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Hello, it’s me…

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

“Think of me
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
Or if I ever need a reason to smile”

Todd Rundgren
“Hello it’s me”

I’m back!

For those who didn’t realize I had been gone (which includes most of my Facebook friends, who never really had the luxury of a vacation from my ranting) let me recap some pertinent events:

  • last spring, after a few years of maintaining this blog as a means of giving the Mariner High Class of 1976 a waypoint on the Internet – a place to find one another, or at least something to keep from getting all the Google hits when you search “Mariner Class of 1976” – I took a bit of a hiatus this summer.
  • I spent the summer discovering that I have a love of portraiture, taking pictures of roller derby, people with tattoos, and rock bands.   Sometimes all at once.   (for those who are interested in seeing some of my portraits, including some of our own classmates, here’s a sample:
  • Oh, and I spent a short bit of the ensuing months hanging 500 feet above 5th Avenue in Downtown Seattle from a rope.   Yeah, don’t think I’m doing THAT again anytime soon.

But it’s November – and the hits on my blog are leading me to believe that interest in a 35th reunion is starting to pick up.  More on that later this week, I promise.

For now, I wanted to make my first blog post of the season about something that I care about deeply: music.

Though I cannot carry a tune, keep time with the music, or sing in public — I can’t remember a time when music WASN’T important to me.

So it’s not too surprising, perhaps, that I have a large collection of songs in my head (fortunately, backed up on my iPod, as my head is no longer the reliable container it once was) that I can instantly pull lyrics from, that tie me to places, events, and most especially people, from my past.

Indeed, memories stick to these songs like lint to a pocketful of gummy bears.

So, without further adieu, and in no particular order (save the last one), I give you 14 songs that bring to mind 14 people.   Where I can, I’ve included links to Facebook profiles.   I’m sure we all have a list like this in our heads.  I’d love to hear from you all about what songs are tied to people we all knew…

1.       Suite: Judy Blue Eyes/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Judi Hallenbeck). I’ve already written about this one in a previous blog post.   Judi and I spent a LOT of time together in senior year, partly because we worked on the yearbook together, partly because she dated my best friend.   I cannot possibly hear this song without thinking about yearbook deadlines, driving to Trout Lake in the dark and seeing the northern lights, and Judi’s infectious laugh, which I miss dearly.    Now that I think about it, I may need to take a trip to Houston sometime soon…

2.       The Boys are Back in Town/Thin Lizzy (Keith Knol). OK, there are a number of guys I knew in high school, who had cars cooler than mine (actually, pretty much everybody who had a car had one cooler than my 1965 Ford Falcon).   But of the people I spent time hanging out with, Keith’s 1965 Ford Mustang, Navy Blue, with a 289 V-8, was the coolest.  For some reason, this song evokes an image of us sitting outside of Woodway Bowling Lanes, late at night, waiting for the police to finish questioning Keith about the tape deck that someone stole from his car.

Maybe it evokes that memory because Keith and I just laughed about it a few hours earlier this evening on the phone; maybe we laughed about it 35 years after the fact because the song is always on the classic rock stations.

As always cause and effect are not as easy to untangle as we’d like.

3.       Willie and the Poor Boys/Creedence Clearwater Revival (Les White). A whole gang of us grew up on the fishbone pattern of dead-end roads that jutted off from Upper Ridge Road:  myself, Ozie Greene, Brad Meacham, Sue Stefanini, Darli Lund, Kim Turnipseed (well, OK, Kim and Darli actually lived ON Upper Ridge) to name but a few.   We all rode to school on Bus #38, and one thing you could always count on even as early as elementary school, was that when Les White got on the bus at 73rd street, he’d be singing a song.  Often, a Creedence Clearwater song.    As faithful followers of this blog already know, Les (who goes by his full name, Lesley, these days) has gone on to record and tour professionally, but I can say that “I knew him when.”   Actually, I guess we all can.

4.       Stranglehold/Ted Nugent (Brad Meacham). Oh man.   There are SOOOOO many songs that bring Brad, and his 1964(?) Impala  to mind..half of the Aerosmith catalog, ZZ Top, David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” album….we spent huge amounts of time riding around in Brad’s car, and the tape deck was playing most of the time.   It was like a classic rock station, before any of the songs had become classic.   But this song by Ted Nugent is the one I’ve chosen to stand in for my friend Brad,( who should call me sometime).

5.       Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter/Herman’s Hermits (Darli Lund). Darli and I grew up just a couple of blocks from one another, and candidly, by the time we got to high school, our groups of friends and interests were different enough that we didn’t spend a lot of time interacting with one another.   But (and her version of this story will differ from mine, I am sure), in second or third grade, I remember her chasing me around the playground a few times.    Oddly, this song didn’t come out ‘til we were in fourth grade – but she must have made an impression on me because this song still reminds me of Darli every time I hear it.

And yes, I know: her name was “Lund” not “Brown” – but they were both monosyllabic, and it didn’t take a lyrical genius to figure out that you could do the substitution without breaking the meter of the song….

6.       Going up the Country/Canned Heat (Dave Cernich). The first time I realized that some of us were destined to be the cool ones, and the rest of us – myself included – well, not so much, was in Junior High, at Olympic View.  In the locker room, Cernich would do a dead-nuts perfect imitation of Bob Hite (lead singer for Canned Heat)’s vocals in the locker room after P.E. class.

I always wished I could be that cool.  I still do.

7.       Waiting for the End of the World/Elvis Costello (Dave Austin).   I bought my second car – a black 1968 Plymouth Fury I that, remarkably, once topped 100 mph without falling apart – from Dave for $150.   Any sense of “coolness” that I had in high school was probably just residual cool that transferred to me by osmosis from him, or from Ozie.   But what I really remember best about Dave is that he had – still has – incredible “radar” for good music (Bat for Lashes notwithstanding, Dave).   Dave introduced me to the music of Elvis Costello during Costello’s first US tour – I have since gone on to see Costello in concert 9 more times, and anxiously await the next show now that he’s got a new album out.   The first album, which featured songs like “Alison” and “Watching the Detectives” had great songs on it – but it is this song, among them all, that reminds me of Dave’s subversive streak and brings him to mind every time I hear it.

8.       Good King Richard/Steely Dan (Gary Campbell). Remember Gary?  Something of a class clown, but also, as it turns out, the school’s music critic on the Natsilane staff.  Since I, too, worked on the paper with him, we spent a lot of time hanging out in Room 209 and the adjacent darkroom/graphic arts lab, and I remember very clearly sitting in the photography room discussing this album as he was writing the review (which I actually still have, in my only surviving copy of the Natsilane).

9.       Cinnamon Girl/Neil Young (Randy Zimmerman). OK, yeah, I had a crush on Randy during our senior year. It was pretty embarrassing.  Especially for her.   But we survived it and I hope she doesn’t hate me for mentioning it here.   Anyone who remembers Randy, or has a senior yearbook at hand to look up the color pictures of our homecoming queen,  will have no problem figuring out why a song titled “Cinnamon Girl” would bring her to mind.

Plus, it’s got a kick-ass guitar lick at the very end.

10.   Strawberry Letter #23/Brothers Johnson (Ozie Greene). Ozie and his family lived 3 houses up the street from us on 78th St SW, and because he had a pool table, lots of food, and a cute older sister,  we hung out there a lot.  We listened to a lot of rock (the first time I ever heard Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire” was  one evening at Ozie’s and I am still haunted by that song every time I hear it) and a lot of R&B that I might not have heard otherwise, until much later.   While there are any number of songs I could and do associate with Ozie, this one, from 1977, is the one that most evokes my good friend’s face – usually singing along with the song, trying to look smooth but basically being a dork.

11.   Lola/Kinks (Kevin Kurtz/Mark Schwemm). Lots of Kinks songs out there, but this is probably the iconic one for those of us growing up in the 70’s.   I saw the Kinks live a few times at the Paramount, and remember seeing Kurtz and Schwemm there and thinking they looked a little surprised to see a math nerd at a Kinks concert.

12.   Living in the Past/Jethro Tull (Arlene Bopp). Poor Arlene.   A sweet, shy young lady destined to have a nerdy photographer harboring a terrible crush on her, through most of high school.   But at least the flute section of the band was always well represented in the yearbook!   Of course, there are lots of Jethro Tull songs that feature flute, and there are  lots of their songs that I like better than this one.  But perhaps because “Living in the Past” actually made it onto the charts (and the radio) this is the one that reminds me of her.

That, and the entire Johnny Rivers “Changes” album.  I wanted to be deep.   The fact that that album  seemed “deep” to me just goes to prove that I never succeeded.  But I still love it.

13.   All Along the Watchtower/Bob Dylan (Dave Dickson). Dylan.  Dickson.  Do I need to say any more?

No.   I didn’t think so.

14.   South City Midnight Lady/Doobie Brothers (Laura Stephens). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s not only my old crushes and high school buddies that are linked inextricably to certain songs.  In a lifetime together (33 years so far!) Laura has dozens of songs that are stuck to her like auditory Velcro.   Including, I might mention, most of Al Green’s mid-70’s recordings (hubba hubba!).   But this song instantly takes me back to our first apartment on Casino Road, and even after all these years, warms my heart every time I hear it.

Forget the Whales: Save the Date!!!

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

“I had nothing to do on this hot afternoon
But to settle down and write you a line
Ive been meaning to phone you but from minnesota
Hell its been a very long time
You wear it well
A little old fashioned but thats all right”

You Wear it Well
Rod Stewart (before he sucked)

Point of disclosure:  relatively speaking it’s not hot at all at the moment.  For that matter, I’m not writing you from Minnesota, either, but from the dusty, sometimes boring paradise that is eastern Washington in the summertime.

But nonetheless, that’s a fine song to start out a long overdue email to our class with, don’t you think?   Back in the days before Rod sold his soul to the Grammys, not many bands could evoke nostalgia the way Rod Stewart and the Faces could.


But to quote Elvis Costello:  “Let’s talk about the future now we’ve put the past away.”

(at least, momentarily)

FIRST AND FOREMOST:   As some of you on Facebook already know:   I am currently gaging interest in a Mariner High Class of 1976 alumni event — not a reunion, per se, but just an informal opportunity to come together and share some laughs and memories.   Details are still in development, but I can tell you the date:  Sunday, September 27.   If you have suggestions for a venue, or any other suggestions for how to have a fun little get together — or even want to host it — please drop me a line.  Several of our classmates have had similar little get togethers, facilitated by the Internet, and all seem to have had a good time.

I can’t promise you a good time, but I’m thinking it’s a safe bet.

SO: if  you’re interested in any remote manner in helping to pull together a little fall weekend get together — I’m thinking by late September it might still be nice enough to have a picnic at Forest Park? — please drop me a line.  I’ll be on the road for much of late August, but will start planning in earnest come September 1.

By the way, I’ve been playing around with studio portraiture again for the first time in about 30 years — and if there’s sufficient interest will be taking portraits of everyone who shows up so we can post them to the blog.  Here’s some of the work I did for our local Starbucks (   I promise to make you look 20 lbs lighter and 10 years younger — all that, and free for everyone who shows up — who could turn THAT down? 

Speaking of the Internet in general, and Facebook in particular:  the velvet revolution takeover of Facebook by our generation continues unabated — our kids and even grandkids are fleeing the site in droves, certain that the internet isn’t big enough for the two generations to co-exist on the same site.  Which is fine — us middle aged folks clearly have more time to take silly quizzes and play “Mafia Wars” — I’m sure that’s what Tim Berners Lee had in mind all along, when he “invented” the web.

A benefit of this mass migration of middle aged minions to Facebook is that it has become easier than ever to track down our missing classmates, and in recent weeks we’ve added a few more folks to the rank and file of the officially found:

- Diane [Reed] Vorhees
- Sheila [Kennedy] Barker
- Allen Hatchell
- Tammy [Wilde] Irelan
- Kim [Turnupseed] Thompson

And possibly a few others that I’m overlooking — I am clearly going to have to start recording the date that I first put each person on the mailing list because with 103 names on it at present, I can’t keep it all in my head anymore.

What else is new?  Well:

- two of our more far-flung classmates are considering moves back to the great Northwest.  In each case, they may have finalized those choices in time to show up for whatever event we have on Sept 27.  More details will be provided in the near future….for now, keep your fingers crossed.
- I’ll be chairing an IEEE workshop on Social Intelligence in Vancouver, BC on August 31 — and potentially another one in Chengdu, China in mid-December.  Funny to think that my interest in social networks was largely kindled by efforts to track down old classmates!  Now, it’s a significant part of some of my research activities, so I definitely owe y’all a thanks for giving me good incentive to explore a technically fascinating area of computer science…..
- a few of you have offered to open up your hearts to become my first interviews for the Class of 1976 blog (  Some day soon, I’ll have enough time to take you up on those kind offers.
- it’s been a huge amount of fun to watch old friends find each other on Facebook — and it’s interesting to see how little attention is paid to the old cliques and categories.  I must tell you all, that in comparison to my wife’s class (Everett High, class of 1977), our group of folks seems to be far more egalitarian.
- My youngest son is getting married in two weeks.  I know that has nothing to do with the Class of 1976, but sometimes you gotta pay the piper, even if it’s only to tolerate his diversions.

that’s about it for now, folks.  I’ve got to go to a retirement party for a long-time mentor of mine, so had best leave the computer alone ’til later tonight.

But because it’s been a while since I nagged, please remember to review our class mailing list, and if I’ve misspelled your name, let me know.  Some of you folks — you know who you are — have added several last names in the past couple of decades, so keep me honest on that, too!

And if you know of someone who is NOT on the list, but is in your life…encourage them to drop me a line asking to be added.  I’ll be happy to put them on the mailing list, and will continue to balance their privacy with their desire to stay in touch, to the best of my ability.

Your self-appointed ninja of networking,
Scott Butner
MHS Class of 1976
Richland, WA

If you know anybody from the class of 1974….

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

you may want to pass along this info about their upcoming 35th reunion:

August 29, 2007

Afternoon/evening casual potluck reunion

For more information, contact Cheryl Wunschel (Banta)

living in the cloud

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

“A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now
Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard”

“You can call me Al”
Paul Simon

so lately,  the big idea among the nerds I hang out with at work has been the concept of “cloud computing.”  This is the idea — not new, really, but starting to gain some momentum (and moving from vaporware to real applications) that data (and increasingly, processes to act upon the data) serves us best when it exists, not in one place, but smeared out over many machines, distributed across the net, accessible from anywhere….Google is a good example of computing in the cloud. You cannot point to any one server where Google’s document index “exists” — it’s spread out massively — which is why it works so well.
Of course, cloud computing is a more complex concept than I’ve expressed here — computer geeks feel like they aren’t earning their keep if they keep things simple — but at it’s core it’s a fairly simple idea, and a very powerful one.  Thanks to pioneers in cloud computing like, the average person soon will have access — or already does, in some cases — to computing horsepower that was unimaginable in the hands of anyone but superpower governments not that long ago.  Thanks to cloud storage of data, our class list was not lost when my home server crashed a few months ago — because I happen to store a copy of our mailing list “in the cloud” as well, just in case something like that happens.
I’m not usually well prepared.  Chalk it up to a Boy Scout moment, I guess.
So what’s cloud computing got to do with anything?  Well, probably not much.  But humor me…
Anyway, yesterday I attended a fun little “neighborhood reunion” — a gathering of a bunch of us who, as kids, grew up ina neighborhood off of Upper Ridge Road in south Everett WA, back in the 1970’s. (the linked map, btw, is only about half of the kids — I just don’t have addresses for the remainder). The neighborhood back then was much more rural than it is today — “sub-rural” I guess you’d call it because it was in the suburbs but bordered on undeveloped land that has since become the Boeing 747 plant and the surrounding industrial ecosystem.
I mentioned this group of people — a surprising number of whom were in the Class of 1976 — in a post on this blog a few weeks back in case this is starting to sound familiar.
by the way: here they are:

from left:  Dick Nichols (Class of ‘76); Gemma Bell (Class of ‘77); Bill Butner (Class of ‘78);
Brad Meacham (Class of ‘76); Kellee Snyder-Saunders (Class of ‘77); Les White (Class of ‘76)

Most of us hadn’t seen one another for 30 years or more, but growing up, we saw each other daily, hanging out at the bus stops together, playing pick-up games of soccer or football in Apker’s field (across from Darli Lund’s house, btw) all summer, riding our bikes through the woods, playing hide-n-seek in the dark ’til 11 p.m., then playing penny-ante poker ’til dawn. We stood up at one another’s weddings, graduated from high school together (not necessarily in that order), had lives that were tightly connected.
Sometimes we got in fights.
You get over it.  30 years will do that.
This shared history was certainly no surprise — we had a rare opportunity as kids to grow up in a neighborhood where most of us moved into our homes in elementary school, and stayed in the same place for the next 10 or 12 years.
A few of our number STILL live in the old neighborhood, in houses that once belonged to our parents.

But there were surprises to be had:  As we recounted stories and searched our middle-aged memories for names and places and dates, it was striking to realize how much of “self” is not stored in our minds, but smeared out across all those we know –  maybe especially so those who we grew up with, were close to. The mere mention of a name, the recollection of an incident as small as the tossing of a snowball, would quickly lead to a whole flood of long-forgotten associations, of things we had forgotten about ourselves, but that others had held on to.

I’d say it was magical, if I believed in magic.

Oh hell, it was magic, even if I don’t believe.

And it was interesting to see how much of who we are is NOT self-defined, not really:  for all the “me generation” talk of self actualization, of defining one’s own reality — in some ways, it seems to me that who we are doesn’t belong exclusively to us.
Rather, it’s smeared out in the cloud –little pieces tucked away in dozens of memories and lives we’ve touched — constantly being processed, being selectively remembered, reshaped, and reprocessed into something that’s really a lot larger than our own selfish notions of who we are….

Maybe this is where the concept of  karma comes from, of the golden rule….of doing unto others….ideas that reflect our essential interdependence on one another.
Not just interdependence for sustenance, or well-being — but for preserving our very identities — our memories of who we are, who we were.
Almost makes the idea of holding on to those memories of old friends seem like a moral imperative, doesn’t it?
Well, pardon the rant — I am not a particularly deep thinker — as those of you who ARE have figured out long ago.  Just passing along some random thoughts that ran through my mind as I drove home from giving a lecture at the UW this morning, on a wondeful, sunny Seattle day.

Deconstruct them as you wish.
In other, miscellaneous news:
- I had a very enjoyable coffee break with Shawn Hicks a couple of weeks ago — he was kind enough to meet me in downtown Seattle as I was on my way to a meeting.  We probably talked more in two hours than we did in 4 years of high school, but it was surprising how easy it is to strike up a conversation with someone who you share so many common links with.  By the way, Shawn sent me a very special gift following our meeting.  Thanks, Shawn.
- Added several people to the mailing list, including Trula [Hagedorn] Cha,  Donna [Lacy] Lemmon, Sherryl Gene’ Conklin-Holeman (who may win the contest for the longest last name in our class), Terry McStott, Darli Lund and Marion Sogn.
- A REMINDER:  Mariner High Alumni Association Dinner and Auction to benefit the Alumni Association scholarships for MHS students is Friday, May 8.  If you plan on attending, please drop me a line — trying to get a fix on how many people from our class plan on attending.

- A NAG:  if you’re aware of anyone who would like to be added to this list, please have them contact me.  We’re up to nearly 100 people from the Class of 1976 now — double what we had prior to the 30th reunion in 2006.  Most of that is thanks to you guys, ratting out….er, suggesting to your friends that they join the list.

I’m heading to San Francisco May 2-7 for the National Environmental Partnership Summit, so if any of you are living down in the Bay area, and would like to get together, drop me a line.   Will be in the Rosslyn VA/Washington D.C. area May 24-25, so likewise if you live in the D.C. area.

until next time,

Scott “Insomnia is my middle Name” Butner
MHS Class of 1976
living/working in Richland WA

What were you listening to in 1976?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I have always loved music.  Not playing it.  I have no ability to hum, sing, keep a steady beat, or play an instrument.

I can barely play the radio in tune.
No, my love of music has always been more confined to the act of collecting it and listening to it.  My iPod, for instance, has some 6,000 song titles on it.  To give you some idea — if I started playing my Elvis Costello song list when I pulled out of my driveway, I could drive to San Diego, 1,200 miles away, before I got to the end of the list.

Hell, I have 10 different cover versions of the Bee Gee’s classic “To Love Somebody” including a kick-ass reggae version by Busty Brown, and 90’s-era almost emo version by Blue Rodeo.

And though it’s harder to keep up with music now that my kids are grown, I’m happy to report that my obsession with music isn’t limited to songs from “back in the day.”  Yeah, I’ve got the Grateful Dead — but I’ve also got Deathcab for Cutie.  The Beatles may have hung out with Ravi Shankar, but they disbanded before Anoushka, Ravi’s stunning and musically gifted daughter (and half-sister of Norah Jones), was even born.

I’ve got all three of them on my iPod.
But I’ll admit — many of my favorite songs are those we grew up with.  Which is why I got a kick out of a web site that a friend forwarded to me recently.  The site,  The #1 Song on This Date In History, was built by another music buff, Josh Hosler, and is based on the Billboard rock/pop charts and includes song titles dating back as far as the 1890’s (well before our time, even!) through the current day.   Though my friend forwarded it with the intent of looking up what had been #1 on the day he was born, I actually find it more interesting to look at what we were listening to in those years between ages 12-16, which according to author Daniel Levitin, is a particularly important stage in terms of imprinting the music that will stick with us for our lifetime.

Stevie Wonder, captured live at the Seattle Center Arena, sometime around
1974.  His warm-up act was Rufus, featuring Chaka Kahn. 

Levitin’s book “This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession” is a great read, by the way — a little tough at times for people, like myself, who don’t understand simple musical concepts like rythm, pitch, melody…but still well worth the read.  Levitin is a former music producer (having worked for bands including Pink Floyd and Steely Dan) who went back to college, got a PhD in psychology, and now does research on how the brain processes music.

The result is a fascinating account of what the brain “expects” from music, why we react to it the way we do, and why some sounds appear musical to us, while others just sound like….well, disco.

What he fails to explain are the larger mysteries that science may never solve, such as “how did ‘Convoy’ make it to the top of the Charts in January 1976?” or “With thousands of songs to choose from, why does the classic rock station play ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ every time I tune in?” or “what was the deal with disco, anyway — was it JUST the drugs, or is there some other explanation?”

Which brings me back to the original topic:  check out Hosler’s site.  It’s fun to see what was playing during our high school years.

And if you have any musical memories to share, feel free to add them to this post!

I hate to say I told you so

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

[DISCLAIMER:  This is another of my usual fractal e-mails, which means that it will take a long time to get to the point, assuming it ever does.
If you just want to skip to the point, scan down the page 'til you reach [THE BOTTOM LINE]]

Anyway, as I began to say:  “I hate to say ‘I told you so…’”

But really, who am I kidding?  I LOVE to say “I told you so!”

In fact, anytime you hear someone preface their remark with the phrase, “I hate to say I told you so….” there are two things you know for certain:

1) the next word out of their mouth will be “…but…”
2) if they really hated to say “I told you so” — they wouldn’t.

Of course, there are always exceptions that prove the rule.   For example, the words may ring at least a little true in the wake of those sort of foretold disasters — the kind that start out with someone saying “Here — hold my beer” and end up with somebody I know being featured on “America’s Funniest Videos” or (more likely) one of those “Seconds from Disaster” reality shows where the saving grace of the video clips that they show is that hardly anybody got killed.

In those cases, I actually DO hate to say, “I told you so.”

But I must admit that, prophecies of imminent personal catastrophe notwithstanding, I love to say “I told you so” because it’s a significant part of my daily job.

See, I’ve been lucky enough over the past 25 years to have the coolest job I could imagine.  Basically, I get paid to ask interesting questions.  Sometimes, I don’t even have to come up with the answers — just the questions.

I’ll never get rich at this job, but I also will never get bored.   And every once in a while, I get to say “I told you so!”

Case in point:  In 1995, I helped to organize a conference that was marketed (a bit hyperbolically perhaps) as “The First International Conference on Environment and the Internet.”

Hey.  One of our speakers was from Canada.  That counts as “international,” doesn’t it?

We held the conference in Seattle, and by most accounts it was a success, albeit a modest one.  We had about 100 people from academia, government, environmental non-profits and industry together to talk about innovative uses of the still-blossoming World Wide Web, in accomplishing environmental missions.

As you may recall, the Internet was still pretty new stuff for most people in 1995.  There were an estimated 16 million people online worldwide — less than 1/2 of 1% of the population.  Today, the number is estimated at 1.4 BILLION, approximately 20% of the world population (more than 74% of people in North America).  The Java language had just been released, Netscape was still the standard browser for most people, you rarely, if ever saw a URL on television or in magazine ads.  The Stanford University research project that eventually spawned Google was still a year away.

So the relevance of the Internet to solving REAL environmental problems wasn’t exactly apparent.   Nonetheless, yours truly begged and bullied his way onto the conference program as one of the keynote speakers. 

(Actually, I rarely bully anyone –  but it sounds more macho than to admit that it was mostly begging, and I’m all about being macho.)

Of course, it was easy to be a keynote speaker back then:  in 1995, relatively few people had spent much time thinking about things like “how will this internet thing affect the environmental business?”

So anyone with an opinion on the subject was basically as close to an expert as we could find.

In any event, Paul Hawkens’ book “The Ecology of Commerce” was hot stuff at the time, and I had been intrigued for a few years by the ecological metaphor, so I gave a talk called “The Ecology of the Internet:  What Nature Tells Us About How the Internet Will Evolve”

It wasn’t a particularly memorable talk, to be honest.  But it wasn’t awful, either.  I had a cute Calvin and Hobbes cartoon as part of my slides.  How can you go wrong with Calvin and Hobbes?

More substantively, in this presentation,  I made five predictions.  I can’t remember all of them today, but two stand out in my mind:

- using the example of symbiotic relationships in nature, I predicted that we’d see the evolution of the web equivalents of mimicry (which we know today as “phishing”) and parasitism (arguably, pop-up ads).

OK, so that was pretty much a gimme.  Though remember — Javascript hadn’t even been invented yet, so these phenomena were still a few years in the future.

- for the second prediction, not necessarily tied to any natural phenomena, I told the audience that it was my belief that in the future, we’d see communities of interest supplanting communities of place.  Meaning, that we would increasingly define and surround ourselves, not by  people who had a shared geography — but instead by people who believed as we did, cared about the same things we did, shared the same history as we did.

Today, that doesn’t seem like much of a prediction.  Back then, I must say that it wasn’t exactly taken for granted.

So what does this have to do with the length of mini-term, or the fact that all those times that Mr. Gilles told us about his childhood in Steptoe Butte, he was talking about a real place (I’ve been there!)?

Precisely this:  I told you so.

OK, not YOU, in any literal sense.  To the best of my knowledge, the rest of the MHS Class of 1976 had better things to do that day.  And who can blame you?

But, figuratively speaking, I told you so.

And to some extent, this prediction has played out as I suspected it would.  For more and more of us, our lives ARE being increasingly defined, not by the neighborhood we live in, but by the online communities we are involved in.  Social Networking sites have evolved from gathering spots for nerdy computer addicts (”geek temples” if you will), to part of the everyday routine for a lot of us (more or less) normal folk.

How do I know this?  Well, for one, I see a lot of you on Facebook these days (more about this in a moment).  And unless you’re a hermit, living in the mountains somewhere (don’t laugh — I know a few, including at least one from our class), if you’re not in an online community of some sort, you probably will be, sooner or later.

Currently there are at least 17 of our classmates on Facebook.  Last year, I think it was about 2.

Now I am lucky enough to get e-mails from a lot of you — it’s one of the ways I pay myself for spending part of my free time hunting down people I haven’t talked to in 30+ years — and I know that for most of us, where we went to high school is a vanishingly small part of who we are today.   We’ve got lives — jobs, hobbies, and families  that keep us plenty busy.

But in these tough economic times, it doesn’t hurt to stay connected.  I’ve heard from a few of our classmates that have been affected by the downturn in the economy of late, and it’s led me to think about how much those old ties are worth.

In my case, for instance — I may not be willing to give a job to someone who I knew 30 years ago,  solely on the basis of that old connection — but I am a lot more likely to look at their resume, out of curiosity if nothing else.

And this is not a purely hypothetical statement:  our Laboratory, which works on a variety of research related to homeland security, environment, energy and fundamental science, currently has more than 100 open positions.  Seems like it’s hard to get people to move out here to the sagebrush and tumbleweeds of eastern Washington — as I’ve always said:  “it’s a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit there…”

most of our positions are for people with heavy nerd factors — computer programmers, energy policy analysts, chemists, biologists…but also people who are in communications, contract administration, and all the other support positions that a national research laboratory employing 4,100 people requires.

Likewise, though bright spots are few and far between in the current economy, they ARE out there.  I know of at least one of our classmates who is a top level manager for a high tech company that is still hiring.

So staying connected with people who shared their formative years with you can be a good way to survive the rough spots.

Just sayin’.

Which brings me to the bottom line.


With the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, I find myself increasingly feeling like an unnecessary middle man.

Mind you, I ENJOY tracking people down, getting them on the list, and keeping them in touch — but there are new tools that allow people to do a lot of that without my help.

I’ve already mentioned a couple of note:  Facebook, and LinkedIn.  I’ve seen relatively few people from MHS on LinkedIn (, but it’s primarily a business networking site, so a lot of people don’t identify their high school affiliation.

Facebook ( started out 5 years ago, primarily as a site for college kids — but as my growing friends list underscores, it’s gotten a lot grayer in the years since.  It even has a Mariner High School Alumni group, and a growing network of MHS Class of 1976 alumni.  Heck, I even carry out real business on it sometimes, including collaborating on research proposals.

You know it’s days are numbered when fat, boring research scientists start using the site for more than just checking up on their kids who are off at college.

So, in light of this phenomena — while I plan to continue to maintain a mailing list for future reunions for as long as you folks  will put up with me, I would also like to encourage you to think about joining one of these social network sites if you’d like to get back in touch with your old classmates.    IF you do join Facebook, please drop me a line, or a friend request, and/or join the MHS Alumni group (search Groups for “Mariner”) so we can find each other and I can update my little mailing list with your facebook status.

With regards to this mailing list:  a couple of recent developments:

- Kristi [Holtgeerts] Rosenberger has graciously agreed to serve as my back-up custodian for the online mailing list.  This was done as an “insurance measure” in case I got hit by a bus or something.   Getting hit by a bus is not in my immediate plans, but I rest a little easier knowing that at least ONE of my responsibilities will be taken care of should it happen.

- Thanks in large part to your help, I’ve added a number of names to the mailing list for our class since I last published it in December 2008.  Eleven new people, in fact, if my count is correct — bringing the list to a total of 81, quite a bit better than the 50 we had just prior to the 30th reunion in 2006.

Keep up the good work.   By the time 2011 rolls around, we might just get a majority of class members.

Those of you who have been on this list for a while know the drill:  please review our class mailing list, make sure your name is spelled correctly (or spelled at all — my recordkeeping is far from immaculate).  If you see a notable omission of someone who you think might want to be on this list, but who isn’t — please forward this e-mail to them or otherwise have them contact me at  I’ll add them as promptly as I can.

Annual Christmas Letter Post — Mine and Yours

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

The past few years I’ve been offering to post links to people’s Christmas letters (or you can leave a comment, and post your own!).

Just a simple way to keep people up to date with lives of others (who they haven’t seen in 30 years).

I’ll start, as usual, with a link to mine:

Take care, and Merry Christmas/Happy New Year!


So how are you spending YOUR summer vacation?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008


Laura and I just got back from a combined business/pleasure trip to eastern Idaho and NW Montana, where we ALMOST (but not quite) had a chance to visit Lynne Haley (MHS 1977) and drove past Keith Knol’s neighborhood along the way. I especially enjoyed photographing the Craters of the Moon National Monument (pictured), and fly fishing on the famed Harriman Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.

(for the record, I landed three trout, and lost two that were well over 20 inches).

More pictures, here:

So, how are YOU spending your break? Post a comment and tell us!

Note: due to spambot comments, I need to moderate all comments. This means that there could be a delay of 1-2 days between you posting the comment, and it showing up on the site. Sorry about that, but if I didn’t do this we’d have nothing but porn ads and Viagra commercials on this site!

If you’re looking for the Class of 1977 reunion….

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

this ain’t it. But here’s a link to the Mariner High Class of 1977 reunion page.

There’s also a Mariner Reunion page on and a photo gallery of Mariner High Class of 1977 photos on Flickr.
I will try to keep this post on the front page for a few months (won’t be hard — I’m not exactly putting much time into this blog now that our reunion’s over) and you should feel free to add comments if you know more about the 1977 reunion.

Good luck, you youngsters.