Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Take Care Grandpa

He had gotten up the bug to collect something new.  This time it was knives.  Before it had been RC Helicopters, but when the task of charging, controlling, and ultimately not crashing them proved to be too difficult, he had dropped the idea for a lower cost higher payoff option.

Pocket knives.  They were abundant and relatively affordable.  He had a guide to their values and how to assess their quality.  Each month he was given a small allowance with which he could use to purchase anything he wanted. He bid for items on eBay.  That was fun too.  The thrill of bidding on an item offered an additional benefit.  Winning a coveted knife was exciting.  And receiving it in the mail--opening the box, examining the knife, holding it for the first time--was the culmination of the excitement.

Then there was the conversation the collection elicited.

"Ooh, these knives are so pretty."

"This knife is cool, dad."

"What kind of knife is this?"

"Show me your new knives grandpa."

And he would naturally talk about the knife collection.  Pulling each out and showing off the blade.  The details in the handle.  The gentle tapering of one, the careful inlay in another. In his gruff short sentences--a by product of his poor hearing and the blockage in his throat--he would explain different qualities of the knife, carefully memorized from the book and the eBay description.

There was the comfort of having two beautiful pocket knives that he carried in his pockets.  Neither was the largest or the smallest in the collection.  Neither was the most valuable.  But they held a sentimental value.  They reminded him of being a boy.  They reminded him of being in the army.  They were stand-ins for his past, carried around with the same weight as a memory.  Even though they were not the actual ones from his youth, they were close enough.

It was the same with his hair.  He had a full head of salt and pepper hair that he kept in the same style since it was in style and he brushed it the same way as always.  He wetted his hair down, took the large brush and ran it through his hair on the left side, ran the small brush through his hair on the right side, and finished styling with his comb.  A reflex memory of a time when his skin was tight against young muscles.

Now he needed my help to walk him through his morning routine.  I sat on his walker and watched him as he washed up in the morning, checking for a sudden loss of balance.  His skin sagged against bones, his clothes were loose although they fit right.  He put his teeth in, giving his jaw fill and his lips something to rest on.  In the fifteen minutes it took him to get ready in the morning, his face became the same recognizable one I had known all my life.  Older, yellower, and more worn, but the same.

I had come to Portland to take care of him for the weekend, relieve my harried and tired aunts and uncles.  I had done neither so far.

I had stayed up late taking care of a sick kitten.  Up at all hours of the night, trying to figure out how to get her comfortable.  And the entire time sleeping lightly because I didn't want to hear the dreaded bell, or worse--the thud.

"You sure you don't need anything grandma? I can sleep in the back bedroom," it was the bedroom across the hall from my grandparents.

"Oh no, you sleep downstairs. If I need anything you will know," she said it dead pan but I knew she was setting up her own witty commentary, "you can hear his siren, but if we need you, you'll hear this.

She then stomped her feet quickly on the ground, mimed her feet slipping out from under her, and made a thudding stomp.  For a ninety one year old she was spry.  And sharp.

Olivia had texted me earlier that grandma had told my two youngest cousins the Easter bunny would not be making a visit to her house.  "He's dead, I shot him."

Time at grandma and grandpa's was like that, a cynical and tight commentary on a tough and tragic set of circumstances.  Both of my grandparents had the clarity of mind to approach death with detached curiosity.

To my grandmother there was no tone to dying. It was not a somber minor key, it was a fluid reality.  It was a grand symphony with swelling anthems, light moments, and long held notes of tension.  The precarious balance of the whimsical moments where the house was timeless and the people in it enjoyed themselves was offset by the increasing amount of care that my grandfather needed.

Grandpa now lately sat in his room waiting.  He kept the heat up high, a Caribbean tropic.  He had lost much of his body mass and could barely take in more than a few hundred calories per day.  Naturally he was cold unless the room resembled a sauna.  My eyes gravitated to a black and white photo of him in his youth. A tiny five foot three young man jumping off the steps of a learning institution's facade. His form was great, arms and legs stretched to form a Y.  He had been a cheerleader.

He was interned. He joined military intelligence when he was seventeen. He became an ob-gyn and had five children. He was an excellent amateur photographer.  He survived throat cancer.  He lost most of his teeth.  He lost most of his hearing.  He never quite figured out his printer.

But like anything, the sparse notes I could lay out are inadequate to fully represent the man huddled near the heater, struggling to swallow his tapioca pudding.

There are things I will never know about him.  He gave me pinholes into his mind every now and then.  But only when I was quiet enough.  My impatient youth rarely found the moment to just sit with him--it was always worth it when I did.  He told me funny things, he gave me things selflessly, he told me honest things.  I was never sure quite what was a secret.

I doubt I will tell any of the things he told me.

Islam, Terror, and Misinformed Behavior

In the wake of the Boston bombing, many people are again questioning Islam, civil liberties and the limits to freedom.  The surest sign that we have little information is the rapid propagation of conspiracy theories.

The government is behind the bombing, motive unclear.  The tons of bad news reports with false information are passed off as good information the government didn't want us to have. 

Conspiracy theories, any theories, at this early interval are useless.  What little information we have is insufficient to draw strong conclusions about the events surrounding the bombing.

Second there is the inevitable diatribe that it must be the Muslim religion that is to blame.  I'm not exactly sure where this line goes, but the last time I heard it the nation detained (and still detains) people without giving them their constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial.  And before that, 112,000 Americans were detained for no reason other than their ethnicity.  We find ourselves in a dangerous line of thinking when categorically defining a group of people with a shared trait  as enemies of the state.  A state representative has gone so far as to demand we torture the suspect--a shameful misrepresentation of the values this country holds dear.

I personally have been stunned at the ignorance displayed by some of the people advocating for such prejudiced thinking. It is appalling and nearly impossible to pinpoint where exactly these people have gone wrong. The statements start out so categorically false or uninformed that I have trouble following the logic.

What is the big deal though? Well, it isn't some fringe idea in America to spout off prejudiced and uninformed thinking as if it were the gospel truth.  It's a mainstream value to say what you think, and to hell with the consequences because that is what you believe.  More disturbingly it is the egotistical, counter-factual nature of commentary coming from influential figures such as Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, the New York Post, and most recently the idiotic maneuver at CNN.  If you don't know don't say.  If you think you know, double-check with someone who doesn't agree.

There are many more culprits. After 9/11 I recall the distinct fear that the nation's majority would be willing to create classes of people based on a perceived threat, and bestow rights disproportionately based on those fears. Tragically, to this day my fears are realized every moment. Enemy combatants and drone strikes are the most prominent examples of circumventing the rule of law in this country.  We have legalized and institutionalized religious discrimination based on safety concerns, and denied people their constitutional rights without cause.

Every tragedy is a shock, and the surest sign of a democracy's strength is its willingness to adhere to the rule of law in the face of adversity. Equality in the eyes of the law, justice through peaceful due process, and humanity toward our greatest threats is how we remain a truly free nation.  Torture, mob rule, and egotism get us nowhere.

Put another way America is great when we do great things and hold ourselves to the highest standards.  Are we fulfilling the vision of the shining city on the hill?

Are we a superpower through military might or moral might? Both for now and in the future we should only be doing one.  We are a strong nation because we embrace our enemies and the higher good with more fervor than we embrace hatred, ignorance, and discord.  We embrace equal protection under the law.

My disappointment with my fellow Americans goes only far enough for me to take their words and ask them to tell their truths openly and honestly.  There is no malice in those I find reprehensible, only the love they seek.  Which sounds preachy, but no returned volleys of retribution restore fractured trusts or heal wounds. We would do well as a nation to remember that military might is good, effective intelligence is great, and peaceful inclusion is the greatest good.

Of course, it is hardest to execute on the last and it is a two-way street.  Kindness is not always met with kindness, that's certainly no excuse for ignorance and prejudice.

Thought DOMA

I don't like how the gay rights issue is being framed.  I hate hearing, "oh well the gays are doing this so much faster than other groups."

I don't care.  Weren't those supposed to be less enlightened times?  Yes. Yes they were. And the biggest lesson out of that was?  All people deserve love and respect and the same rights.

There should be no controversy. Religion punishes in the afterlife and preaches the universal value of respect on this plane.

And that is ultimately the point.  If you were to occupy the highest levels of respect for your fellow man, your actions would not be hindered by the fear that a higher authority than you will do something outside your control.  No, you live the life of a good human and you give them more than you have had.


A Land Leave Rethink

Ok, so maybe instead of trying to follow the military aspect, I instead follow the path of a cop or a loner. No bounty hunter. Or rogue space traders. Too cliche. I need someone mobile, tenacious, and on the fringes of the society without being cliche. Maybe a spy for a corporation or a government. Very cliche but I want to emphasize the character's mobility and very low stakes. If the main character is a spy or a clandestine operative, then he has more mobility and can have conflicting motives.  For the spy it is about getting miniscule tasks done, not about a larger outcome.

Drop the conspiracy. At least, change it up. The original point was to do epic space battles but I would much rather focus on the political landscape.  One where the citizenry is free but rarely makes their own choices. A place where the attacks are simultaneously desperate, extreme,and totally reasonable.  Drop the Ares colony, at least for now. Focus more on the mega structures and the imperial arrangement of the Jovian moons.

Emphasize the supremacy of the American military. That's why there had to be a coup before. No space battles without equal forces.  But how does that fit into the narrative? Jovian rebellion? What weapons could any one faction have that aren't overpowered by the might of the AmU?

And what about alien tech? How do I keep the expansiveness without losing the heart of the plot?  I want to emphasize technological might but the feel of discovery still has to emerge somehow.

I think I have screwed myself.  Too big and no end to the story.  This is how Orson Scott Card made everyone hate him--that and the homophobia.

So, what I have in my head.  Some rebel faction is trying to get a hold of power and technology to cut down the AmU.  This comes in the discovery of alien tech out on the fringes of the solar system.  Ship to ship communication is handled by radio transmission.  Quantum entanglement breaks down over great distances due to sensitivity near gravitational fields, or some bs like that.  Most of the navy travels in fleets except for Asimov class ships which serve as vessels of discovery and humanitarian aid.  The mega-structures have many defenses and are equipped to deal with external as well as internal threats. Short of a nuclear detonation or demolition charges, there are few ways to damage the buildings.

The jovians are poor due to institutional failures and the mining corporations control them more or less.  The mining corps want more control over trade agreements and looser regulations.  The AmU, being in a period of relative peace and progressivism, is unwilling to grant these requests.

In a bid to weaken the AmU, the mining corps start gaming financial markets and buying sympathetic representatives. In this way, they change the discussion of security and rights to fit their agenda, garnering support from a sizable minority.  Some form of tiered class system is proposed. Ultimately these proposals are rejected, but not without sowing discontent amongst the different perspectives and skewing the political landscape toward the mining corps views.  This is less a conspiracy and more powerful interests leveraging their resources to acquire their desired outcomes.

In doing so the mining corps also gin up international discord.  This is done as a means to weaken governmental power and distract. The leaders of the mining corps and every powerful character believes they are in control.  No one is in control.

Individual interests collectively make bad decisions that weaken the overall strength and trust in individual institutions.  Why should the AmU be trusted when they are responsible for several international atrocities? Why should the mining corps be trusted when they have seemingly no allegiance other than wealth? Why should Jovian dissidents be trusted, they are terrorists?

And no one has enough information to make prudent decisions.

So war breaks out, and many lives are lost for nothing but the egos of people who think they know more than they do.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Light distance and time

Ok scenario. Two colonies in a civilization in perfect homeostasis. Buildings and things do not decompose and people live life purely for pleasure.  These colonies are one hundred light years apart.

To transport themselves between points people are teleported but only at the speed of light. It takes one hundred years to travel to the colony but you don't age because you have been reduced to a signal.

As long as people travel at set intervals they all age at the same rate. The hundred year marker acts as a constant between the two points, regulating how long it takes people to age. Or even more precisely, markers at set light-distances act as relays for how people decide to age.

Put another way, people can choose to see the end of the universe simply by travelling between these two points nearly indefinitely.  And they can see their progeny going forward for generations.  And stay nearly perfectly youthful.

Hmm…I will try to flesh that out a bit.

The basic concept is that by teleporting you can delay the reception of your signal--and thus your reapparition in time.  This gives people the ability to control how they live and die.  In a funny way, that is sort of the operating principle of traveling at relativistic speeds--looked at in Ender's Game.

The major difference, other than a more consistent way of timing how people age, is the entire society buys into the use of the tech.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


A short story:

Is that what my life had become? I smeared sour cream and butter into the steaming flesh of my lunch. A baked potato.  Actually, my disgust was better expressed with a question mark.  A baked potato?

You spend years of your life trying to learn the things you need to make a difference in the world and at some point it turns into this.  A baked potato? I picked bacon bits off my baggy shirt. It concealed my growing pot belly, a result of cramming as much artery clogging crap as I could into the innocuous baked potato from the local deli.  Every Wednesday a baked potato became the pinnacle of my week.

And who could blame me, the potatoes were as good as they looked on those Wendy's commercials.  But better because they came from a local deli.  Besides, eating a baked potato was better than my lunch most days; a cold leftover pasta or some sort of microwaved tv dinner.

It was wiping the cheddar from my face as a glob of sour cream splattered on my plate that I realized my meaningful social interactions had whittled their way down to nothing.  I would smile and say hi to people at the office but I largely focused on my computer screen.  As if that was enough.

A brief conversation with the guy at the delicatessen did not make me feel better, "I love these baked potatoes, they are great."  As if they were.

The guy smiled wanly and gave a gruff grunt of some sort.  Something along the lines of, "you look so goddamned professional, why don't you do something with your life."

And at about that moment I was feeling the same way. What the hell was I doing with my life? Watching my face get plumper yet somehow saggier was not an adequate answer.

Which is about the time I really found myself having a deep crisis.  So deep in fact that I did nothing about it.  I didn't quit my job.  I didn't go on a diet.  I didn't exercise.  And I sure as hell didn't go fall in love.  Instead, I languished.  I complained as if it was to be expected from life.  As if life didn't really hand you lemons, but a steaming baked potato and all the toppings.

That was about it.  That was the best it was going to get.  A god damned baked potato?

They were good though.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Bad Day and a Good Week

Today was tough.  Ciera woke up and spoke eagerly of the Boston Marathon. She has fond memories of her college days. The marathon has come to signal a fully fledged spring. A warm day and the enthusiastic crowds that fill the city.  It has become a memory of a care free happiness. The joy of a day off before midterms.

And today that was marred by two explosions that rocked the finish line and unnecessarily injured dozens.

As of this moment, there are few details.  Just the rawness of loss.  Ciera is at home now, holding the cat, trying to console herself.

And in the same breath I can say the previous seven days were wonderful. I gardened at the beach house. Barney visited. I celebrated my birthday. I celebrated my anniversary. I celebrated Ciera's birthday. What do I say now?

I want to write what makes me feel good but I only hear a minor chord in a somber tone.

I try to write as things come so I do not lose the moment or the feeling.  But the moment passes and is instantly colored by those that follow.

Today was hard and the nation will grapple slowly with another moment of unnecessary tragedy.

Maybe I will write something good tomorrow.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fair and Balanced

What is the obligation of the media to fact check? There are many fact checking sites out there but the prevailing attitude of balanced perspectives is in vogue.

Is it the obligation of a reporter to report what was said?  It is also in a journalists interests to verify facts. So where does the disconnect come when reporting events?  People like both sides as if they are equal and facts don't matter when the better orator wins.

If the facts, free of party doctrine, were actually biased heavily in favor of one side how would that color the reporter's decision? Does that make the newsman biased?

Put another way, if there are two sides of a debate occurring with roughly equal public support but scientifically unequal support, what is the obligation of the media to report in that instance? Surely the neutral perspective is the one that conforms to objective facts, but in this instance the facts are that a scientific approach has a radically different probability of outcomes than the public one.

For example climate change. The scientific (almost 100%) consensus is that excess greenhouse gasses produced by man is causing global average temperatures to rise.  There are predicted impacts that must be addressed as matters of policy: coastal populations exposed to extreme storm surges, droughts and water shortages, disruption of trade routes, ecological changes, etc.  The government is then obligated to take action on at least a few of these impacts resulting in a policy debate. If the scientists had it their way there would be a strong and immediate response.

Yet public acceptance of this scientifically robust data is mixed, many Americans simply do not believe change is occurring. If the public had it their way there would be a 50% chance nothing would get done (and so far that is what is happening).

So what is the obligation of the reporter? Is the obligation to set up two sides of the debate and present them as equal because public opinion says so, or is it to present the data as it stands scientifically? Are either approaches biased?

How does a reporter stay neutral in the face of such an overwhelming disparity between facts and public opinion?

Or put another way, we don't put racists on tv just because they have a different perspective.  We don't set up debates between segregationists and integrationists.  Not anymore at least.  But we did. And public opinion was split during that time.  At what point does the presentation of unscientific and prejudiced information as equal perpetuate that prejudice?

Of course there is the question of censorship.  And popular ideas, be they true or not cannot be suppressed simply by ignoring them.  Same goes for minority ideas.

How does a journalist properly temper inaccuracies without appearing biased?

The answer kind of sucks. The answer is that some people are going to get pissed off. No journalist is obligated to present two sides as equal in the face of unequal facts. A journalist may give fair voice to differing ideas but balanced no. Two plus two cannot equal five even if everyone believes it.

Of course George Orwell would beg to differ. The shared hallucination of the masses. The willful ignorance of a media willing to portray an alternate reality.

A strong independent media committed to the truth is the ideal.  We need to support that as a people.  Of course, independence is a tough notion. What is not reported is as important as what is. And how a story is reported can be far from the truth.

We are left then with the maddening question, who watches the watchers?  Who indeed.

ID Photo

I got my new license and the photo will come to signify this period of my life probably more than I would ever like.  My writing to is, intentionally or no, a rosy depiction of my life in snippets.  I wish I could be more level about my pitfalls, trials, tribulations, but I rarely am.

But my license photo captured it far too accurately. As with my last photo, I see too much into it.

The Nevada license I carry--with a hole punched in it to indicate its invalid status--is me at twenty. I am young and tan and smiling naturally.  Confident that everything in my life is not just manageable but fun too.

The new temporary license is a grayscale depiction of uncertainty.  I wear a sweater with my button down collar popping through, my attempt at looking professional. My hair is clean but needs a cut, my smile is forced and awkward. It is the photo of someone who has had his confidence shattered by an immersion into the professional world.  It is the face of a young man still. This time though youth feels like a weight, a burden because it reflects inexperience.

And because every old person reading this instinctively recoils and says, you don't know, and your life is easy, and you will want this time back.  And because that is just as rosy a depiction of life as my blog posts I reject that assertion.

When every bill is a dreaded moment, when you aren't allowed to make meaningful decisions at work, when you feel powerless purely because of your age and how others perceive you, there is nothing fair.

I know too how easy my life is. I know how easy all of our lives in the first world are. I know too that I live in a world where things seem increasingly out of my control.  Maybe old people have reconciled that with themselves, have decided that resignation to tragedy is wisdom or experience.

I look forward to discovering that my license photo--in its awkwardness--does not match me anymore.  And the things I thought, in my most cynical moments, were untrue and unwise.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Aliens, Holy Crap!

While immigration is a hot topic, the aliens I would like to talk about fly around in spaceships and abduct cows and drunken farmers.

Actually not really.

Aliens definitely exist.  There is no doubt about that.  The universe has more stars than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches on earth.  I ripped that one off from every star documentary ever.  And the universe is approximately 13 billion years old.  At those time frames and scales it is certain that alien life exists.

So astronomy and astrobiology and all those related fields have not been trying to answer the question of if life exists.  The scientists have basically been asking more evidence based questions.  What does life look like on other planets?  What would be some signs of life?  Could we see life from here?

The last one intrigues me greatly.  The answer to the last question is yes.  Not that we have observed life yet, just that we don't have to travel to every star system to detect extraterrestrial life.

This is because of a cool scientist named Kardashev.  IO9 writes a great blog every now and then about him so I'm just going to direct everyone there and assume you have read it already.  http://io9.com/5986723/using-the-kardashev-scale-to-measure-the-power-of-extraterrestrial-civilizations and http://io9.com/5982820/seti-conducts-first-ever-targeted-search-for-intelligent-life-on-earth+like-planets.

Do not continue reading if you don't have a handle on the Kardashev scale or Dyson Spheres.

Anyways, the Kardashev scale basically categorizes advanced civilizations into broad categories of advancement based on their energy consumption.  It's really rough but it basically demonstrates technological advancement in exponential form.

A type I civilization can harness all of the energy of a planet.  A type II civilization, a star.  III a galaxy, IV a super cluster of galaxies.

These types of civilizations would be extraordinarily powerful and far beyond what many of us can imagine.  Even a type I civ has far more energy at its disposal than we could ever dream of using.

How do these civilizations harness this energy? One supposition is through Dyson spheres, constructs the size of solar systems that completely encompass and absorb the energy of a star.  Think of it as a giant wonderball.  What's in your wonder ball? Just a class m star.

And it's thought that an adequately advanced civilization would go rampant with these things, building them around every star in their reach.  So basically, a galaxy, or parts of one, would start disappearing as each star's light was harnessed into energy.

Corners of the universe would have Dyson spheres obscuring much of the light energy.  But you could still see them.  There would be massive heat output as well as the gravity remaining in place.  There would be signatures outside the visible light spectrum all over the place.

So we, from earth, using our super powerful telescopes, have the ability to look for alien life.

The hardest part is that if we saw them, spotted a civilization in some distant galaxy, we would still never be able to communicate with them.  The discovery of human kind would be really disappointing.  We could signal them and wait hundreds of millions of years or we could try to send a probe.  But that would take even longer.

Why is that? The speed of light.  It sucks but there is a finite speed any message can travel in the universe.

So let's run a scenario. One: we find a Voyager like object.  Traveling at several thousand miles per hour, this object transmits basic radio signals back to its home system at the speed of light.  This extremely small and dark object contains basic and enigmatic markings that give us some indication of what we can expect.  Upon spotting this object from earth, a probe is quickly built to intercept the object. Using traditional technologies it takes thirty years to build launch and intercept the object, which is barely in Sol's reach.

When we finally retrieve this object we discover that the satellite originates from a system a couple hundred light years away.

huzzah!  Except no. We immediately send a signal to the system and spend several hundred years waiting.  It's a pyrrhic victory though because the Voyager object moved so slowly that it took nearly a million years to get to us.

A lot happens in that time.

Two: we encounter a large object moving at relativistic speeds that contains colonists.  This is a likely scenario when encountering a type I civ. While the aliens can't break the speed of light, they can move at a significant fraction of the speed of light to make some sort of long distance space colonization possible.  These organisms would either have to be very long lived or have a hibernation system in place--yay cryogenics.  These organisms would likely take advantage of quantum entanglement to communicate instantly with their home world. 

And hopefully they are peaceful.  Their technology would already be far advanced from ours and any contact with us would be a cowboys and Indians scenario where we are the affable idiots accepting smallpox blankets.

These aliens could likely terraform a planet easily and eliminate any threat we could throw at them.  Even our nukes would likely lack sufficient ability in a war--mostly because it would kill us too.

If they are peaceful they would likely have the ability to harvest and devour the resources of our solar system without even coming to earth. If they want water they could go to Titan, if they want minerals or resources they could easily harvest from nearly any other planet.

In typical human fashion it would likely be up to us to screw everything up.

Three: we encounter a type II civilization.  Forget military conflict.  Forget any notion of self determination.  We are at the complete mercy of the aliens that would visit this solar system.  It is highly likely though that this encounter would never happen.  By this stage aliens have no use for a world as primitive as ours and would prefer to avoid crushing ants between their fingers.  There are billions of stars near us and many are uninhabited and have more energy available than Sol.  We are insignificant.  We could possibly see them though.

Rather, we could watch as a star dims during the construction of a Dyson sphere nearby us.  If we tried to make contact our satellites would be destroyed or disabled.  A manned mission would be stupid. Contact with a race at that level of technology would be far beyond much of our comprehension. Seriously, we would be ants to them, cute pets perhaps but nothing more.

The other types of civilizations we would encounter can only be described as gods.  Civilizations that can perform miracles.  We don't want to screw with these guys.  Seeing them in action is already too close.

In conclusion, aliens--we should be super freakin' scared.


It is that time of year with that kind of weather.  The kind that makes any outfit inadequate for the job.  It is warm, but not quite enough.  It is cool but a heavy sweatshirt is too much and a light one too little.

Every day is a treat. Not the too sweet American variety.  It is the subtle sweetness of mochi, the light airiness of a fluffy cake.

Each day a subtle but noticeable change occurs. Blossoms appear, leaves emerge small and bright green.  The rain changes from heavy and gray to light and invigorating.