote intelligently for Asian Week or Nichi Bei Times or the San Francisco Examiner.

    ``He is someone whom I was lucky to call a peer, but even more blessed to call a friend,'' Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta said in a statement. In Chu Lin, Mineta and U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, no doubt shared a history, a view of the world and a time-earned respect.

    Chu Lin's broadcasts on CBS News out of New York was the network's first word of the fall of Saigon. His discovery of the creators of Superman living in destitution brought them late-won money. And his tireless reportage for decades on the civil liberties issues of Asian-Americans loomed large in their lives. He interviewed presidents and world leaders. He was a son of Mississippi done good.

    Before Connie

    In the parlance of some, Chu Lin was also ``a pioneer,'' another word that both Mineta and Honda used. And indeed he was.

    Sure, a lot of us have heard of Connie Chung, and seen the legions of female TV newscasters her popularity begat. But Chu Lin was one of the first Asian-Americans in television news, along with Mario Machado and Ken Kashiwahara. As a high schooler who convinced his hometown radio station in Greenville, Miss. that he could find sponsors and host a show in 1956, Chu Lin was on his way when Chung was still in knee socks.

    And of course there was That Voice. Chu Lin had that ultimate broadcaster's voice -- deep, authoritative, commanding.

    ``When you were in a room with Sam, his voice preceded him,'' said Felicia Lowe, now a documentary filmmaker and then, in 1975, a young reporter at KGO-TV when Chu Lin came to San Francisco.

    Kashiwahara and Chu Lin were among the first Asian-Americans to rise to network news. Other things, however, came with being a pioneer. Chris Chow was a newcomer at KPIX-TV in 1971 when he first talked to Chu Lin over the phone, a sort of ``welcome to the business'' call. ``He said: `I hear you're doing well. I heard you've done a documentary on youth gangs. I hear you have long hair.' ''

    Tenacity and advice

    Then he said in Toisanese: ``Jeen tow fat'' or ``Cut your hair,'' if you want to make it in this business.

    Those were the days when Chinese-Americans were so few, they mostly spoke the same dialect and took a family-like interest in helping each other succeed.

    Chu Lin recalled proudly, when he was honored in Salinas by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance last year, how he persuaded Walter Cronkite to tell the story of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the forgotten creators of Superman.

    ``I will never forget visiting the shabby apartment of Joe Shuster,'' Chu Lin said. The story resulted in Shuster and Siegel receiving retirement benefits and having their creative bylines restored. It restored his faith that Superman once again stood for ``Truth, Justice and the American Way.''

    For Chow, no longer a journalist, Chu Lin's career echoed that well.

    He was, indeed, a son of Mississippi done good.

    RIP Sam

    For more than a decade Sam and I worked together producing a ‘video magazine’ for some sillydotcom valley icon and shared a level of personal intimacy (and for those dirty minds out there – you know who you are…) nothing physical – well, nothing beyond placing the lavaliere microphone. The intimacy that comes from spending 12 or more hours in a dark room hammering out something resembling a sow’s ear out of spun gold to mangle a metaphor or three, from doing the endless takes in the announce booth and “walkie talkies” on location and the inevitable editorial changes from on high.

    Always the consummate professional (there was a antidotal report of a mistaken celebrity identity incident in LAX that possibly triggered aberrant news pack reactions but as I was not there I won’t vouch for it). He was gifted with a set of pipes that commanded attention with the education and discernment to use it well.

    Thanks to Sam I have an audio tape of Sir Author C. Clarke saying hello to me personally - a bit of my own hero worship frustration as there had been an opportunity to interview Sir Author in person that for various reasons (local revolutions, economic down turn, piddling things) did not work out.

    I last worked with Sam in the early 90’s, we kept in loose touch for a long time and about a year ago started threatening to ‘do lunch’ damm.

    My deepest condolences to the Chu Lin family

    04 March, 2006

    O.K, so I've been busy

    Ack, its been almost a month - somehow I find myself once again in 'max' mode, the esoteric techo world I inhabit has gone hot once again and doing my best to avoid a “dooce moment”, names have been redacted so the last week went something like this

    Sunday evening DD decided to cause undue angst and I did not make it to bed before 0130 with a 440 wake up for a 1000 meeting at a partner site, with the storm and traffic it took 5 hours to drive.

    Turned down one offer (company called Xxx - does IPTV for rural telcos - base pay was embarrassing for the amount of work required and commission does not in and of itself motivate me) have an attractive one on the table from XXX in Hotlanta (they don't want me to move but I would be traveling some) and current contract has gone into panic mode and now wants to make an offer - this is after downsizing me while on vacation last Sept and calling me back for 'consulting' a month later

    Tuesday was ever so much fun, starting with a 0630 flight to sandy egos that airport insecurity made sure I missed (even though I had my boarding pass and got to the security check in line almost an hour before departure, I got singled out of one of those closer searches and missed scheduled flight down - they had all sorts of fun looking through my bag - almost as much as I had putting everything back in) to weather delays on the return (which was one those good things as I actually make the flight I booked even though I didn't make it to the gate before scheduled departure). Made it back to sillydotcom valley at the time the last flight should have landed