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And so it ends...

Over the last two weeks I've noticed that my link to my Friends page is broken. It keeps displaying cached data rather than updating with new posts. I'm taking this as a sign of something I've been considering for a long time, which is bidding an end to my LiveJournal.

In all realism I rarely use this space anymore. Facebook provides the same opportunity to communicate anything I want communicated, and with a far larger group of people. The majority of people who can read this journal as contacts are also on Facebook, and if they're not they can look me up when and if they get there.

At the same time, this has been my journal since 2003. Seven years of my life are encapsulated, for better or worse, in this space. There were some extraordinarily trying times there, that break my heart to re-read. But there were also uplifting and silly times that I can smile with remembering. So for that reason, I'm not going to delete or deactivate my journal. I'm just going to let it fade away into obscurity.

Goodbye LiveJournal. You served a good purpose for me for seven years but it's time to move on. See you in the next life, perhaps.

Waking Up

1. Put your iPod on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!

IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
What's Up Lonely? (Kelly Clarkson)

WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country Main Titles (Silver Screen Orchestra)

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Plaza of Execution (James Horner)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
Put Your Arms Around Me (Texas - Ever After)

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Brooklyn Heights III (Howard Shore - Gangs of New York)

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Evenstar (The London Philharmonic Orchestra - Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Let My Home Be My Gallows (Hans Zimmer - Hannibal)

WHAT IS 2+2?
Skellig (Loreena McKinnett)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Take Five (Dave Brubeck)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Night Ride Across the Caucasus (Loreena McKinnett)

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Gettysburg Main Titles (Los Angeles Philharmonic - Gettysburg)

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Dying Station (Christopher Franke - Babylon 5)

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Twilight to Starlight: Where Boys Fear to Tread (Smashing Pumpkins)

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Deep Down (Cooking With Lasers feat. Angie Hart)

WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Darkangel (VnV Nation)

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Burning the Books (Randy Newman - Pleasantville)

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Butterfly (Crazy Town)

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Every Day (Dave Matthews Band)

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
Serenity (Godsmack)

WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
My Skin (Natalie Merchant)

HOW WILL YOU DIE?
Betrayal and Desolation (James Horner - Braveheart) (Oh boy!)

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
Monymusk Lads (Old Blind Dogs) (<.<)

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Windowpane (Opeth)

WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
I've Got My Eye on You (Hans Zimmer - Pirates of the Caribbean 2)

WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
Hatching Baby Raptor (John Williams - Jurassic Park)

WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
Hemorrhage (Fuel)

DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
Angry Angel (Imogen Heap)

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
Star Trek: End Credits (Michael Giacchino - Star Trek)

WHAT WILL YOU TITLE THIS?
Waking Up (OneRepublic)

WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
Danger In the Forest (Nobuo Uematsu - Final Fantasy IX)

Washington to Connecticut in Pictures

All my processed photos from the road trip between Washington and Connecticut have been uploaded to Flickr. You can see the entire set at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kestrana/sets/72157624091038154/

Ouch

I hurt all over. Bruises all over. Muscles ache. Mental fatigue. I haven't been this bone-tired since band camp.

Thoughts On Time

Time passes and nothing we do can stop it. Even if we had no mental human conception of the entity of time, it would not prevent the lunar and solar cycles, the seasons or the passing of living things defined by a mortal lifespan. Time has been both a fascinating and difficult concept for me throughout my life. As an enthusiast of history, the tantalizing science fiction of traveling through time has been my premier source of fiction and day dreaming thoughts. Likewise, the idea of peeking into the future and the horrors or happiness of that experience holds an equal fascination. I am not alone in this. There are songs, movies, novels all written on the subject of time and it’s properties. Why so much interest in a linear, persistent concept? Perhaps because time is based on human perception, we really know far less about it than we might think.

My favorite poet is e.e. cummings but my favorite poem is not one of his works. It is “Defining Time” by Carl Dennis. A free form verse using a plethora of symbiology to represent the many emotions tied to the passage of time, Time as a character is alternately fish nibbling at our bones, a fat and happy banker or an autumn tree-lined stroll. As a society, humans have many emotional responses to time and it’s passage and “Defining Time” represents many of them. A dread or fear of time is probably the most common. This fear manifests itself in pop culture, everywhere from John Mayer’s Generation Y lyrics to “Stop This Train” in which the train is a metaphor for the speed at which is life feels uncontrollably barrelling along, to John Steinbeck’s short story “Leader of the People” where a pioneer must face the disappearance of his impact on history as he ages. But although fear of the ravages of time is a common thread, both of these works as well as “Defining Time” end on an uplifting note. In “Leader of the People” the protagonist is comforted by his grandson’s interest in learning about the past, and the story closes with the moral solicitude to teach your children their family history, lest it be forgotten. “Stop This Train” closes with advice from Mayer’s father that every phase of life brings new joy and sorrow, so you should enjoy the ride. Finally, “Defining Time” gives up on defining anything and simply celebrates the joy of life’s bittersweet passage.

In these works is reflected a human desire to concretely speed, slow or otherwise alter time. This pursuit is a fruitless endeavor, as time is primarily perception. “Time flies when you’re having fun” because your focus is not on its passage. In some ways this is a good thing. After all, who enjoys those days when the clock seems to tick inexorably forward slower and slower as we wait for news, the end of the work day, etc? Yet I sometimes wonder if we do ourselves a disservice by abandoning our attention to the immediate. There’s another adage for that, stopping to smell the roses. This has real psychological implications. The mind develops memories based on signifiers. Tying certain events to a date and time helps our brain break down and organize what information to keep in an easier way and actually allows us to retain information better - i.e. generate clearer memories. Theoretically, a couple glances at the clock over the course of a splendid evening helps cement the night in your memory by breaking events into discrete pieces tied to the signifier our brains are already programmed to categorize and compartmentalize.

I tried an experiment not wholly unlike this theory when I was working on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Wind River was a unique experience, simultaneously joyful and terrible. I wanted to try some sort of memorization signification technique to increase the chance I would remember in great detail the events of each tremendously busy day. In the building where we were sleeping there was a small auditorium and during our free time at night I went to sit by myself on the stage and listen to a particular song on a particular cd. I listened to it on repeat as I thought over everything I could remember from waking up in the morning cold to that point. The theory was that later, playing the song would waken all sorts of repressed memories and details I had forgotten. It did and it didn’t work. In my head, not just the song but the whole cd reminds me in a general way about Wind River. The song itself generates a vivid memory of myself performing the mental exercise. I can remember the feel of the smooth tiles under my hands on the stage, the scent of old gym, the dust floating in the air of the spotlights and their heat on my skin. But as a signifier to unlock other memories of the trip, it does not seem to have worked. I have some very strong memories in general of the experience but they are neither triggered by the one particular song nor does listening to the music seem to allow me to recollect any additional information, either during or after listening.

Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker have both written some about the immediacy of the moment and mental development as relates to memory. Memory is like a muscle, the younger we are when we start to develop it, the better we are able to use it and for longer. We all know that as we age we start to become more forgetful, or at least most people do. Synaptic pathways in the brain begin to break down, and like filing cabinets fallen into disuse, we cannot seem to shake the dust off. What I wonder from the results of my experiment in Wyoming is if there is a certain age where memory retention is best? Can a child be trained to remember more? Certainly there are the outlying cases of those people with idetic memories, that can remember virtually everything in their lives down to the most minute details. Idetic memories are inherently tied to time, for there would be little other way to make sense of the information overloading the brain. Articles about such phonomena always seem to start with the same cliched quote of the author asking about a particular date and time, and the idetic rememberer rattling off some trivial piece of information about their breakfast or the newspaper headline that morning. These people are an unexplained miracle of science. Despite numerous examples and studies, science is unsure why their memories record time better than others.
While this is all very fascinating, what does it have to do with my original point? As a whole, humans have spent and inordiniate amount of time (no pun intended) studying, thinking, philosophizing, dreaming and defining time, but we still have precious little to account for it. Perhaps this is because, beyond the dimensional applications - which I’m not going to even touch here - time is still a human construct, an arbitrary albeit ruthlessly rational progenerative system. Like all things human, there is no possibility of ever “knowing”, only theorizing. I realize this is very post-modern of me but I do subscribe to it. Human behavior can be theorized but is ultimately unpredictable. History can be delineated, resolved to cause and effect but never wholly resolved as to what would have happened differently if X instead equalled Y. Time too is unpredictable, as far as our human understanding, interpretation and demarcation is concerned.

There is a wonderful novelette that explores this unpredictability. It is called “Einstein’s Dreams” and puts forth eighteen miniature stories, some no more than a few paragraphs, of other manifestations of time. It is written as a perspective of what Einstein might have wrestled with during his days dreaming and theorizing about time after working as a patent clerk during the day. Some are chilling, as the world where time surrounds miniature fairies that are caught and tortured to give the person more. Others are bleak and depressing where time is controlled by the rich and powerful in society and lower level upstarts are simply cut out of the time stream. Still others are fanciful, such as the world where time moves slower on the mountaintops and everyone makes pilgrimages to the peaks. In this novelette, no judgements are rendered about time or its nature. It is simply an exercise in thinking about the universal. In the end when Einstein wakes, and returns to the normal flow of time he recognizes it as a constant. The passage of existence continues despite all our attempts to influence it. Soon and very soon, the future will be so long ago.

Song Life Meme

Using only song names from only ONE ARTIST,cleverly answer these questions.Pass it along to at least 15 people,including me.You can't use the band I used.Try not to repeat a song title.Its a lot harder than you think. Re-post as" my life according to (band name)".

My Life According to VAST (Visual Audio Sense Theater):

Are you male or female?
Senorita

Describe yourself:
Evil Little Girl

How do you feel?
Touched

How do people feel about you?
I Can't Say No To You

Describe where you currently live:
Loneliness is Fine

If you could go anywhere,where would you go?
If You Were In Heaven

Your favorite form of transportation?
Skin Cage

Your best friend is?
The Niles Edge

You and your best friends are?
We Will Meet Again

Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend/lover:
Winter In My Heart

What Happened?
A Better Place

Describe your current boyfriend/girlfriend/lover/husband:
Ecstasy

What is life to you?
Somewhere Else to Be

Your fear?
Thrown Away

What is the best advice you have to give?
Don't Take Your Love Away From Me

How do you live?
Free

How do you love?
Like God

How would I like to die?
Flames

Favorite time of day?
Candle

Your Motto?
What Else Do I Need?

What would you ask for if you had just one wish?
You

The Edge of the World

I go now to the edge of the World
from western edge to eastern
To stand together with you
As in past, as in dreams

As we stand at the edge of the world
our hearts will journey
for the light at the edge of the world
forever calls

Though our travels may be lost
and wandering
From the dawn at the edge of the world
One voice calls to you

Fire may burn and the sky may thunder
Heroes crumble and the sun may fall
As the river circles on its endless journey
I will follow you

As we stand at the edge of the world
There's a voice from the dawn of the world
As the rivers encircle the world
I will follow you

Tires & Mines: Two Birds with One Stone?

The problem of abandoned mineshafts is one that is easily forgotton until your house is has been condemned due to the sudden development of a sinkhole beneath it. This is exactly the situation a neighbor of one of my college boyfriends experienced in the coal country of Southern Illinois. Mining is something of a forgotten art nowadays. Sure we still have the coal industry in this country, especially in states like West Virginia where coal occurs in 53 of it's 55 counties and represents $3.5 billion of the state's annual GDP. But for many areas, especially urban ones, mining is a distant memory.

Unfortunately the problem of what to do with abandoned mineshafts can be a very real nightmare. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, there are over 560,000 abandoned mines in the United States alone. Many of these become concealed by the passage of time, their ownership questionable. Every year dozens of people are injured or killed from accidentally stumbling into the shaft entrances. Other foolhardy adventurers succumb to "blackdamp", a serious depletion of oxygen, while exploring. Abandoned mines can contain poisonous gases, and collapse as the interior supports degrade. Such a collapse will destroy any buildings above. This is why areas of major mining activity, such as Southern Illinois, require sinkhole insurance on residential buildings.

However, there are some things that can be done with abandoned mines. There has already been research to use mines to extract natural gas and other potential sources of energy. Most mining conducted pre-turn of the 20th century was focused on mineral deposits only. There is the potential for vast untapped energy resources that have already had the intensive, expensive work of locating and reaching the source completed. Although any underground work is dangerous, development of this industry would create a lot of jobs as well as producing new energy reserves.

In another option, the Arizona legislature is looking at passing a bill that would allow a test program to discard old tires into abandoned mines. Tires are a major source of refuse, for example, in Goldendale, Washington the vacant lot containing an estimated 2.5 million tire pile serves as a local eyesore. In Washington state alone, 6.5 million tires were discarded in 2007. Currently there are only a few options for the reuse of tires, such as fodder for enclosed burning such as kilns, refurbishment for use in low stress environments such as tugboat bumpers, and covers for landfills. Tires pose their own sets of hazards. They collect water which becomes tainted and can breed mosquitoes and other insects that harbor disease. Tires can also emit toxic fumes, especially if they become hot or are set to flame.

There is a potential hazard in combining the gases emitted by tires and those found in abandoned mines, but I think the Arizona plan is worth trying. Having seen the yawning mouth of an abandoned shaft up close and personally in my time on the Pyramid Lake Reservation, I have an appreciation for a real solution to this problem. Finally there is one bonus to cleaning up our abandoned mine problem - the creation of safer, larger hiking and exploring areas that are currently off limits to most sensible folk due to the ubiquitous sign "Caution: Mine shafts ahead. Proceed at your own risk."

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Disasters & Seattle History

The recent smattering of earthquakes across the globe has made me wonder what is going on with the the planet's core. The USGS says that earthquake activity has been normal over the past 300 years, with a slight peak in the last fifteen. Despite this reassurance, there are some that say the Pacific Northwest is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions - and this time we're not just talking about dogs and cats living together.

The Pacific Northwest is quietly one of the most geologically sensitive places in the U.S. I say sensitive because, although the Juan de Fuca plate is subducting under the North American plate all along the coast from Northern California to southern British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest does not boast an impressive array of pressure release attractions such as geysers, steam vents or slow active volcanos. Instead, the Northwest has the sleeping giant of Mt. Rainier, along with the potential for a natural disaster that would make Haiti and Chile look marginal in terms of overall destruction.

For thousands of years, pressure has built along the Juan de Fuca plate fault line that runs approximately 50 miles off the coast of the U.S. In 1700, an estimated 9.0 magnitude quake rocked the area, sending a tsunami ranging as far away as Japan where it destroyed villages up and down the coast and altered the course of several waterways. Mt. Rainier's last sizeable eruption occurred around 1858 although residents of the area reported lava outpouring as late as 1898. Since that time the mountain has lain dormant. However, the source of the mountain's magma has not ceased to add pressure, and when that pressure is finally released the results would be more devastating to the surrounding area than the 1980 explosive eruption of Mt. St. Helens because of two factors. First, the tremendous height of Mt. Rainier (over 14,000 ft.) has given rise to glaciation and year round snow cover that will become a massive lahar, or river of superheated mud that could flow all the way to the Puget Sound. Secondly, a lot more people live in the path of that lahar and in the general vicinity of Mt. Rainier's radius for lava, mudslides, and fiery ash. The mountain could vent this pressure on it's own, but it's more likely that the trigger would be another geologic event - such as an earthquake. According to a piece written for ABC news, "There's an 80 percent chance the southern end of the fault off southern Oregon and Northern California would break in the next 50 years and produce a megaquake, says Chris Goldfinger, who heads the Active Tectonics and Seafloor Mapping Laboratory at Oregon State University." This in turn could lead to an eruption by Mt. Rainier. But which of these two would be more devastating?

On Friday I went on the Seattle Underground Tour, an avant garde look at Seattle's history. Not hailing from this part of the world I knew little about the city and surrounding area other than what I gleaned from the Oregon Trail computer game, local monuments and television. I was surprised to learn that Seattle had it's own version of the Great Fire, in 1889, where most of the commercial district located around historic Pioneer Square burned to the ground. Like Chicago, Seattle's waterfront was built on marshy delta land, and like Chicago, they used debris from the fire to fill and rebuild afterwards.

Unlike Chicago, Seattle had a burgeoning timber industry (and apparently a burgeoning prostitution industry but that's beside the point). All this timber created a lot of sawdust, and this sawdust was the primary component to fill the marshy ground. Architects of the time realized that the sawdust would compress over time and that the steep slope down the hill from the high ground to the waterfront was disadvantageous. Their solution was to advise the commercial district to rebuild, and to slough the top of the steep cliff down to raise the street level of the waterfront area and provide extra stability. But they did those things in that order - meaning when the sloughing began and the street level came up, the 1st floors of all the newly rebuilt buildings in the area became basements. These basements were condemned by the city but since they hold the pilings for all the commercial buildings in downtown Seattle, they can't be removed. Thus the Seattle Underground was born.

The Underground tour provides a view to the frightening reality of these Victorian Age decisions. The pilings are withstanding the test of time, but the area around them has sunk as the sawdust fill compresses. In some places the floor has slanted down more than a foot from ground level. What's more, Seattle did not revise it's building codes to include earthquake stabilization in buildings until 1994. The technology boom has created a lot of the larger buildings, built under the new codes. Yet much of the downtown area and university district is older, as are many residential areas and civic buildings.

The outlying suburbs are another problem. Each municipality has their own set of building regulations, some archaic and some not so. Thousands of people live on the hillsides where building stability is more challenging. Almost every interstate and highway is elevated. Furthermore, Pierce County (Tacoma) and King County (Seattle) have widely different earthquake preparedness plans that may not integrate well if put in practice, leaving residents confused and without access to aid.

Overall, an earthquake has the potential to be far more deadly and devastating to the Pacific Northwest than a volcanic eruption. While either would probably change the face of Seattle as we know it, municipalities are more prepared to deal with the volcano than an earthquake. Also, with an eruption, there will be reaction time for the bulk of the population, living farther away from Mt. Rainier. An earthquake affects everyone simultaneously and could occur anywhere.

It's really only a matter of time until the pressure is released. It may come in the form of small earthquakes, like the one in 2006 that rumbled buildings and knocked books off shelves but took no lives. But it may come in the form of a "megaquake" that triggers an explosive reaction from Mt. Rainier. I'm glad I live on a volcano evacuation route.

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