30 November 2011


Nearly everyone has tuned into National Geographic or a similar science series, and watched as molten lava (often filmed in Hawaii) flows into the ocean. As it submerges, the lava tube or river cools only at its surface at first ~ the super-hot interior continues to flow, bursting through the cooling crust to continue downslope until eventually, the natural heat sink of the ocean hardens the lava flow entirely ~ until the next volcanic eruption, which can originate from land or from the sea floor.

Here is a visually similar phenomenon, except the intruding liquid is water itself. As the water component in sea water freezes, it leaves behind a briny liquid that is denser than the surrounding sea. This super-salty fluid sinks, then freezes on contact with the substrate. The sea ice spreads quickly, capturing any sea life on the bottom. These brinicles are an eerie sight.

Looking up rather than down, here is a visual explanation of the origin and occurance of auroras surrounding the Earth's polar regions. The journey from the sun's interior to the Earth's atmosphere is breathtaking in the magnitude of energies and distances involved.

Finally, here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of astrophysicist and cosmologist Carl Sagan's last interview ~ with Charlie Rose on 27 May 1996. Sagan waxes poetic on science, pseudoscience, the cosmos, much more. Sagan passed from our midst on December 20 of that year. Long may he sail !

29 November 2011


During the months since the Occupy Wall Street movement has morphed into the Occupy movement, we have repeatedly witnessed photographic and video coverage of police officers in many cities brutalizing peaceful protesters. The form of police violence which has received the most attention has been the use of pepper spray, aka Oleoresin Capsicum or OC spray. Setting aside for a moment the constitutional issues of free speech and civil rights, I want to devote this post to the use and abuse of this toxic substance, and its effects on the human body.

In her blog post About Pepper Spray in Scientific American, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Deborah Blum describes her search for a way to measure the intensity of pepper spray, during which she discovered the Scoville scale, devised a century ago. The scale assigned Scoville Units (SU) to various forms of peppers, depending on the intensity of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is an irritant to human tissue, even in low doses. To gain some perspective, consider the capsaicin concentrations in the following ~

~ bell pepper ~ 0 SU

~ pepperoncini ~ 100-500 SU

~ jalapeno ~ 2500-9000 SU

~ cayenne ~ 30,000-50,000 SU

~ civilian self-defense spray ~ 2-3,000,000 SU

~ police-grade spray ~ 5,300,000 SU

Blum continues ~ "capsaicin binds directly to proteins in the membranes of pain and heat sensing neurons .... any compound that can influence nerve function is, by definition, risky. Research tells us that pepper spray acts as a potent inflammatory agent. It amplifies allergic sensitivities, it irritates and damages eyes, membranes, bronchial airways, the stomach lining ~ basically what it touches. It works by causing pain ....

"The more worrisome effects have to do with inhalation~ and by some reports, California university police officers deliberately put OC spray down protestors' throats. Capsaicins inflame the airways, causing swelling and restriction."

Health and safety risks are not limited to the pepper component alone. "Depending on brand, an OC spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons (such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methyl chloride) as propellants to discharge the canister contents. Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurological effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death."

These risks have long been known, and published not only in scientific journals but also in law enforcement journals. According to the Justice Department and the ACLU, pepper spray use has been suspected in dozens of deaths that occurred during police custody. ACLU attorneys have stated that "the use of pepper spray as a kind of chemical cattle prod on nonviolent demonstrators resisting arrest constitutes excessive force and violates the Constitution."

It is worth pointing out that many police officers in the U.S. use crowd control measures like tasers, pepper spray, tear gas, and physical force in a manner that is unrestrained and reckless, when compared to how the U.S. military uses such measures in hostile situations. Military use is carefully tactical, designed to direct the flow of people to areas where they can be passively controlled. Police use is punitive, and carries the high probability of injury.

A.V. Flox, another prolific blogger, recently weighed in on the controversy ~ "pepper spray is a riot-control agent, which is banned for use in war by the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is typically used only against violent attackers who are resisting physical arrest and constitute a serious threat of harm to others." In no instance during the Occupy demonstrations has that been the case. The movement is explicitly non-violent.

Robert Tsietsema expands the current absurd situation in Pepper Spray and the Weaponization of Food, in which he satirically suggests durian, cabernet sauvignon vinegar, okra slime, Taiwanese stinky tofu, and tabasco sauce as candidates for the escalation of food products as weapons by police.

More seriously, Rania Kalek warns that this is just the beginning ~ that "by arming police departments with military-grade equipment, domestic policing has come to resemble a combat operation with citizens as the enemy .... The barrier between military and civilian law enforcement was drawn long ago for good reason. Traditionally, the role of the civilian police force is to maintain the peace and safety of the community while upholding the Constitution. But that barrier has been broken down by decades of the relentless war on drugs, and more recently the war on terror. Today civilian law enforcement agencies have access to military-grade equipment designed for heavy combat, essentially blurring the line between soldier and police officer.

"When local police departments are armed with military-grade equipment, the soldier's mentality is not far behind .... The average patrol officer's belt holds a handgun, pepper spray canister, Taser, handcuffs, and baton or nightstick. Multiply that by several hundred, which is the minimum number of police officers deployed to raid a large Occupy encampment, and the amount of firepower is startling." Add to that arsenal the acquisition by police of military weaponry which includes (but is not limited to) M-14 sniper rifles and M-16 assault rifles, grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers, bulletproof helmets, night vision goggles, tanks, survellance towers, and the Shadowhawk drone aircraft. Where are we, as a nation, heading?

Perhaps the answer is found in the ubiquity of photoshopped images of UC-Davis police lieutenant John Pike, who casually walked along a line of kneeling Occupy demonstrators and pepper sprayed their faces at point-blank range, repeatedly. His image has gone viral online, and now appears to be pepper spraying everyone from the Mona Lisa to Christ, penguins to Norman Rockwell characters, and even (appropriately) the U.S. Constitution itself (see image above).

It is a truism that when citizens rise up to protest the actions of those in political or economic power, those in power too often respond by retaliatory, repressive measures which only exacerbate our discontent. In the U.S. it last happened during the antiwar movement of the 1960s-70s. It has happened many times in our more distant past ~ the draft riots during the Civil War come to mind. And it is happening again. Repression and the use of force are not the answer. Responsible dialogue is.

28 November 2011


From Stephen D. Foster, Jr. ~ "Since Occupy Wall Street began, American police officers have arrested thousands of people for exercising their constitutionally protected right to protest. On Monday or Tuesday, the US Senate will vote on a bill on a bill that would give the President the ability to order the military to arrest and imprison American citizens anywhere in the world for an indefinite period of time.

"A provision of S. 1867, or the National Defense Authorization Act bill, written by Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, declares American soil a battlefield and allows the President and all future Chief Executives to order the military to arrest and detain American citizens, innocent or not, without charge or trial. In other words, if this bill passes and the President signs it, OWS protesters or any American could end up arrested and indefinitely locked up by the military without the guaranteed right to due process or a speedy trial."

This flies in the face of every constitutional guarantee of protection for those accused of a crime, not to mention those who have committed no crime other than speaking their minds. We are innocent until proven guilty. And the U.S. is not a war zone or a police state, in spite of the ambitions of those Republicans and few Democrats who sponsored the "arrest and detain" amendment to the defense funding bill.

This brief video reminds us of similar past mistakes, e.g., the internment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII, and the summary arrest without just cause of thousands of Americans during the McCarthy era. Now it appears we must resist the impulse to excessive power yet again.

Time is of the essence. You can sign the American Civil Liberties Union petition here. Better still, call your Senator now. Here is a list of all U.S. Senators and their contact information. And here is a list of contact information for all federal and state executives and legislators. Make your voice heard !

27 November 2011


From The Creative 'Flow': How to Enter that Mysterious State of Oneness ~ "Flow, the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task, is a strong contributor to creativity. When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness and one's mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. There is very little self-awareness or critical self-judgment; just intrinsic joy for the task.

"But who enters flow? .... those who are more likely to have high levels of self-esteem, a sense of fulfillment, life satisfaction, better coping skills, and lower anxiety .... Researchers also found an association between flow and conscientiousness .... flow seems most likely to occur when a person engages in a task with a moderate level of challenge that is well matched in difficulty to a person's current skill level. Flow also shares some commonalities with the mental state of high concentration seen during meditation.

" .... Flow may thus be a state of subjectively effortless attention that occurs during skilled performance and has different underlying mechanisms from [the mechanisms of] attention during mental effort."

It's likely that everyone has experienced flow, perhaps without noticing. It can occur during any creative process ~ writing, music, art, acting. Flow can also occur during daily activities which are sufficiently complex that practice is required for mastery ~ navigating a transit bus through traffic, flying an airplane, writing computer software code, cooking a fine meal. Scott Barry Kaufman points out that "flow is essential to creativity and well-being across many slices of life ~ from sports to music to physics to religion to spirituality to sex." I'll drink to that.

26 November 2011


Here's a conceptual twist for you, not unlike driving your car onto black ice and losing all control over steering and braking. The standard narrative would have it that Adam Smith is the father of economics ~ Smith, who proposed that rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity. We've seen over the past several decades, particularly during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, that the fatal flaw in this view is that unless individuals and corporations are regulated by government (representing the interests of the people), rational self-interest morphs into irrational greed, and competition is distorted or erased.

Is there an alternative model for viewing economics? Why yes, now that you ask, there is. In a PBS Newshour interview, Robert H. Frank suggests that Charles Darwin has much to say about the world of finance. " .... generation by generation, small mutations contribute to the extra speed of an individual animal. That animal is less likely to be caught and eaten by predators, and so it left copies of that mutation in the next generation, and then it spread generation by generation .... Thus, the invisible hand of natural selection promotes the survival of the individual and the prosperity of the species. In economic terms, this is the greatest good for the greatest number .... made possible by competitive individuals like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Steve Jobs.

But there is also a dark potential to the competitive evolution story ~ "individuals vying in ways that stultify the species," creating conflict between individual and group. Just as (over evolutionary time) larger and larger antlers on bull elk are a temporary boon during mating competition but become a hindrance when escaping predators, so amassing greater and greater wealth is a temporary boon to the 0.01 percent of the population who control most of the nation's assets, but ultimately is harmful to the society as a whole. "There's no question that we're in the midst of another Guilded Age. The robber barons have accumulated great wealth, and they spent it in very visible ways .... and that's the downside of conspicuous consumption. With humans, as with other animals, the survival of the so-called fittest may come at a cost to the species as a whole.

"Success is a balance between the urge to cooperate and the impulse to compete, a balance in the origin of our species and in its continuing evolution."

You can view the entire interview, or read the transcript, here.

25 November 2011


It's not news for for generations, men have held sway over women in the arts and sciences, in politics and the military, and in hiring and recompense in the job market. This has nothing to do with the respective skills or aptitudes of the genders, and everything to do with entrenched anachronistic traditions rooted in our distant hunter-gather past (according to one theory).

Since the first wave of feminism in the 1920s, and especially since feminism's second wave in the 1960s, things have begun to change ~ at a glacial pace to be sure, but even that pace of change is accelerating. Women's numbers are growing among world and national leaders, there are more women CEOs than ever before, and more women are making their presence felt in scientific research, in adademia, and in literature and the arts. We're a long way from real parity, and women still have to put up with harassment and patriarchal dismissal of their views. But with persistence and dignity and sometimes with justified confrontation, women are being heard and taken seriously. In my Google+ "Science and Technology" and "Writing" circles, most members are of the female persuasion. I look for articulate intelligence, originality of thought, and curiosity above all else. I also follow Carin Bondar, Sheril Kirshenbaum, A.V. Flox, Christie Wilcox, Allie Wilkinson, and Liz Neeley (among others) for ideas to feed my own. There's a definite place for social media in science !

In celebration, I offer links to several fora in which women have the floor. The first forum, Watch a Bunch of Lady Scientists Discuss Evolution, includes one of my favorite science writers, Andrea Kuszewski. The second forum, a podcast called Sexism, Skepticism, and Civility Online, includes another of my favorite science writers, Jennifer Ouellette. And the third forum, only partly for grins, asks the penetrating question How Come The Worst Sex Writers Are Always Men? Yeah, why is that?

Don't get me wrong ~ my attention is as struck by a hot babe as the next man's. But brains and humor and courage are a much more substantial part of what I find attractive in women I admire.

Speaking of brilliant women thinkers, one of the most penetrating intellects of this or any other age passed from our midst this week. Lynn Margulis (see image above) was a giant in evolutionary biology and in interdisciplinary thinking. I had the privilege of hearing her lecture at the University of Arizona during my undergraduate days in the mid-1980s. Though her ideas were complex, she expressed them in terms accessible to all. She will be missed. Please click on her name link to view her accomplishments, as well as several video interviews. I believe that your own view of life may be altered by the experience.

24 November 2011


Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. The holiday is marked by celebratory gatherings of family and friends, and feasting on traditional (or not-so-traditional) dishes. The origins of Thanksgiving are somewhat mythologized, however. Thanks to my dear friend and onetime stepdaughter Geneva, I'm able to share this detailed account of what the first Thanksgiving was like, including a non-idealized description of the Puritan Pilgrims, the Wampanoug Indians, and the cultural realities of the time. It is a fascinating story, one which remains relevant.

Today is significant for several other reasons. On this date in 1859, Charles Darwin's seminal On The Origin of Species was published, introducing the scientific theory that "populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection." Darwin's insight was one of the most important ideas in human history, as compelling and original as any advanced by Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein. All good scientific theories are subject to debate and refinement, and all great theories stand the test of time. Just so with evolution.

On this day in 1963, businessman Jack Ruby shot and fatally wounded Lee Harvey Oswald, the man charged with having assassinated President John F. Kennedy two days earlier. Nearly half a century later, the reason for Kennedy's death remains enigmatic, with allegations of conspiracies involving various combinations of the FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, and even Lyndon Johnson. I've seen documentaries which provide evidence strong enough to suggest that Oswald could not possibly have been acting alone. But given the passage of time and the power of official coverup, it is unlikely that we will ever know the complete truth surrounding the tragic loss of one of our most visionary and charismatic leaders.

Finally, this is blog post number 1,111 ~ with no suggested connection to the 11:11 of numerology or any other new age mysticism. I started commenting in this forum on 29 February 2008. Since then I've published 105 entries in 2008, 362 entries in 2009, 340 entries in 2010, and 304 so far in 2011. Topics have ranged from the profound to the whimsical ~ the environment, cosmology, politics, social justice, art, the sciences, aviation, whatever resonates with my interests or tickles my fancy. Earlier this year I was topping 600 readers per day, which was thrilling and a little daunting. Visitation has trickled off a bit, particularly during the past month when I had no computer with which to publish. Time to rise again !!

23 November 2011


In his TED talk How Games Make Kids Smarter, Gabe Zichermann enthusiastically explains how the principles of gaming (real world or online) can be applied with stunning results to improving how students do in school. He reports an exponential increase in learning, and an increase in fluid intelligence, when the learning environment encourages you to ~

~ Seek novelty.

~ Challenge yourself.

~ Think creatively.

~ Do things the hard way.

~ Network.

Gamification in its formal sense is "the use of game design techniques and mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences." Techniques such as measuring progress, offering rewards for reaching intermediate goals, and incoroporating competition between scholastic or workplace teams have been used by our more progressive teachers and trainers for a long time. [When I taught high school math and science, subject-related games were a regular and popular feature in my classes, coupled with interdisciplinary learning.] Gamification brings these techniques together in a cohesive, organized focus.

Applications include not only education, but also employee training programs, project management, health care, financial services, and (believe it or not) government. Here is a website (courtesy of my friend Bill) which allows you to scroll through six serious games whose aim is "to train employees, educate the public, or recruit new customers." Check out each title to get an idea of the diversity of applications for gaming. It's not just for kids anymore.

22 November 2011


Al Vernacchio is a counselor and a teacher of both English and human sexuality at a Philadelphia Mainline school. His sex ed class is the only one of its kind in the nation, according to Laurie Abraham's NYTimes article Teaching Good Sex. Discussion is free-ranging, guided by Vernacchio's positive, common-sense, unselfconscious attitude, and enhanced by the environment of safety and trust which he nurtures with each student.

"Sexuality and Society begins in the fall with a discussion of how to recognize and form your own values, then moves through topics like sexual orientation .... , safer sex, relationships, sexual health, and the emotional and physical terrain of sexual activity." Discussions may center on male and female anatomy, on understanding a partner's needs and preferences, or on "a kind of cost-benefit analysis of various types of relationships, from friendship to old-school dating to hookups." Students uniformly report a feeling of ease and mutual respect in the class, not to mention all that they learn when the veils of secrecy and taboo are removed.

I wish I'd had a similar class when I was young. All those moments of uncertainty, embarassment, posturing, and generally learning through trail and error (many errors) could have been avoided. I highly recommend the article to readers of any age.

21 November 2011


Virtually since its appearance, the non-violent Occupy movement has been the target of overreactive force by police officers (see image above, click to enlarge). As the movement has grown, so has the severity of physical abuse committed by law enforcement. Not since the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s have we seen such a clash between peaceful (and legal) public protest and violent containment by those whose job is purportedly to serve and protect.

I'm deeply troubled by this. I was raised immersed in the traditions of freedom and civil rights which are spelled out in the U.S. Constitution ~ including the right of assembly and free speech. To see images of these rights being trampled upon (here is one video example) by the very social agents who should be protecting them evokes a cognitive dissonance which can only be resolved by speaking out. I stand foursquare on the side of the Occupy movement, both in their right to peaceful assembly and in the issues of protest which they voice.

In his Psychology Today article Michael Chorost describes the video, and places it in the context of the larger protest movement. "This event is powerfully symbolic. It is about contempt from those in power and the wanton use of force against the powerless. We have seen similar things over and over again in the past few years. We have seen banks lobbying for public handouts and then denying relief to millions of exploited homeowners. We have seen it in tax breaks and bonuses for the rich while millions of Americans are out of work. We have seen it in church and university officers abusing children and then covering it up. We have seen it in the censorship of climate science performed in the public interest. We have seen it in the absurd declaration that corporations are 'people' and entitled to spend millions of dollars to elect representatives that they will then own. We have seen it everywhere we turn.

"The police officer is Congress. Our banks. Our clerics.

"The students are us.

"If I had to sum up the attitude of America's governing classes in one word, I would say contempt."

Chorost goes on to point out that far from having a random and inarticulate message, the Occupy movement has been quite clear all along. "They want a fairer tax system. They want a sane energy policy that addresses climate change and searches for cleaner ways to power our civilization. They want a government that is not wholly owned by the rich. They want access to justice and education. They want a reasonable hope of getting and keeping a job that gives them a living wage and the ability to invest in the future.

"They want a rational health care system that they can afford. They want government policy that is driven by thoughtful attention to rational research, not ideology. They want a transparent government that holds the powerful accountable. They want a government that understands the importance of investing now in human capital and infrastructure."

It is worth noting that the nation's two populist movements, the more conservative Tea Party movement and the more liberal Occupy movement, have reminded us of a necessary truth from the civil rights and antiwar movements ~ that to effect change, it is necessary to get the attention of the public, and to persuade the public that the change you propose is desireable. The Tea Party is failing largely because it is a 'faux movement, funded by secretive billionaires and so aggressively, laughably ignorant that neither it nor its candidates could retain credibility for long. But Occupy Wall Street is much more broadly based. It has a large and powerful set of progressive ideas to draw upon.' And it is no exaggeration that ultimately the Occupy movement does speak for the disenfranchised 99% of us whose wealth does not control Washington.

Lest the gentle reader think that the notion of corporate control of government is unfounded, I invite you to take a peek at this pair of seating charts which portray the memberships of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, color-coded to indicate the corporate interests which gave each member the most money over that member's career. The donors include finance-insurance-real estate, lawyers-lobbyists, the healthcare industry, agribusiness, labor, energy and natural resources corporations, communications/electronics, defense contractors, and transportation and construction corporations. The funding for several prominent House and Senate leaders are presented in more detail.

Who owns Congress? The Founders intended the answer to be we, the people. If we were to mandate that NO Senator or Representative could receive funding from corporate interests or lobbyists, as proposed recently by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), we would be in a position to restore control of our government to the citizens it serves. The individual and corporate excesses of greed and power we've increasingly suffered over the past 30 years might not disappear entirely, but they would be profoundly illegal. As they should be.

20 November 2011


Four weeks after my laptop's hard drive crashed, sufficient repair and software replacement has taken place that I can return to regular posts in this forum. I'll be hampered, though, since I'm not yet able to recover the backed up data from the old hard drive ~ including a library of photos, legions of weblinks carefully organized into folders, and a variety of desktop links to potential subjects for commentary. So it's a little like walking on one leg, waiting for the other leg to regenerate. But we shall prevail.

During the interim I created a list of items I would have posted on. They include ~

~ October 28 ~ the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. You can see the views from several live webcams here.

~ October 31 ~ the date on which the global human population surpassed 7 billion. Various population clocks are available online, and I'd hoped to be able to mark the precise time of the event, but alas, no computer. The 7 billion milestone is monumental. For most of human history, our numbers could be expressed in mere millions. A burst of exponential growth (see image above) which started 200 years ago. We reached 1 billion in 1804, 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion in 2011. Note that the times between mileposts keep shrinking ~ 123 years, then 33, 14, 13, and 13.

What's troubling is that the planet's carrying capacity (the maximum population which the environment can sustain indefinitely) was probably surpassed when our numbers were one-tenth what they are now. Yes, that's right, if global human population were 700 million, we wouldn't be driving species to extinction, decimating entire ecosystems, or accelerating global warming. Nearly every human form of suffering or injustice can be traced ultimately to our own overpopulation. Like a cancer we've spread, and like a cancer we are devouring the very host which sustains us. The PBS Newshour aired a segment on the strain we place on the planet and on each other, broken down by global region and by demographics.

If you are curious to learn approximately what your birth order is among our species, here is a dandy little tool for learning where you fit (I was the 2.453,616,641-st person alive on Earth at the time of my birth). You can also learn the current population of your nation (the U.S. has roughly 311 million), and your life expectancy by gender (in the U.S., 80.5 for females, 75.4 for males on average).

~ November 1 ~ winter's first snowfall in the Missoula Valley. Each successive winter finds me yearning for a milder, sunnier climate. Someplace where the temperature rarely got below 40 dF or above 75 dF would be ideal. As I type this it is 24 dF outside, with snow on the ground. It will be much colder over the next three months. I know I'll adjust as the season progresses, however reluctantly.

~ November 11 ~ Veterans Day. Before I retired, I always took this day off from work to spend time in reflection and remembrance. I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War (I was in country from March 1968 to March 1969), and like most who served there, came home conflicted and psychologically scarred by the experience. Healing remains incomplete ~ this past 4th of July I experienced a panic attack when nearby fireworks and explosions became too close and too relentless. This is one form my PTSD takes, and the reason I try to insulate myself from outside sounds each year on the night of the holiday.

Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I when the peace treaty was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This year being 2011, the holiday fell on 11-11-11. I'd planned to hit the "publish post" prompt on that day's blog entry when the clock reached 11:11:11 ~ but again, no computer. Ah well.

There've been other possible blog topics, of course ~ the developments within the Occupy movement, news in science and the arts, and the revolving 15-minutes-of-fame followed by an-eternity-of-humiliation which rotates among the stampede of incompetents who are running for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. All in good time. For now, it feels good to be actively writing again. I had no idea how much I would miss it. Welcome back, everyone.

16 November 2011


On Monday my laptop finally arrived from surgery. I've spent the time since trying with limited success to restore its operation. You see, I had the information on the hard drive backed up, but the backup device's restoration CD does not function. So I am bereft of dozens of programs, hundreds of weblinks and email addresses, and thousands of emails and photos which had been stored on the laptop.

I've spent many hours on the phone with tech support people from several service providers, and face a choice ~ individually restore those links and programs which I can recall (but lose all those emails and photos), or continue the frustrating struggle to get my PC backup system to work.

This is definitely not how that product was advertised to serve. But at least I do have a computer which has restored my connection with the wider online world. I'll try to return to daily posts of substance very soon.

10 November 2011


I received notice on 11-08 from the Toshiba repair facility in California that my laptop is done, and was shipped that day. Today I checked the UPS tracking website, and it is sitting in Louisville, Kentucky. Where is the sense of shipping 2500 miles east from CA to KY, then 2000 miles west to MT? Do not understand that one at all. Delivery scheduled for 11-14, then a day of reloading backed-up files, web links, and software. Perhaps next Tuesday I'll be able to resume daily posting here. Fingers crossed.

05 November 2011


My inability to comment here daily feels like an amputation. I normally spend 2-4 hours researching, composing, editing, and illustrating each day's post. It is careful work, and also play, and also an intellectual stimulus, and also a way to stay connected to regular readers. My computer is still in repair for hard drive replacement ~ anticipated return in one to two weeks. Until then, here we are.
Several days ago there were a few snow flurries in Missoula, which melted off upon ground contact. This morning marked the first time this winter when there was snow waiting to be brushed off windshields. Brrr. Time to move south, I think.
This is brief, but the library computer system's timer is about to end my session. Hasta la pasta.