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Woolly Days
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Over the past couple years, friends have given me four snake-themed artworks, to wit: two snake sculptures, one painting with a snake in it, and (just today) a baseball cap with embroidered rattlesnake. Fortunately I like all of these pieces and both sculptures even resemble my snake in color somewhat. I wonder if I would've gotten as many such items if I had a dog instead. For one, sculpting a snake is easy.

Happy nineteenth, everyone. A ton is 2000 pounds in the USA and 2240 in the UK, because a British hundredweight isn't 100 pounds but rather 112 which is (of course) 8 stone.

Stone is a great name for a unit, but you're hearing this from someone who once chose to live in a town named Boulder.

Climbing routes are graded by difficulty, with different systems in use around the world. The systems are largely numeric—except in England, where climbers also use adjectival grades: moderate, difficult, very difficult, severe, hard severe, very severe, hard very severe, extremely severe one, extremely severe two, ... . British routes have both a numeric and an adjectival grade because the two systems take different aspects of a route into account.

A few climbing grade systems date from when climbing standards were not so high (and before specialized climbing shoes were common). The US system was intended to be decimal, with ratings from 5.0 through 5.9—but has since been extended to 5.10, 5.11, and so on. British "severe" is easy by today's standards.

The USA ditched its system of named and colored threat levels in 2010, but the UK still rates the likelihood of terrorist attack as low, moderate, substantial, severe, or critical. I wonder if someday, maybe when everyone and his brother has armed drones, the UK will see fit to add threat levels beyond critical.

Around 20 years ago, while sharing a ledge several hundred feet off the ground with another climber, I had a conversation that started like this:

Where are you from?
I have a question. Can you explain your rating system?
I knew you were going to ask that.
at play Take a moment to picture where you were when you first heard that President Kennedy had been shot. If you're too young for that, picture where you were upon hearing about the attacks of 11 September 2001.

When I do this, I synthesize a bird's-eye view of the scene rather than recalling what it might have looked like from my own eye level at the time. Visual recollection constructed from an elevated point of view outside one's body is typical in such cases, so I hear.

There are potentially intreresting implications of this quirk of human memory, but I leave them to the reader to consider.

I wonder whether birds do it too. When a bird remembers something that happened while airborne, does he/she picture it from higher still? I installed new motherboard/CPU/memory/OS in my computer today, the same day my snake shed his skin. Not every shed goes well (sometimes the skin doesn't all come off) and I won't list all the stuff that can go wrong with building a computer. But snake and I both had smooth experiences today. The new machine's first boot greeted me with 19:19 at the top of the screen, and no I didn't wait until then on purpose.

I got ten years out of the old machine, more than I expected to when I put it together. The hardware was still working but recent versions of Linux don't seem to like it. Time marches on.

I got AMD CPUs ten years ago because I like supporting underdogs and their speed was competitive. I got Intel this time because they have since trounced AMD in CPU performance. The Intel processor came with a sticker subject to the same dopey license I wrote about a while back. And there's this notice: WTF ... which took me a moment to understand. It doesn't mean that if the pages fall out of the manual, that's not covered. While napping this afternoon, I had a dream that included a sequence where I was being chased. At a point where there was no dialogue but where action got tense, foreboding minor‑key background music started playing. I think this means I watch too many movies. News item from 2010:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly exhorted the United States to "cut off the head of the snake" by launching military strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear program, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.
King Abdullah's metaphor was apt: military action is like cutting off the head of a snake in that it might not turn out the way you wanted. Once upon a time, I wrote
For fun, I used to modify outdoor advertising; I changed the wording on billboards and bus shelter ads. I knew it was vandalism, but I justified it to myself by saying that the offense against the advertisers was outweighed by the entertainment value I was offering to the public. I also thought that (some) advertising was insidious and demeaning, and there was value in countering the pretension and crassness of (some) advertising. I took special pleasure in modifying cigarette ads.
I was of course hardly the only one modifying outdoor ads, nor the only one justifying it by virtue of value provided to the public. The shadowy Billboard Liberation Front has taken the concept far beyond what I ever achieved. For one, they have a bigger staff. I either worked alone or had a friend on the street watching out for me. I was struck by how easy it was to get friends to participate, even friends with little or no history of such transgressions.

Fremdbestimmtheit But back to the BLF. Cigarette ads were also a specialty of theirs, and my hat is totally off to them for this piece of work from 1989. For those who (like me) need a definition of heteronomy, try an action determined by some outside influence impelling the subject to act in a certain way. From the BLF's page about their Kant ad improvement:
There is no longer any need for individual choice in this age when all decisions can be left to a skilled professional who specializes in knowing our every desire and need: The Advertiser.
Reading the BLF's site almost makes me want to get back in the ad improvement game. Almost.
Photo cropped from original by Billboard Liberation Front, used under license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
dinnner.  also, I like the shadows on the building in the background. click for larger version There was a praying mantis on this window screen earlier. I think the lizard had it for brunch.