A (Not So) Particular Place, a (Not Very) Particular Time

'The Crossing - Downpatrick Head'

[Image: “The Crossing: Downpatrick Head, County Mayo, Ireland,” by architect Travis Price, his students, and numerous local craftsmen. For more information, see this PDF and the Catholic University of America site.]

From whiskey river:

Between where you are now and where you’d like to be there’s a sort of barrier, or a chasm, and sometimes it’s a good idea to imagine that you’re already at the other side of that chasm, so that you can start on the unknown side.

(David Bohm [source])

and:

All Winter

In winter I remember
how the white snow
swallowed those who came before me.
They sing from the earth.
This is what happened to the voices.
They have gone underground.

I remember how the man named Fire
carried a gun. I saw him
burning.
His ancestors live in the woodstove
and cry at night and are broken.
This is what happens to fire.
It consumes itself.

In the coldest weather, I recall
that I am in every creature
and they are in me.
My bones feel their terrible ache
and want to fall open
in fields of vanished mice
and horseless hooves.

And I know how long it takes
to travel the sky,
for buffalo are still living
across the drifting face of the moon.

These nights the air is full of spirits.
They breathe on windows.
They are the ones that leave fingerprints
on glass when they point out
the things that happen,
the things we might forget.

(Linda Hogan [source])

and:

After an old Hasidic master died, his followers sat around, talking about his life. One person wondered aloud, “What was the most important thing in the world for the master?” They all thought about it. Another responded, after a time, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the time.”

(Susan Murphy [source])

and:

Sayings from the Northern Ice

It is people at the edge who say things
at the edge: winter is toward knowing.

Sled runners before they meet have long talk apart.
There is a pup in every litter the wolves will have.
A knife that falls points at an enemy.
Rocks in the wind know their place: down low.
Over your shoulder is God; the dying deer sees Him.

At the mouth of the long sack we fall in forever
storms brighten the spikes of the stars.

Wind that buried bear skulls north of here
and beats moth wings for help outside the door
is bringing bear skull wisdom, but do not ask the skull
too large a question until summer.
Something too dark was held in that strong bone.

Better to end with a lucky saying:

Sled runners cannot decide to join or to part.
When they decide, it is a bad day.

(William Stafford [source])

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Software I’d Like to See: Fotōpic

Wireframe street/building scene (click to enlarge)

It makes no difference that I’ve been a computer programmer for nearly 30 years now. There are computer programmers and there are computer programmers. If your assignments (actual or potential) don’t require you to use a given technology, chances are you’ll never learn that technology. Meanwhile, the world passes you by in the form of all the folks (generally younger) who can make the technology sing.

Still, it’s nice to fantasize about the sort of project you’d like to work on, someday, if you only knew enough…

In Merry-Go-Round, I did this with a few wholly imaginary (as far as I know) pieces of software. Of these, the one I like the most is called Fotōpic. In the passage which follows, Fotōpic’s general nature is explained, and one character is shown using it.

Background: The character in this passage, Abbie, is on a mission on behalf of an underground/resistance movement which goes by the name of ACME Universal. Her mission: travel by train one night to the (fictional) town of Jessup’s Cut, Maryland, where she will make contact with a man whose description she knows, but whom she has never met.

There’s one problem: Abbie needs to get to Jessup’s Cut, make the contact, and get out of Jessup’s Cut as fast as possible. But she’s never been there, and she can’t go in advance. How’s she going to navigate her way around a town’s building, trees, streets, street lamps, obstacles which a GPS unit or satellite photos won’t help her with?

Here goes. From Merry-Go-Round:

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The Travels of Mickey Tom (2)

[This post continues yesterday’s. I won’t redefine any of the terminology here, so if you find yourself a little confused it probably just means you need to read that one.]

In the fall of 2003, The Missus and I were preparing to host her sisters, brother, and their families for Thanksgiving.

At the time, the four families were holding annual “reunions” like this, one purpose of which was to remember their parents, Mabel and Tom, who had died a few years earlier. “Events” (such as they were) thus were frequently on a Mabel-and-Tom theme; for instance, since Mabel loved playing Bingo, there was an annual “Mabel Bingo” night. They also gave out prizes for this sort of thing, such as used books by people named Mabel or Lyndall (which was Tom’s real first name).

Now, The Missus and I love games: cards, PC and console-video games, board games, and yes, Bingo. She tends to be the more aggressively competitive one; I like to win, of course, but also tend more to trying to figure out in advance how best to achieve victory.

So we decided that year that we would come up with a new “game” for the four families to play. We called it Tom’s Snipe Hunt.

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The Travels of Mickey Tom (1)

In the second part of this two-part series, I’ll introduce you to a handsome fellow named Mickey Tom. I’ll tell you where he started out, where he is now, how he got to where he is now, and where he’s headed.

But before I can do any of that, I need to provide some background for readers who might not be familiar with a particular, some would say peculiar… hmm… pastime? hobby? obsession? adventuring nerd’s side quest?

Any of those terms might suffice as a descriptor for the mysterious word geocaching.

If you’ve paid attention to car commercials in the last couple of years, you probably already know the phrase “GPS unit.” This is a small boxy electronic gizmo, typically mounted on the dashboard, which displays a real-time map of the route you’re currently driving. Sophisticated GPS units allow you to specify a destination, for which the machine will select an optimal route to follow; some of them even “talk,” instructing you audibly to (for instance) “Turn left here.”

The main technology which allows car GPS units to work is a network of satellites, collectively called the Global Positioning System. The idea is fairly simple; at root, it’s just geometry: If you know the positions of at least three objects, and can determine your distance from each of them, then you can determine your own position. As the GPS satellites circle the globe, they beam down to earth a signal reporting their current positions. Any device which can receive those transmissions thus can figure out — to a more or less accurate degree — the device’s own latitude and longitude.

That’s all you need to understand in order to “understand” how geocaching works. But that still doesn’t say much about geocaching itself, does it?

Read on.

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