March 16, 2004

Drain the Marrow

“Dude. You really are pathetic.”

“Watch yourself, Erik. I’ll kick your ass.”

“What are ya gonna do? Run me down?”

“You better sleep lightly.”

“Why should I? It’s not like I won’t hear you coming!”

The other day the license plates finally arrived for my Subaru. My new car, that now sits in our driveway under the tree where all the magpies sit and shriek and shit all morning all over my new car. Oregon license plates. The conversion is complete. I must say, Oregon has some of the most beautiful license plates in the country, pure and simple with a lone pine tree and purple mountains. For a price, Oregon will also issue you a license plate that celebrates one of the cornerstones of our western existence. Cultural Heritage features a covered wagon getting shot up and burned by Indians. Crater Lake features deep blue pond surrounded on all sides by traffic jams. Trout features, well, trout.

What I don’t get is how they could get their basic plate so right and go so horribly awry on the special guys. They’re ugly, they’re cluttered and the license digits simply add to the visual carnage. Why the heck would someone want to pay more to taint their fine automobile with this crap?

Whatever. I got the cool plate, and I got cool letterz and numberz, too. 726. My old dialing prefix for UMD, and one still used for all professors and other on-campus contacts. BBS. Bulletin Board Service. Long live geeks! Long live the summer of ’95, which I spent sitting in a chilly basement in front of my 436 DX/33 with eight megs of RAM. Tethered to my Zoom 2400 modem I siphoned an ASCII social existence from a BBS known as PC MegaMall. I remember fragments. Danathan. iNSANiTY. Banger. Wheelie. Aowyn. Puppy. I first met the entire crew in person at the Mall of America, where we saw a stupid movie about France. I got my ass kicked in Doom by Harlequin. Liz had an iguana. I threw my own GT where Banger twisted his ankle on my trampoline.

Wheelie was the PC MegaMall Sysop, and on one rainy day I had my father drive me to the Perkins parking lot down the street so I could fork over some cash and upgrade my user level to SuperShopper. The whole thing felt like a drug deal, but it was necessary because my available minutes were waning and my social life was in jeopardy. Another time Dan and I rode our bikes all the way from Golden Valley to Brooklyn Center for a bunch of girls, an activity which over the coming weeks turned into a junior high drama wrought with love and fights and broken hearts.

It’s weird, the fuss and fight we put up to make our lives flow in a certain direction, and where they actually travel. Since breaking my leg I feel like I have surrendered that control for a moment and am being asked to casually observe my life from the outside. I feel like I’m in a cheesy teen movie, watching a cute and obvious plot weave itself into existence. There are all sorts of loose threads that perchance will find themselves resolved in the coming weeks, and I’m excited to see how this all is going to pan out.

As I have said before I am not a fatalist. I do not believe that there is an invisible force that governs the direction of human life. At the same time, I believe that in highly complex systems there will always be forces at work that are very difficult to account for, even less predict. Even the attempt to detect a force is a force itself that necessarily has an effect on the product of the system (the essence of the Uncertainty Principle). The degree of one tiny force may be minimal, but if you are unable to realize a few million tiny forces the system becomes wholly unpredictable.

Chaos is not the absence of order so much as it is an absence of predictability in a highly complex system (we’re talking Butterfly Effect, here). Every cause has an effect, every effect has a cause, but we haven’t necessarily cornered the market on every cause and its inevitable effect. You won’t hear me say that we have absolute control over the outcome of our lives, because when we make a choice we can’t possibly know every cause that brought us to that point, and every effect that would result from a particular decision. At the same time, it is obvious that free-will is an extremely strong force in determining the direction of one’s life, whether we have a perfect understanding of our place in the universe or not.

A distinction is necessary, I believe, between true autonomy (and true determinism) and functional autonomy (and functional determinism). In a perfectly controlled environment we could test for the absolute truths of autonomy and determinism; the exact point where one finally gives way to the next. As David Hume discovered, however, there can be a large difference between the truths we receive from logic, and the truths we can actually apply to our lives. Too many philosophers suffer in that they never manage the connection between the white room of pure philosophical thought and the tangled mess of life. Functional autonomy is the clumsy and imperfect definition of free-will that, while not logically rigorous, is accurate enough to apply to our lives without exhaustion and convolution.

Functional definitions of determinism, fatalism, free-will and autonomy are what we starve for. However, the only intellectually honest way to arrive at a correct functional definition is to first slog through the establishment of true definitions. There is no fair shortcut.

So kids, if you want to participate, here’s what to do. Break your leg and then ask yourself the following questions:

Does determinism exist? Does autonomy exist? If so, where is the line between the two?

March 14, 2004

Limb by Limb

I’ve been all about challenging myself this winter. Let us become a snowboard instructor. Let us reinvent ourselves in another new town. Let us design websites at a professional level. Let us see what happens when we attempt infinite workweeks. Let us learn how to drive a five-speed manual transmission on a new 2004 Subaru Legacy Wagon.

When you buy a backpack for snowboarding, they always tell you about how useful those external straps are for strapping your snowboard to your back. Makes it super-convenient to carry your board in the backcountry, they say. What they never tell you, however, is how great those straps are for carrying around your x-rays after busting your leg in the terrain park. Cuz, like, when you’re hobbling around on crutches, the last thing you want to be thinking about is how in the hell you’re gonna carry your x-rays.

Today I broke my leg while freeriding at the mountain. I got kicked all weird off a spine in the terrain park, was headed straight for the flats and tried to butter my landing to soften the blow to my legs. The board buttered out just fine, but my weight was so far back that the top of my bindings acted like a fulcrum against my fibia, busting that bone in two. I heard it pop. I sat down right there and had Kyle summon ski patrol. I got to wrap myself up in a yellow tarp and ride in a sled towed by a skiier. I got a cast and crutches and happy pills and have nearly fallen down the stairs at least four times. I got a ride down from the mountain with some friends, and my roommate was kind enough to go for a walk and retrieve my car from the park and ride.

Bones take six weeks to knit back together, so I won’t be driving or rock climbing or snowboarding or hiking or kiteboarding any time soon. I will need to restructure my free time to embrace activities I can do. Any suggestions for new hobbies, be they brewing beer, knitting a sweater or commiting arson, would be greatly appreciated. Let us take this opportunity of limitation to do things new and exciting. Perhaps I will become an expert at Risk.

As for the rest of ya’ll, stay safe. Or break your legs. Either way. A broken leg is a great social ice breaker, and you’ll find yourself chatting with interesting people that you would never have met, otherwise. And perhaps you will find yourself chatting with people who just recently you thought were as good as gone.

Fate is funny that way.

March 9, 2004

Clamor, Semblance, Cavort

Inspiration has not been kind to the Blogosphere as of late. Zosia Blue finds herself disappearing unannounced. is being subjected to much prodding in order to start posting photos again. I know not where Dierin is currently penning his work. Only the Noble Hobo, with a mind racing after a summer at the South Pole and a couple of long days running around New Zealand, has any insight into this whole human being thing. Damn, though, that Hobo has some serious words. Swing by and check ‘im out.

As for Brainside Out, my mindspring is running dry. Earlier tonight I was flipping through the pages of a notebook I was keeping in 2000, a year before I started blogging. It’s brimming with freshman college student crap, failed lyrics to songs, thoughts unstrung and quotes thuggishly torn from unspecificed sources. Things were different then. I had a vague and anonymous enemy that was pinning me to the ground, and all my writings have me grappling for control. You can call it what you want: The Man, conventionality, critical thought, the ennui of modern living… whatever it was it grated me so, such that it consumed my thoughts, my soul, my passion. Somehow I had to get his foot off my neck and my mouth out of the mud.

A lot happens in four years. Someone rams a few airliners into your skyscrapers and you get really pissed off and you start taking things a lot more seriously. Then someone hands you a piece of paper rolled up all right-nice with a piece of ribbon, and you dash across the countryside to become a windsurfing bum. Then a snowboard bum. Then a web designer. No matter what you do or where you go, you’re still fighting, always fighting, because the fight reminds you that you are alive. Nay, the fight is what it means to be alive.

At some point you lift your head, and realize that you’re no longer surrounded by enemies. You see that The Man is actually a toothless git when you get right down to it, and raging against him isn’t even worth your time. You feel the inner flame shudder as it gasps for more fuel, a new reason to keep burning. You fear that three unprecedented years of clear thought are the limit, as you find yourself sinking into the bitter clouds of unconsciousness.

At the same time you consider the enormity of the year last, and consider cutting yourself some slack for feeling tired and groggy. You left home, your home for twenty-two years, ten months ago and ever since then you’ve had to reinvent yourself every day. Your new environment does not give itself up to familiarity without effort, and thought this effort can be minimal it is always persistent and can weary the soul. Your good friends you have not seen for nearly a year, maybe more, and they are scattered across the globe like spots of sunlight glinting off the surface of a pond. You have not seen your sister, the only person in the world able to keep your ego in check, since August, and haven’t seen your parents since September.

You dined with wonderful mountain people for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but nothing can take the place of family. Nothing can take the place of friends. You have strived to reinvent yourself to meet every twist and turn, but at some point invention must be allowed to give way to contemplation.

Perhaps the only way to redefine yourself, now, requires that you first lay down your sword. Perhaps that is the most difficult battle of them all.

March 8, 2004

c’est la vie pour les douce pamplemousse

It’s 65 degrees in Bend. We opened the garage door to our web design shop to let in the sunshine. I backed my Subaru up to the door, rolled down all the windows and popped open the back hatch. We currently have String Cheese Incident echoing through our office, or should I say, our converted machine shed.

March 7, 2004





March 3, 2004

It’s funnier when it skips

I had the first paragraph all planned out. “It’s time to crack a self-congratulatory Red Hook Nut Brown Ale.” Laundry was done, the bed was made, my room was clean and (as my roommate put it) much less fung and much more shui, I was one Rockstar N.R.G. drink to the wind, I had dug out a Slinky and an egg of Silly Putty that were cast into exile months ago, I called the Mountain and told them told them I wouldn’t be working on Saturday because I needed to start feeling like a human being again… why, I had even picked up a new favorite t-shirt from Goodwill that boasted “Star Camp is Training Jedis for Jesus.”

Yeah. All that. Wednesday night. Nut Brown Ale. Why the hell not? I grabbed one, popped the top, dashed downstairs and then remembered I needed to turn off the lights in the living room. I sprung back up the stairs, taking them two three at a time, lost my footing and fell violently down the stairs. I swore that beer went everywhere, but when I checked all beer was accounted for.

Exactly two point five seconds later my ale foamed up more than creation itself and started running down my hands, onto the stairs, into the carpet. I scrambled up the stairs to get the bottle over the sink, leaving a trail of delicious tan goodness behind. Half my beer was gone and I was to spend the next quarter hour with a rag and a bottle of 409, scrubbing my twenty foot trail up the stairs, across the living room and into the kitchen.

But hey! Let us toast half a beer! To me being awesome! To you being awesome! To Jedis for Jesus! Welcome to Brainside Out: Impatiently Launched Pre-Maturely Topographic Edition! Long-time fans will no-doubt remember the months of agony surrounding the implementation of Cowboy Edition… well, we’re here to do that again. Everything’s the same! Everything’s different! We now use five hundred percent more exclamation points! One day we might dedicate an entire paragraph to them! Like this one!

But really. I needed to find something that worked better for my current desires and purposes, and thus created a sweet new feature called Coolio. You can see it on the right over there. Coolio is where I throw stuff, stuff that makes me nod my head or gurgle in the gut, that I believe is wonderful enough for me to shout it from the rooftops. Soon you will be able to browse old Coolios by category, of which there are four, now. Or five. Maybe six. Definitely five. Shall we review them?

News: What I consider news may be remarkably inane or not so. We try to keep things light-hearted ’round here, with “three-legged dog bites one-legged man” and such, but on occasion we’ll lapse into war or plague or famine or tighty whities.

Design: Web design or graphic design stuff. Cuz let’s face it, all you guys wish you could make things as cool as I wish I could make things.

Music: To see, to hear, to have. There is little more important. Current fixations include EuroDance, Eminem, Johnny Cash and String Cheese Incident on 4-20-02. Content may not accurately reflect obsessions, but when does it ever?

Culture: The most delicious Mayhem Carnival that this wide blue planet has to offer. Monster truck shows, cartoons, video game nostalgia, and people who talk in accents I like.

Outdoors: To some it’s merely rocks, trees and hills, but to the rest of us it’s rocks, trees, hills and a place to crack bones and lose massive amounts of blood. Climbing, snowboarding, windsurfing, kiteboarding, backpacking, camping, canoeing, trundeling, mountaineering and cricket. And clear-cutting. I can’t wait until they open that sport up to the public.

So that’s it. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. As if. This winter has been most notable for its utter lack of cohesion. These things always make sense in a year or two, but for now it’s a disjointed mass of splayed limbs and flayed thoughts.


March 1, 2004

Topo! (for Paul Davis)

Before applying deodorant to underarms, check to make sure you didn’t accidentally grab your electric shaver.

A good name for a band: Moon Riot.

New (working) design. Tattered shambles of old designs remain. It hurts me more than it hurts you.