Terence Yorks
presents a slower blog


The Ruffled Grouse looks at life

These are additional dated drafts, with their inherent errors in both content and details of execution. The latest rough rants and commentaries are found within my current blog page. More finished work may be found through the formal publications pages.

De enjoy the following despite its flaws. The essay's goals are shared entertainment and improved quality of living.

Not so tangent topics:

Background for this blog


Military deaths abroad


Mercury Poisoning



23 October 2012

After just a few dribbles of rain since mid-May, as opposed to local historical norms netting around an inch of precipitation per month, we received an inch and three quarters of rain last night, followed by a couple inches of snow in the early morning. This sudden accumulation exceeds the largest total ever recorded for 24 hours in October at the nearest recording station. One must always be cautious while interpreting averages; extrapolated over the past six months, we now might seem to have more than half of the normal average. The problem is that this year it all came at once, and for the native plant cover, after the growing season was over, instead of spaced at more useful intervals as it was over the longer term past. Most of the last twenty years have been tending in the same kind of direction, though more heavily loaded in the spring rather than the fall, but nearly always with a greater spread between increasingly rare but heavier rainfall events.

This reflects not just a local issue. Since the 1970’s, my data-based predictions have been on record that one of the cumulative effects of fossil energy release as part of wasting resources by humans has been exactly this: dramatically more unstable weather, specifically including more extended droughts followed by intensive washouts. At least this one had no immediate flooding, with the soils so utterly dry. Summer rainfall has been tapering off to nothing for 20 years, but this dearth was the longest and most complete yet.

I’m no longer just a voice crying warnings in the wilderness because there is so little of that left, but continue to wonder why there remains so small an audience for my work. There many other commonly overlooked projections within it that are also increasingly being proven accurate.


8 October 2012

I've fallen way behind in my postings, but this one seems too important and timely to let slide until I refine the presentation.

Occasionally, despite my fairly well informed cynicism, I get surprised by how bad and how quickly things get from actions that I’ve long abhorred. Try “Arsenic: It’s what’s for dinner: The government is perversely protecting the industries that release the killer chemical into society” by Jill Richardson. Salon.com thoroughly annoyed me by their recent declaration of a “privacy policy” that is anything but, so I am careful about using it, nevertheless, they still get better scoops more consistently than any other source that I’ve found.

Besides the surprisingly increasing pervasiveness of arsenic through a combination of carelessness about consequences and corporate greed, the explosive growth of a superweed through genetic manipulation and the inevitable follow-up of more, rather than supposedly less, herbicide use has been appearing just as quickly as I have long anticipated and predicted. A tangled tale, perhaps, but just more proof of what I have been trying to warn everyone else about. It’s but one aspect of so much else moving in the same direction.



9 April 2012

Pithy summary department: “In hindsight, it will look like a bunch of junkies who just didn’t know when to stop tapping fossil fuel’s disappearing veins.” Scott Thill. 2012. California’s unregulated fracking problem. salon.com.


2 April 2012

“God'll send a fire, not a flood next time…God said fire comin' judgement day, He said all mankind gonna pass away. Brothers and sisters don't you know? You're gonna reap just what you sow.” Well, Well, Well (Camp/Gibson, Melody Trails. Inc. BMI)

My wife was up before dawn this morning, unusual for her, but immediately carrying on with her telecommuting book editing, which went on last night until well after I fell asleep sometime around midnight. Monday mornings have no newspaper here, so after I finished making the coffee, I settled in with Peter Paul and Mary’s 1966 Album on the headphones for background while perusing the latest from salon.com on my iPad. That provided one more small prophetic choice, since it ended with the song and lyrics note above.

First I found, The Queen and the Maid: Joan of Arc’s secret backer. A historian argues that the medieval saint's success was engineered by stealthy political genius.” by Laura Miller, which opened, “Attention, 'Game of Thrones' fans: The most enjoyably sensational aspects of medieval politics — double-crosses, ambushes, bizarre personal obsessions, lunacy and naked self-interest — are in abundant evidence in Nancy Goldstone’s [book]."

My initial thought was of how only two people best among all those I know locally or in my extended family even might have even the faintest interest in George Martin’s work, on film or in print, let alone harder history (though the daughter of a neighbor who happened to drop by last night in one of those rare visits from outside to our home might well be an exception). Martin’s work is hard stuff, but so much more true than the fantasies most use to replace deeper thinking or awareness. It’s also one of the places where the romance that led me to my wife remains. This means in practical terms once more reminding me that I desperately need to broaden my routine social horizons.

Then I went into “America, the new Saudi Arabia: As overseas production grows more expensive, Big Oil is pushing to turn the U.S. into a Third World petrostate”, by Michael Klare. This an Important article, neatly sharpened and well written. I was just finishing it when the final song on Album came on. I had been thinking of how PP&M were too sweet for my wife (though the physical album is hers), despite the incredible purity of their harmonies and rhythms that I still so love, but their last cut was a perfect match for what Klare was saying. Like most of our generation I had long assumed, listening to that incendiary song, with its core quoted above, applied to nuclear weapons. Now, apparently, humanity doesn’t even have to go that far to bring on the apocalypse, though as the related degradation continues to accelerate, it makes it become increasing likely that some crazier Samson update will pull down the remaining temple by pushing a button.

I’ve got work to do today to begin cleaning up my overviews, which still have so far to go to be heard, about what the background situation is, and what might be done about it, which is all about wasting less. There is no alternative solution; all forms of energy consumption wind up degrading their surroundings, in direct proportion to the overall rate of use. That is a desperately important underlying truth that almost no one else is talking about, and the powers that be want everyone to avoid thinking about, let alone doing something about. Yet, if more even began, we all could live dramatically more comfortably, more healthily, and for longer, including those who are pulling the rest of our strings.

Of course, now in the background Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch on the Internet’s Folk Alley are singing “You Can’t Save Everybody: everybody don’t want to be saved.” Nevertheless, I might be able to help rescue a few more, beginning with a juxtaposition of what is now heading up the projects section on this website and the Orion reject article, dropping much of the personal perspective for background from the latter, and replacing it with the graphic and introductory stuff from projects, but keeping the details illustrating how to deal with changing, with even more focus on their practical positive values of paying more attention.


22 March 2012

Ironic on one level, but not on another, that I have been bitching about the quality of television programming when last night we finished watching what is a fine example of the possibilities available for the current state of the medium. I had picked up, for $40 on sale at a local store for the first week of its release, the 10 episode initial season of Game of Thrones, as a nicely packaged Blu-ray disk set. Only the last scene was at all disappointing, and when I reread the written version afterwards, the reason there became apparent, for it was originally told through the internal character’s view. The screen overview missed both the importance and more regal pacing that brought. Some things just don’t translate, but in retrospect, I still appreciate much that the more directly visual perspective brought. For the series, it was a superb job, with niggling exceptions, all the way through, by producers, screenwriters, casting, actors, directors, costumers, and cinematographers.

The tale has both riveting physical adventure and thoughtful intellectual depth. A lot is dreary and violent, but so is our existence if similarly telescoped into a brief package of its most intense moments. About it I had earlier written our recent college graduate niece:

I first encountered its author, George R. R. Martin, via the same little bookstore that turned me on to Marion Zimmer Bradley and Darkover. That store was in a basement with a sidewalk entry, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from where I was working for the National Research Council in Washington, D.C. in 1984-5. I got a copy there of The Faces of Science Fiction: Intimate portraits of the men and women who shape the way we look at the future, with photographs by Patti Perret, and words by each of the authors. [1984, Bluejay Books, NY. unpaginated and apparently now rare]. Both Martin’s words and picture were among the most interesting of the lot.

Some of his stuff is more than a bit weird, and beyond me, but I have liked a lot of it, leading to buying Game of Thrones when it first came out in paperback in 1997, following that purchase with the next two hardbound as soon as they emerged, and then, feeling poorer, getting the subsequent pair from the library. The most recent was last summer. With it being so massive, I reread the first four before turning to it, since our local doesn’t allow renewing takeouts until they are no longer considered “new books”. The preceding set passed, even with all their extended dreary and/or gory parts, the test of being even better the second time around.

While looking through the cheaper possibilities among the movies after I finally prevailed upon your aunt to allow me to have a Blu-ray player earlier this year, I ran across a free one episode teaser for the HBO Game of Thrones series that was to be released on disks this month. I had been impressed by the ads (something I ever so rarely pay serious attention to), as indicating that the outfit actually was doing a good job with it. About that I wrote in my blog draft, that immense collection of words that mostly just sit on my computer:

There had been another more personal nexus from watching the promo alone in the electronic kiva, when Emilia Clarke, playing Daenerys Targaryen, stands naked while the physically powerful horse lord standing behind prepares to deflower her. She, and the filmmakers, caught perfectly what George R. R. Martin had intended (based on my own rereading of the massive book series recently), of the vulnerable unsureness of the young girl (all the more so in the book, with the character as described there being 13, the age when medieval royalty often had to deal with marriage, instead of the actress’ 23 years), yet the resolve (under the very real appearing tears), which carries forward through the series, with marvelously focused wider meaning for what will be happening. Later, the older brother whom she expected would eventually lead fatally stumbles, the husband who was forced upon her but she has come to love is killed, and much else ensues, including the maturation of her dragons. She will go on to try to reign for the benefit of her people as a queen, instead of just continuing to fight for more or continuing power, as most in political history do (whether in fiction or life). That initial trial, when she finally reaches it, will painfully fail from her own missteps and others’ errors around her, along with difficulties imposed by what has been brought forward from the human past, along with even less controllable impositions like disease and drought.

What Martin will do with the story as (or if) it continues is unknown, but its particular resonance for me is that whatever the wider scale of the next level in her destiny becomes, she will not be able to establish any form of direct genetic pass through for it, having become biologically barren. The usual passing of problems along, through the conceptual concentration on offspring, is not an option.

My usually recalcitrant about watching movies on TV (and serious medieval scholar) wife has been sucked in and appreciated it too. Of course, much is condensed, but the producers have done a generally superb job in the casting, and for the most part in the presentation. What has been especially fascinating for me is how that it (rereading and watching) comes out being so much like what Lawrence Durrell did in the “Alexandria Quartet”, of looking at the same basic story from more than one different perspective.


21 March 2012

Thinking a bit more about television and justifying my distaste for what it has become. I grew up with it, since my dad had tuned in from just about the first broadcasts available. Watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth (II) from the initial fuzzy black and white cross Atlantic transfer to the 8” screen in our living room is one of my earliest clear memories. The many now legendary screen and moving over from radio characters: Lowell Thomas, Alastair Cook, Edward R. Murrow, Groucho Marx, Roy Rogers and so many more were seen as they began on the small screen. So much more care and effort was being put into every broadcast, and the work showed in comparison to the present, even though the audio and video capabilities were so much less. That made even the commercials better, and there were fewer of them, with their volume or flashiness generally more constrained.

I can point to a specific moment when dissatisfaction boiled over for me, when as music was advancing so rapidly in non-commercial formats during the sixties in both its reproduction capabilities and the depth of its content, the childhood favorite movie Ben Hur was put on by one of the networks. With the first commercial break, that utter incompatibility of medium and method made me flip it off, and for the most part that silence has been kept up from my end. Sports are the primary exception, but with less than addictive involvement, and that usually with something else for a sound track.

With 1080p flat screens, carefully chosen and set up for color and other balances (which are emphatically not their garish factory defaults), a recording at their fullest level of capability, and an a-level sound system connected, the medium itself has advanced dramatically, though it still suffers in comparison with the visual spread from 35mm or better film in a better theater. That technical part is getting closer to genuinely wonderful, but content, for the most part, is not, with commercial dominated presentations continuing to get worse in just about all of my samplings of them. Since the HBO or other premium channel alternatives are tied to paying a lot for a bunch of worse than useless crap (which both cable and satellite options tie them to), and even their own stuff is so rarely of interest, paying for a subscription is not a practical option for us, even if the connections were of 1080p quality, which they are not, at least in rural areas like ours.

If “public” TV would do more movies, other higher quality drama or comedy, and music (besides teasers in grotesquely interrupted form during fund raising) I would watch it more often and contribute directly to its support, but like its radio parallel, it seems to be ever more interested in carelessly produced empty blather.


Meanwhile, last week I heard a resonant analogy from Martin Sexton, performing on the radio’s E-town. He described the current political party contests as being like two of the Native American tribes fighting among themselves, instead of banding together when their far more profoundly enemies were moving in from the east. That is even an appropriate direction, given the basing of the most dangerous entities to this planet’s future on Wall Street and similar environs. It is the mega-corporations that we need to fear; they own state and national governments, regardless of their erstwhile party affiliations, between which there is so little meaningful difference.

The most difficult part to explain to the majority of Americans is how corporate profit taking from petroleum and farm resources is not that the prices being charged are too high, but instead just where those dollars are flowing.

The prices themselves are too low by a factor of at least three, if those products’ true costs to society and the environment that supports are fairly calculated. Those hidden costs, from pollution, depletion of the most readily available sources, damage to shared infrastructure by wasteful use encouraged by low prices (e.g. to “freeways” by trucks of all sizes), soil erosion, military protection of supply lines, unbalance of trade, and so much more, are becoming catastrophic form their accumulation, at any level of measurement. Unfortunately, to recognize them requires more ability to appreciate large numbers and complex concepts than the average American seems to be able to handle (and the corporate-dominated media discourages them from trying to).

The paradox is that current commodity prices (given the lack of fair taxation upon them) are sufficient to make the corporations (and their highest level minions) that benefit from them immensely richer than parts of the government that might otherwise regulate the associated abuses. The richest few don’t give a damn about the long-term future, especially for everyone else, and wield so much practical power that the necessary reforms have nowhere to get a grip. This wealth also allows the preparation and distribution of massive doses of cleverly constructed propaganda, which keeps the masses confused, thinking that what they are doing will bring them happiness, but falling ever further into debt and still worse health, while the juggernaut of insanely wasteful consumption stays its immensely destructive course.

Not a minor portion of those corporation-generated lies are being mouthed and acted upon by politicians. Their primary means of propagation is through television. The deeper facts are so easily obscured by going off on spicier, but ultimately irrelevant tangents. Personal tragedies and religious beliefs make for much easier to accept such diversions, once distilled to trivial, sound-bite levels, with emotions rising from them keeping even those who could from thinking more deeply about what is being done to us, and to our life support systems.


20 March 2012

Yet another of my long-standing gloomy projections (aka prophecies) has been confirmed as all too accurate. Today's posting from Grist: “A new study from the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University fingers Monsanto’s genetically modified corn and soybean crops as the culprit behind monarch butterflies’ declining populations. Between 1999 and 2010, the same period in which so-called GMO crops became the norm for farmers, the number of monarch eggs declined by an estimated 81 percent across the Midwest, the researchers say.”


27 February 2012

Some of my favorite music has always been and remains that created very long ago. Beyond recordings by my age peers at their peaks, there is not, and will not, be better than what was written by John Dowland or J. S. Bach, though their peers may still arise, if what they created is brought forward by sufficiently capable players to bring out the light that they captured once again, or to do even better with it, which is still happening sometimes, here and there through time. What I happen to be listening to at the moment is an utterly gorgeous rendition of Mozart’s Symphony number 41, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, broadcast through the Internet by RNW classical, where the sonic detail because of care in every step, from players to engineers to the headphones that I carefully researched for value before paying a premium for, allows a clarity of perception of something lastingly worthwhile that would have been practically impossible even a few years ago. There’s a lot of that Prada glitter in and along the way, but with enough not wasted by assuming transience to get some of the best parts across to those who want to take the time to listen carefully.

It not been at all irrelevant to note how Sönke Johnsen (2012. The Optics of Life: A biologist’s guide to light in nature) has a concluding section about how difficult it is to make genuinely meaningful measurements of light. Because meters have become sufficiently capable to automatically make a decent camera exposure does not extrapolate directly to more general questions about light in our lives. This applies to similarly successful observations at too small of a scale among the various possibilities. One may think that one is fairly evaluating the state of the world from the driver’s seat of an SUV, but the filtering process of incoming information is so distorted there that the wrong conclusions are virtually inevitable. Walking along the road yesterday afternoon amply underlined, through the dust, noise, and fumes that literally hit one in the face from each passing iron behemoth, how different the world appears when measured more directly.

The important correlate there is that to the operator, moving 6,000+ pound hunks of steel and plastic to carry just a 200 pound person as their more or less useful load (as most usually do) seems comfortable and without consequence. The fuller impacts, both economic and physical, are so hidden from those creating or using them, and because they can move through places and times without apparent effort or immediately visible damage, these ungainly machines become used so much more often than less isolating vehicles used to be. We all wind up paying some of those much higher costs eventually, as well as having a much uglier and stressful world in the present.

Thinking about how important quiet is to spirituality made me wonder this morning if some of the transcendence of the older music came because comparative silence was more readily available. Yes, cities seemed noisy then, and were by some measurement scales, but the intensity of even iron clad wheels on cobblestones would have been more effectively muted inside cathedrals than the mechanically and chemically amplified noise of today’s vehicles—and there were a lot fewer of those simpler movement options back then.


Counterpoint to my continuing ruminations about The Devil Wears Prada came this morning with the realization, while listening to a bit of the Who’s, Tommy that modernity does offer the chance to have aural as well as visual masterpieces preserved and shared. The players on that recording are either dead or less capable because of age or interest than they were then, and they put together something very special indeed. It is wonderful that we can turn to such at will, along with other similar specially focused moments.

Last night, we doubled our rare involved as we watched together the degradation of the Oscar ceremonies on TV, where the loss of shared focus that networks and Hollywood used to provide shown raggedly through, starting with awards for and samples of outstanding cinematography being given a trivial fraction of the time allotted to silly new skits, and then carried on with stage sound transmissions that would have embarrassed a high school AV club, let alone the ghosts from a time when final quality mattered, even for the transience of television.

I hand wrote afterwards, “There is a very great difference between a simple average and the golden mean”. That did not apply directly to the Oscars, but to the movie we had watched the night before, where the problem upon reflection was more the concepts of newness and muchness, not the quality behind them. My wife’s vision of the Finnish paradigm, of acquiring not too many things, but care in choosing, placing, and using them. Fewer but better goods, with initial choices including looking at how long objects may be expected to last and how much focus will be put on them. If neither apply reasonably to a particular possibility, save the money to transfer to something better later on.


26 February 2012

Noting first how rarely I have watched commerical programs since childhood, last night involved watching ABC’s televised version of The Devil Wears Prada, an interesting, beautifully made movie about the costs and benefits of creativity and fame.That became even more so through the original presentation’s juxtaposition at intervals within the reduced format of TV with masses of overloud (quickly muted at this end), cheesy commercials. Their tastelessness and poor presentation quality only underlined by comparison the fine work, at all levels, in the film. Most local watchers probably didn’t even notice the difference, as they almost certainly misinterpret the story line that suggests only a surface rejection of the higher-class stuff by the heroine, and then go out and continue to buy or watch the lesser crap that was being advertised.

From a technical standpoint, it was fascinating to see how much better the highest quality original cinematography translated into the final (albeit unusually high potential) flatscreen translation, as opposed to national, and especially local, commercials. I’ve seen better visuals than the local stuff from videos I’ve casually shot with the iPad, whose cameras are a looong way from what is readily possible. Spending many thousands of dollars for airtime with images created with a lower resolution than an ancient Brownie boggles the mind. On the other hand, if the junk and other lies being marketed came through more clearly, that nearer approach to truth might well cramp sales, even from some of those blind enough not be frightened away before continuing past the door of a Waldemart.


19 January 2012

This morning’s newspaper had a quite well thought out diatribe about household odiferants, those all too popular cover-ups of what seem to most to be worse insults to noses. The writer detailed some of their toxic aspects, among them many known to be carcinogens, as they usually are petroleum-derived compounds. Of course, what they are hiding are warning signals of what are not just wholly unnecessary insults, but common health threats, from vehicle exhausts and lawn poisons to molds from emergent household decay.

That connected in my mind to my often waning interest in doing photography, because so many good or even great images are already out there, and also failing to engage the general public at any meaningful level. Walking more slowly has increasingly made me aware of the three-dimensionality of natural scenes, their gentle movements, and their softly interesting sounds. Some of that can be captured with increasingly effective technology, but the ability to fully perceive them cannot, just as it cannot pick up the associated smells. All of those are vital background for developing my own value system, but all too few either have ready access to the kinds of places where the important parts can be perceived above noxious human overlays or the people are willing to take the time necessary to adjust their internal background to notice. They are just like the apparent darkness of moonlit nights; almost anyone can see quite well without artificial supplements, but only if at least several minutes for allowing one’s vision to adapt.

I keep returning in thoughts to my first time in Norway, riding the Hurtigruten cargo and passenger ferry across from Bodø to the Lofoten Islands. It was late June in 1995. The clean ocean air after three days on the train and the view from the deck outside were utterly magnificent on the several hour passage. Only one other person among the more than 400 passengers ventured outside, and he stayed just long enough to run a panoramic series with his video camera, without either looking directly at the scene or otherwise perceiving it, other than to notice that a better coat was needed to shield some of one’s body from the breeze. I stayed out nearly the whole four plus hour passage, comfortably enough because I was prepared, and had a far more satisfying experience, or at least learned a whole lot more about where I had journeyed to far to reach.

That, in turn, connects to last week’s sinking of a much larger cruise ship, and how silly travel has become. Thousands of people fly thousands to miles to ride inside these monstrosities, to only venture out to shop for similar, albeit smaller, junk in towns. Ships used to serve a valid purpose, as the Hurtigruten still do. They remain cargo ships first, with an artistically appointed passenger section conveniently attached above the vital holds.

This ties back to smells through the artificiality surrounding most humans’ existence. I have had the privilege, reached by active choice, of spending much of my time in close to natural environments, enough to fully appreciate their visuals, their touch, and their odors. Not all of these are pleasant, but once one understands the possibilities of real pines and sagebrush, it is hard to believe that satisfaction can be found from their artificial suppositories. But, most people cannot or do not take the care to be able to distinguish vanilla from vanillin, either. Those gaps make it exceedingly difficult to communicate effectively, not least the associated differences and potentials.


18 January 2012

Finished George R. R. Martin’s 2011 A Dance with Dragons last night. A literally huge follow-up to rereading the less than light first four volumes of his Fire and Ice series. Fantasy, yes, and like all such with the distortions and limits inherent to world creation by a single mind. Yet, his perceptions of human flows, however dark they may be, are for the most part less shallow and more interesting than the daily news.

I had been mediating at length on one of his woven themes, of how quests for power tend so consistently to become absolute among those who pursue it. Along their way up, they ever so strongly tend to become more ruthless. When they get some control over others, at no matter what level, it merely amplifies their intensity for more comfort for themselves and still more power over others, expanding their reach. No surprise there, of course, but what he touches as well is how the few who do sincerely try to use the power for the good of other people find themselves hamstrung and historically too often murdered by those on their own, less noble, quests who surround them. What good that gets done rarely survives them for long.

Take Social Security and Medicare in more real terms, both of which were wrought in one of those usual bursts by some of those with power bumbling towards caring about a longer-term future. Social Security had its carefully constructed funding twisted into a hidden from the public pipeline for the military and other wasteful troughs during the Reagan years, and has been unraveling in its utility ever since. Medicare is currently under more intensive siege, after years of being bled by the greediest among the erstwhile health care industry.

Religions have always been simply another form of politics (albeit with glossier cover stories), quickly leaving their putative pushes for good, ossifying them into rhetoric, moving in practice towards comfort and ever more power for their leaders, increasingly at the expense of their followers and through the deeper suffering of those who can be portrayed as differing ever so slightly from their mantras.

Perhaps the most fascinating sidelight was going off last evening with how news coverage so closely reflects those power quests, with acres of words about upward moves, especially the recent primary contests in America and the “Arab spring” overturnings of dictators. It treats them as if they were athletic contests, over at some arbitrary time, but sorely shorts coverage of the actions of those who actually have come into a position to bring about positive change. “Words are wind”, Martin often repeats, but they still can be useful, if they carry the right concepts and the needed focus for attention.

On the other hand, like the actions of the powerful, they mostly mislead. That brought me back to music, where the best tends to have no words, or ones that are effectively nonsense to both their writers and listeners, like medieval Latin masses or early Bob Dylan.

All this plots tendencies with exceptions, necessarily, as with the most practical form of scientific analyses. We cannot know for certain, so we should be honest about limits, yet willing to look for likelihoods so as to navigate more effectively, as individuals and as a whole. Occasional flashes of humor importantly help light the way.


4 January 2012

The past couple of days have been consumed in part with a biological mystery. The legal deer hunting season roundabouts is for a week in October. Late on the afternoon of the last day of the official year, when I was returning to the house from a walk for exercise and outdoor meditation, I was surprised by a loud sound, like the report of a large caliber handgun, from just down the canyon. I wrote it off as a large firecracker, since one of the neighbors does set off similar things from time to time on such holidays. On the afternoon of the second of January, we discovered the apparently freshly severed head of the buck that I had written about for his hanging about our home, now lying in the street near the intersection where I had heard what suddenly seemed even more likely to have been a shot. I called the state’s poaching hotline, but the day being an official holiday, it wasn’t until yesterday that an investigator came up to look around.

In the meantime, my wife saw another neighbor’s Rottweiler/Doberman cross dog, which roams freely, though not often far, carting the head off towards a corner of its home turf. When the state Department of Wildlife Resources investigator arrived from Ogden, none of us could find the head, nor a body anywhere nearby. The dog watched us intently, but quietly as we searched around its home. A couple of hours after he left, we went out to take a second look around, and lo, the head had reappeared in the road, albeit on the other side of the street from where it was first seen. I called the investigator again, who returned. By examining it, he concluded that it had not been cut off, but chewed off, because there were no clean cut marks from a knife on skin or bone, and that the amount of deterioration, including maggot development, suggested that death preceded the possible shot I had heard. We will continue our search of the area, for it seems to me that if the cause of death was either natural or roadkill, the bulk of the body would still be nearby. A careful search for a mile up the pavement and for a considerable distance off each side along the canyon as it narrows towards the mountains above us, as well as towards town on both of the nearby roads, have turned up nothing.


29 August 2011

Just ran across a common question, one that is often hidden behind trappings of fruitless searches (not least religions), with this version distilled from Virginia Woolf, "Why is life so short, why so inexplicable?" [James Wood. 2011. "Its that all there is? Secularism and its discontents." The New Yorker, 15 August, p. 87]. For the past couple of weeks some of that question has been emerging from a different direction. This muley buck, whom I believe one of the twins born on our property less than a year and a half ago, was first photographed quickly (through a less than perfectly clean window, with what I call awfulfocus) last week while I sat in front of my computer in one of my dedicated office areas, as he was sharing my view.

forkhorn mule deer buck outside my window

The past week has been the hottest of the year, and he has taken advantage of a particularly cool spot by bedding down under the deck most afternoons, just outside what I call the kiva window, in a room off to the right of the image. Today, he slipped behind the bushes outside while I was listening to the radio in that room. He looked directly at me where I was sitting quietly, about four feet away on the other side of the partly open window, with his eyes gleaming luminescently green as they met mine, then turned to digging his favorite place to try to smooth it out a little further, and settled down.  The tops of his velvet-covered horns and ears continued to showed above the window edge, vibrating as he breathed or flicked away flies. Neither folk music seems to bother him not at all, nor the baseball game I watched on the flat screen TV above the sound system yesterday, doing the latter while listening to opera or reggae. He did pop up when I sneezed, and when he heard my wife clumping around in the kitchen above, but settled back in each time.

Here is a creature with some clear intelligence, of my sex and about my overall size, beautifully developed and alive, already full grown and ready to breed at less than two years of age, yet to be lucky to live even that long. His sister haunts our yard as well, but is considerably more skittish. Their mother almost surely did not survive the past winter, after we had watched her feeding and shepherding them through ongoing living strategies. We discovered what almost surely her desiccating body under a clump of bushes, while we were pulling invasive dyer’s woad on the property across the main road from us earlier this summer. Her offspring must not just forage for sustenance, making immediately plain the various vagaries of supply, fighting what is given for warmth or shade that is not too obvious to potential predators, plagued by insects without even having hands to swat them, and constantly watch for dangers that actively evolved to eat or otherwise damage them. He’s an amazing construct for the period and situation involved; so much beauty and grace to watch.

And people complain about how short and dubiously meaningful their lives are!

The rather minute immediate moral issue with this mixed species friendship comes when I would like to use the deck during the more pleasant hours of summer for me, as temperatures permit, which sometimes overlap with his rest periods. If I open the connecting door to the streamside deck (and to our partially detached garage), let alone walk on the boards above him, he bolts. It doesn’t seem to bother him if I sit on the far end, in my favorite place closest to the stream, as long as he didn’t see me arrive, but getting to that spot (or from that to bathroom or other indoor uses) becomes a form of understandable trespass for him. Sharing resources and property is never an easy issue.

I inadvertently scared him off when he not fully settled in today, and enjoy the idea of being able to casually go out, but miss him being nearby. However, to coincidentally placate me, two spotted fawns just showed up outside, instead, sampling the shielding vegetation as they passed.


26 August 2011

Spent much of the afternoon upgrading my musical favorites webpage by very small increments, finally figuring out how to get 4 pixels of universal cell padding to give some breathing space to the entries amid the HTML standard boundaries that I still find to be elegant if used correctly. Then I purged a bunch of residual errors in text and content.

While washing dishes, it occurred to me that my website is an electronic house, to which many more people can be (and are) invited, and where if they come, they will find little (or occasionally larger) improvements with each visit. The impact isn’t as great some approaches are supposed to make possible, or at least hasn’t been, and that analog surely isn’t new except to me, but it beat signing off key as a way to reach out.

Making the changes was useful in a practical way, for looking at them on the iPad got me to listen to Linda Ronstadt’s Feels Like Home album that I hadn’t for a while, and through the headphones, which allowed hearing some details that I hadn’t found before. No big deal perhaps, but very satisfying.


12 August 2011

There has been a diatribe going around, whose source is forgotten, about a focus on the past leading to not caring about the future. Listening to Judy Collins 1965 Fifth Album this morning, albeit put on for “Early Morning Rain”, reminded me of the whole untruth in that statement. With rioting having been serious this past week in British streets, by her following a racially unifying rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man” with Phil Ochs verses of “In the Heat of the Summer”, bitingly sung by Collins, what seems long gone by has everything to say to present and future, not just the past.

She played the Dylan song, on a track having been laid down before the Byrds released their more famous version, as a newly hopeful, utterly memorable melody sung over a glorious instrumental duet. Her guitar brought Mozart forward, with a sound of purely played classical steel and wood ringing, in tune and on beat. Alongside that Spike’s father Bill Lee wove a free and open, complexly syncopated, yet readily accessible, jazz-derived bass line over and around. This interplay was and is the best of both worlds, working ever so well together. The satirical movie “A Mighty Wind” got after parts of the folk world that were pretentious, cynically and commercially calculated, or childishly silly, but this performance was the real core of what some of us were hearing then, which is still ever so much worth careful attention, and repeatedly.

Ochs nails what is happening, with a sigh, once again, of quite reasonably disaffected youth, facing what should public funding having been ripped off by banker greed, military bloodletting draining what was left into ruining distant lands, with consistent highest-level government backing of those thieving classes, leaving the maturing, poorer children with just the debts. Less favored lives have been forgotten, uncomfortably crowded in decaying warrens, knowing of no way to reach for better, having nothing positive to focus upon, rampaging through the hostile to almost all life streets, feeling ashamed of the damage caused, yet, “we had to make somebody listen.”

What has changed since 1965? Less hope, or none remaining, because there have been so many more humans born, and so much more damage done to the planet by the careless rich in the interim, leaving so much less to share, even if it could somehow be.

Others are thinking along similar lines. Nina Powers on salon.com just posted, “The immediate future for Britain looks grim: increasing state repression, increased fear and suspicion of the urban poor, increased social divisions along class and racial lines, more blame and punishment and zero understanding. In other words, the very things that created the unrest in the first place.”


  2 August 2011

Got to watch a great horned owl wake from its rest yesterday evening. I’d been sitting quietly on our deck, and the bird’s head was hidden from line of sight contact by a branch, so s/he didn’t notice me at first, though only about 20 feet away. Since it had rained so much earlier in the day, part of the process was going through the feathers first whole bodily, then one group at a time, to fluff and finish drying them. I expect that the silent flight capability means more moisture pickup from the more diffuse feather ends. The capability to spread groups in batches was fascinating, as was the follow-up grooming throughout the feathery covering with beak and feet. Yoga masters have nothing on that critter. The wakeup process took nearly an hour and a half.

Throughout the process, a female hummingbird (whose sexes are easier for watchers to differentiate) who almost surely has a nest nearby was monitoring the vastly larger bird and its processing. Talk about a mismatch, but such fearlessness! She would perch nearby, then circle around in tightening loops, once coming in close enough to taste or peck at the owl, which brushed her away by raising a wing. After that brush off, she kept a lower profile, but still stayed watchfully nearby. I’d seen her go after a squirrel a couple of days ago, dive-bombing and otherwise harassing it with clear intensity until it moved away from the area that she was defending. I’ve also seen robins mobbing an owl, which was more in the open, sitting on a power pole, with the redbreasts taking turns doing strafing runs. Her behavior seemed rather more like curiosity than an attack.

Once the owl moved to a slightly higher branch, and looking more around rather than just fluffing and cleaning (releasing several smaller feathers to drift away in the process), s/he noticed me and paused to glare with each pass in sweeping its head around. It was easy to understand the creature’s spooky reputation, beyond their ability to silently appear and their size. Very catlike overall, but giving an even fiercer, if possible feeling, though remembering back about being observed in the Washington zoo one day by a black jaguar, maybe about equal. The cat felt to be saying, “if it wasn’t for these bars, you’d have been lunch”, while the owl’s was rechecking to see if it had mistaken my size so that “you look awfully large and stringy, but might you, or a detachable part, still be edible?” Being considered that way resonates with the deepest of evolutionarily passed along cautions. The eyes do bore in.


Sometimes my magazine reading gets displaced in the incomplete set alongside the chair that I usually sit in. In the 25 April 2011 issue of The New Yorker is an article by Burkhard Bulger, “The Possibilian”, in which he quotes David Eagleman as saying, “Time is this rubbery thing.” The same quote is part of the lead picture caption, and the failure of the article to appreciate the boundaries that should be applied to that kind of thinking is a reflection of serious flaws in the larger population’s understanding. It is the perception of time that is rubbery, not the underlying reality, which is close enough to absolute for almost all practical purposes.

In school, most laugh off Plato’s shadows, if they are ever encountered anymore. Less easily discarded is the floating of some of Einstein’s thinking, of how time compresses or changes when approaching the speed of light, and in the presence of other massive deviations from daily life experiences. That is likely true enough, with solid experimental evidence, but where it creates problems is through the common oversimplification that seems to indicate that Newtonian physics no longer applies to almost all that we have to deal with. What we wind up with is a world that indeed has perception being of shadows, not a solid underlying reality subject to precise and absolute laws, allowing assumptions that weight no longer matters to vehicle operation, that resources are infinite, or at least their use can be treated as if they were infinite, that consequences of their use can be ignored.

Eagleman’s discoveries about distortions of time perception within the brain should underline the point that I am trying to make, but both miss it. Because what we seem to see has inherent electrochemical glitches does not mean that what is happening in fact before us is not more stable and more predictable than it seems to be.


  19 July 2011
  Have been deep into another musical facet opener of late. The New Yorker ran a brief review of Rob Young’s Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music, and I chose to try it as a less expensive and physical cluttering trial by using Amazon’s Kindle version via their app on the iPad. I’m about halfway through, and the book has provided gobs of wonderful trivia about a magic, if often tragic time, the folk-rock outpouring of the ‘60s and on. I know much of the topics fairly well, with a fair collection of examples for revisiting in my album (or live memory) collection, so his wanderings through and musings on it are generally delightful, especially given how much more I’ve been learning by doing of late with a guitar, and what my wife has taught me about listening to rhythms.


   17 July 2011

Confronted another particularly destructive ATV the other day. This one turned out to be the legal landowner’s nephew. It occurred to me afterwards that he had done more damage to that land with his machine in just 10 minutes than my wife and I have done in 18 years of regular use (with permission) by walking.

This morning, I realized that ties to the common penchant for not walking anyway, anytime, if they can possibly avoid it. For some reason, there seems to be an overlap between this widely held attitude and the pervasive obesity epidemic. Similarly, locals are like so many others in being childishly afraid of the dark, even though they typically draw shades against, and otherwise avoid penetration of the sun, a syndrome augmented because they so excessively artificially light their interior spaces, with quasi-daylight spectra that through an evolution that makes dark adaptation come on more slowly after exposure to it, and therefore makes darker areas seem even more so. They spend their lives trying to hurtle from door to vehicle, never seeking out what is between, or even considering the idea of the joys and health that could come by walking more often and for longer. Of course, their heavy vehicles and the infrastructure that their use requires make any walking much more dangerous and unpleasant than it could or should be, and all too often downright hostile. A truly vicious cycle, just as is their buying even more outsized machines to tow their toys, then wastefully endangering all other paved road users through a much greater exposure in time and space.

Users of snowmobiles, jeeps, and ATVs consider themselves “outdoorsmen”, even while riding their mechanical toys never exposing skin, muscles, or ears to anything natural, while what consciousness they use is almost totally devoted to operating the machine, not perceiving what is around them, at least as anything more than the equivalent of wallpaper. They have no detailed idea how much more is around them when they leave the cultivated and highly poisonous biological deserts where they spend most of their time, anymore than they pay attention to the damage their activities leave behind in either of those environments. They don’t notice the noise and fumes, either, because most are diverted behind them as well, except for just enough to provide a tangent thrill. That, again, is totally unrelated to being off road, aside from when being without too many others, they can hear their own gaseous farting more clearly, and on their off-road machines they actually consider outside weather, so dress appropriately enough that they don’t have to hide within heated or air-conditioned spaces. Even then, only a very, very small fraction of what they release goes towards their own ears or lungs.

The deadly misleading perversions of the concept of equality hang over all of this. Of these, I have written at length before. The core statement is that while people may be usefully considered as equal, machines can never rightfully be, nor can a person with another who is equipped with a machine (unless it simply compensates for a natural handicap). Anyway, there is surely plenty of space to use machines, if one wants to focus on them, on America’s excess of pavement. If one chooses well, there is still quite sufficient entertainment for that sort of thing to be found there. From time to time I can still find it, anyway, at far less cost for myself and to others.


  12 July 2011

I had picked up Roseanne Cash’s 2010 Composed from the going out of business sale at the local Borders outlet a while back, and finished it last night. One of my favorite bits in it was her observation figuring that about 6% of audiences were actually paying attention at concerts; 2% on a bad night. She wrote that she plays to and for them.

As per usual for someone with children, especially several and from a large family, much of the book is about them, and the satisfactions therefrom. Nothing wrong evolutionarily with that, of course, as the attitude is ever so natural. It does mean that I need to do another add-on to the introduction to my own memoir.

In the half-light of 5 AM this morning, I scrawled something like, “As a child I wanted to grow up, live large, and do great things. Then, as I evolved, the wish grew instead to live more lightly and to perceive more deeply.” Without children, there is a need to leave something softer behind one.


  6 June 2011

The folks at Bas Bleu, from whom we buy stuff occasionally, had a tantalizing blurb about a book by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese (2009. Signing Their Lives Away: The fame and misfortune of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia, Quirk Books). I was glad to find it in the nearby university library, since quite ironically (yet all too typically these days), the hardbound version of the book was printed in China.

As I got into its set of vignettes of those delightfully long-haired radicals and their distaste for taxation, it increasingly occurred to me how different their situation was from the tea-baggers who are currently claiming to follow in their footsteps. In 1776, there were roughly three million fairly recent immigrant, heavy consumers of resources, routinely with families as large as possible, just beginning to penetrate a country with the world’s richest supplies available. These had long been maintained sustainably by a population of less than 50 million, who had kept their families smaller and their other impacts on the land far lighter than those who would follow.

In 2011, there are more than 100 times as many heavy consumers in America as there were in 1776, with dramatically fewer resources left to share among them. The combination makes for a very different world than those anti-tax rebels lived within. Such relatively more dense human populations can be managed, but doing so successfully, as has been done in Scandinavia, is inevitably through a much more tax-dense approach, one including powerful restraints on further wastefulness or other forms of trespass, though, as those countries have shown, it can still allow more freedom of thought and behavior, as long as that does not affect others’ rights.

What history classes do not teach well enough is how those newly arrived heavy consumers and their burgeoning descendents before and after 1776 so rapidly killed off both the diverse native vegetation and the animals that could have supported them for so much longer. After their prodigious initial wastage, their seemingly bountiful, but actually less productive, agricultural practices let the bulk of the rich native soils wash all too quickly away. In parallel, industrialists proceeded to dig out what had been under it, not least what were the planet’s largest iron, copper, and petroleum supplies, all too speedily turning them into widely dispersed junk and other forms of pollution. At the moment, the rapidly increasing desperateness of the situation is partially hidden by imports being paid for by mounds of IOUs, whose repayment cannot be withheld forever.

The Founders surely would be appalled, in particular, by the drain on what is left that continues to be imposed by the hugely expensive post WWII standing army and its inevitably stupid international adventures. Complaints about the comparatively modest British impacts make up the bulk of the original Declaration itself, after all. Contemporary tea-baggers, of course, have never bothered to read that document, let alone understand either it or the Constitution that followed.

That underlying situation is made worse because supposedly conservative government policies still strongly subsidize large families, destructive agriculture, generalized wasting of energy, and careless use of materials. These are paid for directly by taking from others less powerful, and indirectly by deferring their greater, but more hidden costs, to the future.

The folks depicted in the book were indeed an interesting lot, and so were their stories. What is too bad is how little similarity remains for either the appearance of our leaders or their understanding of the very different situation that surrounds them. Total taxation is not our problem; it almost certainly should be higher. Relative burdens on whom it is being taken from, and where that money is being diverted, are the more certain problems instead.


  21 April 2011

Interesting lyric in middle of the night listening, when the Salt Lake independent station had a program running without credits (or intrusions from their thin to begin with, and brutally over-repeated supposedly non-commercial commercials). I heard, “You’re just like all the other girls, dying from diamonds and pearls.” Of course, as I just realized, it could have been “for” instead of “from”, but is more interesting and potentially profound as I thought it was. Internet searching reveals that the word in question is “by”, which my wife says is even more ambivalent. The song is credited to Matt Hayward, Russell James Marsden, and Emma Richardson, with the Band of Skulls. Still fascinating, small bits of time that leave much thought behind.

On a classical KBYU program earlier this week, DJ Mark Waite said that the Grammy Awards were cutting back on the number given, dropping among others the category “pop instrumental”. Illustrative choice, for that reflects what has gone wrong with America. The more recent program tied to an observation on the Icelandic web site that I visit regularly, where a writer described having to teach her kids how to listen to the radio during a vacation. They didn’t realize how to use their imaginations to put together the sounds without images, as those of our generation knew how. Finding that the programming early this morning was so much better than usual or otherwise available, I realized that more than half of the time it was pop instrumental, including long cuts by either Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, or more recent re-channelers of those. Even the songs with overt lyrics had extended bridges, which allow the mind to roam most freely.

I don’t think it is coincidence that the greatest period of American creativity had an underpinning of instrumental music, classical and jazz, along with radio, that all required active imagining. Now its all done for one, with ever shorter attention spanning.

The program got turned off when whoever put it together linked three songs in a row with cheap electronically generated beats. Just being instrumental is not enough, as the flurry into second- or third-rate strings of Musak underlined. It has to be thoughtful and well done; the Moody Blues with the London Symphony for full orchestration or Sorten Muld with electronics, for discrete examples. Listening to the latter after sunrise suggested how they artfully manage artificiality, including both its timing and spatial location, but would probably be even better if they played, rather than programmed, their underlying basis. Nevertheless, they continue to provide and example to the contemporary hordes that employing computers in music does not have to make rhythmic sounds stultifyingly empty, painful, and utterly boring.


11 April 2011

Another of those fascinating juxtapositions today, about which too few others are making the connection. In the newspaper this morning was the obituary of a locally respected music teacher who was about my age and had died of brain cancer. This afternoon, as I was exercising outside, a “Lawn Pride” chemical truck passed by, coming down from a thankfully somewhat distant neighbor’s home. The fellow who ordered the spray truck's immediate neighbor, who was also near my age, died two years ago of prostate cancer. Check back to my blog of 3 May 2006 (among other places) for some of the details of the connection among these, still unrecognized by those who could stop further similar deadly travesties.

In the meantime, most of our trees along the road that the runoff from the poisonous neighbor comes down, and collects because of topography, have also died. Invisible trespass is no less harmful than the visible kind, instead often more so, however more difficult it is to prosecute.

When I was working as a chemist indirectly for the EPA and then the National Research Council almost 30 years ago, the data seemed quite obvious that compounds structurally similar to those being commonly applied to lawns, and the chemicals inseparably associated with their manufacture, besides having directly deadly effects on non-target plants, carry eventually carcinogenic consequences for animals, not least humans. The most likely places for these to occur were the hormonally most active tissues, including the brain. Because these effects tend to be delayed, and mixed in with those from so many other corporate insults to our health, short-term testing may be inadequate for obvious proof, even when it is done at all, which for most of them, especially the by-products, it never has.

Also today, in the mail, was a fund-raising request from the League of Conservation Voters focusing on the theme of stopping the demise of the EPA. It isn’t enough for the fools to keep applying subtler poisons, which the EPA has never had the funds to take on, but the most powerful corporations want to have even freer ability to destroy everyone else’s future. Crazy world, this.

It continually boggles my mind that boring, close-cropped monocultures of non-native grass can absorb so much effort and noise to maintain, beyond being literally deadly if any pesticides or herbicides are applied as lazy responses to obvious problems resulting from their unnatural lack of diversity. Once more, I would rather have a meadow than a lawn, for ever so many reasons.

If one feels a necessity has to have a lawn, removing dandelions or other potentially useful invaders by hand to keep neighbors happier gives the doer valuable outdoor exercise, if a time can be found without having to deal with chemical or sonic trespasses from nearby. The same applies to avoiding petroleum or electrically powered tools to shape the grass. A good push mower, if one can be found, or scythe, which is what I use, takes less total effort to employ and disturbs no one else's peace or health.


18 January 2011

Restating something I’ve long known, but glad to see it from another source, grist.org. I believe that if a proper study were done, it would show a definitive advantage for human vision from small (25 watt or less) incandescent bulbs, with their high red wavelength balance, more like firelight. If they are distributed where light is actually needed, and only used then and there, they can (from direct experience) provide both what is needed and do it with more satisfaction, as well as using a hell of a lot less energy than the overlit, mostly landing in spaces not being seen into (or so often actively interfering with seeing clearly) fluorescent or worse blanketing that has become the American norm.


14 January 2011

Paid (literally) a visit yesterday to the same physician who recognized why my unusual right leg injury five years ago had failed to heal. This time, the left hip had become the problem, particularly when I was trying to sleep, which I feared was from wear and tear, in part from compensating from bearing more than its share of the load from the only partially repaired damage to the other side. With some x-rays confirming his suspicion, and thankfully without the far more expensive MRI for this still uninsured customer, it was clear that there was good news, that the hip joint was in good shape for my age, and I could stop worrying about the threat of replacement surgery.

The bad part was that a previous diagnosis was correct for a problem that had cropped up 25 years ago, when I was doing a lot of rough country fieldwork, that my left leg was shorter by a half inch, and would need a shoe lift. Back then, the prescription heel had overcompensated, being both too tilted and too high, so I gave up on it. Worse news this time, though, as the pain was revealed to have arisen because my spine has become quite distorted while my body tried to adjust to unbalanced pressures. The physician turned me over to a physical therapist to modify my exercise regime, after prescribing an initial dose of steroids to back away the inflammation, and a 7mm insert for my shoe to take up half the difference. My body has not reacted gratefully to my first try with the insert, or the steroids, at least so far.

It all could be a lot worse, of course, and what has taken years to put in place will surely take a while to readjust.


then further from the past, breaking the most prolific posting years into more digestible chunks at the solstice:

 Links to more commentary, from 2010, 2009. 2008, late 2007, earlier 2007, late 2006, early 2006, late 2005, early 2005, or 2004...


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