The Ultimate Keyboard

15 May 2019

From XKCD:

Link to the rest at XKCD

Cemetery Wine

17 September 2018

(Yes, PG is more easily distracted than usual this morning.)

From Atlas Obscura:

Catholicism and wine cross paths throughout history and literature. Jesus turned water into wine. Some wineries survived Prohibition by producing still-legal sacramental wine. Mass-goers still drink wine as part of the sacred Communion ritual. And now, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California, is turning grapes grown in their cemeteries into bottles of reds and whites fit for a graveyard picnic.

These cemetery vineyards got their start as a beautification project. In 2006, the diocese was faced with the task of landscaping unused portions of the grounds at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward. Grass would’ve cost $50,000 an acre, so they decided to plant grape vines at less than half the cost. The diocese liked the idea so much that they planted vines across three different graveyards, each offering unique growing conditions for particular varietals. Growers planted chardonnay, pinot noir, and primitivo at Holy Sepulchre; cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel at Holy Cross in Antioch; and pinot noir, merlot, and sangiovese at St. Joseph’s in San Pablo.

The diocese initially offered the resulting bottles of wine to parishes within the community and donated them to charities for fundraisers. But in 2013, they began a collaboration with Alameda’s Rock Wall Winery to take their products, labeled Bishop’s Vineyard, to the next level. Today, Bishop’s Vineyard produces around 600 cases annually, offers memberships to an exclusive wine club, and has won medals at local wine competitions and festivals.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Crypto Week

17 September 2018

Although visitors to TPV are an intelligent and widely-read group of individuals with many interests, it occurred to PG that some might not know that this is the beginning of Crypto Week, so declared by Cloudflare, a cloud services company.

Although this is not the standard fare on TPV and is not intended to become so, “Welcome to Crypto Week” in the subject line of an email PG received in the last couple of hours, did its intended job for an advertising/promotional email — PG clicked to open the email instead of deleting it.

Every day this week, Cloudflare will be announcing support for a new technology that uses cryptography to make the Internet better. Everything we are announcing this week is free to use and provides a meaningful step towards supporting a new capability or structural reinforcement.

This might not be an ideal message for those promoting a murder mystery, but given PG’s strange mélange of techno-legal interests, it captured a bit more of his fleeting attention. He clicked a link that lead to the Welcome to Crypto Week landing page. The third paragraph read:

Everything we do online depends on a relationship between users, services, and networks that is supported by some sort of trust mechanism. These relationships can be physical (I plug my router into yours), contractual (I paid a registrar for this domain name), or reliant on a trusted third party (I sent a message to my friend on iMessage via Apple). The simple act of visiting a website involves hundreds of trust relationships, some explicit and some implicit. The sheer size of the Internet and number of parties involved make trust online incredibly complex. Cryptography is a tool that can be used to encode and enforce, and most importantly scale these trust relationships.

PG found the lead-in paragraphs unusually well-written for a tech company (not a terribly high standard, but one rarely achieved). While some of PG’s best friends are tech entrepreneurs and engineers, he doesn’t always get a buzz from their writing styles.

The landing page becomes a bit more technical from there, but was not without the occasional metaphor – combining cryptographic processes was described as, “building a taller tower of turtles.”

If you’ve gotten this far, you might want to click on the link, but if you didn’t click, PG wouldn’t blame you.

For the record, PG has no pecuniary or other type of relationship with Cloudflare. His Lastpass password vault does reflect that he had some sort of login with Cloudflare that he last used four years ago, but four years reaches back into the 18th century for the internet.

Link to the rest at Welcome to Crypto Week – Cloudflare


Bill Whitaker

6 March 2018

A good friend of mine passed away today.

Bill Whitaker was a superb artist who primarily painted portraits and earned his living from his art during most of his life.

In the last 20-25 years, most of his paintings were created on commission and are privately owned. Others he sold in art galleries throughout the American West. Several of Bill’s paintings are already in museums and I expect to see more in those surroundings in the future.

Bill lived less than five minutes away and welcomed visitors when he was painting. He worked in a studio with a very high ceiling and a tall glass north-facing wall so he enjoyed perfect light for his art.

Bill usually worked from photographs of his subject that he had taken previously in the same studio with professional-level photo and lighting equipment. Much of the time when  I walked into his studio the portrait looked great to me but Bill explained there was a lot more work to go. He worked with a small brush touching the canvas here and there with almost indiscernible strokes.

Bill usually had a photograph he had taken of the subject on a large computer monitor next to his canvas. Even after I thought the painting was a perfect reflection of the photo, he added more. When compared with his final painting, even a very good photo which was its basis looked flat and lifeless.

You can see examples of Bill’s work at his website. The paintings themselves look better when seen in person than the website photos do, but you can get an idea.

On the Portraits page, in the middle of the top row, you’ll see a portrait of a young woman with short hair. She was the daughter of a neighbor who lives even closer to me than Bill did.

Megan was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 17 years old and died from the disease when she was 18. It was a devastating experience for her family. Bill painted Megan’s portrait for the family and the original hangs in their home. Megan is shown as she looked between cancer treatments during her last illness.

Love came down at Christmas

24 December 2015

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christine Rossetti

Christmas Trees – A Christmas Circular Letter

24 December 2015

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Robert Frost

And the Fair Land

26 November 2015

From a Wall Street Journal editorial that first appeared at Thanksgiving, 1961:

Anyone whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.

And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.

So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.

. . . .

So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere—in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

A call for civility

17 September 2015

I’ve been reading TPV since about 2011. One of the things that drew me here was the comments. They were pleasant in tone, informative, and added to my search for knowledge about self-publishing.

Sadly, that isn’t true anymore. In the last year I’ve seen a degradation in the tone on certain posts, and an influx of comments that are combative, insulting, and frankly just the usual back-and-forth that causes me to stop reading comments on other blogs.

I would hate to see that happen here. I would like to ask for a return to civility. I get that we have a wide range of readers with a wide range of political views. It would be lovely if you could express those views without denigrating those that don’t think like you. — This part posted by Meryl Yourish

TPV readers and commenters come from every position on the political spectrum and hold a wide variety of views on just about any subject. Most of the time–nearly <i>all</i> of the time, in fact–we manage to discuss the world of books and publishing and disruption and authors, etc. without rancor and without resorting to name-calling. We’re not perfect in that regard, but we’re always striving to do better. The kinds of comments that caused one post to be closed today don’t have any place here. There are plenty of places on the Internet where civility isn’t valued and cleverness comes before the other person’s feelings. This isn’t one of them, and that’s one reason I feel at home here. —Bridget McKenna

Ya know, I like a good fight, myself. But this is a forum that is well-recognized for an unusual degree of civility, and it’s best if we can keep it that way. (Now if you’d care to take it outside…) —Karen Myers

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