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Polaris, Orion, the Pleiades, Perseus: "...silent worlds of fire, ice and gas..."

The Pleiades

I just ran across this beautiful bit of writing by Penelope Lively in her book about London, City of the Mind; she is a powerful writer.

"From the chair, on these August evenings, with the curtains undrawn, he can occasionally see the stars, when the miasma of the city permits. City stars are polluted --- frailer creatures then crisp brilliants that pepper country skies. Nevertheless, he can identify, can name names. He is surprised by how much survives of that boyhood craze of his. The map of the heavens is more familiar than he had realized. He fetches his binoculars: constellations and individuals leap into greater clarity. There is Mars, distinctly red, hanging low over St Pancreas. And there, of course, is Polaris and good old Betelgeuse. Orion and Ursa Major. Could that be Cassiopeia? Perseus? He seeks out eventually one of his old astronomy books, smelling of damp, with his name in stilted schoolboy script.
"Hercules, Taurus, Sagittarius. Mars, Venus, Pluto. The dead and dancing sky is mysteriously charted in languages which are no longer spoken: the graffiti of the stars, the imagined conjunctions of gas clouds billions of miles apart, commemorate the mythology of a departed people. The scientists of the twentieth century classify the stars by letters of the Greek alphabet. The gods and heroes of ancient Greece are still going about the business above our heads, night after night. The world turns against a backdrop of this archaic reference system. The newspapers, this week, carry photographs of Neptune’s moon, beamed across four billion kilometers by the traveling, ticking robot creature Voyager 2. Neptune’s moon is named for Triton, the conch-blowing offspring of Poseidon and Amphitrite. It is though these silent worlds of fire, ice and gas, whirling in their immeasurable distances of time and space, have for ever so disturbed the human imagination that they can only be approached by attaching to them codes of a known system. They are the one stability in lives of flux, the only constant. They are inconceivable, and essential. They cannot be understood, and so must be labeled."

Perseus was a Greek hero most famous for his slaying of Medusa. If anyone looked at Medusa's face they would turn to stone. With the help of Hermes' wings and Athena's shield, Perseus killed Medusa without looking at her. On his way home, Perseus came across the monster, Cetus, getting ready to eat Andromeda. Perseus used Medusa's head to turn Cetus into stone and saved the princess.

Stretching at Your Computer

I just got back from an ergonomic conference* in Orlando, Florida. We had a booth and did demos of our stretching software, StretchWare. StretchWare reminds you to stretch at your computer; the stretches appear on-screen at chosen intervals during the day.

This was the first time we've exhibited the software publicly, and the response was extraordinary. We developed the software 9 years ago and it seems the world has caught up. Suddenly people seem aware of the importance of computer users taking care of their bodies. In a funny way, it seems to parallel the "green" consciousness of the times. We had a constant stream of people at our booth for the entire two days. I have over 50 business cards from ergonomic managers who want to test it. Some of the companies: Honda, Intel, Boeing, Monsanto, Alcoa, Hewlett-Packard, Traveler's Insurance, GE, Armstrong, Mitsubishi... heavy hitters.

These people didn't have to be sold; they were at the conference because they've already recognized the value of promoting employee health — it was preaching to the choir.

We've been selling site licenses (for all employees of a given firm) for years (click here and look in the right hand column for a list of companies using it), but this is a whole new octave. It seems as if the general consciousness has changed.

StretchWare is based on our book Stretching, by Bob and Jean Anderson. It's sold over 3 million copies worldwide and is in 24 languages. StretchWare is a great little program. It works in both Mac and Windows, is robust (written in C++), small in footprint, intelligently designed (ahem, ahem), and is based on the experience of a world-class stretching authority (unlike any of the competing programs).

*11th Annual Applied Ergonomics Conference

Shameless Commerce Dept.: If you work for a company and are interested in you and your fellow workers trying StretchWare, we'll send you the program free to try out. Or, there's a free 30-day download of the entire program here.

Builders of the Pacific Coast Sneak Previews #2

Early rough layouts of our forthcoming book, should be out by June. For more previews, go to our website.

Left: meditation dome on an island in British Columbia; right: cordwood house

Right: Nori's yurt, which has a full basement; right: meditation yurt


Gitana 13 Sets World Sailing Record

I shot this photo of the Gitana 13 maxi-catamaran sailboat anchored off Tiburon last week after setting a world record for the fastest voyage by sail from New York to San Francisco: 43 days and 38 minutes on a 14,500-mile route that took it around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. The French sailboat broke the 1989 world record by more than 14 days, averaging 15.88 knots. Note: the record for this distance was set in 1851 and held for over 140 years by the clipper ship Flying Cloud.

The Myth and Promise of Dirt Cheap Housing/Wood-Fired Oven/Wood Carving Tools

These three websites came in yesterday:
The Myth and Promise of Dirt Cheap Housing

How To Build
a Wood-Fired Oven & Start a Home Bakery

Adzes, crooked knives, other tools used by Pacific Northwest coastal carvers

Multi-Level Trailer Park

This has been floating around on the web lately