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30 April, 2008

Fabricated Rhino Trouble

"Ohh, twas a gruuesome spectacle in doowntoon Oolympia tooday," said one witness to this Year's Procession of the species. Another woman, ipso facto spokesperson for "the Lord," pitched in the opinion that "He hath spoken his wrath. The Lord shall not abide Evolutionists and Abortionists!" imputing a Darwinian slant to the Olympia tradition, and pointing at the Planned Parenthood office near the scene. Numerous onlookers looked on her outburst with everything from amusement to agog-ity, clearly not sharing her view.

Beasts of the serengeti are as much a part of the Procession as pink flamingoes, but this year the rhinoceri went berserk. The first victim, whose identity had not been released, was a woman also participating in the Procession. She was gored in the stomach, an atrocity caught on camera by visiting Baltimoron Lois Waters, who offered these shots as an exclusive to the Mojourner Truth because, in her own words, "The Moewjourner Trewth is the only paper I would subscribe to, if I were gonna subscribe to a paper, but I ain't gonna dew that, hon."

Just a few moments later, a man described by nearby spectators as "European, or something...he had a refreshing citrus scent" was gored by another rhino. As in the first attack, there was no warning, just a sudden narrowing of the eyes and twitching of the ears a split second before the lightning-fast lunge into the victim's gut. The second bloodthirsty rhinoceroid, perhaps twice the size of the first, sent the man flying a dozen feet in the air before landing in a tree.
One observer was nonplussed. "This is nothing. I work near here, and I see them anti-abortion protesters with their posters. That guy's guts hanging out ain't nothing."

Both Rhinos were taken into custody immediately following the incidents, and consensus among eyewitnesses is that both animals appeared dazed, even docile, not drunl, but maybe on drugs. Olympia police have identified the prisoners as Edwin Meese, 34, of Tumwater and Dick Thornburg, 43, of Olympia. Lieutenant Bruce Babbitt confirmed that blood tests had been ordered on the suspects, and surprised reporters by releasing a photo of a masked man identifying him only as a "a person of interest."

"We have reason to believe that the alleged perpetrators may have been under the influence of the being shown in this photo. We do not believe that he is really a biped with a rhinoceroid cranium, but is in fact a human, or maybe some kind of lizard, impersonating such a chimera. We have learned that the intense mojo beat of his drum may have been a factor in the attacks, and have put our most experienced detective-shaman on the case. We ask community members who may see this person call 911 immediately, and do not attempt to apprehend this individual. He is considered horned and dangerous."

22 April, 2008

Spring's Slow Unfurling

Photo: Daffodils of Skagit County
Compared to Hawai'i and Virginia, the Puget Spring's emergence happens...very...slowly. I am told this year is cooler than usual, which of course has elders, suspicious of Al Gore to begin with, clucking their tongues at Global Warming.

On this Earth Day, you are bound to find a better blogsplanation of how Global climate ain't the same as Local weather, and point is more that the long, Spring dawns cool and slow here. Which is cool, because whereas cherry blossoms would come and go in a few days in the south, they have hung on for a couple of weeks here. Cool, moist air reigns (and rains), like the refrigerated trailer we used to have at the greenhouse to keep hyacinths from blooming too fully too soon. And this Spring, the lack of more than a day straight of sun has probably suppressed the flowers that normally bloom on the light cycle instead of temperature. As a result, the heather only started looking bad after about 3 months of flowering, and bulb-blooms last to a ripe old age without showing it.
Spring climate may be slow in coming, but the weather often changes from minute to minute. Sure, it rained 6 out of the last 7 days, but most of those six days had patches of sun, sometimes hour upon hour of photons raining unrestrained. In the last week, we've experienced sun, snow, sleet, hail, rain, mist, a smattering of spattering, clouds black blue and white, and weather I could not even begin to name.
If Eskimeaux Sneaux goes by 100 names, I'm thinking that Nisqually must have a hundred shades of gray. Like people are wrong when they say there are no seasons in Hawai`i (you could go with the direction and kind and amount of rain, or just go by the fruit), to call it just "rainy" in the northwest misses the rich drama of precipitation and clouds here.
So, a diversity of momentary diversions, with a slow rollout of process. What could be better for the malihini wanting to learn the rhythms of the place?

17 April, 2008

Letting Go

The `Opihi, one of Gods most clingy creatures.

When you archaeologize thousands of miles from family, you train yourself to detach, without becoming separated. Walking a Puget mudflat, or Kona pahoehoe, you can be completely in the place. Then at night, talk all you want on the no-limit family cell minutes. Now how you could pull that off a century ago archaeologizing some remote mesa, or cutting cane on Maui, I have no idea.

The family functions fine in my absence, partly because they have each other. I'm solo, though, never really connected to the (current) residents of where I'm working. Paradoxically, it turns out that dealing with this depends on more letting go. Because on your own, after work, the least little thing can get out of hand. The usual addictive threats like TV and beer, for instance. Maybe less obvious: like having a couple issues each of Scientific American and Harpers in various rooms, reading from place to place as the necessities of life occur, interspersed with multi-hour delvings into some novel. Beard cutting, carving, gardening,...any number of things can eat a weekend. You gotta let go.

And when the trip is also a major move, letting go becomes all the more necessary, because you want to throw down roots in the new ground. Probably worth looking into something completely new while you are at it; my dad started snorkeling at 60. I was in a garden community in Honolulu, but maybe in Olympia I will join the film society, or an amateur welding guild, or the League of the Large-headed, or the Rotary. Yeah.

In that regard, it was tragic to have missed the Blintzapalooza recently. But I will for damn sure catch the Procession of the Species parade coming up next week. There are enough strange things here to make for fun. I cannot yet know what the unexpected new thing in life will be, but up here, I hope it isn't snorkeling.

Good night.

16 April, 2008

Fax you, Mo.

Just the other day I was mouthing off again. This time it was in the midst of closing on a house, and being asked to fax something I could've emailed.

"Fax!? Hell no, I don't have a fax! Why don't I just e-mail
it to you?"

Pause. Maybe conversing beyond phoneshot, or maybe just a pause, and then,
"That would be okay...We could accept that."
The fax was unnecessary, but if I hadn't come on like an angry bear, they would've had me driving to some place and paying through the nose, or poaching on employer machines. It only makes sense if you like crappy image quality.
Or if you happen to be a gatekeeper guarding turf much diminished in the computer age, especially in our sick economy.

Of course the people I'm dealing with are nice, so I just hit send and leave it at that. But fax machines just piss me off, so I stewed until later on when I was talking to my wife, and I made some crack about only old people having faxes. And fascists utterly feckless without faxes, tools of evil. She listened a while, let me vent, and I forgot about faxes.

Until circumstances forced me to recall. The next day it turned out that closing could not happen without an immediate fax. Yep. A signed page just not close enough to a scanner had to get there now. Because sometimes a transaction is so complex it demands the kind of unverifiable electronic simulacric signature that only faxes provide.

Sounds like karma, eh? Act rude, and you get payback.

And sometimes it just keeps on paying. Because remember, I was not only irritating real estate people, I was knocking on oldsters. So who do you think had the fax? Yep. Grandpa (Congratulations on the big 7-0!) has one right in his study.
So I ate crow, which is not so bad fried up nice and crispy in great-Grandma's skillet. Heheee!

But remember how I was ungratefully complaining about fascists, after all they've given us? The next day I bought a lawnmower (an old-school motorless one, because I may hate faxes, but really do love a lot of old technology. I mean, I'm an archaeologist, for fax sake.) Like the autobahn and prompt Italian trains, lawnmowers are fruits of corporate fascism. My getting one that runs without petrol was me flipping a tiny bird at the machine while it made money off me.

So I think it had a lot more to do with revenge than cosmic balance, but payback is payback. ) I started assembling the mower, but confound it if there weren't but half the fasteners needed and no handle at all. The instructions offered a toll-free number for the missing parts to be delivered. And after almost no phone tree (strange) I spoke to a real person (more strange) with a flawless mid-west accent (suspicious), who asked what was wrong, the item number, and said he would ship the parts (obviously some kind of hoax), "As soon as you fax the receipt to 1-904..."

Oh. As in "Boy, if you keep complaining about faxes being corporate BS, and fascists with faxes, you gonna find we don't take too kindly to that. Now you got a chance to toe the line, fax your receipt, and the machine will run just fine, understand? And if you don't, just remember we have vacancies in Gitmo, Mo. He-heh. Fax you, boy."

Yep. Karma and then vengeful corporate fascists both faxed me. Serves me right for getting all worked up and mean about something as trivial, and apparently useful, as a fax

15 April, 2008

Island Truck Trek

After all the years in Hawai`i, the concept of driving from Island to Island was strange. (I lived there before the Superferry was foisted.) Puget sound's fjording tentacles are bridged, as are some of its island channels. This shot is looking northeast through Deception Pass, so called because Vancouver expected it to be another inlet, but the "peninsulas" on either side turned out to be Fidalgo (left) and Whidbey (right). Fidalgo had gotten there with Quimper a couple of years before Whidbey helped Puget explore while Vancouver attended to paperwork or something. Fifty years later, the American arrived under Wilkes, who tried to rename Fidalgo after Admiral Perry, but it didn't stick.

This shot is from the bridge, where state route 20 crosses at a dizzying height above the pass. Most frightening photo for me in a long time, much sketchier than leaning out of a helicopter over Nu`alolo. You walk out onto this span, cars going by making the deck shake and the railing is below my center of gravity. And then a truck goes by shaking more. I tell myself just to breathe, that if people fell off the bridge that often the access would have been shut off, but the view literally pulls me in, and the wind is at my back, and I walk back carefully.
Because I was too shame to crawl.
Walking back to the truck, a small convoy of semis towing pre-fab homes went by. I would have soiled myself if they had come by when I was on the bridge.

Driving south along Whidbey: cool forested heights, sun-drenched fields, tourist communities, military suburb, farms, RVs. Just seeing the Route 20 strip, with Cypress Island fresh in my head, focusing more on getting to the ferry, I don't do the place justice. Just passing through.
Getting back to the mainland on the Kitsap Peninsula (because no, not all the place names refer to interlopers of European descent), you hop off Whidbey about halfway down at Keystone. I was four cars too late to fit on the 3:00 trip, and so inherited an hour and a half to walk the little beach next to the landing, looking at pretty pebbles. I'm easily entertained that way. This outpost would be a good place for some eats, but a couple of vending machines were all there was to be had. So good thing there were colorful rocks.
The F150 nosed into the front row for the cold, clear passage to Port Townsend. Squeezing out of the driver's side door next to a vanpool of workers headed back to Kitsap, I went to the top deck to look around. Of course I'd forgotten the map, so I really had no idea what I was looking at geographically, but there was an eagle and other birds aflight and afloat. Wind-wriffled water whipped up a haze that rendered my snapshots nothing more than that. Sweet air was reward aplenty, and olfactory memory may yet outlast digital bits.

13 April, 2008

Pro Crastination

[Here it is 5 days later Egad! Blogspot posted this as April 15, which was Tuesday, and I did not really post this until Saturday], and I am almost embarrassed to post this one. It seems like a gimmick to post this after tax day, but that's really how it turned out. And my blog has no deadlines, so I am not late.]

It's the last gasp of weekend before Tuesday's tax deadline.

How many other losers are blogging about taxes? (However many there were a second ago, plus one).
What to say, to avoid lumbering along with the same tired tropes?

Best to say nothing, I guess, but then I might have to get back at the taxes, and I am nothing if not a master procrastinator. Partly because it's easy to slip into. But procrastination is also freedom, slipping the yoke and ranging where you like. And then swooping back in and getting the job done. That's why the cringeful tension between the task at hand and the flight of fancy is the essential element of procrastinatory art. Putting off work on an ironclad deadline, where failure to deliver could have dire consequences, now that is some sweet sweet stuff.

And then, just when people are worried, some panicked, most ready with their "Can you be-lieve he has a drawer full of Leggos?" Then, you show up at the last minute with the goods. Because when you play, become a renowned lag-about, and still get the job done, you are sticking it to the Man. You become legend faster than the spieser down the hall who works 60 hours in the week before a deadline and some up with prompt mediocrity.

Sometimes I like my procrastination to have some direction. Maybe I think if I can use my stolen freedom to accomplish something, then I'm not a bad boy. Maybe it's because the carving, or gardening, or writing done on the procrastination clock is pure joy. And when you do something with a tangible result, you can re-enter the bliss every time you see said object. Most of the things I've carved of stone and bone and wood have emerged slowly, through a series of stolen intervals. In the subtractive arts, where one hasty move can ruin a piece, this is a good pace, and when the piece is done it contains all those days when you had the wisdom to put aside some chore and make art.

Procrastination is also a good thing for someone who travels to work, and is away from family for long periods. I put off really thinking about a trip until the night before, and escape most all of the anticipatory dread. Experience makes this a lot easier, for every good procrastinator develops a sort of peripheral vision, a background awareness of things to be dealt with. Short of an acknowledgment, but enough to cover essential duties. You learn to see where a slight nudge a few days out--nobody even has to see you put forth the effort--can keep things on track for the endgame.

When you procrastinate, you are
potentate of Penultimacy, my favorite place. You take the wee hours before dawn and dance them away, you escape Pinch Time.
The lead-up to deadline is that time when Bosses feel their most powerful, and when you flaunt urgency and fritter away your hours, you are a god.

As long as you get the job done in the end.

08 April, 2008

Found Office Poetry

Sent: Monday, April 07, 2008 11:41 AM
Subject: Mannequins Needed Back

Product Development staff was surplussing two mannequins last week. They were promised to Northeast Region to use.

If anyone has removed the mannequins, will you please put them in the staging area outside Room 372? No questions asked.


07 April, 2008

Puget Sounds Tasty

So yeah, I'm the aquatics archaeologist. So I'll be looking at a lot of fishbone, shell middens, and old fishing camps.
None of which taste good.
And I'm no fisherman. The closest I ever got was that field season in Maui, when I would blast Primus' "I Want to Be A Fisherman" while gathering seaweed, and the time when I was about 10 and caught a good-sized bass from an Ohio farm pond. I tried my luck with the 3-prong during the Hawai`i years, but never was much more than a tourist on and in the water.
Then the Virginia years. Seafood highlight was when my girl and her cousins netted a few dozen blue crabs. Mmmm... Otherwise, though, I returned to the old, "Who wants to eat seafood out of Mid-Atlantic water?"

But now, back near the Pacific, I hear the blurbling call of the wild denizens of the deep. And they say, "Eat me."
In a nice way.

Aquatic archaeology is not a license to eat, but it is important to observe and ask questions from Those Who Know what kind of yummy stuff comes from the local water. Up at the top of this post, you see the boat, and behind it the floating home, of a salmon farmer. Atlantic salmon, penned and grown like slippery cattle. Why? Because 1 pound of food yields 1.3 pounds of fish. That never happens with cattle, top producers of loose, half-digested, corn-filled stool.
Now this next picture, all of you Hawai`i people will recognize. Locals here focus on oysters, little clams, and the obscene gooeyduck (spelled geoduck, for some reason). But man, you can walk a cobble beach and pick up opihi without risking your life on the cliffs.

This is making me hungry. Aloha.

06 April, 2008

The Life Aquatic

A big (2.5million acres worth) of my job is to deal with cultural resources on State Aquatic Lands. Some places, like this, are only submerged when the tide is up, and my work is possible with the aid of rubber boots if I time it right. One thing that made it easy to take this job is that the people I work with understand earth's rythms--tides and snowfall and all--and act accordingly. Like when they planned the big statewide cultural resource training, they looked at the tide charts first, because they wanted to take people to sites like this one. Which consists of the remains of a fish trap (see the two lines in the mud, converging on the channel?) Originally, the lines were palisades that let water pass through, but not fish, which would converge on a little gate, where people would scoop them up. So when people tell you the Northwest tribes were "hunter-gatherers," keep in mind that sometimes the gathering involved development of infrastructure and resolution of territorial claims.

Of course, I work for a bureaucracy, and I don't get to just run around in tidewater mudflats looking for fishtraps. Sometimes I get to run around mudflats looking at pilings. There is a big project to remove creosote pilings from Puget Sound, but it happens that some are old enough to be historic, and I need to find out which, and document them before they get pulled from the mud (creating the "giant sucking noise Ross Perot talked of). The pilings here, by the way, are basically a corral for logs,, where they would be dumped off a train, awaiting a water voyage to a mill. And it ain't all as easy and fun as it sounds; I will have to go deal with Pile-preservationists, who think that these creosoted voices of the past must be preserved.

And then there are the days when I spend little time on actual water. The first happened on April 2, which dawned cloudless and calm. I drove 3 hours through Seattle and on north, and boarded a state launch at Anacortes. A short run brought us to Secret Harbor (really), on one of the few San Juan Islands that has not been developed. Or not much, anyway. Looking back out of secret harbor, you are treated to a view of Mount Baker, if you are so lucky as to arrive on a clear day, which I was. The photo is lame, but maybe you can sorta see what I mean. Beatific day, by any account. We saw seals, eagles, herons, starfish, kelp, and tolerably few bipeds. Fortunately, the Department plans to restore the ecosystems around Secret Harbor in the wake of logging and some development. Even More Fortunately, they won't just jump into restoration without considering cultural resources, and I will be forced to do further archaeology there in the meantime. Even More More, in walking around with the eco-guys, we figured that the digging I'd like to do to see what the archaeology is will be useful to them in determining what it is they want to restore.

So while I do not live the Life Aquatic like Steve Zisou, I'm doing okay.

03 April, 2008

Idaholy Cow!

This is that dogtooth mountain in Idaho. From far away. Maybe I'll edit in the haiku about it, but not right now.

On the cross-country trek, the day I entered Idaho was the most visually stunning. Crappy weather robbed Appalachia's beauty, and of course the Wyoming wind was embitter cold.

For one thing, the moment I spotted pahoehoe, elation fluttered around inside me and burst out in a laugh. And when the roads were clear and acceleration beyond 65 seemed less suicidal, having dozens of sections between you and the next vertical relief allows you to enjoy the view.

Winds were screaming down to Utah from the Northwest that day, but more so up high than at road level. There were immense, high level rollers and squalls blowing through underneath. But I-84 just follows the plains between mountains, low enough to have been too warm for the snow, and there was not much precipitation of any sort.

So you drive along and look at pahoehoe flows or potato fields, covering ground fast, and now and then you approach another range of mountains, easy passes even with snow. I'd really anticipated the Owhyhee mountains, but they were in cloud-shroud city. Instead there was that glowing white mountain southeast of Boise. No timber, so just pure white snow catching sun. Huge black storm behind, and scudding little light clouds just above. Mahalo akua for showing me that, even if Owhyhee mountains stay huna.

Leaving Idaho, same thing all over again. Up until Oregon got steep, it was easy driving, other than my mishandling chains. Beautiful country again, and nice weather until, as I say, Oregon inclined to snowy heights.

So anyway, Idaho is grand, and maybe photos shot from a pick-up don't do it justice, but now they're posted. And the view from an F150 is certainly an authentic American (made in Norfolk Virginia by-God) perch.
And 4WD with a few hundred pounds of cast iron and hardwood cider press (more authentic American hardware) sure makes it less worrisome driving up them icy mountains.