Sean Murray 195?-2009

I met Sean while visiting Olympia, Washington, in 2007 (before I knew I'd be moving to Portland). I was sitting in the Urban Onion and behind the bar—on the ubiquitous wall of snapshots—someone had black markered The Goddamn Devil across the bottom of a Polaroid.

Later, I recognize the guy from the photo, get a pleasant vibe from him, and introduce myself by saying, "Well, if it isn't the goddamn devil." To which we laugh and discuss the photo. I learn he is gay. He learns I am not. I learn he is a local radio announcer. We talk about our shared art interests. He talks music. I talk about my hiking Siamese cat.

He was always as full of stories as he was a patient listener. The last night we hung out we—my paramour, he, and I—went to a Jazz bar in PDX Oldtown/Chinatown. He may have had a slight cold, but mostly he was kind-of-sad because he'd not emotionally recovered from the recent death of his cat. As he told the story of his pet curling up on his chest and heaving her final sigh, I cried for a cat I'd never met.

I got an e-mail from him in March: he was in the hospital after having four lymph nodes removed.

We spoke on the phone ten days ago: he was bluntly non-optimistic. Cancer. Moving very fast. Woozy from medication, he told me 'he didn't think he'd live to see summer'. And I told him I'd come visit the first week in May.

He died in his home last night.

You will be missed, Sean. I didn't know you for very long, but even short friendships can be strong ones.

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up. — Mark Twain

Stegasaur to Sauropod - strip

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are—in almost every case—gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not, themselves, examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.Autobiography of Mark Twain, by Samuel Clemens

Totally Random Album Cover

Thanks to Border Town Notes for this meme.

To make your own:

BAND NAME: Random wikipedia
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

ALBUM TITLE: Random quote
The last four or five words of the last quote on the page is the title of your album.

COVER ART: Flicker random
The third picture is your album cover.

HIT SINGLE: Use the last few words from a different random quote page.

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. — Mark Twain

Two (of many) not-much-discussed Failures

0700 hrs. It was a clear, cool, early-Spring morning. The victim parked his motorcycle near the grassy edge of an almost-full paved parking lot and began to dismount. Multiple bullets—identified (after the autopsy) as fired from the same .22 caliber weapon—entered the victim’s body through the back of his torso, neck, and skull. The shots originated from no more than 2o feet behind the victim. He died before turning around or completely removing his helmet.

About a month later I began my first assignment: assist that investigating team. Although many dozens of people assisted (some for years) my assistance can only be measured in keystrokes and sheets of paper, not in measurable results.

Every person who worked with, lived near, knew, heard of, or shared a sidewalk with the victim was interviewed (several hundreds of people).

Every person who parked their car in that parking lot or any of the nearby lots (500+ people) were interviewed.

For several weeks, checkpoints identified every pedestrian/car/driver who came near that parking lot in the morning. Then those people were interviewed (1,500+ additional people).

Every occupant, of every building with a window facing the parking lot, was interviewed (almost another 100 people).

The wife of the victim ($100,000 life insurance beneficiary) was identified as recently co-habitating (yea, that was the word we used: 'co-habitating') with a "new boyfriend".

She and boyfriend were interviewed as suspects. Both denied any involvement and agreed to take polygraph examinations. Both failed their polygraphs, continued to deny, and terminated their interviews. Both declined all further interviews and got a lawyer.

Interviews were conducted attempting to locate anyone who may have sold a .22 caliber revolver to either the wife or the boyfriend, who may have seen them together prior to the homicide, or who may have heard them brag about the homicide afterward (another few-dozen people).

Every one of the previously-interviewed almost 3,000 people were re-interviewed and shown a photographic line-up which included vehicles and faces of the boyfriend and wife.

Not one person was located with any useful information. In the US, failing a lie-detector is insufficient evidence to take any action—and the two polygraph results are the only pieces of ‘suspicion’.

Qualifying as a true ‘cold case’—I believe this homicide is still unresolved.

Eleven years later, I assumed a supervisory role over offices in the Balkans. These offices had a very large, very complex, ongoing investigation involving: bribery, graft, larceny, kick-backs, conspiracy, wire-fraud and maybe a dozen other lesser felonies. The amount of suspected loss—in US Government funds—was measured in excess of 100 million dollars. The suspect of this investigation was Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (at the time, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc.) and several of the company’s local employees, a few of it’s regional managers, and a couple of it’s executives.

The investigation had already taken over 18 months, dozens of full-time investigators, rooms full of boxes of documents, and hundreds of gigabytes of electronic data (on floppy disks). I was required to supervise the investigators, be familiar with the over-all investigation and act more as an administrator than an investigator.

Lawyers from Halliburton met with high-ranking Army Officers and government lawyers. They offered them a check (with no admission of wrong-doing attached) for 2 Million dollars—if they would terminate the investigation.

The Government lawyers told the Halliburton lawyers "No." We continued our investigation. The check for 2 Million returned to Texas.

A few months later, while providing oversight and review, the provenance of a single piece of paper came into question and this was what was determined:

A confidential informant (CI) from inside Brown & Root, had provided the sheet of paper to an investigator almost a year earlier.

The paper contained a small slice of evidence—in the form of names, a signature, and some initials—that indicated conspiracy to commit fraud, as well as larceny, had been going on for years.

That piece of paper was used as a supporting document in affidavits to obtain several search warrants for almost a year.

The search warrants had uncovered hundreds of other slices of evidence (buried in the tons of boxes of paper and electronic data).

Prior to the CI providing the piece of paper to the investigator, the CI and the investigator met and the investigator asked, ‘Can you get me any proof they are doing what you say?’
'What kind of proof?’
‘Documents, bill of ladings, ledgers that show one price is what they pay but the other price is what they tell the Government they pay. Stuff like that.’
(This is where they should have stopped talking)
‘There’s a letter I saw last week shows who...details of...and costs well as how much.... Would that help?’
‘Yea, Great. Get me that letter.’

Unfortunately, we have laws prohibiting the unreasonable search and seizure of property by agents of the Government. And when that investigator targeted that specific piece of paper, and asked a CI to obtain it, he was “circumventing a search warrant”.

It would have been acceptable for the CI to share reams of unidentified documents in hopes there would be evidence on them, but as soon as the investigator knew of a specific item of evidence he had to ask a judge for a search warrant to obtain it. Tasking the CI to retrieve it was the same as breaking in and stealing it in the eyes of the law.

Fruit of the poisonous tree” relegated every slice of evidence obtained over the past year to be irrevocably tainted and no longer of any value.

The entire investigation was folded-up and shelved. Hundreds of thousands of investigative man-hours were lost because of one mistake with one sheet of paper.

Nothing incites to money-crimes like great poverty or great wealth. — Mark Twain

Stand By Me

Many thanks to my sister, Kim, for discovering (and forwarding to me) this wonderful music—mash-up.

Travel is fatal to prejudice. — Mark Twain

ESP Explained

Stuffed stuff from Mahar Drygoods. Idea poached from Owl Farm Blog (by Anita Thompson, Hunter S.'s widow).

Every generalization is dangerous, especially this one. — Mark Twain


Please do something special for our planet today. Whether is be something simple like not using any of the electricity you would normally use, or not taking a shower, or taking the bus, or planting something that will grow, or cleaning/picking up garbage. It doesn't matter what it little thing is one little important thing.

Every little (bit) counts. We are very glad to have it, thin as the slice may be. — Mark Twain


digital rendering by veach st glines — 2009

Note: The title is an anagram for the collection of items in this rendering. Anyone wish to hazard a guess?

When we know a thing, we have only scorn for other people who don't happen to know it. — Mark Twain

Meteor Showers

Beginning tonight—20 April—the Lyrid Meteor Showers will be visible to most of the Northern Hemisphere. The Lyrids are caused by the Earth passing through the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher, a non-periodic comet, named (in modern-times) in 1861, although it has been dip-zipping around the sun for a millennium or twenty-six.

The dark hours before dawn on Tuesday, 22 April, will be the peak time to see these comet-trail based meteor showers. The Lyrids will end on Wednesday, 23 April.

The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. — Mark Twain (born and died in the years that Halley's Comet was closest to Earth, 1835-1910)

Zeal 4 Real - strip

Stuffed stuff from giant microbes, the rest comes from me.

Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword. - Mark Twain, Christian Science, 1903-1907


digital rendering by veach st glines — 2009

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

Spotless Days & What That Means—Redux

This is:
  • A) a vid-demo of the newest funked-up skratch-laden LP "each-ahh-lader" by DJ Blex.
  • B) a very-extremely boring special effects loop (which couldn't get any u-tube play).
  • C) a 1sec=1hour 'snapshot' of the solar winds 'dragging' shit away from the sun.
  • D) a pic of Eiffel65 looking thru a ziegler head mirror (da-ba-dee da-ba-doo).

Yesterday's 'Sun Times' was nothing compared to todays'.

I mean come-on. Does it get any more better zowie-wowie than this? This is a UV photograph of our dear old ultra-calm and quiet Uncle Sol. No spots...but there are two rather good sized holes (the darker areas at the south pole and above the south pole, closer to the middle). And they may mean something besides cool green photo. But then you'd have to click on the photos and read about the excitement. Nah.

A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain. — Mark Twain [1835-1910]

Spotless Days & What That Means

Over at SpaceWeather they explain all about our current 'solar minimum' (relating to the current lack of sunspots, which have been on-the-decrease for the last five years). Last year had the least number of sunspots since 1913. This year may have even less; already 88% of 2009-days have been spotless.

Our sun has (approximately) an 11-year cycle of sun-spot activity and 2009 could be a record minimum 'calm' year. The last 'solar minimum' peaked in 1996; the current one began in 2004.

How does this effect us? There are less auroras (except there may be one Thursday/Friday this week in the extreme northern latitudes because of a solar hole). And, the sun is cooler and heats the earth (a fraction) less. Oh, and that photo in the top corner of this post is really very nice—isn't it?—without any pesky spots.

If you're looking for excitement, there isn't any. But, then that's science...not apocalyptic, not miraculous, not even particularly essomenic, just logically informative.

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here. Warm southern wind, blow softly here. Green sod above, lie light, lie light. Good night, dear heart, good night, good night. — Mark Twain

Black and White Stuffed Convention

That's the way with a cat, you know—any cat; they don't give a damn for discipline. And they can't help it, they're made so. But it ain't really insubordination, when you come to look at it right and fair—it's a word that don't apply to a cat. A cat ain't ever anybody's slave or serf or servant, and can't be—it ain't in him to be. And so, he don't have to obey anybody. He is the only creature...that don't have to obey somebody or other...It sets him above the whole ruck, it puts him in a class by himself. He is independent. — Mark Twain, "The Refuge of the Derelicts"

Fourth Dehydrated Hyena

digital rendering by veach st glines — 2009

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. — Mark Twain

Sometimes it is all ahead of you

Cameron from Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons poses this (I paraphrase from his last post):
I'm thinking about the quote: 'You have your whole life ahead of you,' and the manner in which it is generally offered as advice.

Generally, a person is at a crossroads...there is one option that represents an opportunity which provides some level of security, such as a steady job. Accordingly, there is a second (or third, fourth, etc...) option which represents some level of risk or unsteadiness, such as traveling or pursuing an art of some kind without realistic expectations of lengthy sustainability.

1. At what age, or at what percent of one's life, is one's whole life no longer ahead of one?

2. Indeed, what would a life look like if one were to operate with this concept in mind at all times?

3. What would a life look like if one acted as if one's entire life was perpetually ahead of them?

4. Would they always choose with their heart, ignoring external influences and pressures?

5. Eventually, would the initial secure option (which was, at the time, ignored) arise as one that now speaks to the heart as the better option?

          For those who have not read Cameron, a bit of back-story will help understand where he is coming from.  Cameron obtained his teacher's certificate a short while ago and has recently moved to Ecuador—from Texas—to teach.

I will 'give a go' at answering his questions:

     1. There is a measurable amount of sneer in the tone of this question.  Of course, even a man sitting on death row with a red circle on this month's calendar, "has his whole life ahead of him."  But, the best answer to this question presupposes the person being asked is aware of the actuarial percentages and how those percentages relate to relative life expectancy.  In my case—about 2/3 of my life is gone and 1/3 of my life is ahead of me...unless I die on-or-about 21 Dec 2012 (then, 8/9 of my life is gone and 1/9 of my life is ahead of me).

     2. Someone who would be happy and upbeat about today, excited about tomorrow, and not too concerned about yesterday (no matter how bad it may have been).  I suspect their 'todays' would be filled with taking chances and risks because there are an unknown amount—or maybe even an infinite number—of 'tomorrows' ahead of them.

     3. Saying someone: "acts as if they perpetually have their whole life ahead of them," is describing reckless behavior (e.g. buying on credit with no regard to the ability to pay the bills).

     4. I think the phrase: 'living like your entire life is ahead of you' is a synecdoche (thank you Mr. Kaufman) because it is both a label placed on the actions of young adults who do not have any familial or socioeconomic responsibilities, and, an actuarial fact that 20-somethings have only lived a small percentage of their years.  But to answer the question—no; familial and socioeconomic responsibilities are rarely avoidable for us humans.  Only meth addicts 'always ignore external influences'... oh, and 14-year-olds.

     As a tangental note—and I'm not implying anything about Cameron—I have a few gay acquaintances who seem to live a relatively "untethered" lifestyle.  Their constant ability and desire to pick-up-and-move seem less about 'relationship/job anchors' and more about possibilities, opportunities, and the desire for new experiences in new places.

     5. Ah, regrets . . . if you choose to live life to it's fullest, full-speed-ahead and-damn-the-torpedoes, will—someday—you look back and murmur: hey self, what the fuck were you thinking when you joined the circus, got your entire body tattooed and gave every dollar you earned to an alligator wrangler in Pensacola?  Of course you will.   That's the lovely part about the human condition: our ability to second-guess ourselves makes us sane.  Or, when we fail at it, it makes us dead in Alaska.  One or the other.

     Post Script: hey Cameron, I thought I was "taking a chance" by pulling stakes and moving from Arizona to Portland on not much more than a whim.   Texas to Salinas de Guaranda?  I am in awe of you, and my admiration of your 'living life like it's all ahead of you' is vast.

It is the epitome of life. The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity. — Mark Twain (in a letter to Edward Dimmit, July, 19, 1901)

Progressive Quiz

Fear = Survival Mechanism

I am a god-fearing–fearing¹ person. This multi-hyphenated word concisely captures my true feelings about the uncountable mass of tera–terra-idiots. ‘Tera,’ as in: the uncountable quantity of every dead, living, and yet-to-be-conceived bag of H20 and minerals who once crabbed, is crabbing, or will crab about on the planet; and the ‘terra-idiots’ are those who: once claimed/now claim/or will claim, to believe in an invisible omniscient-omnipresent-omnipotent entity who created, controls, or will destroy, this ball of H20 and minerals currently crawling through space at 134K mph² (relative to the space of our universe) 486K mph (relative to the Milky Way Galaxy) and 67K mph (relative to Sol).

I believe that those who claim to believe in an invisible-magic-sky-entity have questionable rationality and live a self-deceit-packed life filled with hypocrisy and bigotry³. I point out that, ‘they claim to believe’ because within the uncountable tera–terra-idiot mass, there are many uncountable giga–terra-fools who (once/are/will) claim to believe in a vengeful/loving-being-who-patiently-listens-to-their-every-murmur solely because of societal, familial, political, or cultural pressures....but they never actually believe. They just don’t want to be excommunicated, stoned, banished, disowned, disinherited, shunned, or ostracized.

All belief-systems preach that their followers are clever, altruistic, kind, generous, honest, and noble people and that all the other belief-systems are filled with foolish, self-centered, stingy, deceptive and corrupt people. Every religion and church teaches hatred and distrust of others. Even the most open minded and ‘liberal’ religions sell themselves to their parishioners by pointing out the less open minded qualities of other religions.

Being afraid of people who claim to have faith in things that do not exist is merely a good defense mechanism—like being afraid of the insane. The actions of god-fearing and insane people are equally unpredictable, unfettered by common sense, and not grounded in reality.

¹Thanks Davecat.
²I apologize for using mph; but miles are relative to my reality. The kilometer-majority need to multiply by 1.61.
³The god-fearing who actually read this, and take umbrage, need to treat themselves to a hot steaming cup of I don't give a fuck what you say. Leave. Big people are talking.

During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church—after eight hundred years—gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.....There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain. — Mark Twain, "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice," Europe and Elsewhere (1923)

Create Your Own Gyro-Art

Thanks to zefrank for all the fantastic time-wasting stuff; like this gyro-thingy.

You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. — Mark Twain

spoof radially

digital rendering by veach st glines — 2009

The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. — Mark Twain