OldStuffIV

What’s this string for?

Memory is odd. When something really terrible happens, and knocks you sort of sideways, so that for a while you’re just going from place to place, doing things because you have to, but without really thinking about anything, stuff gets stored away in the banks kind of haphazardly. I can remember some things very vividly from what was the worst part of my life so far, but only a few things. A huge part of the better part of 2 years is simply unretrievable – I just have these few mental snapshots and videos; some extraordinarily detailed, some faded and smeared. I wonder sometimes how accurate those memories are, too; I’ve come to distrust some of my memories, having talked to people who also went through the same events, but whose memories are wildly different. Having been close to people going through things like Oliver Sacks writes about, I’ve become much more skeptical about how our brains process and store information. I bet that’s why I’ve been such a pain in the neck when serving on a jury.

Labels: deja vu all over again

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rolling, rolling, rolling

The nice thing about spending the weekend driving back and forth through the mountains of Pennsylvania is that you see a great deal of interesting stuff that you’d otherwise not encounter. It’s very cool to drive along one side of a valley in a snow squall, while on the other side of the valley, the huge cloud shadows are sweeping along the mountain sides, swallowing the bare, snowy forests faster than you’re driving. It’s a bit tricky watching that, of course, without having your car try to take wings and fly across to the other side of the valley (or at least go cavorting down the mountain side), so my appreciation had to be limited to very brief glimpses. Storms and weather systems are much niftier in mountains than out in the wider stretches, but I guess that would be a topic for another day. My car, when I set out, was pretty clean and shiny; when I got back, not so much. The first strike was just outside York PA, when a flock of Starlings went up from the side of the road in a fairly tight, sinuous, serpentine flock, making me think that there was a hawk in the offing. I never saw the hawk, but he must have made his attack at about that time, as the flock suddenly wheeled overhead like a snake striking, and it sounded like a very hard thunderstorm as the car got pelted by a downpour of bird poop. I hope the hawk ate well. Things went downhill as I came out of the mountains at Binghamton and started up the river valley toward Utica – it turns out that it apparently snows pretty much every night in upstate NY (“lake effect”, don’t you know), but then melts more or less during the day, thanks in large part to copious loads of road salt. When I got back home, my car (a lovely dark blue on leaving) looked like a large, mobile grayish-blue lump – sort of like a rather nasty-looking brontosaur dropping on wheels. Oh, well; there must still be a carwash left in business somewhere around the city. Lots of hawks and vultures visible en route, especially on the very blustery ride up Saturday, where they kept relatively low to the ground. I got to see a Red-tail make a low-level attack on something at ground level – you can forget how powerful this bird is when you just see it soaring or flap-gliding, but when you see it working those wings in a shallow attack, you really appreciate the pure strength it has. It was also nice to see a dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk drop out of a tree onto something as I passed the New York field it was hunting. I haven’t seen one of those in years.

Labels: keep those tires rolling

Oh, Shoot Me Now – why did you have to go so young?

You know, comics are like people (wait – not the people who are comics = “comedians”, but the drawn comics/comic strips). Some you like, some you don’t; some grow on you, some just click right away, and some are simply repugnant. Some are pretty but vapid; some have great personalities; some are funny; some are angry; some are crazy but loveable (Spoon!), while some border on disturbing (get some help, Zippy!); some are smart; some start out cute and funny, but get stodgy and dull as they they age; some live a long time and get progressively more repetitious or even senile (remember Nancy?), while others die too young. Some even get fat (right, Opus?). Some become long-term friends – interesting, comfortable, fun to spend time with even after years of relationship. Some drift away, and there are a very few that are like the perfect spouse – always appealing, a pleasure to look at, comforting, stimulating, always interesting (Sinfest can’t be the only one, surely?). The trouble is with all of them, that eventually you reach the end of the ‘honeymoon phase’, and can no longer devour them in great chunks. I finally caught up-to-date with 8-bit Theater the other day, and now I have to wait for it to refresh just like all the others. I feel so strung-out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wall o’ Windows

It’s nice working in a building with almost the entire outer wall comprised of window glass. As I was walking along the outer corridor on the 11th floor, one of the local Peregrines slid casually by about 10 feet away and went off over the hospital and out of sight with a crow riding herd about 30 feet off to its right. It’s always a pleasure to see one of the big boys, especially because the pigeons are so worked up for a while afterwards. It’s good for them, I always feel – keeps the blood circulating and the heart healthy (that applies only to those pigeons which the Peregrine doesn’t actually have over for lunch).

Labels: surprise Peregrine escort

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What form does coffee withdrawal take?

Almost everything I think about comes as a range of values along a continuum of sorts; that’s why we have modifying words like extremely, very, sort of, a bit, vastly, etc. I’m not sure that there is any sort of regular distribution, like a bell curve or a saddleback or linear or whatever, or maybe each distribution is different from each every other one. Anyway, I can think of three primary driving forces in human behavior: kids, group and order. I bet there are others, and there’s very likely a lot of overlap, but that’s the nice thing about thumbnail philosophy/biology – I just don’t care. ‘Kids’ would involve anything that might affect your chance of having kids, and how many you might have – mainly, wealth/status/power (or at least the appearance of such). ‘Group’ takes into account that we’re essentially social-oriented, and prefer to operate within some sort of group – family, social, job, you name it. ‘Order’ is the drive to make sense of things by working out the rules, or by imposing rules on them. Everybody I can think of has these forces driving them, but in different amounts and with different results. I can’t remember where this line of thought was heading when it first bubbled up from the sewers of the subconscious, but it’s amusing to use these filters to look at science and at religion and see how that might affect one’s interpretation of things.

Labels: behavior, instinct, rules

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