ARCHIVES: September, 2004
 
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2004 Archive

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2003 Archive

12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01

 

 

  The Agenda:

Testing the Premise: Are Gays a Threat to Our Children?

What the "Dutch Study" Really Says About Gay Couples

Federal Hate Crime Statistics: Why The Numbers Don't Add Up

Refuting Christianity Today

 
  Favorites:

Still Life At Sunset

Anderson Cooper and Scooter

Wandering, Wondering

The Aperture of Memory

Easter's Birthday

The First Time I Cussed

 

  Photo Essays:

The Anasazi Ruins of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

Monsoons of 2004

Miracle Mile

Now Showing / Reflection on Hayden, Arizona

    

       

Two Items of Note
Wednesday , September 29, 2004

1. I have it on good authority that all of the kinks in Florida's electronic voting system are all worked out and they're ready to go for Election Day. Click here for a test drive and see for yourself.

2. If you are in Tucson, get yourself over to Bentley's Coffee Shop on Speedway Blvd near the U of A campus and take a gander at Panchesco's photographs. He has a great eye for composition, color, and ... um... candy. There are lots of examples of his "photo ministry" at his website as well. Good job.

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Dinosaur Elevators
Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I woke up Monday morning with my lower intestines turned up-side down, so I called in sick to work. I spent the morning just hanging around the house, not too far from the bathroom. I was feeling much better by lunchtime, so Chris brought home some ground beef. We grilled hamburgers and enjoyed a really nice afternoon on the porch.

Afterwards, I went into the bedroom to put some clothes away and laid down for just a few minutes. Before I knew it, I was asleep, and I ended up taking one of the longest, deepest naps I’ve ever had, accompanied by some really strange dreams.

□■□■□

I’m in Target with my books in the nine-items-or-fewer line. It’s not the nine-items-or-less line because we all know how grammatically incorrect that would be. So I’m in this line ready to buy my used paperbacks when all of the sudden Eminem walks up to me. Yes, that's right. Eminem,  Marshall Mathers, the Real Slim Shady. Him.

“I am having the shittiest day of my life”, he says to me as he looks me directly in the eye.

Now as you probably well know, I normally don’t cuss in this blog. But that’s what Eminem says to me, and I gotta tell it to you exactly the way it went down, because if you’re gonna hang with Eminem you gotta keep it real. As the kids say these days.

“Yeah, that’s right. The shittiest day of my life,” he continues emphatically. Then he lowers his voice and moves in closer, holding his gaze directly on me. “And there’s only one thing right now that can make it better.”

“Okay, let’s grab a coffee.” I say, and we go over to the snack bar, get a couple of coffees to go, and sit down at a table where he proceeds to tell me all about it.

“You can hang out with me,” I say, “but I have a lot of boring errands that I need to get done, so don’t be all whining about how boring it is.”

“Okay, let’s go,” he says, and off we go.

So I go about my list to-do list: opening the vents on a mansion’s roof, helping a widow wash all of her late husband’s papers, stopping at the mall to tell the architects that their dinosaur elevator in the main court is positioned completely the wrong way. You know, stuff like that. And all the while Eminem is tagging along happy as a clam. And I’m happy that he’s happy, because next time I see him in Target, he’s gonna come up to me and say, “Remember that day? Man, that was almost gonna be the shittiest day of my life.”

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Serenade
Monday, September 27, 2004

The Gadsden Purchase of 1854 brought Tucson into the United States from what is now the Mexican state of Sonora. The U.S. purchased this land so a southern transcontinental railroad could be built connecting the tiny fishing village of Los Angeles to El Paso, San Antonio and Houston, with connections to other lines going further east. The sleepy little presidio of Tucson eventually grew to become a bustling railroad town. This Southern Pacific line is still one of the busiest lines in the country today. If it weren’t for the railroad, I’d be writing this in Mexico right now.

As it is, it’s not always easy to tell exactly which side of the border we're on. This is especially true when you’re enjoying garlic shrimp and a michelada at Las Cazuelitas while being entertained by El Mariachi Tapatio. This lively multi-generational band, from fresh-faced high-schoolers to wizened old-timers, is performing all of the favorites – including a stunningly beautiful mariachi rendition of that famous bluegrass tune, The Orange Blossom Special.

Well, I'm going down to Florida

And get some sand in my shoes

Or maybe Californy

And get some sand in my shoes

I'll ride that Orange Blossom Special

And lose these New York blues

    Orange Blossom Special,

Ervin T. Rouse and Chubby Wise, 1938

All the while, the trains on the Southern Pacific line continue to roll along just across the freeway from where we are eating, just like they did well over a hundred years ago.

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After dinner, we drove home on a road that goes west out of town. It’s a two-lane road that crosses a narrow wash. The road takes a very steep dip before entering the dry wash, as so many rural roads do. I gently brake and take the dip carefully, a sharp descent out of sight to anybody behind me. It’s rare to have bridges over these washes because they almost never have water in them – maybe a day or two out of the whole year, and there  are so many of them that it would cost a fortune to put bridges over each one. When they are nearly always dry, it hardly seems worth it.

But it means that the road takes an exciting roller-coaster dip on entering the wash. The dip is marked with a bright yellow sign cautioning drivers to slow down, but teenagers rarely do. This wash is near our house and we often hear the kids hitting it at about 50 mph, their young lungs screaming as they hit the bottom of the wash, sometimes gouging the roadway with the undersides of their parents’ Toyotas.

We hear a lot of things as we sit in our back yard or lay in bed with the windows open. That same wash cuts across the back half of our lot, and it serves as a highway of sorts for all kinds of wildlife: javelinas, deer, rabbits, quail, an occasional bobcat, and coyotes. Lots of coyotes. We hear them often in February during mating season, and we’re hearing them again now. The pups have reached the age when they’re leaving the nest and going out on their own. These teenage coyotes are adventurous, foolhardy, and noisy – much like the teenage pups behind the wheel speeding towards the wash. They are all – coyotes and human – staking their claim on adulthood while refusing to give up their raucous play.

We can also hear the distant trains rumbling across the valley as we sit and enjoy the evening stars. The trains keep rolling along, one after another in an endless procession, from Long Beach to Houston, to a Wal-Mart near you. They roll incessantly, insistently, uninterrupted across the valley and the sounds of their whistles ricochet from one mountain to the next.

I drift off to sleep with the sounds of the desert and the trains and the continual drone of the crickets drifting through the open window. The cool rhythm of the mariachis’ Especial Azahar still echoes through my head. Those brash mariachis were sweet fiddlers. I doze...

□■□■□

A long uneven screech as tires skip across pavement, the car rolls upward onto it's passenger-side wheels, punctuated by a loud metallic thud as the car crashes against a palo verde tree along the side of the road, and comes to rest on its side. Then screams, teenage screams.

We are jolted awake by sounds of panic coming from the wash. The desert is startled; even the crickets stopped chirping. We know exactly what happened and where – we don't even have to go look. We've heard those sounds before.

Chris grabs the phone and calls 911. Yes, an accident. On the road heading west, where it crosses the wash. At the sharp dip three miles west of the freeway. We don’t know if anybody’s hurt. We just heard it – it woke us up. Just barely half a minute ago. Thank you.

It is fifteen minutes after midnight. The sheriff’s car approaches the scene and he gives a short chirp of his siren, which is answered by a pack of nervous coyotes in the wash. Voices on the radios crackle in the crisp air. More sirens wail, creating further consternation among the coyotes and neighborhood dogs. The slow idle of the fire truck’s engine melds with the low rumble of yet another distant train, the earliest of the hundreds of trains which will pass through the valley on this barely nascent Saturday. The tow truck answers this train’s whistle with its own beep-beep-beep as it backs up against the steel carcass before hauling it away.

The coyotes fall silent, the crickets resume their chirping and peace begins to return to the desert, but I’m struggling to go back to sleep. Soon, another train picks up its song, its horn sounding its own rendition of the Orange Blossom Special against the mountains as it makes its way across the valley, laden with goods destined for the strip malls and parking lots of America.

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I’m Feeling Warm All Over
Friday, September 24, 2004

We’ve had a hell of a week, putting in lots of overtime on the project to meet a very important deadline Friday afternoon. Last night, we were hard at work in the lab until 11:00, wrapping up some testing on the test station. The team has put in a lot of heroic work, and we’ve finally managed to complete all of our objectives. I will present our results to the customer Friday afternoon along with the other project leads so we can make a boatload of money for the mother company. Now it's Thursday evening, the end of a long workday, and my eyes are very heavy. I am frazzled.

It’s times like these when I know that this isn’t what I was meant to do, but I don’t have time to worry about it now.

Instead, I’ll worry about gathering all of our test results and pouring it into colorful PowerPoint presentations so I can dazzle the customer Friday afternoon. Of all the things that I am called upon to do for this company, getting up and speaking to the customer is probably one of the easiest things for me to do. I’ve never had any fear of presentations, but it’s a lot of work to do it successfully. And because I am very tired right now, there are a lot of opportunities for goofy mistakes.

I suppose I should thank my lucky stars. I have a job that pays me more money than I deserve, and it doesn’t involve anything unethical, illegal, or dangerous. And I work for a company that really values its employees. I know this because I saw those cardboard tent signs on the cafeteria tables that say the mother company “really value(s) our employees.”

To show their appreciation, they’re going to have a People Festival one day next week. From 11:00 to 3:00, they will set up an area with games, food, giveaways and “fun interactive booths” I’m quoting because I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, except that we will be given the chance to learn how we can “help each other succeed” in meeting company goals.

Now the cynical among us might say that this is some sort of corporate rah-rah propaganda stunt, but the flyers assure us that the mother company really loves us and cares about us. The vice president has even sent out a video via E-mail encouraging each and every one of us to make every effort to attend.

On our own time, of course.

Thank God for the weekend. I’m ready for my michelada.

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Launch the Questions Out There
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

If you tried to access this website last Monday, you probably didn’t have much luck. There was a large fire in downtown Baltimore that knocked power out to my host provider. The outage lasted most of the day. It was a real downer for me, knowing that my beloved website was kaput all day long, especially after all the work I did over the weekend to post the Chaco Canyon pictures. I must admit that I was surprised at how important the website had become to me lately.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way. I just discovered another blog by Lance Arthur (via Eau de Humanity and Ultrasparky). He doesn’t seem to post very often, but what he has to say is quite thought-provoking. At the end of his most recent and very long post, he reveals what his therapist had to say about why he blogs. In this single paragraph, his therapist managed to encapsulate a lot of my own reasons for this website which I talk about in “About Sam and Me”:

“Everyone needs to ask the universe a few questions now and again. Some people call that prayer, some people call that meditation, there are different words and different methods but the goal is the same. We come to places we can’t figure out on our own, and even our friends and family can’t really help. So we ask the universe — the larger power, God, what have you. And I think your Web page, that act, that place, that’s your larger power. You launch the questions out there and sometimes you get a response, sometimes not. It’s the act that’s important. You’ve just chosen a unique and very public God to question.”

That nails it pretty well, and sometimes its more about the questions than the answers, the journey rather than the destination.

And to carry this analogy a little further, my God died Monday, but he's resurrected so everything's peachy now.

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Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Monday, September 20, 2004

       

It rained pretty much all day Saturday, with a long soaking rain that lasted for several hours. This is an extremely rare occurrence here in the Arizonan desert. I think it’s been a couple of years since that’s happened. We have the remnants of hurricane Javier from Baja to thank for it. Now it is early Sunday morning as I write this, and the skies are still heavily clouded and an occasional sprinkle continues to fall from time to time.

I am on my back porch watching all of this. The back porch is my favorite feature of the entire house. I don’t get to enjoy it much in the mornings though, because the morning sun usually fills the porch with an intense sunlight that is quite uncomfortable for reading or writing. But this morning it is cloudy and cool and the porch is a perfect shelter from the occasional rain. When it falls, the sounds and smells fill the porch like a sweetly perfumed lullaby. On days like this, all you need is a simple roof over your head to be safely yet beautifully connected to your environment.

□■□■□

Last weekend Chris and I visited Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico, a World Heritage site consisting of dozens of Anasazi pueblo dwellings, called "great houses". Accessible only by a simple dirt road, these ruins are reasonably quiet, protected from the mad rush of thousands of tourists who find it easier to go elsewhere. Nevertheless, there were a good number of us hearty adventurers there, going from one great house to the next, finding ourselves in awe of the tremendous accomplishments of this mysterious people.

The great houses of Chaco Canyon are quite unlike the contemporary pueblos exemplified by Taos Pueblo. Built in stages between 850 and 1150 A.D., these great houses were made of stone masonry, arranged in a ceremonial fashion within the individual pueblos, and arranged with respect to each other in a highly ordered arrangement. Some great houses were only a few hundred yards from each other, while others were many miles away, but all of them were connected by a network of perfectly straight and wide highways which ran in deliberate directions, regardless of the topography which would interrupt the straight lines of a more reasonable roadbuilder. But these roads weren’t simply meant to go from Point A to Point B. They served a higher purpose.


Illustration from the article, "Three Questions about Pueblo Bonito", by Jill E. Neitzel, published in Pueblo Bonito: Center of the Chacoan World, Jill E Neitzel, ed. Smithsonian Books, Washington and London. 2003.

In fact, all of the great houses were built to serve a higher purpose than mere shelter. The walls of the great house defined the arc of the sun and moon during solstices and equinoxes. Roads followed the path of the sun and moon and other celestial bodies, or they followed the cardinal directions with startling accuracy. The great houses and the roads were carefully sited to be an extension of the cosmos.

On Fajada Butte, at the southeast end of the canyon, archaeologists discovered a solar and lunar calendar called the Sun Dagger, in which shafts of sunlight and moonlight created lines across a coiled snake, marking the seasons throughout the year. The Anasazi possessed a detailed knowledge of the seasons and the movements of the sun and moon, and organized their lives accordingly. It appears that they may have lived in some great houses seasonally, and even divided themselves and their governance according to the Summer people and the Winter people.

But we don’t know any of this for certain. Their accomplishments are all the more remarkable because they performed all of this complex geometry without the aid of the written word. The Anasazi had no written language.

The Anasazi needed shelter from the brutal sun and the rains, but they went far beyond their immediate physical needs and created an entire cosmos centered in Chaco Canyon. In their ordered and structured world, the placement of each stone, each wall, and each roadway was imbued with meaning, serving as constant reminders of a much higher order that governed the world. Each inhabitant of Chaco Canyon knew exactly where he was in the cosmos according to the road he traveled, or the wall he leaned against. The very organizing principles of his society were constructed in stone, and were all around him.

□■□■□

Shelter satisfies one of the three primal urges of man, along with food and sex. And mankind has found many ways to satisfy these urges, from the simplest fruits and nuts consumed in a lean-to followed by a crude copulation, to haute cuisine in an exotic setting that builds to a prolonged sensual passion.

Right now I’m sitting on my porch which performs its sheltering function quite satisfactorily. But this porch doesn’t touch on any organizing principles. It is just a porch. A roof and a few walls are the most primitive impulse we have for securing shelter against the elements. But we don’t have many examples in which those walls, whether they are of public spaces or private dwellings, are ordered on a higher scale. We tend to place our walls according to the needs of efficiency or privacy or sometimes aesthetics, but almost never anything else.

In North America, I think our best examples of a structured community might be the Shaker villages of 17th century America. Each component of Shaker architecture and craft was centered on the religious principles of the movement. But as the Shaker movement centered itself on the interior lives of its adherents, the architecture oriented itself accordingly. The geographic relationships between buildings and communities were more a function of convenience and efficiency, not of principles, but the interiors of the buildings reflected the ideal interior life of the Shaker: peace, serenity, beauty, simplicity, and work well done.

L'Enfant's plan for Washington, D.C., is another example of geography serving the organizing ideals of a society. While the city has since outgrown the original plan, I think the contemporary layout of the district continues to inadvertently reflect the organizational realities of our society. Many of the slums and public housing of the Anacostia section of the city have stunning views of the Capital dome, so close yet so far away.

Of course, there was Albert Speer’s plan for a new Berlin to be built after Hitler’s great victories of WWII. It had a similar far-reaching goal of orienting all within the confines of that great city towards the ideals of National Socialism. Fortunately, that plan died stillborn on the streets of Stalingrad and the beaches of Normandy.
 

     

The Anasazi Ruins of Chaco Canyon,
New Mexico
Click on each thumbnail
for a larger photo
Fajada Butte

Pueblo Bonito at the foot of Threatening Rock
Threatening Rock
The back wall of Pueblo Bonito
Rooms of Pueblo Bonito among the debris of Threatening Rock
A window in Chetro Ketl
Masonry from the first walls built in Pueblo Bonito
Later masonry techniques
Perfectly smooth masonry
Doorways in Pueblo Bonito

All photographs © LookingForSam / Jim Burroway

 

 

Fajada Butte, site of the Sun Dagger Calendar.
© LookingForSam / Jim Burroway


I think if I ever had free reign to design my own home, I would want to include features which celebrate natural phenomenon. Perhaps a skylight that receives light only on a certain day of the year, or a window which aligns perfectly with a feature in the landscape or the rising of the moon. But as it is, my house is very ordinary, much like any other house that you might expect to find in any suburb in North America.

We are very disconnected from our surroundings, and our little dwelling boxes are mute to our neighbors’ little dwelling box, let alone to the greater environment. As the dwellings of the Anasazi reflect the wealth of their knowledge, our dwellings today reflect a sad poverty of our souls.

But what do you expect? Our dwellings explain our organizing principle just like the Anasazis’ did, even if ours aren’t oriented towards the greater mysteries of the cosmos. That’s because our organizing principle is very different from theirs. Ours is television.

The rooms in our dwellings are centered about the main room in which the television is enshrined. The television occupies a place of honor, the prime focus of all other furnishing and objects in the room. Everything is oriented toward it. The television is the center of the universe for the inhabitants of the room, like the great bonfire that burned in the Anasazis’ kivas. It dominates our conversation and defines our world view. Nothing exists unless the television says it does. It is omniscient that way. It is the very altar at which we worship, the oracle from which we derive our meaning.

The accomplishments of the Anasazi give a stark rebuke to those who speak of the “progress” of the past century. We will continue to accomplish great technical things, but as a society I’m afraid our moment has passed us by. We will never see another Chaco Canyon again. As long as we attach as much energy and attention to the outcome of The Amazing Race as the Chacoans did in the movement of the stars, I’m afraid our poverty of the soul will continue.

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Click here to view the photographs of the Anasazi Ruins of Chaco Canyon.

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Charity Begins In Front of the Camera
Thursday, September 16, 2004

Last Tuesday's edition of USA Today carried this article on the front page above the fold, in which Oprah Winfrey is canonized as America's newest celebrity saint. This article, which is continued through almost all of the next page, goes into breathlessly laudatory detail on her touching generosity by giving all 276 members of her studio audience a brand new Pontiac G6.


Bob Davis / Harpo Productions / AP

Oprah Winfrey surrounded by grateful and deserving members of the studio audience who received brand new Pontiac G6's.

Her staff culled thousands of letters sent in by friends and relatives who presented their hard luck stories as to why so-and-so desperately needs a new car. In the end, 276 needy folks were selected to participate in the television audience, where they were surprised to learn that they were being given brand new automobiles.

This is all very generous, without a doubt. The article continues to describe that as Oprah enters into her fiftieth year, she has decided to "give back" something of her very good fortune to those who are struggling against overwhelming odds.

It is all very touching. An "Oprah moment", you might say. She promises that this is just the beginning.

USA Today was very proud to feature this article on the front page above the fold (and pushing everything else including hurricanes, Iraq, and the Presidential Campaign elsewhere). They also featured it on their website. But on the second page, in a tiny sidebar that was not available anywhere on the web was another article entitled, "Two hard-luck stories in one", in which we learn:

Don Hultman of Racine, Wis., got a call the Sunday before Labor Day from a woman named Tina Yee asking about the impending foreclosure on his home.

Hiltman, a 40-year-old security guard, was suspicious of the caller's personal questions and went to the police. Police checked out Yee, who, it turned out, works for The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Yee was looking into the possibility of surprising Hultman, wife Marion and their two daughters by buying the house and preventing eviction, slated for Sunday.

It was all in response to a letter that Hultman's neighbor had sent to Winfrey with the hard-luck story, but the neighbor wasn't available, so Yee called Hultman directly. And at that point, the surprise was ruined.

... A foster mom in Schenectady, N.Y., got the deal instead. Her story aired on Monday's show.

As for Hultman and his family? "We'll live in our van," he says. "We haven't got any place to go.

Because after all, doing good is not all that good unless it makes good television.

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Home Again
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I can now say I've been to Cuba.
 

       


© LookingForSam / Jim Burroway

The trip to New Mexico was very nice and relaxing. The old Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon were amazing. If you've never seen them, you must find the time to go. I have dozens of photos that I want to post and tell you more about it.

Me in among the ruins of Chaco Canyon
© LookingForSam / Chris G.

They say New Mexico is the "Land of Enchantment". I'd have to say that I am indeed enchanted with the place. Every time I go, I return home afterwards with a feeling that I don't really belong where I live right now, and today I feel like I belong in New Mexico. I've experienced this before: after visiting London, San Francisco, San Diego, the British Virgin Islands, any number of places. I guess it's those post-vacation blues where you've had a chance to briefly experience a taste of bliss, only to return to the same old day-after-day routine that made you feel as though you needed a vacation to begin with.

But it will pass. It always does.

Meanwhile, Chris picked up Twister from the kennel. Twister spent the weekend keeping all of the big dogs in the kennel entertained. He never wants to play with dogs his own size, so the kennel owners put him in the pen with the large dogs and he had a blast!  When Chris went to pick him up, he was in the play area with the large dogs. He stopped playing just long enough to look at Chris and say, "Oh, you were gone?"

We're all back home now relaxing and taking it easy. Chris and I are unpacking and doing laundry, while Twister mopes around making it clear that he'd rather be back at Summer Camp.

I'm not the only one with the post-vacation blues.

I'll have more to post about our trip. But the deadline at work is still pressing pretty hard, so I don't know how often I'll be able to check in here for the next few weeks. We'll see.

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A Much-Needed Break
Thursday, September 9, 2004

Blogging will be light for a while. Not only do we have a tough deadline at work coming up, but this weekend Chris and I will be taking an extra-long weekend exploring the Pueblo Bonito ruins in New Mexico's Chaco Canyon north of Gallup. I hope to have some good photographs to share sometime next week.


© LookingForSam / Jim Burroway

We haven't been on an extended trip in a few months. Now that we have a puppy, it's not easy to go away for long periods of time without taking the dog with us. And it's not easy to take a young puppy with us on the road and still enjoy going to just any restaurant that we happen across, which of course is half the fun. We always end up with takeout. That's okay for a day or so, but it gets old pretty quickly.

So, we're going to kennel him for the weekend. This will be his first time away at "summer camp". This will be an interesting experiment. He's a good road dog and loves to travel in the car, but its always good to have options.

Chimayo

© LookingForSam / Jim Burroway

It's been probably seven years or more since I've been to northern New Mexico, which is incredibly beautiful. The last time I went there, I took a fascinating drive along the old military road (state route 76) from Santa Fe to Taos. This road is dotted with fascinating mission churches and villages, including Chimayo, Cordova, Truchas and Las Trampas. It's a drive that I heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys a nice slow trip through the desert southwest. It's not a trip for those who are in a hurry. It's the best part of the trip, and is far more fascinating (and much more authentic) than either Santa Fe or Taos.

And of course, the vistas on the way can be quite breathtaking. There's nothing like a New Mexican Sunset peaking out from under a monsoon.

Monsoon at Sunset

© LookingForSam / Jim Burroway

The weather should be nice for this trip, about 82° F/ 28° C and mostly sunny. This makes excellent exploring and photographing weather.

It will be so good to get away from work, but after that it's back to the grindstone.

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A Sad Milestone
Wednesday, September 8, 2004

We're only seven days into September, and already we've had 978 979 980 981 982 983 984 985 986 987 988 989 990 991 992 993 994 995 996 997 998 999 1,000 1,001, 1,002 1,003 American casualties in Iraq as of September 7, 2004.

We zoomed past the 1,000th casualty yesterday. Remember them and their families in your prayers.

(Updated 6:20 am PST to reflect two more late casualties from yesterday. It's especially sad when you can't keep up.)

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Stick With What You're Good At
Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Johnny Depp, believe it or not, is 41 years old. While that may sound old to some of you, he’s still young enough to be my younger brother by about two years. But getting older doesn’t seem to bother him in the least.

 “I think it’s great fun growing old. I think it's great.”

Luigi Costantini/AP
 


Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Well, of course he thinks it’s great fun getting older. He looks like he’s gotten pretty good at it. That’s like Tiger Woods saying it’s great fun playing golf.

As for me, well, let’s just say I suck at golf.

Associated Press via Yahoo: “Johnny Depp Says He Enjoys Aging” (Note: links to Yahoo typically expire after a couple of weeks)

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Of All That Is Seen and Unseen
Tuesday, September 7, 2004

At long last, the Nuremberg rallies are over.
 


Rick Wilking/Reuters


Stephan Savoia/AP


Robert Galbraith/Reuters

I don't know what to think of this: four days of a president wrapping himself in every trapping of power and patriotism, with the Mad Dog himself, Zell Miller, characterizing the efforts of an opposition party in a democracy to unseat the current president as an act of treachery. This speech belonged in Nuremberg in 1933, not in New York in 2004.

I wish I knew who said it, but there is an axiom that says, "we become what we fight." I'm beginning to think President Bush was correct when he slipped and said that this "war on terror" is not winnable. Little by little, we are becoming what we're fighting, and on that score the terrorists really are winning.

There were many disturbing images in this convention that I hope every American voter mulls over in the next several weeks. For me, the most disturbing images go to the matter of family.

Now, I must be honest with you and admit that I find the Bush twins (Jenna and Barbara) to be utterly embarrassing. Even the most ardent Republicans are scratching their heads over the twins' air-headed performance on national television.


Brian Snyder/Reuters

But I know that every father has a special unconditional love and devotion to his daughter, and I'm sure Mr. Bush, like most fathers, is wrapped around his little girls' fingers. That's really not so bad. In fact, its rather touching. He's very proud of his daughters as every doting father should be and he seems happy to show his two little girls off to the whole world. Every father should be so lucky to have daughters that he can be proud of, and every daughter should be so fortunate to have such a proud parent. This is as it should be.

I don't think most proud fathers would have their daughters appear on a national stage looking and behaving like this. But still, they are awful proud of each other, and that is a good thing.

Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, also have two daughters that they can be very proud of, as well as their son. But I'm afraid that one daughter as important a role as she plays in her father's campaign is not a source of pride.

I was pained to see that she wasn't onstage either Wednesday night (when Dick Cheney accepted his vice-presidential nomination) or Thursday night (at the conclusion of George Bush's acceptance speech). The Bush twins were visible (some may say a little too visible) as were two of the three Cheney kids who were keeping tabs on a slew of grandkids. But Mary, the apparent black sheep, was nowhere to be found.


Robert Galbraith/Reuters

The Cheney family (minus Mary) after Dick Cheney's acceptance speech.
 


Stephan Savoia/AP

The Bush and Cheney families (minus Mary) after George Bush's acceptance speech.

The more I think about this, the angrier I get. Why was Mary kept off the stage? What is so wrong with her? Isn't her father as proud of her and her accomplishments as the President is of his daughters?

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When I was in college, one of my favorite sitcoms was Soap. It was the first television series in America to portray a gay character in a non-stereotypical way. But that wasn't what drew me to the show. There was a story line during one season in which Burt Campbell (played by Richard Mulligan) was in therapy because he thought he could make himself invisible. Whenever things got tense, he would snap his fingers and suddenly start walking around as though nobody could see him, even though he was just as visible as before.

When his therapist asked him why he thought he could make himself invisible, Burt responded that he discovered it quite by accident. He noticed that he could be in a room full of people at a party, and he could walk from one end of the room to the other and nobody would look at him, see him, or say hi to him. He finally figured out that it must have been because he was invisible at the time and didn't realize it.

I knew exactly how he felt.

For much of my life, a life spent in the closet, I felt invisible as well. That invisibility was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because as I struggled with my sexuality, the last thing I wanted was for my struggle to become visible for the whole world to see. But invisibility accompanies an incredible loneliness that I hope nobody ever, ever has to endure. It is the darkest existence that anybody can imagine, because it is a loneliness accompanied by a deep self-directed shame. I had a lot to go through in order to overcome all of that, and having come out the other side, I am deeply sorry for anyone else who still has to go through it.

I'm not invisible anymore. I am in love with the sunlight. I can spend the rest of my lifetime recounting all of the joys that life has to offer. But it can only be savored in the exuberance of full sunlight.

□■□■□

This would have been the perfect opportunity for the Republicans to put a picture to their words. They could have simply allowed Mary onto the stage with the rest of her family, where she belongs. They could have said, "See? We have gay sons and daughters. We are the party of the big tent. We may not want them to marry, but it doesn't mean we love them any less. How could anybody think we don't love our own?"


Carl Neilbergerall/AP

Mary Cheney (left) with her partner, Heather Poe in the Vice President's Box at Madison Square Gardens.

But this picture of Mary Cheney and her partner in a darkened corner of Madison Square Gardens while the rest of her family was in the spotlight on stage speaks volumes. It make visible the emptiness of the Republicans' assertions. They want us to disappear. They really want us to be invisible, just like Mary.

       
         

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"Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear."

Mark 4:21-23

In the Nicene Creed, which I recited most of my lifetime of attending Masses, we said, "We believe in one God... maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen." After a very long period of prayer and struggle, it was finally revealed to me: whether I am seen or unseen, I am still a creation of God, and if other people don't like it they should take it up with Him.

That's when I came out. From then on, I knew that I could no longer hide my light under a bed. As I said once before, we hide those things we are ashamed of. A teenager hides porn from his parents under his bed. That is not where my light belongs.

It is utterly disgusting for Mary to be treated (or for her to behave) as though she were an object of shame. She isn't. She is a child of God just like the rest of us. For anybody to presume to treat her any differently is to insult God's creation, the very height of hubris.

And for any father to not be so visibly proud of a daughter who has accomplished so much and who has been so dedicated to him, well, I am now truly at a loss for words.

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The West Virginia Mine Wars
Friday, September 3, 2004

The United States was at war in August, 1921. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. I learned about it some five years ago, and I think it is one of the more fascinating chapters in American history. In today’s election year, political discourse has broken down to an acrimonious level that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. But as bad as it is today, things really have been worse. This story has some very cautionary lessons for today.

The war in question was known as the West Virginia Mine War. Actually, there had been two wars. The first one took place in 1913, but the most dramatic confrontation was in 1921 at the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Today’s conflicts in the Middle East are illuminated against the backdrop of oil. But at the turn of the twentieth century before the dawn of the automobile age, coal was the principal fuel in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. It ran the factories, steamships and railroads, and it heated the schools, churches and homes. The country’s appetite for coal was insatiable, and we were consuming it as fast as it could be brought out of the ground. Poor white workers and immigrants were brought to West Virginia on the promise of plentiful jobs. And indeed jobs were plentiful, but the conditions in the coal fields made the coal miners virtual slaves.
 

       
         


Miners' company houses, Chaplin, West Virginia
(Library of Congress American Memory Project)
 


Interior of a miner's company house,
Scott's Run, West Virginia
(Library of Congress American Memory Project)
 


Company store, Davey, West Virginia
(Library of Congress American Memory Project)
 


Miners lifting coal car onto the tracks, miners' company houses in the background,
Chaplin,  West Virginia
(Library of Congress American Memory Project)
 

A miner who moved his family to West Virginia would have put his family in a company-owned home, paying rent to the company up front. Since the miner didn’t have any money, the company would extend credit so his family could have a roof over their heads. Then he and his family would be given credit at the company store for food and other necessities. When the miner showed up at work, he found that he had to lease his tools and equipment from the company, but again the company would extend credit. From the very first day on the job, the miner was deeply in debt to the company.

The miner would be paid not by the hour, but by the ton of coal he extracted from the mine. His coal car ostensibly held 2,000 pounds of coal, but more commonly held 2,500 pounds. While the miner was supposed to be paid by the ton, he found that he was simply paid by the car load. Furthermore, in a practice known as “cribbing,” his pay would be docked for any slate or rock that the checkweighman found in the car, which was an arbitrary judgment call, subject to the checkweighman’s whims. Cheating was rampant.

When payday finally arrived at the end of the month (miners were typically paid monthly), the miner would discover that he was not paid in cash. Instead he was paid in company “scrip” which was accepted only in company-owned stores and other establishments at greatly inflated prices. But that didn’t matter much, because his debts were deducted from his pay, and that nearly always wiped out anything he might have had coming to him.

Unfortunately, the net effect of all of this was that the miner simply went deeper and deeper in debt to the company. And as long as he was in debt, he was bonded to the company. There literally was no escape for him.

The doctor was a company employee. So were the school teachers and preachers at the church – which was also company owned. This ensured that even the sermons they heard on Sunday towed the company line.

All of this was perfectly legal. The coal companies had already instituted a weakened state constitution in the 1870’s, under which they were able to control the political climate of West Virginia. This allowed them to avoid paying taxes while enjoying tremendous legal advantages in acquiring and exploiting mineral rights.

The problems the miners faced weren’t just about money. Coal mines were notoriously dangerous. The coal operators refused to invest in even the simplest or cheapest safety equipment because, after all, it was cheaper to just hire another miner than to protect the lives of those who were already there. During the years of the First World War, miners were killed at a greater rate in the mines than American soldiers were on the battlefields of France.

These conditions weren’t limited to miners, but they had it the worst. Many industries paid in scrip and operated company stores and housing. Steelworkers routinely suffered horrible burns because the mills refused to provide simple protective clothing that was available at the time. The death toll was staggering. Railroad workers routinely had missing fingers and hands due to accidents in the rail yards – if they were lucky. Even autoworkers suffered long hours of repetitive motion and, in the case of Ford workers, intrusive company spying in their homes to make sure nobody drank off-hours. Industries throughout the country sought not only cheap, plentiful and compliant labor, but they often sought to exercise control over their employees’ private lives as well.

         


When miners tried to improve their conditions by joining a union, their families were evicted from their company homes. They were also subject to summary justice by private guards, most of whom were agents of the Baldwin-Feltz Detective Agency. These guards were hired by the coal operators to serve as the de-facto police force, but they often operated like modern-day paramilitary forces that we hear about so often in Latin America. But this wasn't Columbia or Guatemala. This was in the United States.

The miners couldn't turn to the local police for protection because they were often under the coal operator’s control as well. For example, the Logan Coal Operators Association paid Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin to beat, arrest, and otherwise harass anyone suspected of attending labor meetings.

□■□■□

“There is never peace in West Virginia because there is never justice. Injunctions and guns, like morphia, produce a temporary quiet. Then the pain, agonizing and more severe, comes again.”

— Mother Jones.

Mary Harris Jones was a staunch champion of miners and industrial workers. She started her campaign for workers rights by rallying against the widespread practice of child labor. Later, she became a key figure in union organizing activities, especially in the early days of the United Mine Worker’s Union. She was well into her seventies when she started working to organize the miners in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Her feisty temperament shamed the tough men of the mines into standing up for their rights and their families. This little old Irish widow with a fiery temper became known throughout the labor movement as "Mother Jones".

She cajoled presidents and captains of industry. She was thrown into jails and vilified by the public press for advancing the cause of coal miners and other workers. And she didn’t hesitate to admonish the union leadership whenever petty squabbles threatened to throw everything into chaos. She was a powerful voice that could not be ignored or silenced. Industrialist and politicians called her “the most dangerous woman in America.”

She was a fearless firebrand who was able to rally the coarse mountain men and give voice to their cause to the outside world. It was puzzling to many that this very old woman could be such an inspiration to these tough men. Women weren't looked to as leaders in the rough Appalachian mining culture, but they adopted her as “the miner’s angel” nevertheless. She organized relief efforts when the miner’s families were thrown out of their homes and into makeshift camps, and she challenged the miners' very sense of manhood to go out and fight for their families.

Mother Jones was involved in union activities during the Paint Creek and Cabin Creek strikes in 1920. These strikes lead to further union organizing efforts in Mingo County, which finally reached the small town of Matewan.

On May 19th, Matewan agents of the Baldwin-Feltz agency began evicting hundreds of families of miners who had joined the union. When the mayor and police chief intervened, the company guards tried to arrest the police chief on a bogus warrant. (This goes to show how brazen the private guards were.) Mayor C.C. Testerman stepped in to prevent the illegal arrest but the company guards shot and killed him. More gunfire broke out, and when it was over ten were dead and four were injured.

Police Chief Sid Hatfield was the hero of the day, but the “Matewan Massacre” sparked a low-level guerilla war through the remainder of 1920 and into 1921, in which over one hundred striking miners were killed. On August 1, 1921, Sid Hatfield and his best friend Ed Chambers were assassinated on the steps of the Welch courthouse by Baldwin-Feltz detectives. They were killed in front of their wives in broad daylight.

All hell broke loose. On August 7, several thousand miners gathered on the lawn of the state capital in Charleston where union leaders called for a march on Logan. They assembled at Lens Creek, just inside the Logan County line on August 20th. Mother Jones, fearing a devastating setback if the miners were defeated in their attempt to take over Logan, tried to convince the miners to turn back, but they refused to follower her advice. Instead, they moved on to Sharples on August 27th after the state police killed two miners in raid there.

The miners organized themselves along military lines – many had served in WWI just a few years earlier. They adopted the red neckerchief as their uniform. Many people today believe that the term “redneck” came from the red neckerchiefs worn by those miners. They advanced by foot, automobile and commandeered trains to the town of Blair at the foot of Blair Mountain, which overlooks the region’s principal town of Logan, home of the hated Sheriff Don Chafin.

Three counties were in open rebellion. The governor placed the state under martial law. On September 1st President Harding called out the U.S Army Air Corps with orders to bomb U.S citizens for the only time in America’s history. The Secretary of War even authorized Brigadier General Billy Mitchell (who later became the father of the U.S. Air Force) to use chemical weapons against the miners. Fortunately, the canvas and birch biplanes were too primitive to carry out the job and no chemical weapons were ever deployed.

Sheriff Don Chafin raised an army of 1200 men to man the barricades along the crest of Blair Mountain. National Guard Colonel William Eubank brought in a few planes to try to bomb the miners. A few bombs were dropped, but no major damage was done.

When federal troops finally arrived from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky on September 3rd, most of the miners decided that it was foolhardy to fight against the much-better equipped army. Confronted with such overwhelming force, they hid their guns in the mountains, removed their neckerchiefs, and went home. By the next day, the Battle of Blair Mountain was over, with at least twelve miners and four of Sheriff Don Chafin’s men dead.

Several hundred miners were tried for treason, murder and other crimes. The miners’ crushing defeat set union activities back in southern West Virginia for the next twelve years, although it did succeed in prompting numerous federal inquiries and nationwide awareness of the conditions in the coal fields. But little changed for the miners until the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when New Deal legislation in 1933 finally outlawed many of the practices of the coal operators and guaranteed the rights of workers to organize.

□■□■□

These miners fought hard for the simplest of things: the right to shop wherever they wanted, the right to be paid in cash instead of worthless scrip, the abolition of cribbing, the right to attend a church that was not run by the company, and the right to be furnished – free of charge – their tools and safety equipment. These miners fought for a respectable wage, decent and safe working conditions, freedom from arbitrary and capricious workplace rules, and a measure of dignity in their work and freedom in their lives.

It is easy to believe that unions are no longer necessary, but we must remember the conditions that led to their rise. They fought hard for the freedoms we enjoy, and which we often assume can never be taken away. But no one should ever assume our freedoms are assured. It has been my observation that the industries with the “worst” unions are the industries which have richly earned them the most.

I think it is very appropriate that our summer season is bracketed by two holidays which commemorate those who fought for our freedoms. The summer season begins with Memorial Day, in which we honor the soldiers, sailors and airmen and -women who defended our freedom against foreign enemies. The summer season ends with Labor Day, in which we honor the workers who fought and paid their price for freedom as well. These men and women are heroes, every bit as much as those who served in uniform. The symmetry of the two holidays is very fitting.

□■□■□

For more information on the West Virginia Mine Wars, check out this eyewitness account of one of the sieges. You can also read about Sheriff Don Chafin, who was paid by the coal operators to keep the union out of Logan County. You can also read about life in a company town.

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The Act of Observing Disturbs the Observed
Conclusion: In the Jury Room
Thursday, August 2, 2004

The first part of this essay, posted yesterday, can be found here.

I’ve had my own brief Schrödinger’s Cat experience last year. I’ve already told you about being on a jury in which our deliberations were to be videotaped for ABC’s In The Jury Room. And I’ve told you about a comment that I made in the jury room, after which I became very aware that I was being watched and that my actions could be scrutinized by the television audience. As it happened, my comment ended up on the cutting room floor, but I had no way of knowing it at the time. I resolved to watch my words and, in essence, “behave myself” – which meant behaving somewhat differently than if the cameras and microphones weren’t present. I’m self-conscious that way. Ask anyone who takes my picture.

This case involved a drunk woman whose car struck a motorcycle, killing an 18-year-old and injuring his father who was also riding on the motorcycle. My trial ended in a mistrial during opening arguments, but the subsequent jury convicted the woman of manslaughter. As I watched that jury deliberate, I wondered how I would have handled myself in those deliberations. Nobody wants to be “soft on crime,” yet nobody wants to let anybody “get away with murder” either. And nobody – nobody – wants either of these perceptions to be televised.

Given the few edited facts I saw, I think I would have gone along with a guilty verdict. But one woman on that jury struggled with reasonable doubt. It was very courageous of her to stand firm on that doubt for a while, but in the end she voted for conviction. I don’t think she was very convinced however, based on her body language when the vote was taken.

Maybe this case was rather clear-cut, but let’s look at it further. The judge didn’t allow the defense to present evidence that the dead motorcycle driver’s blood had traces of marijuana. What if that evidence had been admitted and I was on that jury?

Suddenly things become much murkier. Depending on how the evidence was presented and what the experts had to say about it, I’m sure that I probably would have had reasonable doubt at that point. How could you say that she caused the accident if he may have? Being drunk – being ridiculously drunk – may be stupid and criminal, but it does not necessarily cause an accident. Sometimes being high does.

Before I was selected as a juror, I was asked in the questionnaire whether being on television would affect my impartiality as a juror. I answered no. I didn’t think it would be a problem. But in truth, I didn’t understand the effect that the cameras’ and microphones’ presence would end up having on me. If I had reasonable doubt, would I have been willing to stick with those doubts and refuse to convict? It’s one thing to stand up to ten or eleven other jurors. It’s quite another to stand up to a television audience.

I think I’m a very principled person and I’d probably do the right thing, but to tell the truth, I simply don’t know. But I do know that I had already deciding to be careful of what I said because I was being watched. So I know my behavior would have been affected. I just don’t know if it would have been enough to make a difference in the outcome. I hope not. But do we want to expose our jury system to that kind of risk?

□■□■□

Television changes everything it touches, usually for the worse. I reserve my deepest disgust and revulsion for so-called “reality” TV. If jury trials become the new “reality” TV, can the justice that comes out of it be as real as any other “reality” depicted by such shows as Survivor or The Real World?

We already have a blurring of “reality” and “news”. Look at the O.J. Simpson trial. Judge Lance Ito was paralyzed by the cameras and the lawyers were mesmerized. They all understood that the stakes went far beyond the mere guilt or non-guilt of the defendant. The judge and lawyers were celebrities and the entire farce was not just played out in front of the cameras, but for the cameras. There is an unspoken but dangerous conflict of interest that exists under these circumstances. They were playing for their careers and not for justice.

I suspect that our own judge’s caution in declaring a mistrial was due in part to the presence of the cameras in his courtroom. A lawyer friend of mine was very skeptical that such a minor disruption would have caused a mistrial under ordinary circumstances.

Fortunately, In the Jury Room was very badly produced and hasn't gotten hardly any press at all, so I presume its ratings have been pretty low. Once these seven episodes make their run, I think it's safe to say that it will be the last we will see of it. I'm glad.

ABC, to its credit, showed considerable restraint in keeping the show low-keyed and relatively free from sensationalism. I think that is about the only redeeming quality to it that I can recommend. Imagine if it had been a success and another network (like Fox or WB, for example) decided to jump on the bandwagon? The potential for abuse could only get worse, and nothing good would come of it.

I hope we’re starting to learn that televising criminal trials is a bad idea. Putting cameras in the jury room is even worse. In retrospect, I don’t feel very proud of having participated in this experiment.

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The Act of Observing Disturbs the Observed
Part 1: Don't Look Too Closely
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

People are like electrons in atoms the more you observe them, the less you can be certain of what you know about them. Let me explain...

Sir Isaac Newton was a great observer. He only had to be hit in the head once to learn that objects in motion tend to continue on a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. So he wrote some equations that described this observation, became very famous, and our world has been all the more predictable knowing that everything from spitballs shot from a straw to orbiting planets all behave according to Newton’s Laws.

This worked pretty well until the early 20th century, when scientists began to study the lowly atom. They were startled to learn that electrons spinning around the atom’s nucleus don’t behave like planets orbiting the sun. It turns out that an electron can exist only in a very specific orbit around the nucleus of an atom. And unlike planets or satellites, there are no intermediate orbits that an electron can occupy. It’s as if Mercury had one orbit, and Venus had another, and it was a physical impossibility for anything else to occupy an orbit between them. German scientists dubbed these discrete orbits eigenstates, or “single states”. Newton didn’t see this coming.

But that’s not all. Scientists soon learned that electrons actually violated Newton’s Laws. They had expected electrons to have circular orbits just like planets. Instead, they found that electrons traveled along strangely shaped orbitals – some were circular, but many were crazy-eight and other strange shapes – and each eigenstate had its own distinctive orbital which was consistent from one type atom to the next. Furthermore, an electron can jump from one eigenstate to the next when energy is applied and back again – something that planets simply cannot do.

Newton’s world collapsed and scientists were at an utter loss to explain this.

Finally, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed an equation in 1926 (now known as Schrödinger’s equation, naturally) to explain the behavior of sub-atomic particles. The problem with his approach was that unlike Newton’s Laws, his equations described the behavior of an electron as a probability, and emphatically not as a certainty. A year later, German physicist Werner Karl Heisenberg went a step further with his “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle”, which states that you can never know exactly where an electron is at any point in time. This very concept completely contradicted Newton, who was nothing if not certain about certainty.

The scientific community was in an uproar, and things got quite ugly. Einstein would have nothing to do with it. Newton’s laws of mass and acceleration, cause and effect, and everything else described exactly what objects were doing, where they were doing it, and where they were going next. But Schrödinger said that this could not be done on a sub-atomic level, and Heisenberg backed him up. It all had to be dealt with in probabilities instead of certainties, and we would have to somehow learn to deal with these uncertain times.

To explain how to work with uncertainty, Dr Schrödinger came up with a famous analogy known as Schrödinger’s Cat. He proposed that you take a cat and put it in a box. Then place a delicate glass vial of poisonous gas in the box, and connected it to a triggering device which is designed to maybe break the glass vial, with a probability 50% per hour. Seal up the box and wait an hour. At the end of the hour, ask yourself this: is the cat alive or dead?

The box is sealed so you can’t look inside the box. You can’t shake it because if you do, the vial would break and the poison would be released. If you open the box, the poison could be accidentally released, killing the cat and ruining the experiment. Since you cannot determine whether the cat is alive or dead without causing the cat’s death, you have to assume that the cat is both alive and dead.

It turns out that mathematically (and mathematics are not my strong suit here) once you account for this uncertainty, you can move on and create great things. I know this sounds preposterous, but this was the birth of quantum mechanics – the basis of semiconductor theory – which lead directly to the microchips that power our calculators, computers, digital cameras and Internet porn.

I had to study quantum mechanics in college and I had a great deal of difficulty wrapping my brain around it. I very nearly flunked. During finals week, I asked a fellow student if he understood Schrödinger’s equation.. He simply replied, “yes… and no.”

The crux of this whole longwinded story is this: sometimes when you observe something, the fact that you are observing it changes what you’re looking at. Or as Cecil Adams succinctly puts it, “the act of observing disturbs the observed.”

This is important because it is not just the stuff of sub-atomic particle physics. This axiom is true where people are observed as well.

In 1927 when all of this cat nonsense was going on, there was another unrelated set of experiments conducted by Elton Mayo of the Harvard Business School. He performed his famous productivity study under different lighting conditions at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Ill. In this study, he demonstrated that as the amount of light increased in the workplace, the productivity of the workers increased as well. Then to verify the correlation, he started to reduce the amount of lighting. He was surprised to learn that as the lighting decreased back to its previously lower levels, productivity increased even more.

After more experimentation, Mayo eventually figured it out. Productivity had nothing to do with lighting. Productivity increased simply because the workers knew they were being studied. This became known as the Hawthorne Effect.

In other words, with people as with electrons, the act of observing disturbed the observed.

□■□■□

I mentioned before that I wanted to talk more about having trial jury deliberations televised. I still want to talk about it, but first I wanted to lay the groundwork with this story of Schrödinger's Cat. It is important, because I really believe that knowing you're watched influences what you do, and the experiment is inevitably tainted. It is impossible to avoid this in any setting in which the observer is an intrusive guest.

Until then, go and read Cecil Adam’s explanation of Schrödinger’s Cat. Set to verse, it is one of the cleverest pieces ever written.

The conclusion of this post can be found here.

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