-Press has suffered a disappointment in that our middleman miscommunicated with our printer, or something, and there was a death in the company I think, and so one of our books isn't coming out until next semester. But oh well, you know. our other two projects shoud be coming out on schedule, though. Had better be.
-Because I had to fill out my study abroad application this week, it was just awful: I not only had to meet with a bunch of people, but I also had to actually decide where I was going. So there were a couple nights when I didn't get but two or three hours of sleep. It was maddening. But now that week is over! And about time. I was getting pretty sick of it. All I have left to do now: the releases for Amenities and I Remain,; reading some stuff that I never got time to read during the semester; take two exams. And I have a whole week to do it. This is the kind of pace I'd like for the rest of the year, but up until now it's been about twice that if not more. I've had free time like twice since Thanksgiving.
-Oh, another thing is that my font is most probably going to be for sale before Christmas. I'll link to that as soon as it's up.
-I'm really looking forward to coming home for these four weeks of winter. It's going to be fun.
-I got to the game and paid my $4 to get in. And the team was playing, but there were about three people in the stands for Finneytown. And none of them were for the band. I couldn't see them anywhere. I asked one of the three guys, "Is there such a thing as the Finneytown band at this game?" and he said it was senior night. So let's review:
•Mr Canter told me the band would be playing on a night that it wasn't.
•The football game drew a big home crowd from Reading, but the Finneytown crowd could've come over in a Mini Cooper.
•When I got there, the team was (predictably) losing by a lot.
•The cheerleaders were there, and their cheer went like this, with a * being a silent beat.
Let's * get * a little bit rowdy!Yep, they rhymed "rowdy" with "rowdy". Still not a real school. At least Reading gave me my $4 back.
Wildcats are * * rowdy!
P.S. When I went there, the cheerleaders would put posters up before each game urging the Wildcats to defeat the other team, with various words used for "defeat". One of them was "twomp", as in "GO WILDCATS! TWOMP MADEIRA!" I feel bad that I just typed that.
I've been working a lot with the three projects we're doing this semester in Press. The first one is arranged and sent off to the printer: Gawain ng Diyos (God's Work), a collection of photography from the Philippines by Lawrence Sumulong, a student here and a superb photographer. The book looks very handsome and we've all been pleased with it, and we're getting proofs back on Wednesday. Another one is Amenities by Molly McArdle, a collection of short stories revolving around the Clifton Terrace projects in Washington, DC. Those are three buildings of public housing, one of which has now been gentrified and fenced off; the stories are wonderful. That one is going to go to the printer sometime this week. And the other one is a stationery collection designed by Rachel Walberg, meant to revive the lost art of paper correspondence; it's called I Remain,. And I'll bring copies home of all of them, so you can see the fruits of our labors.
-Other than that, I've been doing basically nonstop schoolwork. The plus side is that the week before Thanksgiving break seems to have basically been my Hell Week, and now the last two weeks of my semester (plus finals week) look to be pretty calm as far as schoolwork goes. So I'll be able to actually do things that I want to do, as opposed to things I'm required to do.
-So, I came home for Thanksgiving, and it was just wonderful. Heck, even the actual coming home was pretty nice, because I drove home three girls and we had a fun time the whole way. Before we even got out of town, we had had the epiphany that "A bald giraffe can give itself a hickey". I believe we also sang a lot. When we finally got to Cincinnati (less one girl, who left in Indianapolis), we met up with the remaining girls' ride in Graeter's, which was excellent because it's been probably way too long since I had Graeter's ice cream. And then I came home and played Mom at Scrabble - it's what we do.
-On Thanksgiving we went to Grandma & Grandpa's. So, I got to see the new Sierra. Dave, who has a daughter named Sierra, is getting married to a woman who has a daughter named Sierra. At first they used "Sierra 1" and "Sierra 2", but now they're making it more fair by using their middle names... which both start with G: Sierra Gwyneth and Sierra Grace. It's going to be confusing for a while, I'm pretty sure. I played in leaves with Sierra Grace (the new one). What? You're saying you don't still love to play in leaves? Liar. They had to leave partway through the day for a variety of other Thanksgiving celebrations. So then it was Dan & Tracy and Grandma & Grandpa and Mom and Micah and me. (Dad was off hunting deer in West Virginia. Wish I could've gone, but not enough time.) Dan and I played an unending game of War, which we called the Hundred Years' War. And then we sped it up by playing lines of cards against each other instead of single cards, so we called it Nuclear War. And Tracy said she could just imagine my blog post where I said: "Dan and I played War, and he was goofy." Well, he was. And then we had the Annual Thanksgiving Pool Tournament, which I lost resoundingly because Micah managed to win on a random chance (using what Dan called the John Neeb system of pool, after a friend of his - hitting everything real hard and hoping something good happened), and then in the losers' bracket I hooked the 9 ball into the wrong pocket and lost against Mom. It was the worst pool tournament ever, but I still have the Annual Christmas Pool Tournament to look forward to. We had lots and lots of food, all of it delicious. I stand by my statement that Grandma & Grandpa's house is my very favorite place to eat in the world. After dinner we all sat and talked a lot, and I ate some pumpkin pie. And a black cow. I ate too much as judged by how much I'd eat on a normal day, but for Thanksgiving I ate just enough. Ah, I love Thanksgiving.
-We went home. The next day, I hooked up with two of my high school friends, Aaron and Keith, and we went out on an excursion together. We went to Borders, because it's chess night on Fridays, but there were no boards free and we decided it was kinda boring, so instead we went to a pool hall that Keith knew of. And that was fun. Keith was on point with his random stuff.
Keith: Gimme five! (Aaron does) Down low. (Aaron does) In the creek.
Aaron: No, I'm not gonna do it... it's gonna end up with me getting hurt.
Keith: "You're a geek."
Shortly after that
Keith: Gimme five! (Aaron does) Down low. (Aaron does) In the ditch. (Aaron does) Pick up sticks.
Aaron: That doesn't make any sense, nor does it rhyme!
Keith: That's what your mom said after she gave birth to you!
(We all laugh hysterically)
Aaron: You've got me there.
A little later, he said of all the crazy stuff: "I guess that's what you get for smoking poison sumac." We played pool, but mainly we traded stories and quips and stuff. It was beautiful. And it was also profitable, because Keith knows lots of employers: "I can find anyone a job. I can get this economy back on track." Aaron has been out of work, so Friday was great for him, and Keith has promised to help me find a job for summer break too. No more bein' poor and lazin' around!
-So all in all I had a superb break. Then I drove back yesterday. Two inches of snow were forecast for Iowa. Well, when I got within a dozen miles or so of college, the snow had gotten the better of the traffic. I shifted down to fourth... then third... then second... and then spent about a half hour in first gear, creeping up a hill for a lot of the time. I was right behind a heavy equipment carrier truck, with nothing on it, but I worried from time to time that it might start backsliding. While I was still in second, I was following it just a tad too close, and then it braked, and I had to brake too, and I damn near skidded off the road, and all my passengers were in a panic, but I recovered and gave the truck a much wider berth from then on. That road was slick. Before the traffic jam, we were on track to make it before dinner closed at 7:00; after we got through all that, we arrived at around 8:30. "I'm really glad I didn't kill us all!" I said to the girls as they got out. I feel like I've matured a lot as a driver because of that drive. And maybe taken a few months off my lifespan due to nerves.
[Subject: Good luck!]
Open letter to my son in college who voted for B. Obama,
President Elect Barack Obama will be taking office soon. With his left-wing agenda and his Liberal history it is likely that he will allow the Bush tax-cuts to expire, reinstate capital gains taxes on the house I'm trying to sell and increase the taxes on businesses and the majority of the middle class in order to fund his universal federalized medical coverage and the other ‘entitlement’ programs that he has promised.
This being the case, it will probably push the economy into a tailspin. This will result in any profit from the stock that I had dedicated to your tuition being re-distributed to more worthy (including those 40% who don’t pay taxes because their income is below the taxable level) individuals. Since I will not have the money, I encourage you to submit your request for free, government-subsidized, tuition promptly. President Obama has promised tuition coverage.
I will be using my 401-k and military pension to support myself and your mother in our retirement.
Then I wrote this back to Dad.
OH FER …. Please do NOT worry about this. Things are fine. I’ll give your dad a lashing with a wet noodle.
And, finally, I wrote this in my journal last night.
Dad... the economy is already IN a tailspin. You cannot push the blame for that onto Obama. He has 75 days before he even takes office. The blame goes to the king of deregulation, Alan Greenspan, who as I recall was a Bush appointee. Obama will obviously be working to resolve the crisis, but being as how a coalition of the smartest economists in the world has had zero success in raising the Dow back up to the 14000 it was at last year or even to the 11000 it was in the first half of September, I doubt Obama will be able to make everything instantly better, and I even more doubt that McCain could have. The economy will suck for quite a while. But look at this without a conservative bias: it started tanking in mid-September, and has not come back even close to its former level, and not one bit of that crash can be attributed to Obama.
In conclusion, blame George Bush and Alan Greenspan for the failure or tanking of Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Lloyds TSB, and Iceland, and for the imminent tanking of Chrysler, Ford, and GM. Don't blame Obama for anything. When he gets into office, he'll be inheriting a country in economic shards, and it will keep failing, just like it would have if McCain had gotten elected.
...To be honest, I wouldn't put it past Dad to cut me off for something, but I think it'd have to be more severe than a vote. I'm still the unproblematic son - no drinking, no pot, good grades, nice friends - and his only issue with me is that I didn't absorb the Fox News hogwash that he spends half his waking hours watching. I think he also groups me as a liberal, even though he ought to know that politically I'm anarchist, and only voted for Obama because he mentality wasn't "Drill, baby, drill!" but rather something more common-sense and foresighted, and also less apt to keep destroying the planet. Not that Obama necessarily really cares deeply about the environment. I'm sure he cares, but he's also going to be of the mindset theat we need to find a "balance" between the economy and the environment. In these "balances", the environment never gets the respect we desperately need to give it, because policy-makers (ncluding Obama) see it as something that exists mainly for people who like to go on vacations in it and people who think nonhumans have rights too, beyond the right to be "developed". (What a quaint concept!) I went to Bob's tonight, and inside the graffiti-covered bathroom, there was a piece on the door that read, "This planet is not a resource to be seized and exploited." (Or something close to that.) Underneath, someone had written, "Why not?" The next person had said something about a person with a French name who (naively, they implied) believed animals and the rest of the biosphere had rights too. The next person called into question this person's philosophy, the existence of animal rights, and even perhaps the existence of rights in general. And then the debate got illegible. I believe the rest of the world has rights, but I cut right to the quick and wrote under the original "Why not?", "Because, no matter how hard we pretend otherwise, we are a part of this ecosystem just like every other species is, and if it fails, we fail too." This is the sort of concept I don't expect lawmakers and politicians to understand or, if they do understand it, to act on.
-The weekend was much better. On Saturday, I went on a trackwalk with a friend I found a while ago named James Y. We were both looking for edible plants by the railroad north of college when we first met. So, that tells you a little bit about both of us. James told me he'd found a way to CERA via the railroad, and after I checked out Google Maps, I saw that it was possible to get there. We ended up arranging the trip on the spur of the moment that day, when we ran into each other at lunch, and we headed south at 2:45. It was pretty fun. We talked about politics and stuff, which was interesting becasue we're both shades of anarchist. We also talked about plants and growing stuff. James is fascinated with the idea of growing tropical plants at his home in Buffalo; he's already ordered some small banana trees. He says plants always seem to grow really well under his care. We passed lots of rail construction equipment, which was pretty cool, and we also saw a big corn processing installation that looked like a bunch of tin cans of varying hugeness and suspended from various heights by a bunch of pipes and stuff. There was a loading dock for train cars, but the spur that led to it looked pretty disused. Which is a shame. As we went further, vague industrial buildings with giant, pointlessly manicured lawns gave way to distant motels on the state highway leading to town, and then to farms. We crossed under the interstate (a road crew had stashed some No Passing Zone signs underneath the bridge), and then passed by some emptied cornfields to a gravel road. James said this was the road he'd gone down to get to CERA a while ago on a tour of some sort. So we walked down that road for a ways, but then came to a point where we couldn't see anything even vaguely CERA-like. To be honest, I'd been expecting that since miles back, when we kept going south at the rail intersection, instead of following the perpendicular track to the west. I drew him a map showing where I thought we were, and where CERA was (several miles away), and he conceded that maybe we weren't there after all. I would've spoken up earlier, but I wasn't actually too worried about the destination. It was just a fun walk. Later, when we looked up a map, it turned out we wouldn't have gotten there anyhow - it was at least half again as far as we'd gone, and we just barely got back in time for dinner. Maybe we'll try going to CERA some other day, but probably not until the spring, because there won't be much daylight soon, and it'll be cold too. James says he finds something to like in all the seasons, except winter. It's because he likes growing plants so much. He says his dream locale would be somewhere subtropical ("Zone 10," he specified), where you can still tell what season it is, but the growing season is year-round. All in all, it was a pretty fun trip.
-On Sunday morning, I went kayaking in the pool. Now, I don't want to say a lot, because I smell a jinx lingering somewhere, but I will say that it was with a girl, and no one else showed up, so we two kayaked alone the whole time. Anything more than that is going to have to get said later. I'll just leave you all with that.
-Since I guess it's as good a topic as any to close with, I fed Tenzing today, and he's getting nice and fat. While he was swallowing his mouse, he looked awesome and you could maybe say savage; right after he got it all down, he went right back to looking cute again. Especially when he yawned to straighten his jaws back out. (Snakes do that.) He's a pretty cool snake.
I've been saying for months that the only way to really learn these primitive skills is through doing them. But I've also had a sub-liminal sense of vague despair, because I have so much to learn and so little opportunity. My plans have been along the lines of, "buy primitive-skills books, and learn the skills by practicing them... somewhere." But there's not much forest to speak of around Cincinnati, so practicing a lot of things would be pretty problematic. And books, while helpful, can't impart but a minúte fraction of the knowledge that a real person, who can answer question, and a real forest, rather than pictures of nature in halftone dots, can. My best ideas for solutions to these were: get in contact with the Meskwaki Indians on the rez in Iowa (the college has community service stuff going on there), and learn their history and such. That would cover the people part. For the forest part, I had a vague plan to spend a summer in Minnesota or something, sometime in the fuzzy future. I couldn't think how to make that jive with my plans, which needed to include working for money for most of the summer; also, I would mostly lack direction, not knowing much, including where to start.
-In general, these plans sucked, because they meant only by-the-seat-of-my-pants learning (and probably nothing very deep), and would also leave me at the end of the summer with no community to pursue my goals with. Also, I would be working with kids in Meskwaki schools, and thanks to the checkered scratch that tar-black history of America Inc., they probably wouldn't know how to live off the land in the prairies much better than I would. My best bet for that would be the elders, but not only would it be kinda weird for me to go asking them to teach me the Ancient Ways, but also I would only be on the rez for a few hours a week, hardly enough to learn anything meaningful at all even over the course of a year.
-Today I was reading the REWILD.INFO forums, feeling like I was nowhere even close to knowing what I would eventually need to know, and I opened up a part of the forum that I hadn't thought to click on before. Wilderness School Reviews. I think the reason I'd ignored it before is the word "school", which made me think of classes reminiscent of either elementary school or Manito-wish's "Leadership Seminars", which made use of some pretty cheesy quotes printed onto the walls of the MLC basement. But straight off, I found a school called Teaching Drum (coincidentally about an hour's drive from Manito-wish), which all the REWILDers seem to think is top-of-the-line, or at least the ones who've been there. And it does look incredible. You can go there for a month, or 3, or 11. As I read more and saw pictures, it became very clear that I'd have to go there or to some wilderness school like it. A month is a fairly reasonable $800 (compare: about $4800 at the college, before financial aid and such), which I have saved up already, but that's not to say that I'm going to go and blow my whole year's salary on this. Actually, by the end of the year I'll have a lot more money, because I plan to do a lot of work-study this year. Whatever makes student loans less painful later on. I'm getting paid a nice piece for running Press. And I plan to work this summer, unless I do some sort of unpaid internship instead. A paid internship would be real nice. And I want to learn these skills soon, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to go this summer.
-But meanwhile my goal still stands - I'll catch and eat my own small game by the beginning of summer. I can't slow down my self-driven learning just because I'll be learning in a group later on.
-It's nice being home for a while. Using our bathroom, I've come to realize what a raw deal I get at East Campus: it's environmentally friendly, and the buildings have a LEED certification (but I don't remember what color), but they achieve that through low-flow faucets (so filling up a water bottle takes like a full minute) and low water temperatures (so showers are nowhere near as enjoyable as they could be, especially when it's cold). Here, the water is nice and hot and it doesn't take forever to fill up a pot to make ramen noodles. And I get my own bedroom, so I can turn out the lights whenever I want - but that's one of those "inherent in the system" things at college. Ah, the comforts of home.
-We've got two new kittens. They're both extremely cute and maybe the most friendly cats we've ever had. Coming here, I'm seeing the wisdom of keeping a snake for a pet, though. I don't feel compelled to let him wander around outside his cage, since he mainly stays in one spot and doesn't seem too anxious to run [slither] around anyhow. But all these mammals need their space. Dad let his weasel outside for a little while, and hasn't seen her for a couple days. He thinks she probably met a dog. Before I left for college, I was walking Micah's dog in the woods when he sniffed out Mom's cat at the time, lying there. We never did figure out what happened to her - I didn't see any treadmarks, so she may have gotten sick or fallen out of a tree. A couple weeks before that, our other cat at the time got hit by a car and Dad found him. Mom has decided to keep a closer rein on these kittens so they don't meet the same fate. "Darn hrududil," she says: it's the rabbits' word* for those giant noisy metal things, in Watership Down.
-I'm getting a magazine article written about me! This should probably have been at the beginning of this entry, but it seemed kinda pretentious to do that. It's tentatively called "A Field Guide to Young Font Designers", and it's going to be in STEP Inside Design magazine. I've been in touch already with the guy who's writing it; I told him about myself and about how I came to be a font designer. It's going to be out in January/February 2009. So, keep your eyes out - this is pretty darn awesome, if I say so myself.
-I've been playing Scrabble some more with Mom, and working with Dad on restoring his old Mercedes, the one from 1963 that he bought in the late '70s when he was in Spain with the Navy. Mainly we're working on getting all the paint off it, because it's all got to be replaced. Micah is of course playing his part in this too. If he ever gets a driver's license (he may have to wait a while, because given all his legal woes, Dad doesn't seem too incredibly disposed to dedicate a lot of insurance money to him or let him behind the wheel of a really nice old car), it may become his car. If Dad becomes persuaded to give it to him.
-And I'm getting ever closer to the end of Brennu-Njáls Saga. It's longer than I realized. But there's also some semblance of a climax I'm coming to - a real big lawsuit against some people who burnt down a house with some people in it: and the distinction between "lawsuit" and "battle" can get tricky in old Iceland.
-So, I guess that's about it, until next time. Uh, bye!.
*Plural, and the singular is hrududu.
-I've also been working on co-staffing Press*, which is the student organization that publishes book-length or book-size projects that students make. This semester we're going to be publishing a photograph collection from an amazing photographer among our ranks; and a book of stories that revolve around a Section 8 housing unit (if I've got that regulation right) in DC, with pictures; and a stationery set. It looks like it's going to be a fun semester in Press. And, I had a krokay tournament. Turnout was pretty low. It ended up being just a game. I made it to the end either first or second, but I ended up getting knocked out, and watching the rest of the game play out. A guy named Ben ended up winning. All in all it was an excellent game with four new players.
-Ooh! And I got a job at Bob's Underground Coffee House. It's nothing large-scale - one two-hour shift a week, and anoher three-hour one if theSaturay person can't come. But I love it. Working in Bob's is much less dismal than working in the dining hall. Even though it is underground. Bob's is a room covered in graffiti, where we serve coffee-related drinks. It's open from 8 to 1 every night. Night-owls like me come and play board games, or read the impressive and ragtag array of books, pamphlets, and propaganda left by other patrons, or see bands that play there occasionally, or do homework, or just drink something with friends in a room full of ratty old comfortable furniture. I've only had one shift there so far. I've got another shift's worth of training, and then I man the place solo during my shift the rest of the year.
-And on Friday afternoons, I do flintknapping on the porch of Goodnow Hall with Professor Whittaker, an anthropology professor who's been knapping for a couple decades now. Thus far I've made some mediocre arrowheads, and I'm working on some more, one made of obsidian. Obsidian is not only an awesome word, but also an awesome mineral, basically hard black glass. I'm going to work on scrapers, and eventually I plan to make an ax blade.
-The point of college, I guess, is the classes, so I should at least mention those. I'm enjoying them all, but they tend to assign me tons of reading. Last Tuesday, I had to read 80 pages for sociology, and on the same day either 20 or 40 for English. The Spanish professor has a tendency to give assignments like "Prepare a five-minute presentation on the reading" with no warning. Luckily, he has us give those presentations to each other. And we can BS each other or just admit, "I was up 'til 3 last night and couldn't get to the reading." That's happened to me some. Some of it is because I was reading about what Hallgerd and Gunnar and their servants have been doing. Hallgerd is nuts, always making one of her servants go over and kill one of Njál's and then doing it again after Njál's new servant takes revenge, but there's nothing anyone can do about it, because she's a woman, and it'd be dishonorable to kill her. But I think we've gotten beyond her crap now. Really, Njál's Saga is a great saga. I mean, I don't read a lot of sagas, but this one is pretty intense. I got into it because in English we had read Beowulf, and when I finished it I was in a saga mood. This one is awesomer. Beside those, I'm also learning a lot in anthropology and sociology. Anthropology is the duller class, but that's mainly because my professor isn't what you'd call a dynamo. As a rule, she doesn't get excited about anthropology in class. Whereas my sociology professor really gets into the classes. I bet if I had Professor Whittaker it'd be a more even match.
-Tenzing shed a couple days ago for probably thesecond time, but this was the first time I found the skin. I couldn't keep it, though, because as he was shedding he pooped in his skin, rendering it naaasty. And, I have a video of him eating. Here it is.
-That's about all for now. I'll be back some other time.
*Which is another reason Dave Eggers is endearing to me. I didn't want to mention that up there, though, becuse I'd just moved on from him.
-So, the first question is: What do you gain from going back to a primitive way of life?
This question is unnecessary except in our upper-crust part of society. The vast majority of people in the world are extremely poor and would, when viewed even from our upper-crust perspective, have been better off if civilization hadn't arisen. But in America, it takes a little examining to convince people that hunting and gathering wouldn't be the same as eternal misery in squalor. The first thing I'd like to point out is that in bushmen societies of Africa - these are societies in the desert, where life is pretty difficult - the members only need to work about two or three hours a day on average in order to find their subsistence. Their neighbors who have been convinced to grow food instead are effectively enslaved to their farms, because the farms take so much work. After I said this, the singularitarian just said, "What do they do with all that extra time?" When I told him that they bond with each other and generally have a great time together, he said he'd rather be working, so he could make better machines, because he views that as play, not work. I doubt he'd say the same in practice. He'd be among the innumerable who wish they could spend more time with their family, especially their kids (though he seems like he might not be the having-kids type), if only they didn't have to do so much work.
-Here's another question. He talked about working every day so that he could make something that's better than it was yesterday. You couldn't do that living in the jungle, could you? It's a pretty romantic notion: continual improvement through smarter machines. But who defined machines as the meter of "better"? From my perspective, continual improvement would be learning each day to cooperate better with nature so that nature and I can both live more comfortably. Eventually, I'd get to a point where I wouldn't improve much anymore - but the difference between me and him is that I'd then be satisfied that I'd at last gotten to where I need to be, and didn't need to keep trying to improve, whereas he would never be satisfied and is always working toward a continually receding goal.
-Well what about my hypocrisy? Obviously I'm not sincere, since I haven't already gone out and started living in "the jungle" (for some reason he always called it that, even though I'd be living in North America and it'd be called a forest), right? And likewise, Derrick Jensen can't possibly think his arguments are valid, because he hasn't abandoned civilization yet - in fact, he's used civilization to distribute the books he writes.
Well, no, because I was raised in civilization and never got hands-on training with any of the techniques I need to know in order to live off the land. I can't yet go back into the wild and survive, probably. Once I can, I still won't for a while, because for one thing, a society of one is depressing and vulnerable, and I'd need to find some people who would come with me. I'm most likely to find those people here, or through the internet. Civilization has kept people with ideas like these from growing up together, but fortunately we can now use civilization in order to get back together. And as for writing books, Derrick Jensen has done more good for the natural world by raising awareness about primitivism through his books than he would have if he had just gone off and started living in the redwood forest. As long as civilization is still around, it helps if you can work against it, not just leave it. It helps you (by increasing the health of the landbase you're living on) and it helps the rest of the world.
-So, thanks for bearing with me. If you have any questions, just ask them: that can only make this post more valuable.
*Singularity is a pretty idiotic doctrine, as far as I've been able to see. It ignores the fact that every other curve that has had exponential growth has slowed down to become a logistic growth curve. (Actually, I just read that the main proponent of it knows technological growth will become logistic, but has decided it's going to happen too far in the future to matter to him.) And the reason that we're going to be able to disobey this law is that, as the guy in the dorm said, "We're smarter." He went on to mention several benchmarks of our smartness like the understanding of DNA and the making of computers, asking rhetorically if any other culture has understood those things, and acted like that proved our superiority and our capability of hitting a Singularity. But notice that any previous culture could have said that about cultures that didn't have their technology ("Has any other culture been able to use a springy stick and some string to shoot a pointy stick so fast that an animal can't run away from it?") and any future culture that advances farther than us could say it about us ("Has any other culture been able to make all the molecules of an object become energy and then reconstitute again at a distant point?") and argued just as successfully that their culture alone is fit to achieve singularity. So, no singularity.
Anyhow. What's been going on? Well, it's been a pretty tame year so far. I've been doing pretty well in all my classes, though I had a rocky bit where I confused my sociology with my anthropology. I might register for a Russian class, but that would put me at 20 credits, and you need special permission to go over 18. And maybe you have to pay... I'll ask about that tomorrow at some point. I've been organizing a croquet tournament through the athletic department (which is why it's spelled with a q: they want me to offer flat and all-terrain varieties). People are supposed to register by the 21st; so far I've had one person register, so I'm going to be publicizing the thing a lot this week.
-I've been reading a ton of bookage. I read the monumental and incredible and necessary Endgame by Derrick Jensen. Then I read The Party's Over by Richard Heinberg; it's about peak oil. The next one I'm reading is Njál's Saga, an Icelandic saga, because for English we just read Beowulf and I was kind of in a saga mood. After that I'm going to start reading about Plains Indians, to see how they lived. I know about what happened to the Natives after Europe came on boats, but I know much less than I'd like to about what they did before all that. So I'm going to start reading extensively on Natives. There's like several square yards about them in the library, so I've got plenty to choose from.
-Tenzing is doing fine, and currently relaxing in my sleeve; I fed him at Aaron's Bible study thing on Wednesday and some of the people from it watched and said it was pretty cool. I found a great climbing tree, probably the best I've ever known, on the lawn (we call it a beach, because we don't get real beaches) in front of this year's dorm. I can climb up some 35 or 40 feet on it, above the JRC roof - sometime I'll have to get a tape measure or a clinometer and measure it. I'm waiting for a train to go by in the daytime so I can climb up in the tree and take this awesome shot I have lined up, of the train going by far beneath, and some students waiting for it at the sidewalk crossing. Once I get the shot, I'll post it here. Generally, then, everything's pretty good here, except that I've run out of ginger snaps.
-But it looks like things are doing less well in the world at large. This is old news integrated with the new, but combined take a look at the picture it creates. Bear Stearns collapsed. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed. Lehman Brothers collapsed. Merrill Lynch collapsed. AIG may be collapsing. Washington Mutual has been acting funny. All right? And then, there's Hurricane Ike, which just temporarily disabled our oil supplies. Ford, GM, and Chrysler have all announced that they'll probably need a (nother) federal bailout in the future. In Nigeria, MEND has bombed pipelines. All sorts of crazy stuff is going down. The Wall Street Journal has compared this to the Great Depression. But, when we hit the Great Depression, discovery of oil was still rising rapidly. Our discovery of oil peaked in 1960; our extraction of oil is peaking right now. So this new economic paradigm we're going into - and that's not an exaggeration; CNBC for one is saying it - is going to be a whole lot harder to burn our way out of when we don't have enough oil. It looks like something very big is happening. But what do you all think?
-Other stuff: classes are going fine. I think I like all of my classes this semester. I've only had a couple sessions of each, of course, but they seem pretty good. (For reference, they're intros to sociology and anthropology, Spanish 217, and English Trads. 1 - that is, early English literature. In that one we'll be reading stuff like Beowulf, The Faerie Queene, and such.)
-And Aaron just a few minutes ago told me that several people from college frequent my blog, like a guy named Matt downstairs. Well if you read, by all means you don't need to keep it a secret. Leave a comment if you want. I kinda like knowing who's reading what I write.
-So now I'm here and classes have started. Though, it's a weekend, which is nice. Tomorrow I'll do homework, and then probably bike down to Sugar Creek Preserve to look at it in some detail. I've only been there briefly. From what I remember, it seems like a nice forest, fairly healthy (though it'd be healthier if it weren't just an island, and were somewhere where the native vegetation isn't primarily prairie). I'm going to take my edible plants book there and see if I can get to work figuring out what's edible around here. Sometime soon I'll also be re-applying for this year's CERA work, and I think tonight I'll start organizing the year's first krokay game. (Two people have already asked me when it's going to be!)
-I've been introducing Aaron to some of my more peculiar musical tastes (Stockhausen, Revolution 9, Krzysztof Penderecki) and my less oddball stuff (the Mountain Goats, Eels, Cake). I think this is going to be a good year.
-Other note: I've been reading Endgame by Derrick Jensen. It travels along some of the same lines as Jason Godesky's stuff (actually, Jason frequently cites Endgame), but it's more tenable, more exhaustive, and really gripping despite being nonfiction and not plotted. It's got about 900 pages split into two volumes, and I'm on 320, but I'm actually glad that I'm not even halfway through. It means I can look forward to a lot more really good reading. Oddly, the library only had volume 1, so I may have to wait after I finish this volume, since they're ordering volume 2.
-We would've had them anyhow, but I'm going to call it a celebration for my success that we had ribs at Grandma & Grandpa's house afterwards. And then I narrowly won a game of Scrabble. I head back to Grinnell on Tuesday. Tomorrow I'll be practicing on Dad's Mustang, which he's loaning to me because he doesn't use it much anymore. It's a stick-shift, and for the longest time I couldn't get a stick-shift to work, but over the last few days I've started getting the hang of it. I have to practice more before I "peak out on my learning curve," in Dad's words. Now, though, I can do it alone.
-I did name the snake, a couple days after I got him. His name is Tenzing, after Sir Edmund Hillary's Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay. I sat on my bed watching him climb around the cage for like half an hour one night. He's already really good at it (and apparently pretty enthusiastic). He can ascend about nine inches and then pull himself up from the space between the top of the cage and the screen lid. Which is pretty impressive, since he's only about a foot long. Maybe a little more.
-Mom and I drove to the All-Ohio reptile Show in Columbus today, and I wandered around there for a while looking for carpet pythons. They were in much shorter supply than I'd expected. I only found three, all priced over $200. I asked if anyone knew of a vendor that had some. In this way, I bounced around to pretty much every vendor in the place, and saw some very cool snakes and other reptiles. There was a guy selling an alligator, and a guy selling a bunch of little turtles anywhere between one and two inches across (maybe less for a few of them). The snakes in the place ranged in size from a-few-inch hatchlings to some that were probably upwards of seven feet long. What I didn't seem to find, though, was carpet pythons - other than the expensive ones. However, a lot of people knew someone or other who bred them, and one helpful woman said she'd look around and we'd trade some e-mails and I'd come back to a show in a month when her friend brought some. I started collecting e-mail addresses instead of looking to buy a snake. It annoyed me that we'd come 107 miles and were going to leave snakeless. But then, as I was talking to a dealer, he asked if I'd seen the baby carpet pythons (he pointed) over there. Indeed I hadn't.
-There were just three, all from the same clutch of eggs that had hatched just four days ago. The guy selling them let me hold them. He checked the sexes - all males. And, they were priced attractively at just $85. I realized I definitely ought to buy one of these. I also realized that my cage would be far too big for the snake at this stage of his life, and so I bought with him a 10-gallon terrarium. I paid, and traded handshakes and e-mail addresses with the guy who sold me him, and then we drove back home. (Incidentally, for all those of you who doubt whether I'll get a license, I drove us there and back. And I only hit two other cars. I'm going to practice at stick-shift with Dad over the next few days, and I'll take my licensing test a few days before leaving for Grinnell.)
-I've now got the snake set up in the terrarium, in my room by the window. I haven't named him yet; that'll probably be a few days at least. He'll eventually grow to somewhere between four and six feet. Here are some pictures.
From when I first got to camp. I took a few pictures of what it looked like around there. This is one of them.
Shot of Boulder Lake, combined with a file photo of my newly-bought hat. I'd just found a feather for it.
A little guy.
Before kids got there, it sometimes got boring. A different guy named Chuck taught me how to get this far. The rest was too hard at the time, and he said he'd teach me later, but he never did.
Josh after a rough day of mosquitoes and sun.
Jag Lake, where we stayed on our training trip.
The guys from the training trip. Left to right: Alan, Bill, Scott, me, Jason, Josh, Ben, and Ryan.
Final day of training trips: a nearby group got "stealthed", which is a different word for pranked. Since we were staying near the camp, some girls on Program Staff took a bunch of junk and left it at their camp, and they had to take it back. The girls took one of their canoes and replaced it with two kayaks, with shovels for paddles.
Bill's trip, my first with kids. L-R: Bill, Charlie, Tyler, Ryan, Alex.
Alex's trip. This is the Presque Isle Lake campsite, adorned by Oliver. Oliver has this story to tell: "I have this neighbor who's so creepy. He has a pond in his yard, and sometimes he goes and catches tadpoles in it. And then he puts them on a circle and puts a nail through their head and spins them, and no matter where it lands, he says," (Oliver uses a high, deranged voice here) "'Tadpoles is the winner!' One night I had a dream where he did that to me, and then he said, 'Oliver is the winner!'" This didn't define Oliver's trip; it was just an interesting, macabre little story he told. Alex and I weren't sure if he was making it up or not; he made some other stuff up.
Sunset on Presque Isle
Alex found a hollow rotting stump to make a chimney. Two amazed campers look on.
Fine trail cuisine.
On Alan's trip, a doe crossed the river right in front of our canoes.
Sunset on Pallette Lake.
Tim's trip. This kid's name is Ben, but after he speared this crayfish with a stick, we strated calling him Grog instead. Respect.
Here I put to use the Creative Tarping skills that Scott taught me when I was on a trip with him. I didn't bring my camera on that trip, unfortunately. It was the trip where we started a fire with a flint rock and a steel poop shovel. Under the tarp are Alec, Ryan, and Austin, and obscured is Sam. They're all the kids on the trip who weren't Grog.
Tim. Do you see the smiley face in the lifejacket tan?
These other two pictures are from after camp, at the krokay game I had with some Finneytown friends.
BJ, Rosie, Tara, and Aaron in the parking lot.
I just think this picture of BJ talking on his cellular and gesturing with a mallet is funny. Note also Matt, camouflaged in the left half of the picture in a green shirt.
That's all. Go somewhere else now.
-I decided I was going to start sleeping outside. Now, on the face of it, there seem to be several things wrong with this decision. One: People have always slept under some kind of shelter if they needed to, and I already have that exact thing - a house. Thus, I'm not really gaining a new primitive skill. I'm just, you know, sleeping outside. Two: It's kind of weird for the neighbors, maybe. Three: Sleeping outside isn't really a difficult skill to learn. In fact, sleeping as a rule is pretty easy to do.
-Sleeping outside was more of a symbolic decision, arrived at on the spur of the moment in a slight heat of idealism when I was writing in my journal. "Bring on the primitive living skill books," were the words I wrote; "starting tomorrow I sleep outside." Later, I realized that that decision was more a symbolic change than anything. As such, if it's raining, I'll sleep inside. I might start sleeping inside again after a while, but for now, I do like it. It's nice, if for nothing else then because I get some fresh air, and it's also usually cooler outside than inside at night.
-There are some credulous primitivists out there. I found a forum where they hang out, www.rewild.info/conversations . Several of them there have used homœopathic remedies, and one has mentioned that they have a homœopathic doctor. They talk about rewilding language. Now, all languages can express a copula (something is something else - we use "is" for it, though other languages just put the two things next to each other, like in Russian "Это дверь" - "That [is] a door"), and all languages have pronouns like you, me, and him. But after Jason Godesky posted about "E-Primitive", the supposed primitive way of writing in English, a lot of them jumped on the bandwagon. E-Primitive is actually based off of E-Prime, which is English with no forms of "to be", and was conceived by some physicists who fancied themselves philosophers, if I recall correctly. The argument is that only those who feel that they're masters of the world can declare that one thing is equal to another. Or, perhaps, that one thing is never "equal" to another, because everything in the universe is in a state of flux. The rationales are pretty abstracted. But it has an interesting ring to it - rewilding the English language! Becoming undomesticated even down to your thought patterns! And expressing thoughts with minimal use of "to be" does give a measure of improvement. Professor Savarese advises that you cut down on "to be" as much as you can while writing something, because it makes thoughts longer and
less direct. Nevertheless, he used it plenty in his book. The trick is not to use it too much, and when you can, to keep concise by ditching it. See, I used it in that sentence just back there. So, many of them have decided to get rid of the copula in all instances. Others have taken the idea of E-Primitive even farther and started raising the idea of eliminating pronouns - I have no idea what the reasoning is behind that. It sounds good, because it's a new idea, and sounds kind of deep. Eliminate pronouns, and call all things by their real names. Pronouns are a convenience, though: they shorten sentences by giving you a way around saying the same noun every time you mention it. I get the feeling on that board sometimes that, when Jason Godesky writes something, a lot of them don't even bother thinking about whether he might be right; they just accept that he is. Of course, there are some others, I'm sure, who aren't like that. I'd have to say I belong to that camp. I'm not about to start using homœopathic remedies (Head-On! Apply directly to the forehead! - The reason they're still allowed to sell that stuff is that they never say what it's supposed to do, and so the FDA can't say it doesn't really do it). I'll continue using "to be", and Chuck will most certainly always refer to Chuck with a pronoun. I'm going to learn primitive skills, but I'm not going to devote my life to that and no other pursuits. I'm going to look at stuff I read critically, even if it does come from a primitivist source like Jason. Basically, I'm going to learn primitive skills because I think it'll be both fun and useful - perhaps extremely useful indeed.
P.S.! I made a new snapping video. A friend at Grinnell introduced me to the band that made the song.
-Aaron, Keith, and I had some Skyline afterwards. Keith said: "Oh, so I guess you want to go to college and make something of yourself. Loser." It was funnier then, and we decided I should write it somewhere. I'm going to hang out with both of them more this summer. Especially because Aaron owes me $21.50.
-On a different note, Micah today got a treatment reminiscent of Rachael's treatment of Dave. He had a girlfriend, Chi-Chi (her real name is Ernestina, so who can blame her for going by a nickname?), who dumped him a few days ago. She also threw away about $75 worth of gifts he bought her, for no identified reason. That was bad enough, but today he found out that now she's decided to go out with Victor, his second-best friend. So Micah walked around steaming and cussing for a while earlier. I told him she's not the kind of person to get bent out of shape over, and that if she tries to get back together with him (as she frequently does, apparently), to tell her to forget it.
-Quick note, too: I went to the playground by the railroad today, and met a teen girl who had no idea what "wholesome" or "tension" meant. She accused me of being too smart.
-Now, on to my main topic, here. Since I got back from camp, I've been more interested in honing my primitive skills. I think camp acted as a catalyst in that respect. It got me to think, "I could live outside." So now my next step is figuring out the skills I need in order to do that. To that end, I'm going to seriously start beefing up my outdoor knowledge. I'll be reading books about edible plants and shelter and trapping and such, possibly finding back episodes of Survivorman, and trying to find someone more skilled who can mentor me on these things. Of course, all of this is just book learning if I don't put it into practice, so I'll also be spending a lot of time outside, finding these plants that I read about, constructing lean-tos, trying to train information out of animal tracks, and whatever else I need to do. I expect I'll spend many nights outside, especially once it gets a little cooler out. (However, on several occasions, the house has been hotter than the outdoors, so I don't really need to wait much.) Presumably, with the practice I put in and the learning I find, I'll be pretty proficient within not too long. I'm going to set goals for myself; the first one is to have killed and eaten my own small game by the end of the school year next year. I hope to have that one completed well ahead of schedule, so I can keep going pretty quick. After a long time of talking primitivist talk, I'm starting to put my words into action.
-What will this lead to? My hope is that I'll be good enough within a year, or at most two, to start living outside full-time. I don't pretend I'll have mastered everything within that timespan, but I should be able to survive. Once I accomplish that, I'll see what the college thinks about it if I live outside instead of in a dorm. You laugh, but I have to get good somehow, and it's not going to be through thinking about the outdoors while sitting on a dorm bed. I have no idea what Housing's reaction would be to such a proposal, though I was chatting with Ilan (memory jog) and he said that they would "definitely" let me do it senior year. I want to start junior year, and hone everything down. Then, for senior year, I'll see if I can get a group of other people who'd like to come out and try it too. That would make the experience at least twice as awesome, assuming some people actually decided to do it. If I name this endeavor, I'm thinking of GO, for Grinnell Outside. I have yet to come up with a location to stay, but there are a few parks. I'd have to get the permission of the park board.
-To you, I probably sound a bit crazy. That's all right with me, because I know I'm going to seem crazy to a lot of people when I embark on this plan. But, if I become knowledgeable and experienced enough, why not? If I don't, my skills will either never develop, or atrophy. Now here comes the fun part of this entry where I look even crazier. If I get a GO contingent with me, they would make great people to band together with if this Jason Godesky happens to be right.
-Yeah, I'm bringing back that old name. Now, I've gotten a little more discerning since I first read his Theses, and I've gotten more well-read. In fact, I read one of his major sources that he often cut and pasted from, Jared Diamond's Collapse. So, until I read his ideas again with a more critical eye than my reckless primito-optimism allowed me last time, I don't really know what I think are the odds of civilization collapsing. Jared Diamond thinks we'll probably pull through. But if the opposite is true, the handwriting certainly does seem to be on the wall. Our economy, basically, is slowing down. The sub-prime mortgage bubble already burst; now major banking corporations are starting to run into definite trouble, viz. Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. The government's response seems to be much as Godesky predicted. The price of food has started to rise in an attention-getting way, and so has the price of gas. Parallel to that, the American dollar has been getting slowly more and more worthless. This happened once before at the beginning of the Depression, but at that point there was still plenty of oil left, all of it easy for the taking. We're now very much getting into Peak Oil. The Depression era also didn't have to contend with climate change wiping out the occasional city and making crops harder to grow. These things already happening are another contributor to my determination to learn soon and quickly. Civilization may figure out a way to keep going, though it'll have to collaborate better with the planet in order to stay in business much longer (one of the central findings of Collapse). Or, it might implode. Whatever happens, I plan to be ready for it. And maybe even have a group of friends ready with me.
The boys' session ended on July 13th. I subbed in for a guy who was going to take a "convoy" (they call their buses that) down to Madison to drop off a bunch of kids. To get back to camp, I got a ride with a girl who was sent to tail the bus in a car. As we talked, we first learned that we're both from Cincinnati. Then we learned that she actually lives just down the street. Then we learned that she had a friend at Finneytown. And then I learned that her friend is Erin, which is freaky, because there's another girl working at camp who also knows Erin for completely different reasons (same Ultimate Frisbee team at college). The trip went smoothly, because we were practically old friends then. That night, we had the Staff Banquet. Good food. And then I had a day of downtime, off the clock, before I left.
-I got a minivan with some other Milwaukee-bound staffers (actually, they were headed farther via Milwaukee), to the Amtrak station. We sure cut the timing close. The train was scheduled to leave at 15:00, and we got there at... 15:06. And for some reason this one was on time. Damn it!
-Instead I took a series of Greyhounds that left at 20:10 and arrived at 10:00 the next day. That was much less fun than an Amtrak. I had transfers at several different unreasonable times of night.
-But I got home! Mom picked me up, and I told her all about camp. Then I got ready for the other half of my summer. I've got so many fun things I'm going to do. One is starting on Solvejg, my next font. I started that pretty quick after I got home, scanning it in that night. I started pushing pixels two nights ago, and I'm already done with ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRST. Haven't worked on anything today yet. I'm also going to be working on my snake cage, and getting my driver's license. Dad took me out to a parking lot yesterday with his Mustang and I started working on my stick-shifting. With some advice from Ben (a fun and fascinating guy I walked to town with), I'm several times better than the last time I tried it. I can now get the car started pretty much every time I try, and my average keeps improving. I can get it moving and shifted while going uphill, and I can start the engine while rolling downhill by popping the clutch. I still have some practicing to do, but I have until August 8th, when my learner's permit expires.
-Furthermore, I'm getting in touch with friends. Keith came over yesterday, the first time I've seen him since graduation, and we swapped stories about our respective years. I showed him all the animals we've accumulated. (We have no bunny, unfortunately; while I was gone, someone left the basement door open and he left.) DUTCHESS! MOCHA! Those are Keith's bunnies. Dutchess is getting old, with cataracts and arthritis, but she's still hopping at age 8½. Mocha is about 5, and still cute too. I showed him our folder of notes that we passed all through senior year, and we just generally had fun.
-Last night, Matt, who works in a cinema, offered me a free ticket to see The Dark Knight. He actually gets four for each release, so we invited Aaron too. And we went to see it today. Micah tagged along to make a fourth. Firstly, it was a spectacular movie. Also, a Manito-wish girl was an extra in it, a cop, but I don't remember her name and I forgot to watch for her. I just enjoyed the movie. Afterwards, Matt had to work, but Aaron, Micah, and I had some Chick-fil-A and then some ice cream. That brings me to now. I intend to finish Solvejg's capitals today, and maybe buy some CDs online. Ta-da, you're all up to speed!
I'm interrupting myself here: I'm going to have to finish this blog post later because it's late and I'm getting tired, but I'll post what I've got here, since I've promised a few people I'd blog tonight.
-First, I'm going to kind of write what I'm thinking now that you're actually all going to Crowduck. I didn't think too much of it before I decided to come here, but now that you're all gone, and I'm here, I'm feeling down about it. I knew it was going to be a risk coming here, because I wouldn't know if I liked it or not. I think I like it, mostly, but there are those things that bother me. One is of course the shoes, for which you've all been teasing me. There are maybe a few others in the stuff I'm going to write up ahead about my time so far. But there's also other stuff: No matter how fun it is, it's also work, whereas Crowduck is just a complete vacation. And, I don't really know anyone here that well - I've been away from my family so long I'm feeling a bit alienated. Hm. I'm going to run with that second thought a little while. I went off to college, and only came back for a little while during some vacations. Then I finally came back home for the summer, except that then I just left again. Meanwhile, I keep getting thrown into new situations. I wish I had a little more stability, I guess. I'll have that when I get back home, so that'll be nice. I keep thinking it's pretty funny how nomadic my life has become recently: One house to a new house to college to the new house to college to the new house to college to the new house to Camp Manito-wish to all these little campsites every night. I'm going to like being home for a month and a half before college starts.
-Anyhow, I'm supposed to be writing about what I've been doing. So far, I've been on trail 14 days, about to hit the trail again to make it 22. The first 4 were my training trip, which I believe I mentioned already. Then, I did a 5-day trip with a guy named Bill, who's one of the few Williams of my age going with Bill. I admire that. We took four campers out, consisting of two pairs of previous friends. One pair, Charlie and Ryan, had a really interesting friendship built around Charlie yelling at Ryan, and then Ryan making fun of Charlie. Alex and Tyler had a reglar friendship. Anyhow, we did the Trout Lake Circle, which was just beautiful. Bill's been coming to Manito-wish for 10 years, the last 4 of them as staff, so he knew is way around and made the trip run really smooth. We had so much fun. I made friends with the kids through card tricks and other stuff. They think I'm pretty cool. So, I really enjoyed that trip.
-The second 5-day trip I'm a bit more ambivalent about. The first three days were pretty great. Day five was also fine, because it's really just a morning - we paddled in at 9 this morning. But yesterday, day 4, I could seriously have done without. I'll start from the beginning of the trip. The counselor for it, Alex (as distinct from the other Alex I mentioned), is on his first year just like me. We paddled down the Manitowish River the first day, which was awesome; the water is so high this year that we just floated straight down some rapids that we would definitely have to walk in a regular year. The kids were Clay, Oliver, Caleb, Ben, and Will; only Clay and Caleb knew each other before camp, though they'd all been associating for five days in the cabin. They were a pretty solid group. They could all paddle well. The only real drawback was that only Caleb could carry a canoe, and even then only for a hundred yards or so. So, Alex and I had to do all the carrying on the portages. Which was fine, because most of our portages were pretty easy, except for a two-mile one on day 2. And except for yesterday, which I'm getting to. Altogether, though, we made good time on the water, and worked really well as a group.
-Yesterday, we had the Dairymen's Portage, through the Dairymen's Country Club (I believe is what it's called). This is the crown jewel of dreaded portages at Manito-wish. It's four miles long, though it can be broken up into two-mile sections with a paddle in between. So, to start with, we had a sort of warmup one-mile portage from Crab Lake to Round Lake. We just pulled the canoes out of Crab, and then followed a gravel road to a dirt path that came off from the left. Here's the thing: the dirt path didn't match up with our portage map at all. We wandered around for a good hour or so, sometimes with a canoe or two, sometimes without, trying to find a path to Round Lake, but the path disintegrated into the woods wherever we looked. After a long frustrating time, we decided to split the portage into two smaller portages, an alternate route indicated on our map. So, as we were taking the canoes back to go to Little Crab Lake, I noticed: That road goes off in the same direction, and we passed it, didn't we? It turned out to be the right road, clearly. We all turned onto it, having wasted an hour. It didn't get that much better, though, because this dirt road had all sorts of forks, all uncommented-on by the portage map, and Alex had to find his own way. Moreover, Oliver had gone missing, and one of our canoes was still back at the wrong road. I took Clay and Caleb with me, and we finally found Oliver - he had been lagging when we turned onto the road, so he didn't see us and instead went to Little Crab Lake like we'd planned. Perfectly reasonable. He was a little shaken, but all right. I also went and got the other canoe. I left him and Clay to catch up with the rest of the group (Clay had been down the road before, so that wasn't rash), and took Caleb with me to get the canoe. When we got the canoe, we went down the road and promptly took a wrong turn down a blocked-off snowmobile road, walking an extra mile. Finally we came back and found some of the other group, and learned that Alex had found the lake and laid down arrows pointing us to it. So we followed those, and finished the portage. One mile: three hours. I like to call it the Comedy of Errors Portage.
-We paddled briefly down Round Lake, which is round, and came to Rice Creek, and thence took off on our next portage. "Took off" is too strong a phrase. In fact, this was the delightful section known around here as Vietnam. A quarter mile through woods that are completely lacking in trails; the only thing we get to guide us is sparsely placed red (or, confusingly, blue) blazes. Also, the gound is soft and covered with the corpses of trees that gave up, and we have to carry canoes and heavy packs, and of course neither of us has ever been here before. Have at it. We stumbled and fumbled through the mesh of trees, with a lookout ahead sighting blazes, and walked until we found a place. It was very debatable whether it was actually a place, actually. It was just different terrain, covered with hip-high ferns and shrubs, and on a big hill that we climbed up. Still no trail. We laid down the stuff, and Alex and I went off scouting. We didn't see it until I had practically walked onto it, but there it was - the gravel road really did exist.
-Realizing we'd never find the portage entrance again if we went too far, we picked up our stuff from it and carried it to the gravel road, then followed real paths - what a concept! - for the other 1¾ miles to Little Crooked Lake. Not that that was easy, either. Recall that only we counselors were able to carry canoes. Also, figure in a canoe that's about fifteen pounds butt-heavy, so it requires a helper to carry it, and makes the portager's shoulders sink into his sternum. And, we were running pretty low on water. But, we walked. Occasionally we wondered where this fabled turn was, but we always came upon it eventually, usually twice as far away as we had hoped. We were about ready to give up when it appeared that a + intersection on our map had given way to an L intersection in real life, but then I cleverly realized that it was a bend, not an intersection, and we walked the short rest of the way to the creek where we would leave our stuff. And fill up our bottles. Creek water isn't the best, but Potable Aqua kills anything but the taste.
-And then we walked back and did it again with the other half of our stuff. Finally we came to the lake. HA! We're, uh, halfway done with the Dairymen's Portage.
-We stopped at Evergreen Lodge, and a nice guy there let us fill up our water and use his picnic table. The second two-mile half had no Vietnam, but here's the thing: we started a little after 7 PM. So, by the time we got our first half to Boulder Lake, it was 8:15, and then we started off with the other half right around 9. The result - we did half the second load in darkness, using flashlights and headlamps. But we did it.
-We night-paddled to our campsite, which is against the rules, but it's not as if we had a choice. In fact, I discovered that I love night paddling, because it gives me the chance to watch out across a lake to see lightning storms hundreds of miles off. I saw lightning flashing through a sunset that had long gone by us. Above, the stars were perfectly clear. Our campsite was unmarked, but we knew where a marked one was, so we stayed there, in the process waking up everyone already camped there. I think we were entitled to something like that. We stayed up swapping stories of disastrous portages with the other counselor and TA, though we let the kids sleep while we made them trail pizza. They ate around 2; we went to bed around 3.
-So, there's a day. That's pretty much as bad as I expect it to get here. By the way, my grand total for ticks pulled off of me yesterday was 53. Today I pulled in and we cleaned our stuff, and I showered. I was so lethargic. Still am, to an extent. I have blisters on my feet, because I wore my scuba booties for the entire day of portaging. Next time I have a long portage, I'm going to change into my dryshoes first, the other pair that we bring along for in camp. These things are just not for walking a lot. I'm feeling it, and they are too - they wouldn't survive another Dairymen's Portage in one piece. I actually admire them for staying together this long.
-Meanwhile, I've got my next assignment. I have the evening off, and then I'm leaving again tomorrow with friend Alan on a NICE, EASY trip, which will give me time to recuperate, since I'm all congested because of Vietnam and walking so much, or something. After Alan's trip, I'm doing a turn-and-burn, which is where I take my stuff out of one canoe and put it in another, and go off immediately on my next trip, a five-day with someone I don't yet know. I really hope it's not the Crab Lake Circle again. But if it is, I guess I'll be prepared. That's optimism for you.
-Really, I don't hate it here. I only hated yesterday, and there were even parts of that that I liked. Like, when I was a mild hero (mostly it gave me a sense of pride) because I found Oliver. And the night paddle. I'm still having fun. Probably I would rather be at Crowduck, because there are no rules at Crowduck nor any schedules or responsibilities (beyond bringing home enough fish for dinner). But, I wouldn't get paid for going to Crowduck. And, this is good job experience. Every job wants you to list a leadership experience. If I can describe the Dairymen's Portage like I've done here, I'll be hired.
-My feet hurt.
-All us newcomers started off our time here with Wilderness & Water Safety training. That was fun; it entailed learning some techinques for rescuing people from the water, and some other things, and after that we put these new learnings into practice. The thing about that was, winter here ended in early May. So the water was somewhere in the upper 40°s or lower 50°s, probably. Even so, we all survived the training, with the help of the state-of-the-art sauna in the Far South bathhouse. I never knew what the big fuss was about saunas until I tried this one for about the third time. That was the time that I stayed in for the right amount of time, and then I came out and felt so cleaned out. I'll be using the sauna more over the next month here.
-After WWS, we did Wilderness First Aid, more commonly known as WooFA. Manito-wish is a haven for acronyms and abbrevs., some of which get pronounced (usually awkwardly). There's WWS, WFA, the TLC (Trout Lake Circle), the PO (Program Office), OC (Orange Crystals - they're like Kool-Aid) PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices, occasionally called PooFDahs), and a slurry of others. Quite a few aren't actually shorter than the thing they abbreviate. For example, TL has exactly as many syllables as "trail lunch" (and fewer than a simple "lunch"). A lot of these things are come up with on the spot, when the speaker feels that he's running out of time to complete his sentence, I guess. It's a little bit bewildering, and I'm not sure I care for it, but it seems to be here to stay. WFA, to return to my point, was a barrage of facts about wilderness first aid, all crammed into two days, but we ended up proficient enough, and we also got to watch some pretty cool videos about hypothermia featuring one Dr Gordon Giesbrecht, a Canadian known as the hypothermia guru. So that accounted for days 3 and 4.
-The next days were staff training, things about what we do here and how to make a cabin that stays together well, and other stuff. The camp is divided into four age groups, from 11-12 to 14-15. There are also off-camp trips they run, called Outpost and Voyageur trips, that run in Alaska and Canada and other cool places for up to 40 days or maybe more - I don't really know. This is a pretty active camp. People associate with it for a long time. They grow up with it. I don't know what age group I'll be with, but probably 12-13.
-After a few days of staff training, there was the training trip. I'm going to use only first names when I talk about other people here. When there are two who have the same first name, I guess I'll use a number. Fortunately, on the trip all our names were different. It was led by Ryan, who's been here for a while; he led a retinue of seven guys: me, Ben, Josh, Jason, Alan, Scott, and Bill. We're all going to be counselors. The trip took us through several lakes, most connected to the previous by a stream. The weather stayed just perfect for us, and in different ways. One day, it was warm but overcast, so we didn't have to worry about sunburn. Another day, the sun was out but with big, friendly, puffy clouds overhead to give the sky almost a storybook feel. We paddled down the Manitowish* river and over two lakes and saw bald eagles and a beaver or maybe an otter, and practiced our canoeing strokes, and just generally had a great time. At camp we had chili mac and a lot of free time to hang around. The next day we paddled a few more lakes - actually a few more than we were supposed to, and ended up on a simply incredible campsite on Jag Lake. Jag is small, clear, and has perfect beaches with sand and small rocks of all different colors. Our campsite is excellently open, and the wind was blowing into it at high speed just perfect for drying out my wet socks. We all went swimming and loved the place. We ate "Mexi-Fest", which was dehydrated refried beans ("reefers") with rice and chili powder and some other stuff, all in tortillas - delicious. The next day we portaged out of camp back to the Manitowish river, and paddled up it until we got to our campsite for the day, probably less than a mile from camp, on the same lake. We arrived before we even had lunch, so we had a whole day to just goof off there. Fortuitously, there are three campsites just there, and other trips were staying at the other two, so I got to play some cards with Alan and Josh and Lloyd (from the other camp, and he brought cards, good because mine had gotten soaked). One of the camps had too much food, so after we ate our "Chicken Fric" (I guess technically it was fricassee, but not really), we helped them get rid of theirs too. Josh and I specifically did that, because we're always hungry. The only day I didn't like so much was today. It's a bad start when you get woken up by ravens at 6:50 AM. They would not move on! That is, until Ryan got sick of them and yelled some unkind words out the tent at them. We all enjoyed that. For the rest of the day, everyone from those three camps was going "CAAAWGH!" at each other, often across the bay, because those ravens were so annoying and ridiculous and hilarious. The weather had turned really cold, not June sort of weather, but we managed to stay alive okay, and we paddled back into camp at 2 PM after making cinnamon rolls. On second thought: we had cinnamon rolls. Today was okay. We cleaned all our dishes, and got all our stuff back to our cabins, and that brings me to now. I'm on my 24 hours off for this week, as is everyone else. I think I may try the BBB in town (Boulder Beer Bar - I hear they have excellent pizza and cheese curds) tonight, thought it's raining again. Well, I've got rain gear. I'll see if anyone else is planning on going. Tonight ought to be fun. Even if all I end up doing is finishing the book I'm reading while lying in bed.
*The camp name is taken from the river name; the camp hyphenates its name to draw attention to the "wish", for some reason. I think it's kind of stupid, but it's the right orthography, so I'll abide by it. Also note it's pronounced "man-i-too-wish".