Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Color Diary: Day 3

Yesterday, I hiked and then snowshoed through over two feet of snow to reach my cabin.  Heavy snow fell for the whole time.  The entire Rocky Mountain landscape around me—top to bottom and side to side—was white and silent.  Trees, mountains, and sky dissolved into the immediate curtains of snowfall sweeping past me. 
White is not exactly a color.  Not in the same way as, say, yellow.  Yellow has a specific wavelength—a naming song, if you will.  White, on the other hand, is a compendium of all colors.  White is a mass of noise in that regard.
Yet, most of us perceive in white a certain purity.  Maybe that’s because white can also be overwhelming.  Consider how you must sometimes shade your eyes when you enter a white room filled with white light or open the door on a sunny snowscape. 
Yesterday, white snowflakes overwhelmed me as they sifted down from a white sky, waltzed through white ghost trees and swept by me, white on white as I trudged on.  The entire surround gone chill and soft and utterly flat, if not beautiful, in perfectly diffused daylight.  A kind of slow motion overtook the countryside.  For the whole time, I heard but a single brief sound.  That, a soft murmur of running water when I crossed the mostly snowed-over creek and finally saw my cabin emerge from the snow.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 30, 2016

Color Diary: Day 2

Why feelin’ down gotta be blue?
What man say that first?
Why ain’t the blue goin’ up?

We cranked them blues, fillin’ yellow pool halls with dancin’
and old men with slick women under red light.
Them old men know the black guitars ain’t weepin.’
They just hummin’ low.

And why don’t them bluebells ring
when grey wind blowin’ cross the fields?
Why them blue fish so quiet?

All we know is deep voices feel right
and night after playin,
bring warm mornin’ with sky same color as ripe apples.


--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Color Diary: Day 1

I don’t want to live entirely in white.  Give me aquamarine waves breaking against a white beach.  Release a pure white horse into a green pasture and watch the horse gallop away so smoothly it seems made entirely of liquid.  Allow me a broad valley filled with white snow and occasional stands of green pines.  Give me snowy white hills gradually assembling themselves into distant blue mountains.
White is contradictory.
Here, we begin with white.  Born into soft white blankets.  Married in white gowns and white dress collars under white arbors filled with red roses.  In the East, beginnings are red.  Red dresses for weddings.  Red for prosperity.  White is reserved for mourning.  White for the family of the deceased.
Presented with an option, I prefer a white bird over a black one.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The New

—Keep a diary where all entries are about colors.
—Learn to say “I love you” in a dozen languages.
—Fashion your own kite from fine paper and willow twigs.
—Learn the names of all the parts of a fancy wooden chair.
—Stop using poison of any kind.
—Post children’s drawings in every room.
—Whistle softly.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Boogie


Our pets age at a vastly different rate than we do.  While a tortoise might remain a spry youngster throughout the entirety of our life, a dog might enter middle age and then exit stage left in two or three years.  According to the American Kennel Club, 15 human years is equal to the first year of a medium-sized dog’s life.  Two years for a dog equals about nine years for a human.  After that, each year translates into approximately five years for a dog.
My sister Connie, has an Australian shepherd mix named Boogie.  The dog has been with her for the last dozen or so years.  Boogie is something near 16 in human years.   According to a chart I found at www.akc.org, he would be, in human terms, exiting his late 80s and entering his 90s.
Yesterday, that girl, my sister Debbie, Terry, and I drove to Butte for a holiday dinner with Connie and my brother-in-law, Tony.   Boogie did not greet me at the door with tail wagging as he always has in the past.  I eventually found him standing in the parlor, seemingly unaware of the flurry of family activity suddenly blossoming around him as we exchanged greetings.  Boogie was little more than a sullen statue of his former self.  Honestly, the last few months have been devastating to Boogie.  When I approached him, he did not react in the slightest.  No flopping on the floor for a belly-rub as in days of old.  For my whole time there, Boogie remained inactive and inattentive.
Old age—human or otherwise—is such a cheater.  Old age drags away everything from around us as we stand there flagging in an ever-increasing stupor.
Boogie does not have much time left.  I suppose he saw all of us as a blur of noise and activity that no longer interested him.  He is withdrawing from the wider world around him.
On my side of this…seeing Boogie yesterday hurt me.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 26, 2016

Woodstock


Some advice, though seeming to apply narrowly to a specific situation, stands as good advice everywhere.  I give you, for example, this bit of advice given from the stage at Woodstock in August of 1969: “…the brown acid that is circulating around us isn’t too good.  It is suggested that you stay away from that.”

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Little Drummer Boy


We lost David Bowie in January of this year.  As my tribute to him, I thought I would post a video of Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy, one of my favorite Christmas songs.
I wish everyone a merry Christmas.
Enjoy.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Solitaire


The Townsend’s solitaire is aptly named.  They are not a flock bird by nature.  The solitaire insists on living alone.  They are rather like that cranky old widower who lived down the street from you when you were in grade school—the one who scowled at you as you rode by on your bicycle and yelled if you set foot in his yard.
Once again, a Townsend’s solitaire has taken up residency in my yard for the winter.  This particular bird alternates between my rain gutters and various trees.  For a solitaire, my house is a flawless winter resort.  These birds tend to spend summers in the high mountains eating insects and a few berries.  During winter, they settles into lower elevations and survive almost entirely on juniper berries.  That makes my house solitaire paradise.  The hills and ravines that ripple away from my house are chock-full of junipers turned blue with berries.
Once a solitaire stakes out winter land holdings, it will jealously guard the properties.  The solitaire will readily fight with other birds, including other solitaires, if they approach the prized juniper berries within their territory.  The Townsend’s solitaire sings vociferously at times, calling out: “Tew.  Tew.”   Sometimes the solitaire will call out a more complex warble.  All of this, though sounding beautiful, is a warning to other birds.  Just like the cranky old man from down the street.
Given all of this, I still insist that the solitaire living at my house is fond of me.  The bird has never “tew-tewed” me directly.  This bird, just as other Townsend’s solitaires in the past, often perches on the rain gutter above me as I soak in my hot tub outside during daylight hours.
Posted is a photograph of a photograph of a Townsend’s I lifted from Wikipedia.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Christmas Wish List


I hope a game of soccer breaks out between fighting men on Christmas day, just as occurred in 1914 between German and British soldiers fighting in the trenches of World War One.
May all children under the age of ten receive the gift of at least one toy they desire.  
I wish for one more letter in the alphabet—one that matches that weird sound my cats make when they see a bird through my window.
I hope coffee trees have a great year.
I wish shooting stars whistled like pan flutes as they fell.
May every tomorrow feel like velvet to the touch.
I wish eleventy-two was a real number.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What are the Chances?


What are the chances?
What are the chances to wake and find the first sliver of winter light having fallen through a slit in the blinds of your bedroom window?
What are the chances to wake and find the first sliver of winter light having fallen through a slit in the blinds of your bedroom window and lain across your open hand like a burnished dagger?
What are the chances to wake and find the first sliver of winter light having fallen through a slit in the blinds of your bedroom window and lain across your open hand like a burnished dagger at the very instant you crash away from a murderous dream?
Thus I woke.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Jigsaw Puzzle-Swappers


In 1969 a movie titled Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice made its way to the silver screen.  The movie openly explored promiscuity in marriage and spouse-swapping.  At the time, I was just entering my teens.  I recall the stir made by the movie, but I didn’t fully grasp the implications back then.
Fast-forward to 2016.  As much as I distain to mention this, I have degraded to point where I now engage in swapping with other couples.  Not spouses.  I and two other couples have become jigsaw puzzle-swappers.
This all started innocently enough.  A couple I know—we shall call them couple X—purchased a 750 piece jigsaw puzzle and took a few days to put it together.  That led them to a few 1000 piece puzzles.  Before long, their dining room table always featured a jigsaw puzzle.  Innocently enough, another couple—couple Y—stopped by to visit couple X.
You know the story from here.
In a matter of a few weeks, both couple X and couple Y had puzzles spread across their dining room tables.  Eventually, that girl and I were similarly exposed to jigsaw puzzles.  We purchased our first 1000-piece puzzle on impulse.
At present, three couples are at play with jigsaw puzzles.  If you enter any one of our homes, you will find a puzzle under construction.  The border will likely be complete, and the other pieces will be strewn about, looking like the remnants of a bombed-out city.   All of us are drawn to the puzzles.
I often stop by to visit couple Y on my way home from shopping in Helena.  I find myself immediately pulled toward the ever-present unfinished puzzle there.  I cannot leave until I have put in place at least one piece.  Sometimes I stay for hours, swearing at the pieces, sweating.  On occasion, I will find a piece or two that couple Y improperly forced into place in a late-night puzzle binge.
So deep have all of us fallen into the puzzle-building craze, we sometimes call one another on the phone to discuss puzzles.  Worse, as indicated by the opening of this blog, we have become puzzle-swappers.  We have all began to purchase, build, and swap puzzles once we have had our way with them.
I cannot say if this is normal behavior for couples.  At this point, our obsession is complete, and any analysis is moot.  We are where we are.  Posted today is a photo of the puzzle presently under construction on my dining room table.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Peace on Earth


“Peace on Earth” seems too small a gesture.  As always, I suspect we can do better.  Let’s start with harmony here on Earth, but adopt as our motto “Peace here on Earth, Peace Beyond.”

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 19, 2016

Women See Red, Men Build Shops


As a point of fact, the brains of men and women are hardwired in very different fashions.  Women, for example, will read through instructions entirely before attempting a new task.  Men, on the other hand, are very competitive and would just as soon beat-up someone as read instructions.  “Instructions are for idiots,” a man will spout when confronted with them.
Women also see more colors than men.  This is especially true in red.  The ability for women to see more colors is often problematic for men.  I give you the following conversation to illustrate.
Woman: “What should I wear to the Christmas Party?
Man: “Wear that red dress of yours.”
Woman“Which one?  Do you mean the garnet red, mahogany red, or the sangria red?”
Man:  “No, the red one…I mean blue.  Did I say red?”
The difference in how women see colors is, frankly, a constant point of conflict.  The matter of color “matching” has led to countless arguments in clothing stores and furniture retail outlets.  In selecting colors for room décor, the baffling racks of too many shades in the house paint aisle at Home Depot are largely the result of women.
Finally, men have superior “spatial” reasoning.  They are capable of looking at everything they own and knowing immediately they need a much bigger garage.  This also makes men superior at packing everything into an automobile before an extended trip.  Men possess an innate ability to size-up a space and know what will fit.  As men age, they realize their garage is no longer big enough.  The answer is a large, detached shop with an oversized overhead door.  And they don’t need blueprints for consrtruction...until their first attempt at construction fails.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Another Reality


I wrote yesterday about our sub-zero temperatures.  After posting my blog, I drove into Helena for a scheduled teaching engagement, leaving my house in the deep blue of pre-dawn.
I immediately encountered bitter cold temperatures.  After travelling only a mile from my house, my truck’s outside thermometer began to register a temperature of minus 30 F.  As I drove from the ranchlands and into the central valley, the temperatures continued to drop.  At one point, near where I crossed Prickly Pear Creek, the temperature dropped to minus 40 F.
That’s not just cold.  That is another reality.  At such cold temperatures, everything becomes brittle.  If you brush against a tree branch, it is likely to shatter.  Sounds attain distinct edges and carry much greater distances.  The snow under your tires squeals and squeaks.  The instant you step outside, the cold air stings your face.  Normally pliant plastics will readily break.
Years ago, I was sent to connect wiring to a satellite dish in conditions such as yesterday’s. When I tried to unfurl some wires from a junction box on the dish, the insulation on the wires shattered and fell away from the copper conductors.  I alternated (in five-minute sessions) between working outside and warming in my idling truck that day.
Consider this: According to the National Weather Service, at minus 15 F with a wind-chill of -55 degrees, you can get frostbite in as little as five minutes.
At the same time, the cold paints a beautiful white and blue landscape.  The air sparkles like fairy dust whenever struck by light.  Shadows attain a new depth.  The ice on lakes begins to sing—sounding like a whales calling from the ocean.  Finally, these temperatures come with cloudless days and bright sunshine.
Pretty and dangerous, this other reality.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Twentyish Below Zero


When the temperature outside is frigid enough, you can “feel” the cold right through the walls and windows—no matter the temperature inside your home.  It’s like the cold is radiating waves that wash through everything.  The entire house feels stiff.  The heating system never stops murmuring underneath the floor.
I woke this morning to that feeling of cold.  When I shuffled from my bedroom to the back door to peer outside, as is part my ritual each morning, I found bright lines of frost lining the inside edges of the glass.
I touched the frost.
Yep, it’s real.
I flipped the switch for the outside light so I could see the thermometer I mounted to a brick pier outside.  Twentyish below zero.
Yep, it’s real.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Weight of Knowing


That girl and I watched Black Sea, a movie about a submarine filled with somewhat desperate men attempting a risky and illegal salvage operation in the depths of the Black Sea.  As I watched the movie, I became decidedly uncomfortable.
I imagined myself inside the submarine.
I don’t think I have the poise to bonk around inside a submerged submarine.  Okay, in plain English, I would freak-out.
To begin, I am claustrophobic.  Beyond that—or maybe as an extension of that—my mind would never drop the weight of knowing that my life was one-hundred percent reliant upon valves and pipes and motors and engines inside a man-made monster the swallowed me and took me under.  Knowing how pressure and water is unrelenting in seeking to pry apart and flood through every seam would pick at me.
And this: there is nowhere to go!
I actually squirmed around on the sofa when the submarine fell into distress.
For many years, the military has subjected submariners to physiological testing before accepting them into service.  Obviously, claustrophobia is a problem.  So is not getting along with others or being a loner.  Even a certain level of generational changes must be considered.
Easy for me.  I am out before I get in.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Snow Changes Everything


A couple days ago the sun finally peeked through following our first significant snowstorm of the season.  That girl and I took advantage of the clearing weather and drove a half-dozen miles to the regulating reservoir as a way to get out of the house.
Snow changes everything.  The landscape softens and purifies under the white sameness of snow.  Sharp sound turn blunt.  The sky is a deeper blue and matters more.  Birds of prey rise up without stirring a wing.  The snow remembers in tracks where every rabbit or deer has been.
We drove around the now frozen body of water, stopping occasionally just so I could fling myself out there and plant a few tracks of my own in unmarked snow.
Posted today are images of the earthen dam and the stone riprap on the now quiet shore.
   



















--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What if You Could Test Your Child at Three and Know His or Her Future?


There may be such testing.
A study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour revealed the findings of scientists at King’s College London following 35 years of research.  The study charted more than 1000 children from before they started school until they reached the age of 38.  All subjects underwent a 45 minute-long series of tests at the age of three.  The tests gauged intelligence, language and motor skills, and assessed such things as level of tolerance, restlessness, impulsivity, and social hindrances.
The testing and the years of study that followed were put in place to weigh the study subjects against the “Pareto principle,” sometimes called the 80/20 rule.  This principle maintains that 80 percent of the output from a given system or situation is determined by 20 percent of the input. The 80/20 rule has been observed in both biology and in behavior.  A common example in business would be this: 80 percent of a team’s project value is achieved by the first 20 percent of effort.
The numbers for this ratio may not be exact in all examples, but the principle seems to be at work in many places.  The Kings College study was fashioned to see if predictors were in place early in life that might indicate the future of a child in terms of their ultimate place in society as adults.  The 80/20 rule designates that 20 percent of the population is responsible for 80 percent of the burden on society.  These burdens include substance abuse, crime, and reliance on public assistance.
The study directly connected the three-year-olds with the lowest test scores to the 20 percent of adults that acted as a drag on society.  Those children became those adults.
The beauty of this study is that researchers found places early in childhood where early intervention might change outcome dramatically.  A little extra effort and expense early in life might save society greatly later on.  A change in the input will cause a change in the output.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Jingle Hell


I spent the first three-quarters of yesterday translating into plain English a series of grounding and bonding sections within the National Electrical Code.  At 3:00 in the afternoon, I flung some pillows down onto on carpet and flopped down on top of them to take a nap.  I quickly drifted off to sleep while listening to the sounds of the Traditional Christmas Channel on Sirius XM Television.
That was a mistake.
I woke a bit over an hour later to what I thought was the sound of woman moaning in pain as someone beat her repeatedly with a xylophone.  I lay there on the floor in a stupor for a much longer time than you might suspect before I realized the sound was actually a jazz-infused version of Jingle Bells.
I hate it when that happens.   

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 12, 2016

Attack of the Russian Spambots


Spam, by definition, is unwanted, irrelevant, or inappropriate information sent indiscriminately to large numbers of recipients over the internet.  Some spam may simply be a form of advertisement.  On the darker side, some spam is for phishing: seeking to obtain personal information.  Other types of spam may lead users to internet addresses where malware is present.
Spambots are programs that harvest email addresses from websites, chatroom conversations, etc.
Why do I care?
About a month before the election, I linked my blog to Google Analytics.  Google Analytics is a powerful web analytic service that generates reports on web traffic for a given website—in this case, the blog you are now reading.  Analytics will track the number of sessions, session length, the number of new and returning users, the country and city of origin for users, and revenue where such is involved.  With Google Analytics, a smarter person than me can drill down even deeper.
Early into working with the analytics reports, I began to see three to five blog “sessions” daily from users in Russia.  Most originated from St. Petersburg.  A few originated from Moscow.  The sessions were, in fact, spam hitting my blog page.  Rather than showing a language associated with them (as other sessions do), this was shown on my report: Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!
Probably not a link you want to follow home.
These daily spam hits continued until a few days after the election and then they went away.  I have since read a bit about this sort activity.  Russia is a notorious home for internet junk and hacking activities. 
Below, I have posted two screen captures from my Google Analytics reports that show exactly what I am talking about.
At present, there is suspicion that someone in Russia used the internet and hacking practices for purposes of tinkering with our election.  This does not strike me as particularly wild speculation given what I already know.  This stuff is, at a minimum, annoying.  But given our ever-increasing reliance on the internet in all things, malicious activity on the internet is dangerous.   

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Housecats are for Sleeping


I woke at 3:00 this morning and struggled to fall asleep again.  My mind started to rummage through the dumbest things:
Did I buy too many envelopes the other day?  How long will it take me to use 500?   Where in the hell are my heavy winter gloves?  Funny how Uyen always forgot the “s” at the end of such things as shoes, pants, and gloves.  “Here is your pair of glove,” she would say.  I sure like our Christmas tree.  Hope the roads are good tomorrow for our drive to Three Forks…
After squirming around in bed for the better part of an hour, I dragged myself out to the living room and burrowed into the sofa.  There, I felt the LED lights from my smart TV, the satellite receiver, the Hopper, and the sound bar steadily glowering at me.
Maybe 500 envelopes is just right.
I squirmed around for another half-hour or so.
At about that time, 20 pounds of housecat, Carmel, jumped up on top of me and nestled into the swirls of blanket.  He immediately began purring and kneading.  The cat soon shredded the envelopes and Christmas tree and all else inside me.  The pieces drifted down and away like so many shades of snow from the treetops.  I fell into a deep sleep.
Housecats are for sleeping.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Death of Snow Geese


In Donald Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) I find a certain irony.  Pruitt is no fan of regulation.  He is expected to widely strip or encumber EPA regulations, especially those decried as “overreach” by regulated parties.  The irony is in the fact that came this same week—only sixty miles south of me—the death of thousands of snow geese after they landed on super-toxic water in Berkeley Pit.  The toxic water is the result of early mining practices conducted without regard to the environment and without regulatory oversight.
First, let’s talk about the geese.  Each year, hundreds of thousands of snow geese fly through Montana on their migratory path between breeding grounds in the Arctic and wintering habitat far to the south.  Normally, the geese land on safe waters such as those of Freeze-Out Lake north of where I live.  This year, the geese left the Arctic late and were caught in a winter storm upon arriving in Montana.  They bypassed Freeze-Out because the waters were mostly frozen and landed, instead, at Berkeley Pit—once an open pit copper mine, now a deep toxic lake.  Some of the geese stayed on the water, ignoring noise-making devices intended to dissuade waterfowl from landing and remaining in the pit.  The water in the pit is highly acidic and suffused with heavy metals.  Drinking the water is suicide.
Many geese drank the water.
By mid-week this week, thousands of dead geese were reportedly littering the shores of the pit. Hundreds of geese died in a similar incident back in the 1990s.     
Now we can talk about environmentalism.  I am here in Montana only because mining brought my predecessors here.  I still have family in the mining industry and want them to keep their jobs.  I have friends who are loggers.  I have personally disrupted a bit of earth in making my way to this date.  I fully grasp the need to embrace the extraction industries of mining and oil.  Maybe there is a certain overreach in some environmental standards.  But I worry a little that Scott Pruitt might use a sledgehammer in reshaping EPA regulations where a chisel is more appropriate.
Only time will tell and I would happily be wrong.
Meanwhile, I am deeply saddened by the loss of all those snow geese.  How many times do we need to kill the proverbial canary in the coal mine?  I would prefer we don’t keep repeating this mistake.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Trees of the Scottish Highlands


The other night, that girl and I watched a movie set and filmed in the Scottish Highlands.  The rolling hills and the mountains, buttressed by stone, almost burned my eyes with their vivid green.  As the cameras swept over the countryside I became increasingly aware that no trees populated the lush landscape.  Clearly, trees would not want for rain.
Why no trees?
I searched the internet.
In crass terms, there are no trees because humans precipitated a steady deforestation of the Highlands.  The first wave of deforestation occurred about 4000 years ago when farmers arrived with cattle, goats and sheep.  These early settlers burned back forests to promote the growth of heather and grass for their animals.  As time went on, the once dense forests retreated more in the face of woodcutters harvesting for building timbers and firewood.  Farmers continued to nick away at the trees and their livestock overgrazed the open land.  The forests withdrew in continuous fashion until only isolated pockets remained here and there in the Highlands.  The woodland creatures such as lynx, wolves, and bears also vanished.
As the forests shrunk away and were replaced by grassland and livestock, the entire ecology of the landscape changed.  The soil lost nutrients once provided by fallen trees and animals.  Water shed more rapidly.  The balance changed.  Trees lost their footing entirely.
So came the grassy landscape captured by the cameras filming the movie we watched.
The Highlands are beautiful under the shawl of grass that covers them today.  No doubt about that.  But there now exists an interest in expanding the forests from the pockets into which they have withdrawn.

--Mitchell Hegman
Photo: www.trekearth.com

Thursday, December 8, 2016

12 Watts


The latest generation of LED light bulb can illuminate an entire room, producing a light output equivalent to a 75 watt incandescent bulb—all while consuming a meager 12 watts of power.
As advertised, the Oral-B Pro 5000 electric toothbrush is capable of using Bluetooth to connect with your phone to give you feedback on your brushing and cleaning habits.  These electric toothbrushes remove 300% more plaque along the gum line as compared to a brushing manually.  They consume 7 watts of power.
The nightlight plugged into the wall receptacle in my hallway draws 3 watts.
The human brain operates on 12 watts of power.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Knowing


Some people spend most of their years seeking, questioning, recalculating—attempting to find some exact thing they would like to do to mark their life.  I was lucky.  I knew early on that I wanted to flop around the house not doing much of anything at all.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dot is a Bitch


While Kevin and I were talking the other day, he said: “Oh, by the way, your friend Dot is a total bitch.”
First of all, Dot is not really what you would classify as a friend.  She is one of our local mule deer—distinguishable due to a conspicuous white spot on her forehead.  She frequents both of our places and is far less fearful than most of the other deer.
“Why do you say she is a bitch?” I asked.
“I was watching her and a bunch of other deer out in my yard the other day.  She walked up to another doe, head-butted her, knocked her on her ass for no apparent reason, and then pushed her down the hill while she was on the ground.”
“Hmm.”  I considered for a bit.  “I know she can be a little pushy up at my place when other deer come around, but I don’t know as she’s a bitch.  Maybe it’s like that thing I read on Facebook: She has exceptional leadership qualities.”

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, December 5, 2016

Each Morning


Each morning, Montana expands in fresh light only a few feet outside my bay windows.  The prairie appears at my feet, scented of sage, honey-colored grass insistent on bowing before the softest wind.  This time of year, as winter sideswipes autumn, the mountains collect on the horizon like armadas of sailing ships carved from jade, their elevated fields of snow now sails filled with sun and trade winds.  Clouds roll on, soft bellied, but insistent.
Before this land flushes fully green again.  Before the bluebirds return to stitch their flights overtop me, we live in the cool pastel of these mornings.  If we are lucky, the deer will cross through as we watch.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Signal Coyote


I recall reading an article about Ethernet over twisted-pair cable systems when the technology first arrived and began supplanting coaxial cable.  As I read through a passage about how information bits are prepared for transmittal on impedance-matched (balanced) cables, I thought I read this:
A signal coyote changes the nature of the signal…
Naturally, I stopped reading right there.   I pondered.
A signal coyote.  Cool.  What is a signal coyote?   Some whiz kid from Montana must have invented the signal coyote and given it that name.  How does it change the signal?  Does it chase after signals like they are rabbits and nip at them so they run faster?
I formed a picture of the electronics in my mind—a coyote hunkered there on the warm edge of an electronic forest, listening to the soft hum and eerie hissing of components below abrupt cliffs studded with transistors.  The coyote hunches lower, howls, suddenly lopes off through a nearby tangle of wires lighted by the reddish glow from an LED someplace aloft.
But, of course, I misread the sentence.  When I read the passage again it was not a coyote.
The signal is altered by an encoder.
My second reading of the passage deflated me entirely.   I prefer my electronics populated by signal coyotes.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Rising Dead


Death had no edge then.  We crumpled exquisitely in well-tended grass and dandelions and lay still as silverware in a closed drawer.  Our stick rifles and willow switch swords strewn about us.
The smelter shift whistle cried over us. Our fathers at work.
Someone’s fuzzy dog licked the fallen general.  A car honked from Main Street.
Lunchtime.
At once, we rose from the dead and ran home for macaroni and cheese.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Christmas Tree


Yesterday, that girl decorated a four-foot artificial Christmas tree we placed on table in the living room.  She hung her favorite glass ornaments from the branches, including one her daughter made for her during grade school.  She also hung some of my ornaments, including two fragile eighty-year-old ornaments that once belonged to my grandmother.
She called out to me as she adjusted a glass icicle:  “How long do you think we have?  Twenty-five years?”
I knew exactly what she meant.
That girl was enjoying her time with the tree, fussing over precise decorative placement, likely recounting Christmastimes past.  She had made a point to have me hold the ornament her daughter made before she hung that one.  A wave of my own Christmastimes past washed over me as I held the ornament.
Our ornaments merged beautifully on the tree.  Each of them caught white light from the light strings and issued forth colors in return.  Christmas ornaments always look brand new.  I think both of us feel excited about Christmas for the first time in many years.  And we now have a dazzling granddaughter upon whom we can lavish gifts.
“Yes.  Twenty-five years,” I responded.













--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Trigger for Anger


Once, while participating in a labor union executive board meeting, I witnessed as two distinct sides formed at the table when finances became the order of business.  At issue: a proposed expenditure put forth by Brother X.
The meeting quickly heated.  Some felt the expenditure unwarranted.  Eventually, a man rose to his feet and spoke in defense of Brother X.  Unfortunately, Brother X had by this time stopped listening to words, and heard only the man’s tone, which was elevated.  Brother X blew-up at the man defending him.
After the dust settled a bit, I nudged Brother X.   “He was defending you, dude.” I whispered.
I worry that I did not take away enough from that incident.  On occasion, I find myself instantly bristling at the tone used by someone I am conversing with.  Sometimes, the way a question is asked will trigger a glint of anger in me.  Maybe a heavy tone (often only perceived) used in a conversation “feels” like a direct challenge to me.  This is especially true if I have been “stewing” over the subject of discussion.
Unfortunately, I tend to respond in a glaringly negative fashion.  Following the conversation, I may reflect back and realize that a simple bit of advice was being rendered or a plain statement of fact was being made.  A question might have been worthy of asking.  Sometimes, upon consideration, I realize I am, and always have been, in contract with whatever the point expressed.  I jumped off the cliff because I listened to—and misinterpreted—the tone and ignored the words.
I would like to stop this behavior, but there seems no exact place where I might begin. 

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Buddha Vampire


Vampires are real.  In fact your home is likely filled with them.  These are not the kind of vampires that sleep in coffins and swish around in capes.  Most are unaffected by sunlight and garlic.  The vampires I am talking about are “vampire loads” on your electrical system.  These are small users of electrical current that suck juice all day and all night from circuits throughout your home.
Vampire loads are those tiny bits of power consumed by appliances and electronics while the appliances are in standby mode—just sitting there waiting for you to put them to work.  Over recent years, vampire loads have proliferated.
Look around your house.  See that LED glowing on your power strip?  See the blinking lights on your wireless router?  Don’t forget the digital clock and timer on your coffee maker.  Count anything with a remote.  Even the lighted switches you recently installed. 
Vampires.
I read varying estimates on the cost of vampire loads.  They appear to cost the average homeowner at least $100.00 per year.  By the nature of our electronics (and the way we have embraced them) I don’t see us shedding our vampire loads anytime soon.  I even have one load, my Buddha light ball, upon which I purposely waste power. 
I ran the numbers on Buddha.  At a mere 0.125 amperes of steady current flow, he costs me $14.45 in power usage each year.
Thing is, Buddha makes for a cool vampire.













--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Old School


Increasingly, I see young people on television and on streets wearing earbud headphones.  I have even begun to see people at work wearing them.  They are using music and new technology to tune out others.  I am old school.  I can plainly hear everyone I choose to ignore.
--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Gunsight Pass


Nearly fifty years have slipped by since that day my father and I went hunting in the Big Belt Mountains.  I was twelve.  We left our truck in the deep blue before sunrise and clambered straight up one side of a steep mountain as the sun climbed up the side opposite.
We reached the top in full sun, finding ourselves in a stiff wind.  The top of the mountain was something we call a gunsight pass—a distinct “V” shape at the top.  The V was formed by two rims of hard stone muscling up from the grass and trees.
My father pointed to a small outcrop of rock near the very center of the pass.  “Let’s go sit on the other side of that, out of the wind.  We can rest for a while.”
My father had told me that buck mule deer often crossed through the pass.  Not long after we settled in a nook out of the wind, my father poked me.  He pointed.  I stretched to peer overtop the stone at my back, my rifle held beside me.  On the windward side, a pair of mule deer does were walking toward us.  With the wind steady at their back, they had no scent of us.  To my amazement, one of the does continued to walk straight toward the outcrop behind which we were resting.  The top third of my rifle barrel protruded above the stone.  She walked directly to the barrel and sniffed at it.  She looked me squarely in the face.  Her eyes were dark, unmoving.
She wiggled her ears.
I could have touched her.
After only a few seconds, she stepped back, joined the other doe, and they melted into the windswept stones and trees and grass.  Not the buck we were looking for.
At sunset yesterday, this year’s hunting season for deer ended.  Earlier in the day, that girl and I watched Dot, our friendly local mule deer doe, nosing around our deck.  I worried about Dot making it through this hunting season.  She exhibits no great fear of people.  She has walked up to me while I am outside.  She does not run off when I open the door to step outside if she is here.  Honestly, I think she is a bit “simple.”
At dusk last night, Kevin called me.  “Dot is bedded down here at my place,” he said.  “Thought you might want to know.”
Good to know.   One more year the doe has crossed-over gunsight pass.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jump


—A grasshopper can jump 10 times its body length in height and broad jump 20 times its length.
—The average flea can jump a bit over 5 inches vertically and about 8 inches horizontally.  Such a vertical jump is equivalent to a man leaping over a 30 story building.   The horizontal jump is 200 times the flea’s body length.  In one documented experiment, a flea performed a 13 inch long-jump—equivalent to a 5-foot tall person jumping lengthwise across two football fields.
—Fish often jump from the water to avoid a predator or bully pursuing them.
—The Van Halen song “Jump,” aside from having vapid lyrics, was the band’s most successful single and the only one to reach number one on the charts.
—Adult elephants, hippos, rhinos, and sloths cannot jump.
—People jump to conclusions when they are light on facts.
—As near as I can tell, “hoppa” is Swedish for jump.
--Mitchell Hegman

Sources: Discovery, www.bugs.org, www.feascience.com, www.reference.com, Time, Wikipedia, Billboard