Nucleotides are little organic building blocks made of
chemicals. The DNA strings found in some
flowing plants are comprised of several hundred-billion nucleotides; whereas,
the DNA chains in the sportiest-looking supermodel human number only about
three-billion nucleotides. Though I have
no scientific proof, I think Salma Hayek has DNA chains that are comprised of a
The other day, I chanced upon a set of photographs
that impressed me beyond measure. I urge
you to take a minute from your day to enjoy them. Please click on the link below. If that fails to take you there, cut and paste the link to your browser.
On rare occasion “first meetings” of import are
captured in photograph. Perhaps you
recall the photographs of a stiffened and somewhat baffled President Richard
Nixon meeting Elvis Presley—Elvis wearing a purple jumpsuity thing and a belt more
conspicuous than the WWE wrestling championship belt. We have all seen the ubiquitous photos of a nervous
father meeting his newborn boy or girl for the first time in a photograph
captured by another family member.
Yesterday, by sheer luck, I happened to be there with my
twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone when CM met her first porcupine.
A beautiful, though cautious, moment as girl met
porcupine. At first, the porcupine
ignored CM and her smartphone and me with mine.
But once my shadow drew too near for comfort, the porcupine began to
waddle off. A porcupine has top speed something
akin to a baby crawl. Fortunately, I
managed to snap a pretty clear image of the slow-motion flight to the tall
According to CM, the porcupine “had a cute face.”
I captured the image while we were hiking at Missouri
Headwaters State Park. This is the very
place in Montana where the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson rivers all join at
once to form the Missouri River. The
temperature yesterday reached a balmy sixty degrees by midafternoon. I am also posting a photograph of the sun
above the Gallatin Valley.
Odd, how memories rush in unattended the instant you
stop concentrating on something. I worked
most of yesterday here at home, grinding away at the National Electrical Code
and developing training materials on my new computer. Late in the afternoon, exhausted, I flopped
onto my sofa to stop and rest for bit. At
once, as I sat there in a swath of sunlight, a memory from years ago filled me
entirely. In the memory, I had been home
all day, running a high temperature and watching cloud racks unravel above the
greenblue Elkhorn Mountains. For that
whole day I sat on my sofa, thinking about how—when my wife came home from work—I
had to tell her how much I loved her.
Yesterday, on the same day that the king of Saudi
Arabia died and the leadership in the troubled country of Yemen, a hotbed for
radical Muslims, abdicated power to rebels, all of the news programs I watched led
their news with a story about how much air was in a football during a game last
Recently, I have seen quite a few opinion pieces criticizing
solar PV energy sources. Some of the pieces
compare coal and oil to solar PV based on relative cost. Other pieces focus on the (unfair) subsidies
associated with some solar PV array installations.
On occasion, valid objections to solar PV are raised.
I figure—at least for the short term—we have need for
all forms of energy—from coal all the way up to solar PV. Still, I see a great deal of solar PV in our
future and comparing sources is not always helpful. We cannot deny that producing solar modules
is very energy-intensive, but the “energy payback” is often estimated at
somewhere between one to eight years once the modules are put into energy
production. Modules are designed to
produce for thirty years and can produce for much longer in some instances.
I have a comparison. If the coal and oil interests want to make a
valid point, why don’t they send a spacecraft into orbit that will be powered
by fuel oil or coal for the entire time they are in space so we can compare
that to all the craft presently powered by solar modules?
Though I don’t know of any measurement definite, I suspect
that I like a purple dinosaur as much as the next person. I can watch a few televised episodes of
Barney, the purple dinosaur, without going completely nuts, but I don’t think a
steady diet of Barney would settle well with me. I certainly can’t imagine being forced to
watch Barney for years and years as was Martin Pistorius.
Something bad happened to Martin Pistorius in
1988. Then, at age the age of 12, just
when most boys determine that girls are not entirely annoying and anything with
an engine is cool, Martin began to fade away.
At the time, Martin Pistorius was living in South Africa. He came home from school one day—complaining
of a sore throat—and never went back.
Over the course a few months he ate less, slept more, and his body
gradually stopped working. He eventually
became completely unresponsive and dropped into a deep coma.
Nobody knew why.
After two years of trying to figure out what ailed
Martin, the medical community gave up and suggested to his parents that shoving
him into a daycare center and allowing him to finish fading away might be
best. For many years he spent lost days
in the center and lost nights at home with his family. The first years are a black hole to him. Nothing.
But then, at some point during the age of 16, he started to slowly
awaken. Consciousness came in bits a
fragments at first. Martin recalls a few
events from his slow awakening: the death of Princess Diana, for instance. He vividly recalls that the center had daily
re-runs of Barney, the purple dinosaur, playing on the television.
Though he had awakened inside his frozen body, nobody
outside his body took notice.
By the age of 19, Martin was fully aware again, but
trapped hopelessly in a dead body. He
could not signal anyone that he was there.
At one point he heard his mother whisper to him: “You have to die.” His father, cared for him every night—washing
him, clothing him, waking every couple of hour during the night to turn Martin
in his bed so that he did not develop bed sores.
Eventually, a therapist named Virna van der Walt, noticed
hints of consciousness and attempts at communication with small movements made
by Martin. At her insistence Martin,
then the age of 25, was sent to the University of Pretoria for deeper testing. Medical researchers discovered Martin
Pistorious trapped there within his own body.
Soon, with the help of sophisticated software, he began to communicate
by means of a computer.
Slowly his body awaked a little more.
Today, Martin Pistorius has regained some use of his
arms, though he is still unable to speak.
He is now a web designer. He married
in 2009 and moved to the United Kingdom to live with his wife. He co-wrote a book called Ghost
Boy that saw publication in 2011.
Martin has forgiven his mother.
His rare and still mysterious illness is simply called
“locked-in-syndrome.” Only a few other such
cases have ever been documented. About
the only thing that bothers Martin, is Barney.
There is a hot new actress on television who has invented
a new way to pronounce “pink.” Her pink
ends with a fiercely strong “k.” Her “k”
is like a club with which she strikes you after whispering into your ear, like a
big bottle that filled three small cups sitting beside it, like the death scene
in a Western movie where the wrong man dies after a long ride through
blistering desert heat and the film format changes making the lone saguaro grow
For two days now, a temperature inversion has squashed
damp and frigid air down into our valley and held the cold here. A dense fog and heavy hoar frost developed
the night before last. Both remained throughout the day yesterday. Today, I am posting two photographs I
captured with my twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone on my drive home yesterday
As I watched a somewhat incompetent snowstorm sputter
and fumble around my house (and then finally give up and crawl away) yesterday
afternoon, the thought occurred to me that snow and snowstorms suffer from a
lack of oversight and standardization.
Having worked with the National Electrical Code (NEC)
for some thirty years, I am of a mind that snow and snowstorms might do well if
adopted and administered by theNEC.
The NEC works well for governing
electrical systems—why not snow? I
think that an Article between Motors and Transformers in Chapter 4 would
suffice. Here are a few provisions of
Code I would like to see for Article 444:
Snow and Snowstorms.
·All forms of snow (from sleet to fluff)
shall be tested and listed by an independent testing agency such as Underwriter’s
·Snowflakes shall be standardized in size
and shape, dependent on the type of snow
·Snowstorms shall operate on firm schedules
governed by astronomical timing devices and the timing devices shall be
provided with holiday setbacks
·A lockable disconnecting means for snowstorms
shall be located in a readily accessible location
·Snow shall not be allowed in Classified (Hazardous)
locations as defined by the local authority having jurisdiction
·Snow shall not suck unless expressly
permitted in other Sections of this Code
When rescuers and searchers arrive at the site of a
jetliner crash where the plane has plummeted to earth or into the ocean after a
breakup in midair, they often find victims stripped of their clothing. The sudden violence and abrupt exposure to
wind speeds of hundreds of miles-per-hour is sometimes enough to peel-off shoes
Apparently, I sleep like a plane crashing.
The other morning, I woke sprawled across my bed at an
abnormal angle. When I came fully aware
of my surroundings, I discovered one of my pillows fully naked beside me—the
pillow case for the pillow was crumpled against the headboard and far from my
reach. The rest of my bedding appeared
to have been frozen while caught-up in a tornado beside me.
I have noticed that my 40 pounds of housecat often
refuse to sleep in my bed…maybe they have developed a fear of flying.
A spectacular sunset marked the end of our day in
Helena, Montana yesterday. My
brother-in-law called and urged me to grab my camera. Posted today are two photographs from a trip
I took out onto the snowy prairie in front of my house while I was wrapped in a
blanket and wearing a pair of fuzzy slippers.
On most days I will, just the same as anyone else, choose
a window box filled with sunflowers over two acres filled with weeds. This is the error of short-term thinking, the mistake
in potential, we all tend to make most of the time.
Since the crash of my old computer, I have been forced
to save, shuffle, or delete hundreds of files from my machines (these include two
computers and two external hard drives).
If nothing else, I have been provided with an opportunity to glance
through a plethora of old photographs.
Today, I am posting a couple photographs I captured a
while back. One is a photo of some lady
slippers I found near my cabin. The
other is a photo of some foxtail I captured in field near Helena.
For the males of our species, the universe is not
decaying at nearly a rapid enough pace.
We do our best to accelerate the chaos and annihilation through wars, demolition
derbies, and our failed attempts at automobile repair. On occasion, I am willing to do my part. If the end is fiery and punctuated by roiling
plumes of smoke and ash, move me to the front of the line.
I love a fire.
The other day, I drove to my mountain property to burn
a pile of junk: warped lumber of odd lengths, swollen and flaky squares of
waferboard, and deadfall. Though mold and
bacteria and plain-old moisture has for many years been prying apart and
destroying the orderly molecules of the various items I fancied as junk, I am
not interested in standing around for the next forty or so years to wait until
natural forces gradually suck everything back into the ground.
Not when I have fire to tear it down.
Generally, bigger is better, especially in matters of
combustion. Having chosen a day with
fresh snow and no chance of my fire galloping off through the forest, I put an
entire stack of wood nearly as tall as me to flames as a starting point and
then danced against the blue sky, green trees, and flames. As the flames gripped the butt-ends and
crooked cuts, I circled around, poking at the jumble with a long stick. The flames blossomed and then church-steepled
up into the sky, starkly orange and yellow.
I soon began to tepee longer boards into the flames and then tipped
whole cabinets and sheets of wafer-weld sheathing into the ever-growing
One the molecular level, this kind of bonfire is
something akin to the riot at the end of a soccer match between Venezuela and
Brazil. It doesn't matter which team won
because, frankly, the other lost, and some angry fans soon pour into a
spectacular melee on the field to engage while others flee over under and right
through all obstacles in the way to escape.
On a human scale, well, holy shit!
Bigger is way bigger.
For a while the flames scissored fifteen feet into the
air. I stood ten paces back from the
squirming heat waves. The snow, about
four inches of cover, melted away from a hillside twenty feet away from the
flames as my fire brawled with everything I heaped onto the convulsing mound of
coals from the matured inferno. Green
flames flared from metal hinges attached to cupboards doors. Pink flames squirmed through tangles of
barbed-wire. Sun-colored flames flagged
from the heart of old dimension lumber and posts. I stayed there under the winter sky until the
flames collapsed back into the red coals and the snapping coals gradually
settled and faded to black and gray ash.
A sincere emptiness overcomes you as flames die out if
you are watching a fire of your making.
I thought about how even in some remote and nomadic tribes today, they
carry fire with them wherever they roam with their livestock, never allowing
the last ember to die out. We are far
less sophisticated now, having our matches and lighters to take along.
When I arrived at home again, I discovered that the
fire had burned my face pink. I found
several holes scorched through my heavy sweatshirt. All of my clothing smelled of the end—of sweetness
and sulfur at the same time.
My home is heated by a propane boiler. During spells of cold weather—especially when
the price of the LP gas is driven high by demand—I may burn through several
hundred dollars-worth of fuel in a mere handful of weeks. Part of my thinking when I installed my solar
PV array was that I could supplement my heat with electric sources, which are
virtually 100% efficient and would consume the electricity I am producing.
When I constructed my home, I installed, and have
often used, an electric toe-space heater in my kitchen. This winter, I purchased a couple of plug-in electric
utility heaters. The heaters are each rated
for 1500 watts (at 120 volts) and are of the type that will automatically shut-down
if they tip over.
Twice, in the last month, I have had different people unplug
the heaters almost the instant they saw them.
Naturally, I asked these people why they unplugged the electric heaters.
“Fire,” came the answer.
“You realize,” I said to the last person, “that I have
a propane boiler that actually runs on fire.”
Just for fun, I checked some recent National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) records to see what they show for the cause of
home fires. Between the years 2007—2011
something near 43% of the recorded home structure fires were the result of
cooking equipment. Heating equipment (of
which electric heaters are but a smaller fraction) accounted for only 16% of
the home fires.