Life’s a Breach
Dr. Andy reflects on vacation season
It’s hard to take a vacation when you are not allowed to go anywhere.
Until recently, even those of us who felt comfortable going somewhere dared not post our vacation photographs, lest we incur the disapproval of the same people who don a mask if they see me from afar walking the greenbelt, as if it were still January.
Americans like to frown at other people’s vacations. President Trump had golfed 19 times in his first one hundred days in office. In a corresponding stretch of time, President Biden golfed once. Clearly one of those two presidents cares about his job and his fellow citizens, we say to ourselves. We can tell by the nature and frequency of their vacations.
I myself have too many jobs, it could be argued, but I love them all, so I tend not to take vacations. Currently I have 218.88 vacation hours accrued, the maximum. I will not accrue any more vacation days until I start taking some days off. I think the only time my boss shows disappointment in me is when she reviews vacation allotments, and then she is tempted to tell me to go take a hike. The destination doesn’t always matter. As the Buddha said, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
So, this past Friday, Kate and I took Jukie and Truman to the beach (while our daughter Geneva stayed home to hang with the French bulldog and prepare for her afternoon and evening shift at work). We chose Limantour Beach because our friends who lived nearby told us that it would be more spectacular and less crowded than our other Marin County options.
Of course, desperation also informed our decision. The day before had been the hottest of the year (110 degrees), and Friday was predicted to be almost as bad. We were running from oppressive weather as much as running to the beach. As Shakespeare says, “sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines.”
We soon realized that we were unpracticed at these sort of trips. Our sunscreening attempts were uneven, our Kindle books had not been downloaded before we found ourselves out of cell range, and our wardrobes did not accommodate the afternoon dip in temperatures (even though I was wearing two layers).
Despite all these problems, each of the four of us found peace on the beach. Jukie and I, in particular, walked south for miles, finally running out of beach before we ran out of energy. The eventual cliffs and rocks were inhospitable to our feet, but not to our souls, for we walked so far that eventually we could spot no one nearby or even far away. Served a daily portion of isolation over the last 18 months, we hadn’t realized how rewarding it would be not only to be out of the house, but also to be surrounded by the sound of the incessant surf, the imposing cliff faces, and the endless sky.
This is the sort of place that Joseph Campbell had in mind when he imagined the isolation necessary to create. He said, "You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."
I thank my wife Kate, Marin County, and the cool, lovely and more temperate Limatour Beach for the sacred place that we experienced on Friday. I will keep the experience refreshed in my imagination through the help of memory and photographs. Time will tell if the beach destination ends up also functioning as a “place of creative incubation.”
Speaking of creativity, I stole a few of the questions for tonight’s Pub Quiz from an event that I MCed for a couple days last week, The Information Security Symposium at UC Davis. Many of the 900 attendees suggested words and themes for a poem-on-demand project that we launched at this event. The occasional poem result, which is perhaps too long to include in its entirety here, has a number of inside jokes and clever information security references that a month from now will seem clever only to me. I especially like the Quebecois cuisine stanza that offers internal pea soup rhymes in French. Check it out if you love Civil War hero lighthouse inspector allusions and Viking humor.
OK, because of today’s beach theme, I feel compelled to include a favorite stanza:
Swedish hackers approach IKEA like a smörgåsbord,
Returning to their post-shenanigan dark web homes
with a pickled herring feast of PII numbers and names:
Johansson, Anderson, Karlson.
So many patronyms! Maybe the daughters can protect us,
Hardening the city's walls as if those villainous Vikings
Had not long since reached the data: Life's a breach.
Now the threat actors are measuring the drapes in Gripsholm Castle.
Thanks, as always, to the regular teams that support this online Pub Quiz experiment so generously, especially the Original Vincibles, the Outside Agitators, Quizimodo, and Bono’s Pro Bono Obo Bonobos. I invite you to join them on Patreon!
P.S. Here are three questions from last week:
1. Science. What T word do we use for the processes that control the structure and properties of the Earth's crust and its evolution through time?
2. Books and Authors. What Stephen King book features primarily Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes?
3. Sports. The Pekingese that won the Westminster dog show yesterday shares a name with Japanese horseradish. Name the dog.