Eclipse Plumage

"hide the food"

TSG jokes that nearly everything is mating display - advertising health, values and resources. Any overt show of wealth, however, is discouraged in this environment of extremely rural law-enforcement. The town aesthetic is frugal theatre, TSG explains, "a plywood and blue-tarp facade." You need only fool the gulls, apparently.

Fine, I'll order tarps.

There's no local police of any kind. The murder of Gene, for example, was investigated by a young officer flown out for a day - no fancy detective. TSG suggests a place needs 500 residents to afford a trained officer full-time. Otherwise the job is so undesirable, he says, that only criminals apply.

In an average year, official statistics include a dozen property and violent crimes, and often one soul reported missing, vanished into the wilderness. At more than double the urban crime-rate, you have a 1 in 20 chance of being included each year.

Last night I had a dream about ice-cream.

I'm seated alone outside a crowded cafe. A guy sets down this ice-cream boat and hands me a plastic spoon. I stare at three bone-white scoops, each molded in the shape of a tiny skull. Then I notice fine head-hairs, and detailed cranial sutures. I pull at the hair in frustrated effort to reveal edible ice-cream, but these are firmly rooted and the skull lifts out. This scoop has visible hammer indentations.

Nocturnal Pest


"mythical clogger of vents"

Years ago, there was murder and arson at the satellite station. TSG says Gene was 35, played harmonica, and got bludgeoned to death in his sleep with a hammer. I found his notebook on the bookcase - GENEZARET neatly labeled in large black marker. The last note was dated 04oct94. 

The government had decided not to reopen the station after the terrible incident, so TSG wrote a grant proposal to restore the receiver himself. The deal made himself the director of a non-profit to own and maintain the station - services and data on contract, billed to the government. 

Thought I saw a baby wolf-spider in the window last night. It was perfectly still, just camouflaged as an everyday shadow. Not sure what I was looking at, I came back with the inspection torch. It glowed slightly under the UV light, popped-out a startling length of leg, and left. 

I showed the photo to TSG; he says no, it's a yellow-sac attracted by the pheromone of gasoline. They will build a new nest every day, which pressure-sensors in the vents should detect.

Sac spiders, I was told, are named for silk nest-sacs they leave behind - not the abdomen sac with the butt. Sacs are biologic containers from living things, while sacks are manufactured. If you would put your sandwich inside, it's probably a sack. 

Gelatinous Foam


"probably toenails are vegan"

During the phone interview, TSG asked me why I wanted the job. "Photography", I said. 

A previous hire, "the discrete mathematician", had left projects in an unstable state. I told TSG that clean-up should be straight-forward, "white knight rolling-in after expectations were low, and blame had been assigned." TSG laughed, which was good - because this is how I talk. "Don't ever get a phd", he said. 

The mathematician had named the main program "General-Guacamole" - and things got weirder. Where I'd expected to find a database and labels for water, heat, power, etc. Instead the software was formatted as perl poetry - a food recipe complete with ingredients and preparation. 

System variables avocado and sea-salt were given to the function mortar-and-pestle. Lime juice was measured. JalapeƱos were diced. Cilantro was chopped. It was beautifully done, and it was currently running all life-support and satellite systems. This nonsense must have taken a long time.

The wiring panel contained hundreds of connections, none labeled. I attached a signal generator to the closest thermostat, walked down each wire at the panel, and checked for a tone. Input #126 beeped, printing it output "61", and a little heat-gun pushed it to "81." In the code this was named "peas" - I search-and-replaced "peas" to "utility-room-temp" in all files.

The Micro Nikkor 40mm lens arrived; it has fantastic close-focus.