31 August 2008


what a fortunate summer in missoula!! the norm is inexorably increasing heat, culminating with a month of wildfire-generated smoke blanketing the missoula valley, creating visual and breathing misery for all. this year we were blessed with a cool, moist, late spring, and a relatively mild summer with only three or four days exceeding 100 dF. and only two days of smoke. deep sigh of relief.

plus, at work for the first time, after having moved sufficiently up the seniority ladder, i got my choice each week of 40-hour fixed assignments, compared to 30-hour on-call weeks during the past three years. a nice little bonus for my savings.

i'm hoping that this is a harbinger of good things to come in other realms. for the past year and a half, i've been trolling for partners on match.com and eharmony. a few contacts have developed into gratifying friendships, and one blossomed into a lovely, sensual affair that ultimately ended for reasons which shall remain private. so, i'm once more on the prowl. gentlemen, lock up your ladies, the lynx is loose. and if you're not a lady, then you're my kind of girl...

25 August 2008


for the past two days i've been taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's basics course, as part of reincorporating the motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license (something i allowed to lapse after i sold my last bike in 1995). the MSF course is highly regarded, both within the biker community and among state law enforcement and licensing agencies. for this rider, it was a reintroduction to exhileration and an exercise in humility. at first it all felt a little shaky, but pretty quickly the flow of coordination and motion returned. i aced the written test, lost a few points on the riding test (rusty skills), but still passed. it is a rigorous and demanding course, so passing feels like a real accomplishment.

no plans to rush out and get a bike right away. here's the history:

my first motorcycle, a lot of machine for a virgin biker, was a used 1963 Triumph Bonneville, 650 cc. it was a classic, both as a street bike and as a racer, and perhaps not coincidentally, was painted in British racing green. if i were to hear one go by today, i would recognize that distinctive sound instantly.

my second was another Triumph Bonneville 650, this one brand new in 1970. mostly the same machine, a little bulkier and more aerodynamic.

my third was a 1982 Honda Silver Wing, the last year they were made in 500 cc. it was a full-dress touring bike, with windshield, full fairings, saddlebags, and interchangable rear seat and trunk. in fair weather tucson, arizona, it was my sole transport for nearly two years, and i loved it. it was also the bike which i was riding during both of my traffic accidents -- in each case a little old lady in a big ol' battleship (caddilac, oldsmobile) made an illegal left turn across my path, causing an unavoidable collision. in each case the bike came to an instant halt, while i went flying in an arc of considerable distance. hospitalization both times. the bike was fixable the first time, but not the second. hence being sold for parts.

my partner at the time, after being called to the hospital and later witnessing my convalescence, told me "the bike goes, or i go." the bike went. what a sad day.

but hey, guess what, she left my life over four years ago. i'm older, but not dead, and i would love to be back in the saddle. maybe next spring i'll try a BMW touring bike. they're mechanically reliable, and sexy looking. i would love to have a partner to ride with, either as a passenger, or on her own bike. i would also love to get together with a small group of biker friends and take day trips.

all in good time. for now, i have the endorsement, and that's all the beginning i need. cheers.

11 August 2008


in addition to fiction, natural history, biography and history, once in a while i enjoy a solid work of science fiction. "solid" meaning well-grounded in physics, math, and astronomy. which narrows the field of eligible writers to an elite few, preeminent among whom is gregory benford, who has a PhD in physics, as well as a fecund imagination. i just finished one of his s.f. novels, Beyond Infinity. below please find a sampling of his wit and command of language:

~ hello, and welcome to my anecdote.

~ this reminds me of the time i felt deja vu.

~ i always wanted to be someone. (pause) maybe i should have been more specific.

~ the intellectual breeds of humans think in terms of abstractions. but most people have emotions and think that they are having ideas.

~ (referring to saintly types) they seldom have redeeming vices.

~ the past is not over. it is not even past.

~ i started out with nothing and still have most of it.

~ disasters, rather than being blows against life, were inevitable sways, bringing rejuvenation along with death. wildfires cleared tree canopies, letting in sunlight. floods swept silt from gravel beds, renewing river plains and deltas. nature's nature was change. it was not a museum.

~ this, even little children learned. that rapid selection pressure operated on what already existed. it added capability to minds, layering rather than snipping away parts that worked imperfectly. the human brain was always being retrofitted, and showed its origins in its cumbersome, layered workings.

~ though sunlight fell with the square of the distance from the sun, the available volume rose as the cube.

~ one of your philosophers remarked that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. you must live through your world.

08 August 2008


ok so what is the speed of dark?

this one got me thinking. we can approach it from several directions.

~ the speed of light is roughly 186,000 miles per second (mps). that's fast enough for a photon of light to circle the earth 7.75 times in one second ! assuming for the sake of argument (and i know there are those who will propose exceptions) that, as einstein posited, no matter can travel faster than the speed of light, then that speed is the upper limit for how fast light or matter can travel. so is it reasonable to deduce that the speed of dark might be the lower speed limit, i.e. zero? no motion. no energy. nothing. as in, deep space.

~ ah, but we know that deep space is anything but empty or sans energy. so, noting that 186,000 mps is a positive value, might the speed of dark be a negative value, something less than zero, say minus 186,000 mps? bends your mind a little, doesn't it? think of the implications for the space/time continuum. we might have events happening before they happen.

~ alternatively, think of the color wheel that we all had to construct in fine arts 101. three prime colors (red, yellow, blue in pigments) with initial blendings between them (orange, green, purple), and further gradations ad infinitum. but wait, where's black? absent, dear reader, because black is precisely the absence of color, not a color itself. extending this reasoning -- if that it be -- if darkness is the absence of light, then can it be said to have quality associated with either matter or energy? like, speed? back to zero. hmm.

i think there are scores of ways of approaching this, and i'd love to hear some of them. please feel free to add your thoughts by clicking on "comments". if you don't, i will feel sorely let down. ball's in your court ...

03 August 2008


in today's online NYTimes there was an illuminating article on something just about all of us encounter to a degree -- a situation in which one must make a choice based on both expediency and principle. such decisions can be the hardest for anyone to make, and often the coin toss rests on whether anyone is watching or not, even for the most righteous among us. (see "feel the eyes upon you" at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/opinion/03Judson.html?ex=1218427200&en=94b8048458ce19bc&ei=5070&emc=eta1 )

in this instance, it is a driving situation, in which multiple lanes of traffic must merge down into two lanes. the article's author is perceptive and funny, and has her finger on the pulse of contesting impulses most of us feel when faced with the choice between conforming to an unspoken rule, or defying it to further one's own progress. do we display our virtue by merging early, or do we zoom up that empty lane past the conformist sheep, knowing that up ahead some kind soul will probably let us in? check out the article, and see if it alters your own perception of which is the proper choice. you may be surprised. (see "the urge to merge" at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03traffic-t.html?ex=1218427200&en=66e0ac52c8a9fdbc&ei=5070&emc=eta1 )

01 August 2008


i'm just finishing a mind-boggling book called The Brain That Changes Itself, by norman doidge, m.d. the central theme is neuroplasticity, a fundamental brain property describing the manner and degree to which our physical brain cells can adapt, reorganize, and regenerate, whether in response to environmental conditions or to our own focused efforts to retrain ourselves.

it is a marvelous and comprehensive journey, touching upon everything from sexual attraction, love, memory, pain, imagination, neuroses, obsessions, sensory perceptions, physical brain trauma, and on and on.

while the concept of building new neural pathways is not new, this book presents the biochemical, anatomical, and physiological research and anecdotal evidence in a manner that is accessible to the lay reader, while still engaging to those with a background in science. it contains insights into thought and behavior that just about anyone will find useful -- those little light bulb "aha!" moments that illumunate one's own life. highest recommendation!!!