Friday, September 3, 2010

Kayak or canoe?

One last post before heading off on the annual week long fall kayak trip with the usual suspects. This year will be a return to the Sauna Islands, the small archipelago between the US/CAN border and Thunder Bay, ON. No amenities like picnic tables, fire rings, bear boxes, or outhouses, and that can be refreshing at times. The other refreshing thing is that no electronic devices, other than the marine band transceiver, will be in the mix. It's a good time to withdraw from the Information Society, an annual withdrawal that has had me out on Isle Royale for both Nixon's resignation and 9/11, two events which could not possibly be impacted in the least by my knowing or not knowing about their occurrence. My friend Chuck up in St Cloud, MN sent me the following excerpt, which addresses almost perfectly the change in how we deal with information since the internet tsunami hit us.

George Dyson is a futurist, historian, and kayaker. He has written a number of books including Darwin Among the Machines and Baidarka. I've not read either but have them on order, mainly beacuse the quote Chuck sent me, below, which seems to be right on the money:

In the North Pacific ocean, there were two approaches to boatbuilding.

The Aleuts (and their kayak-building relatives) lived on barren,

treeless islands and built their vessels by piecing together skeletal

frameworks from fragments of beach-combed wood. The Tlingit (and their

dugout canoe-building relatives) built their vessels by selecting entire

trees out of the rainforest and removing wood until there was nothing

left but a canoe.

The Aleut and the Tlingit achieved similar results - maximum boat /

minimum material - by opposite means. The flood of information unleashed

by the Internet has produced a similar cultural split. We used to be

kayak builders, collecting all available fragments of information to

assemble the framework that kept us afloat. Now, we have to learn to

become dugout-canoe builders, discarding unneccessary information to

reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within.

I was a hardened kayak builder, trained to collect every available

stick. I resent having to learn the new skills. But those who don't will

be left paddling logs,not canoes.

When I used to write history term papers in college, I would scour the library and talk to people in an attempt to gather as much info as I could so I could cull it down and condense it into a readable and concise document. I did the same thing when researching my dads WWII service in the 9th US Army Air Force. These days it's more like picking blueberries. We selectively search for the largest, juiciest, and most perfect berries and leave the rest. There is so much information, much of it worthless crap (with a lot of the 'fertilizer' being located on blogs, I must admit) that the main activity and effort has switched from discovery to culling.

But this week the only discovery will be through my senses and the only culling may be those very blueberries I talked about. The brain will clear, the fingers and thumbs will wrapped around a fine basswood paddle shaft rather than blundering across a keyboard, and the evenings will be spent looking at my friends rather than a screen. I'm packed and ready and I can barely wait.


granola.freeman said...

I enjoyed this post (and the shout-out about Manitou the other week) :) Rather envious of you...have a wonderful time!


jeffrey said...

Nice pic of my boat! Jeff

DaveO said...

Why thanks. I can get you an 8 x 10 glossy for a nominal fee.....;)