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October 2008
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corvi [userpic]
As a certified stormwatcher, I recommend you skip this post

I went to training to become a National Weather Service-certified stormwatcher today (thank you, tidesong, for alerting me to the existence of Official Stormwatchers), and invited all the storm-loving locals I could think of to come with me. It was neat. Mostly sitting in a dark room watching videos of baseball-sized hail and crazy mudslides and tornados and learning how to identify and predict various aspects of them to call in a coherent report. (The documentation says, all in capital letters: DO NOT REPORT HAIL AS MARBLE-SIZED! MARBLES COME IN MANY DIFFERENT SIZES! Apparently this is a problem for them.)

My favorite weather formation is now the mesocyclone, which is a rotating cloudmass, indicative of a world-class thunderstorm forming. A giant silverdark swirl, like wool on a spindle or water moving over a rock, feeding raw power into a thunderstorm.

I am much looking forward to being able to say, "As a certified stormwatcher, I recommend walking in the rain," or, "As a certified stormwatcher, I recommend a mug of hot chocolate. With cinnamon."

Fundamentally, the seminar was about reading.

When you're learning how to read a book, these squiggles and lines and loops on a page become signposts along a winding road. They point to words. Words don't live on the page; they curl slumbering in the depths beneath it somewhere. Learning to read changes the shape of the world. You don't see the squiggles anymore. You see words.

There's an oft-cited study where psychologists were testing how well people could remember the positions of chess pieces on a chessboard. Unsurprisingly, it turns out people who know how to play chess are a lot better at remembering where the pieces are than people who have never played chess. They're reading the board, looking through that board to the meanings that curl in dark places underneath, threat and possibility and victory. If you put pieces down in some random configuration - three bishops on each side, no kings, etc - the chessplayers are suddenly as bad at remembering as the novices.

The thing that sings to me is this: if I look at clouds now, I'll see mesocyclones and wall clouds and rain feet, what was and what is to come. I won't see meaningless vague and puffy gray anymore. I can read the sky, a little, and it changes the shape of the universe, makes it aglow with meaning.

Reading is a magic, a strange and powerful one. It's one of the defining characteristics of being sentient, and one of the most important ones.

And this is what we should do: Read books. Read go boards and chessboards and checkerboards. Read blades of grass to see the movements of the wind and read the way a lover's hands curl around eachother to see the movements of a heart. Read the stars at dawn and the clouds at sunset. Read the way the rain falls in convection vortices and the way green creeps in the acidic soil under a cedar tree. Read the chords in music and the colors in an oilpainting and the architecture in a building. Read the warmth and heartbeat and stength in the hand that grasps yours, and read the stance of your fencing opponent. Learn to read everything you can, clouds and martial arts forms and languages and games and physics and constellations and chords and the tremors in a voice, and never stop doing it.

Current Mood: contentcontent

In the silly film class on Friday some of the students were complaining that after taking this class they would never be able to enjoy watching movies again, precisely, I think, because they would be able to interpret what they were seeing overwell. I argued with them briefly about this... but I realize now that being able to read the visual language of film is exactly what was being discussed. (And I guess I enjoy it more than they do.) And that is a much more elegant description than anything I managed.

Of course, having come to this "Aha!" I now also realize that one of the required books is called "How to Read a Film". Things like this happen to me in actual martial arts all the time...

You should tell all of them never to date a filmmaker.

Er, hypothetically speaking, of course. :)

There's a difference between knowledge enhancing or ruining an experience.

I can't stand listening to out of tune instruments to the point that I couldn't watch a guitar lesson on PBS due to the instructor's guitar slightly out of tune. Close enough for jazz, but enough to seriously bother me and want to reach out to the instrument in the tv...

But I'd rather have that near perfect pitch because it allows me to enjoy a good player that much more.

I like the verbal comments you made about experiential vs. analytical narratives so much I am posting this comment to remind myself of it. Perhaps I will make a second post, and pull those threads in.

Ah yes, the aesthetic desert between first and second naivete'.

This is a real problem. As an artist, I went arced into that with my photography, and am maybe, just now, over 10 years later, able to make my way through it.


(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Re: Very cool!

In theory, it should be in the mail in 4-6 weeks. I aim to have the most interesting wallet of anyone I know. :)

Re: Very cool!

Awww, we don't get cards ;)

(no subject) - (Anonymous)
(no subject) - (Anonymous)

Do any of these work for you?

Skywarn is the name of the program. You will often find it operating under the auspices of ARES, the amateur radio emergency services. (They're the people who handle urgent communication when natural disasters bad enough to swamp or destroy the phone lines happen. I got involved with ARES after watching their work during an earthquake and being very impressed at the shimmering web of people and voices holding all the pieces together.) Every SkyWarn seminars I know of is open to non-hams, too, but maybe there are some that aren't.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

Unfortunately, I am vastly more interesting on livejournal than in real life. I have no idea why this is, but it's kind of amusing.

That's what I love about knowledge... something beautiful, while remaining beautiful, suddenly has whole new meaning... it's quite an interesting thing.

I'm glad you got a chance to go!

I'm so glad you let me know about this. It SPREADS! See, I got regyt! w00t!

This is what allows us humans to deal with very complex things--reducing them down to symbols. This combination of reduction and abstraction is a cornerstone of western analytical/scientific thought.

And they are powerful, but also dangerous. They are dangerous because we take what we see/hear/touch/experience, and replace with a series of symbols strung together in our head, which we then treat as the experience. But it is not the experience; it is a very simplified, cartoon-version of the experience. We substitute the generic for the specific. In turn, our experience includes only a narrow bit of the actual reality.

So, we have to be careful not to confuse our words, our symbols, our scientific models, with the huge, undifferentiated, undivided and chaotic reality. The map is not the territory.


(no subject) - (Anonymous)
(no subject) - (Anonymous)

If you're trying to find one in your area and you live in a small town, it may help to search by county; Skywarn organizes its watchers by county, usually, and you get issued an ID number based on your county.

You guys'd get hurricane training! Neat!

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

No, you aren't oblivious. The SkyWarn program just isn't very organized - you have to search for the local chapter's website on google and get the schedule from them. I found the "Southern New England" SkyWarn training schedule here, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of information to go with it, like whether you need to RSVP.

This is *marvelous*! Thank you. I'm linking to it from my LJ.

Uh, gee, wow. Thank you!