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»  May 30, 2009



USS Oregon war memorial in Rose Festival Waterfront Village

I know the Spanish-American War was, like, a long time ago and — let's face it — it wasn't exactly one of the most glorious episodes in the American record of bringing freedom to the oppressed, but still, if you've got a war memorial made out of the mast of the USS Oregon in the middle of the Rose Festival Waterfront Village where presumably tens of thousands of people are going to be passing by, is it really necessary to clamp stands selling pizza and elephant ears onto it?

[UPDATE] I'd actually forgotten reading about this, but Jack Bogdanski mentioned it when he linked to this post yesterday. Apparently, sticking inappropriate stuff in memorials is just accepted practice in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Last year's Navy fleet's security zone chopped through the Japanese internment memorial garden, and during the huge Obama rally last year the city set up portable toilets in the memorial to fallen police officers; during the week dedicated to honoring cops killed in the line of duty.


»  May 28, 2009

What the...?  

Reunion: I've never understood the whole "High school was some of the best years of my life" thing that seems to be a part of a lot of people's lives. It might be surprising for those who know me now, but my high school years were much the continuation of the unpleasantness of my grade school years, which had been bad enough that my parents scrimped and saved to send me to the local Catholic high school, which had a — largely undeserved — reputation for academics. Even though I did fine taking some college level chemistry coursework the summer after my freshman year in high school, my parents were reluctant to allow me to go on to college full-time because of a certain lack of maturity on my part. There's no disputing that was the case, but then again, thirty-odd years later maturity seems still not to have kicked in.

Darrel Plant 1976
Yearbook photo from my sophomore year, taken in the room that served as the yearbook office at Marist High School.

Anyway, despite having worked on the yearbook for three years — including a stint as editor my junior year, when I aroused the ire of my fellow students by making the tradeoff of color photography inside for a black cover — my school loyalty has been pretty negligible (I didn't work on the yearbook my senior year and I don't even have one, after spending most of my year as editor having a staff of myself). Years ago, the alumni association tracked me down (I'm not that hard to find) and started sending me the newsletter, which I desultorily read and recycle, but I've never been to a reunion or been invited to one. Maybe there's a reason for that. This was in the latest edition of the newsletter:

Marist High School reunion announcement detail May/June 2009


»  May 27, 2009

What the...?  

In Case You Need It:

I got some bills this morning,
They tumbled through the door
I counted every penny but
The bills still came to more
And printed in the paper
For Pisces it did say,
"If you would just be bolder,
Then this might be your day"

It said, "Lady Luck apologises
For the way she's been behavin'
And she promises she'll change.
If you don't want to know her, she'll understand,
But if you'd like to take her hand,
She could be back at your command."

So I ran round the corner,
The bookie's there I entered
Put ten quid on a mare
From a stud in Kildare
But though the jockey beat her,
In Belgium they will eat her.
The tannoy began to rip as I tore up the slip

It said, "Lady Luck apologises
For the way she's been behavin'
And she promises she'll change.
If you don't want to know her, she'll understand,
But if you'd like to take her hand,
She could be back at your command."

I met a girl this evening
And I began to think
That I might get her drunk
But she matched me drink for drink.
So when she drew the curtains,
I felt success was certain
But as she kicked me out,
She spoke in the third person:

She said, "Lady Luck apologises
For the way she's been behavin'
And she promises she'll change.
If you don't want to know her, she'll understand,
But if you'd like to take her hand,
She could be back at your command."

—The Proclaimers, "Lady Luck"



Graveyard: Mike Downey was asking on Twitter yesterday if anyone could confirm his memory that the FLA and SWF formats were introduced in Flash 2, which was the first version released under the Macromedia imprint ("Flash 1" was just stickers plastered on the box for FutureSplash Animator). I answered late (I remember Peter's FutureSplash box around the old Alder Street office) but it did prompt a peek into the folder where I keep versions of older applications, since my old dual-PPC desktop Mac will still run OS9, and sometimes I've needed to open old source files for one reason or another.

The Macromedia application graveyard


What the...?  

The Gleaner:

Barbara, smart car, and Gleaner R75 in Dayton, Washington

The smart car (and Barbara) next to an Agco Gleaner R75 combine in Dayton, Washington last week. The R75 looked big even surrounded by a bunch of other farm machinery, which tends to be a tad larger than the smart anyway.

smart cabrio
11ft 9in
5ft 1in
Overall Length
25ft 3in
8ft 10in
11ft 2in
6ft 2in
Turning Radius
22ft 6in
14ft 4in
Base Weight
Engine Displacement
8.4 liters
1.0 liter


»  May 24, 2009

What the...?  

The Threat-Based Economy: Years ago it was just a simple little slogan/word play: "Every Litter Bit Hurts." A cajoling reminder that when you tossed your garbage on the ground, you adversely affected the earth and the environment.

Litter and it will hurt

But sometime in recent history the caution to pick up your crap turned from inveiglement to ultimatum, at least in the hands of the Washington State Department of Transportation, which has the inelegantly-worded signs above posted along ther scenic highways and byways.

I was wincing so much at the poor word choice that I didn't even make the connection to the original slogan, which Barbara mentioned as I was complaining about the signs. That just enraged me, because you have to know that in some ad or PR agency, someone decided at some point to punch up the old slogan by adding some "zazz" to it and give it a hip, "edgy" feel for the new millennium, and maybe, you know, make some commercials with guys who could torture litterers.


»  May 19, 2009

What the...?  

For the Guitar Heroes: The action really gets heated about two minutes in.

Dueling Banjos Guitar Hero 2
by Just1Kiet


»  May 18, 2009

What the...?  

Department of Subtle Irony: A company I reported to the Oregon Department of Justice's Consumer Protection division earlier this year because I felt they used misleading tactics in order to jack up monthly service fees related to digital telecommunications sends me a mass-mailed postcard stating "BEWARE: Some will stop at nothing to get a sale."

They go on to say "do not rely on what the door-to-door salesperson tells you as factual," and suggest you report any deceptive sales tactics to their company. From my experience with them, I'd say don't rely on what their own salespersons tell you as factual; they probably want you to report the tactics so they can include them in their repertoire.


»  May 13, 2009


Mayday: In addition to anniversaries of the science-fiction convention I put together and the time I watched a building in Portland blow up (well, down, at least), this May is the anniversary of the end of the last job I held, at a company called Reality Engineering.

Back in October 2005 I got hired for what I called The Last Director Job In Portland, just before heading off to that year's MAX conference in Anaheim.

I'd started looking for a steady gig because even that far back work at the bottom of the multimedia tank had started to get pretty spotty, for whatever reasons, and the year-and-a-half of steady employment I received from Reality helped get us back on our feet after effects of the dot.com implosion combined with my little brush with death.

But it's been two years since that ended. Incoming projects (Director, Flash, or whatever) have been even less frequent than they were four years ago. Resumes and project inquiries have gone out steadily since I was laid off with nary an answer. A couple of the projects that came to me from previous contacts fell through, and one client still owes me thousands of dollars for work I did more than a year ago.

I had a conversation a couple of weeks back with a graphic designer I know whose been in worse straits for longer. He's lost his house and is subsisting on the kindness of some friends along with a very small income from a part-time front desk job. It's not just the lack of income that's a problem, but every month our portfolios get dustier and more out-of-date. Not that anyone's looking at them, but even if they were, when you've been scrabbling to find small jobs to fill in the cracks and the last major project you worked on was literally years ago, what kind of impression does that leave on a potential client? Where have you been since 2005? In prison?

Like a lot of other desperate or semi-desperate people, I've got some hope and money riding on the iPhone gold rush right now. Like a real gold rush, the people selling mining supplies and leading people across the passes are the ones who are going to come out of it well; a lot of the rest will end up worse off than they were before they made the trip.

Crossing my fingers and hoping that I'm among the lucky ones this time. I'll let you know how it ends up when I've released my app (whether you care or not).


What the...?  


Moving kind of slow
No I never had much balance,
Why does everyone I know
Keep making lots of dough?
I guess I'll find out soon
When I get to that
Crystal palace in the sky.

I've heard stories second-hand
About its grand interior
Its gold and silver strands
Cathedral ceilings way up high.
All the furnishing's unique
When you get to your
Crystal palace in the sky.

Well I've worked as a part-time circus boy,
Collected cans down Saticoy,
And patiently put forth my master plan.
I've imagined futures and full plates,
And slept with every subliminal tape,
But now I'm so angry at someone.
My contract is in breach.
Why must my crystal palace
Always be on hold this week?

I feel lucky, I suppose,
At least we're all still breathing.
Stuck here in escrow
Just a-waiting out our loan.
But no big-arm patrol will stop me
When I get to my crystal palace
Bye and bye

And it'll be my way
Or the highway
Getting to my crystal palace
In the sky.

Stan Ridgway. "Crystal Palace," Black Diamond


»  May 7, 2009


Bombing Smartly: From "The Daily Show", 5 May 2009:

FAREED ZAKARIA: I have some friends in Pakistan who used to always denounce the American drone attacks, you know these Predator strikes on the al-Qaeda, and in the last month what I've noticed is they're all in favor of them.

JON STEWART: Really? So now they're afraid.

ZAKARIA: Yeah, yeah. They say that: "You know what? If that's the only thing that'll work, kill those guys."

STEWART: Wow. You know what this is a perfect time for? India to attack.


Of course, the problem with the Predator attacks (and really any aerial bombardment strategy back through WWII) has been the number of innocent civilians killed and maimed as a reult of poor intelligence, uncontrolled munitions, or simply bad judgment. It's not, as Zakaria implies, simply a matter of national soverignty. Of course, if you scare people enough, I suppose they'll approve of their government doing anything to "protect" them, including torture.
Don't you know we got smart bombs,
It's a good thing that our bombs are clever.
Don't you know that the smart bombs are so clever,
They only kill bad people, now

Don't you know though our kids are dumb,
We got smart bombs, what a joyous thing, now
Here we go so let's drink a toast,
To those clever bombs, and the men who built them

There they go now, there go all my friends
There they go now, marching off to war again
Smiling proudly, with their heads in the clouds

Don't you know this is better than any video friend,
It's an action movie
Here we go watch the bad guys get their butts kicked
Really makes me feel good.
Here we go watching CNN, the adrenaline rushes through my veins now
Don't you know it's a feel good show, electronic bliss
It's a video, video...

Boingo, "War Again," Boingo

[UPDATE] And then there's this:
The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed yesterday that "dozens of people, including women and children," were killed in U.S. air strikes on villages in Western Afghanistan Monday night.

You might think something like this would weigh heavily on President Obama's heart.

Yes, it's a war he inherited from George W. Bush, but it's one he has ardently advanced as his own. Air strikes in Afghanistan -- along with missiles fired from drones in Pakistan -- have continued to be a staple of the American approach to the region. And now, under his command, the U.S. military appears to have made a tragic mistake.

So far, however, Obama's public response has been muted. This could be because the military is refusing to confirm the reports from the ground.

But it makes me wonder: Have we all, including Obama, gotten so desensitized to the violent death of civilians at our hands, ostensibly in the name of fighting terror? Is this another tragic Bush legacy?


What the...?  

Blast From the Past: Another day, another memory from the box of long-ago Mays.

Invitational Flyer to the Corbett Building Implosion, 1988

In 1988, as the Pioneer Place project was getting underway, they chose May Day to blow up the Corbett Building, which housed the downtown Fred Meyer store on the floor level. So far as I know it's the only time a controlled demolition procedure has been undertaken in Portland. The first of May that year was a Sunday morning, and the demo was scheduled for about 7am to deter crowds of onlookers. Several thousand people (including Barbara and myself) nonetheless made their way downtown to see it, and I did my best to raise awareness among my fellow college students with the flyer above. May Day? Buildings blowing up in downtown? Of course the thing that made it most entertaining was that it was clearing the way for Banana Republic, Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria's Secret, and Sanrio. Adobe Illustrator 88!

There's a (watermarked) photo here of the building in mid-collapse. In it, you can see that the lower-rising buildings in the block had already been conventionally demolished and removed. The photo looks north, from where Pioneer Tower is, across SW Yamhill Street. On the left, across SW 5th Avenue, are some of the trees on Pioneer Courthouse Square, with the Meier & Frank Building behind them across SW Morrison. Beyond the top of the Corbett Building as it falls, you can see the 620 Building on the southeast corner of 5th & Alder.

We were standing to the right of the photo area, back another block on SW 2nd Avenue, which was as close as the police would let the crowd. It was still pretty impressive.


»  May 4, 2009


Marx Is the New Black:

Portland Socialist Organization listing for 'Marx Is Back'

I was just out for a walk along SE Belmont St. and posters for the event above with a former Californian Green Party candidate for US Senate as the speaker are up on almost every telephone pole in the neighborhood with MARX IS BACK in big, black, block letters.

Now, I'm as much of a fan of socialism as the next guy, but from a marketing standpoint I have to question whether this isn't just a bit over the top. Perhaps a more oblique approach to reintroducing socialism into public discourse as something other than a fearmonger's touchstone might be more helpful.

Then again, who am I to say anything?

Viva Le Darrel



Flash In the Pan:

Phillip Kerman hosted the Flash In the Can awards show last weekend in Toronto. I was last there (along with Phillip), speaking at the newMedia '98 conference. Not the final conference I was ever invited to speak at but it's been a while.

Phillip got the gig because he's been producing a lot of geek-funny videos. He bounced ideas off of me for the past couple of months while he was working material up for the show, I helped write and edit a couple of pieces, and did main voiceover on the piece above.

He also got a lot of people to do cameos. Some were quite involved, but he also had a few Flash "personalities" in brief expressions of cluelessness about the conference and the awards show. I take all credit for my portrayal in this video, which didn't actually stray too far from the truth:


»  May 3, 2009

What the...?  

I'll Take Peeing In a Cup For $800, Alex: Great. Now, in addition to the computers taking over Jeopardy! by the time I get a chance to compete, I'm going to have to worry about opponents amped up on Adderall or some other form of neuro-enhancers.

On the other hand, Phillips said, Provigil's effects "have attenuated over time. The body is an amazing adjusting machine, and there's no upside that I've been able to see to just taking more." A few years ago, Phillips tired of poker, and started playing competitive Scrabble. He was good, but not that good. He was older than many of his rivals, and he needed to undertake a lot of rote memorization, which didn't come as easily as it once had. "I stopped short of memorizing the entire dictionary, and to be really good you have to get up to eight- and nine-letter words," he told me. "But I did learn every word up to five letters, plus maybe ten thousand seven- and eight-letter words." Provigil, he said, helped with the memorization process, but "it's not going to make you smarter. It's going to make you better able to use the tools you have for a sustained period."



Live From the Era of Letraset Type:

Flyer for the 1983 EUCON science fiction convention in Eugene, Oregon

It's May, which means that spring cleaning is well underway. It also means that it's the anniversary of my first venture into entrepreneurship, which was a science fiction convention in Eugene at the then-new Hilton Hotel (I made the arrangements while the hotel was still under construction).

My title for the conference was "Sgt. Preston of the Eucon," and I rented a Mountie costume for the weekend. We flew in (at considerable expense for those days) Spider Robinson, to continue with a sort of Canadian theme (although that wasn't the reason; he was one of my favorites at the time and he hadn't made a lot of appearances on the West Coast; he just happened to be living in Nova Scotia at the time). The brother-in-law of a friend did the illustration of a guy in a spacesuit driving a team of spacesuited dogs, and we were off (Marcel would later do the artwork for my equally successful play-by-mail game venture: GANGLORD. Par for my course, the business plan stank but the artwork was great.)

I don't remember much about that weekend myself. I do know we (rather, I) ended up severely in hock and had to get my folks to bail me out. The amount wasn't large by today's standards, but considering that this was the depth of the Reagan Recession (how's that for perfect timing on my part?) and that I was laid off from my meagrely-paid bookselling job about that time, it seemed insurmountable. Then, of course, naivete and inexperience at planning for security led to someone walking away with a few pieces of art from the art show one night. That's what I remember.

Eucon for me only ran for one year. One of the local bookstore owners made a go of it a few years later, the name was also used by a game convention in Eugene, and I really hadn't thought about it until I ran across the flyer, which I'd apparently used as scrap paper and stuffed in a box sometime before I moved to Portland in 1987.

Still, I got a thrill when I looked online for any mention of the convention and found this at Antiqbook: Europe's Premier Antiquarian Booksite:

Booknumber: 004249
(ROBINSON, SPIDER [GUEST OF HONOR], JOHN VARLEY, KATE WILHELM, DAMON KNIGHT [GUESTS]) - (Program Book for) Eucon 1 (One), 1983, Eugene, or (Riddle Night at Callahan's Place)

Eugene, OR: Willamette Science Fiction Productions. 1983, 1st Edition, 1st Printing. Booklet. 11 pages, stapled, oversize booklet with interesting stuff about this short-lived convention. Includes a riddle game by Spider Robinson (see title above). I got it new at the convention in 1983; nearly as new with just a little back cover wrinkling, one tiny corner crease. NO stamps or alien writing. Near Fine. Near Fine.
USD 20.00 [Appr.: EURO 15.5 | £UK 13.75 | JP¥ 1961]

I'm pretty sure I produced all of the printed material for the conference myself. There wasn't exactly a staff with the capability to do layout and print prep; it was just me, Valery King, and a few other folks. A "riddle game by Spider Robinson"? I don't remember that at all.