Thursday, March 31, 2011


In the short story "Scanners Live in Vain," there is a social elite who have had their access to their basic five senses removed surgically, only able to be restored at temporary stretches by another procedure.  Basic self awareness and care has to be done by using surgically embedded computer equipment to "scan" themselves.  This arrangement allows basic functioning and survival, but is inefficient enough that during a group meeting, they have to scan each other to detect day to day things like broken fingers.

So today my wife asked me how I felt or how I was doing.  I reported that I felt fine, but that me being me, I might not know for a while if there was any change in status or how significant it might be.  I tend to be somewhat blind to my emotions.  This can be true to the extent that sometimes I have to read myself by observing bodily symptoms.  For instance the other day I was running late to work and wanted to print off a practice exam so I could keep working on it during my lunch break.  The professor threatened that if we didn't do these practice exams we would flunk the actual midterm and the midterm was tomorrow.   I went to print, but the computer couldn't see the printer through the USB hub.  So after repeated experimentation I decided to move the usb connection out of the hub and into the computer directly.  Then I could print.  But the paper ran out.  So I had to get more paper.  The office floor was rather covered with stuff and I had to dance on tip toe around objects to avoid stepping on anything I didn't mean to.  Having crossed the floor, I had to remove a stack of objects from on top of the ream of paper to be able to get any out.  After reorganizing the section of the closet I needed to get at, I danced back across the room to the printer, removed a large stack of items in front of the printer tray so I could open it, opened it, loaded it, finished the print job, put all the items back on the shelf in front of the print tray where they belonged, and dashed to work having eaten probably only half the lunch I normally would and having a rather small dinner to cover me for the rest of the night.  I arrived on time, but only by a margin of perhaps 30 seconds.  As the phone calls begin, I wondered to myself, "odd, I am having the swelling in the throat feeling accompanied by a strong gag reflex that is characteristic of my bodily state when under extreme or chronic stress, I presume I must be stressed, I wonder why?"  After thinking about it for a few moments, I concluded my hurried meal and dance with the printer and office must have stressed me despite being free from any acute sense of aggravation or emotional conflict.

This is typical of my emotional experience.  For another example, I have gone through several weeks of significant depression before realizing with the help of my wife that I was feeling depressed.

So, its cancer.  How do I feel?  I don't know.  I'm feeling less worried than I might because I know the general category of cancer involved has a lower than most fatality rate.  But I also don't know the specifics of how this particular case compares to the typical and lower than most isn't exactly comforting because it still involves a significant number of fatalities.  Little comments and signals suggest a worry that she might not ever see my new apartment, when I presumed before that this would happen with the year.  That level of worry transmits itself to me, and I worry.  I've been hoping everybody would stay around long enough for my son to remember all of his grandparents in some meaningful way.  But will that happen?  I don't know anymore.

How do I feel?  I don't know, I'm still scanning in vain.

This post was written just after midnight of 3-27-11, but post dated to 3-31-11.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wood duck box... a box, made of wood, made for a wood duck

So today I tramped around a ranch and got myself thoroughly muddy.  And more than mud, there were cowpies every few feet.  I visited a ranch to help take care of some birdhouses a conservation group had put up on their property.  Other than the stepping in cowpie every few feet, it was actually a lot of fun.  The basic proceedure was simple.  Open up the birdhouse, remove all accumulated debris, replace with fresh wood shavings, close birdhouse.  In reality it involved coming face to face with an owl, climbing and bracing ladders, sneaking around barbed wire fences, avoiding camouflaged electric fences, pondering the bleached bones of bovines and rodents, and knocking birdhouses off trees and crossing my fingers that old rotten eggs wouldn't land on me as they fell.

Some of the birdhouses were placed so high on the trees that nobody could get to them to do proper maintenance, so we had to take them down and reinstall them and heights normal people could get at.  But the bolts used to install them had sunken into the trees so you couldn't get at them with a wrench.  So it involved a lot of wrenching, drilling, shoving them with logs, and levering them off the trees.  The Eagle Scouts who built these tree boxes deserve some credit, the bird houses took the abuse and survived to be installed at a new height.  But when it comes down to it, I like plastic wood duck boxes better than wood wood duck boxes.