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Jim Cavera
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Jim Cavera

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I have a dream...

Last night I dreamt that Amy and I had purchased a farm somewhere in the Pacific northwest.  We were showing some friends around and we showed them our money pit (like in the Scrooge McDuck cartoons).  It was mostly empty.  But right next to it, we had a Cheeze-It pit that was nearly full.

Sunshine Bakery and/or Keebler: Feel free to use this idea in your advertising.  You can pay me in Cheeze-Its.
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My thought for the day...

Why in god's name are we letting old, white, male, sociopaths determine how we live our lives?!

Seriously, folks, are these idiots really role models for anyone?  Me, I'm going to let Indiana Jones and Buckaroo Banzai determine how I live.  I think that's a much better plan.
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Lemmie explain how this works...

My laptop is starting to get flakey and it's getting time to buy a new one.  Which is really no surprise since I paid $180 for this thing about four years ago.  Frankly, I'm surprised that it's lasted this long.

As a part of my job (and sometimes a big part), I write software.  The last time I got a laptop, I walked in to the store and the first question from the salesperson was, "What are you going to use it for?"  When she found out I was a software developer, she immediately took me to the most expensive one, on the assumption (or perhaps hope) that I would need five graphics cards, 28 USB ports, 100 gigs of RAM, and a multi-terabyte hard drive.

But you see, what I really do is edit text files.  That's it.  All day.  And every so often compile them using open source tools that were developed in the 1980's back when RAM was more commonly measured in K's instead of G's.  And read documentation.

So the next time I go to look at laptops, I fully expext to have to steer them away from the high-end gaming models and toward the chepest thing they have.

And now you know how programmers work.
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Whew.  Busy month!

I am now out of Oceanside, California and living in Phoenix.  Just in time for summer!  Yay!  (note: sarcasm).  But despite the Venusian temperatures, I'm really happy to be here.  My girlfriend +Amy Eichsteadt and my best friend are both here and I have been enjoying every minute with them!  So in the interest of fielding the (few) messages that I've gotten from the (also few) people who follow me on this, here's what I've been up to for the last month...

Warning: long post ahead

My month of fun and weird started like this.  One Saturday in April (just prior to moving to AZ) my girlfriend and I went to the Arizona Native Plant Society's meeting in Flagstaff. Pretty fantastic, and we got to hear some exceptional speakers on a wide range of ethnobotanical subjects. We had planned to camp that evening, but the cold and rain put a damper on those plans and so we overnighted in Prescott. And discovered a wonderful micro-mead-ery downtown.  Seriously, who knew that craft mead is a thing?

The next day: The thought was to go to Sedona and so we headed off early. But a wrong turn (seriously, those roads are not marked well) lead us off in to Prescott National Forest. The road become progressively more narrow and less improved until we were forty miles in to a one-lane, dirt "highway" (county road 5, apparently).

We stopped and I left some art (giant head by +Sondra Carr and steel dog by me) in the middle of nowhere. If you ever get a notion to find it, it's at: 34°56'46.8"N 112°48'59.2"W. Or thereabouts. I'm not sure of the accuracy of my phone's GPS.

We kept going on that road until we came across a couple of cowboys on horseback. These were the real deal: leather chaps, big hats, denim dusters, and all that. We asked for directions to... well, anywhere really, with the goal of not running out of gas far from civilization. They kindly pointed us toward the freeway.

We got to some semblance of civilization around noon and decided that since we were close to the Grand Canyon, we may as well just go to the Grand Canyon. Which is far, far better in person than photos can show. And is apparently full of elk. So a bit of hiking, a bit of lunch, and we were off again, this time toward Flagstaff and then home.

But not before running in to a blizzard. At 8000', this sort of thing even happens in May. Go figure. Finally go home to Phoenix around 6p, and then home to San Diego (which was only home for a few more days!) at 1am.

The next weekend was a busy one, filled with moving and moving and moving.  Despite living in a storage shed by the beach in Oceanside, I somehow managed to accumulate a bunch of stuff.  Go figure.  And of course, I had office stuff to move as well.

Three days after that, my girlfriend and I were off on another epic road trip.  This time to Santa Rosa for a friend's wedding (hi, +Janelle Black!).  We had a few days and so we first went to Ventura and spent the night sleeping in the car in a random parking lot.  The next day was spent driving up Route 1 all the way to San Francisco.  Which is, without a doubt, the most wonderful drive I've ever been on!  We stopped at Hearst Castle, saw some giant seals, and did a lot of meandering.  At some point, I'd love to take that drive again, but start from Tijuana and go all the way to Vancouver!

Santa Rosa is a beautiful town in the middle of wine country.  Amy is a gardening enthusiast and so we toured a few different nurseries.  And let me tell you, the variety of native flora is absolutely incredible!  While in Santa Rosa, we stayed at an Air B&B thing: a cute vintage trailer in someone's back yard!  Quite cozy and adorable and with great gardens.  Of course, we had to do some wine tasting as well.  Best wine ever, but at $75 a bottle, not something that I would normally pick up.

The wedding itself was beautiful and we got to hang out with a lot of people from my Burning Man family.  The theme of the wedding was "whatever" and so I went in my steampunk formal wear.  A number of the guests were in some sort of costume.  All in all, an enjoyable evening of friends, old and new, and adoptive family (note the photo-booth photo)!

Following Santa Rosa, we went up in to redwood country for some camping and stayed at Bullfrog Pond.  The trees were absolutely mind-boggling!  We got back from this little adventure about a week ago.

Then it was helping my friend with her art project for Artel Phoenix at the Clarendon Hotel.  This is an event where the hotel grants a number of artists a room for the week and they turn it in to something other than a hotel room.  The title of this project was "McMuses Instant Inspiration" and it was likely the hit of the event!  We had lines ten and twenty deep to get in to the room!

So the idea of the project was that the room was turned in to a cave that participants had to crawl through.  At various points in the cave were "muses" (I was one of them) who could answer questions and dispense advice.  I must have met with scores of people during the event.

I was "the muse of practicality" in that I gave useful advice.  And yes, there was a "muse of impracticality" as well.  You could choose your own muse (which was part of the fun).  I was amazed at how intimate people were willing to get in telling me about their lives and their problems.  Many of the questions were about careers or travel or art or love (as could be expected).  And then there were a few stand-outs.

One person asked, "Which is stronger: love or gravity?"  Being a physicist, I felt qualified to answer that and of course my answer was "love".  It doesn't drop in strength with the square of the distance.  Gravity does.

But the most most memorable was from a middle-school (or maybe early high-school) aged (I am terrible at guessing kids' ages) girl who came to my cave in tears and asked, "Will I ever be anyone's first choice?"  Absolutely broke my heart.  Yes, I gave good advice.  No, I won't tell you what it was.

That was last weekend.  And at the same time I was moving in to my new office space.  I was able to find a fantastic little office for one-third of what I was paying in San Diego, with everything included.  It has a park-like courtyard and even comes with an office cat!

And of course (this being my life, after all), it isn't a normal office space.  It's also home to a secret foundation (who I will not mention by name) that does something pretty fantastic, but which puts them in the line of fire of a few criminal groups.  And so now I am in a space with a scary-awesome security system and a really big guy with a gun.  Who, fortunately, likes me.

So, now that I have a bit of breathing room.. Art project time!  Which will be in a separate post.
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U so hapi, nice 2 c
Now flows cr8ively
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Jim Cavera

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Once again, I would like to proudly present...

MS Paint and a lunch break!

(Gravity Falls fans, this one's for you)
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Dammit, life.  Enough is enough.

So, I've been hit pretty hard lately.  Strike that.  Actually really hard.  A bunch of things have decided to come up at once, probably as some sort of test of resolve.  And you know what?  I'm freakin' resolved.

At least I have some resources with which to handle all of this crap.  There is a large population (read: most of the world) that does not.  And so all of this makes me sick as to the plight of the truly impoverished.  The social and political system that we're living under is rapidly becoming a nationwide debtors' prison (figuratively and sometimes literally) that fewer and fewer are able to escape.

So for me, simplification is the name of the game.  I want to walk through life with no long term debt, no more than five bills, no more than five keys, and a portable house.  That's all.  And I don't think that it's too high a bar to set.

As the saying goes, I have no problems that one good winning lottery ticket can't fix.
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Detachment from old patterns hits the status quo hard. Teaches to create with what is to create what is more what we desire. Hugs. Solidarity. And harmonious vibes of natural flow
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How to write a computer program

This has been a very busy work week for me: writing code in a couple of different languages, designing an electronic "thing", and even doing some mechanical design.  And so I thought I'd take a break and share a programming secret.

Knowing what function to use in order to draw a line on a screen is not what programming is about.  Or knowing how to write to a file on a particular platform.  Nor any of those other job-specific tasks.  Rather, programming is all about the logic and "meta-code" behind the code.

If you can remember which javascript function pulls a web page off a server, good for you!  I sure as hell can't.  I (and many other professionals) do not keep such things in our heads.  And so we're always having to look up particular API calls and how to use them.

But what we do know is when to use a for- rather than a while-loop, and what a state machine looks like, and what objects are and are not good at.  That's where the actual programming skill comes in to play.

Any book or website will happily teach you how to draw a sprite on a screen.  But the harder thing to learn (and to teach) is why the program is structured the way that it is.  Programming is a lot like cabinet making.  A skilled cabinet maker may not know screw tolerances off the top of his head, but he'll know when to use a dovetail joint over a box joint.  And if you need someone to make a great cabinet, you don't need to quiz them on screw tolerances.  That sort of thing is easy to find when needed.

And so, in order to impart a bit of meta-knowledge, I'll now try to explain what an "object" is in the context of a programming setting.

Long ago, back in the olden days of FORTRAN and punch cards, computers did one thing, and one thing only: execute lists of instructions from top to bottom.  Though it could be awfully efficient, it wasn't at all an intuitive exercise.  It was akin to building an LED display from a pile of sand and gold dust.

Then functional programming came along.  This allowed a program to be organized in to logical, "functions" that could be called repeatedly.  These functions are little units of code that allow for reuse in multiple situations.  If you've ever done any coding, then functions are things like "print" and "sqrt" (square root).  This is like picking LEDs out of a box as opposed to having to handcraft each and every one.

Functions can be made of other functions.  For instance, you can assemble one hundred LEDs in a 10x10 matrix and then that matrix is a new thing (a display) that can be used.

Objects are collections of functions, but with a little bit of self knowledge added.  It would be like having an LED display that draws a cat when a button is pushed (in other words, it responds to a "draw a cat" message).

Objects are sometimes interchangeable (one made from red LEDs can be traded for one made of blue).  Different objects can respond to the same message in different ways (a "draw a cat" command may make a gray tabby on one display and a calico on another).  Objects can have levels of permission (this circuit is not allowed to send the "draw a cat" command, but this other one is).  And objects can be added to, without changing the underlying functionality (an LED display could have a speaker tacked on that meows when the "draw a cat" message is received).

There you go, objects in a nutshell.  That was kinda fun -- I may do this sort of thing more often.
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Jim Cavera

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I have no idea what I'm doing.

Last night, I had a dream in which I was visiting an elderly martial arts master.  I watched as he went through a complicated form, seemingly without effort.  When he was done, I asked him what the form was called.  He said, "The true master has no idea what he's doing."

That stuck in my head and I've been giving it more thought this morning.  In learning art, the student will learn hundreds of techniques for manipulating paint, mixing colors, or pushing clay around.  But when they become artists, all of that is "forgotten".  They no longer know that they're using the Dutch Masters' overglazing technique.  They just paint great pictures.

The science student will learn hundreds of equations and can reel them off by name and give the history behind them.  But the scientist just intuitively does science.  Likewise, a programming student will learn all about model-view-controller patterns, but the programmer just writes elegant code.  A student of writing will learn all of the rules of grammar, but the writer just writes great books.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that the truly talented -- those who have actually mastered their field -- will often feel like they're "faking it".  But simply because you've forgotten the name of the form that you're using, it doesn't mean that you've somehow failed as an artist.  Quite the opposite, actually.
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No... seriously.

Let me just say this: I am not good with people.  And now to repeat that, just for the emphasis: no, seriously, I'm really not good with people.  If I am put in to a situation where I have to be a salesman, or diplomatic, or anything but awkward... well, don't expect much.

There are a few of you who may read this and say, "Oh, shit.  He's talking about me."  Nope, I'm actually not.  This has been the aggregate of my experience as of late and I'm not singling any one instance out.  

I'm really just expressing this because I constantly fight the natural urge to hide from the world.  There are a very small number of people that I feel at home with, and much of the time I wish that the rest of you all would just go away and leave me alone.

Yeah, I can go to parties and pretend for a little while.  But mostly I'll be the one getting acquainted with the host's cat and then driving people home at the end of the night.  And really I'm starting to come to accept that in myself.  Not happy, mind you -- just accepting.

And so, yep.  I'm venting.  In public.  Go figure.
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Yeah, pretending to be a nice person is exhausting! lol
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This is really resonating with me this morning.  I don't go for pithy platitudes.  And trust me, this isn't one of those things.  It's a fairly long (by internet standards) article because it needs to be.
A bunch of things to remember when you’re having a really bad day.
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Cheers jim. Am passing it on. 
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Hmmm... Must research this.
 
I will mention in passing that according to the US military, the minimum power output for a laser to be considered "weapons grade" is 100 kW. 
This sucker is outputting 300 kW.
General Atomics displays a small, self-contained, weapons-grade laser cannon that can be attached to the roof of your car
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Yeah. I have to share this one...
 
Away from home reading: best "What is Roleplaying" section ever. 
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as if the game of life isn't enough?!
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Have him in circles
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Work
Occupation
Aspiring psudeo-intellectual and future gypsy prince.
Skills
In approximate order of cosmic importance: explaining any bit of science to people of any background, coaxing a computer to do most anything, baking incredible cookies.
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#include <wittytagline.h>
Introduction
I guess I'm supposed to put something here that is both clever and insightful and designed to entice people to get to know me.  But I won't.  Ha!

Every-other-day-ish I post something of relevance to me.  Probably artsy, or science-y or nerdy or something to do with whatever personal drama is in my live as I make a transition from extreme introvert to god-only-knows.  So just read the posts, k?
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There are a few people on this planet who love me for who I am. That's all anyone needs to say.
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