Habitual Wisdom

The wisdom of the Ancient Ones. From our modern-day vantage point, the wisdom of the Ancient Ones seems naïve. Working within the confines of a binary numbering scheme is frustrating already, but the unary system they employed must have driven many of them to drink, which may explain their reputation for dropping bits of the packets they carried aboard at every port during their transatlantic migrations.

With the arrival of the Ancient Twos, the one-dimensional wisdom of their predecessors fell into disrepute. The elasticity and charm of the new duality made the Ancient Ones seem unwiseeven myopicin the eyes of certain nuevo influential technologists of the day. The less certain spray-painted slogans above underpasses and under overpasses throughout the district, until every passing IT professional knew the words by heart.

Garbage in, garbage out.

In modern terms, this means we only do as we're told. We aren't paid to question the wisdom and logic of our orders, nor are we responsible for the outcome. In postmodern terms, the definitions of those words will have been lost among the daily yottabytes that carry the wisdom of the Ancient Ones.


Stone Cold Salvation

Thanks to My One True Love for the title on this one. Muah. Some of my years of splendid isolation in the Rockies were neither splendid nor isolated. It's true there's a certain insular quality that comes with the territory, but that's to be expected when said territory hovers more than 9,000 feet above the nearest ocean. Not everyone has the strength or the will to rise above the ashes of last night's firewood; it's hard enough to breathe at that altitude without staggering through three feet of snow to reach the woodpile. Typically, those who truly enjoy it are Huskies, Malamutes, or Wolves, but they aren't handy with a chainsaw.

The lure of splendid isolation is often particularly strong among those least likely to enjoy it, which is how I came to be surrounded by pilgrims from places with names like Los Angeles, or Cuba. In the case of the latter, the climate did him in long before isolation had the opportunity to ruin his mind. He was the lucky one. The others lingered, ignoring the warning signs until the social deprivation and silence drove them to the edge of madness, and back to the cold comfort of the city.

Feeding at Mother Nature's trough is generally therapeutic, but not everyone benefits from such a simple meal. Some require a more rigorous course to avoid return trips to the drug-rehabilitation centers from which they have only recently escaped. This is particularly important for those fixated on installing a deer pelvis atop every fence post, or attempting to conceal an ax under a coat for those inevitable encounters with angry forest creatures. Other warning signs included obsessive nighttime expeditions designed to prove the authenticity of bear droppings, obsessive late-night phone calls designed to garner support for same, an obsession with domesticating wolves, and speaking to the people who live in our doorknobs.

On the opposite side of the coin, not every wilderness immigrant exhibits the obvious signs of mental collapse, relapse, or outright yo-I'm-a-lumberjack predisposition that spoil the isolationist splendor for the rest of us. For some, it's slow going as the combined effects of altitude, loneliness, and tick-borne illness take their toll. Others simply drown in their own tears during long months surrounded by the tall pines that had seemed so appropriate on the south side of the house when days were warm.

For some of us, solitude brings strength, and not everyone is lulled by sound for its own sake. For others, splendid isolation is stone cold salvation, and Mother Nature's cruelest joke.


Natural Selection

How many Picobears can dance on the head of a Petabear? On Tuesday, January 27, 2009 @ 12:48:00 PM UTC gary barwin wrote . . .

"Thanks for bearing witness. (Talk about overbearing...actually, perhaps there should be a universal scale established to rank this, kilobears (kB) perhaps. Though the last time I tried to kilobear, I barely escaped with my life, I was almost unbearable.)"

. . . thus spawning, of course, the Terrabear. Sadly, the Gigabear's limited capacity rendered it obsolete within moments of its inception.


Bare Necessities

Just grin and bear it, k?

It shouldn't take the better part of a lifetime to spot a bear in the wild. This is especially true when most of that lifetime has been spent in bear country, but that didn't stop me from not seeing one until the bulk of my natural life was already bobbing downstream on its way to the gulf. Everyone else had seen at least one bear, even the upstart pilgrims from other, non-bearing parts of the world. Thus, my sighting, when it occurred, lacked much of the swelling you might expect after years of waiting and wishing. There was no sense of revenge, or vindication, or superiority; instead of eating my enemies, the bear only reared up, sniffed the air, then loped off toward another pile of discarded fries.

I'm not sure how many years have passed, but the marks I made on the cave wall tell me it's been 1,537 days since I saw the bear. The same marks tell me how many days have gone by without seeing the bear, and the numbers coincide. This leads me to believe I haven't entirely lost my bearings, a comfort when you consider the average bear's clumsiness with small parts.

On the other hand, my cavemate seems perfectly content to have lost his barings, preferring the cool comfort of cotton to the shameful nakedness he had been forced to bear before illumination struck. A bare cave no more, home is a warmer, more inviting placeand happier, now that the overbearing relatives have gone. The shelves are well stocked with the fruits of the Bering Seakippered herring, and whitecaps for nightcapswhile outside the perimeter, the last stampede sends bulls and lemmings to the nearest watering hole, perchance to dream.


Sniffing Time

Sniffing the hyperbolic vapors of time. Time isn't always on our side. Sometimes it's on our knuckles, or running down our chins like the brown tobacco juice the sisters spat across the room when we were small. Having reached the age of enlightenment, the concept of time as a roving entity becomes easier to swallow, and in fact mixes nicely with the snifter of vapid hyperbole we've come to rely on as a tonic, now that Pappy's gaze is clear again.

On the face of it, time's predilection for attaching itself to the undercarriages of automobiles and perambulators seems ample justification for the additional expense of undercoating, but no such protection existed during the Prenuptial Era. In that day, invention was the mother of necessity, and all the time in the world couldn't have prevented my father from carrying your mother over the threshold and into the garage, where the timing belts were kept. There, the Hemi's lullaby soothed the salvaged beast, while unwatched tachometers turned quarts to picoliters, and thence to billowing clouds of smoke as metal met metal insufficiently lubricated by the oil pump left on the workbench when the lunch bell rang.

By and by, the worms of time learned to leverage boredom, leaving their holes strewn roundabout and yon, over and then under every corner of the small blue marble you call home. Not that phoning home is the panacea it once was, before technology riddled the landscape with high-frequency shadows too dark to permit even the single bar required for rudimentary conversation over a beer. Bar none, the knuckled sandwich extract we enjoy at day's end has congealed, leaving us exposed to the screeching and cawing of birds on the wing, in the tunnels, and under the wheels of progress that roll between the here and now and the now and then, wherever fine timepieces are sold.


The Moon's Proud Parens

Paternity established, no DNA testing required. Languishing in primary school as a lad, I was furnished with easily digestible morsels of fact and fiction, blended and homogenized to prevent the doubt, scrutiny, investigation and subsequent mutiny for which public-school classrooms have always been famous. One particularly memorable example had to do with the origin of the very moon you and I enjoy todayor perhaps tomorrow, if it's cloudy where you liveand I'm not talking about green cheese, or any of those silly pseudoscientific analyses you might have read about on the Web. I'm referring to the idea that, millions of years before the first automobile, Earth's moon was torn from the left side of Earth herself, then spun into position by nearby gravitational forces while simultaneously shedding the excess lumpiness that had previously belonged to his mother.

Here, I hasten to clarify my use of directional cuessuch as leftin connection with the spatial ambiguity of space. At that time our sun had not yet burst into flame, so the ferrous metals used in its construction hadn't yet melted. Thus, compass needles always pointed toward the sunmarked with an S on most compasses of the dayinstead of toward the E, which didn't come into widespread use until the latter part of the seventh century.

Continuing on, the mystery of our moon's ancestry became far less murky during my high-school years, when a substitute teacher used her brief tenure as a soapbox from which to preach the gospel of astronomical enlightenment, at least insofar as moons are concerned. Mrs. Cüi was a Lunatic, and so was able to further illuminate the minds of the hippie-come-lately generation that infested the classrooms of the day. The metronomic cadence of her words hypnotized, and when I came to, it was as if I had always known of the lunar parentheticals, but had simply been too shy to say so.

Today, I know there's little to be gained from books generally, and I especially avoid those that claim special insight in matters of the moon. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look up and recognize familial similarities. His parens must be mighty proud.


Three More From 1978

My Mountain

The clouds roll in
And they boil
And they tumble
Casting shadows on the mountain
Where my heart still lives;
Where the boulder covered valleys
Lie in quiet expectation
Of the storm that lifts me once again
To timberline in Spring.


You are the pilot
And I am the wing
My friends are the engines
And other strange things.

We fly to South Asia
And then to my house
For cocktails and lobster
And extract of Maus.

Hello Mountains

Hello river, hello trees
Without you I begin to freeze
It isn't that the air's too cold
I worry that my soul's been sold.

Hello lightning, hello rain
You, at least, remain the same
I can't rely on mom and dad
But lightning never makes me sad.

Hello pinecones, hello snow
I'll take you with me when I go
You're never really left behind
You'll live forever in my mind.

Hello mountains, hello sky
This is where I want to die
Don't bury me in a concrete crypt
But scatter my bones around a bit.

Edge Notes

Vertical edges Force equals mass times acceleration, and the detonation of words by weight or volume comes as no surprise. But tipped toward velocitythe equation of the pearl-handled penwords arrive at once, and their spin makes them all the more difficult to catch.

An audience brings atmospheric drag. Better to fire words into the vacuum than keep the safety forever on.


Why Some Guitars Weep, Gently, When They Make Stuff Up

This just in. It seems the Harvard physicist at the center of the Google blasphemy outlined in today's monologue had, in fact, nothing to do with it.

A link to a TechNewsWorld article describing what really happened appears on Google's blog, but in a nutshell, the physicist didn't even mention Google, let alone tea kettles.

One problem: the study's author, Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, says he never mentions Google in the study. "For some reason, in their story on the study, the Times had an ax to grind with Google," Wissner-Gross told TechNewsWorld. "Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site."

And the example involving tea kettles? "They did that. I have no idea where they got those statistics," Wissner-Gross said.

That is all.


Why Guitars Are Important

At last, an alternative to Googling. If the techie-blog post I read this morning is any indication, the habituated debauchery known as Googling has been exposed, finally, to the light bulb of scientific scrutiny. To use one of the rampant colloquialisms of the cybersphere, we've been busted, and will now be forced to get our knowledge and inspiration the old-fashioned way. Not Googling was good enough for your grandmother, and if it was good enough for her grandmother's grandmother, it was certainly good enough for her mother, too. They Googled not, yet they knew things.

Another example of a person who knows things is Alex Wissner-Gross, the Harvard physicist quoted in the Times Online article quoted in the techie-blog post I mentioned before.

"Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy," he said.

Writing in the company's official blog, Google's Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President of Operations, agrees on the rapidity angle, but has a different idea when it comes to efficiency.

[Google has] designed and built the most energy efficient data centers in the world, which means the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.

Urs goes on to point out that "a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds." This may be a bit on the conservative side for people like me, who routinely consume many times our own weight in delicious chocolate-covered donuts, yet remain svelte, and therefore debonair.

Nevertheless, the point remains the same, which is that we should learn to play the guitar instead of Googling stuff all the time.


The End of Ice

Ice is never really your friend. Ice is blasé. There are only so many ways to have fun with it, and after a week spent gazing into its cold, abysmal eyes, I feel I'm ready to move on to warmer things.

So this is goodbye. Deep down, I know we'll meet again, but from now on ice will get a chillier reception than it enjoyed before the magic melted into sorrowing dampness, and frostbitten toes. Already the shadows beyond the ice begin to brighten, as if to say, "Hey man, why not take off your shoes and have a romp through the greening pastures of Spring?"

But then the laughter begins, and I know it's all a cruel joke. It's January after all, not May, or even April. The suffering has only just begun, ice will be back with a vengeance, and I'll do the crying myself. What a fool I've been.

So this is hello. Hello to numbing particles of water gone terribly wrong. Hello to the frozen wasteland of Winter. Hello darkness. Hello tears.

I'm sorry, but I can't continue. One of the heat lamps in the dresser drawer I use as an office has just gone out, so I must go and search for a suitable replacement. I believe the snowmobile has enough petrol to get me to the nearest outpost, so there shouldn't be any need for the sled dogs this time.

Will advise upon my return.


Warm Ice

The color of ice Ice sleeps
Water dreams
River dreams
Ice dreams

Warm currents
Water whispers
Earth to earth
Sky to sky

Ice's Hard Feelings

Just in case anyone out there remains unconvinced of ice's hard feelingsanger in particularCraig Conley has proof of it, which I submit here for your edification.

Thanks, Craig.

Graphic courtesy of Craig Conley. Used with permission.


Angry Ice

Ooo! Ooo! I'm so vewy angwy! Ice is angry, especially when someone shoves a camera in its face. Xenophobic by nature, ice just wants to be left alone to contemplate the cruelty of the four states of matter.

Life isn't fair, but it's particularly unkind to cold molecules. Trapped in the lattice, ice is understandably bitter. Anger is its only recourse, which often results in shouting, which is exactly what the ice is doing in the photo you see here.

Warmer temperatures bring molecular release, and tears of joy begin to drip from ice's frozen countenance. Alas, its happiness is short-lived. "Morph we must," says the sun, and then it laughs.

Sometimes steam is angry, too.


Ice Angles

Ice anglesIgnoring tradition, ice angleslike snow angles before themoften choose a different path and lean toward uncommon nodes of gravity.

Thus released from rank perpendicularity, their wings are free to unfold along new tangents.


Ice Dreams

Ice blue Another bright morningno clouds to hold the outlines of our winter's dreamthe images locked again in ice.

A blue sky, the darker ground, a patch of light beyond them all, and sunlight breaks into the cold to thaw the dreams of frosted nights.

Blue as the Robin's egg that waits behind the walls of winter. Blue as a summer stream.


Ice Gazing

Like cloud-gazing, only icier. On this bright morning, I found the shapes of imagination in the ice and among the snow-blue shadows left behind by yesterday's clouds.

The faces will return to tomorrow's sky, if there are clouds, and the outlines of monsters and mountains, and every shape that fits a cloud will rise again toward the sun.

But today, this is where the shapes are found.



Orange stuff

Hector Lanible takes his young son out for a day of education at the city zoo. "There!" he exclaims, and then he points. "An Orange Utan!" The boy nods, and looks at his shoes.

Julius roaming, in search of citrus treats, discovers a torrent of orange beneath the blazing skies. Fruit to calm his hunger, and a marmalade sunset to keep the scurvy doctor at bay.

Later that evening, an old friend is having an old friend for dinner and a movie. Habinal Licktor watches from the screen, eyes wild. A new caste of diners heretofore unknown, but for their taste in fruit.



Dancing, now that 08 is gone

Sometimes a clean sheet of e-paper just wants to be left alone to savor its blankness, and I've already said too much.