Wednesday, October 24, 2007

An Act of God

With Santa Ana conditions, the air has a distinctive smell associated with the low humidity -- actually, it's probably smoke. Wildfires are still burning through the mountains of southern California. Even though we're quite lucky in the city of LA, one can only see the smoke in the distant mountains.

The photo below was taken the other morning (looking east). The red sky is not fire, though, but only the sunlight trying to penetrate the smoke.

I suppose, these are days when a firefighter just can't say, "Oh, I don't feel like going in to work today." Sort of like a case of the "network going down" in a big way, including roads, power lines, phone lines, and even cell phone towers.

Whether the fires were started as an act of God, an act of nature, or the act of a guy barbecuing in his backyard, people need to "why" (when their home goes up in flames). Fires have a certain indifference, especially to human habitation.

But low-burning forest fires have happened naturally in the western mountains and prairies, even before people built their homes there. It clears out forest litter, and even needed by some trees to grow. Some researchers say, though, that "global warming" and human-created climatic changes may be causing more intense fires along with a longer wildfire season. It's something to think about.

[ NASA Photos of October 2007 Fires ]


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Onizuka Street, Little Tokyo

Someone asked me the other day, "Who was Ellison Onizuka?" If you walk around Little Tokyo, you'll see a "Space Shuttle" memorial to Ellison Shoji Onizuka on a street also named after him.

It's rare to see monument for an aerospace engineer, especially for someone from Kona, Hawai'i, and Japanese American too! He was a USAF test pilot and a NASA astronaut -- a mission specialist on the tragic 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

I grew up in a small town in Ohio. As kids of the "space age", we also looked up at the night sky, and dreamed of going to the stars. From the field behind our house, we launched model rockets made of cardboard tubes; stabilized by balsa wood fins. Some of the rockets were our own design. Some carried "astronaut" insects inside them.

We had many successful flights, but one rocket burned up on the launch pad. Another one crashed when one of the engines (of a two-engine model) failed to ignite -- causing the rocket to go off at an angle. The technology in a Space Shuttle, of course, is more refined, but I would say that it's still a risky venture when you have so much explosive energy beneath you.

So who was Ellison S. Onizuka? His astronaut bio is on the NASA website, but he was a grandson of farmers and the son of grocers. I feel that it's his idealism, though, that makes him a hero. He was a dreamer, and a person who reminds us that the future can hold many wonderful opportunities to change our world. It's an immigrant's dream, a computer engineer vision, or a social worker's aspiration.

I found a few of his quotations:

"Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but by what your mind can imagine." - Ellison Onizuka, 1980

"Make your life count -- and the world will be a better place because you tried." - Ellison Onizuka, Message to Konawaena High School, 1980

"Every generation has the obligation to free men's minds for a look at new worlds... to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation." - Ellison Onizuka, Page 28 of the US passport

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cold Desserts

Walking around Little Tokyo today, it seems like mochi ice cream isn't the only "cold dessert" in this part of town. Have you noticed all these places?

Labels: ,

Little Tokyo Construction

These photos speak for themselves. Change (and gentrification) is happening in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Will Little Tokyo (and other "Japantowns") as historic ethnic neighborhoods survive? Or will it merge with the mainstream? Some of the issues that the new construction raises were discussed [here] at the Ties That Bind Conference in 2005.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 12, 2007

Virtual Computer Talk

Someone was calling this website "Hikaru's blog", and "it is" and "it isn't". It was never meant to have one fixed topic. So maybe I should change the topic to "computers"...

One common question that I receive is, "What kind of computer do I use?" By "computer", people often refer to the operating system software (OS) environment (usually Windows or Macintosh). The answer for me is Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.

Many people don't realize it, but a shift in personal computer thinking has happened over the past few years. In the old days, you might be running Windows only on a "PC" (Intel machine) or the Macintosh operating system only on a "Mac" (PowerPC machine). There were reasons for computer companies to stick with a certain OS for their hardware.

But these days, the operating system is beginning to detach from the personal computer hardware. In 2005, the first Intel-based Macs emerged which made it possible to run Windows XP as well as Mac OS X. The computer I currently use at home is a Mac mini where I can run Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Linux simultaneously (yes, all at the same time) using a product called VMware Fusion.

For a "computer guy" this is really nice. I don't need a closet full of old junk computers (which I have) to test out different PC setups. And when I'm done with it, I can just "delete" the virtual computer. I can have a Linux server running on the same machine where I'm editing Hikaru's video (which I also do). The Linux server is serving web pages from my home ADSL connection.

But where this approach makes more sense is in the area of energy conservation. Computers can use a lot of electrical power. A typical PC doing nothing (no applications running) can consume close to 180 watts. So you can imagine how much power a typical data center server room can consume running 24/7. But what if you can consolidate all the different servers into one (hardware) machine? That's a lot of energy savings.

So I can run virtual Linux, Windows, and Macintosh servers on my Mac mini that uses only 20 watts of power, instead of using 500 watts. But why would I want to? I don't know -- that's more of a "computer geek" issue. And that's technology...


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Material Attachments

Today, we had a box filled with items to give away to a friend who is expecting a baby. Hikaru found out that we were giving those things away, and he clutched his musical mobile. He wouldn't let us take it. Since his first week out of the womb, this mobile hung over Hikaru's crib. He watched it spin around and around over his head. We took it down almost a year ago (half a lifetime for Hikaru), but I suppose, he still remembers it...

Once upon a time, Hikaru would have been content with only food and sleep -- like a Buddha, with his eyes closed in serene meditation. A primary teaching of Buddhism (and other world religions), as a path to freedom and finding peace, is the extinguishment of material attachments. Worldly attachments contribute to a cycle of suffering, and as they say, "it's all in the mind".

Yes, easy to say, but unfortunately difficult to realize. Several years ago, we painfully discovered the depth our material attachments when our home was burglarized -- my wedding ring, my wife's engagement ring, a computer, all gone. I didn't miss the new laptop computer, as much as the sentimental stuff, including a telescope that I've had from years of watching the stars. Those things were associated with life memories, and I wanted to hold onto them. It's hard to let them go.

So for now, we'll let Hikaru keep his mobile. Maybe eventually he'll forget about it... but he has a pretty good memory.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bees and Basil

The flowers of our basil plants are very attractive to bees (for some reason). If anyone knows why, please let me know. This is a closeup photo that was difficult to capture with the bee's constant motion.

Also, as side note, the basil plant is a native of Asia that has been cultivated for over 5000 years. You can't beat fresh basil in pasta and other dishes -- great stuff!

Labels: ,

Friday, October 05, 2007

Children's Garden

There's a Children's Garden at the Huntington in San Marino with "water" as one basic element. Hikaru is careful around water because you know what can happen... You can get wet.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Algorithm Re-Design

it would be good to design an algorithm
logical mechanical efficient
a set of instructions for living

but instead i measure the intensity of stars
by feeling the weight of the cold air
as my lungs inhale and exhale

i listen to the depth of dawn's silence
by capturing the limits of my hearing
from night noise to the rooster's crowing

i search for tranquility in my chattering mind
like a turbulent cumulonimbus cloud reaching high
-- now blue skies with sunlight falling unbroken

when i run forever in my dreams
there is no circumference on this planet
but my mind grows tired -- exhausted

eventually a numerical answer is computed
with slice of nori over the right eye
and seeing whatever the left eye uncovers

two-year old hikaru observes with laughter
counting one to two to three to four to five
performing in real time

-- it's just fun.

© 2007 by WEb

Note: Nori is a Japanese seaweed that Hikaru really likes because it's like paper and fun to eat. Get it (SEE-weed)?

Labels: ,