Category Archives: Whatever else

Our hawk (Kristen Droke photos)

Early in June we got some new visitors to our back yard, a pair of juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks (I thought they were Cooper’s Hawks, since they had not a trace of the red I was looking for). These birds, and one in particular, have cawing long and loud every day for about three weeks, as they perch on a few trees in our yard, and a big dead tree next door.

Trees attract birds, and birds attract photographers, so we were happy to have a visit from our friend Kristen Droke, who combines a keen eye with a long lens and a lot of patience. Enjoy our hawk as he fights with corvids, has a light (grey) meal, and generally sits around looking cool.

I think I will call him Yells at Crows.

Book buying flowchart

Courtesy of Explore, this fine diagram from the Paris Review:

Woody Guthrie’s Songbook

IMG_0000Somewhere in the late 1940s, Woody Guthrie gave his mimeographed 25 Cent Songbook to Charlie Weiner, my late father-in-law. Typewritten and decorated with Woody's cartoons, the songbook contains ten songs, including "This Land Is Your Land," "Grand Coolee Dam," and others. It's pretty fragile, so I made a quick scan of the whole thing here. (This German site has kindly typed it up already.)

Charlie knew Woody well enough to report riding trains with him, though they were 19 years apart. When Woody printed this in 1945, Charlie was 13 or 14. He left home a few years later, so I suspect it was 1949 or later when their lives intersected. 

Anyway, I'm glad to have this little slice of time. Happy 100th birthday, Woody.

IMG_0006  IMG_0013

Hong Kong, Guangzhou

I went to Hong Kong for a week, and one day drove three hours over the border into the PRC to spend the night in Guangzhou. I took pictures from the hotel room in both cities. Today's quiz is: guess which picture comes from which city?

HK-harbor night Guangzhou-left








Here are some more, taken from the Star Ferry while crossing Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong's Central district, and from the top of Victoria Peak. And one more from Guangzhou, just to seal the deal.

HK-harbor-day1 HK-harbor-day2    Guangzhou-rightHK-from-VPHK-central

John Hunter and World Peace


Through a nice bit of serendipity a few weeks ago, I got to see an hour-long documentary, "World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements." It tells the story of John Hunter and the eight-week scenario experience he created, The World Peace Game. I was also able to meet John and work with him briefly a couple weeks later.

John has been teaching this game for over 35 years. His class is primarily a "gifted and talented" program for fourth-graders, but he has played it with other groups as well, up to high school grades. The World Peace Game is something like Risk, expanded and made more complex in a number of ways.

Instead of a game board, imagine four parallel Plexiglas sheets, each four-feet square, held apart by metal legs to form a cube. At table height, one sheet holds the outlines of fictional geographies, defining countries with model armies, vehicles, cities, and more. Above and below, the other sheets define space (with satellites), sky (with weather), and the world underground (with oil). 

IMG_1645-crop After working with the kids in his class, John assigns roles, defining positions like prime minister of the world's richest country and the king of a much smaller one, a UN council and a team of arms dealers, a tribal leader and a weather god and — in a masterstroke of invention — a saboteur who acts as trickster, undermining progress and confusing play. 

The kids get dossiers and budgets, and John reveals a deck of cards containing random events like surprise attacks or natural disasters that give the kids a series of crises to solve. They must form alliances, make declarations, compromise on actions, unmask the saboteur, and achieve world peace. John said he's only had one group that "lost" in 35 years. 

The film shows the kids really working together and taking the lessons of negotiation and compromise to heart. John reads to them from Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and it's pretty amazing to see kids taking direction from — and finding insights in — a 2500-year-old military treatise. 

John's personal story is also revealed in the documentary: the son of a schoolteacher, John grew up in Virginia and was among the first to attend newly integrated schools. He studied Eastern philosophies while travelling in India, China, and Japan, and was particularly influenced by Gandhi and the idea of ahimsa. Returning to university, chance directed him to an experimental program in education, which led to the World Peace Game. He continues to teach, and this summer he has begun working with a set of students he hopes will take over the game in the future. 

The filmmaker, Chris Farina, is still working to fund this terrific film through a series of screenings. Contact him directly to arrange one and help spread the word. 

You can watch the trailer of the film on the website, and you can see John's TED Talk below. Both are worthwhile. 

(Photos copyright Will May)


IMAG0197 These were shot with my smartphone through the windshield yesterday, driving south from Spokane to Moscow, Idaho. If I'd pulled out my good camera and pulled off the road to shoot, we might never have arrived.

This is the Palouse region, which comprises eastern Washington, the border of Idaho, and a bit of Oregon, and it's just gorgeous. You can find much better images than mine out there.


Tax the Rich: joy and anger in Wisconsin

Love this time-lapse video compilation (by YouTuber stumptownfilms) from the protests in Madison, Wisconsin. Tens of thousands of people are motivated enough to walk around in the falling snow, and yet there is a lot of joy in these faces from people making history and sharing a cause.  

Sapsucker tracks

Sap-tracks Random photo: this is a tree in my front yard that I can't identify. The holes are from a red-headed red-breasted sapsucker (at least, that's what I normally see poking holes in my trees) (Thanks for the correction — I totally knew that).

I'm told the technique involves drilling the holes to cause the sap to run, then returning a short time later to feast on the insects that show up. You can see the holes that have healed above the fresh holes.

On Writer’s Block

Passing on from the blog of my friend Bob Sutton, “The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of ‘writer’s block’,” by Dennis Upper, a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis in 1974.



385px-California_49.svg 49 is 7 squared, and the first number in which the digits (4 and 9) are both squares. 49 squared is 2401, and 2+4+0+1=7. Whoa.

In 1849, the great wave of gold-seeking '49ers came to California and later formed a football team. California State Highway 49 meanders pleasantly through Gold Country.

American Indians have a powwow tradition referred to as a 49 — it seems to be like a song gathering or contest, and there are "49 songs." Stories about its origins are numerous, but 1849 seems to figure into them.

49star For a few months in 1959, after Alaska was admitted to the union in January, the USA comprised 49 states, and flew a 49-star flag. Hawaii was admitted in August, 1959.

The great English football team Arsenal went 49 games without defeat in 2003-2004.

The 49th parallel forms a large part of the border between the US and Canada.The 49th Parallel is also the name of a beautiful WWII propaganda movie/travelogue by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger about a U-Boat crew stranded in Canada. Laurence Olivier chews the scenery as a French-Canadian trapper, but the best scenes are shot in a Hutterite community.

In 49 BC, Julius Caeser led his army across the Rubicon, defeated Pompey's army, and was appointed dictator of Rome.

Gautama_buddha_bodhi_tree Siddhartha Guatama attained enlightenment and became known as the Buddha after he meditated under the Bodhi tree for 49 days and nights.

Some forms of Buddhism have the concept of the bardo — a period of "intermediate experience" between death and rebirth said to last 49 days at most. In some traditions, readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead will be performed to help transition the deceased through this period.

49 days (7 weeks of 7 days) after Passover is celebrated by Jews as Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks: the day that God gave them the Torah. The same date is also observed by Christians as Pentacost or Whitsunday, the day the Holy Spirit descended on Christ's disciples after the resurrection.

Medium_lot49 Funk #49 is a fine song by the James Gang, Joe Walsh's band. 49 Bye-Byes is a fine song by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Days of '49 is a fine traditional tune arranged and recorded by Bob Dylan. Thomas Pynchon wrote a short novel called The Crying of Lot 49.

In less momentous news, I was born in Hanford, California, 49 years ago today.