Saturday, December 25, 2010

Watching the Watcher

Over at Watching the World Wake Up, the Watcher recently completed a marvelous four-part Thanksgiving chronicle that dredges up all kinds of memories of the more adventurous days of my own youth. He covers dinosaur tracks, muddy roads, rock art, geology, and of course desert botany in this quadruple tour-de-force. I'm in awe of his blogging talent, so, yes, I'm a Watcher Watcher.

Watcher's contributions to the blog world include the invention of the tangent and the nested tangent, without which his posts would be eversomuch more straightforward and possibly even dull. Some visitors flock to his site just for the tangents! And, of course, the allusions to Selma Hayek.

And his posts are LONG! Settle in, it's going to be a substantial visit, but you will come away having learned some remarkable tidbit of esoteric knowledge you would never have thought to look up for yourself. On average (n=1), his posts are 12,500 pixels long, or 2,300 words (n=2). I thought that chicken post below was long; it comes in at less than half the length of a typical Watcher post.

Nor does the Watcher neglect illustration. If he fails (on the rare occasion it's been known to happen) to capture a photograph, he will create an Awesome Graphic, an art form he invented (along with the subcategories Expand-o-graphic and Action Graphic). Some complex concepts, of course, demand an Awesome Graphic and could not be otherwise illustrated. [This one is from his post on seeing the Mexican flag come to life.]

I don't know how he does it all, but I'm glad he does!!

He can't stop, apparently, with knowing that birds have pentachromatic vision, or that some, but not all, Springbeauties are tetraploid. Instead he takes his readers into the nitty gritty of what that means, plumbing the depths of whatever science (astronomy, psychology, physiology, genetics, geology, archaeology, zoology, botany) presents itself. It's like he has a post for everything!

Want to know How Magpies build their nests or All about Greek Mythology? There's a post for that!

One aspect of the Watcher's work, however, fills me with dismay. He thinks of his blog as a "project" that will, one day, be "completed." On that day, the blog world will be an emptier place.


Off Topic: The little sponges we are as children just soak up all kinds of stuff, and just thinking of writing this post brought back memories of the Watchbird. For those whose childhood was more deprived, here's a bit about the Watchbird:

In the baby boom years, I suppose parents needed all the help they could get rearing responsible offspring of good character. Some of that "help" came from the Watchbird, a cartoon created by Munro Leaf to remind us how to behave. Apparently some of my peers have more sinister recollections of the Watchbird, but I (of course) was trying to be good, and the Watchbird regularly showed us examples of bad children: the Whinie, the Sneaky, the Pusher... (honestly, I've forgotten all of them!) I guess you could say it was negative reinforcement, and maybe that's why it's frowned upon today. Like spankings and other forms of archaic parental guidance, however, it was effective! Contrariwise, as Hootsbuddy recalls:
Maybe it was this early training that made part of me into a Watchbird. I dunno. In any case, it missed the mark. I was suppose to identify with someone in the cartoon, not the Watchbird. I guess even at that early age I was more prone to judging than being judged.

(As long as I'm being quantitative, I should mention that Hootsbuddy's Place (which I found on a "Watchbird" search) looks pretty interesting. He managed to rack up more than 3,000 posts featuring all kinds of commentary in less than six years... and then stopped abruptly in mid-2009, as we all probably will someday.)

My Visit to the Book Cliffs
At any rate, the Watcher's posts quite often strike a chord. This last one especially brought back days of trucking around the Book Cliffs on (gulp) synfuels reconnaissance. (Ah, the last big boom; those were the days, eh?) I remember two special events. [Pic right, not mine.]

Watcher reports: "Once you get off the asphalt, Mancos is both wonderful and horrible. In dry conditions, graded dirt roads across the Mancos are often smooth and fast, allowing a passenger car to zip comfortably along at 40 or 50 MPH. But when wet, forget it." (Whence he goes on to explain, in true Watcher-style, about smectitic clays.)

I can't say I remember that it was Mancos Shale we were driving on, but I do remember "smooth and fast." As you approach the Book Cliffs (which in my day were apparently closer to I-70 than they are now), you start winding around the toes of the cliffs. Cruising around one such hairpin, a bit too fast probably, I found myself face to face with a huge logging truck (he was probably also moving right along). We both slammed on the brakes, and came to a mutual stop with our side mirrors almost touching. Whew! Survived that one...

While in the Cliffs, we had a good time cruising across washes, which of course are more fun if they have water in them. If you went fast enough (it was a rental vehicle, and I was, after all, young), you could get a good splash going!

Anyway, when we left to return to Grand Junction, it was beginning to snow a bit. In fact, it quickly became a whiteout, though I don't remember that there was much accumulation. As we drove south toward I-70, confident it was out there somewhere, a helicopter landed next to the road to ask us for directions!! In the decades since, I can't say that's ever happened again!

So, Watcher, as always "Thanks for the memories!"


Watcher said...

Love the bearded-blogger graphic! (Though I don't think I've ever blogged with tie one...) Thanks for the kind words- FF was one of my early blogging inspirations!

I've had a couple of those high-speed, off-asphalt, near head-ons. After every one I find myself thinking how phenomenally dumb I would have felt had I crashed and had to explain it...

Anonymous said...

An awesome tribute to an awesome blogger!