Monday, July 30

Finding the perfect wave.

For 99% of the surfers out there, it never happens. But for longboarders Robert August and Mike Hynson, they indeed found the perfect wave. It wasn't huge, it wasn't macho, but it was zen-shaped like it came from some heavenly machine and they later said they got hungry for lunch riding the tip of the curl so long. For those who know what surfing truly is, it doesn't get better than this. Bruce Brown filmed and did commentary for this now legendary film.

Sunday, July 29

Pony Car.

Don't Worry Baby
(Brian Wilson)

Well it's been building up inside of me
For oh I don't know how long.
I don't know why but I keep thinking that
Something's bound to go wrong.

But she looks in my eyes
And makes me realize...
And she says,
Don't worry baby
Everything will turn out all right.

I guess I should've kept my mouth shut
When I started to brag about my car.
But I can't back down now 'cause
I pushed the other guys too far.

She makes me come alive
And makes me wanna drive
When she says,
Don't worry baby
Everything will turn out alright.

She told me baby, when you race today
Just take along my love with you.
And if you know how much I loved you
Baby, nothing could go wrong with you.

Oh what she does to me
When she makes love to me...
And she says,
Don't worry baby
Everything will turn out alright.
Around the globe.

Most Asians living in the UK do not feel "British" - Interesting article about assimilation of Asians, mostly Indians and Pakistanis, who enjoy living in Britain and yet feel to be a true part of the culture they must be "coconuts" - brown on the outside and white on the inside. It's a dilemma for many youth who face the more traditional and conservative attitudes of their parents whilst at home and also the pressure of fitting in at school and having more liberal attitudes.

The Saami people of Russia's Kola peninsula, whose chief city is Murmansk, have increasingly seen their territory shrink over the decades. Mirroring the stories of countless other indigenous peoples, the expansive tundra they once roamed to feed their reindeer and provide subsistence for their pre-industrial way of life has been grabbed by Russian firms looking to exploits its natural resources. Some of these people under the days of communism were relocated to specially-built towns where they were promised good standards of living, which never materialized. Now they face the decision of assimilation into the modern world and abandoning their traditions and beliefs except in token form, or fighting a losing battle against a world that needs land and energy. Their story is the story of dozens if not hundreds of native peoples everywhere.

Here's something everyone knows already. Advances in technology have not made us a happier society. Efficiency and standards of living are relative terms, and there is evidence to indicate, as common sense would also dictate, that a radical swing of either ill fortune (the Great Depression) or Wheel of Fortune (the Internet Boom) will merely re-establish the norms at some other point, and people will still judge themselves against their peers, and not against previous lifestyles. The endless pursuit of leisure is one without a meaningful end, for work and reward are like ying and yang; neither can prosper at the expense of the other. Take away work and life becomes meaningless. Take away joy and work becomes pointless.

Orang-Utans, one of the most endangered of the great apes and once of our closest relatives genetically, are facing extinction in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, which is the only place left where they live freely. The exotic pet trade annually captures and ships baby orangs, often by killing the resisting mother, to people all over the world who delight in such rarities. The same can be said for "bush meat," a despicable idea that the cooked flesh of a gorilla, chimp, or orang-utan is a "delicacy." I feel anyone caught capturing, smuggling, delivering, owning, or eating any of these endangered and important species ought to be shot in a public square and made an example of. This is outright abuse and one step away from cannibalism.

In my opinion there is still as wide divide between physical neurology and cognitive science, the one being the study of the physical brain and its constituent biological components and the other being the study of how thought and self-awareness arises. Some pioneers in the field are finding it not unexpectedly difficult to marry the two together. For centuries there has been a debate about the nature of consciousness, and the reality of a soul, or a "mind." Strict materialists will say it's atoms (and quarks) all the way down, more liberal scientists might find some solace in the unveiled mysteries of quantum processes and other scientific frontiers to revitalize the idea that consciousness may indeed be a non-scientific subject; not in the interest of validating religion, but rather as a Gödelian viewpoint that an entity cannot by definition understand all of its parts. Douglas Hofstadter and Roger Penrose are two of my very favorite thinkers and authors, and they both subscribe to a somewhat liberal interpretation of the emergence of consciousness from ordinary matter, without bringing any New Age crap into the discussion. Look those two up if you really have your thinking cap on someday. They are challenging reads but worth it. Lesser minds but worthy of attention are David Chalmers, Stephen Pinker, Noam Chomsky, and the like. I will always trust the side going at the question from a hard-science stance over the eloquent but unprovable humanists. Call me an Asimov or a Clarke. I believe in "magic," but it is only apparatus behind a curtain to which we are not yet privy, not true magic I'm afraid.

Stories like this one remind one that Iraq is a real live country with a rich history and a profound sense of pride that cannot be shaken by war or poverty. It is not our sandbox to play in; people shop for groceries here, children go to school, and young engineers study physics at the few remaining universities. These people want to be a country again, united. Unfortunately, they also want to kill each other over different interpretations of that Great Satan: Religion. If only a virulent form of atheism could sweep over the Middle East we'd have countries emerging on the world scene as some of the most athletic, philosophic, and technically trained people in the "developing" world. To see that religion and gang warfare daily destroy that hope is maddening and sad.

Thanks for reading. I will hopefully continue to bring newsworthy stories (as opposed to sensationalism) to you from time to time, when I come across articles that interest me and which I think might interest a wider audience. Feel free to post on any of the stories and also to express you own particular interests if you want, so I can keep an eye out for development in those arenas.


Hey now, little speedyhead,
The reading on the speedmeter says
You have to go to task in the city.
Where people drown and people serve
Don't be shy, your just dessert
Is only just light years to go.

Me, my thoughts are flowerstrewn
Ocean storm, bayberry moon
I have got to leave to find my way.
Watch the road and memorize
This life that passed before my eyes
Nothing is going my way.

The ocean is the river's goal,
A need to leave the water knows
We're closer now than light years to go.

I have got to find the river
Bergamot and Vetiver
Run through my head and fall away.
Leave the road and memorize
This life that passed before my eyes
And nothing is going my way.

There's no one left to take the lead
But I tell you and you can see
We're closer now than light years to go.
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
Fall into the ocean.

The river to the ocean goes,
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way.
There is nothing left to throw
Of ginger, lemon, indigo,
Coriander stem and rose of hay.

Strength and courage overrides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river-poet searched naivete.
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is coming your way.

Lyrics: Michael Stipe, Photo: Justin Sias
There is always much left unsaid. Please see that. The hour after rain, the leaves glow green again. The hour after rain, the morning air smells clean again. There must be 30 or more kinds of flowers around this place. And birds and insects and soil and worms to make it all work. But in between the spaces, there time and motion make no sense. That is the place that tugs at me. There is always much left unsaid, and people smiling like death itself.

I was wasting my time
Trying to fall in love
Disappointment came to me and
Booted me and bruised and hurt me,

But that's how people grow up.
That's how people grow up.

I was wasting my time
Looking for love
Surely someone must look at me
And see their sunlit dream?

I was wasting my time
Praying for love
For the love that never comes from
Someone who does not exist,

But that's how people grow up.
That's how people grow up.

Let me live before I die.
Oh, not me, not I...

I was wasting my life
Always thinking about myself
Someone on their deathbed said:
"There are other sorrows too."

I was driving my car
I crashed and broke my spine
So yes, there are things worse in life than
Never being someone's sweetie.

But that's how people grow up.
That's how people grow up.

As for me - I'm ok.
For now, anyway.


U n r e a l

When the cool light flows through ten million minds
Our experience will blind us in your sight
Our experience will blend us in with the stars
No we'll never know how unreal we are
And when the cool light flows and ten million sleep
Our experience will blend in with your sightless
Through telepathy we'll shoot through the sky
And we'll shine like steel in a clear white fire
We'll taste your honey mouth and kiss your eyes like mirrors
And fill your body up with ten million tears
Our experience is shifting, your body's made of clear light
We'll blend in with your image - a picture dreamed by the

—M. Gira

Saturday, July 28

Thanks for the well wishes, I'm feeling better now. I don't know why, but it's good obviously. I feel like writing, like picking up around the house, like going outside, something other than read, sleep, eat, or watch telly.

I probably won't post a whole lot of new stuff or funny stuff for a few days, I'm sure you understand. Maybe more neat pictures from around the web, hopefully some that I take myself.... No promises. Thanks again for the support, those who wrote me.

Sometimes stretches of time really are all Mondays, but then if you're lucky God gets tired of continually knocking the wind out of you and moves on to pick on someone else.
from Blade Runner

Monday, July 23

I don't think people understand me much at all. Even most depressed people. "Trivial" things like missing a gathering of warmth and camaraderie I was looking forward to, just to break up my day for even a few hours and get away from myself, can set off major bouts of depression, like a chain of dominoes, and I can't will it to stop. My mood is beyond my control. I know because I've tried every way to control it that I know or that I've been taught. I've been in and out of mental hospitals, I've been on endless medications, I've had electroshock treatment eleven times, lost big chunks of my memory, lost my family; I've been to cognitive therapy classes, to Buddhist therapy, to "normal" therapy. I've read dozens of books on the subject. I know in greater detail than probably most anyone who is not a paid specialist how this all works, to the point I could probably hypocritically teach a class about the biology of a seizure, or a panic attack, or depression, along with how to cope with and defeat it.

I have been attacked by depression all my life. I've had rending existential realizations, sudden mood swings, anxieties that have triggered these bouts. Whether it's a stupid party at a bookstore, a word someone says to me, or a skyfull of clouds, something akin to a chandelier breaks inside me and that row of dominoes starts tumbling. I can take Klonopin, I can drink, I can meditate - none of it helps. I'm in for major depression that might as well manifest itself as shackles and chains on my bed. I'm tired of people telling me to cheer up or get some sun or think happy thoughts or listen to inspiring music. It doesn't fucking work. Maybe my depression is darker and deeper than others', maybe it's not even depression the way most people think of it; depression medication is handed out like candy, and suddenly all these people are on the meds, but their eyes go wide when I explain what my experience is like. I don't know.

All I want is to be released from this contract of life that I never signed, and to end this torment that comes and goes without reason. If you're angry with me for saying this because you think I'm weak or selfish, then you haven't a clue what it's like to live my life.
(credit unknown)

So here we are underground, not a sound nor ray of light,
it could be day or night, who knows, what goes on down here
is beyond the whying. Just me, a slimy thing in the earth,
a death-head, a reptilian brained sugarcane sugar daddy dying;
and is it so amazing, that I've lost sight inside this place.
And is it so amazing, that I can't see amazing grace.

Life in the underground
Life in the sea
Life on the airstreams with nowhere to land
Life on a raft well beyond all dreams

We feed like worms upturning soil, things pass through and
out and on we writhe. Fairplay's turn about but nothing makes it
in or out these eyes so white. But on and on I crawl, for flesh
and maybe for a stab of heat. But if God has made his plans for me,
and if they're not aborted, please - I can't stay here anymore.
And is it so contorted, I tried and failed to crash His door.

Life inside my head
Sentenced to eternity of me
Life in outer space
Inner space, it's all the same disease.

All the light was fading anyway. I can barely remember.
You were pulled away, I've lost feelings for those things.
But I want down from here, earth to delve and hell forever.
They say that if you love the darkness, it can't hurt you anymore.
So is it so amazing, that I've lost everything with time.
And is it so amazing, that I've got nothing that is mine.

Life in Heaven seemed
Even as a child too free
Free to do all day,
The hedonistic treasures we believed
In our earthly form, were mortal sins
For sinners devil-bound
For their hypocrisy, I'll see you
In the wasteland underground.

Sunday, July 22

A gathering of like minds; innocent fun; I missed it all.

It was the devil's choice to make

A charm of fury he kept on me
I had three hours to stay awake
But time was heavy and grief slept on me

The biggest gathering of people ever
To celebrate the innocence of books,
The imagination with which children shall ever
Tip you a nod and such joyful looks

Judge you by the pleasure that sits plainly on your face

Eight hundred people just in one store crammed
Witch's hats and wands, not embarrassed at all
It was the end of thirteen years, understand?
We grew up with the mysteries, awaited the Fall

I missed my one big chance in life
Maybe a dozen times, but this hurts my heart
The party that would put me in a mood just right
To finish the tale I'd loved part-by-part

A thin layer of logic atop molten feelings: Me
The setting, the oneness, the timing are it
They forge the excitement to set minds reeling, see
I can't read in earnest without priming for it

The horror of missing the deadline sank me
And now I don't feel I shall ever unlink
My disappointment with the cursed book that, frankly,
For weeks was the only thing of which I could think

And the gathering of people unknown but so happy

I hid it well, I know; The biggest fans always do
But now I share all the deflating pangs with you
I can't see the cover and feel any joy
I won't even finish this series about that boy

I started my marriage and my parenthood with book one
The tale seemed to twist and turn, a backdrop to my life
And now I'm on my own again and the marriage is done
Like the story I shared with my daughter and my wife

It's just like me to put off finality
Maybe I'd still have cherished it page by page?
But the wizarding world was out in calamity
And there I lay tossing in a useless rage

It holds no interest for me anymore, I'm done
It's all imaginary and now it's all gone
The people who read it seem to be having great fun
But my life must change, my interests move on.

I will not end in blandness what buoyed me so long.

Saturday, July 21

(roger waters)

If I were a swan, I'd be gone.
If I were a train, I'd be late.
And if I were a good man,
I'd talk with you
More often than I do.

If I were to sleep, I could dream.
If I were afraid, I could hide.
If I go insane, please don't put
Your wires in my brain.

If I were the moon, I'd be cool.
If I were a rule, I would bend.
If I were a good man, I'd understand
The spaces between friends.

If I were alone, I would cry.
And if I were with you, I'd be home
and dry.
And if I go insane,
Will you still let me join in with the game?

If I were a swan, I'd be gone.
If I were a train, I'd be late, again.
If I were a good man,
I'd talk with you
More often than I do.

Thursday, July 19

Text, text.

I know I've been posting mostly poems and songs lately and other people's photos. It's not my ideal way to construct my blog, but if it's between that and not posting anything, at least it keeps the ball rolling for me. That's been my commitment to this blog, just to keep it going, and not try to make it perfect or some kind of masterpiece. That kind of thinking has got me in ruts all my life and prevented me from doing a lot of things; seems like I'm always waiting till I can do a perfect job, and it never happens. In the meantime real life happens, like John Lennon said. Or like Roger Waters said,
no one told you when to runyou missed the starting gun. It's like sometimes I'm spending my life always preparing for something. But for what? I think I'm just afraid of putting things out there, putting myself out there, because I'm afraid of criticism or rejection. So I take the lofty road of not doing anything, but thinking "I could if I wanted."

Anyways, with the weather nice these days, I would like to start getting out with my camera more, trying to get inspired for photography again so I can post my own pictures with my own poems, or in their own little photo posts. That was when my blog was best balanced and actually attracted some people, a little more than a year ago when I had gotten a new camera and was taking a bunch of pics and learning that art, or trying, while still writing about half prose commentary and half poetry on the text side (if that makes sense...). Now I've gotten pretty predictable, but like I said, I'm just glad that I post something most days. Keeps me in the habit.

I'm reading up on how to store audio files on free hosting sites and stream them to a blog, and also how to embed video (besides ready-made code like YouTube). It's pretty simple actually, you just need to know the syntax for the code that calls for the file and tells Blogger where it is. There are probably some legality issues with posting longer than 30-second clips of songs, but hey! no one notices my blog anyway, so I doubt I'm gonna get run down by the RIAA, who can rot in hell anyway. If someone asks me to take something down, I'll just take it down. In the meantime it might be more meaningful to people to hear the songs I post lyrics to. I think I've said this already in a previous post....

Oh well. My brain is on the blink again. That's good, means everything is normal. Ciao.

Wednesday, July 18

(photo by alfonso de castro)

How can I overcome the space
Between me and you
When I can't even understand myself
The least bit at all
Even when I want to?

How can I feel love anymore
Between me and you
When I can't bring myself to love
My own cold body
Even when I should do?

How can I bring a death
Between me and you
Though I want no more thinning life
For my own self desires
Even so I have to.

Tuesday, July 17

The Jagular

or get the illustrated, abridged version

Monday, July 16

Animal Wars: The calm before the storm

Actually, I'm just posting an updated starting bracket, color-coded by region. Forget the region colors I mentioned in a previous post, I came to my senses and went with Blue, Yellow, Red, and Green.

There's nothing significant about these colors, nor does singling out the quarterfinal stage (4 candidates remaining) have any special purpose other than to mimic the NCAA tournament Final Four, and to visually break up the larger 32/16/8 fields into manageable chunks.

Also, it gives animals that don't make it all the way to the championship a title of sorts (Green region winner, for example). And finally, it makes it slightly easier for me to refer to the action if I can use the region color in the description.

Feel free to view and print the new cheerful and colorful battle template. I messed up slightly and if you want the whole thing to fit on one page, most printers will print it at around 94% of actual size. This is fine, the fonts have been rasterized so they won't be quite as sharp, but it's plenty legible. Or you can print at 100% and the fonts will look better, but there will be some clipping of the top and bottom (but not enough to actually lose any of the text, just some drop shadows). It's up to you.

Sunday, July 15


Dream Jobs
  • Editor-in-Chief for the Guinness Book of World Records
  • Professional baseball player (role models: Will Clark, Barry Bonds)
  • Egyptologist (role models: Howard Carter, Zahiri Hawass)
  • Cosmologist and Astronomer (role models: Albert Einstein, Martin Rees)
  • Paleobacteriologist/virologist/geologist (employed by USGS, perhaps)

Dream Universities
  • Cambridge
  • Oxford
  • Princeton
  • Harvard
  • Stanford

Dream Countries (to live)
  • UK
  • Sweden
  • France
  • Denmark
  • Belgium

Dream Countries (to visit)
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • India
  • Brazil
  • Iceland

I loved you madly

For reasons I could barely say,
For all the ways you made me feel,
For all the zeal that filled those days.
A summer drifted through our lives
And whirlwinds carried me your way.

I love you madly still, it's true
My heart shall ever yearn for you.
I spoke too soon and lost a lady,
Watched my chance so swift and sadly
Dashed upon the pavement stones
That crushed its bones so badly.

But now I'm on the mend, again,
And still our end feels like a dream,
My heart an ugly landfill spilling
Broken love and stillborn
Thrills and chilly, wind-blown kisses, bliss
And sweetness meant for other beings.

Saturday, July 14

Animal Wars initial bracket.

This ought to help you visualize what I've been trying to explain.
Please click the picture to make it full-size.

Also, now is the time to voice any questions, suggestions, or concerns about the way the matchups have been seeded. The first round will begin in a couple days, but I will read and take into consideration any feedback I get between now and then.

If you wish to print this bracket and fill it out with your predictions, that's up to you!

Sharing your predictions is entirely voluntary as well.


Is it just me or does each new incremental version of a program or OS component (or even security patch, so we can seal off another tiny hole in Microsoft Windows "Sponge Edition") actually make that program and seemingly the entire computer run just that little bit slower, eventually necessitating a huge money outlay every couple of years just to be able to do the same old stuff you've always been able to do?

I remember thinking my PowerPC 604e-based tower ran like a bat out of hell when I first installed Mac OS 8 on it. It was pretty, the icons and fonts pleasing, I could use photos for the desktop, programs launched instantaneously unless they were large important ones, in which case they launched after just a few tolerable seconds. Everything seemed very responsive, even when multitasking. I surfed the internet, shared files, listened to music, played 3D online games with voice communication.

Almost ten years later, I have a computer that should be five times or so faster than that one, and yet everything seems to drag, multitasking brings it to its knees, the internet connection seems slow even though it's cable, nothing open instantaneously anymore, text messaging programs need 100mb of RAM to run, so do email programs, and browsers and the Finder - oops, I mean Windows Explorer - use way more than that to carry out what should be simple tasks. And just to give me a nice extra little kick in the keeblers, it crashes a lot more often and has funky problems with using more than one optical drive.

"Progress" sucks.

Friday, July 13

Interesting facts about The Hobbit
Especially for those who have just read or are currently reading the novel ;-)

  • Bilbo Baggins was about 51½ years old at the time of The Hobbit.
  • Hobbits called themselves "kuduk" in their own language.
  • Tolkien meant the name Bag-End, from a hobbit's point of view, to be associated with the end of a bag, as in a 'cul-de-sac'.
  • Tolkien had an aunt whose farm was nicknamed Bag-End.
  • Bag-End was a luxurious hobbit-hole and was envied by many, especially Bilbo's cousins, the Sackville-Bagginses.
  • Bilbo's dad was called Bungo Baggins. His mom was Primula Took. It was said he got his sensibility from his Baggins side, and his curiousness for adventure from his Took side.
  • Bilbo Baggins was the first hobbit to become famous in the world outside the Shire.
  • There are three main kinds of hobbit: Harfoots, Fallowhides and Stoors.
  • Hobbiton was one of the oldest villages in the Shire. It was built on a hill. With Bywater, it formed a single community.
  • Bilbo's hobbit-hole of Bag-End was in a neighbourhood called Under-Hill. All the holes in this neighbourhood were dug into Hobbiton Hill.
  • An ancestor of Bilbo was called Bandobras Took. He was a huge hobbit (4 feet, 5 inches tall) who became famous for killing the goblin chieftan Golfimbul in the Battle of Greenfields. After this battle, Bandobras was nicknamed Bullroarer Took.
  • Rivendell was a refuge for elves which was situated in a valley. It was founded by Elrond who had been fleeing a great war.
  • Elrond was thousands of years old at the time of The Hobbit.
  • Elrond was also known as Elrond Peredhil (Half-elven).
  • "Elrond" means "Elf of the Cave" in Sindarin. As a child, when he and his twin brother Elros were rescued after fleeing a battle, he was found playing in a cave beneath a waterfall, and so received his name.
  • Rivendell was a place of quiet meditation, scholarly learning, but also merriment - especially music and singing.
  • Rivendell is called "Imladris" in Sindarin.
  • The Misty Mountains are about 1440km long - nearly the length of New Zealand!
  • The Misty Mountains were so high and steep that they were virtually impossible to climb over. There were only a few difficult passes across them.
  • The large number of goblins (orcs) living in the Misty Mountains made the mountains even more dangerous!
  • There was a famous, but deserted, dwarven palace carved out inside the Misty Mountains called Khazad-Dum in Dwarvish, Moria in Sindarin. It was deserted after a balrog was awoken during its excavation.
  • When he was young, Tolkien thought of goblins as being like tiny elves with the sounds of their singing and dancing beautiful and magical!
  • Gollum is actually a hobbit of the Stoor variety, which lived east of the shire along the banks of the great river Anduin. He is the only hobbit to ever have become evil as far as we know.
  • In early editions, Gollum uses the words "my precious" to refer to himself. In later editions, after he had written The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien has Gollum using the words to refer to either himself or the ring.
  • Orcs (goblins) lived all over and throughout the Misty Mountains. They were bred by an evil god-like character called Melkor as an evil version of elves. Like elves, orcs were fierce, strong warriors and did not die naturally. Most orcs hated the sun, hated beautiful things and they loved killing and destroying things.
  • Orcs liked blood and raw flesh and even ate their own kind!
  • Orcs were excellent at making tunnels and weapons and their medicines were extremely effective even though they tasted terrible or stung greatly.
  • Orcs were mostly short, wide-bodied with bow-legs, long arms, dark faces and long fangs.
  • "Beorn" is an Old English word which means "warrior". It also originally meant "bear".
  • Beorn is very similar to the ancient Norse mythological character Beowulf who also ate honey (like a bear), was huge and extremely powerful.
  • Beorn was the chieftan of a clan of men called "beornings" who had to guard trading routes between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood and even further north.
  • Beorn distrusted all strangers, but he especially hated orcs.
  • Beorn could speak to animals.
  • The name Mirkwood came from Old German and means exactly what it sounds like.
  • Mirkwood was once called Greenwood the Great, but was called Mirkwood once evil creatures (giant spiders, orcs) began to move into the forest.
  • The idea of an enchanted river which makes drinkers of it fall asleep might have been borrowed from old Celtic legends, particularly that of Saint Brendan.
  • The episode where the dwarves try to catch up with the wood-elves is also a traditional idea with it being almost impossible to catch up with fairies unless they want you to do so.
  • Tolkien never mentioned elves having pointed ears.
  • Tolkien included the episode with spiders because he knew his children were frightened of spiders and he wanted to scare them when they read the story!
  • "Attercop" is from Old English and means "poison-head".
  • "Tomnoddy" means a stupid or foolish person.
  • "Cob" and "Lob" both mean spider.
  • Although the wood-elf king is not named in The Hobbit, in The Lord of the Rings he is revealed as the elf-king Thranduil.
  • Wood-elves were also called sylvan elves, woodland elves, and east-elves. They were also "moriquendi", meaning they had never crossed the sea to Valinor and seen the light of Aman, a paradise of sorts.
  • Thranduil is the father of Legolas, one of the main characters in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Thranduil had a great love of wine most of all, as well as jewels and riches.
  • Thranduil was thousands of years old at the time of the story of The Hobbit, just like Elrond.
  • The Forest River was important because it was the main trading route between the Men of Lake-town and the wood-elves of Mirkwood.
  • Check your version of The Hobbit! The most common of Tolkien's own pictures showing the escape from the wood-elves' palace via riding barrels down the Forest River shows a rising sun. Another picture shows this scene happening at night. The text says the barrels arrive at the huts of the raft-elves when it is dark. The nature of "raft-elves" is something of a mystery.
  • Bilbo and the dwarves escaped the same night Thranduil was having a feast.
  • "Esgaroth" was another name for Lake-town, the one used by people of the town itself and by the elves with whom they traded and the dwarves who once occupied the nearby mountain.
  • Esgaroth was the destination for the wine barrels of the wood-elf king. Esgaroth was a major trading partner of the wood-elves.
  • Esgaroth was a city of human beings, rare in that part of Middle-Earth.
  • Esgaroth was built on wooden stilts, driven into the bed of the Long Lake. It was joined to the land by a bridge.
  • After Smaug destroyed Esgaroth, it was rebuilt funded by gold from Smaug's treasure horde.
  • The Master of Esgaroth was elected by the merchants of town and could be deposed by the, as well. It was a democracy of sorts.
  • After the death of Smaug, the Master ran away with the money given to him by Bard to rebuild Esgaroth, but he later died in the deserted, hostile Waste.
  • Esgaroth became rich again after it was rebuilt, trading with the wood-elves, the dwarves who moved in to Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) and the newly-restored town of Dale, which was ruled by Bard.
  • The Lonely Mountain was more commonly known as Erebor (a Sindarin word).
  • After he had attacked the dwarvish palace of Erebor and destroyed Dale, Smaug gathered all the treasure he could find into a huge heap. He was left alone by everyone for about 200 years before Bard shot and killed him.
  • Erebor was the ancestral home of Thorin Oakenshield and his fellow dwarves related to the long-dead dwarf named Durin, King of Moria, a mighty kingdom carved out of the Misty Mountains. Durin's people had been forced to flee after they mistakenly dug up a deadly demon (a balrog thereafter refered to as "Durin's Bane"). When Smaug came along, it was the second time Thorin's people had had to flee their home!
  • Erebor, as a kingdom of the dwarves, was 200 years old before Smaug destroyed it and the human town of Dale.
  • The ravens of Erebor were friends of the dwarves and could speak. Roäc was a very ancient bird: his father Carc had seen Smaug descend on the mountain, and Roäc was no less than one hundred and fifty-three years old ('out of the egg', as he put it) when he met Thorin and Bilbo on the Quest of Erebor. It was Roäc who told the adventurers that Smaug was dead, and who passed between Thorin and Dáin Ironfoot in preparation for the troubles that followed.
  • The thrushes of Erebor also lived for a long time. In ancient times, the people of Dale could communicate with them, but dwarves could not, even though the thrushes and dwarves were friends. The thrushes could understand common speech, called Westron. Most words that tolkien uses which are not specifically elvish, dwarvish, and so on, are in Westron, such as "Lake-town". He as author has "translated" Westron into English so that we could understand the tale.

Thursday, July 12

"The Oak"
photo by gnato

The woman is blind,
this woman in green.

she always has been.
she can't imagine the color of her clothes,
know the slate of sky and sea
nor the fire-fed ruby of a rose.

her mind can have no meaning for them,
her world no conceivable space;
yet she will pour a pitcher of laughter
at all you fickle artists just the same

and splash color about in her own way.


Her imagery is reflected by reflection itself.
The whirl, the stream, the tide, the bay, the water

all silvery surfaces, which can show her

image to herself and him at the same time,
as he underneath sees his image even as she does;
it's hard to simplify:

You must take a deep breath and dive in.

To deny your twin soul,
is one of the harshest mistakes you can make;
the only result is a decoupling of the mind
from the body and the world and the things of the world.
Rivers dislodge rocks from their ancient homes; they are
tumbled and lost on their way to the great uncaring sea.

They never will be home again.

Wednesday, July 11

at last it's here....

When you're little you think nature films are great and animals are so cute. Then you grow up and you realize that everything just eats everything else, especially the young and the old and infirm. It's brutal but it's the way it is. I love and respect the diversity of animal life on this planet, and would like to spend my life helping to make some small difference in conserving vital species and ecosystems, whether actively in the field or by donating to causes and such. I would never purposely kill any animal except insects. Those I try to kill every chance I get. Insects are evil and already out-mass all vertebrate and plant life put together many times over. Far from being endangered, they are always on the rise; despite attempts at eradicating many as pests, the human race has never driven a single species of insect to extinction. So you'll excuse me if my sympathies lie toward the endangered large mammals, birds, and sea life. RememberHulk good, insects bad.

Most of us (boys) are constantly thinking up two things and wondering which one would win in a fight. It's what we do; why we're interested in sports, gladiatorial games in the ancient world, cock-fighting and dog fighting in the third world, having better stuff than the neighbors in the developed world, breaking into the clear for a 5-screen touchdown in that little red-blip LED football game, and all the other ugliness (aka coolness) that comes about as a result of this instinct. It must have something to do with studying and sizing up the competition, training and honing our minds and bodies in order to compete successfully for mates. It always comes down to sex in the natural world, ALWAYS. I don't see why this would be any different in more complex species like humans. So somehow this must explain our excitement watching things fight, from stag beetles tied to sticks to human pugilists battling for millions of dollars. I'm not saying I condone or am proud of any of this, I'm just telling the truth as it is.

In addition to being male, I'm an org-chart architectural type who thinks cladistically - in terms of hierarchies and relationships... a big-picture person. I'm a structuralist like Ayn Rand, except I'm not a woman. Not yet. I like alpha cats and things made out of metal. I like castles better than towns, claymores better than cutlasses, Darth Vader's star destroyer better than the smaller variety. I like to know who is the king, who are his vassals, and who are their serfs, and then make a cool chart of it in Visio with little shaded boxes that look like they're floating just above the page. I like there to be a clear relationship, a definite winner and a loser, just like in Vietnam and Iraq.

Bring all this together and naturally from a young age I started wondering... if we consider all the animals in the world, which of them would emerge from a single-elimination tourney to be the ultimate champ? What is the single toughest animal on the planet? And what interesting beat-downs would we see in the intermediate stages that might surprise us? I couldn't get all the animals in the world to volunteer, so instead I'm taking 32 of the most irritable, biggest, meanest, hairiest, snarlingest, saltiest, bubble-blowingest, mind-blowingestly cool animals our planet has to offer, and pitting them against each other Pokémon style, except with totally different rules.

I would never sanction any animal fighting in reality of course, but in the realm of the mind (dumped to a blog), anything is possible and it's neither illegal nor cruel! In this blog entry I will lay the ground rules for the selection process and the fights themselves, and at last trot out our 32 lucky combatants. Humans are excluded from this event because of a unique problem: allow them to use tools and they'll win the tourney (except this one kid in school that was such a fag); take away tool use and clothing and they'll lose to almost any of the animals here. And as arbiter and tourney ultimate grand wizard overseer demi-person, I have to remain neutral, so it's better to just get Biblical for a little while and not consider humans as animals, at least until the tourney is over, when they can get their Homo status back. As in sapiens, you pervs.

As mentioned in a previous post, I decided on an NCAA men's basketball style tournament bracket for this competition, if that means anything to you. Basically I decided a reasonable number of animals to start with would be 32 (2×105, or five rounds of paired fights), divided into four regions - Black, Grey, Red, and Clear. Each region shall (hopefully) receive a representative sample of contenders out of the 32, from top to bottom. Meaning, each region should have approximately the same "combined" level of strength, give or take some for the vagaries of real biology. The best to emerge from each region should be battle-hardened ass-kicking brutes. Or maybe just really poisonous or something.

There's the "ideal" case. If you had a list in front of you beforehand of the top 32 animals ranked best to worst, you could take every fourth one (1, 5, 9, etc) and make Region 1. Region 2 would get (2, 6, 10, etc). Region 3 gets (3, 7, 11, etc), and Region 4 gets (4, 8, 12 etc). With me so far? Then, within each region, 1 faces 8, 2 faces 7, 3 faces 6, etc. The next round pits the remaining highest seed with the remaining lowest seed. One winner would eventually emerge from each region, and if you seeded them properly and luck were not a factor, it would be the 1, 2, 3, and 4 animals on the original list. Then 1 would face and beat 4, 2 would beat 3; those are the semifinals. Lastly, 1 beats 2 for the title. For more on the theory of tournament seeding, see a nice little article HERE.

This is the basic format we'll use, but there are considerations and qualifications that need to be taken into account. First of all, we don't want a field of 32 that's half full of sharks, or all big cats, bears, and jackalopes, or any one group being overrepresented. That would be dull. It's much more interesting to have animals of all shapes and sizes compete. So even though it's a move away from that "ideal" list of 32, the idea here is to get as a good spread from different genera, physical locations, and domains (air, land, sea) as possible, while still trying to get competitive fighters that maybe make up for bulk with unique abilities like venom, stealth, speed, and so on. I decided on a number of "types" of animals, for example a "buffalo/bison/cow/yak" type, a "big cat" type, and so on. Then I picked the two toughest representatives from that type (usually, but you'll read about some exceptions in a bit). There's no way around this step being almost completely subjective, but I made educated guesses and in most cases the dominant members of a type were obvious. Some required a little internet research. It was harder having to leave out lots of fascinating animals than it was selecting good candidates, naturally, but one has to draw the line somewhere and I drew it to make sure wild American mustangs were not represented.

IMPORTANT DECISION 1: This contest isn't about packs or schools or flocks; it's all about one-on-one competition. One individual animal of that species gets to fight. Insects totally get the shaft here, but I hate insects, so who cares. Same with vermin. Look at it this way. What gets people excited in the movie theater? The 4,000 orcs running around with spears and axes, or the BIG ASS DRAGON that comes out of nowhere screaming its head off and making everyone poop their pants? Case closed. If this also hurts the chances of middle- and large-size pack hunters like wolves or even orcas, then tough titties (besides, even one orca is no joke). I want something to emerge I can parade around like King Kong, ripping people off and getting rich doing it, and no one's gonna pay to watch some whiny wolves hide and ambush stuff. They want beefcakes. Got it?

IMPORTANT DECISION 2: We're not going to play the game of scaling up small animals to match larger ones. There's no pound-for-pound considerations in nature, right? That's great and all that a certain critter packs a huge punch "for his size." But if he's small, even this miniature Superman is likely to get owned by something way bigger. It might not be fair, but it's physics. Being big and strong is going to help you if you're an animal out in the wild (the checks-and-balances part being that there has to be enough food in the ecosystem to support all that mass), and it's gonna seriously help you in this contest. This tourney isn't about what animal would be the baddest on some alternate earth where everything is the exact same size, dumbass, it's about which real animal would win in a head-to-head fight. An imaginary head-to-head fight. Period.

IMPORTANT DECISION 3: The only place we're going to have to get creative is when we talk about animals from different domains: land, air, and sea. Some of these animals couldn't actually fight one another in reality, while some matchups that are possible might result in different outcomes depending on the kind of environment in which the battle took place. For example, a wolf and a shark could never fight. And a crocodile and a tiger brawl might have different outcomes depending on whether they fought in a stream or on land. Tigers are cool.

To overcome this difficulty, we're going to have to imagine a fight in which each creature is fighting in the comfort of its natural environment. In other words, we can imagine a battle between a shark and a wolf in which the shark is able to have the same mobility it would in the water (a 3D space), and a wolf would have the same traction and leaping ability it does on land (It wouldn't have to swim while fighting). Each side is allowed its accustomed attacking and defensive styles and is not penalized for being out of its territory. You just have to imagine it in your head. When these situations arise during the contest I will reiterate this and you'll see how it works. For a brief time I considered making separate water, land, and air champions, but that proved more problematic and less fun. We want ONE champ!

Now that the technicalities are out of the way, let's introduce our 32 candidates. I'm going to briefly explain the reason for each selection as we go, so there are fewer "how did animal X get in there instead of Y?" comments. If nevertheless you find you have those questions, or any others, feel free to comment.

We start off with the big cats, some of the most ruthless and efficient predators on earth. I think everyone in the room will agree that lions and tigers are the tops in that category (ligers are sterile hybrids like mules, and are disallowed). Specifically, the male African lion and the male Siberian tiger.

Next we might as well talk about bears. Bears are big and mean, and the biggest and meanest of all are the Polar bear and the Kodiak bear (a brown bear even bigger and fiercer than the grizzly). No real controversies there.

Some animals are not known for being predatory but are nonetheless savage fighters either because of their bulk or their armaments, or both. In this category we find the Hippopotamus and the Walrus. Another gentle giant that can nonetheless become ferocious if you give it a good reason to (like showing up) is the Gorilla. That really is the only primate worthy of making this list (sad, huh?).

The largest animals in the safari are the African elephant and the White rhinoceros. But the White rhino is much less savage than the slightly smaller but more irritated Black rhino, so we'll swap in the Black Rhinoceros instead. These represent the biggest and baddest the Serengeti has to offer. While elephants are usually depicted as more noble than aggressive, they certainly don't like to be threatened or bullied at the drinking hole, or have their young so much as looked at. Did I mention they're big? In fact, they're the most massive land animals on earth. And black rhinos... well, they're just angry critters all around.

So far all we've talked about are mammals. What about reptiles? Excluding snakes for the moment, the top reptiles would seem to be the Saltwater crocodile (way bigger than the largest alligator or obviously any caimans) and the toppermost monitor lizard, or dragon, found on Komodo and a few nearby islands. The biggest "salties" come surprisingly not from the Nile but from the open water around Australia. And the Komodo dragon could easily kill an average unarmed human being, and has done so many times in the pastseriously.

Snakes come in two basic varieties: venomous and constricting. For venomous snakes, we'll take the King cobra and Black mamba. Sea snakes, which have perhaps the nastiest venom of all, might be miffed at the snub, but their tiny teeth can't actually inject any of that venom into anything the size of a human being or larger, so they're out. A few other snakes (mostly pit vipers) have deadlier venom, or are bigger, or are more aggressive, but not all three in the combinations that these two are noted for. Also, they're well recognized by most people, at least as names. Selecting rare South American pit vipers and such just would just muddy the water; we're trying to keep this accurate but not so scientific we'd have to consult the ghost of Linnaeus to even refer to our gladiators by name.

Constrictors will be represented by the Burmese python of alligator-eating fame and the South American Green anaconda. With no venom, the deadliness of a constrictor is a simple function of size, and these two are the largest and strongest of them all. Burmese pythons usually top out a little bit longer; Green anacondas are bulkier around the middle and have bigger noggins to unhinge. Both give people nightmares.

Turning strictly to the water now, we have three sharks, two mammals, and one mollusk that I see as being the tops in the business. Those are the Great white shark, Tiger shark, and Bull shark, the Orca (killer whale), the Sperm whale, and the Colossal squid. I went with an extra shark rather than try to throw a sacrificial mollusk like the Giant Pacific Octopus onto the menu just for symmetry (Dear 'OCD' Diary: I'm getting better!). As for the sperm whale (no laughing please, it's rude), there are several larger whale species out there, but they are all baleen whales and therefore pretty much incapable of doing anything against toothy creatures except swim away. And swimming away is not what this is about. The sharks you could debate a little; supposedly pelagic (open-water) white-tips are unusually aggressive. But I'm comfortable most people would find my three choices clearly have the right stuff when it comes not just to starting fights, but winning them.

We've got land and sea animals, so we'd might as well get some representative from the air. The largest birds alive are the California condor and the Andean Condor, but they're basically scavengers, like huge turkey vultures. Bollocks. After reading more than I wanted to about birds (did you know the Peregrine falcon in an attack dive is the fastest animal in the world? (except for whatever it's diving after, lol)), it seems agreed upon that birds of prey are naturally the best fighters, and the top birds of prey (a family which includes falcons, hawks, owls, and so on), are the eagles. No, not the band. It is also remarkably almost unanimously agreed that the most powerful eagle (that which kills the biggest and most dangerous prey) is the Harpy Eagle of South Africa.

There are about three or four candidates for the #2 spot; but I'm gonna go a whole different route and instead of picking a slightly-less-mean eagle (what's the point if it's not as tough as the Harpy?), I'll take the most massive bird on the planet, the flightless but certainly formidable Ostrich. It doesn't have to be able to fly to compete, remember. It fights in its own natural environment as far as this contest goes. Has anyone else seen Animals Are Beautiful People or other shows where ostriches run around defending their nests from would-be egg burglars? Dem birds is MEAN!! I'm curious to see how their completely different fighting technique (from the eagle's) will fare in this competition.

Squids aren't the only invertebrates we should consider. What about spiders? Something this small obviously is going to succeed or fail by its venom alone. Several factors come into play when evaluating toxic animals. How strong is the toxin? How generalized is it (does it affect only certain other organisms or is it nonspecific? How much venom does the spider carry? How good is the spider at actually transferring the toxin to its opponent (what is its attack speed, bite depth, how much venom actually gets injected on average as a percentile of its arsenal, etc.), how fast-acting is the toxin, how aggressive is the spider (and willing to use its weapon), and how many things does it actually get a chance to kill where it lives?

We can ignore the last question because we're delivering its combatants right to its doorstep. So it need not be a common city spider that kills a lot of people statistically just because of where it lives. But taking the other considerations into account (ok, yes, I made a little table of candidates and rated them on each trait according to Wikipedia and more so the science journals I found linked to in the footnotes), I honed in on the best overall killing machines. I infiltrated my way into the inner circle of arachnophiliacs. What you find is a group of "experts" who agree even less than venomous snake experts. But two names I kept hearing: The Wandering Brazilian spider, and the male Australian Funnel Web spider. These came in clearly ahead of all other contenders with the blend of size, aggressiveness, toxicity, and so on lumped as a package. Do your own research if you don't trust me (always a good idea anyway). You'll probably come to the same conclusion I didthese are spiders that make the famous Black Widow and Brown Recluse look like ladybirds in comparison. I'll take one each, please.

I'm not going to consider things like malaria-carrying mosquitoes or plagued rats, because this contest is about gladiatorial prowess and not long-term death from disease. No diseases or vectors of any kind make the list, even fast-acting ones like Ebola or smallpox. It's really a whole different type of battle, and it's gross anyway. Similarly worms, mites, lice, and all other parasites are RIGHT OUT.

So let's see, to finish up the venomous critters, I'll grab some other nasties representative of the variety out there and, once again, in the upper magnitude of toxicity. Box jellyfish, also called sea wasps, have killed 5,567 people since 1884, and the venom present on their stinging cells is considered by most to be the deadliest in the animal kingdom (bringing us back to the nebulous definition of words like "deadliest"). Because I wanted them to (and have my reasons), the famous Portuguese man-o'-war and the Stonefish have RSVP'd to my invitation. This rounds out the retinue of our aquatic friends in style. Victory in this bracket will depend little on strength, nor solely on strength of venom, but also on how it's delivered and what defenses exist, if any. Should be the most interesting bracket to watch in terms of tactics.

Finishing up the required slots with a few miscellaneous land animals, we need to get the infamous Hyena on the playing field at least for a laugh or two, persuade a ticked-off Wild boar to participate, challenge the Fat-tailed scorpion to a noble duel, pique the interest of the North American Timber wolf, and harass the Cape buffalo till it throws in its lot with us. It's done.... All aboard!

Next post: See the actual bracket with the animals loaded and ready to go, and maybe even begin the first round! Time to sound off though. Would you like to post your predictions after seeing the bracket (where first rounds matchups are shown but subsequent pairings are left to your imagination), or would you prefer just to passively watch as I unfold the results every few days? Ideally we'd have a large betting pool on this, but alas, "What noisy cats are we" (I have few viewers). I will give you a few days after I post the bracket to send in your prediction of the ultimate winner, the full results of each round or something in between, it's all up to you!
Why do we kill people who are killing people
to show that killing people is wrong?


Holly Near


You want to approximate truth and the infinite

You want that perspective again
Of being on a cusp
But the cusp of you know not what
For some it's all hope going in and no trepidation
Come to my house, let me play you songs in the dark
That you may really hear the sound of the world
Selfishly, I will allow
For to keep you here, with me
Would be safety in numbers, and
It's safer here
Than out there in any 'sane' place I know
We could be together in the infinite, alone.
Which LOTR hobbit are you?


You have beautiful eyes, and a glowing sword.

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Tuesday, July 10

"I've Seen It All"

ive seen it all
i have seen the trees
i have seen the willow leaves
dancing in the breeze

ive seen a man killed
by his best friend
and lives that were over
before they were spent

ive seen what i was
and i know what will be
ive seen it all
there is no more to see.

you havent seen elephants
kings or peru...
im happy to say
i have better to do

what about china?
have you seen the great wall?
all walls are great
if the roof doesnt fall

and the man you will marry
the home you will share?
to be honest
I really dont care.

youve never been
to niagara falls...
i have seen water
its water, thats all

the eiffel tower
the empire state?
my pulse was as high
on my very first date

your grandsons hand
as he plays with your hair...
to be honest
I really dont care.

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