Azteca Shadow

Peter taking a midday “jungle nap.” The days start early and end late around here. Sleep mostly happens only when it can’t not happen anymore.

Last night promised myself to sleep in and work on computer stuff with the single caveat that I would get into the field if peter was going. Right before going to bed, I get an email from peter asking if I am down to hit the field at 7am.

Using the new female-female connector, I am able to get some air in the Insect Dream Machine. We pick it and Rochelle up from the Schoolhouse (Main Laboratory complex in Gamboa). See a white tailed deer jumping around in front of us as we drove down the pipeline road path. My mind initially rejected the sight. It didn’t seem to make sense that these same deer I see prancing around in Illinois would be out here. A family of seven coatis crossed the road in front of us. Reminded me of fatigued soccer moms trying to transport a whole vanload of children through a crowded shopping mall. They gave a guttural snort to the babies moving slow or confusedly.

This was my official shadowing day for Peter. Followed the steps of his work and interviewed him along the way.

On the way back, in the middle of the road, we are working out how many more trees we can experiment upon, before we need to hightail it out of the woods to catch the 5:30 boat to Barro Colorado Island for the BAMBI talk. Our estimations put us about 15 minutes late (if we wanted to shower), when the front tire started rumbling. We looked out to see it saggy and limp in the wet mud.

Neither of us had changed a flat before, much less in the middle of a jungle. It ended up being an interesting, complex problem where we were never quite sure of the next step until we arrived. We were guided entirely by the affordances of the tools combined with the basic steps of the problem: First get out spare from under truck, then lift up flat wheel, take off nuts, put new wheel on, add more nuts, drive home. There were many deviations to these steps. The jack wouldn’t fit under the truck until we dug out a hole for it in the mud with my knife for instance. The sheer tacit understanding of these problems steeped in the physical world struck me as so different from the nasty thickets of errors one gets in troubleshooting programming errors. There, one must negotiate the pathways of logic in one’s mind, in a constantly shifting world of changing assumptions. It seems to be possibly a problem of feedback. In the world, if the jack is too large for a space, I get steady responses from the mud and metal which immediately let know the current problem. The world is persistently shouting and making itself known. In the computer’s logic though, we have to probe ourselves to get responses for any questions we may want answered.