Caveat: a poke in the eye from the left

I had a kind of insight, recently, thinking about the Democratic primaries that are now playing out. Contrary to most of the pundits I’ve seen writing about it, I believe that Bernie Sanders has a very good chance of winning both the nomination and beating our current Space Emperor. Why? For the same reason The Oleaginous One himself was able to win in 2016.

People voted for Orange Julius Caesar not because of any of his policy proposals (which were both largely incoherent and have since been mostly ignored), but because it was a “poke in the eye” at the status quo. And in fact I think there are just as many people – if not more – on the left who think this same way, as compared to those on the right. They’re just fed up with the status quo and would like nothing more than to give the powers-that-be a good kick in the pants. Bernie can win because he’s a kind of “Drumpf of the left.” This is not true of any of the other Democrats running – not Bloombie, not Buttigieg, not even Warren.

You see, Sanders is basically a grumpy old socialist. He’s wholly authentic, and if his election wouldn’t be a good poke in the eye at the status quo, from the left… well, then nobody’s election would be.


What I’m listening to right now.

King Crimson, “The Court of the Crimson King.”

Lyrics

The rusted chains of prison moons
Are shattered by the sun
I walk a road horizons change
The tournament’s begun
The purple piper plays his tune
The choir softly sing
Three lullabies in an ancient tongue
For the court of the crimson king
The keeper of the city keys
Puts shutters on the dreams
I wait outside the pilgrim’s door
With insufficient schemes
The black queen chants the funeral march
The cracked brass bells will ring
To summon back the fire witch
To the court of the crimson king
The gardener plants an evergreen
Whilst trampling on a flower
I chase the wind of a prism ship
To taste the sweet and sour
The pattern juggler lifts his hand
The orchestra begin
As slowly turns the grinding wheel
In the court of the crimson king
On soft grey mornings widows cry
The wise men share a joke
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax
The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king

picture

Caveat: worth doing four times

I installed and uninstalled the new water pump (see yesterday’s blog entry) four times today, troubleshooting various leaks. On the forth install, it seems to be relatively leak-free, so Arthur and I decided to call it functional.

I enjoyed feeling competent to finally get it working.

But it was quite difficult and tiring, too. Out there in 32° weather banging on pipes:

1. Carry pump up to cistern shed.

2. Place pump on shelf. Attach hose, tighten clamps, repeat x 3 hoses. Bolt down pump. Test pump. Identify leaks.

3. Unbolt pump. Loosen clamps, remove hose, repeat x 3 hoses. Carry pump back down to workshop. Clean out threads, mess with fittings, reline all threads with teflon tape.

4. Go to step one.

Each loop takes about 2 hours.

picture

Caveat: Unpumped

Early this morning, it seems, our water pump failed. This is the water pump that supplies the house with water pressure from the cistern, which catches rainwater from the hillside stream.

It’s not clear how or why it failed. It simply seems to have stopped being able to turn – the electric motor is only able to produce a kind of whining sounds as it attempts to spin its internal moving parts. Perhaps the motor itself is “frozen up” (i.e. not from cold – the temperatures are above freezing at the moment – but unable to move), perhaps there was some mechanical problem in the pump mechanism.

Regardless, this is a big issue.

Not as big as it could be, though. Firstly, Arthur has had, on hand, a “spare” pump.

So we spent the day first trying to diagnose the old pump’s problems, and subsequently trying to switch in the new pump. Both tasks proved frustrating.

The problem with the old pump is not clear. We were unable to even fully disassemble it. The pump housing is “stuck” to the motor, in some way we can’t figure out.

The new pump has its input and output holes positioned differently than on the old pump, which has the consequence that the pipe connections leading to it in the cistern shed need to be slightly rearranged. We ended up driving to town to the hardware store and getting some pieces, but even then, we weren’t really well-prepared for what we might need, and so we ended up improvising a bit to get all the pipes connected to the new pump. And then, the new pump was leaking. A lot. And it was getting dark.

Personally, taking the side of optimism, I think the problem is that we didn’t hook up our improvised pipe connections tightly enough, and we need take the new pump out, re-improvise, and reattach things more securely.

Arthur, for his part, taking the side of pessimism (of course), believes the pump housing on the new pump is cracked.

I’m going to try tackling my solution this morning. If that fails, and Arthur’s view prevails, we’re going to need a new pump. Updates will be forthcoming.

Here is the old pump, already removed from the cistern shed and waiting on the workbench in the shop for us to take on the challenge of disassembling it – which we have so far failed at.

picture

Here is the new pump, already in place but not yet fully connected, while we sought out the pieces needed to get the pipes connected to it.

picture

Meanwhile, we have improvised an alternate way to get water into the house. As was discussed on this blog last summer, we had a well put in (ostensibly for the western lot, #73, though there is some debate as to which side of the property line it ended up on). The well is not hooked up to Arthur’s house, on lot #74. But it’s there, and works, with a jury-rigged electrical supply going to the well controller hut (what we call the “doghouse” because of its size). So I ran a garden hose from the faucet I put in the western driveway across to a faucet in Arthur’s driveway. The well pressure comes through the hose, with both faucets open, and provides water pressure and well water to Arthur’s house. This temporary arrangement will work as long as the temperatures remain above freezing – which they currently have been.

Here is the hose off the well faucet. The “doghouse” is on the left, the western driveway’s faucet (which I installed last summer) is on the right.

picture

Here is the hose connected to the faucet in Arthur’s driveway. I had to make a customized “female-female” length of hose to connect the hose to both faucets.

picture

picture

Caveat: documentation of my geofictions

Some of you might recall, I have another blog, besides this one.

I maintain that blog mostly because this here blog is tied to my real-world identity, but I prefer to remain a little bit anonymous (obfuscated and pseudonymous more than truly anonymous) on the geofiction websites where I work and interact on what is really one of my main hobbies. I don’t post there very often – nothing close to daily, as I do here. A few times a month, on average.

So this morning, I ended up writing a quite long entry on that other blog. It also has a number of included images, etc., so rather than reproduce it here (which would be complicated because my two blog platforms are truly independent, and I’ve got them configured quite differently), I’ll just give you a link:

Documentation of my geofictions, at blog.geofictician.net.

Consider this to be my blog-post of the day, but off over on that other blog.
picture

Caveat: v-truck

Our nearest neighbors, Mike and Penny, are down the road about a half a mile.

Penny has a hobby of making three-dimensional pop-up greeting cards. She uses colored cardstock paper and some kind of computer-controlled cutting device. The last time we visited there, she was showing off her hobby. She’d said, “I’ll send you guys one, sometime.”

She sent us a Valentine’s Card. It is a red “Valentine’s truck.” Only in Alaska.

picture

picture

Caveat: rootless

Sometimes I work on my server. I have been trying to automate the map-rendering job for the geofiction site I built, that until now I’ve had to run manually. The problem I ran into comes down to permissions. Who knew that even the infamous Linux ‘root’ user is sometimes not the right person for the job? Emphasis added to the excerpt of the log file, below.

...
INFO: Total execution time: 16621 milliseconds.
Stopping renderd (via systemctl): renderd.service.
osm2pgsql version 0.95.0-dev (64 bit id space)

Using lua based tag processing pipeline with script ~/src/openstreetmap-carto/openstreetmap-carto.lua
Using projection SRS 3857 (Spherical Mercator)
Osm2pgsql failed due to ERROR: Connection to database failed: FATAL:  role "root" does not exist
...

It took me all day to figure this out. Not that I was working on it, exactly. Art and I went to town, did our shopping, came home, ate dinner. All the while, I was cogitating on this problem, and how it matched up with the results I was(n’t) seeing. And then, sitting there, it clicked.

These are the more pleasing moments of computer work – when a seemingly intractable problem presents itself and you work it through in your mind and you solve it. After it clicked, I came and opened the log file and saw the error, above, and it was an easy fix to the bash script.
picture

Caveat: life is more than who we are

Arthur and I were in town, for our weekly Thursday shopping trip. This song came on the radio at Zat’s Pizza, where we almost always stop for lunch on our Thursday trips. Art doesn’t think much of the music there – he just tunes out and listens to his audiobooks. But I sometimes end up a bit nostalgic, as the music is often set to some “oldies” station. Music from particular eras in my life can end up being quite evocative.

I don’t know that I necessarily liked this song in any deep sense. But it was part of my “soundtrack” in 1995, when I was working nights at the UPS Package Sorting facility in Northeast Minneapolis and doing some graduate coursework (non-degree program, at that time) during the days. It was when Michelle and I were already married but still keeping it to ourselves, and living together in south Minneapolis, just off Franklin Avenue.

My commute up I-35W (across the bridge across the Mississippi that later famously collapsed from poor maintenance killing many people) to the UPS facility took about 30 minutes. So I would play the radio. And this was one of those songs on high rotation at that time. Since I was working the late shift, I would end up coming home during very low traffic at around 3 or 4 AM. The freeway was often completely empty.

So I ended up feeling nostalgic when I heard this song. It’s a very 90s song.

What I’m listening to right now.

Goo Goo Dolls, “Name.”

Lyrics.

And even though the moment passed me by
I still can’t turn away
‘Cause all the dreams you never thought you’d lose
Got tossed along the way
And letters that you never meant to send
Get lost or thrown away
And now we’re grown up orphans
That never knew their names
We don’t belong to no one
That’s a shame
If you could hide beside me
Maybe for a while
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ’em your name
And scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there
Did you get to be a star
And don’t it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are
We grew up way too fast
And now there’s nothing to believe
And reruns all become our history
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio
And I won’t tell no one your name
And I won’t tell ’em your name
I won’t tell ’em your name
Mmm, mmm, mmm
I won’t tell ’em your name, ow
I think about you all the time
But I don’t need the same
It’s lonely where you are, come back down
And I won’t tell ’em your name

picture

Caveat: using the free wifi at Starbucks

I have in my life gone to Starbucks mostly to use the free wifi.

This was especially true before I went to Korea in 2007. Starbucks rolled out their free wifi quite early relative to other businesses, so I remember using the free wifi at Starbucks while on various trips in the mid 2000’s.

Apparently, using the free wifi at Starbucks is still a thing in 2019. And apparently the FBI does it, too.

This article (link) on the emptywheel blog describes how the FBI used the Starbucks free wifi to download leaked documents about CIA hacking. Interagency cyberwarfare conducted over the airwaves while enjoying a nice nonfat soy latte.
picture

Caveat: Tree #396

The sun appeared.

This was unprecedented, so I decided to take a walk down the road. Arthur came along.

This tree has appeared before, here. But now it’s been winterized.

picture

Walking along the road, we ran into our neighbor Mike, out walking the dog. He’s a little bit hard to see: center of the road, a bit behind the dog.

picture

picture

Caveat: The Superb Owl

Today is Superb Owl Sunday – when people throughout the US and all over the world contemplate the fine owls they’ve seen.

picture

I remember how weird it seemed to me, living in Mexico City in 1986, the way that the city seemed to grow so quiet and shut down because of the football game to the north. In fact, I learned that American football is shockingly popular in Mexico. I’ve always thought that Mexico City would be a smart place for an expansion team.


Unrelatedly…

Today’s date is a palindrome, regardless of your preferred format.

Do you like MM/DD/YYYY? Palindrome, check: 02022020

Do you instead prefer DD/MM/YYYY? Palindrome, check: 02022020

Or, like me, do you prefer YYYY/MM/DD? Palindrome, check: 20200202

When will this happen again? Far, far in the future.

picture

Caveat: Brexitology

Yesterday, the UK officially left the EU.

There’s an unattributed quote circulating online:

Only the British could colonize half the world, and then leave the EU because they don’t like immigrants.

Here is a cartoon I saw that I felt matched up some with my understanding of Brexit.

picture

The above cartoon is credited to the Chronicle Herald, a Canadian newspaper, but I couldn’t find it on their website.

Another pithy quote circulating online on the topic:

“Brexit means we are at last freed to obey whatever the Americans instruct us to do.”

picture

Caveat: Heavy Metal

I took some time this morning to rearrange the sheet metal on the east side of Art’s driveway. This is the sheet metal that complicated my abortive attempt to exit the driveway after the last major snow (blogged previously).

I’m happier with it now.

picture

That sheet metal is heavy.

Heavy metal.

What I’m listening to right now.

Deep Purple, “Child In Time.”

Lyrics.

Sweet child in time
You'll see the line
The line that's drawn between
Good and bad
See the blind man
Shooting at the world
Bullets flying
Ohh taking toll
If you've been bad
Oh Lord I bet you have
And you've not been hit
Oh by flying lead
You'd better close your eyes
Ooohhhh bow your head
Wait for the ricochet
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Ooo, ooo ooo
Ooo ooo ooo
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Ooo, ooo ooo
Ooo ooo ooo
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Aah I wanna hear you sing
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Aaahhhh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Sweet child in time
You'll see the line
The line that's drawn between
Good and bad
See the blind man
Shooting at the world
Bullets flying
Mmmm taking toll
If you've been bad
Lord I bet you have
And you've not been hit
Oh by flying lead
You'd better close your eyes
Ooohhhhhhh bow your head
Wait for the ricochet
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Ooo, ooo ooo
Ooo ooo ooo
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Oooooo ooooooo ooooooo
Ooo, ooo ooo
Ooo ooo ooo
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Aah I gotta hear you sing
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Aah
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Aah
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aaaahh aaaahh aaaahh
Aahh, aahh aahh
Oh..God oh no..oh God no..oh..ah..no ah
AAh..oh..
Aawaah..ohh

picture

Caveat: Tree #390

I drove into town today. Just me – Arthur stayed home. I dropped off some paperwork at Klawock City Schools. Hoping to expand my substitute-teaching opportunities. I stopped by Jan’s work and tried to help with a computer problem. It’s good to feel useful and competent. I haven’t had that feeling much, lately.

A tree from my archive-o’-trees. This tree, on a cliff, is at Cape Foulwind, on the west side of New Zealand’s South Island. The cape seemed well-named when I saw it, in February, 2011.

picture

picture[daily log: walking, 3km]

Caveat: Tree #389

This tree stands in the rain. It’s hard to see the rain, though.

picture

Arthur’s friend and fishing companion, Wayne, a frequent guest here at Rockpit Resort, was apparently inspired by my frequent tree pictures on this here blog to share with me a picture he took during a visit to Prince of Wales Island – a bear on a tree. I like this picture.

picture

picture[daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: a Lamarckian fantasy

I did something unexpected over the last two days: I read a novel.

For whatever reason, I don’t read much fiction anymore. I used to read it continuously. But over time my reading diet has become more and more focused on non-fiction. I mostly read history, philosophy, sociology, and what is sometimes called “cultural criticism,” which subsumes things like literary theory, postmodern cultural analysis, etc. And it remains the case that I read at least several new wikipedia articles every single day. As an utterly random example – I happen to have a tab on my phone’s browser open to a fragment of WWII history, at the moment: the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Anyway, in fact, I think it’s safe to say this was the first novel I’ve read in at least two years.

But it’s a bit of a “cheat,” actually. The novel is one I read before. Maybe a bit over 30 years ago, when I read a novel every few days.

The novel I read is Dune Messiah, by Frank Herbert.

Why did I (re-)read this book?

As has been mentioned, Arthur and I have a custom of watching television for a few hours each evening. We don’t have “broadcast TV” here (whatever that even is, anymore), nor cable, nor any of those many internet subscription TV services like Netflix that dominate the modern media markets. Arthur keeps and constantly expands a library of DVD series and movies, which he rips onto a plethora of external multi-terabyte harddrives, shared through the “My Library” functionality of his MacBooks’ iTunes application. It’s a pretty expansive library.

So over a few nights starting last week, we watched the 3-part Dune TV miniseries from the year 2000. With respect to the show, I can say that I may have seen it before – the aesthetics of it were vaguely familiar. In some ways it’s an impressive production for a non-blockbuster-level TV production. The costuming and some of the set design is excellent, capturing the the exoticism of the novel, while the acting is inconsistent, and the special effects are often alarmingly jarring – special effects rarely age well due to the rapid changes and advances in that domain. Overall, as a sci-fi adaptation, I’ve seen both worse and better.

But of course I’m more interested in commenting on the Dune books. Having just watched the TV show, which was an adaptation of only the first book in the series, I was walking past my collection of books and there it was, sitting on the shelf: the second book in the series. So I took it down and started reading. Perhaps curious, with the mileau and characters fresh in my mind, as to how it played out.

And I read it straight through.

I had been expecting to find that the Dune books had not aged well. Certainly, my memory of them had not aged well. I recalled them as impressive at the time I read them as a teenager, but pretentious and implausible in retrospect.

In fact, in actually reading the book, it’s better than I imagined, while nevertheless allowing my retrospective criticism to stand unchallenged.

The novels were always famous for being philosophically “deep” and for being quite innovative in their view of possible futures for humanity. They deserve that. And I think some of their “predictions” (although really, being set in a 10000+ years future, “predictions” is probably a bad standard to apply) have actually aged remarkably well.

The books are best viewed as a collection of philosophical aphorisms bound together by an implausible plot but strung along with compelling characters. Being much more conscious of the “craft” of writing than I was as a youth, I see how the books are stitched together, now – more than I did then. I speculate that Herbert wrote his aphorisms first and added the plot as best he could around them. I might be wrong, but it has some of that flavor to it.

Some of the philosophy has aged very well. I read glimpses of some of my most respected more contemporary philosophers: Gilles Deleuze, Frederic Jameson, etc. Yet much of what they wrote came after the Dune books. Was this type of thinking merely “in the air” of the 1960s and 70s? Perhaps so.

One of the more notable things about the Dune books that I have for a long time felt aged very poorly is the aspect that might be termed “Lamarckian fantasy.” I just invented that term, but I use it to refer to the dominant themes of “genetic memory” in those books. Characters have access to the lives and memories of their ancestors via some kind of transcendental genetic transmission. Shockingly, the relatively new, burgeoning field of epigenetics may be rendering this type of fantasy a kind of reality, though not in exactly the way Herbert envisioned. Recently, a study showed, for example, that laboratory mice are able to “inherit” behavioral traits acquired by their parents, even when raised entirely separately (in isolation) from those parents. The presumed mechanism for the transmission of these traits is via hormonal load passed from mother to child at fertilization, influencing epigenetic factors in neuron development. This is essentially a return to Lamarckian thinking, supposedly discredited since Darwin. And suddenly, therefore, Herbert’s concept of inherited memories has a new, scientifically plausible mechanism. One wonders….

This is much more of a book review than I am normally inclined to write. I suppose just the shock of having actually read a novel motivated me. And the fact that I had what I felt to be a genuine insight into how Herbert’s masterpiece series might have anticipated more than he realized, if not quite in the way he envisioned.
picture

Caveat: each time a different way

My loyal blog reader (and once-upon-a-time college roommate in Saint Paul in the 1980s) David Dickerson writes songs sometimes. He forwarded this one to me, and granted me permission to publish the lyrics as one of my “not my poetry” poems. I like the idea that sometimes the poetry published on my blog is by people other than me, but whom I actually know.

Roadside Buddha

Traveller, where are you going?
May I help you find your way?
Cause you have so many questions
Written on your face

I'm a roadside Buddha and might know the way

Yes, I've been there many times
But each time a different way
So you'll have to ask again
At the start of every day

I'm a roadside Buddha in a world of change

I regret I can't go with you
If you look back, you'll see I'm stone (a weathered stone Buddha)
I just wake the wisdom in you
You must go your path alone

I'm a roadside Buddha and here I'm home

Carry me in your heart (In your heart, in your heart)
Help others find their way (Help us shed the darkness)
Give them sustenence and love (Give us love, give us love)
You'll grow richer every day (Sharing makes us richer)

Be a roadside Buddha who colors the gray

And if you look into the future
You'll see that I'm ahead
Waiting by the roadside
To lend a hand again (To lend a hand)

I'm a roadside Buddha going your way

picture

Above is a picture of a “roadside Buddha” whom I saw often in Korea. It’s along the trail at the Yeongcheon Temple (영천사) on the western flank of Gobong Mountain (고봉사), which I used to visit when living in Ilsan, Korea – it was the closest “traditional” Jogye Temple to where I lived (there were closer temples, but those were modern, urban temples, like the one behind the Cancer Center). It was about a 3 km walk. There was a very kind monk there with whom I sometimes spoke in my bad Korean. I believe one time I took my mother there and she met him, too.
picture

Caveat: Age of Reason

Arthur and I made it into town today. The road was much improved. We even made it back home without chains.

We always stop at the library. Arthur likes to find TV shows (on DVD) to check out and watch.

Thus I’ve been to the library many, many times. But today I noticed a painting on the wall, there, that I’d never noticed before. It’s an original painting – perhaps a local artist. But I was struck by the name of the boat in the painting: Age of Reason. It seems like a very good name for a boat. And it’s an especially good name for a boat in a painting at a library, too.

picture

picture

Caveat: Smooth as ice…

I had another distressing but ultimately non-catastrophic vehicular experience this morning, interacting with an effort to go into town.

After about 2 weeks of snow, ice, and well below freezing temperatures, the last few days have seen… rain. But it’s not warm enough to really melt the snow and ice fully; rather, it seems to just lubricate it. The road into town is just a continuous sheet of ice.

I was intending to go into town this morning. I had the chains on the car, yet nevertheless the vehicle’s grip on the icy road was tenuous at best. Creeping at 5mph, in 4 wheel drive, with chains on the rear tires, I still slid down the small hill at the 7.5 mile bridge, ending up sideways in the road at the bottom. Taking that as a frightening preview of the the much, much worse and steeper 6 mile hill, I decided that caution was the better part of valor, and accepted that my vehicle was already mostly turned around, and decided to head back home. Total travel distance: 2 miles. Total travel time: 40 minutes.

I know that Arthur would have insisted on soldiering forward. I’m glad he wasn’t along. This is not a new, stroke-related personality trait – it’s how he’s always been: he relishes risk. So I have feelings of failure, guilt, or inadequacy surrounding my more cautious processes. Anyway, maybe with more rain, the ice will finally give way to the underlying gravel, and the road will be easier to drive.
picture

Caveat: a blog post in which Arthur is retrieved from the airport but no pictures are given

I went and got Arthur from the airport. Our friend Jan was generous in this. I have tire chains attached to the Blueberry, because the 6-Mile Hill on our road is a treacherous skating rink of ice. But driving the 10 miles each way from Craig to the Klawock airport with chains on the car would be quite tedious – that’s plowed and paved highway with a speed limit of 50mph, while chains limit the vehicle to 20mph or so. And removing and re-adding the chains is of course a bit onerous. Jan let me park my car at her house in town in Craig and then borrow her car to get to the airport. I got Arthur at about 6pm (his flight arrived early), we drove back to Craig in her car, and then switched to the Blueberry for the slow drive out the Port Saint Nicholas Expressway to home.

So Arthur is home. He said, “I’m glad to be home.” He paused 3 beats. “I think.” He’s referring to the cold, I believe. He’s had a somewhat ambivalent feeling about having selected this Alaskan getaway as his retirement abode ever since his accident. He feels that his body’s interior thermostat isn’t as tolerant of cold as it was before. And indeed it’s possible that was one of the aspects of his brain-body interface that may have been scrambled by the stroke.

picture

Caveat: A bitter taste

The doctors said that I might regain some nerve-endings over time. They do grow back, sometimes.

Many of you know that I lost 90% or so of my taste buds, with my cancer surgery and tongue reconstruction. For these past years, the main taste I can experience has been “salt.” The others are almost non-existent. It doesn’t quite impair my ability to enjoy “taste” in the broader sense – at least half of what we think of as taste is not related to the taste buds at all but rather to things like smell and what is called “mouthfeel” – texture, I guess.

A few years ago I suddenly regained feeling on the back of my hand where it had been lost when they extracted nerve and muscle tissue for my surgery. Those nerves grew back.

Recently, over the past few months, everything I eat has begun tasting bitter. I don’t think I’ve suddenly become a bad cook for myself. I think what’s more likely is that some of the “bitter” taste buds in my tongue have somehow reactivated. And so things are tasting bitter.

I see karmic irony in this, given I’ve been in an emotionally bitter state since the disappointing news about my residency status with respect to the University of Alaska’s teacher certification program. Which bitterness drives the other?

Perhaps I’ll mull the question over a nice bitter cup of coffee.
picture

Caveat: Unchained

It turns out that my adventure last Friday with the Blueberry in the driveway involved one of the snow chains (on the tires) actually breaking. So today, having decided to re-attempt my journey to town, I ended up having to do an emergency repair to the tire chains. I used a hammer and the bench vice in the shop.

picture

The tire chains seem to be of low quality, frankly. I like the old-fashioned kind that have actual chain links. Our neighbor-down-the-road Joe came by as I was working on this, and assured me I was smart to be intending to use chains to get into town. He had chains on his much heavier-duty truck, and he’s an experienced truck driver. Indeed, as I later headed into town, the road at the 6 mile hill was like an ice rink but tilted 10°. It felt quite treacherous.

I had very little confidence in my repair job. I decided to ask around and see if anyone was selling chains in town – with the recent weather, they’d be making a killing. I got lucky – it turned out the single gas station / auto shop in town, Schaub-Ellison, in fact was not only selling chains but had the Tahoe’s wheel size in stock. I shelled out 150 bucks and got a new set of chains. Hopefully they will be of better quality.
picture

Caveat: Kerosene

One of my periodic tasks here is to keep the kerosene heater in the boathouse (the lowest level of the house – it’s integrated to the “shop” which is the house’s basement) filled so that it can keep the boathouse’s interior temperature above freezing. This is important because the house’s water supply (and the main filters for it) run through the boathouse, given it’s the oldest part of the house. It is also uninsulated and has metal siding, meaning it loses heat rapidly when unheated and is likely quite inefficient to keep warm.

The kerosene heater has a 1 or 2 gallon tank, that needs to be removed and filled once a day when it’s not too cold. But as it gets colder (it’s 15° F / -10° C as I write this) this needs to be refilled more frequently. There is a 5 gallon plastic container for the kerosene, stored near the heater in the shop, which is in turn filled from the large outdoor storage tank. So I sometimes go to the storage tank and get a refill.

The kerosene heater is efficient, but it strikes me as impractical in this setting because although it burns kerosene, it has an electrical control that renders it useless if there is no power. In an extended power outage, it could not be used to heat the boathouse.

picture

If I were to propose any single major project to Arthur to improve his house, it would be to figure out how to get the boathouse insulated. The spray-on insulation he used on the similar “kitchen shed” works well, but it was a nightmare to apply originally and for many years it was outgassing hazardous chemicals. The latter is not something Arthur ever cared about, but I’d rather not repeat that. I reckon the best insulation strategy for the boathouse would be some kind if inner frame (of wood or plastic) built within the boathouse walls, which could hold foam insulation or fiberglass and have some kind of outside layer – plywood or sheetrock, etc.
picture

Caveat: adventures not even leaving the driveway

I had a quite difficult and disappointing day. No major disaster. But a lot of work, and farther behind than when the day started.

As background – we have received a great deal of snow over the past week.

I had decided to go to town this morning. Somehow since coming back up here after Thanksgiving, I moved “go to town day” from Thursday to Friday. The reason Arthur goes on Thursday is because there is a senior discount at the grocery on Thursdays. The store is often a bit crowded. Since I’m not eligible for the discount, I don’t feel constrained to Thursday. Thus Friday became the day.

I was out the door early, by 8 AM. But that’s because a lot of snow has fallen since I last drove to town. At least a foot, perhaps more.

I spent time shoveling the stairs to the driveway and parts of the driveway.

I felt smart, because I decided to just go ahead and put the chains on. That’s a big hassle, but the road hadn’t been well plowed. I shoveled some of the way in front of the car. But I figured with the chains and a running start I could make it up the rest of the driveway through the snow to the road.

That might have worked, except apparently I did a lousy job putting on the chains – they both got off the tires and next thing I know I was going sideways.

Arthur has a pile of scrap sheet metal (really leftover steel siding from his quonset-style sheds he built) piled alongside the east side of the driveway. And the car ended up more or less on top of that. I was good and stuck.

I had to jack up the car to take off the chains – they were trapped under the tires.

I had to dig out and move all the sheet metal from under the car, as well as some plastic culvert – which fortunately wasn’t damaged.

And I was working on how to get the chains back on when an angel driving a road grader (to plow the road) came by. Pat, who lives at around 10.5 mile, in every way an archetypal sweet grandma, happens to drive a road grader, and does so of her own sweet goodwill to support the south-of-the-inlet community.

Pat had some chains on the grader, which we attached to the front of the Blueberry to extract it from its dilemma. It took a few tries to get the right angle to pull it onto the road rather than throw it down Dean’s driveway – the snow was very slippery and the driveway is steeper than it looks.

Once the Blueberry was on the road – now just graded (plowed) – Pat went on her way and I made the decision to not try to clear the driveway to Art’s place – it was steep with mud and snow now pushed up in banks by the spinning wheels. It was a mess. Instead, I went over to the west lot (73) – the new driveway Richard made last spring – and shoveled out a nice, flat, road-level parking space for the Blueberry. And there she will stay, until I get super ambitious and shovel out the existing driveway, or until some of the snow melts. But at the moment, it’s snowing more.

It was almost noon by the time I got the Blueberry parked in its new spot. I decided not to go into town. Pat was grading the road, but it was still snowing. I expected the road to be treacherous at points into town. And I’m not in dire straights.

An adventure. But not good for my sense of self-confidence or self-sufficiency.

Some pictures.

Stuck against the pile of sheet metal.

picture

Chains trapped under the tire.

picture

Retrieving the chains using the jack.

picture

Angel with a road grader.

picture

The aftermath.

picture

A new parking spot excavated on the west lot.

picture

picture

Caveat: Sitting Among the Snowdrifts

I need to talk about procrastination.

It’s easy to do, in this hermetic space on the edge of civilization, encased in fresh-fallen snow and betrayed by the bureaucracies that lurk just over the horizon.

I had been highly motivated in the fall to become a full-time student in the University of Alaska’s online teacher certification program. That fell apart, as I’ve noted before, due to the stringent, two-year basis of the state’s concept of “residency.” I would be subject to exhorbitant out-of-state tuition, and decided to forgo the privilege. Hopefully I can try again next year.

Meanwhile, I had already registered for a set of tests-for-credit to fulfill some outstanding prerequisites. Two parts of US History, and Intro to Psychology. I had scheduled the tests for the 13th of January, because given the online classes would have been starting the week before, it seemed the best way to maximize study time and still not end up overwhelmed once classes started.

So I told myself, after I decided to delay starting the online program for a year, that I would just take the scheduled tests anyway. It’d keep me busy during this hiatus while Art was still down south.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work. When the pressure is off, I tend to procrastinate. And the pressure was definitely off. There was no way to trick my mind into thinking these tests were important, when their “due date” was now more than a year off.

Last night I took a set of practice tests. Their results clearly show that my studying, such as it has been, hasn’t really been effective. Of course, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I might, indeed, be able to pass the tests. But not in the “summa cum laude” way that is my accustomed academic mode.

Further, there is no penalty in delaying the tests. I believe when I registered the only deadline is something like 8 months from registration. I have until summer to get them done without extra cost.

I have therefore elected to delay them. I specified a March date, only because I had to specify something. The test date is easily moved – the testing center in Ketchikan has several slots every week.

But I feel guilty.

I also had made a firm commitment to do something about a more generic job search once returning to the island. I made up new resumes, dropped feelers among my acquaintances, but have hardly been assiduous in follow up. It’s too easy to settle into a routine, here.

I put in some time outside: firewood, shoveling snow, maintaining the RV, checking that our water system is handling the cold, etc.

I put in time on my computer: maintaining my blog and server and websites, admin stuff on the geofiction website, trying to solve certain puzzles related to making my websites “cleaner” and more professional and better-coded.

What else? Study time happens, but not as it should (see above). I read some in various books-in-progress. I have developed a new hobby of reading a few well-written “web-comics.” This is an emergent genre – essentially graphic (i.e. pictorial) novels published online. They were extraordinarily popular among my students during my last years in Korea, and I made several efforts to get into some of the Korean ones at that time, in hopes it would inspire me to improve my Korean. I suppose it did, a bit, but the slog of reading them with dictionary in hand was hard to keep up. One English-language one that I’ve been enjoying is called Seed. It is science-fiction, essentially: a psychologically interesting set of characters dealing with a rogue Artificial Intelligence.

I admit that although I love the snow – it’s gorgeous and calming and I have no concerns about the chance of isolation or the work involved in shoveling out the stairs whatever, it does rather de-motivate me vis-a-vis any project to get out to town, whether job search or anything else. Heavy snow is about staying home and looking out the windows, not about going to town on treacherous roads in hopes of getting a dead-end job out of a sense of obligation to be “productive.”

I feel guilty about abusing my family’s generosity and Arthur’s “hospitality” (despite the notion, too, that I’m presumeably serving a genuinely useful care-taker role with him, which his disavowals of disability make difficult to maintain). I think if I was truly self-sufficient, I’d not feel guilty for being a currently “unproductive” member of society. I feel sufficiently creative in my various pursuits – my poetry, my offline writing efforts, my programming work on my websites – such that I am contributing to the world, just not for remuneration at the moment.

And that’s the news from this side of Port Saint Nicholas, here in Rockpit, Alaska.
picture