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.