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.


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


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


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


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


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.

No Exit

You know, it's really not hard to construct an invincible armor-plated worldview, closed from the inside and possessed of an uncontestable answer for everything. All it takes is a modicum of ingenuity, and a solid dose of anger, rigidity, and an unyielding steely will.

Still, the mere fact that you've managed to construct such a worldview-- invincible, closed, uncontestable-- doesn't mean your worldview is correct, any more than the mere fact that you're constipated means you're not full of shit.

I'm astonished at the people out here in meatspace-- academics, campus Marxists, Jehovah's Witnesses, militant atheists, conspiracy mongers-- who just don't understand this. "But I've got an unanswerable argument for everything! My viewpoint is bulletproof! Doesn't that... mean... mean that I've just got to be correct?"

No it doesn't, Bunky. Pay me to do it, and I could produce worldviews like yours, bulletproof worldviews, by the dozen. Bulletproof doesn't mean they're correct. Bulletproof is merely a formal property of some worldviews, and not always a desirable property, either.

I'm even more astonished at the prevalence of such people in cyberspace. What is it about online discussion forums that draws such bulletproof wonders in such disproportionate numbers?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Damnation of Adam Blessing

Okay, there was this band out of Cleveland, Ohio back in the late 60s and early 70s, known as The Damnation of Adam Blessing. Well known in the Cleveland area. Never achieved the nationwide reputation they likely deserved. They recorded four albums, the third under the band name of "Damnation" and the fourth under the band name of "Glory," which makes discographies more complicated than need be.

And (this is where I come in) some time back around 1979, when I was a young punk in grad school, I stumbled across their third album, Which Is the Justice, Which Is the Thief?, in a remainder bin somewhere. I loved it. Played it over and over. It became one of my favorites.

There matters rested until several years ago, when I searched around online and found some bits and snippets about The Damnation of Adam Blessing, but no place where more of their music was available. :-(

Until, ummmm, maybe last week. I searched again, found that in the interim their albums had been rereleased on CD. So. I bought their other three albums. And the past few days I've been gorging on The Damnation of Adam Blessing, blissfully listening to their albums over and over and over again. Damn, their first two albums are even better than the one I've been listening to, and loved, for these past thirty years...

Takes me back to my days as a young punk. Sharing a fourth floor efficiency apartment with my brother. Old early 60s vintage wood-cabinet stereo. Many a Friday evening, listening to loud music. The Beatles. Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. And of course that album by (The) Damnation (of Adam Blessing), opening with the wondrously (over)wrought tones of a song entitled "Fingers on a Windmill"...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How My Kitchen Almost Burned

I live in a big old house which was built in 1880. Recently a neighbor showed me some old yellowed typewritten local history, in which I read about how my kitchen almost burned down back around 1914.

The then residents of my house were preparing some concoction to oil the leather horse harness of their buggy. Said concoction had to be boiled over the stove, and the bottom of the tin container melted out. All of a sudden there was oil everywhere, burning. They were afraid the kitchen was going to burn down. They were afraid the whole house was going to burn down.

But they managed to get the fire put out. And so nearly 100 years later, here my kitchen and house still stand, safe and sound. I must admit, these past few days I've been looking at my kitchen in a different light: the almost ex-kitchen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Last week I had lunch with a young woman from around here who's going into the same line of work I'm in. She graduated from college in December, and now is gaining some real world experience before she goes on to graduate school. She wanted to pick my brains, and we sat there in a booth at the restaurant talking far into the afternoon.

I've been a friend of her family for many years now. I remember when she was a kid in grade school. It's gratifying to see a young adult who has a sense of direction, who has her head screwed on straight, who's asking intelligent and searching questions, and who's successfully navigating the minefield of young adulthood. She's always been highly intelligent, not just head-smart but talented on so many different levels at once, and her various talents are well integrated. Her talents are far better integrated than mine were at her age. She'll do well and she'll go far.

She probably won't make much money-- those of us in the helping professions seldom do-- but then, there are higher and more important goals than the almighty dollar. It's especially gratifying to see such a talented young person who is out for something more exalted than just making a pile of bucks.

I look at so many other young adults around here, and they're adrift, or they're struggling, or they're still in an adolescence which will extend well into their twenties, or they've made personal missteps that will be with them for years to come, or they just don't care. Today's culture doesn't do much to help them; it often helps rationalize or even encourage their aimless drift. I'm just glad for young adults like my young padawan, who knows very well what she is up to, and is not going to be distracted from her mission by the siren song of the ambient culture.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Busy. I just get busy sometimes. Real busy. And for me the weekend is much the same as the weekdays. My schedule is a rolling thing, a traveling feast of "busy."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chicken BBQ

Sunday we had our annual Chicken BBQ dinner at church. The men set up large barbecue pits in the shelter out back, got the charcoal going, readied the chicken and set it atop the barbecue pits in big wire frames holding dozens of chickens apiece. The ladies got things ready down in the church basement where people would come to eat, and they prepared the beans, the potato salad, what not. Take-outs were dispensed from the garage of the parsonage. And there was also a bake sale, with house plants and the like, and a raffle.

I bought several house plants early on. Given my rate of success with plants, I need to pick up new house plants any chance I get.

The dinner started at four in the afternoon. It was supposed to run until seven, but in fact we sold out all our chicken by 6:30. Oh well, the last hour of these church dinners is usually fairly slow anyhow. And if we sold out, that means we served something like 500 meals.

Meanwhile, here I sit on a Tuesday, with several new plants in pots atop the bookcase to the left of me.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I live out here on a gravel road, far out in the middle of nowhere. Earlier this spring, when the frost came out of the ground, the road was reduced to gooey mud for a few days. Not for nothing do I have a Jeep with four wheel drive!

After it turned muddy the road dried out, but with soft spots here and there. Hit one of those soft spots going too fast, and you were in danger of losing control. Earlier this week a neighbor mentioned to me that down the road several miles, some of those soft spots had developed into ruts at least six inches deep. So it was with relief that I noticed the other day that a maintainer was at work, plowing up and down the road. I see they've dumped new gravel in places too.

A Semi in the Night

I woke up in the middle of the night. Happened to look out the bedroom window. In the illumination of my yard light I saw a semi parked outside. It was parked out in the road. No problem, though he could've pulled further off to the side: he pretty much reduced this stretch of gravel road (none too wide as it is) to a one-lane passage. Not that we get much traffic out here in the middle of the night, though we do get some. Mostly pickup trucks, young people out joyriding, someone returning home from town after second shift or after bartime.

The sun was up when I got up early in the morning. The semi was still sitting there in the road. Come to think of it, where could he have been heading, in this remote quarter far from the main thoroughfares? No idea. The semi's engine rumbled to life at 6:40 AM. He pulled out and was on his way at 7:01 AM sharp.