Monday, September 15, 2008

The Idea of Order at Yucca Mountain

The Idea of Order at Yucca Mountain

The Idea of Order at Yucca Mountain (2008)

[Click on the image above to see the view with binoculars.]


After auditors found flaws
in water conducting fractures
a billion bank robbers will be dumped
filling Nevada to capacity. Waste
your congratulations or move away.
That obvious volcano blows off geology,
safety surveys and good luck fairy tales.
A better alternative like a trickier repository
goes probabilistic and money mad
until deficient water moves
through like radioactive
pipe fitters drip down black walls
where sound science is
not stored. Moisture percolates.
Railcars plunge. In a quarter million years
no firm idea
can then be permanently
disposed.

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Image initially made with Fractal Zplot. Post-processed until the colors leaked into groundwater and contaminated the other images on this blog. Text is a "Google poem" collaged together from search strings of the idea of order at yucca mountain.

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A short note: One of my favorite contemporary writers, David Foster Wallace, passed away this weekend. I still sometimes enjoy pulling his novel Infinite Jest from my bookshelf and opening it to read four or five pages at random. The only other novel I've ever done this with is James Joyce's Ulysses. I actually consider both novels to be long prose poems.

I was more of a fan of Wallace's nonfiction. The title essay in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is one of my favorite reads. Consider the Lobster never disappoints either. For all of his wordplay and maximalistic trappings, Wallace could be hilarious and profound simultaneously. Even more rare, he was an ironic postmodernist who told the truth and made himself vulnerable in the process.

Although Wallace could be extremely funny, he was also certainly aware that artistic self-examination can be dangerous and even lead to radical solutions -- just as reflecting deeply on one's own existence is sometimes perilous. In a 2005 talk at Kenyon College, he observed:

[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

Here is a short clip of Wallace talking about "failure":


May he rest in peace...

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