Odious and Peculiar

Philology and esoterica: scribblings, ravings and mutterings.

O&P's Current Pick:

Forging the Sampo

Odious' Links:

The Little Bookroom
The Pumpkin King
Larissa Archer
Inverted Iambs
Eve Tushnet
Pamela Dean
Kambodia Hotel
Pen and Paper

Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary
Deep-Sea News
NASA's Mars Website
Classics Online
Perseus Digital Library

Nine Scorpions
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Letter from Hardscrabble Creek
Arts & Letters Daily
About Last Night



Chas Clifton's Nature Blog
Rock Art Photo Blog
Girl on a Whaleship
Nature Lyrics Languagehat
Jabal al-Lughat
Laputan Logic
Strange Maps
Vladimir Dinets: Polymath Russian Adventurer
Virtual Tour of Almaty, Kazakhstan
Aerial Landscape Photography
USGS Earth As Art
Panoramic Aerial Maps of the American West

The Internet Bird Collection
Bird Families of the World
Ancient Scripts
The Aberdeen Bestiary Project
The Cephalopod Page
The Ultimate Ungulate
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire
USGS Streamflow Data

Worthy Miscellany
Finno-Ugrian Music
Boojum Expeditions
American River Touring Association

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Monday, June 30, 2003
A friend of mine called me today, a former teacher and someone I respect though we've damaged our relationship a number of times. It's mostly scar tissue now, which isn't pretty but certainly is strong. We met at the college gym. In summer it's empty, except for the not unpleasant smell of sweat and a sullen student assigned to watch the door. "Bring your sticks," he'd said, referring to the short rataan sticks of escrima. When he saw me, he raised his over his head in greeting, and we went down onto the deserted basketball court.

We began with the simplest of siniwalis, the patterns of stick practice. The noise of the sticks echoed off the walls and ceiling, and as the pattern sped up the smell of smoking rataan reached me. Over the clatter of our attacks and defenses we began to talk, first of old classes, then old writers, then books read and to-be-read.

As I struggled to keep my breathing even and in time with my strikes, the pattern changed, anapests to the previous spondees. With this alteration in rhythm came a lightening of tone, and we began to trade limericks back and forth, ending with a truly lewd creation of Swinburne's. After an hour, coated in sweat, we bowed, hugged, and went back to our jobs.

And people ask us why we practice martial arts.

Saturday, June 28, 2003
In case you were wondering: yes.

Friday, June 27, 2003
Further on the 'interesting things I find on Eurekalert but know nothing about myself' subject: the Catawba Indians.

Curse you, Higgs boson! I'll get you next time! Next time....

Thursday, June 26, 2003
Thinking things over, I've decided that from now on, anything written by someone on a subject wildly outside their area of expertise will be called a "dawkins". As in, "Anything Odious writes about music is always a dawkins." This meme thing goes both ways.

I'm sorry for anyone mislead by my Harry Potter joke. It is of course Dumbledore who dies.

So here we go again. Link via Arts and Letters Daily.

This article touches the matter with a needle, unconsciously. Mr. Miller has accepted without qualm the modern move from True (which, thanks to a lot of skeptics unworthy to polish Hume's shoes, is no longer even a goal) to Useful. The test of a theory is not its Truth (after all, thanks to Popper, we know that that's not useful, though falsifiability is), but its predictions and their correctness. Of course, by this measure one would, upon being confronted with the Copernican hypothesis, test it, see it fail by a good eight minutes of arc, and return to the revised Ptolemaic system, thank you Tycho Brahe. At least Mr. Miller still believes in a mind.

Moving from True to Useful as a criterion doesn't accomplish anything in any case. The question remains, Useful for what? There may be a Good-in-itself, or a capital-t Truth, but the very idea of use implies a goal other than itself. And one can't get around that by claiming that Useful means preserving life (or Human life, or the Species, or one's genes) or allowing one to satisfy one's desires. Why preserve human life? Because we have a built-in imperative to do so? I can choose to obey that imperative or not. Why should I choose one way or the other?

Camus once claimed, "Why not suicide?" was the only remaining question for philosophy. Philosophers answered it a number of times in the past, but we seem to have a problem with it nowadays. If one is prepared to remove oneself from the gene pool, what argument will stop one? Circular reasoning from biological necessity can offer nothing. Only the concept of Duty will do so. Duty beyond the bounds of genetics. Of course, the answer to that question may not be useful....

There's another side to Duty, which is not the avoidance of death, but the embrace of it: dying for a cause. While Dawkins may crow that most scientists are "brights", he forgets that in the United States military, a stunning 93% of soldiers are Christian, and almost all are theists of one stripe or another. The people who are willing to give their lives to keep this country free and safe are apparently remarkably stupid. One wonders if they would be willing to continue their sacrifice if they were 'enlightened' and relieved of their mysticism. I can see very few suituations where one might rationally give one's life: one would have to be choosing between oneself and one's children, and also be too old to procreate. A great deal has been said lately on the willingness of believers to kill others. Very little has been said about believers' willingness to die for them.

On another subject, I notice that to succeed, any philosophy must offer at least some form of immortality. For "brights" (I have a rant, too small for this margin, on this subject), it's genetic. We die, our genes live on. In the end, something everlasting (or practically, Suniverse being greater than 0) must prop up the everyday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
The Internet comes through at last! Sort of.

Peculiar and I once talked of posting about the things the Internet had failed to find for us. One of them was a reference in Jane Austen's letters to a Dr. Syntax and a Gogmagoglicus. Now, Dr. Syntax was easy enough to find (exercise left for the reader--but if anyone finds the page of prints we did, and speaks Dutch, please let us know what the Hollander is saying. Something something swindles something, yes?), but Gogmagoglicus escaped all search engines with lithesome ease. Now, however, we seem to have, if not the reference, at least a clue. Link via Natalie Solent, who really does have a brain like a planet.

Saturday, June 21, 2003
Incommunicado. Harry Potter. 'Bye!

UPDATE: I cannot believe they killed Hermione!

Friday, June 20, 2003
Watching Superstar, I realized that the scene in the Bronze with Jonathan's band is, in fact, an homage to the great Buckaroo Banzai. What? It's my day off.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
There's an article as incisive as a scalpel on Anti-Americanism as philosophy over at The Public Interest.

An article about intelligence analysis from the point of view of cognitive psychology, more or less. It reminds me of the scene in Kim when he is challenged to remember the gems shown for an instant in his mentor's hand before it closes.

UPDATE: Montaigne alert!

Men of intelligence notice more things and view them more carefully, but they comment on them; and to establish and substantiate their interpretation, they cannot refrain from altering the facts a little. They never present things just as they are but twist and disguise them to conform to the point of view from which they have seen them; and to gain credence for their opinion and make it attractive, they do not mind adding something of their own, or extending and amplifying. We need either a very truthful man, or one so ignorant that he has no material with which to construct false theories and make them credible: a man wedded to no idea.

I think I will make that the motto of the other blog.

Here in New Mexico, we get very good at staring at the sun.

Den Beste writes on tourists in France, and has a number of e-mails posted of various experiences people had there. Since I've recently been there myself, I thought I'd weigh in.

I'd stayed in France before, for some time the summer between high school and college. At that time I was in Provence, in a small town named L'Ile-sur-Sourge, where the sun is nearer and clearer than any other place I've been, and I say that from Santa Fe, in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I had a bike, a copy of Moby Dick, and the sort of blind confidence one has after graduation, even without destroying a giant snake demon. I loved it. The people were friendly (except in one mountain-top restaurant, a data-point which I'm going to re-classify as experimental error), the food was an open invitation to gluttony, and the whole country seemed to have treasures tucked away in corners, like the Cathedrale d'Images, atop Les Baux (whence bauxite, by the by). So when a vacation to Paris was planned, I was thrilled to return to France.

I was underwhelmed when we arrived. My French is serviceable, and a great deal of useful vocabulary, especially regarding food, has been drilled into me since age eight, but it has degenerated through disuse. Still, it seemed that to make myself understood I needed to repeat myself several times, even when engaged in some routine task like purchasing a ticket to the Catacombs (the Catacombs are well worth the price of admission, and if I ever get around to producing my One Man Hamlet, I'll set it inside them). The exception to this constant lack of understanding was at the hotel, run by two tiny elderly women who were unfailingly cheerful and kind, and understood every word I said (except my first name, the difficulty of which I can hear myself. When I francified it, they caught on immediately, although it was in that form that they addressed me from then on).

Still, it was Paris. Paris is a jewel of a city, in a number of ways. The streets were laid out by a lapidarist, and in the sun they define the facets of the city. Each corner brings a new beauty to the eye, often unlooked for, as when the home of Eloise and Aberlard was stumbled across. Their tomb is nice as well, in the harmless way the word is used nowadays. It mentions nothing about Abelard's seduction/rape of Eloise, commenting only on their piety, learning, and fidelity. This gloss is a theme of a number of Parisian monuments, particularly those from World War II.

But Parisians were grim and unfriendly compared to the inhabitants of Provence, with the only people willing to help, in exchange for having their picture taken near some item of interest, being German tourists. The final straw was when the Parisian police, in a random sweep of a subway station, demanded a twenty euro fine for a lack of picture ID, a failing whose dire consequences were never mentioned by the ticket seller, and nowhere in the (very) fine print on the automated machines. It took a walk through the Jardin des Plantes to calm down after that run-in, a theme which was repeated a number of times: getting irritated with the people, and calmed by the surroundings. The aggravation of this confrontation was augmented by my ignorance of French law. I understand that they have rather more pervasive powers of search and seizure, but the limits and required provocation for such acts I am ignorant of. How shall I put this...I missed the Bill of Rights. Thank Heaven for Mrs. Conway, who taught it to me. I'm not claiming that American law is superior to French law (though I might if I'm provoked), simply that being ignorant of it was discomfitting.

I never felt that way in Provence, where people, you know, smiled and said hello. If a gendarme had stopped me there, I would have felt far safer dealing with him than I did dealing with the Parisian police. Indeed, I was stopped there once by a gendarme, who came running after me. He was returning Moby Dick, which had fallen from my backpack.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
I enjoy the occasional sauna, but I've found a substitute--two inches of padding over every vulnerable part of my body, while being kicked and punched from every angle. I lost three pounds.

We had our self-defense test on Sunday, with me as one of the 'teachers'. Teachers is scorn-quoted because I'm not really qualified, I'm just the least worst choice. The first hour was a combination of philosophy and wrist locks, two of my favorite things, and flew by. After that...well, I became "Max", an assailant resistant (but not invulnerable!) to harm, and played the role of attacker for our graduates. Our graduates, by the way, were a middle-aged woman ("Ruth", not her name) who weighs perhaps 100 lbs. and her fourteen year old daughter, "Sara".

It began with me verbally assaulting our first defender, which I dislike intensely. There's something good-natured (generally) about a martial arts class, but for the tests the atmosphere is serious, and the verbal assaults need to test the defender--to throw her off balance, if possible. This need means that a certain crudeness is required. I heard Sara gasp at one point. Then I shoved Ruth, and thing got ugly. She tried to make me back off with a double-handed shove, but it lacked force. As "Max", I shouted at her (I think I said, "Is that all you got?", which just shows how one thinks in cliches at times like these) and threw a wide roundhouse punch that, in my defense, was telegraphed from a mile off. It hit her in the neck, just below the jaw, and Ruth got serious. She hit me in the thigh with a heel-stomp that would have shattered my kneecap if it had been three inches lower, even with the padding. My leg buckled, and she hit me in the side of the head with a horizontal elbow strike that had two-thirds of her body weight and all her will behind it. And she never let up after that, until I was on one knee with my arms up to protect my head, and she could run safely by. The goal was, thank Heaven, to escape, not to dismember.

Sara, having seen her mother become a fighting machine, had a standard to live up to (and surpass--there was a certain amount of competion between them). I, after five minutes recovery and a quart of water, was ready to go again. And much the same thing happened. Sara was able to get her body behind a double palm-heel strike that lifted me off the ground and threw me back an inch or so. With my footing uncertain, Sara hit me in the chest again, knocking me down (the suit limits one's grace and dexterity). Unhesitatingly, she slammed a knee into my abdomen, hit me in the chin with a palm heel, and ran off.

Now, reading this I see it reads as though the test were rather...uncontrolled. But the teacher would have stopped anything that had gotten out of control, and both Ruth and Sara knew which areas of my body were off limits (eyes, knees (that leg shot scared me, though), and groin). Even head shots were taken with due care.

After that, they both broke a board with their elbow strike, the same one tested on my head a few minutes earlier. Boards don't hit back, I know, but neither do many people after they take a blow like that to the head. Everyone had a pleasant time, except "Max", who got what he deserved.

Monday, June 16, 2003
Boy, that wine post is pretty near incoherent, isn't it? I should mention that it was inspired by the drinking of a great deal of cheap champagne. I think my point was, wine is good. We should all have some.

I'm too sore and busy proof-reading to even think of posting more this disclaimer. But tomorrow: self-defense testing, including a real good smackdown, and possibly a proof for Newton's first corollary to his thirteenth proposition in the Principia. If I can remember it. Also, headlock escapes!

Saturday, June 14, 2003
I have two basic rules for wine and the first is: drink what you like. If you like a muscat d'asti with your porc napoleone, then, for Heaven's sake, drink it. Beringer makes our white zinfandel, generally ordered as, "A glass of the pink shit, please." I myself have occasionally mixed grenadine and sprite to match the color and sipped from it, recommending it to another waiter as an excellent year. But my wine key for work has the Beringer label on it, and not as a joke. I carry it to remind me of my first rule. Whenever I get uppity about a wine, I look at the tool I'm using to open it, and keep my fool mouth shut. In the end, it's foolish to drink wine one dislikes for the sake of the opinions of those around one (and particularly foolish to do it for the sake of one's waiter's opinion. We hate everyone). The wine you like is the wine you should drink.

However, I also have a second rule which is: some wines are superior to others. There are some wines which one ought to enjoy more than others. This is not to say that one should drink those wines if one does not, but simply that one should recognize that one's tastes have not developed fully. I recognize that my inability to discriminate between a bottle of, say, J. Lohr cabernet and Caymus vintage is a failing in me, not in the wines. And one can expand one's tastes. From white zin one might find a riesling or a gewurztraminer an excellent choice.

Of course, this principle applies to other subjects. Some books are better than others, but I read the ones I like. This means I sometimes read Tolstoy, and sometimes I read non-canon Conan. My taste in low fantasy is not one I'm proud of, and I try to read better books, but I do enjoy the occasional mighty thewed barbarian. Now, genius will out. The books that have been read for centuries have lasted for a reason: they speak to us as humans. No matter how benighted one may be, the books that last will speak to one. The Iliad has been around for millenia because it not only speaks of heroes throwing rocks the size of tractors at each other, but because it tells of the necessity of tragedy in restoring us to full humanity. The first is boring after a few incidences without the second. Depth is what brings us back to a work, and what allows a work to endure. And as we read, we ourselves expand, in understanding and in emotional response. Without the first chapters of Xenophon's voyage to prepare us, we would not weep when the Greeks reach the sea. The great books evoke something from everyone, but the more one reads them the more one is moved, just as a great wine can be enjoyed by anyone, but the connoisseur (which I certainly don't claim to be) will notice the delicate textures, the order in which the aromas reach the nose, and other details to small for those of us who must simply say, "it's very good."

This idea that objects, even works of art, have intrinsic qualities that a rightly developed person will experience upon interacting with them is no longer popular. When Duke University introduces classes on comic books (sorry, sorry, "graphic novels") and claims that they are just as valid as classes on Shakespeare, a cry goes out among the plainspeople, but no one really cares. Our response to something becomes the only criterion of judgment, and is itself never analysed. If I feel oppressed, I must be oppressed, since nothing has any real value except in my feelings. An un-educated seventh grader's response to King Lear ("Just die already, old dude"--tutoring can be an exercise in patience sometimes) is just as valid as my professor's, who has spent a decade studying that play alone.

This refusal to accept any judgment as true amounts to a refusal to accept that there is a way which is the human way, on which all humans ought to progress as far as they can. C. S. Lewis calls it the Tao in The Abolition of Man. Faith in the Tao is what allows us to educate children, for example, since we are trying to instill in them those values which will bring them to be not just human, but homo sapiens, man the wise.

To many it seems that the first rule, "Drink what you like", contradicts the second, "Some wines are better than others". Since no one likes to drink and eat things they find distasteful, they generally decide that the second rule is untrue, and the first should be their only guide (the ones that reverse that are too depressing to discuss. Pompous fools, 'though perhaps more likely to find their way). They've lost the idea of growth. And the catch is, of course, that one must have started on the Tao in order to understand the necessity of the Tao. From outside it, one cannot judge anything (which is, of course, the catch to standing outside the Tao. In the end, travelling the Tao is the only choice). From inside it...well, C. S. Lewis thinks that reason can never justify itself as reasonable. I disagree; I think that a first statement can be like my favorite theory of the creation of the universe: it creates itself, wrapping about in time, but expands as well. Rather than being circular, it leads to new conclusions. Hegel, on this topic, (you knew Hegel would come up, didn't you? I read him over beignets, two paragraphs an hour) says:

In the previous modes [sense-certainty, perception, and understanding] of certainty what is true for consciousness is something other than itself. But the Notion of this truth vanishes in the experience of it. What the object immediately was in itself--mere being in sense-certainty, the concrete thing of perception, and for the Understanding, a Force--proves to be in truth, not this at all; instead, this in-itself turns out to be a mode in which the object is only for an other. The Notion of the object is superseded in the actual object, or the first, immediate presentation of the object is superseded in experience: certainty gives place to truth. But now there has arisen what did not emerge in these previous relationships, viz. a certainty which is identical with its truth; for the certainty is to itself its own object, and consciousness is to itself the truth.

Or, as the Duchess said to Alice, "There's a moral in everything, if only you can find it." Hegel's running on a tightrope between ratiocinari and intelligere here, not just writing about the distinction between them, but I think his conclusion is valid. The moral? Drink what you like, but don't go without education, in wine or in anything. The satisfaction of a gourmet is far deeper than that of a gourmand. And my tips are better when I sell the more expensive bottles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
At last, as promised: The Illinois River

As you faithful readers may have deduced, I spend my summers in the employ of a whitewater rafting company. We have operations in four western states, and thus I am fortunate enough to have boated many of the finest wilderness rivers in the country. This April I managed to see one of the crown jewels of them all; I’ve run the Grand Canyon, the Yampa, the Middle Salmon and the Selway, and the Illinois in southwestern Oregon is the equal of any of them.

There’s a reason you’ve never heard of the Illinois: it’s very difficult to catch it at runnable water levels. Unlike most commonly rafted rivers, it is fed not by snowmelt or reservoir, but by rain. It therefore can be boated only in winter and spring, and even then the levels are touchy. A few dry days can leave insufficient water to squeeze a raft between the boulders, and a decent storm system can transform its already challenging whitewater into screaming insanity. Below 800 cubic feet per second or above 3000 we don’t go; and it’s the only river I’ve ever run where one worries about its being too high and too low in the same week. I drove from New Mexico to southwestern Oregon well aware that scheduled trips often never launch.

Preparing to launch on a new river is always an exciting experience, and this time I had numerous factors contributing to my excitement. The weather in Grant’s Pass was cold and rainy, and our guidehouse did not yet have a water heater up and running. I was quite aware that certain Illinois rapids would be a step up in difficulty from anything I had ever rowed. And we were constantly thinking about the water level, trying to guess just how the storm drumming on our roof was affecting a river valley thirty miles to the south. A Coast Guard weather radio on our kitchen table gave comment in a slate-gray automated baritone: "forecast for western Josephine county is… rain… eastern Curry county… rain… fifteen foot swells in Brookings harbour…." Throughout the day, periodic internet flow updates came via our manager’s girlfriend in Eugene. At eight in the evening she reported a spike from 1300 cfs to 2400, which certainly grabbed our attention; it was a joke, but hardly an outrageous or unbelievable one, as events three days later would demonstrate. I fell asleep to thoughts of whitewater and the sounds of the wood stove and the raindrops.

It was still raining in the morning as we drove south to Selma in the Illinois valley, then west on dirt roads into the river canyon, where the Illinois slices through the coast range on its way to the Rogue and the Pacific. To run the Illinois is legally easy; there is no decades long Grand Canyon waiting list, no Selway permit lottery with astronomically poor odds. All you have to do is drop a form in a box on the side of the Selma grocery store and go. But the difficulty of the rapids and the inconvenience of transporting river gear long distances to a river which may well not be boatable in any given week tend to keep the crowds away. The locals seem to derive a good deal of their winter and spring entertainment from news of Coast Guard rescues of incompetent or unlucky rafters, and hence few of them run the river. We launched our boats in splendid isolation, in which we remained for the entire trip.

For one like me who delights in moving water in all its manifestations, the Illinois canyon is a paradise. Almost the first thing one sees after pushing off from shore are waterfalls, a side stream plunging in two branches into the bedrock gorge. There are waterfalls throughout the canyon, around almost every bend, sometimes four or five in a mile, of all sizes, heights and steepnesses, sometimes two or three together. The raindrops bead up and roll like quicksilver on the river’s surface, and when the sun appears the river water blooms a transparent, luminous emerald. The rapids for the most part are friendlier than I had anticipated; from the sheer quantity of rapids in the guidebook (well over one hundred in forty miles) I was expecting the continuous whitewater of the Selway or upper Middle Fork, where rapids flow straight into one another and one is constantly rowing. But these had (at 1300 cfs at least) good recovery pools in between. The most common anatomy was a tight but slow-moving rock garden feeding into a pushy, splashy bedrock chute full of waves and medium-sized pour-overs. Many of the more difficult rapids call for a tricky, twisty set-up, one last push, then shipping your oars for a drop into a steep slot between boulder and cliff, barely wider than your boat. The side streams are gin clear or pale, almost glacial blue, and they and the river sculpt themselves into gravity-defying slopes and fins and rooster-tails, smooth and clear as glass, stationary forms in flowing water.

Though it is not far as the crow flies from roads and towns, the Illinois feels remote and isolated like nowhere else I have ever been. Even the Selway, so rightly renowned for its remoteness and isolation, has trails and pack bridges and airstrips, but the Illinois has none of these. It flows through the northern end of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and the Tututni Indians and miners who once lived here are long gone. There are some trails marked on the USGS maps, but when you go to look for them you find nothing but eroding dirt and poison oak. It is country which inclines one to believe in sasquatches. The botanical diversity is the best in the west, with dozens of conifers and broad-leaved species, rare purple kalmiopsis flowers, and carnivorous California pitcher plants raising their green cobra hoods at the water’s edge. Our second night campsite was covered with the droppings of Roosevelt elk, and nearby we found a salmon skeleton which certainly did not get so far from the river on its own.

Even after launch the Illinois calls for flexibility in scheduling. We always bring food for an extra day, canned beans and powdered soup and the like, so that if the water should rise suddenly we can wait it out. On our standard four day schedule, we plan for a short second day on the river with lots of hiking, and a long, difficult third day through the biggest rapids in the gorge section. But the Coast Guard radio was out again on our first night and second morning, in case a forecast of heavy rain should dictate a long dash the second day all the way through the gorge and past the most dangerous whitewater.

As it happens, we stick to our ideal schedule, with a beautiful sunny hike the second day, through a pit of sunbathing snakes, wading up a creek, and climbing a ridge to a cliff overlooking a Peregrine nest. The third day is full of hard rain without a break. The rapids are challenging, but again mostly easier and more fun than I had expected. The exception is the Greenwall. It’s quite fortunate that the Greenwall is there, since without it the Illinois would probably see much more traffic than it does; but during our scout I find myself distinctly desiring it to be gone. The left side of the river laps against and sometimes flows through a vast array of enormous boulders; the right side races along a towering cliff covered in green moss. The top half of the rapid is not terribly difficult, but complicated enough to clutter the memory and full of plenty of hydraulics big enough to interfere with a boatman’s plans. The bottom half flows very fast through several holes and waves big enough to flip a sideways boat, and with the dangerous undercut wall always threatening on the right. And between the two halves is a pounding ten foot fall between boulders. The entire thing looks very unpleasant to swim. My anxiety is not helped by the knowledge that I will be the first boat through; even though I have never run this rapid, I am carrying no clients, and the other guides hope to have me waiting at the bottom to rescue any of their passengers who might swim. My run is neither very good nor very bad, but the other guides learn from watching me and their runs are clean.

We continue downriver through splendid, less nerve-wracking whitewater. The rain persists into the evening, and by the time we finish setting up camp there is a waterfall coming off the rocks behind our kitchen which was not there when we arrived. The river is changing colour and growing cloudier, and is clearly on the rise. After dinner, we put up an extra rope to the boats and move our gear uphill. I fall asleep listening to the basso ostinato of the nearby rapid, the soprano clatter of the growing waterfall, the alto murmur of the raindrops on our kitchen tarp.

Our head guide joins me under the tarp a little past midnight, reporting that there is now current through his tent site, which was by no means foolishly close to the water when he went to bed. In the morning our boats, which we left with their noses pulled up on the sand, are now thoroughly afloat in two feet of water. We have to swim to retrieve an overlooked box lid, and must scramble over the rocks to reach our toilet, the trail to which is now well in the current. The rapid has completely changed character, its formerly exposed rocks deep underwater forming some impressive standing waves. We ride to take-out on what we later learn is well over double the volume of the previous day’s water*, making the manager’s girlfriend’s joke seem feeble in comparison.

So that’s the report from my world. I’m currently guiding on the Yampa, and I’ll be heading to Idaho shortly. I’ll try to get a post out occasionally, but don’t expect much; time and internet access are not abundant resources for me right now. Cheers to our loyal readers, welcome to any new ones, and if Odious would be so good as to copy this post to our archives, I would appreciate it.

*The spike was from 1300 to 3400 cfs on the gage upstream at Kerby; actual flows in the canyon, below so many side streams, are substantially greater.

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Friday, June 06, 2003
I like Angel. But now David Boreanaz has lost all credibility with me:
"Chickens!" Boreanaz answered immediately, when asked what scares him. "They're just very tweaky things. They cluck and, you know, they're very nervous."

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Every day in every way, the world becomes more and more like Genesis. This article manages both to anthropomorphise and to denigrate man and his accomplishments.

So some people were unimpressed by The Ring. My reaction was more along these lines.

Miss Peculiar, don't you? Me too. So here's a quick double dactyl of his.

Playing arpeggios
Franz Joseph Haydn
Broke both his wrists with an
Audible snap.

Languid with drunkenness
Viennesse courtesans
Fawned upon Mozart, their
Hands in his lap.

Inspiration for the writing of double dactyls from Raphael Carter and Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet. Although of course the form was invented by Anthony Hecht and John Hollander, who jointly created Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls. Google's making me look smart again.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Google still doesn't find us. But it's fun to look, and stumble (virtually) across all sorts of oddities. Not that I have anything against Methodism, which arose as a response to Calvinism, I'm told. My own response to Calvinism has always been drink, but then that is my default.

I imagine most people who read this blog also read Arts and Letters Daily, but this article deserves a second link, for provocation if nothing else about it. I'm not sure I agree with his conclusions, but it's a view of a strange tribe (social scientists) from the inside.

The early ancestor of Nigerian millionaire spam:
The first envelope, attractive though it looked from the outside, being of an expensive brand of stationery and gaily adorned with a somewhat startling crest merely contained a pleasantly-worded offer from a Mr. Alistair MacDougall to advance him any sum from ten to fifty thousands pounds on his note of hand only. The second revealed a similar proposal from another Scot named Colin MacDonald. While in the third Mr. Ian Campbell was prepared to go as high as one hundred thousand. All three philanthropists had but one stipulation to make- they would have no dealings with minors.Youth, with all its glorious traditions, did not seem to appeal to them. But they cordially urged Psmith, in the event of having celebrated his twenty-first birthday, to come round to the office and take the stuff away in a sack.

-P.G. Wodehouse, Leave it to Psmith
A dangerous book to read in any public place, by the way, as passers-by may assume the worst when one's iced mocha comes out one's nose, and charitably attempt an unnecessary Heimlich.

You are Agent Smith-
You are Agent Smith, from "The Matrix."
No one would ever want to run into you in a
dark alley. Cold as steel, tough as a rock,
things are your way or the highway.

What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Now I just have to learn to replicate myself, and all hell's breaking loose.

Monday, June 02, 2003
I am deeply shamed and amazed by the charity and graciousness of those around me. I will endeavor to be worthy of it.

A brief moment of cane-fighting: after using the cane at middle distance (kick, maybe punch range), we decided to see if it could be useful at trapping/grappling range. After a number of attempts ending badly (from my perspective; uke was happy), I took the crook in my hand from underneath, inserted the tip of the crook behind uke's collarbone, and pulled down as though I were trying to get a semi to honk at me. Uke turned white, collapsed, and refused to play anymore.
Soon I'll have a chance to see what airline security thinks of the cane. I plan on playing Tiny Tim. Sans ukulele.

It has been said that the French fight with their feet and f-ck with their mouths. Nowadays it's clear that the French fight with their mouths and don't f-ck at all.

Not that I don't respect fighting with one's feet.