Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dry Fountain

Dry Fountain at Knoxville airport.

A year ago today I moved out of my apartment in DC. It would be another month before I arrived to stay in Asheville.

To say that I had no idea what I was getting in to would be the truth. To say that I knew exactly what I was doing is also true.

Our most considered choices can have the most unexpected results.



I read something yesterday (which I won’t link to because it’s both gratuitously nasty and insane) that reminded me how easy it is to fall into paranoid delusion. Conspiracy theorists are everywhere.

The human mind excels at pattern-finding. We are super good at it. So super-good, in fact, that we rack up an impressive amount of false positives. It is by no means only the mentally ill whose decision-making is distorted by beliefs in the ‘meaning’ of patterns projected onto random and hence insignificant configurations of objects and events.

Cognitive biases and errors are the hardest to spot in ourselves. I have found it very useful to read up on the science, and try to self-monitor for them. It’s also helpful to have someone close to you who’ll point it out (gently) when you slip unnoticed into one of these mental traps.

This isn’t a call to blame and shame. It’s a reminder that self-awareness and a certain degree of ongoing skepticism are very useful. I try to ask myself regularly: “How do you know that?” and “What if you were wrong?” and “Does it feel right because it is right or because it would be cool if it were right?” and finally “Is there another, better explanation?”

A Year Ago: Goodbye

Flowers on coffin.It seems fitting that my packing to leave Washington should reach its apogee in the days of Yom Kippur…
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Pole Sitter

Sculpture shadow, Knoxville airport, TN

The Stylites, or pillar-saints, believed that their ascetic practice of fasting, praying, and preaching while living at the top of a column would mortify their sinful flesh and bring them closer to heaven and Christ. (Maybe it was all just a terrible misunderstanding and God told St. Simon to seek a pillow-top bed?)

Pole-sitting was a fad a hundred or so years ago. It mostly went out of style with the Great Depression, when people had other more pressing things on their minds than watching some fool do something completely pointless for publicity. Like finding food to eat and getting a roof over their heads.

Better to labor in obscurity doing something of genuine service and substance than to grossly waste your life for the sake of the limelight. And don’t put yourself on a pedestal unless you’ve got something really valuable to say.

A Year Ago: How To Pack

Evening gibson.Consider this a pro-tip…
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Peeling door surface and lock.

The building is derelict. They’re talking about razing the structure and replacing it with a spiffy new hotel and retail space.

Yet there’s this ineffectual little lock on a door that can’t possibly have anything of value behind it. Why?

And I ask myself: what doors to nowhere have I got locked up? What am I pointlessly protecting? What am I afraid of? What wonderful opportunities would appear if I let all the useless, outdated, irrelevant doorways get blown open?

A Year Ago: Music To Pack By

It’s Fall

Glass and shadows at Knoxville airport, TN

The season is changing again. It’s cold in the evening. My visitors have left.

A Year Ago: Geekgasm


I can think of a few techniques that might make this possible. But it’s so beautifully done that it might as well be witchery.

Two Years Ago: Diplomat

Aaron Tovish on the telephone.This is my brother Aaron…
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Slow Flakes

LIchen pattern on gravestone.

We took a walk at Riverside Cemetery. Bob commented on how ugly the lichen were; I thought they were beautiful.

We both decided, however, that a chocolate malted milkshake would be the perfect thing to have afterward. So we did.

A Year Ago: Autumn Arrives

Seed pods against telephone pole.Summer is over. Today was wonderfully warm, clear, dry, but with that wine-like edge of autumn…
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C’mon-a My Kitchen

Restaurant interior.

A little taste of some bounced light for lunch.

A Year Ago: Mining The Mundane

Some days the world doesn’t easily offer up its beauty…
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What Doesn’t Kill You

I am mindful that modern medicine saved my life back in April. Let me be crystal clear: YAY, SCIENCE!! I am grateful to be alive.

There’s no denying, however, that there have been consequences. I am not as strong or as robust as I was before the appendicitis. I have internal scars that pull and tug in uncomfortable ways sometimes. The feeling of bodily integrity I once enjoyed is no longer present. I am acutely aware of being a collection of parts.

This skinbag of organs and muscles and bones is not as resilient as it used to be. My physical plant was always younger than my years. I enjoyed very good health for a long time, and I confess that I took it for granted. The passage of time and other such outrages have stripped away that luxury.

I’ll spare us all the list of things that don’t work quite right, the litany of complaints major and minor. I will say, however, that all this makes me focus more acutely on what I can do and experience, while I can do it.

Use it before you lose it, that’s my new motto. Procrastination is now an even more disastrous strategy than it used to be. The stuff I put off today, I may not even be ABLE to do tomorrow.

Carpe diem, friends.

A Year Ago: Blue Moon

Moonrise, Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NCI swear to you that I did not know…
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Father & Daughter

Father with toddler.

Sometimes you have to just pause and be grateful when you see the primal simplicity and beauty of love.

A Year Ago: The Story of Leaves (part 2)

Close up of shrub leaves.Occasionally something happens which reveals the working of a person’s own mind in a startling way…
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