We’ve just begun the two and a half kilometre hike from the Falcon Trails Resort Welcome Centre to Mahigan, the smallest of six eco cabins at High Lake. Rounding the bend, Lyndon Froese strides down the path in a vibrant blue sweater. He raises his hand in welcome, “You’re Michelle?” “Yes. Lyndon?”
After a brief exchange, he continues past us, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll bring the Gator around with your bags.” We continue along the winding trail, pausing when we hear the roaring motor of the truck approaching. Lyndon pulls up at the bottom of a gentle incline and we all pile in. Arms wrapped around waists serve as seat belts.
As we emerge from the boreal forest and down a winding slope, Mahigan comes into view. The log cabin was built by The Crooked Brothers - Matt, Darwin, and Jesse - under the tutelage of a local Swiss immigrant. Because of its remote location, Mahigan was constructed in the parking lot of the ski hill, then disassembled and transported to High Lake one log at a time. A string-and-pulley system rigged amongst the trees hoisted the 800lbs logs into place.
This will be Lyndon’s home for the next four months. Stacked neatly outside the door, an enormous pile of split logs stand waiting. Lyndon figures he’s chopped enough over the last few weeks to keep the wood stove going all winter. His water will come from a hole drilled in the ice on the lake, just steps from the cabin’s back porch. In exchange for room and some peaceful isolation in which to work, Lyndon spent the summer building a composting toilet for the cabin.
We hoist our bags from the Gator’s box and head inside. Crossing the threshold, the warm scent of pine hits me like a wave. Sunlight streams through a wall of patio doors facing the lake. We poke our noses through doors and tread the ladder leading up to Mahigan’s second-floor bedroom, exclaiming like children entering a freshly finished treehouse for the first time.
After we unpack a few groceries for our stay, Lyndon proudly leads me to the outhouse he’s completed. We walk down to the dock, chatting leisurely about his work while the sun traces a glittering path across High Lake.
FULL: What are you working on during your time out here?
Lyndon Froese: I’m making a programming language to describe audio. In a podcast, for example, there’s no way of seeing at a glance what it’s about. In a video, at least you can see a frame. There’s no frame of audio, or no instant of audio. It’s hard to tell what it's about from a glance.
FULL: A sound bite isn’t enough?
LF: A sound bite forces you to sit there and listen.
FULL You want to know: just look and then done.
LF: It’s like what we were talking about before with attention. We have to filter all the things that are competing for our attention. If someone sends me a podcast, I have to trust that person has thought about whether this is worth an hour of my time. Because the beginning might not be the most interesting part. Unless they’ve isolated 10 seconds, then I’m only committing 10 seconds, but I’m probably going to have to listen to the whole thing.
Whereas if someone sends me an article, I see the headline. You have the equivalent of a headline for a podcast, although podcasts often contain many stories. With an article, you get a headline, maybe a sub headline, you can read the first sentence. I might scroll and look at all the pictures, look at all the pull quotes. I might scroll around just to get a feel for the length of it. I might read the ending, and then finally, if it looks like something I want to read, I’ll read it from the top.
But many people don’t even feel the need to read an article, they might just look at the title and get a sense of it, and that’s enough for them to post a comment on Facebook about it. It’s not like that with podcasts. There’s no way to skim. You’re stuck with the speed that it comes at you. It’s very linear. More linear than even a book. Even though a book is written linearly, you have the option of skipping around.
FULL: I mean I guess technically you can skip through a podcast.
LF: Yes, but all you get is this progress bar. If you click randomly, what are you going to get? It might take 10, 15, 20 seconds before you have any idea what’s going on.
FULL: It’s interesting that you bring this idea up. I listen to This American Life, and they’re trying to develop a way that people can cut and share snippets of the podcast. With a video, you can take your favourite part and make a gif out of it easily, but with podcasts, it’s very difficult to do that. It feels like being a kid in the 90's wanting a recording of your favourite song. You had to sit by your tape deck, wait, and push play when it came on the radio. That’s what it feels like with a podcast, because you have to actually record that snippet. It just goes by chapter.
LF: And most podcasts don’t take the time to make chapters. So it’s like a cassette more than a CD. At least gives us a CD!
Maybe it's a little bit ironic that I’ll be working on something quite high tech while out here. I contacted my brother earlier today, who’s an actual computer science guy, asking if he had books on these programming languages. Programmers, especially programmers like me, are always looking on the internet to reference the manual for the language you’re using. I’m rounding up actual books as reference, so I can do the work without an internet connection.
FULL: Is that your main plan for while you’re out here, or do you have some smaller side projects?
LF: I have a sin that I think many creative or entrepreneur types have, which is that I find it very difficult to focus on one idea at a time, and then nothing gets done.
FULL: So what are some things you want to distract yourself with?
LF: I have a weekly radio show that airs on CJOB, called Biped Radio. Right now I’m working on a series of long-form interviews. I’ll be doing phone interviews from the ski chalet. So far I’ve interviewed a few different people, including the guy who wrote the “By Mennen” jingle.
FULL: *laughs and sings* By Mennen.
LF: I was brainstorming about people who have touched cultural phenomena, things that have made their way into our lives. Like the “By Mennen" jingle, as I was researching, I found out it has been referenced —
LF: Yeah! There’s a whole episode referencing it!
LF: *sings* Costanza. Dating’s easy! It’s just as easy as saying “By Mennen!”
It's also referenced in a number of other things. So I Googled “Who wrote By Mennen?” and the guy had this long hair, these brown glasses, looked like an awesome dude, and he had a Wikepedia page. He’s been involved with two dozen gold or platinum records, just playing the piano and stuff: Elton John, Peter Paul and Mary, Aerosmith, huge names.
I also talked to the designer of the NASA logo. What I loved about him is that he has his artwork on Voyager 1, which is the farthest human-made object from the Earth right now. It was launched in the 70’s, and still communicates with Earth using a 100-watt transmitter. That’s like a lightbulb, and it’s some-odd billion kilometers from Earth. We’re still picking up the signal. It’s writing to an 8-track player.
Now it’s pointed at the next planetary system where, who knows, something might be there. It will be a long-time dead before it gets there, but it will still arrive in 40 000 years and it will have his artwork on it.
FULL: Wow, what got you into interviewing people like that? Do you have a background in science?
LF: No, but I’m interested in it. I’m not interested in the tiny details of working in a lab, I’m fascinated by the people behind the things, but I think that even more than that, it’s that our existence is a puzzle.
FULL: What do you mean when you say that?
LF: No one knows why we’re here. No one knows how inanimate things became animate things, how this experience of consciousness came to be. No one has any idea what’s going on. But there are pieces of evidence everywhere that smart people have been leaving for us. I’m not Einstein and I’m never going to be, but he said some things that were really interesting, and it’s a piece. I’m trying to figure out how the puzzle pieces fit together.
I don’t imagine in my life that I’m going to make a big breakthrough or think anything that no one’s thought before, but it’s like when a child figures something out about math that any adult already knows. The child still made the discovery. And I love making those discoveries for myself.
FULL: How long are you going to be out here for?
LF: I think I have enough wood for the whole winter.
FULL: Have you spent a lot of time alone before? Is that something you’re excited to be doing here?
LF: I enjoy my time alone. I love socializing, but I love spending a lot more time alone; I need a balance. I feel like there’s enough socializing out here for me. There’s a hockey team, there’s curling, there’s choir practice, the ski hill on the weekends. There are people living in a cabin over there that I had coffee with this morning. It’s going to be a lot more solitude than I’m used to, but I think it’s going to be good.
FULL: Sometimes it’s fun to get a bit weird and alone for a time.
LF: If you do the same thing all the time, even if it’s a comfortable thing, you don’t remember your life, and I know that I’m going to remember this winter.
FULL: This will be a time.
LF: This will be a distinct time.
To learn more about Lyndon and his radio program, visit the Biped Radio website. Browse Falcon Trails' beautiful photos and read about the eco cabins here.