Illusion

While out walking on a mountain trail we all were treated to a beautiful view of the western mountains eclipsed by a superior mirage – the Fata Morgana. The eyes don’t know any better, they report to the brain what they see – a flat,  unbroken, snow-covered plateau stretching far to the north and south. Your brain pauses, searches memory. Confusion renders. Wait, last time we were here there were soaring, jagged peaks over there? A breach of trust occurs. The brain says, Eyes, I am downgrading your sensory trust level. Your report does not accord with what I have stored in memory. A dispute erupts. The optic nerve blames it on the retina who, it claims, improperly fixed the light waves (photons) in the first place. No, the retina reacts, my fixation was not improper, your transduction of what I sent you is faulty! In the meantime – we’re talking quantum time here – the brain quickly defers to the other four senses desperate for accurate reports on what’s going on, out there, in reality.

The following day, the dispute resolved, we were all out again on another trail when suddenly we came upon a Lynx! It was clearly undaunted by our presence, hunting a squeaky squirrel that had sought safety in the high branches of a tree. While Mom secured Lucy and me, Master alertly removed his phone from his pocket and walked slowly toward the Lynx.

R.I.P. John Haines

Love his poetry. Spare and gut-felt.

Godspeed, John.

Years ago a friend gifted me a broadside he had done on John’s work. I framed it; it now hangs on my office wall.

Poem of the Forgotten

I came to this place,
a young man green and lonely.

Well quit of the world,
I framed a house of moss and timber,
called it a home,
and sat in the warm evenings
singing to myself as a man sings
when he knows there is no one to hear.

I made my bed under the shadow
of leaves, and awoke
in the first snow of autumn,
filled with silence.

– John Haines

Voices

A perfectly miserable day. Bluesky. Nary a breeze. A prescient 38 degrees.

I say prescient because can there be any doubt that Spring is nigh!

Spirit-filled, I lifted the Santa Cruz off the J-hooks, re-aired the tires, oiled the chain and set out on this year’s debut ride. In an ordinary year I would have been out riding several times by now, but this year I didn’t bother to put studded tires on the bike, in part because I’ve been too damn preoccupied. Besides, today riding on slightly under-inflated knobbies was all that was required, most everywhere the trail surface was  tacky and sticky. I pedaled a brisk 8-10 miles through Anchorage’s southern neighborhoods. The familiarity felt good. Like a walk in the mountains with the dogs a bike ride centers me. Introspection comes easy and it’s not unusual that I find myself talking to myself. The beauty of this symmetry is you always win an argument should one arise, the tragedy being you always lose.

As I pedaled about I thought about our science and where to take it next. Sometimes an idea will come to me and I feel an urgency to write it down lest I forget, but then I think, if it’s an idea of merit I won’t forget it. I should know better by now. When I was in the lab conducting experiments I never got into the useful habit of quickly committing important results or findings to my lab notes, I would leave that for the end of the day, but inevitably I would occasionally forget things. Why do we sometimes ignore our own good advice? ‘Tis a mystery.

Unless you’re the lead dog …

… the view never changes.

Staring up the butt of your buddy for nine days straight, or more, can’t be much fun.

Iditarod 39 Mock Start – Anchorage

Which is not to say there is no virtue in following a leader. Barring outright malevolence or insanity some leaders are actually worthwhile, and why put yourself in their role and take the associated risks when following close behind in a supportive role gets you to the same goal, albeit not first.

The uprights took in the celebration and captured a video at the (mock) start this morning in downtown Anchorage. By the way, the name of the race is pronounced I-Dit-A-Rod, not I-Did-A-Rod, which is what Mom says.

All but a few of the sixty two teams had already left by the time they arrived. One wonders what occupies these dogs thoughts for 1049 miles.


15 seconds till takeoff

Salmon Ice Sculpture

Changes

I want to welcome Master and Mom, both of whom I’ve invited to be contributors this blog. Author attribution now appears at the top of each post.

Be assured, however, that as Top Dog here and owner of this blog I will continue to maintain complete editorial control over all content.

Carry on.

Who’s Lying?

I was recently made aware of an article that appeared at Forbes.com, titled:

The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions

How can this be? For those public employees whose only source of wages is a paycheck from the state, all their compensation comes from the taxpayers. So what’s  going on?

The author bases his claim on something written by another person at Tax.com (url provided), who argued that Scott Walker, by saying that state workers should contribute more toward their pension and medical benefits was “casting the impression” that state workers presently don’t pay anything toward their pension plan, and that the contribution is actually an additional “gift” from the taxpayers. This author went on to say that state worker’s pensions are really funded by money that is part of the employees overall compensation package, negotiated by the union that represents them in collective bargaining. Hence, he says, employees’ pensions are really funded entirely by their own compensation, and taxpayers contribute nothing.

The Forbes author picked up on this and concluded that Wisconsin taxpayers were lied to by Scott Walker.  But I don’t think anyone in Wisconsin is really confused about where a public employee’s compensation comes from, or what Scott Walker meant by contribute more. Many commenters to the Forbes article certainly weren’t confused.

The point here isn’t to argue for Dems or Repubs or Tea Party or any of that. The point is honesty in reporting. In a supposed attempt to expose a lie, the author arguably committed one. At the very least he presented a straw man argument, although his replies to certain commenters indicates he doesn’t understand why.

Peace

Lots of shenanigans in Wisconsin recently. Opinions vary and a dime buys you a dozen. For all the outrage expressed at the role of BIG corporations and how they supposedly skew elections these days, ostensibly favoring republicans, where is the comparable outrage expressed at the millions of dollars public unions use specifically to get democrats elected, who in turn become the bosses of the public employees? Conflict of interest? On the other hand, I wouldn’t wish the job of a teacher in the public school system on anyone. Still.

And then there are these sweet little tweets. Makes Palin’s use of the word “target” a call for peace by comparison.

Oh well, I’m just pointing out the extant hypocrisy in all of this, largely on the part of the press but others as well. Regardless of your position, this is an issue for ThePeople® of Wisconsin to work through, the rest of us are spectators.

While other parts of the world variously unwind and spin out of control, we are thankful for the relative peace of a winter walk.

A New Basis For Judging The Champion

Okay, well, pretty uninspired if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, getting primped and prepped for the judges whose job it is to evaluate and select the champion based on our breed standard is entirely unobjectionable to this Airedale. Who doesn’t enjoy a beauty pageant?

However, may I humbly suggest an athletic event as an added basis for judging the champion?

Indeed, I propose the “Pillow Talk event.

Points awarded for 1) strength 2) stamina 3) aesthetics (e.g., verisimilitude).

By way of demonstration, yours truly engaged in Pillow Talk.

Carry on.

New Shoes

I wanted them magenta but had to settle for blue.

You see, I’m covered with hair and consequently my paws ball up with snow like wet mittens. Shoes prevent that. By contrast, Your Highness, aka sister Lucy, is covered by fur. Technically, hair and fur refer to the same thing, but like many things the difference is in the details. For example, Lucy has guard hairs, which give her paws an enhanced hydrophobic quality, highly optimized for shedding winter snow. I concede Lucy is physically superior to me in a number of important ways, which is why I have turned my focus to more cerebral matters, like writing this blog for example. Bringing you razor sharp leading edge commentary week in and week out as I do here isn’t something I was fortunate to be born with, I have to work at it. I’m just saying.

Speaking of new shoes, Mom scored a pair of her own for Valentine’s Day. They were a fitting accoutrement at the burlesque show she and Master took in Saturday night. The show was at the same venue as their wedding in downtown Anchorage. The ballroom has the look ‘n feel of an old west barroom. The show featured a barely dressed woman performing an acrobatic dance in a silken sheet suspended from the ceiling; several provocative skits each of which featured a finale of jiggling pasties; and periodic breaks for – wait for it… Booby prizes. The prize winner was invited to the stage and asked to kneel and place their hands behind their back, and then instructed – naughtily scolded actually – to withdraw the prize by mouth from the (very) large cleavage of the show’s MC. This was a crowd pleaser. Wadded up dollar bills were thrown onstage from every direction in the audience. All or most of which goes to support a good intention cause.