January 2012


I wrote this up and in the meantime, Gabriel won the state-level yoga asana competition for a second time! I don’t have video of him winning, but here’s a photo, and see the footage from his last win below.

Gabriel, Winning Oregon

Posting the video of my brother Damian playing with Eric Burdon reminded me of a video clip of my brother Gabriel that I’m super proud of. This is Gabriel competing (and winning) in Bikram Choudhury’s Oregon state hatha yoga championship two years ago. I wish I had footage of him competing in the nationals, too, but sadly I do not.

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My Grandpa Bob turns 93 today. I feel so lucky to get to live with him and interact with him every day–he lives most of the year in a trailer on my parents’ property in Joshua Tree, so we’re neighbors right now.

Grandpa Bob is one of my best role models, and his current living situation reminds me of how he inspires me the most. Instead of focusing on his own material security, for the past 45 years he traveled around the country, helping our his friends and family wherever he went. Whenever Grandpa Bob showed up, you knew that things were going to get done. He’d tune your piano, help build your house or shed or boat, dig a septic, whatever. He would enthusiastically join in or start projects. And when the work was all done, he’d always have good conversation about some topic he was delving into, usually from the fringes of human thought.

The result of this lifestyle is that now, when his memory and mobility are keeping him from being as helpful and active, he has built up so much goodwill that he has a lot of options in his old age. He lives with us in the winters and with our cousins in Idaho in the summers, but I imagine he could live with any number of friends and family around the country who would gladly take him in. He didn’t worry about money. He just built community. And that is a good model for living, in my opinion.

Here’s Grandpa Bob (who actually flew biplanes) with my brother Ely, about to fly model airplanes–both of their favorite activity:

Ely, Grandpa Bob at Sunburst Park, December 29, 2011

My brother Damian recently played bass and sang backup for Eric Burdon on Google Music, doing Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” They shot at Rimrock Ranch in Pioneertown, a cool spot that Reanna and I had been looking at for a wedding venue. The rest of the band is Eric McFadden on guitar and Wally Ingram on drums. Here it is:

Yesterday I woke up to a violent wind storm. I walked up to the house for breakfast and found Grandpa Bob had been blown over in the driveway and he was struggling to get up. A gust had blown him straight over backwards. He was embarrassed but not injured at all. (I hope to be able to take a fall like that at 93!)

Growing up in the desert, wind was my least favorite weather. I’ve been blown into a ditch on my bike and had countless teenage hairstyles ruined by wind. It is kind of exciting to see something so powerful, though. We had gusts at 66 miles per hour, making it a “violent storm” on the Beaufort scale (see below), just between a gale and a hurricane. In the Pacific northwest, and especially in cities, this intensity of wind blows trees into houses and causes pretty radical damage. Stuff around here is built for wind. You might lose your roof and you will definitely lose anything that isn’t “nailed down hard,” as we say, but the plants and other structures will be fine.

Here are a couple of very short videos I took. Turn the sound down–they are loud. Can you see the sandstorm about a half mile away in the first one?

The Beaufort Wind Force Scale, according to Wikipedia:

Calm > 1 mph

Light air 1-3 mph

Light breeze 4-7 mph

Gentle breeze 8-12 mph

Moderate breeze 14-17 mph

Fresh breeze 18-24 mph

Strong breeze 25–30 mph

High wind 31–38 mph

Gale 39–46 mph

Strong gale 47-54 mph

Storm 55-63 mph

Violent storm 64-72 mph

Hurricane  ≥ 73 mph

I had the idea that animated maps could be a very cool way of presenting data. You could show changes over time and space of any quantity that we collect, and do it in a way that is much more intuitive and appealing than graphs or databases of numbers.

After some considerable (though not exhaustive) searching, these were the most interesting animated maps I found, and I think they are worth watching. I have to say, though, that my overall impression is that this is a sadly underused technique. Come on, data people! Off the top of my head, I’d like to see animations of demographic shifts, weather and climate changes, number of scientific papers published, regime change by region… Get creative!

I should say, before presenting the map animations I found, that I either do not know or am not certain of the accuracy of the sources of the data presented in these animations. Data presentation can be used to inform or mislead, and I do not present these as True, just Interesting.

Several religions mapped over time:

 

This one starts slow, but the first several minutes of nothing happening make the last couple minutes fairly shocking:

 

 

This is a cool visual presentation of global health and wealth. I often find presentations of data to be either dense and non-intuitive or boring. This one is interesting and inspiring.

Hans Rosling also has a TED talk here that is really worth watching, on population, fertility, child survival rates, and wealth.

(By the way, I found this clip while looking for good map animations, which seem like a great way to present data. It’s pretty slow going so far, though. Any recommendations?)

A family member and friend of mine died just before Christmas, and I’m still reeling from the loss. Ev was one of my favorite people in the world. He was kind, generous, thoughtful, and strong. He was smart, funny, and interested, always fun to talk to. He was a great model for me of a good way to be a man and have a family, and to live with integrity. When I think about how good and uncomplicated our relationship was, I can’t help imagine that he was like that with everyone. I imagine that everyone who came into contact with him benefited like I did. Losing him seems straightforwardly a loss for us all.

Something else I keep thinking is that I am lucky to have known Ev well enough to feel this much grief. It didn’t have to be that way. He lived in very-northern California, far enough away that I might easily have seen him only at occasional Thanksgiving dinners. He also lived near a part of the I-5 that I drove by several times a year, most years. He and his family made it abundantly clear that I was wanted there, any time I was passing through. I always had a place to stay, a meal, and good conversation waiting. So I saw him several times a year and was able to connect with him that often. Lucky for me.

There is a way that you are born and marry into family, but in another very real way, you make your family. Who do you spend time with? Who do you keep up with? Who do you care about and for? That is your family.

I am so glad that Ev and I made each other family.

Ev, in flannel, goofing around with family, at home, after a ferocious snowball fight and enthusiastic snowman-building, 2010.