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Annual comment:

Wednesday, August 28, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Here we are yet again with the annual Annual Entry in the weblog.


Pretty astounding.

Wednesday already! Same chair in the same corner, same bay, same waves, same house, same people. Having a very good time, very refreshment of spirit, but haven't felt like talking, like writing, much. What follows will no doubt be at least as long and rambling and self-indulgent as ever.

Woke up this morning at six or so (surprised, not I suspect for the first time, to observe that when the sun rises in the morning it doesn't rise from behind the same piece of horizon that it set behind the night before), finished a very silly paperback SF novel that I started yesterday ("The Rakehells of Heaven", by John Boyd ("Good night, John Boyd")), and finally decided to get out the computer and type away a bit, for auld lang syne.

Arrived on Saturday as usual, and (not as usual) were greeted by two bags of goodies (one on the counter, one in the 'fridge) from Certain Friends (no link here because I'm offline, and boy does that feel strange after having been spoiled by DSL at home for these last months) who were leaving these general parts just as we were arriving (among other things, milk, orange juice, crackers, a tiny pie, a thing of Geniune Wild Maine Blueberries, a card, and a general sense of hello that was very much appreciated). Saturday was cloudy and lightly raining, a soft cool welcome back to the bay. Saturday night it poured, or it must have poured given how wet everything was in the morning.

Did nothing that I recall on Sunday, settling in and admiring the rain-washed gorgeousness of the day. In a sudden burst of daring I tried the door to the little guest house next door (a few feet away from the main cottage here), and it was open, and I gave myself the penny tour. Two bedrooms downstairs, a livingroom and terrace and tiny kitchen upstairs, all panelled in the same light (pine?) wood as the main house, various northeasterly decorations and souvenirs, a canoe hanging above the stairway, an ancient tube radio sitting on a bureau, a zillion more used paperbacks in a big wall bookshelf in the livingroom. Uncluttered and waiting for renters, including the same "Note To Those Renting Our Cottage" sign that we have over here.

We now suspect that we've rented the little guest house without knowing it, and that in fact we may have been renting it in prior years too, at least some of them. The agreement, such as it is, doesn't really say.

Monday we went into Town and I bought still more books at the Friends of the Library Used Book Store, and we had Ice Cream at the usual place and shopped at the usual places and stopped at the usual public restrooms.

Part of our usual pattern is that in the evenings the kids watch videos on the big TV in the livingroom and M watches tennis (is it the U. S. Open that's always happening this week?) on the little TV in the bedroom, but when we arrived this year the little TV was in the livingroom and the big TV was gone. Trusting to serendipity I stopped at Bob's TV and Photo in town, and they happened to have a big used TV for fifty bucks, so I bought it (from the of course heartbreakingly lovely smiling Bob's girl) and we brought it home and restored things to The Way They Should Be.

Various inmates of the house have questioned my sanity. But if Bob's had had TVs for rent for nine dollars a day, they would I'm sure have thought renting one was perfectly ordinary. People, I tell ya! (And of course now the little daughter wants to have this new used TV in her room when we get home; hmmm...)

Tuesday (that was yesterday at the moment, but will be longer ago tomorrow) the other grownups all went to some Shopping Town to shop, and I stayed at the house with the kids, reading and pottering about and rolling my soul around in the flour of the sweet ocean air. (Did I mention I made a loaf of bread on Sunday? I think it was Sunday.)

I also took the kids into town again (mostly out of a selfish desire to have lobster for lunch), and was proud of myself for how well I did the "one adult four kids" thing (although the little daughter is so big and responsible now that it was more "two adults three kids", and I'm even prouder about that).

When the other grownups returned with their new consumer goods, I took my first swim in the bay (the little daughter declined and no one else seemed interested). It was very cold, about as usual, probably low to mid sixties °F. When I first got in I thought "whoa, this is very cold I'll just paddle around for a second and then get out", but after a second of paddling around the aesthetics of the thing (and that's not really the word I'm looking for) got to me, and I stayed there for some long minutes more, bouyed up by the dense dark water with the small waves rolling out to sea from the head of the bay, the wind sometimes rippling the surface with ripples, overlaying the waves with a finer pattern of information, all those terabytes, petabytes of facts surrounding me, and the waves making wet burbling sounds crossing over my shoulders under my ears.

I'm deeply puzzled about why it felt so good to be there in the absurdly cold water, why in general it feels so good to be here, why this sunlight and this wind and these smells are so producing of pleasure compared to ordinary sunlight and wind and smells (which are by no means without their own ordinary moments of bliss, but not like this, not this always-on effect of faeries drawing their silks invisibly over your skin).

There's a lobster boat going by, loaded with traps.

So I watched Luis Bruñuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire", one of the DVD's I brought along (I also watched the "In the Beginning" episode of Babylon 5, something I'm not sure I'm glad I did; it might have been more fun to watch the episodes in their proper order, not knowing what happened on The Line until the original viewers did; on the other hand I've never found any B5 episodes except this double of "The Gathering" and "In the Beginning", so waiting might have meant waiting for a long time).

"That Obscure Object of Desire" was odd and fun. Now I want to read the novel ("The Woman and the Puppet") that it's based on, and see some of the other movies ("The Devil is a Woman") made from the same story. The DVD had extra stuff including some scenes from a silent movie based on the same book. The scenes were interesting, but also screamingly funny just because the idiom was so different then, movements and facial expressions wildly overdone by today's standards, poses symbolic and unnatural, motions representative but not convincing. What things about today's movies will watchers in 2102 find screamingly funny?

There's this scene in TOOOD where the main characters are talking in a park, and at the end of the scene he goes to a bench and picks up this burlap sack, an object that doesn't go at all with his wealth and elegant dress, and puts it over his shoulder, and they walk off, him carrying the sack. The pamphlet that comes with the DVD includes an interview with Bruñuel, in which he says:

It was a gag that came to me. The staff had left a bag with wooden wedges from the dolly. Suddenly it came to me, for the scene in which Fernando Rey talks with her and says, "Why are you like this with me?" that he pick up the bag and toss it over his shoulder. Afterwards even I wondered: why did I do that?

Which is comforting if true; no intentional hidden meanings that I'm too dense or ignorant to pick up on, just the arbitrary patterns of narrative.

The sack appears at the end of an earlier scene (filmed later?); the characters walk off in one direction, and the camera for a few seconds follows a less elegant-looking person, walking by with the sack over his shoulder. And in the last scene of the movie, a woman takes some sewing out of what looks like the same sack. And, most amusingly and most smelling of gag, in another scene the main character is leaving his house, and a servant calls after him "Sir, you've forgotten your sack!" and he answers "That's alright, I'll have it picked up".

Seeing that this new program was like in form to an old program, I made for myself a copy of that old program under another name, and I pared away all that was not needful. And I wrote in the new program a comment, saying "do the real work here", and I coded in that place a stub, and that stub wrote a fixed output string and returned success.

Looking around the house for books to bring along on the Vacation, I found the book "Secrets of Sacred Space" that I bought up here two years ago, and I brought it along, and now I've read it. It was, just as I thought when I bought it, a neat and interesting book about the structure and design of monuments and sacred spaces (Stonehenge, ceremonial barrows, astronomical monuments), and ley lines and water dowsing and protection from evil influences, that would be even neater and more interesting if it were in any sense true.

Sitting on the pier, I slid easily into a meditative state. I became very aware of the sun on my eyelids, the sounds of the water around me and the birds passing above me, the weight of my body on the old wood, the counting of my breath. I passed through that place and beyond it, my consciousness expanding outward into that huge cool space.

I was the vast contentment of the deep water, the smooth motion of the waves, the hurrying chaos of the ripples, and I was the bird in the air and the air around its wings. I was the motorboat chuffing through the water, and the water yielding around its prow.

I felt for the guidance of the place's spirits, for the direction of their desires, their knowledge, their cosmic perspective. Looking for the overarching intelligences, I found at first only a million aspects. The boat's motor, old and dirty, was in one aspect frustrated, its aura of power and function cloudy and wounded by the misfiring of the cylinders. But in other aspects it was content and filled with joy, the gasoline bursting when the spark came and happy not to burst when it did not, the atoms of the spark gap and the atoms of the clinging dirt adhering to each other by immutable laws, the spark gathering and sparking when it could, content not to spark, to wait in quiet waiting, when it could not.

Fish darting, fear made flesh, from the shadow of the fishing birds, but each atom, each molecule, each fiber, of both fish and bird dancing only content, whether the bird struck and fed, or flew on.

So I spread my senses thinner and finer, casting for the faintest hint of overarching purpose or desire, of universal intelligence that would pick out one aspect from the others, would reveal the spiritual order of the whole. And gradually I became aware of something, of a center of meaning and purpose, something centered at a certain spot in that space, an animating spirit that I might hope to contact.

I focused my consciousness on that spot, on finding that spot and reaching that intelligence, and slowly I found it, found it beside the water, in a place where the sun shone and the wind blew, and a spirit there felt them, and judged them, and gave them purpose. I approached that spirit with my mind, and circled around it, and finding it quite still I merged into it, the being that gave meaning to all the atoms in its sphere.

And I opened my eyes, and stretched, and stood up there on the old wooden pier, and took another breath of the cool air, and I went up to make lunch.

That's a parable inspired by "Secrets of Sacred Space" and my own secular humanism (to use a reader's accusatory noun). It would be neat to be able to contact the divine being or beings that give purpose to the world, but as far as I can tell, there ain't nobody here but us chickens. You want to contact the being that gives purpose to the world, just reach over and shake your own hand.

Between that last writing and this one I made another loaf of bread, and the other grownups went off to town to buy more things (some of which, I must say in their defense, were milk and butter and things; I'm actually very fond of these adults, I just don't share their liking for stores).

I watched the kids, and read more of "Affinity" (did I mention that I finished "Tipping the Velvet", and that it was good?). I also read an odd comic book that I picked up on our usual stop at Traveller Food and Book Store on the way up; a "Kid Eternity #1" from some pomo 1993 Vertigo series. Dark and hip and incomprehensible. For dinner, after the other grownups were back, we had Hawai'ian pizza and Piña Coladas.

Remember Piña Coladas, from all those years ago? Those were the young and innocent times. And here we are again in that same window.

There's something to be said for a ritualized annual taking stock. I suppose if you want a whole community to do it you have to tie it to stories about imaginary friends in the sky who really want you to do it, otherwise half the people might not show up, because they're washing their hair, or the last episode of m*a*s*h is on. But being a solitary sort of person, I can do it by myself (here in my place of solitude where everyone on the planet with an internet connection can read it).

So what's happened, what's changed, what's grown or arrived or departed since last time? Not a huge amount; life is pretty calm. At work we're doing less of that "virus" stuff and more of that "reinventing the future of computing" stuff, but it's all still computers and ideas and programs and like that. At home we're all a year older, which means different things to different people.

Oh, do you remember about that flower garden? Turns out wildflowers grow back, at least in the northeastern United States, and grow back very enthusiastically and irresistably. Little daughters don't get littler again, but still; the flowers are there again, and she's still here, laughing in the pool rather than picking wildflowers, but hey.

Shall I make the traditional list of books that are lying around? Maybe later. Right now I think I'll go fiddle with the Problems of Consciousness pages; I want to see if my new improved understanding of Searle's theory (such as it is) leads to any new words, maybe polish up the page about free will a bit, and generally wordsmith and think and stuff.

This is getting sort of long already, isn't it? And it's still Wednesday...

Now it's Thursday (I think I'll let this entry be dated Wednesday, for no particular reason), and we've just come back from dinner at The Daily Catch in Boothbay Harbor (today's Seafood Restaurant Recommendation; very good fish chowder, lobster, clam rolls, etc, etc). I didn't do all that much to the POC pages, as it turned out, but I did add one new one (Consciousness and Determinism) that isn't exactly what I set out to talk about, but came out kind of interesting, in a tentative way.

I finished "Affinity"; it was very good also. The one thing that I thought was going to annoy me about the book when I finished it turned out not to be a problem at all, having been very skillfully taken care of in the last few pages. Now I'm reading Mary Roberts Reinhart's "The Door", an entertaining (if somewhat long) murder mystery (original copyright 1930); I think it's one of the books I picked up at the Friends of the Library Book Store.

And it's raining. Has been all day, pretty much, with just enough breaks for a few games of tag outside and walks down to the floating dock to admire the grey beauty of the bay. I'm feeling a little muzzy headed and lethargic, a little perpetually sleepy. We'll see how much more gets written here before we're near a Net connection again and it finally gets posted.

A beautiful sunny Friday morning, everything outside rain-soaked and gleaming. Clearly time for a Long List of Books. Let's see what we have...

Three Sarah Waters books, "Tipping the Velvet" (finished), "Affinity" (finished), and "Fingersmith" (not begun), that M brought up for me to read because she liked them so much; "The Rakehells of Heaven" (finished, very silly), and Mary Roberts Rinehart's "The Door" (good most of the way through, but runs out of steam at the end just where it's most important), and Timothy Zahn's "The Blackcollar" (Vintage 1983 SF, apparently Zahn's first novel, solid military ninja and plucky humans resisting nasty alien empires stuff), Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science" (which continues to be irritating, and hasn't gotten much more interesting; I resist the urge to complain about it right now, though).

Five paperbacks on the windowsill above the bed that I haven't even started, bought at either the Friends of the Library Used Book Store in town or at Traveller's, I forget: Spider Robinson "Time Pressure", Poul Anderson "Tales of the Flying Mountains" (which I suspect I may have at home; I fear I'm starting to lose my cherished ability to recognize paragraphs I've read before), William F. Buckley Jr's "High Jinx" (expected to be silly), Isaac Bashevis Singer "A Friend of Kafka" (Singer's an author I always mean to read more of), and C. J. Cherryh's "Chanur's Legacy".

On the nightstand, lying on top of "Secrets of Sacred Space" (finished, see above) and next to the usual thick blue book of blank quadrille pages, is James Hillman's "The Dream and the Underworld", picked up for a dime somewhere. Here's a sample passage:

It is, however, another vision altogether to look at dreams as phenomena that emerge from a specific archetypal "place" and that correspond with a distinct mythic geography and then, further, to reflect this underworld in psychological theory. By connecting psychological theory with mythological theoria ("viewing", "speculation"), we are essaying a psychology of dreams that tries to keep a sense of underworld always present in our work with them.

This from, apparently, a professional psychologist. Nice work if you can get it. (Ooooh, aren't we getting cynical and materialistic in our old age, though? Need to read more Lovecraft (Hillman obviously has, heh heh heh).)

Ah, wait, here's the bag from Traveller Food and Book. It has that Kid Eternity comic I mentioned above, some books that the rest of the family bought (including an 1855 edition of "Westward Ho" and a tiny New Testament, but I'll only list my own exhaustively or this will get even more too long), a hardcover (it was free) of Jack Williamson's "Mazeway", Pohl and Williamson's "The Starchild Trilogy" (I think I may have this in the pile of things at home I've never quite felt like reading), John Lymington's "Froomb!" ("After a terrifying journey into the future, would he be allowed to return and warn the world of what lay ahead?"; the little boy found this one; he thought the title was funny), John Barnes "A Million Open Doors", Mack Reynolds "Lagrange Five", and "The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction" (second series, 1953).

But maybe the coolest thing in the Traveller bag is a slim volume with "K & E MINING TRANSIT BOOK F 363 A" embossed into the cover. On the inside front cover it has a table of Distances from Side Stakes for Cross-Sectioning, and on the inside back cover is a set of trigonometric forumulae, and the last few pages are a few tables, including "Tangents and Externals to a 1° curve". In the rest of the book the left-hand pages are ruled with horizontal blue lines divided into six columns by vertical red lines, and the right-hand pages are five-to-the-inch quadrille paper ruled in blue with a single vertical red line down the center.

But those pages aren't blank; someone doing some actual practical work of some kind has written things in pencil on the great majority of them. Tables of numbers and symbols titled things like "Elevations on Cor. Format Sheere", and "#10 S.B.N.E. of Cloverfield", diagrams with lengths and angles carefully marked, "Location of Shottoff Near Water Tank June 11/40", "Tieing to State Bounds East Dist.". It seems to have been done in 1940, and I have no idea what it actually is, but it's way cool. I'd love to know who did it and why, what the pages mean, and how it ended up in the free books section of Traveller F & B.

Other than them things, I have the B5 and TOOOD DVD's mentioned above, a couple issues of Wired, a couple issues of American Scholar, a New York Times Book Review or two, John Barthes "Lost in the Funhouse", Henry Miller "Tropic of Cancer", and Eco's "Kant and the Platypus" (those last three all with bookmarks in them, suggesting that I've started them and then for whatever reason ground somewhat to a halt). Oh, and then I have one of my Rio600s (have to tell the story of why I have two sometime), with some Alan Watts lectures and Susie Bright "In Bed"s on it.

I feel like I should say something wise about the relationship of this log entry to the two previous Annual Issues, in the way of taking stock and noting the progress of the years and generally being profound. I notice I haven't included a boat picture this year, but then we haven't taken any boats (unless we do today). I also haven't included the annual poll. But it's never too late! So maybe we'll close this that, as a reward for anyone reading (or just scrolling) down this far:

Third Anniversary Poll:
What do you like best about this site?

What do you like least?

So there you go! Now I think I will wander off and read and/or do things in the lovely day, and probably not do any more of this here log-writing until the next entry, sometime after we get back home.


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