Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Poisson, hubris, and punchlines.

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

A while back I took a hard stance. It wasn't the first time I'd taken it, and it occurred to me at the time that it was remarkable my outlook hadn't much changed in the intervening years, despite a great deal of change in just about every category in which change can take place. Somewhere within, a voice, a notion, a guy1 even offered the idea that this stolid, stalwart approach in the face of reasonable arguments from far more experienced parties might just be a glaring sign of hubris.

But what checks had I on hubris, then? I answered to the man, and the man gave my mean little stance a place amongst the mottoes on his header. I cherished the complement, and took even greater pride in the hard line I'd chosen. The fates are cruel and the chances are slim, so grab a good sieve and dig in, indeed. I figured I'd passed the hardest test --to find him. That I'd continually, one way or another, passed all the tests in between --the struggle to give myself over completely, the daily challenges of whatever tasks or feats that were commanded of me. I'd failed countless times and risen again, I'd come dangerously close to permanent failure more than once, as well, but I was where and who I was, with who I was with, and so I had it cinched, that primordial challenge of fate, that gaping unknown of chance.

Until the world broke apart completely and swallowed up all that mattered in life. In a way I'd never imagined it could, though of course it could have at any point, in that way or in any other. It wasn't lost on me that life is short, nor precious, and yet...it was. Wholly, utterly, lost on me; in dark forebodings of the future I imagined crying on my master's shoulder on the death of one of my parents, which I knew would come, and not too far into the distant future. But the forebodings ended there, never fraying, not even in the smallest quantum, towards something as unthinkable or unbearable as master himself being the one to die. Even now I daily find my thoughts defaulting to the assumption that the whole thing is a stupid joke, some sort of charade, just another task-based challenge at which I'm doing particularly poorly. It just doesn't make any fucking sense.

And it occurs to me that I can prove it, if I lean on the Poisson distribution. Here:

poisson

So consulting the actuarial tables, one of the many thingseverythings I wouldn't know about if master hadn't deliberately and patiently taught me, we find that the rate of death by drowning in the ocean amongst adults aged 25 - 44 in Costa Rica is 2.3 per 100k population. We'll note that the sample spans 2007 - 2009 and be somewhat displeased with the size but appeased by the relative recency. Now, how many such beach trips did the good man make? I'll perhaps disappoint some by revealing there was no ongoing tally board somewhere showing how many of each particular diversion regularly shared in paradise took place. None, except of course, Trilema, which has and knows everything. So let's see, how many of MP's articles mention going to the beach? Ah, to query and to read over each one, to tally and to remember, to relive the unabashed joy and the exhausted pleasure, to bury that one June day's sickening horror in the bounty, voluptuous and wholly his, of all the times we'd been afore.... Well, that knocked a week or so out of me, in which forty or so such pieces were savored --taking pains not to count recountings from the logs, lest I find myself an excuse to truly never finish writing this. Thusly sated, we can also point out the easy cheat of cribbing the man's own 112 - 212 estimate, and taking the average at 162. Seems far more likely.

Let's find lambda, then. Given 2.3:100,000 from the insurance drones and our gnarly reality of 1:162, we'll knock the hundred thousand down to 43479 (I'm rounding up in favor of a clueless fate, nice as I am), and shove it into those 162 beach trips for a lambda of .0037. You see where this is going, do you?

Now we need k, the number of occurrences. That'd be one. One "occurrence", the only occurrence capable of stopping everything that occurs to matter.

(.0037 ^ 1) * e ^ -.0037 / 1! = .0037 * .996306839 / 1 = .003686335, and where a probability of 1 means 100% likelihood, we come out at 0.3686335%. Not half a measly single fucking percent.

Perhaps it's not so much that I'd taken a hard, an unreasonably hard line. Perhaps it's that it wasn't hard enough, because apparently fate and chance are a good deal crueler and slimmer than I'd ever imagined, to bless me with such unimaginable splendor, and then to take it away.

And no, I wouldn't for a moment change anything about it, save its having to end. I suppose that's the true punchline.

  1. Do you have little guys? Ones that doubt, ones that alarm about something, sometimes useful ones that can even be sent to chase after some forgotten item and return with the answer at some later, subconscious, interval? In my experience, most little guys are obnoxious, and can even be harmful at their worst, but they're not all to be painted with the same brush; some are truly useful, earnestly hardworking little guys! I wish I knew how to give them cookies. []

An Attempt at the Life & Times

Monday, August 30th, 2021

What life, what times, ridiculous concepts in the context of all-consuming death. And yet, things do occur; somehow, ignorant of their own meaninglessness, items, beings, happenstances still have, and take, place. Sometimes I notice, sometimes I cannot. Often I feel gratitude for what remains. Often I spite myself for feeling anything but thickest fog and deepest black. Meanwhile, MP had ordered a new camera some time back, and I can't spite myself for feeling how incensed he'd be if it were left unused, just as I'm sure he'd be incensed if I demurred from the resistance of the medium1 and left this space blank, so long as I breathe.

Let's pretend, then, together, to care about something outside the scope of oblivion:

begonias

Some begonias. Artfully shoving their viny forearms into the faces of the hydrangeas I actually planted, these begonias came as though from nowhere, never having been chosen, planted, or even much tended to. But on they bloom.

lookout

Coffee plantation lookout, from the (higher) coffee plantation lookout. Not that one needs look out for coffee here; it's everywhere! But if it's neatly rowed, it gets noticed. And if it gets noticed, it gets a lookout. And if the lookout's particularly nice, it gets a lookout of its own. And if....

hibiscus

Hibiscus Exemplaris

scratchy

There was a scratching, one night. In the wee hours of the morning, before the terrible dawn. A sort of scratch-writhing, as though a spiked golf ball were tossing itself about under my desk. I isolated the sound to this computer chassis box, took the box outside, and waited until morning, when the Bimbo suggested it was maybe, perhaps, a newly-hatched gecko?

Plausible! So I rushed out, opened the box carefully, anticipating rewards of cutitude and adorablosity...

scratcher

...but it was merely another participant in the great beetle show, digging his way down, rather'n up, for some god-forsaken reason unknown outside of beetlekind.

bush

Bush interprets burning.

footrow

And the many feets wish you a swing, a toecurl, and a pleasant evening, inasmuch as such can be had. It's neither clear nor comfortable in this truest post-apocalypse the earth ever dreamed up. But so it goes, apparently.

  1. The anchor link here is perhaps not the most relevant use of the "resistance of the medium" term of art as found on Trilema, but I'm anchoring it there anyhow in a fit of appreciation for that specific piece. Find me anyone else on this earth, past or present, or even fucking fictional if you like, why not, with half as much courage and initiative as Mircea Popescu to ask intelligent questions and follow them through all the way to the end, no matter how daunting, no matter how disappointing, time and time again. With the graciousness to then document it all, thoroughly, reasonably, openly. Often enough, in multiple instances, suited sufficiently to different minds and contexts to allow absorption by just about anyone willing, regardless of whatever learning disabilities've been baked into their heads. Not with an agenda, not to satisfy some bias or persuade some audience, but because that's the thing to do. Zero fucking bucks passed. []

Three Motes of the Master's Passing

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

I watched a swoop of swallows circle round the mountain tops and jungle outgrowth of the enchanted lands beyond the window. They described a churning vortex in the air, delighting in the current afore a storm, then soared towards nearby skies above the town where so much recent life played out. A funnel of sharp-winged birds, inching gradually west, until at last a final visible few turned some trick and just like that, blinked out of view.

They flew like a turn of phrase. They twirled in fluid zeugmas recalling the joy of structure and diction when blessed by the grace of his hands.

***

Crickets greet the steely blues of falling evening with a filigree of song. Their indistinct orchestra fuzzes out the sound of civilization, groaning, unbearable, where beings play, pretend, or posture towards some semblance of his soul. It cannot be pronounced by them, but here and there, the crickets try, with innocent motivation, sending tiny notes of peace to my ears.

***

"Do you think the geckos will miss us?" he asked that fateful morning, before the sun and all the savage senselessness it had to show us. "What do you mean?" I asked, and he said he thought they noticed when we were gone. I watch them traipse the odd trail along the window panes, cackling questioningly in demonstrative mourn. The newest, perhaps too new to know, patrol ineptly in the crease of ceiling, cocking their tiny heads. Where is the booming sound of his laugh? Where, the benign, the open greeting?

The flowers do not nod, but seem to curl on themselves, abashed at perhaps not being now as beautiful. All that he touched, and saw, or smelled, or bit, I know now measures less, to itself, despite ever having been more than everything else.

Butterflies in gauze

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

The net caught naught but all the life most beautiful that passed its flit. Those things that beat with broidered wings the wind that then betrayed them, translating a soaring spirit into worlds so subtly less: vibrant, focused, and receiving.

A gust picked up, as though regret had marked the breeze's billowing heart, and wished to set its faithful free.

And for a moment, while I perched and heard the rolling weight of storms push menacingly for the sea, I thought I saw the net blow, barren. But the rain, as promised, fell, and laid o'er all another veil, obscuring in its dithering gray some portion of that day's true glory.

There, in the contrast, I made out the panicked movements of the creatures still captive. Silent, and utterly without effect; insistent to exhaustion. Did they curse the decoration of their wings? Did they resent the bosom of blessing, their wind?

They rested awhile, while I wrestled with mine: more menial things, borne of selfish, mad dreams, for not all branded freedom's thereby the same thing. So I freed them.

A Season or Three

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Time and trouble pass like water over the parts of life that matter still, that which cannot move, or, going towards the oblivion of the sea so slowly, never move too far or fast to leave a given moment untouched by their familiar presence. What's taken through the dells and valleys of the days and weeks and hence away from me, the flotsam of experience, traces with its margins the negative space in which all that really matters, is.

That which itself is not matter, but feeling.

seasoning

seasoning

Not things that are broken, but toil of mending.

seasoning

seasoning

I am a unit of a legion, a cog in a machine, and yet, alone.

seasoning

seasoning

The possibility of life, undeniably beautiful, carves into the living the closing doors of chances lost.

seasoning

seasoning

And so my landscape flourishes. The water flows as it should. The joy and longing thrive, so that I lack for nothing.

The cup runs over; the table's laid so plentifully it can hardly stand.

seasoning

seasoning

The carnage's daily made into another form, that I might keep the soul but shed the sinews.

seasoning

seasoning

I wander day and night finding something of my riverbed in unexpected, sidelong glances, in the sudden opening of eyes.

seasoning

seasoning

And, always, I know where I am ultimately going: to the sea. To the sea.

seasoning

seasoning

Where I will ever drown in those I love.

seasoning

And float back, bidden by memory.

* * *

It's been a tumultuous stretch of time since I last posted, but something in that tumult's taught me how to love the chaos better. People sometimes ask me what a normal day of mine is like, and I never seem to be able to answer. Perhaps it's because I don't have normal days; perhaps because I don't spend much time looking at the shape of what goes by on a minutious basis. Or I could be full of shit.

Besides, speech is a rolling-mill that always thins out the sentiment. Sometimes it's better to just do spoons.

seasoning

Vert-ical

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

A gaze outside the window: eighty thousand shades of green. I haven't, cannot, count them; the number neatly suggests itself for the sake of its roundness, the ouroboros of an eight, the open conduit of zero, the way the mouth mimics the shape in the speaking of the thousand. Whole, unyielding, immense. It's a rampage out there, an annihilation by green. Tinges teeter now together, now at odds at every angle vying for the light to lend them further recourse to greenness. What seems at first a single organism is in fact a twist, helices long since untraceable divulging tree, vine, moss, bromeliad --and as leaf-cutter ants march down these chimeras bearing banners emerald, peridot, and tourmaline, still other species shuttle up, or out, or circle round, inching verdant abdomens and fluttering seafoam wings.

The sunlight fades and sets the sky a soup of grayness against which all the green seems only louder, sharper, more assertive of its space. Come the night, however long, or through whatever storms dare churn the land to opaque ruin, the green offers its patience. From nearly nothing, it will fill all crevices, arch over those not yet overwhelmed, it will cover your shame; it will reclaim the fruits of your failure. Green is the substrate. The inhale, the exhale, the respiration, the expiration. It will fuel your desire, deepen your gall. It will spread over your grave.

On ye naegl

Monday, October 12th, 2020

I scour the polish off my nails and see what's underneath for the first time in a couple of weeks, though it feels like ages. In fact, I'm shocked, somehow, at what they look like under the even, opaque paint in which they've been so regularly covered. They're normal yet alien; their obvious anatomy and the form belying function are jarring somehow, like a persian cat seen just-washed, a fifth of its former glorious girth, or an actress staged always in the myriad trappings of Elizabethan costume suddenly naked. The pink nailplates are as shiftingly unhomogenous as August sunset, morphing with time and movement. Once escaped from the finger, the nails are white as chalk, infinitesimally banded, telling some story about the state of my health, or the woes of my mind. The instinct imposes itself: repaint them. But I decide to let them be, to take a break, to sit with the reality of their plain unornamented humanness awhile. And I drift to an examination of their tireless protection, and the shelter similar biological structures serve to other forms of life.

The keratin responsible for most of the nail's composition is by no means a resource exclusive to humanity. Along with chitin, which evolved earlier and so finds itself more readily employed among the insects and arthropods, keratin is one of the toughest biological materials in existence, and other genii of life have made ample use of its potential for resistance and defense. Most vertebrates, in fact, make use of some sort of keratinous compound, expressed variously as hair or fur, hooves, and the outermost layer of the skin. Then come the claws, the horns, the feathers, the stuff of which fight or flight is literally made. From turtle shells to fish scales, eagles' beaks to sheep's wool, what keeps the tips of my fingers and toes safe from the thousands of things I touch every day so serves the rest of the animal kingdom tirelessly, silently. Even spiders' silk, if somewhat further from the amalgamation of keratin in my nails, carries with it some measure of this precious stuff. Indisputably useful; capable of countless manifestations of shape, color, size; easily replaced --one can't help but suspect that keratin is a sort of plastic put together by the fates of the earth, which I suppose is fairly ironic when considering nylon wigs and acrylic nails.

The nail may be natural, but like the majority of things that may ever live, it's dead. At least, the nail plate itself. When keratin fills a cell, hardening it, readying it for utility, it swallows up all else: organelles, nucleus, all. The nail matrix, the source of cells, lives on, but what it produces is a sort of ghastly conveyor belt, wherein life uses death to shield itself from the same. As with any keratinized object, the human nail can tell a tale of the bearer's recent battle performance. Obvious problems --poor hygiene, blunt damage, are borne easily on those parts put forth in a fight. But the nails will tattle further. Vitamin deficiencies, genetic defects, lack of sleep, dehydration, overexercise, neurosis, even the innocent fact of age are laid out in the manuscripts of toe- and finger-tips, ready for the reading by anyone who can.

Honest and strong, ancient, morbid, my nails look a little less strange in their examined state. Still, I think I'll paint them purple.

Hummer

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Rain, drops bigger than his head, made on all sides to beat the wings that beat themselves against the wind, and his domain as every day, but briefly, was not his. A warlike warble followed the colibri to his shelter, some secret emerald cove where in his stillness he could not be seen. Rain rolled off leaves --more massive than his life, but smaller still than his daily will to flight, to fight against the largeness of the world in which he was a brilliant jewel, and almost imperceptible. Who knows how long a quarter-hour's shower stretches on inside the minute cogs of a colibri's mind?