Crow is a woman who spent the summers hiking (mostly all or part of the PCT) and the winters as a cabin hermit (mostly in north-central Washington). Her interests in long-distance travel and off-grid living share many commonalities and resulted in much valuable information and insight. Long time readers here will remember her from The Vagabond’s Spatula.
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Austin Kleon highlighted a Brian Eno quote on why he stopped touring:
What I really like doing is what I call Import and Export. I like taking ideas from one place and putting them into another place and seeing what happens when you do that. I think you could probably sum up nearly everything I’ve done under that umbrella. Understanding something that’s happening in painting, say, and then seeing how that applies to music. Or understanding something that’s happening in experimental music and seeing what that could be like if you used it as a base for popular music. It’s a research job, a lot of it. You spend a lot of time sitting around, fiddling around with things, quite undramatically, and finally something clicks into place and you think, “Oh, thats really worth doing.”
Boyd’s favorite example in “Destruction and Creation” was a thought experiment that took his audience through his exegesis on the nature of creativity. It went something like this: “Imagine four separate images. Let’s call them domains. Each domain can be easily understood by looking at its parts and at the relation among the parts.”
Boyd’s four domains were a skier on a slope, a speedboat, a bicycle, and a toy tank. Under “skier” were the various parts: chair lifts, skis, people, mountain, and chalets. He asked listeners to imagine these were all linked by a web of relations, a matrix of intersecting lines. Under “speedboat” were the categories of sun, boat, outboard motor, water skier, and water. Again, all were linked by the intersecting lines. Under “bicycle” were chain, seat, sidewalk, handle bars, child, and wheels. Under “toy tank” were turret, boy, tank treads, green paint, toy store, and cannon.
The separate ingredients make sense when collected under the respective headings. But then Boyd shattered the relationship between the parts and their respective domains. He took the ingredients in the web of relationships and asked listeners to visualize them scattered at random. He called breaking the domains apart a “destructive deduction.” (Today some refer to such a jump as “thinking outside the box.” But Boyd believed the very existence of a box is limiting. The box must be destroyed before there can be creation.) The deduction was destructive in that the relationship between the parts and the whole was destroyed. Uncertainty and disorder took the place of meaning and order. Boyd’s name for this hodgepodge of disparate elements was a “sea of anarchy.” Then he challenged the audience: “How do we construct order and meaning out of this mess?”
Now Boyd showed how synthesis was the basis of creativity. He asked, “From some of the ingredients in this sea of anarchy, how do we find common qualities and connecting threads to synthesize a new and altogether different domain?” Few people ever found a new way to put them together. Boyd coaxed and wheedled but eventually helped the audience along by emphasizing handle bars, outboard motor, tank treads, and skis.
These, he said, were the ingredients needed to build what he called a “new reality” – a snowmobile.
In an article at At War on the Rocks, Dr. Frank Blazich provides a brief overview of the military use of homing pigeons and argues for their reintroduction as a response to electronic warfare.
Considering the storage capacity of microSD memory cards, a pigeon’s organic characteristics provide front line forces a relatively clandestine mean to transport gigabytes of video, voice, or still imagery and documentation over considerable distance with zero electromagnetic emissions or obvious detectability to radar. These decidedly low-technology options prove difficult to detect and track. Pigeons cannot talk under interrogation, although they are not entirely immune to being held under suspicion of espionage. Within an urban environment, a pigeon has even greater potential to blend into the local avian population, further compounding detection. The latter presumably factored into the use of pigeons to clandestinely smuggle drugs, defeating even the most sophisticated of walls.
Furthermore, pigeons provide an asymmetric tool available for hybrid warfare purposes. The low-cost, low-technology use of pigeons to transport information or potentially small amounts of chemical agents — or even coded cyber weapons — makes them a quick and easy asset to distribute among a civilian population for wider military purposes. During World War II, the British Confidential Pigeon Service of MI14(d) dropped baskets of homing pigeons behind enemy lines for espionage purposes, gathering invaluable military intelligence in the process from a wide array of French, Dutch, and Belgian civilians. Even as a one-way means of communication, the pigeon proved an invaluable military asset.
But some of the technology behind it is fascinating. This past summer the Sniper in Mahwah blog published a four part series investigating the use of shortwave radio as a low latency link in high-frequency trading. I’d call it the best piece of hacker-tourism since Mother Earth Mother Board, but I think it’s probably the only piece of hacker-tourism since Mother Earth Mother Board. It doesn’t have much competition.
The size and weight constraints of the lifestyle means that they tend towards gear that is compact and multifunctional, the corrosion inherent in the environment and the time they spend away from easy resupply points encourages them to favor durability and repairability, and the fact that their entire living accommodations can be violently moved prompts them to spend time considering how to optimize storage and organization.
One of the blogs in this world that I occasionally follow is The Boat Galley. I’ve been happy with the handful of (mostly kitchen related) purchases I’ve made based off of Carolyn’s recommendation (including the aforementioned toaster). Another mainstay is, of course, Nomadic Research Labs by Steve Roberts who, in my opinion, can do no wrong.
I first found the blog when they published an analysis of DNI James Clapper’s hardware. Other highlights include: a review of the historical hotline between Washington and Bonn, the Korean hotline, a look at the equipment aboard the EP-3E reconnaissance plane, and an overview of Obama’s communication equipment. Most of what they publish ends up in my archive. I’m intrigued by these technologies, and Electrospaces provides wonderfully detailed glimpses into this obscure world.