Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

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Anecdotal v Empirical

I was mentioning to someone how I’d observed an increase in traffic accidents during major pattern shifts like Daylight Savings Time, and she asked me if there was a study.

It turns out there was one such study submitted as a correspondence to the New England Journal of Medicine, but it focuses specifically on the shifts into and out of DST. The results run counter to my observations, but then traffic in the Bay Area is not stationary.

It would be interesting to run controls against other pattern shifts, like Back to School week or something, but this might be harder to measure.

Ozymandias

The Shelley poem has reentered the public consciousness thanks to a Breaking Bad trailer. In summary, it’s about impermanence, particularly with respect to the product of mankind’s efforts.

When I look at the stats on this blog, I see  that had a significant number of daily actives, which peaked in 2009 or thereabouts, and has since seen a precipitous decline.

Google Reader’s end certainly had an impact, which had it’s own rise and fall, but the effects were seen earlier.

Outside of this blog, the anchors in my life have shifted over time, albeit slowly. As they’ve changed, the empires of experience and familiarity built around them have similarly met with decline.

But there are moments when something from that past resurfaces, and I see that it too was once as great a part of my life as Ozymandias was to his fictional empire.

The Weight

I’ve been flying around a lot the past few weeks and completely went off my routine. My bag has felt heavier, and I’ve generally been tired.

I couldn’t wait for today to end, but before it did, I would be renewing something that had until a few weeks ago had been routine: guitar lessons. It was mostly something to check off the list, but when L answered the door, smiling as usual, I felt something lift.

He asked me about my travels and what the autumn leaves had been like in Boston. I could take a hint, so I smiled, tuned my guitar, and started playing while he comped.

We then spent a few minutes catching up. What had I been up to musically in the past few weeks? I mentioned that I’d tried recording myself play a few songs. Which ones? I started playing and singing, and he joined me:

Flew into Nazereth,
I was feeling ’bout half past dead
Just need some place,
Where I can lay my head.
“Hey, Mister, can you tell me,
Where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned, shook my hand,
“No,” was all he said.

I took a load off, and we followed up The Band with a bar or two of Frank Ocean and Fleetwood Mac, before moving onto some Yusuf Islam (meow), during which L gave me some pointers on palm muting.

“That’s quite the repertoire,” L mentioned, and offered that he thought of me earlier that day when he taught one of his students to play “Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa”, which I had inadvertently taught him a few months ago.

We played for a bit when he asked me about “Blackbird”. I mentioned that he’d given me the tabs before, but I didn’t have it in my head yet. L quickly ran through the chord positions, and I mentioned that the tabs didn’t have the chords, which made it seem more complicated than it was.

L immediately printed out a new copy of the tabs and had me start going through them, marking down the chords. It was a great exercise, the progression was really simple (I, ii, iii, I, IV, V, vi), and it made me feel like Paloma or one of her classmates in Joshua Davis’s recent Wired article.

We ended the night with a run through Bon Iver, talked about Croatian wine, and then it was time…

To head back to Ms. Fanny,
You know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her
Regards for everyone.

Chihulloween

The Sculptor was half-blinded by glass, but after the accident, he requested a glass eye, which he covered with an eye patch. He was told by his doctor to take it easy, but he went bodysurfing later that day. Lacking depth perception, he misjudged a wave, slipped, and injured himself yet again. The end result was limited use of his dominant arm.

The Sculptor could no longer sculpt on his own, so he hired a team to sculpt for him. Lacking his dominant arm and depth perception, the team needed to interpret his meaning from charcoal drawings he constructed by holding a pack of charcoal crayons and swirling them around a page. The results had made The Sculptor nothing short of famous.

Now an aisle separated him and one member of that team who had gone onto personal success. The Sculptor Cyclops zeroed in on his once protege, his jowls looking ready to take a bite. His attorneys had submitted into evidence photos of the sculptures that The Protege had evidently copied. It was an elaborate glass chandelier. They then showed a photograph of a recent sculpture by The Protege.

The Protege’s attorneys looked on amused. They held up the blueprint for the original sculpture. It consisted of a smudged charcoal line waving along the side of the page and a stick figure with an eye patch holding onto the line and smiling.

The Sculptor’s lawyers told him to ignore it, and that it would never hold up legally, but The Sculptor knew what it meant for his career if the media found out: Apocalypse Now. The horror, the horror.

Emmy

So, I heard you won an Emmy. Congrats!

Thanks, Jimbo. Since we were little kids on the playground, I knew I could always count on your support, that little push on the swing set.

Glad our bond is so strong. So you don’t think the fame or recognition is going to change you?

Not a bit. I’m still the same guy I’ve always been.

Great… when can I see the trophy?

Oh, you can’t. The trophy’s in the office. Employees only.

I thought you said this award wouldn’t change you, but now you’re saying you’re too good for me.

That’s not exactly what I said. It’s always been the case that you can’t enter my office. That’s just how things work at the NSA.

I still don’t understand how the NSA won an Emmy.

I’m not at liberty to divulge that, but if you see it in a Snowden leak, just know we had our reasons.

There’s that distancing again. You’ve changed.

I haven’t changed.

Then prove it.

All right. Let’s take it back to the swing set.

I guess some things never change.

Checkmate

The pawn takes a year or so to take its first steps forward: one or two. That’s when things start to get interesting. Eventually, multiple pieces are in motion, and some decide to build a castle. For some, the endgame arrives too soon, and for others, it ends in stalemate. There are still some who think they can win, and they devise elaborate strategies, and pore over books and papers.

Some question the fairness. Who let the knights move that way? Why does the king only move one step when it’s the most important game? It’s not about justice, though, which is subjective. It’s about the rules, and the rules aren’t going to change. Just like tic tac toe.

A Story

It’s a crowded room, with most people grouped up in twos, threes, and fours. Hands hold glasses of wine or bottles of beer, laughter follows from the exchange of words. There’s a person standing on the edge of one of these groups, head behind the shoulders of two people, trying to join in. Someone sidles by and says, “Let me tell you a story.” A new group forms.

It’s a long table. There’s a conversation just past the halfway mark, and the farther end struggles to hear. Someone at the far side asks a neighbor a question. They respond and end with, “What about you?” A new story begins.

It’s been ages since an update, and a tool many people used to subscribe to this RSS feed no longer exists. There may no longer be a reader, but it’s time to tell stories to whomever will listen.