Two-Color Tangos

Last week I stopped at a traffic signal and it happened again: I had me a little Christmas moment.  Visions of Santa Claus, sugar plums, and all that. The traffic light is red, you see, but then it changed to green. Combine those colors and presto!  Dave goes all holly/jolly in the head. Can’t really explain it but at least, maybe, a brief bit of Christmas cheer keeps the road rage at bay.

When two colors tango, untold images fill my brain.  Pair up red & green and I’m ready to wrap presents.  Pair up light blue & cream and I’m lounging on a beach in Hawaii, frosty piña colada in hand.  But maybe you’re different.  Maybe you celebrate Hannukah (in which case you should lobby for blue & silver traffic lights).  Or maybe your world of red & green is simply something other than Christmas.  Strawberries.  Tennis courts.  Those colorful maracas you hear a-shake-shakin’ in a Latin band.  A dozen roses.

“Cha-cha-cha!”

If we were talking about single colors we’d be back in elementary school, wouldn’t we?  Green as the grass, red as the fire truck, orange as the pumpkin, and so on.  Not a lot of fun in that.  Not to mention, a single color dancing the tango by itself would be awkward.  But two colors?  Now… now we’re getting closer to a barrel of monkeys.

What do you see here?

Psychologists like their Rorschach inkblots well enough, but two-color tangos would be a more interesting reveal.  Tell the patient to close their eyes and concentrate.  Now hold up a card half-white & half-orange and say, “Okay, open your eyes.  What’s the first thing you think of?” Creamsicles.  Blue & yellow card?  Swedish Flag.  Purple & red? Sunset.  You get the idea.  But that’s just me.  My morally straight brain sprints to morally straight images.

A “black-and-white”

Let’s put a thug in the same psychologist’s chair.  He’s got “better things” to do but somehow we’ve convinced him to take the two-color tango test.  He doesn’t even have to concentrate.  Black & white?  The police car headed his direction.  Black & gray?  His favorite handheld weapon.  Black & red?  Brimstone and fire in the afterlife known as Hell.  Creepy, right?  At least you have him in a chair instead of out on the streets.  Might want to summon more psychologists for further evaluation.

My version of bliss

The irony of my thug friend (foe?) is black & red is my favorite tango; more vivid than my red & green Christmases.  I’m a nut for licorice, you see.  Always have been.  Love the whips, twists, shoestrings, Australian, salty, All-Sorts.  You name it as long as it’s black or red.  I prescribed myself thousands of Good & Plenty “pills” as a kid.  I’ve eaten enough black licorice in my life to risk the consequences of this poor fellow’s habit.

[Author’s note: Any licorice with a color other than black or red does not deserve to be called “licorice”. Green Apple?  Blue Raspberry?  Watermelon?  B-L-E-C-H.  Those colors are fully inferior to the candy.  They’re also trying to tango solo, which we’ve already established as awkward.]

“Go Bucs!”

Despite my overconsumption of black & red licorice, live and breathe I continue to do.  And my two-color tango images are unfailingly consistent.  Play me a game of checkers?  Pass the licorice.  Red bell pepper and black olive added to my salad?  Where’s the licorice?  Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football?  Fill the snack bowl with licorice.  Venomous eastern coral snake?  WHOA… hang on now.  No licorice image there, not at all.  More like get me the hell outta my brain.

Before I get the coral snake outta my brain, let me pass along a PSA.  The coral snake and the harmless scarlet king snake look remarkably similar with their bands of black, red, and yellow.  If you come across one of these bad boys, try to remember this little “nursery rhyme”:

  • Red Touch Yellow – Kills a Fellow
  • Red Touch Black – Venom Lack
  • Yellow Touch Red – Soon You’ll Be Dead
  • Red Touch Black – Friend of Jack

Fun, huh?  Better yet just look at the snake’s head.  If it’s black, run away.  FAST.

I planned to finish this post with three-color tangos and the images I came up with there.  After all, traffic lights just as often go from green to yellow to red.  Bell peppers.  Macaws.  Skittles candies (“Taste the Rainbow!”)  But let’s be honest; I don’t have those images at all.  Instead, I’m fully focused on speeding through the intersection before the signal wants me to stop.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

North Pole Vault

One of these days I’m going to visit Norway. The allure of Arctic glaciers, fjords, and waterfalls beckons me to snowshoe north of the Baltic Sea. My wife and I toured Denmark and Sweden a few years back, but if I were to choose only one of the Scandinavian countries it would be Norway. I must have a little Viking blood in me. In fact, my AncestryDNA results say I have about 14%.

Besides its spectacular natural environs, Norway is known for hearty wooden structures that dot the land. Stave churches – quaint, timber-framed buildings from medieval times – can still be found in many of the villages.  One of the most famous is likely the most recognizable structure in Norway – the Urnes church in Songnefjorden (above photo), built back in 1130 and still standing today.

Here’s an even bolder proposition for my Norway expedition.  After I make the pilgrimage to the Urnes church, I could hop a plane four hours to the north, to the island of Spitsbergen in the remote archipelago of Svalbard.  I’m still in Norway but I’m a whole lot closer to the North Pole.  And it is here, 430 feet above sea level, I would find what may become the future most recognizable structure in Norway: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The Svalbard Seed Vault is exactly what it sounds like – a place to store seeds.  Why would a country spend more than $9 million to build a seed vault?  Because bad things happen in this world, putting our food supply at risk. After reading about Svalbard I learned there’s an entire network of seed vaults around the globe (including one right here in Colorado).  These vaults contain food crop seed samples in the event the world “runs out” someday.  But even the vaults themselves have no guarantees.  The national seed bank of the Philippines was destroyed by fire, and the seed banks in Afghanistan and Iraq were lost to the ravages of war.  That’s where Svalbard comes to the rescue.

Svalbard is the “seed vault for the seed vaults”.  Think of it as a library.  If one of the world’s vaults needs a replenishment of seeds (or some global crisis destroys the vault entirely), they “borrow” packets from Svalbard.  Once more seeds are generated, a portion of them are returned to Svalbard to restore the library.  Almost 900,000 food crop varietals are represented in Svalbard – by half a billion seeds.  The facility is the size of a football field and all those seeds don’t even make it to the fifty-yard line.  Plenty of room left for more.

Svalbard is likely the most secure seed vault on the planet because it’s buried four hundred feet inside a sandstone mountain, encased in the Arctic’s permafrost.  Svalbard recently made the news when the vault flooded from snow melt and early season rain (that’s not supposed to happen – global warming anyone?)  But the water didn’t make it any further than the vault’s entrance tunnel before it froze again.  Sounds like all those seeds will be cold, dry, and undisturbed for a long time – just as the vault intends them to be.

Here’s another reason to like Norway.  Government-constructed projects exceeding a certain cost must include artwork.  Svalbard was expensive enough, so the seed vault entrance is decorated with stainless steel, mirrors, and prisms, reflecting the polar light of the summer months.  In the winter, the entrance is illuminated with greens and turquoises and whites through fiber-optic cables.  With this installation we get to appreciate the “importance and qualities of Arctic light”.  Pretty cool.

Sadly, if my Norway sojourn ever included the Svalbard Seed Vault, I wouldn’t get past the entrance.  There’s no receptionist (nor any other staff members 0n-site).  Instead the facility is monitored from a remote location around the clock.  You have to pass through five levels of security to get to the seeds themselves.  Tourists like me have no shot.

I won’t be getting to the Arctic anytime soon after all.  As for Norway, I’ll have to be content with a visit to a Stave church or two.  But I’m grateful for the Svalbard vault all the same.  On that note, I think I’ll head over to Home Depot and buy a few seed packets for my summer garden.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.