burst of clarity

i was walking down hopkins street with a box of takeout chinese food tonight. something was in the air, the cold of a winter night that you know portends warmer nights ahead rather than darker. the scent of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces triggered a brief flood of memory, and then i looked up at the stars as i passed the bus stop and my mind went completely clear for about two minutes. standing there, chinese food going cold, feeling absolutely connected to and part of the world at the deepest level of consciousness. i think i have spent most of my life courting those moments, yet it seems they arrive at times and places of their own choosing. (just like the US army). tonight, it was the corner of monterey and hopkins, near the bus bench opposite espresso roma, at around 8:50 pm.

ghoste on the boate

this was a spring cleaning weekend for me. yesterday the apartment felt the wrath of mr. clean (i guess i probably should have put the large hoop back in my earlobe to fully look the part). today, i headed down to the marina, thinking that i would go for a sail. somehow a bottle of tung oil had been leaking, and so i ended up cleaning that, then evaluating which other projects i should spend the afternoon working on. the cabin lights had stopped working, so i pulled my ammeter out of the toolbox and started poking at the contacts. after about 45 minutes of complete mystification (everything tested out a-ok, but still no lights), i decided to take a break before i started tearing everything apart in frustration. i washed my hands, sat down and unwrapped my sandwich, then looked up. the lights were on. one of those moments that, were it in a movie, would be accompanied by a triple-forte string wallop, causing your heart to skip a beat in its simple, yet frighteningly incongruous appearance. but life is not a movie, and i just stared at the glowing bulb and said “fuck, that sure is weird”.
i also hauled the ’69 johnson outboard out of the storage locker today and walked it up to the dumpster. i spotted some guy on a bicycle giving it a hard lookover, and later when i passed by on my way home, it was gone. good luck pal, make sure you steer clear of the hornblowers with that thing.

the ethics of deluding people.

i was just reading an interesting article on ethical investing. usually these discussions tend to be about greener companies and responsible corporate citizenship and the like. this was an interesting perspective:

Gambling and Hollywood [for example] have disproportionate impacts on poor people – people at the bottom – particularly Hollywood. It gives people a vision of life, a way of thinking, a way of looking at the world, that’s antithetical to their success in many ways. However you look at it – whether it’s locking them into sexual license, whether it’s locking them into a vision of cynicism, or whether it’s locking them into a materialism where they think that’s the way to be human – the way to succeed is to have all this expensive stuff that you have to buy, some sort of ticket to the rat race.

i often think of the impact on people i see with the “keeping up with the joneses” syndrome. i really scratch my head at, for example, the premium people are willing to pay for automobile branding. i mean, a jaguar is just a ford these days, and a benz is a chrysler. yet people are willing to pay double for a different hood emblem. the car-as-status culture is not as pervasive here in berkeley as it is in my hometown of L.A., but i still see it everywhere i go. i know this might elicit comments from some that there are real “performance” and “comfort”and “safety” values to certain luxury cars. and i might concede the point in some cases. only to spare your feelings while we’re cruising in your ride.
and i really feel very sad for people who buy into the absolute fiction that diamonds are valuable. oh hey, valentine’s day is coming up.
i really enjoyed this article today as well, about leaving the information age and moving into the conceptual age. because i am all about conceptualization.

pieces of songs / shhh this is my favorite part

if there is really only 2:00 of a 4:00 song that i want to listen to, i think i should be charged 49.5¬¢ by itunes to download just that part. i mean, i understand all too well how hard it is to come up with an album’s worth of solid material, but sometimes artists will lose me within a single song.

CC Mixter

i fired up an account at CC Mixter, the creative commons community music sharing site. i uploaded, for starters, my stonhenge outtake, a track i did late night while procrastinating other work on writing. i am really pretty excited about collaborating on music over the internets. now i just need to motivate some of my less motivated musician friends.
the problem with collaborating on songs seems to be one of format still. there really is not a universal multitrack software out there, although i think that garageband has the most promise right now to encourage a standard for file formats. basically, if everyone could agree on a wrapper file format (the file that keeps track of the midi and audio involved in a project), we would be a lot closer to being able to work together on tracks. as things stand today though, everyone pretty much has to be running the same software, or else there is a lot of painful dealing that needs to be done, exporting, importing, submixes, etc. it’s still pretty messy.
UPDATE: rad! victor on CC Mixter already did a remix using my stonehenge outtake!

permission granted

joi and i were IMing today, he’s been messing around in garageband, and we decided to make a track together. we were talking about how to go about it, and i said “why don’t you start the car, and i’ll jump in,” something i heard bob dylan say to tom petty on a tape of them drunkenly playing the lounge of a holiday inn one night when they were on tour together.
joi came up with some tracks in garageband, with some lessig soundbites, then flew the track over to my computer, and i loaded it into logic and added some stuff and did a little compressing and EQ. it’s quite different than the acoustic guitar stuff i’ve been working on, and it was a lot of fun. i think we’re going to do more. further info will be at the “permission granted” information clearinghouse (the name for the project).

more games: alchemy of finance / wall street meat

i often will read more than one book at a time, alternating between covers. right now i am reading george soros’ seminal work the alchemy of finance and andy kessler’s wall street meat. they are both intensely engaging books, and i have found myself doing little else but read and eat since friday afternoon.
i decided to read soros’ book early last week. i was IMing with someone at length about currency hedge positions, and the staggering returns that she is making right now courtesy of, amongst others, the chinese government’s pegging of the yuan. george soros is best known for profiting over $US 1.1 billion when he broke the pegging of the british pound.
the revised introduction to the book written by soros in 2003 is a great read. he came at finance with a philosophy background, and developed a theory he calls reflexivity as a framework within which he operates. the book is basically a damnation of the the equilibrium theory of markets, the “market fundamentalism” that is preached so loudly these days from the white house. he argues that the dogmatic paradigm that financial markets will most efficiently allocate resources is completely broken and bears little relationship to what actually occurs. mostly, it is politicians and policy makers who continue to extol the laissez faire model. the actual practitioners have moved on to multiple points of equilibrium, behavioral economics, and evolutionary game theory as more accurate descriptions of the markets.
kessler’s book is a page-turner describing his life as a tech analyst. it is a great view inside the brokerage houses, and gives a lot of insight into how wall street works.

when we were out sailing last week, i was talking with phil about getting hooked into a game, and how easy it becomes to be completely and utterly focused on the task at hand. he has been playing myst IV as well, he seems to be enjoying it much more than i am. i am investigating the idea of playing the market as a game. up until now, i have gone long, traditional buy and hold investing. i have been modestly successful, given that i launched in heavily shortly before the crash.

both of the authors that i am reading, two hugely successful investors, state that finance is a game. the biggest game on earth. of course, i have always known this, but i have been more influenced in my behavior by investors like warren buffett and peter lynch, real buy-and-hold guys. these days however, even warren buffett is hedging in the forex market. i am looking to shift my paradigm. i had visions of monkeys throwing darts at dartboards and outperforming fund managers, and thought i bet a roomful of gamers probably could do better.

about a year ago, i bought the hardware to connect my xbox controller to the mac. now i need to figure out how to map the controller’s buttons to my online brokerage’s interface….

bret in helsinki

i just got done vidchatting with my brother in helsinki. although i use vidchat a lot to keep in touch with family and friends, i still get a little excited when i get a call from the other side of the world. i had an audio conversation with my friend rhez in the philippines (en route to china) via skype a couple of days ago. she was on a 56k, and the quality was still very clear. (although the connection eventually dropped). if you haven’t tried skype yet for your long distance calls, you should. it was awesome when i was in new zealand to walk into an internet cafe and make crystal clear IP to phone calls to the u.s. for around $1 an hour.
vid chat

news flash: bay bridge still not done

phil and i took a break from playing myst to get out on the bay today, and we sailed down to the bay bridge to investigate rumors that the project is nearing completion. nope. it looks like they’ve given up. every time we sail out there, phil and i remark about how we wish that we were the owners of those cranes, leasing them to the state. that rental revenue is some serious “fuck you” money, i bet.
i’ve been feeling a bit scatterbrained the last couple of days, and steering around all the flotsam pushed into the bay by all the rain was just the kind of meditative therapy i needed. there really isn’t an issue of trying to be “in the moment” and “here and now” when you are bearing down on a waterlogged telephone pole at six knots with a front blowing from the north, filling the sails with a more than ample amount of wind. . you just are, very, very present.

sort of immersive

i am not really sure what’s going on here. perhaps i’ve gotten older and less immersible. i doubt that highly. but myst IV, so far, has only gotten me in up to my chest. actually, last night i was pretty excited, and stayed up until 4 solving puzzles and wandering through the ages. i was perhaps, overcome by nostalgia for the original myst and its storyline, of sirrus and atrus and achenar and catherine. myst and riven were unlike ANYTHING i had ever played in my life, and i am not sure i have had that feeling of losing myself so totally in a game since. (maybe the final fantasy games, and the original deus ex came close). the linking books to parallel worlds, the concept of writing as a process that creates these worlds, and the integration of the storyline in the brilliant visual design rearranged my thinking. they were like that first hit of crack, only for videogames. literary, romantic, and sinister all at once. and the puzzles were challenging (and the fact that i was smoking strong weed made them that much more so).

but this one hasn’t completely seized my attention. oh sure, it’s pretty cool. but i went to my investment club meeting tonight rather than making some lame excuse, and thoroughly enjoyed it. i stop occasionally and read my email. i play the guitar. nothing resembling putting my entire life on hold. i paused the game and went for a jog today. this is troubling. either this game isn’t all that good, or i am half the gamer i used to be. sorry, this has probably been a boring post if you’ve never stayed up past dawn, realized that trying to sleep when there are still puzzles left to solve is futile, and made a pot of coffee to keep you going through day two. but that’s the kind of person i…was? i’m going to bed.