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A lord asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.
Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man:
Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.
This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.
Time has a funny way of getting away from you. It has something to do with our vision of our place in the universe. Each of us sees a universe in which we are the central character, the pivot around which everything revolves. The idea that things happen in the world without us is a pretty abstract one. It takes kids years to realize that the person playing peekaboo is really still there when they can't see them. It takes adults years to realize that other people have lives even when they're not paying attention to them, and that time plods mercilessly on even when you aren't watching it. A typical human lifespan is 2524608000 seconds. Each one of the 1800 seconds spent watching Friends every week is just as valuable as the ones on your deathbed, when your life is flashing before your eyes. While I'm laughing at Chandler saying "quick.. what would Jack and Chrissy do?", there's an somebody nearby working to the bone to feed his family, there's a patient fighting for her life on the operating table, and somewhere else there's a child being born, starting his two-and-a-half odd billion seconds on this world. Now, you can't go through life this way, fearful at every moment that you'll waste time badly, striving to fill each second with something of import, interest at the very least. I've known some people who seem this vital, living every moment as if it were their last. But it's too hard. As a person with about 1.7 billion seconds left to me, the odd two or three here and there just don't seem worth it. You don't ever waste time: even sleeping is a vital use of it. But you do spend it, every second. Each one of them.
I spent about 432 thousand seconds with my parents at Ghost Ranch, in New Mexico. It used to be a program center for the Baptist church, except that the church has been cutting back funding in recent years and the ranch is turning into a more independent cool place to host art classes and retreats. They have a full schedule of classes throughout the year, although it gets cold in the new mexican desert in the winter so they have fewer then. It's kind of like a summer camp, with small cabins and a community-building cafeteria. It's also where Georgia O'Keefe spent upwards of a billion seconds painting. It was also the beginning of my bi-annual short-lived facial hair experiment.
March also included 150000 seconds of unexpected travel when the ski trip, planned for March 9th, turned out to be a surprise birthday party for me, complete with an all-expenses-paid trip to Seattle. The email flung about beforehand said that Chris had rented the cabin, we were to meet them at such and such an address in south Lake Tahoe, they would get their first, and Phil and I had to pick up Simeon from the airport on the way out. Well, Phil drove, we get to the airport, I've got nothing on me but my wallet and my phone, we go in to find the gate, I can't find the gate anywhere because there was no plane coming in from LA at that time, but Phil was sure it was A5, we get there and I remember saying "this can't be right, people are getting on this plane, not off it.. and it's going to Seattle..". Phil pulls a pair of tickets out of his pocket and says "For some, the final objective is neither what, nor where they expect it to be".
So we get on board, and the co-conspirators (Chris, Stephen, and Simeon) are in the row in front of us giggling behind the in-flight magazines. We get to Seattle, rent a car, go to a hotel that's somewhere under the Space Needle, have a great dinner at Entros, which is a game-theme restaurant. This group makes games for trade shows and other corporate happenings, and they beta-test all their ideas at this restaurant. We played one game that was a combination of a skee-ball target laid flat with a balance-the-ball table-top maze game, all on top of a big innertube. You move the ball around by leaning back while you stand on the platform, and are constantly yelling at each other to run to different sides in the hopes of driving the ball away from the holes and through the maze to get to the high-scoring spot in the center. Quite cool. We were at the restaurant from the time they opened the doors at 5pm, till we had eaten dinner and played every last game at 2am.
The next morning we had the champagne brunch in the revolving restaurant on top of the Space Needle, which was quite a sight. We visited with a number of Phil's friends from the area, including a couple Microsoft folks, and Phil's sculptor friend Katrina, who recently had a bit of a disagreement with some molten iron and received some nasty foot burns, but is now recovering well.
The real ski trip took place in April, when we spent around 200000 seconds to their utmost in a flurry of a trip to Tahoe. We got to see Phil's friend Randi and her boyfriend Diarmuid, and even Jesse showed up. We drove out on friday night, (all the while I was expecting to get left alone in a gas station somewhere and discover a note under my seat saying "your first clue is..."), got to the cabin (Chris found us a very nice one) at 2am, slept, made it to the slopes the next day in time for the post-noon half-day tickets at Heavenly, skiied until 4:53 when they were about to close the mountain, raced down at breakneck speed to catch the last lift up, and then tried to take a new trail down to the lodge to return our rentals. Now, Heavenly straddles the California-Nevada border, and the trail was called "The California Trail", and it looked like you ski along the ridge, jog upwards a little bit, and then get on the main big trail that comes down the CA side. But no, it seems that once you get on the ridge trail, you have to take a lift to get back to the california side, as the ski patrol who were busy clearing the mountainside were happy to explain. And all the lifts had closed. So we had to go down the Nevada side, race down to catch the last shuttle bus over to the California side, and run to return the skis at exactly 5:59pm, one minute before the rental shop closed. Having spent every minute of that day to it's fullest, (well, at least all of the minutes after we woke up at noon), we spent the evening watching Babe (don't ask me why.. anthropomorphic produce and poultry just isn't my thing) and trying to get the hottub up to a reasonable temperature. Phil and Stephen finally accomplished it through some creative plumbing involving the house washing machine (which may or may not still wash clothes). I don't want to know.
May also included a whirlwind tour of Syracuse, New York (172800 seconds), to celebrate the 80th birthdays of my grandfather and his identical twin brother . One redeye, two showers, three naps, four cousins I never actually knew I had (one of which owns a Saturn dealer in South Carolina!), and five flights later (two hops there, three back because they canceled my flight from Syracuse to Detroit due to "lack of pilots", and rerouted me through Boston), and I was back where I started, wandering the San Francisco airport waiting for my ride. In the process I made it to a ham radio swap meet, a computer fair, a massive dinner, and a visit to the town where my great-uncle and most of his children grew up. A neat sense of history, there. Once I get the other roll of film developed, look here for a graphical family tree.
And then I bought a QuickCam because they were on sale at Fry's. Isn't it cute?
Coming soon to this space: