Like a frog and a fly

I am reminded of frogs.

Frogs are very cool creatures. They eat bugs and make the most amazing sounds that always remind me of warm summer nights, down by the lake. However, frogs are not particularly intelligent, and their behavior is almost completely governed by outside stimuli.

For instance, a frog can’t differentiate between a tree swaying overhead or a crane, and will fall silent within the shadow of either. Frogs also have very specific visual receptors that are only triggered when ‘food’ comes into range. When a fly hovers into view, the frog’s tongue lashes out instantly, *thwapt!*, an appropriate response. On the other hand, its tongue also lashes out, *thwapt!* if a Boeing 747 flies overhead. The frog can’t help itself–its behavior is hard-wired.

All of which leads me back to my recent trip. When I was in Florida, and on the trip down and back, I deliberately avoided the Internet and all aspects of weblogging–a very rare event for me. It was good to get out of the daily cycle of read, read, read feel amused/interested/uninterested/outraged/sad/impassioned, react, write, write, write, feel depressed/satisfied/dissatisfied/silly/happy, react, and repeat. After a while, just the appearance of a weblogger or a word is enough to generate a reaction. It can get exhausting, like being a frog at an airport.

While in Florida, though, surrounded by people with shielded minds, hidden thoughts, and past experiences and future hopes totally hidden from view, I was able to experience events at face value and just let them happen. I did not have to pay attention to the happiness or not of those around me; did not have dig deep to find the hidden meaning of every overheard word; did not have to react except at the most primitive, and immediately rewarding level.

At the water shows, I could enjoy the shrieks from those doused by whale or seal, and laugh and giggle with the crowd around me, all without needing to connect at a deeper level. When walking around this park or that, if I found myself next to a couple who were tired and quarrelsome, I could change my path until the discordant sounds were left behind.

When leaving the stunt show at Disney/MGM Studio and upon moving to the exits and finding myself in a crowd around a woman who had collapsed from the heat, I could join with other voices in the group telling the rest to ‘move along’ knowing that not only was this the selfish thing to do, it was the right thing to do.

I was surrounded by hundreds of people, thousands, and their voices became a soothing babble, and their faces, bright bits of animated confetti that swirled about me in a peaceful, colorful flow; slices of which I captured, from time to time, with my camera. In the nomenclature of frogs, it was all flies, all the time.

The last night before I was to return home, I felt tranquil, balanced, as if I had been on a retreat, and realized that, in a way, I had. All was packed, the camera stowed, the last photo captured on CD, and I had nothing more to do than sit outside on the patio sipping a beer until dark, and then go inside, to watch whatever movie I could find before going to bed.


Eating dog food

This week is the week for conferences, beginning with SXSW in Austin, followed by O’Reilly’s Emerging Tech conference somewhere in California.

I was a bit disappointed to not be able to go to either, but was surprised by the number of emails from folks who thought I would be at SxSW. I guess it’s the whole “where are the women” thing, which from a post about Zeldman’s opening act, seemed to be emphasized. Interesting. If anyone attends the “Where are the Women” session, send me a link to your impressions.

Hopefully some of the sessions I’m interested in from both conferences will be posted online in one form or another. But did Zeldman really say something to the effect that Anyone good at web stuff is here, anyone who isn’t pretty much sucks? Nah — Zeldman is anal, but he’s not a snob. Must have been joking.

In the meantime, Dave Shea and Molly Holzschlag sent me a copy of their book, “The Zen of CSS Design”, which promises hours of interesting reading. Maybe I’ll learn enough so that I won’t suck, and I, too, can be a SxSW attendee in the future.

Critters Photography


Some photos of animal paw prints, found on a recent outing to the Chain or Rocks Bridge, in St. Louis.

The sliding print is most likely a beaver, but I’m not sure what the other prints are. I would expect them to be beaver front paw prints, but the heelpad is more distinct than is normal for beavery. They aren’t dog–wrong heelpad–nor are they bear–wrong location and too many toes. They could be woodchuck, except that they’re quite large.

Since the mud is right along the Mississippi river, I’m assuming that all the prints are beaver, front and back paws.

Quite a lot of beaver, it would seem.

And I have no idea what caused the track of this odd creature. Something spooky and dangerous, I’m sure.