Horns of Strange Places

My family recently visited Chicago, as we have done a couple times before.  Our Portland ears are always stunned by how frequently and aggressively people honk there.

I remembered one early morning walk when my son  was young enough to be strapped to my belly. He kept asking ‘what’s that?’ with increasingly frequency and curiosity. It took several long walks to realize that he was confused about horns, and had probably never heard them before.

This time we talked about how some people probably use the horn regularly at the first hint of delay or frustration. Some probably do so and forget about it a block later, never having their pulse increase or attention diverted significantly. It’s just part of the ride.

I remember all of the times when I was honked at this trip. I’ll likely remember it for years – how nervous and angry i got. It isn’t part of the ride for me, but it should be.

Part of respecting others is respecting their intent. Holding on to unintended harm is empty weight, something no one gave and no expects me to keep.

conflate

I went to the highway like I used to go to the library in the pre-Internet days. I would walk the couple of miles reviewing my headful of questions, and go over my notebook so by the time I got there, I would be ready to research answers for the weeks’ questions.

I got to the highway thinking about what I needed to change to help ease the mid-life-crisis feelings that had been growing over the years.  I could have looked for symbols and oddities in the wooded roads to the highway, but I don’t spend a lot of time in the woods. I spend a lot of time looking at trash on the side of the road. So I was going to the highway.

When I got there I looked South and looked North.  When I looked North, right near what used to be a cafe where years ago I registered nshrine.com in a fit of vacation inspiration.  I saw a white lump in the grass. “That’d be it.”

vocabularyAs I got closer I got disappointed.  It looked to be directory, maybe even a phonebook.  Those can be inspirational, but nothing that could really get me going, nothing right for something like this.  I decided to go with the bibliomancy method.  I would think of the question in very precise terms, pick a random section, and pretend the contents were some confused person’s answer.

The paragraph I chose was a definition of “conflate”.  Now the challenge is to wedge this into the problem space. Shouldn’t be too hard.

 

 

BusinessWeek and a Free Lunch

Art WellsI was recently written about on businessweek.com. In the main article, my situation is introduced as exceptional.

The next day, I went to a Lunch 2.0 and met a lot of very enthusiastic, successful and positive people.

My success always feels so tentative. I honestly don’t know if I will have any work in April. In February, that’s how I felt about March. In January, that’s how I felt about February.

I’m learning to take credit for my success, but I think I’m doing about enough of that now. I’ve been very, very lucky. I’ve worked hard, to be sure, but I’m very, very lucky.

Scent In The Air

My allergies tell me it’s officially Spring, even if the calendar doesn’t. I’ve got some great creative professional opportunities coming up, stalling, turning around, running away, then coming back. I’m trying to keep patient, but not too much so.

I saw this when I was wondering if I had chosen the right profession, and if it could keep me properly challenged. It reminded me that inviting creativity isn’t the role of my profession. I’m responsible to remain creative. I remembered working in factories and having my head full of ideas all day and writing all night.

My professional choices don’t give me creative opportunities; Every moment does, if I’m creative enough.

No Really, The Answers Aren’t Down There

I’ve been on a strong atheistic kick lately. I’ve really lost most of my patience for my impulsive defensiveness about this too. I’m here now and pretty happy.

I got caught on a funny loop on a walk the other day. Being wholly atheistic makes me love people more. People are mostly theistic. I become more tolerant of religions thereby. But wait, if I care about people I should care that they believe in the truth. That last step is escaping me no matter how many frothy, militant atheists I listen to, but it is a conclusion I take, but not to heart.

Confused, I look down and saw this. It’s hardly dropped from heaven, or satori, or whatever, as there’s a temple across the street that has been the source of fantastic litter in the past. Nonetheless, my own absurd religion caused me to contemplate its possible meaning for an hour or so.

Google Buzz, Augmented Reality and E-Commerce

Years ago (more than three years at least) I guessed that Google would be moving into the augmented reality game and make it an e-commerce tool. I was in the 3D-for-e-commerce biz so it was hopefully thinking at best, but I kept seeing signs that this was the direction they were heading. When Google bought SketchUp, I knew I was onto something, though still only steps ahead of the hopeful thinking.

As Google’s 3D warehouse started to focus on city architecture, as Google started to send out QR code stickers to businesses, as Street View, Goggles and Navigation is added to Android, as rumors fly of Street View going into store interiors, even as they jumped ahead with the well-killed Lively, my guess can now be played up all like knew what I was talking about. The way Buzz just debuted with huge potential, I suspect that Google is looking for social media to accelerate the adoption of their future tools. They will have an at least adequate response to Foursquare and Twitter, even if it never gets to their level of adoption or interface. Grouped with Navigation, Maps, Calendar, Street View and eventual Google Earth, 3D Warehouse and Goggles, these products may become a complete and popular integration of e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retail. Wave too will have a great place as online conversations and social interactions become more and more location-based.

I’m now convinced that Google will buy Layar, or release a better-than-Layar product within the next calendar year. Within two years they will have an Android powered device that will be ad-driven and insanely cheap, if not free, that will have all these products together. I think I might be ready for that. Will you?

The Spot of The Thought

My recent experience of listening to audio books has made me more focused on the location of thought. When recalling the material I heard, I was more apt to recall its place in the work by remembering where I was in my walk when I heard it.

I remember the exact locations where I was when I had thoughts important to me decades ago. I’m sure we all do. I remember hearing that Homeric storytellers would hold a path, or a mansion, in their minds as they told the Iliad. Each door and corner unfolded the verses and held the plot. Our thoughts lay a map upon the ground we’ve traveled and our past best follows a familiar path.

Lately I’ve been bringing everything back to some lost commentator’s thoughts on hunting and tracking. We became storytellers and scientists in order to make sense of the evidence on the ground. We ate by how well we could create a good story, tell it to those who could help, and follow it through to the prey. We speak hungry steps.

The years in this town has created a topography of memory for me. That corner holds a stack of dream interpretations. That alley is where I find confidence. I’m humble near the tracks and happy near that vacant lot. There’s a block downtown that is more sacred to me than any church.

I’ve been doing a lot of looking into geolocation and augmented reality lately, not as a technology I’ll bring into my career, nor as a scientific curiosity, but as a mode of expression my mind has always had, and poetry we’ve always sung. Could be fun.

Cut The Page

cut-the-pageI was listening to the audio book The Greatest Show on Earth on my walk. Dawkins mentions the somewhat familiar fact that Darwin had a copy of Mendel’s theories in his library, but it’s pages remained uncut. If Darwin had read those pages, Dawkins speculates, the history of biology would have changed greatly.

The opposite theme is so much more common. What if some artist hadn’t met another in a cafe? What if he had been on that plane that crashed? What if I hadn’t gone that way on my walk? It’s almost refreshing to know that Darwin was a knife stroke and an idle afternoon away from great progress. The world missed a profound innovation that day he troubled over a letter to a cousin and napped.

I hear these things and see a torn up ad under a bush. I don’t have free time, but I’m in a period of far less structure and pressure, and a whole world of opportunity. I will miss the greatest opportunities, and the least. I just hope that I cut that damned page.

The End of The Road. Runner.

I woke up in the middle of the night with this story in my head. This makes me think that my mind is just echoing something, like something I read in SPY magazine, or saw on Saturday Night Live at any rate, it’s stuck in my head, like a tv jingle or a march. Here it is:

Coyote finally realizes he’ll never catch Bird. He stops running entirely and subsists on boiled cactus and flies. Life feels simple, pleasing and he starts noticing the beauty and charm of everyday things he used to run by. This last about three days.

The Road Runner still runs past him every once in a while, slower, closer. He’s not taunting any more. It seems like he’s concerned, like the bird is afraid that Coyote is broken. Coyote felt broken one day.

One day Coyote realizes that the was certain of two things: That hunting Bird was his life and that hunting Bird was over. He decides it’s time to end his life. But how?

He jumps off of cliffs. He drops boulders on himself. He even puts his head in a cannon. This time, though, he survives with an even greater sense of urgency and defeat. He pursues an ending more than Bird. He stops sleeping to plan the next days attempt.

As he’s preparing to throw himself under a truck while wearing a backpack of explosives and nails, he feels someone watching him. He turns to see Bird. This is closer than he’s ever seen him. He’s never seen Bird’s eyes before. He’s never seen Bird stretch out his wings towards him. He’s never seen anyone reach towards him.

Coyote pauses for a moment, only a frame, before lunging. Bird’s neck snaps easily and suddenly. His legs are stringy from a life of running. Though his eyes were too salty, his heart is hot and tender.

The feast lasts all day and Coyote naps several times during it. He is comically bloated with a grin bigger than his face. At last he knows what victory feels like and tasted like. He feels fuller and fuller. The vomiting starts at sundown.

By the next sundown he knows he won’t make it to the cave, nor to the morning. A second, now unwelcomed, victory comes for him. The Bird was poison to him. He keeps thinking of the last beep he heard from it. It was as close to the word ‘No’ he ever heard from the Bird, but not a ‘no’ of fear, or defeat, but of concern.

Bird had known he was poison to Coyote and spent his life protecting Coyote from this death. He has wasted, and then destroyed, his life chasing the only thing that could kill him, and the only thing that ever cared for him. Coyote also realizes that he can’t lift his head from the road.

The rest were headlights and then a surrounding darkness, a familiar song and a final brilliant logo.

Without A Plan

annual It’s been a year since I’ve been traditionally employed. Right when I everyone was saying that the worst thing you could do is to quit your job and try to start a business, that’s what I did.

After ten years building up a multi-million dollar website from the ground up, I was confronted with “reorganization”. My employer was forcing nearly everyone with more than a few years experience out. I was given a job way outside my skill set (Windows desktop/server support) and my compensation was slashed. After several weeks of abrasions, sleepless nights, and watching the leadership drill more holes to let the bilge drain, I took the opportunity to go freelance, swimming away from the wreck with no land in sight.

A year later, sleep is welcomed (though I may be too busy to sleep at time). My income has increased to the point that I’ve recovered from the time I spent building business. I no longer bring home the frustrations of watching destruction. I no longer have to fight to do work well. This has been amazing good fortune, though I’m willing to take a lot of credit.

I’m still surprised that the world seems filled with positive, nearly enchanted, people doing good work and investing passion in whatever needs to be done. That my work can be respected so readily, and that quality is valued all around. I never knew what kind of hole I had sunk into. I’m frightened that had my employer not taken that dive, I would have never floated off. I’d still be there, head down, hoping for things to be better this year.

I kept looking for a plan to leave, years ago even when things started going bad. I kept hoping I could find an easy transition that would protect against all the foreseeable dangers. I never knew I wouldn’t need that, at all.