Archive for March, 2009

Anonymous Option for Mailing List

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

By request of several of you on this mailing list, I am adding a new option for belonging to the MHS Class of 1976 mailing list.

From here on out, you may request to subscribe to the list anonymously.
What this means is  that you will continue to get announcements and late night rambles from yours truly (what would you guys read if I wasn’t an insomniac, anyway?  Viagra ads?), but your name will NOT be listed on the MHS Class of 1976 “found” list or mentioned in any blog posts.

I will continue the practice of periodically sending out the names of the people on this list, because I think it’s a useful tool for keeping my data quality intact.
But you may now request that your name be left off that list, while still being able to get the newsletters.

This is not a huge change in policy, and won’t affect most of you.  As you know, I have always maintained a policy of not sharing e-mail addresses with anybody, in order to protect privacy of  those who subscribe.  This change in policy simply provides an additional level of privacy.

So, if you wish to change  your status to “Anonymous,”  simply drop me an e-mail letting me know that.
Otherwise, because I need to have SOMETHING to write about, I will assume that you don’t mind being mentioned on occasion, unless you tell me otherwise.

As an aside, I am actually hoping that this will encourage a few more people to come out of the woodwork.

Carry on….

Ode to Upper Ridge Road

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

“The problem with the youth of today’ is that one is no longer part of it.
Salvador Dali

So for the last couple of years, a big part of my job is to think about how ideas connect to one another.  More specifically — how do we teach computers to move beyond treating ideas as mere strings of characters, to treating them as statements about the objects and relationships we see in the world?  How do we teach computers to understand relationships — between people, organizations, and places?  How do we teach computers to reason about the meaning of words — things we take for granted with every act of communication?

Much of this work has focused even more specifically on the basic question of “How can we ‘connect the dots’?” — whether those connections are between scientific observation and theory, between the smokestack on the horizon and that nagging cough you’ve had; or (more recently) between violent intent and action.

To me, they are all interesting “dots,” and finding the connections between them is what makes going to work each day worthwhile.
Given that background, I guess it was inevitable that I’d find fascination in the Nexus application in Facebook.  Nexus allows you to generate a diagram of your social network, showing the connections between the people who you know on Facebook.

Here’s what my graph looks like.  You can click on the picture to get a version with added annotations to depict different parts of my life — the upper right are friends from my extended professional network in the environmental community; the bottom right are my office co-workers and fellow research scientists at the Lab; over in the lower left are two different sets of online fly fishing buddies — one made up mostly of Washington State fishermen (most of whom I’ve taken fishing at one time or another), the other made up of people scattered across three continents and 30+ states, guaranteeing me a warm couch to stay on and a boat to float in no matter where I might want to fish.

In the middle, appropriately enough, are my family members — wife, sons, siblings, cousins, etc.

Linking them to the upper left is my brother, Bill (MHS Class of 1978).

The map of Facebook friendships looks a little like a star map, don’t you think — like the ones in one of my favorite books from my youth, H.A. Rey’s “The Stars,” from which I learned enough of the constellations to be able to find my way through the sky at night.

“Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me”

Everybody is a Star
Sly and the Family Stone

And in the upper left, occupying their own little constellation of memories, are you guys.  The folks I went to school with.

Here’s a close-up of that particular constellation (you can click on it to get a larger view):

Some bright stars, indeed.

Now, point the telescope in the direction of any one of these stars, and you’ll find a whole solar system of memories circling around it.

Indulge in this act of celestial re-creation for too long, though, and time and space can begin to lose their definition….kind of evocative of Dali’s painting “The Persistence of Memory.”

“The difference between a madman and me is that I am not mad.”
Salvador Dali

I love this painting, by the way.  So much so, I even have a necktie depicting it.

A real classy tie, needless to say — reserved for the handful of times in my career when I’ve been able to work Dali into one of my lectures.

A quick aside:  if you think that working Dali into a lecture on finding terrorists doesn’t takes some verbal contortions, give it a try sometime…if only my body were still as  flexible as my gift for bullshit, I’d look like one of Dali’s watches.

Anyway, I digress.  The topic of this post was SUPPOSED to be my childhood friends from Upper Ridge Road.

So look back at the constellation above, with your names on it.  Down in the lower right, connected to my brother Bill, you’ll see a handful of folks that I share a special link with — Linda Stefanini, Les White, Richard (Dick, back then) Nichols….

These are some of the Facebook contingent of the Upper Ridge Road gang.  These are the kids I grew up with.  There were many others — some of whom haven’t really gone online much — but we’ll talk about them momentarily.  First, a little geography lesson.
Upper Ridge Road, in case you haven’t been home for a while, marked the northern part of the eastern boundary of the Mukilteo School District.  In the old days, Upper Ridge ran pretty much due north from Casino Road to Glennwood, which rumbled with the sound of Associated Sand and Gravel trucks all the way down to Mukilteo Boulevard.  That was before the Boeing Freeway cut off Upper Ridge from Casino, and before Associated dug their way through the northern end of Upper Ridge.

The curse of living on a terminal moraine.
As its name suggests, Upper Ridge Road runs along a high ridge, falling off towards Evergreen way on the east side, and into what was then an extensive wooded area on the west.  Each morning the kids in the neighborhood would dutifully trudge up their gravel roads to where they intersected Upper Ridge, where we’d wait for the bus.  I loved the walk to the bus stop, because as I passed Ozie’s house on the right, Sue Stefanini’s on the left, I could look ahead and see the sun coming up over the Cascades, look behind me and see the clouds resting on the Olympics.   What I wouldn’t give for a view like that today.

From the air, Upper Ridge probably looked a little like a fish bone, with little dead-end spur roads running off in either direction (but mostly to the west) from the ridge.  When my parents moved to 78th Pl SW in 1965, I’m sure they felt like they were moving into the wilderness (especially my mom, who had grown up in Manhattan and only left New York City 8 years earlier).  And sure enough, we saw deer, and coyotes, and even a bear (once) in those woods (and sometimes, our yards) over the years.  Much later, when I was about 15, I would follow Merrill and Ring Creek — just a line on the map for much of it’s length — through the abandoned gravel pits and fenced-in back yards, all the way down to salt water, where I emerged from the woods — muddy and nettle-stung and dehydrated, but feeling like Lewis and Clark on reaching the Pacific — just south of where Glennwood intersects the Boulevard.

But this post is not in tribute to Upper Ridge Road, the place — but to the people.  Because lately a bunch of us have been talking about holding a sort of mini-reunion, a get together to celebrate and look back upon the ties that link us all together.

And since there was a whole bunch of us who grew up together through elementary school, junior high, and high school together, there are lots of memories, and lots of ties.

  • like riding around with Ozie Greene and Brad Meacham in Brad’s old Impala, listening to Aerosmith’s “Big 10 Inch (record)” and Thin Lizzie’s “The Boys are Back in Town” — over and over and over again.
  • like riding the bus to Olivia Park (Bus #38, with Busdriver Judy) with Les White in the back singing Creedence Clearwater songs.
  • like being chased through the playground by Darlise Lund in second grade, simultaneously fearing that she might catch me (she claimed she wanted to kiss me!) and hoping she wouldn’t stop chasing.
  • like playing all-night long poker games at Ozie’s house, listening to Al Green records on the stereo and talking about girls.  Maybe that association — between Al Green records and girls — is why the good Reverend Green would supply so much of the soundtrack to my wife and I’s courtship…?
  • playing football down at Apker’s field, across from Darli’s house, and hoping that the Bennett sisters or the Stefanini’s would show up –  because, at some point in our youth, we discovered that it was always more fun to get tackled — or even just chased –  by a girl
  • like riding bikes out in the woods with Dick Nichols and the rest of the guys in the neighborhood.
  • or subverting our chemistry sets to make fireworks over at Doug King’s (Class of 72) house, across the street from John and Janet Jaeger and the Bucholz family.
  • or (and I hope this doesn’t embarrass anyone other than myself), riding the after school activity bus and hoping that Arlene Bopp would be riding it home from band practice — I harbored a horrible, multi-year crush on poor Arlene (who lived on the part of Upper Ridge cut off from the rest by the Boeing Freeway) through all of junior high and most of high school, and never had the nerve to talk to her.  Looking back, I’m sure that crush kept me out of a lot of other entanglements, for which I’m retrospectively grateful.

If I’ve overlooked anybody — like the Alinen brothers, or Kim Turnupseed, or Gemma Bell, or the Whismans….it’s only out of consideration of how far along I’ve already rambled.  And there’s a whole group of folks from the Class of 1976 — Eric Goodrich, Jerry Scheffler, Chuck Foutch — who were in that same basic neighborhood, just a short bike ride away.

These people, and many more, impart a very personal resonance to the words of Herb Caen, a long-time columnist in the San Francisco area:  “I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there.”

As I’ve heard from so many of you, many of the friendships that have lasted over the decades have been the ones that began in the neighborhood — even though “the neighborhood” may have been nothing more than a bus route, or a shared refuge in the woods somewhere…

And for an information junkie like myself, who spends more time looking at computer monitors than at the sky these days, it’s fascinating to watch the constellations emerge from out of that past — like light from distant suns.

So keep on shining.  Out there, somewhere, someone is enjoying the view.

Congratulations Dave Dickson on the 2A State Championship!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

From the Bellingham Herald comes this story about MHS Class of 1976 Alumni Dave Dickson’s success in coaching the Squalicum High School Storm basketball team to the 2A state championship this past weekend!  Dave’s team beat Burlington-Edison (my dad’s alma mater, at least during his junior year when he was suspended from Bellingham High School for brawling) 60-49 in the championship, and finished the season with a “respectable” 26-1 record.
Last year, the team beat Seattle Prep to finish 3rd in the 3A Division.
Dave has been a very successful teacher at Squalicum, as I reported earlier.

I’d heard rumors though, that he was washed up.  All wet.

The photo from the Herald clarifies those rumors:

By the way, the Herald did an outstanding job of covering the game — their photos made this former yearbook photographer jealous.  Several good shots of Dave in the mix, so check out their online gallery!

Congratulations, Dave.

News from Keith Lawler

Monday, March 16th, 2009

From out of Port Angeles comes an e-mail from Keith Lawler, who usually sends me pictures of the salmon, steelhead, deer and elk he’s captured for his apparently well-stocked freezer.

This time, the photos he sent looked more like they were taken IN the freezer, or at least a close facsimile — i.e., the WSU campus in December.

(actually, having made many visits to WSU in the winter — they call upon us UW alumni to help mentor their students so they don’t go TOO far wrong…. ;) — I can tell you that Pullman is often COLDER than my freezer is.  But that’s besides the point).
Like many of our classmates, Keith is full of Cougar Pride.

And now, so is his son, Kurt, who graduated from WSU in December with a degree in Civil Engineering.  After a pretty spectacular looking trip to Chile (if the pictures Keith sent are any indication), Kurt’s out doing the job search thing.

Congratulations to Keith and his wife on the milestone — and of course to Kurt.

Wade Nelson

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Got a nice e-mail from Wade Nelson today, the most recent of our classmates to sign up on the mailing list.  Wade offers up the following update on his life since graduation:

I’m currently living in the Denver area (Centennial, CO) working for Lockheed Martin on the Space Based InfraRed System (SBIRS).  Married 20 years with two kids, daughter 18, and son 14.  Love to  hike (especially 14ers), golf, ski, board, and bike ride.  I have lived in Colorado for the last 13 years and before that California, Guam, and Seychelles after leaving Washington in July 1976.

He also included a recent picture of his family — he didn’t specifically say so, but I’m guessing that Wade is the one in the yellow shirt.

As always, I am always ready — no, eager — to pass along any gossip, brags, news, or general news about the lives of our classmates — so if you have news to share, make sure you let  me know that it’s for the entire group.

Could these guys be the cure for the common cold?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

So, if research out of Carnegie-Mellon University has anything to say about it, it could be that renewing old friendships might keep the cold away???

A paper by Cohen, et al (”Social Integration and Health:  The Case of the Common Cold”) suggests that those who had few social roles were nearly twice as likely to contract a cold as those who had a high degree of social role diversity.  (

Look — there’s an actual bar graph.  So it must be science, and therefore true!

So maybe occasionally expanding your social role diversity by renewing acquaintances with old friends can keep you healthy?

If so (and the scientist part of me feels compelled to insert the disclaimer “it’s a BIG if”), then the picture below shows a little preventative medicine at work.

From left:  Dave Van Beek, Ozie Greene, Richard Nichols, Jerry Scheffler,
and some fat dude who wouldn’t get out of the picture…..

In case you don’t recognize anybody in the picture, or any of  the names, this is a statistically skewed sampling of the Mariner High class of 1976, seen at a recent “mini-reunion” (appropriate for a school that had mini-term, don’t you think?) at the Everett Mall Starbucks on March 3, 2009.  Notably absent are approx. 80 other members of our class who are on the mailing list, but weren’t able to attend.

(though, truth be told, if everybody had shown up I think we’d have had a problem fitting them into Starbucks)

A date has not yet been set for the next of our informal get togethers — but I am open to suggestions, and perfectly willing to announce similar events organized by others.

Now, if only diversity of social roles could stop male pattern baldness…..

Think spring!