Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decades

So a decade winds down, and a decade which never really received a name of its own. I leave it to pedants to gargle and choke on their self-stultifying arguments as to whether decades begin in years ending in 0 or 1. I'm more interested in the changes that roll with the passing of the years.

10 years ago I was just six months here, in this big old house on a gravel road far out into deep rural America. Six months since I'd moved here from the city, moved here in search of a better life, in a quadrant of the country where people still had their heads screwed on straight and were relatively removed from the ill cultural winds which even then were blowing, and have only blown more ill and more strongly over these past 10 years. I was six months here, and already well pleased at the new life I had found.

20 years ago I was in graduate school, a perpetual graduate student. And I remember I spent New Year's Eve working on some gargantuan project, writing up my own software, more for entertainment than for any practical purpose. Working on my ancient computer of 20 years ago, DOS, glowing green monitor. And someone was singing "Mississippi Goddam" on the radio as the midnight hour drew near.

30 years ago I was in graduate school, in an earlier and completely unrelated field, and in a different part of the country. Living in a little efficiency apartment, and I don't recall just what I might've been doing as the seventies rolled over into the eighties.

40 years ago I was in junior high, and I remember New Year's Eve was the day our family picked up a dog from the humane shelter, a dog we'd picked out several days previously. She became one of the family, and getting her was without a doubt one of the best things we ever did.

50 years ago I suppose the New Year rolled more or less past me, along with Elvis and President Eisenhower and the rest of the passing scene. After all, I was a preschooler, which in those long-vanished days didn't mean I went to preschool -- there was no such thing! -- it simply meant I was too young to go to school.

So here I sit on the last day of this Nameless Decade, ready for the odometer to roll over into the Teens, or whatever they'll call it. Another ten years further on, and I must confess I'm considerably less sanguine about the long-term prospects of Western civilization than I was 10 years ago. Oh, the West will outlast me, I'm sure; but the handwriting has been there on the wall now for decades, and this past decade it's become clearer and more undeniable than ever. A culture devolves and hardens into a civilization, and then the civilization eventually deconstructs itself in a fit of ennui and self-loathing. Add to that such wild cards as peak oil, a greying population, our smoke-and-mirrors economy, burgeoning debt by the trillions, and the inevitable next 9/11, and I'm just glad to be living in a remote and more self-reliant corner of the country, far off the traveled byways, where with any luck I may be better able to ride out the gathering storm. We are living in interesting times.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Surge of Sleep

Odd. At home I often suffer from insomnia. I mean, I fall asleep easily when I go to bed and I sleep soundly for several hours. But then I wake up in the middle of the night, and it's anybody's guess whether I'll ever get back to sleep again the rest of the night.

Now I'm away on vacation for a few days, and all of a sudden I'm sleeping effortlessly ten hours a night.

Go figure.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post-Christmas

So I survived the holiday rush, and am getting away this week, visiting family, unwinding, just generally vegetating. Tired? I don't have words to describe how tired I am.

And so I finish out the waning days of the decade.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Winter Cabin Fantasy

I live in a big old rambling house on a gravel road far out into the countryside. Big. In fact my bedroom is so big that it's not hard to imagine it as an entire cabin from back in pioneer days.

And I find I do sometimes so imagine it, when I'm lying there in bed beneath the covers, beneath a couple of heavy wool blankets on a cold winter night. It's like I'm lying there in bed in an old log cabin, way back in the 1800s. I'm somehow indisposed, lying there covered with blankets.

And over where the chimney runs up through the bedroom on one side, there I imagine that a cast iron wood burning stove is attached to the chimney. A stove, fire burning, giving warmth in this old cabin.

And there's a woman cooking at the stove. And there are two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the cabin. And there's an old lady sitting in a rocking chair over on the far side of the stove. And often there's an old man sitting at the table -- seems he's perhaps a guest or a visitor. And this scene of down home domesticity plays itself out around me, around the edges, as I lie there in bed, fading in and out.

It's all vague and indistinct. I don't know where this cabin is, or what the scene is all about. I have no idea who these other people in the fantasy are. It's just a winter cabin fantasy that comes to me sometimes when I'm lying there beneath the blankets on a cold winter night.

I think more people have fleeting and drifting fantasies like this than you might imagine. But it's the kind of thing we ordinarily don't talk about.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Warm Blanket

Sitting here early in the morning -- a cold morning -- sitting here in the wicker rocker in the living room, laptop on my lap, and wrapped up in a warm wool Indian blanket.

There are few pleasures in life to compare with the warmth of a good blanket. Especially a good wool blanket. I fade in and out, websurfing, sipping coffee. A warm blanket. Sitting here before sunrise on a bone chilling December morning, thermometer reads zero. A warm wool blanket. Much recommended.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Plastic Zipper

I've been noticing something odd this winter. Many people I run into are wearing coats with plastic zippers. And not just any plastic zippers, either: coats with big, huge, gigantic plastic zippers, huge plastic teeth as if in parody of real zippers. Huge plastic Fischer Price zippers.

I can't figure it out. I can't imagine buying a coat with a huge plastic zipper. Of all the coats I have, only one (come to think of it) has a plastic zipper, and not a huge zipper, at that; and it's a big bulky pullover deal that I never wear unless it's well below zero and nothing else will do.

But everyone else seems to be going for the big plastic zippers. Usually on coats made of some synthetic material, nylon or GoreTex or polyester or polyester fleece or whatever. Where's the satisfaction in that? Most of the time so far this season I've been sticking with my wool coat, which doesn't even have zippers, but buttons, as if it was still 1914.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Anarchism

I stumbled across some anarchist literature online recently, read through a great deal of it. I must confess, there's something about it that rather appeals to me, the whole notion of be free, take the red pill, throw off the trammels of society, live your life outside of the box, and so forth.

But then I am brought up short by the turgid, ponderously earnest style, the heavy leaden ideology of their anarchist writing, all too reminiscent of the campus Marxists of my youth. One expects to see rough-carved woodblock pictures of workers and peasants, portraits of Bakunin and Kropotkin and other dead bearded Russian revolutionaries... and one will not be disappointed. It's all there, as if the Sixties never left us.

Oh dear. I found those campus types dismaying enough, boring enough, back when I was young and in college. Believe me, I have no desire to experience flashbacks. And this online anarchism is Flashback City.

And it's a pity. Because, as I say, there's something to their anarchist gig that I find not unattractive. I spent my twenties and most of my thirties living an informally anarchical life myself, seldom gainfully employed, living on an ascetic shoestring, out at the margins of society by my own choice, and resisting anything that felt or smelled like The Man, Corporate Career Track, Long-Term Responsibility, or for that matter any mode of life where I would've been required to wear a suit and tie. Even once I finally settled down and took on a responsible job, I resisted anything that felt or smelled like. With the result that here I am today, in my fifties, working at a responsible and fruitful, sometimes hectic but not too onerous job, living in a big old house on a gravel road far out into deep rural America, and still sporting a beard and wearing blue jeans.

I don't doubt that, throughout most of human history, we've saddled ourselves with far more hierarchy, far more authority structures, far more Do As I Say, than is really needed. A little anarchism is good for the soul, and with the advent of chaos theory, it's perhaps no longer quite as theoretically ridiculous and unworkable as it always used to seem to me. But still... I decline to go further than that with any movement that drapes itself in turgid ideology, earnest elephantine Leftist analysis, and rudely carved woodblock artwork of people waving clenched fists in the air.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And Snowflakes Passed Before the Bluff

A few days ago I was driving back from town. Ran into some minor road work (this late in the season?!) and had to stop until the flagger flipped his sign from "stop" to "slow."

For a good minute or more I sat there. Looked up at a high bluff off to one side of the road, a bluff covered with trees. Though now it's all evergreens, or trees empty of leaves. A few birches in the mix, but overall by this time of year a dark background.

And before that background passed a myriad of snowflakes. It was snowing. A myriad of snowflakes, all swirling more or less in the same direction, the same moving pattern, in curling array.

A myriad of snowflakes, a horde, a million-swarm, like the largest and most numerous flock of miniature white birds you ever did see.

So the snowflakes passed before the bluff. I was in awe. Reached down and got my glasses, put them on, and the wondrously manifold and detailed flock of snowflakes, like a million tiny living things, was thrown into even sharper relief before the face of the bluff.

Then the flagger turned his sign to "slow," and I shifted out of park and began to move down the road in the remaining open lane.

Ten thousand migrating snowflakes, and ten thousand times ten thousand! And the snowflakes passed before the bluff. And I was struck speechless.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The New Mellow

This dates me, but I find most young people nowadays more tolerant, more "live and let live," and open to a far more colorful range of interests than most of my peers were at that age.

And I think this "new mellow" has little to do with all the loudly trumpeted and ideologically driven emphasis nowadays on tolerance, diversity, etc., most of which actually serves the interests of intolerance and ideological conformity.

Back when I was young -- let's face it, we're talking 40 years ago here -- there was a narrowness, a rigidity, a sour curdled meanness to so much of the culture, at least as I experienced it as a kid growing up in small-town America. Depart from the norm, let yourself be drawn to any interest that was at all colorful or out of the ordinary... and you would be inundated beneath a tidal wave of white hot scorn, rage, and withering self-righteous indignation. There was a time when Sinclair Lewis's Main Street was very much a reality in small-town America.

But something has changed. Today's young people are by and large light years more "live and let live" than I remember from when I was that age. And it's not an ideologically driven or ideologically linked openness and tolerance; it's genuine, unforced, and quite broadly and impartially dispensed. I must say, I find it a breath of fresh air.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November without Snow

Here we are, end of November, and there's been no snowfall in these parts yet. No significant snow at all, beyond a few fleeting and evanescent flurries. No accumulation on the ground at all. Odd, because usually around here we've had a snowstorm or two by the end of November. Some years, several severe snowstorms.

But this year here we are, on December's doorstep, and no snow so far; in fact, no snow in the forecast for this coming week. I'm wondering how long this can keep up. When I was a kid I loved snow. Now that I have to drive in it, not so much.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thoughts on Food

Well, having just been through one holiday where I ate more than I really should've, and being on the verge of another holiday season when (if I count correctly) I'll have to be attending something like ten or eleven Christmas parties, I must admit that I find it all just vaguely annoying. I mean, I like to eat, but I've never really cared to fuss over the picayune details of what I eat, as long as it's basically food I enjoy.

A hamburger and french fries. Pizza. Or, as on Thanksgiving, a ham steak with a couple of different vegetables on the side. Beyond that, I really don't give a damn about the culinary details. I couldn't care less exactly how to prepare the food, or which spices to use, or what refinements might be applied in the kitchen. To me, one wine is pretty much the same as another. Beef is beef. Mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes. Long as it doesn't trigger my gag reflex, I'm easy to please.

Though now I do have to eat more carefully, due to my health problems. And I've always been annoyed by the obligation of running the gauntlet of all those ten or eleven Christmas parties, for work, church, community, neighbors, family, and friends. Especially I've long been annoyed by the social pressure to eat at these events, eat, eat, have some more, have seconds, have thirds, have fourths; and sometimes people are not at all subtle in laying this pressure on you. Even before it was a health issue for me, I was always annoyed by this pressure to eat, intermingled as it was with pressure for enforced gregariousness and enforced jollity.

Still, I'll manage. Only please don't ask me to compliment you on the fine foodie details of how you cooked the meal, or which wine you selected to "compliment" the food. I honestly can't tell the difference.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

And off on the road, making the long trip to visit family for Thanksgiving today and tomorrow. Call it five hours on the road today, another three hours on the road tomorrow.

And I've been heard to complain about the common tendency to turn holidays into a "road rally"! Oh well...

A True Fact Which Is However Irrelevant to Almost Anything

When Nixon was president I was learning Spanish.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two-Thousand-Ten or Twenty-Ten?

As the decade odometer is about to roll over to 2010, I've been suspecting that we may see a concerted push to get people to pronounce it as "twenty-ten" instead of "two-thousand-ten." Just a suspicion, but it won't go away.

And my suspicion is also that it will be primarily liberals and blue state types who will be pushing for us to say "twenty-ten." You know, on the general grounds that "two-thousand-ten" is imperial and retrograde, and that we must stand against anything grand or ornate, and in favor of blonde wood, modern concrete-slab architecture, and tighter federal control of your every fugitive sleeping cry in the middle of the night.

My suspicion is not without its empirical correlate. Out here in deep rural America where I live -- a thoroughly red-state part of the country -- almost everyone says "two-thousand-nine" and "two-thousand-ten." Whereas in the media -- y'know, media, liberal bias -- I often hear announcers and talking heads saying "twenty-ten." They can't quite get away with "twenty-nine," though I've heard that one too on occasion; but often from them it's "twenty-oh-nine," which has been just awkward enough so far to give "two-thousand-nine" a hairsbreadth edge. But with the coming of "twenty-ten" they'll be in the clear, and in a position to pull ahead on the straightaway.

So in the months ahead don't be surprised if you start hearing voices in the media chiding or shaming those of us who stick to the imperial "two-thousand" format, and not so gently pressuring us to say "twenty-ten" as a way of proving to our cultured despisers that we're not so hopelessly Neanderthal after all.

May be just my paranoia, but I honestly wouldn't be surprised.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Foggy

It was foggy out this morning, and the world vanished beneath a weight of white. Indefined, shrouded, hidden in cotton batting. Looking out a front window, I could scarcely see across the road. A cozy world made newly strange, in which "there was no more near nor far"; enchanting if you don't have to go out in it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gaining Weight

Yes, I'm afraid I'm gaining weight again. After three years in which I lost a significant amount of weight, about 40 pounds, and then started gaining some of it back again.

These past few months I'd thought I was losing weight again. But I'm afraid not. Damn! I feel positively thin, compared to what I weighed several years ago; but, for the sake of my health, I've got to lose weight, lose a lot more weight. For the sake of the health problems I've been contending with these past few months.

I suppose the solution is to exercise more. Which I've been doing, more than I used to, these past few months. But I sure could stand to push myself farther on the exercise front.

Or take the time to cook up more stews with fresh vegetables, instead of eating so much of the time (relatively healthy food) out of a can.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unexpected Mission

I have to head out this morning on an unexpected work-related mission which will have me on the road most of the day. There go my plans for finishing out this week as the "slow week" for the month of November! And, like a row of dominoes, there goes my schedule from now till Thanksgiving.

This seems to happen, fortuitously but predictably, every time I think I'm heading into a slow stretch. Keeps me on my toes, eh? Though at times I do wonder if I'm beginning to get a bit old for a schedule in which nothing is ever nailed down until, without warning, it erupts.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Remove Yourself

If you meet someone who is incapable of dealing with others except in a spirit of mockery, sarcasm, and derision...

Remove yourself.

Simply turn around and walk away from them. Resist the temptation to respond. Resist the temptation to reply. Above all, resist the temptation to beat them at their own game.

Just turn around and silently walk away from them. Far, far away. Remove yourself from their presence, and never return. Remove yourself. Let them be no longer a part of your world.

A full tenth or more of the Internet could be prevented if only people would follow this principle.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the Thirteenth

Good thing I'm not triskaidekaphobic.

Pothole

Last night I was out driving in the dark, and had to make a left turn onto a bridge. A left turn around a pickup which was sitting there at a stop sign. And all of a sudden, entering onto the bridge, thunk! My Jeep hit a pothole, so violently that I'm surprised I didn't do any permanent damage to the suspension.

Dinner at someone's house, and on the way back I paused to look when I came to the bridge. Sure enough, not exactly a pothole, but on the shoulder of the road there was a deep hole in the gravel and then the wider concrete pavement of the bridge proper. A perfect setup for a bone jarring pothole experience for anyone who rounds that corner onto the bridge after dark.

You'd think they'd at least fill the hole in? Or maybe they do, and the next rain washes it out again. At any rate, I was surprised that my Jeep was still running without mishap afterwards.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quiet

So I made the long drive to the city, and visited my folks over the weekend. It was good to see them again. Aside from major holidays or vacation, I don't make it over to see them that often.

But I must admit, even this brief visit was enough to remind me once again of my mother's habit of talking incessantly. I mean, she talks every waking minute of the day. She scarcely pauses for breath. She talks about anything. She talks about nothing. If even nothing doesn't come to hand, she will provide nonstop color commentary on whatever diddly task she's doing at the moment. To whoever's in the room, whether they're listening or not. To thin air, if nobody's in the room.

I can't remember the last time I heard my mother stay silent for as long as fifteen seconds at a time. It's been years, I'm sure.

Maybe you've known someone like this, someone who talks constantly, continually, all the time? I've known a few people like that, and my mother unfortunately is one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I love my mother dearly. I'm glad when I get a chance to get away and visit my folks. Only I count it among my blessings that ordinarily I live by myself, in a big old house on a gravel road far, far out into the depths of the countryside, where I can go all day long surrounded by peace and quiet. Nothing more than perhaps the sound of the refrigerator running, or the sound of air running through the heating ducts. Or the occasional sound of a pickup going by down the road.

I thrive on peace and solitude and quiet. I cannot imagine how I would get along in a setting where I was constantly surrounded and bombarded by sound.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Radio Personality

On a radio station around here -- one of the few AM stations I can receive during daylight hours, I'm way out in the sticks -- there's this little segment that comes on in the morning while I'm eating breakfast.

Two fellows talking, most of it inconsequential chat. One guy is in the studio, and the other is very obviously talking over a phone line, audio quality none too good. Chat, and some of it is, Mr. Studio will pose questions and Mr. Phone Line will ramble on with long, wandering, gaseous replies. Actually Mr. Phone Line does the bulk of the talking.

And here's the thing: I can tell how Mr. Phone Line looks. He wears sunglasses with big silvered lenses. He's got black hair, but with a severely receding hairline, and the hair on top of his head is thinning out. He wears a nylon windbreaker. Big forehead, with prominent creases in it. Bad teeth, and nicotine stained.

How can I tell? By the sound of his voice. Anyone with a voice like that has got to look like that. Even over a mediocre phone connection, by his voice you shall know him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Computer Screens on Dollhouse

Perhaps I haven't mentioned, but I'm a fan of Joss Whedon's probably doomed TV series, Dollhouse.

Anyhow, am I the only person who has the impression that Topher is using the Enlightenment window manager on his computers? Animated backgrounds, wonderfully nonrectangular windows, when I saw it I immediately thought, "Ah! Enlightenment." Suitably geekish choice. I mean, I could be mistaken, but that's sure what it looks like to me.

Dinosaurs Shitting in the Woods

Sometimes these phrases just drift into my mind unbidden, from I know not where...

Dinosaurs shitting in the woods. No idea what it means, but it sounds cool.

What, didn't you think Triceratops and T-rex had to go take a shit like any other animal you've ever heard of?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saying Grace

I grew up in a family that was schizophrenic about saying grace at the table. Basically, we didn't. Devout churchgoing folk that we were, we never said grace before we ate. Or at least, not except at lunch on Sunday, and that was as much of a concession as my Mom was able to wring out of my Dad.

See, it just so happened that my Dad grew up in a family -- a deeply devout churchgoing family -- where they never said grace. For whatever reason, they just didn't. And so when my folks got married, my Dad insisted that he was not going to start saying grace at the table just to go through the motions. My father is as genuinely and sincerely committed a Christian as you're ever going to meet, but he has this thing -- I suppose it's a stubborn mainline Protestant thing -- about not piling up empty words or practices just for the sake of appearances.

To my mother, who grew up in a devout churchgoing family where they did say grace, all this was horrifying. The compromise my parents arrived at eventually was that we would say grace once a week, when we sat down for lunch after church on Sunday.

So I grew up pretty much not saying grace. I grew up into an adult who is deeply committed to Christ, who is in church pretty much every Sunday, who has served in various positions of church leadership... but to whom it would not ordinarily occur even to think of saying grace. Saying grace? I'd be about as likely to sacrifice pigeons with a flint knife on a stone altar. Not because I don't believe; quite the opposite! But because the habit never got a foothold within me.

Until these past couple of months, with my current health problems. I have to watch my diet closely. I also find, for the very first time in my life, that when I sit down to eat I say grace. I haven't quite figured it out yet. But I'm saying grace. Regularly. Easily.

Perhaps sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting Ready for Halloween

Out here on the gravel roads far into the countryside, there used to be a fair -- never huge -- number of kids within trick-or-treating distance. When I first moved here years back, I'd get at least 15 or 20 costumed witches, mummies, cowboys, commandos, and bumblebees on a Halloween.

But those kids have gotten older and outgrown Halloween. Last year I believe I got only three or four trick-or-treaters all evening long. There are a few little ones who will be old enough in another year or two, but once again this year I really don't expect more than three or four.

So I'm trying to decide whether I'm going to leave the light on out front tomorrow evening, or leave the house shrouded in darkness. Whether even to pick up some candy when I run in to town this afternoon. We shall see. I'm in a decidedly un-Halloween-like mood this year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coat Revisited

That new wool coat I got a few weeks ago has quickly become my favorite. Enough so that I'm mildly annoyed that Indian summer is keeping me from wearing it right at the moment. Oh well, colder weather will soon be upon us.

One odd thing I discovered about the coat, something I wouldn't have realized without actually wearing it. (And I guess this shows how little experience I have with wearing a long buttoned coat.) I discover that in order for me to sit down, the lowermost button on the coat needs to be unbuttoned. In fact unless I'm standing or walking in unusually cold weather, it would be best to leave that lowermost button unbuttoned.

It's a minor thing, and no problem, but I never in my life would've realized it without actually wearing and using the coat.

This set me to thinking of how many things around us have characteristics that we would be highly unlikely ever to discover except through direct hands-on experience with them. You can theorize and cogitate all you want, but the world is filled with lowermost coat buttons that, unbeknownst to you, had best be left unbuttoned.

Or as Yogi Berra put it, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

Slow Down

And after a long period of rush, things are slowing down at last. I'm taking today off -- first day I've had off since early October.

Eh, the older I get, the harder it is to keep up with these occasional bursts which are built into the nature of my work. I don't have the stamina I had in my 20s and 30s. Though it isn't like this most of the time. Only occasionally. Hope I'm heading now into a stretch where life will resume a more reasonable pace.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Busy

There are times when my workload cruises along at a manageable level. And there are times when the floodgate goes wide open: this past week has been one of those times, and it ain't through yet. I hardly know where I've been, or what I've been doing, except that I've been running mornings, afternoons, and most evenings, sometimes up and running even before dawn.

Oh well. Things will slow back down again eventually. In the meanwhile, as the old saying goes, "you knew the job was dangerous when you took it."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Requesting Floyd

Back in the 70s there was a song by 10cc called "I'm Not in Love." And at one point the lyrics ran, "Big boys don't cry, big boys don't cry, big boys don't cry..."

Except somehow, for years, I heard it as, "Requesting Floyd, requesting Floyd, requesting Floyd, requesting Floyd..."

One of the weirdest cases of misheard lyrics ever. No idea where I ever got it from, but that's what I was hearing: "Requesting Floyd, requesting Floyd, requesting Floyd..."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back Door

Out here in deep rural America where I live, the main door to most houses is the back door. You enter and leave through the back door. The front door is vestigial, it leads nowhere, it is hardly ever used, and indeed I know of houses around here where furniture is blocking access to that unused front door.

I grew up in town, where people use their front door as a front door, so all this is somewhat unusual to me. Not that I was unfamiliar with it: my grandparents' farmhouse had the back door as main access and exit. But still, back door as main door is a somewhat peculiar custom if you think of it. Or so it's always seemed to me.

Oddly enough, my house, on a gravel road way out here in the country, has the front door as main door. This house was built about 1880, and apparently the front door has always been the main door. I know of one or two other houses in the area which also are structured so as to make the front door the door you mostly use. But such houses are very much in the minority, out here in the wide open spaces of Back Door America.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Snow

Yes, snowflakes were coming down most of the day yesterday. Not real thick, but not so very light either. A slow, steady presence of snow falling.

The ground is still warm enough that we didn't get any accumulation. Yet. Give it another few days. As usual this time of year, we go from near-summerlike weather to snowfall in just a few weeks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hip

Oh dear. Now I went and wrenched my hip joint. Left hip. It happened a couple of nights ago, something about the way I rolled over in bed. Now my hip is okay, until I lean at the wrong angle, and then...

This hip has been a trial to me ever since I was twelve years old. I repeat, twelve years old. At least a hot water bottle really does help. And as long as I lie on my back I'm okay.

It will be fine again in a few days. In the meanwhile, I'm just glad I've got today off from work...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coat Arrived

The new wool coat arrived yesterday, and as usual when UPS flubs the delivery, it simply showed up in my mailbox, foisted off by UPS onto the US Postal Service. Oh well, at least it's here.

And the coat is a thing of beauty. Wool that will wear like iron and last a lifetime. Practical. Functional. And did I say beautiful? I'd been wondering if I'd ordered a size too large, but over a heavy sweatshirt it fits just right. I can see I'm going to get a lot of use out of this coat, in fall, winter, spring, and with layering even in the depths of frigid winter.

Not cheap. But I'm a firm believer in buying quality, quality that will last and will serve your purposes and then some. Wool. Forest green. Buttons, not zippers. Rather retro. Pockets, pockets, pockets. It's a Filson Mackinaw Cruiser, and I couldn't be more pleased with a new wool coat that will keep me warm out here in the cold boondocks. Will keep me warm and will last.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coat Awaited

Well, so last week I ordered a new wool coat for winter. And if you know me, you know that means I ordered a coat that is simple, basic, high quality, and rather retro. Wool. Buttons, not zippers. First made in 1914, and the design and specs haven't changed since. It's even made in the USA.

So. Said coat was sent by UPS. Sent from Seattle. In this day and age, that means I can track the progress of the shipment online. Looked like it was going to arrive yesterday, but no, the package (in UPS-speak) "experienced an exception." So I'm hoping it will be arriving today. Which would (excluding the weekend, when it just sat) make four business days that it took to get here. Four business days, when looking at the map and various UPS charts, I can't for the life of me see how it could take more than two business days to arrive. At the very most.

Wood Heat

I was talking last night with a young couple from the area who tell me that they heat their home with wood.

It occurred to me that this is probably a very wise move on their part. Look at the shenanigans of the malefactors of great wealth, who nearly dragged our economy under in recent times. Look at their stooges and enablers, of either political party, in government. Look at how nothing is really being fixed, and how record debt keeps piling up. If I were looking ahead and planning for the future, I wouldn't heat my home with fuel oil or with electricity. I'd heat my home with wood. I'd have a garden and some chickens out back, too. And some guns and ammo stored away.

Not that I'm so foresightful. (Is that a word, foresightful?) Though I am damn glad that I live in deep rural America, far from any city, far off the beaten path, in an area that people don't pass through to get to anywhere else. And that I'm surrounded by good neighbors I've gotten to know over the past ten years. Given the profligate and unrepentant ways of our plutocratic overlords, I'd be real surprised if in the next ten years we don't find ourselves living through what the Chinese used to call "interesting times."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Death

Or not actually that I'm dead, or about to die any time soon. Though my ongoing recent encounter with health issues has put me in mind of my own mortality. Saw the doctor again yesterday, and overall he's pleased with my progress. Though some aspects of my condition aren't responding as quickly as he'd like, so he added yet another medication to the witch's brew he's already got me on.

Taxes

Back last spring around April 15 I was quite busy, so I filed for an extension on my tax paperwork. Now October 15 is looming up, and my tax forms are most definitely coming due. As I find myself even busier than I was six months ago. This week is going to be hectic, the week following at least as rushed... well, I'll just have to find time to do those tax forms, even if it means a stray hour squeezed in here and there between other tasks.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Juicy Fruit Gum Is Yellow?!

Recently I bought a pack of Juicy Fruit gum for the first time in ages. I mean, for possibly the first time in decades. And I was astonished to see that Juicy Fruit gum is now colored a bright and distinctive yellow.

When did this happen? When did they decide to color Juicy Fruit yellow? I mean, the package has always been yellow. The taste is the same. But back in my day, Juicy Fruit gum, like any respectable gum, was a pale and nondescript light tan. When did it turn yellow?!

Though somehow, in a twisted way, it makes sense to me. We have to dumb everything down. Coloring Juicy Fruit a more... garishly Juicy Fruit color is sort of like color-captioning for the thinking impaired. It makes sense that, in a world of reality TV, and three plus three added by calculator, and high school graduates who can't read their own diploma, Juicy Fruit gum had to be "color coded" for the sake of those who would otherwise go into terminal brainlock over why a gum that tasted yellow didn't also look yellow.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Came Through on the Other Side

So I got through my colonoscopy okay. I survived. Intestines are in fine shape, no polyps. And the sword of Damocles that has been hanging over my head now for days is removed.

A friend drove me to the hospital in town and back this morning. Much of the time for the procedure was spent waiting, lying on my back in a hospital gown. The colonoscopy itself... oddly enough, I wasn't asleep. I was sedated but awake throughout the procedure. I was aware, I could feel it, but I just didn't care. I just didn't care what they were doing to me.

Lunch in the hospital cafeteria, and then home. And I've been spending the afternoon in bed, napping, getting up to have something to eat or drink once in a while.

I've been off work yesterday and today. And just in case, tomorrow I've scheduled so I can spend the day alone on quiet office work.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GoLytely

Today I've been getting along on a liquid diet. And now this afternoon I've been drinking GoLytely, and running to the bathroom every once in a while. So far, so good -- I honestly don't understand all the horrors of GoLytely that I've heard, I've drunk nearly half the gallon down now and everything has gone very smoothly, I feel fine.

Still, I'll be so glad once I've got my colonoscopy tomorrow out of the way. Ah, the joys of being past 50! This whole procedure has been preoccupying me out of all proportion these past several days...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crouching

Well, the doctor phoned me to answer my questions not ten minutes after yesterday's post, LOL!

Now it's the weekend, and I find myself like an animal crouching in the underbrush, crouching, crouching...

Random thoughts strike me: I ought to water my houseplants, forgot yesterday to water them on Friday as usual. Do I need to run out for groceries today, or can I let that go till tomorrow? Christmas shopping needs to be done, three months to go, and still less than halfway done. I wonder if, due to my health, I should think of retiring before age 65, instead of sticking it out all the way as I've always planned. A friend sent me three emails yesterday, each begging for a reply; but I just replied to an email from this friend day before yesterday, so I honestly don't feel like assuming additional epistolary burdens again right away, dammit! Oh, and I need more poison bait bits to set out in garage, basement, attic, it's getting to be that time of year with the mice again...

Like an animal in the underbrush, crouching, crouching... And my mind is a blur...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rain

The rain forecast for yesterday has finally arrived, and it's just what we need: slow, steady rain that's been falling all morning, and bids to continue on into the afternoon.

I've been tackling various minor tasks this morning, overshadowed now by the fact that I'm scheduled for a colonoscopy next week -- ah, the joys of advanced middle age! -- and I've called the doctor's office and I can't get the doctor or a nurse or anyone to return my call with an answer to the very simple question, how soon beforehand should I lay off my medications? You know, the medications I first started on only a few weeks ago.

With the weekend at hand, and the day next week drawing nearer, it would be nice to know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lazy

There are days when I just know, before the day even begins, that it's going to be a slow, lazy, lackadaisical day.

Days like today. Foggy. Pearl grey. Slate sky. Drizzle. Rain in the forecast. And nothing terribly pressing on my calendar for today.

Slow, lazy day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rosary

Have I mentioned? Lifelong Protestant though I am, I have in fact for many years said the rosary. Yes I know, I'm a Protestant tinged with Catholicism. Nonetheless I'm a lifelong Protestant, and I doubt I'll ever convert. But I do, I honestly do say the rosary. I've been doing it for 35 years, ever since my late teens. At some times less regularly, at times more regularly. But I honestly do say the rosary.

There are family reasons for this, and also (the proximate cause of my taking up the rosary) there was a good friend of mine back in college who had a big impact on me spiritually. He was a devout Roman Catholic. We used to discuss our faith, he the Catholic and I the Protestant. He gave me a rosary. He taught me how to say the rosary.

And, miraculous to say, I took him up on it. He never pressed me, never asked. But privately, on my own, I took to saying the rosary. Kept it up pretty faithfully through my mid 20s, then more sporadically for a number of years, then once again more regularly these past several years.

Immediate family know, or at least used to know, of my practice. Apart from that, as with many of my quasi-Catholic inclinations, I've been pretty clandestine and under the radar.

Don't ask me the whys and wherefores. Yes, I could get into that, in elaborate detail, but as I get older I find myself less and less inclined to air such matters.

Still, I do leave me scratching my head sometimes...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Poverty of British Life

I've been reading a volume of letters by the British poet Philip Larkin. It always amazes me when I read stuff by mid-20th century British writers -- Larkin, C.S. Lewis, Dylan Thomas, etc. -- how they had such a shoddy standard of living. Running a little paraffin stove to help heat the bedroom -- no central heating, of course. "Better to come visit me in the summer, when I can spare enough blankets for you off my own bed." The stock Briticism, "butter is dear," and margarine hardly any more affordable. Going to great trouble to get an ordinary fountain pen repaired instead of buying a new one. A university library (this was early 1950s) with not a single typewriter in it, not even for Larkin who was the head librarian.

And these were middle class writers who were pulling in a tolerable income from full-time job plus writing. I get the impression that I enjoy a far higher standard of living than they did.

Great Britain, mid-20th century: what I always think of is bad teeth and no central heating.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shortwave

I have two shortwave radios, both of them portable and both of them reasonably good radios. Though the one shortwave (call it shortwave #1) is really a far more sensitive and sophisticated radio than the other shortwave (call it shortwave #2).

So what have I done with these two radios? Well, the past ten years I've had shortwave #1 sitting and gathering dust, seldom used, in a room upstairs. While I've had shortwave #2, fairly often used, sitting on the end table next to my wicker rocker in the living room.

I repeat, the less capable shortwave (shortwave #2), sitting by my elbow in the living room, gets probably 98% of the use. I've been trying to remember how this setup arose, and I think the idea was that I'd get better reception from upstairs, hence have shortwave #1 in the room upstairs. Not that this makes much difference when shortwave #1 is seldom if ever used.

So. The other day I finally took action, and did the obvious thing: I switched the two radios. Now shortwave #1 is on the end table in my living room, where it is used almost daily. And shortwave #2 is in that room upstairs, for if-and-when I need a radio on my infrequent forays into that room.

Actually shortwave #1 in the living room, being more sensitive, gets better reception than shortwave #2 would get either in the living room or upstairs.

And so I sit here in the living room this morning, wrapped up in a wool Indian blanket in my wicker rocker, cup of coffee at hand, and the dulcet tones of Radio Rebelde on 5025 kilocycles in the 60 meter band from Havana at my elbow. (Yes, I'm the sort who still says "kilocycles.") Can't understand more than the occasional snatch of Spanish, but you know, for me that's a windows of consciousness thing: listening to a detailed but only marginally intelligible sound stream opens wide the doors of perception. More perhaps on that some other time...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Owls

Last night I slept with the windows open, and outside I could hear an owl hooting. Hoooo, hooooo, hoooo! It was somewhere outside, not too far away. Hooting beneath the crescent moon. There's something comforting, something tremendously right about the sound of an owl hooting in the night.

Then there were two owls hooting. The one owl, nearby, hooting in lower tones. And another owl, afar off, with a more high pitched hooting. One owl would sound, and then the other would answer. One and then the other. The wonder of two owls hooting and answering on a clear cool night, beneath the light of a crescent moon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mind and Heart

If anyone has been following my blog, they'll notice that every now and then I've been touching on the topic of what's wrong with the blogosphere -- in particular, what's wrong with the angry, rigid, hectoring, antagonistic portion of commenterdom.

Yesterday on his blog the Orthodox priest Fr. Stephen Freeman quoted Archimandrite Meletios Webber on the distinction between mind and heart. I find this distinction relevant to the dysfunctions I so often witness among blogospheric commenters:
In order to be right about anything, the mind has the need to find someone or something that is wrong. In a sense, the mind is always looking for an enemy (the person who is “wrong”), since without an enemy, the mind is not quite sure of its own identity. When it has an enemy, it is able to be more confident about itself. Since the mind also continually seeks for certainty, which is a by-product of the desire to be right, the process of finding and defining enemies is an ongoing struggle for survival. Declaring enemies is, for the mind, not an unfortunate character flaw, but an essential and necessary task.

Unfortunately, being right is not what people really need, even though a great deal of their lives may be taken up in its pursuit. Defense of the ego is almost always a matter of trying to be right...

[In contrast] the heart is quiet rather than noisy, intuitive rather than deductive, lives entirely in the present, and is, at every moment, accepting of the reality God gives in that moment. Moreover, the heart does not seek to distance or dominate anything or anyone by labeling. Rather, it begins with an awareness of its relationship with the rest of creation (and everything and everyone in it), accepting rather than rejecting, finding similarity rather than alienation and likeness rather than difference. It knows no fear, experiences no desire, and never finds the need to defend or justify itself. Unlike the mind, the heart never seeks to impose itself. It is patient and undemanding. Little wonder, then, that the mind, always impatient and very demanding, manages to dominate it so thoroughly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oatmeal

Lately, with my health being on my mind, I've changed over to eating oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal, in place of toast and sausage. Especially I'm hoping that oatmeal in place of sausage will be an improvement.

And when I say oatmeal, I mean oatmeal. No prepackaged semi-oatmeal concoction, with sugar and spice and all sorts of additives... well, additived in. No oatmeal with all sorts of sugary unhealthy glop mixed in. This is just plain old oatmeal. Oatmeal and nothing but. Dump it in the bowl, add some water, and to be honest I'm surprised I can get away with heating it up in the microwave instead of cooking it on the stove.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How I Spent My Labor Day

Okay, I had to work most of the weekend. So I was especially looking forward to taking Labor Day as a holiday, off from work, nothing I need to do. Late Sunday I run into a neighbor, he gets the bright idea that possibly I might come along with him and his wife when they head out to some flea market 60 miles away on Labor Day.

Oh great. Been working already all weekend, now roped into something like that.

Fortunately the outing never materialized, and I spent Labor Day sitting around. Watched some DVDs a friend lent me, some old British TV series called Sapphire & Steel. Very low budget, something like The X-Files, something like Doctor Who.

And now it turns out I also get to take today off from work. So I'm getting, you know, a belated Labor Day weekend of sorts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fall in the Wings

Slept last night with the windows open. It got cool out, but it's monstrously humid, so it didn't feel cool. But wait for a cool night that feels cool: that will come soon enough.

Fall is in the wings.

Friday, September 4, 2009

To the Doctor

So, the other day, being back from vacation, I went to the doctor for the first time in incredibly many years. Actually had hit the clinic a few days previously for them to collect blood and urine samples.

The good news is, I'm not going to drop dead any time soon. And there are a few health items in which, despite family history, I'm in wondrously good shape.

But there are a few other items in which I'm not in such wondrously good shape. Numbers higher than normal. The kind of numbers which, if we hadn't caught it, could've led in the long run to, well... real trouble.

So, the doctor prescribed a few different kind of pills for me. (Pills. Am I the only person who rebels at that prissy neologism, "meds"?) And we will be spending the next few weeks or months bringing readings down into the normal range, adjusting dosages if necessary, and all that good stuff.

I find myself unexpectedly feeling a sense of relief: now I know. And it's all manageable. Somehow I'd expected to go reeling from the doctor's office in dizzying panic. No, I feel like now I know where I stand. A few emotional ups and downs when I first got up this morning, but that's par for the course.

Though... on pills at last, for the first time in my life. I'm not bulletproof after all. Memento mori, and all that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Summer's End

Where has the summer gone? To me, summer ends with the end of August. Or with the coming of Labor Day weekend. When I was a kid summer ended when we went back to school. By any of these yardsticks summer is now drawing to a close.

And already -- in the waning days of August, even -- we've been seeing lows at night which have been unheard of now for months. Before long the leaves will start turning color. Indeed, at this point we could be only a couple of months away from the first snowflakes of the season.

Summer has always been my favorite season of the year. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back Home

Back home from two weeks of vacation which were also to some degree a vacation from blogging. Actually I'm not due back on the job till tomorrow, so I'm taking today as a much-needed day to decompress from the rigors of vacationing.

As in, you know, it was good to visit family and friends but it's also good to be back in my own home, and back to my own quiet, peaceful, slow paced way of life.

The latter part of vacation I discovered Firefly, got the series on DVD, and watched it clear through in the span of a few days. Aha! My brother says he hasn't seen it yet; so I do believe one piece of my Christmas shopping has fallen into place.

Got up this morning and drove in to town to visit the doctor for the first time in over 20 years. Or rather, the nurse collected some samples from me (ah, me and my fear of needles!), and later this week I'll be heading back to the doctor to find out just how far off the beam my health has gone over the past two decades. I mean, I feel fine, but at my age...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Computer

Of course I have my trusty laptop along with me on vacation. After a friend introduced me to Hulu the other day, I've been watching TV episodes on my computer, and having to resist mightily the temptation to run out to a store and pick up a couple of series on DVD. Of course at home "running out to the store" for such items is not ordinarily on the agenda, as the nearest such store is nearly 60 miles away from where I live! Instead I order over the Internet, and wait a few days.

Though in several ways I'm finding that my computer experience, here on vacation at my folks' place in the city, is quite different from out on a gravel road at home. It was only back around Memorial Day that I achieved wireless capability in Linux for the first time, and only at the beginning of July that my small rural ISP upgraded my DSL connection to the point where most online video material is feasible. Then it was only about six weeks ago that I got a new laptop battery so that I could take practical advantage of the mobility that a laptop and a wireless router ought to afford a body.

However, at home I have a particular spot where I am accustomed to sit and use my laptop, so...

It was not until I arrived here in the city, at my folks' place, on vacation -- here where I have no customary "spot to use my laptop" -- that I've been really blossoming in the "use your computer anywhere at any time for anything" department. And it really does leave me feeling sprung another few degrees free of my ordinary connections in time and space, or time and meatspace.

And More Vacation

So last week I went to see that old college buddy and his wife. We had a great time together, talking, dinner. Plus my old friend introduced me to Hulu, which I've heard of but had never looked into before -- until recently my DSL bandwidth out there in the countryside wasn't adequate even to think of it. Also he introduced me to Pandora, a music service which I hadn't heard of before. As you might guess, I've been tinkering with both ever since.

Went one day to visit my grandmother, which meant a long drive beyond the city where my folks now live. My grandmother, well past the century mark, and still just as clear in the head as anyone. It's sobering to think that she's one of the last people around who can tell you not only about the days back before radio. She also can remember the first time she ever saw an automobile: she was well into grade school at the time.

And out with my folks to a restaurant the other day. And was on the phone this morning with another friend of mine who lives here in the city. He was my supervisor at work for a few years back in the 90s, back before I fled the city for deep rural America. We're going to get together later this week, eat at some kind of offbeat ethnic restaurant, maybe hit a live music performance.

And I've been napping, lying around, vegetating. Amazing how I shift into such a fallow mode when I'm on vacation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vacation

On vacation, visiting family in the city far away. This afternoon am going to go see an old college friend.

I have my laptop with me, and my brother has a wireless router. Which is not to say that I'm otherwise feeling very much like blogging at the moment, thank you. It's feeling way too much like vacation.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mousetrap

Three nights in a row I set out the mousetrap, with peanut butter, in a corner of the living room. I'd seen that mouse streaking across the floor. So three nights in a row I set out the mousetrap.

And three mornings I found the mousetrap, peanut butter eaten, sitting there with the trap unsprung. This morning for the third time I found when I got up that the mouse had eaten the peanut butter without springing the mousetrap.

Though this morning, after checking the trap, I was making breakfast out in the kitchen when I heard that loud snap! Went and checked and sure enough. The mouse had come back to the trap, I suppose to check it for more peanut butter. It didn't find any peanut butter, but this time it did set off the trap.

I can't imagine what a mouse is doing in the house in the middle of August. Strike that: was doing in the house.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Doctor Appointment

Well, I was in town yesterday, and I stopped off at the clinic and made an appointment to see the doctor. Yes, in a couple of weeks. An appointment for a physical.

I'm feeling fine. But this will be the first time I've been to see the doctor in... oh, you wouldn't believe me if I told you how many years it's been. I've been fine. I got out of the habit. So I didn't go.

I'm feeling fine. Though after all these years, and at my age, I suppose it's more than likely he'll find something to stick me on pills for.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

100 Years of Pendleton Blankets

A Pendleton catalog came in the mail the other day. You know, Pendleton blankets. And I find they're celebrating 100 years of Pendleton wool blankets, Pendleton Indian blankets, turned out from the Pendleton woolen mills, which are among the few American woolen mills still in operation.

I'm a great fan of wool blankets, and now that that the hot weekend has passed and things have unseasonably cooled off again, I'm back to curling up of an early morning beneath my beloved Pendleton wool Indian blanket. Curling up beneath the blanket with a cup of coffee after breakfast. Really, I love wool blankets. There's nothing like a wool blanket. A near perfect combination of simplicity, quality, tradition, beauty, usefulness, and just plain funkiness.

I discover this morning that there are several pages on this 100th anniversary and company history, on the Pendleton website. No, I'm no shill for Pendleton, I just know quality when I see it. And I'm a longtime fan of wool blankets.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Coffee Spill

It probably doesn't happen to you often. But when it does happen, it throws your world into minor household turmoil.

I'm talking coffee spill. Somehow this morning, while sitting here at the computer, I spilled a nearly full cup of coffee. Spilled it across my desk, onto the floor, onto the carpeting...

Immediately I was like, "Oh, shit!!!" Quickly lifted a few semi-valuable items out of the way of the spreading puddle of hot coffee. Ran for a bunch of paper towels, blotted up as much as I could. Then damp towels to take up more, Formula 409 to scrub the coffee out of the carpeting, more damp towels, more dry towels, then going over any coffee marks that were still evident...

I think everything's going to be okay. The miracle is, nothing was permanently damaged. Desk okay, and everything on it. Carpet cleaned. Rug set underneath my office chair to protect the carpeting (rug atop carpeting, I know that violates the rules of heraldry, don't ask) actually took the brunt of the spill, and the rug is cleaned and presently airing out on my front porch.

Only minor problem may be, the old pillow I use as a seat cushion for my office chair, old green pillow with faded red and yellow stripes, took a hit on one edge and I didn't want to use Formula 409 on it. So I blotted and dried, wiped down with damp paper towels, blotted and dried some more, and we shall have to see if the old pillow ends up with coffee stains along one edge.

I'm very thankful nothing happened to my laptop. Until within the past year, I used to have my laptop sitting on top of my desk. Then I got a retro oak typewriter stand (actually an old oak plant stand) to set the laptop on -- like, you know, a typewriter set on an old typewriter stand alongside the desk. Fortuitous is forearmed.

And I hope it will be a long, long time before I spill another cup of coffee.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wilting Heat

After an unseasonably cool (but quite pleasant) summer, I didn't expect to experience a night like last night. Forecast was, low in the mid 70s. Low in the mid 70s. It was more like low in the upper 70s, plus extremely humid.

This, in a climate where even in a normal summer I expect it to get below 70 at night -- where often enough, this summer, night temperatures have gotten below 60.

I got through the night somehow, even slept some, but I'm just wilting this morning. Guess I'll stumble through my Sunday somehow.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rationalists and Anger

I'm surely not the only person who's noticed that self-styled rationalists are most often marked, not by actual displays of reason, but rather by a burning display of anger and rage. I mean, why are rationalists usually such angry people? Rigid, seething, volcanic, can't-see-straight anger! What essential part of reason proper is anger? Or is there more going on here than Spock is willing to admit?

Koon ut kal if fee!

When I've managed to get a rationalist to stop foaming at the mouth long enough to explain why they're wallowing in so much free-floating anger, usually they mouth a line such as, "Well, when my eyes were opened and I became a rationalist of course I was angry at having been deceived!" An explanation which makes no sense at all, as if someone vehemently tried to explain to you why his favorite color is F#. I mean, isn't one's line of reasoning just as valid with or without the inessential continual accompaniment of a white-hot rage? And isn't a mechanical reliance on such stock non-explanations a good sign that rationalism is to rationalization close allied?

Kroykah!

I'm just glad I never had to contend with such misbegotten individuals on my old blog -- you know, that old blog that actually had a readership. A very civilized and civil readership. But the rabid, hydrophobic rationalist is a common enough type out there in the blogosphere, disproportionately common. I really wonder what makes such mad dogs tick. And why they are so blind, so utterly blind to the livid scarlet stripe of rage which runs down the middle of their own soul.

And for the final round of combat, the oldest and deadliest of Vulcan weapons is the ahn-woon...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dream Logic

Words I overheard last night in a dream:
Of course it's an action game, you have telephones.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Immanuel Kant in Five Words or Less

Oh dear. I'm feeling philosophical this morning, which is usually not a good sign.

Shorter Kant: There is no red pill.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Quick Service or Fast Food?

So today I was in town, and I stopped to eat at the fast food joint. You know, burger, fries, Coke. Must be about the only fast food joint within 60 miles of my home.

Sitting at a table and eating, I noticed a little postcard sized survey had been slipped in between the salt and pepper shakers. "How often do you eat at a quick service restaurant?" Ummmm, say what?!

"How would you compare this quick service restaurant to other quick service restaurants?" Hold on, hold on, what in the world is a quick service restaurant?

Oh, okay, I get it... "quick service" restaurant is a euphemism for "fast food" restaurant. See, if we say "fast food," that conjures up connotations of fast, greasy, low budget, nasty, plasticized food.

Whereas if we say "quick service"... well, "quick service" is surrounded by no such malodiferous cloud of connotations. Mainly for the reason that, before this poll was concocted, nobody in the history of the English language had ever heard the term quick service restaurant before.

Euphemism: a change in words, neologistic, like pulling the carpet out from beneath the other person's feet.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Headache

Oh, glory! Another one of my wondrous migraines. I took today off from work, just glad I work a job with a flexible and rearrangeable schedule. Spent much of the day in bed. Slept half the afternoon.

Now I'm sitting here wrapped in a wool blanket (yes, it really is that cool in these parts this summer). Headache has passed over, leaving me feeling (as usual post-headache) dreamy and drifting and lassid. The nausea that often accompanies my headaches has also passed over, so if I know what's good for me I'd better concoct a solid and filling supper.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oddly Enough

The other day I had occasion to spend some time in the company of a fellow I'm loosely acquainted with. And he was behaving very oddly.

Talking, talking, talking, like a compulsive motormouth. One contrived joke after another. Jokes, observations, remarks, anything to avoid a moment's silence. Sort of like a running-off-at-the-mouth stand-up comedian, you know?

And the strangest part of it was, he was talking as if he were black. I don't think he was even consciously aware of it, but his pronunciation, his dialect, his wording, his elocution, were all thoroughly African-American. A fellow in his thirties, blond, Germanic, a lifelong Northerner. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on with him.

Then I realized, oh yeah, he went through a divorce within the past year. That explains it. That usually explains a lot. Like the old friend of mine, about as straitlaced as a fellow can be without being in the least a bluenose, and he got divorced and spent the next six months falling into bed with unknown women he met at parties.

Nonstop jokey babbling, in a novel accent that just doesn't fit the speaker. Chalk it up to divorce. It makes sense, which is to say it doesn't make sense, but for precisely that reason it does make sense.

Cool

The unseasonably cool summer continues. Usually by this time of the year we're into highs up in the 90's almost every day. This year it's been mostly highs in the 70's -- a July with highs mostly in the 70's, sometimes only in the 60's -- so that yesterday when it got up into the low 80's it seemed like a heat wave.

In fact it's looking as though we may finish out the month of July without it ever once getting up to 90. Unseasonably cool.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Parade

I had the fun today of riding on a float in a parade in town. The float belongs to a community service club I'm a member of. Four of us sat up on the float and waved to the crowd, countless hundreds, as our fifth sat in a pickup and towed our float down the main drag. Huge crowd this year. Sunny out (yes, I was careful to use sunscreen) but unseasonably cool, as our entire summer has been.

Afterwards we pulled a tarp over the float, and the pickup driver and I stopped off at a tavern for lunch before dropping off the float in its shed. Then back out into the remote countryside where I live (the pickup driver lives about another two miles over beyond me) and I sacked out and took a nap the rest of this afternoon. Beneath a wool blanket, thank you, yes it is that cold in these parts.

Now I'm eating supper, and looking forward to a leisurely evening. This really is the way to spend a Saturday, and as my schedule often runs it's all too seldom that I get to spend a Saturday this way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birds Singing

Woke up this morning, windows open, house cool, and from outside I could hear the birds singing. Twit twit, twit twit, twit twit CHEE chee tooo! Twit twit, twit twit, twit twit CHEE chee tooo!

Except for a few obvious ones like the owl, I can't tell you which bird song goes with which bird. But it's imprinted on my memory, many of those songs I hear today are identical to the bird songs I used to hear out the window when I was visiting my grandparents, back when I was a kid. Back when I was a kid who lived in town, visiting my grandparents out in the countryside at their farmhouse.

Now here I am, grown up, and living far, far out into the countryside, living on a gravel road miles from the nearest small town. And I wake up in the dawn on a cool summer morning, and out the window I hear those very same bird songs that are imprinted on my memory from so long ago.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Slow in the Morning

I've had the past two days off. Now it's back to work, and I find as usual that I'm very slow to get going in the morning. Stumbling around, a cup of coffee, two cups of coffee. I just don't feel like I'm in motion.

And I've been this way most of my life, about as far back as I can remember.

I'm most definitely not a morning person. And, in recent years, not so much of an evening person either. More like a forenoon and afternoon person.

It strikes me that our society is not structured to accommodate the fact that many of us work better at one time of the day, and not so well at other hours. Clockwork punctuality, and one time of day same as another, befit a machine-driven society. I've always felt that a culture of siesta and mañana was more built to a human scale.

Monday, July 20, 2009

That's One Small Step for a Man

Forty years ago today, I was a kid and I remember watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember the picture on the screen of the old black and white TV in our living room, hard to make out what the picture was all about if you didn't already know.

And I remember "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

As a kid I was a tremendous fan of the space program. Strangely enough, a lot of kids in my class were not. They, and a lot of adults too, took a peculiarly negative, angry, sour, curdled attitude against the space program. As if the space program was dangerously unsettling to their flat-earth view of the universe. As if the space program were a fire, a dirty nasty filthy unclean fire that must be put out.

It's been a long time since I've run into anyone who takes that view of the space program. I suppose it's been a background element in our lives for so long now... Meanwhile, I remember what I was doing forty years ago today. I was glued to the television, in rapt fascination at signals coming to us from another world.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

So I learn this morning that Walter Cronkite died. And just days short of the fortieth anniversary of the first manned moon landing. I remember when I was a kid, and I watched the Apollo 11 mission on TV. I watched Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. And I remember Walter Cronkite's coverage of it all, including the way he kept talking, talking, talking over everything. I remember watching those historic moments, live from the surface of the moon, and thinking to myself, Dammit, Walter, can't you just shut up and let us watch?

I remember when Walter Cronkite was an oracular presence on the CBS evening news. There's nobody like that anymore in TV news. Nobody who is the medium, whose presence validates the message. In fact, who watches the nightly network news anymore? Hardly any young adults. And not I; not that I'm that young, I've got plenty of grey in my hair, and I'm old enough to remember back when. News coverage is from all over now, a lot of it online, and less of it from TV, or from the print newspapers (which keep dying off one after another). I still subscribe to a few magazines, and I do get some of my news off the radio. But for the most part, the old media, and those like Walter Cronkite who personified the old media, are dead or dying.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Stylish" Clothing

At a church picnic the other evening, and one of the things that struck me was how "stylish" the clothing of so many of us was, compared to back when I was a kid. We're talking "stylish" informal, shorts and tee shirts and (it was a cool evening) some sweat shirts. But back in the day I would've been wearing blue jeans (probably patched) and an utterly unstylish plaid shirt, not shorts of stylishly voluminous cut and shirt with logo.

Forty years ago, at least in the small town where I grew up, people did not dress for style. They simply did not. The clothes they wore were, for lack of a better word, forgettable.

Forgettable and utterly unstylish. I also remember how my mother used to pick out my clothes without even consulting me as to my likes and dislikes. They paid for it; if it fit, I was going to wear it, and that was that. Nobody in those days thought of consulting kids on which clothes they might prefer. You should just be glad you have a roof over your head.

Even if it was the norm in those days, I think my mother was doing me no favor; and let's not get off into how my folks raised me in general without any real preparation for making my own decisions as an adult. Clothing, the truth is, through most of my young adult years I bought my clothes with little or no regard for whether I liked them. As long as it was serviceable and cheap, as long as it fit, that was enough, never mind if I might have bought clothing I liked better just as cheaply. I was past forty, really, before I got onto the notion of consulting my own likes and dislikes when shopping for clothes.

Of course at the opposite extreme there are those who are slaves to fashion. No danger, though, that I would ever fall into that category. Even though these days I may wear Carhartts and a sweatshirt with manufacturer's logo, inside of me you'll still find that boy who used to dress (like everyone else) in patched no-name jeans and a brown plaid flannel shirt of indifferent cut.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Roadside Towers

Sunday afternoon I made the long drive to town to visit an old friend and neighbor who is currently residing in the nursing home. It was on the way back -- the part of the drive that's on a state highway -- that I noticed six separate radio towers alongside the road in less than two miles.

I repeat, six radio towers, evidently part of five separate installations, along the highway in a less than two-mile stretch.

Whether some or all of them were cell phone towers, or what, I have no idea. I only know that in the past few years such towers have been proliferating on the landscape. Why, from my house out in the remote countryside it's surprising how many towers, with their blinking lights, I can see on the horizon on a clear evening. Most of those towers were not there just a few years ago.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Laptop Battery

So a couple of days ago I got a new battery for my laptop. Old battery had gotten so it wouldn't hold a charge any more, way of all things. The new battery was delivered from across the continent in less than 24 hours, and it really is a wonder.

I am free once again to be online from anywhere around the house, out in my back yard even. Battery lasts a full three hours. I was so used to being tethered to my desk, with my laptop plugged in, that I'd forgotten what it was like.

No, a new laptop battery is not cheap. But this is the best investment of more than just pocket change that I've made in a long, long while.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Codname Beardgoat

Back thirty years ago there were various people I remember seeing around campus repeatedly. No idea who they were, but they stood out.

One such fellow I remember, he had severely parted blond hair, lank and straight and dull. A sparse, scraggly, untrimmed beard. He was tall and thin, with a scrawny neck and a prominent yodeleedle adam's apple. Dark eyes sunk back into sunken hollow eye sockets. The type who wore a motheaten cardigan sweater twenty years out of style. Oh, and on his bony finger he wore a gold ring that might've looked in style for a fellow twice his age back around 1910.

I came to think of this odd duck as "Beardgoat," no doubt because of his scraggly beard. And then the heading that attached itself to this name was Codname Beardgoat. Not "Codname" as in "Codename." More like "Codname" as in "Codpiece."

And then there was something about how Beardgoat would shift into an alternate mode of reality, a "fight mode," going into combat like a stop-motion kung fu slide show, shift from still shot pose one to still shot pose two to still shot pose three, all to the sudden tune of Bachman Turner Overdrive's Roll on Down the Highway.

Thirty years later these quizzical memories of Beardgoat come drifting up in my mind. I suspect underlying the micro-life-details of many of us are intricate little webs of nonsense like this. Stream of consciousness, and one step beyond...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sandals

As I discovered all over again yesterday during our Fourth of July festivities, one great shortcoming of sandals is their tendency to catch a pebble between the sole of my foot and the sandal. Then, be it a tiny pebble or a larger pebble, agony.

Unless the sole of my foot were tougher? Maybe this is what I get for never going barefoot.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Yes. Fourth of July events in the area. I'm going to be taking part. In some small way even helping out with the activities. All culminating this evening, of course, in a fireworks display.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

With a Moon and Stars on Your Attic

Driving the long winding road into town yesterday, I passed as I always do by this big old house. Yellow house, dark brown trim. And a funky touch: on two sides of the house, up must be at attic level, is a big rectangular block of brown wooden trim around a window.

Window, a semicircle. And cut into the big rectangular block of brown wooden trim is a moon and two stars. Yellow moon, yellow stars.

Two windows with trim like this. Funky moon and stars surrounding a semicircular attic window. To me a little touch like that makes the house. I wonder if it was back in the sixties, or somebody from the sixties, who added that funky moon and stars touch to that house.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On the Road

On the road yesterday six hours out of eight. Such is necessary in these parts if you want to get where you need to go.

Three hours there, two hours there, three hours back. Apart from the need to stop for an occasional bathroom break along the way -- that's what I get for having coffee with breakfast.

When I got home in the evening, I was somewhere between exhausted and disoriented. Had supper. Had several glasses of ice cold green tea. The book I ordered came in the mail; I lay around reading it.

Last night I slept with the windows open, and it got down into the 50s for the first time in weeks.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Hunting

The other day I ordered a book I've been thinking of getting. Ordered it from Amazon. Or rather, ordered it from one of those countless third-party booksellers who offer used copies for sale via Amazon. The precipitating factor was, I received a gift certificate from my brother. So I up and ordered.

How different this is from years ago, when I would've added that book to my floating mental book list, and waited probably years until I stumbled across it in a used book store. If it ever turned up. Twenty, thirty years ago there was no shortcut. Just keep looking and waiting. Fortunately I knew and visited a large number of good used book stores in the part of the country where I lived then. But even so, the time it took to find a book was often measured in years. Sometimes many years.

Nowadays the only real constraint on book hunting is my budget. Because almost any book I may think of getting, I can turn up online in a matter of minutes. And it's that way with a lot of things I buy. Living out here in the middle of nowhere, finding and buying items, even obscure items, is orders of magnitude easier than it was for me living in the city years back.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Olives

I have to confess that I really like olives. Green olives. Olives with pimiento, though I'm not wild about the pimiento. I snack on olives. I can easily finish off an entire jar, almost before I know it.

I suck on them, I chew them, several olives at a time. It's the salt. It's the olive taste. I've had this thing for olives ever since I was a kid.

Self-Disclosure

Last night I ran into a neighbor who was a regular reader of my old blog, which had a minor following of sorts both in the blogosphere and here in my neck of meatspace. He asked me, as he occasionally does, whether I've begun blogging again.

For some reason, don't ask me why, I admitted to him that yes, within the past few months I'd begun blogging again. He's the first person to whom I've disclosed the existence of this new blog of mine. And I'm wondering now if that was a mistake.

I didn't tell him the name of the blog, or the URL, only that I was now blogging anonymously (on my old blog I openly used my real name) and that so far this new blog has been more generic and less colorful than my old blog.

I also said that finding this new blog of mine probably wouldn't be hard if a person googled for it. And that's true. I've shaded a few details here, but someone who knows me in real life might well be able to find this blog if they tried. And this neighbor is good with a computer.

It's also true that my old blog was considerably more colorful than this one. That doesn't surprise me, on my old blog I just got into a schtick of blogging on certain highly colorful topics. I could hardly blog on those same topics here without rendering the task of finding me trivial.

When I began this new blog I wondered if I might be more self-disclosing here. Though so far, with the exception of a few posts, I haven't been trending in that direction. And after what I admitted to my neighbor last night, that may turn out to be for the better.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Heat Wave

I guess the summer weather had to arrive sooner or later. Heat index yesterday up into the triple digits. Even hotter today.

I have to go out into the heat and do some work this afternoon. Note to self: self, take along some fluids and stay, what do they call it, hydrated?

Meanwhile for the morning I get to enjoy air conditioning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ten Years Here

It was ten years ago next week that I moved here, to deep rural America. Moved here from the city. Moved out here to a big old house on a gravel road, so far from the centers of population that in the daytime the bottom half of the AM dial is dead. Yes, during daylight hours you can't receive any of those big urban 50 kilowatt radio stations out here. That's how remote this area is.

Ten years ago that I moved to deep rural America. Ten years now that I've been living here. Gainfully employed. Became a member of the community -- which, you know, isn't easy in a remote place like this where everyone's lived since their ancestors arrived here as pioneers. But I did it. This has become my home.

And these past ten years have been the best years of my life.

I came here out of a mix of motives. To find and make a home. To set down roots, the roots I never had in my wandering young adult years. To get out and away from the mumming madness of the city. To find a traditional and fairly sane community, far away and far off the beaten path, and there live out the Benedict option if-and-while American culture at large goes down the tubes. Become a part of this community. Contribute by God's grace as best I can to the ongoing breath-of-fresh-air sanity of this remote rural area.

I found all that and more. Best move I ever made. Ten years on in my life and ten years further downhill toward craziness in America at large, I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Brown Scapular

How's this for another true confession from this lifelong Protestant tinged with Catholicism? For several years now I have worn the brown scapular.

Yes, the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Since it's hidden beneath my shirt, nobody need ever be the wiser. Two little rectangles of brown wool, one on my chest, one on my back, joined by brown cords. Sewn on them, embroided images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And attached to it all, several small sterling silver religious medals.

The scapular is vurra, vurra Catholic, though in these post Vatican II days I find it's obscure even among the Catholic faithful. I recently asked a Catholic friend of mine, and he only just barely knew, after cudgeling his brains, what a scapular was.

Suffice it to say that my mariology is more Catholic than Protestant (though not even Luther, you know, dared disavow devotion to the Blessed Virgin). This is another one of those points where, I myself know not quite how, I find myself pulled more and more Romeward.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Flat Tire

Over the weekend I made the long drive to visit my folks. Was planning to stay till Monday. Ended up not getting home till yesterday afternoon.

Well, I pulled into their driveway and discovered that I had a flat tire. I'd been running on it flat. No idea how long, as it hadn't felt flat. But the tire was pretty well done for.

So. Car to my dad's mechanic Monday morning, "Looks like I'll need a new pair of tires in back."

Late Monday afternoon, the word came that it needed more than just tires. Seems I'd been running on that flat for longer than I'd guessed. Lugs, stems, whatever they are... one big heavy metal pin was broken, half of it they pulled out, the other half they had to drill out.

So the Jeep wasn't ready until Tuesday morning. Then came the long drive back home, and I arrived here without further incident.

You wouldn't believe how often I have car trouble when I go to visit my folks. Just about enough that, over the years, I've paid that mechanic enough to endow a car repair stall in my name.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lemonade for Breakfast

I've given in to the utmost in decadence. I've begun drinking lemonade for breakfast. Lemonade instead of orange juice.

Lemonade for breakfast. Talk about ruinous wastrel loose degenerate decadent!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Binoculars

Yesterday UPS delivered the old binoculars I ordered. Ordered from sort of an "international army surplus" catalog. Old Swiss Army binoculars, World War II vintage, made in 1940. Wonderful old binoculars, Kern 6x24 Porro prism binoculars, made of solid brass. The binoculars and their leather case have obviously seen lots of use, but they're built solid, cleaned and reconditioned, and (as the catalog says) "optically and mechanically like new."

I took the binoculars outside and tried them out. Redwing blackbird across the road looked close enough to touch. Stop sign a quarter mile away, down at the end of the gravel road I live on, easily read. In fact I could read the road sign down there from a quarter mile away.

There's a new tower to the north of us, I can see its light blinking at night. A new microwave tower, or cell phone tower, or whatever. (A neighbor not very helpfully tells me it's an "emergency tower.") It's several miles away, up beyond the next valley to the north of us. Yet through the binoculars I can make out the individual metal struts in the tower.

For years I've been wanting an old pair of binoculars like these, simple, used, but finely crafted and built like a tank. Finally ran across what I was looking for. And like all things of true quality, it is a joy.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Badger


Here's a nifty little critter I just picked up. A badger, made of black marble. He's taken up residence on the end table in my living room.

These badgers are carved and hand etched by Zuni Indians. Rather cool, I dare say.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Telephone

I wish I lived in a world where the means of communication did not include the telephone. I really detest telephones!

I mean, yes, I use the telephone. I make phone calls. I answer the phone. Like most of us, my life is so arranged that I can't get around it. And there are times, such as the rare emergency, when a telephone can be a life saver.

But in general I only just barely tolerate the telephone. How many times in a free and leisurely moment has the phone interrupted, for no good reason and to no good purpose?! I'm on the national do not call list, and that helps a lot. But even those phone calls that remain are, for the most part, a blasted nuisance and an unwarranted intrusion. I much prefer to deal with people face to face, by handwritten note, by email... by almost any medium of communication but the telephone.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

hydropinecone

Thanks for ordering from hydropinecone... your online source!

Evanescence of Email

I was up late last night, browsing through a thick stack of old computer fanfold paper I found lying on a dusty shelf. A thick stack, hard copies of emails I sent and received, dating back into the 1990s, none of them more recent than 2001.

Of course many of the emails were trivial. But even with those that were not, what surprised me was how utterly unfamiliar these old emails were. I don't remember them. I don't remember ever writing and sending such emails. Emails filled with topics I don't remember ever thinking of, much less discussing with anyone.

Makes me wonder how many of my emails today will prove similarly evanescent in ten years' time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No Asparagus

I always enjoy asparagus this time of year. Picked fresh from out beside the old shed.

But not this year. I forgot to put up a fence around that spot of ground before the person I hire to mow my lawn showed up for the first time this season. Forgot the first couple of times. They mowed right over it. End result, here we are into June and I haven't seen a stalk of asparagus yet.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Beginning of Summer

I measure the beginning of summer by several yardsticks: Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of June, school letting out... by whatever measure, I'm heading into the summertime now. I think of when I was a kid, and the magical feeling of school letting out, being free to do pretty much whatever I wanted from day to day, and soon arriving at a stage where I no longer knew or cared which day of the month it was.

Playing out in the back yard. Going out and exploring the countryside west of town. Going for long bike rides.

Even now, decades later, that aura of magic and of the beginning of all leisurely possibilities hangs over this time of year. I've got various books I'd like to read this summer. Various projects I'd like to carry out. We shall see how much of it I get around to.

Aches and Pains

Ache in my hip. Ache in my knee. Driven to use a hot water bottle. Oh, the indignities of getting older...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Linux Again

So I'm very close to getting Mandriva 2009, installed on my laptop on Monday, configured back to the way I'm used to.

Only half a dozen or so minor sticking points left to overcome. Mmmmm, actually I shut down anacron, so that's one sticking point less.

Every time I log out, I have to wait a good 30 seconds before the login screen comes back up. Every time I log in, my preferred background comes up for a second before a wallpaper I never selected jumps in and takes over. I have no idea how or why that wallpaper steals the show; it's easy enough to restore the status quo ante, but that's an additional manual step, and the interloper wallpaper returns the next time I log in. I dunno, for the time being I've given up, and learned to love the unwanted wallpaper.

But that's Mandrake/Mandriva for you. Most of the time it works very nicely, but with every release there's a handful of minor hangups that will make you tear your hair out. Still, overall it works nicely, it's slick, it simplifies your job when you want, and gets out of your way when you want to remove the training wheels. Which I guess is why I've stuck with this distro for going on six years now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Joy of the Knife

Back in January I got a new pocket knife. It arrived in the mail, and not five minutes later I accidentally sliced the ball of my thumb open on its razor sharp blade. Serves me right for fooling around! Quite a severe cut, way down into the flesh. But it healed cleanly, and barely left a scar.

Though one lingering aftereffect is mildly annoying. I seem to have contracted a compulsive-obsessive hang-up with sharp objects. In my mind it's as if knives, blades, arrows, all manner of sharp objects, are superimposed on my environment, shooting toward me. I know damn well it's my imagination, but I have to halt the projectiles before they hit me. You know, sort of like Neo stopping the bullets in mid air toward the end of The Matrix.

I have fairly effective inward rituals to keep the same species of sharp object from attacking me more than once. Still, it's a nuisance, and no less of a nuisance for being a psychological hang-up of known etiology and origin.

Moreover this is the first compulsive-obsessive bout I've had in over forty years. Used to have some difficulties with it back in grade school, though I managed at that time to banish my compulsions permanently by means of inward rituals which you probably wouldn't believe if I described them. Eh, like I say, a nuisance.

Screeeeeech!

There are a couple of differences I've long noticed between liberals and conservatives.

One, liberals are for sugar and spice and everything nice, while conservatives are for snakes and snails and puppy dog tails... ;-)

Two, correctly identify the contents of a conservative's beliefs, and the conservative will say, "Yes, that's right, that's where I'm coming from." But correctly identify the contents of a liberal's beliefs, and the liberal will fly into a shrieking screaming fury: "Screeeeeech!!! How dare you! How dare you identify publicly where I'm coming from?!! Scrreeeeeeeech!!!"

As Bill Buckley once put it in one of his early books (I think perhaps Up from Liberalism?) liberals often prefer to conduct the debate under conditions of low intellectual visibility.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Linux

So, having Memorial Day off yesterday, I dove into a task I've been putting off now for weeks: I installed a new Linux release on my laptop. Mandriva Linux 2009. Well, okay, maybe not so new; but I prefer a release that's had more of the bugs worked out of it.

Mandriva 2009. Replacing Mandriva 2008. I made proper precautionary backups, not that I expected to need them as I wasn't touching my /home partition; but, you know, just in case. Backed up various config files. And then booted up off the installation DVD, and began the harrowing process of reformatting my root partition, installing Mandriva 2009, and then downloading tons of updates. The installation proper took less than half an hour; the updates took nearly six hours.

I've got today off too, so today I'm going to be configuring everything back to the way I'm used to. And already this morning I've made good progress on that. Not so hard, this is about the sixth time I've done this now. When I'm finished, I'll have a laptop running under Linux which is fine-tuned for me and my assorted purposes.

And say! I now have wireless capability in Linux for the first time. 'Twouldn't work in Mandriva 2008, I suspect my wireless card was still too new when that final came out. But it works just fine now. No longer is my websurfing tethered to my study. I may have brats out in the back yard this evening, whilst farting around on the web...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rain

It's been an odd spring. Unseasonably cool much of the time, though a few hot days this past week; now cool once again. Rain often enough that the farmers are behind schedule out in the fields. Then dry to the point where we're in need of rain again. Then more rain.

Yesterday morning it was raining out. Not much, but enough that my concrete driveway was damp. Then by noon, when I walked the couple hundred yards to my mailbox, it was raining light but steady. Then by mid afternoon, when I attended a graduation party in the neighborhood, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Moderately cool though humid.

I do wonder. Last winter was incredibly severe. This spring, cool. Now comes summer, and I hope it'll be more true to type.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Lamp

Recently I got a new lamp for the endtable in my living room. A new lamp with a stained glass lamp shade. 'Twasn't expensive as fancy lamps go, but 'twasn't cheap either.

I never bought items like this until, oh, the past four or five years. Always used to be, all my adult life, if I was going to buy something, I bought it on the cheap. A tee-shirt for 25¢ at Goodwill. A lamp for an Andrew Jackson at the local discount store. Or else I did without.

Did without: Let's not get into the time I found myself without a bed, and I couldn't afford to buy one, so for a year I slept on a rubber mat on a hardwood floor.

Just these past few years, for the first time in my life, my finances have expanded to the point where I can now afford to buy little items like my new lamp. Nothing real expensive. But I'm no longer scrambling to find the cheapest penny-pincher on-sale bargain I can locate.

On little things. On big-ticket items, like my Jeep, I still hew to "thrifty as she goes": bought that Jeep going on four years ago for $2,500, still runs like a top, and rarely a repair beyond routine maintenance.

And I'll be honest. Sometimes I feel guilty about purchases like this lamp. Sort of like I've let go of simplicity. Sort of like I ought to return to the days when I lived largely on rice, dried beans, and ramen, and $2.25 for a canister of Quaker Oats bought me breakfast for six weeks, carefully rationed servings of oatmeal that had better not run out before the six weeks are up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Headache

So about mid morning today I started getting a headache. I've been getting these headaches occasionally for decades now, ever since I was in grade school. Always on the same side of my head, and often accompanied by nausea. No, I've never been diagnosed (my longtime disconnect with doctors is a story for another time) but if you think that sounds like a migraine, I'd say you're probably right.

My headaches often come on when I slow down, after a stretch of hard work. Well, today I was slowing down at long last, after a couple of hectic weeks punctuated by a long drive yesterday to attend a meeting quite some distance away.

By the noon hour my headache had grown so severe-- more severe than usual-- that I had to take off from work for the rest of the day. (Fortunately I work a job where, busy as I often am, my schedule is largely at my own discretion.) Spent the afternoon lying flat on my back in bed, unable to focus, unable to think, just passing from one necklace-bead moment to the next.

Now the headache has passed over, to be replaced as usual by a peculiarly lassid and spaced-out state of consciousness. Not at all unpleasant, though what I have to pass through to get here is sheer hell.

Oh well. Tomorrow it's back in the saddle, a long day, with one extra task shoehorned in which was originally intended for this afternoon.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ferns

About a year ago I got a couple of pots of ferns. Set them in a wicker planter in my living room, by an east window. Watered them some. Oops, don't water them too much! I think I did water them too much. They did okay for about six months; then they shriveled up and died.

So a month or two ago I got a couple more pots of ferns. Huge pots of ferns, at one of those big chain-store home building supply centers. Took them home, set them in the wicker planter. This time I took care not to water them too much.

And, however many weeks later, some of the fern fronds are doing fine, while others-- probably the majority of them-- have shriveled up and died. Already. So I weeded out the ones that are dead, and I see that some new ferns are starting to grow up out of the pots. We shall see if this time watering them even less does the trick.