I'd just barely exited the airport and was headed to the parking area for my ride when I saw what looked like a dead dog in the street. A terrible start to my visit to India.
Nope, not dead. Sleeping, in fact, and sleeping quite soundly with his head inclined on the warm, asphalt speed bump. In fact, he was wearing a little vest or a sweater of some sort. Hmm, clearly I had some things to learn about India.
Continue reading "The Dogs of Delhi"
Serendipity brought me to India, filled me with delicious foods, then sent me home with a woolen Nehru vest and a lifetime of memories. In between, I visited the Taj Mahal.
I struggle with the famous landmarks, the UNESCO Heritage sites, the places on earth that receive – as does the Taj – six million visitors per year (that's over 16k per day including the day I was there). The world is full of authorities greater than I on subjects like the architecture of Mughal India, the rise of Islamic powers from the Fergana Valley, and the endless struggle between Islam and Hindu nationalism that persists to this day. So, just a few thoughts:
Continue reading "The Taj Mahal"
The pines stand in pockets,
soft, fur-lined, so deep you can
scrunch your cold hands down into them,
warm them up. You can scrunch
the rest of you down in, too:
maybe never emerge.
Continue reading "The Pines Stand in Pockets"
Happiness is a good pen, smooth paper, the right ink, and time to write.
In 1989 I began writing regularly in a journal. That same year, it occurred to me that the experience would be even nicer if I were to use a fountain pen. I think it's kind of like saying, "hey you know, I should try crack cocaine." First I had one pen, then I had two, then I had many. Some people collect watches, some people collect fancy cars. My collection suits my personality and is conducive to frequent relocation to exotic locales around the globe. Here are some reflections on the many, lovely writing instruments that have brought me pleasure over the years.
Continue reading "A Quiver of Fountain Pens (Reviews)"
I first discovered that lovely little patch of loblollies only a month or two after arrival. Growing at a forgotten intersection between two busy roads, it was a dense, green wall seen at high speed between other destinations.
I first walked it one cloudy afternoon in early winter, footsteps silent on the dense, matted needles. I returned several times, and found it different each time. But last January was the most memorable: the morning after a decent snowfall, the forest was another world, white and green overhead, the morning sun bright against a cerulean sky. But not silent: the strong winds were moving the treetops and the forest was a tapestry of whispers.
Continue reading "Whisper in the Pines"
Fact: In March, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, landed three ships off the coast of Guam. An Italian nobleman also present on the voyage, Antonio de Pigafetta, noted that Magellan called the Marianas the Islands of Lateen Sails, then renamed them the Islands of Thieves after Chamorus in swift proas sailed out to meet the European vessels and helped themselves to some of what they found on board. Not to be outdone by a bunch of glad handlers, Magellan seized the entire island chain in the name of the Spanish crown. Take that, canoe boys.
Also fact: In November, 2022, a gringo explorer from Long Island also traveled to Guam. He crossed the island's southern flank, arriving by air conditioned taxi to Umatac Bay, where he met a couple of sleepy island mutts and took a selfie in front of the bay. He stole nothing, seized no land in the name of some distant government, and eventually went home. Instead of circumnavigating the southern oceans in a state of near starvation, he flew coach class on United Airlines and enjoyed a nice chicken salad, suffering nothing worse than some severe jetlag upon arrival.
Continue reading "On the Heels of Magellan in Umatac Bay"
The Philippine Sea is a golden mirror, but clouds are already starting to billow, like sails along the horizon.
A Brown Tree Snake lassos his way back down a tree trunk after having spent the night munching on birds’ eggs.
A young Korean bride withdraws a flowing, yellow sundress from her suitcase. A local Korean-speaking tour guide has promised her some Instagram-worthy photos from the island’s most breathtaking viewpoints.
A young Chamorro with a backpack blower spreads dry the shiny lenses of rainwater that last night’s showers pooled on the hotel’s breakfast patio.
Continue reading "Morning in the Marianas"
Idaho, October 2022: a land whose beauty and intrigue swelled as I ventured north. I remember back to my disappointment in the summer of 1998, when my Greyhound bus crossed both Montana and Idaho at night, leaving me in western Washington state at dawn. Those were the two places I was most excited to see.
And now I'm in Stanley, a mountain outpost 6253' above sealevel, nestled at the foot of the fierce-looking Sawtooths. To get here I've topped the ridge at Mount Galena (now riven in streaks of burnt trees and charcoal). The road is easy and driveable, but the snow-stakes that mark the edge are a towering 8' high, a silent reminder this is the land of winter. I drive under a grey band of strata clouds that forces the morning light in at angles, like a cat under the duvet. The mountains glow with morning and are extinguished as I move northward. This valley is glacial for sure, plunked at the bottom of the rounded bathtub basin drained by the Salmon River.
Continue reading "From Stanley to Salmon"
Winter tiptoes silently on icy, sharpclawed toes
through the steep-walled mountain valley, over peaks now rimmed with snow
On the forest floor of Prairie Creek as afternoon withdraws
I wait, the gathering of shadows pouring night across my paws
Cathedral pines of Ponderosa, whispering of Firs, and the
clattering of streams whose mountain waters chill the Earth
Gone the chatter of the Magpies, gone the golden autumn glow,
just the silhouettes of Sawtooths and of antelope below
As the starlight thickens on the paths where elk have crossed,
in the shadows pools the silence, while the branches catch the frost
The northern forest bristles in these long, October nights
to hear the clicking nails of winter scratching daybreak into ice
Gawping, my words run
jubilant, downstream, a ribbon of
gunmetal insistent, persevering,
turquoise over a jumble of rounded
chattering, a clink of
magnesium, under clouds glowering
emerald flash, suddenly, the
sun - gone again, a pool of
navy, over slithering sandbeds, whisper of
trout, here before you, rainbow,
shadows, twisting in a
silence the stars also speak round
midnight, into the soft ears of
black bears padding down to drink among
ferns, laced with morning dew,
ivory mist rising in tendrils of hissing morning
light cerulean in cold air.
Still, I'm speechless, my
tea cooling as I wonder what
color is a
Over thirty years ago, a woman I loved informed me I was crazy, because
while I was sitting on one of the best beaches in the world, all I could
think of was traveling as far away as possible, and trying to send myself to
North Guam (it sounded far away, she said, and she loved the sound of the
word). Needless to say, when I stepped off the airplane at Hagatna Airport
on that far-flung island, my thoughts turned just momentarily back to her as
I beamed proudly.
But Guam was a mystery to me then, and it remains a mystery to me today. I
don't think I've ever been to a place I struggled as much to get a
feel for. To wit:
Continue reading "Guam"
This is the money shot, the one they sell you afterwards for $20. It's full
of excitement and energy and features what looks like me, crying like a
baby (the water was cold!). But it fails to capture all the things I will
remember most about this excursion.
The setting is the Nantahala River Gorge; the trip is courtesy of the
Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), who runs guided rafting trips down the river
all summer. I'd wanted to do this since I first saw it last summer. Our
guide was a gentleman named Malcolm, who at 60 years old was in the kind of
physical shape you can only maintain if you have a job like guiding rafts,
and he was knowledgable and had a respectful, loving connection to the
natural world I appreciated. All the rest of this trip's magic goes
Continue reading "Nantahala Gorge: land of the noonday sun"
A first memory: we're leaving the big city under a heat warning and three-digit, mid-summer temperatures. We cross into North Carolina just as a thunderstorm sweeps down across the forests and drenches everything in relief. The forests: they're everywhere, green and dark and lovely, thick with shadows and a thousand shades of green, rich with the smell of summer rain.
A second memory: it's our first week, the boxes are still heaped in corners; we are finding our bearings. In the early morning sun, an enormous buck dozes quietly at the forest edge behind our house. He's magnificent, stately, majestic, and offers some sort of welcome to this new, sylvan lifestyle. The White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus.
Continue reading "Building Forests"
Success stories are boring. But writing only about difficulty fills the
published world with information that only provides half the picture. I
keep reading stories about how Linux isn't good enough as a desktop, with
endless nitpicking about UX (user experience) choices. Boring: how did we
manage to produce so many UX experts over the past decade (criticism of the
Linux desktop used to at least focus on matters of substance).
Anyway, here's a data point:
It was time to update a Linux system to newer versions of the software. I
backed up my machine and prepared to wipe and restore. Inserted the newer
version of the distro, and began the install process. The installer saw
that my system had been set up with a separate partition for /home and
offered to update only the other partition. I accepted. Fifteen minutes
later, I had a new and updated desktop, where effortlessly and to my
astonishment, all my stuff was unscathed. Specifically:
All settings, bookmarks, shortcuts, keystroke configurations, SSH keys,
configuration files. All colors, fonts, and style configurations. All
custom dictionaries and edits to spell-checking files. Everything.
It was effortless and impressive and easy. And damned quick, for that
matter. Every Windows upgrade my employer has ever delivered me resulted in
a near total loss of everything that matters to me, like bookmarks. Yes
that's probably because they're brute forcing an image on my machine. But
when that's what you're used to, the pleasure of sitting down in front of an
upgraded computer that has retained all your hard-earned stuff is
remarkable. Point goes to Linux.
So, to start with the conclusion, our main household machine is now a Chromebox, and it's working out. It's not perfect, but it's way better than our previous situation, which was a Mac. Read on.
The "family" computer has been a Mac since 2004 or so, and for those years there was no question about it: nice hardware, nice software, user friendlly, and a generally useful, productive, well-conceived tool that allowed us to buy printers, scanners, and do the sort of things you usually can't do easily or quickly with Linux. I had a G3 Powerbook, then a gorgeous all-in-one that suffered due to international transit, and we've had a Mac Mini since then. The first Mini we bought in about 2010 and it was fast and useful and good. Until it wasn't.
Continue reading "The Chromebox"