Monthly Archives: June 2012


Rock formation, Sandia Peak, ABQ, NM

My brother—who knows his geology—could probably tell you what printed this stony asterisk high in the Sandias. Although it looks to me like the splintering of rock caused by a micrometeorite impact, it was probably the result of some completely different physical process. Still, I’d never seen anything like it before (and there was a second exemplar that looked nearly identical a few feet away).

All I can say is, be careful looking for the footnote! It’s a long, steep slide to the bottom.

A Year Ago: The Thrill of the Chase

Little brother running after bigger brother.Fun!

Remember fun? Remember laughing yourself silly?…
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Miles High Sea

Fossil at 10,000 feet, Sandia Peak, NM

It should be no surprise that some 60% of the U.S. population is either unsure about the theory of evolution or rejects it outright.

In a country where it is taken as a matter of political principle that one person’s judgment and intelligence are just as good as the next, where too much intellectual effort or education brands you as an elitist egghead, where “common sense” and the immediate evidence of the senses are held in the highest esteem, and where anything that casts doubt on the role of the traditional God of our forefathers is a socialist plot spawned by Satan—well, evolution is gonna pose a big problem.

Case in point: two miles up, in the dry alpine climate above an arid desert valley, in an old, old rock, we have the impression of what looks like some kind of sea urchin.

Geologists claim that the limestone and sandstone that cover the granite core of Sandias were laid down 300 million years ago, when it formed the seabed of an ancient ocean teeming with archaic life.

Yeah, sure.

Can you make sense of that number, 300 million? I freely admit that I cannot. I have no idea how long that really is, or what can happen in that length of time.

Then, they say, over a period of the last mere ten million years, the Sandias were uplifted as part of a fault block that formed the Rio Grande Rift Valley.

Can you wrap your brain around 10 million? (It’s a lot smaller number than 300 million.) You take about 8.5 million breaths a year, roughly. If each one of those respirations lasted for a full year instead of seconds, you still wouldn’t get to 10 million years. Can you imagine one inhalation (January to June) and exhalation (July to December) taking a whole year? I’m willing to bet that you can’t. You may think you can, but I wager you’re doing some mental hand-waving and etcetera-ing to cover up for what is truly unimaginable in any concrete way.

Our intuitions generally fail when it comes to very large or small numbers, extremely long or short durations, and complex systems in general. But that doesn’t stop us from being bloody-minded and doggedly simplistic about topics that really don’t lend themselves to seat-of-the-pants analysis.

Evolution. Global modern economies. Climate change.

This stuff is hard. It’s complicated. It requires education, rationality, patience, lots of data, and—yes—training and expertise to understand. It requires humility, even amongst the most skilled, to refrain from overreaching when the evidence and analysis have not yet come to conclusions. It also requires the courage to be forthright and clear when the vast preponderance of evidence and scholarly understanding has reached a consensus.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But no, everyone’s opinion about every subject is not equally valid. It’s just not. Some people are better informed than you are about a given subject, better trained, better educated, and probably smarter too. How about listening carefully to what they have to say, considering their evidence, and—if it’s beyond your area of expertise or understanding—looking to the community of their peers for validation.

Will those people always be right?

Of course not.

But they’re much more likely to be right than you are. Or than I am.

I don’t want you (or me) performing my heart surgery. I don’t want you deciding what goes in my science text book. And I don’t want you deciding what chemicals are acceptable in my drinking water. I want experts for those things, and for many, many others in our complex and challenging world.

Let’s strive to be sufficiently well-educated and savvy enough to be able to identify well-trained professionals, to respect and make best use of their skills, and also to call out frauds, demagogues, and just plain ignoramuses who claim knowledge they don’t have.

[Tip o' the hat to Bob, who called this fossil—as well as the gnarled tree stump—to my attention. Thanks for being so observant.]

A Year Ago: Raindrops on Roses

Close up of raindrops on rose.I have had a large version of this image on my 27″ monitor for 24 hours now…
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Yellow hydrant with daisies.

I dismantled my Artomatic installation last night. It was something of a melancholy process, not only because I enjoyed showing the work and was sorry to see it come down, but because it felt like a first in what’s likely to be an increasing number of lasts.

I treated myself to a plate of pasta afterwards, and when I left the restaurant I spotted this splash of yellow across the street in the early evening shade. On the macro scale, Crystal City is a singularly unattractive spot. All of its charm, if any there be, is in the details.

A Year Ago: Species Unknown

PlantSome of you reading this will look at that picture above and scoff…
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The Open Road

View through the windshield of sunset landscape.

Okay, first of all, do not do this.

Do not drive and take photographs at the same time. It’s a bad idea. BAD. Also: stupid. As in “Only very unintelligent people who do not love life do this.”

And finally: “It was an aesthetic emergency” as an excuse will not help the EMTs pull your crushed and bleeding body from the firey, twisted wreckage.

All I can say—and this is an explanation but not an excuse—is that it’s a long-ass drive between DC and Asheville and I think I got a little loopy in the last couple of hours.

A Year Ago: Ringer

Cones and bumpers.This traffic cone reminds me of a kid…
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Kiva Update

Kenyan cafe proprietor.

Last year, in September, I made my first Kiva loans. In all, I invested $100 in four borrowers—all of them women.

The first one, Nao, a fruit-seller from Cambodia repaid her loan nine months ahead of schedule.

Ruth, a Kenyan woman who makes soap and detergent for sale, is already prepaying some of her debt from a loan to which I contributed from the money repaid by Noa.

Let Dzame impress you with the power of micro-finance and an unbelievable work ethic. This Kenyan woman operates a cafe in a rural home with no running water or electricity. She has eight children. I participated in a loan to her this past April. Her very first repayment in the schedule was more than required.

Today, I reinvested my Kiva returns once again, lending to Elene, a woman in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. She wants to buy another cow for her cheese-making business.

So far, in less than a year, my original $100 has become $175 in loans (not including a few bucks I donated to Kiva from the starting amount). Seven women are making economic headway in part thanks to my extremely modest contribution. For my money, this is nothing but WIN.

Won’t you join me in helping out people like Elene who really, really need help? You can do it FOR FREE. (Your first $25 loan costs you a grand total of nothing, that’s $0. Zero. Dollars. Why wouldn’t you do that?)

Please join my lending team: Something Beautiful.

A Year Ago: Signature (Red)

Mark on pavement, transformed.I’m not sure what the purpose of this marking was, originally…
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Weathered tree stump, Sandia Peak, ABQ, NM

Beautiful as it is, this weathered stump sums up why I don’t want to live in the desert. Simply put: it’s too hard. (Please have a look at the larger version, the details really tell the story.)

It’s too dry. The light is too bright and harsh. The scenery is unforgiving of error. It’s flat or it’s steep and jagged. There’s no softness in it, anywhere—except maybe in the thinnest of margins along a river.

I am not strong enough for the high desert. I have admiration for those who are.

A Year Ago: Succulent

Green plant with water drop.Much as I admire the desert landscape, I adore the season of plump green lushness afforded by a temperate climate…
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White Zin

Glass of white zinfadel on turquoise tablecloth with fuschia shirt behind.

Aaah, summer.

A Year Ago: Another Look

Two men and two women at a restaurant.I took this picture at a restaurant in my neighborhood. I’d like you to take a moment and mull the scene over in your head…
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The Path Ahead

Sunlit path on Sandia Peak, NM

The way forward is clear, although I can’t predict what twists and turns it will take. I’m sure there will be some scary segments, with slippery footing alongside steep drops. I also hope to be surprised by inspiring vistas and delighted by new encounters.

Every adventure has its challenges, and every journey has its own rewards.

A Year Ago: Wreath of Gold

Flower detail.There are no imperishable laurels; no crown endures forever…
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Sandia Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush, Sandia Peak, Albuquerque, NM

Home again.

Wildflowers dotted the rocks around us where we sat to watch the sunset. The cool air and glowing light were balm to the spirit after a hard day’s work

A Year Ago: Harmonious

Close-up of flower buds.Need some interior decorating inspiration? Here’s a freebie for you: do a room in these gloriously calm, muted tones…
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Tree growing in rock cleft, Sandia Peak, NM

In the high alpine environment of Sandia Peak, a tree must take what foothold it can to grow and thrive. And will you look at that ridiculously blue sky?

A Year Ago: Admirer

Woman admiring the West entrance to the National Cathedral, DC

The woman in this picture is Kathleen from Houston. We chatted briefly as we both circled the cathedral, cameras in hand…
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