Blessed be thee Saint Leibowitz

I have, just now, finished reading A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and, I must say, it is a fantastic read. The occasional use of Latin and Hebrew caused the book, at times, to fly over my head but I believe that may well have been the point.

The book is a story in three parts of a Catholic abbey established in the wake of a nuclear holocaust. This particular abbey has been charged by its founder, one Brother I. E. Leibowitz, with accumulating and preserving human knowledge. Much as the Irish monks during our last dark ages, these monks are the shepherds of knowledge in the next dark age.

In spite of being in the future, the book constantly feels as though it is in the past, and it provides me with a sympathy and fondness for Catholicism that I have not felt before. While I still cannot abide the dogma of the great Catholic empire, I must admit that they do serve us all by preserving knowledge, at times.

One quote, from the latter portion of the novel, tickled my fancy a great deal:

They managed only to demonstrate that the mathematical limit of an infinite sequence of "doubting the certainty with which something doubted is known to be unknowable when the 'something doubted' is still a preceding statement of 'unknowability' of something doubted," that the limit of this process at infinity can only be equivalent to a statement of absolute certainty, even though phrased as an infinite series of negations of certainty

—A Canticle For Leibowitz (pp. 301-302)

The quote is not particularly representative but, to be honest, I feel that it would be hard to find any quote that would be properly representative of this book.

A Canticle For Leibowitz is a wonderful read; one of few, recently, that has succeeded in keeping my attention from start to finish, and I highly recommend it.

Is it wrong to make the same wish on two shooting stars?

One of the nice things about Woods Hole is that there are few enough lights that you can see the stars in the sky. It's really quite pleasant to be out on a moonless night and see so very many stars scattered across the skies.

Sometimes, being in San Francisco, I forget how nice it is to go for an evening walk through empty, dark streets, with trees to the sides and stars above.

To get back to the titular question, I've been seeing quite a few shooting stars--I think that I'm up to five since getting here--and I've always liked the tradition of wishing on shooting stars. Being as I am, I don't really put much merit in wishing, except insofar as planting things in one's own subconscious can be beneficial, but I also rather enjoy harmless, meaningless superstition from time to time. Of course, when things come down to superstition, etiquette really takes on a strong role but etiquettes of superstition tend to vary greatly. I find, that there are relatively few things that I would actually want to wish for and that number has already been overcome by the number of shooting stars that I have seen.

Is it poor form to reuse a wish on a new shooting star?

Fortune Cookie: 2010-07-03

Special touches have been
planned with you in mind.
Lucky Numbers 56, 20, 41, 9, 29, 37

Commentary: One should not always overlook the salad at a Chinese restaurant.

2010 Journey East: Some numbers

I'm rather fond of keeping meticulous data about various things and the list of such things certainly contains statistics about my car. Having finished the trip east, here are some numbers from the trip:

  • Odometer leaving San Francisco, CA: 1715
  • Odometer arriving Austin, TX: 3532
  • Odometer leaving Austin, TX: 3540
  • Odometer arriving Atlanta, GA: 4730
  • Odometer leaving Atlanta, GA: 4730
  • Odometer arriving Concord, MA: 5837
  • Odometer leaving Concord, MA: 5850
  • Odometer arriving Woods Hole, MA: 5947

The following numbers are a little off because I started and finished with partially full tanks of fuel:

Total diesel consumed: ~115 gallons Total cost of fuel: ~$340

The astute reader will notice that I have been getting fuel economy in the upper thirties of miles per gallon. This is correct and, when observed on a more granular level it does seem to be showing a trend upwards, though that trend is likely not statistically significant. As I intend to continue measuring my fuel consumption for the life of my car, I will be able to give better data later, when I am more than 6000 miles and 15 tanks of fuel in.

2010 Journey East: Here I am, I guess

Well, I'm sitting here in our house in Woods Hole, sipping a beer, reading an interesting physics paper about the holographic principle, and I thought that it might be good to take a few moments to update you all on the past few days.

Having left Matt's place in Atlanta on Friday morning, I journeyed up through the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and into Connecticut on Friday. Baldr and I slept at a rest area in the back of my car in Connecticut and then went on to my parents' place in Concord, MA on Saturday. Saturday evening, after dinner, I finished the journey down to Woods Hole, MA so as to avoid any morning traffic on Sunday (the 4th).

In the process, I managed to finish Cloud Atlas and I am pleased to report that it was, in fact, quite good.

Anyway, leaving Atlanta, and driving through Georgia for a while, I ended up in South Carolina. Driving through South Carolina on an interstate, one sees quite a few signs advertising the sale of fireworks. Initially, my reaction was mostly a ho-hum, fireworks are kind of fun but do I really care enough to stop and buy some. Thankfully, after passing a dozen or so advertisements on the road, I came to my senses and realized that, of course, I want fireworks, big awesome fireworks. Coming to my senses, and stopping at the next place I could find, I proceeded to buy a bit over a hundred dollars worth of fireworks--primarily mortars and bottle rockets as those are my preference. We went through about half of the fireworks yesterday while we watched the Falmouth fireworks from Fay Beach. A number of youths (youngsters, teenagers, hooligans, whatever you want to call them) clustered around us and we were nice enough to share my fireworks with them. It was rather pleasant to share fireworks with a younger generation and I certainly know that I would have appreciated it had someone done so with my when I was that age; I couldn't help but also feel good about possibly instilling some tiny amount of respect for the proper operation of things that have labels like, "Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls". Subsequently, Dave, Paul, and I played a rousing game of Power Grid, which is an excellent board game.

That's most of what I have to report of the past few days; it's nice to be here after so long away. I should be here for about the next three weeks so it'll be interesting to see how things play out.

2010 Journey East: Days 4&5: Atlanta via Louisiana

It's Thursday night--technically Friday--and I'm sitting in JamesMatt's living room, chatting with his roommate. It's pleasant here but perhaps I should back up.

Wednesday (Day 4), around noon, I packed up and left Austin. It was a little later than I had intended but being well rested was a pleasant outcome to achieve. Anyway, setting off from Austin, I set my GPS for Venice, LA and set out. To be wholly honest, driving through Texas really isn't all that interesting, especially eastern Texas. I don't really have any complaints though; I'm really enjoying the road, especially the decent speed limits down here in the South (usually 70mph, sometimes 80mph). I've started listening, at Grace's suggestion, to an audiobook version of the novel Cloud Atlas. Cloud Atlas is incredibly engrossing and, because of the narrative structure, at times rather infuriating; this infuriation later enhancing the satisfaction it provides but I am not yet done so it is perhaps best to wait a bit before further reviewing.

After eventually leaving Texas, I entered Louisiana, which is so very full of swampland as to be quite impressive. I first drove across properly immense swamplands during my 2005 trip to Florida and those swamps had nothing on Louisiana. The amount of water is both beautiful and staggering. Anyway, working my way across Louisiana, I eventually hit New Orleans. I drove through New Orleans and made my way for the tip of the Mississippi delta, the afore-programmed Venice, LA. I made it pretty far out that little strip of land before flooding halted my progress; so it goes.

It's worth mentioning that I'm not really so much making a slow trip across the country to see the sights; that is a thing to do and it might be fun but it is not what I am doing; I am driving from San Francisco to Woods Hole and dilly-dallying just a little bit along the way. As such, I didn't spend much time in New Orleans as Atlanta was my next destination.

Proceeding through Mississippi, getting a bit tired, I started contemplating sleep. Eventually, I attempted to settle down at a rest area in the back of my car, with Baldr, for some sleep. Unfortunately, the rest area's light and Baldr's heat-induced heavy breathing made that a non-viable plan.

Slamming a 5 Hour Power and getting back on the road, I forged on. Finishing off Mississippi and pushing through Alabama, I made it to Georgia in the wee hours of last night--Thursday (Day 5) morning. Pushing on, continuing to listen to Cloud Atlas, I hit Atlanta at about 7am; finding JamesMatt awake, we got some breakfast, chatted a bit, and then he went to work. Not having slept, I of course slept during the day. Matt returned in the early evening; we and his roommates spent a while hanging-out; and now, everyone else having gone to bed, I write this before following.

Tomorrow, we make for Massachusetts, likely puasing (very briefly) in New York along the way.

2010 Journey East: Day 3: Austin

Although exceedingly warm by my standards, Austin is not an unpleasant place. The primary events of the 3rd day of my journey were lunch with Gautham and Ariel; the acquisition of nearly sufficient wardrobe items as will serve most of my needs for the summer; a rather substantial nap; and dinner with Riad, Gautham, Cyrus, and Riad's lady-friend.

Baldr has been having a good time hanging out with Nico and Shockley, as well as, generally, not being in the car. Baldr mostly sits, stands, lies down, or naps in the car, which, practically speaking, is not altogether dissimilar from what he does during the vast majority of other times.

Also, I finished Moby Dick and it was awesome. Moby Dick is, truly, a leviathan of literature in every possible sense.

Austin is serving as a nice part-way spot to rest and, if it were the weekend, it might be pleasant to stay a little longer. In order to cover distance, rather than wait while people work, Day 4 will, hopefully, see the Louisiana shore and the city of New Orleans.

2010 Journey East: Day 2: In brief summary

It's 3AM Central Time and I arrived at Riad's place in Austin, TX somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes ago.

It being 3AM, I shall keep this brief and, perhaps, go into greater detail tomorrow.

There were a few notable things that occurred during the day:

There was a US Border Patrol inspection point on I-10E an hour or so East of El Paso, TX whereat I was first asked if I was a US citizen, then asked where I was from, where I was going, and what the purpose of my trip was. My car was visually inspected from the outside and sniffed by a dog. I was asked Baldr's age and I was sent on my way. The line of cars waiting to be inspected, the time spent per car, and the interruption to my cruising speed probably cost me a half hour or so. I'm not sure whether this is an indication that the terrorists or the anti-immigration crack-pots have won.

Somewhere in the midst of Texas, among the scrubland and the mesas, in the mid-afternoon, I hit boredom for the first time; it was an odd, unpleasant feeling that I haven't felt in a very long time but its exploration and coming through the other side are chief elements of this vacation. After hitting that point, I drove in my boredom with the music and audiobooks off for a time before the boredom passed and Moby Dick resumed. Speaking of Moby Dick; I am on the 18th or 18 discs, nearing the final chapters and absolutely riveted.

Sometime shortly after my boredom passed I encountered a rain of insects. Droplets, or what seemed to be droplets, began hitting my windshield at the rate of a mild shower but, some moments later, when I decided to use my wipers to remove the droplets, they merely smeared across the windshield. This horrid rain persisted for a good fifteen to thirty minutes, eventually leaving my windshield with substantially diminished clarity, in spite of many applications of windshield wipers with fluid.

Due to my own laziness and my cars extreme economy, those insects remained on my windshield through nightfall, on into the night, and only finally were extricated by an actual rainfall about a hundred miles out from Austin. I say a hundred miles out because that is where the rain began; it was not, however, very localized. For the last hundred miles of the drive, the weather vacillated wildly between mild mist and rains so torrential that I haven't seen their likes since last I saw the outer fringes of hurricanes in New England. I have heard that there is a tropical storm off the coast now and this truly felt like its outer edges.

There were plenty of other sights and events during the day but, as I said before, the time is late and I must sleep.

2010 Journey East: Day 1 addendum: Nope

That I am in the Buckeye Motor Hotel in Buckeye, AZ should answer the question of whether or not I succeeded in sleeping in the 90°F weather present at that rest area.

Overall, $55 ($45+$10/pet) isn't a bad price to pay for a room with air conditioning. Given my current needs, I probably would have paid $55 for a 6.5'x6.5' closet with air conditioning; I'd be griping about it in this post but I probably would have done it. I guess, alternatively, I could have left the engine idling and the air conditioning on in my car; the fuel probably would have lasted the night and on to the nearest gas station but the maintenance costs down the line would not have been worth it.

I've been taking I-10E since LA, which passes straight through Phoenix. Since I'll be driving in the morning, I have no desire to hit traffic, and Buckeye's half-way between I-10 and I-8, I think that I'll divert myself around Phoenix on I-8E so as to meet back up with I-10 south of Phoenix.

Ok, the air conditioning seems to have cooled the room sufficiently that I can get some sleep.

With luck, my next post will be from Riad's place in Austin.

2010 Journey East: Day 1: I suck at remembering stuff

Right now, I sit in my car, typing to you on my work laptop over my phone's Internet, in a rest area where I plan to sleep, approximately 50 miles easy of Phoenix, AZ, having driven 703 miles in just shy of 10.5 hours, having used less than two tanks of fuel.

So far, barring two issues, it's been an altogether pleasant trip. Due to tardiness in packing and cleaning, I set out around noon-thirty, which was about three hours later than I had intended but there isn't really any time criticality to my journey, so it's not a big deal. A couple hours into the journey, when I set about getting breakfast, lunch, my first meal of the day, or whatever you want to call it, that I had forgotten to bring Baldr's leash and pinch collar; as a result, Baldr's short walks during the trip have been either off-leash or using a bungee-cord as an improvised leash; I will have to buy a new leash and pinch collar sometime tomorrow; so it goes. We encountered hints of traffic near LA but nothing too bothersome and, otherwise, have had smooth and fast paced travel.

I have been listening to Moby Dick on audiobook and am currently on disc 8 of 18. I must, truly and honestly, say that this work of prose is truly an amazing thing. Moby Dick is, at times, for that matter, most times, rather slow paced, such that I expect I wouldn't be able to manage this degree of devotion were I not a captive audience with a great deal of monotony on my side. However, seeing as I am a captive audience, I have been greatly enjoying the work for its variety, depth, descriptiveness, philosophy, and sheer gravitas. At this rate, I should have finished this monstrous epic well before I make Austin.

Sometime, approximately two hours ago, I was thinking about whether or not I would change my clothes while on the road when it occurred to me that I had no recollection of loading my suitcase into my car. On further inspection, I can, in fact, confirm that I also forgot to put my suitcase in my car. Man, do I feel like an idiot. Thankfully, my suitcase contains only clothes and toiletries, which are relatively easily replaceable for the purposes of such a journey; though it is supremely bothersome to have to do so unintentionally. My laptop, chargers, and everything else are thankfully in my messenger bag, which leaves me still able to perform the various tasks that I intend to perform and, to be entirely honest, I was thinking, just yesterday, that it was about time for me to buy some new clothes; call it unfortunate providence, I guess.

I wonder what else I will come to discover that I have forgotten.

Anyway, now it's time to see if I can get any sleep in this abominable 90°F Arizona night; hopefully it won't distress Baldr too much either.