Quest for Fire

Patrick and his King Salmon that he caught, cleaned and cooked

“Quest for Fire” is a 1981 film that depicts Paleolithic Europe, 80,000 years ago, its plot surrounds the struggle for control of fire by early humans. “Quest for Fire” is a film that I’m sure anthropologists love to hate and since the movie is based upon a 1911 novel, you can be sure that it is totally up on the latest research. In the movie’s sex scenes, humanity’s evolution is encapsulated by the transition from one sexual position to another. I’m sure Ron Perlman is proud to have this film on his IMDb resume. 😉

I raise this topic because I’ve recently read L.V. Anderson’s Slate article, Who Mastered Fire? This article dubs mastery of fire as both the first and greatest intellectual property claim known to mankind. It goes on to claim that mastery of fire alone is what defines us as human and separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. The crux of this article is that scientists can’t agree on whether people mastered fire 1.8 million years ago or only 12,000 years ago. The question left unresolved is whether humans proved their humanity almost two million years ago or only a couple of thousand years before the dawn of civilization.

This article distinguishes between opportunistic use of fire and the ability to spontaneously create fire. The movie “Quest for Fire” also made this distinction. The protagonist tribe is only capable of harvesting natural fire, like from lighting strikes, because they don’t know how to make it themselves. They eventually meet a more advanced tribe who have mastered this technology and learn from them.

Mastery of fire provided mankind several benefits. It provided both a source of warmth and protection from predators, but most importantly is allowed for cooking. Cooking our food made the food taste better, more nutritious and more digestible. Scientists say that the invention of cooking has led to the development of our enlarged brains. The calories once spent digesting raw food could with cooking, be redirected to feed our brains.

I think that this Paleolithic pedigree manifests itself in modern life with the foodies movement. Once people learn how to perform a task, then it soon becomes a competition to see who can do it better. This is what modern cooking is all about. You see this on TV in show after show. I also see it at work among some of my co-workers.

I work with a lot of people who enjoy food preparation. They like to cook, but more than that they revel in the entire process of food creation. Whether it is growing, hunting, brewing or what have you they collectively run the gambit. I’m just pleased that they occasionally bring some of the fruits of their labors into the office to share. Burp!

Aimee’s Dahlia Flower

Aimee’s Dahlia Flower

Isn’t this a beautiful flower? Isn’t it a marvel of technology that I am able to share it with you, no matter where you are in the world? This beautiful miracle though almost didn’t come to pass. Our eight year old AT&T DSL modem up and died last night. I first slogged through AT&T’s automated help process. The computer’s voice on the other end would ask multiple choice questions. Its voice recognition software was pretty good, but occasionally I had to repeat myself. Once it sent be back to the beginning of our ‘conversation’. All the while it was running tests. Eventually, the one test that really mattered, is it working, failed. The machine gave up and I was kicked over to a human, I mean tech support. 

The tech support guy, Mike, was immediately rather nonplussed about the age of my DSL modem. The timber of his voice and some of his speech mannerisms led me to believe that he was young. Eight years ago, when George W. Bush was running for his second term, maybe Mike was still in college? Maybe he was even still in high school? His final diagnosis was that my modem was kaput.

This led me to run out in a pouring rainstorm, the same one that delayed the Cardinals vs. Giants playoff game. I did get wet, but at least I didn’t miss any of the ball game. The Red Birds won and went up 2-1 in the series. I picked up a new modem at the local AT&T store and a Whole Food supper at their take-out bar, a bit of a treat for us.

Returning home, I found the easy to follow instructions and successfully installed the new modem. I had everything up and working again before AT&T placed their callback, to help me do what I had just done. We are all back up and running again and I am only out the price of a new modem, plus the outrageous 10% Brentwood sales tax. Still, it is a beautiful flower and it is a marvel that I am able to share it with you. Will miracles never cease?

Seattle’s Mosquito Fleet

Washington Ferry at Night

Ferryboats have been active on Puget Sound since 1889. The City of Seattle offered the first scheduled service between Seattle and West Seattle. It was a bargain at 5 cents per passenger. Ferry system competition between privately owned boats, known as the “Mosquito Fleet”, was intense. The Black Ball Line became dominant in the 1930’s, owning the major routes, terminals and boats. With the arrival of the automobile the ferries became an extension of the state highway system, and a valuable part of commerce. In 1951 the State of Washington bought the company. This was the basis for the nation’s largest network of ferries. All ferryboats bear Indian names, except for one class of boats. This Northwest tradition is maintained in respect for the first vessels to cross the Sound, the Indian canoes.

The text for this post was paraphrased from a plaque aboard the ferry Hyak, which we happened to take both coming and going to Lopez Island. The photograph with this post was taken of another passing ferryboat, while we were returning to the mainland, on Sunday night, aboard the Hyak again.

Order of the Garder

Order of the Garter

Weddings are a ritual. At a wedding, two people who love each other publicly commit to each other to join as one. We had the honor to attend Teresa’s and Robyn’s wedding and reception earlier this month. Within a wedding and the subsequent reception are smaller rituals. One such it the shooting of the bride’s garter to all the eligible bachelors. Its reciprocal is the throwing of the bride’s bouquet to all of the eligible bachelorettes. The groom shoots the garter to all of his fellows and the bride throws the bouquet to all the single ladies. I managed to catch the shooting of the garter and I must commend the enthusiasm of the men. I was not so successful with the women. I missed the shot.

Kelp and a Floating Log

Kelp and a Floating Log

I view this photograph as a metaphor for my visit to Lopez Island. I felt like a fish out of water going into this trip and only towards its end did I begin to feel my sea legs under me. I landed on an island with a vibrant community amidst a grand celebration. I view this community as the kelp. That may not sound flattering, but hear me out. This community is a vibrant ecosystem, native to its environs and intensely foreign to my flat-lander Midwest senses. I feel like the floating log in the picture. Like the log, I’m just floating along, but like the Lopez community, I was embraced by the kelp and I eventually felt carried along home.