tuesday, july 29

it was raining again tonight
heavy pattern on the stovepipe,
a kind of static on the roof

and somewhere near midnight, too restless to sleep
i walked out back, started the car, drove across
main and down 36
thinking i guess that i'd roll past the river
and see what the water was like
let the water hitting my windshield
clear out my head

but of course it's dark out and my wipers are shot
there's nothing to see, and no clarity to be found
keeping wheels between the lines and driving too slow
with nowhere to be

and so thinking this, i pulled off
on a road i used to live on
turning back for home
and there in the headlights
was this toad in the dead center of the gravel

i waited, but toad wasn't going anywhere
and so, feeling like some kind of self parody,
i got out of the car and shuffled around the front
to shoo it out of the way
and between the weather and the place
i was struck, as happens often enough
with the idea of the roads in the rain
when i first came out here

i guess i'm done losing thought
on the who and why of back then
the others are long faded out
into other kinds of life than
i was ever liable to live
and the way i thought i was
might as well be a memory
of someone else's past

but the shapes of those first days in colorado
those first years on this edge
of the plains whose center made me
they still hang in all the angles of the
day's light, in low clouds torn above the foothills,
in reflections on the surface of the street after a storm

there's a kind of text in everything i pass
and where once i read some kind of failure in it
some kind of loss
these days there's only a geometry
of accumulated fact

Monday, July 21

some hope x notes (post-travel)

I wrote a downer of a paragraph on Friday, and then got caught up in things and quit trying to take notes. There’s a lot floating around in my brain now. We stayed up late and walked a considerable distance on pavement. We drank a lot. We got mad about shit.

Ellsberg / Snowden: These guys are probably not right about everything, but they seem awfully right to me about a set of problems so massive it’s hard to fit in your head. I know at least a handful of my friends hold a belief that Snowden is Wrong, in some fundamental way. I’ve heard a certain amount of “well, all this stuff we found out is bad, but fuck this guy for (methods | facial hair | being in Russia | whatever)”. I think if you haven’t heard or read much of what either individual has to say directly, watching Dan Ellsberg’s keynote and the subsequent video chat would be a good idea.

Soghoian’s talk: There’s a lot about practical politics in this that’s worth thinking about. All the energy burned on terminology and debates about correctness instead of on concrete policy outcomes.

MuckRock looks like they’re doing good things.

Privacy Badger is an interesting approach to the advertising surveillance problem. Thinking about this kind of thing, it seems like we’re going to get serious about Do Not Track and getting rid of third-party analytics on sparkfun.com this month.

I rode a Segway for the first time. I am not, so far as I can tell, fundamentally changed by the experience.

I talked to a guy at a bar (Adam?) about 3D printers. There was some stuff there I’m going to have to follow up on.

New York City: Still huge, loud, dirty, Science Fictional, overwhelming.

Friday, July 18

hope x notes

So far today I’m three for three on walking out of talks. Heavy on preaching-to-choir, light on explaining-something-we-are-doing. I know this is a standard hazard of conferences, but it’s especially frustrating where the choir is this thoroughly past needing the sermon and the problems under consideration are, say, the collapse of democracy into technologically determined fascism rather than, I dunno, having an easier time making web sites or whatever.

Sunday, July 6

It’s hot out. I’m not sure what month it is — July, at a guess, but with Kansas weather what it is, it might be anywhere from June into early September. School’s out, I know that much. High summer is what it seems like in memory, the grass shifting towards that pale, pale golden brown, hissing and trilling with insect life. The sky vast and clear. Me and Beau are going fishing.

We’re young, but not too young to drive, at least out in the country. It’s sometime in the 1990s, which means I’m a scrawny kid, probably not a hundred pounds, and Beau inevitably plays football. I read a lot — more than anyone I know, in fact — and probably I am beginning to get into computers in a really serious way. Beau is a year or so older, stronger and faster than I am, funny, locked in a constant struggle with his father, destined eventually to become a big farmer and make a lot of babies.

We take the red Chevy (model year late 1970-something), already well faded out to a pale orange, through the gates east of the house and head up into the pasture. The suspension is shot. There’s a round hole in the center of the roof of the cab, ineffectually patched with black electrical tape. A tiny calendar with an adhesive backing is stuck to the dash, emblazoned with the logo of some co-op, elevator, or supply store. The seat cover is made of the rough, scratchy stuff which used to be ubiquitous in farm trucks with bench seats. Beau drives and I get out to open and close the gates.

The gates: A few of them are made of single livestock panels, warped and distorted to some greater or lesser degree. At least one was actually manufactured as a gate. The rest are strands of barbed wire stretched across posts and hooked to the nearest fencepost with loops of wire. The older posts are hedge. A few here and there are post rock.

There’s etiquette. First, you know that leaving a gate open is one of the cardinal sins. If you screw this up, the cattle will go somewhere they shouldn’t, and no one will even have to tell you you’ve been an idiot. Second, somebody’s got to get out (or, if riding in back, jump down, swinging wide out over the sidepanels and landing hard in the grass) and open the gate, wait for the truck to roll through, close the gate (maybe struggling to pull the top loop of wire taught across both posts), and then jump back in the truck.

In the bed of the truck we’ve got a tacklebox from the back porch at the house, the rods, a couple of plastic buckets. Much of this gear is ancient and decaying: The kind of stuff that you remember from earlier in a childhood that usually has to be retrieved from cluttered back rooms and collapsing sheds, spaces full of spiders and yellowjacket nests, all smelling of fertilizer, mothballs, God alone knows what else.

In the end, we’ll catch some fish (even a couple of good-sized bass), but not very many. Mostly we’ll work our way around the banks of the ponds and mess around with tackle and talk and stand quietly for long periods in the buzzing heat. In some way I’m utterly unable to communicate, this memory will for decades afterwards contain one of the points that seems to define the geometry of my life.