Friday, December 31, 2010

Time Slows Down

I don't know what it is, but this time toward the end of the year has always felt to me as if it operates in a time frame of its own. Time slows down, and flows at a different rate, and in variant channels.

It begins for me several days before Christmas, and continues on through New Year's Day. No matter what I'm doing, no matter what my schedule. Time stretches out and distends, as if time itself drifts off into a realm beyond time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another Blizzard

Oh great. We're in the throes of yet another blizzard, as if the ones that have hit us already this season weren't enough. Fortunately I have enough food laid away that I can ride out the storm. And fortunately I can do enough of my work from home, with the aid of my trusty Internet connection, that I won't need to stir myself abroad until the roads are more than half passable again.

Looks like we're heading into our third or fourth hard winter in a row. Oh, and what's this? Eclipse of the moon coincides with winter solstice for the first time in ages? I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, but it sounds ominous. Damn, maybe I should've laid in some garlic or silver bullets...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pressure Tank

The other day I was down in my basement, where I seldom go, and I noticed that my pressure tank was leaking. My pressure tank, the big 120 gallon tank which holds water drawn up from my well. It was leaking, a little continuous squirting of water coming out of a crack on the side, down near the bottom. A big puddle on the basement floor.

No surprise, really, that the tank should be giving out. It's old, it was in this big old house out here in the country long before I moved in. In fact the old peeling label on the side of the tank reads "Chicago 9 Illinois." Put that back in the pre-zipcode era!

Fortunately I was able to latch on to a plumber, and he made a trip to obtain a new tank, which he is presently installing down in my basement. With a little help from a few neighbors, who've been very good about helping, and standing by and kibitzing. This is one of the great things about living in a place where neighbors help one another out. And by some time this afternoon, I ought to have running water again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Wound Unhealing

Sometimes all it takes is a snicker, a giggle, a smirk they think I didn't see. And then the wound breaks open inside of me, and inwardly I ache and I hurt and I seethe for hours, sometimes for days. As if they've slashed me with a knife, cut me open and left me bleeding in searing pain.

As if I'm suffering flashbacks to nearly 50 years ago, when I was a young boy in school suffering under the intolerable Stalinism of school bullies. Amazing that after nearly five decades, the emotional scars are still there inside of me. And they can be lacerated, broken open, by a careless word or expression which in these latter days may or may not signify a malice like the very genuine and openly jeering malice which was there in the bullies who tormented me in the lower grades.

No one who knows me today-- no one who's known me over the past 20 years and more-- would ever guess. It has been one of the categorical imperatives of my adult life never outwardly to give any sign of that bleeding wound within me. Outwardly I am always genial, benevolent, unflappable. Indeed much of the time that is also the inward me, so successfully have I papered over the ancient emotional scars within.

But then comes the laugh or the smirk out on the margins, like the razor edge of a box cutter, and inside of me at least the papered-over facade is slashed away. When I can, I retreat and draw back from human company until the darkness goes. Like I say, it has been one of the imperatives of my adult years never to betray to others even a glimmer of what then rages and roils within me. For a time I must contend with voices within which tell me I am worthless, stupid, unlovable, beyond the pale of humanity, and metaphysically deserving of all the contempt and obloquy anyone could ever heap upon me.

I am six years old again, helpless and crying and in pain as a pack of bullies sets upon me and beats and pummels me in a ditch on the way home from school. Punches hurt worse when their fists are closed around steel pins, like improvised brass knuckles. The physical pain, the jeering, the beatings... they eventually pass. But the emotional scars have never passed.

Never let anyone know. Never let anyone around me catch on. Keep up the kindly exterior. That has been the watchword of my later years. Even when within, the old wound has broken open once again.

And meanwhile in our schools, bullies are addressed with bland bureaucratic prating, and school assemblies, and deafening ideological cant. Sickening! Of course deep down those who prate are one at heart with those who bully and torment. I have no answer, except to pray that I never defile myself by stooping to the level either of the bullies who torment, or of the suits who falsely prate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

President Obama: Doo Doo Doo Doo, Doo Doo Doo Doo...

Unbelievable. I couldn't make up anything this bizarre if I tried. President Barack Obama brings former President Bill Clinton to an impromptu White House press conference to lend his support to the tax bill compromise with the GOP. Obama turns over the presidential podium to Clinton, who proceeds to wax eloquent, just as if he's back in the Presidency again...

And then Obama excuses himself, saying he's been keeping Michelle waiting and they've got to go to a Christmas party... and Obama turns and leaves the room, leaves the press conference, leaving de facto President Bill Clinton in charge to continue the press conference without him. Clinton just loving it, talking on and on, fielding questions from reporters who address him as "Mr. President," and clearly outshining Obama.

Surreal. Almost like a rewind to 1998. Bill Clinton's back in the White House, and he's President again. While Barack Obama walks away in the middle of a press conference to go to a Christmas party.

I'm sorry, but words fail me. This incident was weirder than any possible commentary the human mind could devise on it. I almost expected to see Rod Serling stepping on camera.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Motivated Missing of the Point

I often don't know who's right in an argument. But I've discovered a good rule of thumb for knowing when someone is wrong, dead wrong, in the wrong. Look for whoever's mired down in querulousness, nitpicking, logic-chopping, and especially what we might call a motivated missing of the point.

Do you find someone in the argument who seems to be laboring under a deliberate and persistent misreading of their opponent's point of view? Not just a misreading due to honest ignorance, or to lack of familiarity with said view. But a misreading which is pervasive, persistent, oblivious, and largely self-imposed. Do you find someone who seems to be doing their damnedest to misunderstand even the most basic and salient details of their opponent's views? In short, someone who is heavily invested in a motivated missing of the point?

Then almost always, I suspect, that someone will turn out to be wrong, dead wrong, in the wrong, and carrying the flag of a wrong point of view.

Their opponents may not be right. Their opponents may also be mistaken. But I can predict to you with fair certainty that anyone who is peevishly and argumentatively wedded to a motivated missing of the point will almost always be wrong.

Best to test this one out by finding a hunt in which you have no dog. Blogs and online forums are a good place to look. Look for the motivated missers-of-the-point in that discussion. Become impressionistically familiar with their patter, their tactics, their umbrage, their gait, and their overall smell. Once you gain some acquaintance with what to look for, you will also often be able to sight them in disputes where you yourself have more of a stake. As long as you keep your own passions on a very short leash, and don't give in to the urge of becoming a motivated misser-of-the-point yourself!

Better yet, once you learn their profile, stay far away from any venue where such gargling anger-mongers congregate and converge. Don't pollute yourself with the miasma which flows from them and their ilk. As G.K. Chesterton once said:
Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.
Yes, and likewise we can rise above the anger-garglers by not engaging in a motivated missing of the point ourselves.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snowed In

More winter weather came our way, in the form of a fairly stiff snowstorm. Right now I'm snowed in. A gravel road like ours may get plowed out in a few days, or it may not. In the meanwhile, my Jeep's got 4 wheel drive, so I could get out if I really had to, though I wouldn't want to drive very far, not unless it was a real emergency.

Fortunately I heard the forecast and ran into town a few days ago to pick up some extra supplies. So I can easily sit out these next several days. Just as well: I've got something on my chest. These past few days I've become quite familiar with wool Indian blanket, and electric heating pad on my chest, and even a hot cup of beef broth, than which there is nothing better for them bugs what gripe the chest on these snowy days.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Those Who Want People to Be Controlled

A thought from the late great Robert Heinlein:
Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well, I was planning to make the long drive to the city and spend a few days visiting with my folks for the Thanksgiving holiday. But it wasn't to be. Yesterday the region was hit with a blast of wintry weather, and the worst of it was the freezing rain. Outdoors late yesterday afternoon, it was all I could do to stay on my feet. Area events last night were being canceled by the dozens. Highway condition websites showed nasty, nasty roads between here and there. I phoned my folks and told them not to expect me for Thanksgiving, barring a miracle.

So I went to bed early last night and slept soundly. Then up early this morning, as is my wont. Still nasty out there. And if I needed any further proof of the wisdom of not going out today, it was visible not far up the gravel road from me, in the dim light of dawn. A large truck had slid off the icy road and into the ditch, and some heavy machinery was at work, seeking some way to tow the truck back up out of the ditch again.

This, clearly visible looking out the window on my front porch.

So. I ain't goin' nowhere on this cold slippery wintry Thanksgiving. Will quietly spend the day at home, where Rice-a-Roni and stew beef and a few bottles of beer will have to do for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rod Dreher: The Other Shoe Drops

I've been wondering what happened to Rod Dreher, whose blog at his (new employer) Templeton's BQO site was mysteriously suspended back in August. His blog suspended, and any of his even mildly controversial posts suddenly gone.

What the H E Double Hockey Sticks is going on, anyhow?! I and a lot of other readers of Rod's have been wondering, with no definite answers, for three months now. Hey, I don't always agree with Rod, or with his manic and sometimes OCD tone, even though I often find myself more or less in agreement with him on many issues. But I like Rod, and I've been addicted to Rod's blogging for years, and (as was once said of MTV) I want my Rod Dreher!

Well, looks like we ain't gonna get our Rod Dreher. Not by the avenue of blogging. Not any time soon. Maybe not ever again. Certainly not as long as he's in Templeton's employ. (And thank God Templeton didn't fire Rod, as some have been speculating these past months.) I've asked repeatedly here on my blog, what happened to Rod Dreher? Over at Alexandria there have been lengthy threads here and here, and another comment here, with many of Rod's old readers and commenters wondering and asking and surmising, what happened to Rod Dreher? Now this morning a kindly and anonymous commenter has left a comment here at Bluegrass Up, referring me to a just-posted comment over at Alexandria where Margaret reveals:
I hope I'm not breaking some unwritten Code of Facebook, but Rod made a rare appearance on his page there yesterday, and replied to a few inquiries there with the following:
"Thanks everybody. I'm not sure what to tell you. I don't know what's going to happen with BQO, though my blog is definitely not coming back — not on BQO, for sure, and almost certainly nowhere else, under current conditions. I so appreciate your concern and interest, and I really hope I am free to blog again one day."
Followed by this comment:
"P.S. Sorry, that sounded alarming, and I didn't mean to be. My blogging, for various reason, has become incommensurate with my duties at my real job — and if I had to choose, naturally I'm going to choose my job. Maybe this is the opportunity I need to get off my duff and write that Benedict Option book I've been talking about for years."
Sounds like we may not be getting him back anytime soon. If ever :(
So. The other shoe has dropped. No more blogging from Rod Dreher, leastways not as long as he's working for the Templeton Foundation on its dark throne, "in the land of Philadelphia where the shadows lie."

Well. I first discovered Rod several years ago when I ran across his book Crunchy Cons, and I said, hey, I resemble that. If Rod ever writes his Benedict Option book I suspect I'll say, hey, my neighbors and I resemble that. Because, you know, when I moved in the late 90s from the city to a big old house on a gravel road here far out into deep rural America, I had certain Benedict-option thoughts in my head. Thoughts which I find only reinforced by a recent alarming conversation, about the likely future of American society, with a level-headed and very acute friend of mine who's a professional in the field of urban planning.

Most of my neighbors out here in the middle of nowhere are largely self-sufficient, most are heavily armed, and some are off the grid altogether. If and when the day comes that the White House "pulls a Templeton" and throws the Internet kill switch as the cities burn, I suspect I'll be thinking of Rod and praying for him as I hunker down out here in my remote rural redoubt.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laptop Battery

So, the new laptop battery I ordered arrived yesterday. And once again I have a laptop which will run for a convenient length of time away from an electrical outlet. Once again I can sit here early in the morning, websurfing from anywhere around the house for just as long as I please.

May I recommend Powermega in Vancouver BC to anyone who is in need of a new laptop battery? They really do go the extra mile on customer service.

And I ponder on how, back in my young adult years, the very idea of a personal computer, to say nothing of a portable laptop, would have seemed like science fiction. I haven't lived through as many changes in my life as my late grandmother, who was born 16 months after the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk; who could tell you the first time in her life she ever saw an automobile (she was already well into grade school); whose life spanned the introduction of radio and television; who never had electricity, indoor plumbing, and running water until she was well into her thirties.

I haven't lived through change like that. But I have experienced the fairly radical change which computers have brought to our everyday life. Email, websurfing, instant news cycle, online discussion forums, audio, video, downloads, items that go viral, shopping online, chat, Facebook, computer games, open source software and open source culture, a whole wide world open to individuals who are self-promoted and self-published and in touch with a broader and more variegated skein of humanity than your father ever imagined... a generation ago I could not in my wildest dreams have foreseen the world that comes to me via my handy reliable laptop computer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tripping the Prognosis Fantastic

The other day I had lunch with a friend who works in urban planning, and he made some pessimistic remarks that have set me thinking.

He said he, and some others who work in his field, are quite concerned about the United States and its shaky financial system, our burgeoning national debt, the prospects for future oil prices, and the growing polarization and disarray in matters cultural and political. He said he suspects "interesting times" are ahead, as in the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

Interesting times as in: energy and transport costs rising and mushrooming; disruption of the food distribution network (as in, how food gets to your supermarket); real personal hardship including shortages of such basic needs as food and home heating; civil unrest; and perhaps even political instability.

He said people think the comfortable and abundant life we've enjoyed in this country now for several generations can't come to an end; but people will have to readjust and learn to live with a different set of resources and expectations than they've come to take for granted. He thinks those who will do best are those who are competent, self-reliant, able to obtain many of their needs locally, with a good solid network of friends and neighbors to rely on, in a setting where the local culture is solid and stable; oh, and living away from any large urban areas, too.

He said he suspects we could find ourselves in this situation maybe 10 or 15 years down the road.

I don't know, I'm no economist and I'm no urban planner. There was a time when most people would've dismissed my friend's observations as twaddle from the fringe. But my friend is no fringe figure, and no extremist. And these past couple of years I've read too many mainstream economists who sound a similar note. I really can't dismiss my friend out of hand.

In fact I'll be honest, when I moved from the city to deep rural America back in the late 90s, thoughts of this sort were one factor cycling around in the back of my mind. The way of life we've come to take for granted in middle class America is unsustainable. It can't last forever. In fact it may not even last as long as it otherwise might, due to political timidity and shortsightedness, and the erosion of the self-sufficiency and self-reliance which were once widespread in America.

I don't spend my days dwelling on it. But if "interesting times" do come, I'll be a lot better off, living here on a gravel road in a remote rural region far off the beaten path, and surrounded by friends and neighbors who could feed themselves, heat their homes, keep their vehicles and machinery running, and in general supply most of their own needs, even if they were thrown back largely on their own resources.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lucid Blue

We're into that part of the fall where days are bright, sunny, and moderately cool. Not cold, but definitely jacket weather. Dark comes early, and it will come even earlier once the time changes this weekend. Daylight comes slowly in the morning, and I rise early enough that I regularly find the sky dark and star spangled. Then dawn creeps on slowly-- this very moment I can see dark clouds in the eastern sky against a light grey-blue-- and comes the morning.

But somehow what seems most characteristic of this phase of the fall, after Indian summer has fled and the first snowflake has not yet fallen, is the daytime sky. The daytime sky, lucid blue, fleecy clouds scudding to the north of us, and the sun bright enough that being outdoors calls for sunglasses in November. Lucid blue skies, an azure of stunning clarity and depth: well did the prophets of old write of the sapphire underneath the throne of God.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Coverage

Last night I sat down and was going to watch the election coverage on TV. Only I couldn't. The batteries were dead in the remote to my digital converter.

They were AAA batteries, and I couldn't find any other AAAs in the house. AA batteries like in any of my other remotes would've been fine, but there were no other AAAs to be found.

No remote, can't turn on the digital converter box. No digital coverter, can't access the outside world on my TV, relying on nothing other than the aerial on my roof, here far out into the countryside of deep rural America.

This is what I get for going literally months at a time without ever even turning my TV on. No biggy, though: I ended up listening to election coverage on the radio instead.

A Troll

So, after a year and a half my blog has acquired its first troll. I don't know whether to feel amused, bemused, or (as the troll evidently desires) hurt. I think I'll settle for bemused: my old blog years back, which actually had a regular readership of a few dozen, somehow went several years without ever acquiring a troll, and somehow we all managed to be unfailingly civil. It was a blast, though overall I think I prefer at present an essentially readerless blog.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day at Last

Guess I'll have to find time to drive in to town today, stand in line a while, and then mark up a ballot. Vote the crooks out, vote in a crowd of new crooks, same as the old crooks. Then we can go back to being misgoverned by a crowd of crooks, opportunists, and incompetents for another few years.

And hey, it will be a relief to be free of all them damn political phone calls at last. Phone rings, might be important, gotta answer; no, just another damn politicized recording... Really has been getting annoying lately. From now on, when the phone rings, I'll know it's just another pollster, underhanded charity, or a telemarketer who's bold enough to defy the Do Not Call list.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


So today is Halloween-- or "Holloween," as people persist in mispronouncing it. And tonight is trick-or-treat. Out here on a gravel road in deep rural America, if the past few years are any indication, that means I can expect maybe three trick-or-treaters all evening long.

It's not worth it, staying in gear all evening long, even (as I've done some years) dressing up in a costume myself. Not for only three kids all evening long. So I didn't bother to get any candy this year. And I'll be turning out all the lights this evening, pretending I'm not home, and conducting myself like a greying fifty-something who would rather not put himself out on a quiet Sunday evening if he doesn't have to.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hard Frost

Last night we had the first hard frost of the season. This year's unusually long Indian summer seems to be behind us. And I suspect the first snow is not long off.

Spring and fall seldom last long in these parts. Once we get the first true fall weather, it's usually no more than a month until we complete the transition from summerlike weather to wintry cold and snow. And spring weather is even shorter: I can't recall the last time the transition from snow and ice to summer heat took more than about three weeks.


Somehow a friend long ago enticed me onto Facebook. For a great while I seldom bothered with my Facebook account; then inch by inch I was drawn deeper into the Facebook gravity well, until now I at least log in and take a look almost every day. Somehow I've acquired a long and growing list of Facebook "friends," and I've come to realize that some people on Facebook fall into predictable categories.

There are the Political Fanatics, rigid extremists out on the fringe, now waxing more loquacious as the elections draw near. These people cannot refrain from making frantic, emotional-pressure-cooker remarks about their pet political issues, and usually about the horrors of their eeeevil opponents, which predictably lead to long angry partisan threads in which people sling mud back and forth at one another. The Political Fanatic, of course, is only being "perfectly objective"; all eeeevil lies on the opponents' side of the issue.

There are the Fortune Cookies, who occasionally will post a sugary cliche, "Life hands us a tough situation we never asked for, until we reach the point of sacrificing and sacrificing again, but one day we will look back and be glad we did it." The Fortune Cookies are usually women, and they often refer to their better half as "DH"; I think sons and daughters are abbreviated "DS" and "DD."

There are the Gamesters, addicted to Farmville or Mafia Wars or whatever. Your page will be flooded with a Gamester's messages, "Oh no! A poor little strawberry calf wandered onto So-and-So's farm..." I think I've long since blocked most of the games played on Facebook.

There are the Compulsive Detailers, who have to inform you every time they run out to the supermarket for a few groceries. Then after they get home they have to leave another message, describing just which groceries they got, and just which weren't on their shopping list but they broke down and got them anyhow...

There are the Mystery Complainers, who will write something like, "With a day like today, I should have stayed in bed!" No details as to what or why. Seems usually they're hoping to snag replies (and attention) from friends, "Gee, are you feeling down today? What happened?" I say, please don't feed the energy creature.

Why did I ever get on Facebook in the first place? Sometimes I wonder. Though now that I'm drawn in this deeply, I suspect there's no getting out. Better to stay and keep a cautious eye on things, than leave and lose all control over all the personal information Facebook has gathered on me.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Crap, sometimes I wonder how my life gets so busy. This week and last, I've been running, running, running. All day long most days, and late on into the evening many an evening. And it's not going to slow down for another several days. Clear on through this weekend, and then maybe next week will be a little less hectic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Oh dear. I really do wonder if I'm losing my marbles. You see, I've found Enlightenment.

That is, I've been using Linux for 7 years now, Mandrake/Mandriva all the way. (And let's not get into where, if anywhere, that's heading in the short to medium run.) And all those years-- from within the first few weeks, at any rate-- I've been a Fluxbox man. No GNOME or KDE for me, thank you, I'll take Fluxbox.

Until just a few days ago when, on a whim, I downloaded and installed Enlightenment, alias e17. And started tinkering with it. And tinkering. And tinkering some more.

And have already pretty well managed to emulate, and far surpass, most of what had long enthralled me about Fluxbox. With a great deal more eye candy. And I'm just getting warmed up!

Gone from the severe orange theme of the past two and a half years to e17-gaudy black and yellow, oh, lots of yellow. And I feel as if I'm betraying poor Fluxbox, indeed cheating on her and being unfaithful to her.

I may give up on Enlightenment and go back to Fluxbox yet. Though, with a creeping sense of guilt, I'm beginning to wonder.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Blocking the Aisle

Have you ever noticed at the supermarket, there are certain people who consistently block the aisle? Standing there for minutes on end, trying to decide on which of two cans of peas to get. Standing there endlessly, gabbling loudly with a friend. Standing there lost in thought, blankly staring, meditating on various cuts of meat. And often with their shopping cart held out unnecessarily at a right angle, so as to set up a roadblock across the full width of even the widest aisle. Or wheeling their cart right down the middle of the aisle, so there's no room to get by them on either side.

And utterly oblivious to the presence of anyone else. Blithely unaware of the rest of us, who can't get past their mindlessly imposed barricade.

Most people you encounter at the supermarket aren't like this. They're aware of others' presence. Courteous. They follow the rules of the road. But it seems on any shopping trip you always run into one or two of the other type, the aisle-blockers.

And the same individuals are guilty of blocking you over and over again in aisle after aisle. Often they're elderly. Often they're lost in a cloud. Often as if the notion of coexisting in the same limited space with others is completely foreign to them. Always supremely annoying.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wool Sweater

A few weeks ago I sent off for a new wool sweater. Glad I did, too, because we're into wool sweater weather already.

Though the sweater that arrived at first was much too large for me. I ordered my usual size, XL, but it hung off me like a potato sack. I don't know how much of that was the sweater and how much of it was my continued weight loss; probably a combination of both.

So I exchanged the sweater for a Large, which fits me like a sweater should. Navy blue, 100% wool, and just in time for autumn leaves and first frost of the season.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kindle Mania

I've had a little time to fiddle around with my new Kindle now, and I'm just amazed. I can tell I'm just barely scratching the surface, but what I've run across so far is mind boggling.

First of all, I've been running across source after source of downloadable ebooks for free. More books than you can shake a stick at. I don't see why I should ever again pay a penny for a book that's in the public domain, unless my heart is set on owning a hard copy. Really, just about anything you've ever heard of, and much that is obscure and unheard of, is out there. Just in these past few days, I've downloaded for free all of the Fairy Books of Andrew Lang... a number of books by Jack London, including Tales of the Fish Patrol (new to me) and The Star Rover (35 years ago my dad got me interested in this book, and I read a copy I found in the archive-stacks of a university library; never dreamed of finding it again since). Wow, and this is just after a few days of cursory search...

Second, I'm just beginning to glimpse the technical side of all this. Found free software called Calibre, with which I've been editing the metadata on some of my ebooks, little items like author or title which someone along the way couldn't be bothered to get right.

Third, there's a lot of dross out there, and some of it (even if it's for free, so that no one stands to profit) misrepresents itself, as if people think they can score bonus points if only they can trick you into downloading their faulty edition. Lewis Carroll's two Alice books, with the illustrations by John Tenniel-- prime example of a work where both text and illustrations have long been in the public domain, but do you know how many ebook editions I downloaded before I found one that actually contained both text and original illustrations? Text-only editions that falsely claimed to include pictures; "Complete" editions that contained only a few of the pictures; "illustrated" editions that used someone else's drawings in place of Tenniel's. At long last I found what I was looking for, but only after several false starts.

Finally, yes, I have bought a newly published book from Amazon's Kindle store. The kind of book I'll probably read once, may want to refer back to it again some day, but why take up bookshelf space with a hard copy? So I got it, downloaded in seconds, for $15 instead of $25.

At first I was a bit dubious about this device. But after a few days, well, color my mind suitably boggled.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rod Dreher: The Mystery Continues

It was four weeks ago yesterday that Rod Dreher's blog at the Templeton Foundation's new Big Questions Online site was suspended, suddenly and with only the most cryptic of explanations. Suspended, and many of Rod's posts on the blog suddenly missing. Anything that was even moderately controversial, suddenly missing.

Four weeks, and it's still murky as pea soup just what has happened to Rod. I think few of Rod's readers ever imagined his sudden blogging "hiatus" would continue this long. Has Rod been called in on the carpet by his superiors at Templeton? Has he been fired? Or just given a stern time-out to cool off?

At this point, it's a complete mystery, and one that grows more ominous as the silence grows ever more protracted. I've unearthed one blog post, from about a week ago, that quotes an email from Rod in tangential connection with his "sabbatical from blogging," with a subsequent, seemingly wistful comment from Rod himself:
I love blogging, and built up a pretty large blog following over the years by constantly scanning for interesting information, and putting it on my daily bulletin board to facilitate discussion. I love this stuff! I've not had a blog hiatus in four years, until now...
Apart from that, about all you'll find online are the accumulating speculation and expressions of concern from Rod's readers here and here at Alexandria.

Yeah, I intend to keep on bringing this up until we learn what's going on.


So, my Kindle arrived yesterday. My brother has long had a Kindle, and swears by it. I've been a bit more dubious, and will need to wait a few days before I really dive in (I have to work this weekend, ahem), but already I've downloaded a few old classics. Most of them for under a buck, seeing how old they are, though I did sink $10 in an e-edition (or whatever they call it) of Boswell's Life of Johnson.

Thus the e-revolution claims another victim. Oh, I know... give me a while, and I'll be just as much at home with this strange new gadget as I long have been with my computer. It's just that it seems so... so futuristic, like, I dunno, the Jetsons, or a flying car.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Holy Amway

When you go to a Tuesday evening event at church, and there's a "program" at this church event, do you expect that for the "program" a member of the congregation is going to invite her mother to come and give the congregation an Amway presentation?

Neither did I. But I guess there's a first time for everything.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ring of Mushrooms

There used to be a large tree out in my back yard. Then a few years ago I had to have it cut down. Now, looking out the window, I see mushrooms have sprung up where that tree once stood. A large ring of mushrooms, and other mushrooms spread about here and there. All around where that tree once stood.

A faery ring where that tree once stood.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Crotchety

If this blog had any regular readers (which I'm pretty sure it doesn't) they would surely have noticed that my blogging has been getting more and more crotchety, with more and more of an acid edge to it, over the past month or more.

I've noticed it myself. And I'm not sure where it's coming from inside of me. I'm not feeling any more crotchety than usual. I'm not going through any more stress lately than I'm accustomed to. I'm sure people who deal with me in everyday life have been finding me to be the same laid back, mellow, easy going guy they're used to.

But there's no denying it. My blogging lately has been taking on an unwonted edge. Wish I could figure out where that's coming from, and why.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Once a Date

Yesterday I was in town again (what is this with driving in to town all the time?!) and while I was there I stopped off at the post office to buy some stamps. It wasn't until I was almost through with the transaction that I noticed... the woman behind the counter... I once went out on a date with that woman, something like ten years ago.

There was no doubt about it. She was wearing a name tag. It was her, all right.

I don't think she recognized me. Gave no sign of it, at any rate.

But it was her. I remember, we were set up by a mutual friend. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was a pleasant enough evening, and she had a winning personality, though (color me a shallow male) physically she was definitely not my type. I silently decided not to ask her out again.

Then came the emails. For the next several months she kept emailing me, drumming up excuses for conversation, obviously trying to finagle me into asking her out again. I would dutifully reply, though not in such a way (I thought) as to get her hopes up. Until she raised the ante, and solicited a more active show of my support over her father's sudden health woes. At that point I stopped answering her emails, and that was the end of it, as far as I was concerned.

At the time of our one and only date, she was working as a librarian. Then a few years later I somehow became aware that she was now working at the post office. Until I sighted her yesterday, name tag and all, I wouldn't have realized she was still there at the post office, after all these years.

Yeah, after all these years. She and I are about the same age, and I must say, these past ten years have not been kind to her. She looks all of her age and then some. Whereas I, thanks to genes from my father's side of the family, look basically the same today as I did ten years ago. Oh, more grey in my beard, but otherwise I could easily pass for mid 30s, which is a good twenty years younger than I actually am.

It can be strange, and a little disquieting, to run into a woman I once went out on a date with.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hog but Don't Read

I was in town today on business, and stopped to eat at a fast food joint. (No, not the fast food joint that also sells firewood.) At this place they provide a copy of the daily paper from the big city, and I sometimes borrow the paper to read while I'm eating, if someone else hasn't borrowed it already.

But today, just like last time, I saw someone had already gotten to the paper before I did. Same person both times, a grey haired lady who's probably not far into retirement. Today she was there with her husband, last time she was there with some friends. And both times she had that newspaper lying folded beside her on the table. Both times she made not even the slightest pretense of reading the paper.

Yes, today, just like last time, she had picked up the fast food joint's copy of the newspaper and taken it to the table with her, where she left it lying unread while she talked, laughed, joked, engaged in incessant conversation, and did anything but read the paper.

So why then was she hogging the paper, if she had no intention of reading it?

I can think of various explanations which would reflect poorly on her. But let's be charitable: perhaps she was hogging but not reading that paper in order to ensure that nobody had an advantage over anyone else. After all, if she'd borrowed the paper and actually read it, she would've had an advantage over the rest of us; and if she'd left the paper for someone else to borrow and read, then that person would've had an advantage over her. However by borrowing the paper but not reading it, she was ensuring that everyone else had just as little access to the paper as she herself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

I'm being pretty lazy on this Labor Day holiday. Got off to a late start today, lounged around the house all morning, and then this afternoon I actually drove all the way in to town just to pick up a bag of sourdough pretzels.

I know, Labor Day has a meaning; or had, once upon a time. At this point, however, Labor Day mostly connotes laziness and holiday and lie around the house all sprawled out.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where in the World Is Rod Dreher?

It was two weeks ago yesterday that Rod Dreher's blog over at Big Questions Online was suddenly suspended. And still no word as to what's up, or why. What in the world is going on between Rod and his employers at the Templeton Foundation? Conversation and speculation continue in this thread at Alexandria.

As I was remarking recently, I enjoy Rod's blogging immensely. I've been reading him for years, I even comment once in a great while. I don't always understand his fixation on certain topics, even where I'm largely in agreement with him; but I'd much rather read the full Rod Dreher than no Rod at all. In fact I'd much rather read the full Rod Dreher than Rod on a leash. The longer the silence drags on, the more ominous it looks.

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Old Professor

Yesterday the alumni magazine from my alma mater came in the mail. Reading it through, I discovered that an old professor of mine died a few months ago. He was pushing 90, and in ill health; still, it comes as a shock. When I had him for several classes in graduate school, he was only a few years older than I am now. I remember that to me, then in my early 20s, he seemed positively ancient.

He was a great guy. A good teacher too. And well known in his field, not only for his research but also for a couple of textbooks he wrote which are still widely used. I'm sure I've got one of them on the shelf somewhere around the house here.

Requiescat in pace.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Over the Hump

I think we're over the hump with the summer heat. Here we are, pulling into the end of August, and already there's a hint of autumn in the air. Especially at night. The days are still warm, though milder and far more bearable than they were from mid July on through much of August. But the nights are getting downright cool. Down into the 50s, one night into the upper 40s.

We're over the hump. You can feel it. And summer is winding down.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Mysterious Case of Rod Dreher

I've been puzzled this past week by the suspension of comments and blogging at Rod Dreher's blog, on the John Templeton Foundation's new Big Questions Online site. And Rod's murky "clarification" the other day only deepens the mystery further.

For several years now I've been a regular reader (occasional commenter, mostly just a lurker) of Rod Dreher's blogging. I find Rod's writing engaging and often thought provoking, though I could do without many of his posts on culture-war issues. Odd: more often than not, I find myself largely in agreement with Rod on the issues. But I find myself puzzled, even disturbed, by the way that Rod returns to certain issues again and again and again and again, as if drawn with a nigh-OCD intensity to sledgehammer certain dead horses into flattened roadkill.

At the beginning of this year Rod left his old journalist position to become director of publications at the Templeton Foundation. He also left his old Beliefnet blog behind for a new Beliefnet blog, which about a month ago he left for yet another new blog on BQO, the same blog which after only a month has now been suspended. At each changing of the blogs, Rod announced that he was going to be leaving the culture wars behind, in line with the Templeton Foundation's non-partisan approach.

But somehow, each time, Rod's been drawn back to those issues again, as if he just can't stay away from them. Yeah, his new blog is mild compared to the old days, but still... Rod keeps drifting back to those same old same old culture-war issues, like a moth attracted to a candle flame...

It wasn't until this morning that I realized many of Rod's recent posts have been yanked, leaving on his new BQO blog only a few of his very blandest posts (and none of the three or four posts on which I've left comments over the past month, ahem). Hmmm, this lends a new weight to his "clarifying" remark: "With respect to this blog, we are reconsidering a style and format that will be more in tune with Sir John's forward-looking, positive, constructive ways to engage the Big Questions."

And now I stumble across a couple of discussions, by several of Rod's most frequent and most notable longtime commenters, as to whether the Templeton folks are clamping down on Rod for the continuing controversialist cast of his blogging. Hmmmm... I'm afraid that sounds terribly plausible. I only hope Rod Dreher comes out of it all right, and the Templeton Foundation can resist the temptation to blanderize or sack him.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Point of View

While I'm on the topic of my mother and her quirks... One of my mother's peculiarities which has always puzzled the hell out of me is, she always assumes that if she can see something, then anyone else can also see it. Even if they can't.

For instance, she will hold up a book to show me a picture on the front cover. Only she will hold the book with the front cover facing toward her. That means the front cover, which she is trying to show me, is facing away from me: all I can see, facing toward me, is the back cover of the book.

I will try to explain to her that I can't see the front cover, because she is holding the front cover (which she is trying to show me) facing away from me. This gets her all confused, and she just doesn't get it: after all, she can see the front cover perfectly well. The fact that the front cover is facing away from me, and that all I can see is the back cover, and that I don't have X-ray vision, just doesn't register on her. She just can't get it.

I will repeat to her over and over, "No, I can't see the front cover of that book, please turn it so I can see it," and she reacts with utter confusion, either doing nothing, or else turning the book so its front cover is facing more squarely toward her, that is, facing more perfectly away from me.

This is such a peculiar quirk, that I've long been tempted to suspect some wiring crossed in her brain, some kind of neurological dysfunction. Or at any rate, something very peculiar psychologically. But to her it seems perfectly normal: If she wants to show something to someone, she will hold it facing toward herself, never mind if that means it's facing 180° away from the person she wants to show it to.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nonstop Babbling

I'm away on vacation, and visiting my parents for a while. Yes, that means making the long drive from my home in deep rural America, to my folks' house in the city. It also means going from the near-silence of my daily routine to the incessant, endless, continual noise front which prevails whenever I'm around my parents.

Don't get me wrong. I love my folks. But one of the trials of being around them is enduring my mother's nonstop babbling. My mother talks. She talks all the time. She never stops talking. By this I don't just mean she talks a lot. By this I mean she talks nonstop from the time she gets up in the morning till the time she goes to bed at night. Always talking, scarcely pausing for breath. The only things that shut her up (for a little while) in the daytime are chewing food, taking a nap, or being in the presence of some alternative noise source such as radio or TV. With those exceptions, she literally never stops talking all day long for more than 10 seconds at a time. Literally.

I love my mother dearly, but after a few days of her constant babbling I find I'm going up the wall. In my usual life at home, I can go all day in a near unbroken state of silence-- never a noise intrudes, unless perhaps a pickup goes rattling by down the gravel road which runs past my place. To go from that to a setting where there is never more than 10 seconds of unbroken silence (and not even 10 seconds very often) is like taking a flying leap into a pool of ice cold water.

My mom has always been talkative, but only over the past 15 years or so has her talking become truly wall-to-wall. Doesn't matter if she has anything to say. Doesn't matter if anyone is listening. Doesn't even matter if there's anyone else in the room with her. If nothing else, she will keep up never-a-pause-for-breath color commentary on every detail of whatever household task is occupying her at the moment.

I really don't know. It makes me wonder if it's due to changes that may overtake the human brain as a person ages. I've known a few people like this in my time-- a few nonstop talkers, literally nonstop-- and it always makes me wonder.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Ideology That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Captain Obvious: "Liberalism leads to liberalism."

Liberal, in a huffy and outraged tone: "It does not! How dare you claim that it does?!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We're now into that part of the summer which is defined by heat and humidity. Intolerable heat and humidity.

Yeah, I have air conditioning in the house, and it works, sort of. Long as I air out the house in the morning while it's cool. It won't really keep the house cool, but it will keep it from getting too intolerably warm. Though this system breaks down on a day like today when it was into the upper 70s outside already before 7:00 AM.

We're into that part of the summer where getting through the day largely means beating, or at least coping with, the heat. With soaring temperatures, and an even more soaring heat index. Yesterday I went out to the mailbox, and I remembered all over again why I've given up on my daily walks for the duration: I cannot imagine walking any distance outside beneath the heat of such a broiling, baking, burning sun.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Map and Territory

Is your viewpoint a map of a territory? Or is it only a map, scribbled and drawn freehand?

Why are you so concerned to influence, if not control, your opponent's map? Is that a way of planting a flag on territory? Or is it a way of planting a flag on, and colonizing, your opponent's map?

Why, if you are a traditionalist, are you so concerned to argue that your map corresponds to the territory? Why are you so concerned to argue that your opponent's map does not correspond to the territory? Are you truly concerned with the territory, or only with who gets to plant a flag? What makes you think that your flag, or any flag, is yours to plant?

Why, if you are a progressive, are you so concerned to argue that nobody's map corresponds to territory? Why are you so concerned to posit an unbridgeable disconnect between any and all maps and any and all territories? Why do you always grant yourself an unspoken exemption from this blanket disconnect, and why do you get so angry when someone points out your self-granted exemption? Is the game you're playing really anything more than a more roundabout and more dishonest version of the game the traditionalist is playing?

What if there's a territory, and our maps are most of the time at least fairly valid maps of that territory, but our flags are largely invalid, the flags of interlopers without a real claim? What if the territory is, by its very nature, like Antarctica-- a territory that admits of valid maps but not of valid flagplanting? How could either traditionalist or progressive bear to live in such a world?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rubber Penny

I had a strange dream that I found a rubber penny in my change. It looked just like a regular penny, with Abe Lincoln on it, only it was made of copper-colored hard rubber.

Then I noticed something engraved around the edge of the penny. It said, YOU KNOW, YOU REALLY WANT TO BREAK THIS RUBBER CENT. Only in place of the comma there was a notch in the side of the penny, so it would be easier to break it in two.

I was about to break the rubber penny in half, when I noticed standing out on the penny an outline, as of a butterfly-shaped metal contrivance concealed inside the penny. And then I realized it was something like the mechanism of a mousetrap, hidden inside the rubber penny, so that if you broke the cent in two, the little mousetrap-like device would snap shut on your finger.

Ah, I thought to myself, almost fooled me; but not quite!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Vindictive Wrath of Bob

Late in the evening, Bob is awakened when the frame of his eyeglasses goes off, blinking on and off bright red and going beep beep beep beep beep!, sort of like the Batphone. Bob sits up in bed, grabs the still-blinking glasses off his nightstand and puts them on.

"Damn boy's using too much hot water for the shower, gotta be taught a lesson!"

Bob puts on a scary Halloween costume, goes down and knocks on the door of the basement apartment down below. When the young man who rents the apartment answers the door, he is greeted with the terrifying sight of Bob dressed up like a monster, waving his arms in the air and going, "Huunnnnnhhh! Huuuunnnnhhhhh! Huuunnnhh!!!"

"Listen, boy, maybe in your city slicker apartments they got enough hot water you kin take half-hour showers, but out here in the country..."

The tenant has fainted from sheer fright, and collapsed on the floor.

"Well, taught that damn boy a lesson."

Bob goes back upstairs to bed. He sees that his wife, Bagwig, is still asleep. Bagwig, who wears a plastic hairbag over her head to contain her overflowing brains, unfortunate side effect of the time Bob attempted brain surgery on her, not altogether with success. Bob sets his glasses on the nightstand and drifts off back to sleep.

Several hours later, middle of the night, the glasses go off again, flashing bright red and going beep beep beep beep beep!

Bob sits bolt upright in bed. "Damn boys out at the logging camp are partying late! They need to be taught a lesson."

Bob puts on his glasses, gets up and goes out to the garage where he backs his old Willys Jeep out. He starts her down the gravel road, then flicks a switch on the dashboard. Flames roar out from underneath the Jeep, which lifts off into the air as its wheels fold up into the wheelwells. In an instant Bob is fully airborne, flying in his Jeep toward eastern Oregon, toward a logging camp where he sometimes works in the off season.

"Damn boys up partying at two in the morning, I'll show them!" The radar screen on the Jeep's dashboard glows a ghostly green as Bob targets the logging camp, and fires off a couple of air-to-ground missiles. A minute, and then far off on the horizon a false dawn as the missiles hit the logging camp. "Damn party boys, that'll teach them a lesson!" The Jeep swings in a wide 180 up in the sky, and flies back home under jet power. Mission accomplished.

Coming in from the garage, Bob finds much to his horror that his son, Sugar Bobby, is lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. Damn! The lead-lined sugar bowl is turned over, a huge swath of sugar scattered across the top of the kitchen table. Sugar Bobby is diabetic, and sugar is like kryptonite to Sugar Bobby!!!

Sugar Bobby lies there on the floor, weakened by the rays from the sugar, which can only be contained by a lead-lined object like the sugar bowl. Bob goes into emergency hazmat mode, switching in a lead-lined bag on the handheld vacuum cleaner, and vacuuming up the sugar. Then he stoops down to revive his son. "Sugar Bobby! Are you all right?"

This minor family emergency squared away, Bob goes back to bed. He lays his glasses on his nightstand, and has almost fallen asleep again when...

Beep beep beep beep beep! Bob's glasses are beeping and flashing neon red again. "Damn boys out at the logging camp, they're up and partying again!"

This time Bob gets up and heads to his emergency command center in the spare bedroom. He throws switches, bringing the instrument panels to life, bringing his personal nuclear arsenal online. Up on the mountainside above the house, Bob's ICBMs in their missile silos are being activated and readied for launch.

"Bob, what's wrong? You've been up and down all night long!" It's Bob's wife, Bagwig, standing in the doorway in her nightgown.

"Oh, it's just those damn boys out at the logging camp, partying in the middle of the night. Tried to teach 'em a lesson once, this time I'm gonna nuke 'em!"

"Oh. Okay." Bagwig goes back to bed.

Bob sits at the instrument panel, targeting one of his ICBMs on the logging camp. "Ready for launch, countdown sequence, five, four, three, two, one, blastoff..." The whole house shudders as, up on the mountainside, an intercontinental ballistic missile lifts out of its silo on a column of flame. The missile lifts, gathering speed, higher, higher, arcing now to the east as it dwindles into the distance.

Several minutes later the entire eastern sky lights up, and a mushroom cloud billows into the air as Bob's nuclear strike on the logging camp succeeds.

"Damn boys, that'll teach them not to party!" Bob goes through the shutdown sequence to cycle down his nuclear arsenal. Gotta remember in the morning, head out to the workshop and turn a few more uranium atom-bomb cores on his lathe. But now it's back to bed at last, glasses on the nightstand, and back to sleep for a few hours until sunrise.

Oh no! It's "the vindictive wrath of Bob"! Honestly, the dusty old items I carry around in my memory... This is a conflation of several routines of mine about my one-time landlord, from when I was a young fellow living in that basement apartment, back almost 30 years ago...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Will You Have Fries with Your Firewood?

I was in town this morning, and I happened to drive by a small local mom & pop drive-in eating place. Not part of a chain, though it reminds me of the old A&Ws or McDonald's back in the days when you ate out in your car, with a tray of food perched on your driver's side window-- or at one of the picnic tables outside-- because there warn't no seating inside the joint.

Anyhow. This place in town serves hamburgers, and fries, and pop, and hot dogs, and ice cream, and the like. And they also sell (as per the sign out front) "bags of ice" and "bags of campfire wood."

Yes, along with your homemade fries and greaseburger you can also order bags of campfire wood. If that don't just sum up this region where I live!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Telephone and Coyotes

So last night I was drifting off in bed, just about asleep, when all of a sudden I was jolted awake by the phone. Turns out it was someone who actually had a good reason to be calling me, though I wish they wouldn't have phoned me quite so late in the evening.

With adrenalin racing through me, it took nearly an hour to settle back down and get to where I was drifting off again. Then some coyotes started howling outside, one after another, more and more of them. Sleep fled.

Just can't get to sleep for being woken up. If it isn't modern technology, it's the forces of nature.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Here I sit, as I usually do early in the morning after breakfast. Sitting in my living room, cup of coffee at my side, laptop on my lap, websurfing and whatnot. Sitting in an antique wicker rocker which I used to sit in at my grandparents' farmhouse back when I was a kid. Sitting here same as I do every morning.

Same as it ever was. Same every morning, day after day. These little routines are among the joys of my life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Memory Lapse

Recently I was over at someone's house, and it was only after I left that I realized I had left a book behind, sitting there on an end table in their living room.

By the time I remembered I forgot, I was already ten miles down the road, with somewhere else I had to be, so I couldn't very well turn back. Oh well, I assume that book will get to me somehow, eventually. And it's not as if I'll need it any time soon. Still, it's annoying. The older I get, the more I find myself suffering memory lapses like these. One could almost say I'm getting older.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Open Windows

Occasionally we hit a stretch of summer weather like this, when I can leave the windows in the house open pretty much around the clock, day and night. Open windows upstairs and down, breezes blowing through the house. Birds singing outside. The occasional pickup rattling by outside, rolling on down this gravel road. Smell of grass and hay. Tiger lilies and other lilies blooming out in my front yard. Sunlight shining in aslant through the blinds.

This minor effacement of the boundaries between indoors and out is one of the small pleasures of living far out into the countryside, out here in deep rural America.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ten Things I "Learned" from the Blogosphere

Yes, those quotation marks are intentional. This could just as well be called Ten Ways the Blogosphere Tried to Pull the Wool over My Eyes:
  1. Correlation is not causation.
  2. Yeah, but the very same criticism could be made of your side.
  3. Extraordinary bla-bla requires extraordinary bla-bla-bla.
  4. Correlation is not causation.
  5. All the saints are always on the same side of center.
  6. If you're not morally perfect, then you're a hypocrite.
  7. Everyone in the conversation must always be taken with utmost seriousness; well, except for my opponents.
  8. Libertarianism is beyond question.
  9. Answer my argument, or I can make your head explode!
  10. Correlation is not causation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lindsay Lohan

Okay, could someone please tell me, when does Lindsay Lohan reach the point where she shaves her head??

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fourth of July

Oh dear. I've got plans for this Fourth of July weekend. Almost wish I didn't. But that, you know, is the nature of a commitment.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Poverty of Argumentation

You won't find it everywhere online. Not here on my blog, where I seem to be mercifully readerless. Not on my old blog of several years ago, where I had actual readers but they were all civil and well behaved. But you'll find it often enough online, on blogs and discussion forums: the poverty of argumentation.

You know what I mean. People raging, shrieking, sputtering, using "logical" argumentation as a lead-weighted bludgeon with which to thwack their opponents. "I can force you to agree with me!" And the thing is, their argumentation is such a paltry thing. So threadbare. So ossified. So paint-by-number. So glaringly inadequate to real life. And yet to them-- to the hectorers, to the lead-weighted arguers-- their argumentation is beyond question. They are no longer capable of framing any view of things except in terms of their tiny, rigid, circumscribed argumentational world, and they cannot imagine how anyone else could either.

"Logic" and "reason" as horse blinders. "But my horse blinders are inevitable! You all are wearing horse blinders, whether you're aware of it or not!" Not really. In the country of the one-eyed men, the blind man tries to secure his case by arguing, loudly, that nobody has or has ever had eyes. But most of us are not tunnel visioned enough to be taken in by such a line of argument. Most of us have not, like the chronic arguer, lost the indispensable ability to color outside the lines.

Imagine if the multitude of decisions and judgments you make in everyday life were trammeled and strangled by the toxic atmosphere of argumentation on display in some online forums. Imagine if you were continually thus hemmed in and jostled, even in your inmost mind. Think how much poorer your grasp of things would be, how much more paltry your grasp of reality. Argumentation is overall a poor way of getting at truth, far poorer an avenue to truth than most of the rough and ready means to which we are native.

Show me a man who is addicted to argumentational rage, and I will show you a man I do not take seriously. I would no more rely on him for any deeper insight into matters on which he deems himself an expert, or for understanding of truths on which he fancies he has a lock, than I would squander my money on lottery tickets. We as human beings are capable of far better than that.

There are none so blind as those who will not rise above the argumentational fray.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Typical (Im)Pious Crap

"Iffa gunna wahk de wahk, uhh dahk de dahk."

Awwwkk!!! Polly wanna cracker!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To the Dentist Again

Got two cavities filled yesterday, and I hope that completes my business with the dentist for the time being. Eh, I'm afraid I've inherited my father's bad teeth. Thank God I can afford the dental work, I know all too many older people around here, and some not so old, whose mouths are a study in gaps between their remaining teeth. And often by the time they arrive at old age, the gaps come to outnumber the teeth.

By the way, when will I get some sense in my head and switch to a local dentist? I had to take yesterday off from work, and make the long trek all the way to the city. Yes, at least I did get to see my folks, which is the only real incentive for this arrangement. But there are times, you know, when it would be nice to get an hour's dental work done without having to drive several hours there, and then several hours back after.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cynicism as Mummery

cynic n One who impersonates a sophisticate by doggedly taking the worst view of everything.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Off Medication

Well, this past week and a half I've been off one of the several prescription medications I've been on now since last fall. Doctor's orders. And I'm doing better without it than with it. That was, you know, the medication which, as a side effect, was making me feel so dreadfully tired.

I'm not convinced I'll be able to stay off it long term. But even if the doctor puts me back on a lower dosage, it'll be an improvement.

Ah, the joys of growing older...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Self Reliance

I've been thinking lately about some of the differences between the USA now and the USA back in the 1930s. As in, you know, if our still wobbly economy, rather than staging a recovery, should turn south again? I mean, really head south?

It occurs to me that I'm not nearly as self-reliant as my father, to say nothing of my grandfather. And in this regard I resemble many people my age and younger. My father simply knows how to do things. Carpentry? He can do it himself, just about whatever needs to be done. I remember the time he threw a shed together in the back yard, over the course of a weekend, using whatever scrap lumber he had on hand, and carrying any design plans entirely in his head. I couldn't do anything like that to save my life.

My father grew up during the Depression. My grandfather worked his way through the Depression, and he was even more self-reliant. My grandfather could do everything from planting and harvesting corn to tanning deer hide to rebuilding an engine. He was a pragmatic rough-and-ready Renaissance man. I gather a lot of people in this country were like that back in the 1930s.

Just suppose next month or next year we found ourselves in another Depression? I really do wonder... because, you know, a lot of people these days are more like me. I'm good at what I'm good at, but all my life I've taken for granted that big intricate Rube Goldberg device which is our technological society. I can change a light bulb. I can pound a nail in the wall to hang a picture. Anything much more technical than that, I hire out.

Though I do live in a part of the country where many people are still fairly self-reliant. Out here in deep rural America there are still a lot of folks who've retained those skills which were common in past generations. Most of my neighbors can do their own carpentry, their own plumbing, their own electrical work, and believe me, when they do it they don't bother getting a permit. They just go ahead and do it. Many of my neighbors take tanning a deer hide or rebuilding an engine for granted, all in a day's work. If times get tough, these folks will do okay. Better than a lot of the people, as incapable as I am, who live in the city.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hope Never Follows Doors

The other night I had a dream that I was staying, with family and friends, at some rustic motel/chalet/cabin place a few states away. I had my bags with me, and afterwards I was going to drive to a city not so far away. But first I would have to drive back to my parents' place, a few states away, to exchange my bags for some others. And then drive all the way back to the city.

Time came to leave, and everyone else had already left. I was about to go, but sat down in the lobby first to check things out on a big flat screen TV. I brought up one program on the screen, in another tab (as if in Firefox), and it was about an old rock band, its members now grey haired, and how some day after they retired they might bring out an album with some songs they had recorded years ago but never released. And one of these songs was playing:
Oh, hope never follows doors
And doors never follow sense
And it was silently understood that this song also had something to do with Obama. And then I got ready to leave the cabin and go out to my car, a real 60s car which was parked on the grass out on the other side.

Only as I ran toward my car, I suddenly realized that I was naked. And then the thought came to me, oh well, living far out in the countryside one gets used to the idea of having to go outside naked once in a while. And I got into my car, behind the steering wheel, and then I was trying to get clothes out of a bag to get dressed. And I thought I'd better hurry up, because I saw a police car going down the road past me turn off up on the far side of the cabin.

And it wasn't making it any easier to get dressed, crammed in there in the driver's seat, right behind the steering wheel.


Well, the Linux installation went smoothly, and here less than 48 hours later I have only a few loose ends left to clean up. Can't figure if that's a testimony to my many years of growing experience with Linux, or to the growing ease of installing Mandriva. I only know it was the smoothest and most snafu-free installation I've ever done.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Oh dear. This being the Memorial Day holiday, it's time for me to take the bull by the horns and reinstall everything on my laptop from scratch. Reinstall Linux, that is. Time to move to Mandriva 2010.

The install itself shouldn't take long. It's downloading all those endless updates, and then going in and editing various config files by hand to get my system back to its customized what-I'm-used-to. Plus unraveling what they changed and didn't bother to document this time. I'll be at it all day, no doubt.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Hour Early

Due to my health issues I haven't been eating out much in recent months. Though Friday evening I decided to give in (my doctor: "You can cheat once in a while") and drive in to town and take in the fish special at one of my favorite restaurants.

I thought I'd get there around 5:30, when there are usually a few people eating, but the place hasn't begun to really fill up like later in the evening.

So. I walk in the door, and through the bar area up front. Not a single person at the bar. That's unusual.

To the restaurant area in back. Again, not a single customer there. Hunh. The cook comes bustling through. She says, "I bet you're in a hurry to get to a meeting."

I say, "No, no hurry." I glance at my watch, which I had set earlier in the afternoon. Hmmmmm, must've set my watch wrong, it reads just a little past 4:30.

The waitress takes my order for the Friday night fish special. A few minutes later the cook comes through, walking from the bar toward the kitchen, carrying a 12 pack of beer to make the batter for the fish. I go up and help myself at the salad bar.

I eat. The fish arrives, shortly before 5:00 if you believe my watch, which I'm convinced must be off. I eat the fish, and it's very good.

I leave a gigantic tip. Up front, paying my bill at the bar, I notice that the clock above the bar, just like my watch, is reading about a quarter after five.

Well, my watch must've been right all along. I simply arrived at the place, somehow, an hour early. I mention it to the proprietor. He chuckles. "Look at it this way, now you've got an extra hour."

Yeah, that's one way to look at it. Though I still can't figure how I managed to arrive at that restaurant an hour early.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Atheism as Mummery

atheist n One who spends nine hours a day arguing that he does not have a God-shaped hole in his heart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Table Knife of Damocles

So when I went to the doctor last September, for the first time in over 20 years, he discovered I had several major health issues to deal with. Understandably we were much more concerned about getting those health issues under control, than we were about that extremely odd looking mole on the sole of my right foot.

But it stayed in the back of my mind. That very dark mole, of peculiar shape, and other characteristics which the doctor himself said made him, well, quite suspicious.

Health issues are now under control, thanks to various medications and other changes in my way of life. So I was waiting till my schedule would slow down, and I could find a stretch of a week or so when I wouldn't be driving any great distance, and in fact wouldn't have to walk very far or be on my feet that much.

Mole on the sole of my right foot, you know. Sole of my right foot, as in, driving, brake pedal, accelerator?

Finally, looking at my calendar, I could see a lighter stretch in the latter part of May. So I made an appointment, and a week ago today the doctor cut that mole out of my foot. Took several stitches to close the resultant wound in the sole of my right foot. Somehow I drove home from the doctor's office afterwards: I think "somehow," in this case, may be taken to mean "foot still mercifully under local anaesthetic."

I took all of last Wednesday off from work. For a few days there the foot was somewhat painful; but extra strength Tylenol™ was my friend. And for all of this past week, with gradually diminishing amplitude, I've been hobbling and limping around, favoring my right foot, just not standing or walking much when I could reasonably avoid it. Fortunately I've been able to limit myself to work I could do from home.

Sunday I managed to drive 7 miles to church, going no faster than 35 or 40 on back gravel roads, because that's all the pressure on the accelerator my foot could stand; and working the brake pedal, as my driver's ed instructor told me never to do, with my left foot. Made it to church and back, though believe me, I wouldn't have wanted to drive any farther.

Yesterday, for the first time since the procedure, I drove to town, which is more than half an hour away if you're going the speed limit. Urgent need for groceries, don't you know. My foot by this time was better, and I made it okay, though all the driving and all the walking played hob with my foot, and by the time I got home I was in dire need of that extra strength Tylenol™.

This morning, for the first time, my foot feels almost human, and I can walk without having to monitor my steps. Though I'll be glad when I go back again next Tuesday and get these damn stitches out of my foot.

Meanwhile, yesterday I received over the phone good news from the clinic: the mole turned out to be benign after all. Good. I knew a guy once who had a melanoma, and they had to cut out of his arm a piece of flesh the size of a pack of cigarettes. The thought had been on my mind, how much of a functional foot would that leave me?

And really, you know, all these months since last September the minor thought of that mole has been always hanging over me, like the table knife of Damocles.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


One thing I like about English is how you can be concise. Short words. Short phrases. Short sentences. Not like no French or Spanish or Russian, where words roll on and on and take up half again as much print space as English.

"Drink Double Cola!" A word like Drink, short, compact, a word the size of a bullet.

"Ram Showed Up, and Ram Got Tough!" Well okay, not quite the wording of the pickup commercial, but it's the way I hear it in my head. Every word a blunt monosyllable. Tough: a word as compact and condensed as a computer chip, yet short and brusque as dirt.

You can't do this with some of those la-dee-da languages out there, they just ramble on and on. But English is a small canvas overnight duffle, small and plain but soldierly tough, almost telegraphic.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Socializing as Trance State

Last night I was out at a small social event. Several of the people there I knew, most of them I didn't. And it struck me, hardly for the first time, how people socializing at such an event give the impression of verging on an altered state of consciousness.

Watch them socializing, talking, flirting, chatting, laughing. Look at how they seem to be beside themselves, as if channeling something or someone else. As if they're not quite present to themselves, taken out of themselves, almost in a state of ecstasy or (in the ancient Greek) ekstasis. Ekstasis: "to be or stand outside oneself, a removal to elsewhere."

Yeah, watch people socializing, and you may notice how they seem almost to be in a trance.

Same physical signs as a trance state: lips parted and full, eyes shining but vacant with heavy lids, skin flushed and ruddy, head held back at a characteristic tilt. Speech often more echoic than expressive, with a characteristic lilt and syllabic segmentation, repetitive, shuttling rapidly between languor and giddy near-hysteria. No, I'm not a physical anthropologist or anything. But if you know what to look for, the signs are plain as day.

I'm not entirely joking. Watch next time you're at a social event. See if the people around you, as they get more and more animated, seem to be kiting along almost in a trance state, as if they're not quite themselves, no longer standing with both feet firmly planted within ordinary consciousness.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Light Switches

Several places around my house there are lights which are connected to two different light switches, at either end of a staircase or at either side of a large room. So you can turn the light on or off by flicking either switch.

Whoever installed these switches had keen insight into human psychology. Because with each pair of switches, when the light is off one switch is upward and the other switch is downward. Yes, that's the right way to do it. Because imagine if lights off meant both switches upward or both switches downward: imagine how us compulsive-obsessive types would then feel driven always to have both switches pointing in the "correct" direction when lights were off!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I was in town the other day and I picked up two large pots of ferns, to put in the wicker planter in my living room. The wicker planter that is part of the wicker furniture set in my living room, the furniture which I inherited some years back.

Anyhow. Ferns. This will be the third or fourth time in the past couple of years that I've tried growing ferns in my living room. I've never had much luck with ferns. They last a while, then they wither up and die on me. Last time around, they in fact lasted only a matter of weeks, and I left the dead ferns sitting there for the better part of a year before I got around to replacing them.

Now this time we shall see how long the ferns last. Sunlight, it said on the tag that they need "medium light." Which these, sitting right by a window, get. Though I thought ferns do okay even in the shade? Water, I suspect in the past I've watered my ferns too much, so I'm trying this time not to do that too much. Instead am spraying the leaves with mist, a trick I've found on a number of websites out there.

Warning, I do not have a green thumb, and I've never had much luck with plants, period. But I seem to do especially poorly with ferns. This time around... we shall see.

Friday, May 7, 2010

News Report as Mental Cartoon

When I hear local news reports on the radio, I tend to see in my mind these stock, more or less cartoonish images. Images which repeat themselves time and again, I suppose because the same elements turn up so often in local news stories time and again.

So-and-so "lost control of the car": The steering wheel suddenly comes off in the horrified driver's hands, completely detached from the steering column.

The car "left the road at a high rate of speed": The wheels fold up into the body of the car as it lifts off into the air, like a VTOL aircraft, with flames roaring out of rocket ports in back.

Police "charged the driver with inattentive driving": (1) Driver reading a paperback, ignoring everything else as the car barrels down the road on autopilot. (2) Police are delivering an electric jolt to the apprehended driver with a taser-like device as they "charge" him (zap!) for his driving.

The robber "displayed a gun to the bank teller": A smiling robber holds up a gun which is locked inside a portable glass and wood display case.

The robber then "fled the scene": With the stationary robber's feet churning in place, windmill-like, for several seconds before he suddenly takes off like a shot, just like the way they always depict a cartoon character who is starting to run.

The victim "was pronounced dead at the hospital": A bishop in full regalia, wearing a bishop's miter on his head, is chanting a formula out of a liturgical book ("Hoy-yi-yi-yi-yi!") as the deceased, lying in a hospital bed, calls out, "I'm not dead yet!" But, you see, the bishop is "pronouncing" him dead...

The victim "was dead": Is lying there flat on his back, with his hands folded across his chest holding an Easter lily.

The victim "passed away": Holding an Easter lily on his chest, he suddenly levitates into the air and goes gliding silently out the window, floating off toward an undisclosed destination.

The victim "passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family": The family is standing in a circle, all around the bed, wearing simpering moronic smiles as the deceased, clutching an Easter lily to his chest, suddenly levitates into the air and goes gliding out the window.

So-and-so "was suspended with pay pending an investigation": Hanging by a pulley from the ceiling, suspended in mid-air, a hook through the back of his suspenders, while he clutches a wad of bills in his hand.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


So where's the asparagus out beside the old garage? Usually by early May it's coming up. But not a stalk in sight yet.

I even put some fencing around that patch by the side of the garage, to keep the fellow I hire to mow my lawn from mowing over it, as has happened a few times in years past, and there goes the asparagus. Verbal requests don't work, gotta put up some fencing. Which I did this year, and he's steered clear.

But still no asparagus. Not so far this spring.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Omigosh. I just remembered what a phobia I used to have of clowns back when I was a kid. Not just a fear, an outright phobia. Clowns were evil. Clowns were scary. Clowns were like... worse than monsters! I even used to have nightmares about clowns.

The odd thing is, fear of clowns turns out to be not uncommon. But I didn't know that back then. All I knew was... I was terrified of clowns.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking Around

So... lately I've been getting out and walking. That means walking down the road a ways, down to where I get to a certain gate into a pasture, and then turning around and walking back up the road again to my house.

Gravel road, have to wear shoes that will do for walking on gravel. Little traffic, fortunately. Now and then I do wave at the passing pickup.

It sure beats riding my exercise bike in the house, as I was doing (okay, well, doing on and off) through the winter months. Right now we're at the perfect time of the year for walking outdoors for exercise. Hope I can keep it up, motivation and all. And hope I can keep it up as we get into the hotter months of the summer.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I've never been much of a one to wear sunglasses. Though I've been thinking more of my health since the events of last fall, and it looks like I'm going to be outdoors a lot this summer, if only on the road more than usual. So...

I went and got a pair of sunglasses. Ordered them online, as I do with so many of my purchases nowadays, and yes, it does help, for someone like me who lives in a remote rural location far from the madding crowd. Wait a few days, and the package showed up in my mailbox.

I got Persol sunglasses, not quite knowing what I was getting into, and I must say, I am very, very pleased with them. Only after I placed the order did I realize, googling around, about the tangled history of Persol and celebrities, Persol and Marcello Mastroianni, Persol and Steve McQueen. All I knew was, I was looking for some top quality shades, stylish if possible, and "hand made in Italy" with an old-fashioned quality you don't often see anymore sounded like the way to go.

Persol 2931S, tortoise frames, polarized brown lenses. I was surprised when I first wore them, thought it was raining up to the north of us -- nope, just polarization making that part of the sky look dark. I'd guess I've never looked through polarized lenses before.

And they fit like a dream, and they work like a dream, and if part of me thinks I'm crazy to drop money in the triple digits on a pair of sunglasses, another part of me says that quality which will last is worth it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Angry Rejection of the Slightest Hint of Decline

I've been hanging around in the blogosphere for seven or eight years now. And I'm often gently bemused at how certain topics generate, with wearisome predictability, a great deal of heat and very little light. Case in point: voice the slightest hint that today's young people are in any way going downhill compared to past generations, and you will unleash a storm of vitriol in response.

"How dare you say that today's young people have declined in such and such way, compared to the baby boomers, or compared to the generation that fought World War II?!!!" Angry, vituperative, often unreasoning rejection of the slightest hint of decline; and often from people who are not themselves young. How dare you?!

Or if it's not unreasoning rejection, the line of reasoning follows a wearisomely predictable path: "Haven't people always thought that the younger generation in their time was going downhill compared to previous generations?" This is often accompanied with a nod of the head to ancient Greek allegations that Socrates was corrupting the youth of his day. Implication: A stopped clock can never be right, not even once in all of human history.

But why not? And why say it's a stopped clock? Suppose -- for the sake of the argument just suppose -- that in certain ways the young people of Socrates' day actually were going downhill compared to their elders, and/or that the young people of today actually are going downhill compared to their parents or grandparents. Then won't such angry rejection blind us, and indeed systemically blind us, to certain realities of decline in the world around us? Once you rule hints of decline categorically out of bounds, haven't you donned a set of horse blinders which will unconditionally blind you to certain possible realities?

I mean suppose, just suppose, that today's young people actually are in some specifiable way going downhill? Or suppose these things go in cycles, with occasional phases of decline? Then will you not be wrong, and indeed incorrigibly wrong, if the first and only way you know how to respond is with angry and vitriolic rejection of the slightest hint of decline?

Lest the reader misunderstand, I don't actually think today's young people are going downhill at all. I'm playing the devil's advocate, for the sake of the argument. Indeed I take quite a positive view overall of the youth and young adults of today: I think in many ways their outlook, their temperament, their frame of mind represents an improvement over my generation, back in the days when I was that age.

But I'm just wondering, why does this topic always elicit such an angry and vehement response, and in such wearisomely predictable terms? After all, it's not at all impossible that, in a certain place and time, the argument might be substantially correct.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First Computer

I got my first home computer something over 20 years ago. No hard drive, I just swapped various floppies in and out for data, software, even the operating system -- which, of course, was DOS, which meant (of course) that I did everything from the command line, which I took for granted.

Floppies, five and a quarter inch floppies, yet!

I never dreamed of being online, and accessing the bulletin boards which were out there in those pre-WWW days. Well, technically I could've. But I couldn't have afforded it. Chalk it up to living on a student budget.

How far we've come in 20 years! Makes a body wonder what computers will be like in 2030.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Early Green

Gone on the road several days -- work related. On returning home I find that, in my absence, many of the trees around here have budded, and some of them have even started leafing out. It seems a bit early in April for that. But I suppose just lately we've been having more than our share of warm weather.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reductionism as Mummery

reductionist n One who angrily contends that we would have a profound and complete understanding of English literature, if only we knew enough about the chemistry of ink and wood pulp.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Grey Beard

Looking in the mirror the other day, I realized that my beard has gone almost completely grey. And I wondered, how did this creep up on me and take me unawares? All this grey? Where have the years gone? How have all those summers fled away?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Circle and the Line

I remember I must have been five or six years old when I was struck by an insight regarding my father's work versus my mother's work.

Namely, my mother (who was a housewife) did the same tasks over and over again, like going round and round in a circle. While my father, who often spent a good part of his day working at his desk in our house, did various tasks and then moved on to the next tasks, like someone walking forward step by step in a line. I remember thinking to myself that by and large women did circle-work and men did line-work.

Of course I was just a kid. I had little idea of men who did circle-work on a factory production line, or women who did line-work in jobs outside the home. Hey, this would've been the early 1960s! And I was young, and my knowledge of the wider world was very, very limited. Nonetheless I think I stumbled into a real insight for a kid of five or six.

I grew up and found my way into a job which is largely line-work. Though it has taken me into my fifties to grow into a deeper appreciation of all the little bits of circle-work which make up so much of my daily routine.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care

On health care I'd have to say I'm more or less on the same wavelength as Rod Dreher:
I don't have a strong opinion about the health care debate, which has now been resolved in the Democrats' favor. Sorry. I think we have a lousy system now, but I have serious doubts about this reform, especially coming as the government plunges headlong into insolvency.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bowling Again

Oh boy. Somehow I got roped into going bowling again this weekend. Don't know quite how that happened.

Though I must admit, I'm improving. Or at least, not quite so dismal as I was last weekend. I seem to be getting the knack of sending the ball down the lane without it careening off into the gutter. Actually hitting pins. Only one strike, and a couple of spares. But that's way better than I was doing last time.

I've still got a long way to go to get back to where I was with bowling, oh, say 30 years ago. But I'm heartened to see that reimprovement is not beyond all possibility.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Last weekend I went bowling with some folks. Don't know quite how I got roped into it. Haven't been bowling in years, and it showed. Oh, it showed.

There was a time when I was much younger when I was... well, I was never a good bowler, but at one time I was, shall we say, acceptably mediocre. I usually gave signs of having some idea what I was up to, I bowled 120-something on average, on a good day I might break 150.

But that was 30 years ago. Now it's all fled away. This weekend I couldn't keep the ball out of the gutter to save my life. Oh, I still displayed something of the stance and release of one who once knew how to bowl, step, step, step, arm back, swing forward, send her rolling. But results were uniformly dismal, with the ball curling strongly toward the left, and often into the gutter, no matter how I tried to adjust, compensate, or despair.

Bowling and me. Once upon a time...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seasick Laptops

No sooner had we gotten through with my grandma's funeral than I had to take off the next morning to attend a job related conference I registered for some time back. Oh, what a waste of a conference! At least I got to catch up on my sleep in my hotel room.

I noticed at the conference a number of people who had their laptops with them, many of them Macs. To take notes at the conference, to check their email, whatever. And what floored me was the precarious way these people would set their laptop on their lap. Precarious. I mean, as they typed on the keyboard, the laptop would be wiggling and wobbling and tipping and jiggling and all but flipping back and forth, every which way. It made me almost seasick to look at it.

It also made me wonder, weren't they at all nervous about read/write heads caroming off the surface of their hard drive as their laptop wildly wobbled and jiggled and flip-flopped this way and that? Or am I technologically out of date? I have an upper end laptop myself -- no, not a Mac, and I didn't bring it along with me to the conference -- and I habitually set it on my lap so that it is steady, stable, immobile as I type. Out of fear of what G forces might do to a spinning hard drive in motion, I won't even lift that laptop off my lap and set it somewhere without suspending it first.

And in all the years I've owned various laptops, I've never had any hard drive problems, never had a hard drive fail on me, never had any ominous read/write errors. I wonder if the owners of these wiggling flopping gyrating seasick laptops can say the same.

My Grandmother's Bottle Opener

Got through the funeral okay. Graveside service at the cemetery was harder. Spent some time with my parents and my brother. And got to see several cousins I haven't seen in several years.

And. At one point there we were sorting through things in my grandma's apartment. You know, who gets what, what gets tossed. A lot of this had been decided in advance, long ago. I loaded one fairly sizeable piece of furniture into the back of my Jeep, turned down several other pieces of furniture for which I have no use, but which somehow had been assigned to me "in family" at a place and time I cannot remember and where I was probably not even present.

But. I did lay claim to one item that to me is worth more than its weight in gold. Out of a kitchen drawer, I claimed the old bottle opener. The old bottle opener that used to sit in a kitchen drawer out at the farmhouse back when I was a kid. You know, bottle opener, probably about 1960 vintage, with local gas station logo on the handle, and on the end of the handle a transparent red plastic bullet-shaped tip.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The phone call came late yesterday afternoon. My grandmother had just died.

I knew it was coming, though I didn't expect it quite this soon. A few weeks ago she fell out of bed and hit her head. Was in the hospital, they were worried about a head injury. Then she seemed to be making a recovery. Until just these past few days, when she went into a decline, seemed confused, stopped eating.

My grandma lived a long and good life. She passed the century mark several years ago. Until within this past week, she was always perfectly clear in the head, always in full possession of her faculties. Amazing for someone who was well past 100.

Am up early this morning, have to pack, will be on the road for the long drive to my folks' place in the city. I'm taking a few days off from work. The funeral will be Saturday.

Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shopping Trip... Not!

I've been planning a shopping trip to the city for quite a while now. Most of the winter, in fact. But somehow it never comes off. Day after day, week after week goes by, and I never get around to going.

Some clothing, some tools, and miscellaneous other supplies. Items I can't count on finding in town.

Granted, distances as they are out here, an expedition to the city and back would consume most of a day. These are the wide open spaces. Heck, even a drive in to town is more than half an hour.

At first I was kept from it by the winter weather conspiring against me, always a snowstorm any time I could free up a day in my schedule. Or my schedule itself would gang up on me. At the moment there's no snow in the forecast, and it's becoming clearer and clearer that winter has only a limited run left: highs edging above freezing, snow cover gradually shrinking. But still a shopping expedition first planned back before Christmas has yet to materialize.

Wanted to get, among many other things, some long underwear. Well, by the time I finally get around to going, I guess that's one item I won't need any longer.