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27 May, 2014

F150 at Work

On the Columbia

For my job, I drive a state-issued Ford F150. When I find myself moonlighting, it's in my own F150. Eerie coincidence?

No. The F150 pickup truck is the most common work-horse in the US of A, so this F150-ization of my driving experience (and the attending pain in my gas-pedal leg and hip), is unique not at all.

On the Palouse

The regular work truck--a "rig" in state agency parlance--is more photogenic, being a red spot, standing out on landscapes basaltic and vegetative, in flower and winter-dead. I have a fair number of photos of the rig in its natural habitat, on two-rut roads through pastures, pulled off logging roads, and so on. Some are close, but more are far, one truck quietly punctuating immensity.

Before I wrote this, I searched various searches to find images of F150 trucks (or rigs) at work.

On the internet

And I was sorely disappointed. The F150 is the most popular working pickup in the country that invented them, and I've heard that the internet is also widely used, but the search for images of this truck at work turned up a bunch of shots of new trucks (lounging around, not working), and for some inexplicable reason: baby seats in the back seat of Ford trucks.

I don't get it, and I intend to fix it. So here and on anthrowback, I'll start posting photos of the most common American work truck at work.

20 May, 2014


1. Noun. Person who knowingly uses obsolete or out-dated hardware and/or software to access the internet and lesser networks.
2. Adj. Tending to opt for less than optimal or state-of-the-art information technology

The LuddITe differs from the aolzheimer's victim in having full (or self-presumed full) awareness that he or she is rejecting, foregoing, or otherwise intentionally dis-availing herself of the latest and greatest IT (an acronym variously believed by luddITes to stand for "Internet Technology," or maybe "Information Technology," or "I-world Titillation").

In the Late Human period, the LuddITe occupied an area of intense anthropological interest, a liminal state between traditional, technology-shunning hominids and the mass-adopters of mainstream tech consumers of the proto-Cyber period. As such, the LuddITe represented an incipient or low-level form of resistance to late-stage capitalism: a consumer, to be sure, but one unwilling to sacrifice cash for the newest product. Initially, the adjectivial use of the word focused on refusal to accept online prompts to update software, but in time, with the rise of sentient AI overlords, came to be viewed as a danger sign, a red flag signalling resistance to improvements devised by AI IT.

19 May, 2014


Noun.     A condition of befuddlement with the internet and computers generally, especially among the aged (see "aoldtimers")

Actually coined by a cadre of forward-thinking programmers at the onset of popular awareness of "Alzheimer's Disease," when AOL was not a thrice-merged shadow of a memory, but instead was internet gateway for the masses (many of them searching for info on Alzheimer's).

Anyway, these guys (Yep, all guys...surprise. In fact, none of them could remember the last time a woman had been in their Command Center, unless you counted the time Randy's mom was accidentally-on-purpose put on speaker phone), these guys were sick of the popularity of what had been their domain since the DARPA days, watching it become a place any half-wit could traipse through, making comments in plain English. (Or American, your welcome.)  Especially irking was when Randy's mom or anyone else that old tried to make sense of the internet, and AOL was responsible for bringing people like that to the web; CD-ROMs with free AOL software arrived at every address in the US for 35 straight months, inevitably adding millions of people online who seemed to suffer dementia. Ergo the epithet.

But like many things these guys considered superlative, "aolzheimer's" never caught on, although they continued to use it. Each year that passed, as "AOL will never win the portal battle," became "That's so 15 minutes ago," then went wireless and left desktops behind and became an ecosystem so that it's now, literally, "What century were you born in?" Each year, the term became more resonant, yet it stayed obscure. And now, as the AOL species threatens to vanish into the fossil record, so too could punny AOL-based disappear with it.

Luckily, "aolzheimer's" was re-discovered by a friend of mine recently on a textile-buying trip to Asia Minor, when he also purchased what he thought to be a pirated version of Snowden's Greatest Hits, and got what appeared to be transcripts of some sort of geek-chat, featuring prominent use of the word "aolzheimer's." He liked it, and asked me to post it, knowing that Mojourner Truth is where all the lexicographers troll for new words, like "rebunk" or "therr".

So, neo-lexicographers and etymo-hipsters, I give you this word and its story, but don't blame me if you think it's mean. I mean, it's not like #lolzheimer's, where they make fun of the elder-demented.*

* Not to be confused with the word "lolzheimers," which is when you laugh so hard you forget what made you laugh. In the aold days, they just called that being stoned, but still, it's a legit word.**

** If you accept "legit" as a word.

17 May, 2014

Penultimate at the Procession

My favorite Procession photo of this year. Not sure why.

Before the brewery's steam whistle blows, before the first rush of forward and pulse of drums and crowds, the Procession is a different thing. The energy is still a bit pent in this penultimate moment; people are more relaxed. A lot of them show up looking like humans, and all through the staging area you see them transmogrifying into their procession species.

Herd, pack, flock, swarm, school, colony, skulk, convocation, dissimulation, smack, pod (or gam), and probably a parliament and shrewdness.* They all coaslesce. There's a check-in, and Earth, Water, Fire and Air creatures have their street to gather in, but it looks like things just sort of happen on their own. People find their groups, talk to friends, and check out the other species.

It's a good time, this Procession penultimacy. 

* You recognize most of these alredy, and if you know them all, then I salute you. In case you don't, though, here's the breakdown: skulk of fox, convocation of eagles, dissimulation of birds, smack of jellyfish, gam of whales, parliament of owls, and shrewdness of apes.
Oh, and yes, I do own James Lipton's masterpiece, An Exaltation of Larks, thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of my sister.

13 May, 2014

Walk Away

A few years ago, when I delved into the morass of narcissism and even more unsavory isms that comprise facebook, I half-jokingly started a group called the Virginia Diaspora, for people like me who had been born in the Old Dominion, but had subsequently fled in search of asylum, or peace, or just a change of pace and place. Few people joined, but I did re-connect with a few dozen people I'd known from the neighborhood and school. Many still lived within a half-hour SUV ride of where we'd grown up, some had migrated elsewhere in the Commonwealth or the Mid-Atlantic, and a few had flung themselves farther.

While it was interesting (sometimes) to learn what had become of people, this virtual homecoming reminded me of why I'd left, and set me to wondering how it could have gotten worse than Reagan Era Virginia, which was what had sent me running in the first place. On display: a rainbow of bigotries, a robust sense that rich white heterosexuals were sorely victimized, worship of mammon and guns (and among some, an old white man known as "God"), and intolerance. By no means all of them acted this way, but it was enough to shake my faith in progress, and eventually to turn my back on the virtual place the same way I had on the red clay of my birth-land.

Like I say, not all of the fb "friends" (never has a word been more drained of its soul than when it became synonymous with a single reflexive click) were right-wing ogres. Some had led interesting lives, had opened themselves to more than we'd been raised to accept. A small few became people I kept up with even after the fb environs grew too creepy for me to inhabit. One, I even visited a year ago, when I made my first foray back to Virginia in half a decade.

Which is when I realized (duh) that the virtual world ain't real. The avid gardener hadn't raised more than weeds in years, and was ditching country life for sprawlburbs. Having recently inherited millions, the inheritance tax had become injustice, and people were now threatening to take advantage, including me, when I let her pay for a breakfast biscuit (or, 0.00001% of said inheritance). Roughly an hour from the malaised middle class suburb where we grew up, she was in pretty much the same place, only with more liberal-ish shopping preferences, unable to see the difference between Whole Food Inc. and sustainable foodways.

Oh well.

It would have been easier to take had I not been in shock at what had happened to my old haunts during years of absence. All the farmland and forests were gone, paved over for shopping places that will fade and fall into ruin, and for road after road after road. People doing exactly as the President said in a rare moment of candor, clinging to their god and their guns. Real profits (for a few) and false prophets (for the many) twisting the message of their nominal saviour to justify greed and hatred. Again, not everybody was this way, but enough to make a lefty evolutionist like me damned nervous.

Recently, the news has been no better. A burning trainload of oil falls into the river I once canoed and from which my relatives still get their drinking water, and still the shrill calls for end to government regulation. On Easter morning, people awoke to find eggs in their yards proclaiming racist slogans, and the response was, "Kids are too young to see this," as if it would be comprehensible in a few years. My former US Congressman, Eric Cantor, not ideologically pure enough, is being challenged from the right wing, as people laugh off the concept that there could ever be a Democrat in his position.

I could rant, and I guess I just have (and probably will again), but it would not change anything. Ever since its founding as a commercial colony to benefit the few, Virginia has been driven by wealth and "conservatism." Hell, even the leaders of the revolution against the king started out and ended up being filthy rich, retaining ownership of human beings, and controlling politics in what turned out to be a very English patrician way. Generations later, having jettisoned even the pretense of Enlightenment thinking, Virginians practiced a religion that justified slavery, and backed it up with a war that was, for even the whitest of the common folk, disastrous. From Jim Crow to Massive Resistance to demonized Welfare Queens to the Tea Party, the wealthy string-pullers have mobilized the faithful pawns to protect the interests of the few at the cost of the many.

Maybe it's chickenshit of me to do so, but I choose to be in the Virginia Diaspora rather than stick around and pay taxes to a state so bent on backwardness. I walked away, again.

09 May, 2014

Perpetuating Frank

On Monday, a hero to many of us died. Billy Frank Jr. was a veteran of the fish wars, and although his contributions were many, his efforts a big part of achievements in tribal fishing rights, protection of salmon, and environmental stewardship, he was fighting an uphill battle all the way.

Up until the day he died, it turns out, when his last installment of Being Frank (his column as head of the NW Indian Fisheries Council) was posted. In his 80's, he was getting up every day and working to improve the fisheries and the environment, benefitting not just the treaty tribes, but all of us. At an age when most of us would hope to be relaxing, he kept pushing.

His will be big shoes to fill. Maybe even too much for one person, but fortunately, Uncle Billy touched the lives of multitudes. Obituaries mentioned his associations with state and federal leaders, with presidents even, and included statements from leaders and luminaries, but he also talked with everyone else. Little school-kids, fishermen, members of many tribes, even the very bureaucrats who could make his life painful. He spoke out for what he knew to be right, for his people and for the rest of us, too.

So all of us should carry on for him. That last article of his I mentioned above was about the dangers of an oil terminal where trainloads of crude could load their cargo onto tankers at Grays Harbor. In addition to his, as always, well-reasoned arguments against permitting such nonsense, let me add my little voice: the dredging and construction required for the project would likely obliterate the ancient remains of fish weirs and other sites left by ancient people who managed fisheries successfuly.

You can add your voice by visiting his post, and heeding his call to comment against this oil terminal and other projects that put our environment at risk. His voice will reverberate for generations, but it is time for us to step up and add our own. 

05 May, 2014

Bloodlust at the Procession?

Chimera about to pounce. Turns out the strategy of wearing a mask on the back of your head does not fool them.

The Procession of the Species, though enjoyed by families with young children, hippies, and peace-loving residents of the hippest town in the west (which is to say, the hippest town), has seen it's share of unpredictable violence. Like rhino and arach attacks, not to mention the occasional maleficent Meleagris. With so many species, most of 'em not tame at all, it's not a surprise, and Olympia is lucky there have been so little loss of life.

One arthropodovore sneaks up on another, poised to peck.
Granted, most of us were not at risk. A lot of the violence was the foreseeable, what with the competition and lack of species at the bottom of the food chain. Or pyramid, or web, whatever it is these days. Too many krill eaters, and not enough aquatic arthropods, what did we expect?

The hunter becomes the hunted. Or, arthropod's revenge.
Then there's the outright predation. Can you blame the giant scorpion that wants some juvenile cheetah meat? No, me neither, sad as it was. As kelp, eater of nothing, I have to admit I was nervous, but there were no kelp crabs to gobble my fronds, and me and my kelp kid made it through unscathed.

It's interesting that so many of the species in the Procession are predators. Sure, the whales eat only krill, and jellyfish snare plankton, but they're not vegetarians, much less vegans. That goes for the salmon, too, much as I love them (even before I eat 'em). A troupe of nectivorous bees aside, I'd say the majority of the animals were carnivores. Think about that, as you savor your non-violent reputation, Olympia.

Of course, one species eating another is not a bad thing, usually. Just the call of the wild. But certain primates have a penchant for violence without the promise of food. Like the pack of humans who attacked the Komodo Dragon at the end of the Procession. Above: somebody ripping it's head off. Sad. So sad.

03 May, 2014

Procession of the Species Watchers

Urban arboreal species Homo Zacchaeusii

The human species that invented the Procession of the Species probably remains the most interesting to us anthropologists, and this year I enjoyed watching how humans watch parades. Enjoying evidence (see above photo) that despite having evolved enough to create an urban habitat and stainless steel sippy cups, we have not entirely escaped our arboreal origins, or fascination with watching unusual things. Or (cue next photo), with being social, gathering in crowds.

"We don't know you, and do not take orders from kelp."

The actual point of this photo is that anthropologists should shut up and listen. As we rounded a corner, I asked this crowd to take photos (because some synaptic tic of mine makes me want to take pictures of people taking pictures), vainly attempting to manipulate the situation, in clear violation of the Prime Directive. Immediately, most people lowered their cameras; the few people shooting photos in this shot happened not to have heard me.

Hey, I know them!
Professional angst fades quickly in the midst of The Procession, and wasn't even a memory when we rounded the next corner onto 5th Avenue. The street heavily bedecorated by kids and kid-minded adults, the crowd thick to the point of becoming a humanity canyon, drums echoing off Olympia's architecture. I love these blocks on a normal day--eating at Darby's and looking at the Capitol Theater marquee, aroma of the bag of spices I bought next door warming me as much as the coffee--but when it's filled with happy paraders and watchers, it pulses with energy and I'm grinning like an idiot, a blissfully happy idiot. Even happier when I zoom into this photo and see not only a friend and her kids, but off in the distance, another arboreal rebel perched on the marquee in front of "Nirvana Tribute," an event the night before at a place where Nirvana played in the early days. Grin widens.

The anthropologist in me remains just present enough to notice how thousands of people from Olympia and beyond--not knowing each other, maybe allied to different cultural or political or religious values--are all having fun together. Organically and peacefully, they self-organize: kids in front, parents minding kids, strangers making room for each other, and pedestrians passing by behind. Sure, some streets have been blocked off so cars won't ruin the fun, but beyond that, not much in the way of a plan or rules. Yet it all comes off fine, and again the anthropologist is overwhelmed by the grinning primate within.

We hang a left up Washington Street, and again the crowd jumps in magnitude. Mountains of people, spilling into the street and stretching up the lawn and old capitol steps. I cannot even register what individuals are doing, so dumbstruck am I by the numbers, grin slacking down to a dropped jaw. Holy crap. Considering the minisculality of Olympia and the rain coming down, it's amazing how many people are here.

The Watched become the Watchers while the Bees keep Beeing Killer

A half-dozen or so blocks later, somewhere around the finish line, the crowd is thinner, but the Procession does not stop. Many of us who finished first step into the crowd's gaps and watch as the rest of the Species processed on by. Nobody slacking, dancers and drummers going full-bore to the very end. Everyone is soaked, a few costumes are shredding in the rain, but people are happy. Family and friends stationed at the end meet their species, help them out of a costume and under an umbrella, and begin the trek home together.