August 4th, 2008

Whale fluke

A day late, a dollar short

Here's a bad habit of mine, a habit I'm trying to make not-a-habit:

Sometimes, when it comes to being helpful, I seem to have the timing of a 17-year cicada. I'll be around, but on MY schedule! I'm the one who's likely to offer to wash someone's dishes as they dry off the last plate. I'd show up when someone's moving and all of the things they can have other people move is already moved, so they say "Well, no, I need to take care of that stuff myself so that's OK, I don't need your help," and I can go off and do something else.

The result? I can get the glowing personal satisfaction of knowing I was willing to help, without the effort of actually helping.

I used to be worse about this; then I recognized the pattern and realized it was like I was subconsciously planning for that to happen. And I do think I'm helpful...generally. I like being helpful. (Heck, I think I'm good at it. Four years ago I temped for three weeks at a Wells Fargo records office. That was an especially busy and productive three weeks, to the point where I literally had about one hour on the clock where I didn't have anything I could do, and I felt really at loose ends during that one hour. One hour out of 120. I was overachieving!)

At times I slip back towards that pattern. (It sort of happened last week, is all I'll say, so that's why it's on my mind.) And it's worse 'cause it's only occasional, and I'll realize what I'm doing, and feel less-than-good about it, and thus think to myself Dude, don't, and even if you can't be helpful that way you can be useful another way, OK? So maybe I've trained myself out of that pattern, or at least the fake-positive-reinforcement part of it. I may have tricked myself out of it! Like breaking an addiction!

To sum up, I know I can't do everything, but I like doing.
Blow My Mind

"Do they really think the earth is flat?" sounds like something Band Aid would sing

WOW. I boggle:
On 24 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission took a photo now known as Earthrise. To many, this beautiful blue sphere viewed from the moon's orbit is a perfect visual summary of why it is right to strive to go into space.

Not to everybody though. There are people who say they think this image is fake - part of a worldwide conspiracy by space agencies, governments and scientists.

Welcome to the world of the flat-earther...

On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the "conspiracy" that the Earth is round.

"People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers," says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee...
Read and boggle along.

(Linked by apocalypsos, who boggles as well: "I want to believe that article is a joke. And YET.")
Whale fluke

The Read Goes Ever On

Another quiet day. No work, so no earning, so it makes sense to do stuff that doesn't cost anything new. Thus, reading. (I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode where the kids go to a film called Ernest Goes Somewhere Cheap.)

I'm powering through an early 60s short-story collection done as a tie-in to The Twilight Zone, adapted by -- let's see -- Walter B. Gibson. I was rather surprised to find one page neatly missing -- no obvious tearing, just a sheet gone. It's a bruised-and-battered 1968 printing, so damage should be expected, and at least it wasn't the last page of the story ("The Curse of Seven Towers") that was missing...

I also dug out a coffee table book I'd borrowed a while ago, probably over a year ago, from my folks: Wake of the Whale, about whale photographers and researchers and the whales and other marine creatures they track. I'd never read its text (by Kenneth Brower) before now, but as a kid I devoured the photos (by William R. Curtsinger), some of which are surreal and alien and many of which are beautiful.

I've always been drawn to whales; I find their existence comforting. They have power that befits their size and grace that belies it. And knowing there's a kind of intelligence behind those giant eyes that's not exactly like the intelligence we have...well, that reminds me of the variety and grandness of the world. (And yes, I felt all this before humpback whales saved the world by talking to that giant probe in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.) I think I once surprised Alicia with how much I knew about whales, knowledge which I started unloading on her when we visited a traveling exhibit of whale models, including a life-sized orca.

How drawn am I to whales? As a kid I had a recurring dream-image of an island-sized gray whale, off of the U.S. Pacific coast and occasionally close enough to shore that people could see it. And in my dream-world, the whale never got harassed; no one clambered onto it, certainly no one tried to harpoon and kill it. But, at least once, I did swim out to it. And I can still remember that sense, exaggerated by dream-logic, of this vast life and vast intelligence embodied in this vast creature slowly parting the waters. Wake of the Whale reminds me of that.