through unroofed halls of water

I have been taking scuba diving classes. There's some long rationale involving becoming certified as a scientific diver for a project that's building a submarine (whee! submarine!), or maybe making our next robot an underwater explorer, but really, it comes down to: I'm underwater and I can breathe! Whee!

I've done a good amount of diving: In Hawaii where the ocean is clearer than glass, so that you're twenty feet under and can see all the way up to the cathedral arch of cloud and mountain and you're never quite sure whether this thing you swim through is sea or sky, or if it even matters. In San Maartin where the sand is made from translucent black obsidian and annelids in their ivory shells unfold chrysanthemum tentacles scarlet as silk and drag at your shadow, a strange shimmering three-dimensional thing caught in the glass sands. In Bermuda where the coral has a jellyfish sting and touching it unwary leave puzzlebox lines on your skin for weeks.

My parents were divers, and while this is my first adult cert (and the murky Puget Sound, with its downed airplanes and sea stars two feet across and haloclines drawn in sunset-colored curtains across the deeps, and currents that wind like moebius-strips and eight-degree water is very different), I held a kids' cert until I was too old for it.

So I'm lucky to have first-timer gfish with me, to remind me of the sheer, "I'm breathing underwater! Wow!" wonder (and because, frankly, he's much less likely to absent-mindedly forget to turn his air on than I am, despite my experience. :) ). It's the sort of thing one should never take for granted, no matter how young one might have been when one first tasted regulator air.

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See also: gfish's post.

:) !!!

From a 1969 interview with Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, by Alden Whitman of the New York Times, found here:

Q: How do you rank yourself among writers (living) and of the immediate past?

A: I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile-- some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket, which I would now like to trace in reply to your question.

Vladimir Nabokov invented emoticons! :) :) :)

(Linked from Language Log, but I thought it was too entertaining not to repost.)
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Clack, clack, clack

I'd bought gfish a printing press as a Christmas gift. It's over a hundred years old, and spent the last eighty or so sitting in a barn getting rusty. Self serving gift - someone, and I have no idea who, of course, will have to help him restore it. So Thursday we went and rented a truck, and wandered to the shipping depo to pick up our twelve hundred pounds of printing press. Shipping has been an adventure; I've never had to deal with a freight company before.

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The gospel of the small

I have now been mushroom collecting with tylik several times. By which I mean I tagged along while she conjured mushrooms from thin air, and put them in bags. You look at a patch of perfectly plain grass, and you turn around to look somewhere else, and when you glance back over your shoulder, she has pulled four pounds of mushrooms from your square foot of plain grass and is already nibbling on one of them.

After the most recent time, the universe came all apart at the seams: suddenly there are mushrooms everywhere! I can see them now. Little slatey purple deer mushrooms. The pale frost-ringed lactarius glyciosmus that flakes like glass and smells like peppermint. The russulas with their broken magenta caps, and inky caps unwriting themselves in long black streaks. Sulfur tufts pale and yellow-green like malachite in a fire, suillus slimy and wider than my handspan, luminous pale gold honey mushrooms, and fairy-ring mushrooms marking out their circles underfoot.

It's like learning to read a new language, where all the words are written in the lacy skeletons of fallen leaves and the hidden feather tracks of tree roots and the ghost-pale smudge of spores against dark red earth.

There's this oft-quoted study - they were testing how well people could remember the placement of pieces on a chessboard, and - surprise! - chess players were much better at it than non-chess players. Which seems obvious, but it means that the chess players aren't just memorizing combinations of piece and location. They're looking through the crackle-glass depths of the board, to where meaning lives. They're reading it, like the rest of us take irregular ink blotches for love letters and limericks and livejournal posts.

So: somehow I have learned to read the gospel of the small - the way light curls around a leaf, the way soil catches between your fingers, the bone-pale carven labyrinth of daedalea gills. This makes me very happy, even if I suddenly have to be terribly careful where to put my big, clumsy feet. :)
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metal and music

Metalwork is such a strange, fantastic thing. I'm used to metal being solid, the bones of cities, buildings with rebar skeletons and bridges strung with coiled steel, steam pipe and railway and ship hull. So there's some part of me that's always surprise at the way scale flakes pearly and grey, like eggshell, away from a blade on the anvil, or the way welding heat feathers along metal in sunset-colored fractal tributaries, the rainbow scars of tempering upon a new-hardened tool, at copper left in by vapor deposition in thin butterfly-scale lines in translucent new-formed marble. Bone, yes, but sometimes breath and heartbeat too.

Yesterday, I attended a casting party. I hadn't done any casting myself yet, but it was neat.
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In case you were wondering

I'm sure you're all already sick of seeing this sweep across your friends list, so I'll keep it very short:

Me too.

Also, from iridium:
"National Coming Out Like A Pirate Day" -- October 21. You knew it had to happen eventually. Spread the word, mateys! That word being "Tolerrrrrrrrrance!"
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