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.