Sticks and Stones, an animated alphabet ebook

book cover

Some aspects of life here are little changed from 50 or even 100 years ago. There is ongoing commitment to active ranching, rodeos, horse races, fairs, country and western dancing to local bands, and many other aspects of a rural lifestyle characteristic or evocative of the "Old West." At the same time, the combined revolutions in communication and computer technology are interwoven with our lives here as much as elsewhere in the U.S. Access to the Internet is a necessity for most who live here. Shopping on the "net" is a great convenience, as those who work at the post office, where we still must collect our own mail, can testify. Since we are 30 - 50 miles from the nearest shopping for all but the most essential items, it is very convenient to be able to shop online. Local businesses can extend their reach with web sites. Since houses are separated by considerable distances, email is a vital connection link, for local civic and political organizations, as well as for social and professional intercourse with friends and colleagues, both here and around the country. The technology of the 21st century is used by people who also walk daily through and work on the local landscape.

To evoke this mixture of the old and the new in our daily life, I have chosen to represent the letters and words accompanying each image in both Latin characters used in our personal communications and in the binary codes which represent the the ASCII (American Standard Character for Information Interchange) code for the characters used by our computers. But to carry this metaphor one step further, instead of using 1's and 0's to write the binary representations, I use sticks and stones, sticks for the 1's and stones for the 0's. These represent the bits and bytes that are the language of the computer. A table giving the correspondence of the Latin characters, ASCII and binary codes is given at the back of the book. I note that, given the fact that each letter (byte) is represented by 8 characters (bits) in the binary code, the words chosen must be fairly short. The shorter, the better. Even with this restriction, the simple words selected convey the richness and complexity of life here on the US- Mexico border.

It has been 7 years since the first version of this book was published. Many things have changed in that period, few for the better. The afterword of this book looks at these changes and explores the reasons for them and the longer term implications.