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I haven’t chatted with Tom in years and years, and then in less than 12 hours after posting about his bear escapade. Ping. I get a note from Tom!

It really brings to my attention how small the world is getting. We’ve all pretty much watched the changes caused by instant access to information. Where would we be today without google? Got a question, heck, ask google. You’ll get 4.8 million different answers in a second. At what other time in the history of man has this been possible? Never. Never in our history has information been so readily available. Information and the ability to communicate.

But what does this mean to us, the people living in this informational society? To me it really brings to the fore the old adage of 6 degrees of separation. I haven’t spoken to Tom in years, and yet I put up a post and within 12 hours someone who knows me and knows someone else who knows Tom, and voila! There he is correcting my mistakes. (It was screws not nails, over 1000 of them.) This wasn’t done by plan or with fore thought. No, this was completely out of the blue. And yet it’s not the first time I’ve seen this.In fact I’ve learned the hard way to be careful what you rant about.

We really do live in an interesting age. I can’t even fathom the changes we’ll see to our society in the future.


Just a quick story to give you an idea of what Tom was like. Tom was one of our network guys at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center. Tom was pretty smart in a definite redneck sort of way. Tom also had bouts of, well, let’s just call them moments of sub optimal intelligence.

Tom liked to hunt and fish. Tom owned an air boat. Tom used to go waaaaay up the Chena river into the back of beyond and set up camp. He’d then leave the camp and come back to “civilization” and work. Then the next weekend he’d head back up the river. Well, Tom had a problem with bears messing with his camp while he was away. Bears being big ole grizzlies. This is central Alaska remember. Something about grizzlies that may not be obvious. They’re very curious animals and like to check out things that are strange or different. Like fishing camps in the middle of nowhere.

So, like any good smart guy, Tom came up with a plan. He was well and truly fed up with the bears poking through his camp. So, on his run down to civilization, Fairbanks, I guess you could call it civilized, well, if you’re drunk enough. Anyhow, during his work week Tom ran over to the hardware store and picked up a bunch of plywood and nails. Long, pointy nails. He then went back to his camp and had a good time fishing and hunting for the weekend. Then when it was time to head back to Fairbanks he hatched his plan. He took those sheets of plywood and drove hundreds of nails through them and placed them in a circle around his camp. A veritable mine field of nails. Those damn bears weren’t gonna get his camp this time! And back to Fairbanks he comes.

Now Tom was proud of his plan. In fact he bragged about it to those of us poor folk who didn’t have fishing camps. That is until he went back and checked on his camp, or what was left of it.

It seems that bears when they are wandering around just being bears, well, they get kind of pissed when they step on a nail. Kind of like people really, I suppose. Well, imagine how pissed you would be if you stepped on say, 20 or 30 nails. Every time you tried to get off of one nail you stepped on another. Well, I don’t know about you or I, but that bear was really, really pissed! By the time it was done dripping blood and shredding anything in sight, well, Toms camp was pretty much gone. We’re talking shreds of camp covered in bear blood, and plywood scattered to the winds. The camp was totally and utterly destroyed.

Tom never did see the bear, at least he never mentioned seeing it. I imagine the bear had enough of the whole fishing camp experience and lit off to better environs. I do know that Tom never admitted to trying the nail trick again.  I guess it’s just better to let the bears poke around rather than piss em off and have em destroy your camp.

So, lesson to those who want to set up a fishing camp in the back woods of Alaska. Don’t be smart. Let the bears poke around and don’t, no matter what, piss em off.

And if you’re like me. You can’t get the pictures of one pissed of bear, bleeding and angry, ripping and tearing that camp apart, out of your head. Even after all these years it still brings a smile to my face. 🙂 Sorry Tom. But, damn, what a story.

I picked a movie from Netflix pretty much randomly. It was called Encounters at the End of the World. It’s a loose documentary about the people and sights of the South Pole.  It was written and narrated by Werner Herzog.

I was actually drawn into the film. A lot of the scenes of McMurdo base reminded me so much of living in rural Alaska. The dirt and muck half way up the trucks. The brown dirt and white snow mixed together. How everything looked dingy and rugged.

Then there were the people. Everyone is an odd mix of smart and stupid. So smart they are almost stupid? That’s really not a good description, but it’s what they are. The genius you have to help cross the street so they don’t get hit by a car. The odd ducks that hold conversations with themselves, because everyone else is boring. Those people that just live on a different plane of intelligence.

I know some people like that. I really miss working in that kind of environment. One of my best jobs was working at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Fairbanks Alaska. The cast of crazy characters was endless. Tom our network guru and his Mohawk, Kate and her knitting. Bill Brody a wacked out artist, Virginia Bedford who ran at her own clock cycle (over clocked). Kurt, a bloody English major who could code computers better than most anyone, the list goes on and on. All in Alaska cause they didn’t fit the norm in the lower 48.

Now I work with a bunch of mole hill climbing bureaucrats who can’t find their ass with both hands even though their heads are firmly embedded.

Hindsight. It’s 20/20 sometimes. It’s only now that I realize how much fun working at ARSC really was. At the time it was cold, dark, different, and hard. Now, it seemed like nirvana.

Funny how watching a random documentary can make you remember things. Give it a watch. You might like it so much you end up summering over in the south. Even I’m not stupid enough to want to winter over, but doing a summer, well, that might be pretty fun. (Hat Tip to banjo playing Seth Danielson who did summer over at McMurdo).

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